Category Archives: local

I is for Incense – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Okay, this is a bit of an easy target, but here goes. I is for Incense. I’m sure you’re familiar with the image of the jewelry-bedecked, incense-wreathed Modern (and often very new) Witch. Terry Pratchett has a lot of fun with this image, although I do kind of wonder if it’s still accurate. (See, for example, Miss Sugar’s post where, apparently, they’re all hipsters now? So maybe less with the silver jewelery than when I was a whipper-snapper).
 
But anyway.
 
Incense. It’s a great way to energetically clean your house, and I try to do it at least every six weeks or so, plus whenever things are feeling kind of tense and gross and in need of a quick sweep. (Miss Sugar – who I’m apparently internet-stalking today – says that when you can’t physically clean your house, giving it an energetic scrub will go a long way. This seems to be the case, in my experience, so let’s go with it).
 
The trick with incense is that, well, you burn it. So if you’ve got a particularly sensitive smoke detector, pets with small lungs[1], or are having some respiratory difficulties[2], filling your house with smoke may not be the best plan.
 
That said, I find that wandering around the place with a burning incense stick, wafting it into all the nooks and crannies, framing my doors, windows, mirrors, drains, and faucets with it and drawing Xs over them with it, while muttering protective incantations (I tend to go with “only love may enter here” because it’s quick, easy, and to-the-point. You may want to use something else).
 
 
Now, being a crafty type, something I would like to try is Making My Own Incense.
Big shock.
And I like the idea of making specifically incense cones because they don’t take up much space, you can burn them in a tart-pan if you want to, and – while getting them to stay upright as you wave them around, smoking your house, is a little difficult (maybe I can use some kind of goo/gum to make that happen?), they are generally easier to clean up after than both incense sticks and foil-wrapped bundles of dried herbs. Plus you don’t need to invest in those little charcoal tablets, either, which is handy.
Anyway.
I found the following video tutorial on Youtube:
 

 
 
But, of course, this brings up some questions. Questions like: Do I have to use Makko powder? Really? Can I just use, like, very fine (cedar or other) sawdust, or some kind of flour, instead? You’re basically looking for something that burs evenly and sticks together after it gets a bit wet, right?

This other tutorial – which I can’t embed and which is 17 minutes long (the How To part is actually only about two or three minutes long, starting at minute 13) and talks you through a specific incense – has a different way of doing things that doesn’t call for makko, but does call for a big heap of salt (or sand or what-have-you), a receptical, and a rolled up paper tube. (It’s also about using what you’ve got in your spice cupboard, which – kitchen witch that I am – I rather like).

So that’s a place to start.

I like the idea of making my own incense, mostly because I like to make things in general, but also because it does let me (a) use what I actually have available in my kitchen and/or what I have available as far as what-all’s growing in the neighbourhood, and (b) can taylor my incense to what I want it to do. (I have incense sticks in “purification” but I have no idea what the Active Ingredients in this one are, I’m just kind of taking them on faith, so to speak). So it would be nice to make my own.

Anywhoo. That’s my chatter on incense, one of its uses, and my desire to make some of my own. YAY!

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] And by “small”, I mean “smaller than a very small parrot’s”, because we’ve got a Senegal, and she does just fine, even with incense burning right beside her… though she does tend to make the Smoke Detector noise when we do that.

[2] Like the ones I’m having right now.

E is for Environment – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I was out gleaning this morning – harvesting choke cherries (plus a couple of crab apples and one sweet apple) from neighbourhood trees – and made a bunch of jelly plus a small bottle of syrup out of my haul. 🙂

It seems appropriate that – as someone who harvests food from the wild and weedy places around my neighbourhood – I should talk about Environmentalism and its place in my Pagan practice. As such:

E is for Environmentalism

You’d think it would be a no-brainer. But everywhere I look, I actually see Pagans and Heathens bemoaning the way other Pagans and Heathens lack a connection to the Natural World. I see authors recognizing that most of us live in cities, don’t like bugs, and so on. I periodically come across bloggers going on about how they’re wild witches in the woods – unlike those wanna-be fluffy bunny types who barely go camping…

