Why “Unseelie?”

So, I’ve gotten asked, “Why do you go by Unseelie J online?”

There are a couple of reasons. Yes, it’s a pun on unseelie fae, but it goes a bit deeper than that.

While the word unseelie, particularly when attached to the unseelie court, is taken to mean “malevolent,” it has a number of uses. Seelie, its opposite, meant blessed, lucky, or happy. Unseelie, therefore, meant unhappy, unfortunate, or not blessed. It’s a term that resonates with me.

I have mostly created my own luck in life — I was born to a poor family, in a not-terribly-great family situation, raised by an abusive, staunchly religious homophobe, nearly killed in a car accident as a teenager, and, to top it all off, was diagnosed with a very rare, poorly understood, incurable, potentially lethal neurological disorder about six years ago.
It’s been quite a time.

I’ve also long realized that my primary purpose in life may very well be to serve as a cautionary tale to others, and I’ve become okay with that. I’m also okay with the fact that I am chiefly alive out of pure contrariness.

After all, like Maria Bamford says,


So, while I’ve got a neurological disorder, anxiety, physical pain, and the weight of my past to carry around, I’m okay with being unseelie. At this point, I also aim to be the biggest thorn in the side of the status quo that I can be, so I’m even okay with being considered malevolent.

It all depends on who’s doing the considering.  💜



I did the thing!

Years back, I had an Etsy shop. It worked out pretty well — I made a little money, a few friends, and had customers who genuinely enjoyed my art. Unfortunately, I fell out of it after I moved, was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, and began losing my sight.

I’ve always wanted to start it up again, though my artistic output isn’t as prolific as it used to be. Finally, I figured, why not? I have some finished paintings, jewelry making supplies, and other things I could use to start my store up again, so why not?

So, I did:


It isn’t yet fully stocked, because I had the sneaking suspicion that, if I chose to wait until it was stocked to my complete satisfaction,I’d never get around to actually opening it. So, if you’re interested in tarot readings or prints of my artwork, I’ve got you covered. In the meantime, I’m working on more things to add, so please favorite and keep an eye out!


The Science in Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about how much work goes into something like, say, making a magical oil.

I used to work in a chem lab — I did soil and water analysis for an environmental testing company. I loved the job, and worked there up until I was no longer physically able. It was challenging, rewarding, and allowed me to work a job that paid my bills and didn’t require me to sacrifice my principles.

All of this is to say, I really dig the science underlying the patently unscientific things I do.


I’ll give you an example. There’s one particular divination tool I’m in the process of working on. It hasn’t been easy, and it has required a lot of research. Not only did I have to delve into the magical properties and folklore of all of the ingredients, I also had to figure out their respective contents of estragole, anethole, thujone, and other compounds that are soluble in alcohol, but only weakly soluble (or completely insoluble) in water. Hopefully, this will yield a final product that not only has the magical properties I desire, but the physical properties I need to work the way I want it to.

Another example is oil. Sure, most of the oils I make are infused, not dilutions of essential oil, but I still need to be mindful of their capacity for toxicity, unwanted side-effects, and (perhaps most importantly) sensitization. I’ve been in the process of re-working a recipe to guard against nightmares for weeks, just to yield an anointing oil that will protect your sleep and not give you a rash at the same time.

Of course, sometimes the toxicity is the point. I don’t walk the poison path in the same way other witches might. At the moment, with my particular health challenges, the risk is not necessarily worth the reward when I have other herbs and tools at my disposal. But “the dose makes the poison,” and the poison path is a rewarding one nonetheless.

It’s fun process, albeit a frustrating one. I do get a fair amount of people who roll their eyes, and ask me why I even bother for something they see as fake to begin with. It’s the kind of thing where, for people who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, none is possible.

Besides, the challenge is half of the fun.




The baby got locked in the car, and then an exorcism broke out.

I wasn’t always self-employed. Did I ever tell you that I used to work retail?

If not, this is why.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad gig — I learned a lot, especially about nutrition. The management was often a nightmare, but the work was decent enough to keep me doing it for several years.

I also had a number of customers who seemed to think I was pretty neat. One lady managed to avoid putting down her son’s dog after I made a dietary recommendation (he had been medicated for severe allergies of unknown origin, then needed phenobarbital to counteract the seizures his medication gave him. It turned out to be a severe allergy to corn). One couple straight-up told me that, when I changed stores, they would continue shopping at whichever one I ended up working at.

Those times were nice. The other days, though? Ho-lee crap.

One of the locations at which I worked was located right next to a barbershop. Barbershops aren’t always exactly like hair salons — they’re as much a chill spot and center of community as they are a place to get your hair cut. So, this place was always busy and had a small contingent of satellite businesses that kind of popped up around it. (Which was somewhat of a problem for our more skittish customers, who didn’t really know how to handle overly friendly strangers trying to sell them bootleg DVDs out of a car trunk.) Point being, a lot of people were in, out, and about this barbershop basically all the time, especially on weekends.

One day, my store’s dead. It’s Sunday, nobody’s coming in, the radio’s playing whatever insipid top 40s mush was in rotation at the time. People are still going in and out of the barbershop, as per usual, but nobody seems particularly in need of my services at the moment. Even the sandwich place next door to us is quiet.
Then the door opens.

“There’s a baby locked in a car in the parking lot.”

The woman is rushed — hurried and upset, but not frantic. I can’t leave my store, I haven’t seen the baby, I don’t know when the car pulled up, how long she’s been out there, or who either car or baby belong to. Neither does this woman. We could wait around for the mother or father to return, but what if it’s too late? Is it really safe to assume the baby hasn’t been forgotten and everything is okay? What if we’re wrong?

Headlines flash through my head. Interviews with parents who, after one sleepless night or minor disruption to their morning routine, managed to forget their children in the backs of cars to tragic result. Bad things happen, even to loving and attentive parents. Neither of us know this person or this child, but nobody wants that for them or the rest of their family. The worried woman doesn’t have a cell phone, so she asks if I can call for help.

Strangely enough, having to do that wasn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence. We had to call 911 when a customer experienced a grand mal seizure in front of the cash register, another time when a customer had a heart attack, again when another overdosed in his car, and again when I had a very weird episode of tachycardia. This store was not exactly a stranger to the local paramedics.
(In retrospect, it may also have been cursed.)

So, I call 911. I’m not even off the phone yet — I had just asked for an ambulance, just in case — when the I hear the door chime again.

It’s the baby’s mother.

And she is pissed.

I still don’t know how she found out that this other woman spotted her baby in the car. Maybe she’d gone into the barbershop to ask before she came in the store? I don’t know.

Now, this woman is probably a loving mother who was only stopping by the barbershop for a grand total of three minutes, but nobody else knew that. What the other lady saw as justified concern for a child’s safety, she doubtless saw as some random busybody’s scathing indictment of her abilities as a mother. And, once again, my store was completely dead. Apparently, the lack of other witnesses allowed these ladies to lower their inhibitions enough to begin the most bonkers verbal throwdown I have ever seen in my life.

The mother, fuming, shouts at the other woman to mind her own business. The other woman shouts that she can’t leave a baby alone in a car. The mother begins to shout to God. The other woman shouts even louder explanations for why you can’t just leave a baby in a car.






And I’m standing there, slack jawed, with the phone in my hand.

“Miss?” I hear a tiny voice. “Miss?”

“I, uh. I don’t think I still need that ambulance, thanks,” I murmur into the phone.



“… Are you sure everything’s okay?” The 911 operator asks.

“… Yeah. Yeah, I think so,” I respond, struggling to be heard over what has turned into some kind of Jesus-vs.-Baby-Death-Statistics free verse poetry slam, reasoning that I can always call back if/when one of them starts throwing elbows.



The mother stormed out.
The other woman bought a bag of horse feed.
The baby, presumably, was fine, though I really hope her mom was mad enough about the whole thing to avoid letting her stay in the car again.


Honoring Your Blood Ancestors (even if you probably would’ve hated most of them)

Awhile ago, I had a DNA test. The results contained a couple of surprises, though the fact that there were surprises wasn’t, in itself, surprising.

Let me back up.

