The Lost Books Of Summer: A Reading Challenge

FullSizeRenderAt the onset of summer I challenged myself to read at least 25 books over the months of June, July, and August. I have an overall yearly goal (which I have already met!) but I thought it might be fun to set a specific summer reading goal, a sort of challenge-within-a-challenge.

How did I do? Well, I was going strong until mid-August, at which point I was distracted by a barely perceptible (probably imaginary) change in the air, a slight difference in the quality of afternoon sunlight through the trees. In my brief stint in living up North, these small changes signified the seasonal shifts leading to the oncoming Autumn months…and even though that’s actually kind of cute and laughable down here in FL (if anything, it gets hotter here!) there’s still something in my brain that switches on right before September and begins to look the end of summer around every corner. When I catch wind of it, my fingers begin itching for a skein of wool and wooden needles, and then, well, too bad, so sad, summer reading!

In June I managed eleven titles; six in July, and in August another six, making for a grand total of twenty three books completed in the course of my summer reading mini-challenge. Two short of my goal! Ah, well. There were a few books that I started during that time, but I am still reading, so I don’t suppose those count. And then in September when I was trapped in the house for a few days with no electricity, I read three more, but those don’t really count either!

See below for a full listing of the titles I completed over the course of the past three months, along with those read in September, and those I am still reading. I have marked the ones I thoroughly enjoyed with an “*”, and you’ll note that Grady Henrix’s Paperbacks From Hell:The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, even though I’ve not finished it, has quite a lot of *s. I think, even though it’s basically a book about books, that it’s going to be my favorite book of the year!

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June:
Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber
Hunger by Roxane Gay*
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Snot Girl Volume One
Giant Days Volume Five
Jem and The Holograms Volume Four
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu*
Bleed
Monstress Vol. 2
The Graveyard Apartment*
Southern Cross

July:
The Lottery (graphic novel adaptation)
Rachel Rising Vols. 
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The Beguiled
Gilded Needles*

August:
Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth
My Pretty Vampire
One More Year*
Audition
Wet Moon*
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington*

Early September Hurricane Reads:
Clueless
The Grip of It*
Mapping The Interior*

Still Reading:
The Dark Eidolon And Other Fantasies
Witches, Sluts, And Feminists: Conjuring The Sex Positive
Season of the Witch: How The Occult Saved Rock and Roll
Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin
Paperbacks From Hell:The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction ****

curses + kisses

curses + kisses from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

Image: Widow hands by Lizz Lopez

Track list:

Exhumed by Zola Jesus | Particle Flux by CHELSEA WOLFE | Femme Couverte by Black Mare | Crown by Myrkur | 13 Beaches by Lana Del Rey | Burn It Down by Daughter | Black Rose by The Glass Child | Home by Shannon Lay | Reindeer King by Tori Amos | Ave Generosa by Gyða Valtýsdottir

Friday Fripperies, Resistance Edition: Resistance Insignia Pin From The Creeping Museum

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On this week’s Fripperies For The Resistance…!

The Creeping Museum is the nonprofit creative vision and labor of love conceived between two friends and a grilled cheese sandwich in a North Portland laundromat in the spring of 2016.  Their remarkable mission? To help artists and independent creators give back to their communities by turning their strange and unusual work into tiny pieces of affordable art in the form of collectible enamel pins– for which to support wonderfully worthy causes.

The visionary creeps responsible for this collaborative venture involving spooky wearable art and a commitment to making the world a better place are Alyssa Glass and Layla Sullivan.  “At The Creeping Museum,” they insist with infectious enthusiasm, “the gallery is you!” The Museum’s collection of tiny art can be found creeping on the lapels of art lovers from coast to coast and around the world, and each sale of these mini masterpieces benefit organizations such as Bat Conservation InternationalThe Library Foundation, or The Worthy Pause, just to name a few of their chosen causes.

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Released by The Creeping Museum in March of 2017, this 1.5” vintage-style shield brooch, either in Shining Armor Silver, Classic Victorian Gold, or Lucky Copper Penny, with black enamel features a sword inspired by Joan of Arc’s coat of arms against a bouquet of deadly nightshade (which, according to lore, was used to honor Bellona, a Roman goddess of war), and watched over by a tiny bat.

20% of proceeds from the sale of each pin will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in support of their fight against hate. The balance of proceeds will be used to support The Creeping Museum’s nonprofit mission of helping artists give back to their communities by turning their work into tiny, affordable editions to support worthy causes.

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According to co-founder Alyssa Glass,

“I created the “Resistance Insignia” design as a personal act of catharsis shortly after the 2017 presidential inauguration; I needed a wearable daily reminder that I wasn’t going to let hate and bigotry win without a fight.

There’s a handwritten positive affirmation hidden inside each package – I feel like we need all the positivity we can get right now, and sometimes it’s therapeutic for me to have to sit down and think of lots of positive messages for strangers. (I didn’t think that anyone would ever see or read them, but I’ve actually received some really moving notes from people who said that the secret messages found them at the exact right time.) It’s also comforting to know that all over the world, people are wearing the pin and taking strength in its message. I’ve spent a lot of 2017 feeling hopeless, and being able to use this project to raise money for both the Southern Poverty Law Center and our own Creeping Museum projects (like our Little Free Library and miniature gallery) has given me a way to feel like I’m at least playing a tiny part in standing up against a tidal wave of hatred and daily outrages.”

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RESIST BLOGHow does one go about styling this empowering accessory? Check out my suggestions, above! As always, click here, or directly on the image for a full listing of the items used in the ensemble.

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Bonus! Are you writing letters to your Congressmen, Senators & Representatives? Whether you’re looking for just the right stationery for penning notes to your elected officials, or want to surprise a loved one with a little bit of inspiration in their mailbox, these sets of 4×6 inch Resistance Postcards are the perfect reminder to keep fighting the good fight. Each set includes four different designs: three new drawings by Layla Sullivan plus a postcard version of our their Resistance Insignia pin.

20% of proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood and to the Virginia Garcia Clinic, an Oregon health center that provides medical care to migrant and seasonal farm workers and others with barriers to receiving health care.

Find The Creeping Museum: website / instagram

Are you a creator who gives a damn? Are you aware of artisans or indie businesses speaking up, reaching out, and creating art or goods to express outrage with injustice, promote anti-hatred, or which encourage safe spaces in their communities? Please let me know about them for future Friday Fripperies!

Becoming Dangerous

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My bold, beautiful, beloved friend Meredith just shared this Kickstarter project with me, and it’s such an important thing, a vitally, crucially important thing, that I am compelled to share it with you, too.

BECOMING DANGEROUS: A book about ritual and resistance, is comprised of twenty personal essays from witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels on summoning the power to resist.

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Some words from the creators:

“BECOMING DANGEROUS is a nonfiction book of deeply personal essays by marginalised people using the intersection of feminism, witchcraft, and resistance to summon power and become fearsome in a world that would prefer them afraid. With contributions from twenty witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels, BECOMING DANGEROUS is a book of intelligent and challenging essays that will resonate with anyone who’s ever looked for answers outside the typical places.

The latest book from Fiction & Feeling, a new and independent UK publishing company, the book is edited by Katie West, and Jasmine Elliott. From ritualistic skincare routines to gardening; from becoming your own higher power to searching for a legendary Scottish warrior woman; from the fashion magick of brujas to cripple-witch city-magic; from shoreline rituals to psychotherapy—this book is for people who know that now is the time, now is the hour, ours is the magic, ours is the power.”

Contributors for this book write for publications like The Guardian and The Paris Review; websites like Autostraddle, The Hoodwitch, VICE, Broadly, and Nylon; and have published books and journal articles with several different publishers.

Some identify as witches; others identify as writers, musicians, or artists. All of them have developed personal rituals to summon their own power and want to share these personal experiences of resistance and survival with you.

I have already backed this project; I cannot think of any book more worthy or deserving of my money right now, and I am absolutely certain that BECOMING DANGEROUS will similarly compel so many of you, too.

Currently {Salem Edition}

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It’s been a long few weeks. Few weeks? More like 8 weeks, I guess. Two months.

August arrived quietly enough, but ended in a flurry of activity and travel. I drove down to South Florida for work purposes, and was there for but a few days before heading back to Orlando to catch a flight to Salem to meet up with the Haute Macabre crew for a madcap weekend of witchery and poetry and beauty with some of my extraordinary friends.

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The day of our arrival we were whisked away by the very excellent Jo, a new (to me) friend, who took us back to her lovely home, fed us delicious pancakes, and let us play with her two sweet puppers while we recovered from our long flights. From there it was off to Witchpix (or goth glamour shots, as we came to call it) for dress ups and close ups at their spooky costume studio in Salem! I was a little nervous about it because I am basically nervous about everything, but it was great fun. And, I mean, there was a wind machine! And props! And a broom that seated four. And did I mention dressing up? There were capes and cloaks and corsets galore, and even a hat that fit my big pumpkin head.

A++ ridiculousness, would highly recommend.

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After our goth glamour shots we ambled over to the Black Veil Tattoo Studio for the Night Market Event which made for an utterly surreal dream of evening. Already exhausted for having been awake 24+ hours, being amongst the jostling crowd of people and the heartfeels from both meeting the creators I’ve admired from afar, as well as friends, both new and old–it was an intense experience. Especially if you’re not great at meeting people even when you’re at the top of your game (and please note, I don’t think my game actually even has a “top”. Maybe a “lower-middle”.) It was pretty wild. Pictured in the top photo is one half of our fearless leadership team, Samantha, along with staff writer Sonya V., whose face I adore. The bottom photo is the rare beauty of fellow staff writer Maika K. (whose face I also adore.)

Afterward we discussed how that, if there was ever a crowd in which to feel uncomfortable and anxious, we were in the right place–I suspect everyone who walked through the door that evening deals with anxiety and anti-social awkardness on some level. No doubt about it, we were among our people.

Later, in discussions with another friend, I was musing at how, even in the most accepting of crowds, I always end up feeling like the odd one out, an outsider. When I was much younger, this bothered me in a vague sort of way…but I finally realized it bothered me because it didn’t bother me enough…if that makes any sense? I felt like maybe humans are supposed to try their damnedest to be a part of things, and I think I recognized in myself that I just …didn’t want to. I love the idea of community, but at the same time being around people makes me so uncomfortable (anxiety re: saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, not having enough to talk about or maybe saying too much) that I think my discomfort is almost tangible and it might be a little off-putting to people who are trying to interact with me. And so I remove myself from the heart of things (if I ever even made it there) and observe from the edges. I think I am happiest there, on the fringe. I can see you over there and wave, and smile, and be glad in my heart that I got sort of close to you, and then I can scoot back to a dim corner and read a book while listening to the good times and revelries of the people I care about…from afar.

Wow, sorry to ramble like that. At any rate, I hope I never give anyone the impression that I don’t want to talk to them or I am too good to hang out with them and chat or whatever. (Unless you’re some weird, creepy dude, in which case, fuck off, you’re a pig from hell.) But I’m always happy to know like-minded souls and kindred spirits, so please forgive my weirdness if you’ve ever met me in person and thought “huh, I thought she’d be a lot nicer than that.”

21227444_142415069691642_2053750105638436864_n 21224924_760656510782794_4857142171033141248_n 21294548_130988260855554_721302116269817856_n 21296589_114503949218242_3737305044320518144_n 21372533_114120739302043_1948447330130722816_n 21372849_350808572024658_7157177357965459456_nThe next day we spent quietly recharging as we explored only a small portion of the 175 acres of grounds and monuments in the exceptionally beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery–after which we again visited Black Veil, for the debut of Ashley Rose Couture’s current newest collection.

This time last year I was wringing my hands and tearing at my hair in mourning because I could not attend Ashley Rose’s exquisite “Shadows of the Realm” collection debut; this year I had a front row view of her equally enchanting “My Dearest Dust” installation, so I guess it all worked out in the end for ol’ Sarah.

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On Sunday it was back to our old haunt, The Black Veil Tattoo Studio!  We were tattooed by the gracious, talented Ryan Murray who took our secret design collaboration ideas, which incorporated elements and symbols that are important to each of us, improved upon them immeasurably, and created something more beautiful than we could have hoped for. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful experience for my first fancy tattoo (I already have several shitty ones) or have spent the day with people more dear to me.

In between tattoos, Matthew Murray, an outstanding host and as talented an artist as his brother, kept us company while we explored all the nooks and crannies and hidden corners of the shop. That wee kitten just kills me. Those tiny claws! What a little charmer! And the grim witchling from Handsome Devil Puppets– Ahhhh! Love love love.

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Post-tattoos, we one by one headed over to the Satanic Temple, where Sonya read from their book, Salt Is For Curing, and along with poet Janaka Stucky (The Truth Is We Are Perfect)  and author Peter Bebergal (Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll) presented an utterly enchanting, thoroughly engaging evening of poetry and prose. After their readings, there was a fascinating panel discussion and Q&A, brimming with shrewd insights and observations from the authors, as well as some… er… surprising and belligerent feedback from the audience. Which really didn’t even have anything to do with the presenters really, just some guy with a grudge and who wanted to vent inappropriately. Quel horreur!

Still–it was an amazing evening and probably one of my very favorite parts of the trip. Probably because I was in the audience, as opposed to in front of it. (Sorry Sonya. But you were magnificent!)

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On our last day in Boston, before departing to the airport to catch our various flights, we made one last stop: the Harvard Museum of Natural History. What a powerfully peaceful place to unwind after the previous few days of whirlwind adventures! So many marvelous specimens (that elegantly attired long-tail widow bird)! So many sweet derpsters (that hedgehog!) There was wonder to be found around every corner.

And then…I was home. Just in time for hurricane prep!
But that’s another story for another time.

P.S. When you get home after travels, do you just like to sort of spread your newly acquired loots over your bed and revel in it?  Me too!

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P.P.S Sharing photos of my hair and nails because they will never look this nice again.

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Make The Most Of Your Weird Library With The Arcane Art Of Bibliomancy

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Amongst my acquaintances it would seem that we all appear to have a similar predicament with regard to the printed word: that is to say, an intense, almost obsessive acquisition of books. Whether for pleasure, research, or keeping up our nerdy/witchy Instagram appearances, we acquire stacks and piles of bound, printed matter much faster than we actually read through them.

No doubt if I were to quiz one of these friends at random they will admit, with a strange sort of embarrassed pride, that they have shelves upon shelves of unread novels–and yet there is an Amazon Prime parcel on their doorstep, a small press delivery on the way, and their virtual cart is brimming with another order ready to be placed. Oh, and they’ve just come back from a stroll through the musty, dim-lit shelves of a local used bookstore, and hey look, what a surprise–here’s a few more books.

What if I told you that you could use these mountains of books as more than doorstops and spider-squashers? What if I revealed to you a use for that collection of charming, old-timey ghost stories that has been gathering dust and cobwebs on your nightstand? Yes, yes, I know–you are going to read it eventually, and I do appreciate that sentiment: I’ve got the same book next to my bed that I’ve been too sleepy or too busy looking at my Twitter feed to actually pick up and peruse.

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You are no doubt familiar with the practice of divination, or, the seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means. One can foretell the future through cards, clouds, drops of mercury, even a pile of steaming entrails. Today, however, we are hitting the books for our divinatory purposes! Divination from books or verse is an ancient process known as bibliomancy and is sometimes used synonymously with the terms stichomancy (divination from lines) or rhapsodomancy (divination through a random passage of a poem).

There are, of course, different schools of thought as to how bibliomancy works. Originally, it was a means of seeking divine answers, and the most popular book used for this practice was American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (just kidding! It’s the Bible)–though this is not the only text that’s been used for this purpose. Other popular texts included the Aeneid of Virgil, the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, and The I Ching has also been used in a similar manner. Seekers of illumination would meditate upon their questions and blindly select a passage in the book, which supposedly would impart to them the divine wisdom they needed for the solution to their problem. In this theory, it is believed that one is led deliberately to their answers by some sort of higher power, or perhaps an angel, spirit guide, or aliens.

