When the Past Comes Calling…

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This week was a very tiring week. There has become so much to do at work. I feel as though I am trying to cram two weeks into one. It has become the practice of the management to continue to add more and more duties to the ones that already exist for me. Of course, when I become overtired, that is an opportunity for things to surface in my life….most of the time, things that require working through.

On Tuesday, on the way to work, thoughts came racing to my mind from a good twenty five years ago….a time when I wasn’t so confident in the person I was….a time when the very essence of who I was needed, in my opinion to be kept secret. I was serving a church in the foothills of North Carolina. I was full time there as a project coordinator and part time in the local funeral home. I was struggling with what the church said God required of me and what my insides were telling me. I was living with one foot in the church and one foot in the gay community. I tried to live the way the congregation expected me to, but I felt like there was a constant war being fought in my heart and in my spirit. I remembered my last day at that church. I remember the accusations being hurled at me….the words spat at me in anger. The requirements made of me by someone completely ignorant of who I was or what my heart held.

I remember the pastor’s wife coming into the office that I was being sequestered in. She looked at me scowling. She roared at me, “You are a homosexual!!! You have AIDS!” I will never forget that punch in my gut…the sick, I’m-gonna-puke feeling. I was forced and driven to the local health department and made to take an HIV test. As I look back on this now, there are so many things I should have said and done, but I was a scared 22 year old kid. I did well to even remember my name in all that ruckus. This one incident effected the rest of my life.

I was required to take a mandatory leave of absence from another organization I worked with until I “worked through my transgressions.” I had to report to elders each week like someone in prison reports to a parole officer. I had to walk past faces filled with disdain and hatred as I walked past congregation after congregation….”working” my way back into the good graces of the church. To this day, that is why I hate to hear the phrase, “We need to talk about something.” and why I hate someone looking down their nose at me. It still haunts me…and this past week was one of those times.

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Throughout this past week, I have also been struggling with the need for “me” time. It seems that lately there has been no respite from anything. I escape to the woods and the pond as much as I can…but the mosquitoes are now getting fat. At home, my partner takes over our bedroom, the roomie has his bedroom, the living room is common area….sometimes I just take my phone, notebook and a pen and I sit in the bathroom floor for an hour, just for a bit of peace.

Yesterday morning, though, I knew that I was going to have some time to myself. I got up extra early and suited up my partner in crime. Friz wasn’t quite wide awake yet and wasn’t too keen on coming out of the kennel. After much coaxing, he finally stretched his way out, I harnessed him up and we disappeared to the woods. There was no ritual this time…no purposeful seeking out. I wound up my cloak and put it under my head…Friz curled up in the middle of my stomach and we slept. This was by far the weirdest sleep I had ever had. I dreamed constantly of the church scenario that I described above. Each time I would close my eyes and dream, it felt as if a tiny piece of my spirit and my heart was being ripped and shredded.

I lay there for what seemed like hours and tried to make my mind obey me…to stop re-living something that was no longer a part of me. At that point I heard Mama Crow caw loudly. It snagged me away from that horrible memory and jolted me back to present. It was a loud, harsh caw….I look back on it now and realize that it was a call to magick. She was reminding me to take control of a situation and not let something so far away control my todays. It was time to take the person I have become and let that person battle the person I used to be. I created a scenario in my head of what I thought I should have done to respond to that situation and as I drifted back to sleep, I let that person take over the dream….who would have ever thought that one could reclaim a memory so easily and work it out for my benefit.

After I had reclaimed that memory, I scooped Friz up and we made our way to the pond. He yawned as I cradled him and we moved toward the water. We both sat closer to the water than we normally did. I got a stick from nearby and wrote in the water with the stick. I wrote all the negative things about myself that had been brought to mind this week…..all those horrible memories. When I finished writing, I took a nearby rock and threw it into the middle of where I had been writing. I watched as the ripples dissolved all those memories I had written in the water. Then I took the stick and wrote words in the dirt that described who I am now…who I have become over the course of the practice of the Craft. I smiled as the letters took form…..Strong…Outspoken…Wise…Dependable…Gay…Role Model. It took a long time for me to love the me I have become, but I am proud of the person I look at every morning. There is no need for me to let small minded criticisms from far too long ago take root.

