Marchesa Luisa Casati

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A lot has been said about Marchesa Luisa Casati but the words of her lover Augustus John take the cake: “She should be shot, stuffed and displayed in a glass case,” he wrote after their affair. It’s hard to gage whether this was spoken with affection or bitterness but the comment reveals his admiration. I can only hope someone speaks of me some day with such violence! casati4

It’s hard to pin down exactly what she did to earn such fame. She was an heiress, a socialite, an occultist, a muse and patron of the arts. But more notable was what she stood for in this sometimes-basic world. She was a destroyer of mediocrity and creature of her own design-or what she referred to herself as, “a living work of art.” It’s why we are still inspired by her, decades after her Gilded Age heyday. And the reason I’m writing about her. The Marchesa was an early pioneer in the law of manifesting. Create the life you want, build yourself as the person you want to be. You are your own canvas.

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Who did she want to be so badly? I think her eccentricities are surface level to us at this point. We know what she wore and who she slept with. Otherwise she seems impossibly mysterious to me. To sit down with her and pick her brain…that’s the person in history I’d have dinner with. I can’t imagine she was very accessible even in her time. I mean, she dined with wax figures of herself just to freak people out and conducted seances, generally eschewing normal interpersonal relationships. And was so on the fringe of what was fashionable or acceptable that I think she had no choice but to feel cut off. She spoke to this aloneness when asked to comment on a trip to New York:

“Women of the world today all dress alike. They are like so many loaves of bread. To be beautiful one must be unhurried. Personality is needed. There is too much sameness. The world seems to have only a desire for more of this sameness. To be different is to be alone. I do not like what is average. So I am alone.” Substitute “bread” with “Louboutins” and truer words were never spoken even today.

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casati9casati6-2 casati7-2True that she didn’t look like anybody else. She wore black during a time when it was considered only a color for mourning. She bleached her skin white and dyed her hair red. Lined her eyes in coal, glued false eyelashes and strips of black velvet along her lids. And perhaps most terrifyingly – took regular doses of the poisonous, pupil-dilating plant Belladonna to further accentuate her phantom-like gaze. She wasn’t interested in food (preferring to graze on gin and opium) and stood six feet. I think even by today’s standards, she would be a spectacle.

She had homes all over the world which she decked out to a maximum fantasy-like space. She literally feathered her nest, keeping a menagerie of albino peacocks for pets, as well as cheetahs on diamond leashes, pink-powdered greyhounds, a gorilla, a boa constrictor (which sometimes stood in for a necklace when the mood struck her), and of course her lamentable nude and nubian gold-painted servants. They cohabited together in her jungle villa on the Venice canal.

There, she hosted extravagant parties to showcase her outrageous costumes. A dress made of light bulbs powered by a generator. A suit of armor pierced with electrified arrows (that nearly killed her). Always with the intention to commission her own immortality, she made sure such fashion moments were captured. She was muse to all the greats of her time, including Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Cecil Beaton, Giovanni Boldini and Romaine Brooks.  

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By the end of her life, she was penniless but more enigmatic than ever, wearing newspaper for a scarf and communicating with loved ones only via telepathy. She died in her one-room flat after a seance. She was buried with her taxidermied pekinese.

The final chapter is dark but I think she achieved what she set out to do-she’s managed to be an ongoing and ceaseless work of art as inspiration to so many still today. And I would point out that she never seemed to have a grasp of moderation, squandering her savings on drugs, parties, image-making and magic spells. Anyone who really wants to manifest must remember to keep their feet on the ground as they keep their dreams alive. A bit of a cautionary tale.

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So I Created My Life

I’ve magically come into so many pieces of clothing that I coveted that one day my homegirl/Goddess sister/co-witch who I discuss magic and manifestation with said, “You’ve got to start writing this stuff down.” And thus this project was birthed.

Sometimes it’s through very intentional, magical thinking and sometimes it’s just pure serendipity. Like the time I decided one day that I wanted a blue or black Polo baseball cap. I announced it to whoever was listening at work: “I want a Polo baseball hat.” Five hours later, on my way home from the office, I stumbled upon said-hat hat strewn on the sidewalk, a few buildings away from my apartment (I laundered it). It was blue. Which supports a theory I have-when we want something, there is power in words. It’s good to “set your intention” and pray but if you say it out loud, I think the vibration is stronger. 

Then there was the time I regrettably gave away this leather and brass feather pendant. I loved that pendant, but a girlfriend admired it so much that I gave it to her. I immediately felt the pang of losing it but told myself, “it will come back to you.” The universe has laws and this is one of them. You gave and so you will get back. I searched for it on ebay but it was too expensive, like in the hundreds, so I decided to just let it magically arrive in whatever way it saw fit. A week later, I found the very same pendant in a vintage store in Brooklyn. I spent about 10 bucks on it.

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One day I decided to really get organized about what and how I might best manifest. I made two to-do lists: One for myself and one for the universe (I can’t take credit for this idea-Read “Ask and It Is Given,” a classic book on manifesting by Esther and Jerry Hicks). Because the act of creation is a two-part process: ASK for what you want from your higher power and intend it through prayer/spells/conversations with Goddess and then be in a place of expecting and receiving. Feel that it is yours before it is yours. Because this is an emotional universe that operates on feelings.

So here are my lists:

to do – ME
Meditate
Brush up on Italian
Cut back on candy

to do – THE UNIVERSE
Keep me in the flow of well-being
Bring me a work promotion
Deliver me a Chanel bag

There were more items on the list but you get the gist. “The flow of well-being” is an expression I read that more or less means you encounter serendipity and good luck wherever you go. You’re in flow. And I threw Chanel in for fun. Because making this list is really just playtime. Why not ask for the holy grail? You have nothing to lose! I imagined what I might wear it with, where I might take it. I’ve been wanting to go to Polo Bar, wouldn’t it be fun to take my new Chanel bag? I realize this is all so silly, but that’s the point. This is your creative time and no one needs to know anything unless you blog about it. 

So I did my part. I meditated on getting more out of my job. I cut back on sweets. I listened to Italian radio. And in my meditations and daydreams, I would imagine my boss delivering the news of my promotion, and celebrating with my quilted Chanel bag at Polo Bar. 

About a week after I made that list, my sister texted. “Pere (her husband) gave me a new Chanel. Do you want my old one?”

About 6 months later, I got that promotion.

Was I being kept in the flow of well-being? I guess that’s a pretty intangible wish, subject to debate. But with my new bag and promotion I feel like it’s safe to say that I am.

I’ve since then gone back and made a list of all the things I’ve manifested and in parenthesis, noted how long it took for them to manifest. It’s an interesting exercise and I recommend trying it. Patterns pop out. What strikes me is that the less important the wish (Chanel bag, feather pendant, just…stuff), the quicker it’s delivered. But jobs and people that I have wanted, those took anywhere from six months to ten years. I think there’s a lesson in there. When it really matters-when we’re talking about the stuff that really counts and not just a bag-we have to exercise patience in the universe bringing to us what we ask. And trust that it will be delivered to us when the time or way is right and not necessarily when or how we want it. Be patient, do your part, ask and it is given.

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“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.” -Coco Chanel