IMBOLC – Brighid’s Blessing

by Angeliska on February 1, 2018

Every year on Imbolc, I honor the sacred wheel’s turning by doing some ritual spring cleaning: I like to clear out my tarot trailer, tidy my house, wipe down my hearth and altars with sweet oils. I sweep the cobwebs from the nooks and crannies, dust the bottles of herbs, resins and powders, and process the accrued bits of magical flotsam and jetsam that always seem to pile up on every surface. I make a bonfire for Brigid, and let many things go into it: old wishes, dead spells, and bits of witchery that have served their purpose, and are ready to become ash and air. Imbolc marks the quickening, the first hints of turning from the old season into the new – the very moment when the first hints of spring seem finally possible. Imbolc means “in the belly”, something quietly growing, maybe not quite showing, but every day building strength, getting ready to emerge in the physical world. This is the time of new lambs, of new life, reclaiming eros energy from the dead world, the frozen barrenness of deathly winter. The buds have not yet appeared on the bare branches, and the world has not yet turned florid with bright blossoms, and yet, here and there, if you look closely, you might detect the first signs that the maiden is returning from the underworld. Tiny succulents are peeping out from the soil in their planter on my porch, and yesterday, a little wood violet bloomed, the sole flower in my garden, for now. In the velvety soft gray mornings, I wake to the excited gossiping of the songbirds, who have been returning to the leafless sycamores in my backyard. I hear them talking amongst themselves about the return of springtime, about warmer days, and balmy evenings, about the eventual re-emergence of the fireflies, and caterpillars, about the tender buds and berries, the fresh new shoots, bright green tendrils emerging, sweet sap rising. The hag of winter’s face is slowly turning, back behind her tattered veil, her white shawl of snow, to reveal the strong young face of the maiden, of Brighid. The Cailleach returns to her home under the hills, and is reborn anew, as a bright and warm goddess, Breo-saighit, fiery elf arrow, a sacred well, a red fox, a meadow of snow-drops. The wind is in the trees, and spring comes!

Brigid's Cross Imbolc
Light all your candles, tend your hearth-fires. Leave pieces of cloth outside for Brigid to bless as she passes by, and these will protect your throat from unwellness.

My mother named me for Brighid, consecrated me to her before I was born. I have always been her daughter. My name was meant to be Bridget Angela, but at the last minute, after I had emerged and my birth certificate was being made, my mother frantically yelled out from her weak and wounded post-natal swoon that it needed to be switched, that my name was Angela Bridget. Her vehemence got the nurse’s attention, and here I am – though I’ve never really gone by Angela, and I never liked the name Bridget for years either. I thought it was too cutesy, bringing up images of a red-haired girl with a bob and curls, a freckled button nose, and a cheerful attitude. I had none of those things. Bridget the midget, Gidget who fidgets. I wasn’t into it. I didn’t yet know who the real Bridget was, or that I belonged to her. As a young girl, I wanted to be Brigitte instead, also not yet knowing about Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi’s wife, the loa of the cemeteries. I grew up in graveyards, always around so much death – and I found comfort in the company of the dead. There is so much that I didn’t understand as a child, with no one I felt I could talk to about these things. Young witches can be formidable, livewires of power they don’t know how to wield. I was changing the weather, bringing the thunderstorms at will – and was both terrified and elated at what I was capable of. When I realized last year that Oya, orisha of hurricanes, storms and sacred change was syncretized with Maman Brigitte in Vodou, and St. Bridget, it hit me with the force of massive typhoon that my relationship with this power, with this goddess, began long before I was born. It wasn’t something that I discovered. It just always was – waiting for me, somewhat patiently, until I remembered. When I see the synchronicities lining up, it shows me that I’m on the right path – and they have been there for me all along, those shining breadcrumbs, beckoning me to follow, to keep walking forward, deeper into her mysteries.

Brigid Imbolc Shrine
Bright Imbolc altar. Come in, Brighid! Come in, spring! Come in, light! Be welcome, fierce maiden! Welcome Brighid, keeper of the fire, forge, hearth and heart.

Goddesses are real. Not just in history books, or as ancient myths, or archetypes, beautiful images, sculptures carved in stone and worshipped long ago, but as real as you and I, and in fact, within us all. It seems so obvious to say it, but part of me didn’t really truly understand that until fairly recently. I appreciated the idea of the Goddess as an abstract, as an idea or a concept, rather than as a concrete reality, a truth I know and feel in my bones every day. They are with us, guiding our movements, our lives. This knowledge has inspired me to dedicate my life to serving the goddess, to honoring her, in her various forms – not as a given, or in theory, but in practice, as a devoted disciple, as priestess, as daughter. When the Goddess calls to you, you must heed her. I realize now that I belong to certain goddess-forms, and always have. The Goddess Brighid is one of them – healer woman, fire spirit, who guides the hands of the poets, the blacksmith and silversmiths, shepherdess, rainbow mantled, dew-laden, fairy woman. She has many names, and many faces:

“Brighid-Muirghin-no-tuinne, Brighid-Conception-of-the-Waves; 
Brighid-Sluagh (or Sloigh), Brighid of the Immortal Host; 
Brighid-nan-Sitheachseang, Bridget of the Slim Fairy Folk; 
Song-sweet (lit. melodious mouth’d)
Brighid of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.
She is also called Brighid of the Harp,
Brighid of the Sorrowful,
Brighid of Prophecy,
Brighid of Pure Love,
St. Bríde of the Isles,
Bríde of Joy,
and other names.”

– from Fiona MacLeod (aka. William Sharp) in his book “Winged Destiny” 


Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

Mother of our mothers,
Foremothers strong,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance,

from heartlessness,
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.

– Blessing for Hearth-Keepers
by Caitlin Matthews


Brighid of the mantles,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid of the braided hair,
Brighid of the augury.

Brighid of the shining feet,
Brighid of the quietness,
Brighid of the shining palms,
Brighid of the cattle.

Brighid friend of women,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid women’s midwife,
Brighid, woman of grace.

– an excerpt from Brighid of the Mantles,
Sloinntea rachd Na Brighid, translated by Caitlin Matthews,
transcribed by Brenda Francis

Brigid Imbolc Altar
Mar a chaireadh Muire,
Caim Bhride’s Mhuire,
Car an tula’s car an lair,
‘S car an ardraich uile.

As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary,
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.

Cleaning for Imbolc
Out with the old, in with the new! Even withered blooms still have their corpsey beauty. Soon to be ashes of roses in Imbolc bonfires.

I wrote this last year, as I was walking through a deep dark time of loss and hurt, that transformed me utterly. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see undeniably how necessary those changes were, and how much stronger and more whole I am today, after it all.

I lit a bonfire for Imbolc.
I made my invocations to Brighid,
made offerings to her of aged honey mead.
I burnt my finger on a hot coal,
the sizzle of singed flesh and bubbling copal.
I cut my other finger to the quick
on a jagged piece of cavern stalagmite,
the hidden crystals inside glittering, painted red.
Blood offerings, life-force, soul-water.
I sacrificed two sacred paper deer to the flames,
one a leaping doe shadow puppet Pandora made,
that danced on a bedsheet screen in my backyard.
The other, a handmade papier mache doe piñata
made for me by Francesca and Annie
to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.
They stuffed the deer with frankincense and myrrh,
golden holy virgin medals, fine chocolates,
flowers of Jericho, little girl barrettes,
and other treasures I can no longer remember.
They wanted me to burn it that night, but it was
so beautiful, with a plaintive expression painted in tempera,
that I had to let it live for eight more years, a hollow effigy,
crumpled in the corner of the defunct shower, waiting.
Ghosts of sisters’ love, memories, circles broken and unbroken.

I am burning holy mite-eaten macaw feathers and prayers
for my loved ones, for all of the people who come to me
for tarot reading and healing, for myself, that I may continue to.
I am burning several smudges of cedar and sage and so many memories.
I am burning clumps of old wax and a huge bundle of lavender.
I am burning pieces of wood from the building of my house
cut and stacked and left behind by my last, past love.
I am burning three plum colored candles
for the fates in a deer antler candelabra.

It is winter now, but this is the day I mark to
trust that spring is coming, that the sap will rise.
It is cold and grey, and the sunlight is a pallid gold,
uncertain and watery, but the fire warms me.
I feel fierce and determined and deep down sad.
I feel like a warrior woman exhausted after battle
sitting on a bloody treestump to unhook her armor.
I feel a fire burning at my core,
a root fire that tells me I will survive,
and that my deep down anger will eventually
give way to passion.
I feel certain that
if anyone walked through my gate right now,
I would fuck them to death.
So my gate is locked with iron.
Iron nails crossed.
Bright blood berries,
the cedar waxwings get drunk on them
when they ferment in the spring.
I make my solitary prayers
and ask for her help in this,
that I may come through wiser,
so that I may better serve her.
I am bold, and I am braver.
My bones are tired,
but I’ll get stronger.
It is Imbolc,
and I am burning.


