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When Isn’t It Earth Day? Why, Every Day!

We had planned to do a beautiful, lyrical ceremony for Earth Day.  We consider it the birthing day for Mother Grove Goddess Temple and I wanted to do some dancing and chanting and singing.

Instead, we cleaned up our little garden at the downtown chapel–a corner garden that was filled with a glorious overgrowth of mugwort. And that felt better and felt right.  I didn’t think I could face another public ritual where we sang the glories of the planet while environmental degradation continues apace, where the affects of climate change on our weather patterns is confusing and difficult.

It was a small group that met and dug and tidied and planted.  We put in some catnip and lambs’ ears, violets and skullcap.  And daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs for next spring.

It won’t save the planet but we have lots of mugwort.

Happy Earth Day.  I wish I could write a fat essay for the day and the times but I don’t have it in me.

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My Wandering Uterus…let me explain…

cover design by Stephanie Johnson

 

My Wandering Uterus is a weird little miracle. It is a diverse treasure trove from women across the globe and from every walk of life, sharing what it means to travel while female. It  came about because an article came across my Facebook feed a year ago.  Here it is–

https://lithub.com/hysteria-witches-and-the-wandering-uterus-a-brief-history/

In my usual flippant way, I wondered “aloud” how much fun we could have writing a travel anthology about women travelers and call it “My Wandering Uterus.”

Sometimes people take me seriously and one of those people at that moment was writer Kate Laity.  She stepped up and stepped in it and put out a call for contributors. Women from all over answered that call and Kate made the book happen. Stephanie Johnson who is the Queen of Everything designed the cover with a rif on woodcuts. That’s the image above.

The book contains memoirs, stories and poetry about the experiences of being a woman on the road — the joys, the perils, the lessons, the changes. From spiritual pilgrimages to forced evacuations, in pursuit of opportunity or to escape from the past, travel broadens the mind — and broads’ travel writing will delight your heart!

You can get the book at Amazon and some select local stores–like our local Asheville Raven and Crone.  It’s gotten good reviews so far and I think you’ll like it. And when you read my story, you’ll know more about me than you may want to know.

If you’d like to purchase merch of the cover design by Stephanie Johnson, visit these sites–
Red Bubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/SLJohnsonImages/shop
Cafe Press:
https://www.cafepress.com/sljohnsonimages/15266179

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Barrels of Rain, Inside and Out

It was my morning at Mother Grove Temple today and I like to arrive early to put in fresh tealights, tidy the pillows and drapes and such. It was raining–for which I am grateful, to be honest. I came in the side door and started down the stairs.  There was a steady dripdripdrip to my right and I hurried past.

The building that houses our temple is a funky old office building that was once a hospital.  The temple is on the lowest level and the French drains are often blocked with debris.  We have come into the temple to find the carpet soaked, the sofa legs sodden and a bookcase (and the books on the lowest shelf) ruined.

The temple was fine and I set up for our discussion.  The third Sunday of each month is RE (religious education) Sunday.  Today we discussed the nature of the Divine/s–a fruitful and wide-ranging discussion.

Before we got started I called the landlord’s office to let them know about the leak, which seemed to be coming directly from the roof/ceiling down the center of the stairway and onto the concrete floor. The maintenance man called me back and I gave him the rundown about the leak.

When our discussion was done, we moved the artwork that was standing on the floor to higher ground, just in case.

As I locked the office door, I thought of our discussion of the Divine/s and how we interact with them. How we honor the classical elements and see the Divine/s is all of them, and all of them is the Divine/s.  Is the Divine in an old, slightly moldy building that once held births and deaths and the healings of life in between? Yes. A leaky building that floods sometimes, has a less than delightful bathroom, a wonky door, some resident ghosts and a Goddess temple in the basement? Yes.

Because, in my worldview, the Divine/s are everywhere. Like Elvis and Starbuck’s.

Especially in our much-loved old temple.

 

 

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When I Am Sad, I Go To Earth

The news–both personal and political–got the better of me today.  This damned pipeline that is wending its toxic way through Appalachia feels like a boa constrictor around my heart. The water in Flint (and elsewhere) is undrinkable and has been for so long–because our Electeds have neither the will nor the heart to address it. We are watching the EPA (which wasn’t but so helpful to begin with) being dismantled so that more extraction can happen, more profits made. And Syria…Syria…

At the Appalachian Studies Association conference, I had a shocking road-to-Damascus moment when I realized there are academics outside our region who study it, study us.  It gave me a level of The Creeps that surprised me.

Another trophy house is being built across the street and the last trees have been cut down. The daffodils I’ve been planning to relocate were bulldozed along with everything else.

I have sick friends and sad friends, and friends going through financial problems and mate problems and emotional problems.

So many things are beautiful and powerful, and I am so grateful for that. But, dang. The day started out full of grief and I only had one option–go to the garden.

I planted a long row of irises. I raked up some of last fall’s leaves. I sat on the porch with a friend and thought about the big garden I want to plant in the back yard.

I went to ground.  It saved me, as it always does.

Grateful.

 

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Lists to the Right of Me. Lists to the Left of Me.

Good evening, old friends.

Festival season is gearing up and I will be on the road a lot this summer.  As soon as I’ve heard from one more festival, I’ll post them all here.  Maybe some of you will come find me when I teach in your neck of the woods.

This past weekend I attended a conference, which is very different from a festival.  I only do a couple of those a year but I almost always get so much out of them. This one was the Appalachian Studies Association conference and it was held this time in Cincinnati, a place I’d never been.  I presented a paper on Friday morning.  It’s called “The Ragged Wound: Can the Appalachian Diaspora Save the Region?” The paper is also the hook for my new book project–The Ragged Wound: Salving the Broken Spirit of Appalachia.

“Earth Works: Ceremonies for Tower Time” (from Smith Bridge Press) is in its final editing stages–at least I hope that is so. Looking for a May launch date for that one. Fingers crossed!

I’ll write more about this tomorrow (I think) but the magical anthology of women’s travel writing is out!  “My Wandering Uterus” (edited by Kate Laity, design by Stephanie Johnson) is a delightful assemblage of solid writing and heart-busting story telling. Yes, I have one in there in which all my secrets are revealed.

It is also gardening season.  Finally.

So I am surrounded by to-do lists and the days are growing short indeed.  I got out my calendar today and circled in green all the days I’ll be at home until August. It is not many days, friends.

I do plan to put “blog post” on the list for every day and see if I can manage to get back into the swing of things.

 

 

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Birthday in the Time of Towers

My birthday was Friday and throughout the week, I posted observations on each day. Here’s Sunday’s, which you may find interesting.

The Sunday shows brought me a frisson of…something. So I have come before you, weakened by my hedonism, to say this to eyes that can read it and hearts that can hold it:

These are the times of sap-rising and wild yellow dillies in the sere grass. We wrestle with bad news and bad luck, but we lie down and wallow in our depair and frustration.

Get grounded. Shields up. Meditate/pray. Check in on your neighbors. Go to the feed and seed and look at the chicks.

Hold fast. All that you are hearing on social media and mass media is the worst of the worst. But someone you know just fell in love or planted sugar snap peas or watched the birth of their first grandchild.

There is good in the world and you are doing it. The millions of –billions of!–people doing small and simple acts of connection and attention add to our collective resilience.

We need all the resilience and joy and luck we can muster right now. You be in charge of the good news today–you speak this gospel. Tell the people you love that you do and try to ignore the people who are crushing out their cigarette butts on your last good nerve.

Ground. Shield. Hold fast. Be a decent human and show it. Small, simple acts of heart, of soul, of mercy.

Siblings, these are the times we were made for.

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Brigid is Written in the Water

I wrote this a few years back and want to share it with you as we honor this night.

 

It’s almost Imbolc and I am sitting here, thawing my feet after an outdoor ceremony. We invoked Her Name, as Protector of the Waters. We used a small candle that had been lit at Brigid’s eternal flame in Kildare to light our fat vigil candles–a few of them even stayed lit in the freshing breeze.

We met before sundown in a public park to stand in solidarity with the waters and people of West Virginia. When we planned this event it was a typical southern Appalachian winter day–warmish, sunny, the promise of a new planting season in the moist air.

But weather changes and we have the saying around here that if you don’t like the weather you should wait half an hour because it is bound to change. And change it did. Our mild day turned into a brisk afternoon with snow showers that looked like blizzards and snow flakes bigger than half-dollars. The wind got up and the temperature went down.

In the gazebo of the river park, we smoothed out a green cloth and one woman brought flowers and another brought a bag of wood chips that had been left by a local beaver. We laughed about beaver chips–were they for beavers or by beavers or made of beavers?

We circled up around a picnic table as the light began to fade. Hand found hand as we grounded ourselves and arranged the bottles of water we’d brought from home. We spoke of our hurt and anger and frustration about the poisoned waters of West Virginia. Some of our circle-mates were from West Virginia and some of them had just gotten back from there, delivering water from our hills to theirs.

