Tag Archives: seasonal

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.

New Moon – Long Nights Moon Begins

A waxing crescent moon, craters visible, hangs in the lower right quadrant against a black sky. The words “Long Nights Moon” overlay the image in white script.

 

Early December. The Season of the Hag starts today and, right on time, a snowfall. Just deep enough to cover the ground, but light enough that I can sweep my neighbour’s steps rather than getting out the shovel just yet. My wife is away for the weekend, with her girlfriend, and my girlfriend is due to arrive this coming Wednesday for a couple of weeks. She’ll still be here when this barely-new moon is full, and for a couple of days beyond that.

This weekend is going to be a mix of Trying To Relax combined with doing a lot of dishes, getting the second bedroom ready for her arrival, and probably doing a big grocery shop for thing like romano beans and veggie sausages and tempeh.

But it’s also the weekend I make a libation to the Hag of Winter, change the wreath on my front door, and put up the holly garlands by way of seasonal decorations.

Sadly, I didn’t get the extra hours from one of my comms jobs that I was hoping for. I’m not saying it won’t happen eventually, but it’s not happening going into 2022, so: Plan B is in effect. We’ll make it work. I’m looking forward to the day – 7-8 weeks from now – when I’ll have more time on my hands to do things like “stay on top of my kitchen” and “make things from scratch”. I still have a list of things I want to make – jars of romano beans and chick peas and stewing beef, honey-almond-cinnamon ice cream, apple butter, bread (it’s been AGES!), but also skirts, sweaters, button/lacing additions to the slippers I made 2 years ago – that will require time and focus that I haven’t (confession…) wanted to devote to “work” when the other kind of work has been so exhausting.

I’m looking forward the slow turning of Winter into Spring 2022 as a time – I hope – of welcoming my creativity back to wakefulness and finding a better balance between “work that makes me money”, “work that makes me HAPPY”, and “Actual LEISURE, Thanks”.

The voice at the back of my head – which is probably just plane old me and not the whisperings of Angler Fish June Cleaver (but who knows) – asks “Okay, so how are you going to make that happen? You’re still going to be working on Mondays and Tuesdays, just doing a different job. What’s the plan here, Me?” And, mostly, it just means getting out of bed before 9am and doing some of that Productive Home stuff in the hour or two before starting my money-making work day. Sewing or knitting while I chat with my girls and drink my morning coffee. Taking myself out of the house for a walk every Saturday morning. Making a point of shutting down work and reading a book for an hour once dinner’s on the go. Staying off social media more than I do (I say while blogging, um…) Just getting my priorities sorted in a way that makes me put the money-work away, deliberately, every day and that helps me avoid Mindless Scrolling.

Right now, there’s a grey squirrel eating birdseed on my window. A couple of crows have flown over the house – one of them just landed in the tree across the street). And my own little birds are preening and waking up now that there’s some afternoon light coming in through our north-by-northwest-facing window. I need to take myself back up the street and pick up some birdseed for them, I think.

Mary El Tarot Deck – The Tower (a burning image of something that looks a bit like the statue of liberty), reversed; The 10 of Disks (a winged, black horse whose rider is a white goat with numerous, spiraling horns, carrying a stylized set of scales), upright.

Behold, the tarot cards I pulled today. More specifically, I pulled The Tower, Reversed and then, because landing on the tower isn’t strictly FUN even when it’s not scary, I basically said, “Okay, but then what?” nd shuffled until something fell out of the deck. Which, thankfully, was the very positive and reassuring Ten of Earth.

I’ll expand on this a little elsewhere, but my basic read on this is:

  1. That which falls apart wasn’t meant to last.
  2. After the struggle, you find your feet (your security, your sense of home and safety, your material well-being) again.
  3. Don’t freak out.

I mean… I’ll take it. This is fine.

~*~

Movement: I went for a walk this morning, through the little bit of succession woodland near my house while the snow was falling.

Attention: Right this second? I’m paying attention to the stiffness in my back and neck, and to the smell coming from my oven so I don’t let my lunch/dinner burn by accident. Also hunting up new tunes to add to my Winter Solstice mix, and keeping an eye on the snow outside, which seems to have let up for now.

Gratitude: Thankful for an exit strategy, new-to-me clothes (hand-me-downs from my Mom, because I’m at the age where my style and my mom’s overlap enough that this works out), a quiet day, a walk in the woods, delicious lunch (lupper?) in the oven, clean mason jars, a video date this evening, my wife getting some Enforced Down Time, my girlfriend coming up to visit very soon(!), my friend continuing to make a swift recovery from her health scare, beeswax candles, just enough snow to be pretty without being difficult the move through, pretty music playing while I write this, having options that allow me to leave a job when I don’t like it. Grateful for love and support, and for being able to experience and accept those things as true.

Inspiration: Moon phases and astrological positions, weather, seasonal changes, local birds, the wind.

Creation: As I mentioned here, I’ve been drafting a poem (sometimes more) every day since the last Full Moon. It’s felt good to do, without being arduous. I may want to keep it going for longer than my one-lunar-cycle duration but, for now, I’m sticking with that and am at roughly the half-way point. Some of them are… mediocre at the absolute best. But some of them have some good bones to work with, which is nice to see given how long I went without reliably poeting for a while there.

Full Moon – Thunder Moon Crests (and Wanes)

Green leaves of an apple tree caught in a downpour. The blackground is blurry and rain-washed, but there’s a mix of purple and green visible. The words “Thunder Moon” overlay the image in white text.

Okay. Full moon was last weekend, and I spent it banging my girlfriend and doing some chakra un-gunking stuff that got slightly intense.

Only the first part of that was planned.

Summer has been kind of bonkers. We’ve had two relatives die – it wasn’t COVID, it was just that time of life – and my girlfriend has been up to visit twice, one of which included a two-week quarantine just to (follow international travel rules and) be on the safe side. I got to visit my immediate family for a few days – which included getting to meet a new nibbling AND a new sister-in-law in person for the first time, plus a niece who 100% does not remember meeting me that one time when she was an infant several years ago – and we just had a house-guest for a few days more.

It’s been a VERY social summer after a solid year-and-a-half of basically seeing NOBODY.

O.O

So I’m grateful to have this quiet, drizzly afternoon with my house to myself.

It’s finally raining today.

Not anywhere near as much as we need it to, but it still rained, fairly gently, for a few hours. I’m hoping this weather keeps up for at least the next week so that the garden can get a good soaking and the river can refill her banks.

The Lammas Ritual I did almost a month ago, via the internet with Connect DC, was part of a low-key day where I lit my altars and did a little bit of glamour-tinged bath magic – Iron Pentacle work where I called Passion back into my foot (still needs some work, I think – that bit’s always been sticky) and made some time to do Me Maintenance – but didn’t do a whole lot else.

I’m still at a bit of a loss as to how to properly honour my Queer Aunties of Spirit, the Amazons.

Some ideas include:

  • Making my body stronger (which would also just be good for me) – this is likely to involve more yoga, more resistance training (like assisted/modified push-ups and pull-ins), and maybe some cycling?
  • Making regular donations to some kind of women’s support organization like the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, Cornerstone Housing for Women, or – provided they’re welcoming to, and supportive of, trans women/girls – an org like Vesta Recovery (addictions support) or  FitSpirit (that encourages teen girls to stay active). I’ve sent some inquiries off to see who’s on side or not, and will make some decisions from there.
  • Taking the time to make jewelry with them in mind (did this already)
  • Remembering to touch on them specifically, in addition to my other ancestors, when I make offerings (seems to be working so far?)
  • Uh… I’m open to suggestions. I don’t expect myself to take up any kind of HEMA or equestrian activities any time soon.

That said… Given that this is the first time in a month – my girlfriend’s Lady dropping by, notwithstanding – that I’ve Done Stuff that was particularly, or deliberately, religious in nature… I have to say, I’m having some Feels about my magico-religious practices. More on that in a second.

In the land of books: I finished The Hidden Life of Trees, yesterday. It’s a good book. I will probably get the coffee table version (complete with fancy photos) for one or more family members between now and 2022. I’ve got a few others by the same author out from the library, and I’m enjoying his writing. As obnoxious as this probably is, it’s kind of nice to read other white people talking about trees as communities of PEOPLE, rather than as objects or something. Like, yes, it’s embarrassing as hell that we forgot all this stuff – on purpose – a thousand+ years ago. But it’s nice to hear (some of) us – science us, even – talking about this again during a period where I can actually hear it in real time.

I love Braiding Sweetgrass. But it wasn’t written for me and, as much as I learned from it (in particular: confirmation on how to hear the answer when you ask if you can harvest someone), I also feel like I’m just one more white lady stealing Indigenous knowledge and worldview when what I read in that book influences how I live in this place and interact with everyone else who’s here.

So it’s nice to see people with a religious and social history that are closer to my own starting to pick up on, and talk about, this stuff. Even if they’d doing it from a very non-woo perspective and would probably balk at being referred to as Animists.

Also on my book list is Snapdragon, a middle-grade graphic novel that a friend of my lent me because she said it was perfect for me.

She was not wrong.

It’s a glorious story, full of queer folks and kindness and the kind of witchery that reminds me of Granny Weatherwax’s boots-on-the-ground practice. I love it, and recommend it for the young queers and very baby pagans in your life.

Lastly – and still with a ways to go before it’s done – is Anatomy of a Witch. I’m doing witchy book club with the author via her patreon, and the other night we covered the “Witch Bones” chapter, which deals a lot with structure.

You guys. Structure is something I feel like I’ve been lacking, the past little while. Maybe the past LONG while.

A long time ago – like 2013 – I had a LOT of time on my hands. Which was great. I made a point of treating every Friday as my day to Hearth Stuff and study Pagan Things. At the time, that meant exploring my own (still developing – always eveloping) cosmology and axiology through the Pagan Blog Project and reading books like Trance-Portation and Earth Path, while my altar candles were lit and I slow-cooked something slightly fancy and substantial in the oven (or the crock pot).

I’ve missed that for a long time, but in the past year and a bit – since I started working longer hours (and in a context that – unlike figure modeling – doesn’t give me hours of contemplation time while on the job) – I’ve been feeling it even more.

I’ve typically tried to avoid making Sundays my day to Do Religious Stuff – because I grew up Christian, and I want to kind of distance myself from those practices – but on some level that feels silly when I do have the option of choosing which days I devote to magical practices and cultivating my connections with my Deities, my Dead, and the local People of my bioregion. I have Sundays to myself, most weeks, and it would feel good to add some reliable Practice Time back into my life.

So here we are.

My altars are lit – including a votive candle for my recently deceased aunt. I’ve (finally) been to the Summer Stone to make my High Summer offering[1]. I’ve walked around the house with an incense stick (myrrh, in this case, because it smells nice and I associate it with embalming – thanks Chirstian Upbringing – so it seemed appropriate to do when I was fresh-lighting a votive for a new ancestor). I made three dozen beeswax tea lights, which should hold me for a little while. Long enough, at least, for it to get reliably cool enough to be able to bash up my next Giant Block of Beeswax without having to chill it in the fridge first.

It feels good.

It felt good to tidy the altar a little (just a little), to take the previous offerings (finally) off and add something new. To restock on candles – seriously, my actual corn-welcoming ritual with Connect DC? I had to scrounge in my supply cabinet to get enough candles to light my altar, and now I have enough to get through another 2-3 offerings. So it feels good to have that done again. It felt good to walk down to the Summer Stone and leave a slice of cake on a rhubarb leaf[2]. It feels good to be taking some time, right now, to update this blog and think about my practice a little more.

I think it will be worth it to give a bit more of my time to this – blogging; reading Suffering For Spirit and Spritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide, and Of Blood and Bones; doing ritual, spellcraft, and energy work; taking time to wade in the river and stroll through the woods – every week.

~*~

Tarot Meditation:

My house-guest shuffled my deck this morning, just for something to do with their hands. I broke the deck where it had a natural shift and the cards I pulled for my waning moon tarot meditiaton were:

The Eight of Water and The Moon.

Given that we spent last evening talking about me missing having a “performance ready” voice, and continuing to feel some guilt and shame around having dropped my singing practice (20 years ago…), and given the throat-chakra blockage that my girlfriend spent some time helping me try to clear last weekend, I am inclined to read this as: “It’s time to let go of the shame crap that’s skulking around in your Hidden Depths. Time to just let it go and wash it away.”

~*~

Movement: I spent a significant chunk of last night doing Mime Exercises for body-alignment. My house-guest – an actual Mime, yes for real – was impressed that I didn’t appear to have any blockages along my spine. I don’t know what to tell you. Also trying to become more aware of how I’m breathing at any given time, without resorting to anti-panic breathing right away. Trying to remember how to do Singers’ Breath – a much more subtle movement, obviously. Took a long-ish walk out to the library and back.

Attention: This is maybe a weird one. I’m trying to direct my attention away from Work Stuff, and away from The Computer (or at least the internet) more broadly, so that I can better make time for (and be present during) leisure activities, personal enrichment, and art. (Yes, I’m aware that it’s odd for me to be saying this while literally typing a blog post to put on the internet, but just go with it).

Gratitude: Grateful for the chance to see my girlfriend again. Grateful for quiet time (at last) and a planned Date Night with my wife. Grateful for getting to see my relatives (and all the supports that came together to let that happen). Grateful for my laundry machines. Grateful for the lives that have touched mine. Grateful for my friends who I’m able to see more frequently (if cautiously) now. Grateful for wild fruit, for purple-tinged crow feathers, for all the numerous people who show up to do my dishes. Grateful for metamours who lend us their cars. Grateful for libraries. Grateful for polyamoury. Grateful for all the love that’s carrying me through this life.

Inspiration: Tiktok videos. The books I’ve been reading. The dedication of my sweeties and friends.

Creation: Outside of recipes, this blog post is the first non-work thing I’ve created in A While. I did set aside a little bit of time, yesterday, to edit some poetry though. So that feels a bit like progress.

TTFN,

Ms Syren / Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] Yes, that was “supposed” to get done almost a month ago, but it took this long for the heat to break enough for me to be willing to turn the oven on again. So I did it today. Put on my amazonite-and-moonstone necklace – the one I made to honour the Amazons and my other queer aunties of blood and spirit – baked a coffee cake, said Hello to the sunflowers (which are blooming their heads off) down by the bike path, and left a slice of cake on the Summer Stone as a Late Lammas/Nemoralia gift to the local Land Folk. Not a terrible way to spend Pride Weekend in Ottawa, it has to be said.

[2] My rhubarb is not doing super great, I have to admit. I’m not sure what to feed it – other than water. But I think some top dressing with blood meal and – if I can find some – mulch for Autumn is going to be in order.

Full Moon – Bell Flower Moon Crests: Midsummer Retrospective

I guess I don’t know where to start.

Summer Solstice with slightly more than a month ago. Lammas is all of a week away, and Thunder Moon starts up not long after. It’s been a damn busy July.

Midsummer was good.

My girlfriend came to visit – first time in a year and a half – and it was so good to see her. We did Midsummer ritual together while doing the mandatory 2 weeks of quarantining. The above picture is the “guest altar” for the gods who were invoked at the group ritual she was part of.

I mean, technically that we were part of, but she was a ritual facilitator doing the official invocation, whereas I’m usually just following along on the internet.

You get the idea.

I mostly work with my own tiny pantheon. My girls who I’ve been involved with since I was… in my late teens and very early twenties. I’m also kind of a concrete bunker, meaning that I don’t pick up on a lot of Astral Activity unless it’s very unsubtle and direct.

Related side note: I didn’t write, last year, about my Lammas experience. I was – per usual – following along on the internet while my girlfriend and the rest of the folks at Two Rivers Sanctuary broadcast their ritual online. They invoked Lugh – no surprises there, it’s his Big Day – but they also invoked the Amazons.  Now, I’m a very tall lady and have been calling myself “amazon syren”, and thinking of The Amazons as ancestors, for nearly as long as I’ve been involved with my pantheon of goddesses. So it was both unexpected, and incredibly meaningful, when the Amazons showed up in my office and said Yes[1]. I felt claimed by them as kin, and that’s a hell of a thing.

To drag this back to the much-more-recent past: Because I don’t usually pick up on much, I was VERY surprised when Chernunos arrived to the tune of me feeling like I had not two, but four hooves and also a big, furry ruff.

Oh, Hai.

So that was pretty cool.

We also invited Aine – the Midsummer Sun in the prime of her power – in from Ireland, which meant I got to have a Discussion with my girlfriend about which whisky to give as an offering, and also that I got to burn mugwort as incense for the first time. (I am not (yet) great at bundling herbal twigs into incense wands, so we had to relight it a bunch of times, also… there was a drought on – which has thankfully since broken – so saining the bounds around my house was a slightly nerve-wracking experience for a nervous nelly like me.

Something else Big –  or that felt Big to me – happened during that ritual. The main Working was to become a plant soaking up that abundant midsummer sunshine. I felt a very specific tree come rocketing up through my body, as if it was going “I’ve been waiting YEARS for this! It’s my time!”

My animal self – my Fetch – is a baby black boar (“Central European Boar”, Sus scrofa scrofa).

My plant self is Salix Nigra. Ontario native Black Willow. The willows I grew up with.

Being a watery tart, probably nobody is surprised by this. But it feels good to know it, you know?

A few days after Midsummer proper, when our quarantine was successfully completed and Rose Moon was full, we went to the Summer Stone (one of my neighbourhoods seasonal public altars – yes, really) and made offerings of strawberry-rhubarb pie, rose-peony cheesecake tarts, rose-peony custard, and black raspberry gin.

More recently – much more recently – my wife and I walked down to the river. This was before the drought broke, so the water was still very, VERY low. I waded out a long way and water was still only up to my knees. I talked to the river, prayed for her, drew a sigil in the water (yes, that’s weird, you can cope), and then harvested a branch of mugwort to take home. My wife collected a couple of beer cans that somebody had decided to leave on the shore, which: I’m really glad she did that.

There were other things that happened over Midsummer, and since. Not all of them happy ones. We have another ancestor now and lavender is attached to death in a way that it wasn’t before. The past five weeks have been kind of a lot. But I’m glad there was this.

~*~

Movement: I tried skateboarding for the first time about two weeks before Midsummer. It’s tonnes of fun, but I did fall off – as one does – and have kind of messed up my knee. So Moon Salutations have been on hold pretty-much since then. I’ve started doing Laura Tempest Zakroff’s “witchual workouts” – ten-minute dance instructions that I can do by following a youtube video – and I’m enjoying them. My wife and I take walks around the neighbourhood when we can.

Attention: As always, I’m paying attention to what’s growing in the garden. It looks like a rabbit has moved in behind the retaining wall, and we have a giant evening primrose that started blooming last week. Beyond that, though, I feel like my attention is suffering. I’m feeling pretty scattered. I think I need to set aside some time to (get off the internet and) Listen.

Gratitude: Being able to see my far-away relatives for the first time in quite a bit more than a year and a half. Knowing my girlfriend will be back for another visit in just another couple of weeks. A freezer that’s filling up with vegetables. Rent we can afford. Living near the river. Living near two little woodlands. Time to read books. Park hangouts, and (zomg) indoor hangouts, with friends. Cool breezes on sunny mornings. All our little birds. Seeing the cardinals and the blue jays and the cedar sparrows on the window sill. Chipmunks who eat peanuts out of my hand. My wife and my girlfriend who love me and who care about each other.

Inspiration: Reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, Laura Tempest Zakroff’s Anatomy of a Witch, and Thista Minai’s Suffering for Spirit, along with Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons. They’re all giving me lots of things to think about.

Creation: I wrote a poem for the first time in months today, and I’m so relieved. Beyond that, I finally (finally) finished the dress I’ve been making for my wife (it’s reversible) and have started on a long, flowy purple skirt for myself.

New Moon – Harvest Moon Begins (and Grows) – Season of the Witch

“Winter Squash” – Photo by Sheila Sund, via Wiki Media Commons. Three winter squash – butternut, sweet dumpling, and buttercup – are to the left of the image, dramatically lit from the right, on an otherwise bare surface, against a black backdrop.


 
The mornings are down in the single digits these days, and the nights are hovering around freezing. The back yard is full of blooming New England asters (the purple kind) and, while nothing’s been knocked down by frost just yet (to my surprise), I know it’s coming. We turned the furnace on today and have extra blankets on the bed.
Autumn is so very, very here.
 
We’re slipping towards Root Time pretty quickly now. The leaves are turning. I have bunches of mugwort, yellow mustard (seed pods, in the latter case), sage, and thyme hanging in the kitchen to finish drying. We opened a bottle of Sortilege (a month earlier than I would have, if I hadn’t hidden said bottle away late last April), and I made an offering with the first glass of it to kick off the Season of the Witch.
It’s getting towards introspection season – although, realistically, that’s all year long if you’re me – and, like a lot of people, I’ve got a lot of stuff on my mind.
 
I went to the Climate Justice Rally the other day – and felt less useless for having gone, I have to admit, though I wasn’t expecting that. I keep looking at my somewhat feral yard, where – when we moved in, five years ago (just about exactly), I had hoped to plant a riot of winter squash, rather like the ones displayed in the photo at the top of this post, along with lots of perennial fruits and herbs.
I keep looking at it and wondering “Have I done right by you?”
 
Because, as I keep lamenting, I’m not doing very well at this vegetable gardening thing.
But my yard is a tiny ecosystem. Squirrels and rats (alas), a skunk and a rabbit, a family of raccoons, a semi-feral cat, and a lot of starlings and sparrows (and the odd bluebird, crow, cardinal) have our yard as part of their territory. The back patio is under-pinned (or destabilized, maybe) by a few different kinds of ants. There are spiders, wasps (parasitic and otherwise), two kinds of solitary bee, a few different kinds of butterfly, centipedes, pill bugs, ladybugs, slugs (alas) and snails, and earthworms the thickness of my finger. Between what I grow on purpose, what my neighbour grows on purpose, and what I just allow to grow wild, as it will, we’ve got about half the number of unique plant species that one would find in a healthy tall grass prairie represented and thriving between the front and the back yards of our little row of townhouses. And that’s something I’m proud of.
“Have I done right by you?”
 
The ground is so literal.
I like to think that the offerings of home-made beeswax candles, fresh bread and (not home-made) butter, maple whiskey, and sometimes other tasty things, are appreciated and enjoyed. (Certainly the squirrels like the bread, if that’s any indication).
But I kind of suspect that the compost heap, with its regular additions of coffee grounds, toilet paper tubes, stewed bones, vegetable peelings, and human hair, is more helpful (and more wanted) in the long run. That thinning the Himalayan Balsam so that the Crane’s Bill and Turtlehead had room to grow, but leaving enough of it for the bees to visit, and sowing white clover and wildflower seeds (after thinning out the grass, golden rod, and dog-strangling-vine), probably matter more to my Lady of Earth and my Lady of the Meadow than whether or not I managed to cultivate a lot of winter squash in any given year, even when my Lady of the Meadow is also the winter squash and the raspberries (which consistently refuse to fruit, even now).
“Have I done right by you?”
 
It’s harvest time. The squirrels have already dug up (and gnawed upon) the narcissus bulbs given to us by a friend. The two pounds of carrots I brought home from the grocery store a week or two ago are waterlogged and not doing so well, and I’m having The Feels about food waste. Again. The dill seed heads I harvested went moldy (because I didn’t dry them well enough and didn’t store them right). I still haven’t harvested crab apples, even though I walked by a tree loaded with them twice this past week. I feel wasteful rather than abundant.
“Have I done right by you?”
 
I shuffle the deck by my computer – the Next World, which isn’t the deck I’d usually use for this. The Chariot falls out. The Three of Cups almost jumps with it. I shuffle and shuffle. Look longingly at the Three of Cups, Nine of Cups, now layered one on top of the other at the very bottom of my deck. Pull a card off the top and it’s The Sun.
I want to take that as a Yes.
I want this to be true:
 

 
One of the other reasons why I was asking if I’ve done right by the land I live on is that we found out, just about a month ago, that the building we live in has been put up for sale.
It’s terrifying.
Not least of why being that we’re barely able to cover the bills we have now, and housing – across the city, not just in the neighbourhood we’ve lived in for over a decade and want to stay in – is running $400-$700 more expensive per month than we can handle.
I think about moving, and I just get a tight chest, churning stomach, racing thoughts, and nothing actually useful done. I sob my eyes out thinking that we’ll be this house’s last family and that life is going to stay (financially) hard for the foreseeable.
It’s awful.
I’ve been looking for an anchor income for a while now, but I’m kind upping the search because, if we’re going to afford to live, well, anywhere by the time this unusually-affordable rental house is yanked out from under us, I’m going to need to be SURE that I can show up with at least $800/month to put towards housing and utilities.
 
Sometimes I think that planning to move in the spring is putting the cart before the horse. We have to be able to afford to move before we can actually do so. (At least… I hope that’s how it works out). TBH, I’ve spent a lot of the past four weeks – when I’m not job-hunting or canning or cleaning or writing poetry or doing paid work – wondering how to get myself focused enough to determine What I Really Want, specifically so that I can work some magic towards those ends.
A lot of the past year has been working on the “art” and “sex” elements of my Empress Project. But the Empress, as much as she is VERY MUCH about creativity and sensuality, is also about abundance and stability and I think I need to spend some time (energy, attention, Work) leaning into those aspects.
I wonder to myself what I can offer in exchange for help getting the kind of moderately flexible, very-part-time office/remote-assistant job I’m looking for and what, should I actually secure said job, I can offer on top of that (or after that) to secure the kind of living space we want (2 bedrooms, laundry on site, no pests, ideally with gardening space and a big kitchen, pets A-okay), in any of the neighbourhoods we want, at a price we can afford long-term even if the rent goes up every year.
I keep thinking of Ms Sugar’s long-ago Thoughts on Blood As A Sometimes Food.
I keep thinking of… I think it’s T. Thorn Coyle’s book Sigil Magic where she talks about how doing ritual isn’t the same as doing magic any more than emoting or obsessing about something is the same as working your Will. I keep thinking about how I rarely have any idea if what I’m doing is actually going to get off the ground, let alone get results, let alone-alone get the kind of results I actually want.
Which, like, doesn’t help me actually have the confidence to try spellworking for this stuff, you know?
 
Regardless – and I will surely come back to the above more than once over the coming winter – in my most recent fit of “I don’t know what to dooooooooooo!!!” I did what I tend to do in times of trouble and uncertainty, and started pulling tarot cards.
(Basically, I don’t necessarily even shuffle anything, I just grab the deck and split it at random points).
This is the spread I used.
 
What do I need to think about: The Chariot
What do I need to do: The Eight of Cups
What is my challenge: The Knight of Pentacles
What is my secret weapon: The Four of Wands

 
I tend to read The Chariot as “get up / wake up, and go”. A card about taking action. And it is. But it’s very specifically a card about working one’s will to achieve one’s goals. It’s a card about doing, sure. But it’s also a card about doing magic.
 
The Eight of Cups is typically a card of “mourn and move on”. It’s a card that touches on burnout and anxiety, for sure. And one that suggests leaning into spiritual growth and personal truth, as well. But it’s most often (for me, at least) a card about grieving and letting go, about tying up loose ends and walking away.
 
The Knight of Earth (I can find a picture of the Next World Tarot’s take on the Knight of Pentacles, but there are lots of options out there) is a solid character. But, in the position of a “challenge”, their slow-and-steady nature turns to “afraid to take risks” or “pessimistic” or “keeps themself (too) small”.
 
As for the Four of Wands, for me, it’s always been a card about Community. Participation. Joyful interaction. Strengthening the web of relationships that one is part of. It’s also, however, a card that feels, one the one hand, like the opposite of the Knight of Pentacles’ more challenging aspects – “looking forward expectantly”, “letting go of limitations”, and “opening to new possibilities” – while, on the other, being almost the flip-side of the coin to the Eight of Cups – “getting out of an oppressive situation”, “reflecting on accomplishments”, and “breaking free of bonds”. There’s also an aspect of this card that pertains to taking part in a ritual or rite, although I tend to think that’s more about things like weddings or milestone birthdays (like my upcoming 40th, ye gods…) than, like, solo magical workings in my bathtub. None the less. >.>
 
What do I need to think about: Taking action physically and magically.
What do I need to do: Mourn the (impending, as-yet-unscheduled) loss of this house, and move on (literally as well as figuratively).
What is my challenge: Doing the leg work without getting frozen into inaction due to fear and risk-aversion. Not losing sight of the good stuff over the horizon just because things feel (VERY) precarious right now. Avoiding despair while job- and neighbourhood- hunting in late-stage capitalism and an increasingly expensive city.
What is my secret weapon: My people. My hope. My resistance.
 
I want to keep these cards – these four, and The Sun – in mind as my tarot card meditaiton during this waxing moon. To get’er done without losing sight of my worth and without giving up my arts-oriented work (modeling as a career, and poetry as an a/vocation). To keep making art and magic, possibly in combination. To remember that I’m not entirely powerless. To accept the joy when it comes.
 
~*~
Movement: Not nearly enough. Short, dynamic poses during modeling gigs. Walking all over the place. But that’s about it. I think there needs to be more dancing in my life.
 
Attention: Unsurprisingly? Sniffing around as to what housing costs in which neighbourhoods in town. Keeping an eye on the job boards. Watching the garden for the inevitable frost that will knock a lot of it down (at which-point, it’s clean-up time).
 
Gratitude: Thankful, however ruefully, for the neighbours and friends who brought up having seen the listing for our building on the national real estate website, and for the landlords for not denying it when we brought it up. For library books. For quiet evenings in. For a furnace that works. For clean water that comes right out of the tap. For the tool library. For friends who check in. For slow mornings with my wife. For my girlfriend’s impending (mere days away!) visit. For the upcoming weekend-long kink convention we’ll be attending. For hand-me-down clothes that fit and look good on me. For kindness. For hope.
 
Inspiration: Ongoing climate disaster and housing insecurity, because it’s an ill wind, apparently. :-\ Outside of that, Mabon and related seasonal changes and astrological events, plus the poets of Hustling Verse and also those in my extended circle of queer, polyamourous chosen families. It’s a good place to be.
 
Creation: I wrote two new glosas! I wrote them yesterday! I’m so excited! 😀 😀 😀 I really hope I can keep this up! 😀 Fingers crossed!

Full Moon – Flower Moon Crests (and Wanes)

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background


 
It’s drizzly again, but humid now. The temperature is higher. The tulips, daffodils, and cherries are blooming, and the crab apples and pears – as seen in the above photo – have opened up as well. The service berries have pretty-much finished their flowering. Even the rhubarb is starting to flower. We are deep in Beauty Season already.
It’s lovely out.
Even with the drizzle.
I’ve spent the day watering the garden (possibly unnecessarily) and getting the house back in order after a spending a week with my visiting girlfriend (who left me with copies of Hild – a historical novel set in 7th Century proto-England which includes some really solid research into, and depictions of, early-medieval English life with regards to food and textiles, and the work involved in making same – and Ritual Sex, which is a book of essays and stories, by various authors, about pretty-much what it says on the tin. My wheelhouses, let me show you them).
 
I finished the cotton skirt (which has a draw-string and no zipper required). I still have a dozen things to mend or alter or create from whole cloth (literally), but I’m a little bit closer to what I want my “summer wardrobe” to look like (shrugs and boleros, flowy maxi skirts, cute sun dresses, and fitted tank tops, maybe the odd shawl, as needed).
I’m thinking about glamour – as in the active practice of doing personal authenticity in a way that is also fascinating to others – and about how I want to present myself when I’m out in the world.
 
A long time ago, I was 30lbs under weight[1] due to stress, recently separated and in the midst of an actually very easy divorce, and trying to figure out how the heck I wanted to dress myself when I’d spent the last seven years working in a retail environment where we were expected to wear what we sold, and where the clientele was about 30 years my senior and employed full-time by the government. I was trying to figure out how to dress myself, yes. But I was also trying to figure out what I wanted people to see when they looked at me. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be “as a grown up”, when “grown up” had rather suddenly stopped meaning “suburban home-ownership + husband + hypothetical impending children”. I feel like I’ve been trying to sort that out for the past 12 years.
 
More recently – as in this past week – I’ve been “on vacation” living an on-going power exchange with my girlfriend in a way that’s really only possible when you’re on vacation (as in: in the same city, yeah, but more importantly: enjoying limited stress, deliberately limited distractions, tonnes of sleep, and abundant time for long walks by the river or otherwise going on dates). Under these circumstances, it’s easier to dress with clearly-defined intent, focus deeply on your Other Person, and to both plan, and follow through on, shared activities.
Whether the “vacation” in question is a once-a-season get-together with a loved one, or a once-a-year cheap fare to an all-inclusive beach locale or a saved-up-for major subcultural event, it’s a situation where glamour is easy. As Ms Sugar might put it, vacation, like Pinterest, is seductive “because everything is beautiful and nothing hurts there”.
 
So I find myself asking: How do I bring that glamour – that focused intention, that follow-through, that action of being interesting and interested – to my day-to-day life? How, too, do I invite that attention and sensuality in as well?
 
Next World Tarot - Two of Wands - A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.

Next World Tarot – Two of Wands – A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.


 
This conveniently relates to my Tarot Meditation card, which is a reminder that I have power here, and can make choices that will help make these things happen.
I initially drew this card from the Silicon Dawn deck, where it’s called “Will” (the two of pentacles) and is described by the artist as something like “The confidence to dance with the lightning” and the balancing of the ever-moving energies that one exists between. (Egypt Urnash also says, in her write-up of this card, “If you’re asking whether you should have some kind of tantric ceremony soon, the answer is ‘Yes'”, so… relevant to my interests, tbh).
 
I generally understand the Two of Fire – regardless of how the suit is named – as a card about “Make a Decision”. A card about setting your intention and then putting in the work – and the Will – to follow-through and go get it.
I see this reflected in the way Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes this card, as it appears in the Next World Tarot (the image is a portrait of a specific person), in their piece “3 crazy queens” (in Tonguebreaker”):

She stands there, asking you What is your deepest truth and desire, your deepest wound to heal? Only facing those things in a world on fire will give you what you need to live.

 
If I look at this card in the context of the “present” situation in the three-card draw I did at New Moon (and, yes, the moon is waning right now, but I’m still working with this), I have to ask myself:
In the face of infinite potential, what choices am I making that will point me towards that open-hearted future I want so much? Where can I say “Yes” more? Where can I choose the lens of curiosity and adventure over the lens of anxiety and catastrophizing?
Reader? There are definitely some situations in my life where this choice is very obviously before me, and I will try to say “Yes” and be adventurous.
Wish me luck!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking all over town. Moon Salutations. Weeding the garden. Modeling gigs with short poses.
 
Attention: What information is coming my way? Where can I see opportunities arising? How did those squash seedlings wind up sprouting in the compost? (Okay, I strongly suspect the squirrels for that one…)
 
Gratitude: Grateful for partners who love me and think the best of each other. For friends who show up when one of us needs help with groceries. For hot, humid weather (even if there’s not a lot of it, yet). For modeling work. For fresh bread from the oven. For squirrels who, apparently, think the compost heap is an excellent place to bury purloined squash seeds (I actually agree with them on this, thence the gratitude). For books from the library and gifted books from my sweetie. For being able to being able to be in the same room with my girlfriend for a whole week, after months of being apart. For my wife, who gave us the space to do so, and who was happy to come home to me. For my family.
 
Inspiration: Patrick Califia’s “Shiny Sharp Things” essay in Ritual Sex.
 
Creation: I’m mid-way through altering a turquoise leather jacket (the plan is to do the sewing over the weekend, as I’ll be hanging out with my lovely wife as she sews back patches and similar at the Ride For Dad after-party and will, thus, have access to her sewing machine, contact cement, and leather-compatible needles. Also wrote up a new recipe for Rhubarb-Banana muffins, which I’m testing out (they’re baking right now) today.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Let’s just say I have a pretty solid idea of what my bones and organs weigh because there really wasn’t much else left of me at that point.

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane's bill and last year's dry leaves

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane’s bill and last year’s dry leaves


 
The New Moon in Taurus brought summer weather with it. Hot sun on bare skin. Magnolias opening, but a week later, it’s cold again. Drizzly. Closer to five degrees than ten. The cold-weather crops (“crops”) that I sowed a week ago are sprouting and probably loving this weather. I have chickpeas (slooooowly) sprouting in a jar on the counter, but I’m huddled over my computer as I write this, looking out at the grey day and its Scotch Mist weather.
 
I have a Pinterest board where I put pictures that make me think “glamourous”. There are a vast number of women with horns among those images. Last night a memory tugged at my mind and I put “horn dance” into the search bar, and what I found was the oldest dance in England.
So now I’m thinking about how the Horn Dance – the one done in Abbots Bromley (Northern England, about 300km south of my families historical territories in Scotland) which is a solid thousand years old at this point – happens during the same time as the actual deer are rutting in the Fall (the few weeks on either side of Autumn Equinox, roughly), and how the dance is connected to the fertility of the fields. I’m thinking of Root Time and Leaf Time, the stag king and the wolf king – and since when do I think of “kings” at all, but here we are – and how they trade places at Samhain and Beltane, at first planting and last harvest.
I’m thinking about land-waking rights and how modern, city people (AKA: people like me) tend to think of “land waking” as a thing that happens in the Spring (AKA: right now) because the perennials are coming up again, the trees are leafing out, the geese are back and the robins are singing, and there are baby squirrels tearing about all over the place. I’m thinking about how Beltane is our sex holiday, but that – from a purely conception-related stand-point[1], so do what you wanna with that one – it kind of makes sense to have something similar in the Autumn, right around when you’d be planting new apple trees (or shallots and garlic, or larkspur and scilla for that matter) and feeding them up for the long sleep to come when they’ll get their roots in good and strong before their waking in Spring.
I’m thinking about Harvest – midway between Mabon and Samhain – and how much magic and ritual happens in that fucking dungeon. I’m thinking about the horned beast that lives in me, that came out to dance during one of those rituals, how the red thread of connection from that ritual is woven into the fetish shawl that I pin together with antler tips.
 
I’m thinking all this while my altar candles burn down and I huddle in my (recently washed – I’ve spent the past two days doing laundry) fuzzy bathrobe trying to stay warm, having turned the heat off in the house at the New Moon.
I have bread to make today (yeast bread, rather than sourdough, though I’ll be feeding my starter again), dishes to do, a lot of mending to work on – fixing a couple of sweaters, finishing a project that exists somewhere between a skater skirt and a cotton slip, seeing how many zippers I have lying around and whether or not I can put one in the side of a midi-length crinkle cotton skirt, or if I even need to do so (I might be able to do buttons and loops or something at the waist-band instead…) It’s a day for hot tea and having the oven on, for hiding out under a heap of cloth and keeping cozy.
 
Next World Tarot - PAST Three of Swords, Reversed - PRESENT Magician, Uprights - FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright

Next World Tarot – PAST Three of Swords, Reversed – PRESENT Magician, Uprights – FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright


 
For the New Moon in Taurus, I pulled three cards from Cristy C Road’s Next World Tarot. And then I wrote poetry about them, as one does. The short version is:
A past of heartache and a future of open-heartedness and, right now, a moment of change, of leveling up, of “from this moment onward, you have agency”. A claiming of my power and my potential.
A work in progress, obviously – I mean, it’s never “one and done”, right? But, if I’m reading this right, then I’m on the right track and should keep doing what I’m doing, and changing what I’m changing.
Fingers crossed!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking. Moon salutations. Went to the park and attempted to do pull-ups (and failed, utterly, but that’ll get better with time and practice).
 
Attention: Watching the weather. Watching the calendar (my girlfriend will be here in a week). Paying attention to my hips and lower back and how and when they ache and what helps. Watching the leaves come out and the flowers in the front yard start blooming (just barely) and the rhubarb start to get big and the lovage, for whether or not it’s taking its transplant well (seems to be).
 
Gratitude: It being warm enough (technically) to turn the heat off. Good relationships with my metamours. Fresh greens from the garden (dandelion, sorrel, crow garlic, nettles, lovage). Cucurbit seedlings from friends. A cupboard full of fabric and yarn for me to make things with. A fridge full of food. Hangouts with My People. A new bag of (parafin…) candles for the altar. Yoga poses that consistently open my hips and de-kink my lower back. My wife’s compersion. My girlfriend’s impending visit(!!!).
 
Inspiration: The garden. Household maintenance tasks (believe it or not). My romantic relationships. Queer communities and subcultures. Thousand-year-old dances. The Next World tarot deck. My hopes for the future.
 
Creation: I’ve written six poems in the past week, and have another one (barely) started, with notes for topics to explore in a bunch more, so Go Me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] A kiddo conceived around Mabon would be born right around Midsummer which, in these parts, is just about when the food gets really plentiful, and just a little bit before the real heat sets in and makes being heavily pregnant utter hell.

SHADOW – Third Week of December

“Dry Winter” – Alberto L Levorato – Via Wiki Free Images – A narrow path between tall, bare trees in deep shadow against an overcast sky.


 
I’ve mailed out all but three of the solstice cards. Have baked cookies and, tbh, bought more wine and cheese (and Sortilege) than we’re going to use before New Year’s is upon us, even with guests coming over. I’m waiting on the delivery of the last run of groceries – sweet cider and whole olives, hothouse cucumbers, tomato juice, and the once-a-year treat of imported clementines – and will be spending at least part of tomorrow making roasted garlic hummus and atichoke-parmasan dip (and the rest of it cleaning, I’m sure…), because the Longest Night is nearly upon us.
It’s a little after 4pm as I’m writing this, the day before Winter Solstice. The sun is on its way down-down-down below the roof lines. It’ll be full-dark in less than half an hour. Now is the time of long, long shadows stretching east. Deep and dark or thin and blue.
 
Shadow is the word we use for the parts of ourselves that we try to keep hidden. The bits that are “too much”, or too shameful, for us to be comfortable looking at them full-on.
It’s appropriate that the tarot cards for this last week leading up to the Longest Night include The Devil and The Moon. This is very-much their time and place.
 
~*~
 
The Devil
the Devil, while occasionally depicted as a trickster/shadow/guardian-of-the-underworld figure, is more generally understood as a card of conditioning, of greed, of learned helplessness, and even despair.
Which… You guys, this is so very much a card of “the holiday spirit” if you go by the state of the malls right now. Desperate consumerism. Greed ( which is explicitly the motivation behind the multi-national CEOs who are destroying the environment – not to get all buzz-wordy on you). Planned obsolescence of every freaking thing. Anxiety around not living up the expectations, getting someone the “wrong thing”, not “fitting in” with your families of origin. Light-levels-related depression. “This is the way we’ve always done it”/”This is the way things are”.
What once, small, manageable change can you make to be – or even just feel – less helpless? Maybe that means you start your day by sending another angry letter to the provincial government (pick a reason, there are SO many). Maybe it means you learn how to cook a thing from scratch – whether that’s kombucha or alfredo sauce or something more (or less) ambitious – or learn how to level a shelf, de-salt your leather boots (Hint: dampen your boots with vinegar, and let them air dry. Brush the salt off. Repeat. Then polish OR condition with a lanolin-beeswax blend), or mend holes in socks. Maybe it means you find the energy to text 2 friends who you know might also be having a hard time right now, and just check in on them and see how they’re doing.
 
The Tower
This image, by Cristy C Road, is the first time I really understood what The Tower was about.
That which crumbles was never meant to last.
The going-through of that collapse is going to suck hard. But it’s a release, and a relief, when it goes.
What is one small thing you can do to dismantle those things which were never meant to last, to bring the world we long for into being?
This month, I became a monthly donor to Unist’ot’en Camp, as a small but ongoing way of supporting the water defenders out West who are trying to keep their traditional territories, and the water and soil there-in, safe from oil pipelines; and also of Amnesty International, for what they do here and in the rest of the world. But usually my “small thing” is food. It’s a thing that I’m good at and can reliably provide in a way that I can’t reliably show up with money to donate or volunteer my time in a consistent way. But if you need an emergency bag of groceries or a couple of meals while you get over an illness or a casserole donation to your community potluck or a clue as to which weeds are safe to eat raw? Honey, I’m your girl.
Maybe your one small thing will be going fragrance-free in your day-to-day life (hint: fragrence-free shampoo is TERRIBLE. But baking soda paste + a diluted vinegar rinse + fragrance-free conditioner (or some kind of light-weight oil, applied sparingly) on your ends works pretty well for the straight, fine hair of this white lady). Or switching to humanely raised (or just less) meat in your diet. Or donating Flamingo Rampant titles to your local public (or elementary school) library. Or talking other white people (etc, insert your own mix of privileges here) about how to notice and consistently push back against the racism that lives in our own heads as well as in our government policies and our workplaces.
 
The Star
I love Beth Maiden’s description of The Star as being a card about values, as a reminder to find – and follow – your personal True North. It’s a card about generosity, peace, hope, and inspiration.
It’s a card that asks: How can you be generous with your time, energy, attention? With you money and skills and resources? But it’s also a card – because this is Shadow Week – that asks us to investigate the places where we find it hard to be generous – either because we’re feeling burnt out and overextended, or because we’re uncomfortable with “neediness” (our own or someone else’s) in the sense of a need for support or care or even just patience that doesn’t go away once it’s not convenient for you anymore.
I’ve been reading Care Work, and more than one of the essays in it talks about the feminization – and therefore erasure and denigration – of care, and the expectation that the (usually fem/me and feminized) people who do it are never, every going to bring up that need it, let alone expect to get it. Which is to say: A whole freaking lot of us have The Feels about both wanting & needing to be taken care of (doesn’t that make us bad?) AND being worn out from doing all the heavy-lifting when it comes to getting the groceries, maintaining the relationships, picking up the prescriptions, and remembering the appointments/food allergies/triggers/etc of other people. (I think Brené Brown’s Rising Strong has some relevant stuff about this, too).
 
The Moon
This is 100% a card about The Shadow. About all that stuff we keep hidden in our personal depths. It’s also a card about anxiety and illusion, distraction and fantasy and, as such, it’s a card about avoiding the realities of your privileges and about the stories we, along the vectors where we have social-&-political privileges, tell ourselves and each other (and other people) about why we have it so relatively good. This is stuff like “bootstrapping” or “Well, women aren’t just any good at coding” or “thus-and-such a demographic is just More Susceptible to Alcoholism” or any of the other stuff that comes up for us. There’s a podcast that I really like, that talks about – among other things – the fact that, compared to the rest of the world, Europeans were pretty crappy at farming. And I have to admit I was shocked. And kind of… hurt?? And I probably shouldn’t have been.
In this context, The Moon asks us What stories am I telling myself to explain away good fortune that probably isn’t fortune, and probably isn’t good? What can I do to push back against those stories?”
 
The Sun
Heh.This was ALMOST the card that landed on the Solstice. So close!
The Sun is about truth and hope and joy (and relates to the star in those ways), about forgiving yourself and leading by example. It’s a card that asks Leah Lakshmi’s question: What kind of ancestor do you want to be?
What kind of example do you want to set? How will you learn from your mistakes, and make amends for them, so that you can forgive yourself for them, and keep learning, growing, changing into the truest version of yourself that you can be.
 
Judgement
As weirdo queer and pagan artists have got their fingers into tarot over and over and over again, the Judgement card has undergone a bunch of transformations. It’s a hard one to love, at face value, when your cosmology and identity are at odds with the obviously Christian messaging of The Last Judgement. But what this card is about is stuff like taking a stand, recognizing your purpose or calling, and coming out the other side of a transformation. It’s about the stuff that, er, I think people mean when they say someone is “woke”. (Yes/No?) To paraphrase Cristy C Road, on the darkest, longest night of the year, Judgement asks you this: How will you follow through on the lessons that you’ve learned?
 
The World
The Solstice moves around. This year, it’s on the 21st of December. Next year, it won’t be until the 23rd. So working through the Major Arcana during the lead-up to Midwinter won’t necessarily fit with what the actual planetary orbit has in mind. (This reminds me of the first time I tried to track my period. I counted out every twenty-eighth day in my calendar, marked them all with a little red dot, and just… assumed my body would just… fall into line. Not so much, kids. Not so much).
So we’ll come to the end on December 22nd – never mind that I’m doing this write-up a couple of days early. After the tower. After the judgement. After it all, there’s this. Just as the days are barely, just barely, starting to get longer again. Assessment. Investment. Being involved. How have you contributed? How have you healed? How have you shared what you have – your time, energy, attention, resources, and skills?
Count your blessings. Acknowledge your accomplishments. Look forward towards what you can do, for yourself, for the world, during the next circle ’round the Sun.

DARK – Second Week of December (Part Two)

Two tall (pillar) and three short (votive) candles, that have been burning, for some time, in a dark place. - Photo is public domain courtesy of wiki free images.

Two tall (pillar) and three short (votive) candles, that have been burning, for some time, in a dark place. – Photo is public domain courtesy of wiki free images.


 
Today, I’m puttering. Writing solstice cards. Washing dishes. Tidying a week’s work of messy house. My annual Solstice party is only a little more than a week away.
How do you hold space for people’s sadness?
How do you offer hope or comfort to people without asking them to pretend that their pain is “all better now”?
Things to think about while I poke and prod at this midwinter tarot journey I’m taking.
 
Justice
This is the card that sometimes switches places with Strength, and the two are linked. Personal power. Social power. Relational power. If Strength is a call to practice compassion and patience, Justice is a call to not let “compassion and patience” turn into letting yourself (or someone else, for that matter) off the hook too easily. Cristy C Road describes Justice as accountability. It’s taking responsibility for your actions, trying to do what’s right (and fucking up, and recognizing that, and making amends, and trying again, and then trying again, again… Which is another way of phrasing Strength’s own call to not give up, and to be vulnerable – instead of defensive and walled off – in your learning process).
It’s asking “How can I pass the mic?” instead of assuming that people I haven’t heard from as much “have no voices” and need to be spoken for. It’s asking “What action will result the least harm?” when I need to decide what to do. It’s also – and I’m probably thinking of this because I’ve been reading Care Work – recognizing when it’s appropriate to offer solutions (possibly by actually asking if that’s what someone wants) versus when it’s better to “pass the mic” in a different way, and just give someone the space talk about their experiences and problems to a supportive listener.
 
The Hanged Man
I love the million different ways this card gets renamed. Intermission. The Mirror. New Vision. Suspension. The Precipice. A whole bunch of different ways to talk about taking (or needing) a moment to pause, to get a different perspective on things, to lean into uncertainty and the discomfort that can come with that. A chance for the us, as the fool on the journey, to learn something new by listening to something different, to sacrifice some comfort in order to push through and level up.
I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate sacrificing comfort. I can even pretend to be otherwise on that one. Plus I’m also a “fixer”. Meaning: I’ve spent an absurd number of decades acutely believing that it’s my job to FIX other people’s feelings, and that if I fail to do so – if I fail to take on other people’s feelings as my responsibility – I am failing as a daughter or a friend or a partner. Which is really a way of saying I have super crappy boundaries around other people’s feelings and, while I’m a hell of a lot better about this than I was, say, ten years ago? It’s still Very Uncomfortable to just… sit with someone else’s depression, or their body-pain-related short-temperedness, or what-have-you, and just… not take it personally. Not freak out that it’s All My Fault that someone else’s brain chemistry is kicking their ass right now. Not get resentful when someone else “gets to be” impatient and antisocial when their joints are killing them or their fibro is flaring, while I “have to be” (ha… I don’t always manage this, mind you) nice, patient, and friendly when my quads are having spasms or my sciatic nerve is screaming at me or my hip is swollen to twice its normal size.
How do you put someone else first without feeling like a (resentful) martyr? How do you and yours find ways to take care of each other as your respective capacities allow?
 
Death
Being a card of transition and renewal, this is a very appropriate card for Midwinter. A card about tying up loose ends. About occupying liminal space. If the Hanged Man is dangling on the edge of change, then Death is that change. Death is the Going-Through, ideally with the arms of your people around you.
What skin do you need to shed this go-round? What uncomfortable thing do you have to feel your way through in order to shift (Death is suuuuuuuch a Scorpio card) into your next shape, next form, next iteration that gets you closer to your deepest, truest self? What does Shadow have to say, if you offer it your ears?
 
Temperance
It’s… funny? Death and Temperance are both, on one levels, about burning away the excess stuff. Decluttering your life, your process; sloughing off the business that is meant to be a distraction. Temperance is Ms Sugar’s Black Swan, the balance between your “easy-to-like” side and the parts of you that you might be ashamed of, or afraid of, or want to hide away.
Ruth West renamed Temperance as “Grace”, and Oliver Pickle (in their re-interpretation of West’s Thea’s Tarot deck) refers to her version of this card as a “holistic nurturer, healer, [and] supporter”. It’s a card that calls us to join forces with others and co-operate, and to work through things with care rather than haste. Both of-which relate a lot to the idea of holding space for each other where we’re at, and building networks of mutual care.
Where am I taking too much on? Where am I slacking off? How do I balance taking care of myself with taking care of the people to-whom I have responsibilities and commitments?
If you’re supporting somebody through hard stuff, do you have somebody who can support you?
I find I do this a fair bit – be the “dump out” person for someone who is doing a lot of “comfort in” for somebody else. But I also have people who do it for, who are willing to sit with me and my frustration and resentment so that I don’t vomit it all over the people in my life who need me to step up and help with a thing.
It’s a card of “putting your own oxygen mask on first”. Of “the revolution will be sustainable”.
How do you make it sustainable?

DARK – Second Week of December (Part One)

“Crescent Moon with passing Cloud” – Daniel Ramirez – Via Wiki Free Images – A waxing crescent moon, almost to half-full, on a dark night, as seen through a veil of cloud.


 
Today I’m shoveling yesterday’s fall of snow, and running some errands. Getting groceries and printing off the four-fold solstice cards that I designed (“designed”) myself. There’s a picture of a winter sunrise over Lake Superior – another wiki free images picture – to go on the front and, inside, it says “So much light // begins in the dark” (which is a Cat Valente quotation from one of the Fairyland books, if you’re wondering).
It’s overcast and grey today. The sun sets in… a little over five hours? Not a lot of time to get things done.

Dark is pretty literal this time of year. It comes in fast, means I need to get any outdoor chores (not a lot, given that I live in an urban area – just shoveling snow, handling compost, making offerings (in-so-far as that is any kind of a chore, but you get the idea), running errands on foot when I want to make sure me and my black coat are visible when crossing the streets[1]. It makes it hard(er) to get up in the mornings and hard(er) to stay up in the evenings, when I find myself ready to crawl into bed by 6pm.
Dark is also the SADD stuff that effects so many of us (self included) over winter. It’s the heavy sadness and powerlessness and hurt that comes when everything around us is screaming about faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily and we have weird relationships with our families-of-origin or the religions we grew up with (so many pagan folks grew up in families that are culturally, if not actively, Christian, and that can make things weird this time of year). Feeling erased. Being the odd-one-out the family and having to hide our difference in order to have anything close to a welcome. It’s the way old trauma can flare up when giving and receiving are taking up a lot of space in the cultural discourse.
 
This second week of December, my focus is “Dark”. Checking in with friends to ask how their hearts are doing. Bringing little multi-packs of nail polish to the Cornerstone residence in my neighbourhood. On a slightly more macro level, I’ve also become a monthly donor to Trans Lifeline (an explicitly t4t peer-staffed crisis line) and have sent an annual donation to my local trans org, THIO, that does youth mentorship and other community outreach as well as helping trans folks navigate the local health-care system.
 
The Chariot
The Chariot is a card of “get up and go”, about drive and focus and, tbh, about a lot of what Ms Sugar talks about on the subject of austerity being glamourous. It can, I think, touch on our potential to be pushy and demanding, espousing a sort of “my way or the highway” attitude. But I love some of the depictions of The Chariot as Awareness and as a grown-up femme, running her life (to paraphrase, or possibly directly-quote, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha).
This is, at its core, another card that asks if you are living/acting according to your values. How does your actual life (and the parts of it you actually control very directly) stack up against what you imagine your “ideal day” would look like? If your ideals say one thing – whether that one thing is “Everybody should be food-secure and have easy access to clean water” or “I am a writer, dammit” or “Emotional labour is actual labour and should be valued as such” – are your actions supporting your ideals?
What can I do, today, to support my ideals with action?”
For me, that means asking people if they have the brain-space to listen to me vent, rather than just launching into it without checking first. It means making time (ha… I need to actually do that though, ’cause I haven’t been lately) to write poetry and prose, most likely by unplugging the internet for a few hours at a time. It means checking in with people about whether or not they need groceries right now, or paypaling $10 to someone when they tweet about needing some bridge-funding to cover food.
 
Strength
Yes, I know that this sometimes switches places Justice, but most of the decks I work with (I think the Wildwood is the exception) feature Strength as the 8 of the Major Arcana. (It’s my birth card). I think my favourite iteration of this is the one from the Osho Zen deck, where Strength is labeled “Courage” and is depicted as a flour growing through concrete.
I think this image speaks really eloquently to the vulnerability inherent in blooming, in opening up to grow, to take in water, to take in light. Considering this card at this time is a lovely reminder that we are in seed space right now, waiting out the cold, buried in the dark of the frozen ground. Strength is a card that carries “a reminder not to despair or give up“. It asks us to be a “rock” for others, to treat people kindly and with patience, to breathe through our frustrations. To practice compassion (with other people, sure, but also with ourselves).
Where do I need to be patient? What do my frustrations have to tell me about the situations I’m in? Who in my human and non-human communities need my support right now? What can I realistically and sustainably offer them?
Right this minute, that means checking in with friends-and-family who are having a hard time emotionally due to work stress and family stress. It means Strongly Suggesting that my partners take some time to soak in epsom salt baths to help with body pain, or to make time for some quiet grounding exercises to help a little bit with stuff like compassion fatigue.
 
The Hermit
What I said about “seed space”, above, holds true here. This is a time of awareness, but not necessarily a time of action. (Although I am making a point of taking action on a bunch of small fronts specifically at this time, so… make your own decisions there).
Which… I know I’m focusing these themes on “alleviating stuff that sucks”, so I’m treating “dark” in its most negative sense. But I want to point out that Dark is also rest. That it’s a time/place for contemplation, that it’s a breathing space, a chance to escape sensory overload, to put your roots into the ground and let your shoulders drop a little. The dark can be a gentle, enfolding space of safety and recovery, too. And that’s relevant to this card, which is so much a card of “alone is not the same as lonely”.
Where am I feeling overloaded? What can I do for Self Care? How much of that means “Body Pleasure” and how much of that means “Doing The Thing That Is Good For Me Even Though I Don’t Wanna”? How can I use this time of turning inward to lift my own sadness and despondency rather than sink more deeply into it?
For me, this means, yes, making time to read and write poetry, and also taking time to sing and dance and move my body.
 
The Wheel of Fortune
This is a card about changes, about turning points and tipping points. Of big changes coming just around the corner. But it’s also a card about cycles and patterns. To speak of it at this time of year, I can help but treat it with an eye to the Year Wheel and, tbh, the recent new moon. Cycles that are waxing, cycles that are waning. Cycles that are getting ready to start another round. If The Hermit is a card about taking time to turn inward, The Wheel is a card about connections, about hooking-things-up, about webs, and about patterns.
What patterns are you ready to put to rest (recognizing that this may take another cycle or two before you really get good at heading them off at the pass)? What habits do you want to build into your day-to-day? On the micro level? On the macro level? What metaphorical bulbs and seeds and roots are sleeping now, but waiting to germinate as the next year-long cycle starts building up speed?
As-you-know-bob, I find I stand a better chance at breaking old patterns if I give myself a new set of patterns to establish. So, when it comes to seeds that are planted but maybe not yet germinated, what have I got?
On the personal/micro level? All that stuff I mentioned under the heading of The Hermit, actually. Moving my body more. Making (and keeping) time to write (to create more of) my poetry. Singing more often and allowing that singing to be personal-level energy work as well. Moving my body more through dancing, kundalini yoga[2].
On a more macro level, I want to for a habit of checking in with not just human friends-and-family, but with the specific plot of land I live on. Asking Mattaer and Misha, in particular, how they’re doing and what they need to feel better at any given time. To take my responsibilities to this bit of ground a step past “water the plants” and “compost your hair and fingernail clippings” and “top up your raised beds every spring” and “scatter the seeds of fruit-bearing trees far and wide” and into something that goes a littler further, though I don’t know what that would look like, having not got there yet. It might involve the River Keepers. It might involve something else.
 
 
Take care,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I’m about 2/3 done the “safety scarf” that I’m knitting in day-glow hot pink with glow-in-the-dark beads looped into it which, once it’s finished, should help me be a little more visible. I don’t love that I can’t trust drivers to pay enough attention at cross-walks to not try to make a right-hand turn right over top of me, but I also don’t want to die, so: Safety Scarf it is.
 
[2] Which I need to be careful about because some of those actions mess with my lower back. Some of them don’t, though, and do help keep my feet from freezing. So that’s relevant to my Winter body, in particular.