A loaf of bread, a jug of organic apple cider vinegar drink, and thou.

In the stage play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, which tells the story of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob describes his addiction thusly: “I got a demon inside me… a real live evil spirit called John Barleycorn.”

That line always struck me as weighted, but it wasn’t until last night, on the eve of my eighth year of recovery, that I realized why: It’s fitting that I got sober a couple of days before Lammas, the celebration of the First Harvest, because when you think about it, I really did sacrifice John Barleycorn to ensure my own survival. And that was an uncharacteristically good decision on my part.

So here’s to you, JB, you irascible spirit. Thanks for taking one for the team.

And THAT’S how you hex the Moon. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

I know I’m the last person to get around to discussing this, but as you’re probably already aware, a group of “baby” witches on TikTok allegedly tried to hex the Moon, which prompted a bunch of “elder” witches on the same platform (the primary requirement for elderhood apparently being purple eyeshadow) to glare mysteriously into their webcams and scream, “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIEEEEE.”

I’m not much of an investigative journalist, but as far as I can tell, the whole thing started when someone on Reddit was like, “Hey, those witches who hexed the Fey are going to hex the Moon next,” and various Netizens reacted accordingly. Okay. So. Alright, while it may not be the popular opinion, I am going to go out on a limb and say nobody actually hexed anything (or Anyone), for a couple of reasons:

1) It’s rumors and rumors of rumors right from the get-go, which is never auspicious.

2) It’s also literally a plotline from the fifth season of The Magicians.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s say some kids really did band together to toss woo at the Moon. What would possess them to attempt this? Well, as Jason Mankey rightly points out, kids are just going to do dumb stuff sometimes. (To quote one of my favorite comic book characters in her first appearance: “I’m thirteen. Stupid stunts come with the package.”) But there are also those suggesting that the bigger issue is the lack of support and educational resources for youngsters who want to practice witchcraft, and I agree with them as well. And I feel like I can be of assistance.

So gather ’round, children, and prick up your ears, because I’m going to teach you how to hex the Moon properly.

First off, we’ve got a LOT of historical precedence to work with. From ancient Graeco-Egyptian spells to bind the Gods, to taking back offerings when the Lwa don’t answer prayers, to burying St. Joseph to sell a house, occultists have long used coercive tactics to garner results from the Divine. But, since we’re specifically talking about the Moon, I want to look at a spell from Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, published in 1899 by the folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland:
Great Diana! thou
Who art the queen of heaven and of earth,
And of the infernal lands–yea, thou who art
Protectress of all men unfortunate,
Of thieves and murderers, and of women too
Who lead an evil life, and yet hast known
That their nature was not evil, thou, Diana,
Hast still conferred on them some joy in life.
Or I may truly at another time
So conjure thee that thou shalt have no peace
Or happiness, for thou shalt ever be
In suffering until thou grantest that
Which I require in strictest faith from thee!

Leland goes on to say:
Here we have again the threatening the deity, just as in [Inuit] or other Shamanism, which represents the rudest primitive form of conjuring, the spirits are menaced. A trace of this is to be found among rude Roman Catholics. Thus when St. Bruno, some years ago, at a town in the Romagna, did not listen to the prayers of his devotees for rain, they stuck his image in the mud of the river, head downwards. A rain speedily followed, and the saint was restored in honour to his place in the church.

What’s important here is that the curse doesn’t go into effect unless Diana doesn’t grant the witch’s request, which, if you’ve ever worked in retail, resonates. You know when a customer starts yelling about calling the 1-800 number on you, so your boss is like, “Ugh, fine, whatever, just give them the discount”? That’s pretty much what’s going on here. Personally, I try to take a more positive-reinforcement approach to my relationships with spiritual beings, but hey, a witch uses what works. If extortion is your bag, then I’m not going to ask to speak to your manager about it.

Although this does beg a question: How do the Gods Themselves feel about devotees hurling threats and invectives at Them for personal gain? For that answer, we’re going to flip over to Tumblr, because nine times out of ten this is how I think it goes down:

AntsAs for the TikTokians who may or may not have hexed the Moon in the first place, the whole kerfuffle will fade away soon, and the culprits will be forgotten, and the jokes and memes that are funny in context will stop making sense in the very near future. (“Why the fuck would anyone hex the Moon?” the newly-minted elder witch wonders, six months from now.) So I’m just going to go back to mucking around with herbs and oils, and tending to my daily devotions. And, y’know, ritually waterboarding a statue of St. Bruno if lighting candles isn’t met with success, because nobody likes asking twice.

Whole Cloth

There’s been a bit of discord in the online LGBTQ+ leather community of late, centered around uniform fetishism. The pressing question is this: Given the current sociopolitical climate, should people still wear police outfits to leather events?

Uniforms have long been a part of leather and kink (as exemplified by everything from Tom of Finland to the Village People), and will probably always remain a part of it, but it was kind of amusing to see all these white men have fits over the idea that it might be in bad taste to dress like law enforcement officers right now. The consensus quickly became that anyone “triggered” by uniforms should, and I quote, “Stay home, walk away, seek therapy,” which tickled me even further, since triggers and fetishes are both intense, psychological and/or emotional reactions to specific stimuli — if one requires therapy, then clearly, so does the other.

I thought about trying to engage some of the louder voices and offer digestible counterpoints, but then I remembered that no one has ever won an argument on the Internet, and that I always have a lot more fun when I’m actively being unhelpful. So instead, I uploaded the following picture with the caption, “Just doing my part to complicate the Great Leather Community Uniform Debate of 2020.”

I’m also available for handfastings. (Collar by Deviant Leather.)

My goal may have ultimately been to make some heads explode, but this is where this post does a complete one-eighty, because I have not been able to get over how correct that collar looks on me. It’s like the first time I saw myself in leather, or stepped into a Gardnerian circle; like a little voice in the back of my mind is going, “Congratulations! You just found another piece of the person you’re supposed to be.”

So, yeah, in conclusion, I am definitely going to go to seminary based on the fact that I look fetching in clergywear. But I’ve made bigger life decisions using far more superficial criteria, so no one should be too alarmed at this point. Unless one of my loyal Marjorettes has an aversion to the trappings of High Protestantism, in which case I hear you and promise to only wear the collar in social situations where everyone else is dressed like cops.

Bewitched, Bottled and Bewildered

My Dad: [reading the paper] “Huh. This artist made a face mask to ward off evil spirits.”

Me: “I would totally wear a face mask to ward off evil spirits.”

My Dad: [with a resigned smile] “Yeah. I know you would.”

I should mention that I’m in Boston at the moment. My dad is moving up here to be closer to his grandkids, and my brother and sister-in-law put us up in a lovely bed-and-breakfast for the weekend. Here’s what happened as soon as we walked into his room:

Me: [pointing at the mantle] “OH MY GOD, IT’S A BELLARMINE JAR.”

Howdy do, good sir.

My Dad: “A what now?”

Me: “A Bellarmine jar! They were produced in the Cologne region of Germany back in the 1600s. They were used to store beer and were satirically named after a Catholic cardinal who was infamous for wanting to ban alcohol across Europe.”

Everyone: “…”

Me: “This is just a replica, of course, but can you imagine if we just randomly found an original here? Haha! That would be awesome. Oh, and they’re sometimes known as Bartmann jugs, ‘bartmann’ being German for ‘bearded man.’ But I think Bellarmines are what most people call them these days.”

My Dad: [to my sister-in-law; half impressed, half concerned] “How does he even know all this?”

Innkeeper: “Hello! Just popping in to give you the remote control for your air conditioner.”

Me: “Hi there! I couldn’t help but notice a price tag on the bottom of this jar. Is it for sale? Do you accept cash?”

Innkeeper: “What, that? You can just have that.”

Me: “… Seriously?

Innkeeper: “Sure.”

Me: [delirious pterodactyl noises]

What I did not mention to my family is that Bellarmine jars were regularly used to make witch bottles. (As excitable as I am on the subject, I do sometimes know when to stop talking.) I briefly considered turning my new beardy friend into a witch bottle of my own, which would sadly dampen his curio value, but then I let myself into my room, where I found something even more useful waiting for me:

Boston Mason
No, Samuel Sewall. Thank YOU.

This made me so happy! Not only did I end up with another neat souvenir, but now won’t have to eat the entire jar of relish in my fridge back home before I have an appropriately-sized empty container. So many wins.

Later, during dinner, I was sharing the story of the time I begged Deborah Lipp to help me with a Tarot reading and then argued against her interpretation, which led to her including several pages in her next book that described, in loving detail, just how awful I am at reading Tarot [spoiler: I’m really awful at it], and my dad was like, “Sometimes I suspect you have this secret, multi-faceted life that you don’t tell the rest of us about.”

In response, I was like, “I promise I’m boring. I just know some people who know interesting people.” But shit, y’all. He’s onto me. I may have to bottle him.