ancestors

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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.

 

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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!

Cleaning the Altar

Yesterday, or yester-evening to be more precise, I decided to do the unthinkable (tho thought about often) and clean out the storage in my altar. As you can see above I’m a lucky witch/pagan in that my altar comes with storage. My altar was my grandmothers dressing table, a present from her sons, and something I deeply coveted my whole little life. I don’t know that I ever imagined it would be an altar but holy hell does it make an awesome one. But you see I’m not the most organized girl in the world and would just throw my bits and pieces in whatever drawer it would fit and call it a day. Which you know works in a way, but is well…problematic when you are CONSTANTLY being called on to bring this and that to ritual or have a very large coven that has a plethora of needs at any given moment. So the time had come to empty them out and make them nice. And I was excited!

And then I was surrounded by mess and not excited. lol I don’t have a whole lot of stamina for these things and cleaning out the altar meant cleaning out the overflow storage and retrieving the items that weren’t in the altar because there was other crap in it but should be in the altar, and well you get the picture. It became an ordeal. It involved several breaks. The Lumberjack came in and shook his head in dismay, muttering something traitorous about “putting things away in the first place”. There was whining, and the  realization that half my supplies are in fact still in a box in the closet(Argh!). But thru this all I preserved! The result of which is this ridiculous picture heavy post lol. Personally I like looking thru other peoples stuff thus I’m forcing you all to look thru mine.

Top Left Hand Drawer

Practical things

First we have the top left hand drawer. The Practical Things drawer. Here you find scissors, gluesticks, notepaper, bags, graveyard dirt, ink, indigo powder, a bowl of keys, various magic bits to tie things.

Left Second Drawer

Things to use

This is the second left hand drawer. I’m sure the title makes no sense to anyone but me, but this is the draw of Things to use. Chalices, warding staves, skull markers, pens, various magical papers, feathers, containers, charms.

left bottom drawer

The candle drawer

The bottom left drawer. Fairly self explanatory, the Candle drawer. Not all the candles obviously, but the ones most often in need of refilling, the tea light, and little charm candles.

top right hand drawer

The Ingredients drawer

The top right hand drawer. The Ingredient drawer. The place for the oils, the sacred waters, the bowl of various leaves/rocks/twigs/feathers/offering bits, the incense, sacred charcoal, and fur tid bits.

Second right hand drawer

Tools for witchcraft

The second right hand drawer with Tools for witchcraft. My style lol. My bags of ogham staves, runes (stone, antler, & wood), the Alder limb box, another magical box, drift wood, Morrighan war paint, a lil’ mirror, a scrying mirror, and a blessing marker.

The right hand bottom drawer

Odds and botkins

Last and least the bottom right hand drawer, the odds and botkins drawer. Place for bowls, a bottle of the 1st storm of 2010 water, mysterious key book.

I’m glad I did it,  things will be nice and easy for now. As an added bonus I also rearrange the ancestor altar. Took down the spring/summer flowers, because yesterday was also the first day that we bought harvest/halloween decor! After Lughnasadh it’s very very hard for me to focus on anything except “Samhain is coming!”.

The Ancestor Altar

Samhain is coming!

Samhain is coming!

Well folks, this completes our tour of the crazy ladies altar drawers. Thank you for joining us, join us next time for more random frivolous self-indulgent posts. And remember make it Epic. *cheesy 1950’s disneyland music*