The Tangled Hedge

A hedge-hopping awenydd follows the Mother of Life's trackways and brings back what is needed, connecting the village with the numinous wilds.

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Hearth Keepers

(Mother Holle art by Florence Harrison)

My life has taken a rather domestic turn, lately, with my kids back to homeschooling and taking college classes, and with a concerted effort to organize the household and prepare everyone individually and as a family for the next transitions (driving, college, growing up, moving, etc.) It has been busy and maybe a little bumpy, but now it’s starting to run smoothly, thanks to the effort everyone has been putting in toward the plans we’ve made. Add to this the return of Spring, and I’m also feeling my sap rising and I have the energy to meet the challenges and expand my involvement in things both inside and outside of home. The urge for Spring cleaning is helped by the unseasonably warm weather we’re having, so I’m ready to throw open the windows and take care of business… scrub down the cottage, start some seeds, maybe mow the lawn (while planning to replace the lawn with a cottage garden when resources allow.)

Taking pleasure in crafting with my kids, lately, has reminded me of my own mother and grandmothers (who all worked harder than I have to because they had quite a few more children than I have) and my memories of watching them knit/crochet/sew/garden/cook/etc. Talk about domestic goddesses - they were Mormon women, daughters of pioneers in the Wild West! I am a child of the 80’s, so I didn’t learn so much of that. I was watching cartoons and playing outside with my brothers and friends, not learning to cook for a family the size of an army, nor doing needle-work with the women (though I got stuck with the dishes, watching my brothers, through the kitchen window, doing the mowing and watering out in the sunshine.) I have had to learn the domestic skills and arts in my adult life. I wasn’t interested in them in my youth, and had the luxury of refusing those “old-fashioned grandma things” that I and my generation thought weren’t needed anymore, in the modern world.

But I have come to love the art of homemaking. My generation has also discovered the pleasures and value of growing your own food, making your own clothes, giving handmade gifts, and feeding people you love with delicious and artful food. Happily, even the masculine members of my generation are embracing the home arts, so it’s not about it being women’s work anymore. It’s satisfying work that anyone can choose for themselves, or not, if they’d rather do some other worthwhile thing with their time and energy.

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Hall, which can be an occupational surname for a servant in a great Hall, or from a place name. Olde English pre 7th Century word "heall", Old German and later Anglo-Saxon "halla", or the Old Norse-Viking "holl" are the origins of the word. Reading about this made me smile after my recent discovery of Mother Holle / Helle / Holda. My grandma was a good mother (of nine children!) and hearth-keeper, as is my mom (her eldest).

My paternal grandmother was a Larsen and granddaughter of Danish immigrants (as well as Cornish/English ones). She was a genealogist with a degree in Gothic Research, and she read Icelandic records on microfiche. She was widowed in the early 1960s and raised five kids with only three functioning fingers on each of her hands, after a car accident as a young mother. She regained strength in her arms and hands by putting potatoes into tea kettles and carrying them around the house. I used to watch her knit with her stiffened fingers, and I think of her every time I knit.

I’m in the mood to make an ancestor shrine during this year’s Spring cleaning and tie it in somehow with my spiritual exploration of Holle, Hestia, and other hearth goddesses and hearth-keeping. Perhaps I can share the spiritual aspects of it all with my male and female co-keepers, and enhance their experience, too.

Happy International Women's Day.

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Lia is an awenydd, writer, journal editor (A Beautiful Resistance), copyeditor (Druid Magazine), hedge witch, mother, musician, OBOD Bard, and anthropology major, living in the wild, enchantingly beautiful mountain west (USA). Her spiritual influences tend toward the ancient and indigenous, with a future-focused hope that humanity will return to a spiritually-rich and thriving sustainability.


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