Saturday, September 25, 2010


/Hat tip Susie Madrak

More Muir Woods

For me, as for many modern Pagans (most of whom live in urban areas), a trip to a wilderness spot such as Muir Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime event, a pilgrimage to a sacred site, a "Journey to the West" in search of wisdom. Such pilgrimages can be life-changing events, and, certainly, I will never forget my trip to Muir Woods. (And, of course, Wilderness spots can only take so many of us traipsing through.) I brought back a tiny, carved, wooden tree to put in the NorthWest on my altar, to help me to connect to the larger spirit of North America, the North America beyond my Potomac River watershed and the red-clay-amended-with-acorn-shells-built-on-a-swamp-landbase upon which I live, garden, and priestess. A small sign in Muir Woods taught me that deer depend upon the Vitamin C from maple leaves to get through the Winter and I'm considering now how to get the falling leaves from my ancient maple to the nearby woods for the deer who live there. I used the word "privileged" in my post about Muir Woods and that word was chosen deliberately. For most of my life, a trip to a place such as Muir Woods was simply out of the question and I'm grateful for the opportunity that my job gave me to visit.

And yet -- despite all the dreams that I've had, ever since my trip, of a Chapter House in Sausalito, dreams of denim-and-cotton-garbed priestesses and priests spending their lives entering the woods and doing reiki for the ferns, and redwoods, and condors, and chipmunks, and moss -- despite those dreams, when I got to the lower level of National Airport and could feel that familiar swamp dirt beneath the floor, leaching LANDBASE up through the soles of my feet and into my solar plexus, I knew that I had come home to my own true work. I am the witch of THIS place and my pilgrimage has only made me more so. Those of us who live in urban areas are called to as sacred a task as are those someone(s) whose reiki I sensed in Muir Woods. Muir Woods is threatened and needs magical care, but so is the strip of land between the parking lot of your apartment complex and the interstate. So is the pocket park located a block away from you in the city, the one where people come to let their dogs run. So is the tree growing through the sidewalk outside your office building. So are the weeds growing in the alley behind your condo. It's all sacred. It's all Goddess pouring Goddess into Goddess. It's all in desperate need of priestessing, in need of reiki, in need of loving care, in need of relationship.

What are Witches for?

Photos by the author. If you copy, please link back.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Fifth Sacred Thing

Poem (the spirit likes to dress up)

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

~Mary Oliver

Picture found here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Let the trees be consulted before you take any action
every time you breathe in thank a tree
let tree roots crack parking lots at the world bank headquarters
let loggers be druids specially trained and rewarded
to sacrifice trees at auspicious times
let carpenters be master artisans
let lumber be treasured like gold
let chainsaws be played like saxophones
let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees give police and criminals a shovel
and a thousand seedlings
let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns
let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods
walk don't drive
stop reading newspapers
stop writing poetry
squat under a tree and tell stories.

- John Wright.

Yesterday, I had an amazing experience; I was privileged to visit Muir Woods, just outside of San Francisco. What I imagine a devout Muslim experiences when visiting Mecca, or a Christian feels standing at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem must be somewhat similar to what I felt the moment that I began to come into contact with these ancient trees, many between 500 and 800 years old. Maybe I would feel the same feeling at Stonehenge or Crete or the Caves at Lascaux, but I don't think so because, although I am the Witch of a tiny place all the way across the continent, a place with a different watershed and soil and trees, this forest is much more my native place than anywhere in Europe and, for me, as a Witch, communication with "place" is a very important component of my spiritual practice. This place felt to me like one of the strongest living expressions of the meaning of North America.

I've found that there are certain places with deep and old magic that simply will not photograph or video well and Muir Woods, from the pictures that I've seen and from the video and pictures that I took, is one of those. (Have you ever had this experience? I find that it's also true of my beloved Potomac River.) You really can't communicate the scale and presence of, not just the trees, but of the overall entity that is "The Forest" with cameras.

I've been in larger forests before, but never one that began communicating via scent quite some time before you even arrive at the edge of the forest. The scent of the redwoods, which drifted up the valley and onto the sun-warmed air of Mount Tamalpais was like nothing else that I've ever experienced and, oddly, the entire time that I was there, I was aware of it, even though olfactory fatigue often leaves me unable to detect scents after only a few seconds. If sanctity and the holiness of Earth have a scent, this was it, although my strong feeling was that it is also a form of communication and a deep act of daily blessing.

While I was sitting on a bench, sobbing and in love, the branch of a redwood waved back and forth against my neck, almost as if the Tree and breeze wanted to say, "Oh, lighten up, Little Sister. You're here for such a short, short time; you should laugh more, like the ephemeral thing that we know you to be." I twisted and reached out my hand to a few inches away from the branch and began to do reiki. The forest smiled and took it in, and then I became aware that some one(s) have been coming to the forest regularly to do reiki. And I had to wonder how there are not several temples full of priestesses and priests devoted just to this practice, and to hope that, some day, there will be. What a deep and sacred calling. What a holy and magical life that would be.

Later in the day, I noted to my delight that Sia's back and blogging, and she reminded me, in that new magic that seems to have been waiting since the world's beginning for the internet to come along, of one of her earlier posts in which she explained that:

The central question in my tradition is this: "What are Witches for?

And, you know, on this day that is all about balance, that seems to me to be an excellent question to ponder and upon which to meditate, especially as we head towards Samhein when, for many of us, it is traditional to set new goals. It's a good question for circles and covens and it's a good question for individuals. What are Witches for? What are we Witches, in particular, in this circle or coven or group, for? What am I, as a Witch, for?

I'm going to be doing a lot of work with these questions over the coming weeks, myself. I'd love to hear your answers to them, as well!

Photo by the author; if you copy, please link back.

Blessed Mabon

Hurrahing in Harvest

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, willful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world wielding shoulder
Majestic as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! –
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

Picture found here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How It's Done

Here's a good article about an interview with Washington, D.C. witch, Katrina Messenger, concerning Christine O'Donnell's claim that she "dabbled into witchcraft" during a picnic on a bloody, Satanic altar. This is one of the few times that my "don't think of an elephant" rule, about not launching into a discussion of what Witches "don't" do, deserves to be ignored. Here, there's a well-publicized charge that conflates Witchcraft and Satanism, along with some real misrepresentations about the nature of our religion.

Katrina's kinder than I am; I believe the young woman was lying. There's a common xian trope that involves having gotten mixed up in Satanism and then being saved by faith in Jesus. It's apparently OK for xians to lie when it suits their purposes. Whichever, Katrina does a good job of quickly turning the interview to what Witches actually do and who we really are.

It's sad that O'Donnell's nonsense eclipsed what was, by all accounts, a quite successful DC Pagan Pride event, but it's a good thing that some members of the media are seeking out credible Pagan sources to counter O'Donnell's slanders.

/hat tip to Capital Witch for the video and to Katrina for the email notification about the interview.

At Least, When It's Done Correctly

Witchcraft is all about living to the heights and depths of life as a way of worship.

~LY DE ANGELES, Witchcraft: Theory and Practice

Picture found here

Monday, September 20, 2010

Now, More Than Ever, This Is True

On every full moon, rituals ... take place on hilltops, beaches, in open fields and in ordinary houses. Writers, teachers, nurses, computer programmers, artists, lawyers, poets, plumbers, and auto mechanics -- women and men from many backgrounds come together to celebrate the mysteries of the Triple Goddess of the Dance of Life. The religion they practise is called Witchcraft.

STARHAWK, Spiral Dance

Update: And those people deserve more than to be the campaign prop of some Teabagging opportunist. Those people don't believe in Satan. Those people don't have picnics on bloody altars. Christine O'Donnell is a liar.

Picture found here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This and That

Good on the Daytona Beach News Journal for an informative, correctly-capitalized article about Pagan Pride Day in New Smyrna Beach. None of the "they don't worship Satan" nonsense and a decent description of what "Pagan" means. More like this.

I've never seen conservatives as willing to accept witchcraft as some of Christine O'Donnell's fans are turning out to be.

It's been out for a bit and I'm still waiting to find it. Terry Pratchett's new and brilliantly-titled book, I Shall Wear Midnight, sounds great. I can't wait to get ahold of it.

I Shall Wear Midnight picks up Tiffany's story as she settles - or not - into life as "town witch" on The Chalk, taking care of the things people generally don't like to think about.

There, with the assistance of the spectacularly argumentative, kilt-wearing, wee but hardy Nac Mac Feegle, she tends to the needs of her village, always riding a knife-edge between being useful and being an object of suspicion who meddles in unmentionables.

But Tiffany's skills as a witch have caught the attention of the Cunning Man (surely one of Pratchett's spookiest villains), a no-eyed spectre who menaces our heroine as she goes about the business of seeing her village through a change in baron.

Archeologists have found a wall painting of Tyche, the Greek Goddess of fortune, during excavations on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. The picture appears to date from the 3rd to 4th Centuries, C.E.

Her head is crowned, her youthful gaze is focused, and she has abundant brown hair beneath her crown.
. . .

Apart from goddess Tyche, researchers also found a wonderfully etched relief of a maenad, one of a group of female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine on a bone plate.

(I believe the author meant to say that researchers also found a wonderfully etched relief, on a bone plate, of a maenad, not that Dionysus was the God of wine on a bone plate. )

And, in Egypt, a recently re-discovered tomb includes paintings of astrological scenes and the Goddess Nut.

The room is in very good condition and contains beautiful painted scenes in vivid colors. Blue and yellow dominate the ceiling, as the goddess Nut welcomes with raised arms the body of the deceased.

(Not clear if the author meant "astrological" or "astronomical," at least from the article. )

Chant to Hecate

Crone woman, stone woman
Claw shell bone woman
Lone woman alone woman
Dark mother star mother
Well river storm mother
Death Mother, Birth Mother
Earth Mother, Earth Mother.

~Leni Hester

Picture of Hecate and Her Jackal at the Crossroads found here.

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