Tag Archives: meet the house spirits

New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 20 – Hearth Appreciation

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: Do something nice for your home.
 
Tarot Card: The ten of earth, obviously. (This is one of my favourite cards in the Wildwood deck. It’s one of the ones that made me decided to get it, and it bears a certain resemblance to the “home base” of my psychic hearth, which doesn’t hurt).
 
So. This prompt. What Miss Sugar says about how it’s hard to keep all the chainsaws in the air? She’s right. And I can SO relate to the feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and unraveling that come with having a home whose mess has gone beyond my capacity to know where to even start.
I’ve spent a lot of the last year-and-a-bit doing the money-hustle (which has been going better over the past four months than most of the time previous there-to – so yay) BUT, no surprise, it’s meant that I’ve had a lot less time available to do hearth-tending than I typically like.
This past week, though, and the one coming have been blessed (uh… ish…) with less paid work than usual, meaning: yeah, less money, which is a problem, but also: MOAR TIME! I’ve been able to get out and work on my freaking poetry manuscript (thank you, gods!) AND I’ve been able to do some cleaning (beyond dishes) and canning (at all), which has me feeling a whole lot better. I’ve even managed to light my altars for the first time in MONTHS (bad pagan…) which, I gotta say, is SUCH a relief.
 
Tonight I’m cleaning my counter (dishes + a solid wipe-down of surfaces), prepping the first bunch of tomatoes for canning, lighting my altars again, and putting a bouquet of flowering apple mint out for the Ladies, because… I owe them some attention, frankly.
 
Anyway. Time to get on that. ❤
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

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Hearth, Hospitality, and Home

My fingers are ringing with the bright chill of peppermint and rosemary essential oils. There’s lavender mixed in there, too, and white vinegar, and salt. I swear, the idea was just to deoderize (ye gods) a tea towel and some of my dish cloths, but I wound up sloshing the last of it across my steps, pouring out protections just ’cause I can.
 
That’s the lovely thing about herbal magic. Generally speaking, if it’ll cure a cold or sanitize a diaper, it’ll probably also work in protection magic. That’s how it goes, right? If mint and birch will open up your lungs again, by breathing the steam or drinking the tea, then maybe hanging a bunch of them (to dry, yeah) over your threshold will keep the sickness from your door in the first place. Maybe it’ll keep other bad stuff away, too.
 
So that – along with putting the coffee on – was what I did before 8am this morning. (I know, I know, a whole heap of you folks have to be at a desk by 8am and were doing this with the sun barely over the horizon, but we run on a slightly different schedule here).
 
I’m going to spend the day (a) prepping my set list and numbering chapbooks for my show, but also (b) catching up on various house-wifely and kitchen-witchly tasks that have been needing some attention. Stuff like re-stocking my beeswax candle supply (since I’ll be lighting my altars tonight anyway), doing the laundry in the hand-crank machine, feeding & weeding the garden, patching my wife’s skirt, plus the usual daily tasks like dishes (endless dishes…) and dinner.
 

 
Maybe it’s because Mercury is (fucking finally) out of Retrograde, and the conversations are flowing more freely again, or maybe it’s because I just read S. Bear Bergman’s Blood, Marriage, Wine, and Glitter, but I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot about hearth, hospitality, and family of late:
Talking with a friend, as I taught her to spin, about “career housewifery” and how some people are happiest and most fulfilled when their paid work is, at most, part-time and, frequently, piecework or casual hours.
Talking with my mom about both my sister’s new baby and my (and my wife’s) new, recently-relocated girlfriend and realizing that my mom is handling the reality of my polyamoury really quite well.
Understanding, more and more, how much hospitality matters to me, how much it feeds me on an emotional, heart-and-soul level, as well as how much it touches on, and overlaps with, my faith and what, in turn, that means in terms of being welcoming and offering people my spare bed to sleep on, whether or not I necessarily want to hang with them for the next 72 hours, or whatever. All that stuff from The Oddyssey, where you invite someone[1] in, feed them a really good meal, and then get around to “So, who are you, anyway?” that’s really relevant here.
 
So much of my day-to-day work/Work is… care-taking. The sheer weight of gratitude when my girfriend gets the interview, my friends (plural) come out of their surgeries safely, my brother gets to change streams, my extended fam gets to keep its reunion for another year. That my devotional candles include my gods, my ancestors, and one dedicated to “family and friends” – to my leather/glitter family close and distant. That the garden I plant, that is connected to and is-flat-out my gods (Misha, Mattaer, in particular), that connects me to my farming (and primarily maternal, though paternal too) ancestors, that I harvest with feeding The Multitude in mind, that it was built by that family (the soil, the bedframes, even some of the plants). That the garden I planted for beauty and the bees is made up almost exculsively of plants given to me by glitter-fam, wine-kin, leather-crew.
 

“Masha, my own, my littlest sister,” the matron called down. “Take this with you.”
She bit off her yarn in her teeth and tossed the red ball to Marya, who caught it and squeezed it like fruit at the market. The yarn was softer than any wool, expertly spun, thick.
“It will always lead you back, to your country, to your home. I make all my children’s stockings with the stuff, so they will know how to come home[…]”
Deathless (Catherynne M. Valente)

 
A million years ago (AKA 2004), in an entirely different house and an entirely different life, or close to it, I commented to one of my witchy friends who’d come for Summer Solstice (a week after I’d moved in) that my religion is garden-kitchen-table religion. It’s the feasting and the feeding, the communion of wine-and-weeding, weekly brunches in untidy homes because family doesn’t care about the mess; of potluck feasting and gifted jars of fruit-butter; of “I can stretch dinner for an extra person” and “Ye gods, please take this bag of zucchini/rhubarb/mint/tomatoes off my hands”. It’s the holiness, and wholeness, that are passed hand-to-hand along with the gravy, the green beans, the goodie bags. It’s the protections stirred into the soup, spun into the yarn, sewn into the patches. Every stitch to keep you safe and bring you home again.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] And, yes, there’s a bit of a “vetting process” as to whom you invite in. In the case of Ancient Greek Nobility, it was “Does he [always he] own his own his own warship? If yes, clearly he’s The Right Sort.” But it’s just as easily understood as Bear’s “shaking the queer tree” method of couch-surfing and finding couches for others to surf based on having a friend in common, wherein said friend’s existence is a tacit approval of both the person who needs the couch and the person who has one available.

Where Has The Nail Polish Remover Gone? – Pagan Experience 2015

Okay.
So we have People.
Every so often, something – usually from my wife’s workshop (becaus eshe has a lot of cool stuff, but maybe also because a lot of said stuff is ancient technology), but sometimes from elsewhere – will randomly go missing. For an hour. Sometimes for a couple of days. And then it’ll be back, right where we’d last seen it, right where we’d check however-often in the interveining span of time during-which it was resolutely Not There.
 
I’ve heard people talking about how the fairies, or the houseweights, or some other subsection of the house-spirit population, stole their keys or otherwise messed with their stuff, so it’s not really shocking that this would happen to us, as well.
 
I guess what I’m wondering is “Why do they want this stuff?” And why, perhaps more to the point, do I think it makes sense for them to want some of the stuff – hand tools, for example – but not other stuff, like the titular nail polish remover. Is it just because it’s pretty? Blue? A weird set of chemicals to experiment with? Is it becasue I use it fairly regularly, and they wanted to check it out? Is it because they want me to notice them?
 
I have no freaking idea. O.O
 
In chatting with my wife about this, we’ve concluded that (a) it’s really great that at least everything always comes back, and also (b) that nothing additional comes back with it. Because that would be even weirder and more disconcerting.
 
Anyone reading this have similar experiences? Does asking for the swift return of items get them back any faster? Thoughts? Suggestions?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

(Getting Beyond) Humanity – The Pagan Experience

This is a weird one for me, I have to admit, because “humanity” is, for me, linked to “human population” rather than to the term “humane”. It’s strange, because a significant part of my paganism is about expanding my idea of “community” or “neighbourhood” or “people” to include considerably more than just the human membership.
None the less, I’ll see what I can do with this.
If I take “humanity” to mean “humane-ness”… Well, the most obvious part of that is Good Witching – which I’ve written about plenty already (here’s one of them, if you like), but which boils down to looking out for your neighbours and generally being kind and compassionate, even with people who try your patience. The other part is… well, this is me, right? So: Where does your food come from? I’m still a day or two away from placing my Meat CSA order, but my lovely wife and I have decided to go with this option for, basically, Religious Reasons. If we’re going to eat people – bovine and porcine and avian people – we’d best be making sure they had a good, kind, decent life before they died in order to end up on our table and in our stomachs[1]. Likewise, where does your non-animal-kingdom food come from? Were the farmers paid fairly for their produce & their labour? Were the veggies and fruit trees and mushrooms wild-gathered? Were they raised in healthy soil (particularly if it’s soil that you’re working, yourself)? Were they fed a lot of harsh chemicals?
It basically boils down to: Are you treading lightly on the ground that sustains you? Are you being good to your Neighbours?
Are you?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] To that end we’ve started eating “vegetarian inspired” food – meaning more food where the protein component comes from beans and grains and nuts, even if the mirpoix is fried in lard, and the beans and grains are cooked in bone-stock – a few times per week, in order to stretch the half-share a little better (and also for a couple of other reasons). The half-share works out, by a conservative estimate, to about 2lbs/week which… I can make stretch across four meals, certainly, though I’d be happier stretching across half of that. I figure if I follow my “some is better than none” principal, I can supplement the half-share with meat from other sources – sausages from the fancy/humane place up the street (which won’t be cheaper, I’m very well aware); fish from the river if I manage to catch any this July; free-run rabbits from the Rabbit Lady; as well as from ethically-okay-ish sources like the Free From brand of pork roasts that I can pick up at the grocery store if I’m so inclined.

Deities and the Divine – Pagan Experience 2015

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

V is for Veil (and Victuals) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I’m writing this a good half-hour into a “house warming party” to-which I’m fairly certain nobody corporeal is going to be coming.
We’ve had five seven trick-or-treaters (more chocolate for us, from my perspective) – one of-whom asked me why I’m so tall (I told her that I come by it naturally and that all my ancestors are tall – not 100% true, but close enough for an answer); and the gods – as they do – have taken their due. I’m nursing a burn on my right arm from the oven, where I burned it taking the beef braise out of the oven.
Braised beef + various veggies + a little blue cheese for garnish (and also because my Dad loves that stuff – he died almost 15 years ago, so I got it for the ancestor plate).
 
Ah, yes, the ancestor plate.
I spent two hours carving pumpkins – three faces, a half-pumpkin dish (one of the pumpkins was going pretty soft-rotten, unfortunately, so it was just cut and cleaned and used as a dish – holding a hurricane cup of Dragon’s Blood incense – instead of being carved), a fouth featured a carved candle for the beloved dead (with a heart on one side, and skull on the other), and the last carved with the message “Welcome Home”. I think they work.
I burned mhyrr on my altar and lit all the candles, as well (first time I lit all the candles in the house, so: Timely). And I made an ancestor plate.
It’s just a little saucer with some of tonight’s dinner on it, a (tiny) glass of the red wine beside it, and a tea-light as well. I’ll be adding chocolate to the plate later (Hallowe’en candly – pity it isn’t Neilson’s, but they own Cadbury at this point, so it works out a little bit), in part for dessert and in part for my Gram (who was a chocolate fiend) and in part for my Neilson ancestors because: clearly. 🙂
 
While I was getting the dinner going, I could hear my Papa (life-long dairy farmer) talking about “keeping the soy bean men in business” by buying margarine as well as butter. My Dad slid into my dreams last night, just briefly, and he’s not been the only one. I know a few folks who’ve lost family/phamily/tribe in the past 24 hours. The veil, as they say, is thin.
 
I spent a good chunk of this morning finishing up business at the old apartment – and it is, indeed, Past Tense at this point. Finishing Business included the usual laundry and vacuuming and making sure we hadn’t left anything in a closet somewhere, but it also included walking through the place, burning a cone of “purification” incense (a blend of some sort – it does the trck), calling back all the good things that we’d filled our then-home with, and quietly chanting “Out with the old, In with the new” as I went.
It worked.
 
I would have liked to have filled our new house with chatty friends, laughter, and somewhat boisterous celebration tonight – got in about $200 worth of food & drink (mostly food, just to be clear) with that in mind, in fact – but I admit to being a little grateful for the peace, for the quiet and the chance to sit in the calm semi-darkness, altar blazing, seasonally-appropriate music playing (everything from SJ Tucker’s “Come to the Labyrinth”, Heather Dale’s “Call the Names”, and Tori Amos’s “Happy Phantom”; to The Tea Party’s “Requiem”, The Flirtations’ “The Ancestors’ Breath”, and Type O Negative’s “All Hallow’s Eve”; to Florence and the Machine’s “Only if for a Night”, Loreena McKennit’s “All Soul’s Night”, and Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire”), while I write this post and my lovely wife sews horse blankets in the other room.
 
Eventually, we’ll open a bottle of champagne and toast our new home formally, but for now I’m enjoying the quiet. Maybe I’ll get the Brie out next.
 
Here’s to my ancestors, and hers. Here’s to our gods – big and small, familiar and well-known and dear. Here’s to the kids on our doorstep – non-“rainbow-family” kids who got to see a cis girl and a trans girl married and being “normal” in their neighbourhood – and the pumpkins, too, which are part of the harvest and one of-which I carved to have eyes that smile like mine and my dad’s do.
Here’s to being fully moved into the House of Goat – Gods, Ancestors, and All.

V is for Values – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I recently wrote about shifting towards buying local-ish (grown in Canada, rather than in a different hemisphere) dry goods. I also recently had a chat with my wife, wherein she expressed a desire to move towards having less (disposable) plastic in our home. Between these two things, I think that writing a post on Values for, er, last week’s PBP entry is probably pretty appropriate.
 
A long time ago, a couple of friends of mine wrote a book about Neo-Pagan ethics, the difference between ethics (what you do) and values (why you do it), and how people with the same ethics (“It is good to eat locally-grown food”) can being making those decisions based on very different value-sets (“Get to know your neighbours, become part of your multi-species community” vs “When TEOTWAWKI happens, we won’t be able to import bananas from Cuba”). Our household inclinations towards antiques, reusable/biodegradable items, and local foods, and those same inclinations away from non-recyclable plastics, planned obsolesence, and disposable everything, are ethical decisions, but they’re based on a few different sets of values.
 
We value things that last. We value things that are beautiful. We also value things that have stories built into them, and that – as anyone who’s read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making knows – have a spirits, names, and desires, and aren’t “just” inanimate objects. Case in point: Our youngest sewing machine, Janice, really. really wants to do some zig-zag stitches. I’ve promised her that we’ll do some sewing together, so I need to make sure I make that happen before the winter’s out. (I have plans for one dress for me plus a couple of skirts for my wife, so this should be eminantly achievable).
 
I read, ages ago, a blog post (the author of-which I can’t for the life of me remember, though it might have ben one of the Tashlins? Maybe?) about how being an animist effects your purchases and the degree of stuff that you’re willing to accumulate. The author likened it to wanting to cultivate relationships with a few really solid friends (tribe, phamily) rather than having zillions of “friends” with-whom you don’t really have much of a connection and on-whom you can’t really rely (or vice versa, for that matter).
So one of our sets of values is a valuing of stories, of history, of lineage, of things that have been cared for before we ever got to them, of things that were meant to become heirlooms.
 
Another is valuing our own self-sufficiency. My wife can fix just about anything, as long as its analogue. I’ve got food-foo like nobody’s business. But neither of us can make a microchip do what we want it to do, or tinker a car back into functioning if there’s an internal computer system in place. Old stuff is built to last – and stuff that’s built to last has the luxury of getting old – but it’s also built to sustain repairs and (in our case) frequently built before computers really existed, let alone were available for personal-use.
Tied into this is a valuing of frugality, of being able to thrive on a lower income so that we can enjoy more free time, follow career paths that make us happy rather than just keep the bills paid, that sort of thing. Buying second hand stuff that can be readily repaired (at home) and easily maintained works into that. But so does growing and preserving our own food, so does knowing how to cook from scratch.
BUT being able to keep old technology (like my walking wheel or her various sewing machines) working, knowing how to perform “old” skills – cobblery, soap-making, subsistance-farming (to some extent – I won’t be raising my own wheat any time soon), carpentry, water-bath canning, herbcraft, mechanics, saddlery, hand-spinning, tanning (that’s not even all of it, you guys) – and keeping them alive is also a way of keeping in touch with the ancestors.
You know that joke about how your parents/grandparents phone you to fix the computer because they don’t know how to open their web-browser? It’s like that. My great-nan most likely never saw a computer in her life. I have no idea what she thinks of it when I’m sitting here, typing away on my laptop, other than “My great-granddaughter went to UNIVERSITY! She type like the dickens, but heaven only knows why she can’t take shorthand…” or similar. But when I grow squash, my farming Nana and Papa know that their children’s children – one of them, at least – have not abandonned the land completely. When I spin and weave and knit and sew, my Gram, my Nana, my ancestors long before them, and my living mom and mother-in-law, all know that the home-skills they have are still valued and cherished by the next generation, and that those skills won’t disappear when (or now that) they’re gone. When I cook family recipes using seaonsally-available food that I grew myself, harvested from the neighbourhood, or even just bought from an Ottawa Area farmer, I am connecting with the land, with the ancestors, with the traditions and rhythms of time and place. I am become (ever more-so) “a part”, rather than “apart”. And that matters. That’s something that I value.