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The Last Days of This Long Dying



The old agricultural year is winding down to its usual conclusion. This time of the Long Dying is still vibrant here in the southern highlands of the Appalachian mountains.  Today began in thick fog and reached a temperature nearly 20 degrees higher than the average for this day. Warm, light breeze, perfect for outside work in the garden.

And yet...and yet...

Samhain roared into the region with no intention of leaving.  There was little or no "veil" between the worlds and the spirits danced back and forth, like naughty children at a summer picnic. They are dancing still, even though I moved the Ancestor altar back into its usual niche and draped a black lace veil over it.

I watered the "wintered over" garden beds where lettuces, spinach, chard and more have yet to be covered by their cold weather hoop houses. I am enjoying fresh radishes and onions and watching to see if the peas I planted so late will actually bloom.

Whether this is a slow-starting winter or the picturesque advert for climate change, we are looking at the end of the growing season while coming to terms with the fact that the agricultural year doesn't seem to be ending.  We have tended and harvested, have preserved and prepared.

We're a couple of weeks away from the Solstice and, regardless of what's happening with the weather, it is the true end of the year, the no-man's-land between the new year at Samhain and the lengthening days that the Solstice brings.

This afternoon, I sat on the front steps with a fat golden glass ball in my hands.  I noted my reflection, I enjoyed the smell of a woodfire a few houses down.  Then I did what our Ancestors may have done. I did what many magicians and witches have done before me.  I did a deep grounding meditation. I centered the energies and I focused my will. With my eyes closed, I visualized the Sun in the Eastern sky and followed it in my mind as it came to settle in neon-pink glory over the western hills.

My fingers touched the smooth cool glass in my hand and I heard one of the neighborhood crows fuss from the oak across the road. I brought the glass to my lips and kissed it, feeling the heat of summer, the delight of long days and short nights, the taste of that first tomato warmed from the Sun.

Then I opened my eyes and began the process of willing the Sun to return.  As one does.

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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,


  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Monday, 10 December 2012

    It has been unseasonably warm here, too -- but we are getting monsoons of hard rain which I can't really object to, since we had a near-drought this fall. Of course, I'd prefer snow -- but we are unlikely to see anything like the first year we moved here when it was a 40-year record snowfall -- so I'd settle for a few Solstice flakes. Peace.

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