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Grains, Spirits, and the Spurtle

It started when I was having trouble buying grains -- rice, flour, oats, you name it -- due to the quarantine panic. I looked in the pantry and realized that we had somehow previously amassed 10 lbs of grits along with 5 lbs of cornmeal -- plenty to get us through a temporary grain shortage. I was relieved, and my gratitude made me think of my ancestors and their reliance on grains, and of the ancestors of peoples around the world who did the same. Grains are sacred everywhere, although the specific grains will differ according to location.


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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    It's my understanding that cherry wood is toxic containing cyanide. Your land spirits are looking after you to have left the mapl

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Shrine Keeping

I have a cow shrine in honor of my mom in her room-- her former room. The suite. It's full of cow things she owned, but not all of them because they don't all fit.

About a month after her death, while I was falling asleep, I suddenly envisioned her in my mind's eye, smiling and shining. Her hair was its natural red color as it had been years ago, not the solid white I had gotten used to seeing before she died. It felt like more than my usual vivid imagination. She did not try to communicate anything, and it only lasted a few seconds, but I felt like I was seeing her, really her, in death. And that upset me, because I had been sure I had set everything up right for her to have a quick and easy passage to her next life (because she had often said religion was stupid, and she didn't believe in an afterlife or any gods, so I figured she'd be upset if she had to hang around in an afterlife being wrong for very long.) So of course I reached inside for Sigyn and Hel, and they reassured me: yes, that was really her, and yes, she has already passed on. She was not at that time still hanging on waiting for her desired oblivion. The dead experience time like the gods do, not like living people do. Even though it only took her a few days after her death to pass completely through Hel and on to what was next, she could still look in on me a month later, to make sure I was going to be OK. And what she saw was me curled up with my sweet kitty Happy. So, that was the most OK I could possibly be. Now I was glad I saw her, and that she saw me. It didn't mean she was stuck trying to pass over, it was just a brief visit out of time.

Later that month, I received her ashes. I placed them on the cow altar, along with pictures of her, one of the silver candles from the Death and Butterfly ritual, and the bottle of Patron with which to toast Hel and Hidden Goddess perfume to bless with in Hel's name. The photo above depicts that ritual. I told each of the three items where they belonged: the ashes in the butterfly urn were in their permanent home and would stay with me, the ashes in the rose urn were in their permanent home and would go to my brother, and the ashes in the box would be scattered. I made sure there were neither any lingering soul pieces in what I'd received, nor any bad energy. I had to mentally take the lavender broom to the pain and sweep it into the black hole in space. I double checked the energy in the ashes and their containers later and they seemed to have a normal amount of presence, that is, mom wasn't in there-- she had gone on already-- but it wasn't the kind of empty that would drawn things to a vacuum. During the ritual, I toasted to Hel, and to Audhumla and the cow spirit, and to my mom, and I said that I knew that mom had already gone to where she was going next but I already knew that time did not work the same way for gods and the dead as it did for me, so if mom wanted to tell  me anything this was the time to do that. She spoke. She told me she had seen her next life before she went to it and she was happy. That reassurance was a relief. It was not only a relief knowing that she already knew she was going to be happy in her next life because while she was in Hel's realm she could see ahead in time, it was also a relief to know she didn't have any other messages for me.

I left her Shrine of the Great Cow Mother up and made occasional toasts. I knew that eventually I would take it down so someone else could move into the suite, so it was not made to be permanent, but it was operating longer than any other altar I had put up in the house before. Usually when I did holiday rituals I took the altar down the same day, or perhaps the next day. I kept the portable working altar that was just big enough for ritual tools and a bottle in my room, but I kept it covered. This one was still powered, and one morning I went in to open the blinds and curtains for the house plants and felt dark energy in that room. I flicked it away at once, and felt carefully to be sure there was no bad energy on any of the ashes or anything else on the altar. There was not. It didn't come from the ashes or the altar, it was attracted to it from outside. I then performed another ritual, this time focused on the gnome (the land wight of my land) and on Audhumla. I asked the gnome to reinforce his protections against vampiric entities looking for power to eat, and I asked Audhumla to bless her altar and keep bad influences away from it. After that, the power of the shrine didn't draw anything in that wanted it as a snack.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Moon Horns

Shortly after sunset, the horns ring out.

These are the Moon Horns, sounding from the Tower on Witches' Hill, the highest point in the city, a signal from the official watchers. It can mean only one thing: New Moon!

The First Crescent has been sighted in the sky, marking the beginning of another month. Across the city, horns ring out in reply, passing along the happy news, washing out from the Tower in concentric circles like ripples from a lake-cast stone.

The Moon Call is broadcast on local radio and television as well. Everyone that can dons their finery and rushes out, facing West, to greet the First Crescent in the sky with the traditional incense, hymns, and libations.

Hail to thee, thou New Moon,

guiding jewel of gentleness;

I am bending to thee my knee,

I am offering thee my love.

Others hasten to light the bonfires in park and backyard where people will gather to welcome the return of She Who Shines by Night and to wish one another Merry Moon.

The sound of drums rises across the city. The parties will continue well into the night.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Soon may we see it, Sarah!
  • Sarah Israelson
    Sarah Israelson says #
    I love this. I love the imagery it portrays and the longing that it creates in my heart.
Transform A Frog (or other critter) Into An Incense Burner In 3 Easy Steps

For this project, you don’t have to limit yourself to animals.  Any ceramic piece can be used as long as it meets a few basic requirements.  Oh, didn’t I mention that I was talking about ceramic frogs, not the biological kind.  You can turn lots of different ceramic pieces (and even some glass or stone pieces) into very cool incense burners as long as the piece 1) the piece is hollow, 2) it has an opening near the top, 3) it has an opening in the bottom that is at least 1 inch in diameter.  Smaller pieces will work faster and easier than large ones, but ultimately any size will work.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Prayer for the Earth


A Prayer for the Earth (Mother)

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

How can you write with  b2ap3_thumbnail_94262205_2630042767207929_6051266018465021952_o.jpg
flowered praise
of shining skies and magic days?
Don’t you know
there are bones in the grass
and fear in the air
and things that lurk on every stem
to suck your blood?
Snakes are eating baby birds
and a bobcat is even now
crushing through the skulls
of a nest of soft baby rabbits.
How dare you claim there
is beauty, that the world
is woven from love?
I claim it
because I see it.
Yes, I’ve dripped blood
on stones as thorns drag
across tender flesh,
uncovered worn femurs and ragged hip bones in fallen leaves,
scratched my own ankles bloody
after being fed upon as I walk.
I have faced unnamed skulls on mossy beds,
small jaws cracked in two,
a pelvis resting nearby
catching the rays of the setting sun.
I’ve wept over shattered eggs
and the blue jay’s screaming.
I have also borne witness to
The mother deer nestling
twin fawns by her side,
the riotous blooms
blanketing the thorns,
the courtship dance of red-shouldered hawks
as they spin across the sky,
vultures skating gracefully
on thin air,
violets blooming in
the center of stones,
blue butterflies and singing bees
across the plum blossoms.
I know there are phoebes who return
year after year
to the nest they’ve built
sheltered under our eaves,
and hummingbirds that traverse endless miles
to alight on our windchimes
and to live in the mulberry trees
all summer,
our feeders their ancestral lands.
I have spotted rich mushrooms nestled impossibly
in curving roots of elm and ash,
I’ve plunged my arms into
ancient water
fresh born from between
the earth’s bones.
I’ve come eye to eye
with crows, black eyes alert,
wings shining,
with a coyote,
both of our heads lifting
to sniff the air.
I’ve eaten redbud flowers
straight from the branch
and watched the swift and patient passage of time
across the faces of those I love.
If there is one thing I know
to be true,
it is that great currents of
love and beauty
co-exist right beside great
stripes of pain,
and I still choose to celebrate this now:
the flowers in the trees,
the bones in the grass,
the blood on my knuckles,
the curving leaves,
the sweet berries,
the joy that bubbles up
right where I am.

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Have a Cool Earth Day, No Matter What Your Circumstance

During a stay-at-home order, if it’s not a complete lockdown, reminding yourself there is still an outside beyond your four walls has become imperative. Unfortunately, some areas, including my own in Wisconsin, have had to close our beautiful state parks in order to protect them. They were being flooded with folks desperate for nature and something to do. Although the majority were most likely there with good intentions and to appreciate the parks respectfully, some were definitely not practicing good social distancing guidelines with their fellow park-goers and worse still, were littering and vandalizing. Not cool. This has also been the case with many of our national parks. Sadly, some park workers were starting to test positive for COVID-19. Interestingly, in places now temporarily closed like Yosemite, the animals are having a party. Bears are out and about in high numbers without the usual throng of visitors. At Kruger National Park in South Africa, a whole pride of lions were happily lounging in the sun all along what would normally be frequently traveled road.

I see my friends online, myself and my significant other have become creative as to how, when and where we seek refuge off the beaten path into the woods, prairies, and meadows. The heart of the city can feel not unlike navigating a minefield in pandemic conditions. If you want to go out for a walk on a nice day, a drive to less-populated area is key. Do some research online ahead of time and find out what is and is not available to the public in your area currently. Even if state parks are closed, many smaller county parks remain open. Try to plan to your visit so it wouldn’t be at a peak time that everyone would have the same idea to be there. Wear gloves and masks and maintain the safe six-foot distance on all trails when coming into contact with others. Taking the high road has come to mean, “I will be the one to always veer off the trail if necessary,” to me. You can still be friendly and say, “hi.” Just do it from behind your bandanna, please.

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