Vegan Recipes: Marinated Collard Greens

When you invite someone you love over to dinner, it is only fair to try and accommodate their dietary needs and choices, yes? Well, I happen to love intrepid musician and vegan, Lipbone Redding, and preparing him delicious food is one of my favorite ways to show him how much I care about him. He is also a spectacular cook who keeps me fed with healthy, amazing meals all the time, so I decided to take my turn in the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, I took on the challenge to create a feast fit for all the various omnivorous preferences of my family and friends, and I think I came up with some truly delicious and surprising vegan twists on traditional foods that, in my opinion, were better than anything I’ve made before, (delicious) animal products aside.  I’d like to share with you all the new recipes I’ve developed!

Over two days of feasts we served:

  • Spiral cut ham prepared by my friend Kari for the carnivores.
  • Deviled Eggs (Vegetarian)
  • Caprese Salad of grape tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil with a balsamic glaze (Vegetarian)
  • Marinated Collard Greens (Vegan)
  • Fusion Autumn Squash with Sweet Tamari Pecans (Vegan)
  • Mulled Fruit Compote (Vegan)
  • Whole Wheat Dressing with Mushroom Gravy (Vegan)
  • Beans and Barley (Vegan)
  • Baked Jack (Vegan)

Spicy Marinated Collard Greens

This recipe needs to be made at 24-48 hours prior to serving, as the collards are primarily “cooked” by the acid of the vinaigrette while refrigerating over-night.

Ingredients:

Two large bunches of fresh collard greens will make a LOT of cooked collards. I was serving 9 and intended to have left overs.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 6 tablespoons
  • 2-3 Cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 C. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 C. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 C. Organic, Gluten-free Tamari Sauce
  • 2 finely diced pickled Tabasco Peppers, plus 1/4 C. of the pepper vinegar
  • 3 Tbls. Whole Seed Mustard
  • 2-3 Tbls. Pure Maple Syrup (Start with 2, taste, and only add more if you like it sweeter, this depends on how hot your peppers are1)
  • 1 tsp. Berbere powder, a kind of smokey paprika from Ethiopia
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

IMG_8406Directions:

Begin by washing the collard leaves thoroughly in a sink full of warm water and a healthy splash of white vinegar. Allow to mostly dry. Fold leaf in half along the thick spine, and cut the tough spine and stem away, discard. Stack three such leaves on top of each other, roll tightly and slice into thin ribbons, set aside in the largest mixing bowl you have, because there is going to be a lot of fresh leaves!
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After all leaves are prepared, heat a large wok, or frying pan, or in my case, an electric skillet, to medium high heat, and add about 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil, though I will admit that I just pour some into the pan without usually measuring. Add one pan worth of the greens, and with a pair of tongs, saute them, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, then put a lid on the pan, and let steam for about 3 minutes more. Remove the cooked greens to a large, clean bowl. Repeat the process with another splash of olive oil, until all the greens are cooked and in the bowl. It took me 6 batches, so 6 splashes of Olive oil,  to cook them all. Stir all the batches together and allow to cool.

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I prepare the vinaigrette in a large, glass measuring cup, by adding all the remaining ingredients, then blending with a hand immersion blender, or you can add them all to a traditional blender, and puree them together. Pour about half the vinaigrette mixture over the greens, tossing to thoroughly spread the vinaigrette throughout.  Cover the greens tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.  Occasionally, take them out and stir them up to redistribute the vinaigrette throughout the greens.  The acid in the vinegars will continue to “cook” the greens, and the next day you will find that their color has deepened. This actually protects the vital nutrients, while allowing them to become more digestible.
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Prior to serving, I place them in a large saute pan over low heat, and allow them to warm on the stove, or in a crock pot over low. I pour the remaining vinaigrette mixture into a bottle with pour-spout and serve that with the greens, so people can add more as they desire. Test for taste and add more sea salt or black pepper to suit your tastes.

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for posts on these recipes:

  • Fusion Autumn Squash with Sweet Tamari Pecans (Vegan)
  • Mulled Fruit Compote (Vegan)
  • Whole Wheat Dressing with Mushroom Gravy (Vegan)
  • Beans and Barley (Vegan)
  • Baked Jack (Vegan)

From Samhain Fires to Thanksgiving Feasts

IMG_8289The wheel of this year turns on, and I realize I haven’t properly blogged since the turning of Samhain-tides. Here we are a month past, as the seasons click forward to the American holiday of Thanksgiving. If you’ve been keeping up with this great work of mine, you will remember that this year I dedicated my spiritual pursuits to understanding better the meaning of “unconditional Divine love.”  What does “perfect love and trust” really mean? How do we practically apply that wisdom to human unions? I gave my service to Aphrodite/Venus and asked to be Her agent of love, beauty and grace in the world.

That is when everything went to shit.

To recap: I turned 40 and suddenly my health crapped out, as though the warranty suddenly ran out on this meat-suit, mostly concerning issues that challenged my sense of safety, beauty, sexiness, fertility–all the domains of Aphrodite were in an uproar. My hand-fasting was canceled and that relationships ended. For months I felt the thorns of what love is NOT, then as Litha turned, I was given the roses of what love SHOULD BE.

