Ancestors

Lessons from the Embalmed Heads

20171117_072310_hdrIf you haunt archaeology twitter or other outlets of that kind, you probably heard about the new evidence that the Gauls practiced a type of embalming with the severed heads of their enemies. And if you haven’t, well my friend! It looks like we have tangible evidence of the written accounts of the Gauls embalming their severed heads. Aren’t you excited?!

It’s a really interesting article and one that spawned some thoughts in my brain that I thought I would share. The topic of head hunting, and the trophies that they made, is one that I have been fascinated by since I first read about it when I was a child. The way the history books and Roman historians painted the picture of this practice with equal parts disgust and awe was to be frank appealing to me. Many years later there is a lot of be said about the political agenda of the historians, to cast conquered people in a negative, uncivilized light, and how that is still seen everywhere around us and a practice that people in power still use today.

But today I want to focus on a different aspect, on what lessons that I might be able to glean from this practice and bring forth into my own modern life. Naturally, I’m not suggesting decapitating my enemies and embalming their heads (tempting though it may be). In so many things with history, there doesn’t have to be a one to one correlation, there can still be meaningful lessons and practices.

The statement that really jumped out at me when reading the articles, was the value that these embalmed heads are proclaimed to have. Several articles paraphrase Strabos on the matter and I felt like I needed to read what the actual quote from the old Roman historian said.

“The heads of enemies of high repute, however, they used to embalm in cedar-oil and exhibit to strangers, and they would not deign to give them back even for a ransom of an equal weight of gold.” – pg 249 the Geography of Strabo published in Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1923

They will not part with them for their equal weight in gold. Now, this is very likely an exaggeration, again we have to take into account that our writer here has an agenda and wants to paint a very particular picture. That being, “Oh isn’t it a good then that Rome came in and brought civilization to these barbarians who kill in all these OUTRAGEOUS ways? P.s. buy my book for graphic details. ” Just because something is ancient doesn’t mean that it isn’t a form of sensationalism. That being said, in light of the tangible evidence to back up the embalming practice, we can assume that there is thread of truth in this statement. These heads were valued and likely not something easily parted with.

Why? That’s the natural next question. One that there isn’t a way to get an absolute for certain answer. There is no way to interview an Ancient Gaulish warrior and get their intent, purpose, and meaning. We can try and imagine. The article puts forth the hypothesis that this practice was rooted from wanting to preserve the recognition of the person. This seems pretty solid common sense wise. The reason you would use preservation techniques is to keep the appearance of the head, instead of letting it rot to a mere skull who could be passed off as anyone. The value then is being able to point to your enemies head and have them recognized for who they were in life, and have all who look on it know, that you killed them. You overcame them. You were victorious. It’s not just a story or a boast. The evidence is right there.

I can easily see the value in that.

On the mundane level, it is proof of your power/strength/cunning. On the spiritual level, well it can be a talisman of that power/strength/cunning, perhaps even amplifying and adding to it. Afterall it is a belief in many parts of history and cultures that overcoming your enemy can give you their power and strength. We see it in stories and even in the modern acquisitions and buyouts of companies it is a truth that millions and billions of dollars is staked on.

I can also imagine there is a deeper blow than just the killing blow being made here. Let’s suppose that the mere act of keeping this grisly talisman of victory of an enemy is also keeping that enemy from some comfort or honor in death and/or the journey after death. Again, if we go back to Strabo’s quote, and taking it at face value, there were people (presumably the people of the enemy) that wanted those heads back and where willing to pay for them. They were denied.  It’s possible they wanted the heads to complete a funeral rite, and the victor wanted to deny their enemy even that. Depending on the beliefs in play about what happens after death and what needs to happen to secure and afterlife or transition, that has a HUGE ramifications for the spirit of the enemy. Not to mention the morale and grief this would have on their enemy’s family and people.

I’m not an expert on Gaulish spiritual belief, but if we assume that they had a type of animism in their practice, then sitting here with the idea of embalming the head of your enemy and the mundane and spiritual power play that evokes added to the notion that the head holds a spirit even after death, I am struck with how this is a very powerful violent act that has ramifications in this world and any spirit or afterlife, and just fucking damn.

What can we pull out of this for our own lessons? Clearly, do not fuck with a Gaul is one. We already pulled off the table the idea of beheading your enemies and making necromantic talismans of them. However, I think some interesting and deep modes of cursing are pretty self evident here for those that care to look.

Pulling it farther into the abstract and towards tools that can be used for self practice, there is a lesson on the value of your victories, reminding yourself of them, and not hiding them from others.

In the United States there is a culture that for whatever reason, tends to speed on by people’s everyday accomplishments, there may be a brief window where it is allowed to celebrate them but then that time is over and you are expected to move on. If you are a fairly self aware human who cares about people and strives to be a good person then there is a good chance you worry about appearing too boastful. You don’t want to toot your own horn. It’s better to be humble. Which can express itself in the development of inner voices that undercut your accomplishments so you don’t get a big head. At some point someone in my inner circle (and my apologies for not knowing who for proper credit!) called these voices brain weasels and pointed out how they lie.  What I have witnessed this to mean is that we in general do not spend near enough time acknowledging our accomplishments and getting the emotional, mental and spiritual benefit from those accomplishments. We let it pass by and turn on to the next thing without seeing the full picture of how much we have gained. How much stronger we are.

Right now, I’m struggling under the weight of living up to my expectations of taking care of my household. Money has always been a hard topic for me and it is the current monster I am trying to conquer or redefine my relationship with at least. In short, things a little hard and I’m not in a great mental place about myself. I think it’s time for me to take stock and really look at the things I have already conquered in my life, in the last five years, etc and the enemies to my own well being that I have already beheaded and remember. It seems like there is a benefit in the visual reminder and I will think about ways to incorporate that. Whether that takes to form of magical charm, or a piece of artwork, or something else entirely. It just seems like this a good time to apply this lesson and help bolster my spirit against the challenges I am currently facing.

The other part of this lesson that I think will be useful to me is the visual exercise. I have been suffering from waking up with anxious thoughts. My mind just starts listing out and fretting over all the things I have to do and all the ways things won’t add up. It’s not great for my sleep cycle and stress in general is just not helpful when you need to get shit done. This morning when I woke up yet again with the diatribe of endless todo’s and worries, I thought about this blog post and went through the mental visualization of slaying my current enemies (this morning it was financial insecurity) and beheading it.  This probably isn’t an exercise for everyone, and I mean your brain might work differently but for me it was not only satisfying but focusing on making things symbolic and in the form of imagery really helped to stop the anxious thoughts and hopefully help me to manifest my goals for success and victory.

I realize this is likely one of the stranger blog posts that I have published, but these are the thoughts that have been brewing in my head and on the off chance that it helps someone else find some tools and understanding to use in their practice, then it’s worth it. The thing I really love and cherish about my practice is that I can find new inspiration, tools, and perspective every day. There is always something more to learn and analyze. There is always another layer of myself to question.

And now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to go embalm the head of my enemy.

 

http://www.savethepostoffice.com/sites/default/files/Berkeley_USPS_0.jpg

Unrealized Family History

I don’t think of myself as having a lot of family history. For a multitude of reasons my family lineage and pasts get mysteriously fuzzy after my direct grandparents and in some cases are just cut off. Several times and I am sure several more, I have tried to go digging back into the past to see where my ancestors came from, to find their stories. Have we been here since colonization of this land? Did we immigrate over during one of those many times of crisis from the continent? Did someone fight in the War between the States? Maybe on both sides? Many questions, not a lot of solid answers. A few…stories here and there but no evidence.

My family is also very nuclear. Not a lot of sprawling family reunions happening on either side. Although I think there is more extended family over on my mother’s side, however we’ve never really been intertwined in it. Maybe it was the military lifestyle, maybe it was other factors, but for whatever reason, I grew up knowing my immediate family and only seeing my grandparents on both sides occasionally. So again the idea of “family history” was not really a thing.

Moreover I was a Marine Corp Brat, we moved every couple of years all throughout my childhood, thereby erasing the sense of personal history and connection to place that I have witnessed a lot of other people have to their “home towns”.  Again family history was…more present history, more immediate, less…well less history feeling.

I did however manage to always have a very strong connection to my father’s father. An odd thing since I have no living memories of the man. My grandfather Wallace, known as “Chuck” for some reason I still don’t know, died when I was two years old. Despite that I have always felt his presence in my life, an affinity, a connection. Ancestor worship did not come as anything mysterious or foreign to me when I first started Celtic Recon so many years ago in large part because of my grandfather and his lasting presence in my life from beyond death.  Maybe it was because everyone told me from childhood how much he would have loved me. He had always wanted a daughter, but had three sons instead, and I was the first and for a long time only granddaughter on that side. Maybe it was the comparisons. Of my immediate family I am the only lefty, like my grandfather. There are lots of little things that you could logically reason could have laid this foundation for my affinity for my grandfather, however I will always feel that there is more to it than that. A reason that everyone felt compelled to tell me how much he would have loved my art, or how he would have spoiled me. A reason that comparison was on their lips. A reason I am left handed, and born only a few days before his own birthdate. It’s a connection, an ancestral tie. He has always been there, and I know he always will be.

For all the strength of my grandfathers presence, a strength that only grew when I started to live in my father’s childhood home with my grandmother, he has also always remained an enigma. My grandfather kept his past very much cloaked in mystery, and even much of his living life is shrouded with an energy of discontent and untapped potential. Living with my grandmother for several years and hearing her stories began to put the pieces together of why my loving grandfather always also felt stern and severe. A stoic storm. But even from her stories there was still a great deal that I did not know about him. Where he was born, who his parents were, what his sisters name was. All these details cunningly and purposefully hidden by his own hand. The fact is that even his date of birth varies from document to document, and every time I try to uncover that which he had hidden I am met with a black wall of mist.

I am used to thinking of my family history in such terms. Short, insular, immediate. Yet that is overlooking a large and while not “ancient” past, still a very present one. One that I have been living amoungst longer than any other place my whole life.

My family history with Berkeley is something that I know of and is not clouded in mystery, and something I can and should continue to reverence. I just never thought about it until recently. Clue-by-four indeed!

While I do not have a “home town”, my father did, and I am currently working in and and have lived in it and near it for close to 9 years now! Insanity. I lived for about five years in the very house that he grew up in. The house my grandparents bought after renting the house next door for many years, moving away for a little while and then returning. I work right in the downtown Berkeley area, and have walked by the highschool and middleschools my dad went. I remember all the old stories of what use to be where, how Oscar’s has been around forever, how MLK use to be Groves Street (how my grandmother still called it that and had the map that still had it marked as such). I have added to this my own stories of how things have changed, my own memories.

One thing I had forgotten to remember until last Friday, was that my grandfather worked for the Berkeley Post Office for close to 20 years.  The same Berkeley Post Office that I walk by every morning to work, the same Berkeley Post Office building whose fate is currently unknown. For those not in the know, the USPS had tried to sell the building (a fairly impressive historical building) and there is now a lot of legal standstill to ensure that the building is not abused. That is a very simplified version, here are two websites that go deeper into the issues: Berkeley Post Office Defenders and Save the Berkeley Post Office.

