a Kindness

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

You know how we have a murder of crows, a blessing of unicorns, and a cauldron of bats? What if, in a world where humans are space-orcs, a group of humans is called a kindness?

When the grey-haired human asked Xar’ell if zir was cold, zir answered yes. Xovas’ simply had base temperatures that were lower than most travelling species. It’s not like zir was uncomfortable, simply that zir wasn’t really comfortable either. That evening a kindness flocked the messhall, filling it with the sounds of their chatter and the clicking of wooden and metal needles. Now Xar’ell has garments made of ‘wool’ from a creature called ‘sheep’ in the exact colours of the Argodal nebula (zem favourite). Zir has never felt so warm, both inside and out.

When a freak storm wrecked her house Bahrya was in despair. What was she to do for shelter, for both herself and her brood of six? She’d never thought a kindness would show up, let alone two. One came with wood and tools and “don’t worry, it might not look great, but it will be sturdy. And you’ll have a roof over your head until we can rebuild the house”. The other with blankets and toys and “I baked you greshpen, from your homeworld. Now the recipe called for yakka root, which I didn’t have, but I think sweet potato comes pretty close”. Bahrya wouldn’t have been able to stop the chitter of pure emotion as she pulled the humans into her many arms, even if she’d wanted to.

Now, a kindness should not be underestimated. And neither is a kindness always kind to everyone. When Fysha’rrelle was wrongfully accused and arrested, he had but one moment to meet the eyes of their human friend, rage clear on her face. After all, Fysha’relle wasn’t the first innocent Haftarr to be taken away, and he doubted he would be the last. That night, in a cold jail cell, he could hear the kindness coming. Their repeated words ringing off of the stone walls, the grey being warmed to orange by the torchlight of the kindness. As he looked from the window saw his friend, standing in the front, a voice expander in one hand, a sign in the other. Most humans were holding signs, he saw, a call to justice. When the guards tried to use violence to disperse the kindness, they were met with force they had never expected. No, Fysha’relle thought, a kindness is not always kind to everyone, but seeing one fighting not only for him, but for his people, made the cold jail cell feel a lot warmer.

Remembering the Pink Triangle

In the Netherlands, today is Dodenherdenking. It is the day of Remembrance of the Dead, the day and evening before our Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) on May 5th. On this day we remember those who lost their lives in war, from the second world war until today.

This year I will remember Willem Arondeus. Artist, freedom fighter, and proud homosexual who forged documents to protect the Jews. When the forgery was discovered, he and his fellow resisitance members bombed the Amsterdam city records, erasing hundreds of names and saving hundreds of people. He was arrested and executed in 1943. His last words to were “Tell the people that homosexuals are not by definition weak”.

This year I will remember all those who wore the pink triangle, the Nazi concentration camp badge which identified them as homosexual, bisexual or trans. I will remember all those who were saved from the concentration camps, only to be thrown into prison because of paragraph 175. All those who were freed but never knew freedom.

Tonight at 20:00, two minutes of silence will be observed in the entire country. At that time I will light a candle and place it on the sigil above. The pink triangle with my sigil to honour the beloved dead. In those two minutes I will be silent, and I will remember.

And tomorrow, the flame of freedom will burn and I will celebrate the freedom that our LGBTQIA+ community has in our country and be grateful to those who made that happen.

Unearthing your True Needs

Photo by Ksenia Yakovleva on Unsplash

When preparing for a spell, we ask ourselves what do we want to accomplish? What will the theme of this spell and ritual be? But what I realized is that I need to ask myself more often: what needs to happen before I can work this spell?

I’m struggling right now, physically and mentally, with a new chronic illness. What I want is help in accepting this, accepting the reality of my situation and accepting that things will never be the same again, no matter how much improvement I’ll make. So this was the theme I had in my head: acceptance. I’m having trouble accepting, so I will make a spell and ritual to aid in this. Simple, right? Except it didn’t feel right. I realized there were things holding me back from my acceptance, things that a ritual with me chanting “I accept” while focusing on a sigil that I made would not take away. Things that would block that magical work before it even began. So there are things I need to do before I can do the spell that I want to do.

I needed to unearth my true needs. What do I really need to get to a place where I can start working on acceptance? I’m a journaling kinda witch, so I grabbed my journal and started braindumping. No thoughts, just write it out. Start with what I am feeling about the subject and use that as a kickoff point for the rest. For me this often starts with “I feel…” because this gets me to the root of the problem. The things I have to address before I can go on. And through this work I realized that underneath that need for acceptance, there were a lot of other things:

Anger
Grief
Betrayal
A sense of injustice
A need to be understood
Feeling lost
A need for tranquillity, wholeness and calmness
Self-esteem issues
People pleasing
Toxic bonds with certain people
PTSD

I cannot gain acceptance until I deal with these underlying issues. I can make the most beautiful and powerful ritual for acceptance there has ever been, but it will crumble if it doesn’t have the right foundation. Because I looked deeper and tried to unearth my true needs, I have a list of eight magical workings that I need to do before I can do one for acceptance.

