Clytie and Solstice Reflections

I think it’s appropriate that, on the day of Solstice, I taught the myth of Clytie to an 8-year-old. As with all myths there are several versions, some much less kind than others, but this is the one we talked about:

Clytie was a beautiful water nymph with golden hair and big brown eyes. One day she walked outside, looked up, and was utterly captivated by Apollo as He drove the sun chariot across the sky.

For nine days she stood on a rock, not moving or eating, and simply stared at Apollo as He traversed the heavens. She was so obsessed that her only sustenance was dewdrops. She didn’t even rest at night – she simply stood there waiting for Apollo’s return, so she could watch the sun move across the sky again.

Her adoration was absolute, but she suffered for it. Her health and beauty faded. She grew weak, and pale, and wan. Yet still she did not move, so captivated was she.

On the tenth day the Gods looked down and saw Clytie, still standing, still mesmerized, still wasting away. They were touched by her selfless adoration, but concerned for her too. This was no life for a woman or a nymph.

So, taking pity on her, They turned her into a sunflower.

clytie

Modern versions of the myth say the flower was a sunflower, but originally the flower was a heliotrope. Just FYI.

Now her health and beauty are enhanced by the sun, instead of destroyed. She is nourished and sustained by the ground on which she stands, instead of weakened. And to this day the Sunflower is free to stare at the sun to her heart’s content.

Last night, while at my altar, this myth resonated with me on a deep level. First, of course, is the sun aspect and how that relates to Solstice. But it goes deeper than that.

Clytie was so obsessed with the sun she couldn’t function in the rest of her life. That wasn’t healthy, and the Gods knew that. But They also knew that turning her away from the sun completely – by, say, blinding her – would have been equally damaging. They came up with an unorthodox compromise that maintained her health while letting her heart go where it willed.

I found myself focusing on Clytie’s need for balance.

My life has been tumultuous this year. My Lady is the Lady of Change, and I have been living in Her realm since May. I have moved several times. I went from being a single woman working a full-time job to sharing a house with four other people, co-parenting two children, and homeschooling six days a week.

I’ve been so busy adjusting to all the changes and trying to keep my head above water that my spiritual life took a backseat for a bit. And I was so focused on all the day-to-day craziness that I didn’t realize until very recently that the lack of time at my altar – and by extension with the Powers – was affecting me as deeply as it was. It wasn’t just my spiritual life that suffered. Everything else did too.

In a way, I’ve been doing what Clytie did. I’ve neglected essential things I need to be healthy and happy in favor of the things at the forefront of my attention.

I need to learn from Clytie’s story and get some of my own balance back. It’s up to me to restore that which I lost, though. No Gods are stepping in to turn me into a flower!

I took the need for balance to my altar, along with the beginnings of a plan to fix it, and asked the Powers for help. My Lady has been patiently waiting for me to see the problem and step it the fuck up. Now that I have, She’s of course totally willing to help. She always is, but requires a request – and my very best good faith effort – to act. And even then She’s careful not to overstep. How will I learn if I simply go where I’m led?

I don’t yet know what being totally balanced looks like in this new situation, with all the new things going on now and coming up in 2017 (oh yes I have plans!), but after spending some one-on-one time with Her last night I know where to start. That’s the best Solstice gift I could ask for.

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Light Up World Tree from Ironwood Witch

I am a HUGE fan of applicable arts and crafts. Don’t we all love to use our hands to manifest an aspect of our faith? In that vein, here is a wonderful twist on the standard Christmas tree – how to make your very of Yggdrasil!

I am a crafter, and I am a Heathen, and often the two combine. Right now, it’s also holiday season, with Yule coming up, and Christmas ALL OVER the craft stores (well, all over since like September. Crafters, we are a couple of months ahead of all holidays because we need the time to get […]

via Heathen Holiday Crafts: Light Up World Tree — Ironwood Witch

Catching the Sun

As we officially enter 2016 I thought it would be fun to do something a bit different.

Most everyone is posting about the season, its meanings, their resolutions, and a retrospective of 2015. I decided to focus on arts and crafts instead. Specifically, making suncatchers! In this season of celebrating the growing light in the world, making something that uses light in a decorative fashion seems to perfectly fit the season.

And no worries – you don’t need to be an artist to make something completely gorgeous!

Painting Glass

There are several techniques for making suncatchers, of course, but many of them are aimed at children. My favorite grown-up technique is painting glass. Which is way easier than it might sound. And you don’t even need a lot of stuff to do it!

