An Unexpected Gift

body of water across forest
Photo by Manuela Adler on

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”Heraclitus

Sometimes the universe has plans for us other than the ones we make for ourselves.  I’d arranged to go on an overnight hike along the Appalachian Trail with a friend to celebrate the solstice.  For a multitude of reasons, we never made it to the trailhead much less out on the trail itself.

Just as my summer solstice plans were falling apart, an acquaintance sent a text with GPS coordinates and a short message “Went here last weekend. River, trees, lovely, peaceful. Go!” I don’t always do what my phone commands, but, suddenly free and wanting to shake off the stress of the last few weeks, I decided to check out the suggestion.  An hour and many miles of twisting mountain roads later,  I found a grassy pull-off at the coordinates.  A barely visible break in the vegetation at the roadside marked a path down to the river below.

The spot was as promised and more.  At the end of the short climb down the narrow tunnel through the wildly growing vegetation, the ground flattened out to a sandy shoal dotted with stones worn into smooth ovals by time and flowing water.  A slow moving river edged past the shoal, journeying around a rocky outcrop upriver, past the tree line bank opposite and meandering out of sight again a little further down stream.  Tiny flakes of muscovite dotted the river bed and shone out from the river rocks, creating a sparkling effect to the already beautiful water.  When the sunlight hit the smallest bits of mica just right, the riverbed gave the appearance of being dotted with tiny, shimmering rainbows.

It has been a long time since I’ve willingly plunged into a cold river, but the lazy current and warm day made it hard to resist.  I let myself drift easily downstream, walked back along the rock strewn shallows, and began again. I repeated this process a dozen or more times, recalling the liminality of such places – the shifting water renewing itself constantly over the thousands of years that the river has run this course and creating a fluid, flowing boundary with ever-changing thresholds to explore. In this place, the heartsong of the mountains can be heard as you immerse yourself in the very blood and bones of the land.

Such places can change us if we allow it.  At the end of the visit, I reclined back on the sun-kissed shoal feeling far calmer and more grounded than I have in a long time. I also came away with a fresh perspective on some old problems. The experience created a much needed reminder of the magic that exists in the natural world, if we’re willing to slow down and pay attention.  Who knew that a set of GPS coordinates could be such an unexpected gift?



Pondering My Online Presence

Thanks to that Very Serious Illness mentioned in my last post, I have spent the last four months in an extended, largely involuntary downtime during which there was a great deal of introspection and reflection but very little in the way of public communications.

During some of the longer and more medicated hours of pondering, I’ve considered quite seriously ending my public  online presence as a practicing pagan. By that, I mean that I would stop blogging here, stop posting in pagan forums and communities, and close the social media accounts that are used strictly for interacting with other pagans and eclectics.  In short,  I’ve considered limiting my spiritual expression to activities to the worlds where I am actively practicing and only interacting with those actually a part of my practice.  What difference would it make I wondered – to myself, to my deities, to other seekers?  Does the world really need one more voice spouting their opinions and views? More importantly, does my path require this public face? If not, what am I and others getting out of this?

The question also came up of why I began to question my online presence in the first place.  Is there something going on that is making me feel that I need to withdraw?  Has there been some shift, either in myself or the overall online pagan collective, that makes me question my presence there?  Is this a case of self-doubt, an identity crisis brought on by health issues, or a true need to re-examine what I do?

I have been working through these questions over the last few weeks and am only just now beginning to come up with some answers. Nothing is set in stone yet but here are the salient points so far:

  • Changes are needed, that much is certain.  Much of my spiritual online time during the past year has left me feeling firstly angry and hurt and then empty and drained.  I have too little resources to spare for something that makes me unhappy.
  • My Lady has reminded me in a very loud and firm voice that this does not need to be an either/or situation.  It is possible to come up with a better online presence that does not leave me feeling drained or unwelcome.  She has been silent, however, on how this is to be accomplished or why continuing to maintain an online presence is important.
  • My first priority needs to be to decide how much of myself to invest in spaces that are not under my control as these places are the source of much of my questioning (e.g., online communities and forums).  There has been a trend toward  a few very vocal folks proclaiming that theirs the is right and only way and that anyone who do not agree should be verbally beaten down and/or dismissed as pariahs.  The question is whether  it is worth the effort to maintain a presence in those spaces or if I should focus my energy elsewhere.
  • Guidelines and limits need to be set for myself if I chose to continue with a public presence, particularly in reference to those shared spaces.

That’s as good and brief of summary of the last few weeks as I can give.  Things are ever changing; the only question that really remains is what those changes will bring.

Ritual Calendar – September

Summer has gone by in a blur and whirl of activity, mostly of the mundane work variety.  It’s a good time to begin getting back on track with the ritual calendar (or at least post the current month!).  I’ve quite happily located my brainstorming notes on these, so I have some clue now where I was going with them.


September Ritual – A Reaping

  • Any time during the month. For me, this is a good one to coincide with the equinox, when I usually make a harvest  celebration meal.


