New Moon – Cold Moon Begins

Winter Exercise in Light and Shadow - Via Wiki Free Images - A frost-covered shrub casts a shadow over the snow.

Winter Exercise in Light and Shadow – Via Wiki Free Images – A frost-covered shrub casts a shadow over the snow.


 
New Moon was yesterday – and a Solar Eclipse with it, although it happened a solid four hours after sunset in my part of the world. New Moon. And a solar eclipse, which Lisa Stardust (over at The Hoodwitch) says is rather like a new moon, energy-wise, with regards to new beginnings and new life-chapters kicking off.
 
I finally – ha, I usually do this as soon as it arrives in the mail – looked up my 2019 year-at-a-glance horoscope in my date book. It literally starts out with the following:
 

In the beginning of 2019, you may be feeling anxious and riled up.

 
Ha. No kidding. I’m due to get on a plan in 25 days (yes, I’m counting days) to go visit my girlfriend, and my anxiety-brain is chittering away in the background about how “I’ve done something bad” (I haven’t) and “Someone is going to be mad at me” (highly unlikely).
Look, I’m just going to say a thing: My anxiety isn’t bad. I don’t have panic attacks – or whatever high-anxiety freak-out thing I have that I’m currently labeling as “panic attacks” – very often, and I can manage this stuff with breathing patterns and other non-meds-based ways of calming myself the heck down when I do start getting wound up.
But there’s a pretty constant attention-dribble, if I can call it that, that goes to keeping track of why my brain is telling my adrenal glands, and what-not, so that I can catch that stuff when it’s still in the “low-volume high-pitch note played on a violin” level of anxious background noise, before I’m irritably snapping at my wife, seething under my skin, or jumping at every unexpected noise. But it still gets ahead of me sometimes and I feel my chest getting tight and all the rest of it.
And, since it all seems to be stepping up a little right now, I’m noticing it. It’s tiring. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s tiring.
 
Anyway. So, yes, Rhea Wolf, I’m definitely starting 2019 feeling anxious and a bit riled up.
That said, I’m hoping she’s not wrong about the hypothetical influx of (Jupiter-related) greater security that’s coming my way. I admit, I’ve started listening to Gabby Dunn’s podcast with that in mind.
I’m still doing glamour work, still doing Miss Sugar’s NYNY cycle (even if we’re into the second year of this particular project). Keeping my fingers crossed for more transcription to follow the work I’m doing right now. A little bit of on-going steady-ish income would be really good, and this work is interesting and well-paid, too. So… it would be nice to keep that going. 🙂
 
Egregors being what they are, and Miss Sugar’s long-ago NYNY thoughts about resolutions being on my mind, I’m actively trying not to make long-term plans or year-based goals right now. But that doesn’t mean they’re not in there. Not-so-vague plans to finish my third chapbook (finally), write another dozen or more glosas (and get myself that much closer to a finished first draft of a full-length manuscript), keep sending my poetry out, ideally to more paid markets this year… They’re all in there, stewing around and percolating away, along with all those good intentions about more physical activity, more vegetables, and less social media that, tbh, I just want to keep a damn lid on for now lest I start thinking of them as things I can just abandon as soon as Imbolg turns up.
 
ANYWAY.
 

Knight of Cups - Mary El Deck - A person with long blond hair, a red skirt, and silvery armour with an eye over their heart, holds a chalice of blood out-of-which a lotus blooms.

Knight of Cups – Mary El Deck – A person with long blond hair, a red skirt, and silvery armour with an eye over their heart, holds a chalice of blood out-of-which a lotus blooms.


 
I thought I might shuffle my Mary El deck until four cards fell out, just to see what chance might bring to my attention with regards to the New Moon spread suggested by Liz Worth. But, no surprises here, I had three fall out, one at a time, and then got three all at once, then two more, then one. Which is not what I had in mind – even if I did, in theory, get the three of cups in the “what can stabilize for me this year” slot, which is definitely not a bad thing.
So I said “screw it” and decided to call the first card that fell out of the deck my meditation card for this half of the lunar cycle.
It’s not a bad card to have drawn. In the Next World deck, the Knight of Cups is “The Love Song” and wears their heart on their sleeve. (The is the card of NRE, or so it would seem). Michelle Tea – who, like everybody, interprets tarot through her own experiences – has a lot of (negative) stuff to say about the swept-away feelings that the Knight of Cups can bring but she also says that, if the Knight of Cups shows up as a situation, then it means “something glamourous” is on its way, and you should go for it – use that burst of artistic inspiration to churn out a LOT of rough drafts for new things, or say Yes to that invitation from a pal to attend an event you might otherwise have skipped. Take some chances. Explore some new things. Julia Cameron would call this “refilling the well”, creativity-wise, and Michelle suggests a “be the knight of cups” activity/ritual that sounds a lot like the Ideal Day exercise, but with added mood-lighting, in order to get an idea of where the wells are that need refilling and where to direct all the intense, passionate energy you (in theory) have available.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Nowhere near enough. I’ve got some modeling work tomorrow, which will mean a good solid 1.5-2hrs walking, plus three hours of modeling, but I don’t know if this will be short or long poses or what, so we’ll see. None the less, getting back on the “ten minutes a day of yoga/weights” train would probably do me a lot of good.
 
Attention: Cat paw-prints in my back yard. Where the icy spots are on the steps and the sidewalk. What we have in the fridge that needs to be eaten up (we’ve been eating Solstice leftovers for a while now, and I’m starting to forget what we’ve got, beyond that.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for a warm day that let me chip the ice off my steps. For a haul of library books that are, so far, proving to be a tonne of fun. For having a few modeling gigs and a few days of temp work already lined up for the next four months (fingers crossed for lots more, but here we are). Thankful for a girlfriend who’s looking forward to seeing me, for a wife who misses me when she’s visiting her partners, for morning snuggles and date nights.
 
Inspiration: I just read The Black God’s Drums, a novella that I wish had been a full-length novel. It’s been a reminder that you can sketch out a whole story in just a few thousand words and, from there, see where the fleshing out needs to happen.
 
Creation: I drafted one poem. It’s a terrible draft, but it’s got some usable lines, so I’m calling it a start. Sock-extension continues apace, and seems to be doing what I want it to do, so that’s something. Unlikely to be done by the time I get on that plane, though. Oh well.

New Year New You 2018 – Week Ten: What’s My Motivation?

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions:As we enter into the second phase of the Experiment, I think it’s time that we do some navel gazing. […] What are your reasons for working on your goals? What makes you eager to work on them?
 

Six of Fire - Success  Osho Zen Tarot  A joyful person riding a tiger while confetti and streamers rain down, the world at their feet

Six of Fire – Success
Osho Zen Tarot
A joyful person riding a tiger while confetti and streamers rain down, the world at their feet


 
Tarot Card: Six of Fire
What motivates me is pretty basic. Success – even incremental success – is what helps me keep moving towards my goals.
“Success” can be having a poem accepted for publication. But it can also be writing a poem that I’m proud of. It can be drafting another scene in the YA novel. It can be sorting out the cabling in a knitting project. It can be extra paid work landing in my lap right when I need it. It can be someone stopping me in the street to tell me that the poem I read at That Event years ago was, and remains, meaningful for them. It can be surprise free beer at a restaurant or a co-worker turning up with a muffin or a frappacino for me out of the blue. It can be getting The Nod from a butch of a certain age or seeing a genderqueer teenager light up when they see my bi pride button or one of my art-school students jump at the chance to talk about witchy stuff with me (meaning: with someone else, who happens to be me… but still). It can be a really good batch of fermented veggies. It can be someone saying yes to a date or a scene. It can be A Sign in the form of half a dozen horoscopes all telling me variations on the same piece of timely encouragement.
However.
 
Osho Zen Tarot - 8 of Air GUILT A person whose overwhelming dark thought-clouds are clawing at their head, obscuring the calm and lovely world that's actually around them.

Osho Zen Tarot – 8 of Air
GUILT
A person whose overwhelming dark thought-clouds are clawing at their head, obscuring the calm and lovely world that’s actually around them.


 
My other motivator is guilt. Or possibly shame.
Sometimes this is useful. I feel bad, or get down on myself, for not doing XYZ, so I get off my butt and do it.
 

 
Right. So I wrote the above stuff literally two months ago, to the day. And, full disclosure, I’m writing this, right now, while I’ve got a grey blanket thrown around my shoulders like the world’s fuzziest toga, having spent the entire day eating cookies, chocolates, and paté on crackers while sucking back V8 like it was going out of style. (Or like I just had a Solstice party and need the fridge jenga to ease up a bit).
 
Which is to say that, while drinking from stem-ware definitely makes me feel fancy, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my glamour game is particularly on point right this second.
 
The above stuff is all true. I am motivated both by guilt/shame and by success. And I’m trying to be more motivated by success than by guilt and shame, because negative self-talk is bad for me and I’m trying to do less of it. Besides, guilt and shame – and, oh hey, money stress – are kind of hard on the creative process. At least they’re hard on mine. I wind up writing the same mediocre… thing… about fear-and-uncertainty fourteen times and never actually come up with an actual poem. Which, P.S.: I’ve barely written, what, two poems in as many months? The moon has waxed and waned and waxed again, and the “creation” section at the end of each lunar cycles post has me grasping at straws. I spend 10+ hours/day sleeping, and it’s not like I have a particularly tiring life.
 
Basically, I need to take a look at the chapbook pieces that haven’t found a right-of-first-publication home yet, and start sending them out again. Getting a Yes from somebody will probably help me feel motivated from a success standpoint.
Beyond that?
Miss Sugar’s prompt post (linked, above, under Instructions) mentions a degree of motivation stemming from achievable micro-goals. For me, this means hitting up #novemberotic prompts over on instagram, pulling out my tarot decks, and otherwise finding ways to kick-start whatever poems need to be written. (This is actually how I ended up with 30+ glosas, aka half a full-length manuscript – written. I needed to put some parameters around my poetry in order to get it to show up).
Which I guess means I have my marching orders.

Full Moon – Long Nights Moon Crests (Winter Solstice)

A lit tealight in a glass holder casting a shadow onto a wooden floor. Courtesy of Wiki Free Images.

A lit tealight in a glass holder casting a shadow onto a wooden floor. Courtesy of Wiki Free Images.


 
The floors are (mostly) mopped. A new batch of candles has been made, using up the last ends of the old ones. There are lit candles heating the belly of our woodstove/end-table Boroslava. Cookies and liver mousse and artichoke dip are ready to be served up. Drinks are chilling in between the back doors, and the cider is mulling.
We’re going to take a walk shortly, but I wanted to get this up.
 
Full Moon in Cancer at Midwinter. A good day for hearth-tending and home-filling, and gathering our nearest and dearest, if ever there was one. I’m glad there’s snow on the ground. I’m glad I was able to make a (tiny, granted) offering of raw liver for the local crows who are the birds of a whole bunch of our Capital-P People.
 
The Hooded Man (The Hermit)  - Wildwood Tarot - A hooded figure carrying a lantern and a walking stick and wearing a robe decked with holly, confers with a wren in the foreground, outside a wreath-hung door into the World Tree.

The Hooded Man (The Hermit) – Wildwood Tarot – A hooded figure carrying a lantern and a walking stick and wearing a robe decked with holly, confers with a wren in the foreground, outside a wreath-hung door into the World Tree.


 
I pulled two tarot cards today, from my Wildwood deck.
The first I pulled was The Hooded Man.
In this particular deck, The Hermit is literally the card that represents Midwinter and the longest night of the year. So maybe it’s not a surprise that it decided to make an appearance.
It’s a card of stillness, of contemplation, of solitude. Apt for this time of year, and for the coding of the dark as a “gentle, enfolding space of safety and recovery“.
A good card for last night, anniversary notwithstanding.
 
Nine of Vessels - Wildwood Tarot - a bearded figure with long grey hair sits with their ankles crossed, surrounded by cups and radiating light.

Nine of Vessels – Wildwood Tarot – a bearded figure with long grey hair sits with their ankles crossed, surrounded by cups and radiating light.


 
The second card I pulled was the nine of vessels.
This is not my favourite depiction of the Nine of Cups. I strongly prefer the joyfully kinktastic Silicon Dawn version, the Next World version that reminds us to “stay glamourous”, and the Numinous Tarot’s version with its chuffed character so clearly pleased to be able to share the amulets they’ve made.
Regardless, though, this is a card of abundance. A card that speaks to the unblocking of emotional stuck spots. Of satisfaction, generosity, and sensuality. The card that says, to quote (or at least paraphrase) Doreen Valiente, “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”.
A perfect card for the turning over of one year into the next.
A perfect card for this evening, when my people are gathering for food and conversation and candle light and I get to fill my house with love and joy.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Dancing in my kitchen to Against Me and Heilung and, tomorrow night, at the warm-and-cozy queer dance party that happens periodically in my neighbourhood.
 
Attention: I’ve been paying attention to other people’s feelings. Sometimes that means doing check-ins, sometimes that means offering support. Sometimes that means remembering what appropriate emotional boundaries look like and not taking on responsibility for (rather than to) other peoples emotions. But, regardless, that’s where my attention’s been lately.
 
Gratitude: For six years married to my wife. For a lovely anniversary out. For slow-dancing in the kitchen. For enough money to pay cash for all the food we’re serving tonight. For friends who ask me how I’m doing. For sweet surprises from my young lady in DC. For snow, rather than ice, on our front steps this morning. For new dresses. For friends who send us their hand-me-downs, too. For all the friends coming to see us tonight, and for the ones who can’t make it. For magic. For hope. For another turn around the sun. ❤
 
Inspiration: The poetry that’s been arriving in the mail for the past week. (Michelle Tea, Mary Lambert, Room Magazine’s latest issue + the 40 Years retrospective anthology).
 
Creation: A little bit of singing – just for myself. Beyond that? I made hair ties. No, really. I knit myself a couple of meter-long lengths of i-cord (and am almost finished a third one, in a different colour) so that I can bulk up my dutch braids and make them colourful at the same time, without adding a lot of weight. It’s a nice “instant gratification” craft project, and it’s also been giving me some extra incentive to keep practicing doing those fancier braided styles on myself. Beyond that? Ha! I ripped out two knitting projects entirely. I’ll get them re-started over the next two weeks, because I’ll have lots of free time (woohoo!) but yesterday was absolutely a day of tearing out rather than building up on the knitting front. (Is it weird that it felt good to do that? It felt good to do that).

SHADOW – Third Week of December

“Dry Winter” – Alberto L Levorato – Via Wiki Free Images – A narrow path between tall, bare trees in deep shadow against an overcast sky.


 
I’ve mailed out all but three of the solstice cards. Have baked cookies and, tbh, bought more wine and cheese (and Sortilege) than we’re going to use before New Year’s is upon us, even with guests coming over. I’m waiting on the delivery of the last run of groceries – sweet cider and whole olives, hothouse cucumbers, tomato juice, and the once-a-year treat of imported clementines – and will be spending at least part of tomorrow making roasted garlic hummus and atichoke-parmasan dip (and the rest of it cleaning, I’m sure…), because the Longest Night is nearly upon us.
It’s a little after 4pm as I’m writing this, the day before Winter Solstice. The sun is on its way down-down-down below the roof lines. It’ll be full-dark in less than half an hour. Now is the time of long, long shadows stretching east. Deep and dark or thin and blue.
 
Shadow is the word we use for the parts of ourselves that we try to keep hidden. The bits that are “too much”, or too shameful, for us to be comfortable looking at them full-on.
It’s appropriate that the tarot cards for this last week leading up to the Longest Night include The Devil and The Moon. This is very-much their time and place.
 
~*~
 
The Devil
the Devil, while occasionally depicted as a trickster/shadow/guardian-of-the-underworld figure, is more generally understood as a card of conditioning, of greed, of learned helplessness, and even despair.
Which… You guys, this is so very much a card of “the holiday spirit” if you go by the state of the malls right now. Desperate consumerism. Greed ( which is explicitly the motivation behind the multi-national CEOs who are destroying the environment – not to get all buzz-wordy on you). Planned obsolescence of every freaking thing. Anxiety around not living up the expectations, getting someone the “wrong thing”, not “fitting in” with your families of origin. Light-levels-related depression. “This is the way we’ve always done it”/”This is the way things are”.
What once, small, manageable change can you make to be – or even just feel – less helpless? Maybe that means you start your day by sending another angry letter to the provincial government (pick a reason, there are SO many). Maybe it means you learn how to cook a thing from scratch – whether that’s kombucha or alfredo sauce or something more (or less) ambitious – or learn how to level a shelf, de-salt your leather boots (Hint: dampen your boots with vinegar, and let them air dry. Brush the salt off. Repeat. Then polish OR condition with a lanolin-beeswax blend), or mend holes in socks. Maybe it means you find the energy to text 2 friends who you know might also be having a hard time right now, and just check in on them and see how they’re doing.
 
The Tower
This image, by Cristy C Road, is the first time I really understood what The Tower was about.
That which crumbles was never meant to last.
The going-through of that collapse is going to suck hard. But it’s a release, and a relief, when it goes.
What is one small thing you can do to dismantle those things which were never meant to last, to bring the world we long for into being?
This month, I became a monthly donor to Unist’ot’en Camp, as a small but ongoing way of supporting the water defenders out West who are trying to keep their traditional territories, and the water and soil there-in, safe from oil pipelines; and also of Amnesty International, for what they do here and in the rest of the world. But usually my “small thing” is food. It’s a thing that I’m good at and can reliably provide in a way that I can’t reliably show up with money to donate or volunteer my time in a consistent way. But if you need an emergency bag of groceries or a couple of meals while you get over an illness or a casserole donation to your community potluck or a clue as to which weeds are safe to eat raw? Honey, I’m your girl.
Maybe your one small thing will be going fragrance-free in your day-to-day life (hint: fragrence-free shampoo is TERRIBLE. But baking soda paste + a diluted vinegar rinse + fragrance-free conditioner (or some kind of light-weight oil, applied sparingly) on your ends works pretty well for the straight, fine hair of this white lady). Or switching to humanely raised (or just less) meat in your diet. Or donating Flamingo Rampant titles to your local public (or elementary school) library. Or talking other white people (etc, insert your own mix of privileges here) about how to notice and consistently push back against the racism that lives in our own heads as well as in our government policies and our workplaces.
 
The Star
I love Beth Maiden’s description of The Star as being a card about values, as a reminder to find – and follow – your personal True North. It’s a card about generosity, peace, hope, and inspiration.
It’s a card that asks: How can you be generous with your time, energy, attention? With you money and skills and resources? But it’s also a card – because this is Shadow Week – that asks us to investigate the places where we find it hard to be generous – either because we’re feeling burnt out and overextended, or because we’re uncomfortable with “neediness” (our own or someone else’s) in the sense of a need for support or care or even just patience that doesn’t go away once it’s not convenient for you anymore.
I’ve been reading Care Work, and more than one of the essays in it talks about the feminization – and therefore erasure and denigration – of care, and the expectation that the (usually fem/me and feminized) people who do it are never, every going to bring up that need it, let alone expect to get it. Which is to say: A whole freaking lot of us have The Feels about both wanting & needing to be taken care of (doesn’t that make us bad?) AND being worn out from doing all the heavy-lifting when it comes to getting the groceries, maintaining the relationships, picking up the prescriptions, and remembering the appointments/food allergies/triggers/etc of other people. (I think Brené Brown’s Rising Strong has some relevant stuff about this, too).
 
The Moon
This is 100% a card about The Shadow. About all that stuff we keep hidden in our personal depths. It’s also a card about anxiety and illusion, distraction and fantasy and, as such, it’s a card about avoiding the realities of your privileges and about the stories we, along the vectors where we have social-&-political privileges, tell ourselves and each other (and other people) about why we have it so relatively good. This is stuff like “bootstrapping” or “Well, women aren’t just any good at coding” or “thus-and-such a demographic is just More Susceptible to Alcoholism” or any of the other stuff that comes up for us. There’s a podcast that I really like, that talks about – among other things – the fact that, compared to the rest of the world, Europeans were pretty crappy at farming. And I have to admit I was shocked. And kind of… hurt?? And I probably shouldn’t have been.
In this context, The Moon asks us What stories am I telling myself to explain away good fortune that probably isn’t fortune, and probably isn’t good? What can I do to push back against those stories?”
 
The Sun
Heh.This was ALMOST the card that landed on the Solstice. So close!
The Sun is about truth and hope and joy (and relates to the star in those ways), about forgiving yourself and leading by example. It’s a card that asks Leah Lakshmi’s question: What kind of ancestor do you want to be?
What kind of example do you want to set? How will you learn from your mistakes, and make amends for them, so that you can forgive yourself for them, and keep learning, growing, changing into the truest version of yourself that you can be.
 
Judgement
As weirdo queer and pagan artists have got their fingers into tarot over and over and over again, the Judgement card has undergone a bunch of transformations. It’s a hard one to love, at face value, when your cosmology and identity are at odds with the obviously Christian messaging of The Last Judgement. But what this card is about is stuff like taking a stand, recognizing your purpose or calling, and coming out the other side of a transformation. It’s about the stuff that, er, I think people mean when they say someone is “woke”. (Yes/No?) To paraphrase Cristy C Road, on the darkest, longest night of the year, Judgement asks you this: How will you follow through on the lessons that you’ve learned?
 
The World
The Solstice moves around. This year, it’s on the 21st of December. Next year, it won’t be until the 23rd. So working through the Major Arcana during the lead-up to Midwinter won’t necessarily fit with what the actual planetary orbit has in mind. (This reminds me of the first time I tried to track my period. I counted out every twenty-eighth day in my calendar, marked them all with a little red dot, and just… assumed my body would just… fall into line. Not so much, kids. Not so much).
So we’ll come to the end on December 22nd – never mind that I’m doing this write-up a couple of days early. After the tower. After the judgement. After it all, there’s this. Just as the days are barely, just barely, starting to get longer again. Assessment. Investment. Being involved. How have you contributed? How have you healed? How have you shared what you have – your time, energy, attention, resources, and skills?
Count your blessings. Acknowledge your accomplishments. Look forward towards what you can do, for yourself, for the world, during the next circle ’round the Sun.

Persephone Shortbread + Thumbprint Honey Cakes

Hey, all!
It’s time for a food post!
Today I made:
 
Persephone Shortbread
2½ C flour (all purpose wheat)
1C vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup
¼ C pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
 
Blend into a dough
Form into balls and flatten (if you want to decorate them later) or press with a fork
Place on a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
 
You can decorate these pretty-much however. But a chocolate ganache (melt chocolate chips & coconut cream together – there are a million recipes on the internet) or a glaze like the one below, would be ideal.
 
Pomogranate Glaze
½ C granulated sugar
3 tbsp coconut cream OR hemp milk (in the latter case, at 1 tsp oil)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
 
Blend over low heat until the sugar liquefies. Spoon (use a tiny spoon) over cookies and allow to cool in the fridge.
 
~*~
 
Thumbprint Honey Cakes
6C flour (all purpose wheat)
3C butter (salted)
1C honey
 
Bring the butter to room temperature (so that it’s reasonably soft)
Blend honey and butter together using beaters, unless the butter is VERY soft, in which case you can use a fork
Add in flour
Blend with a fork (it will snarl the beaters pretty quickly, so better to use a hand tool that’s easy to clear), and then with your hands, until you have a soft dough
Form into 1” balls and drop onto a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
Try not to eat them all at once. 😉
 
~*~
 
As you may have guessed, I’m not much of a one for fancy shapes when it comes to baked goods. >.> I may or may not do a frosting for the Persephone shortbread (though, if I’ve got red sugar sprinkles, I probably will).
 
The honey cakes recipe is very much my family’s shortbread recipe with honey instead of the more (recently-speaking) traditional icing sugar, in the case of my paternal line and castor/granulated sugar in the case of my mom’s family.
I wanted to give it a try and see what honey would do for the flavor – partly because (even if I can stand by the rest of it just fine) a specific sentence in this utterly ancient post from Rune Soup has bugged me for literally eight years. Are honey cakes actually that bad? Really? – and partly because I’m… weird about food. See below.
 
Flavour-wise, the end result is (surprise) not as hit-you-in-the-face sweet as the shortbread I’m used to, but – maybe because I whipped the butter and honey together first – it’s airy and (maybe not that surprisingly) even a little floral. The honey gives some depth and complexity to the sweetness, too, which I’m enjoying.
 
TBH, I can’t help laughing at myself a little bit. On the one hand, wanting to use frou-frou organic (uh… how do they control for that?) local honey instead of the kind of sugar that my thousand-years-gone pre-Christian ancestors just wouldn’t have had access to. (Yes, yes, I get that the Rich Person’s mediaeval spice chest could have included raw chunks of frighteningly expensive sugar in the 1400s, but you get my drift).
On the other hand… Cocoa, cloves, AND pomegranate molasses? All in one cookie?? (And, yes, maple syrup because (a) it’s vegan, and I wanted a vegan shortbread-type cookie that didn’t taste like margarine, but also because (b) winter contains the seeds of spring, and I’ll be darned if I pass up a food-based metaphor like that).
 
So, like I said, I’m “weird” about food.
On the one hand, I want to cook the way my pre-industrial Scottish ancestors did (uh… except on an electric range, and with central heating and running water…) – because I like fish and game and dairy and lots of greens, and because those things are Good For Me in a food-guide kind of way, and because Ancestor Connection is something that matters to me.
On another hand, I want to have a relationship with the land I’m actually living on – squatter that I am, even if the local folks are nice enough to euphemistically call me a “guest” – which, along with composting and picking up garbage and saying thank you, means eating what grows and thrives here (particularly the naturalized stuff my ancestors brought over that’s – surprise – turned out to be very invasive).
And both of these places produce a lot of berries and bitter greens (yay!), have Actual Winter to contend with, and don’t tend towards fruits loaded with capsaicin (nasturtium leaves, on the other hand…).
BUT
On yet another hand: I drink coffee every damn day, or close to it. Sugar, chocolate & cocoa, earl grey tea, and the various spices found in chai (which… I’m pretty sure the only ingredients in that particular blend that could grow in my neighbourhood are the shredded dandelion and chicory roots) and also pumpkin pie? I use those plenty of those. Salt comes from Windsor, Ontario, and coriander (and bird chilies – entirely thanks to my neighbour) grows in the back yard. But black pepper, tumeric, cumin, and vanilla beans, just for example, really, really don’t.
 
So, on the one hand, I want to get good at making delicious, flavourful food both by using what grows here and by drawing on the foodways of my own ancestors.
Rather like when I started learning how to cook (and enjoy) cabbage, and other long-keeping Product Of Ontario/Quebec produce that was available, raw, in February, I’m now learning how to cook (and, more to the point, BAKE) with more local flavours.
That doesn’t mean I want to give up my fancy imports. I think my wife would go into open revolt if I put a ban on coffee and, frankly, my desk drawer is full of chocolate. I like this stuff. But it’s basically colonization x2 when I’m a white lady in North America buying, say, chocolate, sugar, and tea at prices that are only that cheap/accessible because of colonization and the related sins of poor working conditions, low/no wages, and undervalued currencies.
 
So.
Some of what I do to… reconcile this entirely-self-made dilemma?
I use those not-grown-around-here flavours less often. I sweeten coffee and tea with honey and maple syrup (sometimes) instead of sugar. I use those pomegranate molasses roughly once a year rather than as a routine flavour I reach for. I try not to rely on vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, to say “warm and sweet” or on chilies, ginger, and tumeric to say “flavourful” – even when I have backyard bird chilies & jalapenos available and lots of imported spices,too (I still use them, but they’re not something I rely on).
 
When it comes to savouries, this is pretty easy.
Juniper berries[1] taste like black pepper and xmas trees. Onions, garlic, and mustard seed provide heat or something like it. Cranberries and rhubarb and wine (and beer, and kombucha, and yoghurt, and apples/cider/cider-vinegar, and sorrel, and dill, and sour ruben/kraut, and even dried tomatoes) provide the bright acidity that might otherwise be provided by lemons or limes.
But what I have a hard time with is baking. Fennel seed and anise hyssop can provide a “warm” licorice-y flavour. Maple syrup and maple sugar have some of the same flavour compounds as vanilla, so using it as an alternative sweetener comes with a bit of a flavour bonus. Spicebush – if I can find one in fruit (hahaha…) – allegedly tastes like a mix of black pepper and nutmeg. Fruit – whether that’s pear butter made at Mabon and baked into coffee cake at Imbolg, rhubarb fresh from the garden at Beltane, or Midsummer shortcake heaped with cream and just-off-the-tree service berries – offers all sorts of complexity right along with sweetness and tartness.
 
So it’s not that there aren’t options.
 
But I’m still at the beginning of this particular learning curve, still reaching automatically for the cinnamon and vanilla and black pepper, and it hasn’t become easy yet.
Which, then, brings me to the other thing I do, which is to buy the organic stuff, the fair trade stuff, the “rain forest alliance certified” stuff, when buying the coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and (increasingly, it’s definitely not consistent yet) sugar (I don’t actually know if these folks ship to Canada though, if yes, this is one way to get fair trade sugar at low prices/kg) that I use, particularly when it’s stuff I use every day.
 
So, yes. The cocoa in the Persephone Shortbread is organic & fair trade, and most of the sweet stuff (and the flour, and the fat – butter and margerine respectively – and the salt) comes from Canada. The cloves and the pomegranate molasses aren’t. But this is a better “score” than last year, so I’m going with it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Get them off a tree, not a creeping-type bush, because Savin Juniper – which is one of the low-growing kinds – is poisonous, whereas Common Juniper is just fine.

DARK – Second Week of December (Part Two)

Two tall (pillar) and three short (votive) candles, that have been burning, for some time, in a dark place. - Photo is public domain courtesy of wiki free images.

Two tall (pillar) and three short (votive) candles, that have been burning, for some time, in a dark place. – Photo is public domain courtesy of wiki free images.


 
Today, I’m puttering. Writing solstice cards. Washing dishes. Tidying a week’s work of messy house. My annual Solstice party is only a little more than a week away.
How do you hold space for people’s sadness?
How do you offer hope or comfort to people without asking them to pretend that their pain is “all better now”?
Things to think about while I poke and prod at this midwinter tarot journey I’m taking.
 
Justice
This is the card that sometimes switches places with Strength, and the two are linked. Personal power. Social power. Relational power. If Strength is a call to practice compassion and patience, Justice is a call to not let “compassion and patience” turn into letting yourself (or someone else, for that matter) off the hook too easily. Cristy C Road describes Justice as accountability. It’s taking responsibility for your actions, trying to do what’s right (and fucking up, and recognizing that, and making amends, and trying again, and then trying again, again… Which is another way of phrasing Strength’s own call to not give up, and to be vulnerable – instead of defensive and walled off – in your learning process).
It’s asking “How can I pass the mic?” instead of assuming that people I haven’t heard from as much “have no voices” and need to be spoken for. It’s asking “What action will result the least harm?” when I need to decide what to do. It’s also – and I’m probably thinking of this because I’ve been reading Care Work – recognizing when it’s appropriate to offer solutions (possibly by actually asking if that’s what someone wants) versus when it’s better to “pass the mic” in a different way, and just give someone the space talk about their experiences and problems to a supportive listener.
 
The Hanged Man
I love the million different ways this card gets renamed. Intermission. The Mirror. New Vision. Suspension. The Precipice. A whole bunch of different ways to talk about taking (or needing) a moment to pause, to get a different perspective on things, to lean into uncertainty and the discomfort that can come with that. A chance for the us, as the fool on the journey, to learn something new by listening to something different, to sacrifice some comfort in order to push through and level up.
I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate sacrificing comfort. I can even pretend to be otherwise on that one. Plus I’m also a “fixer”. Meaning: I’ve spent an absurd number of decades acutely believing that it’s my job to FIX other people’s feelings, and that if I fail to do so – if I fail to take on other people’s feelings as my responsibility – I am failing as a daughter or a friend or a partner. Which is really a way of saying I have super crappy boundaries around other people’s feelings and, while I’m a hell of a lot better about this than I was, say, ten years ago? It’s still Very Uncomfortable to just… sit with someone else’s depression, or their body-pain-related short-temperedness, or what-have-you, and just… not take it personally. Not freak out that it’s All My Fault that someone else’s brain chemistry is kicking their ass right now. Not get resentful when someone else “gets to be” impatient and antisocial when their joints are killing them or their fibro is flaring, while I “have to be” (ha… I don’t always manage this, mind you) nice, patient, and friendly when my quads are having spasms or my sciatic nerve is screaming at me or my hip is swollen to twice its normal size.
How do you put someone else first without feeling like a (resentful) martyr? How do you and yours find ways to take care of each other as your respective capacities allow?
 
Death
Being a card of transition and renewal, this is a very appropriate card for Midwinter. A card about tying up loose ends. About occupying liminal space. If the Hanged Man is dangling on the edge of change, then Death is that change. Death is the Going-Through, ideally with the arms of your people around you.
What skin do you need to shed this go-round? What uncomfortable thing do you have to feel your way through in order to shift (Death is suuuuuuuch a Scorpio card) into your next shape, next form, next iteration that gets you closer to your deepest, truest self? What does Shadow have to say, if you offer it your ears?
 
Temperance
It’s… funny? Death and Temperance are both, on one levels, about burning away the excess stuff. Decluttering your life, your process; sloughing off the business that is meant to be a distraction. Temperance is Ms Sugar’s Black Swan, the balance between your “easy-to-like” side and the parts of you that you might be ashamed of, or afraid of, or want to hide away.
Ruth West renamed Temperance as “Grace”, and Oliver Pickle (in their re-interpretation of West’s Thea’s Tarot deck) refers to her version of this card as a “holistic nurturer, healer, [and] supporter”. It’s a card that calls us to join forces with others and co-operate, and to work through things with care rather than haste. Both of-which relate a lot to the idea of holding space for each other where we’re at, and building networks of mutual care.
Where am I taking too much on? Where am I slacking off? How do I balance taking care of myself with taking care of the people to-whom I have responsibilities and commitments?
If you’re supporting somebody through hard stuff, do you have somebody who can support you?
I find I do this a fair bit – be the “dump out” person for someone who is doing a lot of “comfort in” for somebody else. But I also have people who do it for, who are willing to sit with me and my frustration and resentment so that I don’t vomit it all over the people in my life who need me to step up and help with a thing.
It’s a card of “putting your own oxygen mask on first”. Of “the revolution will be sustainable”.
How do you make it sustainable?

DARK – Second Week of December (Part One)

“Crescent Moon with passing Cloud” – Daniel Ramirez – Via Wiki Free Images – A waxing crescent moon, almost to half-full, on a dark night, as seen through a veil of cloud.


 
Today I’m shoveling yesterday’s fall of snow, and running some errands. Getting groceries and printing off the four-fold solstice cards that I designed (“designed”) myself. There’s a picture of a winter sunrise over Lake Superior – another wiki free images picture – to go on the front and, inside, it says “So much light // begins in the dark” (which is a Cat Valente quotation from one of the Fairyland books, if you’re wondering).
It’s overcast and grey today. The sun sets in… a little over five hours? Not a lot of time to get things done.

Dark is pretty literal this time of year. It comes in fast, means I need to get any outdoor chores (not a lot, given that I live in an urban area – just shoveling snow, handling compost, making offerings (in-so-far as that is any kind of a chore, but you get the idea), running errands on foot when I want to make sure me and my black coat are visible when crossing the streets[1]. It makes it hard(er) to get up in the mornings and hard(er) to stay up in the evenings, when I find myself ready to crawl into bed by 6pm.
Dark is also the SADD stuff that effects so many of us (self included) over winter. It’s the heavy sadness and powerlessness and hurt that comes when everything around us is screaming about faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily and we have weird relationships with our families-of-origin or the religions we grew up with (so many pagan folks grew up in families that are culturally, if not actively, Christian, and that can make things weird this time of year). Feeling erased. Being the odd-one-out the family and having to hide our difference in order to have anything close to a welcome. It’s the way old trauma can flare up when giving and receiving are taking up a lot of space in the cultural discourse.
 
This second week of December, my focus is “Dark”. Checking in with friends to ask how their hearts are doing. Bringing little multi-packs of nail polish to the Cornerstone residence in my neighbourhood. On a slightly more macro level, I’ve also become a monthly donor to Trans Lifeline (an explicitly t4t peer-staffed crisis line) and have sent an annual donation to my local trans org, THIO, that does youth mentorship and other community outreach as well as helping trans folks navigate the local health-care system.
 
The Chariot
The Chariot is a card of “get up and go”, about drive and focus and, tbh, about a lot of what Ms Sugar talks about on the subject of austerity being glamourous. It can, I think, touch on our potential to be pushy and demanding, espousing a sort of “my way or the highway” attitude. But I love some of the depictions of The Chariot as Awareness and as a grown-up femme, running her life (to paraphrase, or possibly directly-quote, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha).
This is, at its core, another card that asks if you are living/acting according to your values. How does your actual life (and the parts of it you actually control very directly) stack up against what you imagine your “ideal day” would look like? If your ideals say one thing – whether that one thing is “Everybody should be food-secure and have easy access to clean water” or “I am a writer, dammit” or “Emotional labour is actual labour and should be valued as such” – are your actions supporting your ideals?
What can I do, today, to support my ideals with action?”
For me, that means asking people if they have the brain-space to listen to me vent, rather than just launching into it without checking first. It means making time (ha… I need to actually do that though, ’cause I haven’t been lately) to write poetry and prose, most likely by unplugging the internet for a few hours at a time. It means checking in with people about whether or not they need groceries right now, or paypaling $10 to someone when they tweet about needing some bridge-funding to cover food.
 
Strength
Yes, I know that this sometimes switches places Justice, but most of the decks I work with (I think the Wildwood is the exception) feature Strength as the 8 of the Major Arcana. (It’s my birth card). I think my favourite iteration of this is the one from the Osho Zen deck, where Strength is labeled “Courage” and is depicted as a flour growing through concrete.
I think this image speaks really eloquently to the vulnerability inherent in blooming, in opening up to grow, to take in water, to take in light. Considering this card at this time is a lovely reminder that we are in seed space right now, waiting out the cold, buried in the dark of the frozen ground. Strength is a card that carries “a reminder not to despair or give up“. It asks us to be a “rock” for others, to treat people kindly and with patience, to breathe through our frustrations. To practice compassion (with other people, sure, but also with ourselves).
Where do I need to be patient? What do my frustrations have to tell me about the situations I’m in? Who in my human and non-human communities need my support right now? What can I realistically and sustainably offer them?
Right this minute, that means checking in with friends-and-family who are having a hard time emotionally due to work stress and family stress. It means Strongly Suggesting that my partners take some time to soak in epsom salt baths to help with body pain, or to make time for some quiet grounding exercises to help a little bit with stuff like compassion fatigue.
 
The Hermit
What I said about “seed space”, above, holds true here. This is a time of awareness, but not necessarily a time of action. (Although I am making a point of taking action on a bunch of small fronts specifically at this time, so… make your own decisions there).
Which… I know I’m focusing these themes on “alleviating stuff that sucks”, so I’m treating “dark” in its most negative sense. But I want to point out that Dark is also rest. That it’s a time/place for contemplation, that it’s a breathing space, a chance to escape sensory overload, to put your roots into the ground and let your shoulders drop a little. The dark can be a gentle, enfolding space of safety and recovery, too. And that’s relevant to this card, which is so much a card of “alone is not the same as lonely”.
Where am I feeling overloaded? What can I do for Self Care? How much of that means “Body Pleasure” and how much of that means “Doing The Thing That Is Good For Me Even Though I Don’t Wanna”? How can I use this time of turning inward to lift my own sadness and despondency rather than sink more deeply into it?
For me, this means, yes, making time to read and write poetry, and also taking time to sing and dance and move my body.
 
The Wheel of Fortune
This is a card about changes, about turning points and tipping points. Of big changes coming just around the corner. But it’s also a card about cycles and patterns. To speak of it at this time of year, I can help but treat it with an eye to the Year Wheel and, tbh, the recent new moon. Cycles that are waxing, cycles that are waning. Cycles that are getting ready to start another round. If The Hermit is a card about taking time to turn inward, The Wheel is a card about connections, about hooking-things-up, about webs, and about patterns.
What patterns are you ready to put to rest (recognizing that this may take another cycle or two before you really get good at heading them off at the pass)? What habits do you want to build into your day-to-day? On the micro level? On the macro level? What metaphorical bulbs and seeds and roots are sleeping now, but waiting to germinate as the next year-long cycle starts building up speed?
As-you-know-bob, I find I stand a better chance at breaking old patterns if I give myself a new set of patterns to establish. So, when it comes to seeds that are planted but maybe not yet germinated, what have I got?
On the personal/micro level? All that stuff I mentioned under the heading of The Hermit, actually. Moving my body more. Making (and keeping) time to write (to create more of) my poetry. Singing more often and allowing that singing to be personal-level energy work as well. Moving my body more through dancing, kundalini yoga[2].
On a more macro level, I want to for a habit of checking in with not just human friends-and-family, but with the specific plot of land I live on. Asking Mattaer and Misha, in particular, how they’re doing and what they need to feel better at any given time. To take my responsibilities to this bit of ground a step past “water the plants” and “compost your hair and fingernail clippings” and “top up your raised beds every spring” and “scatter the seeds of fruit-bearing trees far and wide” and into something that goes a littler further, though I don’t know what that would look like, having not got there yet. It might involve the River Keepers. It might involve something else.
 
 
Take care,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I’m about 2/3 done the “safety scarf” that I’m knitting in day-glow hot pink with glow-in-the-dark beads looped into it which, once it’s finished, should help me be a little more visible. I don’t love that I can’t trust drivers to pay enough attention at cross-walks to not try to make a right-hand turn right over top of me, but I also don’t want to die, so: Safety Scarf it is.
 
[2] Which I need to be careful about because some of those actions mess with my lower back. Some of them don’t, though, and do help keep my feet from freezing. So that’s relevant to my Winter body, in particular.