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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The Death of the Green Man

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As the seasons swirl around us, we are entering into the transition from light into darkness and back into light again.  We have gone from the wild abandon of summer into the time when the Green Man’s colors begin to change and death overtakes him to make way for his transition into the Holly King.  Our lives seem to always be centered around transition.  Those things that we wish we could control…we have no control over at all.

As we move into this Yule season and cold overtakes the Earth (even in Atlanta, we live in anticipation of the shift in weather).  The briskness that comes with the Northern winds jolts us into a state of expectation.  As we celebrate the different manifestations of our own holiday with others who celebrate in their own ways, we set our eyes on the approach of the longest night of the year….knowing that the light of spring is not far off.

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 Over the past few years, I have become intimately acquainted with the green man through visits from an unexpected stranger.  Someone I have introduced to you as simply, the Green Wizard.  I have learned first hand what a kind, gentle spirit can accomplish through him.  I have learned to listen more intently to what the earth teaches…all through him.  I have learned to trust the heart of faithful friends more. I have learned to love someone who could do absolutely nothing for me other than be a friend and a magickal confidante…someone who represented purity of heart and selfless abandon.

I found out yesterday that the Green Wizard has journeyed into the summerlands.  I received more information this afternoon.  He apparently collapsed on the sidewalk of a small town close to the Tennessee border.  They took him to the hospital where it was found that his heart was giving out.  Boomer, his dog, was put in holding in the local animal shelter.  He quietly slipped from this plane in his sleep.  They found my name and Atlanta, Georgia written on a sheet of paper in his pocket.  The authorities assumed that I might be the next of kin.  I explained that I was a friend and asked what happened to his dog.  I was also told where his pup, Boomer was located.

I engaged my cousin who does animal rescue and she arranged for someone who works with her to go and get Boomer and set up a fostering situation.  There are many more things that have transpired due to his homelessness…especially since there was no identification of any kind associated with him and no direction as far as family or even a name…the one thing that was told to me by the contacting authorities was that at least he knew friendship…there were many who passed on knowing nothing but rejection and hatred.

In my mind, though, I will always see him dancing on the wind.  I can close my eyes and see his ruddy face, his eyes twinkling with hopes and dreams and always that sparkle of magick.  He enjoyed the freedom of being who he was…an extension of the wild God.  I can hear his hearty laugh echoing through the branches of the trees in the woods.  He will forever be Peter Pan to me….always dancing with the moon.

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Am I sad?  Yes…but I can never forget that wonderful spirit.  He always looked for that bit of magick in all things…whether it be an old pair of sneakers…a dog that was considered a throw-away…or a weathered old wizard who seemed to be a little out of sorts himself.

Especially, in this season, I know that so much of the world seems to slumber…waiting patiently for rebirth.  It will be the same for my Green Wizard.  He only sleeps now….we have known each other before in other lives and other magickal places.  It is only a matter of time before we see each other again.

I am excited for him.  This is a new adventure….a fresh beginning coming with the new moon.  This is his chance to be reunited with his beloved Calliope…a chance to dance and finally fly among the stars.  I am privileged to have been able to be a part of his magick.2015-11-19 07.28.06

His energy will always soar around me….sneaking up behind me when I least expect it…laughing heartily at the unexpected.  He was a child of the moon and sun…the earth was his bed and the grass, his pillow.  He was friend to the winged, and four-legged.  He loved completely and wildly and unconditionally.

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As the Green man sleeps, the blood of the Holly King courses through his veins…anticipating his awakening beneath a shield of ice and snow.  With magick, nothing ever completely dies.

And so he goes…with the heart of a true witch.

Blessed Be!

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A Walk in the Woods

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This week’s blog was written by a friend whom I have come to deeply trust over the years.  He has become more of a brother to me than just a friend.  We have grown together in the Craft and I have watched him delve into Shamanism with a passion and hunger that can’t  be matched.  His talent with the tarot is amazing and his readings have always been on point.  Sit back and take a walk into the wooded world of my dear friend, Owl Sundown.

