Whispers of Our Ancestors

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This week was a hard week physically for me.  I caught some god-awful virus through work that completely threw my system off.  While I have been trying to lose weight, the violent projectile vomiting that came with this virus, is not what I had in mind.  I have lived for almost five days now on Pedialite, Ensure, and cold-pressed juices.  I will say one thing though,  I may not have much of an appetite for food, but I have hungered after time in nature…I have longed for the songs of the cicadas and dramatic dances of the trees.  I have dragged myself from the house just to spend time with familiar voices, spirits, and animals.

The past couple of weeks have been full of pleasant surprises from the past for me.  My mother had been digging through boxes of things that my grandma and grandpa had collected over the years.  During her digging, she came across a collection of gnomes figurines that had belonged to my grandfather.  He collected a series of figurines made by Tom Clark at Cairn Studios in Davidson, North Carolina.  My grandpa was the reason that I started collecting them.  I was talking to my mother on the phone one night and she asked if I wanted her to ship them to me.  Of course I jumped at the chance.

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When I opened the box, I saw familiar faces of old friends from my teen years.  My grandpa was a rotund little man.  He would sit around for hours and tell us stories of gnomes, and woodland elves and nymphs.  Even as older teens we were enraptured by the tales.  It was if he knew these creatures personally and had walked the same paths that they had walked.

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I know that I have recounted many memories of both my Cherokee grandma and my little Scots-Irish grandma…but my grandpa always seemed to keep us kids at arms length.  The only time that he seemed to engage us much was when he would tell us his stories.  Most of his life he was far too serious…gruff and cruel at times.  It was only during these stories that a twinkle that seemed to have faded into years of far too much bitterness and responsibility, leaped out at us and we would laugh alongside him for just a while.

Now back to that box…that wonderful, magickal box of his that my mother sent me.  In the bottom of the box, wrapped in newspaper dated from the 1930’s, was a small hardback book.  The cover was a worn green and there were white flowers spread across with a mountain scene in the background.  The book was written in German and the only information that gave me any indication of who it belonged to was her name and the year 1898 inscribed on the title page.  I did look up the translation of the title.  It means simply:  Edelweiss:  Stories for Young and Old.

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I called my mother to see if this book was left in the box by accident and if she wanted me to send it back to her.  She quietly said that it was time for things to move to other generations. I asked her about the woman who so unobtrusively had written her name with only the year beside it.

My mother explained that she was a very quiet woman who had not been treated so well by her husband.  She had found solace in books and music.  She said that while my grandfather didn’t talk much about his mother and father and brothers, my grandmother found her mother-in-law to be a likable woman.  Ma said that it wasn’t unusual for my grandmother to walk up behind her as she shelled beans or hung the wash and hear her singing old German folk songs….and she would tell my grandmother stories about growing up in the German countryside.  My mother told me that she is where my grandpa got his love for the forest folk.  She said that my grandmother had told her of memories my great grandma had of the boys all gathered around her.  She would tell them stories of the forest gnomes and elves and changelings.

My mom laughed as she remembered one story my great grandma had shared with my grandma.  She said that one night she found all of the boys tangled up in bedsheets with flashlights.  They had gone out to catch them a kleiner Mann (a little man), and got tripped up in the sheets.   She said it was one of the few times that my grandma could remember her laughing.  Ma said that my grandmother remembered her as a wonderful cook.  There was always fresh bread and sweets on the table.  My grandma passed my great grandma’s recipe for Pfeffernusse cookies down to me.  I added the recipe with some modernization.

pfefferneuse

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a brown paper bag(my recipe calls for a pillow case).

  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.

  3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes (my recipe requires all of this be done by hand).  Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

  4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag (my recipe says a pillow case); shake until well coated. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container (again my recipe says to leave in the pillowcase in a closet for 6 weeks)

As I sat in the woods yesterday morning, my memories swirled back to everything I had talked to my mother about.  My great grandma has been dead since 1938 and my grandpa in 1992.  My grandma lived until 2007.  Each one of them is a part of me.  As I sit in the shadow of the trees, it is easy to imagine an old German folk song softly floating past my ear…or a story of the forest folk and an old man’s laugh.  Just as I have settled into a memory that isn’t really mine to begin with, Frisbee jumps and barks at something moving through the bushes.  It startled me for a moment and then I tell him to calm down…after all, it’s probably a gnome or elf or one of many fae.

I have pieces of my ancestors all around me…books, hats, figurines.  When I look at these pieces, it is evident how the parts of my own soul came to be.  I am a puzzle…made up completely of past present and future.  I have the strength that was forged by those who came before me, the power that is so much a part of me now, and the legacy that I leave for those who come after me.

Blessed Be!

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The Scent of Wild Air

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Yesterday morning was an early morning for me.  My partner has been working all weekend, so to be nice…I volunteered to get the dogs up, feed, and walk them by myself.  I was pretty much still halfway asleep through the process, but as I finished walking Bella (who always takes the longest), I walked over to the pot where my mandrake root is planted.  This plant has been hidden for the whole summer.  They don’t tend to like the horrendously hot summer days that Georgia is known for.  When I looked down into the pot, I saw three tiny little green leaves.  My four year old mandrake root was showing itself!  I hurried inside to drop off my canine bundle and rushed back out to the courtyard.  I knew for a fact that if my mandrake was surfacing, that cooler weather was on its way.

I heard the french doors creak open and looked up to see my partner sleepily pushing Friz out the door with a “He was whining to come out.”  I picked Friz up and we slowly made our way around the property.  Friz lifted his head into the air and sniffed repeatedly.  “You smell it too, don’t you?”  Just every fleeting so often, you could feel and smell coolness right in front of you.  I could feel myself shiver at the prospect of brisk air, breezes, and jackets.

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My heart skipped a beat as we walked over to where the pond used to be and I saw a partially yellow leaf lying in the grass.  I know that most look at fall as a time when things die, but to me it has always signified new beginnings.  I use this time as a chance to clean house.  I clean out the closets and anything that hasn’t been touched or used in a year either goes to Goodwill or some other charity.  I even do this with the animals things.  The local shelters are always in need of something.

Autumn is always the time of year that seems to bring out the pup in Friz.  He becomes more playful, more active.  He runs through the house and patio like a wild man…but then again, fall tends to do that same thing to me.  In autumn, I crave time outside.  On weekends, I am typically outside from before the sun rises to well after it sets.  If I could, I would sleep outside every night and use the stars and moon as my nightlight.  Autumn stirs something in me.  That is when my magick feels strongest.

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With the seasons moving toward fall, I feel closer to nature and all the things it encompasses.  When I walk past the trees, it is as if I can hear them singing in preparation of shedding what they have carried through the first part of the year.  Like me, they are anxious to release the things that they have carried through the first part of the year.  It is almost as if you can hear them sigh in relief as they slowly start to release their leaves and then as if they are too tired to hold them one more moment, they purge themselves of the remaining leaves so that they too might feel the freedom and simplicity of being burdened no more.

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When Friz and I got back into the house yesterday morning, I felt that ‘hibernation’ mode start to wash over me. I pulled the ottoman in front of my big chair, pulled a couple of cookbooks and my coffee over toward me, grabbed a blanket and nestled in with Friz.  We read for a bit, and then drifted off into dreams of colored leaves and brisk breezes.

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Autumn is my time for reading and pouring myself into every kind of book imaginable.  I read everything from books on the Craft, to cookbooks, to fiction, to magazines, to seed catalogs for Spring.  I pull even more into myself and relish the simplicity of everything around me.  It is my time to keep things simple.  Life is far too complicated already.  Fall is a time of comfort food and warm drinks.  It is nesting time for humans.  We spend Spring and Summer going non-stop.  Fall and Winter are the seasons of reflection, introspection, and clearing out the cobwebs that the rest of the year leaves behind.

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As we approach Autumn, I envision the Fae hunting and gathering for the upcoming weather changes and make sure to leave extras in the courtyard.  I add small pieces of flannel that I have cut up for them to use as blankets, matches, milk, bread…anything that they might need for their own comfort.  In my mind, I see them curled up in their own version of a comfy chair reading or sewing with an acorn cap full of warmed milk and a toasted piece of my homemade bread.

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When I walked Friz this evening, I was jarred back into reality.  I felt that balmy late summer breeze lick at my skin and I smelled one of the neighbors grilling out.  As we walked through the haze of hamburger and hotdog smoke, I closed my eyes to try to get back that feeling I had yesterday but try as I might, I was hurled back into late summer.  The little mandrake is holding its own, waiting for the cooler temperatures right around the corner…with each new leaf sprouting, hope for Fall.

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As we walked back toward the condo and my mind is racing toward work tomorrow and all of the challenges it will bring, I take a deep breath.  I can already taste small amounts of stress starting to surface.  I have to be reminded that I have to keep my life simple.  Worrying about things won’t add one more minute to my life.  I watch Mama Crow on the sidewalk fighting with the remains of a cicada.  I laugh out loud.  As Friz and I go through the french doors into the house, I hear my cuckoo clock in the back bedroom.  For some reason, it reminds me to take a deeper breath and not be so serious….and to always smell the breez for that hint of wild air.

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“Wise Men Hear and See As Little Children Do.”

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This week has been a baptism by fire of sorts into the depths of human nature for me.  I have always been one of those people who tried to see the best in people.  This week, however, I have listened as people outright lied to cover their own derrieres or to get other people in trouble.  I have witnessed people so wrapped up in themselves and the stress that surrounded them that they were willing to compromise their own system of ethics.  I have also seen people so wrapped up in ‘life’ that they could not take a moment to breathe, smile or fantasize.

As I watch people living daily life here in Atlanta, it scares me sometimes.  I remember a time when people actually laughed and didn’t take themselves so seriously.  I watch as we become robots of sorts.  We have become devoid of any emotions except for anger and fear.  We have become a ‘get-even’ society.  “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

I called my mother last night.  While we were on the phone, I heard my nephew and his cousin playing in the background.  They were throwing things and yelling.  I asked my mother to put my nephew on the phone.  I asked him why they were throwing things and yelling. He said that they were grownups and that they were at ‘work.’ Out of the mouths of babes…

This morning, my roommate and I went out for lunch.  While we were perusing the menu, we listened as the woman behind us screamed at the waitress.  Her sandwich, from what we and everyone else in the restaurant could hear, was dry.  “But you ate the whole sandwich,” the mild-mannered waitress pointed out.  “Well, I just kept hoping it would get better at some point.”  The waitress comped the meal as the woman continued to loudly protest.

We have become a society of liars, thieves, and generally crabby-assed people.  It is our right to be offensive and hurtful and to deliver our opinion whether people want it or not. We have carried that over into every area of our lives including social media.  Adults have become worse than children.  We don’t know how to play nice anymore.

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As we grow older, we are supposed to grow in wisdom, and love, and understanding.  I have not so much seen that lately.  I look around and see a group of people who have forgotten how to see the magic in the world around them.  Sure….life sucks sometimes.  Situations and circumstances happen, but we choose how we respond to those circumstances and situations.  Now, you notice I said respond, and not react.

One of the definitions I found for the word respond is: To react quickly or positively to a stimulus or treatment.  One of the definitions I found for react is:  To respond with hostility, opposition, or a contrary course of action to.  Both are related, but one is seen as positive and the other more negative.

I have always loved the story of Peter Pan.  In the chronicles of Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie, adults are seen as pirates out to squelch the innocence of childhood.  Once one reaches adulthood, magic ceases to exist.  I dare say that even as witches, we sometimes become so wrapped up in the ritual and following everything to the ‘T’ that we forget to let the magick do what magick does.  Magick should flow from us and through us on a daily basis….moment by moment.  It isn’t something that should always have to be stirred up or manipulated.  The butterfly doesn’t have to be coaxed from the crysalis…it is a part of what it is and does.

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Even in my own life, it has become far too easy to react based on the emotions surrounding a situation, than to stop, breathe, and respond with the magick that stirs within my very soul.  If I were to reach inside myself and pull from the stores of power that swirl through my veins, I might handle a crisis quite differently.

Normally my Saturday and Sunday mornings are spent in the woods.  I come to think that they are more magickal than anywhere else around….but this morning, Friz and I slept in (which we never do).  Instead of our morning trip to the woods, we went for a walk just before twilight.  We walked a different path…one that we thought would get us to the woods before dark…through the playground of the complex.  There we saw two little girls and a little boy who I have gotten to know over the years.  “Mr. Gaddy, you and Frisbee come and play with us…Pleeeeeeeeaaasssee!!!”  I relented.  Friz and I headed to the middle of the playground.  “He is the king and she is a knight.  I am a beautiful princess.  You can be the wizard and Frisbee is a dragon.”  I am standing there thinking that it was kind of type-casting but these children have also walked up on me talking to trees and plants and making a bit of magick.  Friz play-bowed as if he knew his part.  He barked and ran in circles with the kids.  “Spell him, Mr. Gaddy! Spell him!”  I laughed out loud.  Mercy, I had not run around like this and laughed like this in what seemed like forever.

When we finished, we plopped down on the swings and Friz rolled onto his side in the dirt. “You are really good at magick,” one of the kids said.  I laughed a bit and under my breath said, “It takes practice.”  The smallest girl overheard me and agreed that yes, it must.  They all waved goodbye to me and Friz and headed home for their dinners.  Friz came over to me and leaned against my leg.  We stayed like that for a while realizing that we had both just witnessed magick through the eyes of a child.

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It was in this moment that I realized that I don’t want my spirit to grow old and brittle.  I am a magickal being.  I need to find ways to guard my heart against anger, bitterness, offense, I have noticed when children play…they may get mad, but they are quick to forgive.  As adults, we have learned to hold onto that grudge, nurse it, feed it.

We say that we believe in all things magickal, but do we truly?  Have we learned to compartmentalize magick? “This doesn’t work for me, so it can’t truly be valid.”  I have friends who follow many different paths.  None are any less real or valid than my path.  Just because I believe in dragons and you don’t, does not mean that dragons aren’t real…same with the fae.

Where have we put all of the wonder that brought us to our path to begin with?  I want to be able to see magick the way a child sees it.  I remember when my girls were 4 or 5 years old and it was Christmas Eve.  We were all sitting in the floor of the family room with wrapping paper and ribbons and tape all around us.  My dad had gone out to check on his goats without a flashlight and tripped and fell against the house.  Steph’s eyes widened and she said, “Oh my doodness! Santa Cwaus is here alweady! Let’s wun for the bedwoom!!”  It didn’t even cross her mind that her grandpa had fallen against the house even though she saw him go outside.  Oh to be able to see with our eyes wide open once again.

When I got home today, I decided to create an easy spell to help me with that child-like spirit.  It starts with a basic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  As I stirred the ingredients for the cookies together, the spell began to roll off my tongue:

Eyes wide open, breathing deep…

A child-like heart will no more sleep.

Wonder, hope, excitement, thrill…

Now renewed, my heart will feel.

From a brittle spirit, set me free.

All things magickal, now I’ll see.

Flow within me everyday.

Teach my heart and soul to play.

chocolate chip cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

  3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

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Blessed Be!

So Is Mischief Really Managed?

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When people get to know me, they realize early on that I am pretty much a “what you see is what you get” type of person.  I have never been one to live on pretense and don’t believe that I should have to be any less than who I am.  I forget sometimes that not everyone else is like that.  Most people allow you to be a part of their lives as long as the need suits them and then you become an inconvenience….or they hold you to a standard that only they are aware of and when you don’t fit that standard, or you step outside of the box that they have constructed around you, you become a parasite that must be eradicated.

This weekend was my birthday.  It was filled with wonderful friends and acquaintances well wishes….except one.  At one time, I thought that we were close.  I would pay visits to his house when he had needs arise with his pets.  After all, he shouldn’t have to dole out money at a vet for something that I could accomplish in ten minutes, should he?  I found myself watching my phone for a text from this person…scanning Facebook for any chance of a ‘Happy Birthday’ wish from him.  I found none.

I have always been one who didn’t think that others opinions of me mattered….until this weekend.  My mind raced back to a phonecall with this person a couple of weeks ago.  He had become irritated with me over the course of the call and reprimanded me.  I quickly corrected him by stating that I would not be spoken to like a child.  In the next few contacts we had via text, everything was cordial, but you could tell they were forced on his end.  I excused it as his right to feel miffed if he felt he needed to be, so I pushed it to the back of my mind.

Friday night, I prepared for my Blue Moon Ritual.  I used part of the ritual as a release.  I always try to push those things away from me that seem to no longer serve a purpose or are harmful.  I always include toxic relationships.

I sat quietly under the moon….watching through the glass jar of water I had put on the table to charge under the moonlight.  Visions began to move through the water.  I saw battles ahead…but I also saw victories.  The thing that sticks out, was that I watched a scene in that water that made me cringe.  I saw relationships being severed with a steel blade.  I know that this is a normal part of life.  Relationships change…people move on.

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I left the tealights burning in the circle around me and curled up on the outdoor sofa.  I woke up in total darkness.  I don’t wear a watch so I had no idea what time it was.  I gathered everything up and went inside.  I quickly glanced at the clock and saw that it was 5:10am.  I had pretty much spent the whole night underneath the moonlight.

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I realized early in the day Saturday that I probably had a good healthy overdose of moon energy.  I was fidgety, antsy…to much energy and not enough outlets for it.  I kept glancing at my phone.  Facebook was filled with well-wishes and Happy Birthday posts.  It was wonderful seeing each one and they filled my heart with love…but there was one missing.  Isn’t that just like us?  We could be sitting in the midst of a banquet searching for one single grape.

The worst part of this was that I let this situation fill me with self-doubt.  What had I done that was so wrong?  Should I have been more understanding?  More sympathetic?  Did I say something hurtful?  No….I had nothing to apologize for.  I would do everything the same way if I had to do it over.  I can only control the things that have to do with my actions, reactions, and words.  I wasn’t hurtful.  I was asked an opinion.  I gave it.

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My partner came up to me at one point yesterday and told me that I seemed down.  “Is it the fact that you are almost 50?” “Yeah, that’s it.”  I lied.  “I am going for a walk in the woods.”  I put Friz’s harness on him and we set out on a far too familiar path.  We walked a little slower than normal.  My mind was a million miles away.

Friz can tell more than anyone when I am out of sorts.  I plopped down in the midst of the decaying leaves.  Friz crawled up into my lap and licked at the tip of my nose.  I looked directly in front of me and saw one of the larger trees.  I studied it.  There were gouges and dents in the bark, but there it stood.

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My thoughts followed the contours of that old tree.  It had been exposed to the elements.  Weather and animals and humans had added divots and grooves to the outside bark….but that tree continued to grow.  That tree had survived drought, Georgia summers and urbanization….but yet it continued to grow as if none of that existed around it.

As my eyes followed the gnarls and cracks in the bark, I had the realization that I am now almost a half century old.  I have my own cracks, divots and gnarls, but the inside is still growing and learning.  There are things and people that are going to move in and out of my life.  I have to realize that everything is for a season only…some lasts for multiple seasons, but everything has an energy all its own.  Sometimes that energy is no longer works alongside mine and I must release it and not let it fill me with doubt.

Today, my partner took me to “The Sound of Music” Sing-Along at the Fox Theater.  One of the lines used in the movie stood out to me.  I have watched this movie over and over through the years and never realized that these words were said.  Two of the sisters were discussing Maria’s future at the abbey with the Reverend Mother.  Sister Berthe suggested to the Reverend Mother that Maria’s antics should remove any doubt regarding Maria belonging at the abbey.  The Reverend Mother replies, “I always try to keep faith in my doubts, Sister Berthe.”

I guess I am learning to do the same.

Blessed Be!

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