I had heard about the ongoing legal battle when it first took off but lost track of the story, then on Friday I needed to mail a package and was wondering if the post office was still operational. It was through the discussion with co-workers that I remembered once again the connection between this beautiful if defunct building and my family. I could not remember the exact time that my grandfather spent working there, was it 20  years? Or was I superimposing my own fathers 22 yrs in the Corp? A quick text to my father revealed it was 17 years, not quite the 20 years, and a phone call later suddenly I had more information on my grandfather that I (for some reason) never had before.

My grandfather retired early from the Post Office due to a past back injury by a grenade during his time in the Army.

I’m just going to let that sentence sit out there on it’s own, since it was just sorta dropped on me nonchalantly in that same way. First of all, while I did know that my grandfather was in the Army during WWII (and that he did not think highly of the military on account), I was completely unaware of any lasting injury from that service. But here is how the story goes:

Wallace Rogers

My grandfather was a Drill Sergeant in the Army during WWII, during a training one of his troops was not able for some reason to throw the grenade over the wall. My grandfather then picked up the grenade and threw it and was injured. Rather than go to sick bay, as any normal human being would have, he decided to forego it so that he would not be kept longer as he was just about to go on leave (and thus return home to my grandmother). It was a wound that followed him throughout his life, standing for long periods was  painful. Sitting for long periods was painful. Laying down for long periods was painful. Again the general storm of discontent and brooding energy makes sense. In 1972 after 17 years at the Post office this old injury was causing him lots of pain and he had to have surgery. During his recovery the Post Office was offering early retirement and so he took it.

I have to laugh at how randomly new information is bestowed on me. Once again I resolve to buy a decent microphone and on my next trip out to my parents am going to host story telling time with each of my family members. There are so many of my own parents stories that I want to keep, and many more from my grandparents that I just don’t know.

I am grateful for my grandfathers memory and continued presence in my life. I am grateful for my family history and the continued discovery of it. I am always grateful for my own loving family.

 

Táin Tuesday: Before the Táin

Well this project took a little longer to get off the ground than anticipated. But now that I have both books in hand and have a few moments to peruse both I see that this isn’t going to be as straight forward as reading chapter by chapter of each one.

For the duration of this project I will be referring to the two versions by the last name of their translators. So, The Táin by Thomas Kinsella will hereforto be known as Kinsella and The Táin by Ciaran Carson will hereafter be known as Carson.

On the initial examination of both books it immediately struck me that the Carson does not begin in the same place at the Kinsella. Whereas Kinsella begins “Before the Táin” and includes the birth and rise of power of Conchobor, the story of the sons of the Uisliu, and the Pangs of Ulster. The Carson begins with the actual cattle raid with Medb and Aililli talking in bed. This is an interesting choice and I will go back and read Carson’s introduction to see if he explains that choice here. Maybe it’s the old stubborn person in me but I feel like leaving out those stories at the beginning leaves out a lot of the context for the cattle raid itself. Though I suppose I only associate them with the Táin because the Kinsella version was the first version I read. But to me they were world builders and set the stage for what was to come. Especially the Pains of Ulster! But then I am rather fond of that story and could be very bias at the moment.

But since I do find those stories to be important and since they are in the Kinsella, I will begin with my take aways and overviews of them and when the two version meet then we will have comparison. Seems fair enough to me.

With that said we being “Before the Táin

In Kinsella’s notes he attributes this anecdotal text to the ninth century text in the Book of Leinster. I have to say that it does have a different feel and sound to me than some of the other parts of Kinsella, but I wonder how much of that is Kinella’s own voice coming to the translation.

In any event this short little story tells us that the knowledge and story of the Táin itself was once lost or at the least not know in its entirety. And in the fashion of all good important myths and legends had to be quested for and sought out.

Now you may be asking “What can you possibly get out of this tiny little story?”

Well, not a huge amount but some things in my practice are certainly underlined and other things that I have known but not paid as great attention to are brought to the forefront.

In the start of this story it is plan that the “Poets of Ireland” have convened to see if they could all remember the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley. This illustrates that the poets or bards were very much the history keepers. This is something that my previous research already told me, but it is them all discovering that they only know parts of the story and then deciding it was important to go and find the whole tale again that helps brings few things into focus for me.

First, that people especially educated people, and I will go a step farther and say probably especially educated people who considered themselves or were considered by their community to be spiritual leaders, had A LOT memorized. And by memorized I don’t just mean they  had the cliff notes version that I could tell you off the cuff, I mean it was in verse. Word for word, line for line, verbatim. This doesn’t just apply to Ireland of course, the ancient world in general seems to have this trait. A trait that we of modern times have fallen behind on and something I would like very much to work on. This isn’t to say that I’m going to memorize the Tain line for line, but who knows maybe someday. But I do want to memorize more prayers and songs, reading this helps to solidify my dedication to that cause. Also to you know…write more lol.

Second is a little more…spiritual practice-ish. In the story Muirgen, the son of the great poet teacher who set the challenge before them all, finds the gravestone of Fergus mac Roich (deposed King of Ulster who aids Queen Medb in the Raid) and entreats him in verse to tell the whole tale. A mist comes over Muirgen for three days and three nights he cannot be found. In that time Fergus appears before him (dressed spectacularly I might add) and recites the whole thing.   Thus Muirgen is able to return from the quest victorious and the Tain is returned to Ireland in full.

There is quite a bit in that little story. We see that there is a strong ancestral connection, even to figures of myth and legend. That they are real, that they are able to speak and teach us even after death. That is something that I have always connected with. That tangible thread of spirit that links the living to the dead, and the living to their ancestral and mythical past. It is a huge part of what brought me to the Gaelic Polytheist path. I started out following the threads of these same stories and heroes. Ok maybe it didn’t start here it started over a bit of water with King Arthur and his lot but still it didn’t take long to find my way to Erin.  For me this underlines the already standing practice of honoring and learning from the Beloved Dead. It is something that a lot of CR sites and Gaelic Polytheist talk about. Clearly with good reason.

