Wishcraft, Stagecraft, and Pepper’s Ghost

The following entry may contain triggering material.

Wishcraft looks like it goes: believe in something and it will happen—maybe do something to express that belief, like a lot of wishing superstitions. Maybe that’s enough.

I examine my belief system, though, to make sure it’s still working (and I wonder with what I’m examining it, which keeps me paralyzed in a philosophical paradox until something sudden distracts me.) I’ve found two separate processes in action: 1.) making sense out of nonsense, and 2.) making more sense out of something that makes sense.

This comes up when I cast Ogdoad glyphs based on chess pieces. I’m casting them onto whatever poetic metaphysical equivalent of a chess board there is, and I have a specific idea of their nature and purpose—but not always the rules of the game, or that this vocabulary has the correct Glamour, or that who or whatever I address would listen and understand enough to join in on reinforcing this belief system by effective response. (Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure made a better connection between speaking or parole as the chess pieces, and language or langue as whatever it takes to make those chess pieces more than decorative.)

Fairy Chess changes the rules: that the pawns can now move like kings without having the value of a king, or that every move transports a piece to a corresponding square on a parallel board, or that there’s one extra piece on nobody’s side whose move is determined by the roll of an eight-sided die and so help your pieces who can’t get out of the way fast enough.

In a way, I’ve come to recognize these more as Proscenium stuff. A chess game can be theatrical, full of errant knights, flying castles, bishops moonlighting as assassins, and pawns that can rise to power as royalty. It’s not a frequent courtesy of the game I’ve seen, that players ever give one another the satisfaction of striking down the king. When such is a mathematical certainty, there’s no point in acting it out. The loser tumbles the king, and the players shake hands on it. Of course, the loser can flip the table over in a snit, instead, but that very real act somehow cannot undo the loss never enacted: “offstage” as it is, in the rules of the game, somehow less real. (If a player flipped the table over when so many other possibilities in-game remained, that would have a different effect.)

So, I’ve come to another distinction. The one is Conjecture Proscenium, which claims all those mathematical certainties of the downfall of chess kings, and the maths, and whys, and hows, of symbolic meanings, and all in a space where it really is just a game. The other is Conjure Proscenium, which I’d touched on when defining a deliberately created Scape (although I called both concepts Proscenium, then.)

I see the same process in the way I cast glyphs in the Otherreal, which is really very much like projecting a Pepper’s Ghost.

In the sidereal or otherreal, I sometimes feel qualities of otherwise undetectable billows in the air. They don’t change meaning or quality according to what shape I’ve put them in by waving my hands about, though—I’ve tried, and maybe that way simply doesn’t work for me. I build glyphs below the stage, the back of my mind or the bottom of my heart, and then play them out on the plane I perceive. I still wonder how it works, how it doesn’t, what is it about the world that has metaphorically conducive properties? But that’s applauding the scenery. Belief moves somewhere between the players and the props.


More Crystal Gem Cartomancy

Final post this week (probably) about this thing I’ve been fiddling around with.

Not much to detail.

Dreamed about food. Maybe indoor meals, but I don’t remember specifics. Did a single-draw about it anyway, to keep in practice.



Then had a couple of dreams that left me feeling as though I’d gone through some epic adventure, but I couldn’t recall the specifics of those, either. Rose Quartz was gigantic in one, and she met her son-self the eponymous Steven Universe of the series, except he had turned into an adorable yellow-brown jackalope.

the Joker card


And then I did my first reading for somebody else with playing cards, modified from a spread in the Little White Book accompanying my usual deck, the Shadowscapes tarot:


Columns left to right: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, Rose Quartz.

Rows, bottom to top: body, heart, mind, spirit.

I couldn’t interpret the Jack of Spades in the column of Pearl, row of spirit. I thought the court cards would be people if not personalities, and when they don’t give off that vibe to me with tarot cards, I think of pages as messages, knights as journeys, and the monarchs as underlying circumstances or movements (I swap the ranks of the Queens of Cups and Pentacles from standard, so the supporting monarchs describe circumstances whereas the highest-ranking monarchs describe movements.)

Crystal Gem Cartomancy and Dream Interpretation

The following entry may contain triggering material.

