Kailey Tedesco is the author of These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) and the forthcoming full-length collection, She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publications). She is the co-founding editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and a member of the Poetry Brothel. She received her MFA in creative writing from Arcadia University, and she now teaches literature at several local colleges. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find her work in Prelude, Bellevue Literary Review, Sugar House Review, Poetry Quarterly, Hello Giggles, UltraCulture, and more. For more information, please visit kaileytedesco.com.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I came to Sorrento in Campania, Italy for eight days, alone. Actually, I’m writing this from the balcony off of my room during the golden hour, when the pink and white flowers and the ivy vines are drenched in a soft honey-colored light. God’s filter. The cosmos’ generous reminder that Earth is perfect without us. But the Italian people surely make a strong argument; they are one of the world’s maestros of splendor and creation. From their frescoes to the delicate placement of flowers wherever and anywhere flowers can grow, the Italians understand the holiness of not only aesthetics but intentional living.
So, in the land of the sirens, as the Sorrento coast is known, it is no surprise that I — without a true understanding of what I would embark on — fell well into the depths. Perhaps you can blame it on my elemental nature; I’m a scorpio whose language is cthonic. I crave the long hours of confession and exploration and transformation.
Before Italy, I’d been in London alone — in quaint Datchet, a village just outside London, technically — for three days. So for 11 days, I’d been in relative solitude, save for ordering a pint or cobbling enough Italian together to purchase a boat ticket.
As a gift to myself for finishing my forthcoming book, The Magical Writing Grimoire (2020), I booked a holiday to Italy, on my own — to write, to dream, to swim in the cerulean sea, to see where my blood comes from.
But as I would learn — when night fell here in Italy, it fell hard, and without a soul to speak to on my own (in this six-room church-turned-bed and breakfast tucked high into the mountains) I felt a transformation take place.
Into the depths
For some, eleven days of solitude is doable, desirable even. But for many, it’s not. It is a sentencing. It isn’t that I crave silence. On the contrary; I fear it — especially coming from New York City. It’s that I needed it. There’s a difference.
If I could not quiet my mind, if I could not disappear from my life, how could I truly know what it meant? What could I learn from the other side of my life, where my own body is my only anchor?
As creators — writers, leaders, artists — and as humans, we rely on a kind of sustenance. You pick the poison. We need to drink it, inhale it, dive into it. For me, that bread and wine is light and space, solitude, apart-ness. A certain relinquishing of comfort. I needed to be challenged, far away from the myself and the places I knew. I felt a restlessness growing in me that demanded a sequestering.
For the longest time, however, my weaknesses have found the form of a fear of abandonment, the need for (but fear of) quiet, and lack of control. It comes from trauma and it comes from knowing that around any corner I might fall into the abyss of self. Thinking too much. Add a little wine, and I’m fucking gone.
But in being alone, I have faced my demons. I have named them. Here in Italy I’ve abandoned what I knew to be comfortable and safe. I felt, in some moments, far into the mountains in this isolated commune high above the more populated Sorrento coastline, that I abandoned myself. What were you thinking, I asked myself at least once, coming here alone, for all this time, without anywhere to go on your own? There are two restaurants down the road, a market that closes for siesta, and winding streets of farmland that cannot be traversed by foot.
I’d abandoned a sense of control. First of all — traveling abroad is not like going to the cinema alone or sitting awkwardly, fidgeting during a solo dinner. The end point is not soon. The awkwardness is replaced by a small village curiosity, a light that shines on you and is hot and is real. You begin to see yourself as the subject. But you realize the ego is a type of demon you must drag out to the little square and send off on its way.
But more than noticing my aloneness, control issues threw me into the sea. I could not control the inevitable surprises, which came in the form of car breakdowns, missing boat rides, nearly fainting in 90-degree heat. Walking up hundreds of steps, on a cliff, just to get to some semblance of where other people are.
And of course, the quiet. The heavy quiet that pools in like a ghost, under the door and through the shutters, at night. The quiet that tells you how far you are from everything, how many hours you have until sleep finally settles in. What of the anxieties and rogue feelings of sadness? They are there, a chaotic circus of them all, prodding you, reminding you how far up the mountain you are — without a car nor a means of leaving. When you look out the window, you see Vesuvius.
You think of your body as ash.
But isn’t this what you came for you, I asked myself. Isn’t this what we all want? In life, we are forced to move through our traumas — things that have happened to us, things that have been done to us. We carry our wounds as an albatross, even if we aren’t aware of it. And life has dealt us all a heavy hand.
In my day, I’ve seen, either in myself or in my family, foster care addiction. I’ve seen chronic illness and death. I’ve seen poverty and I’ve seen prison. What are your wounds?
Why would I willingly stoke the flame after survival? Why I let myself be lured by sirens?
In some sense, choosing to be uncomfortable and choosing to work through the quiet is the lesson. It is a pain that I didn’t quite expect in coming alone to a faraway country without a friend or anyone to speak to. But it wasn’t the pain of place. It was the pain I brought with me.
I was the hurt. I brought my fear. I brought my anxiety. Italy didn’t do this to me. There’s a certain shock in realizing that. And a definite freedom.
Solitude & loneliness are not the same
I felt so alone on so many nights, an aloneness that was less about not being near people or places and more about my individual decision to fly 4,000 miles from home. How the gift of autonomy comes with a solitude that must be understood and appreciated, rather than feared.
How we are, ultimately, alone.
But being alone is not the same as loneliness. The people in the market, the people in the farms plucking lemons, the people who make me limoncello, the people who steer our boats from island to island, the people who direct me to the nearest whatever it is, the tourists who see me sitting alone and ask me to dine with them — there are people everywhere, and that is a treasure. Those small slivers of conversations are a reminder that we are alone, but we don’t have to be lonely.
The earth sees you. It wants you to be here.
One night, I texted my father for help. The loneliness followed me up the little hill when I walked back from dinner. My father, Italian as they come, served many years in prison — and weeks in solitary. I felt silly asking him for him, but I knew he’d understand what solitude could do, and he said:
Always realize today is just one day. And tomorrow is a new beginning. A new opportunity to feel differently or experience different things. Don’t let your mind control your feelings. Think how lucky you are —being able to travel. And having people in your life that love you and care about you. You are never detached or isolated. The world is much too small for that anymore. Everyone is connected. I love you.
In silence, we grow. It reminds us that not only can we and do we survive, we are self-resilient when we willingly put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, when we decide to settle in and let the silence fill us with every thought and memory imaginable.
There is no way down the mountain. There is nothing but your own mind — and no matter how luxurious or beautiful the country or place you are in, we are all alone, bodies full of chemicals and traumas that demand we look them in the eye.
Ancestral work is healing
My father’s family is Italian and Sicilian — at least his parents and great grandparents were. We have Spanish and West Asian ancestors as well.
I was raised in New Jersey with my Italian/Sicilian grandparents. My nonna, from Palermo. My grandfather, part Napolitano. I only saw Naples from the car, its hundreds of homes — colorful, scattered, boxy, so much laundry hanging you could see it from space. Many of its people are living in poverty, under the stronghold of a mafia, the Camorra. They say Naples is the realest city in Italian, a place that doesn’t afford any of the luxuries or predictable splendor of other cities. It’s hard and gritty and I have that in my blood.
My grandfather, Sabatino, whose family hails from this city — what must his family have done to get to America? What drove them out? What sort of assimilation problems did they have when Italians were considered dirt?
My grandmother Concetta Maria came by boat — you can see her name on a ship’s manifest, along with her sisters, one of which fell so ill she had to be taken to the hospital upon arrival in the port of the United States. She told me once about the blackshirts, Benito Mussolini's men, wandering around as she sat under lemon trees.
She spoke Sicilian, my grandfather spoke an Italian dialect. They made fun of one another’s language. When they came here, they didn’t teach any of their seven children Italian or Sicilian. They forced assimilation in the household, as many immigrants do.
In any sort of ancestral work, you aim to understand your bloodline. In my case, my grandparents were relentlessly catholic, deeply disappointed in many of their non-catholic grandchildren — me — and generally chose favorites. Some were favored, coddled, loved. Near the end of my grandmother’s life, well into her 90s, she made me cake, presented me with a rosary, made a sort of apology.
I’ll never forget it. She pulled a long lock of black hair from a box and wielded it over the dinner table. She kept her hair, as if to keep her youth, her vitality.
To this day, my black hair reminds me of her. I care for my hair — wavy and coarse and wild — because it is Italian hair. It is my own.
And on this trip, when I boated from Sorrento to Capri, I thought of them, of their struggles, of how hard they worked to make a life for themselves. Where they failed and how they loved. How they made my father, the artist and musician and poet, and how he made me.
I dove from the small passenger boat into the deep emerald-green water. I was submerged quickly, lungs full of salt water so thick and fast that I gagged. I swam back to the boat’s ladder, frightened, and out of control. But I caught my bearings and swam again. The sea wanted me to know her.
This was baptismal. Swimming in the waters of my blood, my body fully cradled by the earth’s watery womb. Towering island rocks loomed over my head. I was being tugged on by the ancient ghosts of time, my ancestors saying hello, my ancestral land showing me its gusto and bravado. And its softness. In the water a sense of home came over me, no matter how scared or foreign I felt.
I was there because two people, at some point, made love. And they lived here, and they fished in these very waters, and then their children had children. And someone, some girl, me, came back — in search for something.
There is a photograph of my grandfather standing at the water’s edge, birds flocking all around, his black jacket strewn over his shoulder all casual, as he looks back at the camera from afar. It is so blurry you couldn’t make it out entirely, but it is on the prayer card from his funeral, so we know it’s him. You could make him out anyway — his deep golden skin, his firm stance.
He was a fisherman, and my father is a fisherman. They spoke the language of water. They understood and understand water in their very nature.
And now I speak it too. Born of a water sign, obsessed by the depths, I am called to the sea by sirens.
