Friday, 30 August 2019

Movie Review: Sphere (1998)

We're wrapping up deep sea horror week with my favorite of the lot, Sphere (1998). I've seen a lot of hate for this one (yeah, Jay hates it too) but I don't understand why. It's clever, it's creepy, the cast is great, and it has a powerful message. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do a summary for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

A team of professionals led by Dustin Hoffman's Norman are brought in for reasons that aren't explained to them until it's too late to say no. They learn a spacecraft has been discovered--under 300 years' of coral. It's soon discovered that they were selected because of a report Norman wrote for the government years ago that was, shall we say, less than honest. Beth (Sharon Stone), Harry (Samuel L. Jackson), and Ted (Liev Scheiber) handle that information a lot better then I would have. Stuck with an alien at the bottom of the ocean because some effer fabricated a bogus first-contact plan for the money?

The alien wouldn't have a chance to kill him.

(Also, I'm not a huge Hoffman fan. Dude mumbles. Drives me crazy.)


Once again, we have a perfect example of the military stomping around, ignoring anyone and everything but their mission. Unsurprising. Military aside (and I can't believe Queen Latifah has such a small, unimportant role,) the chemistry among the main cast is fantastic. It's clear early on that they have a history, which creates excellent tension--and that's before they're put in a tin can and whisked to a place where their survival depends on trusting each other.

I like the way the movie is divided into sections (ie: The Spacecraft, The Sphere, etc.) because it guides viewers along and controls the pace. Sphere also has both good comedic moments (using helium to decompress, for example) and brilliant scares (the sea snake still terrifies me, even twenty years after seeing it in the cinema.) The effects are solid and believable. Over all, Sphere is shot well and entertaining.

So... what don't I like about it? (You knew that was coming.) Well, Beth supposedly has a history of mental illness--though you're given just enough backstory to suspect that Norman (her doctor) fibbed about that as well. The moment shit hits the fan, Mr. Military (Peter Coyote's Barnes) immediately starts sowing seeds of doubt about Beth's ability to handle the situation. Later, when the alien life form finds its way onto their base, Harry takes over with raised eyebrows and pointed looks.

Hey, everybody, don't trust her, she's mental.

Ugh. Like I don't have to put up with that enough in my own life!

Despite what Dictator Trump would have you believe, mental illness does not make you inherently dangerous, people!

Okay, sorry. Back to the story.

Naturally, with other men telling him not to trust Beth, Norman--who, by the way is the reason she has a problem in the first place--starts to believe she can't be trusted. Typical.

I find it interesting that the character with a mental illness is a woman. There's a good question here: is Beth untrustworthy only because she has a history of mental illness, or because she's a woman? Answers on a postcard, please.

Gotta say, I don't think Norman's such a great psychiatrist. He's supposed to be a master of the human mind and he does have moments of brilliance but, for the most part, he misreads situations, misses important clues, and does a terrible job of keeping the child-like alien from throwing a tantrum that threatens to destroy them all.

Sounds about like every shrink the NHS has sent me to!

Fast forward and you've got three humans with the power to change reality with their minds (kind of like the one Trump thinks he has.) The way they deal with it is the nice, kumbaya option. Oh, and by the way, I couldn't help but notice that the black man and the woman are like, "Fuck this. We can't handle this power!" while the white man is like, "Now, hang on a minute... let's talk about this."

Here's my issue with the ending: if they understood the power that they had, why not just think happy thoughts? They could have done wonderful things for the world, even in the short-term. Worried about the military dissecting you for it? Think they won't! And, honestly, I don't believe all three people would agree to forget. You just know that someone (I'm looking at you, Norman) would pretend he did but keep using the power.


Until I watched it again, I'd forgotten how much I like Sphere. It's nowhere near as confusing as some reviewers claim it is. Everything is explained well and it's clearly sign-posted all the way through. Sphere does run over two hours but it doesn't feel like it. The movie is so engaging that it flies by. It's got pretty awful ratings anywhere you look and I just don't understand that because I love Sphere. Love or hate it? Let me know.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Movie Review: Deep Rising (1998)

I might be taking a few liberties when I include Deep Rising (1998) in a list of deep sea horror since none of the action actually takes place there but, hey, my blog, my rules. Deep Rising isn't a super scary movie. It's more of a comedic action flick but there are creepy aspects and there's a monster from the depths so we're making it work, m'kay?