This was my first fire of the New Year, for a full moon ritual with four solid corners holding it down and raising it up. This was so necessary for me – to be in nature, with the elements called in, gazing into the embers, drawing down the moon with strong witches. To honor the holy days. “The original meaning of the word holy is “set apart”. In holy day time/space, we surrender our engagement with the outer world, go to be restored and renewed. In all cultures, to enter the tenemos (enclosed sacred space) is to be released from chronological time, to enter the timeless realm of the sacred. In ritual and ceremony, we and the world are healed and strengthened.” – Sherri Rose-Walker

I have been feeling like a big mammajamma bear that just wants to go hide in her dream lodge cave and sleep until springtime. I keep reminding myself that it will be spring here soon enough, and feeling so grateful that I live in a climate where our current version of winter is considered somewhat extreme. For a winterborn being, I get worse and worse at enduring the winter season and better and better at enjoying the summertime every year. Perhaps I’ll like it better when I can invest in proper heating for my home. Dinky inefficient space heaters are the pits! Still, I’m grateful to have them, too – and don’t have to chop my wood or huddle around a cookfire.

This video made my heart feel hopeful and reminds me of what is real and true: God/dess is nature. Lifeforce energy and deathforce energy are a constant circle – a loop of becoming and unbecoming. We are all interconnected. Don’t forget your own divinity and place in all of this: you are every bit as sacred as the crane swooping over the water, as the droplet of water sliding off their wing, as the mite tickling their underfeathers, as the wee beetle sliding off the leaf. You are the seed slipping from the pinecone, you are the ripening berry, you are the rotting log, you are the moss and the fungus – and you are GLORIOUS! Life is a precious gift, and so is death. What a thing it is to be incarnate! I used to not think so. I am glad I remembered. 

Spring in the Belly of Winter – IMBOLC: A CROSS-QUARTER STATION OF THE SUN

from Blue Moon Astrology – I love this post from Elaine Kalantarian about Imbolc, Brighid and the astrology and history of this holiday. Very informative, if you’d like to know more!

Brighid’s Blessings upon your hearth and heart,
and a merry Imbolc to you all!

A Rosy Full Wolf Moon Unfurls: Year of the Earth Dog

by Angeliska on January 1, 2018

It’s the dawn of a New Year in a few hours, and instead of loading up the caravan and heading for the hills like I normally do on this day, I’m curled up in front of a space heater in my living room, sifting through the last grains of sand that made up 2017, as it slips through the glass. An arctic cold front is currently blowing down through Texas, making the idea of honoring our tradition of camping out in Lone Grove for New Years somewhat untenable, hardy as we usually are. It’s strange to shift a pattern, to do something differently – to trust that it’s okay to go with the flow, and work with what is. This year, I’m getting a little bit better at letting things go, at holding loosely to the reins of control instead of gripping tight, at moving like water with the current instead of beating myself against the rocks. So, instead of pushing myself into the wind and cold, I’m hunkered down, writing, and trying to be gentle with myself. Maybe it’s this full Wolf Moon in Cancer rising, or the closing of the year, but I’m grateful that the weather has conspired to let me be easy with myself, because I feel a little shaky, a strange anxiety under what has mostly been a blanket of deep peace. I’m sitting with it, letting it be – observing where the roots lead, and breathing into the fearful places. My neighbors were setting off fireworks last night, enormous explosions that had my dogs on edge. I feel extra sensitive lately, picking up on outside energy, especially the distress of beings I feel very connected to. One of the big things that happened for me this year, was the addition of a third dog into our pack, which has been a wild experience – especially considering that I was never a dog person until the past ten years or so. Prior to that, I would have always described myself as a cat person, and if you had told me then that one day I would not only have a dog, but three large dogs, I would have thought you were full of poppycock. I never would have imagined that having three dogs would feel like the just the right amount of canine companionship. It’s definitely hard to get lonely when surrounded by this much unconditional love and affection, and – I learn so much from these creatures every day. They are my teachers. So, I’m thrilled that 2018 will be the Year of the Dog, and an Earth Dog to boot. That energy feels healing and balancing after the past few Fire years, which were so turbulent and intense, especially considering they were ruled by Monkey and Rooster. Being an earth sign myself, and a dog spirit, it feels like a relief to have some grounding, solid energy for this coming year. While the Lunar new year doesn’t really roll in until the second new moon after the Winter Solstice, I like to welcome in this new energy early, at the turning of the Gregorian calendar, and make a space for its wisdom in my life.

snow pea
My wild sweet Snow Pea. From the first moment I saw this dog in a dream, I knew we were meant to help and teach each other. The saga of how he came to be my dog is long and involved, but last year, all I wanted for Christmas and my birthday was Snowy. I would lay awake and worry about him, and wish on the moon and stars that he could come live with me. And one day, he did. I look at him all the time in wonder and think about how my heart’s wish was granted, and how amazing it is that this magical creature is my dog.

Earth Dogs are true and loyal, honest to a fault, and teach us to cultivate personal integrity in our character, in our words, and our actions. This is a time to show up, with both feet wildly one the ground. Your presence is everything. This is an action year, where having real skin in the game and making things happen will count so much more than just dreaming or empty talk. Saturn going into Capricorn will help us get serious about what will actually be required of us to really manifest what we say we want. It’s time to fight for the rights of the underdogs, sniff out corruption, and shine a light on the truth. I feel that dogs are the best teachers of what true friendship means – that steady, abiding light of simple, uncomplicated love that shines from their bright eyes, and is felt in the snuffle of a wet nose, and the brush of a wagging tail. I want to love like my dogs do, to have their lust for life, to stay in the moment as they do, seemingly releasing their troubles, frustrations, anxieties and angers so much more easily than we humans do.

Two concepts have made themselves more known to me recently, and I want to take this year (and hopefully many more to come) to explore them in greater depth. Both speak to a sense of true friendship, with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with the world. The first is maitri, which I’ve been reading about in a little book of essays by Pema Chodron, called Practicing Peace. Maitri is a sense of “unconditional friendliness towards your perfect and imperfect self”. I’d heard the word maitre before, but I guess I didn’t really know what it meant, because when I read that, my jaw dropped. What a wild idea! It just really struck me – how overwhelming the concept of unconditional love can seem, for whatever reason. Something about unconditional friendliness just seems more manageable to me. This past year, that’s the feeling towards myself I’ve been striving for – to be friendly with myself, especially when I feel like I’m at my worst. Because that’s when I need it the most. It feels doable in way that “falling deeply in love with myself” doesn’t on some days. I can manage that friendliness, that patience with myself when I’m feeling impatient and acting like a pill, that tolerance for all my many flaws. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I try to give myself a friendly gesture, a smile, if it feels natural, or sometimes a playful, silly face – a reminder to not take myself so damn seriously all the time!

I think about the way my dogs behave towards me, even when I’m unwashed, running behind on their breakfasts, grumpy or in a bad mood. Even when I’m like that, they still seem to think I’m the best person in the world. They accept me as I am, and they forgive me for not being perfect. And I feel the same way about them – even when they pee on the floor, chase the cat, escape the yard, or um, bite me. All of those things have happened this week, and honestly, it’s been really trying. But I don’t take any of it as a personal affront, because none of it is about me, or my dogs trying willfully to make my life more stressful. They are beasts expressing their nature, and it’s my job to learn better how to protect them and interact with them in a way that keeps us all well and happy. It feels miraculous to notice how my heart stays open to them completely, even when we’re struggling. They teach me so much about what loving unconditionally (and being loved that way) really means. And they have been such healers for me.

That being said, my wolfpack has really been giving me a run for my money lately, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – and it’s a lot to manage! I’m working to create better structure for us, and to be a strong pack leader for them. I have three dogs, and three cats! It’s a lot. A lot to take on, & a lot to be responsible for. They give me so much love and joy in return, it’s definitely worth everything I put in energetically, financially and timewise – but some days are easier than others. Today was a tough one. We’ve had a few kerfuffles & dust-ups the past few days over resource guarding, and I’ve gotten caught in the middle a few times. I’m working hard with a great trainer to be a strong pack leader and help everyone adjust to the new pack dynamic, and it’s very challenging. I have to be so strong, & so consistent – and always vigilant. Every day is different. I’m sharing this, because behind all the adorable animal photos, there’s another side I feel people don’t talk about often: the fact that these are ANIMALS. They’re not human, even if we dress them in funny clothes and babytalk to them. They are not too far away from being wild beasts, and if you want to have them in your life, you have a real responsibility to understand how they work and make a real dedicated effort to learn and speak their language – rather than expecting them to learn yours. Take the time, spend the money, study up – whatever you have to do: but train your damn dog! Be strong for them, so they’ll feel safe & happy. I’m trying, every day – and my only hope is that I can be half as good as my dogs think I am.


Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

Rose medicine is good for when you feel unsure, so remember to put her petals in your tea, or bath. I’ve been carrying big rose quartz orbs in my pockets, and holding them when I sleep.

Our earth altar on New Year’s day of last year

Winter garlands

The other concept I’ve been working with is Anam Cara, which is also the title of the book I’m reading about that very subject, by Irish poet John O’Donohue. Anam Cara means “soul friend” in Gaelic.

A person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an Anam Cara, your friendship cut across all convention and categories. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul. You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy and definition. When you are blessed with an Anam Cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: Home.

– John O’Donohue, from Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom

“According to O’Donohue, the Irish term anam cara originates in Irish monasticism, where it was applied to a monk’s teacher, companion, or spiritual guide. Edward C. Sellner traces its origin to the early Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers: ‘This capacity for friendship and ability to read other people’s hearts became the basis of the desert elders’ effectiveness as spiritual guides.’” I think about the work that I do with people, and who I want to be in the world, this path that I am walking, and this word really encapsulates it for me. I want to nurture and cultivate the relationships that feel like this in my life, and in my own heart.

I used to view all my close friendships as chosen family, my brothers and sisters. My concept has shifted in the last few years, somewhat. Those that I considered my spiritual family are still beloved, though time and distance has separated many of us. I also have started wanting to view all beings on earth as my brothers and sisters, and not drawing such a heavy circle of exclusivity around ideas like “us and them”, as I feel that all of our problems come from this division. In additions to that, I started defining true friendship a little differently, and exploring what it really means. I feel like I still have much to learn on the subject, and I hope to spend the rest of my life learning what it is to be a good friend, and to have true friendships. I learned that someone can be your family, and you can love them like a part of you, forever – and that sometimes it’s not possible, for various reasons, for you to be good friends to each other. Because I didn’t grow up with siblings, I didn’t really understand that you can totally just not get along with your brothers and sisters. You can have a deep affinity for each other, an abiding forever kind of love for them, and still not really be capable of maintaining a healthy friendship. This revelation came with an enormous sense of failure for me – because all these years, I’ve doggedly refused to ever give up on making so many of my relationships work – even when it was clear that I was only holding on so tightly because I was terrified of what letting go might mean. When you’ve experienced a lot of loss in your life, letting go can feel like a death. It is like that, in some ways. Growing up, I never had a lot of friends. I was quiet, deeply traumatized, poor and weird looking. I sat alone at most lunch tables, and my good friends usually lived far away from me, until middle school. Around that time, I started finding my people, and in many ways, they saved my life. So no wonder I would cling to them like the gold they are. As I’ve grown less afraid of being alone, and worked on healing the deep wounds in me that had shaped and defined my interpersonal relationships for so long, I noticed those dynamics shifting and changing. I am getting better at holding stronger boundaries for myself, better at receiving love, and more devoted to cultivating a sense of reciprocity in my relationships. I’ve always sought to emulate a dog’s sense of loyalty, and I tend to be a very loyal and protective friend. But I’ve learned something about that loyalty in the past year – which is that in repeatedly returning to the sides of people whose own personal pain made it impossible for them to treat me better, I was being disloyal to myself. I was like a dog that’s been kicked in the ribs too many times, but kept coming back. Until one day, I just couldn’t anymore. What an idea – to be loyal to your own friendship with yourself! Which for me, meant to know when to walk away and stop trying to make things work. It’s still a really hard lesson for me, and one that I have to sit with and breathe through often daily. I’m working on letting go, letting some things be unfixable, no solutions, no answers, no perfect words that will untangle the tight knots. They might loosen themselves with time, or they might not. The only person I can change in any situation is myself, so that’s what I’m working on. I try to stay in my own lane, and take responsibility for what’s mine, for my own pain – and heal myself, so that I don’t create more suffering. I want to keep an open heart. To detach with love, creating some space, while still sending love to those I can no longer sit with. This is hard work. But it makes me more available to myself, and more available to the friends and loves in my life that do feel healthy and supportive. And that has to be enough.

Here I am on the first day of last year, donning a coronet of icicles and sparkly twigs and an attitude of fierce determination to keep my spirits up, to do the work I came here to do, and to do my part to dismantle the motherfucking patriarchy with witchery, wisdom, and an excess of glitter.

Allyson, a summer queen in the winter garden. This lady has taught me so much about true loyalty and friendship. Her sweet steadfast heart is a blessing in my life.

The lovers ringing it in with the first chess game of the year.

primrose pups
My sweet beasts, my healers, protectors, best friends, number one heroes.

laughing pups
Laughing dogs in a primrose meadow, on a warmer day than this one. I look at these and am reminded that it will be spring again!

I had to step away from my writing yesterday, so now I’m here in 2018, and it’s colder today than it’s been in a long time. It snowed last night as we rung in the new year, here in Texas – for the second time this winter! It’s a rare and wonderful thing, especially considering that this time last year we were camping in short sleeves, basking in the warm sunshine. I know 2017 was just goddamn brutal for everybody, in so many ways – but I think it was also incredibly galvanizing. Many of us have been walking through the fire, and have been tempered in the flames. This past year was one of the hardest, most transformative, and probably most important years of my life to date. It started off with a series of endings, which took many, many months to heal from. Going through a major Pluto transit is no joke. It’s some heavy lifting. Pluto brings big endings, and I had to say goodbye to so many essential chapters of my life, and people I had loved for so long. I spent the first few months of last year plagued with intense sorrow, paralyzing anxiety, and horrible nightmares. I’d wake every morning to a flock of black-winged harpies taunting me with images and thoughts I didn’t want to see or think about – all the demons of the underworld and my unmaking flaying me alive every night while I slept. From the midst of all the rubble, crowfeathers, bad dreams and fear shits, I somehow emerged – raw bones and ragged edges, hairy legs and all. I gathered up all the lost parts of myself, and somehow came out on the other side, bruised up, but whole – and wholly myself, maybe more than ever before. 2017 was a year of major growth, and major healing. I’ve learned that those things often come with a healthy serving of pain and heavy work served up on the side, and I definitely had to work my way through before I was able to see the good stuff. It took a lot of trust. Looking back on the year that was, what I learned, and how I grew – I want to feel proud of myself, and most days, I do. But today, on the first day of the new year, I just feel bone deep weary, exhausted, and a little sad. Grey days and cold weather will often do that to me, as will the endings of things, and uncertain beginnings. I hold a flat round stone that I picked up a year ago today, when I was making some big promises to myself. I hold it in my hand and try to bring in the knowledge and the peace of coming full circle, of coming so far. This year was the culmination of big healing work, and it changed me in ways I am probably only just beginning to understand. There are quite a few things about my life as it is now that I never could’ve conceived of ten years ago, when I sit and think about it – and I love that, how unexpected our lives are, and how much we can change. I’ve been marveling lately at how much life can change in the space of one year. It seems like an obvious thing, I suppose, but recently I’ve been having a lot of revelations regarding things that seem very obvious, but are now somehow seen in a totally different, newly wondrous light. I hope to keep that sense of wonder and revelation close to my heart in the year to come, and I wish that for you, as well. Things can change. It’s not always so bad. There are glimmers of hope shining in the wreckage. We are stronger than we know.

Even a light dusting of snow is a novelty and a strange wonder for us down here in Texas. I love seeing how excited every gets trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues and making tiny snowmen.

38872084222_7815143912_z (1)

Though the full Wolf Moon in Cancer (which is now rising as I write this) tends to be something of a doozy for me, on the whole, I am allowing myself to be serene. For the past week, I’ve been so exhausted, and then when I finally do go to sleep, my heart starts racing and pounding with a strange restlessness. It feels like a message to go deeper, to ground down, to do the things I know help me find calm. I go to my cushion in the mornings, and stay put. I’ve been able to hold my seat in meditation in a way that was never really possible before, and that feels good. Just staying still in my body, even if my mind is still trying to plan and solve, parse and edit and understand. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I ever have been before, and stronger in my body, because I’ve been doing another thing I never thought I would be able to commit to: working out consistently! This has been a year of intense spiritual growth, with some unexpected paths opening up, teachers emerging from the mist, bringing newfound trust and ancient wisdom. I wish for peace and presence in this bright new year – coming into it with sober and clear eyes. I wish to keep learning how to be gentle with myself, and with others. My wish is that we all keep letting in sweetness, and letting go of the bitter. Let’s keep going towards what feels good, unfurling petals, finding the warmth, and turning our rosy faces towards the dawn, okay? Let you fierce, feral hearts howl when they need to – and run wild when necessary. We can only be domesticated so much before we lose our souls. Don’t forget – we too, are animals. We too were once wild things. I want to be imbued with a dog’s relentless optimism this year! To keep believing good things can happen, even when the times are bad. My dogs seem to have simple wishes: for full bellies, clean water to drink, lots of cuddles, and lots of playtime outside in nature. What more could we ask for, really? I wish those things for us, too – and in addition to all of that, may you be blessed and protected in this new year, may your heart feel full, may your friendships sustain you, and may you always keep your tail keep wagging, no matter what.

me + snowy
Happy New Year from me and my wolf pack! We love you.

More to read from New Year’s Eves of yore:

A Bright Blue Wish
New Year’s Redux
Stargazer Honey
Blue Moon
Lone Grove New Year
Pink Moons
The New Year
Lucky Stars and Garters
La Nouvelle Année

Winter’s Embrace

by Angeliska on December 21, 2017

Our Winter Solstice bonfire: a massive tower of flames burning 30-40 feet high. The tangle of mossy oak branches stood taller than me. The incredible heat and blaze was so intense after beginning our Solstice ritual in the cold and darkness - to better ho
Photo by Clint Redden

Today, the sun stands still – the scintillating convergence of the Winter Solstice is upon us, and at the darkest moment in our winter, the light begins to return to us. That light, the little candle flame inside us needs to be protected – so keep it close, let it build, and shelter it carefully against strong winds, because in these times, if your light goes out, it can be hard to get it going again. A year ago, I gathered with close friends in the country for a ritual to honor the solstice that ended with the lighting of the gargantuan bonfire pictured above. It was one of the most incredible fires I’d ever seen – looming above us nearly forty feet high. The tangle of mossy oak branches stood taller than me! That fire was started with a single spark, one lit candle burning in our hearts, passed from hand to hand around the circle, alighting a massive conflagration that towers to the heavens, the soaring flames illuminating the treetops. A cascade of shimmering embers, fire fairies flit around our heads like haloes and wink out into the cold night air. The incredible heat and blaze was so intense after beginning our Solstice ritual in the cold and darkness – to better honor and value the return of the light! We rang bells, howled and danced around it, calling in that light, soaking up that brilliant warmth. Opening our hearts to that magic.

I’ve been thinking about fire, lately: it’s not the element I feel most connected with, or have been very comfortable exploring. But I’ve been learning about its power, and how much we need it. Fire is sacred creativity, the vibrant spirit, an alchemical force. It keeps us warm, cooks our food, and is necessary in so many of our creative processes. I’ve been thinking about all our elements, and how essential they are for our survival, our balance. And I’ve been thinking about how when we are living out of balance, they react with a fury, often destroying what we’ve built up, tearing down buildings, incinerating forests, drowning the roads, and obliterating the structures that once seemed so permanent and fixed, ripped asunder in the blinking of an eye. I’ve been thinking about the terrible forest fires in California that are changing the face of the land and turning so many homes to ashes. The earthquakes and mudslides, avalanches. Tornados and windstorms. The hurricanes, floods and torrential rains that have been subsuming our cities. We need our water, the blessing of the mother, her tears – the earth, her body – the air, her breath – fire, her spirit. When out of balance, her gifts become terrifying. And yet, perhaps they are still gifts, in some way. Change is happening, and our old ways of being are falling away. We can resist it, but we’ll just exhaust ourselves. Like trying to swim upriver – you can fight the current, but after awhile, when you’ve completely exhausted yourself, the water will take you where it wants you to go anyway, whether you like it or not.

Power like this can be sustaining and nourishing, or consuming and destructive. Staying present, in clear integrity with our higher selves, with open eyes is the only way to retain or regain any sense of balance. I feel that this is also true of sexuality – Eros energy, our creative, generative spark. That passion can keep us warm, support and nourish us, stimulate and inspire our magic and creativity, and open our hearts. Or it can become, like any of the other essential elements, consuming and destructive.

On the Winter Solstice last year, I completed a vow of celibacy that I had initiated on the Summer Solstice. It was only half a year, and yet in those six months, I learned so much about myself, my sexuality, and my approach to love and relationships. But the real work and growth began in the year after I made that vow to myself and took it full circle. From the end of last December until now, I have experienced such radical change and internal growth, that has transformed nearly every area of my life. It feels very vulnerable, and a little scary to write about this here, and yet, I feel moved to share some of my experience, in hopes that it might be helpful to someone who finds it here.

I took a vow of celibacy because I wanted to find a way to channel and focus that erotic energy into my creative pursuits, namely my writing – and because I was in the process of doing some deep healing work on my relationships, and the wounding that I discovered was the origin for many of the unhealthy patterns I had developed around sex, love, and romance. I’m not going to delve into excruciating detail elaborating all the ways, for so many years, that I managed to keep beating my head against the same walls, and finding myself entangled in the same traps and pitfalls, because it would take forever, and really is just too embarrassing to enumerate. What I do want to share is how I discovered that it was possible to break these patterns, and with a lot of self-love and patience, feel like I have finally made some big headway in changing that way of being, and shifting into a new stage of growth. It can happen – but it does take work. Thankfully, there’s really nothing better than doing that human work on this earth. It’s why we came here – to learn, to grow, and to love.

This is the first time in my life where I have felt completely content with my current romantic status – which is, utterly and entirely, wholeheartedly and gratefully single. I think my heart had learned, ever since I was very young, to be in a constant state of longing, of wistfulness and wishing – regardless of whether I was in a relationship or merely burning a fervent torch for one elusive lover or another. It’s a hollow feeling, longing. And one I no longer wish to carry or resonate with. What is it, to be whole – to feel at home and happy with yourself, to be with yourself consummately – and to have that feel like more than enough. I’m discovering that feeling, and delighting deeply in my solitude, in my own company – with no more room for the tugging ache of loneliness in my heart or at my table. Sometimes it’s much lonelier when someone else is right there – so close, and yet so far away. I am right here, and I’m glad to be finally fully embracing these lessons in ways I had never before been able to really grasp. It look a lot of painful twists and turns to arrive at the threshold of this place, and I’m still learning the path. I’ve been thinking about a concept that I believe is from Rumi (as many wise truths are), that the goal is not falling in love – it is to BE love. That’s what I’m after. Starting with learning to be immensely compassionate to myself, even with all my many flaws and failings, all my gifts and shinings. I’m here to embrace my own sweet heart, that I shunned and neglected, ignored and spurned in favor of others, for so, so long. Coming back home, to my own sacred temple, long abandoned, now restored: my heart, my heart, my heart.

But how did I get from there to here? I spent years – years and years and years looking for love in all wrong places. Searching the world over with a hungry heart, hunting for someone to love me, to nourish me, to provide me with comfort and safety and stability. A baby bird looking desperately for unconditional love and validation, for proof that maybe I wasn’t the most awful, pathetic, unlovable creature in the world. Scanning constantly for security, for that person who could be the ONE who would save me, love me, stay with me forever and never leave, never die, never abandon me. And, yet – that loss and longing is all I knew of love. That was my polarity, a familiar home base. I craved love like fire, like water, like a drug. The thing is: that kind of love is actually essential to our survival when we’re little. Human children don’t tend to stand much of chance of survival without their parents, or if their parents (for whatever reason) aren’t invested (via that intense bonding that creates and sustains unconditional love and care. It’s not just a desire – it is actually a need. And I felt that I might die from the lack of it. If it hadn’t been for my amazing father, I very well might have. He has always offered me that unconditional love and care, but after my mom died, he was very overwhelmed trying to provide for us, and dealing with his own grief and broken heart. It was a hard time for us. I was alone a lot, and that loneliness became home for me. It was a place I knew.

From a very, very young age, I developed an unconscious plan for survival: my number one modus operandi became a quest to find the person who would offer me the unconditional love and care I lost when my mother became sick and died – and that in some ways, for various reasons, I never really had enough of before that. I was a practical child, an old soul who figured out the equation early on, and used my kid-logic to deduce that the next best source of unconditional love if you’ve lost your mom, according to all the fairy tales I devoured was, of course – TRUE LOVE! Prince Charming, on his glorious steed, ready to sweep me off my feet and adore me forever. Problem solved. I would be their priority, their everything! And I would finally be safe. As you can imagine, once I hit puberty, this led me to some deeply passionate obsessions with movie stars and later, to many (what I realize now) were seriously messed up interactions with unsavory, predatory people who zeroed in on me like wolves to a lost lamb. I was so desperate for love and affection, and so naive about what love and sex were all about, that I repeatedly ended up in situations where I was taken advantage of because I thought that if someone was paying attention to me, that meant that they loved me. Unfortunately, this continued more or less constantly until I reached near-adulthood. I eventually did wise-up a little bit, but I was still this totally precocious big-eyed starveling who threw myself into relationships and entanglements like my life depended on it – because on a deep, internal level, I believed that it did.

