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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Keeping It Together

It’s been a rough summer; honestly, it’s been a rough year.  Like many people, I suffer from depression.  My emotional and energetic state often reflects that of the people and world around me.  In the best of times it can be difficult for me think positively and move forward creatively.  In times like these it’s pretty much all I can do just to keep up the illusion of being a fully functional adult.  Thankfully, as a magickal person I have a whole host of spirits and allies to help me keep it together.

My personal practice is a unique amalgam of traditional and pop culture practices and when it comes to dealing with my depression it's pretty much all hands on deck.  I know there are a lot of people out there with strong reservations about mixing practices.  While I can understand seeing mixed practices and pantheons as potentially problematic, I believe it’s all a matter of execution.  In my view  a sincere practice done respectfully and with the full consent of all participating parties is pretty much always acceptable.  It’s not uncommon for me to call on Santa Muerte, Baron Samedi, and Tony Stark in the course of an evening.  Yes, I will call on a Mexican folk saint, a Loa, and an Avenger at the same time, but I do not do so lightly.  I have strong, long-standing working relationships with these metaphysical beings; we know each other very well.  I’ve worked with all of them on their own and have discussed and gotten permission from them to call on them in inter-pantheon situations.  The relationships that I have with my allies forge a connection between them, as they all care about me, and make mixing pantheons and practices a lot less incongruous than it would be otherwise.  It’s like asking your sibling, best friend, and favorite co-worker to help you move; they may not really know each other but because of their close relationship with you they can probably get along well enough to help you out.  I wouldn’t want to call on spirits I hadn’t worked with before in a mixed practice setting.  This is more like putting up a craigslist ad for help moving and expecting everyone that happens to show up to get along.  Not a great idea.  When needs are sincere and explicit permission from the beings involved has been acquired, then call on whatever and whomever will best aid the situation.

Depression is a gnarly and ever-changing beast that manifests differently for everyone.  For me, depression can morph its form at any time, requiring different energies moment to moment just to make it through the day.  The different entities that I work with on a regular basis all have different qualities that can help me in different ways.  This is why I will shamelessly mix practices and pantheons as needed.  Tony Stark is my go to ally when I’m depressed because his depression and emotional difficulties manifest similarly to mine.  He’s a character that tends to take the world on his shoulders and get beaten down by the big picture while putting up the facade of thriving.  That’s pretty much what my depression looks like.  I often call on him to help me feel less isolated and to feel understood.  I also have a big plushie Iron Man that functions as part talisman, part comfort object - a little juvenile sure, but it helps.  I’ll also almost always call on Santa Muerte when I’m not feeling my best.  You may not know this, but Santa Muerte gives awesome hugs.  No matter what’s going on she’s always there for me with real acceptance and without any kind of judgment.  She’s my go to particularly when I need to forgive myself.  When I need permission to take care of myself rather than helping everyone around me I call on Baron Samedi.  Strangely, or not, death deities and spirits are spectacular at reminding you what it means to be alive and the value thereof.  The Baron is amazing at helping me to see the beauty and joy around me and to actually take the time to engage with it; to live life rather than merely getting by. 

The aid received from my various allies can manifest in many different ways.  Simple conversation is the most common form of aid I request while dealing with negative emotions.  Just because you’re calling on a magickal being for aid doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to get them to do magickal work.  Metaphysical beings have entirely different wells of wisdom and past experiences to draw from in giving advice as well as offering comfort or support.  Witnessing of sorrows and an energetic hug can be as powerful a catalyst for emotional healing as any spell or working.  That being said, I often call on my allies to help hold my shields when I’m emotionally compromised.  Depression is hell on your aura and can make you a lot more vulnerable to external negative energies as well as sapping the energies you’d normally have to respond to trouble.  I’ve called on Buffy Summers a time or two to watch my back when I didn’t have the energy to do it myself.  The other main magick I’ll ask for help with while depressed is divination.  Depression is a dirty, rotten liar.  Depression clouds judgment like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, making clear divination a must when having to make critical decisions under its influence.  I’ve called on everyone from Cerridwen to Yoda to guide important divinations to help mitigate the incredible pessimism and negativity that depression brings.  Everyone has different needs while dealing with negative emotions, but we must remember that our metaphysical allies care about us and are willing to help.

When times are tough the wise practitioner calls for help.  We spend years cultivating relationships with a diverse host of deities, spirits, and other metaphysical beings so that we can call on them when we need them.  We must remember that our own mental and emotional health is as valid a reason to call for help as any other.  Our allies care about us, want us to thrive, and are willing to help us to do so - particularly when we are unable to help ourselves.  Regardless of what entities you have relationships with, take the time to discuss how they would be willing to help you.  If you’re prone to depression consider cultivating a few relationships just for aid with it.  Then, when the time comes actually utilize those relationships and ask for help.  A practitioner is never truly alone, there is always something listening.  Ask for help from beloved allies and you will keep it together.

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Every Reading is an Opportunity for Magick!

Recently, my busy tarot life of readings, traveling and writing, found me teaching a class called “Anatomy of a Tarot Reading”. In this class, I posited that a tarot reading can be divided into seven distinct activities. Those steps are: Preparation, Invocation, Intuition, Operation, Interpretation, Presentation and Manifestation.

While the class was to be specifically about the art of tarot reading, I found much of my magickal theory about tarot leaking in. With sections like "Invocation" and "Manifestation", how could it not?

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

 


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Shine

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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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