Category Archives: Homesteading

Lammastide: Of Sacrifice & Harvest

Lammastide Harvest Altar, 2015
Lammastide Harvest Altar, 2015

This weekend comes the First Harvest celebrations… Lughnasadh, or Lammas, for many. And, a Blue Moon. This is a time of harvest, but also of sacrifice. Of Life and Death, of Blessings & Giving Thanks and also of Mourning and Loss. So is the continuing thread through the next twelve weeks of harvest before the Winter comes. The give and take, life and death, sowing and reaping. As the first harvests are coming in (or have been coming in the last few weeks), some are also preparing their soils and garden beds for their fall and winter crops.

And how I can attest to such polarities, here on our little urban pagan homestead.

In the handful of months that we have been here since uprooting everything and leaving it all behind for the promise of potential a continent away, we have known blessings and strife, harvest and hardship. We have watched as our vegetables wilted and dried under the unusual early summer-heat (we had a few weeks of 100+* weather, essentially no rain since April, and though it had begun to cool back down, the heat has returned again to scorch the earth anew). And we have watched as the bees flew from blackberry blossom to blackberry blossom, and soon before our eyes the entire hedgerow of the property had turned from a swath of white and pink petals buzzing with the voices of a thousand bees to a sea of sun-ripened plump berries needing to be picked almost every day. We have walked back to the house many a night now with purple-stained fingertips and scratches on our arms and legs: our blood sacrifice to hungry thorns. We have watched as a mother hen protects her new young hatchlings, showing them how to scratch about in the dry earth, and mourned as we buried our three new ducks killed in cold-blood. My heart has swelled at the sight of seeing Queen Anne’s Lace flower umbels filling the entire back-half of our far garden and popping up in every other place they can (from walkways to along sidewalks and roadsides). My fall harvest of seeds will be momentous. Our trees have done the best out of anything growing food on the property—trees that need little interference from us humans on their behalf (if any, besides occasional watering for the younger orchard trees)—producing multiple types of plums, apples, and suddenly we have figs coming out of our ears. And some of the pear trees have fruit on their boughs as well as the almond and old, old walnut tree. I have taken in the first couple tomatoes from my two plants, which have known their own summer struggle.

harvest_tomato

And as it is, the outer world has its sacrifices and its bounties, so too do we, in our inner worlds. We have been blessed with much, but have also sacrificed much. We gave up close family and friends, a support network, and largely a sense of security to be the Fool and step willingly, blindly, with a leap of faith into the mist-filled ravine, hoping our feet would touch down on the Rainbow Bridge. And, in many ways, they did. A large part of moving out to the West Coast was to provide me with a midwifery apprenticeship, which I was blessed with within our first two months here. And then just as suddenly, it was gone. “It is best to wait,” they said. Wait… wait? I’ve been waiting for what seems like ages… what literally has been years, and now I must wait again. At least another year of waiting. I read the cards again and again, and they the same…. A time of rest, of gathering yourself before moving on to the next phase in the Wheel…. Inner-work and growth, a time of dreaming…. And, to not give up. To persevere on this path, for I have made a dedication to this path, this path of the Wytch-Shaman-Midwyfe, and to my gods. That no matter how long this journey takes, I am on it, and I will find fulfillment. And so I bow my head to the Powers That Be, and remember my dedication, and I breath the fire of this hot summer into it, into my endeavors, my work and study that the embers may not go out, and I also sit back on my heels and begin the planning of the ultimate harvest this year: the birth of this child growing and wiggling within my moon-belly.

Needle-felted Brigh doll and offerings to the Spirits from our land: plums, figs, apples, and homemade sourdough.
Needle-felted Brigh doll and offerings to the Spirits from our land: plums, figs, apples, and homemade sourdough.

This is also a time when traditionally couples would make their ways to the fields and promise themselves to each other—handfastings of a year and a day were common-place around Lammas in Old Europe. So not only does this time of year have to do with harvest and sacrifice, but also Commitment. And so, I am called this Lammastide to re-dedicate myself to this work, and take my official Vows to Brigh, the Bear Mother, She of the Red-Eared Cow, Goddess of the Honey-Tongue, Lady of Forge-Fire, as one of Her Priestess Midwyfe-Healers. I think it is time, to ‘make it official’. To remember why I am doing this, for whom I am doing this, and that, as Jung would say, “If you are on the Journey, you are at the Goal.” So many times we spend reaching for the goal, only wanting the goal, and once we attain said goal, we realize that we missed out on the entire process, we walked the journey with blinders on, our eyes fixed only to the light at the end of the tunnel. I do not want this to be that way, I do not want to live life that way….

And on a final note, while we have been here, learning this land and greeting its spirits and learning ourselves along the way, I was told to write a book. A book on working the land as a pagan, as a witch. Of returning to this way of life in our magic, spirituality, and mundane lives. Whether it is a couple containers with some veggies growing on your porch and herbs in your window sill, or a full-on homestead of any acreage, this book, whenever it is finished, will be for you. It will have charms, spells, prayers, offerings, and devotionals dedicated to the processes of life and cycles of the earth, of the ways of home and hearth: sowing, tending, harvesting, ‘laying the earth to rest’; the raising and butchering of animals; home and barn blessings, cooking, ‘hearth-tending’, housework, different deities, and so on. It is being put together as we work, as we labor and harvest, as we utter words of blessing and reverence and thanks over dark soil and growing plant and prepared meals—words that seem to come into our minds and out over our tongues sweet like honey from somewhere Other. And so, in ending, I give you one of the Harvest Blessings, one that came to me during our first purple plum, red raspberry, and red clover harvest.

Blessings of the Gods upon us

Blessings of the Ancestors upon us

Blessings of the Spirits upon us

Blessings of the Trees, the Plants, the Waters, and all the Earth upon us

For a bountiful harvest we have reaped

And for a bountiful harvest we give thanks, and feast!

 harvestaltar5  harvestaltar3

Many thanks to Frey, to Lugh, and all the Others for their Sacrifices that the Land may be Blessed and Flourish~ Many thanks to Brigh the Bright One, She of the Fields~

– Wren

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Bonekeeping on the Homestead

I know it has been awhile since either of us have posted anything, a couple months really, but things have been rather busy and well, other things have simply taken priority. However, I have been wanting to talk more about ‘pagan homesteading’ and our current urban-homesteading journey, and again… haven’t found the time. Hopefully posts will come more often now that we are teaching and getting some things underway. Today’s post, is one of Life & Death, and gives a bit of a window into what it means to be a Bonekeeper (my–Wren’s– personal path-title).

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Homestead Diary Entry

July 27, 2015

Two weeks ago we welcomed three young female ducks into our family. Two days ago chicks began hatching underneath the ruffled feathers of our broody hen Golden. And today, today we ended the day honoring the Dead. In the afternoon, upon realizing I had forgotten a sprinkler on, I headed out to turn off the water. And while doing so, had the thought that I should go check in on our two small hatchlings (only two, so we had thought, had hatched out of 12 eggs). As I walked towards the coop, I noticed the smaller coop door ajar for the second day in a row, and then I saw a pile of… something… off to the side of the coop, and for a split second thought it was the red hen that had been missing for two days now. The landowner’s dog skirted by me, head down, tail tucked and slightly wagging. And then as I neared the pile of what was, yes, feathers—and lots of them, I realized it was not the red hen. Nor was it a hen at all. It was one of my ducks. At that moment I began to panic, and could hear no others squabbling as they should be. I rounded the other side of the coop and found the broody hen jammed part way under the coop trying to get into the fence, making quite a ruckus, her two chicks tucked up under her against the wiring instead of nestled safely in the coop where they should have been. Looking past her I saw another pile of grey-brown feathers. A second victim. But where was the third? For a split second I hoped she had gotten away somehow, escaped into the hedgerow. But then I thought… and I opened the larger door to the coop. There lay the body of our third duck. My heart sank like a stone.

Because there were yellow jackets and hornets buzzing around the carcasses, I had to wait until dusk to move them for burial. My anger at the dog began to be replaced by a welling-up of grief. Tears finally came, running down my cheeks. He knew he had done wrong, and I took him up to the inner yard and leashed him to a pole until I could deal with the situation. I was definitely going through the “Stages of Grief”, and pretty quickly. Coming back up to the house my small son met me with worry on his face. “What’s wrong mama?” he asked. And I told him. Because why should we hide the ways of living and dying from our young children? He had already experienced his own dog killing a chicken when we first arrived here, he could know about this. With his adorably simplistic child-logic, he informed me “That’s ok mama, we’ll just go back to the farm and get some more duckies and then everything will be ok.” I didn’t want to make him upset and tell him that no, we probably shouldn’t get more, and just held him and let him hug me. When Midnight came home a short while later and I went to go show him what had transpired, I discovered a fourth body: that of a new chick. I don’t know where it came from, as I hadn’t noticed it the last two days, and I don’t know how it died, but its tiny black and white body lay limp in the back of the coop, and simply added to my sadness.

At dusk came the task of Bonekeeping. However we found that our parched earth, even the ground beneath the massive walnut tree beyond the coop where green grass still grew shaded from the scorching sun, our shovel could not break the surface, and what little digging was accomplished, was interrupted by roots of that massive giant. There would be no burying these feathered creatures here, where we had laid to rest a songbird a couple months before, nor anywhere. And so, befitting birds that were as wild at heart as they were—they had come to us untamed—we lay them to rest on a bed of freshly cut wild blackberry vines at the back of the property along the creek. Buried with them were our offerings—blackberries, plums, and four apples from our trees—to feed their spirits on their journey across to the Otherworld. Another layer of thorny vines atop them, and more fruit, along with a rustic bouquet of Queen Anne’s Lace flower umbels, red clover blossoms, wheat, and a sprig of pink-petal blackberry blossoms.

Father and child left me in the faux-silence of the twilight, to say my words and do my work. At first I could do nothing but apologize. For bringing them here only for it to end in their deaths, for not keeping them safer, for the small chick who had not even known life. Then I breathed deep the intoxicating scent of creek-water and vine-ripening blackberries. I raised my hands, and spoke.

                Befitting creatures of water, we lay you to rest here on the creek-bank.

                Befitting creatures with wild spirits, we wrap you in thorned blackberry vines.

                May they deter molestation by creature, wild or tame, unless that is the way She will take you.

                We give our offerings, harvested from this land that was your home for a short time,

                That they may feed your spirits on their journey Across to the Otherworld.

My Lord of Beasts, please take their spirits into your fold, into your eternal forest. May they be at peace.

My Lady of Bones, devour their flesh, may the earth swallow their remains that they be reborn from the world anew.

May you rest in peace. May your journey be swift.

And as I will it, so mote it be.

And before I walked away, I petitioned the Spirits. “Spirits of Place, please protect them, keep them safe, and aid their spirits on their way to the Otherside. I ask this of you, with many thanks.” Again I breathed deeply the scent all around me. Two wild ducks flew overhead, crickets sang from the hedgerow, the last calls of birds fighting the coming darkness echoed from the trees nearby. And I began to cry again, my heart heavy and aching, my mind weary. Two tears fell to wet my cheeks, and so I wiped them away and flicked them onto the thorny grave before walking away.

Farewell then, dear ones, farewell.”

First Day Home~ Flower, Daisy, & Blue... RIP...
First Day Home~ Flower, Daisy, & Blue… RIP…