Holiday Gift Guide for the Mystic

It’s full on holiday shopping time. But what do you buy the mystic in your life? What do you get for the witch that has everything? Let me help you!

This is my first ever gift guide. I typically don’t want to encourage the commodification of sacred holidays, but who doesn’t like pretty things? And who doesn’t want to support independent artists and other small businesses?

So without further ado here are things that I would love – I mean, that the spiritual person in your life might love. In no particular order, I present to you a list of beautiful things. I’ll admit, I have expensive tastes. Some are these items are quite affordable, others …. well, that’s why there are wish lists.

Sri yantra from Ekabhumi

Sri yantra from Ekabhumi

Ekabhumi creates many beautiful things, but his yantras are glorious. These are large geometrical paintings, prayed over and infused with intention, much like icons in the Christian tradition. I would love to have one of these in my home. I think it would look beautiful over a lovely murti of a Shiva Nataraja, perhaps hanging in a yoga studio, or blessing some one’s home.

You can order Ekabhumi’s yantras here.

Beautiful garnet and copper japa mala by Bija Malas

Beautiful garnet and copper japa mala by Bija Malas

Several months ago I tried to make my own malas, prayer beads used in Hindu and Buddhist practice. I did not make it out of the bead store. I faced several challenges: the overwhelming choices presented at the bead shop, not knowing the meanings behind any of the stones, my limited budget, and the reality that I was not about to have the time, money or manual dexterity to create a practice mala, much less a beautiful final product. I went searching online and found Bija Malas.

Bija Malas are very pretty and seem quite affordable to me. There are shorter bracelet ones, along with more traditional 108 bead malas. While I long for a 108 bead mala, I don’t know which of those I would prefer! They are all so beautiful. These would make a valuable gift for the Buddhist, Hindu, yoga teacher or student, or meditator in your life.

Jet and amber necklace

Jet and amber necklace

Raven Edgewalker creates a wide array of crafts and wares for witches. I am particularly fond of her amber and jet jewelry. These two stones work well together to purify energy and to protect from and neutralize negative energy. Very handy for witches and sorcerers.

This particular necklace is available from greenwomancrafts for $49.

Alchemical Raven by Liv Rainey-Smith

Alchemical Raven by Liv Rainey-Smith

I love art and long to have a house full of art and crafts. I also adore word cuts. Liv Rainey-Smith combines my love of art, wood cuts, and occult themes. I discovered her work at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle a few months ago. Her work changes regularly. There were several pieces I saw there that aren’t listed in her store now. I assume they sold – and for good reason!

This glorious cut is called Alchemical Raven and sells for $350.

For the literary and discerning magician, witch or occultist of any stripe, anything by Scarlet Imprint is a good choice. Their works never fail to be thought-provoking, informative, and created with the highest quality materials. Scarlet Imprint books are bound spells. Their latest offering is the two-volume edition of The Testament of Cyprian of the Mage, last in a series on grimoires by Jake Stratton-Kent. I, however, do not have Pomba Gira, and have wanted to read it for a while now.

Pomba Gira

Pomba Gira

Hey! This is the only one not sold! I'll take it!

Hey! This is the only one not sold! I’ll take it!

Another artist whose work makes my witchy heart beat faster is Lindsey Kustusch. Her raven and owl series are stunning. Sadly, they are almost all entirely sold out! The one pictured at left is the last one left!

She also has a series of paintings of San Francisco, and those are striking as well. Perhaps you know some one who has left their heart in San Francisco?

Her bottle still lifes are delightfully creepy and will likely appeal to those who love curiosities, as well as liquor. Not that I know anyone like that…..

Sarah Lawless is a writer, artist, crafter, and master salve maker. I would take just about anything from her. I can recommend her flying salves first hand. Her apothecaries are on hiatus for the holidays, but I still want to give her work a shout out. Her knives are stunning.

chibiTarot-smallImages-09-theHermitFinally, no gift guide is complete without a nod to the Chibi Tarot. Only the major arcana is available at this time. This may look like a silly cartoon deck, suitable for the kid, manga lover, or video gamer in your life. Do not be deceived! This is a legitimate and powerful deck. It’s also created by husband, who is writing a book along side this deck and gearing up to begin the minor arcana.

I think this collection of beautiful things is enough to get anyone’s gift giving juices flowing.  Stay tuned next week for recommendations for the kiddos! I guarantee that list won’t be as pricey as this one.

Maxim Monday: Do what you mean to do

Intention. Do what you mean to do. Do what you say you will do. Follow through.

These phrases are what come to mind with today’s maxim. Along with the aphorism: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But see, words and desires not followed through on were never really intentional. They were empty words, half-considered actions.

This maxim asks us to do several things. First, we have to decide what it is we want to do. What is it we mean to do? What is the outcome I’m hoping for, or the action I’m trying to perform? Then, we need to mean it. We need to sincerely want to accomplish that action and do the things necessary to make it happen. Finally, we have to Do. We have to follow through and do what we mean to do.

Sometimes, what we mean to do is not what ends up happening once we are mid-action. Or the results are entirely different. I think that’s ok, because with this maxim it is only asking that we intentionally choose what we want to do and then do it. We cannot be responsible for every outcome, although in some cases that is easier to do.

On a bigger scale, I think about this maxim and larger intentions, like loving my husband, educating my children, cultivating my health, growing in my spiritual practice. Those are things I want to do. How can I do those things?

For some one who is usually caught up in a struggle between Doing and Being, I don’t find this maxim triggering at all. In fact, I find it rather soothing. I don’t have to Do everything, only the things I mean to do. Those bigger intentions listed above are not things that happen once or are accomplished in a weekend. They occur over long periods of time, maintained with regular effort. I do not have Do it All in one sitting. No, I just work on what I mean to do, steadily and intentionally.

Today I am feeling rather overwhelmed with the huge lists I’ve made – lists of bills to pay, holiday preparations (both for this week’s Thanksgiving and for the upcoming Yule/Pancha Ganapati/Christmas cluster), and other responsibilities. Today I’m picking a handful of tasks and I will do them. I want to actually accomplish a few things and strike a few things off my list, so I want to be realistic in what and how many tasks I choose. Then I have to follow through, which might mean less tea and internet time. I want to do what I mean to do.

What do you mean to do today?

A Day in the Life

I see the light peeking around the edges of the curtains. I know I’ve slept late. It’s Tuesday. Monday nights mean choir rehearsal, and I don’t get home until 9.30 – well, past my bedtime! It was another night of me not being able to sing, thanks to my myriad colds. I can’t dwell on self-pity for too long: the children have heard Adam putzing in the kitchen and they come climbing into my side of the bed for morning snuggles. Just as we’ve attained fair and equal snuggles for all, Adam comes in to tell us it’s 7.30 and breakfast is on the table.

They scramble off the bed and race to the table. I make my way slowly: bathroom, find robe, open up the windows in the bedroom. When I get the table I see bowls of oatmeal in front of the kids and a spinach omelet waiting for me.

Olympia artist Niki McClure's calendar

Olympia artist Niki McClure’s calendar

Adam gets the kids dressed while I take the briefest of showers. Once dressed, I pack lunches and snacks, and off we go. We’re bundled in boots and thick coats. Last night’s downpour surely meant there would be puddles this morning, but no. As we walk up the hill to school, my son informs me that Papa was wrong; he didn’t need his boots after all.

I drop one kid off at kindergarten, another next door at a preschool. Happy kids are happily learning and playing. I descend home, down the hill, feeling wiped out. I’ve been awake an hour and fifteen minutes.

Once home I survey the mess of the kitchen. I feel overwhelmed by all the To-Do’s cluttering up my head. It’s Tuesday, so we have nothing to do tonight, except enjoy one another. It’s Tuesday, which also means it’s Kali puja day. First, though, I need to sit.

I make a cup of green tea and sit myself on the horrid burgundy corduroy couch. I enjoy the thin sunlight shining in through the windows. I sip my tea and do the barest of responding to comments, threads, and emails online. I watch a news clip on the Fukushima disaster. I begin berating myself for all the things I’ve left undone: a book review or two, blog posts I keep meaning to write, emails to be written, Christmas presents to sort out, and oh yeah, there’s a book on hold for me at the library.

I’m tired of feeling tired and sick of being sick. Self-pity threatens to eat me whole. I remind myself that I’m pregnant, it’s autumn, and I have two small kids that bring every sniffle home. What might fell them for two days will no doubt fell me for five. I’ve been sick every week for 5 weeks straight. But it will pass. I remind myself of that: this will pass.

I shut my lap top, drain my tea-cup, and peel myself off the couch. It’s nearly ten. Walking into the kitchen I realize I haven’t bought fresh flowers this week, so I grab a fat medjool date and head to my altar. I lay the date in my offering dish, light my candles and incense, and do the most basic of pujas. Still, puja feels good, like visiting an old friend. While sitting in meditation I think of my 2013 collage up on the fridge. I realize that this last part of the year was ‘set aside’ for rest. My collages are surprisingly prophetic. Sometimes I forget this. I drew the Moon and the Hanged Man for the last few months of this year. While the wheel of the days continue to turn and opportunities continue to knock, I need to realize that this time period for me is one of quiet, rest, and internal contemplation.

My altar this day

My altar this day

With that helpful reminder fresh in my head, I bow and make prayers. I pray for my Feri teachers, who are in need of healing right now. I pray for myself, also in need of some immune support. I ask that I might get the rest I need, learn what it is I need to at this time, and gather the strength I need for whatever is to come after this season passes.

It’s now 10.30. One hour until I pick up my daughter from preschool. I decide to throw in a load of laundry, then drive out to my friendly local farm and get eggs. I return in time to get lunch heating in the oven before walking up to get the girl.

Walking home in warm coats

Walking home in warm coats

Lunch is last night’s shepherd’s pie with a green salad. Adam and I talk about how his work is going, the realizations I had in meditation, the news I picked up on the farm; our daughter reminds us at least six times that her birthday is coming up (it’s not until February, but she is obsessed).

I tidy up the kitchen. Daughter asks for a bath, so I run the bath, brew a cup of tea and sit to write. Just as I get into the piece she’s through; I dry her off and dress her. She asks to watch Rastamouse while I write. I finish up and move on to general mental housekeeping: answering more emails and making lists of everything: Christmas lists, prepping for the various coming holidays, etc.

Cup of tea drained, more cartoons than I care to admit, and one distracted descent into Facebook, I finally get to work on my lists before reading to my daughter and letting her play with marbles. Only half way through my lists, my husband and I decide to do an impromptu drive-by of a potential house (we’re still house hunting) before going to pick up our son from kindergarten at 3pm. The house’s location isn’t quite right.

Once home everyone gets snacks. I go back to my lists. The kids get two cartoons before spending the rest of the afternoon drawing, reading and making a mess of the living room. We work on reading homework and I field a meltdown. I’m still trying to organize my lists. I am interrupted every few minutes. I give up and decide to work on it after the kids are in bed.

4.30 rolls around and I realize I need to fold some laundry and start on dinner. After reading the kids two more stories. We do a quick tidy up, which is dismantled minutes later. The youngest comes asking to play with rice. I dye some rice orange and the kids make a fine mess in the kitchen while I cook. The boy asks for a bath, which he runs and then picks up his mess while the bath fills. This is a first.

Orange rice for the win

Orange rice for the win

Dinner cooks. Adam watches basketball. I sweep up the rice and start lighting some candles. I light the family altar candle, say the Holy Mother prayer and a few others for some family needs. I discuss the meltdown issues with Adam (stress at school).

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Dinner is lamb and pork meatballs, sweet and sour sauce, roasted cabbage, and chard – all homemade, all super tasty! Everyone asks for seconds. It’s been chaos for the last two hours, but I’m feeling peaceful and sated at the table.

After dinner I go to the super awesome neighbors across the street for a quick chat and to pick up some keys. I walk over in my slippers. When I return, the end of the basketball game is on and the kids are reading on the couch. I finally fold the laundry and put it away. I make a cup of throat coat tea for myself and the boy. It’s time for the kids to get ready for bed and, of course, they get squirrelly and riled up. Adam gets them in their pjs and brushes their teeth while I write a little.

Pjs, toothbrushing, focus, night-time pees, get out of the laundry basket, time for bed, which story do you want, please focus on you, get in bed. While Adam works on the dishes, a story is read by me, hugs and kisses doled out. Adam goes in to sing them to sleep. It’s not terribly successful tonight.

I finally finish making my lists and get organized. I sort out what I want to accomplish tomorrow (add pictures to this post, post it, write up a book review, vacuum the house, don’t forget to buy milk and eggs, and get that package from the post office). I finally open this week’s Economist. And now it’s time for me go to bed. It’s 8.30 and I can’t wait to crawl into bed and do it all again tomorrow.

Maxim Monday: Shun Murder

This is another maxim that at first glance seems so obvious as to warrant only a sentence. Yet, this maxim has several dimensions worth considering.

The most surface level is: don’t murder other people. I can say that I have never murdered anyone and have no intentions of ever doing so. Done and dusted, right? Not so fast.

Plenty of vegans and vegetarians suggest that eating meat is murder. I absolutely see that point, and I render it null and void. All creatures need to eat. Humans are omnivores. Many sages and vegans/vegetarians say that we have the karmic and conscious ability to choose not to harm other beings in our nutritional needs. But that’s not true. We have to kill something living to eat, whether that’s a rabbit, a cow, a carrot or growing grasses. We kill insects in the practice of agriculture. We step on worms and fungi and lichens when we walk outside. We are death machines, killing at every breath. I do not privilege the cow over the carrot. I do, however, privilege myself over the cow and the carrot. I don’t know how else to stay alive.

Another level to this maxim is supporting policies that do not kill other people. Let’s look at the situation in Syria. I concede that there is no good answer to that clusterfuck of a nightmare. People are dying by the thousands; it is the largest refugee crisis in a generation. If we support rebels, we are supporting killing. If we support the Assad government, we are supporting mass murders. If we do nothing, we are standing by while thousands die and will continue to die. In this situation I do not know what the right answer is, but these are the sorts of grey areas that make a maxim like ‘shun murder’ so difficult to contend with. What other policies, foreign and domestic, are full of invisible murder?

So deciding not to murder isn’t quite so easy. I may not have murdered anyone (any human) myself, but I have certainly been complicit in ways that are not so clear. This is not a grand, sweeping guilt trip. Merely a reflection that we can never be certain of every consequence of our every action. Shunning murder is harder than we might think.

Maxim Monday: Act When You Know

This is a tricky Maxim for me. I like to think that I know far more often than I probably do. I’m a bit of a know-it-all, I’ll admit, and I like being a woman of action. Waiting and seeing is not my strong suit. So, while on the surface I’d like to think that I’ve got this acting and knowing Maxim down, this is actually a great reminder for me that I probably ought to act a little less and wait for more knowledge than I think I have.

To me this Maxim ties in with discernment, a careful judging and waiting for wisdom. How often do we really know all the facets of what we’re dealing with? Even with careful deliberation and discussion, we rarely know the full picture, the extent of the consequences of what we choose, or even how we fully feel about something. I think this is true whether we’re talking about making a choice about a relationship, or making a choice about foreign policy.

And yet, we need to act. Every day we’re making choices and decisions. This Maxim is a reminder to act deliberately, not out of mindless habit or base reaction. It’s a reminder to think more completely about our choices. Any reminder encouraging me to take more time, act a little more slowly and not presume to immediately know, is a good thing.

Of course, I’m about to post this entry and if I’m truthful, I’m acting before I really know what this Maxim is about. This is my first guess. What’s yours?

Sharing the Love

Earlier this week I was nominated for a Liebster Award by a reader. Basically this is a like a chain-letter blog love fest. A reader with her own blog included me in a list of blogs she really loves. Thank you!!

I’m not going to follow all the rules (because that’s not my style), but I thought I’d answer the questions my fellow blogger posed on her post and then recommend a few blogs myself.

  1. What is your favorite quote/proverb? I don’t have one. Really.
  2. Do you prefer incense or candles and why? Both! If I had to only have one I’d choose the candle, because sometimes incense can make me sneeze, especially if I have a cold coming on.
  3. What is your favorite music genre? Again, I can’t pick just one. I love music, but I barely listen to it. Mostly I need music without words; my head is already too full, and the kids too noisy, to put up with yet another person’s words! Mostly if I choose music it is symphonic or ambient.
  4. Do you have any artistic skills (draw, write, sing, etc.)? I am a classically trained singer.
  5. Grease or Footloose and why? Footloose. Grease always annoyed the crap out of me. When I was 9 I would put on my Footloose soundtrack LP and choreograph entire dances.
  6. What is your dream job? I’m living it! Writing, thinking, raising my kids.
  7. Of all the books you own, which do you consider the most sacred? The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, a gift given to me by my aunt when I was born. As for spiritual sacred texts, I no longer hold one text as more sacred than another.
  8. Do you have any phobias? As I get older heights get much harder. I also feel funny about moths and bats. But I have no true phobia.
  9. Who would you prefer to have as a child: Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, and why? I don’t know who those people are. Other than Freddy Krueger, and ew.
  10. What song are you not ashamed to say you love? Oh, I have a love of cheesy pop music. I will admit here and now that there are some Katy Perry songs that I quite enjoy.

And now for two blogs that you might not know about. Confessions of a Hedge Witch is a smart, witchy blog by a priestess, academic, and all around wild woman. When Death Calls is infrequent, but dark and poetic. I enjoy both and you might too!

Maxim Monday: Choose What is Divine

With this Maxim I immediately want to know what the ancient Greeks considered divine! From what little I understand, ancient Greeks did not consider their gods omnipotent or omniscient. There is a very different understanding of divinity between ancient polytheistic beliefs and current monotheistic (particularly mainstream Christian) beliefs. But I’m going to leave the ancient Greek parsing of this Maxim to people who actually know something about ancient Greece.

I’ve been sitting here in front of my screen for the last 20 minutes asking myself, “What do I consider divine? What does it mean to me to ‘choose what is divine’?”

For me, tonight, choosing what is divine is choosing what is filled with or furthers Life Force and my triple Soul. What fosters connection among all my parts, the people around me, and the non-human entities with whom I interact? What promotes health and vibrancy and joy in me right now?

Right now, that means connecting with you, the reader. It means eating more of the celery sticks in front of me, because they taste good and I’m craving them (no, really). It means getting another big glass of water and kissing my kids on the way to the kitchen. (Hold on, I’ll be right back.) It means getting off my laptop once this post is written and snuggling with the kids, connecting with my family over dinner, and resting this evening. It’s been a busy weekend and I’m grateful my mother-in-law is cooking dinner tonight.

Other times choosing the divine means delaying breakfast to sit in front of my altar, to align myself, light some incense, and offer thanks and devotion. Choosing the divine means making sure I’m checking in with my parts, practicing excellent self-care, and reaching out to my gods and allies (both human and non-human allies). Sometimes choosing the divine is simple: just go outside and breathe deeply, raising my arms to the bright sun. Other times it’s challenging: setting aside time for ritual, or skills practice, or designing workings.

What does divine mean to you? Are you choosing what is divine?