Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post holy days malaise

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be mini-Martha Stewart's at the holidays... Perfect meals, perfect platings, perfect decor.... that's a lot of perfect. 

The fact, however, is that we're not perfect. Far from it! Those beautiful imperfections are what make the holidays so great. 

That's Milo- he wants you to relax and smile. 

So as we have one last day to celebrate, think on the coming of 2016 and decide how resolute you're going to be about next year. And, if you're going to make a resolution, make it that you'll finally accept your imperfection and just enjoy. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cooking up Yule

If you're anything like me, you make GRAND plans for how to spend the holy days... long menus, lists of crafts to make, decorations to hang, people to invite...

and half the time you end up making one or two things for you and your SO, with at least one candle lit, and holding a small ceremony instead.

The problem with the holy days is we have lives that don't always play nicely with our plans for celebrating. The loss my family suffered in September has made celebrating at all this year all the more painful, and even holding a ceremony at Samhain was difficult. So in the midst of the sparkling lights and decorated trees, Yule has snuck up on me.

The rest of my family celebrates at Christmas, and even that has approached like a ninja - I'm mostly unprepared. Thankfully I still have a little time, and the things people want this year aren't the sort of things that need to be shipped to me first. Even still - this time of year is so rushed, so hurried, that it is exceedingly easy to forget, to overlook, and to get exhausted before our holy day actually arrives.

mmmm... olive oil..... 
So how, in the midst of sad remembrances and hurried shopping, do you actually stop and celebrate? Well, for me it'll always be in the kitchen.

Life is better when I'm in a kitchen, busy with activity, hot from the oven and burners, fragrant with whatever I'm making at the moment.  (my SO has a habit of saying "it smells good in there" even before I'm halfway done - he's just smelling ingredients at that point)

Bread is one thing I absolutely adore making - there is nothing like bread still warm from the baking. So, here's my go to bread recipe that's perfect for the busy holiday season. 

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt (or pink or grey - really, it's all good)
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups room temp water
roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix ins: rosemary, Asiago cheese, sun dried tomatoes... sorta whatever you want to put in there 

Mix the dry ingredients together with a spatula in a large metal bowl. Mix the extras into the flour mix. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Start mixing, pushing down a little with the spatula as you do so the water gets through the dough. Pour in the olive oil (so here, what I usually do is just up end the bottle over the bowl and keep pouring till it looks right... it's about 2 tablespoons, sometimes 3... just don't do more than that) 

Mix until the dough is wet all the way through. Leave it in the bowl and cover it with saran wrap. 
Let it rise for between 18 and 20 hours. Yes, you read that right. 

Come back the next day and the dough will have risen to fill most of the bowl, and will have LOTS of air bubbles. The bubbles are important. Grab some flour, sprinkle some on the counter in front of you and a very little over the top of the dough, and slowly roll the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Gently roll the dough around till it's more or less a ball and is lightly coated in flour (this is so it doesn't stick to anything). 

Grab a covered baker (like this one) and stick it in the cold oven, empty.  Now heat your oven to 500 degrees F. 

Once your oven is up to temp, CAREFULLY take the baker out, remove the lid and drop your ball of dough into the baker. Try to do this gently, but don't burn yourself. Put the lid back on, and the whole thing back in the oven. 

Bake for 30 minutes. 

Remove the lid. 

Bake for 15 minutes. 

CAREFULLY remove the baker, remove the loaf and let it cool. 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Having the right tools

There is nothing worse, to me at least, than being in the middle of baking something important (like the umpteenth batch of lemon truffles for the Yule party) and not having the right tool at your disposal.  Yeah, you can get by... you can make do with what you have and everything will come out great but at the end of the day, it's not right and you know it. (no one else does, but you do)

In some ways it breaks your concentration. You're focused, you're working with intent and folding into the mixture in your bowl the ingredients for your spell and for your recipe, and you need another spoon/ladle/whisk/etc and.... nothing. You don't have it so you stop, wash something, go back to it...

Granted, this isn't an all the time thing, and naturally it's not horrible to have reached for the right tool and come back with a decent substitute but oh what a wonderful moment when everything is going perfectly and you reach for the tool and it's there, and you don't miss a beat and come the end of the venture you have before you exactly the dish you wanted, exactly as you imagined it...

Bliss.

When I was first starting out as a kitchen witch, having the right tools was secondary to my practice. It didn't matter to me all that much - I made do, and muddled through with what I got from the dollar store. I worked with what I had, I didn't buy a lot and felt that this was "more pure" a way to do things - never mind that my spoon was splintering, or the spatula was near dead, or my can opener didn't really cut anymore.  I didn't have a juicer, so most of it ended up on my hands instead of in my recipe. It was a mess.

just don't microplane your fingers
As I got more into my practice, it took a little more time and funds but I started to realize how very important the right tools were. I noticed the change in my final dishes too - how having a micro-plane to zest instead of trying to rely on me mincing fine enough made all the difference in my orange almond cream scones.

it's so much better when it's all cooked..
How having the right baking dish meant my baked dishes came out perfect instead of burnt around the edges and on the raw side of done in the middle.


Edible... but not totally right.



Happiness with the space you're practicing in is key. It's the difference between a smooth ceremony and one where the candle falls because the holder was insufficient and the knife doesn't cut well because it's dull.

My altar is as important as my kitchen - they're one in the same most of the time. A well appointed kitchen is imperative to being able to pull off the recipes that I want to, when I want to... and that's an excellent thing to do.

To that end, I've become a Pampered Chef consultant. It's high end kitchen utensils and gadgets and etc... and all at prices that a freelance photographer and kitchen witch can actually afford.

And before you go getting all up in arms, no - I won't be hocking my wares in every single blog post. This isn't a Pampered Chef blog - this is a Kitchen Druid blog. I will, however, be posting links to gadgets that I use during my recipes so, if you chose, you can use the same gadgets I am.

Blessings on you as we head into Yule.


Friday, December 4, 2015

The frustration of "Making it Real"

We have all, at some point or another, wished desperately to "know", that is, really physically know on the same level that you "know" you physically exist and you "know" things about the material world, that your magic is working - that it's real. We have whispers of its reality, tingling notions on the edge of our mind and shivers on our spines hinting at tangibility... but it's not Harry Potter where we can see the manifestations of our magical working.

So we envision it - we use the creativity of our minds and meditate on the fruition of our work. We sit still, light the candles, and see with our mind's eye the circle of power we just wrought. We feel with our non-physical senses for the non-physical parts of our work.

We trust it's there, we trust it's working... that takes a lot of intent, and it takes a lot of trust.

So what happens on those days where you really would love to be able to snap your fingers and see the cars in front of you in traffic suddenly pushed to the side so you can go home? What happens when you'd love to pull your wand out and scream in latin a phrase that silences the person screaming at you?


What do you do when you want it to be
 as it is in the movies and it isn't?



The fact is, magic isn't what you see in the movies. It's more than that, and less. 

Our magic is tangible, but in ways other than seeing the books fly across the room to our hand or seeing the dishes do themselves after a good swish and flick. We can see the magic we do, but there are no chimes when we wiggle our noses unless we ring them ourselves. We can see the effect of our magic in the people around us, but not because their mouths disappear when we mutter the right phrase. 

Our magic is subtle. It is quiet, no matter how loud the drum circles get. It is private, no matter how many spectators watch our Circles.  It is invisible, no matter how many inscribed candles sit around. And why? Simply put - people only know what they see, and if they don't see what the movies show them, it's simply not there.  The good part is that we know better. 

We cannot infect someone with chicken pox with the point of a finger, but we can use an incantation to strengthen our resolve against the bully. We cannot remove the obstacles in traffic with the wink of an eye, but we can grip tight a charm bag and draw on the calm we've placed there. 

There are times where movies and reality come close - potions, for one. Everyone knows Potions class... "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death—" (Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) - but even still, how many of us are like the First Year's that don't believe it's magic because there are no long incantations or skyclad dancing? 

The beauty of being a hedgewitch is exactly this - we have the power to do a great many things and most of what we need we can get at the corner grocery store. If the need rises, I can stop into any grocery store in the country and get the ingredients to fix the problem magically. That is power. 

So I ask you - when the need for magic rises in you, will you despair because you can't Transfigure something into what you need, or will you remember your training and call on the magic you do have? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanks - both giving and receiving

In the USA, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. It's a national holiday where families gather, either bloodline or chosen, and share a meal.

It should be one of the most sacred holidays for people - it's the basics of community, of trust building, and of family. 

It is, however, a day that people dread - loudly sometimes - because of the weight of the day. So much cooking. So much avoiding difficult questions from family and friends. So much traveling. So much traffic and stress. So much worry. They dread the politics that will creep up, the ignoring of personal choices either of food or choice of living, the drudging up of old hurts and grudges... it's a long list. 

Some just stay home, locked away for a long weekend alone with takeout food and a marathon of their favorite tv shows. 
Some just go anyway, get into arguments, make more grudges and more hurts, and scream as they storm out. 
Some volunteer their time instead of going to see the family they can't stand, and let their pain be a balm to others. 

I'm not even going into the shopping. That's for another post. 


Giving and Receiving thanks... how good are you at both? That's the real question. How good are you at saying, and truly meaning, "Thank you."?  Most of us have meant that at least once in our life. Most of us are also really good at using that word sarcastically. This is less useful. We should do this every day - but if we can't, we should on Thanksgiving. It's a good time to start. 

Giving thanks doesn't mean just for the big things. It means for the little things too. My mate often says thank you when I tell him I love him. I laughed once and asked why he was thanking me. He didn't take offense - he just smiled and told me he wanted me to know he appreciated my love, not just that he loved me too. I've adopted that habit, and I can see the smile all the way into his eyes. Try it - I bet you like the results. 

Receiving thanks... well, that story works for this too. I wasn't used to being thanked for that and it got me thinking - there's a lot I'm not used to being thanked for. And not sarcastically thanked, but really honestly thanked. We, as a people, are bad at this, for as much as I find people are bad at giving it, they're worse at receiving. We don't believe people when they give it honestly, because we're too used to the sarcasm that usually laces those words like barbed wire. We shy away. We laugh because it's unexpected and we're caught off guard. 

This year, make it your goal to breathe deep, relax, and really be honest about your giving and receiving. As you share that meal, smile more. Be thankful more. And say it more. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

So... what now?

The last post was in response to a question I get a lot from new people.

This is the other question I get most often, and I feel that in the light of the New Year it's a good question to ask.

You've set up and actually performed your first ceremony, or you've just infused your first dish of food with magical intent - so... what now? Now that it's done, what do you do next?

Well, after a ceremony there is some housekeeping to do. You'll need to clean up the area, usually just putting your candles and tools back where they usually live, and you might need to sweep or mop up a spill.  If you were outdoors, you'll need to make sure that the fire (if you had one) is truly extinguished - raging fires are not cool, and neither is property damage. You'll need to carry everything back inside, and likely clean up a little - or warm up a little if it was chilly.

You also need to take care of yourself after a ceremony. You've just expended energy - you've spent time in meditation, you've communicated intent, you've lead and walked and talked. It's draining, and you need to recoup a little now. Have some tea, or go straight to bed if it was done at night. If you can, a nap might be a good idea. Truthfully, you might not need any of that, you might just need a glass of water and a good book. Listen to yourself to know what you need.

If you're infusing food with intent it's important that your guests know what the deal is - this is like anything else, don't impose it on people who might not want it. But if they did, and they know, and everything is ok, then go ahead and enjoy the meal. Afterward make sure you clean everything - washing, here, is really all you need. If you truly feel the desire to wash the energy from the physical dishes as well, then add a tiny (and I mean TINY) bit of salt to your dish water. Always rinse in pure, plain water though. It could harm the dishes otherwise.

As with everything, preparation is as important as clean up. Take your time, clean thoroughly and don't delay in doing it.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Samhain on the road

I love spending the holy days at my little piece of yard.  This will mark my 3rd Samhain at the house, and the last two have been amazing. The sun lowers, I walk out the back door, down the wood stairs and into the yard strewn with leaves. My gaze falls on the small graveyard over the stone wall from us, and the dead smile and wave as we are now good acquaintances. They're not a malicious bunch, just a group of old soldiers and a few of their ladies. They're a pretty quiet bunch.

This year, however, I won't be in my backyard to watch the moon rise and to hold ceremony. This year I'll be close to where I used to live, to places I've held ceremony before, at a convention furthering the pursuits of my heart and my sisters profession.

I'll have no patch of grass to go to, but that's no matter. Why? Because when it comes down to it, your own person is the only thing you need to celebrate the holy days.

Yes, it's nice to have grass to go to. Yes, it's nice to have the graveyard so handy. Yes, it's nice to celebrate in a place that I've been working with for so long, that is truly my home base. But will my ceremony be any less potent because I'm doing it in a hotel room in DC? Nope. I'll have myself, I'll have my intent and my will, I'll have my book and my cup - I'll have what I need to honor my ancestors, to thank the gods, to offer up and to call down blessing.

My ceremony does not diminish because I'm wearing my jammies with my hair in a messy bun.

The important part is what I put into it of myself. You can be wearing all the ceremonial robes you want, be in a stone circle on hallowed ground under a full moon with a full coven in attendance and resins burning in cast iron and attendants and food offerings and wine offerings and ALL THE THINGS... and it won't make a lick of difference if your intent and will aren't there.

Those things are nice. Those things are also not mandatory.

So, I invite you this Samhain to hold a ceremony wherever you are, in whatever you're wearing, with whoever you want there. Have a dixie cup of wine, or a red solo cup of sparkling grape juice, or a Pom Wonderful, or a cup of Mtn Dew. Have a cookie, or a cake, or a wheat thin if you want. Wear your jammies, wear nothing, wear sweatpants and a hoodie and your warmest socks and mittens and a coat! It doesn't matter how you come to the Circle, the point is to come, and come honestly, come willingly, come with intent.

I'll see you there.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall cleaning - a blessing oil recipe

Of all the yearly cleanings, Spring is probably the most widely known. Everyone comes out for it, everyone gets into it, everyone puts it on their to do list.

My favorite? Fall cleaning. Getting the last vestiges of summer out of the house and preparing for the colder months. Checking to make sure windows are closed and ready for the ensuing frosts and snows. Raking leaves and mulching over the plants that need some winter protection, planting bulbs to sleep till Spring, and bringing your potted plants inside for the year.

Fall cleaning is also a great time to redo your wards. We all have them, either on our specific room in a place we share with others, on the walls of our apartments, or on the houses we live in, we all have wards. These are like any other magic, and need refreshing and tending over the course of the year. I check on mine often, but the renewal and refreshing come at my Spring cleaning and my Fall cleaning.

A good ward renewal recipe: 
in a small bottle combine the following:
-- basil infused olive oil
-- rosemary oil
-- cinnamon oil
-- dragon's blood oil
-- myrrh oil

 As they combine, picture the sigils and protection lines around your house. See the whole of your space to protect. Swirl the ingredients clockwise in the bottle and whisper your intention of protection. Slowly let your voice grow as you continue to chant, giving strength to your words and intention until you feel the surge rising.

 Once it's ready, take a deep breath in and breathe out into the bottle. Let this sit on your altar for a while as you clean and ready your house to have it's protection strengthened.

When your'e finished cleaning, walk through the whole house/ space with sage (it doesn't have to be burning, in case you're in a place where that isn't allowed) and allow the sage to pick up the last bits of negative energy left.

When you're ready to redo the wards, take the bottle and place a small amount on one fingertip. Trace over the previously traced sigils, repeating the words you spoke when you placed them there originally.

Finish your ceremony as you usually do.

IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!!!! This oil blend is TOXIC. DO NOT INGEST. Cinnamon oil in particular will burn your skin, so do not spread this over your body.  Wash your hands immediately after completing your ceremony. If you know you have sensitive skin, use a Q-tip. Seriously. Cap it, label it with the recipe and date, and store it someplace that it won't be mistaken as edible. Dark bottles work to keep the oil from spoiling. Store in a cool, dry place. One batch should last you for a few years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A hundred steps up the mountain

I went on pilgrimage last week, to a place my heart has been before, a place my body has been in a past life, and a place my soul remembered without prompt.

I, and my soul sister and some of our friends, went to Loughcrew and stood in the largest tomb, and felt the energy of the earth roiling around us. It was beautiful and peaceful and everything I hoped it would be. There I cried for my lost loved ones, I felt the ease of their passing and I saw their shapes float into the fog around us. I heard the whistling on the wind and knew it for the voices of my long past ancestors, welcoming me back.

We walked in the long grasses there, felt the wet stone under our hands and smelled the bounty of rich earth. The air was thick with fog and every shade in the rainbow danced there in muted tones. The wind whipped up sometimes and you could see the fog move with it like lovers reunited.

My smile ran free and honest for the first time in a long time, and my soul was more at peace than ever before.


I hope the equinox went as well for you as it did for us, and the blessings of the turn of the Wheel upon you all as we move into the Fall season.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rise up

I reference the blog at Hectate Demeter a LOT, but to be honest no one has inspired me like she has in a long while.

Lately she's been focused on the war for our planet, and our duties as magical practitioners.  Whether the war ever comes to your door is a moot point - we're all on this planet, and so it's our fight as much as anyone's. I hear the call, so do my friends... we know it's a war we have to win, but the fights are daunting sometimes.

We can't be daunted.

I've worked against people before, and I've worked for the good of a cause before too. I see people like Trump, like Bush, like the myriad of other Republican candidates, like Davis, - I see the bullies and the mean kids and the police misusing their power. I see all of this and I hear in my soul "it's time to do something." I hear quiet whispers, then I hear shouting, and I know it's not coming from me.

The fights we need to have don't have to be bloody, and they don't have to be physical. We have to push, we have to set our intention against the onslaught of intolerance that is being spewed like sewage across the natural landscape of impressionable minds. It is our job - we have the power to do something, and we are called to do it.

A great many people have cried for too, too long. Where have we been for them?

Physical actions and magical actions are what we need now. We need ceremonies as much as we need charitable giving. We need ritual as much as we need physical aid.

Be the change.
Rise up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Autumn Equinox and Pilgrimage

Who of us hasn't looked to the east at dawn on our holy days and wondered what it would be like to stand barefoot in the grass at a ring of stones and see the sun split the ring, see the growing light like gems on the dewy grass, to be where our ancestors were so long ago?

Sometimes fate is wonderfully kind.

http://loughcrew.com/wp/cairns/ 
On September 23rd I'll be standing at a Loughcrew watching the sun rise and feeling the turn of the Wheel. It's a pilgrimage in every sense of the word - I'll be in Ireland, seeing the places I've only dreamed of.  I'll stand at an ancient place, my toes in the grass, and watch the Equinox unfold as the sun rises before me.  My desire as a photographer to capture every second on film will clash with my soul's desire to drink up the light with nothing but will in my hands, but that cannot be helped, so there will be pictures, and there will be open hands.

For those who are at home, in their sacred spaces - open your hands to the sky, see the sun and know that the sacred comes to you too, and even if your feet never leave the soil of the town you were born in, the sun touches us all that day, and the rays that fall on you now fell on your ancestors, fall on the ancient places, fell on them when they were new.

Sometimes we can be pilgrims with our feet. Sometimes we can only be pilgrims with our hearts.

If you can be, be both. If you cannot, then be with your heart, and your spirit will join us there.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Maiden, Mother, Crone

I'll admit - I've started this post about 8 times now. I've struggled with what I wanted to say, because I wasn't sure I had the language to do it.  It's clearer now, and as usual I have the Wheel to thank for that. Holy days always have a way of helping clarify things for me.

Lammas (or whatever you chose to call the esbatic occasion that just passed) isn't one of the "big ones" that people usually plan their year around. In fact, an article recently pointed out why it is no longer really one to celebrate. ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/2015/07/31/why-im-boycotting-lughnasadh/ -- go read it - it's excellent and very relevant)

But whatever it is you like to call the First of August, it's still a time of year for me that rings with importance. A two week convention of medieval minded people straddles Aug 1st, and it's there that I met many of the closest friends I have now, and where I met the love of my life. It's always been that turning point, where the heat of summer peaks and builds and charges for the last hurrah before cold winds sweep in and Autumn hits like a breath that's been held too long.  I love this part of summer - it is harvest for me, as I thin the herbs in my garden and start setting them to dry and I gather the seeds off the lilies and the hips off the roses. That will give my roses another bloom before the summer ends, and I'll have at least one more harvest from the herbs, if not two.  The lilies will bloom for another month, and it'll be September before I have to start thinking about deadheading them.

We're with the Mother now, as our gardens explode with life and just keep exploding through the heat and the drought. We see her peeking out of vines heavy with grapes and stalks heavy with corn. We see her rustling the long grasses and we hear her at night as cicadas sing. Life is abundant around us and it's hard to think about harvest with summer in such full swing as it is now - but it's important none the less. Thinking about harvest now means we're not hit with surprises in September and October - thinking about famine now means we can take steps to avoid it.

Thinking about the Crone while we're sitting with the Mother means we accept and know the future brings decline. Decline ends with death, and starts again with rebirth. Thinking about that now means we're more ready to deal with the cold and dark that brings us deeper inside ourselves.

We're losing a great lady in my family right now. She's slipping away from us and into the waiting arms of Death. Part of me has come to terms with this, and while my head knows she'll be with the ancestors and perhaps one day on this Earth again my soul is torn and I still weep. This weekend brought clarity as the Wheel turned past a day that celebrates how many have come into my life, and how warm with friends and family my life is, and reminded me that I'm not losing her completely.

So I watch the Wheel turning, and watch the Earth as it tells me it's secrets and shows me it's life, and know deep down that I'll learn another lesson about loss this year, and in the darkest time too.




Monday, June 22, 2015

That equal parts day...

This Sunday, in addition to being a day we honor our Fathers (more on that later), we honor the Sun.  All kind of fitting if you ask me, as we gather so much light and guidance from the Sun it's a lot like a father figure to some of us.

Good times!

So what does one to do honor the Sun on Litha?  Well, if you're like me you bake and have friends over.

My sister was over, and it was fantastic - low key, relaxing, hilarious (as it always is - we're terrible jokers), and above all it was peaceful.

---
The most important thing that happened yesterday was the rain. I worry about my garden every year - is it fed enough, is it getting enough light, that it's watered enough.  I worry that the squirrels are eating it all, rooting up the plants they don't chew on (I lost a planter full of daffodils that way) and generally wrecking havoc on my poor garden. I worry too much, but it's what I love and I worry about what I love.

So when I kept looking outside at the drying soil (knowing full well only the surface looked that bad) I wavered on whether to water or not. I decided against it, and spent time inside laughing and enjoying the company of my sister. We watched the birds play in the dust on the edge of the planters and we watched the flocking birds scare away the squirrels who got too close. I set out bird feed for my helpful protector robins - I'd much rather have robins than squirrels.

Then the sky darkened and the rain came hard. It was a deluge, and I saw the water rushing over everything in such a way that it made me smile.  I love big weather (didn't coin that phrase, but I love it) - "big weather" has always drawn me close.  That power, that wrath, that care and concern... there is so much present in storms that they are more interesting to me than some people I know. So the storm that hit us on Sunday brought with it tearing winds and stinging rain, and the sort of cleansing change you always feel on the solstice.

It was wonderful and I hope that the solstice was everything it should be for you as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Looking for spare Change

Sometimes we have none of it - loose coin or change in a more general sense.

Sometimes we have more than we know what to do with - heaping bags that fall over in the back seat of the car and rattle as we hit speed bumps or a swirl of changes that bring fresh air and uncertainty.

Sometimes we go looking for it, because we know that something has to change or we'll go mad.

Now is one of those times.  Spring always does this too us, whirls us up and spins us around and charges us to DO something, CHANGE something, START something.  It leaves us with our hands in the air, head back, hair whipping in our face, screaming at the sky. It leaves us collapsed on the floor, tears streaming, voice caught in our throats, bunches of tissues in our wet palms. It leaves us, and we blink in the new light and wonder what the hell we're supposed to do.

Change come at us all crab, siding up with a smile.  It rips the floor out from under us, tears us apart. It brings us flowers and hands us a new situation with diplomacy and a smile.

It is vicious and beautiful and welcome and feared.

It's change.

~~~
So what is change when we go looking for it?  Well, it's all of the above.  When you invite change in, when you throw your hands up in frustration and go "NOPE.  Gonna change this now before I'm like to murder someone." you are doing the unthinkable to some - you're inviting change to you door, serving it tea.  You're bringing it in as an honored guest instead of a vagabond in the night.

So I'm looking for Change - I'm changing jobs soonish and the search starts now.  I have time to make this change, so I can do it thoughtfully and purposely, and with planning.  Scary, and nerve wracking, but change always is.


And here's a clover, for luck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gooey Sweet Tart Lemon Bars

This is likely my most sought after recipe, and I can't even take full credit for it.  Like most thing, it evolved from something I found online, based on what sounded like something my mom made that one time, and became what everyone asks me to bring to a party.

This, and bread.  I make a LOT of bread.

Lemon Bars.

Gooey, tart, sweet, yellow lemon bars.

I top them with lemon ginger sugar.  (if you're not allergic, try it some time)

Ingredients:
cookie base:
1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all purpose flour

lemon goo:
4 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour over the baked crust.
4. Bake for an additional 20 minutes in the preheated oven. 
5. Remove and top with powdered sugar, lemon ginger sugar, vanilla sugar or nothing! The bars will firm up as they cool.

And you know I don't leave it at that.  Oh, not a chance!  

Onto what is basically shortbread I draw runes, symbols, etc to help along whatever party I'm going too.  While I'm mixing and whisking I'm whispering my intent, my wishes, and my will.  The heat of the oven and the yellow of the bars - I invoke the heat of the Sun to bring warmth and light into the lives of all those who eat it.  

I make these a lot! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesdays, Desire, and Caution

It's that kind of Wednesday.  You know what I'm talking about... that Wednesday when you know if you go outside for lunch it's going to be a 30 min conversation with yourself about going back inside to work.  That Wednesday that reminds you of all the things you could be doing... like sleeping in a forest glen or reading beside a flower strewn meadow or, well, ANYTHING other than sitting in a stuffy office pretending to care about your job.

Yeah.  *That* kind of Wednesday.

So let's talk about desire.  The air is warm, the Sun is warmer, the flowers are blooming *everywhere* and we are swept up in the glory of Spring... so, desire.

Gather round boys and girls, while Auntie Aaradyn tells you a story about getting *exactly* what you asked for and why that isn't always the best thing ever.

A while back (seriously - years ago) I held a rite and asked for what I thought I really, really wanted.  And I got it.  And it was awesome for all of 3 seconds.  Then it was good.  Then it was ok.  Then it blew up in my face and went down like the Hindenburg.  Out of those ashes came a lot of tears, the repair of relationships, and a much stronger person with better painting skills.

Could all that have happened without the earth shattering kaboom?  Yeah, probably.  But it didn't, and now I have a story out of it.

---
It started with me, my altar, a really great song, and an idea that I knew what I really wanted.  I called the circle, lit the candles, pressed play on my iPod and started reciting the text.  I had the feeling that to call to me what I thought I needed, I needed to throw a little sexual energy at the situation.  So I did.  Being solitary is a wonderful thing sometimes.

I can tell you, honestly, that it was one of the best rites I've ever performed.  I felt the presence of the Stag as I haven't before, and haven't since, and I am glad that I had that experience.  That's not to say that I haven't felt His presence since then at all, I have and it's been wonderful, but nothing like that night.

I asked for a relationship that would blaze inside me, that would light up my life, that would burn bright and strong.  And I got it not all that long afterward, in a form I never considered but accepted none the less.  I got exactly what I asked for - the relationship started fast, went even faster and didn't stop till we were all on fire and running to the corners of the earth to be away from each other.  We collapsed, separate and smoldering in different states entirely, and haven't spoke since.

It was a bonfire that consumed me.  It wasn't pretty.

It left me stranded in a foreign place with no aid in sight.  So I did what you have to do in that situation - I made the most of it.  I scrimped and saved and with no small amount of luck I managed to survive.  I painted, I read, I embroidered and I meditated on what I did to get into that situation and how to not do that again.

It worked.  I haven't done that again.  (I've screwed up in other ways, to be sure - but never like that again.)

I got lucky, and I'll tell you why - I was penitent and forgave myself.  I didn't blame anyone for where I was or what happened to me - I did it to myself.  I didn't blame the Gods either - again, I did it to myself.  I asked for it, I got it and, it turns out, I didn't want it.  But, too late - I was stuck.

The story of getting unstuck was me finding a job, a very tiny apartment, a tight budget, and desire to change my fate.

Desire can go a long way when you have drive.  And being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no friends or family close??  That's some hella good drive.

It's a long story about my getting out of that, but the short version is this: I did.  I did, and I did it with some help and some favor and some grace.  I did it and I am very, very thankful.  Where I am now is a paradise compared to where I was, and I never forget how lucky I am.  I never forget the past and I don't dwell on it - I remember, and I build on that, and I move forward.

So, long story short - be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bless our Mothers

I don't know about you, but I've put my mother through the wringer.  It hasn't always been rough, but I've had a lion's share of rough patches and, through everything, she's been there.

She's a wonderful woman, an artist, a chef, a gardener, a lover of good wine, and a lover of cheesy movies.  I came by my status as geek honestly - I learned it from my mother who has Star Trek ornaments on her tree in December and action figures on her desk at home.  I learned all the little things from her, and the big things, and the things I never thought I'd need to know but one day was overjoyed to remember she'd taught me.

She is, thankfully, still in this world for me to Skype with every Tuesday.

I don't want to think about a point in time that I can't do that.

Sunday many will gather with their Mothers, and will bless them in many different but equally valid ways.  We will take to social media and send well wishes and blessings to mothers that we know.  Some of those women will be friends, other will be our sisters and cousins and nieces.

No matter how you honor her, honor your mother.

~~~

Your human mother isn't the only mother to honor on Sunday.  Honor your Earth mother, your home and the womb you dig into when planting.  Honor Gaia with song or silence, but honor her.  Remember her and touch her with reverence as you would your human mother.

Mother's day marks the absolutely end of frosts up in New England.  It's the point in time where I'm sure the only threat to my plants will be the voracious squirrels that seem to think my planter boxes are their own salad bar, and whatever vicious rains the summer will send us.  (last summer we got a storm so bad it tore up buildings not far from my house.  Goddess bless - we were spared any devastation) So while many go to brunch with their mothers, I go to the nursery and collect the plants I will nurture and raise over the coming months.  I smile merrily as I pick tomato plants and herbs, and think fondly of the seedlings growing at home.  Sunday I'll get my hands dirty as I make room around the yard for the newest arrivals.

My grandmother taught me how to garden, my mother taught me how to capture what I grew in artwork - I am forever thankful to them both.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Stress, stress, stress, then...

NOTHING.

Isn't that always the way?  Well, no, it's not, but when it is you sort of look around and wonder what happened that everything is ok now.

Large stresses and small stresses alike, it's never a good time when something turns and stares at you with an accusing eye.  Be it your all together too low bank account or a looming issue that you're dreading dealing with, that focus drills into you, worming its way into your very soul.  It drains you until you have nothing left to fight it.

We've all been there.  We all know that feeling.

Then it breaks, like a popped balloon, and you're left standing there feeling lighter than air.  Your soul relaxes (you can feel it) and the sun is a little brighter.

Peace.

~~~
Having just gone through the amazing time that was Beltane, and carrying a little of that bonfire with us still, I think about the stresses that I carried with me into that morning ceremony on Friday, and through the rest of the weekend, and I wonder how that affected the ceremony as a whole.

The gods know we bring some of the pressures of life with us into the circle, no matter how much we try to relax before hand.   They know, and they understand, and we deal with it as best we can.


So in the coming week, remember your stresses aren't forever, and know the gods understand.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blessings!

Today, focus on the warmth and sun! (even if you can't see it!)


























Blessed Beltane!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

On the eve of Beltane

Turmoil.  Strife.  Anger.  Resentment.

Not a great way to go into one of the most holy days of the year, but that's where we are none the less.  Beltane is tomorrow and, as is my usual ritual, I'll be outside at dawn to greet the sun.  I'll stand in white, facing East, chalice in hand and smile as the rays touch the water I'll use throughout the day for washing and cooking.

And I'll think of those who wake and greet the sun each day because they have no homes to shield them from the changing weather.  I'll think of those who greet the sun each day because they're only just getting home from work at what might be a very thankless job that puts them in harm's way.  I'll think of those who greet the sun because they've sat vigil all night for loved ones they've lost.  Those people don't choose to rise early from a warm bed and a sleeping partner to stand in the growing sunlight and worship at their leisure.  Tomorrow I will pray for them.

My rituals as a solitary are simple - there isn't a lot that needs to be said out loud when it's just you and the Goddess.  In fact, if you were to look at me during rites and not know what I was about then it'd likely look like I was whispering to a cup of water really early in the morning, and then looking in the grass for a lost earring or something.  But that's all it is when you're celebrating the Sabbat by yourself.

It's been a magical aid sort of week - a friend with a sadness that needs easing, a sister with a pestilence that needs to be cleansed from her, another sister with something very precious that was lost and must be found, and my own dear love who has been sick for far too long.  Tomorrow I'll pray for all of them too.

I have a lot of prayers to say tomorrow morning.


My ceremony: Beltane for the Solitary

A chalice with plain water
a bit of bread
a white tealight candle

Wake before sunrise and walk through every room in your house, look around and make a mental list of things you want to clean up.  Take time in the dark of morning to be thankful for the house you have.
Fill your chalice with fresh, clear water and be thankful for the gift of clean water.
Pick up your bit of bread and be thankful for the food you have.

Walk outside, barefoot if possible, and feel the cool morning air on your skin, the wet grass on your feet.  Look at the horizon and know the sun is rising again as you look on.  Know that it rises every morning.

Wash your face and hands in the dew on the grass, soaking in the beauty of nature.

Hold your bread before you and offer it to the Earth, to the spirits of those gone before, to the fae and other kin that live around your house.  Set it beside a tree or plant as an offering and leave it there.

Place the candle on the ground in front of you and surround it with twigs and leaves that you find around you. Wait to the light the candle.

As the sun starts to rise, hold your chalice before you and watch the rays of the sun falling on the water.  Take this time to speak to the Goddess and/or the God.  Thank them, pray for those who need it, and welcome the warmth of Spring and Summer back into your life.

Light the candle and greet the fire of the sun with the fire of your tiny bonfire.  Watch the smoke rise and mix with the fog of morning.

Ideally you would watch the full sunrise and conclude your rites later in the morning.  My schedule on the weekdays is not so free.

If you cannot watch the full sunrise, wait until you can see at least a quarter of the sun above the horizon and then thank the Quarters for being there, carry your lit candle and the full chalice back inside and go straight to your shower.  Using part of the water and still with your lit candle, wash yourself and cleanse yourself of the winter and the dark, and bring in the fire of Beltane.

Place the chalice on your stove and use the rest of the water that night when you make dinner.  If you don't make dinner that night, simply drink it before going to bed.

Carry the candle (extinguished) with you all day as a reminder of the fires burning today to bless fields and livestock.  Tonight, when you're home from your day, light the candle again and carry it from room to room, blessing your house with the new fire.

Wash your doors and windows with water infused with lemon and rosemary and sage, blessing them and bringing them into the light, renewing all the wards as you go.

Sweep your whole house, get all the cobwebs from winter out and sprinkle sage and yarrow in all the corners of your rooms for grounding and warding.

Before you go to sleep, quiet your thoughts and relax, and know that you are among the Blessed.

Blessed Beltane!

Monday, April 27, 2015

To see the world...

Travel is one of the most amazing things, and greeting the sun in a land not your own is an excellent way to stretch your practice.

I recently went to Germany, and seeing the town in all it's medieval splendor was nothing short of amazing.  The lane you see in the picture was my daily walk for a week, from my hotel to the dance hall that I spent hours in with friends and good music and food.

Daily I was able to look out of my window and see the sunrise, and greet the familiar orb over a land and river foreign to me.  It was wonderful!  The rays were a familiar hug each day, and it was easier to go and explore on my own with the knowledge that I wasn't really alone with the beauty of the sun to help me long.

Miltenberg is a religious city, and there are many statues of Mary and the Blessed Child around.  The church is central to the town, and the bells ring to tell the time, beautiful sounds over a city straight out of a fairy tale.

Visiting the world as we do, traveling to places that are home for some and lands of mystery for others, do we think about how that is true for people who visit the places we call home?  The places we know like the back of our hands are places of mystery for others, but do we consider that?  Do we stop and remember how immensely beautiful our home cities are to those who have never seen them before?  This is important - we are stewards of our cities, and if we forget how beautiful they are, we forget what we're preserving, what we're protecting and what we're presenting to others.

Bringing it with you... bringing my practice to Germany, my morning rites were simple - a smile at the sun, a whispered thanks for the ability to travel here and see these things and a whispered request for protection while on the journey.  I smiled at the moon each night, thankful for another day of fun and laughter, with no worries or harm.

I've brought a little of that serenity home with me, in images and memories and post cards.

When next you travel, remember to bring your practice with you, and see what a difference that makes in your day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Waking up your space

As I got in my car this morning to make the horrible commute into work, I noticed the bulbs finally peeking above the mulch in front of the house.  I smiled, wide, and laughed a little that I might finally see them, might finally get some color into my yard.  I can't plant outside yet, it's too cold still as evidenced by the sleet and hail we're getting right now, but to see those small shoots poking up, I'm hopeful that this consistent cold won't kill them off before they have a chance to bloom.

I got extremely lucky when I moved to New England - the house I moved into seemed poised and ready for me to show up and it was truly like coming home from the moment I set foot in the door.  Waking up the land after a long winter wasn't hard last year.  This year the cold lingers, and the Earth seems ready and reluctant at the same time - Earth is now us when the room is just cold enough to annoy us, and the blankets are the perfect level of warmth to keep us trapped, unwilling to move.  Getting this lady out of that bed would be nearly impossible - how can we think it'll be any easier to get Mother Nature out of bed?

These are the days that I spend walking barefoot around my back yard.  These are the days that I make a point to venture out and touch the trees, the leaves, the young shoots.  These are the days that I make a point to pour my energy back into the ground, to help those fragile growing things get strong to survive the lingering cold.

I can feel the growing around my house, and I can smell it when I step out the door.  The blackbirds play around my house, and the blue jays, and wrens.  The gulls circle by and I can hear the cry of the red tailed hawks.  I invite those hawks to come to my yard and save my plants from the voracious squirrels that are already scavenging my window boxes for something tasty.

It's all rain and wetness here now, and I absolutely love it! The fog in the morning, the scent of the rain waking up the soil... the rain are tears of happiness that Spring is here. Everyone needs a walk in the rain every now and then.


---
There is a brilliant woman who runs a blog by the name of HectateDemeter who introduced me to a term called "landbase" - that is, the area where you live and work.  She talks about the connection she has to her land, the care she gives it and how it helps her grow in her craft.  Go read her blog, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Still cold, still snow, still time to be thankful for warmth

Ostara just happened, our dyed eggs are still in the fridge, and our seedlings are still in starter sets inside the house.

We think about Spring, about warmth and sun and light weight clothing.  Our coats seem to weigh a ton, our scarves strangle us... and yet we walk outside our homes to freezing temperatures.  We look at the calendar, we check the dates - and yes, it is the last throes of March.  It is almost April Fools and snow is (no joke) still in piles on the ground.  The wind is still an icy blade on our cheeks.  The rain, frozen as it is, sounds like a thousand bits of gravel falling.

Where are the warm breezes of Spring?  We stand at dawn, screaming against the cold in the glow of the sun at 6am.  We wait at noon, glaring eyes out of our office windows at the freeze and slush that accumulates on roadways and walkways.  The sun sets and we hide inside, steaming mugs in our hands instead of the cool teas we long to drink on the decks we stare at from heated rooms.

It is in these times, trying as they are, that we must draw up from the Earth and pull that warmth that we know is there to the surface.  Will this do anything to warm the air outside?  Maybe.  Probably not.  It will warm the frozen parts of our souls though, as we push the cold away from us and embrace Spring however we find it.  The tulips are starting to peek through, and the crocus are blooming somewhere.  The Earth knows though the Winds won't let go, and the Water stays icy - Fire wants to dance in the dimming twilight of evening and send smoke to the heavens, not stare forcefully out of the fireplace, filling a brick tunnel with scent and ash.

This is one of those moments were we all have "Senioritis".  If you haven't heard this term before (and I'd be kinda surprised, but however) it describes the desire to leave the current situation for the wonderful thing to come next.  This is that feeling you get at 4pm on Friday when your quitting time at work is 5pm.  You feel it the day before you leave for a big trip, when all you want to do is GO! but you're stuck at work for another however many hours.  We all have it right now, for Spring as we are trying to rage-quit Winter.

In this season of transition, be kind to Winter.  Remember it has it's place and while we may think that place is behind us, it is still relevant for a reason, it is still with us for a reason, and listening is what's needed, not screaming.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the power of a good deep breath

somewhere in Virginia

I long for skies that look like this, when you can look up and really see the element of Air moving solid objects, when you can feel it on your skin.  

I work in an office, and it's a small basement office at that, so getting air flow down here is difficult at best.  Doors open, fans in place, it still does little to help.  This is an old building, not old in a way that it has amazing character to help you celebrate the age but old in a neglected, patched over, barely cared for sort of way.  Old in a way that makes you long to knock it down and build something more practical, more useful and more malleable to the changing needs of the times. 

So when I'm able (which should be every day but most certainly isn't) I escape the confines of the office at lunch and go out into the world.  Sometimes it's just to sit in my car and eat, sometimes on errands with the windows down and the air streaming in.  And honestly, no matter the weather, I go outside.  Rain, snow, sleet, torrential downpour... doesn't matter.  The air outside is always better than the staleness of the office.  

One deep breath can be the change in your whole day.  

One deep breath can mean the difference between sadness and joy. 

One long, slow exhale can bring you back to center. 

One long, slow exhale can be the remedy. 


I can tell you it worked today. :) 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Throwback... Friday...

Should put this up yesterday, but today is good too.

This is from a post I put up on my previous blog, and being nostalgic on the holy days as I often am, decided this is a good day to post.

~~~~~~
There are things in this world stronger than wands, stronger than potions or curses and it is love that binds them, that holds their power. It is these things that, when used properly, have the abilities that are only read about in books. Ordinary objects until someone loves them, until someone believes in the strength of the bond that ties that item to a person or idea - but when that power is called on, it is more magical than anything you could dream in a book of wizards and fae. It is more than a spoken word in latin or a phrase that rhymes. It is pure magic, the magic of belief and of love, of honor and of fate. That is what the mistake is - to think that magic does not exist is to say that belief does not exist, that faith does not exist. Magic is love, pure and simple. Magic is seeing beyond the visible, looking to the unseen to be your guide and to allow everything in it's time to be revealed as such. No cards are needed, no special books bound in ancient leather, no stick finely adorned, no robes with runes at the hem. Magic is power from within, the power of knowing you have the ability to do what it is you are called on to do and then doing it without ceremony, just doing it as you are called on.

Yes, there are things in this world stronger than what some see and it is magic or belief or trust or faith or whatever name you wish to call it by. It is not the stuff of legend for it lives now, in the present. It breathes through those with the courage to look, to see and to act on it - those who call it out, grab it and make it their own. It is within us, waiting for the moment it's needed and hoping that we have the strength to call it by name so that it may weave through us and aid us in all the amazing ways it can. It is not something you learn from an old woman in the woods, or from a man with a trailing beard and wrinkles - there is no pointy hat unless you happen to own one and feel like wearing it. Magic is real, it is alive and it is that thought that binds us all to something greater than ourselves. Whether you choose to own it or live to it or revere it in your own way is up to you - whether you feel you can call on it or you must pray to it is your choice and it is how your particular vein of magic reveals itself but we all have it.

The true question is will you call on it? Or will you deny it?

I choose to call on it.

Ostara

Is it really here already?  The piles of snow on the ground don't tell me it's here - neither does the dull grey sky or the threat of more snow later today.

What tells me that Ostara is here (other than my calendar) is remembering the fat little robin a few days ago, and the hawks that I've seen protecting nests.  What tells me is the sun that hangs longer in the sky in the evening, and the glow I see in the morning as I drive in to work.

I'll be dying eggs this weekend, and putting in my bulb order next week so I can start planting and invite more color to my yard.  I love this time of year, as I imagine all the things I'll see blooming soon, and the wealth of color that comes with it.  Sometime in the next month or so (closer to Mother's Day as, honestly, bulbs are about the only thing that you can plant till then) I'll go to my local greenhouse and get the plants for my deck railing planters.  It's a tradition with my love and I, we make a day of it and it's always fun.

So how do you celebrate Ostara?  Around my house, we'll have lemon raspberry pie, quiches, and some roasted chickens.  I usually make honey cakes as well and for as messy as they are to make, it's very, very worth it!  On Sunday the ladies and I will get together for sewing circle, and there will be more dishes and desserts with a Spring theme - lemon bars, shortbread, deviled eggs, and brownies. (because, brownies.)

As a solitary I have choices when it comes to Ceremony.  I'll put on my boots, a white shift, and my heavy wool cloak and venture out into the falling snow to welcome Spring back to my sacred space.  I'll carry with me a flower in bloom, some wine, and some honey on shortbread as gifts.  I'll carry with me also a flame, to represent the warmth flowing back into the land. The ceremony will be short, but it will be meaningful and I will listen more than I speak.  I will sit at the foot of the Goddess and I'll listen for her wisdom and take it to heart.

Bright blessings to you and yours on this Ostara.  Carry warmth with you today and find ways to spread that warmth to all you meet.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It's a trust thing

We trust a lot of things in our lives. We trust that the sun is coming up tomorrow.  We trust it'll set tonight and the moon will rise.  We trust that technology will work as it's designed to and we trust that people around us will obey the laws of man.

We trust a LOT.

So when trust is broken, that betrayal we feel is unlike anything else.  It's a pain that lasts, no matter how "over it" you think you might be.  When we feel that trust slipping, it's almost worse - we can see the slope, and the edge, and the nothingness beyond that... and we can see the trust we hold dear teetering like a baby on unsteady legs.

When trust is forced, either by situation or by interaction, it's never easy.  That nervousness we feel, that rumbling pit in our stomachs, will color our whole day.  But when we have to place supreme trust in strangers is when we are the most tested.

~~~~
We're having a team work on our basement, and those two men are at our house alone.  They have to be - neither of us can be there, and beside - they're using jackhammers and air hammers and saws-alls and other power tools of loud and painful sounds, so who really wants to try and work from home through that?  Neither of us, that's for certain.  But in reality, what we're doing is trusting them explicitly to do what they said they're going to do - stay out of the upstairs, work quickly and efficiently, be polite and respectful of our home, and to leave all our things undisturbed.  That is a lot of trust.

We give it, because we want the services they render done in the timeframe we want them done.  We can't wait on this till one of us has the vacation time to be there all day.  So it's being done, and hours are sacrificed at work, and we do what we have to so that we can have this completed before the rains start in earnest.  This is already a wet Winter - so many, many feet of snow, and the groundwater is already high in our basement - and Spring threatens to be wetter still with rains and melting for months. So, we have this done, and we trust the men doing the work.  It's a trust that doesn't sit easy, but is necessary so we don't fight it.

So... trust comes, trust goes.... and somewhere in there we are decidedly uncomfortable for some length of time.

~~~~
We trust the Gods and Goddesses too... and they trust us in turn. We look to them and trust that they are our teachers, guides, mentors, leaders - we trust the advice they give and we trust their intentions. Likewise, they trust us as students, that we will use their teachings well, that we will listen, that we won't abuse their interaction with us.  They trust our intentions.

Be thankful for the trust you have, and don't abuse it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day...

It's that day again, when green everything is everywhere and when everyone is Irish for a day.

I'm not Irish, I'm Scottish and to be honest, I'm not even that - I'm just an American with Scottish roots and no matter what day it is I'm not claiming anything else, no matter how generous some might be with bestowing their heritage on others.  

But that's not what I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about the vitriol I already see on my Facebook page - and it's not even noon yet.   I've heard so many us vs them arguments (Protestant vs Catholic, Irish (really) vs Irish for a day, Pagan vs Catholic, Pagan vs Protestant... the list goes on...) that I really have to wonder what people think today is about.

There are more books on the market aimed at Pagans of every flavor that all seem to reinforce how put upon we are as a people.  They seek to remind us every 3rd page that we ought to hate the others who have oppressed us and stolen our heritage and holy days.  They call us to arms, magically speaking, to "gird our loins" against these hatemongers who will, at any opportunity, seek to burn you alive for being Pagan.

Be honest here - how many of us have really, actually feared for our lives when someone we didn't know well found out we are Pagan?  How many of us have honestly, truthfully thought we were going to be harmed by someone we know well when the found out we are Pagan?   I do know lots of people who have suffered because their path was found out, and there have been deaths as a result - this question is not to trivialize their suffering.  This is to point out that for every tragedy there are 5 who are accepted freely.  This is to show us all that for every death there are those that live.

I've come out of the broom closet to many, many people - including Born Again Christians, Roman Catholics, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses (my boss at one time), and Mormons.  I'm still here.  I wasn't hit or harmed in any way.  The most I got is that they'll pray for me.  I smiled and walked on - no reason to be hateful to someone who isn't physically harming me.

This is the crux of what I think we need to move toward as Pagans - peacefulness.  So they don't agree with us!  So what??  If they're called to this path, we'll help them walk it happily.  If they're not, then it's not for them and who are we to tell them this is the right way?

I was once asked why I didn't try and recruit for Paganism.  The question was to the effect of "aren't you required to get more followers too?", based on the tenants of some faiths to spread the "good word" and bring more followers to the faith.  I answered honestly - no.  It's not my job to convince people to become Pagan.  I'll answer questions to those who are interested, and teach classes and workshops on topics and techniques of Paganism, but I'm not going to stand there and throw leaflets at you in an attempt to win you over to the Goddess.  It won't work, and I'll just get a sore throat.

So this 17th day of March, look around and smile at people.  Be open, and helpful and hospitable.  Be kind and loving and caring.  Be nice to everyone.  And then do it again tomorrow.  Don't draw dividing lines between you and someone else because of the creed they follow.  And ignore those lines if they're drawn against you.

Instead of looking at the world in compartments, look at the world without lines of division and see how much bigger the horizon looks that way. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

GRASS!

I wasn't sure yesterday, but this morning I saw it - the grass in my front yard!

As much as I love watching snow fall (and I do, even after this winter) I also love watching it recede.  I love watching the blanket pull back and reveal earth we haven't seen in months.

It isn't always easy to see the turning of the Wheel in our daily lives.  Day to day things look much the same and we, being busy people that we are, often rush through on our way to offices and appointments and dates.  It's easy to overlook the little changes when our focus isn't on the present.

So very much is said about "being in the present" and "keeping our focus on the here and now" that it seems there is little left to be said on that point... and yet, do we listen?  Or is this now just a message that we read and nod and smile and move on without absorbing?  I'll admit - it's hard to be in the here and now.  It's not always fun.  It's not always exciting.  Sometimes it's downright disturbing or painful... but always important.

I won't put on a smile and tell you that I'm always present, and always in the here and now.  That'd be a lie and you know it.  I will tell you that I make a conscious effort to be though - and I'll tell you why.  It's for the sparks.  Yup - I do it for the sparks.  The spark of memory that seeing the first buds of spring brings me.  The spark of enlightenment when I feel close to the Gods.  The spark of creativity that seeing the changing color of the sky brings.  The more my attention is on the present, the more sparks I get and the better off I am.

Noticing the little things often gives you a smile that nothing else can, and don't we all need a few more smiles in our lives?


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Madness of Spring

This day started great for me, see my post about Robins for more on that awesomeness, and got better when I went out for lunch today in the blessedly 58 degree weather.  I went out without a coat on even, in my lightweight knit and short sleeves!

The warmth of the sun was more welcome than the smile of an old friend today, for I've seen my friends recently and the sun, well, the sun has been hiding for bit hasn't it.  However, driving today has been rough by any definition.

People seem to go mad when the weather warms up - and even more so after such a long period of such awful weather.  The sun is bright again and the breeze doesn't rip your face off with its cold... so naturally, everyone is driving, and everyone has their windows down, and no one wants to do anything close to the speed limit because there isn't ice to worry about anymore, right?

(nevermind the water on the roads, the still present tall piles of snow and slush, the ice dripping and breaking and falling off everything...)

I've heard of many injuries today - some in the city, some on the roads, some at residences - and none of them will end happily; some are fatal.  Someone told me when I was young that the lure of Spring is like a drug, lulling you into a sense of security and leading you to your doom unless you keep your head. "Mind your head in the spring" they used to say.  When I was little I thought they were talking about allergies.  Now I know the truth of it - it is a drug that lures you, tendrils of desire that reach out and grab you, playing fast and loose and calling for you to do the same.

Sometimes it ends ok.  Sometimes it ends in death.

So, dear readers, I ask that you keep your heads in this Spring weather, lest you hear the siren song of an ambulance coming for you.

It's the little things that make you smile

I'm not a morning person - ask anyone who's met me and they'll answer with "yes, kinda, well, not till after coffee."  It's fact, I'm just not a morning person.  But, because I have responsibilities and all that, I get up and start my day at 6am, whether I like it or not.

Today was better than some mornings - the coffee was hot and plentiful, my outfit came together easily and I didn't run into a lot of traffic on my commute in to work.  There's one section of my drive that takes me through a residential section, and I love that part of the drive the most - not because I'm sitting in a long line of traffic (because I am) but because the houses are lovely, and it's fairly wooded.  The houses have been there long enough that the landscape has grown back around them, and it's seamless again, unlike the areas of new construction that are so scarred and barren once the earth movers and demo teams are done ripping things away to make room for a huge new house.

So as I'm sitting in that long, slow line of cars, I creep around the bend in the road and sitting on the low stone wall is a robin.  Just sitting there in a slice of sunlight, puffy and fat as you like, blinking at the cars rolling past.  I smiled and laughed a little, and if the traffic had stopped just then I might have tried to snap a picture with my phone but as the traffic wasn't stopping, that wasn't happening.  So I kept my eye on it for as long as I could, and thanked the Goddess for that sweet bird and the promise of Spring that it brought to my day.

the little guy I saw looked like this beauty
The Native Americans see the Robin as a sign of rebirth and growth, and a teacher that change comes through joy and happiness in your own heart.  The robin also is a sign to trust your own intuition, to be your own drummer and to move forward to your own song.  In all traditions the Robin is most powerful in the Spring.

The snow is slow to melt up here in New England, but even still, there is grass peaking out from the edges of the snowbanks around my house.  The days are significantly warmer and adding to that this lovely, fluffy messenger... well, my morning is so very much brighter.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hinting at Spring, and keeping Nature out

It's March now, and as much as we might wish for warmer days (and are getting them in some places) the snow is not receding quickly enough for most of us.  We want clear roads and yards of grass. We get mud and saltwater instead.
there are plants under there, somewhere... 
















so very dark, we are all so tired
As the melt comes, and it is coming, we have that ever winning element of water surrounding us, even in the most land locked of places. Rivers appear where there were once mountains of ice and we think, passingly, of the icecaps and the glaciers that are melting in other parts of the world.  We curse driving through the same water we pray doesn't refreeze into waves of treacherous road hazards.  It's a love/hate relationship this time of year, and we can't wait for the daylight that brings us out of the dark of winter.




So the water comes, the dripping barely ceases and becomes the soundtrack for our days and nights, and we are left still wanting the light, still wanting spring, still looking for the sun to replace the lantern.

Travel, travel, travel... and bringing your space with you

I won't try to hide the fact that I adore traveling.   I love flying, I love trains, I love long car trips... just being out in the world, seeing things I haven't before, wandering places that I don't know - it's one of the reasons I like the job I have now; I can take time off without a lot of issue and travel.

Recently I gave a lecture on bringing your sacred space with you to work, and incorporating your practice to your daily life.  So how do we do that while traveling?  You're in hotel rooms, airport gate areas, train cars, rental cars... a myriad of places that have hosted a myriad of other people.  How do you protect yourself? How do you honor the sacred and not open yourself up to the excess of other people?

There are a few different methods, but for me having a pouch of blessed items with me has worked the best.   Native Americans call it a medicine bag.  Other traditions call them gris-gris, charm bags, spell bags and the like.  Name it what you will, but they're very useful tools to keep your head on straight and your energy going the correct direction.  The contents are very personal, and (as with many other things) it is impolite (and sometimes dangerous!) to ask what is inside.

Creating them is a ritual unto itself - and keeping them is easier than you think.  A simple ritual to create one is below... and as with other how-to's that I've posted, this is general and should be personalized as you go.

Creating a Charm Bag
 You'll need:
-- a drawstring pouch in the fabric and color that calls to you that's about the size of your hand OR fabric of the correct size to make hand sized drawstring pouch (and the needle and thread to sew it)
-- a white candle (I like short pillar candles, votive candles, or tea lights in plastic cups not metal) 
-- representatives of the 4 elements
-- items for your bag, such as
    - stones
    - shells
    - string
    - charms or pendants
    - sage/ resin/ etc (star anise is a good thing to add to these.  See Cunningham's Herbal for descriptions) 

Focus on the pouch, placing your intent for safe travels and all the hope for safe and careful handling of your bags into the fibers of the fabric, seeing it weave in and around and through until the pouch is complete with it.  

Place, one by one, your items into the pouch and while you do, think about why you chose that item.  Recall a story about the item, or a reason that the item is important for protection.  

Light the candle and let the wax pool for a bit.  As you draw close your bag, picture the protection sealing itself.  Tie a knot in your drawstring and then dip the knot in the wax.  Don't soak it, that's not necessary, but just let it get a little wet with wax and let it dry without touching it. As the wax cools, see the seal form and meditate on the completeness of the protection encased there.  

Carry it with you when you travel.  

I have three of these - one that stays in my checked bag, one that stays in my purse and one that stays in my car.  They're all a little different, and they're all very effective.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Snow, snow, and more snow.

Here in the frigid Northeast we are buried under feet of snow, with more on the way.  Looking outside I can't even see the tombstones in the historic graveyard behind my house, and the picnic table in my backyard is gone in a sea of white.   The deck railing is barely visible, but there is no difference in height between the snow on my deck and the topmost visible section of railing.

The snow is everywhere - in the house, around the house, in our cars, our shoes, our hair.  The roads are slushy and frozen, the glare of early morning sun makes it even harder to see out of our already dirty windshields and the banks on either side threaten to topple over and restrict our ability to see what's coming worse than blinders on a racing horse.

In short, we're really sick and tired of being cold and snowed in.

So how, in the midst of all this loathing (and it really is, make no mistake) do we seek out and cling to the light that was promised to us at the equinox?  We know that Spring is coming, the sun is showing more between the heavily laden clouds.... so how do we hold onto that instead of slipping into the cold and dark?

I was talking to a few of my friends online back near Imbolc, and one of them mentioned how they never really grabbed onto Yule as the "big Winter celebration" because it isn't at the start of winter that we need to be celebrating.  It's now, when the world is frozen solid, that we need to be having people over and celebrating and feeling the warmth of family to stave off the ugliness of the weather outside.   I sent her a smiley and replied with "well, look at it for Candlemas instead.  Light things up!  Make a huge meal, have people over and light every freaking candle in the house when you do."  I reminded her that Candlemas was the point in winter where there would be a huge party if they had an abundance of supplies.  It was to celebrate that they'd gotten that far through winter without having to tap their deep stores.  You celebrate that the earth is warming, the sun is stronger.  You look at your seeds for spring and know you'll be planting soon.  It is a perfect time for a party, and a very necessary one too.  My sister was up and visiting for Imbolc this year, and we cooked a lot, ate a lot and reminisced a lot.  It was a lovely way to spend the holy day.

So in these days, not so long after that February 1st celebration, I look at my candles and light them, holding my cold hands over the warmth of their flames, and remember the warmth of the sun that grows stronger each day.  When I see the sun, I smile at it and remember the snow won't last forever.
I also take a moment and thank the snow and the cold for the good they do for the earth - the sharpness of the seasons are important.  Without the frigid temps now, we wouldn't appreciate the heat of summer - and alternately we wouldn't appreciate the cold if not for the searing temps in summer.  We look longingly for the moderate Spring and Fall, for the burst of color those two seasons bring.  We need the changes in season as much as the earth does, and must thank each in their turn.

So light your candles, drink a warm cup of tea, and smile at the snow drifts, and know they're melting even as the snow falls, from underneath where the earth warms as she turns toward Spring.

Wicked Faire!

You may not have heard, but I'll be presenting two panels next weekend at Wicked Faire in NJ.

http://wickedfaire.com/category/entertainment/panel/

Give a scroll down that page and you'll see my two panels: Everyday Druidry and Herbalism and Hedgecraft for Beginners.

A big shout out to the event staff at Wicked Faire for being so incredibly easy to work with, and also for the opportunity to  present on these two topics that are so dear to me.  It's my first time at Wicked Faire, so I'm really looking forward to that too.  I hope to see you there!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Stuck at home... but not really stuck.

I am, right now, equal parts frustrated and elated.

Why?  Well, for the umpteenth time this winter I'm stuck at home instead of able to go to work - the snow, which is dominating our landscape and obliterating landmarks in seas of white, has again trapped us all inside.

I really dug down and called on the Goddess for this one - I'm upset for mundane reasons about having to miss work but if I let that distract me as it has in the past, well, it'd be 1pm and I'd be 5 episodes into an Agents of Shield marathon, instead of having gotten a ton of chores done today, finished the layout for a painting project, worked on some paperwork for a set of presentations I'm making later this month, and managed to get the dishes done somewhere between the second and third cups of coffee.

So, with a little help, I've put aside my mundane concerns and focused instead on the creativity I've denied for so long.

You know that feeling you get in your gut (or, in my case, in the side of my throat) that something is poking into you, like a bone, just stabbing you little bits at a time?  That's what my creative blocks feel like.  They pain me, and the point is that I'm supposed to pay attention, create and let them go so I can get the art out of my head.  Well, that doesn't always work - mundane concerns get in the way, and then it's Friday and all I want to do is sleep.  I get tired from the worry and stress, and nothing creative gets done.

Well, not today!

So how do you get over this?  Call it out.  Stop ignoring the boney pains and give in to them instead.  Maybe it's giving yourself permission to be creative, maybe it's putting aside the doubt and going for it... but a few herbal aids can help with that.  Peach tea, either with ginger or with mango, is a great creative booster.  Every time I see the pit of a peach, it looks like a little dried brain and honestly, it bolsters me.  It reminds me of the connection between myself and the land.  I can taste that in the tea no matter what time of year it is... and when you're blocked by mounds of snow and can't go wiggle your toes in the grass to move those creative blocks, tasting Spring and Summer can be a life saver.

If you're allergic to pitted fruits, or to ginger, try this instead - <insert fruit tea here>.  No really, fruit tea of your choice.  The goal is to find that taste of summer and heat that you miss in the middle of winter and drink it into your bones.  Drink two or three cups, and keep that scent around as you work.
So today I'm drinking mango and peach tea like it's going out of style, thanking the gods for their aid and creating till my fingers ache!