Ritual For When It’s Ash Wednesday & Mercury Retrograde & Your Idols Keep Dying


Cut your bangs hella short, like you used to. Remember that guy you knew fifteen years ago, who, the night you met, said: you have the shortest bangs I’ve ever seen. He meant it as a compliment. Now you feel sorta nervous about having bangs this short. Like maybe you’re gonna look like an old lady trying to be hip. But also they make you feel most like your (old) self. So cut your bangs so short it’s ridiculous. Then dye your hair a darker shade, a reddish-violet. Think of a sky all made of amethyst.


Try to remember that not all your idols are dead. A lot of your favorite bands are reuniting & going on tour. & Mercury Retrograde is bringing up all these old school hurts, so it’s fitting that the bands you missed out on seeing back in the day are the ones you’re gonna miss the second time around. Back then, you couldn’t go cuz your parents wouldn’t let you. Now, you can’t go cuz you are a parent. In your twenties, the only decade of your life when you were fancy-free & could pretty much do whatever the fuck you wanted, you were often too broke to see your favorite bands. Which is part of the reason you became a music writer. Because press pass, guest list, plus one. It was either that or become a groupie.


Sometimes you did both (the music writer thing & the groupie thing). & some people said you were just another groupie slut. & now you wanna kiss yourself goodbye. So today’s a good day to watch an old favorite movie. Nothing too sad. Something like Empire Records. That movie’s so ridiculous it can’t possibly bum you out, right? Except, oh shit, it does. Because everything reminds you of the old days. Like, remember that time you almost worked at the coolest record store in Chicago but the owner-dudes didn’t hire you cuz they said you “didn’t have enough retail experience?” (You were pretty sure the middle-aged music-nerd dudes’ actual reason for not hiring you was cuz they couldn’t stand that a girl-type-person half their age might know as much about music as they did.)


You remember that & then you start thinking of your old friends. All the tattooed, gum-chewing freaks you don’t talk to anymore. & now you’re lonesome. But don’t try to fill the cracks in your soul with social media. It’s Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, & you, half-assed Catholic witch that you are, have decided to limit your time on social media during Lent. & don’t reach for the booze or cigarettes. Those will only make you feel worse. Remember that one drunken Ash Wednesday when you & your tattooed freak friends used cigarette butts to smudge crosses on your foreheads? You always were filth-infatuated, you twisted firestarter.


Today the only fires you should start are on your altar. Light your prayer candles. Paint a cross on your forehead with incense ash, or glittery black eyeshadow. Burn your true confessions in your cauldron. Remember it’s okay to sit with your sadness. To mourn your dead idols & long lost friends. & all the ache you carry with you. Remember it & then release it. Then pour yourself another cup of coffee & dance in the ashy March light. 

Songs referenced in this piece (a tiny meowlist):

  • Hole – “Violet”

  • Coyote Shivers – “Sugarhigh”

  • The Prodigy – “Firestarter”

Jessie Lynn McMains is a poet, writer, zine-maker, and small press owner. She’s also a queer womxn (she/her or they/them pronouns), a mama to two wild kiddos, and a witch who practices a blend of paganism and folk Catholicism. Aside from words, music is her favorite thing in the world. She’s also obsessed with tarot, the Midwest/Great Lakes/Rust Belt, ghosts, and the undying spirit of punk rock. Someone once referred to her as the Debbie Harry of poetry, and she still thinks that’s pretty rad. You can find her website at recklesschants.net, or find her on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie.