Aug 15, 2017

Of Summer, Sacrifice, and Sacred Places


The frantic movement of bee and wasp tonight has given me pause. Are they drunk on summer still, or are they vigorously preparing for the lean seasons to come? My late summer garden offers more for them this year than last, and I suspect they are grateful. The foxgloves have bloomed heartily and the sweet peas, though fading, are yet putting on a ruffled pink show. The insects whirl around the purple hyssop flowers and encircle the second crop of blossoms on the raspberry bushes (the very things I cut to the ground early this spring thinking it would tame them, and now they are nine feet tall). 

The winds and rain we've been calling on to sweep away the wildfire smoke blanketing the valley arrived for one brief evening on the weekend and blotted out the view of the peak of the Persieds meteor shower. It also pushed over all but two stalks of my corn and most of my sunflowers but I can see the sky tonight for the first time in weeks and that's a small price to pay for stars. I've missed watching the summer sunsets more than I can say. 

I can't go out to the gardens anymore without crushing a leaf of this or that in my fingers. Tonight I am redolent with the essence of hyssop and mugwort and lemon balm. The grasshoppers are ticking away in the long grass and the mild temperature is a blessed relief from the mid to high nineties we've suffered through for the better part of a month. The wind is rousing again, and I'm warily eyeing the corn that I've propped up with pieces of poor garden fencing. I'll know in the morning if my meagre fix has been successful. 

The tomatoes, onions, and peppers are being plucked now and I have a constant dance of nightshades in the fridge at all times. I like to cut up the four different types of tomatoes I grew this year, along with whatever peppers and onions are being harvested and have this salsa-of-sorts at the ready to toss into omelets, salads, or onto crusty bread for bruschetta. The corn is coming in handsomely from my friend's ranch. My corn dolly has been created for the year but I cannot kindle a blaze to burn last year's doll, so her offering will have to wait until the fire ban is lifted for my area.


I gave the most valuable sacrifice I had to offer on August eve, my beloved black cat who couldn't find his sturdy legs any longer, and it seemed that the world understood how difficult a parting that would be for me. It presented me with an opportunity to heal my heart, and I flew off to New Mexico and spent the better part of a week in a high desert of juniper and pinion pine and red clay. I fell asleep to the sound of coyotes calling, yipping and howling across the wilderness outside my window. I watched sunsets and moon-rises so stunning I gasped, and stood on a balcony feeling the swell in my chest as a storm blew in and lightning flickered on the horizon.



I walked the side streets and plaza of Santa Fe, my senses seduced by whiffs of leather, cigars, fresh corn tortillas, and sweet perfumes I couldn't place, all pouring out of shop fronts. I admired rows of steer skulls and pottery, paintings and sculptures at each turn, and turquoise in almost every window. I was more entranced by the Catholicized spirits and symbolism than I thought I would be, collecting up a pocket shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe and a charm covered in milagros to bring home with me, but beneath the grand basilica and religious top notes of the area, a deeper flavour emerged. I could feel the hum of something older beneath my feet. I slept in a bedroom that was partially submerged in the earth of the countryside and I dreamed deeply and awoke feeling more myself than I had in a very long time. 


I gathered with a group of amazing women, spent time with two soul-friends that I'd never met but who felt like home, and learned the song and fragrance and spice of an area that seemed so right that I can still taste it on my tongue. There was laughter and bone-deep sharing of lives and loves and losses. There were candles lit every day, from the simple to the most sacred. There was holy water from historic churches partaken of, and used to anoint places on me that would surely have caused the pious to blush. There was guacamole that caused a ripple of elation usually reserved for more carnal situations, and there was deep fried ice cream. And on the way home, after maneuvering through airports late into the night, there was a thunderstorm viewed from 30,000 feet and a moon so red that it might have been a pinprick of my own blood somehow left hanging in the sky.


These last few days as I reoriented myself to hazy skies and a valley situated at a much lower elevation than the high plains that skirt the mountains of New Mexico, I've been feeling like there are things coming to a conclusion in my life. I can't quite flesh it all out at this moment, but I suspect it has something to do with the last four years not really unfolding the way I had planned, and how I've sailed through the high waves and windless seas, and how it's all brought me to this moment. A dear friend asked a few weeks ago about my plans for the upcoming solar eclipse and I hadn't answered his question because I didn't know that I was feeling moved by it in any particular way. Only two days ago, I wasn't sure I even cared about the eclipse. But now I'm sensing that there will be some work or observation of note. I'm left wondering if this impression of things coming to completion is respective of the World card from the tarot. Or perhaps the Death card. Or something more prosperous, like the nine of pentacles (yes, please). Time, and eclipse, I suppose, will tell. 


As I plunge ahead into harvest tide duties, jamming, drying, pickling, and freezing my garden gleanings and gatherings-up of local crops and wild plants, there is also less tangible work being attended to. The altar has a simple new addition of a Mercury working and my local spirits are being tended to as I find my way back to wandering in the woods and beside rivers. I've not been neglectful, but the heat and smoke of the past month has kept me closer to home than I would have liked, and that means all my libations and songs have been gifted to the valley floor and not so much the hills and wilds. I know they haven't forgotten me though. 

I hope your summer has been kind. I hope you've had play and rest and are finding that a satisfying harvest is beginning to come in. I wish whatever blessings you long for upon you as the sun disappears and then rejoins us on the 21st of August. (If you have solar eclipse plans, I'd love to hear them.) The languid late summer days aren't over yet, though twilight and pre-dawn are stretching out their dusky fingers and settling deeper into our hours of light. Welcome them with me, won't you? We don't have to say goodbye to the sun yet. But oh, those dark-kissed early evenings in the garden, or curled up on outdoor furniture under twinkle lights with others, are some of my favourite hours of this time of year.




Witch Notes:

~ Though I am Canadian, I am, like everyone else, nursing a deep heartsickness over the events in Charlottesville (and those that have occurred since the US election). There are a number of things that can be done by those who have means and energy to give. Everyone will attend to these things differently, but if you rally or donate or weep or open your home to others or pray or curse, I support you. Process and engage in the most healthy way you can, and please take care of yourself.

There is only so much I can do from here, but I've donated to a local Charlottesville charity doing good work in the area, and I've got some wicked thorns from a lightning-struck black locust that are doing an entirely different sort of work on the situation. In the meantime, soak your spirit in these beautiful words from HecateDemeter, Southern Pride in a Time of Terror

~ Briana Saussy has opened registration for Spinning Gold, her gorgeous foray into fairytale, magic, and the Sacred Arts. I participate each year and adore Bri's heart, spirit, and work. Check it out, here.

~ October is just around the corner (yes, really) and the Great October Book Giveaway will be back for the 7th year. I couldn't put on such a fantastic event each year without the generosity of some of the authors and artists I feature. I have a nice selection of goodies stacking up for my readers already, but if you are an author (or know one) who wants to participate by sending along a tome or two to some lovely readers, please feel free to message me. The giveaway was originally a book-only event, but it has now grown to include card decks and art/talismans. The theme each year is geared toward the varied things I blog about - witchcraft, folklore, herbalism, cartomancy, and associated ideas, so if your work falls into those realms and you'd like to help out, let me know. 


7 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Sounds like a wonderful, soul-refreshing trip! Sorry to hear about your beloved kitty's passing.

Riverton Witch said...

What beautiful photos, and it sounds like you had a great time. Thank you for your sentiments at the end as well, it's a sad day not just for the states but for North America, we're so culturally and socially interconnected that an injustice anywhere impacts us all.

Linda Wildenstein said...

I'm so happy for you. Santa Fe is a wonderful place to "regroup".
The horror of the past week is something that must call all of us to "Resist" and be a part of the solution and not turn a blind eye to the evil. Thanks for your thoughts and for the link to a very straight talking Southern woman.
Blessings, Oma Linda

Magaly Guerrero said...

I danced... I danced from the moment the Moon began to glide in front of the Sun until she was done. A bit over an hour. It was glorious... and sweaty. :-)

Rue said...

I can see you. Whirling with the dance of sun and moon. And of course, of course, of course you came to mind today, and here you are! Magic.

grackleandsun said...

Very sorry about your cat. Glad that New Mexico was a balm to your heart. It contains that kind of magic. May you find ease and flow as you navigate conclusions and transitions.

Rue said...

Thank you so much. It's interesting that you chose the words you did. "Ease" and "flow" have been mantras of mine lately. Cheers.