[In the Name of the Muse] The Only Way Out Is Through: Are You Out There Can You Hear Me?

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Hooray! Pumpkin Spice/Unspeakable Acts Season!




So I asked a friend about it, on a bad day,
Her husband had just left her,
She sat down on the chair he left behind, she said,
“What is love, where did it get me?
Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine.”

This summer has been a complete headfuck.  The highs have been incredibly high but the lows have been incredibly low.  London was a super high high for me – being treated as a peer, making friends, drinks on the terrace on a perfect spring evening, seeing Six, being solo in a different country, the V & A museum.  It was exhilarating.  A super low low for me – having terrible poison ivy.  Sounds pretty low key summer camp right?  Except I was never allergic to it until this summer and I still have scars from it.  I was seeping through my loose bandages so badly that it would wake me up at night and I would need my mom to help me change them in the copy room at work.  I had to be bandaged up or I would be seeping all over my desk which is so attractive in the workplace.  I finally broke and went to my doctor for prednisone which I cannot standing being on because I am an aggressive hell beast on it as well as way too warm all the time.  But this time was extra fun because the tail end came with suicidal ideation.

I’m learning a certain kind of patience.  I’m learning how to watch The Wheel.  I’m learning that magic doesn’t always look the way I expect it to.  I’m learning that my Muse and The (Goddamn) Universe (Herself) don’t always work in ways I understand.  I’m learning how wide gratitude can be.  I’m learning how big love can be from all kinds of places.  I’m learning a different kind of grace.

I’m learning what Exile really is for me, too. And what it’s like to be exiled from yourself.  It’s a deep ocean.


And all I could eat was the poisonous apple
And that’s not a story I was meant to survive
I was all out of choices but the woman of voices
She turned round the corner with music around her
She gave me the language that keeps me alive, she said
“I’m so glad that you finally made it here
With the things you know now, that only time could tell
Looking back, seeing far, landing right where we are
And oh, you’re aging, oh and I am aging oh, aren’t we aging well?”


She has a way of having way more compassion than I have.  She says it gently, for other people I am feeling less kindly inclined towards while still acknowledging the validity of what I’m saying.  It’s a delicate high wire act that she balances well.  She doesn’t force me into kindness but she gives me a chance to open my heart.  We always knew each other from a distance, since we were eighteen, at our mothers’ circles and the adjacent circles we ran in together but separately in the dark of the night.  I asked her once for a favor, a big favor.  I asked her to form a burlesque troupe for me.  And she did it.  One of our first local troupes.  She asked to propose to her girlfriend with her husband at my event.  MTV was there and I was afraid of how it would shape my event through the media’s eye.  I said no at first.  She loves me, even when I’m not brave.  I couldn’t sleep that night.  I didn’t like being afraid of love.

We kept talking and she was so kind to me even though she had every reason to be angry with me.  She was so patient while I made myself brave and was so gracious when I relented.  I went against my board to do it, it was maybe the only time I used my power to go against everyone else’s wishes.  I couldn’t make myself go against love.  We went through our divorces at roughly the same time and this brought us closer together and soon we became Amazon sisters.  We hold each other down, we hold each other up.  We make each other laugh because our mean girl streaks go together – our good hearts, our bad mouths.  She has a spirit that I’ve always admired since I met her.  She’s so giving with her time, her patience, her kindness.  She has a strong spine and almost always stands up before I have the strength to stand as well.  She gives me the strength to stand up.  She’s an amazing teacher and speaker and has a willingness to share her flaws and her missteps.

She has a silliness that I love – I see her and C. laughing with me at an event in my room on one of my beds about the tiny copper mugs that I serve them champagne and St. Germain out of, being both willing to have my grown up doll’s tea party with me and gently giggling about the ridiculousness of it.  She gives me space to be ridiculous in my glamour, so much space.  Which makes me brave enough to lean into my glamour.  I stood once in a high tea at an event she helped organize in a full Georgian gown, letting the tea servers fuss over me, standing so still and letting everyone look at me.  I served Babalon tea that only I would serve, making everyone wait to be served by me.  She stood in the back, watching the tableau I had created with her help and then she drank from the pink tea pot I served out of before she had to dash out to run other things.  I never would have been able to have done that without her.  We share headphones over the internet, she’s one of my favorite musical garbage animals.  We share secrets, we share songs, we share magic.  Sometimes, all we say to each other over and over again is, I’m here.  I’m here. I’m here.  

Sometimes, that’s all we need.