Parthenope, the siren of Naples
At my bed & breakfast, my door is labeled in gold: Parthenope. I only remotely knew of this siren, that she was one of the many who lived on the coast of Sorrento. But I was not expected to know her so well.
On the way to Amalfi and Positano one day, we pass Li Galli, an archipelago of little islands — Gallo Lungo, La Castelluccia, and La Rotonda— surrounded by cerulean water. These islands are also known as Le Sirenuse, where Ulysses’s sailors were sought out by the sirens, thought to be named Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia. Of course, sailors would crash in wild waters against these jutting rocks, only to blame the voice of women for their misfortune.
The sirens, aside from singing, played the flute and the lyre, instruments which glide on the wind with a sort of frenzied beauty. The siren stories goes back to the 1st century, when Greeks told their tales. I imagine them as mermaids, although they are also commonly depicted as having a bird body with human heads.
My room, the is Parthenope room, is decorated in light blue, gold, and ivory. Of course, this was initiatory, a blood welcoming. Upon first entering, I fell into a deep rejuvenating sleep, lulled by some song, some sustenance from ancient times.
My dreams were of water and lineage.
When I awoke, I felt I’d become a siren, a descendent of Parthenope, perhaps, someone who understood the sea. And, while we’re at it, can bring sailors to their deaths.
The legends — and there are many — say that Parthenope was said to throw herself into the sea when she couldn’t please Odysseus with her siren song. Her body was found on the shore of Naples, where my grandfather comes from. Other stories say that a centaur fell in love with Parthenope, but Jupiter couldn’t have this — and so he turned her into the city of Naples, while the centaur became Vesuvius. And when Vesuvius couldn’t have her love, he would erupt.
Parthenope taught me something — that even in beauty there is darkness. It is up to you find the light. You can find it on islands, and you can find it in yourself.
But there is so much I don’t know. There is so much I’ll never know. For many, the mystery of lineage is a wound. A forced removal of information. A wound of colonialism and genocide. A nothingness. An end of the line.
For me, it’s the fact that my ancestors were disappointed that I wasn’t more Catholic, that my parents hadn’t stayed together. That they didn’t pass on their language.
My ancestral work, I’ve realized, is accepting that I can still come from a place, still be of a thing, still call upon the past, still devote my life to exploring my blood — even if my family wasn’t perfect, even if I wasn’t catholic enough in the eyes of my grandparents. Because ancestral work is so much bigger than everything we understand.
My ancestors tell me to find gratitude in being alive, to look out and see the sky and sea, to find magic in the city and the thousands of doorways and street signs — and to keep looking for Synchronicity. To always keep your eyes and ears open. Messages find their way.
How many of the ones of who made me plucked lemons? How many of them swam in the shore? How many of them drove through the city streets of Naples, or down the mountains in Sorrento? How many of them stopped and prayed at the very churches I photographed? How many of them built cities with their own hands and brought culture to America when they came? How many of them stayed in Italia?
The sheer fact that life moves onward, rolling as water, a siren song that continues — and how lucky it is that I get to breath in this existence? That is my ancestral work.
What have you learned on your travels? It doesn’t need to be far to be meaningful.
A place always reveals itself long after you leave
Tonight, my last night, the air feels quieter. The dark feels more expansive. The room feels emptier. As if the fullness of my adventure has come to a close, and I am just waiting departure. As if my body has left already, but some essence of me stays. Sometimes this cutting off hurts. You can’t place why, but it does. The places we go, especially those we were meant to see, feel the vibration of our leaving as much as we feel them fade into the distance. That’s the cord.
Of course, once I leave, this place will become more real to me — more beautiful, somehow — than it was when I was there. The greens will be the most green. The curtains will always be swaying in my mind.
What I will remember isn’t the long nights or anxieties, the running from terminal to terminal or the breakdowns in language. I’ll remember the way the sun melted into the ocean. I’ll remember how the Italians are late even to toll their own bells. I’ll remember the way the skipper looked when I thanked him. His golden body sweating from long days carrying bodies to and from the coast lines. I’ll remember the long siestas and the open windows and the dogs in the street.
I’ll remember how quickly my room filled with light when I opened the shutter even a little. How much the light wants to get in. How we must let it. How we owe it to our lives, our fears, our wounds, and our ancestors.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor of Luna Luna Magazine, an editor at Ingram’s Little Infinite, and co-host for the podcast, AstroLushes, which intersects astrology, literature, wellness, and culture. She regularly creates dialogue and writes about intentionality and ritual, creativity, poetry, foster care, addiction, family trauma, and chronic illness—particularly Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease with which she lives. Most recently, she is the author of LIGHT MAGIC FOR DARK TIMES (Quarto Publishing/Fair Winds Press), a collection of practices and rituals for intentional and magical living, as well as a poetry collection, NYMPHOLEPSY (co-authored by Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein). Her second book of nonfiction, The Magical Writing Grimoir, will be published by Quarto/Fair Winds Press in April 2020. It explores the use of writing as ritual and catharsis. Her essays and other work can be found in The New York Times, Chakrubs, Catapult, Narratively, Sabat Magazine, Refinery 29, Healthline, Entropy, Narratively, Catapult, Best American Experimental Writing. She studied English and psychology as an undergraduate at Pace University, and received a Masters in writing from NYC’s The New School. FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM HERE.
Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as an editor. One day, she would like to be a silent film star. She is the author of Hotel Ghost (Bottlecap Press, 2015) and Waiting for the End of the World (Bottlecap Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in dotdotdash, Nano Fiction, LIES/ISLE, and Uphook Press. She can be found at her website.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
The coming of Spring brings with it all sorts of feelings. For many — like myself — it allows us to shake off the heavy cobwebs of winter’s seasonal affective disorder. It bring with it a sense of opportunity, change, and transformation, as the sun’s warmth melts the icy shell we developed over the dark months. In NYC, at least, and in many wintry parts of the world, that coldness makes you go inward, go quiet; the hibernation leads to an introspection and quietude that — although necessary — can feel isolating, exhausting, and endless.
I welcome the spring’s golden light. I am a new seedling each year, and with each spring I bloom again. I feel my body mobilize, my mind sharpen, and heart soften. The colors, the flowers, the balmy winds, the sparkling light that lasts until late into night — it reminds us of life, potential, growth. Here’s how to harness it:
Use the flowers as a reminder of resilience & transformation.
Everything changes form. We wilt. We bloom. And there’s a certain comfort in knowing that we are flexible and fluid — that everything has the potential to change; most of what we feel is temporary. The pain. The sorrow. The exhaustion.
When what we feel isn’t temporary and can’t be shaken off with the seasons, we can turn to the earth for a lesson in letting the light in: While we may have dark moments (or years), we can decide to unfold, as a flower, to let the light nestle into our petals and stems.
What happens when we let that light in just a bit? Can we find one thing to love or be appreciative for?
Create an herbal apothecary, and let the earth soothe your body.
According to the book A Wilder Life, there are many common herbs which have a multitude of uses. Of course, use only with the permission of your doctor (knowing that these may support or promote health, not cure diseases).
The most popular spring-time apothecary essentials:
Dandelion — Anti-inflammatory and diuretic (eat or drink the tea)
Garlic — Antibacterial, can be used for cleansing wounds (use as oil or in food directly from fresh garlic)
Holy Basil — Provides renewal and energy; is considered an adaptogen, for helping the body handle stress (use as a tincture or tea)
Saint John’s Wort — Mood-stabilizing, antiviral support, and can support the transition between seasons (tea or tincture)
Nettle — May provide support for allergies and immunity (tea).
Peppermint — This is a zesty kickstart for low energy, in addition to providing tummy support (tea or oil).
Take part in a daily manifestation ritual
Throughout the winter, it’s easy to think deeply about the wounds, voids, and shadows of our lives. By spring, the light and energy wake us to the beauty of nature — reminding us that we can create the change we need. We do not always have control over circumstances (like our finances or the daily burdens of life), but we can make space within our hearts for possibility.
The ritual is simple: Get a large jar with a lid (or another container that speaks to you), and each day — perhaps right before bed, or as you wake up in the morning — place a small piece of paper with an intention within the jar. Your intention should be written in present tense; it should be for something realistic, but aspirational. It can be for the physical or the non-tangible:
I have confidence in group settings
I am always making space for kindness and love
I am capable of saying what I want
I am assertive at work
I am a successful writer making enough money for rent, food, and travel
I feel worthy, loved, and respected
I have a beautiful summer beach vacation lined up this summer
If you are seeking more rituals and practices, my book LIGHT MAGIC FOR DARK TIMES contains several — many of which utilize the earth’s natural beauty and energy.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding creative director of Luna Luna Magazine—a digital diary of literature, magical living and idea. She is the author of "Light Magic for Dark Times," a modern collection of inspired rituals and daily practices and the forthcoming "Wordcraft Witchery: Writing for Ritual, Manifestation, and Healing." She's also the author of a few poetry collections, including 2018's "Nympholepsy." Her work encounters the intersection of ritual, wellness, chronic illness, overcoming trauma, and creativity, and she has written for The New York Times, Chakrubs, Narratively, Catapult, Sabat Magazine, Healthline, The Establishment, Refinery 29, Bust, Hello Giggles, and more. Her work can be seen in Best Small Fictions, Best American Experimental Writing, and several other anthologies. Lisa Marie earned a Masters degree in Writing from The New School and studied literature and psychology as an undergraduate at Pace University.
Demelza Fox is a modern day mermaid, international dancer, Venusian Devotee and a Priestess of Morgan le Fey. By day, she runs Rockstar Priestess, a priestess- and goddess spirituality website and community for wild witches and mystic mermaids, and by night she lights up stages across the land as a magnetic dancer and award winning burlesque seductress. Demelza runs the Morgan le Fey Mystery School, dedicated to teaching the ways and secrets of Morgan le Fey through online courses, priestess trainings and retreats in the heart of the landscape of Avalon in Glastonbury UK. www.priestesstraining.comRead More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
Long before I knew I had a chronic, degenerative illness (Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease that fuses your vertebrae and joints together), I lived with fatigue and widespread pain and chronic eye inflammation (which, of course, led to reduced vision on top of cataracts from steroid treatment).
