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The Hissing of Small Stones

As the land begins her journey to the stark hardness of winter, I find myself turning from the softness of worked Earth and rainwater and leaning into the hardness that is to come.

There is surprising comfort in that–in the security of that rigidity as well as the sense of permanence in our impermanent world.

Most years we build a cairn in the brightest of the autumn. We spend time amongst our Eldest Living Kindred and we choose the one with the most pleasing form or the brightest colors and we honor it with a small cairn at its base.

There is a ritual quality to the gathering of the stones and the careful stacking, like paleo-Jenga. But our goal is not a permanent structure: by this time next year the stones will have been scattered again, returning to their willful ways.

Sometimes I have gathered stones of a particular color and that has a pleasing effect. The cairn is never more than a foot high and it is often dressed with lichen and moss or surrounded by a circle of acorns.

Pagans, in my opinion, need to spend far more time outside than most of us do. Honoring this season in ways that bring us back in touch with the natural world will go far to comfort us later, as we approach the drear chill of a mountain Imbolc and dream of our Kindred in their new green cloaks.

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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,


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