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Extraordinary Creeping Paganism...we need more creep in the Old North State

Bless you, Ms. Trotta. It is such a lovely usable phrase.

Thought I'd check in and let you all know we're grounding, centering, focusing our wills down here in the sinking ship that is North Carolina. We know the country is watching us, wondering how much farther we can fall.

Much farther, I'm afraid. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

instead of writing.

Obviously.

There's great sturm und drang in the Pagan communities right now over a number of things.  Most are being played out here, in one place or another. Rancor, condemnation, hurt, fear...the standard variations that come back to bite us on our collective butts again and again.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    It's like the proverbial barrel of crabs; no community will get anywhere if all they do is pull down anyone who dares to try to cl
  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus says #
    Like members of any large, extended family, we can't help sometimes but look askance at one another and mutter "am I really relate
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Funny lady.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
"Because There is No Veil..."

Several weeks ago, I was honored to help a team of folks create funerary rites for a recently-deceased member of our community. The primary facilitator lives several states away and we spoke over the phone a few days before he was scheduled to arrive for the memorial.

He and I are in different traditions and it was helpful to hear how they do things and to figure out the best way for me to contribute, to help. He told me early in the conversation that the intention for the ritual was to dance the deceased through the Veil--something that might be tricky so far from Samhain. It was to be a joyous celebration with song and poetry and drumming. I offered to help with the drumming (I play a big frame drum) and we chatted a bit longer about the general shape of the rite.

We seemed to be hitting it off so I also told him an observation from my little place in the big world--there hasn't been a Veil here in several years. I'm sure he didn't quite believe what I was saying--why should he? And it didn't have any import in the work we were to do together. Once he got here, though, I think he felt it--this wispy and threadbare barrier between us and our Ancestors.

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  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson says #
    "But the Ancestors haven't been apart from us here in years. You have only to sit in a quiet place and you begin to hear their mur

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Memorare

I have a picture of my dad from the 1940s, looking pretty cocky. He went into the Army when he was 19 and they sent him to North Africa, Sicily and then into Italy. Somehow he also got to France, where he drank champagne for the first time.

So, I'm thinking of him on Memorial Day. And of my Gaga, my step-grandfather, who was gassed in France during WWI and never really recovered. And of my maternal grandfather Bill Boyd who was a sailor during WWI. I have a photo of my grandmother wearing his sailor suit after the war.

There's a Westmoreland Ancestor who may or may not have fought for the CSA and a Boyd Ancestor who definitely did.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thank you, Galina. And the same to yours. Blessings to you--both bright and shadowed.
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Beautiful, Byron. May all your ancestors be remembered, and your military dead honored on this day.
Walking Between the Worlds--Pagan Conference and Pagan Festival

This has been a busy time for your Village Witch...mostly because she keeps leaving the village and hitting the road.

I've only just returned from the Pagan Unity Festival in Burns, TN and am pondering the differences between festivals and conferences, since I was fortunate enough to be included in the Cherry Hill Conference several weeks ago.

All these gatherings. What draws us into these artificial communities? And are they really so artificial?

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Getting to California is such a pain from the East Coast--and not to mention expensive. But if I can ever manage that, I'd love to
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    I love the conferences, too. In some ways some of the newer hotel-based Pagan gatherings combine some of the aspects of festival
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I love them both (well, mostly) but they are very different critters. Since my field is Appalachian folk magic, I have had some n

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I am sitting here with my back to my home altar and the sun is beginning to shine in through the curtains. The birds are braying for attention and licit love, and the greening of the world from three days of good rain is a good sign that winter is mostly behind us for this turning of the Wheel.

We have come at last to the final hours of April, which is rightly called the cruelest month. This particular April has seemed about ninety days long--even with opera glasses and a proper squint, I can no longer see Fool's Day.

In the refrigerator, there is a big mason jar filled with sweet woodruff, strawberries and good white wine. "Summertime" is coming from our local NPR affiliate--a careful rendition that speaks less of hope than of persistence.

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  • Editor B
    Editor B says #
    I appreciate how you weave in the spirit of rebellion. That's an aspect of May Day that also can be seen in the more explicitly po
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thank you--how kind. May Day and Beltane do have common roots. And I do mean "common."

I know, I know. I'm terribly far behind. There is some yummy Maywine steeping in the fridge and I have plans to unwind the ribbons so that the Maypole can be raised, danced and wrapped on Wednesday and then again on Saturday.  There's a sweet ritual organized for the respectful public and my flower crown is all plumped-up and lovely.

But...

But...

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I am excited to be travelling to Columbia, SC today for "Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes", a symposium from Cherry Hill Seminary and USC.  I'll be presenting my latest research on the border reivers and seeing some dear old friends (Holli Emore, Patti Wiggington et al) and meeting some dear new ones (Sara Amis and Elinor Predota et al).  I expect to be restimulated and reinspired by the work of all the folks at this conference and will be grateful to listen to the cheeky wisdom of Ronald Hutton again.

