Devouring The Untamed

I just spent the last two and a half days devouring an online English translation of Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation) by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. The translation, by “K”, can be found here at Exiled Rebels Scanlations. The book is the basis for the 2019 Chinese television series, The Untamed, currently on Netflix. I’ve now read all 113 chapters, but am saving the bonus chapters for “later.” I recently wrote a blog, Wild About The Untamed, after watching the series four times but prior to reading the book.

I have so much to say about this series–and now the book as well–that I plan on writing several blog posts about The Untamed, from a variety of different views (magical practice, sexology, as a fantasy writer myself, etc.). But first I’d like you to understand why I am blogging about something as seemingly trivial as a Netflix series while enduring the fear and smoke of California’s third largest wildfire ever (which is burning part of the county where I live) as well as dangers of Covid-19 and the incompetence of my federal government. I live alone. Earlier this week I packed my car in case of evacuation. Fleeing a fire in a small car, at my age and with seven cats, will not be easy. (So far I have not had to do this–though others have.) So yes, I have become completely absorbed in this particular xianxia fantasy in order to cope with several existential threats and to control my racing mind. But even if I weren’t menaced by all of the above (including my racing mind), I’d still be as fascinated and transfixed.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to convince any of my close friends to watch The Untamed, so I’ve no one with whom I can “geek out” about the series. For those who have not yet experienced this magic, I feel the same sense of pity that I feel for anyone who has not read Lord of the Rings or watched Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Is it any wonder then that I am writing a blog? This is what prolonged social isolation does to a person…

But let’s move on to some of the reasons I love The Untamed and the novel so very much.

The Trickster Archetype

I mentioned in my previous blog that the “trickster” character of Wei WuXian (aka Wei Ying and Yiling Patriarch) is what attracted me first. I am always captivated by trickster characters and spirits, including the consumate trickster, the Norse god Loki Laufeyjarson (and his Marvel counterpart). Tricksters are mischevious. They are typically outspoken and seldom mince words. They are more apt to slash with them if necessary. They get into precarious situations, often due to a finely tuned sense of their own honor or obligations. They solve problems using their wits but can fight if necessary. They see through hypocrisy and frequently challenge it. They are charismatic. They know their own value. They are seldom deferential enough to authority figures, even when not challenging them overtly. They seldom deign to explain themselves and their actions, so that even their closest companions misunderstand them. They can be fiercely loyal to just a few. They have power and they often wield magic that is considered dangerous, demonic, or somehow wrong or indecent. They attract harsh punishments and social criticism. Tricksters often drive the plot.

Wei WuXian, the “demonic cultivator” of the series, is a classic trickster. He is all of the above. In the book, this characteristic is even more pronounced. He is particularly compelled to prod and poke at Lan Zhan (aka Lan Wangji and Hanguang-Jun), his taciturn companion in swordplay and sorcery, but many of his tricks and jokes backfire. Try as he might, Wei WuXian cannot use obnoxious behavior and guile to undermine or escape his destiny. (I’m giving no spoilers. You can interpret “destiny” as you wish.)

Beauty, GHOSTS, DESPOTS, AND GHOULS

The xianxia world of The Untamed is beautiful. The buildings, costumes, ceremonies, and lotus-filled lakes calm my spirit and refresh my eyes. If I was a child watching this series, it would live in my imagination forever. As an adult, my imagination is also captivated (but “forever” is a shorter time).

But this world is not without its perils. Sociopathic despots rule it and the cultivator clans are governed by authoritarian prudes, wealthy libertines, and stern macho warriors. Resentful ghosts and lurching zombie-like “puppets” threaten armies and villages. Queer love can barely speak its name. And female characters spend a lot of time cooking and serving food, but not eating. (And why do I feel I’ve just described a Republican utopia?)

Choreography

I also appreciate the beauty of the martial arts choreography. The actors who play Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan (and the others) make it all look effortless, which means of course that (1) they all spent untold hours perfecting their moves and (2) that the film editing is amazing. I particularly like how Lan Zhan’s words and face may often be closed, but his movements with sword and his magical instrument, the guqin, are eloquent and expressive. His actions taken to protect Wei WuXian are always prompt and decisive, though his words and face may rebuff Wei’s overtures. Wei WuXian also provides physical complexity in that he can switch from a lighthearted mood to a stern fighting mode at a moment’s notice. This is also reflected in the choreography.

Symbolism

As an American of European ancestry, I know I miss many markers of cultural significance. How could I not? The translator of Mo Dao Zu Shi does explain a few things, however, and I am grateful for anything that helps me understand more about what I’m watching and reading. However I do think I managed to understand some of the personal and emotional symbols, even during the first viewing. The producers and writers of The Untamed had to be careful how they portrayed the relationship between Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan, and so relied on elements with clear–but not explicit–meanings or they scripted ambiguous reactions to explicit meanings. This is a good article about some of the main symbols (Lan Zhan’s headband, rabbits, chickens, etc.) and how they are used.

THE LOVE

The development of the complex relationship between Wei WuXian and Lan Zhan is of course the main attraction. Superficially it’s a classic “opposites attract” story, but the characters also share many similarities. Both are held in high regard for their abilities (though Wei is controversial first due to his cockiness and later for his demonic cultivation methods). Both are also generally regarded as beautiful men in a culture which obviously values looks. Both are “second” in rank in their cultivation clans/sects. Both are well educated. Both have lost parents at a young age and have been treated harshly, even abusively, by adopted or extended family members. Both are also emotionally and sexually inexperienced, though Wei WuXian likes to pretend he is not. So this is a story of first love as well as a love we imagine will last as long as the two cultivators seek immortality.

