The Reindeer Goddess by Judith Shaw

Featured Image -- 696

Reindeer are very close to my heart, as a Scandinavian Pagan who has some Sami ancestry through my mother’s bloodline. Judith Shaw wrote this wonderful article on the Reindeer Goddess in some of her forms, which you all may enjoy as well. Blessed be the Reindeer Mother!

Judith Shaw photoWinter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the day of the least daylight and the longest night. Long before Christmas our Northern European ancestors celebrated the Winter Solstice, the moment that heralds the return of the sun and with it the promise of new life in spring. Without the comforts offered by modern technology, this time of year must have raised fears in the hearts of our ancestors; fear that the sun would not return to its summer glory, fear that there would not be enough food for the winter, fears that surface most easily in the dark. A celebration of light would have been most welcome and needed.

View original post 1,070 more words

I will do my best.

Like many others, I have been at a loss for words these past few days. Anything less than an incoherent scream of rage and grief felt like cheap platitudes.

But while I was going through my morning rituals today, I finally thought of something.

I have been a Girl Scout (or a Girl Guide, for those outside the US) for nearly my entire life. I believe strongly in the mission of the Girl Scouts of America, and in teaching girls of all kinds the skills to help them be brave, resilient, kind, ass-kicking feminists. I learned first aid skills (which has helped me be a first responder at two motorcycle accidents) and marched in anti-war protests. I learned to sew my own clothes, to start fires, to tie knots. I credit the guidance and leadership I received with helping me become the person I am today.

Below is the text of the Girl Scout Law, the first oath I took in service to my community and one I still hold dear. I’m a little less keen on the “respect authority” part than I used to be, but it’s a reminder of who built me up, and that I can always do better.

I will do my best to be:
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,

and to:
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

I will do my best.

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

img_8146

Kitsune in the News!

Earlier today, I saw that part of my post on beginning my work with Hestia was quoted in The Wild Hunt’s “Pagan Voices” column! I am beyond flattered that my work was chosen to be featured, and it warms my heart to know that what I wrote resonated with someone else out there. An especially big thank you goes to the author of the column, who used the correct pronouns for me!

It also amuses and delights me that the post I wrote about being an introvert is the post they chose to quote. 🙂

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Cleaning Up! Spellwork Hygiene 101

Just about every “Intro to Witchcraft” tome out there covers the basic structure of setting up a ritual space; a container of sorts for you to do your workings in which is relatively safe for you and whomever else may be practicing with you. For many Pagans, that will include things like casting a circle, calling in the directions, calling in the Ancestors, and so on.

Most of these resources also include instructions for how to take this space back down again (I have Very Strong Opinions about the ones that tell you how to construct or summon things, but not how to make them go away again), but I have noticed that not as many of them give you guidance about what to do with the physical materials that are left over once a ritual or a spell is done. I feel this is something of an oversight, as the flowers and the water and the food offerings and the candle wax and so on are all still imbued with that lovely energy you poured into them, and to merely throw them out seems like a missed opportunity to me!

The following list contains some ideas for the cleaning up of spell components, more or less based on how I do things. If something else feels more appropriate to you, then by all means please do that! The important thing here is that you take a moment to consider what you think would best serve the intent that you are working towards.

Some General Considerations

  • The first thing I consider is the scope of the working. Am I performing this spell for a specific person, or is this a more general “my community needs more of this thing” scope?
  • If I have performed a spell for a specific person: Carefully gather up what remains of the components and give them to that person, usually contained in a scrap or fabric or a box, with instructions on what to do with said materials when they feel it is time to dispose of them.
  • If I have performed a spell for myself: Ditto the above.
  • If the working did not have a specific target: Depending on the intent of the working it may be useful to save things like candle wax to use again at a later date, for an extra energy boost.
  • I tend to do a lot of my candle spells while I am relaxing in the bathtub. If you are like me in this regard, it may be prudent to consider the order in which the bath is drawn and the candles are lit, and vice versa. Do you want some of your magic to go down the drain with your bathwater? Sometimes the answer is definitely yes! For general spells, I drain my bath water while the candle is still burning and then extinguish the candle once the bath is empty.

Some More Specific Suggestions

  • For rituals that have included food or drink offerings: if there is enough left to share with the living, by all means eat it! Witchcraft is hungry work, and many of us are very good cooks.
  • For intents involving drawing something to the person (a new job, a raise, new love): the “target” of the spell should keep the materials with them until they feel the spell has had its intended effect. This doesn’t have to be on their person, per se, but it should be somewhere safe.
  • For intents involving pushing something away (keep-away, discouraging street harassment, assistance with a difficult breakup): dispose of the leftover components in or near running water, if you can. If it’s safe to do so, flushing it down the toilet or putting it down the garbage disposal works a treat!
  • For intents involving a little help in the bedroom, for sex and/or baby-making: keep whatever you have worked up under your pillow or mattress, or in your nightstand if you have one.
  • For cleaning out containers that held candles, incense, salves, etc: wash or soak in a saltwater solution, then wash with regular old soap and water.
  • For sigils, or other magical writings: for “one-time use” sigils, I usually burn them in order to activate them. Once they have been completely burned up, I consider the ashes to be effectively null. For items that have seen longer-term use, I follow the “wash with saltwater, then the stain remover of your choice” method detailed above.

I hope some of these ideas are useful to you, or are getting you thinking about the habits you’ve built for yourself if you have a more established practice. Please add your own ideas in the comments– I would love to hear about your own process!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Fire and Air, Fire and Air

(For everyone else who grew up listening to Libana tapes in the car, you’re welcome for that earworm.)

The Air quarter has drawn to a close for my Initiate siblings and I, but I think my work with Guanyin is just beginning. She has brought me a tremendous amount of peace, during a time in my life where I desperately need that. She has taught me patience, and compassion, and the value of gentle silence (as someone who always has the radio on while they’re driving, that one took me a while).

Of the other deities I have worked with in the past, my relationship with Her has been unique. My patron deities thus far have been loud, brash, warrior types– Oya and Xango, for instance. But Guanyin’s presence has been so soft and so gentle that I almost didn’t realize that She was there at first. She sits right behind my heart, and simply… radiates. I have yet to hear Her speak in actual words. The boundless quality of Her love drives me to my knees and moves me to tears. I am humbled and inspired by it, and I hope to learn from Her for many months to come.

This patience and compassion has been a vital tool for me as we moved into the month of July, and into the quarter of Fire. This has historically been the portion of the Initiate cycle where things start to get really hard for everyone. We are weary and heart-sore after half a year of diving into our shadow selves. We have served on numerous rituals, and have been asked to take on bigger and more important roles in our community. I feel like I am racing to keep up with my own calendar, and I find myself not wanting to make plans with anyone for fear of double-booking myself. To that end, when the time came to choose our deity for Fire the first presence to step up and knock on my door was Hestia.

I am deeply introverted. I crave time to myself, in a place where I feel safe, in order to recharge my social batteries. My home is my sanctuary. In a time of my training where I am feeling desperately out of control, it should not be a shock that a hearth goddess made herself known to me!

I believe deeply in the importance of sanctuary and safer spaces, and of keeping the hearth fires burning. I am grateful for the times I have been able to open my home to members of my community who needed a quiet space, a friendly ear, or an offer to put the kettle on (as we say in my family, “if tea cannot fix it, then it is a serious problem indeed”). If you need someone to sit with you in companionable silence, I’m your fox.

I may not be the person who is out marching in the streets, but I can be here to care for the ones who are.

IMG_6097
What, doesn’t everyone do spellwork in the bathroom?

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Edible Book Report: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

I have been swimming in books.

Initiate year has been like being in school part-time, and with that comes lots and lots of books. Our Hive has a set of assigned titles that we all have to read and discuss through the years (the current one is… a bit of a slog), and in addition to that we have to complete an independent study of sorts, picked from a book list curated by current and former members of the CAYA clergy. I love this book list and all its diverse eclectic offerings– it was so hard to narrow down my choices! I will be returning to is over and over as I continue my studies, I’m sure.

The first book I picked was Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages and ages, so I was delighted to have a compelling reason to sit down with it. If you enjoy books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, this is definitely the book for you. Kingsolver’s memoir of sorts chronicles her family’s year-long experiment to only eat what they themselves could grow or buy from other local farmers, eating only what was in season or had been preserved from earlier harvests. It’s a celebration of getting back to working the earth, to getting back in touch with the cycles of growing things, and of being mindful of where our food comes from and the impact that has on the environment. It’s also packed with lots of beautiful recipes!

At times it comes across as being a little too self-congratulatory, especially in earlier chapters, but as the family starts to settle in to this experiment so does Kingsolver’s writing. It’s a fairly easy read, and gentle in most places; I read nearly the whole thing while on a trip to the East Coast last month, and it’s a perfect vacation read. There are lots of resources, both in the book and on the book’s website, for helping readers get started on their own food journeys; I particularly liked this website on urban gardening. It left me with a hunger for more involvement in how my food gets to my pantry, and a renewed interest in starting to grow some of my own food.

Knowing my own tendency to jump into projects head-first, I’m trying to start small; while my mother is an incredibly accomplished gardener, I… did not inherit her talents (by which I mean I kill succulents). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is packed full of recipes for all the growing seasons, and in particular a recipe for blackberry basil crumble caught my eye. I adore both of those things! Blackberries would be easy to forage, either from local wild spaces or from a kind friend or two, so knowing that I would want to make this dish for my beloved Hive at some point I bought a wee basil plant for my kitchen windowsill. As you can see, it didn’t stay wee for long:

IMG_5828

I’ve manage to keep my little green friend alive for nearly a month now, which I think might be a new record. I adore being able to grab a few leaves off it when I want a pop of something fresh and green, and the smell of fresh basil is one of my absolute most favorite scents in the world. If this continues to go well, I may even be brave enough to try growing something *gasp* outside.

And as for that crumble I mentioned, it was a huge hit. There were no leftovers, aside from some blackberry juice that got spilled on my passenger seat. I made a few modifications to the recipe, mostly due to the fact that I had to go gluten-free a few years ago; if you would like to try it for yourself, here you go!

Blackberry Basil Crumble (modified from Animal Vegetable Miracle’s recipe)

Filling
2-3 apples, chopped (I used a sweeter variety, to balance the tartness of the blackberries)
2 pints blackberries
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped
1/4 honey, to taste (you may want to add a little more, depending on the sweetness of your berries and apples)
To make this recipe vegan, swap out the honey for another sweetener. I think this would be marvelous with maple syrup, for example.

Crumble Topping
2 cups gluten-free oats
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
4tbsp cooking fat of your choice– I’ve made this topping with both butter and coconut oil, and both have worked beautifully

Preheat your oven to 400ºF (~205ºC). Combine the filling ingredients in an oven-proof casserole dish, mix, and set aside. In a separate bowl, add your topping ingredients and gently mix until a loose, crumbly mixture forms. Spread the topping on the fruit mixture, bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and brown and your whole house smells like summer.

As written, the recipe fed 8 hungry witches. We served it with big, gorgeous dollops of fresh whipped cream, and I suspect it would be phenomenal with really good vanilla ice cream too.

IMG_5826

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Solstice Magic: Dyeing With the Sun!

The Summer Solstice has arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere. Today we celebrate the longest day and the bright heat of the sun as we start our long, slow transition to the dark half of the year. We will also have a full moon, which feels especially potent and auspicious!

I do not enjoy the light half of the year. The sun’s warmth throws all of my shadowy corners into harsh relief, where I can’t tuck them safely into a dark corner and ignore them. I am happily at home in the dark, in the fall and the winter when everything is snuggled up tight and a quiet stillness takes over. I begin my day in the dark, and I return home in the dark. Now is the phase of the wheel of the year where I wrestle with my own demons the hardest; shadow work does not just take place in the shadows.

As I so often do when my emotions start to feel bigger than my body, I turn to making things. The power of the sun can be harnessed for all sorts of uses, both magical and mundane, and one of my favorite things to do on bright days is solar dyeing! Using solar energy to heat the water in a dye bath is a slow process, requiring patience and persistence, but when combined with botanical dyes it is one of the most ecologically sound ways of applying color to fiber around! Most of what you’ll need, you likely already have hanging around. For this activity, you’ll need to gather:

  • A container or vessel of some sort to hold the dye bath– large Mason jars work great for this
  • Water
  • Something to dye! Cotton is a great choice for this. Try an old t-shirt, a pair of socks, or some handkerchiefs. I often use plain white cotton handkerchiefs to do dye experiments with, as they are small and relatively inexpensive.
  • Dye material of some sort

And that’s basically it! This is a great time to rummage around in your kitchen and see what could be used as a dye material; I bet there is more in there than you think! Some ideas to get you started:

  • Onion skins
  • Black tea
  • Coffee
  • Blackberries
  • Turmeric
  • Mint

(A word of caution: botanical dyes are not terribly color-fast; in other words, the color will start to fade much faster than something dyed with synthetic dyes. There are a variety of methods you can use to treat your dye material to help it hold color; this process is called mordanting. Mordants can be somewhat irritating to your skin, so this step of the process should be done with adult supervision if dyeing is an activity you’d like to do with little witches– or, simply enjoy the ephemeral quality of nature’s hues! For more information on mordants, I highly recommend seeing about getting your paws on a copy of Sasha Duerr’s The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.)

For this round, I decided to try out a tea blend that contains hibiscus. The tea bags produce such a lovely fuchsia shade in my tea cup, so I had hopes that it would transfer to my fabric!

IMG_4816
If you are dyeing something you plan to use for a magical working, now is a great time to start working some of that intention into your dye bath. As you start to fill your dye vat with water, think about what you are making and what plans you might have for it; if you don’t have a specific project in mind, take a moment to revel in all that untapped potential!

Add your dye material to the vessel, then prepare your goods (that is, the stuff you want to color!). There are all kinds of wild and wonderful ways you can manipulate fiber to create different patterns– I could write several more posts about those! I still owe you all a post about my indigo dyeing adventures from a few months ago, so I will save the shibori talk for another day. For now, I encourage you as always to play and try whatever seems like a cool idea. When you are ready, add the material to be dyed and place your dye bath in an area where it will get as much sun as possible.

IMG_4824

If your materials don’t start releasing pigment right away, don’t worry! Some materials can take a while to reveal their colorful secrets.

Remember when I said this was an exercise in patience? This is the part where you walk away and forget about your dye bath. Leave it out there soaking up all that solar goodness for as long as you can stand it (or until you finally remember it’s out there; it’s okay, I won’t judge). When you finally can’t wait any longer, fish out your dyed material and admire your handiwork!

IMG_4835

If you applied any kind of resist technique to your work, this is the big moment of truth when you get to see how it all unfolds (sometimes literally). This is my absolute favorite part! Rinse your material in cool water, until the water runs clear, then carefully remove any stitching, binding, folding, clamping, or anything else you’ve applied.

IMG_4836

Let your material dry fully, and it’s ready for use!

IMG_4837

I loosely pleated a length of white cotton left over from another sewing project, and secured it with a rubber band to create a soft tie-dye effect. I didn’t have any particular use in mind when I set it into the dye bath, but I’m thinking I’ll use it as a wrap for one of my tarot decks.

Go forth and soak up that powerful Solstice energy! May you be blessed with radiant clarity and warmth, and may you be filled with renewed energy to go and walk whatever Path you are on at present. I cannot wait to see what you will make!

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune