Monthly Archives: December 2012

O is for Offerings – Pagan Blog Project 2012

This is, just maybe, related to yesterday’s post about full moon rituals and why they – or more to the point regularly-timed rituals in general – are important.

Today I’m talking about Offerings. An offering is not the same as a sacrifice. A sacrifice means giving up something you’d really rather hang onto – time on the internet, your obstinant pride, a whole bottle of your expensive favourite liqueur, the extra income it takes to pay for a regular pedicure. That sort of thing.
An offering is more like sharing what you’ve got in order to say Thanks to Someone or to – is it crass for me to put it this way – to build up “sweat equity” with Someone if you’re in a working relationship with Them. It’s also a way to express committed interest in having Them around and spending time with Them. You get the idea.

I do boiling water offerings… some of the time. Rarely. Intermittently. But I do them. I also do light (candles – usually home-made, beeswax candles[1]) offerings, include little bits of my food (typically the raw materials rather than the cooked finished product… which may or may not be okay in the long run) as I prepare my evening meals, and periodical incense offerings as well. Sometimes I’ll offer wine or blood or something else along those lines, but that’s really, really, REALLY a “sometimes food” for my Gods, Ancestors, and other People.

Miss Sugar says that your People are more likely to give you a hand (when you ask for it, or maybe even when you don’t) if you are paying them attention and giving them goodies when you don’t Want Something from them. I think this is pretty-much the case with everybody, so it makes a lot of sense.

If ritual is a way of setting time aside to recognize the holy, offering is a way of doing this on the fly – to take a moment, when the moment takes you (or as a matter of course) to spill a few drops or a few crumbs, or more than that, and a offer a few thoughts – the way people have done for centuries, even millenia – before getting on with your day. It’s worth it, and it adds up. Give it a try. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] For a slew of reasons. Everything from “I made it myself. That means the work I put into making them is part of the offering” to “Beeswax smells way better than paraffin and also doesn’t screw with the air quality in here” to “Yay renewable resources” to “If I make them myself, the cost of making 56 dozen candles drops by, like, sixty percent. So…” It’s a whole big thing. 😉

Full Moon (Long Nights Moon) – some thoughts on ritual work.

It feels like Snow Moon came early. We had heavy snow on the 20th and it’s kept up, off and on, all week. In spite of that, it doesn’t technically begin for another two weeks. Roughly.
I spent this morning writing porn – which turned out to be “Leather Woo” in nature – and, thus, I’ve wound up thinking about full moon rituals and what makes them matter.
So what makes them matter? I don’t think it’s mearly a way of marking time – although that’s part of it. Rituals – even tiny rituals – are a way of setting time aside to recognize the holy, to think about something that isn’t basic day-to-day getting by (the endless round of to-do lists) but that goes deeper, or more slowly, than the usual frenetic pace of life.
Maybe that’s why I avoid them. I used to do regular yoga – and then I stopped. For a slew of good reasons, sure, but I didn’t pick it up again when I was able to. Am I afraid of quieting my “what next, what next, what next” distracted mind? (Yeah, probably). I think ritual – or my tendency to slack off around ritual – is similar in this way.
I feel silly and awkward doing ritual.
I know that’s practically heresy (or something) to say it on a Pagan blog, but I do. I prefer to do it when I’m on my own because, as Mama Fortuna says, you look really, really stupid doing magic. And/or ritual. Seriously. When it comes to talking to my gods? Not a problem. I do that all the time. But when it comes to doing offerings, spells, or other ritual work… I don’t actually want anyone to see me doing it.
Which is awkward, at the best of times.
But I still need to do it. To light up the altars (which reminds me, I really, REALLY, need to make more beeswax candles – I figure I go through close to 700 beeswax tealights every year. That’s slightly more than 56 dozen so…), to insence the house, to greet my gods and my ancestors in ways that are at least slightly more than in-passing.
Maybe that means lighting incense on a different altar every week. Or making sure my boiling water offerings happen with some small degree of regularity and, ideally, frequency.
Enough to take the time, slow the mind, pay attention to the People (and the people) who really matter. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Getting On With Things (secular xmas edition)

So, this morning just before 7am, I finally got around to incensing my house and setting up the wards, such as they are, on the new place.
I figure that, since we’re heading on the whirlwind tour of the Relatives in the next couple of days, plus having a lot of people over for the housewarming, that I should probably get that done while I still had the chance.
I’ve been (re-)using – big surprise – the tissue paper out of our wedding gifts to wrap/decorate the baskets (two cardboard gift boxes plus three repurposed and reuseable mesh waste-paper-baskets) I’ve filled with preserves for 5/6 recipients (the sixth is getting hers in about a week, so I don’t need to do the wrapping just yet).  Everyone is getting a sellection of:
lemon-raspberry-groundcherry curd
balsamic roasted tomato sauce
choke cherry jelly (made with neighbourhood fruit)
pickled rutabaga (we have gone through both of our bottles of this chez nous already, so here’s hoping everyone else likes them as much as I do)
strawberry-rhubarb jam
spicy peach chutney
garlic-dill cucumber pickles
Now to sort out the last of the stocking-stuffers and pick up some art supplies.  Whee!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Little Magics Everywhere – Wedding Edition Part Two

I’ve got ginger snaps in the oven right now. They’re full of candied ginger and a little bit of orange extract and vanilla, along with the usual ginger, cinamon, nutmeg, and cloves. These are basically the edible version of the happy-home candles that I made ages ago.
(I’ve also made shortbread – my grandmother’s recipe – cooling on a wire rack. But, beyond the good luck association it has with New Year’s, they aren’t blowing magic around the place… that I know of. They are super-tasty, though. :-D)

We’ll be serving these – along with umpteen million other things, the majority of which have been home-made by me, my maid-of-honour, or my bride’s baking buddy.
I’m brining some of the Tomato-Peach Salsa I made back in July, as well as some of my Spicy Peach Chutney (which I made in August). I figure they’ll go really well with the cheese plate and some of the other dips. 🙂

Beyond that… I’ve pulled together a few vases (and one silver pitcher, borrowed from my mother) and some black, wire-edged “velvet” ribbon, and my Plan is to do flower arrangements featuring red and white flowers (probably chrysanthemums, but we’ll see what’s easily available…) plus whatever seasonal greenery I could snip with my sheers while sauntering around the neighbourhood.
What I’ve got:
Cedar – for prosperity and longevity
Juniper – for protection
Spruce – for adaptability
Yew – for altered states of consciousness
Fir – for immortality

… Although I’m actually guessing about having spruce and fir. The “fir” is something I was able to pick up from a heap of discarded tree-trimmings (someone giving their xmas tree a hair cut to make it fit into their house better), and those tend to be douglas firs often as not. Plus it looks right. Likewise, the spruce was also a guess but… chances are good it’s a Norway Spruce, as it’s got the same feathery fronds and weeping branches as this one.

Strictly speaking, altered states of consciousness aren’t… typical(?) for wedding-blessing but we’ll go with it. The rest are good ones for anybody. 🙂 (Although, I grant you, I’m reading “immortality” as “posterity” more than “can’t die”).

Anyway. Lots of good fun there. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

Little Magics Everywhere – Wedding Edition Part One

I hand-sewed my bride’s wedding skirt. It’s cotton, it’s red, and I’ve pricked my fingers often enough to have my blood poured into it.

She came into the bedroom this morning to see my carfully extracting a strand of my hair. She said: “I caught you haggin'” – as the feegles would put it. And she did. She’s well aware of what I’ve stitched into the lining of her skirt: A strand of her hair, and one of mine, twisted together. A single bead of rose quartz for love, friendship, and joy. 🙂

nine times nine
let the rune shine
she and I entwined together
in love and happiness for ever

We’ll be married tomorrow, on the longest night of the year – waxing moon, stepping over the threshold into waxing sun. And on a Friday, no less. 🙂

I’ve got some last errands to run (on my own, the ones where I don’t need a car at my disposal) and a couple of altars to set up before tomorrow. But it’s getting there. It’s getting there. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden

N is for Nature – Pagan Blog Project 2012

This one is kind of a no-brainer.
At least… Okay. I think that, in Earth-Based-Spirituality-Land, this is theoretically a no-brainer but winds up being something else instead.

I find that nature gets abstracted into The Concept Of Nature quite frequently by, well, just about anyone who’s grown up in a cerebral, mind-(over)-body split, culture like the one I’ve grown up in. Nature, the real thing gets on our collective nerves. We like it walled off in Preserves, we like it prisitine and untouched by human influence (not happening at this stage of the game, also: humans are part of nature, which we tend to (want to) forget). We like it to be wolf packs howling hauntingly in the night, we like it to be a magical moment of wonder when a dear appears at the side of the highway. We don’t so much like it to be icy roads, soggy summers mosquitos, dandruff, a bat colony filling up the attic, or flocks of pigeons taking up residence near our balcony.

And I don’t think that an abstract pastoral scene – deified or not – is really going to cut it at this point, no matter how long a tradition western neo-paganism has of doing exactly that.

See, I have a tendency to over-thing things. To abstract things. To talk about – and immediately see, and try to deconstruct – how things work, or why people do what people do, in theory. But it doesn’t change the fact that That Person just treated This Person really horribly. No matter how much their behaviour has been influenced by (just to pick an example at random because it was December 17th two days ago) sex-negativity and unspoken social assumptions about women’s bodies being public property.
Thinking about things in the abstract, while it may make me feel better (smarter? Or like I have some kind of control over the sitution, if only because I can deconstruct the why of it in my head? I don’t know), isn’t really going to get anything done.

I read books like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lavinia (which is a novel, but which also has a lot of well-researched depictions of pre-hellenized Roman (Latin) religion in it – it’s faboo) or Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless (another novel which is a retelling of a Russian folktale and which shows a lot of the anthropomorphization – not the abstraction but quite the opposite – of the non-human world as it was done in slavic folklore), and I see these depiction of human behaviour as it happens (or happened) when Nature is people you know (and people you don’t know; and people who, maybe, you have to be little wary of either way). Where Nature isn’t abstracted and idealized – maybe because you live in it and by it every day (and frequently die in it or by it, too) – but is your neighbours, your relatives, your home as much as anything else, where the stove is a person for a whole lot of reasons including, I don’t doubt it, the bit where the stove started out as tamed-and-contained fire – a creature that has a life and appetites all its own.

And I strive for that familiarity, that numinosity. I want the Nature that I venerate through my religious practice to be the Nature I walk through every day. To be the onions growing on my window sill; to be the little water spirits who populate my bathroom (assuming any of them chose to move with us, although the bathroom isn’t all finished yet so they may not be too thrilled with me right now); to be the squirrels and pigeons and starlings and crows of my neighbourhood. To be the big, black cat who lives at the rooming house across the street. To be the apple tree, with all its bounty, around the corner and the hawthorn next door to it that doens’t bear any fruit. I want to recognize the spirit in the bread dough who comes alive through grain and yeast and water and all the rest of it. I want it to be the sun that shines on me, the moon as I see her, the seasons as they turn where I live rather than how they follow in Oxfordshire.

There’s a blog called bioregional animism that has multiple contributors and focusses on rooting one’s earth-based religious practice in the actual land you live on.
This is what I strive to do.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

M is for Moving and Magic and All The Names of My Ladies – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Okay, strictly speaking, I’ve covered some of this stuff before, from the opposite end of the move. My Ghost and I are now moved into our new apartment – a surprisingly luxurious (size-wise) two-bedroom on the ground floor of our building.
By luck or fate or act of deity[1], my sister – she who got hold of a lot of the Gorgeous Antique Furniture that’s been passed around our family for the past 20 years as various grandparents, and then parents, have started down-sizing – is also moving. And try to get rid of as much of her furniture as possible.

Which has netted us a stunning, antique canopy bedframe and – by luck or fate or act of deity[2] – (another) one of the beautiful (but awkwardly broad) custom bookshelves my grandfather made for my parents when they got their first apartment together.

Thank you, my gods, and all my ancestors, for bringing my family’s heirlooms home to me at last!

And this has all happened in the month and, at this point, the week leading up to our wedding. 😀

I feel like this is another instance of Sometimes the Gods Say “Go!” – like seeing the Northern Lights on the way home from Harvest – pointing us in the right direction, helping us create the kind of hearth-and-home that we both want[3].

We have a wreath on the door and the holly garlands are up (and decorated) in the windows. I have (miraculously still alive) green onions set up on the Plant Stand[4], where they will be joined by other cut-and-come-again food plants for added fresh veggies (or at least herbs) in the winter. 😀

We’ve been being very domestic of late – sewing (in my case) the wedding clothes, and setting up yet another line of home-based business for both of us, plus the usual rather stressful unpacking and shifting of things post-move. I’m looking around at what we’ve got set up in our new place, and I’m feeling confident and blessed (by my gods, by my ancestors, by my People) and also like we’ll be able to actually show the place off – at least a little bit – on our wedding day (this Friday[5]).

So that’s where things are at. I remember Miss Sugar talking about Financial Sorcery and set points and messages from the gods and… this feels a little like that. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

[1] Mattaer, I’m looking at you! 🙂

[2] This one might be due to Makaa, actually. 🙂

[3] Int his case: We are, as it happens, both rather in love with antiques, particularly those made of wood and iron. It’s a thing. 😉

[4] In the hall, where they are actually unlikely to get any light at all – woops – but where they’ll still do better than they might otherwise. I’d like to replace the minimal-spectrum fleurescent tubes (all over the apartment, so about five or six tubes all told) with Full Spectrum/Daylight ones.

[5] Apt, in a number of ways: Waxing moon; day of Venus among other love-related Ladies; Longest Night (hubba hubba); New Beginnings; Traditional celebration of hearth, home, and family… I could go on. 🙂

L is for Liminal – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Okay, I confess that I picked this topic purely because I love the word Liminal. I love the threshold/semi-outsider state that is “liminality” and how the communities that form in those states are so powerful and deep and strong.

At least in theory.

However I’m also in a liminal place right now. Literally between houses, with one foot in the “old house” and one foot in the “new house”. I’ve been moving the Easy Stuff all morning (aka: for about 2.5 hours) – transferring the contents of the upstairs closet the downstairs closets (yes, we each get our own closet!), shifting some of the linens from the upstairs hall closet to the downstairs workroom shelves.

Eventually I’ll start on the pantry and the fridge/freezer but, for the moment, I’m sticking with stuff that’s relatively light-weight and/or has wheels.

In reality, we’ll be in Liminal Space for much less time than most people who are busy moving – we’re just transferring apartments within the same building, so we don’t have to pack everything into travel-ready boxes or be without most of the kitchen for a significant period of time.
None the less, it’s slightly weird to try and figure out what items to bring down first, what store-room bits and pieces can be moved imediately versus which ones will need to be moved later in order to be accessible once we’re moved but before the shelving gets built.

The layout of the new place is different from the one we’re in now. It’s not just a case of there being an extra room in lieu of the linnen closet, for example. So figuring out which furniture will go where is going to be a challenge.

I keep wanting to crack open the downstairs windows (it’s unseasonably warm today – for-which I’m thankful, as it makes airing out the upstairs apartment, and taking out the copeus recycling, that much easier) and set some incense to burning on the (already moved) wood stove. to figure out where to put the altars now that the configuration of book shelves will be significantly changed.

Maia’s altar will probably do better in the main room (where I do my writing, anyway), where Misha’s will (still) be as well. Mitzu’s altar will probably stay in the bedroom. Maaka’s altar may be (again) located in the front entrance way and Mataer’s will be (as always) in the kitchen – though she may actually have an altar shelf of her own now (won’t that be nice).
But none of the altars are getting moved just yet. (That feels like the kind of thing you do at the end, to make it final and finished. The kind of thing you do just before you light everything up and call on your People to bless and inhabit the new space).

But for now, here I am, in the middle of things – one apartment is sparse and under-furnished (no bed, no dressers, no bookshelves, no food…) and very clean. The other is cluttered (as is, granted, typical) and rather chaotic. And here’s me trying to balance the two, moving all the Things from upstairs into the Space downstairs without bringing the chaotic situation with us.

Wish me luck!

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Trying to Do Magic When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing. Ish.

It’s kind of a weird to be “staying home, sick” when you work from home anyway. It means I do emails from the bedroom rather than the living room, essentially.

I’m looking back at the New Year New You experiment, which started just shy of a year ago, and trying to remind myself what my goals were/are.

Specifically, my goal for NYNY was this:

I want my LIFE to be this glorious mash-up of art and sex and joy and beauty, I want my LIFE to be built on and fueled by, and in a symbiotic relationship with, pleasure in all its many forms.

I’m part-way there. As I said to Miss Sugar: “My life is currently a frazzled, occasionally resentful, sometimes frustrated mash-up of poetry and kink and Making Stuff, and doing various types of modeling. With buckets of joy and beauty thrown in (thanks, in large part, to my most excellent bride-to-be).”

But I also think that I’ve lost sight of that goal – the wider goal – in my hunt for getting my financial goals met. The part where I want to make my living by being a professional dyke or a professional naked girl or a professional crafter or a professional smut-writer (or, more accurately, a mix of all of the above) so that the part of my life that I spend financing the rest of it will also be in line with that overarching goal.

Gordon has this post about (among other things) One Hundred Bad Ideas.
Whenever I try to envision my “ideal day” or “ideal week” as a thought experiment, I tend to get caught up in the “how do I do this based on what I have now” method, rather than saying “Screw it! We’re talking ideals here, right? So why not just say things like Tuesday Morning: Boiling water offering + at-home yoga and vocal warm-ups. Receive $5000 Advance cheque from publisher; continue working on third contracted novel; enjoy Sushi Lunch with BFF, OR Thursday Afternoon: Model at shoot for FootSucker Magazine –> includes receiving a pedicure, a foot massage, and $300 modeling fee; book follow-up shoot for February Edition. Yin Yoga in the evening, after weekly Poetry Festival meeting.”
One Hundred Bad Ideas.
Which aren’t necessarily bad ideas. It’s just that the steps from Current Reality to Ideal Reality may not be immediately obvious. (Immediately Obvious: Continue working on draft of first novel. Not So Immediately Obvious: How I’ll make money while/by doing this so that I don’t feel like a slacker while honing my craft?)
Sometimes I think that I’m doing that thing that Brene Brown talked about in Listening To Shame, that thing where one deliberately works to keep oneself small and under the radar. Like I’m not willing to think big enough because I’m afraid of what actually succeeding to that degree is going to cost me. And I don’t just mean anonymity-wise (though that’s a big one). I mean that the work that goes into (or at least that I’m assuming goes into[1]) succeeding to that degree

Look. I keep reading about things like “shoaling” (many little magics all aiming, in different ways, towards the same over-arching goal), but I’ve come to realize that… I don’t know how to do very many kinds of spells.
I know how to do honey-pots.
I theoretically know how to do a witch’s bottle (but haven’t ever actually made one).
I’ve pretty-much never done candle magic, although I think that’s my next place to start.
I’ve done magically-infused baths, but I have no idea how well they’re actually working.

… I don’t actually know *how* to enchant something. I don’t actually know *how* to push my energy into a different object with the end-goal of making it Do Something on my behalf. So I’m basically winging it every time I try this.

Anyway. That’s kind of where my head is at right now so I think I’ll be spending my “sick day” looking up different ways of doing small, simple magics and, with any luck, beginning to dare greatly.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] This is where the spell-casting comes in. There’s work I love doing that has the potential to pay really, really well, and that is something that I could do, even with a hectic travel schedule, and (probably) not screw up my social life entirely. The question is: How do I Work It so that I can get my In into that payscale?