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Archive for the ‘green witchcraft’ Category

On Monday, we came home from our annual week-long summer camping holiday at Canada’s largest Neo-Pagan festival, Kaleidoscope Gathering. We had a truly fantastic time, spent time with friends, met great people, gave a Tarot workshop, attended workshops and rituals, and relaxed at our lovely campsite by the river.

Tuesday we spent trying to come back down to earth, and I went to pick up our pup Carter from his foster parents in Ottawa.

Wednesday morning t! went back to work and I started the day with some time in my garden, and did a morning meditation & tarot card draw, followed by some very useful and cathartic journaling. Four hours later I found myself typing a resignation letter for the part-time job I’m currently doing. I hate it, it sucks my time and energy, chains me to the computer indoors when I want to be working outside, and the person I’m working for is a nasty bully. Plus I’m severely underpaid, and the number of hours I’m billing per month add up to little more than pocket change. The only reason I haven’t quit before now is that I was afraid that if I tried to quit, he would bully me into changing my mind and I would end up feeling even worse about myself and the job!

After I hit “send” on the email, and the proverbial weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I started thinking about how to make (or mark) a “fresh start” on this new path.

One of the books I pulled off my bookshelf after we got home from Fest was my friend Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s Hearthcraft book (which the publishers insisted on calling The Way of the Hedge Witch, even though it’s about hearth & home magic.) And while flipping through it again, I started thinking about the energy in our home, and how it affects me and makes me feel. Making our home more welcoming, cosy and “homey” is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and something that the icky part-time job was specifically stopping me from doing, for a variety of reasons. My own spirit feels renewed and refreshed after spending a week at KG, and I want to expand that sense of renewed energy to my immediate environment, our home. So my Spell for a Fresh Start is going to centre around clearing all the old, stagnant, negative energy out of our house and replacing it with fresh, happy, productive, creative energy.

I decided that the first thing I needed to do was get rid of anything in the house that was dead and/or decaying, in order to banish stagnation, death, and decay from our environment. So yesterday:

  • The dried remains of some flowers got composted and the vase they were in thoroughly washed
  • I cleaned all the science experiments and soggy vegetables out of the fridge, and washed out the veg drawer
  • I cleaned up all the hairballs that the cats had horked up in the basement while we were away for a week
  • I took the dead mole out of the freezer[1]
  • I washed out the two coolers from the camping trip and all the icky tupperware containers that had held our camping food, and
  • I even snipped all the dead leaves off the houseplants.

Then I went out for a walk with Carter, and picked a fresh bunch of wildflowers – wild purple asters as it turns out – and put them in the clean vase.

Today I will start on sweeping, to further clear the stagnant energy out of the house. Since we have a big house,  sweeping (and vacuuming, for rooms that have carpeting) will probably take me two or three days (or more, now that I remember that I have to pick everything up off a floor in order to sweep it). I’ll try to get into every nook and corner of every room (except t!’s office, but he thoroughly cleaned it before our vacation), which will mean moving furniture, and get all the cobwebs off the ceilings too. As well as cleaning, and sweeping away any stagnant energy, this should also get rid of the last of the dead bugs off the windowsills, etc. And now that I realise what this plan entails, I’m thinking it may take me up to a week! That’s OK, I have some spare time while I’m waiting for the tomatoes in the garden to ripen so that I can start the canning…

I’ll check in again in a couple of days to talk more about how it’s going[2] and what I plan to do next.

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[1] SKIP this paragraph if you are squeamish. You have been warned! The cats, as they are wont to do, did a lot of barfing while we were away. When t! when down to the basement after we got back, he found a mole in the basement, eating the half-digested kibble in the cat barf (ewww!) Not having a better plan (he couldn’t bring himself to simply step on it), he put a mouse trap next to the pile of cat barf. An hour later when we checked the trap, the mole was caught but not yet dead. We scooped the mole into a plastic bag and dropped it into the freezer – death by hypothermia is one of the kindest ways to go, and how I usually dispose of deformed baby chicks.

[2] Yes, I know traditionally you’re not supposed to talk about a spell while you’re doing it. I don’t know who made that rule, but like with everything I do, I follow what feels right to me regardless of what the books & traditions necessarily say. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Green Witch and not Wiccan. Plus, how are us Solitary Witches suppose to learn anything if we don’t share? Sometimes when I do I spell, I tell no one about it, not even my husband. But this one feels right to talk about. So I will.

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One of the things I’ve learned living out here is that the wild things that grow and live on our little patch vary tremendously each year, due in large part, I suppose to the differences in annual weather. Some years the roadsides are full of Mullen, but this year there are only a few plants here and there. Last year this time, my neighbour’s fields behind our property were full of Black-Eyed Susans, this year there are only a few. We’ve had a hot, dry summer here, and so the crickets and grasshoppers are particularly abundant this year, making our chickens very happy indeed as they hunt the hoppers through the grass. Something else that has had a very good year this year is Wild Grapes:

There are always some wild grapes in the hedgerows, but most years it is too wet for them to grow well and mature without rotting. This year the hot dry weather provided a bumper crop of wild grapes, so I’ve decided to harvest some and see what kind of Wild Wine I can make. At first I was just thinking that I would get some juice to make a small experimental batch of wild grape-flavoured mead, but I might get enough juice to try a very small batch of wine.

I’ve picked over the bunches of grapes, only keeping the ripe ones to get the sweetest fruit. Following the advice on this website, I wore latex gloves while picking the tiny grapes off the clusters, to protect my hands. It also made it a little less icky when I had to pick the numerous spiders and various other bugs out of the grapes as I was sorting them!

The next step is to mash the grapes before pressing them for juice:

In traditional wine-making, the skins and seeds are left in for the first stage of fermentation, but my research has recommended not to do that with wild grapes because the very high ratio of skins and seeds to juice would make the resulting wine too bitter.

This is my pressing set up:

A stainless steel colander is lined with damp cheesecloth. The mashed grapes are poured in, and then a plastic bowl that fits inside the colander goes on top of the grapes. A weight inside the bowl presses the grapes, and the juice collects in the bowl underneath.

And here is the result, exactly one liter of dark red grape juice. So the question is, do I make wild-grape wine (which would actually be more of a fruit wine like rhubarb or blueberry wine, rather than a true grape wine), or wild-grape flavoured mead with it? I’m leaning towards the wine, because in a normal “bad” year for wild grapes, I’m still likely to be able to collect enough to flavour mead, whereas I don’t know when we’ll have another really good summer for wild grapes… In either case, the juice is now going into the fridge overnight to let some of the tartrate precipitate out before I do anything further with it. And if I’m going to try to make wine, it might be worth the effort to harvest another batch of grapes for more juice, though let me tell you, separating out all the tiny grapes is very  tedious work indeed!

I will edit this post to include links to the next steps in the process as I document them:
Wild Wine: Part 2

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My Pagan Path, Part 1: Becoming a Green Witch
My Pagan Path, Part 2: My Green Witch Practice (What I do and Why I do it)
My Pagan Path, Part 3: Challenges and What Lies Ahead

 

Here are the questions I was asked about Parts 1, 2, and 3:

I was asked if my views on animism extended to “inventions” or “man-made” objects, such as cars or computers.

Yes and no. Here’s how I see it: All things in the natural world have their own, natural energy or spirit. Things that are man-made have the creative energy that was invested in them as they were made. So, for instance, all works of art have a great deal of energy, imparted to them by the artist as part of the creative process. Similarly, something made by “by hand” a craftsperson (be it a knitted sweater or a hand-made violin, or a piece of furniture made by a woodworker) have the energy that the craftsperson invested in it as they made it. Things that were made by a factory assembly-line, such as a computer or a car do not have any energy. But they can acquire energy if someone owns, and loves, and invests energy in them. So a car that has been lovingly washed and upgraded and named and talked to by its owner does develop a ‘spirit’.

I was asked to expand on my experiences of gender in paganism (mine and other people’s).

From what I’ve read, I’m fairly unique in pretty much ignoring gender in my practice as a pagan. It might be because gender is not terribly important to me in any part of my life, or because I had to seriously work through my gender identity when I was a teenager, and so gender seems to be more of a continuum than a dichotomy to me. Also, as I mentioned in Part 2, the vast majority of plants have both testes and ovaries, and so don’t have gender. When I’m cooking, I’ll taste a dish and think “I want to make it more spicy,” not “I want to make it more male”. Perhaps gender will come into my practice more when we’re raising animals for food (the baby chicks arrive on May 3rd).

I think there’s a few reasons why sex and gender is so important in a lot of pagan practice:

– Dualities (male/female, light/dark, moon/sun, full moon/dark (new) moon, yin/yang) are a way of organizing information, ideas, practices. There is a lot of energy in the tension between opposites. Personally I don’t see male/female (or moon/sun) as opposites, but many people do.

– Celebrations of gender and sexuality in paganism are in part a reaction against the religions that vilify sexuality and stipulate gender roles. People who feel strongly about celebrating their sexuality are often drawn to paganism. Paganism at its best is a quest for honest self-knowledge and a lot of people have hangups about sex that they need to work out (e.g. accepting themselves as sexual being after years of having been told that sex was dirty), so that comes out in their pagan practices.

– A lot of current pagan ideology comes out of 1970s American feminism, when many women really needed to find ways of expressing female power in a patriarchal society. Hence the emphasis on the Goddess to the exclusion of the God, the feminization of the earth, the celebration of female fertility as symbolised by menstrual blood, and imagery that includes “connecting to the Earth Goddess through your womb.” As someone who has chosen not to have children (and there is a great example of the way I tend to ignore gender: I said “As someone who”, rather than “As a woman who”), my womb isn’t central to who I am as a person and therefore not central to my spirituality.

– Sexuality is a way to raise a lot of very powerful energy, so if you have a problem that you want to throw a lot of energy at, sexual energy is an option. I don’t use it because I have a strong connection to the earth, so if I ever need a lot of energy for something, I use the earth’s energy, because I find that an easy way to do it – other people don’t, and may find accessing sexual energy to be a lot easier for them.

I was asked to talk a bit about why Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky is one of the books I found most inspiring to my green witch practice.

This is difficult to do without giving a lengthy summary of the book, but I’ll try. Terry is an astute observer of human nature who really ‘gets’ the difference between a traditional, practical, earth-based magical practice and the brand of ‘wtichcraft’ that we most often see in the media. For example, this bit where Tiffany (the 11-year old witch-in-training) and Miss Level (her teacher) have been to visit an old widower in his cottage:

“Well, couldn’t you help him by magic?”
“I make sure that he’s in no pain, yes” said Miss Level.
“But that’s just herbs.”
“It’s still magic. Knowing things is magical, if other people don’t know them.”
“Yes, but you know what I mean,” said Tiffany who felt that she was losing this argument.
“Oh, you mean make him young again?” said Miss Level. “Fill his house with gold? That’s not what witches do.”
“We see to it that lonely old men get a cooked dinner and cut their toenails?” said Tiffany, just a little sarcastically.
“Well, yes,” said Miss Level. “We do what can be done. Mistress Weatherwax said you’ve got to learn that witchcraft is mostly about doing quite ordinary things.”

He also, in his inimitable way, pokes gentle (or not-so-gentle) fun at those for whom ‘looking the part of a witch’ is more important than the actual witchcraft:

“Oh, I can see the problem…Your amulet with the little owls on it is tangled up with your necklace of silver bats and they’ve both caught around a button. Just hold still…”

Petulia couldn’t resist occult jewellery. Most of the stuff was to magically protect her from things, but she hadn’t found anything to protect her from looking a bit silly.

But what it really comes down to is that in this book, Terry captures what it is for a witch to have a connection to the land, and describes it beautifully:

“She tells the land what it is, and it tells her who she is.”

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