Thursday, September 14, 2017

Myth Maker: Modern Mythopoetics

Hello, all!  I have a new recurring column at Witches & Pagans Magazine!  You can read the first post below, but from now on, you'll have to visit the magazine to see them.

In the next post, I’ll get to the meat of this blog, introducing you to a variety of lesser-known spirits from around the world and telling you the stories and teachings they tell to me. But I thought I’d start off by talking a little about mythopoesis as an art and a magical practice. The English word mythopoesis comes from the Greek μυθοποιία, and literally means “myth-making.” The second part of the word, “poeia,” is the root of our word “poet.” Historically, the word was an obscure technical term, describing, as Victorian historians would tell it, that period of time when humans made myths “instead of science” to explain the world around them. However, in 1931, J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) published a poem titled Mythopoeia, which was a direct response to his frenemy and Oxford colleague C.S. Lewis’s skepticism about the value of myth. Lewis (at the time, although his views softened with the wisdom of age) believed that myths are "lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver.”' Tolkien's poem replies...

“...
a star's a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, Inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain
...
[but] He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.
...
[therefore] I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.”


    Art by Aubrey Beardsley.  from Le Morte d’Arthur (1893)

Like Tolkien, I believe that Creation is an ongoing affair, that moment by moment, word by word, we each breathe ideas into being. Tolkien writes “The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval....in such 'fantasy,' as it is called, new form is made; Faerie begins; Man becomes a sub-creator." Tolkien, however, was still a male, nominally Christian, British aristocrat writing in the 1930s, and his view of the world, like our own, was heavily shaped by his lived experience of it. I write as an American feminist, Jew, witch, and all-around freak, and I go even further than he did: I say that the mythopoet, like the bard or the ovate, speaks for those who have tongues only of flame, and writes for those whose hands are the bare winter branches. For me, bardcraft and mythopoeia are an essential part of my relationship to the gods, the Land, the ancestors, and the World (both the Earth and the Other Places). It is my great hope that the stories and history I share with you here will help you root your practice as well.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thesmophoria: The Festival of Persephone & Demeter

Thesmophoria by Francis Davis Millet, 1894-1897

Thesmophoria, which means "of the Law Giver" (an epithet of Demeter's) is the central festival of Demeter & Persephone.  It was usually celebrated in the fall, when the seeds of next year's crop were sown, although practices varied.  It was among the most wide-spread of festivals, celebrated through the Greek world, dating to at least the 11th century BCE.  Classically, Thesmophoria was a womens' only rite; men were forbidden not only to participate in, but also to just know about, the ceremonies.
Like so much that once belonged to women, the details have largely been lost.  Only two ancient sources remain, and both are deeply problematic.  The first is a commentator called Lucian, famed for his satires and mocking portrayals of religion.  The other is the playwrite Aristophanes, whose play Thesmophoriazousai (which means literally "Women of the Thesmophoria" but it often called, in English "The Poet and the Women") a satirical comedy about poets crashing the ritual.  So...not a lot to go on.  Here is what we do know:

Among the central rites of the Thesmophoria, celebrated almost everywhere, was a sacrifice of pigs, often in very large quantities.  In some places, these pigs were burned whole over huge sacrificial "barbeque" pits.  However, in many places, the pigs were instead thrown down pits called megara, and later retrieved.  (How long they were down there, and what was done with them after they were retrieved is unknown.  I believe they were left to rot, and then mixed with the grain seed as fertilizer.) Pigs were sacred to Demeter, the Great Sow, and to Persephone. When Hades opened the earth and "kidnapped" Persephone, a herdsman named Eubouleus and his pigs were swallowed up as well.

In Athens, the festival lasted from three days, and took place in late October.  The first day was called the anodos (going up).  The next was called nesteia (fasting).  The final is called kalligenia (beautiful birth).  We don't know much about what happened on those three days.

