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.

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Finished Yantras

I finished my yantras! It’s taken me all week. Between finding the concentrated time and preparing myself, through meditation and chanting, it has been more challenging than I expected to finish such a small project.

I have no idea if these are “correct,” but they are infused with much intention, prayer, and enthusiasm.

Shiva yantra

Shiva yantra

Kali yantra

Kali yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

I’m so pleased that I finally got around to making my own yantras. I found the process educational and meditative. Next I will hang them in my altar.

And yes, I know they look like something a child would do! Visual arts aren’t my skill, and because I have kids, crayons were the coloring medium of choice. These please my own inner-child, so I think all my parts are happy with the outcome.

 

Attempting Yantras

Yantras are intricate, geometrical Hindu designs. Tantric Hinduism uses them for meditation, magic, and devotion. It’s an ancient practice that involves a lot of training, preparation, and precision. So I thought I’d make some. In a morning. Silly me.

I have only ever seen yantras in books or on-line, never in person. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing some for myself since I first began my Hindu quarter at the beginning of this blog. Now, with my eldest child in kindergarten and my youngest in morning preschool, I have 2.5 hours of child-free time. I thought surely that would be enough time to make some small yantras. But I was wrong.

I don’t know exactly what the process or requirements are for making yantra. From what I can tell, it involves purification, meditation, preparations, and puja. So this morning I censed my house, made kala (a purification rite), meditated, aligned my souls, and made a brief puja. I called upon Durga and Kali. I made offerings and petitioned their blessings and assistance.

Then I began to draw. I am not a visual artist, but I did my best. My eyes started watering, my hand started cramping. I clearly don’t do this very often. By the time I was done drawing and inking my three mini-yantras an hour had flown and it was time to get my daughter from preschool!

Here is what I have so far:

Shiva yantra

Shiva yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

IMG_0728

Kali yantra

I will have to do yet more puja tomorrow and spend some meditative time coloring them. There is a part of me that wonders if I’m bringing calamity on my house by not having the geometry exact or the lines just so. I figure that these are all gods I have a relationship with, I prepared myself to the best of my knowledge and abilities, and the efforts are in good faith. This isn’t some casual, smart-ass coloring project.

For comparison, here are some pictures of actual yantras:

Kali yantra

Kali yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

Next week I’ll post my colored final yantras.

 

Apocalyptic Witchcraft

I am a tremendous fan of Scarlet Imprint, publisher of fine magical books. Their books contain more than occult information, more than poetry, though they are certainly full of both; they are bound spells. I have read several of Scarlet Imprint’s works. I don’t always agree with the authors in their fervor or specifics, but I usually agree with the general themes. I almost always find myself thinking about their ideas long after I’ve finished a book. I’m still chewing over XVI, which I read over a year ago.

When I saw that Scarlet Imprint would be releasing Apocalyptic Witchcraft, by Peter Grey, I knew immediately that I had to have a copy. The book aims to serve as a rallying cry to those who would embrace a living witchcraft as a means to rebel against the status quo. I am completely on board with this mission.

Of the doves edition; taken from Scarlet Imprint's website

Of the doves edition; image used with the kind permission of Scarlet Imprint

Scarlet Imprint, as an entity, judging from the works they publish, and this book specifically, aims to push the magical community toward action in the world. While we need skill and abilities that allow us to function in the mainstream world, our task is not to cozy up to the status quo, but wreak havoc and defend our chosen values. This book is the least hippie call to action against environmental pillage I’ve read.

I feel that the less said about any of Scarlet Imprint’s books the better. They are best experienced first hand (and there are a variety ways one can do that – super fancy, fancy, paperback, and digital editions, an option for every budget). I will say I was gripped by the writing, entranced by many of the ideas, and still a little confused at the end. But then Grey warns the reader on page i that he ‘does not aim to please.’ ‘This is not a how-to book, or a compendium of folk remedies, nor is it a list of rituals for you to follow, nor strictly history.’  (pg i)

Grey situates witchcraft not historically, but contextually. Yes, witchcraft is skill; yes, it has history and lineages; but that’s not what is most important. The core of witchcraft is ‘a force, not an order. Witchcraft is rhizomatic, not hierarchic. Witchcraft defies organization, not meaning.’ (From A Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, p 15) How shall we use that force? Why shall we grow? What is our meaning?

The book speaks primarily to people who travel a path of Traditional Witchcraft, though it does not exclude other like-minded people. Grey expresses the core nature of witchcraft, though not through the lens of lineage, techniques, or historical developments. He focuses primarily on poetry, blood, and transformation. It’s a strange book. It both doesn’t seem to fit all together, and yet hangs together beautifully. I need to read this book a few more times.

The extended chapters on poetry, especially that of Ted Hughes, and Grey’s way of unfolding history feel a little meandering. The opening and closing chapters were for me the most powerful, and I wanted more of that. However, I will follow Peter Grey down any rabbit trail any day of the week. His meanderings have more fire and poetry in them most of what I read about magic combined.

What does ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’ mean? I’m still not entirely sure. I do know it means action and fearlessness. It means enfolding art into whatever it is we do. It means embracing magic as a philosophical, artistic, and practical way of living – not just as a spiritual orientation. I know Grey is tapping into a Current that is pulling many people forward right now. I feel it, too, though I am not able to articulate it in any way at this time. Ultimately, each of us will need to find out what apocalyptic witchcraft means for ourselves. Good thing Peter Grey is pulling us forward with his vision and art.

Collaging the year, part two: 2013

Yesterday I posted about my 2012 collage, what came to pass and what did not (click here to read that post).

For 2013 I did a tarot reading. I used the Mary-El tarot. I drew the 9 of Swords, the King of Disks, the Devil reversed, the 2 of Swords reversed, the Moon, and the Hanged Man. Basically, I have yet another intense year ahead of me. (What I’d like to do is take a moment to whine about how intense and challenging everything has been for the last few years and how I’d really love it if the Universe would cut me a break, but hey – I seem hard-wired for intense. I basically sign up for Challenging and Intense whenever I see it. I’ve done this to myself.)

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and depressed by my reading, I decided to collage what I wanted out of my year, using the reading as my guide. Here’s what I created:

Collage 2013

Collage 2013

The Olympia and 13 are self-explanatory, I hope.

First, we have the 9 of Swords: pressure, passing through challenges, the hero’s journey, facing fears, attending to business, dodging challenges with skill. Yet pressure creates diamonds. Facing challenges makes us stronger. Attending to business gets things done. I decided to use this period to focus on my work, with reminders to endure. To that end I have a picture of a study with lots of books – a reminder to read and write and think! A picture of an altar to Durga. I believe that picture of the naked lady and the owl is an advertisement for a band. It says ‘Tiger! Tiger! Cut them where they bleed.’ I like the art and love the contrast of wisdom, nakedness and passive posture with such aggressive language. That feels right and good at this time. Going radical speaks for itself… although I think I’ve already done that! It never hurts to have another reminder.

Next up is the King of Disks: the master of pleasure and his physical environment. The card in the Mary-El deck has a faun eating of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – and liking it! I get a sense of ‘having one’s cake and eating it too.’ This is a reminder to enjoy the physical delights of life. Sex, for sure, as well as the bounty of this land – hence, the 5 oysters (maybe that’s my unconscious choice for a third child right there!). There’s a picture of a lake in Washington. The word ‘vacation’ is important here, because my husband and I have had only one vacation in our 9.5 years together. We desperately need another one.

With the Devil and the 2 of Swords, both reversed, I see me dealing with boundaries, demons, unresolved issues, and issues of identity. I don’t see this as necessarily negative. Dealing with these things can lead to more freedom and healing. The Economist (one of my favorite magazines) had an article on the history of Hell in its holiday double issue. I got the pictures of the demons from there. Why not have some explicit pictures of what I’m up against! I also wanted an image of strength, representing overcoming such demons, and that’s what the picture of Pussy Riot demonstrating in an Orthodox church represents for me. (It also never hurts to have bad ass feminists on display.)

As for identity, I love the photo of Audrey Hepburn laughing. She embodies grace. In this picture she looks like she might be in her 30s (appropriate) and I choose to face my challenges with as much grace and joy as possible. Also, ‘never hide’ – a reminder that while I don’t need to be all up in anyone’s face, I need never hide either.

After struggles of identity and demons, I have the Moon and the Hanged Man to look forward to. The Moon can be a time of instability, of dreams, of the un/subconscious bubbling up, taboos. It’s also a deeply feminine card, one of mystery, and can represent cycles. I wonder if this might coincide with an autumn birth? Or perhaps after dealing with my demons and identity and the inevitable challenge to taboos those things entail, I’ll just want some rest.

The Hanged Man is a card of chosen self-sacrifice. I would like to be more like Odin, who sacrificed himself to himself for the sake of wisdom, rather than like Jesus, who martyred himself to himself.

Both of the final cards indicate a need for retreat, rest, and contemplation. I could certainly use more rest. I’ve got a big picture of fresh, clean bed and a person meditating in a beautiful, serene spot.

There are other images: I think ‘wake up!’ shouts its meaning loud and clear; there is a person singing love into her surroundings (and I promised Kali I would sing); the hands releasing fire/magic; the altar image of Om and Ganesh is always an auspicious addition to any sacred art; the image of the Taj Mahal represents India and my possible trip there this year; the peaceful priestess.

What’s not on this collage? I don’t have anything overtly representing another child, nor anything regarding the possibility of buying a house this year. Adam and I are hoping to buy a house – maybe that big king-sized bed is a nice home waiting for us at the end of the year!

I do have other goals for 2013. I want to learn to wild harvest nettles and devils club. I want to get back to my yoga practice. I want to learn to make a variety of Asian cuisines.

Overall, that tarot reading for the year ahead makes me want to collapse on the floor and yell out ‘you win, Universe! Uncle!’ But my collage brings me joy and I feel inspired to tackle what comes.

What do you think your year holds for you?

Collaging the Year, part one: A 2012 review

Every calendrical new year I collage. You can read about last year’s collage and see pictures of 2011’s and 2012’s here. This year it took me and Adam a week to complete our collage. Both of our kids were very interested in what we were doing. We tried to wait for the youngest’s nap times. My son even managed to make his first one. He says it’s a collage about Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. A born story-teller, he is.

First, I want to look at my 2012 collage and see what came to pass.

Collage for 2012

Collage for 2012

This collage was more about ideas than specific goals. And yet, many things came to pass. I loved the large witchy pictures. I wanted more of that energy in my life – and I got that. I feel that I am more and more embracing the ‘witch’ label. I remain reluctant to do so, but it seems to fit. I started studying with two Feri mentors in Seattle once a month (something I’ve not written about, but will do so soon). I practice witchcraft! There I said it.

I’ve embraced my chosen paths/traditions. My family remains my highest priority. I went to Alaska in the summer. I experienced new shades of joy and freedom in 2012, even though the costs were exacting indeed. I have confirmed that I need to eat gluten-free; I’ve lost some more of the baby weight and gotten a little more fit.

What didn’t come to pass is also important. I didn’t figure out if I want a third child or not. That’s still to be decided. I didn’t get as fit as I’d like. I’ve recently discovered that I’ve got whiplash  and a wonky left hip – no wonder all my fitness attempts haven’t felt quite right! I also don’t feel I’ve tapped into that primal place of power that I’ve only so briefly touched. But I’m getting closer.

Social media has transformed how I collage. Turns out Pintrest sort of fills that space now. Pintrest is an ongoing collage on the internet where I can post images for my dream house, tarot images I like, altar spaces, jewelry, etc. Removing those ideas from my collaging meant that I needed to adapt my new year’s tradition.

This year I did a tarot reading for my year to come and collaged around those concepts. Tomorrow I’ll post 2013’s collage and talk about what I see ahead for myself.

Bargaining with Kali

I’ve been quiet lately in this space. There is a lot of intensity in my personal life right now. The last I wrote with any depth was about praying to Kali. She continues to work in my life. I continue to ask her to slay the fears that limit my spirit, and she continues to give me plenty of opportunities to face my fears. I rarely like what I see, nor do I feel all that secure. I made a promise to my partner that I would not back away, that I would press forward.

Here is the image I have in my head: I am riding a wild white horse bareback as it is racing across a wide open plain. My hands are at my side. My chest is thrust forward. Riding another white horse ahead of me is Kali. Her black tangled hair writhes like snakes around her. She rides her horse backward, facing me. She is performing open heart surgery on me. In her hands is a long spear with a scythe tip on the end. My chest is bloody and wide open. She has my heart snagged on the tip of her scythe and she is pulling ever so gently as we ride like the wind across this vast land. She is smiling. She has no fear; it is not her heart oozing on the tip.

Does this mean I am a victim? No. I am a willing sacrifice. I am offering up the old boundaries, the old patterns, the old cage that held my heart. Break it, smash it, make room for something bigger, wilder, freer.

There are big, big changes afoot for my family in 2013. I did a money spell on the dark moon. Next week on the full moon I am sending out another wish bird spell for a house. The emotional work I am slogging through is an incantation for my transformation. I still pray: O Kali Ma, slay the fears that limit my spirit. And she has delivered! She has given me the opportunity to do just that. Lakshmi has poured abundance in my lap. Now I must pry open my hands, let go of what no longer serves, and make room for all that goodness.

Kali Devi

Kali Devi

Morpheus’ recent post on sovereignty and The Morrigan inspired me to get before my altar, to get even more specific with Kali. This is not a one-sided relationship, where I beg for crumbs from some feudal master. I am not Kali’s equal, but I have my own sovereignty. From one angle I am the one with my chest cracked open. From another angle I am Kali performing the surgery.

Ok, Kali, I said, sitting before my altar this morning. You have given me what I asked for. Thank you. I will not retreat. I will press forward. I will not retreat. But if what you are pressing me forward fo —

YOU MUST SING.

I didn’t get through my prayer before a loud voice in my head told me I had to sing. I went cold and thought, this could just be my brain. But I’ve never interrupted myself like that before. I must sing.

Fuck.

I went back to praying: If this is really going to happen, I need some security, some emotional, spiritual and material support. You give me that and I will sing. I will sing and you provide that. Help me. In this open heart surgery, give me a blood transfusion with the courage and strength to keep riding this horse.

Is it wise to bargain with Kali? We shall see.

What is the significance of singing? In what feels like a different life, I used to sing: jazz, opera, musical theatre. This January marks my 23rd year since I started studying voice. Twelve years ago I was given the opportunity to pursue a path toward professional singing and I chose theology. In the last four and half years (since my son was born) I’ve done barely anything at all. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the voice and the will. Having an infant gets in the way of rehearsals. Now I resist the painful rust that rests on my chords.

I am reluctant to go into the details of my love/hate relationship with singing. A history of performance anxiety and panic attacks certainly doesn’t help a singer’s career. I have long known that I would need to face this part of me again as I deepen my magical practice. My husband looked at me last night during a conversation unrelated to singing (and yet entirely related) and asked me, Do you want to be an initiate? Do you want to be half the witch I think you are? My answer is, of course, YES.

I will press forward, I will not retreat. The surgery is begun, let it be completed. Winter officially arrived yesterday with snow and cold; the winnowing season is coming to a close. Solstice is around the corner and winter feels like a good season in which to recover. Let the heart surgery continue.

I will sing. I might resist, but dammit, I will sing.