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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

 


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sandalwood

In the next several entries I plan to quickly explore the materials that have formed the basis of incense historically as well as those that modern incense makers use regularly.  One of the most important incense ingredients historically is sandalwood.

There are 5 different varieties of sandalwood that are used in scented products, although only 3 of those have commonly been used in modern times.  Indian yellow sandalwood (santalum album) has historically been a preferred base material for incense in Asia and Africa.  Even in modern times, sandalwood is burned in every form from large pieces in fires to powdered bits in incense sticks and cones.  The biggest consumer of sandalwood, by far, is the perfume industry.  Sandalwood is a key ingredient in many popular perfumes.  Once you work with the fragrance for a while you will begin to recognize it in colognes and perfumes.  The popularity of sandalwood over the centuries has led to its endangered status in India, the motherland of incense.  International treaties have reduced the trade in sandalwood from India to the realms of bootleggers.  For some years now the only sandalwood from India that was legally available in the USA was from existing stockpiles.  It is now virtually impossible to get real sandalwood from India in the USA, although there are many imitation products sold under the label of “Indian sandalwood”.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
In Search of Perfection

Is the quest for perfection a worthy one?

No matter what form of art I've explored, there are always people trying to hold up a mirror of perfection.  Some use it as a moving target for them to aim their practice to, motivating them to work harder, pushing them along.  Some people take that to an extreme, and never find satisfaction in anything they do because it falls short in their eyes.  They deny themselves credit and possibilities because they feel their work doesn't measure up. Their work might never see the light of day because of their fear. 

Why fear? Because others use an elusive ideal as a means to tear down others who don't fit THEIR idea of what "perfect" is.  Even if they wouldn't even attempt to try it themselves.  They too are trapped by fear and insecurity - of failing short.  But it's easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. 

But the reality is this: There is no perfect film, song, book, dance, building, or work of art. Nothing we create is ever truly perfect - it is all inherently flawed, because that is both our nature and the true disease of time. A work can never be all things to all people. It's not meant to be.

Yet within this unavoidable imperfection, a work IS perfect. It is a pinpoint perfection of that moment in time, that decade, that experience - of the creator and those who interact with it. Perfect dwells in the liminal, the intangible, the shifting land of hopes, dreams, desires, and memories.

What works for one moment may not work for the following one.  That's how time works.  Society is always moving, we as beings are ever-growing and changing.  What we deem worthy or commendable in one situation or timeframe may fall out of favor in the next.  And vice versa. 

Working artists know this.  They know perfection is a lie.  We fall in love with our latest work of art, and then move on to the next one.  We see our work as a series of steps in a spiraling staircase that only ends when we end...or the work ceases to exist.  Each piece of work is part of a larger pattern - and if we rip out those threads solely because we later deem them imperfect, then we fail to see the beauty of the pattern. 

It's important to keep this in mind whether you're considering an artistic, metaphysical, or spiritual practice.  (And often all 3 may find common ground!). 

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Can you work with the Internet as a spirit?

Recently, one of my readers asked me an intriguing question. She wanted to know if the internet could be a spirit in its own right, a deity that could be worked with. She had done some work on her own and that work seemed to say yes, but she was curious about my perspective on it, so I figured i'd share it through an article.

The first time I got on the internet, it was 1995. I was in my last year of high school and I got to use a computer for the first time and access the world wide web (as it was known back then). Why do I share that with you? Because I didn't grow up with the internet. I had to adapt to it. I fortunately did so, while I was still a teenager, and to be honest I took to the internet like a fish takes to water.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I tend to think of cyberspace as a biome like grasslands, deserts, and temperate forests are biomes.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    That's anther good way to describe it.
Manifesting Your Path As An Artist

This past weekend at Paganicon in Minneapolis, MN, I gave workshops on Witchcraft, Ritual Movement, and Art.  The latter especially focused on my own path as an artist and where it intersects with my Witchcraft.  Alas, 90 minutes wasn't quite enough time to get it all in, so I figured I'd write up 6 key points here for y'all.

In my lecture, I talked about how art schools rarely give artists the tools they need to really succeed.  Sure, we can learn the craft of being artists from a technical standpoint and refine the use of our media - but when it comes to promotion and being professional, those areas are sorely lacking in formal art education.  Which means finding your way through a lot of trial and error. 

So how do you get your work out there as an artist?

1) Have a presence on the internet: a facebook page for your work, Instagram account, your own website, or being on a portfolio website (deviantart, behance, etc), etc.  This requires also getting good photos and/or scans of your artwork, as well as crafting a short biography, artist statement, and build a resume of shows/events/awards/education. Watermark your art! 

2) Have a physical presence in the real world: invest in business cards, postcards, etc - that you pass out with your work and online presence on them. Network with other artists, check out local groups, galleries, and other events.  Does your local town/city have an artwalk? Check out the spaces, see what the art is like. 

3) Craft a plan for each year, setting goals for what you want to accomplish.  Goals can be along the lines of: doing a series of 10 paintings on X theme, participate in 3 group shows, get a solo show, do 1 outdoor festival, etc.  It all depends on your media and where you want to go with your artwork.

4) Keep your word and be realistic.  This seems like a common sense thing, but unfortunately there is often a lot of substance behind the idea of the "flakey artists."  I can't tell you how many times I've filled in at events for artists who have flaked at the last minute because they didn't get work done for the show. However, shit does happen, so if you suspect you're not able to do an event or make a deadline, give the host/organizer PLENTY of time, so they can adjust accordingly.  Saying yes and falling through again and again damages your reputation, no matter how good your work may be. 

5) Presentation and Products! Consider the ways you can show and replicate your artwork so that you can get it out there and make money off of it.  Is your work easy to frame? What size works best? How durable is it? How much will it cost to hang it properly? Be creative! Prints, notecards, calendars, magnets, t-shirts, etc - can be really awesome - or a money pit. Go to events and see what similar artists (subject, media, etc) are doing, and consider what can be your own take. Look to create a variety of pricepoints as well.  For example, I have notecards that are $4, prints from $20-$30, higher end prints from $45-$150, and then original art - so art for a variety of budgets.  

6) Make art.  No really, make it. Don't just think about it or talk about it, or plan it. MAKE IT. The only way to expand as an artist is to keep making art, keep producing it, keep developing and trying out ideas.  

Now there's a lot more that can be done, but these 6 points I believe are at the root of developing your brand and growing as an artist.  "Overnight success" is the result of years of hard work that most people never see. 


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The Occult, Science, and NeoPaganism

 

As NeoPaganism has grown and flourished, the paths taken to get here have multiplied from those taken by a relatively few serious spiritual explorers initially engaged in occult studies to include people attracted by dissatisfaction with monotheism, a feeling of finally finding a spiritual home, our music and culture, curiosity about the off-beat or forbidden, and increasingly, their family’s beliefs.   This is not a bad thing.  It is in fact a good thing. But it is a complex good thing.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I have just learned many W&P readers read from mobile devices where longer articles might be a problem. A question to those who ha
  • Karena
    Karena says #
    That was very thought-provoking- thank you!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Elements of Incense

This is the first entry in Carl Neal's new blog, "Incense Magick." Entries for "Circle of One" can still be found in the archives of Carl Neal's writing on PaganSquare.

I started making incense in 1995. Since then I have taught thousands of people to make incense in various workshops and classes and tens of thousands through my books, web sites, and You Tube channel. I obsessively research incense and read every book I can find on the topic. Over the years of speaking with various practitioners and students, as well as reading many “magick 101” books, I have learned that most people regard incense as representative of the element of either fire or air (or occasionally both). For decades now I have respectfully disagreed.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • John Zelasko
    John Zelasko says #
    Hello Carl! I joined the website just this evening and was delighted to see there was another incense fanatic like myself. My fasc

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