The "anodos" may refer to several things.  Perhaps it is an allusion to Persephone's ascent from Hades, however that is in the spring; at the time of the Thesmophoria, she is descending.  Some scholars believe it simply meant "putting up" the huts in which the women would stay for the three days.  I believe it to refer to a procession up the hill to the ritual site, and the uprising of spirit from the land that empowered the experience of the other days.

On the day of fasting (nesteia), the women fasted and sat on mats.  Fasting while sitting on the ground seems to me to be a mourning posture;  perhaps the women mourn with Demeter her lost daughter.  However, we are told that the mats are woven from chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus).  This plant was believed in ancient times to be an anti-aphrodisiac, and in men that is likely true; Pliny tells us the women rubbed their genitals with the plant to "to cool the heat of lust", which sure sounds like a thing a man would say about a secret women's festival.  I am skeptical.  Modern studies indicate that chasteberry is an effective medicine for PMS and breast pain.  It is also an insect repellant.  Those both seem like more plausible reasons to me.  In any case, while on the mats, the women engaged in "aischroloia" (dirty talk).  Whether this meant a confession of sins or just ribald or mocking jokes I do not know.  Maybe they narrated sexy stories for each other?  Perhaps it was more like a Norse flyting (boasting contest) or a freestyle rap battle?  I choose to believe it included all those elements.

On the third day, there was a feast (of roast piglets, I assume) which included cookies shaped like snakes and male genitalia.  I believe koulouraikia, a kind of Greek butter cookie, are a remnant of that practice.  Here's my families' recipe for them.  Because of the name of the day, I assume that the ritual component was to ensure fertility and the birth of healthy children, as well as the more metaphoric birth of the grain being planted.  I expect giving birth on this day was extremely auspicious for both mother and child.  However, the name Kalligenia was also the name of the nymph who midwifed Persephone's birth.  Some think it to be a very old name for Gaia.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Monthly Spell Kit Club

Monthly spell kits from Mastros & Zealot: Witches for Hire, are designed for experienced magicians and pagans who are looking to expand their practice.  Every month, the kits are built around a new "theme".  For example, the August 2017 boxes focused on Hekate, and September 2017 focus on the (possibly apocryphal) pan-European Paleolithic Bear Cult.  Our October 2017 kits will focus on working with Ancestors & the Mighty Dead.  I haven't picked a November theme yet, but I am leaning towards the Horned God.  Each kit includes about 5 pages of original writing and art, including an original spell you can't learn anywhere else.  Additionally, kits include hand made magical materials (incense, candles, oils, etc) and (at the deluxe levels) tools and altar goods.  While the kit contains special materials to use with the spell, you DO NOT NEED THE KIT TO PREFORM THE SPELL.

As an example, so you know what to expect, here's what was in the August 2017 kits.




Double-ended black, white, red candles, scented with Ethiopian frankincense and wild-crafted mugwort, hand cast by artist Damian Miller under my direction, especially for this spell.  Because all of us at Mastros & Zealot are dirt-worshipping tree huggers, all our candles are crafted with recycled wax Damian harvests from used candle stubs, and are colored with broken crayons.  The wicks are made with recycled hemp.  You can lie them on their side on a plate and burn from both ends simultaneously, or trim the wick on whichever end you want to be the “bottom” so they’ll stand straight.  For this spell, we recommend using the candle upright, with black at the top.  The candles can be used for many other purposes; use your imagination!  You can order more candles direct from the artist, for $10 each by emailing me at academy@gmail.com.  Because they are made from recycled waxes, they vary slightly from candle to candle. The kit also includes a bottle of our Hekate oil, which includes organic olive oil, wildcrafted mugwort, frankincense, dittany of Crete, mastiha, and several other ingredients.  Room has been left in the jar in case you wish to add other ingredients or charms.  Small scrolls, skeleton keys, beads, coins, and various stones are all nice.  Use your intuition, or add nothing at all.

