Enchantment Learning & Living Blog

Welcome to Enchantment Learning & Living, inspirational blog about the simple pleasures, radical self-care, and everyday magic that make life delicious.

The Occult Detective...with a Cocktail Recipe!

Each November, I love to write about stories that inspire, nourish, and delight.  I think this is the perfect month for setting aside more time for reading.  Autumn is well under way.  The days are colder and shorter.  The sanctuary of our homes calls to us as we settle into this contemplative month.  We are drawn to quieter past times that give us space to reflect and heal.

Over the years, I’ve written about the important comfort good stories and other simple pleasures can offer us and the power various genres have to impart wisdom.  This year, I’m waxing poetic about the Occult Detective…with a cocktail recipe thrown in, because I’m a big ol’ nerd like that.  

Introducing the Occult Detective 

So what are occult detectives?  They are usually rough and tumble characters dealing with the darker side of life.  Ghost hunters, if you will.  Vampire slayers.  Paranormal investigators.  Monster fighters.  And those drawn to the arcane knowledge of the occult and mystical. 

This archetype is found in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all other monster of the week TV shows, to urban fantasy like the Dresden Files and the Bone Street Rumba series.  But what most people don’t know (unless you are a diehard occult detective fan like me!) is that this genre has a long history dating back to the Victorian Era. The 19th century saw not only the birth of the detective genre, but also the fad of Spiritualism.  Popular culture at the time was obsessed with understanding, studying, and experiencing the otherworldly via séances, spirit photography, and extensive research into the occult…much like we are today.

The Age of Spiritualism brought us the likes of Thomas Carnaki, inventor of the electric pentacle; Flaxman Low, a self-proclaimed supernatural detective; and, Diana Marburg, a palmist who solves murders.  Then there’s Dr. John Silence, the first Victorian occult detective I ever read about, who will always have a place in my heart for introducing me to the genre.  He has a mysterious past, training in the occult, and cool animal helpers like his cat Smoke and his dog Flame. 

At their best, these stories explored our relationship to the otherworldly and our curiosity about things outside ourselves.  They show how we grapple with the mysterious, unseen forces in this world (and beyond!), the things that often reach out in touch us in our life but that we can’t always explain away or even logically process…at their worst, we get ugly things like sexism, xenophobia, and racism.  The supernatural becomes a catch-all terms for anything that isn’t white, hetero, middle-class, or male, and thus, to be feared.  Yikes!  

A Genre of Transformation

My favorite part about this genre is that is has transformed over the centuries from a genre of xenophobia to one of hope and empowering explorations of otherness. Women, people of color, LGTBQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and, yes, supernatural beings are front and center in contemporary additions to the genre.  We’ve got Maggie Hoaskie, a Navajo monster hunter in Trail of Lighting; Tony Foster, a gay wizard in Smoke and Mirrors; Kate Daniels, a magical mercenary and woman of color in a post-apocalyptic world; the canonical bi-sexual John Constantine; and many stories out of Occult Detective Quarterly that aims to make the genre more inclusive by representing both diverse characters and authors….just to name a few.  And that’s barely scratched the surface.  I mean, I haven’t even gotten into TV shows yet (I’m talking to you, Sleepy Hollow, Wynona Erp, Supernatural, Lucifer and. So. Many. Others).

Perhaps what I love most about this genre is that it’s all about how magic is a hard, gritty thing.  In one way or another, these stories are about what it takes to be true to yourself in a worlds that doesn’t like marginalized bodies, otherness, and those living on the social periphery.  Better still, these stories teach us that living within liminal spaces—not just a human but a werewolf (Kitty Norville), not just a woman but a witch (Persephone Alcmedi), or a half-dead resurrected inbetweener (Carlos Delacruz)—is empowering, transformational even.  This liminal space we occupy is the crack where the light seeps in.

In the end, this genre, and the occult detective archetype, doesn’t just grapple with the paranormal, but perhaps the even more inscrutable concept of what it means to be human…even when you’re a ghost, werewolf, or technically undead. 

The Recipe

All which means that this genre deserves a drink and so do you!  I thought about pairing various stories with treats and drinks, but really, there are so many manifestations of this archetype, from cozy mysteries like the Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft series to dark horror like Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books.  I even thought of making a cocktail called the Hellblazer…before I realized that would just be a bottle of Jack and a pack of cigarettes. 

So I came up with a cocktail that captured the spirit (pun intended) of the genre instead. This is a riff on the Manhattan, using Amaro liquor instead of vermouth.  Amor is an intensely herbaceous, bitter Italian liquor, there perfect nod to hellfire and brimstone, two things any occult detective worth their salt should know how to handle.  Then add a dash of burnt orange bitters for a touch of the ghostly (though regular orange bitters would do just a well), and another dash of cinnamon bitters as the sin that warms your bones and promises a slew of bad—but delicious—decisions.  Bourbon holds it all together, balancing the punch of Amaro and bitters with the fullness of vanilla and earth—the underlying hope and hard-earned sweetness inherent in the genre.

This drink is perfect after a hard day of proverbial monster hunting or an even longer night of literal vampire slaying. 

Ingredients:

.5 oz Amaro liquor 

2 oz bourbon

2 dashes burnt orange bitters

2 dashes cinnamon bitters

ice

Mix ingredients in a shaker and shake for one minute.  Pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick, orange peel slice, .and the ashes of the demons you’ve slayed—cinnamon stick and orange peel slice optional.  Pair with a dark and stormy night and any of the occult detective stories mentioned here or pictured below.  Serves one.  Enjoy!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday fantasy, and absolutely delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

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Magic is a Hard, Gritty Thing (Part II)

I asked for a new life. In return, I had to bury my seed so deep in the earth it kissed Hell.  It was important that this black disk holding the heart of a hollyhock be warmed by morningstars and forced to carve its way out of the darkness.  This, so that I could know the value of my transformation.

Now, I am uncomfortable with tight spaces and have trouble breathing in the dark, damp underground.  That is the price I paid for freedom.

I dreamed of a book once, too.  One with my name on it and my thoughts in it.  All the Universe expected in return was blood and heartache, time and tears, and that long stretch of purgatory where no one knew what I was doing--or cared--except for the emerging words on the page.  They knew.  They understood.  Felt the relief of stories so long contained finally spilling across naked sheets.

I'm about a pint of blood short now and so have less energy for things that don't understand that my heart is buried inside an herb garden, in a constant state of becoming. I get tired if I'm away from my stories for too long, worn out when I'm asked to ignore the poetry of a Monday or the grace of a slammed door. 

That was what the magic required of me to see my hope eternally bloom.  And I paid the price willingly.  That garden?  It has rosemary and words and ink and lavender in it--but no weeds and no room for nonsense.  I worked hard to make it so.  

I picked out each and every weed and each and every shade with my own hands until my fingernails were cracked and rimmed with black dirt and my hands were bloody from the nicks and scratches of angry ghosts that didn't want to leave such a cozy home.  I have a few crooked fingers now and a predisposition toward dry hands.  But no weeds.  No shades secretly living inside the sunflower's underbelly.  Just an abundant harvest to look forward to.

Magic is a hard thing and doesn't take wishes lightly.  This I know, which is why I hold up deleted pages and crossed-out passages like offerings for another manuscript, another birthing. These tattered narratives will never see the light of day.  They are the willing sacrifices for a better story.  I bind them up and surround them with twigs for kindling.  I press flame to their feet and watch the fire gobble them up because that is what the magic needs if I am to write something that is honest and potent.

Magic is a gritty thing, asking for you to give until it hurts.  That's the only way it knows you're serious and not just looking for a topical solution to soul sickness.  That kind of healing requires long journeys down dark roads and through the caves of memory until all your pains are excorcised and your hair smells vaguely of brimstone and forgetting. 

After all that, it lets you taste the first ripe peach of summer, speckled with morning dew.  Your tongue is coated in sunshine and hard-earned deliciousness.  Juice dribbles down your chin.  Your fingers are sticky with fuzz and nectar.  And in your hand is another hard seed waiting to be kissed by morningstars.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Confessions of a Sin Eater

All it takes is one kiss.  Lip locked, you can suck out their sins and use the light inside your chest to burn them up.  You can almost taste the guilt and regret these people hold inside themselves like caged demons fighting to break free.  

This is your power.  

Just one kiss and they can know the peace of exorcism.  You've even acquired a taste for it, like bitter gin on your lips, though you can tell by your charred ribs how it costs you—and so you're careful, knowing full well the danger in the dark taste of others.  As careful as a sin eater can be, anyway.

Because this is yours to do.

There is the gristly piece of shame that you can't quite swallow--you can feel it stuck in your throat.  Whereas the little kinks and guilty pleasures slide down with ease like melted chocolate or red wine--not really sins at all unless you're of a more pious nature and then everything's a burden. A part of you relishes this glimpse into the internal lives of strangers. 

You come from a long line of Sin Eaters, most of whom are eventually devoured by the very phantoms they swallow.  Yours is not an easy path.  Like the broken promise that rests in your belly like a shard of glass, your lives are shaped by the sins you collect.  You are the sea creature eating up the trash and ephemera others carelessly toss into your clear waters.  

This is your legacy.  

They can't even look you in the eye.  They can only plead, sometimes without a voice, to absolve them...of too much to put into words.  You know the look well.  The pressure to swallow the pestilence painted across their broken brow that wants only the quick catharsis of confession. In this, you are not unlike the priest—without the pretense of a screen.  Only your magic works.  For a time.

They can feel the sweet relief of their souls scrubbed clean; they even go so far as to promise you and themselves that they will never, ever commit those sins again.  They might even be foolish enough to believe what they say--though you never will.

This is your gift.

Zero accountability.  Then you are cast aside like a used condom when the deed is done.  Afterward, they cannot look at you because you know them for what they are.  And they know what they have asked of you is unspeakable.   That is their ultimate sin: asking another to carry the burden of their own making.  They cannot see you.  You are not a person anymore.  They see only their greed and temptation and carousing look back at them from behind your tired, burning eyes. The light burns brightest when the fire is fed.

This is your place.

There they go and commit another one.  That's the thing about sins.  They taste so good.  And not just to you.   Take away that which they are most ashamed of, and they always look for a way to get it back.  Even if they are happy to be rid of these chains, they cannot stand to look at your sullied soul.  You are rejected time and again.  Not welcome in any home.  Never asked to stop in and share a morsel, unless—

—they invite you to eat the day old bread resting on a beloved's breastbone as if you didn't know the history and mold settling into the crusty morsel: a final offering from the dead.

You are paid well for your unspeakable service.  

With each swallowed sin, a little bit of your own light dies.  Your insides blacken and curl with smoke.  Your stomach roils with indigestion.  Sometimes you cannot tell the difference between yourself and the demons caged within—or which of these creatures belong to you and which have been collected along the way, like chicken bones and bloodied feathers.  Leftovers from your meal.  

Did they expect you to look monstrous?  Twisted and broken by the weight of your—their—sins? They are always surprised to see fair features and respectable attire.  You could be any of their daughters or sisters or wives.  Perhaps if you ate them more often, the barbed wire from where they have trespassed and the swollen bee stings from violating the natural order would mold your bones into the gnarled frame of a dying tree. 

That is your future.  

So they hope.  Committing your body and their sins to the grave so that they may never speak of them again.  

That was your legacy.

But you no longer have a taste for wickedness.  Not unless it’s of your own making.  So much more delicious to collect your own experiences like sea glass or cracked-open clam shells until you have shadowbox filled with once-ugly things made beautiful.  You need not go so far afield, either.  The rotted pumpkin becomes a home for the worms that make your garden thrive.  The ghost behind your shoulder is one of your own making.  He will leave you in time when you are both ready to be rid of each other.  Until then, you have one companion that isn’t afraid to look you in the eye.

This is your freedom.  

You could suck out the poison of each and every soul that knocks on your door.  Some may even call you a saint for doing so.  But you know the real work happens when a person wrestles with her sins, real or imagined, and sends them back to hell herself.  Everything else is just swallowed smoke and borrowed time.  You know this because you have made that journey yourself.  That scars along your rib cage--one for each layer—are proof of your hard-earned exorcism.  

That was a price you were willing to pay.

The journey was long. You climbed down all seven layers, releasing sins as you went.  You let your fire burn away each transgression as they burst from your lips.  Then when you reached rock bottom, you began the arduous task of pulling yourself out of the darkness.  The only sins—such as they could be called—that survived were yours and yours alone.  Selfish?  Perhaps. 

That was the gift you gave yourself: sins that make a woman.

Not a saint.  Not a sin eater.  A woman.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Conversation with a Zombie

He said he would love to have me for dinner--but I was careful.

