Paganism, Spiritwork

Building Ethical Relationships with the Land

I read a blog by Hecate Demeter recently that I thought asked a very good question at the end: “Do you ever introduce yourself to the land? If you travel and will be somewhere for a few days, do you ever bring an offering to the new land?”

My immediate answer was “Yes, of course I do,” but my very next thought was – “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that at an event who wasn’t doing it with me.” That doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it, of course – doing it privately is much better than attempting to show off to your fellow attendees – but it did make me wonder. How many people actually do this? Do they always do it, or only at witchy/pagan events? Do they do it differently if they’re visiting in different contexts?

And then I reflected on my own practice. I tend to default to the ceremonies and prayers of the indigenous tradition from my mother’s side of the family. Tobacco, a self introduction that includes the place I was born, murmured words of thanks to all friendly spirits. When I’m at witchy or pagan events, or anywhere I’m likely to do magic, I also seek out the Local Fair Folk. As part of my work with the Fairy Queen I serve, I am supposed to check in at the local consulate, in a manner of speaking. However, If I’m somewhere only briefly, or if I’m not on Turtle Island*, my introductions are more likely to be silent and meditative, seeking brief connection and energetic exchange. In general, I consider friendly relations with the local land wights, body-of-water wights, nature spirits, and otherworldly beings to be an important exchange of hospitality.

If there are Dead around, you can try reaching out to them, too, if you can do it in a way that is respectful and not dangerous to you or to them. If they have very different life experiences or spoke very different languages or practiced very different spiritual systems to yours, they may not want to hear from you. That goes double if your bloodline ancestors wronged them or were their enemies. However, knowing who not to bother or ask a favor of is also an important part of getting to know your neighbors! Also it can sometimes be a good idea to leave the Dead – especially the Unquiet Dead – to a witch who specializes in deathwork.

Occasionally Deities/Divinities** may show up as well. One time I was in Puerto Rico talking to the waves on a beach, and a Divine Spirit associated with the sea — in the shape of a Black woman with blue hair — touched my mind, leaving me with a brief experience of divine awe. (I think she was probably Yemaya, but she didn’t give me a name — just the vision, and a sense of welcome.) When they show up, though, they are not usually invitations to a deeper relationship. These brief experiences are the energetic equivalent of getting a friendly wave from a Head of State who is currently in a motorcade that just happened to be going by wherever I am.

Most of Hecate Demeter’s blog series, however, is a call to ground your practice in the place you are, and to build relationships with the land, water, and nature spirits who live nearest to you. She says (and I very much agree) that we don’t need to “re-enchant” anything. The land is still enchanted, still inspirited. What we need to do is to rekindle our relationship where we are, wherever we are Right Now. Lots of modern USian*** people feel like they don’t have roots because as a culture we move around a lot, but population movements have always happened. Even if you’re only going to be around somewhere for six months, it’s still a good idea to get to know your neighbors – corporeal and otherwise.

In my own practice, I try to build conscientious and respectful relationships with the spirits I encounter as I go about my daily life. A lot of those are Otherworldly beings of various types that largely fall into the broad category of “fae”, or they are spirits of specific “objects”, like trees, cars, houses, creeks. But I find that when I reach out to the land itself, there are what feels like layers of spirit, like the layers of a nesting doll. The deeper and larger I go, the harder it is to communicate, though I have had pretty good results with rivers and cities as singular units. For example, I wrote this quarter call that calls upon rivers local to me for use in a group rite I helped lead:

Tonight we create sacred space by grounding ourselves deeply in our natural surroundings.  We live here, in a landscape dominated by the Appalachian mountains to the West, and the Atlantic ocean to our East, beneath the dome of the Sky.  But tonight we call on powers more local, better known to us.

In the North we call to Lady of the mighty Potomac, River of Swans, Lifeblood of this area.  We offer you sweet smelling incense, and soothing herbal waters, if you will stand as Guardian to our ritual tonight.

In the East we call to the Great Lady of the Chesapeake Bay, Grave of a Meteor and Mother of Rivers.  All waters in this area come home to you.  We offer you sweet smelling incense, and soothing herbal waters, if you will stand as Guardian to our ritual tonight.

In the South we call to the Lady of the majestic Rappahannock, River of Tides, Quick-Rising Waters.  We offer you sweet smelling incense, and soothing herbal waters, if you will stand as Guardian to our ritual tonight.

In the West we call to the Lady of the beautiful Shenandoah, River of Spruces, Daughter of the Potomac. We offer you sweet smelling incense, and soothing herbal waters, if you will stand as Guardian to our ritual tonight.

(c) 2019 by the author, Alexandra Nic Bhé Chuille. Please ask for permission before using.

Hecate Demeter says in the second blog that being in relationship with your landbase will make both your spiritual practice and your magic stronger, and I couldn’t agree more. I also find that cultivating relationships with your hyper-local land and neighborly spirits helps a lot with ward maintenance, and some of them may even be willing to enter a sort of agreement that if someone else intrudes into your shared space, they’ll let you know.

The third blog in the series has a few good ideas about how to begin this work, but it’s a bit like any spirit work, really – just go introduce yourself and see what happens. It’s hard to go wrong with a shared drink of water, as long as your water bottle isn’t made of steel. (Most land wights and nature spirits won’t mind that, but the Daoine Sidhe and some of the Huldufolk certainly will!) Use divination or ask for an omen, however it is that you normally talk to spirits. And get to know your land and its inhabitants!


*The continent of North America.

**I have seen Yemaya and others referred to with a distinction made between Deities and Divinities, and as I am both not sure what the distinction is, and also unsure who I was interacting with, I just put both. I occasionally use the term “god-level” for interactions like this, to describe an unknown entity who seems to have the level of power and vastness usually attributed to deities, but who is either someone I cannot identify, or is someone not known in any surviving lore.

*** I use “USian” here as shorthand for “US American”, to differentiate between citizens of the USA versus people who live in the Americas more generally.


Links to the blogs:

Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism

Crow Folks: Send Out Ripples

This month’s Dark Moon, when I journeyed to see Na Morrigna, another of my allies came along, one of the Fair Folk who often takes the shape of a white horse, and as we five stood around the great cauldron, she bent forward so that her white hair fell into the water of the cauldron, and it filled with visions that she had seen, both Otherworldly wars and human carnage, in a sort of dreadful symmetry. I began to feel overwhelmed by it all, when the Three Morrigna spoke to me as if in one voice. This is the wisdom they would have me share:

The Cauldron of the World is too large for you to control, though you can create small ripples. Focus instead on the Cauldron of your heart. That is small enough for you to work changes within. When you have wrought change in yourself, send ripples out into your sphere of influence. Focus not on sorcery but on mundane workings, this summer.

I have been told to skip June to focus on my own work, and to return with another message or poem at the dark moon in July, in preparation for the Lughnasadh harvest.

fae, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Spiritwork

Bealtaine with the Local Fair Folk

As frequent readers of this blog might guess, my upcoming Bealtaine* plans will revolve around the Fair Folk. While most folklore tells us to ward and protect against Them on festival days, here in faery-witchcraft-land, it’s a holiday to celebrate connections with Them, instead. I plan to do a simple solitary ritual on Oíche Bealtaine (May-Eve), and give offerings to a Local Fairy Queen who is an ally of mine. I call her the Rosegay Queen, since she seems to be associated with wild roses. I’ll also be paying my respects to the royal couple she has claimed descent from, Úna and Fionnbharr. To that end, I have some mead, and I’m thinking about making some of the Fairy Cakes Morgan Daimler learned to make in a dream. Perhaps I’ll top them with hawthorn jelly (it is SO GOOD), and maybe I’ll get some rose flavored tea or floral lemonade.

I was hoping to buy a young hawthorn tree this spring, but was warned not to because of the 17 year cicadas, which are due any day now. (Apparently they can stress and kill young shrubs!) So my May Bush this year is probably the rhododendron out front again – but I suppose that’s in keeping with the rose theme, as another name for those is the rosebay!

I’m still planning the menu for the family dinner, which usually is the bulk of the household observation of holidays. I tend to stick to dishes with ingredients that are in season locally. I have in the past made a strawberry-filled salad, but I think the strawberries are going to be a little later this year. The wild violets are coming up, though, and those are edible! I may do a side salad with violets and a quiche with local eggs, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. My herbs are all regreening in the bed out front, and I should have plenty. Maybe I’ll use some of the baby green onions, too – those will need thinning soon!

After dinner we’ll probably have a fire in the pit outside, and do a short round of offerings and prayer, like my household does for most holidays. My kiddo really likes to watch the fires, and even though he’s not really clear on what’s going on yet, he’s keen to be involved! As he gets older, he’ll understand more and can decide how much he wants to participate but for the moment he likes to toss things in the fire whenever he’s allowed to!

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll do my solo ritual after the rest of them go to bed, or earlier, at sunset, but I’m leaning towards earlier rather than later. None of the rest of the people in my household really interact with the Fair Folk much. Not on purpose, anyway, though sometimes They follow me home or come in to deliver a message, or some such. I try to keep “office hours” as best I can, but serving a Fairy Queen is a full-time job! Still, there are some perks, and with any luck I’ll be dreaming of celebrations in the Otherworlds on Oíche Bealtaine, as I have sometimes in the past. (And returning home in the morning, Gods willing!)


* Yes, I know this isn’t how a lot of people spell it, but I think it’s important to use the Irish spelling when I’m going to be honoring Irish Fairy Monarchs, and this is the modern Irish spelling. Living culture and all that. See Also: Úna and Fionnbharr, both of which have other Old Irish spellings.

fae, Spiritwork

The Best Place to Meet The Good Neighbors Might Just Be Your Neighborhood

John Beckett wrote an article recently, about how we as pagans and magical workers ought to be paying attention to changes between the worlds, and I enjoyed it, and generally agree. As I think back, more than half of what I’ve done this past year in my spiritual-magical practice was just dealing with Otherworldly situations of one type or another:

  • Establishing and then maintaining relationships with who I refer to as my “Locals”, after I moved in March 2020
  • My regularly-scheduled oracular work, much of which focused on Otherworldly goings-on
  • Discussing Otherworldly turbulence with other practitioners (both local and not)
  • Divination to gain insight into Otherworldly encounters, both mine and others’
  • Helping friends and acquaintances deal with their own Otherworldly encounters
  • Etc.

The other less-than-half consisted mainly of ongoing divination studies, maintaining relationships with my Deities and other Allies, celebrating holidays, and using magic to help problem-solve mundane issues as they cropped up — business as usual in my life. I’ve also done my fair share of gardening and baking from scratch and attempting to entertain a lonely toddler who couldn’t go to the park or the pool during the pandemic, of course! But I think Beckett’s point that we need to be doing more than just mundane prep work, that we need to be monitoring the changes between the worlds is very important.

The article gives a rhetorical question: “So, what do we need to do to pay attention to the changes that are happening in the Otherworld and between the worlds?”, and then goes on to answer that: build foundations, be places you can observe, listen to your senses (including the inner ones), explore by journeying. Anyone who is familiar with Beckett’s writing will be unsurprised to see daily practice listed under foundations, and regular practice is definitely important, but I must admit my own practice is more “every couple of days on average” than strictly “daily”! I’ve never managed to do *anything* every day for longer than three weeks, but I do 3-4 days a week just fine for months at a stretch! So don’t be too disheartened if your practice looks more like mine, but I still generally agree with this point. It’s the second one that made me pause.

The second heading is titled “Put yourself in places to see what’s happening”, and while I agree with the starting premise (“if you want to encounter an Otherworldly person, your odds are much better if you put yourself in a place where they’re more likely to be”), I can’t say the same for the second half. It emphasizes the importance of going to wild places, and ends with the phrase “the wilder the better.”

