Feb 27, 2013



Today was sunshine and clouds.  A black widow spider.  31 snowflakes.

A good long walk.  A good long laugh.  A good long cry.

Today was hot chocolate.  Compost.  Turned over earth.  Whispering blessings.

Today was incense on charcoal.  Whisky for the garden spirits.  A wild wind.  Local honey.

Today was both procrastination and finally finishing.

And two funny dogs that looked like footstools.

Today was deep breathing.  And deeper realizations.

Feb 20, 2013

To Make the Wounded Whole

"There is balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There's power enough in heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul"

~ African American Spiritual

In the last twelve hours, a great snow blew into The Valley and then melted again.  It was quite the blizzard as I drove home yesterday, and I woke to nearly an inch on the yard this morning.  But it was light and fluffy, and the warm winds came in shortly after dawn, and soon it was gone.  There is still the ice and deeply packed places in the corners of the yard that get little sunlight this time of year.  But for the most part, the end of the constant snow is near.

Today the librarian told me that her irises were coming up.  I've not checked mine - I haven't had the heart to go searching for life around the bulbs yet.  Tomorrow perhaps.  The most vibrant green I see this time of year is the moss that grows on the large boulders by the river.  I often stop and run my hands over the little green blankets.  It's the closest I get to new plant growth this early in the season.

The other item that peaks my interest this time of year is poplar buds.  After a few good winter winds, many little twigs fall from the poplar trees by the river, and the sticky buds on the branches are a prize!  The resinous material that seeps from the buds is nicknamed "Balm of Gilead" and is wonderful infused in oil and used in salves that are dabbed on wounded skin and rubbed onto inflamed or arthritic hands.  There are a couple great posts on using Balm of Gilead here and here.

In the Pagan-osphere, the first big festival of the season just ended.  After two years of tension surrounding Pantheacon, many hurt feelings and much confusion, it seems that the festival bounced back wonderfully.  Reports are coming in from blogs and social media that this was an incredible return to point for Pantheacon.  People came away feeling a sense of community, even with those whose practices were entirely different than theirs.  I'm looking forward to reading more as the attendees continue to blog about their experiences.  This is a festival that I plan to attend in the future.

Speaking of festivals/conferences, I've started booking my own tickets to events - the first two being Spark & Hustle (a business conference)  in Seattle in April, and Faerieworlds in Oregon in July.

February for me has been about shaking off the last of 2012.  Finishing old projects, filing papers, giving back that pile of books/movies that friends lent me that I was going to get to, but are still sitting in a pile on the bookshelf/beside the tv.  A good re-arranging of the living space while making use of some of my friend's mad Feng Shui skills, was also accomplished.

Thus far, 2013 seems to be the year of shaking off what doesn't work, repairing what is wounded, and getting things done!

Whether you have been hibernating (like me, last year) or hell-bent on clearing shit out, I hope February has been good for you.  March is nigh, ya'll.  Once my peas and lettuce go in the ground, it's all dirt, all the time for me, so getting my indoor world addressed now is a must!  The sun is coming...

Feb 6, 2013

Found Animal Objects

Being a wild-crafter and forager, I come across more in my travels than just amazing local plants that heal and uplift and smolder gorgeously on charcoal. While walking beside rivers or through woods, I find the occasional animal offering. Feathers, foot tracks, nests, and sometimes shed hair or antler are discovered. Some items are collected and brought home while others remain where I found them, gifted with whispered acknowledgments to the fauna that deposited the evidence.

I have found my share of blood and bone too, but I am not experienced with bone collecting or flesh removal techniques, so I leave that to the ones who work in those mediums.  You can expose yourself to some nasty bugs if you are not vigilant while working with animal remains.  I’ll note a few links down below - there are some very talented hide and bone workers out there.  To these practitioners, working with the dead is a sacred act - one that they take very seriously.

I have a small collection of feathers, antlers and assorted oddities like some wasp paper salvaged from a huge nest that was knocked free from a tree last winter.  Last week I brought home some wood chips carved out from one of several trees that were downed by the beaver population.  The teeth marks in the wood are fantastic, although I’d have preferred to not see half a dozen large trees come down in the space of a month.

When I bring home animal materials, I make sure they are not wet or bloody.  Covering your find in salt for a time is a good remedy for any lingering dampness.  I have a friend who microwaves feathers for 10-20 second intervals (keeping watch) and says it works great for her. I don't have/use a microwave, so that's not even something I would consider.  I prefer to leave mine in the freezer for a few days to make sure there are no bugs hopping a ride into my house.  Use common sense.  Anything that looks like it is decomposing or has a questionable substance on it, should be left behind.

Will you display your finds?  Do you have an animal altar to house items and offerings for a multitude of animals or for one specific one that you work with?  Will you use the animal materials in ritual or spell work?  I change my altar seasonally.  Sometimes antlers appear, sometimes feathers.  The wasp paper is being saved for now - I have few ideas on what I might want to do with it.  The beaver chips…who knows?  To me, beavers are hard-working, familial, nesting animals that are charming but fierce if cornered. Perhaps I'll use the wood as an addition to a special incense, or as an ingredient in a working where I’m wanting a little tenacity or persistence.

Research animal symbolism, but also take time to ask yourself what the animal that left your find means to you.  Bringing home a treasure like this can simply offer you something lovely to display, or move you more deeply into connecting with nature and the spirits and animals that reside there.

Do you collect animal objects? Are there any particular animals you work with?

For more information:

Lupa has a new book out on animal totems.  She also works with animal hide and fur (re-purposed fur from coats and hides that were already out in circulation. She doesn’t support trapping.)  She sells these items in her Etsy shop.  Her blog site Therioshamanism is a wealth of information about working with animal spirits/totems, ecoshamanism, and a host of other topics.

Sarah Lawless works with animal materials to create fetishes, flying ointments and more, and continues to build her own personal collection.  She blogs at Witch of Forest Grove and sells her products at The Poisoner’s Apothecary.  Her article in the latest Witches & Pagans Magazine, The Girl Who Found a Feather is a fantastic read.

Ms. Graveyard Dirt is a bone collector (with a fabulously foul mouth) who works with found dead.  She can be found on Tumblr where she has links to her other haunts, as well as a search bar on the right that will take you to posts on her bone and blood work.

Feb 3, 2013

Arise, February!

"When Candlemas came around, old Jack Poirier would go outside and look.  If the weather was fine he'd say 'clear sky, clear field.'  That meant there wouldn't be a good crop." 
- Alyre Landry (Notre-Dame, New Brunswick) *

I hope Groundhog Day, Imbolc, Candlemas or simply February's entrance, was wonderful for you.  We are still celebrating here.  There are a couple Imbolc celebrations happening in The Valley today, but I'm not feeling like making the drive north, so I'm hauling all my winter greens to my fire bowl in the back yard.  I'll be smelling like fir and pine smoke before the day is out, and hopefully some of that warmth will melt a bit of the snow still firmly holding its grip over the lawn and gardens.

"They used to say that if the skunk saw his shadow before 10 o'clock on that day, the weather would be bad for 40 days.  If he didn't see his shadow, they'd say 'winter's back is broken.' 
- Ronald Martin (Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick) *

On the topic of weather (and weather prediction,) both Punxsutawney Phil and Ontario's Wiarton Willie predicted an early spring this year.  While not all groundhogs agree, I'm going with Phil and Will.  I'm checking my stock of sweet and snap peas and watching the ground.  I'll have at least one raised garden bed sown by month end, if I have my way.

Candlemas Day, stick beans in the clay.  (old wives saying)

The celebrations of February have not finished yet.  The Year of the Snake begins on February 10th when the Chinese New Year hits.  And for those that take part in the massive pink and red love fest that is Valentine's Day, you have about ten more days to get your chocolate marshmallow hearts on.

For me, this month, the most happiness comes when the bulbs finally break through the earth.  Cory tossed out this song snippet today and now all I can think of is daffodils.

"Arise, my love! Arise, my love!

Apollo's lighting the skies, my love
The meadows shine with columbine
And daffodils blossom away"
("What Do The Simple Folk Do" by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe)

May the sunshine find you and the ground stir beneath your feet!

*Quotes via Georges Arsenault, Acadian Traditions on Candlemas Day.
Photos from Creative Commons and linked to sources.