Notebook of Shadows

Two years ago, I signed up for Jason Miller‘s Strategic Sorcery course. I was looking for ways to take a practice that had become really theoretical and bring it back to, well, reality. While I enjoyed the course, I didn’t give it as much attention as I could have, in many places cherrypicking techniques that seemed immediately relevant and skipping things I thought sounded irrelevant or silly.

Recent discussions in the group for current and former students, however, have got me looking at the course again and a few days ago I sat down and did the initial reading and ritual again. When I finished, I immediately grabbed my planner and wrote down my impressions from the ritual.

In theory, I could write this in a special journal just for the course, or a more traditional book of shadows that’s solely for magical and spiritual topics. In practice, though… I start those and then they do one of two things: either I stop using them after a few pages, or they morph into more general notebooks anyway.

I recently consolidated all of my blogging efforts into this single site. This is a thing I do semi-regularly – I’ll have some idea that sounds like a perfect reason to have a secondary blog, and I’ll start it, and one or the other blog will drop off entirely. I just cannot focus on more than one blog at a time, no matter how good my intentions or my planning system.

The same is true of a planner/journal system. For me personally, if I try to maintain more than one notebook, planner or journal I will inevitably end up putting everything in one book anyway. I couldn’t even maintain a traveler’s notebook setup because my brain froze at having three tiny inserts to choose from! Giving it more than one actual notebook is just a recipe for disaster.

It really just goes back to the need to have everything in one place, doesn’t it?

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My Setup

October 1-15
October 1-15

Everybody loves an excuse to talk about their planner, right? So this is my current baby, a bright orange, dot-grid Leuchtturm1917 in a pocket size. I know people have written tons of analysis about this notebook vs that one, but I chose the Leuchtturm1917 because when I went to Powell’s, that was the brand that had a dot-gridded pocket size notebook in stock.

In the past I’ve been a serious devotee of the graph-paper notebook, going back to my freshman year of college when I started using lab notebooks for everything. I started using it because my handwriting is tiny and gridded lines were thinner than college ruled lines. I quickly became addicted to being able to draw straight lines in both directions and adjust as needed.

I’ve recently been converted to dot-grid because it does all the things I like graph paper to do with some additional benefits. When I’m not writing in a straight line for whatever reason, the dots seem to fade out of my attention span much more easily than a grid does.

One of the best things I took from the Bullet Journal concept was the monthly outline. I hate writing in a traditional, blocky calendar, especially in a format this small. The day-per-line works great for me, though it ends up being split over two pages because the month is long and my pages are short. Below the dates you’ll see a few checkboxes sneaking in for things I have to do regularly during the month.

On the next two page spread, I have my monthly bill pay checklist, sorted by due date, and my to-do list for the month. I know some people are big fans of weekly layouts, but I don’t generally have more than two or three things scheduled for any given day, and my notebook is small enough that a weekly layout would be ridiculously cramped anyway.

Those are the only things I do every month right now. Everything else is a sprawling mass of notes, bullet points, check boxes and one-off collection lists. It’s beautiful and I love it so.

Planner Revamp

31 Days of Planner PeaceAs I mentioned yesterday, I picked up my planner again because things had gotten out of control in my head. I originally put it down because staying home with an infant involved very little forward planning, and it’s hard to write in a notebook with a baby asleep on your chest, so I wound up falling back on systems that were based around my phone. I tried one to-do app and then another, but never loved one. I leaned even more heavily on Evernote than I usually do, and kept all my medical appointments in Google Calendar.

For the most part, when I was doing the minimum, the system worked. If I had found a to-do app that did everything I needed without requiring a paid account, I might have been satisfied. But I didn’t have that GTD-like confidence that everything was safe and written down. Without that, my OCD eventually reared its ugly head again.

I prayed and offered to Mara, asking for inspiration to calm my mind. She pointed out to me what I always do to calm down.

I watch planner videos. Hours of them, letting YouTube recommend me one after another: Filofax, Franklin Covey, Erin Condren, kikki.k, Hobonichi, disc-bound, traveler’s notebook, bullet journal, chronodex. Whether it was a plain and practical bullet journal or a colorful life planner with washi tape and stickers exploding from the pages, it didn’t matter. I watched them all.

Paper planners calm me. The physical act of writing makes me feel better and more in control. I considered going back to the traveler’s notebook or the binder, but then my mind went back to the system I used in college. It was influenced by GTD and the hipster PDA, and the new incarnation borrows from the bullet journal, but it’s technically none of those things. Instead of an A5, I’m using the smaller size because it fits in my pocket. Everything goes in one book. Anything more complicated than that is likely to be too much for the dad of a busy toddler.

GTD as a system hangs on the idea of ubiquitous capture: if you put everything in your Trusted System, you can trust it, because you know it’s all there. The minute you stop putting everything in the system, it stops being a trusted system (at least for me) because I can no longer trust it. If I write everything down, my OCD abates because I know everything is in the notebook. It cuts down on what the brain weasels have to work with.

Planner Peace is having a system I trust, that allows me to reduce the noise of OCD in my head and be happier and more at ease.

Always Starting

31 Days of Planner PeaceHaving succeeded at writing about Mara every day for a month, I was less intimidated when another blogging challenge wandered across my awareness. The simple challenge to pick a topic and write about it for 31 days sounds pretty straightforward, after all.

When I began writing for Mara, one of the reasons I was doing it was because I felt like I had lost my center. I spent several months working with a physical therapist this year on my vertigo, and while the physical problems improved, in other areas my life seemed to be spinning wildly on. After spending months and months focused on my health, letting my schedule be shaped by a half-dozen or more specialists’ hours, I was at a loss.

I was considering going back to work, but had no idea what I wanted to do. I continued picking up small freelance writing jobs, but they never paid much. I had a lot of things I wanted to do, and lots of summer social options on the calendar, and I felt like everything was getting away from me.

Lots of planner fans talk about the idea of Planner Peace. I’ll be chewing over the idea a lot this month, but basically it means the idea that if you can just find the right planner, the right system, everything will work smoothly and perfectly. For me, planner peace is a little different, and goes back to the idea of ubiquitous capture.

One of the reasons that there’s no such thing as a perfect planner is because needs change and life changes, and what makes sense during one phase of life may not be practical for another. Right now, I need a paper planner in my life, so I have added a paper planner to my life. This month I want to explore this idea of “planner peace” and what I actually gain from having paper planner, as well as ways I can use it to make my life more organized, healthier, and more magical.

  1. Always Starting
  2. Planner Revamp


This myth was given to me by my sister Marie.

“Give us the child!” Chenek’s servants had been standing outside of the house all night. Mariam was wringing her hands as she saw to her daughter-in-law and the infant they wanted so badly. She could feel her humanity acutely as their menacing energy outside clashed with the quietly incensed Brhenti’s across the room.

The goddess–her daughter, she reminded herself, though it felt so unreal now–crossed to the door. She seemed to be considering something.

“What are you going do, my Lady?” Surely this wasn’t a betrayal. Brhenti had no love for Chenek, and she wouldn’t break an oath of hospitality.

Brhenti simply drew her sword and threw open the door. They pressed to rush inside, but she threw them all back, pulling it shut behind her and blocking it with a spell. “Enough!”
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On the Hunt

There are many Hunts, and they vary almost as much as do their Riders. Some rode for vengeance and some for justice, some ran from the gates of Hell itself, some rode searching for a Heaven that would never be found on the roads they were on. Some rode the horses they’d ridden in life, or strange, dark beasts that nonetheless acquiesced to be carry them, or themselves took the form of wolves or giant cats or other predators. I was not the first to choose a motorcycle, with a headlamp streaming through the twilight, but the image stuck to me.

When I took point, berserker and valkyrie alike in my wake followed suit. No hounds or howls announced our arrival, only the low thunder of perfectly-tuned engines. We’re still a motley crew, riding everything from crotch rockets to cruisers to naked bikes. More often than not, mine is a 1934 Indian. It doesn’t really matter; they run on whetstone sparks and shining wet teeth and gunpowder and fear, not petrol.

Some years are better than others. Some years the picking is ripe and there’s no second thoughts, no bitter taste in the blood of our prey. Some years are strange and the prey sickly-twisted. Some years virtually all we hunt are humans, and some years almost none.

The Hunt is never clean.

No matter how insubstantial the riders, no matter how little is left behind when the Hunt continues from one target to the next, it’s not a clean job. Viscera sticks more in the darkness of the Mists than it does on the battlefield, and the smell… well, when your targets are already rotten inside, there’s little to be done about the disgustingly sweet scents we tracked, each one a unique blend of dying flowers and burnt sugar and greenish meat.

Some of them were human, some of them monster, but all of them were messy.

I would tell you not to bother running if you’re prey, but it doesn’t matter.

Please, do run.

It’s more fun.

Light and Dark

The light falls across her body in colored shards: red, green, cobalt blue. The Daughter of Light is unmoving aside from the soft twisting of color with each note she calls. She breathes in plain air and sings out promises and stained glass and hope and a spray of blood. Her throat was ragged from the sharp edges of color, and still she sang.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” her auntie Dark asks, concern pulling her lips tight.

“Oh yes, very,” the Daughter of Light responds.

Darkness wraps her arms around the younger spirit and pulls her into a tight hug. The Daughter of Light squirms, trying to escape.

“Why do you do it?” the Dark Lady asks with a sigh.

Light lets out a soft, smiling laughter. “Oh, it’s just exquisite, the pain. It’s lovely. You should do it.”

The Dark Lady, who had held her daughter through more bawling and nightmares than this, shakes her head and only holds tighter.

Running to Stand Still

I fought my way through the panicked civilians, the nurses and doctors trying to help whoever they could, the soldiers fallen out of formation in the confusion. I understood now why we hadn’t seen any soldiers from Wa all day – they may have been bold in death, but they weren’t wasteful, not on this scale.

Bai Ling had never married, and when the Imperial line ended, there was no one to appoint a messenger. The new government hadn’t had time to, or hadn’t cared. Maybe the latter- they seemed much less impressed by mythology and magic. That’s understandable. When you throw aside the will of Heaven…

Regardless, someone had to go find him. I wasn’t going to put my children in that danger. That meant me.
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The Sun-Mother’s War

this myth was given to me by my sister Marie

The Sun-Mother, Daughter of the Heavens, was happily married to the Moon-King, a noble and kind Spirit who loved her and saw to the needs of both her and her aging mother, Fate.

The Spirits and the tribes of their lands existed peaceably under their reign. Oases flourished, crops were bountiful, livestock and humans alike were fertile.

There was joy and wealth in the land under the Sun-Mother’s bright light. And that is what attracted the curious newcomer, intent in leveraging their power.
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First Made for the Artificer

The other day I posted the prayer beads I made for Mara. They weren’t the only beads I made that day, though.

It took me a while to work my way around to understanding Brhenti as the Daughter of Metal. Part of the reason for that was my more extensive experience with another spirit associated with smithwork, for whom I found a name, Taksa, last year. One of the challenges of fictional recon or really of any work with unknown deities is a requirement for openness. We make guesses, we draw conclusions, and sometimes we are right and sometimes we’re a bit off the mark. One way to handle this is simply to be willing to revise; I have a lot of thoughts about revision that I want to visit in the next couple of weeks. Another way to handle it is the way the Otherfaith does, allowing for a variety of canons, as well as fanfic AUs, among the faithful.

I have experienced the Artificer as one of the forces of Order, and I have experienced the Smith as a demigod-type human child of spirits. I suspect these may both be true; I think this may be another figure who entered the labyrinth. I am pretty sure Taksa is Brhenti’s child, now, but until I get a myth I’m reserving judgement.

It’s been a long-standing habit of mine that the first of any new craft I do is offered to Taksa as the Artificer, because the energy I’ve put into it is that first spark of creativity and understanding. I started this years ago, when I offered to him the project I produced the first time I worked in a forge.

In this case, while I’ve done beadwork before, I’ve avoided fancier beadwork and especially fiddly, rosary-style beadwork because my sense of what I was capable of was skewed by previous experience with my ex, who made jewelry. When I sat down to do proof of concept before launching into a full project for Mara, I produced the first beadwork I’ve done in years and the first rosary-style piece I’d ever done. That’s definitely new enough to qualify for an offering, in my book.

Taksa is definitely a spirit who keeps up with the times, as interested in computers and other technology as he was in the forge when steel was invented. This is one of the reasons why the terminal pendant is a piece of memory, wire-wrapped. His best-known spirit partner is Danec of the Rivers. In Danec’s case, they are both fierce seekers of knowledge, though they have been known to get competitive and sometimes ridiculous.