Go Forth and Make: A Magical Summer Camp

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Hey, Readers. This post is sticky. It’s going to be at the top of my blog for a while, goading you into action.  If you want new material, you have to scroll down.

It’s been a while since I talked to you specifically, but I have a summertime task for you  Maybe you’ll take me up on it, maybe you won’t.  But it’s important, and I’m going to give you a chance to back out — but once you begin, forever shall it dominate your destiny. More

Search Term Track Back June 2015

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I learned this from Sam at Digital Ambler, who is one of the most sophisticated modern writers about Geomancy that I know of. And “This” in this case, is the reconnection of the blog to its ten or twelve most popular posts in the last 30 days.

  • how to make tattwa cards, tattwa cards pdf, pics of tattwa cards — yep, all of these different searches found the same thing, my post where I provided a PDF you can print out of the design of the Tattwa cards, which are useful for elemental scrying work and other techniques.  Which is weird, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use these cards, only talk about them. 
  • pagan calendar — There’s a pagan calendar which I created and host through Google Calendar, and the links to add it to your own calendar are in this webpage. This particular calendar is strongly rooted in a Roman pagan tradition, since much of my ‘pagan poetry‘ revolves around Roman-ish spirits of various types, adapted to a modern American experience. 
  • libra 2nd decan, libra decan 2 month of july.— I made an astrological image for the second decan of Libra, which you can find here. The second decan’s traditional image is “the strong African returning from a voyage with the fruits and rewards of his labor,” which I’ve depicted as a man standing on a dock, surrounded by chests and boxes, dancing.  I did this image as a present for my father for his birthday several years ago.  Libra’s Decan 2 is not in the month of July, however.
  • the horse could talk, the horse may talk The story of Nasruddin teaching a horse to talk appeared on this blog in 2009.  The figure of Nasruddin is, depending on whom you ask, either a folk-tale character from the Middle East, or an important teaching persona in Sufi tradition, or just a character that you use when you want people to know it’s a joke when you start.  
  • first decan of virgo — 
  • magic to win lottery, how to use magic square for gambling?, use magic to win lottery, magic to win lotto, how to win lotto by spell blogYes, I did use magic to win the lottery.  And yes, I feel that I did win, although you may not agree.  I also learned that the powers that I worked with to win the lottery are either tricksters, or jerks, depending on how you look at it.
  • y4d88 — This code, Y4D88, led people to this particular post, the 88th day of year 4 of my tai chi practice.  I wonder what they were looking for? It’s not a solstice poem, nor a geomantic image, nor nothing particularly important.  Anyway, this is what they found.
  • geomancy love judge, larn geomantic – I assume these people want to be learning Geomancy, and hopefully they mean western-style geomancy rather than Chinese-style geomancy; because that’s what I know.  I imagine they’re after this post, which is adapted from one I originally posted on Tumblr, that lays out how to learn geomancy, but they might be interested to know that I’ve also taught geomancy. Both of these reference a poem I wrote, called Geomantic Quatrains or Quatrains on Geomancy.
  • historical trends in emotional intelligence — You’re probably after my notes from the lecture by Peter Salovey. I don’t know what’s useful to you there, but that’s why you got directed here.  I took these notes at a conference on learning and the brain in 2010, which I believe was held at Avon Old Farms School here in Connecticut.
  • visual aids in teaching ideas — I’ve written a great deal about this subject in my blog, because visual thinking is an important part of what and how I teach these days. But this is probably a good place to begin, or you could start here, with the idea of lenses, or with a sample of it in Latin class.
  • winter solstice poetry — Southern Hemisphere person?  I don’t know if my poetry is appropriate to the southern hemisphere, but this is what I’ve got about the Winter Solstice here and here.

Tai Chi Y4D105: Six times

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Twenty push-ups, two qi gong forms, and then six times through the form, each time emphasizing something different: today it was splitting, upward, downward, outward, and moving through water.  I made a point of getting in the two I didn’t do yesterday.  I tried to do them by first doing splitting movements, and then moving through water, but this was just too hard.  I needed more of a warm-up.  I did sweat a bit, but not nearly as much as yesterday.

