Welcoming Winter

Welcoming Winter

Author:   The Redneck Pagan   

Well, it is very much official that winter is here in Alberta! The season has been making itself known for a while here. We were blessed with a long and lazy summer. Even by mid September, we had bright sunny days, and the leaves had barely shifted colour. Some had started the process by early October, when over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend we had some snow flurries and a few chilly days. Things warmed up again for a while, then the week before Samhain we got hit with snow, freezing rains here and there, a full week of ice fog and freezing cold nights. Then on Samhain itself it snowed, and it really snowed, at my house. I had at least two inches to shovel through. My newly purchased winter tires (with many thanks and love to my husband who made sure I had them) got a real workout the same day they were put on my car!

It felt like we did not have a fall at all. The leaves on my Rowan and apple trees have now turned brown and are being blown off when the wind decides to give us a good blast, but they never really turned. I had not the chance to get the fallen crabapples up off the ground from where they fell. my garden was nowhere near ready for this sudden dump of snow, and I have to be honest, neither was I! Being sick with a nasty cold this past week, I have been keeping myself thoroughly buried under the blankets and trying my best to do that “lalalala, if I can’t see you, then you don’t exist” routine. I also was rather miserable at having only a week or two of my favorite season (Autumn) to enjoy. However, no matter how hard I tried, winter is not going to go away for a while (especially here in Central Alberta) .

A few days ago, we were blessed with a bright day where the temperature made it as high as 5 degrees Celsius! (Some people from warmer climates are probably going to think I am crazy for calling that a high temperature!) I had the day off work and decided not to waste it. I opened all our windows to air out the house before we had to “batten down the hatches” again. I did some housework (actually a lot of housework, after being sick for a week it really piled up!) sweeping, vacuuming and mopping the floors. My husband and I used a gift card to buy a steam mop. What a blessed invention that is! Two cups of water within it and the floors are beautifully clean and sanitized without any heavy chemicals. For protection and purification I used peppermint oil in my oil lamp and moved it into each room as I cleaned! Between that and the sunshine beaming into the house, I could feel the entire energy of the house, and my own, lift.

When the sun had softened up the snow, I tackled our driveway with a shovel. While taking one of my many breathers (snow is heavy and I really need to get in shape!) , I looked across into the fields near my house and watched two foxes playing a game of chase and evade in the field. They ran after one another, jumping onto each other, rolling in the snow and bounding around! It was an absolute delight to see. I then moved to our uncovered deck. As I shoveled and rested, I looked into the yard and saw our puppy engaging in a new game. Our puppy (well, she is now a year old, but it takes almost two years for dogs to grow out of the puppy brain) was having a treasure hunt in the snow, digging down and finding the crabapples that I had not been able to gather under the snow. She pulled them up, throwing them in the air and chasing to where they landed. She then raced around the yard with it; diving headfirst into larger snow drifts every chance she got! She rolled in the snow and when she got tired she would gobble a mouthful of snow and eat her apple.

As the sun began to slip out of the sky the temperature dropped, reminding me that even though it was a warm sunny day, we are in the dark half of the year. Taking a reluctant puppy inside with me, I tackled making some supper and placed it in the oven to finish cooking. I went to the fireplace and lit a fire with some nice cedar firewood my husband’s mom had let us take from her backyard. I threw in a pinch of salt and a few sage leaves and then sat, enjoying the warmth of the fire while waiting for my husband to come home. As I sat, I reflected how nice it was to have a day at home to get caught up.

I then began to think of the past few weeks, of the cold and the snow, and the nasty roads we had to endure. I then thought of the foxes playing in the snow, and the puppy’s madcap sport through the yard. I let my tired muscles relax as I rested and thought of all the farmland around my house, resting like I was after all the activity of the summer. The fields that had been tilled, seeded, supported the growth of their crops and then harvested are now silent and still. The earth, the creatures in the earth such as the earthworms, soil nutrients and bacteria’s, all granted a respite brought on by the snow.

I thought of my garden, all the great things that came out of it… and the long hours of backbreaking work I put into it! Since harvesting (thank Goddess I got that done before the snow flew) , I have not done any gardening asides from keeping my poor houseplants alive. I thought about how it was nice to not have to weed, or mow the lawn anymore. I thought of long nights cuddling by the fire with the pets and my husband, about all the reading I want to get done over the winter, the big Yule dinner I am planning on hosting (our first Yule in the new house and first time hosting!) . I also planned a few changes in my pagan room, and the sorting and organizing and clearing out of clutter I plan on undertaking while the snow flies.

I noticed how much my thoughts have been turning within, examining myself, my motivations, and actions. Not always a pretty sight when one reflects on the times one has lost her temper, or not been as kind as she could have been. I looked a bit at some of my reactions to things, at some of the anger I have been holding onto that has not made me the most pleasant person to be around (and how lucky I am that my husband puts up with the moodiness I sometimes toss out) . I planned out the basic bones of some cleansing and releasing rituals I want to work on over the next few weeks and some changes I want to make within.

Sitting there, beside the glow of the fire, with content puppies snoozing at my feet and my cat purring in my lap, I began to understand the need for winter, the need for the cold. I understood the blessings that the winter has bestowed upon me and the opportunities that the dark time of year has granted me. I am still not thrilled at the shoveling, or having to scrape the windshield every day. And I am not enjoying the extra time to drive home or having to bundle up just to look out the door. But I welcome the winter… begrudgingly.

Yours Humbly

The Redneck Pagan

Special Kitty of the Day for April 15

Frodo, the Cat of the Day
Name: Frodo
Age: Nine months old
Gender: Male
Kind: Cat
Home: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
This is an adventure, not unlike Lord of the Rings … because this Frodo passed through death as well, only to live, and so the adventure began.

My husband and I decided we were ready to find a new cat, as we lost our beautiful orange boy Puffin in the fall. We traveled to an acreage where we knew there was a litter of kittens with an orange one. We arrived to find the kittens panicked and scared because the previous night their momma and a sibling had met their demise by wild animals. Those remaining kittens had survived by climbing to the highest part of the outdoor cat house they lived in, all the while hearing the terrifying sound of decimation below.

Frodo was the only orange kitten in a litter with two black siblings. We were told that because of his bright color he would be easy pickings for the predators that roamed the acreage. So I eagerly wrapped him in my coat and drove home with our little bundle, knowing he was not only a survivor but an adventurer, so he was aptly named Frodo.

Frodo quickly adjusted to life indoors, although he loves to sit in the window watching the world go by; he loves to climb to the top of our screen door and chases anything that moves, including his big sister Iggy, much to her chagrin. He is a delight every day, making our home lively with the sound of his thundering paws. But at night, when all is quiet, he loves to crawl right under our covers and sleep the night away, knowing he is safe and sound and loved.

Frodo, the Cat of the Day
See more images of Frodo!

Special Kitty of the Day for March 28th

Spazz, the Cat of the Day
Name: Spazz
Age: Two and a half years old
Gender: Female
Kind: Siamese, Calico
Home: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Spazz is a Siamese Calico cross. We adopted her as a kitten about two years ago. She has added much joy to our household. She is social and greets everyone who comes into our home. She also loves to torment her older “sister” Stryper, who is a six-year-old Tabby.

Spazz is now two and a half, an you can see her coloring has gotten darker. Spazz is small and sweet, agile and absolutely fearless. She has the softest coat, everyone who pets her remarks on this. She has no fear of puppies and will play with them and even has some adult doggy friends. Spazz is a much more active cat than Stryper and keeps Stryper on her toes playing hide and seek and leaping on her from hidden spots.

When she is not chasing Stryper around, Spazz is following her Daddy and nearly the only time she meows is when she can see Daddy, but not get to him. She is an accomplished mouser, but tries to avoid killing them right away so she can get more playtime from them. Spazz is also our bird Rugby’s favorite companion. They spend a couple of hours each day rolling around on the floor playing together. (I also included a kitten picture as well, in which she is fearlessly crossing our pool on a floaty!)

Interview With A Hedgewitch

Interview With A Hedgewitch

Author: Juniper

You can call me Dizzy; I am a thirty-something Greenwitch, no affiliations, no initiations. I am something of a girly girl, a blue-collar babe, love to garden, hate to cook. I work as a manager at a greenhouse and garden center outside of Edmonton, Alberta. I am married with no kids, yet. I have been practicing witchcraft for a little less than ten years now. But not very well and not working as hard as I should at it either. I am a pagan and I follow a sort of Gaulish inspired path that way.

Juniper is a 29 year old Hedgewitch, who has been practicing since her mid-teens, no affiliations, no initiations … or wait, she just joined OBOD for some reason, so that’s one.
Juniper owns and operates Walking the Hedge, a blog and forum and sometimes other things as well for Hedgewitches and Kitchenwitches and Trad Witches and anyone else too really.

Juniper’s blog has a small following and is known for being controversial and written in very plain language. She even swears sometimes! She writes raw poetry in an almost street style and rants and writes articles on life as a witch and pagan. And once in a while she posts some really helpful and practical tips as well.

The Forum is also called the Wild Geek Hang and is (surprise, surprise) a place where “garden party manners” are kept, so people talk way more about what they do, day-to-day, than show off what they think they know. But there’s a lot of wisdom and insight and fun and debates there. The people come from all over the world and different paths and lifestyles and its all good. Even if it’s a bit slow in posting, the forum has a large lurker population. And I am one of its moderators.

