Finding Your Strength

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It seems like an eternity since I have sat down to write.  Life has a way of picking us up by the scruff of the neck sometimes and shaking us like a dazed puppy.  Since January, I have had two strokes, my mom has been hospitalized for over a month, and our oldest cat TeeTee is preparing for her journey into the summerlands.

I hate to admit it, but in the midst of everything that has happened, magick tended to be done in hindsight…an afterthought at first to the situation at hand.  There were days after the strokes that I would find myself just sitting…staring out of windows…more conscious of the drooping or the lack of strength on my left side.  Funny, the doctor says that I have had ‘mini strokes.’  In talking to a friend of mine and through reading, I have found out that a stroke is a stroke.  There are no minis or maxis.

Through the challenges of recuperation, there were, constantly in the back of my mind, visions of my great grandma’s sister.  We called her Aunt Carrie.  I often wish I had gotten to know her before the strokes.  She was a beautiful woman always dressed to the nines, very passionate and eloquent from what I was told.  She was a teacher.  When I got to know her, she had been ravaged by stroke after stroke.  They had rendered her bed-ridden, only able to mouth and garble words, and only able to barely motion.

I lived in a world of not feeling like myself, fear of being that shell of a person I once was…but it was in the words of friends and family that I found the strength to push myself.  I found out from my mother that Aunt Carrie was given the opportunity to go through therapy but chose not to.  Her marriage was bad, her husband used to beat her.  She hoped for death but was given an existence with a husband riddled with guilt who now decided that he needed to try to make up for the earlier hell she had to suffer through.

I determined that I would not recreate that scenario for myself.  I had many friends that not only supported me through my healing but also pushed me.  They knew there was more fight in me than I was showing.  They also realized that I had pushed my magick to the sidelines.  Working side by side with them and my doctor, I used magick and medicine toward healing.  I did the therapies…I did the dreamwork.  I utilized stones, crystals and visualization.  I found myself in a good place.  My doctor had even told me that I had made progress that she wouldn’t have expected until the six month mark.

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I built a moss and fae garden to keep me close to the earth at all times…wear hematite for grounding.  Things were looking better daily.  I began to breathe again.

Then we noticed that our older cat TeeTee was losing weight and throwing up more.  We took her to the vet for bloodwork and xrays.  The bloodwork looked ok, but when they pulled up the xrays, I breathed in sharp.  I worked at a veterinarian’s office for ten years.  I had learned to read xrays.  When I saw the large fibrous mass staring back at me, I knew immediately that it wasn’t good.  We discussed options with the vet and came to the conclusion that as long as she wasn’t in pain and seemed to have a decent amount of energy that we would do whatever was needed to keep her happy.  We have blended the stinkiest of foods, hand-fed her, given extra attention…and now as I type this,  we know that it won’t be much longer.

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We know that we have given her the best life she could have.  From a wild, white feral kitten to a spoiled content house cat, she has been cuddled, pampered, catered to, and loved with complete abandon.  Where is the strength we pull on here? The knowledge that she will rest and walk side by side with Bastet…back with the energy and magick she came from.  We also know that they truly never completely leave your heart and side.

When you think you can’t handle anymore…the flood gates tend to open.  Toward the middle of April, I got a call from my aunt.  My mom had been admitted to the hospital that past Saturday.  No one wanted to worry me (give me another stroke) so they didn’t let me know.  My aunt was calling, however, to tell me that my mom had to be put on a ventilator and that the doctor had suggested calling the family in.  We left immediately for North Carolina.  My partner and I sat by her bedside for five days straight.  They had induced a coma…hoping that the rest would do its part in the healing.

My mom has always had a strong faith and believed in energies and such (with our family history, how could she not).  I had witches from all over sending healing and energy toward her.  My brother, who thinks my mom is more along the lines of a conservative christian, asked how I think Ma would feel knowing all those witches were sending her healing.  My aunt walked into the room behind him and whispered in his ear, “I think she would be completely fine with it.” With that comment, she looked at me and gave a wink and kissed the air.

In the process of that hospital stay, my mom coded not once, but three different times.  She always made her way back though.  She is a fighter.  She has always been the bedrock of our family.  I knew that if anything happened to her, that would fall to me.  My first visit, I whispered to her, “I am not strong enough for this yet.” I have no doubt that she heard me.

It has been a long, hard battle but she is now awake, aware, winking, smiling, and breathing air and not on oxygen.  They have decreased the size of the trach opening and have moved the feeding tube from her nose to her stomach.  She is now going through therapy and trying to mouth words.

I feel like in the midst of all of these things happening around me, that I have lived any spare time I have beside ponds, in woods, and walking mountains.  On my last trip to Red Top Mountain, I looked forward at the path ahead.  It was crooked, scattered with rock, muddy in places, but oh so calming and lush.  An old bible verse sprang to my mind, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where my help comes.”

There is an area hewn into the rock on Red Top…I crawled into that cubby and lay my head back.  I woke up an hour later after the most peaceful sleep I have had in months.  Life is going to give us twists and turns, scratches, bruises, pain…and yes, even death.  I have found though that I do have the strength to face each one.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt or that there won’t be loss or challenges, it means that I can survive.  I can come out of it stronger…the armor might be a bit dirty or scuffed and even broken in places, but I have the choice of getting up and continuing on, or falling back and dying.

I walked out into the courtyard yesterday after work.  I finally gave up and just started leaving food for the birds, squirrels and anything else that might be hungry out there.  Mama Crow was perched on the wall eating peanuts.  She looked straight at me and gave me her comforting ‘Graaaaaaaackkk’

I will keep getting up as long as I am able.

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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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Don’t Make Eye Contact

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I remember growing up around my mom…she lived in a state of constant worry and a state of constant fear.  She moved away from it more as we grew older, but I remember when we were younger how afraid she was of everything.  She was afraid of thunder.  She was afraid of bugs.  She was afraid that we would wander too far from the house.  She was afraid.

The thing about people who live in fear is that many times that fear tries to transfer to the people that live with them.  The one phrase that I remember my mom using constantly was, “Don’t make eye contact.”  Now there were particular people or groups of people this was directed toward…strangers, in particular, but also those who others categorized as mentally challenged…homeless people and stray animals.AP_romanian_stray_dogs_jef_130913_16x9_992

 

My mom never felt comfortable around any of those things.  It makes me wonder what kind of life my mom had growing up….so much fear.  As you can imagine, many of my mom’s fears began to take root in my heart as I grew up surrounded by them.  I remember a group of mentally challenged teens who attended my elementary school….I would see them coming and I could feel my whole body go rigid.  I would silently pray that they would stay far from me.  I remember as a youngster walking toward a stray dog that came into our yard and hearing my mother screech from the front porch, “Don’t touch that dog! It might have the mange!”  Well, at that time, I didn’t know what ‘the mange’ was, but I was sure I didn’t want it.  So I ran. It was then that I started nurturing the beginnings of a fear of dogs.  Finally, I remember my mother talking about ‘Crazy Mary’ the local homeless woman.  My mother had heard stories of how Mary went crazy because she had always wanted children.  When she miscarried after her first and only pregnancy, it drove her to the depths of insanity and she walked the streets looking for a child to call her own.

I carried each of these fears with me through grade school, high school and even part of college.  When I passed the homeless…my mother’s voice would ring clear, “Don’t make eye contact.”  When I worked at a grocery chain and the adults from the local group home came in to shop, I made a bee-line for the stock room with my mother’s voice ringing in my ears, “Don’t make eye contact.”  When I met my friend Susan who worked with rescue animals and finally saw what ‘the mange’ looked like, my mother’s words haunted me, “Don’t make eye contact.”

I have never been the type of person who wanted to be limited by anything, most of all, myself…so I made it a point to put myself into situations where I had to address those fears.  The first fear I addressed was the fear of those that others called mentally challenged.  When I was in bible school in Knoxville, TN back in the days of Moses, I had to work to be able to afford school.  I worked full time evenings in a bookstore, but on weekends I worked at a facility for adults with learning, mental and physical challenges.

My first five minutes in that facility were pure hell for me.  I broke out in cold sweats and shook continually.  My biggest fear was that someone would actually talk to me.  My first duties were to help clean a fellow up after his meal.  He laughed and smiled at me the whole time.  It made me feel ashamed of the fear I had lived with for so many years.  I looked in his eyes and I saw joy…pure elation that someone was taking the time to help him.  He smiled even bigger.  I could feel a tear loose itself from my eye and I felt his hand wipe at my face.  He told me, “No cry….happy…happy.”  He laughed out loud and I joined him.

I turned around and there was a woman in her forties standing almost close enough to me to be my shadow.  “I love you!”  The worker with me told me quietly, “That’s her thing.  She loves everybody.  She will tell you 100 times in a few hours.” I smiled at her.  “I love you!” I was perplexed.  I leaned in and said, “I love you too.”  She looked me eye to eye and quietly whispered, “For real?”  I whispered back, “Yes, for real.”  She smiled from ear to ear.  That was the only time she asked me that night…but we made it a point to say it once a day each time we saw each other.

I often find it amazing…the places and situations I have found myself in.  This young fellow who was scared to death of getting ‘the mange’ moved to Atlanta and the only job he could find was a job at a veterinary clinic.  I learned all about mange and what would treat it.  I learned about animal handling and treatment.  I could do the job in my sleep. Five years into the job, the opportunity came for me to work with a mobile vet.  We went from house to house treating and working with pets and then one of her pets became gravely ill.  There was fluid on the heart and it would only get worse.  She was encouraged to bring him in and ‘put him to sleep’ when it was too much of a struggle for him.  Instead, she decided that it would need to happen at home surrounded by his loved ones.  She asked if I would do it for her.  I looked into that sweet dogs eyes as I introduced the needle into his vein.  I watched through tears as the spirit of life swept from him and I laid his head on his paws.

This morning I had volunteered to go with a work group to deliver clothing to the homeless.  Collections had been made for weeks and we stood in groups next to tables full of coats and sweatshirts and pants separated by size.2015-02-28 11.29.07

My first encounter with the homeless was in New York City in 1985.  I was being shown around the city by a roommate who had been living there six months longer than I had.  I was informed that you didn’t touch the pigeons and you didn’t make eye contact with the homeless. “They are like rats (the pigeons and the homeless).  You can’t be nice to them…they follow you everywhere.”

Years later, when I was working in the ministry, I  was asked to be a part of a homeless ministry who cooked breakfast and served it underneath the bridge in Charlotte, NC.  I got to know and became friends with many of the people who gathered under that bridge to eat and hear me sing and teach. As I talked to one fellow, I found out that he was my age and he had missed one paycheck.  Not so different from me after all….one paycheck.

This morning as I foraged through stacks on tables and shifted clothes.  I hear some of the others talking to people coming through the line.  I hear a familiar laugh and a scruffy bark.  I turn around and I make eye contact with the Green Wizard.  He is there in need of a sweatshirt and a blanket.  I smile at him and he smiles back.  I introduce him to those around me as my friend…not as ‘a homeless person I know.’eyes

 

It’s funny…over the years…the most powerful magick I have ever found were in the things of which my mother was most afraid.  I found magick in the eyes of those whose mind danced differently than my own…I found magick in the eyes of animals whose hearts were far purer than my own…I found magick in the eyes of those who use the earth as their pillow and the stars as their nightlight.  I am far richer for it.

Blessed Be!

There’s Something About the Woods….

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You’ve changed.  You’re daring.

You’re different in the woods…

You’ve changed.  You’re thriving.

There’s something about the woods…

The past couple of weeks have been challenging around here.  I have had the flu, an upper respiratory infection, and a blocked salivary gland.  In that time, I have worked, I have traveled, and had the opportunity for far more activity than rest.

Friday, my body required me  to pause long enough to have to be checked out.  I woke up Friday with the left side of my face swollen so big that it actually scared me.  There was a tremendous amount of heat coming from it.  I texted my boss and headed to my doctor.  He looked at my jaw and put his fingers all in my mouth and told me that he was sending me to Emory for a CAT Scan and Kidney bloodwork.  I looked down at  the prescription he gave me to hand them with his instructions.  The first words I read:  Cancer Check.  My heart sunk as I read and I called my roommate to see if he would go with me.

We got there and spent a huge amount of time waiting.  I remained patient, knowing that the flu season had officially started in Atlanta.  I watched as a little grandma across from me wept and whispered how much she hurt.

When I was finally ushered into one of the rooms, I endured the smacking of fingers against veins and listened to the nurses tell me what I hear all the time, “You don’t have much in there as far as veins.  I am going to have to use the back of your hands, legs, tops of your feet.”  They all seemed amazed at the amount of swelling in my jaw and neck. “That just happened overnight?!?”  I would nod and smile.

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After the CAT Scan and bloodwork, the doctor seemed certain it was a blocked salivary gland.  She prescribed antibiotics and lots of sour candy to get the saliva flowing.  I promised as I left that I would check in with my own doctor yesterday morning.

I followed through and went to my doctor yesterday.  He was surprised that the swelling had not reduced much.  He brought up the fact that there had been a resurgence of mumps lately (which I, of course, had never had).  I went back home to my sour candy and antibiotics that would give an elephant diarrhea.

Late last night, I had been house bound as long as I could be.  I begged Jay for a trip to the movies.  We went to see “Into the Woods.”  This has always been one of my least favorite musicals, but I thought that it might make up for my having to be away from my woods for so long.

After the movie last night, I drifted to sleep.  In my dreams, I walked the woods over and over with Mama Crow and Wolf at my side.  I dreamed of Frisbee dancing alongside me.  Funny, I was never the baker, or Red Riding Hood, or Jack in my dreams….but always the witch…always searching for those perfect ingredients for healing.

I woke up this morning as the rain was still spitting and hissing through the clouds.  I couldn’t stay inside one more moment.  I had to be apart of the outdoors.  I had to be a part of that which I had been born of.  The elements called to me…I could hear the birds and the wind.  They longed to dance and play.

I pulled on my cloak and roused a wild little chihuahua.  We made our way through puddles and mud into a place where we feel more at home than on our own sofa.  I had brought a tarp and blanket.  I have found that after a good rain, it keeps us from being soaked but still allows us to feel the ground under our rumps.  As I closed my eyes and inhaled the smell of the damp outdoors, I could hear the sounds of nature around me.  I had the feeling that I would see the Green Wizard this morning…just one of those knowings that brew deep inside of you.

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Of course, his first words are, “Oh my gosh, what happened to your face?!”  I explained what had been going on.  He laughed and asked if I had dried arnica, dried calendula,  charcoal,  and lavender oil back at the condo.  I told him I did.  He told me to go get it.  He was already digging out red clay from an area behind us and getting handfuls of other things as I walked back to the condo.

I came back with the requested items and he added them to the clay mix.  After everything was mixed thoroughly, he plastered the muck behind my ear and down the side of my jaw and neck.  He told me to leave it on for a couple of hours and then I could wash it off.

Today was a singing day.  We would take turns breaking out in songs that just came to our heads…..some based in pure nonsense, some serious.  We took turns dancing with the dogs and the breeze.  When we collapsed on the blanket…laughing and breathing heavy…he smiled and told me that he could tell that the Weathered Wiseman needed time with himself in the woods and that he would give me my time.  Part of me wanted to object because we were having such a good time, but there was that part of me that knew he was more than right.  I rubbed Boomer under his chin as Friz did one more play pounce on him.  The Green Wizard picked Friz up and rubbed him on his neck and then put him down in my lap.

As I watched the Green Wizard walk off through the woods, I am sprawled out with that wild chihuahua bouncing on my belly.  I listened as Mama Crow crackled out her sounds of approval.  I speak out loud to her, “Mama Crow…what is coming?  Where will the magick take me?”  She laughed her course laugh again…in a way telling me that no matter what, I need to meet it with flexibility and all the magick I have in me.

I close my eyes and ponder over my dear friend Maluna’s words:

Cold, Wolf, Chaste, Ice Moon, Sunday at 11:53 pm. Looks like ice and cold are on tap here. Winter is about to descend on us with a vengeance….Things are bare…except for the evergreens, and the Ivy that surrounds our house….ever green…ever Goddess. It’s pouring rain…it will turn to ice tonight….the deadliest of the Water forms (in my book)…it shows no mercy. My thoughts and studies turn to Brigid….goddess of springs, holy wells…fire…and for me she represents the waters of our land right now. Old farmers are saying the water content is low….for the coming growth season we welcome the rains and snows…one of the reasons I don’t get depressed this time of year….what is happening now….will benefit the summer. This is the full moon before Imbolc….February 2nd…full Quickening Moon….the 3rd. I have a full month of workings before Imbolc….confused? It’s ok….this works for me…you’re welcome to try it if you like. I’ll work this Cold Moon for the abandoned and abused animals….wildlife has a tendency to survive Nature….or not….that is their law….humans and their cruelty kill more than the Elements…I provide as much food and shelter possible….opening myself to the fires of Brigid for warmth….protect them all…please. Deepen your winter journey….work to provide for others, help those in need, the elderly…use the warm and cleansing energies…If you focus positive energy on the future, understand what is happening in the coming months….(granted, we don’t LIKE it) but it’s much easier if you accept and acknowledge the flow of Nature. It’s challenging….and rewarding to work with the Elements….without Earth, Air, Fire, and Water….we would not be….I give thanks for their gifts…and survive. BB

That is the one thing about life and magick…it is always moving forward.  We have to choose whether we move with it or not.  Nature is always changing, as shown by the seasons.  The wheel doesn’t wait for us to catch up.

It is never more evident than when I am in the woods that I am a part of that.

Oh, and by the way, after two hours with that muddy salve on my neck, jaw and ear…the swelling had almost completely gone.

Blessed Be!2015-01-02 23.53.58

Everyone Has a Story…

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Our lives are a collection of stories.  Truths about who we are, what we believe, what we came from, how we struggle and how we are strong.  When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness–the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging.

–Dr. Brene Brown–The Hustle for Worthiness

This time of year, we are regaled with every type of story and legend that one could imagine.  From childhood, we are taught the legend of Santa Claus.  We are told of this large, big-hearted man dressed in a red suit who watches every move we make.  As witches and pagans, we tell and re-tell the stories of the Goddess and the Holly King and the return of the light when the solstice comes upon us.

As I walked through the stores at the mall this weekend, I saw stacks and stacks of storybooks.  There was everything from “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” to “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”  As I walked haggardly through the aisles, I started people watching.  I wondered what the stories were behind the faces of the people passing me by.

A dear friend of mine from back home came to mind.  She was a strong, determined woman.  You see, she had survived a concentration camp in Germany.  She was a singer in her younger days and when the Nazi regime took power, her mother made the daughters bleach their hair platinum so that they looked ‘more German.’  She traveled the German countryside by bicycle to avoid the SS soldiers.  One day, she had taken a route she had taken many times over.  She was stopped by a Nazi soldier. Her Jewish features would betray her to this soldier and she was sent to Dachau concentration camp.  Because of her musical background, she was used as entertainment for the soldiers.  At night, she would sing to soothe the nerves of the children imprisoned.  She would tell stories of how women who were able to hold on to one piece of treasured jewelry (including her own mother’s diamond) would swallow the jewelry first thing in the morning, then with the evening bowel movement, clean the jewelry and hold onto it for dear life as they slept.  This beautiful woman was and is a survivor.  She will tell you that is by faith and determination that she was spared.  It is the same determination that you see in every part of her life today.  It encompasses every fiber of her being.

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As I walked through the woods this morning in the wee hours, I thought of my own story.  Mine is a story entwined with many things that children should never be expected to endure, but it is also woven together with magick.  When I think back, even in the days of the sexual abuse, I can see where magick came to the rescue.  Even in those days, I was being taught by the Lord and Lady how to bring vision and intent to the front of my mind.

I was reminded that even in the midst of the deepest depressions, I was being guided by Crow magick.  I was being taught not to dwell inside myself for too long, but in those times of depression, to reach outside of myself and toward others. It was in the times of my darkest depressions that I was able to be the biggest help and guidance to others.

I watched Mama Crow this morning hopping from tree to tree.  I watched as Friz sought patches of non-existent sunshine as a soft drizzle fell on us. I lifted my face into the light mist and thought about the fact that the darkness was receding bit by bit and that the sun was returning.  I visualized the goddess rising from her sleep dressed all in white, silver and pale blue.  She stands before the Horned God and offers her hand to him.  They begin a slow waltz across the wooded floor carpeted with leaves and debris.  As the light becomes stronger, the dance becomes faster…raw and wild.  At the end of the dance, the maiden becomes heavy with child…ready for the next turn of the wheel.  Her story…always continuing…a circle…never truly ending.2014-12-20 18.26.16

My story continues…with every step I take…every breath.  I am the only one who can decide that the pages stay blank.  My book of shadows is filled with little reminders of who I am:  feathers and spells, things I have found on my journeys, pictures that I love…things that all tell my story.  To anyone else who ever found it….it would seem a book filled with useless trash…but it is me.  It shows that I, just like my dear friend who survived the concentration camp,  I am determined….I am a survivor.  Don’t we all have to escape from our own prisons daily?  Don’t we all have to swallow those things we find valuable sometimes for the sake of others?  Don’t we have to dig through crap on a daily basis?  My story swirls with magick.  It holds adventure and excitement….love, power and magickal creatures untold.2014-12-17 23.07.35

An old friend died this past week.  I got to know her when I was working on a Lakota reservation years ago.  She would tell me stories of stories that her mother had told her of life after the white man invaded the Lakota way of life.  She would talk of the strength of her people…she would talk of the power of the Great Spirit…and she always talked of where she was going tempered by the experiences of where she had been.  Her eyes sparkled…her spirit danced.  Oh how I loved the heart of this warrior…stronger than any male counterpart.  I can see her dancing across the summerlands…this warrior doesn’t carry a shield.  She carries with her the story that she created and engaging anyone willing to listen.

What is your story?  I would love to hear it?  Weave your magick for me.  My email is: weatheredwiseman@yahoo.com

Blessed Be!2014-12-20 18.28.16

What Happens When the Magickal Path Doesn’t Seem Quite So Magickal

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I overheard a conversation in our local ‘witchy’ store late this afternoon.  As I rounded a corner,  I saw a group of twenty-something young women looking through the candles and the statues.  One of the young ladies wrinkled her nose and sneered at the candle in her hand and said, “They don’t have anything in here that looks like what they used to have on ‘Charmed.'”  My roommate grabbed me quickly by the arm and dragged me into the other room as I protested with the need of having a talk with those young ladies about real witchcraft and pointing them toward some useful resources.

I realize that all of us were introduced to magick somewhere.  For me, it was the movie, ‘Bell, Book and Candle’  with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.  I marveled as she sang over Pyewacket and laughed as she used Jimmy Stewart’s fiance’s fear of thunderstorms against her.  I pondered about a witch not being able to fall in love without losing their powers.  I was doomed….I fell in love at least every other weekend.

I started the research process.  I devoured any book on magick and witchcraft I could find.  When I was a witchling, resources weren’t quite as readily available and to call yourself a witch where I am from was like admitting that you slept with the devil himself….but still I studied.  I spent more time with my grandmother who schooled me in the shamanistic practices of the Cherokee.  She taught me to walk sided by side with Nature and to listen to every word she whispered.  She taught me to draw on the magick that was already inside of me.

Now, I am not going to lie….every day of my life is not full of fireworks and thunder and lightning.  Sparks don’t fly with every wave of my fingers.  I remember the disappointment I felt when I first realized that every moment of every day wasn’t like ‘Bewitched.’  As I sit here, I remember the disappointment I felt when I realized that twitching my nose did nothing but make my nose itch….but I never gave up.

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As I read, I watched a path open up before me.  At first, there seemed to be nothing magickal about it.  It was about visualization, moon phases, elements and intent.  There was nothing about potion making or any of the preconceived ideas that I had about magick swirling around my head.  Whether I realized it or not….I was growing in the Craft.  The path that was ahead of me, didn’t so much sparkle like the gold brick of the yellowbrick road…I couldn’t find that fairy godmother to lead me through…my grandmother was the closest to Endora that I had.  My path in fact seemed to illuminate just every so often as I felt my way through the dark.

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I continued to walk this path that opened before me.  I started to truly understand my relationship with Nature and the elements around me…and then I was introduced to the Gods and Goddesses of this path that was unfolding.  Something inside of me became very much alive.   As I started to relate to the Gods and Goddesses and I began speaking to them and having relationship with them, it was easier to see the magick in my path.  Now, in my own mind and heart, it seemed as if I was being guided…led.  The visualization became easier…the intent became stronger.  It was becoming easier to control myself.  I continued to walk this path….this time keeping  a watchful eye out for anything magickal that might lead me in different directions.2014-11-29 15.48.56

 

I was listening better…hearing things around me and within me.  As I continued to grow in the Craft and learned to rely on my instinct combined with all I had learned and I communed more with the Gods and Goddesses and the elements around me, I realized that magick was not something that we had to work to attain.  It was something already inside of us.  We only had to access it.  It screams out to us on a daily basis…we have become deaf to it.  We have learned to walk through life as robots…pushing down those callings…the yearnings.2014-11-23 12.33.44

 

The quote above is the closest I have come to finding a definition of what magick encompasses to me.  When I started the search for magick, who would have thought that the place it would be found is inside me.  Roald Dahl said it best:

And above all, watch with glittering eyes

The whole world around you,

Because the greatest secrets are always

Hidden in the most unlikely places.

Those who don’t believe in

Magic will never find it.

This morning as I walked to the woods with Friz….with each step, I watched as my breath left my body.  I remembered my Greek classes from college.  With each breath, my mind exhaled the word Pneuma, which means spirit.  I watched as a piece of my spirit danced in front of me.  Magick is more about learning to control ourselves than anything around us.  Our mind can be the one thing that can limit us.  When I am standing in the wind, if I think too much, my mind will tell me, “You can’t do anything with the wind.”  Instead, I have learned to open my mind and dance with that same wind….to call to it and listen to it answer.  Jason Miller said it best.

It is my opinion that a Sorcerer who cannot control his breath is no Sorcerer at all.
There is a reason that in many cultures the word for spirit or energy is also the word for breath.  In Hebrew the word is Ruach, in Tibetan it’s Lung, in Sanskrit it’s Prana, in Greek it’s Pneuma, in Arabic it is Ruh.  Even the word spirit or spiritus means breath in Latin.  The breath is life and is so important that it is treated in some eastern traditions as a mantra in and of itself.  Yet, we pay surprisingly little attention to it.

I sat down among the brown leaves, closed my eyes and listened.  I listened to my own breath. I listened to the heartbeat of the earth mother.  I could feel her calling to me.  “Something new is brewing inside.  Something new is always brewing….it is up to you to heed its call.”   I invoked the Morrigan.  I heard Mama Crow answer.  There is more magick on this path I’m on than anything I could ever see on television.  It isn’t about mastering the nose twitch or throwing potion bottles at other-worldly beings.

What am I to do with it?  Walk this path…this magickal path…and teach.

Blessed Be!2014-11-28 21.42.40