That said, there’s clearly a benefit here to working through the form multiple times, along multiple avenues of practice or focus. It’s the old alchemical principle of Solve et Coagula in action, dissolve and recombine.  When I break down the form into multiple pieces, as I did in the Tai Chi poem and drawings (I still have some drawings to do, and I have a better idea of how to do that, now), I discover which steps I don’t know how to do correctly, or describe accurately.

But now I’m breaking things down to the level of “hey, in order to tense this arm on the upward movement, and shift it from getting the hand out of the way to the rather more fierce experience of this is an attack or defensive movement, I have to engage this muscle, and this other muscle, here and here.” I should read more anatomy books, so I have some idea what I’m talking about, so I stop using italics to explain this muscle, and that muscle, and use the actual names of the muscles instead.  I hope what I’m getting at is clear, though.  This is about another alchemical process, separating the subtle from the gross, and breaking down each movement to a particular set of dynamic tensions between muscle, skeletal system, and ligaments.

And I can now, in a sense, say that my magical practice and my tai chi practice are connected.  I know where they connect, at least at the surface level, and I know how to use my magical practice to inform my tai chi, and vice versa.  I know where the Western work of my druidry and alchemical and ritual work meets with the very Eastern practice of tai chi.  It’s not to say that I manage this connection well, because I’m not sure that I do.  At least until now, I’m not sure I could have drawn you a map of how to get there, the tumbling of side streets that connects here and there.  Now, at least and at last, I’m sure that there is a way.

Make Summer Camp: Linen Bag

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Linen bag

Hello, readers! Are you Making stuff yet? Taken up the Challenge?

According to Western occult tradition, only linen and silk have the power to stop aetherial forces from gradually mucking up the energies of magical tools.  Sooner or later, tools that aren’t stored properly lose their juju; and to be properly stored, they need to be stored in linen or silk.

So I needed a linen bag. Two, actually, but I’m only counting this one toward the things I’m making for summer camp (my three things will likely be paintings). You can deride me all you want for believing that tools have to be stored properly, but there’s rules in this sort of work, and it’s best to be following the long chain of accumulated knowledge at times.  So.  Linen bags.

Except that linen is fussy.  And heavy, and hard to work with. And hard to find, and expensive.  And silk is even more of all of these things. Will a blend work? Like this 70% linen/30% cotton combination (except it really hangs like it’s 60/40% linen/cotton.  Hmmm.

Better make it with a lining, just in case.

Those bags I made a few months ago helped. No, they didn’t come to life, to cut and measure fabric.  It’s just that, having made those bags, I had a pretty good idea what the limits were on the size and shape of a bag were that I could produce by machine.  And I had a pretty good idea how to make the cord that would close up the bag with some of the trimmings. And I had a pretty good idea how to construct a lining.

There’s this body of accumulated knowledge that comes from being a Maker, particularly within a particular craft or set of crafts. If all you do is work with wood, pretty soon you have a whole stable of tricks and tips that guide and govern how you work, and at what speed.  I came across one just today on a woodworking site, which said that if you have to drill a hole through a wooden sphere to make a bead… first make a hole in a scrap piece of wood for the bead to sit in, so it doesn’t roll around.  Put a line of blue painter’s tape right over the line you intend to cut in a piece of plywood; that way the edge won’t shatter.

One of my bits of insight from sewing is, “remember to change the thread to the color of the fabric before you sew. No matter how much you think, “Oh, it will be decorative!” that line of stitching simply won’t be as pretty as you think it will be.  Take the time, change the thread color.  No matter how tedious the task, change the thread, top and bottom, even if that means filling a lower bobbin.