Years ago, when I was recently diagnosed with IIH, drugged to the gills, recovering from a spinal tap, and bored out of my mind, I decided genealogy would be more fun than staring at the ceiling and trying not to throw up. There was only one problem.
We’ll call him Albert.

Albert was my great-grandfather. He was my maternal grandmother’s father and, by all accounts, an absolute chemical toilet fire of a man. My grandmother wasn’t really raised by her parents — her mother died in a sanitarium at age 22, and her father, well…

Let’s just say I didn’t have much to go on other than that side of my family was French-Canadian, and their name was spelled wrong. It was extremely difficult to get more information about them, because every search result for my great-grandfather only turned up his many, many, many appeals from Attica. (Also, he was the one who changed the spelling of his last name, and was the only one in his entire family who spelled it that way. It’s like he went out of his way to make this impossible.)

I probably would not have liked great-grandpa Albert if I had known him in life. I have two toxic relatives who are both much closer to me and still living, and I don’t even talk to them. Neither of them have even been in and out of maximum security prison (as far as I know. It’s been awhile).

Nonetheless, great-grandpa Albert is family. He is a part of my ancestry — just as much as my Acadian and Métis ancestors, my great-great-grandmother who lived through losing three children to marasmus, and the great-great-to-the-nth-degree-grandfather who was being sent to Africa to build a railroad, noped out, went AWOL, and became a pirate instead. Just as much as Fíngen mac Áedo Duib, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and all of the other kings, criminals, heroes, and monsters tangled in the roots of my family tree.

Venerating ancestors is not, in itself, an aspect of my practice that I struggle with. I can see the importance and beauty in it, but I also think most people have a less jacked up family tree than I do.

What do you do when a lot of your ancestors were legitimately terrible people?

I’m reminded of a video clip a friend of mine showed me some time ago. It was of a black celebrity, discussing how he reconciled his feelings on having European ancestry, despite the fact that it came from people who enslaved the rest of his forebears. She thought he was a fool for it — why would you honor people who oppressed the rest of your ancestors? I couldn’t really offer much of an opinion either way, other than to feel that, sometimes, things like that are what you have to do.

They’re what you have to do for yourself. To stay sane. To not feel like you, yourself, are somehow tainted by them.

During and after a divorce, parents are cautioned not to badmouth each other to their children. Not only does doing so alienate the other parent from their child, it hurts the child. Parents can divorce, but children have to carry the genetic legacy of both of their parents forever. Hearing one parent badmouth the other isn’t just upsetting, it’s damaging. That child is a blend of their parents, and being told that one half of them is basically garbage doesn’t exactly foster strong self-esteem or good mental health.

You can’t really escape the ancestry you carry. Even if it’s full of a**holes.
(Probably especially if it’s full of a**holes.)

So what do you do?

The part of ancestor veneration that does trip me up is my estrangement from parts of my living family. The estrangement is by no means something I regret — on the contrary, the only thing I regret is that it took so long to happen. How do I reconcile honoring terrible people who have passed on, while removing those who still live from my life?

Is time a dark enough window to hide the sins of the dead?

I remember reading Women Who Run With the Wolves many years ago. In it, the author talks about taking a predator’s weapons for your own, dismantling them, revealing their elements of truth, and using this to strengthen yourself:

“We dismantle the predator by countering its diatribes with our own nurturant truths. Predator: You never finish anything you start. Yourself: I finish many things. We dismantle the assaults of the natural predator by taking to heart and working with what is truthful in what the predator says and then discarding the rest.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

This is the approach I take, for my own strength, for my own sanity, and because the dead won’t be brought to task. I can’t make great-grandpa Albert be there for his family, make him less of an abusive alcoholic, or keep him out of prison. I can’t reach into the past and redeem anyone, but I can see them through the lens of hindsight. I can see the truth in their stories and put it to use. I can see where lives went wrong, where generations of abject poverty, oppression, abuse, alcoholism, and plain bad decisions shifted and twisted the branches of my family tree.

I can see this, and I can thank them for the lessons. I don’t have to appreciate great-grandpa Albert the way I do my still-living grandfather. I don’t have to pretend his actions were not, at times, completely reprehensible. I don’t have to pretend to like anyone in order to learn from them.

If I can’t honor the people some of my ancestors were, I can honor the lessons they’ve taught me.

Winter Things Yule Love

Note: This post contains some affiliate links to things I like, and thought you might enjoy too. They allow me to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All product photos belong to their respective owners, and appear here with permission. Thank you for helping to support this site, and the artists and artisans who make awesome stuff!
(Also, that Yule pun was terrible and I’m not even a little sorry about it.)

Now that November’s almost through, I feel like I can talk about Yule. I confess, Yule isn’t my favorite holiday — like a lot of other witches, Samhain’s more my jam. Still, there’s a lot to love about winter, from bundling up with my partner, my cats, a cup of star anise tea, and a fuzzy blanket, to visiting the National Arboretum and Rock Creek Park to take in all of the things nature hides under the greens of spring and summer. (I’m a sucker for watching fluffy little titmice puffing themselves up in red-berried hawthorn boughs. They’re so freaking cute, they’re basically alive Pokémon.)


Click the image to Pin it!

As a Pagan, it can be tricky to find ways to make Yule feel special when so much of U.S. culture revolves around Christmas this time of year. So, I put together a short list of things that, to me, help make this season a little extra sweet.


A small, helpful rock.

Chronic illness demands strange rituals from you.

Sure, you go to the doctor. You take what they give you, though you might find that you have to do so at a certain time of night, or with a certain type of food, or adjust your dosage based on the weather or time of the month you take it. You start developing the small repetitions that (hopefully) keep you functioning.

Sometimes, that isn’t enough. So you branch out — you start adding medicinal baths, special pillows, vitamins, herbs. You go to a massage therapist, maybe an acupuncturist. You stretch, meditate, and spray yourself with magnesium oil. Your house becomes a haven for therapeutic smells.

Maybe you go further still. You look up the meanings and properties of crystals, and leave little groups of them huddled on your shelves or nightstand. You draw sigils on your medicine bottles, and paint runes on yourself in arnica gel and muscle rub.


All of this is to explain how I ended up with my favorite medicinal rock.

Crystal guides usually give the same set of properties for a given stone — you use rose quartz for love, amethyst for peace and relaxation, and so forth. I come from a magical background staunchly rooted in personal associations. I don’t believe it’s necessary or desirable to reinvent the wheel, but most of the herbs, stones, and other tools I use are ones that I have a personal history with, and what I’ve learned about them doesn’t always match what the guides say.

Selenite is usually used to cleanse things. You can keep it with other stones or tools, or use the little wands to clear negative energy out of spaces like a spiritual lint roller. One crystalworker uses them to help itching from bug bites and eczema. I used to keep a couple pieces of it around to keep stagnant energy from accumulating. Now? I use selenite crystals for pain.

I get terrible neck pains sometimes, a direct consequence of a rare, incurable  neurological condition. There’s no help for it. I’ve been given everything from massage, to camphor gel, to opiates, to tricyclic antidepressants, all to little avail. If the pain becomes bad enough, it means I need to visit the ER for an emergency lumbar puncture and more hardcore pain management (which is also why I have several opinions on how the opiate crisis is affecting the way pain is managed in emergency settings, but that’s neither here nor there). If it isn’t yet at the ER point, I just have to suck it up.

One night, in a moment of sleepless desperation, I picked up a rough selenite wand and pressed it to my neck. And it worked.

Now, I keep a smoothed and shaped wand of selenite in my bedside table, ready for all of the times when pain keeps me awake. I don’t need to do much with it, just pressing it lightly to the places that hurt is often enough to give me enough relief to sleep. Would I use it instead of evidence-based medicine? No, but I also haven’t met a doctor yet that objects to me having a safe, drug-free means of relieving pain. I still need to visit the ER when things become bad enough — I haven’t found any stone that can substitute for having about 15 mmHg of extra fluids siphoned off my brain, unfortunately — but this helps make the other days more bearable.

Sometimes, chronic illness makes you do things. You might give up nightshade vegetables, take up polyphasic sleeping, or begin carrying magnesium oil in your bag.

Or, you might befriend a small, helpful rock.