Environment, life

I think we accidentally walked through about six maternity shoots.

Sunday, I stayed home and cleaned my bathroom.

… Is what I would be saying, if I were a responsible adult. Instead, with a forecast of 62° and plenty of sun, my partner and I decided to go out and take advantage of it. I packed us a salad, sandwiches, crackers, and fruit, and we drove out to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. Neither of us had ever been before, but it’s been an item on our potential date list for awhile.

Holly branches in sunlight.
Most of the trees were bare, but the holly was so pretty in the sunlight.

(Find you someone who considers walking through a marsh and taking pictures of moss and mushrooms a date activity. For real.)

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There’s a pretty steep drop from the trail immediately around the visitor’s center, but we were still able to get some walking in before I had to call it quits. What trails we were able to get to were flat enough that I didn’t have too many problems. (I only almost fell over once when I got distracted by some interesting lichen.)

It’s still too early for the deciduous trees to be in leaf, but it gave the woods a really beautiful stillness. Without the rustle in the breeze, it was easier to hear the sound of the birds calling over the water — ducks, crows, gulls, songbirds. We even saw a Cooper’s hawk circling above the trail.

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The trail down to the waterside.

Admission to Jug Bay is inexpensive — $6 a car — and there’s a lot to see. We didn’t get to do as much as I’d like yet, but we left the sanctuary abuzz with ideas. (He even offered to get me a new pair of hiking shoes, so I might have an easier time next time around.)  I’d love to get a pair of binoculars for birding, a small pad of watercolor paper, some new brushes…

Cranial sutures in a deer skull.
Beautifully complex cranial sutures in a deer skull, in the Jug Bay visitor’s center.

Not ready to go home yet, we drove a little ways out to the beach. It was still a bit cold and windy, and the tide had shrunk the sand down to a sliver, but the sun and salty air felt wonderful. I did have a visceral pang of pity for all of the ladies doing maternity shoots out there today — I wouldn’t want to be trying to wrangle a gauzy dress and a flower crown in that wind as it is, I definitely wouldn’t do it while seven months pregnant. Not even if you gave me a lifetime supply of pie and a free pony.

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We couldn’t stay for very long, but it was a lovely walk. It reminded me of how much I miss being closer to the ocean (and how strange it felt to have an ocean on the opposite side when I lived on the west coast).

As I write this, I’m bundled into my robe with a mug of tea and a pleasant ache in my limbs. I’m not at the point where I can do everything I used to be able to do yet, but I’m getting closer. 💚

Plants and Herbs

Pansy Folklore and Magical Uses

Pansies remind me of my late grandmother. She used to grow them in her backyard garden, as little cheery-faced border plants. She also had a very gentle, relaxing aesthetic — I remember the grandfather clock in the hallway, the little embroidered pillow full of fragrant pine needles, the print of geese with cheery blue ribbons on the kitchen wall, the way the hallway always smelled like roses and the kitchen smelled like fresh coffee. I can always tell when she’s around me because of those smells.

It was nice spotting these little flowers last week, with their yellow faces turned toward the sun. I’m not positive about their exact species, but they resembled my grandmother’s pansies enough to make me curious about their uses.

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And this appears to be some yellow Viola tricolor.

It’s probably unsurprising to hear that pansies have a wealth of properties associated with them. You can heart it in their names, too — heartsease, call-me-to-you, love-lies-bleeding, love-in-idleness.

Heartsease Magical Properties and Folklore

In Roman mythology, the viola turned to love-in-idleness when Eros mistakenly struck it with one of his arrows, causing it to smile.

In Greek mythology, Zeus created the flowers as a way to repent for his treatment of his lover, Io. She was once a beautiful maiden, but Zeus’ wife, Hera, became jealous. To protect Io, Zeus transformed her into a cow. Since she was forced to be on a diet of grasses and herbs, Zeus made the earth yield flowers.

In another legend, Cupid worshipped the heartsease flowers. To stop this, Aphrodite turned them from white, to tricolored.

Pansies and violets are associated with Venus, and often used as a love ingredient. Placing some under your pillow is said to attract a new lover. Planting them in a heart shape is a bit of sympathetic magic — if they thrive, so will your relationship.

They are also associated with Pluto, and death and rebirth.

Picking the herb on a sunny day is said to cause a storm to come. Picking one that’s still dewy brings death.

Using Heartsease

I think love magic gets a bad rap. When many people think of it, they picture a desperate, lovelorn person, performing spell after spell to convince the object of their affections to want them back. That’s not really the case, though. I mean, if you think about it, everything is love.

Want more money? You really want your boss or your clients to love your work.
Want to be more successful or popular? That’s platonic love.
Love magic is attraction magic. If you draw in love, you can use those same attributes to attract whatever you desire.

Pansies come in a variety of colors, which lends them well to color magic. Each color has its own particular attributes. The little yellow ones I found could be found for mental abilities, divination, happiness, travel, or blessing a new home.

If I could, I’d plant a pot of yellow pansies near the front door of my home. Bless the space and draw in love all at the same time!

Medicinally, heartsease has been used to treat asthma, inflammatory lung conditions, and cardiac complaints. Externally, it’s used for skin problems like eczema. Considering this, and considering how many other herbs’ medical uses mirror their magical ones, it’s really not surprising that it’s an herb of love and death.

 

Pansies are demulcent, mucilaginous, and anti-inflammatory. They have been used to calm irritated skin, ease chest complaints, and soothe other matters of the heart, too. They’re also easy to grow, so, if you have the room, I definitely recommend planting some of these cheerful little flowers!

divination

Learning the Tarot of Marseilles

Following Tuesday’s post using the Tarot de Maria Celia, I wanted to talk about actually interpreting this deck.

I admit, the first thing that drew me to the Tarot de Marseille was its visual appeal.

I spotted the Marshmallow Marseilles deck, and fell hard for the colors and imagery. It seemed a little daunting, sure — I’m experienced at reading your fairly standard interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks… But one with no illustrations on the pip cards?

I’ve talked a bit about how I interpret and familiarize myself with decks before, but it’s a technique that relies on there being images to interpret in the first place. This is something that Marseilles-inspired decks lack by design. Where the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was intended for divination, the original Tarot of Marseilles was a deck of playing cards. Still, I’ve never been interested in anything because it was easy, so let’s go!

Numbers, Cycles, and the Pip Cards

First, I’d like to briefly mention that there are a number of wonderful books on interpreting the Marseilles tarot. That said, I don’t have any of them, and wanted to try to see how the cards “felt” myself before engaging with someone else’s experience.

It seems there are two ways for me to go about interpreting the pip cards:

  1. Apply the same meanings given to the Rider-Waite-Smith cards of the same value.
  2. Look at only the information presented by the card — the suit and the value.

Not gonna lie, the first way involves way more memorization than I feel like doing. With a Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired deck, the images provide a visual cue. Without that, this angle seems, to me, to be more trouble than it’s worth. (Also not discounting the fact that I have access to plenty of RWS-inspired decks — if I wanted that kind of interpretation, I could easily use one!)

So that leaves me with the cards themselves.

Numerologically, there’s a lot going on here. Every suit has ten pip cards — the Ace through the Ten, the beginning through the end. Each suit is a cycle, easily divided up into smaller, three-card cycles within. The Ace to the Three, the Four to the Six, the Seven through the Nine, with the Ten as the ultimate culmination.

Interpreting the pip cards in the Tarot of Marseilles is an interesting combination of the meaning of the suit, the ideas suggested by the numbers themselves, and their position within these cycles. The artwork is completely decorative — there’s really not much information to be gained there, and the imagery is very consistent through each suit. The Five of Coins looks like the Three of Coins, just more of it.

Really, I kind of enjoy the freedom.

