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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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January Update: Classes, Our Book, New Items

We have quietly been working on a big project: we’re writing a book! It is going to be an amalgam of our personal spiritual practices with everything from domestic magic to spiritworking, from polytheism to ritual costuming and quite a bit in between. As we work on it, we will be publishing each section as its own ‘article’ so to speak for purchase. They will be available for immediate digital PDF download, but we may also do some limited edition hand-bound and blockprinted booklets as well. Isáine is attempting to create linoblock carvings for each book section, and we want to do inked prints and have them available separate from the booklets as well. We are just finishing up the section on Shapeshifting and getting it ready for sale.

shapeshiftinglinoblock_progress

In preparation for the release of our shapeshifting article (and all the others to come) we will be doing a string of posts here and on our Facebook page on the topic. There will be short stories, articles or links to other posts/authors on the topic,  personal recounting and of course Q&A and opportunities to share your own stories for anyone who cares to.  Shapeshifting, though a bit more advanced of a practice, is also going to be one of the first classes that we offer.

classes

We decided near the end of 2014 to start offering one-on-one mentoring and classes as we are able after the New Year. Now that it is now 2015, it is time to get the ball rolling! We are still working on class outlines, setting up online programs/recordings, and arranging spots for teaching in-person locally (Swansboro/Jacksonville, NC), but in the meantime we are available for short one-on-one mentoring sessions on various topics, listed below. If you are seeking information or guidance regarding a topic not listed, please contact us and we will see what we can do to help! There are others we know who may be of help when we aren’t. Message us on Facebook or better yet, e-mail us at: thetwistedtree.shoppe@gmail.com

—–>>To read more about our classes please see our new Page (under “Classes & Gatherings”).

[[ As we finalize class details we will post scheduling there, updates on our blog feed and Facebook page, and in our newsletter. To be sure to not miss any upcoming classes please subscribe to our MailChimp Newsletter here: https://www.facebook.com/TheTwistedTree.Shoppe/app_100265896690345 ]]

** We are also going to start doing short recordings and posting them on Youtube and our blog (here) covering various topics, Q&A/FAQs (send us yours!), how-to’s and crafts, etc. so keep an eye out for those! **

[[ One-on-One Mentoring Sessions ]]

  • Cost~ We ask for a donation of $15-$35/hour, whatever you can afford and feel that our time, knowledge, and service are worth … We accept Cash or Paypal
  • Topics~ Women’s Mysteries, Sacred Beekeeping & Path of the Melissae, Domestic/Hearth Magic, Protection Magic, Basic Energy Work, Spiritworking & Bioregional Animism, Working with Deities/Polytheism, Involving Kids in Practice, Altered States of Consciousness, Sacred Birthkeeping, Shapeshifting, How To: Magical Healing…

[[ Upcoming Classes: Online ]]

  • Cost~ Classes/Videos will range from Free to $25, but we always welcome donations
  • Current Topics~ Protection Magic + Shapeshifting + Altered States + Herbal Medicine Making + Bioregional Animism: Working with Spirits of Place + Intro to the Path of the Bee + Domestic/Hearth Magic…

[[ Upcoming Classes: Local ]]

  • Cost~ Classes will range from $10-$35/person to cover the cost of any supplies, and we always welcome donations. We may occasionally offer a free class, and hold drawings to win a free class!
  • Current Topics~ Protection Magic + Shapeshifting + Altered States + Herbal Medicine Making + Bioregional Animism: Working with Spirits of Place + Intro to the Path of the Bee + Domestic/Hearth Magic…

>>> <<< >>> <<< >>> <<< >>> <<<

And last but not least, we have new items in the shop! Be sure to check them out before they’re gone– limited quantities on most. Custom orders are always welcome! [[ Use Coupon Code: NewYr2015 during checkout for free shipping! ]] *Domestic purchases only, valid through January 20, 2015*

birchwoodaltardiskslemurianfiberlemurianleather rusticwitchhat1

custoomwoodrings_inlay elderberrysyrup

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.

Give Me the Woods

Give me the woods
with their bears and their bees
with their babbling brooks
and the sway-top trees

Give me the woods
with their moss and their ferns
with the dripping-wet leaves
the land my heart yearns

Give me the woods
with fox bear and bird
with hollows and glens
and no sound or a word

Give me the woods
with the cabin and stove
with the smoke curling high
and so far that we drove

Give me the woods
where one becomes lost
becomes one with the trees
I would have it, just tell me the cost

~Copyright 2014 Isáine of The Twisted Tree

New Projects & Products

We have been quite the busy bodies over here at the Twisted Tree. Midnight has been perfecting his wooden rings, which will be up for custom order here shortly. I have been learning how to make journals to be sold as Book of Shadows. Some products that are in the works and should be available by December:

dansemacabrejournal1

Bent Wood Ring with Braided Gold Alloy Inlay
Bent Wood Ring with Braided Gold Alloy Inlay

– Wooden Rings: custom designs– wood choice and type of inlay
– Wood Log Runic Candle Holders
– Mini Terrariums, Glow-in-the-Dark Mushroom Kits, & Live Mini Marimo Moss Ball setups
– Sachets for Various Needs (such as enhancing dream recall and lucid dreaming, warding from nightmares, good luck, alleviating anxiety, etc.)
– Book of Shadow Journals

Our latest Etsy Listings:
boneearrings1  hagstones2  hagstones1

eggshells2_edit  acorns2  beetlejar2

NOW TAKING ORDERS for CUSTOM Rustic Burlap Witch Hats!
rusticwitchhat1
Custom made to your dimensions, I am taking a limited number of orders. If you want a certain color scheme or theme (such as green/woods or blue/ocean) we can discuss details and pricing.
++ BASIC Hat– Muslin + Burlap, Distressed: $45 + Shipping

    To place an order please send us an e-mail at thetwistedtree.shoppe@gmail.com or a private Etsy message.

**COMING THIS WEEK**:

– Twine & Faux Suede-Wrapped Quartz Crystal and Lemurian Quartz Crystal Point Necklaces

– 3rd Eye Quartz Crystal Meditation Headwraps

Store Updates & A Witches’ Ball

I know things have been a bit quiet over here at the blog, but behind closed doors we have been busy little bees! Our latest (and perhaps coolest) news is that we were interviewed for the Faith column of a local newspaper, the Jacksonville Daily News. The column editor and a photographer for the paper showed up at our house, interviewed us, and took some photos. The next Sunday our interview was published in the paper, and within two days we had 50 new Facebook Page Likes! Apparently the article has been making quite the rounds, showing up on the Covenant of the Goddess’ Facebook page and even on Witch Vox. We have had almost 200 new page likes and out posts are reaching a lot more people, which is great! The only problem is that because of how Facebook works now, ‘original content’ posts that do *not* have any photos or links in them get seen by an insanely larger amount of people, whereas anything we Share (such as photos from other pages or website links) or even photos we upload to our own page directly are seen by far fewer people (ie. post without photos and links have 80+ views whereas a shared photo, link, or uploaded photo gets less than 20 views). This is really irritating when we are trying to share links to our latest Etsy listings, sharing content that *you* our followers have requested to see more of, or are uploading our own photos directly for you to see projects that we are working on and things we are offering! [[Make sure to check the option to “Follow” and “Get Notifications” on our page, and to check the ‘Pages Feed’ in the left hand column of your home newsfeed page to see content posted by Pages that you have Liked. Also, interacting with the Pages’ content– liking and sharing or commenting on them– shows Fcebook that you want to see more of that Page’s content in your personal Newsfeed.]]

We were in the paper!
We were in the paper!

To read the newspaper article online, go to: http://www.jdnews.com/features/neighbors/working-with-goddesses-helps-woman-find-spiritual-self-1.388415

In other news, the shop has a bunch of new listings up! I will be out of town for the first almost three weeks of November, and we may or may not put the shop on stand-by while I am gone. Custom orders can still be placed, as these take longer to make and ship compared to things ready-made and set to go. Instead of putting the Etsy store in vacation mode, we may leave it open but change our shipping dates– instead of shipping in 3-5 days for ready-made items, we might have them set to ship depending on how close the order is placed to November 20 (when I’ll be back). We shall see! And we will keep you updated. [[I will do a separate blogpost showing our latest works-in-progress and newest Etsy listings so watch out for that!]]

yuleballbanner

And last but not least, updates on the Witches’ Ball. In case you haven’t seen it, there is a new Page on our blog called “Witches’ Yule Ball” up in the top navigation bar. Click that and you can see what we are planning for the ball, dates (December 20, 2014), etc. and is where you go to purchase tickets (through a secure Paypal checkout). Tickets are available on a sliding scale– you pay what you can. We also have an option for those who have more to pay more and purchase a ticket for themselves and for someone who can’t afford one at all. All proceeds go to the cost of the event, and any left-over funds will be donated to a (to-be-determined) charity of some kind. We are finalizing our venue (currently looking at an outdoor location with camping and bathroom facilities) and will keep you updated (look for updates in our upcoming Samhain newsletter. Click here to ). We are in need of sponsors/donations! See the event page for more info on what we’re looking for and need assistance with.

Involving Kids

Catechism For A Witch’s Child

by J.L. Stanley

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling streams
of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drank
the holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother
who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
of being.

This post is long overdue, but being a parent– life often gets in the way of things like blogging. This post was spurred by a few things, namely seeing some other pagans/witches discussing whether or not prepubescent children should be involved in magic and ritual, or even exposed to it at all; and also just based on my own experiences with our toddling son.

In regards to the former, it actually stunned me quite a bit to see people discouraging others from involving children, or even exposing them, to their religious/spiritual/magical practices. But I think that this stance is based in the fact that many of us who consider ourselves pagan and/or witches were raised Christian. Many of us (I could comfortably say most of us) were raised from infancy in the faith of our parents, who in most cases vehemently pressed such beliefs upon us and forbade us (directly or indirectly) from studying and/or practicing other religions. And for many of us, the shift from Christianity (or similar monotheistic, patriarchal, majority-religion) to paganism and/or witchcraft was a rough one. Some of us were lucky and had parents who supported us in our journey (I was not one of those lucky ones, quite the opposite). But the majority of us have been imprinted with this natural tendency to shy away from the idea of ‘teaching’ (read: forcing) a religious or spiritual practice on our children. And I understand this, but I don’t agree with it.

There is a difference between raising a child surrounded by your faith(s)/practices and involving them in it and encouraging their spiritual growth– wherever that may lead them, and telling your children that they must follow these set beliefs, are required to participate in these certain practices, and are discouraged from/forbidden from learning about, studying, or practicing any other beliefs. And this doesn’t just apply to Paganism vs. Christianity. It can also apply to various Paths within Paganism… yes I am talking to those of you who may practice a “white-light, harm none” path whose children may grow up to practice Luciferian Witchcraft, or Voodoo (and vice versa). We should treat our children the way we wish our parents had treated us: raise them in a healthy, open-minded household, and encourage them to learn about other spiritual and religious practices and support them if they decide to follow some such path.

My son helping me smudge some new items from the thrift store.
Our son helping me smudge some new items from the thrift store.

We are raising our son to have a healthy respect and deep reverence for the earth and its inhabitants, to be aware of and connected to the cycles of the world around us and our part in the web of life, to know that magic and spirits are real and encourage his own psychic abilities, etc. We involve him in ritual and magical practice whenever we can– and he is only going on three. He loves to help, and even if he doesn’t quite understand why we’re doing something, or what something means, he can understand some things to an extent, and is being exposed from an early age. When he talks to something that is ‘invisible’ to mama or daddy, or points at things flying about while daddy is meditating with the Owl spirit, we pay attention and listen and encourage him. We don’t tell him nothing is there, or he is making it up. When the dark scares him, we ask why. We don’t say there’s nothing there, just because we can’t see it. When I smudge new items, or give offerings to the Spirits, he helps me. There are so many ways to involve small children in ritual and daily practice. Especially if you yourself can blend the mundane and the sacred, your children are already programmed to be this way. The possibilities are endless. Children can help with their own altar, can learn meditation at a very young age, they can help with smudging (being careful of embers of course) and offerings, they can be taught old folk tales and rhymes (this is common in Waldorf-style education) for everything from greeting the sun to baking bread to talking about the moon or Autumn. You can teach them about the seasons and where their food comes from– and to give thanks for it– from a very small age. Pray over your food with your children, in your own way. Mealtime prayers aren’t just for Christians, and praying over food and water blesses it for your consumption and can be a chance to give thanks. Take your children outside every chance you get, let them touch trees and put their toes in the ocean. If they suddenly want to say hi to a tree in a parkinglot, encourage them. They can sense that spirit, and want to connect with it.
Learn from your children, follow their lead.

My son giving offerings to the Spirits at the Spring Equinox.
My son giving offerings to the Spirits at the Spring Equinox.

This Patheos blogpost has some good information on ‘planning’ (or rather, the lack thereof) of ritual with small children, of following their lead, and ritualizing everyday activities. As children get older, of course they can be actively involved even more. And I feel like this should be normal, and their curiosity and skills cultivated. Children are always learning, and learn by example. Try and surround yourself with other pagan families, and celebrate together! Take your kids on forest-walks together, teach them about mushrooms and trees and meditation. Do pagan-y crafts and child-friendly rituals. Older children can be given roles in ritual. And as they get older, they will grow more curious, and you can teach them about other religions past and present, different, spiritual practices, etc. Take your children to events and gatherings! We just took our son with us to the Central NC Pagan Pride and he did wonderfully, and there were other small children there as well. (However if we go next year to vend and teach, he might stay home with grandma.) There are tons of resources out there and stories/blogs about pagan families and involving children in practice, and don’t be afraid to share yours!

We’d love to hear about how you involve your children in your magical practice, leave a comment below or send us an e-mail. We’re also looking for contributions to the Pagan Parenting column of our newsletter [provide us your e-mail to be added to the mailing list!], and have an on-going blog post compiling pagan homeschooling and pagan parenting resources, here.