There was memory alive in that small circle and our Ancestors were also there, bearing witness to us as we bore witness, too. And still the old rivers mingled in their joining and headed north, always north. Brigid stood with Her people, as she always has and always will and She paced the pavillion as we each held the big jar of our mingled waters and wept over it and blessed it.

She tiptoed down through the snow with us to stand on the icy wooden overlook, as we sang, as we honored the old river and poured in our offering of healing and grief and mercy and grace.

I can feel my toes now and am grateful for the circle in the brisk night, for the clean water that has made my hot tea, for the presence of Brigid as we grieve our own carelessness and stupidity. How can we not expect to lose the things we don’t value? How we can love water enough to save it and thereby save ourselves?

 

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A Ceremonial Circle Cast for the Winter Solstice

I’ve written a new circle cast for our Solstice ritual tomorrow night. For those of you who can’t be with us at Mother Grove Goddess Temple, here is a taste of our celebration. For those of you who will join us, here is a peek into tomorrow’s ritual.

Raising the Circle

A Bright Voice: Here at the gateway of the year,

May we strive to make good cheer.

In our revels shall joy abound

And sorrow be cast underground! (from Caitlin Matthews)

 

North In Winter, the forest is still and deep. The hearts of the trees beat slowly, the bears dream of blueberries and fierce love. Stones are cold, blades of grass sharp as steel. In Winter, the forest is still.

East  In Winter, our breath makes clouds in the chill day. Sunrise comes too early and sunset does the same. Ankle winds force us into stout boots and we wrap our faces against the night. In Winter, our breath makes clouds.

South In Winter, we warm our hands at the fire. Mantles over fireplaces hold fragrant and ever-green branches, hold stockings at Yuletide. Bonfires reach skyward, candles hold promises. In Winter, we warm our hands at the fire.

West In Winter, water is slippery stone. Icicles line the window ledges, jagged teeth. Water, soft and beautiful, falls white upon the fields and beaches. And the sea, eternal, caresses Her dancing tides. In Winter, water is slippery stone.

A Bright Voice: Let the harp of the new Moon sound and mark our celebration! Omnia tempus habent! (There is time for everything!)

 

Releasing the Circle

West: Snow and icicle. Black ice and Brigid spring. Water like stone. Water like stone. Blessed be Water and blessed be all we. Happy Solstice!

South: Bonfire. Hearthfire. Candle and incense. Bonfires reach skyward. Bonfires reach skyward. Blessed be Fire and blessed be all we. Happy Solstice!

East: Clouds of breath. Early dawning. Wrapped against the winds and chill. Breath like clouds. Breath like clouds. Blessed be Air and blessed be all we. Happy Solstice!

North: Tree and stone. Sharp cold grass and dreams of blueberries. The forest is still. The forest is still. Blessed be the Earth and blessed be all we. Happy Solstice!

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A Find Amongst the Documents

I’m working on the Mother Grove Solstice ritual and ran across this poem. I’m not much of a poet, in spite of my name, but sometimes I can’t resist.  So, here’s this–

Seasoning

By Byron Ballard

 

I peel the myth away,

smelling the acid in the air,

feeling the oily leavings of the peel.

 

It is easy—the work of a moment.

 

They lie in my open palm,

            the segments of story and lore

that guide the culture’s heart

into this

darkening season.

 

I poke the cold segments with my fingernail

and see here a Baby move

            there a Winter Queen

                        yonder the oak and holly fret

as my Ancestors cut the sycophant mistletoe from

            the tender apple branches.

 

In the middle of this mess of legend

there lies a curled and spiky ball.

When it is gently prodded, it

kicks free of the sickly sweet pieces

and shows itself to be a star.

 

The star.

Not only in the East but certainly now

returning there.

 

The star.

Leading us into ourselves and out again.

Dancing the carol.

 

The star of wonder. The star of renewal.

Sol Invictus!

 

The reason, long-known and sometimes forgotten,

For the season.

 

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The Rime Moon

Today was the perfect day for garden clean up. Sunny and warm but not hot. Bright enough to give me a headache, by the way. We cleaned the little kitchen garden and then tackled the Italian garden.  Cleaned and renovated the beds. I watered the raise bed with its delicious spinach, carrots and radishes–I ate a sweet little French Breakfast radish.

And the whole time I was feeling the rise of energy from that waxing Moon. Mercury has gone retrograde, too, so there’s all that and the other astrological stuff that’s going on. Plus we’re in the last weeks before the Winter Solstice. Plus the Republic is in freefall. 

Add to that a nice thick layer of Tower Time and set the whole thing on a big pile of Patriarchy and you have a weekend fraught with drama, tears and a kind of mad twirling desperation. 

But tonight, at Mother Grove, the chapel was full of people who had come for companionship, for time spent with like-minded folk.  The North altar was set with Goddess figures and candles, and the circle of people faced the soft glow of it.

We sang to Hekate and talked about the uses of power and the strength of community.  We walked outside and sang the Moon into the Sky. And then I took them on a guided meditation that began with Bob Nagan driving the Cat Bus and all of us lying on the top of Mount Mitchell, pouring the power out of our hands and into the world.

It smoothed out the scritchy energy of the day and offered us all a chance to breathe and consider how the world is and how we can weather the storm. 

And that’s what we all need right now, I think. A sturdy layer of resilience, a dash of a sense of humor and a vision of how we can move forward, to survive, to thrive.

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Dreaming of Farms

As usual. As always.

I grew up in west Buncombe on what was once a pretty little farmstead, with a lovely orchard, a root cellar, a springhead. My parents were not active stewards, shall we say, and the whole place was run-down by the time I was old enough to remember it.

We had a parade of interesting animals over the years–a cow, a donkey, ponies, a horse, chickens, a myna bird, parakeets, white mice, guinea pigs, canaries and the usual dogs and cats.  One summer, we had three mama cats with their 14 kittens.

Yes, not careful of things, my parents.

But we grew a garden every year and played at self-sufficiency.  And ever after I’ve felt myself to be a country person. Most of you know I garden and have kept bees and all that homesteady jazz.

I’m off the road for a couple of months–doing retreats and classes here at home and renovating a house.  So I signed up for a class from Organic Growers School. It is called Farm Dreams and it was all day today.

We learned about the ins and outs of beginning farming and the participants were from some far-flung parts of NC.  The netw0rking part was really good and the process was good, too. A solid way to think about it and to plan for it.

We did sketches of our farms and listened to local farmers who talked about their lives and their own dreams.

I’m still processing all the info and dreaming some farm dreams of my own.

 

future cider

radishes for breakfast

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An Energy Trap

I’m posting this because I mentioned it on Facebook and several people wanted to know how to do one. I developed this years ago when I was called out to a house near Enka Lake that needed a clearing done on it. So I McGuyver’d this thing that worked so well for the occupants that I set them up in all sorts of places after that. It appears in my first book “Staubs and Ditchwater.”

a Receipt for clearing the energy in your Home or Place of Business

an energetic filter

I developed the Energy Trap many years ago and it has proved to be very effective. It acts as a kind of HEPA filter for stagnant energy in your home, energy that can be misconstrued as spirit activity. Here are directions for constructing and using one.

You’ll need a flat, round reflective surface (the bottom of a throw-away pie pan is the best but you can use a round mirror, too), three flat black rocks, a tealight candle (my preference is a battery-operated one because they are safe around children and animals) and two grades of salt (inexpensive table salt and kosher salt, for instance).

Place the reflective surface on a flat surface–put it on a high shelf out of sight, if that’s needed or put it in a prominent place to add the energy of your thoughts every time you see it. Put the three flat stones in the center of the mirror. Pour the kosher salt in a circle around the stones. Pour the table salt on the outer edge of the mirror. Now, place the tealight on top of the stones in the center and light it or turn it on.

The theory behind this trap is that stagnant and unhealthy energy is drawn to the light, filtered first through the stones, then filtered through the rough salt, filtered a final time through the fine salt. It is then reflected back out into the area as clean, useable energy. You can keep one of these going all the time, but it isn’t necessary. You’ll feel the difference in a few days.

If you are moving into a new place or if your office environment is harsh, run the trap for at least a Moon cycle. If you run it longer than that, change the salt every Moon cycle.

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A Circle Cast for the Winter Solstice

I just submitted this to our newsletter and thought I’d share it here, too.  I am trying valiantly to avoid talking about politics–is it obvious?

This is particular to where I live in the southern highlands of Appalachia, so you may have to tweak it a bit if you decide to use it.

Here you go–

A Circle Cast for the Winter Solstice

Because we are “inviting back” the Sun, we began this circle cast in the fiery South. Feel free to add in the geographical elements that are in your part of the world.

