A Wee Holiday Toolkit

Many of us are leaving our comfy hearths behind us to venture into the houses of kith and kindred, hoping for a slice of pie without too much sturm und drang.

Is that even possible in these chaotic and polarized times?

Maybe.  Maybe with a few guiding principles.  Let’s see if we can create a sensible and helpful list, shall we?


There can be a fair amount of guilt and shame about this. You can be judged for eating too little, for eating too much, for having seconds on mashed potatoes but not on broccoli. You may be bullied into submission by Grandma’s gimlet eye and wagging finger.

Know your limits before you go in.  Are you a low carb-er?  Let ’em know you won’t be eating a basket full of rolls, no matter how delish they are.  You will be exclaiming over the crispness of the turkey skin, helping toss the perfect salad, suggesting brown rice over Uncle Ben’s.

Are you a vegetarian or vegan in a meat eating family?  Vice versa?  Know what you will and won’t eat and don’t be bullied.  Also, don’t be a jerk about it. Take the high ground.


If you do, don’t dull the political conversation by getting drunk. Take a long walk, practice some art or craft, watch parades on tv.

Speaking of which…the world is a terribly complex place right now and you may be spending time with people whose views make you want to vomit. You can argue with them for the whole time you are together or you can let it go.  It will depend on your family dynamic and your level of political engagement, I suspect.

Here are some general tools for your holiday toolkit. Use any that may work for you.

Ground yourself and keep your shields up when you feel triggered.

Take lots of walks.

Insist on continuing your daily meditation/prayer time–however you need to frame that for your family.

Try not to feel you need to jump into every fight you are invited to.  Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Silence, nodding, smiling your mysterious smile.

Know where you are willing to be flexible and where you aren’t. Does it really matter that your cousin thinks vegans are weird?  Probably not.

And the single most important things to carry with you?  Your sense of humor and your big, loving, golden heart.  Practice kindness whenever possible. Practice patience when need be.

Be the kind of guest you’d want at your table and remember you can go home soon.

Be well. Tend your heart. Travel safe.  Eat pie.






Ssshhh. Be quiet.

Also. Also. The mansplaining has got to stop. As we reach deeply into the real meaning of this thing we call Tower Time (which is actually an enormous cultural shift that will smite us all), we are all called to do our work. Sometimes knowing what that work is can be confusing. I get that. But I am sure that privileged men stepping in to carefully explain to women what we already know and doing it in a condescendingly superior fashion–that is not your work. You are not helping. You are not being a helper. You are indulging in more patriarchal malarkey that is damaging your human-being cred. Seriously. Stop it. Do your work and let us do ours.

Britain 2013 224

What is a Witch?

A witch is a woman who cannot be controlled, who has the forces of the universe at her fingertips…that is why you are confused. You think you must bow and scrape and make nice, when that isn’t what’s required of you at all. Not at all. No more forelock-tugging, sisters. No more kneeling on broken glass. We have lit the signal fires, we have saved the scrolls, we are building the temples. Time to ride.

Time to Ride

(A tip o’ the hat to Kate Laity, whose blog post inspired this one. See the original here before you read my pale imitation, if you please.


Star and I are headed North tomorrow, on our way to the beauty, splendor and wonder that is FaerieCon. We’ll be in Hunt Valley, Maryland, living in the lap of luxury.  I’ll be attending both the Good Faery Ball and the Bad Faery one but the real reason I am going is to teach.

Here’s my schedule for the con:

Friday  3:15

Candy Magic

Everyone knows magic can be sweet but do you know any candy spells? Asheville’s Village Witch Byron Ballard has come up with a handful of practical spells all centered around old-fashioned candies. You may have heard of the Marshmallow Hex but did you know there’s also a Reese Cup Power Spell? How about using Necco Wafers for your own nefarious ends?

Saturday  11-1

Sleeping in a Faery-Mound

Do you dream you fly? Do you wake tired in the morning from a full night of active dreamwork? We’ll work with the wild geese—the Gabble-ratchet—as we learn to travel the dreamscape and step out of ordinary time and into the realm of the ancient calendar. The class includes a guided meditation and introduction to trance work and we will discover some herbal allies as sacred smokes and low-alcohol ales.

Saturday  3:30-4:30

Into the Woods, Courting the Fae

It sounds easy enough to meet the Other Crowd, but have you? This class is about the folkloric and practical protocols for walking between the worlds of the Seen and Unseen.

And at 2:15, I am part of a panel of Very Distinguished Folk, pondering the eternal question–Reaching the Next Generation.

I’ll post pictures on Facebook as I can.

Speaking of which, I posted this today and it has been pretty popular:

A witch is a woman who cannot be controlled, who has the forces of the universe at her fingertips…that is why you are confused. You think you must bow and scrape and make nice, when that isn’t what’s required of you at all. Not at all. No more forelock-tugging, sisters. No more kneeling on broken glass. We have lit the signal fires, we have saved the scrolls, we are building the temples. Time to ride.

And, lastly, for this evening, please wander over to my being-revamped website and sign up to get linked to the blog there. I’ll be moving all this onto the site in the next little while so I can consolidate my witchery. So to speak.

Time to ride!

Sitting At an Altar, Somewhere Between Night and Morning

In my personal calendar, this is the last day of the old year. I woke too early for the day ahead, when there can be no nap to refresh me and I need to be sharp, alert, at my best. I’m doing a wedding later today for a family of whom I am very fond and, as you may have heard, it is the last day of the old year.

Last night, I facilitated a short Pagan ritual in honor of the days. We cut the ritual short and started earlier than the announced time because there is an on-going police investigation along the river and we thought it best to leave the area as near dark as possible. That was disappointing–shortening the ritual, making the event smaller than planned–but the ritual went pretty well. We’ve done ritual in that park off and on for many years so it is familiar ground, at a point where two rivers flow northward and away.

(The investigation involves the disappearance of two young women, which may or may not have connections to a murder earlier in the week. Information is sketchy at this point and we don’t know what to think or how to hope. So we wait and listen, and wonder.)

We invoked the Bone Queens and welcomed the new year. Though we had cut it due to time constraints, we added back a sweet spiral dance on the soft and leaf-strewn ground. Round and round in the darkness, chanting

We all come from the Goddess.

And to Her we shall return

Like a drop of rain

Flowing to the ocean.

Round and round, never fast enough for Snap the Whip, but fast enough to feel the energy rise around us and moving past us, flowing to the rivers and up the banksides.  Through us and away, taking bits of us with it, freeing us, clearing us.

It has been a long year, a hard year for many, eye-opening in its lessons, heart-breaking in its revelations.  We stand in this place of too much information and not enough wisdom, grasping to understand the level of change the old world is undergoing.  We try to discern the whys when we can barely grasp the whats.  The “news” is filled with old information, presented in  a new way, as though we had never heard it before. There is a species-wide forgetting, it seems, as we find it difficult to pass information from generation to generation, each group having to deal with the gob-smacking of living that others have been trying to explain for years.

I reckon we all have to feel the knife-edge of the betrayals, the anguish, the loss of innocence, the roiling grief for ourselves but must the basic information be lost and set aside as though it never was?

There is a bit of lightness in the east. “Selected Shorts” is on the radio. The last day of the old year has begun and we are in it, up to our necks.

Let the new year find us strong and worthy, and may the new year bring us some joy with all our confusing lessons, our rare delights, our spotty humanity.

Giving a Talk at UNCA Next Tuesday

It’s called “A Ramble Through Appalachian Folk Magic with Village Witch and UNCA Alumna, Byron Ballard.”

Tuesday, 10/27 at 7PM

I’ll be on campus in Laurel Forum to present my latest research on the origins of these intriguing Appalachian folkways and discuss the second book on folk magic. This event is free and open to the public. The new book “Asfidity and Mad-Stones” will be available for purchase.