I was ridiculously productive in the sweltering Chicago heat yesterday, making no less than 14 gemstone beaded necklaces in the span of an 8-hour workday; 12 necklaces have since been listed for sale on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns. From devotional pieces intended to honor Deities across a swath of pantheons (Celtic, Kemetic, Hellenic) to my new and expanding line of Spirit Animals to more standard occult fare, there’s truly something for everyone in this diverse lot!
A Religious Cult Without Context, for Starters: The Many Annoyances of Ari Aster’s 2019 Film, “Midsommar”
It was during an AMA on Reddit 13 months ago that American writer and director Ari Aster first announced that Midsommar would be the title of his next film and he was hoping to release it on Midsummer’s Day of 2019. He teased at its folk horror genre classification, revealing that Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1968) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973)—which, incidentally, happen to be two of my all-time favorite films—served as Midsommar’s two biggest cinematic influences. I was ecstatic upon hearing this news.
Coming hot on the heels of his powerful and bold 2018 debut film, Hereditary (you can read my review of it here), the bar for my expectations was set very, very high. I wanted to love Midsommar—I truly did. Unfortunately, though, in sharp contrast to the undoubtedly flavorful hallucinogenic teas consumed by the characters in the world of Midsommar, the film came across as grossly insipid to me. Far from elevating the folk horror (sub)genre, as one reviewer gushed, Midsommar flattened it, rendered it as non-engaging and as uninspiring as pieces of disassembled IKEA furniture spilled out of their cardboard box.
Worse, I worry about the potential social ramifications of backlash against Pagan communities in the U.S. and in Europe—when we’re not fighting for our rights to (re)claim ancient sacred sites for contemporary religious worship from countries where Abrahamic monotheism strongly imprints the laws of the land (look at the situation in Greece, for example), we’re constantly trying to disprove to our secular and monotheist- majority neighbors that any connotations exist between our autonomous, fragmented communities and established “cults.” The disturbing kinds of cults—Jim Jonesesque, Peoples’ Temple-congregants-offing-themselves-by-the- hundreds-in-remote-Guyana kinds of cults. In that regard, this film doesn’t exactly serve as a brand ambassador for contemporary Western (Neo-)Paganism.
Warning: My review is rife with plot spoilers!
I received my copy of the John Bauer Tarot (published by Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy) in the mail last night and I’m opening the deck now at my office (it’s a slow morning in my Big Pharma world, LOL). John Bauer (1882-1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator; a great deal of his work was informed by his love of his culture’s folklore, which obviously informs the artwork of this deck. (His work to me is similar to the English artist Arthur Rackham; they were contemporaries.)
The first workshop I attended at Paganicon 2019, held last month in Plymouth, Minnesota, was a workshop on Traditional Witchcraft facilitated by a young Witch named Kelden, so that I was how I came to meet him and how I came to buy on the spot two copies (one for me and one for my BFF) of the oracle deck that he and his friend and deck co-producer, fellow Trad Craft Witch and artist and illustrator, Maggie Elram, just self-published: The Traditional Witch’s Deck (2019). I’m not surprised that an oracle deck has emerged that is exclusively dedicated to Traditional Witchcraft, given how popular the magico-religious practice has become within the landscape of today’s Paganism (chiefly as an alternative to Wicca); in the charming little paperback published book that accompanies the deck, Kelden explains that his aim was to “create an oracle steeped in history and folklore” (p.58). He and Ms. Elram have done a wonderful job!
My best friend Richie was kind enough to send me a copy of this book as a Yule present. He has been a fan of Orapello and Maguire’s Down at the Crossroads Pagan podcast for several months. While I haven’t yet listened to it, I’m sure I would enjoy it because I certainly enjoyed the ideas and the shared writing style—learned but lively, not pompous nor even overly serious; and poetic, expressive of the wonder and awe Witches feel about the Nameless Art—of Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire in Besom, Stang & Sword.
I’ve been a very busy gemstone-beading bee lately: yesterday, in fact, I made 6 devotional gemstone necklaces and uploaded them to my Etsy site, Jackal Moon Designs, and one (my Green Tara devotional piece) sold within minutes of it being advertised on Facebook yesterday afternoon. Here are the remaining five.