Interpreting a more art-based tarot deck is a fun challenge, but ultimately becomes a kind of find-the-hidden-image search. It’s a game of seeing what jumps out at you, what details you notice, and what meaning you can assign to them. Strength depicts someone wrestling with a lion, what meaning do lions have symbolically? Red is the color of passion, blood, and fire, how much red is in the artwork, and where? Are there alchemical symbols? Heraldic? On top of all of that, what overall “sense” do you get from the image?

With a purely suit + number interpretation, it’s free association in a pretty basic numeric framework.

Look at the III de Deniers, for example:

  • It’s the suit of Coins (or Pentacles), so it relates to wealth, money, security, and the Earth element.
  • It’s a three.
  • It’s the final card in the first cycle.

As the final card in the first cycle, the number following two, and three, specifically, Three is the manifestation of the creative joining of the Two. The pollen meets the ovum, the Two come together in a fertile, creative union, and the fruit, a third entity, is produced. As the suit of Coins, it’s the first manifestation of something monetary, economical, or physical — the result of the first effort represented by the Ace-Two-Three cycle. As the end product of the first cycle, it’s an encouragement to continue working hard and moving toward the ultimate goal represented by the Ten.

Reading them is a lot like unlearning the way I usually read tarot. I like it!

 

divination

Bâtons, Deniers, Épées

This week, I wanted to try something a little different.

Not long ago, I picked up a copy of the absolutely beautiful Tarot de Maria Celia, a deck based on the Tarot of Marseilles, illustrated by Lynyrd-Jym Narciso. The ToM is a bit different from conventional Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, in that the pip cards aren’t illustrated — they’re much more like a regular deck of playing cards. The meanings of the pip cards also vary a little, with their own subtleties and nuances.

Learning to interpret them has been a bit of a challenge. I’m not a fan of rote memorization, but pip cards that don’t have actual scenes on them don’t leave you nearly as much to go on. That has its advantages, but can make things a little intimidating.

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Notably not pictured: three people standing under a fancy archway.

So, for this week’s reading, I settled on an easy three card spread. Even without artwork to read into, I figured three cards would give me enough information to build something from.

I drew the II de Bâtons (Wands), the XIIII de Deniers (Pentacles or Coins), and the XIII d’Épées (Swords).

Twos are the continuation of the beginnings indicated by the Aces. As a duality, they can represent two sides of a situation, or a decision of some sort. Two is a pair, and the fertile, creative energy between them.

As a decision, the Two of Wands represents the shift from the physical to the creative. It’s at the very beginning of the Wands cycle, so it also represents the opportunity to broaden your horizons. If the Ace represents the beginning and the choice of a goal, the Two is the next step: planning in order to make it a reality.

Nines are the completion of their respective cycle. As in other decks, Deniers represent material wealth and physical comforts. The Nine of Pentacles here is a point of freedom and self-governance. It stands in contrast to the Two — it’s nearing the end, knowing the plan, and and understanding that self-discipline and follow through are what got you here.

The Eight of Swords is self-imposed restriction. It is near the end of the cycle, but notably not there yet — there’s an obstacle in the way, and it’s you. Use too much caution, spend too much time devoted to making the right decision, and no decision will be made. At the same time, it’s a good idea not to make any major decisions until you are able to recognize that your entire decision making process has been defined by limits you’ve set for yourself. It’s choice fatigue, the paralysis of indecision, the trouble with Katy Make Sure.

I feel pretty called out.

We are comfortable. I’m at the very beginning of some creative plans, working out the kinks and deciding how to progress. At the same time, because I’m at a point where I’m comfortable, there’s a not-insignificant part of me going, “Now what?”

Growing up poor, much of my thinking was dominated by material concerns. I was presented with many, many different incarnations of the idea that if I just had this thing, I could be that person, and they are better than I am. It was kind of a huge relief when “shabby chic,” thrift-store clothes, capsule wardrobes, and mason jars became trendy, because that’s all stuff I had anyway, just out of poverty reasons.

I’m freer now. I’m more autonomous now. I spent a lot of time pursuing goals that lined up with an idea of success that I didn’t choose for myself, and now that I’ve attained many of them, what now? 

