You may already know this, but it is actually the second version of my Wooden Wildera Lenormand. Unfortunately, the first one had to stay back in France at my parents’ house because I couldn’t take it with me when we were moving to the USA. But I’m okay with it, it wasn’t a complete set anyway.
I don’t really remember which pieces I had the time to finish before I took off. Well, I suppose I could easily find out, since I probably have a couple of pictures saved somewhere on my computer files. I am pretty sure that the Bear was one of the pieces done. If you know me, you know Bear Spirit is pretty much always involved, and always comes first.
What I do know however, is that there are many differences between the two versions. First there’s my choice of wood. I went for birch slices this time, instead of… oh my, what was it? I can’t even remember that either. Ash maybe? Alder? Beech? It definitely wasn’t birch though.
I chose birch for technical reasons as well as spiritual ones. I love the tenderness and the particular grain of this essence of wood. It’s one of my favorite to do pyrography on. And since this tree represents new beginnings – at least for me and a whole lot of Pagan-related People out there – I found it appropriate for this whole “I-got-to-start-over” thing I was experiencing.
There are also several original drawings that changed organically when I started painting the cards of Wildera Lenormand. I wasn’t satisfied with the first version of the Bouquet for example, so I redesigned it completely. And I’ve done the same for the Tree and the Clover too. And now that I think of it, I find it fascinating the way the two projects ended up nourishing and transforming each other. From the wood to the paper, and vice-versa. It’s like a never-ending cycle between two different shapes of the very same Living Material, if you know what I mean.
So, why bother making a wooden version in the first place? Well, before I even thought about creating an actual deck of cards, that was actually the plan. Making a Lenormand Oracle just for myself, that I could use everywhere without worrying too much about damaging the paper, scratching the lamination, accidentally bending a corner or, worst of all, sitting down on it (don’t laugh, that’s how I ruined the 4 of Cups from my first copy of Wildwood Tarot).
Anyway, I needed it to be sturdy, because the item I had in mind was meant to come along with me into the forest. Its purpose is to accompany me in my Wood Walks, so I can toss it on the mossy wet floor and have a conversation with it under the shadow of the trees, all the while listening to the Song of Wind and Whispers of Birds.
So here it is now, ready to come with me on my next hike (perfect timing with the Sweet Spring coming, am I right?). It has already found its own little spot in my backpack, beside my Forest Beads, the lovely Whispering Woods Oracle deck, and a well-loved French copy of Thoreau’s Walking.
As you probably know by now, I’m an avid Tarot and Oracle consumer, always looking for the next Artistic Gem to add to my collection of decks. I’m also very mindful about the new ones that I want to bring home with me as once they are here, I tend to care for them passionately.
I mean it, each one of them end up being nested comfortably in some sort of Personal Home, be it a bag, a box, or a dedicated shelf / altar of their own. As for today, most of them have their own beautiful unique custom made little bags, swapped with a skilled friend of mine who – unlike me – knows her way around a sewing machine. And some others have their own personalized Wooden Box.
Today I’d like to share one of these with you, partly because I’m quite proud of the work I’ve done on it, but also as a sort of tribute to the Artist who inspired it in the first place. Deviant Moon Tarot, Trionfi della Luna, Mildred Payne’s Pocket and Black Enchantment Oracles… Patrick Valenza’s decks hold a special place in my collection, so I had to create something really special, at least for two of them.
A few months ago, inspired by the thrilling storytelling built around the character of Mildred Payne, I started to imagine a Secret Treasure Box in which her decks of cards could rest. A precious wooden box, that could have been smuggled by little Mildred herself on her way to the Asylum. A box that would keep her Dark Secrets safe, hidden from the insanity of the world outside.
So I just started on a whim, as I usually do when an idea of mine becomes quite obsessive, and I ended up spending a lot of hours on this project. A lot more than I first expected… as I usually do when an idea becomes really obsessive! Because of the gold. Lots and lots of gold.
As you can see here on the top of the box, a good portion of the Eye Symbol – aka the back design of Mildred Payne’s Oracle of Black Enchantment, which I love so very much – is filled with gold leaf. Technically speaking, and only for this part of the work, I am talking about 6 or 7 hours bent on my table.
Absorbed by my creative journey with this box, I completely forgot to count how long I spent on the pyrography, the walnut ink staining, and the black and white painting besides the gilding. I bet it easily doubles the count of hours though.
But oh boy, was it worth it!
In the daylight, you probably won’t really notice the gold if you just pass by and don’t consciously pay attention. But when the Dark Veil of the night falls and you light a couple of candles beside it, you will find a whole different story there.
The gold starts to glow, becomes brighter, unveiling its secret magnificence in the shadows, reflecting the Dance of the Flames in its core, silently revealing what’s hidden in the layers of darkness.
Having to find out what is waiting for you underneath, you can’t resist to open the lid and you suddenly find yourself facing this Devil figure flying in the Night Sky. A reminder that even in the Realm of Shadows, forgotten gems are lying there, waiting to be revealed by the soft light of the Moon to burst like the Stars.
Creativity is born and can only arises from the deep black soil of the unconscious mind, and in her own twisted way, poor little Mildred probably knows it better than anyone else. And I bet his Creator knows it to, because he did a fantastic job with these decks, giving a voice and a staring eye to the darkest layers of the human psyche.
Wooden Amulets are one of my favorite things to create, which is probably why they make the majority of what I have in the shop right now. They really are a pleasure to craft, from the sketch of a new design to the final stroke of walnut ink. I like their roundness, the feeling of the raw bark still on the side… And they are quite versatile too, with different variations in their diameter.
Here, let me talk you through some of the various ways I use them in my day to day life and Spiritual Practice. Maybe a couple of these ideas will end up inspiring you in some ways!
🌿 Witchcraft Practices
Use them in your spellwork. I know, I know, it probably seems obvious given that I intentionally name these ornaments “Amulets” or “Talismans”, but I have to mention it somewhere anyway, so I might as well start with this. It’s a huge part of how I witchcraft myself, when the Wooden Piece is the spell itself, and the creation of it a Magical Act.
For me in this particular case, it’s all about intention and focusing the will while burning the symbols and animals on the Amulet. That’s part of the reason why I chant when I’m crafting my Ogham and Rune Sets. With a little creativity, I bet you can use them in your Craft in many different kinds of way, even if you are not the one who craft the support. Maybe used as a charge, a receptacle of the work you’re doing.
Bonus tip: when you consider the spell done, you can release your Amulets and give them away as offerings to the spirits you work with.
🌿 Nature Offerings
This one seems obvious too now, isn’t it? Use them as an offering, a mark of your devotion and respect. On your Altar, in the Wild Wood you visit regularly, on a Sacred Place or, as a customer of mine used to do, maybe hang them on a branch and leave them to the care of a Beloved Tree…
A bit of a disclaimer here. I’m not telling you to trash a Sacred Site, especially if it is clearly indicated not to leave anything somewhere. You can leave your Amulet for a determined cycle, a Season or whatever time frame seems right to you, and then go back and pick it up. Be sure to ask yourself the right questions and don’t forget to ask the place where you intend to leave your offerings beforehand.
Whatever you end up doing, note that I don’t treat my Wooden Amulets with any chemical product whatsoever. The cotton cord I use is organic, and the wood slices are left raw, except for the parts where there is gold leaf, as I need to apply a thin coat of a water-based varnish to protect it.
🌿 Daily Contemplation
Just like the Meditation Beads I offer in the Spirituality section of my shop, you could use Wooden Amulets as a support to pause and appreciate the Living World around you. There is much to say about Meditation Beads uses and I think they would require a blog post of their own, but as far as Amulets are concerned, I also see many different ways to meditate with this type of support.
Maybe you want to work with the symbolism of an Animal Archetype, and having it materialized in the form of a talisman that you can hold and gaze upon will help you to do so. Or maybe just having a little Piece of Nature in your hands awakening your senses will help you focus on the Present Moment. Maybe you are simply more of a visual type of person, just like me, and having an image to focus on is what works best for you.
🌿 Divination Tools
Since we still are in the Spiritual Realm, here’s another idea: bring them into your Oracle and Tarot Readings. I once crafted 8 small Amulets for myself, representing the different Sabbat Celebrations, and apart for having them on one of my Altars when the time has come, I also use them in my Year Ahead spread.
This is a well-known tarot reading that I personally do during Samhain to have an overview of the year to come based on the Seasonal Markers. Including these Amulets in the process just brings a little more magic to it. If you are interested in having these kind of pieces for yourself, let me know in the comments below or send me a message. I’d be happy to create some for you.
Oh, I also happen to have a whole Lenormand Oracle that I made on wood slices, so as far as Divination goes, this collection of little Amulets is quite a big deal to me.
🌿 Arts & Crafts
Personalize them! Once, a friend of mine picked several Wooden Amulets that I made for her, and created this beautiful wall hanging decor, interlacing branches she gathered on her walks, hanging the wooden pieces to it along some Natural Treasures she collected through the years.
This is something I would love to see more, so if you’re up to it, tell me all about the modifications you made on the Wooden Amulets you got from me. Send me pictures, tag me somewhere I can see it… No seriously, I don’t mind at all to see the Amulets I crafted being modified in any way. Just don’t forget to show me how it turned out. I want to know the Creative Soul that you are!
🌿 Home Protection
How do you feel about a Home Amulet? Just like your usual Samhain or Halloween wreath, hang one in your entrance as a Welcoming Blessing or an Evil Repellent, based on your personal preferences. I personally have one at my front door that says “Cat Inside” and can do both: it attracts the cat-lovers and warns the dog-fanatics to keep a low profile if they dare to knock.
Just joking, I don’t mind dogs, or their owners for what it’s worth. But still. This is feline territory. Bewaaaarrrre!
🌿 Car Air Freshener
Well… You can’t really smell the Earthy Scent of the Tree unless you have your nose less than one inch from your Wooden Amulet – which can be dangerous if you are driving at the same time. But still, hang one on the rear view mirror of your car.
With this simple trick, you could either let the Muggles know about your spiritual preferences and witchy tendencies with a bold Pentagram Amulet, or you could be discreet with a way-less-alarming illustration of your favorite animal, aka your Totem.
Either way, it’s just a sweet little thing to offer to the trusty Motorized Companion that transports you every day to your job and waits for you there, whatever the weather. Just think about it.
🌿 Wall Gallery
Another one? I guess that’d make 8 instead of 7 but who’s counting really. Collect them and make a whole wall decor out of them, where Wild Wolves race with Spring Hares, and the Great Bear meets the Shimmering Stars, where Dreams can be born, and Imagination have space to run Wild and Free.
Wait a minute… that’s actually what I’ve done on a wall of my Atelier!
Are you aware of the Inktober challenge that will soon take place on the Internet? No? Well, it’s as simple as this: one drawing per day during all the month of October, without any restriction except maybe the medium used, ink.
Every year, several artists are gathering together around the #inktober hashtag and this event is the perfect occasion for me to discover new talents that I”m happy to follow for the rest of the year. Needless to say, 2017 won’t make an exception, and I can’t wait for the challenge to begin, so I can lose myself in the social media searching for new illustrations that will bring me light and joy (and with the days growing shorter and shorter, I can use this sort of medication).
Ok fisrt, little highlight here on three artists that I love, and that I hope to see participate this year: Sieskja, Miss Nettle and Movezerb. You can follow them by clicking on the links. Some of them are French-speaking, but you don’t need to understand it to be amazed by their gorgeous illustrations. Now go! Pictures of the 2016 Inktober Challenge are waiting for you there.
Now how about me? I’ve never set myself to the challenge, not because I don’t feel like it, but mostly because I’m not an ink person. Now this got me thinking… a lot. And I guess I’ve found the perfect solution, just as I was waking up the other day. Not really sure ’bout the ink? No worry, just go for what you like the most. So this year, I will take some wood pieces from my stash, let my ever-favorite-companion-tool warm up a bit, and rename the challenge just for the occasion…
Say hi to the brand new “Pyroctober”! 😀
The idea is as simple as the original challenge: I’ll make a daily pyrography, which I’ll present you in the form of a natural wooden talisman. I already have many ideas of drawings to fill this month of October of wild treasures of all kinds. But I’m also going to allow myself to just follow the daily inspiration and what will come to my mind when the time comes. Fall season is always so full of surprises and inspiration that it’d be a foolish mistake to deprive myself of it, isn’t it?
The wooden talismans I’m going to create will be listed on the shop throughout the month, so you can purchase them if one does resonate with you. I’ll also add a special photo album on the Facebook page to regroup the 31 pyrography made during the challenge. Don’t hesitate to follow the #pyroctober hashtag on Instagram too if you want to see daily pictures of them.
I have a couple more ideas that I’ll probably develop while I’m progressing on the challenge, but I won’t talk about it right now. I just got my mind into this thing, and I’m kind of late considering that the challenge will begin in a few days. So I didn’t have the chance so far to really gather my thoughts and really plan for it to happen. It’s kind of messy, but hey, let’s say spontaneity will be the word for this one.
