life

Homeschooling, feat. Kuato the Martian Resistance Leader and Gwyneth Paltrow

It’s always a delightful feeling to discover new things about your partner.

Like, for example, the fact that they don’t know anything about Goop and have never seen Total Recall. (Him.) Or that they can’t stand hearing people call machines “pieces of junk” because they feel like it’ll hurt the machine’s feelings. (Me.)

This weekend, I sought to rectify these gaps in his cultural education.

I purposefully didn’t want to watch the 2012 remake, because there’s a heavy-handed charm in the original that I didn’t think would translate. Even when they’re trying to, there’s a ridiculous rubber-alien magic that modern remakes can’t really capture. Besides, I don’t know if Colin Farrell can really nail campy one-liners, you know?

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised by how well Total Recall has aged. All of the parts that look incredibly goofy and narmy were just as goofy and narmy years ago. It was a fun watch that was exactly what it said on the tin: A Schwarzenegger action flick on Mars that was just as Schwarzeneggery as it promised. We snarked. We ate kettle corn. We watched SpaceTrump get his eyeballs inflated by explosive decompression.

And then I led him down a Goop rabbit hole:

“Vagina eggs? What.”

“… That’s a lot of money for vagina eggs.”

“I keep reading the word ‘Goop,’ but it’s not sinking in as the name of an actual company. Goop. Goop.”

“There’s a very big ‘how did we get here’feeling. Like why did anyone think this was cool or a good idea?”

“Oh boy! The Goop Lab! That sounds very trustworthy.”

“Vampire facials! … Oh, your own blood.”

“I feel like these jade eggs are going to be in every article about her. Like they’re the crystal skulls to her Indiana Jones. They’re the common thread that will lead us back to the ancient aliens.”

“Oh, so you cowards aren’t gonna show me the $15k 24 carat gold dildo? You’ll show me the eggs, but not that?”

“Please stop doing that to science.”

In unrelated news, there are more birds in the trees outside my windows, and they’re singing their hearts out. Everything else is quiet around them — there’s no real traffic to shoo them away or drown them out. As much as I hate the reason for it, I love the fact that I can hear their songs like this.

Here’s hoping you’re staying safe, sane, and not succumbing to any cooter egg- or astronaut sticker-related problems.

 

divination, life

Getting closer, card by card.

Learning Lenormand divination has been immensely practical, especially now. It’s a lot more tangible than tarot — where tarot deals with emotions and energies, Lenormand cards deal with actions and circumstances. Both tarot and Lenormand readings give you a glimpse of the situation as it stands now, if nothing were to change, but having both at my disposal has been very helpful.

I’ve been doing small, two-card daily Lenormand readings for myself. Every day, I ask the same question: What can I do right now to bring me closer to the life that I want?

And I get an answer: Write something, deal with unresolved relationships, make something, focus my energy and attention on a specific area.

It’s nice.

Sometimes, it’s funny — since the readings are very straightforward and practical, the advice isn’t always profound. For example, for this week’s reading, I asked what I should focus on for the week to get me closer to my ideal life.

I drew the Tower and the Anchor. The Tower can represent authority, in a governmental sense. It can be the company you work for (or, in my case, my self-employment). It can be protection and isolation. The Anchor can be achieving your goals — as in, dropping anchor once you’ve reached your destination. It can be stability, or settling down. Most sources interpret this combination as a safe harbor, long-term protection, or a stable isolation.

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This image showed up when I was looking for a public domain image of a tower. Not gonna lie, social distancing would be a lot more fun there, I think.

In other words, “You want to know what you should do to achieve your goals? Really? Maybe stay home and don’t die first, nerd.” 

Which… Okay, I get that. The world isn’t likely to be substantially different over the course of the next week. Safe harbors and isolation it is.

I asked my copy of the Crow Tarot deck the same question. In response, I drew The Heirophant.

The Heirophant is a religious leader. He’s an authority. He is tradition, convention, conformity, and a mentor in The Way Things Have Always Been Done. In a spiritual sense, he is ritual, routine, and ceremony. When he shows up, it’s often a sign not to rock the boat — if you want to succeed, it’s time to listen to people who have gone before you. Reinventing the wheel won’t get you any closer to your goal.

