Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Some Speculations on Synthetic Spellcraft

Scent is a powerful thing. A single breath of CK One is enough to bring me back to being thirteen in spring -- I can hear my favorite song from back then, feel the cool, foggy air, and remember what it was when one of my biggest fears was entering high school next year. Smells are inextricably tied to memory and emotion in a way that's palpable and impossible to deny.

A lot of magick involves creating the right atmosphere. If you are in a situation where magick feels possible, it is possible. Creating this atmosphere takes some effort, sometimes even some pageantry, though what works differs from witch to witch. That said, there's a reason why so many spells and rituals call for incense and oils.

Scent is a very, very powerful thing.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, in some cases) not all of the ingredients called for in old recipes are available to us anymore. Some herbs are priced out of the reach of most people, some are hard to obtain ethically, and some animal-derived products (like civet or ambergris) are right out. Some people recommend using synthetic alternatives to illegal, unethical, or hard-to-obtain substances, but does this actually work?

I usually try to be a purist in my craft. There are a lot of things -- from stones, to oils, to paraffin candles -- that don't really do it for me when I'm trying to get into the right mindset. Many, though not all, synthetically-derived scents give me a headache or an uncomfortable burning feeling in my nose, so I avoid them. I don't like using petroleum byproducts when they can be avoided, so I stick to natural waxes and salves. I don't feel much when I handle man-made stones, pretty as they may be, so I don't use them. It takes extra expense and effort, but, for me, the end result is worth it.



My personal feelings don't really answer the heart of the question, though -- do synthetic ingredients work? Based on what I've experienced and read from other practitioners, the answer is a solid "Maybe."

When it comes to adopting a ritual mindset and creating atmosphere, synthetics certainly can do the job. Not everyone gets a headache when they smell floral perfume, after all. Besides, if these synthetic ingredients weren't good at evoking emotions, they'd never have hit the market.

On the other hand, when it comes to getting all of your energetic ducks in a row... Using synthetic ingredients can be a bit like herding cats. Say you want to do a money working, for example. You choose the right time of day for prosperity magick, the right day of the week, even the right point in the lunar cycle. You write a powerful chant to help you manifest your desire. You decorate your altar in green, and arrange it with appropriately-colored candles and curios. Lastly, you choose the right oils and incense.

At every step in this process, you pick things that align with your goal. A lot of those things may be dictated by your personal associations with them, others by your tradition or their history of use. When it comes to natural ingredients, there are more factors in play than personal association alone. Intent is a powerful thing -- the most important thing, even -- but it is never a bad idea to align your intent with your ingredients.



When you're dealing with a man-made object, whether a stone or a bottle of oil, you're dealing with something very different than whatever the synthetic is trying to mimic. This is not necessarily going to cause a working to fail (if it did, few practitioners would recommend using them!) but it does rob you of the opportunity to incorporate the energy of an ingredient closer to its natural state. This doesn't mean that synthetics don't have an energy of their own, but it's a bit like comparing glass and quartz, or imitation vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean -- the sensory impact might be there, but there is a difference in depth and nuance.

Usually, there's a natural substitute for whatever the synthetic is trying to mimic. It's often said that rose can stand in for any flower, and rosemary for any herb. I can't think of any magickal purpose for which there is only a single, completely non-negotiable ingredient. There are even things that can take the place of blood, depending on what you're using it for.

Ultimately, it should be the goal of any magick practitioner to keep track of what they do and work toward refining their craft. Keep a journal, compare the effects of synthetics with natural ingredients, and see what differences exist for you.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Blogger Recognition Award 2017

I've basically never been nominated for a blogging related anything before, so I was pretty stoked to find out I'd been nominated for the 2017 Blogger Recognition Award by My Dee Dee's Diary. I want to give her a big thank you for this opportunity -- it''s the first one I've had so far!

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?


The Blogger Recognition Award is designed to foster growth and community among bloggers. It's a community effort -- an opportunity to give recognition to bloggers whose work you enjoy, and be recognized in turn. It's fun to participate in, but there are rules. I definitely encourage any blogger to take part in the process, but, if anyone chooses not to, that's cool, too.

What is my blog about, and why did I start writing?


To be honest, I'm not sure how to answer that.

My blog is about my life, inasmuch as its about what it's like to live as a practicing witch in Washington, DC. I think there's a popular conception of modern witches as people who are either suburbanites who are only into a very positive, The Secret-esque brand of crunchy woo, and people who live in remote cabins and keep jars of eyeballs on their mantels. There's also the misconception that all witches are Wiccans, or that all witchcraft looks and operates a certain (very white-washed, very modernized, very scrubbed) way.

[caption id="attachment_3709" align="alignright" width="512"] it me (the short one)[/caption]

I also write about health topics, because I have idiopathic intracranial hypertension and it sucks donkeys. I started writing when I didn't have much else to do -- I'd moved, I didn't know anyone, and it's hard to have hobbies when you're heavily medicated and sleeping all of the time.

