Do Clothes Have Juju?

 

Barbara Hulanicki, founder of Biba, doesn’t wear vintage. She says she believes it can be haunted by previous owners. This blows my mind because when I think of Biba, I think of amazing vintage pieces from bygone fashion eras, but Barbara herself doesn’t wear her old Biba because it could have bad juju.

I work in a fashion library for a certain American designer-I won’t name names but he’s been designing for 50 years now. Half a lifetime’s worth of designs is kept in my archive, as well as 200 year old vintage. Most of the pieces have been worn by those no longer with us.

We have parameter security so that we are notified if anyone tries walking out with items that haven’t been checked out. A funny thing is, there are reports at night of clothes making it past security. And the pieces that seem to “haunt” the library halls the most are contributed by the same person-a late relative of the designer.

Can clothes be “haunted?”

One of my coworkers, a Filipina, says her grandmother’s generation holds the belief that vintage can indeed be spooked and to stay away from a dead man’s clothes. I’ve heard that the Jewish tradition refers to it as “mashugana.” Bad vibes. One girlfriend can’t bring herself to wear her grandmother’s engagement ring for fear that she might inherit the marital problems of her grandparents.

Similarly, I have friends who swear they feel an energy in their clothes, whether the previous owner is alive or dead, happy or unhappy. One friend says it’s why she’s so drawn to “party girl” attire-she loves clothes for clubbing-think Katharine Hamnett crop tops and DKNY denim-anything that would’ve given the wearer a good time. She’s also a divorcee and is recently eschewing what she calls her “mourning attire,” or what she wore when she was married. Black, Japanese avant garde pieces you may cloister yourself in. I think she is sensing her own former-self vibes?? One vest she had to get rid of-her ex-husband’s favorite piece on her-because she had too many bad times in it. She sold it in to a second-hand store, only to rediscover it months later among the very same racks.

I don’t know if ghosts exist, or there’s such thing as a “haunting.” But I do believe in “juju.” Energy. Vibratory echos of long-lost matter. And so many things can be a vessel for these psychic remnants-a house, library, a well  in a COS store in Soho…so why not something that was close to the wearer, like a piece of clothing? Clothes may contain pieces of our selves, our experiences, and maybe even those of our dearly departed. And while that point might be spooky, it’s mostly something we should just be aware of. Ultimately, your sixth sense will tell you how to feel. And if it feels good, wear it.

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Dior X Motherpeace Tarot

I realize this blog is becoming Dior-centric but I am totally bewitched by all the magic Maria Grazia Chiuri and Co are brewing up these days. For Resort 2018, Chiuri referenced the Motherpeace tarot, a feminist, Goddess-based deck dreamed up and drawn by artists Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble in the 1970s. A serendipitous side note is that when Chiuri reached out to Noble for permission to use her images, Noble realized she had recently borrowed from Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” tee in a collage. “Magic stuff was going on in the background,” Noble wrote of the new collaboration.

Death, the Five of Swords and the Priestess of Wands are to name a few of goddess cards conjured in the collection.

    

Dress for the Mood You Want

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been in a bit of a funk or I might even call it an existential crisis. Which has lead to this writing/creative block which brings me back to why I haven’t been posting.

Then the other day, I put on this vintage Missoni kaleidoscopic jumpsuit and immediately felt elevated. Like I was playing the role or inhabiting the spirit of a happier, more carefree girl. With a rainbow aura to match. It was out-of-body. Like I was watching myself from the outside in. Wherein I gained a spiritual objectivity and realized that nothing really matters anyway in this game of life. We can choose to operate on a higher or lower frequency and I am opting for higher. People noticed this energy too. I got a lot of compliments on the jumpsuit. I felt good and people around me seemed to gravitate to that.

I don’t know if I’m exactly out of this funk forever-there’s more work to be done-but I’m turning out my technicolor look today and feel like, how seriously can I take life? I don’t want to indulge in the heaviness. It seems silly.

Fashion is important! Clothes can transform.

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Magic Meets the Runways

There’s an occult undercurrent to the 2017 runways. Both Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer saw a display of witch wear that seems to be bubbling up from collective psyche. In a time of so much uncertainty and darkness, fashion reflects our need to feel empowered, self-creating and in charge of our own fate. Even the most pedigreed houses were recognizing the zeitgeist.

For their Spring/Summer collection “Magic Lanterns,” Gucci commissioned artist Jayne Fish to design print and pattern based on the major arcana. “Death”, “chariot” and “emperor” are some of the mystical characters represented on the runway, while esoteric symbols like the eight-pointed star and hieroglyphics were more overt references to magic.

Dior’s Spring/Summer drew from the personal leanings of its namesake. It’s said that Monsieur Dior regularly visited psychics and had his tarot cards read before each runway show. As a nod to his witchy ways, Maria Grazia Chiuri sprinkled the label’s signature A-lines with some of his lucky talisman symbols such as the number eight and the clover. Representations of the cosmos and the tarot also graced the gowns.

“Chance always comes to the aid of those who really want something,” Dior has said. Spoken like someone who understands the process of manifesting your deepest desires on the vibratory field.
For Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2017, Sarah Burton referenced the Cloutie tree, on which people tie ribbons as wishes, as her aesthetic and spiritual jumping-off point. It was an earthy, pagan-inspired presentation of dresses beaded with silvery trees and sun and star motifs.

 

The Magic Ring

 

There is something divine about a ring. It’s intrinsically holy for it’s cyclical form, which connotes the eternal and a completeness. Rings may even be a source of magic. A ring is said to have given Solomon his wisdom and Joan of Arc her success on the battlefield. In the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Aladdin summons djinn from a ring given to him by the Maghrabi Magician.

Rings have curative and protective power. The plague was warded off with rings on which the Holy Family was pictured. In medieval England, cramp-rings blessed by priests cured epilepsy.

As it happens, I was in the birthplace of Solomon, or the Holy Land, when I found my magic ring. Jerusalem is actually incredibly holy and I can see now why all major religions want claim over it. Magic finds you everywhere. People and events just appear to you to show you you’re on your path.

But on this one day, I was fighting with my girlfriend and I was losing my path and sense of self. This happens to me in fights. I question my judgement because I’m so traumatized by the other person being up upset with me. I really get deeply affected in a fight. But we were going to have a talk that evening in attempt to resolve the dispute and I needed to collect my thoughts. Our third friend told me to go take a walk to find my center.

So I went to the Muslim quarter for a good spot to hear the Call to Prayer. I’m strongly connected to that sound. It feeds me. It’s like my daily dose of God. And today I really needed it.

I was walking through the markets when I locked eyes with an old man seated outside an antiques shop. Why I made the connection with him, I’ll never know, as the streets are lined with men perched outside their shops. But I greeted him and we entered.

His shop was a decaying treasure trove of Middle Eastern jewels and gems. Like an old Silk Road souk long-ago abandoned. He said he had been there since the 60s. All the objects seem to have a soul.

But I was actually there for my new friend. We sat on low stools in the back, among the beautiful old things, while he chain-smoked, and we talked. About life, God and love, self-love, stuff that you don’t always dive right into with a stranger, but it felt like we knew each other and had been talking and understanding one another for years. He even spoke like he knew the day I was having, the insecurities I was experiencing from the fight. “You’re highly sensitive. You love a lot. But you have to love yourself before anyone else,” he said. It’s such an old adage. Everyone knows this but how often do we really practice it? Without getting into it, I told him I happened to be was having one of those days of self-doubt. This troubled him. “If I could, I would give you my eyes so you could see yourself as I see you.” He was not only a sage but a poet (I asked him where he got his impeccable English from and he said he’d spent all his years in the shop reading). What a message about the spiritual objectivity needed to overcome our fears and insecurities. When you doubt who you are, see yourself as an old Arab antiques dealer from East Jerusalem sees you. Which is basically an eternal being, complete, with no beginning and end.

Then he took out a jade ring and put it in my hand. “This will protect you and remind you of who you are in this world. And who you are is infinite. Screw anyone who makes you feel otherwise. ” And as if on cue, the Call to Prayer piped into his shop from the streets. And if you think I wasn’t going to cry in that moment, well I did. It was just all too much for me-the stress of the fight, the release of the feelings around it, the validation I was getting in this moment that I am good no matter what, and to screw everyone else. I hugged him goodbye and walked out feeling like I had just met my guardian angel. I felt lighter (I also met a man named Aladdin only minutes later but that is another story…). 

