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,

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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.  💜

 

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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:

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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 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.

“I WAS ONLY THERE FOR FIVE MINUTES. YOU DON’T KNOW MY BUSINESS!”

“DO YOU KNOW HOW FAST A BABY CAN OVERHEAT AND DIE?”

“LORD, PLEASE BLESS THIS WOMAN WHO OBVIOUSLY HAS SO MANY PROBLEMS-”

“BABIES CAN’T REGULATE THEIR OWN TEMPERATURE!”

“EXORCISE THE EVIL FROM HER LIFE-”

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.

“COVER HER IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS-”

“YOU CAN’T LEAVE A BABY IN A CAR.”

“… 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.

AMEN!

GO TAKE CARE OF YOUR BABY!

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.

 

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

DIY Bath Bomb Magic

Remember when I mentioned taking some magic bath bombs on the road?

Seeing as how they worked extremely well for my purposes, I figured I’d drop how I made ’em. Though they’re not exactly something I’d display in a fancy basket next to my Lush Perles de Sel, they smell fantastic and leave my skin soft (and, more importantly, magic af).

Bath bombs, the easy way

A basic recipe for bath bombs calls for three ingredients:

  1. 1 part acid
  2. 2 parts base
  3. Enough binder to get it to stick together

For most purposes, these are answered by vitamin C, baking soda, and water or oil. Put those together, and you’ll get a basic bomb that will fizz when it gets wet (and help remove the chlorine from your tap water at the same time). From there, you can play with additives, colorants, glitter, and any other ingredients that suit your purpose. You can also add one part of your choice of dry ingredients — dried herbs, epsom salt, arrowroot powder, or what have you — and enough skin-safe essential oil to fragrance the lot.

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So, for example, a sample love bomb recipe might look like this:

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You Can’t Erase People.

Every fall, I drag my S.O. out for what has become a small, but important, tradition for us: Persimmon Quest.

I’d never had a persimmon before, until I moved to California to live with my then-boyfriend on his family’s pomegranate orchard. His mother brought a dozen Fuyu persimmons — squat, sweet, golden bundles of deliciousness. Ever since returning to the east coast, I’ve had a much harder time finding them. Most grocery stores in my area don’t even know what I’m asking for when I call to see if they have any, and there’s only one that carries them with any kind of reliability this time of year.

(All of this, despite the east coast to the midwest having its own, wild type of persimmon. However, like paw paw fruit, they’re not exactly easy to find for sale.)

Wild persimmons on a branch.

Persimmons have their magic properties, like any other thing. The tree is used for healing magic, and good luck, too. The fruit, however, has a very intriguing use in folk magic…

Changing sex.

Folklore holds that, if a girl wanted to be a boy, “all” she had to do was eat nine unripe persimmons. (“All” is in scare quotes because, if you’ve ever accidentally tasted an unripe astringent persimmon, you probably know how horrifying the idea of having to eat nine of them would be!)

This isn’t new magic. It’s old-school Alabama folklore. So, why do legislators seem to think that transgender people are a new idea? That the days they have such misplaced nostalgia for weren’t also populated by transgender people? Or do they not care, so long as they never have to confront the idea and can remain comfortably ignorant while others live in fear and pain?

(I think I know the answer.)

I am considered to be under the trans “umbrella,” though I don’t consider myself trans — I have no desire to transition, and I would not talk about myself in the same breath as those who suffer from dysphoria. I have no real concept of gender, which, at times, can also make it more difficult to empathize with those for whom gender is a real and vital aspect of their identities. (Pink pens for women, black rubber loofahs for men, I don’t get it.) I also don’t care which pronouns are applied to me, because all of them are equally valueless. In truth, I’d rather people not apply any, because I dislike being talked about behind my back.

When I was younger, I used to care more about putting on a gender performance. Like a high school kid preoccupied with wearing the right labels on their clothes, I cared about how my gender was perceived. People still saw through it, though… I will never forget sitting in a living room with a group of friends, getting ready to watch T.V., only to have my room mate (annoyed that we didn’t want to watch what she wanted to watch instead) huffily declare,

“Well, [J]’s not even a real girl!”

Shit, I thought, am I that obvious?

As I matured, I learned better than to sacrifice my energy to keeping up a performance that, frankly, I couldn’t care less about. I’m a witch, I do as I please, and gender is a game I’ve no interest in playing. I live as I please, I dress as I please, I wear my hair (or not at all) as I please, I paint my face as I please, and I perform gender-expected functions of society as I please. I’m not the only one. This is going to continue, regardless of who thinks they can attempt to legislate my, or anyone else’s, existence away piece by piece.

It’s not going to work. Not on me, and not on anyone else.

You don’t get to erase people that easily.