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This autumn heralds some lovely changes, one of which is that I am now a staff writer over at Haute Macabre (where I had the pleasure to contribute previously as a guest blogger.) My inaugural offering in this new role: an interview with Darla Teagarden, a photographer and mixed-media artist whose brilliance and talent I have admired tremendously over the years.

Between Fable and Reality: The Art of Darla Teagarden

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Us

[EDIT: This article was originally written in 2016. I have noticed a large amount of traffic point to it in the last week or so, and realized it was all directed from a certain blog post. Please allow me to point out that art is dark as often as it is light and not all of the subjects that artists tackle are positive, or beautiful, or full of happy thoughts. Artists often paint their own trials and traumas onto the canvas, and their palettes frequently reflect the very real horrors in this world. That does not make these works “evil” or “satanic” or promoting of “depraved illuminati Luciferian practices” Critical thinking, people. It’s a thing. ]

Polish artist Aleksandra Waliszewska creates some of your most brutal nightmares: those savage, dreadful dreams that set a deep sleeper to screaming, and where upon waking, you can only gibber incoherent nonsense regarding your nocturnal horrors and why you were moved to wet the bed in terror last night.

Unfortunate events abound, and a trail of carnage, both physical and psychological, is an underlying theme that streaks gore-soaked and deep through Waliszewska’s paintings. Whether random or ritualistic, the violence runs rampant, with characters either coming to brutal ends or who are depicted perpetrating and engaging in the brutality themselves. Sometimes it is unclear as to who is the victim and who is the villain, and yet, even those who would seem blood-splattered prey possess malignant, nearly obscene expressions. Even the animals in Wasilewska’s depraved visions sport sly, wicked countenances.

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Beasts of every variety, as well as children–creatures one normally associates with innocence and purity–are in on the mayhem as well, participating in malicious behaviors and gruesome, perverse deeds. Whether against the backdrop of a well-lit classroom, a shadowy forest landscape, or the viscera-strewn confines of a dusty cave, madness, magic, and mythology cavort in hand in bloody hand.

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And yet we can’t look away, can we? Waliszewska is flaying the face of the mundane and peeling back the layers to give us a peek at what lies beneath–attraction and repulsion and the multilayered shitshow strata that is the human condition.

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When it comes to the the symbolism and meaning one might be inclined to seek in the jarring imagery and morbid figures she creates, one gets the sense from previous interviews and commentary from the artist herself that Waliszewska is more interested in form and emotion than imbuing her works with a deeper forethought and “over-intellectualizing” such things. An artist of few words, when asked what it is that draws people to her work, she notes laconically, “…I can only deduce it has something to do with a fascination with sex and violence.” (source)

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A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and recipient of scholarships awarded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Aleksandra Waliszewska has had more than 20 solo exhibitions in Poland and abroad over the past decade, and has her work published in collections by My Dance The Skull, United Dead Artists, Les Editions Du 57, Drippy Bone Books, and Editions Kaugummi.

All images owned by Aleksandra Waliszewska. Her work can be found on her tumblr, her flickr and her Facebook page.

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

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Strange Women Society “Secret Society” tee

Just kidding. There will never be a new black! This is evidenced by the 666 (approx.) black tee shirts we have in our wardrobe. Leather harnesses, tulle skirts, and velvet cloaks look marvelous and are great fun for a night out (or hell, grocery shopping or a trip to the post office if you like to give the normies a show) but let’s face it–at the end of the day we just want to be comfortable. And there is nothing, I mean nothing, more comfortable than a black tee shirt. Yes, black tee shirts are more cozy. There’s science to back that up, somewhere.

We also know that we, and no doubt you, too, need to give our pile of ratty old black tees a thorough going-through because man, that shit’s old and nasty. Pilled, worn threadbare, curry-stained and eternally covered with cat fur—mein Gott, we’re gross.

Maybe, and this is just a suggestion, but give it some thought: these loyal wardrobe staples have given you their all and it’s time to let them die with dignity. Gather them up into the charity pile. Or cut ’em up and use ’em for crafts or home improvement projects or light bondage with a consensual partner (make sure they’re your tees on this last point; tossing out someone else’s stuff is likely not to result in sexytimes.)

…wait, wait! Put that middle finger away. You don’t think we’d make you go through such an agonizing exercise without some recommendations as to replacements for your beloved black scraps of comfort, do you? See below for some wicked black tee suggestions that are anything but basic.

Dead Inside Muscle Tee

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Cozy coffin times with the “Dead Inside” muscle tee. FOXBLOOD // $39

Feminism Means Equality Tee

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The Feminism Means Equality tee: shit yeah it does, motherfuckers. CatCoven // $25

Strange Women Society Tee

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Proudly display what everyone already knew anyway in the Secret Society Tee. Strange Women Society // $28.50

The Upside Down Tee

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The Upside Down Stranger Things tee–because we are probably going to be obsessed with Stranger Things until we die. WoeAndShucks // $24 

Too Ghoul For School Tee

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Too Ghoul For School? Yeah, we learned all our creepin’ in the streets. Local Boogeyman // $36 

Support Your Local Coven Tee

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The Support Your Local Coven tee; hexes and charms sold separately. Babe Coven // $28 

In Bed Tee

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The In Bed tee–you’re not the boss of me! But okay maybe. Burger And Friends // $18

Tales From The Crypt Tee

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Crypt Keeper Couture (except you’re way cuter than the Crypt Keeper). Libra Style // $27.31

Satan Is A Lady Cropped Tee

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Satan loves bare navels, people. Better give her what she wants. These Americans // $35.

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

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matuyama-miyabi-header“Matsuyama Miyabi,” a Chinese artist assuming a Japanese moniker, defines her artistic style as “Neo-Ukiyo-e.” Juxtaposing the feminine beauty of traditional Edo-era floating world imagery with themes of death and fate and a gorgeously gloomy atmosphere, she conjures shadowy, unsettling truths and reveals the darkness of unspeakable fears.

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“Matsuyama Miyabi,” a Chinese artist assuming a Japanese moniker, defines her artistic style as “Neo-Ukiyo-e.” Juxtaposing the feminine beauty of traditional Edo-era floating world imagery with themes of death and fate and a gorgeously gloomy atmosphere, she conjures shadowy, unsettling truths and reveals the darkness of unspeakable fears.

“WHAT GOOD IS THE WORLD IF THERE IS ONLY BRIGHTNESS AND HAPPINESS?” inquires the thoughtful artist.

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Picking up a small amount of internet fame for her Addams Family In Kimonos, (or perhaps she would have, if the internet wasn’t full of shameless turds who share and pin and reblog things without context or credit), Matsuyama Miyabi candidly shares that although she had fun with it as an interesting creative exercise, she doesn’t even like that particular piece very much!

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Matsuyama Miyabi’s obsessions and inspirations range from horror films and suspenseful thrillers to the grotesque manga art of Junji Ito, and she acknowledges a fondness for the twisted postures encouraged in fashion photography (it reminds her of the dancing figures in the Noh Plays of Japan), and the unique charm of weirdly attractive haute couture fashion models.

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“All kinds of beauty are connected,” she adds with finality.

Find more of Matsuyama Miyabi’s work on her tumblr and her Instagram.

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

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4 Aug
2016

Image: Ghost Of Perdition by Chris Dessaigne
Image: Ghost Of Perdition by Chris Dessaigne

This was originally written for and posted at After Dark In the Playing Fields on Halloween in 2010, by my partner in the enterprise at that time, to whom we at Unquiet Things refer to, with much love, as a “Kindred Spirit”.

However, I can’t think of a better time to indulge in a chilling tale than during summer’s infernal furnace when the promise of autumn’s cooling glooms are still a dreadfully long way off. And so, you can thank a feverish August heatwave for the re-sharing of this this delightfully spooky list.

Some of the listed items below are complete books, whereas others are shorter stories. I have attempted to include links to read for free on the web, where possible;otherwise, the links will lead you to amazon where the books/stories can be purchased.

1. “The Music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft. The shrieking and whining of desperate viols…defending against…what exactly?

2. The Tenant by Roland Topor. The most disturbing novel I have ever read, a nauseating crescendo of paranoia and sinister characters.

3. “O Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” by M.R. James. Mysterious medieval whistles with Latin inscriptions and the infamous “face of crumpled linen”.

4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Evocative, eerie and I first read it in one sitting.

5. “The White People” by Arthur Machen. “And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning?”

6. “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood. Two campers encounter a place where the veil between the worlds has grown thin…an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of willows.

7. “A Haunted Island” by Algernon Blackwood. Chilling terror and remniscent of the Adirondacks island camp I stay at in the summers. (Blackwood makes this list twice, because he is truly the master of the unsettling tale.)