Other folks see it as more of a psychological enterprise—a means of communicating with your own damn higher self. Meaning, we most likely already contain the answers to our problems, we just can’t always easily tap into them due to all of the “mental filters” that we have built up through our lives and experiences, clouding our ability to see the issues clearly. By this ideology, it’s not really the book that contains any special or wondrous answers; you already know the solutions you seek, and the chosen passage just acts as a tool to help you access them.

But back to the books– you mustn’t feel compelled to use one of those “sacred” texts to practice bibliomancy. All that’s required is a book that speaks to you at that moment. This could be from the library, a new book you’ve purchased for this inaugural divinatory occasion, or something from your own bogged-down shelves. It could be a spiritual book, fiction, nonfiction, that smutty romance novel that sits on the back of your toilet, or even your beloved, dog-eared, 30-year-old stolen library copy of Harriet The Spy. The books you adore will have had an enormous influence on who you are and your beliefs. These beloved writings will have caused you to examine your own depths, encourage you to think in new ways, and eventually become part of who you are, which is why they are great vehicles for shedding light on the questions to which you are seeking answers.

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Let’s get started, shall we? In preparation for a bibliomantic ritual, give some thought as to the kind of question you want to ask: are you seeking romantic resolution or perhaps repairing a relationship? Or maybe you’re all like,”Love? Fuck that horseshit! Where did my great-great-grandpa bury that hidden treasure?” Perhaps you just want guidance on what to make for dinner tonight, but somehow opening an actual cookbook seems too mundane. Words taken out of their larger context could trigger something deeper than you imagine is possible. This could be the most amazing Monday night supper you’ve ever made!

Focus your question and find your book. Trail your fingertips along the spines of those lonely, mostly unread books (again, no judgment) and see what calls to you. The titles themselves can often reflect how you are feeling, or coincide with a situation you have been dealing with. Maybe the embossed detailing tickles your fancy. Maybe the cracked, faded lettering on your dear copy of The Complete Grimoire of Pope Honorius makes your innards go all cozy and it just feels right. Go with it!

Sit with your chosen book in a quiet space and close your eyes. Clear your mind and try to not focus overly much on the emotions attached to the question you need help in answering. What you are aiming for is a state of “calm expectation.” When you feel comfortable, relaxed, and emotionally and spiritually in a good place, ask your question– out loud if you don’t feel too weird about it, or quietly in your mind, if you prefer. Take a few seconds to allow your question to be heard and absorbed. Then pick up the book.

Close your eyes and let your fingers meander through the book’s pages, lingering over the paper wherever you may feel compelled. At some point while doing so, you will intuitively feel the “right” place to stop (or your finger will get tired, that’s a good place to stop, too.) Place your finger on the spot you are drawn to.

Read from where you finger is resting, be it for a few words, a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire passage if you’re into it. At first glance, the words may have no bearing on your question. “What the fuck is this nonsense?” you may wonder, “I asked if my girlfriend is cheating on me and this asshole is talking about cherry blossoms. Thanks a lot, Basho!” Give it some time. Look at the words you are reading: what do they have to tell you about your situation? Do they offer any guidance or inspiration? Do you connect emotionally with what you have just read–did it leave you gleeful, frightened, peevish? Repeat the passage aloud or write it down by hand–your higher mind has deliberately selected these words to help you in some way and eventually you will understand their importance and meaning.

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Some mystics suggest for this exercise that if you’re left even more confused than when you started and you require more clarity, try it again from the start. Pick a book that seems to fit your question, and then merge your chosen answer with the last passage. It is said that sooner or later you will be able to see what the words are trying to get through to you. Or you’ll go crazy. Because I’ll be honest, at this point I am thinking of a freaky Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel scenario involving infinite permutations of all these passages mashed together and it’s sort of creeping me out.

There you have it, bookworms! Since you’re clearly not ever going to read anything from those dangerously teetering, towering book stacks, why not harness the power and the magic of those beautiful, potent words contained within to get some questions answered and get your shit together?

Okay, okay, I poke fun, but I get it. I am one of you, truly! I just checked out eight books from the library but I’m still plowing through a pile of books I bought two years ago. And yet, somehow I just purchased four more books for Summer Reading 2019? How does this even happen? It’s a sickness.

So let’s do this for a start. Read through the above thoroughly, and as your first foray into the arcane art of bibliomancy, I want you to think long and hard on this question. Meditate, roll it around in your mind, choose your title from your shelf and ask aloud of the angels, aliens, your intuitive brain-meats, and who/whatever else…

“What book shall I read next?”

Photo credit: Maika Keuben / @liquidnight

(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)

Friday Fripperies, Resistance Edition: “Neo-Nazis Not Welcome” From Cat Coven

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To continue spotlighting creators who give a damn, today on Friday Fripperies: Resistance Edition, we are featuring Cat Coven’s “Neo-Nazis Not Welcome” designs, which you can wear proudly emblazoned across your chest on a fantastically fierce red on black tee shirt, or, if you prefer, the same fearsome design in the form of a portable patch to decorate and designate your bags or jackets as a FUCK OFF NAZI SCUM zone.

100% of profits from this design are donated to Make the Road New York (MRNY), which is a grassroots organization in NYC that fights for Latino and working class communities, including: “workers’ rights, tenant rights, LGBTQ justice, youth power and policing, public schools and education justice and immigration justice.” Learn more at http://www.maketheroadny.org

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Remarks Cat Coven’s Kjersti Faret:

“I created this design in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. I was so angry – it’s 2017 and Nazis are still alive and well in America. Since Trump’s election, bigots have felt safer voicing their hate. I’m fortunate enough to live in a liberal NYC bubble, which protects me from much of this direct rhetoric. However, I wanted to acknowledge this horrible phenomenon in the best way I know how: drawing about it.”

My previous charity designs have focused on love and healing, but I wanted this one to express my rage. The imagery of the cat attacking the snake paired with the phrase “Neo-Nazis Not Welcome” shows anger while still cultivating a safe space. I hope it inspires and empowers others to speak up against ignorance and hate.

How might one style this powerful statement tee? I have some suggestions for you, below!
As always, click here, or directly on the image for a full listing of the items used in the ensemble. Also included with these selection is Chase and Scout’s Watchful Eye Amulet, featured here, previously.nnnw

 

Find Cat Coven: website / instagram / facebook

Are you a creator who gives a damn? Are you aware of artisans or indie businesses speaking up, reaching out, and creating art or goods to express outrage with injustice, promote anti-hatred, or which encourage safe spaces in their communities? Please let me know about them for future Friday Fripperies!

Solstice Scents Late Summer Collection Giveaway

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Peeking in post-storm to share some reviews for the Solstice Scents Later Summer collection that I wrote up for Haute Macabre, as well as the opportunity to win some of these scents for yourselves!

Do you want to smell of an ice cream sundae enjoyed in the murky seaside town of Innsmouth? Or perhaps strange desert visions? Or nostalgic Spring Break make-outs with your high school boyfriend? Leave a comment over at Haute Macabre and tell us which scent you’d most like to try!

Blown Away For A Spell

 Two Geisha and Porter in Wind and Rain at Night, from Vol. 2 of the book Ehon shiki no hana (Flowers of the Four Seasons); Artist Kitagawa Utamaro I (Japanese, early 1750s–1806)


Two Geisha and Porter in Wind and Rain at Night, from Vol. 2 of the book Ehon shiki no hana (Flowers of the Four Seasons); Artist Kitagawa Utamaro I (Japanese, early 1750s–1806)

I am writing this as the rains lash against the windows and the winds brazenly, violently, gust about our home; a hurricane is nearly upon us, the lights are starting to flicker, and soon, no doubt, the power will have gone out!

Who knows what will happen? Not I! This space may be quiet and empty for the next few days, or weeks. Please don’t forget about me, friends! I will be back soon

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