Bejeweled and Bedizened

 you can see the beads from last year in this pic


My grandmother–my mother’s mother–was a great wearer of costume jewelry. She had dozens of pairs of clip-on earrings–earbobs–and many had glorious great necklaces to match.

She worked in retail for many years, starting out in a local hardware store and finishing her working life at an Eckerd’s Drug Store where she specialized in the tobacco and photography departments. She was always beautifully turned-out from the top of her bobbie-pin curled head to the tips of her high-heeled shoes.

One year i wore a different pair of her earbobs every day throughout the month of October. Every time I chose the Pair of the Day, it reminded me of her wearing them and I could see her sweet face every time.

As a result of that delightful exercise, one of the reminders I set for myself during this busy, holy time is to wear several elasticized bracelets on my left wrist. This year’s are orange beads but it varies each year. Throughout the month, I share these bracelets with clients and friends who share their own Ancestor work with me. And they always remind me–as I put them on in the morning and wear them throughout the day–to listen to those quiet voices and to recall the stories I know of their lives.

Listening with Intention–an Open Meditation Practice

My ulterior motive in encouraging a meditative practice at this time of year is two-fold. Most of us can use a little extra time being meaningfully contemplative throughout the year and never more so as we process through the end of the agricultural year. (It can also be a life-saver in the frenzy of activity that surrounds the winter holidays.)

Many of us have some sort of notion of Samhaintide as a hinge in the overall year and a time when the veil that separates the worlds of matter and spirit is very thin indeed. As I grow older, I’m unsure if I see this distinct separation between matter and spirit (that may be an essay in and of itself). But it is a convenient way to look at the accessibility of Ancestors at this time of year.

And that’s the second reason for engaging in a meditative practice–to get yourself to a place of listening with intention so that you may hear the voices in the wind, the advice that comes through the dry rustling leaves.

Do you honor your Ancestors? Have an Ancestor altar during the time leading up to Samhain? Or maybe you keep one in your home all year long. In school, years ago, we were told about the Ancestor veneration practiced in Asia. There was a sense that it was some sort of weird practice–cultural rather than religious. Not connected to the Abrahamic faiths that dominated our own Western culture.

And here I am, doing my own Ancestor gig. And that’s what we’ll look at tomorrow. Ancestors are the Reason for the Season.

Roots Down Deep

I am sometimes teased in a gentle way for always going on about grounding and breathing.  My friend Jude would like a photo of me, looking sternly over the tops of my spectacles and pointing to the ground. I write it so often as my status update on Facebook that people must grow tired of my constant carping about it.

Yet, even as I type these words and smile at these memories, I feel my big feet stretching, the heels digging into the carpet below my feet.  I start the process of grounding that I was taught so long ago that it has become second nature to me.  Tiny roots begin to grow from my heels and wend their way through the carpet and the sub-flooring and past the basement and sink at last into the cool moist earth. As they move into the soil, they widen and strengthen, heading into the darkness of the Earth’s rich breast.

I imagine the cares of the day flowing down from my belly and into the strong foundation of the planet I call home. The roots continue on their way as I begin to breathe deeply, each breath filling my lungs all the way to the bottom. Belly full of breath, roots down deep.  If I take a moment to check my pulse, I will feel that it is slow, strong, steady.

If I continue in this meditation, I will begin to feel very relaxed and a little sleepy. Then I will think of finishing this post so that I may have a strong cuppa tea.

This is how I begin my meditative practice.  It isn’t at all complicated.  I bring a cup of hot beverage to my chair.  I light the candle on the altar (or meditation table, if you prefer) and as I sip my tea, I feel the roots stretching out. Breathing deeply, inhaling the fragrance of extra strong PG Tips, I feel my shoulders relax. The flickering light of the little candle is almost merry and I feel myself buoyed by its little light.

Grounded, breathing, relaxed and receptive. 

Daily Practice as Samhain Approaches

As I’m readying myself for this hard and sacred time, I’m reviewing my daily practice and wondering if it is optimum for keeping me focused and open.

Do you have a personal daily practice? Or perhaps I should say a personal spiritual practice–many modern Pagans find it difficult to fit a daily practice into their busy lives.