Juniper is from BC and lives there now but for a few years she lived northeast of Edmonton, we met towards the end of her time living there. She lived on a 4.5-acre property in a lake district type area in rural Alberta, at the edge of a Provincial wildlife grazing reserve. She was in a small mobile plus additions and big deck right in the middle of forest and swamp and ponds and mucky lakes. Sometimes she had power and running water and sometimes she did not, especially at winter when her pipes would freeze and power lines would go down.

At the time I met her she lived more or less alone with her dog Crash and a hedgehog named Chewbacca.

She knew that patch of land like the back of her hand and would walk around barefoot and point out all the different plants and animal tracks and things to me. There was something about her and it took me a while to figure it out.

I was busy trying to practice witchcraft and paganism, here was this strange young woman out there actually living it. And not in that weird creepy way where people think they are an elf and freak out every time the broom falls over or something. More like Juni knew that everything was somehow sacred and just lived that way. It’s hard to explain but it made sense.

Why was I struggling to make time to stand for 15 minutes at some fancy altar in a room at the back of the house? Why wasn’t I sitting on my own deck, chanting softly to a pot full of geraniums instead? That’s what I really wanted to do, deep down. It changed everything.

So today I am going to interview Juniper for a writing class, and for her blog and anybody else who cares. This interview was conducted about a week before midsummer 2009. It was conducted via IM and microphone, but not webcam as Juni is on dial-up.

D: Okay so to get the ball rolling we have some questions from members of the Hedge and friends and such

J: Fire away, will you be answering as well?

D: Yes. Okay here goes:

D: For new green or nature witches, what are a few things that you should start practicing, learning, and doing first?

J: Good starting question. Lets see … the usual suspects.

Get to know the area you live in. Even if you live in a city you can still learn what climate zone you are in, when certain birds nest in the eaves of your apartment building, what kind of plants grow along roadsides and in construction zones.

You can track the course of the sun through the year from a window you know, or a sunspot on the wall. Get to know the parks in your area, the natural features in your region, adopt a tree or shrub nearby. Check out some books on local plants and animals, rock formations, local folklore …

D: Think about what kind of nature you like. Gardening, hiking, animals, the ocean, wildcrafting, environmentalism, and learn about it. Find out what kind of recycling programs they have in the area, community gardens, dumps, and composting rules.

D and J: Then go do it! *laughs*

J: Try to grow something, anything, a potted ivy on your windowsill. Even if all you do is learn how hard it is. Buy a field guide for your area and take it everywhere. Learn about the history of your area. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Hmmmmmm… Join a hiking club or volunteer at a local garden, take an herb-walk or bird watching class through your Rec Center. Volunteer at an animal shelter or arboretum, or whatever they have going where you live that interests you.

Go for a hike, sit your ass down and think about why you wanna be a nature worshipper?

Reconnect with favorite hobbies, arts and crafts, your passions and talents. How do they apply to your spiritual life?

D: Have a Wild Corner of your yard or garden if you can! Let it grow wild. Nature spirits love it. I just learned that.

J: You have a new friend.

D: I do. It looks like a wrong colored firefly and I’ve seen it three times now.

J: Neat.

D: I offered it apple juice.

J: Apple juice?

D: Why not? I don’t want drunken raccoons.

J: Did it like it?

D: I don’t know. How do you tell?

J: Like to see? Usually you can’t, I guess. The idea is generally that they take the spirit or essence of the offering, not the offering itself.

D: What like a psychic vampire?

J: Uh, sure.

D: That’s disappointing.

J: Well, sometimes something cool happens.

D: Like what?

J: Well the drink might disappear really fast. But raccoons can do that too. Or you will see the spirit a little longer than usual the next time, or … well, anything … probably, mostly likely, you will never know. Have faith, my child.

D: *laughs* Funny aren’t you?

J: I am.

D: Have you ever heard of an offering being rejected?

J: I may have known someone who promised a certain goddess a certain big time offering, and instead chickened out and tried to appease her with just mead instead. The next day the bowl was split in half and the mead all spilled all over the place.

D: Oooooh! Was it you?

J: No, my life isn’t very dramatic.

D: *laughs* Next question: So you live out in the rural Canada do you think everyone, especially pagans, should move out to the country?

J: NO! As everyone says, if we all moved out to the country there would be no more country.

D: *laughs* of course.

J: Besides, people need to be in the cities and towns, greening them up and growing gardens in backyard and on balconies. I knew a kindred once who were going to buy a small apartment building and green it up and live in it, it was a great idea, it never happened though. Too bad.
I don’t think that to be a real pagan you have to be living out in the country on some farm digging in the dirt or raising horses.

But its what I do. I should also mention that I come from farm folk, its not like I ran away from the city or anything, there’s always been at least one person in my family in possession of a farm or acreage. We kids would get shipped off to the farm in the summer, right.

D: Oo okay *laughs*

J: Just because I do something, doesn’t mean I think everyone else should.

D: Next question: Being a newbie is tough, there’s so much out there and its hard to tell what’s good and what isn’t. It’s hard to know what to study first and what not to bother with. How do I quell the panic?