I’ve felt very strongly the loving presence of my maternal grandparents, Frances and Elmore, whose spirits visited me via a medium around Beltane, just as my former relationship was ending.  They were an amazing Pisces/Cancer couple, an inspiration to all who knew them. They were married as teenagers, and became a shining example of partnership until death they did part, over 50 years later. My grandma Frances only just crossed the veil to rejoin Elmore in May, and I couldn’t be happier for them now that they are reunited. I feel closer to them now more than ever!

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At Lammas, I participated in the Morrison Ritual, and finally remembered that “all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.” I was reminded that the point of life is to enjoy it and that is how we witches show devotion–how we worship–by making love to the world through our every word, thought and deed. I rededicated to life, and returned from mourning back into the land of the loving.

As Lammas turned to Mabon, in a mystical, magickal, synchronistic turn of fate, I reconnected with someone who, as it turns out, is the man of my dreams. And he was right here in my hometown THE WHOLE TIME. Go figure. This beautiful human being is a catalyst for a profound shift in my thinking, and my perspective on, well, everything. I’d known him as a distant acquaintance, and have been a fan of his music for years.   I have this *thing* for musicians <sigh.> We easily fell into time and step with each other, and so simply, so astonishingly, fell in love.  Despite everything, I will honestly say that I did not see that coming!  Yes, my dearies, it is true; I’ve enjoyed three life-changing months with the most nurturing, interesting, exciting, enlightening, inspiring, and encouraging man I’ve ever known–nay– that I’ve even dared to hope existed since my Grandad left this earth.  I am so proud of him I could just burst. 🙂 Did I mention that we, too, are a Pisces/Cancer couple, just like Frances and Elmore? Uh huh. Good stuff!

Moral of the story: when you dedicate your service to Aphrodite, when you ask to know what Divine Love it all about, she will deliver. First, she strips you bare of all detriment to Divine Love, then she shows you what is beneficial. Viva la difference!

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At Samhain, I released to the funeral fires many misconceptions I had about Love and some links to old relationships and old dreams, and a few old masks I’d allowed myself to wear but no longer served my highest good. I realized that I’d worn these masks crafted to cover the wounds of my previous heartbreaks, to shield fears of betrayal. There were masks I’d worn to appease others in hopes that they’d return my love and masks I’d worn to conform to societal norms, masks to obscure the horrors of my inner struggle from my children.

When I think about this “mask” metaphor, the images that come to mind are pretty amusing, like old fashioned theater masks. I have quite the collection, perhaps you have them, too, as they are all the rage this season: sarcastically happy face, sad but not beaten face, strong in the face of adversity face, still youthfully attractive despite her age face, got my shit together face, fearless business woman in denial about how she is clueless how to proceed face…not terrified about how to pay the bills face…proud to be out of the broom closet and not hurt by how people point and whisper in public face… OK with being single and alone in this life face. All of them obscure the squishy truth of who I truly am, and while masks are necessary to a certain degree, if I’m not aware of how I use these “tools” they begin to use me, and that is when I lose my power.

I was recently interviewed by a student for a religion class project and she asked me what was the ultimate point of my Witchcraft practice? I pulled out the canned “teacher” answer, “Salvation from the illusion of separateness from the Divine, to liberate me from fear, and equip me with the tools and skills to live beneficially, and with sovereignty, as a co-creator of my own experience.”

It was then that  I finally remembered that I’ve been neglecting those skills and tools, and that I could co-create, to don or not to don, the masks of my choosing, and many of them had to go. This blog I share with you, this story of my great work this year, is part of that stripping away, and choosing to reveal the inner truth–to shine brightly what is beneficial, rather than mask or obscure that light because it makes me feel vulnerable. Boy oh boy, do I feel vulnerable. So much so that after I first posted this thing yesterday, I became physically ill–root chakra kinds of ill. This morning, I began editing it, and I choose to reveal more, rather than obscure my meanings in poetry.

theater masks

Which brings me to this Thanksgiving, and my year to have my children at home for the long holiday.  I chose to make space for a “miracle.”  You see, being a divorced person with a custody agreement, these holidays alternate from year to year. What they say is true, time heals many wounds, and we are in our 6th year of amicable shared custody.  In recent years, my children’s immediate family expanded with their father’s re-marriage, and then with the birth of a new baby brother.

So I asked myself, what better expression of Divine love, beauty and grace than to share a meal around a Thanksgiving table, in triumphant victory over past heartbreak and selfishness? I needed to redefine a few traditions, to cook a meal for the people I love, to share what I have with family and friends, old and new. I can’t think of a better expression of gratitude, than by opening my home and heart to the people who share in the nurturing of my children.  I needed to completely FORGIVE, and live on.

What I’ve learned from the great work this year is that the only heart prepared to receive love, is the heart already opened from the sharing of love.

So, despite all previous odds, I invited my ex, his wife, their baby son, and my new boyfriend all over to dinner with us, and they accepted. Then, in a meaningful, magical twist, one of my oldest friends, a woman who’s known me since the dark days of my previous marriage, all the days of my divorce, and the rebuilding of our lives since then, who is, herself, currently living through the FIRST difficult Thanksgiving since her separation, accepted my invitation to join us with her two children. How perfect is that? I hope we were able to show that a glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel is possible.

10815612_1519641408286393_799907865_oIt was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. There was much feasting, laughing, bouncing of babies, and playing of music together that night (a handy benefit of my penchant for musicians. 🙂

As the wheel turns toward Yule, and I look back over the great work of this year to process and understand the lessons, to integrate what I’ve learned, I am struck by how I’ve arrived in a place vastly distant from where I thought I was going when I dedicated at Imbolc. Hell, I thought I was headed toward the hand-fasting altar in May, so that left turn at Albuquerque really got me lost for a while.

I’ve questioned my spiritual path, my sanity, my raison d’etre, even my desire to keep living.  But, I set my magickal intention, then allowed the flow of this life of love to move me, accepting that what was both leaving and entering my life were both in alignment with my Divine Will, because that was what I’d asked for, and I do have some say over what happens to me!  That is “grace” to me.  Grace allowed the relatively undramatic stripping away of what did not serve my life, and then grace delivered me back into love with myself, into a love of life. Through finding my way back to enjoying life again, I was able to rediscover what is beautiful, and it wasn’t the obvious things. The beautiful partnership I’m looking for is one where we can grow “ugly” together.  There is loveliness in the colors, smells and dimming light of the decays of autumn, as nature declines into the dearth and wisdom of winter. So to I feel that slow, steady pull into the dark night, and hibernation…to dream in the arms of the bear, and be healed of last season’s woundings.

Mysterious? Seek within yourselves, and ye shall find, my dearies. I do hope the road rises up to meet you the way it did for me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Heron Gets Her Groove Back

mabonHappy Mabon-tides, my witches! I know I’m a little late, but I’ve been out in those fields of metaphor, harvesting all kinds of existential goodies, and getting into Aphrodite’s favorite shenanigans. Oh yes, my dearies, and it was about damned time this dedication to a Goddess of LOVE and PASSION became a joyous good time again.

BEHOLD! The fields of my Great Work finally bore fruit and I’ve been drunk on her sweet nectar for months.  In the dance of this Wheel of the Year, as the lamenting music that led to Lammas waned, and the last sorrowful notes of heartbreak faded into solo acceptance, I turned my view and my feet from the past faltering steps, into the present moment, did a little do-si-do with a bow and a nod to Her harsh lessons, then plunged onward into the reel.

IMG_7880The next steps involved a visit from writer and lecturer Jason “Pan” Mankey of Raise the Horns, who came out from California to teach through The Sojourner. In addition to 4 excellent seminars, he offered us a chance to initiate into the Morrison Clan, the Jim Morrison Clan, with a ritual of music, ecstatic hedonism and an unleashing.  Jason was just the Priest this circle needed to shake things up.  Into our temple he called in Jim as a modern incarnation of Dionysus, Pan, Aphrodite, and Eris Discordia, because if you don’t, she shows up anyway, and we’d rather not have hang-overs, thank you so much.

I know what you are thinking, and you aren’t entirely wrong, but this was some serious business. The ritual was set to the music and the spoken word of Jim Morrison and The Doors, and there was dancing, singing, wine, whiskey, and an excavation of that feral part of ourselves too often buried under layers of reservation, prudence, and socially respectable facades. We let our hair down, unwound, and Spirit moved.

We pledged to enjoy life, to let inspiration flow, to have hedonistic fun, to “drink the good wine to the old Gods,” to let “all acts of love and pleasure be her rituals,” in full-throttle engagement with the ecstasy of the flesh.  All this within healthy balance, dontchaknow, so that we do not flame-out prematurely as Jim did. I mean, good gods, y’all. Gimme some of THAT old time religion!

IMG_8120We each received a strand of mardi gras beads, and a clan name. I was dubbed “Story Morrison,” because I have stories to tell, and I’m often caught retelling them. Um, guilty as charged. But more than that, I think this was the opening salvo for the next phase of story-telling ahead of me, one that I hope is a bit more formalized, and will someday find its way into print. But that is a harvest for another blog….

*This* blog is about how Heron Got Her Groove Back. Note the swiftness of this magick:

Saturday night: Initiation in the Morrison Clan with a re-dedication to enjoying life again.

Monday: Deliver Jason back to the airport with so much gratitude and a genuine shift of perspective, thanks to his insights.

Tuesday: I get the familiar twitchy feeling, that deep longing to go forth into the night and make merry mischief. Basically, the sexy Heron beast within me awoke, stretched her wings and began to preen. I posted this to Facebook: “My kids are out of town with their dad for the rest of the week and I’m seeking shenanigans. I would like to attend to them directly.”

Back to my altar, I renewed the work, I thanked her for the lessons in heartbreak, in ugliness and loss, and I asked that at this time I be given the lessons of healthy love, of beauty and grace with the person correct and good for me at this time.  Oh, and could it be with a playmate who actually lives in my town this time, pretty please?

HAIL Aphrodite, of sensuous pleasure,
who restores my heart in full measure.
I give myself in reverent mirth,
hands, hips, and lips in holy rebirth.
Each little death, sweet sacrifice,
I am your willing acolyte.
As worship, let there be romance,
deep longing met in sacred dance,
to sing in divine duet once more,
I call forth the ideal paramour.
In perfect trust, in perfect love,
No harm to cause, to all involved,
I call the highest good for me,
As I do will, SO MOTE IT BE.

Wednesday: I receive a message in reply to my FB post from the most fabulous, interesting, compatible man I know in this town, asking me to meet him on Friday.  He was once a Gentleman of Interest, that long ago I’d set my sights upon, until I learned he was in a relationship, and had therefore retreated and been effectively avoiding for almost two years. Whaddaya know, he is newly single…imagine that!  As it happens, his previous relationship had been dismantling for just about the same time frame as mine had been…how very…fortuitous!

Since that fateful Friday: Well, let’s just say that since that auspicious beginning, I’ve learned a lot about living in the bliss of the moment, and being grateful for what is unfolding, without putting too much concern into what it might “mean” or where it might be “going.” I’m just too darned thankful to taint this gift with second-guesses. I feel like my wings are fully outstretched in rapturous flight, and I’m just enjoying how this new breeze lifts and inspires me to soar to new heights.

Isn’t the Universe grand in it’s poetry? So long now I’ve danced with Spirit in the Great Work, and even still I sometimes get twisted around and forget how I can trust absolutely Their lead; that all will come to fruition eventually; that all will work out for my highest good in the end, and in alignment with my Divine life purpose. Regardless of what happens from this point onward, I stand in deepest gratitude for that simple reminder.

I celebrated this Mabon with my faith restored, and I am once more fat, happy, grateful and satisfied with the fruits of my labor.

Blessed be.

Solstices, Life and Death

cauldronfireLithaHappy Solstice! I hope that yours was as meaningful and relaxed as mine was here in North Carolina. Here, The Sojo Tribe and I celebrated Litha, the Summer Solstice, and the apex of the Sun and all that we’ve accomplished so far during the growing light phase of the year.  We lit a fire in my copper cauldron with the remains of our beeswax class candle (We prepare a candle and light it during our classes to create sacred space. This one has been in use since Imbolc.)  We then fed that fire with harvested Rosemary and Litha incense, and the rays of our accomplishments written on colorful paper. We applauded, and congratulated each other, then released our ego-attachment so that we could strive for even greater things in the future! And…then we went out to a local patio bar and shared some “summer solstice” beer and a meal. “All acts of love and pleasure are her rituals….”

As the copper cauldron heated up, a fantastical chemical reaction happened wherein the flames turned green! It was the witchiest thing we’ve had spontaneously happen in a long while and it was glorious in its simplicity.  This was an impromptu ritual because our dear Tribe member, who intended to host and lead our Litha ritual, lost his father earlier in the week.  Death is not only an ending, it is a beginning, just as Litha is both the triumph of the sun, and the beginning of decline into the dark half of the year.

We’ve had a lot of death visit us this midsummer with several people known and kin to folks in our group crossing the veil, which is a fitting reminder that death ALWAYS hangs in the balance with life. All the more reason to savor the joys and bounties when they come, for tomorrow we may die… This summer season, I am overjoyed to travel to see my family in my mother’s home town for the first time in many years. That is my celebration of life, as I honor the life of my maternal grandmother, who passed through the veil at Beltane.

Back at Beltane, My grandmother Frances came to visit me before they even laid her body to rest. As my daughter and I toured a historical church yard with cemetery in New Bern, NC, (because that’s what my 12 year old daughter likes to do for her birthday, Witchy much?) who should join us in that cemetery? Only the spirits of our maternal ancestors, and they spoke to us via a medium from New Jersey named Denise who was touring the same churchyard, and was kind enough to deliver their messages.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

left to right, Frances, Elmore, me and Sondra Rouse, circa 1998.

Yes, Frances and Elmore, my grandparents divided by the veil for almost 15 years, and Sondra, their daughter and my mother, gone these last 7 years, were with us once more. Their family is rejoined in Spirit at last and looking out for us. They came to tell me that they think I’m a great mom, that they they love us, are proud of us, and not to worry about them because they are just fine, the afterlife is better than they even expected.

Denise transmitted their side of the story of what was going on after my grandmother became so sick that she was mostly incoherent. Her family in Spirit became a kind of hospice care on the Spirit side, while my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins, were attending her on the living side. Her Spirit family helped her to relax, let go, and ease across the veil to rejoin them. Her father was even present there in the end, keeping watch over her. That tidbit gives me great comfort.

You see, they were all Christians, and the afterlife just isn’t what they were told it would be, but it is better, and they wanted me to know that they accept me fully for who I am–the Witch in the family.  I’d kept that last bit from all three of them while they were alive.  It was toe-curling awesome to be fully known by them at last.  My granddad told my daughter that he looks out for her especially, that “she’s his girl.” That thrilled her to no end, especially since he died several years before she was even born. If you are going to have an ancestral guardian, make it Granddad Stormy, former police officer!

I stand in awe and wonder of my magickal life. Gratitude.

For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere who visited my blog last week, Merry Winter Solstice!  I wish you all the joys of the new light! As we head into the darkness, you are heading into the light. Isn’t that a beautiful balance? I love how the Wheel of the Year is so relative to where you live.

Blessed be.

A Deep Swim to find an Old Poem

becauseI'mYoungThis morning, I took a deep swim for a bit, resulting in my previous post, The Other Option.  I posted that through my iPhone, from the patio of the local Starbucks, on a bright and sunny morning, as the bustle of traffic and progress buzzed around me.  (It has now been edited! Sorry about that, folks. No more trance-posting without editorial review.)  There was a Chai Tea Latte to be enjoyed, my trusty calligraphy pen in my hand, and a book I couldn’t wait to read.  The occasional dear friend popped by to say hello and give squeezes! Sounds like an ideal summer morning, right? You’d think.

“The deep swim,”  is what I call it when I slip into the deeps of the rabbit hole without really intending to do so, but I become opened to what is happening outside of my little body/life/house/town, and the feels just come flooding in, sometimes I get swept away. I can get lost down there in the murk, and as I am rather empathic, those feels become my feels and can be difficult to shake off.

Thing is, they aren’t my feels, so meanwhile the tidal wave comes crashing through me, my conscious, analytical mind is busy observing them. I am both experiencing this funk of the world and observing them from a distance.  When I came back from that swim this morning, I was aware of this palpable quality to the outer world…tension, fearfulness, mourning. I check FB later, and there is another school shooting. Didn’t this just happen? And the time before?  My friend Lynn comments that these have brought the longest period of “consistent despondency” she’s ever had. That was it. Those words capture the feels of the deep swim…relentless, “consistent despondency.”

Ghostbusters 2Picture me at that moment on the Starbucks patio, just like Ray and Winston in Ghostbusters 2, covered in the pink mood slime of these blargy feels of fear and resentment, angry that I’m laid opened and bare to these things, that this is the person I have become, in what this world has become, trapped in this problematic meat-suit <downward spiral diatribe redacted.>

This image comes to mind of how the world has this nasty, seething, hideous underbelly, and I was sick and tired of having to stare it down all the time. I didn’t choose this! <fists shaken to the Universe>

*Click*

Maybe I did ask for this….that underbelly idea rang a few chimes. So I went back and found this poem I wrote my senior year of high school. I was 17, impetuous and so full of my own sovereignty it is a wonder I survived. This is before I ever had any idea that neo-paganism, or witchcraft,  existed…back when all I knew was that the Bible did not apply to me, that I was about to go off to college and I wanted to learn EVERYTHING (even the stuff the church said was “of the devil”,) and I could not wait to be out from under my mother’s thumb so badly that I could taste it. I wrote this poem as my anthem, it was the giant middle finger, brandished backwardly, as I galloped out of the South and into the horizon. I was such an asshole.

It was published in the Fine Arts Center’s literary journal called The Cripple Creek Review in 1992, so that is where I found it.  The 22nd anniversary of my high school graduation was this week. I am amused now to see how many of these wishes came true, literally and figuratively, for better or for worse. (I’ve covered that “drunk” and “pregnant” wish well-enough, let’s hope I earn the rights to try “old.”)

I wanted to discover the underpinnings of the Universe in unbridled exploration of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I got my wish. Now I should write one called, “Because I’m 40 and Know Better…”

Alas, for your amusement…

Because I’m Young

Life, I said,
slam shut the faded covers
of instructions booklets, of bibles.
Open my eyes, guide me naked, white
through wet streets at midnight,
through Budapest, Brooklyn, Beijing.
Take my hand, envelope me in your time line,
play connect the dots with each fate I cross.

Show me the gray underbelly of shadows
that lie waiting like small dragons in alleys;
lull me to dreaming in the blue fog of grief;
slip me through cracks in this sidewalk;
show me those who have gone before;
let me love them, breathe them.
Lay me down, cradle my head on your black
lacquer chopping block, cleave open
my skull like Queen Mary* and pour
from your green goblet
of knowledge.

Show me Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha;
make me drunk, pregnant, old;
mold me in your Plaster of Paris of stomach
and spit me out.

Life, I demanded, pull back your thorny fist
and hit me for all you are worth.

 

*My kids make me aware that not everyone knows that when Queen Mary was beheaded that it took the executioner several swings of the axe to get the job done, which was some brutal, messy business. Then they found her dog hiding under her skirts.  She went to her death bravely and with grace.

The Other Option

Gifts of the Goddess’ Table: Painting by Heron Michelle

Last night the dreams were intense, of magick and intrigue, dark and powerful. They illustrated and gave life to the digging and unfolding of mystery I’m currently working. It’s some good, juicy energetic unfolding, too, and it excites my soul, and kinda scares me, too. Par for the course…

I was awoken at precisely 1:23, 2:23 and 5:23 am to look at the clock and make note of the dreams. No one can tell me we are randomly adrift in a chaotic, spiritless Universe. That may be an easier view, but it is lazy and lacking vision.  It is the ostrich’s way, the mundane way…poor, lucky dears.

The deeper into this “rabbit hole” I go, the more clear the patterns become. I’m getting closer to finding the key to unlock the next gate. Either I will unlock these mysteries, or insanity will take me first.  Frankly, that scares me, too; I have children to consider.

I’d stop if I could. I’d lay down the tools, hang up the pointy hat, and seek a new job.  Maybe a pleasant, reliable, muggle job. I’d enjoy the comforts of normalcy and acceptance folks get from walking that well traveled path.  I mean, it looks so much easier to walk in a parade of the mainstream, without feeling the deeps of the Universe, nor having the veils ripped back to reveal the ugly, rotten heart-wood that lies beneath the facade.  It seems so lovely to gaze only at the rose blossoms, but no, I get the guided tour of the under belly of reality lately, dragged through the thorns.

I’d give it all up for the muggle life, if that were ever an option, but witchcraft is not an option. Well, not one to take if there is any other option possible.  I tried for a long time, but the witchyness screams up from the depths of the soul and will not be quieted. You *see* things that cannot be unseen. You *know* things that will not be unknown. There is no flavor in the mundane, no succor enough to quench the drive and hunger of the Witch’s spiritual cravings, or so I’ve found.

Nay, if you think you have an option, you are already something…else, and be glad for it.  Paganism is a huge buffet and there are many options, go serve yourself whatever suits you.  But if you are a true Witch, and this is your calling, you will get to that buffet and there will be only one dish to meet your needs. It is no dessert, mind you, but it has sustenance…and it is to be savored….some days it is the bitter pill, and some days the intoxicating wine of ecstasy. Choose wisely.

Wings…and what they say

heron horizonIt is a day of mournful poetry. When I awoke this morning I did not yet know that poet Maya Angelou had passed beyond the veil. Maya has been an inspiration to me since I was in Creative Writing school in ’90-’92. What a woman!

Before I’d heard of her passing, I’d already penned a poem that was beating its way through me all week. Have you ever heard of poet David Swanger? He wrote a poem called “What the Wing Says” that for twenty-two years has been my all-time favorite for the way it stirs me, it evokes….something intangible… that I still can’t quite wrap my mind around.  At 17 years old I did not understand its meaning, though it said different things to me then.  At 40 years old I am coming close to figuring it out, yet it remains still “on the outermost edge of desire.”

That is surely the point of poetry, is it not? To ensnare the mind and forever change the reader in some subtle way?  David Swanger is a poet who succeeded at doing just that. All week I’ve heard this line echoing in the halls of my consciousness, “Dismiss the grocer of your soul. Nothing important can be weighed…”

I offer you two poems today: David Swanger’s poem, and then a poem of my own, that was most certainly influenced by it…maybe even an answer back to the Wing, or a conversational reply…

What the Wing Says
By David Swanger

The wing says, “I am the space behind you,
a dent in the fender, hands you remember
for the way they touched you. You can look
back and song will still throb. I am air
moving ahead, the outermost edge of desire,
the ripple of departure and arrival. But

I will speak more plainly: you think you are
the middle of your life, your own fulcrum,
your years poised like reckonings in the balance.
This is not so: dismiss the grocer of your soul.
Nothing important can be weighed, which is why
I am the silver river of your mornings and
the silver lake curled around your dark dreams.
I am not wax nor tricks stolen from birds.

I know you despair at noon, when sky overflows
with the present tense, and at night as you lie
among those you have wronged; I know you have failed
in what matters most, and use your groin to forget.
Does the future move in only one direction?
Think how roots find their way, how hair spreads
on the pillow, how watercolors give birth to light.
Think how dangerous I am, because of what I offer you.”

 

Entanglement
By Heron Michelle

Wednesday dawns,
not unlike Tuesday,
and so many Mondays before.
Days into months into years,
epochs stretch back,
like beads on silken thread,
distant beyond counting,
but why bother? Death by tedium
or their crushing weight,
inevitable, just hard to predict;
space-time is a feckless bitch.
No choice but to wear the pitiful lariat,
a consolation prize
for mere attendance of my life.
It is my noon and I despair.
What new fulcrum can shift the balance
of these days?

I become the bobbing ship, crowded
with discontent, sheets slack
with the jab and snap of second-guessing,
getting no where; the albatross is dead.
It is a hungry time, no craving slaked,
a weary time, no rest found in these dreams,
sailing on and on with no arrival.

My eyes ache from strain
denied one visage, yet
I can no longer see the same way,
craving that which is beyond reach,
as existence becomes an assault.
Entangled in old nets, I am bound,
drowning in the snares of my making.
No daring now, I am afraid.
I cannot swim these waters alone
bearing the weight of regret,
and no way to forget.

Tiptoeing the banks,
heron feet in the murk,
head down to probe the mud,
discerning waste from sustenance.
What say you now, wings?
To rise or fall with these tides?
Ripples in these waters still throb,
and sights scryed in the black,
say “take flight! Take heart,
and beat the songs of these reckonings
to where the sun meets horizon
and is resolved in the dissolving
across a lonely sea, chasing
that one elusive fish
who got away.”

A Dream Not to be Forgotten

Garden-Wedding-Idea1I am a dreamer, literally.  All my life I dream great epoch dreams of adventure and exploration, full-color, full-detail, full-emotion, and sometimes prophetic, or “lucid” where I know I’m dreaming and can take control of the experience to work things out, solve problems, and stretch my wings. In those moments, I tend to fly.  Gravity, schmavity. 😉

Wednesday morning, I had a very different kind of dream. This one was about the emotion of the thing and there was no control over anything…like being caught in the rapids of a rushing river, all you can do is be taken with it, and try to keep your head above water.  It was the sort of dream that clings to you for days afterward like the greasy stink of burning oil, heavy and acrid.

When this dream began I was bursting with love and happiness, giddy excitement on my wedding day. Dressed in white and delicate laces, hair twisted gracefully with tiny white flowers, and cascading in wispy curls to the shoulders. I felt like a full-body smile, as though the flesh was simply not strong enough to contain all the feels and I might burst into a cascade of rainbows at any moment. I had all the emotions of the bride that cannot wait to get the the altar and claim her prize.

In the dream, I am about to marry “the one who got away.” It isn’t nearly as important *who* I visualized as this dream man, let’s just say that my subconscious supplied an image of such a man.  More important was that in this dream, for a shining few moments, in the dappled sunshine of a garden wedding, with flowers in full bloom, in perfect weather, with gaily dressed friends and family gathered around, ribbons and twinkling and all the trappings of my “perfect” wedding day, I was the happiest woman on earth and I felt beautiful. I explained to giggling, congratulatory women around me that this marriage was a dream come true; that I could hardly believe that *this* wonderful man was choosing *me* to spend his life with; that I was so honored to become his wife. Just to look at him was to melt me into puddles of bliss. He was a gorgeous, dapper, stallion of a man in a tuxedo…let’s just say that when my subconscious creates a groom, it does a stellar job. 🙂

The moment of triumph: we are at the altar, hand in hand, and the officiant asks if there is anyone there who objects to our union. Like the stab of a knife, a woman I don’t know breaks desperately into the scene, throws herself before us and proclaims her undying devotion for my groom, and asks him to marry her instead because “he was the one that got away and she’s always regretted losing him.”  He rushes to her, accepts her proposal, then turns to me and says he’s sorry but he just has to marry her instead because he’s always secretly loved her more than life itself.

However, he wants me to stay and be their bridesmaid for the ceremony. You know, take the consolation prize and just step off to the side. Be a dear, and don’t bother me further, if you don’t mind. kthxbai

All of a sudden I am wearing the most hideous pea-green bridesmaid’s dress you can imagine, have an 80’s hairdo (blarg,) and am forced to stand witness, right there on the spot, MY LOVER, marrying this other woman, at my altar stone, at my wedding, in front of my friends and family, and I stand there dying inside. Frozen solid in pain and horror, the light within me turning to darkness and seeping like the chill grip of death from the inside out until my body is a husk in green satin, the roses in my hands dry and crumble. The dream shifts such that I’m viewing the joy of their wedding unfold, through the husk of this dead body and I’m just a small, invisible consciousness peeking out, a ghost on the sidelines.

That is when I was once again aware of my bed, and the cat beside me, and my son softly breathing as the dawn light crept into the window. But in that dreamy middle-realm before fully waking, I felt the deep mourning and humiliation wracking through my body. All the loss of my love and pride crashed through me and the crush was paralyzing.  The jealousy, the want, the horror of rejection, and I wanted the pain to stop….just to let go and be gone completely from the flesh that was a prison.

Gods, I remember that feeling. There was a time in my separation from my ex-husband that this is how I woke up every morning. This state of abject self-loathing, shunted to the side like last week’s garbage; this was my life. I barely survived that time period: I almost managed to will myself to non-existence, but that was a very long time ago.

After this dream ended, it took a few minutes to realize it wasn’t real, and I could rise into the monotony of the new day, in my new house, in my new life.  There were children to wake, and breakfasts to be served, carpools to be run, and work to be done…alone. <sigh>

I know it was a dream, but I’m a witch, and the dream times are the message board, the chat-room of the Gods and guides who work with me.  The subconscious knows, and through dreams, my conscious mind is given marching orders for what it needs to do.  For me, there are rarely *just* dreams. This one was the shadow of the past, casting long and piercing into the now.

And the now, marked the 7th day since a man I loved, a man I was supposed to be hand-fasted to a Beltane a few weeks ago, asked that we cut off ties completely for the time being, because we live several hours apart from each other, and we have no way of changing that…for possibly a decade. There were very logical, very healthy reasons for this request, and I agreed that it was for the highest good of all involved.  Seriously, never before has there been a more amicable and spiritually mature parting of the ways.  By the Grace of the Goddess Aphrodite, to whom I am dedicated this turning, I was able to let go of my lover, hoping that if he was truly mine, someday he’d return to me, when we were both ready and the time was right. There is no denying that I have healing work to do on myself; there are things still tender and unresolved since my divorce.  Sometimes I think I’ve laid these issues to rest, but then they rise from the grave like zombies, and eat my brains. I just can’t get these images out of my mind.

The divine works through me in such a way that I follow these bread crumbs through the dark forest of consciousness. This particular crumb is rotten, the bitter pill. Yet again, the thorny path rises up to meet me. There is work to be done.

Great Goddess, guide me! So I pull out my trusty tarot deck and let her speak to me.

May 23, 2014What brought me to this moment: 4 of swords, truce
The key to the situation in the present: Knight of cups
The message moving forward: XV The Devil.

Synopsis: I may have laid down my weapons, stopped the battle, and formed a truce, my worries were conquered, I knew calm and clarity over the situation, but truce is not always a peace…I can’t suppress feelings about the situation. The key to the situation is my knight of cups….funny, that has been the signifier card for my lover since the beginning of our relationship…I always called him my Knight of Cups. He was my surrender to beloved ones and reaching the highest of emotional planes and to have a spiritual relationship fully integrated within my community. Moving forward, I can’t let others (or myself) demonize me; I am the master of my life. Use this vital, masculine form of creative energy and individuality, in whatever way I need right now to meet my needs–to follow my bliss. This is also the card of Capricorn, and I think of how agile the goat is in scaling what seems to be impassible mountains. They are some determined and hard-headed creatures!  This speaks very deeply to me.

With gratitude for the journey…

Blessed be.

 

 

Unbroken Circle

Broadway, Danny, Heritages Fine Art heritagesart.com The Circle Unbroken – Danny Broadway. $350.00

Today I offer you the lyrics to a song I wrote many moons ago. This is my idea of a pagan funeral song, speaking of how I would like my remains to be given to the 4 elements. Also, how I felt after my mother died, seeing that she lived on through me, and my daughter. We sang the christian hymn version at my Mother’s funeral. You guys can sing this version at mine. 🙂

Sung to the tune of “Will the Circle be Unbroken”

We were gathered in a meadow
on a cold and mournful day
There to watch those flames a burning,
flames to carry my mother away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
By and by, oh, by and by
For this fire’s been a’ burning
burning since the dawn of time.

I took some ashes to the river
my soul burdened and in pain.
As those sweet waters cleansed my sorrow
the river carried her ashes away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
For this water’s been a’ flowing,
flowing since the dawn of time.

I gave some ashes to the east wind
as the sun sent down His rays
I felt the heartache, slip from my body
as that wind carried her ashes away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
For this wind has been a’ blowing
blowing since the dawn of time.

I buried the rest ‘neath an old oak tree
as the moon beamed down Her light.
and Mother Earth then did receive her
with her blessings joyous and bright.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
for this old earth has been a’ turning,
turning since the dawn of time.

I watch my daughter as she’s playing
her hair shining in the sun
and in her smile I see my mother
and I know that she lives on.

I know the circle is unbroken
by and by, oh, by and by
that wheel of life just keeps a turning,
turning since the dawn of time.

Glamour: When the Mighty Fall

Zeus casting Hephaestus from Olympus with Hera unable to stop him.

A few years ago, there was a time when a “pagan leader” I’d once admired for his accomplishments as a teacher, witch, priest, and esteemed writer, fell from grace in a most horrible manner. I think it was fair to even call him a “Big Name Pagan,” but now it is fair to call him an infamous pagan. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

While he has yet to come to trial for his alleged crimes, in the court of public opinion, he is forever damned, and good riddance. When a priest of the old gods is suddenly, devastatingly, and absolutely ruined on all levels, I don’t need jurisprudence to inform me of his wrong-doing. Karma is a bitch, but only it you are.

This person that once deigned to teach me lessons of ethics and human decency, of personal responsibility to become a caretaker of this middle world in service to the Gods… was discovered to be grievously lacking in the same. He taught me that once you make vows to the gods, they are irrevocable. “Live by your vows and you will be abundant in their care; break your vows, and you will suffer.” He claimed he was a “real” Wiccan; old-school, lineaged back to Sanders, or so he loved to gloat.  Among the ethics he taught, Do as you will, but Harm None was non-negotiable.  His gods took him down, so I assume he broke his vows.

Sadly, the malevolent, selfish tarnish of his harm sullied the reputation of all the good people in association with him. Every good thing he ever wrote will never again be printed, or so his publishers have said.  The beautiful people he helped to guide toward the taking of their own vows of service to the gods felt this sting most bitterly, and my spirit wept for them because the witches and priestesses he made are skilled, amazing and doing The Work with great respectability. We are all interconnected; he was the weak link, and he let down everyone in his chain.

I think it was the lie and scandal of the thing that upset me the most. When the horrors of his arrest were first revealed across the national stage, and I was reeling in shock and confusion, I wrote this poem. That was years ago, but for the last several weeks, since Mercury, Mars and Saturn, and every other damned heavenly body, went retrograde, there is one line that keeps repeating in the back of my mind. This is how my guides whisper to me.

“Eyes wide; there are things of which we did not speak.”  Its as though there was a new message being delivered to me, asking me to pay attention to what else may need to be seen and spoken. When the mighty are viewed through the hazy, veiled glamour of fame, it can obscure what most needs to be understood. Let’s all pay better attention for a while, ok?

Glamour

by Heron Michelle

The veils fall, twisted and torn,
no silken glamour now to guise
unsavory truths.
Eyes wide;
there are things of which we did not speak.
Jaws slack;
illusions finally become clear.

Knowings, sharp as scalpels,
cut into our deeps,
dragging out such precious innocence,
birthed awake into this raw light.
The way we came is closed;
no dreams would have us now.
We are all exposed, ripped,
bloody and wailing of our discontent,
howls slice the chill of this new viewing.
Smacked hard to gasping,
we crave so desperately the teat and swaddle,
familiar succor of long-loved delusion
that is no more.

Sins of the father damn all his children.
Bastards now, left to die by the road,
exposed for their mutation and
heinous illegitimacy.
No gods will save them now,
no charm, no fame enough
to shield the unholy shame
carved now so deeply into his name.
Cries of the mourners are all that remain,
forlorn echoes of crimes
that should not be buried,
nor forgotten.