6-6-2018 National Tailor’s Day

The weather turned cold again this week, now that I’ve put the large butcher block on top of the wood stove. Still it’s nice to have the summer appliances (shake maker, soda stream, iced tea maker, out and convenient! The end of last week was warm. John and Kat installed the air conditioners, then it turned cold, and we haven’t used them. It’s rained the last few days, which is sad of the iris. They are some of the most impressive flowers, but sort of fragile, and the rain tends to crumple them. On the other hand, I’m not out looking at them, but still, when I do, they look sad. We have one of the phlox- I may have to try to find more, and the chives are blossoming- so there’s a lot of purple out there. Willow’s little white “bush lilac” out front bloomed this week. It’s a bit different than the other lilacs, but our white one didn’t bloom this year. (Last year it only had one, but it was it’s first bloom, so we were excited, and looking forward to it doing it again.) It could be the cold weather.

Poor “Buddy”, Willow’s potted rose, started to leaf out in April in the cellar, but we didn’t bring it out until it was warmer, and I fear that delay may have sorely wounded (if not killed) it. We hope he recovers.

The plantain is coming beautifully- reminding Willow of summer herbal salve making- we’re looking for olive oil on sale. There are dandelions and buttercups still, and this week the rain has knocked down some sort of tree blossoms- they probably generated pollen for the susceptible last week- I hope the rain helped allergy sufferers. Sadly, when I look out the back window, mostly I see the sumac taking over where my garden used to be. Since I have neither a good fence, nor the energy to work a garden, I suppose it’s not a tragedy, but it bugs me. Something white is blooming in the old sheep area, but I’m not feeling vigorous enough to wade through the wet growth to get close enough to find out what it is. When we go out the rhododendrons have replaced the lilacs as the gorgeous flowering shrub in yards. I prefer plants with scent.

This week I have spent most of my time working on my Pennsic/GNEW classes. (I put in to do the same classes- sort of a dry run for Pennsic. Many people who can’t get to Western Pennsylvania, go to the Maine event instead. I haven’t finished writing the booklet on Vampires, but I’ve started reading for the Witch Trials one.

We ganged up on making an Ælfwine page for the East Kingdom 50th year celebration. They are going to have a Memorial Garden, with pages (in waterproof sleeves) for people who have died. The deadline was the end of the month, and we just made it. After that, of course, I started to think of others who have died, Lisa, who put out three editions of the East Kingdom Songbook- and this was BEFORE there were home computers with printers, so that was more impressive, and Barak who wrote many of the songs, Aonghais, who many won’t remember fondly, and Patri, who most will. Laura and David Hawkwood are both gone now, although she lived with a “borrowed” heart and lungs for 20 years. Our friend Arnbjorn, who started the first shire in Maine died just last week. It bothers me that I probably an not remembering many others. How many of the people I haven’t seen for decades have died, not just gone on to do other things?

I also thought, and suggested too late, that perhaps there should be a display of the groups that are defunct- when I joined Choill Orhda was the shire in New Jersey- now there are baronies there, but it’s gone. I wonder if Signy still lives? The King and Queen still wear the crowns she made. (The queen’s crown before that was a cardboard tiara covered with foil, and adorned with pearls on pins stuck in the top.) I would like to dig through the attic, barn and cellar and find cool stuff to display, but frankly, that way lies madness- and not getting anything else done!

I have been doing many little projects- various sewing repairs I’ve been meaning to get to, I finished one of the aprons, and have been working on the others (cut out and pinned). I can’t seem to find MY sewing machine, and Willow has let me use hers, but I am finding it hard to thread the needle because it’s 18 inches away and neither contact is set for that distance. (Feh)

My foot was feeling much better- so I went out to do a grocery run, and it flared up again. Inflammation of the facia. I guess it subsides when I stay off of it, but isn’t gone. Possibly from too much reading in bed, or sitting and walking crookedly, my back started hurting yesterday and last night I started getting flashbacks of when I had Lyme, so I made an appointment- not with the doctor, he’s booked into July, but at his office. If they don’t think its Lyme (the problem being that once you’ve had it, you have the anti-bodies forever, so the only way to tell is “does it feel like it did before?”), I can at least ask them about the faciitis. This has gone on Too Long. Also, before Panteria the top of my food started hurting. I have the vaguest memory of dropping a cast iron pot lid or chest or something on it, and I fear I may have broken a metatarsal. Sadly, if I did, it’s probably already healed wrong, so not much they could do. Like my mother, I always assume an injury is minor unless it takes more than a week to heal, and then of course, it’s too late. Her doctor gave her a hard time over that too. But I just can’t see running to get every little thing checked. Who has the time much less the money? I guess I wasn’t even consciously aware of it until Willow brought me a new pair of shoes (with good support) but the strap across the top of my foot hurt, then I stopped to think about it.

Poor Avi is also limping- she was “Attacked by the Ottoman Empire” (tripped over her ottoman) and broke her toes. She DID go into Urgent Care, and having confirmed the fractures, they just taped her toes together. Willow went over Saturday and watched her kids so she could go. Also she took them shopping for summer sandals- and she picked me up a pair, and a nightgown. With our new discipline, I have chosen old shoes to chuck, and cut up the beloved old nightgown Honor gave me for Christmas about ten years ago. The absorbent rags will serve to remind me of her, rather than wearing her gift. (One thing comes in, one thing goes out- I haven’t been able to apply that rule to books yet. Frankly with books it should be two go out until they all fit!)

Mark came over Satuday (but didn’t stay because we were having liver), and Steve came up on Sunday. He hadn’t felt up to coming for Memorial Day (it was raining anyway), so we had a late feast: hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, and even Mac and cheese. That was the day we brought out the Iced Tea maker, and I made three batches. The first we just chucked because it had gone stale while being stored in the back hall (I think because we’ve discovered we prefer Red Rose to Shaw’s generic). I put a bit of Gruyere in the Mac and cheese, figuring I usually put in a bit of Swiss, but the girls didn’t care for it. Live and learn.

Willow has just completed a series of images of stained glass windows using  characters from a fandom I don’t recognize, but they are gorgeous. Kat has been altering clothing she bought online to make herself an amazing new summer wardrobe. I think she’s got five new white (to cream) lace summer dresses, and one catnip green one.

I finished Fer-de-Lance, and started the League of Frightened Men. I continue to enjoy the Nero Wolfe books and only wish I could let my mother know, since I know she loved mysteries, and so probably read them. At the time I was oblivious. Yesterday, the next Haunting Danielle book (Ghost of Second Chances) arrived in my kindle (I’d pre-ordered it) and I want you to be grateful that I actually got up and am writing this letter instead of reading it straight through!

My big project coming up is finding the books I know I have on the Witch Hysteria/ Craze/ Trials, skimming them for this year’s workshop, and then writing up whatever I want to say about it. Finding them may be harder than writing it. I don’t think I’m going to need to get or read a lot of new books- I think I have most of the best of them: Flint, Kieckhefer, Ankarloo, Ginsburg, Davies, Peters, Wilby, Briggs,… (I rather appall myself that I actually remember so many authors by name) that more would be redundant.

The subject of the history of witchcraft is totally different from that of studying the living Craft, what witches do and how we do it; although I think the awareness of what can be done by actual people doing it informs the reconstructions or speculations of the historians. One of the books I am reading fresh (I bought it two years ago and am just getting to it) is the Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern European Culture, Cognition, and Everyday Life by Edward Bever. He doesn’t try to figure out why people would claim things that obviously weren’t true, instead he starts with the premise that they were as smart and observant as we are, just with a different knowledge set just as the jurists were attempting to achieve justice, the people were reporting things that they were actually seeing. He uses lots of modern work in perception, psychology, mind-body connections, and presents a good case that many of the “attacks” reported in the witch trials actually had some basis in reality. Part of that reality would be delusion based on cultural expectation, but part would be somatic effects created by things like stressful interactions damaging the immune system (not to mention possible herbal poisons). He points out that there was a lot of “popular magic” going on that shouldn’t be dismissed as made up as a popular delusion. Village specialists did healing, weather working, finding lost objects, etc. and probably did differentiate between that an witchcraft as decried by the Church. It would be when they felt someone had hurt them, their children, their animals, crops, bread, or cheese (and micro-organisms are notoriously difficult to keep consistent) that they’d feel “if they can heal, they can hex”, and complain to the authorities that they’d been assaulted.

This may be the 16th century version of the way some jerks today are utilizing the police to vent their spleens over people #walkingwhileblack. How the law works in your culture will make a difference. These days we can make a phone call and some poor officer has to come make sure there isn’t really some dangerous thing going on. Some of the trial records show that some of the judges were just as unwilling to punish someone for #cursingwhileold (or female, and some were bigots or misogynists just as today a white man gets probation for what would send a black boy to jail for years), but it seems a similar thing. Helpless people feel that the world is outside their control and not being fair, and they want whoever is in charge to fix it for them.

The Bever book is from the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic, and I wish I could get them all! Many of the titles practically make me salivate! Sadly, they are academic books and tend to start over a hundred dollars, go down to seventy when they’re older. One can RENT an electronic version (of a few of them) for $25. (I got this one when it got down to $25 for an actual copy.)

