The Grief of Art

Aya is the Fern Adinkra, symbolizing endurance.  Endurance through death  is a tough test.

You know, death doesn’t really come in threes.  It just comes. Usually there’s no warning and often the omens that the universe delivers to us before our deaths go unregistered or ignored.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a choice in ignoring the omens of death, after all, that’s part of why I developed in the occult; to understand myself and why death doesn’t hide from me the way it seems to hide from a lot of others.  Maybe that’s how most witches are born. I saw omens and signs but I never guessed who would be taken from my life next.

Soon, I’m going to bury another good friend of 17 years, a former roommate and a hell of a bouncer.  He had such a huge impact on people all over Seattle in the club and dispensary scene, even the ShowBox Pike Place paid him tribute this week, placing his handle on the headline overlooking the street- The Bulldogs however converged on the Rock (essentially an altar to the dead/victorious made from two huge boulders behind our alma mater) and painted his name, lit candles, told stories about his larger than life personality.  It’s a ritual we’re all sad to perform but we do it together, and the magic produced relieves our grief and reestablishes our relations down here in The Land of Hazelnuts. I miss you Grizz, rest in power.

Just up the very same street of the ShowBox is a sex shop by what used to be my old Metaphysical store, and in that lovely erotic store worked another friend I recently buried; the man who taught me how to find and identify mushrooms in college, a fellow green-path.  I miss you Zack, rest easy now. Earlier this year I said goodbye to my Grampa, who was one of my best friends, and to my mentor who had been part the umiak and canoe journeys of my adolescence.  I’ve been waking up in terror over my partner, worrying over them and suffocating with stress over how much paranoia these deaths are giving me.  But like with all death, some form of creation is born and while I’m still feeling numb, my hands are bringing feeling to the world.

When you’re hit by loss after loss after loss, the damage it can do to you spiritually can be as overwhelming a loss as death was itself.  I think there’s always a time in which a practitioner turns from their art and apostates a bit; goes on a spiritual sabbatical to reclaim some wandering fraction of their soul.  Back home in the Southwest you’d hear them call it susto  or even a kind mal de ojo and it can be cured with prayer, exorcism, purification and intervention by one’s ancestors to find the part of you wandering. Up here by the Green River in Salish territory, grief, like soul-recovery is treated with herbs like Devil’s Club, stinging nettle and cedar, and there ceremonies of purification varies by people but drumming, singing and calling to the ancestors and allies of the ailing individual is standard.  It is locally believed that one’s medicine may fall out of balance, and restoring that dynamic required balance with the surrounding plant and animal allies, with one’s own nature and with their people. It’s all about restoring a sense of balance after loss and I’m struggling with that intensely.

When I was a kid my sister and I suffered tremendous losses and with those sad memories come the healing magic that permeated my entire family; mom would make Gumbo, tía would make hemp tea, and sage would never stop burning.  Mom gave us worry dolls after Grandpa James passed away; she told us to tell them our worries and put them beside the bed while we slept. To me, grief smells like home: gumbo with shrimp, fry-bread, cannabis smoke, and most importantly, sage from the rez- not that store bought shit, I mean sage you roll up to the rez and visit auntie for because auntie got that good medicine.

Today I’m struck by the hollow detachment I’ve been feeling spiritually as I grieve the loss of another close friend.  I’ll be attending my 4th funeral/memorial of the year. Four people that I loved, that I laughed with, that gave me more memories to cherish than I can stomach to think on some times.  With each passing came a flood of grief that, to my surprise, produced something magical even when I felt cut off from the world. In my moment of despair I lit the candles of Brighid’s altar as I always do and was strangely surprised at how quickly I began to feel more solid.  That comfort turned to something warm and then, it turned to something fiery, a spark in the dark. I put my hands into clay and let out my sadness by making something beautiful. It’s an oath I made a long time ago; that I would give into creation where destruction once walked.  I think that’s what inspired me to finally get back to sculpting again, this need to make something from this feeling of nothing.

2018 made me long for those smells and wrap myself in the comfort of familiar grief magic.  But as things stand, I don’t have my sister here with me and my mom works too much and too hard to be cooking gumbo for her grown ass depressed kid, heh.  So what’s a witch to do? I turned my social anxiety into social justice work, I’ve turned my self-involvement into volunteer involvement and turned my blah-ass attitude into beautiful plant spirits in feminine form.  I wanted to personify the herbs I’ve been dating to escape from grief and anxiety. I have this vision in my head of all these ladies together in floral mass. I’m so close to finishing the set, and that’s driving me to look forward instead of backwards all of the time.  That's what matters to me most right now... look ahead. Create from destruction.

It makes sense that I was inspired to make Poppy and Tobacco in tandem; both flowers help deal with hexes, grief and sorrow.

Poppies of Summer

Papaver is one of those ladies who heralds the arrival of summer's full swing. Some families have sacred herbs; tutelary spirits who appeared in the superstitions or lore or stories over time. My immediate family is mad for poppies; opium, oriental or California- they're all deeply symbolic for us. There's generational poppies, planted by my grandma and sister in my mom's yard. Though I've long left home, I go back and check every summer. I harvest the heads and seeds and stems, every year I grow a batch of my own from one source or another. In my home the poppy resonates with sun, fire and water, sleep, capnomancy, dreams, solitude and love.

Papaver isn't much like most of her other sisters; she's deeply asocial (like me), prefers to smoke and sleep the day away (like me) and is well aware of her charm. She adores to be everywhere and beautiful, to be loved and fawned over- but she'll take you away from everything you love if you let her. She pretends to be submissive but in truth, she can be a tyrant.

Yes those are real poppies on her-not just that, but they were painted with a mixture of acrylic and poppy latex.  I wanted to make sure the poppy spirit was immersed throughout her.  She also has a pod full of seeds where her heart should be.
I prefer her pure form, as the plant goddess she is; beautiful, big, bouncing flowers bobbing on their long stems in the summer wind, those lush green leaves, those beautiful and magical pods that hold an eternity of seeds and secrets. It's the seeds and pods I like the most; the seeds are part of nearly all smoke blends I use for capnomancy and the pods have about a dozen uses from dream charms to spirit housing.

Poppy is one of my very favorite witches; we grew up together, ate together, drank and dreamed together. So many of the traditional herbs of the Witch's Ointment are completely inaccessible and foreign to me, but poppy is the first witch in Hekate's garden I see in my crossing, the last I see at the gates, and the field that lies between me and the otherside.

"Poppies have been grown for beauty, magic and medicine for centuries,.  Egyptians felt hat poppies were a necessary part of funerals and burial rituals and were essential for assuring life after death.  Dried poppy petals have been found in tombs dating back 3000 years.  Early Romans used juice from the poppy plant for witchcraft.  It was thought to be particularly effective in easing the pains of love."
- Laura C. Martin, Garden Flower Folklore

A Green Witch

The Witch Who Walks the Green Path has a million different definitions, maybe she is indefinable all together. They hold those old keys of land and sky and sea in her hands. He strews the herbs of blessing and bane and drinks of the balance of life and death. Her gourd holds medicines and poisons alike and they take only what they need from the unfurling abundance of the green world. A green witch is an animist and spiritual naturalist, a healer and hexer in turn, she obeys nothing but the laws of nature and her own will. Her disciplines are the natural sciences and her values are those in-keeping with the natural order of things. They are proud practitioners of that low magic, that magia naturalis and fear nothing but the absence of growing things.

Ever present, always changing, always in flux and at odds with our perception of order; the land, sky and sea, the sun and moon, the weather and the steady orbit of our planet- truly, this whole system, is the closest thing to an all-powerful entity I can see. Maybe some practitioners consider themselves outside the realm of nature, maybe some see themselves as masters above nature, but I see no other way to be but part of the ecosystem. We are all playing some crucial, insignificant role in the grand scheme of things, and I play my part in perfumes and incense, in oils and tinctures, in powders and unguents, in wood-rot and skins. You may work your will above and beyond this dirty earth, but I see no magic without it. I sense nothing but life and death...

Five Spirit Senses…

My green work smells of....lichen and moss, wisteria and decayed cedar

My green work feels of...moleskin, rabbit fur, the smoothness of cold stone

My green work sounds of... wind through brittle branches and dry boughs

My green work tastes of… cinnamon and bourbon, of anise and spice; of warmth and of lust and sun

My green work looks of... living vines and ivy; everywhere and unsuspecting

Along the green path there winds roads red and light and dark; roads of those bloody and sensuous bonds of summer where rabbits proliferate and bees pollinate flowers and those roads of white healing stone and sacred bundles; and, even those shadowy roads down the dark spiral where the dead and the dreaming wander.  The Green Path of Witchcraft roots throughout the world and binds us all.

My Red Work is all about warm beauty; flowers and spices, mirrors and vulva, cowrie and breasts.  It smells of flesh and fresh flowers, it burns like fire and soothes like the sea.  Its a well of sensual warmth in waves through the flesh, it's hardness and passion and lust at its best.  Red green work is in the dance of the bee and the flower, in the mating of beasts and the writhing of the land as it turns in the summer heat.

My White Work on the green path is made of stone and bone, cuts and herbs, of living things and many more dead.  It's the path of fertile rabbits and sacred clay, of light and peace and purifying things.  It isn't clean, it isn't pretty. It's witchcraft; brutal, simple and willful.

My dark green path is a spiral of ebony and poppy dreams that lead to the dark heart of the labyrinth.  The only way out, is through.  And all things die. Even green things.  The shadow haunts all things that live; stars and men alike we all have to travel between worlds at one point or another.  Death is not an ending; it is a journey, a pilgrimage we all must take and it terrifies most of us, the prospect of this journey to the unknown. The more a witch understands this and the more they learn the roads and paths on the other-side, the less afraid she is- for there is little unknown.

Green Path Literature Looks Like...

  • Green Magic by Lesley Gordon
  • Working The Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing by Michele Elizabeth Lee
  • Mastering Herbalism by Paul Huson
  • The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacolo​gy and Its Applications by Christian Rätsch
  • Pharmako Trilogy: Poeia, Dynamis, Gnosis by Dale Pendell
  • Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers by Hoffman and Schultes
  • Witchcraft Medicine by by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch and Wolf-Dieter Storl Ph.D.
  • Plants of Love: Aphrodisiacs in Myth, History, and the Present by Christian Rätsch
  • The Way of the Green Witch by Arin Murphy Hiscock
  • Thirteen Pathways of Occult Herbalism by Daniel A. Schulke
  • Verdant Gnosis: Cultivating the Green Path by Rosarium, Catamara
  • The Green Mantle by Michael Jordan
  • The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer
  • Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody
  • Viridarium Umbris by D. A Schulke
  • Alchemy Rising: The Green Book by Heliophilus

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