Opening in Circles

Customer: “Could I get a bottle of Double Scorpio, please?”

Me: “Sure. Which scent would you like?”

Customer: “Hmm. What do you recommend?”

Me: “I’d go with either the Amber or the Gold.”

Customer: “Okay, sounds good. I’ll take that one.”

Me: “Which one?”

Customer: “The one you recommend.”

Me: “So… would you like the Amber, or would you like the Gold?”

Customer: “Yes.”

It’s the returning sense of normalcy that I treasure the most.

Merrie Marjories (or, Thumper Redux)

There was this momentary trend on Facebook where everyone was making adorable avatars of themselves, which was nifty or whatever, except my FB account wouldn’t let me create one. Maybe it’s just because my phone is crap, but I still felt left out, like I was the only live-action character in a movie where everyone else got to be a cartoon.

Fortunately for my emotional well-being, I can count both artists and clairvoyants amongst my online tribe. From 1200 miles away in Toledo, OH, my friend Kenji sensed my alienation and swooped in to repair my psyche:

Thumper Avatar 1

And before I could even finish gushing, he was like, “Hold, please,” and took it over the damn rainbow:

Thumper Avatar 2

Avatars that can bend air aren’t as fantabulous as this is, and I made it my FB profile pic first thing this morning, so that people would be confronted with it as soon they woke up. I don’t really have a better way to express my mind-blown gratitude for these portraits, but let me just add how happy I am that the assymetrical glasses remain on-brand.

Dancing Macabre On My Own

Happy World Goth Day! In observance of this, the darkest of holidays, I’d like to share some traditional dances taught to me by my friend Martin (a fellow Forgeling and most elegant goth himself), all of which are fairly self-explanatory:

Making a Spider Web

Picking Strange Fruit

Displaying the Scars on My Wrists While Walking Slowly Backwards

My Hands Are Bound Behind My Back and I Am Okay with That

You can click here for other lessons, or here to experience what it’s like in my head a lot of the time. And once you’re done cutting the rug shroud, you can slip on your sunglasses, glide somberly out into the world, and befriend a crow. Bonus points if you get the crow to dance with you.

Nothing Compares UU

[A conversation between myself and my dad over dinner.]

Me: “So I’ve started looking into graduate schools…”

My Dad: “Really? Are you going to pursue a degree in psychology?”

[Ed. Note: My dad recently decided that I should become a psychologist, based on nothing but my ability to talk him down from the ceiling during anxiety attacks.]

Me: “Well… kind of. I did some research, and I found out that I could get a Masters with an emphasis in counseling while studying other subjects that interest me if I go to a Unitarian-Universalist seminary.”

My Dad: “…”

Me: “So I would still basically be a therapist. But you know how friends are always asking me to officiate their weddings? I would get to keep doing that, too.”

My Dad: “So… you’d be a Unitarian minister.”

Me: “Yeah. I would.”

My Dad: “This is very exciting!

Okay, not quite what I was expecting, since his standard reaction to any career goal I put into words is, “I mean, if it’ll make you happy…” or occasionally, “Have you given any more thought to law school?” But I’m taking his unexpected enthusiasm as a favorable omen, and I spent a big chunk of last night figuring out how to make this happen.

There’s a cool UU church not too far from me that Trothwy and her husband joined after their ultra-conservative neighbors started getting suspicious about their religious proviclities, so I’m going to attend an online service there this Sunday and spend the next several months ingratiating myself. This particular church does not have a Covenant of Unitarian-Universalist Pagans chapter, so once I’m in good with the parish, I’ll petition to establish one. Meanwhile, I’m going to get started on the Sacred Well Congregation ordination process to back up the ministerial credentials I already have, so that my grad school application will be nicely fleshed out with life experience and relevent extracurriculars.

There are currently two Unitarian seminaries in the US: one in Chicago, and one in Berkeley, CA. Of the two, I’m leaning towards the Berkeley campus. I’d be able to do a lot of the coursework online, but I would eventually have to move to the Bay Area to finish up and matriculate, which would be pricey AF but also epic, because I could go through the Lucky Mojo apprenticeship program during my summer break, thus making Doctor Demidaddy an official thing.

I thought about running with Reverend Demidaddy instead of Doctor Demidaddy, but Ben says that Reverend Demidaddy sounds a little too rockabilly to be taken seriously. He may have a point.

Regardless, what happens next is this: I’ll return to Houston, and the Unitarians will be like, “Welcome back! Hey, that CUUPS group you founded really took off and needs its own space.” So I’ll be like, “Well, is that cute little decommissioned church over near the Heights still for sale?” And the Unitarians will be all, “It is! Here’s $800,000. Go crazy.” So we’ll get that organization off the ground, and we’ll convert part of the sanctuary into a lady chapel, where we’ll hold spiritualist candle services and Crystal Silence League meditations. And then one day, around 30 years from now, I’ll be like, “Welp, my work here is done,” and I’ll retire and run the church bookstore.

Oh, and we’ll host leather events in the Fellowship Hall.

This is the best plan ever.

PS: The title of this post is a visual pun of the first order, and if you didn’t laugh when you read it, then I just do not know what to do with you.

ETA: DEACON DEMIDADDY. We have a winner.

The Effect of NeoPaganism on Manslaughter and Marigolds

In response to my post on herb magic, Aidan wrote:

“Where was this when I first got involved with herbalism and really had no idea just HOW MUCH 2oz of chamomile flowers really was? It’s been years and I still have a full jar. I will never not have chamomile again. I’m probably going to die and be buried with a jar of chamomile flowers.”

And man, can I sympathize. Because fucking calendula.

Toward the end of my drinking career, this narcissist dipsomaniac gentleman caller with whom I was terribly smitten asked me to make an herbal charm for a court case he had coming up. Calendula is considered lucky in matters of the law, so I phoned a few places to find some, and had the following conversation with the sales clerk of a local occult shop, which I promise I am not making up.

Clerk: “Hello! Thanks for calling [redacted]!”

Me: “Hi, I just have a quick question. Do you carry an herb called calendula?”

Clerk: “We sure do!

Me: “Great, I’ll be right…”

Clerk: “Do you know the other name for calendula?”

Me: “Actually, I don’t. But I just wanted to see if…”

Clerk: “Marigold! So if you’re ever looking for calendula and can’t find it, you can also ask for marigold.”

Me: “Good to know.”

Clerk: “Because you see…”

[Insert 10-minute lecture on the mystical properties and various ritual uses of calendula/marigold.]

Clerk: “… so after you’ve asked the Goddess for Her permission, leave the polished stones in a silver bowl of blessed water under the Full Moon. And that’s how you use calendula correctly!”

Me: “Well, wow, very interesting. Thank you for the information. So I guess I’ll drop by in a bit to pick up some calendula.”

Clerk: “Ooh, sorry. We’re sold out.”

Had this interaction gone down face-to-face, no jury in the world would’ve convicted me.

Anyway, I did some more searching and finally found calendula. I made the herbal charm, his court case ended favorably, and he turned out to be a rip-snorting douche-canoe. And then I got sober. The End. Sort of. The mid-credits scene is as follows:

all the calendula

This is my leftover calendula. Nations will rise and fall before I run out of calendula. I won’t just be buried with calendula; I’ll be buried in calendula. The flowers themselves are edible and apparently have medicinal qualities, but I’ve had them for so long that I don’t know if it would be safe to actually ingest them. And of course, if I toss them out or cast the petals to the winds or whatever, I’ll immediately find myself in an emergency situation where one of the other bystanders/passengers/hostages will go, “If only we had some calendula,” and everyone will look to me with hope and desperation, and I’ll have to be like, “Oh. Sorry. I got rid of it. But I do have some spikenard…?” And then we’ll all die.

At this point, I’m about ready to just stuff an oversized body pillow with calendula to serve as a surrogate snuggle buddy when Ben‘s not in town. But before I start stitching, if anyone out there is gearing up to contest a traffic ticket or something, just let me know, and I’ll make you a potent herbal charm. Out of a duffel bag.

Witch Up and Grow a Pair

Back when I amused myself with such triflings, I got into an argument with a crazy person on a listserv who firmly believed that gay men could not and should not practice Wicca, because (if I’m interpreting her mad ramblings accurately) we don’t know how babies are made. I was banned from the list shortly afterward for pointing out an excellent place for her to stick her opinions on homosexuality, which was probably for the best, as I was wasting way too much time caring about what she thought. But every once in awhile, when the wind blows warm or the crickets sing, I’m reminded of that dear, lovely whackjob, especially when I’m discussing Wicca with other gay guys.

Because while Men Who Love Men are inherently liminal beings who are more than suited to practice Witchcraft of any kind, a goodly number of us are scared of lady bits. And that bugs me.

Before we go any further, I should own that between all the skyclad rituals and bondage seminars that cut into my sitting-around time, I am tragically jaded when it comes to nudity. I routinely find myself in situations where I hear things like, “See how I placed the crotch rope next to her labia instead of across her labia?” so I honestly don’t have strong feelings on nekkidness one way or the other. That clarified, I’m extremely put off by the animosity gay men often display towards even the very thought of vaginas, as if their existence is somehow a threat to ours. (“Do you support same-sex marriage?” “No. I am a vagina.”)

I’m sure there are a few guys out there who are genuinely phobic, but for the most part, this phenomenon is firmly couched in misogyny. We are men, after all: Our social conditioning asserts that women serve a singular purpose, and if we do not have a need for that service, women are ultimately useless. And just as straight men will brag about their sexual prowess and/or dominance to prove how manly they are, gay men seem to rate their own manliness on how much revulsion they’re able to exhibit towards the female reproductive system. Homophobia would be wiped out completely if straight dudes and gay dudes compared notes and realized we’re all on the same page when it comes to objectification.

A Pagan buddy with whom I occasionally circle recently came over to hang out, and he saw the Snake Goddess statue I keep enshrined in my living room and was all, “Eww, boobies.” I wasn’t planning on using this particular statue in our work together, since it’s delicate and doesn’t travel well, and I’ve already had to glue one of the snakes back on. But with his reaction in mind, I went ahead and snagged a sturdier alternative, and I really think I made the right decision.

kefi-2

The back of the statue is inscribed with the Greek word kefi, which, roughly translated, means joy, freedom, and loving life. I liked the thought of literally bringing kefi into our rites, but I chose this statue for a few other reasons:

a) It isn’t representative of any specific deity, so one is able to mold individual connections and associations around it.

b) Trothwy has another piece by the same artist, and it is remarkably potent in ritual.

c) Goddesses have lady bits, bro. Scary or not, you’re going to have to deal.

The Doctor is in. Or at least nearby. Definitely on his way. Lemme have him call you when he gets here.

So my friend Christopher and I were idly brainstorming what it would look like if I had an online presence as a spiritual worker, and things got a wee bit out of control, and we ended up with this:

5D

We were originally going to call it “Doctor Demidaddy’s Four-D Witchcraft,” but then we realized that Doctor Demidaddy actually has five d’s, and we didn’t know if the Fifth Dimension would be touchy about misappropriation of name and likeness. Plus I’m more than a little chagrined about our inability to count single digits. Our credibility would be shot if we ever decided to branch out into numerology.

ETA: Sarah says that Doctor Demidaddy is my best brand name to date, but I think she’s mainly just relieved that I’ve stopped retitling my notary business. I do kind of regret not running with ThumperStamper, though. Nobody steal that domain until I work through the last of my buyer’s remorse.

Caducifer’s Herbal (or, I’ve Got All This Spikenard and I Don’t Know Why)

I didn’t really have any mentorship when I first got interested in magical herbalism, although I lived in the Greater Houston area, so what I did have was access to an abundance of occult and New Age bazaars: If I wanted to do some witchcraft but didn’t have any good greenery to futz with, I could just run over to Body Mind and Soul, or Elemental Magick, or Karmic Fortune, or Lucia’s Garden, or the Magick Cauldron, or Metaphysical Matrix, or Rhyandra’s, or Simply Magick, or the Stanley Drug Co., or Tranquil Thymes, or Temple’s Gate, or the Witchery and buy whatever I needed. And while only BMS, the Cauldron and the Witchery remain from those days, Absolem’s, Celtic Odyssey, Indigo Moons, Pixie’s Intent, Raven’s Moon, and the monthly Thorn & Moon Magickal Market have risen up to fill out the ranks. Plus we have around 70 botánicas and yerberias.

I’m just saying we’re good on herbs.

The thing is, I learned a lot about where to shop for herbs, and how to properly weigh them, and who had the best selections and best prices, but I didn’t learn much about the properties of the herbs themselves, nor how to identify them without a label, nor how they relate to one another. So if I was working on, say, a spell for eloquence that called for deer’s tongue, it wouldn’t occur to me that bay leaf might make an effective substitute. Or I would go crazy trying to track down slippery elm bark for a spell to stop gossip, not realizing that clove buds would’ve worked just as well.

It also took me awhile to understand that unless I was making potpourri in bulk, I would never need more than a pinch of any given herb for a magical working. But herbs are usually sold by the ounce, so that’s what I would purchase, regardless of what alternatives I might already have at home. And I didn’t quite grasp that an ounce of light, leafy, finely-chopped material goes a very… very… long way. (See title of post.)

I’ve noodled before about witchcraft being a practice, and just like any other, you’ve got to get a good handle on the basics before gathering up all the super-specific stuff you may or may not ever use. Like, listen, I know you want to buy that asafoetida, because it’s got an awesome name and just seems terribly witchy overall, but I promise there is very little chance you will ever need it. First off, it’s primary, historical use is to make pacts with demons, and there are any number of ways to do that that don’t involve a taproot with an odor traditionally referred to as “devil’s dung.”

The best rule of thumb when stocking up on herbs comes from something Athena tells Ted the Bellhop in the first scene of Four Rooms: “Mostly what we need is from the kitchen.” With that in mind, here are 12 herbs that I recommend any newly-stamped witch have in their cupboard, all of which can be found reasonably priced at your friendly, neighborhood Safeway:

Allspice
Basil
Bay Leaf
Chamomile*
Cinnamon
Ginger
Marjoram
Mint*
Pepper
Rosemary
Thyme
Vanilla

I don’t want to get into specific attributes and correspondences, mainly because there are tons of excellent resources out there that cover the topic much better than I ever could (my favorites being Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic). Suffice it to say, all of these herbs have a variety of uses, and they can be mixed and matched in what I think of as “broad strokes” witchcraft:

  • A sachet of basil, marjoram and rosemary will make a home safe and peaceful.
  • Allspice, cinnamon and thyme will draw money.
  • Add rose petals to ginger and vanilla to make a love charm.
  • Throw black and red pepper in with some salt to banish the fuck out of ne’er-do-wells.

There are other common herbs that come in handy for more tailored work, but if you need to work a spell right this very second, at least one of the above will get the job done.

PS: The only herb not on this list that’s definitely worth having around is lavender. It’s not normally available at the grocer’s, but it’s still easy to find and multi-purpose as all get out, plus it can take the place of pretty much anything you don’t have on hand. Casting a love spell? Lavender. Warding against the Evil Eye? Lavender. House smell like week-old curry left out in the sun because you burned a bunch of asafoetida to make a pact with a demon even though I specifically told you not to? Lavender.

I mean, lavender won’t get rid of a demon, but it might make him feel pretty. Which will at least be a point in your favor.

*Most of these herbs can be found in the Spices and Seasonings aisle, with the exception of chamomile and mint — for those, you can bop over to Coffee and Tea. (Just make sure you’re getting a tea that’s nothing but chamomile or mint, versus a blend with multiple ingredients. Fun fact: Valerian, which is often included with chamomile for nighttime teas, is also used to make pacts with demons. You can totally still drink it to treat insomnia, but, y’know, maybe don’t chant over it while it’s brewing.)