I still remember going to college and being amazed at what textbooks cost compared to normal books. I think they get away with it by making it a course requirement. I understand that someone who has put years into writing a book wants (and deserves) to get paid for the time and effort they put in, and I figure that textbooks have a small print run. (Make a few changes, put out a new edition, and require that, so that the students can’t buy an old one from last year.) The history of magick has a fairly small target audience, but still, perhaps if the price was down to normal book prices, modern pagans and witches might be interested in getting them to see what lay the groundwork for what we do now, and if the publishers sold more, they could charge less per copy and still make a profit.

I will never forget an SCA friend (a book seller, who’s name I do forget) who told me about overhearing a publisher trying to decide whether they should have a print run of 400 or 500 when they put out a second edition of Dress in Anglo-Saxon England, …because how many college libraries would order one? She told them “I can sell 200 in the next week!”, and that they’d better make more than that, because other booksellers sold to reenactors  They’d never heard of reenacting, had no clue that some history nuts would be using it to make costumes for our hobby; they were trying to estimate how many scholars, plus maybe a few professional historical/theater costumers would buy one. A librarian friend told me that costuming books are the most frequently stolen books from libraries. I think a lot of that is because people can’t afford them, make paperback versions available! I could be over estimating the percentage of witches who would like a scholarly book, but I’m sure they are underestimating the number of people who’d be interested- if only they could afford a copy! Sadly, when you need to cover your costs on a very short print run, they have to be expensive, and then those of us who want a copy get to see the heartbreaking “rare book- unavailable” notice when the 500 or a thousand have all been sold. We only luck out when someone dies and their kids are just dumping their parents weird library (as mine will do at some point). I won’t say they’d be “snapped up” at $30-40 each, because even that is enough to give pause, but if I could afford to simply order all the ones I wanted to read, I would easily drop more than two thousand dollars on just a couple dozen. (Then I’d spend the next year filling my head with knowledge that has no practical utility. I probably should have gone into academia, but I don’t know how to play power politics.)

I’ve also started reading Éva Pócs’ Between the Living and the Dead which I could afford as an ebook. It’s 21 years old, but I’m thrilled to read it. This one is about looking in the records of the witch trials in Hungary for evidence of what we’d now call shamanic practices. . (I still find that “Early Modern” is daft way to describe the 16th- 18th centuries!. The Renaissance is “Modern”? Pfui! That’s why we get labels like Post Modern (after WWII), and post-post modern (current), Ptui! Seems to me that the Modern Period is a sliding period that encompasses the lives of most of those still living- early modern being for folks my age, and late modern people who’re just getting out of school and take current technology and culture for granted. But we’d have to come up with something to call the post Renaissance, and a lot of books and scholars have been calling it early or late modern for so long that they don’t want to make their books out of date. Deal! Your phrasing is inaccurate and awkward!)

But back to my reading, I tell you, there is nothing like going through a bibliography of a book by a European author to remind me how few languages I speak! I am so tempted to get some of the German and French ones and just get a dictionary for the specialist words! People know so many wonderful things and I want to find out about them!

I started reading a book from the library on The Working Poor and it made me cry. I may not finish it, as it’s too depressing. The Congress should read it, although they won’t, but I know these people. This is the real America, and it’s wrong that it’s like this.

Speaking of not finishing things, I started Vampire Boys (from Netflix) which was about modern (gay) vampires in California. I gave it fifteen minutes and declared it not worth even having on in the background while I cooked. I then tried Iceman because it sounded fun- an imperial guard gets frozen in time and thawed out 400 years later to continue his quest- but it’s just a oriental martial arts movie in fancy dress. I am not that excited about cool moves. (I was more amused by an ad for some movie about Nazi Zombies, but I’m not doing well with my “looks like fun” choices lately. I did enjoy John’s Batman vs. Dracula, which was fun, and otherwise have thrown on Brother Cadfaels. Tonight I expect I will finish the Ghost of second chances, and the back to Rex Stout, and maybe some Rosemary Rowe. I have been reminded that back when I was in the depths of the Lyme disease weakness, I couldn’t even read fiction for a couple of months, and how happy I was when I could read non-fiction again. It’s like we have “mental muscles” that also get weak.

I’m still not up to where I expect to live, but that may be because I’m getting old. All one can do is push a bit harder, and put up with it.


Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes.

— Henry David Thoreau

Holidays next week:

Thursday 7 Chocolate Ice Cream, VCR, Moonshine Day

Friday 8 Jelly-Filled Donut, Best Friends, Marriage, Oceans Days

Saturday 9  Knit in Public, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Gin, Rosé Days

Sunday 10 Black Cow, Herb & Spice, Iced Tea, Write your Father Day

Monday 11 German Chocolate Cake, Corn on the Cob, Meat Free Days

Tuesday 12 Jerky, Peanut Butter Cookie, Magic, Loving, Red Rose Day

Wednesday 13 Cupcake Lovers, Sewing Machine, Weed your Garden Day

Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes.

— Henry David Thoreau

Ælfwine Dunedain Memorial wall bio5_17_2016