Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Red in Tooth and Claw

Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature. That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Our institutions, urban/suburban design, and cultural attitudes unconsciously associate nature with doom -- while disassociating the outdoors from joy and solitude. Well-meaning public-school systems, media, and parents are effectively scaring children straight out of the woods and fields. . . . The postmodern notion that reality is only a construct -- that we are what we program -- suggests limitless human possibilities; but as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of the human experience.

~Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods.

Yes, indeed. There are deer ticks, and mosquitoes, and snakes outside. There are brambles, and high branches from which one can fall, and there are evil strangers who snatch children who are alone.

But those are not the only dangers. Being terrified of nature, never knowing the Earth, being scared indoors to the video games: these, also, are deep and desperate dangers for the children who will live during water wars and decreasing resources.

When I was a girl (and, oh, it was a million, million years ago! And, isn't this how all the stories of all old women start: When I Was A Girl? It's funny how the stories of girls never start: When I Am An Old Woman. Well, a few of mine may have. Ahem. Well, then, and so it is and so I am, but, my Dearest Darlings, a million years ago, when I was a girl,) one of my great joys was to walk, every Saturday afternoon, down to The Creek. It must have been two or three miles away from my home, and I mostly went all alone, down to the bridge, the bridge over the tiny run, the tiny run surrounded by swamp cabbage and ferns, the bridge that was covered with an arch of branches, a cathedral for me, and my first love nest (even then, I saw no contradiction, which shows that you can lead the girl to Catholicism, but, well), where I went to furiously neck with my first real boyfriend. Then, (both before, during, and after the boyfriend) down another long street, with less frequent houses and bigger, more wooded yards, past the Swiss Chalet house, and past the people who kept horses, and past the vague friends of my mother's who had three daughters and where I saw, glimpsing just the covers, some of the first feminist books I'd ever seen, and then, then, then, into the marshy woods. That entrance was always marked for me with a special sense of stepping into what I would now call Fairie: marsh plants growing ankle-high, muck, and the sort of deep shade that, even when your real, Earthly body is sweaty and hot from the late August sun, gives you a bit of a bone-deep chill and the realization that you've stepped into "Otherness." Through a bit of those marshy woods, where the Goddess knows why I never saw the obviously-lurking snakes, and then, finally: the sandy bank of The Creek (the boulder-strewn water, running ice cold and full of tiny fish, dragon flies, and slippery algae), and the Deep Deep Woods on the other side.

The oldest Catholic daughter in a family of baby after baby after baby, slipping away from my home was all that kept me sane. All week long, I did it through books, though my mother's most common refrain was: "Get your nose out of that book (hint to Mom: I don't read w/ my nose) and [set the table, fold the diapers, go watch your baby brother, peel the potatoes, scrub the pots, etc., etc.]" And, on the weekends, I did it by walking to The Creek. And, there, finally, I could be really alone. And, there, finally, I could just be absorbed in nature: watching a dragonfly dart for a quarter of an hour, hearing the way that water sounded as it ran over algae-covered rocks, smelling the damp sand along the bank, full of the scents of decaying plants, minerals, and last-night's dance of salamanders along the shore.

One time, only, I took my baby sister down to The Creek with me.

I imagine, because I want to blame her, that my mom was really stressed that day and that the price of my hour or two of freedom was to take my baby sister with me, although my baby sister was the one of my siblings that I did really love, so maybe the fairies made it so that I would have to bring her.

And we walked, her with her little, little girl steps and her trusting, sweating hand (cruelest memory of all!) in mine, all the way down our street, and over the bridge, and past the people who kept horses, and past the Swiss Chalet house, and past my mother's feminist friends, and into the marshy woods, and onto the bank of The Creek.

And, then, somehow, I lost her.

I've gone back -- awake, in dreams, journaling, in trance -- a million, million guilt-wracked times to try and remember how on Earth I could have done such a thing. But at some point, I was a bit further down The Creek bed than I normally went and I had lost my baby sister. Full of terror, I started back up The Creek, calling and sick with fear. What if she'd drowned in The Creek? What if she were hurt? I called and called and begged her to answer, but I was alone in a way that I'd never been alone before, alone in a terrifying silence, alone as if I'd stepped through time, stepped between the worlds, stepped where I hadn't meant to step. I kept calling and, eventually, the mocking calls of what I told myself then were "older children" began to answer me, pretending to be my baby sister.

And it was then that I may have grounded for the very first time, run my roots into the minerals that I knew so well, and demanded, myself a child, that what were surely the Fae stop making fun of me and help me find my baby sister. And, you know, they were ashamed, and they said they were sorry, and, suddenly, there she was, my baby sister, sitting happy where I'd left her on the sand, surrounded by swamp cabbage, dragon flies, boulders. I slumped in an ice cold sweat upon the sand, then grabbed her hand and walked, as fast as her baby legs would let us go, back home. And then I made myself forget and always went alone, by myself, to The Creek, from thence forth.

A few decades later, when she died in a freak car accident, when my father's stricken face turned to me and said, "She's dead," there was a tiny part of me that wasn't surprised, that realized that the time we'd had with her had been won fair and square, and by an unaware bravery, from the Fae, and that I'd always known that, some day, jealous, they'd come back for what they'd taken and then, unwillingly, surrendered in shame.

Decades later, when I was recovering from breast cancer and a test came back suggesting, strongly, that the cancer had spread to my liver, I awoke from a deep dream and realized: If I'm about to die, there's only one place that I need to see again: The Creek. And, so, I did not work that weekend, although I should have done. And I rented a car, city dweller that I'd become, and I drove to the end of the road lined by the Swiss Chalet house and the house of the people who kept horses and the vague friends of my mother's. And I came to the marshy woods. And I parked the car.

And I knew myself home. Home in the wild. Home where, pace R. Frost, they would have to take me in.

And, so, yes, I understand the modern movement to keep children safe indoors, to warn them of all the real (non-Fae!) dangers of the out-of-doors. But, if I had two daughters, I'd still let the older walk the younger to The Creek.

Who knows what my baby sister saw during those years and years that seemed to be 15 minutes? Who knows who was really making deals with the Fae? Who knows why she stayed (with us) so long? Who knows how much I still long to follow? Who knows why I've never told this story before?

Picture found here.

Goddess Days, Old & New

It's not only Friday the 13th, it's also August 13th: a day devoted to Hecate, although this may be a modern, rather than ancient, tradition.

There is, however, widespread belief among modern worshippers that [Hecate] has a feast day on August 13 to protect the crops from violent storms.

Wikipedia is perpetuating this belief, citing Leo Ruickbie's "Witchcraft out of the Shadows" (2004). In a side-box he claims that the ancient Greeks observed a feast day on August 13 in which Hecate was propitiated to not send storms to destroy the growing crops. Ruikbie, in turn, cites his source as Diane Stein's "The Goddess Book of Days" (Llewellyn, 1997). Her original calendar was published in 1988 and does not give a primary source.

Various Internet sites claim that this occurred in the House of Storms and Fertility, that it was a Festival to Hecate of the Moon, or that it was part of the Festival of Hecate and Artemis. Mikalson, in The Sacred and Civil Calendar of the Athenian Year lists for Metageitnion 16 that "the sacrifical calendar of the deme Erkhia prescribes sacrifices on this day to Kourotrophos and Artemis Hekate.". Metageitnion is the Attic lunar month that lines up with late July/August. . . . Unfortunately, I cannot find what occurred during the rite (if anything specific at all). Still, this doesn't explain why August 13 was chosen, fixed as it is to the Roman solar year instead of the lunar calendar used by the ancient Greeks.

Also, there is never any mention as to why Hecate would be called to protect crops. According to Brumfield in his book The Attic festivals of Demeter and their Relation to the Agricultural Year (1976), during the time of the year we call August, the grain harvest had been completed and the grape harvest would not have begun until September. August was a lull in the agricultural year and nothing needed to be protected from violent storms.

