by Angeliska on November 15, 2013
It’s the season for reading my most favorite story from my most favorite book by my most favorite author… The Erl-King, by Angela Carter, from her astounding anthology of dark fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber. It’s the very best thing to read around a wood-fire on a chilly evening, which is exactly what I shall be doing this upcoming full moon, for the Moon Language Story Circle. It’s the Mourning Moon in Taurus, and the theme of this month’s circle is Sadness and Relief. I love reading stories aloud, and don’t often enough get the chance to do it, so I’m very excited to get to participate in this gathering. This one, though – ach! It’s just such a pleasure to let those words roll off your tongue, almost musically. It’s a hypnotizing tale, about the magic of the woods, hunter and prey, and a strange kind of love.
I came across a sort of random assortment of fashion-y images stashed in one of my various inspiration folders, and thought their autumnal glamour might illustrate some lines from the story well. I forget where they’re all from, alas. But aren’t they lovely?
I walked through the wood until all its perspectives converged upon a darkening clearing; as soon as I saw them, I knew at once that all its occupants had been waiting for me from the moment I first stepped into the wood, with the endless patience of wild things, who have all the time in the world.
A young girl would go into the wood as trustingly as Red Riding Hood to her granny’s house but this light admits of no ambiguities and, here, she will be trapped in her own illusion because everything in the wood is exactly as it seems.
He smiles. He lays down his pipe, his elder bird-call. He lays upon me his irrevocable hand.
His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood.
There are some eyes can eat you.
The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up.
There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy.
What big eyes you have. Eyes of an incomparable luminosity, the numinous phosphorescence of the eyes of lycanthropes. The gelid green of your eyes fixes my reflective face; It is a preservative, like a green liquid amber; it catches me. I am afraid I will be trapped in it for ever like the poor little ants and flies that stuck their feet in resin before the sea covered the Baltic. He winds me into the circle of his eye on a reel of birdsong. There is a black hole in the middle of both your eyes; it is their still centre, looking there makes me giddy, as if I might fall into it.
Your green eye is a reducing chamber. If I look into it long enough, I will become as small as my own reflection, I will diminish to a point and vanish. I will be drawn down into that black whirlpool and be consumed by you. I shall become so small you can keep me in one of your osier cages and mock my loss of liberty. I have seen the cage you are weaving for me; it is a very pretty one and I shall sit, hereafter, in my cage among the other singing birds but I — I shall be dumb, from spite.
(Artwork by Kristina Carroll)
Erl-King will do you grievous harm.
(Artwork by Chloe North)
Piercingly, now, there came again the call of the bird, as desolate as if it came from the throat of the last bird left alive. That call, with all the melancholy of the failing year in it, went directly to my heart.
Had to restrain myself mightily from not only buying this, but also passionately caressing her signature. There’s something magical about the fact that she was here in Austin, also – even though I was just a wee one at the time. She was here! Yes, I’m a little obsessed with her genius. I was only partially successful in not making a scene. Minor tantrum, but escaped sans book, bank account intact. Still ravenously coveting this treasure.
by Angeliska on November 11, 2013
A year is come and past, 11.11 winking bright and then gone again – and here I am, whole and hale and maybe a tiny touch wiser? There are certainly more silver threads in my crown now. Today, I feel remarkably at peace. Everything is changed, and nothing has. My life fell apart so spectacularly, it seemed completely insurmountable to even imagine how anything would ever knit back together. And yet, astoundingly, by infinitesimally slow increments, it has been doing just that. Not by accident, nor exactly by design – but by necessity.
Seems like all the same pieces are on the chessboard, just at different removes, and not at odds anymore really. Just living, turning in our own odd orbits. Getting on with it. We fall apart, tumble together, some smash to smithereens and reform in unfamiliar patterns. Everything turns, and time brings with it a slow mending. I didn’t believe it a year ago, no matter how many times I was told: that time heals all wounds. I still don’t. It’s not just time, the accumulation of sand in the glass that makes our memory of the sharp shock of it hazier, more bearable. The lines of those rough edges may have grown indistinct, but the outlines of the scars are still there. Just like any other injury – the way you take care of a wound matters. A dirty, unchanged bandage leads to infection. Ignore it, let time do its work, and you’ll end up with something nasty under that old rag. It’s not enough to let dust collect there, sticking to the scabs like gray pollen – not enough to just leave it up to the passage of days to do all the repairing. The work is ours to do, assiduously; the careful cleaning, a thorough scrubbing off of dead skin, the hardened eschar. Thick layers of illusion and denial slough off after repeated treatments. Daily, we must inspect for putrefaction; we try and stop telling ourselves the same bleak bedtime stories, to stop the spread of those poisonous narratives (my life is over, I’m going to die alone, no one is ever going to love me, et cetera et cetera ad nauseam.) Application of various salves, unguents, balms of gilead; in my case, these most often come in the form of long baths, puppy kisses, and dedicated headlong escape into the realms of fantasy fiction. Licking at the wound frantically like a scared animal, alone in a dark cave won’t do any good. To properly heal, you have to stretch that old scar tissue, rebuild the muscle memory, not let it all go slack, curl in on itself. This is the emotional equivalent of regular physical therapy – talking with good friends helps, especially if they are patient and understanding enough to listen to you tell the same tale of woe over and over, and particularly if they are wise enough to ask you the hard questions. Going to an actual heart/mind/soul therapist is a good idea, if you can find one that you really connect with – preferably someone who is smarter than you, can see through your crafty guises and pretenses, and who will call you out on your bullshit. A year of changing the bandages, going through the motions, spooning oatmeal into your mouth in the mornings, washing your face in the evenings, and somehow, we begin to heal.
The heart naturally leans towards forgiveness, acceptance. A mending. Amends. When we are all turned to dust, it will matter that we were kind, that we let it all go.
People come to me every day, holding their broken hearts out in their hands, red and raw. They want to cards to tell them all about how their lost love will change their mind, come back to them. They want me to make it all better, to tell them that it’s not over. I tell them what I learned from one of my teachers: that relationships don’t end, they just transform. It didn’t seem possible, to me then, either. At the time, I remember being incredibly skeptical that I could ever feel anything but complete devotion to my relationship, that I could ever not be in love with my partner. I resisted it, railed against it. Because honestly – it terrified me. I hated thinking that an undying love can just one day fade away. That someone you felt so passionately about can eventually melt into the background of your life, or ebb away completely. What does that mean for true love, enduring love? I’ve been forced to examine why that version of love has come to be the gold standard for me – the only one worth considering. Seeing an elderly couple, still in love after decades together, always just kills me. They’re crossing the finish line together, winning the black belt of romance, sticking it out and eking every last drop of time they have together. Making it count. I know we all die alone, but the things I love most are built to last: houses, furniture, friendships – and love.
A letter from my grandmother to my mother, in her amazing spidery script: “I suppose your Daddy and I are two of the most happy persons in the world! We have each other! We love each other! We love our four good lovely offspring, and their sweet spouses; and oh! How we love our darling grand-children. The best thing that ever happened to me was marrying your Daddy. He is so good, and so sweet – so industrious, talented and helpful. So dear!”
I was lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents who loved each other fiercely until the day they died. Maybe it was seeing my dad lose my mom to cancer; learning from a very young age how fragile the promise of a lifelong bond really is. So often, it’s not a choice. To be able to choose to be with someone, to stay by their side for as long as you possibly can – seems like such a gift, such a luxury. To me, it’s this kind of love, the forever kind, that I’ve always hoped to find. But I wonder now – does that make every other kind of love invalid? I think of myself often as being unlucky in love, because my relationships eventually ended. They didn’t make it, didn’t survive the heart’s cruel vicissitudes. Does the lack of longevity render those affections meaningless? Or is it because I was young and dumb, because it was really lust, or infatuation, or because we don’t talk anymore, or even think about each other, ever. What about the people you fall madly in love with, for the span of a few blocks, on the bus or the subway? What about your best friend who you had a burning crush on but never told? Well, I guess that I just don’t know.
A friend of mine told me a few months back that thing about how some lovers are for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. It stuck with me, that thought, kept me awake and thinking, until I flung off the covers, turned on the light, grabbed my magical information device, and tracked down this:
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person…
When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.“
I guess that I do know some things now.
I know that I’m still just a fool on the hill.
I know that you can always be surprised.
I know that you just never know.
I know that these words have helped me, immeasurably:
“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you. Now I say, I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”
– Jim Rohn
“I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse? You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.” — William S. Burroughs
“Ninety percent of the people in the world end up with the wrong person. And that’s what makes the jukebox spin.”
– Willie Nelson
Words of wisdom from folks I wish I could claim as my friends, but also I think of the truths from friends, the wise things they’ve told me to get me through. I’m so grateful for them. Even today, a perfect gem fell from the lips of my girl Nicole, quoting a song I’ve never heard, “just because it’s real, don’t mean it’s gonna work.”
And this precious diamond from Bridget Lanterna Magica via papercutting wizard Jack Wittenbrink in New Orleans:
“‘How fine to think the thing that’s coming will make this calibre of good look so shabby and impoverished. You’ve seen nothing of love’s riches. And what second best for you will be richer than the likes of me shall ever see in this life. You are destined for a love that is so rare and fine, few ever get it. I wish you were a rich woman and doubted me, that I would be rich when I won a wager with you on the fortune that awaits you. You have only to choose what chocolate to first eat from a rich assortment. Only your aching heart forbids you to see this. There is nothing holding you back.’
I hope you too take these words to heart, because they are true, true, true.”
“When things fall apart, consider the possibility that life knocked it down on purpose. Not to bully you, or to punish you, but to prompt you to build something that better suits your personality and your purpose. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – Sandra King via Bean
It’s kind of strange to think that it took me so long to get around to getting tattooed, especially when I had wanted these particular symbols and placements for so very long. I was just waiting for the right time, and the right person, I suppose. Kai Smart at Chimera Tattoo Studio in Santa Cruz was just that very person. She did an amazing job with the white ink (which many tattoo artists eschew), and is an amazing artist, and lovely friend. It was the right time. I felt so much stronger than I had in a long while – but also ready to embrace everything I’ve been through as part of the journey. Full circle. Sitting with pain, finding a new path, a measure of grace.
First tattoos. I’ve wanted these fervently since I was about 15. They are the alchemical symbols for glass & eggshells. These elements have always been powerful materials and sigils for me. Honoring what is fragile, yet strong. Both are vessels of transformation, capable of containing a multitude of possibilities.
Glass. Earth made liquid, mutable, transparent. I think of the wonder of Greek amphorae, the precious vessels that have survived here and there, at the bottom of the ocean – somehow, for centuries. I think of windows. I remember when I first saw this symbol, it made me think of the vévé for Ayizan Velekete, the Vodou loa who serves as archetypal Mambo, or Priestess. She rules over initiations, the marketplace, divination, and herbal healing. She dresses in white, wearing an apron with deep pockets, where she keeps candy and coins for the children who flock around her in the market. Her face is hidden by palm fronds. Her name means, “Sacred Earth”. Ayzian’s veve is comprise of her initials, the “A” and the “V” intersecting across each other. It also resembles the Norse rune Ingwaz, which represents harmony, fertility and sacred marriage – with the specific message being that love, harmony or peace may be hard to achieve, but to persevere!
Eggshells. The Romans had the proverb — Omne vivum ex ovo / All life comes from an egg. The egg is an ancient symbol for the universe, for creation – it is the seed, the nurturing capsule for new life. Eggs has always been sacred to me. It is the ultimate beginning, the zero, ouroboros, tabula rasa. An egg can protect an embryo, nourish the hungry – it is fragile, and yet can withstand immense pressure. A potent symbol of fertility and promise, the egg is featured in Spring resurrection festivals. Is it any wonder I love Easter so much? There’s a superstition that instructs children to crush up their eggshells, so that witches would not be able to use them as boats, and bring tempests to the sea to drown sailors. In witchcraft, crushed eggshells are mixed with salt, and used for protection, for the drawing of circles and sigils. This is commonly called cascarilla powder, or peace powder, and is used in Santeria, Haitian voodoo, and South American folk magic.
“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
Zora Neale Hurston
On 11.11.13, I didn’t go out to the woods. I didn’t build a fire and throw things into it, or light candles. I wished on 11:11, though, yes. I woke up early, and met with an old and dear friend. I attended to my neglected feet, and had my legs massaged and toes painted by a smiling stranger. I remember how crushing it felt last year, to go through these motions of self-care. I can recall so clearly sitting in the parking lot of a deserted shopping center in my cold car, a thin sliver of crescent moon high above, observing. I rested my head on the steering wheel, wondering if that horrible hollow feeling would ever go away. It felt like my chest was caving in under a great weight. Today, I sat in the parking lot of a different shopping center, feeling something totally different. Not riotous happiness, per se – more like a sense of being reasonably content (as well as unseasonably hot). I shopped for food for my animals, and food for myself. I bought a package of rainbow colored pens, thumbtacks and a red rosebush. Also some pansies, a cyclamen and later, a bouquet of nearly black roses. I romanced myself in mundane ways, and took care of business. I ate supper, and read movie reviews in the paper. In the evening, I sat on the porch in the gathering dusk and talked with the man who I once shared a life with, about this and that – hard things and easy things. Mosquitoes danced around our heads in thick halos. My heart did not hurt in a huge way. His face was full of shadows, clinging to his fine bones like moss, his eyes bright in the twilight. He left, after a bit, and I planted borage seeds, the air grown dark, my fingers pushing into the earth blindly. Earlier today, chatting over coffee about the all the stupid shit of life that sometimes births wonders, I said, “No mud – no lotus.” Later, I opened a gifted book (thank you, Elly…) at random to this poem:
The day lay like a pearl on her lap
she licked at it w/ the edges of her brain
The day shone in her lap like a promise
of lotuses sprouting from warm worm-eaten mud
– from LOBA by Diane di Prima
by Angeliska on November 1, 2013
One of my biggest dreams is about to come true. For years, (nearly 8 now!) I have dreamed of somehow making a Day of the Dead parade like the one that happens every year in New Orleans occur here in my hometown: Austin, Texas. Ever since Katrina blew me back this way, I’ve sought to preserve the magic that my many years in the Crescent City showed me: the incredible experience that reveling in the streets can bring, The joy of elaborate and creative costuming, and the reverence for the spirits of the dead, combined with an awareness that they are never truly far away from us.
I have a deep desire in this life to change somehow the way that we approach death and grieving in our society – whether through my interactions with individuals, or within a larger community. I also feel that the meaning of life boils down to singing and dancing while you may, and making the time and space for that to happen – especially on significant holidays, particularly in public spaces, and absolutely surrounded by likeminded folks who are ready to go on that journey together. These are acts of ritual significance that have been eroded by our modern existence – we have forgotten: how to mourn our dead, and how to express the joy of truly being in the moment, moving our bodies, our bones. I feel that helping to create a Day of the Dead Parade here in Austin (at last!) is not only something I’ve been wishing for for ages, it’s also a beautiful culmination of these two aspects of life that I’m intensely passionate about exploring and experiencing. I’ve been involved in creating special parties and events pretty much continually over the last decade of my life, and it is an act of creation that I have always perceived as a particular kind of magic making: bringing people together, casting a glamour and weaving a spell into the ambiance to ensure an evening that will be remembered. I love doing that work, but in the last year or so, my focus has shifted. I’ve felt called to quieter pursuits: reading tarot, working as a witch, and of course – writing. I want the parties I participate in not solely be only for pleasure, but also to have a deeper spiritual meaning, an anchor for the year, to mark the days that seem to spin past us like wind.
It began last winter with 12th Night. I joined forces with four of my very favorite lady dynamos to create a midwinter celebration to kick off the carnival season and shake off the dark doldrums – which it definitely accomplished, and then some!
My year would never be complete without experiencing Mardi Gras the way it’s done in NOLA, and I hope to always make that pilgrimage back to my heart’s home no matter what – but this is my home too, and it’s important to me to try and share as much of the beauty and sparkle and wisdom that I learned by the banks of the Mississippi River with all the people I love here in Texas. Holidays are sacred. There is powerful magic in paying attention to what they represent, and doing your best to do it justice. And so, it begins. New traditions, old ways: marked on the calendar, honored and delighted in. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. I hope that if you can, you’ll come and be part of it.
November 2nd traditionally marks the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day) which is honored in cities and villages all over the world. This year, the ladies from Krewe du Bisoux would like to bring you a special celebration of this sacred holiday, and to hopefully help this beautiful tradition have a place to blossom again, here in Austin, Texas. Inspired by the parade arts and culture of New Orleans, the procession is a big part of the magic of this holiday – bringing to mind the jazz funeral parades in Louisiana where loved ones would accompany the coffin-bearing carriage or hearse to the cemetery to be buried. The path to the boneyard was a solemn one, but upon leaving, the band would erupt in a joyous riot of dancing and music – an affirmation of life for those who must go on.
Day of the Dead is celebrated in the Bywater/9th Ward of New Orleans every year with a wild and rag-tag procession that is always somehow somber, heartfelt, and joyful all at once. The parade wends its way through the dark streets to the Mississippi River, between houses and over train tracks, carrying ashes, lanterns, photos and memories. Instead of ending at the river, our procession will be complete at Tillery Park, a new eastside locus for finding treasures, tastiness, green growing things – and much magic. There, we will will have altars set up to honor those who have passed on, inspired by many cultures, but most especially in the vein of pre-Columbian Día de los Muertos rituals honoring the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl, who keeps watch over the bones of the dead, and presides over the ancient festivals of death. Known as the “Lady of the Dead”, she has come to be represented by the elegant Catrina figure, in her feathered hat and beautiful gown, represents the equalizing power of mortality over rich and poor alike. Sugar skulls (calaveras or calacas) and other treats, such as as pan de muerto, candles, photographs and marigolds, are part of the traditional offerings on the altars for the dead, to satisfy their sweet tooths and welcome them home. We will be creating several altars at Tillery Park which we hope you will contribute to with your own special offerings.
Making sure some of our favorite customs are upheld within the community and making it something to be shared publicly, is a very important aspect for us. By taking this festival to the streets and into our neighborhood, we hope to revive an ancient tradition dear to our hearts, a remembrance of all those we have loved and lost. We aim to create a parade for dashing fellows, sparkling queens, urchins and mamas and their little ones and elders and sisters and brothers and lovers. And, of course, for our beloved dead – invoked, unseen, everywhere.