There are many ways to ground yourself spiritually and face the day with a pocketful of deep connection. When I’m working with students and other seekers, I like to start out pretty simply and let the student layer on parts as it feels right.

I suppose the first step is to set up your home altar. Do you have one? In a few days, I’m going to talk about building an Ancestor altar in your home space. But for now, let’s focus on a table and chair, and creating a quiet place.

You can do a stealth altar, of course, and sometimes you need to do that if you are a renter and closeted. Or if you live with your parents and, again, are in the broom closet. A stealth altar is a table display with a candle, a pretty stone, an incense holder and a vase with water and a flower.

Simple, elegant, elemental.

And you can go all out and create an elemental altar with images of the Divines on it and glorious vases of roses.

You decide what you’d like.

Put a chair nearby. Plan to spend some time in that chair, looking at your personal altar. Will you pray? Maybe you will. Will you sing or write some poetry? You might. But the first thing I’d like you to do–to begin a spiritual practice–is to make a cup of tea or coffee and go sit in your chair.

Drink your drink. Look at the candle. Breathe deeply.

That’s all. Tomorrow we’ll talk about grounding and breathing.

Wasn’t that easy?

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Several years ago, I tweaked the words to a popular harvest hymn. I do that occasionally–using the tunes that so many people grew up singing and giving them a Pagan theme. It was used at yesterday’s Mabon ritual and I enjoyed singing it again.

Here are the words–the tune may be familiar to you.

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
Mother Nature doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to our own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is Her sweet field,
fruit and grain as winter’s shield;
wheat and corn together sown
tall and tended they were grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn did appear;
Blessed Harvest, grant that we
Grateful, joyous people be.

At about the same time, I started putting all the autumn leaves, pumpkins, maize decorations into this harvest home celebration because I wanted to clear the decks for Samhain. Although Samhain is technically a harvest festival in the Wiccan year, I prefer to focus on the aspects of that holy time that are focused on the ancient new year and veneration of the Ancestors and the Dead.

Harvest home is a generous and joyful time of year–brightly-colored, delicious. Our feast yesterday reflected this abundance, this enormous blessing. We wove community around the central altar–filled with Earth goddesses and squash and mums–and sang the harvest song and flew paper airplanes, laced with prayers.

And we also sang the song that is the prelude of the darkest season, the season of the dead.

Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,
All that dies shall be reborn.
Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that falls shall rise again.

Share the wealth of the harvest, friends, as you make ready to treat with the dead.

No Place Like Home

Which is a good thing because I am not going to make it to Kentucky this year. While waiting to hear about the car, I started cleaning my jumbled-up house. I did laundry and folded clothes. I swept and dusted. I put away stuff from workshops I did weeks ago.

That felt good.

I took up the two rugs in the bathroom and washed them. Twice.

At the end of the day I heard that the part had arrived late and the car wouldn’t be ready until sometime tomorrow. So I didn’t leave for Kentucky yesterday or today and won’t tomorrow.


But it means I can attend an important meeting that I wouldn’t have been able to. That’s a good thing. And I worked on my new book yesterday and I kind of know where to go from here.

But I don’t like to let Nanci down–who is the festival organizer–because she is nice and real and gave me this opportunity. And I am sad to not hang out with all those rootworkers.

Everything, they say, happens for a reason. Including this thing. Which in the big scheme of things is not so bad. Just a little sad.

Holding Myself in Patience

As I wrote earlier this week, I am supposed to be travelling to a festival tomorrow. I am mostly packed and have reviewed the notes for the workshops I’m teaching. I have downloaded the driving directions–west on 40, turn right at Nashville–and found my cool chair with the roof.


I found out last week that a couple of local folks who had registered for the fest ages ago had decided against going, but hadn’t told me that. So I was sad about missing out on time with them.

Then on Saturday my car started making a Funny Noise. Didn’t seem to affect the running of it, so I resolved to take it in to my Most Excellent Mechanic on Monday in plenty of time for a fixer-up.

They told me yesterday morning it was the water pump–no worries. But when I went by last evening to pick it up, he shook his head–wasn’t the water pump, wasn’t the belts, wasn’t sure what it was. Check back tomorrow.

Er, today, that is. The day before I’m supposed to head west on 40 and turn right at Nashville. Eeps. So I called my travelling companion to let her know where we stand and she was feeling a little iffy about leaving town. We left it that we would evaluate the situation once I know something about the car and make a decision then.

