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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: All the Wrong Places

  • Author: Rebecca Fisher
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Rebecca Fisher Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780615418292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615418292

All the Wrong Places is a fictionalized account of the author’s own real life experiences as the single mother of a young daughter who just happens to live in a mortuary. The story begins with the protagonist, Casey, driving aimlessly through the dark and rainy San Francisco night with her daughter Maddy in tow after having left her abusive, unfaithful husband, Jerry.

After crashing her car on a hill and having nowhere else to go and no one she can call for assistance, Casey is forced to seek sanctuary at the nearby Golden Oaks Funeral Home. Here she meets Merman, an attractive accommodating man who lives and works at the mortuary and who eventually offers her a job and a home in the form of an apartment above the mortuary. As she acclimates to her new surroundings, Casey meets a handful of colorful characters including Oliver, a handsome doctor with his own story to tell, and Eddie who defies description.   

Having secured employment and a home for herself and Maddy, as well as surrounding herself with a network of supporting friends, Casey begins the stressful and arduous process of divorcing Jerry so that she can move on with her life and perhaps find new love. With every small victory she claims, Jerry becomes more and more vindictive and determined to take everything away from Casey, including Maddy, because she dared to defy him.

All the Wrong Places is a story that really draws you in once you start reading. The pacing is even and there were no lulls in the main-plot. The few subplots felt neither unnecessary nor did they detract from the overall story. The author does an excellent job of balancing the bits of humor with the seriousness of the subject matter and in just the right places. The legal aspects of the story seemed quite accurate and Casey’s reactions to the process seemed realistic without going over the top.

Although I enjoyed the overall story, I found some plot points unrealistic in that things just seem to fall into place a little too neatly for Casey. However, since this is a work of fiction I was willing to suspend my disbelief. Had this story been presented as non-fiction, I would have had a bigger problem accepting some of the coincidences. The character of Uncle Stanley, the owner of the mortuary, was noticeably underdeveloped as it seemed he was included solely for creating an outside conflict to match Casey’s inner apprehension about working with the bodies of dead people.

Although Casey was a sympathetic character, she seemed unable to take responsibility for her own part in the dissolution of her marriage and her circumstances. She blamed her distant mother, her over-bearing father, her controlling husband but it was she who ignored what was going on around her. She suspected her husband was cheating, she suspected he was a drug-dealer (as it was implied) but she didn’t care as long as the bills were paid. I also find it hard to believe that as the daughter of a lawyer, who was being groomed to become a lawyer herself, that she wouldn’t have had access to any of their accounts or would sign a contract without reading it beforehand.

All the Wrong Places is not a book that I would have typically chosen for myself to read, as I did not feel that I fit the demographic toward which I felt it was directed. However, the more I read it, the more I wanted to read! As a child of divorce who was raised by his grandparents, I identified with Merman and I could understand why he wanted to help Casey succeed. Despite its few flaws, I really enjoyed All the Wrong Places and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to hear Casey’s story.

Carolina Dean

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hoodoo in Review: Road-Opening Soap

Elegba Road Opening Soap
Madrina Angelique's newly designed Elegba Road Opening Soap is handcrafted exclusively from olive oil, shea butter, luxurious oils and authentic traditional herbs and scents. 
Hand poured and infused with divine energy, each bar of Elegba Road Opening Soap is a powerful way to increase your personal power, clear away negativity and purify your body before any magical working. Elegba can remove obstacles, improve communication, provide spiritual protection and bring luck and good fortune. $ 11.00

Commentary: I have to say that I was excited to receive this product from Madrina Angelique as I thought that it was perfect for a personal issue I had been struggling with for several months. 
The soap, which measures approximately 3" X 3", came packaged quite nicely wrapped in a cardboard-like shell and arrived fully in tact with no chips or damage at all.  Though the scent, which I can only describe as "clean laundry" was rather strong inside the box, I found that it was more subtle when actually placed in the open space of my bathroom. When used, the Road-Opening Soap lathers up very well and a little goes a long way. This is not a soap that you will use up in a few baths but will actually last you some time. 

