All Hallows Eve

by Cari on 10/31/2016

in Wheel of the Year,Writing

Hallowmas altar


Dear ones
Your mute voices clamor in my ear
Thin fingers pluck at my hem
Your dry tears clot my throat
I bear your unquiet loss.

I light the candles
I call the directions
I bring the flowers
I keep the faith, the waste, the plaint
I give the breath, the blood, the bone

It is for me to write
Your untold stories
But the ink runs out
I write words with air.
I carry you and I lay you down

You are dust now
Shades that flicker behind my eyes
This body has its own riddle to solve
Rest you now. Rest.

In the dim light, at the dark moon
I tarry at the crossroads
Wrap my holy heat close
And dance in all the worlds

- Cari Ferraro



Autumn Equinox calligraphy

The autumn equinox arrives today. The great wheel of time turns. The darker half of the year draws near, whether we will or no. And as sometimes happens, “I was summoned, from the branches of night …” by an old friend.


Moving through
this scaffolding of days
Holding solace in dreams
and murmurs of memory
I wander through the house
the shadows and sawdust
the bones of old desires
And I wonder
Where is the bliss? The old fire?
So quiet now.
But listen:
a small sound says

- Cari Ferraro

with thanks to Laurie Doctor for her musings, and always, the great Pablo Neruda



Lammas Altar Corn Husk Dollies

It’s Lammas time again, the first of the three harvest festivals and the one that especially honours the bread and the brew.  My altar has artwork for the body of grain, bread art representing the female and male principles, two favourite corn dollies made by my daughter when she was young,  a favorite framed harvest photo, a favorite piece of rock art of the Hunter/Shaman from the Four Corners area of the Southwest, a copper etching of another ancient spirit  from Sweden, the visage of the Green Spirit as a mask (another art offering from my talented daughter), and fragrant juniper freshly pruned from a tree in my courtyard.  And always, my rock friends and a string of stars.

Lammas Altar Corn Husk Dollies

And a journal page from last year in which I explored some versal  letterforms.

Tending an altar, lighting a candle, arranging my symbolic things, these are all a form of solace and centering for me.  And I have long thought of my journal as a kind of personal sacred space, an altar. It’s a place where I can explore, sort, honor, and comfort.

The fact is, I’ve been struggling with some medical issues.  It doesn’t really matter what they are, but my mobility and freedom are restricted right now, so building an altar is my solace, when I can’t spend time in my garden.

This is my offering for this turn of the wheel. Writing these posts helps to keep me connected to my practice and to you all.  My gratitude to you for reading.


A heartfelt postscript:  I am so moved as your responses come in; thank you. I am always selective about what I share, and that almost never includes vulnerability or physical challenges. But I should know by now that I have nothing to fear by doing so, and everything to gain.  I can’t say this any better than a  great wisdom teacher, Rachel Naomi Remen: “Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of.”  So this, this caring and compassion from you, enlarges  and enriches my harvest of healing. Deep gratitude.


Her Story

by Cari on 07/28/2016

in Herstory

Hillary, Chelsea, Dorothy

Herstory. Her story.  It’s been a long time since I wrote a post in this category. But this week a woman’s story is a central narrative. The Democratic National Convention  gathered to applaud and nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the first Madame President of the United States. A daughter, a mother, a grandmother.  I have been pretty much beside myself with excitement this whole election season. Today is the culmination of a rugged primary season. In November we’ll be seeing an even better one. Tonight we are all smiles, and no words, just tears.

So for words, I transcribed these from the video that did not play at the convention but which was made to honor Hillary’s mother, Dorothy, a litany of the women who inspire and lead us (do follow the link and watch it, I was not able to embed it here):

“. . . she’d be the first to tell you she did not do this alone; she did it by standing on the shoulders of so many women who came before. Standing on each other’s shoulders is how our gender has always moved forward, be it through biology  or inspiration. Tonight we say thank you to Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Margaret Chase Smith, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Harper Lee, Bella Abzug, Sally Ride, Maya Angelou, Dolores Huerta, and Geraldine Ferraro, all heroes of Hillary Rodham Clinton. But certainly no one inspired her more than one tiny unbreakable eight-year-old whose own dream of all little girls being valued rests on the shoulders of her daughter now.

“Tonight we say thank you to all the women who would not take no for an answer: you dreamers and schemers, you rabble-rousers and hell-raisers, you petticoat abolitionists, you chain-smoking pants-wearing exhibitionists, you educators, agitators, and aviators, you risk-takers, you rule breakers, you unlikely heroes, you white-gloved, teacup-serving Mrs. John Does, with your homemade soap boxes and your brazen public rants, you lady pals, and career gals, you I’ve-got-big-plans smarty-pants. To all the men who marched for our cause, thank you, friend, for showing the world what a real man does. Thank you to all you highflying death-defying ladybirds, you crazy ocean-swimming maniacs, you dazzled us with your impossible dreams and then you turned them into facts. When you were knocked down, you got up. When others said stop, you said go. When they said quit, you said no. Thank you for your breathtaking patience, and you-ain’t-seem-nothing-yet audacity. Thank you for showing us how good courage can look, carrying a purse and wearing a pillbox hat. Thank you for teaching us, from Annabel Whitford to Laila Ali that little girls can also float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Thank you to all the mothers for endowing us with such glorious new recruits to fight the battle that is not over yet. And speaking of multiplying thank you for giving birth to entire human race. The journey of women, like America’s journey, is always evolving toward equality and social justice. Our trajectory, like that another indomitable female, has always been up. How  far can we go? It appears the sky’s the limit. But one thing is for sure: if Dorothy Rodham’s daughter has her way, every little girl and boy who dares to dream will be coming with us.”


Journal signatures and cover paper

This year’s journal has arrived in summer, now opposite from the beginning of the calendar year. But since I observe time in a circular way, any day on the wheel of the year is the first day of the year that will follow.

Journal - emergent pages and inclusions

As usual I begin working on the pages long before they are bound into a book. I like carrying the nascent journal around for a month or two, before joining it to the remaining blank signatures in an actual book.

Journal signatures and punched spine holes

I choose a longstitch binding, one I learned many years ago from Carol Pallesen. Usually I use soft leather, but a dive into the flat files unearths this strip of Arches hot press watercolor paper, paste painted a vivid blue. It is exactly the height of the pages, apparently meant for just this journal.

Journal - longstitch binding sewing holes jig

The jig for sewing stations is made by careful measuring, equidistant marking, and consideration of all the bits I stuff between the pages every year, so not too tight. I make the holes with a Japanese push drill and a 1 mm bit.

Journal - long stitch binding with kettle stitch

The first kettle stitch  is sewn backward from the second into the first signature, before moving ahead to the third signature.

Journal - sewing the kettle stitch

Thus the kettle stitch establishes a kind of bridge between every other signature, giving a greater stability to the sewn structure.

Journal wraparound paper with leather strap closure

The strap is best threaded through the scored side of the long back cover; allowing the wraparound to either overlap the front cover, or tuck underneath it.

Journal - leather strap knotted

Here is an inside view  of the strap construction.  For a tutorial on how to make this kind of closure go here.

Journal -  leather strap wrap closure

The journal is bound and wrapped, ready to go.

Journal - open pages

Most of the signatures are wrapped with a decorative paper, allowing for folds and pockets. The writing paper is a Zerkall text weight with a lovely velvety vellum finish.  It takes pen calligraphy beautifully, as well as some of the wetter media that I like. A paper towel on the still-damp paper and a light weight help relax the pages flat again.

Journal - sideways writing on gatefold page

Exploring the meaning of revision by radically revising my original entry, I block it out with dark Intense pencils, and add a list of synonyms with a gold gel pen.

