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Labor Day Reverie, plus apples


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.

My Facebook feed has been full of reminders about why we have weekends and forty-hour work weeks and have abandoned (mostly) child labor here in the US. I’ve read some darned good essays and looked at old photos of child-miners and millworkers.

It’s nearing the end of the harvest season, so I was working today,  processing apples and making a pot of jam. The apples gave me some thinking time and I thought of my Union dad and remembered his dad who died from lead poisoning, back in the day. The day being before we had OSHA to look after workers and the materials (in this case, lead-based housepaint) with which they did their jobs.

My thoughts turned to my own peculiar work—subsistence farmer, witch, pastor, writer. Varying levels of physical labor as well as energy allocation. The physical labor gives me such satisfaction, even when my body aches a bit. I rarely ever have trouble sleeping and the work calms and centers me.

Other work requires dogged dedication, a thick skin and persistence…so much persistence, as well as the kind of patience that I don’t come by naturally. You see, there is so much work to do—physical, energetic, magical. There are people to counsel, gardens to grow, Divines to commune with, joy in the morning, rituals under the great silver orb of the Moon.

But so often when I read a strong essay and set myself to thank the writer for the work, I come to find an argument brewing, a snarky back-and-forth that has everything to do with some electronic territorial imperative and speaks volumes about where we are as a set of religious movements.

So as this Labor Day weekend comes to a close, I find myself considering that it is easier to argue and posture than it is to actually do work of any kind. Instead of tidying my home altar, digging holes for new fruit trees or making the winter’s tinctures, I could simply go online and pick fights with people I don’t actually know but somehow feel superior to. Instead of sitting around a fire with my friends, I could be glued to the next installment of Polytheists Versus Monotheists and readying my sarcasm ray.  Why sing to the waxing Moon when we could criticize the possibly sincere efforts of people who live a thousand miles away?

Yes, it’s growing pains.  Yes, we may very well come to a place where we honor the sacred work of people who don’t work in the same way we do. We may even get to a place where we can really hear the wisdom of youth and elders and everyone in between.  Because there is a lot of wisdom in this ragged community of ours and there is so much work to do.

Labor on, sisters and brothers. Consider applauding the efforts of others without making it all about you. Consider that you can always learn more and be more and do more. Consider that most things aren’t binaries and that you can find all sorts of intersectionality to diversify and enliven your world and your practice. Consider that a sense of humor is a fine thing to cultivate.

Because there is so much to celebrate, to honor, to do. Truly.



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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,


  • Ivo Dominguez Jr
    Ivo Dominguez Jr Tuesday, 02 September 2014

    Thank you Byron!

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Tuesday, 02 September 2014

    Thanks for reading it, Ivo.

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