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Answering the siren call of desire

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Tarot & Tea, Lemons & Books, Love & Whips, Oh My!

Posted by sirensays on February 8, 2011

Dearest loyal readers:

My apologies for not posting sooner. I had a great response to last Autumn’s posts – thank you, everyone. Autumn is so inspiring, it’s easy to find interesting people to profile. It is certainly the same during the holidays, but as I was focusing on other writing projects, I failed to entertain you with a Solstice/Christmas post and I offer my sincerest apologies. We also have a long-term guest at the house, one who is quite demanding of our time and attention and, unlike your blog host, never apologizes.

Stella Lounging About

She’s a pint-sized package of smarts, moxie and affection, so if you are interested in meeting this foster girl, please drop me a line!

Stella the Foster Dog

Here it is already February of the new year, so I decided to mention some things that you may find of interest.

Book Recommendations

As an avid reader who sometimes gets restless, I find myself looking for old childhood favorites as well as new literature, mysteries and non-fiction. I shop at Amazon, local booksellers Kepler’s and M is for Mystery (a total gem of a place in downtown San Mateo), used bookstores and of course, I keep my library card handy. Here are some you might enjoy:

-If Walls Could Talk, by Juliet Blackwell (yes, she of the author interview last autumn

This is the first of a new series called The Haunted Home Renovation series, set in San Francisco and Oakland. This is a paranormal mystery of the same genre as her witchcraft mystery series. But this features a non-witch, a woman named Mel who is running the family construction (or rather, reconstruction) company, specializing in renovating historic homes. It’s in this story that her ability to see and interact with ghosts manifests, resulting in her involvement in a recent murder, some old history, make new history, possibly rekindle a romance, remain surrounded by believable men, and still be passionate about her trade.

Cover for Juliet Blackwell's "If Walls Could Talk"

I was surprised at how easy it was to learn construction and remodeling lingo, and how exciting Blackwell makes it all. I really like this protagonist because she’s realistically quirky (as opposed to the trend in fake, bitchy & brittle heroines), imperfect but warm, intelligent, knowledgeable and a solid alpha female (it takes one to run a construction crew – I know this because I had a female friend who did so).

With an eccentric sense of style but a thoroughly pragmatic view on construction, Mel takes us not just through this mystery of the murdered man, but also on a tour of Bay Area renovation/used/antiquey/junk shops that I found both enthralling and believable. Do yourself a favor and get this book!

– Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt This book is a classic, especially for girls. Written in the 1960s, it’s a timeless portrait of growing up, coming to understand the world around us and the people who inhabit our lives, including adults.

Young Julie is sent to live with a maiden aunt after her mother dies. Her Aunt Cordelia, a school teacher, lives out in the country. Her effect on young Julie’s life is profound albeit at times quite subtle, as we come to see in the following ten years of Julie’s life. It was this book that got me hooked on the beautiful poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Sara Teasdale, a love I have to this day and was able to share with my sister and girlfriends as a child. I’ve also come to understand that this book, while among many others, was predominant in its influence in how I viewed learning, independent women and the mysteries of autonomous women, a love for the arts and culture, the importance of siblings and family and life in a bygone era that is still relevant today.

If you have a daughter, a niece or any other young girls in your life, please consider this book for them – and don’t forget to consider it for yourself.

-No Flying in the House by Betty Brock A delightful childrens’ story about Annabel, a fairy child and her tiny dog/guardian, Gloria, who mysteriously appears on the terrace of Mrs. Vancourt. Who is this girl, and what’s up with that dog? A book that lent much magic to my childhood, it’s still available from Amazon if you can’t get it from your local library. Another one for the kids in your life, including you.

-Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester This is a quirky, fun read, a bit uneven because the author, by profession, is a gifted tea leaf reader, not a writer. But she brings to vivid life some of her sessions, clients and their stories, told against the backdrop of her personal story. Her intuitive abilities, genuine care for her clients and her adventures with this unusual but ancient practice make this book interesting and fun. For those interested in the metaphysical, I recommend it.

-Under Wraps, by Hannah Jayne is the first of a new series called The Underworld Detection Agency, set in San Francisco. The author, a friend of mine, has a wicked sense of humor, a great imagination and the ability to blend fantasy and reality in a manner that if not channeled into a novel, might grant her a stay on the whacko ward. But luckily, these are modern times, when a gal with Hannah’s talents can land a book contract, work her tush off and have a great new series to show for it. This book drops March 1, but I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. It’s a fun, sassy, wry and witty read that combines mystery, lust and murder in a world where other beings exist but the majority of humans can’t see these beings in their true form. See that little person other there? Well, it may really be a troll.