There are other types of relationships, love stories, and passionate (but presumably platonic) pairings depicted in The Untamed. There are two wandering cultivators who have a loyal friendship and a common mission to help those who need it–their way of life almost serves as a foreshadowing of the life waiting for Lan Zhan and Wei WuXian, should they commit to each other. Sibling relationships are important and complicated. Parents are either missing or inadequate. Lan Zhan’s brother becomes close to someone who rises in the world (who is therefore acceptable) while Lan Zhan’s partiality for Wei WuXian–even before his “fall”–is regarded as unfortunate and wrong.

Nothing could be more unlike The Untamed than the 1938 film of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. However those who know Pygmalion might understand me (maybe) if I say The Untamed has a transcendent moment equivalent to “fetch me my slippers, Eliza.” You have to see both to understand.

IN CONCLUSION

The book explained some scenes and elements in the television series that I could not understand. I am so glad that an English translation is available online and I feel a lot of gratitude towards K, the translator. This is in addition, of course, to what I feel for the author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and to all who brought these characters and their world to life in The Untamed.

I have always had special interests which keep me curious, happy, and occupied. The Untamed fits in with so many that I have already: magic and animism, all forms of human sexuality and gender identities, trickster tales, and epic fantasy. And I have such pleasure in the story itself and its characters. That pleasure alone–during these dreary days of pandemic isolation and smokey skies–is worth everything.

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Wild About The Untamed

After a hard day of dodging unmasked humanoids and prepping for possible wildfire evacuation in 100+ degree weather, I like to put on a clean sarong and unwind with yet another binge watch of several episodes of The Untamed (2019).

Yes, this aging witchy wannabe, trapped in a world she’d like to desperately adjust, has been captivated by the fantasy world of Chinese “cultivator” sorcery and swordplay, and the adorable love story of soulmates Wei Wuxian (L) and Lan Zhan (R) (pictured above), played by actors/singers/dancers Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo. I am not sure what prompted me to initially click on to the Netflix series but the trickster energy of the Wei Wuxian character seemed “Loki-like” and this drew me in. I was soon hooked (for many reasons) but also felt confused. While watching the first several episodes I had to search for articles that would help me understand the characters and context. (This Wikipedia entry helped.) And my response to the series was/is very similar to the one experienced by the writer of this review, “The Untamed, streaming on Netflix, ripped my heart out and fed it to me. I can’t get enough.” Yep. Me too.

Everything is admirable, except the soundtrack can sometimes seem a bit goofy in a mismatched mood way. But that’s okay, because the theme song, sung by Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, is on “my final playlist.” And if I have to kick the bucket before successfully clawing away the pastel printed vinyl wallcovering of whatever ICU gets my covid-racked carcass, I want THIS song and this song only to take me across the liminal divide between me here and me over there somewhere. (Loki, my darling psychopomp, please take note.) It’s not that I love the song that much over all others (though I kind of do at this point), it’s that in my life of deeply felt but ultimately doomed romances, I’m pleased to be immersed in observing the delicate trajectory of a “barely-got-past-the-censors” love story of two young men of magic and chivalry. (And the costumes? They are to die for!)

And as a sexologist, I have to say it’s really rather refreshing to watch nuanced courtship for a change, instead of people throwing each other up against a wall and having at it, sans foreplay, ending with a predictable simultaneous orgasm. (I’ve come to feel a bit of the prudery and boredom of the French writer, Colette, who once got snarky about people who had a regularly scheduled “abyss.” But I digress.)

In The Untamed there are plenty of actual abysses, all glowing with magma or containing Tortoises of Slaughter. There’s even the beyond-death abyss of the lost, wandering soul of Wei Wuxian after he tosses himself off a cliff (this is in the first episode so I’m not spoiling anything).

As for the actors–every single character in this very lavish, sprawling production is played to perfection. But the two main actors are extraordinary. Xiao Zhan has perhaps the easier job (as he has a lot more dialogue and opportunity to explicitly express a wide range of emotions) but the “strong, silent” Wang Yibo manages to convey many complexities with few words and a wide range of subtle facial expressions. Honestly, Wang Yibo has the mystique of Garbo, if it’s okay to compare a young Chinese actor/singer/dancer with the charisma of a bygone Western film star. I really would like to see both actors in other roles. As they outgrow their secondary personas/careers as singers in pop boy bands, I would hope they each get a chance to grow and develop their truly extraordinary acting talents for many years to come.

I’m watching all fifty episodes now for the fifth time. I keep finding more things to discover and enjoy–little details as well as previously unnoticed plot points.

And I live for the moment when Lan Zhan admits he likes rabbits.

Perhaps it is not surprising that The Untamed is starting to influence my daily life. A few days ago, in the course of renting a small storage unit for family photos and keepsakes (in case of fire evacuation), the elderly proprietor came within the six feet of social distance I’d been trying to maintain. Her mask exposed her nose. She touched me on the hand. I said “no touching” and then giggled to myself. It was Lan Zhan’s deadpan delivery. But exactly.

Outside, the world burns. The pandemic rages. My children are far away. But as long as I have electricity and the internet, I’ll be drinking in the world of The Untamed, now my drug of choice for the rest of my forseeable lifespan. Either the Yin Iron goes, or I do.

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Today’s Full Moon Spells

The Money Jar Spell

Yes, I know all about the “Witch’s Pyramid,” including the silence part. However, in a previous blog I said I would be making a money jar spell by the next full moon to help boost Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle fundraising efforts — as she has pledged to ride her bike “545 fucking miles” from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Please donate so she makes her pledge goal. Here’s the URL for the sponsor/fundraising page:

http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/disasterina

Well, today, March 9th, is that full moon I spoke of. It’s 9 degrees Virgo, with a sun conjunct neptune. Plus, Mercery retrograde ends today. All good stuff! So it’s time to make a witchy plea to the powers that be, on behalf of this valiant fund-raising effort!

Above you see the inside of the jar, which contains basil for prosperity, organic sugar to sweeten the deal, rose quartz chips to bring lots of love to the fundraising drive, three coins to triple the money coming in, and a petition for dollars containing the above URL. Plus, I dumped in a lot of coppery/gold glitter eyeshadow so it looks rather pretty in there. Then I used a Disasterina sticker on the front of the jar. The green candle burning on top of the lid has been inscribed with the words “AIDS LifeCycle” on one side and “Disasterina” on the other. The candle is dressed with Basil infused organic olive oil.

The candle is burning now, even as I type.

That Blue Burning Candle

That’s for me. It’s a Jupiter spell for general luck and prosperity, which I need right now. I have a complex set of changes to make in the next couple of months, and I’ve begun this time of mucho magicQ with (1) an offering to the lake where I live, as I pulled the “Lady of the Lake” card (surprise!) from the goddess deck today; and (2) the Jupiter spell. In the coming days, I have way opening, protection, health, and certain other spells to craft. It’s going to be a busy, busy time–and I’ve had to get out of the daily practice doldrums and renew that too. I can’t do this without my spirit allies!

Certain material I’ve come across recently also encourages me to cultivate relationships with “the smalls”–microbe magic. Go to microanimism.com and check out the work of Siobhan Watkins, Ph.D. Can’t hurt, could help. (I’m in the high risk group–age and pre-existing health conditions–so I am thinking about this stuff rather a lot these days.)

So… people… we’re gonna need all the luck, resilience, and smarts we can possibly muster in the days ahead. Bring in your protection wards and health-strengthening magic while you’re washing your hands for more than 20 seconds. Charge your medications on your altar, if you have one. I also recommend you check out the Healing Tao “Six Healing Sounds” and do them–particularly the lung sounds and poses. Do anything else that strengthens you.

There is so much to say…but perhaps that’s another blog post. Be well!

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Honey Money Jars & Other Spells to Support AIDS LifeCycle

Whether you’re in service to spirit beings who dig it when you work for a good cause in their name or a kitchen witch with a soft spot for drag queens and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment–or any other witchy sort, actually–you might enjoy whipping up a nice prosperity spell for the sponsorship webpages of those who’ve pledged to ride in the upcoming AIDS/LifeCycle, which raises funds for the SF Aids Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And these funds help sick and poor people get the life-saving help they need!


Disclaimer. I’m not writing as an expert in the craft! I’m a learner. What follows are merely ideas, with references to work by those who ARE well-respected experts.


A few days ago, I encouraged readers of this blog to sponsor Disasterina as she prepares to ride “545 fucking miles”–in drag!–from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. So go ahead, watch the video below and give money NOW by clicking this link to Disasterina’s fundraising page. And readers, do remember, this kind of sponsorship is not just a charitable gesture, it’s a gol-durn Act of Resistance! As Disaterina reminds us in the video below, this is the stuff of community here, and we sure do need to come together in this time of increasing fascism and brutal repression of all we hold most dear (more on that in an upcoming blog).

Honey Money Jars & Other Prosperity Spells

Use Your Western Witch Privilege To Help Others

In the U.S. and many other Western countries, we witches are no longer tortured, hung, or burned for our practices. (Let’s hope another “Satanic Panic” isn’t in the works–many lives were ruined.) However, people in many other countries ARE harmed, killed, or shunned for the kinds of things we gleefully post on Instagram. Plus, even if we are seldom destroyed or ruined for wearing a pentagram, other people in this here country experience injustice, neglect, bodily harm, and even torture and death for being gay, lesbian, trans and gender variant, intersex, black, indigenous, otherwise “of color,” immigrants, Muslims, and so forth. Even kids and old people are not protected. We can take our pentagrams off–or cover up tattoos–and go stealth if we must. Other people are not so fortunate. People with HIV/AIDS are still among the neglected, and must suffer and die if they cannot get help. (I watched my own uncle dying, in the days before retroviral drugs, and it was not a good death.) So nonprofits and community clinics are essential. They need our support. AIDS/LifeCycle is an important player.

In this spirit of using Western Witch Privilege as a form of allyship to this cause, I also asked my readers to consider using their witchy superpowers to charm Disasterina’s sponsorship page, to encourage even more donations to come pouring in. Of course, as a star of Dragula (a show with lots of witchy references), Disasterina has a large fan base and platform from which to draw support. I am sure she’ll reach her $10,000 goal. However, there’s nothing wrong with us witchy types adding a little extra plus plus, is there? But remember, folx, we’re charming the sponsorship page, not the person. Consensual magic is what it’s all about.

For a great discussion of queer magic, including the importance of consensuality, please visit your favorite independent bookstore and order a copy of Misha Magdalene’s Outside the Charmed Circle. (Chapter Seven is the specific chapter.)

In addition to Magdalene’s book, I’m basing this blog post on some of my other favorite books and sources. Let’s proceed.

Step One: “Get Help.”

If you work with one or more spirit beings, let them know what you’re doing. Get ’em on your side. I’m talking deities, land wights, ancestors, demons–whatever! Talk to them about why this particular cause and sponsorship is important to you and make the appropriate offerings. If you have a devotional practice, dedicate your magical efforts and spellwork as an act of service.

For example, the gendershifting, shapeshifting Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, aka the “mother of witches,” is my main focus, though I work with others too. I’ve already promised extra donuts on the altar to gain his assistance in this matter. And because he’s known to be a champion of outcasts, and is very LGBTQIA+ inclined, I am sure he’ll be delighted to help out.

For thoughtful and practical suggestions for magically cultivating and working with “invisible friends” of all kinds, I highly recommend Aidan Wachter’s book, Six Ways (see references below). It’s one of my favorite “go-to” books.

