Blog, crystals, life

.deirram teg s’teL

What do you do when you end up married, but never actually got engaged or had a ceremony?

I got married backwards.

My partner and I met and moved in together not long afterward. Neither of us wanted to get hitched — both of us come from families affected by pretty acrimonious divorces, which made us as trap shy as a pair of coyotes. Even if we did end up marrying, we didn’t want to have a wedding. Between the divorce thing and the link between wedding spending and marriage length, this seemed like a pretty reasonable decision. Being married wouldn’t impact anything about the way we lived or viewed each other, so it was an unjustifiable expense for something neither of us felt was necessary or desirable.

Then the pandemic came. It was frustrating to see that, since I was classified as a dependent, we’d miss a lot of the economic help offered to other families. That wasn’t my primary worry, though.

No.

That was the next of kin thing.

If something were to happen to me, then my partner, the person who’s been looking out for me and present for all of my medical stuff for years, wouldn’t have any input into my care or burial arrangements. That would go to my legal next of kin, from whom I’ve been estranged for over a decade. My partner also knows exactly how I want my corpse to be disposed of, but my legal next of kin a) has no idea, and b) probably wouldn’t agree to do it even if they knew. The idea of my next of kin making medical and burial decisions for me was terrifying. There are legal ways around this, but they’re not very straightforward when compared to being married. Unfortunately, the more paperwork is involved, the more complicated things get, and the more easily they can be contested.

We lived in DC, so we looked up the laws on common law marriage. After having lived together like a married couple, grocery shopped together, shared health and life insurance, and adopted animals together, we decided to declare ourselves married and filed taxes to demonstrate it.

Because we’re both basically eleven jackdaws apiece crammed into human suits, we also wanted rings. Since we never did the whole engagement and ceremony thing, we had to kind of feel our way through what to do when you want to give someone a ring, but you’ve kind of technically already been married for several years and also didn’t actually have a wedding or engagement.

We chose our rings from independent designers on Etsy. He had a harder time choosing than I did — I picked a few designs I thought he’d like, got his input, then narrowed down my search until we found one that he loved. I knew exactly what I wanted, so we contacted the seller and requested to have it made. When his came, I held onto it in secret until we were somewhere special, then surprised him. When mine came, he did the same.

He gave it to me while I was sitting on his lap, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, under a sky full of storm gray clouds brilliantly streaked with sunlight. I had on a thrifted flannel shirt and a pair of emergency sweatpants we’d bought at the gift shop because it was colder than I expected. There were a bunch of other people there, but we were too busy kissing to ask anyone if they’d mind taking a picture.

The ring was made by Green Gem. It’s silver (my favorite and most-worn metal) with a round cut Herkimer diamond. I knew I wanted a Herk because I love them, I’m not a fan of carbon diamonds, and this allowed me to get a larger, clearer stone that appeals to my crow-like desire to hoard shiny things. (Plus, if anyone asks me about it, I get to gush about the virtues of domestically sourced crystals over carbon diamonds.) I saw a twig-style ring I loved, set with an uncut Herk. I asked if it was possible for them to swap it for a faceted one, and they agreed. In the end, I got a beautiful, ethical ring that matches my style. You can see more of their rings, faceted stones, and raw crystals on their Instagram. Even if you’re not into Herks, they have a bunch of other beautiful, faceted crystals.

This tree doesn’t symbolize anything, I took a picture of it because I just thought it looked neat.

If you’re going down the path of non-traditional partnership, it can be challenging to figure out how to do it “right.” From the legality of next-of-kin stuff and inheritance laws, partnering without marriage can feel like a minefield. When I was in a same-sex relationship, we didn’t really put much thought into this kind of stuff — hospitals, death, and inheritances seemed ages away, so marriage and legality just never came up. I feel a lot better knowing that someone who knows and understands me has my back, even if we didn’t go through the traditional marriage path to do it.

crystals

How do you tell if your moldavite is fake?

So, crystals.

They’re a multibillion dollar industry that spans the entire globe. It’s to the point where creating fake crystals (not even necessarily lab-grown ones, sometimes just straight-up fake ones) is a lucrative venture. This is especially true for precious stones and high-dollar mineral specimens. You know, like moldavite.

Moldavite is an attractive stone for collectors for many reasons. For one, they’re found on the surface — no invasive, ecologically-damaging mining operations here. They’re also said to have a very high vibration. Their energy is said to be so high, in fact, that many users think their gems might be bad luck. On top of all that, they look awesome.

Without rehashing my last post about moldavite, I’ll just give a brief synopsis: These crystals are a type of glass formed when a meteorite struck Europe millions upon millions of years ago. The impact and heat liquidized the silica in the area, which was splashed into the air and formed interesting droplets as it cooled and fell to the ground again. Moldavite is varying shades of green, typically has interesting ripples or fernlike patterns on the surface, and shares a lot of properties with glass.

Photo by Moldavite AssociationCC BY-SA 4.0. No changes were made.

While this is a really cool origin story, that last bit is the kicker. Moldavite is mostly glass. That means that it’s very easy to fake using different glass.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #1: The origin.

It’s always best to buy stones direct from the country of origin. If you can get them mine- or harvester-direct, so much the better. That lets you save money by cutting out the middlemen, and means that you can get a better idea of where your stones came from and how they were collected (which is very important).

Moldavite is only naturally found in areas affected by the meteorite that made it (Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia). If you’re purchasing it from anywhere outside of these areas, it’s likely either going to be more expensive, or faked.

At the moment, a lot of the fake (and lab-created) crystals on the market come from China, India, Hong Kong, and Thailand. This is chiefly to do with how the world’s economies are structured right now. Some areas profit greatly off of having a manufacturing-based economy, have built an immense manufacturing base, and economically incentivize the production of goods. When a country is doing well for itself by manufacturing stuff, it stands to reason that the majority of manufactured stuff is probably going to come from there — crystals included.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #2: The price.

