Posts Tagged With: New Jersey

THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

Pagans/witches have a wide variety of healing techniques in their
arsenal.  The healing arts encompass the magical and medicinal herbalisms,
shamanistic practices (roughly speaking, using the powers of a spirit
guide), the raising of energy directed towards the patient (cone of power,
creative visualization, etc.), “direct” intercession with the gods, and
standard medical practices (Western medicine, Oriental medicine.)
An effective healing may be any combination of the above, depending on
circumstances.
Several rules of ethics govern the use of the healing arts.  These
follow, along with a few suggestions that may prove useful to the
practicioners of the healing arts:

*If a circumstance calls for standard Western medicine, do not ignore
this in favor of other methods of healing.  Any “witch” who tells you that
his/her treatment is only valid if one stops taking prescribed medicine, or
forgoes recommended surgery should be reported to the local Better Business
Bureau, post haste.  Either they do not realize that the magical methods can
complement “modern” methods, or they are (more likely) con artists.  Stop
them before they hurt someone else, in some cases, fatally.  There is a case
in New Jersey of someone who halted her insulin treatments by the order of a
“witch”, as proof that she had “faith” in that “witch’s” treatment.  Those
pagans who are M.D.’s see no substitution for standard medical practices.
Rather, other workings may be seen as supplementations.  This cannot be
stressed enough.

*Avoid charging for healings.  Certainly, reimbursement for equipment
used is valid, but charging for healings is both unethical and can get one
in trouble with the law, for practicing medicine without a license.  Now,
there is much debate within the Pagan community over charging for magical
services of whatever kind; but it seems to me to be a cheapening of the gift
to charge for it.

*Never heal someone without their consent.  Reasons a person may not
give his/her consent are varied, and must be considered.  Respect the wishes
of others.  One may, however, heal those for whom there is no way to ask
consent — if someone is in a coma, it is permissible to work a direct
healing upon that person.  I find that, for people I cannot mention Craft
healing work to, for one reason or another, that sending healing energy to
the VICINITY of that person is ethical.  The person is then free, on a lower
or subconscious level, to take in that energy (in whatever form they can use
it) or to reject it.  The energy is simply made available for their use,
interpretable by their psyches, and usable according to their own Will.  To
force healing upon someone, whatever your intent, interferes with the other
person’s freedom of choice, unethical in itself, and will have unfavorable
repercussions both for you and for that other person.  You might, for
instance, become the sort of person who Presumes to know what is Good For
Everyone Else, and you might have a good future as a book-burner (at least
in spirit).

*Some people seem to have more of a knack with the non-standard healing
arts than others.  Those people who are the best healers are not necessarily
in the best graces with their god/goddess.  Just because a person can heal
does not imply that their theo/a/logy is the best.  Much of non-traditional
haling may tap into some of the same wellsprings, but healing in and of
itself does not guarantee religious correctness.  Some healers, indeed, are
only marginally religious.  (Obviously, the same applies to MD’s.)

*A healer using herbs has the responsibility of knowing about the herbs
he or she uses.  There are many contradictory statements in the literature,
and there are some herbs that should not be taken in large concentrations;
and there are some herbs that should not be taken by pregnant women or
nursing mothers.  A herbalist should learn the literature, and learn to
distrust literature that does not list contraindications.  Some herbs
recommended in the literature are, frankly, mere superstitions.  Others have
indeed proved effective, and some of these have even passed on to Western
medical practice (digitalis, for instance).

*Those using creative visualization are advised to visualize the
patient as being healthy and happy.  Avoid, while doing the working,
visualizing the patient in his current sick or unhealthy state.  Sometimes
it helps to imagine the patient doing something he or she enjoys doing.

*In creative visualization/cone of power methods the patient may be
present, or may be absent.  It helps, if the patient is present, to touch
the patient directly and gently.

*Those using shamanistic techniques should be well-grounded in such
techniques.  They should have gone on various shamanistic journeys
themselves, and have overcome obstacles on such journeys.  This is in order
that one might be confident and capable during the ordeal of shamanistic
healing.

*After doing energy raising and/or shamanistic techniques of healing,
be very certain to “ground out”.  Shamanism has some of its own techniques,
but after Craft-style healings one method is to lay one’s hands forcibly on
the ground (or floor), exhaling deeply, feeling the excess power returning
to the Earth.