Perhaps I am a miscreation
No one knows the truth there is no future here
And you’re the DJ speaks to my insomnia
And laughs at all I have to fear
Laughs at all I have to fear
You always play the madmen poets
Vinyl vision grungy bands
You never know who’s still awake
You never know who understands and
Are you out there, can you hear this?
Here is where I find myself trapped in the last days of vacation.  I’m paralyzed with knowing that returning to my work place is imminent, I’m immobilized by the fear that all of my creativity will once again completely dry up in the face of the crushing tedium of the workplace and essentially never being complimented, often being criticized and striving for an impossible level of perfection that is only noticed when one has failed to achieve it.
Usually I’d be shouting at her or being shouted at her here.  I’m too afraid to shout, too worn down to scold.  I worry that I will never be in a place to pick up all my threads.  I worry that I will keep not being able to balance having my literal soul crushed on a daily basis with finding something to write about.  I have become dull witted, not with obsession but with the tedium that is the majority of my day.  I have plans, of course I have plans.  But the closer I come to changing what I need to change, the farther away it feels.  Sometimes I think, this is the rest of my life.  Sometimes I think, my spirit has been broken.  Sometimes I think, I will never be clever or witty or magical again.  Sometimes I think, my heart has died.  I try to hold space for the things that are lovely, that are enriching, that are meaningful, but it all slips through my fingers.  I am not hollowed out by austerity or full of words of promise and action.  I am instead a cluttered downtrodden thing.
And sometimes I think she has left me forever.  And I can’t blame her.


But the weather changed quickly, oh the ocean said
“What are you trying to find, I don’t care, I’m not kind
I’ve bludgeoned your sailors, I’ve spat out their keepsakes
Oh it’s ashes to ashes, but always the ocean”

I have been visiting her daily, collecting shells and driftwood on her shores.  Much more than in the last decade.  I feel more centered and calm and more in tune with my magic, even though I’m not doing anything really yet.  I greeted her formally and got a sharp sassy retort back.  I sighed.  Sometimes it’s difficult being constantly surrounded by wise and powerful women, in whatever form they take.  I think about how I started swimming again this summer and I think about how I’m slowly winding my way back to her – the rum, the melon boats, my feet in her waters in January.  The depth of her love, the purity of her white foam, the vastness of her patience while I’ve been very busy being very busy.

I still listen to her (recorded) waves every night before bed.  I sometimes wonder what she whispers in them, if i allowed myself to listen.

I am the daughter of the deep blue sea, I am the daughter of the pounding waves, I am the daughter of the bright ocean foam. Oh, my mother Yemaya, queen of the great salt sea, Oh, my mother, Yemaya, descend and counsel me.



Listen up let me tell you a story
A story that you think you’ve heard before
We know you know our names and our fame and our faces
Know all about the glories and the disgraces
I’m done ’cause all this time
I’ve been just one word in a stupid rhyme
So I picked up a pen and a microphone
History’s about to get overthrown
How do you pick it all back up?  How do you reweave the threads?  How do you find space for what is meaningful?  How do you not get run over by everyone else’s struggle?  How do you get out of bed after reading the headlines that morning?  How do you create in the face of oppressive adversity where you are so worn down all there is energy for is work, housework and the gym?
This is where I’d have a pithy answer for you, usually.  But I’m not there yet.  Just know if you are struggling too, I’m there, your Sister Queen in arms and exile.  The answer is there.  I just have to find it.
Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


2 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this. There’s so much of this I can relate to…. Especially the ocean imagery you used. It’s weird ‘cos at several points in this year I kept trying to convince myself that I felt like this was going to be a year of fire, of energy, of momentum (even though the entire year has been dominated by muted, sluggish movement, with fits and starts and then back into a vat of painful molasses). The metaphor my own mind keeps coming back to is the ocean. I’ve always had a hard time with the ocean, so feeling like I’m both lost at sea and fathoms deep is hugely uncomfortable for me. When you called it “exile”, that really hit home. I didn’t know that’s the word I was looking for. I don’t feel like I have an answer, either. But I felt seen and heard and understood in your words. And though I’m not sure my words can offer any significant solace, I’m here, too.

  2. This is really relatable.
    I keep wondering if my little, sometimes absent-minded, devotions are good enough. I keep wondering if I’m doing right by my gods.
    And I so feel you on feeling like a cluttered mess inside. I’m getting Anxiety Spikes every time I try to think past “one foot in front of the other”, trying to imagine life a week from now makes my chest go tight. I’m clinging to my to-do list like a security blanket because it gives me something to do Next.

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