Paints
There are two main types of paint you can use, the kind that air dries and the kind that cures in the oven.

Air Dry Glass Paint: The cheaper and more-easily-removable option air dries. I think Gallery Glass is the most popular brand, although Martha Stewart’s paints have good reviews too, and most craft stores carry some version of it. With most types there’s a bottle of outliner that simulates stained glass leading and then a range of colors to make your design. Once it’s dry it can stay on the glass as long as you like and be peeled off/washed off when you’re ready to change it up. This is obviously the way to go if you’re doing windows or pieces too big for your oven. However, it is not washable, not durable, and in my experience these paints do not lend themselves well to detail work.

GG paint

This is from Michael’s, but the same set is available all over. Should be plenty for quite a few projects, and don’t forget your coupons!

Oven Cure Paints: The more expensive and permanent option – and the one I prefer – is using a paint that cures to the glass after you bake it. It’s like paint Fimo! Once it’s baked it’s way more durable. It can even be put in the dishwasher (although it’s not food safe). The colors shimmer more, and the method of application lends itself well to more intricate designs. My go-to brand is Pebeo, and I order it from Dick Blick Art Supplies. This line has several outliners for different effects, as well as brushable paints and paint markers.

02950-1129-1-2ww-m

This is the glossy set. This plus a black outliner is what I used for this project.

Here’s a tip: Whichever type you choose, you need a REALLY TINY amount of paint for this. Most every surface we’re used to painting absorbs some of the paint, so we account for that absorption when we figure out how much paint we need for a project. Glass is completely non-porous, though, so a little paint goes a VERY long way. I did most of the work with the paint that lines the caps of the little jars when they’re opened, and even after multiple projects you can barely tell that I’ve used them at all. This particular piece had a lot of outlining work, too, and I think I used maybe a third of a tube.

Paintable Surfaces

Anything glass can be painted this way, but a suncatcher needs to be in a window for best effect. That means it needs to be hangable or prop-up-able. And what’s easier for that than picture frames?

The glass that comes in picture frames is my favorite surface to paint. Thrift stores are your friend here. I get much higher quality frames that way than I could otherwise afford, and what I find is always a random surprise. The “well-loved” quality found in thrift store frames only adds to their appeal. I also find that the frame can sometimes inspire that art I paint in it, too.

The frame used in this demo is this really pretty gold color that looked expensive, so the design I chose to paint worked with that. It also cost me a whopping $1, and as a bonus I got to trash the truly awful “art” that came in it.

Note: If you’re planning on using oven baked paints, measure your oven before shopping for glass! Then take a tape measure to the thrift store with you to make sure the glass you pick will fit inside for baking. Ask me how I know this. *rolls eyes*

That’s simple enough. What else do I need?

  • Paint brushes. Pebeo recommends super soft natural fiber brushes for their paint, to reduce the appearance of brush strokes. I’m cheap, so I went with a set of mixed media synthetic brushes. I grabbed them at Michael’s with a coupon. If you’re using air dry paint pretty much anything goes.
  • A piece of paper or cardboard slightly larger than your glass (which means the backing that came with the frame is too small). The oils on your hands can interfere with the paint’s ability to adhere to the surface, but I find that I need to frequently rotate the glass I’m working on as I paint. Putting the glass on something I can touch lets me easily move it around without oiling up the surface. It also protects my table from any paint that might go over the edges of the glass, and gives me a solid-colored surface to better see my design. The lighter the color the better. Spare wrapping paper, white side up, would be perfect.
  • A design to paint. This technique is really best with simple line art. Think coloring books. Luckily adult coloring pages are all over. You can download something for free, of course, but there are other options. The design I use here came from Etsy. Whatever you use, print it out on a piece of white paper.
  • You’ll also need: tape, acetone and q-tips, glass cleaner, a cup of water, paper towels, pliers, a palette if you plan on mixing colors, a “scraping implement” or two (explained below), and hanging hardware for your frame.

All supplies assembled? Let’s get started!

  1. Gently remove the glass from the frame. If it’s a fine art frame you’ll need to rip through the paper on the back to get to the glass. You might need your pliers here to remove some staples or tabs so you can remove the backing. Carefully do what you need to do, and then set the frame aside.

    frame

    Here we can see the ripped paper, the staples, and the paper remnants clinging to the frame. Don’t worry about those remnants – we’ll catch them later.