Invocation of the Directions

South–I call out to the living fire of the South and invoke its power in bonfires and cookfires, in soft candlelight and fierce conflagration. Bearing both heat and light, contained in the woodstove, feral on the dry autumn hills. Warm fires of the South, we honor you this Solstice night. Be welcome!

West–I call out to the liquid West and invoke its power in the oils that feed fire. Coal oil pulled from the face of the mountains, kerosene lamps to read in the evening, tallow of slaughters to light the way. Western flame of lamp and heater, we honor you this Solstice night. Be welcome!

North–I call out to the solid North and invoke its power in the hot springs of far Madison. A micro-climate sweetened by the fiery heart of the Earth herself. Steam and wrinkled fingers, cares are left in the healing waters of the hot springs. Beautiful north, we honor you this solstice night. Be welcome!

East–I call out to the mists of the Smoky Mountains and invoke the power of the smoke of campfire and burning leaves. The wind carries the smells to us from miles away, gathering all the scents–of wet earth and skunk and incense on the altar. Deep breath of East, we honor you this Solstice night. Be welcome!

 

Circle release

East–We watch the woodsmoke move along the valley, always following beauty. Grandmothers of the East, go if you must. But lend us your scent of freedom a while longer, if you will. So may it be.

North–We feel the hot water sooth our aching feet and backs and soothe our anxious souls. Grandmothers of the North, go if you must. But lend us a moment longer in the hot tubs, if you will. So may it be.

West–We wind down the wick and extinguish the flame. Grandmothers of the West, go if you must. But lend us your light a while longer, if you will. So may it be.

South–We stir the coals and bank down the hearthfire. Grandmothers of the South, go if you must. But lend us your warmth on this cold night while longer, if you will. So may it be.

 

Sol invictus

 

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A Memorable Fortnight, or shameless self-promotion

I had such a streak of good fun as the end of November neared.

I got to be on my first-ever webinar with my good friend and sister-mischief maker Maia Toll.  There’s a link to it below. But you’ll need to pony up a donation to Mother Grove Goddess Temple to watch it.

 

Then, a few days later, I did a two-hour live radio show with Kitty Love.  You’ll find that link below.

 

And last–but certainly not least!–was a terrific article by Beth Ward in Atlas Obscura.  Again, click on the pic and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the hyperlink works.

But maybe don’t read the comments on that last one. Some people are insufficiently cultured to understand subtleties.

 

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The Mote of History: Dusting as We Go

 

I volunteered for a few hours today at a local historic home, the Smith-McDowell House. It is set up with rooms indicative of the history of the family—a local and prominent one—and they decorate lavishly for Christmas. My young friend Jenna and I had the 1870s bedroom upstairs. There were two tubs full of décor and lots of photos to show us what went where.

We wore white cotton gloves to protect the artifacts and we squinted at the photos to decide exactly which Father Christmas went where. We moved some china vases into the deep window ledge as a staging area and I noticed how dusty it was. On my next trip downstairs, I asked for a dusting cloth so that I could dust as we went. I really fancied dusting the chamber pot and the wash basin and pitcher.

One of my pet peeves is to go to a museum and see dust, but I understand that most of these places are understaffed or staffed by volunteers, so there are often more pressing matters than whether or not there’s a bit of dust on the marble table. (I often wish I could take a dustcloth with me and help just a bit. When we went to George Washington’s nice place at Mount Vernon several years ago, I hung out in the walled garden for so long, they let me help with the potato digging. I helped with gardening in several places in Britain over the years. Earning my keep, a tiny bit. Feeling as though I belong to that slice of time, this mote of history.)

Microcosm, macrocosm. As I dodged around the young Twins who were setting up the Spiderweb Game in the corner of the room, I also considered what it meant to dust as you go. Why is it so hard for me to tackle a project in increments, a bite at a time? My preference since a mostly-feral child has been to bite off more that I can possibly chew. And then chew it and swallow it, and move on to the next project.

I am a biter and a swallower. And I suspect it is my nature to be so.

Looking at the coming fourteen months, I long to bite more things—fiddle-playing, singing, writing, teaching. I want to visit the places I love—Madron and Carlisle, Slane and Yorkshire, Marshall and Folly Beach—and I want to do that with the people I love.

Bite, chew, swallow.

And just a bit of dusting as I go.

 

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The Land Grows Cold

I am home from the road. For now. The grounding of my life is the land here in the southern highlands of the old Appalachian mountains but the road is always tempting me to go farther, to travel more, to be compact and joyful as a rambling woman.

A rambling woman. A merry passenger. Wondering as I wander.

Like a sailor, I have friends in many ports. Colleagues with far-ranging ideas and generous spirits seem to always be just around the bend in the path. I am ever-blessed in the company I keep, whether at home or abroad, across the wine-dark seas.

The land here is still redolent of autumn—damp soil, cool mornings, bright days. I harvested tomatoes today—tomatoes so far into the Samhain season! Chard, spinach, radishes—all made a good meal tonight.

But I thought I smelt some winter in the air tonight. I wrapped myself in scarf and flat cap against the coming night and filled my pockets with little tomatoes. As I straightened up, I looked toward the western hills and sniffed the air, filling my lungs slowly, digging my heels into the mulch.

Wood smoke.

Basil.

Bruised marigolds.

And…that.

Sharp and metallic.

Winter begins her dance around the hollers. Her nails are sharp and her smile is cold, but in her pockets are the seeds of next year’s gardens, next year’s tonics, next year’s abundance.

I hope her pockets are both deep and wide, and that her apron strings are sturdy.

 

beautiful nettles

 

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Setting of the Sun–a Harvest Lament

 

 

 

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve; Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain: Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves; Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze; By and by the harvest, and the labor ended, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

If we leave off the final verse of Knowles Shaw’s 1874 hymn, it is perfectly workable for a Pagan harvest festival. We can feel the secondary and tertiary meanings, too, just like the intended Christian audience.

Lughnasadh. Lammas. First Harvest. Depending on the spiritual trad you follow, you may call this holy day by one of those names—or by another. Many Pagans conflate the first two but they are very different celebrations of the First Harvest. One is Irish and one is Christianed Saxon. One is games and homecoming. One is bread and the in-gathering of grains.

Every year, long about mid-July, there are Pagan folk in the Northern Hemisphere who start to complain about and boycott this holy day. They’re not farmers, they write, they are urban people who don’t get this whole harvest business. Or the weather where they live doesn’t feel like early autumn. Or they don’t practice a “Celtic” spirituality. Fair enough. Since we have not yet convened the Neo-Pagan Council at Nicaea nor pay fealty to a Pagan Pope, you are pretty free to celebrate this sweet cross-quarter day as you choose. I’m not sure why they can’t celebrate the abundance that fills the shelves of their local Whole Foods or treat the whole harvest idea as metaphor, as in “time to consider what I’ve ‘seeded’ this year and whether that has come to fruition” sort of thing.

But again…no Pope. No Council.

Not yet.

I personally love this holiday and have since the days of Notre Dame de l’Herbe Mouillee, that marvelous coven of memory. We often celebrated Lughnasadh by having a talent show, what is now referred to as a “bardic circle.” We weren’t so fancy in those days. Coven members showed off some skill or art. Kate and Geneva sang Sweet Georgia Brown in Polish. I played Danny Boy on the fiddle. Teleri belly danced. The W-J children made beautiful drawings.

The sun has set now and I have spent hours on the phone and on Messenger today, listening, talking, grieving the place so many stand right now. Fear and fury walk hand-in–-hand as we step into this festival. Is this the harvest we want? The harvest we expect in these Tower Times? Did we even plant these seeds, in the long ago springtime?

But my house is quiet now, at last. I can hear night insects in their chanting and I am drawn at once to my altar, to do my own soft prayers. And I repeat the circle cast I wrote so many years ago, when the directions were all honored with paeans of grain:

North: I remember how the seed-heads, tanned from the sun, stand in the wide fields near the river. I remember the threshing of the grain and the stretching stomachs it fills. I remember the bowl, with butter and sugar, and a man dressed as a Friend. In this time of the grain harvest, I call the Ancestors and the Guardians of the North with the strength of oats! You are welcome at our table! have them repeat this

East: I have planted the flat kernels in mounds the width of my hand. I have seen the shocking green of the stalks as they rise. The oldest peoples put a fishes head in the mound to feed the proud green spears. Tall spears to hold the other Sister. In this time of the grain harvest, I call the Ancestors and Guardians of the East with the bright yellow kernels of corn! You are welcome at our table!

South: I sing now of the loaf, of the fire of the sun made edible through the flailing of the grain. I sing now of the bright fire of food that is enduring, of food that is beautiful to see. I sing of grains that feed the people and straw that makes the bricks. In this time of the grain harvest, I call the Ancestors and Guardians of the South with the banked fire of wheat! You are welcome at our table!

West: I create a necklace of the pearls of barley. I create soup from the waters of the sea and the tears of my kindred, who passed into the West. I create the living vision of a shining new world. I create a passageway for my Descendents to greet my Ancestors. In this time of the grain harvest, I call the Ancestors and Guardians of the West with the perfect jewels of barley! You are welcome at our table!

 

And now the opening, as we open to this bountiful, troubling, problematic season:

West–Sweet pearls, rich grain. Barley of my people. Though our circle be open, we honor the West!

South–Bread-maker, brick-maker: wheat of the plains. Though our circle be open, we honor the South!

East–The tall sister, the one who stands: silk and husk of corn. Though our circle be open, we honor the East!

North-Tanned for the harvest, sweet beyond measure. Oats for our bellies. Though our circle be open, we honor the North!

The circle is open but never again broken. May the Goddess fill all hearts as the grains of Autumn come to harvest. Merry meet and merry part! And merry meet again!

However you choose to honor or not honor this time, let it be rich for you, and deep, and filled with meaning. For there is no time now for fads and faithlessness. May you make room for life and for joy.

Blessed Lughnasadh! Let the games commence!

 

 

 

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What I’ll Be Doing For The Rest of the Year

o dear…

 

So…today I had brunch with my friends Mia and John, and my work-wife, Star.  Mia asked me if I had posted where I’ll be appearing for the rest of the year and I looked at her blankly. Recovering what passes for my composure these days, I allowed as how I probably should do that. Somehow I don’t have a sense that people want to know such things but Mia assures me some may very well.  With thanks to her for her encouragement, here’s where you may see me in the next six months. 

Hang on to your knickers.

June 22-25, Wisteria, Ohio

Midsummer Festival with a focus on primitive skills. Teaching traditional Appalachian herbal healing.

June 28, Ashe County Public Library

A talk on Appalachian folkways with a focus on folk magic

July 7-16, Summerland Festival, Wisconsin

Teaching some stuff, doing some ritual, hanging with friends

July 20-23, Mystic South Conference, Hotlanta, Georgia

Headliner: which means teaching some classes. I will also present an academic paper on my recent research on the roots of Appalachian folk magic. And, shockingly, I will be leading an early morning tai chi class. I know, right?

September 9-10, Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC

Teaching a seminar on Appalachian folkways

September 15-17, Delaware

Delmarva Pagan Pride (and a class at a local shop the night before TBA)

September 22-23, Piedmont Pagan Pride

Teaching and talking; class the evening before (TBA)

October 5-8, Calderafest, somewhere in Georgia

Huge Pagan music festival that you shouldn’t miss; I’m just going to goof off but will be singing in the choir for the performance of Brian Henke’s Raven King

October 13-15  Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, Swannanoa, NC

Stuff

October 26-29, Florida Pagan Gathering Samhain Festival

Headlining: teaching, ritualing

November 2-5, FaerieCon, Hunt Valley, Maryland

Teaching, dressing up like a faery, drinking to excess

I think that’s it.  I’ll be helping to train new priestesses for Mother Grove Goddess Temple and continuing my clergy work there, of course.  I plan to have my new book–Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet–off to the editor by Lughnasadh. So a new book by year’s end, if all goes well. Plus gardening, canning, teaching locally, reading tarot. You know..the stuff one does when living a rich and juicy life.

Come see me at one or more of these things. I’d love to see you.

Oh!  And witchery. Lots and lots of witchery.

 

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Something Big A-Rolling

into the woods

 

Yesterday, early in the morning, before the sun was rising, I had an odd feeling that I couldn’t quite peg.  I went to Facebook with one of my all-purpose advice balls and got an overwhelming response from my contacts there.

Since many people seem to also be feeling this unease, I thought I’d copy the postings here, for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook.

Here it is:

Friends, I was called to my home altar in the night. Please ground, if you aren’t already. Ground deeply and get your shields up. Center yourselves as you may. Focus. Words to the wise in the gloaming of the world.

 Later in the day, I added this:

Many of you have responded to my early morning post about my late-night adventure. I’m not surprised–given who you are–that this affected you, too. I am discerning what this trigger is, so if you are “getting” further information about this intuitive alert, please pm me or respond on this thread. And…be safe, observe your world, love big. Also, fear not. #witchery #SleeplessinTowerTime

Again, there was a powerful response, both public and private. Today I elaborated a bit:

Gratitude for all of you who responded both publicly and privately to my puzzling experience yesterday. In my morning walk, as I peered at the greenness all around, I realized the feeling/premonition lingers in and around me. This is the way with some witches–we note a change, we examine it, we bring our best discernment processes to bear and sometimes we reach out to colleagues for further information. I am still deep in the discernment process, still gathering information. Thanks to all of you for your patience with my process. It is Tower Time, as I call it. We are asked to be strong, purposeful and open-hearted. Never a bad thing anytime. #witchery #LoveintheTimeofTowers

I’m still considering, pondering, wondering.  Thanks for listening.

 

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Whither then? I Cannot Say

The books have arrived.  I have three boxes of “Embracing Willendorf” that constitute the pre-publication sales (thanks to all who did that–it’s really helpful). I have a bunch of labels and a couple of good pens and will spend the afternoon inscribing books and preparing them for shipping.

A lovely way to spend a potentially rainy Appalachian afternoon.

The book party was announced a couple of weeks ago.  My friends at Asheville Raven and Crone are hosting a celebration of the new book on Saturday, May 27 at 6PM. I’ll talk a little about why I wrote this book and read some of the jucier parts.  And sign the books that folks buy. Usual stuff. I’m planning to bring a rather nice bottle of champagne, with which to toast Absent Friends.

I’m off next week to celebrate Beltane a little more.  A gaggle of Mother Gravians are going up 81 to middle Virginia for Blue Ridge Beltane.   You can click on the romantic Hares below to go to the Event Page on Facebook–

 

I’m sending in class proposals for Wisteria’s Midsummer event and will let you know if they decide to bring me in for that.  Camping in the heat again–I didn’t do well at Pagan Spirit Gathering last year. But we’ll see how I do when I have less to get done and it isn’t a nine day event.

Many more festivals and appearances coming up plus more writing. Ritual, writing and renewal–I am counting on these things to see me into the depths of this Tower Time and to keep me relatively sane.

Per ardua ad terra! (And possibly more later.)

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Embracing Willendorf–Free Willi!

Aiaiaiai!

The proof for my new book–Embracing Willendorf–has been in my hands since Monday evening and the first bulk order has been placed by the publisher, Smith Bridge Press.

You can order it through the publisher’s website, by clicking on the roses below–

 

 

Oh. My. Gosh.

I returned from two weeks of Beltane bliss on Monday afternoon and have been spinning plates like a magician since then. It’s been grand.

Book in hand–still breathless from the Florida Pagan Gathering, the recording sessions in Marietta and Beltain at Our Haven amongst the floods of Indiana–I turned to one of my favorite things–a new online class. It took a couple of days to coordinate the email addresses but the first class of six went out today and I’ve gotten some good feedback already.

So grateful.

Monday was sweet. It began when I woke up in a real bed and got to spend time with my old, dear, beautiful friend Gabrielle who had given me a bed for the night, after weeks of traveling. After that I got to have lunch with my wonderful daughter (whose birthday was yesterday) at a place called Amelie’s.  I love that kid and I also like her. A lot.

Now I’m tweaking three Beltane rituals for this weekend and also have to start serious planning for Blue Ridge Beltane in a couple of weeks.

And there’s gardening to do–the annual herb sale starts tomorrow.

Are you breathless yet? 

Good.

Reach out right now and grab all the life you can. Play and love and laugh like a mad thing.

The time is now.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook on May the First.  You may ignore the time code and do it tomorrow morning.

        Say Her name.

        This morning, as you wash your face in dew and wreathe your head in flowers, know this–you are    not separate from the earth nor from the Ancestors who made you. You carry them in your cells like refreshing streams of water. This day, this perfect day, honor Those whose names have been covered in mist, whose deeds have been falsely reported. Dance the ring with ancient outcasts tonight and spare a thought for your own immortality. Merry Beltane, my lovers! Revel like it’s 999! Sumer is i-cumen in!

 

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My Wandering Uterus

 

Was it only yesterday that we were riffing on Facebook about a very interesting story about the mediaeval and Victorian idea of the wandering uterus?  I remarked that “My Wandering Uterus” would be a grand name for a band or a book. Maybe an anthology of travel writing by women.  In comes the marvy Kate Laity–Encourager of All Things Shenanigan–and now we’re doing an anthology of travel writing by women called “My Wandering Uterus.” You can click of the roses above to see the Call for Submissions.  And then, then can send in some of your own writing about your experiences as a Traveling Uterati.