Let's talk plot.

Han Solo wannabe John Finnegan (Treat Williams) takes a job ferrying a group of heavily-armed hijackers led by Wes Studi's Hanover to Simon Canton's (Anthony Heald) newly-launched, hedonistic cruise ship. They have every intention of robbing the ship blind--except, when they get there, they find it already invaded by a bunch of sea monsters who happen to like the taste of humans.


I like Deep Rising. It's fun to watch and makes me laugh out loud. Yes, the CGI is dreadful (I mean really, really bad) but it's got a lot else going for it. For starters, it has a massively diverse cast--though, of course, only two women: the victim (Una Damon's Leila) and the damsel (Famke Janssen's Trillian St. James).

Okay, I'm not being fair to Leila and Trillian. They're both great characters. They're competent, intelligent, and strong. I just get a little tired of action movies being dominated by men, ya know?

At least they don't throw around the "b" word quite so often in this one. Although... there is a whole different kind of sexism in place in Deep Rising. Everything is "lady" in this one and when Trillian doesn't behave, she's a "trollop." So, we've gone from movies where every woman who asserts herself is a bitch to movies where women are free to be powerful--so long as they act like a lady while doing it!

I cannot roll my eyes hard enough.

Final pet peeve: the "grease monkey" jokes get old. They can't do anything without him but show him a complete lack of respect. Lame.

Right, moving on.

Deep Rising sometimes feels like two different movies in one. There's the comedic action movie, then there's the action/horror movie. There are good jumps, lots of male blustering, and tons of laughs. Kevin J. O'Connor's Joey Pantucci is the ultimate in comic relief, with his squeaky voice and Why me? attitude. The humor continues right to the end, when it looks like the leading man and woman will walk off into the sunset together. I don't want to spoil it for anyone in case you haven't seen it but, if you don't laugh at the end of Deep Rising, you're dead inside.

Although the science is more than questionable and the CGI is cringe-worthy, Deep Rising is a riotous explosion of action/adventure with lurking, tentacled horror creeping just below the surface that makes for great entertainment.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Movie Review: The Abyss (1989)

Let's keep this deep-sea boat sailing, shall we? Today, we're going to be taking a look at James Cameron's The Abyss (1989).

A group of miners led by Ed Harris's Bud Brigman are called in to assist a team of gung ho Navy SEALs when they have a bit of a problem with a missing nuclear sub. Add corporate interference in the form of Bud's nearly-ex-wife, Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and you've got a tricky situation well before you toss in some bottom-dwelling sentient sea life.

The Abyss was relatively overlooked when it was released (probably because the theatrical version was cut to shit) but, over time, it has earned classic status. Now, you can watch the full director's cut and, really, that's the only way to go. If you watch the theatrical version, chances are it won't make a whole lot of sense. (Hence why it was originally a flop in the cinemas.)

In some ways, The Abyss shares many faults with other movies that were released around the same time like Leviathan and Deepstar Six. For starters, there's the bitch thing. I don't know how many times the "b" word is dropped in these three movies but it's a lot. Enough to make me pretty fucking twitchy. When I hear this constant abuse in movies I have to wonder, did the people who make them hate all women or just powerful women?

(And don't even get me started on how the only black woman is a total yokel. *sigh*)

Yes, there's the typical (totally expected) Eighties brand sexism, but The Abyss is far removed from its peers in most other ways. There's quality, for starters. You can instantly tell that The Abyss is something different when it starts. (If you couldn't tell from the nearly three hour run-time.) Unlike most other aquatic movies, The Abyss doesn't start with some random shot of tranquil sea life; it gets right into the action with a fatalistic feel driven by a military drumbeat.

The underwater shots are just beautiful to look at. Cameron's use of light and shadow can't be beaten. His use of color is more subtle, but just as effective. It changes from almost grey-blue, when they're near their ship, to pink-blue when the creatures are near. It's beautifully done.

