Category Archives: paganism

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter Two Activities – Part 1

An old castle or fort on the shores of a lake, hypothetically in Wales. Green hillside, early-leafing trees, a blue sky with a lot of fluffy clouds.

Continuing with the end-of-chapter Activities offered in Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies, it’s time for Chapter Two.

Chapter Two is about mythology and its roles in contemporary pagan faiths. I appreciate that this chapter includes a discussion of ways that we can conflate mythology with history – like The Burning Times as a period when actual practitioners of The Craft were being hunted out and killed, rather than a period when various types of Christians were hunting out and killing each other for being The Wrong Kind of Christian; or the theory of a Pan-European Matriarchal Prehistory that requires a LOT of conjecture and, like most conjecture about prehisotry, says more about the contemporary storytellers than it does about the people the story is ostensibly about (this is why I like Ron Hutton, tbh). I also appreciate how the author talks about cultural appropriation and the need for contemporary pagans, as a predominantly white population, to tread carefully and respectfully when (if) engaging with the living traditions of racialized people, while also avoiding falling into the trap of “someone can ONLY engage with a tradition/pantheon/practice if they have that cultural heritage or ancestry” which can, and does, get used to bolster white n*tion*list narratives. The author also talked about how contemporary pagans are engaging in myth-making that incorporates both contemporary science and UPG, while also engaging with pre-existing texts and interpreting them – sometimes with difficulty – in ways that are relevant to our 21st century lives. It was a good chapter.

The Activities presented at the end of the chapter all revolve around a myth with-which the reader chooses to engage. So. Part 1:

Choose a myth, read it, then analyze it to answer the following:

  • What does this myth tell you about the people who wrote it?
  • In what ways is this myth relevant to you and your life today?

So. I chose to read the story of “Peredur, the Son of Evrawc” in the Mabinogion as translated by Lady Charlotte Guest and available through Project Gutenberg.

What does this myth tell me about the people who wrote it?

First, I have to recognize that this is a probably Victorian lady, and a Christian, doing the translation of a story that was written down by Christians in the middle ages as a (likewise very Christian) King Arthur legend. I gather it’s probably older, and less Christian, than that. But this is what I have available.

As far as what it says, more broadly, about the Brithonic culture at large, in terms of what the Christians who wrote it down opted to keep, this is what it tells me:

  • Peredur, who is known as “the Son of Evrawc” is, none the less, constantly running into, and gaining both honour and hospitality through, the brothers of his MOTHER. All of whom seem to live in big-ass castles within the wild “desert” wood.
    • So… I sort of think this implies a Matrilineal society shifting towards Patrilineage at the time of the writing-down? Maybe?
    • I also wonder if Peredur’s Mother was one of the Fair Folk, once upon a time, as all of her brothers appear to live in what’s described as the wild “desert” wood.
      • I’m wondering, too, if “desert” here is just… look, hypothetically, the Forest of ancient England would have been more like a savanna than like the deep, Beech forests of Germany, as described in The Hidden Life of Trees. None the less, I’m wondering if those deep forests – the Wild Wood of high, thick canopies, wind pollination, and mostly non-existent understory, far from the forest edge of insect-pollinated, annually-fruiting trees (hazel, chestnut, hawthorn, sloe, apple, a zillion bramble berries) and the related abundance of small and mid-sized game, where humans can thrive – were thought of as either “wasteland” – meaning “you are not going to find a lot of food, easily, if you’re stuck here” – or as “wilds” (like, in the biblical sense of various people wandering in the desert for forty days/years to indicate a long period of being removed from civilization and its related ills, dangers, and distractions)
      • Hiding out in the Deep Woods was definitely a thing one could do, but you had to pack in a lot of livelystock… so maybe my Deep Woods theory is accurate? (No idea)
      • Question: Is “The Lord of the Glade” Gwyn ap Nudd? Or Arywn?
  • Kingship (or earlship, etc) was won, and maintained, by Might Of Arms
    • This is also how you made a name for yourself
  • Women could inherit land and rulership but, given the whole Might Of Arms situation, they weren’t always in a position to defend that which they’d inherited if they didn’t have brothers or foster-brothers or other fighting-fit male relatives around to do the defending.
  • If someone was under your parents’ protection – I am not sure if I’m stretching things here or reading them right –  and those parents died or were otherwise indisposed, you inherited that duty to protect them.
  • Hospitality was a BIG DEAL – like if someone turned up on your doorstep, it wasn’t just “Hey. Welcome. Come in and have some food and rest”. It was “Hey. Welcome. GOOD TO SEE YOU! Come in and have some food and rest” and then introducing yourselves after the meal was done. Feed your guest first, ask questions later.
    • Also, apparently, if you had a guest and they were like “Nice jewelry!” you had to give it to them happily?
  • Being someone’s guest also came with responsibilities. Like, sure, you could eat people out of house and home and take their stuff just by asking for it. But you also had to return the favour via significant acts of service.
    • I’m assuming that Peredur is opting for acts of heroism because he’s a Knight (or wants to be one), but in a less legendary situation, maybe it’s things like doing the washing up, showing up with a hostess gift, and not making a total mess of someone else’s home.

 

Which, I guess, brings me to question two: How is this myth relevant to me, as a person living today?

  • Family ties (for a given definition of family that’s broader than the one implied by the story) being how you keep yourself safe, fed, etc
    • How can I strengthen my own family ties?
    • Am I looking after the people in my extended family? In what ways?
  • How to be a Good Guest when one’s status as “guest” is a polite euphemism for “colonizer” or “invader”.
    • What services can I do for the people whose territory I’m in?
    • What services can I do for the territory itself?
    • What can I do in order to NOT continue eating them out of house and home and taking all their stuff?
  • If these are stories about boundaries and boundary-crossings… how do I stay in my own lane, so to speak? How do I behave respectfully and respectably when I’m out and about, interacting with other human and other-than-human people, and so on?

Part Two of Chapter Two’s Activities requires meditating on one’s myth of choice, for ten minutes every day, for a week. So: Having only done one day worth of this so far, I’m going to follow up on this bit a little while.

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter 1 Activities (Followup) #Pagan #Polytheism

A kinda stereotypical witch’s altar from the free images available on Canva. There’s a herb wand, a leather-bound book with a Nile-River-Goddess-inspired pendant hanging over it, three votive candles, a big crystal, another leather bound book with a pentacle and wings embossed on the cover, some red fairy lights, a stick, and a mason jar with some pebbles(?) in it. I think there’s also a bundle of dried lavender in there somewhere.

Following up on this post with the second Homework Question asked by the author at the end of Chapter One. The author asks:

“What would it be like to honour the differently? Consider experimenting with a practice that is different from the beliefs that you hold. Can a hard polytheist meditate on Atman with a group of Hindus? Can a monotheist make offerings to the spirits of the land, understanding them as aspects of the divine? Can a soft polytheist, or nontheist, call upon a deity and speak with them as a person rather than an archetype? Sit with the feelings of discomfort that may arise from this thought experiment. Is it important to continue to believe as you do now? Why or why not?”

I started to touch on this very briefly in my previous post. That, when trying to find points of relation with monotheists and panentheists, I lean into the idea of numerous individual godsouls – including those of actual deities – making up a giant, composite, universe-soul who is, at the same time, an entity unto themselves, but that doing this is not entirely comfortable.

I feel like I’m lying. Or being rude to my gods. Or both. Which is one of the reasons I mostly practice as a Solitary.

Uh. More on that, even though I’ll be touching on it again in a few chapters:

I “go to church” with my girlfriend, and her ritual group, and it’s LOVELY. I’m very glad that I get to do this – or got to do this when they were doing ritual online, and may get to do this again if in-person stuff is available while I’m visiting DC – and it’s been really… really special and important for to be able to do that. I’ve talked before – if not on this blog, then with my friends – about “missing church”. Which has meant a couple of things for me. I miss the… laziness? Of just being able to show up at a ritual and follow the directions, rather than having to come up with the ritual myself.

Like, yes, I’m definitely down to create my own rituals, they’re personally meaningful and let me connect with my gods, my ancestors, my godself, my fetch, the spirits of my micro-bioregion. All of that. But it’s also really nice to be able to who up and immerse myself in a ritual without having to also make sure I remember what step comes next.

But I also miss “church” in the sense of “having a community of shared values and… heavily overlapping(?) cosmology with-whom I can do personally meaning woo-woo stuff on a reliable and consistent basis”. And there are local ritual groups, public ones, that I could be part of. Or there were, a few years ago. But it feels really weird to sort of “play at” penentheism, or at duotheistic poly pantheism, in a long term way. Like, she who is the white moon among the stars is actually NOT the same person as the one who’s the green earth. Heck the Green and the Earth are two different people. And that’s just on my personal altar, before you get to the specific individuals who make up the Green ad the Earth who I call to when I do quarter calls. You know?

So, to drag this back to the author’s question:

While I’m able to consider the soul of the universe, of which I (and/as my tripartite soul) am just a tiny, TINY part:

  • I’m not thinking of Atman – my rudimentary understanding of All That Is, the connections between, and ultimate unity of, All That Is, is not likely to be the same understanding that someone who’s been a practicing Hindu for 25 years is going to have via the lens of their faith.

AND

  • I’m going to feel like I’m oversimplifying things if that’s the part I focus on. Like I’m smoothing the edges off my cosmology to make it easier and more palatable for a largely monotheistic “over-culture” to wrap their collective heads around

AND

  • I’m going to worry that I will forget both the complexity and the embodied immediacy of The Divine qua numerous individual deities, spirits of place, etc, if I spend too much time focusing on that broader, harder-to-have-relationships-with (harder to relate to? – There’s probably something worth digging into there) all-encompassing Universe Soul at the expense of naming and honouring and relating to those individual entities-unto-themselves who are my gods, who are the gods-who-aren’t-mine, who are the local Neighbours, who are my specific ancestors of blood and spirit, who is my own godself… all of them.

So, yes. I think it’s important for me to continue worshiping as I do, and… cosmology-ing as I do. While I get that my practice and understanding are going to keep evolving over time, I don’t think I’d be doing right by my gods or my Other People, if I changed that up substantially or suddenly or, possibly, at all.

That’s where I’m at right now.

Seeking the Mysteries – Chapter 1 Activities

A Book Cover: Looking down a deep well. Tree branches and “the Moon” (actually the camera flash) are reflected in the water. It’s a good shot. The words “Seeking the Mystery – An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” – Christine Hoff Kraemer” overlay the image in blue and yellow text.

So I got myself a copy of this book. It’s one of the ones that’s on the reading list for Cherry Hill Seminary’s Community Ministry Certificate. I figure, if I can’t take the courses (…yet), I can at least start doing the readings. So I’ve made a start of it. It’s absolutely an intro book – a bit of a light survey with a solid bibliography to go hunting up further stuff. Short, but it’s chewy none the less. I appreciate how the author has made a point of drawing on examples from a lot of different traditions, and from writers/thinkers/theologians who were both well-established (Starhawk, Graham Harvey, Carol Christ, the Andersons, the Farrars, Judy Harrow, John Casey, Margot Adler) and those who, at the time of this book’s publication (2012) were much more recent additions to the Pagan theological… canon? Can I call it a canon? Let’s go with that. Think Sarah Kate Istra Winter, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Katherine MacDowell, Raven Kaldera, Ivo Dominguez Jr, and Emma Restall Orr, if we want to split that particular hair at roughly the Millennium line). I’m hopeful that, as we head into 2022, she’s got a 10 year anniversary follow-up in the works. Time will tell.

Anyway. The book has Activities at the end of each chapter. And I thought I’d give some of them a go.

Chapter one, which is kind of an introduction of theological terms like “Monism” and “Animism”, “Process Theology” and “Polytheism” (both hard and soft), asks the reader to think on their own theological position(s) and how that position has changed, if it has, over the course of their life.

~*~

So:

I would start by saying that my theology was experiential before I ever heard the word “theology” let alone started using it in sentences. Part of why I stopped being christian is that… there wasn’t anything there. Or at least that who was there was definitely not answering my phone calls.

I was about fifteen when I concluded that “Christian” no-longer described me, and that it was time to figure out what I did believe, and ideally to find a faith that could match it.

I was sixteen when I met a God for the first time.

As the prophets say:

And, lo, I became Pagan.

For the first few years – years when I was interacting with mostly Wiccan practitioners, mostly on the proto-internet of the mid-1990s – I probably qualified as either a soft polytheist or a duotheistic polypantheist (one of my profs used that term to describe the embodied, “all the gods are one god and all the goddesses one goddess” theology of Wicca, which she practiced). I’m not sure if I was an animist yet, though I knew that Ancestors were part of my reality pretty much immediately. I met my first (out) hard polytheist when I was in my very early twenties and that, as they say, Really Gave Me Something To Think About.

I think I was probably hitting on my own hard polytheism inside of five years later. Basically, I started meeting other gods (and then meeting other humans who had very specific relationships with specific other gods) and it felt increasingly… rude? to act like they were interchangeable. It was also around this point that I started thinking about the nature of souls and came to my own conclusion that there are multiple parts to a soul, or multiple souls, in a given person (not just human people, fyi, so: definitely an animist by this point). What I think is that, since reincarnation is a thing, and since ancestors who stick around and with-whom you can interact, are also a thing… There must be a spark that jumps from life to life, reincarnating over and over and picking up experiences, as well as a “self” or “memory” soul that develops over the course of a given lifetime and becomes an Ancestor (and sometimes a restless ghost, tbh) upon death.

That said: A lot of the theology I’ve read has been by Feri initiates, even if they were presenting stuff that was okay for laypeople to know. Lee Harrington. T Thorn Coyle. Starhawk. Gede Parma. Orion Foxwood. So maybe it’s not surprising that I’ve picked up.

Everything seems to be built in a series of nested layers – I am an entity unto myself. But I’m also part of the entity that is my micro-bioregion and, from there, my planet. I’m also made up of entities-unto-themselves that are the myriad folk of my gut biota, for example. My planet is made up of all those micro-bioregional entities, and is part of the entity that is my solar system.

And I think that souls must be a bit like that. I am an entity until myself – and so I go to the land of the Ancestors when I die. But I’m also part of the soul of All That Is – the universe has a soul made up of a zillion parts, because the universe is made up of a zillion parts. I think this is a little related to the Feri tradition’s Star Goddess. But it’s also a little related to the Vedic tradition’s Prajapati. It just seems to fit, given how the universe works (by our current understanding of How The Universe Works). All those land spirits, all those Gods of place. They are entities unto themselves. And I think, on some quiet level they are, like me, part of the All That Is.

I’ve met my Godself, my Deep Self, my Shard of the Universe Herself – to use three different ways of referring to Her – I know She’s real, and is an entity unto Herself. But I also know that She is, at the same time, both part of ME – this human body, this human life enlivened by a leaping, experiencing, ever-renewing Spark (is this Fetch? Maybe?) and remembered by/as an Ancestor (is this Talking Self? Maybe?) in times to come – and part of the swimming, blending, universe-soul, All That Is.

So… my Hard Polytheism and my Animism are underpinned by something like Pantheism? Maybe? But it’s a quiet, background pantheism rather than the Pantheism or Panenthism that my Unitarian clients, or the uh… Pananimist Nontheism(?) that my Buddhist clients for that matter, tend to lean towards. It’s what I lean into when I’m trying to find points of theological relating with people who are just weirded out by the reality of “Gods, Plural” and give me funny looks when I want to talk shop. It’s fine, but it feels a bit like hitting a wall, sometimes. It’s much easier to tell people that “my church is in my back yard” or “I take a walk in the woods when I need to commune with the divine” because that sounds hippie-pantheist enough to be non-threatening (I say, presuming that people are likely to be off-put by polytheism and hard animism) than to get into the nitty-gritty of seasonal offerings, deities turning up in the living room (and the bedroom), messages being passed along through humans who are More Sensitive To This Stuff than I am, using an imaginary legal pad to talk to my Godself, and how old an appliance has to be before it starts talking (I think the youngest machine who every told me her name is Janice, my wife’s the sewing machine who would have been… between 40 and 45 at the time? So younger than the Tsukumogami by a substantial margin. I’m kind of… trepedatious about what will happen in 10-20 years when my library starts hitting that age…)

~*~

… And that’s kind of where things stand right now.

I’m sure things will continue to evolve – particularly around Animism regarding things like “I am a mammal that eats… at all” and “So much plastic packaging… What do I do with this??” – but I like where my cosmology/theology are at right now. I think, at this point, it’s more likely to deepen than to change direction. I hope that’s how it goes.

Cheers,

Ms Syren.

Full Moon – Long Nights Moon Crests: Winter Solstice 2021

A bright red cardinal sits on a bare branch as tiny snowflakes gather on his feathers and swirl in the air.
Midwinter – A Cardinal in the Snow

I finished my poetry challenge, and at least a few of the pieces I drafted have some potential to become something good. Something that I noticed – and something that’s come up in a bunch of books I’ve read (everything from “money mindset” books to magic books to books on ecophilosophy) – is the whole idea of “What we speak, we bring into being”. Not in the simplistic sense of “If you mantra about being a Rich Witch you will become one” but in the sense of “language shapes thought, it shapes what we’re able to conceptualize”. (It’s why people with systemic social privilege so frequently get up in arms when marginalized and oppressed people start creating and using language that gives those privileges a name, or that gives them a name other than “that’s just normal”).

I find that, when I want to write about concepts of abundance and place-connection, I have a bad habit of, first, writing about lack and loss and disconnection (this is true whether it’s poetry or brainstorming about personal goals) – this can be a useful step for narrowing things down and finding patterns, but it’s also a place where I can get stuck. I have to remember to ask myself “Okay. If you don’t want X, Y, or Z… where do those Don’t Wants point you? What is the billiard ball direction of ricochet that you bounce towards when you rebound OFF Don’t Want?” If I want to <em>use my words, my breath, my voice, my song to work my will and make it manifest</em>… I need to know where I’m aiming my Will… or else all that potential energy will stall out rather than launching and transforming into kinetics.

A lot of the poetry I wrote/drafted over the course of this past lunar cycle was about the Don’t Wants. Some of it wasn’t. Some of it was about abundance and security that I already have, and about where I’m actually aiming. But a lot of it wasn’t, and that may mess with the effectiveness of the spell. None the less, I Did The Thing, and I was reminded that it’s not overly difficult or time-consuming to draft a single – mediocre, granted – poem every day. To have a tiny writing Practice that doesn’t stress me out and that I can stick to for a sustained period of time.

So there’s that.

My girlfriend has been visiting for two weeks, which was wonderful. She and my wife and I did Solstice all together for the first time. We walked down to the Winter Stone and made offerings – Laphroaig scotch and Angel’s Envy bourbon plus home-made cookies (coffee-almond-maple macarons, honey-spice cookies, and rose-poppyseed shortbread) – before my two girls went for a walk together for Metamour Time and I headed home to finish my work day.

My wife and I got to have a lovely anniversary together, too.

She made me a very fancy dinner, and we shared some chocolate and a bottle of our wedding wine (same type of wine, different year – Inniskillin’s Late Autumn Riesling) and chatted away on the couch together, while my girlfriend spent the evening with a couple of friends we’ve all been bubbled with for going on two years. It was absolutely wonderful.

My father-in-law came to visit for a couple of days (he arrived 24 hours after my girlfriend left) and just headed home again this morning. I’m relieved to have the house to myself for a bit and to be able to get my breath back.

Solstice is such a weird time. Weird because I’m over here balancing (a) my anniversary, (b) having a big shindig (not this year, obviously, but during non-plague times it was a thing we did every year) and filling the house with our friends, and (c) doing the actual Dreaming and Resting and Turning Inward that Midwinter is actually about – if you’re me, at any rate – and that’s before I even get to the part where I’ve got a bunch of not-religiously-Christian (but culturally very-much-so) family members who want to Do A Thing for Christmas and trying to balance all of those family obligations out around a day that, for me, is really just a quiet day that I mercifully don’t have to work on (unlike most stat holidays) and, had I my druthers, would probably spend reading a book, cleaning the house, and eating leftover Solstice goodies in peace.

I’ve dug out my copy of Seaking the Mysteries again and am looking forward to devoting more time to reading it and working through the writing/thinking prompts. The chicken carcass we hung out for the crows – on a big, copper hook hanging from a branch of our cedar tree – has finally been Investigated by a couple of locals. It wasn’t quite an “Offering Accepted” moment, but it was wonderful to see these big, black, umbrella birds hopping from branch to branch, checking angles and balances, before having a good nosh. I hope they come back.

~*~

What I’ve been up to:

At the Full Moon, I took myself down into my Luxury Astral Sea Cave. There was seaweed and salt water all over the floor, so (a) June’s been around, but also (b) I had to do some tidying up. I ate some of the seaweed, and a little snail – who wanted the company/food source of a planted bunch of bladder wrack and a tubeworm/anemone – has taken up residence in my grotto (hot tub?) and, as a result, my Luxury Astral Sea Cave now has a rudimentary filtration system that means I can do laundry and such-like without worrying about wrecking the open ocean (entire astral plane?) on the other side of the membrane.

I got a message on the memo pad that said “Succeed!” + “I can see growth / I can seed growth (/ I conceded growth?)” + “seeds”. Which means I’ve gone and popped 32 squash seeds onto my tiny office altar and, I think, I’ll be planting at least some of them in the spring. I sort of secretly think this is also hinting at a timeline? But we’ll see.

For Solstice, I came up with a little visualization that I did this morning that involved a walk through a wintery landscape and the question: “What does this dreaming winter landscape have to tell me about the kind of rest I need?”

What I saw in the ice/mirror: I saw Fetch, my child/animal/embodied self cutting out a garland of paper dolls.

Between this and the regimented lumber plantation that kept trying to assert itself, the message I got – that I hope is an accurate one – is that the kind of rest I need, that I would benefit from, is less about sleep and more about unstructured, non-productive but creative play.

It’s probably telling that my reaction to paper dolls is basically “But this is just so much garbage…” rather than “That looks like fun”.

So I’m asking myself:

In addition to take Sunday afternoons to read pagan theology, ecophilosophy, and similar, what kind of regular play date can I give myself – something like an Artist’s Date – that lets me PLAY in way that isn’t regimented and whose end-goal is “this was fun” rather than “I have produced a garment” or “I exercised” or similar.

I’m honestly considering buying myself a “stocking stuffer” package of water-soluble soap crayons or something and making a point of covering my bathtub tiles with green spirals and seaweed fronds or something. It could be fun. And it would be easy (I hope) to clean up, too.

I’m having that Just Before New Year’s warning feeling of “don’t make commitments you aren’t going to keep”, so I’m a little hesitant to stay spouting off about wanting to visit my Sea Cave on a regular and frequent basis, or wanting to get back to the nightly yoga routine that I stopped doing six months ago when I seriously wrecked my knee by going skateboarding for the first time. These are good things to want, and good things to do, and also: It’s six days ‘til 2022 and we all know what this time of year can be like. So. Maybe I’ll just sit on those for a week or two. >.>

Slow Holler - Ace of Water

Image: Slow Holler Tarot – Ace of Vessels – A Mason Jar with a storm, a lake, and a shooting star inside.

I use a random tarot card generator to pull my Card for this (waning) part of the Long Nights Moon. I went into it thinking “JUST the next week or so” but… wow, now that I’ve seen it: Gosh, I hope this is what 2022 has to offer.

The Ace of Water is the distillation of the whole suit. Emotional fulfillment. Creative inspiration and action. Job satisfaction. Time and space for self-nurturing. Artistic endeavors. Happiness. A full and open heart.

Yes, I want this.

And, yes, I have this.

Two partners who love me and care about each other. An end-date for the job that’s been stressing me out all year (I gave my notice 2 weeks ago, and have five weeks – aka 10 days – left) and an at-home job to replace it with that will be more flexible and lower-stress for everyone at home. The chance to breathe and to refill the well.

I look forward to welcoming it all further in.

~*~

Movement: 14-minute yoga (on youtube) with my girlfriend. Ambles in the woods and down to the bay. Walking to (bubbled) friends’ houses. A little bit of dancing. Nothing fancy, and nothing consistent, but some movement going on.

Attention: Watching the birds and squirrels out my window. Watching the weather and, tbh, the driving conditions. Watching my stress levels and paying attention to what conditions (foods, feelings – mostly feelings) give me stomach cramps vs which ones leave me feeling fine.

Gratitude: For everything. For my father in law coming to town. For two weeks with my girlfriend. For a really lovely 9th anniversary. For Winter Solstice music mixes. For online concerts. For crows in the cedar tree. For cardinals and chickadees being busy with their own lives, which overlap just a little bit with mine. For surprise xmas bonuses from 2/3 of my jobs. For having the extra cash to help out a friend. For another friend making a full recovery from an injury. For my brother’s good news. For my newest niece liking a very old family recipe. For cold, fresh air. For central heating and extra blankets. For sunshine. For starlight. For snowfall. For magic. For time with people I love. For time to just myself. For all the love that’s carrying me through my life.

Inspiration: Rooted, by Leandra Lynn Haupt. The jar of hazelnuts in my pantry (half of which are now home-ground and some of which have been added to another batch of maple-coffee macarons). The turning of the year and ways to incorporate the tastes of other seasons into my midwinter dishes. The astrological positions of the Moon. Wintery imagery. Snow falling in thick flakes at sunset, the red flash of a cardinal against the white-white-white of snow.

Creation: I haven’t written a poem since I finished my challenge. That doesn’t mean I won’t write lots more, but my focus has been elsewhere, in my kitchen and my craft cabinet. I’ve tweaked and re-written recipes that I made up years ago – what would my distant ancestors have used to make food special in winter? What do I have available now? –  and had a good time making honey-walnut ice cream and coffee-hazelnut cookies. I (finally) finished a skirt, added button closures to the slippers I knitted two years ago (now they don’t fall off my feet!), and have picked up another knitting project that I put away nearly a year ago. It’s been nice to make things with my hands again!

A frosted-over soap bubble balances on frozen grass stalks against a blue background. The words "Merry Midwinter Everyone" overlay the image in white script.

Samhain 2021 – Ancestor/Harvest Moon Has Been a LOT

A dark wood floor and a charcoal background. A white pumpkin with a long stem sits at the right edge of the frame. A black line-drawing of a human skull hovers against the charcoal backdrop. The words “May your Beloved and Mighty Dead guard and guide you. Blessed Samhain” overlay the image in white script.

It’s Last Harvest today. In keeping with eating the nasty bits at Samhain, I have beef heart marinating in red wine in the fridge right now. This afternoon – after editing a story submission – I will be hanging up more ancestor pictures in the hallway, then lighting my altar candles and doing a Silent Supper: Inviting my People to come in and visit, setting out a plate with a meal and glass of sortilege for those who want to show up.

I’ve never done this before. Not like this anyway. So we’ll see how it goes.

This month – the whole waxing and waning (almost – new moon is this coming… Thursday, I think) of Harvest/Ancestor Moon – has been a whirlwind. It started with my having the honour of officiating the wedding of a couple of friends of mine – I’m not legally licensed to solemnize a marriage, so the paperwork side was done beforehand through city hall, but it was lovely to be able to do the ritual in their back yard with their families and friends around them.

Side note: It was really neat to feel the Air Folk come in. It made me think of the magic I did to get this house, when I felt the Earth Folk arrive. They came because I was doing magic for housing and stability. It was cool to feel the Air arrive for a ritual of vow-making.

Other side note: I would love to be able to run this kind of ritual again.

After that, I basically got on a plane(!) and flew(!) to DC, to visit my girlfriend for our third(!) anniversary. Barring a slightly rocky start (below), it was a lovely visit. We took an impromptu trip to Chesapeak Bay and got to stand in the Atlantic – and get absolutely drenched in the waves – on our anniversary. We made apple pie and went for a night walk to look at the stars. We read stories to each other. We co-worked, because I was there for two weeks which meant more “domesticity” than “vacation”. It was good to have all that time with her.

The rocky start: The day I arrived, I got a wrecked phone call from my wife, telling me that my little bird, Fiona, had died. Which was pretty heart-breaking. A drive out to a pretty park turned into me sobbing in a parking lot for 40 minutes, grieving and devastated that I hadn’t been home when she died.

I buried her yesterday, just as the rain was starting, wrapped in corn husks and on a bed of tulip bulbs. I’m not expecting the bulbs to germinate – they were pretty old – but they were what I had.

One more family member in a year of losing family.

A close-up shot of a tiny, bright-eyed, pale blue parrotlet, sitting on her perch.

It’s time for me to sign off and do the final edits on a story-submission that’s due today.

I hope your beloved and mighty dead get in touch.

Take care,

Ms Syren.

Full Moon – Apple Moon Crests / Autumn Equinox 2021

A close-up of a whole apple pie is overlaid with a line-drawing of a slice of pie on a plate (lower right corner), and the words “Autumn Equinox: Happy Harvest Home” overlays the image in dark brown script.

Full moon is tomorrow, and Autumn Equinox is this coming Wednesday, but this post is going up today. I have my latest batch of Weird Fruit Curd just barely starting its waterbath on the stove. This year it’s a mix of peaches, a lemon a friend left at our place, and a bunch of sea buckthorn berries that I found in the freezer section of the grocery store (they are bitter, not sour, and not citrusy at all BUT they are exactly right for making fruit curd, so I’m going for it).

Some of the fruit curd, when it’s done, is going to be mixed into a soul cake – think cheesecake, but a 2000+ year old recipe – and used for offerings on both my home altar and the Autumn stone I’ll be visiting on Wednesday.

Right now, my altar candles are lit – I just did Ritual with the folks down in DC – and I’ve put a cup of chai with a little milk in it up there as an offering. I’ve been burning Prosperity incense today, because it seemed appropriate for the “I am enough, I have enough” Work that I’m doing this Equinox.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about a job I applied for, and then took, because it was the only one available at the time, and which I’ve been regretting pretty much ever since, wanting to pull the plug and get out and waffling like heck because – among other reasons – while I don’t need it, and it’s making my life harder from the perspectives of creativity and anxiety, it’s also making my life much, much easier, financially. And that’s one of the factors I’m grappling with as I consider making my exit.

My girlfriend walked me through a somatic meditation the other day – I swear, this is relevant – that asked me to feel in my body the sense of “being cared for”. Not the stories I tell myself about what that does or doesn’t look like, or is/isn’t allowed to look like, but the literal, physical sensation of “being cared for”.

This was actually pretty easy to do. As someone with an anxiety disorder, and attachment anxiety on top of that, but who also has a couple of really solid, secure attachments in her life, the sensation of “when that shuts up and I feel safe” is actually familiar (amazing!) and something I can call up. Warmth, a cessation of the jittery trembling that is part of my baseline most of the time and its replacement with stillness, with calm. My shoulders coming down from my ears. My breath coming more easily, and more deeply, in and out of my lungs. A slowness. A palpable relief.

And that feeling came – not 100% easily, but it came – when I called.

What I wasn’t expecting was what came with it.

What came with it was the sensation/vision of a long, warm, tealight flame glowing steadily in my solar plexus. Golden light. Heat and calm and focus.

Now, you all know that I do a lot of Chakra Stuff. So I knew what I was looking at. The experience was a reminder that resilience isn’t something that is internally generated, that humans are animals whose strength is in community, whose power is in our connections, and our resilience comes from being cared for by others when we need the support, and by caring for other when they need it.

For a long time, my prayer has been “Let me have enough to share”.

And I’m finding that I draw a distinction between “share” and “give away”. Probably this comes from something like having grown up in this culture where we has so much stuff that we not only have more Things than we personally need, but that some of us don’t even know anybody personally who does need them. Where dropping things off at Value Village is less a kindness to someone else and more a way of avoiding putting still-useful things directly into a landfill with your own hands.

For me, “share” means “Clothing Swap” and “Free Box”. It means “Call that friend who sometimes run out of groceries and offer them the extra produce from the CSA”. It means “Community Fridge” and, sometimes, “Buy Nothing Group”. It means giving your extras to people you know – or at least people you might know because you live in the same neighbourhood or at the same intersection of opressions. Sharing is part of the resilience we offer to each other.

To give something away is a different situation. “To share [something]” is to keep it in the family, one way or another. “To give [something] away” is to let it go entirely. To let something move out of your hands, your family, your community and, yes, to be picked up by someone else who will welcome and cherish it but, also, never to return your way.

There’s a Saying that shows up in a lot of “psychology of wealth” self-help books, and in a lot of How To Magic books, too, about manifestation and how you have to shift the old, cluttered, stuff out in order to make room for new, wanted, stuff to come in. It’s one of the reasons why we make sacrifices. It’s why we ritually sain and sweep our houses, too. It’s why we shed our serpent skins to renew ourselves as we grow.

A lot of what stops people – or at least people like me, people who’ve known physical and emotional scarcity for big chunks of their lives – from being able to take the step of shifting the “old stuff” out is that… what if we need that some day? What if we need that [broken bed-frame] [exploitative job] [ill-fitting shirt] [unreliable, entitled ‘friend’] because we don’t have anything else?

So, this Autumn Equinox, this harvest time, I’m praying for Enough not just for us, for now, not just for us to keep and save and seed, not even just enough for us to share. I’m praying for Enough to be able to give things away and still keep me and mine safe and sure.

~*~

Three cards from the Wildwood tarot, laid out on a cedar board: “Healing”, the Seven of Stones (a Greenwoman does energy work on a fallen man in a kilt. They are surrounded by short standing stones). “Home”, the Ten of Stones (Looking through a stone arch, we see a giant roundhouse with a well-established living oak as its center post). “The Ancestor”, the Five of the Major Arcana (A woman with a deer’s head, dressed in Iron Age clothes, stands in the deep snow playing a bodhran. She is flanked by birch trees. A waxing crescent moon hangs in the background).

Given all this talk of resilience and redistribution, I was expecting the Six of Stones to fall out of my deck. Instead, I got the above three cards leaping out of my hands and landing at my feet.

My Wildwood deck is very literal – probably the most literal and here-and-now deck in my collection, none of whom are exactly subtle about a situation – so when I see the Seven of Stones (who was the archetypal energy we invoked at High Summer) – and the Ancestor (Oh, Hai, Samhain) on either side of a card called Home, I can recognize that my deck is saying “Yep! It is, indeed, Autumn Equinox in these parts!” So: Happy Harvest Home to you, too, my beloved kin of blood and spirit. I see you. ❤

And.

Because tarot is a language of metaphor, and there’s usually more than one thing going on in a given reading, I can look at these cards and see:

The seven of stones is an interim report, a check-in card that asks me to see if what I’m actually doing matches what I want and need to be doing. I had to laugh when I looked up “seven of pentacles” and got this very old post from Little Red Tarot, explicitly about leaving a job purely because it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. If only because I’m chewing on pulling that particular pin myself. It’s a card that says, as I once commented to my voice teacher approximately half a lifetime ago, “Freedom is paying your own bills”. It’s a reminder that Autonomy means you have both hard work ahead of you, step-by-step processes to follow if you want to get where you’re aiming and the time you need to rest and get used to this idea of Having Enough and not having to scrabble all the time.

The Hierophant – in this deck, the Ancestor – asks “Are your actions in line with your values?” It asks “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” It asks me, in light of my payers and goals, How I’m defining “enough”, and how will I be ethical in my use of food, rare earths, potable water, fossil fuels, such that my desire for “enough to give (throw?) away” isn’t wasteful, isn’t theft, isn’t taking food out of someone else’s mouth?

Home – the ten of stones, this card that means material security and secure attachments at the same time – is an end-goal and a leveling-up at the same time. It reminds me that “Magic Happens In My Comfort Zone” (which is an image I saw on instagram, and now can’t find to say where) and that change, creative work, personal growth, and magic happen – sure – at the Resilient Edge of Resistance, but generally NOT when I’m struggling, emotionally activated, and losing sleep over food insecurity. But it also asks me: When you get what you want, what will you want next? It reminds me that Home – my safety, my abundance, my security – is built from mutual care and networks of family, blood and spirit, leather and glitter. Home isn’t “I” – not even for a massive introvert like me – but, rather, it’s something we build together out of all of dreams coming true.~*~

~*~

Movement: Heh. I ran up and down my basement steps 35+ times last weekend (not all in a row, but all in the same afternoon) to make sure I got Exercise. Yesterday, my wife and I went on a long, beautiful ramble along Pinecrest creek. I’d never been up towards its headwaters before, and it is a beautiful stroll under shade and through meadow. We said Hi to some big oak trees – old enough that it would take two tall women like us to stretch our arms all the way around the trunk – trailed our fingers in the creek water, met a lot of willow trees (their roots were trailing in the water, red as paint, it was amazing!) I look forward to doing this again!

Attention: Right this second, while my hands and eyes are working on this post, my nose and the back of my tongue are paying attention to the smell of mini soul cakes – made with the last quarter-cup of fruit curd that didn’t fit in the jars, plus sound ground spicebush berries and a little bit of whisky, plus the usual eggs, cream cheese, and honey – and waiting to take them out of the oven. I’m also paying attention to the torn up sidewalk outside, which is due to be replaced tomorrow. (I need to go out and embed some sigils in the gravel this evening).

Gratitude: Delicious food. BBQ dinner with some of my polycule. That long, glorious walk yesterday. Doing ritual with my far-way folk. Five pay-days this month plus enough cash in my recently-started travel fund that I can pay off my travel ticket fairly quickly, instead of it take 6+ months to do. Sunlight dappling through the cedar fronds outside my window. Being able to vote by mail. Two out of three jobs being jobs I actually love doing. A freezer full of stock bones, cauliflower, and zucchini. Glorious books out from the library (“Robert MacFarlane’s “Underland” is amazing and is, frankly, going to have a permanent place on my Witch Books shelf). A present for our household arriving in the mail. Getting to see my girlfriend soon. A long-over-due date with my wife. I have got SO MANY things to be grateful for!

Inspiration: Those blood-red willow roots! The half-billion-year-old stone plane that the creek runs over – it’s been so dry that a lot of it is exposed. You could have a (very small) dance party on a moonlit floor older than a lot of life on earth! This is the old sea bed that I’ve lived on most of my life. That’s underpinning my house right now. The sea that makes me a sea witch on dry land.

Creation: Soul cakes, fruit curd, the beginnings of potential poems ghosting around the edges of my mind.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests (Lunar Beltane 2021)

The crown of a serviceberry tree in full flower, with a clear, blue sky behind it.
A serviceberry tree in full flower in somebody’s front yard,
with a very clear blue sky behind it. Photo by me.

I keep sitting down to write these things and not knowing what to say. A year ago, I had just started an admin job that gave me almost enough money to cover the bills, barely, on its own.

Now I have three jobs and more money than I’ve ever seen (which, admittedly, is still not tonnes. But it makes a massive difference).

I got vaccinated yesterday. First dose of AZ which is currently living up to its reputation as Kind Of A Meanie. Last night I was so stiff and sore, it felt like I’d been walking for about three hours, in winter, and had had a bad fall in the process, with my hip and shoulder taking most of the impact.

That’s not what happened, clearly, but that’s how it felt.

Today, I’m a lot better, but “better” still means my hips, thighs, and knees are worn out and very sore all over again after one whole walk to the end of the block and back. Hot showers help. Heating pads help. Knowing that my body’s making antibodies to keep me alive helps. Remembering that my Fetch is both my body and my child-self helps, because it reminds me that I need to baby myself and that “experiencing pain” is not the only, nor (in my case at least) the best, way for me to Be In My Body.

Maybe it’s timely that I’m taking a class on self-care later today.

Coming home from my doctor’s office yesterday, we saw that the service berries planted (in profusion!) around our old neighbourhood are getting ready to burst into bloom. This morning, when I walked to the corner and back, I saw that the one on my street is in full flower.

The serviceberries blooming haven’t always been my indicator that it’s Beltane.

But they started to carry that designation a couple of years ago. Ha. Probably the year after I realized that my then-neighbourhood was full of free dessert, if I just paid attention enough to notice it. 😉

My rhubarb, sorrel, and lovage made it through the winter – they started poking through the ground when Leaf Moon began, about two weeks ago. And the relief and joy I feel about that (and the transplanted narcissus, cranes’ bill, day lilies, and solomon’s seal) comes through every single spring. They are more “spring” to me than the actual equinox, in a lot of ways, and the Serviceberries blooming work the same way for Beltane.

Serviceberries – June berries, Saskatoons – are in bloom, around here, any time between 10 days before and 10 days after May 1st. And their fruit tends to be ripe and ready to eat any time between Summer Solstice (which is pretty early for them, yet, but there are always a few) and early July. Sometimes the fruit hits peak ripeness all at once, and you have to be out with a grocery bag for a few hours a day if you want to get a harvest in. Other times, the season lasts for two weeks, overlapping with the sour cherries by a significant period, and you can be a bit more leisurely about picking them. But, because of when the bloom (earlier than crab apples and even pie cherries – though those are definitely on their way) and fruit (same), they’ve starting murmuring to me about the relationship between Beltane and Midsummer in my own bioregion.

This is a constant project for me. What is happening, in my reality, in my neighbourhood, at these pre-set (ish) dates, some of which are solar and some of which… aren’t. My date book calls this full Leaf Moon “Lunar Beltane” because it’s the closest full moon to May 1st. This is absolutely a modern convention (I mean, pretty much all of neopagan practices are modern conventions, up to and including calling Autumn Equinox “Mabon” – which: nothing wrong that, actually, don’t freak out, it’s fine) but it makes me smile to think of how my bioregion has a “May Tree” of its own, one that links the hope of the flower (call it a prayer, call it a spell) to the first success of the fruit and the mature, viable seeds which, themselves, need a full cycle of the seasons – the freeze and the thaw and the months of “cold stratification” – before they germinate and and start growing into trees of their own.

I wonder how much of magic, of spellcraft, is like this for people.

It makes me think of the job magic I did, more than a year ago, and how the spell fruited me a mat leave contract, which – a full cycle of the seasons later – has become a much longer-term gig in the same field.

It has me asking: What spellcraft do I want to do – what showy explosion of hope and will – between Monday’s full moon (Pink Moon, in Scorpio) and the New Moon in Taurus coming up on May 11th? What will my Beltane magic be?

~*~

Next World Tarot - The Empress - A Black femme w/ lavender hair and a yellow skirt,
carries a torch and holds a potted plant. A huge, full moon rises in the background.
Next World Tarot – The Empress – A Black femme w/ lavender hair and a yellow skirt,
carries a torch and holds a potted plant. A huge, full moon rises in the background.

I used a random tarot card generator to “pull” a card for my tarot card meditation for the Full Moon in Scorpio.

When I saw that I’d pulled the Empress… I wasn’t surprised. It’s Taurus Season. It’s her time! The Moon is in Scorpio (or will be, shortly, more accurately), and I was literally thinking “Should I do sex magic at this time?” as I was flipping the card.

So. That’s a BIG Yes.

Got it!

~*~

Movement: Ahahahaha. I hurt. Walking to the end of the block and back was A Lot. But there have been walks at sunset with my wife, wandering along the bike paths around here, spotting wild raspberry bushes and feral daffodils, and that has been wonderful.

Attention: Right this second? I’m paying attention to how and where my body hurts. Also paying attention the Thrive conference (on Kink and Mental Health).

Gratitude: Grateful for my wife, her partner, and my all having had our first done of covid vaccine. Thank you all the gods! Grateful for all my jobs. Grateful for the warm weather coming back. Grateful for serviceberry trees in flower. Grateful for the rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, solomon’s seal, tulips, narcissus, and all the other plants waking up and coming back to life. Grateful for the cardinals that come to our window. Grateful for the possibility of my girlfriend, eventually, being able to drive up for a visit now that we’re all getting our antibodies in place. Grateful for walks with my wife. Grateful for feral daffodils. Grateful for this pretty great life.

Inspiration: Is it weird to say “my own poetry”? Also watching my friend learn how to make Very Aesthetic tiktok videos is actually inspiring. I’m not sure (yet) that I want to go putting my face in a tiny video, but it’s a lovely reminder that dressing up is effective and does help me feel magical, competent, and powerful.

Creation: Tiny videos to show off my poetry. Using a free collage program on the internet to make pretty pictures. Just playing. It’s been lovely to just be playing.

New Moon – Harvest Moon Begins – Mabon 2020 (Season Of The Witch)

A collection of orange, tan, and white winter squash, topped with a handful of apples, and cast in dramatic shadow. Image by AlreadyExist, via Wiki Free Images

A collection of orange, tan, and white winter squash, topped with a handful of apples, and cast in dramatic shadow. Image by AlreadyExist, via Wiki Free Images


 
I harvested the three globe zucchini that I’d left on the vine to ripen fully. They are striped orange and pale yellow, and look like pie pumpkins (though I’m expecting them to have a texture more like spaghetti squash).
I’ve been making bread again (finally) and candles for my altar (finally) and doing a little bit of sigil magic (finally), and feel like I’m a bit more on top of the CSA situation. My freezers are marvelously full, and so are my fridge and my pantry.
I feel weirdly proud of this, considering how little work – relative to other years – went into it all. But I feel safe and snug – like a squirrel in my cozy creche, knowing I have plenty of nuts stored away and knowing, too, that there are a few more weeks before the ground freezes and the ice on the puddles signals the end of the gathering season.
 
I spent New Moon observing Rosh Hashanah at a friend’s house. Sometimes I feel like contemporary paganism mirrors Judaism – maybe that’s Starhawk’s influence, or maybe it’s the whole Kitchen Table Religion thing, or maybe it’s just that Ashkenazi Jewish traditions developed over hundreds of years in central and northern Europe, where apples would have been a readily available sweet taste with-which to ring in the new year – but it made me smile that mine wasn’t the only religion spending the Autumn Equinox (this year, at least) with shared apples and celebration.
 

 

 
These two tweets crossed my feed at very different times – a solid three weeks apart – but they both have me asking myself “What is Mabon to ME?”
I mean, yes, definitely, the Harvest Moon kicks off the Season of the Witch in a way that feels very in line with my own recent magical workings. But the beginning of Harvest Moon doesn’t always coincide as closely with the Equinox as it did this year.
 
In my neck of the woods, Mabon is definitely a Harvest Festival, and one that I do associate with fruit. Even when most of my wild-harvesting (crab apples, choke cherries, wild antique apples) happens much earlier in September, the local pears are ready to harvest any time between Labour Day and Thanks Giving, so… it fits.
But I also associate Mabon with rest. With the glut of the harvest (or, in my case, the CSA) calming down enough to keep up with, and with the temperatures falling enough that I’m no-longer loathe to turn on the oven.
 
If Lamas is a time for barbecues and musk melon and corn on the cob, for Big Manifesting Energy, for offerings of blueberry Welsh Cakes wrapped in foil and baked in the campfire coals, for the first heady flush of the (hopefully) long and heavy harvest (beans, summer squash, eggplants, and tomatoes, oh my!); if Samhain is a time for candles and ancestors, for freezer orders of pork and lamb, for dumb suppers and offerings of liver mousse, seared heart, and maple whisky, for winter squash stuffed with kasha and braised tongue, then what falls between them is this:
 
A point of pause.
The place where Libra’s scales balance like light and dark.
You could even call it Intermission.
 
If you’re familiar with the Wildwood Tarot, you’ll know that – by their calendar – this is the Season of Cups. The moment where the Hanged Man finds her new perspective as the Lady of the Lake.
 
Sometimes I think of Mabon as the Witches’ Thanks Giving.
The part of the triple harvest where we have the opportunity slow it down, celebrate, acknowledge, and express our gratitude – to and with each other, to and with the ground that provides for us – to ask “What have you harvested this year? What has come to fruition?”
 
Last night, I did a Fancy Dinner – by my standards of fancy, at least. Brussels Sprouts steamed then pan-fried in butter, maple syrup, and a little whiskey; pork tenderloin slow-roasted over a mix of onion, golden & chiogia beets, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and kholrabi; served with a white wine and with the altar candles lit up.
That feels like an appropriate Mabon meal, and the left-overs will be diced into a stew tomorrow.
But tonight – mostly because we have them and they need to be eaten up – our Actual Mabon Meal is going to be way more remeniscent of Lamas: Grilled burgers + corn on the cob.
But I have apples baking in the oven, filling the house with slow heat and delicious smells, and that’s not nothing. My hands are soft with butter and my heart is full.
 
~*~
 
Something else I should mention.
We woke up on New Moon to discover that one of our birds, Matilda – our little blue and white budgie – had died in the night. It looked like she had a peaceful death. Just went to sleep and stopped. But it was a sad day.
We buried her today, under the cedar tree in our front yard.
I planted a mulberry next to her and we’ll see what grows in spring.
 
~*~
 

Two of Cups - Cristy C Road - Next World Tarot - Two sweeties embrace on a beach, clearly besotted with one another

Two of Cups – Cristy C Road – Next World Tarot – Two sweeties embrace on a beach, clearly besotted with one another


 
In keeping with my usual lunar practice, I shuffled one of my tarot decks – Cristy C Road’s Next World Tarot – and let a card jump out for me.
What I got was the Two of Cups.
Heh.
Okay, I know. The two of cups means a whole bunch of things. But my decks tend to be real literal too, and it’s not weird that on a day where I’m writing both about beginnings and the season of cups, that this is the card that came up.
That being said.
As a tarot card meditation this is a reminder that love shows up, that romance is real, that we balance each other in all the ways we need.
It was a good card to pull, and one I’ll try to keep in my heart as the days get darker.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Early evening walks with my wife. Moon Saluations every night (except two days ago, and you guys, I am still feeling it). Squats. Carrying heavy groceries home today.
 
Attention: Trying to stay on top of the vegetables. (Already) Looking for work to take on once my year-long contract wraps up at the end of March. Eying what to expect in my impending CSA delivery so that I can plan a little bit for how to deal with it. Looking forward to the sex magic class I’m taking tomorrow evening.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for my sweeties. For celebrations with friends. For getting to do long-distance ritual over the internet. For pals who jump at the chance to perform kinky poetry to a small and select audience. For snuggles with my wife. For tarot readings and hot tea on the back deck with my friend. For new-to-me house wares. For energy work with my girlfriend. For a warm house and a full larder. For the life of our Matilda and the company we kept.
 
Inspiration: The season of cups. The work of other femmes. The new moon setting. Jupiter and Saturn rising in the eastern sky. My fabric stash and soothing sewing videos on youtube that remind me what I want to make next.
 
Creation: Wrote a new glosa today, and finished another. I am so freaking close, you guys. I know, I know, the work has only just begun. But I’m still excited about getting Phase One of this project officially completed! Also: I made another mask.
 

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.

Book Review with Feelings – To Speak for the Trees

So I picked up a book from the library (one of many, many books that will now be hanging out at my place for the duration), because it was unexpectedly available. It’s one I have on reserve, but was not expecting to be able to get it early.
The book is To Speak for the Trees by Diana Beresford-Kroeger.
The author is local to my area, and she’s suggesting that everybody plant one native tree per year, per member of their household, for the next six years, in order to help slow climate change.
Which is a good idea, if you’ve got the space and/or know how to sneak new trees into public parks. Recommended.
However, that’s not what this book is about.
It’s, um…
It’s mostly a memoir?
There are bits of it that are good. I like the last four chapters of Part 1 (so slightly less than a third of Part 1) and Part 2, which is about the Ogham tree alphabet, and is interesting even if it’s… oddly ordered.
But I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, and I’m…
 
Okay. I’m just going to say it.
The story-line of how the lonely child of minor English nobility – half Oppressed Minority on her mother’s side, no less – was Tragically Orphaned in her tweens, then taken in by her rural, Irish maternal line only to become The Chosen One who would be given all the Ancient Celtic Wisdom (and she specifically says “Celtic”[1]) of her ancestors by the aging – think octogenarians circa 1950 – population of a village that had somehow, due to isolation, managed to avoid the worst of the Penal Times practices… and is now, only NOW, passing that Wisdom on to the rest of the world (when those octogenarians, and all of their immediate offspring who ostensibly didn’t wanna hear it, are reliably dead and unable to contest any of this) in the hopes of changing how (white) people relate to the non-human world…
Let’s just say that I find this a little too convenient combined with a little too… Hero’s Journey?
 
Like… I find it more than a little unbelievable.
The same way I find Dorothy Clutterbuck (who, granted, would have been about the same age as, or a tiny bit older than, those Wise Celtic Ancestors of Diana’s) a little unbelievable. I’m aware that Romanticism was at its peak between 1800 and 1850, well before Dorothy OR the Irish Ancestors were born, and I can imagine some of this stuff being just… leftover romantic stuff. But I also can’t help wondering how much of this is just… straight up fiction. Or at least someone drastically stretching the truth of her 60-years-gone memories into something that sounds like “White Folks Were Wild Once Too”.
 
I’m kind of conflicted about that.
 
Like, on the one hand, I’m over here trying to naturalize myself, develop relationships with The Neighbours, not be an asshole to the plants I cultivate and wild-harvest, and be aware that I’m not the only person who calls my back yard home. And I’m doing it explicitly as a PAGAN-identified religious white lady.
I want this stuff to be true.
I want there to have been vestiges of pre-Christian religion hanging on and still being practiced as part of folk-Christianity by people who were being exploited by capitalist extraction rather than benefiting from, or driving, it.
I want to have examples to draw on of “How To Be” from cultures considerably, vastly closer to the one I spring from, if only so that I’m not strolling around quoting Braiding Sweetgrass like I’m not part of the problem.
 
And, on the other hand, this book reads so much like it’s trying to be “Braiding Sweetgrass for White People”, with a heaping helping of memoir and a side order of “No Really, This Is Ancient Wisdom, For Real For For Real”. And I don’t know what to do with that.
 
Look… What do I want? I want to know how my very distant ancestors – my pre-Roman ancestors, who were later called the Selgovae by Rome – interacted with the rest of the world. I want to know how those late stone-age farmers (neolithic) and hunters (mesolithic, but later, too, apparently) interacted with, and understood their place in, the forests-and-shorelines where they lived.
I want to know how to grow a… a “savana garden” that’s more raspberries and pavement roses, rhubarb, sorrel, lovage and other perennial herbs & flowers, with only a few (mostly fruit) trees clustered here and there under-which the real shade-lovers – Bayberry, witch hazel, spice bush, wild ginger, ramps, fiddleheads, sweet woofroffe, and lungwort – can comfortably grow.
I want to get familiar with the tiny ecosystem of my (next) back yard, and to help it thrive. To be a good neighbour.
I want to flavour my food BOTH with the flavours of the place where I live – cranberries & partridge berries, raspberry and thimble berry, spice bush, bayberry leaf (NOT the berries), maple, anise hyssop, crab apple, choke cherry, ramps and crow garlic (I know there are others, but I’m not familiar with them) – AND of the place where my ancestors came from (red currants, gooseberries & josta berries, rosehips, rhubarb, every mustard under the sun and every cheese that Scotland ever boasted, juniper berries, thyme, savoury, onion, garlic, leeks, lovage, sorrel, culinary sage, a million different mints, apples, pears, pie cherries, the bitter wild greens we brought with us (dandelion, mallow, plantane, yarrow, rampion), rose petals, begamot, lavender, elder flower, sweet woodroffe, honey, wine, mead, beer, and cider).
AND I also want to know the magico-medicinal plants of my own ancestors. I want to burn mugwort and summer savoury twigs in a Beltane fire. I want to steep juniper berries and rosehips and (cooked!) elder berries together in vodka, gin, or wine to make a tincture full of vitamin C, and to fill a bowl with hot water and pine needles, juniper berries, birch leaves, creeping charlie, and peppermint when I need to open up my lungs. I want to flick salt water off a pine or juniper broom to consecrate a space. I want hawthorn for good boundaries and roses for romance and apples for fortune telling.
By that token, Part Two of To Speak for the Trees is interesting and something to chew on, even if she’s – apparently – writing out the tree alphabet in entirely the wrong order.
I like Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s Bioplan that encourages people to plant native trees on the regular. I like the IDEA of sustained ancient knowledge. But I don’t really think that I can recommend her book as a resource for pagans.
 
Here, have some (distraction) videos about trees and suchlike:
Suzanne Simard on How Trees Talk to Each Other
Diana Beresford-Kroeger discusses climate change
How to Grow a Forest in Your Back Yard
A documentary on Rewilding Scotland
Have fun, kids.
&nbbsp;
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Look, I thought that was something only people like me did, people who are actually really removed from Irish culture, Scottish cultures, Manx and Cornish and British and Angolish cultures, Breton and Iberian cultures, heck Newfoundland and Cape Breton cultures, so it seems odd to me than an Irish woman is using that term. Maybe I’m wrong? But it seems… strange to me.