Sunday, September 25, 2011

At The Equinox

I'll admit, I was feeling less than festive at the autumnal equinox this year. That's unusual for me, as fall is my favorite time of all, and so many of the things that I love best take place this time of year--but there it was. Nonetheless I baked a loaf of utterly non-traditional soda bread (filled with raisins, currants and cranberries), arrayed the altar with pumpkins and gourds and fruits and the monster acorns I've been gathering on my rambles through the neighborhood, and contrived with my closest fellow witches to celebrate the season's turning as best we all could. I decided to do a reading, using the deck that I always switch to at this time of year, and I'll share it with you here:

(Images are from Kipling West's Halloween Tarot; in this deck, Pumpkins replace Pentacles and Bats replace Swords.)

Oddly, I felt rather better after that!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poetry: J.L. Stanley

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird's wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open
spilling streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drank
the holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother
who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in
the earth and the sun
and a million, million light years of being

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Introducing The Witch

(Note: The original posting date for this was March of 2010, on another blog I maintained.)

from the Halloween Tarot, by Kipling West
If Hogwarts existed, and I'd been plucked from my muggle-born world and sent there to study, I think I would have enjoyed Potions most of all. (As a child I'd have gone in mortal terror of Professor Snape, though by my teen years I would have been regularly costing my House points for snarking back at him.) I love experimenting with things, making messes, making potions, making magick--the magick of scent, that most evocative of sensations. I love settling in to my witch's cottage (yes, I have one) and setting out my ingredients, setting up the atmosphere for crafting something wonderful. I work by candlelight, of course, and utilize things like cauldrons and stone mortars and pestles, wooden bowls, wooden and pewter and silver spoons, glass jars and stoneware jars. I like music for background and inspiration, but since it's impossible to play the harp and do handwork at the same time, I use recorded music instead; Blackmore's Night, typically, though it might as easily be something else in a similar vein.

When I was blogging on the Temperance card the other day, I completely forgot the version to be found in one of my all-time favorite decks, Kipling West's Halloween Tarot. I got that deck out this morning and when I turned her up, I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. That's me, the me I have in mind when I'm doing my thing with my herbs and oils; the witchiest me, not a High Priestess of the Wica or anything ceremonial or outwardly imposed. That's the me that I held in my heart and my imagination from the time I was just a child, and to me that's what Witchcraft will always look like: cauldrons and cats and owls and hats, something bubbling away over a fire, shelves of obscure tomes and jars filled with you-don't-even-want-to-know-what. Steady hands, good instincts, curiosity, a willingness to experiment, those are the characteristics of Witchcraft to me. The religious aspects, and all the other trappings, they have their place but are wholly secondary to me in my practice. The craft, the Craft, the work of the hands and the imagination and the senses, that is Witchcraft, and that is magick. It's my own weird science, and it fulfills me.

(Yes, I was one of those kids who had a chemistry set, and a backyard meteorology set, and I made messes and set things on fire and drove my parents nuts. I used to stake out plots in the yard and conduct archaeological digs. I even had a job working in a laboratory once; I loved it, wearing a lab coat and gloves and messing around with beakers and centrifuges and such. If you were wondering.)

I remember being quite young and finding paperback books on Witchcraft, all of them the kinds of little books by folks like Hans Holzer that were so popular in the early 1970s, and I read those books and sort of glossed over the descriptions of "skyclad" ceremonies and ritual sex and such. I was culturally aware enough to dismiss those as being hippie free-love stuff, not actual, you know, witchcraft, which certainly involved the necessary ingredients of cauldrons and cats and owls and hats and potions and candlelight get the idea. I'm considerably older now, and I'd like to think better educated and more experienced, but that early image of Witchcraft has never left me, and I guess it never will. No matter what my age or experience level, I'll always be that little witch in her cottage, mixing up something arcane by candlelight, overseen by cats and owls and the quiet stars above.

(Bonus: I also own boots like that. Stockings, too.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

May I Direct You...

While you're waiting for me to put up some new content (sorry, non-blog life has briefly intervened), may I direct you to my two somewhat related Tumblrs? They have pretty pictures of relevant things, and perhaps you might enjoy them:

Clarsach agus Claidheamh (Harp and Sword) is witchcraft, paganism and occult-related.

In A Graveyard Past Midnight is a collection of all things spooky, with a seasonal emphasis on autumnal and Halloween themes.