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Borrowed Time



Part of it is astrological, according to fab astrologer Diotima.  I bow to that even while I wistfully remember the days when lists could be made and things crossed off them.

Those days are not these days, friends. I can't seem to catch up.

Village witchery is an old and noble profession and it is enjoying quite the revival in these parts--energy clearing, clingy spectral folk, tinctures to be concocted in the Light of the Moon.

But I am also a priestess and that work forms a deep wellspring that nourishes me and keeps me spiritually flexible. There have been handfastings and counsellings and funerals. Clergy team meetings and holding the hands of the lost.

That word is poignant, isn't it? Lost. What does it mean, in a Pagan world-view, to be "lost?" To lose your balance, your direction, your internal compass. For many people right now, there is the sense of being lost in the mess of a wretched political season, to have lost faith in systems that we probably shouldn't have had any faith in in the first place.

It takes me to Thomas Wolfe, of course. Wolfe was an Ashevillain, same as me, the product of low old mountains and older rivers and a town twisty and hard and glorious.  Here's what he said in his book "Look Homeward, Angel"--

"A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."

Isn't that grand and sad and impossible? He died young, Wolfe, never reaching 40. He had some fame and heartache and is now a cinder himself, lying in Riverside Cemetery, awaiting the new highway.

So I borrowed a little time tonight, in this new Moon, to write here and to spend time thinking about these last few days before Solstice. The dark half of the year is so close to us now. Already. We gardeners are busy planting and harvesting and preserving the bounty of the generous Earth. And the little land spirits gather round to play in the strawberries and ride the hops as they twine the fence. The Ancestors demanded to be fed not long after Beltane and They are here, too. Whispering, admonishing, reminding us that life can be hard and frightening and frustrating but is meant to be lived, really lived.

Spend some altar time when you feel overwhelmed and alone. Listen to those ancestral voices and mark the laughter there. Bow to what is inevitable in your corner of the great world but hold fast to what makes you the person you truly are.  If these are challenging times for you or your family or tribe, ground yourself in the good earth, in the deep waters, in the possibility of the impossible things.

These times are the times we are made for. Truly.

Fear not. Be strong. Know your true self. Embrace your tribe.


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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,


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