Helping humankind live with the earth not against it

Category: writings (Page 1 of 2)

The Island of a God is Awake.

Vulcano is Awake. Does that name sound vaguely familiar? Vulcano, an island and volcano in Italy is where we get the name “volcano”. It is also the traditional home of the God Hephaestus in the Greek pantheon and Vulcan in the Roman pantheon. 

In volcanology we often name phenomena and processes after a “type volcano”. Hawaii has given its name to a whole style of eruption along with the name of several flow types and other phenomena. Vulcanian eruptions are named for the style of eruption common at Vulcano, just as Stromboli is the type location for Strombolian eruptions. Plinian eruptions are named for Pliny the Elder a famous intelectual from Rome whose death in the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius outside of Pompeii was importazlied by his nephew Pliny the Younger. Pliny the Elder is in fact a common source for information on the use and thinking of crystals in the Roman world. 

But back to Vulcano. (Volcano specific information provided by the GVP see Resources at the end of the post 1.)

Vulcano is an island and volcano and one of Italy’s Aeolian islands north of the east coast of Sicily. It is in between Mt Etna on Sicily and Stromboli, another island just to its north. 

Vulcano island circled in red. Map modified from (2).

The island itself is made up of several overlapping volcanic features including the two main eruption centers Caldera del Piano (to the SE) and the current center of activity Caldera della Fossa (NW). The island is 136,000 years old and the volcanism has migrated north over time. Vulcanello is a low lava platform that wasn’t connected to the main island until around 1550 CE and was therefore a separate island in the Classical Era. 

Map of the island and volcano of Vulcano including the local infrastructure. Note La Fossa the main crater in the upper central part of the island and Vulcanello in the north. (3). 

The last known eruption of Vulcano was in the late 1890s and took place at the La Fossa cone. There are numerous historical eruptions known from the historical record as well as from the rock record previous to that eruption. Since then the only activity recorded in the GVP was in the 1980s and 90s and consists of small earthquake swarms on the island and changes in the intensity, temperature, and composition of the gasses escaping via the fumaroles on the island. 

Historic photo of eruption from La Fossa in 1888 (1).

Current activity and unrest on the island began in July 2021. 

Let’s take a moment to define that term “unrest”. It basically means a deviation from background levels of activity. Some volcanoes always have some earthquakes and degassing, and others don’t. What is considered unrest at a volcano is specific to that volcano. It basically just means the volcano is doing something different than its normal. So any change in any number of monitored types of activity is considered unrest. Unrest CAN lead to an eruption but it doesn’t always. The activity in the 80s and 90s was unrest but then nothing happened. So we will have to wait and see what this episode of unrest brings. 

Since July 2021 the monitoring agency has noted an increase in the temperature of the gasses escaping the volcano at the crater as well as a change in the composition of the gasses. This particular change in gas composition is one that is often linked to the presence of magma in the system. The temperature has increased to 340°C (644°F) and the area where gasses are escaping has increased. In September there was an increase in very small earthquakes (ones that can’t be felt) at the summit as well. Due to all of this the authorities responsible for the volcano closed the summit area on 14 October and there have been some evacuations and reports of animals dying from gases that had made their way into one of the villages on the island. 

Image from newsicilia

In an article posted on November 20, 2021 the level of toxic gasses was at an unprecedented level and the civil defense raised the alert level from yellow to orange. There was also talk about evacuating a further 250 inhabitants. The situation has started to rapidly evolve. (4) In a quote from the regional president Musumeci in the article on VolcanoDiscovery (5) he said that “the continued increase in toxic gas emissions recorded by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in recent days requires the adoption of urgent precautions in order to protect public and private safety, close monitoring of the volcanic phenomena, access restrictions to endangered areas, and the possible evacuation of the population from their homes.” He added that “the government is close to the community and committed to working with the mayor and all other national structures in dealing with the emergency”.

Timeline of gas measurements at the volcano. You can see a sharp uptick in the amount of CO2 starting in July 2021 (5).

This island is more than the home to the volcano that gave volcanoes their name. It is also traditionally the home of a God. Italian volcanos I find fascinating because they are seen as the “home of” someone rather than an entity on their own (common in more animistic mythos). Italy has a “big four” of volcanoes: Stromboli, Etna, Vesuvius, and Vulcan. Of these, Vulcan is the only one with no eruption in the 20th century onward. Stromboli and Etna are constantly vying for attention and Vesuvius last erupted during WWII. However, it is still Vulcano that is the home to Hephaestus/Vulcan. I thought it would therefore be interesting to take a look at some of the mythology surrounding this island. 

Hephaestus is the Olympian god of fire, smiths, craftsmen, metalworking, stonemasonry and sculpture with Vulcan often cited as his Roman counterpart. To me it makes sense that a God of smithing would be associated with volcanoes but I also wanted to talk to some actual blacksmiths about this as well. (6)

According to the theoi.com (6) article on Hephaestus his association with volcanoes comes later in history as the Greeks tended to associate volcanic activity with the Gigante-sons of Gaia instead. It was through his association with the Roman volcano-god Adranus-Volcanus that we get the association with the island of Vulcano. In fact he was originally associated with the Greek island of Lemnos. Later he was associated with the neighboring volcano of Etna on the island of Sicily where his workshop was believed to be located. Etna is also thought to be the prison of Typhoeus (and the activity is thought to be related to the great monster moving and trying to escape). The Vulcano association seems to have happened in the late Roman era when the Romans were culturally integrating the Greek mythic history with attributes of local Gods like Vulcan being associated with Hephastus whose stories would have been told by the Greek settlers on Sicily. So if we were to separate out the two Vulcan has his forge at Vulcano, and Hephaestus seems to have moved around and could be at either volcano (Etna or Vulcao). 

However, that is the common association today and is in fact pretty widely known among volcanologists as well. The current myth-understanding is that Vulcano is the forge for Hephaestus/Vulcan. 


I spoke with Traci (MythicalMagpie) who is a practitioner who works with Hephaestus in her practice. She was drawn to working with him as a creator, not especially as a smith (although she is interested in trying it). “There was something about […] that he was imperfect. And in his imperfection, he had the strength where he could entrap even the mighty Gods themselves. “ We also spoke about the current activity at the volcano and she said that it got her thinking about what that could have meant to our predecessors. Then we got distracted by this idea of “what is he making”? We looked at the temperature of the gasses coming off the volcano and started looking up melting temperatures of metals. 

I also reached out to several smiths. I personally didn’t know any and was interested to hear what they thought. 

In chatting with Chris H. of the youtube channel Blood Sweat and Steel we discovered an interesting similarity between volcanoes and forges. I often use the phrase “volcanoes have a personality” to describe how we generally know how volcanoes work but each one really is its own individual. He said forges are similar in that each one has its own personality you have to learn when you start working with it. We ended up speaking about a thead similar to what Traci said drew her to work with Hapheastus. When we were talking about raw materials he said “You’d be amazed at how boring [looking] very valuable things come from.” He also pointed out that while we may have this image in our head of what a forge looks like, those tend to be the older forges and modern forges look “Very disappointing” if that is what you are assuming. I guess that can go hand in hand with volcanoes too. You may picture a nice conical mountain but very rarely are they that perfect, and some are so low angle they just look like lumps or a hill.  

I also spoke with Kedrik, who specifically is a goldsmith (winterwolfritualis). He had a traditional master apprentice path into smithing and was also a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). He described being in the forge as “Hot, dirty, and gritty. The smithy is a place where earth and fire meet. We organize it and structure it so we can navigate but it is truly a place where a person can plant their feet in the earth and their hands in the flames of creation. There’s a real sense of power but also purpose. And in front of that forge you feel the flame that fuels the relationship.” Which to me sounds a lot like working on volcanoes. When I am working near the summit of a volcano usually there is little to no vegetation and in the tropics that means it is hot and sweaty work. Usually there is still ash on the ground that can easily get kicked up, also making it gritty work. He also sees the symmetry between volcanoes and forge as a place of creation stating “ […] I can see that as the volcano is the vent of the heat that allows life and creation on this planet, and after reading some of Bruce Damer’s work suggesting life came from volcanic vents and hot springs, I can appreciate the parallel of each as a cradle of creation.”

