Category Archives: deities

Asking the Earth What She Needs

The Empress - Mary El Tarot - A red-haired person in a long green dress, with a baby tied to their back, stands under a mature tree, holding a basket of fruit

The Empress – Mary El Tarot – A red-haired person in a long green dress, with a baby tied to their back, stands under a mature tree, holding a basket of fruit


 
Maybe it’s not surprising the I pulled The Empress today.
I went out in the garden to chuck a basket of toilet paper tubes into the compost, and to take pictures of the fever few – which is growing already – and the day-lilies coming up in the alley, and I sang to the misty air and the ground as I was out and about.
And I saw that the rhubarb – which I’m used to seeing a week or two from now – has already started crowning. Small enough that it probably came up with the sunrise just today. The sorrel – AKA sourdock – is just, just starting to create leaves, too, still red from their first unfurling. In the not too distant future there will, I hope, be crow garlic sprouts and dandelions coming up.
My neighbour, whose mom is an avid, and very skilled, gardener, comments that everything is coming back again.
Hallelujah.
My Lady who is the land beneath my feet is awake, awake again.
My Lady who is every green and growing thing is stretching her arms and her face towards the sun.
Hallelujah.
 
Right now, I’m burning a cone of dragon’s blood incense on my altar. I’m doing that because I don’t actually have incense charcoal and the dried mugwort I tried to use burned a liiittle too enthusiastically and turned to ash before I could even say what the offering was for.
So. Dragon’s Blood it is.
I’m adding my tiny offering to a nation-wide call for ones like it: For talking to gods and ancestors and asking that indigenous communities be protected from COVID19 through physical things like provision of actual clean drinking water right out of the tap. (Which, yes, I’m also continuing to bug my MP and the prime minister about this, because it’s an ongoing problem). Feel free to join in. If you’re like me, and are a white person, some herbs you might consider using (if you can manage to get them to light, um) are: juniper, mugwort, rosemary, lavender, mullien, mint, birch bark, thyme, and pine needles.
 
I read Liz Worth’s recent post about prophetic dreams, which talks about offerings, about letting go, and I could help thinking of my own post from five months back asking “Have I Done Right By You?”
Maybe it’s not surprising that I pulled The Empress today.
 
What is the New Normal that I’m hoping for?
I want income supports to STAY available for all (and, like, ACTUALLY for all, not just if you’ve made at least $5000 at some sort of declarable job over the past year), and for it to be $2000/month, and for it to be No Questions Asked.
I want crude oil to stay so cheap it becomes a visibly bad investment for people who only judge “bad investment” by how much money they stand to lose.
I want remote work to stay the expectation, because 200,000 cars NOT on the local road, most of the time, would do the air quality in my city (and especially right here, by the highway) a lot of good, and because it’ll mean people with disabilities and chemical sensitivities will have a much easier time getting well-paid work if from-home is a standard and expectable option.
I want clean, potable water, to come out of the tap in every house on every Reserve. (We still don’t have that – go bug your MP about it).
I want stuff like AirBnB to basically be out of business and the market to suddenly have a LOT more housing availability and a LOT more housing aforadability. (I would like to know more about housing co-ops, btw).
I want Actually Helping Each Other Out – like “I’m going to the store, do you need anything” – to be something we ask out neighbours.
I want remote access and online stuff – like concerts and meditation classes and conferences – to be a thing that sticks around.
I want train tickets to be cheap as hell so that inter-city travel, once it’s a thing again, can be affordable without it having to happen on an airplane.
I want strategic downtown streets to be closed to cars so that pedestrians can maintain appropriate social distance and, when we don’t have to do that anymore, I want those streets to stay pedestrians-only or, since they’d likely be residential streets, “residential traffic accepted” at worst.
 

Temperance, The Page of Swords, The Three of Pentacles, and The Six of Wands – Mary El Deck


 
I did a reading, as I sometimes do, shuffling my deck and checking in with the ground, taking the jumpers for answers.
Here’s what I got:
 
Anything you want? – Temperance
I mean, I suppose this is obvious. Balance. Taking care with my actions. Spring Equinox, for that matter. Oliver Pickle, in She Is Sitting in the Night refers to this card as one that “calls for self-control, not through socially internalized suppression and compartmentalization, but through appropriate and thoughtful responses to all situations. It asks for compromise, harmony, and moderation”. So, yes. That.
 
Anything you need? – The Page of Swords
She’s nothing if not literal. The Page of Swords is – according to the Wildwood tarot – situated as Spring Equinox starts moving towards Beltane. So right where we are now. She needs to do what she needs to do, moving towards that fullness, that leafing and growing, that’s already started and can’t, won’t be stopped. More metaphorically this is a card about diligence, determination, and doing the Work. This, too, is the crowning of all that new life. The rhubarb and the crow garlic, the day lilies and the tulips, pushing their spears through the topsoil. The leaves unfurling on the sorrel, the ferevew few, the creeping charlie, the grass. All of it. But it’s also me, paying attention, tending to the soil. It’s my wife turning the compost. It’s bread and milk offerings and remembering to water the plants.
 
Anything else you want me to know? – The Three of Pentacles with a side order of The Six of Wands
Teamwork, co-conspiring, getting creative with what you’ve got, working together, putting your labour towards something meaningful… with a side order of the warmth of generosity.
Work together. With Her, with each other, and there will be more than enough for all.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Messages Received While at Two Rivers Sanctuary in DC

So, I went to visit my girlfriend in DC – just got home a few days ago – and, while I was there, we made a point of going to Two Rivers Sanctuary to participate in the Full Moon Meditations that are put on by Connect DC (a public ritual group that operates out of the temple).
Something that I’ve noticed, and which was 100% confirmed during this visit, is that I have a much easier time doing energy work when – go figure – there’s a social (as well as physico-energetic) container in-which that work can be done. Whether that’s getting myself singing lessons so that I can Do The Thing in a situation where I’m not secretly terrified that I’m going to Bother Someone, or giving my wife a heads-up that I’m going to be doing Magic in the bath tub that evening (and then setting The Mood by turning off the lights and sparking up a candle), or going to a literal ritual space, be it a (particular kind of) concert, a sanctuary or temple space (think Cathedral Grove, or the shores of Kichissippi, but also various spots at Ravens’ Knoll or Ramblewood), or the Chartres-esque labyrinth my friend mows into the tall grass near her farm house every summer.
So I took the opportunity of being In Church, during the scheduled period of Quiet Contemplation, to try and open up all my chakras (not ALL-all of them, obviously, I mean the seven that line up along my spine) and run energy up and down them.
I did this in part because I’ve been having some difficulty doing this for the last little bit, and I wanted to see if having time-and-space set aside for it would help (see above re: confirmation), and also in part because I’d suggested it as a good spot for any Messages to come through, if there were any to be had, and I wanted to open myself up so that I’d have the best chance of actually picking up on them, if they were being made available.
 
A long time ago, I read something – I think in one of Starhawk’s books? – about a “quick and dirty” way to wake up your chakras which, tbh? Quick And Dirty suits me JUST fine. Basically, what you do, is you imagine each point in turn as “something you REALLY like” that is the colour of the chakra you’re trying to open.
So, for example, my root chakra is a blousy red rose in full bloom. And also this weird umbilical spidery thing that I can drop out of myself in order to literally root myself to the ground in a Grounding action.
My sacral chakra is, usually, a butternut squash and, sometimes, a broad lick of fire. Sometimes I can get it to kaleidoscope into something that looks like a lily flower starburst.
My heart chakra looks… suspiciously like a green version of one of these (yes, really – I don’t know why, but I’m going with it), from-which vines, tentacles, and occasionally hands will periodically emerge.
My third eye chakra is a pale blue (I know, but I’m going with it – it’s a bit like this, but closer to the sky) circle of light, about the size of a loonie, and sometimes it projects into a laser beam of the same colour.
My crown chakra is usually a circle of white light opening in the top of my head with, sometimes, a purple crown (similar to this one, but with six tines and a Queen Of Heaven vibe) surrounding it.
 
Notice anything missing?
Yeah.
My solar plexus chakra and my throat chakra didn’t get a mention.
I’ve been trying to get my solar plexus chakra to wake up, reballance, and start getting active by imagining it as a sunflower or a sunburst centered on and/or growing from, my belly button. And it hasn’t quite been doing it.
So this time, I actually went with my weird ass instinctive prompt, and imagined it as a sunflower with vampire teeth. Yeah. Like this thing, but more predatory and minus the guitar.
And it worked. O.O
So that’s a thing.
Apparently “I am powerful and I am comfortable with my power” means being comfortable with the likelihood that My Power is kind of predatory and wants to eat all the things.
Okay.
This tracks.
My throat chakra, on the other hand, is kind of what the rest of this whole post is going to be about.
The clearest mental image I can get of my throat chakra is of a dark blue, or maybe royal blue, Hand of Fatima that might have the capacity to glow every now and then. Sometimes it hints at being a scilla or something kind of like a dark blue crocus. Most of what I get, and what I’ve got for a long time, when I try to engage that chakra in any significant way is (a) a huge amount of painful pressure in my throat, followed rather quickly by very swollen glands and a generally feeling that I’ve done something that was a Bad Idea.
Which is a problem!
Not the only reason for why being that the messages I was looking for? They arrived. And they all boiled down to this:

Use Your Voice

 
These included some stuff that had to do with, basically, a big, painful, shame-and-unworthiness-related blockage in my whole throat chakra (which had come up once that day, already); the HP, during the Meditation portion of the evening, saying both “Elevate your daily work, whatever that work is, to the level of spiritual Work” and “Using our gifts is how we give back to the gods that gave them to us”[1]; and also finding the words “Speak the Truth” hanging off the tag of a tea bag I’d picked out at random for it’s throat-soothing qualities after the service.
Also: We sang, just this simple, simple round of a song that I knew (albeit a different version, but the lyrics were easy to pick up), and I cried two different kinds of tears (weepy tears, from both eyes, but also these thick syrupy “flush something out” tears would sometimes just slop out of my left eye as well) and the singing got easier as we went along.
 
So a thing definitely Happened.
 
Listen. The throat chakra relates to all sorts of stuff around translating your goals and ideas into real tangible out-in-the-world things. Turning “that idea for a story” into words on a page, turning the build-up of sexual energy into the release of an orgasm, turning the nebulous need for a thing into a statement that can be acted on.

I can’t speak my desires into being, and put any power behind them, if they are literally getting choked off and blocked in my actual/energetic throat.

 
So.
I’m listening to throat-chakra-healing music on youtube – because this kind of thing has been effective for my root and sacral chakras already, so let’s keep doing what works.
I’m (back to) making the effort to sing every day (humming, noodling, singing along to CDs and spotify, doing warm-up exercises if I’m so inclined) – which, so far, has actually been going more easily than it has in the past, which is hopeful and encouraging – to gently allow energy (and sound, which is energy, um…) to flow through my throat chakra, the goal being to make some (joyful, I hope) music with my body and to let my voice out to play rather than to make it push through in an effort to appease my shame-driven Shoulds (shame, as I’ve mentioned before, not being a great motivator for me).
I’m breathing the words “So Hum” (“I Am That”, seeing yourself as holy, as part of the whole holiness that is – this is a Vedic(?) chant from Hinduism, which is where the system of naming these energy centers as chakras, and the body-and-life stuff associated with each of them, comes from) when I have a quiet moment or five. I’m drinking various throat-soothing teas and saying – whispering or speaking more audibly, but always out loud – “I speak my truth. I use my voice, my breath, my words, my song to work my Will and manifest it in this beautiful world” as I drink them.
I am acting on messages received.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Plus a whole thing about how “You are always held in Her eye, always loved” which… I could FEEL my energy shrinking into my body – like shrinking away from the message that I might be lovable and held, by someone who’s been part of my life since I was 16 and who has deep, deep ties to music and bringing things out into the world, no less – and I had to MAKE myself stay fully embodied and open to hearing and (hopefully) accepting that, even as my larynx swelled and the pressure in my throat and behind my ears started getting really painful… uh, see above re: throat blockage connected to feelings of shame and unworthiness.

New Year New You 2019 : Week 17 – A Big Ritual

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: So now that you’ve done the small magics, I think it’s time to do a big ritual to further one or more of your goals.
 

Candle Magic in Progress - My working altar set-up, as viewed from the East.

Candle Magic in Progress – My working altar set-up, as viewed from the East.


 
As all of you know by now, I’m not a Big Rituals kind of gal. I put songs on repeat to help me enter something adjacent to a trance, maybe once or twice a year, and do little rituals (offerings roughly once a week, greeting my gods at the crossroads and as I see them, the first slice from a fresh batch of bread, stuff like that) fairly frequently, but Big Magical Doings that require a lot of prep and planning… are not typically My Bag.
 
BUT.
 
I just turned forty.
I love my weirdo freelancing art life, and I want to keep it.
But I am so, SO tired (like physically and emotionally worn out, but also “sick of this crap” tired) of the precarity that comes with it.
I marked my birthday with a week worth of fun and lovely events, which wrapped up just before the recent full moon in Taurus, and I wanted to harness that “manifesting abundance and pleasure and security” stuff that comes with the Taurus full moon and its major-major link with The Empress.
 
So I spent a day working out how to turn my Greatest Hits Wish List into a series of little doodles – not exactly sigils (except in the case of making a little glyph to represent my immediate polycule), but stuff along those lines. I planned out what I’d need, in terms of materials. I sorted out offerings and harvested the herbs from my (snowed under, so that was a thing) garden. I took a calculated risk in collecting one of the other elements of the altar and the magic to be made on it, and made sure to leave offerings and… I guess I could call them connections(?) in return. I took the time (and energy, and resources, and skills) to make bread from scratch, and on Moonday, which handily actually WAS the night of the full moon (and which I also, thankfully, had off AND which was overcast enough for it to get dark enough to light candles earlier in the day), I turned my coffee table into an altar space and got to work.
 
So. You know the thing “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent”?
I don’t actually know how many of the specifics of this I should be yacking about in front of the whole internet. So, in the interests of not screwing it up or pissing Anybody off, I’m going to be a bit vague on things.
BUT. The general gist is this:
 
First thing, as you can see from the photo, above, I was doing candle magic, just in a more intense way than I often do. Even when I go big, I’m still pretty basic in terms of what I do.
I wanted to have stuff that grew in my yard – my space, the place I have some kind of a friendly (uh, I’d like to think) relationship with – sitting in each of the quarters. I wanted the elements represented by things that I wanted and things that connected me to success and security. There’s a brick from the house my mom grew up in (among other things), in the North. The South is all sex toys and kinky equipment. The East is the various hard-copy books and chaps that I’ve been published in (why, yes, ALL of them). The West is the tarot cards I drew for my birthday, all those hope-and-heart cards, plus a piece of fancy stemware. The Centre was raised up on a fancy cake tray (40th birthday gift, also hospitality and fanciness), and has the Empress card that I used to kick off my whole Empress Project in the first place. The votive candles I used had been lit at my birthday party, and I treated them like Birthday Candles (as in “make a wish”).
 
I sang (just a little – the chorus of a song that I treated as a prayer), I gave offerings that were a little fancier than I usually do, and that included a little bit of pain, and a moderate amount of blood, on my part. But the big difference in how I did this whole thing is that, when I cast the circle, I got a little bit extra. I’m not usually one to call the guardians of the watchtowers of absolutely anything. But this time I reached out to the People of the four directions, and called the Above and the Below to run the world pillar through my spine.
And they showed up.
They came.
I hadn’t been expecting that.
Don’t go getting me wrong here, I’m very glad they did. But it was an optional thing for them. I’m… touched? That the Spirits of Place, the People who orient us in space and in… action? Is that a good way to put it? That they came and were willing to witness, and maybe even help.
 
Anyway.
I did The Thing.
I think my giant bag of soil is probably thawed out by now (it having had a week to hang out in the warm), so I can now take the last of the accoutrements off the altar space and do the last bit of the ceremony, at which point I can have my coffee table back.
 
In prepping for this, my wife asked me if it was going to come at a cost – because everything has a cost. She works with a goddess who takes payment in blood and pain (there are so many of these) and she was worried about me getting hurt, basically. So we ended up having a discussion about different types of relationships.
I talked about how I’ve been involved with my pantheon actively for a couple of decades, that I check in with them and say Hello often, and that I generally don’t show up with my hand out. I said “There’s wine on the altar right now” – wine that had been offered the previous Friday – and that while I didn’t give my Gods and Ancestors wine and cookies and bread and occasional whisky and other tasty things in order to, you know, manipulate them into feeling like they have to help me, the fact that I’ve been doing this for a long time – much as with more corporeal people – will get you a certain amount of trust and good will. If you show up for your friends, and want to hang out just for the sake of hanging out, they are more likely to show up for you when you need help with a thing. (This is, incidentally, one of the reasons I tend not to contract out and do transactional work with deities outside of my pantheon. I don’t know, and won’t necessarily be able to accurately discern, what kind of payment they might want. And I’m hesitant to offer any kind of tradesies when I don’t know what I’m getting myself into).
 
I did my ritual, my ceremony, made my offerings, around the themes of the Empress.
May it be, may it be, may it be. ❤
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Leaf Moon Begins

“Magnolia x veitchii bud at Brooklyn Botanic Garden” – Photo by Rhododendrites – Via Wiki Free Images – A twig, ending in a fuzzy, unopened magnolia bud in sharp focus, against a blurry background of vague greening.


 
I admit, I might be jumping the gun a little bit on “leaf” for a name of this lunar cycle, as the trees are very much still bare. BUT the earliest crocus and scilla are starting to poke their green sprouts above the soil and the grey-brown creeping charlie in my back yard is starting to re-green, so I’m going with it.
The compost was turned for the first time this year (by my wife) last weekend. The snow is disappearing at a rate that seems both rapid and sedate (meaning: the streets were never a disgusting slurry of melt-water and accumulated dog shit, thank you literally all the gods). The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw of night and day, since Spring Equinox, has – I hope – been good for the maple syrup folks but, either way, it’s sap time – the once-a-year heartbeat of the world (systolic-diastolic, hemisphere to hemisphere, north-south, north-south[1]).
My wife asked me, yesterday, if I keep a garden journal and, yeah, I do. It’s this. So many things have been added to my lunar cycles posts since I started writing them in… 2011, I think? But they were initially a way to keep track of what the weather was doing and get a feel for what the seasons feel like in my bio-region. One more way of “getting to know the neighbours”.
I shuffled my wildwood deck and asked my Ladies of Earth and All Green Things how they were doing and if they had anything to say. The card that came up – and I do recognize that I have some say in this, which… I’m not sure how I feel about that right now – rather frequently was The Breath of Life.
Right now, the neighbours are waking up. A stretch. A yawn. A big breath in before the long out-breath of sprout and bloom and fruit and fall again.
Heh. I can’t help but smile a little at this, just because the folks who came up with the Wildwood deck in the first place think of Spring (Imbolg to Beltane, in their case, because they’re in Southern England) as the time of Arrows.
In my case, the waking up doesn’t happen until now and, like me, my Ladies may be stiff in the morning and need to thaw their joints out for a while. Still, I’m watching the back yard for the rhubarb, which should be sticking her head up above the soil, oh, probably right around Full Moon, if last year was anything to go by.
 
It’s early April. Which means I’m doing the eat from the larder challenge again – in my usual “milk and eggs are still fine” way – in an effort to clear out some freezer space and use up the vast quantities of jam and fruit butter I put up last year. So you can expect at least a few posts about fruit-butter Hippy Muffins and hummus seasoned with garlic, basil, and jam (no, really – just don’t use a LOT of jam). I’ve managed to successfully make two batches of tasty, structurally-sound sourdough bread which, while still in the realm of flukes and coincidence, bodes at least a little bit well for continuing in this vein.
 
Last full moon, I wrote about being on the hunt (again) for another anchor income. I’ve since had a few leads, and one “preliminary interview”, though we’ll see whether or not it comes to anything. Fingers crossed, because it would make a big difference to have that reliable cash coming in, even if there’d still be a fair bit of hustle going on, on top of it.
In poetry news: I spent last week at VERSeFest, getting inspired and scribbling drafts (hallelujah!), received a cheque in the mail for the publication of this poem, and – just this morning – signed the contributor contract for the pieces I wrote about here. It’s National Poetry Month, and I’m looking forward to writing many – probably mediocre, but drafting is still drafting – poems during the next few weeks.
I’m also looking forward to visiting some friends, just outside of town, this weekend, and am hoping to read, knit, and write some more poetry while I’m there.
 
Something I’ve recently started doing, which is relevant to the theme and scheduling of these posts, is Moon Salutations. It’s a series of yoga poses that focus primarily on (gentle) back-bends and hip-opener poses and, while I’m not scheduling them during my day to line up with moon rise, I am using them to take a couple of minutes in my day (usually morning) to both (a) help my lower back and hips unlock[2], and (b) spend some time intentionally thinking about and focusing my thoughts on my Lady of the Moon.
I figure I’m doing a lot of stuff that focuses on my Lady of the Sun – because she handles stuff like courage, money, and (most relevantly, in this instance) sex – with added, somewhat coincidental (sorry) links to my Lady of the Earth just because of all the root chakra stuff I’m doing, and I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to someone I feel like I’ve been kind of neglecting… for ever. Not right of me, you know? I want to do more to reach out to her. This is one way for me to do that, so I’m doing it. ❤
 
~*~
 
Scorpio Mystique says:

New Moon occurs on Friday morning, take time to set New Moon Intentions that allow you to embody Aries energy — let yourself be seen, take the lead, and be more self-confident. Where would you be six months from now if you had no fear?

 
…and suggests thinking about it specifically and making a concrete plan to get there.
She says “You’re the Phoenix, baby. You can go through hell and back, and still you rise, from your very own ashes, soaring higher than ever before”.
So. Where would I be in six months, if I had no fear?
Reading at the local launch of Hustling Verse. Launching my chapbook of lunar poetry through a local qaf small press. Possibly prepping to facilitate a panel discussion on sacred kink, deep play, and ordeal work? (Yeah, that one feels a lot more precarious).
What would I be? More economically stable. Physically stronger and more limber. More sexually curious, joyful, and confident.
 

Mary El Tarot - Knight of Discs - A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.

Mary El Tarot – Knight of Discs – A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.


 
The card I drew – by splitting the deck at random and seeing what was there – for today’s (this waxing moon’s) tarot meditation is the Knight of Earth. A card of slow and steady progress, of responsibility, and of getting one’s house in order – literally and figuratively. Maybe because it’s tax season, maybe because I’ve got a lot of personal projects on the go, maybe because the earth herself is slowly but surely waking up, maybe because Yes, Aries Season, but I know myself enough to know that slow, steady, consistent steps get me where I need to go more reliably than a flat-out sprint ever has… maybe for a lot of reasons: this card seems particularly apt today.
 
If I were to set an intention, with this card in mind, for this waxing Aries moon?
It would be to bloom like spring. Slowly and steadily, but surely. Inexorably, moving towards creation, vitality, sensuality, and abundance.
 
I invite the firy energy and passionate verve of Aries to light me up and fuel me for the long haul ahead
I invite the steady, determined energy of the Knight of Earth to walk me through these small, cumulative acts of transformation.
I invite myself to open and open, to let my deep red umbilical roots explore their way deeper in to the earth and draw up the strength, stability, and nourishment I need, to breathe in the breath of life and feed my own warm fires of creativity, connection, and courage, to lift myself from a steady base and rise.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Moon salutations and other yoga, very close to daily (almost but not quite). A number of modeling gigs that were heavy on short poses (meaning more emphasis on strength and flexibility rather than endurance, in terms of what my body needs in order to be able to do them). Long walks to and from work. I skipped the ecstatic dance party last night (I have been more physically worn out lately than I’ve been in, I think, a while… don’t know why), BUT there’s another one coming up just before the full moon which, health & body stuff permitting, I’ll get out to. A little bit of dancing to F+tM and Kesha in my hallway, which does my back and hips and heart lots of good.
 
Attention: Watching the green come back. Keeping an eye out for rhubarb shoots and impending magnolia blossoms. On a more inward-focused note, doing root chakra exercises that have a lot to do with mindful/attentive/intentional/focused breath and muscle relaxation. Holding my Lady in my mind’s eye when I do my Moon Salutations. Attending to my sourdough starter in a way that is slightly less lackadaisical than it has been in the past. Watching the birds and other critters in the back yard as they wake up, come back, or just hunt around for nesting materials now that the snow is going away.
 
