The Wandering Hearthweaver

If I were someone who was given to metaphors, and I am, I would liken the experience of ordination to that of a snow globe; the various bits and pieces and glittery things that have been floating around in here were shaken up and swirled around, and all those little flecks are each settling and re-settling at their own pace. It’s been just over a month since I Did The Thing, and just in the past week have I started to feel some of the bigger pieces begin to settle.

As part of my service to myself, my community, and to the world, I have publicly dedicated to two deities: Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth, and Beiwe, the Sami reindeer mother and sun goddess. My relationship with both of these entities has deepened and grown stronger over my year of initiatory work (and indeed I have discovered they have both been with me for far longer than I knew), but having completed the rites and rituals to solidify my connection to them has been a whole other level!

Learning to navigate the ebb and flow of these two personalities who now reside solidly in my head has been and continues to be a rewarding challenge. Hestia and Beiwe have many things in common, and I experience their energies in similar ways, but the new emotion I have been struggling with the most is a newfound urge to wander.

I have always been a homebody, content to stay in and tend to my home and my family; I’ve enjoyed the travels I’ve been on, but I have always eager to return home. This new pull, though, it has a wild, untamed edge. I go for long, rambling walks. I stop and stare at things which flash and flit at the edge of my vision. I get distracted from a family Easter egg hunt and spend two hours visiting the local land spirits and making myself at home with them. This new pull frightens me a little.

Like many things, this fear is likely grounded in my desire to not lose or change my connection with my lady Hestia; if I follow Beiwe’s call and go off into the land, who will tend the fires? Who will keep the wards maintained? Will I still be welcomed back at the fire when I return? Hestia’s answer to this, of course, is simply “yes”, but while my brain may hear this my heart does not yet.

The truth She is slowly revealing to me is that the hearth is not a singular place; the hearth and the hearth fire is what you carry with you into the world.

It is the quiet strength of the warder, who works to keep sacred space safe.
It is the compassion of a smile given to someone who is out on the streets.
It is the warmth of a care package, delivered to a loved one who is ill.
It is an open ear, and a kind word, and a hard truth delivered with love.
It is the ability to create and tend the hearth where the hearth is most needed.

And so, my friends, the time has come to trust in my training and give in to this wild wilfulness. In a few days, I will be packing up my car and heading on a grand adventure north! My final destination is Portland and the newest location of The Sacred Well, but along the way I will be making a stop to visit my beloved teacher and friend Yeshe Matthews for a day of Deer Mother work and much-needed socializing. I cannot wait!

Not to worry, my friends and loved ones in the Silicon Valley, this is not a permanent adventure! When I return I hope to bring stories and laughter and late-night magic, and perhaps a song or two. If you wish to follow along on my adventures, check in on my Instagram feed! I’ll be sharing photos and videos of my travels there, using the hashtag #TheWanderingHearthweaver. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you!

When a female reindeer senses it is time to give birth, she calls the others in her herd to her and leads them to a space where it is safe to bring new life into the world. Oh my Great Mother, please show me the way.

In Joyful Service,
Kitsune

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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.

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

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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

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

Our Hands Remember

I’ve been thinking about my hands a lot.

The process of learning to sew has left my fingers stiff and aching, the skin at the edges of my thumb and index fingers (where my needle rests) raw and peeling. My hands don’t know these movements yet, and they ache with the pain of learning.

But they know other motions. They have other memories.

I’m a student of the martial arts. My knuckles are scarred and calloused from bag work and conditioning drills. My fingernails are trimmed short and filed down, with at most a new moon sliver of new growth. My right middle finger is slightly crooked from the time it got partially dislocated a few years ago.

I’m a dyer. The beds of my nails are still stained a faint blue from the indigo dyeing I did over Easter weekend. My skin is dry from repeated dunks into dye baths and mordanting solutions. I have dirt under my fingernails from foraging for dye materials, and from tending to my budding dye garden.

I’m a knitter. My hands know the motions of knit and purl as easily as I know how to draw breath. They are calloused and grooved from hours of knitting needles resting against my fingers, of wool slipping through them, of making warm things to keep those I love cozy.

I’m a kitchen witch. My hands always seem to smell faintly herbal, no matter how much I wash them. My wrists and my forearms are strong from chopping, mixing, kneading, lifting heavy roasting pans.

Our hobbies shape our hands. They tell our stories– of where we’ve been, what’s important to us, where we’re going.

Our hands remember.

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