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Houston’s oddity emporium

September 7, 2018

Avant Garden is one of Montrose’s best weird places to be.

Overseen by alleged vampire Marianna Lemesoff, the location hosts everything from bands to vampire balls. On the first Friday of every month, it’s the site for a one-of-a-kind open market specializing in the strange, dark and beautiful.

Thorn and Moon Magickal Market is the brainchild of two of Houston’s longtime goth scene superstars, Jessica Anderson and Dana Dark. Since December of 2017, they’ve brought together the regular mini-fair as a low-key way to explore some of the more twisted artistic and magical offerings. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you should do so.

There are sage and other cleansing herbs, vinyl and powder foundation from the creatures of the night’s outfits, old wood, wine, bone and paint. A DJ spins the best of classic Houston goth staples, like Pet Shop Boys’ “Opportunities.” The whole area vibrates with weird creative energy.

So what’s for sale at Thorn and Moon? Well, hibiscus honey from the Uncommon Bees stall is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. .

Another big hit during the July event was the Red Scale stall manned by Daniel Cesspooch. A Guatemalan immigrant, Cesspooch became fascinated with beetles as a child. He channeled that fascination into taxidermy art, and his pieces are next-level, three-dimensional wonders. Using a variety of different-size insects, he creates pieces halfway between mosaics and decorative clocks. What could be gross comes out more like a celebration of the entire insect class. He also offers decorative standing models under glass that are probably worth way more than the $85 he was charging, as well as venomous snakes preserved in crystal balls. If you need a work of art on your desk designed to make people afraid to steal your pens, get in touch with Red Scale.

There wasn’t all that much magic for sale at the Magickal Market. Several fortune-tellers plied their trade on the edges of the area. I was more interested in the display of amuletos. They were filled with stones rubbed with sacred oils intended to work as talismans for protection against specific dangers, like loss of income or addiction. They were flanked by the expected Santa Muerte candles and other Eastside mystic mainstays.

Botanique is a regular at Thorn and Moon and a must-stop, as Iris Clawson-Davis likes to use her horticultural degree in odd ways. Her booth has a starter selection of carnivorous plants, just in case you want to make that fruit-fly problem in your home go away in the most “metal” manner possible. If you’re like me and you kill every green thing you touch, she has terrariums set up in antique bottles that are low-maintenance — you just drop them on a windowsill and they’re ready to go. The bottles collect moisture, so you barely even have to water them. More exciting and macabre are her succulents planted and sold in the skulls of cows and deer. They can either sit on a flat surface or hang on a wall, and the hole for the spinal column at the base of the skull is perfect for making sure that you don’t overwater them. Clawson-Davis says all her animal skulls are ethically sourced and break no Texas game laws.

Speaking of skulls, in the courtyard proper, Vintage Skull Lamps sell … vintage skull lamps. The lamps appear to be made of old Crystal Head Vodka bottles, and some of them are painted as Mexican sugar skulls.

Thorn and Moon has some special vendors lined up for the coming months. In September, Cirque la Vie will perform, and Anderson and Dark are looking to do a Día de Muertos-themed market in November. It’s a place for the unusual to shine, but in a welcoming way that makes the evening feel truly magical.

Jef Rouner is a writer in Houston.

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