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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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On the Intricacies of Candleflame


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.


“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.


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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Through a Glass, Darkly

jan feb 2014 172


Today was a tarot day in my world. I’ve been reading cards for a long time and I have a regular gig on Tuesday afternoons at our local witch shop, Asheville Raven and Crone. Today I did a double shift and was busy for the whole time.

People want answers. The world seems a confusing and chaotic place, and enlightenment of situations and mood is something devoutly to be wished but seemingly hard to come by. Jobs, housing, lovers, contentment, meaningful work. These seem so elusive to so many right now and sometimes a careful card reading can lift a corner of the veil, let a little light into the shadowy room of the future.

This afternoon I read for long-time clients as well as Facebook friends and a couple of new people. I used the same spread for each reading, a layout I developed called the Serpent. There are six cards on the bottom row, five in the middle and four on top, and I read left to right on the bottom row, right to left on the middle one and left to right again on the top row.

The first three cards on the bottom row are where the client stands right now. We delve into those cards so that I have an understanding of the foundation of the client’s issues and some sense of where their life lies. It helps give the client some trust in my abilities as we move through the reading.

The cards aren’t infallible nor is the reader but I generally muddle through and can shed some soft candlelight on the way of the world in these trying times. I also try to have some paper with me because the reading sometimes leads to the development of small magical workings designed to move the process along.

Two people got the Tower today and three people got Death. I take all that to be a good sign, a sign of forward momentum. No longer stuck, no longer balanced on the edge of a spiritual knife. I sat with an artist today who will be engaging her art in service to her deep spirituality. I sat with a woman who has so many comforts but longs to have real work, transformative work, to engage her mind, her soul and her heart.

The trick to living is to know enough about yourself to be effective but not so much as to spend your days gazing at your navel, waiting for inspiration, waiting for intervention, waiting, waiting, waiting.

The time for waiting is past for most of us. As we slide down the long muddy path to Samhain, I plan to re-post all the Tower Time documents, both for new readers and for those who need a refresher course in the times that are our times. Another Tower Time document is in the works, too. I hope to have the essay finished before Samhain.

As we enter into the darkest part of the year here in the Northern hemisphere, we are invited to lift the corner of the veil, to reveal what is occluded, indistinct and in shadow. And to take that knowledge with us into the big world and share it. We are lighting signal fires for each other, for our Ancestors and for our Descendants. Let’s do that work together when we can. Many hands—even as we peer into the dark glass–can make lighter work.


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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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Lighting Signal Fires in Tower Time

I’ve written rather a lot about Tower Time. For Cassandra figures like me, there is nothing satisfying about seeing visions come to fruition. We are experiencing the roiling change, the fear, the uncertainty that is almost programmatic in this enormous shift. Many communities are easily seen to be in peril but I say to you that all communities are thus.

Yes, the Veil is so thin as to be nonexistent, so if you are feeling your Ancestors and Descendents close to you, you are experiencing that. If your garden is flourishing and feels delightful, that is because it is filled with beings of delight that you can now perceive on some level. If you are not meeting with like-minded people to figure out where we as a species go from here, you had best get started. Time’s a-wasting, as we say hereabouts. This world is shuddering and shifting and moving out–it is up to all of us to decide the human worlds that will inhabit this physical space.

Perhaps we can refrain from the word-bombs and ego-lightning and get on with the reasons we’re actually here.

Something you may find helpful right now is to ground yourself deeply and shield yourself, too. Do all the self-care we’ve been discussing ad infinitem–hydrating, exercise, nutritious food. Holding fast to the good that you are and that you know.

Remember how strong you are and what you have already been through.

We are shaky now, frightened, angry. Go to your altar and renew your daily spiritual practice. Go outside. Remember, remember who you are and where you are, and your golden wild heart. Find your tribe and sit in circle with other tribes, either literal or virtual.

A thought, in love, from your village witch.

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The Day After

Hello, all!  We spent some time earlier this week getting me relatively competent with this blog on my revamped (revamping) website.  There’s still the challenge of moving the old posts over here but I have a way to do that.  “Slow and steady wins the race” may be my spell in the coming year.

It is the second day of January which feels more of a beginning than yesterday. The first of January is a touchstone of normalcy in my world–the kitchen is filled with mostly-good smells (fresh collards should always be cooked first so that the gassy funk has time to dissipate or be covered over with roasting pork and apple smells).  And the menu is always the same–collard greens, cracklings in cornbread, black-eyed peas, applesauce or apple butter, roasted pork.  Sometimes there’s salad, too. But that first menu is always present and has been for years.

Because of the comfortable and homely sameness of that First Day, the second always feels like the start of the year, the place where time begins to move again following the Week Between.  How nice that is it a Saturday this year!  I had a simple breakfast and some tea and have a sturdy little list of things to be done, including a blog post here.

When I first started blogging, I was part of a set of community bloggers on the website of our local Gannett daily.  I did that for years and cut my teeth on the ideas of blogging and what was possible. When Gannett re-did the site and decided to go with staff bloggers, I moved to the ease of WordPress and now we are consolidating the blog site and the website and sticking all my Village Witch self into one place.

All eggs and one basket. Except for social media and the actual presence of me at actual places with other beings.

When I started blogging, I wrote something nearly every day for years and I still admire those blogs I follow that do that. But I can’t seem to blog daily with any sort of consistency anymore–maybe because I’ve written two books since I began my blogging adventures or because I have a regular column at Witches and Pagans magazine or because I’m doing more on social media and in Real Life.

Today is the Second Day, then.  I have that wee list of things to be done on this First Saturday and will continue those when I’ve marked this off the list.

My intuition is that 2016 is going to be at least as challenging as 2015 but that we have many more skills for dealing with challenges and much more resilience.  We’ll waste less time lamenting what we can’t repair and much more time fixing what we can.  We’ve learned lots of valuable lessons in the past year–we’ve dabbled in speaking out, on loving deeply, on tending the beings that require our tender and good attention.  We have spoken of self-care and even done a bit of that.  We have realized that we are in Tower Time now–it is not coming down the pike or waiting for us over the next hill.  We live in times of great change which require us to be thoughtful, intentional and fearless.

I am glad you are part of the dear old world at the same time as I am.  We have some glorious journeys ahead of us. This year will teach us more about the value and power of homeliness–lessons we will integrate into the lives we choose to lead from here on out.

These, as you well know, are the times we were made for.  Let’s get on with it, shall we?


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Beginning…From Here

What if you chose to be proactive in this Tower Time of ours? What if we–each of us–simply said, enough is enough? There’s a truism in the non-profit world about tackling a big, complicated problem–“how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Let’s take a bite, together, to secure our resilience in these chaotic times. A tiny step into freedom from fear, a wee dance-step into the circle we all long to create. Today, right now, I am going to my altar (in the middle of the day!) and am saying a word or two to Themselves. Time to fly, sisters and brothers. We have been too long looking down, fearing the day. We don’t have time to dillydally or fret about things we can’t fix. Time to figure out what needs fixing and see if we have the tools to do it. I suspect we do. Shall we?



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Chop Apples, Carry Compost–a Farmer’s Meditation


Chopping apples became a meditation for me today. The kitchen was set up with various cutting boards, colanders and stainless steel bowls, and a large pot in the sink held water to wash the apples. I started this morning by sharpening two of my favorite knives. Porch to kitchen. Wash and drain. Chopchopchop. Refuse to the compost tub. Chops into bags.  Repeat.

It gave me time to clear the noise of this past couple of weeks out of my head.  Chopchopchop. I was standing at my kitchen work station and began to wiggle my feet and sway as I chopped.  A little tune came into my head and I hummed as I worked.


And because I was standing, I took time to do a good deep and grounding and check in with the good Earth. A cool breeze–and damp–drifted in the open window. I let the feel of it cool my back and my soul a bit, too.  These are complicated days to try to think through and impossible days to try to sort out feelings in.  So I let my heart drift, too–I left Charleston behind and Sudan and Greece and the red wolves and the damaged Gulf.  I felt it flow down into the good Earth to become compost for this new world we’re building.

I think about–too much about–resilience these days. As all these systems collapse, as we learn to navigate by the stars and the Sun in Tower Time, what does it mean to love the land while looking askance at the people–my species–who inhabit it. Resilience, survival. Community and food and caring and love.


There is so much visible pain, so many angry fearful people–and I have been angry and frustrated and fearful myself in these days. But this day of simple, monotonous work and the gift of grounding have brought me some healing, I think. And some re-membering of who I am and where I am.

As we approach this flawed nation’s birthday, what are you re-membering? How are you healing yourself, your community and the souls you hold dear.


