Friday Reads: The Master & Margarita

The strangest book I have ever read was The Master and Margarita. I read this Russian novel way back in 2010 and think of it often. I want to recommend it now as we enter the fall season, as it includes some typically Halloween & Samhain elements and hopefully someone else will pick it up so I can live vicariously through you’re reading it. (DO IT).

The Master and Margarita was written by Michael Bulgakov between 1928 & 1940, but not published until 1967 after the author’s death. This was a heavily censored version was printed in Moskva magazine (no. 11, 1966 and no. 1, 1967). A final, unedited, print was finally completed in 1973.

I can hardly summarize the story due to all off its complexities and “lost in translation” moments due to my lack of education in Russian history and the Russian language, but here’s a shot: The Devil visits the Soviet Union. There’s a witch who flies a broom. And a talking cat. Hilarity & satire ensure.

The tale takes place in two places:

1) Patriarch Ponds (in the Soviet Union) where the Devil – in disguise as a fancy gentleman named Professor Woland – arrives with his entourage. His crew includes a valet, a fast-talking black kitty cat, a hit man with fangs, and a lady vampire named Hella. They cause chaos with the literary elite.

2) Jerusalem where Ponticus Pilate exists (yes, that Ponticus Pilate – the man who sentenced Jesus to death) and his relationship to spirituality and a life beyond death.

There’s a magic show satirizing greed, a midnight Devil’s Ball, and women’s liberation initiated by the Devil’s mistress – Margarita – whose pastimes include flying around the world on her broom with her BFF (her maid) Natasha. The fate of the Devil & Margarita is left in the hands of Satan who needs to decide if they are evil enough to enter Hell or decent enough to enter heaven. Ponticus Pilate is back, too, and his fate is determined.

I TOLD YOU IT WAS WEIRD.

The Master & Margarita has been interpreted in many ways, but my favorite interpretation is that good and evil exist in all of us. We are more complicated than “good” or “bad” and we need to know that in order to be kind, humane, individuals. How can that be anything but the truth?

Please let me know if you pick up this incredible novel. I want you to tell me all about it and help me better understand each detail.

Friday Reads: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Do you remember reading The Lottery by Shirley Jackson in English classes in school? It’s the story of a town who comes together to throw rocks at randomly selected individual until they die in order sustain the well-being of their community. It is one of the “most famous short stories in American literature”. When it was written (and published in the New Yorker) a backlash ensued causing Jackson to respond:

“I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to show the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in the life lives.”

When I sat down to write today’s Friday Reads, I’d originally planned on telling you about another of Jackson’s works – We Have Always Lived in a Castle – but as I was preparing I listened to an old episode of my latest podcast obsession, This Podcast is Haunted, and decided to take this in a different direction.

Episode 18: Boy We Did Nazi That Coming (2017) was one I didn’t listen to as I originally binged the series. As a little girl I studied the life of Anne Frank – a little girl stuck in a horrific circumstance but still surrounded by those who loved her and always hopeful – and loved her. Because of this, sometimes hearing about World War II is too much for my gentle heart because it feels too close. I finally was ready today.

For those who aren’t familiar, TPIH is a podcast hosted by two women from Michigan. Cait & Jenn are bffs and you feel like you’re sitting in Cait’s barn with them as they banter about ghosts, their own lives, and the general mess America is in today. Episode 18 is about Nazi Germany in World War 2. A repeating theme of the episode was how MOST PEOPLE (except people like the Hyena of Auswitch, Irma Grese – shiver) aren’t naturally evil. It takes timing and circumstance to be manipulated so greatly that you are willing to do harm those around you. It is not in any way whatsoever ever a natural, human trait to want to put people into gas chambers and kill them.

It’s not easy to determine where Nazism began. We hear about the horrific things that happened and we say we would be on the side of the liberation. We would defend our neighbors. We would save lives.

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.”

It’s happening again. Groups of people are being separated from their families as they try to seek asylum in the land of the free. Children are held in cages, not given food or medication. Our government is planning to ban most asylum seekers at the southern border.

“Well, now.” Mr. Summer said soberly. “Guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can get back to work.”

Who is standing up for these families? Who is defending liberty? Who is saving lives? Are we truly so busy with our daily lives that we can’t stop to defend those who need defending? We know this isn’t right?

Right?