Here’s a link to that inspiring article–

 

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What I Do When I’m Not Here

This past weekend was full and rather glorious. I am feeling quite full of myself and am in danger of getting The Big Head. (You Southerners will understand that.)

It started with an interview on the podcast The Desperate House Witches on Friday evening. We talked about everything. Including what attracts more flies and it is neither honey nor vinegar.  You can link to that on the gazing ball below.

I spent all day Saturday at a New Age psychic and healing expo in Hendersonville.  I saw lots of friends, gave a talk on Appalachian healing and even sold a few books.  I came back to Asheville to meet a friend who is using an interview with me as part of her Master’s project.  Becky Beyer and I had a good time and decided we need some fancy recording equipment our ownselves. So, if you have some of that to donate to a worthy cause–documenting traditional Appalachian folkways–send me an email!

Sunday saw me leading morning ritual at Mother Grove Goddess Temple, meeting with a tarot client and then working in the WECAN community garden with a bunch of great volunteers from the Community Garden Network.

And here’s what happened today to be the icing on the cake.  I went over to the mall to the big bookstore there. There’s an article in this month’s National Geographic Traveler magazine about Asheville and I am one of the people they interviewed…so I am in that magazine. Wowser.  I got one and then turned to leave the counter and saw a sweet display of my book. 

I am feeling right proper tonight. Hope you are, too.

 

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Spinning. A Bit.

Gosh, I wish this was about me spinning all that pretty wool into yarn.  Yeah, all that wool in the bag just over there–wool that came from my sheep-friend, Monkey Boy.  Well, maybe it did. It’s been in that bag since shearing season last year.  To be honest, I did spin one big hank of it before summer came and it got to hot to mess around with wool. Plus I began traveling and…

very, very yonder

The good news is that my brilliant and relentless editor Annie Sarac has the text for my new book.  She is poring over it, making it sensible, making it work.  You’ll be able to pre-order it in a couple of weeks–at least that’s my plan.

I went to Pantheacon where I was on a panel talking about death, but where I didn’t teach. I don’t understand Pantheacon.  I’ve been there twice now and still don’t quite get it.  We go through this weird raffle-thing to get a room.  I taught one class last year and it was full-to-overflowing but none of the classes I submitted were picked for this year.  But I went with my friend Maeve and–I had fun.  Go figure.

My friend, the fabulous guitarist Brian Henke, came to Asheville at the beginning of March and played a concert on the night of my birthday.  I enjoyed showing him my town and hearing the music from his new album, the Raven King. We’ll be traveling to some festivals together this summer–Florida Pagan Gathering, Our Haven, Summerland. He and I are working on a couple of projects together. He’s a very fun feller.

 

The Henke

Then Star and I wandered up to Hunt Valley for the Sacred Space conference, where I taught three classes and sold a few books. But mostly I spent time with a bunch of people I love and respect, which is a great combination. I go there every couple of years and it is always inspiring.

RR Rose Carbinela doctored this photo (original by Shelly Nixon) and gave it to me at the conference. Sparkly.

I’ve started work on my next book “Old Wild Magic of the Motherlands” and I’m getting ready to do an online class with the same title.  You’ll be able to find that offering, as well as a chance to pre-order “Embracing Willendorf,” here on the website in a couple of days.

And now, it is gardening season–finally–in the southern highlands of Appalachia. And did I mention I’m renovating a house?  And singing with a little band?

No?

I’ll talk about that next time.

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Honey on the Stones

Some of my recent research and practice has included an intense examination of several aspects of what has come to be called “sex magic.”  I have found the work endlessly fascinating and am offering a workshop at the end of this month called Honey on the Stones.  Variations on this workshop will also be offered at Florida Pagan Gathering, Beltaine at Our Haven in Indiana and at Blue Ridge Beltane.

Here are the details for this month’s offering–thought you might find it interesting, too.

Honey on the Stones: Sovereignty, Sex and Myth

The counterbalance to living in a culture of death is to embrace the totality of life and enrich the life force through conscious and intentional action. This workshop will explore the Sacred Sexual as a healing modality for both ecosystem and human community. We will examine techniques for utilizing the life force as it courses through human bodies to enact change in the world around us—sexual activity (partnered or otherwise) as a means of raising energy. Discussion will include the hieros gamos and sovereignty in the modern world, the so-called Great Rite, and the terrible question of power. This is an intensely adult workshop covering several aspects of sexual activity (including technique) in the service of Earth healing and of magic. It is very sex positive. Space is safe and private but very limited and I reserve the right to refuse potential participants.

 

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Awash in the Uses of Magic

But what tools do we really need to do the simple and required magics? Only this my heart and these my two hands.

I stand with the Queens as my allies, here in the Realms beyond the Veil.

I’ve gone poetical tonight.  You may blame my name or the fact that I’ve been listening to Shakespeare all evening. But I have spent some time resting today–after the excitement and hard work of celebrating Imbolc and beloved Brigid–and contemplating the deepening of my magical practice. I have been doing magic in one form or another for half a century now. The practice has become consistently more intentional and stronger over the years. And there have been many gaps in practice and certainly gaps in formal training.

So I am both simplifying and intensifying my practice as the Moon (and the year) waxes. I have found there are weaknesses in how I do what I do, so I am working to recognize and mend them. This is happening through meditation, contemplation and, of course, practice.

Practice, I hear, makes perfect. But, in my case, I will be happy if practice can achieve improvement and a better consistency of effect.

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Now What?

Stop.

Ground.

Listen.

Sense.

We are being bombarded by histrionic information. This is not an accident. It is by design.

Ground. Then shields up. Strong. Sense. Think.

What is really going on? Quiet your soul. Breathe. What is actually occurring? When you have an idea of what’s really happening, come back to your tribe and tell us what you’ve learned, please.

But right now–ground, sense, listen. Intuit.

It is neither the one nor the other, but both and neither. Look for the third way, and the fourth.

Strategy.

Wide-ranging thought.

Profound connection.

 

The days since last week’s Women’s March have been very full, emotionally challenging and charged. Social media–in my case Facebook and Twitter (I am a terrible Instagram slacker)–is full of hand-wringing as well as genuine distress. Reports are coming in from the new president’s first full week in office and every stroke of his pen seems designed to insure disaster, taking the Republic over the edge of the cliff.

Or are we well-placed to engage deeply as citizens, to stand up to the Powers that Are and stand by the citizens–the neighbors–that need us?

Yesterday, I recommended that every woman read Machiavelli’s The Prince and my friend Thrax recommended Xenophon’s Cyropaedia.  But first, may I suggest we start with the foundational documents of our tattered republic?  How about The Declaration of Independence? 

Let’s broaden our knowledge base, sharpen our compassion skills–and remember what it means to be an active citizen in a democratic republic?  “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” was queried of Ben Franklin, after the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” 

Can we?

 

 

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This Week

I’ve been posting on Facebook this week, leading up to the Women’s March today. I’ve put those pieces together here so I have a record of this powerful time. This place where we can practice love…in the time of the falling Tower.

 

The Week Before the Global Women’s March

Inauguration Day:

Knowing something of US history is a comfort as we face (the presidential) transition. The republic is flawed, for sure, the country polarized, the citizenry capable of disdain and hostility towards the parts of the nation that don’t conform to their standards, whatever those are. You do yourself no favor to think this is the worst or the best thing that has ever happened. It is neither. It is not as wonderful as some think nor as dire as others do. Try not to be surlier than necessary to the folks you have othered today. A republic is a tricky beast and requires an involved as well as informed citizenry. As a passionate member of this American culture, try to be a citizen today and not an obnoxious, self-serving jerk. Words to the wise.

Later, that same day…

While you are avoiding watching the inauguration (if you are doing that), please think about what you personally are going to do in your town or county to make the transition out of patriarchy and into the world we want. Community garden? Childcare co-op? Health center? Tai chi for elders in parks? Helping children with homework? Making art–music, theatre, poetry, sculptures, dance? Assign yourself to listen to people who need to be heard? What are you going to do, dear citizen, as the Tower falls and we rebuild the world?

 

 

Monday.

This week.

Begin this week with a song of praise–to the Earth, to the Divines, to your Ancestors. Ground yourselves deeply and get your shields up, singing them into place. There—that’s better. We are standing under a waning Moon, slipping into Dark Moon next week. Many of us are anxious and even fearful about the upcoming events. I will be here all week, bossing you around on social media and encouraging you to remember who you are.

So many of you have worked abiding processes for personal empowerment–well done, you. And now we are going to practice the uses of that sort of energy. Like a well-made blade, we will wield these potent magics in service to our communities, our circles, our kindred.

If you have neglected or removed your personal Ancestor altar–today is a good day to replace and refurbish it, to feed your bloodline. To re-member who you really are.

Breathe deep. Hold fast. Fear not, in these Tower Times. These are the times we were made for. Fear not. Fear not.

