Ten Years Of Haute Macabre: Expert Daydreamer, Artist Amy Earles

by on Jan.25, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Amy Earles, Entrement

S. Elizabeth: That artists take time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about their work is still such a thrill for me! Before I began writing for Haute Macabre, I had previously composed various articles and essays for a handful of other online journals and blogs, and though I am myself no artist, I’d like to think that with a decade’s worth of rambling about art and those who create art under my belt, I may have learned a thing or two. (Maybe!) But however many opinions and observations/reactions and reflections I may scribble, without an artist’s input, I always feel like the profile or interview I have labored over is somehow lacking and less than it has the potential to be. The following ruminations concerning the work of enigmatic illustrator Amy Earles comprise one of my favorite pieces to date and it’s probably profoundly uncool to admit this, but even now, reading over it, I was like, “….wow, I wrote this? It’s pretty good!” “I know, right?!” And then I caution myself, “well, it probably wouldn’t be nearly so good if Amy hadn’t taken the time to chat with you, Sarah.” So thank you, thank you, Amy, and all of the other artists who have eagerly indulged my nosy questions and curious speculations over the years, and have given me so much to think upon and write about.

One might experience a peculiar frisson of nostalgia while gazing at the wistful, winsome subjects of  artist Amy Earle’s earlier works. Reminiscent of  the illustrated plates in a mysterious storybook, dusty and hidden far back in grandmother’s closet and tucked the soft folds of a moth-eaten antique quilt; a discovery stumbled upon one rainy afternoon while the adults were occupied and a naughty grand-daughter was perhaps hiding from nap time. Little fingers gently pluck open the frayed cover and begin to flip through the fragile pages, brittle with age.

A wisp of a line begins a whimsical tale and soon the forgotten moppet is captivated by sketches of charming, doll-like subjects in seemingly innocent, frolicsome scenarios. Yet, in more closely studying the subtle nuances of their trembling expressions, the shadowy textures, and dreary shades of their environs, the small child may sense an atmosphere of foreboding and palpable sadness–and with a puzzled brow, softly let the book slip shut, and tuck it away. It will later haunt their dreams well into adulthood.

Unfolding A Daydream: The Art Of Amy Earles

This is my story, and I still have that picture book these many years later. When I became aware of Amy Earle’s work in 2008 or so, I was struck by an immediate, adoring fascination, tinged with a quiet devastation–and, in later examining these observations, I made the connection to my beloved childhood book of strange origins, and wondered at this reaction of both giddy enchantment and vague unease as it related to the delicate young girls in her work.

Existing in the perpetual other world of autumn daydream, skirting the periphery of childhood, the young girls’ amusements are both “playful and sinister” and, I believe, presciently belie a murkier narrative hinting at life’s crueler nature (as some of the best childhood games are wont to do!) As a viewer, when I realized this, it became clear to me: my conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that the lurking menace is the looming threat of adulthood and all its dreadful trappings.

Amy Earles Little Sisters of Lost Worlds

It is with this realization that I breathe a small sigh of relief in viewing Earles’ more recent work. The shadowy, mostly monochromatic palette is ever present, but the subjects themselves seem different to me. They are still slight, delicate creatures, but they’ve matured, bodily, from young girls to young women, and the atmosphere is charged with a different sort of tension now.

Invocation by Amy Earles

Unfolding A Daydream: The Art Of Amy Earles

They carry broomsticks and wands, keys, mirrors, and satchels; they emit lightning from their fingertips, and divine with blindfolds, scissors, and string.  I like to imagine their childhood games have prepared them, and now they’ve fortified and protected themselves with magics, charms, and totems. Forewarned is forearmed, and these are empowered young women with agency, autonomy, and an awareness that they are in control of their own fates.

Nearer by Amy Earles

There is no key by Amy Earles

Beyond The Pin of Stars by Amy Earles

We caught up with Amy recently, and regarding the evolution of her work, she has noted, “…my work is evolving in the sense that the shapes are not as constricted, the concepts are not as obscured. I’m finding it easier to express what I want to express. I’ve made a lot of monochromatic gouache paintings on paper which perfectly encapsulated my state of mind in recent years and I’m still interested in making those because they are still relevant. But I’m also interested in building structures, painting in color with oils. I’m finding shapes and textures in other mediums more enticing lately.”

“People should grow. My personal life has evolved in the past couple of years; my artwork had to follow.”

My Head Is My Home by Amy Earles

Perfect Autonomy

This expert daydreamer also shares that her current reveries are centered mostly on the vague land she has built for an upcoming show at Stranger Factory in early November. These realms are occupied by “sentient plants, people (how they change with time and their fragility) and inanimate objects that become inhabited by concepts/spirits.”

Earles remarks that most of her inspirations and influences are connected to older things; antique objects and various histories, stacks of vintage magazines.  In addition she reveals that she is always enamored “by language (archaic words in particular); certain words or phrases can inspire whole universes. I’m inspired by hair, unusual toys and dolls, old photographs, historical documentaries, vintage celestial imagery, dreams and the unexplainable psychic phenomena that I have encountered all of my life.”

Amy Earles’ works are featured several upcoming shows in 2017: Winter Flock at The Convent Philly which opens February 10th; Moments in Monochrome at Nucleus Portland opening March 25th; and the previously mentioned show at Stranger Factory opening on November 3rd.

Find Amy Earles elsewhere: Website // Etsy // Instagram // Tumblr

Uninvited by Amy Earles

A Sad Flower by Amy Earles

Betwixt by Amy Earles

Marigold Tea by Amy Earles

Silver Tongues by Amy Earles


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Ten Years Of Haute Macabre: Expert Daydreamer, Artist Amy Earles

by on Jan.25, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Amy Earles, Entrement

S. Elizabeth: That artists take time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about their work is still such a thrill for me! Before I began writing for Haute Macabre, I had previously composed various articles and essays for a handful of other online journals and blogs, and though I am myself no artist, I’d like to think that with a decade’s worth of rambling about art and those who create art under my belt, I may have learned a thing or two. (Maybe!) But however many opinions and observations/reactions and reflections I may scribble, without an artist’s input, I always feel like the profile or interview I have labored over is somehow lacking and less than it has the potential to be. The following ruminations concerning the work of enigmatic illustrator Amy Earles comprise one of my favorite pieces to date and it’s probably profoundly uncool to admit this, but even now, reading over it, I was like, “….wow, I wrote this? It’s pretty good!” “I know, right?!” And then I caution myself, “well, it probably wouldn’t be nearly so good if Amy hadn’t taken the time to chat with you, Sarah.” So thank you, thank you, Amy, and all of the other artists who have eagerly indulged my nosy questions and curious speculations over the years, and have given me so much to think upon and write about.

One might experience a peculiar frisson of nostalgia while gazing at the wistful, winsome subjects of  artist Amy Earle’s earlier works. Reminiscent of  the illustrated plates in a mysterious storybook, dusty and hidden far back in grandmother’s closet and tucked the soft folds of a moth-eaten antique quilt; a discovery stumbled upon one rainy afternoon while the adults were occupied and a naughty grand-daughter was perhaps hiding from nap time. Little fingers gently pluck open the frayed cover and begin to flip through the fragile pages, brittle with age.

A wisp of a line begins a whimsical tale and soon the forgotten moppet is captivated by sketches of charming, doll-like subjects in seemingly innocent, frolicsome scenarios. Yet, in more closely studying the subtle nuances of their trembling expressions, the shadowy textures, and dreary shades of their environs, the small child may sense an atmosphere of foreboding and palpable sadness–and with a puzzled brow, softly let the book slip shut, and tuck it away. It will later haunt their dreams well into adulthood.

Unfolding A Daydream: The Art Of Amy Earles

This is my story, and I still have that picture book these many years later. When I became aware of Amy Earle’s work in 2008 or so, I was struck by an immediate, adoring fascination, tinged with a quiet devastation–and, in later examining these observations, I made the connection to my beloved childhood book of strange origins, and wondered at this reaction of both giddy enchantment and vague unease as it related to the delicate young girls in her work.

Existing in the perpetual other world of autumn daydream, skirting the periphery of childhood, the young girls’ amusements are both “playful and sinister” and, I believe, presciently belie a murkier narrative hinting at life’s crueler nature (as some of the best childhood games are wont to do!) As a viewer, when I realized this, it became clear to me: my conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that the lurking menace is the looming threat of adulthood and all its dreadful trappings.

Amy Earles Little Sisters of Lost Worlds

It is with this realization that I breathe a small sigh of relief in viewing Earles’ more recent work. The shadowy, mostly monochromatic palette is ever present, but the subjects themselves seem different to me. They are still slight, delicate creatures, but they’ve matured, bodily, from young girls to young women, and the atmosphere is charged with a different sort of tension now.

Invocation by Amy Earles

Unfolding A Daydream: The Art Of Amy Earles

They carry broomsticks and wands, keys, mirrors, and satchels; they emit lightning from their fingertips, and divine with blindfolds, scissors, and string.  I like to imagine their childhood games have prepared them, and now they’ve fortified and protected themselves with magics, charms, and totems. Forewarned is forearmed, and these are empowered young women with agency, autonomy, and an awareness that they are in control of their own fates.

Nearer by Amy Earles

There is no key by Amy Earles

Beyond The Pin of Stars by Amy Earles

We caught up with Amy recently, and regarding the evolution of her work, she has noted, “…my work is evolving in the sense that the shapes are not as constricted, the concepts are not as obscured. I’m finding it easier to express what I want to express. I’ve made a lot of monochromatic gouache paintings on paper which perfectly encapsulated my state of mind in recent years and I’m still interested in making those because they are still relevant. But I’m also interested in building structures, painting in color with oils. I’m finding shapes and textures in other mediums more enticing lately.”

“People should grow. My personal life has evolved in the past couple of years; my artwork had to follow.”

My Head Is My Home by Amy Earles

Perfect Autonomy

This expert daydreamer also shares that her current reveries are centered mostly on the vague land she has built for an upcoming show at Stranger Factory in early November. These realms are occupied by “sentient plants, people (how they change with time and their fragility) and inanimate objects that become inhabited by concepts/spirits.”

Earles remarks that most of her inspirations and influences are connected to older things; antique objects and various histories, stacks of vintage magazines.  In addition she reveals that she is always enamored “by language (archaic words in particular); certain words or phrases can inspire whole universes. I’m inspired by hair, unusual toys and dolls, old photographs, historical documentaries, vintage celestial imagery, dreams and the unexplainable psychic phenomena that I have encountered all of my life.”

Amy Earles’ works are featured several upcoming shows in 2017: Winter Flock at The Convent Philly which opens February 10th; Moments in Monochrome at Nucleus Portland opening March 25th; and the previously mentioned show at Stranger Factory opening on November 3rd.

Find Amy Earles elsewhere: Website // Etsy // Instagram // Tumblr

Uninvited by Amy Earles

A Sad Flower by Amy Earles

Betwixt by Amy Earles

Marigold Tea by Amy Earles

Silver Tongues by Amy Earles


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10 Years of Haute Macabre: From Solitary Deathling To Attending Death Salon Seattle

by on Jan.24, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Maika: For me, attending Death Salon Seattle was a life-altering experience. In addition to the friends I got to meet in person for the first time, new friends made, finally attending one of Paul Koudounaris’ talks, and, of course, meeting The Modern Mortician and Kermit the Dog, had I not attended, I would not have discovered Megan Devine and Refuge in Grief. I would not have heard her speak. I wouldn’t have exhausted half my packet of tissues during her talk (the other half were spent during Paul’s talk the previous night). I wouldn’t have sought out Megan’s book. And though I had no idea how at the time, I wouldn’t have felt that radiant pull all the core of my being saying, “THIS! WE NEED TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS!”

As I write this intro, I’ve been working with Megan for nine months. Working to change the way we, as individuals and as a culture, come to grief, changing the how we approach grief and support those who are grieving, beautifully complements how I already perceived life and my lifelong preoccupation with mortality. It’s endlessly fascinating, stimulating, and profoundly gratifying. Not a day passes without tears shed. But, as an empathetic human, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In addition to the shiny new job, working with Megan has impacted my life in countless ways. Quick example: It has made me strive to be kinder and more mindful in public. When I’m stuck behind a slow car or (and especially) a meandering shopper, I find that I now pause before getting inwardly annoyed and consider: what if this person is grieving, what if there’s a huge crater in the center of their life and they’re simply trying to get through this harrowing moment out in the world? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but no one suffers for being gentler around each other.

Anyway, I could go on (clearly), and perhaps I will in a future piece here on Haute Macabre, but for now, I simply want to revisit this Death Salon Seattle write-up because it represents the catalyst of what became a personal milestone. Here’s to The Order of the Good Death and the Death Positive community, here’s to Megan Devine, and here’s to my new career working for the Grief Revolution. 


Looking back I wonder if I was an insomniac child. I don’t know enough or much at all, really, about human child development to know what’s normal. But I do know that, for as much of my childhood as I can remember, it always took me hours to fall asleep at night. On further thought, I don’t think it was insomnia, but rather the childhood state of a future night owl, which I decidedly am. Regardless, I wasn’t allowed to keep a reading light on indefinitely, lights-out time was a firmly enforced rule. Once my bedroom went dark I turned to solo games to entertain my sleepless self. At first I’d simply play pretend and imagine myself elsewhere, but as soon as I got carried away with that parental warnings would come telling me to be quiet. Then I’d write and draw on my bedside wall with my fingertips for a little while. I fancied I could see the words and designs left behind where my fingers had been.

My other tried-and-true diversion was trying to imagine what it was like to be dead. I’ve been fascinated by mortality and most things morbid and macabre for about as long as I’ve known that I’m queer. And this little game is one of the reasons I know it’s simply always been part of my mindset. I did not grow up in a religious household, so there was no talk of an afterlife, no heaven, hell, or reincarnation, etc. I was told that death was simply the end of existence. But that concept confounded me, so at night I would lie in bed and try to imagine what it must be like to be dead. I’d start with the physical – lying as still as possible, imagining being completely inert, breathing as slowly and shallowly as I could until I fancied I wasn’t breathing anymore, and visualizing each part of my body going quiet and still. That was the easy part. Then came the process of quieting my head, stilling my thoughts, trying to un-be. Every time I went through this portion of  the exercise I felt like I could only get so far. I just couldn’t quite wrap my head around not having a single solitary thought. Of everything that is me just…stopping. At the time it was terribly frustrating. I felt like I was so close to understanding and that gaining that understanding would bring some tremendous breakthrough. But now I don’t think that’s the case at all. I just recognize how hard I was trying to creatively and privately fathom the unfathomable.

Maika - Vinal - Mount Auburn Cemtery

In recent years I’ve grown to understand why I was trying so hard in the first place. Despite a natural inclination toward the morbid, I didn’t see much of death growing up, so I was always looking for it in hopes of better comprehending it. I grew up in a family scattered across this country and separated by an ocean. When family deaths occurred I didn’t travel to view a body and/or attend a service. There were only words imparting the information. I remember the terribly untimely summertime death of a high school classmate, but I didn’t know her personally. I glimpsed her friends grieving and could sense the enormity of their loss and felt very sad for them, but otherwise I felt very disconnected from it.

I attended three funerals as an adolescent: two for mothers of friends of mine and one for a friend’s older sister. I attended viewings for both women and recall they were each so heavily made up that they didn’t look real, let alone like the people I’d met in life. I remember how separate they felt from everyone in attendance. Obviously the dead are irrevocably separated from the living, but that’s not what I mean. I was simply a school friend in attendance at these ceremonies, so I spent most of my time, as I still so often do in social situations, observing from off to one side. People entered and greeted the grieving family, briefly visited the body in her casket, and then went and sat down or milled about with others while waiting until it was time to move along to the cemetery for the funeral. The one exception I recall was my friend’s little sister, who couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old at the time. She repeatedly went over to the casket, climbed a step or three, and embraced and kissed her mother as well as she could with the woman tucked into the voluminous padding and drapery inside the casket. I remember being struck by the tender boldness of her behavior, which seemed unusual simply because she was the only person doing it.

Maika - Holga - Seaside Dead Seagull

I have vivid memories of finding dead wild animals as a child, being sorrowful for their solitude and also fascinated by their utterly lifeless bodies. In situations where I was able (read: alone), I held little ceremonies for them and buried them. The death of family pets was terribly upsetting, but usually there were no bodies to be seen. They were just gone, having been taken to the vet for euthanasia. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I experienced firsthand being present for the euthanasia of a beloved cat, stroking his body as he passed, and later still watching an ailing guinea pig die in my partner’s hands. As a child, the disconnect of good-bye and then absent made it hard to understand what had actually taken place. Pet burials took place in the backyard, but they were something my father solemnly went and took care of. If I was offered the opportunity to look at a dead pet and say goodbye, I don’t recall it. Sadly it never occurred to me to ask to participate. I suspect I probably would’ve been permitted to do so, but at the time it was inconceivable. Knowing what I do know about death rituals and grieving, I think about the value of inviting one’s child to see and interact with their dead pet so as to comprehend that what remains is an empty vessel, still soft to the touch, but…vacant. I understand that this is how we can begin to learn how to accept death as a natural part of life. By being present. Seeing it. Touching it. Participating in it. By caring for our dead, be it alone, or as blood or chosen family.

Maika - Mount Auburn Cemetery - cat grave

As I review what I’ve written here I want to acknowledge my awareness that my childhood was very fortunate compared to anyone who’s suffered death-related tragedy firsthand and I’m in no way trying to paint a pitiful picture of myself or actively complain about a lack of death in my life growing up. Death is a very real, very unwelcome presence in the lives of those who’ve somehow had loved ones snatched from them and at no point did I long for such occurrences. But I did want to share some personal experiences that contributed to and helped shape my ongoing fascination with death that, this past September, found me attending Death Salon Seattle.

Death Salon Seattle Maika Badge

I’ve longed to attend a Death Salon event since I first learned about the organization years ago. In case you you aren’t already familiar with it…

In the spirit of the eighteenth-century salon – informal gatherings of intellectuals [historians, writers, artists, musicians, death professionals, and armchair researchers, academics and non-academics] – Death Salon encourages conversations on mortality and mourning and their resonating effects on our culture and history. We hold public events and provide an online community (through both Death Salon and our sister organization, The Order of the Good Death) to increase discussion on this often-ignored subject, focusing more on ideas and the broader cultural impacts of death than one’s personal interactions with mortality.

This year’s Death Salon happened to take place just a few hours from my home so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity. And I’m indescribably glad I went. It wasn’t just fascinating, it felt like a homecoming. Topically. Emotionally. Socially. Everything clicked. Although Death Salon Seattle took place in early September, I’m still actively processing the experience. I don’t think that’s going to stop. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel that this has less to do with ongoing processing of my first Death Salon than it does the beginnings of a personal awakening.

Death Salon’s annual main event takes the form of an academic conference. This year, in addition to a cemetery tour, theatre performance, and an evening fundraiser cocktail party, there were two full days of talks and panels given by and involving people somehow involved with death, including a wide variety of death professionals, academics, creatives, educators, and social activists.

Heading into Death Salon, having read the program numerous times, I thought I was prepared for the emotional elements of many of the presentations. It turns out that I was not, but there was something beautiful and cathartic about experiencing so many profoundly poignant moments, whether stirred by empathy or personal experience. If I had to encapsulate the weekend in a single line I would describe it as one seemingly endless frisson. I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over for the better part of two days. (Note to self: next year bring more tissues)

I’ve wrestled with how to best describe the presentations themselves. Attempting to summarize each of them would make this essay unwieldy, but only devoting a sentence or two to each feels like a tremendous disservice to the efforts of the presenters and the rich quality of their thoughtful content. Instead I’ll share some highlights, things I learned and experienced:

A simple yet effective exercise to acquaint yourself with your own mortality: practice saying “when I die” not “if I die.”

