I feel like these things wouldn’t skip generations if we’d just stayed Catholic when we left the Old Country.

In a breathtaking display of keeping up with the times, I’ve been watching Motherland: Fort Salem on Hulu. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick summary.

Puritans: “You’re a witch, and we’re gonna execute you!”

Witch: “I mean, you’re half-right.” [glares in witchcraft]

Puritans: “Change of plans. How about we don’t execute you, and in return, witches run the US military complex for the next 300 years or so?”

Witch: “Okay, sure. We could probably get two seasons out of that.”

According to the show, witch power is passed from mother to daughter, which got me thinking about my own mom, who died on Samhain 2018. Seeing as how tomorrow is Beltane, the only time of the year when the veil between worlds is as thin as it is in late October (which means her spirit is probably right behind me, sighing passive-aggressively at my grammatical choices), I thought I’d tell you guys a story about her.

A little over a decade ago, my brother and sister-in-law announced that they were going to have their first child. They’re both doctors, so we had no reason not to believe them, although I did my best to remind the rest of the family that their cat had been diagnosed with clinical depression the week before, and that it was now trying to actively murder the semi-feral kitten they’d brought home to keep it company, so maybe it would be best to get anything they spawned into foster care as quickly as possible.

It was a losing battle, though, so instead, I convinced my mom that new parents have no business naming their own children. (I’m not even going to get into what they named the cats, but as head guncle, I had to draw the line somewhere.) We were sitting around one day, sipping coffee and debating our favorite binary appellations (her: Graeme and Caroline; me: Oscar and Savilla), when out of nowhere, my mom said, “Your grandmother was a Romani fortune-teller.”

I should preface this by explaining that my mother had a long history of saying weird shit at odd moments. “If you were going to murder someone, how would you do it?” she once asked, in the middle of a crowded Mexican restaurant. Then, while everyone else at the table was choking on their enchiladas, she added, “I’d use an organic poison that metabolizes as an innocuous waste product. But that’s just me.” So the fact that she causally mentioned that my grandmother was a fortune-teller in the middle of a discussion on baby names isn’t as bizarre as the fact that my grandmother was, apparently, a fortune-teller.

Understandably, I asked for clarification. And she explained that back in the day, decked in Mediterranean scarves and oversized hoop earrings, Gammie ran a wildly popular divination booth at her small town’s annual Halloween festival.

“Well, was she any good?” I asked.

My mother shrugged. “I honestly haven’t a clue,” she said. “The lines were always too long, and I never got to see her. But she didn’t give real readings. She just said nice things to people to make them happy.”

I was both disappointed and relieved to hear her say this. Disappointed, in that how freakin’ cool would it have been to be able to say, “My Irish grandmother had the Sight! The Sight, I tells ye!” Relieved, because the whole “grandma was a witch” thing has been done to damn death within NeoPaganism, starting with Alex Sanders and rolling steadily downhill from there. So I was mulling over those emotions, and right on cue, my mother said (I swear to the Gods I’m not making this up):

“Your grandmother also had a flux in her personal electromagnetic field. She could never wear a wristwatch; they just stopped working as soon as she put them on.” She took a sip of her coffee. “You know how computers crash around you? You get that from her.”

Then, while I reeled from that little revelation, she asked, “Do you honestly want to name this poor child Savilla?”

The poor child ended up being Lauren (Everyone else: “Welcome, Lauren!” My mom: “Eh. I’ll just call her Caroline anyway.”), a bright, beautiful little girl who inherited her grandmother’s artistic abilities. In fact, inspired by her love of Percy Jackson novels, Lauren recently decided to draw a deck of cards that she could use to tell her own stories:

Lauren Tarot
Definitely not a 10-year-old’s handcrafted Tarot. Although they may want to go ahead and name their next cat Pyewacket.

She’s probably too young to watch Motherland, but once she’s old enough to flip channels unsupervised, I’ll get her started on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And at some point in her mid-thirties, when she’s about to get initiated herself, I’ll be like, “What about Savilla as a witch-name? Because I’ll bet your great-gammie would’ve loved it.”

Back to My Root(work)s

Other than (obviously) not getting much writing done, quarantine has not been a bad experience. The company I work for is considered an “essential” business, but most of the admin team has been working from home, and the majority of our client meetings have moved to web platforms, so I pretty much have the office to myself. The Forge made the jump to online sales and curbside pickup and seems to be doing fine — I haven’t clocked in there since all of this started, but I will luckily have a place to go back to once the restrictions ease up. And although we don’t have access to the studio, Robert and I have been recording segments for the radio show via Zoom, so we will be on the air well into the forseeable future.

Without retail or bartending nights, my evenings and weekends have been blessedly free of obligation, and after spending a couple of weeks stretched out on the couch watching every horror movie I could think to stream, I branched out into light housework, eventually getting around to dusting my altar.

Putting the Her in Heretic since 1995.

Turns out, a simple cleaning spree was all that was needed to get my Witchcraft juices flowing again, and within a day or so, my apartment was reeking of seven-day candles and incense matches. [Ed. note: If you have limited ritual space and/or fundamentalist smoke detectors, incense matches are the freakin’ bees’ knees.] There was spellwork I wanted to do, but it required specific herbs, so I started digging through my kitchen like, “Let’s see, what will coordinate with bergamot and licorice? Calamus? Perfect! Too bad I don’t have a good anointing oil, though. Wait, don’t I have a recipe for that?” And then I was all, “But if I’m going to make an oil, I might as well find a use for this lemon verbena. And this angelica root. And these rowan berries. And whatever this malevolent-looking seed pod thing is.” So now…

I’ve got Special Oil #20 steeping and a Van Van concentrate blended together, the remnants of which will be made into Chinese Wash. Up next is a batch of Hot Foot Powder and a big bottle of edible Four Thieves Vinegar, and then I’ll be pulverizing a couple of red bricks, by which time the ingredients for Cast Off Evil oil should have arrived. And since I already have graveyard dirt, I may get ambitious and whip up some Goofer Dust too, except I found a lodestone under a bunch of stuff while I was reorganizing my supply cabinet last night, so I’ll probably just bang out some Attraction potions instead, since I’m more likely to need fast cash or quick favors than for my enemies’ legs to mysteriously swell.

I don’t know how long this obsessive interest in Hoodoo is going to last — thanks to ADHD, my fixations tend to be cyclical, and at any moment I could suddenly switch focus and get lost in a labyrinth of geomancy or notary law or the proper care and feeding of domestic fancy rats. But while I’m right in the thick of it, I’ll tell you this:

Roughly thirteen years ago, I signed up for the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo and Rootwork Correspondence Course. The class itself is only supposed to last twelve months, but my studies got derailed by alcoholism and neurodiversity, and I drunkenly drifted away before finishing. However, I am delighted to say that despite how long it took me to get back on track, I’ll be dropping my last two homework assignments in the mail next week. I don’t know if I’ll get a certificate of completion or anything at this point, but just the fact that I’ll actually be completing it is enough to make me burn a candle or two in my own honor.

Assuming that my anointing oil is ready.

Look! Fancy rats!

ETA: Anyone who uses a mortar and pestle to hand-grind the components of Four Thieves Vinegar without wearing a protective face mask gains automatic immunity to COVID-19. Ask me how I know. Just let me shove a cork in my sinuses first.