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.
 
 
TTFN,
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.

S is for Shadow (Shocking, I Know) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Maybe, given the number of posts that I’ve written relating to this theme, it’s not surprising that I’ve chosen “shadow” for one of my S prompts. The whole idea of “Shadow” is that all the things you don’t like about yourself wind up tucked away in a closet at the back of your Self where you stuff them to try and pretend they don’t exist… which never works.
 
For a long time, I figured that “shadow” was specific to “dangerous” things in the sense of “things that other people would perceive as dangerous” – you know, things that get you in trouble, things that “Good Girls Don’t” do, that kind of thing. It never occurred to me (until very recently, at least) that people’s insecurities, their meekness, that which is “dangerous” because it makes them (feel) vulnerable (rather than harmful-to-others or unwantable or something) could end up there, too.
 
I once did a “Guided Meditation” thing wherein my then-counselor took me on a trip in my own brain. I got to ride the Personal Bus and see who else was on there.
 
There was a man on my bus who dressed like a rough rocker type and who had a ring in his nose, and whose head was that of a boar or a bull (but I’m not at all sure which, because it kept changing), who looked scary and intimidating but who was really a bit of a gentle sweetheart. There was an unhappy, rather lonely lesbian with diamond earrings and jeans (who actually looks like someone I’ve now met… huh…). There was an old woman (who looked so much like the 4-of-Earth card in my tarot deck, it’s mind-boggling) name Angela who was bitter and hurting because nobody took care of her and a very young little girl (like between 4 and 7) also named Angela who wanted/needed to be taken care of but was wasn’t bitter or hurting about it yet, and still possessed some wonder about the world.
 
There were others, apparently, but I didn’t see them.
 
My counselor said that I was unusual because, while most people have one side of their Mental Bus all full, and the other side mostly empty – that all of their Shadow People fall along the same lines, so to speak – for me, if I had a person on the right who was imperious, sexual, and entitled (The Wicked Queen, let’s call her), I’d also have a person on the left who was the naïve, vulnerable, childish (child-like?) shadow of The Ingénue. Apparently there are a lot of parts of myself that I’ve learned (in whatever way) are “unacceptable” or “dangerous” for me.
 
I don’t have a clue why that is, but there it is. (Is this why I’m constantly frozen with indecision? …Perhaps).
 
I’ve heard it said – everywhere from self-help books to mythology classes to writing workshops – that what scares [you] most is where you have to go.
I know what scares me most.
And boy-howdy does it ever scare me, for more reasons than one. But there it is. So… down I go. At least I think I’ve found a way of putting my feet in that water without completely risking drowning. :-\
 

 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

S is for Singing (and Shelter) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I was singing in the new house, yesterday, filling the walls up with song (lots of hard surfaces, so a great echo!) while I moved around the house, putting bags and boxes into their respective rooms. It’s one of the ways that I put my energy into a place in a very literal way. I learned that eons ago, during my first vocal class in high school. A decade of singers had already passed through that room and their voices are imbedded, imprinted on (in) the walls. Singing – whatever you’re singing – is one way to bless and claim a place, to make it your own and fill it with life. To wake it up.
My wife, after a quarter-century in the house-building industry, can feel it when a house is hungry, feel it when they’re happy. According to her, houses are very self-contained. They may or may not notice when the house next door has a power-outage, gets knocked down, or stands empty for years. But they feel it when it happens to them. People want to fulfill their purposes. You can read that in Aristotle or hear the Oracle say so in The Matrix, if you want to, but it’s true for everything, everyone. A house’s purpose is to have people in it[1]. And by the feel of things, this one hasn’t. Not for a while.
So when I go over there, I say hello to the house, I touch the walls, the lintels, the banisters, to say “I’m here, you’re lived in” (or will be shortly, at any rate), put my footsteps into the floor and my voice into the walls. Slowly, slowly, we are waking her up. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden,
 
 
[1] Gardens, for what it’s worth, are the same way, and they’ll pick up on the feel of a place real easily. My garden, the last time I had one? The squash turned bitter at the same rate that my then-marriage did. I call that telling. O.O

Full Moon – Apple Moon Crests (Time to Shed My Skin…)

I still haven’t made any apple butter.
 
Maybe this won’t surprise you, as we recently put a deposit on a rental house and are now in the process of moving house. I’m spending my days packing and purging rather than preserving, and my goal is to basically do a second 2014 Eat Down the Larder challenge – on my own, this time, rather than working alongside Erica and her other readers – in order to (a) divert funds to buying huge numbers of plastic storage totes (the better to avoid packing roaches into our new place as we leave the old one behind), and (b) cut down on what we have to move in the first place.
The work-work-work ethic of Apple Moon is being channelled predominantly into packing, these days. Bagging and crating the yarn, roving, and the fabric, sorting and boxing the Thealogy books, making candles while I still have a stove to work on (we’re picking a new-to-us set up in a few days – our Gods and Ancestors are definitely looking out for us here!), and trying to mend the clothes that need it so that, when they come out of their packing boxes, they’ll be ready to go right off the bat. I admit that the “pear” in my suggested “pear moon” is more like “pare” these days – as in “pare down”: Get rid of the excess, the duplicates, the stuff you’ve been putting to use because it wasn’t “broken enough” to just throw it away or pitch it into the recycling bin; cull your closet (again) ruthlessly (again) so that there’s less stuff to move and unpack on the other end of this process – I have two winter coats to send to The Well, along with an entire bag of extra clothes that hadn’t been culled yet when I made the last run (only two weeks ago!), plus a couple of big extra-large zip-lock bags full of goodies that I’ll take with us to Unholy Harvest for their leather-and-lace swap table. And that’s just in the past three days.
 
You guys, I can’t tell you how much I hate packing. How much the need to go out and buy plastic boxes with fitted lids is exacerbating that situation, especially when I consider how little (one shelf of a narrow bookcase fills one five-gallon bin with books; one shelf in the craft cabinet – yarn, fabric, roving, oils, you name it, each item bagged up in a plastic zip-lock just to be sure – fits into a ten-gallon bin) can fit into a given $4-$7 bin. But that’s not even the half of all the Things I’m feeling right now.
 
As of this morning, I’m no-longer a VERSeFest organizer. I’m no-longer “employed” even in a volunteer kind of way, and it’s making me nervous about what my resume will say if I don’t find work in the next week or four.
I feel like I’m on some sort of a precipice.
 
My 2015 We’Moon date book arrived a week or so ago, and the moon of my birthday (almost gone) is “Encountering the Shadow”. Five days later comes the moon called “Feral” – the wild wisdom that has no marketing strategy, no 9-5, and whose behaviour sounds a little like some of the elements of my Shadow that scare me most. The powerful and furious, fury-ous, protector-demandor, the Fearsome Queen, The untamed Ocean Heart that is sexual, sensual, and Wants without a plan. I can’t help but feeling that the two are related, that my Seven-Year that starts at 35 is rooted in these names, this wildness. My Scorpio “year at a glance” says that 2015 is a year to refine my voice and claim my ambitions.
I am terrified.
What if I mess it up?
And yet… I know where my voice wants to go (I think I do, I think I do), and it looks like my desires are being facilitated already – house and heart, a yard to garden, the money to invest in the CSAs that will fuel at least one of my projects.
Can I do it?
Will I do it?
 
My 34th year is winding down and I can see the changes coming, piling up at the end of this year-of-life like so much stuff to be purged, like so much stuff to look forward to. Another shedding of skin.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

R is for Relocation – Pagan Blog Project 2014

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago (just shy of two years, as it happens, though it feels like even less than that) that we moved out of our fourth-floor one-bedroom apartment and into a two-bedroom place in the same building.
It’s funny how things come around again. I moved into this building, less than two months from the beginning of my fifth Seven Year cycle, alone and recently separated. Now, with the same move-in date as before (September 15th), I’ll be moving out again, this time with a wife at my side, ready to begin my sixth Seven Year in a new house.
Yes, you heard me, house.
A rental place opened up down the street – so same neighbourhood, still walking-distance from just about everywhere we might want to go, still close to the vast majority of our friends – for a price that we’re pretty comfortable with. It’ll only be my second time paying utility bills, so I admit I’m kind of bracing for the shock and horror of the heating bills to come (and recognizing that I’m going to have to get used to being – eugh – cold for a lot of months of the year. But just watch me learn how to crochet a rag rug in record time, y’all…), but as a house – rather than an apartment – it comes with its own cold/storage room (the basement) and an unusually large-for-downtown, if shared, back yard where I can readily do container gardening next Summer. There is room enough for my wife’s workshop. Room enough for a dining table in the kitchen. Room enough for a library/office on the second floor that will double as a spare bedroom when we have guests. Room enough to store the canoes and the unicycles, the bicycle and the spare motorcycle parts, indoors without losing the second bedroom to equipment. Even with the nail-biting, stomach-knotting stress of uncertain heating costs and – ye gods – purging and packing before the move (yikes)… I’m still excited about this.
As I said, our move-in date is just a few days shy of the Autumn Equinox. But our official “move out date”, when we stop living in two places at once and the lease on our soon-to-be-former appartment is finished, will be on Hallowe’en. Meaning that – and this is how this post connects with the PBP, if you were wondering – our Samhain ritual will involve welcoming the ancestors (and no small number of People) into our new home. And, yes, probably handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters as well.
 
When your religiosity is rooted in Place, how does relocation affect that connection? (In my case, not tonnes, at least from the PoV of moving all of a block away from where we are now… in terms of cultivation, however… potentially a lot). When you’re a kitchen witch – when your calling, in so far as you (or I) have one, is hearth-tending, land-guardianship, building Family/Phamily in creative ways, and singing the praises of holy Earth and Sky in your own public and private ways – how does relocation effect what you do and how you do it?
 
With this move, my hearth will get a little bit bigger; my garden will, once again, have a place to actually grow (and my pantry, with it). My Altar spaces may get changed around again in a number of ways.
Not so long ago, I was saying how much I wanted (and want) a house. And I think Someone must have been listening, when I wrote it, because – as my lovely wife was speculating this morning – the house we’re about to move into? It probably went on the market the very same day that we saw the For Rent sign on the porch. My wife asked if the Someone in question was one of mine, since her particular Lady (sovereignty notwithstanding) is less hearth-oriented than mine are, and mine are very hearth-oriented indeed. So we’re calling this one a Yes for my Girls. ;-)
 
So let’s put it this way:
Thank you, all my gods, for sending us this house in-which to make a home. Thank you, and may we live up to it and make it wonderful. <3
 
Wish us luck in moving into our new home. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

R is for Root Time – Pagan Blog Project 2014

As-you-know-bob, I’ve written about Root Time before.
Years ago, I said that Root Time is:
 

[...]The time of year when we, like the perennials and the bears, hunker down, live off our stores, and turn inward towards our dreams.
Winter is a great time for planning, rehashing, and taking stock.

 
The seasonal cycles are what they are and, around here, Winter is a time of rest for all the perrenials in the neighbourhood. For me, as well, the cold(er) seasons of the year are a time of long evenings, candle light, slow-cooking meals, writing, and handicrafts interspersed with regular festivities – which, I admit, are on the hectic side, and don’t necessarily lend themselves to resting, at least not in the lead-up there-to – where I get to feast and frolic with my various nearest and dearest. :-)
 
The “shoots and fruits” side of the year is, even for someone without a garden (yet! Only 11 days to go!) to call their own, a busy time. For those who do cultivate the land (along with their relationship there-with – a particular form of land guardianship), the time between Beltane and Samhain (still quite a ways off at this point) is a rush of activities – prepping, planting, protecting, harvesting, and preserving – that can threaten to overwhelm on many occasions. As much as I love it, knowing that the the big preserving push is winding down, and that the end is in sight, is a relief. Don’t get me wrong. I count myself grateful for the many nearby grocery stores with their freezer cases, produce aisles, and shelves of tinned tomato products that allow me to get away with preserving only 10 litres of tomatoes, only, freeze only 6 litres of fruit and vegetables; that allow me to rely on my crisper drawers rather than managing a root cellar or cold room of late-harveste, hopefully non-magotty root veggies and winter squash. Otherwise this time of year would be noticeably more hectic and significantly more stressful than it is.
 
 
Right now, I’m still in the somewhat squirrel-like mad dash to finish canning All The Preserves, a situation which is compounded by the recentlly acquired need to purge All The Things, pack up what’s left, and move house!
Our move-out date – the day we have to be completely moved out of our current apartment and have given the keys back and so on – is Samhain. The official beginning of Root Time (in my mind, at least). I find it remarkably appropriate that we’ll be finishing the last of the unpacking – crossing our own threshold, symbolically, if you will – just as we’re crossing the waning threshold of the Wheel.
 
