Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

The Many Implications of a Jacket

Guess who’s got two thumbs and a jacket she got a pretty rad deal on!

(Me. I did.)

Everything we touch, we leave a little of ourselves in. Maybe you handled a book when you were having a terrible day, or picked up a crystal when you were feeling particularly elated. By that same token, everything we bring into our spaces comes with its own energetic history. This is why it’s always a good idea to cleanse your stones, bowls, wands, or any other tools before you use them — you don’t necessarily want someone else’s bad day screwing with your whole jam, you know?

So you rinse them in clean water, if you can. Maybe you hold them in incense smoke, or the fumes of cleansing herbs. Maybe you place them in sunlight.

All of this is to say that this jacket is very pre-owned, and I don’t know any of its history. Was it owned by a nice little old lady who only wore it on Sundays? Did it narrowly escape being labeled “Exhibit B” in a trial? It’s a mystery!

Even though a jacket isn’t a magical tool, I still don’t really want any bad vibes hanging around. I mean, if nothing else, that is other people’s energy and should be returned to them. This can go beyond sending energy back to its previous owner, too — not only was this jacket previously owned by someone, it was sewn, cut, dyed, and tanned by someone, the cow was raised by someone, and the cow gave its life for it. (I prefer not to mess with plastic leather substitutes for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, plant-based alternatives like hemp were not going to meet my needs here.)

A lot of living things sacrificed their time, energy, and even lives to keep me warm and dry. That deserves appreciation.

When I cleanse secondhand objects, it’s important to me to not only remove the residual energy from the object itself, but to return it to its source and express thanks and understanding of how it got there in the first place. The choice to purchase or wear anything shouldn’t be made lightly, and it should be done with a full view of what it took to get it into a shop, and what’s going to become of it once its working life is through.

Even the choice to send gratitude and positive energy to whoever previously owned, made, or died for a thing isn’t without controversy. Let’s be real — most of the people involved in this jacket’s creation are probably still alive. There’s something to be said for never performing magic for someone without their consent (though this is often considered a limit to love spells and things of that nature). If the previous owner is a devout Christian, how would they feel about a Pagan doing a working for them?
Granted, my experience with this is limited to watching a family member (and, to be fair, Pat Robertson devotee) set AzureGreen catalogs on fire in our kitchen sink while ranting about Satan, but I am inclined to think the answer is: not super great.

On the other hand, nobody says that this hypothetical person has to accept any intentions they don’t want. I ain’t over here trying to force anyone to have a good day. Ultimately, it’s enough that their vibes make it back to them, where they belong.

So, I light my herbs. I sprinkle my salt. And I send the energy back with the intention that it finds its targets happy and well.

life

Planning, not panicking.

As I write this, my city and the surrounding area are up to 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As someone with health anxiety, it’s hard not to start panicking — reading about it online definitely doesn’t help, neither does watching the U.S. move from containing the virus, to just mitigating the damage it’s causing. Hospitals aren’t prepared. Under the internet’s various slimy rocks, concerns about the virus get dismissed as “propaganda.” People claim that as long as you eat “clean,” exercise, and pray, you won’t get sick.

Unfortunately, viruses don’t read online forum posts.

Getting sick isn’t a moral judgment. It’s not always something that happens because you did something wrong, or didn’t do something else well enough. While the immunocompromised and the elderly are the most at risk, young, otherwise healthy people still get hospitalized with the disease.

So, now what?

Like I said, I have health anxiety. I also don’t know how well a brand-new virus would play with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. (My guess: not super well.) Basic supplies like alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes can’t be had for love nor money. Even getting distilled water for my nepenthes was a challenge.

I’ve inventoried my herbs. I have my healing spells and prayers to Airmid. What’s next?

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Step one, handle the anxiety.

The first thing I did was download this health anxiety workbook. That part’s probably self-explanatory, though. It’s completely free, and covers everything from what health anxiety is, how it influences behavior, how it sustains itself, and strategies to deal with it.

Step two, make a whole lot of porridge.

We stocked up on lentils and rice. I eat a lot of them as it is, so getting a few extra bags wasn’t a stretch. Whenever something comes up that disrupts our lives, I always make a bunch of kitchari — an inexpensive, filling source of carbohydrates and complete protein that’s ideally suited for when you’re not feeling well. I’m planning to measure it into one-cup cubes and stock my freezer. It freezes very well, and reheats in about a minute or two in the microwave. If we get placed under quarantine, it’ll be a fast, easy, comforting source of nutrition.