Real moldavite is expensive. There’s a finite amount of it. It also has to be collected by hand, and the pieces are fairly small. The limited supply and high demand means that even a comparatively tiny specimen can top $100 USD, easily.

This stone comes in different grades, the highest of which is very translucent and has a characteristic fernlike pattern on the outside, and the lowest of which is more opaque and pitted. One way to spot a fake moldavite is to check the price tag and the photo. If it’s a museum-quality piece for a suspiciously low price, it’s highly likely that it’s just molded or pressed glass.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #3: The shape.

Part of moldavite’s appeal is the external pattern. This unique texture is a direct consequence of the molten silica splashing into the air immediately after the meteorite’s impact, and cooling on the way down. It caused intriguing ripples that separate it from any other crystal out there.

In other words, take a very close look at stones that have been faceted or tumbled.

This isn’t to say that any moldavite that’s been polished is automatically fake, but altering the stone’s external texture removes one of its distinguishing features. This can make it more difficult to tell a genuine moldavite from a piece of dyed glass.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #4: The size.

Moldavite isn’t a big stone. The world’s largest is roughly 265 grams (or roughly half a pound). That’s equivalent in weight to about half a can of soup. By contrast, the world’s largest amethyst is 13,000 kg (or about 28,660 lb). That’s a little over seven cars.

If someone is selling a large moldavite specimen, take a look at the price, color, and other characteristics. If it’s opaque, smooth, and inexpensive, it’s probably not a fake crystal — but it definitely isn’t moldavite. Some sellers may try to pass aventurine or other cheaper green stones off as more expensive ones.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #5: The texture.

I’ve already gushed about moldavite’s pitted, swirly, fernlike texture before, but I want to bring it up again. Moldavite isn’t naturally shiny. It was buffeted by air currents and superheated gases as it cooled, and often splashed onto the ground before fully hardening. This means that the texture is naturally going to be kind of messed up, not smooth and shiny.

When moldavite was first gaining popularity on the crystal market, one of the ways to spot a fake was to look for a shiny appearance. Manufacturers weren’t yet able to mimic the matte surface and variety of textures that natural moldavite exhibits, so savvy buyers could pick out which stones came from the ground, and which ones came out of a mold. This is not always the case anymore — better manufacturing methods have allowed factories to turn out simulated moldavite that very closely mimics the texture of the natural stuff. Still, it’s a characteristic that’s worth noting, just in case.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #6: The interior.

Nature is good at a lot of things. Creating perfectly transparent objects is not necessarily one of them.

During the chaos of a meteorite impact, a lot of things happen. Gases heat and expand. Things melt and cool at different temperatures. The liquefied silica comes in contact with other materials, trapping them within its core. All of this leads to the tiny imperfections, bubbles, and inclusions that make crystals unique.

If a piece of moldavite is exceptionally transparent, and doesn’t show any inclusions of lechatelierite or gas bubbles, it’s likely fake.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #7: The adjectives.

Moldavite is just moldavite. It’s green, kind of swirly or pitted outside, and sort of blobby shaped. As with other crystals, beware of adjectives. Some sellers will attach them to their stones to make them sound extra rare and special. (Every crystal is unique and special anyhow, but I digress.) Meanwhile, confused buyers are overpaying for what they think is “ultra-rare” pink or white moldavite, and what they receive isn’t moldavite at all.

Moldavite also only comes from the areas affected by the meteorite that formed it. If it’s labeled as originating in another country, it might still be a tektite, but it isn’t moldavite.

Spotting Fake Moldavite #8: The feel.

This is going to vary from individual to individual, which is why it’s at the end of the list. If you’re highly sensitive to crystal energy, you may be able to tell genuine moldavite from the fake stuff by handling it. As I mentioned earlier, part of this stone’s desirability lies in its high energy. If you’re normally sensitive to crystals, and a moldavite feels like nothing to you, it may be faked. (Of course, even if it isn’t fake, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a crystal that doesn’t resonate with you anyhow!)

Moldavite is a very cool stone with a distinctive appearance. Some of the simulated moldavite on the market is very accurate, making it hard to tell real from fake. These tips can help you spot manufactured moldavite, so you can experience the effects of working with a genuine stone and don’t end up overpaying for a fake.

crystals, Witchcraft

Moldavite: Is it bad luck?

So, moldavite.

These small greenish stones are considered one of the highest-energy crystals you could own or work with. They’re uncommon, occurring in only one area of the world, and carry a high price tag — if they’re real. Because of their reputation, the market has been flooded with fake moldavite. That may change, however, as increasing numbers of people are coming out with their bad experiences using these crystals.

What is moldavite, anyway?

Moldavite (sometimes called vltavin or Bouteille stone) is a type of natural glass. Unlike volcanic obsidian or lightning-made lechatelierite, it formed fifteen million years ago as a result of a meteoric impact. When the meteorite struck the Earth, it instantly liquified the surrounding silica. This splashed up into the air, cooling on the way down. Since it cooled in mid-air, moldavite developed all kinds of cool swirly textured patterns on the surface.

It’s typically a sort of olive or mossy green color, and has a hardness of 5.5-7 according to the Mohs scale. Since these stones are essentially droplets, they’re generally not very large. Faceted or tumbled moldavite is also pretty much unheard-of in the metaphysical market, since this would negate its uniquely beautiful pitted or fernlike patterns.

Photo by Moldavite Association, CC BY-SA 4.0. No changes were made.

What is moldavite used for?

Crystal workers and healers ascribe a lot of metaphysical and healing properties to this stone. It’s used as a focus during meditations to connect to the Higher Self, to aid past life regressions, and to break maladaptive behavioral patterns. It’s a stone for ascension, and some say that the meteorite responsible for its formation was sent here specifically to create moldavite and help the entire planet ascend.