Deluxe kits also include olive-wood offering cups by Tunisian artist Siwar ben Ayed.  The offering cups haven’t been dedicated, so you can use them however you choose.  If you’d like to dedicate them specifically to Hekate, I recommend rubbing them down with the oil, while reciting the Orphic Hymn to Hekate (included at the end of this document).  Siwar also makes lovely bowls and mortar and pestle sets of the same wood.  Email me if you’re interested in them, or in more cups.  

The spell included in this kit is below, but after this first month, the spells will not be published, and are available ONLY in the kits.  You've missed your opportunity to get this kit at the club price, but you can purchase one for $50 (regular) or $75 (deluxe).  If, before September first, you sign up for monthly kits, at the regular price ($36 regular, $66 deluxe), I will sell you a Hekate kit at that price as well. (I only have 4 kits remaining).

Working the Spell

You can perform this spell without the specialty ingredients included in your kit; use three candles, one of each color, and anoint with plain olive oil.  This spell is especially good on new moons.  The upcoming eclipse could be used to super-charge it.  If working during the eclipse, say the “destroy” line as the sun in waning, the “create” line during full darkness, and the “grow” line as the light returns.  However, the spell wasn’t specifically designed for the eclipse; it can be worked any time.

Before beginning, clearly articulate a three point strategy for your wish.
  • What needs to be destroyed?  
  • What needs to be created?   
  • What do you want to grow?
For each question, it’s ok to state something abstract (like destroy illness, create wealth, and grow love), but the more specific and concrete you can be, the better.  Also, it’s better if the three phases “strategize” together for example....”destroy fat, create energy, grow muscle” or “destroy debt, create opportunity, grow wealth” or “destroy curses, create alliances, grow power”.  Form clear, articulate answers to each question before working the spell.


Devise or discover a small, easy to draw symbol or sigil to represent each of your three phases.  Runes work well for this.  Use a pin, pen, or knife (a stone knife is best, and will hopefully be included in next month’s deluxe boxes) to carve each into the appropriate color on the candle.  Anoint the candle with oil, carefully making clockwise spirals around each color on the candle.  While doing so, say:


Ἑκατη Τριοδιτις (Hekate Trioditus) Witch of The Threefold Way,  
I call to you, Sorceress Queen, to work my will with me.
STATE INTENT HERE
By blackest night, by flint-chipped blade, cut away that which fetters me.
EXPLAIN WHAT NEEDS TO BE DESTROYED
By white-shelled egg and creamy milk, bring forth that which I desire.
EXPLAIN WHAT YOU WANT TO BE CREATED
By reddest blood, by poppie’s bloom, let it grow strong and true.
EXPLAIN WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE GROW
Torchbearer, Maiden, Goddess, Queen,
Guide me as I walk the threefold path.
Nigredo. Albano. Rubedo.
Goddess, Witch, and Queen.


Offer an egg and some milk.  If you wish, you can also offer a drop of blood and a red poppy flower, but that is not required.


Light the candle, and say aloud this spell, based on one from the Greek Magical Papyrii:

O, Hekate, of many names, O Virgin, Kore, Goddess, come, I ask,
O guard and shelter of the threshing floor, Persephone,
O triple-headed goddess, who walks on fire,
cow-eyed BOUORPHORBÊ
PANPHORBA
PHORBARA
AKTIÔPHI
ERESCHIGAL  
NEBOUTOSOUALÊTH beside the doors,
PYPYLÊDEDEZÔ and gate-breaker;
Come Hekate of fiery counsel, I call you to my sacred chants.
MASKELLI MASKELLÔ
PHNOUKENTABAÔTH
OREOBAZAGRA who burst forth from the earth
OREOPÊGANYX MORMORON TOKOUMBAI!”


Hekate, I have called to you by your ancient names of power.  
By blackest night, by flint-chipped blade, cut away that which fetters me.
By white-shelled egg and creamy milk, bring forth that which I desire.
By reddest blood, by poppie’s bloom, let it grow strong and true.
Torchbearer, Maiden, Goddess, Queen,
Guide me as I walk the threefold path.
Nigredo. Albano. Rubedo.
Goddess, Witch, and Queen.