Anyway, I hope that you are as excited as I am by this little creative challenge (actually not so little in the end), and that you’ll enjoy to follow it with me and maybe encourage me to go to the end of it 🙂
A few years ago, I wanted to create a wooden Ogham set for myself (erm, wait a minute, wasn’t the title about a Lenormand?), my very first set actually. Many of you have probably already seen it because I already posted some pictures of it. It’s my favorite Ogham set, proudly made by me from A to Z. However, I never talked much about the process of its creation, and why the sets that I offer in my shop are so different.
I was a literature student at the time, so as expected, definitely broken. But I still was admiring the craft of Sarah Anne Lawless, who had just finished a wonderful Ogham set, each piece of wood illustrated with a representation of its associated tree or bush. Entirely handmade, from the first cut to the wax finish, all beautifully and carefully engraved and painted… This, guys, this made me dream a lot, especially since I wasn’t able to afford such an amazing piece of art like this 😛
But an idea popped into my head, and soon enough I was starting to consider making one set myself. I had a nice woodburning pen already available, and to be honest I was quite good at it. So one day, I just started this project, knowing that it would take me a lot of time to make the full set, but quickly realizing that I had underestimated the impact of my schedule as a student. Creating this Ogham set has been the case of whole months, and it was all accompanied by a lot of scratches and blisters on my hands, due to my lack of knowledge of woodwork, and certainly a lack of good tools for it too.
After the excitement of beginning a new project, there’s been a few moments of total discouragement, where I found myself not wanting to touch a piece of wood ever again. I was desperate to see the end of it, and I was constantly asking myself why I started this in the first place. But I kept going. I clung to the idea of this beautiful and entire set of Oghams, imagining the well hoped result before each new session of work. I kept piling sawdust on one side, pieces of used sandpaper on the other, and I kept spilling watercolor on my desk while trying not to burn my arm on the pyrography pen left still hot just beside me (another inconvenient of a student apartment: the cruel lack of space).
For someone who enjoyed to begin all sorts of projects but was struggling to finish them, let me assure you that this one in particular was a huge challenge for me. Plus, I’m a perfectionist, which doesn’t really help in this case. But throughout this process of creation, I found myself able to push the limits of my perseverance despite fatigue, lassitude, self-criticism and painful hands.
As an additional motivation, I often repeated myself that what really matters wasn’t the destination, only the way, but guess what? Once I’ve finished this Ogham set, I almost swore to myself that I would never do this kind of thing again. I was really proud of the result, but the path had been so long and difficult that I couldn’t even consider taking it again.
A few weeks ago, a new idea popped into my head, one that I really wasn’t expecting. A new project, just as big as the one I just talked about. One that will with no doubt consume my time and energy for a while (at least, I have better tools now, yay!). Encouraged by a few people to whom I had vaguely evoked the idea, here I am, beginning to work on a set of Lenormand on slices of wood again.
I came to be seriously interested in Lenormand in the first part of the year. It’s a divination system that one can learn relatively easily in my opinion, and the more I work with it, the more it keeps getting more interesting and rich. I can now relate each symbol to my personal experience, I continue to find new meanings along the way, I expand my vocabulary… And now I wish I just had a deck that’s just right for me, that’s speaks to me in my own language and understanding. So here I am, drawing a few ideas on the corner of a notebook, to finally have them burned on wood, my favorite material, my daily companion.
As I’m writing this article, I already worked a lot on this new project, since I managed to finish the 12 pieces that you can see in the picture just above (I know, you can only see 11 of them, but let’s keep an element of surprise here). It means I’ve actually done a third of the 36 traditional symbols of the Lenormand. I haven’t done all the illustrations on paper yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what the missing ones will look like. And even if it is a personal work, not directly related to the shop, I still want to share my progress with you 🙂
I obviously have a great number of hours to spend before seeing this new set completely done, I’m not kidding myself with it this time. Between the preparation of the slices of wood, the drawings and their reproductions, the actual engraving and the dying with walnut ink, the acrylic painting (and I could have add some gilding too if it wasn’t complicated enough), I have some stuff to be busy for quite a while! But the thing is, I’m moving in a more peaceful way this time, less pressure on myself, less perfectionism stress… and the best, I have no blister to declare yet :p