The dream: My deceased, abusive mother and estranged, abusive sibling sat at an antiseptically clean-white kitchen table together. I mentioned that their lousy attitudes towards relationships and sexuality left me vulnerable to sexually abusive dynamics. They disagreed without substance to their counterargument.

Deck: playing cards (read here for system)
Spread: Red King’s Crown

1. (Center) Signifies the Querent. Five of Spades.
2. (Crossing) The crux of the issue. Four of Hearts.
3. (Top) Themes to consider. Seven of Spades.
4. (Upper left) Symbols from the dream. Three of Diamonds.
5. (Upper right) Symbols from reality. Two of Hearts.
6. (Lower left) Why the dream doesn’t wake up. Seven of Hearts.
7. (Lower right) Why reality doesn’t sleep and dream. Ten of Spades.
8. (Bottom) Future, culmination. Eight of Diamonds.

Pain that comes from really nowhere, crossed by the signifiers of love without the essence or substance of it. In our waking life history, I wasn’t a troubled adolescent or young adult to them so much as I was malfunctioning: I wasn’t supposed to have a perspective of my own, or feelings, and family wasn’t supposed to recognize or respond to those as though they mattered (unless they can pull a double standard: hours of complaining about one time I left my keys inside before going out, to the point of rallying resistant roommates and making calls to mutual friends, was “just venting”; if I pointed out that continual advice and scolding about what I should do about my cough was beginning to come off as aggressive, I should loosen up and not expect everybody to be perfect, and why do I have to be insulting and hurtful, why she’ll show me aggressive.)

I’ll get back to the Seven of Spades.

Symbols from reality, (Two of Hearts) current infatuation, contrasted with having learned from past infatuations that I absolutely cannot trust my feelings or instincts about anybody. I don’t love what’s good for me, and…frankly, I’m not eligible for someone to share their life with that way, anyhow, I’ve got too many practical issues right now to be good company for anyone.

Symbols from the dream (Three of Diamonds) suggest that my solo-parent, two-child family fit together very, very, very well…perfectly, actually…and that wasn’t a good thing.

Seven of Spades suggests that these are growing pains: learning to fight for love, and, because Spades are Amethyst’s suit, learning to love to fight.

The dream won’t wake up (Seven of Hearts) because…I carry over issues from people I’ve avoided and apply them to dynamics/relationships where those people are gone. That doesn’t mean that I’ve won against some echoing violation of some principle, it means I’ve introduced conflict where there previously was none.

Reality won’t sleep. Because reality, like evil, never sleeps. Conclusively, reality is eeevil…

From the Eight of Diamonds, I get the sense of calcification. Everything will become clear and make perfect sense…which is always the moment I should know I’ve missed something…but, narrative is power, and power is amoral and orthogonal to truth. There’s a sort of power that makes something true, and I’ve never witnessed the beneficial effects of that.

Dream and Tarot Interpretation

The following entry may contain triggering material.

The dream, logged the morning of 19 September 2016.

I was trapped in a hotel with what looked like young Winston Churchill. He had Kilgrave’s mind-control powers. Officer Daisy from “Anansi Boys” (in my dream played by Naomie Harris) led me stealthily to the basement and out some secret stairs to safety. The next scene felt more like news footage I was watching: Daisy led riot police against not-Kilgrave’s mind-controlled minions. Some overcast morning after Daisy won, and everyone stayed indoors as though embarrassed that civil unrest had temporarily happened, I wandered around the empty city streets. Then I realized that I was feeling lighthearted enough to fly, which was a superpower I thought I’d lost after getting Kilgraved. Then I woke up.

My therapist mentioned that dreams which fall into three acts can be interpreted thusly: Act I symbolically describes the issue. Act II, the environment that exacerbates the issue. Act III, a suggestion from the wise subconscious.

This is why I get so annoyed by symbolism: the issue presented in the dream could be intimate violence, or how I hold onto my middle class privilege like a hot potato, or my fear and loathing at having reasoning so manipulated. That last one goes back to grade school shunning because I was born out of wedlock, which I can’t exactly make amends for or stop doing because I was literally actually born that way—but it was so, so easy for everyone to get herded about by the word of one person who just decided I was Satan. And I have not noticed this tendency disappearing in older people. I’d linked a conspiracy theorist to a CIA officer’s lecture about the unsustainable nature of the world order, appreciating the paraphrasing of Heinlein’s razor: (“Faced with a choice between conspiracy and incompetence, I’d go with incompetence.”) Whether this theorist would consider the points of that lecture apparently hinged on one question: This is one of the good guys, right? I’d wanted to reach through both our computer screens, grab their collar and scream, “I am not the one to sort out for you who is good and who is bad in this world!” They had their own damn mind, they used it to study the conspiracy of a flat earth, but! They had their own moral compass, at least! Didn’t they? Didn’t they?? I have to believe in that. But I also wanted to tell them that I was a shapeshifting reptile alien conspirator, or possibly that I was Satan, if that lie would get across for even a moment that they mustn’t invite me to do their thinking for them just because I learned the jargon.

…Considering what a nerve that struck, it’s probably that third one.

Act II, the news reports, suggests a detachment to this. I can witness heroic victories as Daisy’s, and maybe a fluffy fantasy of the Right And Good Thing for once, just once, also being the Smart Thing That Wins. I can’t lead or embody this, because that’s just not a combination that happens. Gaiman’s Daisy is a digital law enforcer, rather than a more classic action heroine.

Act III suggests some alone time outside of my comfort zone? I don’t know. What do the cards say?


Deck: Shadowscapes
Spread: Red King’s Crown

1. (Center) Signifies the Querent. The Chariot.
2. (Crossing) The crux of the issue. Eight of Cups.
3. (Top) Themes to consider. Seven of Pentacles.
4. (Upper left) Symbols from the dream. Four of Wands.
5. (Upper right) Symbols from reality. Ten of Pentacles.
6. (Lower left) Why the dream doesn’t wake up. Ace of Pentacles.
7. (Lower right) Why reality doesn’t sleep and dream. Judgment.
8. (Bottom) Future, culmination. Knight of Pentacles.

These feel like random cards. The prominence of pentacles and the absence of swords would suggest the exact opposite of my original interpretation: this dream is not about something as abstract as ideology, but more grounded in maybe sexuality or finances. (But that’s never any fun.)

I’d take the first two to mean that I’m on some sort of war path (Chariot) but I keep it all inside (Eight of Cups.) I do not! I take action, I-I…blog… Anyway, the Seven of Pentacles suggest a shared theme of delay or frustration. That doesn’t connect to the dream, though, because there was always something happening, then resolved, then setting in motion the next thing happening.

Daisy is one major symbol in the dream that fits the Four of Wands. Yes, the card shows a herd, and I’ve ranted about herd mentality, and in the dream I followed along. Because I was in a bad place with somebody bad, and she cared, and she knew better than I did about what to do. Sometimes that’s just what happens.

Symbols of reality…We don’t question everything, even though we should according to those inclined to complain about sheeple (which I thought was a portmanteau of “sheep” and “temple”) (in this case should it be guyselle? i think the animals in the wands card are gazelle.) Some adages pass as fact because they’ve become popular, or they’ve been popular far too long for anyone to notice that “popular” is a better descriptor than “true”. That doesn’t mean that whatever force sustains its presence or value is going to change. In a way, it becomes its own baseline of reality, its own inevitability.

The dream won’t wake up precisely because it’s seeded by waking life; waking life won’t fall asleep because I keep trying to look beyond or deep within or otherwise transcend it—not a causal because, more like a reminder that reasoning/hope isn’t impact.

The knight of pentacles represents some more purpose-driven and concrete journey already. That’s good.

Crystal Gem Cartomancy

The following entry may contain triggering material, spoilers for Steven Universe and Soylent Green.

I appreciate how commonplace playing cards are, and I admire fellow whatever-you-call-us’s tips to turn commonplace objects wishcraftsy. Too bad the images are too abstract for me in this case. I’d have the same reader’s block with a lot of tarot “pip decks”. I like them fully-illustrated with some sort of story to make of those images. At the same time, structure mattered a bit, not enough that I’d ever master the Opening of the Key spread. I’d trimmed the Dream Cards (sliced off the borders, had a corner-rounder for them and everything, though I don’t recommend pen cutters—broad bladed box cutters made for cleaner slices) but kept trying to think them into a tarot system anyway, which was awfully limited of me to think. If I hadn’t lost them when I ran away from home, I’d finish the trimming and try to appreciate that deck as a structureless, intuitive oracle. My first reading with the elected major arcana and court cards of that deck was eerily accurate.

When I wondered about Steven Universe as a pop culture pagan thing, my next thought was that there was enough story to fit with something as abstract and structured as a card deck.

Thought Process

I. Each of the suits would be ruled by one of the four survivors of the Gem Wars: Garnet as the balanced heavy-hitter, clubs; Amethyst as the challenger from Earth, spades; Pearl with the structures and lucidity, diamonds; and Rose Quartz as ruling the suit of hearts.

II. What the ones to tens of each suit would mean then got me thinking about numbers as a pure notion. The tarot aces, I would interpret as a pure, nascent form of the suit. The Ace of Cups would be a flash of intuition or interpersonal understanding, the Ace of Swords would be an irritation or epiphany…Maybe tens would symbolize overall excessiveness, but in between I didn’t think to interpret by pip number. I’d learned keywords, and putting a number to the suit would be more a way to organize those keyword concepts, than significant in and of itself.

III. I drew up a spreadsheet to write keywords in as they occurred to me. Ace of Garnet would be stardust, two would be fission, three would be fusion, four would be home because the fandom name for her is Square Mom…Ace of Amethyst would be seed, two would be rejection, three would be curiosity, four would be self…Ace of Pearl would be order, two would be fealty, three would be balance…

IV. What does suit plus number mean to each of them? Once I filled out the table, I thought, I could consider the whole and find general patterns (what’s the three-ness between fusion, curiosity, and balance?)—and then make adjustments to better fit that general pattern.

Except that the suit of Rose Quartz came to mind like: Ace of Rose is love, two is love (healing?), three is love, four is love, five is love (protection?), six is love (honesty? c’mon R.Q. gimme something more specific), seven is love, eight is love, nine is so much love (cosmic?), ten is so much love…

So I got to actually shuffling an actual deck of cards, to find out what meanings I could intuit based on what I knew of the story. The above spread just occurred to me and felt right to do. The question was: What should I know, about all of you and this method?

1.) Garnet, top, the multiple possibilities of a foreseeable future. Six of Diamonds.
2.) Amethyst, mid-right, how to attack…erm, approach this issue. Three of Spades.
3.) Pearl, mid-left, what to worry about (plan for or resolve). Two of Clubs.
4.) Rose Quartz, bottom, foundations for healing/growth and protection. Five of Diamonds.

Six from the suit of Pearl in the position of Garnet generate a Sardonyx with a quality of six-ness. This conveyed to me a moderate number of equally likely futures, perfectly calculable but not worthy of the effort. The stakes of choosing one over another path are average.

Three from the suit of Amethyst in the position of Amethyst, with a quality of three-ness. Just do a thing to make a thing happen.

Two from the suit of Garnet in the position of Pearl didn’t come off as a fusion this time, but an irreconcilable distance between reasoning and passion.

Five from the suit of Pearl in the position of Rose Quartz came off more like a suggestion to being humble and charitable…so, I admit this is a slapdash mess and I post it here for anybody who can make something of it to make something of it.


I think what I liked most about this reading was that this deck is made of flippy, slippy, plastic card. As I understand to make it called for dredging up fossilized ancestors to fuel some pollution of the air, and it takes so long to break down and become part of the ecosystem again, and even when it does a bit, the tiny plastic bits displace the nutrients in baby seagulls’ digestive systems and whatever other animals accidentally eat it, so they starve without feeling hungry, so the diligent seagull parents never get to see their baby seagulls grow because they die and the seagulls never know what they did wrong by their babies—I don’t like this part. It’s a horrible part.

But when I wondered if plastic cards would be less conducive to cartomancy for not having some distant relation to some earthly autotroph who was wise in the ways of life before getting bleached and dyed with chemicals we make for a shortsighted purpose and then just throw somewhere else, but it’s tree pulp so it’s natural and more magical…and I admit, I usually am more comfortable working with natural materials. It’s the texture, or the smell. It’s usually comfy. I liked shuffling these cards, though…

…I thought I could hear Garnet reminding me that these cards are made of stardust, just like everything else in the corporeal world—and besides, Gems are all about technological innovation. Waterproof playing cards are fine representations of that.

