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Hitting the Road in the Time of Growing Light

My bag is packed--minus the Tevas that need a good scrubbing first--and I am mostly ready for pilgrimage. It surprises me when I think back on the times I've been in Britain during the month of April--when folks long to go on pilgrimages, according to Chaucer.

It's field research really, though most of my traveling these days is one form of quest or another. There is a deep longing in me for new lands and vistas, new smells and tastes. But my travel always brings me to Britain and Ireland, when I leave these lands of home. I think of them collectively as the ancient motherlands. My DNA test showed that to be true--so much whiteness here, so many blood-links to those places that know my soul.

My roots are deeply in these southern Highlands of the Appalachian mountains but this is an older call. To hear the singing trees on the pathway to Madron Well. To dance the ring on the rise that holds the Merry Maidens. To gaze westward from Lands End into the primal void my Ancestors braved.

And scrumpy, of course.

Microcosm/macrocosm. It is also good to get away from this hideous election cycle and see it through British eyes. The toxic levels of genuine woman-hating that are stewing now will only gain in their poisons as we wend our way to the conventions.  It is true that sometimes one can almost forget the ways of patriarchy by digging in rich soil, sitting around a fire and watching the stars. But we will never be able to pretend our way past this again, in this country. The misogyny is both wide and deep, and surpassingly invisible to so many who either wield or suffer it.  It is an old enemy, maybe the oldest one. So deeply entrenched, so perfectly masked.  To overcome it will take a kind of cunning and insight that we may not possess in enough volume to ever bring it down. And there are so few allies in the work who can be counted to focus on it. It is so beautifully easy to move on to the Next Shiny Thing, leaving women to fend for themselves, to make do, again.

In this Tower Time, we light signal fires and save the scrolls and build the temples. We call this devil by his oldest name and we hold fast, as much as we can, to what is good.

I am, and possible have always been, a hard polytheist. In my experience and in my spiritual practice, the Divines are really real, as a retired Unitarian Universalist pastor once marveled to me. And, as is often the case in our fringe, marginalized, new-and-old religions, we have set up armed camps. It seems terribly important that we set our boundaries and call each other out. 

Since I am a long-time follower of a Goddess honoring tradition, I am used to being called out, belittled, ostracized by the cool kids in modern Paganry. The young 'uns are outraged. The oldsters are  insulted. I can't quote you studies about this, but in my experience, folks in their 20s and 30s seem to be less spiritually-inclined--living an authentic and valuable life feeling much more important.  Oldsters have explored and stepped into their/our authentic and valuable lives and we (if so inclined) often turn to a connection with the Unseen and the Divines. This is a general trend I've noticed in the people around me. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

And it certainly isn't worth it to spend time arguing with me in the comments. If your life is different than I have described, there is no judgment or shaming implied by my words. I am not the boss of you. And likewise you are not the boss of me. Name-calling is, by its nature, an immature way of dealing with almost anything. And, as I remarked earlier today on Facebook, it is entirely possible to disagree with--and even correct--people without being a mean-spirited, self-righteous know-it-all.

I won't be going to Canterbury, though some of my father's people came from there.  So Chaucer's opening lines don't quite have the poetic perfect fit that one could wish for, in this gentle escape from the final throes of the American empire and the grasping of the strangled polytheist community--

Whan that April, with his shoures soote 

the droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

of which vertu engendred is the flour...

Thanne longen folk to goon pilgrimages


There is certainly longing here. And Mystery...and a deep desire to fix the unfixable. But there is also the wanderlust that is the birthright of my reiver Ancestors and the itch to see what I have not yet seen.

Thanne longen we to goon pilgrimage.






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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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