Monday, January 30, 2012

This Week I Am

Feeling: Pain. Lots of pain. Since last Tuesday night, so nigh on to a week now. Last Wednesday night included a trip to the ER. Blood, urine, CT scan all normal. They doped me up and sent me home. Saw my regular Dr., more tests, still no answer. Our best guess is that I severely tore several muscles in my abdomen a week ago Monday from doing enormous amounts of laundry and some "handyman" work around the house that day. I over did it and my fibromyalgia is making it known to me.

Thinking: I've lost an entire week to pain and being in a medicated hazy dream state due to pain pills. And who knows how much longer this will go on? I can finally breathe and stand with minimal pain, but I can't sit up straight or bend over or lift or move at more than a snail's pace. How long is it going to take before I'm better and no longer need pain meds to minimally function?

Trying: To NOT be angry at my body or at the fibromyalgia. But I am. This is ridiculous! People do laundry EVERY DAMN DAY. Okay, so I perhaps I overdid it, but come on! To have a burning, stabbing, screaming fist of pain through my entire right side because of it? That hardly seems fair. Fibro says "Be gentle with yourself. All things in moderation." Okay, okay. I get it. Thanks for the reminder.

Feeling: Bitter. Depressed. Frustrated. Like a bad wife. Like an invalid. I was planning on getting so much done last week. Organizing, cleaning, creating... instead-- I spend my days doped up on the couch feeling worthless. Or in pain whenever I move.

Reading: Ah, at last, something positive to report! Grave Goods (Mistress of the Art of Death 3) by Ariana Franklin. I'm about to start the 4th book in the series, A Murderous Procession. I am loving these books-- the writing is fantastic-- the way the plot is woven together, so many seemingly insignificant things become significant in the end; the characters are endearing, humorous, and complex; the history that is part of each plot (good old King Henry II making an appearance in each novel) is an added bonus.

Listening: Mostly to silence. And noticing quite a bit of ringing in my ears lately, what's up with that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tarot for 2012~ 1st Moon

The first entire moon cycle for 2012 has begun, so its time to explore the card I drew for the first moon when I did my New Year's spread.

Ace of Swords~

Keywords and phrases for this card (for me) include: fresh new ideas, mental clarity, new insights, power of air element, sharp focus, concentrated mental energy, problem solving, cutting self free

There are birch trees on this card, which is a nice symbolic touch-- I am studying the Celtic Trees and the ogham this year, and birch trees are associated with new beginnings. It also looks like a new day is dawning... new day, new ideas. The sun rises in the east and east is associated with the suit of swords-- another nice symbolic touch of this particular card.

All in all, an excellent card to begin the new year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yemaya Shrine Listed

I created this shrine in Yemaya's colors-- sky blue, white and silver. I hand stamped and cut all the polymer clay tiles for this shrine and they are mixed with some mirror tiles and iridescent blue glass tiles. The sculpted Goddess face in the center is set on a collage of art papers-- vellum, mulberry paper and a wonderful embossed pearlized paper.

Yemaya is a water goddess, a Yoruban Orisha who is called The Mother of All and Queen of the Seven Seas. She rules over oceans and rivers. She is known to be a proud and nurturing mother goddess who protects her children; she also is known to cure infertility. For more about Yemaya, see here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

B is for Boline

I've observed over the years that so many beginner books about the Craft accentuate the importance of magical tools. And it seems that most people new to the path spend the first years searching for the perfect athame, wand, cauldron, chalice, etc. I know I was that way in the beginning. But one tool that I don't usually hear anyone share much about is the boline; it never seems to receive much emphasis.

Out of all the tools I have found for my practice, the one that makes the most sense to me, the one that I *really* use is the boline. It is the witch's "utility knife."

Perhaps its because I was a floral designer for many years back in my 20's that drew me to the idea of having a boline. Or perhaps its just because I consider myself a Green Witch and I adore my herb garden; at any rate, when I first learned about this tool, I was more interested in finding the perfect boline than any other item, although it was one of the most difficult to find. There are lots of choices for athames out there, but slim pickings when it comes to the boline.

I considered using my floral knife, which I still have to this day, but it doesn't have the right shape or magical feel, although I have used it from time to time. I found a lovely little leaf shaped knife that has one half that folds out into a blade and considered that my boline for a short time, but it also didn't feel right. It was more ornamental than practical or useful.

Sometimes we find our perfect tools in the most mundane of places. I was at one of my favorite local garden centers when I found the perfect boline, the one in the photo above. What could be more perfect for harvesting herbs that a gardener's knife made specifically for that purpose? It even has a bit of a scythe shape like a traditional boline.

