Cautious the National

Photo by Joshua Porter.

We met on a dating site. I don’t remember what screen name I used. Yours was “Cautious.”

You’re a Minneapolis girl. You love music and bands define your life. You’re also artsy and edgy. Definitely too cool for me.

I don’t know much about indie music but instead of asking smart questions I tried to talk about something else. I think I thought you’d be impressed that I worked at an art museum.

You did recommend a band for me. “The National.” They’ve gotten you through some tough times. We talked a little about that band and I decided I should listen to them. Maybe I was just hoping that if I listened to them you’d like me. But you kind of sold me on it.

Sorry about the rest of the conversation. I was nervous, and there was no chemistry as you know. It was one of those painful how-can-I-fill-the-quiet things. Kind of like dry humping, but for talk.

This is the best part.

“I had fun tonight,” I said, wondering why I said that.

“Yeah, me too,” you said. That was nice of you.

“Let’s get together again…”

“I don’t think so.”

Thanks for being direct like that.

I don’t think of you often but here’s the thing. When I got home I did check out The National. I put them on a Pandora station. I tried to imagine you listening to these songs after a breakup or when you’re all alone. Maybe you listened to them that very night. I couldn’t picture it.

But the songs were pretty good, and I kept the station.

Over time I changed it. I curated. It still has that same seed band but now many others. It’s still named Cautious The National.

I don’t remember your real name, Cautious, or exactly what you look like. But you did educate me a little on indie rock and boy-girl relations. And once in a while I listen to my station, and I think of you.

Thanks Cautious.

Business, Spotlight

Magic Scrolls at Altmagic

I don’t talk about this much here, but I practice ritual magic.

Even though I don’t believe in anything supernatural, I’ve observed profound effects from traditional magical ceremonies. As an art form magic captivates me; as a spiritual practice, it’s hard to surpass.

For a long time I struggled with how to practice and share my magic in a way that’s authentic. Too often when you talk about magic you draw out the weirdos. Other times it brings you under attack from those who think you must be a fraud, or crazy.

Last year I began to combine my magical practice with my artwork. I realized that I can make large, high quality works of art and enchant them. Each piece is nice to look at on its own, and the traditional spells I design them around (and cast on them) add a powerful new dimension to them.

So now I hand craft magical scrolls that can be hung as fine artwork.

For the last three months I’ve blogged about the process at my new business,, with the promise of scrolls to come. At long last the scrolls are complete and ready to ship.

Want to add magic to your life? Check it out: Magic Scrolls Now Available

Some other altmagic posts that are fun to read are:

Three Magic Spells That Are Proven to Work

Looking for Potions at the Witches’ Market

Finding a Carpenter in Mexico City

I don’t plan on promoting altmagic here often. I’ve worked hard to build an audience that includes a range of theists, atheists, humanists, skeptics, believers and faithful. In keeping with that I like to keep my occult peanut butter out of our philosophy chocolate. But if you know people who enjoy art, artwork, or the occult please tell them about altmagic. The more you share the link, the more the word gets out.

I also tweet the best links I find about art +/- magic throughout the day via @altmagic.

In Rogue Priest news, I’ve been going after atheists a bit lately and it’s time to turn the tables. Stay tuned for an upcoming post aimed at bad spiritual ideas instead. It’ll go live as soon as my science inspector finishes the fact checking.

(And how cool is it to have a science inspector??)

Business, Writing

Life into Digital Clay

Some people don’t like the digital.

Digital is my medium. More than that, it’s my home. In my traveling lifestyle digital spaces are the only constant I share with family, friends and readers.

Digital space is an extension of geographical space. It is no longer just a tool. It’s a meeting place, a dwelling place, a location as real as any coffee shop, art museum or suburban house. Like any of those places, the value of what happens there depends mostly on the company you keep.

Draft of a scroll for altmagic.

Mixing Media

There are people who feel they’re missing something by meeting online, by reading or creating or consuming online. People felt that way about the written word once, too.

There are artists who miss the sense of manual creation.

I feel the opposite. Is it fair to say that creating something digitally is just as satisfying as creating something by hand? No. That doesn’t go far enough. It’s far more satisfying to create something digital.

For the past two years I’ve moved toward almost exclusively digital work. My first book was digital-only, my blog is digital, even my freelance work is digital. But now I’m moving backwards. I decided to start a business that is very much physical.

Two weeks ago I opened the doors on a new website, altmagic. The purpose of the site is to sell beautiful handmade scrolls enchanted with real magic. It’s fun. I’m the kind of artist who works in fits of inspiration: a few long nights are better than a lot of measured mornings.

You can check out these magic scrolls yourself.

Is it satisfying to work in a physical medium again? Yes and no. I enjoy the process of making the scrolls. I love the challenge of choosing the right figures, the thrill of sketching the designs and planning the rituals. I get artless with it.

But it’s also deeply frustrating. There is no copy and paste. No ctrl+z. You can idealize that in any sepia-tinted way, but it translates to: unnecessary work. Wasted effort. Spoiled materials.

But then I made the altmagic website. It’s the second blog I’ve started, and the only one where I knew what I was doing.

As I went live I could directly see the impact my creation has. It shows in numbers on a graph; more importantly it shows in conversations. People contact me. They teach, praise or slander me. They react.

Unlike any other medium, their living reactions are included in the work itself. The twitter feed and the comments embed human moments in the digital work. At its most basic that means that any emotion I provoke can be part of the work I create. But that’s nothing. My audience can actually provoke my creation itself, changing its shape.

Birthing a website means seeing those vital signs start. It’s breathing life into digital clay.