They’ll be dancing with us, through the streets of East Austin.
For more info, please check out our website: www.dayofthedeadatx.com
As a special feature of the altar & celebration at Tillery Park, we’re going to have a projected slideshow of photos of our loved ones that have passed. Guests have been invited to submit photos of their own, and have been sending in the most touching stories and images.
Hay más tiempo que vida!
ALL LIT UP: DIY PARADE LANTERNS AND TISSUE PAPER DREAMS
We also had an awesome lantern-making workshop in preparation for the parade – so many lovely folks came out and got crafty. Many gorgeous lanterns were made, and a wonderful time was had by all.
Day of the Dead in Bywater New Orleans 2012
Day of the Dead March New Orleans 2011
Posts from years before:
by Angeliska on October 30, 2013
In honor of the season, I’m making an effort to revive my honeyed treasure trove of findings and wonders from all corners of the web. I’ve been collecting little bits of spookiness and spectral delight for a little while now, and am happy to finally have a moment to share them here – beginning with the wonderful portrait Darla Teagarden took of me one sultry summer, lordy – a couple years ago, now. She’s a genius, and so amazing to work with. I felt extremely honored to have the opportunity to be transformed by her eye.
Image by Emiliano Boga
☾It’s odd, but I’ve grown snapdragons for years, and never noticed the little skulls formed by the dried pods until I saw this: The Dragon’s Skull: The Macabre Appearance of Snapdragon Seed Pods
“A couple hundred years ago, a mole was a mouldywarp or ‘dirt tosser’. These chthonic beings are suspect, or so says Leviticus. They are counted among the unclean ‘creeping things that creep on the earth.’ Apollodorus of Athens tells us that the ancients believed eating the heart of a mole would give one the gift of divination– the ability to metaphorically see into darkness, and Pliny the Elder claims moles can hear you talking about them. Moles are of the dark company, the sort that make pacts with witches. Isaiah tells us enlightened men will toss their idols of gold and silver to the moles and bats.”
But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
“But now I began doing little experiments on my property. I’d been working on a book about beetles and I thought this might make a chapter. So I put out roadkill — mice, raccoon, a shrew — and then watched for who came and how nature’s undertakers — burying beetles, maggots, gorgeous green bottle flies — broke the carcass down.
The entire scene was about transformation. A mouse would die and get eaten and it became beetles. Or its molecules could become part of a hawk or an owl. I looked at a moose and a deer carcass and I was fascinated by how quickly even big things disappeared in nature.”
Death and the Patron – Preamble to the commentary on the esoteric meaning of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Death and the Miser
“My sister and I always heard our names called. My father always said it was the wind, but the wind don’t say your name. I didn’t like going up on the third floor, that’s where I saw a man sittin’ in an easy chair. Sometimes it sounded like people were walking around the house and running down the halls. When we first moved there the floor in the back room was all cluttered with love letters. Maybe that guy died there or somethin’. That place made me feel so weird. My mother died in the house the day we were moving out; I feel like a part of her is still there. It was always cold in the house so my mother was happy we were moving to a warm place. The moving vans had just left, she was finally gettin’ out of the house and she never got out. As bad as I wanted to leave cause it’s creepy, I miss it. I’m not sure if it’s true but I heard that the man who bought it won’t stay there ’cause it’s haunted. The place has been empty for a long time.”
— Cheryl, who lived with her family in the house from the 1950s until the 1970s
☾ I want this book very, very much: Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare, Dr. Nevill Drury
“Although they never met, the Australian witch Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) and British visionary artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) shared many points in common. As occult practitioners operating within the Western esoteric tradition, both artists were well versed in the literature of Western magic, Theosophy, kabbalah, Eastern mysticism, and modern psychoanalysis. Fascinated by mediæval magical grimoires, they also explored the ‘seals’ associated with elemental spirit-beings and developed unique forms of sigil magic. Perhaps even more significantly, Norton and Spare utilised their own personal techniques of self-hypnosis and trance in order to produce their distinctive visionary artworks. As this book demonstrates, there is a clear parallel between the trance states associated with the Zos / Kia cosmology of Spare and the trance magic of Norton. Profiling both artists in detail, and with in excess of 120 colour and black and white images, Dark Spirits explores the unique contributions of both Spare and Norton as visionary outsiders and is necessary reading for anyone interested in the nether regions of the magical psyche.”
Dr. Nevill Drury passed on October 15, 2013 – a last interview with him is posted at Occult of Personality.
☾ Also, I must go here one day: The History of Icelandic Sorcery
☾ Another book I’m very much looking forward to reading: The New Uncanny
‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove,’ by Karen Russell
“Bats in a cave are ‘a chandelier of furry bodies, heartbeats wrapped in wings the color of rose petals or corn silk.’”
Hope your Hallowe’en is marvelous! Here are some olden posts from spookytimes of yore:
by Angeliska on August 8, 2013
August 8th is the twenty-seventh anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year when this day rolls around again I take stock of the condition of my heart, and pause to consider my path – the one that has led me from the womb to whatever I may find on the road ahead. Two infinite eights, a snaky double lemniscate, always a fierce harbinger of sweltering dog days and thick dark storm clouds, heavy with memory. Although this year, something has changed – the air has shifted somehow, and I find a weight has been lifted off somehow. Somewhere in the depths of my broken heart, a strange and solemn joy has been unfolding feathered pinions. I think this is what’s known as… healing. Every year that I’ve taken the time to honor the day of my mother’s passing, I’ve grown a little, learned some, healed a bit. I realize how angry I was at her, for so long – for leaving me, for not saying goodbye properly, even though she had plenty of opportunity to (or so I thought). Children are self-absorbed, thinking the whole world revolves around them – and so, for a long time I never took the time to imagine what it must have been like for her. How terrifying, to be dying, to be leaving everything you knew and loved. The enormity of saying goodbye. I didn’t realize then how many people dying from a terminal illness are so consumed with their sickness and pain, not to mention contemplating the imminent termination of their mortal sojourn, that tying up loose ends and saying impossible goodbyes often go by the wayside. What words could possibly make it better, anyhow? Well, I can think of a few. All my life, people who were close to my mom have informed me about how much she loved me. My brain registered their words, but my heart wasn’t convinced. I thought that if my mother had truly loved me, she would have fought harder to stay alive, to stay with me. Or, at least, she would have taken me aside and said all the things that would prove that she really cared. I think now that maybe she’s been saying them to me all along, whispering them in my ears, brushing my hair out of my sullen face – I was just too hurt and mad to hear it.
I randomly came across the last letter my mother ever wrote to me on July 3rd of this year. It was written about a month before she died – dated July 3, 1986. I found it 27 years later, to the day. You can tell she was really hurting because her handwriting is so shaky. Her words reaching out to me from across the void, through the ether. I had read it plenty of times before, over the years – but it had been awhile. I saw different things in it than I was able to perceive before – reading between those lines meant for a child’s mind, the pain and longing bleeding over into her penmanship. She wanted to hear from me so badly. I did see the fireworks, and I did go to the Watts Towers, which I loved and still love. Somewhere I have a cassette tape we recorded as an audio letter to my parents. I’ve only ever listened to it once, because it’s so painful to hear my squeaky little voice trying so hard to sound jubilant and brave. We were all hiding our hurt and longing from each other, too well. Every night that I curled up on my cot in my grandparent’s North Hollywood guest-room that summer, I ached for her, calling to her with every fibre of my tiny heart. They had sent me away while she was settled into hospice in Lone Grove, preparing for the descent into the underworld. It was too much for me to have to see her that way, and they were protecting me, I suppose. Years later, my grandmother told me that around the time she wrote this letter, that she had called in the middle of the night and begged for them to put me on a plane the next morning, to send me back to her. She needed to see me, wanted me near. My grandmother told her that we had big plans to go to Disneyland the next day, and that there was no way she could disappoint me and my cousin Caleb, because we were so excited about seeing Mickey Mouse. Grandma said it was one of the biggest regrets of her entire life, not just calling a halt to our plans, and heeding my dying mother’s last wishes. Hearing that story from her was like being punched in the gut. I never knew. Maybe if I had come then, she could have told me all the things I wanted to hear from her lips in person, but by the time they finally sent me back to Texas, she was so weak and diminished. Her seizures had gotten bad, and her mind was clouded with painkillers. She died not long after. Even before I knew all that, I had found Disneyland to be hugely disappointing. None of the magic was real. Everything was plastic and robotic and overpriced and crowded and stupid. I hated everything about it (except for the haunted mansion, pirates and abominable snowmen, I guess.) So that’s why I loathe Disneyland. Because I could have seen my mother one last time when she was still able to talk to me. And Mickey Mouse fucking stole that from me.
I wear this chrysocolla flower cuff she made all the time. Her work was so exacting, every detail thought out and perfectly executed. Every piece I make is an exercise in following in her footsteps. I’m not so much a perfectionist myself, but in my mind, I imagine her scrutinizing my handiwork. I want everything to be as flawless as possible, to meet her high standards of aesthetic and craftsmanship.
I used to paw through this box of jewels when I was a child, imagining that my mother was some kind of royalty in hiding, to be in possession of such marvelous gems… All glass & paste, but precious to me.