Step Two: Charming 101

A talented witchy educator, Ariel Gatoga, disappeared from internet land halfway through 2017. (His website was hacked and who knows what else was going on?) His Witches Primer podcasts were very important to me during a difficult time of my life, and I’ve also enjoyed many of his lectures for the Druidic Craft of the Wise, though his tradition is not my own. Though he has disappeared from the public eye for the time being, his podcast lectures are preserved in Google Docs.

His June 2, 2017 lecture, “A Charmed Life,” is one of my favorites. His main theme is if you want to live a charmed life, you actually work to charm your life. This means constant attention to the active practice of “charming,” spells throughout the course of the day, attached to everything from wallets to shoes and other objects.

The first eighteen minutes of this hour-long podcast episode concern a raffle and answering some online questions. You can skip that part. The latter portion lets you know how to charm everything–including money. This is solid theory and practice. You’ll want to add this understanding to your spell for Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle sponsorship page.

One of the things Ariel emphasizes is the importance of saying things out loud as opposed to silently. So here’s an example of a spell for Disasterina’s sponsorship page that you can say out loud:


At h-t-t-p colon forward slash, forward slash: We ask all Powers to grant big cash.

At w-w-w dot fight HIV: We ask for ten thousand, three times three.

Dot org, forward slash, go to, forward slash: Sponsors contribute great gobs of cash!

Disastereeeena, the Qween of Flash, rides five forty five, on a Green Money Path!

To banish all AIDS & HIV, her page draws ten thousand, three times three!


Step Three: Elements of Spellcrafting

Jason Miller’s Elements of Spellcrafting book is a guide to “macro- and micro” enchantment. It’s another one of my favorite books–a great guide for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The idea is to cast the big “macro” enchantment–in this case, “$10,000 three times three”–and then enchant every single element of the circumstance you want to influence, persuade, and charm. So as you create a nice, donor-boosting spell for Disaterina’s webpage, consider ways you might want to add a little more bang to your spells for sponsor bucks.

For example, if you feel increased media coverage for Disasterina’s efforts would bring more sponsors, and that this would be a great element to include in your own spell, you can: (1) take a practical action such as copying your social media signal boosting to major and minor media outlets on Twitter, such as @latimes, @sfchronicle, and other newspapers, television, and radio stations along the AIDS/LifeCycle route; (2) then include those twitter names in your spellwork via paper petitions and/or sigils. Skillful use of hashtags can also be incorporated of course. Any of our usual social media outlets can be worked in this manner. Other enchantable options might include the name of the newspaper ripped from an actual printed page, or a bit of soil from the media outlet’s parking lot (often there’s some vegetation somewhere!). You are not trying to enchant the actual media outlet here, just connect their energies to the sponsorship page.

Step Four: Set Your Intention with Visualization and Guided Imagery

When you go to Disasterina’s sponsorship page (and have donated something yourself), you’ll  see the “Personal Progress” section on right side of the page. You can see the current amount and percentage of funds raised, along with a red bar that can expand from left to right as more funds come in. Visualize (or think or feel or simply imagine) that the red bar is growing quickly to the right (which unlike politics is a good thing), growing larger and longer and more robust, swelling with donations, bursting into a crescendo of a glorious 100% of the goal of $10,000 and more! Remember to bless the page as you click away.

And yeah, if you wanna do a little sex magic at this point, be my guest. (Solo is fine.) Just keep that visualization present as you reach your own thrilling crescendo. (Jason Miller has a good book on sex magic. See below.)

Step Five: What Kind of Spell?

There are many kinds of prosperity spells. Ellen Dugan has an entire book of them. You can do candle magic and jar spells. You can charm objects. You can include planetary influences, moon phases, crystals, herbs, sigils, and yes, sex magic too. With regard to sigils, I’d like to become proficient, but I’m a rank beginner at present. But I do like Laura Tempest Zakroff’s book, Sigil Witchery, as a “how to” guide.

I really like jar spells. They are earth-friendly, since you are using a recycled object. The jars and their lids keep everything in one place. Jar spells are transportable–you can bury or carry them. The spells can be assembled on a kitchen counter, using many materials that are easily at hand. Glass, as an “amorphous solid, feels nicely liminal. And if you’re a hipster, you’re already deeply in love with Mason jars, so there’s that. You can also incorporate sigils or written petitions for money and burn green or gold candles on top of the lid, for more juice.

There are many examples of jar spells:

Ellen Dugan has a “Lodestone Witch-Jar Spell” on pages 104-105. However, she recommends adding “gold craft glitter” to the jar spell. Just don’t. Glitter is made of mylar, which doesn’t go away. It is a form of microplastic that is causing severe ocean pollution, killing sea life (and showing up in our sushi and therefore our own bodies). If you must have the pretty sparkles, buy or make edible glitter. (More about edible glitter here.)

A “Honey Jar Spell for Love, Prosperity, and Protection” can be found in Besom, Stang & Sword on pages 74-76. Honey Jars can also use sugar or other sweet substances. I also like their “lucky nutmeg” spell on pages 76-77, and think a whole nutmeg might be a nice addition to a prosperity spell jar.

You’ll probably find yourself consulting the internet if you don’t own the above books. That’s fine. Know that you’re probably going to be working with some variation of these basic elements:

A glass jar with a lid; a candle (green or gold); paper and pen for writing a petition or sigil (in this case, the page URL: https://www.fighthiv.org/goto/disasterina); oil to dress the candle; honey or sugar (optional–use if you want this to be a “honey money” spell to attract donors to the sponsorship webpage); money attracting herbs and spices such as basil, cinnamon, bay leaves (such lists can be found in many magic books and websites), crystals (pyrite, peridot, malachite, etc.) and/or lodestones (along with metallic sand to “feed” the lodestone). However, you might want to check this article on the crystal mining industry and its adverse impact on the environment (including indigenous lands). Make sure your rocks are ethically sourced.