D: One of the best pieces of advice you ever gave me was to make a list of what really mattered to me deep down. Like, 10 or so things that have the most meaning to me, and to use that list as my guide while surfing through all the information and subjects and stuff that’s out there.

J: Yes, prioritize and stick to it.

It is very easy to find yourself spending a lot of time and energy on astrology or tarot cards, when you still don’t even have Paganism, or mythology, 101 stuff down. Not that I have anything against astrology or tarot cards.

You need to decide what you can’t live without, what gives your life the most meaning. Then stick to that list.

If that’s family, then you need to make sure that your practice involves the family in some way. If connecting with the divine matters to you its time to incorporate devotional practice, if you are a poet look into Bardic pursuits etc.

If one of the items on your list is animal rights then figure out how to incorporate that into your practice, lots of nature witches lean more towards working with animals than plants.

D: And you’re one of them

J: I guess, so. There’s a balance though.

D: And remember; no one can learn everything anyways.

J: Right. Next question.

D: Hedge Druid means solitary Druid now…

J: Is that a question? I don’t know why Hedge means “solitary” to people, it ought to mean “shaman”. The Hedge is the Veil, you know that which border between the Otherworld and this one. Hedge refers to walking between the Worlds, first and foremost. *sighs* This is a pet peeve of mine.

D: And all kinds of borders and edges.

J: Thresholds.

D: Ditches.

J: *laughs*

D: Oh and outcasts, tricksters and outsiders, which is like Solitary but not.

J: I’ve forgotten how silly you are, Dizzy my dear. A Hedgewitch is an edge witch.

D: Can I be a Hedgewitch and still be a Christian?

J: Lots of the old cunning folk were.

D: Wasn’t that pretending so you didn’t get caught?

J: Maybe, maybe not. How do you get into the head and heart of people long past? I think people mixed stuff more than we often think. Who am I to judge?

D: We can contact the ancestors and contact dead cunning folk or druids or something?

J: Sure.

D: Are you going to any pagan fests this year?

J: I’m planning on heading out to the Druid Gathering in Alberta in a couple of days, other than that I’m not sure.

D: Okay this is a good one: I am sick of 101 books! I want more, what do I do?

J: Pick up a couple of your favorite pagan/witchcraft books, and then pick out the books in the bibliography in the back. Source material my friends. There’s also a lot more in-depth and advanced pagan books coming out now. Seek and ye shall find. And podcasts, I wish I were not on dial-up.

D: Podcasts are good. What else?

J: Hmmmm, if you are that kind of person, it may be time to have a look at something like the OBOD or ADF training programs…

D: Witch school?

J: *laughs* Or your local adult education or Recreation Center.

D: Take an aromatherapy course, or yoga, or meditation.

J: Exactly. Even an afternoon class on pruning shrubs and trees will come in handy when wildcrafting and cutting trees for wands and such. Classes like that are often only $30 and a couple of hours on the weekend.

D: Awesome.

J: A class at the pottery shop will earn you offering dishes.

D: You can volunteer too, that’s free. Volunteer at a community garden or wildlife center or the SPCA …

J: Learn by doing, if you’ve had enough of books, its time to start doing. Practicing. Experimenting. Do that for a little while. Then sit your ass down and really think about what the heck you are doing and why, and what seems to be working for you and what isn’t and why?

D: Ooooooo … you’re right.

D: Any tips on studying paganism and witchcraft?

J: When it comes to many subjects, such as history, mythology and herbalist, pagan authors often read books written by PhDs in those fields and write their own personal opinions as facts in their books. Read pagans books with a grain of salt and then read the books written by the PhDs and form your own opinions.

D: Some of those books are hard! Books by Silver Ravenwolf are easy to read.

J: Yes, but not all of them … and wah, wah! Poor baby. That’s what the dictionary and search engines are for.

D: Oh man, Juni!
I live in a city, how can I be a nature witch?

J: There are lots of ways to go green in the city. I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that question. Adding a little green to the city is important, even just a windowsill or caring for the tree in front of your house.

D: Green in the city is vital.

J: Tear up the parking lots and plant gardens!

D: What book is that from?

J: Um, Starhawk, 5th Sacred Thing.

D: What’s new with the farm?

J: We are currently looking for a couple of young pigs, to help root out an overgrown veggie garden.

D: Pigs do that?

J: Yep

D: Cool.

D: How do you see paganism in society today and the in future?

J: You’re asking me? Uh, vital.

D: You didn’t holler something about a revolution.

J: I must be getting old.

D: How important is paganism in this new millennium?

J: Vital. Grow baby grow.

D: One thing you want to say to everyone?

J: Don’t be so hard on each other.

D: Or yourselves! Next Question: What sort of tools and items do you use in your wicked witcheries?

J: In the day to day, usually just whatever is handy and myself. I still have remnants of my days when I had to have 3 of everything and have it all on my altar all the time and what not. Now I just dig out a ceramic cup, fill it with dirt and stick a charcoal disk in it, toss in some homemade incense and away we go.

For the big fests I like to pull out all the stops and make a big deal out of it. Why not eh?

The stuff in between, I have a staff and a stang, and a bag of little bits and bones and stones and things. I love candles, even if that’s all I’m using. I recently acquired a nice stag skull that has a total of seven tines.

D: What drew you to witchcraft?

J: Everything. Mythology first, folk tales, poetry, the land.

D: What traits do you think help you in this endeavor?

J: I try very hard to utilize all of myself all of the time. Or something. An open mind and also critical thinking skills, a genuine love for the land, animals, the sea etc…

D: What aspects do you find the most challenging?

J: Other people and their egos. Getting past my ego and doing it for some greater than just to make myself feel special.

D: What are good and bad things about group ritual and solitary ritual?

J: I’m not experienced with group ritual well enough to properly answer that question. I attend a handful of ritual and events a year, often not much more than that. I love the community and the fun, but it’s tiring. I like to do my own thing and not have to explain myself all the time.

D: What’s the typical day of Juniper the Hedgewitch like?

J: Depends. Get up around sunrise, when the housedogs want out. They come and whine at the bedroom door, so I get up and let them out, go back to bed if I can. If there are babies, like puppies or new horses or something then I’m also going to check on them.

I get up really when I have to I guess, it depends a lot on the time of year. Start with tea and breakfast on my deck. Feel the wind, watch the birds, and pat the dogs. Blink bleary eyed in the general direction of the Sun. If there’s time for yoga before a shower wonderful!

Check emails and the Hedge and such. Walk the dogs either up and back down the mountain or along the road depending on the weather. Wave at the old elder at the head of the drive way as you go by. Admire the view of the valley.

Feed dogs, feed horses, water, etc…

Repair fencing; clear out old chicken coop. Haul water around. Push a wheelbarrow around. Wonder if the pick up truck is going to make it up that hill with this load?

Eat when there’s time, I BBQ a lot even in winter. Stop for a sec and think “Thank you”, because I’ve gone hungry before, then eat.

Train dogs, workhorses, build pigpen. Consider what a horse-y shrine in a horse pasture would look like?

Take a break in the evening to unwind, maybe meditate. Read. Catch up on emails and the Hedge and stuff. Maybe write something. Watch the news or a documentary while I bead or sew or something.

Say a prayer before bed, kiss the dogs good night, tuck in the horses. Sleep.

D: How do I connect with the land?

J: Well like I said earlier, learn what you can about it. Then get out on it, as much as you can. Keep your eye and ears and all open and watch and listen and learn. Be patient.

D: What would you like to tell the public about yourself?

J: I’m really a very sweet person.

D: What would you like to tell the public about the Craft?

J: I’m not someone who should be representing the Craft in that manner to those people.

D: Why should someone take up the Craft?

J: Because it does that weird funny thing to their heart, and because it makes them think and grow as a person and spiritual being.

D: Why shouldn’t someone take up the Craft? (Or maybe who shouldn’t take it up.)

J: Idiots looking for power, people playing make believe, people who want a quick fix for their pain.

D: What would you like to tell beginners in the Craft?

J: Get real and be real and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Practice makes better. Use you heart, your instincts, and your brains too. This isn’t pretend; this is religion.

D: What would you like to tell more advanced practitioners?

J: Nothin’ … no … Get real and be real and know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

D: Are you at base Pantheist, Polytheist, Animist, some mix of these, or something else?

J: Yes.

Okay I’ll tell you one of those crazy stories that make people look at me funny. Once upon a time, while hanging out in the underworld, I happened across the guy with the antlers, who was just, well hanging out. After a while nothing happened, so I figured I’d ask a question. I asked:

“So, are you a individual god, all gods, a primal god, or what? How does that work anyways?”

He said, “It doesn’t matter.” True story.

So, while I find it very interesting to think about this and wonder at it and look at theories, I’m not all that concerned over it.

D: What does Witchcraft/Hedgecraft, etc. bring to the mosaic of world religions?

J: White people can have their mojo back, with out having to steal words like mojo.

D: Did you really sacrifice a toad?

J: The only toads that live out here are endangered species, so no.

Dizzy: What are you reading right now?

J: I have a very short attention span, so I rarely read one book just straight through. I usually have two or three on the go and I sort of rotate.

D: Yeah right! I remember you reading a whole book from start to finish in like 6 hours straight on a car ride to Drumheller. It wasn’t an easy book either it was like a history book on the Celts or something. You were reading like a hundred pages an hour or something scary like that.

J: Okay so sometimes I can do that. I don’t think that was a history book, I think that was a mythology book.

D: Please tell me that wasn’t the Mabinogion.

J: Which translation? *laughs*

D: You’re such a nerd! I’ll ask again, what are you reading right now?

J: Lets see, my purse book is a paperback fiction by Anne Bishop, one from her Black Jewels trilogy. A world I’d love to go live in, so long as I didn’t wind up in one of the bottom castes! My bathroom book right now is “The Quest for Merlin” by Tolstoy. And my bedside book is “Masks of the Muse” by Veronica Cummer.

D: Cool! And what are you listening to right now?

J: I spent most of the winter listening to a bunch of Alan Watts’s lectures and a few podcasts, like the Crooked Path podcast and I got all caught up on Deo’s Shadow. Now I’m trying to work through my audio OBOD course, so that’s taking up most of my listening time and to compliment that I’ve started to Celtic Myth Podshow from the beginning again.

D: Oh, cool. I actually meant music though.

J: Oh, sorry I’m such a nerd! I’m going through a Celtic Punk phase right now, lots of Dropkick Murphy’s and such.

D: When we first met you made me listen to lots of Classical.

J: Yeah, I go through that phase every few months.

D: So I am not a very good reader. And like non-fiction books are really hard for me. But to be a good pagan you have to read all these fringing books! Any suggestions?

J: Oh good question! Let’s face it, not everyone can handle non-fiction, textbook style reading material. Some of folks might not have the reading comprehension, the text book style of teaching might not gel with how you learn, maybe non-fiction is just too damned dry for you.

D: Or maybe you’re a student and are sick to death of instructional manuals and stuff. So what do I do?

J: Okay let’s see…Reference material. Okay, still non-fiction. However, reference materials, such as encyclopedias are a good non-fiction option for non-fiction haters. In something like “The ABCs of Witchcraft” you have all sorts of information condensed down and in alphabetical order. The wonderful thing about books like this is that even if you only read one or two pages a day, you will still learn something.

D: Ick!

J: Har har.

Poetry. From Homer to Yeats and beyond, there is a plethora of poetry out there chalk full of great folklore and wicked witchery. And that’s not counting our modern pagan poets to be found either!

Podcasts, and you could try to wade through Youtube to find hidden gems…Hmmm…

D: So you once told me to pick a tree and look at it everyday. Talk to it and stuff.

J: That’s pretty standard; you see that in a lot of 101 books now, because it’s a good idea.
Hmmm how to put this?
When you are first starting out its like you can’t see the forest because of all the trees. There’s just so much. Actually even when you first get out into a real life forest its like that, not knowing the names of the trees and suddenly wanting too.

But once you start to learn about the trees themselves. This is a spruce, this is a willow it grows near water etc, the more familiar you become with the forest. Suddenly you can navigate and start to feel yourself along.

D: Literally and spiritually.

J: Layers of metaphors there. *laughs*

D: If you want to connect with nature start small.

J: Sure, bite sized pieces. Learning about just one tree can lead to all kinds of discoveries. What kinds of birds live near you, magickal properties of the wood, maybe the berries are edible, watching the life cycle of another living being, maybe there’s folklore attached to that kind of tree, connecting with the land, starting to add a spiritual aspect to your daily routine, trees make great metaphors for all kinds of things …

D: All that good stuff!

J: Indeed.

D: Why do you blog?

J: Well I started a website because at the time I was interested in learning HTML code, and a few friends and I were wanting a forum to call our own, so that’s how the Hedge got started. But writing a website from code is time consuming, especially if you are learning as you go. So I decided to go to blog format because it is way less work. Also I could post less proper articles and essays and just be myself more.

Also, I’m actually a very upbeat, cheerful person. I’m the girl everybody goes to if they need a shoulder to cry on, or need to be cheered up.

D: I do that! I bug you when I‘m down.

J: Yes you do, but that’s okay. Anyways, when you’re known in your social circle as the person to go to for cheering up, people often don’t react well when you’re upset. It freaks them out; “Oh my gods Juni is upset, the world must be ending!”

D: *laughs*

J: So the blog started to become an outlet for that. Even if its just little more than shouting into an empty room, I still get to vent and articulate what’s been weighing on my mind or heart.

D: You should write a book.

J: Is that a question? What shall I write about? And do not say a 101 book!

D: Oh … uhhh, not a Hedgewitch 101 book?

J: *laughs* no that’s so, done. Why add yet another to the pile? I like to think outside the box, you know, stuff that would never sell, like a book of poetry and photographs.

D: How about a book on your like life and practice and being a witch everyday and stuff? You’re an interesting person. And there’s like, no books on like one witches daily pagan practice.

J: Maybe. I have also been thinking about writing a book about actually working with animals in your practice, and not just like having a deer totem but not know anything about deer.
Actually is there that book … ah, “Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch” that’s along those lines, the daily practice of a witch. I think I skimmed that once.

D: Which means you read the whole thing a couple of hours.

J: It was a small book and a relatively light read; I forget the name of the author right now though. O’Brien or something.

