Samhain and Winternights

Ehsha Apple (A. Farmer):

Looks like I’ve been at this Community Building thing for six years and this blogging thing for four. I’m always amazed when I go back and read posts from years past. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Witchcraft From Scratch:

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I found the article I referenced in my last post and was reminded that it was for the newsletter for The United Pagan Federation (October 2012). If you are interested, here it is:

Most Pagans recognize the term Samhain (pronounced: sow-an), meaning “summer’s end,” as the “Celtic” origins of Halloween. There are plenty of mythologies surrounding that particular night (or nights), but we aren’t exactly sure what the pre-Christian Celts, Gaels (Picts), and Manx did to celebrate—if the celebrated at all—because their custom was to pass knowledge down in secret, without writing much down at all. But we do know that Samhain was relatde to the nights that separated the warm seasons from the cold seasons (either the beginning or the end of summer). Unlike the equinox, when the light half of the day could be measured against the dark half of the day with great accuracy, many scholars believe that Samhain…

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Irony, Theater, and Even More George Bailey

Yes. As you can likely guess, a lot has been going on in life that has kept me from writing. Many, many wonderful new things have entered my life and they require nurturing and careful attention. (There is, of course, a smattering of SSDD at several WTFs an hour, but that doesn’t even bear discussion–also I know when to keep my mouth shut.) One of the emotional-whiplash inducing effects of being a proper magical-type is that we get what we want, but it doesn’t always arrive in the vehicle we imagined.

And, in my experience, the universe lurves the heck out of some irony. Not that I don’t appreciate a good cosmic guffaw–I can laugh at myself as well as the next witch. Or at least as well as the next witch should–we know what we’ve signed up for. And I often get a hearty belly-laugh from the way the universe chooses to dole out “blessings” (typically with my fists raised, alternating between gratitude and utter confusion, and with “WHY” in the back of my throat). I love irony. We have to in our line, right? Remember always, “The Witches’ ‘Duh‘.”

Irony is the way of the aether.

That’s about what’s what up in here. Everything is truly good–but everything truly good requires a lot of fecking work. And appreciation for irony. And emotional-whiplash.

But, I thought I’d take a break from this magically delicious week and fill you in on a few things. If the ins-and-outs of my (rather humdrum at times) life amuses you–read on. Because that’s all this post is really about. No deep insights. No flowery language. Just me, shooting the breeze.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for very long at all, you know how I feel about George Bailey. (If not, here y’go.) And if you’ve read even this far in this post, you know how I feel about irony. I hate one and adore the other.

So, get this.

A couple of months ago a dear friend came to my door and said, “We need to do something just for us.” Of course, I agreed. This friend and I have spent years wrapped up in our childrens’ lives and never really bonded over anything other than child-rearing and kindred-building. “Just us” sounded splendorous. “How about instead of trucking the kids to theater practice all the time we try out for a play?” Dude. This friend and I have been buds since our grown boys were in grammar school together. She knows my sweet-spots.

Side Note: The play was changed at the last minute. Charles Dickens was scheduled but there was a copyright issue. So the play was changed to something that made me laugh so hard I cried.

I spent all of my high school and most of my undergraduate years on some sort of stage. I joked that I went into teaching for the “captive audience.” My theatrical resumé is both impressive and embarrassing–as most theatrical resumés are. I’ve played everything from Velma Kelly to Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace (with full-body fat-suit to make me look less apparently female). I’ve played boys. I’ve played girls. I’ve played mystical creatures. I’ve been the trollop. I’ve been the unkissed virgin. I’ve been the crone. I’ve been the vaporish-aunt. I’ve been the vindictive daughter. I’ve been the lead. I’ve been ensemble. Ain’t much I haven’t done. One thing I never played was an elderly man.

Well, ladies and gentalmen? It was thisclose.

Another side note: My daughter is playing the male lead in the high school Fall play currently running this weekend. She’s magnificent.

I went to audition for that play. And as I sat reading the monologues, I wondered just precisely what role I even cared to play. I mean, I kinda hate this particular story and fairly all of the characters involved. That’s when the director announced that she had licence to “gender-bend” the roles. And I had it. I knew. In my bones. Even before I introduced myself to a director who had heretofore only worked with my children. I knew I had the role.

By now, you may be wondering what play our little community theater is presenting this holiday season.

By now you may have guessed if you have payed attention to my thoughts about irony.

Wait for it.

This November, my community theater group is presenting It’s A Wonderful Life, adapted for stage by Anthony Palermo. And I will be playing the role of “Ms Potter”–who hates George Bailey.

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I won’t be cross-dressing for this role (much) nor be in a wheelchair (much) but will be taking a rather Cruella Deville in Prada tack on the anti-George Bailey–complete with a thick white streak in my hair (per the costume director’s suggestion–I squeed). The big problem has become that I adore the young man playing George. It’s kinda hard to hate him.

So. Irony. Yes. But where’s the magic?

In a life that’s often overwrought with (actual) doctors, (actual) lawyers, and (actual) Indian chiefs, I stole a moment for myself. In days that often leave me asking for divine affirmation–this. This is the highly ironic answer I was given: “A’right, you wanna venture back onto the small stage? Here ya go. You wanna know if your life is on the right track? Oohkaaay … but don’cha know all divine answers are like a slap upside the head? Quit asking.”

With all the fun of Mercury in Retrograde and upcoming Winternights/Samhain celebrations, I’ve felt pulled in more directions than C3PO on Bespin’s Cloud City. But the silly, ironic, time-consuming reward of being part of this little production is knowing that my gods can still laugh at me and yet allow me to laugh along with them (both at them and at myself).

Obviously, It’s a Wonderful Magical Life. Even when it feels like Pitfall! level 50. Some misguided angel may just show up and save your life by jumping off a bridge in front of you.

See? Told ya. Nothing profound to see here this time.

Hee-haw and Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls.

06

Migration and Housekeeping

If you’ve been reading with me long enough, you know that I have/had another blog called The Bad Witch Files. I’m in the process of migrating those posts here.

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I don’t plan to delete TBW Files, so old links will still work. I just ask that you pardon the toodling that is bound to happen over the next week or so.

Goodness and Rebirth

The Forest of Rebirth by Narandel on DiviantArt

The Forest of Rebirth by Narandel on DiviantArt

I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. — Charles Bukowski

I have always had a strong affinity to the Phoenix. I have an uncanny knack for rising up out of my own ashes.

I also kinda like Bukowski. Some people read him as “dark” and “cynical” and even “misanthropic.” But I see in his poetry (more than in his prose, I admit) an insatiable longing for goodness. A knowing that goodness is out there and a death-drive to fecking find it. To find it and straddle it and slide next to it and kiss it full on the mouth with the greedy expectation of being enveloped by its swarming, blood-thick reality. I’m not talking about altruism, philanthropy, political-correctness, or politeness. I’m talking about goodness. And goodness–honest goodness–is often heavy, sticky, and oppressive with wonder and insight.

Maybe that’s not what you get from Bukowski. I can see that.

But let me tell you a short story. I introduced Bukowski to someone who was grasping at spider’s webs, trying to hang on to a reason to live. Words, man. “This,” she said, “this I can feel.” She had been pushing away every constructed regurgitation of others’ emotions because they struck her as “false,” so she refused them and started believing that there were no “true” feelings to be had. “This. This I can feel.” Sounds pretty damn hopeful to me. Sure, she was reading “The Crunch,” not a very uplifting piece; but his refrain that “people are not good to each other,” implies that we can be. There can be goodness. Heart-breakingly beautiful goodness. Goodness that, with its nasty weight, most people reject for “love and light.”

I’ve been stumbling all over that kind of goodness lately. I’ve been finding it stuck to my shoes and matted in my hair and running down my legs in thick rivulets of dumbfounding honesty. I’m a little overcome by it but I also have the breathtaking desire to find more of it–now that I know it’s out there.

Rather, in here. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, it’s been in me all along. Goodness, I mean. I had just forgotten it, or had devalued it, or had disguised it as something else.

Let me put all of this verbal meandering in some context. It’s been exactly a year since my husband hired a lawyer to pursue a defamation case on my behalf. It’s been a helluva year. Since then I have been in court (for myself and for others being similarly harassed) more than I ever wanted to be[1] and, as a proximate result, have lost my teaching job at the university.[2] Somewhere in that year, I lost a sense of who I am. I turned over the kindred leadership to my priest and his wife (also a blood-relative), put occult teaching on the back-burner, sent a child off to college, had a couple of traumatic personal “lashing-out” adventures, and watched my husband obsess over another woman (even if it is hatred-fueled, it’s a real thing to watch). All that, and the result is that now I don’t have the job that I sacrificed so much for. I don’t mean I sacrificed because I wanted it–but because my family needed me to stay put, I passed up other (tenured) positions in places that are not Alabama.[3]

So I feel like Bukowski on this. I honestly feel like the last 12 months have been equitable to binge drinking. Once this hangover clears, I think I’ll be allowed to resurrect my slaughtered self.

You see, just a few weeks before The Husband hired The Lawyer–Midsummer 2013–I wrote about an epiphany I’d had the previous spring (and put it in context of the year prior to that) in the aptly named “Midsummer.” I said:

… the crux of the vision was that I needed to …. reclaim a part of mySelf that had been lost and reintegrate it into my whole being. A week later I went to a celebration with a nearby coven. At their ritual, they performed a “rebirthing” ceremony. I thought, “Ah-ha! This is just what I need.” Nope. I had to bear that weight a little longer.

Little did I know how much gestation time I was in for.[4] And how much giving birth to oneself hurts.

I figured if I gave you Bukowski, I should give you Giger--just for giggles.

I figured if I gave you Bukowski, I should give you Giger–just for giggles.

In that year of breaking myself into uncompletable shards, I found that there were hidden treasures. Hidden goodness. Under all my own “false” emotions—the ones worn to pacify others’ needs for stability and appearances—I found “true” emotions. The sticky-thick unnerving kind. And I needed to be unnerved. I was dying under the weight of niceness[5] devoid of any anchor in goodness.

What happened was this. I became more intentional in my devotions[6] and I prayed. A lot. And you know what happens when witches pray. Shite gets real.

Suddenly, I had this fantastic aetherial partnership that went far and beyond anything I had experienced with KCHGA. The only way I can describe it is “entirely specific.” And this is a really good thing—else-wise I’d believe I was losing my ever-loving mind. But because I have seen evidence that this is not “all in my cracked head,” I know it’s real.

Then. Then I started obeying—executing instructions. And I’m a little blown away by the specificity of it all. There is nothing ambiguous about instructions, consequences for not following instructions, rewards for following instructions, grace-periods, etc.[7] It really got to the point where I started writing things down so that I could highlight them, check them off, cross them out as they happened.

A friend and I have a joke about life being a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. This is almost like reading ahead and knowing what’s on each page before choosing!

  • My first test was in January and an unexpected “adventure.” The experience itself was pleasurable but left a little aftershock, if not outright trauma. Maybe just in that it actually happened the way it was supposed to. Or at all.
  • Then there was Imbolc and our land-warden-planting and a visit to a very high energy location and yet another adventure—where I may have left someone else vaguely traumatized!
  • Then Ostara and no adventures aside from a rebirthing ritual of our own. That, I think, was just after I figured out the “rules” of this new relationship.
  • Walpurgisnacht was fascinating (and landed me sick for a month) and a complete reversal of Walpurgisnact 2013 which I spent intentionally with only female priestesses—this (liberating) ritual took place with just myself and three male[8]
  • Between the spokes in the year, there was a series of unfortunate events—floods and infestations—that, in turn, caused some of the other items to get ticked off my list.
  • Finally, just before Midsummer, some paradigm shift caused the whole convoluted picture to come into focus. By mid-June, I saw what was coming but I didn’t know the finer details.
This was from June 30. It's just ... so much.

This was from June 30. It’s just … so much.

Now, on the other side of the harvest, Lammas, things are starting to converge. And I’m terrified that I’m getting exactly what I bargained for. Exactly—but with fun surprises at the bottom of the box.[9] And a lot of hidden treasure among the shards of my broken soul. And all that goodness—true goodness—I thought I had irretrievably lost. I don’t think I’ve found rebirth or resurrection yet—I think these are the labor pains.

There is a bout with forgiveness that I’m going to have to fight. Actually, more than one. And if fighting *with* forgiveness doesn’t sound paradoxical to you? Welcome to the conundrum. I feel ya. And I think I’m up for the fight. Hope you are too. If not, drop me a line and we’ll hash it out together.

There’s a “struggle of the wills” that I’ll have to take part in. I think I know where this one is going to come from. My goal is to remain compassionate yet not a carpet to be walked on: balancing geburah and chesed.

In my secular life, mid-November is significant. It’s when the timeline for the EEOA investigation of my termination runs out and I will have an answer. And I’ll turn to that page in my adventure book. Until then, I plan to stay the course.

I hope to be able to keep the regular promise of letting you know how it turns out. But I simply can’t say what’s on that page just yet. Either way, waes thu hael.

~E

 

[1] Except when I was courting law school.

[2] You see, my supervisor has a relationship to the defendant and let me go in retaliation. Needless to say, I have another year of another suit–this time an EEOA violation.

[3] I did get what I needed out of that suit though–the truth has (mostly) come to the surface, maybe not the details but certainly the reality of the situation; I’m unharassed; and I know who my friends are and who I can trust better than ever. Plus, I’ve an even stronger sense of devotion and have reaped the harvest of such devotions. That can’t be all bad.

[4] Like whale and rhino long.

[5] Motivated solely by the determination not to be “bad.”

[6] There is still plenty of room for improvement.

[7] The only thing I am struggling with is the time line. I’m fecking impatient and may end up shooting myself in the foot with that shortcoming.

[8] We have two Walpurgisnacht rituals: the main one and a more private, chthonic one.

[9] Sometimes it’s just the spiritual equivalent of a press-on tattoo—but that’s better than nothing. Lagniappe is always welcome.

Hunter Gatherer: A Mabon Reflection (aka: I’m Getting Too Old For This)

Ehsha Apple (A. Farmer):

I’m rounding out a tome on ritual and have taken to searching my old blogs for words of wisdom. Oh, so much has changed since this Mabon post, but with Midsummer (Litha) just around the wheel, I thought I’d reshare it with you.

Originally posted on The Bad Witch Files:

Autumn is upon us. I can feel it in the air, the season is changing. The songs of the birds have changed, the bugly activity in the yard has a different hum about it. The crops are in their final throes, ripening more quickly than I can gather them. Daily, something new has taken on a different hue. The deep green lushness of two weeks ago has mellowed into softer shades of chartreuse and yellow; soon there will be orange and red. The air is lighter and moves more readily. Everything is a little more insistent: change.

Change insists itself in the Autumn because without it, we would be overrun. (See “The Bad Witch at the Watering Hole”.) We need a little of the death of winter to make way for the birth of spring. Makes sense in my head.

My body feels it differently. This insistence often feels like a push toward death…

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Toxicodendron Radicans (Poison Ivy) and Magic

Ehsha Apple (A. Farmer):

It was just after writing this post that I realized the plant I had been pulling during the opening story in question was poison ivy herself. With my bare hands. When I didn’t flame up, I also realized I was one of the very few who are not affected by her. Nonetheless, I remain diligent and respectful. Just because she’s spared me in the past doesn’t mean I’ve earned a lifelong pass–right?!

Originally posted on Witchcraft From Scratch:

As I write this blog, I notice that it winds around like a vine, wrapping itself around whatever it grabs hold of, climbing into crevices where I couldn’t have foreseen it would grow. There should be a joke about irritation here—but I’ll leave it to you to make.

The Wild Hunt by Peter Nicholai Arbo

As we were clearing land for the kindred hof and ve, my husband got into some poison ivy[1] and spent a week learning about cortisol while he was in Scandinavia. As we piled wood for the fire, we had to check to make sure we weren’t sending toxins airborne. Plus, a thing about poison ivy is that the toxin is carried in a non-water-soluble oil, so if you try washing the affected area with water, you will just spread the irritant further.

What’s this got to do with magic?” you ask?

Nothing…

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Another DIY Thing

Breast cancer is nothing to sniff at.

My sister has recovered from two bouts with cancer: breast and skin. My aunts have as well. Well, some of them. I have had a benign tumor removed and that’s skeery enough for me.

I have always known that there was a link between antiperspirant and cancer–particularly breast cancer. (I know, I know, the medical jury is “out” on the exact science–as they tend to be.) But, I never stopped using mass-produced products. I used “all-natural” and aluminum-free products, but never liked them so went back to the chunks of white antiperspirant: “cancer sticks”–maybe.

I stopped using shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis around 2008 and stopped all-together since I stopped hanging around with horses. A few years back, I started making my own soap and face cleanser, toner, moisturizer, etc. Why in the world was I still using store-bought antiperspirant.

Oh–wait–yeah. Deodorant and antiperspirant are not the same thing.

But still.

Here’s some TMI for this DIY post. When I get sweaty and then encounter strangers, they tell me I smell good. No kidding. Folks stop me to ask me why I “smell so good.” I’d like to say that it’s because I have a good diet and that I use (almost) all-natural body-products.

But it happened back when I was younger and not as careful about what I put in and on my bod. I’d leave dance-practice and get actively “sniffed” on the bus. I’d go to work and–after a few hours of moving around under hot lights–have coworkers ask me, “What are you wearing?”

And I guess I smell different to different people. Some folks say I smell like tree bark, some say grass, some say incense, some say other earthy things. You’d think I’d smell like whatever magical concoction I was working on most recently–but nope. No one ever tells me I smell like Abramelin or mugwort. I’d love to tell folks that “I just smell like a witch,” but that would be misleading.

One of my son’s theater friends insists, “pine needles.”

My younger daughter says “bug spray.”

I can only conclude it is a pH thing.

Anyway. I was at this local writer’s shindig and started talking to a grad student about no-poo-shampoo and witch-hazel toner and olive oil soap and honey+egg conditioner. She told me her basic recipe for DIY deodorant. I knew it was a thing but had never talked to anyone I trusted about the results.

Given the dance my genes do with breast cancer, I committed to trying it.

After a week of resisting the urge to Google/Pinterest/WikiHow a zillion recipes, thereby confusing myself into an unworkable tizzy, I decided to research body stank. I knew it was about moisture and warm spots and bacteria, so there were no real surprises.

Then I moved to asking, “What makes DIY deodorant fail?” The top three complaints were:

  • Itchy or drying
  • Reddening or irritating
  • Low melting point
  • Crumbly
  • Less sweat but still stinky

So I put my brain to work and  started looking at the contents of my cabinets.
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Basically, I was told to mix coconut oil and baking soda. That was the start.

  • To combat the itchy dryness, I added raw shea butter and vitamin E oil.
  • To address the irritation, I cut back the baking soda and added arrowroot and bentonite (facial clay) for absorption.
  • I figured the bentonite would also help with the low melting point–especially here in the Bamas.
  • And I added beeswax to help it hold together without crumbling or melting.
  • I added pharmaceutical grade tea tree oil as an antiseptic.
  • Here’s where I think I got brilliant: stank. Stinky pits are caused from bacteria growing, right? What’s the best way to naturally combat nasty bacteria? Yup, I cracked open a probiotic capsule and tossed it in the mix.
  • I also added a couple of essential oils that I thought might compliment my already naturally woodsy aroma. I won’t add lemon grass next time. On account o’ it’s just–well–it’s–I don’t like it.
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The melted ingredients. I put them in a mason jar in a pot on the stove. less cleanup, I figure.

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The powered ingredients. Less clay next time, I think.

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Baby-poop green. At least it’s just armpits. This is before it cools and hardens, btw.

I’m not going to put the measurements here because I’m still working it out. As ever, I’ll let you know when I get there. My first batch was a little softer than I’d like and–well–it’s an ugly green from the clay. Personally, I like the feeling of tea tree oil–but I want to make a new batch and be more sparing with that ingredient for those who are less amenable to the sensation.

I didn’t have an empty deodorant container, so first I poured the melted goo into a silicone cupcake tray thinking I’d make deodorant cakes, but they melted at body temperature and made my hands ooie. So I remelted those and poured it into paper “dixie” cups and figure I can peal away the paper as I need to.

My hubby wants a batch. And that’s a big deal. He usually waits until I get everything “almost just right” before becoming a guinea pig. And a few friends have asked for some. I’m excited.

So–you give it a whirl. Especially those of you already in the practice of making yummy skin things (ehem, Amy — here’s a shameless plug for my friend’s shop: plantcraftbyamy.com). Let me know what proportions work in what climate. Let me know if you come up with better ingredients or combinations.

And, as ever, I’ll let you know.

Waes thu hael and sweet smelling.