Here's a link to the conference--

http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/students/degree-programs/intensives-and-conferences/ronald-hutton-featured-in-spring-chs-usc-symposium-more-info-tba/

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Woad Warrior, redux

This was originally published in the Mountain Xpress way back in 2000.  I was looking at my woad yesterday and thinking about the best time to harvest the leaves for dye and thought of this piece.  So I'm sharing it with you, as we in the Northern hemi prepare for Beltane. Some things have changed in my world since then--but the challenge remains the same.  Hope you enjoy it!

Serving as a high priestess is a hard job. "The toughest job you'll ever love" may apply to military service, but it could just as easily be found in a Pagan-clergy handbook -- if there were such a thing.

 

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Why Pagans Need a "Passover Seder" of Our Own

You know by now that I do (and advocate you doing) interfaith work. It isn't easy and sometimes it isn't even rewarding but it's important for people like me to be at the table with other religious folk for any number of reasons.  But this post isn't about that.

Because I do the aforementioned interfaith work, a rabbi buddy of mine invited me to his family Passover seder a couple of years ago. When I asked what I should bring, he suggested flowers or kosher wine. I had never heard of kosher wine but there's rather a lot of choices out there. I brought both.

A Passover seder, if you have never experienced one, is an ordeal by food and wine.  It lasted six hours and my head was spinning by the end, mostly from kosher wine and trying to speak Hebrew.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I'm considering writing a Pagan Hagaddah. Kate Laity is, too. Who knows? I think it would be very good for us.
  • Joseph Merlin Nichter
    Joseph Merlin Nichter says #
    I love this post. We have our own "Seder" within our tradition, but we need one for the whole of Paganism. Now more than ever.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sometimes I Think We Talk Too Much

and sometimes I think we don't talk enough. 

Quandary.

When I was coming up in these spiritual systems, it was all about connecting with some Divines, usually a cobbled together "pantheon" of cultures and attributes that we liked.  We set that up within the elegant framework of the Wheel of the Year. I love the Wheel because it is a sweet crucible for connecting, as well as celebrating and honoring. Simple and very user-friendly.  There are two Solstices and two Equinoxes (and don't bother to correct me--I know those aren't the accurate plurals)--placeholders that mark the visible change in seasons in those places that still have four of those.  They actually happen--they are not based on lore or myth.  You can look them up--they happen for everyone at the same time.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    It's a tribute to the health of these spiritual systems that we can change and move--I only wish we didn't leave so much behind.
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    I should perhaps also note that I'm writing from a Scandinavian perspective. I think the movements have changed in their own ways
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    Well said. When I first started on my path almost a decade ago, I remember that eclecticism was the Big Thing. In the forums I fre

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
As March 17 approaches--green or orange?

For years I’ve struggled with St. Patrick’s Day.  No, not the drinking and eating--no struggle there.  But I learned years ago that you wear green on St. Patrick’s day if you’re Catholic and orange (for William of Orange--see the Battle of the Boyne for more info) if you’re Protestant.

I wear a lot of green (and black, to be honest), most of the time.  But I am hardly Catholic.  And though I’ve threatened to pre-order an orange jumpsuit for Gitmo, I wouldn’t do the Prod thing either.

What’s an Irish Pagan woman to do?

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The Raven Himself is Hoarse

I'm doing a rather brisk business in tarot readings and counseling of late. Not complaining, you understand. I love reading cards and have been doing it since I was about 12. There are few things more satisfying than offering a client a different way of viewing a situation through the lens of these colorful tools.

For many months now, there are cards that regularly show up for everyone. I'm tempted sometimes to take them out of the deck and try a reading that way but I suspect other cards would join together to give the same reading.  As they do.

Sometimes those cards are specific to the client sitting across from me but often they fall into the category of "zeitgeist."  They inform other parts of the reading but they are basically setting the stage for a life, a vision, a path.

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Pagans' Night Out is a simple concept really--Pagans from all sorts of traditions and non-traditions and folks who don't call themselves "pagan" for all sorts of reasons--get together in a public space for networking, conversation and, usually, beer.

Do you do that in your community? We've been doing it here in Asheville for many years--organized by CERES (Coalition of Earth Religions for Education and Support), a 501c3 faith-based Pagan charity.

We came to it out of desperation, really.  Back in the 1990s, there were several strong covens in our area and they mostly didn't get along very well. Some of you will remember the "Witch Wars" that seemed so prevalent during that time and our community was not exempt.