The End

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Nine Movies To Inspire Magic

Earlier this week, I read John Beckett's recent piece, Twelve Movies to Inspire Your Magic, and I was, I must say, uninspired.  I've seen all those movies, and I enjoyed many of them, but the only one I ever found inspirational on that list was Practical Magic.  To me, the magic that movie inspires is the radical act of being out, loud, and proud as a witch, and about the life-changing magic of convincing people that witches aren't evil the only way that works; by being consistently, publicly, undeniably Good.  That's a tightrope I try hard to walk. Then, I read John Halstead's piece, “You’re Not Fucking Gandalf”: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up" which I agreed with most of, but it too was also uninspiring (and, honestly, a little mean-spirited).

A lot of you might not know this, but I used to write a movie review blog.  So, I'm about to step in the ring.  Here are twelve movies that inspire my magic, with brief explanations.  I've tried to, more or less, rank them from funniest to most serious.  I also tried to find twelve, but these nine really said everything I have to say.

TRIGGER WARNING:  There are a surprising number of suicides in the movies on this list.  I'm not sure what that says about me and our media culture.  Also, there's a sexual assault and a stoning.

1) The Men Who Stare At Goats.  This witty comedy has sparkling writing that kept me laughing the whole way through.  It stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Bridges, and a funny goat.  Several funny goats, actually.  It tells the story of an Army unit devoted to developing super soldiers with psychic powers.  Jedi warriors, if you will.  If you've ever spent any time in the "occult" community, you'll recognize several of the characters as brilliant send-ups of our tropes.  What it inspires: For me, this movie inspires me to not take myself too seriously until it's time for seriousness, and then it inspires me to remember that I'm a mother-fucking sorceress, and I do not take shit lying down.

2) When Do We Eat? is a Passover movie.  Ira Stuckman (Michael Lerner) runs a christmas ornament empire, and prides himself on the fastest passover seder ever (although I suspect my family could give him a run for that money).  The Stuckmans haven't had a Passover together in years, but this year, Peggy (Lesley Ann Warren) has gone all out.  All the Jewish family stereotypes are present; the holier-than-thou newly chasidic son (Max Greenfield), the lesbian-sex-therapist daughter (Meredith Scott Lynne), the disaffected teenager (Ben Feldman), the autistic savant youngest son (Adam Lamberg), the Holocaust survivor grandfather (Jack Klugman), etc...  Ira is still committed to getting through as quick as possible.  However, he is accidentally dosed with LSD and ecstasy, and the real magic of Passover shines through.  What it inspires: For me, this movie inspires most that feeling we Jews call k'lal Israel; the bonds of family and tribe.  But it's also about the overwhelming power of myth to transform and inspire.  It's about the magical power of love in all it's messy complicated forms.  And it's (of course) about the inherent magic of Passover: it inspires hospitality for the stranger, because I was a stranger in Egypt.  It inspires me to work for the liberation of all, because I was a slave.  Finally, it inspires tears of gratitude, because I was brought out of the house of Bondage, and led past the land of limitation.

3) Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity is the only movie on my list to feature magic qua magic.  It stars Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) as a frustrated single mother who has not time for romance, magic, or nonsense.  Her young daughter (played BRILLIANTLY by Valerie Tian) discovers a book on Taoist magic at the local shop, and begins to experiment.  Her magic enriches the lives of her whole neighborhood.  This is an adorable movie about the power of small magics.  When I saw it on Netflix, portions of the movie were in Chinese without subtitles, which I thought was fine, and had no trouble following, but viewing companion found very frustrating.  What it inspires: For me, this movie inspires me to find the child-like wonder that accompanies all good magic.

4) The Matrix. Sure, sure. It's overplayed. Sure, sure, some people claim there were some very bad sequels, but I deny their very existence. Sure, sure it's been largely co-opted by douchey dude-bros.  Sure, sure, sure. But, if you can tell me this movie didn't inspire you to do some magic the first time you saw it, I just don't believe you.  Like...really...do you even magic, bro?  What it inspires:  There is no spoon.

