Tag Archives: Art

Art and the Art of Magic

As noted, I spent yesterday at the Chihuly exhibit in Richmond. It was wonderful and we had a great time.

I firmly believe that beauty is its own reward and that time spent seeing art needs no “practical” justification. But I do know that my daily practice and my magic both get a big boost from exposure to creativity. One of the first magical skills many Witches learn is visualization. Raise your hand if you were early on exposed to the exercise where you look at, smell, peel, and taste an orange and then close your eyes and repeat the experience in your mind. Me, too. And, I continue, from time to time, to practice those exercises, both because it’s good to return, occasionally, to the basics and because I’m just not good at visualization.

I’m fairly weak at a whole host of what are sometimes, and perhaps less-than-accurately, called “right-brain” skills. Knowing where my body is in space: Nope. Rhythm: Nope. Drawing: Nope. Visualizing: Well, I’ve worked at it and gotten somewhat better with practice, but it’s still not a strength, by any means. Seeing art helps me to fill in the gaps. I spent as much time as I could yesterday gazing at the fantastic sculptures and then closing my eyes and “seeing” them again, so that I’ll be able to use those images in my daily meditations and in my magic work.

What’s your magical weakness? What helps you to become more proficient? How might you use these images?

Boat on River Styx with Globes

Boat on River Styx with Forms

Boat on River Styx with Forms



Sea Forms

Sea Forms





Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back. The captions are mine; Mr. Chihuly has different titles for these works.

My New Year & Welcome to It.


Spent today at the Chihuly exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It was spectacular. More, tomorrow.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Framing the Six of Cups

Usually, when I write about framing, I’m talking about the way that we choose to present ideas. Tonight, however, I was engaged in a slightly different framing activity.

Ever since she first painted it, I’ve been begging Joanna Powell Colbert to sell me Six of Cups, which was used for her Gaian Tarot. I love the five naked women (with real bodies!) circling in the water and I love the selkie who makes the sixth. Joanna finally consented to sell the painting (Hecate’s Yule present to Hecate!!) and I took it this evening to be framed.

One of my oldest friends was an artist and art teacher and she taught me that matting and framing really, really make the picture. I have a giant painting by Christopher Vacher hanging in my living room, next to a poster that I got for free from a book store (it’s amazing what you can get when you ask), which is next to an art print that I bought at a museum, which is next to . . . . Well, you get the idea. The common element is that they all have great mats and frames.

Different matting and framing can make the same picture look quite different, just as different framing can make an idea effective or ineffective.

I started out thinking I needed a grey/blue mat to pick up the colors in the painting.

It’s not a large painting, but this frame is still too small.

The Final Choice

I’ll take a picture next week when I pick up the finished product. What’s your favorite picture?

Tuesday Evening PotPourri

En Deshabille

* First, I’d like to wish a happy Diwali to all who celebrate it. May we all live our lives such that Lakshmi feels welcome.

* I flit here and there around the web and I admit that my time is limited. It’s difficult for me to understand why it should be controversial for a group of Pagans to gather in a circle at Pagan Pride Day, but then we know that I think many Pagan Pride Day events are poorly-thought-out. However, one of the lovely things that I found when flitting about the web is this set of cornerstones for building Pagan groups put together by Diana’s Grove. I particularly like the emphasis, based upon a Jean Houston quote, on The Sacred Wound:

The wounding becomes sacred when we are willing to release our old stories and to become the vehicles through which the new story may emerge into time. When we fail to do this, we repeat the same old story over and over again.

Blessed Chiron, guide our way.

* Medusa has the information on the recent death of Goddess scholar Patricia Monaghan. May the Goddess guard her. May she find her way to the Summerlands. May her friends and family know peace. Damn. Everyone who laid down stepping stones for me is passing.

* Love the (new-to-me) word “fibershed.”

These little realities about living and working with plants and animals – it creates a difference in your body. I know this because I observed the changes in myself. You really learn how to work. It’s like systems theory; you can get a system to start producing good results if you get the pendulum swinging in the right direction.

* If you do not follow Style Crone, you should.

* This weekend, G/Son and I went to the National Gallery of Art. It’s been some time since I’ve taken a little boy to an art museum. Hence, I was, foolishly, not anticipating the FIRST REACTION OF ALL SIX-YEAR OLD BOYS EVER to the main hall of the National Gallery of Art: “Nonna! Those statues are naked. You can see their penises and, oooooohhhh, Nonna, you can see their . . . breasts.”

Shorter Nonna: “Yes. Artists knew that the human body is beautiful and not shameful. That’s why it’s silly to be ashamed of our bodies. Oh, and look over here . . . .” G/Son really liked the statue of St. George (which led to a long discussion about why some art works get saved even when they’ve been damaged) and the picture of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. He didn’t know Daniel’s story, so Nonna told it to him and he said, “I bet that he prayed very fearfully,” and Nonna agreed. His other favorite was the fountain of cherubs and a swan, and he explained to me that, at his school, they call cherubs “baby angels.”