Have we become so immune to racism, sexism, and classism that we are going to sit on the sidelines and allow this to continue happening?

“Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. ‘It isn’t fair,’ she said as a stone hit her on the side of the head. ”

I hope not.

Friday Reads: Physick World by Katherine Howe

I recently devoured two fantastic books by Marblehead local, Katherine Howe. I’ve been telling everyone I can about them, so check them out!

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane tells the tale of a young woman who lives near Boston in the 1990s. Connie, a Harvard grad who studied American history, begins to work on her upcoming dissertation and learns a great deal about her mama and ancestors while doing so. While helping her hippy mama, who she has a complicated relationship with, close out the former home of her now deceased grandmother, Connie stumbles upon a small journal with the name Deliverance Dane on it. She learns that the journal is a magical collection of spells and through it learns that she has closer ties to the Salem Witch Trials than she ever could have imagined.

I loved this book for lots of reasons – a female protagonist, history of the Salem Witch Trials, modern witchcraft – #theseareafewofmyfavoritethings. Howe isn’t afraid of making sure readers know how intelligent her lead is – and I can’t get enough. There is no shame in her intelligence, no trying to lessen her education to please someone else. Connie is smart, gawd damn it, and she’s not afraid to share it. There is a bit of a love story involved, but it’s a far cry from a romance novel. AND – Connie’s love interest potentially (aka I’m about 99% sure) does steeple-work in a church building in Salem where my little girl went to preschool.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is next up – both novels tell the stories of Connie’s modern life and the lives of her woman ancestors so it’s difficult to call it a sequel or a prequel. Recently released (like, June this year – yes, I pre-ordered it!), this continuation of Connie’s life after finding her Deliverance Dane’s book, tells the story of how Connie overcomes old-white-man-syndrome in her career and how she handles the complications that sometimes arise in a marriage (and how being a witch can complicate it…). Connie’s relationship with her hippy mama improves and we find out so, so, so much more about their ancestors. Connie still has no concerns about hiding her intelligence, and there’s a lot about having solid female friends as an adult ~ sign me up.


What are you reading this weekend? Show me your #fridayreads!

Tarot for Self-Love

We’ve all seen it on TV: Your favorite character on the Netflix show you’re binging somehow ends up having their tarot read, pulls a Death card, and dies. 
Whomp, whomp

The tarot Death card. Always misinterpreted, never completely understood. Though its imagery can appear frightening, this card is about an ending – not the death of a life, but usually a circumstance. It’s easy to forget that every ending welcomes a new beginning. Yes, closing the proverbial door of your past can sometimes be scary or gut-wrenchingly sad. This card wants to remind you that a new opportunity is coming your way. 

Tarot dates back to the 1400s; it began as a game for royalty and was based on standard playing cards. The first known deck – the Visconti-Sforza – was created for the family of the Duke of Milan around 1440 and included characters inspired by carnival parade participants who are still often presented on modern decks today. It wasn’t until the late 1700s when practitioners of the occult began using tarot as a divination tool. Today, there are hundreds of different decks and anyone curious about reading tarot can find one that will inspire them. 

What does this have to do with self-care? Self-care and self-love are essential practices for our mental and physical health. Self-love practices don’t need to include fancy bath bombs or spending a lot of money – activities like meditation and self-reflection are uncomplicated, inexpensive ways to care for yourself, and the act of reading tarot involves both meditation and self-reflection. 
Instead of memorizing card meanings, readers can pull a set of cards and interpret a meaning that makes sense only to them. As an extreme over-simplification, reading tarot cards is selecting series of cards without knowing which cards you are choosing, considering the images on each card and how they relate to each other (often using common societal archetypes as a starting point), and using your intuition or a journaling practice to interpret the meaning. 


So, how does someone use Tarot for Self-Love?

The Ritual


Find some silence. 

Find a quiet, comfortable place. If you can get outside and let the sun shine on your face, do it. If it’s too cold or you live somewhere where outside space isn’t accessible, go into your room and shut the door. No music, no electronics, no interruptions. Turn your phone off.
 Find some peace.


Your phone is off, right? Sit down. Close your eyes. Listen to each sound around you. What do you hear? Is it close or far away? Is it a familiar sound or something new? Focus on your toes. How are they doing? Warm? Cold? Squished? Totally comfy? How about your ankles? Knees? How are your guts? Is your spine comfortable? Pause to focus on your neck and shoulders – are they tense? Breath some air into them. How about your forehead? Is it wrinkled? Let go and don’t forget to breathe.