I did have some really wonderful relationships in all of that mess, with a few lovely, kind-hearted people who treated me right, or tried to. Usually though, I ended up feeling stifled and stuck with the people who were actually capable of loving me, and tended to eschew people who were too sweet, not cold or unavailable enough. I’d tell myself that I didn’t feel that magic spark with them – but truly, I was mistaking the sensation of being activated, that push-you/pull-me intense longing for chemistry. They aren’t actually the same thing at all. I’m learning that, and learning so much about my attachment patterns – about which, if any of this is resonating for you, you might really want to delve into studying your own attachment patterns in relationships. Understanding this piece has unlocked so much awareness for me around the loops and stuck places I found myself trapped in for so long.

Taking a step back from all of those patterns and getting some space for myself to establish a new perspective was another goal I had in taking a vow of celibacy. It really had less to do with having sex or not, and more to do with examining what happened for me when I engaged in that kind of intimacy with another person, and my own hidden motivations in finding connection. I want to make something very clear about this: I am extremely sex positive, and believe firmly that everyone’s relationship to their sexuality is entirely their own. What works for one person may or very well may not work for another. All I can share is what has worked for me, and what I’ve learned for myself.

When I was in New Orleans recently, I overheard a voluptuous lady walking by in the French Quarter talking into her cellphone say, “Estoy teniendo tremendo sexo con todo el mundo”, which means, “I’m having tremendous sex with the entire world!” I loved hearing that, especially as I was sitting on a stoop, making out with a very wonderful person at the time. It was a beautiful moment, where the air felt infused with sensuality and magic. I know there are many people out there who thrive by having many partners and exploring their erotic energy with a lot of freedom and playfulness. I respect that so much, and often, I wish it could be that way for me. For a long time, it was. And then things really needed to change. Because I was allowing myself to be in unhealthy situations, and I was getting hurt. I was connecting with people for the wrong reasons – and I wasn’t being especially conscious or present in my choices. The definition of an addiction, as I see it – is when we’re seeking a physical solution for a spiritual problem, and when we’re doing something that we know isn’t good for us – but we don’t seem to be able to stop ourselves from doing it anyway. I saw my six month vow of celibacy as a period of sobriety, during which I was still having great sex with myself (because let’s be real, I’d probably have ended up homicidal or definitely broken my vow, otherwise!) I wanted to be able to come back to physical connection with others from a place that was centered, and compassionate to both myself and them. You see, I’d made a lot of bargains for good sex in the past. I tricked myself into believing that in order to receive that good physical loving, I had to put up with a lot of bullshit from my partners, in their treatment of me. I came to believe that no one else was going to be into the way my body looked naked, or find me attractive or desirable. We find incredible ways to lie to ourselves, and then trap ourselves in feedback loops, get hooked into partnerships that aren’t sustainable or even particularly enjoyable.

It’s like this: when you’re starving, you’ll eat almost anything, right? If you go into a convenience store when you’re really hungry, almost any crap in there seems like it might be delicious. But there’s no really nourishment in a bag of Cheetos, and it doesn’t tend to last very long anyway. When you stop by the gas station with a nice full belly, you’ll find yourself realizing that there’s really nothing in there you want to eat, nothing you want to put in your body. A lot of the relationships we end up in when we’re operating from a place of inner hunger are the equivalent of junk food: addictive, extremely flavorful and delicious in the moment, but ultimately – they just end up making us sick. Learning how to feed my own heart and tend my own inner fire helped me have much more discernment around who I choose to share myself with than I ever had before. Sex on the first date was just a matter of course for me, and I would leap into situations with people without knowing them very well. I used to have basically little to no restraint, when I would actually meet someone I was attracted to – which is a rare enough occurrence, that thankfully I didn’t get have too many opportunities to create havoc for myself. It was much worse when I was way younger – and had no idea what I was really even attracted to. I have a lot to unpack about that time in my life, and what those experiences were really about. I’m working on trying to understand it, and heal it.

As Saturn moves into Capricorn this month, we’re being given a message about truly taking responsibility in the way we move through the world, and realizing how our actions effect other people. This is a good time to examine your boundaries, and your own personal rules about sex and relationships. A sense of soberness and a more serious approach may be replacing some of the unabashed hedonism of our past exploits. It’s a good time to perhaps be more judicious in our interactions, particularly because we’re really talking about consent, about boundaries, and about desire. This is a powerful time to have these conversations together – about what we’re really doing when we’re sharing the experience of sex and intimacy with another person. We’re finally having the conversations about how often we’ve had sex in the past we really didn’t want – or felt pressured into. When just doing it was easier, (or felt easier at the time) than saying no, or extricating ourselves out of these situations. In creating strong boundaries for ourselves and our partners, and making space for clear communication about what we want, and what we don’t, we are shifting the paradigm. There’s a lot of power in reclaiming that energy for ourselves, and in healing the wounds around our sexuality, and the ways that it may have been abused, exploited, coerced, or mis-used.

Our world is changing so much, and so quickly. I see so many of these changes being for the better – especially as we shift into a new way of relating. I think about the fact that for ages, if you wanted to get to know someone, and especially if you wanted to have sex with them, you had to get married. In this era, we have the freedom to take things slower, to really get to know someone. It’s been said that you really don’t know someone until you’ve spent four seasons with them, and I think that’s true. What would it be like to not make any big decisions about a relationship until you’d taken that time? When we start getting high on love drugs, which is what happens when we start doing stuff that releases oxytocin and vasopressin, like having sex, it makes us a little crazy. And it makes us bond with whoever we’re doing that stuff with. Which can be awesome. Or catastrophic. Because sometimes those bonds are not really appropriate – for various reasons. It’s very, very difficult, from even just a biological standpoint, for casual sex to stay casual for very long. So, as much fun as that can be (and often was, for me in the past) I’ve chosen now, after everything I learned from just hanging out with myself for awhile, that casual sex doesn’t work for me. I’m too sensitive, and too serious, and I just really don’t want to share myself in that way with someone who may not really care about me, or care to get to know me. And vice versa.

Sex is a ceremony, a mingling of our essential energies. It is sacred, if you approach it from that place. I’m interested in exploring, in getting really curious about a lover, and experiencing the same from them. I realize now that when I was coming from a place of need, and needing my partner to fulfill a space of lack in me, I didn’t allow much room to just discover them, and to be curious about really getting to know them as they were. I was just expecting them to uphold a certain way of being to make me feel safer, and then would get upset when they would turn out to be someone different from who I really wanted. It turns out, there’s something to be said for really taking your time! I’ve been relishing that, and also relishing saying no – something that was so hard for me to do, for so long. It gets easier and easier, and it is very empowering, to have that choice for myself, about what feels right for me – to get a clear sense of what works, and what doesn’t, without making a lot of concessions. I’ve been dating, for the first time in my life – a little bit, here and there. It’s pretty fascinating, honestly. And a little odd to be in a place where I’m not looking for casual sex, or a hookup – but also not convinced that I’m interested in getting into a serious, committed relationship again. Being partnered takes a lot of work, and it really is an enormous responsibility. It’s not something I ever want to take lightly again. Until I meet someone that really feels right, I’ll keep channeling eros energy into my creativity, into my writing. Sometimes, I fall into the fearful belief that I can’t be focused and productive if I have a lover in my life. I get afraid that if I meet someone I really connect with, I’ll lose myself again. I imagine scenarios where we get so high on from lovemaking that I’ll want to do nothing else but roll around in bed and then make blueberry pancakes and spend all day feeding them to each other and then rolling around some more. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad? Everything in moderation, right? It feels good to wait and see, and not to settle in the meantime for something that feels like a compromise. Compromise really means that one person gets what they want, while the other one doesn’t – and it’s interesting to me how often we’re told that we need to compromise in our relationships. I’m interested in collaboration – where we can both figure out how to mutually get what we want! It feels good to hang out in this space of not-loneliness. I still crave touch, of course – and sometimes that skin-hunger can be a little distracting! We need touch, as humans. But there are ways to receive it that feel healthy, and allow me to stay focused. I know I’ll touch and be touched again when the time is right, and when the stars align to put the person or people into my path who will teach me the next round of lessons: this time on true intimacy, on receiving love, on trust. I think that will probably be a little terrifying, or maybe a lot – and I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone of being alone and discover what real connection feels like.

As the sun is returning – the warmth is flooding through the earth’s body, and I feel it too. I went dormant for a long time, last year. Trauma can do that, sending the body into freeze mode. I shut down a bit, buried my spark deep beneath the earth, like a precious seed. But all this time, it’s been gestating, growing invisible roots, deep and strong. The ice over the water is breaking, and I’m cracking open like a pomegranate.
My sexuality is mine, and I am my own best thing. I preserve my sacred inner fire, honoring it for the precious thing that it is, and build it, stoke it so that it will keep me warm on cold nights. For now, it is for me, and me alone. My choice to share it will be based on mutual understanding, instead all the old reasons. How exciting it is to approach love now with this discernment, and to enter winter’s embrace with a bright flame in my heart, a beacon, calling in the new ways, the new loves, the new lessons. May your Winter Solstice be full of warm embraces, and may we all learn more this year, and throughout our lives in these bodies, about how to love, and to be loved.


