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2018 justin tongue

I set up a new WP blog, but I didn’t get into it. I only posted a few times. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my space. It felt like deleting my Twitter and starting over.

The last three years have been difficult. I’ve gone through a lot of changes. It didn’t feel right to abandon those changes and try to be, well, some non-ranty person. I have opinions, and this is where I keep them.

-Robin, 4-20-18

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Why I Love the Internet

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I’ve been able to speak to a few of my favorite writers on Twitter. I gave one my address and asked if she would consider sending me an autograph to keep in my favorite of her books (the next best thing to her signing the book.) Not only did she send me a nice signed note card, she sent me a copy of her just-released book!

I have a Flickr account but sadly rarely use it any more because I’ve gotten in the habit of taking photos with my iPod instead of my Canon. Sometime last year, I uploaded this photo of my Morrigan statue. The artist, Brigid Ashwood, came across it and left a nice comment about my photo. It was such a nice surprise, especially after a particularly nasty night on Twitter, which I’ll touch on the next time I post.

No matter where you go online or IRL, you’re going to run into some bad apples. In addition to making friends you would never have met without social media, the Internet is a way to occasionally speak to a writer, artist, or musician who has touched your life.

Blocked

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I’ve read tweets by people who tried to follow someone they’ve never encountered before and found themselves blocked. It finally happened to me tonight. Someone I follow retweeted someone they follow. I liked the tweet, or I tried to like it, but Twitter informed me that my “like” had failed. I found that strange and tried to view the person’s Twitter. The tweets didn’t load. I went from Tweetdeck to Twitter and tried again. The actual Twitter site informed me that I had been blocked.

Why? I am 100% certain I’ve never interacted with this person. I went to my backup account to view their tweets and try to understand how I offended them. We seemed to be in almost complete agreement politically. Then I saw it–a tweet about someone being in violation of “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So it seems that this person saw a tweet of mine, realized I’m not a Christian, and blocked me from following them. Why? I don’t often tweet about being Wiccan. I certainly do not proselytize. I was as bemused as the time I ran into that conservative, racist, homophobic pagan. I think that the great majority of the people I follow and the people who follow me are religious. I don’t know what they think of my religion, but it’s not a subject that comes up.

I guess I got used to the tolerance of liberal Christians on Twitter. A conservative, close-minded, intolerant Democrat confuses me as much as a conservative, intolerant pagan. But as I said yesterday about writers like me who chose to be politically active on Twitter, you do you. I have no intention of bothering this person who doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to. I did block them in return. Perhaps that was petty, but it seems fair.

I follow a liberal Christian pastor because I agree with most of the things he says about politics and our society. I bought his book and gave it to my Christian cousin for Christmas. I’ve given my mother a large, beautiful crucifix that hangs over her bedroom door. That I hung over her door for her. I gave her a bust of Jesus that occupies the den with my Rhiannon altar. I set up the large Nativity every Christmas because my mother says I’m better at arranging it than she is. I send religious Christmas cards to my religious friends and family members. I make a sweep of the house before someone comes over to make sure there aren’t any books about paganism on the coffee table.

I do this to make my existence in a Christian environment easier. I do it to make my mother’s life easier. My Christian extended family has nothing but sympathy for my alcohol and drug-addicted relatives, but if they found out that I’m not a Christian . . . .

Sometimes, when I encounter religious intolerance, I wonder why I bother being tolerant of others. I wonder why I care what people would think. It’s always a bit of a shock because I’m so used to the cozy, tolerant environment in our home. It’s like the time I was at the store and picked up a cookies and cream candy bar and the man in line behind me felt completely free and entitled to comment on the candy and the fact that I’m overweight. It’s why I like working remotely and sticking to stores close to home. I’m not tolerated. I’ll never be accepted. I’m a pagan. I’m bisexual. This is the second time in my life I’ve said “I am bisexual.” And I said it the other time on this blog, where I feel safe and in control. I get dyke comments elsewhere on the web by people who don’t know a damn thing about me other than I have a pixie cut. And I’m always bemused by that.

We live in a bad time. I could hide my religion and sexuality and political views and be a good girl, but that would make me feel like a coward.

As I said on Twitter, I’m not concerned with your religion. I’m concerned with your character. I’m glad I have so many accepting and tolerant friends. Intolerance carries with it divisiveness, and that hurts all of us who are working towards righting our political system so that everyone is equal.

Ashly Lovett Art

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Twitter is a great place for discovering new artists. I stumbled into Ashly Lovett’s world late one night when she was having a sale on prints. I managed to grab one for myself despite being almost hypnotized by all her work:

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The title of the work is Drift. The medium is pastels. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to it. I love using pastels. I love the sensation of using my fingers on rough paper to smudge, define, and add highlights. Compared to artists who work in watercolors and digital art, the number of fine artists using pastels is small. Ashly explains why she works with pastels in this interview. Please see question six for a detailed description of why Ashly prefers pastels.