I was wearing my ring that night when I went to duke it out with my friend. And I had my own success on the battlefield as I stood my ground, which in the end, cost me my friendship. But it was a lesson in spiritual development for me. What would’ve once ruined a trip for me gave me an even better experience. It’s strange that it took going to this faraway, unfamiliar place to remember who I am.

I don’t think the ring gave me the sight to see myself-but I think the trip and the ring and all the people I met in the Holy Land were life-supporting. They appeared to me as signals to show me who I used to be and how far I’ve come. Someone who can keep her silent center and exist in that quiet, attachment-free space where you are your own source and you are fearless.

I wear the ring on a necklace, every day. As for my friend, we don’t speak anymore. But I don’t think about the broken friendship. I think about my relationship to myself and how I stood in my knowing and self-love that day and from now on, always. A ring also stands for a vow, a bond, a promise and this is my forever promise to myself.

 

 

#rainbowlandisinyou

Below is a written dialogue that evolved from many late-night phone chats with my soul sister/fellow goodwitch/psychic soldier, Juhi. The exercise was to explore a quote/piece of advice her therapist had given her that for whatever reason has really resonated with us and we find ourselves referring to often in these philosophical pow-wows. We’d like to share our ideas with an audience other than ourselves because we feel that it speaks to an experience a lot of people on the spiritual path have.

“You can’t stay up there in the realm of the spiritual. You have to come down to earth- that’s where the action is.”

Julia: Hiiiiiii.

Juhi: Yooooo.

Julia: !!!!

SOO

Juhi: So, Bonnie’s quote…

Julia: Yes. It felt pretty profound to both of us, immediately. How do we break this down? What is it really about?

Juhi: I would explain it as: it’s very easy to get caught up in one’s spiritual bubble and isolate yourself from the jolts and bumps and such that are happening in the big bad dirty world where the day-to-day business of existence is happening

Julia: Yes. It’s very nice to hole up there in Rainbow Land.

Juhi: Exactly!

Julia: And choose what frequencies we want to be in and be with our mantras and stuff. But we have to return to Earth and the here-and-now.

Juhi: And I think also when we find a spiritual community- whatever that may look like – one person, an online thing, a group, your yoga studio, whatever – we get very cozy in that. And then interaction with people outside of that becomes challenging. And sometimes frustrating. But that’s where important growth happens. That’s where we are tested and where we refine and hone.

Julia: We go outside our circle and people might be like, “what is this language you are speaking?”

Juhi: Hahaha yes. And it’s very easy inside the confines of this land where everyone is speaking rainbow language.

Julia: But we can learn new languages or just be in a place that is challenging.

Juhi: Ok say more about that.

Julia: If there’s no challenge, there is no evolution.

Juhi: Yes! And we also can create this false sense of “Oh, I have evolved!” But unless you actually go out into the world and BE and LIVE and INTERACT…

Julia: Haaa yeah! But then it’s like “now what??”

Juhi: You have no idea how much you’ve evolved. You’re just surrounding yourself with spiritual yes-men.

Julia: Evolution should be an ongoing, never-ending process. And to assess how much you have evolved, you need various contexts. You can’t just surround yourself with people who are always in your corner.

Juhi: Yes. How much or how little. Which is always the shocker like, you think you’re hot shit now, with your rainbow badge…

Julia: Otherwise we’re just a bunch of self-congratulating hippies who have peaked in our evolution.

Juhi: YESSSSSS. Hahahaha. And then you face a real sitch and you’re like, “Oh shit, wait…”

Julia: We work a lot with the law of pure potentiality, right? But what good is potentiality if you don’t then transmute it into the physical world? Sometimes I feel like I feel so good up there on the spiritual plane that to come down and interact in the land of the humans will cause a kind of turbulence in my life. But how else can we put into practice these spiritual lessons? The lesson is useless if it’s not implemented.

Juhi: I’m still on self-congratulating hippies. It’s too good.

Julia: Haaaaaaaaaa

Juhi: You’re on fire today

Lessons = useless if not implemented. And I think it’s easy to retreat into the rainbows when the going gets tough. And the key is to find a balance. Spirituality and all this stuff MUST be practical. It must be integrated.

Julia: Yeah. I am so grateful that we have this power at our disposal. But we need to integrate it-that’s a good word.

Juhi: So even with meditation, or any of these practices, Shamanism, even yoga, whatever. The point isn’t that they are some “me time” isolated retreats. They are medicine, they are tools, they are there to inform all aspects of our lives. Not something we do in a compartmentalized way for however long each day.

Julia: I think that’s a really powerful point. In the beginning of my journey, I made that mistake, like it was, “time to do my 21 minutes of meditation so i can get on with my day…”

Juhi: I think we all do though. Because let’s face it- it makes sense to start that way.

Julia: It’s a natural part of the process. And eventually you begin to see the benefits of these exercises and how they play out on land, with the humans.

Juhi: Ok so maybe this is the crux of all this, if that’s the right word: when you start out with all this, two things happen (one which we haven’t discussed here yet):

  1. You are just trying to fit it into your life, but it’s separate, because that’s all you can handle
  2. You get REALLY excited, and you kind of roll around in it and fall in love with it. And of course you want more and more. But THEN that’s when you can get stuck in Rainbow Land. With the rainbow people. And everyone else is like “Oh jeez, she’s into meditation and she won’t shut up about it” and you lose patience with those people (or worse, you try to convert them, passively or aggressively). And I think the “coming down to earth where the action is happening” is about that integration. How you begin to navigate it all as one thing: your life experience. And it’s like the Campbellian stuff…you go on your journey and then you must return to the world (except the mindfuck is that the journey is kind of always happening)

Julia: Wow, I think you really nailed the process-at least for me as well. I see that this is a sort of step-wise journey, one that other people have also walked. And now I maybe find myself in the stage of this process where I am forced to remember this great quote we are speaking of and I call to mind often.

I think I have an example from my personal life that illustrates this-do you want to hear it?

Juhi: Yes, of course!

Julia: Not getting mixed up with boys was a big theme for me this year. I saw them as kind of upsetting this empress streak I was on where I was focused on the creative self and the career attached to it.

I had this very specific, preconceived idea of how, if I were to let someone get past my red velvet rope, it would have to look. And I would consider the fantasy-and that’s all it was going to be at that point-a fantasy. Because I was so in my higher power that I couldn’t imagine accepting anything less than my fantasy. It was going to have to be with someone or a situation that supported my goddess/empress self. And anything else that came my way that didn’t look like that wasn’t going to cut it.

So then I so-called “fell from grace” a few months ago…like I got physical with someone, and the encounter didn’t look anything like what I had planned for myself. But actually what took place was better than that AND a cataclysmic shift in my energy was there. It was NEW energy, you know? Foreign and unexpected.

Juhi: Right! and that’s the kind of “action” that creates new energy, shifts, etc.

Julia: So it was like I was shot down from Rainbow Land and got dropped straight into a strawberry patch or something and it felt luxurious and galvanizing and I had this renewed energy that I could apply throughout my day/life. And we need that newness-we can’t have spiritual stagnation.

I mean, on an energy level, sex can be dicey because it is an exchange of energy. But again, we’re talking about practicing the lessons we learn in our wisdom. Because, “that’s where the action is” in the practice. And this was an opportunity for me to navigate the diceyness of mixing up my energy with another person’s but still staying in my silent center and higher power.

Juhi: But talk about why you chose the term “fall from grace.” I think that’s important.

Julia: Wow yeah…hmmm.

Juhi: My instant feeling was that it relates to this thing we’ve been discussing about getting into this high-minded spiritual place. And then the disconnect that happens when things get “real.” And you think, “wait, that’s not how this was supposed to go” – like you said.

Julia: Right. I mean, judging by my choice of words, it sounds like I still have these expectations/projections. Still in the process!

Juhi: But you also said “so-called.” Which could also be “supposed.” Which is important.

And this really resonates: “in the practice. and this was an opportunity for me to navigate the diceyness of mixing up my energy with another person’s”

Julia: Yeah “so-called” implies that I think there is some audience or community out there who agrees with me. That’s a bit dogmatic of me.

Juhi: I was seeing it as: “I myself acknowledge that it was not an actual fall from grace, only that it could be perceived that way” and that you were able to make a distinction between two ways it could be perceived or interpreted or processed. And that perhaps the dichotomy within ourselves is there- we might immediately feel “oh no, I lost the plot.”

But then you start to examine it and it comes together in a different way.

Maybe the point is there is no plot we’re supposed to “not lose”…in thinking that there is, we get dogmatic and rigid and risk beating ourselves up over things that we should just be processing.

Julia: I was just thinking that that is a beautiful thing- to “lose the plot”-and then be delighted by the result, or at least learn from it emotionally and spiritually. Actually, I think you are applying some great language here to something that we both are really eager to address/learn: This idea of not having such an agenda.

Juhi: Right, which is something you have always reinforced for me.

Julia: To long for certain things and have our ideas is OK but we also don’t want to be so attached to how it will look.

Juhi: Right.

Julia: God, it’s so key, girl! So hard. But I think we have been chipping away at it quite nicely (self congratulatory hippie).

Juhi: Hahaha. We all need gold stars sometimes…

Julia: Haaaaaaaaaa. lmao.

Juhi: So I have this image now. I want to share this analogy.

Julia: I love your analogies, go for it.

Juhi: So I was thinking first: we can’t avoid the shit. The shit is always going to be there. You and I, we find ourselves in the shit every so often, and then there we are, and we navigate our way through and out of it, knowing we will eventually be in it again. And then “shit” became “mud” (less gross). And then the image of a path.

So the mistake I think is maybe seeing the spiritual as finding a path where you avoid the mud. OR that you find the proper boots to walk through the mud in, so it doesn’t affect you as much, so you’re better prepared.

But then, it came to this: What if it’s just that you’re barefoot, you don’t fear the mud. It’s there, you will sometimes not be in it, and sometimes you will step in it. But it’s nothing to fear. You experience it between your toes. And it can even be not unpleasant. And then you dip your feet in a stream and wash it off and move on. It’s not a big deal. And maybe later you find “Oh, I missed a spot, there’s some between my toes.” And you deal with it. But the point is maybe, don’t worry so much about avoiding the mud. Just be cool and know that it’s not that big of a deal, and you will live.

Haha-please tell me that made some sense.

Julia: Holy shit, girl. You are the analogy-izer. There should be a separate gold star system for your analogies.

Juhi: Hahahaha thank god you understood what I was talking about. I am laughing over here, partly in relief. Ok let me add one more thing to it, if I may: Re: boot thing. Maybe the boots are like different methods/modalities people try in order to shield themselves from the mud. But the most freeing thing is realizing that you can just take the boots off and your skin is as tough a thing as you’ll ever need. Maybe that’s too much and needs reworking. But when I think about us and how many different modalities and traditions and practices we’ve taken from and internalized and integrated, I see that we really take them into ourselves, and really integrate them into ourselves. Instead of relying on them as an external thing, which I think a lot of people do, at least in the beginning. So you don’t need the trappings. You need the wisdom, and you need it to be part of yourself. And you only internalize that through experience and application.

Julia: Yes, I think the aim is to be our own source.

Juhi: YES.

Julia: The letting-it-roll-off-my-shoulders part is getting easier. The flicking off of the mud (to continue the analogy).

I even wonder if being in the shit is or could be pleasurable. A pig in shit, ha.

Juhi: Well I think that’s the dream, no? That you can be in the mud and say, “This is life! It’s all good!” But I think another one of your sayings is more attainable (at least for me right now):

CTFO.

Julia: Chill the Fuck Out!

Juhi: That’s a way to deal with being in the mud. You might not enjoy it but you can CTFO.

Julia: At worst, CTFO. At best, bring an attitude of play with you wherever you go.

Juhi: Right. Yes. But going back to something you said here earlier, about being the source. I want to tie that into our original starting point. I think that when you can internalize what you’re learning then it’s not dependent upon being in Rainbow Land. Then it crystallizes. When you have it in you, you’re the source and then you can actually be in the world and deal with the action and welcome the action. Or at least not fear that it’s going to really kill your vibe. Your vibe has to be strong enough so as not to be killed or upset by “action.”

Julia: Yes, Rainbow Land is in you and you are in it, and all is one. All is integrated.

Juhi: Loooool. #rainbowlandisinyou

Julia: Ha! And the action doesn’t disrupt your silent center and you might even in fact, as you said, welcome it.

Juhi: I would say my personal example was with Dude. You know, we were out of contact for a while, which, strictly speaking, could have been a total bummer. But I was doing love & light meditations like a champ for 2 months and was as happy and positive as a rainbow clam. And then suddenly he reappeared and BOOM-I lost my sea legs. I was on my ass. My vibe was totally disrupted. But it was good practice.

When action happened (action that I WANTED even). I wasn’t prepared for it. Because I had been insulated in my own bubble and I even said, “This was so much easier when we weren’t actually talking” because then it became unpredictable. Then there was this other person’s energy in the mix, and dealing with things you can’t control is an art. It’s obviously always been a challenge for me.

That’s the danger of Rainbow Land- your get a false sense of security if you’re there too long because you’re insulated from these foreign energies.  And when life happens, you run the risk of being unprepared. But the beautiful thing is when, instead of being discouraged by falling on your ass, your can look at it as an opportunity to learn and integrate for the future.

Julia: I mean, that is so much the struggle. Learning how to navigate the unpredictable. We talk a lot about taking the journey of serendipity and surprise but the other side of the coin is it’s fucking hard and scary and lonely or whatever. But right…as you said, it’s a powerful opportunity that we should be grateful for. Because it gives us more of that wisdom and creativity that we crave. I really like this idea of being thankful for these tough moments. It’s easy to be thankful for the good stuff…but let’s love it all.

Also, I love you, you are my soul sister, I am amazed by you.

Juhi: I LOVE YOU TOO. And the feeling is so mutual. You are such a rock in my life. You have taught me so much and I love what we have.

Julia: I am grateful for you every day girl. I love you

Julia: Ok I love you sooooo much and let’s talk later.

Juhi: Thank you for this, and for everything. xxxxxxxx

Julia: Thank you for being in my life!! xoxoxxoxo

 

 

Our Hair, Our Psychic Selves

*Originally published in the Babe Collective magazine.

Our hair is our “crowning glory,” as it springs forth from our highest chakra and most sacred part of the body. Its meanings are many and spiritual significance as deep as our roots.

We lose and reproduce 100,000 strands at a time. Therefore the very nature of hair is cyclical. The spiritual process of reincarnation plays out in each strand.

Our hair may be a link between the spiritual and physical worlds. A Sikh does not cut his hair, which he considers a gift from God. Strict orthodox Judaism forbids men from cutting their sidelocks. According to some Islamic hadiths, women are to grow enough hair to conceal breasts or any other awrah part of the body that may be naked in burial.

Expressions referencing hair reveal attitudes about ourselves and the world around us. To “let down your hair” is to surrender to the playfulness that life has to offer. Something that inspires fear is “hair-raising.” Hair can pose a threat to society when long or dirty or when “unruly curls” break social rules. To go natural, to show your kinks and waves, is taking a radical stand in defense of your authentic self. Or with treatments and tonics you choose to “tame” the wildness within. Chinese Communist soldiers dubbed their bob haircut as the “liberation hairdo.” The pixie cut evokes elfin innocence.

Through fairytales, we are cautioned at an early age of the power and potency of hair. Rapunzel sits in her tower, sequestered away, with any creative potential she has to offer the world thwarted by the evil sorceress who confines her. Her hair, “as fine as spun gold,” is her only crime. Humanity begs her for access to her hair and thus herself, but her spirit remains cloistered. When the witch finally releases her, and cuts off her lustrous locks, she is banished to the woods to live out existence in hairless unglory.

Hair reveals our soul selves, which we are sometimes punished for. The so-called red-headed stepchild is marginalized. “Black is beautiful” reminds us to love ourselves against a hateful social agenda. Age dare not show itself on a woman’s greying head whereas a man is considered distinguished. The noble chignon of a ballerina is planted, unmoving, atop her head, signaling her discipline and supporting her delicate but powerful precision.

Hair displays our psychic life. It may “stand on end” to signal danger. We lose it or go grey from stress. Dionysis’ dark, wild waves signify a chaotic inner world, ruled by wild passions. In Native American cultures, it is believed that hair acts as an antennae or extension of our nervous system, supplying us with the power of intuition and sixth sense. Only in period of mourning is it cut short.

