Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shiny New Obsession

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

You ever notice how when you REALLY want something, it seems to be everywhere? I'm seeing drop spindles out of the corner of my eye, roving, batting, and wheels everywhere.
I don't have time for a new craft. It's bloody impractical right now. I keep trying to convince myself that it would be relaxing, something to do outside of the shop. But the truth is, shortly after getting a good grip on spinning, I'd be making odd yarns to knit into charm bags. Dandelion, milkweed, the silvery fuzz from blessed thistle... The cats. Yeah. I thigh spun bits of Oscar's hair today (he's shedding pretty badly), added an eye milagro (which have always looked like Evil Eye charms to me) and hung it from the doorway. Combine the best of both worlds; crazy cat lady, Witch, and craft ninja.
It's just hard to let go of an idea once it's taken root. Le sigh. Don't get all worried on me, it was a whim, and took about three minutes, lol.

Around and about town, the powers that be in Manitou are trying to install parking meters. I don't know how effective that will be, what with 1/3 of the shops being empty (wtf), and tourist season on the way. The construction downtown is a bloody nightmare. Redoing the Ave, again (three times in two years!) and they still haven't touched Ruxton, or appear to have any plans to clean it up and make it more patron friendly.
Bah humbug!
Currently reading "Moving Pictures" by Terry Pratchett
Going to bed now, hope you are well :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friendly Neighbors :D

These lovely mule deer graced us with their presence yesterday. I dissolved into a into a fit of OMG fuzzy wuzzy *squeal* etc. :P
The giant propeller ears, the fuzzy coat, and dreamy, liquid brown eyes. Anyway, its good to see that they made it through the winter in style. There weren't very many in the valley/foothills last fall, but they seemed to be making a greater appearance this spring.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Short Post

The hunt for almond wood continues... Gah and argh. I'm looking forward to getting back to wood carving.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Unbroken Line of Pagans in Eastern Europe

Bloody 'ell!
A rather uprising bit of info cropped up today; a burgeoning, unbroken line of Paganism in a wee bitty-bit of Russia.
The Mari people are currently fighting to preserve their traditions and sacred Groves from vandalism. The translation isn't all that great, but neither is my Russian, so here you go.

The main points of their faith revolve around a belief in Nature as the source of all that is good (similar to many animist faiths around the world). They are polytheistic, and their gods seem to be tied deeply to the surrounding land and it's natural features. Sounds quite a bit like modern Paganism in many respects; I'm very interested in how much of their specific practices will come to light, and what we can learn from them to 'fill in the gaps', as it were, in our own rituals, devotion, and traditions.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Rumblings In Pagan Cyberspace + Ramblings

If you haven't heard tell of the current uproar in the Occult community, or seen the angry mobs marching past your hut waving pitchforks and brandishing torches, well, chances are you've been minding your own business, *tsk, tsk*

When I read this mornings post from Hecate over a cup of coffee, the entry about the Frost's newest book garnered a derisive snort and and a groan, amounting to a colorfully coffee splattered monitor. Hey, you try doing all three at once :P
But not much more. I've never taken the Frost's or their mail order degrees seriously, so it didn't hurt my feelings when they wrote this:

“Any initiatory sex should be with a “stranger” — an initiated Witch of the coven [that] the neophyte plans to join. . . . The underlying tradition here is sometimes overlooked. If the Craft means enough to you that you are willing to abide by its tenets then abide by them! If you cannot transcend your cultural brainwashing and accept the assignment to have sex one time with an assigned partner, in accordance with centuries of Craft tradition, the Craft can’t mean that much to you. Here’s the door. Don’t call yourself a Witch.”

See, the thing is, I've never met an occultist that believed everything they read. I have some bloody awful books on my shelves (if you want the most embarrassing and awful titles, just ask :)). I've used them to teach before, as in " this is how NOT to cast a spell, and why".but apparently should really begin reading more of them.*Everyone else has, while I've had my head stuck in the

What I am simply amazed by is the "cultural brainwashing" bit. Do what we say, or you are a brainwashed ninny who can't think for themselves. Wow, where have we heard THAT kind of rhetoric before? Sounds like a combination of a sweaty drunk prom date and that creepy neighbor that used to touch his balls and offer you lemonade.

Hell, its 2AM, I'm getting punchy, and that last comment probably gave you a disgusting mental image. Stopping... NOW!

And apropos of nothing at all, some formulas that we've been testing over the winter are finally ready to be offered for sale; they just needed some hardcore fine-tuning to be both aesthetically pleasing and ritually effective. The latest are woven around entire legends from various cultures, portrayed in scent and energy. I can't wait to see what you think; this project has been my baby for the past few months, incredibly inspiring, and challenging.
Many new items going up are more closely focused on European and Middle Eastern magic, as many of you have requested.
Herbal ritual papers are in the not-so-distant future, as well as a few new inks. My fiber addiction and latest interest has been put aside for the moment, as responsibilities call. I'm really freakin' tired, and desperately want to go hiking tomorrow; hitting the Post Office in the morning, sending out thank yous :) and then ignoring this bloody computer for the rest of the day!
You guys take care, and give a holler if you need anything!


*I don't like to take things out of context, so I will read this book. Don't think there is much chance of having misunderstood this bit, but I'll give it a whirl. What the hell, right?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dream A Little Dream

Love that song;)
No but seriously, have you ever had a dream that was intimately tangible?
Had a rather strange one last night... not sure I want to 'share with the class' yet, so to speak.

Experimenting with a variation on my old Uncrossing bath salts formula. I think the dream/ heightened psychic awareness may have been a manifestation of that. It was the only variable I can pinpoint right now... Taking notes, and fine tuning the formula.
Anyone want to play guinea pig? ;)

Ac is doing the next podcast on Wednesday, with or without me, so it should be up shortly after that. Give us a few days to edit and such.
If the weather keeps up the good behavior, the outdoor classes should be starting up again soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Identity and News From the Front Line

Photo copyright

So... it turns out that the statue of Hygeia in the center of town isn't Hygeia at all, but Hebe. I always wondered why I got that funny, pissed off feeling from her when leaving offerings at her feet. A case of mistaken identity spanning the course of 118 years, prompted by the man who donated Her to the town, Jerome Wheeler.
Epic FAIL.

I always thought she just didn't like me much. I dunno. There are a few deities that I don't get along with. I've always had a saying: Never work with a god you couldn't have a beer with. So, erm, yeah. I'll be trotting down to the park to make reparations with Her, see how it goes. Laughing my ass off.

Sorry I haven't been active much on the Internet the past week or so; sometimes it's necessary to step back and get some perspective. Tired of the bitchery of forums, message boards, social networks etc. After Occult Forums closed abruptly, with no warning, Ac ran across a similar site, and inquired about advertising. Helped the owner figure out how to set up advertisers in a way beneficial to himself, the advertisers, and the members of the forum. After we all agreed on a set price, the guy pulled a bait-and-switch, and raised the price by 25%, with an additional option to forum members; they could pay $2.00 not to see the ads at all. Nobody wins but the guy holding the wallet :( He then banned Ac from the forum after he objected to this unethical behavior (in a private message, not in the open forum). Yeah.

I need to not hate people right now... need to believe that not everyone is out there to take what they can grab. Miss the garden during times like these. Pulling weeds is excellent therapy!
Tired of New Age attention whores and media-seeking whoopie witches, of people that try to drag others down so they can feel like they've done something with their lives.
So yeah, I'm a bit tired, world-weary, and grumpy right now, but it will pass.

The sale of the month is going to stay up for a few extra days, as there was a glitch with the payment buttons and we had to pull a few all-nighters to get them fixed, and test everything. Geez, didn't realize we had that much stuff, lol. Anyway, I'll be switching over the sales tomorrow night, so if anyone wants to weigh in, just holler!

I've been up to my elbows in herbs, resins, and woods all week, crafting fresh incense, and some of the older formulas are coming down from the shop, mostly the single component formulas. Frankly, I don't think they bring enough to the table. So more blends are going up, as soon as they dry.

Oh, btw, there will be another podcast forthcoming,soon :D

"Bass Ac-Words" is now on line!

Realizing that this blog would suffer (badly), if Ac said everything that was on his mind, we've started a second blog: "Bass Ac-Words"! If you want the skinny and the fat of what's going on through the mind of a "mage" that can't seem to keep his mouth shut, That's where to look!

From the Forum Wars, through bad magical ideologies, and on into "A Kinder, Gentler Ac", check "Bass Ac-Words",


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Precious

My sincerest apologies to LOTR for the Photoshopping; by all accounts, this is exactly how I look in the yarn store. ;P

I'm even dreaming about the fiber arts now. Last night, it was a man in a black hat, needle felting in the road. That's what I get for knitting and attempting to learn drop-spindle spinning at 2AM. Gah!
The current project is charm bags. The silk cabled Tarot bag didn't turn out as expected, and another cabled strip is going to have to be added in order to center it properly. Kind of depressing, so it's going to sleep for a bit. Don't want to waste a solid weeks worth of work. Damn #3 needles.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Maceration vs. Essential Oils

It's about time that some herbal information made it up here :P
I'd like to touch on not only the technical difference between macerated and essential oils, but how their effects vary in ritual and spell craft.

Okay, first of all (and most of you already know this), but an essential oil isn't really an oil at all, having little or no fatty substance . By-the-by, if you're buying essential oils from a metaphysical store, and they have a slightly greasy feel to them, more likely than not, they have been cut with grape seed oil, which has no real scent of its own, making it a popular carrier oil. Just a heads up.

Sorry for the detour, just thought that it bore mentioning! Okay, essential oils are the volatile oil/essence/heart of a plant. They can be extracted using steam distillation, alcohol/solvent extraction (necessary for some plants that won't react to steam, or for tough root-based essential oils), or through a labor-intensive process called enfleurage, in which fresh blossoms are delicately pressed into a screen that is first layered with fat. The flowers release the full range of their precious scent as they die, and the fat is scraped and refined. Enfleurage created essential oils, while they tend to be terribly expensive, are also more layered and complex in their scent.

While magical practitioners as a rule, tend to enjoy making their own tools, most of these methods are beyond the scope of the average person. Creating essential oils, even in minuscule amounts, takes a lot of raw plant matter (land, ability to harvest, or access and ability to purchase large amounts of fresh material locally), a large monetary investment in equipment and tools, time to experiment and get a pleasing end result. So many variables go into creating a proper essential oil; scent varies dramatically depending on the time of day that the plants are harvested, heating temperatures during distillation, etc.

Okay. Maceration, in this sense, refers to covering dried plant matter with oil, and allowing it to release it's scent, medicinal, and magical properties into the oil. Anyone with access to dried herbs, or a bit of a garden to grow and dry their own, can do this.The end result varies dramatically, depending on what you are using. Dragon's Blood resin, for example, stains the carrier oil to a brilliant, bloody red almost immediately, and releases its potent scent very well by this method. I recommend a bit of sunlight to help it along.
Others, such as licorice root, have almost no perceivable scent, and if you are using a strongly scented carrier, such as olive oil, may be buried completely.
Don't be ridiculously disappointed if your oils aren't strongly scented. They still pack a magical wallop, and are far superior to those pretty packaged fragrance (read, plastic) oils at the messy-physical store.

A lady recently contacted me about making macerated oils, and said that she was having trouble finding info on it. So, in the interest of helping along the magical herbalist, what follows is a fairly detailed explanation of making oils, and keeping them from going bad:

Sterilize your jars thoroughly. Very, very important. Wash them with antibacterial dish soap, allow them to dry, and then another wash with alcohol. Dry them out with a hairdryer or heat gun. Fill the jar about halfway with your favorite herb, cover with your chosen carrier oil. Use extra virgin, cold extracted oils. Cap tightly, and let it macerate for about a week and strain. If the scent or effect still isn't strong enough for your taste, add fresh dried herbs to the strained oil, and perform the same process over again, until you get your ideal results. During the last straining, add a bit of Vitamin E oil, benzoin, or tincture of benzoin for preservation.

Macerated oils are delightful to use in spell craft, and have a much longer history of use in magic than essential oils do. Hoodoo Condition Oils are traditionally made by this method, though many modern practitioners pump up the effect with essential oils.

Essential oils have gotten a glamorous reputation lately, partly because of their exorbitant cost. Many believe that they are more powerful, as they contain the essence of a plant. Macerated oils are a bit homely, not having the noticeable scent that EOs do. Both are quite effective in spell casting, but layering and tailoring effects is more effective with the soaked versions (they play well with others). They seem to hold a greater amount of energy, and blend well with each other. EO's tend to work very quickly, and are unsurpassed if your intent lies on a highly psychological level; it is similar to the difference of medicinal herbalism and aromatherapy. One isn't necessarily BETTER than the other, except in the condition and the individual they are treating.Magic is nothing if not personal, and specific. Natural perfumery is well worth study; learning which EO's blend well with each other, composing scents based on base, heart, and top notes, as well as using your magical training to tailor intent.