My mother collected broken china plates that she had my Grampy grind and shape on a wheel into cabochons for her jewelry. I inherited this legacy from both of them, and am continuing their work as best as I am able.
I made this sterling silver & porcelain cuff for Mlle. Dana Sherwood’s birthday. The china piece was one of those cut by my Grampy for my mama back when she was alive & making jewelry. She didn’t live long enough to use them all, so that’s partly why I wanted to learn how.
Another piece I made for someone I love. None of these pieces will ever be sold, but instead only go as gifts to those I consider to be family. In giving them a piece of jewelry made from this old china, I am sharing a piece of my mother, of my grandfather with them. These silver threads connect us.
I think you can tell a lot about who someone is by what they love, by their taste, by what they collect & are drawn to. Material objects can be powerful emblems of identity & memory. With that in mind, I present to you, my mother. I didn’t find this list until a few years ago. It’s kind of crazy how similar we are in our tastes, and so many other things. Though, it’s really no surprise that what she loved, I also adore. Acorn, meet tree.
Things I Really Like
Perfume (certain brands) esp. “orientals”
Scented soaps and powder
Sexy panties and bras (black + red)
Blue Mirror glass
Flowers – especially “old” roses, iris + carnations
Nice cowboy boots + hats
Books (art, architecture, cars, plants + music)
Like to read: social commentary
Cadillacs from 1948-1952
Lamps and light fixtures
1940′s + 1950′s stuff – especially music, cars, + housewares (clothes too)
Jackets that look like riding habits
real cotton velvet
“Hotel” dishes (esp. Syracuse China)
glass-stopper perfume bottles
cats + some dogs; horses
fine stringed instruments
colored aluminum dishes
Shoes with ankle straps
fine leather goods
Glass brick, spanish tile, stucco
Today, instead of doing what I normally do on August the 8th – (isolating myself with my grief, processing, crying over old letters) I decided to treat myself nicely for a change, to celebrate her life, and do things she might do if she were still alive. I got my hair did the day before, got a massage from a dear friend, went out for gelato, hung out with my dad, and made a pilgrimage to the Elisabet Ney Museum – one of my mama’s favorite places, and mine too.
There’s a really sweet man in my life who knows me better than I know myself sometimes. He brought me fancy breakfast and roses (with the best moniker ever: HIGH AND MAGIC!) this morning because he knew that today is often a hard day for me. I usually don’t tend to share this day with anyone, but it was so nice showing him around my mom’s old stomping ground. We drove past the house where I was conceived and lived until the age of 3. He was so sweet and kind to me, and it felt good to go on adventures together instead of just brooding by myself all day. I think about this piece Cheryl Strayed (aka. Dear Sugar) wrote to a man asking how he could better be there for his partner who had lost her mother. I think it’s a really helpful thing to read for anyone who loves anyone who’s ever lost someone:
Or, if you’d prefer to hear her read it aloud to you, there’s this:
The Black Arc Of It – from Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
And by the way, if you haven’t read that book yet, please do. It has saved my life a hundred times over, and taught me so much. Oh, and yeah – I do quote something or other from it pretty much every year on this day. She just knows. Cheryl Strayed is the official President of the Motherless Daughters Coalition for Healing Your Own Goddamn Broken Heart. Pretty much because I say so.
My mother’s best friend was a magical woman named Lenore Nier, who lived in New York and loved purple and was a poet. She died of cancer, the same scourge that killed my mother, less than ten years later. She always used to send me postcards and letters from museums with her favorite paintings. Such a lovely woman. This poem to my mom was sent amidst a flurry of sympathy cards (which I used to disdain as mere Hallmark pity, but now wish people still sent each other. It’s a nice gesture, dammit.) It was inscribed on the inside of a card with a holographic rainbow unicorn on it, which I remember coveting. I have it now.
Roses and Crystals (To Maggie)
Go in love, go in peace.
You’ve left your love
Across the miles,
My house is filled with your souvenirs,
Your rings and your art.
You saved my cat when she was hurt.
You were a rainbow,
Roses and crystals,
Now you lay dying across the miles.
In love you die, to love you go.
Sad vigil’s end.
You were a prism of colored lights,
But now you’re light. Your love will live –
Your crystals and roses,
Your art and music,
Your husband and child.
In the end we all follow our lonely roads.
I wish you peace
(August 2 and 12, 1986
Brentwood, New York)
For so long, I have longed to communicate with her spirit, to hear her voice again. In dreams and visions, I manifest antique telephones and elaborate devices to facilitate our otherworldly conversations. I recently reread a vivid dream I had a while back, where I found her standing in my kitchen fiddling with an archaic radio set. She firmly tells me that it is time to put this thing back together, to get it working again. Her hair is hennaed even redder and pulled up into a bouncy ponytail. She’s wearing little shorts and a t-shirt and looks so young and cute. She’s intent upon the pieces of the communication device in her hands, and in her familiar voice and cadence, she says, “Oh, it’s fallen into disrepair – the metal has become corroded over time.” I grab her hands as she’s inspecting it closer and stand up to embrace her, saying, “Mommie, I miss you so, so, so much. I’ve missed you every single day.” I hug her and kiss her face all over. We are the same height now. I think she’s too surprised to know what to say.
I feel like recently, I finally broke through the membrane separating us: I had a profound experience where I was able to deeply commune with her spirit. During a powerful meditation, I found myself focusing on the mystery of motherhood and the magic of the crone. I was thinking especially about the amazing old women in my life, and how much love and respect I have for them. I was imagining myself growing elderly, my body’s inevitable decay. I thought about my aunt, who I adore – my mother’s sister. She lovingly took care of both my grandparents until their deaths, and I thought about what an honor it is to get to be present with someone you love, to return the favor of the care they bestowed upon you when you were small. To tenderly wash the aged body, the sagging breasts that you once fed from, the withered belly that you lived in, the weakened arms that once held and carried you. It hit me for the first time that I would never have the chance to experience my mother that way – that I would never, ever see her as an old woman, her auburn hair turned to silver, her face creased with lines, skin turned to crepe paper. I wept and wept for her, for the deep longing, the raw missing of her. So visceral, the clutching, reaching towards the body that you came from, the door where you came in. I grieved for her like a lost infant, and felt that ancient child’s cry bubbling up in my chest: “I…WANT…MY…MOMMIE!” She was the one I screamed for in the middle of the night when I was scared after a bad dream. I remember realizing with sorrow and shock soon after she had died that I would never be able to call to her in the night again. That she would never be able to come to me and comfort me, ever, from this point forward. The finality of death is hard for a little kid to comprehend, but I understood then what it meant. She was gone, permanently.
In the night, in the midst of that vision, I feel like she came to me: first, through her emblems, the sweet roses painted on fine china. Her symbols, the images that embody her spirit now – they flooded through me in psychedelic sunset waves of cactus flowers swirling like galaxies, emitting cascades of sparks and shooting stars. Fiorucci angels winking behind heart-shaped sunglasses and glamourous starlets with their hair in victory rolls, chorus lines of pink flamingos, and roseate flaming vintage dreamboat cars arcing through the sky like comets, like fireworks. She came to me through all this glory, and held me close. In her mimosa honey and tabasco voice, she told me everything I ever wanted to hear, everything I ever wanted to know. I know, now, completely, incontrovertibly, utterly: how much my mother loved me, still loves me. How precious I am to her. That I am the best thing she ever made, the rarest jewel in her treasure chest. I know that now, and I have to remember to carry it with me all the time, and never forget it. I told her how sad I am that she’s not alive right now, that she’s not in my world, awake and breathing in this life. She would be 66 years old. She tells me, “Y’know, it’s okay, baby. It really is. I’m at peace with it.” She tells me that she had had enough of the wisdom found in pain and suffering and sitting with the reality of her body breaking down, that she’s glad she died at her prime, when she was the most beautiful, that she didn’t have to know what it was to be an old lady. If she had, she would have been someone else, and I would have become someone else, too. It would have been a different story. And her story ended right where it was supposed to. She tells me that she’s free now, that she can go anywhere. In knowing that, in hearing the echoing truth of it resounding deep in my bones, I was able to finally let her soul go fly off joyfully to where it wants to be. For the first time in my entire life, I felt a sense of acceptance, and peace. It was so simple, and so profound – I watched her kind of shrug her thin white shoulders, and lips curved in that secretive Mona Lisa half-smile as she waved goodbye. Before she flew away, I caught a glimpse of that place where she lives eternally now, and it is so unimaginably goddamn beautiful.
My mother’s blue heaven is this: her fantasy dream car, a 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville is pulled over on the side of a lonely country road, out in between the corn and cotton fields. It is dusk, the sky a pure Maxfield Parrish periwinkle, deepening into cobalt and indigo, where silvery stars have just begun to glitter. At the horizon, the last shades of a brilliant sunset are fading into gold and dusty rose, and the bats and barn-swallows are chasing junebugs and mayflies in the darkening air. The headlamps of the Caddy illuminate my mother’s cowboy boots, and her favorite Hank Williams song is playing on the radio, competing with the fiddling crickets. She’s laughing and dancing with a long tall stranger, kicking up her heels in the dust of this perfect deserted twilight place. Out there in the wild blue yonder, where she’s dancing now – forever.
Hank Williams – When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels
If you’d like to read more about my mama, here you go: