Saturday, June 20, 2009

Litha's Harvest

Here's a nice article that explains the science behind the old Pagan custom of harvesting herbs on the morning of the Summer Solstice

And there's another factor with herbs. Many of them hold their highest oil content at this time, before the heat of summer causes much of it to evaporate out of the leaves.

A cool, still midsummer morning is the traditional time to harvest herbs for drying and storage to use in winter. If they are cut all at once, quickly, before the rising sun hits the leaves, the maximum amount of oil is retained. Both sun and wind can cause oils to evaporate out of freshly cut material very quickly. For this reason, you want to cut herbs and get them into the shade before sunrise. The goal with herbs is to move them inside to dry right away. It's far better to cut some and move them indoors, then go back out and cut more. Otherwise, the herbs are likely to wilt as they build up in your cutting basket.

The entire article is well worth a read.

I will harvest mint and distill it in vodka for a full moon, then chill the vodka for drinking from glasses of ice on Yule morning. What will you harvest tomorrow?

Photo found here.

Parsley, Italian Flat Leaf And English Curly

About the only thing in my herb bed that's really loving all the rain we've been getting is the parsley. Parsley will grow for almost anyone and it's great in salads, green smoothies, chopped and sprinkled on peas or sugar snap peas, on new potatoes.

Summer Solstice by Donna Kane

The light stretched and tangy, up on its horse
and riding through the ripening meadows,
buzzing the leaves and the
birds who’ve been at it for hours.
Light that in its excess has become something else.
The way Cranberry Falls is so frothed with runoff
it doesn’t look like water anymore. The way you look
from a hill’s highest point, your head full of chlorophyll,
heart shucking winter like a clayload of guilt,
like pollen with its open fire policy
compensating loss. You exceed yourself,
tanked on the light and the birds
who’ve been singing forever.

Poem found here.

Picture found here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Sense Of Place

To add an important point to my post below about Stonehenge. I think that a certain bit of nostalgic romanticism is fine -- a good thing in fact. And it's certainly to be expected, in a religious movement that is, at least in part, about attempting to reanimate religious ideals that are centuries old, that its adherents will look to the past with a certain amount of longing and reverence.

But Paganism is, at least IMHO, a religion of place. It's wonderful to love Mamma Gaia and the entire planet, but the daily practice of Paganism is hugely involved, I think, in the business of being in deeper and deeper relationship with one's own particular landbase/watershed/genius loci. It's largely about becoming familiar with, listening to, doing right by, and helping to turn the wheel in concert with the particular spirits of your particular place. And that's something that I think that American Pagans, especially, haven't yet done or learned how to do, which may partly explain our longing for (insert your spot here) Stonehenge, Avebury, Bridget's Well, the Caves in Lascaux, Crete, the Parthenon, ancient Egypt, etc.

Part of it is that most of us are relatively "new" here. There is no "place" in America where my ancestors worshipped from time immemorial before me. My ancestors showed up here in the late 1800s, after Sweden experienced both a drop in infant mortality and bad harvests. They landed in NY and kept moving, often more than once in a generation. There are sacred spaces here in North America, (indeed, some of which are as sensitive to the Summer Solstice as Stonehenge) but they belong to the First Nations, and there's a large sensitivity to the issue of appropriation. Who are the American Goddess and Gods? I invoke Goddesses from ancient Sumeria and Greece in my daily practice. So, we tend to look back.

Part of it is that most of us now live in urban areas. It's difficult in the extreme to be in relationship with the large Slurpee-cup-littered concrete parking lot between your 8th floor apartment and the strip mall that borders the interstate. (Although it's needed there, maybe more than anywhere else.) Urban pagans can get away, sometimes, to more rural areas, but finding a way -- whether it's creating a balcony garden or adopting a nearby park or abandoned lot -- to be in regular, daily communication with the land is enough of a challenge for urban pagans that it can be easier, at times, to simply dream of living in a wattle hut near a sacred spring somewhere in Scotland.

Part of it is that many of us travel a lot. What's the point of investing in a relationship with a watershed that I know I'll be leaving in a year, next month, next week? What relationship does one have with interchangeable airports, hotels, conference centers, streets? Easier to avoid the whole problem on a daily basis and just return every year to the same 4-day festival held at a campground that eventually becomes holy ground (as if there were any other kind!). And there's nothing wrong with that, except that it can leave daily practice drained of an essential element of communication and working with the land.

And part of it is that I think modern Pagan training fails to provide enough focus on the nuts and bolts of how to listen to land, how to be in relationship with the spirits of a place, how to work to turn the wheel along with those spirits, rather than simply alone or with other humans. Some of us get some of it intuitively; that may be part of what attracted us to Paganism in the first place. And some of us are lucky enough to make some contact and to then receive instruction from the land itself. But we could and must do a better job of teaching ourselves this essential skill, far more essential than learning herbal and color correspondences or learning which incense to burn with which spell.

I hope to blog more about this in coming months, but I'll make a few suggestions that I've found to be good beginnings. First, ground. Do it daily. Second, consider paying more attention to the land than to all the books in Llewellyn or to some teacher. We've all learned that the element of Water corresponds with the West, and if you live in England (or San Francisco), that makes sense. But here, on the East Coast, not so much. My brilliant friend E associates the element of Water in her daily practice with wherever the closest body of water is to where she lives at the time. Do you know where the closest body of water is to the place where you do you daily practice? How would you find out?

Photo of the SE corner of the author's garden

Unmanned Drones At Stonehenge Solstice Celebration

Summer Solstice (Litha) occurs here in the nation's capital at 1:45 am on Sunday, June 21st. Litha is one of my favorite holidays and one that, I admit, makes me a bit "homesick" for a place I've never been. Long before I knew that I was a witch, the Summer Solstice was firmly associated in my mind with Stonehenge. Pillar of the Sky, which I read in my twenties, is still one of my favorite books. I am sad to see how England plans to police this year's Stonehenge celebration.

A big police operation involving an unmanned drone, horses and drugs sniffer dogs will be launched at Stonehenge tomorrow as huge crowds descend on the ancient site for the summer solstice.

Because the celebrations fall over the weekend and fine weather is predicted, bigger crowds than usual are expected and Wiltshire police have said they will clamp down heavily on antisocial behaviour.

Restrictions are being placed on the amount of alcohol revellers can bring in and police have said they will not tolerate illegal drug taking or unlawful raves.

The force's no-nonsense approach, after a more relaxed feel in recent years, has raised fears that there could be clashes.

Some peace-loving druids have told the Guardian that they will be staying away because they fear the combination of large crowds - possibly more than 30,000 ‑ and the police's stance could lead to trouble.

Can you imagine any religious group other than Pagans that the British government would dare to police on a high holiday with unmanned drones, for the love of the Goddess?

The local police don't have a great history of dealing with those coming to Stonehenge.

Picture found here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Go! Listen!

Katrina Messenger once told me a story about a time when she saw a beggar on the street. The man was wailing and complaining of his misery and, Katrina believed, probably putting on something of an act. And yet, coming upon this archetype of suffering, Katrina was forced to realize something not about the beggar, but about herself: She couldn't, being who she was, walk past someone in that much apparent pain, and do nothing.

I'm not sure why, but I was reminded of Katrina's story last night as I listened to this very inspirational podcast of a discussion between T. Thorn Coyle and Selena Fox. I am someone who can't listen to Selena's invocation without sobbing and recommitting to the cause, just as I cannot read the inscription "Equal Justice Under Law" on the SCOTUS without sobbing with love (professionally embarrassing on more than one occasion), or vote in the smallest local election without holding back tears. (Maybe the message is Katrina gives alms and I blubber, I don't know!)

You should listen to the entire discussion; it's well worth it.

It's awfully easy to get activists' fatigue, and I find that now, having worked like hell to elect a president of whom I can only say, this week, that he sucks less than McCain would have sucked, activists' fatigue is waiting for me around a lot of corners, ready to pounce at every opportunity. Listening to the work that Selena's been doing for years, as well as to her successes, is an incredibly good talisman to carry around in defense of activists' fatigue.

Of course, we witches say that the best spell for getting a job is filling out a job application. So one of the best magical talismans against activists' fatigue is taking some small, positive action.

Good talismans available right now include Sia's current post about micro-loans and my brilliant friend E's post about, inter alia, the D.C. Central Kitchen. And if you won't even, as Susie says: Call Them you've got bad activists' fatigue. And here's a great idea for simple activism in the waning part of the year.

Hail Libertas! Hail Justica!

Picture found here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Almost no flower says Litha to me the way that daylilies do. They show up, on schedule, and brighten things up just as a lot of flowers are disappearing. They're wonderful symbols of impermanence. And they're good to eat, too. You can scatter the petals in a spinach salad to brighten it up, or you can stuff the blossoms with almost anything.

1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and
sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
1/2 pound crab meat or crab substitute*
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
* Blanche the bean sprouts by dropping them in
boiling water for about a minute. Then cool nder cold running water. They should still
have a crunch.
* Combine all ingredients thoroughly and
refrigerate. You can even make the crab salad a
day in advance. *When you are ready to serve,
spoon several tablespoons of the salad into the
center of each daylily flower. You may also top
each filled daylily with a scattering of toasted
sesame seeds or finely chopped scallions for a
more colorful presentation.
* Smaller daylily flowers require less crab
salad, so this recipe makes enough to stuff two
dozen large daylily flowers or 30 smaller

Recipe found here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My New Name For A Blog

What Gus Said. Maybe it helps to have a background in working magic to understand Gus' point.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back in a Minute

Normal blogging to begin again shortly.