I think there’s a bit of a thing – a combination of the culture/nature dichotomy with-which a lot of us were raised and the guilt that comes from being part of a petroleum-dependent culture – wherein a lot of us think of “Nature” as being places that are less obviously touched by human activity.
And that’s an attitude that isn’t help us. It’s not helping “us”, people who are part of this culture that sees humans as separate from the rest of Life; It’s not helping “us” who are guilt-ridden about environmental degredation but can only envision a change as being either “useless” (switching lightbulbs, bringing cloth bags to the store, and other tiny things that – when held up against the Enbridge Pipeline – don’t seem to do much good) or too drastic to handle (living off the grid a million kilometers from the nearest grocery store and virtuously freezing/starving/suffering all through the winter while going slowly round the twist from the isolation). And it’s also not helping “us”, people who do earth-based religion/spirituality and are wondering how to Comune With Nature when they feel that “nature” is only available on the weekends or at Fest.

I think that a more wholistic (sorry – there are New Age Buzz Words that, while they make me cringe, are also occasionally very applicable) aproach is needed here.

If you stop thinking of pigeons as “vermin” and recognize that they’re part of an urban ecosystem – same as squirrels, raccoons, flies, starlings, crows, grackles, sparrows, cats, dogs, emerald ash borers (you don’t have to like them either – my mother-in-law sticks her knitting needles into the holes they drill in her Rowan tree, with no remorse what-so-ever), choke cherries, dandelions, crab grass, norwegian maple, juniper, carp… (you’re getting the idea) – you maybe lose the idea that humanity and The Natural World parted ways some time in the 1600s.
And when you do that – when you realize that “The Environment” isn’t some abstract idea, possibly connected with Brazil, but is, rather, what you are and where you live – then making those small changes doesn’t seem quite so futile (because you’re helping your own neighbours, right?) and the big changes (living in the middle of nowhere) don’t seem like the only “real” option.

My goal? A down-town bungalow, retrofitted with solar pannels and (hopefully) geothermal heating, that has a big garden and a couple of fruit trees.
That’s my goal. Not disappearing into the wilderness.
Fishing in the river down the street from where I live, not sitting Up North for three days, hoping a moose comes by at the right time (I can barter for that stuff). There is probably a CSA Share in my future, and a chest freezer. But there’s also a closeness to friends and phamily (and family), because that’s important, too.

And, for what it’s worth, that’s my post on Environment (The environment; My environment; you name it…)

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Rain! At Last! :-D

It rained.
It rained.
It finally rained.

In the small hours of the morning we woke up to a change in the wind, to the rushing patter, the soft, longed-for shhhhhhhh, of heavy rain.

Thank you Maia! ❤ :-)It rained again around 8am, just a very brief rain, but it was there.

Right now the heat is cranking and the sun is deciding whether to burn through the clouds or not, but we got rain and that's a big deal. 🙂

Of course, it's humid as fuck at the moment – I'm surprised the streets aren't steaming. But I figure that just means we'll get another rainfall before tomorrow morning, and I certainly won't mind that at all. 🙂

Anyway. Call me relieved. My plants are looking perkier already (and they're under a blacony, so it's not like they're getting much benefit from the rain, so I can only imagine how happy the local trees and shrubs and grasses and such must be feeling).

Working on "D is for Deities" with, potentially, a "D is for Dabbling" coming along behind it. We shall see. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

D is for Drought – Pagan Blog Project 2012

So apparently (I’m so cluefull…) we’re in the middle of a stage two drought.
I don’t actually know what that means, although I suspect it’s quite a bit different for normally-soggy Ottawa than it is for, say, southern Alberta.

Around here, it means that we haven’t had any real rain (at all) for over a month, the river is unusually low, and there’s a burn-ban on due to the dry conditions.
My sweetheart and I went to sleep last night breathing the smell of forest fires.

I woke up in the dark some time after midnight, no smoke by then (good sign, or maybe just a change in the wind), but the waining moon was rising, almost blue, without a hint of the rose-gold I’m used to seeing in summer moonrise.

I just now watered the garden – it’s been needing it worse than I thought for a couple of days, and I’m glad I’ve done it, but this sort of thing makes me wonder if I should set up some kind of reservoire (like a 2L pop-bottle with weep-holes in the bottom, partially burried in each of my larger containers that I could fill using a funnel and then cap shut to prevent evaporation – though I might want to paint the east-facing side white to keep from turning it into a magnifying lense…) instead of just going out every few days and dropping 6-12 litres on the balcony-garden once it’s somewhat into the shady part of the day.

I’m trying to figure out how to do a simple offering to my Ladies that doesn’t involve fire. (Partly because that just seems very foolish under the circumstances, but also becuase it continues to be on the very hot side – shocking – and I don’t entirely want to be adding more heat to the house right now.
I’m considering doing charged water.
Not boiled – see again re: heat. But charged. Pour some energy or some music or both into a bowl of water and pour it out the way I’d normally do if I’d boiled it.

Part of me wants to do something magical to encourage the rain to come and hang around for a bit. The other part of me, of course, is going “Dudes… August is Thunderstorm Central! It’ll be fine! Just give it another two weeks. Relaaaaaaaaaaaax,” and doesn’t want to do magic over this for fear of accidentally turn the tap on too far (and thus have everything drown and/or rot as a result of the deluge. (Which, granted, isn’t likely to happen, but there you go).

That said: Theoretically there will be a thunder storm on Sunday. Maybe I can encourage it to be heavy rains rather than just heat lightning. 🙂

Wish me luck!

come

rain

come

C is for Cast Iron – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I wasn’t expecting to do this topic for the “C” prompt – in fact I know that I’ll be doing “C is for Conversion” before too long, and that that’ll be the one that gets linked to the Pagan Blog Project listings. However. I’ve been wanting to squee about this, and it happens to be a good letter. So:

Last month, my Ghost and I borrowed a cottage for a weekend (I finally used my fishing rod! And caught nothing. But still! I can cast a line! I didn’t know whether I could or not! So yay!) and, while we were there, we collected an antique (think 1890s) cast iron parlour stove that we found rusting away in the woods.

Thus, I’m choosing to write C is for Cast Iron because it lets me talk about hearth, and hearth spirits while, y’know, still hanging onto the alphabetical theme.

So.

C is for Cast Iron

My parlour stove is about 1.5’x2.5’ in area and is a little taller (not counting the chimney pipe) than your average end-table. She – and there is no questing that this stove uses feminine-gender pronouns – is currently sitting next to our couch in all her rusted, cast iron glory, serving as just that: an end-table (and a candle-holder – there’s no way we can actually put her to use as a stove, but we can definitely put some candles and incense in her belly and get her to warm and glow again).

There’s a picture on her front door – a mixture of flowers and wheat sheaves and words – but, I swear, what I see when I look at it is a wild-eyed old lady, stocky, nearly as wide as she is tall, with tightly curled hair, strong arms full of grain, and dangerously pointy teeth.

I feel like I have seen the portrait of a Domovika[1]. I feel like my stove must have a name – a name that starts with “B” and ends with “a”. A name like “Bianca” or “Brunhilde” or “Borislava” or similar – and that there’s a new member of the family in the house.

It’s kind of wonderful.

I’ve written about this before, when I talked about the Spirit Stove almost a year ago: The idea of “hearth” and how it feels, for me, more concentrated in antique stoves that were relied upon for heat and/or light – survival – than (I find) it is in modern, electric ranges.

But I also wonder if that isn’t unfair.
I hide in my kitchen when I have company, futzing with the dinner or the tea and talking through the pass-through to my guests who are lounging on the couch. I put my servant (Ghost) on Guest Duty while I retreat to my centre, my domain… my kitchen. Houses sell on the strength of their kitchens (although part of that is because the kitchen, like the bathroom, stays in the house… while everything else is emptied of furniture until the house’s new family moves in). The best parties end, in the darkest hours of the morning, with people hanging out in the kitchen and talking up the sun.

My kitchen is still the centre of my home, it’s still the location of my hearth.

But we also have this. A cast iron creature, slowly acclimatizing to our living room (after a century in a fishing camp, followed by a few years rusting in the woods and being lived in my mice and other critters, I have no doubt).

The eventual Plan is to fully restore her. We’ve got a tin of stove-black (which is exactly what it sounds like) that will – after another round or two with the wire brush – be applied to shine her up, and that’ll work for a cosmetic restoration. But eventually, we’ll be redoing the (long-gone) support struts inside her, giving her new fire brick (also long-crumbled), and reinforcing the seams in her frame. That way, when we (eventually) have a house in-which a stove can be lit, we’ll be able to heat our home partially thanks to our parlour stove.

So there you have it.

C is for cast iron. Our newest addition to the family. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Possibly this is because I’m currently (re-)reading Cat Valente’s Deathless, but I think she looks like a Domovika, which is the girl version of a Russian house spirit… I gather that, typically, the Domovika lives under the threshold stone of the house, while the Domovoi lives under the stove, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

C is for Calendar – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Part of my on-going and sporadic participation in the Pagan Blog Project.

I’m writing this on what is, approximately, the first full moon after Summer Solstice.
I could just as easily say that I’m writing this one day – give or take three hours – after having been kept awake all night by Canada Day drunks arguing loudly, for hours, in the street below my apartment.
But I’ve decided to pay attention to the moon – which is coming up like a great, white-gold pearl, in a deep blue sky still tinged with the pinks and purples of the sunset because… why?
Because it’s prettier.
Because it’s elegant and beautiful and a much lovelier and more pleasant way to remember the timing than by noting just how much shouted cussing was going on below my window at the same time.
But I’m also doing it because, while the phase of the moon may or may not be relevant to how I (as a white, urban, Anglophone member of a Western culture in 2012) measure time… I want it to be. I want to be able to look back at this entry and see:
First full moon after Summer Solstice
AND
Service berries and mulberries are so ripe they’re falling off the trees
AND
Bass season just, just started
AND
Sour cherries will be ready to be picked by the time this moon (honey moon, strawberry moon) has waned back down to darkness
…And be able to put those visceral, physical things, those specific-to-my-location situations, together and come up with “Early July”, without having to leave a precise date at the top of the page.

I remember talking to a friend – who was also one of my professors – about ten years ago. She said that, when she converted to Wicca, she was handed this entirely new calendar system. So, while her friends were recalling that such-and-such an event happened around mid-terms, she was marking it as happening around Samhain.
I’m trying to take that a step further.
I want to be aware of the physical, local realities that mark the passage of time in my specific bioregion. I know that they won’t be the same every year. That the first full moon after Summer Solstice 2013 will be much earlier than this year’s – practically on top of the Solstice and, thus, 2013’s service berries and mulberries will be coming in when Fruit Moon is just starting to wax, while the cherries will be ripe during the same moon’s fullness. That next year “honey/strawberry moon” may be called “rhubarb moon” – or “leaf moon” – because it will begin earlier in the season. That we may have a “Berry moon” that is separate from “Fruit Moon”, that the amount of rain we get will affect the naming of the mo(o)nths.
I’m trying to teach myself, to integrate into my daily life, a living, spiraling calendar, one that doesn’t march ever-forward, leaving the past behind, but that cycles through spiral time in a way that lets me (or requires me to) see how this year is related to last year, will be related to next year.

To live in the cycle.
But also to live in the moment.

You know the story about the Grasshopper and the Ant? (Clearly written by someone who didn’t have a clue about grasshopper OR ant life-spans[1]) Well, when it comes to gardening, I’m a bit like the ant in that story. I tend to be living two or three months down to road, to when there won’t be an abundant source of produce available… which leads me to canning everything in sight rather than also enjoying what’s available, fresh, right now.
Working to integrate a living calendar – one in which “now” is related intimately to the same period last year and next year, but in which the specific details are in flux (What is the phase of the moon? How much rain have we been having? Did it stay cold for longer, or did it warm up earlier, than last year and how is this affecting the fruit trees and the wild greens?) – forces me to pay attention to the moment, to what’s going on now, even as it lets me connect now with last year’s crop of city-land service berries, with the tail end of last year’s Rhubarb Moon and the beginning of its Small Fruit or Berry Moon.
It’s the connection with this year’s now that lets me relate it to last year at the same time in the same place, and to plan for what I’ll need to look for, harvest, put up, fish for, and so on next year.

I’m re-reading Earth Path at the moment[2] and I have to agree with Starhawk when she says that “we can’t simply honour nature’s cycles in the abstract” and, instead, must know those cycles intimately and to recognize how we are part of them.

By tending my garden, taking note of what’s available along neighbourhood road-sides and in local water-ways and harvesting it, and watching my own body for what it needs during this time (change my habits, drink more water, keep to the shade, wear sun-block, rather than flipping the (non-existent) A/C up another notch and ignoring the effects that seasonal weather would otherwise have on my body)… These are all ways to remind myself that I am part of nature, eating berries like the grackles, starlings, squirrels, and bears; catching fish (or trying) like the herons, loons, raccoons, and bears; helping to pollinate my cucumbers and tomatoes like the bees, hover flies, male mosquitoes, and braconid wasps; keeping to the shade and panting in the heat like, well, very nearly everybody from crows to cats to my neighbour down the hall.

Living in the moment. Living in the cycle. Learning the seasons of my Place one moon phase, one harvest, one fruit tree at a time.

Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Grasshoppers top out at about seven weeks, while ants live only a few days – or so I gather – but ants live in city/hive structures and need to make sure the colony continues after they’re gone. Y’know. In case you were wondering…

[2] Along with Judy Harrow’s Spiritual Mentoring – which is a guide for Pagan types who have been around for a while and may be getting approached by people for guidance, teaching, and the like.

Spring is Here (the Light has Changed). :-D

This morning I woke up (before 7am) to bright sunlight (YAY!) and the reflection of mirrors and rainbows on my ceiling. Clearling summer is on its way!
And then I realized what day it is. April 30th.
The calendar-date for Beltane is tomorrow. (Guess I should plan that fairy cake party, huh…)

I think it’s really neat how the light-levels are so noticeable (maybe this shouldn’t surprise me…) around the cross-quarter days. For example, I find the days are noticeably longer – like “OMG, it’s 4pm and the sun is still well above the horizon” noticeably – around Imbolg. That I’m noticing “summer light” (when the sun is up early enough to hit the prisms and the mirrors in the bedroom before we actually wake up, let alone get up) right smack around Beltane falls into this situation, too.

The leaves have been unfurling for a while now – green flowers making the maple trees look like giant pompoms (“Come on Spring! You can do it!!!”), the birch trees decked in their catkins, looking poised as dancers – but maybe because it’s also been very grey outside (first sunshine in about 10 days, yesterday), it’s the sun that’s really doing it for me now.

Ottawa’s kind of a funny place, weather-wise. Although maybe this is typical all over the Eastern Woodlands. Like Palimpsest, we have a winter of bare branches (aka the winter of frost), a winter of snow, a winter of ice, and a winter of slush (or mud). “Spring” is usually not more than six weeks long (starting in mid-April) but, some years, only lasts for part of May, with “Summer” kicking off its first leg around the May 2-4 long weekend. (Victoria Day weekend is actually our Beltane — it combines nudity (or at least beach wear and flip-flops), alcohol (frequently), first planting, fire, and partying, along with rituals like Opening the Cottage, Putting In the Garden, and The First Barbicue of the Season. If we’re lucky, it’s even warm enough to hang out at the beach and play frisbee or something – ’cause gods know we’re not going in the water this early!).

