Out of the Broomcloset: Style, or substance?

Out of the Broomcloset Holiday phot
Out of the Broomcloset Holiday photo by Leon Calafiore

Oh well, here we are, contemplating the holiday season, the dark time of the year, our calendar adding another digit to forget when writing checks for the ensuing several months (if you still engage in that sort of behavior; personally I only wrote one this entire year). Then there’s the whole conundrum, if presents you present, do they have presence? It might be best to consider the sage words of Miss Vida Boheme; “It all comes down to that age-old decision; style, or substance?” which particularly holds true if either you are magically inclined and wish to spread the joy of the season in this vein, and/or the recipient is known to be involved in some aspect of the magical arts.

In the mundane world, we have all been guilty of passing along items of dubious utility, as well as being recipients of well-intentioned objects gifted to us, for unfathomable reasons. I recall a great aunt, knowing me to be a reader, giving me the 1963 equivalent of a speak and spell; I was in the third grade at that time.

On the other hand, at 11, I was ungrateful when an older cousin gave me Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River. I still owe them an apology for my initial reaction, and still own the album. So, we all operate on a shifting continuum of present viability.

As well, there are the aforementioned blurred lines between style or substance. We all swim in the same ocean of images and associations, but they can incur wildly different reactions. With the ever-expanding use of occult imagery in popular culture at all levels, it’s difficult to know whether a potential gift item has utility, would be considered an insult, or would be cherished for its camp value.

Companies like Urban Outfitters will regularly produce collections based on imagery appropriated from various cultures, occult businesses of every stripe stock items that appeal to some manner of crossover crowd (i.e., base metal unicorns frolicking with dolphins, a faux crystal hanging between them). I’m of the mind that, if you know someone that wants such a thing, don’t be the enabler.

Most of my fellow travelers would not be unhappy with an original, signed photograph of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stevens, however (or Endora, or Aunt Clara). Maleficent as a statuette would rarely go amiss, especially after Angelina Jolie‘s reinterpretation of the character. I do hope that the younger readers are familiar with camp. Feel free to write me if this makes no sense to you, or read Joan Didion’s “Notes on Camp,” or consider John Waters as a guide.

What follows are suggestions for the gifting season that might stand a fair chance of being used. High on the list are candles, of every size and description. In the Northern Hemisphere, in most cultures, the emphasis is on finding light in the darkness, and what better way than with these? Beeswax is best, but solid-colored paraffin candles will do just as well. If you’re inclined to be a bit more “esoteric,” a good oil lamp might end up on your gifting list.

Good incense is always appreciated, no matter the particulars of an individual’s spiritual path. Pleasant scent is a joy to the Lord, no matter who they may be; witness the proliferation of Glade plug-ins and the like. A good, sturdy receptacle for burning incense is never amiss, no matter what an individual might already have in their possession.

A beautiful bound blank book or journal can be appropriate, even when it is sitting there, empty, a reproach to not taking pen to hand. We rely too much on the digital world, and it can be taken away with a few keystrokes by unknown, unseen hands; the written word is still the safest word.

Second to last, beautiful boxes, coffers, and the like, in which to keep secrets, or pencil stubs, the choice is yours.

But finally, the gift of empathy, sincere bonds of affection for those who surround us, to keep them safe, to console, and to lift them up. “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” y’all, and Happy Solstice!