The other thing that I note here and just sort of put on my List-of-things-to-look-for further in this reading, is the mist. The mist came and then knowledge from the beyond was received. There are several different things I can take away from this. One is that there may be future connection between the mist/fog and the dead/supernatural. My other research and knowledge and just flat-out gut says that this is so, but I will make note of it here and see how often this occurs.

Because then I can start and pay more attention to the mist and fog. I live in an area where it is not a stranger to me. Perhaps next time I look outside and see the mists at my door I will leave out an offering to passing spirits. Or it occurs to me that in times when the mist is coming in may be a good time to try to contact the Beloved Dead more easily. Things to think on, things to see how they can fit in my life.

A different take on the time that Muirgen spent in the mist; is that a mortal was able to gain supernatural information from the beyond. Granted this was lost information that was already part of the mortal world but I don’t consider it too far a leap to see a parallel in this to the times that I go into a state of trance and come back with new inspirations, song and prayers. Now I’m sure for some that might be too great a leap in lines of thought, and that’s fine. But for me I can see how the literary use of mist that hides a person for 3 days and 3 nights could in fact be a way to describe a state of trance. Where the body remains and the mind or soul enters into the mist and beyond. Like I said perhaps too far fetched for some but it makes complete sense to me. Which makes it reassuring and helpful. It’s not something I have talked at length about as it’s hard to articulate, but I find a great connection to the divine in a trance state. Interestingly most of my trance states happen in the shower, where there is a mist in the steam and water. This is something else that is on my list of things to look out for. The connections of the divine and supernatural to water, mist, steam etc.

That my friends are my take-aways from this wee tale. Also a very good example of what the rest of this project will look like. So if this interests you please stick around! Let me know what you glean from these stories. What are the nuggets that leap out to your mind. I’d love to hear!

I’m already working on next weeks so I do hope to have these up every tuesday but you know there may be some flubs here or there lol.

The Ides of March have come but not gone…

julius-caesar-experience

The Ides of March have come but not gone…

Gaius Julius Caesar July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC

I have long loved Caesar. I know, I know, the Celtic lady loves Caesar? He who conquered Gaul? I am at the core a conflicted soul.

Because I can stand in awe of the prowess, strategy and shear genius that Rome wrought upon the globe. AND still feel a rebellious urge to burn it all down. Even in the pagan community Rome gets a bad reputation for it’s conquering ways. I can’t hold that against them. That was the way of things. The Celts were no different in that, just less successful in the long run. So Rome will always have a soft spot in my heart.

It was my father that introduced me to Caesar. As long as I can remember he had this book, The Emperors of Rome or the 12 Emperors of Rome? I can’t remember the title now, tho I would know the cover anywhere. The main portion of the book was about Caesar, and then Augustus, Claudius, some Marcus Aurelius, and others. I’m fairly certain they skipped over Caligula, Nero and that lot lol.

My dad was always watching the History channel, and Caesar just sort of became one of the symbols that immediately brought my dad to mind. Caesar and the Ode to the Common Man. My dad was a Marine, and still spends a good portion of his free time in the philosophical and tangible pursuit of leadership. So he like many other leaders before him and still do, turned to the words and deeds of Caesar to learn what he could. It is unsurprising that I did the same.

Caesar and his heroic model of leadership, a General who took to the battle field on foot with his men. Ready to die by their sides. Caesar’s army loved him. They didn’t just fight for him for the money (tho Caesar was no fool and knew to keep his men well paid and well fed), but because they respected him. He broke with the conventions of war, offering pardons to any enemy soldiers in exchange for service. This was unheard of. Surviving enemy soldiers of the time were uniformly slaughtered. But not with Caesar.

He cared about what the common man thought of him. He knew that the strength of leadership lay not in the hands of the elite but in the hands of the people. He imposed heavy taxes on the rich and made huge social strides for the betterment of life of the poor.

Was the man a tyrant and a conqueror? Sure. A single point of power is not the model of government that I stand by. But the qualities of leadership that he brought to the world, are qualities that are missing in a lot of leadership today. The Stewardship of the People, the Shared Burden of Danger, the intelligence.

Caesar is one of my personal ancestors, for a laundry list of reasons. Many of which I cannot even fully articulate.  Every time that I go back to his life, his works, and read a little more, I walk away knowing more of the responsibility that is mine to command. My standards rise higher for those who seek to garner my favor for leadership in the government and elsewhere. For all of that I am grateful.

Tonight I raise a glass to Gaius Julius Caesar.

juliuscaesarfear

 

Winter Mountain

The holidays have come and gone and I feel exhausted lol. Yet there is still so much to do. It is a simple fact that I have come to accept that the Winter is not a time of rest and respite for me. For me the Winter is a time of constant movement, creation, and work. It’s crafting, cooking, cleaning, gift making, offering, feast planning work. Work I love, but work none the less.

That’s what I’ve been doing. Crochet, cleaning, cooking, cleaning some more, crafting, offering making, more cleaning, prep work for the new year, and that’s right more cleaning. Which is sort of a vicious cycle in itself, because I clean and realize that I need to reorganize everything but I can’t stop to do that now I have to just get it clean in order to do xyz. I suddenly understand some of my mother’s manic nature.

I’m happy to report that on the whole most of my presents have been shipped and or received  With the exception of a few here and there that need finishing.

This year I made a batch of jerky which was edible but not gift material. The Lumberjack ate it all up and I myself knawed on it happily on the way to work. There is something intensely satisfying about knawing on beef jerky. The way the muscle shreds, the tang of dried meat. I don’t know what it is about it, but I enjoy it a lot. So plan B was enacted and copious amounts of Baklava was made. I have to tell you that nuts are insanely expensive in these neck of the woods, and it was quite a culture shock for me. I spent my teen years out in the farm land where almonds and walnut orchards were everywhere,  so nuts were cheap. This $8 a pound thing was a blow to my poor little heart.

But it was worth it. And the local honey omgs, topping on the cake. Seriously this stuff is just heaven layered between honey and more heaven.

Pistaschios

Heavenly mixture

Nectar of the Gods

Nectar of the Gods

Wrapped in goodness

Wrapped in goodness

Made so much of the stuff, delicious sticky stuff. That I’m surprised that I’m not in a permanent sugar induced coma. Hopefully my Dad will get his goodie package today or tomorrow and it will be up to his standards.

We spent our Christmas up at the Lumberjack’s folks on the Mountain.

Holy Winter Wonderland Santa!

I have never SEEN so much snow. Snowflakes the size of half dollars! It was purely amazing. We even caught full on crystalized snowflakes in our hands. So pretty. It was a white Christmas for me and I could not have been happier.

Winter Wonderland

 

I know that a lot of people don’t seem to enjoy the winter, for a plethora of reasons. But for me, I just continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with it. The clean cutting of the cold. The absolute stillness that seems to only be found on a snow laden night. The way the stars just bite through the sky, and the gleam of ice. There is something dangerous as well as magical about the snowy winter. The same flakes that seem to encapsulate the wonder of childhood and fantasy also hold a real danger of life and death. Something as simple as driving to the store becomes treacherous. Everything takes a little more thought, more preparation. I like that. And along with the danger and the beauty of the cold, is the warmth and glory of the hearth. The house is warm and begging to be filled with smells of delights, feasts happen continuously, good company is treasured.

Needless to say I adore it.   I made sure to go out and leave offerings to the Ancestral spirits, over the years I’ve learned that apples are token well loved here. We spent some time out in the snow and I carved out the faces of an old man and woman, then snuck out at night to pour brandy into the snow before them. Happily I cooked for the family, with my excellent Sou Chef, and in general we tried to make his Mom’s holiday a little easier.

 

SAMSUNG

 

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Hope everyone’s holiday was delightful! Much more mischief is on the horizon 😉

2012-12-25 14.05.52

 

 

Release the Bones!

Every year at and around the start of October, and the festivities that go with it, I clean my altar and bring up the bones that have been on their crowded shelf in the Underworld. But bringing the Bones up and giving them prominent place on the top altar it is essentially my way of acknowledging that we have now entered into the time of the Dead. The Dead are generally always welcome in my home but now they get a little more attention that usual. This year the 1st went and passed and I didn’t get to it, the 2nd rolled by and still nothing, till it was in fact the 5th of October and for completely sideways reasons the bones were released.

It actually started on October 4th in the evening. Minding my own business having dinner, the Lumberjack complaining about the beer he bought not tasting “pumpkin-y” enough, when  I knew I needed to make beer oat scones for a certain Good God. I don’t really know how else to describe the Other messaging system that gets these things across. One second I’m watching The Invisible Man the next I have a clear image and knowledge of me making these beer oat scones happily while deep laughter rings in the background. It’s just a knowing. That’s the best I can do for you as far as description goes.

Now frankly this doesn’t happen often. Tends to be that my Dead, and house Beasties are the ones who ask for the most. So when one of my deities chimes in I make a point to make it happen, no matter how small.

The next day is the day of The Concert (for those of you who do not know ‘The Concert’ here and thereafter refers to The Florence and the Machine Concert), and my good friend Temple is coming over so we can go and get our holy musical emotive on.  I knew I could rope her into making beer oat scones no problem. I didn’t have a recipe, but I knew I wanted to use all oats. So oat flour and then some whole oats. I figured with the beer and oats that brown sugar would be the way to go and a lot of butter.  We looked up a oat scone recipe for some basic portions and went from there. Here is what we came up with:

Ooo Oat flour

  Good God’s Beer Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups Oat Flour*
2 cups Oats
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted better
1/2 cup Beer of choice

* To make Oat Flour, put the amount of Oats (in this case 1 1/2 cups) in a food processor and blend till fine.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and currants. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat egg until frothy, and stir in melted butter and milk. Pour into the well, and mix to create a soft dough.
  3. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. This recipe made 10 of such scones.
  4. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until risen and browned.

Offering to a Good God. Oats, beer and honey, life is good.

They turned out marvelously! Looked absolutely scrumptious, smelled like good old yum. But then the twist. Where to put the offering?

Generally food offerings are made on my main altar, as the Good God’s kitchen altar is just too small for more than a cup of beer (which he gets regularly). But the main altar was….not fit. It had an old spell that needed to be broken down, all the deities candles had been burned down. But most importantly of all the thing was in limbo because the Bones desperately needed to come out.

After spinning for several minutes, shaking my fist, and getting laughed at by Temple. It was clearly evident that my task could wait no longer, the altar needed to be cleaned and the Bones released, NOW.

So we did. Took everything off the cluttered thing, tore down the spell, dusted everything, and then lovingly brought out the bones and oo’d and aw’d over everyone, cuddled them a bit, and chose their place up above.

And when all was done, I still had more chores to do, but the altar was happy, the Bones were happy, he was happy, and we were happy.

And in the end that’s all that matters.

This is Halloween! Also I learn to crochet!

I was going to put this post off till I could clean the altar and release the bones, but I decided to give that it’s own post. So let the Pumpkindom begin!

As you can probably sense, Halloween is kinda a big deal round here. On several different levels. October officially kicks off essentially a two month long time of reverence to the ancestors, several feasts, and a lot of magical prep work. Samhain is a very important time for me. Ancestral work is some of my most beloved. Samhain is also the time that I make most of my tithes to the local spirits, house beasts, deities and the like. So a lot of work.

