Now that I’ve not only made an awful joke, but messed it up on purpose because it’s so awful, welcome to October! October is a hell of a month for me. Probably like most of you, I like Halloween season. I also like autumn. I got married on Halloween, so that means my anniversary is coming up.
Also, though, my dad died in October. And it’s usually midterms. And while I like the weather, it’s bad for this circulation problem I have in my feet, so I begin the long journey of wearing lined slippers until May basically.
But I’ve got a window open and I can hear wind in the bushes and trees, and also traffic which is less good but ok. This post is, like my recent work, more in the way of personal reflection. I like to use October as a chance to think through the year, in some ways. I’ll try to make sure there’s something useful in here as well though.
I actually just wrote a letter reflecting on my work in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. It’s a thing the order asks for when you’re trying to move grades. I’m not going to copy and paste anything from it, because in a sense it’s an order document, and kind of a "remote work" version of a counseling meeting. But I tell you about it to say that I’m in a reflective mood anyway. I wrote about how OBOD ritual is how I figured out I’m trans and nonbinary, and I’ve written about that for you before. I wrote about working with the different units of the course, and how I’m finding balance in my life in ways I hadn’t predicted.
Autumn has always filled me up with a feeling like my chest is going to fall apart. There’s a good kind of melancholy. You probably know this already. But, as I talked about very recently, the beginning of Autumn is a breathing space. For those of us in the US, the "holiday season" can be very hectic, and I genuinely think Halloween has grown in importance over the years because people who are just tired out by all the work for Thanksgiving and Christmas have realized that there’s a holiday that’s about as much work as you want to put into it, with few expectations, and where you can just rest a bit. You can hand out candy if you want, or dress up if you want, or just sit outside and drink cider and watch the sun set. I’m very much looking forward to watching Godzilla movies, dressing up even though we have nowhere to go, and mulling some cider, with and without alcohol.
I think about Tolkien’s work a lot this time of year. I usually try to read one Tolkien book, starting sometime near September 22, which is Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday and the day Frodo leaves Bag End. Tolkien clearly loved Autumn, and describes it well in the first book of The Lord of the Rings. He also made wise use of it, as that book, as much of his work was, is elegiac, and there’s no better time than Fall to think about things that are gone.
I sat down recently to read a book in the History of Middle-Earth series, to learn that I’d been swindled in more than one way. I bought this book a few years ago, and I spent $22 on a book that was described as a trade paperback in very good condition. I received a mass market paperback in fine to poor condition. And now, once I take it up to read, it turns out it’s the wrong book!
One of the draft publications is titled Treason of Isengard, but it turns out that at some point HarperCollins published The Lord of the Rings in six volumes, and used that title for volume three. So I had to buy a new copy and I’m still waiting on it to arrive. No Tolkien as of yet, then.
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I’m rereading some Lovecraft for the season. I’ve already encountered some stories I haven’t read at all before, and recontextualized some that I hadn’t. What’s striking enough to include the topic in this post is, I suppose, that between Lovecraft-as-meme and Lovecraft-as-SFF-influencer we often don’t notice how much his writing changed over time. We have this image of his work as being repetetive and sounding the same, and even I, who knows that’s not true, and struck by how different, within limits, these early works are from the more famous works he wrote in that frenzied spate of time after moving back to Providence.
Since I moderate at the Hermetic House of Life discord server I see a lot of brilliant magicians talking about what they’re doing and working on. And what’s funny is that I simply don’t do much practical magic. I knew that before I joined the server, mind you — I overtly took a year or so to try to work on meditative practice, and that’s extended into, well, into mostly still now. I don’t mean that I work no "magic spells," or even that none of those spells are directed towards practical effects. I just mean that on balance, I do less of that than I once did. It seems like it would be useful to find out what I want before I go asking for it.
However, there is one spell I return to again and again. I’m considering doing it on a semi-regular basis honestly. It’s from the Greek Magical Papyri, specifically passage XII 179-81. Here’s a translation of the original:
iii. Spell for Restraining Anger
If you want Someone to cease being Angry with you, write with Myrrh this Name of Anger: "CHNEO’M" [probably Egyptian Khnum]. Hold it in your Left Hand and say: "I am restraining the Anger of all, especially of him, NN, which is CHNEO’M." [PGM XII.179-81]
[Here’s the link to that version] of the PGM.(https://archive.org/stream/Papyri_Graecae_Magicae/Papyri_Graecae_Magicae_djvu.txt)
I don’t "write in myrrh" even though I technically could, since I have myrrh oil on hand. And once I complete the simple instructions above, I burn the document with the writing on it in a candle and let it burn to ash, usually in a grill in the backyard.
Obviously, if there’s a specific person giving you trouble and they’re not a he, don’t say "him." It’s a simple spell, though, right? It’s interesting because it doesn’t particularly curse anyone, it just restrains their anger. It’s kind of like those anti-gossip candles you can buy. Someone, somewhere, has something bad to say about you, so it’s not a bad idea to semi-regularly reset those things by running this spell. It might be particularly useful as we do head into the holiday season. Maybe it’ll be a useful prophylactic for those awkward family dinners.
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