A few clues come to light when we stop looking for ancient Greek sources. In Rome, The Festival of Torches was held on August 13, called the Nemoralia. In it, woman would walk from the city of Rome carrying torches to a lake sacred to Diana where they would offer their petitions. There was a strong conflation between Artemis and Hecate in Greece, with Hecate taking on a number of Artemis' roles. Diana and Hecate were also conflated some, but typically maintained separate spheres of influence. Still, this seems to be a likely source for fixing the ritual on that particular date.

Additionally, in 1986 a ritual performed on August 14, 1985, was published in Circle Network News which invoked Hecate Chthonia and incorporated a Hecate Supper. A web page by that author claims that a similar ritual incorporating much of the same text was performed at the MoonStone Circle of the Aquarian Tabernacle and published in Panegyria on August 13, 1988. The original date it was performed, August 14, 1985, was a dark moon, which has been a sacred time for Hecate since classical times. The other date, though, perhaps inspired by Stein's recently published Goddess Book of Days, was a waxing gibbous.

None of this explains a connection with storms or harvests, however. This strikes me as a purely Neopagan phenomenon rising out of widespread observance of harvest-type rituals during early August, the most common being the Celtic feast of Lughnasadh. From a theological point of view, perhaps this dark-dressed flashing eyed goddess calling herself Hecate has inspired us to set Her feast day. We are creating new religions, after all.

It's certainly been stormy here in the MidAtlantic the last few days and I'm as happy to celebrate a new tradition as an old one.

For me, the association between Hecate and summer storms makes some sense. We're at a liminal time. Summer's almost past and Autumn's not quite started. Storms bring chaos, change, that liminal unpredictability that can knock over old trees in an instant, flood a familiar roadway, turn an almost ripe crop into mush. And, so, tonight, I will light incense for Hecate, lay out some of her traditional foods, and chant for the crops.

Picture found here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Capital N Nature

"I put a capital N on Nature and and call it my church."

-Frank Lloyd Wright

Yes, capitalization matters.

Picture found here.

That's the Reason Why I Feel So Far Away, Today


Sounds like fun.

Fare You Well Across the Veils

The Pagan who taught many of us to do Real Magic has sailed into the West.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whoa; I'm Glad to Be Busy, But, Still . . . .

Work is kicking my ass. Please check out some of the fine blogs in my blog list.

Witchcraft is a way of life for individuals, not the masses, and there's no point in you coming toward the Craft if you are a wimp, a follower, a coward, or a fool, as sorcery is both a practice and a priesthood, and it is not a garment that can be discarded when the going gets tough.

LY DE ANGELES, Witchcraft: Theory and Practice

Is your athame sharp?

What an amazingly cool bit of magic. I may start participating myself. What a magical Full Moon project for a coven.

How are you preparing for the coming cold months?

Was your relationship with the land an active one today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010



Hecate Invocation (traditional)

Goddess of the cross-roads,
Goddess of Manic-Depression,
Dweller in the deep places of the earth and mind,
Traveller in the land between worlds!
Torch-bearer! Protectress of the very old and the very young;
Protectress of those used and abused;
Healer of those who are torn apart;
She will be there for us when we call on her and at the end.
Grandmother to lost children and to the downtrodden.
Nurse to the suckling infant,
Comfort to the lone man or woman in the darkest night.
She who seeks vengeance for her children who are wronged!
Wanderer and prowler!
Sorceress who lives at the edge of the mind.
Drawer-up of the secret compost from the unused internal well.
She who has no relatives on the earth save for her children.
Without Mother or Sister.
Lady on the brink, both bi-polar and uni-polar!
They call her mad, and it is she who terrifies the disbeliever and the
Bringer of nightmares!
But she it is who sooths the sleepless and disheveled spirit.
Mother of night!
Dark Power of the moon!
Keeper of the shadow!
Walker of the endless highways!
She unites those who follow her as her children; the Hekite.
Bearer of the sacred poppy.
Shape-shifter, Transformer.
Keeper of the hounds of Hel and the three-headed dog Cerebus!
She walks abroad in the hour of the wolf and under the Dark Moon!
Hear my call O Lady and cover us with your starry cloak.
Let the unborn moon seed in my heart this night.
And let her growing light shine upon our intention;
That she be at our full deliverance,
So Mote it be!

~Erhard Hans Josef Lang

Picture found here.

High Summer

Really Like Your Peaches, Want to Shake Your Tree

What K. Nance Said about Lughnasadah (just passed).

I came home from work and went straight to my fig tree. Stood there and ate figs directly from the tree.

May your High Summer be bountiful. May you do amazing magic on this New Moon.

Picture found here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Hail and Farewell!

About a minute ago, Phaedra Bonewits posted on Facebook:

wanted to address the rumors that Isaac is back in the hospital. He is
at home as he had wished, but he is nearing the end. His brothers and
sisters are on their way to say goodbye. Please keep us all in your
thoughts and prayers."

Go on the Dark Moon, if you need to go, great Druid.

May the Goddess guard you. May you find your way to the Summerlands. May your friends and family know peace.

Picture found here.

Guilty As Charged?

Back when I was a "guitar Mass" Catholic, we used to ask each other, "If they tried you for being a follower of Jesus, would they have enough evidence to convict you?" (Yeah, xians love to feel persecuted; they do. I was maybe six when I first longed to be burned as a martyr or to have stigmata. Note to St. Germain, I take back everything I said to you at my confirmation. I actually have ZERO desire to die coughing blood and hiding it from Mother Superior in my handkerchief, no matter how romantic I may have believed that to be at age 12. Really.)

But I want to turn that around. If you were charged with being a member of a nature religion, what did you do today that would be evidence of that? If not on the Dark Moon, then when? Eight times a year / = enough.

What about the child closest to you? Does s/he know that you worship nature?

People Keep Doing It. I'm Going To Keep Complaining.

A Stonehenge-like tourist attraction in Texas is being moved. Not everyone is happy.

Not everyone is of a mind to save it. When the Ingram City Council first discussed donating money from its hotel tax to the effort — it's still pondering the donation — a guy stood up at the meeting "and said that it was wrong for the city to donate money to the site of pagan rituals," said Wanda Cash, president of the arts foundation board and a professor at the University of Texas.

The specter of human sacrifice was raised. Ingram Mayor James Salter told the fellow that no sacrifices had been performed in Hunt, "and he didn't think the arts foundations would allow any, either," Cash said.

The purpose of the real Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, is still a mystery, although the arrangement of its stones seems to form a solar calendar. Any pagan connection, the arts foundation is quick to point out, is purely conjecture.

Well, to be fair, given the dating, I doubt the xians built Stonehenge, just to give the devil, aka "a guy," his due.

And Pagan should be capitalized, just like the names of other pre-xian religions.

Apparently, the Easter Island heads were carved by good xians who followed the biblical injunction to subdue the Earth, even to the last tree on the island, so no concerns about those.

Picture found here.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Dance Blogging

Score One for the Druids of Wales

Nice to see a poet get due honor.

A MEMORIAL stone honouring the Welshman who founded the National Eisteddfod’s Gorsedd of the Bards has been saved after residents of a swish London district tried to get it removed.

Members of the 1,200-strong Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill branded Iolo Morganwg “a bloody criminal” when the plaque marking the site of the first meeting of the Bards in 1792 was unveiled last summer.

They claimed he was a forger, a liar and an opium addict, and his memorial stone by Welsh sculptor John Meirion Morris should be moved from its park location in upmarket Primrose Hill, home to the likes of Welsh actor Rhys Ifans and top Welsh chef Bryn Williams’ restaurant, Odettes.

But despite a campaign by its opponents, and a full review, the Royal Parks authority has ruled the memorial can stay.

. . .

Morganwg, dubbed ‘the poet of liberty’ among London’s literary elite, who included Coleridge and Wordsworth, claimed that Druid rites he first celebrated on June 21, 1792, had survived Roman times into later history and the Welsh were the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage.To reconnect with their ancient culture, he founded the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain, whose members today include Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, opera singer Bryn Terfel, actor Ioan Gruffudd, England cricketer Robert Croft, and Wales rugby player Gareth Edwards, and held the first meeting on Primrose Hill 218 years ago. The Royal Parks gave permission to unveil a memorial with the inscription “truth against the world” last summer, before the storm blew up.

. . .

Welsh poet and novelist Dannie Abse, 87, hit back at the time, storming: “Morganwg was a legendary Welsh poet. He did forge poems, but he was a great, great scholar, and he fooled everybody. “I’m not sure if he was a drug addict, but he was certainly the best poet that went to Cardiff jail” – a reference to a spell he spent behind bars for bankruptcy. “Christopher Marlowe died in a pub brawl – but we celebrate him, don’t we? Lord Byron was a womaniser, but he is buried in Westminster Cathedral. So why not commemorate Iolo on Primrose Hill?”

The controversy over the memorial seems to have actually been brewing for some time. The memorial itself seems completely unobtrusive and uncontroversial. One wonders if the real concern isn't that it might bring Druids and other "undesirables" to a "swish" bit of London?

Picture found here.

There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

Now where have we heard this before?

AHMEDABAD: Witches in the state have unique characteristics—they are usually widows, childless women and most importantly, all of them have land which can be grabbed.

The first day of the two-day national seminar organised by Working Group for Women and Land Ownership (WGWLO), Gujarat, witnessed discussion of numerous instances where women were labelled witches to strip them off their only life-support— land.

The particular continent involved doesn't seem to matter:

“In all the cases, the woman has land. The family in connivance with the local witchdoctor first says the woman has the capacity to unleash ills on the family by blaming any recent death or illness on the family on her. She is then boycotted by the society where even if her children are sick, they are not taken to the doctor. This is used as further proof that she casts evil on the people. Once she is refused refuge by the society, her share of land is silently transferred in the name of the father-in-law or brother-in-law,” said Nayak.

Similar strategy is used on a childless woman to grab the couple’s share of land. “Recently, Mangi Bhil and her husband were mercilessly beaten up by their family members who blamed the death of a child in the family on them. They said that Mangi was childless and had cast an evil eye on the child and led to her death. Both of them were chucked out of the village. They tried filing a police complaint but their family members exerted their influence. When we investigated the case, at the root of the witch phenomenon was the eight-acre land in the name of Mangi and her husband which the family wanted to grab,” said Nayak.

You know, as population continues to grow and arable land (coughwaterwarscough) becomes increasingly scarce, we can expect to see a lot more of this.

Nature At Her Most Tenacious

When Julia Fletcher . . . moved from West Virginia to Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University, she operated a refreshment cart at the Kennedy Center and sometimes took it to the roof terrace, where she found the view of the Potomac Rover calming. Early one evening, she noticed a man there with his two young children. The girl and the boy were paying close attention to their father, who was watching a circling raptor.

"It's not a turkey vulture," he said, "but you're close. What else could it be?" The kids looked heavenward again.

"A hawk," pronounced the boy.

"Warmer," replied Dad, but what kind of hawk?"

"A white-headed hawk?" inquired the daughter. [Yeah, some sexism here. Boys pronounce and girls inquire.]

"Nope. What kinds of hawks are near the water?"

As Julia tells this story, she was about to burst with the answer when the son said:

"One that eats fish?"

"Exactly. It's an osprey," their father said. "Now, how can you identify it next time?"

At this point, Julia moved on with her work, but continued to think about the conversation. Because her mother took time to explore nature with her, she identified with the children and their questions. "And I was heartened that even in a city like Washington, there were other children who would grow up like I did," she says. "Until that moment, all evidence of this had been to the contrary, since no one I know at the university can identify an osprey. Nature in the city is nature at her most tenacious -- in some ways that makes it my favorite kind of nature.

~Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Are there ospreys where you live? What is the most common raptor in your area? When you call the Elements, can you announce yourself to them as "The Witch of This Place"?

Picture found here.

Such Affection

Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours,
Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children,
as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned
from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.

~Henry David Thoreau, quoted in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

Picture found here.