Meanwhile, I was alternating between making the bag and checking out some stuff on Pinterest, which is a great crafters’ resource. Except mostly what I was experiencing was sewing machine envy.  There were a lot of cool feet for the Bernina sewing machine line. I have a Singer from the late 1960s, and it’s an awesome machine, except it has one foot, and that one foot is a substitute for the real foot, and basically I can do a straight stitch and not much else.  Oh, well. So there’s no point in getting excited about new tools for your craft. Work with what you have, to produce what you need.  And along those lines…

Insight For You

Ivy of Circle Thrice made a great point in her comment, which is that there’s a great chance that you have a number of projects that you’re putting off already; and that you may even have the materials to build already.  Don’t discount the possibility that the things that you’re going to Make this summer are things that you;ve already identified as things you want and need, and that you have the skills to create for yourself.

Second, recognize that you have the tools already.  Identify one project or maybe two that you’re thinking about maybe, maybe doing, and then look around your house to see what you could build it out of. You may find that the materials for Making, and the tools, are already there. Even if you can’t Make the real thing, maybe you can build a paper prototype. Or create a drawing of the thing, and Make a materials list for your project.  Or Make an inventory of the tools and skills you want to practice with.  Move your project a little way down the curve toward “complete” today.

And tell me, and the other Readers, about it!

Tai Chi Y4D104: Ooops! Appointment

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This is me.

This is me.

In the middle of my tai chi form today, I suddenly realized, “wait, I have an appointment this morning!”

I rushed to get dressed, got out of the house in time, and raced off to my morning appointment — a fasting blood sample.  Got that done, and immediately got caught up in the rush of the day.  Now I’m home, and I have to put together a plan of how to do today’s tai chi.

I started this morning at maybe 6:00 am.  It’s now 1:10pm.  I’d only done part of one qi gong form, and I think I really should just start over from scratch.

Take Two

Twenty push-ups. Both qi gong forms, out of order: first Eight Pieces of Silk, and then Five Golden Coins.  And then the form, six times: footwork, breathwork, upward, downward, inward, outward. I was exhausted by the time I got to splitting, and move through water.  I wasn’t delivering my best performance.

So I stopped.  And that took about 40 minutes, which means that—once I get to the point of being able to do the other two forms, I’ll be pretty close to 45 minutes of daily practice.

Concentrating on each type of activity is interesting.  Each is a very different kind of workout.  The breathwork program is actually not the easiest. The footwork is.  It’s amazing how much of tai chi is simply standing in one place in a balanced posture. When you drop your arms out of the game, a great deal of the work consists of standing your ground in a way that prevents attacks from the front, left or right. This is elegant, I think, but not particularly challenging.  The hardest part are the squats—snake creeps down is its official name—because without the moderating power of the arms to provide balance, it’s difficult to maintain balance.

Then breathwork.  Here, you’re concentrating on the reverse or inverse breathwork; squeezing the abdomen tight on the inhale, and expanding the belly on the exhale.  I’m much better at the expansion than the abdominal squeeze, but this is improvin.g.  Today was a marked improvement over my last effort.

Then comes upward.  This is actually as much a mental exercise as a physical one.  And this slows one down considerably: which hand is rising?  That’s the one that carries the force and pressure and tension, no matter which hand is ‘supposed’ to carry it.  That rising hand or arm or knee is what carries the heft and the work.  Once I get to “Moving Through Water” this is supposed to get evened out, but for now we concentrate on weighting the rising hand.

This forces me to think.  It slowed me down a lot, because frequently it’s the downward-moving hand that’s supposed to be empowered, or the outward moving hand, or the outward-kicking heel.  But no, here we focus on the upward stroke.  And I think this form took the longest, maybe 10 minutes all by itself.  And just imagine if I knew the tai chi poem by heart, and had to think it through as I moved (maybe that’s what I should do for “moving through water“).

Then came the Downward movement.  There aren’t as many of these in tai chi, or at least not in the form that I know.  But try staying upright on Snake Creeps Down when you’re also adding force to the descent.  I was sweating by the end.

