Monday, July 23, 2012

Paga Blog Project: B is for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab makes perfume oils. Amazing perfume oils inspired by literature, mythology, and a touch of fantasy. Ever wanted to smell like a cold, wet forest? Try Nocnitsa [1]. That was the one that hooked me. I was amazed that someone could put that precise scent in a little 5 mL bottle. Not surprisingly, people can and do use them in their religious practices. I am one of them.

First, and most obviously, there's the method of anointing yourself or an object with an appropriate oil for a ritual or spell. I've only done this once, as part of a little service to honor Hekate at the new moon. I wore the scent that bears her name [2] on my skin. In theory, being cloaked in scent would help create a working space, and help me focus...But that time, the ritual fell flat. The phone-line to Deity was connected, but I didn't have anything to say, so I just...listened to the dial tone. (I realized later that I was wearing my Athena owl necklace during the whole thing. That may have contributed to the awkwardness.) I intend to try again at the next new moon, if not sooner.

(Sidenote: The owner and prime perfumer, Beth, is a pagan too, and also provides "charged" ritual oils at Twilight Alchemy Lab. From what I've read by the people who've used them, they pack quite a punch.)

Most of the time, though, I use my selection for a far more basic purpose: to prepare for the day ahead. It can be just as effective as using it for a spell. I call it "perfuming with intent." For example, I've dabbed on Athens[3] for Athena when I need a little strength. (Or Whip[4], when I want to be a SECRET DOMINATRIX. Ahem.) Simple psychology, right? But it's effective. Not to mention the compliments you'll get because you smell so good and/or interesting...

Does anyone else use scents as a part of their craft? I'd like to know!

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Official descriptions:
[1] "Also known as Krisky, Plaksy and Gorska Makua, she is a nightmare spirit, the Night Hag of the Woods, who haunts Polish, Russian, Bulgarian and Slovak children during the darkest hours. The only protection against her torments is a circle drawn around a child's cradle with a knife, or an axe or protective poppet hidden under the floorboards beneath where a child sleeps. Her scent is that of a lightless fir wood, nighttime air, wet forest mosses and upturned earth."

[2] "Magnificent three-faced Goddess of Magic, the Dark Moon and the Crossroads. She is the Mother of Witches, and the midnight baying of hounds is her paean. Her compassion is evidenced in her role as Psychopomp for Persephone, and her wrath manifests as Medea's revenge. Deep, buttery almond layered over myrrh and dark musk."

[3] "A reformulation and modernization of a true Classical Greek perfume, myrrhine: voluptuous myrrh, golden honey, red wine, and sweet flowers"

[4] "Agony and ecstasy: black leather and damp red rose."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pagan Blog Project 2: "A" is for Otherworldly Awareness

Full title: "Otherworldly Awareness, And How I Get By With Very Little Of It"

I have a confession. I call myself a pagan, but have little contact and discourse with spirits. I know they're there -- I've read too many true accounts to say otherwise -- and sometimes I feel like I've brushed past a...something, but I cannot say I've shared a meal with a land spirit or joked around with a god. I'm honestly not that sensitive. Nor do I want to be, because from the sound of it, it can be...unpleasant and distracting. One of my former coworkers once told me how she went to a series of plays (theater was her thing) in a building that was on the site of bad Native American and European interactions. The atmosphere was so hostile that she and her sensitive friend had to run outside every intermission and catch their breath. A close friend of mine is an empath. I seem to have a talent for finding and befriending pagan-leaning people. (And GLBT people; the two often go together. I suppose that's another story.) I can do this, but I couldn't tell you if I have a guardian spirit or not. It is a limitation I find incredibly frustrating -- yet I am afraid of trying to climb that wall, because of the scary and dangerous crap that may happen on the other side. This is a common theme in my life.

Perhaps I should explain a little. I was an acutely anxious child. Pretty much anything new was terrifying just because it was unknown. And then depression crept in at puberty. Real life just hurt too much. So what did I do? I wove a dense cocoon of not-feeling around myself and retreated inward, into subworlds I created. Those, at least, were mostly under my control. It took incessant needling from a friend (Byakko) to poke a hole in that cocoon, then tear it open. She urged me to have opinions, where before I had none. This was a good thing, in the end, but gods, it hurt. Her influence, going away to college, and the people I met there helped me shrug off the heaviest of the threads. (And Celexa. Let's not forget the correct antidepressants.) But while I was within...Well, if you ever find a version of Tolkien's Mirkwood while astral-walking that features a red-haired elf-guard, let me know. Even at the time I realized it was an elaborate metaphor for my own depression and/or my entire mindscape, but I sunk almost four years of my life into that place. It wouldn't surprise me if it's still around somewhere besides my own mind (and Byakko's to a degree). I'll elaborate on this in another post...possibly under M for Muses.

I emerged from that experience incredibly soul-tired, and bitter. I realized I could not live entirely in my own head anymore. Either I could have internal awareness, or external awareness -- not both at once. And I opted for the latter. So maybe you can understand why I am reluctant to make an effort to, in a way, throw open that door again.

So how do I practice? I keep an eye out for coincidences that may actually be more than that, and follow my hunches. I balance this awareness with common sense. For instance, I see crows every day. This does not mean that The Morrigan is trying to contact me. I might think so if they did something unusual, and, say, in a group of three. And I'd follow it up with good old-fashioned research, to see if anything else stood out. The gods/spirits can still reach me. They just have to be louder about it. For example, I was intrigued by Hekate, but figured she'd want nothing to do with me, or that I had no reason to petition her for anything. It took a piece of art, some moths flying like cinders under a lamp, and a thunderstorm all in one day to convince me otherwise. :)

Maybe I'll have a breakthrough someday. Until then, I'll just muddle along, same as always.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


So today stuff happened at work. I got in trouble for one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations, the manager scolded me, and I cried -- after the phone conversation was over. But I still think my course of action was right; I refuse to reward anyone who threatens and whines like a bratty kid, no matter how much money they'll spend.

My point is, Hekate warned me. Today I gave her a dried apricot and some incense in addition to the honey of the last two nights, in thanks. I also rearranged the stones in front of her portrait, because the previous pattern was no longer needed.

I cannot quit my job immediately, but I will redouble my efforts to find other employment. The last of my sense of obligation snapped free today.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pagan Blog Project 1: A is for Altar Overhaul

Well, I was planning to talk about something else for my first Pagan Blog Project entry (maybe I'll do that for the second "A" prompt), but today Hekate, who had been lurking about, thumped me over the head with a piece of art I found at a local Pagan shop and demanded a spot on my altar. Mine has felt stagnant lately, so I obliged.

(A photo from when I first set it up in February. In the course of the last few months, it fell into disrepair. I wanted to change it, and fitfully shifted stuff around, but nothing felt right.)

I worked by intuition. I moved the shell moon and sun windspinner down to be more a part of the altar space, instead of a wall decoration. Thus I wound up with a day/night theme. The moon neatly coincided with where I put the Hekate devotional. The Athena owl statue got moved back to Sunlitgarden's and my shared space; there wasn't a spot for her. I have a hunch she didn't want to be too close to Guanyin or the Lady of the Crossroads. I hope Athena isn't too annoyed...

(On the upside, she got her own little offertory dish.)

Here are a couple of shots of what it looks like now.

Full view.

Light side. I made the 3-point wooden symbol myself. The pieces lock together in a kind of puzzle.

Dark side.

(...I think I made an energy grid. From base to top, left to right: the copper and hematite tangle I made, something dark with translucent white spots, blue tiger's eye, red jasper, A MASSIVE LUMP OF HEMATITE, and red tiger's eye(??) banded with black & grey. All I know is it's for Hekate, as are the three candles. I have a hunch the grid has something to do with the path ahead. Forgive the shitty photo.)

(Other objects used, clockwise from bowl: a chestnut, a piece of rose quartz for Guanyin, a clay pendant with a spiral on it I made in gradeschool, serpentite, a glass shard, and an unidentified greyish-purple stone. And a new wand.)

I found a wand today, too. It is carved from Hornbeam, which is a plant I do not believe I have actually seen alive. I spent more money than I intended, but it called to me. The wood is wonderfully pale and smooth. Wikipedia tells me it is nicknamed "ironwood" for its density. According to the description on the tag, "Hornbeam is a lucky wood. It brings good fortune to the bearer. This wood is the bringer of change. It helps promote love and creativity." And, "Hornbeam helps promote creative expression, eloquence, and art of all types. It aids in opening a person up to their full potential." Fitting. I would have chosen it anyway, but...yeah. I could use some change.

Before today, I felt burdened by the expectations of others, and my own unfulfilled wishes. They hung like a huge weight over my head. Now, I feel like things could move soon, in my favor. Maybe it has something to do with giving a little money to the Ganesh statues at the store. That, and I had a good outing with Sunlitgarden today. ^_^ We so rarely get the same days off work, it's a treat to go out and do things together.

Postscript: One more thing. At the Pagan shop, Sunlitgarden, a Bast follower, found an adorable plushy of her Goddess.

(Isn't it the cutest thing?)

With my super serious Hekate image, there was a lot of deity in the car on the drive home!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Second Introduction

Today I signed up for the Pagan Blog Project. Another introduction is in order.

I AM A DEWY-EYED, GLASS-HEARTED NEWB. Expect naivete, trepidation, and heaps of self- doubt. Actually, those last two are everyday traits of mine...I could have just as easily called them "healthy amounts of caution and common sense."


Why the name Sunstone?
     Back in my mid-teens, this girl and I were very close. I'll call her Byakko or Byakko-chan, because that's what she goes by on the internet. So Byakko went away for a week or two to visit the Redwoods in California. She bought me a gift there: a small pouch of tumbled, clear yellow rocks, billed as "sunstones." Later I learned that they were probably citrines, but the name stuck. They look more like solidified sunlight than the true sunstones, anyway. I consider myself more of a solar/day-aligned person than one of the "night" (in all its connotations, except "evil": shadowy, dark, mysterious, et cetera), though I try to balance the two.

 Also, as you may have already guessed, I like rocks.

What Gods/Forces/Entities do you work with?
1.) Athena.

I've been poked by her several times in my life. Here's an example: while reading Pagan Holiday: On the Trial of Ancient Roman Tourists by Tony Perrottet, I felt like she was looking over my shoulder during the chapter on Athens, saying, "Are you paying attention? You are learning something about me, yes? Good." I think of Her as both the personification (deification?) of the city, as well as a standalone goddess. She is the voice in my head urging me to become better and more focused in my artistic pursuits: the intellectual side of the creative drive. She also demands that I stand up for myself. Though I often fail at that, I greatly admire Her inner strength. I wear a little owl necklace when I feel I need protection from the sticks and stones people randomly throw at me at my job (retail). The jewelry isn't necessary, of course, but it's a nice physical reminder. :)

2.) Kuanyin/Kannon/Avalotitesvara (esp. the first "face"). I first encountered Her/Him in a Chinese Art History class. As part of an assignment I visited the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which housed a life-sized wood statue of the Bodhisattva. That statue...had such a presence. It radiated kindness and calm. I visited several times throughout the quarter and afterward, and I always spared a few minutes to sit in front of it. Sadly, it left for several years to tour its homeland (China) and other parts of Asia. (Sad for me, that is. I imagine the statue quite liked visiting where it came from.) I do not know if it has returned, yet. For my everyday needs, I recently bought a statuette and placed it in a lotus-like candleholder. I get much the same feeling from it, so it's a good little conduit.

     Kuan Yin touches me on the head from time to time, to remind me to calm down, step back, and view the bigger picture. She also gently reminds me to be less harsh about others, especially those who annoy me, because there's more to that person than I can see. In that respect, she is entirely different from Athena, who prefers Justice (of the Tarot sort). But until I can install shelves on the walls of my home, those two will just have to share altar space. Like this:

Besides, I think it would be tough to rouse a being of pure compassion to rivalry. I am imagining Kyuan Yin offering the feisty Greek goddess a cup of conciliatory tea. It is a somewhat humorous picture. (I am now wondering if I should give the Bodhisattva an offering of nice tea -- it's calming to me, at least. I'll look into it.)

I think I will save writing about fictional (book/TV/movie) characters as potential spell-guides for another day.