I made sure that I wasn't on the menu for one.  And I took particular effort to choose a location full of breathing bodies.  A restaurant for the living.  It wouldn't do to surround myself with a host of these purgatory-like creatures, else my limbs become stiff and my skin turn as gray and rotten as a cadaver's.  You become who you hang around, they say.  

Still, I was curious.  

We sat across from each other at the dinner table.  The white tablecloth was as smooth and unblemished as his collared shirt.  He had dressed for the occasion, taking care to hide the evidence of his affliction as best he could (though truly there was only so much he could do, with a missing ear and half a brain).  Still, the tuxedo and carefully applied makeup was enough to create the illusion of pumping blood beneath his pallid, blush stained cheeks--in the right light. Which was another reason why I chose this place.  Candlelight can hide a multitude of sins.

He studied me as much as I did him as if he was trying to remember what it was like to be alive. When I reached for my wine glass, so did he--only his thick decaying fingers almost crushed the stem, whereas my nimble live ones carefully brought the dark red to my mouth.  I tried not to notice how he stared at my lips--stained now from the wine--wondering, perhaps, how I tasted.

That could have been me, of course.  If I had enough in me to make my heart stop beating and my brain stop questioning.

They're always the first to go: the ones that want to be lead.  Then the tired.  Then the hopeless.  I could never be any of these things, though I have at times been weary and known the company of despair.  No, I could never be any of these things.  Not with the fire burning in my belly.  I could feel the heat in my cheeks as if to remind me that blood still pumped through my veins.  Perhaps it was just the wine.

I couldn't even call what we had a proper conversation.  For one thing, it was hard to make out his words as he struggled to form sentences around a fat and full tongue without lips to soften the vowels and only a few teeth to slide against the crisp edges of constants.  For another, we were both frequently lost in our own thoughts, wondering how things might have been different if I had just a little less heart and he a little more.

In the end, we let the darkness beyond our candlelit table swallow any of the taboo questions: do you miss the taste of buttered toast or pickles?  Or is gray matter your only desire now?  And then the ones he refrained from asking me:  Can you describe the way your filet tastes--and the mashed potatoes?  Will you remind me what it is like to wake in the morning after a full night's rest, ready to greet the day?  

We both politely ignored the blood pooling around my rare steak and the ring of red our wine glasses left after a nervous waiter overfilled our cups.  The poor man didn't know that the infection wasn't contagious.  Well, not like in the movies.  It was the thoughts that did it. Or, really, the lack of them.  

So much easier to silences your questions.  So much easier to allow yourself to be swept up in the collective undertow and drowned in mindless oblivion.  So much easier--if it weren't for the fire in your belly.  The light in your veins.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

The Haunting

There was the wishing vessel.  Bold as the dawn, solid as earth.

Strange.  Its home was on your left side nightstand; its height measured out in the stack of paperbacks behind it; its radiance mirrored in the collection of raw stones and gems circling it.  Instead, you found it on the right-hand nightstand where your water glass should have been. You took this vessel in your hand--this vessel, hewn by your mother's hands, baked with the power of hope and sealed with a sea-blue glaze marbled with pebble brown streaks.

Stranger still: it felt heavier than it should as if weighed down by your bottled wishes. You held it in your hand a moment longer, wondering what occurred in those eternal moments between closing your eyes and waking.

Then that evening as you chopped vegetables for roasting, thinking about things that belong in other lifetimes (half-remembered thorns that only nip at your heels when you are tired), the lights flickered in and out of consciousness.  Of course, that would have meant nothing if it weren't for the misplaced wishing vessel and your keys, now no longer in the drawer where you know you'd left them.  Or the sudden chill that swept through your home, easy enough to blame on the draft forgotten after months under the gaze of the summer sun.

It wasn't until you drifted off to sleep, in fact, that you knew the truth of the situation: you were no longer alone in your own home.  You felt the ghost brush cool, soft fingers along your naked back and settle in next to you as you hovered between dream and wakefulness.  Then there was your whispered name the next day as you tended your garden, sounding nothing so much as dried leaves rustling in the wind.  And the wishing vessel again misplaced, perching precariously on your bookshelf, so much heavier this time as you carried it back to its rightful post. The faint scent of memory and wet dirt began to permeate your home. Yes, you had a ghost, a living, breathing ghost contained within your walls.

Each day the specter became more and more distinct, once a faint shadow hovering just beyond sight, now a thick presence that didn't feel the need to hide any longer.  It patched a form together from stray bits of thread, used tea leaves, and lint from the bottom of your laundry basket.  The smell of mulched garden debris and damp earth became stronger each day, strongest of all at night when the darkness could feed it.

But you grew tired of its presence. You grew tired of never finding your keys where you always put them.  Tired of hands, now with the feel of knobby sticks for fingers, pressed against your back before sleep took you.  Tired of never knowing where your wishing vessel might turn up--and when you found it half buried next to your rosemary, as if a seed waiting to sprout the hopes buried inside it, you reached your limit. 

It took so long to dig out that heavy, heavy vessel.  Longer still to drag it in from the rain.  The ghost was no help; it merely watched you puff and pant and try to set things right.  This had to stop.  You wanted your home to be yours again.

So you did the only thing you could: you brought another spirit into the conversation--one holier, more honest even, than you or your spectral companion: whiskey.  You poured a glass for you and your phantom guest, now bearing the faint outline of a person, smelling of moss and old books and the inside of a wishing vessel.

"So how is it you found me?" You asked the specter sitting across from you at the kitchen table.

"I found a blossom of indecision, a wrinkle of silence and traveled down the puckered road of an old scar."  Its voice was like crackling leaves and smoke. 

A gulp of whiskey was your response.  You drank in companionable silence for some time as you mulled over its words.  The rain beat out a tattoo on the window pane.  The shadows in the room grew longer in time with the setting day.

"And where did you find this blossom, this wrinkle, this scar?"

It gestured to your curled up palm.  You opened it and saw several little half-moons carved into its surface.  What had you been holding on to so hard? So tightly? 

As if in answer to your soundless question, the wishing vessel now sat between you on the table, still caked in dirt.  The table creaked under its weight.  There was your collection of unspoken wishes, your barely-acknowledged hopes like lead dandelion puffs.

"It's the voice that does it," your specter explained. "Just the sound of your lips and tongue wrapped around one of those dandelion heads." 

What would it hurt, you thought, to give voice to all those dreams you'd stashed away for so long? What would it take to breathe life into the many roots and veins you'd allowed to go dormant? What would it cost you to loosen your grip on those fragile seeds you have guarded and protected and stashed away for a rainy day, much like this one?

"They are stronger than you think," the ghost again replied to your unvoiced thoughts.

You brushed the dirt from the vessel and dragged it toward you.  You held it between your hands--gently this time--as if it were a butterfly flitting through your laced fingers.

Perhaps just one.  There is no harm in allowing one stray seed to breathe and bloom.  You named it, this wish, to yourself. To your ghost. To this vessel that had held it for so long. You felt it being released into the air around you like a cloud of sandalwood perfume or the flap of wings.  Your skin tingled with this unblemished possibility permeating the air around you, and you closed your eyes to savor this new-found lightness.

When you opened them, the ghost was gone, and with it the smell of dead things.  There were only the two whiskey glasses and the vessel (so much lighter now) left, along with a stray blue thread that once held the specter together.  The other wishes slipped more easily from your lips after that, the hopes too.  You felt only sweet release, the joy of freeing these pods into a life you dared to think possible. 

Your home was your home again. Your wishing vessel was once more what it should be: a womb, not a stopped bottle, fertilized by syllables slipping from your vocal chords.  And the air was thick with dandelion seeds.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

A Conversation with Wollstonecraft & Austen

Last night I dreamed that I was at the table with Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft.  Perhaps it was over dinner, perhaps tea.  To my left sat Wollstonecraft, canonical mother of feminism and Mary Shelley, a woman consumed by human darkness and her own fears.  To my right, sat Austen, this enigmatic figure whose history is shrouded in wit and speculation, mother of nothing other than chic lit has and the breezy style synonymous with the novel heroines we model ourselves after.  With the former, we know too much, the latter, too little.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft

They are two sides of me, these women.  One is devoured by her passions and her fury.  She can burn too hot, crushed by social censure and her own shadows; she was buried alive under the tomb of her memoir, laying bare the heart of a revolutionary woman in a world not yet ready for her.  And yet, despite all this, despite the fact that her public words were tainted by her private life exposed, she retained the hope of a more empowered way of living, a more compassionate one equal parts heart and mind.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Austen is the soothing balm to the frayed woman's soul Wollstonecraft laid bare.  There is hope, she tells us, there is hope.  We do not need to sink under the weight of social pressures nor commit ourselves to a less authentic version of ourselves.  No, we must simply be patient, live softly and deeply, crafting a new world through our intimate bonds.  We do not need to dwell on the darkness in order to see the light.  She pushes these matters off stage; they serve only as the background to the immediate story of home and intimacy and the happiness built on the day in, day out.