Inward, and Outward.  Coins have two sides, don’t they? None these, these behave like two different exercises, again.  One is about adopting a defensive posture; the other is about forcing an opponent back.  The outward form thus feels quite alien, because I’m used to thinking of myself as being in a posture of self-defense while doing tai chi.  The inward form feels more natural, but there are parts of it which are surprisingly aggressive: during Roll Back, for example, it feels like I’m trying to jerk my opponent off his feet toward me and to my right.  This is in fact one of the attested traditional uses of this particular movement, but I’ve never understood how that could be done until now.  Now I know.

Had I gotten to the Splitting movement, and the Move through Water movement, I think I would be dripping with sweat.  As it is, I’m still pretty damp all over.  It was a good session today.  Now I just need a good long walk, and I’m ready to go.

Several people have commented on this new photo of me, taken by my friend Topher in the Design Lab, saying that I’ve lost weight. Sure, maybe a few pounds, not much. Mostly I seem to be changing what it’s made of: shifting it into bone density, ligament density and muscle through this change in regime.

Make Summer Camp: Painting

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Painting projects in processIt would be highly unfair, readers, if I issued a challenge for you to become Makers this summer, and then refused to play my own game.

My Own Work

It would also be suicidal, I think, given that I have an art show that I have to prepare for, in November.  If I had nothing to present or display for thirty days, that would be… bad.  It would embarrass a couple of different fiends of mine, and it would disappoint members of my family, and I would feel like I was a poseur instead of an artist.  And, I would miss out on numerous chances to make art. Which I care about, and regard as a valuable part of my life and work.

So, today I got out the paints, and began working on a few paintings.  My usual habit, really, is to produce several different quantities of several hues of paint on a separate sheet of paper. Then, I’ll apply each of those hues to several canvases at a time in the places where they appear to go.  This is the process at work here, and part of the reason that so many canvases appear to be in process all at once. That’s because they are.  And maybe it’s not the best way to work on paintings.  I don’t know, I’ve never done it another way.  Maybe there is another way. If there is, would someone link me to a video? I feel like I waste a lot of paint this way— and make, and use, a lot of colors that I shouldn’t combine.

I’ve joked elsewhere that it wouldn’t be much of an “Andrew Watt Gallery Show” if there wasn’t a lot of geometric art in it.  A lot of polygons in circles, and polygrams (multiple-pointed stars) in circles should be common.  I like those kinds of forms.  I’m disappointed in how the orange turned out in the painting with the nine-pointed star, though.  As it’s dried, I must admit that it looks much more like the pure red on the left.   Hmmm.  Do I fix it, or do I leave it as is? Decisions, decisions.  Painting projects in process

That’s very much the logic at work in the next two I’m working on.  These are much more in the ‘landscape’ genre, although both of them are in what we’ve all come to think of as ‘portrait’ mode.  Oops.  Some of this is dictated by the space that I have on my walls— The one on the left is going to be, roughly, a scene from a recently vivid dream. The one on the right, although equally imaginary, was originally conceived of as a commission: someone wanted a path extending into the distance that represented a particular kind of journey.  Eventually, sometime in early December, they might get their painting.

Encouraging Your Work

Now we get down to the meat of the matter, Oh Readers.  Several of you have written to me, both private-like and publicly, to say that you’re thinking about joining the game.  But there’s an important, and magical, lesson at work here, and that is that it’s time to decide.  It would be easy for you to sit on the fence until another chunk of the summer is done, and then sit back and produce ten half-formed, junky things in the last couple of weeks of August, and call it “done. Nailed it.”

But it would be much better for you to produce your junky, half-formed things NOW, in the early part of the summer, so that— as your heart and mind remembers how much FUN Making Things can be, you produce your junky half-formed things in the early part of the summer… and then you harvest much nicer, much more beautiful things later in the summer.

Painting projects in processYou don’t even have to know what something is going to be when you start out.  When I began this painting, I thought it was going to be a few clouds above a sea, with a person seated in meditation on the right.