Journal desk

The desk at Lammastide brings out journals old and new. A tarot reading for the workspace: 4 of Swords, for my time of retreat and rest; 8 of Pentacles, for my ever present craft; Knight of Wands, for the the restless creative urge. I’m quite fond of my summery journal, blue and white. It is a kind of refuge, a private place for catching stray bits of meditations, dreams, and ponderings.

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Alice Book_Page Spread

I am so excited to share news of a luscious new publication celebrating the work of one of my very favorite people, Alice. I wrote about Alice’s effect on my career a few years ago. So of course I am delighted that her fifty-plus years of unflagging excellence in the production of freelance calligraphy is being showcased in a fine new book.

Because it seems that to make anything of quality these days you must first crowdfund it, that is exactly what lettering artist and type designer Jerry Kelly is doing, over at Kickstarter, for the rest of this month. In what may be a rare occurrence outside the realms of rock and roll, the book of Alice reached its funding goal in under a week after its initial public offering. But there is still time for you to contribute to this worthy project. Extra funds collected are helping with production costs and giving this book some extra sheen.

Most of the higher-level rewards have already been snapped up, but the first level deluxe edition includes ten of Alice’s teaching charts. To my mind this is the best reward of all for contributing to this project. If you never had a chance to study with her, these charts will go a long way toward correcting that. Alice never did publish an instructional book, so this is the next best thing.

Alice Book Exemplars

Alice, by gender or generation, has never spent too much energy “tooting her own horn.” At long last, she is able to enjoy the rest of us doing it for her. Her immaculate calligraphy and inspired designs will make this book a true collector’s item, and a welcome addition to any serious student’s bookshelf.


Summer Solstice Journal Page 2015

Summer seems to touch on a time out of time, when we cease our striving and doing, for a few moments, and simply be. My to-do list is slowly becoming my to-be list. Like the sun in the sky, I too seem to stand still.

Summer_Solstice Altar

At midsummer I feel a sort of threshold: looking back, looking forward, centered in the year. Even as the days grow hotter, they also soon begin to grow shorter as we begin the long journey toward that other threshold at Yule, winding in and out of the labyrinth, over and over again.

Summer_Sage Rose Lavender Bundles

Summer June Moon Page

Now is the holy time to gather my herbs and make medicine, to finish an old journal and begin a new one, to read the tarot for its mysteries and magic, to retreat to the waters and the wild at Wilbur Hot Springs for a few days of bliss, to slow down. In simply being, there is much solace and rest.

Summer_Sun MoonTarot

There is so much LIGHT. And this year both sun and moon shine so brightly on summer solstice, that both day and night are filled with illumination.

Summer_Mugwort Sunrise

Wilbur Mineral Water

Bliss 2016 journal page

May we all blessed be.

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Believe In The Magic Of Kindness_screen

It is easy to forget that kindness can help to ease difference of opinion and lessen hatred. In these days of political discord at best and outright terror at worst, I can’t pretend that a little calligraphy will do anything to change that. Sometimes all we can do is try to add a little beauty to the world.

I begin with black ink on white paper, very old-school. I do the line work on an overlay – a translucent sheet of paper – and then scan it all into my MacBook Pro and composite the final artwork in Photoshop. This kind of flourishing is sometimes called “cabbage” by scribes. It is very fun to do but very easy to overdo. As decorated as this word is, I started out with more “cabbage” and pared it down. Each letter’s line work references the letter.

Magic Of Kindness_sketch

I created this as my contribution for the 2017 Heart to Heart calendar. You can read a little more about this long-running project here, or see some of my other work for it here.

May we all have a bit more of the magic of kindness in our lives and share it with those around us.



A flowery hat for Beltane

‘Twas a lovely Beltane morning bringing up the sun with the Morris dancers at the Baylands. When we wake at 4 a.m. to roll out of bed for this sunrise ceremony of frolic and awe, we grumble and wonder at ourselves, but what if the sun did NOT rise because we were too lazy to help the dancers see it up?

My preparations for Beltane this year were sweet, and cautious. Taking some time off from my calligraphic creative work, I’ve spent the whole weekend honoring the turn of the Wheel, tending the altar and feeling the magic of summer’s arrival, another kind of creative work for me. After last year’s tumble down some stairs at the liminal time of dusk, I was feeling a bit wary and last night took care to offer a bit of milk to the Good People and ask for protection. Perhaps it is all superstition, but who wants to take the chance? With a nod to my Irish ancestors, I spent some time with Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde (Oscar Wilde’s mum) and her book, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland (1887). Another blog, Living Liminally, also offered some ideas.

And I garlanded my hat with garden flowers: roses, foxglove, yarrow and lavender: traditional herbs and pretty poisons. This most ancient practice, in its many forms, is a kind of charm to bring harmony between the human and natural worlds throughout the year.

I spent some time reading the lore I love at these festival times of year, and was especially impressed with “May Day, Beltane, and the Menace of May Eve” since it has plenty of history, particularly about the traditional protections I was interested in invoking. I was delighted with the professor’s quotation from one I consider to be practically a primary source: ”Morris dancing was a widespread seasonal spectacle, as noted by Shakespeare in All’s Well That Ends Well (1602-3): ‘A pancake for Shrove Tuesday, a morris for May Day’, and even today there are Morris dancers at dawn . . . to welcome – or conjure – in the summer.” Whatever would we do without our poets to remind us of the old ways? Here’s another, lovely, lovely . . .

So, forthwith, here are a few low light photos of this morning’s round of magic:

Predawn Abbots Bromley horn dancers and mummers

The horn dancers and mummers began the festivities.

Mad Molly morris dancers Beltane morning

Mad Molly brought an appropriate amount of shouting and crazy costumery.

Deer Creek Morris men and women

Deer Creek Morris men and women did a very fine job, and all together, we . . .

The Beltane sun arrives!

brought up the sun!

After our bit of dawn conjuring, we went and ate pancakes. Bringing in summer is hungry business!

There is more to be done to celebrate this favorite holy day, napping high among them. Until later, I leave you with a bit of advice from the professor:

“. . . let us celebrate May Day as a festival independent of the forces of standardization and profit: sing your own songs, dance your own dances, bring something special to you – blossom, guests, joy – into your home, and banish the evil spirits.”




Make Your Mark Class Demo

Calligraphy is “slow writing.” As the art of simple handwriting becomes more rare, learning to write slowly and beautifully is a meditative and rewarding practice.

This spring I’ve been teaching a class designed to demystify the tools and materials of my trade. If you have ever wondered what to do with that calligraphy pen with the funny tip, this class is for you. Scribal secrets revealed!

Make Your Mark: Calligraphy Tools and Techniques” will next be taught on Saturday, May 7, from 10 to 4, at the University Art store in San Jose.


This class presents an overview of the tools of calligraphy: dip pens, fountain pens, pencils, brushes and markers. Different inks are discussed, as well as best papers and other surfaces. Demonstrations also include writing with large pens, brush lettering, and unusual pens. We explore ways to fill the nib, keeping the ink flowing with reservoirs, , and writing with color. Learn to write with a variety of tools, including broad and pointed nibs, and understand different alphabet styles. As time and interest allow, techniques for working on projects are shown.


If you are interested in signing up for this class, contact me directly. You are welcome to bring any calligraphy pens you already have to class. A supply list will be sent with registration confirmation.

Beginner's Guide Cover

If you cannot get to the class but are still interested in trying your hand at this time-honored art, much of what I teach is included in my instructional booksBeginner’s Guide: Calligraphy and Illumination, published by Walter Foster in 2007 (cover pictured above), is out of print but can still be found through the secondhand and remainder market. It is my favorite for its reproductions of my alphabet exemplars at the actual size I wrote them, so that with a Speedball C-2 or a Mitchell size 1 nib, you can trace them until you get the hang of writing them freehand. The same content is also included in The Art of Calligraphy and Lettering, published in 2011 and still widely available (a page pictured below).

Art of Calligraphy intro hand detail