Category Archives: local

Nyk is Alive, Goddesses Afoot: Missing Person in Ottawa FOUND

I’d have posted this sooner, but (a) I was out of town at Unholy Harvest, and (b) I haven’t had internet access since last Thursday afternoon (it was hooked up in the new house yesterday, but only started working this morning).
 
Nyk Morrigan has been found. She’s safe, she’s okay enough to be able to talk to people on the phone. I have no other details and I don’t need any.
 
Thank you to everyone who spread the word, re-blogged, and sent the Woo her way. I was so sure that her body would be pulled out of the river, and I can’t entirely express how happy and relieved I am to have been wrong about that.
 
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
 
On a related note: If you would like other people to experience this kind of relief, or you want to “pay it forward” in some way, you might consider donating to the No More Stolen Sisters campagne at Amnesty International, and spreading the word when other women and girls – like Diamond Saddleback, below – go missing.
 

Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie


 
Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie
If you have any information that will help find her, please call:
Red Deer Police at: 403-343-5575
OR
Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477
You can also get in touch with Crime Stoppers through their website.

Missing Person in Ottawa – Please Help in Any Way You Can

My wife spoke to her Lady, asking if this woman could be sent home safe, and her Lady said “Don’t ask for that”. I gather what this meant was “The price for such an ask is far too high. Don’t ask.” But I’m afraid this woman is going to be dragged out of the river. I’m afraid we’re already too late.
None the less:
 

Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair.
Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest.
No clothing description available. Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at:
613-2361222 ext 2912


 
Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair. Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest. No clothing description available.
Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at: 613-2361222 ext 2912
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Even if it’s too much to ask, I still hope. Let her be alive. Let her be okay.

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).

O is for Overwhelmed and “Out of Order” – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I’ve just spent a chunk of the afternoon reading this frightening and somewhat perlexing piece and this (less scary) piece that linked to it, and now I want to freak out.
Which isn’t actually helpful or useful.
There are things I can do, sure. Stop buying plastic is a big, but more than slightly difficult, one. Switching to LED lights and eating more and more locally (both in the sense of organic-cotton-clad-hippies-at-farmers’-markets and in the sense of knowing which plants in my neighbourhood are the ones I can eat on the regular) are big ones, too. But, while these actions have a huge impact on my life, they feel like they would accomplish absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
So much of what I could do – solar panels, larger windows, better insulation, geothermal heating, wood stoves – if I had the option, which I don’t living in a low rent apartment building with electric heat, limited natural light, no balcony, and enough of a building-wide bug (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, mould) problem that growing food indoors just seems like an entirely bad idea… seems like it would do little beyond giving me and mine (and “mine” are a very small number, if I get right down to it) a chance at pretending that things are “okay” for longer.
It’s overwhelming.
It’s terrifying.
The questions I ask myself are things like:
We could (just about) afford to move to The Country – two hours away from the nearest suburb of the city we live in – but could we manage that, if we did it? Could we deal with having to drive Everywhere[1]? Could I deal with seeing 99% of the people I care about no more than a couple of times per year? Would my own loneliness drive me crazy, drive my wife to leave me? Would the isolation mean nobody would visit? Would my nearest neighbours be anything like me, want to know me as I am? Would whatever I learn or do, create or cultivate or produce, be of any use to anyone if I’m so far away from everyone?
Gordon quotes the following in this post:
 

“[…] Community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth.”

 
I’m not a hedge witch. I’m a hearth witch. I want to know what grows here – native and naturalized and cultivated, all of the above – so that I can encourage it to grown in a patch of land that I can steward for a long time. The “English Country” flower garden that I dream of is mostly multipurpose flowering plants that work as edibles, medicinals, magicals, and that encourage pollinators and beneficial predatory insects[2]. I want to be growing enough food, and out in my (currently mythical) yard often enough, that I can hand off stuff to my neighbours, have enough to give away. I want to welcome people in, build community, strengthen ties. Going Away… doesn’t do that, even though being hermits might, in the long run, keep us safe.
 
The Medicine Woman offers the following:
“We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers.”
 
I am a city witch., and so “going to the wild”, re-wilding myself, needs to happen in a forest of sky-scrapers where wild means feral cats, squirrels, and racoons, means toadstool mushrooms and fallow scrub lots. It means following the curve of the river (full of bass, carp, zebra-muscles, catfish, crayfish, cattails, river grass, brown trout, muskies, an Old Lady sturgeon on the bottom, below the rapids, who’s been there for longer than I’ve been alive). It means hive-hotels for solitary bees, and Making Arrangements with the blue-black hornets who go wonky in the hot days of mid-September, after the frost-warnings of early Apple Moon (or labour day weekend, as you will). It means listening to the crows who fly (in a river of thousands), south to north across the city, every evening at sunset. It means seeing the harrons on the Redeau, or tracking their flight along the length of Bronson from Carleton U to the Ottawa River. It means catching the tok-tok-tok of the big raven whose territory covers most of Hintonburg and part of China Town, and recognizing that the pigeon carcass (all wings, and not much else) had a fatal run-in with the falcon who lives on top of the tallest apartment tower on the block. It means having a good idea of where the lead isn’t when you harvest those dandelions, those wild grape leaves, that garlic mustard. It means skipping the roots of Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, and opting for windfall apples, choke cherries, black walnuts (that are a mess to crack, but that taste like blue cheese, if you like blue cheese). It means knowing that “we are nature, working” (Starhawk, The Earth Path) and, as such, trying not to behave like an autoimmune disorder.
 
So what do I do?
I say “excuse me” when I pass pigeons (or human neighbours) on the sidewalk, and wave to the crows.
I pay attention when I’m walking, looking at who’s around, plant-wise, getting to know the neighbours, looking what says “Notice me!” (for example, I’ve only just started noticing a member of the mint family with fluffy white flowers, growing all over my neighbourhood[3]).
I greet the river, the sun, the moon, and the plants (cherry and serviceberry, apple and crab apple trees, grape vines, raspberry and currant bushes, plots of dandelions, milkweed, feral spearmint, wood sorrel, purselane…) that I eat from. I acknowledge the crossroads, the soil under the concrete and asphalt. Cheer for the rain and the thunder storms.
When I make offerings, I try to make sure that they’re… the work of my own hands. I’ve heard it said that offering a bouquet of wild flowers to Nature is a bit like yanking off someone’s finger and then presenting it to them like a gift. But clean water and hot-cooking compost heaps, the work it takes to build up a water-lens (using swales and the like) or clean up other people’s garbage[4] in a public space (whether that’s a wild public space or a more cultivated one, either way), art[5], or raw materials transformed into something that the rest of nature can’t make on its own (fresh-baked bread, maple syrup, yoghurt or butter, country wine…) are often cited as good bets.
I try to do my animal bit to distribute the seeds of fruiting plants, tossing apple cores, red currants, raspberries, cherry pits into neglected, sunny spots where, hopefully, they’ll find ways to take root and grow.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Ignoring for the moment both the question of my learning how to drive (again), and the other question of what about when there’s no more gasoline? …Could I use a bicycle to get around? How many bicycle-hours away from the nearest transit way station am I willing to live in the mean time? (Would something like this work?
 
[2] Queen Anne’s Lace, motherwort, chickory, purple cone flower, bone set (queen of the meadow), catnip, tansy, foxglove, mallow, hollyhocks, spiderwort, marigold, juniper, cedar, sunflowers, black cohosh, bee balm, bergamot, sweet william, centaury, Joe Pye Weed, blue cohosh, bouncing bet, mugwort, skullcap, mullein, slippery elm, wood sorrel, scilla, sweetgrass, giant (purple) vetch, borage, yellow evening primrose…
 
[3] Turns out it’s (probably) catnip, which can be used to make a lemony, minty tea that will (in theory) help you sleep, and which can be chucked into spells to draw good luck, particularly good luck in romantic/sexual endeavors, your way. Apparently the oil also works as a mosquito and tick repellant. Yes/No?
 
[4] I know. I know. It all has to go somewhere, and amalgamating a bunch of it into a (most likely plastic) bag that is then sent to a landfill doesn’t actually fix the problem of we use too much disposable, non-biodegradable, crap… but it does keep things contained a little better, and makes it marginally less likely that other people in a lot of different areas are going to swallow, or get tangled in, our Tim Horton’s cups and six-pack rings.
 
[5]Songs, stories, poetry, dances, sure. But clay sculpture and temporary visuals – a picture rendered in wet sand (or plain chalk?) that will disappear with time, rain, and spring floods or tides, wherein the work of creating it is the offering.

C is for Colonization, Catharsis, and Connection – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I was expecting to write about “congregation” and talk about my first ritual with my shiiny new ritual group (which went quite well). Instead, though, I find myself wanting to write about a workshop that I attended while at the Rainbow Health Ontario conference last week.
It was more ritual than workshop, I think. At least that’s how it felt on my end.
But I’m Woo like that. Someone else might compare it to Psychodramatic therapy techniques. Either way, it was a Big Deal.
 
See, I’m white. I live on colonized land that never changed hands through a treaty. We took it from the people who still live here.
This workshop, called “Walk a Mile in My Moccasins”, is participatory tableau theatre crossed with history lesson. It gets done every year at the Project Acorn camp for rainbow youth and youth from rainbow families in my area, in part as a way of addressing whose land we’re all sitting on.
So, having been given the heads up from a fellow deligate that this was the kind of workshop that can get really intense, and having read the workshop description about how the process would include taking the participants through the process of colonization, I basically walked into the workshop ready to volunteer to play the colonizer role, since I didn’t figure anyone would want the job of acting out someone telling some kid that “No, no, being forceably removed from everything you know is totally for your own good”.
 
And that’s not how it went at all.
I wound up in the role of one of those stollen kids.
 
A heap of people cried. At least just about everybody who was playing a child-role cried, and I suspect there were others (after the kids were taken out of the circle, I had my back to most of what was going on, so I don’t know for sure).
 
Some stuff that happened, that is very me-centric:
 
1) When it was time for the kids to be taken, I dug my feet in and fought it, and I screamed when I let the facilitator/ritualist win. Which was not entirely voluntary, but was also not entirely spontaneous. It was basically like… “I have the option of Going There, and it would be appropriate to do so in this context”. So I did[1].
 
2) When asked (as a group) how it feels to be able to choose your own role in your culture, my answer was “Heavy”. Which got an “Interesting…” from the facilitator/ritualist. It felt heavy because, when you… find where you belong, find the place that fits, and actively claim it, then you can’t be all “Well, I didn’t ask for this” and do a half-assed, resentful job of it. You have to actually bother and try your better-than-best to not screw it up. The position I chose meant that I could see my whole community, hold it, all of them, in my eyes, but it also meant that my whole community was my responsibility to keep safe. It’s heavy, even in tableau form. Heavy.
 
3) During the end part of the ritual/workshop, I tried to put my roots down and pull up enough energy to kind of enfold everybody there. I don’t think it worked, but what did happen was, after the whole thing was over and people were heading downstairs for lunch, of the other facils – the one who’d been basically doing after-care (or during-care) during the painful parts – said to me: “I saw that tree”, and clarified the when and the what. I didn’t ask if he’d seen it, he just told me. 😀 Success! 😀 😀 😀 Best kind of reality check to receive! 😀
 
 
So that, on top of a history lesson and a vision of a hopeful potential decolonized future, is what I got out of that workshop.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] The facilitator/ritualist talked to me afterwards, and said they were glad I reacted the way I did, because it pushed people out of their heads, out of treating the workshop as a “workshop” – as a cerebral exercise rather than an emotional experience. So I feel like I did my job on that front, if you will.

New Moon – Harvest / Apple Moon Begins

Maybe the name I’ve given to this moon is inacurate.
The harvest(ing), after all, began months ago – with the first service berries and, before that, the strawberries, the rhubarb, the early, foragiable wild greens. Likewise, I’ve been getting apples in for about a month now. (Maybe I should call this one “Pear Moon”, since the Ontario Pears just started showing up in the grocery store about five days ago).
 
Regardless – and maybe it shouldn’t be “regardless”, since these names are supposed to mean something, after all – it’s the time of year when my modeling work picks up again (school starts, and day-camps finish, which means my figure-drawing clubs and fine-arts & animation classes get going); when the temperatures drop (briefly) and the leaves start turning in earnest; and when I start dreaming about long-simmering soups and hearty, stick-to-your-ribs hot meals.
  Continue reading

R is for Record-Keeping – Pagan Blog Project 2013

It’s the first Friday of September. Harvest/Apple Moon has just begun. The kids are starting back at school. The weather has turned cold again, with lows in the single digits and occasional threats of frost.
I keep records – on this blog, as it happens – of the seasonal wheel, of what was happening last year at this time.
 
It helps.
 
It means that, while I may be fretting that the more tender veggies in the garden I’m due to go and harvest a week from now will have turned to black slime between today and Harvest Day (leaving me “only” with a load of free kale and swiss chard to harvest, blanch, and freeze. Woe is me. ;-)), I also know that there will be another two weeks of warm – even hot – weather between now and early October and that this spell of cold weather is both (a) seasonally normal and (b) temporary. Winter’s not here yet. 😉
 
Continue reading

Q is for Questionable – Pagan Blog Project 2013

I know, I know, I’m a week late and playing catch-up.
 
So. Gordon, over at Rune Soup, has an old post about – among other things – being a white kid in Australia, doing white-people magic in a space where the (indiginous Australian) Neighbours do NOT want you to be.
 
I’m in a similar colonial boat.
 
Continue reading

Witching – The Soul and Centre of It

So… I’ve been busy. (YAY!) With paying work (YAY!) including a commision from an Etsy customer and a heap of modeling work (that’s gone from one week to three — huzzah!) It’s been a good day.
 
I’ve also started work on a vegan stew for someone I know, who is dying.
Not so good.
 
This is a thing about witchcraft that I tend not to hear about much in Ye Olde Blogosphere. It’s a thing that I’m not that good at, but am striving to do better. It’s a thing that my wife does without a second thought.
 
A big part of Witching – in the Terry Pratchett sense[1] – is being a community care-taker. I frequently suck at being a community care-taker. This thing, where I’m contributing to the meals of someone I know, is one step towards ammending that situation.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series (see here, here, here, and here, if you want them) does a remarkably good job of articulating my personal witch-crafty worldview. You could do worse than checking them out, if you take my meaning.

Little Magics Everywhere – Wedding Edition Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway. Lots of good fun there. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