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.
Kaleidoscope eyes float along crystalline waters watching stars falling to an ocean below where we swim through swirling eddies of dreams merging and parting as we dance the tides and sing songs in tongues long lost to human minds but known to the dirt and the fish and the stars….
The Moon, She saw. She sees all. Like the Sun. They watch, taking turns floating across the sky, keeping a weathered eye on the world below. They see our pain they see our lies. They see our happiness and our surprise. But they never tell, they don’t speak a word. They float across the sky and weep and laugh, for they see our demise.
~ Isáine, the Witch of the Wyldwood
Original content first posted at Isáine’s other blog, Witch of the Wyldwood November 13, 2012 [Some revisions from the original have been made].
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The words fell from my lips, uttered over and over as I took in the landscape around me. I fought back tears that threatened to erupt from my eyes and run down my cheeks to mix with the rain that kissed them, falling in a steady drizzle from the gray November sky. But maybe I should have let them fall. I should have wept for the fallen. My feet made barely a whisper of sound as I trekked through the soft sand, stepping over and into the deep scores left marred there by the tracks of the machines of Man. For it was Man that had done this. Like the tears, I battled the urge to drop to my knees in the scarred sand and place my hands and face into the dirt, but maybe I should have given in to the need. Instead I trudged on, taking it all in. A feeling of utter misery began to rise like bile inside me. My soul screamed. This was murder. This was sacrilege. This was… words can barely describe the sensations bubbling up in my soul-mind, of the energy of the place, of the pain that resonated from it.
My nose caught wind of the scent of decay just as my eyes glimpsed over a flash of white against gray sand and wet, partially-burnt wood. The partial carcass of a young deer had been caught up in the mess of broken stumps and snapped limbs. The skull had been broken into pieces, each tiny antler button in a different place, the jaw bones still partially connected to skin hung from a log protruding from the pile, part of the hide stretched out over the logs. Much was missing. I knelt then, and taking two still-joined vertebrae into my hands I began to whisper… “We weep, we weep, for the forests of the dead.” It became my mantra as I walked. I returned to gather what bones I could to take home and consecrate, to release the spirit, and cleanse the parts for use in ritual, if They wished to be used thus.
I walked on. The piles rose at least a story tall in some places. Many of the trunks were wider across than I could have wrapped my arms around. All the bark was gone and the heartwood shone through, wet and smooth, glistening with rain. Roots, trunks, branches, it was carnage. The spirits cried out, the wailing echoing with the pattering of rain softly falling on wood and sand. I blinked through the rain drops like tears and stepped closer here and there, placing my palms on the dirty, wet logs feeling the pain, searching. I took pieces here and there and set them aside. I rounded a bend and found a pile full of gnarled, red wood. I thought it cedar, but wasn’t sure. I placed my hands on the solid hardwood and when I pulled them away it was like blood on my hands, rust-red. I wiped it across my face. Blood of the fallen. Marks of a pledge.
Around another bend I spotted a gnarled head of red wood and fought to free the log weighing at least as much as myself, if not twice as much. It was caught by other branches and when I finally freed it, in my mind’s eye flashes of images flitted by: a post, standing sentinel, fetches draped over it, bones and blood, milk and honey and mead poured into the earth at its base. I drug it from where it lay to take with me. My coven-mates who had gone with me were hesitant, unsure. They felt it best to leave it. “It is unforgiving,” Midnight said to me, unease etching the manner of his face. “It remembers the manner of its death. It remembers Man.” They both stood on either side of me looking down at the log. “You must take care of it,” the Bear says to me. “Spend time with it every day, work with it, give it offerings.” I nod, not sure of myself now. But when I thought of doing those things, the images returned to my mind and a feeling of “this is right” settled deep in my belly, and I took it home with the bones of the young stag.
As I sit and write this, because I had to, I think of all the trees cut down, of it all around us. These trees were clear-cut, bulldozed, and burned. All to build houses. In this particular area, the first time I had driven by and noticed that the forest was gone and seen the piles from a distance, it was as if something had wrenched my mind and my eyes from my control and made me look. The spirits wailed in my mind and my breath hitched in my throat. I had thought that was bad, but it was nothing compared to being there, being among it, touching it. It marked my soul. The images are burned in my mind and I feel like screaming with the spirits killed there, trapped there. I know not how the people who do that job can live day to day performing such acts of destruction. How are they not affected? How can they not see? Feel? It makes me think of the book I’m reading, The Legacy of Luna, about a woman who sat in an old-growth California Redwood tree for two years living on a tiny platform 180 feet in the air to save the forest, and the tree they called Luna. Of how reading the story, and other stories like it, it all seems so distant. It is bad, it saddens us, we say that we want to help, that we want to do something, but we don’t really feel the conviction that we feel after being there, of experiencing it first hand. Many of them were old, old trees with more than just a simple life-energy. They had sentience, spirits. And they were destroyed in an instant. Cut down for nothing other than greed with no regard for the consequences or who or what would be effected after.
Blood of the fallen smeared across my cheek. Mark of a pledge made while surrounded by death. “We weep, we weep, for the forests of the dead.” A mantra. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Words that cannot change what happened. But maybe, we can stop it from happening again, and again. We say that we are Pagans, Witches, that we work with the energies and spirits of the land. That we are “protectors” of the natural world. That we follow “earth-based” religions or spiritual paths. But how many of us are actually what we say we are? How many of us step up and step into our roles as stewards of land and beast, as woodsmen and [true] pagans? Maybe some of us recycle, sometimes, or do things that we think make us “environmentalists” when we find them convenient, or when we “have time”. The time is now. The place is here, there, everywhere. The person to do something is you, don’t wait for someone else to step up.
Be the change you want to see in the world, says Ghandi. In the words of the Witch of Forest Grove,“Recycling does not make you an environmentalist. Choosing the beef jerky that wasn’t made from cows herded in clearings that were once part the Amazon rainforest does not make you an environmentalist. Having a garden does not make you an environmentalist. Do you want to help? Do you want to apologize? For real? Collect garbage from your local green spaces and clear out invasive species. Join a committee or board of a local park or area. Plant trees after first learning how to do it properly. Donate money to conservation efforts or volunteer to help. Volunteer at wild animal rescues. Vote for laws in your municipality to protect trees from being cut down and to protect parks and green spaces from development.”
Take up arms. Do spells, leave offerings, get physical. Connect with your local nature spirits, find a tree to work with. Leave offerings outside, do a spell to stop a building company or logging company nearby. Do something. Work to save this planet that is your Mother. Work to save and honor the trees that you call your brethren, and animals your kin, the elements your gods. Or there will be nothing left.
After having multiple conversations with practitioners of various pagan paths and reading an article I found on Eco-Paganism, I have realized that my use of the term “true-pagan” was incorrect. Pagans have varying levels of interaction with nature and nature spirits. Some are more “esoteric” and focus more on spiritual growth than working with the environment, though they may consider the Earth a sacred body containing Spirit. Then there are others who are more Animist, more “field” pagans in the words of Dr. Adrian Harris and are more concerned with the environment and taking care of and working with the Spirits found there. I acknowledge this difference between the many paths of pagan, but I still stand by my belief that if you claim to follow an “earth-based religion or path” and believe Nature is Sacred, that you should try working with your local nature spirits, leave offerings at a particular tree or grove, get active in your community and state legislatures involving environmentalism, pick up trash when you see it (which we ALL should do regardless of religion), etc. as a part of your spiritual practice as well as your duty as a pagan and/or witch to protect the Earth Mother.
Here is a good article on Eco-Paganism:
Land Guardianship Article:
And here I stand, at the ‘tween place, where earth and rock meets water’s edge.
I cast my gaze out over the mist-covered sheen of dark eternity.
Leaves and detriment float slowly by, rising and sinking in and out of sight.
The sky is grey, the wind has the bite of Winter’s Coming,
Raising gooseflesh on my bones.
I lean nearer, peering close, my reflection distorted on the water’s surface.
The rocky shoreline digs into my knees and palms,
My hair brushes past to skim the water, reaching.
Darkness falls and from the shadows the lights dance,
Spinning out onto the blackness that lies outstretched before me.
I stand, yearning to join them, and take a step.
Into the water, dark and cold, I walk, until the dark chasm closes over me
My last breath left frost upon the air,
My last sight that of foxfire in the trees.
Original Poem by Isáine, First Posted on her other blog, The Witch of the Wyldwood, in December of 2012.
Originally posted December 16, 2012 by Midnight at his old blog, Storm & Spirits
I wonder, how many people out there really appreciate their tools and their magical implements. No matter what it is you work with, do you appreciate it? Do you understand it? I can’t claim that I am always spot on with the latter but I try. As to the first, I don’t think I really did at all until I started crafting. I recently started learning to work metal ( blacksmithing ) and stone ( Flintknapping ) to make blades and frankly…that shit is hard. No joke. In general these are complex crafts that take dedication and practice, and making a blade is at the top of the skills tree. I have yet to turn out anything satisfactory but the effort is really eye opening to the worth of a good blade.
I have three blades that I have a ritual and or magickal attachment to and I don’t think I really appreciated them properly until I tried to shape one myself. I love them certainly, I care for them both as tools and as individuals. They have private names that I do not share, they are deeply tied to my practice. However, I don’t think I really appreciated them until I understood what went into their shaping. Compared to this I hear of and have seen people mistreat their tools. I recently discussed someone intentionally blunting their knife, and I can’t help but cringe… I respect that they have a different view and that their practice is likely vastly different than mine. But it just strikes me as rude really both to the blade and to the craftsman to do anything but treat it with the utmost respect and care.
Many people likely fully appreciate their tools and I was just late to jump on the band wagon, but maybe this opened up a few eyes or sent a few guilt ferrets skittering up some shirts. Maybe I just made someone curious about trying to make their own tools, ( knives aside, try crafting a staff or wand from scratch. It is not easy work to do to satisfaction. Don’t even get me started on a making and carving a bow or fletching arrows… ) I am not condemning anyone for just going out and buying their tools. We live in a modern world and frankly the skills to make our own equipment are just not common. Not to mention the time involved. But if you find yourself with the means and the time and most importantly the will, I suggest you give it a try. It can be an eye opener.
These are my gods. The Lightning, the Mountain, the River. The bite of Winter’s Coming upon the wind, the Storm rolling in from the East, the Snow blanketing the Earth.
I see pictures like this and my breath is stolen from my chest. Such beauty… our world is full of it. This is GOD, this is GOD-US. This is my church, my temple, my shrine. My bare feet in the dirt are my prayers, my breath frosting on the cool air is my offering. I may worship gods, I may work with spirits, but at the basis of my practice I am an animist. Land, sea, sky. Plants, rocks, animals, even the rain. Are all Divine.
You have been walking for some time now, so long that you have forgotten, in fact, where you have come from or where you are going. You have traveled from the sea, over rolling hills and mountains with their snow-capped peaks reaching towards the stars. At last your trail has brought you to a forest. As you walk along the deer-trodden path, you realize that you have surely left civilization behind you. There seems to be no touch of man in this place. The trees grow strong and thick of trunk, their boughs creating an ever-denser canopy above you, letting little sunlight through. You see sign of beast and bird as you go along, and every once in awhile you meet eyes with a large buck before he bounds off into the underbrush. Birds sing all around you as they eat berries from the bushes that line the way. Rabbits peak their twitching noses out from underneath the fruit-heavy branches, they themselves dining on the bounty within their own reach. A sense of calmness envelopes you as you walk, and you begin to daydream. Suddenly you realize that the sun is kissing the horizon, and you know not where you are nor where to set up camp for the night. Most of the creatures have gone silent. An owl beckons to the coming night from its tree, golden round eyes glowing in the dimming light of a dying sun. A chorus of frogs erupts from somewhere near by, so there must be water, you think to yourself. The frogs are singing the sun to sleep, and with the cover of the canopy above, it grows darker faster than it would have otherwise. Your pace quickens as you scan the darkness for a place to make your bed and light your fire against that which comes with the darkness. You spot a clearing up ahead, and as you burst through the treeline you find yourself upon a cottage. White-grey smoke curls up lazily from the chimney and a candle lights a window where a black cat lounges on the sill, its tail twitching. You push open the small gate and follow the stepping stones past mammoth sunflowers, lavender bushes, blood-red poppies, datura trumpets and foxglove bells that are all now quiet– the bees have gone to sleep in their hives for the night. The scent of moonflowers greets your nose and you look around you, spotting them crawling up a trellis leading into another garden space. You take the path to the right, which leads to what you assume to be the front door. Knocking, you hear a woman’s voice call out from within.
“Come in, Traveler, if you mean my house and kin no harm. For friends and weary wanderers there is ale and bread upon my table and a bed by the fire.”
You gently turn the knob and swing wide the heavy oak door, that you now notice is etched with runes ’round its edge. The scent of fresh bread and drying herbs greats your nose and you breathe deeply. Stepping across the threshold, a tingling skitters across your skin as you pass through the home’s ward– it has allowed you to enter unharmed. Shutting the door and the sudden chill of the coming night behind you, you are greeted by the warmth of a hearthfire and the smile of a woman, hair of dark brown and fox-red, a babe upon her hip; as well as by the curious gaze of a man, skin like the dark night, who is seated already at the hardwood table with spoon in hand, about to take a sip from what smells of lamb and thyme in a rich bone broth. After a pause, he finishes bringing the stew-laden spoon to his mouth, closes his eyes momentarily as he savors the meat and herbs, then opens them once more casting his gaze your way. Still silent, he nods, and looks to his wyfe. She sets the baby down on the bench beside his father and begins to ladle stew into a wooden bowl, placing it on the table at the seat across from her husband. “Sit, eat, drink,” she says and pours a hornmug of ale for you. Hunger overcoming your hesitance, you drop your bag by the door and sit at the place she has set for you and begin to eat.
This blog will be a collection of magical musings and experiences, original stories, and store updates from two wytches– owners of the budding business The Twisted Tree~ Apothecary & Occult Shoppe. Our workings, writings, and business reflect the kind of magical practitioners that we are. Be prepared for ‘darker’ things upon these pages– things of bone and blood and dark moons and deep ocean. But also things of the green earth, of the sun moving through its cycles of spring and summer, fall and winter– of dark sleep, rebirth, returning, high reign, and decline once more. We will speak of shapeshifting, flying ointments, charms and curses, bardic storytelling, priestess-hood and polytheism, bioregional animism, spirits, and more; as well as share store updates, coupon opportunities, contests, information on custom work, etc.
Welcome to our corner of the Wyldwood~