*As a healer, remember that a person’s sickness is not some sort of
supernatural punishment for something he has or has not done.  It is not
your position as healer to cast that sort of judgement.  There are some who
would disagree with me on this, but these are the same sorts who would
reckon AIDS to be a karmic punishment, or who would reckon the starvation in
Ethiopia to be another sort of karmic punishment.

*Know your level of competence.  If you are asked to do a healing, and
you are competent, and the person is sensible about seeking standard medical
help if appropriate; and/or if standard medical help is not helping, it is
in your position to render such aid as you are competent to render.

*No matter how you do whatever it is that you do concerning healing, a
proper “bedside manner” must be more than cultivated; it must be believed.

*Western culture is beginning to realize that standard medicine cannot
solve all illnesses.  Hence, the advent of hospices.  Non-standard healing
practices are (or should be) well-grounded in the notion that not every
ailment, disease, or illness can be cured.  It is a heavy responsibility
upon the healer to deal with this realization.  The pagan religions see
birth, life, and death as an acceptable and natural cycle.  At some time, a
pagan healer will likely come face to face with the notion of mortality;
with the notion that there are patients, despite all skill and caring, that
cannot be cured.  Depending upon the ailment, the healer must know how to
react.  This is true, of course, for even standard MD practice.  At a
certain point, the wholistic/pagan healer must accept the inevitability of
failure; possibly even the inevitability of death.  At such point, whatever
techniques the healer knows for bestowing a sense of tranquility to the
patient are appropriate.  Healing energy may be sent; sent to comfort and
confer the peace of mind essential for a good transition between life and
death.  It is also beneficial if people close to the patient relate to the
patient on a day-to-day basis of support and encouragement, allowing that
person to express whatever he or she needs to express.  Similar energy and
support, sent to a person to help them deal with a permanent but non-fatal
disability, is also appropriate.  Patients require confidence and strength
in such situations, and these may be reinforced in a number of ways, both
magical and day-to-day.

*Remember, take a lot of healing practices with a grain of salt.
Filipino spirit surgery I’d take with a whole bushel.

*One should also be aware of the values of preventative medicine.

- Jehana, 1987.  Distribute freely if copied in entirity -

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads
Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, Natural Healing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goddess Bless You On This Wintery Wednesday Morn’!


I look at the snow gently falling on the ground and it makes me sick (sorry). I don’t believe I have ever seen a gentle snow flake falling gracefully from the sky. In this neck of the woods, we have blizzards, ice, freezing temperature and I know a few I forgot to mention. We have sheets of snows falling down. What use to accumulate over night now takes just a minute or two.  Our temperatures have been in the teens but we are due to another cold front coming through today. I believe I need to move to a warmer climate.

In case you didn’t notice, we have been on and off the net. I did have the good sense to let you know that it might happen. And it did. The ice freeze on the utility lines and after it gets so heavy, down comes the line. We actually sit around and point out which icicle is going to drop and take a line with it. You can tell life is really exciting when you have no internet or TV. Our poor forefathers, I can now understand why they went to bed with the chicken and got up with the Rooster’ crow I can also understand why they has so many large families back then, lol! Well you have to stay warm some how!

Before I run, I want you to know we have another system coming in. If we disappear, our internet or power is out. I would ask that you have patience with us. Just as soon as everything is restored, we will back as normal.

I am off to work now, I have a lot of material to cover. I sort of added some special pieces to the publication to day because the days we have missed.

It looks like it is going to be a long winter. Let’s all find someone to snuggle with and hibernate to Spring arrives, lo!

Luv & Hugs

Lady A

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laugh-A-Day for Oct. 12th – Elevator Magic

Elevator Magic

A redneck family took a vacation to New York City. One day, the father took his son into a large building. They were amazed by everything they saw, especially the elevator at one end of the lobby. The boy asked, “What’s this, Paw?”

The father responded, “Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t know what it is!”

While the boy and his father were watching in wide-eyed astonishment, an old lady in a wheelchair rolled up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched small circles of lights above the walls light up. They continued to watch the circles light up in the reverse direction. The walls opened again, and a voluptuous twenty-four-year old woman stepped out.

The father turned to his son and said, “Go get your maw!”

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey, It Is Actually Friday! Blessings To All Our Family & Friends on this “Friday”!


 
I call to the Spirits of love and light
To help me make my outlook bright
Take away the gloom and doom
With the sweeping of my broom

 

Cleanse my soul of feelings dark
Where misery has left its mark
Shift my thoughts to patterns new
Within the cauldron’s witchy brew

 

Ease my heart and mend all hurt
To childlike innocence I revert
Greeting each new day with glee
Amid my magick’s mystery

 

Negative out and positive in
With this new attitude I begin
To live my life with love and light
And see the world with clearer sight

 

So Mote It Be

 

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Witches Almanac for Wednesday, August 28th

Gypsy Comments & Graphics 

The Witches Almanac for Wednesday, August 28th

Wednesday (Mercury): The conscious mind, study, travel, divination and wisdom.

St. Augustine’s Day

Waning Moon

The Waning Moon is a time for study, meditation, and little magickal work (except magick designed to banish harmful energies).

Moon Phase: Fourth Quarter 5:35 am

Moon Sign: Gemini

Gemini:  Things begun now are easily changed by outside influences. Time for shortcuts, communication, games, and fun.

Incense:  Bay Laurel

Color: Brown

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking Dinner Does Not Make You a Kitchen Witch

Cooking Dinner Does Not Make You a Kitchen Witch

Author: Deborah Castellano 

I spent my twenties fighting against who I really was in oh so many ways. I didn’t want to be a kitchen Witch. I thought that was the least impressive, most Holly Hobby branch of magic there is.

You have to picture me from ten years ago: I’m constantly listening to NIN! I wear boots with sparkly laces to my corporate gig! I’m thrashing around on top of tables pumped full of piss and goldschlagger! I’m trying to break glass ceilings! I’m smoking cigars with the boys! I’m demanding my place at the occult table at occult events! I’m getting tats! I’m going through Shamanic trials! I’m punk rock and . . . you want me to bake a cake? Really? Really?

So I fought against it for while, which is why I wasn’t terribly successful in my own personal magic for quite some time. Somewhere around 27? 28? I started really embracing it. Once I bought my own home, my own hearth, I *really* started embracing hearth Witchery. I had the tools all along, it turns out. I just needed to know how to use them.

When I first started blogging, I wanted to bff (best friends forever!) a variety of people in the magical world. But let me be honest, most of all I wanted to befriend fellow kitchen Witches. Sisters/brothers unite! Let’s get some spit, blood, hair, dirt, and basil and get this party started!

But I didn’t find too many. I Googled. I tried tracking down people. I tried a lot of different key words. Honestly, I found a lot of people who claimed to be kitchen Witches, but in scanning their blogs all I generally found were recipes and chatter about their kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, but there are some flaws to it.

What Doesn’t Make You a Kitchen Witch Per Se (in my opinion) :

A recipe isn’t magical in and of itself. Just dumping a bunch of recipes on your blog doesn’t make you a kitchen Witch anymore than it makes Wolfgang Puck a kitchen Witch. If you said I use honey in my Chocolate Lavender Mousse to sweeten my mother-in-law towards me because she’s a complete bitch on wheels to me by that point in the meal or I put menstrual blood in my spaghetti sauce so my husband still thinks I’m dropping it like it’s hot even when I’m tired and in sweats, rock! Those are magical acts. Bring on the recipes!

Having children. While yes, it is a very specific way to mark your transition into motherhood (sometimes) , kids don’t really make you a practicing magic type person any more than it makes SuperNanny Mary Poppins. Things that would: Using magic to help soothe a baby/get a baby to sleep (I will only slightly guiltily confess to having done this before) , protection magic, detailing tiny rituals you do with your kids.

Being a Homemaker. I do very much think that unpaid labor in the home needs to be appreciated and ideally compensated (please see here for more clearly articulated thoughts on the matter, it’s applicable for both mono/poly people) , but it’s a job. And just like going to work in an office is not a magical act in and of itself, neither is taking care of your home. If you were talking about cleaning/organizing in a magical blog and discussing how to be more green (because we need to take care of Mother Earth of course and she’s a goddess in and of herself) , discussing what oils you use to scent your house and why, what you do to keep the house spiritually/magically clean, rock on.