And I find that because its practical, sturdy, well made and was found it in an everyday place (versus as metaphysical store), this is the tool I tend to use the most. It fits comfortably in my hand and it isn't meant to be ornamental, it is meant to *be used*.

I think it is the practicality of the boline that is so attractive to me. I am not a ceremonial practitioner. I don't even do much ritual, to be honest. I understand the symbolism of all the magical tools that Wiccans are supposed to have, but to be honest, I don't see a great need for them. And as I consider myself more of a witch than Wiccan, I have to say that I don't think witches of old really had many of those tools.

But a boline. That's an everyday tool, at least for a gardener. There is always pruning that needs done and herbs or flowers to collect. Maybe witches of old didn't have a traditional boline, but I would guess they had some sort of knife they used for harvesting and gathering.

Although I've been using my knife as a boline since I found it a couple of years ago, I've not done any kind of dedication ritual for my boline, but I am considering it. Perhaps at Spring Equinox, when the gardening season begins, I should plan something to express my gratitude for this practical tool. If ever there was a magical item that I'd like to be more connected with, it is this one.

(This post is part of the alphabetical topic series for the Pagan Blog Project.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DIY: Stamp Carving Tutorial

It's no secret that I'm addicted to rubber stamps; I love 'em! I use them for my polymer clay designs and for art journaling and ATC/ACEOs. But sometimes I can't find a design I really want, especially if its pagan themed. So I decided to try my hand at carving my own stamps.

  • linoleum cutter with different blade sizes (I used Speedball Linoleum cutter)
  • Speedball Speed Carve- this is a flexible pink block, similar to rubber but easier to carve
  • ink jet printed design image
  • burnishing tool (you can use the back of a spoon)
  • iron set on low heat
  • tracing paper
  • carbon/graphite paper
  • tissue blade
My design was going to be fairly small, so I didn't need to use the entire 3 x 4 inch block of Speedy Carve; I measured it into 4 sections and used my tissue blade to cut it into pieces.

Next I took one of my sculpting tools and used it to burnish my ink jet image onto the Speedy Carve. I was satisfied with the faint image that transferred, but the instructions for the Speedy Carve say that you can use an iron set on low heat to help transfer the image if needed.

If you're not using a printed image, use tracing paper to copy the image you want to use first, then place the graphite paper face down on the Speedy Carve with your tracing on top, and trace the image again to transfer it onto the surface of the block.

Next, I used the #1 liner tip on my Speedball cutter to carefully cut the edge around my image. You will want to carve from the inside of the image to the outside, because the more you continue to carve, the more delicate your surface becomes. By carving the most delicate areas inside first, you have plenty of density in your material and don't have to worry that it will break or tear while you're carving.

Work slowly and in small sections. You don't need to carve out large pieces of the block at a time, especially if your image has small details. I found that it helped me make curved lines smoother if I held the blade stationary and turned the block slowly as I carved, instead of trying to move the blade and keep it steady as I carved.

Below, the outline of my image is starting to take shape as I edge it with the #1 liner tip.

Once I had the outline carved, I switched to the #2 V-gouge tip and deepened my outline. Then I switched back and forth between the #3 large line and #5 large gouge to remove more of the block from around my image, until I had it the way I wanted it.

NOTE: I'm planning on using my stamp for polymer clay, which needs a more deeply cut image to produce a well-defined imprint. If you are using your stamp for inking to stamp on paper, you won't need to carve as deeply as I have to get a nice, clean image.

And here is my finished stamp! For a first try, it didn't come out half bad. I am excited to experiment with it and see how it works on polymer clay. Hope this tutorial is helpful to those who want to give stamp carving a try.

Monday, January 16, 2012

This Week I Am

Watching: All the robins that are around our neighborhood-- in winter! Evidently Colorado isn't very cold this year, because they are everywhere, its so strange. I've been seeing them for weeks.

Reading: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder, 2nd book in the "Study" series. I read the first book, Poison Study last week. It was a book I found recommended by someone on Pinterest. They are pretty easy reads, but they've kept me interested.

Listening: Well, I heard some Yaz on the radio the other night and I'm thinking THAT'S WHAT'S MISSING from my iPod. Yup, yup, yup.

Planning: I sold a Spiral Goddess wall plaque a year or two ago to a friend who has since moved away. The woman who bought it recently asked if I could create a male deity figure to go with it, so I've been looking at petroglyphs and tribal style figures to see what kinds of inspiration I can come up with.

Thinking: Its time to put away the holiday decorations and the little fiberoptic tree we got this year, but-- I DON'T WANNA! I love the sparkly lights and the decorations are so cheery. I haven't gotten enough of them yet, evidently. But really, I should put them away. And I will. Soon.