When we got to the fountain dedicated to Mercury, G/Son noted that people had been throwing coins into it and asked Nonna for a coin. Mercury is the God that Nonna’s always invoked for Son, a runner who has wings on his feet and makes the quick decisions that all Scorpios make. Nonna and G/Son talked about being the messenger of the Gods; we talked about being fleet-footed; and we talked about the role of Air in the recent election. Then, Nonna handed over a quarter and said, “When you throw it in, make a wish to Mercury.” G/Son threw the quarter in and said, “I prayed to God because you don’t see people doing this (making praying hands symbol and bowing head) to Mercury, Nonna.” And Nonna laughed, took G/Son’s hand, and said, “No, no you don’t. I wonder why that is.” Nonna’s playing the long game here; it’s that for which age equips one.

Later, after the all-important trip to the gift shop, we wandered through the Lichtenstein exhibit. Those pictures were very accessible to G/Son and this was his favorite. On our way out, we visited and discussed the NGA’s one, disappointing (IMHO) Goldsworthy and the Ernst sculpture, which drew a strongly emotional response from G/Son who did not, for once, notice the genitals.

Then, we stood outside waiting for our car, saw the Canadian embassy, and had a long discussion about International Law. My old prof would have been proud of me.

* My soul is deep, deep, deep into a late MidAtlantic Autumn, the kind where the morning rain on the orange giant Maple and the cherry-red Japanese maples is set off by the golden crape myrtles and the deep green of the local magnolias. I am what my landbase is.

Can it be true that Old England Is Dying?

I don’t believe it.

Photo by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn

Went over to the Hirshhorn today at lunch and saw the Ai Weiwei exhibit. If you’re in DC, it’s really worth a visit. Here are a few images:

Bowls of Pearls.


River Crabs

Explanation of River Crabs

Elevator Photo of Ai Weiwei

Explanation of Elevator Photo

Monkey — My Chinese Zodiac Sign

Res ipsa loquitor


This is what it means to be in relationship, in this case, artistic relationship, with your landbase. I’ve never been to Australia, but I can tell that this artist was in deep relationship with that place.

I’ve missed my own landbase, spending days and days inside the office, only once seeing lightning and the Moon from a window on the umpty-umpth floor when I tried to crash on the office couch and was too wired to sleep. I came home last night and sat in my garden as the cold, Autumn rain poured down and the wind blew acorns onto the roof. Finally fell asleep dreaming of the way that one knit stitch slips into another.

How does your relationship with your landbase inspire or influence your creative endeavors?

Four Thousand Words*

Hat tip to Garden Design

One of My Major Goals with G/Son

Anais Hits Another One Out of the Ballpark

My Toad Lilies Are About to Bloom; Here’s One from Last Year

*Normal blog-related activities will resume tomorrow.

Dark Moon Potpourri

*Yesterday evening, I found myself across town at a meeting that was ending at the height of rush hour. Instead of sitting in a cab for 40 minutes, I met Son and DiL for dinner. Afterwards, driving home along the pearly pink Potomac just at dusk, I was talking to the River when I turned onto Spout Run and watched a doe sprint across the road, from the woods into the water in the run.

I know that gardeners are supposed to be at war with deer (and, seriously, if they ever show up and nom my day lilies and hosta, well, it’s not going to be pretty) but I ward my tiny Bit of Earth against them and, so far, it’s worked. For years and years, seeing a deer has been a sign of good luck for me, a message from the universe that I’m on the right track and just need to keep on keeping on.

I drove the rest of the way home feeling very, very blessed.

May it be so for you.

*I really need to start reading Franzen:

Today’s nature writers have a serious decision to make. If we still want to be thought of as anything other than incestuous literary outcasts who are the only audience for our own writing, then we better think hard about what it means that America’s premier novelist is a birder writing about overpopulation and land conservation. If we hope to end up something other than jaded academics that make a living teaching expensive nature writing classes that students love but aren’t professionally going to benefit from at all, then I say we get Franzen’s back.

Here’s why: Franzen has brought environmental issues into the limelight, and not just in the literary sense. He’s a household name. For someone writing about environmental problems, that’s an accomplishment that can’t be understated. Who else besides Al Gore can claim such name recognition? These days, not only has writing about environmental issues become marginalized and out of vogue, heck, being ecologically literate isn’t even important.

hat tip: Sia.



