Another Time and Another Place

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We’ve all had that feeling before – the feeling of being out of place in the surroundings we are in.  This feeling of “otherness” has been the inspiration for great poems, books, and songs.  Imagining how we would be if we were somehow dropped into another life can be potent fuel which stokes the fires of creativity.   I know that in the back of my mind, I would personally love to be the reincarnation of Merlin from King Arthur’s Court…I am quite satisfied that, in all probability, I lived the quiet life of the cunning man deep in the forest of the British Isles.

I have learned in my magickal studies that the soul or spirit is ongoing.  While I sit here writing in my 47 year old body….my centuries old spirit has seen many things that this mind can only dream of.  I know that for some, reincarnation is something you may or may not believe in, but how do we explain that certain knowing that we get when we put our feet down on a certain plot of land….or that feeling that comes with walking into a place we have never been, and yet, we feel perfectly at home.

This feeling of “otherness” that I referred to earlier, is particularly strong for me when I am deep in the woods.  Even when I have been hiking in the mountains, forests thick around me….completely unsure of where I am, all I have to do is put my hand on a tree or sit down in the dirt and I am at home.  I listen to what these friends tell me….these friends from hundreds of years ago….and I can find my way.

I have also encountered people who seem to be a constant in my ‘lives.’  There have been some friends who have come into my spiritual space….not needing a formal invitation or a fanfare.  They just belong there.  These are people whom I know I have shared my energy with in past times.  I believe that we have been allowed to walk forward into other planes of time as a comfort….an instigator…a cheerleader….and a strength to each other.

This is the person who you may have never met face to face….never touched or walked alongside….but you know them.  That comfort level….that trust…a continuation of spirit and energy from a time and place gone by.  It is the same spirit that is there when the wind blows against your face.  It is that same spirit that I feel when I hear the ‘Graaaaakk’ of Mama Crow.  I have known her spirit for eons.  It is that same spirit that comes to me in the form of a blue dog.  Friz now….before Friz, Sally….before Sally, Patches.

I am often given glimpses of those past associations in my dreams.  It is always one of those instances that you know it is much more than a dream…more than fantasy….but more memory.  I know, when I dream, that as I stand in the middle of those woods, hands outstretched and other sets of hands join mine, that they belong to  those that I have traveled lives and spiritual planes with before.

The magick associated with all of this cannot be expected to be anything less than powerful.  Life nowadays sometimes scares me.  When I am overtaken with those anxieties, I think on the things I must have survived (or not) before.  When I think on these things, it stirs resolve inside of me that I never before thought I had.  I tend to fret over the little things….the day-to-day crap that isn’t worth a piddly-fart.  I find, though, when it comes to the big stuff….the major crises that tend break the strongest people…that is when I dig my feet in, plant myself and push my magickal shield out with all the force I have.  It is also in those moments that I call on those I trust, to walk alongside of me.  When I feel those familiar hands joined with mine….that is when you see magickal sparks fly.harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2-preparing-for-battle-hogwarts-protective-spell-shield

It took a while for me to realize that the power inside me has been building for hundreds of years.  Lord and Lady have poured themselves into me since time began.  I have walked the forests and fields many times over with Cernunnos himself.  The moon and I are such good friends because we have been nurturing that friendship for centuries.  Wolf has been walking with me since his spirit came into existence…and Mama Crow has been there for many many lifetimes.

I don’t take those human counterparts for granted either.  The energy we share now is only a culmination of energies that have been coming together since the time of the ancients.   As we join that energy….we can’t even begin to fathom what is coming into being.  I look at the world around me.  It is my time to change it.  The power inside of me joined with the power of those heart brothers and sisters will set the world on its ear.  I don’t take the commission of the Gods and Goddesses lightly.  Change has been affected in me so that I may bring change to those people and places surrounding me.

Especially lately, magick has been coming out of my pores.  Always the magnificent result I want?  No. Always the magickal result I need?  Yes.

Hang onto your hats fellas!  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Blessed Be!

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That Place Between Sleep and Awake

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We have all had those moments when it seems like we are lost in our own darkness.   Having struggled with depression for most of my life, I have learned to fight my way through the tangles and snarls of vines that depression seems to lay along the floors of the forests of life….or so I thought.  Over the past couple of months, I have been making my way through those forests…plodding out trails…hacking through the vines, only to find myself at the beginning of the trail I had started, wandering aimlessly like a man lost in his own thoughts with all the monsters that he has created keeping a steady pace behind him.

I couldn’t even seem to avoid these battles in sleep.  The moment my head would hit the pillow, dreams of battles and terror and anxiety would invade the calm that I tried to manipulate into being before lying down.  I found myself becoming edgier and angrier because there was no rest to be had.  It was easier when people around me asked how I was to reply with a short, curt “Fine.  Hope everything is ok with you.”

Yesterday morning, I got up really early and retreated to the woods.  Inside the house, I have no escape.  Every room is full with humans or animals at every minute.  I can’t even take a long hot bath anymore without someone knocking on the door, asking me where something is.  There is no silence.  It is broken by the sounds of barking or meowing or a television blaring….so I go to the woods.  I sneaked Friz out of the kennel…away from the eyes of the other pets.  I gathered my cloak and backpack (for some reason, I have come to think if I wear my cloak, I can’t be seen).

We got into what I think of as the middle of the woods…I know that they go on farther, but this is the center of my woods.  I set everything in the place that I feel it needs to go, and I face-plant in the dirt  Friz curls underneath my cloak…and there we stayed for a while.  By a while, I mean that we were there from about 6:30am until around 10:30am.  Just a face-plant…no rituals, no wand-wielding…just a face-plant.

As we walked back to the condo, I snapped a pic here and there of the trees and bushes that caught my eye.  The colors stirred something inside me and for a time, took me away from myself.2013-11-02 17.24.58

Even in the midst of that beauty, I felt lost.  As I went through the rest of the day,  everything that could happen….did.  I even went as far as to doubt where my relationship with my partner stood.  It is funny to me how the universe around us has a way of knocking us out of self-pity.  To side-track my partner and I from an argument….we had a dishwasher that burned a hole in its own bottom….we had a pup that became a living, breathing diarrhea machine.  We had to stop, pull ourselves away from ourselves and concentrate on other things and animals around us.

I went to sleep last night completely exhausted wondering where the magick was in this magickal life.  I hadn’t been asleep hardly anytime before I felt pressure on my side of the bed.  I can’t tell you if it was a dream or reality….those lines were blurred.  I looked up and saw a familiar face.  It was the face of Jim…my partner who had died many years ago.  He looked at me and my partner.  He quietly smiled and began to stroke the side of my head and cheek. Jim looked at me frankly and said to me, “When are you going to stop trying to see in the dark?  Everytime you try, you end up stumbling over yourself.  Why don’t you try walking in the lighted part of life around you?”  He told me about a bush that I had taken a picture of yesterday.  It is called a beauty berry bush.  The leaves are such a vibrant chartreuse that I got caught up in that coloring.  Jim said to me, “That bush isn’t named for the leaves.  You looked right at it and were so overtaken with the color of the leaves that you didn’t look past them and see the berries.  The berries are where the bush got its name.  It is the bright, brilliant purple berry that makes that bush stand out.  You think you have no place to run and hide when you are feeling like this…..STOP  running and hiding.  You will never defeat something while you are running from it.  Face it head on….run directly into it with the intent to make it run.”2013-11-03 09.31.33

I woke up feeling rested, even though it felt like I had been up all night talking.  I know the veil is thin this time of year….I just never knew that it could be like that.  You feel that sense of comfort, but you also feel like you have been whopped up side the head.  I put on my crocs and went to where I had seen the beauty berry bush.  I picked a leaf and a stem of berries to dry for my book of shadows…my book of remembrance.  Sometimes it only takes something small to remind us of the love and energy that surrounds us on a daily basis.  Sometimes it takes that which only magick can supply to show us who we are in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, I am still fighting through….but I am fighting.  The sword is drawn and the shield is up.  I am winning.  I will come forth stronger and more powerful because of it.

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

Dream It Anyway

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This week, I was disillusioned a bit.  I guess I put the type of expectations on everyone else that I have for myself.  Sure, it disappoints me when others don’t seem to live up to those expectations, but you learn to live with it for the most part.

It has been a while since I have been through the scouting and interviewing process of job-hunting.  I had done everything that I was required to do.  I submitted my resume, got the reply that a phone interview was required, replied with my schedule and availability, and I waited.  I waited while my roommate got a reply to his reply….I waited and watched my roommate sit and wait by the phone at the scheduled time for the interview…I waited while my roommate went on to the gym because an hour and a half past the interview time, no one had called.

My roommate came to me Friday night.  “What’s wrong.” “Nothing.”  “Yes there is.  Are you feeling depressed?”  “No…..well…a little.  How can someone tell you that they are going to do something and then not do it?  So much magick was poured into this.”  “Are you doubting the power of magick?”  “No not at all.  I have no doubt that magick is real….I don’t know what I am questioning.”

My brain was racing…soaring….all over the place.  I went to bed Friday night and dreamed about my childhood.  Dreams and memories overtook every moment of sleep.  I remembered the moment when I found out that the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real.  That didn’t seem so much of a loss, but next came the demise of the Easter Bunny.  This revelation shook me a little more, considering that Easter is one of my favorite times of the year.  But when I was forced to take a good hard look at Santa…..lying comatose in the remnants of fantasy and glitter….it shook me to the core.  It shook me so much that I forced myself to ‘believe’ for two years longer for the ‘sake of my younger brother.’

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Those next two years were horrible for me.  The very foundation of my belief system was shaken.  Doubt replaced certainty.  If none of the magickal beings I had come to trust were real….then was magick, in itself, real?  I spent hours talking to my grandma about all of this.  I asked her how she was still able to hold fast to the legends and stories she was told as a young girl on the reservation.  I asked her how she was able to hold onto the belief in the power of all those spirits that were supposedly around us…especially when she couldn’t see them.  I still hold fast to the words that she spoke to me.  “Just because you can’t see the wind when it’s blowing through those trees…doesn’t make it any less real.  Just because you smell the rain before it gets there…doesn’t mean it isn’t coming.  Just because you can’t hear that tree talking….doesn’t mean it’s not talking.  Sometimes you have to dig deeper inside of you than you ever needed to dig before….just so you can see with your eyes closed.  All your life, people are going to tell you that you can’t do the things you know that you can.  It is your choice as far as what you believe.”2013-10-05 15.40.32

When I woke up this morning, I could feel my dreams still swirling inside my head.  I could hear my grandma’s voice echoing in my ears.  It was almost like having a dream hangover.  As I walked outside with Friz with the New Moon barely showing herself.  I wondered why I believed now as strong as I believe.  I realized that through this job-hunting episode, it wasn’t my belief in magick that was shaken….I think I have just grown even more weary of trying to excuse the bad personality flaws of others.  In any case, my feelings should have never gotten hurt over the fact that I was ‘overlooked.’

Friz and I set out with a mission this morning.  The woods were calling and we had a wand to pour energy into.  I also have a Facebook friend who is dealing with seizures and other medical issues who needs my energy more than that job.

We got into the woods and settled in under a tree.  We saw our little calico friend just a few feet from us.  I called on the spirit of Wolf and Crow.  I have never doubted that they would be there when I called.  My grandma always told me that whenever I needed my helpers, that they would be there.  I laid the wand between the two skulls and blew sage smoke over it.  I called to the Lord and Lady in behalf of the person the wand would be going to and in behalf of the friend battling illness.  It was at that moment that the wind came.  This wind was a familiar one.  My grandma was in this wind.  I smelled gardenia.  Her perfume always carried that heady essence of gardenia.  It pulsed around me, Friz and Beatrice.  Friz recognized this wind too.  He sat as if being told to do so….he licked at the air.  You see, my grandma was the first person he met after meeting me……we went straight to her house after picking him up.  She held him in the crook of her arm the whole time he was there.  She entertained  the kitten with scurrying leaves….my grandma never completely understood a cat.

It shouldn’t have shocked me that she would come to me in the wind.  She loved nothing more than the balmy breezes of summer and the crisp winds of Fall.  I asked her to bless the wand and to pour energy into it.  I talked to her about my friend.  It was as if I could hear her voice in each rustle of the leaves and could feel her quiet but mischievous strength.  I could hear her telling me….”Now remember, belief is all fine and good….you finally got that up under your belt.  Now it’s time to give those beliefs and dreams hands and feet.”  I could feel the kiss of the wind against my forehead as our time came to an end.  No sadness….just the feeling of hope that she always seemed able to leave me with.

Things are going to happen….I, as well as others, am going to screw things up.  Things aren’t always going to go the way I want them.  Dreams change and beliefs shift….but I intend to do the one thing she always told me to do…..”Dream it….Believe it anyway.  Who is gonna stop you?”

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!

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!

The Healing Stick

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on something that I have wanted for a long, long time. I have been stripping and sanding and smoothing my own staff…..an honest to goodness sorcerer’s staff. Not unlike Gandalf’s staff in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy but also completely unique…encompassing those things that I love about the Craft and my magickal life.

The wood is the vine called ‘Tree of Heaven.’ You can see these vines on pretty much anything that will stand still in the south….but the twists and turns of the wood show so much movement on something so stationary. The staff will be topped with a crow’s skull and wrapped at the top with humanely harvested wolf’s fur with crow feathers hanging from the top. Embedded in the wood will be stones of Merlinite, Moonstone, and Dragon’s Breath. I will engrave sigils and runes on the staff and stain it with a red mahogany stain.2013-06-09 14.48.42 HDR

Working on this staff has been a wonderful refreshing time for me. My grandma had always taught me that the best way to get bark off of a branch or piece of wood was with a ‘tater’ peeler. I remember the first strips of bark I watched slide off the staff and on to the ground…..it came off like butter..so easy and so quick. Then I did the next thing my grandma taught me. Put the wood in a dry, even temperatured place for a couple of days to dry a bit. This is so the layer of orange-ish bark will show itself and then that layer can be taken off. I sat on the stoop outside of the condo. This time the stripping was a little more involved and meticulous. I used the ‘tater’ peeler and carefully and slowly began to remove the orange colored stripes that had come to light with the drying process.

As I sat there and worked, my partner opened the door and he came out into the courtyard with the dogs. He sat down beside me and the dogs were lying there on the cool patio as I smoothed out the wood under my hand. As we talked, he asked me what the staff was for and why I had wanted to make it. I explained everything to him and he listened intently. We talked about the meanings of everything that would be included on the staff. He ran his hand along the vine amazed that it was becoming so smooth. We talked about our relationship….and I opened up and told him that I felt like I was becoming more and more callous as I grow older. I told him that sometimes I feel like my heart is frozen…almost unfeeling at times. He looked me in the eyes and quietly told me that he understood…it was time to take the dogs to potty and then back inside. As he stood up, he leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Do you love me?” “Oh honey, I love you so much!”…then he walked out the gate with the dogs. I sighed quietly to myself and continued to work.

I got to a stopping point on the staff and decided to put it in the utility room until the next time I worked on it. I sat down on the couch with a book and started to read. My partner came over to me and kissed me on the cheek. “Do you love me?” “Yes honey, I love you more than anything.”…then he headed to the bedroom.

I finished the chapter I was reading and decided to head to bed. I leaned over to kiss him goodnight. “Do you love me?” “Honey, you know I do. Why do you keep asking?” “Because I know that you love me…..you just need to realize that the heart inside you is a good heart….one full of an infinite amount of love….a heart that is capable of anything you can imagine. It hasn’t become hard or unfeeling….it just gets tired and stressed sometimes.” I rolled over quietly. My mind was going hundreds of miles an hour.

As I rolled over onto my side, my mind raced back to my days in the church. My partner had reminded me of a sermon I had given years and years and years ago. I have always held the thought that we can learn something from all faiths. I watched myself in my mind standing behind the pulpit. I was delivering a sermon based on the scripture where Jesus had been resurrected and was talking to Peter. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, my Lord, I love you.” “Feed my sheep.” He asked him a third time, “Peter, do you love me?” “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” In these verses, Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved him so that Peter might feel shame…or that Peter might think that Jesus questioned his love. Jesus asked these questions of Peter for Peter’s sake. Jesus did not want to condemn Peter….Jesus wanted Peter to get a glimpse of his own heart. It wasn’t Jesus who questioned Peter’s love….it was Peter. It wasn’t Jesus who thought Peter had failed…it was Peter.

As a Pagan…a witch….I think we feel that others are always passing judgement on us. Most of the time, we are the ones who question our own hearts and motives most harshly. If a spell or energy working doesn’t go the direction we think it should, there must be something wrong with us…..we don’t take into consideration that the universe works in ways that we may never get to see.

I have determined that I am my own worst enemy. I will never have to worry about the proverbial Dorothy dropping a house on me…I will have already stood under a condo, a house, an office park waiting for the worst to happen.

I have lived a full life….that life includes hurt, betrayal, confusion and the death of dreams. There is still so much love that radiates from that stringy little organ inside my body. I feel that love every time I sit in the courtyard under the moonlight with a friend who is hundreds of miles away physically. I really don’t have the time or the energy anymore to concentrate on who hurt me when…or who all has ever betrayed me. Those are the things that harden the heart.

What is it that brings healing? Sitting on the stoop in the courtyard barefooted, feeling the shavings hit my feet as I whittle and carve on a stick….a stick that can help facilitate a lot of healing….a stick that prompts conversation and thought…a stick that may mean nothing to anyone but me….but it is my healing stick.

Blessed Be!

A Summer of Frybread and Indian Tacos

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This week, my mind has been racing back fifteen years or so.  I was still involved in the mainline church and a bit thinner then.  The church I was working with decided to do a building mission trip to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  The reservation is located in North and South Dakota, but our trip was to be in the South Dakota part of it.  My church, at the time was a little unusual.  This trip was not about “winning souls” or “converting the indians” as I have heard many say.  When I say that we went out as a building team….I mean we went out as a building team…to make repairs to the local church and to  build sheds.

We knew a couple of families on the reservation prior to our trip, so we had some familiarity, but at that time, racial tensions were a bit high.    The families that we knew also knew of my heritage and knew that my grandma was full Cherokee.  I didn’t realize how much that would help me until later.   I had experienced reservation life on the North Carolina Cherokee reservation…but I wasn’t quite sure I was prepared for what awaited me.  I was taken on this trip solely for my experience with troubled youth.  I had worked as a Crisis Intervention Director with an alternative school years earlier.  My area of “expertise” in the church was also trouble teens and working with kids with learning disabilities.  I was also on the praise team….where the singing was going to help, I had no clue.

We flew into Minneapolis on a dry summer morning.  I had no clue that we would be driving most of the day in a large white van to reach our destination.  The majority of the team would be staying at a motel just outside the reservation.  Some of us were allowed to stay in homes.  I remember looking at the landscape around me…. so flat and dry compared to the lush green mountains of North Carolina.  As I looked out the windows of the van, I could see fields of sunflowers.  To this day, they remain my favorite.  I looked to the right of us and see a buffalo ranch.  I am in awe of these magnificent beasts.  Giant, powerful beasts….they represented the heart of the Lakota people…once wild and free and now confined behind fences and boundaries.

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We pulled into the church parking lot and were told by the locals that it would be best if everyone would just stay inside the church.  I was told that I could go out with the local family members because I had the blood of the people in me.  We walked through the reservation….along dirt roads and over hills.  The first person we came across was a young girl of eight or so.  She was playing with a litter of pups.  She looked at me and spat out, “Why is he with you?”  The young lady who was accompanying me replied, “How dare you treat him like that!  He has our blood!”  The little girls attitude toward me took on a total transformation.  All of a sudden, it was as if she was my shadow.  In all honesty, I am the whitest looking native you have every seen.  I got every bit of my grandfather’s darker Irish looks and freckles…..the only thing that seems to have been given to me by my grandma is my dark skin in the summer.

I loved being able to visit the houses of the grandmothers and grandfathers and being given the honor of listening to so many stories….stories about when they were children….stories of accomplishment, but never told in a way that might be mistaken for bragging.  My grandmother had told me before I left to always be gracious and honor each person I met.  I was overwhelmed by the honor and graciousness which was shown to me. With each meeting there was always an abundance of laughter, strength and plenty of frybread.   I love frybread with a passion.  I finally had to learn to make the Lakota recipe. Nowadays whenever I feel the need for a bit of “home,” I make frybread. 

The grandmothers and grandfathers loved to hear me sing.  They told me that it soothed them.  There were many times when I would just sit and hum as we worked.  I would look over at one of the grandmothers and see her head tilted to the side with her eyes closed listening to me.  It was then that I was made aware of the magick in music.  I was told constantly that I had a gift…when I opened my mouth and music came forth, it was a calming, soothing sound that spoke to the heart. The last time I was on the phone with my grandma before she died, she asked me to sing her a song. I did.  My hope is that it spoke to her heart that day.

I was introduced early in the summer to one of the grandfathers who was said to have strong medicine.  My grandma told me later that he would have been considered a ‘medicine man’ or spiritual leader.  On our first meeting, he told me that he actually saw very strong medicine in me.  I was very much his shadow for the rest of the summer.  We would climb buttes and roam the prairies….it was very much an awakening of my own spirit.  I was allowed to experience things that I can only describe as a beautiful part of the Great Mystery or Wakan Tanka.  I was shown a people who were still very much an indigenous group…people in whom the wild heart still danced. 

My friend told me many times to be watchful of all things around me…to be watchful like the crow…that may be part of the reason I feel such a kinship with the crow…and also seem to draw crow to myself.  He would spend many hours telling me about the personalities and characteristics of the animals.  Through these stories I fell in love with buffalo, wolf, crow and eagle…..and was shown the cunning of the trickster, coyote.

It was also in this time that I was truly introduced to the medicine of those who had been before me.  We would call this ‘ancestral magic’ now.  I was shown how to pay tribute and honor to those who had gone before…to those whose footprints I walked in.  I was taken to the burial site of Sitting Bull.  I felt unnerved standing so close to history.  I felt humbled knowing what he stood for.  I still try to stop every day to give thanks to my ancestors and those who have walked the road before me.

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My heart is full as I write these words.  Memories overtake me.  I am just as much standing in front of the buffalo that I was allowed to get close to now as I was fifteen years ago.  I can still smell the smell of the reservation around me.  I can still taste the frybread on the back of my tongue.  I can still see the beautiful, beautiful lines in the faces of the grandmothers and grandfathers.  Whenever I hunger too much for those times, I bring out gifts that were given to me….a drum, a pipe, and a flute.  In using those gifts, I am there again…lost in the stories and teachings of one who had strong medicine. 

I try every day to walk ‘the Good Red Road.’  Sometimes I am successful.  Sometimes I fail.  It is in those failures that I have to rely on that strong medicine inside of me.  It is in those moments that I have to separate from the harshness of the city and escape back to where I came from.  It is in those moments that I call on Great Grandfather Spirit and Mother Earth.  It is in those moments that my medicine is strongest.  When I commune with the animal spirits….when I dance in the open with reckless abandon….when I sing to the wind…..That is when I am the most free.

Blessed Be!