It took a decade (with on and off insurance) to convince doctors that I wasn't inventing an illness, that my eyes weren't red from "contact irritation," that my pain wasn't from getting older, that my tiredness wasn't from binge-drinking or staying out late dancing. (To be fair, I did all of those things, but the heaviness in my bones was its own strange animal, an animal that I lugged along with me while all of my friends bounced back after a night out).
Many people with chronic illness (especially with autoimmune diseases) have ventured down the same winding path--medical neglect or disbelief, lack of resources, lack of knowledge in the medical community, lack of diagnoses, and a lack of support.
If you are the only person you know with an autoimmune disease or a chronic illness (or, really, any type of lasting body trauma), you know how isolating and fear-inducing it can be. Do you really know your body if your body is betraying you? Do you have a handle on your own future? Are you somehow no longer the same? Can you get the help you need?
My body was two people. A young girl, and a bag of blood, going on a bender, following no directions, attacking herself. I was lost to my selves.
When I finally convinced doctors to test me (for HLA-B27 antigen, plus an MRI to detect fusion), the diagnosis was an existential blow. I suspected the disease, of course--as my father has it--but knowing that I'd never, ever be cured felt like a sentence to me. For a year, I wallowed. I felt self-pity, I felt out of control, and I was on the edge of constant sadness. I felt lame. I felt silly. Here I was in my early thirties being told I might be fused together later on, my body a prison, my body no longer mine, but a shackle keeping some version of me tucked down deep inside.
I had always turned to ritual throughout life, especially when times got rough. Ritual is there for these times. It establishes a sense of order, it makes space specifically for the self, and it encourages focus, intention, and growth.
I used ritual to help me escape those constant thoughts of worry, anxiety, self-doubt, exhaustion, and fear. I used ritual to establish routine and self-care and self-empowerment. Through lighting candles each week night as a way to make rest time to decorating an altar in honor of myself and my body, I became an advocate for myself. There were many: bathing in lavender to intentionally create a sense of fluidity, journaling nightly through pain (using that painful energy to focus and transmit change and manifestation). If it all sounds woo-woo, consider this: anything you do for yourself is a ritual already. Anything you put your mind to is more likely to happen. Any time you carve out for yourself is sacred. It's an act of warfare against chaos and self-loss. It's a reclamation, a creation, a magical hour.
Ritual helped me back to myself: I felt stronger, more determined to make time for myself, more connected to the simple things that made life fulfilling and beautiful (rest, a walk in nature, time to write, creativity). The disease no longer controlled me; instead, it was a part of me, as a sad friend in need of love and time and cooperation. I was a vessel for opportunity, not despair.
A year after my diagnosis, I also went on to write a book, Light Magic for Dark Times--which is a collection of rituals and practices for hard times. I even included a portion on body and identity, and chronic illness.
I will be leading a workshop on chronic illness and ritual at MNDFL Meditation in NYC on July 21. I hope you will come, as it will be an open, safe space. We will discuss chronic illness, meditate, and map strategies for self-care and self-empowerment. All are welcome!
About the event
Welcome to Strong Women Project's first women's wellness workshop!
We're connecting with MNDFL in the West Village to provide free workshops to focus on our wellness. Our first workshop is led by Lisa Marie Basile. Darley Stewart, SWP Founder and Curator, will also speak about chronic illness in the context of recent findings. We'll also do some light meditation and stretching to kick off the workshop.
Lisa Marie Basile will discuss what it means to establish ritual as a way of encountering one's chronic illness or other body-mind related traumas. Ritual might mean bookending one's day with someone positive and encouraging but it can also mean going deep and dark and peering into the abyss of self to confront the pain/shame/etc of chronic illness. You can expect to feel like you are part of a loving community and to come away with a set of tools that can help you when you feel overwhelmed or lost, or are just looking to transmorph your experience into art or inspiration. It's a balance of light and dark. Lisa Marie Basile is the author of "Light Magic for Dark Times," a modern guide of rituals and daily practices for inspired living.
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
Hello, Luna Luna readers—it's your long, lost editor-in-chief. This post is looooong overdue, but alas, summer languidness and a lack of time. So, I've got an announcement: I wrote a book, and it's called Light Magic for Dark Times! It is available for preorder now, and it's out in September.
In a way, this book is the official Luna Luna collection of rituals and practices for grief, resiliency, shadow work, sex magic, writing magic, body and identity appreciation, regeneration, love, trauma, creativity, and glamour. I'm so out of my mind excited!