I consider these two women as I sit at their table (or perhaps they sit at mine, as it was my mother's mica teapot we poured from, as I now recall, and my own table spread with a fresh cloth and my own adobe home).  At one point, I can't help noticing how dark my hands are compared to theirs. Strange, since we are all made up of the stories, the hopes, the fears of women readers who want at once to live in this world and create our own, to feel passionately but sensibly, to find our truth and live it out with unabashed pleasure. 

What would I tell them, I wonder?  What did I tell them?  That is for another dream, another story.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Dia de Los Muertos

The boundaries between worlds have thinned at this halfway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.  It is as if a small door has opened and allowed spirits and old ghosts and mischief makers full access to our neighborhood.

You leave out offerings, a welcome treat to your ancestors, whose guidance you are grateful for; and gifts to pacify the demons and fairies so that you won't bear the brunt of their trouble making.  You leave out candles to welcome old souls searching for their home--family maybe, or lost pieces of yourself you seek to reclaim and call to you once again.

You celebrate this connection to the spirit world with sugar skulls and marigolds, unafraid of the night and the creatures it hides; they are a part of us, a part of you. You honor the Aztec goddess of the underworld, paying homage to her strength that allows her to watch over the bones and souls of the dead. 

You offer up your flowers, your food, your drink, to thank her for gathering up the pieces of yourself that you no longer need, taking them with her back to the underworld; you thank her too for restoring the parts of you that still live on, though you hadn't known it until this day.  You celebrate the dead to honor the power of life.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Halloween

It is carving pumpkins and then roasting the seeds, watching old scary movies and eagerly anticipating nightfall, when you can light the jack-o-lanterns and ready yourself for ghostly visitors, lovely princesses, and a whole host of other child-sized creatures. Yes, you can even fondly recall when you would spend a whole month planning your costume for this big night, when you traveled the streets with candy bag in tow, one eye on the haunted house across the street and another and your next stop, instead of offering sweets from the cozy warmth of your own home.

It is a magical time, when you are both who you are and you aren't; a glimmer of the creature you rarely let out in the daylight or the flash of inspiration you hope to carry into your daily life.  You are playful and wild and more than a little devilish.  You celebrate the here and now, the what might be, and the what was in a swirling confluence of energies, invoking the powers of the spirits among us.

And yet perhaps the most exciting part of Halloween, after the candles burn out in their hallowed out pumpkin shells, and the bowls of candy are empty, the last child having knocked at your door an hour ago, is that quiet hush broken only by the chill breeze and the rustle of leaves outside.  You hear only the faint echo of the children's cheerful babble and the melodramatic music from your horror movies.  You relish the whispers in the dark, the promise of deep dreams influenced by the festivities and thinning boundaries between worlds, the pregnant silence full of otherworldly possibility.  This, this is Halloween.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Summoning the Dead

Necromancy.

The dark art of summoning the dead.  Why not use those hollowed-out shells of life to divine the future?  Why not use them to piece together mysteries long-since passed?  Those ephemeral corpses would serve her best if they earned each slammed door and floorboard creak or their right to their shallow home beneath the earth with the information only the dead could give.  After all, necromancy is a craft that is strangely akin to the ancient practice of calling on your ancestors for strength.

...but there the similarities end, though she was too proud to admit it (the ghosts, however, knew the truth of it all too well).  Your ancestors are of you, blood of your blood, with you always in your bones and dreams.  They offer guidance and reassurance in times of need, hover over you in peace--on their own terms.  Always on their own terms.  

But the necromancer?  She calls upon energies not her own, summons up demons to twist fate for her own purposes; conjuring ghosts to glean secrets she was not meant to know.  She is a perversion of magic.  

Balance must be restored.  Slowly, one ghost at a time, this necromancer begins to give herself over to the world of the dead, to feed the souls she preys upon.  Soon the world she once hoped to bend to her will is no longer hers, and the realm she exploits will devour her whole.

And so she might feel powerful now.  She might win her small battles drawing on the shadows and forcing stories from freshly-awakened souls.  She might even reach a parody of contentment in her life, happy under her illusion of control.  But the dead are listening.  The dead are always watching.  And they will exact their price.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Paranoia

People make people crazy.  Or so someone once told you.  Experience told you it was true.

Humans are fickle creatures--first, they want you then they don't--then they want you again.  But not you, just the spark inside your chest.  So tasty, that life.  They can do all sorts of things with it, too, once they hold it in their hands.

They can fuel self-righteousness, for one (though that's an easy flame to keep going, hardly worth the added spark).  They can twist what was once your joy and use it for something wicked, spiteful for the sheer pleasure of putting another in her place.  They can conquer small kingdoms (even if that kingdom is just your heart)--and give you nothing in return, only the memory of something you once had.  Something you took for granted.

It is so tempting to ignore the wolf in sheep's clothing standing next to you in the grocery store checkout line so that you can maintain the illusion of peace and security.  Yet you are always willing to look for the shadow behind the man.  That is how you keep yourself safe.  At the end of the day, you have nothing to fear of bogey monsters and things from under your bed: it is humans you must watch out for.  Tricky, tricky humans.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

Witching Balls

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I hang you above my doorstep and in the light of my windows, a perfect little orb of blown glass, glittering in the sun, reflecting bad energy back on itself.  You chase away evil, your history suggests, luring in witches with your beauty and sucking them inside your smooth shell; they are trapped, like a bug come too close to a flame.  They can harm no one.

That's one version of the story.  The other is from the witches themselves--harmless enough, they insist, no more prone to darkness than any human, as if that would reassure us.  Humans, after all, are culpable enough. This is the witches' story: 

I keep you on my writing desk, ready to peer into your opaque gaze, searching for a glimpse of my future, a peek at another world.  Divination, the true purpose of the witching ball.

But I wonder if the truth isn't somewhere in the middle, depending on the story, depending on the witch.  Perhaps these glass orbs do deflect darkness; perhaps they trap it within them, containing the powerful magic of a wayward soul--and it is this soul, this magic, that reveals the images you so desperately search for on the surface of the misty glass ball.  Perhaps a witch uses it on humans, to ward away their fear and superstition, to protect her home from those afraid of the unseen forces that guide our lives.  Perhaps it is just a glass ball, like any other trinket or ornament--though I doubt it. 

All I can say for sure is that when I see them stacked haphazardly in a dusty box or hanging on display windows in antique stores, now nothing more than used up superstitions, I can't help but wonder as I watch the dust float and drift over their surfaces, forming vague shapes.  I can't help but think be careful: don't mishandle them, don't break the glassWho knows what might come out of it.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Psychic Vampires

They seem so normal.  Just another friendly body in this great big universe, a shoulder to lean on, a warm smile you didn't know you wanted to fall into. And when you do fall in--who could resist the charms of such easy comfort?--

--the feeding begins.  It starts slowly at first, with some fawning, a soft compliment assuaging your suddenly tired soul and you start to relax under their gaze as they sink their teeth in--feeding on your energy, sucking out your light.  You are plied with the heady elixir of flattery and adoration until you are dizzy enough to forget this one crucial fact: you do not know this stranger, that there is no real bond.  You think only of how nice it is to feel the warm praise for which you didn't know you had been thirsting.  In the coming days, you are left with only a vague memory of your talk.  Still, you bear the markings of their feedings, the exhaustion and lack of inspiration, as if the light you shine on your world has gone out, casting everything into gloom.

It is the brighter burning spirits they gravitate towards, like dark moths to a flame.  But they need the invitation to enter the day; until you return their smile, they can only lurk in the shadows, hover near the periphery of daylight, hungry.  Always hungry.  Forever unable to make light of their own.

That is their weakness, their lack of light.  And while they search for holes in your armor, your willingness to ignore the boundaries you have so carefully cultivated like a thicket or rose bushes around your home, you know this one fact: they can only hurt you if you let them in.  So you use your energy to tend your roses so that each bloom is fat and full, an impenetrable shield of life and earth; you use your light to cast them back into the darkness from where they came.  You have no room for them in your world.  Only the sunlight that seeps through the perfumed petals and jagged thorns of your roses.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Nightmares

Terrifying gifts, really.  

They come to you at night, invading your bed and flooding you with dark images heavier and more brutal than you could possibly comprehend in your waking world.  They hold you captive--you are vulnerable.  Naked and twisted in your sheets, tethered to the dreamworld by their presence. 

They watch and wait for you to drift off to sleep, all the while collecting ephemera from your thoughts and fears and daily interactions. These they will use to weave together the Gothic landscape they plunge you into.  Yet as much as you fear the coming darkness, the tortuous hours spent at the mercy of these demons, there is another part of you that pines for it, that calls them to you, that eagerly awaits their presence in your bed.

As terrifying as your nightmares are, you have still come to see them as dark gifts of insight upon waking, cleansing your soul and bringing the much-needed release of psychic revelation. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

On Soul Loss

You didn't realize what was happening until all at once you had nothing left.  Your quiet: gone.  Your deep sleep and rich dreams: no more than memories.  Your peaceful happiness: vanished like a wisp of smoke.

Even your words had left you. That was when you knew you had lost a piece of yourself. You sat at your writing desk, staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to come.  But they never did.  Your well of inspiration was dry, with only a hollow feeling in your chest to remind you that it was once there.  It was as if a piece of yourself was missing and you grasped for it in vain, attempting to summon it back into you.

How did it happen, you wondered?  You trace your steps back through your day, your week, your month, following the breadcrumbs.  It was your stories you let go of first--too tired to allow the ink on the page to be anything more than just that.  Then came the yoga; it was just one more thing at work you had to take care of, then another and another, so that your connection to your body began to fade under the immediate need of making it from one moment to the next.  Your solitude went last.  You found yourself surrounded by people and appointments and noise--all out of necessity, yes, but too loud all the same.  You see it now, how it happened.

And so you begin the arduous process of piecing yourself back together, of calling your soul back to you, of becoming whole once again.  You retreat into your home; you do your yoga; you read; you listen; you heal.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!

La Llorona

She came for you once.

You weren't more than seven or eight, but you were able to push her away all the same, terrified as you were.

It was one of those cold wild nights in October when the wind is unruly, violently throwing dead leaves against your house and the air is full of the scent burning cedar from chimneys.  The day had been full of too many ghost stories at school, greedily gobbled up on the playground even as you knew you would pay for the cheap thrills later.  It was so much easier to speak of ghosts and monsters in the daylight; but at night, the nightmares would come.  Each shadow seemed to move of its own accord.  Each creak that filled the midnight silence seemed like more than just the settling of your home's old bones around you. 

That was how La Llorona found you.  She was the woman you had learned about through playground gossip: the cursed creature doomed to search for her children on the banks of the Rio Grande, a victim of her own pride and shame, drowning her sorrows in rage as she drowned her children, her own life in that muddy water.

You thought it was the wind howling at first.  You had woken with a start, foisted out of your nightmares by the wailing just outside your window.  You pulled your covers tighter around you.  Then it was scratching at the window; your neighbor's pine tree reaching its thick branches across the dividing wall and scraping against the panes.  Nothing strange about that, you told yourself.  It is only nature running its course.

But then you began to think of that neighbor and the swimming pool in the backyard.  You began to think of the child that was taken into its depths never to come back.  You had seen that child at the bottom of that pool once, felt the tug on your heel as you tried to break the surface (there was no mud to obscure the sunlight rippling across the water).  It was then you knew you could never cross that wall again. 

Perhaps it was La Llorona that took him and keeps him there still.  With that thought, the howling wind became her cries, the branches at your window, her fingernails trying to claw her way in.  Coming, coming for you.  You vowed never to listen to the ghost stories on the playground ever again--a short-lived promise--and you vowed never to let yourself become like the child still at the bottom of the pool--that one you kept. 

You felt your home around you; the warmth and the love and the security etched into the bricks and the inside of your rib cage.  The violent howling outside was no match for it.  It--she--could not get in.  Slowly, the wind died, the scratching at your window stopped.  The creaks in your home were once again the sighs a living dwelling makes.  Eventually, sleep found you.  It was your home, you realized years later, that protected you and protects you still.

Now, older, maybe even wiser--but still no less susceptible to thrills of a good ghost story--you carry your home with you (deep inside your chest, sewn into each breath) protection against the forces that would pull you under.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!