This year, the “planning” and “taking stock” aspects of Root Time are going to be standing out in sharp relief. I’m looking forward to many an evening sitting down with graph paper designing the layout for the network of raised beds and trellisses that my wife and I will be building (and growing things in) once we’ve crossed the waxing threshold at Beltane. I’m looking forward to getting settled in our new Nest, to cooking meals in our new kitchen using preserves canned and frozen in our old one, to resting and regenerating, growing towards the coming Spring.

New Moon – Apple (Harvest) Moon Begins

Ontario’s Yummy Season is still in full swing but, at this point, we’re coming down the home stretch of Summer. My fridge is full of golden zucchini, roma tomatoes, huge, round Sicilian eggplants, yellow peppers, new potatoes, rainbow carrots, and chioggia beets, along with the last of the garlic scapes, and the first of the garlic bulbs (not actually in the fridge, but in the garlic basket hanging from my cupboard door). My cupboard is filling fairly rapidly with jar after jar of tomato preserves, along with the odd cup of jelly or fruit butter.
Fruit butter.
Yeah. Right now, I have my slow-cooker set up on my foor, on a bed of old newspapers, cooking down a litre-and-a-half of apricots (plus half a cup of cider vinegar and half a cup of granulated sugar) to what will probably work out to about two cups of apricot butter, if that. We’ll see what the results are when we get it all done some time tonight.
I’m hoping that I’ll be able to snag a few dozen apples off of our various apple-tree-having friends, though Hidden Harvest Ottawa has been pretty good for apple offerings so far and I should be able to get some for no more than the effort that comes from picking them yourself. Apple butter is great as an accompaniment to savoury foods – spread on a grilled cheese sandwich, for example, or thinned out with a little vinegar and used as a glaze for pork, turkey, winter squash, or various root veggies (sweet potato, rutabaga, celeriac, carrots) – as well as a good substitute for both straight-up sugar and eggs when it comes to baked goods (vegans, and friends of vegans take note). Any other fruit butter will do the same thing, though, and my goal this year is to put up more pear butter and pumpkin butter (combined) than apple butter… if I can swing it[1]. The apricot butter currently on the simmer, though, is more of an experiment. I want to see how it tastes, and what it goes with, so that – if/when I can swing buying a house with some yard space attached – I can determine whether or not I want to grow an apricot tree in said yard based on how readily I use the fruit. (This is another situation where putting my dehydrator to use would be a good thing, but I’m dealing with fruit that isn’t readily ripening, so I’m hesitant to put it to use at this time).
 
Also on the to-do-list for today are:
Another 2.5L of bruschetta, this time in pint jars because I’m running out of single-cup options and I still have my various fruit butters to put up.
Bake bread – Made the dough last night and let it chill in the fridge until this morning. It’s rising slowly, possibly because of the cold and possibly because of the high(er) whole wheat flour content… not sure. Some of the dough will be a (single) loaf of bread, the rest will become the crust for tonight’s New Moon Pizza.
Make pizza: Apple Moon pizza, not surprisingly, will feature (last year’s) apple butter as the sauce, apple-and-sage sausage slices from Seed to Sausage, cremini mushroom slices, yellow pepper slices, golden zucchini rounds, smoked eel (in small slivers, like anchovies), and mozzerella cheese.
 
Apple moon starts of it’s 2014 cycle by sliding from Leo into Virgo, making this a creative period that calls us to work, work, work – on creative projects, but also on the heavily-producing (we hope) garden and the ensuing canning marathon that comes with it and, for some of us, the return to school and studying after a summer-long break.
Others of us, of course – parents of school-aged kids, or people like my wife whose busy season happens in the summertime – will be looking at the arrival of apples, pears, and the earliest winter squash with relief because it means that there will be less on their plates. Time to restock, work on more personal projects, catch one’s breath, and maybe even have an evening off every now and then.
 
As far as naming this time of year goes, last year I speculated that maybe I’d be better off calling this cycle “Pear Moon” because of the recent appearance of Ontario pears in the grocery stores. This year’s “Apple Moon” begins almost two weeks before last year’s did, date-wise, but, yes, the pears have just appeared in the produce section. Maybe this should be called Pear Moon. Hm. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] This is unlikely, as apples are available for free and, failing that, exceedingly cheap, while pears are a bit on the pricey side. None the less, I live in hope.