My writings from Winter Solstices of yore:








Winter Solstice – Messe de Minuit

Winter Solstice – Dark Season

Lissa and the Lion

by Angeliska on October 10, 2017


I met Lissa (pronounced like “Lisa”) Driscoll nearly twenty years ago, when I first moved to New Orleans. I was only 19 or 20 then, and had just started working at an occult shop in the French Quarter notorious for its staff of saucy witches and reputation for casting a lenient eye towards magic that strayed to the grayer side of black. Lissa worked there too (in her odd way), and I learned the ins and outs of divination, and selling herbs, candles and other occult goods from this woman who was the kind of bohemian “free-spirit” the French Quarter used to be overflowing with: the kind of wild lady the famous Storyville sign, “BEWARE PICKPOCKETS AND LOOSE WOMEN” seemed to be warning about. I remember she had one of those signs hanging proudly over the stove in her kitchen. When she wasn’t slinging tarot cards, and ritual daggers, you could find her belting out songs and beating on a washboard down on Chartres or Royal St. on sultry afternoons, rain or shine. Lissa favored raucous old time songs and the rowdy men who played them with her. She’d arrive to work at the crack of noon with a big bottle of red wine and a black peppered salami from Matassa’s in her bike basket, and would proceed to spend the day holding court from the antique armchair in the corner, its stuffing pouring out in white curdles around her strong legs. She’d roll countless cigarettes with Bugler tobacco, tell bawdy stories and work her way steadily through the cabernet and the salami until we closed at 10, when she’d wobble off on her bicycle to go tear up the night, or back to her cozy roost: half a shotgun in the Bywater always filled with fellow musicians and friends. I got invited there for my first Thanksgiving in New Orleans. I didn’t know many people then, and I guess the people I did know were with their families, so I found myself at loose ends with nowhere to go for the holiday. Lissa’s house was steamy with good cooking and warm with company, all who welcomed me as if I’d been in town all my life. Biking home that night with a full belly and new friends, I thought, “It’s gonna be okay here, after all.” I had been feeling pretty alone, and little trepidatious with the process of trying to find my way in a new city after leaving my hometown for the first time. I’ll always be grateful to Lissa for really helping me trust that New Orleans was the right place for me to be.


Washboard Lissa was the real McCoy – realer than real. She had no time for phonies, posturers, stuffed suits, or any of the pretentious fools pretending to be vampires, warlocks or voodoo priests that would flock to the French Quarter hoping to impress the naive. I watched her guffaw many poseurs out of the witch shop right out onto the banquette, their black tailcoats tucked firmly between their legs. She was frequently laughing – a raspy, good-natured cackle that would split her face in two like a walnut, teeth glinting and flecked with shreds of loose tobacco. Her skin had a ruddy cast, from hours busking in the sun, and her face was slightly weathered, but surprisingly unwrinkled. Untamed brows nearly met in the middle over dark eyes always squinting through laughter and glinting with sass. Lady werewolf eyes, feral and alluring. Her long hair seemed to float down her back, as if with a life of its own, brown as a wren, or sometimes hennaed red, and silvered in wavy striations, looking always as though it had recently been taken out of many tight braids. Though she didn’t shave her armpits, and I don’t remember her wearing much makeup, she was exceedingly feminine in the way of Belloq’s famous whores: not a classic beauty, or even quite pretty exactly, but she gave off such a brash aura of raw and somehow innocent sexuality, that you couldn’t help but be totally disarmed by her. Lissa had the total lack of insecurity or self consciousness of some woodland creature: a swamp witch fond of wearing long flowing vintage dresses, usually backless, braless, and often sliding off her shoulders. Her brown areolas seemed constantly on the verge of making an appearance, and her belly was beginning to get a slight baby bird booze bloat, centering her gangle of gesturing limbs. Being as young and dumb as I was at the time, I had no concept of how to judge someone’s age if they were much older than 30. I’m guessing she was in her 40′s, but she was a hard-livin’ lady, so it’s kind of tough to say for sure. I hadn’t seen her in a long, long time – not since way before Katrina hit in 2005, but I still remember a story she told me about when she was a little bitty girl. I’ll relate it as best as I can, though it’s been years since I first heard it, and so over the years and many recounting, my memory may have taken quite a few liberties. I got in touch with her a few years ago, and we struck up a correspondence, during which she got to read this piece, and make her corrections. She was entertained by it, and thankfully didn’t mind me stitching some fanciful embroideries around the edges of her story.


When Lissa was maybe 8 or 9 years old, she went camping with her daddy – I want to say out in Colorado. They were up in the mountains, and had been set up there for a week or more, hunting some, I guess, or just being in nature. I don’t know if her mom was with them, or where her mom was, but I always imagine this story to just be about little Lissa and her dad. I picture him looking just like Sam Shepherd, with that same gentle wise smile, and a bright spark in his black eyes. You’d know from looking at him where his daughter got it from. A man of the woods, of the backroads. Quiet of footstep and a calm, sure shot. The huntsman with a heart of gold, like in the fairytale. Snow White as child of the forest, adopted instead and raised by her savior, the woodsman – no gnomes or prince in sight. I like thinking of it as just the two of them living for weeks out-of-doors. The way you start to set up automatic systems of survival in the woods: waking with the first light, cowboy coffee and oatmeal, gazing out quiet over the small smoking coal-fire in the cold and golden dawning, clutching tin mugs in this wild place not quite their home. Letting the grouse’s song be their only conversation. Wash up, hang the grey wool socks out, get the food up put up tight where bears won’t be tempted. Not too many people out on the mountain, this far into autumn. After the camp’s cleaned and tidy, Paw goes out to hunt, and leaves Lissa free to do her thing, which is mainly to wander off in the opposite direction down the trails, while he goes out into the brush and thicket with his rifle. He trusts her to mind herself in nature and not do anything foolish, and she’s old enough to know what to watch out for – the signs of predator scat and big tracks. She goes off with a tin bucket, whistling a winding song that becomes a chant, a whisper, a garland of secrets, child-spells. A language of her own, from so much time spent alone in the green. The singing sends any animals out of her way, and out towards Paw, or that’s how they think it might work, anyway. She knows not to go too far, and to make a bobwhite call from time to time, so he’ll know she’s alright. Off she goes, swinging her berry-bucket, knees scratched and dirty, hair a soft cloud tangled with seedpods and milkweed fluff.

He, her Paw, is looking for a rabbit, or deer, or turkey, or even that grouse that was singing bright so early. He knows how to be completely still in the woods, listening, quiet as a tree. For a long time, there is no sound other than his slow breathing, and the chew-whit-pip-pip of a gnatcatcher. He know how to wait in perfect patience for that rustle in the underbrush, the scatter of dry leaves and cracking twigs that might reveal dinner, or something more dangerous. A couple of times he thought, maybe – rabbits, and got happy thinking of the stew they might cook up that night. But it was only a weasel, and he wasn’t quite that desperate, or really even quick enough. After a long time waiting, a different sound began to unspool itself from back up the trails, like a tape unwinding itself backwards. A wrong sound. Screaming. It sounds like a girl-child screaming and screaming. He busts out of the brambles with a father’s fury, no longer trying to be quiet at all – but then has to stop on the trail to pinpoint her distress call. He runs back towards the terrible sound, brandishing his gun already at whatever is hurting his daughter: a bear, a wolf, a bad man. But when he rounds the bend and sees her up near the trailhead, it’s none of these imagined enemies that has got to her, is attacking her. What he sees is there far worse, because he can’t quite get his mind around what’s in front of him. An enormous mountain lion is standing on its hind legs, huge paws wrapped around Lissa’s shoulders. Her berry-bucket is overturned in the gravel, little yellow dress stained dark with red. Now is the time where he must focus, save his child from this monster that is currently ripping out her throat, or tearing off her face, its velvety head twisting eagerly at her neck. Everything slows down and he can hear the lapping tongue of the cougar, the high-pitched shrieks coming from Lissa, his own heart beating hard. A deep breath in and out, and squinting, Paw struggles to get a bead on the beast. If he pulled the trigger now, firing directly into the cranium of the cat, he’d risk blowing her brains out at the same time. He has to wait until he can see her face, and the take that window quickly. Hands shaking bad, now. He could miss. It might be too late anyway, she’s probably near to bled out by now – how is she even still standing? Half tempted to just throw down the rifle and rush the damn cougar, let it take him. If she dies, life won’t be worth living anyway. Still aiming, the window comes – for a half second he can see her face when the cats flicks its ears west, and times starts to speed up again: Lissa’s little elfin face changing expressions rapidly – but strangely, from delight to horror rather than the other way round, and then a figure moves into the clearing shouting, “Sheena, DOWN! Sheena, COME!” The mountain lion immediately releases the girl, gracefully lowering down to all fours and moving in a long dun stream towards the interloper: an old woman, gray hair wrapped up in a scarf. They all stand there, dumbfounded for a moment. Lissa’s dad lowers his gun, realizing that the sounds he’d interpreted as cries of distress were in fact squeals of ticklish laughter. She’d been screaming and screaming with laughter, with joy – communing with this beast. Lissa is running up to him now, Her cheeks and hands are stained red from raspberries, despite the sandpapery attentions of the mountain lion, shouting “Pawpawpawpaw! Did you see?! That big ol’ cat jumped up on me and was licking my whole FACE!” The predator is docile, an overgrown kitten, rubbing up against the woman’s leg. She says, “I’m so sorry – usually no one else is up on the mountain this late in the year, and most folks that are already know Sheena. She was rescued from some bastard that had her declawed years ago. Usually she keeps close, but today I got distracted and let her get off down the trail. I see she found a friend…” He shakes his head slowly, trying to work it out, willing his bowels to return to solid form again, gazing at his happy, living daughter dancing with excitement in the dusty path. The sun is westering, it’s time to get back to camp, huntsack empty of game, but he has no taste for flesh tonight. He takes Lissa’s small sticky hand and they turn back towards the place that stands for home, for now – and the comforts it provides. A fire to stare into, a little whiskey to calm his thumping heart, and this story she will happily regale him with all night, and into the years to come. Weeks from now, months, he’ll tell it too, and then he’ll be able to laugh with her. Tonight, he will stay quiet and watch her berry-stained face blushed copper in the firelight, singing her favorite old songs.


Lissa slipped her skin this past September, after many years of truly living, as one of her friends put it, “like someone truly alive”. She had gone up to Quebec City to be with her beloved mother who was dying, while also struggling with lung cancer herself. In a letter to a friend, she wrote about her retreat from social life, in preparation for her death, describing herself as, “embracing solitude without distractions”. She also shared this:

“My mom had this quote on her fridge from Baudelaire in 1829.

‘I have quite given up the social struggle. I have scratched from the race of life. I have a room for 400 francs a month and at last will be living within my own and other peoples income.’ I think that parts funny but he goes on. ‘I am tired of acquaintances tired of friends unless they are intelligent tired also of extrovert unbookish life. I am for good talk wet evenings vins rouges en carafe reading relative solitude street worship shop gazing alley sloping Seine loafing exploration of the least known arrondissements and plenty of writing from this table in the window where I can watch the streets light up. I am far past the north. The world of ideas. I am for the Hotel de la Louisiane.’”

I am imagine her inhabiting that world now, forever. Long live Lissa!

R.I.P. Lissa Driscoll (a.k.a. “Washboard Lissa”) – left this world of from at 12:45pm, on September 14th, 2017

Photo by Shannon Brinkman who said, “Bye for a little while, Lissa.
We will remember you for all the moments you here and especially when we got to join in for more. 

Here is Lissa back in late ’90s doing her singing rain or shine in a spot near Jackson Square where Chartres curves into St Peter.

I will remember this moment always – thank you.”

From WWOZ – In Memoriam: Lissa Driscoll

 I was listening to this Odetta song when I found out Lissa had left us. It felt like a perfect serenade:

No it ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
Like you never done before
And it ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
I can’t hear ya any more

I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ wallkin’ way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I am told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right
So long honey babe

Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
Goodbye is too good a word, babe
So I just say fare thee well…

12 Years – Katrina/Harvey

by Angeliska on August 29, 2017

Today is the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Fittingly, the first hurricane lily bloomed today, here in my garden. Symbol of hope, autumn’s harbinger, bloody reminder of the season of storms. I didn’t intend to pick it, but Snowy tried to bite the blossoms as I was marveling at its beauty, and I had to pluck it, lest my newest wolfling beastie devour this precious flower.

First hurricane lily of the season.

In the days leading up to Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, I was far away from home – visiting friends in Oregon after seeing the solar eclipse. I often find myself traveling around this time of year, trying to avoid the hellish heat of late August temperatures in Austin – but that means I put myself in this strange position over and over again, of worrying helplessly about hurricanes in the Gulf approaching the cities I love and call home. You never really know until the last minute where they’re going to hit – will New Orleans get socked again, or maybe Mississippi? Or this time, Texas. I almost changed my flight to come home early, fearful of getting stranded in the Pacific Northwest if flights ended up getting canceled. Reflecting on the journey home, it’s kind of a miracle they didn’t – considering how brutal our landing was. As we circled the airport, the pilot struggled against powerful winds coming off of the big, blowsy bands of Hurricane Harvey. His expert flying kept us aloft, but my stomach roiled in protest, and I was breathing deep like a lady in lamaze class, not sure if I was more worried about throwing up or shitting my pants. It’s weird how our bodies react to fear. In my heart, I felt calm. Turbulence doesn’t usually bother me too much, and I’m not generally afraid of flying. But trusting the tin can you’re sailing through the air in to survive hurricane force winds is maybe another story altogether. My anxiety was subliminal, manifested in the mostly unconscious gnawing and mutilation of my own finger-skin. The lady seated next to me was from Eritrea, on her way to visit family. She didn’t speak much English, but smiled at me brightly with silver teeth, graceful in her bright jade green dress and shawl. When the plane started bucking like a wild pony, I noticed her hands white-knuckling the arm-rests, and then crawling uncertainly over her belly, in nervous gestures, seeking something solid to hold onto. I offer her my hand to hold, but she didn’t understand me, and clutched tightly at the tail of her seatbelt instead. A muttered, looping prayer, “Jesus’ name, Jesus’ name, Jesus’ name” under her breath, which became a joyful exclamation to me when we finally landed safely. The whole plane clapped ecstatically for our intrepid pilot and his expert flying, grateful to be alive and earthbound once more. I was too shocked to applaud, dazed, half of my soul still hurtling through heavy clouds. I don’t think I realized how dire that rough landing truly was until it was over. I remember flying home from Spain to New Orleans, late at night on August 27th, 2005. We were flying through what I think must’ve been the outer bands of Hurricane Katrina, barely a day before she made landfall. I had a window seat, and I peered out the portal as we flew over a massive storm cell, brain-like clouds pulsing with lightning. It was ominous, terrible, and incredibly beautiful. I didn’t know what it was – was completely ignorant to the fact that a huge hurricane was barreling towards my city. I hadn’t been keeping up with the news on my travels, and no one had been talking about it. So I laughed. I cackled with elation at this awful, gorgeous storm – unknowingly at my own (and so, so, so many others) incipient devastation.

Magic mountain from the air. I'm on my way home now, feeling extremely grateful that my flight wasn't affected or canceled, & that all seems to be well back at the ranch (so far). It's been a little intense being so far away while the shit is hitting the

Once thankfully deboarded, I made my through my leaky hometown airport and out into the stormy night, finally headed home. My aunt Ruth had stayed at my place with my dogs while I was away, and had been cooped up with them through the first waves of Harvey hitting and the wind outside “blowin’ a gale!” She had told me many times about how much my mother hated wind, loathed strong gales tearing at the house, or even an electric fan blowing on her face. Drafts and anything but the gentlest breezes were her bane – and I understand that very well, because I’ve always been the same. She kept remarking on how much my mother would’ve hated this weather, saying “I’m with your mom on this one – I’ve had enough of this wind! I can handle wind when it’s just talkin’ to you – but not when it’s screaming in your face like this!” The next morning, she packed up her things and got the hell out of dodge, to Lone Grove, where the sun was shining. I sat on the sofa, home and quiet and alone for the first time in many days, and listened to the wind sing her banshee song. All night long, she’d been keening, pulling at the trees, and raining, raining, raining. I was trying to find the joy in the rain we were getting, knowing this soaking Austin was receiving would be a boon and a blessing to our parched earth. Knowing that so much rain heading towards Houston would be a curse, a ruination. This was no ordinary summer thunderstorm. Big hurricanes, major systems like this, they just sit on you for hours. Squatting on your chest like a wrestler, taking you down for the count. The fear felt heavy on me. I read something else recently, about anxiety – that it’s okay to be afraid, to acknowledge the presence, the reality, of that fear. It’s real, it exists. But we don’t have to let it take us over. I’ve been thinking about all my New Orleans folks, whose anxiety and PTSD symptoms go into overdrive around this time of year, even when not horribly triggered by seeing a repeat of what so many of us went through. Seeing it happen all over again, to new people. I was reading posts from my friends in New Orleans today about how they used to be all about going to a hosting “hurricane parties”. You’d hole up with your booze and your beer, your chips and your cookies and whatever creatures comforts would hold you through (oh yeah, and maybe some water, candles and a radio” and then you’d invite friends over to get drunk and party until the thing blew over. Unless it didn’t. I’ve never been to one of those. I always got the hell out when I could, not willing to chance it. Or sat at home feeling terrified. My friend wrote that she couldn’t believe that now, after Katrina, she finds herself being afraid of rain. Just rain. But there’s rain, and then there’s hurricane rain. When you’ve lived through the difference, when it’s totally fucked up your life – you come to fear something as seemingly innocuous as that. I get it. All day the storm hovered, pressing down, bringing with it the strangest combination of boredom and tension. The weather felt like a long labor. Being stuck in it, nothing to do but ride it out, wave after wave of intensity hammering down, followed by strange deciding bands of calm in between. Shiver, shake, try to sleep. Feeling anxious, unsettled, just wanting it to pass over. For hours and hours, the air weighty with moisture, turbulent, humid and leaden. Interminable. Sweat beads your brow, your upper lip. Look out the window, walk around the room, breathe. Think about how it must be for people who are really getting it. Seeing Houston filling up. People stranded on roofs. Flashback to twelve years ago. Families trying to get out. Feeling helpless. Click refresh, watch and worry, call and text, go through the list, check in. Share information, donate money, rally volunteers. It doesn’t feel like enough, and it never will. It’s happening all over again, and it’s going to keep happening. Lives imploded, soaked, stopped mid-sentence. The shelters are swelling, the numbers staggering.


Shattered saints. Houston is underwater, many of our coastal towns are utterly obliterated, & countless people here in Texas are displaced, their homes destroyed, their livelihoods lost. I remember that feeling well, & my heart is seizing up for those frightened, wet, and despairing people now crowding into shelters & still being rescued. So many lives, shattered and sodden. It’s such a goddamned hard thing to go through, y’all – try to imagine everything you’ve worked so hard for, just swept away overnight. Having to start over from scratch. Rebuilding a life from the ashes, from the dregs if what could be salvaged. I did it, 12 years ago. I’m not whole, all this time later – but I’m stronger, & I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve had. I still have the head & shoulders of my Santa Barbara statue, seen here smashed in the wreckage of my old kitchen in New Orleans after Katrina tore my roof right off. We survived – broken, but still here. I know I am protected. I extend all my blessings & deep prayers to everyone who has been affected by Hurricane Harvey. If you can, please do the same – & donate, volunteer, reach out. It all helps.

It’s heartening seeing how many people are stepping up to help, and as always, it’s the only good thing, the only bright light in situations like this. Human connection, compassion, the warm feeling we get from helping others. I donated money today, to Circle of Health International (more info on them below) and directly in cash to my friend who is working to put cash directly into the hands of evacuees who desperately need it, immediately. I’ve been keeping it together, for the most part. But when I put $200 in my friend’s hand, and she said she’d give it tomorrow to a family of 12 who had nowhere to go, I felt the tears rising. Thinking about them, piling into the back of their van, children and grandmother and everyone, laying on top of each other to fit. I hope it helps, I hope they get settled, get safe. I cried, thinking about all the people who stepped up and helped me out so generously when I evacuated from New Orleans to come here. I had so much help. People were really kind to me. It made a huge difference. I remembered tonight, sitting outside in the bright porch light at my friend’s house, Andrei Rusakov, of Moscow. He had come across my blog when it was on Livejournal back in 2005, and he contacted me to tell me he was wiring $200 to Western Union to help me out. He wrote to me, “You have an account where to transfer money? It is the first part of my help for you. Now I can help only so because I am in Moscow. In the further I can help to restore your collection things from Russia and from Portugal. Also I shall make all that will be in my opportunities! You will not remain one in the trouble!” He also wrote, on his own blog, this – which I poorly translated “Of course she will not be left alone with her misfortune. And for a long time I will explain how and why this person is so dear to me and how terrible for her is the loss of this house and all these things.” I saved these words, and have pulled them out a few times in the past 12 years, to remember this distant stranger’s kindness to me. And there were so many instances like that, so many kind friends and total strangers who offered me help, sent treasures, became dear to me. These are the kinds of personal connections, in terrible times, that really stick with you. So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you can, try to make connections like that with people who need your help right now. It will change things, for the better, for both of you. You can easily click a button, and send money. It helps, it all helps (especially if you can donate to smaller, local grassroots organizations rather than the Red Cross.)

Burning candles to St. Michael Archangel (patron guardian of first responders, those in boats, & the sick and suffering) calling for protection & healing for everyone hurting right now in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and still, 12 years after Hurricane K

Burning candles to St. Michael Archangel (patron guardian of first responders, those in boats, & the sick and suffering) calling for protection & healing for everyone hurting right now in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and still, 12 years after Hurricane Katrina. It’s crazy how much you can lose in that water, y’all. It’s not just stuff, not just your house or your car. You lose time, your sense of it, and the actual days, weeks, months, years – to cleaning, crying, rebuilding, being exhausted, worrying, staying strong. You lose your people, your community, your way of life, your natural rhythm. A disaster like this throws everything off. Nothing is ever the same – not ever again. But some things survive – like the half-shattered bust of my beloved Santa Barbara, almost totally destroyed in Katrina, who I once carried (in her entirety) on an epic journey through the Lower East Side to be serendipitously blessed in the park by drumming hands and voices calling out to Changó. I’ll tell that story one day. Today, I breathe and write and pray – I honor the dead lost in the floods, this week and 12 years ago, I send love and strength to the living struggling to come through the storm, I beseech the gods of lightning and the storm goddess to be gentle to us down here, please please please.

For everyone looking to help out right now, I want to recommend donating funds to Circle of Health International, who does such bad-ass hands on, boots on the ground work making sure mamas and babies have everything they need for their safety, survival &

For everyone looking to help out right now, I want to recommend donating funds to Circle of Health International, who does such bad-ass hands on, boots on the ground work making sure mamas and babies have everything they need for their safety, survival & wellbeing in disaster situations. They’re based here in Austin, & are doing great work to help those in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey!

Here’s some info from them:

Live from Texas: Thanks to YOU our friends + allies out there on the interweb COHI will be giving out our 1st round of cash grants to low income #hurricaneharvey evacuees in #ATX who are expectant parents and families with newborns tomorrow. These grants will cover costs for things like hotels, buses, taxis, food, water, and medicine. How’s that for efficiency! That’s why supporting a small, local, women’s focused aid organization is badass, and so are you. Keep that love coming, folks. Together we are making some magic happen for some families who’ve had a very hard time as of late. Thanks y’all!
Donate here:

This is from my friend and teacher Abe Louise Young, who is doing such heroic work on behalf of folks affected by Harvey. If you want to help, please read this:

friends, i am grateful, stunned and humbled by your financial contributions to evacuees. as of 2pm, you have donated liquid funds, in donations ranging from $5 to $500 that have allowed us to support at least 30 people so far.
to help, (option friends and family option)
venmo to

or, for a tax-deductible option, donate to, a reproductive justice nonprofit that is passing the cash thru to me. just put “cash for evacuees via abe louise” in the donation note.
today you also gave $ that will allow another woman in a hurricane shelter to leave a situation of domestic violence captivity. tonight, your $ will get more people gas, food and medicine because cash gets the job done.

in addition to the money you are sending, we are also in deep thanks for your contributions of time, homes and supplies.
now, i’m working to steward money into people’s hands directly and thus, am not as able to respond to messages from friends about homes available or material goods. i would love it if people continued donating money to this effort via the links. if you want me to be aware of a resource, feel free to tag me in comments or a post. i might not be able to respond but will pass it on.

however, please do contact me if you connect with a woman or family that has less than $20 left– there are a lot of them.

then, once the busses arrive from houston (i hear the majority of evacuees have not arrived yet) go connect directly from the heart and offer your resources after making a connection, if you feel those would be welcome offers. offering to do errands can be profound–like helping a senior to replace lost dentures or glasses–little things that transform life. DO NOT BRING STUFF unless it has been asked for.

it is a good idea to get the redcross training and background check (go to the convention center, the red cross website is impossible to navigate.)

i will continue shepherding the resources that have been offered through me so far. packages arriving via the amazon prime wishlist and jacqui, coordinating that from chicago, will keep updating.

i will post when those supplies here have been exhausted so that they can be replenished. until then, thank you for your gifts to our new friends and please share your offerings with folks one-on-one. get in and do your revolutionary love thing. share this post and please keep checking back in here.

infinite thanks!

I have a lot more to say about all of this, as I often do. But I am tired now, and my head hurts, so I’m going to go to bed now and feel extremely glad I have a bed, and a roof, and dry land beneath me. My heart is breaking for everyone who lost those things this week. Please help if you can. Thank you for reading, as always.

If you’ve still got it in you, here’s some collected writings
about my experiences with Hurricane Katrina,
in reverse chronological order. Dig in:






Storms – 5 Years

Hurricane Katrina: Four Years Later

New Orleans in August

One Year

Lower Ninth Aftermath





The Triumph of Death

What can you do?