May we all re-member well, friends. Even those of us who have named it are not immune to the stresses and chaos of Tower Time.


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The Omens of Snow, the Blessings of Fire and Ice

We’ve had some formidable days this bleak and educational February.  I have always found that the shortest month always seems longer than summer and usually attribute it to my birthday in early March. This February has been unduly long and we’ve had the whole of winter in a couple of weeks.

Last week was cold as the proverbial magic-wielder’s mammary and we all worried about the folks in our town who are adamantly homeless. And we worried about our pipes and the iciness of the roads.

There was precipitation this week–the first batch when I was in Raleigh for Women’s Advocacy Day and the second batch last night, in a soft heavy fall of perfect snow. I’ve been itching to be in the gardens–yes, there are three (or maybe four) of them at this point–but we have real winter now. That means writing and baking and finally finishing my expenses for last year.

There is a weariness lingering on me from last week and I believe I’ll need one more night of deep sleep to face the excitement of Birthday Weekend.

But there is a disturbance in the Force, gentle reader.  Are you feeling it?  I often make lengthy pronouncements on Facebook about Tower Time and the importance of grounding.  Facebook has been filled with hurts and griefs and sadness and I indulged in one of those pronouncements, hoping it can act as a kind of benediction.  I share it here for your information:

February has been fraught for so many of us. Yes, there are some astrological reasons for it and there is Tower Time. But here’s the secret–you are resilient, thoughtful, strong. Instead of frantically searching for something or someone to blame, I invite you to switch the paradigm, to give the poor scapegoat some sweet feed and let her go her ways. Then ground yourself, go to your altar, speak with your Ancestors and your gods and get back to work. This is a new time and we have a responsibility to it, to the land and to our species. Do the work you know to do–love deeply, help those who need it, laugh in the face of patriarchy’s decline. Kick it down, burn it up, dance on the ashes.

Time to dance, friends.  Past time.

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Sshhh. I’m Resting

I haven’t been here much at all since Samhain prep time. A thousand pardons. Samhain is a busy time here in this lively WNC Pagan community–that keeps me on my toes. Then FaerieCon, then a couple of pieces for a local magazine, then ThanksGaia in Atlanta and now home. No traveling for a couple of months and a chance to dive deeply into the Darkening time.

Hence, resting. Planning a bit for next year and prepping for the Yuletide but mostly getting a good amount of sleep, exercise and nettle tea. Using the time that the agricultural gives us each year to renew ourselves–and thinking of my second Saturn return, which visits me next year.

My heart has been broken by deaths of some dear ones and the serious illnesses of a couple others. Mercy me, this Tower Time is taking no prisoners. Change is pummeling our sisters and brothers and our ownselves–teaching us the lessons of balancing on a wire high in the air while weeping.

I hope you are resting a bit, too, in spite of the call of the holiday season. This one is also the season of advocacy and action as we take to the streets and to social media. We are trying to be good allies to those most grievously affected. And even that has become hard, complicated, confusing.

So, I am resting. And thinking. And feeling deeply and releasing the grief and pain of it all.

I hope you are finding time for all that, too.

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Tower Time, Document Two: Going to Ground

Tower Time, Document Two
Going to Ground

Early in the Gulf of Mexico oil well disaster–when it was apparent that the problem would not be solved quickly–a small group of women gathered in the small Temple. They brought rum and watermelon and the room soon filled with clouds of rich incense. Chants for Yemaya began softly, rattles were gently rattled. As the spirit of despair was tamped down and the strands of joy and connection wove themselves into the singing and the smoke, the chants grew stronger. The dancing which was little more than rhythmic stomping began. The Beloved Crone seemed to be speaking an unknown language, as water bottles were chugged and offerings were made to Ancestors and Deities. The woman nearest the altar–the one who had issued the invitation–muttered prayers and knelt on the floor, singing the holy names. As she had promised, she flung herself full-length in front of the wooden altar and begged the Sea Goddesses for mercy. The singing and chanting continued for some time, until the participants were dry and tired, eyes streaming tears of grief and too-much-smoke.

Sometimes when we pray, we forget that prayer is not simply sending our best intention into the Universe. For those of us who see the Ancestral Goddesses as non-corporeal beings who have some authority and ability in the world of the world, the prayers and the singing honor Beloved Ones who are near us, but are not us. The invocations in which we implore them to fix our lives or clean up our messes or show us a way through are requests and bargainings. We understand that we have a part in this relationship but we do not have control. We are not the boss. We are participants in an ancient cycle of creation and destruction and re-creation.
And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is–you got yourself into this and you and your people are going to have to fix what you broke, you are going to have to take personal responsibility and get yourselves out of it.

Our community is far away from the horror and ineptitude that was the Gulf disaster, high in the southern mountains. But we are none of us “away”, are we? We are all connected–physically, spiritually and electronically. We know that today’s oil slick is picked up by next month’s hurricane and deposited in our organic gardens, on our longed-for heirloom tomatoes.

We work ourselves into a frenzy of grief and guilt and spiritual activity. We open ourselves to the sorrow and anger, and filter it as best we can. We meet for coffee, and walks, and we talk for hours on the phone. Gentling the community in its outrage, cushioning it from outright despair. We are blown about by the winds and waves of all that assails us and sometimes the only place to go for succor, for comfort is away from the computer and the phone and the endless cups of coffee. To the garden, to the woods, to the earth.

There’s an evocative expression that has become a keystone for my work in the community of late. The phrase “going to ground” has taken on new significance as we stand in this challenging Tower Time. To “go to ground” is to run pell-mell back to the den or burrow, to find someplace safe to hide. To make a run for it. Foxes do it. Rabbits do it.

Since the earthquakes that ripped through Haiti in 2010, there has been a series of human-made and natural disasters that have been unremitting in their intensity and we have been subsumed in the wake of them.

How many times have I forgotten–forgotten!–the people of Nashville, TN who were inundated literally with the rising waters of the Cumberland. There have been storms and volcanoes, floods and bombers. One after another, a laundry list of devastation that can barely be acknowledged, much less comprehended.

In my community work, in my social networking, in counseling seekers with Mother Grove congregants, I have been calling the times in which we move Tower Time. I imagine that the vast foundations are cracking and we are in the top of the Tower, where we must leap outward or be crushed with the weight of this six thousand year old system in its death throes.

Tower Time–we must engage or perish, We cannot remain untouched, uninvolved because it does involve us. All of us. But the overwhelming-ness of it–how do we find the wings to fly from the Tower? How do we glide away from the mess and the pain and not look back to those falling faster and faster?
We don’t. We can’t. It is not in our nature. And so we bear the wounds and we keep on, even as we feel the spiritual life-blood leaking out, only to be replaced by ennui and despair. In our circles, we call for “grounding” : we speak the words of guided meditations in which roots grow from our feet and sink, gratefully, into the Earth.

Grounding. Going to ground.

We are furry mammals, warm animals, wounded animals. We have tried to think ourselves out of this mess. We’ve tried to ritualize ourselves out of this mess. But you know what a wounded animal does. A rabbit or groundhog or badger? They go to ground and lick their wounds. They hide in their burrow, in the very womb of the Earth and they take time to heal and regroup.

I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand, that we run away from our spiritual responsibilities. I’m advising that when the going gets too much for you to bear, you remember that you are a warm animal and you have a special option because of that. You can go to your burrow to recuperate and lick your wounds. Then you can return to your community renewed as the clever and powerful badger that you are.

Finally, here’s my advice to a friend who was feeling ungrounded, displaced, abandoned by Goddess and community. I offer it here for you, with a few additions and points of clarification, if you have need of grounding. Here is a too-brief check-list of possibilities, if you are finding yourself in the midst of the falling Tower, unable to do more than gasp as the earth rises to meet you.

–Have you set an energy trap?
–Have you set wards? Are your shields up? If you can’t do that, let your community know and they will shield you until you can.
–How is your altar?
–Go out to your land and ask for help. Invoke your Ancestors and the land spirits. Take an offering. Bring some of the dirt in with you. Put it in your pockets, on your altar.
–Brick dust at the secondary entrances to the house–windows, back door, crawl space door. Not a line, just a drop.
–White dust at the front door–can even be baking soda. Salt works, too.
–Light a rue candle, if you have one.
–Spend time outside, sitting on the dear old Earth.

The best advice I have is “go to ground”. Earth everywhere. Dirt, dirt. Then evaluate and see where you are.

Go to ground, sisters. Earth everywhere.

It’s Tower Time.