Just please, please, always use the natural varieties. Fragrance oils have no magical power in and of themselves, and whatever results are the outcome, are all you, with a bit of the placebo effect thrown in.


Almost forgot to mention. There will be an oil or tincture that you will struggle with. Mine was basil. No matter how clean the bottles were, no matter how carefully, thoroughly dry the basil, it would always mold on me. It took me two full growing seasons to master the art of basil tinctures and oils; don't be afraid to experiment until you find what works for you :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Good Reason To Read A Bad Book

All right, prepare to point and laugh :D

I am currently reading a bad book on Wicca.

Admittedly, there have been some real steaming piles written on Wicca, Witchcraft, and really magic (or magick, or majyck, lol) in all forms. Among certain circles of high-falutin' practitioners, it is a SIN to not only read these books, but to own them *gasp* is reason enough to commit hara-kiri. Not wanting to be considered "fluffy", ill-educated, or simply be criticized by the peers that they hold in high regard, many avoid these books like the Black Plague, and simply carry on the flag of scorn to a new generation, without reading the offending text (thus polluting their pure minds).

My education in the Craft of the Wise has been an odd one; I didn't start out with the "right" books, the "right teacher", or the "right tools". In other words, at the time I was coming into it, I did not have a ton of money to spend on those shiny books with the Llewellyn crescent on them, a giant athame from THAT catalogue, or "properly Witch-y clothes". Yup, someone has actually said that to me before, lol.
My athame is an absolutely ancient extra-long boning knife that I swiped from the kitchen, and painted the handle. I've used it so much that the oils in my hands have made the paint sink into the wood permanently, and I can no longer recall the original color. But the balance is true, and the steel is beautiful. It doesn't look like much, and certainly doesn't have a fancy pseudo-archaeological symbol on it.
I never watched "The Craft". Still haven't, though I'd like to see what the fuss is all about, especially considering that it was the #1 complaint of every Elder in the Pagan community back then... Some girl watches "The Craft", throws on gobs of eyeliner, gets a pentacle that you could beat a mule to death with, and calls herself Wiccan. Those were the days, lol.

So, without access to most of the stock in the local metaphysical bookstore, I got my hands on better books, all by accident. Culpeper's Herbal (found it for sale at my school library) because I couldn't get Cunningham, for example.

The real point of this? I borrowed a copy of "The Grimoire of Lady Sheba" from a friend. This is a much maligned text in popular circles today, but it had a few good points. It's just a matter of stripping away the extraneous bits.

1. It's a bit pompous. Ugh, okay, very pompous. Ignore that bit where the author is Witch Queen of the Universe times infinity, and that the necklace that she owns (never before revealed to the public) is undeniable proof of this fact. Ignore that too.

2. It claims that every spell, rule, law, and recipe in the book is ancient. Ignore that bit, most people during the 70's, and before that, really, tacked that on there to validate (in someone else's eyes) what worked for them. It's set a BAD precedent, with people still claiming that they were taught by mysterious "Gypsy" women, but now is the time that we can get this right. No worries.

3. The recipes. Oh boy...where do I start? The "Witches Flying Ointment" is insanely poisonous in the proportions given, however, the author openly admits that she has never used it.
The majority of the remaining recipes are swiped from the widely inaccurate work by Lewis De Claremont, "The Ancient Book of Formulas" (originally published in 1940). Most of the recipes in that particular text are simple variations on one another. They all contain a rotating pattern of about four of the same ingredients, in different proportions, plus the addition of De Claremont's company's secret Compound/ Bouquet formulas.Which a practitioner had to buy in order to make the recipe for their ritual. Lady Sheba has left out the stock compounds, but printed the others word for word. I don't see a darn word of credit in Sheba's book either.

3.5 Did I mention the recipes? The "Abtina Incense" really sets me off. The Abtina family made the most prized incense in Jerusalem, and would not give the recipe to anyone, even with exhortations from their Rabbi. The incense that they made was offered twice daily in the temple, and the penalty for composing it incorrectly (at the time) was death. Not only must it be composed in the proper proportions, but in the correct total amount, all at once. Certain aspects of the formula have been revealed through oral tradition, but it most certainly did not contain "winters bark", for crying out loud.

Okay, so the good bits.

1.She describes a fair, albeit garbled and over simplified, method for making a topa, or spell thought-form.

2.She says that a Wiccan must keep a clean house *goes to dust the bookshelf*

3.Insists that practitioners keep their word and tell the truth.

4.Gives a good description of the Witches Pyramid, one better than I've heard in a thousand glib literary re-tellings.

5.A decent description of the Eight-fold Path, though, again, it is oversimplified and doesn't touch on the where, why, and how (to what end) a practitioner would use certain methods to achieve a specific altered state.Two pages certainly does not do them justice.

6. Insists that a practitioner should be prepared to perform magic when necessary; Knowing the day, Moon phase, time, planetary hour, and the current ruler ship for each. I approve. Who carries around a stack of correspondences anyway? Know your craft, inside and out.

Okay, okay. I would NEVER, EVER recommend this book for a beginner. It's too easy to take seriously if you have no prior study of magic, and are not able to separate the gems from the poo.

If you consider this book more as one practitioner's use of magic than THE BOOK OF ALL WICCA, then it is an okay read. She put the stuff in that worked for her, and a few other bits to flesh it out, which I don't really agree with, but know that this was kind of expected at the time. What I am really overjoyed to discover is what so many modern authors are using as source material. The "Oh, Duh!" moment. That sentence sounds just like... etc.

Reading a bad book can be a good thing. :P The recognition of concepts buried within a text can be immanently valuable; not to mention that this was the first book that many practitioners got their hands on. It's nice to recognize where people are coming from.
Proceed to point and laugh.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hit and Run, A Day for Cheap Shots

Do you remember that kid on the playground that would kick you in the shins, and then run crying behind the closest teacher or parent?
I've noticed an odd trend of this kind of behavior among adults. Today, we received a letter through Witchvox, from someone with no account, and who had entered a fake email address, so that I couldn't reply to their cheap shot. I only re-post it here for educational purposes. For the record, there is a big difference between European and Diasporic magical traditions and tools. I mark everything on the site accordingly. Their letter is as follows:
You have the nerve to down folks who are "Not Educated enough in the craft" I saw on
your Wears site

Graveyard Dust (Botanical)

Many plants bear the name "Graveyard Dust" or "Graveyard Dirt". They can be used as
a substitute in almost any recipe calling for the actuality. Wear in mojo and charm
bags to protect against evil and negative energies; to honor ancestral spirits and draw
upon the wisdom of the ancients; or when working with all chthonic deities.

LOL Graveyard Dust or dirt is NOT a plant. It's acuall GREAVEYARD DIRT!

Ahh you MetaFuzzy fools.

Don't even try to understand Hoodoo or conjour. You two
"white-Lite" LOL

My reply follows:

Interesting that you say this; as I wrote in the description, botanical
graveyard dust is not to be used the same way that "Graveyard Dirt" is;
they are two different animals. The botanical form has a history within
European magic, the actuality is used primarily within Diasporic
practices. I find it interesting that you cut out the part where I
said "They can be used as a substitute in almost any recipe calling for the actuality, however Hoodoo
spells call for the real deal".
Seems downright convenient that you left this out; who's point are you trying to prove?

you claim a background in Hoodoo, I'm frankly surprised that you don't
know the difference between the two. Simply because the names are
similar does not mean they are the same thing. If you have been doing
Root work for any length of time, I'm sure you've run across at least
four different plants that share the same name, but are completely
different. If you are interested in actually learning about the
historic traditions, I recommend that you get Harry Hyatt's volumes on
the subject. Perhaps we can speak again when you have put a little more
study into your path.

Lodestone & Lady's Mantle

So, yeah. I sent the letter and got a delivery failure notice. I love answering or debating questions about magical technique. Not so much when they want to kick me in the shins and run away screaming like a child. I've always been careful to distinguish between tools for various Traditions and purposes.
Somehow that isn't enough anymore? It's a bit disheartening, I guess. I approach most practitioners like they know what the hell they are talking about, and
don't need anyone to spell it out for them with pat drivel.