Emotionally, some people use it to cut through world-weariness and cynicism. It’s said to open the mind to new possibilities, and ease worries by helping the user arrive at new, creative solutions to their problems. People who enjoy dreamwork sometimes use moldavite for this purpose, in order to better connect to their Higher Intelligence through dreams and visions.

For people who have a Hindu Tantra-adjacent practice, moldavite is sometimes used for the heart chakra (Anahata) or the crown chakra (Sahasrara). As an ascension stone, it’s considered helpful for connecting the soul to cosmic intelligence. As a green stone, it’s also said to resonate with the heart area.

Sounds pretty good. Why’s it considered bad luck?

It really depends on what you mean by “bad luck.”

As the section above suggests, moldavite’s considered a very high-energy stone. It also breaks through maladaptive patterns and pushes you toward your highest good.

However, your highest good might not be the life you’re currently living. You could have a stable job, a decent relationship, and all kinds of things that you’re comfortable with. “Comfort” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are aligned with your highest good, however. If that job has you earning a comfortable salary, but mentally and spiritually stagnating, or your lifestyle doesn’t exactly set your soul on fire, expect moldavite to shake things up.

And shaking things up doesn’t always feel good. Who likes losing their job or getting dumped?

This is why moldavite is sometimes considered bad luck. When it seems like things aren’t going well, it’s tempting to ascribe this to a hex, curse, or plain old misfortune. Sometimes, it’s what has to happen for you to reach your full potential.

If moldavite were a tarot card, I’d call it The Tower. It stirs things up with a big stick. It’s also important to remember that stones don’t have human ideas about what comfort and success look like — you wanted an ally to help you reach your highest good, and boy howdy are you going to get one. The Tower is the foundation-deep destructive force that allows new growth to take place. The card that immediately follows it is The Star, the card of hope and renewal. Could that hope and renewal take place without The Tower?

In short, moldavite isn’t bad luck or cursed. It’s just a catalyst for changes we may not be fully ready for. I’m not going to be all, “Everything happens for a reason,” but sometimes parts of your life need to burn down for new growth to take place. I’ve been there and experienced it myself, and, while I definitely didn’t enjoy it at the time, I couldn’t be more grateful that it happened.

crystals, life, Witchcraft

Top 7 Crystals to Hide in Your Relatives’ Homes So They Stop Falling for Weird Toxic Bull@#$%

Good morning!

If you’re like most people, you have at least one person close to you who will occasionally come out with some completely bonkers, destructive nonsense. Unproven conspiracy ideas like, “vaccines are a conspiracy to implant tracking chips in everyone (posted from iPhone)” or “Jewish people caused the oil crisis by always getting their groceries double-bagged at King Kullen.”

(I have heard both of these unironically from actual human people.)

You might think this person is mostly cool, save for one or two beliefs that you’d swear were the byproduct of some kind of brain worm. You might also just be obligated to spend time around them, because you’re a dependent and they’re related to you. Maybe you just hold out hope that they’ll someday become the people they were before they got wrapped up in the fringe. If trying to talk to them or send them actual empirical data doesn’t work, here are the best crystals you can strategically plant wherever you’re forced to interact with them:

Lapis lazuli

Lapis has a hell of a reputation. For one, it’s been used in everything from cosmetics to artistic masterpieces, so it has some strong associations with creativity and expression. It’s also blue, which people who work with chakras will recognize as the color of Vishuddha, the throat chakra. (It rules expression and communication.) This means that it’s a pretty rad stone to have on you when you’re forced to defend yourself against accusations of being a NWO shill or secret lizard person from space.

Lapis has another talent, though. It’s often called the “Stone of Truth.” Its energy is said to help the user uncover hidden truths, both about themselves and the people and things around them. Most of us wouldn’t necessarily consider the idea that multi-level marketing schemes are a scam designed to profit off of people’s desperation to be a “hidden” truth, but you’ve got to meet people where they are.

Emerald

Now, I’m not suggesting that you drop a bunch of dosh on a fancy table-cut emerald to cram under your uncle’s recliner this Thanksgiving. You can get tumbled emeralds that aren’t gem quality, but are still emeralds and will still work for our well-intentioned-yet-nefarious purposes.

The idea here is that emeralds are tied to the heart. People who work with chakras consider them a stone for Anahata, the heart chakra. Even if Hindu tantrism isn’t your jam, emerald has a reputation as a stone for love and compassion. (Like instilling more compassion in the hearts of those around you who have notions about a super secret “gay agenda,” for example.)

According to color magic, green is also associated with growth. This is typically taken to mean increase, as in an increase in prosperity, fertility, and so forth. But green is associated with growth because of its connection to plants and nature — a lush, green plant is a successful, healthy, thriving one. You can empower a tumbled emerald to help your family grow and develop as people before you hide it behind the TV.

Amethyst

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a list of calming, meditative crystals that didn’t include amethyst somewhere. There’s a reason for that. This stone is associated with things like divination and meditation, sure, but it’s also very relaxing and enhances a person’s connection to their intuition. (That means that it might be able to amplify the tiny voice inside your grandpa that says that maybe Democratic Socialists aren’t coming to take his toothbrush.)

Amethyst is also credited with increasing the user’s spiritual awareness and guarding against psychic attacks.

Smoky Quartz

Smoky quartz is pretty much clear quartz that, like Bruce Banner, was exposed to radiation and came away with some extra powers. It’s said to be helpful for grounding, as well as filtering energy and transmuting the negative into the positive. This means that it can help keep things on a smooth, even keel when Aunt Karen gets a couple of glasses of eggnog in her and starts ranting about immigration.

Rose Quartz

Ah, rose quartz. Any love-drawing crystal spell or list of stones for heart-related matters is basically guaranteed to include this pink stone. The thing is, it’s good for a lot more than just flowery, hearts-and-chunky-angel-babies romantic love. It’s also very rad for compassion, friendship, and familial love.

Like emerald, it can be helpful for getting people to meet you where you are. It can encourage the opening of hearts and minds. While lapis is a better choice for getting people to see the truth, rose quartz is better for getting them to see people as people, with the same pain, fear, hope, and aspirations as they have.

Black tourmaline

Like smoky quartz, black tourmaline is a weapon against negativity. It’s a very powerful energy filter, and can help neutralize bad vibes. Large specimens (especially ones intermingled with spangles of golden mica) look extremely cool, which means they’re great for keeping in your own living spaces to ensure that nobody’s bullshit sticks around to bother you. Smaller stones are good for keeping on you as a protective amulet, or, as the title suggests, stashing around anywhere you’re forced to be.

As an FYI, crystals that act as energy filters need regular, thorough cleansing. Think of them like vacuums — they can suck negativity up, or even transmute it into positive energy, but that canister’s gotta get emptied sometime. The more crap they come in contact with, the sooner they’ll need to be recalibrated with a cleansing.

Spirit Quartz

Spirit quartz also goes by the names cactus quartz and fairy quartz. These are quartz points (usually amethyst or citrine) that are entirely covered in tiny, druzy points. This makes them all spiky, like cacti.

Spirit quartz help in a number of ways. Amethyst is a stone for introspection and harmony, as was mentioned above. All of those tiny points effectively amplify this energy and send it out everywhere. The druse also symbolizes many tiny units working together in a cohesive whole, so it’s great for fostering feelings of community and cooperation.

Amethyst spirit quartz is also said to be particularly helpful for getting rid of negative attachments or entities. It can’t get rid of the weird radicalizing podcasts your cousin insists you check out, but it can help pull their hooks out of him.

As with anything involving crystals, make sure yours come from an ethical source. Sadly, much of the mining trade (not even just the crystal trade — a lot of crystals are byproducts of mining for gold, platinum, lithium, and other materials used by the electronics industry) relies on exploited labor and environmentally damaging methods. Always know where your stones came from, and how they got to you.

Many, if not most, sources say that it’s unethical to perform magic or energy work on someone without their consent. While it’s nice to abide by the rules, sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to get the right thing done. The energetic toll of trying to get someone to be less hateful, or less absorbed in destructive conspiracy theories and hoaxes, is going to be way less than, say, casting a love spell on an unwilling target. Use your own judgment. If you belong to a marginalized group and need to do something to keep yourself safe and sane, do it.

crystals, Witchcraft

What is Devic Temple Quartz?

Lemurian. Elestial. Devic. Lightbrary.

Buying quartz can be complicated.

Sigil. Starbrary. Garden.

The truth is, most of these terms are just names for physical features of the crystal itself. Some claim that these physical traits line up with the stones abilities or affinities, but this isn’t always the case. One of these terms is “Devic Temple Quartz.”

So, what’s a Devic Temple quartz?

In simple terms, a Devic Temple quartz is a quartz crystal that has internal fractures that resemble seats or shelves. These usually also have some visible foggy wisps produced by trapped gasses or water, often called “fairy frost.”

If the water inclusions are large enough, it might also be called “enhydro.” If it appears to have the outline of another crystal inside, it might be called “phantom.” If it contains inclusions of hematite, chlorite, or other minerals, it might be called “lodolite.” As a word of caution, while lodolite is a common term among gem enthusiasts, it’s not actually a real name. It pretty much just means “stone that has some mud inside.” You might also see these called garden or shaman quartz.

Like I said, there are a lot of words involved. Try not to sweat it too much.

What can it do?

Devic Temple quartz is purported to house light beings, nature spirits, or other allies. Sometimes, if you look at the internal fractures, rainbows, fairy frost, and other features, you can see what appear to be faces, dancing bodies, or humanoid/animal shapes.

Since these crystals are said to act as “houses” for spiritual entities, they’re considered a way to communicate with them in meditation, healing, and so forth. Having one of these guys is pretty much like a direct line to the spirit in the crystal. Some also consider them a way to communicate with faeries and/or angels.

Here’s where my opinion differs…

Honestly, from my experience, all crystals have their own presence. Sometimes, you can perceive it as a kind of electric feeling in your fingers — like the feeling you’d get if you were holding a bird, a firefly, or some other tiny life, afraid of squeezing too hard. This isn’t to say that a crystal is alive the way we typically conceptualize life, but it’s in there. In this respect, Devic Temple crystals aren’t unique.

That said, they can make it easier to access that presence. It’s kind of like the difference between trying to find a hermit in the woods, and walking up to a numbered address with a brightly-painted front door and a sign that says “Free pies, inquire within.”

Sometimes, you can see the physical appearance of a crystal’s presence in the fairy frost, even if it isn’t a Devic Temple crystal. One of my favorite meditative activities is to sit with a a crystal, a macro lens, and a good light source, and look for tiny buddies.

If you look on the left, you might see a faint image that looks like a side-on view of a human skull. What else do you see?

Do you need a Devic Temple quartz? I wouldn’t say that they’re essential — but I wouldn’t say that about any crystal. Ultimately, if a stone resonates with you and is responsibly sourced, pick it up. Don’t buy it because of the names attached to it. Choose what you’re drawn to and discover its unique features afterward, when you have a chance to sit with it.

crystals, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

7 Ways to Set Up a Pet-Proof Altar

Let me preface this by saying that I love my cats. I do. But one of them has an odd obsession with getting into any plant that’s within reach (and several that aren’t), and the other will hurl things and scream if one of us fails to sit on the kitchen floor with him in the morning. I don’t know why this is, but it’s the reality of the situation.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, this makes setting up and maintaining a home altar somewhat… challenging, shall we say. Not only do I not want my altar disturbed, I also don’t want to have to worry about someone eating something they shouldn’t. So, here’s how I keep everyone (and everything) safe:

Train Your Cats to- hahahahahaha

Sorry, couldn’t resist. Couldn’t finish that thought with a straight face, either.

She might be your familiar, but that doesn’t mean she cares about your stuff.

Choose Portable Altar Decor (But a Permanent Space)

In my opinion, part of an altar’s power is in its presence even when it isn’t being used. Some of that is lost when you have to set up and take down your altar every time you need it, but that doesn’t make a portable altar any less beautiful or meaningful.

If you do have to go the portable route, however, I’d recommend keeping a dedicated altar space. Even if you can’t have food offerings out without your dog getting into them, or your cat tries to knock over all of your statuary, you can still have a specific space that’s only used for your temporary altar. Get a nice accent table and cover it with a cloth. Set it with a good-sized crystal or a vase of flowers (if your animal companions will allow for it). Save the other altar tools and decorations for when you’re actually performing a working, but keep that space as a designated altar even when it isn’t in use.

Use a Drawer

One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid my felines’ penchant for destruction is to choose a table with a nice, deep drawer, and set up an altar in that. You can still have a permanent space, and all you have to do is pull the drawer open to get to work.

Remember to close it gently, though — you’ll keep your altar tools and decorations from rattling and knocking around that way.

Use the Floor

If having things knocked over is your primary concern, why not just put them on the floor to begin with? The fact is, having chairs and tables so far from the floor isn’t a universal thing — plenty of cultures around the world use low tables, floor cushions, or nothing at all.

Designate a space for a floor altar. Set it with a small accent rug and your altar supplies. Place a comfy floor pillow in front of it, and you’re golden.

Use the Outdoors

If your interior space is too thoroughly dominated by your four-legged roommates, consider working outside. It’s a bit less convenient if the weather’s bad, but outdoor altars are beautiful, functional, and, if you work closely with your local nature spirits, immensely powerful.

The only tip I’d offer here is to choose altar decorations that are resistant to walking away. Expensive statues might disappear on you, and shiny crystals may prove irresistible to the local bird population. Materials that aren’t durable enough might end up a bit worse for wear after a few rainstorms and a couple of rounds of sun bleaching, too. Largish stones, garden statuary, candles, and — of course — plants are inconspicuous, not likely to disappear, and can handle being outside.

Watch the Center of Gravity

Few things are as nerve-wracking as a tall, lit candle. This is especially true when that candle is in the same room as a cat. If candles are part of your practice, make sure to invest in some good, heavy candle holders. If you can make sure your candles are sufficiently bottom-heavy, they’ll be less likely to tip over easily. For this reason, I also recommend tealights and jar candles over, say, long, fancy tapers.

The same is true of any statuary or other decorations. Avoid choosing items that have a high center of gravity, because they’re much more likely to tip over if, for example, a very zealous boxer puppy wags his tail too close to your altar.

Invest in Some Museum Wax

Museum wax is what helps keep museum displays in place. It comes in several types, from an opaque, gummy material to one more like clear dental wax, and can help things stay stationary if they get bumped. The only caveat here is that it doesn’t work on an altar cloth — museum wax provides a tacky surface between two smooth finishes, so it won’t really help to keep your statues in place on top of fabric.

Know Your Poisons (They May Not Be What You Think)

So, we probably all know not to let our pets get into toxic herbs or houseplants. The ASPCA has a good list of plants that can trigger adverse reactions.

I remember watching a video by a crystal worker a few years ago. In it, they mentioned being guided by their intuition to charge a piece of cinnabar(!) using fire(!!). The reason I mention this is that, sometimes, the list of things we know we should keep away from our pets isn’t as long as it ought to be.

For example, cinnabar is an ore of mercury. Some specimens even have droplets of mercury on or in them. Metallic mercury is, itself, not that toxic — organic mercury compounds are far more dangerous — but inhaling heated mercury vapor is a super bad idea. Honestly, you shouldn’t even really handle cinnabar or wear it next to your skin. If you want to work with it, use gloves, keep it in a glass container, and definitely don’t let your pets touch, lick, or play with it. Definitely definitely don’t heat it up.

Some other gemstones contain toxic materials, like lead, arsenic, or antimony.

Plants and mineral specimens aren’t the only sources of a potential poisoning, either. Some pottery — particularly very old or inexpensive stuff — may not be food safe. This means that its paint or glaze can contain toxic minerals that might leach out if you use it to cook with or eat from. While this isn’t usually a super serious concern for altar tools, it can be if you have a pet who tries to sneak a drink out of your altar’s water vessel or steal your food offerings!

The bottom line is, it’s important to know what goes on your altar. If you have pets, it’s equally important to assume that everything is going to end up on the floor or in someone’s mouth eventually.

crystals

Working with Herkimer Diamonds

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I like crystals. Even if I didn’t work with them, I’d probably collect them.

I received my first one when I was very little — about five or so, I think. It was a piece of dyed hot pink agate, shaped into an egg about as long as my thumb. I didn’t know anything about geology or crystal properties, but I knew I liked it and so, like a corvid, I kept it with the rest of my treasures.

(Most of those “treasures” were dead swamp cicadas that I’d pick up on the sidewalk in late summer. I had — okay, have — a Thing for iridescent colors.)

I still collect crystals, though now they actually get used for things. Unfortunately, the reality of the crystal market means I can’t just buy whatever I like. There’s a vetting process. Since I’m also lazy, this means that, for the past couple of years, I’ve only picked up Arkansas quartz, Herkimer diamonds, and piece or two from Brazil after making a nuisance of myself to the seller.

All of this is to say that Herkimer diamonds kick ass and they’re very easy to obtain ethically. If I could only use one crystal for the rest of my life, it’d be one of these.

What are Herkimer diamonds?

Well, for one, they’re not diamonds. They earn their name because they come from Herkimer county, New York, and are an exceptionally hard, clear variety of (usually double-terminated) quartz.

Herkimer is known for these stones, so there are a bunch of mines you can visit to get your own from the source. There’s no child labor involved, and the process of mining is pretty much you, some hand tools, and a bucket, so these crystals are also lower on the social and environmental impact scale than many others. A bunch of Etsy merchants make a point to visit Herkimer once a year or so, dig for some, then sell them, so they’re also pretty easy to obtain even if you aren’t interested in making the trip yourself. (Two of my favorite sellers are Luminous Harvest and Greengem. Bonus, Greengem is also a source of beautiful, conflict-free rings — even some really fancy alternative engagement rings.)

How are Herkimer diamonds used for spiritual healing?

Herkimer diamonds have a reputation as extremely high-vibration crystals. They’re supposedly good for purifying the physical and astral body, attuning you to another person, group, or place, removing energy blocks, and increasing the “oomph” of the other stones they’re used with.

According to Michael Gienger’s Healing Crystals, they can be used for awareness, clarity, dream recall, heightened awareness and consciousness, and pain relief. It’s also trigonal and secondary, which makes it particularly helpful for people with “trigonal personalities,” and who wish to unlearn negative behavioral patterns and live in greater harmony with their external environment. For more information, read Gienger’s Crystal Power, Crystal Healing. It’s a very interesting read that outlines his really unique approach to the subject.

(Of course, I don’t endorse the use of crystals in place of conventional medicine. They’re great as a complementary therapy, but please consult a doctor first.)

A hand holds a Herkimer diamond in clear river water.
Cleaning a Herkimer diamond in the river. Look at all of those hydrocarbon inclusions!

What are the magical properties of Herkimer diamonds?

Since they’re clear quartz, they are pretty efficient “all purpose” stones. They do often come with some neat, unique features that make them particularly useful, in a magical sense:

  • Many of them contain hydrocarbons, visible as black lines, dots, or flecks within the crystal. These bits of incredibly ancient vegetable matter connect us to our ancestors, all the way back to our pre-human family tree. For this reason, they can be very helpful for ancestor work.
  • Most of them are double terminated, which makes them helpful for simultaneously sending and receiving energy.
  • A lucky few contain deposits of water, too! “Enhydro” crystals are strongly connected to the water element, as well as earth. This makes them useful for rituals for purification and emotional healing.
  • Some of the rainbow fractures and water or hydrocarbon inclusions give them a character that’s similar to garden quartz (or shaman quartz). The inclusions and “flaws” can create beautifully complex scenes inside the crystal that are lots of fun to fall into. This makes them great as a meditative focus, or an aid to trance or journeying work.
  • They’re generally not huge. To be honest, most of the ones you’ll find in metaphysical shops are downright tiny. This makes them great for including in pouches, sachets, bottles, or whatever else your witchy heart desires.

Herkimer Diamond Clearing Spray Recipe

This is a recipe for something I whip up when I’m in a situation where salt, smoke, or other methods of clearing energy aren’t advisable. Plus, it smells really good.

You’ll need:

  1. First, make sure your ingredients are good to go — tell them what you’re using them for, and what you’d like them to do for you. Bergamot protects from evil, cuts off interference, and functions as a “power” herb. Lavender cleanses and promotes peace. Ylang ylang is calming and uplifting. Rosemary is cleansing and protecting. Vervain purifies, gets rid of negative energy, and enhances the action of other herbs in the mixture. Frankincense is purifying and energy raising.
  2. Add the dried herbs and oils first. You can go with your preference here, one is no more powerful than the other. You don’t need much — a drop or two of oil, a pinch or two of herbs.
  3. Swirl the mixture when you’re through, and speak your intention again. This can be simple. Start with, “With this mixture, I[…]” and state your intent.
  4. If you plan to keep this for a long time, fill the bottle two thirds of the way with high proof grain alcohol, like Everclear. (The Tisserand Institute has more information on preservation here.)
  5. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with lavender hydrosol or distilled water. Swirl to mix.
  6. Add the Herkimer diamond.
  7. Screw the top on the bottle and label it. You’re done!

While the sun is great for empowering things, it’s also not super great for scents. If you want to charge this mixture, do so either under moonlight, or very briefly under sunlight. To use it, simply mist the object, person, or space in need of some energy clearing.

crystals, life, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Cleaning House, and Don’t Try the Brown Mushrooms

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This weekend, my partner and I decided it’d be a good time to give everything a nice, solid deep-clean. Everything. The windows, the stove, the weird, hard-to-reach area behind the toilet, everything.

Cleaning house is a great opportunity to refresh the energy in a place. While there are small, day-to-day things you can do to keep the flow from going stagnant on you, nothing really beats a solid top-to-bottom scrubbing and airing out.

Due to a combination of frugality and scent-sensitivity headaches, I make pretty much all of our cleaning products. (What I save in glass cleaner and counter spray, however, I more than spend on ethanol, vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap.) I keep a canister of homemade cleaning wipes in the bathroom, and another in the kitchen. I’ve got pretty cobalt glass bottles of spray cleaner on my kitchen counter, and another of tub and tile cleaner under my bathroom sink.

Frugality and lack of synthetic scents aside, the nicest thing about these DIY cleaners is that the ingredients easily pull double-duty; the same things that keep stains from my counters and rings out of my tub also have a history of use as spiritual cleansing agents. Make them on the right day, in the right moon phase, during the best planetary hour for whatever you’re trying to do, speak your intentions as you add each ingredient, and charge them by whatever method is preferable for you. (I would, however, advise against using sunlight — depending on what ingredients you use, heat and UV light might denature them, leaving you with a concoction that’s mostly water.)

We opened up the curtains and all of the windows. We played upbeat music. We scrubbed everything.

When the physical cleaning was done and my partner was figuring out lunch, I worked on the other side.

I love tarot cards. Not only are they useful divination tools, they’re useful aids for focusing magic. Whatever you’re trying to draw in or push away, there’s a card for that. In each room, I set up a small altar with a candle or incense, a clear quartz,and three cards: The Sun, The World, and the Ten of Cups.

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Cards from the Tarot de Maria-Celia. Massive Herkimer diamond from TheElusiveHerkShop. Lavender and lemongrass candle from SweetgrassApothecary.

These three cards are among the most positive omens in the deck. The Sun speaks of radiant positivity, abundance, and optimism. The World speaks of auspicious beginnings and infinite possibility. The Ten of Cups speaks of ultimate fulfillment. Good stuff to bring into your life and home, right?

I treated them the way you might treat a crystal grid — placing them, charging them, and releasing the energy. It was a small ritual, moving room-by-room, setting up each grid, and putting them to work, but it felt more uplifting and powerful than I can say.

I definitely needed it after the day before that. Friday, I had ambitious (well, relatively ambitious) dinner plans. I made penne, a quasi-homemade mushroom risotto, and grilled vegetables marinated in balsamic vinegar and herbs. Everything came out tasty, and all was well.

You know how some people have genetic quirks that keep them from enjoying certain foods? I don’t even necessarily mean allergies. Some people are lactose intolerant, some think cilantro tastes like soap, and so on.
As it turns out, some people can’t handle boletes.
Like, really can’t handle them.

I am apparently one of them.

mushroom-1281733_640
More like “bol-eat-your-insides-apart,” amirite?

I know the mushrooms weren’t actually toxic, because they came in a prepared blend and I really hope Trader Joe’s knows better. I was lucky, though. Some pretty intense gastric pain and dehydration was the most I had to deal with, though I was legitimately concerned that I was going to need some kind of intervention if things didn’t improve quickly enough. I definitely didn’t want to need a spinal tap because my intracranial and blood pressure decided to shoot way up on me. I definitely definitely didn’t want to go to the hospital and have to explain that I was there because my dumb ass decided now was the time to try eating unfamiliar fungi.

Lesson learned. If you’re trying to avoid using ER resources, maybe stick with things you’re absolutely certain you can tolerate. Save the risotto experiments for the future.

Here’s hoping you’re safe, staying sane, and not eating anything weird.

 

crystals

Irradiated Smoky Quartz: Is it really safe?

A lot — if not most — of the colorful quartz varieties on the market are enhanced in some way, and buyers are often none the wiser. Heated amethyst gets sold as citrine, and smoky quartz might even be treated with radiation to give it an extra impressive, uniform color.

Since a lot of crystal aficionados wear the stones and use them for healing purposes, this raises a serious question: Is it safe to use or wear irradiated smoky quartz?

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How does quartz become smoky quartz?

Before we delve into this subject, it’s important to note that all smoky quartz, natural or otherwise, is irradiated in some fashion. For natural smoky quartz, this happens due to the presence of radioactive minerals in the earth. For enhanced smoky quartz, this happens after it has been mined.

Smoky quartz gets its color from changes within the crystal produced by radiation. All quartz is made of silicon dioxide, with various colors produced by mineral inclusions within this silicon dioxide lattice. In smoky quartz’s case, this is trace amounts of aluminum, which form AlO4molecules that take the place of some of the SiO4 within the crystal. If you look at the molecules, you’ll notice that AlO4carries a negative charge, while SiO4 does not. Because of this, the crystal lattice of smoky quartz also contains small amounts of positive ions, usually hydrogen, lithium, or sodium. When this quartz is exposed to radiation, some of this silicon dioxide becomes free silicon and some of the electrons from the AlO4molecules get knocked out of place. They hook up with the positive ions, and create the characteristic “smoky” gray or brown color of smoky quartz.

Is irradiated quartz safe?

For the most part, irradiated quartz — whether naturally or artificially — is perfectly safe. Think of the color like a suntan. A person tans because they’ve been exposed to solar radiation, but that change in color means that radiation has acted on them, not that they are emitting radiation themselves.

Notice, however, that I say “for the most part.” After typical exposures to radiation, most smoky quartz is perfectly safe. Depending on the source of radiation, some crystals have a somewhat higher risk of becoming radioactive. It’s important to note that this is still a pretty low level of radiation, and decreases with time.

For a stone to become radioactive, radiation needs to add or remove a neutron from some of the atoms within the crystal. In other words, the energy of radiation striking the stone needs to be greater than the energy needed to bump a neutron out of place. The amount of energy it takes to do this varies by element.

Neutron bombardment using a nuclear reactor can irradiate stones, though this is a relatively uncommon method. Stones produced by this process tend to be very dark, and are almost always radioactive. Because of this, these stones are not released for sale until and unless the radioactivity had decayed to safe levels. Electron bombardment using a a particle accelerator streams a narrow beam of electrons at a stone. Many of these accelerators do not operate at a high enough energy to make a stone radioactive, but some do. Even so, the radioactivity of these stones decays quickly, making them perfectly safe within a day or two of treatment. Lastly, gamma irradiators use 60Co (cobalt 60) to produce energy. This does not meet the energy threshold needed to make smoky quartz radioactive. In fact, this process is also used to sterilize things like produce and medical equipment.

So, what does this all mean? By the time a smoky quartz has entered the market for purchase, it’s safe. Wearing or using natural or artificially irradiated smoky quartz is not going to hurt you. If it emits any radiation at all, it will be minimal compared to natural sources of radiation that you come in contact with every day — radioactive minerals in granite, or the potassium isotopes in a banana, for example.

How can you tell if a smoky quartz has been artificially irradiated?

Unlike heat-treated amethyst, there’s really no good way to tell. Some natural varieties of smoky quartz are very dark, like morion, so you can’t always go by color. This means that, unless the stone is labeled or the dealer tells you, the only way to tell if a stone has been artificially irradiated is by examining the matrix.