  2. Clean one side of the glass with the glass cleaner and let thoroughly dry. Carefully center your printed design, design-side down, on the glass and tape to secure.
  3. Turn the glass over (handling as little as possible from the edges!), put it on your craft paper, and clean that side too. You can now clearly see your design through the glass. Huzzah!

    design frame

    Like this! I forgot to snap a pic of mine, so here’s one I found online. Visualize the wrapping paper underneath this glass.

  4. Using your outliner, trace over all the lines of your design. It’s easy to overlook a line here, so double check. (Hint: If your design has some intricate line work, like Celtic knots, you might want to consider either printing your design with colored lines or using an outliner that’s not black.) The line thickness is determined by the pressure you use, so you might want to practice a bit first. You can also trim the nozzle a smidge to make it wider if you like.
    outliner

    Here we can see the gold outliner being used. You can get thin, thick, and patterned lines depending on the pressure exerted on the tube.

    If you screw up, use a q-tip dipped in acetone to remove the paint and start over. Stubborn lines might need to be scraped a bit with something like a nail file – the outliner is harder to remove than the paint. Allow to air dry before proceeding (about 30 minutes should be fine).

  5. Color! This is the fun part. Fill in the empty spots of the design with paint. The outliner is three-dimensional, so as long as you’re moderately careful the paint will stay in the lines. If it doesn’t, carefully clean up the error with a q-tip dipped in acetone.Here’s a tip. Using the brushes in typical paint-brush fashion leaves brush strokes. A stippling technique – bouncing the brush up and down instead of brushing it back and forth, like you do with a stencil – works way better. Real stained glass has splotches of uneven color too, so focus more on concealing brush strokes and less on trying to make it look completely uniform.
    Edges

    See the difference here? You can still see brush strokes on the bottom, but they are WAY less obvious.

    Also keep in mind that the paint will contract as it dries, meaning it’ll pull away from the outliner and leave a line of clear glass at the edges. I find that leaving a “puddle” of paint in each cell of the design gives me better results, and I usually have to paint sections twice for the coverage I like even so.

    Allow to air dry for about an hour. Then very carefully pick up the glass by the edges and hold it to the light. See anything to fix? Now’s the time! After you’ve made all the corrections you deem necessary, set it aside and allow it to air dry for 24 hours.

  6. Now that that’s done you can turn your attention to the frame! When you put this in a window the back of the frame will be visible to passer-by. If it’s a new ready-made frame it’ll likely be good to go. However, if you’re using a recycled frame you’ll have some work ahead of you.First, of course, you’ll need to remove any remaining staples and other undesired hardware. Then you’ve got to remove all those paper remnants! You tore out the paper in the middle to get to the glass earlier, but unless you are incredibly lucky you’ve got little bits of paper clinging all around the edge. That looks messy. And who wants that?
    messy frame

    This is just not attractive.

    I’m sure there are other techniques to remove the paper and glue, but here’s what I do.

    Place the frame pretty-side-down on a table. Dip your paintbrush in clean water and “paint” the paper all the way around. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then take a scraping implement and scrape the dissolving paper.

    knife

    My “scraping implement”. Don’t hate me, Julia Child!


    When you finish the first pass repeat the process. Once the paper is pretty much gone, move your fingers in a circular motion all along the back of the frame to make the remaining bits ball up. Then scrape those off. Repeat all steps as needed.

    You can either leave your frame here – bare wood can be pretty, and that’s what I went with – or you can decorate it. It’s wood, so whatever you’d normally do to wood can be done here too. Paint is the easiest way, but you can also do woodburning, add decorative nails/tacks, etc. Be creative!

  7. Once you’ve got it how you want it, attach your hanging hardware and wipe down the whole thing. Set aside to dry. If you started the frame as soon as you set the painting aside to dry they should both be ready at the same time.
  8. After the 24 hours are up on the paint drying process follow the manufacturer’s directions and bake your masterpiece in the oven. Allow to cool.
  9. Carefully return the glass to the frame. Many mass-produced frames will have bendable tabs that can be used for the purpose. Custom frames don’t. You can get hardware to hold the glass in, but I say “eh” and glue it in with E6000. That means it can’t be put in the dishwasher, though, so think it through before taking that kind of step.
  10. Hang in a window and admire! You’re done!
    FullSizeRender

    This is the finished product on the table…

    IMG_1251

    And this is the finished product in a window. See how the brush strokes look different with light coming in behind it?

Beyond Suncatchers

Suncatchers, and the making of suncatchers, are wonderful additions to any of the “increasing sun” rituals. I find them particularly awesome for both the Yule and Midsummer seasons.