There was some argument here at Castle Vanian over whether or not The Abyss is technically a horror movie. Jay says no--but I'm more easily frightened than he is and those dead bodies floating in the sub creep me the fuck out. If I have to sleep with the lights on, it's a horror.

I won't deny that science fiction is the dominant genre of the film and the sci-fi is also well done. The creatures living at the bottom of the ocean, controlling the oceans, seem part alien, part jellyfish and are stunning to look at. They manage to feel otherworldly while still looking natural.

The main antagonist of the movie isn't one of the glowing creatures the divers find but one of the Navy SEALs (Michael Biehn's Lt. Coffey) whose jackass personality is amplified by pressure sickness that makes him straight up batshit crazy. Eventually, his own people turn against him--but not before he manages to put the lives of the mining corporation, his fellow SEALs, and the creatures at risk.

I won't lie. I have serious issues with military personnel. The Abyss doesn't help with my general animosity toward the military because the SEALs clearly don't give a damn about anything beside their supposed mission--including human life. The whole movie is set against a rising escalation between (of course) America and Russia. This movie definitely brought back some unpleasant fears from the Cold War that I thought I'd buried a long time ago.


There's also the nuclear threat, which is hardly surprising since we're talking about Russia and the Cold War. (It's worth mentioning that nuclear weaponry is also a major factor in Deepstar Six.) The nuclear theme is especially relevant now, with all the recent talk of Chernobyl and, yeah, another nuclear explosion just weeks ago in Russia.


The thing that amazes me about The Abyss isn't how well filmed it is or the fantastic caliber of actors used (both true) but how much happens. Where most movies would start wrapping things up, The Abyss hits its halfway point. You'd think that at nearly three hours long, it would feel long but it really doesn't. The Abyss stays interesting, stays intense right to the end.

Yes, The Abyss does have a sort of wishy-washy, super nice ending--but not in a way that makes you want to gag. It's a good ending with a powerful message that is every bit as important now as it was when the film was made thirty years ago.

The Abyss is shot well and has a solid plot, believable characters, engaging action, and hateful villains. It has everything you need for a classic sci-fi/horror and shows a remarkable attention to detail. (I really love all the little humanizing touches, like a Garfield doll in the window.) The alien-like creatures are slick and the graphics are seamless. My only complaint with The Abyss is that I think the creatures made a bad decision.

They should have wiped us out when they had the chance. No way humans would allow them to exist without trying to take them out. Some idiot leader would view it as a threat and find a way to boil the oceans (you know, faster than we already are.) Clearly, the creatures have more faith in humanity than I do...

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Movie Review: Deepstar Six (1989)

Deep sea week here at Wondra's World continues with Deepstar Six (1989). Quite similar to Leviathan in many ways, Deepstar Six is about a team of people working underwater who come up against a monster.

I struggled with this one because it's a little unclear at first why the crew's down there, since some people appear to be there to perform scientific research wile others are there as part of a military mission to install an underwater missile silo. All becomes clear, though, when shit hits the fan and the scientists who want to explore the cavern they discover before blowing the shit out of it and plonking bombs on top of it are told where they can go. It's a military operation that scientists are allowed to tag along on.

(Incidentally, the scientist in question is a woman so whether she's dismissed because of her opinions or because of her gender is unclear. )

The most interesting thing about this premise is the idea of hiding missile silos at the bottom of the ocean. I can only shake my head because it's so... human. We never stop finding new ways to turn every inch of the planet into a potential war zone.


I'll start by saying that I didn't care much for Deepstar Six. It was a little too bland, too nice for my tastes. A little too nice and a lot more boring. A movie about aquatic monsters really shouldn't be so hard to get through.

There are elements of Deepstar Six that do work, though. For instance, they do a good job of character development. It's character-driven, with a strong romantic element. That being said, the endless technobabble and predictable scenarios undo all the hard work they do in making you care about the crew members. Deepstar Six grows so tedious that you don't care what happens to the crew, as long as it happens soon.

The crew of Deepstar Six are, at least competent (unlike the crew of Leviathan.) They care about doing their job right, even if they do allow themselves to be bullied into continuing with the mission after logic dictates it should end. It's nice that the crew is made up with many familiar faces, including Miguel Ferrer, Greg Evigan, and Nia Peeples. (Though none of the performances really stand out.)