All of this is to let you know about the uses of magic in situations like this. If we are talking about shaping reality through the use of energy, how does one know what to do in any given situation? Do I push it here and head west? Do I ask that I have clarity on the appropriate outcome to the situation? Do I take this as some sort of omen that it is best to be here, in the heart of my community for this holy day?

So I am holding myself on this fence, leaning neither here nor there and tring not to be anxious and disappointed. I have been saying for many months that the time we are living in is not conducive to our lives being either simple or easy–and that we should all be grateful when something is as simple as you first thought.

Ah, your Village Witch–living the dream!

Anyway, it’s Talk like a Pirate Day, so if you are into that, have a go. Years ago, when we did this at Accent on Books, a friend sadly told me that pirates are real things and they are very dangerous. She sucked the fun right out of playing pirate but I understood that because her lover was a boat guy down in the Florida Keys.

After 9/11, everyone was flying little American flags, sometimes on their cars. I wanted to express my sentiments about how my country moves in the world and I got a small pirate flag and put it on one of those car-window holders.

It was great fun.

Whether the Weather is…

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot, We’ll weather the weather, Whatever the whether, Whether we like it or not”

This was always a nice warm-up when I was acting. This–and “Invictus”–got all the vowels and consonants exercised, stretched out the lips and tongue and got everything ready for clear diction. I thought this was a Gilbert and Sullivan thing but when I looked it up, the author is the prolific Anonymous, who was a woman, according to Virginia Woolf.

We are having some keen weather here in the southern highlands. As I listen near the window, it sounds quiet, gentle, not heavy or threatening at all. The crawl at the bottom of the tv screen warns us of inches of rain here in the next 24 hours.

Creeks rising, basements filling, no chance of getting any more garden work done before I leave for Kentucky.

I’m preparing now–printing out notes for workshops and buying trail mix. I haven’t printed out the driving directions yet but I will. Because I am heading to Kentucky by way of Tennessee and the long black snake that is I-40. I’m packing up some books and stuff to sell but mostly I’m looking forward to talking with and learning from other folks who do what I do. Well, sort of.

I’ll try to do a little more writing here before I leave on Thursday morning and hope to fill you in on what I’ve learned when I get back on Sunday.

Hoodoo Mama hits the road. And, yes, I’m taking this hat.

Too Dry to Plow

Because life is sometimes sweeter than you expect it to be, I had some time in the garden today.

I cleared out two beds in the kitchen garden, necessitating the harvest of a half bushel of mugwort. The soil was so dry–I haven’t watered that garden in several weeks–that I added compost to it, dug it in and then watered the soil.

You might think that watering the soil is a euphemism but one of the secrets of good gardening is that you don’t water plants when the weather is dry. Ideally you keep the soil at its best–moist, fertile, friable–and the soil tends the plants. We tend the soil and the soil takes are of the rest, including taking care of us by supporting the plants that feed us.

The afternoon got cool and a little overcast and I was hopeful for a little rain. That seems unlikely now, so I will go out and water all that lovely fertile soil again this evening and hope it is ready to plant tomorrow.

Becoming the Elders

These last few weeks have brought me face-to-face with the seasonal encounters with the Ancestors (more than seasonal these days, but let that pass). There are offerings in the usual places and the appropriate altars have been refreshed, dusted, rearranged.

As is my habit, I’ve brought out my genealogy research and poked around on-line a bit, adding to my knowledge of where I’ve come from, who I’ve come from.

I’ve been amazed that family members who were born in 1812 were still alive at the very beginning of the 20th century. I’ve grieved over those lamb-bedizened gravestones and the tiny bones that once–still?–lay beneath them.

A cousin barely older than I became an Ancestor last week and my cousin Dena and I went down to be with the family for a few hours. And then I found out something else.

We are becoming the Elders–the keepers of the family stories, for good or ill. We are the ones now who are asked about great-great grands and their lives and times. We have become our mothers and our grandmothers.

Now we will keep, for a time, the little flames of continuity that bind families and kindred together. It seems like such an enormous undertaking to me. I wonder what stories I’ve forgotten, what little dramas will be lost forever if I do not hold them close and share them out.