Midsummer Magic

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The longest day is approaching, Midsummer, and like the missing girls from Picnic at Hanging Rock, I feel entranced by the seductive and mysterious formations of nature, day-dreaming of nothing more than wanting to escape, escape, escape. Along with the solstice, we enter the mothering, all-encompassing water sign of Cancer ending the week with a New Moon on Friday. Mercury and Mars will also be in Cancer, brave sailors navigating the soothing and turbulent waves of blue. With all this palpable lunar energy swirling around, I’ve been finding myself listening to Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that Brian Wilson, who penned the emotional classic exploring the contemplative nature of summertime, is a Cancer born right around the Summer Solstice. For the rest of the month, be prepared to surrender to the lessons found in waves and let yourself be engulfed, nourished and healed by the element of water.

Midsummer is not a high holiday in traditional Wicca, yet it is universally regarded as one of the most potent times for all kinds of magic; love spells, manifestation, fertility and abundance. Everything is fecund and alive, with flora and fauna at its peak expression of beauty and bounty as Midsummer yields the second harvest. Children, and many adults alike, take a break from the mundane world of work and responsibilities to play, explore and live. Summer is a time of adventure and reflection, whether through traveling to new places, meeting new lovers or deepening the bonds among current partners. Midsummer is a time to cast spells of manifestation as well as to thank the earth for what she has already provided. The heat forces us to feel everything whether it is a pleasing sensation or not, which cannot be avoided even with modern luxuries like air conditioning. I love feeling the heat on my skin, like Maggie the Cat, I am alive in summer and enjoy the opportunity to release toxins and pheromones, my body restoring all its levels.

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At Midsummer, the Oak King, who is the king of the Waxing Year, battles and loses to the Holly King, God of the Waning Year, who changes the season and reigns supreme until Midwinter when he will die and be reborn as the Oak King. The cycles continue, and seasons are to be treasured for they last only for a few fleeting moments. If you live in a northern clime, this arrival of sunshine is much needed after months of perpetual darkness. The mythology of the Oak and Holly King has been synchronized over the years with the story of John the Baptist as the Oak King, whose death and legacy is remembered on June 24th, St. John’s Day, which along with earlier Midsummer pagan practices has become a universal time of bonfires and celebration across Europe, Scandinavia as well as in New Orleans where Voodoo practitioners also celebrate this as a peak time for magic. (The Holly King is of course Jesus who succeeds John and has his celebration in wintertime.)

Midsummer is both a fire and water festival, fire representing the God in all his powerful light and deep waters representative of the Goddess, as she is fully ripe, having given birth and now dances among the flowers with her lover.  A longstanding tradition is to have two bonfires or twin flames at Midsummer and either dance through them or jump over them.  As a modern witch, I’m not a purist and what I cherish about pagan practices is what we all collectively honor and celebrate. This is the beauty of spirituality at its highest good. Midsummer combines various folklore, mythology and history throughout the years. This has resulted in some fun universal practices, such as the aforementioned bonfires, rolling in a field of dew naked to attract a loved one and collecting eight different flowers and putting them under a pillow to see your future lover in dreams. St. John’s Wort, an herb used for protection, is best collected around Midsummer and should be tossed into the bonfire along with other herbs such as mugwort, lavender, yarrow, verbena, roses, male fern, cinquefoil, chamomile, mistletoe and of course any other flowers or herbs that resonate with you.

MIDSUMMER IS UNIVERSALLY REGARDED AS ONE OF THE MOST POTENT TIMES FOR ALL KINDS OF MAGIC; LOVE SPELLS, MANIFESTATION, FERTILITY AND ABUNDANCE.

Janet Farrar, co-author of The Witches Bible, wrote, “Everything flows, nothing is static. Life is a process, not a state; and the witches’ Sabbats are essentially a means of putting oneself in tune with that process.” Over the next few days, take the time to slow down and feel the air, earth, fire and water all within and around you. What elements feel out of balance and need the most attention? Spend time by a body of water or take a cool summer bath with any of the herbs and flowers mentioned. Light an orange, yellow or red candle to celebrate the power of the Sun and give thanks to its radiant light, and as you jump over the candle remember that this is a brief moment in your life and like the sun it too will wane and fade. Hold this sense memory in your heart as well as all the tales you will collect during this Midsummer season.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger: The Quicksilver Truth of Gemini

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In Renaissance magic, aeromancy, the act of divining the future by studying cloud formations, wind currents, and all things air, was classified as one of the seven “forbidden arts.” In the sky today, a New Moon is in Gemini and I find myself experimenting with this ancient practice by watching the gray clouds morph as they release what looks like tears from heaven. It’s funny how we try to control and plan our lives around the weather, something we can forecast yet not entirely predict — much like the elusive and multi-faceted nature of Gemini. I think about recent good fortune as bombs simultaneously detonate around the globe. I feel a mixture of shame, helplessness, yet am optimistic and hopeful that the tides will turn. How can these opposing energies coexist? During Gemini season we are shown the full range of possibilities that lie between all extremes.

Gemini’s glyph shows two pillars, light and dark, masculine and feminine, and various polarities that exist in nature and within us. Along with earthy Virgo, Gemini is ruled by Mercury, whose Roman mythology originates from earlier Greek myths of Hermes. The word mercurial is commonly used to refer to something or someone whom you can’t quite pin down; an energy that can be impulsive, changeable and erratic. Mercury, like all the Geminis that blow my mind, are always in some kind of motion be it physical or mental, wearing winged shoes, a messenger’s hat, and armed with a caduceus — a staff with two entwined snakes. Not only do they deliver the goods, but do it with style. As messenger to the gods, and ruler of communication, commerce, eloquence, timing and trickery, we derive the expression, “don’t shoot the messenger.” Known for his speed and swiftness, Mercury the planet was named for its quick 88 day orbit around the sun. Like Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” No wonder Gemini often gets a bad reputation since one of its core roles is to carry and convey sometimes uncomfortable yet pertinent news.

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Gemini also represents the twins, Castor and Pollux, born in springtime from the full belly of the Empress archetype of Taurus. Like many parent-child relationships, Gemini possesses the curious nature to question authority and challenge, with the innate ability to mirror our similarities and reveal stark differences all at once. With their quicksilver tongue they can sometimes appear to be contrarian or totally blunt, but they’re simply trying to get to the bottom of it. I’m eternally grateful for the Castor to my Pollux, a warm and witty Gemini who sat me down and helped me deal with my sexuality, without shame or judgment, instead using humor and frank honesty. The quintessential “wild child,” of the Zodiac, at least in my experience, freaky genius Gemini wants to taste each flavor of the rainbow before making up their mind as part of a quest for intellectual stimulation, discovery, and truth. In this Gemini season we have to examine our truths and get radically real about the myths we’ve perpetuated and any other white lies we’ve been telling ourselves or other people. Think of Truman Capote’s character Holly Golightly in the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her lithe frame, ability to exist in two worlds and maintain her social butterfly charms are all examples of the Gemini vibration. Holly insists that she cannot be trapped down by love or social norms yet her supposed free-spirited lifestyle is simply another type of trap.

DIVINATION, LIKE AIR ITSELF, IS TRANSITORY AND CAN OFFER MESSAGES BUT IT’S UP TO YOU TO RECEIVE THEM OR LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

In the next few days, find a spot in nature where you can observe the clouds and peer into the big sky. Think about the space between you and the heavens, its vast expansiveness holds many lessons. Ruminate on duality. Divination, like air itself, is transitory and can offer messages but it’s up to you to receive them or look the other way. As you take in these clouds, how do they appear to you?  Remember being a child looking up at the sky with a friend, both gazing at the same cloud yet viewing entirely different things? Keep this in mind during our variable Gemini season and stay receptive to whatever messages the clouds may hold for you in their feathery tufts.

Photo Credit: “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967” by Diane Arbus

Fleeting Beauties of Spring

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“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now.” – A.E. Housman

As we welcome the season of springtime this Monday, March 20th with the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, I find myself craving moments of quiet beauty. The Spring Equinox, also referred to as Ostara, is a time of balance between night and day where we celebrate the promise of beginnings, sweet romances unfurling, and blossoms opening their tender petals. We have also been tangled up in the midst of a very funny Venus retrograde in Aries, the most un-Venetian placement possible. Dear Aries often learns the hard way, leaping first without looking and only when they’ve hit rock bottom can they gather perspective and have an “a-ha” moment. In matters of the heart and all relationships, Aries blazes trails and speaks their passions loudly, yet doesn’t always think about how their catharsis can be someone else’s burden. Until April 15th, Venus retrograding in Aries forces us to slow down and analyze our actions while reviewing our modalities of self-care. We will all be April’s fools within this time frame, all of our behaviors being called out for re-examination. How does our level of self-care affect our relationships? Are we obsessed with our own state of perfect equilibrium that we fail to see those in strife right around us? Or is our lack of self-care something we find noble; we are brave, strong warriors with bigger battles to fight. Aries loves to go, go, go and with the slow reveal of spring this year, our impatience for change and all things new will be tested. The magic of this season calls for initiations but the bigger lesson can be found in the quiet details of savoring the moment.

Hanami is the Japanese art of appreciating the fleeting beauty of flowers, particularly the cherry and plum blossoms. Starting at the end of March through May, the Japanese have paused to appreciate a moment in nature for centuries. I have been practicing this custom in my own way with the most exquisite batch of roses collected from my partner. Every night I have been cultivating them; watching their full expression and then carefully drying the petals for use in future perfumes, baths and incenses. For me, these roses hold not only the promise of commitment and appreciation, but also a warm memory of a romantic moment in time that will be transformed into something lasting. The language of flowers is silent but speaks volumes as we watch their process and apply it to our own desires. Springtime is a transitory, like flowers, it will only last for a brief moment. Use the week to participate in some customs of Ostara. Here are five of my favorites:

  • Spring Cleaning: Open up your closets without fear and use the Aries confidence to face old mementos, clothing or any items that may remind you of a past lover or painful event and throw it out or give it away. To attract something new you must have space to usher it in.
  • Collecting and Drying Flowers: Buy your favorite bouquet and enjoy watching them bloom. Once the flowers start to wilt, separate the petals and lay them on a towel to dry for approximately two days. Re-use them in baths, sachets, oils, and countlessways.rosepetals
    • Letter writing and Putting to Rest the Pain of Unrequited Love: Retrogrades, especially in Venus, bring up memories of past lovers and friendships that have soured. Take the time to write out everything you wanted to say but never could, write out your tears, disappointments and then ceremoniously burn the letter. If possible bury the ashes in the park or a place where the ground is fertile and energy can transform. Take back your power by truly putting painful events to rest.
    • Candle Magic: Firstly this week, burn a large white candle for cleansing, equilibrium and healing. On March 27th we have a New Moon in Aries, which is an opportune time to burn a fiery red or orange candle for confidence, bravery and strength. Stand in a Superwoman pose as you watch the burning flame and trust that when the time is right, you will emerge bold and bright.
    • See Old Friends and Listen to their Wisdom: Use this time to reconnect with “oldies but goodies” and learn from their experiences. Celebrate all the hurdles you’ve overcome together and toast to the beauty of the moment in your friendship.

    Someone recently said to me, “even small wounds need to be healed.” This Ostara, as the cherry blossoms, peonies and roses begin to bloom, remind yourself that you will too, transform and emerge, in due time.

    Ostara_by_Johannes_Gehrts

In Goddess We Trust

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I’m still glowing with the energetic waves of protest from the Women’s March here in NYC and collectively all over the world. One goddess and asteroid in particular came to me this week in meditations on activism. Pallas Athene, born out of Jupiter’s head, is the virgin goddess of wisdom. She represents creative intelligence, strategy and justice carried out with thoughtful and careful approaches rather than violent action. With the New Moon in Aquarius on Friday January 27th at 7:07pm EST, revolutionary feelings are amongst us and as witches we must be inspired by the call to action not just globally but personally.

Uranus, all funny jokes aside, rules Aquarius; it is an explosive, unpredictable and groundbreaking energy that can be harnessed in constructive and destructive ways. How are your actions affecting your community? What can you do to best express your true self with integrity? Aquarius time asks all of life’s “big questions” out loud so all can hear. How can one live confidently as themselves when the act of being yourself seems dangerous? The personal, now more than ever, is truly political. Now is the time to act as Pallas Athene would, as wise warriors listening to others and weaving a web of united problem-solvers and active participants. We’ve got to have each other’s backs.

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Pallas Athene is the embodiment of the Queen of Swords in the Tarot, full of precision, bestowed with gifts of critical thinking and the gift of gab, which all Air signs possess. Her astute mind is symbolized by her sharp sword of clarity, able to envision the future and slice through delusional cobwebs clogging up our thought processes. Her animal guides include the serpent full of knowledge and magical prowess as well as the owl that knows what secrets are spoken within the trees.

The mythology of Pallas Athene always reminds me of my brave and beautiful partner. A fearless and proud member of the queer community, she always uses strategy and compassion in her arguments, never losing sight of the bigger picture of social inclusion for all, even when a crazy person shouts obscenities and follows her home. My heart broke this week thinking how terrifying this is and yet how many people of all colors, orientations or of different opinions are being targeted as the enemy. What a perfect Goddess to channel as we enter Aquarius, symbolized by the “water-bearer,” an image of flowing waves, dispensing truths and egalitarian concepts. Aquarians famously walk to the beat of their own drum and now is the time to listen closely to psychic beats for they will guide us through the last stages of winter’s darkness and keep us focused on our important missions. The New Moon in Aquarius beckons us to be ourselves, boldly, and to take a shot in the dark because it’s filled with stars, isn’t it? And aren’t we all made up of the same cosmic matter?

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Originally published on Slutist

December Will Be Magic Again

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As I sit hunched over in my frigid apartment warming my extremities with space heaters and candlelight, I hear Kate Bush’s lyrics in my ear repeating like a mantra, “December Will Be Magic Again.” I breathe her mystical soprano in and repeat her words. Lighting a gold candle I watch the bright flame grow and cast my spell; I refuse to be consumed by fear in 2017. The true spirit of Yuletide season is found in its joyful traditions. We worship the returning light and celebrate the birth of the Sun King, the sweet babe born on the longest, chilliest night in December. This comforting mythology is a reminder that life, however painful it may feel, now does in fact go on.

Since Samhain, it’s been pretty bleak and almost exhausting to conjure up or even believe in the power of magic. We wake up to images of foreign and not so foreign children covered in soot and blood, as smug celebrities with their designer imposters become heads of states. A sense of urgent responsibility and a call to action descends upon us as we enter Capricorn season and celebrate the Winter Solstice on Wednesday December 21st. Not so coincidently, as Mercury just went retrograde in Capricorn, Father Time’s sense of order and tradition is now being torn asunder. Mercury in Capricorn is all about climbing the ladder with a strategic and logical course of action, using previous knowledge from “tried and true” methods combined with brainy innovation to accomplish earthly goals. While the cosmic and literal universe may be making you feel like everything is out of your control, one thing witches know is how to take back their power and draw down the Divine. Whether you are a witch or not, I invite you to reconnect with your inner power on this Winter Solstice. Yule celebrates the male God energy of the Sun, the resilience and strength that we all carry within ourselves.

