Tag Archives: seasonal

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.

COLD (Part Two)

Night Ice - A night scene, street lights reflecting off snow and ice - Photo by James Ryen - Via Wiki Free Images

Night Ice – A night scene, street lights reflecting off snow and ice – Photo by James Ryen – Via Wiki Free Images


 
I dropped the socks off at the drop-in center on Bank St.
You guys, they made a huge big deal out of it.
Which felt awkward as heck, but also: Maybe bring them some socks?
Cornerstone, on Booth St, needs socks too, and menstrual stuff, and pretty things like nail polish, if you’ve got some available.
 
The Empress
This was the card for December 4th. The day I dropped off the socks and pressure-canned the pumpkin soup. (I made way more soup than I needed to, so… I have extra soup?) It’s a card about nurturing and a card about building family.
Where do you feel you have enough to share? Where do you feel that you don’t? Are there ways you can change that? Where do you need to get comfortable asking for help and support? What is your relationship to giving and receiving care? What is your relationship to the concept of “family”. Are you dealing with Hard Feels about your family of origin right now? How do you build family, yourself? How, and to whom, do you open your home? Who welcomes you into theirs?
I wrote a whole Thing about this over on Syrens, and I find that I relate uncomfortably to Brenee Brown’s writing about the power dynamics involved in being the “helper” vs being the “helpee” and being uncomfortable with needing things (whether that’s emotional support, human connection, or something more immediate like food or shelter). Years of low and unstable income (and, y’know, body pain) may have gotten me a lot more comfortable with accepting offers of immediate/physical help (and marginally less averse to asking for it when I need it), but I still have a hard time Using My Words when it comes to asking for reassurance or attention or affection. Part of this hearkens all the way back to a childhood of being “too sensitive”, but a fair bit of it connects to Adventures In Polyamoury, and being rewarded for being “the stable girlfriend” who didn’t need quite so much emotional support and hand-holding with regards to non-monogamy (that doesn’t mean I needed none, mind you) and/or who could provide some stability for partners who were having a hard time for years at a stretch. So my relationship to giving care is (a) I get a lot out of it, including being rewarded in my relationships, but also (b) I sometimes feel pretty resentful about it, too. My relationship to receiving care is… (a) I really wanna! but also (b) I feel like I’m being too demanding/needy/childish and that the people around me tend to be worse off than me, so I’m being kind of a selfish ass for wanting people who have body-pain and mental health stuff and all the rest of it to look after me.
It’s kind of a mess.
 
The Emperor
This is a card about tradition. About your place in a lineage. About rules and codes and expectations. About power structures.
A lot of what I might talk about here actually fits better with the concept of “Shadows”, which I’ll be talking about starting on the 15th, but it’s relevant to this card so here we are. Like The Magician, this is a card that asks you “Where do your politically-supported privileges lie and who, relative to them, is metaphorically (and frequently literally) left out in the cold? How can you help to change that?”
As an able-bodied, white, cis lady, in Canada, this means offering my support to disabled people, trans people and racialized – particularly indigenous – people in concrete ways. This can mean offering my spare room to a trans kid who needs a place to stay. It can mean getting out my tape measure and helping to create an accessibility document for an event I’m attending. It can mean showing up on parliament hill to support the kids from Grassy Narrows. And, yeah, it can also mean throwing money when you’ve got some to throw.
 
The Heirophant
This is kind of the religious counterpart to the Emperor, though I’ve seen it depicted as everything from a dominatrix to a charismatic speaker to an Ancestor with the head of a deer. In every instance, this is a card about being a guide (or finding one. Maybe it says something about me that I automatically gravitate to “you are supposed to be/offer this” rather than “seek this out in others”, but the card goes both ways).
Also, this being a religious blog, it’s nice to be able to talk pretty explicitly about the religious elements of both this card and what it may be suggesting that you do/consider/seek. So:
What guides you? Who guides you? How do you seek out their counsel and, importantly, how (and when and if) do you follow through on their advice?
I look for guidance from my gods and ancestors, primarily. And I mostly use tarot to talk to them, since my head is basically a concrete bunker and it’s hard to get a message through otherwise. But I also look for… not even messages, exactly. Just “information”. What animals are hanging out, drawing my attention, in the vicinity? What plants are growing where? What do they tend to be doing? What can I learn from what they’re up to? I may loathe cockroaches and NEVER want to share space with them again, but boy-howdy, do they ever do Family as a group that scatters for part of every day and then regroups again when it’s time to sleep. See also crows. See also the family of rats living in my neighbour’s shed. Maybe that skunk who came trotting out between my house and the next one over is a reminder that just because somebody’s pretty & fancy doesn’t mean they won’t raise a big stink about it if you cross their boundaries or threaten their people. Maybe I need to consider which boundaries need maintenance. Maybe I need to put some attention on where my extended family needs support and protection. What do dandelions and mullien have to tell me resilience? About wishes? About softness and hardiness not being mutually exclusive?
How do you lead/guide others by example? Are your actions in line with your values? Where and how can they line up better?
So this is a place where activist types – especially when we’re new at it – can get tripped up by trying to be paladins. You have to pick a couple of things that you’re good at and show up when those things are needed. Some people are good at writing op-eds and getting the word out. Some people are walking and stomping and chanting and street theatre. Some people are good at child care. Some people are good at Having Polite But Persistent Conversations with politicians and never letting their nerves or their screaming-and-throwing-things show on the outside. Some people are good at five-part harmony and writing musical calls-to-arms.
Me? I’m reliably and consistently good at cooking and emotional labour. So I do a lot of checking in with people, and I do a lot of sharing my groceries, showing up with a casserole when everything is hard, having people over for dinner when they’re stressed or cash-strapped, volunteering at the soup kitchen, showing people how to forage for free food, and similar.
I value food. I value sharing food as a way of building/strengthening community and family bonds, both laterally and inter-generationally. I value the feminized labour of cooking (and gathering, and harvesting, and gardening, and preserving) and feeding people. I value the way that putting together a care package with somebody’s specific dietary needs (and wants) in mind is a way to remind them that they are loved and cared for in their totality and that they don’t have to pretend to be able to digest gluten or tomatoes or whatever in order to be wanted.
On a different note, as someone’s who’s in the throes of NRE right now (it’s great, thanks for asking), I know that I want to be my best self for my shiny new girlfriend, which serves as a good reminder to show up and be my best self for my wife, my friends-and-family, and people who are generally around the place, too.
If I bring up how important it is to write poetry or do ritual (or both, in combination!)… am I making those things/actions a priority in my life?
If I’m paying attention to the D/s dynamic I have with my sweetheart, am I also showing up for the D/s dynamic I have with my wife?
If I know that singing and doing core-strengthening exercises are both good for me (for my body, for my brain, for my heart)… am I actually doing them with any degree of frequency and regularity?
(The answer, at the moment, is… slightly? But nowhere near as much as I should be. More work to do on that front).
 
The Lovers
How do I connect this card with Cold? This card that is about connection, about showing up for each other (and – if you’re the Next World deck – about self-care and showing up for yourself), about trust.
In my first post about Cold, I talked about how it’s not just the ambient temperature, but numbness and desensitization that needs to be addressed here. The Lovers is a card about vulnerability. About opening up to connection. About compassion and empathy and relating to people.
I’ve seen so much stuff on twitter (among other places) about approaching things – interactions, situations – in the coming year with an eye to “How can I increase the love in the world”. How can I keep this stressful, scary conversation “friendly and personal” so that it has a hope of changing someone’s mind? How can I approach volunteering at the soup kitchen and chatting up socially isolated people with solidarity, empathy, and respect rather than by participating in some kind of patronizing benefactor/charity-case dynamic with another human being? How can we, as people who all need care and support, look out for each other in ways that allow for a lot of mutuality so that nobody feels like a bitter, burnt-out martyr, and nobody feels like a helpless mess who can’t do anything themselves, in our relationships with each other?
And I think that’s how The Lovers relates to the themes I’m trying to address, or at least consider, through the lens of “Cold”.
 
It’s December 8th today. I’m technically into my second theme – Dark – but I’ll start to address that, and the accompanying tarot cards, in another couple of days.
For now, I need to bring the pressure-canner back to the tool library.

New Moon – Long Nights Moon Begins (Season of the Hag)

New Moon - Image Via Wikipedia - A thin, thin sliver of silver along the edge of the dark face of the moon.

New Moon – Image Via Wikipedia – A thin, thin sliver of silver along the edge of the dark face of the moon.


 
I made candles today, and lit the altars. There a glass of sortilege up there as an offering, since the Season of the Hag kicks off, well, technically yesterday since this post is going up a day late (the “winter” wreath is on my door at last, though I haven’t hung up the holly garlands yet), and I’m hoping that winter will be kind. In-so-far as that’s an option, anyway.
My wife and I are having a quiet evening in, eating pizza (or will be, when it gets here), and avoiding the cold weather. I made bread today, and Persephone Shortbread (see below), and started planning my grocery list for the big Midwinter Stocking Up that I’ll be doing some time in the next ten days. I figure: if I’m getting six litres of sweet cider, plus a bunch of other beverages, for the annual Solstice Party? I might as well get 20+kg of flour and 10lbs of beets and similar, since I’m paying for delivery (or borrowing a car) anyway. The year is definitely winding down. I have friends blogging about the goals they met (or didn’t) this past year, and other friends doing tarot readings for what to potentially expect in the next turn around the sun.
 

Wildwood Tarot – “Home” – Ten of Stones – A traditional round house, this one with a mature tree growing up through its center, viewed through a stone arch.


Tarot Card Meditation:
This card isn’t a random draw.
Not this time.
I was shuffling my Wildwood deck and this card kept drawing my eye, so I went with it.
It’s a card about taking part in traditions.
It’s a card about long-term plans.
It’s a card about sharing what you have.
It feels very appropriate to draw this card right now, and to try to live by it’s invitation to claim your personal power, to build (up) your community, to create and maintain the traditions that matter to you, to nurture your roots (it is Root Time right now, after all), to be generous with your resources (time, energy, attention… “resources” doesn’t just mean “money”), to make things that last.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Not enough dancing! I would like more! Lots of lifting a full pressure canner up and down though, so there’s that.
 
Attention: The state of the sidewalks (the ice is starting to turn up… yeeg). The temperature, which swings between -3 and -19. The wildlife in the back yard (watching for the little white cat who comes to hunt rats out back, for the most part, but the winterized squirrels are utterly adorable).
 
Gratitude: Grateful for the opportunity to borrow the pressure canner from the OTL. For a couple of quiet days to put some food up for myself and others. For a wife who snuggles me when I have bad dreams. For an internet connection (it’s back!) that lets me talk to my girlfriend (and for said girlfriend). For new (to me) clothes that fit and let me feel swanky. For the transcription pay-cheque that finally came through (!!!) and the knowledge that January’s rent is covered for sure.
 
Inspiration: Trying to draw inspiration from the season, from the cold and the dark and the deep shadows. And also from the major arcana, because using that system for different projects and thought experiments is a way to get to know the cards a little better and a little differently, which I like.
 
Creation: I find myself singing more, these days. Maybe it’s the solstice music I’ve been playing, but it’s nice to be singing again. Not exactly “creation”, but something artistic and good for me, none the less. I’ve also written a couple of thousand more words on That Novel, so that’s a little bit of progress on that front.