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.

Divine Love: The Thealogy of Perfection

venusThealogy (a neologism coined by Isaac Bonewits in 1974) is a discourse that reflects upon the meaning of Goddess and Her relationship to life forms. It is a discourse that critically engages the past and contemporary Goddess community’s beliefs, wisdom, embodied practices, questions, and values.”

Now that we’ve cleared up the issue of my spelling of “Thealogy,” back to the topic at hand.  What is “Divine” Love? What do we mean by “Perfection?”

If you begin to see the world as a divine tapestry, woven with the love of the Goddess and God, “Love” begins to take on a different definition. If it is EVERYTHING, it is also “Whole” and “Complete” in that there are no parts missing or excluded, and that is healthy thing.

Consider the word, “Wholesome.”  It is both sides of every polarity, all states of matter, all types of energy, all four seasons, all types of life-forms, all genders, all sexual preferences, all social strata, all areas of consciousness, crests/troughs, good hair days and bad hair days, red votes and blue votes, sinners and saints, etcetera and so on. Think of a “Perfect” circle; its all “god/dess.”perfect circle

Well then, that stirs up the hornets nest of all kinds of controversy in today’s societal discourse, doesn’t it? Wanna piss off fundie members of the family at the next reunion? There you go; try that topic of dinner conversation.

As I choose to focus my paradigm on the polarity of Goddess LOVING God, rather than the Abrahamic paradigm of God VERSUS Satan, I find myself not in the battlefield paradigm of destruction, but in the Honeymoon Suite of creation, and that leads me to this question: Where would “evil” fit into this equation? (Check out that discourse in this blog.)  More importantly, What is the polar opposite of love?

Hate? Indifference? Both of those answers have scored their share of believers, as evidenced by the many memes that show up on Facebook.  Those are both in opposition to love, to be certain, but I think we have to dig deeper than that.

When I started this dedication, Venus*, threw me under the bus.  All of a sudden I was confronted relentlessly with every way in which I could possibly feel unloved, threatened or disrespected. These thorns of havoc jabbed me from every direction, until I recognized them for the lesson that they were. Then different thorns would snag me. In some cases, I would experience violent physical discomfort until I recognized the thorn, then it would clear up just as quickly as it came!  Today I present to you the “thorns,” my dear readers, and believe me, gathering this list hurt like hell.

So here is my list so far of the conditions necessary for me to feel loved, and by extension, fulfilled, happy and in balance:

  • Acceptance: When I feel safe to be my whole self; when my inner truth can be expressed outwardly without risk of rejection, including acceptance within my community, social group, family, friendship, lovers.
  • Sovereignty: When my absolute authority over my own body, mind, emotions, and spirit are respected and I have FREE WILL to be master of my fate, and make my own decisions as a being of dignity and worth.  My emotional boundaries are not being threatened.
  • Resources: When I know I have access to sufficient resources to make sure my physical needs of food, water, oxygen, and shelter will be met.
  • Affection: We are social beasts, there is just no more base truth than how all human beings need touch and nurturing, and how ADULT humans need sexual gratification to be well-rounded, healthy people.
  • Expression: When I have a means of expressing my needs/opinions as a sovereign being, and have the respect of being heard by others around me as an important person of dignity and worth. I want my place at the table, and in the voting booth, etc.
  • Security: When my physical safety is not threatened, and I can let down my guard and relax and get a good night’s sleep; when my physical boundaries are not trespassed, also when my privacy is respected.
  • Authenticity: When I know that I can trust that the outward appearance and declaration of any person, product, and circumstance is the actual truth, without deception or trickery. Is this just a “bait and switch” sales pitch? Does this label accurately describe the contents? It is worth what it says it is worth, etc. Are you charging me a fair rate for your services?
  • Trustworthy, an extension of Authenticity: Are YOU worthy of my care, are YOU worthy to be treated with sovereignty, can I trust your expression to be well intentioned? Are the other people around me granting me the same level of courtesy, honesty, dignity, worth, security, etc., that I’m investing in them? Can I trust what you say is true? Are you actually a sheep, or just a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

This is just the short list that I’ve discovered between Imbolc and Litha.  Let me plant this seed of thought: The opposite of Love grows from the root of FEAR; the fear of a LACK OF LOVE felt through acceptance, sovereignty, resources, affection, expression, security, authenticity and trustworthiness.

When we do not have these things, we are wounded, deep down in our wee-baby souls.  To be denied these basic human needs for too long creates stress, and trauma, and from that grows anxiety, fearfulness, and anger, that twists and festers inside us and emerges at paranoia and hate.

Fear of a lack of love leads to selfishness, hostility, aggression, and violence wherein we lash out and impose the same transgressions that we’ve suffered onto others as a way of either getting what we need the hard way, or exacting revenge.  We become the bully, and do ugly things, like a giant billboard announcing what bullet wounded us in the first place. “Thou dost protest too much!” This is the Jungian shadow, and we project our own “fears of a lack of love” onto those around us, calling out those things we hate most about ourselves.

Suffer the bullet of bigotry? You find someone different than you and become their bigot. “I may be a red-neck, but at least I’m not whitetrash.” “I may be whitetrash, but at least I’m not a nigger.” “I may be a nigger but at least I’m not a fag.” This is just another example of shit rolling down hill; there is no end to it and it is all shameful.

The bullet of name calling because you think you are too fat? You call the skinny kid on the playground names.

The bullet of homophobia? You must be terrified of your own homosexual curiosity, and if you can’t have what you want, ain’t nobody gonna get what they want.

The bullet of poverty? You steal, pillage, exploit ALL THE RESOURCES.

The bullet of sexual rejection? You rape, cheat, exploit.

The bullet of physical abuse?  You try to control and hurt those weaker than you, the kids, an animal, your employee, your spouse…

I know these lessons so intimately well because I have been both the bully and bullied, and I’m not proud of that.

Why are there bullies in a world when just about everybody has heard of The Golden Rule, to Treat Others as you would like to be treated?  I was raised by an evangelical Christian touting the Golden Rule at every opportunity, and she was a model human being. Yet I was rather monstrous, if I’m honest with myself.  My sovereignty of mind and Spirit were not respected, I was given no voice, and no credence, and it made me ANGRY.  Wounds are like that. It feels better to blow off that steam for a little while, but then it just festers further. Only love can heal those wounds.

Think about it, why do people do anti-social things? Why do people do destructive things?   They are wounded; and wounded people wound others. Its a fictional example, but consider the Star Wars story, even powerful Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader because deep down he was still the former slave, afraid of death, afraid of losing his dearest love, and afraid of not having control over the uncontrollable…but even he could be saved by the love of his son. USE THE FORCE, LUKE!

Yoda-Eyes-Closed“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, George Lucas in Star Wars

The opposite of love is the fear of being hungry, alone, powerless, voiceless, rejected, or harmed. Love that is security, acceptance and the resources to survive; love that is sovereignty, free-will and respect; THAT LOVE is Divine love, and it is “perfect.”

The Thealogy of Perfection:

In Wicca there is a phrase often used when we enter sacred space with our spiritual family. We say that we enter, “In Perfect love and Perfect trust.”  Perfect love, is the “whole,” Divine love that acknowledges you as a sovereign being, with dignity and worth, having ALL parts; light and shadow, good days and bad days, ups and downs, and we accept you unconditionally. A promise of “perfect love” embodies the needs of acceptance, sovereignty, resources, affection and expression. We care, you are important, and we will not abandon you just because you are having a bad day, or we disagree with one another.

hands_above_4However, that is a powder keg, unless it is tempered by the most important part of that statement about “Perfect Trust.”  This sets the strong boundaries in place that make a safe environment for all that unconditional love you’ll be offering.

Trust embodies the needs of security, authenticity, and trustworthiness, and is the social contract between members that promises that the care that you are extending to them will be returned in equal measure, to the best of their ability. This is the trust that they are honest, authentic and trustworthy in their dealings with you, and that they will not transgress against your boundaries, while expecting the same from you in return, to the best of your ability.

This social contract is a two way street and promises that you are both trying to live up to your shared ideals, and if one of you misses the mark, then you will respectfully help them get back into your good graces, and vice versa, without a witchwar, nor name-calling, nor slander, nor gossiping behind their backs, nor cursing them into a toad.  Remember, Heron’s second rule of Witchcraft is “don’t be the asshole.” If somebody starts behaving like the asshole, remember Heron’s first rule of Witchcraft is “don’t burn the witch.” I’m sure you can find a nice way to correct the situation, because that is how sovereign beings with dignity behave.

However, and this is the fly in the ointment; If all your best efforts to correct the harmful situation go unheeded, and you find yourself in the company of a person who violates your boundaries, love and trust without care, and they refuse to accept responsibility for themselves… go Gandalf on them. “You shall not pass!”  Bind that behavior into oblivion, send love and light into the wound, then show them to the door with a Namaste and a smile.  Be the Warrior Witch, because ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. With great power, comes great responsibility! 🙂

Which brings me to the idea of vows that people make with their partners, or their coven-mates. In both previous instances wherein I took vows to my ex-husband, and later to my former coven-mates, I asked that this line be included, “I will trust in your good intentions, as I strive to be trustworthy.” I love this idea, and I’ve tried to live up to that in every way I know how.  Unfortunately, in both cases the courtesy was not returned in equal measure and I felt the harm of that betrayal. Those are still my wounds to this day.

When writing vows, and when entering into formal unions, consider how you will offer “perfect love and perfect trust” to your partner or group, meeting the conditions listed above. Parents, how are you fostering these ideals and conditions for your children? How do you train them to their sovereignty? Do they have a voice in your home that is heard and given credence? Are they safe from harm, and treated as a being of dignity and worth? I should hope so, because you should ensure they extend you the some respect and courtesy, and I know you’ve heard of the “Golden Rule” to treat others as you would like to be treated.  Consider also the “harm” caused when those vows are broken, and just don’t be that person, because that makes you the asshole, and by now you know how I feel about that. DON’T DO IT!

“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill; an it harm none, do as ye will.”

Blessed be.

Continued from Part 1: Divine Love: The Dedication

*For the purposes of ease, I’ve begun to call the Goddess of Love by her Roman name, Venus, though I see her as one Goddess of Love with many aspects, names, faces and cultural lenses. Hey, I’m a panentheist, this is as close you’ll catch me to “polytheism” before I start to twitch.  😉

Divine Love: The Dedication

IMG_7362The Great Work of this turning of the wheel for me has been especially difficult, mostly because it wasn’t at all what I thought I was signing up for, but it never is. I should know better by now.

On the exact day of Yule, at just almost Midnight, my sweetheart presented me a gorgeous ring, and asked that we hand fast at Beltane as a formal engagement for one year and a day, while we figured out a way to get our lives into one state, one house, and merge our families.  You see, we lived over 2 hours apart and there were lots of mitigating circumstances to our romance. <sigh>

I could hear the fear in his voice when he posed the question, there was hesitation, self-doubt, vulnerability there.  I felt it, too.  So many questions, so many hurtles, so many old wounds all of a sudden start twinging. It took a little while, but I accepted his proposal and his lovely ring. Then, just like magick, I pulled out my own ring box, and presented a band of silver I’d bought for him and asked the same questions. (I’m tricksy like that, my precious.)  He accepted. 🙂

The Great Work:

From Yule until Imbolc, as I opened myself to the Wyrd, and the messages of my guides for what my next Great Work should entail, “Love” was the word delivered over and over again. What does it mean? How to live and love in a healthy way? If the married couple is the microcosm embodiment of the Divine Lovers, how do we proceed in our human union as a reflection of our inner divinity?  Better yet, how do I get over my terror of commitment and abandonment fed by the wounds of my divorce? There was much to heal, and I had a hand fasting to plan, y’all!  So, more than just gowns and flowers and rings, I made this my spiritual work for the year.

I started with the foundation premise of my panentheist and Hermetic paradigm, that all matter and energy in the Universe, is the body of the Divine, the ALL, the Prime Vibration, the Source, Great Spirit, etc. “As above, so below: As below, so above.” That it is both immanent in the stuff of the universe, and transcendent with a consciousness and purpose greater than the sum of its parts.

My paradigm is explained through the Hermetic principles, therefore; Divine is expressed through the Polarity of Gender, of male and female, and that all of creation/evolution is the result of their love-making.  “…and where the two are conjoined, there is blessedness.”  In other words, the whole universe is the embodiment of their love for each other; therefore, everything *is* love, and love is the guiding creative force of the Universe;  it is ALL blessed in it’s nature.  Well, that is lovely poetry, and I’m pretty good at holding both poetic truth and literal truth in the same concept, but what does that mean practically?

That’s what I’ve been exploring through the Great Work this turning: *IF* everything is Divine Love, and also has both sides of every polarity in equal measure, *then:*

Love in the Balance
By Heron Michelle

If the Divine is Love, and all is Divine,
the range of opposites entwined; then,
they are all that is light, and all that is shadow,
the incubator, and the gallows;
all that is beautiful, and all that is heinous,
your rosebud lips, and puckered anus.
All that is tender, and all that is brutal,
It is justice, and the loophole.

All that is pleasure, and all that is pain,
They are the rescued, and the slain;
Light kiss of breeze, and ripping cyclone,
the earthquake, and the stepping stone,
a gentle rain, and tidal wave,
the master and the slave,
the beating and the caress,
sigh of delight, and scream of duress,
soft candlelight, and conflagration,
they are the challenge and the explanation.

They are all that is safety, all that is menace,
crimes committed and the penance.
They are the giving and the deprivation,
the effect, and causation.
The feast of plenty and the famine,
the pink of health, and foaming rabid,
they are the splitting zygote, the rotting corpse,
wedding vows, and pen stroke of divorce,
the giggling toddler, and old age doddering,
Love that is futile, and love that is conquering.

If the Divine is Love, and all is Divine,
They are the dove, and the swine;
they are blessings and the admonition,
the victory in the war of attrition;
then love is diversity, and adversity,
the Universe is our University,
both the classroom and the trap
Mama’s hug, and Papa’s strap.

These are such very hard concepts to wrap the mind around and fully appreciate.  How can loss and heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment, and abusiveness ALSO be blessed? In what screwed up dimension is that OK? my bruised, broken, and terrified inner voice was asking.

So here is what I’m learning:  they are lessons, and important lessons to have, in the great arching scheme of things, especially when we accept that the purpose of life on earth is to be our proving ground, the University of the soul, and every lifetime a different course in what it means to exist; some courses are harder than others; some subjects we like, and others we loathe, but they all further us towards mastery.

Or maybe the metaphor of our Divine parents is easier to grasp; sometimes mama has to smack your hand away from the danger, because she loves you and wants you to know better.  Or sometimes our parents love us by stepping back to let us learn the hard way, get burned, fall down to scrape our knees, make our own fool-hardy decisions, and live with the consequences. We are tempered, purified and made stronger in the fires of risk and pain, failures and successes; the phoenix will rise from the ashes.

Ok, taking these ideas as the founding premise of this year long experiment, I asked how then would this play out in our view of life, relationships, conflicts and resolutions?  How does this “Divine University of Love” idea guide how best to live and act, right here and right now? This was my dedication:

“I, Heron, call upon the Two Who Move As One, Great Goddess and Great God, and to the Goddess of love and beauty in all your aspects: Venus, Aphrodite, Freya…. Hear now my dedication to you during this turning of the Wheel!  My Great Work will be to grow, learn, act in the world as an agent of Divine Love. Let my acts of worship be to make the world more beautiful, more compassionate, to heal through Love.  I will endeavor to make each of my days in the world better and more loving than the day before. I seek to know the nature and meaning of Divine Love, and will deepen my study through the messages of the Thoth Tarot system, seeking ways to apply these lessons to everyday life.  May this be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.  So mote it be!”

IMG_7360There were candles prepared with stones, herbs, oils, symbols, planetary magick of Venus, poppets, spell boxes, and just about every other trick I had up my sleeve to layer up and reinforce that I was a  being of Love, resonating Love, creating Love, attracting Love…you get the idea.  I asked to walk through the rose garden of Aphrodite/Venus and be her hands, feet and voice in the world.

Yeah. Uh huh. I see you reading this, shaking your heads and smirking.

Love is a many splendored thing, as they say.  The roses smell lovely, in their delicate unfolding of brightly colored petals into the sunlight, but they are nurtured in the dark, dank shadow of the earth, fed by the decay of last season’s death, shat out by worms.  Between the earth and the blossom, there are the thorns.

My dedication began with an appeal to Aphrodite/Venus, and since that day I have been on the guided tour through the dark and piercing undergrowth. Many times now on this blog I’ve referred to witchcraft as “the thorny path.”  In that poem from high school, Because I’m Young,  I asked life to “pull back your thorny fist and hit me for all you are worth.”  Thorns tend to be a theme, as of late.

IMG_7408On the next full moon after Imbolc, on the Friday of Valentine’s day, my lover and I worked magick together to strengthen our bonds to each other, and our love. Then as the moon turned to waning again, we worked to remove all obstacles in the way of our union, should that be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.

The next day we released those ashes into the James River while an eagle looked on from the trees above and the herons picked their way through the waters. We took a selfie of ourselves with that eagle and the river behind us. I framed it as a reminder.  Did I mention that he is a Scorpio? Eagle and Heron, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G... but I digress…

Within three weeks of that esbat the hand fasting was “postponed.” By Ostara, I knew we were in trouble, so we took a little breathing space to get our head’s straight.  By Beltane, he’d asked me to set him free and not make any contact until future notice…. My eagle has flown, and this Heron turns her beak back to the murk, sorting sustenance from waste.

I will never be the same.

(In the next installment, I will continue this story of Divine Love with the many lessons learned so far through the Great Work.)

Interview with the East Carolinian Newspaper

WitchcraftWEB-TBI was honored to be interviewed for the East Carolinian Newspaper (my alma mater is ECU!) on the classes in Modern Witchcraft that I teach. If that wasn’t good enough, there I am scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and lo and behold, there is the link to the article shared through The Witches’ Voice!  So, I’m feeling just a touch famous right this moment <blush> and just a touch exposed, too! I can thank The Witches’ Voice as the source of contact that created the now vibrant pagan community in Eastern North Carolina. It was through them that I first found the other witches and pagans who would eventually become the circles and social networks that made all that we enjoy here today possible. All my love and gratitude goes out to those fine folks who run www.witchvox.com!

Needless to say, interviews with student writers at college papers can be a tricky thing, and this one was done over the phone while I simultaneously cashiered customers at the shop.  <sigh>  However,  I give Destiny Edwards props for her open-minded and unbiased approach to a topic often shunned in this region. There are a few things I would have preferred to be worded differently, but I think the general feel of the article will be beneficial, over-all.

For more information on those classes, see the “workshops” tab on this site.   For more information on The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions, the metaphysical shop I run, check us out on Facebook and www.thesojo.com.

What do you think about the article?  Go see it here:
http://theeastcarolinian.com/?p=33495

Blessed be!

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Mabon Feasts Serve up a Challenge

Mabontides are flowing out once more, my lovelies! Witches’ Thanksgiving is one of my favorite sabbats, and it is marked by our entry into the cardinal sign of Libra, a sign of balance. Once again, the sun hangs in the equilibrium of light and dark. This year that moment falls on Wednesday, September 23rd.¹

When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast.²

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

Witches Wine / Heron Michelle

The second harvest of fruits and vegetables, Mabon is the initiator of the season of Autumn. This is a low ebb or lesser sabbat, wherein we feel the vital energy begin to recede from the earth as she continues her spiral into the decline of the year. This is the time of acceptance, the receptive power of water. The auburn, red and yellow leaves of the trees, the apples ready for picking, the deepness of the setting sun, the darkening afternoons, all remind us that night always follows day, no exceptions.

The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this our ancestors teach²

In the Wheel of the Year mythos that I enjoy, at Mabon the God and Goddess become the Sage and Crone, and with experience, comes the inner vision to see deeply into both the past and future. They know the sacred order of the “perfect,” complete cycle, that is symbolized by the wheel; they teach us that life is sustained through death, just as death contains the promise of rebirth (at Ostara). As symbolized in the yin/yang, the key to one side of any polarity is found in the heart of it’s opposite. The fruits that are cut down, will rise again both as the seeds planted next year, but also by sustaining the living. As we are fed another year, the gods live on through us.

The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.²

No Witch is an Island

This time of year, I ask myself:  how will I stay in balance of giving and receiving? It takes hard work to bring in the harvest, and many hands working together toward the common goal of survival. Think about that cookie on your altar platter; SO MANY hands are required to bring that seed of wheat, sugar, and chocolate chip all the way from planting, through harvest, through baking, to the store, to the feast … no witch is an island!

How have we helped our fellow humans within this web of existence lately? How have we expressed gratitude for all that we are bringing in from the fields of the gods? They instruct us to FEAST!  Let us bring our best and most tasty offerings to the common table, and share in what we have with generosity.

So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.²

Perfect Love as a Verb

This harvest feast, the Witches’ Thanksgiving, calls for a gathering ’round of family, both your family of origin, but also your family of choice. Recently I was challenged by a dear priestess friend of mine with the question:  “When does it get to be Love as a verb? I mean, to see all this broken humanity, yes. But how does that translate into action?”

Goooood question!

This reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Mr. Rogers, my childhood hero. Despite growing up deep-fried in the contentious and back-biting Southern Baptist church, I can thank a children’s TV show personality and Presbyterian minister, Mr. Fred Rogers, for instructing this young witchling in what it means to be a decent neighbor.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” ~Fred Rogers

Verbs or nouns, the key word we are looking for here is “active.” We all occasionally fall short of the ideal in our relationships–especially our spiritual relationships. Perhaps sometime in the past, a kerfluffle flared up between friends. It has happened to me more than I like to admit.

Egos get in the way sometimes; perception can be such a tricky thing — especially within covens. We all have shadowy bits that must be dredged out of the deep recesses for processing–that is how we advance through the initiatory and evolutionary process of Witchcraft. Too often (usually when Mercury is in retrograde) we erroneously project those shadows onto our loved ones standing beside us in the cosmic amplifier of the sacred circle. Unfortunate things go down, sad to say.

I hate it when that happens. Hopefully, with time and water under our damaged bridges, things have now settled down. Thank all the gods that life is a cycle … those may have been the winters of our discontent, but the hope of spring always follows. Hopefully, we’ve come through the kerfluffles as wiser people.

The Mabon Challenge

We realize that it is the struggles, the challenges, the grit and tweak against the grain of life that hones us into the powerful incarnate gods that we are, yes?  “Thanksgiving” is a pretty obvious theme of The Great Work at this time of year. This Mabon, we need to dig deep and excavate gratitude for the lessons learned through adversity–including the unfortunate coven kerfluffles.

As a way to turn the idea of perfect love into a course of action, lets consider reaching out with ye olde olive branch.  Mend a fence, rebuild a bridge, send a card, make the call…it doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but in some way let’s reach out to the beloved friends we’ve been missing at our feast tables, and “accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Maybe that means that the first thing you serve yourself is a heaping helping of crow, but that kind of soul food can be so beneficial.³

This is The Work, folks. No one said witchcraft would be all glitter and moonbeams. (Well, if they did, they were a snake oil salesman!)

And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magic of old, be it done!²

As a “spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down,” I’ll share with you one of my favorite recipes (below) to scintillate your coven mates come Mabontides!

Blessed Be!

~Heron

References

  1. For exact astrological times of all the Sabbats for your region, you might find archaeoastronomy.com helpful.
  2. From Doreen Valiente’s, “Witchcraft For Tomorrow” 
  3. I have this theory that “eating crow” actually melts cellulite…uh huh…seems legit!

Autumn Harvest Bisque (Vegan and gluten-free)

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

Autumn Harvest Bisque / Heron Michelle

(Heron Michelle)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only,
  • rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper (optional)
  • 1 Teaspoon Berbere powder (it’s an Ethiopian spice much like paprika.)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 cup Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Garnish:

  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
    1 pound crispy fried bacon (Obviously this recipe is vegan all the way up to this option, but…bacon!)

Directions:

In large soup pot over moderate heat, melt the coconut oil or EVOO.  Add the leeks and saute about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir briefly.  Add the squash, potato and apples, raise heat to high and saute until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, ginger, lemongrass, berbere and red pepper.  Add in the broth, bring to a simmer and cover,  Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer until the vegetables are all tender, about 40 minutes.

I puree in the pot with an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one, transfer in batches to the blender or food processor and process until pureed.  Return to the pot, add the coconut milk, and tamari sauce.  Stir well, remove from heat and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve as soon as possible into individual bowls and garnish with and liberal sprinkles of green onion (add bacon if you don’t need it to be vegan.)

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Lammas Recipes

LammasCornThe cross-quarter Sabbat of Lammas arrives around the first day of August, or when the sun is 15 degrees Leo! This is first harvest of corn and grains, when the fields grow tall and verdant and the vines are heavy with fruit, just like our Lady Goddess, her belly full as the moon. Lammas is a Greater Sabbat in the Witches’ year, as it is the apex of the summer season, and thereby is the apex of the summer power.

In the southeast United States, where I live, corn is a very big part of our harvest, with ears of sweet succulent goodness ready to be shucked and dollies woven, not to mention the tomatoes fit to bursting off the vines. It is high summer, hot and sticky!

Lammas is a “pregnant” time, full of hopefulness and expectation, wherein we begin to taste the fruits of our labors within the Great Work, and our back yard gardens alike. We tended those magickal workings at Litha, working hard to support those intentions with our sustained energies, actions and self-confidence, we now begin to prepare for the harvest with methodical planning and gentle care.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to tickle your taste buds, and thrill your coven-mates come Lammastides.

Blessings!


Tomato Polenta: Vegetarian

Ingredients:
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup water
1 Cup Tomato juice or V8
1 Cup yellow polenta cornmeal
1 t. sea salt, Himalayan sea salt is even better!
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

In sauce pan, bring liquids and salt to a boil.  Slowly sprinkle cornmeal into liquids while stirring constantly to break up lumps.  Lower to medium-low heat and continue stirring for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick and like “grits.”  Stir in cheese.  Remove from heat and pour into a flat casserole dish or pie-plate.  Set aside to cool and set-up or refrigerate and use later.  After it is firm it can be reheated, baked or sliced and fried.  Serve with Black and Gold Salad on top.

Black and Gold Salad: Vegan

Ingredients:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed.
1 can corn niblets, drained
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3-4 diced green onions
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.

Mix it all up and serve room temperature or chill and serve later.  Serve over Tomato Polenta or as an appetizer with tortilla chips.  Personally, I think it is good enough to eat with a spoon!