Gratitude: SPRING! Temperatures above freezing! The greening of the world! Birds making nests! A turned compost heap! Sunshine that actually feels warm! A great conversation with my girlfriend! An impromptu fancy meal with my wife and her girlfriend last night! My food processor and yoghurt-enabled instant pot! The friend who gives me a friends-and-family deal on her family’s sugar-bush goodies! Paid poetry publications! A donated replacement recycling bin from a friend up the street! Someone buying me two books of poetry as a thank you for a reading I did half a decade ago! Making out with my wife! Amazing poetry shows! Flirting with my girlfriend via text! A pretty amazing present from a metamour! Hanging out with other poets! Job opportunities that actually fit with what I want to do! Successful sourdough bread! Parties and hangouts with friends! …It’s been an astonishingly awesome couple of weeks, kittens. ❤
 
Inspiration: TBH, actually the contents of my freezer and cupboards. It’s nice to be meal-planning again, even if it’s not a hard-and-fast plan. Also: Talking about ritual and kink with a friend over twitter, because that’s always awesome and inspiring.
 
Creation: I have written some poems! I have plans (to be enacted this afternoon) to write some more! Woohoo!
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] “That would have to be important. How fast did a forest’s heart beat? Once a year, maybe. Yes, that sounded about right. Out there the forest was waiting for the brighter sun and longer days that would pump a million gallons of sap several hundred feet into the sky in one great systolic thump too big and loud to be heard.”
― Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters.
 
[2] The phsyio I do for my back effectively boils down to doing Plank on a frequent and regular basis, but some of the other exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles around my lumbar spine and yoga poses like Bow, Warrior 1, and Crescent Moon make a start at that as well. Between that and the hip-flexor stuff that goes on in the same poses, I find they’re helping – though I need to be careful with stuff like Bridge and Plow (good ones for Root Chakra work, and core strength, but also prone to exacerbating my back pain) – to loosen me up in the mornings and make it easier for me to both walk upright, and to sit at a computer for long periods of time. Woot!

Knowledge, Wisdom, and Gnosis – The Pagan Experience 2015

Knowledge, Wisdom, and Gnosis… They’re all different things, aren’t they. Knowledge can sometimes feel like theory, like book-learning, a fairly typical definition of what you accumulate while Getting An Education. the other two are… maybe more experiential? Maybe? It’s funny. “Wisdom” tends to show up, in my head, like “something you accumulate over years and years of experience”. It’s not formal learning, it’s “Street smarts”, and it’s usually the kind that you accumulate through learning from your own mistakes rather than from someone else’s. At this point, I don’t have much of that. A little bit, maybe, but I could be just confusing it for, like, Being Tired and Feeling Old more than anything else.
Knowledge is knowing which plants are safe to eat because you read about them in a (reliable) book or website or what-have-you.
Wisdom is knowing which plants are safe to eat because you’ve actually eaten them yourself and you know how to prepare them to neutralize the oxalis (or whatever) so that nobody gets sick to their stomaches and so that the plants actually taste good when you eat them.
Gnosis is… Gnosis is knowing which plants are safe to eat because they straight up told you themselves and you had the where-with-all to hear and understand.
Gnosis doesn’t happen much for me. I’m what sometimes gets called a “cement head” or, alternatively, a “natural ground”. I can bring people home when they get lost, bring them back to earth when they’re spiraling and can’t find their feet… but my radio signal is Not Receiving most of the time.
I do get this sometimes. Sometimes, my Intuition talks loudly enough for me to listen (this is usually within the context of modeling, where I’ve learned to listen to that little voice that raises the hairs on my neck). Sometimes I can feel the change in air-consistency that means a big heap of energy – whether we’re talking a wave or a non-corporial Person – is moving through or in. Sometimes I can actually hear the Gods & Ancestors talking to me – or at least pointing me towards The Thing (like it or not). But most of the time? Most of the time, I’m going on Knowledge, Wisdom, and Faith.
Wish me luck with that. 😉

(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?
 
 
TTFN,
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.

Deities and the Divine – Pagan Experience 2015

So last week, I wrote about my particular pagan practice and what it looks like on any given day. I mentioned that I have an altar in my living room.
This is a new thing.
Between September 2008 and September 2014, I had little altars in most of the rooms in my apartment. Every one of my small spirits had a shrine to call her own. And that was important to me. However, over the course of that time, I moved from a one-bedroom apartment that I had all to myself to a two-bedroom apartment and, most recently, a two-and-a-half-bedroom rental house, that I share with my wife. It’s easy to keep track of multiple burning objects in a one-bedroom apartment. Even when the altars aren’t all in the same room. But when they’re on two different floors? Well, things get a little harder to keep track of. So, in the interests of (a) safety, and (b) match conservation, I opted to put everybody in the same space now that we’ve moved into the new house. Consequently, my five wee goddesses, plus my ancestors, plus my… I don’t know… “prayer candle”[1](?) all get their devotional offerings done in the same place[2].
 
My personal deities (all start with M, and) include:
 
Mattaer: A Lady who handles the earth and the hearth, who handles parenting and pregnancy, who handles the garden (because she’s the ground out-of-which everything grows), and who handles all the Mommy/Nurturing stuff that I’m occasionally called upon to provide.
 
Mitzu: A Lady who handles the sun and heat and fine, but who also handles courage, sexuality, dancing, sexwork, money, and a significant degree of activism. She’s fierce, as the saying goes[3].
 
Maia: My very first Goddess, and one who demanded my attention until she got it. My lady of the moon, of queerness and dykedom, of midwifery, of auntihood[4], of writing and music and creative output, of lasting love, of every kind of water (which is my element). For years I heard her name, over and over and over again, any time I looked at the moon… until I realized – and said out loud – “Oh, that’s your name!” at which point, it stopped. Like: “Okay finally. You got it.” She’s an alto. I think she finds me deeply ammusing in my fumblings, but there you have it. I miss her when I can’t feel her around, but Im not sure how well I’ll do at wooing her home again. :-\
 
Misha: A lady of the meadow. She’s very much a May Queen / Maiden type of young woman and, as I get older, I wonder what kind of shape she’ll take in my life. She was the first goddess I had in my panthon who is actively poly, I do know that (she’s got two boyfriends and they all see to get along quite nicely), and – as her mother is the Earth – she’s all the green and growing things but, in particular, winter squash, raspberries, wild flowering chicory, meadow-flowers/scrub-flowers in general, lilacs, and birch trees. A lady of liminal spaces, of adventure, of joyfully plunging in to try new things. She is, I suspect, someone whom I need more of in my life. I have no idea whether she’s into women or not. Meh? But I know am fairly confident that she likes the colour blue.
 
Makaa: My lady of the dead, of the compost, of the cross-roads and the thresholds. Her liminality is much more pronounced, and includes margins of all kinds (the thin line between getting by and being screwed, the edge between water and ice on the surface of a puddle, the person sleeping in a doorway, genders and bodies that aren’t easily recognized/described with binary language, the difference between rotton and good enough to still eat. The emptiness at the bottom of every breath, as they say). She has sucked the air out of my lungs. Only once. But once is enough to know that she’s there and she’s powerful.
 
My Ancestors: In large part, when I talk about my ancestors, I’m talking about my actual biological ancestors through-whom I came, who gave me pieces of their faces, their bodies, to carry with me through my life. But I also mean my non-biological ancestors – people like Xanthra MacKay and Wendy Babcock and Leslie Feinberg, the people who are part of my socio-sexual cultural lineage. They’re included, and I hope all of my People aren’t stuck jostling for position around the flame. :-\ (Seems to be working out, so… we’ll go with it?)
 
My lovely wife has a relationship with a particular, much bigger, goddess. I tend to only hint at what that’s about, but she seems a good lady to have in your corner. We’ll see how this continues to go.
 
One particular deity who has turned up in the past year (and I have no idea if she’s sticking around or if it was just some random check-in kind of thing), is Freja. This kind of surprised me, and I’m not sure if she’s here (if she’s still here) for me or for my wife, but… I keep her in my thoughts, just in case.
 
Anyway, beyond that and your basic bioregional animism, there’s not a whole lot to my pantheon. They’re good people and I’m glad they’re in my life. I hope that I do well by them in my wee, haphazard, way.
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I got a bunch of those glass tea-light holders than have an uplifting message written on them. A bunch of them are in my office – which has an altar of its own, of sorts, that gets lit up when I’m doing Actual Work in there (ahahaha) – but one of them, which says “Bless this home with family and friends” is on my Main Altar and is basically a hope/wish/blessing to fill our witchy house with chosen family and dear friends (all of us kinky, witchy, poly, spooky dykes and our various nearest and dearest, too). I doubt that’s what the people who mass-produced those candle-holders had in mind, but… that was part of the appeal, as it happens.
 
[2] I also invested in two dozen LED “tea-lights” so that I could do things like outdoor vigils or jack-o-lanters without the wind putting them out, and also so that I could light up my candle wreath (once a year) without having to worry about whether or not I’ll have neough tea-lights on hand to do it. I’ve used them 2-3 times in the past month and a half, so I think it was probably a good investment.
 
[3] When I first started looking for Sun Goddess, I found it a little surprising which elements of life/womanhood accumulated under her purview. After a while though – nameley after I separated from my not-so-great-for-me husband – I realized that Mitzu had jurisdiction of pretty much all the elements of my own life (money, sex – to site two in particular) that I was deathly afraid of and thought of as things that happened to me or were done to me by other people rather than things over-which I had any control or autonomy. Hrm. Which was quite the realization. I’m still in the (long, loooooooong) process of unraveling that stuff and getting those situations/activities/whatever back under my own control and back into (or at all into) my own comfort zones.
 
[4] Auntie-hood. Being a good Auntie in the sense of “not just for your siblings’ kids”. Being a good Auntie is like being a good Witch. It means being available to take care of people when their parents (or what-have-you) aren’t necessarily the best people for the job. Sometimes that means teaching tenuously-housed queer-and/or-trans kids how to darn the holes in their socks. Sometimes it means knowing how to cook food that is vegan and gluten-free and paleo and also avoids nuts, eggplant and quinoa… even though I, personally, need none of those things. Sometimes it means letting people-in-your-community who are in crisis know that the front door’s open and that they can come on over for tea/hugs/listening/food or whatever else it is that they need. Sometimes it means being a teacher. Frequently, it means listening up and helping people get what they need. My wife is far better at this than I am, to be sure, but I’m learning. Always learning. 😉

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. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
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.
 
 
TTFN,
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.

O is for Out of Doors – Pagan Blog Project 2014

This post relates in part to my identification as a “city witch” and is also somewhat inspired by Miss Sugar’s recent post, “Semi Civilized”.
See, me? I love being outside. Getting a solid 30-60 minutes (if not more) of outdoors time – typically achieved by walking somewhere for errand-running purposes – on the regular[1] is pretty important to my mental health.

 
I love going up to Champlain Lookout, or visiting the Mer Bleu bog, or taking a trip out to The Countryside to visit some of our rural-dwelling friends. But the thing about these is that they’re not really wild… exactly. Champlain Lookout is a high point, laced with board walks and gentle walking trails. Mer Bleu has a boardwalk – by necessity (you would sink and drown, fodder for paleoanthropologists in 5000 years’ time, without them) – to stroll along as you admire the bog and its (totally forbidden, alas) prolific wild blueberry patches. The homesteads of my friends are just that: Homesteads. Tamed areas of gardens and orchards surrounded by woods and wild(er) meadows, but not actually wild.
…And I like it that way. I like the not-exactly-wild of forest gardens, of stewarded landscapes, of wild things encouraged to take up residence in a tame(r) environment – like the yellow evening primrose, wild grape, and wild rose that took root, unplanned but welcomed, in the suburban postage-stamp garden I once had. I like the not-exactly-wild of domestic plants – squash, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, chard – who grow and sprawl and climb, tightly packed as any wild meadow, cheek and jowl with dandelion, plantain, garlic mustard, and wood sorrel, and thriving because of (or in spite of) it. I like the not-exactly-wild of grape and dandelion, catnip and motherwort, mustard and sorrel and lamb’s quarters and burdock: the neighbours I know. The neighbours who thrive in marginal places, like so many of my neighbours do.
 
So here I am.
Maybe I’ll wind up being a country witch one of these days. I’m not ruling it out. Though I’d rather stay in the heart of things and just manage to eke out an arable yard in the process.
For now though, I’m like a significant chunk of the planet: living in an urban environment. I’m put in mind of the Locavore and City Farmer books I read a few weeks ago, the premise of each being that urban people have to stop thinking of “nature” as “out there” or “far away”. Whether we’re talking food production – and, yes, I am a local foodie; yes, this is one of the ways by-which I connect with the ground, and the people, who sustain me – or religion, or just plain respect. Nature is here, where hive-dwelling mammals have built their concrete towers. We have to stop pretend that it isn’t. We have to stop pretending that we aren’t it.
 
I think it’s possible to “re-wild” in a city, though those changes are certainly trickier than they would be in a rural or already-wild-itself environment. Retrofitting a pre-existing house with geothermal heat and solar electricity-generation is very expensive. Disconnecting the gas heat and putting in a wood stove with a high-mass-density surround (concrete, brick, stone, iron) is scary in a “will our pipes freeze this Winter” kind of way. Switching to LEDs and Bullfrog Electric is easy. A little more expensive, maybe, but easy. Non-paraffin-based miniature lights (lard/tallow or beeswax candles/lamps, or even miniature solar garden lights, either way) are easy, and not that expensive[2]. Mirrors to reflect and increase the natural light provided by your windows is easy. Water-bath canning is easy (once you know about the Acid Rule) and a way to preserve summer’s bounty without needing a fridge or a freezer (much – use single serving jars if that’s an issue for you). Food-dehydrating is easy, too, if you have a dehydrator[3], and results in the same thing: locally grown and foraged/harvested food that will last you through the winter. Passive solar is easy – even in an apartment that doesn’t get much solar at all.
Paying attention to your local year-wheel, eating what’s in season, eating from The Land (no air quotes for me 😉 ), being neighbourly to the human and non-human, corporeal and non-corporeal people in your neighbourhood is… easy. Once you get in the habit of it.
So get in the habit of it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Not every day, I know, but I try to do at least a little bit (10-30 minutes) of Physical Activity – whether that’s yoga, a modeling gig, biceps/triceps exercises, swimming, or just doing a quick circuit of the couple of blocks closet to my apartment (see: January).
 
[2] Albeit because they – at least the garden lamps – are made in China, from plastic (which comes from the same source as paraffin, so… not the best option), and shipped a long-ass way overseas.
 
[3] Like these, or else you can build one, if you’ve got some fairly simple materials (works best, I suspect, if you live in an area with dry heat).