Naturally-occurring smoky quartz is found adjacent to minerals that contain radioactive material. This usually means intrusive igneous or metamorphic rocks (like granite, an intrusive igneous stone). On the other hand, radioactive material is less common in sedimentary rock like shale (with the exception of uranium, which can appear in limestone, dolomite, or sandstone, among others). This means that very dark smoky quartz with a sedimentary matrix is more likely to have been artificially irradiated, though that’s not really a hard and fast rule.

Smoky quartz is a very popular and versatile stone, and it’s easy to see why — it’s as abundant as it is beautiful. Despite its abundance in nature, some stones are irradiated to improve their color, which has made some people question their safety as jewelry or healing stones. Don’t worry, though — even after getting a radiation tan, smoky quartz is perfectly safe to handle and use.

crystals, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

3 Spells for Keeping the Peace

Ideally, you like the people you’re isolated with right now. Even if you do, though, it’s hard not to get on each other’s nerves once the cabin fever really starts setting in. There are tons of ways to fight boredom and keep busy, but you still might need a little extra help keeping the vibes smooth and tranquil.

That’s where these come in: Three spells to help you keep things happy and peaceful.

Starting with the Cleanest Slate You Can

Okay, so by now you’re probably already used to wiping down, washing, and disinfecting everything that isn’t literally on fire. Good! Physically cleaning a space is a key part of getting the magic flowing — dust, dirt, and clutter are less than optimal for energy flow. So, if you haven’t yet, do a solid spring clean. Set up containers for decluttering — one for things to keep, one for things that need repairing, one for trash, one for recyclables, and one for donations — and work room-by-room. When you’re through, get rid of anything you’re not keeping or fixing.

Once your space is as decluttered and clean as you can get it, rock on.

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A Wind Spell for Peace

The element of air is an oft-overlooked way to cleanse and freshen things. When it’s sunny and breezy out, open your windows and let the fresh air in. Close your eyes and feel the coolness against your skin. You can chant, pray, or state your intent here. I like to say something like,

“Let this breeze blow away all discord, so only peace and joy may remain. As I will, it shall be.”

An Herbal Tranquility Potion

I love making washing potions. It’s easy to do, too — add herbs to boiling water, as you might for tea, let them steep until the water cools, done. You can place dried herbs into a reusable tea bag, square of muslin cloth, or tea strainer, or just leave them loose and strain them out afterward. (As a word of caution, don’t mix the tools you use for potion-making with those you use for food-making. Not all magical herbs are edible, and many are poisonous.)

Some herbs and flowers that are useful here include:

  • Chamomile
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Lavender
  • Lilac flowers
  • Meadowsweet
  • Rose
  • Skullcap
  • Vervain
  • Violet

As the herbs steep, stir them clockwise nine times with a wooden spoon or wand held in your dominant hand. While you do this, say,

“No tension or strife shall come near,
Peace and tranquility alone reign here.”

Visualize the liquid filling with a calming, gentle golden light. When the potion is done and the herbs are removed, add it to a bucket of clean, warm water. Use this to wash your floors, doors, doorways, windows, and any steps leading to your front or back doors. Prepare the mixture fresh each time.

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A Peaceful Herbal Sachet

The same herbs listed above can be made into an herb sachet. To make one, you’ll also need:

  • A square of white, blue, or light purple cloth
  • A ribbon or needle and thread (to close it with)
  • Any other peace-promoting curios you like. These can include metal peace sign charms, a small figure of a dove, tumbled amethyst stones, or anything else that feels right to you.

To begin, make sure the fabric, ribbon/thread, and curios are cleansed according to your favorite method. You can set them in the sun for a little bit, use sound, sprinkle them with blessed salt, fume them with cleansing incense, or whatever other way you like. When they are prepared, it’s time to get to work.

Hold the herbs in your dominant hand. Close your eyes, and feel yourself drawing power up from the earth, and down from the sky. Allow these energies to mingle in you, and direct them into the herbs in your hand. Say,

“[Name of herb(s)], I ask that you lend your power to this spell. Chase tension and stress from here, and bring peace and calm in its place.”

Place them in the center of the square of fabric.

Repeat this process with the curios, substituting the name of the curio for the name of the herb. Place them in the center of the fabric with the herbs as well.

Fashion the square of fabric into a little pouch, either by drawing the corners together and tying them with the ribbon, or by sewing it into a little pillow shape with the needle and thread. When you are through, lightly kiss the sachet, and hold it to your forehead. Say,

“With this spell, I draw in the energies of tranquility, that my home might be a respite from the hardships and strife in the world. Let no stress remain, only peace shall reign.”

Tuck the sachet in a hidden corner of the room you wish to influence. You can let that sachet take care of your whole home, or, if you think your place could use a little extra help, make a sachet to hide in every room of your home.

Remember: If You Can’t Source Ingredients…

… Don’t sweat it! Can’t find an amethyst? Most of the plain stones in your yard are actually variants of clear or white quartz, both of which will do in a pinch. No fresh lilac flowers or lavender buds? You might have a few bags of Earl Grey tea, which is made with lavender and bergamot (which is also helpful for lifting moods and instilling courage). Missing other herbs? See what plants you have in your yard — even “weeds” like clover are associated with things like love and protection, two properties that would be very useful here. You can also check your kitchen. Oranges, in particular, are great for bringing joy and sun energy to whatever spells include them. Zest the peels, allow the zest to dry, and keep it in a cool, dark place for whenever you need a little sun magic.

The most important part of any spell is declaring your intention and focusing your energy on that intention. You can have all of the right herbs, and it still won’t work if you don’t focus the power properly.

Magic is adaptable. You can experiment and bend things to suit what you have on hand. While there are some spells that don’t accept substitutions, the majority of them can be worked around to some degree. Since going out to shops to source rare and hard-to-find ingredients isn’t really feasible right now, this is the perfect time to see how you can adapt your magic to your landscape.