Being late on a regular basis (you know who you are) is a sign of your sense of privilege and of your clear disrespect for others. It says, as loudly as it can possibly say, “My time is more important than yours. It was more important for me to sleep in, get up and putter around, finish reading that chapter, etc. than whatever you might have done with the time that you spent standing around and waiting for me. That effort that you put into getting up early, leaving on time, being prepared? Well, that was sweet, albeit now wasted, but I’m too important for that.”

Seriously. That’s what everyone is thinking when you stroll in twenty minutes late, even if they’re too polite to say it.

And, no, that regular call that, by now, we all expect, that call that you make just as the ritual is supposed to start, saying, “OK, I’m leaving just now [from my home, 45 minutes away from the ritual,] and will be there soon,” no, that doesn’t make it OK. It makes us roll our eyes. At you.

The other week on our drive up to Longwood, Landscape Guy & I were talking about self-respect. There are two things that both of us do as a sign of respect not only to others, but, also, as a sign of self-respect. We’re both almost always on time. And we both make our beds almost every morning, even though we live alone. (Yes, sometimes — maybe once every few years — you leave early enough to arrive, based on past experience, on time at the ritual space. And there’s a bad traffic jam and you’re late. And, sometimes — maybe once every few years — I’m swamped at work, fall into bed at 2:00 am, claw my way out of bed at 6:00 am, and leave for work w/o making my bed. Note the operative words: once every few years.)

Both of those acts are ways of saying, “I am the kind of person who . . . .”

Do you operate on Pagan Standard Time? How tolerant is your circle of this practice? What do you do out of self-respect?

*Here’s a wonderful post about gardening with the God/desses.

Performing chores and labor in a ritual context is a meditative exercise. Unlike Eastern meditation that seeks to disengage the mind, and is passive both physically and mentally, pagan meditation is active. It differs, too, from the Christian form of meditation of Western civilization. Often Christian meditation involves reading passages from sacred texts or from prepared devotional texts. One is to silently ponder the meaning of these texts, applying them to himself or herself. . . . The method used by Teresa of Avila was similar to Eastern meditation in that her “recollection” involved suppressing the intellectual mind and the senses as she focused on a prayer so that her soul might recall its spiritual origin. ”Recollection” was preparatory to other stages of quiet meditation. In both Eastern and Western (Christian) meditation a goal is to disengage the mind from the body. This is due to a perspective of the physical world being somehow evil and contradictory to the spiritual world. . . . Pagan practice instead begins with a notion of the Universe being composed of body, mind and soul, and a desire to bring these three parts into harmony. Harmony is sought within one’s own being, and also in the world around us. . . . But the starting point begins by introducing ritual into our daily activities, developing a sound mind and a sound body in harmony with our soul, which will in turn bring us into a harmonious relationship with the Gods around us in Nature. The garden quite literally feeds our body, our mind, and our soul, even as the garden acts as a euphemism for tending our relationship with the Gods in the Universe.
Vadete in pacem Deorum.

For me, it’s weeding. Odd as it sounds, I love to weed. It’s one of the most meditative tasks I know, other than kneading bread or knitting.

To work in my garden is to co-create the manifest (thank you, PaganMamma) world in partnership with the Goddess. I am never so humbled nor so honored as when I pull weeds.

*Do you have a picket pin?

*What JMG Said:

Being a Druid today means learning how to take less from nature and give more back, reshaping every detail of our daily lives in order to honor and heal the living Earth. Being a Druid means composting vegetable peelings instead of sending them to a landfill; it means walking or bicycling instead of filling the air with tailpipe fumes; it means buying groceries from local organic farmers instead of from multi-national agrabusiness. Such acts are practical necessities to everyone who recognizes the interdependence of all life. To Druids, and all others who follow nature-centered paths, these things are also acts of worship, disciplines of the spirit, offerings we make to the Goddess-Planet on Whom we live our lives.

“Reshaping every detail of our daily lives”: that’s a spiritual practice. JMG’s discussion ties in with my recent post about the importance of just being outside and observing to the process of becoming a Witch. Composting, for example, is messy business and mundane in the extreme. It’s hardly the esoteric training that anyone hoping to become a Witch or Druid might imagine. And, yet, it’s magic. It’s necessary. And it’s what Witches and Druids do.

*I’m going to get to this exhibit in the next 72 hours, or die trying, even if I have, thanks to a crush at work, to speed-walk through it. How important is art to your spiritual practice? To your practice of magic? How do you make time for it?

*Here, in the heart of deep Summer along the Potomac, the early morning hours are often the only ones when it’s really comfortable to lie between clean sheets and drift, half asleep and half awake. That makes it even more difficult to drag myself out of bed. Lately, these guys get me up and onto the treadmill. (I’m fairly certain that getting an old, American Nonna up to exercise is nowhere in these young men’s mission statement.) Who inspires you to live healthy? Whom might your inspire, all unawares?

Picture found here.

On the Intersection of Art and Magical Vocabulary

I think that there’s a lot to be said about the importance of art to magic. Art can be a picture in a museum that inspires your ritual; it can be a piece of music that you use to do magic; it can be the architecture of a building or a garden that changes consciousness. It can be the dance that raises energy for the magic.

And it can be poetry. For me, it is very often poetry.

Having a large vocabulary is an advantage in any field; educators recognize it as an advantage to further educational progress, and it is certainly an advantage in doing magic and crafting ritual, although in those cases the vocabulary goes beyond the collection of words available to one’s left brain and includes art.

I was thinking about all of these points when I read Christopher Hennessy‘s wonderful interview of Aaron Shurin. I’ve long loved Shurin’s poetry, especially for its emphasis on the manifest world, and have long found some of it difficult to access. Hennessy does a good job of making it more accessible to me because his questions are so obviously based upon his large and deep vocabulary of Shurin’s work.

Hennessy says:

In an essay recalling his high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shurin writes about discovering his future self in the poetic language of the play and the character of “fairy” Puck. He wore “the mask of a mythic structure that would prove to be my natural face,” and spoke “the masque of a mythic structure of language whose amped sonorities and playfulness would prove to be my natural voice.” That poetry and identity could be so intertwined thrilled me.

And, Hennessy continues:

Sometimes I read a line of yours, and it seems like it’s meant to show how language can be incantation, how it doesn’t need a fixed “meaning” to cast a spell over us: “So a letter as always breeches [sic] the focus of gauze, in which a parade of marionettes lilts in beating the time of regatta is a festoon in a brass pot.” How do you feel about the characterization of your work as incantatory?

Shurin replies that:

For me, sound haunts language even when it’s silent text, and “incantation” is sound raised to the level of meaning. Not “fixed” meaning, as you say, but something nevertheless apprehended, felt. I think my work may be essentially sonorous. If I were going to get down to brass tacks, I would say, for me, that’s poetry’s defining element, the power that engages me most complexly. I mean the full range of prosodic values: [Robert] Duncan’s idea of “the tone leading of vowels,” or the rise and fall of syllables, or measure, repetition, rhythm — all of what I call the countersemantic aspects of poetry. Of course, in the end, there are no countersemantic aspects; that’s the point. They all add to the semantic complexity of the poem. The experience you call incantatory or casting a spell is fundamental to my work. It’s sound in conversation with fixed meaning, and that tension is dynamic. It can bring you to non-quotidian attention, into another order of meaning, the way mantras or chants or even songs do. And for sure I read my poems aloud, and they’re not complete until I’ve understood them through my body.blockquote>

That’s the beauty part: “I read my poems aloud, and they’re not complete until I’ve understood them through my body.”

That’s what I mean about the connection between an artistic vocabulary and art. It’s how art becomes important to the act of magic.

Here’s Shurin writing about his rod of power, with all of its double entendres intact. (I’d love to know exactly how deep his magical vocabulary goes.)

Cool Dust

A heave of afternoon light pulls a tulip from the turf, a bower for locusts, a cup of shells. The farmhouse tilts, a bent shadow on wheels. In cedar rooms a family is molded, silent, wrapped in the wire of steel eyes and stopped voice, romantic ash. This is not my house, my ghost, my uninvited guest, my lost labor of love, my thicket or grease, my JPEG gessoed or rawhide suit. The yellow light throbs like an internal organ — soft body of an overture to insect sounds — sapling of a new world — whose future awaits me at the tilting window of my own domestic hut. Perhaps this is my mesh of hours, my muscular ache, my guardian sash, twist of rope carved around an old maple trunk, my rod of power red with anticipatory friction at the edge of an emerging set of planetary rings. Stained ochre by the air I pitch forward, a vanilla-scented pear that floats or falls. In the rattan chair on the front porch by the blistered boards of the front door a figure of tar watches. Cool dust sparkles and settles. Shadows have made me visible. An empty wagon flares on the hillside.

More poems here.

Picture found here.

If You Don’t Do Anything Else All Summer

Not at all ready to do this topic justice, but, if you consider yourself a magic worker and/or a “wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving,” and, if it’s at all possible for you, you must go see this life-changing art exhibit by Bruce Munro.

No, really.

With a dear Druid friend, I wandered for hours last night in the rain, the mist, the heat-dampened scent of pines, and the ancient mating calls of bullfrogs. We were about to turn back when an old gnome (literally, and I am not a woman who uses that word, well, any way but “literally,”) showed up at the crossroads (heh) and sent us down a woodland path, past fountains, and, then, under the fairy lights, over the wood bridge, across the fire-fly-enchanted pond, and into a meadow of unworldly, Gregorian-chanting, tubes of light.

You come, too.