For many, the fear of grief is greater than the fear of death.

Racial inequality extends into the realm of death. How we die, how we view death, how we mourn and grieve, all of these things are deeply influenced by history, heritage, and socio-economic status.

Death Salon Angela Hennessy In the Wake

The Death Positive Movement needs to work to include diverse voices and look out for the needs of marginalized peoples, for whom even being able to consider, let alone access options for having a good death and incorporating death positivity into one’s life are currently matters of privilege.

Those who think they don’t care about advance directives or what happens to their body after their die, in actuality probably do. Finding the right setting or context greatly helps encourage the discussion of such things. Art, theatre, even a movie can be what it takes to start the conversation.

People dealing with the death of a pet are often made to feel like owners of things, not people grieving for lost family members. Those who’ve experienced the death of an animal friend know that it is decidedly not a “lesser loss,” but it will take effort to raise awareness and change that perception on a societal scale, enabling people to memorialize and mourn as much as they need to, both in private and in public.

Death Salon Caitlin Doughty Pet Death 2

Death Salon Caitlin Doughty Pet Death 1

I depleted my supply of tissues during “The Unbreakable Bond: Pet Memorials,” Dr. Paul Koudounaris‘s heartbreakingly beautiful lecture about the history of pet cemeteries, both official and illegal, the extraordinary bond that exists between humans and our animal companions, and our desire to do right by them in death as in life. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of his singular talks, don’t miss it.

Death Salon Paul Koudounaris Dewey

Death Salon Paul Koudounaris Pet Memorials 1

Death Salon Paul Koudounaris Pet Memorials 3

Death Salon Paul Koudounaris Pet Memorials 4

Sonya and Jessie meet Paul Koudounaris

Natural or green burial means burying an unembalmed body in the soil – sometimes simply shrouded, sometimes in a biodegradable coffin of some sort – so that it may decompose, recycling the body by allowing it to return to its base elements. For many people, modern life is divorced from the natural world and devoid of ritual. Natural burial offers opportunities for reconnection, the creation of new rituals, and for greater involvement in the funeral, such as helping to care for and transport the body to the grave, participating in the actual burial process, and planting trees and other plants on the gravesite, creating a living memorial that’s nourished by the body below, effecting a beautiful form of resurrection.

Death positivity is irrelevant if not downright offensive for those who’ve suffered untimely loss. Megan Divine‘s overwhelmingly moving and thought-provoking talk, “It’s OK that You’re not OK: Death Positivity in the Face of Grief,” began from an intensely personal place, addressed how to talk about unexpected and traumatic death, how to be death positive in the face of deaths that are anything but natural, and how to bear witness and support those who are grieving.

Death Salon Megan Devine Grief 1

Death Salon Megan Devine Grief 2

Megan’s talk had a profound impact on me. By the time it ended I could feel something vast and momentous beckoning, but I can’t articulate more than that just yet. It’s my hope that reading Megan’s new book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, helps me decipher what it is about grief support that strikes such a deep chord with me. We’re so awkward and uncomfortable with grief, yet it is something we all experience at some if not numerous points in our lives. Whether actively grieving, wanting to support someone else, or simply interested learning about this neglected aspect of what rightfully should be considered part of the Death Positive Movement, I suspect everyone has something invaluable to gain by reading Megan’s book. I also recommend checking out her website, Refuge In Grief.

Death Salon Megan Devine Grief 3

Attending Death Salon meant finally getting to meet wonderful Melissa, The Modern Mortician, and her equally wonderful canine familiar assistant, Kermit the Dog, aka the #deathpositivepup. Melissa graciously took these photos of me monopolizing Kermit’s attention between presentations. If you aren’t already familiar with this fabulous death positive duo, Kermit works alongside Melissa as a grief therapy dog – they’re the first Certified Therapy Team working in the Funeral Service in the state of Texas. You can (and probably should) follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

Maika meets Kermit 1

Maika meets Kermit 2

It was no surprise that pretty much everyone at Death Salon was eager to meet Melissa and Kermit, but what did surprise me was how Kermit’s sensitive soothing magic manifested between the weekend’s emotionally heavy presentations. At first I was simply ecstatic to meet him, but I soon realized that interacting with him genuinely helped us too.

Sonya Vatomsky and Kermit the Dog DeathSalonSeattle

Jessie Lynn and Kermit the Dog DeathSalonSeattle

Death Salon Kermit

Attending Death Salon helped elevate my lifelong fascination with mortality above the abstract. I’m no closer to being able to imagine what it’s like to be dead, but I’ve furthered my understanding of the importance of encouraging discussions about death and dying, helping people to plan for their own mortality, and helping all people die well. I learned about about a variety of ongoing efforts to innovate death care, increase post-mortem options and access to them, and to update the funeral industry in the face of a death care revolution. I also learned that this community is full of amazing humans doing phenomenal things and it was my privilege to get to meet some of them during this event.

Hanna and Maika last day of Death Salon

At the conclusion of Death Salon Seattle, Caitlin Doughty announced the location of the 2018 Death Salon: in Boston at the historic, vast, and gorgeous Mount Auburn Cemetery. You can be sure I’ll be there. So will Melissa and Kermit. I hope some of you will consider joining us.

Maika - Holga - Mount Auburn Cemetery

(Dewey’s grave photo by Paul Koudounaris, meeting Kermit photos by The Modern Mortician, penultimate photo by spookynico, all other photos by Maika, #DeathSalonSeattle logo by Silent James)


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10 Years of Haute Macabre: Magic For The Modern Mystic: Interview With The Hoodwitch’s Bri Luna

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

An online community and website, The Hoodwitch is devoted to sharing metaphysics, folk medicine, and wellness in a modern and accessible way. “Magic is creating change by connecting with the energies of nature, at will,” says founder Bri Luna, who works to honor the inner knowledge we so often forget or learn to ignore. It’s a welcoming and intuitive approach to magic, and it is no surprise that it resonates deeply with the many people who turn to Luna’s site and Instagram for guidance in meditation, crystal healing, horoscopes, and moon rituals. Haute Macabre loves The Hoodwitch and I recently chatted with Luna about everything from her most-necessary daily ritual to which historical women she would welcome into her coven. We hope you find her answers as illuminating as we did.

“Magic is creating change by connecting with the energies of nature, at will”

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

HM: You do a series called Goddess of the Week, and you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you are intrigued by archetypes. That when you’re getting to know someone you’ll think, “She’s an Artemis,” or “I see Isis in her,” and in Sabat Magazine you say you identify most with Hathor, a nurturing Mother Goddess. Why do you think archetypes are so fundamental to an understanding of the world?

BL: Archetypes can be thought of as containers and these containers hold interconnected figures, motifs, or themes that continuously appear in myths, folktales, religions, literature, and the arts. These archetypes are spread widely across cultures and eras. The figures, motifs, and themes are not the archetypes themselves but they are the content of the archetype (i.e the trickster, the wise woman) if that makes any sense? I admire the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung a great deal and I study his work. He didn’t invent the word “archetype” but he is responsible for bringing the concept of archetypes to the field of psychology. He developed a theory that described archetypes as primordial patterns that stem from what he called the “collective unconscious,” or the deep layer of the unconscious that transcends individuals and traverses humanity. Carl Jung saw the collective unconscious as the most essential source of inner empowerment, transformation, and wholeness. Which is quite powerful, don’t you think?

Which historical women, witches or otherwise, would you want in your coven?

This is a tough question, because I admire many courageous women that have walked this Earth before me. I would say Marie Laveau, Frida Kahlo, Bjork, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and Vali Myers. These women are all dynamic, fierce power houses. Can you imagine what a dinner party would be like with all of them? I really resonate with the unapologetic wild women, the sexual vamps, and the creatives that reject societal norms. These are all women that have embraced their innate magic, they knew/know who and what they are. This would be one powerful coven. I wouldn’t fuck with any of them! 

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

You have a lot of finger tattoos, and I’ve always found my finger tattoos to be particularly centering and representative. Especially since I, like you, take so many photographs of my hands. There is something very powerful in having symbols on your hands, which are this tool of strength and nurturing. Was there any kind of ritual performed around your tattoos? And how do you spiritually reconcile tattooing with the importance of letting things go? I think in a way tattoos speak to our individual feelings about intention and permanence, and I’d love to hear your take on that.

Hands are very symbolic, and have been used as powerful references of energy, power, and courage in many ancient cultures. In fact, the Latin word for manifestation is formed around the word manus which is the Latin word for hand. Photos of my hands with my signature stiletto shaped manicures have become synonymous with my business. My tattoos contain important alchemic symbols and numbers that are deeply meaningful for me. Most of my tattoos have happened during major transitionary periods of my life. My most recent being a small crescent moon and scythe which symbolizes death and the cycles of rebirth. A reminder that the only thing permanent in life is change.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

When you lived in LA you were an aesthetician — how did you come to that path? Makeup and other elements of that profession are very ritualistic. How do aesthetics and magic inform each other in your life?

Well, when I was living in LA I worked as a professional MUA for television. I specialized in special FX make-up artistry. Years later, I began working as an aesthetician where I opened my own beauty studio. What lead me initially down that path as a teen was that I wanted to become a cinematographer. Being that I am what I like to call a “visual story teller” and growing up in Los Angeles Hollywood film culture and history played a major role in my life. I enjoyed the power of glamour, and transformation. The art of illusion, which in itself IS the very basis of magic. Glamour is very ritualistic, the process of a person coming to sit in your chair and becoming a completely different person with the use of cosmetics is modern alchemy. It gives me such a thrill. Creating characters and sets that fit the story being told is an art-form and a very special type of magic. I have a lot of respect for the legends of old Hollywood.

What are your favorite fragrances? Do you have a “signature scent”?

I don’t tell anyone my signature scent haha I like to have some mystery. Besides, it wouldn’t smell the same on anyone else. I do love heavy floral perfumes. Roses, patchouli, jasmine, or things like Amber, and violets. I like things that smell “old fashioned.” As a teenager I really loved Chanel no.5 — while most girls thought it smelled like a “granny” I thought it smelled refined, and sophisticated. Some of my favorite brands include Frederic Malle and Byredo.

How did Abracadabra, the community formed around The Hoodwitch, begin? Do you think magic is possible without community?

Abracadabra started when we launched the site. I wanted to create a special place away from social media where people could open up, without judgement with other like-minded members. I believe we now have over 15,000 users from just about magical/spiritual practice you can think of. Magic is possible without community, because it starts and ends with you and only you. It’s nice to have a group that supports and inspires you that’s for sure, but you don’t necessarily NEED to have anyone else to manifest magic in your life.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

Right now, what is your most-necessary daily ritual?

Meditation. I have made it a point to start off and end my days with 10-30 minutes of undisturbed “me” time. I light a few white candles and just sit with my thoughts. I allow anything that has been festering in the back of my mind to float to the surface and out. Starting a regular meditation practice has been life changing.

Though your grandmothers on both sides were mystics you’ve said you came into your own beliefs a little later in life; that you initially found their practices old-fashioned or superstitious. Are there elements of your practice now that mirror how your grandmother’s practiced? What do you think is the most meaningful thing you learned from them?

As a witch and a mother, I found that my grandmother’s wisdom really began to speak through me when I was pregnant. Their ways came to me in how I cared for my family and my home. Be it through herbal remedies for things like the common cold, or for cleansing & removing energies after negative interactions with people during the day. It’s all meaningful, and once you’re exposed to traditional methods that have been used in your family for generations you never forget about them. As teens, it’s easy to be dismissive and act like a know-it-all. We want to be independent of our families to discover on our own, but when you see what’s out there and learn that your elders knew what they were talking about, we come back to what’s real and that’s exactly how I feel about my abuelas.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

What have you been reading/watching/listening to lately?

I hardly have time to watch television on a regular basis but when I find something I love I’ll devote entire weekends to binge watching it on Netflix. The last one I finished was called the OA, I also loved Stranger Things! I love sci-fi, and horror movies, plus nature documentaries and alien conspiracies! We have a vintage book section on our website called “Bruja Books.” I hand pick every title that gets listed, so you can imagine what my own personal book collection looks like! The amount of esoteric, occult, and metaphysical books in my home is pretty next level: my goal someday is to own a house with a haunted study/library with a friendly ghost that loves books as much as me, of course. Also, I usually read multiple books at once, and I’m currently really into Anne Rice audio books (don’t laugh) they’re so good! And easy to listen to in the car. As for music, I listen to a lot of stuff, from Billie Holiday to Black Sabbath and everything else in between.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?

I’d tell myself to keep being the amazing visionary that I was. To have confidence in knowing that the people who laughed and criticised me for my style back then would be the same ones to copy it YEARS later. Be proud of your body and your uniqueness.

Any final words?

Drink water, love yourself, and don’t join any cults!

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch


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10 Years of Haute Macabre: Magic For The Modern Mystic: Interview With The Hoodwitch’s Bri Luna

by on Jan.22, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

An online community and website, The Hoodwitch is devoted to sharing metaphysics, folk medicine, and wellness in a modern and accessible way. “Magic is creating change by connecting with the energies of nature, at will,” says founder Bri Luna, who works to honor the inner knowledge we so often forget or learn to ignore. It’s a welcoming and intuitive approach to magic, and it is no surprise that it resonates deeply with the many people who turn to Luna’s site and Instagram for guidance in meditation, crystal healing, horoscopes, and moon rituals. Haute Macabre loves The Hoodwitch and I recently chatted with Luna about everything from her most-necessary daily ritual to which historical women she would welcome into her coven. We hope you find her answers as illuminating as we did.

“Magic is creating change by connecting with the energies of nature, at will”

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

HM: You do a series called Goddess of the Week, and you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you are intrigued by archetypes. That when you’re getting to know someone you’ll think, “She’s an Artemis,” or “I see Isis in her,” and in Sabat Magazine you say you identify most with Hathor, a nurturing Mother Goddess. Why do you think archetypes are so fundamental to an understanding of the world?

BL: Archetypes can be thought of as containers and these containers hold interconnected figures, motifs, or themes that continuously appear in myths, folktales, religions, literature, and the arts. These archetypes are spread widely across cultures and eras. The figures, motifs, and themes are not the archetypes themselves but they are the content of the archetype (i.e the trickster, the wise woman) if that makes any sense? I admire the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung a great deal and I study his work. He didn’t invent the word “archetype” but he is responsible for bringing the concept of archetypes to the field of psychology. He developed a theory that described archetypes as primordial patterns that stem from what he called the “collective unconscious,” or the deep layer of the unconscious that transcends individuals and traverses humanity. Carl Jung saw the collective unconscious as the most essential source of inner empowerment, transformation, and wholeness. Which is quite powerful, don’t you think?

Which historical women, witches or otherwise, would you want in your coven?

This is a tough question, because I admire many courageous women that have walked this Earth before me. I would say Marie Laveau, Frida Kahlo, Bjork, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and Vali Myers. These women are all dynamic, fierce power houses. Can you imagine what a dinner party would be like with all of them? I really resonate with the unapologetic wild women, the sexual vamps, and the creatives that reject societal norms. These are all women that have embraced their innate magic, they knew/know who and what they are. This would be one powerful coven. I wouldn’t fuck with any of them! 

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

You have a lot of finger tattoos, and I’ve always found my finger tattoos to be particularly centering and representative. Especially since I, like you, take so many photographs of my hands. There is something very powerful in having symbols on your hands, which are this tool of strength and nurturing. Was there any kind of ritual performed around your tattoos? And how do you spiritually reconcile tattooing with the importance of letting things go? I think in a way tattoos speak to our individual feelings about intention and permanence, and I’d love to hear your take on that.

Hands are very symbolic, and have been used as powerful references of energy, power, and courage in many ancient cultures. In fact, the Latin word for manifestation is formed around the word manus which is the Latin word for hand. Photos of my hands with my signature stiletto shaped manicures have become synonymous with my business. My tattoos contain important alchemic symbols and numbers that are deeply meaningful for me. Most of my tattoos have happened during major transitionary periods of my life. My most recent being a small crescent moon and scythe which symbolizes death and the cycles of rebirth. A reminder that the only thing permanent in life is change.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

When you lived in LA you were an aesthetician — how did you come to that path? Makeup and other elements of that profession are very ritualistic. How do aesthetics and magic inform each other in your life?

Well, when I was living in LA I worked as a professional MUA for television. I specialized in special FX make-up artistry. Years later, I began working as an aesthetician where I opened my own beauty studio. What lead me initially down that path as a teen was that I wanted to become a cinematographer. Being that I am what I like to call a “visual story teller” and growing up in Los Angeles Hollywood film culture and history played a major role in my life. I enjoyed the power of glamour, and transformation. The art of illusion, which in itself IS the very basis of magic. Glamour is very ritualistic, the process of a person coming to sit in your chair and becoming a completely different person with the use of cosmetics is modern alchemy. It gives me such a thrill. Creating characters and sets that fit the story being told is an art-form and a very special type of magic. I have a lot of respect for the legends of old Hollywood.

What are your favorite fragrances? Do you have a “signature scent”?

I don’t tell anyone my signature scent haha I like to have some mystery. Besides, it wouldn’t smell the same on anyone else. I do love heavy floral perfumes. Roses, patchouli, jasmine, or things like Amber, and violets. I like things that smell “old fashioned.” As a teenager I really loved Chanel no.5 — while most girls thought it smelled like a “granny” I thought it smelled refined, and sophisticated. Some of my favorite brands include Frederic Malle and Byredo.

How did Abracadabra, the community formed around The Hoodwitch, begin? Do you think magic is possible without community?

Abracadabra started when we launched the site. I wanted to create a special place away from social media where people could open up, without judgement with other like-minded members. I believe we now have over 15,000 users from just about magical/spiritual practice you can think of. Magic is possible without community, because it starts and ends with you and only you. It’s nice to have a group that supports and inspires you that’s for sure, but you don’t necessarily NEED to have anyone else to manifest magic in your life.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

Right now, what is your most-necessary daily ritual?

Meditation. I have made it a point to start off and end my days with 10-30 minutes of undisturbed “me” time. I light a few white candles and just sit with my thoughts. I allow anything that has been festering in the back of my mind to float to the surface and out. Starting a regular meditation practice has been life changing.

Though your grandmothers on both sides were mystics you’ve said you came into your own beliefs a little later in life; that you initially found their practices old-fashioned or superstitious. Are there elements of your practice now that mirror how your grandmother’s practiced? What do you think is the most meaningful thing you learned from them?

As a witch and a mother, I found that my grandmother’s wisdom really began to speak through me when I was pregnant. Their ways came to me in how I cared for my family and my home. Be it through herbal remedies for things like the common cold, or for cleansing & removing energies after negative interactions with people during the day. It’s all meaningful, and once you’re exposed to traditional methods that have been used in your family for generations you never forget about them. As teens, it’s easy to be dismissive and act like a know-it-all. We want to be independent of our families to discover on our own, but when you see what’s out there and learn that your elders knew what they were talking about, we come back to what’s real and that’s exactly how I feel about my abuelas.

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch

What have you been reading/watching/listening to lately?

I hardly have time to watch television on a regular basis but when I find something I love I’ll devote entire weekends to binge watching it on Netflix. The last one I finished was called the OA, I also loved Stranger Things! I love sci-fi, and horror movies, plus nature documentaries and alien conspiracies! We have a vintage book section on our website called “Bruja Books.” I hand pick every title that gets listed, so you can imagine what my own personal book collection looks like! The amount of esoteric, occult, and metaphysical books in my home is pretty next level: my goal someday is to own a house with a haunted study/library with a friendly ghost that loves books as much as me, of course. Also, I usually read multiple books at once, and I’m currently really into Anne Rice audio books (don’t laugh) they’re so good! And easy to listen to in the car. As for music, I listen to a lot of stuff, from Billie Holiday to Black Sabbath and everything else in between.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?

I’d tell myself to keep being the amazing visionary that I was. To have confidence in knowing that the people who laughed and criticised me for my style back then would be the same ones to copy it YEARS later. Be proud of your body and your uniqueness.

Any final words?

Drink water, love yourself, and don’t join any cults!

Bri Luna - The Hoodwitch


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10 Years of Haute Macabre: The Melancholy Visual Fables of Laura Makabresku

by on Jan.21, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Maika: My favorite photographers tend to be those who create entire worlds, both large and small. Worlds that I wish I could myself inhabit, but instead may only experience via tantalizing and tormenting glimpses, and perhaps what bits manage to permeate my dreams. The singularly beautiful and haunting work of photographer Laura Makabresku has been one of those photographers from the first time I set eyes on her work, so much so that I find I still struggle to articulate what her oeuvre means to me.


The Tree of Love by Laura Makabresku, 2016

I’ve been quietly in love with the work of Polish photographer Laura Makabresku for years. Her otherworldly photographs fall into that special category of things that feel too personal and precious to mention to another living soul. Or rather, that’s how I once felt about certain things I held dear: that sharing something intensely meaningful to oneself somehow dilutes it.

Seed by Laura Makabesku, 2016

Fortunately, I’ve long since realized that part of the joy of connecting with works of art, music, films, or even physical locations, is sharing them with people you feel will also enjoy them. There’s a singular pleasure to be had in watching someone else light up at the discovery of something from which you derive meaning. So here we are.

The Heart by Laura Makabresku, 2016

The Autopsy by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Lamentate I by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Laura Makabresku’s photos feel like frozen moments from dreamlike narratives with no beginning or end. There are ghost stories and love stories, folktales and fairytales, stories of witchcraft, deep friendship, immortal romance, crippling grief, forbidden love, arcane rites and rituals, magical metamorphosis, and endless combinations thereof. And one need not know what has happened before or might happen next in order to be moved by these affecting scenes.

Ravens by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Sanctification by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Lovers by Laura Makabresku, 2015

Wintersleep by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Makabresku tends to work in austere surroundings, often alone in the frame, but sometimes posing with or shooting her husband and other friends. She makes both props and active participants out of taxidermy mounts and pelts, plants and flowers, preserved insect specimens, live animals, puppets and sculptures made by fellow artists, and even her own blood and tears on her translucently pale skin.

Dark Rituals by Laura Makabresku, 2012

Untitled by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Lessons of Darkness by Laura Makabresku, 2015

Depending on my own mood and present circumstances, Makabresku’s photos speak to me differently each time I look at them, but the narrator of these poignant tales is always the same: an unearthly presence in the form of a velvety silence. It’s that special sort of quiet, like a nighttime landscape covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, that’s so deep you can hear your own heartbeat. This unsleeping silence watches everything, but passes no judgement, a ghostly witness.

The Hunger by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Cabinet of Souls by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Butterflies by Laura Makabresku, 2013

Suffused with incredible vulnerability and tenderness as well as boundless sorrow and suffering, these enigmatic fragments feel like part fantasy and part nightmare. They are achingly beautiful memento mori, expressions of the fragility of our hearts and minds, of a longing to connect more deeply with the natural world. The photos don’t have to portray things that I’ve actually experienced in order to resonate on a breathtakingly personal level. They are visual depictions of feelings for which there are no words.

The Two Sisters by Laura Makabresku, 2014

The Two Sisters by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Lovers by Laura Makabresku, 2017

I considered reaching out to Laura Makabresku for this piece, to inquire about her process and personal symbolism. But the more I think about how and why I enjoy Makabresku’s work, the less I want to know about what goes on behind the scenes. Let’s allow this sorceress to work undisturbed behind her curtain.

Laura Makabresku and Ovate, 2016

Find Laura Makabresku: Website // Flickr // Facebook // Instagram // Behance


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10 Years of Haute Macabre: The Melancholy Visual Fables of Laura Makabresku

by on Jan.21, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Maika: My favorite photographers tend to be those who create entire worlds, both large and small. Worlds that I wish I could myself inhabit, but instead may only experience via tantalizing and tormenting glimpses, and perhaps what bits manage to permeate my dreams. The singularly beautiful and haunting work of photographer Laura Makabresku has been one of those photographers from the first time I set eyes on her work, so much so that I find I still struggle to articulate what her oeuvre means to me.


The Tree of Love by Laura Makabresku, 2016

I’ve been quietly in love with the work of Polish photographer Laura Makabresku for years. Her otherworldly photographs fall into that special category of things that feel too personal and precious to mention to another living soul. Or rather, that’s how I once felt about certain things I held dear: that sharing something intensely meaningful to oneself somehow dilutes it.

Seed by Laura Makabesku, 2016

Fortunately, I’ve long since realized that part of the joy of connecting with works of art, music, films, or even physical locations, is sharing them with people you feel will also enjoy them. There’s a singular pleasure to be had in watching someone else light up at the discovery of something from which you derive meaning. So here we are.

The Heart by Laura Makabresku, 2016

The Autopsy by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Lamentate I by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Laura Makabresku’s photos feel like frozen moments from dreamlike narratives with no beginning or end. There are ghost stories and love stories, folktales and fairytales, stories of witchcraft, deep friendship, immortal romance, crippling grief, forbidden love, arcane rites and rituals, magical metamorphosis, and endless combinations thereof. And one need not know what has happened before or might happen next in order to be moved by these affecting scenes.

Ravens by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Sanctification by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Lovers by Laura Makabresku, 2015

Wintersleep by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Makabresku tends to work in austere surroundings, often alone in the frame, but sometimes posing with or shooting her husband and other friends. She makes both props and active participants out of taxidermy mounts and pelts, plants and flowers, preserved insect specimens, live animals, puppets and sculptures made by fellow artists, and even her own blood and tears on her translucently pale skin.

Dark Rituals by Laura Makabresku, 2012

Untitled by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Lessons of Darkness by Laura Makabresku, 2015

Depending on my own mood and present circumstances, Makabresku’s photos speak to me differently each time I look at them, but the narrator of these poignant tales is always the same: an unearthly presence in the form of a velvety silence. It’s that special sort of quiet, like a nighttime landscape covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, that’s so deep you can hear your own heartbeat. This unsleeping silence watches everything, but passes no judgement, a ghostly witness.

The Hunger by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Cabinet of Souls by Laura Makabresku, 2016

Butterflies by Laura Makabresku, 2013

Suffused with incredible vulnerability and tenderness as well as boundless sorrow and suffering, these enigmatic fragments feel like part fantasy and part nightmare. They are achingly beautiful memento mori, expressions of the fragility of our hearts and minds, of a longing to connect more deeply with the natural world. The photos don’t have to portray things that I’ve actually experienced in order to resonate on a breathtakingly personal level. They are visual depictions of feelings for which there are no words.

The Two Sisters by Laura Makabresku, 2014

The Two Sisters by Laura Makabresku, 2014

Lovers by Laura Makabresku, 2017

I considered reaching out to Laura Makabresku for this piece, to inquire about her process and personal symbolism. But the more I think about how and why I enjoy Makabresku’s work, the less I want to know about what goes on behind the scenes. Let’s allow this sorceress to work undisturbed behind her curtain.

Laura Makabresku and Ovate, 2016

Find Laura Makabresku: Website // Flickr // Facebook // Instagram // Behance


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Blame the Super Wolf Blood Full Moon Eclipse

by on Jan.20, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

We can go ahead and blame the Super Wolf Blood Full Moon Eclipse for everything this week: my malaise, night terrors, messy house, missed calls and forgotten emails, and all of the other things that go along with feeling absolutely bonkers for a few days. So, in case you missed this morning’s shop update (I posted to the IG, but the non-chronological feed might mean that you see those posts at any random interval in the next 16 years), so here’s what is up and going in today’s additions to the Haute Macabre Shop:


Pyrite Spheres
A selection of 5 glistening metallic golden spheres in various sizes and weights, believed to hold fire in its core. Use this fire within to assist in manifesting your deepest desires: Pyrite is a great motivator and energy shield, as it creates an immediate increase in vitaliy. Each sphere contains caverns of glittering golden yellow.

I work with Pyrite alongside the Empress in the Tarot, calling forth the motivation and the prospects of abundance in all aspects of my life.

The Road to Nowhere Oracle deck by Spirit Speak
A 60 card oracle deck by Spirit Speak, created in Joshua Tree, California, comprised of archetypal imagery. The oracle may be used individually or in conjunction with the Tarot: these cards are not directly related to tarot cards, but form themselves from their creator’s roots in work with the tarot.

My first personal reading with this oracle was frighteningly spot on. It was at a time that I was allowing the shadows to creep in, to take hold of me and drown me in doubt, and it felt that every moment was becoming more difficult than the last. It wasn’t a sense of despair or foreboding, it was an apathetic disgust, allowing only self doubt and misanthropy to guide me. The reading reminded me not to spiral, not to allow the darkness creeping in to possess me. This helped me in a huge way, and these were the cards I pulled upon opening the deck and shuffling for the first time – you may see the actual pull in the photographs I’ve included here.

Surrealism & the Occult
An art historian shows how many surrealists and their predecessors were steeped in magical ideas that were expressed in their art: the sorcery of Dali, the alchemy of Picasso, the Theosophy of Kandinsky, and the shamanism of Ernst and Carrington.

Written by Nadia Choucha, 152 pages

WTF is Tarot? …& How Do I Do It?
Written by Bakara Wintner in a straight forward and candid voice, WTF is Tarot? …& How Do I Do It? has become my most reached for tarot book over the last few months. Bakara guides us through the journey of the cards with her straight-forward and direct tone, yet remains approachable and accessible – each of the Major Arcana is accompanied by a personal anecdote in addition to its divinatory meaning, while the Minor is presented in familial personifications.

Encouraging us to acknowledge how deeply ingrained the symbology of the Tarot already is in our daily lives, WTF is Tarot shows us an intuitive approach to readings. On a personal note, I’ve been familiar with the cards since I was a teen, with a devoted study over the last decade, and I’ve found that since studying this guide my readings have reached a deeper and more intrinsic level. I highly recommend this for any person interested in the Tarot, whether you are a beginning reader or an expert.

You do not need to learn tarot because you already know it.

Published by Page Street Books, 159 pages.

Edward Gorey’s The Fantod Pack
Edward Gorey’s trademark sense of impending doom is nowhere more darkly humorous than in this, his version of a tarot card deck. Each of the 20 cards forecasts a list of outcomes for the user ranging from the merely unpleasant (loss of hair, breakage, thwarted ambitions) to the downright horrible (catarrh, spasms, shriveling). The 32-page booklet provides interpretation of the cards courtesy of one Madame Groeda Weyrd, who Gorey tells us “is of mixed Finnish and Egyptian extraction, has devoted her life to divination, and is the author of, among a shelf of other works, Floating Tambourines, a collection of esoteric verse, and The Future Speaks Through Entrails.” Who but Gorey to make mirth from a kaleidoscope of catastrophe?

The Tantric Dakini Oracle and Guide Book
The trippiest 70s vibe oracle deck I’ve ever come across. Each card in a reading from this oracle is pulled directly from the cosmic psychedelic sphere.

This deck has manifested itself into my life unexpectedly on a number of occasions: first, I was gifted two of the first printing of the cards by my oldest friend, and I could not find the original deck where they came from. Eventually, it fell out of my conscious thoughts, and it suddenly randomly appeared in a search for something else. Purchasing it then, I had to pack it up due to a move, where it remained unwrapped for at least a year. Last fall, a friend was showing me a card from it, and explaining to me how accurate she thought the readings where, I added it to a shopping cart & left it there for a later purchase. A few days later, I was searching (again, for something unrelated), in my closet, and found the set that I had bought myself in the year prior. This past December, at the Oddities Market, another friend was browsing the oracle cards we had available at the HM booth, and started describing these, without being able to recall the name of them: I knew instantly what she was talking about, and had them on hand at the market for her to show her companion.

The Tantric Dakini set includes 22 Major Arcana, 40 Minor Arcana representing the four elements, and three additional cards invoking Past, Present, and Future featuring collage art by Penny Slinger, and a full guide book for interpretations for each card, written by Nik Douglas, a scholar of both Sanskrit and Tibetan.


Black Galaxy Amethysts:
*About half of these have already found a new home, so here are the remaining selections*

Staring into a Black Galaxy Amethyst is a hypnotic event: the blackness of each is a glimmering abyss. Each specimen creates a calm void, but not a cold one. A rare form of amethyst that is a relatively new discovery, there is little information available on their formation or their healing properties, but in my personal opinion, and how I have been working with them, is by accepting the soothing healing properties of amethyst themselves, and applying this to my Shadow Self. I feel a surrender when I am working with these, a wholeness and acceptance of my Shadow Self, the darker parts, those that I need to accept in order to heal.

Each of these Black Galaxy Amethysts hold a heavy gravity around them. They have been in my possession now for just about half of a complete lunar cycle, and the group of them together shifts the air in the room. I say this not in a negative way, but for you to be aware of the magnitude of these high vibrational formations: you may feel a change when you take them into your life, a shifting of the veils. I associate these crystals with The High Priestess card in the Tarot, the keeper of the mysteries, and the guardian of the threshold between this world and the mystical realm. Work with them, and her, in tandem, to begin to access this sacred Shadow space. I recommend charging them in both the Dark and the Full Moon, as they carry qualities of each, and allow the darkness and the light of the Moon’s phases to be absorbed into the glittering blackness.

Black Galaxy 1
This particular piece measures (approximately) 3.25″ tall and 3″ at its widest, and weighs approx 2/3 lbs. There is a subtle greenish-grey area of it, along with light striations across it that form a web-like map. This is the smallest of the selection, but its size does not reflect its magnificence. Use her when you are feeling tiny, to be reminded that you hold a galaxy within.

Black Galaxy 3
This particular piece measures 4.25″high and 2″ wide, with a stunning agate band that almost entirely covers the formation’s back. The agate looks reminds me of a swirl of emotion, something that swims together.

Black Galaxy 4
This piece measures almost 5″ tall and 3.5″ wide, weighing nearly 1.5lbs, with an ombre of grey to silver to black glitter.

Black Galaxy 10
This piece measures 6″ high and 3″ wide, and contains the most web lines of today’s Galaxy group. These web lines look like a star map or a comet’s tail, streaks of shimmering silver white. They could also be considered thought groves, a stream of conscious actions or meditations on a certain goal or action.

Black Galaxy 11
This piece measures 5″ high and about 4″ across, and weighs just over 3lbs. When I handle this piece, I feel like it is destined to be a scrying tool. I find myself falling the deepest inside of this one, and my gaze is constantly drawn back to it. I get a bit tunnel visioned when I look at her, perhaps this is an indication that she is meant for a locus point in a meditation, to dive into her depths and access your Shadow.


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January Full Moon Tarotscopes from Sarah Faith Gottesdiener

by on Jan.18, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

January Full Moon Lunar Eclipse

January’s Full Moon, also a partial eclipse, will take place January 20th/January 21st, depending on where you live. This is sometimes called the Wolf moon in North America. This is our first Full Moon of 2019, in the sign of Leo at 0 degrees. This Full Moon is the last lunation in the Leo/Aquarius series of eclipses, that started in 2017.

Lunar eclipses sometimes signify endings, according to many astrologers. But Full Moons are never strictly about endings. Endings and release, in the realm of witchcraft, are more aligned with the Waning Moon period, the phase takes place directly after a Full Moon. At the Full Moon, we are halfway through the lunar cycle. The energy has risen, the sun’s light is fully reflected on the Moon’s face. Energy has accumulated. There are culminations, insights, and sharing taking place. Things can come up, emotions can be heightened. At an eclipse, the moon passes directly behind its moon, and into its shadow. Light from the Sun is blocked. Things can feel unclear, or unexpected. Our own personal shadows can come up for us to reckon with. This is a beautiful opportunity to integrate these by relating to them in a different way. Try to experiment— be loving and gentle, if you are normal harsh and dismissive with your inner child. Experiment with ways of processing these shadows. Baths, breathing, drawing, writing, movement— these all help. If these shadows are taking up too much space in your psyche, an eclipse gives us an opportunity to change this.

The reminder here is to stay present, and see what themes and patterns are coming up. Any Full Moon can give you messages, if you show up grounded enough to receive them. Any Full Moon can show you what you need to cultivate, and what shadows are ready to be integrated. Every Full Moon is very personal—depending on where you are, and what you are going through. Some folks are going to feel amazing at this Full Moon. Some folks will feel drained, on edge or very sensitive. Be mindful of those around you. Respond, don’t react.

These Tarotscopes are written to be used as guidance for the time period right before, and about a week after the eclipse. You can read them for your Sun, Rising, or Moon—or read all 3. Take what you like and leave the rest.

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Aries: 10 of Swords

This Full Moon eclipse time—this weekend through next week—is the time for you to examine what mindsets and unhelpful thought loops have got to go. What pain no longer has a place for who you are becoming, for what you reaching for. Entrenched power dynamics are useless for you in your life right now and what you are trying to achieve. What if you walked away? What if you dropped the tug-of-war rope gently, and focused on rest and renewal instead? There are easier ways to grow than through self-flagellation. We don’t evolve by harming ourselves.

Letting go can be a clenched fist relaxing.

Letting go for you at this time is not a loss.

Letting go can be one of your most powerful themes to practice over the next few weeks.
Cut the cords to at least one overdue, harmful attachment and turn towards the dawn.

Remind yourself that trust is a salve. Self-forgiveness is the greatest gift your hands are ready to receive.

Taurus: 7 of Wands

Let’s talk about energy. You are a master at channelling and utilizing your energy, and these coming months are only going to ask you to hone in even more on the distribution of your efforts. In one or more areas, there needs to be more alignment between where you are going and how that lives in your body. Pay attention, by the hour, on where you are needlessly draining yourself. Pay attention, by the hour, on what you need to do to bring your energy back to yourself. Maybe it is looking at baby animal videos, maybe it is stretching, maybe it is deep breaths. There are a couple of habits or defensives that need to be transformed in order for you to move through whatever perceived impasse you are in. Your cosmic homework around this full moon eclipse is to identify what those are and get a plan to change them through habits and practice.

Now, let’s talk about your widening levels of creativity. You’ve got other, more fascinating places to put your talents in addition, or instead of what you are doing now, and you can feel it. (You’ve been feeling this way for a while.) There is something very exciting about this different terrain. This excitement doesn’t have a place to go, because you might be dealing with all the little fires in front of you, all the little doubtful voices inside of you—or even outside of you. All of the duties and responsibilities of the moment. Which in turn leads to frustration, which in turn leads to your energy being drained. This then leads to resistance. Figure out a couple of ways a day or a week to put future you first.

Last but not least, you beautiful bull, focus on reveling in all that you have achieved, particularly in the last 6 months. You’ve gotten more focused on what you want and why. You’ve found ways to bring harmony and beauty to those precious folks in your life, as well the greater collective. You’ve modeled decorum and grace, rigor and excellence. You can be really hard on yourself. Give your joy more space. If you need to write a list of all you appreciate and all you’ve achieved, do so. Draw a big circle around it, with stars and hearts and the words “I am safe. I am loved.” Put it under the Moon to charge under her knowing glow.

Gemini: 3 of Pentacles

Lovely Gem, going back and refining could be a really great use of your time. In the world of work, there might be some ideas or inspirations you had a long time ago, that still simmer in the back of your mind. A half-written project idea in last year’s journal. A bolt of lightning inspiration you got on a train one day long ago that won’t leave you alone. If you feel called to to put your efforts on past obsessions that couldn’t fully get fleshed out in the way you’ve previously wanted, this card is your permission slip. Make a plan and stick to bringing it to life. Especially if, over time, it will pay off in money, connections, or greater ways, such as in a spiritual practice. Gorgeous dreamer, keep your dreams alive. They will help you and they will help the world.

At this Full Moon eclipse, assess where you are ready to grow. What are you ready to learn? Where do you need to retract, in order to go more deeply into a desire? It is never a bad idea to invest in yourself. Going behind the scenes for a bit to tend to what supports your magic might be the message of this full moon.

Let yourself sink into the roots you’ve made. You’ve worked long, and you’ve worked hard for them. These are your community and your friends. These are your family—chosen and/or blood, pets, and plants alike. These are your artistic lineages, what you look at every day, and what practices have got you here. You can nurture them with phone calls and love letters and treats and surprise gifts. You can concoct an altar to the artisans and psychics that helped you build this extraordinary life. You can fall back on them. You can rely on them. You belong to one another. You can exhale more fully into the temple of life you have built.

*Since I’ve been pulling tarotscopes, you Gems have received this card repeatedly. If you have your own tarot deck, spend some time journaling about this card, and what it means to you and the themes and patterns of your life. What do the themes of abundance, money, building, collaborations, work, and worth mean to you?

Cancer: King of Swords

There’s thoughts, and there’s memories, and when they tangle together in the psyche they can create labyrinths of pain. We don’t dissipate their hold over us by wandering around aimlessly in their deceitful dead ends. We recognize them for what they are: thoughts, memories, imprints, beliefs. We reconcile that within them are harm, and within them are helpful learnings. We acknowledge that within them are truths, and within them are fallacies. They are the past, not the present.

This Full Moon Eclipse is the time to no longer give those lies the time of day. At this time, you get to decide what are relevant to you. You get to decide what thoughts, what beliefs, and what messages you will be taking with you into this next year. Cultivate the supportive ones, the intriguing ones, the ones that echo the truths you feel in your heart and the ones you hold in your soul.

When in doubt, call yourself back to the present moment. Call yourself back to what is actually in front of you. Focus on what is calling to you. What feels important and what feels powerful. There is so much to do and you are just the one to do it. So many ideas percolating. So many projects wanting to come out this year that are going to change the game, for you and others. So much to communicate to so many people. Your cosmic homework is to focus on clarity and leave any and all distractions behind. If you do, your work and life will soon take powerful flight.

Leo: 2 of Cups

You can look to those around you who hold you dear to reflect your beauty back to you. Your partners—in love, life, work, and the greater community—will always offer up true support. They love you so much Leo, they really do. It could be a good weekend for you to have open and honest conversations about what everyone involved needs in order to have the most healthy, most balanced relationships. You might be the one who needs to bend. You might be the one who has to be a little needier than you’d like. Don’t be afraid to communicate.

However, this Full Moon eclipse might really be bringing up some older patterns of love and lack, and certain scarcity tactics you use on yourself to avoid showing up for you, deep down in your core of hearts. The hardest part is giving yourself healthy, unconditional love. It may be time to really sit with how you define your own language of self-love. It could be an action. It could be just sitting with your emotions more, tracing where they live in your body. It could be really admitting how you need certain relationships to change. With that, comes actual, real, different ways of relating. To self and others.

Wholeness isn’t found outside yourself. It is not achieved in performances and reviews. It is found, in part, when you admit to yourself that you’ll never be perfect, yet you are fundamentally deserving of love and care, space and time. It is letting people in whether you are grumpy or ecstatic, whether your house is a tidy picture or a messy home. It is showing up for yourself, as yourself, exactly as you are in this moment. It is safe for you to speak your boundaries, your vulnerabilities. It is safe for you to share. It is safe for you to offer all the parts of you up to the altar of self. Salty, savory, shy, silky. The more offerings you make freely and openly, the more returns will boomerang back to you, straight back into your life, directly in harmony with your sweetest sentiment. At the Full Moon eclipse, find ways to celebrate and communicate your wholeness.

Virgo: 9 of Cups

Virgo, currently, one area of your life is culminating. Something is arriving at fullness—just like this moon— that is a success. Can you let yourself enjoy? Can your revel in all the fullness, all the excitement, all the goodies? Not everyone needs to be convinced or impressed. When letting in new collaborators, partners, and projects, ask yourself: what’s in it for me? How will I benefit? You need only let in those who adore you. Keep others that can’t enjoy your successes at an arm’s length.

One of the key themes of the 9 of Cups is wish fulfillment. You, more than most, know that you can have everything you want—just not at the same time. So if you are still yearning some dreams to coalesce, this is a reminder to keep going. This is reminder to keep love alive along the way. Keep yourself feeling beautiful and hydrated at every inhale.

At this Full Moon eclipse, what you focus on grows. There will always be something else to do, somewhere else to be. There’s no shame in wanting more, or wanting something different. Let your cells vibrate with as much pleasure receptiveness as possible. Sit with where you are now. Fill your own cup first, lean back, and enjoy.

Libra: 2 of Wands

Nothing is ever lost, Libra. All the experiences you’ve undergone, especially in the last few years, have helped you to think about your place in the world and where you want to go. Failures aren’t failures if you’ve learned important lessons from them. At this Full Moon eclipse, you might be feeling overwhelmed by what to do next, or where to begin.

If you don’t feel as though you’ve got breathing room, you do. Make new perspectives your prerogative. The trick is to see the sorely needed open space as a new adventure, because it is. The Two of Wands invites us to travel, whether it be literal or metaphoric. If you need to introduce yourself to people, to situations, then do that in the next few weeks. Once your passions are clearly committed to, once you’ve declared your action plan, doors will open.

Your world is what you make it. You are on the brink of a new beginning which also feels like a crossroads. Treat your reality as such and step onto a different path.

Scorpio: 6 of Cups

Scorpio, when you build relationships out of uncommunicated expectations you build relationships where nothing can grow. You are so incredibly sweet, you are such a natural giver. Sometimes you give without checking in first, sometimes you offer up massive gifts and efforts when really what is needed is something much simpler, but harder—honesty, flexibility, and vulnerability. Sometimes, you labor so hard giving other people what YOU actually need, instead of giving it to yourself. Instead of asking others for help you bury those needs in silence, in overdoing, in forcing seeds to grow in concrete.

The key to emotional contentment is truly being able to receive.

Your cosmic homework at this Full Moon eclipse time to make time for the others. The other feelings, the other needs, the other voices that you sometimes walk away or skip over in order to serve greater masters. These are your emotional needs, your earnest offerings, the most raw parts of yourself. Touch base with all of those others, listen to each and every one carefully. If you need to openly and honestly communicate what you are finding to other folks in your life, than do so. If you need to openly listen to their needs, their concerns, you will be better for doing so. These is how you can truly turn the page to create more flow and harmony in your garden. Create a spell to grow the seeds of love, trust, reciprocity in the most watered, most listened to, most tended to soil and they will.

Sagittarius: 9 of Wands

Sagittarius, there could be a burned out, broken heart feeling to your life right now. That’s the breaking of your own heart, due to some kind of burn or burnt out. The fact of the matter is that you give it your all. Every time. To every thing. A helpful reminder is that not every one, or every time, needs every ounce of your passion, your attention, and your energy.

You are really, really close to achieving one or more desires or goals in your life right now. I know it might not *feel* that way, but you are. Finish up on any important projects—but do so with a lot more conservation of energy. If more interruptions or disruptions happen, find ways to center yourself through them. It can be easy to leap to blame or dejection when you care so very much. The trick is to keep the focus and energy on what you care about, above all else.

Patience is needed. So are clear reminders of why you are here now, doing this. It could be that a few shifts in mindset could help. It could be that leaning to set boundaries of what you will and will not do with your energy will serve you. What you are learning now will aid you for years to come. This is an important time. Honor yourself.

Capricorn: Death

This month might have felt a little or lot painful, Capricorn. Change is very rarely easy breezy. You know this and you are ok with this. So why are you holding yourself back from these changes, still? What truly needs to be radically changed so that you can move forward? There could some fears your ego is still clinging to. You want to be safe, you want to be secure. But you also want to be free. You want to have room to explore, you wish for time and space to climb. You can have all that. But first, you need to work on some reconfiguring, some leaving behind. But first, you need to have a heart-to-heart with your fears.

Safety and security are totally up to you to define. At this Full Moon eclipse, I encourage you to clearly define them for you. For both your freedom and your fear. You are also encouraged to expand how those can show up in new ways. Ways that can you that freedom to climb, ways to gift you that space needed now to reinvent your identity. To match your evolved insides with the outside routines and responsibilities that require so much of you.

Death is ultimately about life. The themes that are coming up for you around at this time, Capricorn, are most likely very far-ranging: legacy, your place in the world, what you want to achieve on grand, grand, meaningful levels. Until you drop the fear, until you see past some denials, you will not be able to move towards new life. At this Full Moon eclipse, pick one or two obligations that you will being phasing out this year. At this time, let some fear-based attachments go in order to grow. In 6 months, you will be thankful that you did.

Aquarius: 10 of Wands

You are on a particular mission at this moment Aquarius. It is important—dramatically so. But you are placing a burden on yourself as you move forward. You could be overly complicating your vision. You could also be self-isolating due to exhaustion, or simply because you feel as though you haven’t the time to do much else. Keep it simple. Focus on the most important tasks. Delegate what you can. And let others help.

This is an opportunity to truly transform. You can change the ways in which you take on too much. Sometimes, you take on so much, expend so much energy, that all the fun, all the enjoyment, of…possibly everything?…gets sucked out. Then it becomes hard to make important decisions, because you can’t see the forest for the trees. This cycle and pattern is ending, so long as you let it. Your work is much too important, YOU are much too important, to get so drained you can’t enjoy your efforts. We need your brain, so smart and unique. We need your vision, looking up to meet clear horizons.

It is important to thank our past selves for getting us to this moment. The doing doing doing, going going going was a survival technique that served you well. Having deep gratitude for that mechanism is important. However, this year, there are new patterns to learn. At this Full Moon eclipse, you may wish to have a ceremony for your survival techniques. All the ways that got you here need love and attention. Hold yourself lovingly as you make the transition into less stressful ways of doing. This year, don’t pick 100 things to rush towards. Pick 10. Remember to ask for help. Remember to come up for air.

This eclipse season has an important message for you.

You are much too needed, much too important for the collective to take everything on, to be burdened by weights that aren’t yours to carry. You do not have to do everything at once. You do not have to do everything alone.

Pisces: The Lovers

What a Full Moon eclipse full of wonder, connection, and creativity, Pisces! You’ve got the knowledge, you’ve got the impulse, so let yourself get connected to your desires and let yourself go. Make time for all of the creative urges that you’ve been wanting to spend time doing—singing, drawing, cooking, reading, rituals, whatever!

Chances are you’ve got a lot on your plate right now, so it could be a challenge to find time. One precious gift the Lovers teaches us is that when we make time for filling our cup, it always helps our life. Not working helps us work more effectively. Focusing on one activity helps us make sense of another. If you haven’t been prioritizing your creativity so far this year, please do so. You are both incredibly creative and incredibly intuitive. However, sometimes that voice of doubt kicks in and it interrupts you before you can begin, or makes you second guess clear messages. (Or, maybe it is your other obligations interrupting you!) This is the time to decide to connect directly to source and let your expression flow. Let your intuition guide your creativity, and vice versa. Let them be in dialogue, together, for benefit of all.

If you are a Pisces in an intimate partnership—and that would be any Pisces, because we all have an intimate partnership with at the very least ourself—please make time to enjoy your cherished loved ones more. If there’s been any tension, address it so you can make more time for enjoyment. Let the love flow through you in your actions, and let them love you. Love, and how you love is such a big theme with the Lovers. When you choose to be what you think others want you to be, it might feel good for a while, but over time it leads to energy leaks. When you do not voice your needs because you want to avoid conflict, you are actually short changing your loved ones from being able to help you. When you show up as you are, knowing clearly what you are willing to give and what you are able to receive, your partnerships are solid gold. Showing up differently with how you love yourself and others will lead to more break throughs, more time, more creativity.

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Ten Years Of Haute Macabre: Shadows From The Walls Of Death; Or, That Arsenic You Like Is Going To Come Back In Style

by on Jan.17, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

S. Elizabeth: Poisoning by arsenical wallpapers? Sign me up! Inspired and informed by Lucinda Hawksley’s beautiful book, Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Nineteenth-Century Home , this is, without a doubt, amongst my all-time favorite posts written for Haute Macabre…

As a child, and even today, I am utterly transfixed when confronted by ornate wallpaper patterns. I often find myself stopping mid-sentence, entranced, when tracing the intricate imagery with my eye, delighted by surprising things which begin to emerge from the whorls and swirls of the repeating motifs. I always thought it would be a hoot to try and sketch the things I saw contained within those marbled, mottled microcosms, but in the end I never do. Though, artists, I do wish you would steal that idea and make a collaborative coffee table book with your results. I’d be your first customer!

The wallpapered visions of my childhood, in the late 70s through early 80s were pretty trippy, and sometimes gave me nightmares (I was a weird, impressionable kid and I suspect I experience pareidolia), but you know what? For all of my histrionics and delayed bedtimes, at least I can say that they never poisoned me.

Unfortunate souls purportedly poisoned by arsenical wallpapers in the mid-to-late 1800s, however, would no doubt beg to differ.

Wallpaper2

Long regarded as a waste product from mining, and commonly known as a poisonous substance, arsenic nonetheless had myriad uses in the Victorian household: in food and food colorings with which one one ate and entertained, in lady’s soaps and cosmetics applied to one’s person; in the dresses, hats, and stockings that one wore on a daily basis and special occasions; in the painted toys one’s children delightedly played with (and probably put in their mouths, because, children); and not to mention the handy powder used to rid one’s home of vermin…or to rid one’s self of a few pesky relative or two– hence the nickname “inheritance powder”.
And, of course, for interior design.

In 1775 Swedish chemist Carl Scheele developed the vivid green pigment known as Scheele’s green, made from the compound copper arsenite; the depth of color and superb pigmentation made it highly sought after for clothing and interior manufactures–perfect for domestic décor and to color the florid opulence of the paper hangings that were so desired during this period.

Floral motifs, arabesque designs, and trompe l’oeil illusions, as well as panoramic landscapes were the distinctive style of the French designers, whom the British admired for their air of elegance and luxury. The tide was to shift, however, in favor of the British, whose skilled block-printing and imaginative and innovative designs were considered so fashionable that the French employed spies to discover the secrets of the papiers d’Angleterre. Who knew the world of wallpaper manufacture and design was so thrilling? I can almost imagine these creators as contestants on a reality television show…except…there is of course, a deadly twist.

Wallpapers1

During this time, England and many European countries produced wallpaper laced with arsenic. And while several of them were relatively quick to recognize the problem and ban such products—this was not the case for England. Even as the products’ hazards started to become a hot button topic in drawing rooms and gentleman’s clubs, many people actually pooh-poohed these warnings as fear-mongering, as they still believed that these design items somehow differed from purposely toxic arsenic items. It would be several years and many campaigning committees, committed lobbyists, shocking headlines, satirical cartoons, and even a sensationalist novel before opinions were to change.

Over in the US, chemist Robert Kedzie included examples of wallpaper poisoning in his “Poisonous Papers” essay for the Michigan State Board of Health, and as part of a campaign to alert the public to the dangers of arsenical wallpapers, Kedzie collected wallpaper samples from stores in Detroit, Lansing, and Jackson, and hand them trimmed into 100 books, which he distributed to libraries throughout Michigan. Titled Shadows From The Walls Of Death, the books were remarkably effective means of publicizing the dangers of arsenic in wallpaper.

William Morris, an artist and designer associated with both the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts movement, designed some of the most iconic wallpapers of the era (and, incidentally, was the son of the man whose company was the largest arsenic producer in the country).
Like many of his contemporaries, most of Morris’s well-known early designs contained arsenic-based colors and like most Victorians he seems to have experienced a disconnect as it relates to the poisonous arsenic that made the headlines and that which he used in his design pigments for the beautification of people’s homes.  Morris summarily dismissed health concerns about arsenic-based pigments in wallpapers. A letter written by Morris to his dye manufacturer in 1885 states, “a greater folly is hardly possible to imagine: the doctors were bitten by witch fever.”

No problem here, Morris assures us, nothing to see, carry on! A strange and rather blasé attitude from someone thought to be an environmentalist and champion of worker rights and safety provisions.

Nonetheless, Morris & Co. bowed to pressure and removed arsenic from its wallpapers voluntarily in 1880. While in other countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Italy, it was the development of regulatory measures and legislation prohibiting the use of poisons and other harmful substances, the wallpapers in Britain began to be marketed as arsenic-free “entirely as a result of British demand, rather than by any action of the British government.” As general opinion turned against the companies that used arsenic in their wallpaper colors, “the people of Britain used the power of their pocketbooks to make the presence of arsenic in wallpapers obsolete, and as a result, their homes no longer held a fatal secret.”

Shadows From The Walls of Death

scenic wallpaper by Maison Berbedienne

I’ve been ruminating on the captivating and dangerously beautiful Victorian wallpaper facsimiles in Lucinda Hawksley’s Bitten By Witch Fever for a few months now, and wouldn’t you know– as soon as I sat down to start writing something about it in the last few weeks, not one, but two articles about the very same thing appeared on my radar.  It would seem that this toxic topic holds a macabre fascination for us, even today.

And as usual, such interests are cyclical; back in 2003 Andy Meharg of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland published a piece regarding a chemical analysis performed on an early example of the ‘Trellis’ pattern wallpaper. The Trellis pattern is believed to be Morris’s first wallpaper and was produced from 1864 onwards. In damp rooms, it is believed, fungi living on the wallpaper paste turned the arsenic salts into highly toxic trimethylarsine and sickened people. Reports Meharg: “I analysed the green pigment by energy-dispersive analysis and showed unequivocally that the coloration was caused by a copper arsenic salt.” Interestingly, enough, two years later in 2005,  a Royal Society of Chemistry published an article titled “The toxicity of trimethylarsine: an urban myth” and in attempting to read it, I’ll admit, it’s a bit over my head, but my point is that it would seem to be an enduring obsession.

Let us for now then, gaze at these exquisite plates and wallpaper tiles from the relative safety of our computer screens, or from the pages of Hawksley’s stunning compilation, without fear of “internal irritations”, paralysis, and other mysterious illnesses.

Wallpaper4

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All images, plates, etc, via Bitten By Witch Fever: Wallpaper and Arsenic in the Nineteenth-Century Home by Lucinda Hawksley


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