Ellen Dugan also likes using three different colored coins in her Lodestone Witch Jar Spell: gold, copper, silver. Duggan also recommends adding extra dollars or coins to the jar for a six month period (depends on the size of your jar, I guess).

Examples of Money Jar Spells on the internet can be found here and here, There are also merchants who make and sell special oils and ingredients for Money Jar Spells. You don’t actually need these, or you can find a way to make your own.

Step Six: Timing

Our next new moon is February 23rd. Our next full moon is March 9th. Between these two dates, or on March 9th, You’ll have plenty of time to research and gather materials for your magical workings. If you work in group rituals, that also gives you time to alert your colleagues. Some people also prefer various days of the week, or times of day.

Step Seven: The Actual Ritual

Do the usual: state your intention, ground and protect your space, build your energy,  ritually add the ingredients to the jar, say your words of power, seal it (unless you plan to add more cash later), burn the candle, envision the spell having worked, and put the jar where you’d like to keep it. This link has a good set of basic instructions for jar spells.

Step Eight: Forget About It & Thank Your Helpers

Okay, you’re done. You just did a good thing. Thank your spirit helpers. And then put the spell–and the jar–out of your mind. Let your magic unfold as it will.

Let’s see what happens, three times three!

References

Dugan, Ellen. Practical Prosperity Magick–Crafting Success & Abundance. Llewellyn Publications, 2017.

Gatoga, Ariel. “A Charmed Life,” Druidic Craft of the Wise Lectures. 6/2/2017. [On Google Docs. Scroll down to second row from the bottom to find it. You must download an MP3.]

Magdalene, Misha. Outside the Charmed Circle–Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2020.

Miller, Jason. Sex, Sorcery, and Spirit–The Secrets of Erotic Magic. New Page Books, 2015.

Miller, Jason. The Elements of Spellcrafting–21 Keys to Successful Sorcery. New Page Books, 2017.

Orapello, Christopher & Maguire, Tara-Love. Besom, Stang & Sword-A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path, & the Hidden Landscape. Weiser Books, 2018.

Wachter, Aidan. Six Ways–Approaches & Entries For Practical Magic. Red Temple Press, 2018.

Zakroff, Laura Tempest. Sigil Witchery–A Witches Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols. Llewellyn Publications, 2018.

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 8.16.39 AM
Screen shot from Disasterina’s video.

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Send Money: Sponsor Disasterina for 2020 AIDS LifeCycle

Disasterina Screen Shot
Screen shot for Disasterina’s video. Click the real video link below to find out how YOU can sponsor her fundraising on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients!

This is a signal boosting post to laud Disasterina’s commitment to raise $10,000 for the AIDS LifeCycle, riding a bicycle in drag for “545 fucking miles,” from San Francisco to Los Angeles, (May 31st to June 6th). The money she raises will ultimately go to the SF AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LBGT Center, via AIDS LifeCycle, to provide free HIV testing, medical care, and services.

So send your dollars, why doncha, to this link here and support/sponsor Disasterina in this epic fund-raising ride on California’s highways to hell, all in a good cause!

But dear witchy readers, I’m going to ask for something more from you–if you can’t spare the cash (and even if you can and do!) won’t you consider also casting a nice, fat, juicy Money Spell to charm and boost Disasterina’s fundraising webpage to attract more cash? You want the spell to be directed at the webpage, by the way, not at or on the person doing the fundraising (consent issues here.)

You can do this. I know you can. Get yourself a green candle (don’t forget a match). Get yourself a jar. Throw in some basil and other prosperity herbs, lucky coins, a lodestone or other stones known to draw abundance, green edible glitter (not the ocean polluting kind), and/or any other magical element you like to use to bring in extra cash. Then write the words “AIDS LifeCycle 2020” and this URL: http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/disasterina.

If you want to add a little picture of a bicycle, you can. Whatever! Then do your witchery! Get out there on the next full moon, make offerings, beseech support from your invisible friends, bury the jar, and visualize glorious abundance filling Disasterina’s fund-raising coffers via the above URL. Wouldn’t it be great to know your MagicQ is boosting this effort?

Speaking of “boosting,” signal boosting is also helpful. Use your social media superpowers to get the word out! Whip up support!

I know I’m going to be offering up a few extra donuts to Loki, on behalf of this good cause. And I’ll bring a request for cosmic support to our next group ritual, next time we gather.

But why is this cause important to me? And why am I so struck by this particular performer’s efforts on behalf of people vulnerable to HIV/Aids? Here’s why this cause is important to me:

Personal: I lived in San Francisco, in the Outer Mission and Castro, during those first years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I saw many people learn their HIV-positive status, and some who died during the time I knew them: clients, co-workers, friends. My most beloved uncle, David Rath, was one of the early casualties. He was diagnosed a couple of weeks after I married and my new husband and I moved into the apartment below his to be close to him during that time. I was with him a lot and helped care for him during his last year. He left his affairs in my hands. During that time I also worked for a public opinion research company that developed the first AIDS surveys for the SF Department of Public Health. Some of my co-workers went on to help found and volunteer for the Stop AIDS Project in 1985.

Today, my oldest kid is in an “at risk” group. He is informed, aware, and I trust him to take steps to decrease his risk. Even so, any time he tells me he’s “been sick a lot lately” some part of me goes into a silent scream. (I’ve never told him that–I try to keep my alarmist fears out of his life as much as possible. I don’t always succeed.)

Professional: As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I am utterly committed to supporting LGBTQIA+ people and issues. I care about this issue and try to stay current on such things as PrEP, safer sex practices, and who provides services in my community.

Donor: I’ve also donated money to past participants in the AIDS LifeCycle rides and to other organizations that deal with HIV/AIDS and sexual health.

Why I’m Supporting Disasterina in 2020: Gosh, that sounds awfully political, doesn’t it? Damn, now I’m having a presidential campaign fantasy. She would be the best person help us feckless “A-merkins” to throw off our chains (the non-consenual kind!) and to dismantle this pathetic and ruthless oligarchy! I can see the Boulet Brothers in her Cabinet (if there was one big enough for their hair) and a few other “Drag Super-Monster” appointments… However, I digress.

First of all, I love it when performers and artists I enjoy and admire reveal themselves to be people of compassion and conviction in their private lives. So, there’s that. How I enjoyed Disasterina, “LA’s Most Disasterous Drag Queen,” in Dragula Season 2 (now on Netflix)! Yeah, I’m a fan, but not in that weird fangirl-y sort of way (I save that for my main deity, Norse Loki) but as a mature former burlesque artiste/punk wearable-artist turned sexologist witch who deeply appreciates punk/goth drag laced with rapid-fire wit and visual puns. (This description of Disasterina’s artistry is not really adequate, I know. I know…) But for me, given my own unsavory past and off-beat cultural references, Disasterina serves it–hot! And now, riding from SF to LA to raise money for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment? How can I resist this? Big respect!

I also can’t resist the prankster-esque nature of her video appeal! Oathed as I am to a trickster god, I can’t help but see Disasterina (and the artist/performer behind her) as one of Loki’s ilk, if not one of Loki’s own. (I feel the same way about Nina Hagen.) I mean–bright red hair, clown glamour make-up, gender fuckery, and puce-colored fake fur!–the visuals in this particular video are all there for those of us who spend precious hours of social media time discussing “who reminds us of (Norse) Loki” when we should be looking for work in our serf/gig economy. Of course I shared the video in Loki’s Wyrdlings FB group, hoping others in my spiritual community would also be moved to support (in spite of the fact that many of us are, as I said, under-employed or in danger of losing our social security or SSI benefits). But there’s a bunch of witches there, so… prosperity spell jars, anyone?

I could go on, I suppose, dissecting the nuances of performance, and my giddy delight in them, which serve to motivate my enthusiasm. I will just end with a heart-felt “well done” to Disasterina and others who are making that ride later this year, and look forward to the accounts of this epic journey, as they are vlogged, blogged, tweeted, or whatever!

To Disasterina, best wishes for enduring make-up, a really good bicycle seat, inflated tires, an excellent adventure, and a sweet homecoming to your dear ones at the end!

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Book Review: Outside the Charmed Circle

Book cover of Outside the Charmed Circle.
Outside the Charmed Circle by Misha Magdalenehttps://ladyofthelake.blog/2020/01/31/book-review-outside-the-charmed-circle/

Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, is a challenge to review. That’s because the book is so deep, so rich, and so necessary, that in order to do it justice you almost have to quote great heaping gobs of text. I’ll try to not do that–I want you to read the book itself.

I was privileged and honored to read a PDF draft in advance. When the book was published I ordered two copies, one for me and one for a family member. This is the kind of book you want to talk about, the kind you want to give to others, the kind that makes you want to shout “YES!” into the oak groves at midnight or wave at passing motorists by day.

So why am I, a witchy person and a sexologist, so darned enthusiastic about what Misha Magdalene has to say? Well, it’s also that I’m kind of like that “over-enthusiastic PFLAG mom” meme that was going around a few years ago, only I’d be in a black t-shirt saying “My Transgender Witch Child Makes Me So Proud” and I’d be wearing less bracelets. So, the topic of “exploring gender & sexuality in magical practice” is deeply personal on several levels. I feel its urgency. At the core, I want my children (both cis and trans) to be respected and safe, and I want everyone else’s kids to be safe and respected too. It’s just basic human empathy and justice, qualities which are lacking in this world and sometimes this lack bashes into our spiritual lives, where we go to be strengthened, but are also frequently deeply vulnerable.

In spite of the topic’s complexity, this book is quite “user friendly.” Each chapter contains exercises to help the reader think through and experience the material. The appendices and bibliography are also wonderfully helpful.

In the introductory chapter, Misha Magdalene describes their book as “an exploration of magic through the lenses of gender and sexuality.” I think the reverse is also true. The book asks also us to examine gender and sexuality through the lenses of our magical practices and beliefs. Magdalene is extremely qualified to write from and through both (and several) perspectives. For me, in this book, intersectionality reveals its liminal nature, and liminal, magic practice reveals its intrinsic intersectional necessity. Circles and spaces, within and without, all are essentially “charmed.” If I’m interpreting correctly, I feel this may be one reason why Magdalene writes “magic is queer.”

The second chapter, “Getting Our Bearings, Knowing Our Terms,” is a helpful “101 and beyond” navigation through sex and gender terminology, which–as Magdalene points out–can and does change over time.

The book focuses next on the body, embodiment, and all the baggage that may be heaped upon bodies, often internalized. This third chapter is practically a body-positive “user’s manual,” a way to set ourselves up–not just conceptually but also physically–for the body’s ability to be “an instrument of magic.” For myself, as a person who is finding the physical and social transition to old age as bewildering as adolescence, this appreciative and mindful focus on the body as a location of self, wisdom, and power, provides a much needed reminder to take care of what I’ve got. I have a hunch other readers will appreciate these reminders (if not for the same reason).