I don't know if I'd call this a "lifestyle" blog, because I don't know too many people with the lifestyle of "chronically ill city witch." I don't know if I'd call it a "healthy living" blog, because most people's conception of "healthy living" is more kale smoothies and açai bowls than swallowing handfuls of diuretics and not bending over ever. I don't know that I'd call it a "DIY" blog either, because I don't think that there are many people who want a way to get rid of a troublesome neighbor or exorcise annoying spirits. (Okay, I do, but I don't think they'd openly admit it.)

Advice for new bloggers


Blogging had its heyday a couple of years ago. There probably isn't room for someone to become the next Dooce, Pink Peonies, or other big-time blogger. This is a good thing. If you approach blogging with the intent of making it a commercial enterprise, you'll probably be able to make some money -- albeit not the millions some bloggers were pulling down back in the day -- but the hustle of approaching companies and shilling products almost always marks the death of fresh, creative content. Don't worry about not netting the sponsorships the big blogs pull in, because that time is rapidly passing. Approach blogging as a creative opportunity, and enjoy it for its own sake.

Secondly, be consistent in all things. It's something I've struggled with in the past -- having a chronic health condition means it's often not even possible to open my laptop and start typing when I need to, and there are times when there just isn't enough of a content buffer for me to have posts go up every day I'm too sick to type. If you can do it, update regularly.

Consistency applies to more than just updating, though. Be ideologically consistent, or your audience may accuse you of being artificial or hypocritical. Be consistent in the products you recommend (don't take a sponsor opportunity from Nutrogena one week, call it your favorite go-to product, then take an opportunity from Burt's Bees the next week and say the same thing), or your audience may accuse you of being a shill. If things happen to change your mind, write about them -- change and growth along life's journey is why people started reading blogs in the first place.

My nominees


My Daily Journal

The Bryntin Project

Actual Conversations With My Husband

At Home With Nich

A Day in the Life of a Witch -- Hasn't updated in awhile, but is still a very good resource for Tarot.

Pagan Ideas

Life With Mrs T

Favourite Words

Sina's Journey

A Ruky'z Life

The Rules


Congratulations on your nomination! Write a post detailing everything about it.

You need to thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog in your post.

Give your readers a brief history about this awesome award.

New bloggers always love some good advice. Give them two of your best pieces of advice.

Now for the fun part, select 10 other amazing bloggers to nominate.

Last but not least, comment on everyone’s blog and give them a chance to hear about their nomination.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Curious Things This Week -- 11/26/2017

Hello! This week, I have for you:

Mummified Captain Found Drifting at Sea -- The mummified remains of a man last seen seven years ago have been found drifting aboard his yacht 50 miles off the Philippines coast.

‘Just witnessed a giant seal being chased out of a fishmongers shop’ -- Just like it says on the tin.

It's 2.4 Miles Across, 8,650 Years Old, and It Lives in Oregon -- It's also ravenous.

8 Myths About Dead Bodies You Probably Think Are True -- The biggest myth? Embalming doesn't make anything safer. Unfortunately, it's one that has been pushed by the funeral industry (in fact, is responsible for much of the funeral industry). Not only does embalming not make anything safer, the chemicals used in it are pretty dangerous.

This Person's Detailed Analysis Of The Cheesecake Factory Will Make Your Head Spin -- I love reading about bad architecture and decorating, but this threw me for a loop. It also gave me a morbidly curious desire to visit The Cheesecake Factory.

Lastly, I leave you with this.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlUR09yRHZU[/embed]

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Small Business Saturday

Note: Some of the links that appear here are affiliate links that allow me to earn a small finder's fee at no additional cost to you. None of these businesses paid to appear here -- they're all ones I've had good experience with in the past, and wanted to show some appreciation for. Any product photos that appear here belong to their respective owners, and appear here via a URL preview widget. Thank you for supporting small businesses and this site!

So, if you've been reading here for a bit, you might know how I feel about supporting small businesses vs. big box stores. Black Friday isn't my jam, but I am very happy to give some love to small businesses the day after. These are some small companies, artists, and artisans that I've bought things from in the past, and I thought you might like.

[caption id="attachment_3670" align="aligncenter" width="513"] Here, you can see my raven band by Deborah Laun on my right middle finger, and my raven shield ring by Moonspinner on my right index finger.[/caption]

 

Aromatic Plant Distillations from the Wild by wildroot



I love Wildroot for their wildcrafted skincare products. Their hydrosols are great stuff -- they smell amazing, and have a ton of benefits (especially for sensitive, allergic skin like mine). The owners are also very kind. I've gotten handwritten notes with my packages thanking me for my business, and even complimenting my Etsy shop (back when it was still open). They're obviously very passionate about what they do, and it shows. If you're looking for a unique gift for someone who has everything, a surprise for a skincare maven, or want to put together a spa day gift set, this is a fantastic place to start.




 

 

 

 


Deborah Laun - Art Jewelry by DeborahLaun



Deborah Laun makes gorgeous, unique jewelry that's like wearable art. She made one of my favorite rings, my silver raven band -- it's very comfortable, I wear it every day, and it's held up extremely well to hard wearing. She also has excellent customer service, and, if you're looking for a custom piece of jewelry, she is happy to work with you to bring your designs to life. I really can't overstate how much I enjoy her work!




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique handcrafted leather accessories by FantasyLeatherCraft



I purchased a wrist band from FantasyLeatherCraft for my S.O. last year. Not only are their goods different, they're very well-made. As gorgeous as the tooling looks in photos, it's even nicer in person. If you're shopping for someone who enjoys LARPing, Steampunk accessories, or just likes unique statement pieces, FantasyLeatherCraft is a great place to look.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 


natural botanical perfume from a strange apothecary by ForStrangeWomen



Yeah, there was basically no way I could make this list and not mention For Strange Women. I've written about them in the past, purely because I like their products that much. Their perfumes are all natural oil-based, so they lie close to the skin. Their scents have a depth and complexity that's hard to find in synthetic fragrances, and they offer hard-to-capture scents like November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest (which smells exactly like it sounds).


In addition to fragrances, they offer perfume jewelry -- vial necklaces filled with their unique perfumes, or compacts containing their solid perfume balms. Their prices are also very reasonable for the quality of their work, and their customer service is very good. Despite the name, these aren't all traditionally feminine scents. There are lots of lovely masculine or gender-neutral offerings. I've even bought some for my S.O. (which I then ended up stealing a bit of because I love wearing traditionally masculine fragrances).

Moonspinner by moonspinnershop


Moonspinner is another jeweler whose work I absolutely adore. They made my raven shield ring (I have quite a collection of raven rings, I know) which I wear about as often as my raven band. If you're looking for unique, well-made gemstone jewelry with an aquatic or botanical twist, definitely check out this shop. The mermaid fluorite necklaces are seriously to die for.





 

 

 

 

 

 





 

Lastly, I want to give a mention to BLADZKNIVES. I bought one of my S.O.'s presents from there this year (he knows roughly what it is, but not which one... I am terrible at surprises), and it's been a really good experience. The knives are as solid as they are well-designed, and they're seriously stunning in person. The blades, the handles, pretty much everything about them shows the owner's dedication to his craft. The prices also can't be beat -- they are extremely reasonable for the quality and nature of the components. Even if you're just in the market for a really nice pocketknife for yourself, treat yourself and check these out




Do you have an Etsy shop or other small business that you'd like to show off? Comment with your link and a description of what you offer!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The shape of giving thanks

Thanksgiving is complicated.

At least, it feels like it is. On one hand, it's a holiday to celebrate gratitude -- you think on all of the things you're thankful for, and, if you're lucky, your family and friends will be among them because you're probably going to have to spend several hours eating dinner with them. On the other, it's based on a lie that attempts to gloss over the murder and exploitation of indigenous people. Even if I wasn't of Acadian Métis descent, it wouldn't feel right. I don't think it should.

Really, it's a potent allegory for my experience of Thanksgiving day. For my family, it was a day to get together, enjoy food, smile, laugh, and talk to each other the way families do, but it was Janus-faced. Sitting and feasting on green bean casserole and pumpkin pie meant, at least for one day, being forced to ignore the daily realities of an abusive environment. Even after I moved out, Thankgiving never looked the way it seemed to for other people.

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition thus far has been going on a hike, every year it was possible. It started when I was in a bad relationship -- my ex-S.O. went off to get high with their friends, I had my arm in a sling from a work injury, and I was resolved to hang out with my dog and ignore the day entirely. At least, until another friend of mine asked if I'd like to go hiking. He had lost his parents and, with no family in the area, we went out to enjoy our own holiday on the wooded paths around the cow pastures outside Wilmington. We walked in the crisp air, fragrant with the smell of rain and dead leaves, until even my energetic cattle dog was ready to go home for a nap.
It was nice. It was what I needed.

Today, I have more to be grateful for than I have in awhile. My health is improving, I'm bursting with ideas, I have my cats, and my current S.O. continues to be as loving and supportive as ever. I am grateful for this every day, and I try to show it in the small ways I have available to me, but it would feel wrong to let a holiday for giving thanks pass by without acknowledgement.



So, on Jupiter's day, during Jupiter's hour, I sat and wrote all of the things life has given me to be thankful for. I am free and away from those who would seek to harm me for their own gain. I have my S.O. I have my cats. I have my creativity, and my improving health. I have achievements no one can take away, and a core of iron that will not break. All these things, and more, I wrote down. And I wrote my wishes for the future on a bay leaf, and let it burn.

I love the smell of bay leaf smoke, all rich and green and spicy. It smells like magick, albeit a simple kind. There's not much you have to do with them, really -- write your desires on one, light it, and sit quietly for a moment in the certain knowledge that you are loved and the universe will deliver what you need. Maybe not immediately, maybe not in the form you think you require right now, but it will.



There's not much to do for Thanksgiving, really. There was only the two of us to feed, so we had a regular dinner and enjoyed each other's company. The weather was nice, but with the lazy air that makes it inviting to curl up in front of a movie with Kiko and Pyewacket. Today, we might go for that hike. Even if we don't, it is good enough.

 

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"OPEN THE DOOR, I NEED TO POUR SOME SCIENCE ON YOU."