  • Fruition
  • Harvest
  • Gratitude
  • Recognize the work that has been done
  • Continue positive change
  • Express thanks for any assistance that might have been given
  • Honor the elements
  • Gather supplies as needed.
  • Before beginning, look back at March’s ritual and recall what it was that you wanted to manifest at that time.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Collect whatever fruits, leaves, flowers, seeds, etc.  that you can from the plant that you put into the ground in March.  Prepare them for storage over the coming months (press the flowers, dry the herbs, etc) as you contemplate the changes that you set out to make in March.  Reaffirm your commitment to make those changes.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred around the plant that you sowed in spring.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that have assisted you in manifesting this change.  Express your gratitude as desired  through offerings, prayers, etc.
  • As you collect the parts of the plant that you wish to use, honor each of the elements:
    • Hold the plant  in your hand and say “With air, I have breathed life into you.”  Blow gently on the plant.
    • Touch the earth at the base of the plant, saying “With earth, I have rooted you.”
    • Hold the plant up toward the sun and say “With fire, I have guided you upward.”
    • Pour water over the plant while saying “With water, I have  nourished you.”
    • When all has been done, state over the harvested pieces “With spirit, I have changed you.”
  • Spend some time contemplating the ways in which your desired change has manifested itself.  If there is still work to be done, take a moment to petition for further assistance.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.
  • Dry, freeze, press, or otherwise store the harvested plant for future use.  If possible, find a way to utilize the harvested pieces during each of the next six months.

Modifications and Notes

  • As common sense is not always common practice, I think I should probably say that you’ve chosen to plant a potentially poisonous plant in spring (e.g., foxglove), harvesting and storing the plant is not recommended. This ritual can be done without removing the plant or its parts.
  • Using edible herbs or plants allows you to incorporate the harvest into dishes throughout the coming autumn and winter. Rosemary is my go-to plant for this ritual, as it is a). a symbol of remembrance (important to my personal path), b). easily dried and stored, and c). one of my favorite culinary herbs.
  • In the even that you did not do the March ritual or that your plant never came up or died (it happens, don’t read too much into it!),  you can substitute another plant you’ve sowed or, in a pinch, use a purchased plant.

Ritual Calendar – March

I realize that it’s no longer March, but better late than never, right?


March Ritual – Seeds of Change

  • Any time during the month.  Note that this one requires a commitment to care for a plant over time.


  • Change
  • Growth
  • Manifest growth
  • Create positive change
  • Honor the elements
  • Gather supplies as needed. At minimum, seeds and water needed, along with a suitable location to plant the seeds.
  • Before beginning, determine what change is most needed and/or desired in your life over the long term.  This working takes time to manifest, so slow changes are usually best for this working.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Plant seeds in an appropriate place while visualizing the change that you want to manifest.  Imagine the elements providing the seeds with the energy that they need to grow. Envision this change any time you water or feed the plant.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred. Keep in mind that the space will need to contain the spot where the seeds are to be planted, so if sowing them directly into the ground, plan your ritual space accordingly.  Within the ritual space, place any garden tools you might need, the seeds, and a container of clear water.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that are appropriate to your path and/or the changes you wish to make.
  • Dig a hole in the ground (or pot) in preparation for planting.
  • Hold the seeds in your hand and say “With air, I breathe life into you.”  Blow gently on the seeds (take care that you don’t drop them).
  • Hold the seeds up toward the sun and say “With fire, I guide you upward.”  Place the seeds in the earth and cover them, saying “With earth, I root you.”  Pour water over the ground while saying “With water, I nourish you.”
  • When all has been done, state over the newly planted seeds “With spirit, I change you.”
  • Spend some time imaging the plant as it grows and changes and as it does, envision the changes that you wish to make manifesting themselves.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.
  • You’ll need to weed, feed, and water the plant regularly to provide energy to this working.  As you do this, you can speak the words “By earth and water, by air and fire, by spirit sealed, manifest the change I desire.”

Modifications and Notes

  • Using salt to mark out the ritual space boundaries is not recommended, as this can kill vegetation.
  • Plants should be chosen carefully and can be done by using magical correspondences.
  • If beginning a plant from seed isn’t feasible, this working can be done using a small plant and transplanting it into the ground or a new pot.

Fire Burns

[ Trigger Warning –  This post touches on a lot of potential triggers  – including miscarriage, death of a beloved, sacrifice, bullying, rape, and self-acceptance.  I’ve intentionally avoided being graphic or emotional in talking about these things, but  there is a whole lot of potentially painful subjects mentioned in fairly quick succession, mostly, but not always, just in passing.

General note: This post, in case you didn’t guess from the above, talks about some very personal and intense experiences.  Much of this is a culmination of things I’ve touched on in my last few posts.  If you’re not interested in reading about personal experience and some associated unpleasantness, skip reading this post.

I’d ask, too, that if you feel the need to belittle, ridicule, or otherwise criticize the events and decisions described below, that you refrain from doing so in the comments.  Thoughtful comments are, as always, welcome.]

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PBP Week 43 – Vacancies

No Vacancy, Number 2

When it comes to matters spiritual, I try to keep the ‘No Vacancy’ sign brightly lit and flashing at all times.  You know the kind of sign that I mean, the one that tells anyone passing by that they shouldn’t even bother to stop because there is simply no space to fit them in anywhere.  Sorry about your luck, pal, maybe you’ll have better luck down the road.  Just keep on driving, okay, I’m all full up here.

My ideal religion, my ideal practice, would be one of quiet, undisturbed contemplation and reflection.  Buddhism suits me quite well in that respect; I can quite easily picture myself living as a Buddhist monk.  Unfortunately, the universe and I aren’t always on the same page in these matters.  In this case, I’m not even sure that we’re reading from same book.  Heck, I’m not even sure we’re in the same library at this point.   I don’t know how or when it happened, but this solitary practioner, this devotee to a single deity, this person who does her best to mind only her own damn business always seems to be mistress of the busiest inn around (if I may return to my original analogy).

There is always something, usually several somethings, going on as far as my spiritual house is concerned.  No sooner does one guest leave than at least one other comes to take its place.  Having a full house is not a bad thing – dealing with multiple deities/entities, working with other people, having a handful of ideas and concepts to grapple with, meeting new challenges and changes.  It keeps me on my toes, keeps me from becoming stagnant in the ways I look at this universe and my place within it.  Yet, there’s only so much room available and sometimes guests overstay their welcome.  Sometimes, it becomes necessary to start handing out eviction notices to the more persistent loiterers.

I’m going through the ‘eviction’ phase right now, chucking out some practices and ideas that have ceased to be useful or practical.  One of the things that’s come under scrutiny is my herbalism practice.  I’m not ready to throw it bodily off property, but it’s no longer getting to live one of the luxury suites either.  I was for a long time, putting hours of each week into activities that related to herbalism, including a limited-access herbal reference on this site. Putting those kinds of hours into it just isn’t producing good results any more, nor am I learning anything new.  Ironically, the last lesson that herbalism taught me was to recognize when it was time to walk away from something toxic, whether it be a plant or a person.  It was a hard lesson, one I spent  a couple of years willfully refusing to learn, much to my own detriment.  I’ve finally grasped it now and when I did, lost much of my enthusiasm for this kind of work.  I have the knowledge to call on when I need it and this kind of work has become quite comfortable and familiar to me.  I just no longer want to spend time every day on it.

Even as that particular guest departs, there seem to be new ones coming to take its place.   They’re still far enough down the road that I don’t have a clear picture of what is coming.  All that I do know is that the vacancy sign won’t be lit for long.

PBP Week 38 – Seasonal Cycles

The final day of summer was beautiful,  breezy, and sunny in my little corner of the world, a wonderful 77 degrees (that’s about 25 for those of you who speak Celsius).  The leaves on the trees are just beginning to lose the deep green of summer to traces of browns, reds, and yellows.  On the wind there is just a hint of the coming season – a touch of leaf mold and a slight chill. The hummingbirds are still visiting the feeders, but their activity seems to be a bit more frenzied as they prepare for their annual southward migration.  The same can be said of the elderly snowbirds who are my neighbors – they’ve  been busy with final visits to local friends and family as they get ready to embark on their five month visit to sunnier climes.  Other birds, crows and ravens, have been coming home to roost.  They seem to love our mountain winters here and arrive en masse with the first trace of autumn.   There is no doubt that the season is about to turn over and autumn will soon be upon us.

What does any of this have to do with a spiritual path or paganism? I realize that, for a lot of people, the changing of seasons is irrelevant to their spiritual/religious beliefs.  I also realize that not everyone lives, as I do, in a place where there are four distinct seasons.   I know, as well, that there are a lot of people who, while living in a temperate climate, pay little heed to the changing seasons apart from how it affects which clothing they choose to wear.  I’m well aware that some folks feel that celebrating the seasonal cycles is completely pointless for all but those who are living in agrarian societies.

For me, and I suspect it holds true for others, there is just something about observing the seasonal changes that helps to tie me to the world outside myself.  Interconnectedness is a core concept to my own world view.   Connections are vital, not just those that bind us to other human beings, but also those  to everything around us – the trees, the rivers, the land, the animals, the skies above us.  I find that by taking time to celebrate the passing of each season, I can bring myself a little closer to all of those things, to remind myself of my place among them, rather than apart from them.  I am also reminded of the impermanence of all things… and of the cycles that bring life back to seeming barrenness.

I imagine that if I lived somewhere less temperate, my outlook on seasonal changes would be altered.  If I lived in the tropics, I imagine that I’d have to find some other means of connecting with the natural world, some other way to tie myself to the land around me.  It might pose a challenge to someone who has spent her entire life in temperate areas. As tough as sinking my toes into a sandy beach and listening to the rhythms of the waves mingling with the sound of exotic birds would be, I think I could manage it for a bit. 🙂