Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Samedi: Curios

The beautiful, sea-blue stone known as aquamarine is an ancient talisman of those devoted to the sea. As I am thoroughly missing the blue water right now, I find it is high time to discuss the crystal most precious to my lwa, La Siren.

Aquamarine, a variety of beryl, has been used as a talisman and made into beads and pendants since the dawn of civilization. Beads of aquamarine have been found in Sumerian and Egyptian burials from as early at 4,000 BCE, when bead making was just taking off as an art form. The stone was thought to ease the soul's transition from life into afterlife, probably a stunning psychological trauma that needed - and needs - all the easing it can get.

The stone has long been believed to enhance psychic power, and is a favorite of those who work in the business of divination. Scott Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, gives a simple yet powerful ritual for enhancing one's psychism and empathy. Place an aquamarine of any size, even the smallest bead will do, in a glass of fresh water and let this sit in the light of a full moon for three hours. Retrieve the stone, which you might want to tuck away wherever you store your divining tools, and drink the water to achieve increased psychic awareness. This ritual can be repeated as often as necessary.

Probably because of its color, aquamarine is associated with seafaring and safety on the water. The Phoenicians, whom the Ancient Egyptians simply referred to as "The Sea People," sent their men out into blue water with amulets of aquamarine to protect them from storms and drowning. Fishermen along the coasts of Europe and North Africa still wear aquamarine for this purpose. Tuck an aquamarine in your luggage, or wear one on your person, when you travel by or over water to safely arrive at your destination.

Aquamarine can also be used in the same ways one would use amethyst. Wear it to inspire courage, calm, joy, happiness and strong relationships as well as keep the mind alert. Bonne chance ~

Header: Orpheus and Eurydice by Michael Putz-Richard via Old Paint

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jeudi: The Art of Beauty

Once again, a picture says more than any writer ever could. The glorious Joyce Bryant photographed in New York circa 1953 by the incredible artist Philippe Halsman. Find out more about this amazing woman, and hear her distinctive, four-octave voice, here. Fashion forward then; fashion forward now. Many thanks to We Had Faces Then on tumblr for the original post.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Samedi: Herbal-Wise

The herb known as Grains of Paradise is extremely versatile. Used in hoodoo, Voudon, and Wicca for everything from getting a job to protecting one's home, Grains of Paradise are also known as African or Guinea pepper grains.

Scott Cunningham says that Grains of Paradise can be used for the simplest kind of magick: wishing. Take a handful of the herb and hold it in both hands while you make a wish. Visualize your wish coming true; take your time here and really see the thing/change you desire. When you are certain your wish has been firmly grounded in future reality, send it off to the Universe by throwing a little bit of the herb to the four directions, starting in the North and ending in the West. This type of magick is a wonderful way to grow your powers of visualization. Start with something small and work your way up to more serious wishing.

In hoodoo, Grains of Paradise are mixed with frankincense and myrrh to encourage spiritual pursuits and protect a root worker during conjuration. The mixture is burned on charcoal and some workers add rue as well. It is said that this mixture added to Crown of Success Oil can make a powerful dressing for mojos intended to help one rise to the height of their profession and/or to draw fame. I would caution, however, that one be careful what one wishes for here.

For piece of mind and spiritual health, one Grain of Paradise should be disolved into a cup of hot water (tea or coffee will work just as well) and drunk daily. This mixture is also said to elevate the mood and make one capable of facing whatever life may bring.

In the early 20th century, Grains of Paradise were recommended for job-seekers. One was instructed to put nine of the grains in each shoe and then to hold another nine grains in the mouth while asking for a job. The grains were then spit onto the ground outside the employer's property as one left. This may not be the best way to approach this working today; try carrying the extra nine grains in a mojo bag and then - perhaps wrapped in a tissue - deposit this into a waste basket on the employer's premises.

New Orleans voodoo root workers would make a pair of protection packets filled with Grains of Paradise. Generally made of red or yellow flannel, a prayer card of Saint Michael was then sewn onto the outside of each mojo. These were secreted near the front and back doors of a house to keep both the structure and the inhabitants safe from all manner of ills. Bonne chance ~

Header: Harrods catalog cover - once a wish book to end all wish books - from the early 20th century via A Harlot's Progress

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Samedi: Chthonian Histories

We were watching The Green Mile last night and I began thinking about the pros and cons, for lack of a better expression, of capital punishment. It has certainly been proven that certain types of offenders, child molesters as an example that fits the topic, are not likely to be "rehabbed". Their rate of re-offense is virtually 100% and considering the lives they destroy, the argument for destroying them holds weight. But, continuing on the theme of the movie, when one sees a death such as that of poor Eduard Delacroix one can easily make a case for deleting the institution all together. Then, too, when John Coffey tells Paul Edgecomb that he's "tired of the pain, boss" we understand. Who wouldn't rather be executed than caged?

All this brings me to the horrific yet curious story of Robert Francois Damiens. Born in a small hamlet in the northern French province of Arras circa 1715, Damiens quite literally never amounted to much. He was apparently dishonorably discharged from the army and then held a series of jobs as a servant or laborer from which he was usually dismissed as well. He was probably bipolar, but who knew of such things then?

Damiens claim to fame, or infamy as it may be, was a half-hearted attempt on the life of King Louis XV. Damiens stabbed the king as he was descending a carriage and then made no attempt to escape. The king was subjected to a mere flesh wound, and perhaps a bit of embarrassment, but Damiens would suffer far, far worse.

Hauled off to a hasty trial, Damiens ranted and raved so much that he was tied down to a mattress when brought before his judges (as shown in the engraving above via Wikimedia). He was quickly convicted of attempted regicide and sentenced to die quite literally by torture. The last days of Robert Francois Damiens and Agnes, the miller's daughter hold much in common.

Like Agnes, Damiens became curiously stoic as the hour - or hours - of his death drew near. In his book Death, A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears, Robert Wilkins quotes from a contemporary source which describes Damiens' honorable behavior in the face of unbearable misery. Damiens had his skin seared with hot sulphur and then the executioner took steel pincers "which had been especially made for the occasion,, and which were about a foot and a half long" and ripped chunks of flesh from Damiens' calves, thighs, arms and chest. The contemporary source goes on to tell us that "though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so..." After this, each wound was filled with molten lead.

Damiens cried out "Pardon my God! Pardon, Lord!" we are told. Wilkins also says that "from time to time he would raise his head and look over his tortured body." He was then harnessed to horses at each limb but to no avail. The horses pulled so hard for well over half an hour that one collapsed in his harness and yet poor Damiens' limbs would not be ripped from his torso. At this point, the prisoner - doubtless in unimaginable pain - asked calmly that the priest standing by say masses for his soul.

After fresh horses were brought in, Damiens' legs were finally torn off. The execution then chopped the prisoner's arms from his body, evidently with a sword or axe. At this point, the executioner pronounced the man dead. The pamphleteer, however, begged to differ:

... the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners said that he was still alive when his trunk was thrown on the stake.

All of Damiens' body parts were reduced to ash and scattered to the four winds.

Damiens remained something of a bogey man in French memory and, after the Terror, it was rumored that Maximilien Robespierre was related to him. There appears to be no validity to this and it seems to have sprung from their only connection: both men were from Arras.

The disgusting yet dignified death of Robert Francois Damiens remains an obvious case of justice gone berserk. Surely unfortunate Damiens could have agreed with John Coffey when he said he was tired of the pain.