Dark Moon Witchery: Baptism in the Summer Wilds

Pause with me right here, at the edge of these muddied waters. This dark moon is having its wicked way with me, and I’m all out of breath. I’ve painted my heart alive, to death, and alive again, all in these last long weeks, all since that full moon milk-bathed me in its silver sorcery and soothed away those late-spring aches. This air is ripe with semi-sweet, electrostatic magick, and my holy lungs can barely stand the thick of it all.
Can you feel it?
We find ourselves near Solstice again, we two kindred heathens. It’s that pivotal point of pause, Solstice. It’s that radical, hilltop apex where the unforgiving sun gods sear our backs from behind with their pointed rays and the moon women hum us hymns from the dark valley below. Be quiet and listen close. They’ve got that wild intonation, that primal howl that calls you home with crow-poetry and mournful rhythms only the green-dwellers remember.
Can you hear them?
That great exhale is coming. That fast-roll down the hill, away from the bright and burning and toward the cool and spectral. Until then, let’s hold our breaths and baptize ourselves in these hard-rushing waters. Let’s strip ourselves bare of the yearning and swim skyclad ‘neath this sliver of a moon-mother before the harvest comes and we reap all we’ve sown, before that longest day comes and goes and we’re left with the louder ghosts and bone-bending wanderlust.
Come, jump in. This water is witching the pretense right out of me.
I’ve only one question for you tonight, my somber friend. Tell me, how is it with your poet’s sweet soul? I’m not interested in intellectual chit-chat or that pin-pricking small talk that starves my heart. It’s so easy to hide in witty banter and ho-hum conversation, and I want to see you, unshadowed and unmasked. I want to see you after the screens have gone dark and this strong-armed sun has burned away all pride and pretense. I want to see the beauty you’ve become and the monster you still are. Show me it all right now before the shadows return and let me bow down.
What are you waiting for?
These waters have a longer memory than this land, and I can feel the pulse of the mist-mother soft-squeezing my flesh in time with the drumbeat of the ancients. If we stay in this quiet-running river too long, I fear we’ll never be the same sisters-in-lawlessness we once knew, but so what? That Pagan joy is all I’m interested in right now, that bowl-deep and wild presence that has brought us both to this epic moment where I can truly see you, at long last.
I can see whole galaxies spiral-dancing in your eyes, and I can see those haunting reflections of who you thought you were snaking away from us on these swelling waters. It is only the most whole version of you left. I see you, and you are beautiful. The brilliance of your story is burning my eyes, and these grateful tears of mine are mixing with this holy water and alchemizing a truth serum that’s soaking into my skin.
I love you. Every word I’ve ever said to you were those three words bound-up and painted over. The waters are rising, and my will is restored. I’m more certain of our power than ever. Take my hand and climb to ground.
I love you, this dark moon and every moon.
Come, let’s not be Ophelia. Not today. Let us return to wilds restored and reborn, our new bodies brewed in these fast-rushing currents and sanctified by the setting sun.
I love you, and I can think of no better Witch, no better or braver heart, than you.

Magick, Mental Health, and the Reluctant Warrior

A little over three years ago, I found myself trudging through a snowy Connecticut town at dusk. I hadn’t eaten in days, my eyes were permanently bloodshot from crying, and the only thing spurring me on was the light emanating from the kitchen window of my sister and mentor in Natural Magick, Paganism, and the study of Witchcraft. Like a true Sicilian, she ushered me in with a ferocious hug, a place already set for me at the table, and ordered me to eat before saying another word. Afterward she listened while calmly shuffling her tarot cards, her enormous brown eyes at once soft and full of that fire every Witch recognizes in the company of their own.

Sobbing, I at last admitted defeat—to NYC, my home of 8 years, and the person I had been, both triumphant and wretched, for so long. My beloved grandmother and one of the greatest souls of this incarnation had passed on that autumn. A romance that meant the cosmos to me had abruptly ended. I had parted ways with several communities I no longer felt I held a compelling place or purpose in. Seemingly steadfast friendships were dissipating with a disquieting air of non-closure, and to this day I can’t point the finger without it rightfully turning halfway back around on me. Two separate projects I invested a great deal of time, money, and trust in had gone belly-up for two very different but equally appalling reasons. I was broke and rudderless, having run out of energy and confidence to invest in a life I felt shipwrecked in. Above all, I was tired—so very, very tired. The years—predating as well as in NYC—were littered with abusive relationships, repeat instances of sexual harassment and professional exploitation, and my own litany of irreversible screw-ups. For every period of creative or emotional success, there seemed to be an appendix of disasters.

Others would later contribute much of this to growing pains, the natural and often painful transitioning from one stage of life to the next, and the not-so-subtle tests the universe faceplants you with to see what you’re made of. Fine. But in that moment I was the kind of tired that only wants to lay down in the snow and never get up again.

When I had exhausted myself and all my “whys???,” my friend reached across the table and pressed her hand over mine. In a voice that was not her own but that of the deity speaking through her, she said: “They know you can take it. You have always been a warrior, even in your reluctance. Every life. They’re saying it now: She can handle it.” And then, as the atmosphere broke, she returned to her familiar voice and added, “I know, it’s SO fucked up.”
I laughed for the first time in what felt like ages, and so began the dawn of a new one.

Flash forward to March of this year, when I conducted an interview for Sabat Magazine with School of Witchery and November Sage founder Juliet Diaz. Due to necessary brevity, some of the Q&A segments were shortened or eliminated altogether. One in particular I will share with you here, as it was the other half of the inspiration for this piece:

E.L.What personal items (if you wish to disclose) are your most valued in your work, and why?
J.D.:   Honestly, my broken. My heartache, my past traumas and failures, my falls and my scars, my tears and spilled blood, my shadows and ghosts. They are my most valued. Without them, I would not have known what I was capable of, would not have known my true strength and perseverance, would not have learned to keep going, even if it meant to crawl until I learned to get back up again. I’ve learned to love my shattered reflection, and that has given me a new perspective and gratitude for all that I’m blessed with now.

And so it goes with the Witch.

May, as you probably know, is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve purposely saved this piece for the last days of it, to read the accounts of others and reflect on my own. All that I’ve shared so far is no different from what most have been or will go through in their lives: the passing of loved ones, failed relationships, regrets that cut deep, and unanticipated events that alter one irrevocably. But if you grapple with mental illness, be it genetically inherited and/or acquired through trauma, you no doubt feel as though you’ve been armed with a faulty set of tools with which to take on life’s slings and arrows.

I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) in my early 20’s, having struggled with it since puberty. Anxiety and PTSD would eventually round out the dream team. I have attempted suicide twice in the past, the first borne of an apathetic delirium, the latter a soberly conducted near-fatality. I’m candid about these things. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t receive top billing in my life, nor do I employ them as attention grabbers; I consciously avoid wielding them for the sake of leverage or manipulation. I certainly don’t allow them to precede my other strengths and talents. But I’m open about them, and refuse to cower under the stigma society continues to plant on mental illness. As Juliet expressed with her own fire and generosity, I’ve earned my scars, and woe to the soul who bids me to cover them up.

If you’re reading this, I suspect you too bear the scars of this life, to varying degrees of depth and severity. And from my own corner of the world in which I pen this, I want to tell you that I truly believe this is where your real Magick resides. Magick is survival. It’s defying the unfathomable and transforming it into something stronger, kinder, otherworldly. Magick is taking your own wrecked vessel and reassembling the pieces with what you’ve learned, sealing the cracks in the spirit of Kintsukuroi. Magick is daring to take to the waters again; it’s not being afraid to dive under and help those still trapped below. Magick is as earned as it is inherent.

I gave up my Magick for many years—my studies, my writing, my values, my meditations, the very instincts and talents gifted at birth. In hurting myself, I hurt others. In forgetting what I was capable of, I conditioned myself to be so much less. Desperation, fear, grief, and recklessness were the tentacles of my unresolved madness. I only retrieved what I had abandoned after it became impossible to carry on otherwise. That’s how Magick works, I think. It can only lie dormant for so long. And whatever Magick means to you—and truly, it’s different for each and every one of us—don’t ever doubt your right to reclaim it.

The month for acknowledging mental health may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mark the end of it for you and me. It’s a lifelong process and, let’s be honest, a life sentence when things get really dark. Part of my own ongoing work is allowing myself to feel what I feel in a moment, but also understand that what I feel may not actually be what IS. Every day is equal parts practical + intuitive effort to maintain a kind of balance and integrity, into which my own Magickal practices factor. They have helped me to heal and better understand myself, but also be better to and for others. They’re not my only weapons against depression, anxiety, and PTSD, but they certainly take up a substantial and well-earned compartment in my arsenal.

If you live with mental illness but still make the effort to show up as a friend, parent, partner, or colleague, then you’re not just functioning, you’re winning. If you are still able to embrace the rich and strange, the what if?, and oft-shunned, then you are proof in the flesh that Magick still exists in this world. And if you’re brave enough, or just plain fed up enough, to stare down your demons—the ones you’ve wrought as well as the ones set upon you—then you’re as much a warrior as I (supposedly) am, if not more. And I think that’s worth celebrating year-round.

My late grandmother used to say that kindness is the ultimate wisdom. I’m inclined to think it’s also the ultimate Magick.

 

Author: Emily Linstrom

Image: The Self-Crucified by Clarence John Laughlin, 1940

 

 

Signs You’re Asking The Tarot The Wrong Questions

I was in high school when I first started reading the Tarot. I used a cheap deck- one where the Minor Arcana had barely any instructions and the guide that came with it, introduced me to spreads like the Celtic Cross and how to ask basic yes/no questions. I found the meanings rather inadequate, so I added my own and also looked up online interpretations. I was hooked, and soon enough I saved up to get my own Rider Waite and the Thoth Tarot decks.

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How To Be A Witch On A Budget

Being a witch can get pretty expensive at times.

Sometimes, you have to think twice before choosing to buy a fancy crystal or an elaborately carved candle stand or a new prettier notebook for your grimoire. Sometimes, you may run out of witchy supplies right when you need it the most and you have to dash to the nearest thrift store or the supermarket to restock your candles, incenses and spices. Perhaps there’s a major spell you want to perform and the phase of the moon is just right- but you’re still saving up for all the ingredients. Or maybe you’re just a baby witch, recently initiated to the Craft and you’re overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tools and materials that you need.

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May 2018 Horoscopes

May is relatively quiet astrologically speaking until the New Moon in Taurus mid-month. Unlike your typical mellow Taurus Moon, this one coincides with Uranus shifting out of Aries and into Taurus for the bulk of the next 8 years. Uranus represents revolution, innovation, instability, and nonlinear change. Its shift into Taurus brings these themes to bear collectively in the realms of finances, housing, sustenance, nature–and on a personal level, in whatever house of your natal chart Uranus is moving into. At the same time, Mars shifts into Aquarius and squares Uranus. Oh, my! Mars is the warrior god, so when these two get together, we are bound to notice. Mars and Uranus will square each other twice more over the course of the year, so this month we are likely to see the first act of a story that plays out over the course of the next year, and the next 8 years. We are likely to experience a destabilization, possible sudden endings or beginnings, and a push toward individuality and freedom in some area of our lives.

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Beltane Goals: Joy-Healing the Bloodlines

Join me, Witch. This Beltane, I’m choosing slow-bubbling jubilance, ancestral blessings of fire and smoke, and ecstatic dirt-under-the-nails garden prayer. I’m remembering the bright bloom of the yet-to-come into being, and I’m doing it all before moonrise. Let’s paint our faces with the still-chilled mud and take to the sky-kissing hilltop where the bones of the burned are buried, and let’s dance bare-breasted by the light-of-day like they never could.
It’s up to us, you know. Let’s laugh to heal our great-grandmothers’ melancholy. Let’s work the magick out-loud the Old Ones had to work in secret. These are the days of the rising Witch, the heathen waking wild, and the crow-woman spreading her wide wings and taking flight.

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A Love Letter to the Water-Witch from the Fire-Witch: Moonstruck Poetry for the Storm

How is it with your moon-sick heart, Witch? How is it with that mud-loving, wanderlusting soul you kept tucked away so carefully between your aching ribs all Winter long? Tell me, you sorceress of sweet and sad stories, what hopeful visions have you to share with me now, as this first full moon of Spring swells up under my skin and softens those unforgiving angles of belief and conviction that fan my rage-hungry flames but starve my more joyous magick? Share with me your most gracious and feather-light anecdotes, and I’ll drink from that cool-running, sweet-water river you keep flowing between your ancient, inner altar tended tirelessly by our grandmothers and the over-running wellspring of your heathen heart.

Speak truth now. This moon is pulling our secrets out from all our dark places, singing a siren song so mournful and beauteous even our bitterest demons cannot resist its lunar temptation tonight. You tell me what it means to heal from the fallen angel’s grief, and I’ll tell you what it means to be a moonstruck poetess who wants nothing more than to paint a sepia-toned world brighter with what few words she has learned from this bizarre incarnation. You teach me how to brew a homemade salve for my aching bits left dry from a long-lasting Crone season, and I’ll teach you how to hunt inside those hot and steaming caves of your flawed-to-perfection Pagan mind, how to mine those precious gems of passion and desire, anguish and melancholy, artistic courage and sure-bodied dance.

Let’s walk amongst these ancestral stones tonight, Witch. Let’s move through this perilous moonlight together and bleed all over this hallowed ground while we journey toward the warmth of the Beltane torch-fires. Let’s ask the elements teach us who we are. I’ll remember what it means to be whole as a fire-veined Priestess, and you remind me the bliss to be had within the flesh of a nectar-sipping mermaid.

Together, let’s call upon the full Storm Moon to sweep through our Craft and spring-clean the dust from our routines, from those over-dull rituals and from those altars that have for too long gone unchanged. You bid the torrential waves wash over my Witchcraft, and I’ll send some fire your way, to be sure. I need your medicine, and you need mine, my love, so let’s not be coy any longer. Let’s skip the small talk and get right to the red, bloody heart of the matter. In your eyes, I see who I might have been had my childhood left my skin unscathed, had my lovers been loyal and my courage applauded. In my eyes, you see who you might have been had your rebellion been rewarded, your vulnerable art praised, and your more timid prayers answered. Let’s see what sizzling steam arises when fire meets water now, my love, when you really see me and I really see you. Inside that hot mist encircling us both will be the cosmic language of birth and death, and we’ll both rest well tonight as wiser women warmed by my hearth and wet from your wild waters.

April 2018 Horoscopes

 

The potent Full Moon in Libra on March 31st carries us into April. With the polarity between self (Aries) and other (Libra) activated, keep in mind that we are who we are only related to others (I am me because you are you). A T-Square from the Full Moon to Mars and Saturn suggests that a disciplined and long-term approach to public role and responsibilities could help ease tension. There is a New Moon in Aries on April 15th, conjunct with Uranus. Mercury stations direct at the same time. This is a powerful and radical new beginning, a time for innovation and originality. (You may wish to wait a few days until Mercury gains some speed to set any intentions, or initiate action.) Finally, on April 29th, we have a Full Moon in Scorpio, highlighting embodiment, sensuality, and sexuality.

 

Aries

Happy birthday Aries! The month before your birthday, as the sun transits the twelfth house, is a time to go deeply within, to reflect and release the past year. This can be a trying time as repressed and stagnant energies are freed from your depths, and rise up to consciousness for release. By the time your birthday rolls around you are likely to feel a surge of energy and upliftment to carry you into your new year. The Full Moon at the end of March may create tension and opportunity for creative reconciliation between yourself, your partnerships, and your work or vocation. Seek resolution by taking a long-term, disciplined approach to your career. Begin with the vision; set your intentions and take action after the Aries New Moon in mid-April.

 

Taurus

The Full Moon at the end of March may create some tension between your desire for spiritual experience and your mundane, everyday life. Seek resolution through your perception. How can you integrate spirituality into your daily life? Seek an understanding of the situation that is bigger than contradiction, that makes room for all possibilities and all parts of you. A long-term approach to your personal philosophy, education, new experiences, and travel can also aid in resolving this tension. Much of the activity in April occurs in your twelfth house, your unconscious mind. This astrology works to churn your depths, to bring what has been repressed and stagnant to the surface; so you can become more aware so you can process so you can release. While sometimes trying, this process leads to healing and greater comfort with yourself.

 

Gemini

The Full Moon at the end of March may see some tension between your community, your desires, and your most intimate ties. Seek resolution through intimacy, first with yourself, then with others. The resolution lies also in understanding that larger forces are at work; you are undergoing an initiation of sorts; the universe has its own divine order that we don’t always understand. Make a commitment to your own self-discovery. Use of the occult, (astrology, tarot, magic) could be very effective. With the Sun transiting your eleventh house, there is a focus this month on your community, networks, friendships, and the groups you belong to. Set intentions and begin anew in this area after the Aries New Moon mid-month.

 

Cancer

The Full Moon at the end of March may indicate some tension between family, work, and partnerships. The solution lies in your relation to partnership: seek to honor your own needs, while also taking into account the needs and perspectives of those with whom you are in a relationship. Are you afraid of intimacy? Intimacy requires we let go of ourselves, it IS scary but incredibly rewarding. It requires patience and working through problems within a relationship. With the Sun transiting your tenth house, the focus in April is on your career (or calling). If this area of your life has been stalled, begin with the vision. Plan to move forward after the mid-April New Moon which brings more energy and forward movement to your career house.

 

Leo

The Full Moon at the end of March may indicate some tension between your perceptions & beliefs (your particular way of parsing experience and understanding the world), and your daily life (work, tasks, routines, health). Make the most of this energy by focusing on a particular goal or task, a long-term project, something you can commit to and see through to the end. Take a long-term, disciplined approach to your health. How can you shift your perspective or attitude so as to relieve the tension, guilt, anxiety, or fear you feel? The second half of April brings more and more focus to your personal philosophy and beliefs. There is an opportunity for a radical departure–a sudden release of beliefs that have kept you bound.

 

Virgo

With a Saturn-Mars conjunction in your fifth house, you may feel blocked in your creative expression or in your sense of enjoyment. The key to resolving this blockage is to focus on a particular task or project, something long term that you can commit yourself too. The irony is, it’s this kind of focus and dedication that will bring you more joy and a sense of play. There’s a need as well at this time to define boundaries–to carve out space for yourself, and space for intimacy; to clarify what to keep for yourself, and what to share. There is a significant focus throughout April on intimacy. Set your intentions after the Aries New Moon mid-month. Intimacy requires we release control and enter into the abyss. That can be scary! But the rewards are rich.

 

Libra

The Full Moon in your sign at the end of March may indicate some tension between yourself, your partnerships, and your family or home life. Long-term, patient commitment to family/home life will release the tension. Seek the balance between your own needs and the needs of those you are close with. Don’t neglect yourself for the sake of others. The Aries New Moon mid-month brings the focus squarely to partnerships. Set your intentions, clarify the attitude with which you approach your closest relationships, clarify your vision of what you desire, how you wish to relate. With Uranus conjunct, the New Moon, a radical or original approach is in order.

 

Scorpio

The Mars-Saturn conjunction in early April may indicate a blockage to communication, or a troubled mind. Take a focused, disciplined, and long-term approach to your own mind and communication. You may wish to commit to meditation or another practice that disciplines the mind or commit to learning to refine your communication skills. The Aries New Moon mid-month offers you a new beginning and a newfound forward momentum with regards to work and daily routine. With Uranus conjunct the New Moon, take an innovate, original approach to your schedule and work-life, and ensure there is room for spontaneity.

 

Sag

Early April’s Mars-Saturn conjunction in your second house may indicate a blockage in your income or sense of self-worth. Your ability to provide for yourself may be in tension with your community and your creativity. Seek a disciplined, long-term approach to your income. Seek to uncover the psychology underneath; do you feel you deserve to experience abundance? Begin with clarity and intention; take action in the second half of the month, after Mercury is moving forward again. Mid-April’s Aries New Moon brings new beginnings and forward momentum to your creative projects, your self-expression, romance, play, and pleasure. With Uranus conjunct the New Moon, harness spontaneity, and originality.

 

Capricorn

The Full Moon at the end of March may bring some tension between your family/home-life, your career, and your own personal needs. Seek resolution through embodying discipline and focus. Delayed gratification at this time is in order. The predominant focus in April is in your fourth house of family and home-life. Give some extra attention to this part of your life, and come the New Moon mid-month, set intentions and prepare for new beginnings in this area. What do you desire to manifest? What is your long-term vision of home and family? With Uranus conjunct, the New Moon, radical and original approaches are most likely to succeed.

 

Aquarius

The Full Moon at the end of March activates all aspects of your mind: your unconscious, your thought processes, your intuition, your beliefs, and worldview are all in conversation. There is some tension, some contradiction within the structures of your mind. Seek to shift your beliefs, or find a higher perspective in which what appears to be in contradiction is integrated. With the Sun and Mercury transiting your third house this month, this is a time to clarify your means of communication. How can you be clear and direct and also kind and compassionate? The New Moon mid-month offers you a new beginning in this area.

 

Pisces

The central focus for you in April is on income, resources, self-sufficiency; and underlying all of these: self-worth. Notice the subtle ways in which you undermine your own value through your beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Come the Aries New-Moon mid-month, set your intentions in this area. With Uranus conjunct, the New Moon, an innovative, original approach is most likely to succeed. One way to increase resources is to reduce expenses rather than to increase income. But any number of creative means of sustaining oneself exist, and they always begin with how we perceive ourself and treat ourself.