Evolution of a Dirt Collector

This post is part of a Strategic Sorcery blog hop on the topic of magical links.

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My initial explorations of the magic of soil were typical enough.

Five years old, sitting in the sandbox with my brother, we decided to have a sand eating contest. I only got one spoonful down before I gagged, but I was fascinated with the consistency. Wet sand grabs on to anything. Even your insides. To my brother’s credit, he managed to eat a couple handfuls, which he immediately vomited up. 

Ten years old, playing in the parking lot behind our apartment building, we mixed up a terrible concoction in a pothole and called it “Jeff’s Dinner.”  Jeff was the neighborhood bully.  We started with dirt from the yard, gravel from the parking lot, grass and garbage, but we needed liquid to mix it together. A little kid saved the day when he ran into his apartment and came back with several half empty brown bottles, shouting, “My dad’s beer!” After stirring with sticks to reach a glorious gloppy consistency, we piled it neatly behind a car’s exhaust pipe where we were sure the fumes would coat it. When we came back a few days later to check on Jeff’s Dinner, we were amazed that it was rock hard. We had created a rough approximation of concrete. We spent the rest of the summer unsuccessfully trying to hack it apart with sticks. Sometimes when you make things with dirt, they’re really hard to take apart.

Several years ago I went to a university surplus sale looking for some office supplies. To my surprise, the chemistry department was offloading glassware, microscopes, slides, and other items. This was early in my magical exploration years, and I didn’t see any immediate use for the cool, alchemical-looking retorts and graduated cylinders. However, I couldn’t resist a box of test tubes with caps, which promptly landed on a shelf of craft supplies where they were forgotten. They reminded me of my elementary school dream of becoming a mad scientist.  

Fast forward a few months to when I was setting out to visit my grandparents in another state. I wanted to gather some soil from beside their house so I could have it on hand for future family/ancestral workings. Digging through the kitchen cupboards, I wanted something smaller than a plastic lunch container (gotta try to be discreet, after all) and sturdier than a ziploc bag. That’s when I remembered the test tubes! I grabbed a couple and put them in my pocket. The secret soil sampling went perfectly, and I was hooked. Since then I’ve gathered soil from various homes and locations that are important to my family, as well as from banks, beaches, landmarks, and graves of famous people.  If I’m going somewhere that just may present interesting or useful soil, I throw a couple test tubes in my purse (along with some change if I’ll be going to a grave).

Over the last few years I’ve become known as a dirt collector, which isn’t too hard for my nonmagical family to grok since I have a botanist parent who has suitcases full of pressed plants and boxes full of skulls. The glaring difference is my liberal arts education with nary a geology class in sight, but they’re mainly business majors and engineers who tend to lump anything vaguely science-y into one category. Take a moment to enjoy the irony of a mechanical engineer pointing to an occultist and saying, “She’s into science.” People see what they expect to see.

 Now my cousins even bring me plastic water bottles of dirt or sand from places they’ve visited, chuckling that they get to contribute to my quirky hobby. Collecting dirt from places you’re traveling anyway saves running around, and then when you’re putting together a spell you can look through your inventory for what will work, instead of going, “Dirt from a soldier’s grave? There goes my afternoon.”

Becoming known within your circle of acquaintances as someone who collects a certain souvenir has its advantages too. If you know someone who collects postcards, magnets, or souvenir spoons, you might pick one up for them when you’re on vacation.  Dirt is unusual enough that traveling friends like to contribute. (Well, unusual as an item to collect. Obviously the stuff’s ubiquitous.) You can easily get sand from the beaches of various oceans and lakes, soil from near state capitol buildings, famous statues and landmarks, and from wonderful natural sites such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone Park, from friends and family members who like to be generous. This does bring me to a piece of cautionary advice regarding offerings, though.

Depending on your sensibilities, you may not want to take soil from natural power spots without making an offering. However, if someone unexpectedly brings you soil from, say, the Badlands in South Dakota, you could still do an offering ceremony at home using as a link the very soil you were given.  I never ask others to collect grave dirt for me; my nonmagical friends would be weirded out and there’s no way I’d trust that they offered proper payment, even if instructed.  If the dirt is from somewhere that requires payment, you’re better off getting it yourself and making sure it’s done right, even if that means biting your tongue when your little brother goes to visit Oak Ridge Cemetery.

As your sample collection grows, you will find yourself working soil into spells you might not otherwise have used it in.  The most common soils I see called for in spells are dirt from banks, from crossroads, and from graves from soldiers or ancestors (or other certain types/professions of people).  Using soil in spell recipes is a little like cooking; once you’re familiar with an herb or spice, you start to notice other recipes that would benefit from its addition.  Here’s a short list of lesser used dirts and applications to get you started. As much as I love crossroads dirt, it’s nice to branch out.

  • From near a legislature building to promote dialogue and working together
  • From a newspaper office or post office  to aid the spread of an idea
  • From a hospital for healing (use due diligence and check out the success rate of that particular hospital for the illness you’re dealing with)
  • From an outdoor art sculpture for artistic talent and ideas
  • From a sports arena for athletic ability or for winning a contest that involves skill (again, pick a team that doesn’t objectively suck)
  • From a hotel or airport to increase opportunity for travel
  • From a river bank for releasing of ideas/relationships/etc.
  • From Graceland if you’re trying to get arrested


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To be Wealthy, or not to be Wealthy


When I was 8- and 9-years-old, I slept on a sleeping bag on the floor in a low-income-housing apartment. My family ate dinner together every night around a wobbly card table, and all too frequently that dinner was bean soup. (Dried beans are cheap, and my mom refused to accept WIC or food stamps.) 

It wasn’t that bad being poor; in fact, I didn’t think about it very often. Kind of like how a monologuing Hamlet doesn’t appear to notice the stage scenery behind him. But with that scenery, he can only ever play…Hamlet.  You can’t be Cleopatra or Wise Man Number Two when you live in a haunted Danish castle.

Things got better for my parents.  By the time I was in high school, there was enough to pay the bills, but no extras. And by extras, I mean roast beef or new clothes.  Some people would consider those to be necessities. My parents didn’t. They still don’t.  That’s part of their set point. You get used to a certain baseline, and you assume that’s what is possible or what you deserve. When you want to increase your standard of living, you’ll eventually hit an invisible barrier, a level you find it difficult to pass. That’s your set point.

Want to see an interesting contrast of wealth set points?  Take a look at these blog posts written by two different poor people. One of them had a very low wealth set point. She assumed she’d always live in poverty.  The other had a higher wealth set point. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, it’s pretty apparent that she’s not okay with her current standard of living.


After I got married and had kids, I determined that I wanted more opportunities for them than I had had, but in the back of my mind I was always trying to justify the idea of summer camps, new clothes, and eating out more than twice a year. I was trying to move the stage scenery, but damn, was it heavy.

My husband’s and my economic reality began to improve after we read some financial advice books, because we finally had goals to work toward. For the first time in my life, I felt positive about my financial future.

Better job, better house, more savings…then…a plateau. For several years, the bank account wouldn’t budge.  We had finally carved out a solid spot in the middle class, and then we’d unconsciously stopped moving.  We had reached the tricky part. You know, the part where you lean over the balcony and shout, “Romeo, oh Romeo,” and then realize you’re still holding a skull and dagger.

We hit the books again. This time, we coached ourselves on investing and side income streams since we had already gotten out of debt. When poverty isn’t only a paycheck away, you can start establishing a mental distance from it, moving those mental boundary markers. I realized I didn’t have to play Hamlet anymore. The hardest part was putting down the script my parents had handed me. I had to take the time to explore and accept the idea that walking away from the life I had been raised to live would not insult or dishonor my parents. I slowly moved my financial “you are here” pin, one mm at a time. Your brain can’t move from “I have/deserve poverty” to “I have/deserve comfort” to “I have/deserve wealth” overnight. 

Here’s how I convinced myself.

When I began looking at the value I bring to other people’ lives, I recognized my own value.

I had the opportunity to do a short gig playing piano: a few songs for a pretty decent sum. Such a decent sum, in fact, that I felt guilty. I knew someone else who was doing something equivalent for free. Why should I charge that much for something that’s easy for me? How about: because it took me fifteen years to learn to play piano that well. I decided to own it. I’m a piano expert, and I’ll charge the fee to prove it.  I have value, and my life adds value to others. 

Wealth and lifestyle coaches usually advise people to be grateful for what they have, because gratefulness fuels abundance. While that’s true, the opposite tactic can also be useful for changing set point.

You have to take your current lifestyle for granted. If you want to move up, don’t sit there and say, “Yeah, this is awesome.”  Instead, you need to own it. Look around and say, “This is fine, standard, normal, okay… but I want to be over there.”  I don’t necessarily mean looking at your Mercedes and deciding you need an Aston Martin. Conspicuous consumption isn’t my thing. But if you have five figures in the bank, don’t go, “Woo hoo! I’m rich!” because then you’ll be content and won’t do what it takes to grow that wealth. Instead, decide that six figures is the new five figures and that’s where you’re headed. 

We have a couple kids, so vacations involving air travel can be expensive. The little barbarians are finally old enough to appreciate more than chicken fingers and a hotel with cable, so our current stretch goal is to do an international trip every other year. We’re on track for this year, and we’re working hard to make it happen. As we grow our side income streams, saving for vacations will become automated. At some point, a few years from now, this biennial trip will become expected, and hopefully, taken a little for granted. Then I’ll smile and say, “You know what would be great? Doing this every year.”  And I won’t say it like it’s a pipe dream. I’ll say it like it’s real, because sords have power. Say it like it’s real and you will make it real. This is Hamlet pushing down the castle turret.  

Don’t talk yourself down. Don’t fear that you’re being greedy.  Your wealth can transform those around you for the better as well. In our Kardashian-obsessed culture, it’s easy to forget that there are uses for wealth that don’t involve vanity, excess, and self-promotion. Consider this fabulous effect of moving your set point: higher charitable contributions.  I literally fantasize about cutting ribbons in front of schools and libraries with one of those giant pairs of scissors.  Not just because it’ll mean I’m rich, but because it’ll mean I’m helping people. I secretly smile when I picture my mystified brother opening a letter from Sallie Mae informing him that his student loan balance is zero. The Salvation Army bell ringer used to get nickels and quarters from me. Now he gets dollars. In a couple years I’ll be slipping him twenties. You’re not the only one who benefits when your wealth set point moves.  

Now get out there and move the scenery. And don’t scratch the Mercedes parked behind those pine trees.

Solar Eclipse in Pisces: Burial at Sea

I had no plans to do any eclipse-related work this week until I read Austin Coppock’s weekly column yesterday.  (If you haven’t read it yet, get over there now! It’s so good, and also the rest of this post will make better sense afterwards.) His evocative descriptions of this week’s space weather were resonant with several syncs I’d been having this week regarding digestion, the depths/the underworld, the unconscious, and bitter draughts which can be poison or medicine, depending on their dose.

Events of the last few days have plowed through my mind like a fishing trawler, dredging up ocean-bottom detritus that I thought I had laid to rest.  Then the thematic elements of Austin’s column floated down, arranging themselves into a ritual shape of their own accord.

Prepare the Bodies for Burial

What old hurts or habits do you wish to lay to rest? Now is the time to bury them at a great depth, where they will slowly be transformed by what lives in the deep.  I chose two issues, and wrote them out in watercolor pencil on watercolor paper. If you don’t have these materials, use water soluble ink so it will dissolve. I weighted the papers so they wouldn’t float. One paper is a money issue, so I used a coin. The other is regarding the past loss of a loved one, so I used a stone. Choose something heavy and disposable, not your favorite crystal.

prepare the bodies

Conjure the Sea

If you live near the ocean, you could just use seawater. I don’t, so I made a saturated brine. Fill a glass with warm water, pour in some salt, and stir. When it’s all dissolved, add more salt. Keep doing this until you have some salt that won’t dissolve. The water is now completely saturated with salt. This is far more salty than actual seawater, but I preferred the idea of full saturation. This is the deep sea in which you’ll lay your corpses to rest.

A Bitter, Empty Bowl

Make a paste of ashes with a little oil or water.  Use this paste to coat the inside of a bowl. Here is your empty sky at the moment of eclipse.

solar eclipse

Distill the Medicine

Fill a glass with drinking water. Put a few crystals in the bottom of the glass, chosen according to your needs. Whatever you are releasing, choose crystals that will be a healing tonic for that issue in your life. Gather a spoon, aromatic bitters, and rum, but don’t put anything else in the water yet.

poison and cure

A Sea Change

Light some sandalwood incense and begin with an opening prayer or song as you see fit. Invite the witnesses or helpers whose presence you desire. Lower your weighted packets into the salt water. While doing this I read Ariel’s song from The Tempest, as well as a prayer from the Anglican order for burial at sea. Sit for a moment, feeling the water dissolve the blockages within you. Take a spoonful from the glass of saltwater and pour it into your glass of fresh water. Add three drops of bitters and, if desired, a spoonful of rum. While doing this, say that from a bitter brew you have distilled a medicinal elixir. Drink the entire glass, saying that it will be a purgative for you. (You may want to write something fancier out beforehand. I didn’t.)  When you are ready, take the glass bowl of ashes and invert it over the glass of saltwater. If possible, leave this setup on your altar for a few days before dumping the entire contents into a hole in the ground and burying it.

solar eclipse in pisces


I repeated the mantra Om Ketave Namaha 108 times.



Archery Lessons

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Everybody knows Mars. He’s the hulking, ominously silent biker every fool assumes will be on their side in a bar fight. A lot of people slip Mars a twenty or a pack of smokes while gesturing furtively toward the intended recipient of an ass-kicking. Not too many people walk up to him, bow deeply, and say, “Teach me, Sensei.”

They should.

That bar fight wasn’t won in the two seconds it took to swing a chair. It was won in the twenty years of experience that preceded it.

In his later years, Picasso drew a sketch in five minutes and said that it had taken him a lifetime to draw it. Picasso, ever self-identified with the bullfighter, knew Mars.

The discipline, the precision, the daily practice toward an intended outcome: these are the traits of a soldier. For that soldier, these habits can mean the difference between life and death.  Not so for the rest of us. Artists, engineers, parents: we don’t live in foxholes. We’re safe. For us, discipline and practice aren’t important. They’re only the difference between life and death for our goals and dreams. We downplay it. We act like life isn’t a war zone. We pretend it’s not pistols at dawn against entropy, but it is. Every. Damn. Day.

The samurai cultivates a posture of preparedness. An attitude of adapting to the moment can be used in reaction to everyday circumstances, situations, even thoughts.


Like many creative people, I often suffer from idea overload. Call it metaphorical mercury poisoning. I’m better at starting projects than at finishing them. I know that Mars can be invoked for drive and completion of action, but as a peace-loving Libra, I hesitated to invite him to my party. (Quick! Hide the pool cues and bar stools!) However, hermeticism involves paying calls on all the planetary spheres, so I, ahem, rang his bell.

And a teacher opened the door.

He knows how to aim, and he knows precisely when to let the arrow fly. And he makes his students repeat it until they get it right.

If you need the daily persistence to pursue mastery:

Enso Zen Circle

combined with an eye for trajectory:

arrow resized

I think you know whose bell to ring.

Mars symbol

Draw the lamen; conjure the archangel; recite the Orphic hymn. Then, wait. Contemplate the seals of Mars. Have your target in sight, because he’s bringing arrows.


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The Books that Made Me: Part I

Everyone remembers them. The pages that rise up in your mind. The characters that give advice.  The illustrations that collage themselves of their own accord and wallpaper your dreams.

Ten years old. A small school in Montana. A classroom of twenty students, which was the entire fifth and sixth grades combined. The teacher had two shelves of children’s novels that we could check out for our assigned silent reading periods. I had never heard of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I read it in two days. Later that week I got into a physical altercation with another student over who got to check out The Magician’s Nephew first. I spent the next year quickly opening doors and looking around corners, trying to glimpse another world before it disappeared. For me it was old-fashioned escapism, a way to leave poverty and boredom behind. I wanted to become a mad scientist, like Digory’s uncle but with a better ending. I thought science could find a gateway to the magic that I wished could somehow be real. It would be nine years before I encountered it in the field.

Twelve years old. Our science teacher assigned an oral report in which we had to choose a constellation and research each of its major stars, as well as the mythology behind its name. I chose Pegasus because, well, I was a twelve-year-old girl and it was a flying horse. Having neither internet nor mythology books, I pulled out the Encyclopedia Britannica. At the end of the article on Pegasus, there was the notation, “See also: BELLEROPHON, MEDUSA, POSEIDON.” By the end of the night, I had hauled out at least six encyclopedia volumes, some only tangentially related to the topic at hand. A research fiend had been born. Over the next few years, I read every mythology-related article I could find in that encyclopedia set, and explored many other topics as well. Fifteen years later, while reading Occidental Mythology for the first time, I smiled at the illustration of the Minoan snake goddess. I recognized her from my encyclopedia-foraging days.

Fourteen years old. By this point I had read every kids’ book my family owned multiple times. I dug through my parents’ boxes of college textbooks in desperation. Why one of them had a copy of Goethe’s Faust, I’ll never know. I dragged the old typewriter out of the attic and typed out my favorite quotes. Summoning a demon seemed thrilling and dangerous, but with archaic language and woodcut illustrations, it was far enough removed to be innocuous.  I wouldn’t have dared to read what my classmates were reading: Stephen King, V.C. Andrews, R.L. Stine. I had been very sheltered from media violence, and my parents were incredibly strict about our exposure to secular influences. Looking back, I can’t believe how much magical knowledge slipped under the radar and into my mind during that period. While the goth kids at school were listening to Ministry and cursing people by burning their photos, my parents breathed easily knowing their nerdy kid was upstairs reading the encyclopedia… you know, learning about divination with runes, Aztec sacrifices, and watching Faust conjure Mephistopheles.

I had a set of illustrated and abridged children’s classics that I returned to in my teen years. The Count of Monte Cristo presented me with my ideal picture of a scholar: secreted away in a remote cell, focused completely on learning sciences and languages from a brilliant mentor. And of course I could think of a few people on whom to enact delicious revenge. The Wizard of Oz has haunted me through the decades. The habit of opening doors and curtains that I picked up in my C.S. Lewis days had by this point extended to my observations of religions and social mores.  How many throne rooms have I entered only to find an automated talking head, with a muffled voice saying, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”?

Fifteen years old. My high school had a library. Or at least, a very tiny copy of one. I believe it had four stacks to serve its 200 students. One of the stacks was mostly Danielle Steele novels, which in retrospect leads me to assume that the school had a very small book budget and accepted donations indiscriminately.  The classic literature section was just a couple shelves, but I didn’t dare bring Ms. Steele into my parents’ house, so I found myself reading the classic titles one by one.  The Satanic Verses looked scary. My parents would probably send me for counseling if they caught me reading it. To its right stood The Fellowship of the Ring.  That one looked safer, so I took it home.  [Sidebar: Let that sink in. You know it’s a tiny library when there’s nothing between Rushdie and Tolkien.] I read The Two Towers over Christmas break of 1995. I had to explain what it was about to all my cousins. No one in my town had heard of it. I finished the series in January. I loved the poetry and the mythical references. I broke out the encyclopedia again and compared Tolkien’s runic alphabet to the Old Norse elder futhark. Having moved thirteen times by the time I was thirteen years old, I could identify with Frodo and Sam’s life on the road, being cold, alone, and sometimes a little hungry. Suffering from seasonal depression, I could identify with spending months struggling towards Mount Doom. Experiencing night terrors and hag attacks, I knew just what it meant to be alone in a dark, wild forest. I still count it as the realest fantasy I’ve ever read.

After Tolkien, there was Brave New World, and I suspected that my classmates were socially engineered idiots. Then I got my driver’s license and drove myself to the town library. Again, Danielle Steele. But at least this place also had Michael Crichton. I read The SphereThe Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead, and more. I remembered my childhood dream of becoming a mad scientist. In my mind this was a cross between an astronomer and a chemist. The “mad” part came from not quite focusing on this world, constantly searching for a new discovery either way out in the macrocosm or deep inside the microcosm.

The Crichton selection exhausted, a book on the next shelf down caught my eye based on its sheer width. It was easily three times the thickness of its neighbors. As long as it wasn’t horror or romance, I knew I was going to read that bad boy. And thus I spent six months slogging through Les Misérables. Other than the long political descriptions, I loved it. There were people in the world who were worse off than me. Some of them made it out of their hellholes, and some of them didn’t.  It was a matter of will and chance. Not much magic in Victor Hugo’s world.

Looking back, will and chance were the two main force-fields that dictated how books formed me in those childhood years. It was only by chance that I encountered the formative books that I did. I never had an adult mentor put a book in my hands and say, “This is awesome. You should read it.” I had no older siblings to follow, and my few friends were sensible, non-curious people. But when the opportunity for knowledge occasionally presented itself, I had the will to pursue it. 

After those heavily-censored, information-starved high school years, I found myself in a parent-free land flowing with books and ideas: college. And that’s a post of its own.

Elements in Social Media

I recently read an article on using social media for advertising in which the writer chose to focus on the big four social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.  Now, anytime somebody says there are four kinds of X, I put on my hermetic goggles and take a look.  Sometimes the elemental or directional correspondences are there, sometimes not. Forcing data into a set of unfit correspondences works as well as putting my favorite opera singer in skinny jeans.  She can’t sing right in that getup! In the case of social media platforms, three out of four can rock the elemental look. The fourth kinda fits, as long as it doesn’t have to bend over to pick something up.    (Is this an indication that it will eventually be displaced by a more fitting platform? We can only hope)

Twitter as Air

Come on. The logo is a bird. I will always start with the slow pitch. Twitter is all about the exchange of ideas, and the quicker the better.  Developing news stories, play-by-play sports games, the productivity hacks your coworker shares.  A tweet’s life is measured in minutes, not years. If you pre-write your tweets to autopost later, it is suggested that you schedule them to go live during your audience’s morning and evening commutes.  Exchanging ideas while traveling to a place of commerce? Hello, Mercury!

Instagram as Water

This place can be fascinating in the literal, liminal, dangerous sense. You’re set adrift on a sea of heavily filtered images. The Instagram logo itself is dominated by the black camera lens, a perfect scrying surface. People don’t come here to discuss current ideas or trade witty banter. Here there be likes and loves and shares. All the feels! Users curate images to tug at a viewer’s heartstrings: sleeping babies, perfect morning coffees, afghans and books, sunsets and margaritas. Beware though, like Narcissus, many young men and women have peered into Instagram and remain there, staring at their own reflections. #selfie 

Facebook as Fire

This is the one who’s stuffed into his little brother’s pants.  It’s not a perfect fit. Like Instagram, Facebook can be emotional.  Like Twitter, it’s a place for discussion and ideas. But it’s slower than Twitter, and more verbal than Instagram. Twitter’s airiness and Instagram’s dreaminess are their strengths, but the combustion I’ve seen on Facebook is a definite weakness.  While Twitter can be volatile, Facebook is downright inflammatory. This is the where exes snipe at each other, family feuds become public, and you witness a former classmate arguing peak oil with a teacher he hasn’t seen in decades. Facebook’s big box approach, combining photos, groups, conversations, and short updates, makes it the Wal-Mart of social media.  And yet, Facebook’s flaws may also be the source of its longevity. Let’s face it: people like to be angry, indignant, and most of all, RIGHT. Facebook is the place to go when you want to share condescending political memes or argue with the moron who works across the hall. I’d like to see this platform lose its popularity to something more motivational, like a git-er-done cross between TED Talks and Kickstarter. I prefer to light a fire under myself, not watch it scorch the fields of my kingdom.

Pinterest as Earth

Pinterest is the digital incarnation of a physical object: the bulletin board. The logo is a stylized bulletin board pin. The content curated here revolves around the material world: recipes, craft projects, DIY hacks, interior design, fashion, art, travel. The ostensible purpose of Pinterest is to allow people to grasp their floating plans and ideas from the ether and anchor them in one place in order to manifest them into physical reality. Unfortunately, many users don’t move from pinning to doing. If Narcissus opened the first Instagram account, the lotus-eaters are on Pinterest, anesthetizing themselves against the credit card bill by consuming images of perfectly remodeled bathrooms. Regardless, Pinterest is an excellent tool when used correctly, which means not going to the website to surf mindlessly. Instead, when you’re roaming through the internet, looking for a way to fix your leaky windows, and among all the cat videos you actually find a tutorial, move the mouse to the Pin button on your toolbar and spear that wildebeest! At the hardware store two weeks later, you can pull up the list of materials needed and get to work.

Rock Smashes Scissors

How would you apply these correspondences to your social media strategy? You might petition Mercury on Wednesday for more Twitter followers, or make a short list of possible hashtags and then use bird auguries to choose which ones to use. Auguries aren’t always accurate so I’d keep a journal and try all the hashtags from my list over the course of a month, keeping track of which ones performed the best and whether that aligned with the divination results.  

If you’re wasting time on Facebook, work with water to put out that fire. Have lots of ideas but don’t bring them to completion? Nail down those thought balloons. Make a secret Pinterest board (that is, one not visible to your followers) and title it with the name of your top goal/idea that you want to work on. Make a list of actions you must complete in order to reach your goal, and make a pin for each one.  Enchant the board, possibly with a Sun/Mars or Jupiter working. I wouldn’t rely on spells or workings in the digital realm as a primary strategy though. My ultimate goals all exist in the intersection of the physical and spiritual planes, so that’s where I spend most of my time working. But if you need to control or direct your social media activity, look to the elements and introduce balance.



Humans are natural omnivores, both nutritionally and ideologically. The short-term obsessions of toddlers and adolescents are grudgingly tolerated. They are still finding themselves, after all.  But if an adult ate only pizza, or wore only green, or listened to only mid 90s German trance music, they’d be eccentric.   And yet, it is assumed that adults will adhere to one intellectual or religious tradition. Well, one at a time. Religions, like relationships, are generally a matter of serial monogamy.  You can dump one and move on to another. The jilted ex might tell everyone about your embarrassing grooming habit. The former pastor might tell everyone you’re going to hell.  Potato, potahto.

You Are Not Your Hammer

But what is an intellectual, religious, or magical tradition, anyway? It’s how one is oriented in the world. It’s how things are weighed against each other.  It’s how value is measured. It’s how a life course is plotted. In short, it’s a tool. It’s something one uses, rather than something one is.  When I’m building a cedar bench (in order to enjoy my tea at sunrise outdoors; I know you care), at some point I’m going to put down the square and pick up a drill.  Switching tools, here. No need to panic. I’m not throwing the square in the trash; I’ll use it again tomorrow. And you know what they say about the guy who goes through life holding only a hammer.

Everything looks like a goddamn nail.

Gentlemen, Calibrate Your Instruments

 The other day I was really excited because I stepped on my scale and it said I had lost three pounds.  Then I went to a friend’s house and her scale said I had gained two pounds.  Well that sucked, but independent verification by multiple sources is important.  Is a system of thought valuable in its own right, or is it valuable because of what it reveals about the world?  And when three scales agree and one doesn’t, which one are you going to toss? 

More importantly, if you only stepped on one scale, how would you know if it was wrong?

Three Heads Are Better Than Two

Triangulation in map-making means that in knowing A) the distance between two points, and B) the angles between those points and a third point, the exact location of that third point can be calculated. Triangulation in social sciences involves using several research methods to study the same phenomenon. You see where I’m going with this.  Probably because you’ve triangulated the last two paragraphs to estimate the next one. Physics explains some things, but not all. Psychology explains some things, but not all.  Buddhism and Catholicism and Judaism each explain some things.  These are all maps with smudges, holes, and frayed edges. They’re tools with important but limited uses.

I grew up  in fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity (the insular 80s reaction to the birth of the Age of Aquarius, not the political juggernaut that exists today). For those of you who didn’t share my experience, this involves spending Sunday mornings (and occasionally evenings) sitting on a metal folding chair listening to a man preach about punishment. Afterwards, donuts and Tang.  Also no movie theaters, playing cards, drinking, swearing, dating, video games, secular music, or other post-1960 pop culture. You can probably read Nancy Drew, but there’s no internet and you live in a town of 1,500, so good luck finding a copy.

As a young adult, I went to college, quit Evangelicalism, graduated from college, was confirmed Anglican, and set out searching for a meta-theory to explain and harmonize everything: science, religion, politics, psychology, and so on.  A thousand books later: no dice.  I spent six years studying Northern European runic traditions. This helped: I now had the worldview equivalent of two eyeballs with which to focus. I stopped running into walls so frequently.  After some time I was introduced to Hermeticism, but I still had runes in one hand and icons in the other.  Each is useful and enjoyable in its own way. My depth perception continues to improve.

Fill Your Toolbox

All this is to gently point out that if you’ve spent the last ten years steeped in a single tradition, you might have the depth perception of an eye-patched pirate.  Diehard runic wizard? Read Cornelius Agrippa.  Love you some kabbalah? Break out the mojo bags. (And ugh, for the love of God, share your secret kabbalah recipe with me, because the stuff’s like eggplant-only good if you cook it right-which I have thus far failed to do). You’ll always have a dominant tradition or two that really click for you. But majoring in accounting and minoring in English lit doesn’t mean you should go through life not being able to make risotto or tell a hawk from an osprey in flight. By all means, go deep. But don’t forget to go wide. Be a Renaissance human, not a specialist on the brink of obsolescence. Carry a Swiss army knife, not a hammer. Scratch that; pack both.  And when you find an error in your map, pencil in a correction for the next traveler.