Anyway. Spring. It’s here. For real this time, I think. 🙂
YAY! 😀

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

First Snow of the Season

Wednesday, November 23rd – First Snow of the Winter.

Yesterday, before dawn, the moon came up like a sickle over the city. This morning we woke, unexpectedly and at 3am, to see huge, fluffy flakes tumbling down onto streets already blanketed in snow.

It’s dangerous, the first real snow fall of the season. People leave it until too late and end up trying to remember how to drive through slush before their snow tires are on, and freaking out about running late in the process. As a pedestrian, I try to stay off the main roads unless it’s snowed so badly that I can get through on the un-plowed sidewalks.

Even still, even with the slippery slogging and the biting wind (although I’ll note that, with the snow, it’s actually warmer today than it was, say, on the 20th) flinging tiny little ice pellets into your face, it’s still beautiful, and still evocative of Good Things Coming.

That there will be fresh-fallen snow on the ground to mark the arrival of Snow Moon tomorrow morning makes me inordinately happy, even if I know damn well that, six weeks from now, I’ll be so sick of the stuff I’ll just be dreading getting up in the mornings, let alone going out in the mess.

Still, I’ve had “Happy Holidays (Happy Holidays)” floating through my head all morning. I know it’s really just an old hotel add that’s been revamped into something about santa, but I hear “While the merry bells keep ringing, may your wishes all come true” and can sub that piece into a secular-solstice Mp3 list any day of the week.

It’ll be winter solstice before you know it – I’ve got a party to plan, a supper to coordinate, cookies, chocolate barks, and fudge (easy-style, done with condensed milk) to prepare, and a LOT of presents to finish. Hoy!

Off and running!
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.

Mostly Whining (OR: I Don’t Like Daylight Savings Time)

Okay, so Daylight Savings Time ended this past weekend.
I don’t actually like Daylight Savings Time.

I mean, when it’s happening, I don’t really care. Sun comes up, sun goes down. Whatever. But the twice-yearly jolt and incipient jet-lag that comes from making the switch from DST to Standard Time drives me up the wall.

I wish the rest of Canada could adopt Saskatchewan’s view of things and just not bother with this nonsense.

And, okay, okay, I know. I was working later-than-usual today (afternoon, yes, but a later afternoon due to when my start-time was), which made the “hour earlier” darkness that much heavier.

My heart already aches for light.

Good night to all,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

A Running Start at Winter

The days are growing shorter and the nights are growing colder and I want nothing more than to hunker down with my sweetie, and maybe a mug of hot chocolate, and just hibernate through the coming winter.
Instead, everything is ramping up into high (or at least higher) gear. Trying to get a book manuscript started (and finished) this month; working on craft projects (knitting, making a new jewelry collection based on the Local Lunar Months, and potentially working a craft show – selling soap and candles, for the most part – even though I wasn’t planning on it); getting my hands further into the Rainbow Health outreach work I’m doing; and working more art classes, it seems, than I can shake a stick at…
I feel worn out, and it’s all barely beginning. O.O

I think we – as a secular-but-xian-influenced culture – do this every year, though. We take a big running start at the Winter, baking and gifting and socializing for the better part of two months and then hoping we make it through the remaining four months of cold, dreary, and draining. Sometimes it feels like we need to slow the hell down, stretch the “holiday season” out to cover all of the winter, so that there’s always something more to look forward to, but it’s not nearly so frenzied in the doing of everything because we have more time to do it in. Other times, it feels like we need that big, extravagant running start in order to coast the rest of the way through ’til spring, floating ourselves on the memory of heat and excess and blazing light while we wait out the grey and the grim.

I don’t know. I suspect I’ll be musing further on this as Winter starts creeping in for real, and I’m spending more time curled up in my writing chair.

For now, though, I need to get going.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden