Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Rigs o' Barley

It was on a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held away to Annie:
The time flew by, wi' tentless heed,
Till 'tween the late and early;
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
an' corn rigs are bonie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o' barley
I ken't her heart was a' my ain;
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kissed her owre and owre again,
Among the rigs o' barley.


I locked her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o' barley.
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night,
Amang the rigs o' barley.


I hae been blythe wi' comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu' gath'rin gear;
I hae been happy thinking:
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho three times doubl'd fairley
That happy night was worth then a'.
Amang the rigs o' barley.


-Robert Burns, May 25, 1777

Photo of a Scottish barley field courtesy of tubblesnap on flickr.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lammas Lore

Lammas is definitely not my favorite sabbat, due mostly to the fact that it's usually scorchingly hot here which leaves one with little energy to devote to a celebration. But that doesn't mean I won't be baking loaves of wheat and multi-grain breads in honor of the day (despite the torture of turning on my oven on a really hot day), though I probably won't be doing much else. That said, like any of the sabbats, if you look deep enough you'll always find some truly odd bits of lore that are much darker than our modern observances, and that makes any festival day more interesting.

We may celebrate Lammas with the baking of grain bread or the making of corn dollies but the ancients celebrated it much differently. Thinking of marrying someone but not sure you're ready to commit your life to them? Tradition holds that you may begin a "trial marriage" on Lammas that lasts but a year and a day, ending on the following Lammas, at which point you must then decide whether to stay in the marriage permanently or kick your temporary partner to the curb.

Sacrifices have always been a part of the observation of this sabbat, not only to thank the Goddess and the God for abundances past, but also to ensure that the coming harvest will be a success and thus enable ourselves and our loved ones to survive the winter. At one time it would have been the king, god incarnate to his people, who was sacrificed, but with a substitute used in place of the actual king. In the year 1100, however, King William II after having publicly declared his disdain for Christianity and declaring himself a pagan, was killed in a suspicious hunting accident on August 1. Historians believe that his was a sacrifice in disguise for the benefit of the Christian church.

And then, of course, there's the Catherine Wheel. After the day's festivities were over, a large wagon wheel would have been taken to the top of the nearest hill, covered with tar, set ablaze and ceremoniously rolled down the hill into the village. This was symbolic of the sun or the Sun God himself in decline as autumn approaches.

I plan on keeping my husband well past next week and without any sacrifices or flaming wheels, my Lammas will undoubtedly be pretty boring. I do look forward to some lovely loaves of homemade bread though. Whatever you choose to do for the sabbat, rejoice in the passing of one season and welcome the coming of the next.

Photo of wheat courtesy of k.barker on flickr.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


"That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment."

And so too is this blog. To be perfectly honest, I don't handle change well. I like the familiar and the wonderfully comfortable and I'd be thrilled if a great deal of my life never changed so much as one iota from day to day or even year to year. Granted, this is odd coming from someone who finds the changing of the seasons and the cycles of the earth so beautiful to experience, but I don't need to personally fret over the details of Mother Earth because I'm not in control of her. I am however in control of my blogs, or so I thought at any rate, and as such I tend to fuss over every last little thing because I'm a perfectionist in addition to being willingly and blissfully stuck in a rut.

The other day, in a very uncharacteristic moment, I thought it might be fun to change my blog. Then I remembered what a pain in the ass I am and decided it would be far less stressful to just let it be. So, it was with great annoyance, as well as quite a bit of surprise at the timing, that I received a note today informing me that the website from which I had gotten my background templates for two of my three blogs is shutting down and I had only a few hours to either find something new or find myself with two hideously plain blogs. And after hours of test-driving templates, I have come up with nothing I truly like. I'm not terribly fond of this gray, but as I'm not a frou-frou kind of girl, finding something simple isn't easy. I miss my warm orange blog. I miss the earthy colors I had grown so used to. I find this gray rather depressing, but in trying to roll with it, I'm going to take a lesson from the Buddha: "Nothing stays the same so get over it already" (obviously, I'm paraphrasing here). And one day, hopefully soon, I'll find the template that warms my heart once more. And it might not be gray.

Many thanks to the incredible Pema Chodron for that quote.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Essential Oils

Lately I seem to be on an essential oil bender. I'm adding to my collection of them at an alarming rate and I'm enjoying reading up on the properties of the various oils and what they can do for me magickally. Frankly, I'm having more fun with this than any witch should be allowed to have.

I'm dabbling with recipes for rituals, magickal purposes and even for anointing candles that I plan to make come fall when the weather isn't nearly so scorching. Many years ago I made my own pillars and hand-dipped tapers in hand mixed colors that made my heart skip a little beat to look at them, and now with all these enchanting scents I'm collecting, I'll be able to make them smell equally as beautiful. But I digress...

Here is a very brief list of some of my current favorites, but trust me, at the speed I am going, this personal hit parade of mine is sure to change before you can even bat an eye.

Frankincense. A staple in any essential oil collection. Rich, with incredible depth, it's used for enhancing spirituality and meditative states.

Jasmine. This is the oil of the moon and the dark of the night. A sensual and heady scent used for love, peace and spirituality blends. Very expensive but worth the price when used sparingly.

Lemon. Another moon oil that smells simply delicious. This is a purifying and healing oil. Scott Cunningham suggests wearing diluted lemon oil during the full moon to attune with its energies.

Patchouli. My all-time favorite scent, and if you saw how many boxes of patchouli stick incense I go through annually, you'd probably be shocked. An incredibly earthy scent, this oil is used for physical energy blends. Oddly, I find it very calming. And I like to think that this is what heaven (or summerland, if you prefer) will smell like.

Sandalwood. Ancient and sacred, this oil raises spiritual vibrations, and is very calming and healing. Rich and woody.

Yarrow (see previous post for more on yarrow). Yarrow essential oil is a very pretty shade of blue, smells heavenly and is very expensive. Use it in love and courage spells as well as psychic-enhancing blends.

Photo courtesy of Helena Liu on flickr.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"The pretty herb of Venus' tree,
Thy true name it is yarrow,
Now who my bosom friend must be,
Pray tell thou me to-morrow."

J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps, 1820-1889

Having spent the better part of the last two weeks working daily in my witch's garden, so named because I grow in it only those flowers and herbs that serve my magickal and/or medicinal purposes, I thought it a good time to talk about one of my favorite plants to work with, and one I use all the time. To anyone who visits my home, this garden looks just like a big, beautiful and very colorful field garden but it is, in fact, a very practical plot of land. So much is in bloom right now: hyssop and valerian, bergamot and echinacea, false indigo and heliopsis, thistles and poppies, and yarrow, to name a few. And it's the yarrow I'd like to talk about today as this is one very versatile and potent little plant.

As yarrow vibrates to the energy of both air and Venus, it is best used in spells that are spoken aloud. Speak loudly and clearly and let your intentions be carried on the wind. And any herb that is influenced by Venus is most potent for love spells and any spells that involve the emotions. Hanging yarrow over your bed will draw to you the love of your life and if you're getting married, hang a bundle over your bridal bed to ensure your love stays strong for at least seven years (though hopefully it will last a lifetime!).

Yarrow is said to increase your psychic ability and powers of perception when drunk as an herbal tea. Burn the flowers themselves and the direction of the smoke will predict your future: smoke that rises means good luck will come your way, smoke that floats downward indicates the opposite. Dried yarrow sticks made from the woody stems of the plant have been used for centuries in divining the I Ching. Because yarrow is such a spiritual plant, it was considered perfect for this purpose.

If you're in need of protection, yarrow is your herb. Want to purify your home or circle or cleanse a negative situation? Burn yarrow in ritual or carry the plant on your person in a small talisman or conjure bag. Even just a small sprig in your pocket will work, too. Yarrow wards off fear, evil and negative energy and is a powerful and dynamic element to include in any spells cast to work this magick. It can protect you from hexes and black magick aimed at you. Throw yarrow stems and flowers across the threshold of your home to protect your house from evil or tie a swag of it over your front door to do the same.

Please note that for some individuals, yarrow can be a skin irritant. If you have sensitive skin, handle with care or wear gloves when working with this plant. Likewise, unless you are sure that you are not allergic to yarrow, do not drink a tea made from it. Please use common sense and care.

Photo courtesy of doglington on flickr.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Saturn in Virgo

I've been reading some of the comments I received for yesterday's post and have been giving Life (with a capital L) some serious thought. I tend to do this all the time anyways, but for the last few hours I seem to be dwelling on it even a bit more than I usually do. One remark in particular is resonating with me, that 'strange events are making it very difficult to continue on our intended life path' (thanks Vipera).

I hadn't given a tremendous amount of thought to the fact that Saturn is wrapping up its stint in Virgo later this month (July 21). Sure, I had in passing thought of a few dramatic changes that I made when Saturn first entered this sign back in September of 2007, as well some closure I've been having with other aspects of my life lately whose timing was at first suspect. But did I dig much deeper? No. Clearly, this is an event that is stirring up some chaos in our lives. Maybe only chaos on a personal level that wouldn't mean much to others, but can be, for ourselves, quite dramatic and often upsetting.

Saturn is the planet that rules our endings and completions. And Virgo is the astrological sign of order, fussiness and getting things accomplished. Together these two are very powerful at propelling us along our life's path towards our personal destinies and seeing things through to their ultimate conclusion. This is the perfect time to reflect on what is important in your life, to jettison what you no longer need and to accept those things that you cannot easily change because maybe, just maybe, you are meant to carry these things with you a bit longer than you had planned. If Saturn isn't seeing fit to guide you to a conclusion right now, then you simply aren't ready for it to happen yet. You may not like what Saturn is throwing in your face right now, but keep in mind that in just under two weeks Saturn will be in Libra, which is a gentler, more compassionate and emotionally balanced sign that will hopefully help to iron out the weird turns of event that many of us seem to be experiencing as the end of this current phase approaches.

Photo courtesy of evinoryan88 on flickr.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who's Driving?

I'm something of a control freak and it makes me feel good to operate under the delusion that I'm always in the driver's seat. I like to plan every little detail and I like things to go the way I expect them to, but as life is frequently messy, that is often not the case. And I'm of the belief that everything happens for a reason.

I've owned poultry for the last ten years and I decided a couple of years ago that I didn't want to shoulder the burden of caring for them anymore. When I first began my backyard bird experiment, it was exciting as hell. I enjoyed the quaint ideal of raising the birds and occasionally breeding them, having fresh, organic eggs every day and sharing the surplus with friends. But the back-to-basics lifestyle came with a price: daily barn cleaning, bathing birds, feeding and watering birds multiple times a day regardless of the weather, my own health or available time, and caring for sick and aging chickens and ducks. As my last birds are well into their golden years with only a rare egg laid, the decision was made to let them all pass on in their own time and then I would turn the barn into a much-needed garden shed and their run into a fertile and vigorous vegetable garden. I even planned what vegetables I would grow, so detailed was my plan. So I've waited patiently and given my fowls' current ages, figured it would be only a couple of years, give or take a bit, before I am finally poultry-free. So tell me, what are the odds that one of those rare eggs would be deeply hidden in the bedding by a duck hen, go unnoticed and uncollected for the last month and then hatch a baby duckling, in an extended heatwave, all by itself? And not just any duckling, but a special needs duck with a malformed bill and a bit of trouble eating all by itself?

This was not in my long-range plan. I have spent years taking in unwanted birds and birds with special needs. I was nearly through and ready to move on to the next stage of my life. If this new baby survives, I'll be looking at possibly another six years at least before I no longer have poultry. And trust me, I couldn't give this duck away as no one will be interested in a bird with a bad bill who needs help at feeding time. No, it's mine to care for. So what's the lesson in this turn of events? What is the universe telling me? I'm not sure. Maybe it's as simple as my being meant to continue to care for unwanted poultry; the birds that others so easily throw away. I don't know.

I frequently get into discussions with those people in my life who don't believe that everything happens for a reason. They'll tell me that things "just happen" and it doesn't have to mean anything. I always disagree and when I ask them why they think this, I get a "just because." That's the pat answer that parents use when their children ask questions that they either don't want to answer or don't know the answer to. And although none of us knows for sure, including me, that isn't going to change my mind on this. I will always believe that everything happens for a reason, even if we don't always know what that reason is or want to admit to ourselves that this is the case. It's a part of our journey here, the good stuff and the not necessarily happy surprises that are thrown at us. Like my newest four days young little pet.

Clearly I'm not the one in the driver's seat, am I?