Although the blatant sexism and constant sexual jokes are tedious, Deepstar Six impressed me in other ways. I like that the man in charge (Taurean Blacque's Laidlaw) is black. It's a little thing, maybe, but even today many movies show a shocking lack of people of color in positions of authority. Sadly, he's a total dickwad and blindly follows his own agenda, which brings up all kinds of issues about authority, but it's a start.

Deepstar Six doesn't age as well as Leviathan, though much of the technology is similar. The problem lies in futuristic seacraft and cringe-worthy models that are just too horrible to be believable. (I like the funky scuba suits, though. Reminds me of Bioshock.) Oh, and the godawful monster, of course!

Seriously. It's terrible.

At least they're careful about how much of the monster they reveal until later in the movie--a very, very wise move.

The movie is just too long and the music is always too loud. Female characters are either sexualized, insulted, or completely dismissed. Both the graphics and the acting are mediocre at best. Overall, Deepstar Six is just blah.

Monday, 26 August 2019

30 Killer Back-to-School Movies

School can be murder. Literally.

These 30 movies are the perfect balm for anyone who isn't all that excited about heading back to those hallowed halls of learning. Whether you like your horror psychological or with a slasher - old school or new school - this list has something that will hit your cathartic sweet spot.

1. The Craft (1996)
A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft, and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who anger them.
2. Carrie (1976)
Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
3. Scream (1996)
A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.
4. Detention (2011)
As a copycat killer named after movie villain Cinderhella stalks the student body at Grizzly Lake High School, a group of co-eds band together to survive while serving detention.
5. Final Destination (2000)
After a teenager has a terrifying vision of him and his friends dying in a plane crash, he prevents the accident only to have Death hunt them down, one by one.
6. Cry Wolf (2005)
Eight unsuspecting high school seniors at a posh boarding school, who delight themselves on playing games of lies, come face-to-face with terror and learn that nobody believes a liar - even when they're telling the truth.
7. The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008)
A girl with PTSD attempts to refresh her life at a new school, but soon finds it impossible when she's afflicted by not only bullying and bad memories, but also the supernatural.
8. Graduation Day (1981)
A masked killer begins murdering students on the school track team after a track runner dies upon completion of a 30 second 200-meter race.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.
10. Tragedy Girls (2017)
A twist on the slasher genre, following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small mid-western town into a frenzy, and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.
11. Cherry Falls (2000)
In the small town of Cherry Falls, a psychotic murderer is killing off the virgins of the local high school.
12. Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
Set a few days after the original, a championship basketball team's bus is attacked by The Creeper, the winged, flesh-eating terror, on the last day of his 23-day feeding frenzy.
13. The Woods (2006)
Set in 1965 New England, a troubled girl encounters mysterious happenings in the woods surrounding an isolated girls school that she was sent to by her disinterested parents.
14. Happy Death Day (2017)
A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer's identity.
15. Pulse (2006)
When their computer hacker friend accidentally channels a mysterious wireless signal, a group of co-eds rally to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world.
16. Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)
The pupils at a high school next to a nuclear power plant start acting and looking strange after buying contaminated drugs from a plant worker.
17. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Two death-obsessed sisters, outcasts in their suburban neighborhood, must deal with the tragic consequences when one of them is bitten by a deadly werewolf.
18. Disturbing Behavior (1998)
The new kid in Cradle Bay, Washington stumbles across something sinister about the town's method of transforming its unruly teens into upstanding citizens.
19. Halloween H20 (1998)
Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time, as the life of her own son hangs in the balance.
20. The Faculty (1998)
Students suspect that their teachers are aliens after bizarre occurrences.
21. Jennifer's Body (2009)
A newly possessed high school cheerleader turns into a succubus who specializes in killing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?
22. Prom Night (1980)
At a high school senior prom, a masked killer stalks four teenagers who were responsible for the accidental death of a classmate six years previously.
23. The Awakening (2011)
In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves.
24. Evilspeak (1981)
An outcast military cadet taps into a way to summon demons and cast spells on his tormentors through his computer.
25. My Soul to Take (2010)
A serial killer returns to his hometown to stalk seven children who share the same birthday as the date he was allegedly put to rest.
26. Black Christmas (1974)
During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
27. Cutting Class (1989)
A murderer is loose in a high school in this 'whodunit' movie.
28. Most Likely to Die (2015)
A group of former classmates gather for a pre-party at one of their homes the night before their 10-year high school reunion, and one by one, they are brutally slain in a manner befitting each's senior yearbook superlative.
29. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a killing zombie. Some teenagers start to fight against them.
30. Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999)
The story of a girl who is willing to do anything to become Valedictorian, even if it means murdering the teacher that stands in her way.