Break out your journal. 
Don’t journal? Grab a blank piece of paper and a pencil. You can always burn it later if you want.  


Pull five cards. 
Pull the cards in such a way that the resulting images are a surprise to you. It doesn’t matter if you shuffle them and stack them and fan them out, or if you simply throw them on the floor and pick up the ones that you feel called to. 
Don’t look at the tarot book. Yes, this can be a helpful tool. But for this reading, what is most important is what your mind and spirit bring to the reading. Trust your intuition. 
Interpret the reading.
 You’ve already put down the book that came with your deck (right? <3). What imagery do you see in the cards? What story do the cards tell as they are placed together in a row? Are there people you know represented in your deck? Are the characters on the cards representing activities that resonate with your life? 

Write it down. 

Focus on being kind to yourself. You deserve it. 
Suggested Tarot for Self-Love Questions:

  • What do I love about myself?
  • 
What do I wish I loved about myself?

  • What do I love about others around me?
  • 
How can I welcome more love into my life?
  • 
How can I better love myself?

*************************************

Looking to have your tarot read by a professional? I can help! Visit me at thebookwitch.com or @_thebookwitch on instagram for details. 



Goodbye, Poe.

My dear friend, Poe, died today.

Poe has lived with me for eight years. Today we found out – through pure accident – that her bones were full of cancer. Bone cancer in pets is a horrifically painful, aggressive type of cancer.

When I was in sixth grade I had a really grouchy English Literature teacher. For whatever reason she seemed to like me. While we studied Edgar Allan Poe she noticed I seemed really interested in his short stories. One day she handed me one of her personal copies of his most famous short stories and told me to keep it. I still have this book on my bookshelf today.

Poe’s short stories were my first experience with literature; they immensely changed my life. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I was the kid in science class who was reprimanded for reading a novel instead of listening to the teacher go on and on about the fragility of flint. Becoming a book nerd helped me find myself. It helped me escape scary and awful days; it gave me an identity in which I could feel true pride.

The next year – in seventh grade – my family brought home a puppy. When I was in college this puppy (now no longer a puppy!) came to live with me. In 2011 she passed away. Her name was Angel and she was a sassy fluff ball unlike any other. We still had Ripley, a Greyhound my husband had adopted before we moved in together, but I still felt like I was missing a limb. I’ve always had pets for as long as I can remember and I needed to bring another fur-baby into my home.

I decided right away that I wanted to adopt a black dog. Black dogs are often difficult to find homes for – due to stigma saying they are aggressive (not true) and because they are less photogenic than say a smiling yellow lab. I also knew that the first dog I was ever able to name myself would be named Poe in honor of my favorite author whose works made me feel less like a weirdo during my awkward middle school years when our puppy came to live with us.

We contacted a Greyhound Rescue about a girl named Katie. Katie wasn’t socialized yet and was too nervous to meet us. The shelter person told me they had another black Greyhound named the Connie (racing name: The Irish Con) who she just knew we would fall in love with. She was right.

Ms Poe walked right up to me, one ear upright, the other floppy. She let us take her for a stroll around the rescue’s lawn and was very interested in the goats in the yard next door. We immediately completed an application and she came to live with us the following Saturday.

Throughout these eight years, Poe helped me remember who I am during some of my most difficult days. Always ready to lean in for a Greyhound hug, Poe’s kind soul was always there. (If you aren’t familiar with a Greyhound hug, you need to stop whatever you are doing right now and find a Greyhound and hug them.)

We didn’t know Poe had cancer. Yesterday she came to work with me for a teeth cleaning. She acted strange when we came home, hyper and distraught. Her legs kept giving out underneath her. At one point she screamed in pain and all four legs were splayed out beneath her. We thought she’d broken her leg in her anesthesia fog. I brought her back to work today and x-rays revealed she did in fact break her shoulder.

The x-rays also also showed a tumor. A bone tumor.

This girl, the most wonderful dog I ever have known, has been in pain for heaven only knows how long. She didn’t complain. She still hopped up into the car when asked to. She didn’t limp. She didn’t whimper. I know in my heart that she didn’t want us to worry about her. She dealt with her pain until she couldn’t anymore because she wanted nothing more than to give us all the love her giant heart could give.

Poe and my little girl were BFFs. Baby Girl is so sad her BFF won’t see her turn six, but she’s grateful to have had such a special girl welcome her home from the hospital when she was born. (And, of course, to have accidentally shared so many breakfasts with Poe who “sneakily” snagged uneaten toast from Baby Girl’s plates.)

Poe’s favorite thing to do was to dig a hole in the backyard and lay in it in the shade on extremely hot days. Today while we said goodbye to her we found a dusty spot in the shade on grassy yard of the animal hospital. We hugged her and kissed her, and helped her soul leave her painful body to find peace.

As her heart slowed down and stoped beating, a bird suddenly chirped a happy bird call. We all agreed that the bird was there showing Poe’s soul to the rainbow bridge or heaven or wherever it is souls go when they leave a body.

I’ve been home an hour or so since we said goodbye to my beloved friend. I’ve already heard her sighing her big relaxed Greyhound sigh. I also heard her nails clicking outside the door asking to be let in to snuggle with me while I write.

Who even knows what’s happen when we die? No one. I do know my best friend, dear Poe, will always be nearby. She’s hoping for some steak fat when Mike grills and giving me her adorable one ear up, one ear down face when she sees a squirrel running by outside. She’ll be snuggling up on the couch with Baby Girl when Baby Girl needs the kind of snuggle only a Greyhound can give.

******

I don’t know how many of my colleagues follow me on this weird book blog or my tarot heavy instagram, but I want to be sure to say THANK YOU to everyone who was there today.

From opening doors while I carried Sweet Poe inside the hospital, to closing my car’s hatchback while I carried her inside when I still thought she’d broken her leg, to making sure Poe’s eyes were hydrated since she was in so much pain that she wasn’t blinking, to giving Poe a pillow so her tiny head and giant nose were comfortable while we waited for the radiology report, to expediting the radiology report, to bringing me sparkling water, to stopping whatever else you were working on to give my dear friend xrays and pain meds, to coming in on your day off when you learned of the horror that existed in my dear girl’s bones.

I’m not very good at being vulnerable. But today I knew that my pain was shared. I was surrounded by people who care about me and my family, and especially my most amazing friend Poe the Greyhound.

Thank you.

💫Tarot for What Is💫

I’m joining in @wildsoulhealing ‘s August #tarotchallenge. Today’s card is Card for the Month of August. . 7 of Pentacles feels like succulent a relief. I’ve been through so much emotionally and practically since last fall, and have been working wicked hard on rebuilding my confidence and relationships. . 7 of Pentacles comes at time when we can find pride in something we’ve been working on for a period of time. It’s time to slow down, to pay attention to our successes. There may still be work to do, but that’s ok. I’ve come so far already. . Here’s @thelionessoracle ’s 7 of Pentacles in my garden. Which feels like a perfect representation of my growth these last few months. The flowers are blooming, the bees are collecting their pollen, the butterflies are drifting through. . #tarotforwhatis #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarotreaders #tarotreadersofinsta #seawitch #seawitchery #witchesofinstagram #mycoven #witchywomen #witchymama #witchythings #thebookwitch #bookstawitch #greenwitch #crafttywitch #crystalmagic #moonmagic #witchcity #salemma #salem
Day 2 of @wildsoulhealing ’s August Challenge. What can I prepare to step into and embody this month? The Moon. My intuition. 🌙 . #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarotreaders #tarotreadersofinsta #seawitch #seawitchery #witchesofinstagram #mycoven #witchywomen #witchymama #witchythings #thebookwitch #bookstawitch #greenwitch #crafttywitch #crystalmagic #moonmagic #witchcity #salemma #salem
What am I being invited to pay attention to at this time? . King of Cups: Compassion, Balance, Feeling in Control. . Unsurprising, to me at least, I pull a lot of Cups. I feel all the feels all the time. Rarely, though, does the King pop up for me. Seems it’s time for me to feel more in control of my feelings, and the way my reactions impact those around me. . Day 3. @wildsoulhealing @tarotforthewildsoul #tarotforwhatis #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarotreaders #tarotreadersofinsta #seawitch #seawitchery #witchesofinstagram #mycoven #witchywomen #witchymama #witchythings #thebookwitch #bookstawitch #greenwitch #crafttywitch #crystalmagic #moonmagic #witchcity #salemma #salem @thelionessoracle
How can I be present with what wants my attention? Page of Pentacles. . Pay attention. Appreciate the surrounding beauty. Decide what is wanted; go for it. . @tarotforthewildsoul #tarotforwhatis @thelionessoracle

