Witchy Recommendation: Motherland: Fort Salem

It's about witches, military service, sex and sound.  Get in on this wicked good fun.

Yall know me, I tend to stick to reviewing occult books, card decks and magical tools exclusively, but even this folk-witch has her mundane delights, and television is my other altar...

And, like most practicing witches, I'm both hungry for magical media and skeptical of every new occult-themed movie or show that comes out.  The day I heard that a production company was filming a young adult series about a female-dominated alternate United States of America whose military's is run by witches, I was pretty much sold on the idea immediately.  It's just what I've been waiting for- less sparkles, less Satan, less schtick and shlock, more original substance.  Just the idea that anyone would want to explore a universe like that was thrilling to me.  It tickled the part of me that loves American history, the part of me that lives for fantasy, thrills and magic...

Witches are all the rage right now in pop culture.  Each year a new round of witchy-movies makes their way to our screens and we witches of the real world spend hours enjoying or hating the new trend.  Personally, I only see the witch-media market getting better over time; Anna Biller's 2016 insta-classic The Love Witch, Eggers' stylish horror The VVitch, the revival of The Craft (not an improvement on the 1994 classic but an interesting spin all the same) and a host of new binge-series; The Magicians, Salem, Netflix's interesting but ultimately difficult The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and fan-favorite AHS: Coven & Apocalypse-  there's a lot of witchy media to nosh on,  but a shining gem of a new-comer is Freeform's Motherland Fort Salem.

It sounds almost ridiculous; the US Army run by witches, mystic mycelium and sonic superpowers... but trust me, it is a strange, gritty, fascinating and altogether completely unique take on the word "witch".  Imagine an America where the Salem trials uncovered "real" witches, and that those witches agreed to conscription into military service in exchange for their freedom.  This is an America that did not develop a dependency on firearms, probably because even the most simple of whispers could disintegrate a bullet... or brain.  Motherland's America is even shaped differently, with a great river dividing East and West coasts.  Here there be witches, and they are absolute killers.  Even the terrorists of Motherland are witches, causing political and religious hysteria with the pop of a balloon. Literally.

There are no brooms and wands, no cauldrons (yet), but rather- empty wooden boxes full of deadly sounds, tuning forks that measure vocal power, skrying-stone security cameras and some kind of fungus that isn't above healing or harming whenever she desires.  The "work" in this show is sound-based, emphasizing the power of the voice, the power generated from our vocal cords-- no glittery sparkles, no god-forsaken blue sky beams.  Even the witches' flight is achieved through a type of flying-ointment-like chemical patch (like an external acid dose to the neck), not a broom.  Beltane is a military-sanctioned teen orgy, empty balloons are potential bombs, and little yellow birds climb into the mouths of dead men while young lovers float in the night sky.  Yeah, it's a hell of a ride.

Battling terrorist's, the politics of forced-service and the complexities of a culture that has always seen and known magic as a tangible reality, this is how the show opens right off the bat, following our three heroin protagonists as they navigate what service and sacrifice mean to them.

Izadora and Raelle

Our favorite young cadet, Raelle Collar, is a fierce, gifted, rebellious young lesbian, growing increasingly more distrustful of the Army who now own her life, safety and fertility as a weapon of warfare, as an incubator for future warmongers.  Her necromantic love interest, Scylla, is aptly named- she's a monster (or appears to be).  Cadet Collar is joined by the admittedly irritating but wildly lovable Abigail Bellweather- the high-society leader who embodies feminine sexual prowess and bitter blind nationalism all at once.  Rounding out the group is the heart of the team, and maybe even the show: sweet, kind, wise and tame (if not sheltered and overeager) Tally Craven, a seer from NorCal who just might be the most naïve and unlucky patriot around.  Under the dutiful eye of Anacostia Quartermaine and General Sarah Alder, the girls not only develop themselves, but a friendship that transcends imagined power and possibilities.  

mother mycelium tests, S:2-E:3

General Alder is a righteous bitch with a cold heart, but just when you come to hate her, she reveals a humanity that leaves you questioning if we really understand the pressures and perils of war.  She condescends to her allies and friends, she unscrupulously uses everyone she meets and most terrifyingly, she's not above running the country from the shadows via some dark work.  I've loved her complex character development; from ruthless shatterer of dreams, to merciful mother of lost daughters.  The actresses' playing these characters are each exceptional at what they do; Taylor Hickson's cadet Collar is easily one of the most likeable leading ladies in a long while and Hickson was a perfect choice to bring intensity to the role.  Personally, I think Demetria McKinney's Anacostia is probably one of the best characters on the program: she is moral, she is just, she has compassion and steel in her spine... and maybe something a tad bit self-destructive inside too. 

I love that the gifts these women (and men, who attend a separate militaty school) have is referred to as "work" rather than magic.  In fact, I don't think the word "magic" appears in the show at all, even the "spells" being used (which are notes and harmonies) are called seeds  I. Love. It.  I love that the cast is full of women and nonbinary people of every shape, size, sexual identity and fluidity-- representation in every corner and an emphasis on powerful women of color.   I've got to respect the normalization of free-love, pansexuality, queerness, butchness, femmness, and body-diversity, it is so affirming.

I highly recommend Motherland: Fort Salem, available on Freeform or on Hulu.  I think it's the kind of refreshing take on witchcraft and magic that many of us everyday practitioners might crave, have missed, will need to wash the taste of so many magical-media failures out of our mouths.  it's a breath of fresh air, or rather, a freaking storm. So far, this second season has been everything I've wanted and I'm really pleased at all the little details (Izadora's skrying-stone x-ray anyone?).   This show certainly deserves a bigger budget, and a wider audience, and I'd probably sell (what's left of) my soul to play an extra in the background.

So cheers to you, Motherland, and I hope witches give this show a chance, it's good fun, and so very stylish too!  I really hope to see more Motherland cosplay, I've been searching for uniform replicas everywhere but no luck yet...  Hopefully, I can look like real war-college material come Halloween.

Catch Motherland: Fort Salem Tuesday nights on Freeform or Wednesdays on Hulu.

Say the Words.

Your Favorite Teacup

Toasted rice tea "I Got You" from T Project in Portland

You know, tea culture is incredibly important.  So many cultures around the world, so many kinds of fascinating and unique human groups boil a plant and drink it with friends and family in a social ritual that creates bonds, establishes trust, and occasionally, reveals the future. Sharing tea with others or with yourself is so... memorable.  It's a moment taken, a silence enjoyed.  That's what it really symbolizes to me; pleasant memories.  Good memories.  Solid and stable memories that always warm me.

I grew around a lot of tea lovers. Our grandma took us to some of the most beautiful tea-houses whenever she could afford to.  I'll never forget how incredibly fancy and special I felt having high tea at The Empress in Victoria B.C, or the quaint little tearooms up North of Seattle by the lake, with all their perfect porcelain and delicious flavors.  I love that "hot-leaf juice"; red rooibos and thick green matcha…  I'm partial to black teas with lots of cream and sugar; Yorkshire Gold, or Market Spice...  But then again, I fairly swoon for a strong mango black or pure peppermint.  I love my mother's teas too; Russian tea, hemp tea, southern lemon sweet-tea.  The Perennial Tearoom used to carry my very favorite kind of tea; Blue Eyes- so tangy and fruity, my sister and I haunted that place after college just to get that Blue Eyes, or Sakura.  Right now, my addiction is toasted rice and green tea from T Project, it is legitimately one of the most interesting and thoughtful flavors I've ever enjoyed, and smells like some odd and wonderful bakery.  I'll be going back to Somehwere for another batch soon.

Delicate, cold, painted china balanced on little round saucers... or big ole glass jugs of dark honey colored sweet goodness.  Fruity teas in summer, spicy teas in winter; long steeping and tablespoons of sweet glorious sugar (I can literally feel my English friends groaning at that part haha).  Oh, and the ritual.  The fancy hats and pretty pearls, and all those doilies stacked with every kind of food that feels familiar and comforting to me.  I don't know what it is, locked inside my memory, but I feel giddy every time I see those three tiers of cucumber on white bread, lemon tarts, biscuits and petit fours.  Nice, pleasant conversations, smiles, and all those marvelous tea pots hanging from their hooks behind the counter, or ringing the room, stacked in glass shelves.  

More than anything, I remember the connection that tea-ware made between people.  You see, the kind of tea cup one holds dearest, or their favorite teapot, says a lot about them.  You can see all kinds of history and personality in one's choice to teapot or of teacup.  There's emotions, wishes, dreams and history in there; broken-hearted tears that fell into steaming cups, trembling hands gripping the porcelain for warmth....  Each hairline crack may tell a story.  For some people, a teacup is just a means to an end.  For others, their teacup is sending a message-  I am delicate.  I am stern.  I adore fine things.  I have an edge...

Whenever I'd go to a teahouse or shop, my favorite part (other than opening very cannister for a sniff) was connecting with other people over the tea-set they were picking out.  I cherished my girlhood tea-sets, and I still have quite a few of them in storage and in regular rotation.  My favorite sugar cannister, teapot and creamer are the thick, white porcelain ones with the blue roses I was given by my aunt while she was alive, when I was twelve.   She was a wonderful painter, and she painted my set.  I have good memories of her. My favorite tea cup is the "Canadian Dogwood" teacup that my grandma gave me (pictured above).  I don't know if it has any collectable value or where it really came from- that's not why it's special.  It was a special gift, saved just for me because she knows I love dogwood and collecting favorite cups was our thing.  It was one of the last things she gave me before her memory went.  Every little gold line, every curve in the cup holds decades of memory and joy. Secrets.  Lies.  Fortunes read. I love how perfectly soft the texture of the cup is, there's something about it that feels good against the skin. If ever I had a favorite cup, mine is the dogwood cup.

I do believe that my tealeaf readings tend to be a little bit more informative in my favorite cup.  As far as divinations go, it isn't at the top of my tool kit but I do occasionally turn the cup and read the remains...  And in my favorite cup I always seem to get a warning, some symbol that lets me know that in some ways, the spirits are looking out for me even in small ways.

Pine Pollen Honey Cakes:  nothing quite goes with a good cup of tea like biscuits, cookies and cakes.  For this year's Feast of the Pines, we made foraged pine pollen cream cakes.

Your favorite teacup or teapot might say a lot about you.  Mine say that my values lie in sentimental connections between the women in my life and myself.  That I feel connected to my elders and also to the dead.  I am feminine and maybe a little remote.  I don't do matching sets and I'm a sucker for my vices. My favorite teacup says; I'm old school, and I value memory.  I wonder what yours says about you.  I bet your favorite teacup has a wonderful memory inside it.  Rituals have a way of forming those kinds of bonds, creating a magic within the places we pour so much memory into...  I still have tea parties.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I'll sit on a blanket in the shade with my rabbits or teddy bears and pretend I'm at the Empress again.

Me, my tea, and my favorite teacup... and all the wonderful memories.


Happy Pride Month!

Regional Witchcraft Challenge

When I first posted the #regionalwitchcraftchallenge on Instagram, I had no idea that it would take off into such a unique phenomenon.  The idea was for people to show me what the magical toolbox of their own region looks like.  I wanted to see how magic is shaped by where we live and where we came from, and for us to share those experiences.  When I posted it, I was knee deep in Puget Sound story-telling lore for a project, and was just hoping to connect to a few people about their own bioregional animism.  

But then, something happened; the connection was made and an explosion followed.  Magicians, brujos, sorcieres, charmers, witches, healers, sorcerers and magical folk from all over the world posted a picture of the tools that best represent the craft in their region. From France and Germany, from Italy and Denmark, from Scotland and South Wales, from Australia and South Africa, from New England and Alaska; witches the world over-- over 145 people so far, jumped on this hashtag (or a related one) and shared their tools.  Lo behold- we really are a very distinct spiritual group.

Horseshoes, rusted nails, shells, twisted branches and animal skulls it would appear that every folk witch in the world has their own use for red thread and woven magics.  It has been incredibly connecting, and affirming, this realization that no matter the denominations of magic we practice, we share a common spiritual center, a common animistic thread that tells each of us to collect from the land and bind what we find together to make a practice that is whole and good.  The familiarity was fascinating; if you take a look at the pictures posted, you will see a definite trend in what folk witches the world over need to do their works, and it would appear we are riding similar waves in our practices.

What we share in common in our practices, far outweighs our cultural and religious differences, and binds us together in the common faith of spirit and magic.  I want to thank every single one who participated and made the Regional Witchcraft Challenge a huge success. May the red thread that binds us magical folk never unravel.  

I'd like us all to come together after vaccination and restrictions lift, and meet at some place, some camp or resort, to host our Goblin Markets and share our magical humor.  I picture witchy movie night, ancient board-games, trading skills, karaoke, mischief in the forest, general hell raising.  I want to gather round the fire at a crossroads in the woods and hail to the father and mother of witches, play some banjo and cat's cradle...  I'm picturing a whole lot of sea-shanties and a whole lot of food.

I encourage you so join in, share your regional toolkit and bond with those fascinating humans from all over the world who understand where we're coming from.  I think bringing awareness to diversity/similarity is important-- it's part of the way I was raised and has brought me a lot of good friends and family to share this life with.  Highlighting our beautiful variety and bonding over that shared experience, is an affirming thing, and I'd love to learn more about each and every one of you.  Folk-witches of the world, unite and take over.

My Puget Witchery

It started with a simple picture, of my Puget Sound Magic, the toolkit of a witch who lives along the river, in the shadow of Rainier.  The Puget Sound region is water and earth and sky energy in such perfect balance, so much life hidden in shadows. We are quiet people in a way, often introverted and socially calm, so often we miss each other.   If you are a Puget Sound animistic practitioner of magic, seek me out, we should congregate as the rivers do.  I look forward to reaching out to the other Pacific Northwest Witches-- and those around the world, to meet up, to share. The land of mountains and rivers is home to everything a witch could need to work their will. There are whispers in those dark woods and swamps, there are ghosts and monsters in these lakes.

It smells like cedar here, and damp, and that cloyingly sweet scent of tree resins baking in the sun.  It's a land of ghosts, woodland devils, ogres, sea-kingdoms and witches, a good place to be.  Our magic is riparian, our mountains are gods, our forests are haunted and witches are devourers.  There are many demons to dance with in the wood, and underworlds to fly to. Baskets and stones, reeds and bones, there's a lot to love here in the Evergreen woods, and in the whole of the world.

In My Toolbox...

Clay Babies- Famously found on Fox (and McNeil) Island in the Sound and surrounded by a wealth of local lore, these incredible, strange curiosities of geology are the children of the maiden of the sea, and tokens of sadness, sea-divinity, gift giving and messages.  The ones found on the private beaches are now protected from being gathered, but they were free-game not that long ago and still occasionally find their way places.  At this point, most people seem to receive them as gifts from old rock-hounds, like the one I was given by a deceased local, or they gather them from some of the rivers and estuaries in the State that occasionally find themselves populated with these little water-messengers.  They aren't always found on private islands or preserves but that's usually the places they get the most attention; either way, they are children of earth and water and time.  Clay babies from this particular region house water-spirits, small folk imbued with life over the long stretch of time by the sea gods.  Layer after layer, building itself by combination of water and earth over (often) an organic material (such as a worm).  One source claims that they are related to the souls of infants, others claim they are tokens of affection from the sea.  They can represent the spirits of the water and should be kept carefully, and kindly cradled.

St. Helen's Ash-  when the mountain blew her top, her tears went EVERYWHERE.  As far north as Canada, as far south as who knows where, this ash accumulated all over the Pacific Northwest, with all the fury and destructive magic of the mountain.  A little bit of this in any averting dust brings a sense of finality to the charm.

Poplar Fluff- Also known as the Summer Snow, the fluff from the poplar trees smell heavenly but they accumulate everywhere the wind blows and can irritate allergies like crazy.  But watching them dance in the stillness, capturing the light of the sun, rolling along in great piles as you ride by on your bike... it's incredible.  The fluff is an excellent poppet stuffing, but frankly, I like to keep a small pile of the fresh stuff for my spirit to fly with.

Sound Salt-  Some people like to evaporate their waters for the salt, but I prefer to imbue.  I bought some salt on Bainbridge from a local and placed it in a jar with a large sprig of algae from the beach.  Over the months, the salt took up the moisture and scent of the sea from the red algae and now the salt, years later, is perfectly sea-worthy, and cleanses everything it touches, leeching impurities as moisture was leeched from the algae.

Geoduck Shells- when geoduck season comes you'll see a great deal of people out on the beach clamming, it's a Northwest tradition.  Geoducks are symbolically sexual creatures, with a history of use as an Aphrodisiac outside of the USA.  They are swift, sexual, powerful and (apparently) delicious?  Their shells make a good offering bowl to the amorous spirits.

Decayed Cedar- is perhaps one of the most useful incense bases that can be found all over the place-- even in the more lush and wild backyards with a rotting stump out in the fringes.  Cedar is god.  Cedar has every kind of use and is about as close to a world-tree here as one will get.  When decayed, the red bark becomes a sweet, spicy-scented powder that fills the room with the food of the spirits.  From the death of some of these trees comes a new life, found in the flames.  When sprinkled in foot-tracks, the powder conjures spirits (for me at least).

Pitch- from pine and spruce, a tool of dark witching indeed, associated with the magic baskets of the ogresses and snake and snail witches who haunt the woods and waters.  The pitch is perfect for woodwife torches (wood, sticky pitch and dried moss/lichen).

River Clay- the grey mud along the banks of certain creeks and brooks is soft and murky and easily filtered and poured into molds, and the rock clay dries quickly outside the shelf of the riverside away from all the moisture, and when powdered can become some of the most beautiful brown pottery.  There's a lot of death in the clay, those spirits must be appeased and respected and placated before granting consent to be taken.

Spring Water-  The closest to me is the Lynnwood Well and it was pretty sweet, tasty, refreshing and easy.  But the best come from the springs near the mountains further South.  There's just so much more magical UMPH to it, you know?  Those woods are full of demons, snail witches and ogre tribes; whispering wetlands and malefic meadows, and the waters that come from those places hold the spirit of that dark and mysterious medicine.  Spring water is a go-to base for all kinds of potions and notions. 

Glacial Sediment and Silt- as a magical dust.  The glacial sediments give lakes like Diablo their pristine colors, their clarity and coldness.  A tiny pinch of these kinds of dust make an excellent addition to offering sands to the jay spirit, among other gifts.

Cascade Crystals- the devil haunted mountains are a forge operated by old gods and dark spirits, and from the heat and fire of the volcanic ark, one might stumble across a quarry of raw crystal with orange and red sediment impurities within them.  Beautiful, full of the magic of death and fire and forge.  My grandpa would take my sister and cousins and I with him rock hounding up North in the quarries; we'd come back with small handfuls of only the most beautiful little crystals we could dig out by our own hand.  I'd share when with friends at parties and talk all about my cool hippy Scandinavian grandpa and his traveling spirit.  I feel his spirit in the crystals, and every time I pass by the mountains.

Quarantine Tarot: My Top 2020 Decks

A year.  An entire year now in basic quarantine.  Even as we phase to reopening, we have only recently become vaccinated enough to start hanging out more, planning events.  Like many tarot readers, I found myself incredibly blacked-out divination-wise during the lockdown.  I didn't want to explore the past, present or future.  I was tired of seeing disaster on every horizon, grief in every path... I just took a break and started focusing on practical crafts to keep my wandering mind busy.  The crushing anxiety of a pandemic, chronic illness, book release and personal losses made everything about reading for my path (or anyone else) just a nauseating thought.  And frankly, I've never gone so long in my life without being asked for a reading, which was honestly a breath of fresh air.  

But, all that aside, I never let go of my love for the cards.  I kept the collection growing, exploring what these incredible authors and artists from around the world have to offer.  And while 2020 may have been the dickiest year I've ever lived through, I have never been so impressed with the direction that cartomancy is taking. If you have been at a loss for inspiration and direction after a year sitting with this ridiculous nonsense of a past year, then maybe some of these fabulous offerings from 2020/21 will give you some fire.  I mean, these decks are fire.

1. The Infernal Tarot by E. Pollitt

I had begun backing this project in 2020 and it is a phenomenal deck, one that should prove very interesting for readers into that old-world demonology vibe.  Bendy, smooth, thinner cardstock, great gold edges, the etching/woodblock style is fascinating and the colors were a nice slash against the more muted background.

2. Materia Prima by Uusi

Uusi is basically the premium deck maker of our day with some really astonishing offerings in their catalogue, this large deck based on the periodic elements and their relationship to our universe is an interconnected journey through the spiritual interpretation of science and really takes some getting used to.  Those who know their chemistry will really excel with this deck, but people a little less familiar with the science will need to make sure they get the booklet that accompanies.  Perfect cardstock, silky and probably some of the highest quality you can get. Unboxing below...

3. Jonasa Jaus 5th Edition

Every green witch in the world needs this deck.  It's literally green!  And yellow, and black, and white.  It's seriously a wonderful pallet.  Floral, feminine, sensual and emotional, it is my favorite overall artwork for the 2020 picks and I highly recommend ordering her other editions as well.  What I loved was that the cards tell everyone a different story, and they tell me the story of a lush, wild, shaded garden and a woman's romantic journey through it. All of the editions are fascinating, and this edition is wider than a typical deck, but not too difficult to shuffle.  I'm a big fan of the overall aesthetic and you will be too. Unboxing below...

4. Ad Orbita

A wonderful offering through Old Rose Press is an interesting combination of nature and space, teaming planets and stars with rooted vines and seashells.  For those who prefer to do some work in interpreting and who dig the poetry of the abstract, this deck is very appealing.  While the cards are a bit heavy, and the deck is thick enough to be a little difficult for a traditional shuffle, I can't complain because as always, the quality is just so damn fine and the simplicity is refreshing.

5. True Heart Intuitive Tarot

Beloved figure in the world of witchy media Rachel True brings us a long awaited gift that really stood out last year in the best way.  Offering hope, guidance, positivity, color and inclusion, this deck was a splash of good vibes in a dreary year, and really reflects the wonderful evolution of tarot styles.  Frankly this is the deck I'd get anyone looking to start because it is so easily interpreted.  The packaging was great, the accompanying booklet was thorough and useful and frankly the whole thing looks really unique and classic at the same time.

Seriously, if you need to reawaken during these, the vaccine times, then these decks are ready to guide you.

North American Witches

Cover-art by A. Jimenez, from Folkloric Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience by Via Hedera

Nightflyer, Spirit Wanderer-  we fly in our dreams, or by other means, alone or in teams, under moon beams, on the backs of horses, without their skins, to the hilltop with the Devil and all of his friends.

changing into beetles, black and fat; wandering through keyholes as a frog or a cat. To unshoe horses or just to make mischief, or to haunt the barn like a common milk-thief.

Healer- of the living

Hexer- unforgiving

Diviner of unknown things: tells fortunes from eggs and rings, makes friends with the damned and reads omens in hands and sees whatever your future will bring.

Conjuror of spirits- who dwells between worlds, who opens doors for the dead; and makes spirits tremble as they wander the wood, in awe, and in honor, and dread.

Speaker to bees,

Fly as we please;

Worshiping at idols,

And braiding our bridles.

Knotting up love charms,

Cursing your side-arms.

Summoning the blue-jay,

keeping rivals away,

put lizards inside you,

make nightmares that ride you.

Snake-rooter, dairy looter,

Hair-ball and bullet-shooter.

Hilltop matron,

Crossroad patron.




And body oiler.

Through a keyhole,

And through the sieve;

Dancing at Midsummer and All Hallows' Eve.

Through thick, through thin
and way over the hillside;
we are new world witches,
and that's how we ride.

-Via Hedera

Vernal Awakening: News, Revisions and Spring


It's up to the cherry blossoms and dandelions now... it's up to the sun and the new day.

Whoa this has been a lot.  I mean a lot.  Have you ever stood in the shallows only to look over your shoulder at a massive wave as it inevitably rolls towards you?  I have.  I remember that moment on a beach in California.  Vague memories of visiting the wildlife center, and then down to a crowded beach with waves so sudden and high, they scared me to death.  That what Spring has been since last I wrote here- a tremendous wave coming right at me.  Thrilling, fun, daunting, humbling, sad.

Out there, beyond the walls of pre-vaccinated restrictions, there is a world itching to open up.  We plan to hit the road for summer, see the Oregon high desert, Yosemite, the Bay and back up the Coast again, scouting new living locations along the way.  We're westerners to our bones and prefer to stay over here, but the world is changing and it's time to go see it.  Spring is about movements, and we are all so jittery.

If you're feeling very jittery, one way to pass the time is by going outside- to the garden, wide-open parks, to the greenbelts, national parks to places where the land is greening and changing (and you can be safely distanced from others).  Watch those changes each time you go to a place, the turning of buds overnight into bushels of flowers, the awakening of spiders in every corner.  Remind yourself that life is a cycle, and it is always changing to a rhythm.  Not much left to do after that but dance the jitters out.


Did you know that I have a YouTube channel?  Featuring folk charms in real life; everything from clay withering hearts, to tarot unboxing, to black witch-bottles  The channel hasn't been updated in a little while due to winter/covid, but now that the daylight has returned, so will the videos.  I'm working on covering every aspect of folk-magic that I find interesting, including rat-letters and egg fortunes.  Mostly. I'm aiming to get better equipment and take more time to show off the beauty of the Northwest.


Last I wrote here, I was waxing poetic on the sweetness of Valentines Day, but since then there's been a lot of spring changes; small improvements to my long declining lung health, a scheduled vaccine, a new bunny buddy, a book debuted to kind and compassionate responses, I've finished a bunch of deadlines and now have more time for art, parks volunteer opportunities are restarting for the spring, I'm transferring to complete my major, looking to leave the area and start new adventures elsewhere... but then again, who isn't trying to move right now?   Seems like the pandemic has given us all the itch to get closer to family and further from the expense of the metro areas...  I guess we're all free-falling a bit, standing before the wave...

I've been getting a lot of wonderful questions and feedback about my statues, the writing and some of my social media content and it's been incredibly humbling and kind.  Being able to speak with the fine folk over at That Witch Life Podcast was a highlight of my year honestly, they were so welcoming and forward and funny and open-- it's that kind of energy that makes me grateful for the community we've built- a sentiment I expressed recently with Cory over at New World Witchery Podcast.  It's always a pleasure to speak to Cory, to bond over our mutual appreciation for so much magical shit in the world.  And if you somehow didn't know, Cory has a new book out that you simply MUST have in your collection!

Those of us flying free on that wild magic seem to be coalescing into a mutually respectful and supportive niche community of witchy weirdos and being able to nerd out like this the last month or two has brought me some incredible peace at a time of incredible fear and stress in the world.  A huge de-stressor was hanging with Lori over at My American Melting Pot Podcast and vibing on the mystique and media of witchery.  Hanging out with so many writer and speakers and thinkers in the world of multiculturalism and magic has been incredibly humbling, and I'm thankful for it.

Authors Note: A Vital Revision to Folkloric Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience: A Crucible at a Crossroads

In the process of writing and publishing we meet all sorts of challenges and difficulties.  Most authors I talk to walk away feeling just a little more anxiety, as there are always parts of their books that needed  a seconds more attention in the editing process.  While there are a few noticeable inconsistencies in the punctuation and typeface, a glaring error that must be addressed is the misidentification of the tribal affiliation of story-teller Vi Hilbert, who belongs to the Upper Skagit people of the Pacific Northwest and is a revered figure in the cultural restoration movement of Lushootseed-speaking tribes of the Puget Sound.  It is imperative that I correctly identify this elder and I apologize for this mis-affiliation and ask that readers please make a note of this change going forward in current editions, and be aware that that e-books will be updated and print editions revised going forward.  With love, support and acknowledgement to the first people of the Pacific Northwest and their traditional territories.

"by way of ivy"
via Hedera

Valentine VVitch

“Of flowers and plants employed as love-charms on certain festivals may be noticed the bay, rosebud, and the hempseed on St. Valentine’s day, nuts on St. Mark’s Eve, and the St. John’s Wort on Midsummer Eve.- Thomas Firminger Thiselton Dyer, The Folk-lore of Plants

St. Valentine's day, a day imbued with the folk magic of love and romance; more common to the early American superstitious fabric of the common people than the old pagan fertility rites are.  There's something about Valentine's that makes love magic feel normal in the world for a moment, for everyone, even those who would typically never dabble in magic.  It's a social more than spiritual day, and there's something strangely likeable about the energy as it shifts and people put passion and love and thought into romance and friendship and desire.

"Before going bed, sprinkle a sprig of rosemary ad a sprig of thyme three times with water, place one in each shoe, put a shore on each side of the bed and say: “St. Valentine that’s to lovers kind,
Come ease the trouble of my mind,
And send the man that loves me true
To take the sprigs out of my shoe.”"

- Morrison, Lillian, p. 23, Touch Blue

"All who walk on St. Valentine's day should wear a yellow crocus; it is the Saint's especial flower and will ward off all evil in love."
- C.L Daniels, Encyclopedia of superstitions, folklore, and the occult sciences of the world

Love Magic,  that's my bailiwick.  Where sweet tastes meet rough feelings, where fury meets frenzy, where want and infatuation are a detonation... that's the realm I most enjoy.  It is not always moral, it is not always wise.  It is a short fire, one that burns quick and lingers after.  I like the kind of magic that send shivers up your legs when you reminisce about it years later.  Red magic, that's what this is to me.  That place where amorous and relentless spirits reside; the ones they talk about in the old folklore, you know, the succubae and night riding hag, the specter who tangles the hair of men in their sleep.  I don't dabble in it for myself much, but I love working with and for others.  Never direct love spells; no names used, no pictures of specific people- I've got my rules, my hard-stops.  But to inspire lust?  Spells of attraction, charms of allure, bewitching cosmetics and persuasive incantations... now that, I do.  St. Valentine's day has become one of the many days of romance and love that I dedicate a moment of my life to that red and pink and wild magic.

Bird Augury
It was believed once that birds pick their mates on St. Valentine’s day. Those birds of specific color who foretell the occupation of a future lover on St. Valentine’s day:

A blackbird- a man of the clergy

A redbreast- a sailor

A goldfinch- a millionaire

A yellowbird- a reasonably rich man

A sparrow- love in a cottage

A bluebird- poverty

A crossbill- a quarrelsome husband

A wryneck- no marriage

A flock of doves- good luck in marriage in every way

A seahawk- 11 handsome hard-headed, broad-shouldered husbands and a rainy wedding

"If you meet a bird in a scarlet vest on St. Valentine's day, you will follow your love to the beat of the drum."

"If you chance on that day to meet a goldfinch or any yellow bird, it is extremely lucky."

- C.L Daniels, Encyclopedia of superstitions, folklore, and the occult sciences of the world

It may not be some ancient pagan festival- a far cry from the old Lupercalia of Rome, but it is the modern feast of love itself in the Western World, and we folk witches find magic in everywhere we can, especially in the old charms, tricks and incantations associated with St. Valentine's day. Just like Midsummer, May day, Halloween and New Year's, St. Valentine's day was ripe for the practice of love spells and romantic magic.  As always, divinations and fortunes are the popular pastime of the day; involving bay leaves and sprigs of rosemary, involving sweet scented waters and warm fires.  Hail to all those red and wild spirits that fill the day with kindness and passion.

Incantation spoken when tossing a pinch of salt into a fire every Friday for three Fridays: “It is not this salt I wish to burn,
it is my lovers heart to turn,
that he may neither rest nor happy be,
until he comes and speaks to me.”
-Salt in the Fire Charm, p. 13- Duncan Emrich, The Folklore of Love and Courtship

“A popular charm consisted of placing two bay leaves, after sprinkling them with rose-water, across the pillow, repeating this formula:
“Good valentines, be kind to me,
On dreams let me my true love see.”"

- Thomas Firminger Thiselton Dyer, The Folk-lore of Plants

Further Reading:
  • The Folklore of Love and Courtship- Duncan Emrich
  • Touch Blue- Lillian Morrison
  • Love Charms- Elizabeth Pepper
  • The Folklore of Plants- Thomas Firminger Thiselton Dyer
  • Magical Symbols of Love and Romance- Richard Webster

Return, Return, Let the Evergreens Burn

Resurge and Reemerge, come back dear sun, and warm the land again...

The Solar Virtue, the first god, the old god, the spirit of the sky, the great one referred to by so many of our ancestors.  It is the life giver, the illuminator of both day and night, bestower of lunar light, bringer of famine and plight, lord of justice, rule and right, god of music, math and second sight, eater of self and eventual devourer of this world.  It is our sacred star, the holiest to us because it alone shines the light upon which we depend.  Evolver, blessed bringer of fire, crown of the Horned, when our declination is such that the sun is less present, we feel it deep in our primal bones- perhaps many living things do.

One’s perception of the season depends on their culture, their religion, their country, themselves.  Where I live, on the west coast of North America, winterstide is rather particular, with a vibe that translates across the land, across peoples.  The colors of white and gold, red and green, silver and bronze; the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, evergreens and roast; the icy mornings and short days- this is what Midwinter feels in my life.  It’s a spicy, savory, sweet taste, a chill in the air that is unbearable some nights.  I like nut spice flavored rustic winter, not peppermint candy cane consumer Christmas.  The woodstoves and the wooly sweaters, the baked goods and sad stories of the frost and ghosts of the season.  I like the part where the sun returns, and mornings become bright again.
Spirit: Ivy

Spirit: Holly

Spirit: Mistletoe

The Sun shapes how I mark the days and the seasons, personally- something that’s always kept me grounded, feeling connected to the terrestrial sacredness, to tangible reality when I live so much of my life in the otherworld.  Most modern pagans have some kind of sacred calendar, some “wheel of the year” that they use to mark the changes of moon and tide and season.  These days, that wheel usually consists of the 8 sabbats.  But what about folk witches like me?  Beltane isn’t May day, and Imbolc, like Mabon are not the names used to mark those tides in the world I’m living in.  My sacred calendar contains many branches; holidays, holy days, feasts, moons and celebrations.  Like many pagans, it’s the equinox and solstices that interest me most- the worship of the sun being so deeply rooted in our veins calls to me.

This year, it will be more reflective than usual, a time to meditate on the sun’s return as symbolic of healing renewed and the promise of something after the cold, the dark and the silence.  I’ll candlewalk around the home and deep in the wood, guiding the spirits as I go, letting the light glimmer on the frost, letting it guide me through the dark night as the sun does through the day.  I’ll build a maze from the boughs and light it to its heart and wander. I’ll pop hollies in the fire and bind wreaths all together.  A candle will be lit and, barring ill omen, will remain so until after midnight on the solstice.  The home will smell like nutmeg, the wine will be red and the days will be painfully short as we wait for the sun to return.

The First Frost

When I look out my window...  the leaves are yellow brown and the trees are near bare anyhow.  Rain flies, the wind is breaking branches.  The sun peaks through occasionally, tossing a cold orange glow over the hillsides, but mostly, a gray has set in. It's stormy in every way around here, and yet for some reason, I haven't felt so focused in years.   Maybe it's the realization that things may finally change around here that makes me feel inspired to change... I can't tell.  The storms have come; it's always the way this time of year.  What follows is the freezing rain, the icy roads, the bitterness of every morning as we step from warm sheets onto frigid floors.  The hags of winter have begun to walk.

The Hag...
She is the queen of witches you know. But which one do you fly with in that chilly night?  There are many hags of the night, many old mothers of the shadows, old gods of the wind and dark.  Those spirit-witches rule the sky, hunt along the encroaching frost. The winter hag, is a consuming spirit, a night flyer, going along those ghost roads, corpse paths, among bare branches and concealed in the evergreens.  She is the land as it becomes hardened and stony, she shapes it as she goes, and shape shifts as she steps.  She, and her Lord of Silence, flying over land, today in the shape of a rising storm.  The amanitas are out, the lunaria pods are broken, the energy in the world feels like upheaval and unsteadiness, a great breath before a blow.  I align with the hags, and ready myself to fly.  It's going to be a very stormy winter, in every way.

Aside from writing a contribution to an upcoming book, writing a second book, finishing Morgan's piece's paint job and fighting with lungs, there's the simple comfort tasks to keep the mind off the increasing isolation presented by the virus.  Warding illness and disease takes many forms, as does warding boredom; dyeing wool, brown-sugar butter brittle up some walnuts, candied and rolled cranberries, walnut-cran buns, drying apples, drying amanita, pouring tinfoil-mold candles... The countertops are stained with resin, the floor burned in places now... This is a place that welcomes household spirits more than ever- the kind that help you keep house and tend to your basic needs as a family.  Some have reappeared and others are new, but all the spirits who gather in the kitchen or around warm places seem comforted by the sweets and laughter that is building here.

What would normally be a summer, fall and winter full of pesticide conferences and social justice training has become zoom check-ins and log-keeping.  What used to be hitting the bar with the crew every other week has become meeting 6 feet apart in the woods on cold, windy afternoons.  What is normally witchy pop-up market mingling is now etsy browsing.  The introvert that is me adores the distance from others, but the witch that is me always prefers to walk among others.  As the trees become bare, you can see further into the distance, all the mysteries between being stripped away and we slip into a strange winter, a lonlier one.  That's why it's important to practice your crafts, hone your skills and find a way to keep your mind occupied with creation.  You'll need the skill of creativity when times change again.  We always need the magic of creativity.

The Cold Clay...
One statue left, just one- a years long promise finally being fulfilled.  I hate when I lose my inspiration to sculpt, my passion- I just haven't had it in me to push through these last commissions during the last few years.  Right now, it's just me and this work, staring at one another every day.  Every day I add a little, take a little off, paint, change, repaint... Painting is such a bitch.  I always get stuck here, and change is slow to come.  But the turn of the tides has brought with it a sense of renewal. Now, I need to wake this fairy queen up from her long rest and push through the paint process (the part I genuinely hate).  And come December, I'll finally be ready for more.  This time around, I intend to do my own ideas and work, take on less commissions and stick to expressing myself.

years long overdue work for a sister in the artes

I've had visions of the Apple Mother more and more and want to put her to clay.  Apples are such an eternal symbol.  When their blossoms bloom in spring, I fairly swoon for their baby fine scent.  When they emerge in the summer, I feel the growth in my skin, in my soul, and I see Her smiling between the branches.  Come summer's end it's mead and cider season and the fruit are dropping all around.  But now comes the first frost, the apples that remain on the vine ferment into sacks of sweet chilly cider, and those on the ground become mushy cobblers for the rats and raccoons.  Year round, there is always an occasion to celebrate the apple, its symbolism and its magic is something that is ever present.  And She haunts me.

So, I must make her faces in the clay.  Young and wise, old and beautiful, ripening and wilting.  There's others too- kitchen witches, harvest mothers, ivy gods and Pan...  I sculpt for myself, which is why most of my statues are very feminine, but I've been feeling less about my old self, so I want to try neutral and masculine work.  It's an energy that's different from mine, I wonder what I'll do with it.   But for now, I come to terms with the past and put an end to those chapters before the frost takes root.

A Note...
Change has come with the frost.  I hope it brings something real.  I want the world to be cool and green, I want people to be responsible and selfless.  I want people to grow exhausted with hate and grow passionate for evolution.  I want to take what I've learned these last nine months in quarantine and share these domestic crafts with friends.  Right now, my bubble small due to my high risk (pulmonary disease), but I look forward to the future with optimism because I had exceptional plans for the witch's tides of 2020 and now, who knows, I'm hoping come next Venus Day, I won't be writing about spending it stuck inside the same place, baking the same tart...  We're all hoping that spring will bring something new.  For now, we wait, beneath the frost.

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