My blog has moved!

I’m over the moon– has offered to host my blog!

The new blog, Shekhinah Calling, went live earlier this week. Here’s a link to the first post:

Welcome to Shekhinah Calling!

This blog will eventually redirect to the new one, but I don’t know if that affects people’s WordPress readers, so I wanted to post an announcement first. If you have my blog listed in a blogroll (thank you!!) I’d greatly appreciate it if you updated the link and the name.

See y’all at Patheos!


Getcher $68 Crystals Here! Crystals, $68 a Pop!

Native Appropriations‘s Facebook page posted a link to this Death and Taxes article:

I have always said that Free People reminds me of a ’90s era hippie shop of the sort that sold a lot of broomstick skirts, incense and tarot cards– except, you know, 10 times more expensive. Now, it seems, they’re really leaning into that with the concept of an online “Spirituality Shop.” Which may not be new, I don’t know, it’s not like I’m keeping tabs on the Free People website or anything. But it sells a lot of crystals and dreamcatchers and tarot cards and pretty much all the sticks you can handle.

But yeah. It is a “Spirituality Shop.” From Free People. Let that roll around in your mind for a minute before we start in on this vision quest.

Image: three small crystals hanging in raffia macrame.

Sixty! Eight! Dollars!

Click through to see some of the items for sale. They are…remarkable. My jaw hurts from dropping so much! My favorite items are the $68 hanging crystals that you could make yourself for about 10 bucks and an E-How video on macramé.

It’s easy to just snark at this for a minute and then congratulate ourselves on how authentic our own spirituality is, but I think it’s worth discussing the ways artisanship gets mixed up in capitalist cynicism and mass production. Most of the Free People stuff is purportedly made–or at least designed–by an artist named Catherine Costanza, although much of it is variations on Indigenous art and spiritual tools. The “cosmic stick” and paulo santo clusters with amethyst tacked on (do customers know you have to take the crystal off to burn the wood?) are pretty ridiculous, but some of the items–the moon chime things, the aforementioned hanging crystals–are actually kind of nice-looking. As in, if I picked one up from a flea market, it would liven up a room.

Here’s what I think:

1. It’s interesting when an artisan, whether or not they’re selling through a larger company, feels empowered to charge farcical amounts of money for objects one could cheaply and easily make themselves. On the one hand, the artisan deserves credit and compensation for a solid concept and good craftsmanship, and if their work is valued, they should be able to make a living off of it. On the other hand, these kinds of prices are only viable in a system in which people feel powerless to make things themselves and/or want the status associated with buying a particular brand. (Then there’s fast fashion, which is the new underbelly of status, but that’s a whole other post.)

2. Artisans aren’t always noble homegrown folk who just love making beautiful things. They can be charlatans peddling snake oil. They can be just as cynical as huge corporations. I’ve never met Catherine Costanza so I’m not going to make guesses about her intentions, but it’s good to remember that “handmade” does not equal “honest.”

True story: once I saw an artist, in a pop-up shop curated by a major museum, selling little scraps of handmade paper with letter-pressed dotted lines on them for–wait for it–$95 each. Because they were art, you puny mortals. The only conclusion I could draw that would keep my mind in one piece was that the shop itself was performance art.

3. The appropriation of spirituality is running amok, as usual. I doubt the majority of people buying the Free People crap actually intend to use it for magic or cleansing or healing or whatnot; they want it because Witchcraft and Shamanism and All Things Native American are in vogue right now. The aesthetic is cool; the lifestyle is not. Case in point: about a year ago, Bust Magazine published an article by Callie Watts about her efforts to become a “real witch.” She made an athame out of a letter opener (legitimately cool) and led a few rituals. At the end of the article, she proclaimed herself a Witch; however, she also rushed to assure her readers that she didn’t actually believe in goddesses or magic or anything like that.

4. Even when things are pretty, even when they’re useful in our magic, we need to own fewer things. Period. A personal collection of meaningful objects is fine; roomfuls of trendy dust catchers are not. A small handful of crystals is probably okay; people have been using beautiful stones for millenia. But we can’t tear apart ancient caves just so everyone can play shaman for two months and get bored.

See? I can take artsy photos of sticks, too.

See? I can take artsy photos of sticks, too.

About a year ago, I found a beech twig lying on the ground beside its tree. I asked the tree if I could have it, thanked it, tied some ribbon around the twig, and consecrated it. Behold: my current wand. It’s much more beautiful and dear to me than anything I could buy in a store. Someday it’ll likely break or get worn out, or maybe I’ll pass it on in a power object exchange. Knowing my time with it is finite only makes it more special.

I am so very glad I didn’t pay the price of a flight to Oakland for it.

The Glorification of Busy

From Chio on Black Girl Dangerous:

It can be easy to forget that the University still functions as a capitalistic machine, extracting all of our energy to the very last drop until we are dwindled bodies, robotically producing. In this sense, it does well in preparing us for the capitalist job market. I ask that we remind ourselves of this, and question whether we are willfully participating in, and internalizing, the ways capitalism associates our human worth with the amount of production they can extract from us.

I think most people will acknowledge that Capitalism has infiltrated Witchcraft on a superficial level: magic trinkets for sale, Wicca starter kits, dozens of almost-identical 101 guides, bins upon bins of tumbled stones and mass-produced candles. I think one could even argue that Capitalism gave Witchcraft a significant boost. It’s a disturbing relationship: without Capitalism, Witchcraft wouldn’t be so diluted, declawed, compromised, and commercialized…but there’s a significant chance that a lot of very talented Witches might never have been able to access the resources that help them come into their power. I’m not sure I would have ever come across Witchcraft if someone else hadn’t found my calling profitable.

What I’m really interested in is how Capitalism infiltrates Witchcraft on a deeper, more insidious level. What would my Witchcraft look like without myths of scarcity or obsessions with production or the constant specter of competition? What would it look like if I had more energy and free time? What would it look like if I had a different conception of myself, uncoupled on every level from the toxic fetishization of the “career?”

What would it look like if I didn’t live in a devastated, flattened, poisoned environment? If I were able to be outdoors more often? I spend a lot of time moping around my living room because it’s too hot to go outside and even if I toughed it out, the cityscape offers little that’s restorative. Even the streams in the few scattered regional parks have dried up. Everything in Los Angeles wilts, exhausted, before it dries into dust.

I dream of a future in which all beings are allowed to be unapologetically, authentically ourselves.

Stillness within, Power Without

I have depression, and I’m under treatment. Luckily, my current (and hopefully permanent) treatment is very good: Wellbutrin, mindfulness meditation, and a kickass therapist. Nowadays, when I enter a low period, I can recognize it for what it is instead of being destroyed by it. I can recognize that it’s biochemical and that it’ll pass.

But it still hovers around me like a fog. I fight thoughts that I’m a bad Witch and a bad Pagan because of it. Because if I really were such a magical and intuitive and connected being, if I really did have a couple of deities that cared about me, then I would feel fantastic all the time, right?

Right? the depression says. Right? If anyone loved you, you would feel perfect all the time.

* * *

I had a power candle and Hermes took it away.

The long version of the story would give me carpal tunnel, so the short version: I was called, possibly by the Morrigan, to burn a candle to foster personal power. I turned the specific types of power I needed into a sigil and dressed the candle with mugwort and juniper and cinnamon. It was a big purple pillar candle. I was going to burn it for a few minutes each night and re-dress it each Monday. I knew a candle isn’t how you get power, but I liked the ritual of it, the way the sigil looked underneath the herbs. I was doing it because it was beautiful. And for a week, while I burned it, it worked.

Then I asked Hermes for a favor. I burned him some incense in thanks, but he decided to take the candle, too. Or, to put it mundanely: that night I lit it and forgot about it, and the whole thing burned down to a puddle of wax.

What’s interesting is that technically, the spell is complete. It wasn’t interrupted–it was expedited by the god of speed. I know enough about magic not to expect instant results. I’m not incredibly upset that the spell ended this way. But I do miss my pretty candle.

* * *

I had an insight a few days ago:

Power within, stillness without.

Stillness within, power without.

I know I’m not the first person to ever have this insight, but I liked the way it was phrased. Power and stillness go together. Power and turmoil do not. If someone is screaming and yelling and hissing and spitting, they are revealing how little power they have. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an opportunity to look at oneself honestly.

* * *

A few weeks ago I was attacked by a tiny handful of very loud people for offering an interpretation of the Morrigan’s pre-battle shriek as an act of nonviolence. I felt like I loaded the interpretation with as many disclaimers as I could, and I thought it would be obvious that I wasn’t denying the Morrigan’s more bloodthirsty aspects. I really thought I was just offering an interesting reinterpretation of one aspect of a complex goddess.

If my crime was not being clear enough in my writing, then I take full responsibility for that crime. I come from the Jewish tradition, in which unconventional interpretations are tossed around all the time because experimentation is how you come to understand a text, but of course I’m not writing for a Jewish audience.

Here’s the thing, though–

The level of vitriol leveled at me seemed to suggest that people found the idea of a nonviolence-practicing Morrigan offensive. I found myself put in the ludicrous position of feeling like I had to praise violence. “Don’t get me wrong,” I was supposed to say. “Violence is awesome! I’m no fuzzy-wuzzy gaia-worshiper! Gimme blood and death any day of the week! Yeah, baby!”

I don’t know exactly what Peter Grey means when he refers to “dark fluff,” but that term feels apt here. Here’s some truth: despite its lovey-dovey reputation, nonviolence is infinitely scarier and more difficult than violence. It is so easy to punch someone in the face or lash out at them on a blog. It is so easy to shout someone down, call them names, shoot them in the chest, drop a bomb on their city. It is not easy to defend yourself and your community without perpetuating a cycle of bloodshed and misery. It is not easy to calm your impulses and dig to the root of a problem.

Does that mean the Morrigan isn’t violent? No. The Morrigan embodies both our highest acts of bravery and our darkest acts of horror. Because she is war and that’s what war does; she is battle-frenzy and that’s what battle-frenzy is. If a human warrior can nonviolently resolve a conflict one day and lose control and slaughter another person the next day and go wild with grief and guilt the day after that, why wouldn’t a goddess be capable of the same multitudes? A deity embodies their sphere of influence, and any sphere that’s reducible to three or four simple attributes is a sphere that isn’t really worth its own deity. Yes, deities are usually summed up with a short list of keywords, but each of those words is a map of a vast landscape.

Or, to look at it from a different angle: if, let’s say, the body of a deity is made up of their followers, then those followers must necessarily be diverse. If everyone engages with a deity in exactly the same way, then that is a deity with a thousand left feet and nothing else. What the hell is the use of such a deity?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most vicious commenter shrugged off issues like Gaza and Ferguson as irrelevant to spiritual work and too big to take on. That, to me, is the pinnacle of dark fluff. I suspect that the people who are the most excited about the Morrigan’s bloodiest aspects are the very people who would turn and run from any real fight.

I am a devotee of the Morrigan, and the language she speaks to me is the language of nonviolence and eco-justice. That doesn’t mean I feel worthy of the title warrior every day, or even most days. But she has her reasons for reaching out to a Reclaiming Witch, and denying the messages she’s giving me is a disservice and an insult to her. If you can’t handle my practice, if you think a deity has to speak the same language to every devotee, then you are a child with too much time on your hands. If you call yourself a warrior but are uninterested in fighting any battle of consequence, then shame on you.

* * *

That’s all been festering for weeks, but I’ve finally released it. I’m done.

Power within, stillness without. Stillness within, power without. I know I snapped at at least one person during the fiasco because I felt like a cornered animal. I wrote the above partly so that I wouldn’t have to silently carry it anymore, but I know parts of it are harsh and I don’t claim to feel very powerful. It’s liberating to know that you don’t have to be perfect, no matter what the demons in your head and the voices on the Internet tell you.

* * *

I did save the wax from the power candle. The sigil and the dressing are still in there somewhere. I have votive molds and wicks. Maybe the spell isn’t over yet; maybe it won’t be complete until I burn all of the wax. In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. I’m really doing this spell because I love doing spells.

Here in Los Angeles, the campaign for a $15 minimum wage has moved to the petition stage. I plan on volunteering and I’m gearing myself up for a long, hard fight. I don’t relish the thought of getting yelled at on the street. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit this into my already-bursting schedule. I’m dealing with the inner conflict of knowing that, in the face of global Capitalism, a higher minimum wage is a tiny band-aid on a mutilated body. I know the fight for a higher minimum wage is one battle in a vast war. But here, in my city, it’s an important one.

Writing helps lift my depressive episodes. I feel better having written this post. These words are one moment in time, a blip in my lifespan.

Back into the fray. Be well, be loved, be powerful.


A quick note: I’m closing comments on this post because I don’t want to revive any of the arguments that took place on and around the original post. If you need to respond, please feel free to do so on your own blog. If you’re bothered by the fact that I’m not allowing you to criticize me or defend yourself in this space, take solace in the fact that I’m not allowing any praise, either.

Forbidden UPG

“Years ago, it used to bother me when some of the spirit worker folks would relate their own doxa about Her and I would realize that it didn’t match mine, at all. Now? I figure the gods can tell Their stories differently, and show Themselves differently, to different people, just as They please.”

Yup. If it makes you SO! VERY! ANGRY! that someone has an experience with a deity that differs from how you understand that deity, then it’s worth figuring out where that anger is coming from. Is it actually anger that you’re feeling? Or is it fear and insecurity? And how do you think you look if you let that fear and insecurity control your actions in a public forum?

Embodying the Wild, Confronting Death

I was just pointed, by way of Rhyd Wildermuth’s post on climate change, to Peter Gray’s “Rewilding Witchcraft.” Here are a couple of the best quotes:

We are living in a mass extinction event. This is not a theory. Over half the species on earth will be extinct by 2050. Let me repeat that fact: over half the species on earth will be extinct by 2050….If your witchcraft, like mine, speaks with animal spirits, is made from plants and flowers and roots and bark and seeds, it cannot continue to pretend that we are not suffering. It has to speak. It has to lament, it has to cry, it has to then be unreasonable. We need to be intimately acquainted with death, as these are the rites over which our witchcraft presides, not some nudist holiday camp capers predicated on a glut of cheap oil.

Some will be afraid of this knowledge; witchcraft should be liberated by it, liberated from petty concerns to pursue lives of beauty, liberated from the sleepwalking into death that our culture has made for us and our children. So I counsel, confront death. For witchcraft to be anything other than the empty escapism of the socially dysfunctional or nostalgia for bygone ages, it needs to feel the shape of its skull, venerate the dead and the sacred art of living and dying with meaning. We are all on the fierce path now.

Please, please read the rest.

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

1. Coru Cathubodua, the Morrigan priesthood, talks about the Morrigan’s call taking the form of “an unusual number of corvids (crows and ravens) in your waking life.” When I first read that, I laughed. Los Angeles is filled with crows. Our soundscape is crows cawing over the din of the freeways. Vast swaths of our coastline will disappear with the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets. We currently have enough water to last the next 12-18 months. The crow is LA’s power animal: the image of my city’s impending decay.

2. Tomorrow I’m flying, with my husband and daughter, to New Hampshire for my husband’s family reunion. It’s an utterly ridiculous journey–we leave tomorrow morning, spend the entire day flying and then driving to a resort in the forest, and we’ll stay for two full days before returning on Monday. Yes, we are flying across the country for a weekend trip. I didn’t want to go; I dreaded the stress of traveling with a toddler for a “reunion” that happens every two years, but I never said anything to my husband. I thought that his desire to take part in the reunion trumped my desire to obey common sense and stay home. I traded my sovereignty for what looked like superficial peace. Later it turned out that he felt roped into it, too.

If we didn’t live in an age of gluttony, where even the most outrageous whims must be accommodated and a trip like this looks tame in comparison, there would have been no question of us going.

3. My witchcraft ebbs and flows. Sometimes I get it. I sense the spirits of my plants. I see gods in the sunset. My dreams contain premonitions.

Other times, I do nothing but read Pagan blogs. Skip my devotionals. Look at brooms on Etsy. I feel gross and uninspired. I want to rewild myself, but I need to overcome the obstacles of my job, my urban landscape, and the lethargy they encourage.

4. On the Morrigan again: as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Morrigan presents herself to me primarily as a goddess of the land–particularly the wilderness–and I’ve been having trouble making my perception of her fit into her established domains of sovereignty, battle, and prophecy. But now I think I understand. Sovereignty, as we know from the myths, is bestowed by the spirits of the land. The land chooses its occupants, even if its time scale is so slow that it looks to us like the bad guys won. We’re killing our habitats, killing ourselves, and thus relinquishing our sovereignty as a civilization, and the Morrigan is meeting us in the liminal space we now inhabit. Just as she guided the souls of warriors to the realm of the dead after battle, perhaps she’s guiding our civilization to its next iteration. People say they hear her call because a battle is coming. I agree up to a point: I think the battle began decades ago, and we should be prepared for what comes next.

5. With that said, I don’t think things are hopeless. I go on raising my child and planning for the future. I don’t think humanity is doomed to extinction–but our way of life certainly is. Who knows what the earth and its inhabitants will look like in five hundred years?

Pagan Blog Project: Offerings

A few weeks ago I was invoking East for an esbat when I let the word “worship” slip. “Join us,” I think I said, “as we worship and make magic.”

Since my coven works within the Reclaiming tradition, we make up most of our invocations on the fly. I was just saying what came to mind. I didn’t think anything of it. But later that night, one of my coven-mates brought up a gentle objection to the word. “We don’t worship,” she pointed out. “We work with deities, not for them. They’re our partners, not our bosses.” Everyone nodded, although no one looked at me. It’s possible no one else even remembered the invocation. Still, I felt embarrassed.

I completely understand why Witches and Pagans shy away from words like “worship.” Worship is a Christian thing, right? It’s what you do if you’ve been brainwashed into thinking you’re powerless and flawed. It’s what you do when your god is an authoritarian dictator, easily enraged, thirsty and desperate for praise. Right? That’s what worship is. It’s unhealthy. It’s degrading.

So then why did the word come to me in my invocation? And why don’t I regret saying it, even after my coven-mates took issue?

A few days ago Jason Mankey published a post on Patheos about The Wind in the Willows, and its portrayal of Pan as “the Friend and Helper” with an “August Presence.” He quoted this well-known and beautiful passage:

“Rat!” he found breath to whisper, shaking. “Are you afraid?”

“Afraid?” murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. “Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!”

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

To me, that sounds like a very different kind of worship: an act performed not out of a sense of obligation, but out of reverence and awe and love for beings much bigger and older than us. When we forget that sense of awe and see deities only as partners–or, as I see far too often, life coaches and personal cheerleaders–we not only cheapen and probably offend them, but we diminish the benefits we get from working with them.

I’m not afraid–and yet, O, I am afraid! is a feeling I know very well. It’s a beautiful kind of fear. It’s a sign that your animal instincts are picking up on the presence of A Very Big Thing. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would even go so far as to say that if you’ve never felt even a tiny bit shaken up in the presence of a god, then you have never truly perceived that god.

It’s that reverence that moves us to give offerings to our deities.

When I ask a god for help with magic, obviously I try to give them something in return, if I feel it’s appropriate. (Some deities and ancestors just like to help, and it feels wrong to pay them off.) A glass of wine. Some flowers. A homemade cookie. It depends on the deity and the magic. But I try to give something.

Most of the time, though, I give out of the sheer joy of giving. I try to give milk to the Morrigan semi-regularly by pouring a jar of it into my garden. When I’m out in nature, I sometimes arrange some stones or flower petals into a circle as a hello. (The first time I did this, I soon came upon a bigger circle of stones on a part of the trail I’d already passed. I hadn’t heard any signs of other people around.) Giving gifts feels good. I marvel at the feeling of peace and contentment that comes over me when I tip that jar into the soil or place that cookie on my altar.

And when I think of giving offerings, I think of bigger offerings, too. I think of offerings of service. I think of myself as an offering. I have told my gods that I will do their work. I haven’t gotten an assignment yet, but I wait and try to be patient.

Sometimes I destroy my offerings: I bury the cookie or throw a piece of bread into the fire. Other times–say, if I’m offering something I’ve harvested from my garden–I’ll leave it on the altar for the god to eat and then take it and cook it for dinner. I go by intuition.

Our relationships with our deities are allowed to be complex. We can be supplicants one day and partners the next. Our minds are as flexible as our gods, and they can hold multitudes.

May your offerings bring you closer to the gods you love the most.

Pagan Blog Project – Nature Goddess: My Morrigan

I had a post all planned for the Pagan Blog Project’s M week. I was going to write about the Morrigan. I was going to pour out everything I’ve been ruminating on for the past several months, as I’ve studied her, spoken with her, gotten to know her, dedicated myself to her. I was going to bring in Kali, crows, the significance of the color black. I was going to talk psychology. It was going to be a very long post.

But I got so tangled up in what I was trying to puzzle together that I missed both deadlines and barely looked at my blog for two weeks. I was so afraid I’d say something stupid.

We’ve had a guest staying with us this week, and I haven’t been doing my devotionals. I haven’t been lighting my incense or burning my essential oils. I’m afraid the smell will waft downstairs or the guest will hear me whispering and I’ll have to answer questions. The Morrigan isn’t impressed, but she’s been patient.

I have, though, been tending my garden. In my garden I have tomatoes, zucchinis, sunflowers, strawberries, lemons, nasturtiums, lavender, basil, mint, rosemary, and jasmine. Hey, sometimes a plant even produces a fruit or flower or two! Much of the time the garden is a source of frustration and stress–why are the lemons dropping again? Why is the zucchini dying? Why does the mint taste bad?–but it’s also a place that calls to me. It’s just a few pots on a patio but I’m drawn to it. I’m compelled to examine each flower, touch each leaf, whisper “welcome” to each new seedling. It’s where I commune with Cernunnos. It’s where I blow kisses to the moon. It’s where I drum while my daughter dances her funny toddler dance. And it’s where I give the Morrigan her offerings of milk.

I tried to see her as a battle goddess, as a sovereignty goddess, as a psychopomp. I tried to meditate on war and violence and colonization, thinking she had wisdom to share with me. And I know she does. But despite all that, when I think of her, all I can think about is nature. Wild lands. Hidden spiders. Twisting vines and running water. Green growing things.

I expressed in my hymn that the Morrigan fertilizes the grass with blood. This is true. Life comes out of death, and Morrigan is the one who culls, who splits open the body and disassembles it. The Morrigan doesn’t always fight on the right side, the Indigenous side or the side with nicer people or a better cause. Every body is of equal value to the Morrigan. that’s her mystery.

Cernunnos turns corpses into trees; the Morrigan supplies those corpses.

I always feel like I have to apologize for the fact that, for me, the Morrigan is primarily a goddess of the earth. For me, it’s not just one of her aspects–the fertile ground that becomes the battle field–it’s her fundamental aspect. The aspects of battle and sovereignty and prophecy and magic are offshoots. It’s the face she shows me, again and again and again, even when I try to find the others. She’s no gentle mother goddess, though–she is fierce and possessive and untamable. Her love is the love of a mama cat hissing and clawing to protect her kittens. Her love is the crow dive-bombing the hawk.

For awhile I thought I should take up a martial art as service to her. But I just have no interest in martial arts (except maybe archery). And yet she calls me incessantly. In a dream, she was teaching me to dance. The wild places make me want to dance. Tonight, on my roof, I danced by my garden, twirling in my sandals. I have no interest in warfare.

She’s the thorn on the squash plant that makes you pay for your dinner. She’s the hideous spider who bites you and keeps beetles from wrecking your plants. She’s the tree who falls on the person who didn’t deserve it, the frenzy that allows the fighter to win, the tingling of precognition, the rush of inspiration that turns into a poem, the feeling of hauntedness in the dark that is terrifying and beautiful. She’s the one-eyed hag who smiled at me during trance work, before I ever learned that Cu Chulainn put out her eye. She is my anger and my courage. She is my fierce, unapologetic love.

Nothing I’ve written here captures what she is, because she can’t be expressed in words.

She is the river and the field and the rooftop garden, the Great Queen, the crow, the horse, the eel, the wolf, the cow. She is death, death, death, and life, life, life, life, life.

New Patheos Column: Jewish Witch!

Everyone! Drop what you’re doing. I AM FAMOUS NOW.

I mean, sort of? I have a new biweekly column on called “Jewish Witch,” in which I write about the aspects of Judaism I’ve incorporated in my practice. This week I wrote about my journey to, away from, and back to Witchcraft; in two weeks I’m going to write about sacred garments!

Here’s the link:

It is super awesome!

Lepidolite is my Spirit Animal

I’ll admit, I’m not totally on board with the whole crystal magic thing. Partly I have really bad associations with crystals and polished stones; when I see them I think of the New Age movement, of flaky spirituality, of metaphysical quick fixes and superstition and people who claim a different “spirit animal” every week. (I really hate the term “spirit animal.” If you’d like to know why, kindly follow this link I found in two seconds on Google.) I once saw a documentary that showed New Age practitioners stuffing crystals between the stones of Mayan pyramids. The locals, as you can imagine, weren’t impressed.

Partly it’s the cost and luxury associated with owning even one crystal or polished stone, let alone several, or dozens, or hundreds. As Marian Green points out in A Witch Alone, crystals have to be harvested from the caves and veins in which they grow, and a crystal doesn’t grow back as quickly as a sprig of rosemary. We are tearing ancient caves apart in order to peddle rocks at metaphysical shops. I cringe when I read about people grinding up rubies and drinking them. It’s a matter of scale, of course. It’s not a huge problem when there are a handful of crystal balls here and there…but when every single Witch, Pagan, magician, or New Ager needs to have an entire collection of stones in order to work? That’s not magic. That’s not spirituality. That’s Capitalism urging us to hoard more, more, more.

This isn’t to say that I automatically disbelieve that crystals and stones each have distinct magical properties. I haven’t really investigated it. I haven’t weighed the evidence. I’ve used a couple of stones in charm bags, but of course it’s impossible to say whether the stones themselves had inherent powers or whether the effect came from the spells I worked into them.

I do have one small slab of selenite that I absolutely love. I picked it up in a shop one night and felt a rush of goodness go through me–the endorphin feeling I get when I hold something with a lot of power in it. My understanding is that the gypsum crystals are relatively common and easily formed (after all, they do dissolve in water, which lessens the likelihood that any particular one is a million years old), so I didn’t feel too bad about buying it.

Anyway, lepidolite.

I first came across lepidolite when I was wandering through a health food store. There was a small bowl of tumbled lepidolite stones, each costing 5 bucks, with a sign saying they helped with depression. The depression sign made me look twice–I was between medications at the time, and hurting–but it was the stones themselves that really made me stop.

Oh, lepidolite is beautiful! Look! Look at this stuff!

A hunk of rough lepidolite in various shades of purple.

A polished lepidolite egg in a stand.



Have you ever seen a finer lookin’ piece of mica.

I didn’t pay 5 dollars for a tumbled rock–this was in Westwood, where everything is out-of-this-world expensive. Parking for twenty minutes at the meter will cost most people about half a year’s salary, and you need to get an escrow agent to buy lunch. But I did develop a love for this stone.

Might it help with my depression? Well, the good news is that I later found an effective medication, so I’ve gone a few months without a crash. I do now have one small piece of lepidolite, which I’m planning to turn into a necklace. At the very least, it sometimes it serves as a little power object: something I can hold in my hand while I breathe, and calm down, and promise myself that as bad as things get, they always get better.

As for stones in general–I’ve enjoyed collecting rocks since I was a kid, so of course I have a few modest crystals and tumbled stones. Some pyrite, some amethyst, some rose quartz, the selenite. The way I see it, though, is that one appreciates beautiful objects more when they’re at least a little rare. Their beauty is actually a case for buying fewer of them. Do you want to get bored with your crystals, and find yourself buying more and more in order to compensate? Wouldn’t you rather restrain yourself until you find that perfect little stone? Would you rather have a dozen crystal wands that you never use, or one that you cherish?

Knowing where our traditions and technology come from, knowing what’s genuine and what’s manufactured, help us keep them authentic and alive.