Tag Archives: Isáine

The Darkness Returning

Breath in, breath out. I struggle to tamp down the anger I had felt rising. Breath in, breath out. I take the calming smoke deep into my lungs and release. The haunting song blasts into my ears, sweeping through my mind like a storm surge taking with it any thoughts. I focus on the point between my eyes, and breath again. In, out. Again. And again. I feel the smoke’s affects surge over me, rising up to my eyes and beyond. I sink into the cushioned stool and turn inward…. I recall a natal chart reading for a couple years past. This life is one of rest, one of personal spiritual growth and enjoyment. My karmic balance is light and this life is a reward. In the past I was a high priestess, a guide to the people, but eventually persecuted in some way for it. I do not need to bear the weight of such responsibility in this life. I do not need to lead, and definitely not at the cost of my own Self. I come out of the vision and turn to my cards… In Sickness & In Health

King of Bows ~ Adder A time surrounding a dispute between a good father and a married man set me on this downward spiral of ill-health and struggle. The only time that comes to mind is the dispute (and its on going presence in our lives) between Midnight and my father during and after my first pregnancy, all those years ago.

10 of Bows ~ Responsibility Bearing the weight of all this responsibility that I have taken onto myself, all the related stress, burdens (whether necessary or unnecessary), caring for my family, etc. is keeping me sick, and making it worse.

Knight of Stones ~ Horse To get better… return to my roots, run wild under the sun, revel in joy, journey… Let Horse carry you.

Seven of Stones ~ Healing My future holds in it a time of healing after much emotional, spiritual, physical illness. Healer Heal Thyself.

Page of Stones ~ Lynx I need to stay aware of Balance, to stay in tune with the cycles. Be wary of doing something in a moment of wild abandon, but careful consideration can right things. 2

of Vessels ~ Attraction Lying atop the Lynx, which was in the position of Leaving Midwinter Towards Imbolc… Possibility of a future attraction or relationship… be aware, and cautious. My hand hesitates, and one more card calls to me from the deck. I pull …

2 – The Seer ~ I see this card as a representation of myself, my path, my need for dedication and culmination of my spiritual skills– discovering them and using them to aid in my own healing.

Brighid cleanse me in the fires of your Hearth & Forge

Make me anew under the blow of your hammer

Quench me in the sacred waters of your well…

Morrigan cleanse me in the blood of your battle fields

Make me anew under the blow of your sword and shield

Quench me in the sacred waters of your land…

May I be healed

May I be reborn

May I be stronger for my struggles

May I be wiser for my faults

May I be deserving for my pains

*Copyright* Isáine of The Twisted Tree, 2014

No one ever said this would be easy. But it is damn near going to kill me.

Sea Witchery & Sirens

I have been lucky enough to live near the ocean for the last almost 12 years– as long as I have been practicing as a pagan and a witch– but I have only practiced Sea Witchcraft actively for perhaps the last 4 years about I think. I love living near the sea, I cannot imagine living much farther from it which has made things quite difficult since we’re trying to find land and move from this place.

I definitely agree that ultimately, though tools and herbs and candles are lovely– and useful!– you should be able to practice magic with nothing but your Will and your Breath, and the things you find around you. (Of course it is definitely polite to give offerings when you’re working out in nature!) I love writing runes or spells in the sand, or whispering things into shells and sending them on their way with the waves. This is something I have actually got my toddling son to do– whisper into shells and send our wishes to the mermaids. He doesn’t really say anything into the shells (he pretends to whisper) but he loves the idea of the whole thing.

And she’s right: the Ocean Mother and the spirits there and at the shore and in the storm off the sea– they are Primal (read: really f*cking old) and made of darker things than most of us have (or care to) encounter. I don’t always, but often when I go to the shore I call on Yemaya. We have had a working relationship that sways like the tides over the last few years. And most associate Her as a very ‘light’ and loving diety. Which She can be. But She is also destruction– tidal wave and storm, and Her acts of protection can come on violent and primal like Kali. Hell, one of Her Aspects is Pirate Queen ruler of the predators of the sea.

And I too have heard the Siren’s call…

I work sometimes in the realms of the Sea Folk, I feel very strongly even that one of their lines is in my blood– and one Full Moon night I was down on the shore, walking along and singing. And then the air shifted, and I could hear another song, singing out from in my bones rather than audible on the air. And my eyes drooped and I felt the tug. I felt the incredible melancholic longing, the dire urge to step into the waves– and keep going. I have never been one to swim in the ocean at night. I know we have sharks in the shallows in the day time, so I *know* they are there at night. But I felt this wrenching in my heart, this pull at my ankles, to just keep walking and put my head under the surface and swim and never return. I fought the pull, and kept to the shallows, and forced myself to walk parallel to the beach instead of out into the water. But it was the most intense draw I have ever had– and I have had instances before where I had this melancholic yearning to join the sea, like it was where I belonged. But unfortunately, this selkie lady has not a seal skin to take her past the breakers and into ocean depths unfathomable.

Book of Eucalypt

Sea Witchcraft, Ocean Witchcraft and Beach Magick is the most beautiful, at times simplistic, but ultimately the most powerful magick and ritual I have ever practiced. And I miss it!

Let me get this out of the way: if you are lucky enough to live by the sea/ocean/beach, I envy you. I miss it. It’s too expensive to live near water in Sydney (but this is where my work is so here I stay). I don’t like the beaches around here because there’s too too too many people, too much energy flying about, and it’s harder to feel the energy of the land.

Without trying to insult people, sea witchcraft is not for the feint hearted, or for the fluffy. It is a completely different experience to stand at the water’s edge, or knee-deep (or further if you wish) than standing or sitting behind an altar in your room or…

View original post 909 more words

Wildcrafting: Roadside Weeds

The day was warm and humid, the hot wind tugging at my skirts as I strapped my toddling son into his stroller and set off down the street. We live two blocks from the grocery store and it is a quick trek. As we turned off our street onto the main road, I stopped my trudging through the grass and peered over at a tiny clump of umbrella-shaped white flower clusters a dozen feet back into the field. My son started gesturing towards them, so we went over. What I had thought was possibly a patch of yarrow in my drive by’s the last week or so, was just a patch of very short-statured Queen Anne’s Lace. I asked if my son would like a flower, and after seeing him nodding vehemently I smiled and plucked one for him, the prickly hairs poking my fingertips. He grasped it with wonder and we continued on our walk. Not thirty seconds later, I spotted some tall spindling plants topped with tiny purple flowers. I had seen a picture that resembled them a week before and plucked one to try and identify it once we got home, my guess was vervain. A few feet after that was a patch of tiny white-petaled, yellow-centered daisies. Again my son reaches for them begging for a flower. So I plucked one for him and he traded the Queen Anne’s Lace flower for the daisy. And just after the daisies was a tiny patch of red clover– the first I have seen in the area. For my own enjoyment I picked two and tucked them into the stroller. On we went, and at the turn to the grocery store stood the very large grouping of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers that had been there the last month or two by now, half of which had gone to seed, their umbels drying and curling up towards the sky like little cups full of fuzzy brown seeds. These are the seeds that have kept my womb empty of child the last few months. I plucked one seed-head for my altar and another flower to take home. Interestingly enough, none of either group of QAL flowers had any, that I could discern, with a red dot in the middle of the umbels like the plants that I had seen on the roadside in the larger town 20 miles away. Past the QAL towards the grocery store were more of the spindly purple-topped plants.

Once we got home, I pulled out our region-specific plant field guide and began looking up the plants we had found.
Queen Anne’s Lace (which by now I know well)
Blue Vervain
Daisy Fleabane
Red Clover

Daisy & Clover
Daisy & Clover
Queen Anne's Lace Flower
Queen Anne’s Lace Flower
Queen Anne's Lace Seed Head
Queen Anne’s Lace Seed Head

And, all of them are medicinal. Of course, it is never recommended to ingest or otherwise use medicinally plants wildcrafted from roadsides. But it just goes to show you that there can be a treasure trove of wild medicinal and edible plants right in your own backyard, neighborhood, fields, and wild places. You just need to know how to look, and take the time to forage. It is vital to know how to properly identify the various medicinal and edible plants and fungi in order to discern them from their poisonous look-alikes (or just to know what is poisonous and what isn’t in general), especially in your area or region. A perfect example is Queen Anne’s Lace, which has a few very deadly look-alikes. Proper identification is imperative. You don’t want to go around picking poison hemlock or water hemlock (both are deadly), which can be mistaken for QAL by amateur foragers. Be sure to pick up a region-specific field guide with color photos, and/or books on medicinals and edibles and their identification for your region. Take it with you on a walk and see how many plants (and fungi) you can identify and find out which ones are edible and/or medicinal near your home, in a local park (beware of pesticides!) or nature preserve. Learn the different identification notes– hairy or smooth stem, shape of the leaves, flower differences, inner sap consistencies, etc. Believe it or not, a smooth or hairy stem can be a very important identification! REMEMBER: Queen Anne has hairy legs! (The hemlocks have smooth stems that are often mottled in color). Don’t forget about berries and trees too. Wildcrafting herbs and foraging for food are wonderful ways to get in touch with your local spirits (or Genius Loci), learn your native plant species, and get a nutritious wild-harvested meal for you and your family. And, speaking of Spirits, don’t forget to take some offerings with you to leave if you harvest anything in your adventures, or even just as a “thank you” for allowing you to come to this place and study and learn about the plants that are under Its care. Who knows, maybe they’ll take a liking to you and teach you a thing or two.

My new favorite spirit-offering
My new favorite spirit-offering

Our regional fieldguide to medicinals and our go-to medicine-making book
Our regional fieldguide to medicinals and our go-to medicine-making book

To Be a Witch: A Response Post Pt. I

Tar Pit #3

How tame we have become. How polite about our witchcraft. In our desire to harm none we have become harmless.

Truth speaks, uttered forth, and realization hits. My stomach tightens and my jaw clenches.

I will not be part of this process, because to do so is to be complicit with the very forces that are destroying all life on earth. It is time for Witchcraft not to choose, but to remember which side it is on in this struggle.

A fire burns deep in my belly and my throat tenses. Again, realization hits. We have given up everything– our roots, our truth, our power. We have disempowered, hell even dismembered ourselves in an attempt to be accepted by the masses. I chuckle, a bitterness coating my tongue, as I remember defending my new-found neopagan beliefs to my mother, insisting that it was no baby-devouring devil that I worshipped, but the green beauty of the earth and a loving goddess… Harm None, says the Rede… all the while the dripping of rooster blood onto black feathers and brick dust across the threshold called to me, but I turned away, heart aching, for fear of being outcast.

Ours is a practice grounded in the land, in the web of spirit relationships, in plant and insect and animal and bird. This is where we must orientate our actions, this is where our loyalty lies.

This is where our loyalties lie. With root and rock and stone and beast and bird… Months, no, a year or two ago I spoke of the duty, the responsibility, that we as pagans and witches have to defend the earth. How we claim to be “earth worshippers” and yet we can’t even be bothered to recycle. But I was dismissed, my words brushed aside. Offense was taken, my words faded into the wind that blows dry and crackling with toxic particles that are killing us as we breathe. But here– here I have found someone once more stepping up, and he is being held aloft, his words spread ’round. It’s about damn time someone starts listening to what some of us have been trying to say. But he has a much more terrible, a much more sinister picture he has painted. But it is one that is most needed, I feel, to jar us awake and knee-jerk us into a reaction if we are to save anything, much less ourselves.

No living system that can escape the fate which our actions have bound it to. We are living in the age of absolute ecological collapse. Habitat loss is occurring at a staggering rate, driven by what industrial civilisation has in common with the religions of the Book: the view that nature, like woman, is ours to dominate.

Terror and a deep sadness I have not felt in a long time weighs heavy in my heart. My chest tightens to match the restriction in my throat like a serpent squeezing tighter and tighter with its soft belly scales cold and smooth on my skin. This is what we have done. This is what we are doing. We are experiencing the largest extinction event in the history of the world– including that of the dinosaurs. And it is all. Our. Doing.

So what does our world look like?
Let me describe to you our power animals.

Wolf carcasses bored through with rifle point. Wet piles of Golden Eagles and Buzzards fed poisoned meat. Sharks long-lined and finned by fishing fleets that have butchered through the Tuna shoals we have fed to our plague of familiar cats. Barn Owls bleeding from their eyes and hæmorrhaging their guts down ghost white plumage due to the warfarin in rat poison. Toads and amphibian life mutating into monstrous pained death, whose gelatinous bones do not float back up the river.