The fourth chapter, “Gender Theory and Practice,” takes us deeper into considerations of this topic and how gender essentialism is incorporated and enacted in various magical traditions. (And now I find that these chapter descriptions are so simplified that it is almost embarrassing. Just…read…the…book…)

The next chapter moves powerfully into a discussion of queerness, queer deities, and more. I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) particularly resonate Magdalene’s description of queerness as “a metaphysical yearning for something beyond the scope of our understanding” and also as a “pursuit” of potentiality. While I (cis, het, spectro-sexual, Lokean) don’t presume to the label of “queer,” this chapter helps me to understand my own allyship and the underpinings of my own spiritual quests.

My only quibble with this chapter (and it is a small one) is that an important aspect of Loki Laufeyjarson–the Norse trickster and shape-shifter–is overlooked. He was/is a mother not just once, but twice. In the Norse Voluspa en skamma, Loki ate a burnt woman’s heart (an offering?) and promptly gave birth to innumerable “troll women.” “Troll” was another word for witch. Loki, therefore, is a Mother of Witches, an important (gender-shifting) ancestor of magic practitioners. I would have liked to have seen this aspect acknowledged. But as I said, this is a minor criticism.

Chapter six brings us to one of my favorite topics. It’s called “Safer Sex Magic for Beginners (and Experts)” and I must say, this chapter is a thing of both sexological and magical beauty. I highly recommend the section called “How to Learn Sex Magic in Three Easy Steps” and the exercise for working solitary sex magic. In fact, I highly recommend the entire thing. Just…read…it!

The next two chapters on consent are also full of common sense and wisdom. The second one, chapter eight, concerns the process of negotiating consent with gods and…wow. Just wow. One of my professional interests, as well as personal/spiritual orientations, concerns spectrosexuality and god-spousing, and I can honestly say that so many people need the perspective and information contained in these chapters! These chapters are a stunning example of sex education at its best.

The last three chapters bring everything together in a context of individual magical practices and working within (or without) magic communities. Can I just say that even as I flip through these pages, as I write this review, I find myself wanting to swoon with admiration? So much common sense, so much compassion, so much inclusivity, so much impeccable information…

I believe this pioneering book is destined to be a classic. It is certainly one that I will take from my shelf again and again, and will continue to recommend whole-heartedly to all who are interested in such topics.

Well done, Misha Magdalene! I look forward to your next book!!!

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Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Nov. 23 UPDATE: Link to a blog post signal boosting the leadership of black trans women and other trans and gender diverse POC in the work against violence and for health and vibrancy in their communities. Includes links to several articles in Out Magazine and Essence by Raquel Willis, founder of Black Trans Circles (video here!).

 

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Later today I will light a candle and read the names of all the 369 murdered people aloud, as a reminder to step up my game. My heart is heavy. That is all.

Later: here is the reading below. Listen, or better yet, read the names aloud yourself. It takes about an hour.

FireplaceDay9

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Dragula, How Do I Love Thee?

They don’t know it, but the Boulet Brothers and three seasons of Dragula have joined my private and exclusive cluster of “writer’s muses” for my fantasy novel in progress, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. (Here’s the Season 1 premiere of Dragula, on YouTube. Season 2 and 3 are on Netflix.) The goal of Dragula is to create “the Next Drag SuperMonster.” Their guiding principles are “drag, filth, horror, glamour” (and “punk” in the first season).

BouletBrosDragula
Boulet Brothers Dragula owns the rights to this image. Used in blog commentary about the show.

My goal is to complete the first draft of my second novel in the Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. My guilding principles are “magic, punk, art, glamour.” (I’m not so down with “filth” as I’ve changed far too many diapers in my time, and currently empty seven cat boxes twice a day… so there’s that.)

Right now, I’m in  the middle of my annual participation in November’s  NaNoWriMo. Since November 2nd, I’ve written 30,000 words out of a 50,000 word target. This is a writer’s competition–a challenge to pit my tendency to over-edit in first drafts against raw inspiration and creativity.

Over-editing in first drafts is the result of fear. It’s an unwillingness to commit to the entire plot, to put characters in jeopardy, to give all or lose all in love and hate and war, to race toward the exciting climax of the book. Much like the contestents in Dragula, I deeply believe in my writing, just as the contestents deeply believe in their drag. They create personas, constellations of characters, facets of being, visions, a “world” in which their drag selves are at play–suffering yet triumphant, always rising from the ashes. Damage breeds creation. Yet so often those hidden fears can mute or dim our full commitment, our performance of our art. Dragula challenges its people in just about every way imaginable. The Boulet Brothers’ constant admonishment is “do better, commit fully, show us who you are.” If you don’t, you “die” on the show.

Writing–world and character building–is my salvation, just as drag is theirs. Many of the Dragula contestents could feel right at home in the artsy, queer haven that is my imaginary “Hermitville Farm and Arts (and Magic) Collective”–and if not Hermitville, they’d enjoy “The Realm,” a place where there are at least twenty-nine genders among the Elves, and almost every Elf is capable of shapeshifting and summoning irresistable powers of glamour.

I am writing to create a home and a community for myself, even if that home is not manifest in the physical world and my book friends are all invisible. Drag performers participate in an already created, yet constantly mutating demi-culture of art, but acceptance is not necessarily ready-made. Still, I envy them.

The Boulet Brothers are not in the business of coaching writers, yet I am keeping them before me as inspiration. I imagine them telling me to not be lazy or play it safe, to expand the limits of my imagination, and to bring this into my writing (otherwise, Elimination Challenge!). And I love their witchiness (’cause, you know, I’m witchy and my books are all about the discovery of magic), and I love their mischief (’cause, you know, my divine S.O. is a Trickster), and I love their sex and gender fuckery (’cause, you know, I’m a sexologist–but there are compelling personal and creative reasons besides).

So in a moment I will leave this blog post and open up my first draft, and plunge into my daily word count challenge (about 2,100 words or so). I will light an imaginary candle (though I could light a real one–I have plenty) and summon my muses both inner and outer. And the magic of world and character building will contine. It’s my deepest joy.

Thank you, Boulet Brothers, for shining your dark so that others may begin to sparkle in chthonic depths, clawing their way into the limelight as fully realized creatures of art.

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Day 13: The Gods Have “Issues”

Thirteen days into July’s “Thirty Days of Devotion for Loki,” we ponder this topic: “what modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?”

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Artist: Koch. Public Domain.

A deity’s interest in modern cultural issues is assumed and/or communicated based on a devotee’s blend of  “personal gnosis” and knowledge of lore, as well as community conversations about a deity’s involvment in a cause. These perceptions and community conversations are valuable as they give clues to types of service that could be performed as an offering to a deity. Of course, devotees may also received direct messages about desired devotional work as well.

For what it’s worth, here’s my personal gnosis take on Loki’s interests.

Child Welfare and Rights

In yesterday’s Day 12 blog, I encouraged readers to attend one of the LightsforLiberty events protesting U.S. concentration camps for asylum-seekers. I claimed that “Loki loves children” and this claim was based on lore that he both fathered and mothered various progeny, appears to have been deeply fond of them all, and would presumably not want them or other children to suffer. And he doesn’t seem to be someone who would approve of caging them or separating them from their parents.

One example of Loki’s concern for a child’s safety comes from Loka Táttura story-ballad from the Faroe Islands in which Loki rescues a farmer’s son from a giant after Odin and Hœnir have failed to keep the kid safe. And many modern conversations about Ragnarok speculate about Loki’s desire for revenge on the Æsir after the torture, death, and banishment of many of his own children. (His own torture and banishment seems scarcely considered.)

I also have personal gnosis regarding Loki and his concern for the safety of children, and have seen many comments from other Lokeans who also share this feeling.

LGBTQIA+ Rights

This is another area with plenty of conversation and personal gnosis. While you won’t find sexual preference and gender-variance positivity reflected in the old Norse lore (quite the contrary), I think there is plenty of modern agreement that Loki is multi-gendered and queer, and has a special interest and protectiveness for human beings who are in the same boat.

Several years ago, the “Over-Enthusiastic PFLAG Mom” was a popular meme. Of course, she’s a redhead. I catch a whiff of “Loki-ness” in the spirit of these memes. (My favorite reads “Pansexual? Just don’t chip the good china.”) Could “Mr. LokiBot” do any better?

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This is one of the main reasons I love him.

Environmental Health and Justice

According to some parts of Norse lore, Loki has been tormented for eons by painful snake venom dripped onto his skin. I personally take this as a metaphor for the challenges of environmental illnesses. One of my first blogs was Loki: A God of Pleasure, Poisoned. I’ve expanded on this theme in My Gods are Fragrance-Free and Loki: Proving the Poison.  At times I identify as an “Eco-Lokean.”

(Sadly, when I went to the local Lights for Liberty demonstration in Lakeport, CA yesterday, I had to dodge at least two quite heavily-offgassing fragrance users while standing in the hot sun with other activists. Even protests are not accessible to people like me. And someone tell me why it is necessary to wear fragrance to a protest??? Bitch, please!)

Advocacy for People with Disabilities and Other Life Challenges

A number of people think and feel that Loki is very supportive of people who deal with physical and mental challenges, as well as those who have gone through rough times. He does seem to show up with a hand to hold and a swift kick to the patoosis, if you need it. Many say Loki brings some crazy-ass shit, but that they are better for it.

I would presume that any advocacy for people with disabilities, foster kids who have aged out, prisioners, poor people, homeless people, addicts, etc. would have Loki’s blessing.

Climate Change

Personal gnosis, as well as intellectual speculation, leads me to beleive that most deities and spirits of this planet, not to mention great heaping gobs of ancestors, are quite, quite concerned about accelerating climate change and species die-offs. However, those in charge of conservative Christian fundamentalists are anything but. They’re all like “inconceivable!” and “What–Me worry?” Will the real anti-Christ please stand up?

A Friend of Investigative Journalism?

I could also see Loki as a patron of investigative journalists and columnists who skewer hypocrisy and exposure wrong-doing in high places. He’d probably love Project Censored.  Perhaps I should start listening to their radio show again, and invite Loki to listen in. Check out “Rallying Over Balloting: The Origins of Activism of the Millennial Generation” which is also televised.

Fighting Facism, White Supremacy, and Neo-nazism

Now that The Troth has lifted the ban and welcomed Loki back into its Trothmoot ceremonies I think there is even greater potential for Loki to be seen and known for his/her/zir/their opposition to fascism and white supremacy. He can be a potent force for inclusivity. I made a case for this before. Here’s a list of anti-hate resources at the end of this blog from last year.

As for the juggernaut of facism, here’s an excellent article by Fintan O’Toole in Irish TimesTrial runs for fascism are in full flow. Babies in cages were no ‘mistake’ by Trump but test-marketing for barbarism. It was published last summer, 2018. It now forms an eery, prophetic restrospective.

Here’s another article worth noting, from the Southern Poverty Law Center: White Nationalist Threats Against Transgender People are Escalating. 

Ultimately, It’s Personal (And That’s My Personal Gnosis)

Generally, whatever kind of humanitarian or social justice activism we’re into, if we’re into Loki too, we will probably be asking him to support us in our efforts. And we’ll likely  to feel he will, partly because Loki hates hypocrisy and partly because he wants us to be effective change agents for our own lives and for the larger community. That’s a personal gnosis statement, of course, but I believe it’s in alignment with most if not all in the Lokean community. And it’s in alignment with how I’m communicating with my patron deity.

Hail Loki!

(This thirty-day devotional format is based on a list developed by someone named Arrin, known as “a Gaulish polytheist.” It can be used for any deity.)