by Angeliska on September 25, 2014
Tonight is the new moon, both a few days after the Autumnal Equinox and a new year, if you celebrate Rosh Hashanah (and if you do, then שָׁנָה טוֹבָה to you!) I’m trying to slow down a little, and remember the sweetness of writing just for myself, for my own enjoyment – of living that way too, running my hair through with a little wooden comb, while sitting on a stone in my garden. Electric blue dragonflies hurtle past my head, and swarms of striped legged mosquitoes make a feast of my ankles. It’s officially autumn, but in Texas even late September is still thick and humid in the bright gold haze of afternoon that seems to go on and on. It’s finally getting cooler in the mornings and late at night now – a blessing to have the windows open and a slightly thicker coverlet. But even though the dress I’m wearing is patterned with autumn leaves, worn in honor of the turning of the year, it’s still made from light rayon – a short summer dress with the sleeves cut off, in russety fall colors. It’s stuck to my back with the sweat rolling down between my shoulder blades, because in this weather any kind of clothes just feel like too much. I’m wearing my favorite dark red knit knee socks and my old boots that I refuse to give up the ghost on, despite my pinky toes sticking out holes in the sides. It’s still too hot for this kind of footwear, but I’m stubborn because it’s FALL, dammit! And I WILL wear Fall things! My hair’s a wild tangle, a bird’s nest soup of knots and damp snarls. Whether I want to admit it or not, it’s still late summer in my world, and I will have to be a little hot for another week or so at least… It’s time to harvest the honey, to go hunting for mushrooms and ripe berries – elsewhere, anyway. Here and now for me, I know it’s time to take a breath and come back to magic, to come back to knowing. Time to feel the humming of the earth deep in your veins, and to sing that song back to the birds in the trees. The mockingbird in the front yard is happy the season is starting to change – the slightly cooler air makes her frisky and she sings happily from the yaupon holly tree all day long.
Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flower, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.
the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident,
and didn’t see me— and I thought:
so this is the world
I’m not in it.
It is beautiful.
—Excerpt from October
Mary Oliver, New and Collected Poems, Beacon Press 1992
Two posts from two friends who both teach me a lot about what matters and what’s good:
☾ How Summer Ends… Paciencia, Paciencia This post is a year old, but I never stopped thinking about it. So gorgeous. Miss Patience really has a way with… Well, words, images, metals, hearts – she’s just amazing.
“The purpose of Ritual is to wake up the old mind, to put it to work. The old ones inside us, the collective unconscious, the many lives, the different eternal parts, the senses and the parts of the brain that have been ignored. Those parts do not speak English. They do not care about television. But they do understand candlelight and colors. They do understand nature”
– Z Budapest
I’ve been feeling frustrated and stifled the past few months, because I’ve fallen away from my rituals, my habits that bring me closer to the earth, closer to my circle, closer to myself. I’ve been traveling quite a lot, and it always seems to take me longer and longer to come back from orbit, for my soul to lodge back properly – I lose my rhythm, my daily routine is disrupted, and it requires an almost tedious period of reeling in, re-spooling where the thread has come unwound. Daily tasks like sweeping the floors, folding the linens, cooking the food, these all fall aside, and it takes a bit to return to the good ways. I think that kind of household task magic is essential ritual – especially for real harmony in home and heart. Blazing months passed by unrelentingly in the dog days of summer where my garden went unweeded and the zinnias started to droop, fall over and go to seed. My letters and emails piled up, personal deadlines floated on by, and all the words I had intended to get written still cluttered and clacked around the inside of my head. So, it feels sweet to bring myself back to a way of being, a way of doing, that I know deep down sustains me at a soul level. I’ve been hermitting terribly in the heat, and in the wake of the hustle and bustle and constant necessary human interaction that comes with long travel, and I’m sad to say that despite best intentions, I’ve been neglecting my friendships, most especially with my sistren, the women who I call sister. These are the ones that keep me anchored down to the root, the core of the earth – the ones who will say, “Let’s take tea, why don’t we?” or, “go outside and look at the moon!” or “Come and dance with me now!” I forget so often how essential their company and the reminders of what truly matters both are to my sense of well-being. I want to be honoring these relationships more in everyday life, but for now – because it’s late at night, too late for tea or dancing (though some of my sisters might disagree!), I will dedicate this writing to all of them instead. Today, there are a couple in particular that I’ve been missing hard all summer: two strong women who always remind me how to live.
“Through the loveliness and power of her dream world she was now, in her old frock and botched shoes, very likely the loveliest, mightiest and most dangerous person on earth.” ― Karen Blixen, Winter’s Tales
Amy Annelle (Nelle) and I at Vintage Vivant a few years back. She performed with her band the Feedsack Shimmies in her feedsack dress, singing songs from the Great Depression. It’s pretty much impossible for me to describe how incredibly special this lady is, really – not if I want to do her any justice, anyway – so I’ll just say, if you’re not lucky enough to live down the river from her, to sit at her table for a meal, or huddle chatting and eating homemade cookies around her woodstove in winter, well then – I guess you better just go listen to her songs and be charmed by her fey ways. This post is dedicated to her most especially, in gratitude for all the ways she’s helped me and been there for me. I learn a lot of things from Nelle, but more than anything, she inspires me to be a better listener, and a better friend. I feel I mostly fail at those things, most of the time, but I do try. A lot of the articles in this post either came from her, or reminded me of her. If you’re reading this, Nelle – thank you! From one Polish would-be wise-woman to another.
My mom dressed me up as “The Spirit of Poland” for a preschool pageant representing our various heritages. It was definitely from this moment that I acquired my passion for folk costume. Luckily, I later lost my taste for ugly flip flops, which I guess I insisted on wearing that day, much to my mother’s chagrin.
“The true mystic is always both humble and compassionate, for she knows that she does not know.” — Richard Rohr
☾ KATARZYNA MAJAK: KOBIETY MOCY – WOMEN OF POWER
“Katarzyna Majak explores the power of women as she searches for female wisdom and plurality of spiritual paths hidden within monoreligious Polish society. Majak’s Women of Power series turns stereotypical witch imagery on its head and showcases striking images of women ranging from their 30’s to 80′s, wearing colorful unconventional clothes, and holding their unique objects of power. When asked what being a witch meant to one of the subjects in the series, she replied ‘A witch is a woman of knowledge who takes a broom and sweeps to cleanse the world.’
The women of wisdom, healers, enchanters, visionaries and spiritual leaders depicted in Majak’s vibrant photographs often facing discrimination, have taken great risk in being photographed. This is the first time many of them owned their power publicly. Majak’s journey with the Women of Power began when one of them accompanied her in a ritual to say ‘good-bye’ to her wedding dress, and the journey continued from woman to woman as the artist became fascinated with their alternative wisdoms on female power.”
☾ Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland
“‘Native faith’ is the literal English translation of ‘rodzimowierstwo’ – a Polish term derived from the words ‘rodzimy’ (native) and ‘wiara’ (faith) – that refers to a belief system based on ethnic Slavic traditions. Native faithers reject the labels ‘paganism’ and ‘neo-paganism’ as both pejorative and not capturing the ethnic Slavic elements of their beliefs. Some scholars refer to these as ‘ethnic religions.’”
“The secluded village of Zalipie in southeastern Poland is home to a charming tradition. Over a century ago the women of the village began to paint their houses: however, it was not the single, uniform color one might expect from a traditional and conservative society. The village, through the intricate and vibrant paintwork of its womenfolk, bloomed.”
Photo by Mieszko Stanisławski
“They say everyone has their own way of grieving, and in the village of Săpânţa in Romania, this couldn’t be more true. In this rural farming commune lies a cemetery, known as the “merry cemetery”, that looks unlike any other you’ve ever seen. Here, you won’t find the usual dark and doomful gravestones, but instead, a colourful parade of “merry” and beautifully carved wooden crosses, marking the townspeople’s graves.”