On top of that, every other year I share custody of the actual celebration parts of Halloween. Every other year the Lumberjack and I take turns. My years that means that I participate in my Coven’s public ritual, which is a lot of work and huge production. Eats a lot of time, but is worth it. This year is one of his years, which means I’m around more for us to do more…traditional Halloween things. This year we’re watching all the old Universal Horror Classics, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. (In previous years we watched all Vincent Price movies that was awesome! ). Probably will go out to a pumpkin patch, various other Halloween events, and are driving down to visit a friend and celebrate Halloween proper with him. It’s going to be good times.

One thing that’s become a tradition around here is the decorating of the house on Oct 1st. Really it’s more of a pumpkinafication but I love it. This year the Lumberjack was staying home sick on the 2nd so we spent all day pulling out the decorations, listening to horror tunes, and getting excited. The Lumberjack is an excellent decorator for the record.

We still want more decorations, and we usually buy a little each year. But I gotta say I’m happy so far. We took out the newly named Emily, our resin skeleton from her corner and put her in a new set of duds (one of my dresses and vintage hat). Now she is resting morbidly with cobwebs and the like right under my ancestors altar (the irony is not lost on me). Say “Hi!” Emily! 🙂

The other exciting thing that has consumed my mind, is that I learned how to crochet! I’ve been talking about it for a while, seen all these neat little projects on the Pinterest. My lovely friend Brenda (you know her from Smoke from the Temple) handed me off some standard sized hook and finally I just sat down with a youtube video and went at it.

My first crochet. Look Ma’ a trapezoid!

My grandmother had taught me the very basics of crotchet (and knitting and weaving) many years ago. I still remember the night that I for some reason asked to be shown. She pulled out a hook from her drawer of textile tools, the woman was a constant and amazing crafter, and some scratchy blue wool from her stash. I was horrible at it. Stitches were all different sizes, too tight, too loose. Never amounted to anything past that night. Despite that, she still gave me her grandmothers Ivory crotchet hooks. They have and continue to remain up on my ancestral altar.

This time I sat down and it wasn’t hard. It was easy, amazingly so, and fun. I love knot magic and my brain immediately jumped to all the uses this could be for. No more knitting warding bags and killing my shoulder. So for the past two days that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing lol. All I have is some pretty basic not pleasant acrylic yarn (I maybe a newbie but I am a textile snob), so I’ve just been practicing stitches and designs till I can buy some nice stuff for a cowl. As you can see my first foray was….not perfectly straight lol. I had forgotten a key step of adding a chain at the end of the row. But still not too shabby.

And then yesterday I pulled out some of Gma’s weaving thread to give some finer lace work a try. I have a lot of tiny tiny tiny lace hooks from my Gma or her grandma not sure whom. I have to say I like the little work a lot. A few hours in front of the youtube and viola! A doily is born!

Blocking with a pillow lol

So overall life is good at Fort Epic. The altar is underway with cleaning. I’ve made apple butter that needs canning. The weather turned delightfully chilly. My house feels amazing with all the decor and just happy Halloween vibes. I have oodles of projects to do, a new hobby to make use of. Holiday presents to get started on. Feasts to plan. And life to live.

What do you say Goblin-Cat? Want to say goodbye to the nice people and help me release the bones?

Meh.

It was time

 

Time to return to the sea. It had been a growing need. The thundering of hooves in the mind blending with the rhythmic clash of the waves on the rocks. The soul centering balance of being at the place where all three worlds meet. Bad luck had been at my heels all winter, it all cried out for the cleansing waters of brine. There would be no stopping this pilgrimage. There would be offerings made, there would be fire, there would be water, no matter how cold.

The tide was high, and while the land surrounding this beloved slice of sea is going through much upheaval and change (a “reconstruction of the water table” that I am unconvinced is for the benefit of the land itself…) the beach and the sea remained as it ever was. The sky shone out cerulean blue from between its wisps of gray and the sun sparkled on the sea with tantalizing warmth. The evocative call of the sea and it’s jeweled adventures. Beautiful, deadly, a delightful trap if ever there was one.

The Corvid brothers wheeled in the sky and preened on the beach. Eager, and anxious for what was to follow, if a little reproachful at the long absences. But amends would be made.

With my own two hands I gathered the stones, carrying, rolling, pulling from the sand. Piecing together a pit where there was none. With stones you build. And it felt good. Good to stretch the muscles, good to have grit under my nails, good to take those beautiful stones of the beach and honor them with fire and libation. Once gathered, our fire starter set to work, and the food was laid out and all was good.

 

After eating our fill, laughing, turning our faces up to the sun and feeling its warmth. It was time. Time to throw the past on the fire, to drink to our Ancestors whose time of high power was drawing to a close, to ask for their blessings. I gave the flames the holly, cedar and pine that had been gathered for the great Ancestral Feast. Giving the spirits fully the essence of those plants that kept us safe in the dark nights. The smoke billowed high, and the fire higher. Toast of the Winter Brew were passed around and good cheer was given. Ancestors bless us, bless us with your wisdom. Bless us with hearth and home, with prosperity and wealth, with the way forward.

Then it was time to make our offerings to the Gods. Carefully planned and prepared, each of us with a mission of our own. Each of us with our own Gods to tend to. On my brass platter a mighty cow’s heart, drenched in barley, oats, honey, whisky, and rosemary. In the wooden vessel: strawberries, tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes and sausage. A split apple of my love and devotion. Out I walked hands full, towards the rocks, and the jagged sea. The Raven Brothers followed close behind, their chorus a harsh and beautiful chant. The rock was chosen and all laid out, the apple given as a token to the Brothers. And in the presence of all Three Realms, and those that are my beloved, I sang.

I sang, and prayed. I lifted my voice, in love, in strength, in courage and frustration. I was not meek and mild.  In that moment there was understanding, and I was seen. The sun shone. The sea glinted with resplendent glory,  and the Ravens cawed.

The sea, the sea. All can be cured in the sea. With my dark Irish red beer for the Son of the Sea, I stripped down to my skivvies and answered the call that had been so long in my ear. And it was cold. The kind of cold that burns, yet it brought a smile to my face. The waves teased and enticed us farther and father out. Laughingly, cautiously we ventured forth. With squeals and delight I submerged my netted shall in the foamy brine, forever dedicating it to he who keeps the veil. And dripping diamonds of salt water I poured it over my head. Gone was the illness that had plagued me for days before, gone was the coughing, the pain. In its place joy, clean pure, and ecstatic. For as long as my poor broken foot would allow I stayed there, in that liminal state. Not properly in any one realm, instead joyfully in all three. And then back to the fire, to the warmth and sanctuary of land. Grateful for my gift. One special and large witch’s stone to take with me.

I treasure these times. These places, where all my Gods are so vibrant and real and near. These moments when so much can be felt and done. These dark moon offerings shall forever be cherished by me.

Until next time, the time when the Sea calls…

Remembering Virginia Lois Rogers

Virginia Lois Rogers Jan 4th 1921 - April 30 2008

 

Today my Grandmother would have been 91 years old. Even though this picture was taken before I was born (as evidence by my fathers beard and side-burns. Something he never donned in my life while in the military and only recently has returned to) this is the image of my Grandmother I most remember. Same hair style, same or identical blue jean jacket (she was a practical woman, liked the color blue and thought denim was wonderfully wearable), same purse, same smile.

As a child I didn’t have a whole lot of actual time with my Grandmother, her living in Berkeley in her house and us living all over the United States. But I always felt a fond and deep connection with the woman who sent me drawing supplies, and other gifts that “used my talents”. She was the one I most remember encouraging me to draw, the first person I remember calling me an Artist. She taught me how to weave, to knit, to crochet. She was a skilled Artisan herself. Though she’d never own it, no in her mind she was only a “Craftsman”, claiming she lacked the imagination and creativity of a “real Artist”. But the things she made were things of beauty and she was prolific. Stunning jewel toned chenille scarves ran off her loom in no time at all. A house covered in paintings of “interesting faces” as she called them. Wise old women, craggly cowboys, the back heads of a row of school girls looking over a fence.  In the corners of her house the remains of past projects and their tools. The drawer filled with stained glass, each one hand made, each one an artwork. Every month she went out to her fellow Weavers Guild meeting, and learned a new exciting way to twist and charm threads into whatever she pleased.

And where the skills of her hands ended, there was the infinite skill of her mind and words. She was an avid reader, the house filled with books. Each and everyone had been read by her at least once, many several times over. An entire bookcase of mystery’s for her to pour over and get lost in the characters, there were the classic, and then the sci-fi. Not the shiny colored science fiction of today, no these were the paper backs of the beginning when the Science was very much the star of the show.  From her chair, next to the heating stove, where a thousands worlds and she knew them all.

I suppose you can tell that I loved my Grandmother very dearly. We butted heads, and looked at each other with confusion, but we were kin, and of the same kind. I think in a lot of ways my Grandmother wished she could have been born later, in my time. In a time when societal norms and pressure wouldn’t have weighed her down into getting married and having a family. Or at least might have provided her with a different view point to seeing what those things could mean and might look at. She was a liberal spirit,  a firm character, and a wise woman.  And while the picture above is the image I remember the most, it is the picture below that has become the one that best serves to resemble the spirit of the woman that was Virginia Lois Rogers, once Virginia Lois Weiss.

So Grandma, to you I raise my glass. To you who taught me so much, who went through so much before me and with me. To you who really was the Matriarch of your family. I love you.

Grandmother hear my prayer

The Ancestral Feast Part II

First and foremost, I would like to thank Ms. Dirty for being the inspiration and motivation for Temple Witch and I to get off our duffs and put into motion some of those glorious plans that we frequently yammer on and on about with stars in our eyes. I know that I get so much joy and just momentum seeing the gusto and spirit that you take to all of your workings. Truly I wish you all the blessings that you desire and need.

Now onto the FEAST!

Yesterday I woke up at 7:30 in the A.M. to begin my attack in order to capture that elusive beast called Epic and make him my bitch.  I believe I succeeded. The morning started with more cleaning, the kitchen had to be spotless. I’m not sure who was particular about that in my family was but it was someone lol. I pulled out Grandmama’s fancy white linen table-cloth, the one that last time I used I sadly had no starch (and still don’t), I could feel G-ma’s raised eyebrow at the wrinkles (the woman ironed her sheets). So out came the iron to massacre the dreaded wrinkles. Apparently a host of ants had taken up residence in my iron, so that was an adventure in a half. But soon I had it all straightened out in every sense of the word.

When it became a time were noise was appropriate I began the giant tetris game in my house.  You see our last minute invitation to some of our loved ones, had garnered more enthusiasm than we had dared to hope. So my cozy little apartment, was suddenly going to have to hold a feast for 16! Which makes for a great feast, but means that some maneuvering of furniture had to happen. Luckily I am strong like bull, and made quick work of it. Once the house was in order it was time for the food!

I had to start the Christmas pudding early. Christmas pudding requires a 6 hour water bath, and since the Lumberjack had requested it special I wanted to get it right. The roast only need 4hr, and the Rotkohl about 50 mins. All would be well. Even tho at this point I was oscillating between whether or not there would in fact be enough food for everybody. (It’s one of my greatest fears, not enough food)

I spent some time sprucing up my ancestor altar, saying my prayers to every one of my Beloved Dead and a few to those that I don’t know. Made sure that everyone was feeling comfortable for the night ahead, Grandma requested some Irish Coffee for the evening. Something I would happily oblige. My Grandmother loved Irish Coffee tho it was a treat she reserved for special occasions or when we visited the local Irish cafeteria style restaurant Brennan’s. I’ll never forget the content and happy look that my Grandmother got when she was sipping her Irish Coffee. It’s so easy for me know to see a younger her doing the same. In any event, as a few of her beloved Irish coffee cups have still survived I made a mental note to make sure she got a glass.

After some adventures of her own Temple Witch and the Giant (that’s right I’ve decided your code name shall be the Giant 😉 made their debut. Bringing with them a house full of helpful things to make this feast truly magical. Fancy dishes and platters from the Giants mother’s collection, the Temple Witch’s own punch set, candles to give mood to the occasion. And of course food and booze. Oh what food and booze too!!

Here is just what we started out with! The big ol’ jug was a gift for the Lumberjack, one that he dearly needed after a 13hr day at work and coming home to a raucous feast of 15 people lol. Here is also a shot of some of my Grandmother’s silver that we brought down for the occasion and Temple Witch was kind enough to loving polish up for the night. I personally think it helped add a bit of class to the evening.

Along with the spirits, they also brought a Santa sack full of bread. My Temple Witch is an accomplished baker, and omg does her bread just make the knees go weak. Seriously good stuff, her rolls where the stars of the dinner. The Giant popped out for the special sausage that they had tracked down to please her Portuguese ancestors and brought back 9 lbs of sausage! 9 lbs! My fears of not having enough food where quickly put to rest. It was delicious sausage too.

After some last minute cleaning (vacuuming, toilet scrubbing etc). It was time to decant our Winter’s Brew. Some time ago, hell I don’t remember when. Temple Witch came over with a bottle of brandy and we whipped up another brew (because our Primal Summer turned out sooo good) we laced it with apples, cinnamon, cloves, mugwort, and pomegranate seeds, and had been letting set and get good and ripe.

Here it is first brewed

 

Steeped and Aged

The apples had turned this brackish brown, the pom seeds almost a grey. But the brandy? Oh the brandy was a delightful golden mahogany. Once again we looked at each other conspiring for our next concoction, again concurring that we really should go in halfies on some proper tools (cheese cloth, a larger mouthed jar, strainers). Tho given the day and the honor of the feast using my Grandmother’s handkerchief was completely appropriate.

First glass of course went to the Ancestors. That was the rule of the evening in fact. And once their’s was poured the rest went in my new schnazzy liquor bottle to charge up on the altar and become even more divine.

 

Yes that is the Glorious Scottish Spoon that Ms. Dirty sent me. It spent the evening being the main serving utensil to the Beloved Dead, a task it was more than up for. The rest of the day was spent in excited anticipation for the evening. As the sun set, we turned on the Christmas lights, and lit the candles around the house. Set out our snacks, and generally admired all our hard work. The house was beautiful. My little house may be small, but it has a big heart. It new that some very important and well loved people were coming for dinner and just seemed to expand and make welcome as much it could. The beasties were on their best behavior and were rewarded in kind. And over all I was just so happy to be able to share the kind of home and welcoming and party that my immediate Ancestors never really had.

My father’s parents were unhappy with the social obligations that they were bound to, and as such occasions (especially later in life) just became those awful things. With the awkward silences, the tension, the feeling caged in. And my mother’s mother, life was so filled with obligations of taking care of everyone and her own yearning for grander things that I just don’t think she ever enjoyed herself when the family was around. This was my chance to have the come and relax, to care for them, to just let them and the whole energetic family line on both sides start to move towards a new way. A comfortable way. A way where feast, family, and holidays means food, laughter, joy, and love. A way where everyone looks forward to it, where the work is not a trail or a martyrdom but a quest where in the end all are victorious. Much of the prep and evening, I spent wishing that my blood family where there.  Because as a little nuclear family, they made those virtues and values a reality. One of these days I’ll get to show and share with my mom and dad how much I learned from them. That and well my dad would have LOVED the food lol.

Our guests arrived, with delicious food in tow. We had kielbasi, guacamole, salmon chowder, good ol’ mashed potatoes, Scottish Stovies, a family Brown Bread, and oh so much more.  The mead flowed, the glogg was made, cider’s were spilled, H.P. Lovecraft was discussed in detail, toasts were had, and in general it was just delightful. There is no doubt in my mind that the Winter Feast is a new tradition that I will gladly uphold. I believe Temple Witch is now scheming about Summer Feast plans, and over all I think all out guests living and not, were happy. As I said last night and I’ll say it again “We win.” lol

The night was merry and bright

 

The Candle that burned all thru the Night

 

Last but not least, I want to share the beautiful prayer that Temple Witch wrote up for our Ancestors, and penned in her stunning hand. Which I have plans on making our feasting prayer for ever Winter’s Feast, from here on out. Beautiful words from a beautiful lady.

In honor of our dear beloved dead we feast this night. 
To all of our dear ones we open our doors and our hearts.
To all those of our blood we open our doors and our hearts.
To all those whose spirits sing as our spirits sing we open our doors and our hearts.
Be welcome this night as we gather.
Partake of our feast, make merry by the light of our candles,
Join us in good cheer and celebration.
As our honored guests, we offer of our hospitality.
Be welcome all. 

And now my lovelies. To put it all back together again! lol To wrap presents, and prepare to head up to the Sierra Mountains. There in those wonderous peaks there is another dinner waiting and presents! Wishing you all a happy and blessed holiday season!