The main character is a young, smart lady named Sophie Lawson and she is immune to magic, which is why she can see these beings in their true, and sometimes disgusting, unattractive, alluring or wicked form. She works at the Underworld Detectin Agency in San Francisco, a bureaucracy that can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. Sophie seems to know all there is to know about the these otherworldly creatures, be they bloodsuckers, the undead, the magical or the merely strange looking. Or does she? When there are gruesome murders, Sophie finds herself working with the handsome detective Parker Hayes. When Sophie discovers things – including some of these beings – aren’t what they seem, life and death get worse. So then what will a modern, monster-seeing girl do? I know what this non-monster-seeing girl will do – recommend this book! It’s a fun, witty and freaky trip through a San Francisco you haven’t yet experienced.

Okay, so that’s all for the current book recommendations. At the risk of sounding middle-aged, so far this year, I’ve enjoyed relaxing at a tea parlour with friends twice, gone to the local annual orchid show, searching for a local source of organic chicken eggs and become addicted to Downton Abbey ( Thankfully, there will be a second season, otherwise I don’t know how I’d get by. At least there are some newish episodes of Poirot to keep me occupied. Must keep using those “leetle grey cells!”

As impressed as I am by his grey cells and fussy habits, I love Poirot’s secretary, Miss Lemon. I adore her clothes, her demeanor and of course, her name. In fact, I am very focused on lemons right now.

I unconsciously zero in on a few different plants a year, incorporating them into uses both magical and mundane. Last year, it was fennel and borage, the year before that it was lavender, mugwort and mint.

While my current crush is on lemons, I have always loved lemons and other lemon-scented herbs – lemongrass, lemon balm – the aroma, the magical uses, the oils. I love the color of lemons, the waxy green leaves and the bright flavor the fruit imparts, from sparkling water to vinaigrette. We use it frequently on pasta, in salads, teas and other beverages. My Mister and I even made a big batch of limoncello The cheerful, flexible lemon, using it as a physical and spiritual cleanser at home, in the bath and as an extra zing in my tea, is a food that I, the native Californian, no longer take for granted.

Now, we all know that Poirot loves his tea and accompanying delicacies, indicative of tradition in his rapidly changing times. Perhaps that is why so many of us in the 21st century are enamored of it and its requisite rituals, be they oriental or occidental. But what do tea and this blog have in common, besides me of course? Well, when one mentions tea parlor, my mind lights upon the delicacies of the sweets and savories, then focuses in on the idea of tarot and tasseomancy (tea leaf reading). No offense to Poirot, but these seem to be more the pursuit of ladies, blending (pun intended) the comforting culture of tea and snacks with the mysteries of intuition and the unknown. While not strictly the province of women, of course, in a land that doesn’t have high tea, a tea parlour teems with ladies relaxing, laughing and exclaiming over the pot of their choice. Oh, how I wish there was a local place which offered tarot, tasseomancy and tea!

A Man Manfully Enjoying His Tea

At least San Francisco locals hankering to learn about tarot can attend Second Saturday Tarot Workshops offered by the warm and knowledgeable Anastasia Haysler (, who lucky for us, makes them affordable.

For those in the Oakland/Berkeley area, Leila Jo Crawford, proprietor of Crafting the Sacred, has a tarot class as well as does reading and creates lovely little magical crafts and other goodies: Her deep intuitive sense is combined with a loving focus on your well-being; I highly recommend her.

The clairvoyant Dawn Swanson is also incredibly gifted. She is accurate, gentle, has a marvelous sense of humor and is the real deal. She doesn’t teach tarot, but uses cards in her readings, which are either in person or by phone. Dawn will often assist in healing what ails ya, and she has honed her craft into a practice which will enhance your life. She also teaches at Aesclepion in Marin County. Her website:

Well, on to other things, this being Valentine’s season.

The restaurants will offer specials, which is their justification for jacking up their prices, often prohibitively in these lean times. However, I was lucky enough to receive a coupon for Valentine’s dinner at Happi House fast Japanese food; two dinners for $10.99. How wonderfully unromantic! Perhaps Bucca di Beppo, where the insane noise level will drum any thought of romance out of your head?

Like so many, I both love and intensely dislike (how unseemly it would be to use the word “hate” when speaking of love!) Valentine’s Day. I do enjoy its more ancient roots, which involve nudity and whipping – always a winning combination for some. In ancient Rome, there was a festival called Lupercalia which featured young men using skin ships to slap the backside of young ladies to ensure their fertility. Ahhh, so good to know that the more things change, the more they remain the same. I hope that however you choose to celebrate – or not celebrate – Valentine’s Day – whip or whipless, that it’s pleasurable for you.

Please note these future blogposts and events:

-An interview with the lovely Elka Vera, Reiki practitioner, spiritual coach, artist and hypnotherapist. You can check her out here:

-A Mystery Tea this spring, featuring authors mentioned above – Juliet Blackwell and Hannah Jayne, and respectively. Details TBD.

-A review of some natural essences products, all a delight to the senses. Some of these products are for magical uses: powders, baths and oils, all high quality, made with attention and power; the same can be said for the natural perfumes, hand-crafted by a local perfumer. I am looking forward to doing this!

-PantheaCon is just around the corner and in Silicon Valley’s backyard at The Doubletree Hotel in San Jose: Come for the magicalware shopping, stay for the workshops, parties and presentations. See you there!


Posted in Cooking, Dogs, Juliet Blackwell, Magic, Pop Culture, Reading, Tarot, Tasseography, Valentine's Day | 2 Comments »

Second Harvest: Autumn Equinox

Posted by sirensays on September 20, 2009

Is it Samhain Yet?

Is it Samhain Yet?

When Neo-Pagans began using the term Mabon for the Autumn Equinox back in the 70s, they didn’t predict the internet and how it spread the word like wildfire. But whatever you want to call it, this year it falls again on September 22.

While the day isn’t truly balanced out between daytime and nighttime, the day is about seven minutes longer than the night at latitudes up to about 25 degrees, increasing to 10 minutes or more at a latitude of 50 degrees. For many in magical and earthwise communities, be they Pagan or not, the Autumn Equinox signals more harvest (following Lammas at the beginning of August), as well as a time of slowing down, preparing to go inward, looking towards Samhain and Dia de los Muertos or All Souls Day. Most of us have the luxury of doing this because we we don’t farm or ranch for a living. However, for Pagan gardeners, Autumn is an important and exciting time. Here in California, it can also be a confusing time because we get so much hot weather through October. It’s hard to look at Autumn fashion displays and feel a real longing to wear long sleeves, sweaters, wool, tights, corduroy or boots when it’s 80 degrees outside. As I write this, we are in a heatwave and I can’t even get excited about pumpkins, gourds, squash or cornucopias. I can, however, get excited about other Summer-into-Autumn images and archetypes, some from my yard and magical practice. Here are ones that I hope you enjoy:

Relax When It's Shady

Relax When It's Shady



Borage with Lemon Verbena & 2 Types of Mint

Borage with Lemon Verbena & 2 Types of Mint





Green Man with Morning Glory Vines

Green Man with Morning Glory Vines

Wilting Morning Glory Vines

Wilting Morning Glory Vines

Yellow Coreopsis is Friends with Pink Petunia

Yellow Coreopsis is Friends with Pink Petunia

Marigold Antigua Yellow

Marigold Antigua Yellow

Marigold Antigua Orange

Marigold Antigua Orange

Queen of Pentacles

Queen of Pentacles

I hope these pictures convey the richness of Summer with its heat taking us into Autumn here in California. Plants need extra care and protection from the fierceness of the sun, as they are both blooming and wilting, giving us fruit and dying on the vine.

The Queen of Pentacles represents this time of year for me. She is surrounded by the gold of Summer and Harvest, sitting quietly, contemplating the riches and bounty the season has brought her. She is queenly and contemplative, with blooming vines above her and water in the background, the Earth sturdy under her throne. This card reminds to me relax and count my blessings, especially during these trying economic times. In this area, unemployment is 12% but the flowers don’t know it, the Earth doesn’t know it, and my waiting-for-Samhain doggy in the top photo doesn’t know it. All of them just keep on keepin’ on, with some care from us. So I’m going to take a cue from the Queen of Pentacles this season and sit quietly on this sturdy, blooming-while-dying-and-being-reborn Earth, counting my blessings, letting myself slow down in the heat, and enjoy the bounty of the overheated season.

Autumn Tapestry

Autumn Tapestry

Posted in Beauty, Dogs, Holidays | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Answering the Siren Call of Desire: Artemis in Action!

Posted by sirensays on May 21, 2009

The tagline of this blog is “answering the siren call of desire.” I chose this because desire comes in many forms, desire is intrinsic to human nature, it’s a very, very potent force, and it often leads us on countless adventures.

I believe that the extra-strength desire to embark on a big project, make real an idea or a dream or take a stand for something we believe in are all callings. In short, I believe that a calling is a form of extra-strength desire, but it’s often a desire that answers a call from something – or someone – outside of ourselves. For those of us of a spiritual nature, the call we’re answering is often from the Divine in its many forms, echoed within our souls. In my opinion, the Goddess Artemis is a great example of desire in action. Goddess of the hunt, of the wilderness, wild animals, fertility and child-bearing and protector of children, the Greek Artemis aims her arrow true, expertly reaching her target. Talk about desire! Talk about a Siren! Ok, I know Artemis is a Virgin Goddess not associated with siren myths, but she’s a Siren in my book, nonetheless.

And speaking of Sirens…there is a woman in Southern California whose desire in action has produced incredible results. Her calling is tough and rewarding, heart-scorching and joyful, adventurous and mundane. Her name is Tia Maria Torres and she is the founder of Villalobos Rescue Center, a pit bull sanctuary in Agua Dulce, California. Tia is a mom, a wife, an activist, an animal lover, a sensualist and a nature lover. Below is a marvelous picture of Tia, with one her her stalwart rescues:


Tia deals with Hollywood celebrities like Katherine Heigl and Danny Trejo and runs a number of community-related programs, including a fascinating one called “Underdawgz, Inc.,” that has parolees working with pit bulls. Tia also manages other programs, staff and volunteers, and she finds the right homes for the dogs she takes in.

Her calling is time-consuming, especially when being a mom, wife and activist are also factored in. Tia is a woman of ferocious energy, high intelligence, moon-led, star-strung intuition, sun-warmed wisdom, and a marvelously wry sense of humor. Possessing incredible knowledge about all dog breeds, Tia is a risk-taker and the owner of one of the most adventurous and generous hearts I’ve ever come across. I’d love for you to read this moving blog post “Lady of the Night,” about a loose pit bull roaming the woods of La Crescenta Park for a long time, in danger of being killed by coyotes. The stray dog would play peacefully with other dogs, but no one could catch her. Tia went night after night to the park, trying to catch her, to no avail. She was about to give up the hunt when she and another person, a vet tech, managed to wrangle the wild pit bull girl, and Tia took her to Villalobos. The end of this post has links to Villalobos, Tia’s blog featuring the hunt for the dog, now christened Lady, and a link to a How You Can Help page, in case you want to make a donation.

Here’s a picture of the wooded park, where Lady was found:
La Crescenta Park

Tia’s blogpost about the hunt for Lady, the community’s involvement, what it was like to be out in nature looking for Lady, is representative of what it takes for a place like Villalobos to survive. Tia’s determination, her love for dogs, her understanding of nature, her sense of partnership with others and her amazing ability to accept a dog as it is, offering deep understanding and providing what the dog needs to recover as much as it can from hardship – these qualities are the glue that hold Villalobos together. I think it’s the inspiration of Artemis and the siren call of desire.


There is so much heartbreak and drama in animal rescue work that it’s easy to forget about the many happy endings – or new beginnings – that animals have once they’re taken in and adopted. But my main point with this post is to highlight how desire and spirit intertwined, in an adventure that brought me a huge sigh of relief and renewed awe at the mysterious workings of our wondrous world.


I know that all of Tia’s work is deeply spiritual. Her relationships with animals, parolees, kids, law enforcement, Hollywood and the public are all aspects of how she priestesses her life. Her calling to work with neglected, mistreated, abandoned, overbred, misunderstood and demonized dogs is one of the most consistently potent examples of answering the siren call of desire that I’m aware of. Tia, you maverick Siren, the world is a better, brighter, more balanced and joyful place with you in it!

I am looking forward to learning more about Lady the pit bull, how she is adjusting in her new digs, and what lies in her future. I would also love to hear your feedback about this post, and I know Tia would, too. As Tia says at the end of her post – Blessed Be!

Posted in Activism, Dogs, Magic, Mentoring, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s Blooming & Hatching in Your World?

Posted by sirensays on May 3, 2009

Even with the much-needed rainy weather we’re having in the Bay Area, evidence of nature’s hatchings and bloomings are still everywhere. This begs the question – what is blooming and hatching in your world?


Have you taken up a new lifestyle practice, such as meditation or more family dinners? Have you been working more to contribute to the bottom line at work and protect your job? Do you have a new interest or hobby that you’re focusing on? Send me your news and comments, please!

With Obama working hard (albeit, with some controversy), to get this country in better shape than he inherited 100 days ago, the economic forecast still being somewhat confusing and dour, people trying to save money, or their homes, schools, jobs or anything else frayed or torn with budget cuts and the swine ‘flu cutting a swath through some communities, I want to know what people are doing this season that gives them pleasure, feeds their soul, makes them laugh, flirt and dance! Do you go to the beach, to the park, to concerts or clubs? Do you picnic, sing in a rockabilly band or do volunteer work?

Recently, I’ve been to the beach 3 times, been a guest at a lovely small dinner party where the canines outnumbered the humans, was on the receiving end of a lovely bouquet of tulips, discovered a new mystery series, baked cookies and attended a birthday party. You could say I’m blooming pleasure and hatching delight!

Posted in Beauty, Dogs, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »