U is for Un-Covered and Up-Cycling – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Maybe this is a silly way to go about this, but here we go. I’m currently lacking an altar cloth. This isn’t typically a huge big deal because, for the past seven years, I’ve had multiple small altars all over the house and have put them on surfaces that I’m not worried about over-heating or getting wet.
This time around, though, I’m putting everybody in (more or less) the same place – in part so that, when I have the altars lit, I don’t have to keep running up the stairs to make sure the top floor hasn’t inadvertently caught fire.
But my new altar/shrine space is on top of my fancy marquetry cabinet, and I do not want to wreck that lovely surface.
Consequently, I’m kind of in the market for an altar cloth.
You want to know what I’m considering?
Our new fridge? Rather than putting in the two bottom drawers, we’re just going to slide a Rubbermaid bin into the bottom of the fridge[1]. So we’ve got a piece of glass shelving just… sitting around, available.
So I’m thinking I’ll grab one of my many, MANY shawls – probably the white one that was my grandmother’s (she may or may not have woven it herself, I’m not sure) – and use that as an altar cloth, which I’ll then cover with the glass shelf, so that the fabric and the wood are both covered with a fire-and-water-proof medium that I can put candles and incense on, and that I can wash easily when I need to.
This feels both brilliant-creative (‘cause it is) and a bit silly/opportunistic because… fridge parts? Really? But cooking and preserving are a huge part of my life and my religiosity, so having a piece of a refrigerator incorporated into my altar doesn’t seem entirely out of place, even as it does seem a little… I dunno… like I’m going to wind up in one of those lists of signs that you’re a “red neck”[2] pagan.
In any case, that’s what I’m planning.
On with the washing of the fridge parts!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] We’ll see how well that works… um… I’ll keep you posted.
[2] I know. And also, really… It still fits. Broke. Prone to fermenting my own ale in a large, plastic bucket and making my altar candles out of re-purposed bacon grease, I have totally used a chicken leg as a wand. Yes, actually, that’s me. On with the fridge!

U is for Unholy Harvest (Sacred Desire Ritual) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I’m just back from nearly a week in Toronto, seeing my People and my extended leather family/phamily, and it’s been a wonderful thing. I mean, yes, I’ve got “Con Crud” with the sore throat, slight fever, and runny every-damn-thing that go with it, but it was still a wonderful thing.
Every year there’s a current of Woo that runs through Harvest. A lot of us aren’t Woo People – either because we’re atheist-skeptic types who want nothing to do with that stuff, or because we’re “Woo Adjacent” but understand it in psychological/physical terms rather than magical/mystical/spiritual/religious/energetic terms, or because their particular Faith does Woo differently from the pagan weird-ball types that crave this kind of ritual – but a tremendous number of us are Woo People, are witches and tantricas, TCM & Reiki practitioners, warlocks and Wiccans and Heathens, who make up this subsection of my People who need to put our roots down in this space/Space together.
And we did ritual this year: On purpose, and as a group.
Now, before I get into it, I want to just acknowledge that some of the venue rules (no open flames, essentially) were broken, and I’m not okay with that. I understand the importance of having Actual Fire in this kind of ritual, both because it’s a ritual about desire and because there’s nothing like candle light in this digital/electronic world to open the doors in people’s minds that say “we’re outside of the every-day now”. But in ritual space it really is the thought that counts, and I know that. A flickering LED “tea light” in a red glass cup, blessed and dressed appropriately will accomplish the same ends (I’ve had way too many moments of “Oh, yeah, you don’t need to blow this one out” to not know that they make really excellent stand-ins for wax candles) without putting us at risk of losing our ritual/play/learning space or our opportunity to keep doing rituals like this in this space.
So there was that.
The ritual itself was pretty amazing.
Given what I’ve been studying over the past year or two, I was able to recognize a lot of the threads that went into it (or relate what went into it to stuff I’ve been studying… I won’t know which is which until I’ve had a chance to swap book lists with a couple of awesome femme witchy types, but still). I saw elements of Reclaiming, of Barbara Carellas style Tantra, of (Blue Star?) Feri, of Wild Wood ecstatic techniques, as well as touches of martial arts sparring that had been retooled into something more erotic and dance-like, and breathing techniques that I recognize from my own (rather rusty) singing practice. There was a lot of body work and some trust/touch stuff happening as well.
I cried through a lot of it, which is not surprising.
The over-arching work of the ritual was to create a sigil that called up/in your deepest desire. I won’t tell you what mine is (clearly), but I feel like I’ve taken another step towards putting myself all the way back together again, which is a good thing. What surprised me was how easy it was to come up with a sigil for this particular working. Usually I draw a total blank when it comes to stuff like that, so I’m taking the ease of that creativity as a good sign.
Beyond that, my partner for one of the body exercises told me she had a good time “meeting my horned beast” and her words shot through me because I know where my horned beast lives. Walk onto my shadow-bus and he’s in the front row, sometimes with a bull’s head, sometimes with a boar’s. It was kind of like having a puzzle piece slot into place, like… “Oh! That’s who you are, that’s where you fit. That’s what this face in the basement of my brain relates to in how I live and what I do.”
I mean, I have no clue what to do with that information, exactly, but… at least I have that information. Y’know?
The other thing that happened, that was big enough to be picked up on by other people (I think, going by the comments one of my friends made after the fact) was that, during the energetic washing portion of the ritual, I called in water to wash me over, and she came. Like, two BIG waves that bowled me over and rocked me in that rocking-in-the-spirit kind of way.
So it was big. And I got to sing. And I have a piece of the thread we used – symbolic of blood ties – to connect us all together, which I’ve since spun into the yarn that will go into making of the stripes on my fetish shawl (my spinning kit was in the room, pretty-much by accident, for the whole thing which, like… I feel like that was a necessary thing as well as a happy accident, y’know?) so things are… coming along and doing what they need to do to be what they need to be. Which sounds kind of weird, when I write it down, but there it is.
My wife was waiting for me when I came out, and I asked her “are you getting anything off of me right now?” and she told me I was glowing like a lighthouse and “Oh, god, the photons”. Which kind of matched how I was feeling, so it’s nice to know it wasn’t just me… y’know?
So that was the (deliberate) holy ground at Unholy Harvest. I hope we get the chance to do it again. <3
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Nyk is Alive, Goddesses Afoot: Missing Person in Ottawa FOUND

I’d have posted this sooner, but (a) I was out of town at Unholy Harvest, and (b) I haven’t had internet access since last Thursday afternoon (it was hooked up in the new house yesterday, but only started working this morning).
Nyk Morrigan has been found. She’s safe, she’s okay enough to be able to talk to people on the phone. I have no other details and I don’t need any.
Thank you to everyone who spread the word, re-blogged, and sent the Woo her way. I was so sure that her body would be pulled out of the river, and I can’t entirely express how happy and relieved I am to have been wrong about that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!
On a related note: If you would like other people to experience this kind of relief, or you want to “pay it forward” in some way, you might consider donating to the No More Stolen Sisters campagne at Amnesty International, and spreading the word when other women and girls – like Diamond Saddleback, below – go missing.

Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie

Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie
If you have any information that will help find her, please call:
Red Deer Police at: 403-343-5575
Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477
You can also get in touch with Crime Stoppers through their website.

Missing Person in Ottawa – Please Help in Any Way You Can

My wife spoke to her Lady, asking if this woman could be sent home safe, and her Lady said “Don’t ask for that”. I gather what this meant was “The price for such an ask is far too high. Don’t ask.” But I’m afraid this woman is going to be dragged out of the river. I’m afraid we’re already too late.
None the less:

Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair.
Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest.
No clothing description available. Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at:
613-2361222 ext 2912

Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair. Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest. No clothing description available.
Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at: 613-2361222 ext 2912
Even if it’s too much to ask, I still hope. Let her be alive. Let her be okay.

Full Moon (and New Moon) – Blood Moon Crests (and Begins)

So I never posted an entry for Blood Moon’s new moon. Woops. Things have been a little busy around here.
At the moment, we’re about (probably just shy of, really) half-way through the move. We’ve got a little bit of furniture left to bring over, but most of the stuff that’s left is stuff that has to be sorted and weeded and Dealt With in a time-consuming manner.
We’re already living at the new house, which is WONDERFUL. The difference, just in terms of my general well-being, between the beginning of Blood Moon and NOW has been imense. Two weeks ago, I was in the middle of a full-time temp contract, trying to get the hang of running a busy front desk during the day, and trying to cook in a desperately pared-down kitchen – most of-which was in bags on my living room floor – as soon as I got home, whilst packing and moving stuff as quickly as two exhasuted and frazzled people are capable of moving it, once the dishes were done. Now, I’m finished my contract and, while things are still on the hectic side (we’re going out of town, the day after tomorrow, for An Unholy Harvest – I’m quite looking forward to the ritual workshops that I’ll be attending, for example – so there’s a lot to get done in terms of packing and prep on that front) at least we’re in a roach-free house (knock on wood…) and I’m cooking in a kitchen where I’ve got all of my equipment and most of my food supply (we haven’t transferred the contents of the fridge/freezer unit yet, since we still have to give the new-fridge shelves a good, thorough wash before installing them) and that makes a hell of a difference, even if my studio (I get a studio!) and half the kitchen are still full of boxes and bags that have yet to be unpacked.
Things are going far more smoothly, and its showing in our tempers, which is wonderful.
Today I bought (a) daylight-spectrum 1450-lumin CFLs (“100 watt” if we’re talking incandescents, but only 23 watts in this case) to put in my studio, the living room, and the kitchen, as well as flower bulbs (two kinds of purple-themed tulips (one solid, dark purple and one white with purple stripes), some blue hyacinthes, and some kind of tiny, super-pale-blue (almost-but-not-quite white) flower that should come up around the same time as the snow-drops, chionadoxa, and scilla do (still need to get scilla, for sure). I also bought Quebec cranberries plus Ontario pears (I was so worried that I’d completely missed the season, but Nicastro’s still has them, so YAY!), garlic, and tomatoes for making cranberry curd, pear butter, and roasted-garlic-balsamic tomato sauce, respectively. I’ll be picking up a few pie-pumpkins some time late next week for pumpkin butter (and jack-o-lanterns!), too, but I can hold off on that for a little while yet. I’m already planning the garden that we’ll put in once May rolls around – a 2×8 perennial bed (rhubarb, sea berries, sun chokes (provided I like them – I’m about to give them a go, so we’ll see), red currants or raspberries, ground cherries (an annual, but they self-seed) peppermint, lovage, sage and thyme, and a common mallow if I can swing it) plus three or four 2×8 annual beds complete with arching trelisses between them for climbing crops like squash and pole beans, and hanging baskets for vining tomatoes plus chard and kale (to keep the slugs from getting all of it).
Blood Moon (Harvest Moon, Ancestor Moon) is the moon of the Last Harvest, the moon of Slaughter, the time when we make the switch from shoots-and-fruits to Root Time. With the count-down on for getting out of the old apartment, I’m feeling the anxiety that comes – the squirrels are feeling it, too, I’m sure – with shorter, colder days and the very real need to get everything Done, get everything In before the ice is on the puddles in the mornings and even the kale is keeling over (although, realistically, we’ve got another two months for the kale, which grows into early December here, before the cold and the dark say “Time’s Up”).
For the rest of us, though, Time is definitely running out. The leaves of my neighbour’s asian fuzzy squash plants are wilted and brown, and our own hardy plants (jade, philodendron, hens-and-chicks) are coming in off the porch this evening, lest the frost take them in the night.
I have offerings to make the the land, before it goes to sleep for the winter, an altar or three to set up, an apartment to leave behind (and a lot to move before then), and a squash-heavy feast to plan before this lunar cycle is done.
Wish me luck!

T is for Tools – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Everything Important Has A Name.
This is something that my wife taught me, though I’m not sure if she just picked it up through observation, or if one of the those Dutch cabinet-makers who taught her carpentry also taught her this but, either way, every time she gets a new tool, particularly if it’s a tool with moving parts, she tells me the names of all the parts and, frequently, the name of the specific tool as well. All the sewing machines have names that they’ve told her as she’s used them.
My wife just bought me an antique Walking Wheel, which is a kind of spinning wheel that doesn’t have a treadle (you turn the big wheel by hand, and the big wheel turns a much, MUCH smaller wheel which, in turn (ha!) turns the spindle and spins the yarn/thread and you go) and which is the kind of wheel that Sleeping Beauty would have pricked her finger on, around about 800 years ago. Typically, this would have no “fly wheel” – the kind of thing with hooks to help keep the spun thread lining up on the spindle all at once – and would have a spindle that was, essentially, a great big nail that you could absolutely hurt yourself on. That said, since mine is missing its spindle, we’ll see what we can come up with as we go.
She is probably around 200 years old, though I could be wrong (and it looks like a couple of her legs have been replaced over the years). She might be the type that the Shakers tended to make. The big wheel turns the little wheel. The little wheel is called the Mother Of All, and she – supported by two delicate posts who are called The Maidens, turns the spindle, which twists the yarn as it spins. I can’t help wanting to call the big wheel the Crone or the Grandmother, though I know that’s not its proper name.
I put my hand on that big, bent oak Wheel, and she told me, very clearly, “Sarah”.
My spinning wheel’s name is Sarah.
Everything important has a name.

