Where Did May Go?

It began with the wilds of Beltane, as you know…Kentucky Derby, daughter’s birthday, looming Pagan Unity Festival. And here it is, nearing the end of its lyrical run…June is just around the corner.

In the last several years, time has seemed to move so slowly–life is full and varied, and I’ve been intentional about doing the things that really nourish me. But, holy moly,  this month has zoomed by.

My friend Star and I headed for Nashville a week after Beltane weekend and were at Burns State Park for six days and the aforementioned Pagan Unity Festival.

I taught three classes, participated in an authors’ roundtable, met with the editor of the Wild Hunt and helped with an Ancestor Ritual facilitated by my friend and colleague Priestess Nanci.  In between were visits with friends I don’t see very often and learning from excellent teachers and speakers.

We got home a week ago and the poor dry garden was waiting.  Most of this week has been spent in my home garden, the women’s garden and our new WECAN community garden. Mulching, watering, doing the occasional rain charm (to no avail).

So, I haven’t been blogging much or writing much. I am hopeful that the end of May will see some renewed commitment to finishing up the second Appalachian folk magic book.  I have a very good editor, and a ready-to-go publisher.  We’re really just waiting for Farmer B.

Did I mention I also finished and submitted an 8,000 word essay on mountain folk magic?  So, yeah, I’ve been writing a bit. And I started a new session of my online folk magic class and have a great group of students.

Hope your May has been sassy and your summer bringing you the sweetest fruits.  Because, kindred, it is very nearly June.


and we visited the Parthenon and saw the extraordinary Athena

These Are The Times We Are Made For…no, really

We are all subject to the dramas and disasters that seem to abound in this moment in time.  As always, I ask that you breathe deeply, ground yourself.

There.  Marginally better?  Good.

I have been dispensing my particular–some would say peculiar–brand of calming advice over on Facebook and I’m simply reposting some of it here.

I also ask that you re-read this earlier post, if you feel the need.


Take a deep breath, friends. Ground yourself into the bosom of the Earth. Now, from this place of strength and relative safety, open your heart to those in need of your goodness, your strength. Speak gentle words to those who need them….and kick the asses of those that need that, too.

The world is aswirl with chaos energy right now. We always have choices then but the two obvious ones are ground and hold–or ride the chaos. What we do tends to be determined on how strong we feel at the moment. Going to ground like a little furry critter is always a good option.

With respect and love to my colleagues…the system can’t be overhauled. System has to be uprooted, turfed out, composted so that its rot will feed the new system. We have tinkered around the edges for far too long.

In this time of grief and fear and fury, it has been a comfort to sit with my own past and with the magic of my forebears. Blessed be the Ancestors! May They stand with Their descendants and bring us wisdom, strength, vision.

It is neither the one thing nor the other, friends. Breathe, ground, if you can. You can stand in solidarity while lamenting the burning of the city. You can hold many emotions at the same time or sequentially–fear, fury, grief, longing. You can feel traumatized and triumphant. This is complicated, this time of change and growth. You are free to feel what you need to feel as you sort through the events in our world. And if you are overwhelmed with a desire to help, look at your community and see if there are people who are hungry–because they are there. Look to see if there is land that needs protection–because there is. You can help. You can feel. It’s ok to do both.

In this case–unlike Watts in 65 (?) and Baltimore in 68–we are the seeds that are awakened by fire. It’s up to us to go into the forest that is Baltimore and Ferguson and Pine Ridge and Oceana, and bring the green. What is left when things are cleared away? The people who are dreaming/weaving/scheming these new systems have to be at the tables of Power that will gather now. They/we must demand real change–not over-paid consultants, not political platitudes. Those people are already working in those places and we–from afar–can help them feel their own authority to initiate real change. The people on the ground in all these places have been told to be patient, let the system work, calm down, wait. What is happening now is that the real people who live real lives in these real places have reached the perfect point of despair. Some of us have been there, too–and it would have taken only that rush of clear destructive energy to bring the change. Certainly there are other ways to achieve change–but they are intentionally hobbled by so many things so deeply ingrained in our culture. It is worth it–thinking this through, being articulate. Because it won’t stop in Baltimore, or Ferguson, or NY.

Sometimes what we are doing is kindling past the apathy of culture and life. Sometimes we are lighting signal fires to let the next generation know that we care about the world we are leaving to them. Sometimes fire is light, sometimes it is heat, always–in its wake–there is renewed life. I always take Nature as my teacher and I think about forest fires–the terror, the destruction, and the aftermath of livid green. It is all a cycle, you know. The Great Cycle. Creation/Destruction/Creation.

This is getting lost in the drama of the other thread. So, if you are overwhelmed with a desire to help, look at your community and see if there are people who are hungry–because they are there. Look to see if there is land that needs protection–because there is. You can help. You can feel. It’s ok to do both. Think of your friends and colleagues who have been triggered by recent events–check in with them. Check in with the people who are always strong but now are quiet. Send them your good love and attention.

That’s all for today.  Except this–

Fear not. Fear not


The Morning Hours…and later


a table full of show-and-tell

“No fancy bottles or charmed symbols, just grandma’s grandma’s herbs in left-over jars, ways whispered back when. But they googled her, “witch”, and lost.”  Granny Kate, on Facebook


a quilt at the Smith-McDowell House, Asheville

“The days of young and old came together in a room we all gather. Tales were told, knowledge was shared. We were all amazed at each other. Gossip was shared and fools did follow. But the wise ones did gather and shared the matter. Times were fun with lots of laughs, makes your mind wonder how it was lost.” Robin, also on Facebook

Saturday was a learning day for me–even though I was teaching.  Funny old life.  The group that braved the weather sat on comfy couches and listened very seriously to what I had to say.  I spoke a bit about the roots of Appalachian healing–and healing was my focus for the whole talk.  Then I passed around all the jars and bundles and we talked about what I used each thing for. They were curious, inquisitive, interested.  I encouraged people to get up and help themselves to the luscious potluck feast but most stayed put, their eyes shining.

Here’s the thing–we get told, we mountain folk–that all this old stuff is something to forget, that it doesn’t really work or it’s against our religion/of the Devil or that it’s literally old wives tales.  To see these women (all but one were) hear me talk about the stuff they mostly knew as if it is precious and important–I think that was important to them.  All that old country stuff–it has real value.  We all know that our grandmothers were precious to us and so we remember some of the things they did out of love and loyalty. And to be in a room of people who were sharing information and stories gave us all a kind of validity that isn’t often afforded to country women, except maybe by their families.

I took so much away with me–so much–but this stuck with me and you will hear it again–I am honoring my heritage and sharing the knowledge.  This is our heritage and some of us choose to honor it. If you think this is some Devil stuff from “lost souls,”  you are sadly mistaken and missing out–as my host Granny Kate pointed out in the quote above.  And if you are choosing to give in to what you’ve heard and your fear of it, then you are also choosing to not honor part of your heritage, and your Ancestors.

herb  con 2014 and black walnuts 021

asfidity–you may hate this, actually

Robin said it in the beautifully poetic quote at the top of this post. Old ones, young ones, passing on what is needful and sometimes lovely. Our oral history fades a bit with each death, each new Ancestor.

I choose heritage, not hate. How about you?

I Hear Her Voice


Last night was filled with tales, with good food, with hot tea and a nip of something else. Today began with snow on the ground and more snow to come–though I didn’t know that when I woke at 6:30.

I had planned to sleep until 8 then get ready for this day that has been planned for so long.  I went to check the weather and there was a little skim of snow on the walk, and a bit of snow falling still.  I went back to bed and planned to sleep for another hour but the crows were speaking outside and I always like to listen to what they have to say, even if I don’t always understand it.

The room was warm and the bed soft, so I did a deep meditation and asked the land to show me what I needed to see. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But I am a person with a strong connection to place and it has served me well over my long life.  West Virginia scenes popped into my head–green mountains, water falls, fields of wildflowers, tall trees. Like a PowerPoint presentation from the chamber of commerce.

No, I gently chided, show me what I need to see.  Again with the PowerPoint and so I asked a third time (since the third time is the charm isn’t it?). What do I need to see?

Now the PowerPoint was interrupted with brief sharp flashes of the road into and out of Matewan, with Oceana, with Pie, with the ripped-out hearts of the hills around the interstates, with clear-cuts, with stripmines, with blasted mountains.  Mostly the beautiful, soul-stirring scenes, interspersed with this Something Else, this Other Thing.

The day began in snow and slick roads.  On the way to Debbie’s bountiful breakfast, we were stopped from continuing by a sideways cruiser and a young officer telling us the road was closed for the time being because there was a tractor-and-trailer wreck and then the wrecker that came to help also wrecked.  We came back to our little room and had a light and good breakfast and enjoyed the company of this dear band of West Virginians.

About noon we headed back the way we’d gone in the morning but this time it was sunny and clearing and we went over Orient Hill to get ready for our potluck event.

Painted on the Sky

Came into Rainelle from Beckley about noon and have settled into a pretty b&b. We went into Lewisburg with our hosts and had a good lunch and a walk around town. We settled in for the evening with a livingroomful of people, with a good pie and tales.

If you are ever so lucky as to sit in a comfortable room surrounded by good West Virginia storytellers, you will be lucky indeed. I did my best to keep my ears open wide and my mouth shut–but I did turn on the little digital recorder. Tales of haints and healings, of relatives who still visit though they have passed on. There was laughter and tears and nods of agreement and encouragement as people told their own histories.

There is snow here now, covering the walk, beautifying the world.

What can we do, as people with gifts that should be polished and used, when the culture tells us what we do is “dark” and wrong, and evil? We can ponder our gifts in secret. We can talk amongst the few who share the gifts and understand. We can read books and dream a different life.

Or we can hunker down, dig deeply into the bones of our Ancestors–that are also our own bones. We can touch the heart of the mountains and give them our own hearts.  We can rise up in the face of danger and disbelief.

We can prevail. We who are strong and free, we who are tired and worn. We can bring our love to the places most forsaken.

Let Appalachia rise.


(with thanks to Trish Ciaffone)

A Land of Creek-rock and Sorrow

This trip to West Virginia is opening up all sorts of thoughts in my head.  I posted this over on Facebook a few minutes ago–

Such dreams. I woke feeling I’d worked the night shift. Preparing for this trip and doing all the usual lists. But there’s     something else here that I can’t quite name. A low-grade fear, a creeping dread. Lord, lord, West Virginia–she may be holding the key to all our grief in these old mountains.

NY Friday 004

Wonder what that even means?  But as I read and think and pray about what should be a little trip with a friend to visit friends, a kind of discomfort settles in.  Not the kind that feels like an omen–I do ken the difference in those two. The discomfort, I believe, is wrapped around the actual seeing of the land in West Virginia. Different when you read about it, different when you do ritual around the waters, different from pictures in the newspaper.

Coal country holds some fascination for some of us who aren’t from there. The work itself seems impossible and yet generations of folks have done it with pride and satisfaction. So much pride that the thought of Big Coal isn’t as oppressive as one might think but is near-paternal. And it holds some oddly Southern sense of obligation.  The company gives us jobs, we are loyal.

I understand that. Truly. Loyalty is a heavy part of my own Scots-Irish make-up and for me it needs to be reciprocated. Once loyalty is betrayed, it is a hard road back for me to be in real relationship again. Sometimes that hard road is worth it and sometimes not.

So I am packing up some copies of Staubs and Ditchwater (that little old book) and some snacks for the road, and bringing the two bags of workshop show-and-tell. But I think I’m bringing something else, too. A wonderment, a frisson of fear, a gleam of…possibility.

Let Appalachia rise.


Blair Mountain

I have it in my head to go there, to see where the last great Appalachian uprising (until the water debacle last year) happened.  It didn’t end well, not really. It may be the only place in the US where the government dropped bombs on its own (white) people. I’m researching that and it seems to be so.  I don’t know if the government has dropped bombs on any other folks but here it did, on behalf of mineowners, of corporations.

That was before Citizens United Not Timid and their sleazy Hillary movie that became a case for the Supremes and brought  to light all that we all knew was happening anyway. It was House of Cards America circa 1921 when well-connected bosses talked their “elected officials” into doing the “right thing.”  .

Here’s the Wikipedia entry–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

So, Blair Mountain was declared a protected area under the National Register of Historic Places but several groups–including Massey Energy, imagine that, and the state–contested it because there’s too much coal to be extracted there. And with the efficiency of mountain-top removal, the entire landscape can be forever changed. Erased.  As so much of our history is erased and so often we don’t really care.

History schmistory. This also harkens back to my own West End neighborhood that was screwed out of its approved historic designation by local AVL pols who wanted to make sure they could destroy the place when time comes for the I-26 connector.  The remnants of Chicken Hill were–at that time–destined to be the staging area for the big equipment.  Still are, as far as I know.

I imagine there is some sort of historical marker at Blair Mountain but I’d like to get the feel of the place and how it happened and what really took them to the breaking point.  And that may mean I need to focus my energy in Matewan, on the Tug River.