If you follow my Twitter and stay up until the wee hours of the morning for some reason, you might have seen what happens when a stinkbug gets into my apartment and lands on my S.O.

(Spoilers: Nothing good.)

We didn't know it was a stinkbug at first -- It landed on him, panicked, promptly fled, and then panicked a bunch more while the large, oafy cat tried to eat it. (The small, sensible cat sat on the bed beside me, where she did not receive a facefull of insect butt chemicals.)

In my years of existence in this vale of tears, I had never had occasion to smell a stinkbug. I didn't even see the thing until after it was dead and Pye was inhaling it like the filth wizard he is. After my S.O. came back to bed, however, the smell was unmistakable. Even if you've never gotten up close and personal with eau de Pentatomidae before, there's only one conclusion to draw between "mysterious insect" and "sudden and inexplicably powerful stench."

The rest went kind of like this.



Are stinkbugs like skunks? I don't know. I tried looking up "how to get rid of stinkbug smell," and got everything from "use some tomato juice" to "Buy this product from my essential oil company! It's totally not a pyramid scheme!" As both tomato juice and patience for MLMs are in short supply in my household, I was relieved when I found this handy video on how to maybe hopefully smell less like a chemical toilet fire.

With no time to measure (and I definitely wasn't going to use up an entire quart of peroxide), I mixed it up and poured it on my S.O. (who bore it good-naturedly, though he seemed to have mixed feelings about the entire procedure). I even managed to get most of the baking soda and soap in the bowl with one hand while keeping Pye away from the half a stinkbug in the garbage, which I consider a personal triumph.

"Now what?" my S.O. asked, dripping foam and smelling strongly of stinkbug and Dishmate.

"Wait five minutes, then take a shower," I said.

Fortunately, it worked. I am hoping it will be similarly successful after I dump it on all of the places Pye saw fit to torment the bug before its demise. Easily half of my couch smells like some kind of insectoid auto-da-fé right now.

I thought it was getting too cold for them to be out and about anymore. We've had a few near-freezing lows already, and we haven't been getting any visits from any other bugs. Truth be told, I've been kind of complacent about that lately -- with my nepenthes, I don't really have to worry much about bugs to begin with. Between it and the cold weather, I figured we were in the clear!

How's your week going so far?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Silly Panic Attack Tricks (That Actually Work)

So, panic attacks.

You're happily watching T.V., wondering what to order for dinner, and then, out of nowhere, your heart races, your chest hurts, you can't breathe, nothing feels real anymore, and you know something terrible is about to happen. Nobody really knows why we have them, or what triggers them -- like I said, you could be knitting with your grandma with a basket of kittens in your lap. To your body, the house might as well be burning down around you.

The suckiest thing is, there's not a whole lot you can do to really halt a panic attack in its tracks. Since they last, an average of about ten minutes from start to finish, any medication you take wouldn't even have time to kick in before the episode's over. Even beta-blockers, which can help keep your heart rate even in the middle of the worst attack, take time to do their thing. Medication wise, you're much better off trying to head a panic attack off before it starts. Fortunately, there are some quick body hacks you can use to help mitigate them while they happen:

First, say, "I'm having a panic attack."


Part of what's weird and distressing about panicking is that the world can take on a feeling of unreality. You may feel like the only things that are real are the sense of impending doom, and the feeling that you're losing control. Saying the words "I'm having a panic attack" can help root things in reality and shift your perspective.

Get your face good and wet.


The mammalian diving reflex is an automatic response to diving into cold water. While this isn't nearly as strong in adult humans as it is in other animals (including human babies), a cold, wet rag applied to the face can help ease a hammering heart.


Practice diaphragmatic breathing.


One of the hallmarks of a panic attack is hyperventilation. You feel like you can't breathe, so you begin breathing faster and more shallowly to compensate. Unfortunately, hyperventilation eliminates CO2 faster than your body can produce it. To combat this, focus on breathing by expanding your stomach, rather than your upper chest or shoulders. Belly breathing forces you to take deeper, fuller, slower breaths, and can help bring your levels back where they should be. Pursed lip breathing, a technique where you purse your lips and attempt to exhale slowly, is another technique that can help. On a related note...

Blow into your finger.


If your problem is a racing heart, there's hope for that, too. Take a deep breath, place a finger between your lips, and pretend to inflate that sucker. This is called the Valsalva maneuver. This move works on the vagus nerve, and it's really effective -- my heart rate dropped about twenty beats per minute. It's also something humans do naturally, though you might not realize you're doing it at the time. It's very common to experience while lifting weights, for example, and may have an evolutionary purpose in increasing intra-abdominal pressure to protect the spine. Research shows that it's pretty safe for otherwise-healthy people, but, if you have heart disease or are at risk of stroke, it may cause an unhealthy spike in blood pressure.


Take a short walk.


If your panic attacks are like mine, this sounds impossible. You can't walk, you can barely even move. How can you possibly go for a walk while you're having an attack? The thing is, I've had a few occasions when I've been forced to walk in the midst of an immobilizing panic attack -- it actually helps. Even when my heart was racing, walking didn't actually make anything worse. Don't try to go for a run, just get up and walk around your room.

