life, Neodruidry

Honoring Balance at Mabon

It’s the Autumnal Equinox, and we’re heading into Libra season. All of the articles, posts, books, and assorted other things I’ve read say that this is a time of balance, of honoring one of only two days when day and night are of equal length. For some of us, it’s a time to prepare — to acknowledge that the dark, cold months are coming, and, while we may not like them, their quiet and rest is what gives us the brighter, warmer seasons ahead.

Mabon is also the second harvest. It’s enjoying the fruits of your labors, and gathering the seeds that will yield next year’s bounty.

It’s party time over here, though.

Sometimes, balance doesn’t look like you’d expect. If you’ve been going through a period of darkness or inactivity, balance can look more like a rush. Achieving balance and experiencing balance aren’t always the same thing — what it takes to reach equilibrium is not always what maintains that equilibrium.

That’s my balance right now. I’ve had an incredible, dramatic upswing over the past week or so — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m physically stronger than I’ve been since I was a teenager, I’ve reconnected with someone who was very important to me as a child. My mental health is stable enough for me to identify areas that need healing, and work to help them. I feel vital, creative, and validated.

All of which are pretty weird things to associate with the day that marks the Earth’s gradual descent into winter darkness, but I’m not going to knock it.

Even my plants don’t seem to have gotten the message. With this uptick in my own energy, it seems like everything else in my home is being swept along with it. My violets are blooming. My nepenthes is packed with tiny new pitchers. The asst. fern $4.99 is apparently a staghorn that is putting out new fronds faster than I can keep up with — including a very formidable set of shield fronds. My parlor palm is outgrowing everything. My calathea has taken over an entire shelf with leaves like salad plates. My cats are shiny, sassy, and extra playful.

(Kiko found a tomato somewhere, and decided this was her New Favorite Toy. I had very mixed feelings about her smacking an entire-ass tomato around my living room most of the evening, but I also didn’t have the heart to take it from her. This is how badly she has me wrapped around her little pink toebeans.)

Today, I’ll make offerings of honey, tea, flowers, and incense. I’ll play music, and let the autumnal sunlight in. I’ll give thanks to all of the things that have contributed to this feeling, this harvest, and I’ll find the seeds and hold them safely for next year.

Blessed Mabon, everybody.
(Unless it’s Ostara where you are, then have a blessed that instead.)

art, life

It was scary and I did it anyhow.

So, if you missed the livestream on Canvisi, I went on around 1 PM.

Well, I was supposed to go on at 1 PM, but, having never done a livestream before ever in my life, I had no idea how they work. This was absolutely no fault of the person running the stream, either — he was very helpful, professional, understanding, and kind. I, on the other hand, barreled in at 1 and immediately launched into my introduction with the vocal cadence of a hyacinth macaw on PCP.

“HI, I’MJANDTODAYI’D-“

I saw him gesturing toward his ears, and I realized that, despite the amount of Zoom calls I’ve been on, I have no idea what I’m doing. Also my phone was muted.

Fortunately, there was some intermission music to cover for me while I figured out why my setup wasn’t relaying sound properly and tried to get my heart rate somewhere below “hummingbird.” Eventually, everything was good to go.

Honestly, streaming was kind of fun. My lighting was less than ideal, because my studio’s set up to have great light for painting — video, not so much. I managed to cover most of what I wanted to in the time I was allotted, and I didn’t forget to plug my various sites and social media. Score!

I’m actually considering getting back into making time-lapse painting videos. Maybe streaming on YouTube. That’s something for another day.

Anyhow, in honor of getting through my first livestream without wanting to run out of the room, all of the paintings, prints, jewelry, and wands in my shop are currently 15% off. Some stuff has already sold, so be sure to stop by and check it out before it’s too late!

art, life

Saturday Livestream!

Are you busy Saturday afternoon?

Say, 1 PM-ish?

If not, I’m going to be part of Canvisi‘s artists stream! I’ll be talking a bit about how I got into my particular artistic niche, then giving a few demonstrations on incorporating gold leaf and other metallic elements into artwork, and showing a few new, never-before-seen pieces. It’ll be fun and — if you’re a chemistry nerd like me — hopefully pretty interesting!

I also have a ton of new stuff up on my shop. There are original paintings, jewelry, and a selection of wands made of Arkansas quartz and naturally-shed deer antler. They’re all pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

So, come join me and the other artists on Canvisi’s livestream, and maybe check out some new art.

Happy Friday!

Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Jewelweed Folklore and Magical Properties

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is one of the most beautiful parts of watery places out here. Though the plant has bright yellow-orange flowers, they aren’t what give it its name — rather, it’s the curious property of the leaves. Since it grows near water, and excess moisture has a nasty tendency to support the growth of all kinds of pathogens, the leaves repel it. If you take one and drop water on it, it will bead up and glisten like jewels. If you take a leaf and hold it underwater, it looks like it’s covered in pavé-set diamonds.

They have a very clever reproductive strategy, too. Their showy flowers encourage sexual reproduction by attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators. They also have much smaller, more discreet flowers, which don’t open up the way their other blossoms do — they self-pollinate. This gives jewelweed the ability to produce two different sets of seeds: one that costs more energy and has a wider gene pool, and one that’s much cheaper, but lacks genetic diversity.

The seed capsules are pretty cool, too. One of the plant’s other common names is touch-me-not, because of the way it disperses its seeds. Plant jewelweed once, and it’ll keep self-seeding and coming back. After pollination, the seed capsules hang out and wait for something — anything — to touch them. Brush up against one, and the valves on the pods will quickly coil back and fire the seeds in a tiny explosion. (This all sounds perfectly normal, until you picture what it would look like if every pregnant person was also basically a baby confetti cannon.)

Jewelweed Magical Uses and Folklore

These plants are well known to people indigenous to where they grow. Their virtues are largely medicinal, so I didn’t have very much luck finding explicitly-stated magical properties or associations. Peer-reviewed research supports its use for itchy skin conditions, including tinea (the fungus responsible for ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch).

Jewelweed contains compounds that act as antagonists to the urushiol found in poison ivy. Most people are sensitive to urushiol, and end up with a telltale itchy, blistered rash from it. Applying jewelweed sap immediately after coming in contact with poison ivy can help stop the rash in its tracks.

I’m reminded of a rhyming couplet I read once, though I fail to remember where:

Jewelweed, starve ivy’s greed

Touch-me-not, stay ivy’s rot

(I have no idea. If you know the origin, let me know!)

The elemental and planetary associations for jewelweed are pretty much what you’d expect: water and Venus.

The flowers are a bright yellow-orange. Following the elemental correspondences, color attributes, and medicinal uses, I would use jewelweed in workings to bring joy and prevent or alleviate suffering. Water is the element of the emotions. Orange is for joy and positivity. It can keep you from spending a long, miserable time dealing with poison ivy blisters. The leaves repel what they don’t want on them. It makes sense to me!

Orange is also a color of creativity, and I did find a source who talks about using jewelweed in a flower essence to bring the flow of awen into your life. This also makes sense when you think of the plant’s seeds — whether it has pollinators to help it out or not, jewelweed will create new life!

Using Jewelweed

As mentioned above, jewelweed makes a nice flower essence. It also appears to be provisionally edible, but you need to cook it thoroughly to denature its toxic compounds.

Most uses of jewelweed involve either applying the crushed, raw plant to the skin, or adding it to salves, washes, or witch hazel.

Magically, I would dry some of the flowers and add them to sachets or witch’s bottles for creativity, joy, and the prevention of sorrow. Use the seeds in spells to increase the flow of inspiration. Since the plant depends on its flowers for genetic diversity, avoid taking more than a third of them. (Unless you’re in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s considered invasive. In that case, go to town.)

Jewelweed is a really unique plant. Sew it once, and it’ll keep coming back. It has an admirable tenacity, and can be a real friend to anyone who’s ever touched poison ivy on the trail. While traditional magical lore seems to be a bit thin on the ground, it has enough special qualities that it’s easy to extrapolate. Work with jewelweed, and see what it tells you.

divination, life

The Page of Wands Squawks Again (Again)

I feel like I draw the Page of Wands more than any other card. Honestly.

I’m not surprised that he’s appeared again, though. He’s all creativity, adventure, and youthful enthusiasm. He’s good news and fast messages. In career readings, he might mean a work trip. In love readings, he’s playfulness and vacations.

So, considering this past weekend’s adventures, I kind of figured he’d turn up soon.

My partner and I want to go kayaking one of these days, by which I mean “he wants to go kayaking, and I am figuring out ways to cover every tragedy that can possibly happen while kayaking.” I don’t do super well with the sun beating down on me, so summer isn’t my ideal time for outdoor sports. The couple of weeks between the beginning of September and the end of October are perfect for me. There’s only one problem: htf do you kayak?

I mean, I get it. Sit in the boaty part, do the paddles, motion happens. I have had to row things before. Still, there’s something about the thought of taking a kayak out on a river that makes my throat tense up.
(That thing is anxiety disorder. Even with medication and a great therapist, some of it sticks around.)

I feel like kayaking would be fun, on a conceptual level. Neither of us have ever done it before, so I have automatically adopted the position of Learning Everything That Can Go Wrong and Preemptively Thwarting It.

(Incidentally, while this is doubtless one of my more annoying traits, it also makes me fantastic on road trips. Need Benadryl? A tampon? A snake venom extraction kit? A small fire extinguisher? Emergency backup water? A convenient source of potassium? I’ve got you. I prepare for everything like it’s the first ten minutes of an action movie where we end up on an island infested with crocodiles.)

My partner says, “Let’s go price kayaks this w-,” and before he can even say “-eekend,” my brain’s off to the races. We’ll need life vests, for one. That’s obvious. Swimsuits — no, wetsuits, since the water won’t be as warm as it would be in July. Water shoes. A waterproof bag to hold stuff. Lessons. What if I lose my ID? I’ll write my identifying information on myself in case I drown. What if we accidentally go over a dam and one of us breaks something? I’ll have to bring a bandana I can use to make a sling. Do I remember how to give first aid for a spine or neck injury? What if I fall in the water and the cold knocks the wind out of me? It happened at summer camp once, and I wasn’t allowed to swim after that. (Fortunately, what I lacked in ability-to-breathe-in-cold-water, I made up for in ability-to-spot-and-subsequently-escape-from-bears-that-got-to-the-blueberry-patch-before-I-did.)

When I was five, my grandparents took me to the beach. I splashed and played happily, but, when my grandma noticed that I’d gone a little too far out and called me back, I couldn’t return. Caught in the undertow, I floundered and sputtered until someone had to come drag me out and do whatever they do to kids they’re afraid will dry drown. As clearly as I remember the helpless feeling of being caught in the current, everything after that is like someone smeared my memories with Vaseline.

Years later, my grandpa was careful to keep me out of the waves. He always fished a lot, and I used to love sitting by the buckets of fish he brought home, seeing what kind of hitchhikers had snuck into the water. Sometimes I’d find a tiny crab, or a snail, or even a sea urchin.

Finally, one day, he decided he’d teach my siblings and me to fish and set crab traps. The other kids were too young to sit and wait for a bite, so they mostly spent the day running around and dropping bait down each other’s shirts. While they did that, I felt a bite on one of the bamboo poles. My tiny heart pounding with excitement, I reeled in my catch. Was it a flounder? A salmon? A tuna? Maybe it was a shark.

It was not a shark.

To this day, I’m not sure. Nobody was able to definitively identify what I pulled up from the depths.

I’m reminded of Eddie Izzard’s bit about the Biblical flood. If it was supposed to cleanse the Earth of evil, there must have been a lot of evil fish and ducks left over.

This fish was silvery. It had spiny fins that flared out like claws, and a long, undershot jaw full of pointed, mean-looking teeth. It thrashed with the strength of something several times its size and, when we put it in the bucket with the rest of our catch, the results were… bad. It didn’t seem like it had much meat on it, either — whatever biological real estate it possessed seemed to be taken up entirely by teeth, spines, and hate.

While it churned the water in the bucket and snapped at the air in fury, Grandpa suggested throwing it back. My tiny child eyes immediately welled up with tears.

“But… I caught it. It’s my fishy.”

I was formulating plans for filling my kiddie pool with table salt and hose water so I could keep it, maybe befriend it through some kind of piscine Stockholm Syndrome. Unfortunately, it died on the way home (as fish in plastic Home Depot buckets are wont to do). I kept it in the freezer for several months afterward, like some kind of incredibly creepy trophy. Sometimes, I’d chase my brother around the house with it. Every so often, I’d take it out to look at it and feel a tiny, bone-deep, neanderthal thrill of survival, as if this dead fish was an assurance that I’d be able to live on a deserted island for a really long time if I needed to.

I have not been fishing again.

It would probably surprise you to find out that I’m a devotee of Manannán mac Lir. It surprised the shit out of me when I finally came to that realization, I’ll tell you that much.

The Page of Wands means news and adventures. And now we’re going kayaking. Hopefully the devotee thing counts for something, because, after surviving almost drowning and whatever the hell I put in that fish bucket, I would not want to explain to my seafaring ancestors that I died in three feet of water because I kayaked wrong.

“Sure,” I reply, “This weekend.”

Environment, life

Farmer’s market, murder shack. Tomato, tomahto.

My eyes were still closed when she started cleaning my face. If I weren’t at home, this would’ve been embarrassing, at best — I tried to turn my head away, but she held it firmly in place. There’s something about being a parent that makes using spit as a cleaning solution seem perfectly reasonable. According to some people, having kids endows mothers with super-powered saliva that can clean the most stubborn grime.

This appears to hold true if those kids are kittens, too.

“Ça suffit, Kiko.”

I opened my eyes to daylight, a pink nose, and a face full of whiskers. She started to purr.

It was early Sunday morning, and Kiko objects to my nighttime moisturizer. I spend perfectly good dollars to slather myself in serums and creams, and Kiko, one paw planted firmly on my cheek to hold my face in place, wakes me up by scrubbing them off again. She is a very gentle, caring, and perceptive cat, who routinely perches on the side of the bathtub to pat my cheeks and make worried faces when I’m not feeling well. She also has very definite opinions on skincare. (Gods help you if you try to wear lipstick around her.)

My partner and I didn’t really have plans for Sunday. It’s a day for catching up on housework and running errands — I mop, sweep, water plants, and putter around with other chores, he does laundry and washes whatever dishes there might be. With beautiful weather and an empty schedule, I figured we’d go to the farmer’s market and poke around.

And then we saw the line to get into the farmer’s market stretching around the block. Aw, butts.

“Let’s… Uh. Let’s get breakfast and go to a park, maybe,” I offered. This seemed reasonable.

Of course, “park” could also mean “abandoned ghost town,” in a certain light. So, armed with a smoothie and a largish quantity of chicken and waffles, we headed out to track down the remains of Daniels, Maryland. Neither of us had been there before, and it’s not like we had anything better to do… Why not go for a long drive and possibly accidentally stumble onto a secret forest murder shack?

Daniels isn’t haunted (as far as I know). It isn’t as eerie as Centralia, there are no horror movies inspired by it. A church was struck by lightning and burned down, but, from what I’ve read, the only loss was an expensive ring. There’s no real mystery behind it, either — the population dwindled, and the C.R. Daniels Company decided to shut things down.
(Really, the creepiest part is the idea that a company can own an entire town, and then decide to close your damn house.)

There’s still a very unique energy in places where people no longer live. I feel like that goes double in places like Daniels. Nature driving people out and retaking a space in one blow is sudden, violent, and has a sense of finality. The haunting feelings in those places make sense.

But what did people think as they packed up to leave Daniels? How long did it take for nature to start taking space back, and what came first? Was it the spiders, raccoons, or birds infiltrating old houses? Or did vines climb the walls first, sending in tendrils to pull the bricks and stones apart one piece at a time?

“Viva” “Cloud Nine” “Love You!” “Don’t just exist! LIVE”

In 1972, four years after the C.R. Daniels Company decided to shut things down, tropical storm Agnes rolled through an demolished most of the remaining buildings.

We weren’t prepared for how crowded things were, or the lack of a bridge. Instead of trying to find the remains of the town, this became a scouting mission. We’d need to find the best place to cross, not too near the dam. Somewhere where the bank wasn’t too steep, where there was already a trail worn through the thick, fluffy greenery. We’d have to come back early, when the weather was a bit cooler and there wouldn’t be as many people around.

Frustrated for the second time that day, we hiked along the water. I found a lovely patch of jewelweed, and something unidentifiable scented the breeze with a lemony citronella fragrance. The air was fresh, the mosquitoes were somewhere else, and things were good on this fine day. We paused for a bit so I could bathe some pieces of Arkansas quartz and Herkimer diamonds in the clear water, and I lit a tiny stick of incense as an offering.

When another group needed the spot to launch a kayak, I doused the incense, and we packed up to go home.

We’re going back, though.

We have a plan.

Plants and Herbs

Pokeweed Folklore and Magical Properties

My first experience with pokeweed was watching one sprout out of the side of my house.

I didn’t know what it was at first — it cropped up, seemingly overnight, in a tight space between the foundation and the heating oil tank. Since I was given to notions about lilac trees and beds of flowers at the time, and also didn’t want the foundation to crumble, I was tempted to pull it out. Something about the bright magenta-purple stems and lush leaves stayed my hand.

Nah, I thought. Let’s see where this goes.

Not long after, I was “rewarded” with hanging clusters of delicious-looking deep purple berries. I say “rewarded,” because pokeweed is also known as American nightshade and those shiny, tasty-seeming berries are super poisonous.

Well, unless you’re a bird. Or a raccoon. (As I discovered when Vladimir, the very rotund beast that lived above my friend’s garage, began leaving disturbingly recognizable pokeberry doots in front of the beer fridge.) While pokeweed berries are extremely deadly to most mammals, they’re a very important food source for plenty of other species. After other snacks have run their course, pokeberries are still hanging on.

Humans can eat the young shoots, but only when they are very young, and only after cooking them in two changes of water. I’ve also read that the berries may be edible too, but you have to remove the seeds first. Personally, I’m not really willing to try that particular experiment.

This past weekend, my partner and I stumbled on a pokeweed plant on a walk. Though mostly eaten, there were still a few deep purple berries left, and the intensely pink stems hadn’t yet lost their luster. That’s when I got the idea to write this post.

Pokeweed Magical Uses and Folklore

Pokeweed has a long history of use as a medicinal herb by people indigenous to its native range. That said, the effective dose is extremely small and the line between “medicine” and “poison” is thin. Isolated compounds in the plant — like Pokeweed Antiviral Protein — show a lot of promise as antiviral, anti-HIV, and even anti-cancer agents, but that’s another story.

The United States Declaration of Independence was written in ink made of pokeberries. Soldiers during the American Revolution frequently wrote letters in pokeberry juice, since it grew pretty much everywhere and made a very useful ink.

Pokeweed is variously associated with Mars or Uranus.

The Mars association makes sense, as various parts of the pokeweed (especially the dried berries) are used in spells for courage.

On the other hand, the Uranus association makes just as much sense. One of pokeweed’s medicinal properties is as a purgative (and oh, what a purgative). Shamans relied on this purging power as a kind of sympathetic magic, to expel evil spirits from afflicted people. It’s also used to break hexes and exorcise spirits/demons from a space. In other words, pokeweed purges evil or unwanted influences.

Using Pokeweed

Crushing the berries creates a very powerful magical ink. Some people ferment them, others add vinegar, salt, or other natural preservatives and use it as-is. This ink is often used for hex breaking, and can also serve as a substitute for blood in a pinch (depending on the spell, of course).

You can also add the dried berries to sachets or spell jars for bravery or hex-breaking. I would avoid adding them to baths or incense, just in case, and definitely never add them to salves or teas. The juice of the plants can be absorbed through the skin, causing issues similar to poison ivy. It also contains compounds that can trigger mutations, so that’s neat.

Pokeweed is a striking-looking plant. The bright magenta stems, vibrant green leaves, and shiny clusters of dark berries are stunning. Like many poisonous plants, it holds a lot of power within it — but that power demands respect. Pokeweed has the ability to feed, heal, and harm, all depending on how it’s used.

divination

The Five of Cups, the Whiny Card

It’s hard not to feel disproportionately let down by a minor disappointment sometimes. I mean, it’s in the word — a disappointment is a thing that disappoints. Even if it’s something small, that can suck.

I didn’t have a specific question in mind this week, I just wanted to draw a card to give me some clarity and something to think about. Go figure, I drew the Five of Cups… Or, as I like to think of it, “the whiny punkass card.”

Maybe I’m not being fair, though. This is also a card of bereavement, loss, and heartbreak. The thing is, those things can all be represented by other cards in the deck. The Five of Cups carries its own particular connotations here that they don’t.

Observe:

This guy is clearly upset about the three upended cups in front of him, and understandably so. What’re those things, gold? They’re probably pretty expensive cups full of some bomb-ass wine, or extremely fancy water. Here’s the thing, though: There isn’t even anyone else in the image. He’s probably the one who knocked them over in the first place. Even if he wasn’t, what did he do, leave his expensive cups alone on the ground where raccoons could get at them? Do not put your cups on the ground, guy, that idea is bad.

That’s not all. While he’s weeping into his cloak about his three dumped over cups, there are still two perfectly good cups behind him. Not only that, there’s a river like ten feet away. Just pick up your cups and go refill them, my dude. It would not even be difficult.

Anyway, I am sorry to say that this is pretty apt. I’ve experienced an extremely trivial disappointment (a payment processing company deemed my business against their TOS, and I don’t even have the energy to argue the point right now), and let it more or less ruin my night. This will not do. As much as it sucks to be made to feel like I’m not good enough for a credit card processing company (of all things), I have so much else I could be focusing on that isn’t that. I mean, they’re not even the only payment processing company I work with. This situation is literally less important than finding out that Mr. Yogato’s froyo place is out of bananas and Teddy Grahams.

That’s not the only disappointment I’ve had, but trust me, the other ones are even more laughable.

And yet… It stings and I complain.

I have more than two cups still full behind me. There are rivers around me. The loss is closer to a shot glass than it is to three chalices. It’s going to be okay.

life

And… Frolic!

Things were extremely okay. I’d even say they were approaching neato. Then they were not.

My S.O. had a high-stress presentation, not at all helped by having to do it over Zoom. The effect was like something out of a Terry Gilliam-style dystopia (which, I guess, is kind of where we are now), only without the part where anyone was wearing a giant, terrifying baby head.

I, on the other hand, had a bunch of orders to write, a presentation to plan, two cats who’ve been throwing up just often enough to be Way Too Much yet Still Technically Normal, and about ninety pounds of carpet slowly moldering in the middle of my living room. (I am not good at estimating how long it takes things to dry. I also habitually underestimate how humid it is here. Next time, I will happily pay a cute amount of money to make this someone else’s problem.)

There’s only one way to unwind from this: Aggressive frolicking.

Well, aggressive frolicking after a long drive.

First, we tried to go to Great Falls Park, but they were crowded to the point where park rangers had the entrance blocked off. It’s still a pretty drive with a bunch of scenic spots to pull off, though, and time I spend in the car with this nerd is never wasted.

Plus we found a spot bursting with bright yellow sunchokes and goldenrod. I even made a little bug buddy:

If I’ve got my bugs right, this is a pale green assassin bug nymph. Fortunately, these stealthy little weirdos are only assassins to other bugs, though they can bite if provoked.

Afterward, we found some crape myrtles suitable for frolicking amongst. The flowers smelled lovely, everyone else was sufficiently socially distant, and I was loaded up on enough Zyrtec to sedate a category 5 kaiju so the existence of grass didn’t make me break out in hives.

Most people wore masks, even the ones running or cycling, but some didn’t. We brought ours, but didn’t end up going anywhere where we were in danger of coming in contact with anyone. With an entire area of the park to ourselves, it was easy to avoid breathing at other people (and getting breathed at, in turn).

I think the closest we came to coming within a hundred feet of another person was when this extremely charming family looking for a picnic spot. They rounded a fence to head down a grassy hill, when one of their maybe-four-or-five-year-old children exclaimed, “Oh! What a nice view!” I’m not generally a person of young children or babies, but it was the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

That was pretty much it — sun, breeze, and the smell of crape myrtles. That’s plenty for me.

See? Idyllic.