Monthly Archives: October 2011

Locally-Named Lunar Months

So there’s an Activity that Starhawk[1] recommends in… gods, one of her books (I think it might be The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit In The Rhythms Of Nature, but I could be wrong)… She suggests naming the different lunar months in accordance with what’s going on, nature-wise, in your specific area at the time.

So, right now — seeing as we’re just turning into a new moon (how convenient!) — we would be shifting out of Hunter’s Moon[2] and into Frost Moon.

To that end, I’ve cobbled together a list of lunar-months for my area.

Frost Moon (just starting, late October/early November)
Snow Moon (late November/early December)
Long Nights Moon (Late December – big shock about this name, eh?)
Ice Moon (mid/late January)
Hunger Moon (mid/late February[3])
Sugar Moon (mid March)
Flood Moon (mid April)
Flower Moon (mid May[5])
Honey Moon (mid June[6])
Fruit Moon (mid July[7])
Thunder Moon (early/mid August)
Harvest Moon (early/mid September)
Hunter’s Moon (early October)

Voila. My locally-named lunar calendar (more or less).

What would you name the lunar months where you are?

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I read a lot of starhawk. She’s pretty articulate and, really, goddess-oriented ecopaganism is pretty close in attitude to the kind of stuff I do, so…

[2] Much as I would love-love-love to say that Hunter’s Moon happens around Hallowe’en and the last harvest (meaning the slaughter), the local large-mammal-hunting season has been on for a little while now, but we’ve only just started getting frost on the windows over night.

[3] It feels weird to call it this, since I have access to grocery stores, but — according to my Food Land Ontario chart — there’s not a lot available from in-province at this time, so it seemed to fit. Also, from the perspective of jewelry-making[4]? “Hunger Moon” is a lot niftier-sounding than, say, “Slush Moon” or “Seasonally Depressed, No REALLY Moon”. Although, actually, I can imagine the latter…

[4] The plan is to do a collection of earrings based on these names.

[5] This could be the crocuses and scilla that come up in early May, but it could also be the lilacs and apple blossoms that come out later in the month.

[6] More because the bees are busy than because it’s honey-harvest time. That doesn’t come until early August, or even October, depending on when you harvest your hives.

[7] I’ve picked service-berries on the first of July, but the first beans and raspberries don’t typically show up until just about August, so that’s my reasoning behind calling the moon that covers approximately July “fruit moon”.

Knitting an Autumn Forest

This is actually a post about knitting.

Knitting is, for me, a very seasonal thing. I was talking about it with my sweetie this morning[1] and she said she thought knitting – as a very stationary activity – was well-suited to the Summer, the time of year when not moving around a lot and, ideally, sitting quietly in the shade, will keep you most comfortable. But, for me, it’s so very connected with Winter. My guess is that it’s because, when it’s cold out, I want to bury my hands in something cozy and give myself excuses to curl up in a little ball somewhere warm with a blanket around my shoulders and a cup of tea close at hand.
However I think I also made this connection because it’s something you can do (to a point — all I can do is “garter stitch”) by feel, something you don’t need to think about all that much, something that – more to the point – you can do indoors, after the harvest is in, while the wind is howling outside. I associate it with winter because, for my agrarian ancestors at any rate, it was (most likely – I am making a big assumption here) something that was done during the time of year when they weren’t sheering or weeding or threshing or what-have-you.

Anyway. Knitting (and spinning; I found a neat drop-spindle tutorial on youtube – over here – which I rather like) are on my mind.

The “autumn forest” part of this post’s title comes from the variegated yarn I’m using to knit my mother a hat[2] which is going to be somewhere between a tuque and a cloche.
I picked the yarn because it’s (a) variegated, which makes the same-stitch-all-the-time look a bit less monotonous, and (b) because it’s in the right colour palate for her — she’s an Autumn, meaning that she looks best in golds, rusts, ambers, and olives.
I’ve been knitting double-stranded from two balls of variegated yarn, which means that the knit doesn’t move from colour to colour in blocks but, rather, is a constantly changing mix. I was looking at it this morning and what I saw was the forest in autumn, specifically Vincent Massey Park in mid-October, as viewed from the Carleton University campus early in the morning. The hazy mix of rust and pumpkin, gold and maroon and brown, mixed with the dark hunter-green of the conifers, emerging from the morning mist.
I like it. I think it will be perfect for her.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Reader, I confess it: I was knitting in bed.

[2] I don’t, at this point, work with patterns. As stated, above, I only know how to do garter stitch, so not a lot of point worrying about patterns just now.

Arts, Crafts, and Ancestors

So I’ve made a decision: I’m not doing any[1] craft fairs this winter.

I know, I know. It’s not actually all that monumental. But I figure I don’t have a lot of new stock, the last couple of (Spring) craft shows I did were… not remotely lucrative[2], and I’m not actually hurting for money right now (which is usually why I do these things), so I’m not feeling a deep and hungry need to spend my Saturday sitting in a community centre for the bargain price of $30/table.

I figure I’m better off hanging onto the soaps and candles I’ve already made and using them as gifts for various family/phamily members come Solstice and Xmas; better off quietly sorting the jewelry I’ve already made into collections, then getting the different groups fancied up and photographed so that I can (re-)launch my Etsy store come January and see if I can’t be a professional crafter that way.

Other than its relationship to honey pots and other come-hither money spells, this post doesn’t have much to do with magic, let alone Pagan Goddessry or Animism. But I think it’s worth posting here, none the less.

“Arts and Crafts” – all the gals who do fibre arts, who do their own canning[3], who DIY their own clothes; all the “hobby” stuff that gets dismissed as “fooling around”; all the “work” stuff that gets shifted to factories where it makes money for someone who isn’t the people doing the doing – it’s all links to our ancestors.

When I write to my grandparents and talk about my balcony garden, talk about putting up preserves, talk about knitting this or that item for somebody’s xmas present; when I make soap that we actually use, or that I sell to cover the bills, when I make preserves that we actually eat or that I trade for other groceries… When I do this, I’m linking the work of my hands to the work of theirs and saying – to myself, to them, to anyone who sees me doing it and taking pride in it – this work has value. This work is work, and it’s real, and it matters, and it’s not just a quaint Thing that people did in The Olden Days.

So, yeah. I think these are important skills to know – regardless of whether or not I’m using them to pay the bills. But I also think it’s worth noting that I can use those skills to keep the roof over our heads or the larder stocked. That the work of my hands is something I can turn to when I need it to make rent.

So that’s where my head is at today.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Probably. I can think of one that I might do, but even that’s unlikely at this point.

[2] Granted, I at least always managed to break even, and one was outdoors during a thunder storm, so…

[3] And it is, by and large, women who do this stuff. Most, if not all, of the men I know who do this stuff grew up either trying to fit into girl world when it was never going to fit them, or grew up as hippy feminists and were honourary granola dykes before they’d finished puberty. Either way, they grew up in women’s culture, whether they wanted to (the latter) or not (the former).

Soul Experience

Dark Moon, October 26th, 2011[1]

My sweetheart is one of those people (very much unlike me – I’m a total bunker) who can See. She can see spirits and auras and other people’s memories… and she says I’m the newest soul she’s ever met.

She says I give her hope because of it, that all of us who are new to the wheel of living, or possibly the wheel of living as a human, remind people who’ve been around the block umpteen times that there’s a wonder and a joy in trying this out and experiencing like this.

I cried my eyes out when she told me. Everyone else who’d ever picked up on my newness – or not – has always been really dismissive of the New People, and implied (or outright said) that you only have Value once you’ve been around long enough that your soul is giving off green, rather than (to site myself) orange, light.

She told me about a song this morning, a song about reincarnation and the story of it just sounded so sad and so tired and so lonely. I wonder if people qua souls get tired of going around and around and around.

I mean, me? I can’t imagine wanting to stop living, stop experiencing, stop doing all this Cool Stuff. The whole idea of Moksa seems horrible from my perspective. Why would anyone want to stop existing, stop re-meeting everyone you’ve ever loved, stop tasting and touching and those other things our senses afford us? It boggles my mind and breaks my heart that anyone could be so tired of this, so tired of life, that all they want to do is just stop. 😦

Anyway, for the moment, that appears to be where my head is at.

Meliad, the Birch Maiden.

[1] We’ll see how long this experiment of making note of the moons in my blog actually lasts, seeing as this is the first one. But hey, let’s go with it.

Solar Powered Pagans

Thank the gods for a sunny day.

We woke up this morning and saw the moon, this pale sliver hanging in the fading dark on the eastern cheek of morning.

… Which is a very pretty mental image and all, but what I’m actually talking about is the fact that the sky is clear for the first time in ages. Sure, I can see clouds to the south of me, and the sky isn’t outright empty. But the sun is up and out and that makes getting through the day so much easier.

A friend of mine used to joke about being a “solar powered Pagan” – the joke, of course, being that we’re all supposed to be lunar-powered Creatures of the Night, out dancing with the fairies and meeting clandestinely and so-on. With, perhaps, a side-order of Gothity for added bonus points. 😉

But me? I actually am a solar-powered Pagan. Now that the days are noticeably shorter than the nights, I’m finding it harder and harder to drag myself out of bed by 7am, whereas back in Summer, I was up at 5:45 with no trouble. By the time the sun is fully down, I’m ready to curl up in bed. It’s getting to the point where my young lady and I are shopping around for one of those SAD lamps to help us wake up every day.

Do you find that this happens to you? The more you pay attention to the natural rhythms around you, the more they affect your day-to-day life?

Drop me a comment and let me know.

Meliad, the Birch Maiden.

Eat the Land, Be the Land

There are a lot of reasons why I’m into seasonal food. Some of them are economical – food that’s in season and locally available tends to be cheaper than the alternatives; some of them are environmentalist – fewer food-miles and all that jazz; and some are… something else.

I’ve posted before about making unexpectedly Holy Day appropriate food just based on what I was cooking with that day. I find that, by using local, seasonal ingredients, I give myself a really easy, little-to-no planning required, way of connecting myself to the land I live on.

As someone living in a downtown apartment with container veggies on the balcony, but no land to actually till, so to speak, my desire to incorporate as much local food into my diet as possible is, in large part, a desire to be made from the land I interact with daily.

I’ve seen the odd post, and read the occasional scholarly article[1] about how the land you’re doing magic (or practicing religion, or both) in/on has a significant effect on how you do your Thing.

And I think this extends to food.
As it stands, I’m trying to do a combination of things. Trying to incorporate the omnivorous diet of my ancestors[2] with the food that grows in and around my city[3] and that, in theory, I’ll eventually be able to get back to growing myself.

My theory – which pretty-much echos the one Starhawk brought up in Earth Path – is that, the more I eat of the food this land, this place, provides, the more a part of it I’ll become.
And I like that plan.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Don’t even ask. It was about Sami shamanism, and it was about a decade ago.

[2] Yes, really. A lot of cattle farmers, and the occasional West Marches warlord. We ate mammals as well as beans and fish, y’all.

[3] Although, I admit, I’m frequently willing to stick with “product of Canada” onions and what-not, given my local grocery store’s bizarre preference for importing all their damn produce up from the states. 😛

Lightness, Darkness, and Pagan Values.

There’s something that I keep seeing that kind of drives me nuts. The idea that “light” is better than “dark” and/or (more accurately) the use of “light” and “dark” as synonyms for “good” and “evil”.

I can look to the ancestors and the weather, of course, and recognize that – in a situation where predators tend to be nocturnal and fires keep them away; or, before central heating and grocery stores, when the dark end of the year came with hunger and killing cold curled in its shadows – the Dark would definitely qualify as dangerous, as something to approach with caution and well-preparedness.

That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a very binary-dualistic dichotomy that fits better with Abrahamic and certain New Age (“newage”?) streams than it does with NeoPagan faiths whose gods are in and of the earth; whose calendar starts in the buried bulbs and ends in the compost of the year.

I was talking to a friend, eons ago, who asked me how long one had to be Pagan before one stopped swearing like a Christian. I think this is a similar situation. NeoPagans are a pretty new group, and by and large we tend to be very big on freedom of religion — which means that, even when some folks are raising their babies up as polytheists, our umbrella is still largely made up of religions of converts. And, by and large, the religions we’re leaving are Abrahamic — we’re extrapolating backwards to find the Heathen imagery in our families’ Christmas traditions; or trying to re-work Rosh Hodesh so it fits with our Goddess Spirituality.

And I think it’s that, as much as the fact that (here in Canada, at least) the dominant cultural (secular) paradigm is, whether we want to recognize it or not, based in a Christian cosmology and axiology. The stuff sticks in your head, whether you want it to or not, and it comes up at inopportune times like any time you aren’t watching yourself for it.

So I have a question for you, if you’re reading this. How do you handle it? How do you acknowledge the dangers that come with the dark – whether we’re talking about monsters under the bed, out on the moor, or in your unconscious mind – while also recognizing that good things come from the dark – the creative unconscious, the womb (human or otherwise), the depths of the ground – as well?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Meliad the Birch Maiden

Bartering – The Continuing Saga

So, as I’ve mentioned before, my Young Lady arranged for us to barter preserves for moose meat with one of her coworkers. Said arrangement was made back in July, long before Moose Season (which is all of two days long, if that, in Ontario) was upon us BUT arrive (and depart) it has, and my sweetie’s coworker shot himself a moose.

Go him! 😀

Which means, of course, that it’s care-package time for me[1].

So far, I’ve made:

Apple Red-Wine Jelly
Caramel Apple Jelly with Pie Spice
Grape Jelly
Apple-Serviceberry Sauce
Green Tomato Chutney
Garlic-Dill Cucumber Pickles

I’ve also made peach-strawberry jam, but I’ve only got a little bit of that, so I’ll be making more. I’ll also be doing a mint jelly, a hawthorn-berry jelly (mixed with rosehips and possibly crab apples), an apple chutney, a spicy peach chutney, and a cranberry curd[2].

I actually need to hit the grocery store just now and pick up eggs, sugar, and more jars before I can keep going. Woops. O.O

Anyway. This has been my totally-preoccupied-by-food post. Hope you don’t mind it. I’ll let you know how the moose is, once we’ve given it a go. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] This is not a bad thing in any way what-so-ever, as I quite enjoy making preserves and, hey, I’m also taking the opportunity to make a bunch of little 125mL jars of the same concoctions so that I can make Gift Baskets in late December for my various relatives. 😉

[2] Planning on making a BIG batch of this, so I can put some of it into a coffee cake over the weekend! 😀

Lapsed Pagan

So I’ve spent the last five weeks (one more to go, with a possible extension happening that… I’m not entirely sure I want but, money-wise, would be damn silly to turn down) working a full-time contract. Which has meant that Offerings have been falling off rather more than usual: Typically, I would manage to do Boiling Water for my Deities and other People… every 3 days or so. Which is not as frequently as I’ve decided I’m supposed to do it, but is considerably better than my current standard of “once every two weeks or so”.

Not good.

The rain is currently bucketing down outside, and I find myself wanting to ruminate a little about lapsed practices and Playing Well With Others.

See, once upon a time, I was a practicing Christian. At this point, granted, the belief system literally does nothing for me but, for lack of a better word, I do miss the infrastructure. I miss having the option of Just Showing Up and singing along with songs I already know while having my cosmology and axiology neatly confirmed and reiterated for me by 300 like-minded believers (or at least attendees), and a ritualist who’s put a lot of work into making the whole event both slightly entertaining and at least moderately thought-provoking.

I miss having to carve out the time to do Practice — whether that’s Ritual or morning yoga or whatever — because, this basically being DIY Religion, I don’t actually have much in the way of a pre-set calendar.

Okay, that’s kind of garbage, right there, but bear with me.

I’m not Wiccan. I use the year-wheel, because it’s basically the Western Pagan Calendar, and a wide variety of neo-pagans use those dates, regardless of what they’re called.

But I seriously suck at things like Doing Stuff for the full and dark moons. I spend 2-3 years, in my early 20s[1] trying to be Hard Core while also being a solitary, spell-casting, Dianic-esque kitchen-witch. This included wearing specific pieces of jewelry on Full Moon and Dark Moon; altering (altar-ing, hahaha) my diet on particular days; using my compost as an offering-altar; and syncing up my larger-scale food-prep habits (think: making yoghurt, making bread) with the phases of the moon.

Needless to say, I sucked at this and it was all pretty damn short-lived. (Except for the compost thing. That actually stuck around – probably because it can be done 100% on the fly).

And this has basically been the case ever-since. I approach my solitary practice with BUCKETS of good intentions and regularly find reasons to let it fall apart.

So here I am, ten years later, feeling kind of torn.

Part of me wants to beat myself over the head and just Get In The Habit agian of making the offerings daily and generally being “more mindful”.

The other part of me wants to acknowledge that I think about my deities and live my cosmology all the freaking time, that I’m mindful enough whether or not I’m doing the Pagan version of Zen Meditation every day, and that approaching Offerings from a mindset of guilt (which, to a point, is how I end up doing it if it’s been a little while) is probably not the best way to go about it. Wouldn’t they rather taste joy?

I don’t want to be a task master to myself about things that I want to approach with freedom and contentment (as opposed to, say, a lingering sense of “I don’t wanna, but I gotta” reminiscent of brussels sprouts or general housework), but I also don’t want to be giving myself excuses for slacking off[2].

My current plan, and it’s not much a plan (and one that’s rather dependent on my having buckets of time lying around, which may or may not yet be the case) is to up both my writing out-put and my Pagan thinkiness at the same time by writing in this blog more often.

It won’t yet be my “main focus” blog – November is Nanowrimo and the plan for that is to write my first draft of Cultivating Entitlement through daily blog-posts over on Syrens. But the plan is to blog here 2-3 times per week with a mixture of [Foodie Philosophy & Seasonal Recipes] and [Pagan Topics including Significant Dates and Personal Experiences].

Wish me luck on that one. 🙂

– Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] Who hasn’t?

[2] Oh, but I hate that it really does feel like “slacking off”.