Do you have any tricks that help lessen the intensity or duration of your panic attacks? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Curious Things This Week -- 11/19/2017

Hi! I hope your upcoming week goes well and, if not, that it at least goes quickly. Today, I bring you:

The 17th-Century Spy Who Gave Us Big Strawberries -- Renaissance man (and spy) Amedée François Frézier brought back Chilean strawberry plants to please the strawberry-loving Louis XIV. Unfortunately, the strawberries required plants of the opposite sex in order to set fruit, and these plants sat barren for some time. It was only when farmers began planting them beside strawberries from elsewhere in the Americas that they created the big, luscious fruits we know and love.

Top 5 Restaurants to Kill Time in After Committing Murder -- "Be it man, mosquito or moth, murder works up quite an appetite, so where do you go when you need to lay low and maybe have a drink or three to soothe your frayed nerves?"

Cards Against Humanity Is Trying To Stop Trump’s Wall By Purchasing Border Land -- And becoming the biggest, most expensive, completely legal PITA they can.

US Navy confirms its jets drew penises in the sky over Washington -- "After the penises were sighted in the heavens above the state, residents began writing to local media to complain that they were concerned they may have to explain human anatomy to their children."

Political cartoon about witch hunts raises concerns for local Pagan -- A Wiccan former city council member is wondering if a political cartoon is targeting her based on her religion... But is it overtly malicious, or careless?

What Happened to Ed Gein’s Gravestone? -- Nothing marks Ed Gein's grave but a little hole where true crime enthusiasts, murder groupies, and collectors of curiosities collect dirt. What happened to the original (and replacement) headstones that mark the infamous killers gravesite?

Lastly, I leave you with this song I've had in my head for days. Have a good week!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1RAyrIAwsU[/embed]

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Holiday Decorating for People Who'd Probably Much Rather Live in a Swamp, to Be Honest

Note: This post contains affiliate links to some goods I thought you’d enjoy. Using them allows me to earn a small finder’s fee, at absolutely no additional cost to you. Any product photos are the property of their respective creators, and appear here via a URL preview widget. Thank you for supporting independent artists and artisans, and this site!

I like looking at holiday decorations. I really do. Winter holiday palettes are riots of rich, lush jewel tones that make my heart soar. Burgundies, violets, cobalts, saffrons, you name it. I love them.

And then I go home and completely forget about them.

I'm not afraid to decorate with color (I probably wouldn't be much of an artist if I was), but my decorating sensibilities tend to be a lot more naturalistic. I once painted a bedroom in many, many coats of deep gray glaze because I wanted the walls to look like they had the texture of stone. If I'd been presented with the option of just living in an actual cave instead, I probably would've taken it. My ideal house is probably a tree house. It's part of why my significant other tells me that living with me is like cohabitating with some kind of weird fae. He's not wrong.

All of this is to say that I found a lot of gorgeous holiday decor that still meshes with my desire to live in some kind of enchanted swamp, and, if you're like me, you might dig these pieces, too.

This natural boxwood garland


Christmas Garland, Garland, Boxwood Garland, By The Foot, Custom, Mantle, Mantel, Wedding Decor, Natural, Real Greenery, Holiday Decor


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: BoxwoodManorFarm.[/caption]

Every last inch of this garland is hand-wrapped using fresh boxwood greens. It's lush, natural, and can hold up through even the longest holiday parties. Whether left as-is or adorned with string lights, bows, or ornaments, it's a fresh, beautiful accent to woodland holiday decor.





This velvet and silk tree skirt


25" Evergreen Velvet & Silk Christmas Tree Skirt: dark sage olive green mini small tabletop


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: FeeneyLane.[/caption]

I love the color and texture of this 25" tree skirt -- it's almost evocative of moss and leaf litter. The sage color makes it right at home in a rustic, woodland settling, while the plush velvet and shiny silk make it worthy of even the fanciest little tree.




This tree skirt made of literal moss


Round Moss table cloth-Moss Christmas tree skirt-Preserved moss no water needed-Real moss


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: TeresasPlants.[/caption]

Whether you need a tree skirt or a tablecloth, as long as you want it made of actual moss, TeresasPlants has you covered. I love the look of this (of course, I'd have most of my furniture made of twigs and moss if science would let me), it would make for a really gorgeous woodland table.






This bay leaf and rosemary wreath


Bay Leaf Wreath with Rosemary, Christmas Wreath, Fresh Wreath, Rosemary, Herb Wreath, Organic


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: McFaddenFarm.[/caption]

I love fresh greenery in winter, and I have a special fondness for the smell of rosemary. These wreaths are fresh, and chock-full of aromatic bay and rosemary that smells as good as it looks. Hang them as-is and enjoy their natural beauty, or decorate them with some of the rustic ornaments below.





This cuddly-looking little snowman


Snuggled Up Woodland Snowman With Wooden Snowflake Needle Felt Wool For Fun Winter Decor


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: all4fiberarts.[/caption]

How cute is this guy? Needle felted from merino wool and bamboo fiber, he's about as soft as he looks. At 5.5" tall, he can be at home on your tree, in a window, or as part of a holiday centerpiece.