So as this volcano is waking up it may continue towards an eruption or it may just be some heat moving through the system. Hephaestus/Vulcan might just be firing up his forge and getting ready to make something in the crucible of heat that is his forge in a volcano. 

I wanted to end with a thought about the importance of place. I asked Traci if it mattered that while the idea that Hepheastus makes his forge at Vulcano is a more modern idea. She said it didn’t bother her that much which volcano it was. “I think there is a part of me that thinks that, […] his home Forge is sacred. This is where a guy goes to find safety, to find purpose, to do the thing that they were created to do. And, and to me, that’s sacred. […] For you know, ancient Greeks it just must have been so incredibly humbling [to see an eruption]. And so the fact that it may or may not have been him himself versus his home, it would still be just as inspiring and humbling to be present.” 

I will be keeping an eye on this volcano and updating as more information is available. If you want to keep an eye on the volcano there are two webcams 

Visual light camera. You can check the live image here
Thermal Camera. You can check the live image here

Thank you to everyone I spoke to for this little project. I wish I could put everything we talked about in here but this is just a blog post. Thank you also to Cory of New World Witchery for peer reviewing the mythology for me and translation help from an amazing Italian volcanologist and friend. 


Guests

Traci – Practicing pagan who works with Hephaestus
Twitter: MythicalMagpie
Instagram: mythicalmagpie
Tiktok: @mythicalmagpie
Website
Patreon: mythicalmagpie
Etsy: MythicalMagpie

Chris H. – Polytheist, animist, Celtic Pagan Witch, Devote of Brigid and the Morrigan, and a novice occultist Blacksmith
Youtube: Blood, Sweat and Steel.
Instagram: byhammerandbyanvil

Kedrik – goldsmith, guide, mentor, coach, consultant, and facilitator for personal development practices, esoteric exploration and study, and the creation of totemic relics and jewelry
Store: winter wolf ritualis
Custom work
Wielders Way project
Instagram: cedricwinterwolf , winterwolfritualis
Twitter: metaphystwolf , thewieldersway

Resources

Volcano Information – Global Volcanism Program
Volcano Information from local agency – Here and Here
Mythology Information – Theoi.com

Citations

  1. Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Vulcano (Italy). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 13 October-19 October 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey. https://volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=211050
  2. Aeolian Islands, worldatlas.com https://www.worldatlas.com/islands/aeolian-islands.html
  3. Bonadonna C, Frischknecht C, Menoni S, Romerio F, Gregg C E, Rosi M, Biass S, Asgary A, Pistolesi M, Guobadia D, Gattuso A, Ricciardi A and Cristiani C 2021 Integrating hazard, exposure, vulnerability and resilience for risk and emergency management in a volcanic context: the ADVISE model Journal of Applied Volcanology 10 7 https://link.springer.com/epdf/10.1186/s13617-021-00108-5
  4. Vulcano, ora è stato di emergenza per gas tossici. “La situazione è inedita”, cresce l’allerta sull’isola, newsicillia.it https://newsicilia.it/messina/cronaca/vulcano-ora-e-stato-di-emergenza-per-gas-tossici-la-situazione-e-inedita-cresce-lallerta-sullisola/729395
  5. VolcanoDiscovery Updates https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/vulcano/news/148026/Vulcano-volcano-Eolian-Islands-Italy-alert-level-raised-as-gas-concentrations-in-port-reach-critical.html
  6. Theoi.com https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Hephaistos.html#Index
    https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/HephaistosGod.html#Volcano

A little Update March 2021

Hello My Wonderful Reader and Listeners,

I wanted to give you a bit of an update. I have had a bit of a good run getting podcast episodes out. But if you have followed me for a while you know this is a bit unusual. Because of COVID in 2020 my normal work travel stopped allowing me to get more content out. I have been working on a series on crystals and so far we have talked about the difference between crystals, minerals, and rocks, how to identify minerals, and how they get color. We have also talked about the ethics involved in buying crystals.

At this point I would like to focus my time on getting some resources together for crystals including researching some purchasing options. I have also done several podcast appearances which can be found under the podcast tab on my page. I have also been doing some peer review work for a few authors and I am super excited about some of the new books coming out.

The current plan is to try and get a few short posts/infographics done for the crystal ethics section since that is something I get asked a lot. I am an auditory learner so that is why I gravitated towards podcasting but I know not everyone is. I wanted to make sure the information is available for everyone.

We will be finishing out the crystals series with an episode on safety and care, and finally using crystals. For that we are going to talk about some theories and what that implies in terms of good places to source your materials in an ethical way. Then I want to talk about rocks!

I am also working to try and add more climate focused work into my social media feeds. If you have known me for a while you may know that I have trouble with this topic (and have been known to have to leave talks at conferences because I couldn’t hold back tears). But I know it is also important as an outreach person to engage in this topic.

This is a one woman shop so if anyone has experience with infographic design and would like to help out I would greatly appreciate it! Please shoot me an email borealis (dot) meditation (at) gmail (dot) com.

2021 Should be a year with a lot of change for me. No matter what I will be leaving SE Asia this year. Fingers and toes crossed it will be to New Zealand since I have already accepted a PhD position but with COVID everything has been unknown. I usually take some time when I move to get settled before starting the podcasting back up so I would like to get as much done as possible before then.

If you would like to support the hosting of the podcast I made a ko-fi you can contribute to as well.

Thank you all so much for your wonderful support over the years! This podcast has truly been my heartfelt thanks to the community for being my secret weapon helping me through my career and you mean the world to me.

Much love,

Kat

Hungry Ghost Month – 7th Lunar Month

The 7th lunar month (beginning on the New Moon) in Asia is known as “Hungry Ghost Month”. During this time it is believed that the gates of Hell are open and spirits and ghosts roam the human world for the duration of the month.

There are a number of different traditional practices during this time as well as some superstitions surrounding different actions.

(image on the left is by artist Jim Benton)

This year Hungry Ghost month runs from August 19th through September 16th. The gates are believed to be open from the 1st through 30th day of the month with offerings made on the first, second, fifteenth, and last day of the month. It is common on the first day to offer a meal usually with fruits and deserts to show respect and as an exchange for the ghosts not bringing you any trouble, along with the burning of incense, paper money, and candles. During non-COVID years there are usually lots of cultural activities like community Chinese Opera performances known as getai’ performances.

In addition to all the activities normally carried out there are a number of things to be avoided.

  • Don’t wear closes with your name
  • Don’t pat other people on the shoulder
  • Don’t whistle
  • Don’t go out at night (Children and Senior Citizens especially)

(source, source)

  • Don’t stab your chopsticks into a bowl of rice (the ghosts will think it is an offering and may try to possess the person eating the rice).
  • Don’t open your umbrella inside the house (if you used the umbrella at night shots might have taken shelter and if you open it at home the spirits will enter your home).
  • Don’t leave your front door open at night (this invites negative energy in)
  • Don’t kill rare insects in your home (moths, grasshoppers and butterflies might be your ancestors paying a visit)
  • Don’t pee on trees (it offends the spirits in the area)
  • Don’t swim at night (ghosts of drowning victims might try to pull you down)
  • Leave the front row open at cultural events (it is reserved for the spirits)
  • Don’t kick the offerings left for the ghosts
  • Don’t play games that involve summoning spirits they are more powerful during 7th month
  • If someone calls your name from behind at night don’t turn around.
  • Do not gossip about ghosts they may try to put you in your place
  • Don’t get married or move house during 7th month (the spirits might try to join in when they aren’t welcome.

What are these offerings? The main type of offering is “joss paper” which is paper money as offerings. There is a belief that in order to send gifts to ancestors they must be burned so along with paper, things like paper houses, cars, watches etc. are burned as well.

This massive amount of burning paper also results in a lowering of air quality during this time.

This year of course the usual cultural festivals like traditional Chinese opera are not happening. As another sign of the times a shop in Hong Kong was seen to be selling joss paper masks to send to those in the afterlife. (source)

Photo of offerings being left posted on r/singapore by user u/loosejaws taken on the first night of 7th month. (source)
variety of offerings beyond money that are for sale. You can explore all these options here

How to pick a price?

One of the things I have always been a little uncomfortable with is the exchange of money for my work. Not that I am against the exchange of money for my work, but what to charge. I don’t want to undervalue practitioners who do it for a living, but I also don’t want to charge too much. See I have a full time job, and I am big on gifting. When I make things I like to share, and I have never been able to find the Goldilocks price range.

But I also find making small batches isn’t as easy as a medium size batch of spray, soap… etc. So how to price what I have been making recently? Some are my own recipes and some are based on recipes I found in New Orleans, and if I charge too little it devalues it, but if I charge too much that feels like taking advantage.

So I was stuck until the other day I had an idea. What if I convert the prices on the notebook from the Pharmacy Museum into modern day prices! I wonder what that would be.

My thinking is this: the formulations are in a notebook from a early half of the last century. They are written in pharmacist shorthand. Documentary evidence exists that hoodoo formulations were sold by white male pharmacists, who may or may not have worked with hoodoo practitioners. But this is the actual physical ingredients with a price so it is possible that the pharmacist was just mixing them and selling them on his own. So if you consider the price of the item to be physical object + intangible value added we can think of these prices as the physical object +/- intangible. So, this was considered a fair price at the time so let’s see how this all works out with the numbers! Math time!

The price listed range from $0.1/oz to $ 0.25/oz

Now the actual date of the artifact but the displays on the ground floor of the museum that opened in 1950 are referred to as “mid 19th century” but there is also a sign in that section that mentioned someone who was convicted for selling hoodoo wares in the 1930’s. Googling around it and looking at old pharmacist notebook pictures the sheets look on the early side and not 1930’s maybe closer to 1900. (finding the actual date range will require more research) So we have a range from 1850 – 1930 a pretty wide range, so I went wit 1910.

  • What cost $1 in 1913 (earliest year in the inflation calculator) would cost $25.90 (I like rounding so lets make it $26) in 2019 so $0.10 becomes $2.60 per oz. and $0.25 becomes $6.50 per oz
  • Everything is in metric where I am now so lets round to 30mL per oz (glass bottles are sold as 30mL or 1 ounce)
  • so the price per mL would be $0.09 per mL – $0.21 so lets be nice and change it to $0.10 /mL and $0.20/mL
  • Now we have the price in adjusted for inflation as $0.10 /mL – $0.20/mL Doesn’t that work out nice?
  • This is based on the prices being from ~1913 (but we don’t know if they are earlier or late). Also we don’t know if the original prices I found were sold with or without the “intangible value added” so 3 to 6 dollars for a 30 mL bottle of my sprays would be the range.
  • Essential oils here are on the expensive side here and mine come with the intangible value added part, so I think I am comfortable with the $6 price. But is this reasonable?
  • Lucky Mojo sells Fast Luck oil for $7.50 USD and my Lucky Mojo bottles look like they are 1/2 ounce. This sounds like around the same range as what I got other oils in New Orleans when I was there for, so for someone who uses a different cheaper base (sprays not oils) I think I am in the right range.
  • If I add on a $1.5 bottle charge then I also get $7.50 USD or ~ $10 SGD.

I hope that was an interesting discussion for you. It’s a little bit into my brain and how I use tools from my research work in science in my practice. I also think this type of research/thought experiment can help decisions like “how much should I charge for this” be based in historical precedent.

We should never devalue our work, even if money makes you uncomfortable. But we also shouldn’t take financial advantage of customers by over charging. I think that having a range like $3-6 in mind allows for a range of different price teirs from gifts (close friends and family) to a lower price (friends and lower income) and average customers, that doesn’t devalue the effort I put in. Also I think it shows that the current range of prices out there from whole sellers like Lucky Mojo who know what they are doing, and small individuals like Candle Smoke Chapel (they are awesome check them out), are actually very reasonable based on historic price data we have.

So if you are in Singapore right now you will soon be able to get my sprays for $10 in the bottle or 0.30 SGD/mL with your own bottle. I am also a big fan of making things yourself so when I have a formulation I am happy with feel free to ask.

Also remember the difference is in the “intangible value added” of each maker and how much that is worth to you should be considered when you are assessing the reasonableness of a price.

Make things! Support each other!

Borealis Meditation S04E03 Personal Calendars

Show Notes:

Hello Everyone! In this episode I talk about calendars, holidays, festivals and localizing you wheel of the year to where you live. This was a last minute change of topic so we can always revisit it later. I also have created a worksheet for you to use if you want to jump right in and work on customizing your wheel of the year.

Worksheet:

Listen to the episode here:

Or on itunes (trying to figure out getting it other places….)

Follow me on twitter and instagram @katborealis
Like the facebook page for updates related to the podcast

Or just drop me an email borealis (dot) meditation (at) gmail (dot) com

And I made a discord chat channel you are free to join here

Hope everyone is surviving 2018 and if I don’t get anything else out before then happy Yule and New Year! Much love!

~ Kat

Introduction: a sense of place

I am moving. Paperwork isn’t set in stone so I am trying not to jinx it, but no matter what we are headed for new scenery by the end of the year (we hope). I thought this would be a good time to distill my ideas about connecting to a place and with nature and the environment down into written form so I can do what science has trained me to do: test the ideas. So, I am going to start here with a short outline of these ideas, and then explore them with stories from previous leaps into the unknown. Then I can revisit each one with my new experiences when I get where I am going. When I connect to a new place there are three steps and three layers that need to be examined, explored, and understood.

The first layer is the human layer. This is the most obvious and where we as an individual fit in. This includes human history, culture, and our impact and expression in the environment. There are historical cultures of a place, and the modern culture. There is also the history of human habitation in the area, and the type of settlement that exists there now. Modern history, and ancient history. All this has an influence on the human expression of a place at any point in time, and I think is very important in understanding the current culture of a place.

The second layer is the flora and fauna of the area. This includes the current “invasives” as well as the native and endemic species. There is a natural history of each place, and a history of introduction of different species. The history of the changing balance of different species in an area can have a huge impact on its current state.

The third layer to be explored is the geologic and environmental layer. What is the climate type, geologic setting, and local hazards? The world isn’t frozen, everything changes and moves. This layer can pop up in unexpected ways in the other layers. The layout of streets might be influenced by an old stream channel, or area that was a swamp.

When you combine knowledge of these three layers you start to see how they all connect and feed into each other. That is when you start to really know a place. When I come to a new place I approach it with an insane amount of questions. And of course with each answered question comes 10 more. The best thing you can do to feel more connected to where you are is be curious about it, but always remember you can never know it all, there is always more to explore!

The science behind the Mercury/Silver Dime Charm

I was inspired to look into and share the chemistry behind the silver dime charm this week. The first flash of  inspiration was my lesson in powders (I have been taking very informal classes in hoodoo recently and love it), and the  second was a post by Candle Smoke Chapel that they had a new etsy listing of silver dime charms. So thank  you both for the inspiration! Now on to the science!

The science behind the Mercury/Silver Dime Charm 

The mercury dime, or silver dime charm, if you are not familiar with it goes like this: If you wear a silver dime around your ankle and if you walk through a powder (ex: hot foot) the dime with absorb the hit and tarnish, keeping you safe.

Image from Lucky Mojo

For the sake of example let’s look at what happens if you are wearing a silver dime and walk through hotfoot powder. Hot foot powder is made primarily of sulfur and crushed hot peppers with the option of other nasties. The key ingredient here in terms of what is going to physically happen to your silver dime is the sulfur.  The sulfur in the powder will react with the silver on the surface of the coin, causing it to “tarnish” in a RedOx reaction. I found this awesome old school video about the reaction:

For the sake of repetition here is the reaction again:

2Ag(s)+S(s) -> Ag2S(s)

Sulfur (S) basically wants two more electrons… wants them REALLY BAD, and Silver (Ag) has an extra that it isn’t too attached to. Sulfur takes one electron from two silvers making it S(2-) and each silver Ag(1+) causing them to  the  two silver and the sulfur atom are now sharing, and create a black solid Ag2S, which is the tarnish you see on silver.