T is for Traditions – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So here we are, getting into Blood Moon, and part-way through a move. When I first left my mother’s house, I wanted to dive into building my own seasonal traditions – stuff like specific meals or dishes, decorations and activities, that I’d bring back again and again to mark the Wheel of the Year. At first, this was tricky – in significant part because I was trying to strike a balance with a then-spouse who didn’t believe in… anything, really. But he’d been raised with Christian feast-days, so he wanted to keep those even though they weren’t particularly meaningful for him. My wife’s cosmology is significantly closer to my own, which makes things like ancestor plates and longest night parties a lot less contentious[1].
With each place I’ve lived since then, I’ve tried to incorporate those traditions, figuring out what’s easy to sustain, what feels appropriate, what needs to be marked and how, with each passing year.
My wife has referred to our new place as our “ten year house” and also as a house that is a “home”, and “ours”, rather than just a place to sleep while marking time… As we move in, I’m looking at it with an eye to the Wheel, and to the traditions I can foster within (and outside of) its walls. Traditions like:
Beltane as the day we turn the compost and plant out the first early veggies (like kale, chard, and peas), and the time of year when we mark our collaring ceremony and (typically) receive our year’s supply of maple syrup
Midsummer as the First of Tomato (to use a Barbara-Kingsolverism) and, possibly, the First of Serviceberry, rhubarb, and strawberry as well
Lammas (AKA: The August Long Weekend) as the time when the beans, raspberries, cucumbers, and other elements of Ontario’s “Yummy Season” come into fruition, a good opportunity for backyard grilling and all-day canning marathons (maybe even canning parties) using hot plates and slow cookers set up on the patio
Mabon as the gentle winding down of Canning Season with the last blanching-and-freezing, pickling, and fruit-butter-ing; a feast of apples and apple-friendly things like onions, kale, grilled pork sausages, and early baking squashes like delecata and acorn; and the gearing up (literally) for the other Harvest we attend
Samhain as the day we harvest the winter squash, toast the harvest & the generous land with a feast and a nod to the ancestors, and lay the garden to sleep for the year
Midwinter as the longest night, celebrating the old year and offering blessing for the new – along with personal family milestones like our wedding anniversary -
Imbolg – The time of year when seeds are ordered for the garden, Meat CSA orders are placed, and we celebrate the years we’ve been together, both in romantic partnership and in M/s service.
Ostara – Placing the veggie CSA order, the maple syrup order, watching the river as it starts to hint at breaking up. The time when we work to clear through any Extras we have lingering among the preserves we’ve been eating up since November in the name of “spring cleaning” and mentally prepping for Beltane and the beginning of the next cycle’s gardening season.
Some of these festivals – all of them, eventually – will include things like changing out the wreathes on the front door, switching from cooking primarily outdoors to cooking primarily indoors (eventually, when we acquire a grill – now that we have a patio to put it on) and back again, switching from one set of seasonal-weight blankets to another on the bed, putting up Midwinter decorations (December 1st, or the first snow, whichever comes first) and taking them down again (Imbolg-Eve). They’ll also include regular bouts of cleaning and tidying, purging and repurposing and, with any luck, switching out the winter clothes (particularly the outerwear) for the summer items.
Most of these traditions don’t sound particularly fancy – more to do with day-to-day living than with feasting and celebration. But I think that’s the point: To bring these moments on the year wheel into sharp focus but also into the rhythm of your life.
Meliad the Birch Maiden,
[1] I suspect they’re also less contentious because we’re better suited to each other in general, which is worth noting.