Category Archives: animism

Where Has The Nail Polish Remover Gone? – Pagan Experience 2015

So we have People.
Every so often, something – usually from my wife’s workshop (becaus eshe has a lot of cool stuff, but maybe also because a lot of said stuff is ancient technology), but sometimes from elsewhere – will randomly go missing. For an hour. Sometimes for a couple of days. And then it’ll be back, right where we’d last seen it, right where we’d check however-often in the interveining span of time during-which it was resolutely Not There.
I’ve heard people talking about how the fairies, or the houseweights, or some other subsection of the house-spirit population, stole their keys or otherwise messed with their stuff, so it’s not really shocking that this would happen to us, as well.
I guess what I’m wondering is “Why do they want this stuff?” And why, perhaps more to the point, do I think it makes sense for them to want some of the stuff – hand tools, for example – but not other stuff, like the titular nail polish remover. Is it just because it’s pretty? Blue? A weird set of chemicals to experiment with? Is it becasue I use it fairly regularly, and they wanted to check it out? Is it because they want me to notice them?
I have no freaking idea. O.O
In chatting with my wife about this, we’ve concluded that (a) it’s really great that at least everything always comes back, and also (b) that nothing additional comes back with it. Because that would be even weirder and more disconcerting.
Anyone reading this have similar experiences? Does asking for the swift return of items get them back any faster? Thoughts? Suggestions?
Meliad the Birch Maiden.


Caring for The Land Beneath My Feet – The Pagan Experience 2015

For me, this is literally the ground beneath my feet and, right now, she’s frozen solid and buried under many feet of snow.
None the less, things are still happening. That’s Imbolg for you, amirite? 😉
My wife was talking to her dad the other day, and passed along his advice to me: Start your leeks and onions now so that they’ll be big enough to plant out in May.
I admit that I wasn’t actually planning on growing onions or leeks this year (or potentially any year, but that’s another story). But I’m looking forward to planting cucumbers, winter squash, beans, and cold-weather crops like kale and chard once May rolls around, and to buying (yes, buying) tomato starts (and possibly other nightshades, we’ll see how much room I have available) as well.
I feel like a significant part of my Path is something along the lines of Land Guardianship – and that’s a mouthful when you’re a white chick in North America (Kitigan Zibi Territory, Turtle Island, specifically) to be kind to the land, “walk lightly” as the saying goes, use less plastic, buy less New Stuff in lieu second-hand stuff (or just No Stuff – there’s a concept), to avoid poisoning the ground and make compost instead.
I’m nowhere near perfect. Probably not even adequate, if the past 4-5 months are any indication, but you get back on the horse, so to speak, and pick it up again.
Cultivate biodiversity in your yard & your neighbourhood
Feed the soil
Oppose Big Oil
Support Indigenous people doing what they need to do[1]
Give warm socks to homeless shelters and drop-ins
Buy food from ethical-sustainable farmers in your general area
Heck, if you’re able to do so, maybe buy non-perishable food from ethical-sustainable farmers in your general area (or at least your province) and donate them to a foodbank in your general area, too
We are part of the land. Part of – only part of, but part of – caring for the land, is caring for its human population. Everything overlaps and links together.
Which is kind of the point, I think.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Sometimes that’s donating to a shelter (like the one on Redeau Street that just lost its funding), sometimes it’s buying work by indigenous artists, sometimes it’s signing petitions and/or writing to MPs demanding something actually get done about the legion of missing & murdered indigenous women & girls in this country. That’s three things. There are a zillion more. Go find them.

(Getting Beyond) Humanity – The Pagan Experience

This is a weird one for me, I have to admit, because “humanity” is, for me, linked to “human population” rather than to the term “humane”. It’s strange, because a significant part of my paganism is about expanding my idea of “community” or “neighbourhood” or “people” to include considerably more than just the human membership.
None the less, I’ll see what I can do with this.
If I take “humanity” to mean “humane-ness”… Well, the most obvious part of that is Good Witching – which I’ve written about plenty already (here’s one of them, if you like), but which boils down to looking out for your neighbours and generally being kind and compassionate, even with people who try your patience. The other part is… well, this is me, right? So: Where does your food come from? I’m still a day or two away from placing my Meat CSA order, but my lovely wife and I have decided to go with this option for, basically, Religious Reasons. If we’re going to eat people – bovine and porcine and avian people – we’d best be making sure they had a good, kind, decent life before they died in order to end up on our table and in our stomachs[1]. Likewise, where does your non-animal-kingdom food come from? Were the farmers paid fairly for their produce & their labour? Were the veggies and fruit trees and mushrooms wild-gathered? Were they raised in healthy soil (particularly if it’s soil that you’re working, yourself)? Were they fed a lot of harsh chemicals?
It basically boils down to: Are you treading lightly on the ground that sustains you? Are you being good to your Neighbours?
Are you?
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] To that end we’ve started eating “vegetarian inspired” food – meaning more food where the protein component comes from beans and grains and nuts, even if the mirpoix is fried in lard, and the beans and grains are cooked in bone-stock – a few times per week, in order to stretch the half-share a little better (and also for a couple of other reasons). The half-share works out, by a conservative estimate, to about 2lbs/week which… I can make stretch across four meals, certainly, though I’d be happier stretching across half of that. I figure if I follow my “some is better than none” principal, I can supplement the half-share with meat from other sources – sausages from the fancy/humane place up the street (which won’t be cheaper, I’m very well aware); fish from the river if I manage to catch any this July; free-run rabbits from the Rabbit Lady; as well as from ethically-okay-ish sources like the Free From brand of pork roasts that I can pick up at the grocery store if I’m so inclined.

Personal Practice – Pagan Experience 2015

So my personal practice is somewhat lacadaisical at best.
I have an altar/shrine in my living room that I (ostensibly) light candles at every Friday – a practice that developed partially in conjunction with setting aside time to write three years worth of PBP posts, but also because it gave me an opportunity to almost-meditatively focus on My Hearth and the holiness there-in[1]. I do New Moon Pizza (more or less – I admit the past four months have NOT involved me making pizza dough in ANY way) that features home preserves plus whatever left-over critter (frequently pork shoulder roast, sometimes rabbit or chicken or some kind of cured meat) I have in the fridge and any veggies I can haul out of the garden/freezer/fridge/etc at the time. I do little magics – enchanted baths & makeup, candle spells and honey pots, sigils (lately, at least), and Writing Things Into Being (which works surprisingly… at all, really. Go me?). I try to practice Good Witching in the Terry Pratchett sense of the word – activities that are more in line with grassroots activism than with religious ritual per se, but which still fall under the heading of “village witch” when your village has rainbow flags and homeless kids all over it.
In spite of that, I think within my worldview pretty consistently. I’m not a “holy days pagan” in that particular regard, even if my rituals and devotions don’t look like much. I get to know The Neighbours – the non-human (and human) people in the neighbourhood where I live. Learning which local plants I can eat (and where I can harvest them so that I’m not also eating a heap of lead – this is key), which ones make a good dye, and which ones are good for which magics. It also means paying attention to who gets my attention (like how naturalized Catnip kept calling to my sight all last spring and summer, until I went and found out what it was) and trying to figure out why this or that plant is calling to me. It means eating what grows here and growing – now that I have the opportunity to do so – at least some of what we eat. It means greeting the bees, the crows, the spiers, the pigeons, and whoever else happens to be around (like the homeless people, the nieghbourhood friends, and the folks I used to share a building with… just as a for-instance).
So that’s a start for what my particular practice looks like. Next week, I’ll (re-)introduce my particular pantheon and talk a little about some of the specific Spirits in my life.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] I do a thing called Fabulous Friday Dinner that, in significant part, is meant to signal The Weekend to my work-from-hom brain, but which is also a way to nicely usher it in for my works-two-jobs wife AND a means for me to learn how to cook leftovers-producing pot-dishes that will keep us fed for 2-3 meals in a row (not counting extras for lunches, which is part for the course). But this is also a time to water the house plants, do a little home-maintenance, make the bread for the following week, read (or listen) up on other Pagan Stuff via the interwebs, and generally give myself a day to study and focus when the rest of thew eek needs to be focuses somewhat elsewhere (like on my erswhile novel, or on hustling for modeling gigs).

V is for Values – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I recently wrote about shifting towards buying local-ish (grown in Canada, rather than in a different hemisphere) dry goods. I also recently had a chat with my wife, wherein she expressed a desire to move towards having less (disposable) plastic in our home. Between these two things, I think that writing a post on Values for, er, last week’s PBP entry is probably pretty appropriate.
A long time ago, a couple of friends of mine wrote a book about Neo-Pagan ethics, the difference between ethics (what you do) and values (why you do it), and how people with the same ethics (“It is good to eat locally-grown food”) can being making those decisions based on very different value-sets (“Get to know your neighbours, become part of your multi-species community” vs “When TEOTWAWKI happens, we won’t be able to import bananas from Cuba”). Our household inclinations towards antiques, reusable/biodegradable items, and local foods, and those same inclinations away from non-recyclable plastics, planned obsolesence, and disposable everything, are ethical decisions, but they’re based on a few different sets of values.
We value things that last. We value things that are beautiful. We also value things that have stories built into them, and that – as anyone who’s read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making knows – have a spirits, names, and desires, and aren’t “just” inanimate objects. Case in point: Our youngest sewing machine, Janice, really. really wants to do some zig-zag stitches. I’ve promised her that we’ll do some sewing together, so I need to make sure I make that happen before the winter’s out. (I have plans for one dress for me plus a couple of skirts for my wife, so this should be eminantly achievable).
I read, ages ago, a blog post (the author of-which I can’t for the life of me remember, though it might have ben one of the Tashlins? Maybe?) about how being an animist effects your purchases and the degree of stuff that you’re willing to accumulate. The author likened it to wanting to cultivate relationships with a few really solid friends (tribe, phamily) rather than having zillions of “friends” with-whom you don’t really have much of a connection and on-whom you can’t really rely (or vice versa, for that matter).
So one of our sets of values is a valuing of stories, of history, of lineage, of things that have been cared for before we ever got to them, of things that were meant to become heirlooms.
Another is valuing our own self-sufficiency. My wife can fix just about anything, as long as its analogue. I’ve got food-foo like nobody’s business. But neither of us can make a microchip do what we want it to do, or tinker a car back into functioning if there’s an internal computer system in place. Old stuff is built to last – and stuff that’s built to last has the luxury of getting old – but it’s also built to sustain repairs and (in our case) frequently built before computers really existed, let alone were available for personal-use.
Tied into this is a valuing of frugality, of being able to thrive on a lower income so that we can enjoy more free time, follow career paths that make us happy rather than just keep the bills paid, that sort of thing. Buying second hand stuff that can be readily repaired (at home) and easily maintained works into that. But so does growing and preserving our own food, so does knowing how to cook from scratch.
BUT being able to keep old technology (like my walking wheel or her various sewing machines) working, knowing how to perform “old” skills – cobblery, soap-making, subsistance-farming (to some extent – I won’t be raising my own wheat any time soon), carpentry, water-bath canning, herbcraft, mechanics, saddlery, hand-spinning, tanning (that’s not even all of it, you guys) – and keeping them alive is also a way of keeping in touch with the ancestors.
You know that joke about how your parents/grandparents phone you to fix the computer because they don’t know how to open their web-browser? It’s like that. My great-nan most likely never saw a computer in her life. I have no idea what she thinks of it when I’m sitting here, typing away on my laptop, other than “My great-granddaughter went to UNIVERSITY! She type like the dickens, but heaven only knows why she can’t take shorthand…” or similar. But when I grow squash, my farming Nana and Papa know that their children’s children – one of them, at least – have not abandonned the land completely. When I spin and weave and knit and sew, my Gram, my Nana, my ancestors long before them, and my living mom and mother-in-law, all know that the home-skills they have are still valued and cherished by the next generation, and that those skills won’t disappear when (or now that) they’re gone. When I cook family recipes using seaonsally-available food that I grew myself, harvested from the neighbourhood, or even just bought from an Ottawa Area farmer, I am connecting with the land, with the ancestors, with the traditions and rhythms of time and place. I am become (ever more-so) “a part”, rather than “apart”. And that matters. That’s something that I value.

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

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

P is for Practice – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Continuing with the themes I explored in my two “O” posts, I’m looking at “practice” in the sense of “getting better at, over time, with consistent effort”. Very much like what Calamity Jane talks about in The Incredible Power of Habit. Very much like singing or meditation, cooking or tango. You get better at it, the more you try.
Erica, over at NW Edible, has an old post in-which she defends the enthusiasm of people who are crowing to the blogosphere about how they’ve just made their first batch of lacto-fermented pickles, or yoghurt, or home-made bread, or what-have-you. You know, crowing just like I do all the time (thank you for your patience). But something she says in it resonates a fair bit: The beginner is pushing back against “Normal” (or at least normative) behaviours, and she’s doing at the beginning, when those push-backs are still hard and scary.
So it is with syncing up with your local year-wheel. So it is with getting to know The Neighbours.
You don’t practice cooking by setting out to make a nine-course meal. You practice cooking by making pancakes from actual-scratch, rather than from pancake mix, on the weekend. You practice cooking by making half a dozen hard-cooked eggs and packing them in to work with leftover spaghetti (made, quite possibly, from store-bought sauce that you bravely spiced up with a handful of dried herbs and a clove of pressed garlic). And then you practice cooking some more by skipping the store-bought sauce, and dicing up a couple of tomatoes to go with those herbs and garlic instead. You do it in steps, not leaps.
And that matters.
Connecting with The Land has to happen in stages, and I don’t mean the part where it can take a while (possibly a very looooooooooong while) for the neighbours to be inclined to get to know you back . (Well, okay, that too, but…) I mean that part that you actually have control over.
It happens by taking regular walks and noticing where the moon comes up on the horizon, how it shifts over the course of a year, where the edible wild plants are growing and whether or not you can safely take them home (to eat, to transplant). It happens through noticing where the quiet places are that the houseless folks sleep, and noticing the other quiet places where they don’t, and maybe – slowly, carefully, cautiously – opening up to asking why that is[1]. It happens by paying attention – both in the sense of noticing what’s happening (listening, watching, learning), and in the sense of giving people your attention – literally paying up front – by cleaning, feeding, offering, and walking lightly where you tread.
Step one, as the Permies say, is always Observation. Learn what the site – the yard, the neighbourhood, the house, the scrub-lot – has to tell you through your senses. What do you see, hear, smells, taste (careful now), and feel on your skin? All those Lunar Cycles posts I make? Those are my Observations; my years-long, on-going recording of my neighbourhood (and, to some extent, bioregional) Wheel.
What you do beyond that, how you go about interacting with the rest of the place of-which you are a part, can go in a lot of directions. But slow-and-steady is probably your best bet. Today might be kitchen composting. Tomorrow (or next month, after you’re in the habit of not throwing your biodegradable food waste in the trash) might be kitchen composting and Foodland Ontario produce; or kitchen composting and weekly water offerings made to the tree that grows on the same parcel of land as you do.
Go in steps, but keep on going.
Practice, practice, practice, and see how far you get.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] NOTE: This doesn’t necessarily mean Asking The Spirits – although it’s potentially an option to do so. It might just mean using your eyes and ears and other less Woo senses to determine that, actually, that low hollow spot is a total cold-sink and tends to be soggy on the bottom.