What lives on after our physical death is only our hair and our souls. A corpse will show spooky vitality as hair continues to sprout from the head. We also live on in the hair of our children, which contains our DNA, or narrative of our ancestry.

To lose one’s hair can mean degradation. After the Battle of France in 1940, French women’s heads were shaved as punishment for their sexual relationships with German soldiers. A balding man is losing his virility. Soldiers with shaved heads are reminded of their loss of personal identity and now machine-like nature.

To shave one’s head as a personal choice can symbolize spiritual rebirth or transformation. The shaving ritual for religious purposes denotes an intentional sacrifice or renunciation. Monks and nuns in Hindu, Buddhist and Christian orders wear their baldness to show fidelity to God as they eschew worldly pleasures.

Or hair may tempt us. Lady Godiva rides horseback through the streets of Coventry, naked and shrouded in her long, wild locks. Peeping Tom who watches on from a window is discovered and made blind, reminding us of the punishment we may endure if we lust too longingly.

Sacred Objects

 

Photo by Carly Boonparn

In Buddhism, the crown is the most sacred part of the self. My turban is a shroud against the physical world. I wear it when I feel like I can’t have my energy fucked with. 

I went on a jewelry hunt to the Rif Mountains of Morocco for the bangles. They were made by the nomadic Berber tribe, otherwise known as “the free people,” and they make me feel free too.

The blouse is handmade by Romanian weavers, each motif a symbol imbued with magical thinking and intention. Women’s work is spell-casting. We are makers of life, and to weave is to create the magical tapestry of life.

The amethyst ring is my mother’s. We live apart but are connected through these objects we share. Amethyst opens up your psychic center.

Silver stands for protection and feminine power. The silver nunchuck pendant and body chain were made for me by a friend. They arm and safeguard me.

I feel abundant when I wear these sacred things. I love that they have had a life before me, and will live after me. In the meantime, they carry me through this existence. They are not really mine but on rent from the universe. The permanence of belonging is an illusion but the divine energy is real.

The Hidden People & the Magic Brooch

In Norwegian folklore, a story recounts that a woman washed only half her children when God paid a visit. Ashamed of the dirty ones, she hid them. God decreed that those that she hid would be hidden from humanity. They became know as the hulders, or hidden people, the shapeshifting spirits of the mountains who visited the human world to carry out abductions and strengthen their own gene pool.

Midsummer was the high season for attack, as the doors to the spiritual world would open and these supernatural beings were released. Rites of passage, especially around the time of weddings and baptisms, made Norwegians especially vulnerable.

Silver, believed to have protective qualities that reflects such spirits back onto themselves, became a rural Norwegian’s armor. Ladies wore brooches while men wore silver collar pins, shoe buckles, coat buttons and decorative knives, which served as a spell-breaking tool.

The brooches came in varieties of styles. More ornate ones had pendants in the shape of an even-sided cross, cut-out sun wheels or diamonds. But the most fetching were the byggkornring or barley-kernal ring brooches. These were presumably made by hudrefolk themselves, who were expert silversmiths and created pieces more beautiful than any human hand could make. How Norwegians obtained these pieces can be explained in their folklore.

The legend of The Interrupted Wedding describes the possible origin of these supernatural brooches. In one version of the tale, a young maiden named Elli Bakken was alone up in the summer cabin weaving when her fiance entered in a panic and insisted they get married right away. When she saw her dog glaring and growling at him, Elli become suspicious. Then a crowd of people entered the cabin. Two somber-looking women stood a distance from the others. “Your dog doesn’t seem to like people,” one of them said with a wink. “It might be best to let him out.” Elli had a hunch that these people might in fact be hudrefolk. She took the dog out to the edge of the woods, tied a red ribbon around his neck as a signal for help, and sent him home. She went back into the cabin to prepare for the wedding. As one of the women pinned a large filigree brooch at her neck, she whispered, “Stay calm, help will come.” Then Elli remembered that years ago two girls had disappeared from that very cabin, and she knew that it was those girls who were trying to help her now, so she cooperated.