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Tower Time Document One– A Knowing, Cassandra-like

This may seem like a bit of an anti-climax after all these years of warnings and thoughts and predictions about this Tower Time business. I’ve decided to create thematic documents, so I can add information as it comes up or as experiences should be recorded. I hope these are helpful to you as we navigate the times that are our times. So please consider this a first edition.

Tower Time Document One
A Knowing, Cassandra-like

I feel I owe you all a slightly more thorough explanation of “Tower Time,” a phrase I have been using somewhat cavalierly for a decade or more and one which I find myself using with increasing frequency.

I don’t remember precisely when it began, this quiet knowing that has grown, for me, into a certainty. It began with a pinch of insight, a glint of what was happening globally reflected in local events. It was more than a lack of harmony, of simple chaotic modern life—this feeling hinted at larger activity, a shift in the zeitgeist, a disturbance in the Force.

This early knowing pointed obliquely to the old dream of every old feminist—the Collapse of the Patriarchy ™. Since our fiercer days in the long-ago 1970s, many of us have modified our speech—often because people refuse to understand that Patriarchy ™ is a system or a set of systems and is not merely angry women being mad at and blaming men. We now talk about Hierarchical, Top-Down Systems—HT-DS, for those of you who must have an acronym for everything—and that’s the language I will use here. But for those of you who still call the Patriarchy ™ by its oldest name, you may translate HT-DS to “Patriarchy” and you will be accurate.

Tower Time is named for the card in the Tarot deck, of course, specifically the Smith-Waite deck (which is the one I’ve been reading for more than thirty years). The Tower is one of the more direct cards in any reading and it lends itself to these times.

We—you and you and me—are living in a time of dramatic transition. The West is transitioning from the Age of Fossil Fuels, not gracefully, I might add. We as a planet are experiencing the most recent in a series of mass extinctions. We have moved into a post-Industrial Age—what the brilliant John Michael Greer calls “the deindustrial world”—where we collectively have lost the willingness to grow our own food and not piss in our water source. Whether or not you believe that the climate is changing globally through human agency is completely immaterial to me but I believe it is occurring and we lack the political will and the political power to override the interests of business and industry (and, let’s face it, the dominant culture) to mitigate that in any way.
The clear knowing that I felt has grown more insistent in the intervening years. It is this: we are living in times when these massive, ancient and toxic systems, that have both created civilization as we know it and doomed it, are crashing under their own weight of history and grief. It is the death throes of patriarchy that we are experiencing and it will die as it has lived—in violence and oppression and injustice and death.

I did mention that this may be difficult to absorb, didn’t I? Many people nod and express their own sense of the rightness of this information. Others refuse to believe it, pointing—quite accurately—to the many instances in history where a group of loonies has believed it is the end of the world. I won’t engage in argument with you or read long reports that have come from dubious media or academic sources. This is intuitive—that is the very nature of a knowing. You are free to believe or not, as befits your sense of the current time and your knowledge of history and as that sense dictates.

Here’s a thing I do know. This is the time we were made for and one of the reasons we’re here. Tower Time.

Religion as empire, state as empire, education as empire, healing as empire—all are recalibrating in their individual descents. Each of us is in our personal place as the Tower erupts and crumbles. Some of us stand on the top, blissfully unaware that anything long-term is occurring below our feet. Some are trapped amongst the turrets, calculating a way off. Some have flown away and are gone to wherever and whatever comes after this life, after Matter has become Spirit. There are rock-climbers who are testing hand- and foot-holds as they work their way down the walls to perceived safety. Some are among the rocks at the base and some are out of sight, gone on to do the new work.

Because there is new work and it is past time to engage in it. Our work during the collapse is to not stop there, gawking at the impending calamity. We are charged—and many people are deep into this work—with creating new systems, systems that are genuinely cooperative, nurturing, sustainable and of greatest importance, resilient. There are groups that are forming in some areas to learn new/old skills, to get going with the new times. But they often bog down in meeting after meeting, talking through modes of governance, of how to hold a meeting without Roberts Rules. Remind them that time’s a-wasting and that talk can happen while food is being planted or tended or preserved. Decisions can be made while looping rugs and milking goats. If your group is dreaming big dreams but spending most of their time arguing protocol, you made need a new group. Because it is happening now. There isn’t some future Big Event that is looming on the horizon that marks the Beginning. It’s here.

As I sat with other gardeners around a fire a few weeks ago, I realized something it–if you have been waiting for the other “shoe” to fall, for the crap to hit the fan, you can stop waiting. It’s here, friends. Time’s up. We are in it–whatever it is. Continue gathering your allies, holding those you love close, planning, working, playing and thinking. But make no mistake, it’s here. Tower Time. Put on your game face and keep your courage up. These are the times we were made for.

Per ardua ad terra!

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Cardinal Cross in Tower Time

My friend Diotima is an extraordinary astrologer.  See, I know enough about astrology to be dangerous and the rest of it sounds like adults in those Peanuts shows–wah wah wah. She somehow makes it make sense–even to me.

Here’s her take on where we are right now–

The world is an awfully ragged place to me right now, friends. The UN recently released an official report on the rate of global climate change and it isn’t a pretty thing. And has seemingly been met with the usual tepid response by The Powers That Are.

We’re still looking for that Malaysian airliner. We’re still digging bodies out of the mudslide.

The garden is planted a bit and things are rising up–spinach, kale, chard, potatoes, onions, cukes, lettuces of several sorts. The recent cold snap–what we call dogwood winter around here–bit the taters but everything else is fine. The apple trees are in full and fabulous bloom–including the new espaliered Stayman Winesap.  The violets are luxurious, the dandelions crisp and delicious.

But this Cardinal Cross has combined with this Tower Time and it is hard to shake the sadness some days.

The ferry in Korea has split my heart, I fear. All those children, those parents..the stern and unyielding Sea. I haven’t yet been able to wrap any sort of cord around the breakingness of my heart around this.  I am anxious for news and yet completely without hope. I can’t imagine what it will be like when they get the cranes in place and pull the ferry upright. I can’t imagine what that scene will be like–how hard that job will be, how impossible it will be to endure for those parents who are waiting, waiting.

So…per usual…I am sinking my knees into the Earth, the good rich soil of my land here.  I am smelling apple blossoms and counting peony budlets. I am not doing much writing but I am spending time at my home altar, wondering. I am wistful about the coming Beltane with its magic and whimsy.

Because we are sitting on the horns of a great shifting of our culture and we all must find the ways to hold on, to create beauty, to be kind to one another and to hold space for the grief and the hunger.

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Through a Season, Darkly


I often write here (and elsewhere) about the idea of Tower Time and I am planning a larger essay on that in the near future. But this season somehow brings the concept home to all of us, I think.  We remember either good times from childhood, where there was plenty, comradeship, love or we cringe to remember the drunken relatives, the lean times, the cold both physical and emotional.  This season is filled with raw expectation, much of it tinged in fear.  It is a microcosm of all we face as critters who live on this planet at this time and this microcosm is insidious in its ability to stifle any good intentions we had for simple joy, open affection and true enjoyment of life and living.  We get burdened down–like Jacob Marley–with all that is left undone or all that was overdone.

This is a prime time for tale telling, too–not only in the southern Highlands of Appalachia, but wherever folks are gathered around tables and fireplaces, with nothing to do to pass the time but remember old days and people long dead or far away. We remark over accomplishments of the very young–she rolled over! He has two teeth! We share our own bitterness and sorrow and occasionally joy–those end-of-year letters are a revelation as much to the writer as the reader. And we lament together as we share new griefs or share the terror of a recent mishap or diagnosis.

There is something also Janus-like in this dark place between years and seasons.  We want to clear space for newness in the coming year but we also want to hold on to the things we learned about ourselves and each other and our world–things that are soothing or helpful in these times.  We are shedding stories, keeping secrets, making plans, inventing and reinventing ourselves in this week between the worlds.

The word I am sitting with right now is “resilience.”  It will achieve buzzword status soon and I will disdain it, but for now it is a place for me that is stronger than “hope” and more durable that “sustainability.”  I am encouraging my spiritual community to spend some time looking backward to how we survived plagues and wars and Depressions of past times, and managed to keep the species fed,  housed and continuing though the times were confusing and difficult.

I encourage you to do the same, gentle Reader. This thing we call 2014 will bring much the same as the thing we called 2013…but the emphasis will be different for each of us.  Let us learn how the resilience of old days can be another tool in our personal toolboxes and how we can be useful and clever, as our Ancestors were.  Because this Tower Time is not a three-week phase like Mercury Retrograde.  It is an ongoing, relentlessly changing shift to something…else.

Whether that will be good or bad will depend on many things. One of them is our skill in areas of resilience.