we started with owl

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(part 1 of a weekend of spirit..because I’m wordy)

Our weekend past equinox started with owl and ended with owl. Lola commented later that it seemed as though we were on the right track.. after all, our journey together had begun with owl as well. We started our visit at the Carolina Raptor Center. As we walked among the wooded setting, quiet except for our murmuring and the occasional chatter of the birds, I felt very at peace. We pretty much had the place to ourselves as dusk set in. It seemed a perfect opening for the weekend ahead.

That evening I met a joyous witch named Gabi, who was the source from which flowed the most beautiful house of spiritual bits that I have been lucky enough to set foot in – Laughingbrook Spellcrafting and Ancestral Arts. Everywhere to be found were objects of pagan artistry.. of someone’s creative soul and hard work. Their site states, ‘Pagan-made ritual tools and supplies carry a more profound love and beauty’.. yes, and the store sang with it.

I was struck with that familiar feeling of place when I first approached the hearth area.. the image of crone singing to me in lulling tones of Baba. Tables of somethings shiny, wardrobes of books and bobbles, and the hum of the many tarot decks urged me forward. I came upon what I could only describe as “the wall of bones” to my friends later. They were tucked away with other speaking things in this gorgeously twisty piece of wood that covered a good portion of the wall. I gazed at them lovingly.. you know how I feel about dem bones.

I wound my way even further into another room which housed a beautiful altar. I was told one could leave things there to retrieve at a later date. It whispered to me but I restrained myself from touching anything on it out of respect, it was an idea that I loved.. and still there was yet another room calling to be explored. There I found many jars of lovelies.. a snake in particular caught my heart and I may have to go back for him. I feel sure he is curled up waiting still for my revisit. And speaking of heart, remember my earlier mention of that joyous soul? She said to me later, with sincerity wrapped around every word that I had a home there now. I feel like our world needs more souls such as hers, and yes.. even though I live quite a bit away, it did feel like home.

 

 

la bella luna dea

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I was there to find the crows, I thought as I wandered this place that was once home.. and I had to go to the bathroom. Nearing the edge of the neighborhood, a couple I did not know let me into their house to do just that. I was walking out when I saw the huge raven, his glossy black feathers stark against the ground. He was dead and I needed to take him with me. I knew this, but I had no gloves to protect me.

A large green caterpillar crawled out of his neck and I hesitated a moment before setting myself to the task. I decided to take his wings and his head.. which was being stubborn. I snapped it forcefully to the side and twisted it off.. sometimes it’s best just to get these things done as quickly as possible.

As I was leaving, I noticed the birds clustered in what looked like a large raised garden bed. There were too many to register. They were smaller and black with bits of white spots on their feathers. Their beaks were yellow and one was staring at me with great piercing eyes. What was he hoping to see, I wondered?

That week my dreams were full of small creatures, small creatures made large, and places that were once home. One morning my path was crossed by two cats, there but not there, and more whisperings than usual. I spoke that which seemed to be needed and wondered what all this activity was for.. that day, I heard from her.

La Bella Luna Dea and I share crow. We don’t often talk but when we do, our conversations are precious to me. This one was all about the shifty moonstone, friendships, the loss of, the whisperings of spirit, and her creative soul. If not for her artistry, those lessons I hold most spiritual may never have been set to rest. I look upon her work every day and am reminded of why I serve spirit. She was working on something for me, she just needed to have it realized and I could not wait to see.

She said that she had felt the need to make contact and I am glad that she did. I told her that only one thing lay heavy on my mind, tough choices and the longing of what was lost.. words that became truer as the weekend progressed. Later that night I was restless. I held her in my mind’s eye and pulled three cards.. instruction, protection, and the journey. I saw the instruction of ancestor, the image very paternal. I saw the need to protect the spiritually wounded. I saw the cyclic change that is the journey. It was time to let the bones be laid bare..

**beautiful artwork by Caroline Hedgepeth**

 

my thoughts were filled with Turtle Butt

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Muddied tones of green and brown, earth sliding into the river, and the slight impression of the circular.. my thoughts were filled with Turtle Butt. Let me explain.. Turtle Butt is my nickname for this amazing photo taken by my uber talented friend Cin and is one of the few non-birdy ones she has.. she’s a bit of a bird lady. When I think of her, I think of a tall white crane – full of grace and spiritual joy as she often appears as in my cards.

The photo itself was taken not too far from the place where I most often go to stick my feet in the dirt. It speaks to me not only of those earth to water places, but also of cycles. There is a certain perspective one gains when revisiting the same place in life from a different point along the path.. often I journey or revisit things in said near place. Turtle butt was the first piece I placed on my revisited earth altar.

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Nestled there, along with, is a jar of witches burrs and one of magnolia cones.. the latter collected from a local graveyard where I occasionally attend to the long forgotten. Sitting on a plate near the Greenman and Greenwoman imagery, I have a small plate containing a jeweled serpent with some rocks and stones.

Several of these rocks were gifted to me from Schatzi, another beautiful soul that I am lucky enough to be blessed with in my life. She smuggled them all the way back from Greece and each has its own story of place to tell. Schatzi, I am told, means treasure in German and she is that. I hope she realizes that.. and not just because she brought me the beautiful rocks.

at the altar of baba

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Sometimes she slides in quite silently, and it takes me awhile to realize.. bone mother of cycles, death, and wisdom. She speaks to me in layers, and teaches me of shadow in light. Her greatest lessons can be found in this darkness where so many fear to tread.. those hidden stains in the deepest corners of your soul.

Sometimes, it is but a simple matter of paying what’s due. Sometimes it is a bit more complicated. Always, though, the work must be done.. to slip would offer up more of my soul than I care to, and I know she will devour it. I can smell the promise of death on her.. rich, earthy, and tinged with the decay of that which has been left for too long on the forest floor.

re-defining the wheel

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Having burned through that which no longer serves at Midsummer, I was looking forward to celebrating the bounty that is the first harvest. A small group of us gathered in the garden to share food and drink.. and to celebrate all that we had seen each other through in the past year. It was a celebration of the bounty of our lives – those people and things that support and sustain us. Late in the evening Lola and I left an offering for our ancestors of the bone.

I think every harvest should include our ancestors.. those of blood, bone, and spirit. Lola suggested we honor one at each harvest.. an idea I love. To me, bone is of the earth, and represents the land and its spirits.. perfect for a first harvest and our second instance of re-defining what the wheel means to us.

I was recently asked about entering a working relationship with a fellow witch.. something I rarely do and have never committed to on such a level, this blending of paths. We are able to create a beautifully eclectic practice working together and as solitary.. freely incorporating any ideas we choose. A level field, not teacher and student but witch and witch, each in our own right. Of course it makes it a bit easier to do so because its just us and that working intimacy creates a great bond in our craft. It enables us to learn from each other through these shared and separate experiences.. walking hand in hand creating our path.

 

 

notes on the red meal

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“Retire to a suitable place (ideally) in the twilight or night when the moon is high, such as the roots of a great faerie tree, an ancient well, the side of the hidden spring, or an isolated graveyard or ancient burial mound..” — Robin  Artisson

When the veil is thin and it is a time for the fae.. and the burning away of things.. this is when I share the red meal. It is both an offering and a way to bond with other. My ritual was adopted from Artisson’s ritual in The Resurrection of the Meadow.. but much simplified. If I cannot seek a natural place, I perform it at the hearth.

A hex is drawn out using water from a natural body..

North to South – for the seen and the unseen, the ghost road from beyond the hedge..

Northwest to Southeast – for the spirits

Northeast to Southwest – for the good folk

Set the incense to smoke. A triangle is made around the invisible hex in white or yellow flour, powdered egg shells, hawthorn branches, beach sand.. whatever works for the place and the occasion.

Red, for our blood filled life – I pour the offering of wine..

White, for our timeless force – white candles are lit at the triangle’s base..

And Nelia, my stang, to bridge the three.. earth, sea, and sky – I push her into the ground at the top of the triangle. If I can’t use Nelia, I draw what I’ve come to think of as the sigil of the faery tree in her place. .

An offering of food and flowers is made. If there are petitions written, things to be released.. these are set to fire in the candles and the ashes buried.

 

 

 

a quiet stabbing

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..something was being put to my direction, like a quiet stabbing..

I woke up after a day spent in anger still angry. I just could not find my Zen. The old reading popped into my head.. yes, there was a quiet stabbing and now I had a smarting back.

five of arrows, frustration – a goat with long curving horns and a wildly tangled coat leaps upward into the sky.. around it are four arrows, none of which strike it.. unfocused energy leads to the archer releasing inaccurate arrows or lashing out in an uncontrolled manner..

As it was, it turned out that I was indeed both the goat and the archer (see – sometimes I do follow up on my writings).. the arrows of my words sent out and also being fired back. Thankfully, I spoke my truths long ago and I stand by their original context.

..take a deep breath and steady your mind.. see the futility of games played against you and go about your business.. cocoon yourself away from outside influences.. the trees act as a reminder to follow your path..

Nothing had changed really, except that I now held more knowledge and a clearer perspective. If you walk your path with integrity and truth, there should be no need for these things.. that was my first response.. pre-Zen. However, thought reminded me, we are but human and can only do our best.

My truths for today (before they escape me) – We don’t have to agree, but we can learn from our differences. Our diversity should be a strength. Your fellow is not a tool to be used, or worse.. persecuted. Yes, I will stand up for them. You should too. Learn from one another. Strive to be kind. Extend that kindness to yourself. Do your best. I will do mine. Be true. Speak those truths when necessary. Breathe.

I lit the candles and steadied my thoughts. “And now?” This I asked, knowing the question was not very specific. I shuffled the threes..

eight of bows, hearthfire – on the edge of a sparse winter forest camp, lit with the warm dancing flames of a large log fire, we see eight figures gathered around a roaring hearthfire.. the merry band raise goblets, shake hands and laugh, bathing in the shared bonds of fellowship and harmony created by the true loyalty of lifelong friends..

Ironic, that was my first thought.. but then if not for this situation, this card would have spoken to me of another. Soon after, I heard from said other.

four of stones, protection – the newly risen sun brings hope and renewed vitality to the vulnerable..shelter and protection for the weak or the spiritually wounded is the responsibility of us all.. for those who have weathered adversity and known loss, the light of life and love will always burn brightly within them.. by building on a foundation of ethical beliefs, boundaries and skills, we can be assured that when the test comes we are secure in our self-knowledge and confidence.. the human ability to recognize and feel compassion for those who need help is just as important..

To the lost, may you know my hut is ever open.. even if you choose to burn me in the hearthfire..

 

little town of the sea

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I am walking through the seaside town, this place is where I will live. There are no huge beaches but a bit of a small one.. more shell and rock than sand. It is backed by a forest. There is a bit of a larger rocky cliff to be seen in the distance. I walk out onto a little jut of land to where the tree is growing. There are many beautiful speaking trees in this place but this one is my favorite. I lay my hands and face on it as I dig my toes into the sodden earth around its roots. A man approaches to speak to me about starting my job, apparently I already have a place here. We exchange pleasantries and then he is gone. I head back through the town.. it looks very much like a downtown and feels like home. I am at peace here. I see a brick apartment window high up in one of the buildings and realize that I had been there before. I was here with the horse once and I’m pretty sure that bit of beach is where I buried the bones.. found the bones.. or both. I pass a tiny house, the front is all glass like a shop but I know it is a house and I will live there. I head back to rejoin my party.. it is the husband and my mother. They are the best and the least of my life thus far. On the way out I pass an old lover of mine I once cared greatly for and he smiles when he recognizes me. As I look back, I am thinking that he doesn’t look like himself. I am falling behind because I am not wanting to leave. I realize that I have a seashell in my hand and I am happy for what is to come.

Over the years, I’ve dreamed of the outskirts of this place, never seeing in.. or so I thought. This was my instance of realizing I was in all along.. finding many familiar dreamland places within this place by the sea. It is here where I sometimes seek others, bury bones, and visit the waters with Bear. Here is where I’ve met the red eyed horse.. my beast of burden. Here is where the shape shifts and I listen to the pounding drums. I am curious to know if the hyena and the old woman can be found somewhere in that forest..

the burning away

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Much to Lola’s amusement, the rain continued to beat at us as we wound our way down the path.. her choice of time specifically moved to avoid just this such thing. I blamed the twisted bitches, as they must have felt a cleansing was in order and were having way too much fun with it. Earlier in our little adventure, a turtle brought us to three turkey vulture feathers and so we decided to take it as a sign to stick with the plan.. we would each keep one and the third would go up for offer at the close of the meal.

I sang the Raven song as I collected water from the stream, not bothering to spare Lola as she already knew I couldn’t sing. The water was to be used to draw the sign of crossing, forging a connection between the seen and the unseen. We then climbed up the ledge, struck Nelia into the ground, and drew out the sigil at the base of the Hawthorne. Offerings of food and red wine were made, and then each of us set fire (as best we could) to some unneeded things.. burying what was too wet to catch for the earth to finish.

Once we settled down to share the rest of the meal, covered in mud and stinging from our blood sacrifice to the horse flies, we decided that we very much enjoyed the rain.. and it was definitely needed. A snake wandered over to see what the fuss was about and so we decided it was time. I laid the feather down right before we headed out. By the time we had left the wood, the skies had cleared and another turtle came to bid us farewell.

into the wood

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An owl passed over as we entered into the wood to begin our task. Enveloped in the trees, the path was narrow. We decided on an overhang above the spring and settled down in the mud. I brought her question to the cards.. What tools would be needed from here? Then I laid the cards..

From the Wildwood:

Ace of Arrows, the breath of life- by breathing life into a thought and pursuing it to its material creation in the real world, we engage in an ancient and unique relationship with the universe and the divine..

5, The Ancestor- The Ancestor’s tracks lead into the wildwood. The morning is clear and frosty with the first glimmer of dawn shimmering on the horizon where the new moon hangs with the morning star, representing a new day and a reawakened soul. The Ancestor greets you as you walk up the path that leads to the forest..

King of Stones, Wolf- Revered as a ruthless tracker and hunter, the wolf has special symbolism.. comfortable in the dark and cold of winter, it was seen as a guardian of the dead on their journey through the night to the otherworld..

4, The Green Man (in shadow)- The face of the Green Man gazes from this card with a challenging and blazing stare. Golden summer sunlight radiates from the leaves that burst abundantly across his glowing fare and reach across the heart of the sacred land. In front of him is the cauldron of thriving and regenerating nature..

The wolf was blocking her, her spiritual path in shadow but it was time.. the Ancestor was calling her forward. I decided right there that he, the wolf, doesn’t get to decide.. she controls her breath and movement past these hindrances at hand. There was much work to be done and today we would start…

As we headed off further along the path to collect bits of fern for the smudge and the random wildflowers for the water, a crossroads came into our view. I turned toward her and asked if she was ready to fully step onto this path and work towards that spiritual she was seeking. It is no small feat to set one’s foot upon the path and commit fully to the work.. neither for her to make it or for me to commit to joining. I am no gentle witch of pretty ceremonies and empty words.. I work in shade and shadow, blood and bone, mud and muck. I am a working witch and this path is often twisty. We crossed over together and began..