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But what am I to do with all this fury, all this rage?

As you know, I am a woman of a particular place, a woman who is from and of the southern highlands of the Appalachian mountains. From my west-facing window, I look out on the third oldest river in the world, framed by the oldest mountains.

The energy is deep here, hoary, implacable. If you are brave and crazy enough to connect your energy to this land, there can be no turning back from it. And no turning your back on it, not for long, not if you value sleep and quiet thought.  This land will haunt you and you need only ask those whose families left here for greener pastures and died longing for a remote and drafty cabin set on a rolling hillside.  Those who still think of themselves as mountain folk--though they have lived in the flatlands for a long, long time.

For almost a week now, word has been coming out of West Virginia about a chemical leak into the old Elk River. Bits and pieces, then the full horror. But little on the mainstream media, not surprising.  All about the Olympics and Christie and the president of France's girl friend.  Was there some problem with the drinking water in West Virginia?  Was there some weird incidence of corporate incompetence and toxic materials lightly tended and rarely monitored?

Yeah, there was.

Many of us have been bearing witness through social media--posting stats, reading the news from Charleston, from Huffpo, from anywhere that someone cared enough to get more information. We have connected with friends and relatives in the area of impact--how can we help, what can we do? How can we be your allies?

We are holding the crucible of this disaster, this microcosm of the spoiling of the planet. As I write this, I am charging my computer using the electricity from the coal-fired plant just down the road.  So, I'm complicit in all this, as many of you are.  All this degradation and sorrow and frustration.  As I drink filtered water from our barely-retained water system here in Asheville (that is a story for another time--as NC tries to privatize everything within its grasp), I taste my privilege as a mountain woman in the land of logging but not of coal.

What began as a frisson of fear and a welling up of the usual frustration with the usual suspects has changed as the days have stretched into a week. I find myself voracious for information. I heard some good advice from a friend in the contact area who feels this may be the tipping point for the Rising of West Virginia. I took my own advice and grounded myself in this place that is my place. 

It was the grounding that did it, finally.  Tipped me out of the fear and frustration, and into a cold and calculating fury. It was honed by the comments of ignorant and arrogant bloviators who think that the people of West Virginia somehow deserve this, that they aren't smart enough or worth enough to pity or worry about. Because if they were like "us", they wouldn't vote for such scabrous leaders. They wouldn't settle for the horrific status quo that is West Virginia at its worst.

The same progressives and liberals who would have us believe they care for the underprivileged and oppressed also like to point at the working class white people in WVA and use words like "redneck" and "snuff dippers" and "hillbilly" to describe them.

Enough.  Enough.

I am a mountain woman who is modern and connected--who writes blogs and travels about and wears shoes and such.  And I am also a witch, an old-school, spellcasting, herb-picking, hex-your-ass-into-next-week kind of mountain witch.  I have stood as witness.  I have held vigil. I have opened my heart and connected my energy to the energy of that place through the energy of this place.

And today, on the store Musak, I heard this and was reminded--

You can do magic.

You can have anything that you desire.


What's the use of power if you never wield it?

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Friday, 17 January 2014

    Good rant! The Progressive/Liberal campaign to kill energy production in the US has fallen hard on the people of West Virginia and other places where energy is produced. And of course their anti-white racism using racist slurs like "redneck" etc., is promoted by media and government.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 18 January 2014

    Blessings on your land. May those of us who live far away sit up and take notice.

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