I have decided that from now on, when the past comes calling, and it isn’t something that I want to visit with…a locked door can be my best ally. Why let the past take pieces of my spirit…..when it really isn’t worth the memory wasted on it.

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Blessed Be!

Dark Magick!!

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This week a friend of mine saw me looking at some of the sites online that I have come to enjoy. sarahannelawless.com is one of those sites. When I read her blogs and look at her art, it takes me back to the wise woman of old. It reminds me so much of what life may have been like for the cunning man or the old wise woman living in the woods on the outskirts of town.

When he saw me looking at the skulls and the artwork on her page (much of which is done in black and white), he asked if I was becoming a Goth Witch. I almost laughed out loud because my thought of what gothic is and what other people’s ideas of gothic….may be completely different. I think the term gothic, for those in the everyday, common work-a-day world has come to mean depressing, colorless and rebellious. I see it as none of those things. I see gothic as a return to times past…aged, medieval….reminiscent of a romantic era. This period, to me, represents cigars and brandy and Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t see it as ominous, oppressing and depressing. I look back on this time and think of the midwives and the wise women with herbal remedies to supplement the work of doctors of the day.

He asked me why I have become so fascinated with skulls. I explained that it wasn’t necessarily a ‘fascination’ with skulls (though I do find them intriguing and beautiful), but instead, honoring the spirit of the animal to which it had belonged. I come from the school of thought that everything has a spirit. I was taught this at an early age by my grandmother. The trees have a spirit….every animal has a spirit…even the earth, herself, has a spirit…a heartbeat. It is in using these parts of the animals (skulls, feathers, bone and fur) that I am able to access that spirit and see the world with a greater enlightenment than I would with my mundane human eyes. If anything, working with the spirits of these animals and trees has taught me to see the universe around me with heart and with spirit….to feel the heartbeat of the very creature I work with. I don’t go out killing anything to use for my magick….that isn’t a part of me, but when I am out and chance upon a gift from a particular animal—skull, bones, feather or fur, I give thanks to that creature and utilize that gift in my rituals. Life has become something so different now than when my grandma was a girl. Back then you hunted to survive and you used every part of an animal…even in ritual…to bring honor to that creature. It is too easy now to kill for the sake of killing.

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He looked at me quizzically as I explained. Everything….dead or alive…has a spirit…has a heartbeat. When you hold a crystal in your hands, the vibrations work with your own bodies vibrations….the heartbeat. The energy that you feel as you sit in the dirt leaning against a tree….the heartbeat. He asked if I was constantly thinking about my own mortality. I answered him honestly. “I no more think about my own mortality than I do about breathing.” Yes, I am in my ‘croning’ years…where everything constantly reminds me that I am getting older…my body, more than anything, seems to be relentless in this. I told him that if one looks at life honestly that we begin the journey toward death at the exact moment we are born. I do not fear death….I do not crave death…but when it is time for my journey on this plane to end…I shall dance into the summerlands with death skipping along side of me.

As we discussed my love for working with the spirits of the animals, stones and trees…he still looked quite perplexed. I led him over to my altar and took my crow skull from the bed of crystals. I placed it into his hand and asked him to close his eyes. “What do you feel?” “It feels like it’s buzzing.” I place my merlinite into his other hand. “What do you feel?” “It feels like my brain is slowing down.” “You have just been introduced to the heartbeat of the crow and the merlinite.” I could tell by watching him that this wasn’t going to be something that processed overnight. I could see his thoughts moving back and forth in his eyes as he sat down in the chair. That’s ok. I didn’t understand this overnight either…it was a process…a time of letting my own spirit grow and learn.

This morning, that little blue chihuahua and I made our way to the woods. I packed my backpack full…candles, skulls, fur, feathers…anything I might need. The latest addition to my altar is an Alaskan wolf skull. It was found in the wilds of Alaska surrounded by whatever carcass and bones the vultures and other wildlife may have left. It isn’t perfect….it is missing teeth. It has been cleaned and bleached and smudged. I honor the spirit of the wolf who walked the wilderness….who died at the hands of nature.

Friz and I walked slowly this morning. The overabundance of rain has got both of us feeling a bit creaky. As we get to the edge of the woods, I can smell that earthy, mossy smell that I can only get when I am lost in the magick of the trees. It is overcast….the moon is still there somewhere. The woods are dark and I can feel that heartbeat under me. I settle under a tree and dig out enough earth for my candles. I place the wolf skull and the crow skull on the ground. I feel the energies of wolf and crow there with me. Today I stretch out on my belly underneath that tree in front of my small altar. Friz thinks it is great fun and lies down on my back….licking the back of my head. He eventually goes to sleep and I can feel his breath against the middle of my neck. As I sang the names of those dear to me….sending energy and strength and hope and healing…I lost track of time. I didn’t notice that the woods had gotten darker or that there was a spitting of raindrops every so often….it was too peaceful to notice.

I covered myself and Friz with my cloak and we both drifted off to sleep under the misting of rain. The candles had gone out with the first spritzing, but their scent was still wafting around me. As I lay there in that in between place….that place between sleep and awake…I could feel the things I had set into motion. I could feel the heartbeat of healing. I could feel that heartbeat of hope.

My grandma had always taught me not to be afraid of the dark. To her, the darkness brought wonder….it was in darkness that the fireflies came out….it was in darkness that the moon and the stars shone the brightest. She always taught me that darkness should never be feared, but instead, embraced like an old friend. Darkness isn’t for hiding…it is for showing the light more strongly.

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Blessed Be!

 

**A special ‘thank you’ to my dear friend Jason Williams. The beautiful photo of the stars above was created by him. He has an incredible talent!

 

The Blasting Rod

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In the wee hours of the morning this morning….before the sun had even thought about waking up, I heard a small noise come from the kennel at the foot of the bed.   My ears perked….not quite sure what the noise was.  I heard it again….a soft and tragic sounding “Bowhooooooooo.”  I hadn’t heard Friz make that sound since he was a puppy and he realized that everyone had left the room and wasn’t paying attention to him any longer.

This morning was not a morning for sleeping in….he longed for the woods this morning…more than any other.  He has always patiently waited for me to open the kennel door snuggled deep into his blankets.  This morning he danced at the door.  I harnessed Friz up, packed up the blackthorn wand that I finished last night into my backpack, took some candles, my crow skull  and my cloak and off to the woods.

We marched along at a brisk pace this morning….knowing there was a purpose ahead of us.  Friz danced the whole way…almost giddy with anticipation.  Maybe there was a little more bounce in my step as we strolled along too.

We got to the woods and made our way inside.  The sun was still not awake yet and the skies carried that smoky misty feel that dawn always does.  The clouds were heavy with the threat of rain, but I knew it would hold off until Friz and I were done.  I settled down, set up the candles and lit them.  Friz decided today to nest himself a little farther from me.  I watched him as he made a nest under one of the trees.  I pulled out the blackthorn wand and placed it in the middle of the candles.  I placed my crow’s skull in front of it.

Over the past few weeks, I have become intimately acquainted with blackthorn.  When a friend told me that he wanted a blackthorn wand, I have to admit that I was a little naive when it came to the magickal attributes of that wood.  Granted, I had heard of blackthorn…with a grandfather who was Irish, you can’t escape the stories of the little people or learning the purpose of a shillelagh.

I delved into research of this wood.  A friend had sent me several long pieces from Ireland.  I liked the feel of the wood in my hand.  It was smooth and sleek.  It was strong…yet dangerous.  When I work on a magickal tool, I like to talk to the material I use.  As I talked to the blackthorn, I realized that with its strength came a protection like no other…an obligation.  This is not a wood with which to play.

In my studies of blackthorn, I found that this wood was used to make the wands of the cunning women.  The purpose was for protection, cursing, purification.  It represents the darker side of the Craft.  Blackthorn is sacred to the Crone aspect of the Goddess…..Often linked with warfare and the Morrigan.  It is representative of the waning and dark moons.  It is also known as the keeper magickal secrets.

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As I held it over the flames of the candles.  I asked the wand for protection to be its primary goal.  As I have said before….life is a balance of dark and light.  It will now be the responsibility of the new owner to embrace both.  This wand carries the power of wolf and crow.  Each have imparted their power to the magick of the wand.

As I sat huddled over the wand, I was given a vision of the cunning men and women of old.  They sat in the circle with me, conversing with me about the strengths and powers that the blackthorn wand held.  Memories of the blood that was shed during the carving of the wand were brought to me.  A part of myself was given in the creation of this beautiful tool of magick.  I picked up the wand and passed it to the ancients.  Each one caressed it and blessed it.  We called on the elements to imbue this wand with the power to draw strength and to repel negativity.

As I laid the wand behind the crow’s skull once again, I felt a small head against my leg.  Never one to be left out of magickal workings, Friz had made his way over.  He sniffed at the wand and then laid down beside me.  Of course my mind raced over the many aspects of blackthorn.  I am very much like this tree.  My life is often twisted and thorny, but it makes me no less strong. In fact, each trial and test that I face strengthens me.  Like the blackthorn, when the outer layer is taken away….my life shows the beautiful depths of color and striations that make it as incredible as it is.  The more the wood is carved and sanded…..even though it is difficult, there is a dark beauty that shows through.  I am just as capable of good or bad as the wand carved from it.  It is in the directing of power that brings the end result.  Everything I do has a purpose.  It is up to me to figure out that purpose and move forward.

I thought about what I had read about the blackthorn tree.  The tree’s leaves turn yellow and shed in the winter leaving a stark black skeleton…what better reminder of the turn of the wheel.  The fruit that the tree bears only ripens after the first frost.  It is after the first trial of winter that brings out the true sweetness of the berry.  In early spring, it shows its delicate flowers peering out from the harshness of the harsh diabolical thorns.  Such a terrifyingly complex tree….but known for its strength and magick.

Wouldn’t you like to be known that way?  Complex, but known for his/her strength and magick?  I hunger for that.  The weathered wiseman has been a long time in the making.  He is a culmination of all of my life’s difficulties and triumphs.  He exudes the wisdom of all of my life’s lessons learned, good and bad.  He has his thorns, but he also offers glimpses of beauty and sweetness.  As I walk more and more days lately with the dark/Crone aspect of the Goddess, and come to understand more and more the turning of the Wheel of the Year….I pull on that wisdom, that history, the magick of the cunning men and women before me…and pull on the power of those animal spirits around me, I find my own magick and power….that I may impart it to those who come after me.

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Blessed Be!

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble…

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The weather this week has been damp. Everything in Atlanta is lush and green….you would almost think you were transported to the countryside of dear old Eire…if it weren’t for the concrete and traffic and buildings and smog. Add to the damp air the beauty of the summer cold….sniffling, snorting and hacking…I refused to be knocked out by this. I had too much to accomplish. So where did I head to in the midst of all of this…yep, that’s right….the woods.

Mosquitoes have been horrible during all this rain and I have been eaten alive. So first and foremost, I let the old hedgewitch come out in me. It was time to make my concoction of a bug repellent. I combined lavender essential oil with rosemary and citronella with a base of jojoba and combined it with a melted beeswax base. Into a tin it went and I had my own version of a bug repellent/ointment. I was the best smelling creature in those woods….best of all, not one mosquito bite! I wore my cloak….the damp just did not appeal to me…and of course the folks around here think I am different anyway. Some of the neighbors embrace my witchiness and others are repelled by it….kinda like coming out all over again. As I was walking Friz one night, a big storm started brewing….a neighbor called out to me over the thunder, “Did you call this in? I laughed and told her that I didn’t do it this time.

Wednesday night, I lay in the bed hating the coughing and snorting….my head pounded and I finally drifted off to sleep. The whole night, I dreamed about being in the woods with the wolves and crows. In the dreams, the wolves were teaching me to hunt and howl….the crows were teaching me to fly. If I close my eyes now, I can still see the faces of each wolf and crow. I remembered recognizing the two leading the shenanigans as the wolf who accompanies me to the woods and Mama Crow. “Get reacquainted with my wild side?” I remember in the dream dancing with my wild friends skirting in and out of the moonlight as the night overtook us….golden eyes shining back at me from behind trees….the rustling of wings in the air.

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When I woke up Thursday morning, I already felt a hundred times better. Maybe all I needed was a little wild time and some animal medicine. Who better than wolf and crow to walk me through the healing of playing in the woods. I got Friz harnessed up and ready for a little trek out into the woods. Even though the clouds above were quite ominous and you could smell rain in the air, it was evident that we both craved this time. With a misting of rain escorting us into the wooded area beyond the condos, we both had a renewed energy about us.

I have been working on a new project lately. It is a wand made of blackthorn wood. It was something that deep in my spirit I felt compelled to do. I have worked with many woods before, but never with blackthorn. I did my research before receiving the wood from a friend in Ireland. I understood that it was a hard wood….and I mean hard. The wood itself has received many drops of my own blood. I researched the history of the ‘blackthorn wand.’ Blackthorn is a very magical sacred wood to Druids and the ancient Celts. Its magical qualities include protection, purification and the ability to repel all negative energy from both your home and your life. This wood has long been associated with the dark aspect of the Goddess, and also represents the waning and dark moon. It also has a strong significance with spirit work.

In preparation for the jaunt to the woods, I had packed the blackthorn wand and my knife into my backpack. Where better to work on this mystical wood than in the same type of element it was born into? As I shaped the wood with my knife and felt the knobs and places where sharp thorns had once been, I pondered over aspects of my own character. Yes, there are still quite a few thorns protruding from me, as well as the dents from storms that have come and gone….but I have become just as strong….just as powerful as the wood my fingers caressed. As I carve and smooth and mold this piece of wood into a magickal tool, I imbue it with all the protection, purification and power against negativity that I can push into it. I quietly laid this tool at the feet of wolf and crow watching them impart their magick into it….wisdom, cunning, and the mysticism that followed the shamanic ancients. I bundled up this treasure, put it in my backpack and picked up Friz and covered him in my cloak as we made our way back to the condo in the rain…..a soft steady rain. Every few steps a small black nose would peek from beneath the cloak just to get a whiff of the dampness.2013-07-05 11.21.27 HDR

When we got inside, I quickly changed into my pajama pants and a tshirt and Friz and I curled up on the sofa. He falls back onto me so that his stomach can be properly rubbed. He is so funny….not so much like a chihuahua, but in many aspects just like a wolf…a very small…likes-to-have-his-belly-rubbed wolf. He never questions the magick, but always relaxes into it….a lesson he is teaching me more and more with each trip to the woods or pond.

These four days I have had off have been very strong magickally for me. I have been making tinctures and tonics and wands and staves. I have felt the power and strength of bonds from miles and miles away. Today, I could have sworn I felt the arms of a dear friend or two wrap around me as I carved and sanded. I have very much felt the power of the ancients with me today. As I walked the complex this evening, I could hear the voices of the old ones in the trees. The frogs welcomed me as I moved toward the pond. I could feel the heartbeat of the earth beneath my feet.

In these hours as the sun goes to sleep, I will light a small fire in my cauldron, apply my flying ointment and journey. Where? Only my heart and spirit knows. Right now….I sit writing, watching a little blue dog asleep in the chair…my chair…the one I bought for reading but rarely get to use. He is tuckered completely out. This week has been full of magick for both of us….now is the time to rest in it. I am one contented witch.

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Blessed Be!

Sometimes You Truly Cannot Go Home Again

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I have tried to make my life as cozy and comfortable as possible.  I don’t like clutter, I like to have things I love close at hand.  I like nothing better than settling into the sofa with a book, a glass of wine or coffee and losing myself in some place fantastical.  I love to lose myself in my magickal life sometimes….but many days, real life takes over and tosses me like a ship in choppy seas.

My mom called this past week.  She wanted to know if we would be coming home for the 4th of July.  My partner and I wrestled with the decision.  You see, as comfortable and cozy as a trip back home should be…it is the complete opposite.  It seems whenever we do visit, that all we get to experience is rush and stress and a plethora of other issues surrounding it.  We have to consider the dogs….do we board them, take them with us, ask our roommate to take care of them while we are gone.  Then there is the fact that it just isn’t cheap to drive 6 hours to visit for two days.  There is also the requesting of time off from work…..that is like pulling donkey teeth.  When a business is short-handed, it doesn’t matter how many PTO hours you have…..it becomes impossible to escape, if only for a day or so.

So after the stress of breaking the news to my mother that her first-born would not be coming back to small-town life for a few days….I escaped out to the pond with Friz.  It was a bit overcast this afternoon, so it wasn’t too bad sitting out by the water watching the cranes and the chipmunks and of course Mama Crow.  I must smell to high heaven now.  I come to start carrying different treats in my pockets for the different animal friends I have made.  I pulled out a piece of raw meat that I had stashed for her just before going out.  I threw it in her direction.  I feel that she is coming to trust me more and more.  She visits just outside the courtyard now and always comes along when Friz and I visit the pond.

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As I sat there listening to the noises around me, it dawns on me how much I have changed over the years.  I think it is peculiar that the place that once meant comfort and soothing to me (my own homeplace) has come to represent stress and hurriedness.  The times I sat out at by the pond behind the barn or wandered into the woods back behind the property seem only a distant memory sometimes.   I have made my nest where I am now….and I realize that even that, someday, will change.

My magick has even changed over the years.  I remember when everything had to be just so.  I have found that I love a more relaxed approach to magick….I have found that it makes things progress more naturally.  I also find myself drawn toward more natural and ancient elements…bone, fur, feather.  I find that working with that which nature provides holds a stronger magick.  Now, I do not go out and kill anything just for the purpose of using it in magickal workings.  I patiently wait until it is offered to me by nature and the animal itself.

On many of my walks, I find remains from all kinds of animals that I incorporate into magickal workings.  After I cleanse the skull or feathers or whatever I may find (just on the off-chance that whatever I did find met with a violent end, I want to offer the spirit of that animal a chance to move on)…I love the feeling of being so in touch with nature and the elements and those who sacrificed for those magickal workings.  Over the past couple of weeks, I was gifted with the remains of a crow and a chipmunk. One skull will be gifted to a friend and the other will find a home on my altar.

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As I sat by the tree at the pond today and watched Friz and Mama Crow.  I couldn’t help but think about how honestly animals live their lives.  I have tried to do the same thing…..I have tried to be no one except for who I have become over the years.  I have tried to live a life of purpose and one of integrity.  When I go home, it feels as though I am being asked to put on a mask for the time I am there.  Let me clarify…I have never ever been one to hide who I am….gay, witch…however you want to see it.  The way it is put at home is, “Isn’t it bad enough that people know you’re gay?  Do they have to know you are a witch too??”  I explained that as long as they were talking about me, then all the rest of town was getting a rest.  They didn’t seem amused.

It isn’t that I don’t want to go home.  I have learned to create home wherever I am at the moment.  At this moment in my life….home is centered around my pets and having them be as stress-free as possible.  It is about  me being able to practice my Craft whenever I feel the want or need.

Last weekend, I took a little visit to the old house that we lived in just before this last move.  This was the house where I had my herb gardens and I used to camp out in the grove of holly trees and work magick.  As I pulled into the drive, I found a sign stating that the property was to be bull-dozed for a subdivision.  The yard was overgrown….all the beautiful herbs I had planted had become mounds of tangles.  The grove of holly trees had knee-high grass all around it.  I took out my pocket knife and made a massive herb harvest….feverfew, lavender, rosemary, monarda, yarrow.  I laid them all out in the trunk of the car on newspaper and then I walked gingerly (to keep from stepping on snakes) to the holly grove.  I sat in the crook of that old familiar tree and rested my head against it.  I thanked it for all the wonderful magick it had worked with me.  As I walked back to the car, I gathered some branches from around it…maybe a wand or two will come out of them.2013-06-23 15.40.47

Yes….things are constantly moving and changing around us….the wheel of the year is never at a standstill.  It is up to us to determine how we will use those changes in the magick that has been gifted to us.  Is our home a finite place?  No.  Home is wherever we are…surrounded by whatever it is that encompasses our spirit.

No….I cannot truly go home again.  I am already there.

Blessed Be!