I See a Black Moon Rising.

Well. Don’t see, more accurately– when a black moon’s in the sky this Friday, it’ll be more about what you don’t see than what you do.

Moon and orange clouds.

What is a black moon? It’s basically the dark equivalent to a blue moon. A blue moon is the second full moon in a month, while a black moon is the second new moon. Sometimes, the phrase “black moon” is used to refer to a month without a full moon, a month without a new moon, or the third new moon in a season with four of them. Unlike astrological phenomena like Mercury being retrograde (which happens about four times a year), a second new moon in a month is very rare– the last black moon of this type happened in March, 2014.

Needless to say, if you’re a witchy type who times your magick to lunar and planetary cycles, this is a pretty special spot in the calendar. Some witches consider the blue moon to be twice as potent as a regular full moon for performing lunar magick, while others consider it no different than any other full moon (calendar months are, after all, a human invention). The black moon is a little more controversial– some hold that you shouldn’t do anything magickal when one is in the sky, while others feel that dark moon magick (like banishing) is more powerful then. The period immediately following this special dark moon, when it’s still a tiny waxing crescent, is also held to be a more powerful time to perform magick for new beginnings or drawing things to you.
In essence, a black moon is held to be either a superpowered version of a regular dark moon or a time for rest.

Do you time things with the phases of the moon, or do you find yourself working more spontaneously? Are you planning anything for this year’s black moon?

 

Misadventures in Going Green: The Confidence Cactus.

I looked at the sad remains of my poor African violet. Beside me, a friend’s girlfriend attempted some consolation.

“What you need,” she said brightly, “Is a confidence-boosting plant. You need a cactus!”

I had moved into a place with a nice, big bay window in the front. Perfect for growing plants (or so I thought)! Research by NASA shows that plants can play a role in improving and maintaining indoor air quality, making them a fantastic way to remove invisible toxins like toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air without requiring electricity, filters, or ozone-producing ionizers. Plants that filter the air– how much more green can you get? Of course I wanted to give it a shot.

Which is what led me here, looking down at my poor violet. I’m not even sure what had happened. Too much sun? Too little? Too much water? Not enough? Shock from being moved from a garden center to my living room?

Determined not to give up, I took her advice. I didn’t just get a cactus, though– I did my homework. I read about cacti until my eyes ached. I looked up ways to identify the most commonly-sold varieties, how to fertilize them, how often they’d need re-potting, everything. I put more research into this plant than most people put into raising their first child. I was ready.

I was so ready.

I was so ready.

Unfortunately, one of my other room mates was not.

She was pretty, but dumb. Slender, red-haired, with sparkling blue eyes and a ready smile, she had already managed to be the bane of pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down and on fire. Someone’s bottle of prescription lithium, a quarter pound box of MiracleGro, the cat doots in the litter box… Somehow, all of them ended up left in chewed remains on the floor. Siberian huskies are sweet, pretty dogs, but they can be enormous pains in the ass.

You can probably see where this is going.

Somehow, she managed to eat the cactus. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I came home to find a prickly, chewed-up murder scene in the middle of the living room (and a dopey-smiling dog at the front door). It didn’t seem to do her any harm, but there was no saving my poor plant– the one that was supposed to renew my faith in my ability to nurture plant life.

“Okay,” I thought, “Clearly it was my mistake for assuming that A) half-inch-long thorns would be a deterrent to this dog, or B) her owner might have been inclined to train her not to eat everything in the interim. I will do better next time!”

Cactus pots.

Totally going to do better.

I put my next cactus in a lizard terrarium. It was a small, round plant with soft, hairlike thorns– nothing I’d have to worry about injuring its scaly room mate. It also had the benefit of timed grow lights and a built-in thermometer and humidity indicator. Now, nothing stood between me and successful horticulture!

So, let me tell you about crickets. They’re pretty much the standard in live reptile food. Most insectivorous reptiles won’t bother with dead prey, which means that keeping lizards generally entails learning how to keep crickets. This is easier said than done.

A lot of the nutrition in an insect is in its stomach contents. An entire industry has evolved around providing them with the best nutrition to hopefully benefit their future predators. Unfortunately, when provided with a bowl of fresh food specifically developed (after years of in-depth research) to appeal to crickets, fresh water, and a tiny sign saying, “FREE FOOD!!! YUM!!! CRICKETS PLEASE EAT HERE OK,” they’ll proceed to eat the cardboard box they came in, the paper towel they’re sitting on, and each other. And then promptly starve to death.

So, what I’m saying is, they ate my freaking cactus. I returned home from work, stoked to see how my new plant was doing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing at all– its freshly hollowed-out corpse was now a bustling insect housing development. Somehow, I was living in a house where literally nothing was safe. Somehow, this place was less capable of sustaining life than the Sahara.

With my dreams of clean air and horticulture twice dashed, I gave up rather than subject more plants to the trial-by-fire that was my living room. It wasn’t until years later that I attempted to keep houseplants again… but that’s another story.

 

 

Channeling the Inner Goddess: Wikihuh?

Since moving to the city, I’ve found myself a little under the weather and bereft of excitement (ironic, huh?). I haven’t exactly been able to be the social butterfly or creative dynamo that I want to be, and I figure it’s time to shake things up a bit.

According to the New Age movement, I need to channel my inner goddess.

“Channeling your inner goddess” is, as far as I can tell, a vague statement in the same vein as “living authentically” and “being centered.” Plenty of people can tell you it’s a good thing, but there isn’t really a concrete how. For the most part, being in touch with one’s particular internal deity allows you to be more relaxed, more intuitive, more creative, and happier.

And boy oh boy, are there a buttload of ways to go about doing it.

The Wisdom of Wikihow

For my first foray into getting in touch with my innermost goddesshood, I figured I’d hit up a repository of all of the world’s knowledge– from “How to Make Your Own Holy Waterl” to “How to Pass Gas in Front of a Girl”— to figure out a solution to my problem. How can I channel my inner goddess from the comfort and safety of my computer chair?

Wouldn’t you know it, Wikihow has the answer. Two answers, even. One of which is “do absolutely nothing.” Score!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. According to this, I need to find my inner goddess through drawing attention to my best features, smiling a lot, avoiding stress, and being happy (which appears to involve becoming a chocoholic serial killer). I don’t wear makeup, I smile all of the time, if I tried to relax any harder I’d never be conscious, and if I was happy already I wouldn’t need this advice to begin with.
Is it just me, or is “channeling your inner goddess” is beginning to sound suspiciously like “getting your crush to notice you?”
Hmm.

Relief carving of Sekhmet.

Sekhmet doesn’t have these problems.

 

So, plan B. I’m going to do absolutely nothing!

The second part of this Wikihow guide involves the wu-wei approach. I’m unfamiliar with it personally, but the internet tells me that it’s a Daoist philosophy that involves going with the natural flow of the universe. It involves spontaneity, but not the kind of manic pixie-ness usually conjured up by the word– it’s more of a response to what the world throws at you. Adaptability. I can dig it.

So I’m going to chill here for a bit, see if I can align myself with the natural flow of the cosmos, and figure out how much closer it’s put me to my goal.

Brb.

Did It Work?

Okay apparently the cosmos really wanted me to eat a toaster waffle and read a comic book about Fraggles. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the universe will think it’s a rad idea for my laundry to get done, but I’m not holding my breath.

Do I feel particularly goddessy? Not really. (Unless goddesshood also feels kind of like indigestion.)

So, it looks like the way this piece of Wikihow advice is supposed to work is thus: you go with the flow of the cosmos, realize trying to control anything is hopeless, relinquish your desire to achieve inner goddessness to begin with, and just go do whatever you feel like. While going with the flow and doing what feels right to you in the moment might be pretty solid advice in most situations, I don’t think it’s going to help me here.

Maybe YouTube has some answers…

j. Reads “The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit”

Note: I was recently given the opportunity to read and review a copy The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit, by Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman. I received no compensation for this review beyond a digital copy of the book, and all opinions are my own. This review contains some affiliate links to purchase the book, should you be so inclined. Thank you for helping to support this site!

The Book of Sacred Baths.

I’m a big fan of baths in general. I use them medicinally to help relieve pain and anxiety, and I use them in a ritual context as either preparation for spiritual work or as a ritual unto themselves. So, you can probably guess that I was pretty stoked to be asked to review The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit!

The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit is a sort of practical guide blended with a recipe book– it tells you the reasoning behind the practice of spiritual bathing, followed by some easy-to-follow instructions for beginners. Generally, books on witchcraft and new age practices tend to fall into one of two camps: they either offer a base of esoteric knowledge intended for experienced practitioners, or function more as lists of simple recipes for those without enough experience to craft their own. As a resource, this book straddled the line pretty well. Experienced practitioners who haven’t deeply explored magickal bathing will come away with a better understanding (and hopefully enthusiasm) for it, while new ones will have a list of magick bath ideas they can put into practice immediately.
Author Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman.

Author Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman.

I found the author’s background particularly reassuring. Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman is a psychologist as well as an experienced new age author, so she knows her stuff in the realm of the mind as well as the metaphysical. Considering the number of witchcraft and Pagan resources I’ve seen offer dubious advice, it was nice to have something from someone whose experience with health and the human condition bridges the line between the clinical and the spiritual.

I would have enjoyed more discussion of the herbs and stones chosen to accompany each bath, and I felt a little underwhelmed by the section on baths for health (possibly because it was the one I was looking forward to the most). I would have liked to have seen a variation or two on Archangel Raphael’s Healing Waters Bath versus bath rituals for self-love (which I thought felt more at home in the Baths for Your Love Life section) and drinking more water. Fortunately for anyone who may feel the same way, there’s enough of a knowledge base here to make it pretty easy to develop your own rituals and recipes following the same overall format.

Ultimately, I’d recommend The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit to anyone interested in exploring sacred or magickal baths. I think it’s a particularly neat find for people who have trouble fitting their practice into their schedule, feel like they’ve hit a slump, or need to keep their practice hidden. Had I not been offered a copy of this book in exchange for my review, I can say with confidence that I would have purchased it myself.

What do Poltergeist, The Omen, and 3 Men and a Baby Have in Common?

Let’s talk about movie ghosts.

I don’t mean ghost movies. I mean straight-up, weird-shizz-is-happening, how-did-that-kid-end-up-in-that-shot ghosts and curses– the stuff of Hollywood myth and legend.

There are a number of films where the supernatural seemed to play almost as much of a role in their cachet as the acting, writing, and cinematography, giving rise to endless urban legends. Three of them strike me as particularly notable: The well known supernatural horror flicks Poltergeist and The Omen… and 3 Men and a Baby. Follow me on this.

poster for the movie poltergeist

First, Poltergeist. For people well-versed in ghost lore, it might seem like an oddly named movie– poltergeists (from the German poltern, “create a disturbance”, and geist, “ghost”) are said to most often inhabit homes with preadolescent girls, and tend to be annoying and mischievous, not violent or dangerous. Unfortunately, the Poltergeist curse is anything but mischievous– in the wake of the series’ creation, multiple cast members have died in mysterious, violent, or unexpected ways. According to some sources, all of the actors involved in the series have died. Is it because of the subject matter? Is it because the scenery used actual human skeletons?

Whether the skeletons had any feelings on the matter or not, most of the stories about the Poltergeist curse aren’t true. There are definitely cast members involved with the series who’d be surprised to hear about their untimely demises, and those who did pass on didn’t exactly do so in mysterious ways. While some of the deaths may have been untimely (and all of them were tragic for the families involved), it’s hard to pin them to a curse or malevolent supernatural entity. At least, unless there’s a malevolent supernatural entity whose idea of revenge is giving old men stomach cancer.

Why is it notable? It’s pretty much the standard when it comes to Hollywood ghost stories. There’re probably more tales of the weird, spooky things that’ve happened in the wake of the creation of the Poltergeist series than any other movie.

the omen movie

Next, The Omen. It’s a story about the birth of the antichrist, so it’s already pretty ripe for some very weird stuff, right? From lighting striking planes, to plane crashes, to two bombed buildings, to an animal handler being eaten by lions(!), it seems that it received more than its fair share. That’s not the strangest thing, though.

The strangest stories surrounding The Omen involve how it seems to replicate death scenes from the movie itself. One of the stuntmen, on his next project after The Omen, suffered a fall akin to that experienced by Damien’s nanny. A special effects artist saw his companion decapitated in a car accident. A man was the victim of a shooting in front of Guildford Cathedral.

While they’re certainly creepy stories, are they coincidental? Probably. There’s a natural human tendency to notice things that confirm our preconceived notions, and not notice those that don’t. While the people and places involved in the making of The Omen have experienced a lot of misfortune, what about those who didn’t? Or the accidents that didn’t quite match up to any scenes in The Omen? And how many other people on movie sets have experienced weird, tragic, or violent happenings that weren’t involved with a horror movie? It’s tragic, but animal handlers suffer bites and attacks pretty frequently. The IRA blew up a lot of buildings during that time period, most of which had nothing to do with movies. People are gunned down pretty often, too. All told, it’s hard to say that “The Omen curse” isn’t actually “The Omen really-sucky-set-of-coincidences.”

Why is it notable? When it comes to curses, this one’s probably the one that makes even skeptics shudder a little. Even though the things that happened are probably  coincidental, that’s still a lot of really, really strange and violent happenings.

 

Lastly, we’ve got the 80’s fish-out-of-water comedy 3 Men and a Baby, starring Tom Selleck, Steve Gutenberg, Ted Danson, and probably a whole mess of babies. The story surrounding this movie has to do with the filming location– allegedly, a kid who lived in the building in which it was filmed shot himself accidentally with a rifle. Images of his ghost appear in scenes in the movie, along with one chilling shot that looks like the silhouette of a gun.

There’re only a few problems with this.

  1. There was no building. The entire movie was filmed on a sound stage.
  2. The image of the kid looks conspicuously two-dimensional.
  3. He’s got a seriously outrageous mane of hair.
  4. The images of the gun look to be flat, misproportioned, pointing straight up, and hovering in mid-air.
  5. The “kid” is actually a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson’s character in a top hat and tails, and the “gun” is part of his tuxedo jacket.

And yet the old story about the dead kid in 3 Men and a Baby gets trotted out every time the movie gets mentioned, even after both Snopes and The Straight Dope debunked it.

As pointed out here with the help of the Snipping Tool and MS Paint.

As pointed out here with the help of the Snipping Tool and MS Paint.

Is the movie less interesting without a spooky story attached to it? Judging by some accounts, the studio certainly seemed to think so– there are rumors that the story was cooked up to drive VHS sales. At least nobody actually had to die, though. Can you imagine having your specter doomed to haunt the backgrounds of 80s comedies?

ghostmov1

… Nah.

Definitely not.

Definitely not.

I mean, really.

Why is it notable? To me, it’s easily the goofiest and least plausible and yet still gets mentioned frequently. The “ghost” doesn’t look like a kid, it looks like a flat picture. There wasn’t even a real house that a hypothetical shooting could’ve taken place in, guys.

Do you know of any other Hollywood urban legends? What freaky happenings surround your favorite movies?

Plants, Rocks, and Pagan Radio Apps

Note: This post contains some affiliate links to some products. I was not compensated in any way for writing these reviews.

I’ve got a Kindle Fire, and I might as well be umbilically attached to it. I use it to help me sleep, to set reminders to take my meds, for reading difficult-to-see texts, and as a way of aiding my incredibly dodgy short-term memory. I’ve reviewed stress-relief apps from Amazon before, and I was pretty stoked to see that their app store had a selection of resources for Pagans and witches.

Are these apps useful to the average practitioner? Like anything else, they seemed to be a pretty mixed bag. I checked out a bunch of them, and here’s how I felt they fared:

 

81 Magickal and Healing Herbs
Price: Free
Rating: 0/10

I wanted to like this. I really, really did. I’m big into developing one’s personal associations with herbs and other ingredients, but I still know the value of a good list of herbs when I see one. This is not it. I could get past the annoying classification of herbs as “masculine” or “feminine” (there are other ways to phrase those concepts, guys, I swear). I could even get past the fact that the app seems like it was made just to redirect users to the maker’s Amazon shop.
Nonetheless, I had to give it a big, fat goose egg.
Why am I being so harsh? Someone relying on this app for information could die.
It should go without saying that anyone thinking of using herbs medicinally should do their homework (a lot of homework) about them first, including discussing herbal remedies with their doctor. That said, this app purports to be a healing resource by its very title, and advocates making herbs into teas for “healing illness.” So why is it also advocating the use of ingredients like comfrey and wormwood for stomach disorders without a warning about their potential toxicity? Why is mandrake tea even a suggestion?!
Paradoxically, it does include a safety warning for angelica root and holly, and a couple of generic “use with caution” disclaimers on some other herbs. The lack of consistency leads me to believe that this may have been paraphrased (or possibly even directly taken) from information that appeared elsewhere. The inconsistency is disappointing.
Do the plants listed in this app have a long history of medicinal use, both internal and external? Sure. Unfortunately, the space dedicated to each one is not nearly large enough to properly educate people on them. A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.


Wiccan & Witchcraft Spells PRO
Price: $1.99
Rating: 3/10

So, first off, bonus points for separating “Wiccan” and “Witchcraft.” Not all Wiccans practice witchcraft, and not all witches are Wiccan. It’s a small thing, but I feel the distinction is an important one.
This app is a resource for spells, moon phases, and the like. It’s pretty good for what it is, especially for new practitioners. There are a couple of issues that made it a poor fit for me, personally.
I didn’t think it was very well organized. It didn’t seem very intuitive. It also relies heavily on outside sources, which isn’t a big deal if you only intend to use it when you have wifi. I greatly prefer apps that I can use wherever I want, so I didn’t like being limited by a lack of internet access. It also feels suspiciously like a grouping of links and widgets, and I’m not sure that’s worth $1.99 to me. Other users’ mileage may vary.


Guiding Light Oracle Cards
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
Rating: 7/10

The company Indie Goes puts out a lot of oracle apps. While these aren’t strictly a Pagan or witch thing, I know a lot of practitioners use them as a meditative aid, for clarity, or to help work through challenging times. While these oracle apps are generally high-quality, don’t let the price tag (or lack thereof) tempt you too much– they can get expensive. A limited number of cards are free to use, but the rest will run you about six bucks. Much cheaper than a printed deck, but still good to know.
Some people criticize oracle cards for having generically uplifting messages, and I get that. I can definitely see how that would be frustrating to deal with in a prognostication tool. I don’t really treat these the way I would a tarot deck, so that wasn’t necessarily a negative for me– if you’re using these cards to meditate on or prompt yourself to view your situation in a different light, “generically uplifting” is by no means a bad thing.
I also really dig the artwork in a lot of Indie Goes apps. They’re easy to use, pleasant to look at, and they’re good at what I use them for.


Moon Phase Pro

Price: $.99
Rating: 10/10

This is another app that can probably be filed under “Pagan adjacent” along with the oracle cards. Even if you moongaze regularly, moon phase apps are helpful for planning things. You want a calendar? It’s got a calendar. You want more information? It’s got a tab that’ll give you orbital data. I’ve had this for awhile, use it often, and it’s never frozen, glitched, or done anything weird to my device. This app is inexpensive, easy to use, doesn’t contain adds, and shows you a nice, clear, no-messing-around picture of the current moon phase.

Galaxy Crystals
Price: $2.99
Rating: 6/10

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m big into developing one’s personal associations with ingredients but can still recognize the value of a good list when I see one. This app is a pretty basic overview of some common minerals, their associations, and their use. One neat feature is the ability to see herbs grouped by their use, color, tarot card, western Zodiac sign, and more. I also dug the ability to draw a crystal at random the way one might use an oracle card. All told, this is a pretty solid app for a beginner.
I do, however, have to take off some points for grouping crystals by ailment without providing any kind of qualifying statement about their use. Even though I feel that magick can have an important place in holistic healthcare, it bothers me a lot when healing resources fail to point out that stones, energy healing, and other alternative therapies are only parts of that picture. If you have a condition like asthma, broken bones, heart disease, or AIDS(!), please don’t rely on stones to save your life.

The Complete Essential Oil Encyclopedia
Price: $2.50
Rating: 9/10

This is another witchcraft-adjacent app, but it’s one I’ve found to be extremely useful. You know all of the complaining I do about resources that don’t provide adequate safety information? This app does it properly. There is a section devoted to oil usage and safety, and contraindications are listed in each oil’s profile.
I was initially put off when I saw a heading that said, “Essential Oils for Cancer,” but the author qualified this by explaining that oils may help with the emotional aspects of the illness and the chart was not a substitute for an oncologist. This guide does not appear to advocate that people eschew actual medical treatment for serious conditions. Sadly, that’s really refreshing at this point.
If you’re looking for a list of oils purely by magickal association, you may want to look elsewhere. This won’t tell you what to put in your prosperity blend, but it will tell you whether it’ll give you contact dermatitis if you wear it.

Wicca Radio International
Price: Free
Rating: 0/10

I’m not sure if this is Amazon’s mess or the app makers, but I couldn’t get this to work. It downloaded fine, didn’t freeze when I opened it, and I managed to navigate each link easily enough. Unfortunately, I kept getting “Error accessing audio file” each time I tried to play something. (The ads, however, loaded just fine.)
According to the creator, this app has been tested and all stations work without skipping. On Amazon, it’s listed as being for the Fire Tablet. I don’t know. This might work fine on a phone, but it doesn’t seem to play well with my device at all.

So, after delving through all of these apps, it looks like Pagan and witchcraft apps are pretty much like anything else– some are decent, and a lot of them kind of suck. Many seem to be fronts for shops selling herbs or occult supplies, and that’s sadly reflected in the quality of their apps. Some of them, like Wicca Radio International and Galaxy Crystals, seem like they could be rad if they received a little more TLC. Others, like 81 Magickal and Healing Herbs, leave me wondering if the creators ever cared about creating a quality product to begin with.

Do you have any Pagan or witchcraft-related apps you use regularly?

Free Hits! (But Are They Worth It?)

If you’ve owned a website for more than ten minutes, you’ve probably seen websites proclaiming “!!Free Twitter/Instagram/Facebook Followers!!” or “Free Site Traffic!” I know I definitely did, and it made me extremely curious. How do they work? How do they afford to keep running? And are they worth using to attract new traffic?

Short answer: Weirdly, I’m not sure they do, and no.

For the long answer, I signed up to a couple of these sites. One site offered free Twitter followers, so long as you allowed their website to hijack your feed to advertise for them occasionally. (Needless to say, I ran the other way.) Another was a “follow for follow” kind of deal, which works pretty much the same as putting “Follow for follow!” in your actual Twitter profile, only with more adware. Another site offered free site traffic if you clicked on other people’s sites. Seems simple enough, right?

The low down is actually a little more complicated. After all, these sites have to cover their operating costs and try to turn a profit. So, the way these free hits and followers really play out is this:

  1. You look at a long list of websites or Twitter accounts.
  2. You choose which to click on or follow.
  3. You earn some kind of site-based currency for each click or follow.
  4. Having your site or account appear on this list and receive attention costs X amount of this currency.
  5. You can bypass steps 1-3 by simply buying the currency for actual money.

 

Okay, fair enough. Free traffic is never really free, right? As long as the traffic’s good, who cares? This is where the system begins to fall apart.

One thing you’ll notice about the sites in these lists is that a lot of them are for web-based businesses that are pretty cookie cutter in nature. For example, in a half hour of site-clicking, I saw the same site about bitcoin mining products twelve times. Each of these twelve sites were owned by different people, but all of them had the same text (including typos and grammatical errors), layout, colors, everything. I’ll come back to this in a second.

Another thing you’ll notice is that these sites and accounts aren’t organized at all– they’re just a big list. Occasionally, you might luck out and find a site that has a tagline or description attached to it. Otherwise, you’re blindly clicking on things you probably don’t care about. And so is everyone else.

A chicken.

Seriously. Give this chicken a keyboard with one button, and she could probably do the same thing.

This means that, at the end of the day, your site is going to see a spike in traffic. That spike is going to last for all of a day, and then go back to exactly what your traffic levels were before. This is because people who’re just trying to drive customers to their bitcoin mining product pages probably don’t care about your content– they just want to click on something, get some currency, and turn it into more hits. Odds are, they’re not even looking at your content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re just farming the clicking out to freelancing websites for $1-2 per thousand clicks. You aren’t going to see any repeat traffic from this.

Have you ever heard the saying that, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product?” It’s true here. You’re going to end up blowing through your currency very quickly, but that’s by design– these free traffic websites want you to realize that their setup is only good for a very small, brief spike in traffic. If you want to get better results (or continue getting any results at all), your only options are to pay them actual money, or spend hours clicking on their random links like a jonesing lab monkey.

So, are free hits or followers worthwhile? Not really. I didn’t expect them to be, and was frankly surprised at the tiny spike in traffic I did see. If you’ve just started your site, store, or blog, it might be tempting to try hitting up one of these services to get yourself past the initial slump of providing content that nobody’s reading (yet). Don’t do it. Your time and money are too valuable for what they’re offering.

In Which I Experience Ted Cruz/Guy Fieri Erotic Slash Fiction.

So, Ted Cruz. If you don’t know of him, he’s an American politician who some people say may be the Zodiac Killer, and who may best be known for behaving as though several alien cuttlefish found a drifter’s corpse and are making unsuccessful attempts to use it to communicate with actual people.

Then there’s Guy Fieri. Best known as a celebrity restauranteur with Smashmouth hair and the slick, shiny appearance of a boiled sausage, he has appeared in things ranging from television shows, to a (now defunct) website entirely devoted to photoshopping his courtroom sketch into famous works of art, to clips of him eating backwards:

(Incidentally, if this video’s a little tough to stomach, you might want to skip the rest of this entry. Just FYI.)

In a stroke of mad brilliance, Lana In Macando posted a piece of erotic fiction starring questiohuman man Ted Cruz and well-oiled meat balloon Guy Fieri. This is a very long preamble, because I’m attempting to delay having to act on the fact that I told a friend I would live-blog it.

Anyhow. I bring you “Frosted Tips.” Let’s do the thing.

The story opens up with a truly believable and moving description of Cruz– his disdain for the fleshy undulation of Midwestern tourists, the curl of his flesh-mouth, his attempts to out-human everyone around him. You really feel his confusion and discomfort. His attempts to wallow in human delights can lead him only one place… Flavortown.

We cut now to Fieri, occupied with admiring his unctuous body films in the mirror. There’s a hint of the supernatural here, as he seems to detect Cruz’s approach without heating or seeing him. Is this going to be more than a sticky-fingered, Donkey Sauced hookup in a broom closet? Yes, this could be interesting!

I could have lived without the simile likening Fieri’s testicles to “sour cream-laden triple-loaded baked potatoes,” however.
I think I might need to drink a ginger ale and go lie down for a bit.


Okay!

Gotta keep plugging through.

Cruz finds himself in Fieri’s restaurant, experiencing a stirring in his loins and heart. I’m kind of surprised the Cruz-organism has parts analogous to a human’s loins and heart, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief here if it keeps me from having to think about it for longer than a picosecond.

Oh crap the authors are describing mouths. “Wet, narrow sea worm of a tongue.” “The white ooze that had congealed [on his lips] in his panic.”

No, no, no, no, n


Round three.

Mercifully, the reader is spared too vivid a description of the act itself. I’m less inclined to believe that this is for any kind of propriety’s sake than it is because describing the various fleshy dongles and gibbering orifices Ted Cruz uses during copulation is beyond the abilities of a mortal author. Either way, I’m happy I don’t need to hear anything else about mouths.

Instead, there’s a paragraph describing thrusting, Donkey Sauce, and Fieri being a bottom. Not nearly as bad as I initially assumed.

“THIS IS WHAT WE DESERVE!”, they omitted from their mouth holes. “WE HAVE TRULY LOOKED INTO THE ABYSS AND LOOKED BACK AT OURSELVES!”

God help us all.

 

Misadventures in Going Green: The Coconut Oil Fiasco

To a lot of people, coconut oil is the stuff of legend. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, heals cuts, soothes skin, moisturizes, keeps skin looking young and supple, prevents split ends, tastes amazing, and is purported to be a healthier source of fat than animal fats. It’s solid at room temperature, which makes it a pretty decent base for balms and creams, but melts easily on your fingertips. It’s inexpensive, lasts for a decent amount of time without refrigeration, and you can get it from pretty much any grocery store.

So, when I wanted something to replace my old moisturizer awhile ago, I figured I’d give it a go. It’s cheaper, purportedly has a healing effect on skin, and was about six bucks at Sprouts. Sold!

green coconuts, coconut

I don’t have any pictures of coconut oil’s effect on my skin (you’re welcome), so here are some coconuts.

 

Now, coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which is why it solidifies at room temperature. It’s also reported to be highly comedogenic, meaning that it clogs pores. My skin isn’t room temperature and I planned on applying it and then tissuing off the excess, so I didn’t think I’d have to worry too much about the oil contributing to clogged pores. I’d used other oils on my skin before (Diamox can be extremely drying), so how bad could it be?

Answer: bad. Like, bad-bad.

The first few days weren’t, of course. I applied a little bit around my eye sockets, which would allow it to moisturize my eye area as I slept. I also applied it only to the areas where my skin tends to be the driest– my forehead, the corners of my mouth, and the tops of my cheeks. I even gave my arms and legs an occasional rub down with it when they got a little dry. And, as I mentioned before, I was always careful to tissue off the excess. Unfortunately, coconut oil didn’t give a damn– I broke out virtually everywhere I applied it.

Now, normally when my skin breaks out, it’s for one of two reasons. I get tiny, itchy, rashy-looking pimples when I’ve come in contact with something I’m allergic to (ranging from certain antibiotics, to some synthetic fragrances, to skincare products containing citrus), and I get deeper, cystic pimples when I’m experiencing hormonal shifts or extra stress.
These were neither– just red, angry, painful spots.

I’m aware that it’s possible for certain oils to bring about a kind of “healing crisis” in skin (i.e., the “purging” experienced by a lot of people start using jojoba oil), where things get worse before getting better. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really a “getting better” for me– it really seemed like the coconut oil was clogging my pores and stopping right after the “getting worse” part. I’m old enough to start worrying about wrinkles, and here I was breaking out like a teenager!

In the end, I switched back to using jojoba oil, occasionally adding argan or maracuja depending on what my skin seems to need at the time. Oddly enough, I don’t experience any problems using coconut oil to make deodorant— even though I have had breakouts with other products I’ve used under my arms, they seem perfectly happy to be slathered in coconut oil. Go figure.

Do you use coconut oil on your skin? What have your experiences been?

 

Quick, Cheap, and Easy Ways to Add Magick to Your Day

Note: This post contains some affiliate links to supplies and stuff. I was not otherwise compensated for mentioning them here. Thank you so much for helping to support this site!

One of the biggest things I see fellow Pagans, witches, and other practitioners complain about is not having time. Life is hectic enough for people who don’t worry about fitting in a spiritual, meditative, or magickal practice alongside everything else they have to do in a day– can you imagine finding the time to cast a circle and get a good chant going on top of that?

For newcomers to the practice, it can be especially difficult to find small ways to fit magick into daily life. There’s a lingering idea that if you aren’t fully turning yourself over to it, finding a block of time in which you can do a lengthy invocation, visualize every step, and go through an entire formal ritual from soup to nuts, you aren’t doing it “right.” In the end, this means that all of the tiny ways a person can fit a little bit of magick in their life go neglected.

These won’t help shift you out of procrastination or sluggishness, but if you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel up for a full-on-chanting-and-circle-casting type deal, I’ve got you:

Load up tealights in advance.

Tealights kind of rock. They’re small, self-contained, and don’t have an outrageously long burn time. It can be kind of time-consuming to sit down, inscribe, anoint, and load a candle before use, but tealights can be handled in advance much more easily than larger candles:

  1. Set some tealights on a flat pan or griddle.
  2. Warm them on the lowest heat setting, just until melted.
  3. Add drops of oil, colorants, or other (candle-safe!**) objects.
  4. Allow to cool and solidify.

A lot of people dislike tealights because they can be very wasteful– all of those tiny cups! Since a big part of my philosophy involves attempting to live and practice sustainably, I have my qualms with them too. That’s why I hunted around until I found these guys from Wicker Wicks. They’re unscented, soy wax, palm oil-free, have lead-free cotton wicks, use recyclable packaging, and even the cups are 100% recyclable. That’s pretty cool.

**For safety’s sake, it’s important to keep tealights on a fireproof surface in a proper container. Some practitioners add herbs to their tealights, but be careful with this– most dried herbs are pretty much kindling (especially after soaking in all of that nice, flammable melted wax!), and some powdered ones can explode. Use your discretion, and don’t leave any burning candle unattended.

Practice “Guerrilla Gardening.”

Seeds carry a lot of symbolic weight. They represent newness and growth, as well as carrying many of the associations of their parent plant. A quick way to do a little magick on the fly is to scatter a handful of seeds into your garden or other green space (if you do it in a park, wild area, or other place plants may “escape” from, be sure to use only non-invasive, native plant species!) while visualizing your intent.

If you have a little more time, you can try making up magickally-charged seed bombs in advance. Carry them along with you, and toss them in an area that could use a little greening.

Burn stuff.

It’s the culmination of a lot of longer spells, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it on its own, and all you need are a fireproof container, a candle, a piece of paper or parchment, and a pen.

Write your intention, a wish, a sigil, or whatever your focus is on the paper, hold it in your hands as you picture your goal manifesting, and, once you feel ready, carefully light it using the candle’s flame. Allow it to burn in the fireproof container, and scatter the ashes outside.

Scatter herbs in front of your front door.

Mix together fresh or dried herbs associated with love, money, friendship, or other good things you want to invite into your home (or protection if you want to keep bad things out of it). You most likely won’t need any exotic ingredients to do it, either– check your spice cabinet.

Once you have them mixed together, hold your hands over them and envision your goal coming to fruition. Scatter them in front of your door as you picture your home’s entrance filled with a welcoming (or protective) light.

Get into kitchen witchery.

Everyone has to eat and drink, right? Most common culinary ingredients have magickal associations and a history of use in spellcraft. Picture all of the meals you create as potions; look up the ingredients you have on hand, and cook with intention and mindfulness. You can even add a little extra beauty to your kitchen with a pyrography-embelished wooden spoon like this one from IndigoSpoons, or this one from ERaDeLCreations.

Clear a room with sound.

Shift stagnant energy and draw positive influences into your space using sound. Either play uplifting songs, sing out loud, shake a rattle, ring some bells, or hang a wind chime in your window that you can touch as you walk past. Even when you’re pressed for time and inspiration, you can make a little noise to contribute to your home’s atmosphere. I really like this crescent moon chime from Raven Blackwood:

Charge a stone, and carry it with you.

Do you have a big day ahead of you? Do you need a little extra confidence or luck? Pick up a stone, any stone, and hold it in your hand while visualizing yourself breezing through whatever you need to do with grace and ease. (For a little added oomph, you can use a stone or crystal that matches your intention.) Place the stone in your pocket, purse, or somewhere else you can easily access it during the day.

On the flip side, if you’re having a bad day, haven’t been feeling like yourself, or just have some bad energy you want to get rid of, you can pick up a stone, visualize yourself filling it with the negative energy you’ve been harboring, and release it into a body of running water with gratitude. Let the elements take away the bad things you’ve been holding onto.

Lastly, make an offering.

Quick magick doesn’t necessarily have to be about you and your goals. Carry some water, a pretty stone, or anything else safe for the environment, and make an offering to something you pass by. It can be a tree, a body of water, an outcropping of rock, or the earth itself. Give with gratitude.