Celebrating a Summer of Fire

What a beautiful weekend!  Yesterday there were so many summer events on the docket that it was hard to know what to do with oneself.  I felt a little useless in the morning, still full after our sushi overdose date Friday night.  After the boy went to work at the studio, my friend Bex and I went out for a stroll about town and visited the closest block party.  The crowd was a bit overwhelming, but the bands were good, and we indulged in some brightly colored snow cones that dyed our tongues and made us feel childlike and giddy.  We walked home arm-in-arm as the afternoon sun was growing in intensity.

After Bex headed for home, the boy and I biked down to the full moon puppet show across the bridge, led by a spectacularly wide rainbow that generously appeared despite the lack of any rain.  This month’s festivities were being held outside in the middle of the street, with a stage in front of one of the houses, chairs, blankets and strings of lights draped over the facing lawns, a truck with screen printers parked down the line next to the blacksmith’s anvil, the band on the corner, and the sheep roasting over giant flames signaling the entrance with flare.  There was a bit of theatrics as some industrious young gents worked to lasso a rope over the nearest utility pole so they could string up a giant fabric and metal framework moon over the street lamp.  Their efforts were only partially successful, but unimpressive anyway next to the true full moon that rose just beside its makeshift impersonator.

The children were frolicking about with water balloons, bubbles, ice pops and face paint, all gleefully rolling on the ground in harmony despite the fact that many of them did not speak any shared languages.  It was quite adorable.  We stood around and chatted with friends while Rambo spun northern soul records, waiting for the sheep to be done and the show to begin.  Once the meat was juicy and crispy, everyone queued up for tacos and the entertainment got fully underway.  As the darkness fell further, the hoots and howls from the audience grew rowdier, fireworks were catapulted into the sky, and we all delighted in the bewildered expressions of passing motorists as they slowed and stared at the tattooed, pierced and barefooted congregation, the hunks of glistening meat, and scores of mounted skulls flickering under the carefully orchestrated fireballs shooting from the gas line rigging above the spit.

Eventually the show concluded (on a very optimistic and poignant note!) and we went on our way enjoying the dusk clouds and a bike ride in the moonlight.  We stopped for bubble tea, then spent a few sweat-soaked hours dancing in Dinkytown before grabbing some local pizza with preposterous toppings and finally dozing off around 4 am.

After all the excitement of Saturday, today was a relatively quiet, contemplative sort of day, with contented enjoyment of corn, portabellas, tomatoes and eggplant to celebrate the first fruits of our garden, grilled apricots with ginger syrup and angelfood cake, more bubble tea, and a lot of Griffin & Sabine.  (If you haven’t already read this series by Nick Bantock, I highly recommend it.  It has everything: art, Jung, alchemy, parallel universes, world travel, cryptozoology, timeless expressions of desire, and the thrill of reading other people’s mail.)

Now it’s time to curl up with a book and the boy until the next bout of dreaming carries us to tomorrow, when the boy starts his new job, and I (hopefully) return to mine with a bit more pluck, calm, optimism and courage.

I hope everyone is doing well, and I encourage you all to look for some rowdy independent entertainment in your hometown this week.  Ideally some that includes a lot of fire.

All the best,


Keys in luck, success, and love (and baking!)

Today let’s take a look at the use of keys in the areas of luck and success, as well as keys as symbols in love and relationships!

While digging through American folklore collections for references to keys, I found several allusions to the luck brought by carrying a key on your person like a charm.  If one key just doesn’t seem like enough, three keys on a chain are said to bring you health, wealth, and love, much like the Keys of the Granary mentioned in the last post.

I personally think keys make an excellent magical tool for self-assertion, confidence and success.  For instance, think of the expression “carrying the keys” as having a connotation akin to “wearing the pants,” without the gender inequality implications.  If you hold the keys, you are in the driver’s seat.  You are taking charge, starting the engine on your new ventures, and you have the means to unlock any obstacles and access your utmost desires.

Although a key would make an excellent tool or charm for any new venture such as a new job, a new hobby, or a wish for a new car, the key seems to have extra potency when it comes to luck in a new home.  I read that upon entering a new home, one should bring a key for good luck.  The source of this rule failed to specify whether this refers to a spare key to the house itself (certainly a way to avoid bad luck!) or to an additional key carried solely for its symbolic power.  Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong!

Another bit of related lore stated that you can put green leaves in the keyholes upon entering a new house for good luck.  I deeply fancy this idea!  It’s like smokeless smudging.  The green of life brightens all of those little spaces to allow energy to flow through, and cleans out those crannies where negativity can sometimes get stuck.  Each time you stick in your key, imagine you’re stirring up that green energy and dissipating it about the house, like so much spiritual potpourri.  :)

So, if you’re looking to foster some success in new ventures, try sporting a key charm on a necklace, or slip a specially selected key onto your everyday keychain to open up good luck.

For one last home-y application of the key in luck: when baking a mince or other sort of pie, make the cut-outs of the top crust with a thimble and crimp the edges with an old-fashioned key.  Evidently the superstition behind this practice has been forgotten, but it is thought to bring good luck as well.  Besides, it sounds rather fun. ^-^  When you’re out at the antique store, keep an eye out for different types of old keys so you can use the handles for various styles of pie crust edges.  Be sure to wash them well first.  (*Tip!*  I also read on a cooking forum that once you have made the cut-outs in the top crust with your thimble and covered your pie with it, the holes will have gotten slightly larger, and you can place the small leftover circles back inside the holes for a decorative design, while the gaps still allow steam to escape.  Clever!)

Now, any good folksy witch worth her salt knows that where you find good luck you also find bad.  (Everything with the power to heal has the power to poison, non?)  So let’s take a moment to acknowledge the role of keys in bad luck and bad omens.  Culled from Ms. Arrow’s giant reams of numbered folkloric bits of wisdom:

  1. Put your keys on the table, and trouble will come.
  2. Don’t put a key on a table, or there will be an argument.
  3. Do not look through a keyhole, for you will see the devil.

Yikes!  Okay, kids.  So keys + table = no-no, and don’t go looking through any keyholes (unless, of course, you have a stye, or in case you really *want* to see the devil, in which case, go for it).  I suspect the first two of these three come from the likelihood that keys on a table will promptly be moved, misplaced, or buried and lost, prompting an argument over where your damn keys have gone and who last saw them.  As for the third, well — let’s just say the author of that little maxim probably was doing something behind closed doors that they didn’t want you to witness!


Now onto the good stuff


It’s perhaps not such a stretch to imagine that keys make excellent symbols for use in spells about love and relationships.  How often have you heard expressions alluding to someone having the “key to your heart”?  (If you suddenly have that magnificent keyboard riff from Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” running through your mind, you are a wanderer after my own heart.)

Madonna, helpfully, emphasizes the very sexual symbolism of the key-and-lock scenario that should not be overlooked.  This instantly reminds me of the cover of my dog-eared copy of Pierre Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, featuring the steamy and controversial 18th century Fragonard masterpiece, “Le Verrou”:

The Bolt

All trashy romans-à-lettres aside, keys make for a striking metaphorical summation of the difficulty and joy of relationships, sexual or platonic.  It takes trust to give up the security we use to guard our hearts, and once we do, we invest much in our reliance on the keyholder.  Say you are hoping to “get in good” with someone, and a honey jar is on your list of tactics.  Try charging a key with the energy to represent the key to that person’s good will, and put it in the jar with your other goodies.  A key charm would also make for a touching and, if you choose, provocative gift for a close friend or lover.  Put a small key in a sachet with some sensual herbs and oils, and voilà, you have yourself a mojo mojo bag.

Alternately, if you’re looking to guard your heart from someone who pursues it, try hiding or burying a key, or locking away a written charm of protection in a small box and carrying the key with you at all times.  If you’re trying to learn to open your heart, create a ritual in which you repeatedly open a small lock to get comfortable with the feeling, and if you’re seeking, hang the key in your window for potential suitors to notice.

A special note to those dreaming of lots of little shoes:  Garlic placed in the keyhole of a bride and groom on the door to their honeymoon suite will guarantee immediate pregnancy.  (“Guarantee” was the word choice of the folklorist; I take no responsibility for the failure OR success of this little gem.)  Um… use with caution.  And only with serious consideration, and unreserved consent from the happy couple.

There you have it!  Up next in our key cycle: keys in spiritism, secrecy and revelation!  That’s a lot to cover, so maybe we will split it into two additional posts.  Either way, I hope you join me as we continue to wander through the magical potential of the everyday utensil the key. Until the next post, I wish you happy wanderings and much success in your endeavors.  Now go find a key you like and get lucky!


The Cobbler and the Changeling

Earlier this evening I had two pals over to the house, and we made some delicious blueberry cobbler.  This is one of my favorite desserts, especially when the berries are handpicked, and *especially* when the berries are picked at the height of summer in the mossy swamp borderlands that the moose like to frequent.  Mm-mmm!

While my friends and I waited for the cobbler to bake and we were chatting and munching on cheese and cornichons, my LO came home from the studio with an exciting bit of lore he had heard!

Evidently, some German and/or British Isles traditions say that when you suspect your baby has been taken and a changeling left in its place, the only way to get your baby back is to make the changeling laugh.  And one of the recommended ways to do this (and a fascinating addition to our list) is by boiling water or soup over the fire in eggshells! The theory goes that the changeling will take one look at what you are doing and find it so ludicrous that it will drop its mask and, chortling some comment about never seeing anything like your behavior in 400+ years, its elvish cohorts will sweep in with your baby in tow and swap them out.

Now, I personally find the idea of changelings (and doppelgangers, for that matter) pretty horrific.  I suppose that could be because it symbolizes the frightening prospect that every individual, no matter how apparently good or innocent, has the power and potential to do harm, or perhaps it relates to the fear of being misunderstood or the danger of slander if you’re talking about your own doppelganger.  But for some reason this anecdote about the eggshells makes changelings seem to me slightly less threatening, and I’m rather comforted by the idea of  humoring them into kindness.

I can imagine this story standing in as some good advice:  If you know someone is innately good, but you recognize that they’re starting to do bad things, don’t be too hard on them, because sometimes people get “taken” by a situation, and their reactions can feel out of their own control.  Try to focus their attention on the lighter side of life, to show them that it’s not so serious, and maybe you can turn them around again.

Food for thought, I guess.  Now after eating all that cobbler my lips and tongue will be purplish blue for days.  Kind of like a little demon spirit version of me.  Kind of makes a girl start to think about mischief.  Isn’t cobbler wonderful?  *g*