Taken together, I should stay home and take this opportunity to study and build more routine into my day. Structure and good advice will bring me closer to the life I aspire to, now’s not the time to take chances.
I agree.

 

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.

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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.

 

life

Snared in the Silver Lining

Druidry doesn’t have commandments. In ADF, we’re taught Virtues: Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Hospitality, Moderation, and (metaphorical) Fertility. Though it isn’t explicitly named as a virtue, the idea of reciprocity is big, too. It’s kind of bundled into the concept of Hospitality, if you really think about it.

Hospitality is what ensures that no one is left behind, and everyone is taken care of — the person who turns up on your doorstep with nothing may be the person to feed you when you have nothing. It builds the reciprocal relationships that provide for everyone’s survival during hard times.

I have a hard time with reciprocity sometimes. Not because I find it unpleasant or mentally difficult to reciprocate; it’s just physically hard. I had a very tough time coming to terms with the idea of being disabled re: being taken care of, and all of the fear of abuse and abandonment that it brought up. Even when I got past those thoughts, I had to contend with the idea that I wasn’t always going to be able to return the favors I need to live. It severely impacted my relationships, even fractured a few of them.

All of this is to say that I think I’m having some kind of survivor’s guilt super hard, and it is extremely confusing.

The thought process goes a little like this:

  1. I’ve needed to be taken care of in the past, and wasn’t really able to return the favor.
  2. A pandemic strikes, and suddenly my efforts and expertise have a lot more impact.
  3. I feel more useful, and much less bad about all of the times that I needed help in the past. A silver lining!
  4. … It’s totally not okay to find a good side to a situation that’s causing so much pain to so many people.

See what I’m saying? It’s a hell of a thing to grapple with.
How much of a silver lining is okay to have?

My therapist recommends adding some joy to every day, in whatever form that may take. I’ve been painting more, and trying to do guided meditations that focus around the Law of Attraction. Usually, I don’t really want any truck with The Secret or Law of Attraction for reasons. Right now, though, I feel like being forced to listen to affirmations and focus only on the positive might be the nuclear option my brain needs.

I’m kind of kicking myself for not re-upping my supplies when all of this first hit the news — I’ve got some sweet orange oil, but not much else in the “joy promoting” area. It isn’t an area of magic I usually have to dabble in too often, but man I’d love to get my hands on a piece of genuine citrine, or even some dried hyacinth flowers!

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(Seriously, though. I can lay a hex, break it, flip it, and reverse it. I can draw in love, chase away enemies, cleanse a space, ward a house, protect a vehicle, revive a plant,  perform more kinds of divination than you can shake a stick at, and more. Joy, however, hasn’t been an area that I’ve focused on very much. Go figure!)

I hope you’re staying in and holding up well.

A sitting meerkat.
life

Happy birthday, here’s a spring roll.

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Kiko says, “Good morning! Wait, it’s what PM? Eh, whatever.”

It was my partner’s birthday recently. What do you do when bakeries are closed, grocery stores are picked over, and you haven’t seen a bag of flour in weeks?

Improvise!

In this case, with a tealight and some sweet mango and sticky rice spring rolls. It wasn’t a traditional birthday cake, but they were tasty.

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Right now, we’re trying to put off going out to the grocery store again until we absolutely have to. There’s a set of cloth masks en route to us as I type this, and we’ve got some  hydroknit shop rags for making ersatz mask filters. We’re out of fresh fruit and vegetables, and I’m getting to the point where I’m scouring Allrecipes for things I can cobble together out of a yam, a can of baked beans, and a bag of dry mini ravioli.

(I did manage to make a very tasty breakfast out of some frozen Belgian waffles, microwaved berries, honey, and crumbled goat cheese.)

We’re getting creative.

I haven’t taken pictures yet, but I’ve finally dug into my stash of recycled silk ribbon and beads — including some very pretty Czech glass and matte amethyst. I have a set of copper and glass frame pendants, unstretched canvas, and plenty of time to play around, so I’m going to see what I can come up with. I’m not usually a fan of trying to paint miniatures on medium-textured canvas, but necessity’s the mother of invention, and all.