I have rather sensitive skin when it comes to harsh-chemicals and I found that when applied to my body the Road-Opening soap gave me a tingling sensation on my skin and washed off very easily without leaving my skin overly dry or without the sensation of having a film on your skin afterwards as some commercial soaps do. Once rinsed off and out of my bath, Madrina Angelique's Road Opening soap left  me feeling clean, fresh, and renewed. In addition, I found that the scent of the soap lingers on one's skin in a subdued, but pleasing manner. 

As for its purported purpose, well for the past few months I've been struggling with depression, lethargy, and a lack of desire to take an active role in the my own life. Since using Madrina Angelique's Road Opening Soap I have begun to feel my energy returning along with a new sense of interest  and hope in my own life and future. That being said, I would definitely recommend Madrina Angelique's Road Opening soap to anyone who is facing blockages of either a material or immaterial nature and who sincerely desires to break through them and tread the path of success. 

Carolina Dean 


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Friday, July 8, 2011

Where There's Fire....

Smoke Detector Covered in Cling Wrap
As working-witches we often have candles and incense burning in our homes and sacred spaces on an, almost, daily basis. This was fine for the witches of yesteryear, but today’s witches, many of whom rent homes or apartments with very specific rules and regulations, have to deal with technology such as smoke detectors and heat sensors in their home as well that prevent them from burning their candles/incense in the way that they would like.

I know many witches who charge and empower their candles at their altar and then move them to burn in their sink, bathtub or even their stove. I’ve done this myself, for safety reasons, when I have needed to burn candles overnight or while I am not home. However, I prefer not to have to move my candles away from the altar when I am awake and in the apartment. There is a reason that we work at our altars, after all.  

I am quite lucky that I have a two-bedroom apartment which allows me to have a whole room dedicated to my craft, however the three smoke alarms and one (sensitive) heat sensor are in inconvenient places. I’ve known some people who actually take the battery out of their smoke alarms, however, mine are hardwired into the apartment’s electricity and, frankly it is too much of a hassle to do this every time I need to burn a candle or some incense. It is also directly stated in my lease that tampering with the smoke-detectors in any way would be a violation of my lease and grounds for eviction. Therefore, I’ve had to be creative when coming up with solutions.

To combat smoke-detectors I place shower-caps over them while I am burning candles and/or incense. If you don’t have a shower cap handy, you can use a piece of cling-wrap or secure a plastic bag over the smoke-detector with a rubber-band. Typically when I prepare my magickal-candles they will be anointed with oil and then rolled in a mixture of dried herbs. When lit, the dried herbs can cause the flame to flare up and burn really hot setting off the heat sensor. I've learned that instead of rolling my oiled up candles in the dried herb(s), to sprinkle the herbs in a circle around the candle. This way the candle burns more normally and does not set off the heat sensor.

For safety reasons, always remember to remove the shower-cap when you are done burning your candles and/or incense.

Carolina Dean 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MIPC: Granny's Love-Conjure

Angel's Hair
Wild Gander Foot
Turkey Bones
Moccasin Flower 
Boiled Mistletoe
Spell Starter 

Combine the first five ingredients in a small cloth bag, then add the spell-starter and quickly tie the bag shut. Hold the bag to your heart and say the magic words:

"Darling, darling my true love, 
come a swooping like a dove!"

The Beverly Hillbillies
Various Episodes (see below)
1962-1971, CBS 

Commentary: Before I analyze this recipe, I'd like to point out that several episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies center around Granny attempting to perform magic with comical results. 

In some instances such as "Jethro Goes to College" (original air date May 18, 1966) the recipe above is given but no directions are given as to how it is deployed; however, in "Pygmallion and Elly" (original air date November 28, 1962) the above method of deploying the love conjure is given. Nonetheless, in "The Courtship of Elly" (original air date November 3 1965) the love-conjure is actually burned on an open fire and different magic words are used. They are:

"Magic powder, magic brew, 
in the fire and up the flu;
fetch a man and fetch a minister
so poor Elly May won't be a spinster"

When the love-conjure proves too strong, Granny would often blow "Letting Go Powder" in the conjured person's face and say:

"Magic powder white as snow, 
make the conjure spell let go!"

In "Jethro Proposes" (Original air date February 28, 1968), Granny prescribes her "Anti-Love Potion X4" which is said to destroy romance between two people. It consist of a foul-smelling mixture worn in a sack cloth about the person's neck. Although no recipe is given, I would imagine it containing asafetida. Although there is a similar tradition of wearing foul-smelling herbs around one's neck to ward off disease, I have never heard of it warding off "love-sickness".

Now to the matter of Granny's Love-Conjure as given above. The following correspondences have been ascribed to the various ingredients. 

  • Angel's Hair (Convolvulaceae) also known as dodder is a traditional herb used in love spells among the people of the Ozarks. 
  • Wild Gander Foot- At first I thought that this was an example of the Herbal Code and referred to the herb known as Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae). However, I dug deeper and discovered that it is traditional for young men to make a love potion from the powdered web of a wild gander and sprinkle this in a girl's coffee. 
  • Turkey Bones- Like their male counterparts, girls in the Ozarks had their love charms as well. Turkey bones were carried by girls or hidden in their rooms in the belief that they would make a man more amorous.
  • Moccasin Flower- (Cypripedium)- Also known as Lady's Slipper, the roots of this flower are used to make an aphrodisiac. 
  • Boiled Mistletoe- According to Cat Yronwode, mistletoe was used by European witches to make "true love" powder (along with Verbena and Elecampane) and is used in love-drawing mojo bags to protect against love-jinxes. 
  • Spell-Starter- Within the context of the series, spell-starter is an ingredient that activates a spell and makes it go.I could find no reference to this ingredient anywhere, however, I suspect that it may be saltepeter (potassium nitrate) due to the fact that there were many Saltpeter Caves located in the Ozarks (from which the Clampette's hailed) and the fact that Jethro's love-conjure exploded when he tossed the "spell-starter" into a fire.  I liken the saltpeter to the hoodoo practice of blowing one's breath or dropping a match into a mojo bag in order to activate it and get it to working for you. 
Within the context of the show, Granny is said to have learned her magic spells and potions from her own grandmother and it is clear that she has unwavering faith in their power. The use of "magic words" are common among Ozark Witches. In some instances they come from the Bible while in other instances their true origin and meaning have been lost over time. Regardless of their origin these magic words are often passed down from one generation to the next and it is the witch's belief in their efficacy that drive them to work. 

As you can see, Granny's Love-Conjure is surprisingly traditional and I see no reason why this spell could not be used successfully for it's intended purpose!

Carolina Dean 


Saturday, July 2, 2011

MIPC: Spirit-Vessels

The Coffer of Shadow

The coffer-of-shadow is an ornate lead box which resembles a horned-animal with four legs.  It appears  in the 1984 motion picture Supergirl. At the beginning of the movie it is in the possession of an evil sorceress named Selena, who keeps it in a hidden compartment in the floor near her bed. 

When Supergirl accidentally causes the loss of the omegahedron, "a powersource vital to Argo City", she escapes the confines of her home, against her parents wishes, in order to retrieve it. It is explained by Supergirl's mentor, Zaltar, that in addition to providing life-sustaining power for Argo City, the omegahedron has the ability to create the semblance of life, or "a fancy shadow of the real thing."

Through a series of events, the omegahedron lands on Earth where it is found by Selena who believes it to be a powerful talisman capable of allowing her to achieve world-domination. Selena places the omegahedron inside the coffer-of-shadow and quickly learns that it allows her to perform magical feats far beyond that which she is normally capable of.

While on the surface the omegahedron seems to create life, human science cannot explain how the omegahedron works, in fact compared to our present technology it is indistinguishable from magic. However, based on close observation, the abilities listed below can be attributed to the device, though it may have additional powers we have yet to define. They are:
  • to generate unlimited energy.
  • to power devices on Earth such as cars, telephones, lights etc…
  • to convert energy to matter, and matter to energy.
  • convert one form of energy into another (potential energy into kinetic, etc.)
  • to re-arrange matter on a subatomic level.
  • to manipulate and control human biology.
  • to enable travel between dimensions.
  • to manipulate all forms of energy such electricity, magnetism, light, gravity, etc….

With these abilities Selena was able to create fire from her fingertip, teleport another person from place to place, summon an invisible construct of her will, animate and control a bulldozer, force a man to love her, banish Supergirl to the Phantom Zone, remotely view people and activities in her mirror from a faraway distance, and conjure material things out of thin air to name a few. As Selena's ambition and power grows the coffer-of-shadow mutates becoming "bigger and uglier" until it resembles the traditional image of Baphomet

Selena operates the coffer-of-shadow in a few ways. In one instance, she simply places her hands on the coffer, closes her eyes, and focuses on her goal. In another instance she holds the coffer so that it faces an image of her desire (in this case, a man) and calls upon the power inside to "bring him to me." At another point Selena removes the lid from the coffer and directly addresses the omegahedron inside by reciting an incantation to destroy Supergirl. Towards the end of the film, Selena learns to channel energy from the omegahedron into her wand and more directly wield its power.

Ultimately, ofcourse, Supergirl is able to successfully retrieve the omegahedron and return it to Argo City in time to redeem herself and save everyone.

Commentary:  Throughout the film, it seems that Selena's flavor of magic is Ceremonial Magic and in that respect I would compare the coffer-of-shadow to the Brass-Vessel associated with Solomonic rites. However, in and of itself, the brass-vessel is not entirely unique among magical practitioners in that it could be compared to the European Spirit-Box; the Govi of Vodoun; the Prenda/Nganga of Palo; the Geni Lamp in Arabic tales; a mojo bag; or even a spirit-doll.

It would be difficult to compare and contrast each of these types of spirit-vessels, therefore I will focus on those things which they have in common. Each object consist of some type of receptacle inside which an additional object, or objects, are contained. In some instances a few of these contained objects are not only traditional but also required.  For example, a properly prepared and consecrated Nganga will should always contain 21 sticks from various trees, among other things.

In other cases, that which goes inside a spirit-vessel will depend on the purpose that it is to accomplish. For example, a European Spirit-Box calls for quartz crystal and read thread in addition to anything associated with one's ancestors such as their belongings, grave-dirt, cremation ashes, photos, etc..... On the other hand a Solomonic brass-vessel will often require the sigil of the spirit and a drawing of the spirit,  as well as herbs and offerings associated with the spirit. Mojo bags, doll-babies, and spirit-bottles fall into this category as well.

The manners of operation for each of these types of spirit vessels varies from tradition to tradition. However, they each follow a basic order.

  1. An appropriate vessel is obtained and a home is prepared for the spirit inside.
  2. Certain objects are placed inside the vessel that is believed to a) attract the spirit b) ground it on the physical plane and c) provide it with tools it will need to accomplish your goals. 
  3. The spirit is ritually petitioned to work with the magician in exchange for specific offerings and/or the ability to evolve on a spiritual level. 

The process of creating a spirit-vessel and obtaining a working spirit is arduous and can take a very long time to successfully accomplish. There are dangers present in the process such as incurring a spirit's wrath by making the incorrect offerings, unreasonable demands, or simply disrespecting the spirit. In addition, one must be careful to avoid dealing with trickster-spirits who are not interested in assisting you in your magical work.

Again, offerings will vary from tradition to tradition and from spirit to spirit. Ancestors are often given a portion of the family's meal, while other spirits require only a simple candle be burned nearby its vessel. Mojo bags, and doll-babies, are often offered a few drops of condition oil or whiskey.

That being said I believe that the coffer-of-shadow is a fairly decent depiction of a spirit pot. However, it must be remember that it is a fictional depiction of real magical concepts and operations and that should you attempt to create your own, do not expect to perform the same magical feats as show in this movie.

Carolina Dean


Note: Less anyone think I am a plagiarist, I should point out that The Witches Guide to Heaven and Hell is another blog I maintain under a pseudonym. Some content from that blog was borrowed for this entry.