“Wisewomen were members of a local community and a familiar face of the neighbourhood who provided health advice. In pre-industrial Britain, these healers were known to have special knowledge of anatomy, astronomy, psychotherapy and herbalism. Such practitioners also had midwifery skills and laid out the dead. This knowledge was acquired as it was passed through families and kin groups.” – Francesca Moore
The Limits of Enchantment is a fantastic book about a hedge-witch midwife in 1966 England, by Graham Joyce, who I wrote about recently. The main character makes me think a lot about Nell! I wonder if her story specifically was an inspiration…
Published in the early 1970s costing only 60¢ a copy, this hand illustrated and typed journal carried this mission:
“We see Country♀Women as a feminist country survival manual and a creative journal. It is for women living with women, with men, and alone, for women who live in the country already and for women who want to move out of the cities. We need to learn all that women can do in the country and learn to break out of oppressive roles and images. We need to reach out of our isolation from one another, to know that we aren’t alone, that we aren’t crazy, that there is a lot of love and strength and growing to share. Country♀Women can bring us together…”
☾ Do you know about the powerful work of the The 13 Grandmothers Council ? They are truly inspiring.
“We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.
We look to further our vision through the realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines, language and ceremonial ways of prayer and through projects that educate and nurture our children.”
“‘In the beginning there was only,’ you said in the course of that unreal night of tales, a ‘Storyteller, and she was a woman. What kind of woman? You may ask. And I can only answer; a Woman, any Woman. Slowly, as time and more time went by, the Storyteller continued to tell tales to fill her loneliness, and spoke a world into being, a world of plains and mountains and rivers and dry places, and of forests and succulents and grass, and of birds and animals of all kinds, and in the end, because she was still aching with the need to be heard, and herself to hear another voice, she spoke into being a man and a woman. For a time that at first seemed endless they told her their new stories, and she listened in wonder and admiration. But in the end they began to forget that it was the Woman who had given them life through her stories, and they began to tell their stories to each other only, stories of children and cities and farms and ships and money, and hunger and cruelty and slavery. And the forgotten Storyteller fell asleep into a deep sleep of ages, because they no longer seemed to need her. and when at last they remembered her again they tried to find the story that would awaken her, but no one could tell them what that story was. And all the stories people have been telling since that time have been their attempts to find the one that would cause the Storyteller to wake up from her sleep again and restore the world to the happiness it surely knew in the beginning.” – by Andre Brink, from the book On the Contrary
☾ Meeting Medicinal Mushrooms with Sophia Rose from Female and Fungi – I’ve been meaning to share this tale of a fungal treasure hunt featuring my friend Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs – and here’s also a great recent feature and interview with her from Charm School Vintage.
Photo by Terence Spencer — The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Caption from LIFE. “High priestess Artemis stirs salt and water mixture which is used to ‘purify’ the sacred circle in all witchcraft rites. On the table are incense burner, cord and statue of goddess. At right is herb chest containing incense.”
☾ Real Witches at Work: Photos of English Pagans in the 1960s
“Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1964, LIFE magazine published what must have felt to the venerable weekly’s long-time readers like a strikingly weird feature. Titled “Real Witches at Work,” the piece included photographs of modern-day British pagans—doctors, housewives, nurses, teachers—celebrating their ancient rites, dancing around fires and generally behaving like perfectly normal, faithful worshippers of the sun, the moon and Mother Nature have been acting for thousands of years.”
☾ How to Make Borscht with Neko Case
I had a really vivid dream about hanging out with Neko Case recently. It felt like it went on for hours and hours and we just talked about all kinds of stuff. I think we went to New Zealand, or maybe back to Colombia. It was great. You know those dreams that just feel real? You wake up and feel like you’ve really seen the person, spent real time – it was like that. I have been lucky to talk with her a few times, because she would come into Uncommon Objects when she was in town. One time, she did me a real good turn – I had just had major abdominal surgery, and though I was back at work, I couldn’t really stand up for long periods of time at that point, especially towards nighttime. She came in the day before her show to shop and asked if I was going to be at the concert. I told her sadly why I hadn’t bought tickets, and she told me she’d put me on the guestlist, and saved me a spot in the VIP balcony area so I could sit down and watch the show. So goddamn kind, that lady. I just cried happy tears through most of her songs that night. Thank you, Neko. I hope I get to do something nice for you one day!
Bind Us All by Festival
I made a mix of music to go with all this goodness, just for you! Please enjoy.
Artwork is from the book Wise Child (in my canon of most beloved magical YA fiction), by Monica Furlong. Cover illustration by my favorite book illustrator couple, Leo and Diane Dillon.
Happy New Moon, dears! I’d love to hear about any little (or big!) rituals that have been helpful for grounding your spirit in these turning times, if you feel like sharing!