Comfort in Chaos

Chaos_arrowWhen my ex and I first got together, The Secret had just come out. He was already a big fan of What the Bleep Do We Know, and I had never been exposed to the slick marketing of the New Age publishing machine.  I would like to think that my critical thinking skills would not have been so easily overcome, but the combination of glossy visuals and a desire to please a new partner overwhelmed my rational brain fairly quickly. And, if I’m totally honest, the fact that I already had practice in spell craft (a form of targeted manifestation) also made me easy prey for this particular mode of thinking.

The idea that one can manifest one’s own reality is quite seductive. It provides the oft-craved illusion of control. Life feels so unpredictable, and the promise of being able to create every desire is balm in the wound of uncertainty.

It’s also very dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong, the initial rush of attributing every coincidence to your own eminence is seductive. You feel powerful, able to take on anything. The problem is, however, that this initial string of beginner’s good luck doesn’t last. Inevitably something goes wrong: you get in a traffic accident, you lose your job, you miscarry.

And now, it’s all your fault.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw and still uphold the manifestation paradigm. If you’re manifesting your own reality, and if something bad happens, then clearly you brought it on yourself. For someone who already has a tendency to take responsibility for things that aren’t necessarily their fault, this is an insidious and deadly poison. In a way, it flips the model of a wrathful god on its head: Instead of god punishing you for your transgressions, you are punishing yourself for lack of discipline or bad feelings, which have brought sorrow or hardship upon you.

It is the ultimate in victim blaming, with no regard for circumstance. It’s free will taken to the nth degree.  Those people want to be poor. That woman let herself be raped. That child chose to be born into an abusive home. When you take the paradigm to that extreme, its ugliness oozes to the forefront.

We become afraid of the chaotic, the unpredictable.  We become afraid of those who have fallen on hard times. We forsake compassion for the fear. We become more selfish, more self-centered, more juvenile in our desires and attitudes.  We attribute unasked-for blessings to our own superiority and enlightenment, and self-flagellate for the smallest bump in the road.

John Michael Greer gets the credit for creating the first crack in my Secret-induced misery. He has a wonderful talent for taking the long view of various trends, and he noted that books exactly like The Secret were popular throughout the 1920 up until the Great Crash of 1929, when reality came barreling back through the haze of excess.  Ever the student of history, I began to take a good hard look at the assumptions I had been holding.

The next crack exploded into a seismic fault when my husband asked for a divorce a few months after I miscarried my second child.

Accepting that there are often things out of one’s control is a huge part of beginning to route out magical thinking, which is what The Secret  is at its most basic level. Now, of course, there are times when magical thinking is incredibly useful, like, when you’re actually doing magic.  But for getting through the day-to-day, it’s rarely an optimal paradigm. In truth, there’s really not much we can control outside of our own actions–and even then it’s debatable how much control we truly have.

Slowly, I began taking joy–but not credit–in a bluebird’s wing brushing my hair as I lay in the meadow, in the unexpected tax refund, in the chance to play music on the front porch with a neighbor. I became a more grateful person, and dare I say a happier one.  Chaos isn’t always something to be feared.  It can be those happy coincidences. It fuels creativity, and I returned to finding inspiration in the randomness of a tarot draw or the odd turn of phrase from my child.  There is an undeniable ease in uncertainty, where both happy surprises and unfortunate accidents are, in fact, out of your control and not a manifestation of either your damned or elect status.

Find happiness in the accidents. Live without apology for circumstance. Take comfort in the chaos of life.

Taking in the Midsummer Harvest

Midsummer is really the beginning of summer here in central Massachusetts.  We are about six weeks off from the traditional British harvest holidays, with the cross quarter fire festivals marking the height of each season rather than its beginning. At least that’s been my experience.

There are a number of sacred herbs that can be harvested from my land. Midsummer seemed like a good time to accomplish this, but I also wanted to incorporate some lunar correspondences. The Full Moon was in Capricorn just after Midsummer, which traditionally is a time where  pruning, or harvesting, is done to promote more vigorous growth in the plant. (Although why I would want this for the Mugwort is beyond me.)

And then it rained on the day of the full moon. All my lovely plans were foiled.

So, I went out the next morning, which was still within 12 hours of the moment of the Full Moon. It was the hour of Venus on a Thursday, the day of Jupiter, both of which should be auspicious for harvesting healing herbs. I managed to bring in the Motherwort, Agrimony, and Mugwort then. For future reference, I will be harvesting Motherwort much sooner next year, as it’s seedpods are very sharp and spiky.

Unfortunately I had to complete my harvest in the afternoon, which is when the essential oil concentrations are the lowest. On the “bright” side (ha!) this was now during the hour of the Sun and I brought in Sweetfern, Lavender, and Feverfew.

I had spied a glorious Yarrow by the side of the road earlier that morning. Sadly, someone mowed it down between that time and when I went out in the afternoon to harvested. I was really cheesed off. I did find a couple of other smaller sprigs though, and I’ll see what wild crafting I can do down in the conservation land for this little herb.

I’ll likely be doing another round of harvesting during the Dark Moon, especially for Mugwort (and probably the Agrimony as well, just because I don’t want it going to seed). I’ll probably wait until the next Full Moon for the rest of my culinary herbs like Sage and Oregano.  But for now, it looks like a goodly supply drying on the walls of my kitchen!

Turning the Tables

druidcraft_minor_swords_10Or at least, turning the cards.

One of the cornerstones of my spiritual practice is drawing a tarot card in the morning to help me focus for the day.  My views on tarot and divination are a bit muddled, perhaps because of my aforementioned paradigm shifting. I like to use the cards as a psychological tool, as a spiritual tool, and as a practical tool. They set the tone for my day and encourage mindfulness.

But, what to do if you choose a troublesome or challenging card? (I don’t like calling cards “bad” because there is usually way to much nuance for a card to be all good or all bad.) This is where magic can help. After I’ve thought about the implications of a card in whatever position I’ve drawn it (either upright or reversed), I flip it with a whammy-nudge of intent.

Case in point, three days ago I pulled the 10 of Swords. Definitely a difficult card: nadir, betrayal, overwhelm. The trick is finding that little sliver of light in the mire. As I turned the card upside-down, I kept my focus on finding that narrow way out of the despair and fear of current circumstances. Even though I ended up being blindsided by some family drama, it didn’t unbalance me nearly as much as it might have otherwise, and I was able to navigate through the unpleasantness by reaching out to my friends for help.

It all comes down to this: what good is being a seer if you can’t do anything to change what you’ve divined?

Kitchen Witchery: Mirror, Mirror

I was fortunate enough to find this lovely old mirror in the thrift store for six dollars. I figured with a little bit of elbow grease and some homemade furniture polish it would brighten up in no time.


Apparently, homemade furniture polish is only slightly different from homemade salad dressing: vinegar, oil, and lemon juice. There are a number of different recipes with which the Google-Oracle can provide the curious kitchen witch.

First I treated the wood with the salad dressing/furniture polish mix, removing all the dust and grime–paper towels and an old t-shirt work quite well. Then it was just time to sit down and polish up the glass was some glass cleaner and paper towels.


I really do love old furniture. Imagining the history and stories behind each piece is so much more satisfying than buying another soulless sofa from Eddie’s Furniture Basement. It’s easier to see the spirit of an old piece. There can be a wonderful exchange in caring for a well-crafted-but-slightly-battered antique, filling in scratches, polishing and shining it.  You develop a responsibility and even kinship towards the object. It serves you well, and in return you see its own sacredness and keep it whole.

I’m looking forward to developing a relationship with this mirror.  There are a few scratches and the silvering is a touch cloudy, but he has so much personality shining through his finish.

Now all I need to do is find a dresser!

Process

16043315844_201ba67481_nIt’s always something of a question as to whether to let someone look behind the curtain at your creative process.  It’s messy back there–blobs of ink, half-formed words, trailing threads, and heavens forfend those dangling participles.  Words themselves have been slippery fishes of late, and I find myself turning to solid crafts that satisfy my hands, like knitting, drawing, and beading.

Still, take for example the sigil crafted for Crow this month.  You can get a pretty good idea of it from the picture at the head of this post.  Yes, it’s still rough, but it’s showable, particularly for an article dealing with artistic process.  Sigil work, at least as I see it, isn’t just the tracing of lines over a witch’s wheel.  Sure, you can start there, but if there is to be any spark, any soul in the magical anchor, there has to be more than that.

To paraphrase Jason Miller, the most powerful sigils are the ones wrested directly from that Beyond space and brought into being on this plane.  That jujitsu match is ugly. There are many false starts, no little dismay, and often a feeling that this sigil is always going to look like crap and there’s nothing you can do to tell it otherwise.

This is where a child comes in handy. Inner, outer, literal or metaphorical–let the kiddies out to romp.

Stop wrangling and start playing.  Tussle, cross things out, let colors cohabit that would make Andy Warhol wince. Sigil crafting is a protean art.  Hold onto it too tightly and Awen slows to a trickle, left with nothing more than a madwoman’s scrawl across a restaurant napkin. Let go and see the lines swell with color and form, twisting around your mind until you know there is no other way for them to be.

It sure as hell ain’t pretty, but it’s process.

16458239867_47116efc5f_n