Link round up

Good News Round Up: 6.3.2022

Hello! I was going to make a post yesterday, but was forced to take a brief hiatus. Apparently racoons and possums can just show up and dig through people’s trash, but when I do it, it’s “trespassing” and I “need to put some pants on.” Ridiculous.

Anyhow, here is a small round up of news and articles I found interesting or inspiring, or just made me feel good:

“Great Day” For Bumblebees As Californian Court Rules That They Are Fish. Due to the oddities of legal language, California’s laws regarding the protection of threatened and endangered species don’t include insects. However, the definition of “fish” is worded in a way that could allow bumblebees to qualify, granting them legal protection.

Painting the Porch ‘Haint Blue’ Is a Great Way to Deter Wasps. Want to deter other sting-y bugs without harming bees? The answer may lie in a color called “Haint Blue.” Originally, the Gullah people used this color to deter ghosts and malevolent spirits from trying to enter the home, hence the name “haint” (“haunt”). As it turns out, it can confuse wasps too.

Scientists Discovered The World’s Largest Known Plant, And It’s Over 100 Miles Long. Seagrasses are one of those plants that can reproduce via rhizomes — by sending out specialized stems through their substrate that allow new leaves to emerge. These are all effectively clones of the parent plant. Recently, scientists discovered an absolute unit of a seagrass. While DNA testing individuals in a large deep-sea meadow, they made a surprising discovery: It was all the same plant!

Paper Constructions Confine Skeletons to Uncanny Spaces in Jason Limon’s Paintings. “The uncanny structures trap his recurring skeletal characters in cramped boxes and funhouse-esque constructions, where they attempt to disentangle themselves from their surroundings. Rendered in muted pigments, or what the artist calls “repressed tones,” the paintings utilize the anonymity and ubiquity of the bony figures to invoke emotional narratives.”

How to Paint a Dresser So You Don’t End Up With a Sticky, Streaky Finish. If you’re living a low-waste, “buy it once” lifestyle, it helps to know how to refurbish things. This guide can help you repaint furniture so it lasts.

Geologists plan to crack open ancient crystal that may contain life. This is fascinating, but I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen this horror movie.

2,100-year-old farmstead in Israel found ‘frozen in time’ after owners disappeared. Whoever lived there left in a hurry — researchers found still-intact storage jars, a weaving loom, and more!

Research Does Not Support the Adage “Boys Will Be Boys.” As it turns out, children who exhibit stereotypically gendered behavior in one category are not more likely to do so in other categories.

3 Tips To Release Stuck Emotions, From A Therapist & Trauma Specialist. I have trouble with stuck feelings converting to physical symptoms — like tightness in my upper back. If you’re like me, these tips can help release those emotions.

Rebelious Princess – Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda, Princess of Éboli. While I was searching for medieval and Renaissance portraits to see what might have inspired the Isabellas, I came across the story of Princess Ana. She lost an eye, perhaps to a fencing accident, was widowed at a young age, had an affair with a king, entered a convent, decided it sucked, left the convent, was caught up in political intrigue, and eventually placed under house arrest — where she apologized for nothing, and, let’s be real, probably died with both middle fingers upraised. I love her.

329 years later, last Salem ‘witch’ is pardoned. A curious group of middle schoolers had taken up the cause of Elizabeth Johnson Jr., who had no descendants to clear her name. While Johnson wasn’t executed, neither was she pardoned — until now.

DC Spring Animal Sightings, Ranked From Worst to Wildest. DC might be a city, but some of the wildlife here is… well, wild. Here are the spring animal sightings, including a rabid fox with an appetite for congressmen, savage turkeys, an Assateague pony who was just being a bit of a dick, and a hungry bear in Silver Spring.

Have a good weekend!
This is an order.

Plants and Herbs

Grass Folklore and Magical Uses

I admit, I’m staunchly anti-lawn. Only 50% of this mindset comes from the fact that I’m very allergic to grass. The other 50% comes from the fact that lawns consume more than their share of water, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers; take up space that could be better used by useful plants; and seem to be a weird kind of status symbol. Also, I hate homeowners’ associations with a passion, and they seem to be really anal about grass.

(I used to try to deliberately sabotage a particularly douchey HOA president by discreetly hucking cannabis seeds into his lawn at every opportunity, and I apologize to no man.)

A tree in the middle of a grassy field, under a cloudy sky.

Since it’s getting into late spring soon, my feelings about grass are at a particularly high peak. It had me wondering — short of raising very small quantities of grazing livestock, is grass actually good for anything?

I also read an old recipe for a hand of glory that involved smoking the severed hand of a hanged man with a mixture of hay and other herbs, and hay is basically large grass, so I thought there might be something there. Could lawns be hiding a treasure trove of magic?

Grass Magical Properties and Folklore

First, it should be noted that “grass” on its own isn’t terribly descriptive. There are a ton of grasses that are known for their magical and medicinal properties, like vetiver and lemongrass. Others, like sweetgrass, have religious or ceremonial significance. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to confine the idea of grass to species like timothy hay and Kentucky bluegrass — the kind of grasses that you’re likely to see appear in paddocks or lawns, either intentionally or as weeds.

A spotted butterfly on a blade of grass.

Sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) is said to be particularly aggressive when it comes to triggering hay fever. Interestingly, preparing a tincture of the fresh grass, splashing some into one’s hands, and inhaling the fumes is said to help halt an allergy attack.

Hay, in general, is associated with pregnancy and fertility. Some sources treat it as a healing herb.

Couch grass (Elymus repens) is used for happiness, love, lust, hex-breaking, and exorcisms. It appears to be a general “get rid of bad stuff, bring in the good” herb, particularly when it comes to getting rid of malevolent-but-not-terribly-powerful spirits.

Goosegrass is name applied to several species, some of which appear as common weeds in lawns. Cleavers (Galium aparine), which doesn’t really resemble grass, is sometimes called goosegrass. It’s often used for spells to bind two things together. Indian goosegrass (Eleusine indica) is a species that is considered a nuisance plant in lawns and golf greens. Goosegrass is generally associated with dreams, wisdom, and luck.

Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), a common lawn grass in the U.S., is an important Ayurvedic herb. Some research has shown that it may be helpful for controlling blood sugar. It’s also said to regulate bowel movements, ease digestion, heal mouth ulcers and skin problems, and help stop bleeding from hemorrhoids. It has some antimicrobial properties, which can make it useful for healing minor infections.

“Hungry Grass”

In Irish folklore, there’s a phenomenon called féar gorta — famine grass, or hungry grass. This was a patch of grass, completely indistinguishable from any other, that would cause intense hunger pangs in anyone who stood upon it. Some unlucky steppers might even become suddenly exhausted, or even pass away where they stood.

In some tellings, this is because the grass is growing over the grave of a victim of the Great Famine. In others, hungry grass is attributed to malicious faeries.

Delicious Crabgrass

Crabgrass seems to be the bane of many a stereotypical suburban dad. Far from merely being an unsightly interloper into a perfect putting-green lawn, this grass is useful as animal fodder, producing fiber for paper, and even produces edible seeds. Hairy crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) is sometimes cultivated in Europe, and the seeds are known as “Polish millet.” When ground, these seeds produce a useful white flour for baking.

Hairy crabgrass is also medicinally useful. In a decoction, it was used as a treatment for gonorrhea. It was also sometimes used as an emetic, or for general debility — though I’m not sure how throwing up a whole bunch would really help there.

The Hand of Glory

As I mentioned above, hay is (sometimes) instrumental in making a Hand of Glory. This was a kind of grisly candleholder intended to help thieves go about their business. When set with a candle (in some tellings, one made with the semen of the hand’s former owner), it would cause all of the occupants of a house to fall into a deep sleep, as well as unlocking any pesky doors that might stand in between you and the house’s valuables.

All recipes for this grisly curio involve cutting the left hand off of a man freshly hanged on the gallows. If he was a murderer, it should be the hand that did the deed.

According to one recipe, the hand then needed to have as much blood removed as possible. In one recipe, it must then be picked in the urine of a man, woman, stallion, mare, and dog for a month. Then, it should be smoked with hay and other herbs, then hung from a church door overnight. At that point, it’ll be ready to use.

In another, the hand must be packed in a jar with salt, pepper, and saltpeter, and left for two weeks. After that, it should be baked in an oven heated with vervain and ferns for one hour.

Recipes for the candle are pretty specific, too. Some require it to be made of the dead man’s fat and semen, with a wick made of his hair. (Unfortunately, getting hair to light isn’t exactly easy — unlike cotton, it doesn’t really burn. Animal fibers tend to just smolder.) Other instructions say it was best to just dip the whole dingdang hand in wax, then light the fingers directly. This seems a bit wasteful to me, though. After a month of pickling with horse pee and smoking with herbs, I’d like my dead guy’s hand to be more than a one-use item!

Using Grass

First, you want to make sure that you’ve removed all of the stems and see-

Wait. Hang on.

Using grass magically or medicinally is fairly simple; the only really tricky part is figuring out what you’ve got. There are reasons why all those short green lawn plants are just called “grass,” and, if you’re not an expert, it’s probably pretty tricky to tell the difference between Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, or fine fescue.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re dealing with, the next step is pretty much up to you. It’s worth acknowledging that a lot of the grass species used for lawns aren’t from Europe, so there isn’t going to be a lot of Witchcraft or Druidic lore behind them.

A kitten about to go primal on some flowers in a grassy field.

In general, grasses seem to be treated as positive omens that bring luck. This isn’t too surprising — grass is fodder for grazing animals, and its appearance in spring meant that they could graze, and not rely on stored hay. Hungry animals meant hungry people, and grass made all of the difference. Fresh grass chased away the evil spirit of starvation.

Assuming you aren’t allergic, you can place dried grass in a sachet or charm bag for luck, fertility, and protection from evil. You could also steep dried blades in hot water, and add the liquid to a floor wash for the same purposes. Sufficiently long grass blades could be dried and bound together in an herb bundle to fumigate an area, as well.

I can’t vouch for using grass medicinally, particularly given the difficulty with distinguishing one species from another. If you want to use it that way, you may be better off buying dried or tinctured grasses, versus trying to harvest and prepare your own. (Grasses are also generally doused in pesticides, fertilizers, and other things you probably don’t want in your medicine.)

Until lawns fall out of fashion, at least we can use grass for something positive.
Well, you can. I’ll be over here with the antihistamines.

art, Just for fun, life

Curséd/haunted objects I saw this weekend, ranked.

My partner and I go antiquing pretty frequently. This isn’t necessarily out of any real desire to collect antiques, so much as it is the desire to support the local economy and also own furniture that isn’t particleboard. Some antique shops are very curated and fancy, while others are more… eclectic, shall we say.

Anyhow, if you’ve ever spent enough time in an antique shop, you’ve probably passed by at least one thing that you could absolutely picture holding the soul of a tubercular Victorian child. These are those things, ranked in order of how likely I think the potential ghost inside is likely to go all Annabelle on someone:

5. The Blinded Bride.

A chicken wire sculpture with a blindfolded silver face and silk roses.

This is actually just a rad piece of outdoor sculpture, to be honest. It’s eerie, it’s evocative, and I love it. The artist who makes them, Shara Banisadr, is very cool. She was neatening up the area around the sculptures, and talked to us briefly about her work. Their faces are made of old vinyl records!

This wire lady also has friends:

A similar sculpture, of a silver-faced woman holding a wire child on her lap.

I could probably see this particular piece in a setting like Bloodborne or Elden Ring, but I really think she’s more likely to be kind of sad versus actively murderous. Unless you try to hurt her or steal her blindfold, then she would absolutely wreck you like a Mike Tyson made of fishhooks. Truly the luxury model of potentially haunted object. I’m absolutely going to invest in one of these ladies once I have sufficient outdoor space (or a window that directly faces my neighbors, either or). I feel like they’d be good companions for all of the Isabellas.

Murderghost probability: 10%

4. The Courteous Wig Stand.

A wig stand with large eyes and painted flowers.

There’s something about her I dig. She reminds me of the women in 50s ads for housewares. The small, vague smile and wide eyes speaks of a kind of brittle, exhausted politeness. It’s the same expression and energy I had back when I worked retail, and I can appreciate that.

She’s probably not malevolent. You’re much more likely to turn around in a darkened hallway and see her hovering four feet in the air behind you, glowing faintly and slowly rotating. Somewhere, a distant, echoey voice like wind over an open grave will whisper, “Do you need help finding anything?”

There’s no saving you if she runs out of Valium, though.

Murderghost probability: 30%

3. The Fading Child.

A drawing of a child in reddish-brown conte crayon.

There’s a certain sad-yet-focused intensity in this kid. The level of detail in their face, coupled with the strokes almost the exact color of dried blood, creates an image that’s at once aesthetically pleasing and extremely unsettling. They look vaguely displeased about something, and I’m pretty sure they think that’s my fault.

This is basically the exact kind of picture you see as a haunted object in movies. A mansion burns down, or cracks and crumbles like the House of Usher, and all that’s left is this kid. Staring. Subtly frowning. Lightning cracks the sky, and their brow furrows ever so slightly.

I don’t think the child is likely to murder anyone directly, but I refuse to believe that they haven’t been associated with a series of “accidents.”

Murderghost probability: 50%

2. The Tragic Hound.

A painting of a sad looking dog on a pink background. The picture is placed behind a basket, several large spools, and a wooden box.

Don’t let the puppy eyes fool you. This is absolutely haunted, and absolutely just waiting for you to let your guard down.

See the hints of red in the eyes? The way they seem to follow you around the room?

This painting absolutely houses some kind of Shadow Hearts-style monster. Like, I don’t know, an evil mailman. Notice how even the shop owner placed him behind several objects. It’s because they know. Do not gaze upon the full glory of the tragic hound, lest it pursue you for an eternity.

Murderghost probability: 70%

1. The Dapper Man.

A painting of a man in a jaunty blue uniform. The background and frame are both bright pink. The man's large, round eyes seem to bore into one's soul.

HE’S SEEN YOU.

Murderghost probability: Run.

art, Blog, life

This is Isabella, Isabella, Isabella, Isabella, Isabella, Isabella, Isabella, and Isabella.

Saturday, my partner and I went antiquing. Though I keep a short running tab of vintage/antique objects I’m looking for (brass candlesticks, salesman’s cases, small wall mirrors, picture frames), we shop like magpies. Our collective style could best be described as “maximalist,” but I feel like that implies a level of cohesion and intention that your average corvid probably isn’t capable of. The only unifying theme is “stuff we like.”

Usually, it goes like this: One of us sees a thing. They point it out to the other. We name it and freewrite an entire backstory for it. If it evokes enough emotion, we’re probably going to try to bring it home. We’ve done this with everything from live plants to… Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

There’s a spot in Kensington, MD, that’s antique shop upon antique shop. It’s one of the places we like to hit up periodically, just to walk around and browse. Sometimes we find some neat stuff, sometimes we just end up making up stories about the people in old portraits. It’s always a lot of fun either way.

When we walked out of one shop, we passed through a small alleyway between two buildings.

“Stopstopstop. Don’t move,” my partner said.

“What?”

“There’s a boy,” he pointed to a little huddled mass of feathers. It took me a bit to spot him: a house sparrow, sitting in the middle of the pavement. Something looked off, so I approached him cautiously. When he didn’t try to fly away, my heart sank.

“I… don’t think he’s gonna care if I move.” I bent down and held my hand out. He startled a little, but still didn’t fly. I gently stroked the patch of black on his chest and looked him over — ruffled and broken feathers, one eye squinched shut, a skinned patch on the top of his head, and a dazed expression.

We crouched near him as we called wildlife rescues, though I had my doubts. Sparrows aren’t native here; they’re even considered invasive agricultural pests. Would a rescue even take him in? If they did, was there anything they could do? Nobody picked up at the various numbers we called. I also knew it’d be a bad idea to try to take him home and nurse him back to health, especially without a way to keep him secluded away from both of the cats.

Carefully, I scooped him up in my hands and carried him to the shade of a bush. It wasn’t much, but there were bugs to eat there and he’d be out of the noon sun.

A bit later, when we were eating at deliCLUB, I jumped up. I had a water bottle and a small quantity of yellow cake with buttercream… Not ideal, but maybe it’d do.

“I have an idea,” I said.

A few minutes saw us on our hands and knees under the bush, carefully pouring out some water into a bottlecap and breaking off tiny bits of cake. I knew it wasn’t the optimal diet for an animal that’s doing poorly, but I know I also probably shouldn’t’ve eaten my weight in lime gelatin when I was in the hospital, either. We nestled the bottlecap in the mulch around the bush’s roots, and made a little pile of cake crumbs (sans frosting) beside it. I didn’t see him try to eat or drink, but I didn’t want us to hang around too long, either. He’s a wild animal, scared, vulnerable, and possibly in pain. No matter what we did, our presence was going to cause more stress to an already highly-stressed creature. Without a better way to care for him, we left him in the safest place we could find with a little food and water.

Torn about the decision to leave him behind, we finished up and headed home. This time around, we’d picked up a silk top, a floor-length silk robe, ornate chopsticks, a typesetter’s drawer, and a folding screen.

I mean, I guess it’s a folding screen, though the words “folding screen” don’t really do it justice. It’s a hand-carved, painted screen made to look like medieval art. We don’t know if the artist intended to depict a specific person or just generally evoke the feel of medieval-to-Renaissance period portraiture, but they repeated her carved portrait eight times. I call the woman Isabella, because she just looks like one to me. In some, Isabella looks amused. In others, bemused. In one, vaguely sad. In a couple, angry. These don’t seem to be intentional on the artist’s part, just the product of subtle differences in the grain of the wood. The natural texture produces a furrow in a brow, the subtle downturn of a lip, or the course of a tear down a carved cheek.

In the corner of the antique shop.

My partner spotted the screen in a corner and pointed it out to me. I was immediately intrigued. (Baffled, also, but mostly intrigued.) I’d never seen anything like it before and doubted I would again. It gave me flashbacks to this fantastic couch I’d spotted in a thrift shop once years ago– a Neo Rococo-style chaise longue in polished mahogany, upholstered in ochre crushed velvet with silk fringe. It was the most beautifully bonkers piece of furniture I’d ever seen, and I’ve always regretted not buying it when I could. I didn’t want that to happen here.

A little haggling and a few minutes of rearranging things and figuring out how to fold seats down (why are the levers in the trunk?), and we were headed home with the screen in the back.

When it comes to objects I own that are potentially haunted, I feel like this has the highest probability. As soon as we got it/her/them home, I immediately lit some incense and fumigated everything we brought in.

“If this object houses a malevolent spirit, you need to get the fuck out. If you’re cool, you can stay. Repeat: No evil spirits. If you’re neutral or benevolent, you can hang. If not, leave my house now!”

I keep hearing footsteps and the rustle of taffeta, but I’m sure it’s nothing.

More pictures once I’ve placed their majesties in a suitable spot.

Link round up

Good News Round Up: 5.27.2022

The news is bad, and I don’t think anybody’d blame you for thinking most things suck right now. To help, I’ve collected a bunch of articles I think are neat, interesting, inspiring, or just made me feel a little more optimistic. I hope they can be of use to you, too.

U.S. Customs Agents Find Rare Moth Last Spotted in 1912. In a world where we have to watch the extinction and near-extinction of species on an almost daily basis, “Lazarus species” can offer an occasional glimmer of hope. This moth was last seen in Sri Lanka 110 years ago!

There was also a Striking New Species of Snake Discovered in Paraguay. Piggybacking on the above sentiment, I also love hearing about the discovery of new animals and plants. This one’s non-venomous, semi-subterranean, and very cute (if you’re into snakes, which I am)!

Is the world’s oldest tree growing in a ravine in Chile? According to some estimates, the Alerce Milenario (Fitzroya cupressoides) is over 5,000 years old. While some colonies of trees cloned from a single organism are older, this would make it the world’s oldest individual tree.

Dolphins wait in queue for rubbing their skin against corals. Dolphins are one of the world’s most intelligent (and, let’s be real, heinously perverted) species. Apparently, they also have a better concept of healthcare access than the U.S. does.

I love reading about OOPArts (out-of-place artifacts, or objects discovered in a place that doesn’t quite make sense for their origin in place and time), so I also really enjoyed Ancient technology that was centuries ahead of its time. While this tech isn’t exactly the same as OOPArts, they both make me wonder — what else did the ancients have that was lost to time?
For example, the Land of Punt was a trading partner for ancient Egypt. Scholars at the time called it “God’s Land,” and wrote about trading ships laden with gold, frankincense, aromatic resins, exotic wood, and even more exotic animals. Unfortunately, they never really bothered to record its location, because why bother? I mean, everybody knew about Punt!
There’s only one problem: Nobody really knows where it was anymore. It might have been Somalia, it could’ve been Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, or any number of other places. If history could let an entire kingdom slip, what else have we missed?

Photographer Captures the Many Colors of the Full Moon Over 10 Years. The full moon is objectively beautiful, and it comes in such a dazzling array of colors. I’ve never had the privilege of witnessing the bright purple moon near the center, but I really, really want to.

If you want to help end the plague of gun violence in the U.S., Charity Navigator has collected several highly-rated charities specific to gun violence, mental health, and victim support.

Anyhow, we bought a ton of hamburger buns for an event that ended up postponed, which means that we now have a ton of bread pudding (with extra cinnamon and loads of chocolate chips). I’m gonna go eat some. Have a good weekend!

life, Plants and Herbs

Pennyroyal Folklore and Magical Properties

There’s been a lot of buzz about pennyroyal on the interbutts. Even if you don’t fall in the demographic of people likely to ever have to worry about pregnancy, you might know what large doses of pennyroyal can do just through cultural osmosis.

Photo from Gardenology.com.

Unfortunately, this lovely herb’s use is controversial for good reason.

Pennyroyal Magical Uses and Folklore

Pennyroyal is either feminine and ruled by the planet Venus, or else it’s masculine and ruled by Mars. While this is confusing, I feel like it illustrates the dualistic nature of this herb very well — it’s an objectively beautiful plant, with its lush, creeping growth and clusters of purple flowers invariably covered in bees and butterflies, but it’s also a deadly poison.

As an herb for travelers, a few leaves placed in each shoe was believed to offer protection and guard against tired feet.

Because of the herb’s use as an emmenagogue, it’s sometimes used as an ingredient in sachets and jars for blood magic and protection (especially for sex workers).

Interestingly, this herb is also used for peace. When carried or hung in a space, it helps keep tempers from flaring. (Be very cautious to avoid hanging it where pets or children might ingest it!) This might be an extension of its use as protection against the evil eye. If you think about it, it makes sense — it’s a soft, fuzzy, flowery herb with an unassuming appearance, but it hides a potent poison. Pennyroyal is pretty much the embodiment of an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Pennyroyal is also used to break hexes and curses.

The botanical name, Mentha pulegium, stems from its ability to repel fleas. This might also be the source of its protective powers — it chases fleas and negative or malevolent energies away.

Image by Alex Lockton, used under CC BY-SA 4.0.

In ancient Greece and Rome, wearing a crown of pennyroyal was believed to relieve headaches. The herb was also used to flavor savory foods.

Pennyroyal is still used in North African cuisine to this day. The US Food and Drug administration allows naturally-derived pulegone, a compound found in pennyroyal, as a flavoring agent.

Pennyroyal as Medicine

Pennyroyal is a mint. Members of the mint family contain a naturally-occurring compound called pulegone, which appears to be the primary source of this herb’s toxicity. Even when it isn’t acutely toxic, pulegone has been found to cause pre-cancerous changes in the organs of rodents. The thing is, while herbs like catnip and peppermint have much less pulegone, pennyroyal has a lot.

With that in mind, let’s talk about something called the “therapeutic window.” Put briefly, this is the range where you get the benefits of a medicine, without significant adverse effects. Some medications have a pretty broad therapeutic window. Some do not. Some therapeutic windows are so narrow, they’re not worth considering as treatment.

Pennyroyal falls squarely into that last category.

The thing is, pennyroyal does have some medicinal benefits. Traditionally, it was used as an ingredient in teas. It’s said to be good for flatulence and stomach cramps, like many other members of the mint family.

This is all in very low doses, however, and the beneficial effects of pennyroyal can be found in other, much safer herbs. Flatulence? Try a carminative like caraway seed. Indigestion? Regular peppermint will probably do you just fine.

Pennyroyal also has a reputation as an abortifacient and emmenagogue, meaning that it can trigger an abortion or bring on a period that’s been delayed. The dosage required to do this is pretty much at the far end of the therapeutic window, and the variability in strength of herbal medicine makes it impossible to figure out the difference between “safe and effective” and “deadly.”

Think of it this way — plants aren’t inert. They respond to their environment. If there’s heat stress and a lot of pests, they produce more of the volatile compounds that help them survive. If they’re in a relatively low-stress area, or pampered in a greenhouse, they’ll likely be less intense. This means that, if you’re trying to figure out your own dosage of pennyroyal, you’re pretty much flying blind. You have no way of knowing how much pulegone a given dosage of pennyroyal might contain.

That means that not only might you not actually trigger an abortion, you could end up destroying your liver, kidneys, and lungs instead. Worst case scenario, you will die and it will hurt the entire time. Just like everything else, there are much safer herbs that can help bring about a late period.

I have only one piece of advice when it comes to using pennyroyal medicinally: Don’t, unless you’re doing so under the guidance of a doctor. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have an antidote for pennyroyal poisoning.

Using Pennyroyal

While it’s still used in dishes like batata bel fliou, if you don’t have experience cooking with pennyroyal, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid putting it in brews, potions, or foods.

Oil of pennyroyal is the most toxic form of the plant, so you may wish to find an oil with comparable magical uses instead — especially for anointing.

Other than that, pennyroyal is fine to use in jars, sachets, and spells that don’t involve taking the herb internally. Since it’s been shown that it can cause pre-cancerous changes in the lung cells of rats, I’d probably avoid putting it in incense. (Members of the mint family tend to smell awful when burned, anyhow.)

If you’re a sex worker (or just someone who enjoys sex and wants to protect themselves), you might want to include it in a jar for attraction and sensuality as a sex-specific protection herb. Combine it with ingredients like rose petals, jasmine, and sugar, seal with the wax of a red candle, and keep it under your bed.

For protection, fill a jar with pennyroyal, cactus spines, garlic, and hawthorn. Keep it under your porch, or bury it near/under your front steps.

For peace, mix pennyroyal with lavender and thyme and put it in a jar. Seal it with the wax of a white candle, and keep it in a safe place near the heart of your home.

Pennyroyal isn’t immediately and intensely poisonous like some herbs can be, but the people most likely to look for it for medicinal purposes are at the most risk. If you’re experiencing menstrual irregularities or a late period, there are other treatments out there that are much safer for you.

life, Neodruidry

Could 15th century poetry have an antidote for toxic positivity?

So, toxic positivity. If you haven’t personally encountered it, you might be thinking, “J, you absolute drill bit, how could positivity be toxic?” Just roll with me on this.

What’s toxic positivity?

Eat a healthful diet and exercise regularly, and that’s healthy. Obsessively count calories and jog for hours to burn off every meal, and that’s an eating disorder. Play video games to relax, and that’s good and fun. Play video games for hours on end, to the point where you’re eating at your desk and your room looks like a Superfund site, and that’s unhealthy escapism. Looking on the bright side of things is healthy. Police your thoughts to avoid having an iota of negativity sneak in, and that’s toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity shows up in a wide variety of ways. In this context, I want to talk about the stay-positive-at-all-times-to-attract-a-better-life-for-yourself that still seems to pervade the internet and new age thought in general.

In some sects of fundamentalist Christianity, women are told to “keep sweet.” Despite what they may feel, they must be “joyfully available” to their husbands. No matter what, that positive facade must be upheld.

This happens in new age circles, too. Concepts like the Law of Attraction tell people that negativity begets negativity. That means that you should fill your life and thoughts with positivity, so your life gets better. If things are bad, you’ve clearly brought it on yourself by being negative.

Positivity becomes toxic when it’s rigidly enforced in the face of all sense and reason. When you’re told that your negative thoughts and feelings attract bad things to you, thereby holding you responsible for all of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, that’s not healthy. It’s natural to feel bad — and even act on that feeling — when bad things happen. People who are born into poverty, become disabled or very ill, or experience other misfortunes don’t manifest these things for themselves.

Toxic positivity happens in a climate that enforces a status quo. When you’re made to feel responsible for misfortune in your life, and, above all, not to ever let on that you’re unhappy, you’re less likely to agitate for necessary changes in your life and the world around you.

It wasn’t always like this.

It’s also not uncommon to see new age gurus misappropriating very spiritual concepts in order to push this modified version of the prosperity gospel. You can see this in the idea that ever having or expressing a “negative” emotion could block one’s chakras, disrupting one’s internal energy flow (at least, until you pay a guru for a class, video, tool, or treatment to fix it).

The thing is, while this idea isn’t exactly new, it’s relatively recent. It’s also something that crops up as a means of control — tell people that their negative emotions will harm them, and it saves you from the inconvenient work of having to care about other people. Get enough people to believe that their misery is their own fault, and the rich and powerful get to stay rich, powerful, and beyond criticism.

The Three Cauldrons as a Remedy for Toxic Positivity

Amergin was a Druid and bard in the Irish mythological cycle. The idea of the Three Cauldrons is attributed to him, taken from a collection of poetry and prose that dates back to the fifteenth century CE. While these writings come from that period, the ideas within them may hearken back as far as the eighth century.

In these writings, humans are regarded as having three cauldrons within them: Coire Goiriath, the Cauldron of Warmth; Coire Ernmae, the Cauldron of Motion (or Vocation); and Coire Sois, the Cauldron of Wisdom. These should not be conflated with the energy centers found in other spiritual writings and systems — the Three Cauldrons aren’t simply a European equivalent to chakras. The writings don’t actually specify where, exactly, the cauldrons are. Are they in the body, the soul, both, or neither? Despite this, it’s generally accepted that Coire Goiriath resides in the lower belly, Coire Ermae in the chest, and Coire Sois in the head.

With this in mind, people are generally considered to be born with their Cauldron of Warmth upright, filled with vitality and the capacity for physical growth. Their Cauldron of Motion/Vocation is on its side, and turns upright only after growing, learning, and experiencing things. The Cauldron of Wisdom is upside-down. It should be noted that not everyone’s cauldrons are oriented the same way — some people have differing talents, levels of physical vitality, and so forth. There is no ideal way for your cauldrons to be, they simply are. It’s your job to do the work to maximize the potential of what you’ve been given.

My own existence springs forth from the Cauldron of Poesy,
Which was created by the gods from the dúile;
Enlightened is each inspiration
That streams forth in my speech and from my center of being.
I am Amergin White Knee,
Ancient in years and gray of hair.
My inspirations are found within
The many forms of poetry
That are born within my Cauldron of Warming.
The Gods do not orient each person’s Cauldrons equally
Or fill them with the same talents and abilities:
Some are formed upside down, some tilted or upright.
Some are empty, while others are half full,
Some are filled with knowledge like Eber and Donn,
Capable of creating chants of life and death,
Through a skillful combination of words
In the power of three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter,
And possessing the strength of three measures: double letters,
Long vowels and short vowels.
My Cauldron of Vocation is trained
Through a study of the arts of poetry
And sustains me through proper composition.
I sing also of the Cauldron of Knowledge
That allocates the gifts of wisdom
According to the laws of each art
And the work of each artist in general.

Amergin, The Cauldron of Poesy

The Cauldron of Motion

While people can be born with their cauldrons oriented in different ways, they don’t need to stay like that. For people who wear blinders throughout their lives, their Cauldron of Motion may be upside down. Those who practice the arts may have their cauldron on its side. Those who go through the depths of sorrow and heights of ecstasy may turn their cauldron upright.

I want to highlight that last part: the depths of sorrow and heights of ecstasy. Eighth century poetry acknowledged that, in order to write, sing, and create art, you needed to experience things. Not just one kind of thing. Sorrow is as integral to the process as joy is.

