The Sun’s annual transit through Taurus is one of my favorite times of the year. There’s a real palpable sense of Spring finally arriving (its arrival is typically delayed here in chilly Chicago): the trees and tulips are flowering, the warbler birds are out in full force to serenade day and night, and my personal artistic/creative endeavors receive a very welcome Venusian boost of energy. I’ve been making quite a lot of necklaces to sell on my Etsy site, JackalMoonDesigns, and I’d like to showcase a few of them for you now. COVID-19 be damned: it’s time to get our ritual bling on!
April is National Poetry Month. As a former college English instructor, a published poet, and an ordained Priestess, I honor the legacies of artists whose works have transcended the boundaries of their artistic mediums, and the vagaries of the times in which they lived, rippling out with profound spiritual force to affect so many people today. American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is such an artist who has had an incalculable effect upon my developing spiritual consciousness from my adolescence onwards; I go so far as to hail her in the ranks of my Mighty Dead, my spiritual forebears in Witchcraft.
Three years ago, I began to meditate on the idea of Plath’s poetry as a vehicle for encountering Dark Goddess energies and the need to harness those energies in a public Pagan ritual format. I knew I wanted to weave together the strands of my academic analysis of her work (I taught American poetry at the undergraduate level for 3 years as an adjunct English professor on Oahu), my Priestessing skills in generating energy and directing it towards a specific purpose to benefit a group of participants, and my own personal religious devotion to specific Dark Goddesses (e.g., Hekate, Nephthys, Hel). Art served as the medium of inspiration, as it often does: not just Plath’s poetry, but my artistic interpretations through acrylic paintings of some of Plath’s most famous works.
The following chronicles my process and its eventual public ritual outcome: an evening of tribute to Plath’s genius through the ritual encountering of Dark Goddess energy, recitals and discussions of Plath’s poetry, and a shamanic journey facilitated by the use of my 2017 painting An Homage to Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ as a portal into the Otherworld. My goal was to have ritual participants surrender to the “blackness and silence” of the Dark Goddess, as described in Plath’s inimitable voice, and experience the transformative gifts of the Shadow.
Supposedly, here in my home state of Illinois, the governor’s stay-at-home/self-quarantine order designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, an order issued on March 21, will be lifted on April 30: just in time for Beltane/May Day! Continue reading
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.