Magic lessons from ancient Rome & life lessons from Shakespeare.

Tiffany_Bozic

HORATIO: If your mind dislike any thing, obey it: I will Forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.

HAMLET: Not a whit. We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ‘t to leave betimes? Let be.

Did you know the word auspicious comes from the word “augury?” In ancient Rome, Augurs were people who watched birds, but not to count their plumage or hunt their eggs. They spied on feathered things in order to tell the future, and this particular type of divination was called augury. They believed that the flight of birds, their patterns and formations, their esoteric habits and behaviors, could provide vital information about battles to come and wars to be won.

Hamlet, my favorite tortured prince, had no use for augury. What will be, will be. All we can be is ready, he says.

I do not fall into either camp. I don’t watch for the future—I don’t read cards to tell me what will happen or throw sticks or gaze into a crystal ball. I don’t believe the future provides us with signs. But I also can’t help but worry, regardless of the futility of that particular exercise. I worry all day and then come moonrise, I worry some more. It keeps me up at night, all that worrying.

Shakespeare is still teaching me things. Lesson of the day: Let be. 

[Image by the miraculously self-taught painter Tiffany Bozic. See more of her wonderful work at Colossal.]

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Two nice things: witches like saints & harvesting the moon.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 7.00.22 PM1. Isabel Allende is one of my all-time favorite authors. House of Spirits has always felt like a more feminine version of my favorite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I know my love for magical realism has always made me seem a little immature—espeically compared with the “serious” literature majors I knew in college, who preferred texts that felt impenetrable to me, walls of text made by dead white men with axes to grind and bones to pick. But goddamn it, I like what I like, and what I like is crazy, New Agey, magical shit. Stories where cats walk on two legs and newts have sexy, sophisticated romances and snowy sculptures come to life.

But enough with my dumb, pretentious, self-critical rambling. Allende is wonderful and everyone should read her. She makes femininity feel like such a powerful thing—witchy and earthy and crude and delightful and free. I love how she writes women. Her female characters are round, and I mean that both in the literary sense and the curvy sense. I’m currently reading her memoir Paula, and it really makes me appreciate the power of female companions, friends, lovers, daughters, etc. Here’s one of the best quotes:

Witches, like saints, are solitary stars that shine with a light of their own; they depend on nothing and no one, which is why they have no fear and plunge blindly into the abyss with the assurance that instead of crashing to earth, they will fly back out. They can change into birds and see the world from above, or worms to see it from within, they can inhabit other dimensions and travel to other galaxies, they are navigators on an infinite ocean of consciousness and cognition.

Damn, girl. That makes me want to be a witch, like, yesterday.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 7.21.42 PM.png2. The second person I’m vibing on today is Bruce Monroe. He is a Pennsylvania-based artist who makes striking installations. The top image is “Moon Harvest,” a visual pun that projects images of the moon onto bales of hay. “Shower of Light” is the second image (directly above). He also uses CDs frequently in his installations, which, when placed together, turn into giant reflective surfaces that look like oversized sequins, glittery and fractured. Check out his other work (and find out where you can see one of his luminous pieces in person!) by clicking here. 

“When I follow the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.”

Friend_A-03Sometimes, I think the stars come out at night because that is when we are tired and worn, when we feel threadbare from the demands of the day. Stars ask for nothing (and most pleasures do ask for something; even flowers beg to be smelled). They are the stalwart companions of the insomniac, steadfast enough to guide a ship. The night sky is the largest, most expansive thing I will ever see with my own eyes. I can look out across an ocean, but as the world curves, it turns and hides itself, coyly holding back a glimpse of my final destination. The night is a gift in that way, a brief time when hidden things become visible, a suitcase turned inside-out and upside-down. Those stars, bone-white and unfathomable, are infinite in a way that nothing in my life will ever be infinite. They are beyond me always; beyond the grasp of my mind, beyond the reach of my arms. And yet, all I need to do is walk outside and I can take part in that silent symphony. Always, I’ll have the stars. And never will I ever have the stars. I find this comforting. I find this to be true.

Image by photographer Amy Friend. More here.

Grimm plus Gorey equals macabre fairytale perfection.

grimmgorey
Edward Gorey once illustrated classic fairytales from The Brothers Grimm, retold in sparse but humorous language by author James Donnelly. How did I not know this?!? What a perfect combination. If I had a kid, I would buy this for them straightaway. rumpelstiltskinIn case you couldn’t tell, the top picture shows Little Red Riding Hood meeting that big, bad wolf in the forest before it runs off to do some mild cross-dressing. The second picture is Rumpelstiltskin, that little gnome-y scoundrel, dancing in the forest and celebrating the victory that will never be his.

Buy the book here.

Dealer’s choice.

When I was in elementary school, I went through a pretty intense Wiccan period. It started with the book Wise Child by Monica Furlong, which is, to this day still one of my all time favorite novels. I adored the description of the dorans, these people who lived in harmony with nature, gaining power and wisdom from the land. I wanted to be like Juniper, Wise Child’s mentor and guardian. She was kind and brave. She was very powerful, but most importantly, she was a complete aesthete. Rereading it recently, I still wish I was more like Juniper—even though she is a fictional character in a children’s book, she still has a lot to teach me.

As I’ve gotten older, my obsession with fantasy has changed. There’s still a Mists of Avalon-esque hippy factor, but now I’m also really fascinated by the darker side of magic, the occult and the eerie and the ghostly and the strange. In college, I wrote my thesis on ghosts in American literature and I’ve never stopped reading (or writing) about horror movies. And that’s why these amazing Zombie Tarot Cards are right up my (creepy, abandoned) alley.

They’re campy and hilarious and wonderful. Made by Headcase Design and Quirk Books, they would be a super Christmas present for that zombie fiend nephew of yours (or, you know, me).

More here.