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This evening the woods are quiet. The rain earlier in the day, followed by the chilly air, has put a blanket of silence throughout the trees. All I can hear is the leaves crunching under my boots and the wind in the tree branches. I’m thankful for the chill in the air. It means winter is coming.

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I make my way through the path only I and the deer know about. I see my grove up ahead. It’s a small area of trees by the creek that form a natural circle and is hidden from view from most directions by thorn bushes and the honey locust trees.

I walk around to the other side of the trees, carefully picking my way through the thorny branches, finding the small path into the circle. This is MY place.

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I can feel the earth’s power radiating from the ground as I walk among the rocks I’ve placed as direction stones. I make my way to the center and close my eyes. I take deep breaths and smell the scents of the forest. I sit and feel the dirt in my fingers. Before long I sense THEM. Oh yes, they have made themselves known to me over the past 6 years.

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The spirits of place, the fae, nature spirits. They go by so many names but I just call them THEM. Before long I sense them move among my circle. They know that I honor them in this place. I have taken measures to make sure they are respected and honored in these woods. And in return they help and guide me. After communing with the Earth and them I leave honey, nuts, and bird seed among the stones and ruefully make my way back to civilization. Oh if I could just stay!

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 Most of us who walk a pagan path honor the Earth. Some of us honor the Goddess and the God. We may even honor animal spirits and totems. But I think we often fail to connect with the land where we live.

The land I live on has been in my family for over 75 years. I have lived on it for 25 and visited it for ten before that. And yet even when I embraced this way of life it was a few years before I really connected with the place where I lived. I constantly found myself daydreaming of Ireland, Scotland, England, and other amazing places and yet I was failing to see the magic in my own backyard.

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One day while I was walking through one of the paths on the back of the property (over 300 acres) I kept seeing something out of the corner of my eye. I thought maybe it was a deer or a bird flying between the trees. I kept walking and kept seeing it. I never could see it straight on but always from the corner of my eye. I felt like I was being watched. So, being the novice witch I was, I decided to call it in. I think I heard it laugh. Ha!

It wasn’t until a few months later that they made themselves known to me. Sometimes I see shadows, other times I see actual human-like figures, other times it’s just spirits. But they are there and they respect me as I respect them. It’s balance and give and take.

Now, by no means do I claim to know everything about these amazing people. This is just my experience and walking this path is definitely subjective. I usually turn and run if someone tells me, “It has to be this way!” No mam, it doesn’t. It’s how the Goddess, God, Great Spirit, Fae, Sprits of the Land, or whatever else comes to us and shows us.

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So here are some things that have helped me in my walk that allows me to commune with the spirits of the place.

1. Mindfulness of the land. Take initiative to take care of the Earth where you live. Pick up trash, plant flowers, help in whatever way you can.

2. Go out there, sit down, and just BE. If it’s in your apartment courtyard, your front yard, or even the potted plants on your patio. Put your hands in the dirt and allow yourself to just BE one with it.

3. Don’t force it. You will never know the spirit world by forcing yourself among it. Be respectful and let it happen in time.

4. Leave food and other things for the animals. Nuts, seeds, honey. Anything that they might like.

5. Fill your mind and spirit with the stories and myths of the area you live in. I live in an area that was populated by Cherokee and Choctaw tribes. Then my great grandmother and great aunt with their “old religion” from Ireland came and put there magic here as well. I fill my soul with the stories of those people. Give your mind and spirit something to draw upon as you continue to grow in magic.

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There is nothing more rewarding to me than spending time in my woods with “my people”. It is my hope that as winter comes on, wherever you may be, that you will find time to get quiet as the Earth goes quiet and touch the Otherworld. May you be blessed always.

Owl Sundown

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!

Midsummer: Sunshine, Brambleberries, Playing in the Dirt, and a Little Dab of Truth

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I am a solitary witch.  I love everything about being a solitary.  I don’t begrudge anyone who belongs to a coven…some of my dearest friends do.  This is my path and my preference.  Yesterday was spent outside…all day long.  Just me, the dogs, dirt and the Lord and Lady.  Now I am normally not a hot weather kind of guy…as a matter of fact, I abhor summer heat.  Lately, though, here in Georgia, it has been quite a mild summer.  Our days have been supplemented here and there with rainstorms and showers, so when I have been outdoors, it doesn’t seem to be as bone-drying hot.

As the Summer Solstice draws nearer, I find myself craving time in amongst the sunshine and the trees.  After the afternoon storms, the smell of wet dirt calls me seductively….begging me to run my fingers through her and to feel her shifting under my feet.  Yesterday was one of those days when it wasn’t sweltering hot and a soft breeze visited regularly just to let you know that all of the elements were out to play.  I knelt, crouched, walked, scooted over all the planted areas around the condo.  I made sure the ferns and hostas and hydrangeas inside the courtyard were comfortable and well-watered. I left a small plate with a couple of creamer cups with milk and honey just under the biggest Autumn fern for the fae.

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Then it was on to the outer courtyard wall.  I spent most of the afternoon weeding and raking and back filling as I watched the plants spring to life.  I sang and talked to the plants and the dogs as we passed the time.  The dogs were tremendous helps digging right alongside of me.  We worked until time for them to eat…I left milk and honey underneath the spiderwort this time.  The lime green leaves with the bright purple flowers remind me of a canopy that the fae would use for a party.

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I was outside until the wee hours this morning.  When I flung myself across the bed, my body was achy and stiff, but it was worth every moment.  The fact that I was exhausted with very little sleep did not keep Friz from pulling me out of the bed at 5:30 on a Sunday morning.  He knew that the woods were beckoning.  I pulled on a pair of cotton lounge pants, my sandals and a tshirt and we were set.  Candles, a thermos of coffee, and a bottle of water were stashed in my backpack.

As I unpacked the candles and coffee and settled into the dirt and leaves, I watched as Friz moved over toward a bramble bush.  I have always said that he would eat poop if it stayed still long enough…and he has.  I called him to me and he is just smacking and chewing.  He had a big ole mouth full of blackberries, or brambleberries is what we called them growing up.  I walked over toward the bramble with him and picked enough to fill my shirt front.  I drank coffee and filled up on brambleberries while Friz had water from the bottle and what seemed like just as many berries.

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After we were both stuffed, I lit the candles and called on the directions.  Then I called on the elements and then invited Mama Crow and Wolf to join.  We spoke to the Oak King bidding him peace as he moved into his time of rest.  We spoke to the Holly King and welcomed him back.  This is when I completely adore practicing alone.  I plunge headfirst into my ritual…I am immersed in the Lord and Lady.  I am laid bare before them….no pretending…no mask.  They see who I am, warts and all.  I always have those around me who will hold me accountable…trust me, I get away with nothing, but when I work magick, there is none but me, god, goddess, and all things magickal.

There have been so many changes in my life lately…wonderful, fantastical changes.  We all know, though, that even with good changes, we tend go kicking and screaming.  While our animal friends are adaptable…humans don’t adapt well.  With all the changes taking place, I have made it my goal to simplify.  Life, in general is complicated.  I found myself feeling the need to explain myself to everyone.  No one could understand what was going on and most don’t care…I only allow a few the insight needed to add their voices to my life.  I started dissolving relationships with those who insisted on elevating life to a reality series.  I cut the cords with those who sucked the life out of me harder than any vampire on True Blood.  I have endeavored to pull on as many positive aspects of my life as I can find. There is a quote that has been credited to Meryl Streep, but it is actually her quoting a quote.  It was originally written by José Micard Teixeira.   It is as follows:

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” _ Meryl Streep quoted it as words she lives by!  

It seems that I have spent so much of the time allotted me, trying to prove myself.  There is no need.  I only need to be true to myself…being who the universe has called me to be. I am only one person…and it is far too easy for one person to become lost in the multitudes. Life whirs by too fast.  Over my years of working with the Craft, I have learned that humans are the only creatures who don’t take things at face value.

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I am exactly who I am supposed to be.  There is no time for closets anymore.  Everyone who knows me, knows I am gay.  A select group know that I am a witch.  No more pretending.  It is time to stand in the sunlight and let the midsummer sun shine through us and show us as we really are.

Blessed Be!