This rustic pinecone-and-juniper ornament


Christmas Decorations, Christmas Tree Ornament, Pine Cone Ornament, Natural Rustic Woodland Holiday Decor, Preserved Evergreens, Dry Flower


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: Lot450shop.[/caption]

This pine cone ornament, with preserved baby's breath, greenery, and juniper berries, is equally beautiful hanging from a tree, the middle of a wreath, a doorknob, or overhead.





This adorable needle felted owl


Christmas Owl Holiday Ornament Wool Needle Felt Decoration Woodland Tree Waldorf Bird Home Decor


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: GladOArt.[/caption]

This cute little guy is needle felted from natural wool. At about 2.5" tall, he's great for small trees that can't handle heavy ornaments!





These lovely Yule ornaments


Yule decorations, Yule tree ornaments, wiccan decor, pagan decor, druid neopagan witch, pagan Christmas, Yuletide blessings, Winter Solstice


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: ScriptoriumJulianum.[/caption]

These unique laser-engraved wooden ornaments are the perfect addition to your Yule decor. Their designs are intricate yet understated, and allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.




These wooden mushroom ornaments


wooden Christmas tree ornaments, woodland holiday decor, mushroom Christmas tree ornament, wooden Christmas decoration, wooden ornament set


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Source: IdeaForest.[/caption]

Made from wood and natural linen cord, these mushrooms are perfectly at home in a woodland Christmas.



 

What's your holiday aesthetic? Do you have any decorating favorites you'll be putting up this year?

 

 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Year of a Beating Heart

It's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm pleading for help.

Wide-eyed, I have a hand pressed to my chest. I can feel my heart hammering through my ribs -- fast enough to make the nurse and physician's assistant spring into action.

"Blow into this," one tells me, placing the barrel of a syringe between my lips. I do it. It takes a few tries, but the reflex eventually takes -- my heart slows down fifteen beats or so per minute. They don't want to give me medication to slow my heart, and I understand why. There are many situations where the cure can be worse than the disease, and, believe me, brute-forcing yourself into a slower heartbeat is one of them.

It doesn't help that I have raging cardiophobia, either.

I stay in the hospital over night. They give me some Xanax, but, because I'm afraid of pills, the doctor and I compromise on the lowest dose possible. It does nothing. Two hours later, I allow myself to be talked into a shot of Ativan. I build a small, avant-garde sculpture out of pot roast, and text everyone I know demanding that we find a way to play a card game over Skype. I'm asleep an hour later.

The next day, I'm told my heart's fine -- the cardiologist didn't see anything on my EKG that warranted concern, and overnight monitoring showed my heart never got above 70 bpm. Just in case, though, I'm given a prescription for propranolol and a referral to see another cardiologist.

[caption id="attachment_1946" align="aligncenter" width="431"] The name says lol, but nobody was laughing.[/caption]

It took me awhile to realize that Diamox was what was causing the problem for me. Every time I took it, I was guaranteed to be wracked with anxiety and have at least one episode of my heart racing. I wasn't even afraid of Diamox anymore, since I'd been taking it for years. Just, out of the blue, it decided to start hitting me with this particular side effect out of all of the other Diamox side effects I'd already learned to deal with.

I had to make the choice between protecting my brain, and protecting my heart. I went with my heart.

That was about a year ago. Since then, I've managed to avoid needing beta blockers again. I re-filled my prescription for propranolol last January, and still have all of the pills. Even though I don't take them, I keep them in my purse. Knowing they're there is like a talisman -- it keeps me calm when I feel anxiety malevolently stalking the edges of my perception like Black Shuck.

Since quitting Diamox, I've also been able to help re-gain some of the weight it made me lose (though that's a subject for another post). I've become stronger, physically. I can climb stairs, lift things, and cook without having to sit down. I still have a long way to go before being fully functional (and, with the damage to my vision and memory, it's doubtful I ever will be), I still drop things, I still have pain, I still get vertigo, but I'm getting better day by day.

I don't recommend doing what I did the way I did it, but, if you're having severe anxiety and  a racing heartbeat on Diamox, the problem might not be all in your head. Nobody's entirely sure how Diamox works for people with IIH -- it's definitely not a great treatment, just one of the best noninvasive options we've got. Talk to your doctor if you're having Diamox side effects like this. They may be able to adjust your dosage, help you control your symptoms, or change your medication to one that's better for you.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Curious Things This Week -- 11/12/2017

Hello! This week, I have for you:

Face of 18th-Century Torryburn Witch Revealed in Digital Reconstruction -- In 1704, an old woman named Lillias Adie was accused of causing one of her neighbors to fall ill. When she was brought before the authorities, she confessed to being a witch with a series of confusing, nonsensical tales about unearthly lights and dancing in the forest. She accused many others of witchcraft as well, before dying in prison.

45 Scary Mythical Creatures from Around the World -- I'm a bit surprised there aren't more Unseelie fae pictured here. Then again, you could basically make an entire poster of just them. It's a wonder any Irish people ever survived to adulthood.