(…but we citizens of the developed and developing worlds accidentally created an artificial island out of garbage…This deck will outlive me and end up there, and our descendants would be crying over soap bars and tomatoes, visiting tree museums, referring to women as “furniture”, and eating Soylent Green. Soylent Green looks like plastic chips.)

…Hrmm…maybe I should have thought up a Steven Universe based divination system using dice in shapes other than cubes. Those can look like gems.

Beginning Mirror Work

The following entry may contain triggering material.

To share anything—performed, expressed, or explained—no matter how artfully, takes something apart from the lived experience. That dissociation remains valuable.

Here comes a thought
that might alarm me
What someone said
and how it harmed me
Something I did
that failed to be charming

Things that I said are suddenly swarming…

and it was just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. We can watch (we can watch) we can watch (we can watch) them go by…from here, from here, from here.

Was this Erstvale, Surreal? Whatever. It had trees on turf. I’ll call it Erstvale. Beyond the corner of my eye, unhorsed ballerinas swathed in gauze and mist keened faintly for blood. The last time I saw them, they seemed to be kicking body parts around, and chasing where the others kicked. There may have been some splattering. Now, they seemed calmer.

(“Soon,” Giselle had crooned at me, “You’ll find out. Any way that takes you as far as that is not your way at all.”

I’d replied, “When that time comes, it would be because I’ll have the luxury of rejecting allies to getting anything done at all. Kill me before that happens.”

But Giselle would rather die than harm anyone, pure and perfect Cinnabon soul that she is—I loathe her.)

Queen Myrtha stood uncharacteristically still in the clearing, and spoke with uncharacteristic legibility. She and Giselle were never too far from one another, even when they seemed so. The Queen held up an unbroken, unstained hand-mirror and silently asked what I saw.

After a moment of looking, I sighed with disappointment. It was the same thing I saw when I started mirror work, tail end of last year. It hasn’t done much since. “I see a mirror.”


That sounded more like Queen Myrtha. No quotemarks to contain her speech; it’s as though the fabric of the multiverse is screaming. It comes into mind bypassing the ears. You’d be surprised what you can get used to.

“But,” I said, and pointed, “There’s one. Right there. There it is. Mirror.” If I overthink, of course, a functioning mirror never can show itself: it shows everything else that’s not a mirror. Hypothetically, then, those with vision have never seen a mirror, but only seen reflections in the theoretical object we think up to explain those reflections. We can support this hypothesis by understanding the material, weight, size, shape, texture, taste and temperature of what we may then conclude to be an object—


I couldn’t. The forest I thought was filled with mist was really more like filled with infinitesimally small snowdrop-beads, moving in wreathes. Some things in the Surreal world do function the same way as the Corporeal, maybe because I think they should…even though I don’t want my tongue to have frozen stuck to a warlord fairy queen’s mirror.

It wasn’t a good hypothesis, anyway. A mirror is a tool that we’ve made, so we know mirrors exist, what one is, how it does, why it works. I suspect that so is Myrtha, or else this would just be embarrassing. (And this has never happened to me in the corporeal world. It’s probably not what it’s really like. One day I should go somewhere cold and get my tongue frozen stuck on something. For science.)


Mirrorwork takes the approach that everybody is made up of three things:

1.) What you think of yourself.
2.) What others think of you.
3.) What you think others think of you.

No reason this list should exclude “what others think you think they think of you” or “what you think others think you think they think of you” or even “what they think you think they think you think they think of you”. What they each think of themself is their bailiwick.

She raised the hem of her dress slightly and looked down at her shoes.

They couldn’t be real glass, or else she’d be hobbling towards some emergency first aid by now. Nor were they transparent. The human foot is a useful organ but is not, except to some people with highly specialized interests, particularly attractive to look at.

The shoes were mirrors. Dozens of facets caught the light.

Two mirrors on her feet. Magrat vaguely recalled something about . . . about a witch never getting caught between two mirrors, wasn’t it? Something she’d been taught, back when she’d been an ordinary person. Something. . . like . . . a witch should never stand between two mirrors because, because, because the person that walked away might not be the same person. You were spread out among the images, your whole soul was pulled out thin, and somewhere in the distant images a dark part of you would get out and come looking for you, if you weren’t very careful.

—Witches Abroad

The moment Queen Myrtha frees me from the fairyland mirror that has connived my capture, I can move onto more Intermediate Mirrorwork.

Preferably with the Dierne, instead.

The Hashtagging Prayers

The following entry may contain triggering material.

It can’t have been fifteen years already. It’s not something that passes and then everything goes back to normal. I was barely a teenager when I saw the news on TV. The reporter was saying that she’d never seen anything so horrible in her whole career as a journalist. I thought it must be bad, but it was happening awfully far away: live news reports showed a bright, sunny day in New York City. My family and I watched this in the evening. Then a bomb lobbed over the walls of the campus graffiti telling foreigners to go home and my white classmates did because it wasn’t safe (I was foreign, too, but passing—whoever our attackers were, my mother seemed sure they wouldn’t care that I wasn’t Muslim, why, they hadn’t cared that so many of my schoolmates were actually Muslim and a lot of the teachers too, or that my classmates and I were kids) and the administrators thought there would be another attack—we students stayed home on a good few school days while the teachers drove around, delivering homework; they called an assembly to mourn a student from a sister campus in another island when the nightclub there exploded, I didn’t know her, one of the upperclassmen in front of me fainted and I wondered if he knew her and a classmate caught him and a teacher helped take him to the clinic and I never asked. We had an extra security detail on campus. They didn’t dress like security guards, and I remember how long their guns were. Some other upperclassmen set off firecrackers to prank them. And I thought it was funny, too, because I didn’t know what adolescence was supposed to be like. Maybe we weren’t that far off, for our generation.

As an adult, I get far more upset about what would come off as far less traumatic or even noteworthy matters. I’m not adulting; my schoolmates grew up without me just fine, which is actually fine, there’s only so much one can blame the world for.


For a while, this year, the one most common prayer I could manage would go something like:

Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne
Darene Liathane Laethelia Ophelene

Kill me now.

This I can’t.

I guess I’m alive to write that because the gods aren’t vending machines. I found one of the old notebooks from when I first started with the Otherfaith almost two years ago, and I’d written to the Ophelene: How can I believe in you? I can only believe that the world needs you. And I can never quite manage to stop believing…but I never really know what to do.


Before sleeping—when I remember, more than anything to do with my mood—the prayer goes:

Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne
Darene Liathane Laethelia Ophelene

My words honor you. My deeds, even better.

This I pray.

I’ve never had any of them barge into my Othereal or Surreal to say, “Are you serious?! You messed up so bad with—” Or, “You did fine. You did great!” But it gives me something to ponder.


Upon waking, the original litany went (and I still pronounce Darene the same as way as Darren) :

Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne
Laethelia Ophelene Darren Liathane

I wake to thoughts of you. I go about my day with you.

This I pray.

I didn’t keep that up for long. It felt like an awfully long way to say hey g’day, even though wondering first what the Clarene would like me to do would usually be light years more constructive than what I personally would be inclined towards.

Kill me now. I can’t.

Another dry spell with the job search, another month Cecilia shells out for our groceries and my part of our rent, and then off to her job that she balances with Master’s classes and it’s Thesis Year, and then still spends evenings binge-watching Steven Universe episodes with me that she’d already watched before and we geek out with, and stockpiling dark bitter chocolate bars because those have stimulant opposite-depressant effect.

So, I’ve been well-fed, but it’s not mine to offer.

Except when I cook, I feel. Today it was cocoa-powder pancakes with chopped-up bits of orange gummy candy that I am proud to say did not taste like too much baking soda…and the kind of coffee that leaves you wracked with anxiety and acid reflux but that goes away and leaves a mind so clear that you can almost see the whole universe.


(Hold up the drink cup)

“Clarene Ophelia Laetha Dierne
To each a fifth of all the good offered through this here.”

(Sip, set aside; hold up the container of food)

“Darene Liathane Laethelia Ophelene
To each a fifth of all the good offered through this now.

This we share, I pray.”

(Consume as you do.)