Voices of the Past

This week’s offering comes from my dear friend Maluna.  Over the years, this woman has become mentor, trusted friend, and soulmate.  We have shared laughter, tears, and many a sleepless night.  She has listened to and interpreted my dreams and given me a right smart kick in the ass when I needed it most.  I have asked her to share her magick and her heart with you.

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Samhain. It means Summer’s end. The end of a season…the end of the witches year. The veil between the worlds is thin…the dead walk among the living…and many of us see and hear them. It’s always been my favorite Sabbat…this year it took on a whole new meaning.

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It’s been a turbulent year for me….the end of a marriage, a new home….the death* of a life I once knew. Deep in the woods…far from anyone….I feel the hedge witches….they lived away from society….shunned for being different….feared or respected…they practiced their craft in solitude.

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I’ve been shunned from my small town. Lies, accusations, misconceptions from friends and family…and like the Salem witch trails….rumors spread like wildfire….fingers pointed…damage done. I’ve walked these woods each day…listening to the voices of the past….sometimes wailing like the banshees that cry in the howling wind…looking for answers….wondering if all I have lost is worth what I’ve gained.

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Do we travel through our physical lives like the ghosts and spirits that slip through the veil? Do they regret their lives and the consequences of their actions? Do they haunt and pass through to feel…to touch once more what they had….good or bad? When we die…I believe we have choices….to start fresh, or to come back with glimmers of the life we left…maybe it takes many lives lived to find the purpose…the soulmate…the connection that will send us to the divine afterlife….the completeness. Could we possibly be just lost souls traveling through the veil looking for that connection? Seeking…searching.

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I’ve found many answers in this dead season….and I’ll find more in coming dark months….it’s always been my time. As many tears as I’ve cried for what is past….I also see a glimmer of light….the glint of a sword…the flick of a cape….the brush of The Morrigan…and I’ve found a connection of magick with a dear friend….a goal to build a sanctuary of magick and Nature…a haven for the ancient hedge witches that pass through the deep woods that surround us…our voices will carry on the traditions…the love of the land….a time lost in the Mists. In the dark, cold ashes of the Samhain fires new growth will be rise….new lives will be lived….and magick will carry on. BB

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The Story Spell

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Last weekend, after I finished my blog, one of my Facebook friends posted what I thought was a profound comment on the Weathered Wiseman blog.  I asked him if it would be ok to post his comment on the Weathered Wiseman Facebook page and he agreed.  This led to a back and forth about magick and experiences.  He told me of a spell that he uses in his work with a shelter.  This moved me tremendously and led to something that I have wanted to do for a while.  Over the next few weeks, you will see posts by several trusted friends.  The only guideline I gave them is that it must be based on their experience and their magick.  Other than that, there are no holds barred.  I welcome you now to the experiences of my dear friend Daedalus.
Toward the end of our training my classmates and I were challenged to discover ways we could bring our skills and abilities out into the mundane world and use them “For the good of all, harming none”. What I learned thru the practical application of Magick is that the concepts of “good and evil” help and harm” are all relative and depend on perspective. Here is one example of how I use the skills and abilities I learned to help alleviate suffering in others.
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                                               The Story Spell
      I work in a local shelter helping homeless families find and keep housing in one of the larger cities in the state where I live. As part of my work I deal with issues such as developmental disabilities, mental health issues, as well as substance abuse issues in the folks who come to our door seeking shelter. Needless to say I have learned to practice detached and objective compassion while shielding and warding heavily for self care and protection. One of our alternate names for the family shelter is, “The drama factory”. I work the majority of the evening shifts when the guests return to the shelter after being out in the community all day. as a result I witness and have to defuse all kinds of “drama bombs”.
  When one of the guests come to me in crisis mode I first listen quietly. My job training tells me I must “model the behavior”. If I want them to calm down I have to present a calm and rational example for them to follow. My magickal training tells me that something has triggered their shadow self and before that entity can be put back to sleep it has to be able to dissipate some of the anger it holds centered on being awakened. I let them tell me their story while “listening between the lines” for what the triggers are that woke this particular beast. while they are spinning their story I soften my focus, fill the room with “safe energy” and wait for their shadow self to reveal itself. While I`m waiting I call on my guides for help and support. I also divide my attention in preparation to allow part of myself to leave my body both for safety and to allow myself to better practice the “detached compassion” that is key to the work I`m about to undertake. Part of me steps outside myself, joins my guides and we all watch me sitting there shifting in my seat, gesturing at appropriate moments, and answering with short simple replies if need be in order to keep the discharge of discordant energy actively  flowing. Once that energy is released my guides and I transform it into more “safe energy” while setting some of the transformed energy aside to be used later. My “second self” as well as my guides are all heavily cloaked at this point so the guest`s shadow self is not aware that it is being observed.
I will many times use a technique I learned when working with autistic adults who were in crisis. I sit beside the person talking rather than in front of them. I also avoid eye contact and minimize movement. I sit close enough so they know I am there if they need me yet not so close that they feel intimidated or in any way threatened. While I am sitting quietly I look at my hands and use my peripheral vision to monitor the guest, the entity driving them, and the flow and direction of the energy being released. At some point during their telling of their story/ release of discordant energy I usually take either a stone or a coin out my pocket. I find the small “watch pocket” just below the belt loops of most jeans work well for storage of these items. Retrieval requires far less shifting and digging around than pulling something from the bottom of a main pocket. I know a friend who also using a similar technique who keeps his “items of distraction” in a small leather “mojo bag” he wears around his neck. When I feel the person winding down I stare at the object in my hand as I listen and maybe begin to add some slow calming hand movement to the exchange to help distract them so they can detach themselves if they are looping back into the story. Before too long they have breathed in enough of the calming energy in the room to begin winding down. When they come to a stop my physical self asks them if they are done with their story and would like to be free of it. Sometimes they want to hang on to their anger for a bit longer for whatever reason. I tell them they can always come see me whenever they are done with it and want to move on.
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     If I have done a complete extraction and my guides and I have effectively transformed the energy in the room most times we can move to the second phase of the work at hand. At this point my physical self becomes a vehicle for a second story as either my Second Self (some would say Higher Self) or one of my guides steps forward to tell a simple story of transformation while I stare at the object in the palm of my hand as the story is being spun and the vision conjured. In effect we are spinning Glamour spell. The object in my hand is the bait and the story is what makes the object flash and shine enough to catch and hold the guest`s attention. While they are being entranced my guides and I take that calming energy we had set aside, concentrate it, and then send it out thru my heart, down my arm ,into my hand and out into the object. We aim to infuse the object with a concentrated burst of “perfect love and perfect trust” to be triggered as soon as contact is made.
  More often than not the glamour takes hold, the guest reaches out to touch the object in my hand and the energy is delivered. The delivery of that burst of energy will many times wake them from their trance and they`ll sit back in their seat with an apology for getting too close and/or touching my hand. Most don`t recall how they got that close in the first place.
  After they leave I do some breath work, clear myself and the room and prepare for the next crisis to arrive.
     I find this technique has allowed me to observe and experience aspects of the Shadow Self related to addiction and mental health that I never would have been able to otherwise work with. I hope some of you find this helpful and look forward to hearing how you tweak it, adjust it, and apply it in new ways as you make it your own. This, I believe, is how Magick builds, grows and moves us all thru this world, thru being shared as the “Work of Head, Heart and Hands”.
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We are all powerful catalysts for change.
Be and Live Well,
Daedalus

Magickal Partnering

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Have mercy!!!  This week has got to be the most stressful I have ever had…possibly in my life.  Since I took this new position at work in July, I have become responsible for 20 different accounts.  This means that I trouble shoot anything from company setup to payroll to tax setup and research.  This past week at work, I end up with two companies that won’t sign off on quarter end tax submission.  I have to research why they owe what they owe.  I have the companies yelling because they think they shouldn’t have to owe it and I have the tax department yelling because the customer needs to sign off.  I have to orchestrate getting all of this done….on top of all 18 of the other companies screaming for attention.

Add to all of this, stress at home…talks with the roommate.  Having to be more blunt than I have ever been….trying not to be hateful, but not compromising either.  Letting him know that I am in a difficult situation and that I don’t intend to stay there.

Oh and one more thing….the nutritionist and fitness guru launching 20 emails a day at me because I only lost a pound at the last weigh in….having to put my foot down and tell her to back the f*** off.

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I could feel myself crumpling like a Halloween Whopper wrapper.  I was strung so tight that the wrong word would have just set me off.  One customer threatened to report me to someone higher up because she didn’t get the answer she wanted.  And then I received the text:

You know I’m sending you everything I’ve got.  I love you!

It was in this instance that I was reminded to breathe…that no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to be perfect.  I decided to engage a manager that I trusted at work.  He told me that this wouldn’t be the first time or the last time that something like this happened and that communication was my gift and to stick with it.  I reached out to the customers constantly through the week, and on Friday at 4pm, they signed off.

My boss called me into her office and told me that the one thing that makes me different from many others on the floor, is the fact that I actually care.  She high-fived me and told me that I had done a wonderful job of coordinating the whole process. One of my co-workers imparted some words of wisdom to me:

The greatest peace you will ever know is when you accept that you don’t know everything, and you never will.  You learn what you can, teach others, and be courageous in your journey.

In my office, we have a phrase that we use a lot.  We talk about ‘effective partnering.’  We try to be an effective partner internally and externally.  This week, I found that it is also a living and breathing practice in magick.

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Even though I am a solitary witch, I have found that magickal partnering manifests in many ways.  The most obvious is typically through that common Facebook post, “I am dealing with xyz, can you all please send a little extra energy?”  With each reply of “You got it.” or “Sending,” we have joined in magickal partnering.  We are, in that moment, sharing a part of our energy and even our own spirit.

Another area of magickal partnering that we often forget about or take for granted is that bond that we share with our ‘spirit animal’ or familiar.  I can’t tell you the times this week in the midst of my stress that Friz curled close to me and joined his energy with mine.  At one point I observed that if he could have crawled up into my skin, he would have.

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Mama Crow appeared at every corner…knowing that I needed strength for the fight.  A warrior’s greatest enemy is not the battle.  It is the fatigue that comes from fighting.  She constantly cawed to me to remind me never to grow weary of wielding the sword…never grow tired of bearing the shield, but to stand strong…feet planted for battle.

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I also found comfort in partnering with Nature and the elements through this week.  As I sought refuge in the woods, the trees reminded me to stand strong, but to remain pliable.  The storms are going to come one after another, but if I allow stress and anger to rot my spirit, I will be dead inside and will topple over with any catastrophe that I am confronted with.  If I learn to move inside the storm, then I stand a better chance of standing strong afterwards.

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Many witches I know seem to be afraid of showing vulnerability.  No one can know that there are battles that we need help fighting….we are strong and can win on our own.  Not all the time.  Sometimes you need someone to lean on….you need those in your life that will support you, build you up, and call you out when you need it.

Even as a solitary, that brotherhood and sisterhood is an undeniable part of the Craft.

Blessed Be!

When the Workings Feel Stale

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This morning I went to Red Top Mountain…my partner looked at this as a casual outing for us and a friend, but for me it was so much more.  For the past couple of weeks, I have felt stretched, stressed, tired, and stagnant.

Funny how things find their way into our paths when we need it most.  As we began our journey on the mountain, we came across a bit of stagnant water.  The closer we got to it, the worse it smelled.  My partner kept telling me that water couldn’t possibly smell like that.  He thought that something had died.  I told him to get closer to it.  He knelt down and took a large breath and then choked on it.  He apparently never encountered something like this growing up on the plains of South Dakota.  I explained to him that there was no source other than rainfall and no escape…so there the water sat…murky, polluted, dead.

As I explained this, a light came on in the back of my mind.  Of course, this is how I have felt lately.  I have circled too many times around things that didn’t deserve the worry I had awarded them.  I have sat around too much with my brow furrowed…contemplating things that needed to just be dealt with.  My rituals lately had been cardboard cut-outs of what I normally experienced.  The magick itself seemed to try to fly, but petered out a few feet off the ground. Then again, when the effort and intention is half-assed, then so is the magick it produces.

My trips to the woods had been quick and sporadic…the equivalent of a magickal quickie.  I could even see a change in Friz.  He would sluggishly climb on the back of my comfy chair and peer at me with one opened eye.  Silently pouting because we had been house-bound for too long.  When I would let him out into the courtyard for bathroom breaks, his selective hearing started.  He would get as far away from me as he could….spending as much time outside as possible.

I was feeling the onset of major depression.  This time there was no desire to fight.  I wanted to lie down and sleep forever.  I disengaged as much as possible.  I lived on Excedrin Migraine.  Avoiding issues and battles that we are too afraid to fight have that effect on us.

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This past week, I finally got tired of all of it.  Thankfully, there was some semblance of fight left in me.  I realized that as long as I allowed myself to wallow in this and feel like this, that it was never going to end.  I may as well just stay asleep.  I asked a friend for a tarot reading.  It was dead on.  Successes at work…questioning my abilities…emotions that need to be dealt with…the “I care about you but I am mad at you” feeling…the feeling of being tired of going in a circle…the feeling of “I used to know the way but now I’m stumbling on a half-lit path”…and finally knowing that with all the decisions that have to be made that the wheel would continue to turn.

I needed something besides a small patch of woods behind a condominium.  I needed to spend the day among the trees and woodspirits…I needed to reconnect.  There was too much going on around me to spend the time needed in the woods.  I needed a mountain.

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We set out early this morning, cooler bag in tow.  I had asked a friend to go with us so that my partner would be entertained and I wouldn’t feel rushed.  It worked like a charm.  Once on the mountain, I was able to lose myself among the hiking trails.  As I wondered off the main trails and deeper into the trees, I watched in the distance as my comrades meandered slowly on the regular path.  I took my lunch separately and ventured out.

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As I climbed over fallen trees and through brambles, I noticed that there were mushrooms everywhere.  I was intrigued by the shapes and colors…fairy rings were rampant across the forest floor.  As I walked, I started seeing something that I had never seen as long as I have lived in Georgia.  At first, I thought that I was wrong…surely it was just another type of mushroom.  I moved closer to them.  Sure enough…Fly Agaric!  I was like a kid in a candy store.  I felt something stir in me.  I was reminded of blog after blog written by Sarah Anne Lawless about the Poisoner’s Path.  The baneful plants have always held a certain intrigue for me…that is why I have added mandragora and belladonna and monkshood to my gardening ventures.

I moved closer to the lake.  The sunshine felt good after being in the shade for so long.  It is sad that I have been in Georgia so long that 50-60 degrees feels cold in the shade.  As I flirted with the edge of the water…visualizing water nymphs singing their sirens songs to me, something beautiful and orangey-red caught my eye.  I could hardly believe it…more Fly Agaric!  As I moved closer to take a photo, I could hear that mushroom singing my name…calling to me like nothing has called to me in a long, long time.  I had to answer.

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I don’t believe it was coincidence that I had a paper towel in my pocket left over from a spring trip to this same mountain.  I reached out with the towel in hand and plucked the largest one.  I could feel its energy vibrating in my hand…this powerful mushroom singing to me the rest of the trip.  Just having it near brought a strong magick.

I sat and ate my lunch there at the edge of that lake.  The breeze pushed against me like an impish child.  On the other side, on the bank, there was a father with his children.  They laughed and chased each other.  I could hear their faint squeals.  It was like listening to the fae.  I was finally able to disconnect myself from that horrible numb feeling and I laughed out loud.

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It was an amazing feeling to feel like I could breathe again.  I am one of those people who would rather not air all my dirty laundry on Facebook, so when the depression tries to take hold, it is easier to joke on there and withdraw into my own cocoon…hiding so that no one can see the iron bands wrapped around my heart and emotions.

Fortunately there are witches who have a connection with me that is strong enough to sense this…and tend to call me out on it.  They (or should I say she)won’t allow me the luxury of wallowing in that muck and stench of a stale and rancid heart.  The reprimand comes quickly, “Get out into the woods! Now!”

Last night in preparation for my little journey today, I burned some of the Morrigan Incense that I have.  As it burned, I let myself drift into a meditative state…calling out for enough strength to fight the battles before me.  She listens strong and answers swiftly.

During my time on the mountain today, I was surrounded by crows…and I mean surrounded.  They played chase with each other in the trees.  The ran across the dead leaves on the forest floor…they cawed, they screeched.

After what ended up being more than a six mile hike, I was exhausted.  I cradled myself into a large tree and closed my eyes.  I felt a fortitude like I haven’t felt in weeks.  I closed my eyes and rested in it.  I heard my name.  I continued to rest…thinking the fae were close.  A hand reached out and touched my shoulder and I just about jumped out of my skin.  It was my partner and our friend.  They were ready to go home.  I had been exploring that mountain for almost seven hours.

I stood up and stretched my wings.  The steps ahead aren’t so sure…the path is overgrown and crooked…but I can see the light coming through….pushing me and guiding me.  I just need to let the wings do the work.

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Blessed Be!

Take Me Back to the Country

Some days, city life can be completely exhausting.  Yes, everything seems to be within reach at all hours of the day, but then again, it feels as if everything is always awake…nothing ever rests.  I think I feel this even more when autumn envelops the city around me.

This week, Mabon almost seemed to sneak up on me.  Work has been ‘hectic’ to say the least.  I feel as though I am constantly chasing my tail or cleaning up the messes that others make.  My celebration was a quiet and simple one.  I sat in the woods, Friz at my side with my cauldron blazing, a crusty piece of homemade bread, and a small glass of mulled wine.  I fed the fire with the leftovers of summer…and for the first time all week, I breathed.  I could feel my spirit calming as I lingered in the smoke of leaves and grass and just a small amount of dragon’s blood (I have always used dragon’s blood resin to enhance any magickal working).

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I listened, almost mesmerized, to the trees singing as they started the process of releasing their leaves.  The songs were a bit melancholy, but also rang with the sound of relief.  Those wonderful trees reminded me that there was no reason to hold onto to anything that was no longer of any use.  For me, this Mabon was a time for releasing those things that weighed me down…words spat out in hatred, the memories that had left too many scars to count, fears that really never were realized.

This year has been a year of cleaning, clearing, and creating.  It all started with my body.  I knew that my health had gotten worse.  In May, I began cleaning my body up and out.  I eliminated those things which were no longer beneficial and began eating healthier and exercising.  To date, I am down 62 pounds and my doctor says I am healthier than I have been in a long time.  I also started clearing out my spirit.  It was time to take those memories and any baggage that I was holding onto and clear it out.  I would keep those memories that were dear to me…those which stirred good and wonderful thoughts and emotions.  As the year has moved forward, I have also begun to create things.  I have been painting and crafting, using my hands to make things that spoke beautiful and magickal things to me.  These things may never mean anything to anyone else, but that doesn’t matter.  They speak to my spirit.

This time of year is when I dream more.  My dreams are vivid, wild, carefree….but they also take me places that are close to my heart.  Last week, I had a dream about being back home.  I was running through the woods with my grandma.  Every animal I had ever had in my life was running alongside us.  My partner said that I woke him up laughing so hard that he thought that I had possibly gone off the deep end.

A friend who does a lot of hunting (this is how he gets his meat) gave me some squirrels that he had hunted last week.  I could feel my grandma behind me as I wondered what I would do with them.  I decided that I would treat the household to a pot of my grandma’s squirrel dumplings.  I gave them the warning that ma always gave me before heading to granny’s house…”Whatever you do, don’t look in the pot.”

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I know that many don’t care for squirrel, or that some are vegan or vegetarian, but I am including my grandma’s recipe for those who might enjoy a bit of my history.

Squirrel Dumplings

Ingredients:

2 – 3 squirrels
1 1/2 qt. water
1/2 cup. shortening
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups. flour
1 cup. chicken broth, cooled
1 tsp. black pepper
Directions:
Clean and cut up the squirrels and cook in water, salt and shortening until tender.  Remove from broth, cool and remove bones.

To make dumplings:

Combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt and cooled broth. Mix well. Roll out on floured surface until thin. Cut in strips about 2 inches long. Return to boiling broth with black pepper. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add squirrel meat and serve hot.

Nobody looked in that pot that night, but they loved the flavor of those dumplings.  You would have thought that I had made Prime Rib.  My grandma was just a simple country woman.  She grew up living off of the land and she taught us that same way of life.

I was talking to our roommate the other night about how technologically advanced society is now.  We agreed that sometimes that can be detrimental.  How many times have you yourself been buried in a phone or computer, only to ignore those people and animals around you?  Friz has become quite insistent in his senior years.  If he thinks I have been on my phone or IPad for too long, he climbs on my chest looks me in the eye and starts to paw at that mechanical creature interfering with his time with me…or he goes and lies down on my shoes and breathes (or should I say huffs really loudly).  This is his way of telling me that he wants to go to the woods.

This morning, I went to the woods…by myself.  It was raining and I didn’t want Friz to have to deal with being cold and wet.  Sometimes there is something so freeing about walking in the rain…especially when it feels like it is rinsing away everything that clogs up the spirit.  By the time I had gotten to my go-to spot in the woods, the clouds were just barely spitting.  I threw my behind onto that wet ground like it was an old comfortable mattress and lifted my eyes to the trees once again.  I could hear the familiar, abrasive call of an old friend.  I looked into the trees and saw Mama Crow.  She was having her own little party in those trees.  I started to laugh and I could hear her croaky voice laughing along with me.

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It made me realize that sometimes…even in the midst of the city, you can find refuge, comfort, and peace…and if it takes travelling back in time through your dreams…even better.

Next week, I am heading to Tennessee with a group of friends.  Squirrel dumplings might just be a good option for one of our meals.  We can chase it with a shot of blackberry moonshine and a few stories and laughter.

Blessed Be!

When the Song Seems a Bit Off Key

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It seems like it has been a while since I have sat down to write.  Life has its way of bulldozing us over every once in a while.   I shared with you that I was having some gut issues…well, one emergency room visit and multiple xrays and ultrasounds and scopes later, I find out that there are ulcers raring their nasty little heads.  While everything is fairly calm now due to more changes in the way I eat and the way I handle stress, life still runs headfirst over us.

I am now up to 23 accounts at work and have inherited two difficult customers.  These are the type of customers who expect your system to be able to deliver exactly what they want.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the system is capable of.  I have had to bring out the very direct and stern Weathered Wiseman on more than one occasion with them.  Let’s add to this more hours to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.  When I get home lately, I just want to pass out and not think.

To compound matters, I live with another fire sign and a water sign.  The partner (water sign) has been very needy…looking for approval, needing to be coddled and have his ego stroked and the fire sign (the roomie) has been like sandpaper, rubbing me wrong in the worst possible way.

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I have needed time by myself more than anything.  I have needed to isolate myself, but it seems when the chance arises that something seems to get in the way.  On Wednesday night of last week, I managed to  find a few moments to escape to the woods.  I took very little with me and Friz and I practically ran for the covering of trees.  We made ourselves comfortable, and I lit a couple of candles.

My self-soothing method has always been music.  When I feel stressed or lost or overwhelmed, I normally sing or hum to myself.  The moment I feel it rising in my throat, I can normally feel a calmness wash over me.  I thought that this evening might be the same.  I opened my mouth, breathed in deep and felt it rise from my chest and then my throat.  It was the ugliest, croakiest sound I have ever heard.  I have heard cats yowling that sounded more like music.

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It has to be a fluke.  I breathed in and let that horrid sound lurch forth once more.  I know because of the ulcers that I have been vomiting quite a bit.  I know that the acid can do a number on the esophagus….but what had it done to my voice.  Thinking back, people have been saying that I am not speaking as loudly or clearly as I have before.

Now, here is where ego kicks in.  Singing has always been a part of me.  I grew up singing on my grandma’s knee.  I remember the excitement in her eyes the first time she attended my performance with a cabaret group in New York.  I remember when walked into a studio in Nashville to add my vocals to a demo recording…my first vocal performance in a television commercial.  Not only had singing been a major part of my life…at one time it paid the bills.

I am not one of those people who can’t deal with the reality that things change with age, but I also know that when everything else seemed to fail, my grandmother had been able to keep her singing voice until the day she died.  Even when her hearing completely left her, she could feel what the pitch of a note should be as it rose from her throat and it still came out beautifully.

As all of this rushed over me on Wednesday night in the woods, I completely lost it.  A part of myself that I had always been able to rely on was dying….fading into history.  As the tears came, Friz leaned up to lick my cheek…maybe out of compassion…maybe just to taste the salt.  I gathered him up and walked back to the condo feeling defeated.  I slept restlessly that night…just as I have for the nights leading up to today.

I got up fairly early this morning and drove to our local metaphysical bookstore.  When I finished looking through some of the newer arrivals, I got in the car and instead of making a left out of the parking lot to go home, I turned to the right.  After driving for about ten minutes, I came upon a sign for the “Old Roswell City Ruins.”  This isn’t something that one normally sees in Atlanta, so I turned in the direction the sign pointed me.  It turns out that it is actually the ruins of an old mill with a covered bridge and falls and walking trails….an utterly beautiful place.

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I explored every area of those woods and water and trails.  I had walked and smelled and touched every piece of nature around me…an area abandoned long ago, but still kept very much alive.  As I climbed the trail to the falls, I could feel the breeze calling to me.  It was beckoning for me to become a part of it.  I sat on some rocks at the edge of the dam and looked up.  There perched on a tree next to me was a crow.  I sat quietly and listened as she cawed.  The sound blistered my eardrum, but was beautiful none the less.  As she raised her voice…however tuneless and harsh it may sound…it was none the less magical.

I was reminded of a story I had heard as a child:

Rainbow Crow

It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.

“We must send a messenger to Kijiamuh Ka’ong, the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be,” said Wise Owl. “We must ask him to think the world warm again so that Spirit Snow will leave us in peace.”

The animals were pleased with this plan. They began to debate among themselves, trying to decide who to send up to the Creator. Wise Owl could not see well during the daylight, so he could not go. Coyote was easily distracted and like playing tricks, so he could not be trusted. Turtle was steady and stable, but he crawled too slowly. Finally, Rainbow Crow, the most beautiful of all the birds with shimmering feathers of rainbow hues and an enchanting singing voice, was chosen to go to Kijiamuh Ka’ong.

It was an arduous journey, three days up and up into the heavens, passed the trees and clouds, beyond the sun and the moon, and even above all the stars. He was buffeted by winds and had no place to rest, but he carried bravely on until he reached Heaven. When Rainbow Crow reached the Holy Place, he called out to the Creator, but received no answer. The Creator was too busy thinking up what would be to notice even the most beautiful of birds. So Rainbow Crow began to sing his most beautiful song.

The Creator was drawn from his thoughts by the lovely sound, and came to see which bird was making it. He greeted Rainbow Crow kindly and asked what gift he could give the noble bird in exchange for his song. Rainbow Crow asked the Creator to un-think the snow, so that the animals of Earth would not be buried and freeze to death. But the Creator told Rainbow Crow that the snow and the ice had spirits of their own and could not be destroyed.

“What shall we do then?” asked the Rainbow Crow. “We will all freeze or smother under the snow.”

“You will not freeze,” the Creator reassured him, “For I will think of Fire, something that will warm all creatures during the cold times.”

The Creator stuck a stick into the blazing hot sun. The end blazed with a bright, glowing fire which burned brightly and gave off heat. “This is Fire,” he told Rainbow Crow, handing him the cool end of the stick. “You must hurry to Earth as fast as you can fly before the stick burns up.”

Rainbow Crow nodded his thanks to the Creator and flew as fast as he could go. It was a three-day trip to Heaven, and he was worried that the Fire would burn out before he reached the Earth. The stick was large and heavy, but the fire kept Rainbow Crow warm as he descended from Heaven down to the bright path of the stars. Then the Fire grew hot as it came closer to Rainbow Crows feathers. As he flew passed the Sun, his tail caught on fire, turning the shimmering beautiful feathers black. By the time he flew passed the Moon, his whole body was black with soot from the hot Fire. When he plunged into the Sky and flew through the clouds, the smoke got into his throat, strangling his beautiful singing voice.

By the time Rainbow Crow landed among the freezing-cold animals of Earth, he was black as tar and could only Caw instead of sing. He delivered the fire to the animals, and they melted the snow and warmed themselves, rescuing the littlest animals from the snow drifts where they lay buried.

It was a time of rejoicing, for Tindeh – Fire – had come to Earth. But Rainbow Crow sat apart, saddened by his dull, ugly feathers and his rasping voice. Then he felt the touch of wind on his face. He looked up and saw the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be walking toward him.

“Do not be sad, Rainbow Crow,” the Creator said. “All animals will honor you for the sacrifice you made for them. And when the people come, they will not hunt you, for I have made your flesh taste of smoke so that it is no good to eat and your black feathers and hoarse voice will prevent man from putting you into a cage to sing for him. You will be free.”

Then the Creator pointed to Rainbow Crow’s black feathers. Before his eyes, Rainbow Crow saw the dull feathers become shiny and inside each one, he could see all the colors of the rainbow. “This will remind everyone who sees you of the service you have been to your people,” he said, “and the sacrifice you made that saved them all.”

And so shall it ever be.

Crow is surrounded by magick, unseen forces and spiritual strength. If crow enters your life, get out of your familiar nest, look beyond your present range of vision, listen to the messages in its caw and act accordingly.

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I would love to finish this writing with the news that my voice rang forth strong and beautiful in song as I sat there communing with the crow…but it didn’t.  My voice was just as raspy and hoarse as it was on that dark Wednesday evening.  My voice may never be the same….it could come back stronger or it could stay brash and ragged , but there is no less magick there.

What is a lesson I have had to learn from this?  Magick isn’t always going to be pretty.  It is something that is fluid and constantly changing.  Just like that water moving over the falls today…as long as it is moving and changing, it will never grow stagnant…much like us.

Blessed Be!

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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.

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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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