Noel Gallagher calls scissors-playing bandmate the “greatest thing” he’s ever seen -- "Noel has said of his scissors-playing bandmate: 'She’s French and she’s eccentric to say the least. I said to her, ‘can you play the tambourine?’, She said, ‘I cannot play the tambourine.’ I said, ‘Oh right. Shaker?’ ‘Non. I can play the scissors.’ She brought them in and I was looking at my bass player going, if that’s not the greatest thing you’ve ever seen then tell me what is. A French bird in a cape playing the scissors? It doesn’t get any better than that does it?'"

The Fungus That Turns Ants Into Zombies Is More Diabolical Than We Realized -- What we thought was a brain parasite actually appears to be much, much more terrifying: "[N]ew research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the brains of these zombie ants are left intact by the parasite, and that O. unilateralis is able to control the actions of its host by infiltrating and surrounding muscle fibers throughout the ant’s body."

Ancient Greek 'Masterpiece' Revealed on Thumb-Size Gem -- "The carving in full detail can only be easily seen with a photomicroscopy camera lens. Some of the details carved onto the stone are only half a millimeter big. A magnifying glass may have been used to create the details on the stone, but according to Stocker, no type of magnifying tool from this time period has ever been found."

Please Stop Trying to Sell Me Shit! (I’m Just Not Your Gal) -- If chunks of your social media feeds have been taken over by earnest women pushing everything from makeup, to weight loss, to oils, to pants, this might be for you.

Roy Moore's alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles -- "As a teenager, I attended a lecture on courtship by a home-school speaker who was popular at the time. He praised the idea of 'early courtship' so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband. The girl’s father was expected to direct her education after the courtship began so she could help her future husband in his work.
In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is 'predation.'"

Friday, November 10, 2017

Get Your Holidays On

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Giving gifts is a big part of Yuletide tradition for me. It symbolizes a celebration of hard work and a person's willingness to look out for those they care about -- during the cold, lean winter months, giving your time, effort, and money to give a gift to someone you love is especially meaningful.

My significant other and I have been together for a couple of years now, and we've had some time to evolve little holiday traditions of our own. Where I like ravens (and wear a whole lot of 'em), he likes phoenixes, and I always try to get him at least one small thing in that theme every year. This ornament from GielishWoodSculpture is not only gorgeous, the natural wood grain completely fits with the rustic, naturalistic style our decorating usually has. And, since it's only $20 and made of partially reclaimed wood, it's kind to your budget and the earth.


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: GielishWoodSculpture.[/caption]


With our small apartment (and now two cats!) we've always had small trees -- usually those little rosemary bushes you see outside of the grocery store this time of year. Though they may be small, they've become a big part of our holiday traditions -- it wouldn't be the Yuletide season without the smell of rosemary. If you have a rosemary lover in your life, this cute, Christmas-tree-shaped bath bomb by feelingsmitten makes an excellent gift. It's full of muscle-soothing epsom salts and skin-nourishing dead sea salts, so it's as functional as it is pretty. Gift it with these bars of rosemary, mint, and shea butter holiday soap from JOANSGARDENS for a soothing, fragrant spa experience.

When it gets cold enough outside, curling up by a snowy window with a warm cup of tea and some shortbread is one of our favorite winter activities. If you're looking for a gift for an officemate, someone who's hard to buy for, or someone who has everything, you can't go wrong with some delicious, caffeine-free rooibos chai tea from MerryMugTeas. Pair it with some decadent soft vanilla shortbread cookies from ASeasontoCelebrate, place them in a fancy basket, and you have a great gift idea for just about anyone.


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: MerryMugTeas.[/caption]

 


One of my other favorite winter traditions is lighting a bayberry wax candle. Even if you don't incorporate them into a prosperity ritual, lighting these candles is said to bring good luck and wealth into your life for the coming year. If you have a lot of holiday parties to go to, a pair of attractive, handmade bayberry wax tapers by ScenterSquare make for an excellent hostess gift.

Even though most people don't think of hiking or going to the beach during the winter months, it's one of my favorite times of year to get outside. My significant other and I come the beach for shells and fossils, see if we can spot animals sleeping under a blanket of snow, and wander through the changed landscape. One of our first dates was during a campout, so cooking over an open fire and making s'mores will always have a place in my heart. If you're shopping for an outdoor explorer, you can't go wrong with a gift like this artisan s'mores kit from talkaboutsweet. With handmade marshmallows, cinnamon graham crackers, and fine chocolate, it's an upscale model of the campfire favorite.


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: UrbanChaosUSA.[/caption]


If it's going to be awhile before your favorite outdoorsperson can hit the trail again, consider gifting this campfire candle from UrbanChaosUSA. It's a coconut/soy wax blend, fragranced with essential oils, with the nostalgic aroma of a briskly burning campfire. All of the atmosphere, none of the smoke.

Do you have a lot of people to give gifts to this year? What are some of your favorite finds?

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Vinegar of the Four Thieves

Have you seen or tried Four Thieves Vinegar or Oil yet? Curious about the name, or want to make your own? Read on!
The History of Four Thieves Vinegar

There's an old, and possibly apocryphal, legend about four cunning thieves. It takes place during one of many plagues -- some stories suggest that it was while the Black Plague was rampaging through Europe, anywhere between the 1300s to the 1700s -- in either the city of Toulouse, or Marseilles.

According to the story, these four thieves robbed either the graves of the dead, or the houses of the gravely ill. Not much was done about them, since the city had their hands full with the plague outbreak, and it was generally assumed that the thieves would eventually meet a grisly end from coming into contact with so many sick people. When they didn't, it raised suspicion.

Once the thieves were finally caught, they revealed that they'd been using a special concoction of herbs and vinegar to protect themselves from illness. To escape the gallows, they offered to barter the recipe in exchange for their lives. While it isn't known whether the city's law enforcement honored the agreement, we do know the recipe.
Preparing Four Thieves Vinegar

There was a copy of the recipe hung in the Museum of Paris in the '30s that purported to be the original that hung from the walls of Marseilles during an outbreak of the plague. It goes as follows:
Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram and sage, fifty cloves, two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelic, rosemary and horehound and three large measures of champhor. Place the mixture in a container for fifteen days, strain and express then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears and temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim.

Still other stories claim the recipe was different, and the thieves used it by taking spoonfuls of the vinegar every day. (You wouldn't want to ingest camphor and wormwood like that, though!)



Another old recipe I've come across that purports to be the original gives the instructions thus:
Take a measure of red wine, and add to it cloves of crushed garlic, and handfuls of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Cork the wine and let it sit until it goes sour and becomes vinegar.

If you search for "Four Thieves Vinegar," you'll find a ton of recipes from the simple to the complex, the delicious to the deadly, and the straightforward to the baffling. I think there are probably as many recipes for Four Thieves Vinegar as there are witches and healers who make it!
My Four Thieves Vinegar Recipe

While the recipe I use could be ingested (provided the bottles are properly sterilized first), I don't usually use it that way. Add it to a bath or a floor wash, anoint a candle or a petition paper, or wipe your door frames and window sills down with it to keep evil out and protect your space. It's said to be especially helpful in sick rooms, though, naturally, it doesn't take the place of a doctor's care.

For my version of the Vinegar of the Four Thieves, you need the following:

  • White vinegar

  • Garlic

  • Peppercorns

  • Rosemary

  • Bay leaves

  • Red pepper


 

Garlic and vinegar form the base of the preparation. The remaining ingredients are, themselves, unimportant -- as long as you're using banishing and purifying herbs, and have at least four of them, you're okay. If you're planning on ingesting the vinegar, use edible herbs and proper sterilization procedures while making the vinegar.

To make the vinegar itself, fill a jar or bottle halfway to the top with vinegar. Peel and crush the cloves of garlic, and add them to the bottle. Add the remaining herbs in whatever measure you deem fit. Allow to steep for at least ten days (though I prefer to wait for a month). Strain, and use.
Four Thieves Vinegar vs. Oil

With the rise in popularity of essential oils, there has been a corresponding creation of all kinds of oil blends. One of these is Four Thieves Oil, sometimes just called Thieves Oil. Despite the name, it often doesn't have much resemblance to the legendary vinegar. Young Living describes their blend as, "a powerful combination of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils."



I frequently see questions like, "How do I make Four Thieves Vinegar with oil?" The short answer is: You can't. Vinegar and oils will never mix. No matter how long you allow it to sit and infuse, they will never interact. You can add vinegar and essential oils to a bath or floor wash to good effect, but it is not the same as preparing Four Thieves Vinegar. If you want to infuse vinegar, the only way is to do it is with herbs and time.

 

Want to use Four Thieves Vinegar, but don't have the time, space, or wherewithal to prepare it yourself? There are tons of sellers who can help you out. It's usually inexpensive, and readily available on sites like Etsy or in your local natural health store or occult shop.

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I hope you had a happy Samhain!

Hello!

It's been a bit. I've been working on more paid writing and getting somethings together for a couple exciting new projects I'm hoping to get underway this coming year (doesn't it seem like every blogger is "just so excited" to tell you about their "new project," though?). How have you been?

Last night was Samhain, and the Whiskey Witches charity Halloween party at Slash Run. I didn't get any pictures -- which is a good thing! I was too busy talking to people, which I sorely needed -- but it was a lot of fun. It was nice to meet new witches and make friends. I was tempted to volunteer to offer tarot readings for charity (all of the proceeds from the readings at this event were donated to Community Connextionz to purchase reusable menstrual cups for local women in need), but it's been ages since I've done readings professionally.

Is it still stage fright if it's just one other person and a deck of cards, not a stage?

[caption id="attachment_3363" align="aligncenter" width="513"]tarot cards, tarot significator, king of cups, king of swords I did bring a deck with me, just in case. No, it was not the Regretsy deck.[/caption]

 

Either way, it was a really good time. My S.O. even enjoyed himself, though I think a good part of that was that he was just happy to see me out and socializing. I haven't been able to do much for years (I went to my first concert in ages not that long ago), and I really needed the chance to get out and talk to other people.

How was your Samhain?