Down on the farm,  the dog entered the house and barked with all his might at the gun that was hanging on the wall. When Elli’s mother spotted the warning ribbon, her father saddled his horse as fast as he could, then rode up to the farm of Lars, Elli’s real sweetheart. When the two men arrived at the cabin, they saw a long row of saddled horses. They looked inside to see a table piled high with food for a party, and Elli dressed as a bride. The men fired a shot over the top of the cabin. “In Jesus’ name!” Elli exclaimed, and crossed her hands over her throat. The hudrefolk quickly tore off Elli’s bridal finery, but could not pry the brooch that Elli held tight to her chest. The hudrefolk rushed out of the door like tumblweed and Elli was saved.

 

Psychic Sauna

The Russian Baths are a 100+ year-old bathhouse in the East Village. I go about twice a week. It’s my church. It’s a sacred experience and a shared one, where bathers sweat together in 350 degree heat. Something sort of psychedelic takes place down there, in the dungeon-like bowels of 10th Street in New York, a sort of collective energy where bathers’ bodies reach death-defying levels of heat as their brains respond with a flood of chemicals-dopamine to be exact-in response to the body’s belief that it is dying. At least that’s how it’s been explained to me anyway.

There’s a shared high happening. I think it has something to do with the feel-good chemicals that promote bonding as well as the fact that this is a ritual, and group rituals are a collaborative effort towards a common goal. The goal here is to cleanse. Detox the body and the soul. When I exit the baths back out onto the streets, it’s as if anything toxic that ever took place above ground has fallen away.

It’s also an exercise in slaying the ego. Doing anything that is uncomfortable and you are keeping your ego in check. You are showing the part of you that likes to be in control who’s really boss and who is really boss is your true self, before it got corrupted by family, religion, society, etc., whoever told you who you need to be in order to survive in the physical world. Which is a bunch of baloney anyway so it’s good to quiet the ego.

Something that I find underlines the baths camaraderie is the attire. You’re given a robe, swim trunks, or a towel. Or you my B.Y.O. bathing suit. But gone is your real world armor and self-expression. The baths uniform is the great equalizer. I tend to judge guys based in part on the shoes they wear, but here, all men are created equal in their salmon-colored, plastic shower sandals. You can see celebrities down there-but you almost wouldn’t know it. Reclining about in their sad, thin bath towel, they look and therefore are treated just like civilians.

So we sweat and suffer together, half-naked and non-judgemental in our half-nakedness. And it gets me wondering something I tend to not like to wonder about because I love clothes-is this sort of physical uniformity and nakedness something that supports our goal here? We destroy our ego and whittle ourselves down to a spirit level. Our true self can’t hide behind the clothes we choose, with our ego-affirming convictions. I am *this person* so I wear *that* kind-of-intention. Without our above-ground, real world clothes, we are our true and transcendent selves, free of any public face or phoniness.

It’s always funny when you make friends with someone , and then run into them at checkout or whatever, and they are back in the clothes they’ve selected for themselves for the day. I’ve met perfectly cool people down there who I later saw above ground and was horrified to learn they wore crocs or a stupid hat and then I make all sorts of judgement calls on who they are based on my own prism.  Suddenly you no longer see them in their pure “beingness.” You see a person that you are now applying and projecting all your judgements onto. And I fancy myself in the upper echelon of the enlightened, yet I’m so obviously not if I’m put off by someone for their choice in footwear.

The spiritual path can be challenging when you are also a fashion person. The basis of spirituality is that we are just beings on this earth plane, and our true being-ness is what matters before our public face, the clothes we wear, the language we speak. So how do you reconcile that with a judgemental take on a guy’s shoes, or the fact that you own five fur coats (not going to apologize here but…I work in vintage)? Obviously I don’t think clothes and spirituality are mutually exclusive-the whole basis of this blog is that they are deeply tethered to each other. But I wonder if the moment I’ll reach actual spiritual attainment is when I am not tethered to the clothes. I can walk in that guy’s dumb shoes and still feel intrinsically me.

I think the idea of this kind of spiritual attainment is you want to feel like you do at the baths. I am me and you are you, not, you are Michael and I am American and we are in New York. Because none of that stuff matters. We want to be/are stripped down, naked, star stuff that transcends the physical plane and can’t be summarized in words or a pair of shoes.