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  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.
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.

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,
NEBOUTOSOUALÊTH beside the doors,
PYPYLÊDEDEZÔ and gate-breaker;
Come Hekate of fiery counsel, I call you to my sacred chants.
OREOBAZAGRA who burst forth from the earth

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 no 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 my 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. 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 while high, 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 bdding 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 a wich abbey, which is now taking form.  It's called 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? 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 thing.
  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.  Nerds LOVE to talk about our nerdery)
  12. What is preventing you 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 probably are...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.  If you're not going to actually learn the thing, then don't try to learn it.  Pick something else to learn.
    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.