The writings get more specific here, too. Longing, grief, envy, and the search for the divine are all acknowledged forms of sorrow. Good health, marriage, and accomplishment are some of the acknowledged forms of joy. The concept of balance — not just between joy and sorrow — is further emphasized:

The Cauldron of Vocation
Fills and is filled,
Grants gifts and is enriched,
Nourishes and is enlivened,
Sings praises and is praised,
Chants invocations and is enchanted,
Creates harmonies and is harmoniously created,
Defends and is strongly defended,
Orients and is aligned,
Upholds and is upheld.

Good is the wellspring of measured speech.
Good is the home of the well of speech.
Good is the joining of their powers:
Strength is made durable.

It endures longer than any fortress.
It is better than any tradition.
It is our guide to wisdom,
As we free ourselves from ignorance.

Amergin, excerpt from The Cauldron of Vocation

This power comes not from upholding positivity in the hopes of attracting a better life. It comes from the work of experiencing both joy and sorrow, devoting yourself to a greater pursuit, and acting and speaking with honesty and integrity. This is the origin of strength, endurance, and freedom. This is what lets us change things not only for ourselves, but for the world.

life

I will become… Five Punch Man.

Studying Neodruidry has given me a lot of exercise for mental discipline, but didn’t really come with a physical side. Plogging is something that follows that mindset, but is also something I’ve been doing for ages and don’t really consider an additional physical activity. I wanted another way to make myself stronger, enforce physical discipline, and burn off some of the extra ADHD energy.

Even if you aren’t a degenerate weeb (just kidding — ily degenerate weebs) you’ve probably seen/read/heard of One Punch Man. Even if you haven’t done any of that, you’ve probably seen a meme or two based on it.

Anyway, at one point, someone asks Saitama how he became One Punch Man. His answer?

100 Push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10km running EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!

It’s not bullshit, either. There are tons of breakdowns of (and testimonials about) the One Punch Man Workout all over the internet at this point.

My only problem is that, while I covet the muscular limbs of a Percheron, my own are noodly and disappointing. Shovelglove has absolutely helped my upper body and my endurance, but I need something for my most-of-me.

So, for now, I’m adding in what I call the Five Punch Man workout. It is basically the same as Saitama’s, just… one fifth of it for now. Twenty push-ups, twenty sit-ups, twenty squats, and about a mile and a half’s worth. I’ll work my way up to a hundred, assuming my knees don’t come apart in the process.

Wish me luck!

art, life

I’m in a show!

I have spent my entire artistic career making things for private collections and not entering shows. Part of this is due to anxiety, but most of it has to do with my very strange relationship with attention.

Anyway, I decided it was time to suck it up and apply to one. I did, I got in, and now you can see some of my work at The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. This particular show is running until June 5th.

Honestly, I feel good. Validated. Like I accomplished something. It was easier than I expected, too.

Hooray!

life

Good music transcends time and language.

I’ll let one of the The Hu’s frontmen say it.

Music transcends any language. Even when we were growing up and listening to Western rock bands, to this day I still don’t understand some of my favorite songs. But [through] the music, the rhythm and the tune and the way it’s delivered… It’s something special. You’re able to ‘understand’ everything because you feel it. 

Gala (Galbadrakh Tsendbaatar), in an interview with Louder

I don’t remember how I first learned about The Hu. When I write or paint, I often end up putting a song on, then letting whatever algorithm is currently spying on me keep recommending things. I remember being captivated by Wolf Totem, and put their songs on heavy rotation afterward.

This past Monday, my partner and I finally got to see them in concert. It was at Warren Theater, which isn’t quite what you’d picture when you think of a metal show (think lots of seats, chandeliers, ceiling medallions, you get the picture). I thought the seats might get in the way of moving around. I did not allow them to.

The band was fantastic. The energy was contagious. The crowd was enthusiastic and friendly. (The guy sitting behind us photobombed us in a hilarious way, and I almost regret laughing so hard because the shot ended up blurry.) And the music. It’s hard to describe the fusion of traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing with metal in a way that does it justice. I could write about it for what feels like forever, but, as the old quote goes, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

This is what modern bardic tradition should feel like. It feels like the kind of power old stories talk about when they speak of bards that could strike a person down with a verse.

I barely know a few words in Mongolian. If a song interests me, I need to look up a translation, and a romanization so I can at least try to approximate the pronunciation. It doesn’t matter, I still try. My lack of linguistic skills meant that I couldn’t know any of Jaya’s between-song banter. It didn’t matter, I cheered with my fists in the air anyway.

This was easily one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in ages. If you have the opportunity to see The Hu, take it.