Tears well in my eyes, I bite my lip. Read it again. And again. We say we are earth-worshippers, animists, druids, shamans, witches… Then BE that which you claim to be. DO that which you are meant to do– your charge stands before you cloaked in crude oil, belly filled with plastic. Your enemy stands before you, honey-tongued and black-suited with pen in hand as the resources of the world are signed away, as another 10,000 species become extinct. Your fellow pagans and witches are not the enemy. Nay, in a time as critical as this, there cannot be strife amongst allies.

Seawater so acidic that the shells of molluscs are dissolving. Oceans overfished to the extent that they resemble deserts, seabeds ploughed to destruction, micro-particles of indigestible plastic poisioning bird life and turtles, reefs bleached, plankton populations which are the building blocks of all ocean life disappearing…Water, I bid you hail and welcome.

All life comes from the sea, and without it, we would be nothing. Our tears as acidic as the waters that now cannot hold life nor oxygen enough for us to breathe. Our bones returned to a desert landscape no longer lush and green.

The Earth itself is exhausted, soil degradation endemic, washed with its nitrogen fertilisers into our already poisoned seas. The living Earth is fragile, it takes a hundred years to form a centimetre of topsoil. Farmland is a limited resource and eroding fast… Insect populations will soon not be able to pollinate the crops… The wheel of the year has been broken. Earth, I bid you hail and welcome.

People speak of peak oil, but no one is considering peak soil. Our foods are becoming less and less nutritious as our crops grow in pesticide-laden soil that has been stripped of its vitamins, minerals, bacteria, and fungi. Soon they simply will be unable to grow at all. Bees are dying at an unsustainable rate. Butterflies are disappearing. Amphibians are suffering horrible mutations and terrible deaths. We are growing as a population too fast to support it.

This is where you should feel the knot of fear in your stomach. The CO2 emissions that are wreaking havoc now are the result of what we burned forty years ago. Since then we have engaged in an orgy of denial and consumption. There is no tech-fix in the Anthropocene, the age of manmade climate change. Nothing has been done… Clearly we are being lied to. Clearly something is very wrong. Air and Fire, I bid you hail and welcome

My eyes close, pressing out tears that roll in rivulets down freckled cheeks, wetting lips that may never again feel truly fresh, clean, nontoxic water cross them. Lips that wish to spread wide and let forth a raging cry to the world. But none would hear me, it seems.

Some will be afraid of this knowledge; witchcraft should be liberated by it, liberated from petty concerns to pursue lives of beauty, liberated from the sleepwalking into death that our culture has made for us and our children. So I counsel, confront death. For witchcraft to be anything other than the empty escapism of the socially dysfunctional or nostalgia for bygone ages, it needs to feel the shape of its skull, venerate the dead and the sacred art of living and dying with meaning. We are all on the fierce path now.

Confront death, not by pretending that you have cut a deal with the Elder Vampire Gods invented for you by some internet Dark Witch fantasist in their over-priced books. Confront death, not by pretending that a beautiful Beltane ritual and a blue sky means everything will stay the same. Confront death, not by practicing the magic of ploughmen and wortcunners in your urban appartment believing that it makes you more authentic than any given Wiccan…

Witchcraft has never been about turning the other cheek to this. The witch has been created by the land to speak and act for it… We need to offer the death rites in a culture that pretends that death can be cheated by buying the latest i-gadget or hooking ourselves up to plasma bags of young blood… If you are engaged in witchcraft I suggest that you work on the lament, on your death rites, your eschatology and on your spirit body. There are the examples to emulate of those sensitively lifting roadkill from the asphalt for burial or reanimation, tending the graves of their neglected local cemetery, lighting candles for their ancestors, remembering the lost children.

If you call yourself a Witch, if you call yourself a Pagan, an Animist, an Earth-Worshipper of any kind. Take a look around you. Open your eyes to the world. Open yourself to the Spiritworld. And step across. We need you for this fight. The earth needs you. Leave behind the capitalist materialism and constant hate between yourself and others– the continual attempt to separate us and keep us wary, untrusting, and isolated. Take up your stang, and step into the role you claim. Before it is too late. And, as a final note, I will leave you with one last quote. I encourage you vehemently to go and read the article quoted herein in its entirety. And read it again. And then, once you’ve read it (and hopefully read it at least twice) go and read a response article by Sarah Anne Lawless. And then, go be a fucking witch.

Witchcraft has never been passive in the face of power. Our witchcraft will not be silenced at a time such as this, it will not be polite. Witchcraft cannot retreat to the wilderness, because there is no exterior wilderness left; instead we need to exteriorize our inner wild. We need to wake up the animal in our bodies. This is witchcraft as contagion, as living flame. We witches must however reluctantly return the curse that has been laid upon us all.

manifesto_1

Quotes (and photos) taken from the article, “Rewilding Witchcraft” over at the Scarlet Imprint website. Please read it in its entirety here: http://scarletimprint.com/2014/06/rewilding-witchcraft/

Please read Sarah Lawless’ response post here: http://sarahannelawless.com/2014/07/01/the-witch-and-the-wild/

Making Sure the Dead are Truly Dead and Gone

tumblr_mld5mjxywN1r9z6zro1_500
Normally I hear my stories on the wind. It sings them to me on storm winds and sea breezes, it whispers them to me beneath the full bellied moon. It brings them up from forgotten places and plays me echoes of secret memories. Normally I share what I hear, this time let me tell you what I lived.

Some people have a knack for walking in the other world. It is a talent that can be learned, it can be trained and it can be honed. But some people, they just have it from birth. They walk through life straddling worlds, sometimes seeing in this one, sometimes gazing into others. This is a story about such a man. He is married to a dreamer, she is many things make no mistake, but above all else she dreams. Together they have a son, a toddling thing best described by his mother’s wide eyes and his father’s thirst for adventure. Completeing their family and filling their home is the Bear, a large man, shaggy and strong, gentle save when stirred to anger.

Now living where they live, and being what they are, they are no strangers to death. They have seen it from afar and they have held it in their arms. To the Dreamer death was a mystery and a puzzle, to the Walker death was an adventure and a promise.

So, tell me; what do you think they did when confronted with a situation where death and the newly dead were in their hands… why they Fucked it up of course. And therein lies the story…

It isn’t just humans who can become lost in the here after. The spirits of Birds and beasts can as well. Aye, they live closer to death, they have fewer walls erected between them and the truth of it. They are born knowing its nature, they live with it day to day hour to hour. Death however comes in more forms than there are stars to light the sky, so when it comes in a shape foreign and sudden… then can be a problem. If a deer is taken down by a wolf that is the nature of things, if a mouse is taken by an owl on the wing, that too is the nature of things. There is little shock and a clear understanding in the mind of the prey. There is fear. There is pain, but no suprise, no confusion. Death has come and they must surrender to it.

But what happens when death comes sudden, swift and strange to the predator, what does the wolf, or owl, the bear feel when they are struck down by the doings of Men. I think that for prey animals it is easier, they’re constantly dogged by the spectre of death, but for the hunter to be struck down causes a disconnect. The wolf knows old age, it understands thirst, and famine, disease. But what’s a rifle, what is a car to barrel up and pounce so brutally, to pulp flesh, snap bone, and savage organs. Whats worse it rolls on without a pause, no memory of prey to humble the predator, no flesh taken to fill an empty belly no purpose beyond clumsy power and inconsiderate speed. How does the predator reconcile its death to this?

Simply put, they often can’t. If you ever find yourself near the results of such a collision, take a moment and observe. There is a palpable miasma of confusion and indignity, an alpha predator reduced to a ragged bundle of fur or feathers crushed and tossed without a second thought.

I know what death is to me, through this experience I also have found what it means to me as a witch.

The Dreamer found the body, a wind tumbled ball of feathers left without ceremony on the roadside with its neck broken. She called the Walker to bring it home. He approached it with the care he would the honored dead, with gentle words to sooth it, and if truth be told to sooth himself. He was no stanger to spirits, but this one was lost and confused and its presence was echoe and emptyness. With what ceremony he could afford it, and such dignity as he could grace he brought it home, laid it beneath the familiar oak and begged it peace and easy sleep.

A day passed, then two, and he stopped feeling the spirit so strongly, he looked with eyes open in both worlds and saw nothing and so they put the body to the knife, passed it through incense and blessed it with prayer, some parts they preserved and the remains they put in the ground there beneath the sun and the branches of that oak.

Naive of the Dreamer, Foolish of the walker.

The Walker you see, he went walking the other world under the eye of the sun. Small wonder he found no sign of the lingering spirit then. It was nocturnal in life and so too in death. It wasn’t gone to its rest, only sleeping… Foolish, naive.

Only the oak bore witness to the momement when the spirit found its buried body. Only the oak and the wide night sky. The Walker wasn’t there to bear witness, he didn’t feel it, didn’t notice at all. The credit for that goes to their son, the toddling child all eyes and curiousity. “What’s that?” Sometimes that’s what it takes for that voice in the back of your head that’s been screaming “Hey idiot pay attention” to get its point across. The Walker didn’t see the how of things, he only saw the results. The wretched thing, lost and bearing the wounds of its death and the marks of its body’s internment in the ground. Shambling up like a night born creature from someone’s bleak and blackest dreamings. Empathy was never a gift of the Walker, but understanding… that he bore the burden of. This he understood on a primal level, the knowing of it settling on him full and heavy. With slow and deliberate care he reached out to the spirit. He wrapped it in threads of himself, spun thin and strong as spider silk. He tied it to him and made it whole. In his trance he saw it flying, and amidst the incense of cedar and lemon grass his son saw it too. “Flying, mama, happy” he giggled, pointed and signed.

Now in a fairy tale this would be the happily ever after. But fairies and their endings have no place in this tale today.

I think that this is not an end at all but a beginning, and that is where I will leave you. At the beginning.

Burial Rites

Bonekeeper

And they call her the Bonekeeper ~

She drums, the soft leather beater tapping out a steady rhythm that sounds out from the frame drum in her other hand. Her eyes close, her head tilts back and she begins to sway. Grass pricks at her bare feet and smoke of anise, mugwort, damiana, wormwood and mullein rises up in the low-hanging oakleaf canopy above her. Before her lies the feathered body of a great bird, her lover knelt beside it, knife in hand. The rhythm changes from a slow three-beat to a quickened four-beat. Dum dumdumdum dum dumdumdum… this is the burial rite. Wings are cleaved from torso, feet carefully detached, toes spread around a maple seed ball to hold them in place. Feathers are salvaged. These are all placed in layers of rock salt and covered with a tight-fitting lid to keep out moisture and those who would devour all. The rest is wrapped in burlap, and placed gently in a hole nearby, gaping wide from the dark earth where roots lie stirring with the new spring. More herbs are burnt upon the coal and poured into the hole with the Dead. In a few months time what remains when feather and flesh has been eaten away will be exhumed, he will bring out his herbs and smokes, and she will again bring out the drum, and this time, they will sing the bones back to life ~

Of Bones & Incense

Raven-Skull-1s
Original work first posted at Isáine’s other blog, Witch of the Wyldwood April 27, 2013

Smoke billows up in swirling wafting rivulets. I breath deeply the smell of sandalwood and dragon’s blood. Night is falling over the land as the last light of the sun dies in the western sky. Just before darkness completely overcomes everything, I carry the hand-dipped sticks of incense outside. It is time to check the old bones, and to start processing the new. The old bones had tipped out of the bucket but they were undamaged. I gingerly picked up each, allowing the smoke to curl around them, all the while a song is spilling forth from my lips. Each bone is passed through the smoke then added to the bowl. Once they are all done, I gather the new bones. This set is tainted with the essence of murder and dishonor. These bones will need some work, and I feel that at least some of them if not all of them will find their final resting place in the earth. These bones belonged to animals wrongfully killed, animals whose flesh was wasted, whose bodies were left to rot at the end of a dirt road. But they called to me. Called to me to take what I could, to pass them through the smoking incense and sing them back to life. And so that is what I shall do. For that is who I am— the Bonekeeper. These bones I pass through the smoke, singing all the while, until they are all in the bucket. Cool water is added, filling almost all the way. This will sit for some time. And then the next step will be taken. The first set of bones I take inside and begin to scrub gently in fresh water, checking for any remaining flesh and scrubbing away the green algae that formed here and there. These bones are almost ready. Cleaning them with the small brush was rhythmic, hypnotic, meditative. And the white smoke curls and swirls through the air as I work, and sing to the bones.