What Qualifies You as a Kitchen Witch/Hearth Wo/man/Someone Who Does Hedge-Like Magic (in my opinion) :

If the Personal is Political, then the Every Day is Magical. Look, you don’t have to cast +5 magic every time you make hotdogs for dinner on a Tuesday night. But what can you be doing in your every day life in your hearth to make it more magical? Smudging with sage every few days to clear out the energies? Spray bottling your bed with a water based mist you made that has come to me oil in it? Choosing your cooking herbs based on magical purposes? Go crazy.

Deb’s Example Rite for Making the Every Day Magical: I had been hemming and hawing about starting my current novel because (a) I’ve never finished writing one and (b) it’s a little silly in a genre that’s already a little silly. But it came to me in a dream and it feels right. So I started by not just slap dashing it together, I took my time. I did research on names, other books in the genre, brainstormed and I made a mood board for it. When I knew it was time to start writing, I wanted it started right. I wanted my surroundings perfect, like giving birth (which is what I do with writing) . I made sure my house was clean, went to brunch (appropriate for the kind of novel it is) and then I put on mood music and wrote. When I finished the beginning, I sealed it with eating a really posh chocolate (salted dark chocolate with balsamic and caramel) from the best chocolatier in NJ, which was also appropriate for my novel’s genre. It wasn’t about me putting together a mojo bag in this case; it was about choosing my actions carefully and doing everything with intent. There would have been nothing wrong with making a mojo bag, but it was more important in this situation to write in a magically charged environment for me to get this show on the road.

Get a Base Education in the Lower Arts. Yeah, yeah, you like to put on your robes and call on all the archangels and whatever. Cool. But sometimes for whatever reason, you’ll need to know how to do things quick and dirty, so learn how. Learn what salt and kitchen herbs can do for you, learn about mojo hands and honey pots and spirit bottles. I recommend of course the incomparable cat yonwode’s Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic as your Idiot’s Guide. Test yourself if you’re super structured magically, pretend a friend needs a fertility charm tonight and you need to get to her just using stuff around your house. What do you do?

Get a Base Education in House Wifery. Some men back in the day got married because they had no clue how to take care of themselves. While that’s not so common in this day and age, you still need a base education in house wifery to be a successful hearth wo/man. Thanks to most of the first world being a convenience culture, you may have been getting by on relying on take out, a dry cleaner, and a cleaning service. That’s all well and good, but you’re missing pieces you need to be a successful hearth wo/man. If you are missing any of these things, that’s okay, don’t feel bad about it. But a lot of people cry, ‘Oh I’m no good at it’! Or, I don’t know how! Ignorantia juris non excusat. Ignorance of the law excuses no one, so get to work. It won’t be perfect from the gate, but nothing is. Ask someone better versed for help, if you know someone. Worst case you burn a few casseroles and shred a few shirts; it’s no big deal. Even if you won’t use it for a while or ever (though you’d be surprised) , these are all good life skills to have that will translate over into your magical life. Think of them as Hearth Meditations.

Can you:
* Do your own laundry?
* Have your house clean enough to have your mother or mother-in-law or Miss Martha over without them making a face?
* Cook a dinner for yourself and others?
* Meal plan?
* Budget and financially plan?
* Be able to make a casserole quickly for an emergency?
* Host/ess a party?
* Know how to bake something from scratch?
* Know how to do your own grocery shopping that’s more than just “box food”?
* Know how to do basic clothing repair?
* Know what to bring as a hostess gift?
* Know how to conduct yourself socially at various social obligations?
* Know how to give yourself self-care?
* Know v. basic first aid?
* Know how to care for small children for a day?

It’s okay to have untargeted kitchen Witch practices. Look, I’m the first to say that some of my more focused practice is lacking. You don’t have to use every bread baking experience as a magical attempt to influence a situation. You can use it as a meditational practice and focus on the magic of the experience, that’s perfectly valid. Think about why whatever is you’re doing – baking, cooking, cleaning, sewing, whatever is a magical experience for you. This is a free form essay, you’re not being graded, whatever reason you have for it being a magical experience for you is right. There are things in everyone’s life I think (I hope!) that are magical to him or her but not targeted for results. It’s good to have and share those experiences too.

You need to know how to do this stuff. That does not mean you need to do it all the time. I had suggested a base education in house wifery, but that doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for it all the time in some kind of psychotic Valium laced Stepford scenario. I know how to do laundry, but my significant other does it in our household. If he ever said, do your own laundry, I could. If you know how to clean your house sparklingly clean but chose to not live in a constant Miss Martha police state, that’s okay. If it’s part of your strategy as a hearth Witch, well then you must be a clever kitchen Witch! My house would not pass Lakshmi inspection at all times (or really like 29 days out of the month) either. If you have the means to send out your laundry or order take out every night, rock out. You just need to know how to perform these functions should you ever need to. It’s sort of like knowing how to do long division. It’s good to know how to do by hand, but the gods made calculators for a reason.

Sometimes, simple is best. I suggested a basic practice in kitchen/hearth Witchery for people who work primarily in “higher” magic because like a proper dilettante, I believe in being well rounded. And frankly sometimes if you need to do something on the fly, it’s a lot easier to pour some salt into a bowl and spit into it than to do a long formal practice. I also think it’s good to know simple magic in order to be able to obtain simple things. You need fifty bucks to make your bills this month? You could do something v. formal or you could do something quick and get on with your life. Formal magic often requires a lot more time, energy, and effort. And there are certain things that are better suited to those practices, but you need a quick little something, low magic just seems like a better way to do so.

Furthering the math analogy, you may become so accustomed to Calculus and using a calculator to do so, you forget how to do basic level math. This is not going to help you when it’s your job to do bistro math for the table ’cause you’re the math chick and you left your cell phone at home.

Some of what I suggest needing to know may seem unnecessary and sort of Mr. Miyagi, but look at it from a kitchen Witch’s perspective: You claim to be a kitchen/hearth Witch, I’m supposed to trust you to do a love spell for me using hearth magic, but . . .you don’t know how to take care of your hearth which functions as your temple, your magical work space? Fill in your own mechanic/gyno joke here.

Footnotes:
– Article referenced in “Homemaker” section

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laugh-A-Day for April 19th – You know you’re getting older when…

You know you’re getting older when…

Everything that works hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.

You feel like the morning after, and you haven’t been anywhere.

Your little black book only contains names ending in M.D.

Your children are beginning to look middle-aged.

Your mind makes contracts your body can’t keep.

You look forward to a dull evening.

Your knees buckle and your belt won’t.

Your back goes out more than you do.

You sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there.

You know all the answers, but nobody asks the questions.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Forests I Have Known, Forests I Have Lost

Forests I Have Known, Forests I Have Lost

by Bestia Mortale

New Jersey

I remember the wet air indoors heavy as a hot towel, the cool gray stone on the terrace outside, the lawn not yet browned by the summer heat stretching out past a pair of tall wild cherry trees to the back field. On the left were low shrubs; on the right were roses. Beyond the lawn, the field fell gently down a long hill past the woods to a fence far in the distance. It was dusk, and deer had come out of the woods into the field, as usual.

It was quiet, if you didn’t count the crickets. Something winked down by the trees – the first firefly. A moment later, there were two more. Twenty minutes later, it was almost dark, except for thousands of tiny lights as far as the eye could see, flashing and disappearing, flashing again.

We had caught the lightning bugs a hundred times, watched their thoraxes glow. It was still magic to a child when the field danced with their fire. Down at the edge of the woods, honey locust trees were in flower. Their scent mingled with the smell of the honeysuckle that choked them and drifted on the still air while the moon hung heavy in the sky. Along the hedgerows, normal locust trees sprang up like weeds, with heavy thorns like briars. The honey locusts, by contrast, had beautiful spines three or four inches long, deep black at the base and lighter at the tips, needle sharp. They grew out in bristles of fifteen or twenty spikes, eight or ten inches tall – these weren’t climbing trees.

New Jersey is the Garden State. If you drive out of New York City through the Lincoln Tunnel onto the Jersey Turnpike, you pass the wetlands, a vast area of marsh covered with cattails. For many years when I was a child, the industries would dump their chemicals in it openly, cheerful bright red, orange, yellow and green piles surrounded by colored water and death. Now the piles are hidden. In the center of the wetlands rises a new mountain, literally. You only see how big it is when you realize that the tiny dots moving up its slope are garbage trucks.