Two wooden spoons and a small bowl full of dry lentils.
If you are what you eat, I am at least seventy percent lentil.

Step three, buy make hand sanitizer.

Since my partner’s job often places him in groups where constant hand-washing isn’t feasible, and alcohol-based sanitizer has pretty much vanished, I’m going to try to make some. I don’t really recommend doing this if you can avoid it — too little alcohol, and it won’t work. Too much, and it’ll dry your hands out, chapping the skin and increasing the risk of infection. If you have to make your own hand sanitizer, I’d recommend following the World Health Organization’s formulations.

Step four, ditto, but disinfectant.

Same for making disinfectant. Essential oils are great for all kinds of things, but the phenol content is extremely toxic to cats, and essential oil-based cleaners are probably not actually that effective at sanitizing when properly diluted. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has some good data on using alcohol and hydrogen peroxide as disinfectants. (Isopropanol seems to be in short supply, and I’ve only got about half a bottle left. Grain alcohol can be up to 95% ethanol, however, and hopefully hasn’t been raided yet.)

Other than that, we haven’t stocked up on much. We have some extra toilet paper, paper towels, and soap, a few more pantry staples than usual, and an extra family-sized bottle of ibuprofen. I feel okay about this, though — like we’re prepared, without hoarding to the point of putting more vulnerable people in jeopardy.

I’m hoping for the best.

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. 💚

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.

 

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.

Blog, life, Plants and Herbs

Sunlight and Early Flowers

I’ve been trying to get more sun lately.

I think I probably get enough vitamin D, in the sense that I’m not technically deficient, but months spent indoors have given me the preternatural paleness of a consumptive Victorian heroine. On some people, this look works. My skin has naturally beige/green undertones, so I just look like I’m half iguana.

This past weekend promised to be sunny and warmish, so my S.O. and I packed up and went for a drive. Saturday was Lake Accotink, where we walked along the edge of the water, enjoyed the light for a bit, did some people-watching, then took a detour on the way home for cheeseburgers.

(By the bye, Big Buns Damn Good Burgers lives up to the name. If you get the veggie burger, though, get it as a burger bowl. It’s very good, but very soft and probably too skooshy to hold in a bun without it falling apart.)

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Even though the trees were leafless and the sand was chilly, the sun was warm and the breeze was gentle.

The next day, we decided to drive to the Arboretum. Most of the trees were still leafless, twisted branches scrabbling at the sky, laden with the remains of last year’s bird’s nests. Still, it seems like every time we go, we find something neat that we didn’t spot before — first the dogwood trees, then the path through the conifer specimens. This time, it was this beautiful Prunus mume, branches half-covered in fragrant, pink blooms, humming with honeybees.

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It smelled so good.

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We wandered around until we found a bonsai museum and an herb garden — closed and bare, respectively, but the area was still beautiful enough. We found an arbor to sit under, which had this really cool-looking (albeit one I couldn’t identify) vine braided along one side.

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With the sun slanting through the trees, backlighting the few leaves and flowers daring enough to open up this early, it was nice. Relaxing.

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… Though maybe I should’ve waited for it to warm up a little before I buzzed my hair again. Whoops.

As we drove through the park, I heard my S.O. huff softly.

Degenerates,” he groused.

“What?”

“Look.”

I turned my head and squinted in the light.

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… I mean, he’s not wrong. I do not like the cobra chickens.

There are a lot of spots in the Arboretum that come alive with color in the warmer months. Bright splashes of orange, pink, and purple nestled into tufts and spikes of foliage, rosemallows the size of dinner plates, the works. There weren’t as many this time of year, but still plenty of color if you didn’t mind hunting for it.

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I think these guys are Scilla siberica, wood squill.

… And also looking very strange while laying on your stomach in order to get close enough for a picture.

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And this appears to be a yellow Viola of some kind.

There were some very pretty crocuses, too, but they were a bit too far off the path for a picture (I’m not about to go trampling sensitive terrain for a pic or two, but, unfortunately, my zoom isn’t quite good enough for a clear shot). Next weekend’s probably going to be too cloudy and cold for more adventures like this, but that’s okay. I’ve got some other plans. Secret ones.

This week’s tarot card’ll be up tomorrow. Have a good Monday!

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