Tag Archives: magic

Writers Weekend 2017

Writers Weekend 2017

We’re back in the woods for another Writers Weekend (check out the tag for our previous WW adventures. Including turkeys).  We missed last year due to other commitments on everyone’s part, and all three of us really felt the loss of it.  So this year we all knew we had to do this, come hell or high water.  We did get a slightly later start than we like because Deb had a commitment Thursday night (darn that real life, anyway), so Friday morning we got all our kids out to school and then hit the road to the Poconos.  See below for how much stuff 3 writers need for 4 days away.  And that doesn’t include groceries.

Not as much as when we go camping, but it’s only for 3!

Day 1 is usually a wash.  We need to decompress from our day to day lives and get settled into the house.  Yesterday was no exception.  We got up here around 11, unloaded the car, made the beds, started warming up the house, and then went out for lunch and grocery shopping.  Lunch was at this run down looking diner that I’ve been past a million times going camping (our campground is about an hour past Deb’s mountain house).  The food was surprisingly good, although I think their meatloaf was actually their gyro meat.  And we bought a pie.  Because diner pie.  Then we went grocery shopping.  The nice thing about three grown women in a house together is we all take turns cooking, and we are mostly reasonable when we go shopping.  Yes, we always end up with too much snack food, but hey, at least it’s 75% healthy snack food! 7 bags and 4 dozen bottles of water later, we were off to Lowe’s and Walmart (shudder) to get new lamps for the house.  Deb always walks a fine line on these trips between being on vacation and being a rental owner.  We try to keep her on the more relaxing side of that line, but sometimes needs must.  This was at least easier than the year the gas fire wouldn’t turn on.  That wasn’t fun!

We got back home around 3:30, got unloaded and Nikki got the traditional WW Tikka Masala in the crockpot, then we all lounged around until dinner.  I got some software installed on my computer and played too much Minecraft while Deb did hockey research and Nikki actually did writing work (making the rest of us look bad.) But again, first day is a wash, so no stress.  I did spend some time that evening going through one of my seed catalogs, so that’s something off my list.

All my favorite places have fireplaces

I do have a goal list for the week

  1. Scripts for the podcast I’m planning – I need to write introduction and closing scripts, as well as actually coming up with a name.  I want to record the demo by the end of the month, so I need to get cracking
  2. Oestara ritual – I’m leading the Oestara ritual for Gaia’s Rainbow this month and need to actually get it written
  3. Sherlock shawl test knit – this is due back to the designer by the end of the month.  I’m on clue 3 of 9…
  4. Finish my mom’s shawl.  Before she hunts me down with knives.
  5. Write and bank a few blog posts – Theoretically March is a blog every day month.  Yeah, no.  Maybe April
  6. Garden plan – Spring’s coming almost faster than I’d like.  I need to get seeds started, so I need to get, you know, seeds.

I think I’m off to a good start.  Last night I got the recording software installed on my laptop so I can use it as my onsite podcasting studio. I also got my volunteer application in to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in New Orleans in June.  If I can get that, it pays my attendance fee ($350.  Oof.) and I just have to figure out travel and accommodations. (Also oof.)  And I got through one of my seed catalogs, the one I’ll primarily be ordering from this year.  (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, for anyone who’s curious.)

Slept kind of rocky last night, either really hard or wide awake.  But I woke up with the basic ideas for the ritual, so this morning I worked on developing that.  The theme is eggs and seeds.  For our working, we’re going to make seed eggs (basically seed bombs shaped like eggs).  So I researched seed bomb how-to’s, ordered the matrix for it and the seeds, and got the rough outline written.  I still have to write the cast and calls and a quick charging meditation, but that’s pretty easy once the how to’s and why for’s are figured out.  I think there will then be a nap.  Then I want to finish Clue 3 on the shawl, and then I can go through another seed catalog.  And poke at my garden plot maps to make sure I have room for everything, or that I’ve filled everything.  I’m never sure which I’m going to end up at!

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The Word Made Manifest

The Word Made Manifest

(I may get struck by lightning for that title…)

Something I tend to forget is the power of sympathetic magic.  How like attracts like, and naming something, whether it be something material or something more ephemeral, helps make it manifest.  But I’m starting to see it in my life right now.

I started going to church in a search for community.  What I wanted out of that was kind of vague.  I think at the heart of it was I wanted a place where, if something were to happen to me, there would be people who would help me beyond my two best friends and a handful of people at work.  A place for my kids to have adults to look up to.  And a place where I could contribute to other people’s well-being.