I am not that good.  And I finally decided that I dislike this painting-as-begun, so much, that I’m going to completely paint over it.  I have no idea what the new painting is going to be.  Some part of me says “abstractions of something” and part of me says “terraces at some sort of mythical Macchu Picchu.”  I have no idea.

You don’t even have to decide, dear readers, what you’re going to make.  All you have to decide is that you’re going to Make Some Things this summer.  And then it will be easy, because you’ll be on the lookout for things to Make, that you want to Make.

That step—the deciding—is critical.  It’s like taking the blue pill in The Matrix, or agreeing to drink three times from Wednesday’s mead-horn, or putting your hand in the monstrous carved mouth in the porch of some Roman church and saying “I’ll Make ten things this summer.”

But maybe it’s better if I ask you this:  If you’re still on the fence, readers, if you’re still undecided… what’s holding you back?  Send me a comment, and explain why it is that you’re not committing to being a Maker this summer.

Tai CHi Y4D103: Unpacking eight

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I did 20 push-ups.  I hate to say this, but I feel like I have to trick my body into doing pushups.  I have to assume the stance for the first qi gong form, and then get down on the floor really quickly and do the push-ups before my body changes my mind about it.  Silly to think of it that way, I know, but that’s what it feels like.  The two qi gong forms wee easy enough after that, though.

And then I got down to work.  I did the form eight times, each time trying to think about a specific one of the core principles in movement: footwork, breathwork, outward, inward, upward, downward, splitting, and moving through water.

The footwork one was relatively easy.  You let your arms dangle, and then you walk through the form. Basically, you let your body do whatever it was going to do in the form, below the waist.  It turns out to be not very much. There are some kicks here and there, but mostly it feels like walking around.  The challenge comes when you realize from this exercise that you still don’t spread your stance widely enough to avoid a flanking attack.  And so this is something I need to work on.

Breathwork is a little harder.  It’s mildly challenging to think about what your internal organs should be doing as you also move through the form.  To some degree, you can let your arms flop around every which way as you do the breathwork; but the goal should be focused on what the abdomen, the diaphragm, and the core muscles are doing to keep air flowing in and out of your body.

Then come the movements: Outward means, when your arms or legs are traveling away from your body, how much pressure or force or dynamic tension can you apply in that movement? The answer is quite a lot.  Remembering to engage it is the tricky bit, but then it happens quite naturally: “Oh, look, my arms are moving away from me! That means, actively push them away…. but don’t overbalance! No, no, not that far!” What I mean is, you have to engage that pressure or force in such a way that you remain in command.    Then this is done with the inward movements.  This is harder; because you don’t want to pull an opponent in towards you, unless you know that you’re managing his body weight.  So this is in part about learning to play with the dynamic tension of an opponent, by learning to control the speed at which you ‘collapse’ your own bubble of defenses.

The upward and downward movements are similar, but the direction has changed.

Where the real changes come is in the splitting.  As I worked through today, I found a lot more splits that I thought there were.  There are splits whenever “carry the ball” is performed, or “sweeping the swallows tail.” And each split is a place where an opponent can be grabbed, and their movement unbalanced by the force of your separating hands.

Moving through water is the most difficult, of course. This is about slowing down. But not simply slowing down. It’s hard to explain, and I’m going to have to think about this.  It’s about learning to move with a deliberateness, as if you were standing in a river, and to step wrongly is to be swept away. And of course, I’d just done eight repetitions of the form, so I was weary.  I don’t think I can do all eight in a row yet without wiping myself out.  But I see that I have a new goal to work for, one which solves my time crunch, and my desire to build up my strength and capacity.

Tai Chi Y4D102: Eight Times in a Row

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I followed my own advice this morning, and did the tai chi form eight times.  Each time I concentrated on one of the key elements of movement: breathwork, footwork, outward motion, inward, upward, downward, splitting, and moving through water.

It was terrible.  But it was an interesting beginning.  More about this when I’m not waiting for a friend.

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