In the fall of last year, I was approached by a publishing house, Quarto Books (the leading global publisher of illustrated nonfiction!)—whose editor had been reading Luna Luna (and one of my posts about grief rituals). They asked me if I'd be interested in writing a longer book of what they'd seen—so we went back and forth on some ideas. As a poet and essayist, this felt like a beautiful challenge, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult. I had been practicing magic for so long—and in a really intimate, quiet, chaotic, eclectic and solitary way (more on that here), so I wanted to make sure that my work was accessible and inclusive to be understood and used by anyone, including people who also had their own set ways of practicing. Magic is something we all have within us, and I believe removing barriers to that personal power is so important—especially in times when we feel we've lost our autonomy or sense of joy.
As a former foster care youth, a trauma survivor, and someone with a chronic illness, feelings of out-of-control-ness have been no stranger to me. Those feelings can impact your self-esteem and your creativity, your resiliency, your hope, your desire, and the way you engage with the world around you. I wanted to share some of my personal practices and rituals that helped me through all of that. And I brought my experiences as a poet, empath, community builder, and writer to the book, too (so, yes it's even got a poetry section).
It was important to me that the book be a collection of practices that could both honor and manage our shadow selves and our light. They're one in the same, I think; they just move along on a spectrum, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes separately.
Oh, and the foreword is written by Kristen J. Sollee, the amazing, inimitable, wonderful author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring The Sex Positive.
Would you like to preorder the book?! You can do just that anywhere you can get books (Amazon, your local indie book store, B&N, and more). It can be preordered in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada here. It can even be preordered at Target and Walmart (wild, right?).
Oh, and here are some photos from the writing & editing process:
Having a mini flip out, witches! The black font on the cover and the crystal-like design on the back will be foiled (so, *shiny*). The inside covers will be pearlescent. Excuse me as I do a hundred cartwheels down the street. Also, preorder link is in the bio BUT message me if you want links to alternate ordering methods or if you’re in Canada, NZ, Aus, or the UK! 🖤
I am soooo excited to share one of the GORGEOUS images from the intro to Light Magic for Dark Times 💛The talented @adagracee captured me (wearing my actual crown from @sthedwigatelier) so beautifully. I cannot wait for you to see the rest of the book. I’m so in love with the small touches of color, like magic, that sweep in and out of the book. They’re quiet but deliberate. They’re intentional. I’m so excited. You can preorder the book by visiting the link in my bio! 💛
🖤 I’m really fascinated by how we use ritual in our everyday lives—and how it intersects with wellness and healing and creativity. So I started a new blog, lightmagicdarktimes.com—please check out my new column #RitualTalk, which is an interview series that encounters ritual from varied points of view. To kick things off I spoke with some of the most magical people I know: @mythsofcreation + @tristamarieedwards + @lezacantoral + @darleystewart. Visit: lightmagicdarktimes.com 🖤
💎I got a beautiful surprise from my publisher in the mail today! My book, laid out, with all of its glorious art—illustrations by @adagracee—ready to mark up. I canNOT wait to share more info and the preorder link with you all. My heart is bursting with joy.💎 . . Writing this book was a very intense and very emotional experience (and time in my life), but it was fun and pulsing and changing. I wrote it for all of us dreamers and creators and darklings and light seekers..so that we can find a path through heaviness and murk and emerge more resilient. I feel so grateful. 💎
Just 10,000 more words (and then the editing phase) and I’ll have completed Light Magic for Dark Times. I’m so excited to show you all this book! For now, we’re working on illustrations (I’ll share soon!) and my publishing company and I are sending ivory & taupe organza sachets of dried rose and lavender with little spell scrolls to a sales conference. I can’t believe this is my life.🖤 The most beautiful thing about writing this book as a secular person is the opportunity to explore the very real magic in everyday things—in care and kindness, rituals of routine, in creativity, in self-love, in looking into the abyss. 🌸 #LightMagicforDarkTimes #poet #witch #picoftheday #nyc #magic #book #flowercrown
🌕🌓🌑 FRIENDS. I've been sitting on a biggggg announcement for some time now: I will be publishing a nonfiction book next fall with Fair Winds Press/Quarto Knows, who is the leading global illustrated non-fiction book publisher (they've got 48 imprints, and they sell books across 50 countries and in 39 languages!). In other words: frightening! But I do think my life has led up to this point. 🌙 The book centers on DIY practices, mostly inspired by witchcraft, to get us through dark & hard times. It’s called Light Magick for Dark Times, and it's for everyone--from people specifically interested in or beginners practicing witchcraft, to people who just want to ritualize their intentions and expressions during dark, trying or hard moments. 🌓 I have had the darkest year of my life so far this year (god, haven't we all?), so when this opportunity fell into my lap (because the editor is, amazingly, a fan of @lunalunamag and reached out) it felt kismet to take it. I put a lot of thought into whether I should or not, but ultimately I decided yes. Because light wins and because I hope to be able to make tangible my compassion and love. A few of you here, my close friends, have inspired and pushed me to take this project on. 🌖 Combining my background in writing about trauma and healing and self-care, the nerdy amount of research I’ve done, and my love of ritual and witchcraft, this is *the* best book I could think to offer the world at this point in time. I'm super crazy grateful and extremely honored. 🌙 #lightmagicdarktimes
Via @lisamariebasile: When I was writing Light Magic for Dark Times, it was important to me to make space for the reader's intuition and natural inclinations. You know what feels right for your body, your lifestyle, your beliefs. For example, spending tons of money on tools and doing elaborate rituals for self-care doesn't exactly feel right to me, so sometimes I go with my gut: wearing a color might bring me energy one day, inscribing a symbol into my palm may give me strength, and listening to "that FEELING" I'm feeling — above ALL else — might mean the difference between regret and joy. We all have magic inside of us, truly. So trust your intuition, always, and know that magic is different and personal to us all.
Via @lisamariebasile: As a poet and writer, I have always felt that language—the sound of a word, the shape of a letter, the idea conveyed, the musicality of the phrase spoken—is a sort of incantation. When we write, we conjure. We declare. We promise. From my book, I wanted to share a small idea—that writing is magic. If you're ever feeling down or powerless or exhausted, take a moment to write out a small incantation or declaration, to or for yourself. Use your language specifically, and write it in the present. Your power is tangible. I hope you'll check out my book, Light Magic for Dark Times for more on "Word Magic!"—@lisamariebasile 🌬🔮✨
The Luna Luna Grimoire is now available for preorder! . . LIGHT MAGIC FOR DARK TIMES by editor in chief @lisamariebasile is a fully illustrated hard cover (illustrations done by the wonderful @adagracee!), full of rituals and practices, for anyone interested in modern and intentional personal power & magic. 🖤 The foreword was written by the inimitable @kristenkorvette (author of ‘Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive’ & editor of @slutist ). 🖤 . . It is definitely inspired by Luna Luna’s exploration of light and dark and her longtime experience with poetry, trauma recovery, chronic illness, death, foster care, and, of course....regeneration and creativity and autonomy and healing. There may even be an Anaïs Nin-inspired ritual—who knows? ;-)🖤 . . While the title might suggest a sort of ra-ra-positivity, the book is truly about finding a way through darkness while also honoring it and immersing yourself in it. It is accessible, the tools mentioned within are inexpensive and the rituals are flexible & autonomous to YOU—meaning everything in the book can be adapted. 🖤 . . @kristenkorvette writes, “Light Magic For Dark Times is a book I wish I had by my bedside and in my heart during my most challenging moments. It holds space for healing and exploring and awakening the parts of ourselves that we or the outside world might label dark, and offers rejuvenating rites of lightness and illumination. Basile’s spellcraft radiates love and sex-positivity, but it is certainly not hex-negative. She elevates shadow work and emphasizes the importance of delving into the dark and facing pain head on to heal. There is no trauma too deep or desire too superficial for the spells, incantations, and rituals contained in this grimoire." 🖤 . . It’s available in the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada—and the link to pre-order is in our bio.
BY KAILEY TEDESCO
*Please note that there are some scene descriptions here, which may constitute a spoiler for some.
I found out about The Love Witch nearly a year ago. It all started with a still of Elaine Parks’ heavily shadowed eyelids and a tea dress with ruffles too glorious for words. The still became a fascination which led me to interviews with the film’s feminist auteur, Anna Biller, which eventually led me to a trailer, then back to some interviews, and so on for about nine months. It took until just yesterday for the movie to come to one of my city’s indie theaters. Usually, and in my personal experiences, a build-up of anticipation that long often results in disappointment. I remember thinking several times that this 1960’s B-Horror pastiche could not possibly live up to the hype which I, myself, have ascribed to it.
Well, dear readers, let me tell you it was worth every moment of the wait.
The film follows Elaine Parks (Samantha Robinson), a newly inducted yet gifted, member of a Wiccan coven who is quixotically obsessed (or, in her own words, “addicted) to love. After suffering years of gaslighting and emotional abuse in a previous marriage, Elaine is quickly scouted by a coven while dancing in a burlesque nightclub. From there, she quickly learns to transmogrify “sex magic” into “love magic,” but ultimately leaves each of her dalliances for dead.
The Love Witch is an open allegory with a feminist agenda. While the film’s aesthetic and score set the viewer up for the typical supernatural tropes of 1960’s technicolor horror, we are instead greeted with a more realistic sense of witches which somehow opposes and aligns with our own world’s cultural conceptions. This is because the “witch” is ostensibly equated to a sexually liberated woman, and the townspeople treat Elaine and her coven members as such. In a scene where Elaine meets up with her friend and coven member Barbara at a Burlesque show, men can be heard having discussions about how witches used to hide, but now they seem ubiquitous in society. The attitude towards witches and Wicca is mostly one of bigoted tolerance — as though witches have been publicly granted rights that the anti-intellectualist bar-dwellers can’t override, despite their disdain (sounds familiar, right?)
And the allegory grows stronger.
Elaine herself, after losing weight and gaining empowerment after her husband “leaves,” willingly codifies herself according to the male-fantasy. In the beginning of the film, she sits down to tea with Trish, a self-proclaimed feminist who has been married for ten years. After hearing that Trish will often refuse her husband of some of his fantasies, Elaine scolds that women should always give men what they want. And this is exactly what she does… or so it would seem.
Throughout the film, Elaine creates a world for herself that is heavily influenced by male-perpetuated ideas of femininity, ultimately masking herself in layers of Bardot-esque eyeliner and Audrey Hepburn LBDs. She is often cooking decadent cakes or donning renaissance gowns while riding horseback. She speaks politely and is never seen without make-up. When it comes time for intimacy, she seduces her lovers with elaborate dances in intricate lingerie. She makes herself, essentially, the embodiment of male fantasy. However, she is not quite the Stepford Wife that one might think.
She uses her beauty and sexuality as a bait for men who describe themselves as libertines or unhappily married, aka sexists. From the start of the film, she can be seen batting her eyes in what one initially assumes might be a call-back to the Bewitched nose-wrinkle. Yet, these two are largely dissimilar as Elaine is not using magic at all, simply her own sexual prowess. The men she baits are already ignobly piqued by her as they often catcall and grope. She invites herself into their lives, feeds them a philter, and suddenly they become madly (in every sense of the word) in love. What begins as a dalliance quickly turns into a literal sickness that causes these men to become hysterical with love to the point of death.
The hysterics are played for laughs and ultimately reminiscent of the ways in which women have been misogynistically portrayed in film for the past century. Elaine has none of it, immediately becoming disinterested in her own subjects and proclaiming “what a pussy.” She buries the body of one lover ritualistically, yet ultimately remains un-phased. To top it off, she places a witch bottle containing her own urine and a used tampon over the shallow grave. Her Kardashian dead-pan narration asks viewers to consider that most men have never even seen a used tampon. What she calls an addiction to love is evidently an addiction to power. Elaine exemplifies the culturally normative ideas of masculine aloofness while patronizing her dying lovers in her ruffled mini-dresses.
Anna Biller flips the typified romantic narrative while also giving the protagonist her cake and letting her eat it, too (quite literally). Elaine hedonistically enjoys all of the pleasures associated with sexist romanticism without letting the male stick around long enough for her to suffer the consequences. She flits from man to man like this in perfectly polished composure while her own paintings of liberated goddesses cutting the heart out of a man line the walls of her bedroom a la Dorian Gray. She has polarity and unity of her being, and all of her empowerment lies in her willingness to appear submissive.
Biller constructs this narrative through a carefully cultivated 60’s lens that sometimes alludes to even older Hollywood, yet the inclusion of a smart-phone at the end grounds the viewer in a phantasmagorical contemporary. The film is a world that already exists. Kubrick and Ashby and Argento are all carefully woven into it. Yet, it is not their world. Nor is it Tate’s or Hepburn’s. It is all Biller’s – a world which re-writes over a century of misogyny with one unapologetically empowered witch.
And it is fantastic. Please see it for yourself.
Kailey Tedesco is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee and the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical. She received her MFA in creative writing from Arcadia University. She’s a dreamer who believes in ghosts and mermaids. You can find her work in FLAPPERHOUSE, Menacing Hedge, Crack the Spine, and more. For more information, visit kaileytedesco.com.
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
My heart is aching like yours is. And I know that if I let myself, I'll fall into a well of perpetual worry, despair, resentment and anger. A little anger is OK. In small doses. See: my Facebook statuses circa November 2016. But life, as we know, can't always be led by those emotions; living in a state of constant negativity isn't healthy, and studies show that prolonged bouts of negative feelings and stress can lead to real health problems.
One of the things I do that helps me counteract the mindfuck that is America is to create a space that nurtures creativity and provides a sense of sanity.
For me, that means surrounding myself with things that are good and beautiful — from photographs and perfume bottles to books and natural things. I've fallen madly in love two books that inspire me to tap into my magical side.
I received Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness as a gift, which makes complete sense as far as I'm concerned — I'm definitely the kind of person you buy 'cheer up' books for.
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah): is all about cozying up with a book during a winter storm or lighting candles. The mythos says the Danes create the concept of hygge to get through brutal, dark winters. English doesn't quite have a word for the happiness attained from cozy, simple, healthy things in life, but the Danes do! The book doesn't just go into what hygge is all about or where it came from, it shows you how to be hygge — complete with recipes and decor tips. If you're in any way attracted to DIY, decor or ritual, this is the book for you.
The same gift-giver above knows me pretty well, because I also received The Magpie & the Wardrobe: A Curiosity of Folklore, Magic & Spells. Yes, the cover is a bit hectic (and, if I'm honest, a tad childish), but the book itself is fantastic. Filled with prophetic rituals and potion how-tos, any one page lets you get lost for hours.
So if you need any inspiration at all, I would so recommend these books. They're not just just gorgeous (they will look very pretty on your shelf!), they're useful. You can take it page by page - no need to read in order.
Here are just a few examples of what you'll find inside:
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and the Ampersand Review, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. @lisamariebasile