So then I got someone else to do it.

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Some tarot experts don’t recommend reading for yourself — it’s too easy to get caught up in the things you want or expect to happen. Like trying to touch your left elbow with your left hand, sometimes you’re too close to a situation to be able to accurately read it.

I don’t always hold with this idea. There are some very emotionally-charged or high-stakes situations that I prefer not to read for myself, but, in general, I find it’s good regular practice. Still, sometimes I like to get a reading from someone else, just to get another pair of eyes on the path I’m on.

This time, I requested a one-card reading from RiseWitchApothecary. I wanted to know what my next step should be — if I want to continue down the path to the life I want, what should I do?

I received the Page of Pentacles.

pageofpents

This card is a reminder to keep the past behind me and focus on the new ventures I’m about to undertake, particularly monetary ones. (Makes sense!) Though it usually has more to do with money, jobs, and careers, it can also point to relationships. (Which also makes sense!)

I draw a lot of cards pertaining to new beginnings and new undertakings when I read for myself, so I was simultaneously surprised and unsurprised to see something similar come up here. My S.O. and I just started our business, so focusing on that is the sensible next step. I’m pleased that it seems that easy — I know what I need to do, and it looks like the universe is lined up with that. The next step for me to take is the most logical one.

Admittedly, it also raised a number of interesting questions: How do I keep my momentum? What hidden factors are there? What’s the next step?

First things first, though. I’ve got stuff to do.

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And then everyone saw my butt.

Hello, I’m writing this to you with one hand, because the other one is mostly shrinkwrapped.

I’ve talked about my anxiety before — about starting sertraline, taking beta blockers, the whole nine. My health is not really something I’m secretive about at all. Too many people have anxiety and panic disorders as it is, and I’ve been dealing with it for too long to give half a shit in a handbag about being ashamed of something I can’t control.

I have not, however, mentioned nocturnal panic attacks.

I’m lucky in that I don’t get them super often — once in a blue moon, really, usually when I’m under a lot of stress. At first, I thought they were something akin to a night terror, but the presentation is actually very different. I’m aware when I wake up panicking, albeit usually confused for a bit. My heart races, I feel a sense of impending doom. They suck super hard, but, as I said, I don’t get them often.

Then this afternoon happened.

We upped my dose of sertraline last night. I’ve also been on Bactrim for the past few days, which made every joint in my body feel as though it had been beaten by a team of enthusiastic pixies with cricket bats. Both of these can potentially increase anxiety, and panic disorders can be pretty unpredictable anyhow. I lay down to take a nap late this afternoon, and woke up feeling like someone had hooked most of my organs up to a car battery.

So, I did what I usually do: call my S.O. and ask him to hang out on the phone with me until things calm down, in case I lose consciousness, or experience transient blindness, or something else happens that keeps me from being able to call 911. Usually, it takes about twenty minutes for the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and override the adrenaline response portion of a panic attack. I usually spend it on the phone, doing breathing exercises, holding an amethyst palm stone, waiting for things to pass. There isn’t really a way to speed up the process that I’ve found. Most of the emphasis is on riding it out with as little mental trauma as possible.

Twenty minutes came and went. I thought this might be more than I could handle on my own, so I took a beta blocker. (They’re not pleasant, but they’re pretty neat. From what I have experienced, read, and been told, they help me by blocking the adrenaline receptors in certain areas of the body. Pretty rad when your primary anxiety symptom is a racing heart, right?) Twenty minutes after that, my heart rate was almost normal. I also couldn’t breathe and felt like a donkey had kicked me in the sternum.

Welp. Plan B. I called an ambulance.

To make an already too-long story short(er), it was probably a reaction to the propranolol. We’re not sure why I had the original nocturnal attack, but I wasn’t actively having a heart attack when I got to the hospital. In fact, my vital signs were impressively normal, considering the completely dumbass amount of pain I was in. Just to make sure everything was okay, they took an EKG, drew some blood (shoutout to the dude who was able to draw from the back of my hand), and had me strip down and put on a robe for chest x-rays.

Remember when I mentioned taking Bactrim?

Do you know how hard it is to properly tie one of those damn robes on a good day?

Reader, I stood up to hold onto the x-ray machine so they could get a few shots of my heart, and flashed my entire butt at radiology. (To add insult to injury, when I got home, I realized I accidentally stuffed the hospital gown into the bag with my other belongings. So now there’s a permanent souvenir of my shame.)

Part of me berated myself for relying on medication. The fact of the matter is, though, that if you believe in an herb or crystal’s ability to heal, you must necessarily recognize its ability to harm. Anything can trigger an allergy. Anything can cause an adverse reaction. You can have a bad time with anything you put in your body, whether it’s a drug, a plant, or a sandwich. It’s the price we pay for having bodies, which, when you think about it, are both delicate and largely terrible. (Who’s idea was it to put the esophagus and trachea right next to each other? It makes no damn sense.)

Truth be told, butt-exposing aside, this went really, really well. My biggest fear has always been having an emergency when I’m alone, and potentially screwing up the things I need to do to handle that emergency. I was still half insensible with grogginess when I was fumbling with my phone to call for help, I was afraid of taking beta blockers because of the side effects, I experienced my worst fear after taking them, and came through it alright. I can’t say this has inoculated me against fearing these things in the future, but it’s a step. It was terrifying, and I did it, and if it happens again, that’s future J.’s problem.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Cup Party

Party!

Kind of!

I am currently on enough antibiotics to make a Belgian Blue hallucinate, so I will make today both short and sweet: I drew the Three of Cups again.

Last time I did, it was at a time when my S.O. and I had a number of things in the works. We’d initiated the process of moving into a new place, I’d finished some paintings, and we were working on getting a site up and running. This time, I’m pleased to say that these things are reaching their fulfillment — appropriate for the full moon, no?

The apartment is about done being renovated. I received proofs of the images of my paintings that I sent to the printer, and they look awesome. We have a business license, our site is up, and we’re happily posting bits and pieces of the story of The Teller of Fortunes. It’s time to celebrate!

(It’s the culmination of something else, too: filtering and bottling my raven oil. It takes me a year to make, and I set it up and filter it on October’s full moon. One of these days, I might get around to compiling my recipes and processes into something I can share. This one, in particular, is good stuff.)

Of course, while the full moon marks the culmination of a cycle, the waning moon comes right behind her. Next is the time to work on the tiny, unseen things, followed by the new moon, before the energy ramps up again. I don’t really have much that I need to work on this cycle (well, not externally, anyhow); there are plenty of balls rolling already, it’s time to see where they go.

 

The Star Rises

The weather’s finally cooling (after an inexplicable 94°F) , the trees are starting to change. and I’ve watered my cacti for probably the last time until next spring. We haven’t had any more carbon monoxide scares so far, and, as soon as our next apartment is done being renovated, we’re pretty much ready to upgrade our space.

So, as per usual, I figured I’d do a one-card drawing to see where this week’s going. In the midst of all of this (much anticipated!) upheaval, it helps to have a little extra insight. I didn’t ask a specific question — just cleared my mind, let my thoughts arise as they would, and shuffled until I felt like that wasn’t something I needed to do anymore.

And… I drew The Star.

Not gonna lie, seeing it made me a little emotional. The Star is a tremendously positive card. It stands for hope and optimism, and, since it comes immediately after The Tower, it points to positive feelings that arise from the ashes of whatever was destroyed during The Tower’s phase. I haven’t exactly gone through the kind of things indicated by The Tower (well, not recently), but it still indicates a lot of hope for the future.

This is especially good to know because I started Sertraline. I’m afraid of taking pills, so I held off as long as I could, but my doctor(s) and I came to the agreement that it would most likely do more good than harm at this point. I’m only on a tiny dose to make sure I tolerate it alright, and it’s too soon to feel any difference yet, but I have hope that I might not have to go from medication to medication to find something that helps re-balance my neurochemistry. I was especially impressed that my psychiatrist was willing and knowledgeable enough to take my cerebrospinal fluid pressure into account when she prescribed it to me — I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve had who either didn’t know enough about IH to realize that that was necessary, or shrugged off my concerns when I  brought it up.

The idea of taking it still gives me some anxiety, and my S.O. literally hid the first half-pill in a spoonful of applesauce for me so the action of taking it wouldn’t make things worse. (I know, I know.) As time goes on, I feel more optimistic, though. It’s good to know that those feelings aren’t misplaced.

It’s going to take some time for things to really smooth out, but so far, so good. Wish me luck.

The Teller of Fortunes 1: A Bit of Bloodroot in Your Shoe

Hello! I helped write a thing.

Uruvalai

“… And here, we have the Shard in your Luck house. This is an omen of good fortune.” 

One slender, neatly-manicured hand turns a card over with a deliberate air of reverence as she explains. The words slip from wine-colored lips with a smooth, almost lyrical quality — part prophecy, part lullaby. 

Incense smoke softly curls from the nostrils of a bronze, sleeping katagon-shaped brazier, thickening the air with its perfume. The silk scarf pinned over the tent’s entrance is almost completely still in the heat — the light glowing warmly through its brightly dyed designs paints the ground in shifting shades of scarlet, indigo, and violet. Much of this effect is lost on the Teller of Fortunes herself, for the eyeless, humming gaze of a shasii is ill-equipped for colors.

“And,” she purrs smoothly as she uncovers another card, “The appearance of the Oyster in your Money house means…

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Spiders, Sea Perch Eyes, and Salvador Dalí

I’ve been writing a thing about sleep, which has resulted in a not-insignificant amount of research into everything from sleep apnea statistics, to what kind of effects certain sounds have on the body’s cortisol level, to what Salvador Dalí used to do with sturgeon eyes.

Let me back up.

I once read a paper on Academia.edu (which I highly recommend if you’re at all interested in Semitic mysticism, lecanomancy, ancient Greek magical texts, or Egyptian magic). Ever since, I regularly get emails about some incredibly interesting subjects. For example, I have a pretty good handle on how to get a skull to talk for divination purposes, as well as how to punish it if it only tells lies and refuses to stop yelling. I don’t recall the exact search string that led to me getting a link to a copy of Dalí’s 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, but I did.

In it, he describes an ideal meal of sea urchins (“three dozen sea urchins,” to be exact, “gathered on one of the last two days that precede the full moon, choosing only those whose star is coral red and discarding the yellow ones”) and beans à la Catalane, after which you are to sit in front of a blank canvas without any light, until it’s become too dark to see it.

“It will become more and more dim until, when night has submerged you, you will completely have ceased to see it, or at most will only be vaguely aware of the space it occupies. Continue still to look at it, without remorse, for another good fifteen minutes, for it is under these circumstances that your spirit will work best and most decisively, and do not worry about making the maid wait when she calls you and says that the soup is on the table, for after what you have eaten at noon, your long afternoon sleep and everything that you are in the midst of painting in the dark, without yet even suspecting it, you have already in a sense had your supper, and more.”

After this, he recommends dining on sea perch, specifically the eyes. After consuming all but the hard kernels inside, you are to keep them in your mouth. Then, after getting into bed:

“[T]ake these eyes out again. Keep one in your hand, and put the other two on a small book or on a black box which you will rest on your knees, placing them at a certain distance from each other in such a way that, when you hold your forefinger in front of the two super-white balls and focus on your forefinger, the eyes of the sea perch will join, thanks to the precious distance between your own eyes, the grace and the mystery of your binocular vision, and the two eyes of the sea perch will become one single ball. This ball will seem to exert a hypnotic effect on you, and it is very desirable that on that night you should go to sleep while looking at it. But at the same time that you are staring at these two balls which have become one, it is furthermore necessary that, holding the third sea perch eye — the one which your wife has smilingly yielded to you — between the crossed forefinger and middle-finger of your right hand, you should gently caress it. You will then have the striking and unbelievable sensation of having contact with two sea perch eyes, and not merely with the one which is really between your fingers.”

