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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.


Bruised marigolds.


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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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


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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Embracing Willendorf–Free Willi!


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? 


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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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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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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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.

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Long Time Passing

Mercy, mercy.

I have been on the road for most of this year, it seems. This morning in the wee-est of hours, I ate the remnants of a very good cobb salad, packed my duffle-bag and took the shuttle to the Pittsburgh airport.  Eight hours later, I unlocked my much-loved RAV 4 in the parking lot at the Greenville airport and headed for the hills.

There is a moment as one drives up 26 towards the state line when the blue ridge of my home rises up before my eyes. My mountain homeland, the seat of my various family branches for so long.

Today I was low on gas so I pulled over at Exit 1. Landrum. One of my Ancestors bears that name as his middle one: John Landrum Westmoreland. I wondered if he had looked toward that blue ridge with a sense of fear or loss as he left South Carolina and brought his name into Haywood county, where it would become part of my mother-line.

I am settling back in for now, mindful that my peregrinations will continue in November and December, and plans are already firming up for next year. Barring incident or accident, as I often murmur to myself. A charm against the vagaries of these Tower Times of ours.

So I hope to spend more time here, considering our historic election, the nature of the Pagan community and sorting out how our roots both ground and restrain us. It may be that the restraints are feeling tighter these days than they once did, as I feel strangled by the changes that are roiling Asheville, from my old West End neighborhood outward.

It is feeling fallish, at last, and Samhaintide is upon us. Let’s hang together as we can, and learn what can be done and what, alas, cannot…in these tower times.



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The Budweiser Phoenix

First, there was the blind man, the one Star met while outside smoking. Everyone in the pub knew him by name and we had a fine time with him discussing politics and writing and all sorts of things. He introduced us to Gordon Douglas, who had written a second book about the sons of the Mars. He gave us a copy of it, as a matter of fact. He told us about the old ship and how the stories stuck with him and he had to tell them.  Go here to find out more and to get Gordon’s book–

Soon, we were joined by his lady friend/wife—an artist named Susan Wilson—and we had a genuine, an animated conversation about real things, as though we had known each other a long time.

Gordon was the second person to talk about the spirits of place. A taxi driver in Edinburgh had mentioned the haunted landscape of Glencoe and Gordon has lived near the place where the Mars had been moored, could see the spot from his kitchen window. He said each time he walked to the water, he could see the faces. They would “rise up” before him, is how he put it.

Those first two cities on this pilgrimage of mine—Edinburgh and Dundee—set a tone for the Invisible in these old and complicated urban areas. Here the faces that rise up before us are human ones. The land spirits, large and small, seem suppressed in so much stone, amidst so much human longing and striving. Even in the parks of the towns, the deeply-green places, the Beings were Ancestral and urban. Only the long lines of the ridges of Salisbury Crags gave shape to the beckoning fingers of the land folk, calling us to remember the time before human time.

Friends, we drank deep that night at the Phoenix. Terry soon arrived and we set to renewing our joking acquaintance and hearing about his mysterious ailment. We missed the cut-off for food and had to venture out in search of a meal. We returned after and found a new table and talked with the regulars. At one point, having gone to the barman for a packet of salt-and-vinegar crisps, I ended up discussing Trump with the fellas and the barman (they invited me to return to Scotland if he was elected) and a bit later I found myself discussing the American Civil War with the same group.

We had decided on a taxi home at the end of the evening and that was a very good idea, as it turned out. All in all, a very fine evening—though I was terribly sad to have missed my friend Mark and his son Allan. Next stop, Lockerbie and Mid Raeburn and a Rather Large and Amorous Dog.

Reiver country.


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The Invisible Zoological Museum


Oor Wullie, Dundee

Our guest house in Dundee was a stunner with a gorgeous old garden. The weather continued its crap trend and we had trouble connecting with our friends there. We never did see Mark, and Terry had some issues getting to Dundee from Kirkcaldy. He arrived at last but it was after the Howff and the mystery of the Invisible Zoological Museum.

I knew I wanted to see the Howff again, that fine old burying ground! and to spend time at the McManus. We did the Howff on the first day in town and next morning was the McManus, which is an old-fashioned museum in a lot of ways and always delights me. The Picts! That spiffy coracle! An old printing press! There are stuffed animals (taxidermied, not plushies) and artifacts from Dundee’s colorful history.

It was great. And outside was a new installment near the statue of Rabbie Burns. It was Oor Wullie and a poem in honor of Burns, sort of.

Pub next, of course, where it was Mexican food day. I settled for a jacket potato and a pint, and the sun came out for a bit. Only a bit and then the rain and wind started again. We decided we’d check out something we’d seen on a tourist map while waiting for Terry’s arrival—a zoological museum on the campus of the university, which looked pretty easy to find. So, off we went to the museum, which seemed to be surprisingly close to the Phoenix, the pub where we were meeting our friends. Star’s back was achy and the weather took a turn for the worse. The map was unhelpful, as it turns out. We approached the alleged museum location from two different directions, asked passers-by (who had no idea and were actually stopping to ask us for directions). We went round and round, peering at the inadequate wet map. We did pass a pub with a large Budweiser sign over the door, commented on it and moved on.

After several false starts and stops, we found the location that should have held the zoological museum. There were only university offices and soggy students. We gave up finally and decided we’d find the pub—The Phoenix—and wait for our friends.

We had that fab map, of course, and that led us to simply asking a nice-looking man in a metrosexual clothing boutique to actually find the Phoenix. It turned out, naturally, that the Budweiser-sign pub was The Phoenix and we took a seat by the door and waited, avec pints.

That’s when the surprising string of new acquaintances and their complicated lives began to take hold of the Very Soggy Day.

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Village Witch a-Wandering..some notes from a Pagan pilgrim

I am home from a month in Britain. It was a working trip, field research for a book, a homecoming of the heart.  I kept a travel journal and have lumped together some essays to share with you here.


Essay One

On the Land: all the elements

Choosing to spend a month in Britain—and that month being April—is a calculated risk. There’s weather to consider, of course. But any time spent in those old motherlands holds other dangers to one of the wandering daughters of Britain. The calling in the blood and bone, the smell of wet soil, the sound of those familiar voices heard and unheard. These are the clever traps that lure us in and catch us by the heart, wandering daughters that we are. I expect each time that I will venture into a quiet copse and emerge in Ancestral Time where I will sink, unresisting, into the green of those old and tended hills.

Traveling light is bit of thing with me, so I was careful in packing, knowing there might come a day when I had to wear all that I’d brought. So far that hasn’t happened, but it’s early days yet and Scotland (both Edinburgh and Dundee) came close.

Wet. Cold. Windy. We did have the occasional break in the weather but that was a weak and watery Sun squinting at our irresponsible behavior. It was warmish and sunny the day we left the Lockerbie train station but the three Scottish locations—the first week here—gave me a healthy respect for all the possibilities.

Silly to say it but everything here is so damned old. Obviously, I live in the oldest mountains in the world so I am writing here about the built landscape, the tended spaces. Victorian feels newish, Georgian is close to “old,” Elizabethan gets there—and we simply keep going back. Old and tended (and sometimes ruined). Lichened and blackened by age and elements but still holding a primal spot in the human imagination. The cobbled and maddening streets—who walked them before and who will walk after? Even the tacky tourist shops and the KFCs and the perpetual Starbucks—are housed in these sturdy history boats.

A joke-cracking tour guide peeled away the ages of Edinburgh Castle. Starting with the new rubber spikes on the portcullis and ending in a tiny chapel that once stored gunpowder, he led us round the walls and smooth-worn steps. A trip to the cells gave us a glimpse of the last bits of the earliest tower. The winding, slow and carpeted path to the Scottish crown jewels ended in the impossibly powerful Stone of Scone, which I had last seen at Westminster Abbey years before.

Time and history, the machine oil of my imagination, lashed together with grief and memory.

With all the elements, classical and otherwise, in place and the sacred landscape and its Unseen Inhabitants acknowledged, we left the capital and moved north. Through the Kingdom of Fife to the marmalade center of the one-time Empire. Penguin-haunted Dundee.

Britain 2013 450



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Blah blah blah Sacred Space blah blah blah Sacred Space

I feel as though I’ve been writing about and talking about the conference for days…days!

It’s because I have.  I had such a good time and met some very fine people.  I got to teach and talk–two of my favorite things.  And some of my favorite people have said some really nice things about me and I’m going to share them here.

Hecate Demeter’s Daughter  wrote this–

and then she wrote this–

And if you don’t follow her blog, you should, because she is always brilliant. Always.  And she was very kind to write those things and–full disclosure–we are friends, as well as colleagues, and I love her.

I have also interacted with Jason Pitzl-Waters over at the Wild Hunt for many years but only met him at this conference.  As I posted on Facebook–he is just as smart and funny as you thought.  Anyway, we had a good time at the con and he wrote this thing that made me cry–

…and it includes a recording of the panel discussion where I got to hold forth with Linda Ours Rago (one of my great inspirations) and with Orion Foxwood, whom I had met on a couple of occasions but didn’t really know.  He was a dollbaby, by the way, and has been so supportive of my book.

So I am all floaty and giddy about all these nice things people are writing and about the conference itself, where I got to hang out with my buds Diotima Mantineia, Star Bustamonte, Amy Blackthorn, as well as Macha Nightmare, Selena Fox, Gwendolyn Reece and so many more.

Today, though, I spent a good amount of time in the garden, getting myself back to basics, back to land and soil.  We worked in our little pocket community garden where we said farewell to the beautiful old rosemary that didn’t survive the winter and to her sister lavender which ditto.  And I got to garden with a very fine young gardener named Charlie and his mom Jennifer.

So…the nettles are starting to rise and all is well, if still a bit giddy, in my little corner of the world.