Silver doesn’t need solid sulfur to tarnish. In fact Hydrogen Sulfide gas that can be found in the atmosphere can also react with silver. H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas) can be the result of the decomposition of plants and animals, or some industry of some sort. In fact just about any sulfur compound can cause tarnishing including hardboiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and even rubber bands. If you have ever worn silver jewelry into a hot springs you will have also seen this same reaction.

In conclusion:

The roots of this charm seem to be the fact that several popular powders that are used when throwing against someone ( crossing powder, goofer dust, and hotfoot powder) have sulfur as a main ingredient. This sulfur reacts to the silver worn at the ankle by tarnishing through the reaction 2Ag(s) + S -> Ag2S(s).

This reaction is an example of an oxidation and reduction  (RedOx) reaction. For more on this type of reaction here is another video:

More Reading on Silver Dimes (and references)

–  Conjure Blog: Mercury (Silver) Dimes

New World Witchery: Coins

– Silver to Black – and Back (abstract) J. Chem. Educ., 2000, 77 (3), p 328A DOI: 10.1021/ed077p328A Publication Date (Web): March 1, 2000

Lucky Mojo: Silver Dimes

My thoughts on the Us Vs Them problem with Science and Religion

Today I am writing as a scientist. I wanted to comment on the Bill Nye Vs Ken Ham debate that I did not watch. I don’t want to comment on the debate itself but the mentality that this debate comes from. First of all I want to say that I blame both sides for the following problem.

There is a very pervasive “Us vs. Them” mentality when it comes to science and religion (and, for that case, science vs art). This is the mentality everyone is divided into two categories the “us” and the “them” and there is no room for anything else. It is a very black and white mentality. When we look at how this relates to science and religion we see this manifested in the division between “science people” and “religious people”. These two categories have also grown to encompass more stereotypes as well.  If you are a “science” person then you are a liberal atheist and likely live in an urban area. If you are a “religion” person you are a conservative and Christian and live in a rural area.  I think this mindset is very damaging and dangerous to our society. It breeds a reactionary mindset and makes every debate personal and full of emotions. It creates boxes that we put people in, and they are not allowed to be anything but the box we put them in. I am a scientist and therefore if you are not, and you are religious, you are a “them”, and the “thems” don’t like us. Just like “Christians” have become a group “scientists” have too. We are not taken as individuals and certainly are now allowed to disagree with each other. If we do then it reflects badly on all of us, and we all have no idea what we are talking about and can’t be trusted on any matter. In the science community religion is a dirty word as well and is very looked down upon.

Using this Us vs Them mindset means that we have made an artificial black and white world out of a gray one. First of all, you can be a Christian and not believe in creation, just like you can be a scientist and not be an atheist. In fact, I know Christian-scientists and I even know a geologist who IS a creationist. It is not all black and white. I think it also helps to point out, that the Catholic Church accepts evolution, so you can’t even group all Christians together.

The problem I have with the “us vs them” mentality is that both parties start off defensive. That is no way to have a conversation. My personal view is that religion does have a place in a rounded education, but only because it has had such a huge impact on human history and art and other intellectual pursuits. Also a fun exercise is the history of thought on the age of the earth and the different ways it has been calculated. How did the Romans decide what year Jesus died in, and were they right? How was the age of the earth calculated from the bible? How else has it been calculated in the past? What method do we use today, and what are the errors associated with that calculation? That discussion is valuable in a science classroom. It’s like doing a proof and showing all the steps in math, and even talking about the different ways it was tried in the past. I have always loved talking about the changes in scientific thought through the ages.  I think it is fascinating and valuable to understand how we know what we know today. It also reminds us that just because we think we know something, does not mean we won’t later learn something else is true. Plate tectonics itself is a relatively new scientific idea. Also, let us not forget that many of the founders of modern science (if not all) were religious.

So now let us return to the debate and why I can’t watch things like that. I have personally been attacked before simply for saying “I’m a geologist” when someone asked what I am studying. I was polite about it, but since the other party didn’t listen to me it felt like talking to a wall. There was no back and forth (which I would have enjoyed). This mentality backs people into their respective corners. I am not an atheist and that is something I tend to not discuss with my friends and colleagues because of the us vs. them. I’m too close to the situation and it makes me too upset. So I didn’t watch the debate because I don’t think there should need to be a debate.

liminal space and names

I am in love with the word liminal these days. I just adore it. Liminal spaces and places, I just love it.

lim·i·nal
/ˈlimənl/
1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

Mandorla or Vesica piscis

I like it because most of the time I feel like I exist in a liminal world, halfway between science and magic. I have one foot in each but stand not totally in any. I like thinking about liminal time as well. Like right now, the sun just set but it is not yet night. There is still light in the sky in one direction and in the other the stars will soon start to pop out. It is not day, and it is not night. This is my favorite time, dusk. I think these spaces are important. You can’t tell how dark it is unless you have light to compare it to, and liminal spaces are the perfect places to look at differences. 

I am getting to names. The reason I am combining these two topics is because of the name I used many years in my magical work. I have many names, and I tend to collect nicknames. As a practical matter I have my given name, my common nickname, the name I use for this blog and podcast, and then my magical names as well as a new Hawaiian name.

I have 2 magical names that I have used for many years. I can only tell you one. I have a name that I use between me and spirit only. No one else knows this name. It is really more a syllable and I’m not even sure I would be able to write it. I call that MY name. It is how I identify myself to spirits, and cannot be confused with anyone else. My other name is my magical name in the traditional sense. This is a name that I have used around the community before, and likely will continue to use. I know it can be confusing but since every time I have moved somewhere I get a new nickname it feels totally normal to me. My craft/magic name is Dusk. It always has been.

Dusk is my favorite time of day. You are stuck between the world of the Sun and the world of the Moon. Between a blue sky (or gray because I am from Seattle…) and inky black. It is the time of day I feel most alive. I love dusk! The light slowly drains from the sky and if you are not paying attention the night sneaks up on you. I had a Greek myth book as a kid and I was always fascinated with Nyx and Selene. I loved the images of both, one pulling night over the world like a blanket and the other riding the moon across the sky. When the clouds are just right in the evening sky it seems like I can see the edges of her cloak as Nyx covers the world in night.

Somehow I managed to write about two things at once leaving you in a liminal place between subjects. I hope you are prepared for an over use of the word liminal until I find a new favorite word!

The gap between ideal daily practice and reality

Meditations on the Path of Knowledge

I think we all have an ideal daily practice that we all fall short of. For a long time I had the attitude that I had to always try for that ideal. Recently I gave up on that ideal and opted for “do-able”. Doing this has been very freeing and I no longer feel like a bad witch when I can’t do something. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and as a scientists I am trained to be complete and precise in my work, and I had to give that up in my spiritual practice (not easy!).

Ideal: My ideal is morning and evening meditation, morning and evening yoga, daily journaling and divination, and/or reading and studying. (I’m lucky to get out of bed without hitting the snooze button 4 times by the way….)

I talked with SilverShadow a while ago and he suggested starting working more with ancestors. I wrote a little bit about my Mom yesterday. She keeps what I consider our family ancestor alter. She has a table covered in photos of loved ones (from both her family and my Fathers family), and a mini dias de las muertas alter (its so freaking cute). We also have an ancestor hall (a hallway with more photos). I have a few photos but I am definitely going to need to get more for my family and I would also like to get some for my Husbands family. Even with these limited photos I started a very quick and easy (but still meaningful) daily practice.

Do-able every day: I have ancestor incense that I bought locally, and two containers I feel comfortable lighting tea lights and not having to sit and watch them. I light my candles and incense and say thank you for all the blessings in my life.

Simple, and fast. Some days I can manage more from my list but at least I can do my one simple thing. It is very freeing to find that simple act that I can do.

I would be interested to hear what you all do every day or what your ideal practice looks like!

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