5) Fantasia was, full disclosure, my late mother's favorite movie, so I saw it at least once a year since I was about 6 and VCRs were invented.  It might be less inspiring for you.  But, Fantasia is also the only movie on my list that qualifies as a "classic".  If I were writing a list of the best movies every made, Fantasia is the only one on this list that might make it there too.  When it was released in 1940, Fantasia was a ground-breaking, world-changing piece of art, and it still is.  For many people, Fantasia is their first exposure to the gut-wrenching power of classical music, and the first (and tragically, for many, the only) time they loose themself in a piece of abstract art.  When I put Fantasia on this list, I had genuinely forgotten it even had a piece about magic.  The Sorcerer's Apprentice, is, I suppose, inspiring, but mostly in a "I'll show you!" kind of way.  For me, the most inspiring b oitsf Fantasia are the first piece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which teaches how to visualize music, and the "intermission" where Leopold Stokowski, one of the great conductors, teaches how he understands music.  If you have the chance to watch the extended DVD with commentary, I strongly recommend it.  Few people know how involved Stokowski was in the conceptual framework of the movie; in many ways, Fantasia is a collaboration among some of the greatest artists, musicians, and storytellers of its day.  It's Bardcraft for Bards.  What it Inspires: For me, more than anything else, Fantasia is about the interplay of music, visual art, and mythic narrative.  It taught me how dramatic tension works, and how to draw an audience's heart after mine.  More that anything else, Fantasia taught me that the most "sophisticated", "complex", and "abstract" arts were well within reach of everyone.  Like I said, this movie is a Masterclass in Bard Magic.  If you've never seen Fantasia on a big screen, ideally in a park, I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

6) Dead Poet's Society is, admittedly, a little cheesy.  But, the line between inspirational and cheesy is actually kind of a fine one. :)  I don't know how to explain why this movie is inspiring to me without spoiling it, but remember that I spent most of the last decade being a priestess of knowledge, undercover as a prep school teacher.  You might be starting to sense a theme about magic=bardcraft in this list, which isn't ALL of my magic, but it is a lot of it.  This movie is a bit dated, but it holds up well.  Excellent performances by archbard Robin Williams (the only actor to headline two movies on this list; peace be upon him), as well as young Robert Sean Leonard (House), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), and Ethan Hawke (literally everything).

6) Like Water for Chocolate in some ways, is another version of Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity, and it touches on similar themes.  I am a complete sucker for Latin American magical realism romances about food; for a lighter, Candomble-themed, version of these same themes, check out "Woman on Top".  Like Water for Chocolate is passionate and sad, and teaches about the power of passion and sympathetic magic.  What it Inspires: Advanced Kitchen Witchery.

7) What Dreams May Come is an intoxicatingly beautiful movie whose cosmology I mostly disagree with.  Another excellent showing by archbard Robin Wiliams, the writing and acting in this movie are good, but it's the direction and art-design that really shine.  The underlying notion of creating, and exploring a world made out of imagination was a powerful one for me, as a 10-year-old bussing magician, and the notion of how all of our imaginal realities might intersect was even more inspiring.  Also, truth be told, I learned to psychopomp from this movie.  What it Inspires:  An understanding of the nature of the astral/imaginal worlds, and how they intersect with both our world and the Other Place.  How to guide a man through hell.

8) Vision is a German biopic about Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century visionary, radical feminist, artist, musician, polymath and "Catholic" saint.  I cannot say how historically accurate this movie is; I suspect it rather plays up the feminist and pagan themes.  However, it's beautiful, both visually and musically, and wonderfully lush.  The acting is excellent; I really like the way they avoid "modern" body language and facial expressions.  You never really know what's going on in Hildegard's mind.  However, once again, it's the art direction that does it for me; this movie, much like Hildegard, conveys its message best in music, art, and poetry.  What it inspires:  About two months after I saw this movie, St. Hildegard appeared to me in a vision, and charged me to found an abbey, which is now called the Pittsburgh Witch House.

9) Agora is the only explicitly pagan movie on this list.  It's a biopic about Hypatia, the last dean of the great Academy and Library at Alexandria.  Hypatia was, in the movie and in life, a brilliant mathematician, inventor, orator, and poetess; Hypatia was, unquestionably, one of the last great pagan thinkers of the classical world.  Like Vision, this is not a historical documentary, its an artistic retelling of history with a clear bias. (and, honestly, more or less the same bias...a feminist/pagan/pluralist one) Even I think this movie is heavy-handed with it's Pagans=civilized, Christians=barbarians message, but, I mean...I'm pretty alright with that.  I have seen this movie at least 12 times, but when (SPOILER, but, I mean...this is history) she is sexually assaulted and then stoned to death by a mob led by Cyril, "Pillar of Faith and Seal of all the Fathers", Patriarch of Alexandria, I have never failed to weep.  What it Inspires:  It might not be a shock to you, if you've gotten this far, but I'm a radical feminist priestess of knowledge dedicated to mathematics, art and mythopoetry, who also really likes costume drama.  So, this movie pretty much ticks all my boxes.  But, a deeper level, this movie inspires me to keep fighting, in the face of sometimes overwhelming hatred and ignorance.  At the end of the day, what this movie inspires, in me, is that I rage, rage at the dying of the light.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How To Learn Anything?

This is, I believe, the best strategy to learn things.  It doesn't really matter what the thing is.  Depending on what you are learning, how long each step can vary, from a few minutes to several years.  But, these are the steps, and the order to do them in:

  1. Choose what you want to learn.  Name it as specifically as you can.  
  2. Explain, in complete written sentences, why you want to learn it.  Be sure to answer the following questions:
    1. What problem are you solving?  
    2. What itch are you scratching?
    3. Who are you learning it for?
    4. What do you hope the new knowledge will get you?
    5. What do you hope the new knowledge will allow you to change in the world?
    6. What, in yourself, do you think that learning the thing will improve?
  3. Cross out whatever you wrote in step one. Answer the following question:
    1. What is the optimal thing to learn to get what you said you wanted in step two?  Maybe it's what you said in line one, but maybe not.  Consider other options.  It's ok to have many answers.  You are likely, in fact, to have several answers.
  4. If you now have a list of things to learn, the next step is to prioritize them.  Answer the following questions, in complete written sentences that explain why.  
    1. Which are you the worst at?  
    2. For which will a small improvement produce the biggest results?
    3. Which of these are necessary prerequisites for others?
      1. Are you sure it's necessary?  Why?
    4. Which one(s) would make learning the others easier?
    5. Which is the easiest to learn?
  5. Think honestly about yourself.  Answer the following questions:
    1. How bad do I want to learn this stuff?
    2. How much effort am I willing to put in?
    3. How long can I sustain motivation without gratifying results?
  6. Examine your answers to 5 and 6, and choose one to begin with.  For most people, I recommend the one that provides the biggest, fastest payoff with the least amount of effort/time.
  7. So, now....What do you want to learn (first)?  DO NOT answer the question: "What form is the thing I want to learn?" Be as specific and clear as you can.  Not:  "I want to learn to play the guitar." but "I want to learn a socially acceptable (for a middle aged white man) medium to express emotions/ideas that I'm afraid/incapable/forbidden to just say."  or whatever.  you do you.  (note: I am obviously not a middle aged white man who wants to learn to play the guitar, so I'm probably wrong about the motivation for doing such a thing.  Also, as a general rule, I would, were it me, advise against giving a shit about what's socially acceptable)
  8. Now....what real-world form does that thing take?  If you're not sure, then analyze what you wrote....we're looking for an expressive medium.  What's another word for "a medium to express an emotion/idea"....aha!  that's an "art".  So, now I need to find an art that meets the other criteria....What arts are socially acceptable for middle aged white men?  um...do I want to learn drums, guitar, or how to detail motorcycles?
  9. So, now you have a clear idea of what you want to learn:  "I want to learn how to express emotions and ideas with a guitar."
  10. Choose a specific person who is good at that.
  11. How did they learn to do that?  If you don't know, do some research (the easiest way to research is to ask them, if that's an option)
  12. What is preventing me from learning it the way they did?  If nothing, then you now have a plan.  Do that thing.  But, probably, there's a whole list of obstacles.  List them, as specifically as you can.
  13. Examine your list.  Are there any that have no solution at all?  Any that are genuinely impossible?  (there might be...example:  He learned from his father, who put a guitar in his hands when he was 3 years old.  I cannot time travel.  and, anyhow, my dad can't play guitar) . If there are insurmountable obstacles, go back to step 10, and pick a different person.  Continue until you find a method that has only very difficult, but not impossible obstacles.
  14. For each obstacle, ask yourself "What would I have to learn to overcome this?"  If necessary, use the method you learned in steps 1-9 to answer that question. Once you have done that for every obstacle....
  15. Ask yourself:  is it worth it to me to overcome this obstacle?  
    1. If the answer is NO for even a single of the obstacles, then go back to step 10, 6, or 1 and make a different choice.
    2. If the answer is YES for EVERY obstacle on the list, then....
  16. Choose which obstacle to begin with.  If necessary, use the method you learned from doing steps 4-6.
  17. Begin doing the strategy you learned in step 11.  As you encounter each obstacle, repeat step 14 (because you've "leveled up" at least some since you did that, so you might have a better answer now).  Now, do that thing!
Repeat until you know the thing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Archepelago: The Isles of the Wise



We at Mastros & Zealot are both excited and delighted to announce our newest game, Archepelago: Isles of the Wise.  Like last fall's Apokalypsis, which unlocked the Seven Great Mystery Cults of Lydia, Archipelago is an initiatory game of mythopoetic magic which discovers the long lost magics hidden on twelve mythic islands.  The game is open to everyone, free to play, and rewards richly its winners and heroes.

Every Wednesday, for twelve Wednesdays, players receive a new missive.  Decrypt the missive to identify the island, uncover the clues hidden in the islands history, geography, and mythology, and unlock the Mystery you find there.  On August 30th, if all twelve mysteries have been revealed, the Great Revelation of the Game will be unlocked, Winners will be acclaimed, and Hero's prizes will be awarded.  There is no way to lose the game, except to quit.

There are Twelve Isles of the Wise where the Mystery Cults born on Atlantis retreated when the old ways gave way to the new.  Six of the twelve are known to me:

The Navel of the World
The Fruited Isle
The Island of the Hawk
The Pillar of the North
The Island of the Fates
The Island the Supports Bliss

The final six we will need discover together on the strength of the magics we learn on the first six islands.

You may choose to work alone, or you may work in small teams.  For the greatest reward, play on Hero Mode: throw open the Gates for everyone, and clear the path of stumbling blocks for those who follow after you.  To win the game, all you need to do is play along; you can quit any time.

Comment here or on the Mastros & Zealot facebook page to declare you are playing. You will be sent complete instructions.

The preliminary missive, below, is your clue to opening the initiatory gate, and discovering the lost secrets of...

Navel of the World

Star-born island, daughter of Wisdom,
Mother of Dark Prophecy,
Floating island at the center of the world,
No man may sleep upon your breast.
No woman may bear children upon your lap.
And on you, it is forbidden to die.








Artemis & Abortion

As many of you know, Artemis and I have a close relationship. My best friend when I was a girl, with whom I cut my magical teeth as a teenager, was (and remains) dedicated to her. I've been doing a lot of work with Artemis in the last few days, and she asked me to share this teaching, one of her oldest and most important.

Since time out of mind, Artemis, the Huntress, the Unwed, the Great Midwife, the Witch Sister, has taught women how to own our own bodies. That ownership is once again under threat, and Artemis, and her Sister Witches stand ready to defend it. No one can really call them self "witch" if they don't know the ancient magic that liberates women from unwanted pregnancy.

Modern medical abortions, both surgical and chemical, are much safer and more reliable than the ancient ways. Do all you can to keep them safe, legal, and affordable, but I fear dark times are coming, and so learn now what it may soon be illegal to teach. This is the knowledge our foremothers went to the pyre for. Pray you never need to know this, but also plant some herbs. Print this out. By the time you need it, I might not be here anymore.

The first thing you have to know is that herbal abortions are dangerous. This IS NOT homeopathy, or green living. It is not a "safe alternative" to a real abortion. This is post-apocalypse medicine. If you at all can, get a real abortion, from a real doctor. Our foremothers fought, we are all still fighting,  so that you will never need to know this, but when being pregnant seems worse than being dead, this is the medicine you need.

Secondly, take a pregnancy test and be sure you are pregnant before taking any of these herbs. I know some women would "rather not know", but these preparations are too dangerous to be taken unless they're really needed. These aren't emergency contraception; they're abortion. I'll talk a little about emergency contraception at the end of this post.

If you are afraid, Artemis will give you strength.  (Magic for that here)

Angelica is probably the safest abortificant herb that's easy (and covert) to grow or gather.

American Angelica
 
Garden Angelica

Angelica archangelica, known as garden angelica, wild celery, and Norwegian angelica, is a common garden plant.   Angelica atropurpurea, known commonly as purplestem angelicagreat angelicaAmerican angelicahigh angelica, and masterwort, is native to most of the US.  It grows along riverbanks and in swamps. Both kinds of angelica are very easy to grow or find, and they can be used interchangeably.  To use, simmer dried root in water for 15-30 minutes.  Drink every four hours (day and night) until bleeding begins.  DO NOT use for more than 2 weeks.  DO NOT use if you are prone to heavy bleeding.




Ruta graveolens, commonly known as ruecommon rue or herb-of-grace, is a common garden plant that is extremely easy to grow.  In much of the US, it has "escaped" from gardens, and grows in ditches and along roadsides.  Take caution when gathering it, as it can cause blistering similar to poison ivy.  It has a long history of use as an abortificant, including in medieval Europe and contemporary Latin America.  If your period is overdue, boil 1 cup water, and pour over 3 Tbsp of dried leaves.  Allow to cool.  Drink every 8 hours until menstruation begins.  If menstruation is more than 1 week overdue, wait until 4 days before your next period is due, and begin again.


American Pennyroyal

 
European Pennyroyal





















Hedeoma pulegioides is also called American pennyroyal, false pennyroyal, squaw mint, tickweed, stinking balm, or mosquito plant. It is native to the North Eastern US.  Mentha pulegium, called also (European) pennyroyal, or pennyrile, also called squaw mint, mosquito plant, and pudding grass, is a common garden plant related to mint. It is extremely easy to grow, and can, in fact, be difficult to contain. Put it in a pot if you don't want it to spread. To use, add 4 parts boiling water to 1 part dried leaves, and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Drink 1 cup every 4 hours until bleeding begins. You will be nauseous, but try to keep it down. Some additionally recommend that you steep the dried herb in oil, and massage into the feet and heels, abdomen, and forehead. Do not take for more than 5 days. Do not use if you have any problems with your kidneys.

Emergency Contraception

Plan B can be stockpiled, and that is a better strategy than using herbs as emergency contraception. However, if you do not have access to Plan B...


Daucus carota, whose common names include Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot, bird's nest, and bishop's lace, is a common site along roadsides across the US. BE VERY CAUTIOUS when harvesting; its flowers resemble those of poison hemlock. Queen Anne's Lace has green hairy stems, while poison hemlock has smooth stems with purple splotches. Chew a teaspoon of seeds as emergency contraception. Take them as soon after intercourse as possible, then wait 8-12 hours and take a second dose. Some herbalists, especially in Appalachia, also recommend drinking an infusion of the leaves and flowers with the first dose.