Trying: To add some simple weight lifting exercises to my week. I have some 3 lb. weights I've been exercising with recently and want to explore all the different arm exercises I can do with them.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A is for Altar

I always enjoy seeing how others decorate their altars; thought I would share some of mine this week for my second post for the Pagan Blog Project. I have a Craft/craft room-- sacred spiritual space where I also create my art and I have several altars in this room.

I posted a pic of my main altar last week, but didn't talk about the ancestor connection it has. This altar is on an antique Victorian era marble-topped "Eastlake" table that belonged to my paternal great-grandmother. My gram had it in her house for many decades, then my mom had it, and now it belongs to me. I feel very fortunate that I have this lovely table with a family connection to use as my altar. (You may notice that almost everything on my main altar is contained-- this is my solution for cat-proofing my altar!)

I also have my meditation altar, which is on my gram's antique pocket sewing table. The altar cloth on this altar and my main altar are both tea towels that my gram embroidered. I am a polymer clay mixed media artist and I created the goddess figure that's on this altar. This is where I keep my affirmation tarot deck and each moon cycle of the year has a different card of affirmations that I focus on.

A third altar in my Craft room is this one for Kuan Yin. Once again, this altar has a little bit of family connection. The little chest it is sitting on is my gram's mini cedar chest from her childhood and the large seashell is a conch from my grandma.

Not all of my altars are large and detailed. This is a little one that I had on my bedside table for a while. I loved it for the simplicity.

I created this altar out in my herb garden the year of my 10th wedding anniversary. I took my husband out there and we re-read our wedding vows to each other and read the journal I kept during our first year of marriage.

I created this altar at a pagan festival one summer. I found all the rocks and pinecones on site. Note the battery operated tea light. It was very dry that year in the mountains-- safety first!

One of my most personal altars was actually very public. This remembrance altar for my gram was at an art gallery for their annual Day of the Dead celebration.

It is interesting how each altar has a life of its own. I used to change my altars with the sabbats, but now I often keep them the same for long periods of time, only changing them when they need new "life."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A is for Apple

I've joined the Pagan Blog Project, where we'll be blogging our way through the alphabet this year, one letter at a time, two posts for each letter.

Not to sound elementary, but for the letter A, I'm starting with apple. I use them quite a bit in my practice. Cut an apple horizontally, and they have a little star or pentacle in the center. They embody the maiden, mother and crone with their colors-- red skin, white inner flesh, black seeds. I think of apples as a sacred food.

I associate apples with the Autumn Equinox and with Samhain. Around September, apples are ready to be harvested and I've used them along with grapes and nuts to decorate my Mabon altar. Since they're also considered food for the dead, I leave an apple out for passing spirits each Samhain.

I've collected many different pieces of wood for wands over the years, but the one I've worked with the most is a beautiful piece of apple wood. I've cut it down to a nice length and done some peeling of bark and sanding. I still want to do more with it, adding the ogham letter for apple and some other symbols and perhaps carving some apples on it (not sure if I'm talented enough for that). But even unfinished, my apple wand feels very magical.

Are apples important to your practice of the Craft?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tarot for 2012

Last night I did my traditional tarot spread for the new year. I like to draw a card for each moon cycle of the year and use that card as my guide for each moon.

1st moon~ January 23~ Ace of Swords
2nd moon~ February 21~ The Hermit (9)
3rd moon~ March 22~ 4 of Cups
4th moon~ April 21~ 8 of Wands
5th moon~ May 20~ Cernunnos (15) **
6th moon~ June 19~ The Hanged Man (12)
7th moon~ July 19~ Prince of Wands
8th moon~ August 17~ The World (21)
9th moon~ September 16~ 8 of Pentacles
10th moon~ October 15~ Princess of Wands
11th moon~ November 13~ 8 of Cups
12th moon~ December 13~ 6 of Cups

** In traditional decks, Cernunnos (15) is known as The Devil card

For some reason I thought there were 13 new moons this year (there are 13 FULL moons this year), so I drew 13 cards. So 2 of Cups will be the card for the first moon cycle of 2013-- a very good way to start the year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012

Happy New Year! Here's to a wonderful year ahead-- full of love, creativity, joy and prosperity!

Instead of (or along with) New Year's resolutions, I like to choose a keyword for the year ahead. This year, I've decided my keyword will be STRETCH.

It can apply to so many different aspects of my life-- stretch my body by getting back into my yoga practice, stretch my creativity by trying new designs and experimenting with new techniques, stretch my boundaries by becoming less reclusive, stretch by coming up with new ways to promo my business... and so forth and so on!

I've also calculated my tarot card for 2012, which is The Fool (0 or 22). It seems a new journey awaits me and I need to move forward with child-like optimism and trust in faith this year. As long as I'm not too naive about whatever adventure is ahead, this sounds like a pretty good way to spend the new year to me.