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Category Archives: animism
We’ve had almost no rain for a month.
My front yard, with its pink bee balm, purple bellflower, and orange day lilies, is crispy as fuck because I barely water it.
My back yard is doing better, because there’s a hose back there. But we’re not doing super well on the food-production front.
I think I’ll be digging up some of those bell flowers – along with the various sunchokes/as’kebwan’ that Danger Squirrel et familia have re-planted in my raised beds, which I suspect I’ll just ferment from the get-go in multiple jars – to help us save on groceries, because my zucchini and cukes are not really producing (or, if they are, they’re being eaten by the squirrels).
In theory, my potatoes (yukon gold) are getting close to harvest-ready, though I’ll probably let them get a bit bigger, if I can swing it. I’m not sure how to cure potatoes, so I’ll have to look that up.
The fava beans that I grew entirely as a nitrogen-fixing crop are producing beans, so I can harvest those as well, and we can have fava beans on toast or something.
Basically, Ontario’s Yummy Season has arrived. And also my garden isn’t doing a whole lot, beyond giving us some amazing herbs and trying not to die in what I’m pretty sure is actually a drought.
This is where I really, REALLY notice the difference between the perennial plants and the annuals. The perennials – even the crispy-fried flowers out front – are still actually growing, getting bigger, managing to do more than survive out here. The annuals, on the other hands, are straight-up suffering, and they’re getting watered once, usually twice, a day (in the cool of the morning, and again at twilight).
It’s also dawning on me just WHY my neighbour, who gardens very intensively and very successfully (I am in awe of her, tbh), brings in 20+ bags of top soil and manure compost every year.
I’m well aware that my soil is very depleted and, while I did top it up with some manure compost early in the growing season (which helped significantly), it’s not helping enough. My compost heap, itself, is cooking along quite nicely (and is now receiving human hair and toilet paper tubes along with the more typical kitchen waste, because I’d rather feed the ground that’s feeding me than send this stuff to a landfill or even a recycling depot), but it’s not enough to feed the whole garden. Not as it stands right now.
Our garden has mostly given us leafy greens, so far. And many of those have been “weed” greens – dandelion, crow garlic, sow thistle, purslane, lambs’ quarters, and other related plants. This is fine – I let those plants go to seed in our yard on purpose, because they are food plants – but the goal remains to get enough cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and winter squash (along with, maybe, some root crops) from our garden to not have to buy groceries as much as we currently do. And, frankly, we are not making enough big, healthy leafy greens to freeze for winter alongside what we eat day to day with our meals.
You can take a look at this post for a run-down of the various mostly-fermentation-related kitchen things I’ve been up to. I’d originally planned on walking through all of them here, but it was eating a LOT of space, so I made them their own post.
I recently spent a lovely evening out with a friend in Gatineau Park, nattering about all sorts of things, and I wound up lending her Starhawk’s Earth Path and chatting with her about earth based spirituality stuff, and I’m excited for that kind of shop-talk to continue.
I like shop-talk about religious stuff. Especially with other people who tend to be a bit DIY about it. I love chatting about land-connection and animism – figuring out How To Animism, when you were raised in a religion that didn’t have a lot of immanence going on; figuring out how to navigate recognizing the personhood of your food, or the made objects around your house; figuring out how to recognize the overlapping physical and not-so-physical worlds without (a) totally reinventing the wheel, OR (b) appropriating practices from cultures whose traditional animism is considerably more recently-interrupted (or uninterrupted) than your own. All that stuff.
So it was nice to get to do with someone in person. 🙂
Tarot Card Meditation:
It’s Cancer Season, as-you-know-bob, and there was a partial solar eclipse yesterday evening. I have to tell you, we’ve been having a stressful couple of weeks here at House Of Goat, and I was a little nervous about what I was going to pull for my meditation card today.
So it was kind of fantastic to have this card literally leap out of the deck for me.
Maya is card eight-and-a-half, one of the Silicon Dawn’s bonus/weirdo cards. Egypt’s write-up says that this card is the “bastard child of The Devil and the High Priestess”. All the things you’re afraid to meet in the underworld (or your own unconscious mind). All the things you want but aren’t supposed to. What are you trying to tell yourself? What would be fulfilling, pleasurable, connecting right now?
I seriously feel like this was basically “Oh my gawd! Don’t be so gloomy all the time! It’s the weekend! It’s summer! You’re going on a road trip and know how to make your own booze! Have a fucking party for once!”
This message dovetails pretty nicely with Chani’s horoscope for Scorpio right now, with its reminder to choose that which stirs my soul, lifts my spirits, and gives me a reason to keep pushing through the hard parts.
And they – Chani and Maya, both – are right. Freaking out isn’t going to solve any problems. And I am going on a road trip (or, well, a day-trip, but still). Heart palpitations about money, and emails to send to the minister of education, will still be there on Monday. I get to have fun, spend some time with my wife, visit my friends and my in-town-for-48-hours brother, eat ice cream and drink home-made wine.
Let this weekend be something beautiful, restorative, and good.
Thanks, tarot cards. ❤
Movement: Lots of walking, and a small amount of yard-work in someone else’s yard, but that’s about it.
Attention: I have to admit, a LOT of my attention is on the sky right now. Will it rain? At last? Will it not? :-\ Fingers crossed!
Gratitude: Grateful for reprieves. For a break in the heat (a bit). For the hope of rain, even if it hasn’t fallen yet. For friends who send money, treat us to meals out, drop off spare food, pass on hand-me-downs and boots-to-good-homes, or otherwise help us make ends meet, and make life feel like it can still be something more than austerity-all-the-time, when things are hard. For friends who listen and help us keep some focus when we’re freaking out, too. Grateful for pink and purple and blue and orange and yellow flowers. For bumble bees in the morning sun. For coffee with my wife on the steps. For a borrowed car and the chance to get out of the city for a day. For summer warmth and sunshine. For new library books. For reminders to pay attention to the pleasurable, the holy, and the joyful.
Inspiration: Resilient weedy greens. Flowers that bloom despite the sun that’s kind of frying them to a crisp. (I know. They’re blooming all the harder for it, and I know why. Don’t spoil my happy though, ‘kay?) Also finding inspiration on other people’s blogs, folks who are canning, fermenting, making salsa and wine out of excess rhubarb, or dying fibre using red cabbage, onion skins, hibiscus flowers, and the soaking water from black beans… and also using koolade and vinegar, because that works, too.
Creation: A little bit of knitting. Some clothing repairs. Writing a few thousand words on my “spite fic” of an attempt at a YA novel. A couple of new poems. Nothing huge, but things are in the works. 😉
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.
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
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.
 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.
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. 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?
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 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.
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. 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.
 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).
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.
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. 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,
 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