I also have some idea for a spray. I’m not sure if it’s more accurately called a cleansing spray, maybe a “clearing” or “lifting” spray? I know I want to start with lavender water and some kind of citrus, but I’m not sure what type. Lemon doesn’t seem like it has quite the right vibe for what I’m looking for. Maybe bergamot? I haven’t worked with bergamot as much as I’d’ve liked to, so that’ll give me the chance to forge a stronger relationship with it. Then, I just need to feel out other ingredients to include…

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One interesting challenge for me is that I’m limited to working with whatever the grocery store has, and what I can forage from either a strip of gravel around a dumpster, or whatever manages to reach through the chainlink fence at the end of the alley. I don’t know exactly what kind of plants these are, I haven’t attempted an ID yet. If there’s one quality I’m positive they have, though, it’s resilience.

I think a lot of us could use a little extra resilience right now.

Here’s hoping you’re healthy, not too stir-crazy, and holding it together.

crystals

Irradiated Smoky Quartz: Is it really safe?

A lot of — 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.

 

life

The Letter and the Spirit

It’s one thirty in the morning.

Pye is racing from room to room, stopping short with all four legs splayed out, bellowing into the night before zooming off.

I’m sitting on my (half-asleep) partner, eating a sandwich and babbling about this completely awesome idea I just had to set up a blanket tent in the living room, make s’mores, and watch a marathon of The Twilight Zone. (He does not remember this conversation, and it’s probably just as well.)

I also never thought I’d get to the point where my misophonia would be hardcore enough to make me want to punch myself in the face for chewing, but here we are.

 

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“I think we need to… go on a car ride, or something,” my partner suggests, voice heavy with concern.

“No,” I tell him. No, because, right now, the only place either of us goes is to the grocery store. No, because burning gas unnecessarily means eventually having to make an extra stop at the gas station to refill. That means touching surfaces that someone else has to touch afterward. It means walking on the ground where other people have to walk, then track whatever’s on that ground into their homes. What if we get in a car accident? That takes up two spots in the ER that could’ve been used by someone else.

It’s bad enough we have a (probably also unnecessary, but work with me here) decontamination protocol established for going to the grocery store: He goes. I make him wear elbow-length rubber gloves and cover his face with something to keep him from touching it. He comes home, leaves the groceries by the door, strips off his clothes and puts them by a bag near the door, dumps the gloves into a bucket of soapy water also by the door, and hops in the shower immediately. I empty any groceries I can into separate glass containers and throw the packaging out. If I can’t do that, I wipe the packaging with disinfectant. As soon as he’s out of the shower, he washes his clothes, takes out the trash, then washes his hands. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, and pretty ludicrous, but it keeps the health anxiety at bay. (At least, a little bit.)

Confinement’s making a lot of us kind of weird.

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What’s still completely baffling to me, though, are all the stories of influencers choosing to skip town. “I’m doing what’s best for my family” seems to be the reasoning (though a cynical part of me wonders when they started considering their ad partners “family”). Doctors decry the behavior, worried that they’ll inadvertently encourage their followers to do the same. People in rural or tourist areas are worried because they aren’t set up to feed and supply these people off season — and they’re damn sure not set up to care for them if they get seriously ill, or bring the virus with them.

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” but all leaving does is let you travel back in time a few days, maybe a few weeks. Before long, all of the places that people are fleeing to will experience their own peaks. What will they do then? Return home, after their home is finally seeing a decline in cases, and bring a new increase with them?

“I’m doing what’s best for my family,” it just involves acting contrary to the advice of doctors and potentially killing other people’s families in the process. For what? Instagrammable content and an illusory sense of temporary safety?

I read a comparison of pathogens to a coat of invisible wet paint. You touch it, maybe with your hand, or even your shoe, and it gets on you. You can’t see it, though, so you don’t notice all of the places you leave it behind or all of the people who end up touching it after you. You can avoid seeing other people, but you’re not really socially distancing if you’re out touching wet paint and tracking it everywhere you go. It’s the difference between following the letter of the recommendation, versus the spirit.

I get it, confinement sucks. I’m fortunate, in a strange way, because circumstances have made me used to keeping myself busy at home. I wish there was a way I could help take care of my grandfather, or go see my partner’s family, but we’d be doing more potential harm than good if we did. Staying confined isn’t just a way to keep us safe — it’s a way to keep us from unwittingly killing someone else. Taking care of each other means not making the (often underpaid) employees of stores, gas stations, and accommodations expose themselves to unnecessary risk.

Stay home. Please.