Don’t be shy about branching out beyond suncatchers, though – you certainly have enough paint! You’ll be surprised at just how useful this technique is for ritual and magickal purposes once you become aware of the possibilities.

For starters, this exact same technique can be used for creating anchors for shields/wards, both in your home’s windows and hanging around a dedicated ritual space.

You can also try painting different shapes. Glass Christmas balls can be painted this way and make fantastic witch balls. Craft stores often have a plethora of hanging glass crystals (like for chandeliers?) that are easily customized with paint, too, and can be used in many different ways.

Dollar store/thrift store glassware can become beautiful custom ritual vessels with some creativity and paint, and if your altar has glass shelves this is another great way to add some character/magickal intent. If you are interested in making your own floating wick oil lamps, glass paint is a fabulous technique for that too.

Like this whole idea, but need to paint ceramic instead of glass? Maybe because you want to make a standing wick oil lamp? You’re in luck – these paints work on ceramics too! They provide a transparent finish. If you want something more opaque Pebeo offers a line of opaque paints too, and they’re used the exact same way. How useful is that?

Oven cure paints don’t work well with mirrors – the metallic backing does not bake well – but air dry paints are just fine. That can add a whole new dimension to mirror-based tools!

The Pebeo markers are particularly suited for painting runes on decorative glass gems, too. Just bake and they’re more durable for divination use than Sharpies are, and you can incorporate the baking process into their magickal making.

Pick up some small glass pendants/beads, or ceramic disks, and paint those too. This can make some truly exceptional ritual jewelry.

See how useful this is? I could go on and on. I hope you have lots of fun with this, and I look forward to seeing some of the creative uses y’all come up with. Happy crafting!

Solstice Vigil, 2014

I’m currently curled up in my desk chair, sipping icy water and nibbling on dark chocolate while Pandora plays softly in the background. Recovery from this year’s Solstice ritual – like all the other years I’ve done it – is a stone bitch.

I do the same ritual every year, an all-night vigil from dusk to dawn, and over the years a holiday I used to despise has become one of my absolute favorites. It’s quiet, and introspective, and forces us to follow a schedule set by something more meaningful than a clock.

The heart of my vigil is individual meditation. For me Solstice – the longest night of the year, ending in a brilliant dawn – is all about bringing light to our own inner darkness, spelunking in our inner depths and discovering things within ourselves we didn’t even know were there. Solstice is also a quiet period allowing us to really open up to the Powers. Enough time and focus can help even the most resistant of us hear the whispers carried by silence, and it’s a wonderful time to reconnect.

A lot of internal illumination can occur during the course of a 15-hour-long night.

I went into this ritual with my private ritual of Origination still bouncing around my head. I knew this year would lead to some changes and challenges, and while some I suspected were confirmed others came out of left field. I thought I’d share a bit of it here.

1) This year’s focus will be getting my physical world in order. I’m tackling my finances, getting healthier, embracing a more environmentally-sustainable life, and (as soon as I get transportation) opening myself to new relationships with corporeal people. My Hermit-like retreat will draw to a close soon, and it’s probably a good thing.

2) The Ancestors and especially the Land Spirits deserve more from me than They’ve been getting. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there’s no denying it. This year will see some serious deepening of my devotional practice in those areas, including but not limited to increased offerings and more work in social justice and environmental arenas.

3) I work with 8 deities in addition to my Lady, all at Her direction. I knew going into those relationships that they were temporary, and this year some of them will be coming to a close. The lessons I needed to learn from them are learned and it’s time to move on. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this yet. I also don’t know if I’ll be welcoming an equal number of new deities to my practice or not. We shall see.

4) In the same vein it looks like my prohibition against honoring Gods has been relaxed a bit – for the last 15 years I’ve exclusively worked with Goddesses, with the only exception being Loki. I still don’t work with Anyone my Lady hasn’t cleared, and I need to do some work with this, but I am feeling a very strong pull towards a specific God I’ve not worked with before. That will be interesting all around.

5) I have several projects on the burner – developing my own Tarot deck, producing a divination system I’ve already developed, and revising the curriculum I use with students for possible publication among others. All of those are now officially slated for completion in by Samhain of 2015. *deep breath*

6) Several topics came to light that I’ve avoided dealing with as completely as I should have. That’s being addressed. Yay.

For now I’m enjoying the calm that comes with the next two weeks, as everything slows a bit until January, and I’m already a bit excited about what I’ll discover during Solstice of 2015.

Blessings of the season to you and yours!