Women’s Herbal Conference, Glastonbury Goddess Conference, West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival, and other gatherings.

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Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at info@myvillagewitch.com,

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Boxing Day

It's also St Stephen's Day, which reminds me of that song--St Stephen's Day Murders.

For decades now, Boxing Day has been a sacred retreat day, which sounds pretty fancy until I tell you that I stay in my pajamas all day and write thank-you notes and switch over all the data into my new calendar. I eat leftovers--or I eat cake all day--and I read a book or watch a movie.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    He might indeed. He is not a fan of shenanigans other than his own.
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Of course, Puka might have his own ideas about shenanigans

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
From There To Here

You don't need to be an Elder god this time of year but it might help.  Lots of people who are otherwise very  hearty Pagans manage to get to the holiday (yeah, pick one) table and find they have nothing to say. They haven't yet "come out" to their family which complicates an already tricky situation. No matter how firm we are in our spiritual convictions, when we are in our parents' homes we revert to being wayward kids, the weirdoes of the family.  We go from being Lord High Muck of Bucklebury Ferry to being Billy, the fat kid with the wandering eye.

It happens. If you are very fortunate and mature it may not be so for you. I hope you know how blessed you are. My parents are dead so I get to choose how I spend the day without reverting to the fat girl who only wanted a pony.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Blessed be. Yes, I am fortunate that way, too. Mostly people are curious or quiet. I had never had a formal talk with one of my d
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thanks for your wise words. I am one of the lucky ones, very out as a witch with family and my wider community (including in the

We take Samhaintide seriously here in the southern highlands of Appalachia.  There are rituals and ceremonies, discussions and interviews.  I am blessed to live in the land where my Ancestors lie buried and so I also have the sacred duty of tending their graves in the Darkening of the year.

Then there is the garden to put to bed and there were festivals and cons to attend and so I have been called away from here for some time. I will try to be more faithful to this writing as the Solstice vigil fires are set and fed, and as the winter lingers in the land.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Just A Song at Twilight

Today was laundry day. And unpacking day. And grocery-shopping day. I returned late yesterday from Festival of Souls near Memphis and it was my second festival in as many weeks. I am grateful to be home to settle into Samhain and wash my socks.

Two weeks ago, I was teaching at the Southeast Wise Women's Conference, which used to be called the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. It is exactly what it sounds like. In a gorgeous mountain setting--that was the site of the old Black Mountain College.

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Gabble Ratchet

As a young woman, I fell in love with the work of Mary Stewart and have read all of her books.  There is one that is set in Lebanon called The Gabriel Hounds and from it I learned the phrase "gabble ratchet" which is a folk corruption of "Gabriel's hounds." It means the sound of wild geese flying, a sound that is evocative of a pack of baying hounds. In folklore, the Gabriel hounds are sometimes the souls of unbaptized children crying in the night, or they may foretell a death or they're thought to be the hounds of Hel(l).

In my heart, though, that eerie sound--so full of longing and grief--always evokes the Ancestors, the Beloved Dead. My writing desk sets by a west-facing window and that window looks out over the French Broad River. The Canada geese use the old river as a flight path that sweeps them northward to a couple of good feeding grounds and a man-made lake. In the spring, we are rewarded with the site of families of the gabble ratchets with their fuzzy chicks, grazing on the chickweed near the old railroad tracks.

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Bring Out Your Dead!  Bring Out Your Dead!

There's so much during this season that I find myself trying to find any lightness, any humor. Hence the title of this piece. We hardly need to bring them out, Python-style, when they are insistently demanding our attention as the nights grow like looming stalactites.

Tonight I want to write a bit about Ancestor altars.  Do you have one?  Do you leave it up, year-round, or put it up just after the Autumnal Equinox?  I've been asking colleagues which they prefer and it's about evenly divided.  For the record, I keep one up year-round because my root work is dependent on keeping my Ancestors in-the-know.  And also, happy.  I like some happy Ancestors, me.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Hello Byron - A great read. I build an altar, sometimes a few altars for my Beloved and Mighty Dead. I'll cook and eat foods tha
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks! I think the food thing is terribly important. And the liquor thing--at least for my Ancestors.

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Keeper of the Samhain List

Each year, sometime in the early part of November, a scrap of paper appears on my home altar.  On it is a single name of someone I know--or the parent or partner or child or sibling of someone I know. It's the first and last name, usually. 

That's the beginning of the Samhain list.

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