This started paying off in unexpected ways a few weeks ago.  I took the kids to game night, and for the first time they were exposed to kids significantly younger than them.  Young kids see teenagers are basically superheroes, and my kids had never experienced that before, really from either end.  They were both a little overwhelmed by it, but they rose to the challenge.  Hero did so well with one overly exuberant little girl that the mom spoke to the director of religious ed (basically the Sunday school director) about hiring her on as a regular babysitter.  So Hero now has a job, and one that actually pays!  She can pick and choose which opportunities to work fit her schedule (for example, she’s babysitting during the Wednesday class I’m going to), but she doesn’t have to work every Sunday, for example, or every special event.  I’m hoping after a couple more events, we might be able to get Xander on that list, too.  Once he’s not so overwhelmed by the attention!  He did seem to have a good time playing with the younger kids.

And I scored a hat!

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Back in December when I first started, I think it was my second Sunday there, they had a craft fair after service.  So many creative people in that church!  One of the women did hand-decorated felt hats.  I love hats.  I had a real Indiana Jones fedora I wore so much in college until one day I left it under my seat in class and someone swiped it.  She had one that I fell instantly and completely in love with.  It was teal green with a rounded crown and a brim with a lip on it, and she had decorated it with peacock feathers.  It was gorgeous, I loved it, and I was broke.  I put it down sadly and walked away.  I ran into her again at church last week.  She was wearing a dramatic straw hat with purple flowers all over it.  I took a chance and asked her if she still had that hat.  She said she wasn’t sure, but she’d check.  Middle of the week, I got an email that she’d found it!  Hooray!  She brought it to church on Sunday, and it was awesome!  Hero’s jealous of it.  Maybe I’ll get her one next craft fair…

But opening myself up to community is helping in ways I hadn’t expected.

I walk with a former co-worker at lunch most days, and we talk as we walk (obviously).  The other day I got complaining about my basement, and how it’s always flooding and I wish I could  dig out a hole to sink a sump pump, but I can’t break the concrete.  Out of nowhere Friday night she texts me to ask if she could bring her husband over to take a look at it.  Well, he’s a union plumber, so of course I said hell yeah!  They came over last night to have a look at it, and he agreed with my assessment, that the stand pipe there was probably a drain and that the concrete wasn’t so thick that he couldn’t hammer through it easily enough and sink either a bucket or a deep pvc pipe with rock at the bottom.  The benefit of the later is it would allow ground water to seep directly into it instead of having to rise to the surface and then run in.  I already have the pump, so Joe is going to check around his job site to see if he can find something to use for the insert, so yay!  I also mentioned wanting to permanently pipe the outside spigot and that I need to replace the water heater, and he immediately started making suggestions on that, too, so double yay!

I have to think that some of this comes from the service we had last Sunday.  It was an extended joys and sorrows ritual, where instead of being a small part of the service, the majority of the service was encouraging people to name their sorrows, their joys and their hopes.  Since there was more time allotted, I took the opportunity to stand up during the joys part and celebrate the fact that I fixed my own washing machine all by my own self.

Wait.  I don’t think I told you this story!

Three weeks ago, about two weeks after I paid $200 to get my 18 year old washing machine fixed, Morgan woke me up to tell me that the washer was flooding again.  I was barely conscious, he’d dealt with it, and there wasn’t anything more I could do about it at the time, so I went back to sleep.  The next day, I spun the last of the water out of my clothes, threw them in the dryer and promptly went into denial.  I just didn’t have the money to pay for another repair, let alone a new washer.  But eventually people start running out of underwear, so I had to deal with it.  I did some research based on what Morgan had told me happened, and decided that it was probably one of the internal water supply hoses that had given out.  That didn’t seem too hard to fix, if I could figure out how to get the housing off the machine.  But I needed to confirm that was the problem and get the hose off so I could drive around and try to find someone who carried the right part (all the appliance repair supply shops in our area have closed.  No one fixes things any more!)  So I pulled it out as far as I could, climbed over to detach the supply hoses…

And found that the drain hose had come off.

Seriously.  That was it.  Shoved it back on, clamped it back in place, and it was fixed.  No fuss, no cost.  I was stupidly chuffed.

Back to church.  So I stood up in front of the congregation and told this story, ending with something along the lines of, it wasn’t the actual act of fixing that I was so proud of, it was the fact that I was brave enough to look.  That kind of bravery, the “Maybe I can do it myself” feeling, I think gets harder and harder as our world gets more and more complicated.  So yes, I think taking the chance is an act of bravery.  Especially for me, who has no childhood experience of watching a parent fix things, and who hasn’t been educated in any of this stuff as an adult.  I think that bike repair class helped in more ways than I expected!

But more important was the naming of it.  By saying aloud in sacred space, “This I can do and this I am willing to do,” it put it out into the Universe that this is who I am, and has started bringing those things to me.  While I can’t do some of the stuff myself, I think Joe will explain what he’s doing and give me a chance to learn some simple things that I can do.  I’ll learn.  I’ll grow.  I’ll connect.

