Monthly Archives: August 2011

Lady of the Woods


I went and named myself a birch tree maiden — because I like them, because they make me smile, because of the character in Thomas the Rhymer, because birch switches have kinky connotations and so do I — and today I went and looked them up in the context of Druid Trees.

The context of why I decided to do this now:  Someone I know is looking for a tied-to-her-ancestors lens through-which to understand her own abilities to communicate with (and, er, draw the attention of) non-human intelligences.  I’ve been pushing her towards various types of neopagan druidry because… it seems to fit.  The skills she already has fit the profile of a seer, but her animism also fits with the ways her (and my) ancestors read the world, its holy places, it’s vast and acknowledged life-in-all-things.

So I’ve been looking at Druid Stuff today, and this gave me an excuse to go looking up the Birch Tree and seeing what-all it’s about.


I see rulership.  I see a tree of song, communication, music, and words.  I see an association with the ancestors.  I see healing and blessing.  I see love and trust and partnership.  I see new beginnings (appropriate for my own pantheon — My Lady of New Beginnings stands in scrub-land and meadow, between the field and the forest, and that’s the space the birch tree occupies).  I see creativity.  I see fertility.  I see world-trees.  I see new perspectives (shades of the Hanged Man in my tarot deck).  I see protection (both in the sense of the magical and in the sense of the literal – housing and roofing materials).  I see water associations.  I see women associations and goddess associations.  I see winter associations.  I see … huh… an unexpected tie to Macha, the earthy, horse-woman of the Morigan trio who handles fertility as well as death.  Really?  Huh.  Can anyone confirm this?  <*eyebrow*>


I see a lot of ways in which I picked the right tree for me, my pantheon, my own life and work.  Eeeeeeeeeeeeenteresting. 🙂


Anyone worked with birch before?  Care to share?  Drop me a comment and we’ll yack. 🙂



Meliad the Birch Maiden

To Be a Queen of Fire

I feel like I’m neglecting this place (Syrens, on the other hand, is getting updated like crazy…) so I thought I’d ramble a little bit about tarot cards and the kind of space I’m in right now.

I’ve written, before, about the tarot deck I use — the art work is lovely, and the images talk to me really well (I think I got lucky that way — I found my talking deck pretty quickly, whereas I know there are people out there who go though half a dozen sets of cards before they find one that speaks clearly to them).  I’m glad I’ve got it.  It’s… providing some inspiration in the rest of my life.

See, I’m trying to explore and develop my own sense of power – in terms of personal empowerment, yes, but also in terms of influence on others.  And what is Fire but the suit/seat of Power?  Fire is Action.  It’s confidence and drive and expansion, and all the rest of it, and those are things that I really need to be cultivating in myself right now.

The Queen of Fire in my deck is named Sharing. I love the description of her as one who lives so expansively, who is so sure of herself and the abundance within and around her that she just doesn’t think in terms of fear or scarcity or shame.  These days, I’m trying to hold her up to myself as a model of how to act in the world, in my home, and inside my own head. It’s a very new situation for me because, all my life, I’ve understood my own strengths through the lenses of Forest and (even more-so) Ocean. Now here I am trying to work Fire into myself (it feels a bit like I’m playing a really high-stakes game of rock-paper-scissors, actually).

Wish me luck.

Meliad the Birch Maiden

Hematite (And Some Serious Woo)

So. I recently made something for my girlfriend. She’s been under a lot of stress lately and she needed a little help carrying it.

Out of the blue she asked me what hematite is, because the word just floated through her head unbidden.  I told her it was iron ore, that it absorbed negative stuff, that it’s a good grounding stone and, incidentally, that I also have a heap of it in my beading bag.  How convenient.  Of course this was exactly what she needed in her life right then.
So I made her a hematite pendant (three, stacked 8mm hematite spheres on a twist of silver wire) and strung it on a strip of red leather lacing (personally significant, plus the colour looks really good on her), and she hasn’t taken it off since. 🙂  She’s says it’s really doing the trick, which is excellent news, and I don’t mind telling you.


It’s funny. As a jeweler, I pull these groups of stones together and, by and large, I’m doing it for aesthetic reasons.  I don’t think (much, if at all) about what kind of influences I’m sending off to be hung from the ears of strangers.

Take, for example, my piece “The Sea with it’s Deepness” (yes, I did a collection based on the poem in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Even with all the very xian references and the Noble Savage tropes in the actual book, I’ve still always enjoyed that poem).  I made it from lapis lazuli, iolite, and pearls.  Near as I can tell, I’ve managed to make a pair of earrings that would work for fostering healing and compassion in their wearer. Unintentionally.


So that brings me to a question: In magic, Intent is a significant part of the deal. But I’m wondering: Have you ever been in a situation where (to pick an example totally and completely at random) you badly needed to learn how to communicate or desperately confused by the swirling maelstrom inside your own head… and also found yourself going “Oo! Shiny!” at every piece of Sodalite you came across?

I wonder if we aren’t drawn to certain stones (or plants or whatever) because they correspond to something that we need to strengthen in our lives.


(How weird is it that I can yack about spell-craft and ingredient lists and correspondences in the practical sense of things, but when I start talking about “manifesting” things into your life I end up going “Okay, this is too much Woo for me…”. Anyway).


So that’s my thoughts about that.


– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Urban Foraging – Some Links

So things are kind of wild around my place just now.
As such, for the moment, I’m just going to hand you a couple of links talking about urban foraging.

My garden is kind of suffering at the moment. I’ve been throwing eggshells into my various large planters, in the hopes of giving my sqaush, tomatoes, and beans a bit of a calcium boost, but it doesn’t seem to be working. (Next year, I’ll be adding a healthy dose of bone meal to all my large planters, going with a bush-delicata squash (only one, I suspect), and inter-planting the squash with the beans).

In the next few days, I’ll be collecting choke cherries and wild grapes (apples will come later, I think, though if I had a ladder, I could probably snag some from the tree around the corner right now), as well as harvesting the radishes from my balcony garden (I want to try pickling a bunch of them, if I can). For now, though, I’m going to take a walk over to Arts Court to check out their Will Work For Food art garden, to see what’s going on over there.

Beyond that, have some links!

Foraging for Wild Berries in the City (Toronto)

Urban Foraging and Guerilla Gardening (Location Unknown)

At Vacant Homes, Foraging for Fruit (Atlanta)

– Meliad, the Birch Maiden

Wish I May, Wish I Might…

Not surprisingly, I missed the meteor shower last night. I’m not much of a night-owl and am typically asleep by 10pm. (The flip-side is that I tend to get up with the sun — great in Summer, not so great in Winter. It’s a good thing I work from home).

But it’s floated through my mind that this is as good an excuse as any to talk about wishing and, more generally, practical magic.

There are two sides to my “spirituality”. The religious side – which involves making offerings, hanging with my deities, caring for my garden, tracking the wild (and not so wild) foods in my neighbourhood, and so on. And then there’s the magical side.

I identify as a Kitchen Witch. What that means to me is (a) I engage in spell-craft, my witchiness is directly linked to the magical stuff I throw together (religiously, I’m more likely to ID as a Goddess-Animist, for example), but also (b) when I say “throw together”, I really mean it. I’m very much of the “use what you’ve got (in the fridge)” school of both cooking and magic which, I gather, is pretty much the polar opposite of ceremonial magic.

What do the ingredients mean? To you? To your culture? Your found & chosen tribes?

Wishing – on stars; on birthday candles; on pennies tossed, like offerings, into moving water – is an old practice, and one we learn early from family members, day-care workers, older siblings. We learn it young enough that there’s a part of us, no matter how jaded we get, that can still believe, can still Know, that it works.

So why not use it?

I know that magic works best as a door-opener, a means of turning the tides of something to your favour, rather than a means of making something impossible come to pass without a lot of real-world work. (Classic Example: You are not going to magically get yourself a girlfriend, no matter how many candles you light, if you don’t get up the guts to go to Queer Femme Karaoke or otherwise attempt to meet people who are at least wired to be into your gender).

None the less, you’ll never know if you don’t ask. Thence wishing, thence candle-magic, thence mojo bags and amulets and milagros, and every other thing that people have come up with to nudge the powers that be towards giving us a leg-up.

What do you wish on?

– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Unexpectedly Lammas-Related, Poetry-Inspired Baking

Yeah, I know. That title’s a mouthful. A mouthful of deliciousness!

See, today I made Peach Jam. Specifically, I made peach jam with the addition of pear-cider vinegar and a few strawberries I had lying around (it’s a remarkably pink orange colour as a result of both the peach skins and the strawberries, I don’t mind telling you).
I used my last two 2C jars to can the stuff, though, so when I was left with about half a cup of fresh jam lying in the pot with nowhere to put it (except in me, of course), I decided that it was time to do more baking.

So I wrote a cupcake recipe (see below).

Of course, me being me, I didn’t actually stick to the recipe once I wrote it. My recipe calls for eggs, yoghurt, and a couple of other bits and pieces that I didn’t have on-hand at home. I switched up a bunch of stuff (including adding half a cup of fine cornmeal to cover the ground almonds I didn’t have, and adding a handful of chopped white chocolate plus a few dried apricot bits and dried cranberries, all of-which came from an ancient and failed attempt at making white chocolate bark one Winter Solstice) and baked with what I had. The recipe you’ll find, below, is actually an amalgamation of the original recipe with the extra thrown-in-stuff added (either as definite ingredients or as optional ones).

The resulting baked goods, possibly due to the cornmeal, taste more like a very, VERY fluffy muffin than like a cupcake. BUT they’re still uber-tasty and I recommend them, for sure. 😀

Some Notes:
The recipe itself is in part inspired by the jam I made, but it’s also inspired by Peach Creamed Honey (I hope that link works for everyone), the award-winning poem from Amal El-Mohtar’s gorgeous book of poetry, The Honey Month. So, obviously, the best choice for the small amount of honey called-for in this recipe is actual peach-creamed honey. Which I have no notion where to find. BUT it seems to work nicely with clover honey, so do what you like.
Also: While I didn’t mean for this to end up being Lammas-related, it includes honey[1], cornmeal[2], peaches[3] AND jam[4]. So I’m feeling like it’s kind of Seasonally Thematic, half by accident.

Anyway. Without further ado, the recipe:




For the Cupcakes

1½ C flour (wheat, oat, barley, mixture, whatever)
1 C ground almonds (OR ½ C ground almonds + ½ C fine cornmeal – which is what I used)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

½ C sour cream OR yoghurt
½ C margarine/butter/shortening
½ C brown sugar
¼ C peach jam
2 tbsp creamed honey (liquid honey is also okay)
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp orange extract (optional)

2 egg whites, beaten until stiff

¼ C chopped dried peaches (may substitute dried apricots – the emphasis here is on “dried”)
¼ C white chocolate chips

For the Frosting

1C icing sugar
¼ C margarine/butter
1 tsp orange extract OR vanilla extract
1 tbsp peach jam

Flaked almonds OR strips of orange zest (to garnish)


Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they are very stiff

In a large bowl, cream together the sour cream, egg yolks, sugar, and margarine

Add the jam, vanilla, honey, and optional orange extract, and blend until smooth

In a separate bowl (or not) mix the dry ingredients together, then add them to the sour cream mixture and blend gently until smooth, being careful not to over-mix

Fold in the beaten egg whites

Add the chopped dried fruit and the white chocolate chips and fold in until well-distributed

Spoon the batter into paper-lined muffin cups

Bake for 20-35 minutes (until golden brown)

Remove from oven and let stand ten minutes before moving the cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling

When cupcakes are fully cooled, frost them with the frosting and decorate them with orange zest, flaked almonds, or whatever your heart desires


Please note: My oven only has one element (as opposed to the usual two) and so a dozen cupcakes tend to take a good half hour for me. If you have a fully-functional oven, chances are good that your cupcakes will only take 15-20 minutes. Be aware.

And, yeah. That’s my recipe. 😀

– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] Harvested, around hear, in Mid-to-Late July. (You can also do a harvest around Hallowe’en, actually, which I’ll be keeping in mind come late October).

[2] It’s corn-harvesting season at the moment and, if you do Lammas as a specifically grain-related festival, that’s your grain if you’re in my bioregion.

[3] Currently in season in Ontario.

[4] home-canning, related to harvesting and planning for the future, plus the jam includes strawberries[5] and locally-brewed[6] pear-cider vinegar. I could also note that the dried fruit, drying being another method of preserving produce, fits the same correspondences as the jam. Just saying. 🙂

[5] Also in season (though getting late) in Ontario.

[6] By a friend of mine who had a batch of pear cider go… awry. It’s a gorgeous, mild, seriously fragrant vinegar that I love using in desserts. 🙂

Tarot A-Go-Go

So, like so many of us, I do tarot readings.  Most frequently, I do tarot readings for myself and gods know I just about never do them professionally (although I’ve had a few points where I’ve set up in a coffee shop and ended up doing readings in exchange for coffee and lemon squares, which is not a terrible thing).

Anyway, sometimes I’ll draw a spread for myself, but I won’t actually have time to do the interpretation, so I just pack up the reading and save it to look at later.  Maybe that’s weird, but sometimes I find that it helps because it lets me look at what I drew from a fresh perspective.  Case in point:  This morning, I had a look at a spread a drew something like a week ago.  I only vaguely remember what had been on my mind when I pulled the cards, but looking at what I drew I can see what the reading is actually about.  Know what I mean?

Anyway.  I did a “Question and Answer” spread – as I’m fond of short-and-to-the-point when it comes to stuff like this. (FYI: I use the Osho Zen tarot deck – minus the Osho Card (because I did not sign up to promote someone else’s guru). I do really like the art work – as you’ll see, since I’ve linked to pictures of all the cards I drew – and find that the way the cards are named is actually far more useful to me than the more traditional terms like “Four of Wands” or whatever).

This is what I drew (given that I’m doing this reading around a harvest time – read: a time of thinking about abundance and hope for the future – I think it’s surprisingly timely):

Signifier: No-Thingness (five of major arcana), Upright.

Question: The Miser (four of earth), Reversed.

Answer: We Are The World (ten of earth), Reversed.

Hindrances: Projections (seven of water), Reversed.

Helpers: Rebirth (ten of air), Reversed.

Outcome: Adventure (page of earth), Upright.

Overarching (current) Influences: Sharing (queen of fire), Upright.

Underlying (rising) Influences: Receptivity (queen of water), Reversed.

What I think all this stuff means (that’s the lovely thing about cardboard: It doesn’t actually know anything, but it sure gives you a good way of getting your non-verbal self (who totally knows what’s going on) to talk to your verbal self (who just thinks it’s in charge), know what I mean?):

Okay. First thing: No-Thingness is basically the Card Of Potential for me. So I read this as me being sort of on the cusp of something, with all my options open. (Because I try to be positive like that).

The Question is, pretty obviously, all about “Will I Be Okay???” which has been a question/fear of mine since time immemorial and, of late, is fairly relevant to my situation BUT

The Answer is also pretty obvious: Yes. But the “Yes” involves a change in perspective (see the following two cards) to include the reality that I’m not alone and that people have my back.

The Hindrances are really familiar. That emotional tendency to project my fears onto other people so that, when I’m afraid I won’t be able to look after myself adequately, I start freaking out that maybe the people I’m counting on are going to up and disappear on me. Getting it through my head that this isn’t actually going to happen will – given the Reversed position of this card – be a challenge BUT

Getting it through my head is what’s going to Help me. The reversed Rebirth card – since it’s reversed and since it’s an air card – is, as far as I can see, saying “Change your thinking”. Not that it’ll be easy, but that’s the trick of it all. If I can do that, THEN

The Outcome will, essentially, be a degree of fearlessness and exploration that I need to get myself through everything and do what I’m meant to do. That the Adventure card is upright tells me that (a) it’s an outward adventure, rather than an inward exploration (of self, or whatever). Which, in this situation, is a really good thing. Beyond that, though, I also read it as being an easy thing to take on once I’ve dealt with my internal Issues around fear and hiding and playing it safe. This is also a good thing. I have something fairly big to look forward to.

The Overarching and Underlying Influences cards are an addition to every tarot spread I do. I picked them up from a friend of mine, as they are a bit like Advisers to a given situation (though I’ve been known to draw a context/adviser card as well, from time to time). I have to admit that, in this deck, the queen cards (except the queen of clouds, who is just a scary and nasty individual – she corresponds to the suit of swords in the trad deck, so I’m not surprised by this) are among my most favourite pieces. Taken together, I read this combination of the out-going queen of fire and the receptive queen of water (that they are respectively upright and reversed just adds to this, I think) as meaning: If I put my stuff/self/talents/work Out There right now, I will in time (measurable time, visible time, no less) be able to Bring In the benefits of what I’ve put out. Which is, of course, exactly what I need to hear. 🙂

All in all, I think this spread is incredibly positive.
(An old anthropology teacher of mine once said, in a guest-lecture about divination, that if you are doing a reading for someone else, you always have to put a positive spin on it, because a stranger will believe you because you are in the position of Expert, and a friend will believe you because you are their friend and wouldn’t lie to them. I like it when I don’t have to spin things to find something positive in a reading).

If I were to summarize the whole thing, I think I would say something like:
“Whatever you’re setting up and trying to do/start right now is going to work. It’s going to take some effort – duh – but it’ll happen. Act despite the fear and the wobbles and the uncertainty, fake it til you make it (so to speak), and you will make it. Everything you want to do, you’ll do. Everything you want to get out of it, you’ll receive. The world is with you on this one. Go-go-go! :-D”

As such: To action! Up-up-and-awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Lammas / August Long Weekend / Lughnasadh

Greetings to all and sundry.

So I spent the August Long Weekend (which handily corresponds to the “First Harvest” festival in the Wiccan calendar) socializing in a completely non-pagan context (as far as I know) and completely not having Religion on the brain.  (See quotation, below, for details).

I have a… weird(?) relationship to the Wheel of the Year.  A big part of that is that I’m a solitary practitioner with pretty damn personal take on my practice.  (If you look at the Pagan blogroll in the sidebar, you’ll see a fair amount of hedge witchery and/or animism in that list).  I don’t ID as a practitioner of Wicca or any of the other “Major” Pagan religions (even my Goddess Spirituality hinges far less on 2nd Wave Feminist Essentialism and the work of Marija Gimbutas – much as I love Godddess Jewelry and the use of Menstrual Blood as a ritual substance – than it does on the particular deities and spirits I’m most likely to want to hang out with).  Consequently, I don’t associate the Wheel Days with big community events (well, other than KG, which I tend to avoid due to Too Many People), so much as “If I want something to happen, I need to do it myself, and I need to make it low-key enough that the various faiths of people I want to spend time with will all blend nicely”.  Which means that I tend to go Secular, by and large, with whatever Thing I throw together.  Which means I’m also okay with letting someone else do the Throwing.

What does this rambling intro have to do with anything?

A friend of mine was talking about how, these days, she looks at a date like August First and doesn’t go “Personally relevant religious feast day” but, rather, goes “Ack!  So little time!  So much to do before my deadline!”  What I wrote in response was this:

My Ghost was saying today how, even though our leathergirls aren’t necessarily all that religious (and remarkably few of them are even nominally Pagan of any stream), we sure do hit the holidays, don’t we?

Case in point: A bunch of us spent this weekend being sensual and eating mad amounts of local food while naked at a campground with a big spring-fed lake.

Totally forgot what day it was until someone mentioned it this morning.

But that’s how it tends to go.


I asked myself why I think it tends to go this way.  And a big part of it is that the people I hang out with in general, Pagan or not, are far and away very rooted in their bodies, prone to sensuality, sex positive, and supportive of environmentalism, small-scale agriculture, and seasonal eating.  Basically a perfect combination to lead us to pay attention to what’s growing locally and what our bodies want, as well as a tendency towards enjoying all the fleshly things that get Pagans a bad rap with folks of a more ascetic (or maybe just more puritanical?) turn of mind.


Anyone else run into this?  Thoughts?  Theories?  Drop me a note. 🙂



– Meliad the Birch Maiden