Next, you drive past Newark, a vast city of slums. You hear about the tenements and street violence of New York, but from Newark, which is uniformly worse, comes silence. I remember riding the train past mile upon mile of decrepit brick buildings, windows open in the brutal summer heat of midday, in the booming ’60s. On the fire escapes facing the tracks sat listless crowds of men and women with empty faces, not talking, not drinking, just watching the trains go by. I still remember their faces. The Garden State.

South of Newark, in the neighborhood of Elizabeth, you pass one of the great industrial gardens of the world. Oil refineries sprout like mechanical cancers on the flat plain, twisted, intricate and beautiful. Their stacks still throw out lurid jets of fire against the night sky as they flame off volatile gases. Things have gotten more sophisticated since I was a child. You can drive by now without gagging at a smell of burning tires mixed with rot from the slaughterhouses, but Elizabeth still has one of the highest cancer rates in the country. And you should see the sunsets.

How can I describe New Brunswick, farther south? It makes Tacoma seem cheerful and prosperous. And in the middle of the state, not far from Philadelphia, there is Trenton, the old industrial center of New Jersey. In Trenton, a famous railroad bridge proclaims the motto of this city of discouragement: “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.”

The cities were imposed on the land a generation or two before my time. They seem so old and ruined, I never realized how recently they took their present form, until I spoke to a neighbor of mine in the Hudson Valley. Her father had owned a dairy farm in the Bronx, and she showed me pictures of her childhood. She remembered riding into Manhattan with her dad on a horse-drawn milk truck at 4 in the morning to make the rounds with him. The old photographs showed wooden fences, fields, cows, in the Bronx, within living memory.

I grew up out in the country about 15 miles north of Trenton. When my parents bought the place just after World War II, no one else wanted a house four whole miles south of Princeton, deep in the countryside. Nobody but farmers lived that far out in the sticks. It was, in fact, an old farm.

Central New Jersey is a delta, a flat plain built up from millions of years of Delaware River silt. The soil is incredibly fertile. The water table runs close to the surface, readily accessible for use or poison. The climate is cold in winter, unbearably hot and humid in the summer. It’s perfect growing land. New Jersey is called the Garden State because for a couple of hundred years, its truck farms grew some of the best fruit and vegetables in the nation, for the big cities of New York and Philadelphia.

When I was a child, there were nothing but working farms for miles around. When my brother and I wanted to go fishing as little kids, we would store up our energy and slog across the humid fields with our poles. We’d push endlessly through dense alfalfa, cross under the barbed wire into the neighbor’s corn field beyond, negotiate the shady alleys in the corn for perhaps half a mile until we came to the cow pasture on the other side. Avoiding the herd, we’d make our way across to a little creek and follow it along, fishing the deep pools, occasionally bringing home a catfish or two with a couple of perch. All we could see in every direction was fields. There were no roads.

All that has changed, of course. By the time I went away to college in the late ’60s, the last working farm had given out. A few years later, a mall arose where unbearably succulent strawberries had grown. All across the fields of central New Jersey, tens of thousands of cookie cutter houses sprang up, along with roads and parking lots, air conditioners and the perennial summer power brown-outs.

You can find plenty of ugly housing developments around Seattle, but nothing compares to the horrors of New Jersey. Along the Jersey Turnpike, developers built miles of hideous boxes so precisely identical that their owners had to paint them garish colors simply in order to find the right house.

These were changes brought about by humans, by human culture, politics and economics, but they took place in the context of the land. From what I remember from my childhood, the land of central New Jersey has power that seemed to shape its very desecration.

I’ve never encountered land so powerfully fertile, and sad at the same time. There was something melancholy even about the fields, but especially about the woods. The woods near us were all recent second growth, and the trees were stunted at around 25 feet by the riot of competing vegetation. Honeysuckle and poison ivy vines climbed every trunk. The soil was so rich, I even remember the poison ivy vines growing up in hairy free-standing trees, thick as my leg and six or eight feet tall. Luckily, I could touch them without effect.

At ground level, thickets of briars rose to heights of 10 or 15 feet and covered acres. These briars made the blackberries in the Northwest seem benign. Their thorns were large curved shiny claws that slid into you and broke off, leaving what looked like a scab on your leg or arm. When you picked at the pain, the claw would slip out of your flesh on your fingernail, releasing blood. The thickets sheltered rabbits and foxes and every kind of small animal. If children were careful, they could find their way deep into the thickets on narrow trails leading to countless dens where deer slept during the day.

I loved our woods. They were mysterious, keeping more secrets in an acre than the great forests have in a hundred. Between the wars, a farmer had run hogs in one part of them, and there was a den deep in a thicket where we found their bones, thick, long, heavy and gray, covered with patches of bright green moss. Another time we found the skull of a buck, its antlers tangled in the branches of a tree.

There were marshy areas, with swamp cabbage and sickly smells. At the edges of the fields, milkweed waved its inviting fleshy stems and delectable poisonous purple berries. Young soldiers with wooden swords sometimes marched against the milkweed armies, leaving carnage in their wake that dripped pasty white blood.

The land was friendly to us, but it was sad. Its frantic fertility had a feeling of alienation, of stillbirth. Nothing ever reached full growth.

Gradually, I realized that this had not always been so. Every once in a while, in the middle of New Jersey fields, you would come on a great old oak tree that had been spared when the land was cleared in the eighteenth century. These trees had trunks six feet across, and giant branches. They were old, full of a different life. A very few patches of old-growth forest also remained, with trees of unimaginable size and age, larger than the great old elms that lined the Princeton streets. The floor of the old-growth forests was relatively bare, covered with delicate ground-cover rather than the embattled jungle I was used to.

When this land was cleared a century or two ago, an older order must have died. Its remnants in the great old trees hint to me its power. No one remembers it, no one recorded it, no one mourns it, but its loss changed everything. Without it, the fecundity of the land wells up in a riot of growth that lacks balance and gives me a feeling of melancholy impotence.

Most people are not affected by such feelings, of course. Or are they? The growth of so-called civilization in New Jersey has exactly that same tone of formless, febrile melancholy. The industrial sickness, the poisoning of the land, the housing jungle are all different expressions of the feeling my woods had. In New Jersey it is as if we humans, having killed something we didn’t understand, became caught in the cycle of decay we unknowingly began. We may have started the disruption, but it now infects us. Yes, we poisoned the air and water, but we go on breathing and drinking. Are we in control here? I doubt it.

The Adirondack Mountains

When you think of New York State, you probably think of New York City, Long Island, maybe Albany, Buffalo or even Ithaca. You probably don’t think offhand of wilderness. But the Adirondack mountain range in northeastern New York covers half a billion acres of what used to be called the Great North Woods, still a vast tract of unspoiled forest.

From a Western perspective, these are strange mountains. In the Northwest, we’re used to the Cascades, formed 2 or 3 million years ago, like the Alps. The Rockies rose earlier, maybe 50 million years ago, twice as long ago as the Himalayas. The Adirondacks, on the other hand, are ruins of the Laurentian Shield, the primal crust of the continent. Instead of dramatic peaks thrust up recently, the Adirondacks are the worn foundations of a range far taller a billion years ago than the Himalayas are today.

Adirondack country typically looks more like rolling foothills than mountains. Broad-hipped, contemplative peaks 4000 to 5000 feet high are scattered sparsely among long ridges uniformly clothed in unbroken forest.

The land is not untouched by man. Loggers rolled through 150 years ago and cut most of the old softwoods, the spruce and pine, leaving the hardwoods standing, maple and birch. As a result, the forests are now mostly deciduous, except in the high places. Generations of hunters, trappers, fisherman, boaters and every other kind of tourist have also wandered by, killing wildlife, enjoying the natural peace and beauty. Acid rain now threatens to exterminate fish in thousands of lakes and ponds across the area.

It isn’t easy land for humans. Aside from taking care of tourists and summer folk, there’s very little work for the people who live there. In winter, the snow is seldom less than three feet deep, and often twice that. Subzero winds cut across flawless skies. Although the land harbors no poisonous plants or reptiles, in late spring clouds of small black flies rise from the woods and fall on unprotected skin. People or dogs not coated with thick layers of insect repellent swell up and even fall sick from hundreds upon hundreds of bites. All through the summer, one wave of hungry insects succeeds another: black flies, no-see-ums, mosquitoes, blue-bottles, deer flies.

All the same, the land is strong, gentle, deep; benign in its indifference. I have never felt so embraced by the spirits of the place as I have in the Adirondack woods. It’s like standing in a grove of old-growth fir and cedar in the Northwest where the trees rise almost endlessly above you, and at their feet, tiny, you sense centuries of sunlight and rain in their memories. In the Adirondacks, the feeling is less dramatic and more pervasive, like something breathing so quietly that you can’t quite hear it, a subtle, unidentifiable fragrance that places your life and death in a context of beauty.

It doesn’t seem ancient, or even old. It is as specific as a single tiny flower, a chipmunk’s life, a small cloud that passes over the sun and moves on. Only when you listen to it for a time, walking in silence among the trees, do you realize that the song of the land has a shifting changeless quality, like eternity or the gaps between galaxies.

Even if you fear the fey, don’t you yearn for their music? In the Great North Woods, whether you live or die, waste or prosper, thrive or sicken, the land embraces you and fills your dance, if you listen, with subtle, ancient songs.

Above the Snoqualmie Valley

We blight the countryside, we humans, for diverse and wonderful reasons. All across the Pacific Northwest these days, you can see vast clearcuts posted with signs that read, “This Devastation Supported by Timber Dollars.” Our proud and patriotic lumberjacks are happily selling our forests’ hearts to the Far East, to buy more beer from Milwaukee. It’s a positive balance of trade.

No one is much upset, including the environmentalists, because forests are a renewable resource. As long as we can put some limits on the current frenzy, lumberjacks will become extinct before many other species. There will simply be no more trees to cut. Timber prices will go through the ceiling, people will learn to build with other materials, and then, after 40 or 50 years, new forests will be ready to harvest on the once-naked hills. Big timber companies won’t go out of business; they’re looking forward to skyrocketing prices. In the meantime, they’re making plenty of money selling huge old trees to Japan, and our boys with chainsaws can still buy beer.

That’s not quite the whole story, of course. A timber crop is renewable, but trees 1000 years old are not. I live on land that Weyerhaeuser clear-cut in 1979. The woods have definitely come back. Some of the fast-growing firs are now over 20 feet tall. The deer don’t seem to mind. The mountain beaver thrive, and there’s a bear that still lives down the hill. Recovery is happening.

But how about the fey, the spirits of the land? I bought the place five years ago for the acres of woods and the sense of magick they gave me. At first, though, particularly at the top of our hill, I kept getting a feeling of anger and brooding. The big old stumps had a bitter air of reproach. I wondered if our promontory, with its panoramic view of the south Snoqualmie Valley, hadn’t once been a place sacred to native people. Sometimes in the dark night, I heard songs in my dreams, chanting grief and protection.

The new-growth trees crowding each other at the brink of the hill seemed to have an almost ominous look in places. The edge of the yard felt like a border between hostile territories. The forest was beginning to hem us in.

I went out and walked in the trees and spoke with them, I suppose, or tried to. I bought a chainsaw and cut them back, opening up the view again, leaving one tree in 20 standing near the top. I promised that tall firs would line the ridge as they used to, with room to breathe between them. The trees listened and missed me when they fell.

It was a beginning, but not enough. With the help of friends, we laid a small stone terrace out at the very end of our promontory beside a holly tree, planted roses and grapes, sage, echinacea, thyme, wormwood and motherwort, lilac and foxglove. We made a stone bench for humans and a small altar for the fey, and in the yard laid a circle of stones. We gave our respect there, alone, together, and in coven.

With each ritual gesture, each genuine effort to align ourselves with the land, the feeling of the place changed. Ferns grew up where the earth had been bare before. Native foxglove joined the foxglove we had planted. A madrona tree rooted by our fence. The breeze that whispered through the trees was no longer angry, though it still seems sad to me at times.

I am just a sentimentalist, of course. Who cares what devastation man creates? We’re just another natural disaster, like fire, flood or molten rock. Still, it seems to me we can hear the music if we listen. Perhaps we need to be a little more sentimental, a little less pragmatic, and listen to what we hear so clearly, even if we think it isn’t there.

We’re not alone here, for good or ill.

Categories: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,925 other followers