8. The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. A found manuscript, swine creatures and the swift passing of the universe…is the narrator sane or not?

9. “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers. Mysterious suicides take place in the same apartment, seemingly without cause.

10. “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Rampo. A bizarre tale of the Japanese gothic.

11. “The Room in the Tower” by E.F. Benson. Sinister dreams and unfriendly nocturnal visitors.

12. “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce. What may happen in a field of wild oats.

A bonus pick from your host, Mlle. Ghoul:

  • 13.  The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons.  A singular tale, and from what I can tell the author’s lone foray into the genre. A unique take on the haunted house story – is the evil housed within in the structure of the dwelling, or is it the wickedness of the inhabitants that drive the horrors that occur within?  The chills are so subtly sinister and so elegantly written that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the book is so frightening; I imagine the shudders provoked by these pages will be very different for each reader.

Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments!

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Deathroom-Shroom

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. You’ve got ten vacation days that are burning a hole in your pocket, but lakeside cabins and sandy retreats aren’t as nice as they were when you were a kid and your weird grandparents were still alive, you haven’t got the money for your dream trip to that amazing Japanese Cat Island, and no way are you spending a week with your sister in Hoboken this summer. Never again, I don’t care how crazy-great those New Jersey bagels are.

These ho-hum, humdrum getaways are becoming tiresome year after year, and you’re feeling antsy. You want to go to a far off, far-out place where not only does everyone not know your name, but you can’t even tell if you’re all on the same planet or astral plane anymore. Are those even human people? Some sort of enlightened beings, perhaps? Are they talking in colors? Are their faces melting off? Or is it your own eyeballs melting? Are you all hopped up on hallucinogenic whoseywhatsits? What the hell is going on, even?

Ah–now we’re talking. These are the places we’ve barely dared dream of: the super-saturated, psychedelic escapism and day-glo, swirling surrealism of Oliver Hibert’s fantastical cosmic beyond.

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Born in Seattle but currently a resident of Scottsdale AZ, self-taught Hibert’s bright, eye-dazzling style with prevailing themes of powerful feminine mysticism led to his debut in galleries by the age of sixteen, and shortly thereafter, his bold palette and magical scenes caught the attention of MTV for a music video at the age of eighteen.

Hibert notes in a prior interview with the Phoenix New Times that art “….gets me up every day and gives me one of the most powerful reasons to be alive and stay alive. I literally have to create art and get it out of me. I don’t know what I would do without it” — and there is no clearer evidence of Hibert’s wild passion than in the vivid intensity of the boundary-destroying art that he creates.

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Not content to merely gaze upon the audacious neon madness? You’d prefer a more supersensory, hands-on experience with Hibert’s kaleidoscopic, mind-bending creations?

You’re in luck, for over at Von Zos, you can purchase the Oliver Hibert Tarot deck. The release consists of a pack of 78 tarot cards designed by Oliver Hibert together with a book featuring an introductory essay by Oliver Hibert and a substantial essay by the British writer and lecturer Caroline Wise.

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See more of Oliver Hibert’s work on his website // tumblr // instagram

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

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You’ve carefully cultivated your strange, unearthly beauty and gothic mystique, and as a finishing touch you must pair it with a fragrance befitting the vision of dark decadence you’ve conjured forth.

Indulge me, won’t you? Over at Haute Macabre I’ve a few scented recommendations for dark muses and femme fatales alike that I think will complement your All Black Everything wardrobe perfectly.

Oh, what’s that? You require wardrobe selections, too? Well, you know I will never disappoint you…

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What is a Witch

Dazed, as if waking from a trance, I closed my copy of What Is A Witch and allowed it to rest gently on my lap. I slowly exhaled and noted that the sun had gone down, my small reading room now awash in shadows. So enrapt was I that the afternoon had slipped into evening without my notice. Time had stilled, as it does oftentimes for readers engrossed in wondrous wor(l)ds, and I had been suspended in a moment between breaths. All had gone silent, solitary, and strange.

I roused and stretched, shook out my limbs, thrilled in the memory of the magics I had glimpsed in those pages and the subtle but unmistakable shift inside from absorbing all that I had read. And I despaired.
“How,” I asked myself, “how on earth am I going to talk to people about this?  How am I going to write of the enchantment and wonder that I have just experienced?”

I worried, fretting that I would not find the words, I would not know where to begin looking, and even if I did string a few coherent sentences together, I came to the conclusion that these words will be inadequate; they won’t convey the magic, mystery, mischief, and bright, silver-tipped revelations contained within this book. They might likely mean nothing to anyone at all.

What Is A Witch is an extraordinary elucidation, an imaginative exploration, and an incandescent creation that one must experience firsthand, for one’s self. An individual must hold this book in their own hands, study the images by candlelight, trace their fingers along the words, speak aloud the lines in a darkened room.

But I’m afraid I’m getting ahead of myself.

What is a Witch

What Is A Witch is the collaborative conjuring of Pam Grossman, a writer, curator, and teacher of magical practice and history, and Tin Can Forest–Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek, Canadian artists based in Toronto, Ontario, and it is a lovingly-crafted celebration of the world’s most magical icon:

CONJURE AN IMAGE OF A WITCH IN YOUR MIND’S EYE, AND YOU’LL FIND S/HE CAN TAKE MANY DIFFERENT SHAPES.  EVIL, BEAUTIFUL, HIDEOUS, HOLY, A SINNER WHO JUST MIGHT SAVE US ALL – THIS MULTIFACETED ARCHETYPE IS A DARK LAYER-CAKE OF LEGENDS AND ASSOCIATIONS.

Equal parts storybook, grimoire, comic book, and illuminated manuscript, What Is A Witch explores the many guises and archetypes of the witch–that ultimate icon of feminine power.

Illustrated in Tin Can Forest’s distinctive style, drawing inspiration from the forests of Canada, Slavic art, and occult folklore, the mood is one of fantastical half-lit glooms populated by witches and their surreal familiars, as well as their uncanny sistren who guide us along and narrate our journey. Each page is a multi-layered marvel, interwoven with secretive symbolism, esoteric emblems, and magical motifs.

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“I know that you have heard of my kind,” a grey owl sagely informs as we begin to read. Trompe-l’œil, night-cloaked witches roam solemnly through the trees, entering a darkened home.

“They call us witches,” we learn next, via a pointy witch hat-crowned speech bubble, formed from the lips of a female silhouette whose shadow is cast by every woman you’ve ever known.”….bitches, hags and whores. Harpies, vixens, sluts and more”.

“THEY TRY TO BURN ME, DROWN ME, WEIGH ME DOWN. STAKE ME, BREAK ME, TAKE MY CROWN.”

What Is A Witch‘s lyrical language of night-song and half-rhymes, when given voice, becomes a wild, witty, wondrous invocation, threaded throughout with fanciful visions, whimsical allegory, and magical truths. Calling upon the the wisdom of roots, the romance of plants, the four elements, the five senses, all of those iconic witch-women who came before–who wielded a wand, a brush, a pen, or word–and who paved the path for us that we now tread, these words, once uttered, will transport you, transform you.

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“The archetype of the witch is long overdue for celebration,” Grossman noted in 2013. “Daughters, mothers, queens, virgins, wives, et al. derive meaning from their relation to another person. Witches, on the other hand, have power on their own terms.” She has also observed that, while the witch draws power from nature, her power comes mainly from within, not from an outside source, and that is precisely how I felt while reading this book. I engaged with its mesmerizing imagery and the poetic spell it cast, and immediately it awoke something within me. I felt it rise within myself, something fierce and surprising and nearly frightening in its power. Though the book may have been catalyst, I know that what it called forth was always there, and is mine alone.

Don’t be alarmed if you are moved to strangeness in the reading of What Is A Witch. I found myself furiously scribbling, illegibly filling the margins of a tangle of neon pink post-its without even realizing it. I thought that I was making notes for myself but in reading them now they are most certainly not of my hand–not that I recognize, anyway–and I am not sure that I could tell you what any of it means. They’re my secrets, I think.  And I will hang onto them for now, hold them dear.

If you feel yourself similarly compelled, don’t fight it. Go where this book takes you. See what you draw forth from yourself. Don’t be alarmed. Let it change you. This is magic, after all, and we are witches.
You knew all of this once. You have always known. You will remember what you have forgotten, these dark trembling parts of you, and the torch in your core. You will believe what you read in What Is A Witch, and in believing, you will become.

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

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Bibliomancy-header

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

And, as always–a bonus!  How to wear a bibliomantic ritual.

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