1 Jan
2021

I probably never would have gotten around to starting a YouTube channel in 2020– or any other year, for that matter–if not for the badgering of my baby sister, who has been on me to start one up for a while now. I’d personally rather read a blog post about something than watch a video about it, but I’ve accepted that not everyone feels that way, and so to keep up with the rest of the world and to practice being flexible and adaptable and learning new things in general, I chose this ridiculously terrible year to get started. And I’m pretty proud of myself! Nine months later, I continue to upload videos, although not exactly consistently, and while I’m no award-winning cinematographer, I daresay my efforts have visibly improved along the way.

From reading lists and hauls, to author chats and Q&As, to my obsessive love of perfume to those “what I do in a day” type videos, I think I’ve got a handle on the things I want to present on my channel, and surprise, surprise–it’s exactly the same type of thing I would write about on my blog. Which is okay, I think! Because people who are reading my blog aren’t necessarily stopping by here to watch my videos, and vice versa–and that’s fine! I’ll just try and connect with people wherever they are.

So what’s the plan for 2021? I literally have no clue, but I’d like to keep on track with my one-video a month plodding progress, so if you’ve got any ideas or suggestions or anything, in particular, you would like to see or hear me talk about, leave a comment and let me know!

See below for links to everything mentioned in the Hexmas holiday gift haul!

Danish dough whisk https://amzn.to/38NHuo1
Rolling pin https://amzn.to/3aWiEFd
Wooden utensils https://www.etsy.com/listing/80401133…
Seitanic Spellbook https://amzn.to/3814f8E
The Necronomnomnom https://amzn.to/3hz6bsj
Baba Studio https://baba-store.com/
Handsome Devils Puppets https://www.handsomedevilspuppets.com/

And a bonus that didn’t make it to the video, are these incredibly snazzy dangle earrings that my Best Good Friend sent me! A bonus about having hair that looks like a Fizzgig is living on your head, is that now everyone can see my ginormous danglers! From Haus of Sparrow on Etsy, if you are interested.

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First order of business…yes, I totally did a chop! Bye-bye for now, hairs. This is the shortest my hair has been since about 1996 or so when I tried bleaching it at home and it all turned crunchy and fell off and I basically looked like Susan Powter for a year or so. Stop the insanity, Sarah! Never try that again!

But I do have a plan here. After my Halloween stunt with the Stevie Nicks wig, I came to the conclusion that while I don’t exactly want to go blonde again, I would like to start working my way back to my natural hair color. Whatever that is. I don’t even know anymore, it’s been so long since I have seen it! And since red is notoriously difficult to get rid of, I know I have got a long road ahead of me in terms of growing the color out. I figured a great shortcut would be to just shear most of it away!

I was pretty wrapped up in my long hair for a long time, but as of this year I began letting go of that attachment. I was recently sharing with a friend that I didn’t like the way it felt when someone complimented my hair. I know it was well-intended, but it always had the effect of making me question my other qualities. I’m kind, I am funny, I can string words together in interesting ways! I’d rather someone commented on something I practice, or a thing I do, instead of my appearance. But please don’t feel badly if you ever said I had lovely hair– I mean, objectively, it was pretty nice! But I’ve got other things to offer.

So now I have got a bit of a shag and it might be just a little shorter than I realized, but that’s fine, because that’s just more color gone! I plan on going back to long, eventually, but for now, this is new and interesting, and I really dig it. Also, when I wear earrings now–you can finally see them! Before the chop, they were sequestered behind massive curtains of hair. In the photo above is a pair that I haven’t worn since I purchased them in 2010! A handful of people have asked about them and I don’t know if the seller still makes this exact style, but their Etsy shop still exists, so you could always ask!

All of this happened AFTER the video I am about to share, though, so except for the intro/outro, my new hair does not make an appearance!

For this upload, I shared a small glimpse into my life in the form of a series of vignettes chronicling my weekend. I personally love peeking in on these kinds of “what I do in a day videos” because I am very nosy about the people I admire!

I challenged myself to try my hand at it after recently being inspired by my friend and fellow weirdo, the extraordinarily talented Courtney Lane. Courtney is a historian and hair work artist and on her Hair and Now YouTube channel on Youtube, Courtney uploaded “A Day in the life of a Victorian Hairworker,” which I found wonderfully fascinating. I interviewed Courtney back in 2018, if you are interested in learning more about her and what she does!

My day might not seem particularly exciting, but for me, it was practically perfect. I don’t really want to spend an entire day reading, for example, or binge-watching movies. Although I do like doing both of those things! Instead, I like to do a little bit of all of the things I love, spread over the course of a day. We can’t do all of the things we want right now, with quarantine and social distancing, so that’s why I like to plan days like this for myself, to give myself a little something to look forward to, and so I don’t feel like I am missing out. A few treats for myself, a bit of self-care, some housework and tidying, some time outdoors, making progress on projects–these are just a few of the things which I include in what I would consider “a good day.” And of course, that might look totally different for you!

Either here or in the video, please share in the comments what your idea of a perfect day looks like, and how you have adapted that for life in 2020!

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This interview was originally posted at Haute Macabre on July 31, 2020.

Earlier this year I read and was thoroughly charmed by Lisa Marie Basile‘s dreamily empowering Light Magic for Dark Times: More than 100 Spells, Rituals, and Practices for Coping in a Crisis –which Bust Magazine refers to as “The Artist’s Way for witches” (and wow, do I love that.) But in the past year or so before having read her book, I had been already falling in madly love with this marvelous word witch via her fierce, tender poetry and her lyrical, profoundly heart-stirring writings.

A poet, essayist, and editor living in New York City, Lisa Marie Basile is the founder and creative director of Luna Luna Magazine, an editor at Ingram’s poetry site Little Infinite, and co-host for the podcast, AstroLushes, which intersects astrology, literature, wellness, and culture. Her website Ritual Poetica is a space for sacred self-exploration at the intersection of writing, ritual, and healing, and she has just recently launched her Write Well Patreon, with holistic resources & advice for nourishing a creative life that is physically, emotionally, & spiritually fulfilling.

So many of the subjects that Lisa regularly creates dialogue about and touches on in her writing –intentionality and ritual, creativity, poetry, foster care, addiction, family trauma, and chronic illness– are topics that are close to my heart, and, no doubt, close to the hearts of many of her readers, as well. This spirit of sharing both the beautiful and the ugly, with regard to the body, the world, the universe, is the shining core, and the secret-but-not-so-secret-really, to what makes her work so dynamic and relateable and what always, every single time, thrills me so profoundly when I see that she has posted something on Instagram, or tweeted about over on the twitters. If Lisa has taken the time to ponder a thought or a concern, word-witch it into existence, and share it with us, then it is a rare gem worth seeking out.

Of the elements that deeply spoke to me in Lisa’s first book, it was the rituals and exercises that involved writing I found myself most psyched about. As a bit of a word witch myself, I find that written language is the realm I am most comfortable exploring and creating in. As you can imagine then, when she announced her second book The Magical Writing Grimoire: Use the Word as Your Wand for Magic, Manifestation & Ritual (released this past April), I was over the moon!

Part guided journaling practice, part magical grimoire, The Magical Writing Grimoire explores the transformative power of writing. Each chapter contains writing prompts, writing rituals, meditations, and poetic wisdom. You’ll find shadow work, bibliomancy, automatic writing practices, incantatory poetry, and more. I don’t think I need to tell you, this is a freaking amazing resource– and Lisa Marie Basile was kind enough to field a few of our questions about The Magical Writing Grimoire, below.

Haute MacabreA question that I might typically ask is where the inspiration for this book originated–a question which you have handily answered in the introduction! You recount how your grandfather spent a day teaching you calligraphy, and how as a child you could begin to understand how writing could become a tool to sort out life’s complexities. I love stories like this, a wisdom passed from a beloved elder to a younger you, wherein formative magics take hold and burrow under your skin, mapping an internal pathway, directing and guiding you from there on out. I don’t know how much time you spend with calligraphy nowadays, but what sort of activity would you sit with a younger person (a child the age that you were in that memory, or bb witch, or a young writer-in-training) and slowly teach them with over the course of an afternoon?

Lisa Marie Basile: First, can I tell you amazing I think this question is? So thoughtful and magical. It’s true that these memories, these seemingly forgettable flashes in our lives — how could my dying grandfather even imagine that this thing he did with his grandchild would stick? So often things tumble through our memories, until their just flashes — change us. Perhaps it’s not calligraphy that stuck, because in truth, I do not partake of calligraphy these days. I am sure I would if I had the chance, but it’s not the act of calligraphy that matters. It was the intention, the focus, and the use of language.

It was this idea that through writing we can make memories — that the word itself is a sacred, eternal thing

I suppose if I were with a child or new witch or someone young who wanted to begin writing, I’d have them write a letter to themselves; what they write would depend on their deepest need. Maybe it’s a letter of support or forgiveness or simply a letter that asked one’s future self to pave the way for something. When we write to ourselves, we usually transmit something into and from the shadowy self (even children have shadow selves), and this is important because all transformative acts require a willingness for the depths. Imagine the total freedom of talking to yourself without censorship or judgement or approval?

You note that one of the most important things you’ve learned is that doing something (ie writing a book, casting a spell, etc.) is a process of both “work” and “the occult”. Can you and define and maybe give an example of what you mean by the two of them in that sense, and why it is that this is an important differentiation to you?

I have always viewed writing (or, as you said, anything) as this sort of hybrid thing. Half of the act is occult; it comes from some channeling or transmuting. It is connected to the divine, or the higher self. Sometimes when I write it feels like I am connected to something electric, something cosmic. It pours into me and I take the tabula rasa and make it into something. I know so many creators feel this way. The other aspect is the Work or Craft. You take what you get from the unknown, and you chisel into a shape. You apply knowledge or years of training to the raw thing you made.

You have to work with the gift or the magic. I believe — and maybe this is just me, it’s possible — but you have to combine an intention with actionable energy. You have to speak an incantation and do the work to make space for something to manifest.

But in the end, I believe both are necessary. You can feel when something doesn’t have a soul, when it’s all math or function. And you can see when something is so raw and so in need of time and space and craft.

Write when you dont feel like working on yourself. Write when you do. The grand ritual is returning to those sacred moments.”  I’d love it if you could share what this process looks like for you when you just arent feeling it? And how to maybe turn an ughhh I dont wanna do this today” into a sacred act?

I think there are certainly days when you need rest. As someone with a chronic illness, it’s important to just lay in bed, to daydream, to sleep, to read poems with the window open. I don’t really mean this literally, as in every single time. I do mean if you find yourself again and again coming up against some resistance to write or self-explore, it’s probably a good reason to do just that. In life. But yeah, if I’m feeling particularly exhausted, drained, emptied, or uninspired, I turn to water. For me, a shower is always sacred — and I try not to rush it. I envision the energy that is being cleansed and renewed under the water. I think of the drain as a physical symbol of what I’m letting go. I think of water as luminous and electric and giving me what I need.

Maybe I’ll turn bedtime or just being in bed as a sacred thing: Herbal tea, a good ASMR video, some essential oils in the diffuser, a few candles. I love the idea that luxuriating and resting can be a sacred thing; it’s rest, yes, but it’s also a recharge, and a healing process.

I don’t believe sacredness or magic always has a big a-ha shift; I believe that it’s found in the things that keep us going, keep us feeling alive.

You make this distinction between a practice that is “process-oriented” vs. “results-oriented.” Can you talk about this as it applies to your magical writing practice?

Ah, this sort of touches on the question above. For me, results-oriented magic is of course beneficial. A spell for this. A recipe for that. But I’ve found that (and this is likely a personal thing, or some sort of hyperintense Scorpio thing) that the long-game works better for me. A process is something I return to again and again — whether it’s a ritual I perform monthly or a meditative state I get back into regularly in order to write and sort of self-question. Almost all of this returning – to without immediate results leads to a massive shift in my life — in terms of joy, health, abundance, etc. That said, of course I do “xyz spell for zyz result” in the short term!

Like, yes, I’ll do a writing spell to manifest something I want immediately — a response in the affirmative, a sense of clarity when I wake up in the morning, a release of toxicity. But I will also return to the page for The Great Work — of healing old traumas, identifying patterns or getting in touch with an archetype or ancestral wisdom. That takes returning-to.

You speak to receptivity or conjuring the muse, as well as generative energy (being able to translate those musing energies) and that writing is a ritual of give and take between the two. I wonder if in your practice those energies shift or lean heavier to one side or another? How do you tempt an elusive muse? How do you interpret garbled transmissions? How do you get those synergies to sync, and what do you do when they are out of whack?

For me, the most important thing to do is give it space and to let garbled mess be. More often than not, the shit that comes out somehow ends up revealing a pattern — or even getting to the point where I realize I’m preventing myself from being receptive for some specific reason. It’s okay to write a few words, to incorrectly interpret, and to let there be times when things are unclear and messy. Usually, there’s a message there. It might mean you have some work you have to do outside of the ritual setting (for me at least).

Because so much of my magical life is informed by my writing life, I feel a need to think as a writer in both ways. Sometimes it’s better to get anything onto the page than to abandon ship because you feel the muse isn’t there. I tend to turn to rituals of beauty and creativity (cinema, music, movement, scent) to trigger/tap something in me that gets the flow going — and I do this with magic and with writing (I mean, it’s all one!).

Reading your passing mention of the Egyptian goddess Seshat was pretty uncanny. Literally, the day just before, Seshat came up in conversation with a friend and I was floored, never having heard this divine scribe and celestial librarian. I am curious as to whether or not there is a particular deity that you feel a connection with in your personal magical writing practice? And has that changed over the years with the changing of your own life’s story?

I love that. I believe that these synchronicities happen for a reason, so maybe Seshat wants to commune with you in some way? I don’t typically work closely with deities, gods, goddesses, etc, in an ongoing way — I take a more secular approach and see deities more as lesson-offering archetypes or representations as parts of myself — but I have always felt a deep kinship with Hecate.

I think growing up in foster care and watching addiction, imprisonment and homelessness happen in my immediate family made me yearn for a figure that stood for strength even in dark times. I wasn’t drawn to figures who didn’t have an intense understanding of darkness, the underworld, that dank underbelly of human pain. Hecate not only is that, she bears a torch to light the way. Today, I’m connected to Parthenope — a siren who lives in the water off of Naples. She’s been following me around, and she found me in Sorrento in Italy, in her waters. She is a symbol of love and vulnerability and water and the ancient world.

Writing is a form of reclamation, taking ownership of your pain, that there is power in your vulnerability– I love this idea…in theory…but what advice do you have for someone who is afraid of their own voice?

The voice blooms at its own pace.

Sometimes you don’t even realize that you are releasing it, that what you’re writing is the deepest truth. It’s okay if it doesn’t come natural or if it is frightening. I would suggest lovingly for everyone to lean into the discomfort and to know that your practice can be private and be entirely controlled by yourself. Create a beautiful and safe writing area to write; follow with self-care. Return to it weekly or under each new moon. Ask yourself what the fear is about and be willing to hear the answer. Is it ego? Is it that you were once punished for it? Is it fear of your own power and autonomy? Not fearing your voice is probably not going to happen in one cinematic moment; it will be gradual for some. But not resisting is key.

Resist the linear! You decry. Why? But also:  I wish I could! I am so tied to my structures and my routine, and I fear they are a bit of a crutch. I am curious as to what a non-linear day of writing or, just a non-linear day in your life might look like and what you might suggest for someone mired in the habitual and familiar.

If linear works for you, who am I to argue?! But I stress this because we all communicate and create differently. Perhaps you want to write a poem one day and a formal incantation, complete with rhyme scheme, the next? Maybe you want to journal here and there but can’t bring yourself to complete an entire ritual. I think it’s okay to do what feels right and what you can.

For me, I’ll write a poem, and only poetry for a while. I’ll write poem-spells and little lines and I’ll put them on my altar and I’ll hide them in my purse. Sometimes I’ll read them for a dose of magic. Then maybe I’ll write an essay or lists or whatever. I let my intuition guide me

I would say if what you do is working, don’t change it. But if you feel like structure is a crutch, maybe examine why? What does it feel like to let yourself be out at sea? If it’s scary, is it the sea — or is something you’re doing in the water? Thank you for your time and your beautiful, thoughtful, deep questions.

Images courtesy Lisa Marie Basile except for the mermaid blanket photo via Emily X.R. Pan

Many thanks to my dear friend Sonya, for it was through them that I originally learned about Lisa’s work a few years ago, and it was also through them that this interview coalesced and came into being. Thank you, thank you, dearest bean of my heart!

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96681855_1547689345389523_6507882601796075520_nEarly on in our days of self-isolation and social distancing during this pandemic crisis, my baby sister asked if I would write a guest post for her blog about how I’ve worked out the kinks of working from home over the past decade. I happily agreed.

In classic Taurean fashion, it took me about eleventy billion hours of ponderous thought and laborious execution, but here we go– some work from home thoughts from “one of the most beguiling and original voices to echo across the Internet.” But she’s my sister, so she has to say nice things about me!

Mosey on over and have a peek at my guest post for her, and while you’re there, poke around a bit! She’s dedicated herself to recording a daily pandemic check-in with her Plague Diaries series and I think you’ll find some relatable stuff there and a great deal of keen insight and heartfelt sentiment. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister!

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Our friends at Roses And Rue Antiques have teamed up with some of their favorite colleagues, all-female small business owners, for an Instagram giveaway of truly epic proportions. This has been a challenging, frightening, and uncertain time for all of us, so they have put together a selection of ghostly goodies which will hopefully lift your spirits, and make your time isolated at home a little happier.

Read further for a massive list of the marvelous items you will receive accompanied by some truly beautiful photos, along with links to the various vendors. At the bottom of the post, you will find the rules for the giveaway, along with the links you will need to enter. It’s not complicated, but please be sure to read! Also, please note, this is not a giveaway hosted by Unquiet Things, so any comments you leave here won’t be counted as entries. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of its existence, and point you in the right direction!

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The winner of the giveaway will receive:
– 2 Victorian hair keepsakes, 2 antique miniature religious books, and an antique magnifying paperweight from @rosesandrueantiques
– A pair of antique crochet gloves and a funeral card from @blackcatclothiers
– A lock of hair in a paper box and funeral card from @lleyak
– A vintage candle holder with a crystal ball from @darknorthcraftandcurio
– A “You have been poisoned” teacup and Salem postcards from @emporium32
– A Victorian post mortem photo, 2 Victorian prints, and 2 funeral cards from @funerealephemera

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– A Victorian book on home gardening from @ghost_era
– 2 prints and 10 postcards from photographer and lecturer @girlduality
– Victorian casket plate soap and perfume samples from @littleandgrim
– 2 Victorian mourning cards from @pittandpendulum
– Haunted House room spray and Parlor Ghost perfume from @seanceperfumes
– Vintage doll parts and Victorian photos from @weepingwidowantiques
– 3 vintage funeral fans from @witchfingersantiques

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To enter the giveaway:
1. Follow all accounts listed and linked to above on Instagram
2. Tag 2 people in @rosesandrueantiques original post, linked here and above
3. For an extra entry, repost this photo on Instagram and tag it #HauntYourOwnHouse

You can enter as many times as you like. They will announce the winner on Friday, May 1st at 12 PM EST. Good luck, and thank you for supporting small businesses!

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nun

So I am plugging away on my little youtube channel, which I know, it’s sort of a vain little project, but that’s okay, and I am okay with it. The world is nuts right now and I can’t just allow myself to freak out and shut down, so it’s a nice time to learn some new skills and do a thing I was gearing up to try my hand at, anyhow. And P.S. it’s also okay to freak out and shut down, but I know me, and if I allow myself to get into that headspace, then I might never make it out again.

Anyway, as all good Youtube channels do (as well as the really bad and annoying ones, or basically, well, all of them) I thought I might include a little “haul” video. But mine would, naturally, be with the kinds of things that I like to see! No basic, grocery store hauls here, GTFO with those frozen Tyson chicken breasts! No $5K Gucci sneaker hauls here, either! Although OK maybe I am just jealous about those!


This weekend I shared the first video from my Down A Dark Haul series, and because I am so very new to all of this, I forgot nearly everything I wanted to share about the marvelous things I mentioned. I thought I might stop back by the ol’ blog and share some photos and additional information.

And please don’t worry! I still plan on updating this blog and it will always be my first love. I’m just juggling one more personal project right now, is all. Social media platforms are sort of like Pokémon for me (I don’t play Pokémon, but) I feel I have to “catch them all,” so to speak!

two books witch woman seance

The first two items were two books from Fulgur Press :
UK based Fulgur Press is the leading independent publisher for esotericism and magic in visual culture. Founded in 1992 by Robert Ansell, the press works with artists, writers and editors who explore ideas of agency and enchantment through scholarship and practice.

Songs For The Witch Woman is an evocative book of art and poetry, a collaborative effort between a fascinating couple who were utterly consumed by each other: Jack Parsons, an actual rocket scientist, and a prominent figure in the Los Angeles occult world of the 1940s. And Marjorie Cameron artist and actress and an iconic part of LA’s early mystical underground. I believe this though this book is meant to be both a window into their love story, it’s more art book than a biography and I am dreadfully excited to dig in.

Séance by Shannon Taggart. I am also very excited to pore through Séance, a gorgeous book by photographer, lecturer, and writer. Shannon Taggart. Shannon is the world’s foremost contemporary spirit photographer and Séance is the culmination of an 18-year long exploration of spiritualism and which contains hundreds of photographs of her subjects channeling, table tipping, spoon bending, and having other spirit encounters. And a foreward by Dan Akroyd who is –wow!–a fourth-generation spiritualist!

dark north nun

dark north and roses

This darling little nun is from Dark North Craft and Curio, who was recommended to me by another wonderful online antique seller whose wares I adore, Kate at Roses and Rue Antiques (and whom you may remember from a previous installment of Ten Things!) I love it when small businesses lift each other up and have each other’s backs! I will link to both shops below. And as a matter of fact, the pale madam in the second photo is from the Roses and Rue shop! Though I have not interacted much with the owner of Dark North (who it turns out is also a Kate), I do know that she specializes in items with an air of gothic romance or occult origins, and likes to stock items for witchcraft, altar spaces, ritual magick and divination.

I am not sure if this particular nun has a story, or if nun dolls, in general, have any sort of origin story. I started doing a bit of research and fell down a series of rabbit holes and didn’t find anything definitive after two minutes, so I gave up. But I did find a place called in Indian River, Michigan called The National Shrine Of The Cross In The Woods, which is apparently the home for the largest collection of dolls dressed in traditional habits of men and women religious communities in the United States. If I were to go on some sort of zig-zaggy cross country road trip, visiting all sorts of eccentric sites along the way, this would be near the top of the list! At any rate, I am not sure why I am obsessed with nuns, but for whatever reason, I find them absolutely fascinating, and I had to have this little lady for my shelf.

Later, someone on twitter gave me a bit of an answer as to my original line of query!

altarpdx

Speaking of obsessions, I think anyone who knows me either knows or will soon find out that I am obsessed with Portland, OR, which seems to me a wonderful little oasis for weirdos. I’ve only visited a handful of times, but each time I do, I am always sure to stop by AltarPDX, an alternative handmade fashion boutique dedicated to beautiful clothing and accessories that are inspired by the natural world and the spirit of the Northwest. The shop curates an edgy, dark aesthetic and celebrates “a new generation of American artistry and manufacturing.” 

RANT: As an aside, I keep hearing fashion and makeup bloggers and vloggers say something really annoying, and I don’t know if they are using the word in this way to be cheeky, or maybe…they just think this is how the word is used. And I get that the English language is ever-evolving, but come ON. Anyway, I often see people’s Instagram captions in which they declare that something is SO AESTHETIC. No! You can like or prefer (or not prefer) something because you either do or do not appreciate it’s *particular* aesthetic; Like… you prefer a dark gothic aesthetic or a colorful boho aesthetic, or a highly elaborate baroque or a more natural, minimalist aesthetic. Generally speaking, I guess you could say you appreciate something for its aesthetic qualities, or that you recognize that something has aesthetic appeal. But. Something can’t JUST be SO aesthetic. I mean…what does that even mean?? If I am missing something or am way off base here, feel free to let me know. I just think it sounds weird…and not in the fun way we like around here. In a dumb and wrong way.

ANYWAY. That has nothing to do with this lovely box of small-batch apothecary items, hand-selected for this particular “discovery box.” Not all of the scents or products are things I personally would have chosen for myself but I really do love these kinds of surprise boxes, so it was a fun purchase! Take a peek at AltarPDX’s website for the items above, and order your own apothecary discovery box here.

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From the Haute Macabre crystal shop, I ordered this massive carnelian bowl, about which, the site shares: “Carnelian, once known as “the blood of Isis”, emits a warmth, recirculating the blood in your veins. In ancient times, Carnelian was worn to give warriors courage in battle, something not energetically different than our modern uses – Carnelian ignites a passion, gives a bold voice to the timid, and builds power within.”

This bowl is a beautiful, bold behemoth, and I have placed it on my desk where I can gaze upon its valorous vibes all day long!

I also grabbed a few of the soaps that Haute Macabre stocks from Crystal Bar soap company, and they are lovely and smell wonderful.

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Lastly, I received a surprise package from indie perfumers Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab this past weekend, so as a last-minute addition, I included a few mini-reviews toward the end of the video. I thought I would give you a close-up photo here because my camera definitely wasn’t close enough to get a good peek yesterday (and I don’t know how to add in b-roll or whatever yet) but if you want to know my thought on the scent, you’ll have to you know, watch the video. Hee! Sneaky, sneaky. The two fragrances that I reference are Blueberries, Cream, and Cardamom and Caramel, Smoked Chilis, and Black Vanilla.

So that’s it for this installment of Down a Dark Haul, but I hope to have more in this series in the future!

In the meantime, while please keeping in mind that I am very new to all of this, feel free to leave comments and critiques and suggestions in the comments! And also like and subscribe and comment on my Youtube channel, so it looks like I am not a lame loser with no friends!

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31 Jan
2020

needful-notebook

Earlier this week at Haute Macabre I shared my Needful Things for the past several months.

I’m becoming more and more conscious of how often I chatter about stuff and things. Don’t get me wrong, I do love beautiful objects, but…they don’t actually make me any more interesting as a person. They don’t make me smarter, or kinder, or more clever. Who am I, and what would I talk about without these things? What would I post on Instagram?? These pathways of thought trouble me, and so I’ve been digging deep to find myself and what I care about beyond these…things.

So in that vein…some of the things mentioned in the above article are actual things, but also some of them are just spaces and feelings while others are activities and practices that I really leaned into this past year,  Gathered together, they all brought me an abundance of joy and wonder and a great deal of satisfaction. Have a peek and be sure to let me know if you had any favorite or needful things (or non-things) lately!

2019 Reflections And Autumn/Winter Needful Things

 

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This interview was originally posted at Haute Macabre on January 17, 2020

Embroidery is not for the impatient. Those tiny stitches, painstaking and precise, individually add up to a practice and a pastime that quite literally passes a lot of time. I tried it myself nearly a decade ago, and it took me all day–probably 6 hours total–just to stitch seven words.

Web weaving textile artist Lyla Mori of Moonflesh is well acquainted with this deliberate, decelerated passage of time, and observes it as a vital piece of the slow, ritualistic process comprising the stitches of her embroidered still-life tableaux. These thread-veined creatures and ghostly botanicals, embellished with precious found objects, are ideas and dreams transformed into something tangible through Lyla’s unhurried handiwork and are imbued with measured intent & the most patient of magics.

I never again attempted embroidery, but through a few collaborative commissions (featured above, and immediately below) Lyla has brilliantly captured and brought to life a handful of my own shadowy ideas and spectral dreams. I can’t help but admire these visions anew each time I catch sight of them on my walls; so many dainty, diminutive stitches, the results of which cast a hushed and bewitching spell on the viewer–a feat which is made that much more impressive when you have an awareness of and firsthand experience with (even if it’s just a day’s worth!) of the toil and trouble that goes into this type of craft.

I had so many questions for Lyla about her Moonflesh embroidery, which she has set aside her needle and thimbles for a moment and generously lent her cushion-hearted occasion to respond. See below and learn more about the human behind these darkly expressive offerings, and the countless eternities spent with each stitch in the practice of this timeless craft.

How did you start embroidering? What initially captured your imagination about textile art?

Lyla Mori: Embroidery came to me at a time when I felt incredibly lost in the world. I had just moved to a new state that I had only visited once before. I worked a minimum wage job that left me feeling completely depleted and unfulfilled. I felt lonely the vast majority of the time due to having no friends in the area. One of the few solaces I had was creating art — mainly drawing in pencil and ink, or painting.

Even in trying to actively recollect now, I can’t remember what specifically drew me to embroidery. Why embroidery, and not some other fibre art, or jewelry-making, or sculpting? I’m not sure, but I think a part of me felt intrinsically drawn to it. I never meant for it to become a business for me as it is now — it was just a way for me to relieve stress and channel creativity in my free time. What really inspired me about this art form was its capability to hold the intention of the creator. I remember the very first piece I ever created was a protection sigil, actually. I wanted something to hang up on the wall to protect my home, but I never imagined that the slow process of bringing the piece into tangible space would feel like performing a spell or ritual!

What were some of your early inspirations? And do these themes and motifs continue to show up in your work today or have they changed/evolved over time?

Once I started seriously practicing embroidery, the motifs and imagery that I like to explore had pretty much been set in stone — mainly mythology and folklore, witchcraft, herbalism, creatures of all forms, tarot, Victoriana, spiritualism, etc. In the beginning, I created a LOT of moths. They were a spirit and creature that brought a lot of joy and comfort to me at the time, so my work reflected that. In the past few months, I’ve been conjuring up many a snake. As is often the case with human nature, I find my interests in these specific subjects ebb and flow — something will take the forefront of my mind for a long while, and then fade away – only to revisit me again in the future.

I also find it interesting that the subject matter that people request to be commissioned often reflects what inspires me at the time. Because of this, I find that I hardly ever have to turn down a request! I truly believe that the imagery I desire to manifest is met by the right person who is looking for just that thing — we find each other at the right time and the pieces click into place.

Tell me about the materials that you work with (beads, keys, crystals) and what significance their inclusion lends to the piece.

I knew pretty early on in my journey with embroidery that I wanted my pieces to include objects that hold meaning for me. I love crystals and learning about their specific correspondences, power, and historical uses. I’m fond of the idea of the subject matter and the crystals collaborating on summoning a certain desired energy — whether that be bringing about protection, love, prosperity, magic, etc. Antique keys were a later inclusion into my work. I started collecting them mainly as a devotional practice to the goddess Hekate.

Eventually, an idea struck me — either directly from Her, or Spirit, or the Universe, etc. — to incorporate them into my pieces. I search for antique keys in my journeys and adventures to antique shops and flea markets. I’m pretty picky about the ones I choose. I often have to wade through bowls and buckets of keys, some too modern, some far too rusty, to find one or two that feel right. Once they come home with me, they live on my personal altar until I feel like it’s time to create something. I find that this slow, ritualistic process imbues each embroidery piece with a particularly sacred energy. Beading is a pretty common component in all kinds of embroidery, but I like to include it because I’m an actual magpie and like all things sparkly and shiny. It’s lovely when I come across antique beads that were made before a time when the factory process was more streamlined — so each bead is slightly different from the next. I think it provides a certain kind of magic and whimsy to my work.

Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

I always have to have a cup of tea or some other beverage, with a candle burning close by before I start embroidering. I also have to be in the right mindset to embroider. I stop embroidering if I feel overly tired, drained, or sad — I take the intention that I put into my pieces seriously, which means that it sometimes takes even longer to get a piece completed! However, I feel that this keeps the process clear and genuine.

My process is a little different when working on a commission, but when I make the pieces I personally desire to create, I always start with research. I like to read about the subject matter online, or go digging through the books I have at my disposal. I study references and determine how the subject can best be created with thread, as it’s different from working with pencil and paper and translating what you see directly. I usually make a few different versions of a specific design, then pick a favorite, transfer it onto fabric, and then the actual embroidery part begins!

Taking into account my Libra sun and rising (and Libra’s association with Venus), I have a great desire to be surrounded by beauty! I’m surrounded by plants growing tendrils up the walls, crystals of all shapes and sizes, olde objects, book stacks assembled haphazardly, art filling the walls, etc. My studio holds my workspace and my personal altar. The two inform each other, which I think is pretty appropriate with how I create my art.

Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your ways into embroidery via a different route?

I am definitely self-taught in regards to embroidery. Frequently I get asked about what stitch I used for this or that, and I often have to respond that I honestly don’t know. I know there are places that people can formally study embroidery (like the Royal School of Needlework in the UK – how fancy does that sound!) and I’m sure the people who study there would scoff at my methods and techniques, haha! I wouldn’t mind, as I know that some of my techniques must be strange and round-about. But I think there’s a charm and a unique quality in pieces created by artists that are self-taught, and I hope my work has some of that.

How would you describe your work and artistry within the world of embroidery and craft?

Because of my penchant for things that seem dark and scary to others, I feel like a bit of an outlier in the world of embroidery! I often feel inundated with photos of embroidery pieces emblazoned with trendy words and cheesy, tongue-in-cheek phrases, surrounded by a smattering of bright florals. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a place for that sort of thing, just as I believe there’s a small place for my art – spooky/dark/macabre as it might seem.

What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?

I’m currently (/always) inspired by tattered old books, mysterious doorways, portals in nature, creatures sharing our plane of existence and creatures that only live in dreamscapes. I’m inspired by my talented artist friends and their creativity, passion, and work ethic. I’m inspired by women surrealists, my first loves: Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo. I’m inspired by the works of black femme writers and poets: Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Lucille Clifton. I’m inspired by the yokai of Japanese mythology and the prophetesses, seers, and sybils of Greek lore. I’m inspired by images of ancient relics and artifacts from across the world, and I’m inspired by the way the land I live on can still seem so alive underneath a thick blanket of ice and snow. I’m eternally inspired by this gracious, wondrous community that I’ve somehow found myself to become a part of!

What would be your dream commission?

I would love to create something HUGE, like a tapestry! Something that I can work on over the course of several months… I truly desire it but I simultaneously know that it would test my fortitude and composure like nothing else, haha! I believe the opportunity will come to me sometime in the future when the right benefactor comes around!

What’s something a lot of people don’t know about embroidering?

That it takes a damn long time! A lot of people are aware that it takes a ‘somewhat foggy, indistinguishable amount of time that probably requires a lot more patience than they care to put in’, but it’s hard to get a good grasp of it until you’re embroidering yourself. Even to this day it still surprises me. Sometimes while I’m working, I look down at the piece in my hands and realize that what I’ve spent the entire day embroidering is not even the length of my finger!

I think it’s a good lesson in valuing the time a person puts into their craft. Artists and art in general are wholly necessary to the health of humankind,  yet it often goes underappreciated and undervalued. This is exacerbated tenfold when it comes to fibre arts, due to the fact they have been historically thought of as woman’s work. This fact just amplifies my love and passion for embroidery, and is a big driving force in why I desire to continue honing and tending to my craft.

Bonus! The Moonflesh shop update, “Wintertide Creatures” is scheduled for January 24! Lyla shares, “I’m forever captivated by creatures with wintery white cloaks — pale furs and feathers that help them go unseen in this cold time of year. There will be three pieces in this collection: a white barn owl, a white raven variant of my Clairvoyant design, & a white elk (major Emperor vibes)”

Find Lyla Mori / Moonflesh: shop // instagram // patreon

 

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voidmerch-she-devil

At Haute Macabre this week, I interview Jordan Shiveley, who I am definitely in no way obsessed with, no way have you seen me RT thousands of his eerie Dread Singles tweets and I can guarantee you have never seen me wearing one of his magnificently peculiar Voidmerch tees or using them in my How To Wear posts.

OK I AM LYING YOU TOTALLY HAVE SEEN ALL OF THIS.

How-To-Wear-Afternoon-Indoors

Get the Big Mood shirt here!

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