D: You said to me once “I eat books for breakfast”

J: No dear, that was cheerleaders, I eat cheerleaders for breakfast, and Paris Hilton wannabes.

D and J: *laughs*

D: How was the hosting Beltaine 2009 at your farm? Did the meal go good? People brought good food? I hate it when everyone brings potato chips.

J: Yeah me too. A feast is only as good as the food you bring, and the people eating it.
We couldn’t have the pig roast, no volunteers on Friday to dig the pit or anything. Plus we had a horse injure herself, which costs money, so unless people were willing to chip in for the cost of the pig, it wasn’t going to happen. So we had roast chicken and other goodies instead.
The potluck was good people brought pretty decent food. I was impressed.

D: Cool, it went good then. Did everyone behave themselves, any glitches or anything?

J: Well, there are always things that go wrong. Especially when your volunteers all disappear, except one.

D: *laughs* wasn’t I supposed to bring my big BBQ and all the stuff?

J: Yes, and I don’t mean this in a mean way, but I won’t rely on anyone else quite as much next time.

D: Sorry hun! What was the hitch?

J: One of the crones attending was insulted I served cheap wine.

D: WHAT?

J: Yeah. I served a total of 3 bottles of wine for Beltaine and I guess the inexpensive stuff wasn’t good enough.

D: Oh wow, did she actually say something?

J: Yeah. Sitting right beside me too, like I wasn’t going to hear her. So I told them, “hey its Canadian wine”. But still, I guess I should have spent 30 bucks a bottle or something.

D: How rude!

J: Really. I’m not made of money. Should I have spent a hundred bucks just on wine?

D: Wait … no one gave you money for the wine or anything?

J: No, this was all entirely out of my pocket. I’m a farmer, I live hand to mouth folks.

D: And they were complaining that you didn’t spend more money on them? I wouldn’t be inviting that mean old crone back if I were you!

J: Really. But, sadly I don’t think I could get away with that. She’s a member of the training Coven out here, and this is a small town. And you know what that means.

D: Even though that crone is the one who needs to learn manners. You don’t go to someone’s home and comment on the wine like that!

J: Ah, well.

D: That’s something that pisses me off about the pagan community. Some bitch runs a Coven, or even just belongs to one, and that gives her way too much power and influence over the rest of the community.

J: Especially in places with a smaller community, where there’s just less people and a less mature community; you don’t see the bad apples get away with that quite as much in larger and longer established communities.

D: So you get mean bitches that show up at someone else’s celebration and are totally rude, and if you dare say anything…

J: *laughs*

D: Outcast.

J: Exiled.

D: Witch War is declared on your Solitary butt. Here comes the gossip, the insults, the lies and the backstabbing.

J: Yup, if anyone wants me, I’ll be running around in the bush with Fionn and his merry men …
*laughs*

D: Fionn who?

Something needs to be done. Paid and trained clergy is what we need. Trained, paid and held accountable. People willing to devote their lives to the community, not just those who are looking for a power trip or ego boost. Not just some control freak with a charming smile. REAL Clergy.

J: We also need to really start recognizing the folks out there busting their butts, whether they have a 3rd degree or not.

We ALL need to start offering to help out. It’s not that tough to offer to do the dishes or carry a box of equipment or whatever. My Mom raised me to be helpful, where did people’s manners go?

We also need more people brave enough to vote with their feet. If you’re sick of the antics of one spoiled HP, then just stop showing up, it’s that simple.

D: Go do your own thing.

J: Maybe they’ll get the point.

D: One reason why I love you and your forum at the Hedge is the acceptance.

J: I am a voice of the little people, a champion of the underdog! Gather together under my freak flag, my Solitary and Outcast friends!

D and J: *laughs*

D: You should be paid clergy. You’re great!

J: *laughs* I don’t think so

D: No, no, no! I mean it. You teach well, you are patient; you don’t make fun of people or look down on people.

J: I’m not yet 30, I have no formal training to speak of, not much experience leading group ritual, no fancy education to brag about, suffer from stage fright when in front of groups…

D: *interrupts* So? People should be donating money to train you! It would be worth it!

J: Uh, I don’t think so dear. *laughs*

D: I still think that you’ll be a killer Big Name Priestess someday. I can’t wait until you’re grey haired and kicking butt!

J: Shouldn’t I write a book or something first?

D: But you’d do it. I know it because you’re you.

J: I’d happily spend my life just tending some pagan temple for the community, sweeping floors, replacing candles, handing out pamphlets, running the library, and tending the gardens… *sighs*

D: No, no, no! You should be a real Priestess and not for one Tradition or Coven, but for all paths. Not just some lackey cleaning floors!

J: If you insist.

D: So why don’t you?

J: Because a girl’s gotta eat, and the bills need to be paid. I have no help running this farm, let alone leaving it to someone else to run while I go to “pagan school”. I love paganism; I love the pagan community, despite my bitching about it. I’d love to devote my life to serving paganism and helping it grow in a good way. But I’d starve to death if I tried.

D: And no one is going to feed you while you work towards that goal.

J: Exactly. Let’s not forget, that training isn’t free either. You can’t be full time clergy and hold down a full time job too, let alone family and having a life and such. You know how many burnt out leaders in the pagan community I’ve met? Too many.

D: Right.

J: How can I run my temple if I have to work a full time job to pay the mortgage for it? I’ll never be around to have the freaking thing open. Besides, there are other ways to contribute and be influential without having to lead a Coven or something.

D: Okay let’s change the subject slightly before we get ourselves in trouble. So what do you see your current role in the community? Where do you fit in?

J: Hmmmm. Well let me tell you a story.

I headed down to an open ADF ritual for last Ostara. And there was a girl in her late teens there, very shy, very awkward. It was pretty obvious that this was one of her first ventures into attending an open ritual or anything along those lines.

Before things got started, the Grove leader mentioned that there would be a point in the ritual where everyone can come up and give some kind of an offering. And this girl blurted out that she is Otherkin, a wolf no less, and she wanted her offering to be a howl. The Grove leader said that was fine, but you could see a little trepidation on her face. Otherkin are rather odd people after all *laughs*

D: Do you believe in Otherkin?

J: No comment.

Anyways, we get to that point in the ritual and everyone lines up to put his or her little offerings in the dish and I take my turn and come back to my seat. And here is this girl, sitting there in the back with her head down, looking at the floor. I knew, just knew, that she had chickened out and she couldn’t bring herself to do the howl. I also knew that if she had said in front of everyone that she was going to howl and then didn’t, she would be beating herself up over it for a while, and might not get up the guts to attend another ritual or anything for some time. You could just see it in her body language.

So, me being me, and all … I snuck over to her and crouched by her chair. I asked her if she would feel more comfortable if we howled together? Because, like I care what people think of me right? Not!

She was very much relived and gave me a huge smile in thanks. Poor thing was shaking, so I held her hand, and we waited until everyone else was done his or her offerings, but the leader hadn’t yet signaled everyone to sit down and stop the chant she had us singing. I counted to 3 and we let out a nice, long, loud, beautiful howl together. She was beaming after that, proud that she had the guts to do it, and she thanked me very much, gave me a hug and I went back to my seat.

The end.

D: Totally. Wow Juni, that’s just you all over. That’s who you are.

J: I often say that I’m a “nobody” just another Jane Doe Pagan and folks think I am putting myself down, but I’m not. I say that with pride.

Look, I work hard, I study hard, but mostly I live what I believe. But I am nobody special; I am just another ordinary, solitary, eclectic, blue collar, uneducated, unlineaged, self-taught witch.

D and J: And proud of it! *laughs*

J: I am NOT going to lower my eyes or bow my head or be ashamed of that dammit! That’s a big part of who I am, as well as my persona and reputation within the greater pagan community.

D: I don’t just practice the old Craft, I ***ing LIVE it! You are a voice of the little people, a champion of the underdog!

J: I get these emails, or comments on my blog, or people joining the Hedge forum all the time, who are drawn to the Hedge like moths to a flame. Because that’s what they are too, many of my readers and our Hedge members come from little towns, not big cities with big, mature and thriving pagan communities. Or they have been rejected enough times by their own fellow pagans, they are sick of it you know?

Then they find this tiny little corner I … no WE … are slowly carving out of the larger pagan community and I love it!

D: You are not a real Witch!

J: You are not a proper Pagan!

D: I love you! *laughs*

J: I love you too Dizzy. Ha ha! Maybe the title for my first book should be “Not a Real Witch”. I could use a little more help though … I hardly have time to moderate, admin, write, plot and plan etc and still lead my own life *laughs* I am not a super-person who can do a million things in a day.

D: Well, I think that’s a pretty good place to stop this. Thanks very much for letting me pick your brain a little.

J: Thank you and you’re welcome. I hope you get a good grade.

D: Me too!

Oh and you have permission to edit this and submit it to your blog or Witchvox or anything on my behalf, no, our behalf.

(FYI: Dizzy got an 86% on her project)

Daily Zen Thought for 4/9

Tall pines chant in the wind,
Rain falls lightly at dusk.
East Cloister is half-shut,
West Cloister is locked.
I walked through mountains all day
Yet met no people;
The perfume of wild plum blossoms
Fills my sleeves.
The resident monk laughs at me
For being so enamored of pure scenes.
He dislikes the remoteness of mountains,
But he cannot leave.
Though I love the mountains,
I, too, laugh at myself.
Solitary withdrawal harms the spirit,
It would be hard to carry on.
How much nicer, on West lake,
To drink fine wine,
The scents of red apricots and green peaches
Filling the hair.

– Su Shi (1037-1101)