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.

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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:

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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.

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In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

Swords, First Dates, and Freeway Overpasses

(I promise these things are related. Stay with me here.)

Two weeks ago, at our April Initiate meeting, our initiator asked us, “what can you tell me about Air?”.

An array of answers tumbled out of our mouths. The element we invoke when we invoke East. Clarity. Strength. Flexibility. Decisiveness. The suite of Swords, in the Rider-Waite tarot (my favorite of the four suites, but that’s another post for another day).

Then, an even more interesting question. What were some deities we associated with air?

This was where our answers started to diverge. We spanned many pantheons, and many cultures. Oya. Skaði. The Morríghan. Hermes. Brigid. Hecate. Some names sprang to the tongue immediately, while others came later.

As we were thinking, our initiator told us that for the next few months we would be exploring a relationship with one of these deities through the connection of this element. My Hivemates and I all froze, and locked wide eyes with each other. This was the first real bit of Serious Working we had been asked to do as part of our training year. Some of us have established devotional relationships with various deities, while some of us direct our magical workings toward a larger concept (“Goddess” versus a particular goddess, for example). None of us really had any experience with directly courting a deity to see if they were interested in pursuing a relationship; as is often the case, Deity found us rather than the other way around.

Once our initial moment of panic subsided, we talked about it. We might have an idea for who we want to learn more about, but while casting around for a particular power it’s important not to miss any signs that might already be in your life. Look for confirmations or clues; there might be Someone or Something already knocking on your magical front door. Exploring this new relationship is like any other first date: if you don’t like what you’re seeing or hearing, you are totally within your rights to get up and leave. You can say “no”. This is not an ordination or a marriage contract; we’re not swearing any kinds of vows here.

We all left class with a lot to chew on. One of my Hivemates knew immediately who she wanted to work with, and got right to it. Another thought she knew too, but wound up taking a different direction. I left with a tentative idea that pursuing a deeper relationship with Guanyin (or Quan Yin, as it’s often spelled) might be to my benefit; I can certainly use more compassion in my life, and I have been struggling fiercely with my anxiety these past few weeks.

Within a few days of this assignment, I found myself feeling… hmm, somewhat desaturated? I do not mean this in a negative light, but rather like the volume of everything has been turned down to a more manageable level. Like I had been surrounded by eye-searing neons, but now found myself wrapped in softer, more dusky colors (which have long been some of my favorites, being the hues easiest to achieve with botanical dyes). My sleep has started to improve– I’m falling asleep faster, and I’m sleeping more deeply. I found some new clarity in a particular kata sequence I had been struggling with in my Shotokan practice.

I was thinking about all these things while I was walking to my car earlier this week. The building where I work doesn’t have enough parking for everyone, so I park my car in an offsite lot and walk a few blocks to and from the office, a practice I have really come to enjoy. Along this route I have to walk along an overpass spanning a very busy freeway, and I often stop for a minute to look down at all the cars whizzing past and to enjoy the rush of air that comes from all that motion.

Finding a moment of stillness and centering while all that air rushes over me, tugging at my jacket, my hair, a little piece of my soul.

…all that Air.

Okay, I think I can recognize an omen when I see one. I don’t yet know what form this work will take, or where it’s going, but I’m certainly interested in continuing to pursue this teaching if I’m already feeling calmer and more centered.

Guanshiyin, She Who Hears the Cries of the World,  I’m listening.

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune