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Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

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 info@myvillagewitch.com,

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Gabble Ratchet

As a young woman, I fell in love with the work of Mary Stewart and have read all of her books.  There is one that is set in Lebanon called The Gabriel Hounds and from it I learned the phrase "gabble ratchet" which is a folk corruption of "Gabriel's hounds." It means the sound of wild geese flying, a sound that is evocative of a pack of baying hounds. In folklore, the Gabriel hounds are sometimes the souls of unbaptized children crying in the night, or they may foretell a death or they're thought to be the hounds of Hel(l).

In my heart, though, that eerie sound--so full of longing and grief--always evokes the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead. My writing desk sets by a west-facing window and that window looks out over the French Broad River. The Canada geese use the old river as a flight path that sweeps them northward to a couple of good feeding grounds and a man-made lake. In the spring, we are rewarded with the site of families of the gabble ratchets with their fuzzy chicks, grazing on the chickweed near the old railroad tracks.

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Bring Out Your Dead!  Bring Out Your Dead!

There's so much during this season that I find myself trying to find any lightness, any humor. Hence the title of this piece. We hardly need to bring them out, Python-style, when they are insistently demanding our attention as the nights grow like looming stalactites.

Tonight I want to write a bit about Ancestor altars.  Do you have one?  Do you leave it up, year-round, or put it up just after the Autumnal Equinox?  I've been asking colleagues which they prefer and it's about evenly divided.  For the record, I keep one up year-round because my root work is dependent on keeping my Ancestors in-the-know.  And also, happy.  I like some happy Ancestors, me.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Hello Byron - A great read. I build an altar, sometimes a few altars for my Beloved and Mighty Dead. I'll cook and eat foods tha
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks! I think the food thing is terribly important. And the liquor thing--at least for my Ancestors.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Keeper of the Samhain List

Each year, sometime in the early part of November, a scrap of paper appears on my home altar.  On it is a single name of someone I know--or the parent or partner or child or sibling of someone I know. It's the first and last name, usually. 

That's the beginning of the Samhain list.

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In the Time of Reconciliation

Today we honor--even celebrate--balance. We acknowledge that from this swift point onward the nights will grow longer and longer until the Solstice. With that acknowledgement, we also ken that balance is not a static thing but a pause in the clockwork of the universe before we move on, and in.

Every six weeks there is this hinge in the year. Friends who serve as Christian clergy have looked askance when I (mock wearily) reply this way to their query about "Pagan holidays." They assume that there must be major and minor ones because they shiver to think of Christmas or Easter every six weeks, relentlessly rolling on through this beautiful and never-ending cycle that many of us refer to as the Wheel of the Year.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Wow, you are one of the few Pagans I know who discusses reparation, let alone how important it is. Rock on! I stress its importan

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Labor Day Reverie, plus apples

Labor

We’ve just wrapped up our celebration of Labor Day weekend which is apparently another excuse for a sale in Retail-Land and a well-deserved day-off for American workers. At least the ones who get a day of for federal holidays, which isn’t everyone, of course.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks for reading it, Ivo.
  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr says #
    Thank you Byron!
All-Day Eating-and-Singing on the Grounds

We have this thing we do in the South.  It's called Homecoming but what it really is is a chance for reprobates and prodigals to return to the church of their wasted youth and to be welcomed home.  There is always a huge spread--fried chicken and homemade cakes and eleventy kinds of deviled eggs and potato salad.

The preacher prays over the food and at the drop of a hat. Gardeners and farmers head out to the churchyard and clean up weeds around the old headstones.  There is singing and working and gossiping and visiting and tea so sweet it makes your teeth ache.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Margot Adler is Dead

And all I could do was pick elderberries.

Like most of the Pagan community, I knew Margot was ill, had been ill for a while. And now she is dead, gone to Tir Nan Og, passed into the West. She was best known, I suppose, for her terribly important book "Drawing Down the Moon," and for her love of vampires and for her smart reporting from NY on NPR.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks to you both.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Beautiful words, my friend.
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Thanks for this post. She will be missed, but her spirit will live on in the communities she inspired.

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