So when you are dealing with something big in your life, something you want to do spellwork or other magical workings for, ask yourself: is there something else I need to do first? Is this what I truly need or is there something deeper that needs to be dealt with? Unearth your true needs, then work towards what you want.

Finding Fantasy Names

— for D&D and writing.

It’s one of those things any writer or GM struggles with. Naming things. Characters, towns, magical doodads, everything needs a name. And not just a name, the perfect name. So today, I wanted to share some tips and sources that have really worked for me.

Keep a list

Inspiration can be found anywhere, at anytime. So I make sure I have lists where I can quickly jot things down if I come across anything I want to remember. In my dropbox I have a huge word document where I keep all my names. I also have a page dedicated to it in my bullet- and writer’s journals, as well as a quick reference guide in my GM’s journal. I keep my lists divided into sections, as well as some themed lists:

  • Town names
  • Male names
  • Female names
  • Gender neutral names
  • Surnames
  • Nature names (for EarthSong Forge: a city in my Averion D&D setting, where names are traditionally nature-inspired)
  • Colour names (for the Colours, the different branches of special forces in Averion)
  • Crystal names
  • Superhero names
  • Fairy names

In my GM’s journal I keep some of these lists as well, with names fitting my setting. Often I make a little note behind a name with which race I find it most fitting. Then, when my players interview a random NPC on the street, I can quickly pick out a name for them and make a note when and where it was used.
To prevent going back to the same names over and over, if I’ve used a name for a story, I will make it bold in my huge word document.

Forge your own

Something I like to do is take a modern name, and forge it into something a bit more suitable for fantasy. Usually I take a name as a base, then take off a few letters, change another, then add a few new ones and see what new and fun combinations I can come up with. For example: Melanie – Melnie – Melnia – Melniya. Or: Melanie – Melan – Melandra. Or: Melanie – Movanie – Movani – Mohvanii.

End credits

Every once in a while I like to grab my notebook and pen and take a moment to watch the end credits of a movie or show that I was watching. It’s a great way to get some names you’ve never heard before, since most are international productions, or have more common names but with a unique spelling. For example, the end credits of WandaVision gave me Neraida, Khodai, Mayes, Vasilios, Tanis, Gaëtan, Nicanor, Solan, Phen, Inzinna and Praveen.

Last names as first names

Something I’ve noticed is that surnames usually make amazing first names, especially for a fantasy setting. In my job we always ask the surnames of our clients to put into the system, and I’ve taken a lot of amazing names from there already. Especially if it’s from a culture that is not your own, the last names work amazing. For example, Janssen is a very common Dutch last name, but in America Jensen is used as a first name. Some other ideas: Aarden (Dutch), Darzi (Persian), Solak (Turkish), Melnyk (Ukranian) and a few of the names from the End Credits-list are also surnames!

Name generators

There are many (fantasy) name generators online, which are a great resource for finding names. I use them often, and if I see a name that I like, but doesn’t fit the character I’m currently searching for, it goes on a list! By far the best and most extensive one is Fantasy Name Generators. Not only do they have names for *everything* – from magical swords to drugs to cyberpunk cities – they have everything sorted in a way that it’s super easy to navigate. And the more you use it, the more trees get planted! How amazing is that?

(Baby) Name sites

(Baby) name sites are also an amazing resource. Most let you search by gender, cultural origin, or theme. My favourite for this is Behind the Name and their sister pages Behind the Surname and Behind the Place Name. Often names from a different culture work amazingly for your fantasy setting. They are names you don’t hear often, which means they won’t look out of place. Also, they make great bases for forging your own names.

Graveyards and obituaries

Another great source for names, if perhaps a bit…dark. Both usually have a person’s full name noted, which means that it can be a treasuretrove for longer names. Here in the Netherlands we often see that middle names are more unique, so it’s a great source for the more “unusual, but still this realm” names. It’s also a great place to see many different versions of the same name, or to find names that tie to a specific period.

So there you have it, a few sources and tips that I like to work with while writing or planning a game session. Where do you get your names?

Change

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Witchcraft is a path of change. Usually we practice magic to bring about a change in our lives, or the lives of those around us. In the years that I have been a practicing witch and pagan, my path has gone through a lot of changes. From a wiccan based one to a more nature and pagan based one. From only doing spells for myself to doing spells for social change on a global level. From practicing in my bedroom with an altar on top of a dresser, to having an entire room dedicated to my craft. Live is a river, ever moving and winding, and witchcraft is no different. It’s the reason I made the Write your Witchcraft challenge, to document those changes for yourself.

But no matter how much things changed, there were a few things that were a constant. A few small things that have been so ingrained into my practice since the beginning. And now that has to change as well, and I find myself adrift. I’ve mentioned before that in May of last year I got ill with Covid. On top of me still not being anywhere near recovered, it also damaged my lungs in such a way that I have to rethink much of my life, including my witchcraft and pagan path.

I’m going to need to find a way to practice without incense, burning candles, perfumed spell oils, strong scenting herbs or flowers, and smoke of any kind. Which might not seem like such a big deal, but for the past twenty-one years all of those things have been such a big part of my path. A cornerstone of sorts. My daily offering to the Gods is burning a candle and praying to them. I use incense and smoke to cleanse my magical tools. I use incense as a representation of the element of air, both in circle when creating sacred space and when charging something with the elements. In our coven we use spell oils to anoint ourselves before stepping into sacred space. I use candles to create a warm and intimate mood for my ritual workings. I burn certain herb mixtures for protection and cleansing when preparing for ritual.

I know I’m not alone in this, that there are many witches out there with asthma or other lung problems who also can’t use these things. So that helps, knowing I’m not alone, as well as reading a lot of tips and ideas for alternatives. But it’s difficult right now to try these alternatives. I don’t know what I would respond well to or not, and with the lockdown and the virus still going strong, I can’t go around to shops and try things out. It also doesn’t help that I have this gorgeous altar room which is now mostly finished (as finished as it will be during a lockdown) and I can’t be in there for more than five minutes before my lungs seize up because of something in there. It’s making me feel a bit lost and desperate. Witchcraft is a path of change, and this is another change that I can and will work through. I will find new ways to cleanse, to create sacred space and a sense of peace and intimacy. I will work around obstacles and make new traditions. I know all this. But right now, I’m mourning the loss of the path I had.

Element pages

Another peak into my Art Grimoire! Today I wanted to share my pages for the four elements with you. I wanted this one to be quite simple, the triangles with representations of the elements inside, and then have keywords which are my personal associations with each element.

What I love about this method is that I can keep adding correspondences and associations as they come to me, right up until the box is full!

Deity Bindrunes

I received a question on how I made my Nehalennia bindrune, so I figured I’d make a quick post about my process.

Nehalennia Candle Shrine side view with Nehalennia bindrune

First really quick: a bindrune is a symbol which combines different runes, in this case using the elder futhark. They can be used for magical purposes, combining their different properties towards a certain outcome. In this case, I use them as a symbol for a specific deity, combining their different areas of rule into one powerful symbol.

So step one is brainstorming. I usually sit with a crappy notebook and just jot down all the things I want to incorporate into the bindrune, or the domains of the deity I wish to make this bindrune for. This is a messy process and can take several days or weeks, depending on how smoothly this goes. Cernunnos’ bindrune came together super quick, only a few days, for example, while Baduhenna was a lot more nebulous, taking several weeks to get right.

Burnable Spellboxes with deity bindrunes. Left: Baduhenna. Middle: Nehalennia. Right: Cernunnos.

For the Nehalennia I settled on four runes of the elder futhark. Raidho: for travel, in this case across the North Sea. Laguz: for water, since Nehalennia is the Goddess of the North Sea. Fehu: for material wealth, most of her followers were hardworking merchants, and Nehalennia is a Goddess of prosperity as well, so I associate Her with reaping the fruits of your (hard) labour. Gebo: for gifts, relationships, and exchange. She is the Goddess of the harvest, and keeps the ships safe on their travels, but it comes with a price – and exchange – in the shape of an altar stone commissioned for Her. She gives, so much, but she does expect things in return. A relationship of equals.

After I made my choice it’s as simple, and as complicated, of trying out different combinations until one feels and looks right. For some runes this is very quick and can happen in one doodling session, like the Cernunnos rune or the Nehalennia rune. For others it takes multiple sessions to figure out something that works, like with Baduhenna.

Deity Bindrune concept page in my bullet journal. The top two-thirds are for Baduhenna, which eventually became something different entirely. The bottom one-third is for Nehalennia, the circled bindrune being the final one.

A parting note: for some it is important to not include the reverse or mirrored versions of the rune, since their meaning is different and often opposite of the upright one. For bindrunes, I do not have this belief, because I am using the meaning of the upright runes to built something new, while still holding the original meanings. They lose their individuality (a bit) to join into a conjoined and new symbol, with new meaning. But, this is for every individual practitioner to decide.

BuJo: Cards Sent

This year I picked up my habit of bullet journaling again! I don’t use it as a planner, but more as a daily-, weekly-, and monthly tracker for a bunch of things. My health, my symptoms, line a day diary, daily good things, books I plan to read this year, what witchy things I do during the month, etc. etc. I’m keeping it a bit lighter this time, not putting too much pressure on myself to keep it going. So here is the first page I want to share with you! A page to keep track of which handmade cards I sent out during the year. The adorable little mailbox I drew using LawnFawn’s You’ve Got Mail as a base. I think it turned out super cute and I can’t wait to see it fill up more and more during the year.

To my BuJo’ers out there, what is your favourite tracker?

a Card for Imbolc

Last monday was Imbolc, the pagan holiday which celebrates the start of spring. A symbol for Imbolc are snowdrops, which are also my favourite flowers! So, because I finally wanted an excuse to use this stamp, and I wanted some freedom in playing around, I made this Imbolc card. A soft lilac cardstock base with layers of white plain card stock, green mulberry paper, and plain card stock again. I used distress oxides to create the background and stamped my snowdrop over it. With white pencil I coloured the “drop” part of the snowdrop. I cut out the letters and added a layer of nuvo aqua shimmer to both the letters and my snowdrop.

I love how soft this card turned out. This is the first time I made a greeting card for a pagan holiday, but I quite enjoyed it, so it might just have to become a new tradition!