Yesterday there was a pretty unique event. We had a partial solar eclipse, which coincided with the peak of the new moon. A perfect time to do some powerful and heavy-duty spellwork. I’ve had the idea for this jar in my mind for a while, and this new moon/solar eclipse felt like the perfect time to make it. I had to make some black salt, as well as the banishing powder that you see as the layer on top of the sand, and I had supplies enough to make some pretty big batches, so I feel I have some pretty powerful new stuff added to my witchy toolkit!
I call this jar my binding and banishing jar. Whenever I perform a binding, like we will next week during the Pride Witchcraft event, I like to use a simple spell format. I write whatever I wish to bind on a piece of black paper, fold it up and bind it with twine, wool or cotton cord. After leaving it on the altar to charge for a period of time, I would do the banishing part and toss it in the trash. Lately I’d been toying with the idea of burying it, interring it into the ground so it can decay, desolve, and its energy used to grow something new. However, I didn’t want to keep digging holes in my (overgrown) garden and litter, even if it is biodegradable. So, the idea for this jar was born! I will bury my bindings and banishings in here, and when I feel it is time to renew the energy, I will toss out the old and remake it anew.
What you need
sand/dirt/(potting) soil/salt, something you can bury something in
fill your jar with your sand/soil, focussing on its function: to bind, to banish, to decay and dissolve the things you have bound so something new can grow in its stead
add the banishing powder, focussing on its function: to banish and pack that extra punch of fire and power
close the jar and add the chains and lock if wished
charge and bless your jar in whatever way you prefer. I sat with it outside in the sun and spoke to it. Told it what its function was, what I wanted it to do. Visualised the things I would put in there dissolving into the ground and a seed of something new, better, more positive, stronger, growing in its place. Then I left it charging in the sunlight until the eclipse was done and moved it to my altar space.
Now it is ready for use, and I’m excited to start using it for the first time next week, to banish and bury the things that negatively impact our beautiful queer community!
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:
Gender neutral names
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)
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.
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!
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?
Recently I’ve gained an interest in shadow work, and during my research binge I’ve found that a lot of people use tarot and oracle decks as a tool to help them in their shadow work. A lot of the decks they use are darker and often eerie, with lots of horror elements and skulls. There is nothing wrong with that, and I have a few of those decks myself, but they don’t fit me or where I stand in my current path. So I went searching for a deck that spoke to me, something that would work for me, and I found… nothing.
So after watching Dawn Michelle’s videos on her handmade deck I was inspired and figured: why not make my own? And why not share my process so you can make your own as well?
Fase 1: Theme So my first step was brainstorming and research. Starting with choosing a theme for my deck. I’d already picked my theme, sort of through necessity: shadow work. Now, I didn’t want all the cards to be deep, thought invoking, dramatic cards. So what could I add that didn’t take away from the goal of the cards or the feel that I wanted them to have? For me, shadow work stands hand in hand with personal empowerment. This because of my habit of underestimating or forgetting my own power. So those would be the offset to the shadow, which also gave me a working title: “Power and Shadow”.
Fase 2: Brainstorm I didn’t write any of this down, and I think I should have. So I’m giving the advice to grab a journal or open a new document and just… write. Write down anything you can think of about the ideal version of this deck. Some questions to help you get started:
What oracle do you want it to be? I knew I wanted a card deck, but it could of course be anything! Painted stones, pyrographed wooden sticks, charms, you name it.
What are the colours? I decided on muted tones with lots of dark blues, greys and blacks. I also wanted the backs of the cards to be black and/or grey.
What are some card names that you can think of right now? I did write some of these down quickly; collision, healing water, let go, toxicity, storm, adrift. Along with, if I had them, a short meaning to each. For collision this was “confrontation needed/unavoidable”, just so I could remember why I had that title.
What does this deck need to have; are there certain themes, images or words that are a must-have? This will not only help you get a clearer view of the deck, but will also help you where to research. I know a theme was shadow work, so I knew I had a direction to search in. I knew I wanted to incorporate poetry into them, shot poems by people like Nikita Gill, Abigail Lovelace or something I wrote myself. The moon and stars are very important to me, as is the sea. I love nature and forests, so those are for me must-haves in anything that has to do with personal work. For empowerment the wolf is a very strong symbol for me. So I knew where to search for meanings and names of the cards, as well as art or photographs.
Fase 3: Research Start looking at other oracle decks. What do you like, what don’t you like? Both in looks, aesthetics, vibe, card names and themes, you name it. What decks do you have, are they hand-drawn or digital? Lots of colour or not? What themes or images keep coming back in these? That will help you get a clearer view of the things that already work for you.
I also watched videos about other people talking about their favourite oracle decks for shadow work. I noted some of the things they said and wrote them down. I felt drawn to some of the cards and titles and wrote them down as well. I watched flip throughs of the decks they mentioned and took notes in my notebook about the things that spoke to me. For example: the Vampire Deck by Lucy Cavendish gave me the names “redemption” and “primal”.
Keep your notebook handy while looking at other media as well. A video by Joey Morris about a ritual do deal with a break up gave me “sunset: letting go, liminality, healing from endings”, while a video about creativity by Kelly Ann Maddox gave me “sacred rebellion: Fight capitalism, do things for yourself, not because they make you money”. Inspiration is everywhere, darlings!
Research the themes you are working with. What are things that keep popping up in your theme? In my chosen themes it was things like privilege, the inner critic, childhood, toxicity, forgiveness, release, being kind to yourself, self love. Find those and see how you can incorporate them into your deck, and what they mean to you.
Look towards other decks (both DIY and not) to see what style speaks to you. I mentioned Dawn Michelle’s videos earlier, I love the cards that she made, but I knew that even though I think they are gorgeous, they are too busy for me. I knew the moment I had a sort of visceral reaction to her “simplicity” card, that that was way more my style. Clean, simple and the picture is the star of the show. I had a stack of photography magazine clipping that I knew would work perfectly for this style.
For the backs I had fallen in love with a deck of playing cards, where the cardstock was matte, but the images were glossy. I knew that would be perfect for the feel that I wanted this deck to have. So I went on to step 2: experimenting!
So join me next time to see how I experimented with making my own cards, what worked, what didn’t work, and how I found the perfect cards for me. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and also tell me about your oracles! Have you made one yourself, how and what did you use?