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.

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practical magick.. witching in the garden

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Weeks ago I worked with Bear. I got a definite feeling of needing to move inward. I needed to work on finding something.. some personal peace in my mundane.. something fulfilling. I needed to find a workable balance and that would require me to spend some time withdrawing a bit. I chose to start in the garden.

For me the garden has always been a liminal place like the ocean or the woods. A place of quiet whisperings and the slow unfolding of knowledge. It is in the movement of air bringing something with it and the comforting presence of the genus loci.. yes, even bits hidden in the city have stories to tell. I have been away from it far too long and the need was on me to settle the mess that was once my green escape.

The dudiest dude arrived late that Friday afternoon to help me round out the garden.. I am not fond of strangers messing with my plantlings, it’s a thing and so he was there as a favor to me. The new ones were set out awaiting placement. My plan was to nestle them among those surviving old timers, bringing in a bit of change. I focused much less this time on structuring the garden and just decided to go with what called to me. When I walked out to spend time, what plants would bring me the most happiness?

I started with colors most loved – burgundies, rosy pinks, and plums.. the colors of friendship, love, and passion. I added a touch of yellow for joy and a bit of white to catch the moon’s attention. I chose plants with names that make me happy.. like moondust, ruby slippers, and Godzilla (for the husband). The one that I’m most excited about is my Alnwick Rose.. one day I will get there.

I wound up with many fae plants, herbs for the practical, and some protective ones old and new. Did you know that azaleas are very protective? I have an army of them lined up outside my fence still. My elemental representations were still in place. I added many plants for the wildlife.. birds, bees, and butterflies.

What about a working witches garden? I honestly didn’t stress about it. Some of my traditional plants survived.. the mugwort, wormwood, and my hedge taper of mullein. I was more interested to see what my new callers would bring to me. They did not disappoint.. hydrangeas to break hexes, vines to bind, rosemary to honor the dead, and so much more.

This last bit of chaos resulted in a fair amount of loss, a bit of letting go, and an overhaul of what will hopefully make sense over time.. all of this in an afternoon and not just in the garden. However that is an unfolding story for another day and there is only so much within my control. This fall seems to be bringing reflection and a putting into motion the ridding of that which no longer serves.. a particularly harsh taking of stock. Change is put into motion so that by winter’s time we can release anything lingering and work towards setting the seeds for new growth in the upcoming spring.

reworking the bones

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I was standing at the counter discussing all manner of things when it hit me.. I needed to simplify these pieces. I had brought in my rabbit skin to be hennaed by the lovely Heron – a topic of much debate later as the skin had just not been cooperative, but then being one of mine I am not so sure why I expected it to be.

Heron does beautiful work (I’ve set in a couple of small pieces) and although my rabbit was a tough customer, I am thrilled with the results. It has a vintage-y worn in quality that makes the pelt feel comfortable to work with.. exactly what I would want in a tool. I know she stressed on it but I am hereby publicly claiming it the awesome.. so that’s that. I had brought my reading pieces along with so she could get an idea of how they would fall spatially.. and apparently they needed tweaking.

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I spent the evening moving pieces out.. the fox teeth and vertebrae, some fur, and various other bits. I also wound up adding in the bear vertebrae, a jay feather, and one particular stone that Blau had sent me before his passing. I don’t believe that I simplified so much as I reworked them but such is life. I did a quick throw just to get a feel and saw something quite personal in the reading.. a success after all.

In the case of how I read, I don’t have a specific meaning assigned and the pieces change with time, I have an old post here. Also some great collections and other posts on this type of divining can be found here, here, and here… I love searching for collection pictures, there are so many interesting ones out there. As a note of interest, I find that I only reach for these when I am seeking an answer for myself and not others.. the pieces being too tied to my personal.

no wisdom leaves the world

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Death had come again in life.. life is death, death is life.. and it seems many around me kept bringing it up. Conversations had been flitting about my little sphere on the fear, the process, the use of graveyard dirt in spirit work, spirit work in general.. many things. My dreams were full of the dead.. bloated white and trapped beneath still waters grasping out for me. It wasn’t long after these dreams that I found the notes on guideposts.. very vague but seemingly important to the niggly part of my brain. What were these guideposts exactly? And written alongside – “no wisdom leaves the world”. I had not jotted the source or even any real detail, but for some reason the notes brought to mind my past pledge and a monument in that graveyard. I felt a revisit was needed.

When we pass and our bodies are laid to rest, they become one with the land.. as do all things. The rain washes over and through as it carries on and so goes the journey. We become part of all that is. “No wisdom leaves the world”.. it is why I walk in sacred places with bare feet, why I touch and whisper with the plants, why I scry in rivers and commune with the ocean, why I call upon the nature spirits.. the knowledge is there, we just have to listen. It is still within the land and still within us.

And the revisit? My fellow hedger and I trekked out there a few weekends ago. I again stopped at the gate to request passage before heading to the monument that I felt surely must be tied to these notes of guideposts. I was certain that there was some great reason for all of these things brought. I knelt and asked for direction before finding my way to several stones nestled beneath a tree. I paid for some dirt for use in later working, then I knicked some bits of tree and moss.

I was unsure of which had called, those whose bodies rested or the nature spirits they lay beneath.. or even if it mattered being so intermingled. Kneeling there with my hands thrust in the dirt while the ants fed on me I got a sense of, well.. nothing. There was just a great feeling of quiet and of needing the quiet, for whatever sense that makes. I left some of rabbit tied with red thread and an offering of whisky. I would work with the gathered bits later.

the protected body

“I leave my body, each time knowing that there is a chance I might not make it back.”

— Sarah Anne Lawless, For Fear of Flying

“How much of this was ‘real’? I had enough anglo blood in my veins to worry about this a moment on my way down the hill. But I quickly decided, what difference would it make if the vision were ‘real’? Would its power be diminished if it were not? And by what means could I quantify its reality?”

— Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Coyote Medicine

Yes, exactly (I feel like I’ve been using that phrase a lot here lately).

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I have been reading a lot on journey work, the fear that holds one back, and the small death of soul flight. The choice and the being taken. Yes, those who walk this path don’t always get the choice. So, why? That is the question I pondered post readings, and I am not so sure there is a simple answer. Yes, some do so for knowledge, of course.. but there is also service, calling, and/or an exchange of sorts. For me, personally, I would have to say that it is just so much a part of who I am spiritually. It is who I was before I knew it was.. and when I figured it, it was like a door unlocked. It was like coming home. I used to think anyone could work journey, now sometimes I wonder if that is so. Maybe it is like any other, some are inclined and some or not. Of course, one wouldn’t know that until they tried. Sometimes I can feel people who are more so. It’s like the spirits whisper around them.. and often they find their way to me somehow or other. Which brings me to the fear and often I am asked about it.. the fear that holds one back.. and it always comes back to that why. Why still, if given the choice, do you choose to do it.. knowing there are dangers? My answer has to be simply this.. why would I want to practice what for me would be an empty spiritual?

Of course, there are protections..protections to put on the body and those to carry with you. I would be the first to admit that I am not the best at active protections. I have a good relationship with those that I work with and mostly I am secure in that. I do have, however, a hedge bag that I have used for as long as I have actively journeyed and something protective on hand bedside for as long as I realized that I was being pulled in my sleep. My hedge bag is tethered to my hedge jar as mentioned in previous, and it has been altered very little over the past few years. Recently, that had all changed.. my altar had a major shift, much was moving about in relation to those I worked with, and my jar had quite an overhaul. The bag, of course, needed to follow.

It took me a bit longer to get to it than I would have liked with life spending much of it’s time on interrupt, but I finally felt time was ready. I laid out all those things previous.. the herbs, feather, and bone.. bits of this and pieces of that. I spread them all out and saged, occasionally getting up to bring things to the table. I spent much time feeling about the items and finally was able to put the bag back together, much simplified. A pinch of crossing herbs, the bear root, and the piece of spider made their way back in. I added a bit of mandrake root gifted to me by Heron some time ago.. she must’ve known. I have always been attracted to roots of all kinds.. even those some would consider more mundane but mandrake has been very important in my journeys of late and so it was perfect. The cactus spine and a beachcombed holey shell went next. I switched my rabbit fur bag for a much smaller deerskin bag.. it just felt needed. I added a rabbit bone, crow and jay feather to the fringe and called it done.

cleansing winds

 

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Earlier in my day of sojourn, I laid to rest my bundle at the graveyard. Walking Bear and I had to sneak in and therefore had the place all to ourselves for a bit. I tried to be quick, speaking briefly at my grave and collecting some dirt for later use before rejoining him. We had many good talks but foremost in my mind was sitting beside him that day under the grave trees. He told me of the prayer flag that he had left there for me during my dad’s time. It touched my heart. I can only hope that I bring to him a fraction of what he brings into my life. He is a good friend.. strong in spirit and kind.

Several cards were brought to me there, although I was really only trying to pull one.. instruction, healing, ecstasy, and the Knight of Vessels – eel in shadow. When I saw this last one, I had the thought “hard swim”. It was a card that I had never pulled before. In the wildwood deck it states “..the eel is a great purveyor of wisdom and has a reputation as a protector.. the eel swims through water where weed and cresses drift.. embarking on a quest of personal revelation, your vision leads you onward.. a coming together, seduction, conquest, compliance..” Past that we visited the place of the breathing trees, a new adventure for me and then went on to do some beachcombing. Walking Bear asked if I wanted to stick my feet in the water and I told him no. I would have wanted to jump in and besides, the wind from our walkabout earlier had already provided my cleansing.

**This is a belated posting, as I have been busy with life and catching up with what of my girls that I can. The equinox was spent with my lovely fellow hedger and chocolate bunnies, but more on that later.. and I promise some gratuitous cute baby animal shots..

the harsh realities of logic

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Old Mother Goose,
When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air,
On a very fine gander.

Mother Goose had a house,
It stood in the wood,
Where an owl at the door,
As sentinel stood.

–Old Mother Goose (1815)

Whenever I think of air, I think of the sky. I think of translucent whites, reading, communication, and feathers. I am a huge feather hoarder.. seriously, I have tons. One of my greatest joys is to find a feather.. my favorite was a teeny blue jay one that I recently gave away. They don’t always stay with me. Many of the feathers that wandered from that last altar found themselves onto my air shrine to keep company among the others, my books, a bumblebee teacup, and my gifted wooden hummingbird.. also, a beautiful Icelandic goose foot that I have yet to work with. I am hesitant over it for the now but I was unable to pass it by.. mother goose/dame holda/frou holle calling and all that. One can simply not ignore such a treasure.

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The breath of life, the connected soul, thought, and the harsh realities of logic.. that is air. I read this somewhere (forgive me author) and, considering the logic reference, one would think I’d be more drawn to this element.. yet, I am not. Although my short trials with air brought forth much to think about and pushed me into a new cycle of sorts, it just does not call. With air’s passing came the passing of others, pieces that needed sorting and now I am just trying to move forward.. harsh realities of logic was spot on. Past these passings, I am entering what feels like a more creative state. I have many ideas on where I want to steer my spiritual and things I want to focus on in future.. and of course that ever elusive idea of structure is still whispering in my ear.

bones are the new crystals

Someone said this to me, not so long ago, in response to a discussion on how this movement toward the more “traditional” (for lack of a better term and I am not going to beat this one to death.. based on, animistic, more naturalistic.. flavored hedgey.. pick your poison) seems to be having a moment. The phrasing made me giggle a bit when I thought about it.. you see, I’ve been on this path for more years than dirt, even before I knew it was this path. Before the internet (yes, that old) was so widespread, the information was just not out there and really I was just doing my own thing.. I didn’t realize it had its own title of sorts. I giggled because I’ve always worked such things but recently I have been thinking about crystals as I haven’t much worked with them.. which means, wait for it.. crystals may be my new bones.. but I’m getting off track again. Am I concerned about this just being a “new” shiny thing (was asked)? No, not really.. mildly curious as to how it will work out in the all, maybe. I think it is good to see all the new, even those who will explore for a bit and find it not to their taste. We all have to try things to find what speaks to us and maybe in its newfound shininess, there will be those who find it to be their true path as I have. It’s a good thing. Those who don’t will hopefully move on to find their own way. The few who might stay on for the fae glamour of the somethings shiny, well, I figure once they realize how much the path will beat at them that they will eventually find their movement on to what better fits or find something wondrously new about themselves. The most important thing is that you find the spiritual path that speaks to you, otherwise – what is the point? And what about crystals? I read somewhere the phrase “crystals are the bones of the earth” or something like that.. of which I loved.. it is so true. I really have been digging the idea of working with crystals recently.. but more on that later.

mandrake and bear

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Fur and feather and bone and skin,
Different without but the same within,
Many of body but one of soul,
Through all creatures are we made whole.
–Sable

I was crouched on the small piece of rock jutting from the water. I felt the hidden eyes all around me, watching. I had been here before. I was very small and my back legs were furred with sharp, thick claws. There were tiny antlers protruding from my head. Even as I realized this, I found myself changing.. claws to hooves to feet, antlers to horns to none.. and back again. I gazed over at the bear near the water’s edge, he too seemed to be changing.. still a bear but his face moving in a blur from ferocious growl to serene contemplation. We looked at each other for some time. He dropped his head to look into the water and I followed suit. Swimming below the surface was a huge koi.. very long, almost like an eel. His scales were iridescent white mottled with velvety black and the bright orange of his head.. which wasn’t quite koi. It was almost dragon-like or more so like that of a frilled-neck lizard. I put my hand around him in the water and felt his strength as he passed through, swimming circles around my little rock. He leapt out in a spray of water becoming a great spirit stag.. and then just a skin. The skin was covering a man who danced joyfully around me on the water, colors being thrown off of him into the air to become simple grey feathers floating on the water. I heard the distant sound of drums and knew there to be a fire. I wanted to go to it. I found myself near a tree line. I looked over my shoulder and the bear was eating the fish. I was no longer the small being but I had my bone in hand.. it’s shape now reminding me somewhat of the fish. On a turn, it became a small white bird, struggling in my hand. I let it go and came back to myself.. but I still felt them watching.

The next day I received a text from WB, and it all made sense.. well, as much sense as it can.

Of Sarah’s ointments:

I applied the Mandrake Flying Ointment that night in stages, first two fingerfuls. I started my preparations, giving it time to kick in. I smudged, lit the candles and incense, then I lay out the cards.. the seer and the shaman. I passed the bear vertebrae through the flame and smoke, asking him to speak.. this maybe took 20 minutes and by then the effects had started to ease in. I began the chant and tried to focus but it just wasn’t working.. too much outside noise. I added more ointment, another fingerful. The effect of the ointment for me was like a slow easing away.. a very gentle fuzzing. I maybe could have added more to intensify but I was being softly carried and felt that along with the background music and a more comfortable position that it was enough to proceed. By the end of the working, about 1 1/2 hour or so had passed, the mandrake had just eased away at some point unnoticed. It was just that subtle. I liked this one more than the wormwood for this reason, even though the wormwood had more noticeable effects.

I had tried the Witches’ Flying Ointment  quite some time ago. I also liked this one and noticed its effects more so than the mandrake.. but I had also put quite a bit more on. I started with a good pea size amount and really felt it kick in after a half hour. It was very, very relaxing and I added another pea size to see if I could intensify it.. then in another 15 min or so I added a couple of more fingerfuls. Let’s just say my neck was quite coated by this point. I believe I noted the effects lasting about an hour start to finish.. just intensely relaxed the entire time. Noticeable but not a subtle fuzzing out as was the mandrake one. I slept really well that night. I think wormwood just really likes me.

I still have the Aves and the Sabbat one to try and I am not sure which will be the next go, it will probably depend on the working before me.

who said jumping was easy?

“Many different aspects come together to help a rider to jump the Hedge. Training, experience, and natural ability all coalesce with the tools of the trade to allow us to cross from this world into the Otherrealms. As with all aspects of traditional crafting, what you bring to your practice directly reflects what you will get out of it.”

— Elige Stewart, Getting a Running Start, Aids to Jumping the Hedge

As I read this, not too long ago, my first thought was of how many times I’ve talked about doing the work. This is not about that, per se. This is specifically about trial & error, feeling out a process, adjusting expectations, and practicing (okay, so.. yes, doing the work). I think many go into this aspect of their craft with the idea that they will be able to move right into it.. a manner of ease, so to speak. I am certainly not saying it’s impossible, but on the average, most have to put more into it. I think maybe those with natural ability might have an easier go, possibly, but it is never what I would call easy. This is your spiritual, it is important you put in the time, establish those bonds, train your body/mind. It is not supposed to be easy. Even when accustomed, you will still have failed attempts and surprises. It’s a lot of work. Again, you must train your body/mind to those cues/techniques that you are using, and that’s once you figure out what cues/techniques work for you. So what is one to do? Keep at it. Don’t give up on a few failed attempts. If you try something several times and just intuitively feel it’s not right, then try something else. When you find a technique that you feel is personally right, keep at it. It’s a process.. don’t be afraid to tweak it to a better fit. I try new things on occasion still, I just never know when I find something that I can incorporate a bit into my regular. The important thing is to work at it until it is familiar, until it becomes second nature, until it feels right. This is your craft and it is all in what works for you.

I won’t go into all the different techniques (this post would turn way long and really, you should be doing the work), or how it rarely goes in the manner you think it will (sometimes you have to adjust your expectations, we all experience things differently), or even how tired you will be after (or maybe that’s just me.. and hungry, but then I fast a bit before).. this was just a little post to say, you have to work at it. They just don’t hand things over to you all pretty and wrapped up square, and if they do.. I promise that you are about to learn a hard lesson.