How can I be present with what needs my attention? 4 of cups: Choose happiness. 💫 . @tarotforthewildsoul @thelionessoracle #tarotforwhatis

What needs to be released in order for me to choose love? 2 of Pentacles: Stop trying to precariously balance ALL.THE.THINGS. Something has to give. . @wildsoulhealing #tarotforwhatis #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarotreaders #tarotreadersofinsta #seawitch #seawitchery #witchesofinstagram #mycoven #witchywomen #witchymama #witchythings #thebookwitch #bookstawitch #greenwitch #crafttywitch #moonmagic #feminestaf

What am I being invited to think about with my relationship to my mind &thinking? . My anxiety often tries to tell me I need to GO, FIX IT, WORRY! The Hanged One says, “Woah, slow down!”. It’s a reminder to breathe, to take in what’s around us, to know that sometimes being still and appreciative is the most healthy approach. . @wildsoulhealing #tarotforwhatis #tarotreadersofinstagram #tarotreaders #tarotreadersofinsta #seawitch #seawitchery #witchesofinstagram #mycoven #witchywomen #witchymama #witchythings #thebookwitch #bookstawitch #greenwitch #crafttywitch #moonmagic #feminestaf

A message from my mind: Ace of Swords. A new breakthrough in a way of thinking. . I saw someone today I haven’t seen since last fall when my depression tried to destroy my life. I purposefully have been “hiding” from a lot of the people I used to know; afraid of what they know or don’t (or what they imagine happened). But today, on a whim, I felt ready to say hello to a particular person. . You know what happened? I received a hug and a, “Hope to see you sooner than later!”. My heart felt happy. . If you’re struggling, know that people care. Reach out, seek help. You’re worth it even when you don’t feel like it. . @tarotforthewildsoul @wildsoulhealing #tarotforwhatis

How can I care for myself in moments of discomfort and fear: Six of Pentacles in reverse. . Now isn’t a time to give to others; focusing on my own struggles is the only way I can heal. I have a tendency to use helping others to stay busy as an excuse to jot help myself. . In the words of @greggraffin / @badreligionband – I want to conquer the world. . #tarotforwhatis @tarotforthewildsoul @wildsoulhealing

Oomph, I few behind in @wildsoulhealing ‘s tarot challenge. If you know me for realz this is no surprise: I float from idea to idea, always seeking a new opportunity, always welcoming a new chance for a happy experience. . Here’s my attempt to catch up. . How can I be more present with my body? Six of Pentacles: Accept help from others. Know that doing it alone can be lonely. . What am I being invited to notice about my heart? Five of Swords: Drop the ego! A conflict within oneself is painful; know that everything isn’t against you. . Message from the deepest part of my heart: Temperance. Enough said. . How can I be more present with my feelings and emotions? Six of Swords: It’s time to move on. Journeys are scary, but it’s important to get unstuck. Focus on the destination. . #tarotforwhatis

My Strangely Shaped Nose…

I took about fifty of this same shot yesterday trying to show off my amazing owl necklaces from my Etsy shop. I decided not to post any because – Do you see my freckles? The sun spots? My strangely shaped nose? …

67726879_2368580376795598_5837892034609807360_nToday I started thinking about redoing the shoot. Better make up, different lighting, filters over filters.

But that’s not me. THIS is me. Freckles from so many gorgeous afternoons playing with Baby Girl inour gardens. Sun spots from so many long, amazing beach days with my friends in my 20s. The weird bend in my nose from a trip to Montreal for spring break that led to so, so much dancing and a clumsy friend who accidentally smashed me in the face with his uncoordinated arm.

None of us are perfect. But we can perfectly be ourselves and accept that.

Tag me in your selfies. Anyone who does will be entered to win one of these amazing Minerva necklaces and I’ll donate to @hawcnorthshore in the winner’s name.

Links in the biofor anyone who wants to pick up one of these bbs.