Do you truly value your work?
This weekend I gave a lecture at 2nd Star Festival in Florence, OR. Originally the idea was to give my "Visual Alchemy" lecture, which looks at the history and intersection of art and magick - but at the festival itself, there wasn't much description for attendees to read besides the time and "Tempest, artist/dancer", so I decided to go off the rails a bit, and hope no one complained that I wasn't dancing as I lectured.
2nd Star is a neat fledgling festival that is a cross-section of steampunk, fairies, pirates, mermaids, and other sorts of myth/creative folk - a little of everything fantasy. Just before I took the stage, the previous lecturer Josh Kinsey was answering a question about the title/use of the word maker. I think that seeded the field a bit for the direction I went.
I started off with my basic introduction of defining art and magick, showing some slides of various kinds of art from early civilizations. Then I talked about art that is temporary - such as sand paintings, and art that is long-lived (temples, henges, etc), yet they are linked by intent and both equally important. And then I talked (ranted) about the value of art in today's society.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of today's society does not recognize the importance and inherent value of art. Art is more than something that matches your couch and looks nice, or is tucked away in a museum. It's essential for human expression and well-being. It defines and advances civilizations, building cultures. It bridges the gap between different people and finds a common soul. It connects us and teaches us.
When you, as a maker/creator/artisan/artist/master of the ephemeral exist in a society that doesn't understand the value of art, you're most likely going to have a hard time valuing your work. When the artist doesn't value their work, then the society doesn't see value in the work or the worker for that matter. It's a vicious ouroboros.
So in my rant--err--lecture, I challenged the folks present to reconsider art as something that is integral to their lives, and especially to the creators present - to re-evaluate how they see their work. If you value your own work, then others in turn will start to see the value in it. It should be priced with respect to the quality of the work, the materials, the amount of time, and true market value - versus what you think others (especially yourself, your friends, etc) may pay for it. Nor does it matter if it's what you do for a living or as a hobby on the side, the effort and the result is the same.
Just the simple act of believing and acting on the sense of value of your work causes a shift - in yourself, as well as those who interact with your work. If you define magick as the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will - then valuing your work is also a form of magick. You see value in your work, your work will be empowered, and others will respond to that shift in value, and see it for themselves.
Success in the arts is never overnight. It doesn't come through one perfect connection, but rather years of hard work and dedication. However, that sparkle of success rarely comes without belief in one's work, and a dedication to value. Go forth and do some magick.
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Do you truly value your work?
I first found out about Eliza Gauger's "Problem Glyphs" project through my partner Nathaniel, and I was instantly fascinated and intrigued. They had been in a band together years previous, and he continued to follow her artistic pursuits after that on tumblr and Patreon.
How it works is that since 2013, people have anonymously submitted to her some sort of problem or issues they have been facing. She in turn creates an image to ward against that problem. In her words, "These symbolic illustrations draw on my background in esoteric occultism, aesthetic symbolism, mythology, psychology, and hedge "magic" to encourage, support, and counsel the people who seek them out."
Nathaniel had anonymously submitted to Eliza his lifelong struggle with a faulty memory and its possible ill effects on his health. (I lovingly call him my goldfish.) He is a diabetic, and had a hard time remembering to take his medication, despite a variety of tactics. Eventually, his turn came and the Glyph was created. He decided to get it tattooed on his right arm, where he can see it every day, and I'm glad to say it's worked beautifully. (It was also his first tattoo, and we're working on his next one...)
The Problem Glyphs have a strong style and imagery all of their own, yet pull from a diverse mythology and encyclopedia of symbols. As an artist, designer, and sigilmaker, I love the amount of symbolism and movement she packs in to a single image, without overdoing it. It's just the right amount of linework, balanced, and clear.
Besides the effective use of line and contrast, it's the process of making them from start to finish that pulls in the magick. The querent expresses their problem, the artist considers it and carefully crafts the glyph, and releases it. The querent is not only rewarded with an image to reflect upon, but it's the core fact that someone else, outside of them, contemplated their plight, and produced a piece of artwork based upon it. Just that exercise in itself goes a long way to helping someone overcome an issue, regardless of the art itself. That someone else took the time to care, to think about THEM, and gave them a physical reminder of that process goes a long way in strengthening the spirit.
In this blog, I've talked about the magick that can be involved when an artist creates something for their own needs and visions, as well as for the Gods. There's another level of fascinating interaction that occurs when the work is created specifically for someone else. And in the case of the Problem Glyphs, we can add on the additional level as us, the bystanding audience, who upon viewing the images and their source issues become involved as well. Suddenly, we too are thinking about the querent, their issues, and our own relation to it. Which I believe adds more energy and power to the image and those who it is made for.
There is a currently a kickstarter for making a book featuring 200 of the Problem Glyphs that Eliza has created so far. Check it out here, it's almost funded with a week left to go.
At a recent occult meet-up, the topic of the discussion was "Goddesses" and we had gotten to the point where we were discussing our experiences and perceptions. Perhaps because there was a light focused down directly where I was sitting, I was especially talkative at that meeting.
During one of my ramblings, the following description dropped out of my mouth: "With my art, versus my personal practice, I can't say that I'm specifically aligned with any certain deity or pantheon. Rather it's like there's this mystical psychiatrist's couch in my studio, and They line up to have a lay down and tell me Their problems and what They want for art." Up until that moment, I had never really voiced it, but that's exactly what it feels like to make my art.
1-2 years ago, when friends and clients told me I should come out with a coloring book of my art, I must confess I was rather perplexed, and the thought conjured up images of newsprint booklets for children, full of cartoons.
Which mind you, it didn't seem like a terrible idea, as I have thought of writing and illustrating children's books, but I wasn't confident that my regular art was entirely child-appropriate. Heck, my work tends to unsettle most adults who are not of an esoteric persuasion, I didn't want to be responsible for freaking out small children.
I was reading my latest issue of Witches and Pagans and came across Michael Greer’s excellent piece on magick and the NeoPagan community. This was the first time I had read about how some busybodies were making themselves obnoxious by attacking the reality of magick. While Greer did a good job of putting these folks in their place, I want to add a personal note....
When you think of the imagination, do you think of it as as a sacred magical expression of your true self, or do you treat it as a childish fancy, something to be boxed away and forgotten? For many people, the answer unfortunately is the latter...they treat it as a childish fancy and as a result ignore its power, to their detriment. For even when you treat your imagination as a childish fancy you are still applying it to your life, but not in a way that truly empowers you. Your imagination is a double-edged sword and if you don't learn how to work with it as a sacred magical expression you'll miss out on applying one of the most potent magical tools you have that can help you transform possibility into reality and align fortune in your favor.
So how does imagination turn possibility into reality?...
It’s that time of year again when the air is crisp, the sidewalks are damp, and every food item you can buy comes in “pumpkin spice.” Oh yes, it’s almost Samhain. This season is a gift for pop culture practitioners, as the trappings of magick are just about everywhere hidden in plain sight in friendly pop culture packages. Everywhere you look things are draped in spiders, bats, witches, cauldrons, and cobwebs. Every television show has a Halloween special and spooky movies play on every channel; at least one channel seems to be playing nothing but Tim Burton movies. I am so very ok with this. One of my all time favorite movies that plays non-stop this time of year is The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In case you’ve been either living under a rock or on some kind of crazed media fast for the last decade or two (in which case, what on earth are you doing reading this?), The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated movie about the Pumpkin King having an identity crisis and trying to steal Christmas. Much adventure, spooky ennui, and singing ensues as a result. It’s very fun and you should really see it if you haven’t. I like many things about this movie, but what I really love is the message of self-acceptance that comes through it. As with all Tim Burton movies the main characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sally and Jack, are off-beat and a little strange. They go through times where they doubt who they are and try to conform themselves to someone else’s ideals to varying degrees of success. Ultimately the two find strength, fulfillment, happiness, and love once they fully embrace the individuals they really are inside, instead of trying to be someone they’re not. There’s a similar message of self-acceptance and embracing of one’s inner and outer weirdness in most of Tim Burton’s movies.
In homage to our patron saint of eccentricity, here is a spell for self-acceptance.
Burtonesque Spell for Self-Acceptance
Choose your favorite Tim Burton character that has a journey of self-acceptance in their movie. I recommend Jack Skellington or Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow, or Victor Van Dort or the Bride from The Corpse Bride. Find a good track of Danny Elfman music to play in the background (e.g. The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack https://open.spotify.com/album/32hXKuDkMnpQaOI67xQj86 or the title theme from Beetlejuice https://open.spotify.com/track/7pTPxLkJ7ezXv2r6mJOT3T).
Play some appropriate music (or run a movie) quietly in the background. If you normally cast a circle before doing spellwork do so now.
Light a candle in your favorite color (a tea light or chime candle would be ideal) and either burn your favorite incense or anoint yourself with your favorite essential oil or hydrosol (or do both).
Take a moment to think about the character you’ve chosen and their journey. Did they begin as awkward and unsure of themselves and find confidence? Did they begin lost and adrift to emerge and find purpose? Think of the qualities of their character and their journey that particularly speak to you. What aspects of their journey do you need in your life?
In your own words either speak aloud or write out 2-3 characteristics of the character’s journey to self-acceptance and empowerment that you need in your life. Say why you need them and what you hope to accomplish by incorporating their power into your life. Finish by either making a small offering appropriate to the character you’re drawing from or making a specific pledge to do so in the near future.
Let the candle burn while the music plays. Dispel your circle if you cast one.
Once you’re finished it’s a great time to rewatch the movie your character came from and release any excess energy.
Moving forward you might choose to carry around a picture or toy of your character to remind you of your working. Wearing a t-shirt, hoodie, costume, etc., of your character is also a great way to strengthen your working. I’m a fan of using nail art as a reminder of this type of working. (I’m a big fan of Espionage Cosmetics’ geeky decals)