Spider and Silkworm

I have started to work with new spirits lately. They aren’t ones that have sought me out, particularly, but ones whom I have found in my work, and am attempting to build a relationship with. For the moment, that means creating a tiny shrine for them, and chanting to them in my evening spinning. Tiny shrine to Spider and Silkworm, bramble wrapped in spell-thread, with beaded Golden Orb Spider and, covered in silk, an actual Silkworm cocoon with dried silkworm inside. My Spider is not, for example, Sannion’s Spider, nor Anansi the Spider, nor even Arachne as the Mother of Spiders (although certainly she’s closer to Arachne than to any of the others). I’ve never heard of anyone else working with a Silkworm spirit, but if I had, I doubt that this would be the same Silkworm, either. (Maybe, though; Silkworms are much rarer in mythology than Spiders. Maybe I should look into Chinese traditions. I’ve already found the Empress known now as the Silkworm Mother.) I hope that Spider and Silkworm will become specifically my allies in magic that uses spinning and weaving (this relationship is still in its very early days). They are witches in the same way that Sarah Anne Lawless and Harold Roth, aka the Alchemist talk about some plants being. They are witches differently than I am a witch, but I wish to learn their craft and spells, and indeed have already learned some. We are part of a sisterhood, bound by our threads. It is on that that I hope to build a relationship, on this that I give them a place in my home and my shrine room. I spin, chanting to them, and feel myself slip into a light trance that I do not when spinning my morning prayers. I feel the silk slipping between my fingers, and know that I am echoing their actions. I know that Spider weaves her golden webs, only to have them damaged and destroyed (and indeed sometimes she destroys them herself), and to build them again in new and more beautiful ways. She knows the cycle of creation-destruction-creation. I know that Silkworm sheds multiple skins and is renewed like a snake before finally weaving her cocoon, her womb, and then transforming herself into something completely different. She knows the cycle of birth-death-rebirth. I know that Spider is quiet but shows herself openly. I know that Silkworm is even quieter, and hides herself away. I know that Spider is well-known as a spinner and weaver, and that she protects us from many insects that would overrun us. I know that Silkworm produces the silk we actually spin and weave from. I don’t know what offerings to give them. Incense? Food? Drink? Flowers? Leaves and insects? Tea? All I know to do for them is spin, and chant. Soon, I’ll ask what more to do, through tarot or the Hellenic alphabet or geomancy, whatever seems to fit best. Spider, Spider spinning spells Show me how you weave your web Silkworm, Silkworm spinning spells Show me how you weave your womb...

De Capitem Draconis

Note: This entry is nearly three thousands words long, and actually pretty difficult to understand. Not so much because the ideas involved are tricky, just that they take a lot of explaining, and some of them I don't understand that well, and some of them I didn't put the work into explaining them clearly, and some of them are just really dull unless you're a divination nerd. So, y'know, be warned, and don't necessarily expect to finish reading the stupid thing. Having finally finished my (fourth or fifth, in the 23 years I’ve been using it) study of the tarot, which I started doing when I renewed a regular practice, as a way to recondition my mind to thinking in certain symbols and patterns, I have embarked on a study of geomancy. Unlike the tarot, it’s something I’ve studying only briefly and superficially, once, years ago. I’m picking it up again now because divination and oracular practices (in the form of tarot) were my first foray into both magic and paganism, and studying or regularly practicing any method will reliably deepen my practice. I have been both a diviner and an oracle (a diviner is one who practices divination, the art of gaining information about the future; and oracle is one through whom a god delivers messages to mortals). First I gave tarot readings for friends, and later spent more than two years setting up weekly in a bookstore coffee shop and offering readings for tips, and occasionally hiring out for parties. (I remember one Halloween party where everybody was having fun and being pretty silly and enjoying the readings a lot… and then there was an older women who simply started silently crying in the middle of the reading, and thanked me profusely when I was done. I have no memory of what I said to her, and never knew what it meant to her at the time, but it really brought home to me how I could touch people with divination, even when I knew nothing about them or their lives, had no knowledge to draw on with which to refine the reading.) I studied runes, pendulum work, the I Ching, geomancy, tasseomancy (and other cup-reading methods, like reading the foam on a beer glass), scrying, and a couple of non-Tarot divination decks (like Morgan’s Tarot, which is not a tarot at all). Cartomancy and rune readings were the only ones I ever studied very deeply, and I’ve long since given up runes (although I still have a set). Divination, of course, is one of the classic witch’s skills. My oracular states have always tended to be at the will of the gods. I can intentionally use trance and ritual techniques to get there, but historically it’s been far more likely that I’ll be in the middle of a reading and suddenly somebody else is using me to get a message to the querent. I’ve dedicated myself to service to my gods, and I have no objection to this being part of it, but it’s not an easy thing when you’re prepared for it, and much less so when you’re not. So, as I said, this connects to both magical practice and religious practice for me, and since I’m working to make the practice of each of them a major part of my life again, I’m trying to keep studying more methods. This includes practicing the methods I’ve been studying, too. I no longer use the Greek litteromancy every day, but do turn to it when I have a question, and write down the answers and the ways they’re demonstrated in my life. Having finally freed up my favorite decks from the study, I’m also reading those for myself with some frequency, and sometimes recording those results, too. (It’s less necessary, since I already have a long history with tarot, and know how the cards reflect life, but not yet much about how the Greek letters do.) As an aside, I love the wide variety of methods of divination and the names for them. I love the ability of humans to take a set of information with some degree of randomness (and nearly every method of divination I’m aware of has some random element), find a pattern in it, and derive meaning and advice from it. The term apophenia was coined by Klaus Conrad, a German psychiatrist and neurologist, in 1958 to describe it, but he specifically intended it to refer to false meaning and delusion as a symptom of schizophrenia. Michael Sherman coined patternicity fifty years later for the human tendency to find pattern in meaningless noise, without any connection to mental illness, but it’s still...

The Catalyst of Other Witches

I spend too much time alone these days, or only with my wife. Don’t get me wrong, Kate is wonderful to talk to, and we chew over mythology and symbolism most productively. I have some stuff I want to write up about Maenads from our last conversation about that. But she’s not terribly witchy. Last night, for the first time in many months, I went out to a party. A friend insisted. It was the 40th birthday of another friend, one I cared about, but hadn’t seen in person in at least two years. (There are a lot of people I haven’t seen in person since the restaurant closed.) And I had a really great time. It was wonderful to get out and be around people and talk and hang out. At some point, I remembered I had Crossing the River in my bag and pulled it out and went around showing people. One friend, a writer himself, actually sat down in the middle of the party to read my piece, and told me how good he thought it was, and how beautiful my language was. It’s a high compliment, coming from him. But best of all, there were witchy people there. Jillian, who’s a hedgewitch, and Mila, who’s also a Hecatean, especially. The three of us gabbled and plotting and snarked a bit. There may have been a cackle or two. I now owe Jilli a “witchy cheese plate,” owing to an online exchange a few days ago, and my brain is bubbling nicely on the idea. Mila, meanwhile, is writing a book about Captain Hook, and this morning as I did my tarot study, the conversation we had last night and the work I was in the middle of collided, and now we’re collaborating on a Neverneverland Tarot, which has my mind on a different simmer. I now have to go read the book, as it’s been many years. Projects are good, but even better was simply to talk with people who understood, who knew what I meant when I talked about using the stories, of building your cabin in the dark woods, who understood the magic in reaching out and taking hold of things, of walking through graveyards. It was good to talk to sister witches, is all. Pardon me, I’m going to go take that walk in the graveyard....

For the Witches

from a 1983 production of Macbeth I do not talk much here about my worship of and work with Hekate. Do not take that to mean that she is not the first and foremost of the gods I worship, that her cult and her shadow are not my first home. If I keep my silence about much of what she is to me, about the paths I have walked and the choices I have made in her service, it is because they are very private. If I do not speak of what I have learned in her service, it is because I keep her secrets and my own. But I am beginning to feel a need to hold a Festival of Witches. To celebrate Hekate as goddess of Witchcraft, and Circe as their Queen (a goddess herself, but one who lived long among mortals and ruled the mortal kingdom of Aeaea), and Medea as Circe’s heir. To celebrate the Baba Yaga, the blind witch in the gingerbread cottage, the wicked stepmother, Maleficent, Witchy-poo, the Witch of the Waste, any witch from folklore or fiction. To celebrate them all, as my Sisters and Ancestors in the Craft. I am a Witch, too. I mutter over bubbling pots, I wind thread and stitch up poppets, I make amulets, I talk to the dead, I read cards and sigils and letters of ancient alphabets. Not, perhaps, so much now as I did once, but I do it still. There are arts I wish I could explore more, things that I cannot currently buy the supplies for. But I will, I will. I’ve wanted for may years to learn what they call now The Poison Path. There was so little to find on it, when I was a young witch, and no one to ask for advice, and no way to know what was safe. I was still learning the ins and outs of my brain’s delicate balances, and could not risk too many chemical alterations. I learned safer herbs instead. Now there are more guides and more books available, and I wish to learn to grow mandrake and belladonna and henbane and learn their ways. Eventually, I may explore their effects on my body, but first I will learn them as plants, and come to speak to their spirits. Yes, I know, these plants are dangerous, and moreso to me, with my uncertain brain chemistry, than to most. But entheogens have always, as far as we can tell, been a part of ecstatic practices and of magic. I have always dreamed of creating a poison garden, with a fence built of wooden bones, and a statue of a chicken-leg hut in the middle. A witch’s garden, to know and to cherish. I will, someday. Now my yard is overgrown with blackberry brambles, too much for me to plant a garden this spring, unless somehow I get the money to hire help to cut it back. I don’t have the tools or the knowledge. But perhaps a witch can learn the magic of the invasive plant, learn the power of the killing outsider, the power of overrunning and strangling. I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I tried to learn a new plant, growing. Perhaps the blackberry is a good place to start. But I want to have a Celebration of Witches. I’m almost tempted to hold what the Hellenic recons call an agon, a festival of art in celebration of a god or goddess or cult figure. Recons declare them, and spread the word around, and others write or draw or paint something for it. But most of the recons would hate it — many of them look down on magic, and indeed on the worship of Hekate (I’ve been told by several, dismissively, that she’s “a minor goddess” and not worthy of extensive worship) — and probably even few of those who didn’t would be interested, and the witches wouldn’t know what that is. I’m not well-connected to either community anyway, and couldn’t get word around to many people. But if you want to send me something, I’ll take it, and post it here when I do this festival, whenever that is. Send someone else’s work if you want — with credit and a link! — or your own. I’m planning on pop culture figures as well as old folklore. I don’t expect to get much. Send it to madgastronomer at gmail. Let’s call it February 28. If anyone wants to celebrate in tandem with me, wherever they are, you’re welcome. I want a bit of time to revel in my witchiness, to let my magic run feral....