My new book–no, it’s still unfinished–is called Asfidity and Madstones. I haven’t had any luck in finding old-fashioned asfidity until the really kind people at the Raven and Crone witchery shop found some at one of their sources and ordered it. It’s dear at $100/pound but nothing works like it and certainly nothing smells like if. When Lisa contacted me to tell me my special order was in, she wrote “It smells like ass.”
I’m going to do traditional Appalachian asfidity bags, some out of flour sacks and some out of red flannel.
Here it is. I wish you could smell it. But you might do well to be happy that you can’t.
The herb conference ended today and I had a sweet time, as I thought I would. My public work was concluded Saturday morning so I had the rest of the day to attend classes and visit with friends.
The Willendorf class on Friday was well-attended, for which I am very grateful, and the discussion during and after was lively and gratifying. I’ve adapted it to cover people who are not embracing Willendorf–the round and lovely–but to include anyone who has body issues that stifle and torment them.
It was especially fun when we did the guided meditation and I invited them to stretch out on the soft grass and so many of them did that there was no room to walk.
The advantage of presenting in successive years at a conference like this is that women who have attended classes in previous years come up to tell you how they remember a presentation or how it touched their lives for months afterwards. How blessed to know when words and ideas continue to work their magic long after they’ve been spoken.
After my class, I attended one on death midwifery and the teacher was quite good.
Friday evening, after I had set up the altar/meditation space and unpacked, I got a tempeh wrap from the food truck and sat on the balcony, watching the dancing, drumming and singing around the fire. I had warned my roommate–whom I knew!–that I would probably go to bed early and she shouldn’t fret about making noise coming in.
I did, and slept very well indeed. Which was good because Saturday was a very full day.
Just checked in at the SEWWC (aka the Herb Conference) and plopped my wee suitcase on my wee bed. This year the teacher housing is in the only remaining building from the site’s Black Mountain College days and the accommodations are luxe. I am sharing a room with another teacher and there’s a bathroom just down the hall. The view from the porches is incredible and I will post pictures as I can.
I’m doing the Embracing Willendorf workshop and facilitating a talking circle the following day on Body Love.
Doesn’t that sound fun?
We had a very grounding Full Moon ritual tonight at Mother Grove, led by Sabra. We did some deep grounding and a guided meditation that included a song-in-your-mind. For some reason, my song was “Ode to Joy,” in German. I went into quite a reverie with it, drifting back to my German major days in undergrad. Sehr gut.
When we locked up and came outside to our cars, the Moon was rising above the trees to the east of our building and we stood there and allowed ourselves to be amazed by its beauty, even through the film of cloud that covered its face. Or Her face, which I prefer using. She seems so holy, so divine–how can I not refer to this homely satellite as She?
We also noted a light ring around the Moon, which usually means a change in the weather. But the “Blood Moon” wasn’t bloody tonight, not even tinged in pink. Cool and stately, untouchable but fiercely beloved.
Tomorrow I head out to the Southeast Wise Women’s Conference at Camp Rockmont. It’s the 10th year, I think, and I’ve gone for many of those years. I’ve only been teaching for the last few though and I like being a teacher there. The classes are all juicy and I love being part of that. This year there will be more than a thousand women on camp and that much female power is palpable. For the first time, the teachers are staying in the only building left from its old Black Mountain College days and I’ll be very curious to see how that feels.
I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do from their because the internet is patchy. But I’ll try to report back next week about the experience.
As if October isn’t the most fraught and scintillating of months, here comes a “Blood Moon” and an eclipse.
Like most people of my spiritual persuasion, I do much of my work in conjunction with the phases of the Moon, as well as its zodiacal position. Moon in Scorpio? Yes, please. Moon in Libra, I want to stay in bed with the covers over my head.
Waxing Moon energy is luscious, as it is tonight. Rippling with elegant intention, it is a time to do creative and potent workings. This Moon has been quite beneficial in relationship weaving and I am terribly grateful for that and for the calm and easy way the energy can be used.
Of course, that may be the tai chi talking. I had a class last night and another this morning.
Most people complain that they can’t sleep during the Full Moon but I always sleep well, especially with the moonshine on my face. I can never sleep during the Dark Moon, or even the New Moon. Too much sharp and anxious energy for my tastes.
I am going to bed early tonight though so that I can rise early and see what I can see in the western sky.
We do talk a lot about the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead and the Long Dead this time of year. i talked with a friend yesterday who had put up her family Ancestor altar, readying herself and her clan for the season’s commemorations. My Ancestor altar stays up year round because part of my root work involves direct work with those spirits so it’s hardly worthwhile to ever take it down.
It does make it a little tricky to use the “good” silver because the altar rests on top of its sturdy wooden box. It is an excellent excuse to never polish it, though. Win-win.
In my morning meditation today, I thought about the idea of a veil between the worlds of matter and spirit. It’s something we Pagans talk of–that there are two hinges in the year, one at Samhain and one at Beltane–and we’ve mostly been thinking lately that the veil is terribly thin these days and has been for several years.
Part of our Ancestor Vigil (which takes place on 10/23 this year) is chanting to open the veil and let our Ancestors pass through. Many years ago we did that Vigil in a public park and I was astonished and delighted when the chant culminated in an iron-clanging crash from the nearby rail yard. This morning, though, I thought about doors and doorways, riffing on liminal time as I sipped my tea and watched the candles flicker. What if there is a doorway into the Summerlands, into Tir Nan Og. In my mind, of course, it is a big oaken jobbie with suitably gnarly hinges and knob. And then I got in the car and turned on the radio to hear the song “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
I laughed and laughed, imagining our Ancestors loading baskets with their well-wishes and good advice, then travelling along a pretty pathway to find themselves at a heavy wooden door, where they must knock loudly to get our attention. And when they do, we cross over a little bridge with a lantern and we go along to the door, to let them in and welcome them home.
Which made me think of that song Lorrena McKennitt does– “All Souls Night”–
I can see lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All… All Souls Night.
All Souls night.
Thomas Wolfe is a native son and I have some odd family connections to him and to his family. His birthday was Friday and I Wolfe-bombed Facebook with many of my favorite quotes. My favorite book of his is Of Time and The River, possibly because I love the river so much.
His relationship to his hometown was complicated and difficult, but in the end he came back here to be buried in Riverside Cemetery. The house he loved here was ripped down years ago and the boardinghouse he despised is now the official Thomas Wolfe historic site, courtesy of the State of NC.
So I’ve pondered Wolfe and his mother this weekend. His mother was part of a locally prominent family and was a woman entrepreneur at a time that few women did that. She was despised by him and her husband, mocked in his most well-known novel Look Homeward Angel. We named a pocket garden after her earlier this year and I honor and respect her. The garden is the Julia Westall Wolfe Peace Garden. It’s downtown, across from the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.
That’s all, really. Thinking about writing and fame and being very tall and disrespecting your mother. I did make apple jelly today, though. A little sweetness added to this reverie of October times.
Here She comes again.
Looking like the twisted pages of a paperback trash novel.
Yellow and sharp but still some crumbly, too.
Bone Sister rides a nice car. One of those sleek and silver Lexus things
With black leather seats.
The turn signals work good
But She don’t use them.
She don’t like people knowing which way
She plans to head next.
Her own way, that is for sure no lie.
Bone Sister wears a nice coat. A long black leather one.
She got it at the fine thrift store downtown.
And it fits good.
But She don’t button it.
She likes to feel the sharp wind on Her ribs
And the way the sides flap behind Her
As She goes.
Her own way, that is for sure no lie.
In the hill country,
In the hard country,
We call Her Bone Sister.
We call Her White Mamaw.
We call Her Plumb-Killt Woman.
We call Her.
But She don’t come
Til She wants to.
The radio weatherfolk reckoned on rain–and storms!–for tonight. But we reckoned our small ceremony for the forgotten Dead could weather a bit of a storm, if need be. We were rewarded with a sunset that stole our attention, and pieces of our souls, I think. We gazed into the West, into a cloud-banked highway directly to Tir Nan Og, as we set up the little table with its candles and blue marbles and triple-headed angel.
We chose Aston Park because of its history and the sense of deep peace that seems to be part of the hilltop and the big central tree. It has been the site for Earth Day rituals and weddings and funerals..and the occasional smooch and cuddle.
There was a circle of people who stood around the table. And we lit candles and honored the lost and forgotten and alone. We sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and stood as a community of caring folk, and sad folk and grieving folk. The sky darkened, blue changing to pink and orange and finally grey and black. We could see the small lights from houses on the hills in the West.
We sang and spoke and stood in our hearts at a bridge into the West, holding those little lights, waiting to welcome them home. And we did. And we hugged each other. And we left the hilltop to its memories and its ghosts.
The season we call Samhain blazed a trail with us tonight, down the path, over the bridge, and home. Into the West.
I began the day with a meeting in the morning and am ending it at the altar, praying for mercy, for justice, for patience. It was a long day and there was much listening in it. Listening and hearing, which are not the same thing as it turns out. Listening you do with your ears but I think hearing really happens in your mind and in your gut and in your heart.
The Samhain season is all about listening to the Ancestors and those other voices that wiggle into our ears from the soft winds of change that enfold us. But how much do any of us hear what those voices are there to teach us? How often do we have to hear the stories of our great-grandmas before we take in what the meaning is? They are telling us about the lives they led and the troubles they encountered and were broken by and then rose above. I take food from my fridge and I don’t give a thought to the woman who lived in the house where I grew up–before we were there, of course–and how she went into a man-made cave behind the house, into a cool root cellar where she took out the food she had grown and canned and would now cook.
Do I remember that when I’m complaining about yet another meeting? No. Do I remember how hard their lives were? Not always. But I always remember how hard my early life was–I wear it like silver bangles on my wrist. But it couldn’t compare to the Ancestor who left South Carolina during the Civil War and made her way into Haywood county–a widow in wartime, heading home to her family.
We are living through changes in our state and our country and sometimes the world seems like a drear and violent place in which we have little or no agency. Our Ancestors? Yeah, they didn’t know about that box of abused puppies in California or ebola. They knew how to be neighbors to the people near them. They knew how to live fully in a hard and short life.
And they are right there, at your shoulder, trying to let you know what they know. That life is hard and beautiful and survivable and glorious.
As we dip deeply into our Samhain shadows, let’s wrap all this information into the folds of our complicated lives. And let’s take time to really hear what they are saying. And while we’re at it, maybe we could actually hear what our living families and co-workers and neighbors are going through, too.