It’s a scary feeling. A sort of unsettling is-this-it feeling. Is it just this, and more of this, and then eventually we die? How do I shake the limitations of traditional markers of success?

Four things have made me ecstatically happy recently:

  • Finding pants that fit. (I’m a 2 now, and a Petite. If I accept this, finding the right size will be much harder, but I also won’t look like I’m wearing my partner’s pants.)
  • My partner surprised me with a gift. (Otter socks, a card, and a stuffed otter. His name is Philippe.)
  • I started a painting. (Three guesses what it’s of, and the first two don’t count.)
  • I found some neat flowers I hadn’t seen before.

Literally none of these line up with the goals I was raised to have. None of them are really markers of success, either. But is it really okay to just let go of that?

I’m ready to make a plan, to work towards new aspirations. I’m at a point where we have the time and money to do this. I just need to let go of these limitations first.

Then what?

 

Blog, life, Plants and Herbs

The end; no morel.

(That pun’s pretty bad. Sorry, readers. Sorry, internet. Sorry, college.)

I don’t really know as much as I’d like about mushrooms. I mean, I know enough to know that I don’t know enough to trust myself to eat one I pick myself. (Every mushroom is edible. Many of them are only edible once.)

I still like looking for them, though. My S.O. and I find some very neat ones sometimes — a massive chicken-of-the-woods, honey fungus, bird’s next fungus, eyelash mushrooms, all kinds. I know it’s still early to find any here (probably? I’m mean, I’m assuming), but I was still stoked to go looking for some. It’s only barely March, and things like morels and dryad’s saddles probably won’t be around for weeks yet. After being cooped up all winter, I would’ve been happy to find some of last year’s dried-out bracket fungi.

Alas, there were no mushrooms.

I did find some really neat moss, though. Complete with seed heads!

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We sat on a fallen tree to have a picnic. It was really beautiful out — chilly, but not cold. Bright, with the sun slanting through the trees and not a cloud in the sky.

“Are you taking a pic of me eating a sandwich?”

“Yeah. The sun looks neat. Besides, you’re one of my favorite subjects to photograph.”

“Aww…”

“… Y’know, I’m glad you took that as a compliment. I just realized that my dumb ass came out here unreasonably excited to see, like, fungus and moss and shit, so there were a lot of ways that could’ve gone.”

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He’s pretty cool about indulging my whims. Even when those whims mean crawling around in dirt and leaves to get pictures of extremely tiny things.

Or when they mean me dragging him through the art supply store and spending twenty minutes deliberating between cotton and linen canvas, which I did on the way home.

Next weekend, I might take him hunting for cryptids. We’ll see.

 

Environment, Plants and Herbs

Squill Folklore and Magical Uses

Every time I find a new plant buddy, I end up spending a few hours reading up on what they’re used for — even things like mushrooms, lichen, and moss. When I spotted these pretty little blue flowers, I was immediately curious. I’d never seen them before, and their color was so vibrant against the brown dirt and handful green leaves poking out of the chilly ground. They were so small, I almost missed them.

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Scilla siberica, wood squill.

I wasn’t able to find much about wood squill specifically, other than that it’s native to Southwestern Russia (despite its other name, Siberian squill).

When most herb lore and magical texts talk about squill, they’re really talking about red (Drimia maritima) or white squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana). All of these are in the same subfamily, Scilloideae, but aren’t otherwise really synonymous.

The word “scilla” comes from the ancient Greek “skilla,” which is of unknown meaning. (A Modern Herbal claims that it means “to excite or disturb,” the way that an emetic disturbs the stomach, but I haven’t been able to verify this.)

For some people, only the actual plant that a spell calls for will do. For others, it’s okay to use a relative, if they’re close enough. This can be especially useful if the plant you want to work with is poisonous, endangered, not native to your area, or otherwise not a super great idea.

Squill Magical Properties and Folklore

Squill root is a money herb.

In hoodoo, placing squill in a container with one coin of each denomination, is used to draw in cash. (Some practitioners say it’s particularly effective if you can get a hold of old silver currency for this spell, like Mercury dimes. Others say that silver objects, like chains or beads, are even more effective than non-silver money.)

Holding squill root in your hands, focusing your intention to be unhexed, charging it, and carrying it with you is said to break all hexes and curses.

Using Squill

Red squill is used as a rodenticide, owing to a toxin called scilliroside. In creatures without a vomiting reflex, scilliroside is deadly.

White squill, on the other hand, has historically been used as a diuretic and expectorant. Compounds called glucosamides, found in the bulbs, are sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat irregular heartbeats. Wood squill also contains cardiac glycosides. This is not intended as medical advice, just an indicator of what kind of practical, medicinal applications it’s used for. As with any herb, medicinal properties can quickly become poisonous properties, so keep them away from children and pets.

 

Considering its medicinal properties and its appearance, it’s kind of easy to understand why it’s a money herb. It’s got that lovely plump bulb full of stored energy — fat like an onion, or the way you’d want your bank account to be. Its use as an emetic and diuretic make sense here, too. Squill has the power to eject all kinds of substances from the body. You put it in a stomach, the stomach’s contents are coming out in abundance.  Metaphysically, it stands to reason that it would be placed in a container with money in the hopes that it’d spew more money into your life.

The emetic and diuretic virtues also go hand-in-hand with hex breaking. If your body needs to purge a physical ill, squill helps. If you need to purge a magical ill, squill helps that, too.

White squill seems to be abundant and easy to find on the market, but there are areas where other varieties of squill (like the wood squill pictured above, or alpine squill) have become invasive. If you’re looking to use squill in your work, I’d suggest picking up a good plant identification guide, and seeing if your area has any invasive varieties lurking around. (Various species of squill are used as ornamental plants. If you decide you want to grow some, be sure to do it in a way that will keep it from escaping into its environment.) You can get the magical ingredients you need, develop a deeper relationship with the plants themselves, and remove damaging invasive species from your environment at the same time.

 

 

 

divination, life

The Sun

It seems fitting after this weekend doesn’t it?

I always draw my card for the week the way I would draw any tarot card — at random. I cut the deck however feels correct at the time, and hold my hand over each pile until I feel the little “pull” that tells me it’s the right one. When things line up like this, it just feels good. A tiny “yes” from the universe. A pat on the back from the ancestors, guiding spirits, or whoever’s in your metaphorical corner. I dig it.

I’ve been drawing a lot of very positive cards lately. This week was no exception: I drew The Sun.

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The Sun is enthusiasm. It’s infectious, effervescent joy. It’s unfiltered light, freedom, and truth. In love readings, it’s happiness. In money and career readings, it’s prosperity and success. In health readings, it’s energy and vitality. In spirituality readings, it’s happiness and optimism. In an advice position, it tells you to take this warmth and this joy, and bring it out into the world. As a person or significator, it’s someone who is energetic, determined, playful, and fun.

With the new moon on the 23rd, it’s a very good sign for this coming cycle.

I don’t really have a specific situation that The Sun applies to right now — my life has been on an upswing in a very general sense. I’ve been doing more. Seeing more. Enjoying more. Trying to meet more people. Learning more things. Growing in ways that bring me satisfaction, in every respect. Spiritually, I’m growing like a weed. Health-wise, I feel better than I have in awhile (if tired — Zoloft fatigue plus IIH hypersomnia is real.) Career-wise, I’ve gotten more work than I know what to do with, lately. Creativity-wise, I’m painting more, cooking more, making more things, and moving forward through Ane’s story on Uruvalai (and man, the upcoming bit is an emotional doozy).

For me, in the place I am now, The Sun is a reassurance that everything really is going well. I don’t have to look for another shoe to drop — not yet, anyway. Things are as they should be. If I experience frustration in the near future, it’s alright. The earth is turning, the sun is shining, the new spring flowers are pushing up through the cold ground.

It’s all good.