Saturday, November 25, 2023

Peace, Love and Understanding: Papier Mâché Beads

 A week after the Hamas attack on Israel with tensions running high, global tension rising, and people finding even more reasons to fight the multi-front reality wars, I was in a Lyft car on my way to an 8-day Krishnamurti Retreat in Ojai. My Lyft driver, Abdulcadir, was friendly and curious and after questioning me about my destination and about Krishnamurti, he shared that he had his own daily spiritual practice. Every day he would write down a spiritual thought or principle, carry it with him, and periodically meditate on the principle throughout the day. We agreed that the basic ideas of kindness, gratitude and acceptance are common to all religions and spiritual belief systems, and were mutually baffled why the human species keeps turning on itself.

He reached for an old envelope on the front passenger seat that he used to record spiritual principles for his daily practice and handed it back to me, I asked if I could photograph it and he happily agreed.

Original envelope front

Envelope back

I have worked with paper mâché beads in the past to process life events, and have found it to be a deeply satisfying, slow meditative process over a period of days or weeks. The process of making these beads is outlined in an earlier post, Funerary Art: Souvenirs from the Bardo. When I returned home after the retreat, I reproduced scaled printouts of Abducadir's envelope to produce this beaded strand while the conflict in Gaza escalated.

It is hard to make sense of the world and of humanity itself in these troubled times. I do it with my hands. It helps. Talk to strangers. Be kind. Make stuff. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Advent 2023: Let There be Magic


A very Wiccan holiday

Coming up with a spectacular advent calendar every year is challenging, but when your recipients enter their teens the challenge becomes formidable. This year's version of the advent calendar features Wicca, and reflects an abiding fondness for all things magic, pagan, and nature-based. The perfect antidote to the doomsday mood that is daily becoming more prevalent on the planet and having a palpable affect on teenage angst.

The fun starts with a forest-green hoodie that lends a kind of - "Pssst...hey lady, want to see some magic?" - air to the proceedings. Upon arrival the hoodie is mysteriously closed, building anticipation towards the grand opening on December 1.

Psssst...hey lady

Close-up of outer label

When opened, the hoodie reveals a wealth of spell-casting supplies.


Those supplies include: 14 different herbs, 14 different crystals, 12 different colored candles, and a custom-made "Welcome to Wicca" booklet. And of course, a chocolate every day.

Spell-casting supplies

The magic book

Book front

Back of book

Additional supplies were tucked in to help make the spell bottles and spell sachets.

Spell casting containers: bottles and sachets

Hopefully this healthy dose of magic will help the young recipients combat the stress, doom and gloom of modern times and reintroduce a little hope and wonder in their worlds. 

* I don't usually mention any commercial products of any sort, but should you choose to make your own version of a Wiccan advent calendar, this witchcraft supply kit from Amazon priced at under $25 sure made the whole project a lot easier to pull off. Just strip away all packaging (saving lists of contents and their magic properties for your magic book) and use the individual components in your calendar. A blank book is included in the supplies. I pasted on a new cover and converted it into a spell cookbook, offering information about the magic properties of all supplies in the front, some minimal advice and instructions, and leaving the remainder blank for the recording of spell recipes they come up with.

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