#LoveintheTimeofTowers #BeTheWitch #KickItDown

 

Tuesday.

This week.

You began with grounding on the Moon’s day. You honored your Ancestors. You fed them.

Today, take this noon-time to honor the land spirits that cluster around us and the ones that go about their business with no care or thought of us. Take them something shiny. A shining dime or a bit of mirror or some mica–take that outside for them, with maybe a piece of candy.

While you are there, in the world of the world, feel the solid foundation of the dear old Earth under your feet and renew your grounding. Remember the complex narrative that is your body and honor that, too.

Exercise your common sense and keep your wits about you. For this is the Tower Time we’ve been discussing for so long–days of dismay and courage, nights of reclamation and healing.

Tuesday.

Hold fast that which is good and, as always, fear not.

#bethewitch #LoveInTheTimeofTowers #danceontheashes

 

Wednesday.

This week.

In German, it is Mittwoch: the middle of the week. It is liminal, a gateway, the hidden door in the secret garden. You have been grounding deeply this week and raising your shields. In love and with respect, you have honored your Ancestors, the land, the Divines as you experience them.

Good.

Today, with one foot in the beginning and one foot in the end, straddling the doorway…today reach out with your hands and seize this time. Mid-day, mid-week, mid-month. Balance now your expectations and your fears, your courage and your vulnerability.

Holding fast to all those possibilities, feel the dear Earth’s energy flow up and through you, strengthening you, re-membering you.

You got this, this transitting white-water.

It’s Tower Time, as you well know.

Looking forward and holding fast to the good, the real.

Fear not. Fear not.

#bethewitch #LoveintheTimeofTowers #kickitdown

 

Thursday.

This week.

The energy is ratcheting up. Edges are crumbling. The center can’t hold.

Or can it?

You know what to do, beloveds. Pull up a swift protective circle and arrange your magics according to your skills.

Gather what you need from the hedges and edges. Create your clockwork shambles and set them in motion.

Join me now, in the center, in the heart, of this great working. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Kindred, our Ancestors, the ageless spirits of the land. We are a mighty cohort, patient, waiting.

A chord is struck. A bodhran speaks. The little pipes begin and the great pipes warm up.

We are readying ourselves for the exquisite moment.

Hold fast.

Fear not.

It is time.

#LoveinTheTimeofTowers #bethewitch #danceitdow

 

Friday.

This week.

Night has fallen in the southern highlands of the old Appalachian mountains. In my house, we are replacing the furnace, readying the gardens, preparing for our annual celebration of Rev. Charles Bryan at Burns Night.

This day has brought what we need and, for some of us, what we want. There is a wild swing amongst emotions on social media and in society. There is mourning and fury and joy and satisfaction.

Today I heard a train whistle and a love song and a woodpecker in the maple tree.

And I heard you.

We are standing at the gates, the great pipes skirling around us. We are fearless and proud, far-seeing, strategic, cunning.

There is a culture to heal and a world to build. There is healing to be found in the darkness, nestled in mystery. You are the weaver and the healer, the web and the seeker.

Tower Time. Engage it. Own it. These are the times we were made for.

Hold fast. Breathe deep. Fear not.

#LoveintheTimeofTowers #bethewitch #kickitdown

 

 

Saturday.

This week.

Dawn.

As the Sun rises on this day, my social media feeds feature words of determination, of comfort. Women are sending blessings, encouragement and sensible caution to marchers across the globe.

Very silly hats are everywhere, belying the strength and fury that strides beneath those perky ears.

Go ahead and underestimate this event, this moment, this action.

These women. Because this is different, this one. It has been building like an ancient relentless tsunami for so many generations, so many Moon cycles.

The energy surges not from the top down, not from the capitol to the wildlands, not from the civic plaza to the hearth. Reverse it. From heart to hearth to town square to county seat to state capitol to the boggy seat of the republic.

Underestimate it. We smile when you think that. We smile and plan.

We have brought a battering ram shaped like Eve and Gaia and Grandma to the gates of power. Wherever those gates stand. Even if they stand in our own souls.

It doesn’t begin today. It continues, this work of many hands and hearts. Spiral in, spiral out. A clockwork of deepest freedom, of desire, of joy.

We are come to kick it down. And to dance on the ashes. And to rebuild the world.

Breathe deep. Ground yourself in the dear old Earth.

Fear not.

#LoveintheTimeofTowers #bethewitch #kickitdown

 

 

 

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A New Pair of Boots and the Bride’s Bed

bits and bobs and Imbolc very, very soon

I got a new pair of work boots today and they came in a big cardboard box.

Brilliant.

With Imbolc only a few weeks away, my thoughts are turning to prep for that sweet holy day, and one of the fun things to do is create a bed for Brigid, a place for Her to rest Her head as She travels the land, with Her companion cow. It’s a lovely thing to do with children but is also a fun way to prepare ourselves for this shifting season.

We’ll look at several ways to prepare over the next few weeks and you are invited to do the things that make your heart sing.

Irish folklore includes stories of Brigid travelling the land, bringing blessings (and we assume, fertility) to all She meets. Sometimes one may see tiny footprints in the ashes from the hearth fire. Sometimes small gifts are left for the littles. And in the spirit of another kind visitor from December, sometimes it is very wise to leave Herself a shot of good whisky and a bowl of oats for the wee cow.

My daughter and I used to leave out the bed every year. The bed was made from a shoebox and had a soft mattress, a little pillow and a pretty coverlet. There was a little cup and saucer from Bonwit-Teller that held tea or whisky.  And there was a saucer full of oatmeal–and sometimes an oatmeal cookie– for the happy cow.  We talked about the blessings She brought to our house and we marveled at the love She bestowed on us throughout the year. It is a small enough thing to leave out a soft space for Her to rest Her head and a sup and a bite.

Try it with your littles–or for yourself–this Imbolc season.  Be as fancy as you like–a lace hankie as coverlet? A hand-knitted tiny pillow?  Do what best pleases you and I guarantee it will please Herself as well.

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An Evening of Shakespeare

this earth, this realm

I’m sure I should be exhorting you, gentle reader, to ground yourself and set strong intentions for this new year.  But better folk than I are spending so many words on doing so that it seems hardly worth the effort to nag you who are so thoroughly chided to carpe annum.

Besides, I am resting up during this Mercury retrograde time and weary from my year of travel, I am looking for inspiration of my own.  So Shakespeare.  I love Shakespeare and have been reading his words since I was about 10. My mother was a fan and quoted some of the best bits when I was very young indeed.

I find comfort, solace and inspiration in the plays and the poems, and have been fortunate in my life to play many roles in these familiar works.  When the times in which we live offer us enormous challenges–personal as well as civic–I have always found answers in the Riverside Shakespeare, read aloud in a silent room, read silently in company.

When faced with incompetent leaders, can we not turn to the War of the Roses and visit again the victories of Henry V torn to pieces by the lesser monarchs that followed him?  Crazy leaders? Mad in their rage? There is Lear for that.

And Richard II, which I am watching now, yields this, seemingly about the nation in which I am a citizen… “This dear, dear land is now leased out…”

But I began the evening with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” All my work of late with the Fair Folk, with the Gentry–how right it feels to see the fey-haunted forests beset by asses and changlings and fumblingly-bad actors!  And how perfect for the times that are our times today. So I am comforting myself with Shakespeare tonight.

What are the things–the words, the beings, the sounds–that nourish and repair your soul in times that clang with chaos?

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A New and Hobbitty Sort of Year

I was trying to take a nap a couple of days ago and kept getting interrupted. This is my interrupted-nap face

2016 has made us stronger, more introspective, clearer on what we will and won’t tolerate. It has been an extraodinary year–the sort of time that priestesses, like yours truly, consider initiatory. I invite you to ponder what your initiation by 2016 means and whether it was a trial by fire or an endurance trial. Both? or neither? I have been transformed this year and acknowledge that it has been one of the most passionate and intensely spiritual years of my life.

I posted this on Facebook as that social media platform filled with the grief and longing of this annus horribilus. Princess Leia was dead, after all, even though we all thought she might beat this year of death. Even she could not placate it. Nor could many of us.

But the year wasn’t all grief, was it?  For some of us it was a year of wonders, of miracles, of resurrections. Perhaps it is because I am a Monkey and it is a Monkey year. Perhaps it is because I turned sixty, and that magic and frightening number seemed to liberate me from past constrictions. Perhaps because I travelled to so many fascinating places and met–and fell in love with–so many extraordinary people. Perhaps it is all of that, plus the memories of moonlit walks, transforming affections and friends who held me upright as I wept.

There is, in my deepest self, a sense of the rightness of these times that are our times, these Tower Times. I may sometimes fancy myself a brave and foolish Hobbit in a great big world. Sometimes my Facebook posts reflect my introspection and my passionate commitment to stir the batter into a place where it can all be baked into deliciousness.  

But I am, at heart, a mountain witch-woman who honors her British roots a bit too much and loves to garden and sing and dance and love with abandon. And there’s also a bit of fey in the mix. So tell me–what will you do with this fey and fiercesome year that is to come? (with apologies to Mary Oliver)

 

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The Vagaries of Time

A few days ago, I heard a news report about the Japanese prime minister visiting Pearl Harbor. The news reader thought it was particularly significant that this visit came in the same month as the commemoration of the attack. My brain processed that information in an interesting way. Wait, it thought…Pearl Harbor Day in December 7th. Hmm….that’s– Holy mothers! it is still December.

Still December after all these weeks.

I have been on the road a fair amount in the last two months. FaerieCon in Maryland, appearance and class in Ohio, Thanksgiving in Atlanta, a week in New York, a day-trip to Gatlinburg, a weekend in Tampa and a day trip to Charlotte to help my daughter move to a new apartment.  Have I missed anything? Possibly, but I don’t remember.

This is all by way of explaining where I’ve been. I’ve missed birthdays and other anniversaries. I have left meetings half-scheduled and have no idea how many of those I’ve dropped. There are emails waiting in the Inbox of my business account, wondering when I’ll respond.

But the good news is I’m editing my new book and working on a publisher proposal for the next one. I’ve reconnected with an old theatre buddy about doing a performance piece. My weight is down and my energy is up. I am booked into a bunch of conferences and festivals, and am developing a sex magic workshop that will premiere locally and then go on the road.

For now, though, I’m going to rest during Mercury retrograde and try to return to some gentle blogging, gentle reader.

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Preserving Fruit to Soothe the Soul

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pretty berries but not on my stove today

I have spent the last few days preparing for the winter Solstice giving season.  My year of travelling continues one week from today as we head northward to my husband’s family in New York.  Then a few days at home before travelling to Florida to spend time with my daughter’s soon-to-be in-laws.

Only a few days to write the annual letter, to send off packages, to mail cards to those I love in Britain. I have baked cakes (and there are more to come) and I have hauled beautifully frozen fruits from my freezer to become jams and jellies and sauces. Once they are cooked, bottled and labeled, they will go into bags and baskets, to be delivered to friends and neighbors.

I am finding all of this homeliness a salve for my bruised soul. What a sad time it is now, for so many. The ill mother of my dear friend and sister Sarah has made her way across the veil and into Tir Nan Og.  And only a few days later, the sweet mom of my dear friend and sister Oriana made the same journey. And in the rain earlier this week, I held the joy of its arrival while balancing the terror of dear Gatlinburg, burning to the ground. Holding all those things–and others, so many others–has left me feeling like a slow-motion plate spinner, carefully watching them dip and re-balance, only to be thrown off-kilter time and time again.

But the rain–a deep, cold and soaking rain–has come to the Smoky Mountains today. The rain we needed weeks ago–months ago!–has set in for the day and the simple act of boiling canning jars and adding sugar to the bright berry juice has settled my spinning for now.  There is always time to think as the fruit is stirred and the scum scooped off.

I have been considering the totality of this year which has been filled with excitement and a depth of both grief and love that is astounding to consider.  In this year in which I turned sixty, I have learned so much about myself and my world.  And the Divines that I serve have challenged me and infuriated me and given me more than I could have ever wished for, at the point where I had stopped wishing for those sorts of things. 

For me, the year ends with Samhain but it is obvious that 2016 is going to hold on to the last possible moment and will not be fobbed off with my notion of the ancient calendar. So I look to the Winter Solstice with some expectation, as well as longing.

And the berries in their jars are rich and vibrant and sweet as summer wine.

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little green apples become Cloud Jelly

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On the Intricacies of Candleflame

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ancestor altar 2014

We are in the final weeks of the half-year season that I call the Long Dying. The Winter Solstice will be arrive on the longest night of the year, when all hope of mercy and aid has been smoored to the palest glow of renewed fire. In interfaith circles we talk about the importance of this time of lighting candles in the darkness, of using nature as a convenient excuse for giving in to ennui and despair.

Harumph.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” No doubt it is, since cursing the darkness implies we don’t understand the importance of healing and rest and deep nurture, which all wait for us in the dark. But I am working with a different candle metaphor these days. I don’t encourage participating in it because it is hard, lonely and bitter work that can only be undertaken through will and determination. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires seeing through tears and veils of weariness, of hearing the unhearable and taking on the impossible.

There are ugly, hard edges in this work. Ugly and hard don’t work so well for many of us in our modern soft lives. It is homely work that will not be curated but is possibly artisanal in the way that hand-work sometimes is.

Candles are extraordinarily simple and beautiful things. A wick holds the flame that is fed by the wax of the candle. Candles come in many styles and sizes and colors. Like people do, now that I think of it.  Ideally–and sensibly–candles stand upright and the flame burns at the top end. Simple, proper, safe.

When we work too hard, we speak of burning the candle at both ends. This technique offers more heat and light but is trickier to house and uses the resources of the candle–the wax and wick–twice as fast. Many of us are in this place right now. We stay up too late, then get up early, then arrange our thoughts into words and our limbs into actions. We have intentions and chores and promises to keep. 2016 has been an extraordinary year for many of us. Death, birth, disappointment, love, lust and the Great Cycle writ large: the cycle of destruction and creation.

You do not want to read this next part, so please return to the photo of the Ancestor altar from a couple of years ago and go back to your challenging life here in Tower Time, here at world’s end, here at the birthing of tomorrow and the day after that.

Some of us have looked into the days ahead and have contemplated the days past and we are also burning the candle–that useful and ubiquitous metaphor–in the middle. It can’t be held, it can’t be contemplated with any sort of logic or reason. It is the Fool’s course, the one way we see to live life as fully as it can be lived.

Vision, miracle, metaphor. We are witch and shaman and beggar and thief. We see a new way and a potential for new worlds, and we can’t shake the vision of the signal fires and the scrolls kept and the temples to be built. Of circles on the ground and a simple light that clearly shows love and freedom in the healing of the darkness.

Per ardua ad terra, friends 

Carpe diem.

Carpe noctem.

Carpe vita.

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Harvest Home. It’s complicated.

It may be that celebrating the harvest was always a complicated matter. After spending months in the anxiety and hard work of planting, tending, harvesting and preserving the crops, we were exhausted, worn out. We faced a winter that was uncertain as to its duration and severity, causing us to worry if we had set aside enough food and wood for heating. There would be fresh game to supplement the salted or canned food. There would be long cold nights and short cold days.

Great rejoicing at harvest time but never a sense that anything was finished–only a continuation of the cycle of the agricultural year. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Repeat, repeat. It wasn’t a total crap-shoot, of course, because you would have been through a winter within easy memory and would have a rough idea of how much of everything was needed. But a poor harvest meant a lean winter and there were folks who didn’t survive a fat winter. Our Ancestors used alcohol and sex and religion to dull the edge of panic that must have highlighted the move between seasons.

Fast forward to today. Thanksgiving Day, 2016. Social media is a harrowing battle ground where a simple greeting of Happy Turkey Day! can get you the strappado. How dare you celebrate this terrible day?  Don’t you know the real meaning of Thanksgiving? Are you so thin-brained that you don’t know what we did to the Native peoples?  Stealing their land, giving them smallpox?  Trail of Tears, anyone?  And right now, as I type these words–full as a tick with traditional Thanksgiving foods–the situation in the Dakotas with the water protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline debacle rages on, with water cannons and sound grenades, and no help from the Obama administration. How can I eat pie and play peek-a-boo with my great-niece when this injustice is being perpetrated Right Under My Nose. How?  How can I? Have I no heart?

That sort of thing.

We seem to have lost the handy skill of being able to hold more than one idea in our wee heads at a time. But we have certainly not lost the knack for judging each others every mood based on our own beliefs and passions.

Cut it out. Seriously.

Thanksgiving and other times of family in-gathering are few and far between for many families. The old days of lingering around a table telling stories–hearing the mythology that makes up our family and cultural heritage–are slipping away from us. And many of us choose–rightly or wrongly–to embrace chosen families because our birth families are so toxic to us, so different from us. So we may not be able to pass on the story of Cousin Evvie’s pound cake or the way CB used to crack black walnuts. We are encouraged to bring to the table the full-throated cry of our political position and to let the racist/homophobic/sexist members of our extended family have it. Except if we spent more time with them, in spite of our political differences, we might find that the thing we think of as racist is simply an awkward and old-fashioned use of language and an unfamiliarity with cultures outside their limited worldview. It will certainly bring them to your rightness of opinion if you come to the Thanksgiving table as an arrogant snot who is here to shed light on the benighted world they still cling to.

That technique is not an effective strategy in most cases, friends.

You may choose to prove your perceived superiority on this field of battle–indeed you have every right to do that. And heaven knows there are plenty of your online acquaintances who will demand that you de-platform Grandma because her languaging on a particular social issues is so dated and triggering. But I invite you to take a longer view and to hold out both your hands to hold onto contradictory ideas.

You can love your Grandma and cut her some slack, knowing her life story and sheltered life. You being a bright light of modernity and kindness may go much farther than you tone-policing your Elders.  You can acknowledge that this horror happening to the water protectors in the Dakotas is a continuation of what has been happening to Native peoples all over the world for a very long time. You might wonder why American First Nations peoples and their plight and continuing search for justice seems to get so little traction in social media or mainstream media.  Ditto women’s issues. How can it possibly be true that in this day and age, women can be told they are being paid less than a man doing the same job simply because they are women… and monuments are not blowing up all over the country? Hmmm?

You can hold in your heart that a period of intense colonization was horrible and continues to be tragic for indigenous people without blaming it on your hapless Uncle Bill. Honestly, you can. In fact, I encourage you to celebrate the harvest as it sets on your table in all its messy American glory, while celebrating your hopelessly outdated and parochial family and its corny stories. Your cred as an activist will not be compromised because you weren’t the sullen know-it-all at the family gathering.  And if it is, you may be hanging out with some short-sighted people who are too judgy by half.

Guilt rarely accomplishes what we intend when we either wallow in it or inflict it on others. There are better ways to change minds and hearts, more effective ways. The best being the technique of walking your talk. Of being in the world in a way that reflects your ethical standards and your courage and your love.

Enjoy this brief time with people who share your bloodline but not your political views. There is much work ahead of all of us as we tackle this brave new world of ours, these strange-bedfellows alliances that may have real possibilities for shifting the culture. For today–and maybe tomorrow–you can regain your perspective, listen attentively to people you think are not like you and practice radical kindness. The revolution will still be there waiting when you return. And you will be the better for a slice of homemade pie.

Viva le Revolution!

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Symbol. Omen.

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gazing pool

The smoke has returned here. We had a couple of clearer and more hopeful days but today the air quality took another downturn and I am coughing and red-eyed again. As North Carolina continues to struggle with who is and is not our governor, the burning of the western part of the state feels much like symbol or even omen of what is to come.

The Old North State has endured the stranglehold on government that the Republic is about to encounter. As a Republican-owned General Assembly and a Republican governor have roiled the education, healthcare and other systems throughout NC, we have endured a steady barrage of quips from people outside the state and outside the South.  Serves us right for electing them, is the general theme. The quipsters never take into consideration that the districts are thoroughly gerrymandered now, making a fair election darn night impossible. Given a generally ineffective Democratic response, the citizens of the state have struggled and mourned, have marched and petitioned to little effect.

Now the Repubic gets to face the same thing and I don’t look forward to it. Because the opposition party is even more moribund on the national level. And the Republicans have been terribly efficient here–as though they came in with an ALEC-inspired and Koch-funded masterlist and have gone down it, item by item, checking out the accomplished items.  The Republic needs all its citizens paying attention now and making our own lists, readying ourselves and our networks, girding our loins.

This afternoon, I had a brief meeting with the Cranky Clergy group to which I belong. The group includes a dear friend who is Jewish and I looked at her, sitting across from me at the table. The clergy group is made up of all sorts of miscreants and potential radicals–Pagans/Witches, Lesbians, Jews. As I looked across the table, I thought (and said)–I think I worry about you and your congregation the most. And it isn’t the potential for violence as much as the horrific triggering that the Nazi comparisons must cause for you.

We went on to talk about security issues at our houses of worship and what sorts of disaster/emergency plans we need to draft or renew. And the whole time there was a part of me that wondered how far all of this was going to go.

In the smoke of a renewed mountain wildfire, I felt the reflection of destruction in my heart and in the eyes of my colleagues. Microcosm, macrocosm. What sorts of alliances will we need to stand together in ways that are meaningful, helpful, strategic? How can we be truly stronger together in the face of fear and potential revolution? 

I wish I knew the answers, that I could read the omens. But I can’t.

I am living in the Mystery of time and history, of love and madness.

As we all are. 

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A Hawk on the Lady’s Arm

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winter solstice in the park

 

 

Lately, in teaching and workshopping, I’ve taken to beginning each one with a solemn plea to those people in the group who consider themselves magic-workers of some sort. I explain a bit about these Tower Times and I implore them to practice their craft until they are not merely competent but become adept.  I tell them that the Earth needs them, that their species needs them, that their communities need them. Please, o please! practice magic and energy manipulation until you are really, really good at it.

Does it work? Do some of them do it? Yes, they do. Or at least they report to me that they are working hard and practicing. I am taking them at their word.

I also ask participants about the Veil between the worlds. Do they feel it? Does it seem very thin and kind of tattered? Many people concur. Gathering information really. And then I ask about their grounding techniques.  Some people do that so easily that they don’t have much technique to talk about. Others have elaborate rituals and visualizations that get them to that deeply connected place.  And some of them shake their heads and talk about how they used to be really good at it but lately it has failed them.

Failed them.

They’ve tried different techniques but nothing feels as strong as it used to. It’s as if–as many have articulated–the energetic core of the planet is no longer…solid. Yeah. Imagine hearing that again and again all over this country and in places in Britain and Europe.

I’ve been playing with another style of grounding that seems to be working for some folks and does work for me most of the time.  Here it goes–

Imagine yourself a muscular young hawk, sitting on the gloved hand of the Earth as Gaia. You dig your talons into the familiar glove, know the familiar smells and sights and sounds of being a trained raptor on the arm of a Goddess. Shake your bells. Flex your wings. Solid, solid connection.

And then the leather-clad arm shifts, lowers and then raises. You gather your wings to you and bend you knees, flexing your talons and releasing your grip. As the arm raises into the wildness of the sky, you lift off, with a thrust of your powerful wings and a lifting and then—you’re away. You can return when you choose but are not as bound as you once were.

If you are having trouble with grounding, try this protocol and see if it helps.

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Pondering the Times, and polishing the good silver

Spent all day today in meetings, one right after the other. Good meetings, strong meetings, merry meetings.

Yesterday, however, was a day of traveling and thinking and scheming.

It began in Cleveland, in the rain. I woke in a shabby but comfortable motel room to a sound I hadn’t heard in months–heavy rain, with wind. I had been up pretty late and morning was not quite a gleam so my waking brain didn’t quite ken what the noise was. It was still dark out but peering out the window, I smiled to watch water falling from the actual sky. Imagine that–water from the sky. 

I called for a cab to take me to the airport, showered and did the last of the packing. I dashed over to the motel office to check on something and the clerk offered to walk me back to my room with an umbrella. I laughed and allowed as how I’d dance nekkid in the rain, if I wasn’t in a city Not My Own. Heaven knows, the old West End of Asheville has experienced by nekkid pale self under a full Moon or under a downpour. But Cleveland is not my village and I restrained myself, as was polite and suitable.

I arrived early to the airport–which is my preference–and breezed through check-in and screening, only to be thwarted in the actual leaving. There was a maintenance issue with our plane and that dragged on and on, until they reassigned most of the other passengers. Only a handful of us would go on to Dulles on the original flight, whenever that managed to happen.  If my connecting flight was missed, I could look forward to a five hour layover in the perfectly horrible Dulles and an arrival time back home around 9pm. 

O bother.

When the flight finally left, it had only a few folks on it so there was snack mix and diet Coke for everyone! In abundance!  United was at least consistent. The first flight was delayed by a couple of hours and–et voila!–the connecting flight to Greenville was also delayed. So it all worked out.  And it gave me time to ponder this whole Kick It Down/Destroy the Patriarchy thing that many of us keep talking about but don’t seem to have the ability to speak it into being.  We’ll need to find some other strategies if we’re going to achieve this Very Important Goal. 

I took out my trusty Composition notebook and started making lists and diagrams and doodles, and shaping what was churning around in my head. In witchcraft, as in life, intention is terribly important, and it’s vital to be specific if you need a specific outcome. So “Kick It Down” can be a hashtag but isn’t really a strategy.

We can start with definitions.

What is patriarchy and what don’t we like about it?  What do we want changed and what do we want to have in its place?

Can we start locally, in conjunction with like-minded groups in other localities, and target the patriarchal systems in our own families, in our lives, in our city and county governments? Microcosm, macrocosm. 

Can we look at the strategies that have made patriarchal systems resilient and successful and use them to tear down the masters’ house or must we have new tools for old systems?  Or is it, as I always suspect, a third way of utilizing all available tools and resources to achieve the end results?

As I and others develop these concepts, I will share them here, in case any of it is useful to you in your community.  Each day, we begin anew. We pray for strength and resilience and courage and endurance. And, please, Mother! some humor and music and dancing, too.