Ashly told me that she loves textures, like bark, and that’s another thing that made me fall in love with Drift. I love the woods. I love trees, touching the bark, photographing the lichen. I also love the theme of woman as nature.

The colors in the actual print glow. The leaves are copper. The lips shimmer. There are tiny details like the tiny mushrooms that grow on fallen logs. And there are the white highlights that sculpt the face and give it dimension and life.

When you view Ashly’s gallery, you’ll understand why I describe her work as almost hypnotic. Some of her subject matter is startling, like her portrait of Hester Prynne. She also takes a concept like a peony fairy and gives it an unnerving lifelike impression.

Ashly’s work isn’t pretty, bland fantasy art. Some of it is startling. It definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. Her particular strength is in creating eyes that shine with personality.

If you’d like to learn more about Ashly’s process, she’s going to be featured in Graphite Magazine in January. If you’re interested in working with pastels, I suggest that you check it out!

My Seasonal Altar

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Last night, I wrote about creating an altar with small, attractive objects you can easily hide. Here’s my seasonal altar. I set it up on my dresser

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Until the first of December, I had a small fabric pumpkin and a good-sized yellow natural leaf in the corner where the green candle tree is. My mother has had that candle for close to 40 years. She kept it nice by putting it back in its plastic bag when putting away the Christmas decorations. That and the pine cone are all that this altar really needs for Yule. Right in front of the tree, behind the fairy, you can see a mini hand-carved wooden deer. On the left side of the Goddess candle holder, a small wooden goddess figure lies on the dresser. There are two mini grapevine pentacles hidden from view–I was trying to give you an altar-level view. I dusted, but I got a nice shot of candle wax that dripped from a taper candle I use to light jar candles that burned down too low to reach with a match. I bought the green goddess tealight figurine on Ebay from this seller.

In the left corner beside the green Goddess, you’ll see a Wade Whimsies green mermaid and orange conch shell. There’s also a real, small seashell. This altar, in addition to being seasonal, is about using tiny things, natural and man-made, to represent the elements. Some of the fairies on the wicker mat (I bought them and the mushrooms here) help create an altar dedicated not just to nature, but to the Fae as well. Remember that this is an altar composed primarily of tiny objects if you don’t have much space and/or you have to be able to quickly hide your altar. That’s why you’ll find no athame here. The mini broom substitutes for it. The besom represents air. The standing fairy represents air. The sitting fairies surrounded by petrified fungi and lichen represent earth. The mermaid and conch shell miniatures represent water. I think that the wicker mat is a nicer altar cover for this very earthy altar than a cloth. I did have to tape some of the figures down with thick double-sided tape. I recommend also taping the bases of figurines like the green tealight Goddess. You can still have an altar cloth. Just tape figurines of this type to the surface of the altar.

I took another couple of shots so that you can see hidden objects. Why am I writing so much and so enthusiastically about Wicca and altars instead of vampires and excerpts from my books? Because after writing six or more hours a night on my novels and six hours a day freelancing to make money now, I needed something to clear my mind and soothe my soul. Going back into Wicca has been difficult, confusing, and finally joyous. I want to share that with anyone with similar interests. I also want to share the advice that I needed when I was young to young Wiccans, pagans, and witches.FullSizeRender-starsFullSizeRender-besom

I bought the besom here, the stars here, and the resin (looks like wood) goddess here.

I really love the mushrooms with spirals, and the pink prayer beads (30 in all) with the turquoise flower. The mushrooms came from the same Etsy shop as the fairies. Sadly, the lady who made the prayer beads to order has disappeared from Etsy.

This is essentially a fairy altar, and due to expense, space, and preference, I used miniature childlike fairies, but fairies, The Fair Folk, The Sith, The Sidhe, are more like Arwen and her kin in Lord of the Rings than these tiny creatures, but there are tiny, and medium Fae. And all of them have unique personalities, and most are not friendly towards us. Why would they be? We drove them into hiding and reduced them to storybook characters and nursery rhymes. Here’s Kate and Anna McGarrigle singing about Appalachian folk tales. I believe that the Fae came to the New World with us.

Frail my heart apart and sing me a little Shady Grove

A darker, older fairy tale, found in many cultures, with variations:

Oh the Dreadful Wind and the Rain sung by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.

So you must realize that it’s crucial for you to study the Fae, understand that they came with us to America, that they are still with us, that they are always where they have been: in the woodlands, the edges of the woods, ponds, lakes, under bridges, certain trees like willows, always with us but sometimes stronger in the dusk, dawn, dark moons. One of the items on my altar is a hag stone. Hag stones are supposed to enable you to see Fae. Leave offerings for them: wine, bread, milk, honey.

I’m really enjoying writing this blog series. I’m working right now on a story about witches and Fae. I’m still preparing my Empire State Vamps series for querying. But the Fae, their lore running in my Scots-Irish blood, they’ve given me a dark vacation . . . the very best kind.

 

Wiccan and Pagan Prayer Beads

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I’m sure that I’ve posted about making/buying pagan payer beads. Making a sturdy set of any type of prayer beads is difficult. Most people string them on stretchy, strong plastic. If you get lucky, you can find a pair of those with some space for moving the beads as you pray/say your mantra, and spacer beads. Unless you want to pray the entire set of beads at once or use a marker (a safety pin, a bit of ribbon tied in place) you should look for a set with spacer beads.

I’m working over my old Kwan Yin mala beads again. They are very well made (by a seller who is no longer in business, sorry!) and connected by wire. I’ve removed the Kwan Yin figure (and placed her safely in the pretty bag that the beads originally came in.) The beads are jade. I had a jade pendulum and an extra sterling silver star goddess that came with an earring set. I attached them at what I determined would be my beginning point. Then I went through my little jewelry box drawer of beads for spacer beads and decided to use spacer beads with their own soldered rings and attach them to the mala beads with jump rings accessorized by a star and a moon.
A string of mala beads easily become your Wiccan prayer beads. You can do as little as remove the Buddhist figure or symbol that comes with the prayer beads, attach your own figure or symbol, and you have Wiccan or pagan prayer beads. Jewels, like my jade beads, are more likely to be strung very securely (I’ve had these since 2003) on metal wire. Sandalwood beads are also popular, smell wonderful, but are usually strung on heavy-duty string, thin twine, or some elastic substance.

There’s always a finishing step when adding an item to your Wiccan tools: cleansing. If you’re dedicated to a female deity who is a moon, underworld, or unspecified deity, leave them in your windowsill overnight in the moonlight. There are moon gods and solar goddesses. Do what seems appropriate. Pass the beads through sandalwood incense smoke, then leave them on your altar until your incense finishes burning.

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You can put your prayer beads into a little dish and cover them with cleansing herbs for 24 hours. Some common herbs include basil, cedar, thyme, and peppermint. You don’t have to bury them, just cover them. You can also keep them in a white cotton bag on you altar for a moon cycle. You can put herbs in the bags, herbs for purification, cleansing, balance, harmony, and energy. If you’re stressed, try rose petals for cleansing. If you’re seeking happiness, try basil or lavender. If you want to heal something it your life, harness healing energy with peppermint, clove, or cinnamon.

Don’t use oils because they may damage your beads, metal figures, or spacer beads.

You can use these steps with beads you purchase, alter, or make.

I’ve only used 108 bead strings of mala beads intended for use in Buddhist meditation. Many Wiccans focus on a three-fold goddess and/or the three phases of the moon. Traditional Buddhist mala beads focus on 108 repetitions of a mantra. The number of beads is typically 54. Reaching you beginning point and starting again is the usual Buddhist method. Buddhists may also stop at half the mala and pick up again later.

For Wiccans, 108 beads divided by three is 36, a nice number for Wiccans as 3+6=9. 5+4=9. 1+0+8-=9. If it comes out in multiples of three, we can more easily write prayers and mantras dedicated to our goddess(es) Maiden, Mother, Crone. That’s a good place to start, even if you’re starting in winter. When you pray your beads, you can work clockwise or widdershins. Widdershins is the opposite of clockwise, and is often used in undoing or banishing spells.

It’s easiest to start using Wiccan prayer beads with a single or three-word mantra. Habit is the most important thing at first. Allow me to tell you you a story about the early days, living with my ex-husband. I met him through a Buddhist message board. We were sharing a house with several other people. Every day, white he was at work, I listened to Buddhist podcasts, sat in the lotus position, and tried to clear my mind. Imagine being a baby Buddhist and living in a two-story house getting loud in the middle of the day, fighting, not wanting you there, imagine a completely untrained black lab puppy and a FUCKING IGUANA in a cage too small. Put yourself into that situation and clear your mind of everything but your mantra. YOU CAN’T FUCKING DO IT.

Imagine that your SO gets home from work and asks you how you’re getting along in your “lessons.” You tell them. You get “FIX YOUR MIND” screamed into your ear or your face.

It actually got worse when we moved into an apartment because there was no one there but the two of us, a child on the weekends, and the iguana he acquired before I met and knew that I fear. I was forced to feed him because he would have died otherwise. My ex built a habitat for him twice the size of his old habitat. I got a cat. The cat and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and bedroom. Still, I could not clear my mind. I still listened to podcasts. There was one Buddhist nun teacher I very much liked, until one day she said something bizarre and awful that started to wake me up.

Over the next years, I used walking meditation and found a great deal of comfort in that.

On the night of the full moon, 12/3/2017, I turned those old jade mala beads into Wiccan prayer beads. They’re in a white cotton bag of lavender right now as the beginning of their cleansing.

Prayer beads are frequently now called “worry beads.” You have probably seen a Catholic person praying the Rosary in a time of intense stress. I guess it’s okay if you call your prayer beads worry beads. I mean, you reach for them when you’re unsettled and worried. But you should also reach for them when your mind is calm. Prayer beads can help your mind find solutions to problems. They’re not magic. You work the magic as you work with them.