Which of these movies is your favorite? Do you have  one that wasn't included? Let me know!

Movie Review: Leviathan (1989)

We're kicking off a week of deep sea action/horror here on Wondra's World with Leviathan (1989), in which an American mining colony stumbles across a sunken Soviet vessel that should have remained undiscovered. There's not much more to it than that, since there's not much in the way of character development or side plots. It's effective as the schlock horror that it is--as long as you don't mind a bit of good, old-fashioned 80's sexism.

Fuck it.

I'm going to skip the usually accepted "shit sandwich" method and go straight for what I didn't like about Leviathan.

Daniel Stern (who you'll recognize from Home Alone) plays Buzz "Sixpack" Parrish who is, I'm sure, meant to be the comic relief but just comes across as a total douche nozzle. He sexually harasses both the female crew members (which they take with an attitude of "aw, shucks") relentlessly and his bunk is plastered with glossy tits. I won't say what happens to him, for the sake of spoilers, but by the time the action picks up, you're praying for some big, nasty sea monster to show up and gobble his ass up.

There are some great bits of humor in Leviathan but none of them are provided by Sixpack's boarish behavior which, really, could only amuse twelve-year-old boys.

My only other complaint with Leviathan is the film's lead, Peter Weller (Steven Beck.) Peter Weller is a kind, polite person--but not a good actor. His acting ability might have been enough to carry the role of tortured robot, but not heroic deep-sea captain. It's just painful to watch his emotionless delivery as he tries to control the crew that has no respect for him.

Okay, I think I got that out of my system. Let's talk Leviathan.

I like the movie's intro. The sinister music playing over the tranquil seascape is ominous and a good sign of what's to come. The music can be a little overpowering in places throughout the movie but it works particularly well during the intro.

Leviathan gets off to a good start with music that suggests spooky things to come. It also does a good job of creating conflict by making it clear that the crew doesn't all get along. In addition, the movie starts at a time when they're already on edge, just days before their months-long mission is supposed to end. It's clear that the smallest thing will set off a sea of trouble (pardon the pun) and, of course, it does.

The effects are simple but effective. The underwater walk with the sunken ship and the waving sea life look very realistic. Even the technology, which should feel terrible outdated now, works. You would expect computers, etc. to be a little out-of-date in places like mining colonies, no matter the location, so it just adds to the dingy, this-is-where-people-work feeling of the base.

It also helps that the weapons the crew pick up to defend themselves from the lurking monster are just mining tools. We don't think about it, but weapons can also age a movie. Leviathan has aged better than it should have because of the setting and the weapons.

The movie's monster is actually pretty cool. It changes as it grows, becoming more grotesque as it absorbs its victims. I like that it was created by humans through experiments in genetic manipulation. There's nothing outside, nothing other there; it's all human error, which is more terrifying than anything else, really.

In Leviathan, human... greed, for lack of a better word, drives us to dangerous depths--both figuratively and literally. I'm not just talking about Sixpack helping himself to the loot in the Soviet vessel, but the crew being down there in the first place. Humans have no right being at the bottom of the ocean but as long as there are minerals to be found (and money to be made from those minerals,) that's exactly where humans will be.

If it sounds like I'm being judgy it's because I am.

Humans suck.

Luckily, Leviathan doesn't. Sure, it's basically just Aquatic Alien, but it works. It's got a bit of humor, plenty of action, and a "twist" ending that's actually a fun surprise. If you're looking for a little deep sea horror, Leviathan is a good choice.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, 23 August 2019

10 Tips for a Witchy Autumn

Autumn is, without a doubt, the most magickal time of the year. Just look around you... the world is undergoing a major transformation--and isn't that what magick is, transformation?

It's also a period of invigoration and reflection. We get to take a break from the madness of summer vacation, family holidays, and scorching heat to enjoy crisp mornings and golden afternoons. Soon, we'll have to face the stress-filled craziness of the holiday season but, for now, we can take things a bit slower and really enjoy the magick happening all around us.

You don't have to call yourself a witch to appreciate the magick of autumn. This list is for everyone, from those just beginning their journeys, to those who walk other paths, and even those of us who've been at this a very long time. As the woman says, there's a little witch in all of us--and I'm here to help you wake them up!

If you feel like there's something... more, something in the air calling to you that you can't quite name, you're ready to embrace the magick of autumn. Here are ten tips to help you do just that:

10 Tips for a Witchy Autumn

1. Visit a Farm/Farmer's Market

Autumn is a time of abundance--thanks to the hard work of the people who go largely unnoticed and unappreciated. Farming is a thankless job, especially these days. Forgo the supermarket this autumn and visit your local farm or farmer's market instead. That's where the real magick happens.

We are able to feast this autumn because hardworking farmers have given so much of their time and energy to raise crops from seed to final produce. Every bite you take is infused with their energy, their passion, and their love. Every bite is full of magick.

Oh, and while you're at the farm or farmer's market, or where ever you can purchase locally grown items, be sure to thank the farmers for their hard work and sacrifice.

2. Pick Your Own

Hopefully, you live in an area that has a pick-your-own farm. Unfortunately, we don't (anymore,) which makes me sad because there's nothing more magickal than getting out there and collecting your own fruit and veg. It's more than just the ability to select the pieces that call to you--though it's that as well! (And food that you've had a hand in selecting personally always tastes better.) Visiting a pick-your-own farm is magickal because it creates bonds.

Whether you go with your children, besties, or significant others, a trip to a pick-your-own farm is special experience. It takes you away from the bustling, too crowded, over stimulated supermarkets and puts you in a relatively isolated patch of nature. Surrounded by growing things, hand-picking food that will feed your bodies, you'll be creating bonds that will last long past autumn.

Some pick-your-own ideas for the season: blackberries, apples, pears, pumpkins, and more!

3. Go for a walk

Time out. Get out of the house. Leave the technology behind. Go for a walk. 

This isn't a grumpy old woman thing (I'm getting there, trust me.) but a call to experience, feel, and engage. Don't get me wrong, Pinterest is fun and all but looking at #autumn images isn't the same as being smack in the middle of them. 

Go for a walk--by yourself or with someone you love--and open yourself up to the magick happening all around you. See the way the leaves are changing? Hear the scuttle of squirrels busily stocking up for winter? See the glint of sunlight across the tops of the fields? You're soaking up the magick of the season. Let it fill you so that when you get home and have to go back to your busy life, you'll have something to power your actions. 

4. Gather Nuts

I should be more specific: gather nuts, cones, berries, seeds, etc. This is a great thing to do on your walk for so many reasons. First of all, Mother Nature has spend months busily making these amazing, beautiful, tasty creations and she wants you to notice! (Be sure to thank Her while you're at it. It's just polite.) Secondly, it's fun. The hubs and I went nutting just this week and had a laugh raining hazelnuts down on each other's heads. Also, do you have any idea how expensive these things are in the supermarket?! 

Whether you're collecting to eat or decorate, getting out there and picking berries, nuts, and seeds yourself is the smart option. For poor people like us, it's also the cheap option. But be smart! Make sure you know exactly what you're picking and what is safe to eat. 

Also, never completely strip any tree or bush. Be respectful to Mother Nature and Her other children. Don't be greedy. Always leave at least 1/3 for wildlife and so the plant can propagate for next season. You wouldn't want some gutsy guest to gobble up the last of your snacks, would you?

5. Play in the Leaves

This is where the most visible magick of the season is happening. The magick of transformation is out there for everyone to see. Even those who don't feel it can see it, right outside their windows. The world is exploding in a riotous fire of color. How can you be part of that magick, rather than just a spectator?

Go be part of it!

Walk through the leaves and listen to the noise they make when you kick them up or crunch them underfoot. Help your kids rake them into piles then invoke your own childhood by jumping into those piles. If you're not comfortable with calling yourself a witch, try some leaf art. Press them, dip them in wax, do rubbings. If you're not afraid to wear your witchiness like a badge of honor, why not try a leaf spell? Here's a very simple leaf spell to get you started.

6. Have a Bonfire

Autumn is a perfect time for gathering around a bonfire with friends. Go on, my little fire signs (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius) get out there and do your thing. Light it up. 

(You know, in a safe way, being respectful of the awesome power of fire.)

Joking aside, now is a great time to work with this particular element. There's something undeniably primal about the roar of a bonfire; something in the way it chases off the growing darkness. And don't be mistaken: the darkness is growing. The nights are getting longer and longer. Soon, those who work 9-5s will start to feel like night is all there is. 

Don't let the darkness bring you down. Gather your loved ones together and turn the long nights into celebrations with a bonfire as your beacon, your guide. 

7. Have a Clear-Out

Many people save their big clear-outs for spring but autumn cleaning can be just as effective. 

As I said before, autumn is a period of transformation. We're leaving behind one part of the year, one part of our lives, and entering a new one. To make room for all the good things the next season can bring and all the possibilities the new year holds (Samhain/Halloween marks the end of a witch's year,) we need to clear out all the things weighing us down and holding us back. 

And, yes, I do mean physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

Pack up all the shit you don't need, chase away the cobwebs, and get ready to invite good things into your life. Maybe that means a pile of clothes need to go to Goodwill or maybe it means that person you've been seeing needs to take a hike. Do whatever clearing out your life needs right now.

8. Restock Your Herbs/Spices

Whether you use your herbs/spices for spellwork or cooking, now is the time to check them. Is it time to replace your stock? When it comes to cooking, your spices and herbs should be replaced every 1-4 years, depending on what they are. When it comes to spellwork, consider keeping to the lower end of that time frame. Why? 

If you're using your herbs/spices for spells or other magickal workings, you want them to be as powerful as possible. The longer they've been locked away in jars and hidden away in trunks, drawers, and cabinets, the less powerful they will be. I like to ensure the effectiveness of my herbs/spices by replacing them each year if I'm able. (Obviously, you'll have to consider things like availability and cost.)

The best herbs & spices to utilize this autumn are: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, sage, and mugwort.

9. Get Baking 

I'm no kitchen witch (seriously, it's dangerous for the whole neighborhood when I try to cook) but if you are, this season belongs to you! 

Cooking, baking, etc. are inherently witchy. I mean... you're essentially mixing up a potion to create this magickal thing that gives us life. Damn, that's impressive. 

The bounty of autumn is best used in breads, crumbles, and pies. Take those apples, pears, blackberries, pumpkins, etc. that you collected and get baking! 

Probably the best part about it is that you can share. Baking up some autumn deliciousness gives you the chance to connect with neighbors and even the larger community--something that's increasingly important as autumn slides into the darker, colder, winter. 

10. Craft Like a Mother

There's nothing witchier than crafting. It is, at its heart, an act of creation. You put a tiny piece of yourself into every thing you make. That's magick. 

Autumn is a great time for crafts like crochet and knitting because we all want to be a little warmer; to snuggle under warm blankets and bundle up inside thick sweaters. You can weave magick into every item you crochet or knit. Knot spells are some of the oldest there are and, really, that's all knitting and crochet are. 

But you don't have to limit yourself to yarncraft. I already mentioned things like leaf art but there are a couple of seriously magickal things that we haven't touched on yet. One is possibly the most iconic images of the season: the scarecrow. 

Instead of buying a scarecrow for your yard this year, why not make your own? Make it a family event. Name it. Charge it with guarding your home (whether or not you have any actual crops for the birds to gnaw on.) Teach your little ones the history of scarecrows while you work. Another great bonding opportunity brought to you by the magick of autumn.

There's no season quite so magickal as Autumn. These are just ten ways to embrace that magick. Do you have any favorite activities that make you feel witchy in the autumn? I'd love to hear them. Get in touch.