Hrm.  This post didn’t go where I thought it would.  But I’ll leave you this.  Name your fears aloud.  Name your triumphs aloud.  Speak your hopes, your sadness, your curiosity aloud.

Someone is listening.  Believe me.

The (Magickal) Ties That Bind

The (Magickal) Ties That Bind

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Work begets work.  This is true in anything.  The more you do, the easier it becomes and the more you want to do.  I’ve found this true in so many things in my life.  When I’m writing regularly, I want to do it more and I feel better about what I’m producing.  The running has been obvious.  When I couldn’t run, I ached for missing it, and now I have to struggle to keep myself from running two days in a row.  Heck, last weekend I went on a baking spree, and even when I’d finished 6 different kinds of goodies, I caught myself looking around at the end thinking, “What else can I make?”

Although that may just be because I wanted more cookies to eat.

So it should have come as no surprise that when I started going to church, I would want to do more work on my spirituality.  But even though the desire was there, something was holding me back.  It took a lot of soul searching to realize that I still felt pretty tightly tied to my old Tradition and coven.  If I was going to move forward, I had to let that go.

The biggest symbol of this was my cords.  Most witches, especially those initiated into a coven, have a set of cords they wear in ritual.  This can be a simple rope belt or something more complex.  When I first dedicated and initiated back in Michigan lo these many years ago (I can’t remember if it was 1988 or 1989. LONG time ago!), we made simple white belts.  When I joined Oak and Willow in 1996, I was given a set of cords that were braids of the three colors symbolizing the coven.  These had one knot in them to represent my first degree initiation from my original group.  The cords were way too long for me, so I wore them doubled and hooked with a dragon-headed torc style bracelet one of my covenmates gave me.  I received a second knot with my Second Degree initiation (again, was it 1998 or 1999?  I’m not sure.)  I’ve had these cords for a long time, and wore them to every magical ritual I participated in for the 10 years I was in that group.

But then things happened.  I changed.  The group changed.  I pursued my Third Degree, but for various reasons it didn’t happen.  I had two babies.  And eventual I just didn’t fit anymore.  I left the coven and was on my own for 8 years now.  I practiced in my heart, but I stopped outwardly working magic.  But those cords were still there, a symbol of who I was.  And I missed that.  I missed belonging, of having a spiritual family.  I had tied myself to them, and them to me, and despite the parting ritual, I think those ties lingered.

One of the reasons I started attending the UU church I’m going to is because they have a pagan circle.  Yes, I could start one at a new church, but that’s awkward when you’re new to the community.  I need to follow for a little bit before I can lead.  My first opportunity to interact with that group is coming up on Saturday night when they have their Yule ritual, and I’m looking forward to it, but something felt off.  I couldn’t wear my cords.  Just the thought of it made me feel naked.  So I decided it was time to make some new ones.

I started, as one does, on Amazon.  Which has a bit of irony to it, as I can remember Ivo, our tradition elder, introducing me to Amazon way back.  Thanks to the demand of crafters, paracord is actually now pretty inexpensive, so I picked three colors that were symbolic to me (purple=my identity, brown=farm/future, blue=spiritual growth).  I thought I might want to do a 9 cord braid, so I ordered 50 feet of each.  When they arrived, the colors were PERFECT, both individually and together.  I instantly started setting up to make the braid…and screwed up cutting the purple. Too short!  Grah.  So I got to learn how to join paracord.  Once I could figure out how to keep it stable, I braided the first good or so, just to see how it looked.  It was a wide, flat braid, but I liked the look of it, so I kept going and braided all but the last 3 feet of it.  Then I wrapped it up in my old cords to absorb their juices kind of like a marinade and put them aside until I could dedicate them.

Last night seemed the perfect night.  It’s a waxing moon, so great for growth, and it was my birthday, and since the cords were about my identity, it seemed ideal.  I wrote a rough outline, focusing on the main working, since I had all the framing stuff down cold.  I’d been doing this stuff for almost thirty years, after all!

Well, I don’t have that stuff down cold anymore.  I was able to do the quarter calls, but not with words.  The invocations I had written, memorized and used regularly had been lost through disuse.  I managed something (and started going around the circle in the wrong direction!) and got the circle cast.  Inviting the Divine was easier, as that I’ve always done from the heart.  The working went perfectly (I think).  I finished braiding it on the altar over my pentacle, then put it in my cauldron to “stew” while I transferred the knots, naming them and what they represented.  Then I unknotted one end of the old cords and unbraided it a bit, releasing the last of those ties.  I ran into another problem when it was time for cakes and ale.  I couldn’t remember the blessings!  Something so simple, done so many times over the years, and it was just gone.  So again I winged it with a mental apology to the divine, then gave thanks and closed the circle, ready to start my new path.

When I put the new ones on and named myself, it was a new beginning.  The cords are a little broad and stiff, but I’ll grow into them, and they will soften with time and wear.

But part of that new is new work.  I realized afterward that the default structures I was relying on that failed me were the ones I’d developed and used in O&W.  They aren’t MY habits, they’re the Assembly’s.  So part of the magickal work ahead of me is recreating and revitalizing those pieces of my work.  I need to write new quarter calls that reflect who I am now.  I need to create a new blessing for cakes and ale.  Basically, I need to rebuild my fundamentals from the ground up.  That is part of the work I am assigning myself as part of my year and a day with the church.  If in the end I decided that community isn’t a good fit, then I want to have the tools in place to continue on my own.  I’m not tied anymore.  That means I have to lead myself.

But I’m looking forward to wearing the new cords tomorrow night.

Through Darkest Night

Through Darkest Night

We haven’t celebrated Solstice beyond acknowledging it in many years.  There just hasn’t been the time, and too many other things to do.  But again, clearing away other things has allowed me to start doing more important things.  This year, that was Solstice.

We didn’t do anything fancy.  But from sundown on, we used (almost) no electric lights.  Everything was candles.  (Note to self for next year: get more candles and candle holders!)  We kept the Christmas decorations plugged in, but that was it.  I had candles lit everywhere.  We even put out luminary jars on the front porch and along the walk.  And I made a nice dinner, with a perfect cranberry-glazed pork roast, garlic parmesan cauliflower, potato puffs and cinnamon rolls.  We didn’t use the good china, but I did put a green and red tablecloth down. Okay, maybe a little fancy!

We finished dinner early enough to go to the movies, which I count as appropriately Solstice-y, as we were sitting in the dark!  We saw The Hobbit, and the kids liked it.  Xander thought it was epic, Hero cried a lot, and Morgan had the same logistical questions that I did.  Having seen it twice now, I can say I liked it but I didn’t love it.  I think Jackson cut out too much interpersonal stuff and left in too much battle.  I have read that he’ll be adding in about 30 minutes to the extended edition release, and I’m hoping it’s all character stuff and not more fighting.  If it is, I think that will make it a much stronger movie.

After that, we came home and ate my first ever lemon meringue pie!  This is a big deal, as this is one of the two key family recipes.  It wasn’t as hard as I feared, just a little time consuming.  But totally worth it!  And I think it’s a perfect Solstice dessert.  The white of the meringue is winter snow and the full moon, but underneath is the brightness and warmth of the sun in the citrus flavor.  It was a good ending to a perfect, low key holiday.

Now we charge on to Christmas!

The Nature of Magic

The Nature of Magic

As I’ve been digging into my cleaning binge, I remembered a magic spell I read many moons ago for bringing good things into your home.  The essence of it was to clean your house, shine all the windows and doorknobs to make it easier for the good things to get in, and then cast the spell.  It always seemed like a great spell, and I could have used more good things coming in many times in my life.  But I could never do it.  I could never get my house clean enough.  And I don’t mean that in a false modesty way.  My home has always been just this side of a health hazard.  Being the primary breadwinner during the day and the primary parent at night, I just never had the time to do much beyond the basics.  To get to a place where I could think about shining windows and doorknobs?  Unless I got a bunch of house brownies unexpectedly (and don’t think I didn’t put out the occasional bowl of milk, just in case), that just wasn’t going to happen.  But with this new plan comes new hope.  I need to find that spell again.  I could use a few more good things.

Because basically, that’s the nature of magic.  You aren’t making things happen Harry Potter style.  It’s about changing your own consciousness and patterns of behavior, the way you think about the world.  Can astrology and tarot tell the future?  No, I don’t believe they can.  But they can make you think about your problem or concern in a different way.  You know how people say people make astrology readings mean whatever they want?  Yeah, that’s the point of it.  It’s a way of getting around your higher mind, which thinks it knows everything but is really bossy , so you can come at the problem from a different angle.  Spells work the same way.  Which is why we’re taught never to work magic on other people without their permission.  First off, it won’t work, because you can’t change someone if they don’t want it, and second you have then created a belief/behavior of assault in your own life (“bad karma”).  Not something you want.  So in bad situations, we work magic on ourselves, to help us endure or to give us the strength to get out, get away, make it change, make it stop.

Magic is a system of hope, of optimism, of self-empowerment, the belief that we can make things better, here and now.  When you don’t have that hope, that optimism, magic doesn’t work.  If you don’t believe, you wait for magic from the outside to make something happen.  But magic comes from within, and only you can make it work for yourself.

It’s been a long slog, but I’m starting to get that optimism back.

I think I’ll go mop the front hall.  And maybe shine a window or two.