I disagree.

I don’t think wilder is always better, when it comes to seeking out Otherworldly beings. Most of the Fair Folk I’m in most frequent contact with, I met somewhere nearby, often in one of the local suburban stream valley parks. I live in Northern Virginia, and while a lot of these parks are large and fairly sprawling, my chronic illnesses sometimes make it difficult to go longer distances across more complicated terrain, so I usually stay on or near the path, almost always somewhere I can still hear traffic noise in the background. And yet, I have encounters. Numerous encounters. Most any time I go out with the intention of finding a Local to wherever I am, in my own neighborhood, or in someone else’s (back when we could gather in groups!), I find Someone. Liminal times and places can be helpful, and the paved trails around here are liminal in their own way (as most people are only passing through) but they certainly aren’t very “wild”.

I think part of the reason that I have so many suburban encounters is simply because I, and most of my nearby friends, live in suburbia. That is the environment I am in the most often. In the places I frequent the most, I begin to develop relationships with the land wights and the nature spirits, as a matter of course, and along with that comes the possibility — or perhaps the likelihood — that I will eventually encounter whatever Otherworldly Neighbors also frequent these places. So if I walk out my door with the intention of meeting my Good Neighbors, I usually do. They have already “seen me around”, we already have friends in common, and the foundations for mutual hospitality have already been laid.

If I am somewhere very new to me, like when I travelled to conferences and events (back when those were in person!), I will give offerings and introduce myself to the land and the nearby nature spirits first, before I attempt to introduce myself to the Otherworldly Locals, and while I usually manage to find Them and exchange hospitality, it is in the wilder places that I have gotten the most push-back. Things like token acceptance, but no chit-chat; a sense of knowing that my offering is accepted, but no visions; only the bare minimum politesse. They are more standoffish, and I have fewer common relationships to draw on, especially when the human hosts are unknown to me. If I were looking for a new ally to help me better understand our current turbulence, I wouldn’t do it there. Do you talk to people who live somewhere else about your local weather and local politics, or do you talk to your nearby neighbors? I would think for most of us, it’s the latter, especially if we’re trying to understand the patterns, and not just recounting anecdotes. Your internet friends three timezones away might find your story about April Fool’s Snow interesting, but they don’t have the same kind of local knowledge as someone who’s lived in your town their entire life. When it comes to climate change, I’m interested in the wisdom of local humans. When it comes to the Otherworldly turbulence of Tower Time, I turn to the wisdom of Good Neighbors who’ve been been Local since before I came to this town — and perhaps also since before I was born, or before my grandparents were born, though they probably wouldn’t tell me!

The rest of Beckett’s advice seems good. Learning to develop one’s subtle senses is usually helpful, though I haven’t read Mat Auryn’s book, so I can’t comment on that, specifically. Exploring via journeys is something I’d also recommend, though I would suggest newbies start with Lora O’Brien’s Otherworld Journeys classes over at the Irish Pagan School. The first class is free, and after that there’s a lot of material at the higher levels. It isn’t how I learned to journey, but it does work well as remote learning for practitioners at any level. Experienced folk should be able to easily adapt to her methodology — I did! And the method is also designed specifically for the Irish Otherworlds, and as such, is designed to minimize some of the associated danger. I will still echo Beckett’s next point, though — this isn’t Safe. Exploring the Otherworlds isn’t safe, trucking with spirits isn’t safe, working for Deities isn’t safe, witchcraft isn’t safe. But it’s necessary work.

Likewise, I agree that sharing our stories is vitally important. I’ve been doing more of that, mainly on social media (in FB groups or on others’ posts mostly, and a couple of Discord servers), and in the few groups I was a part of pre-pandemic that I’m still regularly attending Zoom sessions for (which at this point is only the Potomac Ondvegisulur Seidr Guild, as the Fellowship Beyond the Star is somewhat on hiatus currently, though I hope to get back involved with our local UU Pagan group, Fox and Fungi at UU Reston). It helps to compare notes, to figure out what seems to be a larger pattern, and what may be a personal fluke instead. I have put some of it on this blog, and should maybe do more of that in the future, but with how fast everything seems to be changing, and with how deep into UPG Woo Land a lot of my stories are, at the moment I’m more comfortable sharing only the broad strokes of those insights in public, or contributing some details when they align with someone else’s experience. What and when to share, and when to keep silent instead, is a line I’m still figuring out how to walk, and I tend to err on the side of silence. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling like I should share at least the general shape of my interactions with the Fair Folk, and this seemed like a good place to start.


Note: Another thing worth mentioning, though it would have interrupted the stream of my discussion above, is that what most white Americans think of as “wild” or “wilderness” is a colonial construct, especially when the adjectives “pristine” or “untouched” get thrown around.  A lot of these places were carefully and gently tended by indigenous peoples for generations, possibly hundreds or thousands of years, before the settlers showed up and declared them “untamed”.  For more information on this, I suggest researching the importance of fires for maintaining the Great Plains, and the nurturing of berry patches and sugar maple forests in the Eastern Woodlands and Great Lakes regions.

Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism, Spellwork, Spiritwork

Riders on a Baleful Wind, and a Charm to Keep Them at Bay

This time of year, between the autumnal equinox and Samhain, is when I notice the most activity from a loose grouping of spirits I’ve begun to refer to as Riders on a Baleful Wind. I’m referring both to the Wild Hunt ⁠(or, really, Hunts, plural) and also to some of the Fair Folk⁠—trooping fairies who travel near these dates*, and groups like the slua sí, who are also associated with wind or storms, and overlap somewhat with the folkloric Wild Hunt.

As a folklore motif and a mythological archetype, the Wild Hunt is prevalent across much of Northwestern Europe, and the Hunt of each region has its own leader. Often these leaders are Pre-Christian deities associated with war or death, like Odin/Woden and Gwyn Ap Nudd. Other times they’re figures associated with the aos sí, like Manannán Mac Lir, or they’re said to be famous ghosts, like Herne the Hunter. These folk tales came with European Immigrants to the Americas as well, and here the Hunt is sometimes known as the Ghost Riders. (Some of you will be familiar with the song, I imagine.) Besides the leader, who or what exactly the rest of the company is varies from tale to tale. Sometimes they are human dead, sometimes they’re said to be fairies or demons, but most frequently these groups seem to be something of a motley crew. The overlapping circles of the Fair Folk, the Gods, and the Dead are difficult to pick apart, and it’s especially difficult to draw any clear lines when we’re looking at the Wild Hunt and related groups of weather-riding unfriendly otherworldly beings.

Unfriendly and intimidating though they may seem, not all of them are actually malevolent. That’s why I term them “baleful”, not “baneful”, and each individual group poses a different type and level of danger. Malevolent or not, however, they’re generally not spirits most witches want in or around their homes or places of business, and with that in mind I’ve been working on a charm object to add a little additional protection to whatever wards you already have in place.

Warding Charm

The charm itself is fairly small and would easily blend into an autumn wreath. The ingredients are pretty simple as well: a sweetgum ball, some red yarn, and iron water.

SWEETGUM BALL: One per charm, dried, preferably with the stem attached.

Part of the work I’ve been doing with the Ogham for the past two years (or more, really, but I think it was two years ago that I really started diving in deeply in a structured way) is finding local plants that have similar energy to the plants of the tree ogham list.** Sweetgum, a tree indigenous to my area, has an energy that I think is similar in some important ways to Blackthorn. While it doesn’t have thorns, it does have spiky seed balls, and its sweet-scented sap, like blackthorn sloes, is actually very bitter tasting. Additionally, it’s a favored food of luna moth caterpillars, an insect I have long associated with nocturnal fairy beings. Blackthorn is sometimes said to belong to or to ward off the Othercrowd, and I find Sweetgum fits that niche as well. I have since learned that sweetgum balls are also used in hoodoo for protection, which dovetails nicely with both my experience of the tree, and this charm.

RED YARN: Or thread, I suppose. Enough to wrap around the sweetgum ball twice at perpendicular intersections, and tie off to leave tails for hanging.

I decided to spin my own yarn. I’ve wanted to learn to spin for a long time, but until recently thought I was allergic to wool. It turns out, I’m probably reacting to a chemical used in the commercial processing, because I did a test with a friend’s fleece-to-homespun and had no redness, no itching, no bumps, no hives! Excited, I borrowed a drop spindle and purchased some red-dyed roving from an artisan supplier. They included a sample of some other colors and I used that to figure out a technique for spinning. That way, once I started on the red roving, I could focus more on spinning my intent and my power into the yarn, instead of still figuring out what the heck I was doing. If you don’t spin, I recommend braiding embroidery floss as a good alternative for adding your intent and power to the string. Something like: I’m a badass witch and I protect this space; I decide who enters and who the wards keep out.

Iron Water: Soak some nails in water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar for a few days. When it’s ready, dip the sweetgum ball, yarn and all, into the water and let it get saturated.

I doubt I need to tell most of my readers that iron is known to ward off the Fair Folk, but just in case you need the refresher: that’s why we’re using iron water. You could also stick those very nails into this charm if you wanted, but that’s a bit stronger than I wanted for my personal charms, and it would be a little too strong for some allies I don’t want to keep out. I wanted something vaguely iron scented. Enough iron to say that I know what I’m about, but not enough iron to deeply offend those who are welcome across my threshold.

This is also probably a good time to tell you that this charm, as I’ve made it, is basically a “No Tresspassing” sign. It’s not going to do much good if it’s your only line of defense. If you have decent house wards, though, and gods or allies you can turn to in times of need, that sign will be enough to make those Riders more inclined to go around, rather than through. There are fewer obstacles elsewhere, and easier prey to be found. As with most predators, that’s usually enough, as long as you don’t provoke them.

* Though the ones who travel near the autumnal equinox may be following the Pleiades, not the equinox. See Morgan Daimler’s recent writings on that for more information.

** Nota Bene: The Ogham is an alphabet, and it’s not just about trees. Trees are one of the ogham lists. There’s also word ogham, skill ogham, bird ogham, even dog and waterway ogham. Eventually I’ll make my own local herb and bird and waterways lists, too, and maybe a modern skills ogham. But a lot of my general witchy practice includes work with plants, so trees seemed like a good place to start.

fae, Holiday Celebration

Our Midsummer, and Working Intuitively

Midsummer, for us, is a celebration of Manannan and Fand. Last year we got down to the waterfront, but this year we stayed closer to home. We made a simple offering of an apple, some cheese (we were having grilled cheese for dinner), a fruity summer alcohol, and their candle, placed on our table and lit.

After dinner, we went to our plot in the community garden a few blocks away, where I *finally* got the weeding done (we’d had an explosion of something I didn’t manage to identify earlier), and did a bit of gathering. I brought home this mugwort and lavender to dry, along with a few other herbs, all harvested with a ceramic knife.

This is also an important time for the Fair Folk, and it does seem that whatever carnival shenanigans were going on earlier this summer are now over, and I’m a bit relieved.

I’m not exactly sure why I needed to harvest these herbs on Midsummer’s Day as the day waned, or what exactly I’m meant to do with them, but the ingredients seem to be a dreamwork blend of some sort, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I got a nudge, and I followed it. Story of my life, really. I do most of my witchcraft by intuition, trusting that I’ll figure it out as I learn by doing. Sometimes it all becomes clear later, when someone pops into my life, desperately needing something I made months earlier and then stashed in a cabinet!

fae, Spiritwork

Faery Weather Report: Beltaine

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but last night I was meeting with some of my local witches, working on a small-but-growing pagan community at our local UU church, and as the conversation drifted, one of them asked if things had been weird for others, as it seemed to them that there’d been an uptick in spirit activity, especially of the chaotic and dangerous sort. Others agreed, and though I hadn’t really noticed a change, my daily life is mostly lived inside my own wards, and wherever else I go I can’t help but notice a flurry of spirit activity unless I specifically shield it out. For better or for worse, my particular brand of Senses mean that I very rarely experience the Veil the way I usually hear others talk about it. So I took a moment to check in with my local allies among the Fair Folk, and the response was swift and somewhat amused at my lack of awareness.

I was told that, yes, the Borders were Open. Fae were riding and rioting like they normally do at Beltaine, only it had begun with the first sliver of crescent moon in April (approximately the 7th), and it would continue until the very last crescent was lost to darkness in June (approximately the 2nd)… or perhaps beyond. Topsy Turvy time was upon us, and Lawlessness, and all things were allowed during the extended carnival.

While that might sound fun, for humans it is Bad News. Capricious at the best of times, fae unrestrained by anything resembling rules of engagement are incredibly unpredictable. And unpredictable could mean anything from general bad luck and milk souring to getting distracted at the wrong moment and dying in a freak accident. In my experience, that’s one of their favorite ways to steal children and pregnant people in our modern world: accidental deaths.

So: shield yourself, your family. Ward your home, your vehicle, your place of business. Get some iron and rowan. Look to folklore. Be careful out there.

I do not know how far afield this warning stays true, but it applies at the very least to the Potomac River watershed, and I have corroboration from a colleague in Baltimore that it’s true up there as well. So likely for most of DelMarVa, DC, parts of PA and WV. I would not be surprised if it’s more global than that but I have no evidence one way or the other. If you have contacts among the Fair Folk local to you, I suggest you check in with them. (It’s good praxis anyway, to check on anything a fellow witch tells you, yes? Yes.) At the very least check in with your guides or do a bit of divination, to get specifics on how things may affect you.

I’ll be camping for Beltaine next weekend so I will not be available after the 2nd, but before then I’m happy to answer questions or offer advice. I’m not the only one who does this work, though – chances are you already know someone. Ask around.

If you’ll be at Fertile Ground Gathering in Triangle, VA, however, I’ll see you there on Friday and Saturday!

Spiritwork

A Call to Action

I want you to know that I hesitated to write this blog, Dear Reader.  I want you to know that I have been struggling with it all afternoon and have been turning it around and around in circles in my head because I was afraid of what you might think.  Afraid you might think I’m writing this for the fame, for the drama, because I’m paranoid, because I think I’m the ultimate witch.  But no.  I wouldn’t have written this at all if I hadn’t been called the fuck out by a deck of cards I used to ask Na Morrigna for clarification.  “What should I do?” I asked.  Do I really need to tell others about the working I’ve done?  Do I need to share my UPG?  It’s very, very, deeply, woo.  I had hoped the answer would be No, that They would tell me I’d done enough in bringing the situation to the attention of a few key groups and networks.  But, alas.  “You agreed to be our Priestess.” They said.  “You agreed to help organize the Warriors.” They said.  “So DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.”  I didn’t argue.  I wrote the blog. Here it is.

Today, I got a news alert from NPR.  That is not unusual.  The news alert said that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had missed a day of arguments.  That is unusual.  Very unusual.  It has never happened before in her entire career.  I immediately had a Bad Feeling, and while I initially thought it was a bad feeling of the usual sort, it remained seared into my brain until I had a quiet moment to check in with my gods and guides and as soon as I was paying attention, they roared DO SOMETHING.  This was not a normal feeling, this was not a normal occurrence – something beyond the mundane had happened.  So, as is my usual inclination, I first sought more information.  I did not have much time just then, so my first dive into trance was shallow, only enough to touch base a little deeper with my allies.  The message they had for me was fairly clear, though: banework had been thrown, likely by a group as a concerted effort, and not only at RBG, but also at Sotomayor and several members of Congress, particularly concentrating on a few newly-elected progressive women of color.  Na Morrigna were also waiting for me, and their message was brief: Activate your Networks.

So, I began to spread the message.  I posted the news article and suggestions or requests for curse-breaking, healing, and protective magical workings, in several different places.  Practice and study groups on facebook, on my witchy tumblrs, even a few private messages.  I kept it close to home, so to speak, within circles where people already know me, and are already more or less familiar with who I am and the work I do.  Some people responded back, and one in particular launched immediately into their own investigation and working, and then discussed with me at length the messages they were receiving – many of which confirmed my own.

My own working had to wait until I had enough time to focus, which did not occur until my toddler went down for a nap. (Ah yes, the joys of stay-at-home parenthood.)  I began with almost a dozen candles to various deities and spirits, including DC land spirits, the Potomac River, my ancestors, and the ancestors of those targeted, with pleas for help and aid.  I’m a devotional polytheist, and that’s where I usually begin.  Bast and Sekhmet as Eyes of Ra.  Be Chuille and Dinand, the sorceresses of the Tuatha De Danann.  The three Morrigna.  Apollo.  Athena Columbia, Elutheria, Dike, Nike.  I pledged, I pleaded, I offered, I cried.

And then I made myself comfortable on my couch, I set up my meditation music, and crossed into the Otherworlds.  I began, as I usually do, in the Waystation, my home in the Otherworlds.  There is a shrine in that space, a sanctuary in the middle of a sanctuary, where the being I call StarFlower, the Fairy Queen to whom I am bound, does workings Over There.  She joined her powers to what I had begun, and replicated the candles I lit to increase the strength of their call.  She also created protection spell candles for those most severely affected by the baneworking, and stuck them in her eternal flame, to keep them ever-burning until such a time as they are no longer necessary.

Then, we spoke to her mother, Be Chuille, and asked what she could do.  As we have done before on a smaller scale, Be Chuille used my body – my human, incarnated body – as an anchor in time and space, to help Her move more easily to where work needed to be done.  And then move She did: bindings and banework turned to vines in Her hand and then withered, died, and became the damp detritus of the forest floor.  This fed the land spirits, who rose to Her call and ate away larger vines wrapped around buildings, and I came to understand how it had been cast.  The casters knew where the targets would be (the Supreme Court, the Capitol Building) and cast it there to wait to ensnare the targets when they came by.  But I watched Be Chuille remove vines from children, spouses, family members, and supporters as well as representatives – the traps had been set wide and imprecise.  (I wondered, then, if that was a side effect of people casting magic with prayer and intent but without the full knowledge of what they are doing.)  There were so many baneful ropes, though, and Be Chuille was more focused on removing them from those who had not been directly targeted.

Dinand arrived, then, speaking to the spirit I know as the Lady of the Potomac River, a land spirit I consider to be a local goddess. They discussed the need for a storm, for precipitation to help wash the leftover energy away, and to dissolve any that remained after being removed.  When I was back to myself later, I shared that with a fellow practitioner who has a close relationship with Gwyn Ap Nudd and His Wild Hunt, especially as they relate to storms, and they agreed to talk to Him.  I was told that Gwyn agreed there was a need for a cleansing storm, and He reiterated a need for human practitioners to do work alongside His own, to tip the balance.

StarFlower collected me again then, and she began working more deeply on RBG, Sotomayor, Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Kyrsten Sinema, and perhaps others.  I assisted as she disentangled banework from blessing, and drew the banework out, allowing the blessings to move closer to their skin.  She snipped the fine threads of banework – my brain supplied the visualization of a scissors – working methodically until she had removed as much as she could easily find.  I got the sense that time was distorted – as long as human practitioners do their work in the next few days, we will all be working side-by-side, at the same “time” and in the same “place”.  As she worked she began to shine more and more brightly, until she finished and then blossomed into the star that is the reason for the use-name I know her by.  What stars do is their own business, but it seemed she was still working on cleansing, just on a grander scale.  Dispelling the Glamours Gwendolyn Reece discusses, perhaps.  Things distorted beyond my ability to easily recount what I witnessed before she returned to her more normal size and shape.

After that I was handed over to Na Morrigna, as has lately been my position, and They transformed me into one corvid in a flock, swirling in the air, towards I knew not what, at first.  When we arrived, however, it became more clear.  I saw something that had a humanoid shape and glowed uncannily, and yet seemed not to be a natural being – it felt more like clockwork, like an android, like a computer program.  I can only imagine it to have been something like an egregore, yet those are somewhat outside my realm of expertise.  Whatever it was, however, it is no more.  Na Morrigna gave a battle cry, and we all descended upon it.  Corvids, carrion birds, and birds of prey clawed and pecked, while wolves and other four-legged creatures tore with claws and teeth, and the thing was destroyed.  Many of the spirit-creatures then ate of the flesh of the thing, which fell into the shape of a horse once mortally wounded.  Once they had their fill, the remaining flesh melted into slimy water, now fertility for the soil.  I returned to the Waystation, and then I returned to myself, on my couch, my head reeling.

Food became necessary, but was not nearly enough to ground me.  My toddler awoke and that helped to focus me some, and when my husband returned home, he assisted more, but I still felt the pull of unfinished business… until I sat down, riffled my cards, and asked the Morrigna if I had done enough, if I really needed to do more.

And the answer to that, of course, is at the top of this post.

Consider this your call to action.  Do what you can, be it curse-breaking, healing, protection, storm-calling, or simply lighting a candle and praying for divine assistance.  If you have a favorite deity of justice or healing, go to them.  If not, ask assistance of the one in your favorite pantheon, or turn to someone I mentioned above.  Do what you can, and do it now.

ancestor work, Event, fae, Paganism, Retreat/Festival/Convention, Spiritwork, Workshop

Hallowed Homecoming 2018

I meant to blog about this right away, but first I was still processing and then Samhain season really hit. It’s still hitting, and I’ll blog about that, soon, but first, here are my impressions of Hallowed Homecoming.

Generally, I liked the event! The workshops were enlightening and inspiring, the rituals small but effective. The staff was amazingly helpful, the food was delicious and filling (and they are SO GOOD with allergies!), and there was enough tea to keep my cup always filled. The parkland was beautiful, and the cabins were spacious. The only bad thing, really, was the weather.

It was cold. Cold and wet, and the cabins didn’t keep out the chill – they barely kept out the drafts. I had a brand new coleman sleeping bag rated to 0°F, and that combined with wearing three layers and a hat to bed made me barely warm enough. The rest of the time, I was fighting numbness in my hands and feet, even with thermal layers beneath my clothes, my good new boots, and gloves. Part of that, of course, is due to my chronic illness: I have poor circulation and difficulty with temperature regulation. The tea helped, and the fire in the main hall helped even more, but with wet firewood making fires in workshop cabins a struggle, I often found myself too cold to be fully immersed.

Our first day opened with registration and unpacking, and then I opted to skip the first workshop (on crafting ancestor altarpieces) in favor of walking the land, as I did at Witches’ Sabbat this past May. I started with my traditional self-introduction with tobacco in the Anishinaabe language, and after that I went wandering in search of the local Courtly Fae.

I was guided down a trail, under a fallen tree, down a fork to the left, across a field, down a hill, counter-clockwise around a holly bush, over another fallen tree, and to a decaying stump covered in bright green moss. Like the small hill in Ontario, this natural landmark was an anchor to a Faery Court, and when I gave an offering (of a delightful elderflower and lemon soda), I perceived a beautiful hall, and in a throne on a dais, a young and exquisitely beautiful Queen. She hadn’t been expecting my visit, but was pleased enough to meet me and accept the offering. I called her Wood Violet, because the flowers were a repeating feature in the decoration of the room and her wardrobe, and her eyes were the same purple. Scott accompanied me on the physical journey, but did not join me in the Hollow Hill.

Byron Ballard was the keynote speaker for the weekend, and that evening we attended her first workshop: Practical Ancestor Work. She began with a line from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”, which is also a favorite of mine. (If you don’t know it, I highly recommend reading it.) My notes are sporadic, because Byron was teaching to a mixed-level group, and I was already familiar with much of her material. I did not know, however, that there is a version of the Wild Hunt in Yorkshire called the Gabble Ratchet that is associated with migrating geese, and is said to collect the souls of the recently departed. Byron also emphasized that there are several different types of ancestors: 1) blood family ancestors, both recent and ancient, 2) adoptive family ancestors, including friends who have passed, 3) the Beloved Dead, who are people from history that you feel a special kinship with, and 4) the Mighty Dead, who are the cultural heros of groups one belongs to, be they ethnic cultures, religious cultures, trades or crafts, or subcultures. A lot of time, people seem to shy away from Ancestor Work because their most recent ancestors were abusive or intolerant of other faiths, but there’s a wide world of the Dead out there, and no rule that says you have to start with the grandmother who hated you. (Although Bryon did also say that sometimes, those toxic relatives get a better perspective once they cross over, and they realize what they’ve done and feel obligated to make things better. Not always, but you might try contacting them and seeing if they’ll help you out occasionally, if speaking to them isn’t likely to trigger too strong of a negative reaction.)

The Opening Ritual was mostly to introduce the Guardians for the weekend, and to establish sacred space. My friend Kate joined them this year, and I felt that we were in safe hands for the work we would do the rest of the weekend.

Kate also led the first workshop I attended on the second day, on Hedgewitchery. Despite some technical difficulties with the fire in the craft cabin (damp wood), she led a pretty lively discussion of traditional witchcraft, her family’s German-American folk magic, and her approaches to hedgecrossing. The last part of the workshop was a guided meditation to speak to an element, and I had a very insightful conversation with the goddess Dinand while standing in a river. I was very glad to finally attend this workshop, since I missed it the last time Kate taught it!

Byron’s workshop on Saturday was one I believe I’d seen before, called the Spirit-Haunted Landscape, but the stories and the way she teaches change every time, so I was happy to listen again.  She talked a bit about human spirits and different kinds of ghosts, and then of land spirits – both the large spirits of place, and the smaller more fae beings associated with plant growth.  The last group she talked about are what I would consider the Gentry, the more powerful among the fae, like Wood Violet, the White Lady, and my own Queen, Starflower.  Her words were as much warning as instruction: do not do the work if you are not called to it, she said, because you will be happier and have a simpler life without Them.  But she believes that, for those of us who are called, we need to heed it, we need to brave the danger, because They can help us heal the world, and we need all the help They can give, even if it means that some of us lose parts of ourselves.  I found myself nodding along with much of what she said, and I wasn’t the only one – at the end, she asked a few of us whom she either already knew or could tell worked with the Gentry and she asked us to share a nugget of wisdom.  Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely, considering the subject matter), I can no longer remember what I said.

After that was my own workshop, an intermediate-level introduction to the three Morrigna, specifically the Daughters of Ernmas. There were about a dozen attendees, and I think it was pretty well received, even though I came dangerously close to info-dumping during my section on the Morrigna’s appearances in lore.  I’ll be sharing the journey prompt in my next Dark Moon Crow Calls blog.

Following my workshop it was dinner time, and then after dinner we were all turned out of the main hall long enough for the staff to set up for the main ritual.  We gathered outside for the main ritual and processed in, finding seats in near-darkness and near-silence.  After what I recognized as a fairly standard Wiccan ritual opening led by Rev. Tristan and Byron Ballard, we were led in a call-response honoring ancestors who had many different types of deaths.  Then a yarn rope that had been woven during an earlier workshop was stretched into a circle around the room, with each participant holding onto it in their non-dominant hand.  We were instructed to give a single word answer to describe wisdom we’d received from our ancestors, and then take the scissors from the ritual leaders and cut a piece of the rope.  My word was “peacemaking”.

On Sunday, Byron opened her workshop by explaining that she’d gone off site last night and had been in contact with the wider world, and expected that most of us had not, as that area of the parkland is a cell signal dead zone.  She painted the Pittsburg tragedy in broad brush strokes, and said some strong words about banding together and fighting bigotry and the importance of interfaith work, before giving us all a moment to process.  I had already begun to feel that we shouldn’t stay all the way to the end of the day, because the cold and damp was beginning to get to me, but after the news I just wanted to get home to my baby.  My baby, who at eight days old, was given a taste of sacramental wine while a rabbi spoke prayers in Hebrew over him.  My little family may be pagan, but we’re Jewish, too.  We still observe some of the traditions of our ancestors, even if our religious views differ.

Once most of us had regained our composure, she began her workshop proper, on the topic of Peasant Magic.  She shared a paraphrasing from Jason Miller, who split magic into two broad categories: temple magic, and field magic.  Peasant magic and folk magic, she explained, was field magic, where you do the work that needs to be done with whatever tools and materials you can scrounge up, be that a bit of lint from your pocket and your own saliva, or an herb you grow in your yard and your good wooden spoon.  She talked a bit more about community, too, about being our own first responders and not relying on bureaucracy when its ways will take too long.  Boom the creek yourselves to stop an oil spill from making it to the river.  Set up networks, where you know who to turn to for each crisis, be it one of waterways, immigrants in crisis, or a house fire.  No one can devote time to every worthy cause, she reminded us, to it’s best to pick 3, and devote as much time and effort as you can to those three, and trust that your neighbors will cover the rest.  You can support them in solidarity when they need your help, and they will support you back, even if it’s something as simple as buying a box of candles for a vigil.  Mundane actions and magical workings work best in unison, she said – one without the other isn’t as effective.  But if you try a spell and it doesn’t work, and then you try it more carefully and harder and it doesn’t work, and then one more time while pulling out all the stops and invoking all your gods and it still doesn’t work, you need to stop.  She calls it “1,2,3, Brick Wall”.  After the third time, you’re being told that the work is not for you to do, and your need to accept that.  She told a poignant story about the fires near her home a few years ago, to illustrate the point, and ended with the wisdom that what seems like a disaster may contain within it new growth; some seeds are only opened by fire.  That resonated with me, especially considering the messages I’ve been getting from the Morrigna and the Eyes of Ra lately.

After the workshop we packed up to leave, and did not stay for the closing ritual.  We said our goodbyes, and exchanged contact information with a few new friends.  Some people asked if we’d come again, and I wanted to say yes, but I could already feel how much strength the weather had sapped from me, and the insight of the chronically ill told me I’d be spending days recovering.  So I don’t know.  I enjoyed the event.  I’d love to see the space again; I’d like to return in the spring to see Wood Violet in her time of power.  But I’m not sure if three days of damp and cold was wise.  I may need to look into staying somewhere off site, somewhere warm and dry, but then the expense may be more than our budget can stretch to cover.  We shall see.

Event, Spiritwork

Witches’ Sabbat: Meeting the White Lady

I have been trying to write this for more than a month, now, but every time I do, I hesitate. I am uncertain how much of the story is truly mine to tell. Today I am trying something new: I have asked the White Lady herself to join me, to watch what I write over my shoulder, and to tell me when things must be struck from the record. So here is the story, somewhat abridged. But first, a warning: be careful, witches, when you consort with the Fair Folk, for you may have wondrous experiences, yet be unable to tell the full story to another living soul.

This is the story of how I came to meet one of the Gentry in the woods in Canada, this past Memorial Day Weekend. As I have said in previous blogs, I was there attending The Witches Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll, near Ottawa. Our weekend centered on fairylore, especially Fairy Queens and the Wild Hunt, and as part of my personal work, I wished to meet the Locals, whoever would consent to meet me. To that end, I spent a free part of an afternoon wandering the area, looking for a sign.

Near the Birch Grove, I saw two mourning doves, who turned to look at me, and a chill went down my spine. I knew, somehow, that these were my heralds, come to lead me to the place I was seeking. And so I followed them, as they flew always a small way ahead of me, in a large anti-clockwise circle, and then they cooed at me and flew together over a clearing ahead of me, and then into the treetops and were gone. I entered the clearing, uncertain of what the next step would be, when I saw in front of me, dead in the center of the clearing, a bright blue damselfly sunning itself on a rock. I approached it, and it, too, flew in a circle, clockwise this time, before stopping almost exactly where it was before. It seemed to be waiting, so I poured a tiny bit of the mead I had brought as an offering, and when I got up from doing so, I noticed a trail leading out of the clearing. I walked in that direction, and it did not continue very far, but as it was disappearing, I came across a small hillock of some variety, and there perched on it was yet another damselfly, this one dark blue, and the hillock was surrounded by blooming wild strawberry vines.

On that hillock, I poured out the mead I had brought, and I sat and let my awareness open. While I sat there, I became aware that I needed to uncover my head, and that more than the mead was required in offering – whoever had agreed to meet me wanted a blood offering. I might have refused, but as I was suddenly swarmed by mosquitoes (who just as suddenly left), it was not a negotiable point. Blood was given. A clay-colored sparrow buzzed loudly. And I was allowed to See. My vision shifted, another scene began to overlay the hillock in the afternoon sun, and I slowly found myself in journey space.

I was standing, dressed in formal clothing in a wooden building, some type of outpost hall. In front of me stood two beings, drinking glasses of the mead I had poured out earlier. At first, they were both somewhat shrouded from me, cloaked in glamours, until I introduced myself and explained my purpose. A second call from the sparrow signaled an understanding and acceptance, and the glamours dropped from the being closest to me. Revealed, now, I could see she was tall, and very pale, with a sharpness to her features that spoke both of her otherworldliness and her viciousness. Her hair was long, straight, and white-blonde, and her clothing was also white, and seemed to glow. Describing it now, the words sound like Galadriel, but no. Her postures were active, dynamic, almost predatory, and certainly powerfully confident – nothing like the serene and benevolent Lady of Lothlorien. She was cold, not golden, and her white was more like the white of birch trees and of snow, though it did not seem to me that she had a seasonal alignment, like some others I have met. She told me something I did not understand, in response to my attempting to mentally categorize her, and when my confusion showed, she laughed and told me to attend Erik Lacharity’s workshop on French Canadian fairylore. Later, I learned that the almost-Scandinavian vibe I had been trying to categorize was partially right – whatever type of being she was, she hailed from Normandy (either originally or by heritage), and others like her were known in the lore of immigrants from Normandy that had settled in the area.

The other figure, still shrouded from me, was her consort, as I began to understand. The White Lady did not wish outsiders to look upon her consort, in order to keep the consort safe. I cannot give any defining characteristics of this being, save that the consort is part of the reason for the long version of the name of Raven’s Knoll campground. Having met and introduced myself to the White Lady, and learned what I could of her, I then asked if I was free to take my leave. The sparrow called once more in response, and I rose to go, leaving for my campsite taking a more direct route than I had when arriving.

On Saturday, during a break, I went down to the river to talk to the Lady Bonnechere, whom we had selected as our Fairy Queen for the ritual, and I spent a few minutes talking with both her and the White Lady. It seemed that the White Lady was a client of the River, the sovereign of a small territory beneath the Bonnechere’s domain. I attempted to share our plans for the ritual, for approval, and was given some insight that I took back to the group.

During the ritual itself that night, I spent much of the time talking to the White Lady as we walked anti-clockwise around the fire, telling her of my personal practice, painting a picture of my local community in large brush strokes, and other such things. I am certain there is much of that conversation I have forgotten, but the feeling of the conversation will stay with me. I do think I have made a new but lasting contact among the Gentry, and I find that even here, hours by car to the south of where I met her, I can still feel her presence when I wish to communicate with her. I am glad to have met her.