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Create a winter altar with seasonal greens such as pine, holly or ivy and mulled wine. Light a yellow or gold candle to symbolize the God archetype who has many names in various pantheons such as Ra, Apollo or Helios. Light your Yule candle and hold it above your head visualizing the powerful Sun God descending down into your body. Slowly and carefully, pull the candle down and hold it near your third eye for about a minute, then spend some time with each chakra, holding the candle near your throat and then your heart. Once you reach your stomach or Solar plexus, take as much time as you need and let it out with a yell, or cry and release any residual pain or resentment, disappointment or anxiety you may be feeling. Visualize fear and any blockages related to confidence melting away like an icicle transforming into nothing for fear has no real power. Imagine the rays warming up your entire body, conquering all obstacles, for you are as strong and vital as the Sun King himself. Blessed Yule and Happy New Year!

Death, The Chariot and with Temperance, Comes the Sun.

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As the Moon reaches her full expression in Capricorn this week, I woke up with Jim Morrison’s smooth anthem, “Riders on the Storm” playing in my head and the image of an open road stretched across a red desert landscape. The pace was slow and meaningful and every roadside attraction that I stumbled upon I was destined to see. Funny thing is, I can’t drive and I can’t recall any of the signs.

“Why?” has been the resounding question as daily horrors keep erupting at a rapid pace. There is no justice, no resolve, and our dreams for life, love and the pursuit of happiness feel at times trivial or too huge and far, far out of reach. This summer has been equal parts stagnation and revolution. What’s been soothing and useful for me is exploring the introspective places that lay between, with the aid of my divination tool of choice, the Tarot.

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After having a powerful reading exchange with one of my most trusted witches, I kept thinking about how the The Chariot card reversed made a prominent appearance. I thought about my fear of driving and my 4:00am fever dream. Maybe it’s time to get behind the wheel, symbolically and literally? The metaphor, along with The Chariot card, can hold many meanings, but for this New Yorker who relies on strong soles, the fear is twofold and comes from being raised by a reckless driver along with feeling insecure in a leadership position. My boots have gotten me farther than I ever could have imagined, but in this dream I was Queen of the Open Road, cruising down a dirt highway that wasn’t accessible to my feet. What’s the message? The Chariot reversed, as my dear witch friend assured me, meant that all the momentum is just within reach, but that I’ve got to remember Temperance, or patience. She was there, too, in the spread, next to The Chariot with a balanced, calm smile, infinite waters ebbing and flowing, her gaze practically mouthing, “All in good time, all in good time.” Sometimes, no action in the best course of action.

Tarot is a language of promise, divination, wisdom and direction. Tarot has also been my daily smoke, food and spiritual practice all rolled into one. Rituals work in part due to their repetition, and when your question needs an answer, Tarot can deliver. But like a new language, you have to attempt to decipher the lingo as foreign and mysterious as it may initially seem. Like an old friend who can gently warn you about dangers you can’t see, the Tarot can, too. With its earth-shattering and witty wisdom, both come from an intimate and loving place.

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My reading had a delayed effect and I found myself wishing for a suburban porch where I could go outside at night and have a private consultation with the Moon. My bathtub and some Enya had to suffice, and as I lay there thinking about the big questions, I pulled from the deck the following cards: Death, The Chariot again, and then there was The Sun. All of these cards have been major players in my Summer of Introspection. First, Death came in late June as my 94-year-old grandmother in Portugal passed on. That day I was in a panic over whether to fly there or not and I pulled dear old reliable Death from my deck and said of course, time to say goodbye. When you observe the Death card in its classic Rider-Waite imagery, artist Pamela Coleman Smith imagined the skull-faced grim reaper on his horse taking down whoever is in his path regardless of age or social status. In the background of the card I always notice the setting sun and that every dog, (and person) will have their day. I said goodbye to my grandmother who I was convinced was a gypsy with her waist length black hair and leathered skin. I gave thanks to her exotic mystery and extreme strength bearing eight children in rural poverty, never losing dignity.

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As the evening went, on I kept thinking about what lies between or rather what connects these cards in their wise and direct messages. When you’re in The Chariot driving towards an exciting new chapter, you’re fearless, taking chances with a level of courage to be reckoned with. Yet, you’re still a smooth rider, not losing your temper or your focus. Only with Death, those sudden moments of unstoppable change, do you get knocked off your Chariot, but with Temperance always comes the rising Sun, a new day and a new dawn. These dear and faithful cards provide the introspection and the warm embrace we all can use during these turbulent, hot summer days.

Maiden to Mother: Fertility as Creative Magic

 

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The darling buds of May are cautiously making their grand debut. As the sun brightens up my living room this morning, I feel a sense of restoration. Despite my gothic pallor, I’m an eternal girl of summer armed with SPF 50 and jet-black shades. As New Yorkers shed their clothes in an act of liberation, more and more women around me reveal their pregnant bellies. As a tarot reader and a woman about town, I’ve been getting asked about my own potential motherhood more frequently and the other day it finally hit me; goodbye maiden hood and hello motherhood. Welcome to your thirties.

Fertility magic, is traditional this time of year for witches; the Goddess and God have frolicked under the Maypole, delighting each other with sexual experimentation having found a perfect marriage of bliss, trust and passion within each other. The Goddess is fertilized during the month of May and her pregnancy is celebrated during Midsummer (June 21st.) A lot has been written about the mythology of The Triple Goddess, which can be interpreted as three phases of womanhood. First there is the Virgin Maiden, eyes wide open and enthusiastic representing the waxing moon. Next we enter the Full Moon and there is the Mother, sexually ripe, fertile and giver of life. Finally as the moon wanes, the elegant, deep and noble Crone emerges from the shadows, bestowing precious gems of knowledge if we are wise enough to put down our smartphones and listen. Never did I think I would get to this place but here I am in my early thirties grieving my carefree maidenhood more than I expected. Finding grey hairs, not on your head, would wake anyone up, but what’s actually challenging at this stage in the game is finding yourself smack in the middle of supposed motherhood, but to whom? Or more importantly, to what purpose? What do you want to create and be known for? Becoming a parent isn’t for everyone, yet fertility energy is unavoidable as we are all alive and vital beings. The question is how to use it. This is the time of year where we should all get in touch with our own fertility regardless of the gender spectrum.

“Diana in Repose,” by Paul Jacques Aime Baudry

Use the energy of spring to engage in acts of conscious fertility. In the poetic words of Susun Weed, the expert herbalist and author of “Down There, Sexual and Reproductive Health,” psychic healers view ovaries as a “basket of collected wisdom or creative potential, including but not limited to childbearing.” She also writes about how important it is to “unstick your rage” from your ovaries with conscious exercise. For men, the testicles hold the potent life force and they too need to keep it moving. Whether it is kickboxing or vogueing, the key to creativity is flow. I live by Sunset Park and if I’m up early enough to catch my older neighbors practicing the art of Tai Chi, I’m reminded of the daily, seamless practice to keep one’s flow of life moving regardless of obstacles and life’s interruptions. The biggest misconception with both creativity and fertility is that it comes in unexpected bursts and you have to wait for that wave to happen and then jump on and ride it out. You can cultivate the fertile process daily, so you can expect waves much more frequently. A ritual I do this time of year is for the orisha Yemaya, the Sea Queen and goddess of the ocean. She represents fertility, motherhood, and a warm salty sea embrace. She is a spirit that has been at my side before I had words to describe and identify her energy. Perhaps when I was a Catholic child it was the energy of the Virgin Mary with her similar maternal smile, draped in blue and white colors, but either way, swimming in shades of blue has always felt like the Divine essence of femininity to me. As a child visiting family in Portugal, my cousin told me to jump the waves 7 times for protection and luck.

“A Mermaid,” John William Waterhouse

To this day every year I bring to the ocean white flowers, a bit of melon and try to wear either a blue or white dress and walk into the ocean. I give Yemaya 7 flowers, (her sacred number) and a bit of melon or lettuce and jump the waves 7 times, thanking her for courage despite rocky waters and breathing in the foamy scent of her waves. Try to do this ritual early when the sun is rising so you have optimal privacy and find your rhythm in the waves, honoring your health and fertility. Creative juices are charged and it’s time to create, something or someone. Lilacs, Pansies and Roses are all a bloom and so are you.

Originally published on Slutist