This is “the secret of the sleep with three sea-perch eyes,” and, ideally, will make your sleep start off on the “right, good, and wise path!”

Later, he talks about the importance of constructing an aranearium — that is, a place to keep a spider. Granted, his ideal setup is strikingly different from mine. When I kept tarantulas, a small glass or acrylic aquarium with a suitable substrate and a very firmly-locking lid was enough to keep everything from a docile rose hair to a tetchy cobalt blue. He explains:

“The best aranearium is constructed with a slender olive branch, which you shape as nearly as possible into a perfectly round hoop, leaving four or five olive leaves clinging to the outer part of the circle, on which the spider will enjoy placing himself on various occasions. This hoop of olive wood you will secure on a four-foot pine pole provided with a solid base. At the bottom of the hoop place a small box in the shape of a perfect cube, of very green pine, provided with two holes, one in the top, and the other in one of the sides. This empty cube will serve as the spider’s nest. Within the previously moistened box, introduce a little earth and allow it to dry well in the sun. Since amber is very sympathetic to the spider — and how much more to the painter! — you must always keep a little ball of it on the cube, which you will use to magnetize the tip of your wand, with which you will manipulate and train your spider, so to speak, and with which you will reach to it its feasts of flies, of which you must always have several in reserve, which you may keep in a little bowl beside the ball of amber — for between amber and dead flies there also exist numerous affinities.

I’m interested in his ideas about the affinities between dead flies and amber. We know fossilized insects are often found inside of it, and that amber exhibits an interesting  triboelectric effect. Could that be adjacent to what he’s referring to? Or is it something closer to Remedios Varo’s exercises in effecting extraordinary change through the arrangement of shoes and stuffed hummingbirds?

He goes on to explain that a good artist’s studio needs five of these araneariums, for a particular purpose. You must place a crystal bowl full of water so that it reflects the landscape, and arrange the five araneariums in a line between you and it. Then, looking at the reflection in the water through the webs in the hoops of the araneariums, you can see the land adorned with a “glorious rainbow aureole produced by the irisation of your araneariums[.]” Ideally, you’ll do this around age twenty, and avoid ever looking at that sight again. This sight with therefore move you so much, it will have the effect of “set[ting] traps when we are young for our future adult emotions[.]” In other words, create a kind of a snare for nostalgia, so we can be moved by a smell, a postcard, or something equally small and mundane.

I admit, I’m not much of a fan of Dalí as a personality — while his work was undoubtedly brilliant, he was also arguably the first “celebrity artist.” While there were plenty of other famous artists before him, he arguably treated self-promotion as just as much of an art form as painting. Was he really building spider-homes and caressing sea perch eyes? I can’t say. I do find some interesting parallels between his writing and Remedios Varo’s letters and journals, though, as well as other occult practices.

Maybe I should build a spider box or five. For now, I’ll content myself with Rigoberta’s company.

Rigoberta, the orb weaver.

Rigoberta, the orb weaver.

A World Born: The Promise of Fire and Fugue

Uruvalai

Deep in the secluded archives of the Eternalist monks is a tomb for tales: multitudes of shelves covering every moss-plastered wall in scrolls and cracked tomes. Further below, ancient crates fashioned from kruckwood, limestone, and slate sleep in the deepest catacombs. Covetous roots crowd along the walls, inching to pierce through to the vast knowledge stored deep beneath the soil. Even these ancient, patient, persistent thieves cannot pry nourishment from the sealed-up parchments and letter-carved stone.

The Eternalists never cut the roots. Instead, they carefully relocate the ancient tales whenever their pursuers draw close. They treat the pages with special, ink-preserving resins — a practice refined through the passing of ages. Only the dim light of glowstone illuminates these vaults; the meticulous monks simply will not allow open flames, be it a blazing torch or a flickering candle. Even unfurling a scroll requires special instruments, lest clumsy fingers damage a…

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