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Inanna Called Her Home

There used to be this odd thing at funerals here in the South.  There were these big floral arrangements, often with artificial flowers in bright cheery colors, and wired to the center was a toy princess phone.  There were words on the arrangement:

Jesus Called Her Home


They seemed so peculiar at the time and I haven't seen one in years. But when I heard this weekend that Diane Wolkstein had died unexpectedly in Taiwan, my first thought was:

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Leaving the Bhrat in the Yard

I'm one of the facilitators for a day-long Brigid retreat on Saturday and am priestessing our Mother Grove public ritual that night.  What that means in practical terms is that my car is full of boxes and cloutie trees, and the dining room table is also covered with material for one thing or the other.

Have you been spending the week getting ready for this lovely holy day, those of you who honor it?  Have you cleared and reset your altar?  Put some oats and whiskey out for Bride and her white cow?

The thing I almost forgot was the bhrat--that length of cotton cloth that goes out onto the Earth tonight to catch the dew or the rain. I use cotton because it's easy to rip into clouties or cut into squares for healing work.

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Turning to the East

I've been wearing a little necklace since sometime in October--a pendant that looks like the cover of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. A charm really, and each time I caught my reflection in the mirror and saw it, I'd tap it with my forefinger in the same way as you'd set a glamour. "Pick me," I'd say to myself. "Pick me."

I got word today that they did indeed pick me and I'll be at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in late July and will do a workshop of deep grounding techniques.  It's an honor, of course, but it also means I get to be in Glastonbury again, this time in the summer.

We first went there in September, I think, and the weather was wet and cold. We stayed in a b&b at the foot of the Tor where they fed badgers in the evening. I spent time at the Chalice Well and its gardens but fell in love with the Somerset Rural Life Museum, which has one of the most beautiful barns I've ever seen.

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Imbolc, with the Littles

As you may have gathered from my recent post, I rather love the upcoming holy day and the Divine whom it honors. I want to share with you some of the fun Brigid things we did as my daughter was growing up.  Some of it is old lore made fresh, some of it is new.  I don't know the difference any more--it is all so deeply ingrained in my knowings around this coming of Spring.  I shan't give you sources for what I do, except that I do them and have done them for many years.

Imbolc is a wonderful time for children and there are many ways for the Littles to be involved.  On the night before Imbolc begins (which we celebrate as a three-day festival), Brigid travels the wide World, accompanied by a Cow.  She brings blessings to children and to pregnant women and She has many places to visit.  Those good children who love Bridey know that before bedtime they need to do three important things.

First, they must set out a little bed for Her to rest upon.  We always made one from a shoe box.  We'd roll up some soft batting and tuck a cloth napkin around it.  A lace handkerchief made a pretty pillow and a thick cotton washcloth looked much like the cotton blankets we had on our own beds.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    She's extraordinary...so many tales are attributed to Her, so many wonderful traditions. I also use the time of Imbolc in its gui
  • Pumpkyn
    Pumpkyn says #
    I have recently began reading the book "Candlemas, Feast of the Flames" by Amber K, and Azrael Arynn K. Have you read this book?
  • Pumpkyn
    Pumpkyn says #
    Wow, those are wonderful traditions to share with little ones. I will definitely have to incorparate some of those into my own tra

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Your Own Personal Brighid

Yeah, now I have an earworm of Johnny Cash's cover of that song...but I digress.

Imbolc feels as though it is only moments away, rushing down from the treetops here in the dripping southern mountains.  We love Brighid around these parts.  We do a public ritual to honor Her day.  Years ago--a decade maybe?--we dedicated an old stone spring house and its spring to Her.  Several local priestesses are dedicated to Her and Her crafty self. And we have the ink to prove it.

We dream of forges and vats of beer. As who doesn't...

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thank you for those kind words. Are you a Brighid fan?
  • Pumpkyn
    Pumpkyn says #
    I honestly don't know much about Bride but I feel drawn to her. I hope to learn more about her during this season especially with
  • Pumpkyn
    Pumpkyn says #
    I really enjoyed this entry. Its always nice to learn more about traditions surrounding Imbolc, especially those involving Bride.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gold and Red..Imbolc is Coming

We spent part of the afternoon at Mother Grove rearranging the entry room--a tiny space I call the "lounge." We moved the coffee-and-tea tables onto another wall and covered them in some plain black fabric. Looks sleek and modern.

Since there were several of us playing interior designer, a couple of us started stripping the main altar and replacing tealights on the other three.  The Ancestors had been exiled in their niche, covered with a black lace veil with no candles or wine or treats and it was also time to open up their area and fill their goblet and out a little something sweet on their plate.

It's time now to move all the Brigid stuff from the South altar and honor our gold-red Woman.  We're big on our Bridey at Mother Grove--She's one of the reasons we decided to work on creating a Goddess temple here.

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