Biannual update

It’s about that time, right? COVID-19 is still a thing, my kids are attending school remotely and I’m working remotely and we all have Zoom fatigue at this point. My January/February resolution to avoid buying in bulk and overstocking the pantry was exactly the wrong choice for 2020 and I went so hard in the other direction, it’s starting to look like we’re preppers.

On a personal note, my dad passed away in July (from ongoing heart problems, not COVID) and my mom, who is in the early stages of dementia/Alzheimer’s, is now living with us. (All their pantry items and bulk purchases have also come to my door as we begin clearning out their house.) Taking on the management of my parents’ house and finances and Dad’s final affairs and Mom’s ongoing needs is… a lot. Wiccan practice looks different for me right now. I don’t necessarily have the time or the mental energy to devote to reading stacks of books and thinking deep thoughts (and writing pages and pages about them), as I once did. Now it’s more like stolen moments, writing brief notes as I read here and there because I can’t keep ideas in my head, developing a small solo practice rather than planning and leading coven rituals.

In related news, MoonFire coven has been continuing to meet via Zoom, except for the briefest of visits last weekend: masks, socially distanced, outdoors when possible, the whole nine. It’s so good to see people’s faces. In-person gatherings are going to be all kinds of fraught at the end of this. I’m hearing that this is what most covens across several traditions are doing now: almost exclusively Zoom meetups (sometimes ritual, sometimes just conversation, sometimes group meditations and astral temple work), including meeting seekers. Some have met seekers on Zoom, some are asking seekers to wait. At least one coven has begun an online outer court.

Where my not-coven goes from here, I don’t know. Today I’ve revised the Resources page a bit to provide signposts for seekers, and I’m rethinking the hyperlocal focus I’ve had for the page. As I’ve explained, my major goal was to create the resources I wished I had 15+ years ago. Recently I’ve been wondering how useful that actually is to people who are not me, and I’ve been thinking about what other goals would be worthwhile.

And so it goes. Next month it will be 20 years since my very first Samhain ritual. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined the path from that moment to this one. Here’s to the next 20 years.

A pandemic check-in

(This blog is good for updates about every six months, it seems.)

It’s been about six weeks since the world collapsed and the phrases “due to COVID-19” and “in these uncertain times” entered the lexicon. At work on March 11, at the end of the day, I gathered up anything that I might need to work from home for the foreseeable future, and I’ve been working remotely every day since. We’ve all gotten real familiar with Zoom, a tool my office had already been using. About two weeks ago, I remembered the Larabar in my desk — in a sealed container, to guard against mice — and wondered if I’d be back in my office before it went bad.

For the first couple weeks of quarantine, I took my kids’ temperatures daily. One of them had a fever, but it turned out to be a regular little-kid sort of fever with just a bit of a cough, and it cleared up quickly. We bought extra bottles of children’s cold and cough medicine, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, but thankfully, haven’t needed them. Nor have we needed the big bottles of regular acetaminophen or NyQuil, the Vernors or saltines.

Not to mention my gratitude that we’re back in our own house for all this. The restoration company made an effort to get us here by Christmas; we moved back in on December 23, with most of our stuff arriving on December 26. In January, we unpacked. In February, we really settled in. By early March, there were only a few things we hadn’t gotten around to re-buying (although one of them was yeast).

My husband, the store-enterer of our family, made sure we were also stocked up with Lysol, Clorox wipes, toilet paper when he found some, and the other quarantine necessities: Canned goods. Milk. Eggs. Flour. I began a sourdough starter but stuck it in the fridge when our quest for active dry yeast was successful (a 2-lb brick!). I began and abandoned a crochet project. I sprayed all the door handles and light switches with Lysol and washed everyone’s bedding. I started wiping down the counters more often (possibly because there’s more happening in the kitchen), using a cleanser with bleach after once-a-week grocery trips. I wipe down all our groceries before putting them away (even if I don’t really need to). I placed an order with King Arthur Flour, but not for flour; they were all out. The first week, I ordered a cookbook for my kids, and we’ve been cooking and baking from it: quesadillas, oven-baked chicken drumsticks, banana bread, brownies, cupcakes from a mix. Then I really got into the baking spirit and made beer bread, a no-yeast baking powder bread (turned out like a huge biscuit), cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, gooey chocolate pudding cake, and pizza dough. If we can get a lot of eggs I’ll bake a whole loaf of bread just to use it for French toast.

The kids have a big yard to play in, although they miss their friends and family. I was signed up to participate in an in-person Couch to 5K program that went virtual after Michigan’s governor declared a state of emergency, and although I was disappointed to miss out on a chance to run with other people, I clicked with the training program and my running has been going really well. It also means that I’m out of doors three days a week, running on paved trails, choosing the less popular routes and keeping 6 feet away from anyone else (the trails are busy on nice days but almost empty in bad weather).

I did not turn to witchcraft for comfort in the early days of the pandemic. Perhaps my knowledge of the effectiveness of Clorox and Lysol and plain old soap obviated a need for purification charms, and after we made it through the first 14 days or so without showing symptoms, all we needed to do was stay inside. I had been scheduled to lead MoonFire’s Rite of the Vernal Equinox, but in perhaps more panic than I realized at the time, I left it to our HPS to convert it to a Facebook Live event instead. The only magick I did in the first month of quarantine was the kind you do to clean and sanitize everything as best you can, even things you didn’t think needed cleaning and sanitizing before. The kind you do to simmer chili and mix dough, in wild-eyed desperation to ensure that you can feed your family, despite the existence of sliced bread, Easy Mac, canned vegetables, a well-stocked freezer, and excellent French dip sandwiches at the local bar (now open for takeout only).

With the gym closed, my regular yoga class has been happening over Zoom, too, and my yoga teacher went all in for an amazing moon-based practice on the night of early April’s full moon. Something caught in me during that yoga practice, and the old mantra rose up: Remember who you are. The magick slowly flowed back. I snapped out of something just long enough to realize I’d been in it.

Make no mistake, I didn’t wake up and somehow become OK despite the state of things. I’m still stress-baking and spending more time on Twitter than is probably healthy. But I did remember that I have some small measure of power. I recognized that I was doomscrolling and started respecting the screen time limits I had set for myself. I spent a weekend curled up in my reading chair, snuggled in a soft blanket with a cup of coffee, catching up on Triumph of the Moon for Thorn Mooney’s Patreon book club. (And I finally joined the Discord.) I made a point of doing more active self-care — as a former freelancer, I’m a veteran of the remote working trenches and have passed through the braless-in-sweatpants phase, the never-changed-out-of-pajamas phase, and the shaving-is-tyranny phase and have risen from the depths into the comfy-matchy-activewear-outfits phase. I’ve been real attentive to showering and hair removal, recognizing that jeans and bras are indeed unnecessary but I feel better (and am less apt to sink into depression) when I’m clean, cute, and ready to (theoretically) leave the house at a moment’s notice. It’s also time to break out the fancy skincare samples, to use the good lotion, the good shower gel, the good shampoo and conditioner and hair masks. I added in nail polish and got used to seeing painted nails again. (This is maybe inconsistent with all the extra cleaning, since the nail polish chips off right away, but who’s going to see the chips?)

So I’m somewhere in between quarantine camps. I’m working remotely, so it’s not like I have hours of the day to fill, but no one in my family is sick right now, so I have enough leisure time to think about how to structure my day.

I’m now working on my evening routine: shining the sink (yes, really), setting up the coffeepot, and spending a few minutes performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and picking up my meditation practice again. On Facebook, Lon Milo DuQuette is going live every day to read from The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed ben Clifford for the Fraternal Order of Sequestered Mystics; you can catch up on his page. He’s already read through My Life with the Spirits (those videos are also available). Rather than ordering new books, I’m working through my TBR pile. I’m drawing a Tarot card in the mornings and working on my shuffling. As the resident Zoom expert, I set up a coven meeting for Beltane, so we’ll at least see each other’s faces.

And so things go for now.

Where I’ve been in 2019

Thursday’s news post has opened the gates a little. As I’ve said in some prior posts, I’m spending less time in thinking about things by my lonesome and more time in actually doing things with my coven, so there’s less to write about. However, my goal in maintaining this site at all is to be a signpost, a beacon for others. Regular updates are important to assuring seekers that I’m still here, information is still current, and contacting me to ask questions might be fruitful. I should make regular updates.

I mentioned in March’s post that my family had about one health crisis a month in the first part of the year. Since then, the hits have kept on coming.

In April, I interviewed for a new part-time job — a big deal, since I’d been a full-time freelancer and running my own business for six years at that point — and in May, I started that job (in East Lansing, more than an hour’s drive) and started pruning my business back to part-time. Since May, I’ve been driving to East Lansing about twice a week and working from home and running my business the rest of the time. (I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts.)

On a Sunday night in the first days of June, my family had a “small” house fire, caused by the vent fan in our bathroom. (All people, pets and, later, plants made it out of the house safely.) The fire department came quickly and showed some real skill and care in not only putting out the fire but saving the contents of the house, as much as possible. There was damage to the roof above the bathroom, and I thought this would be a small thing, quickly repaired. Instead the water and smoke damage was more extensive and our entire house was emptied — I’m grateful to be working with a restoration company that fully handled this — and each item evaluated for damage, then either deemed unsalvageable or cleaned and stored. Clothes, books, food, furniture, kids’ toys, everything. A complete new roof was put on, drywall in most of the house was torn down and replaced, lights and wiring were torn out and replaced, and we’ve just now chosen paint for all of the rooms. We’re hoping to move back in November, and from there we will continue to evaluate what was saved and what was lost.

The fire has been a blessing in disguise. My kids had been asking to move (neighbor kids moved away and I think mine wanted to know what the experience was like). Well, we’re sort of moving now. I’d been planning to KonMari the house, sorting through the kids’ toys and my craft closet and basement storage. Now it’s been halfway done for me. A number of honey-do projects around the house simply disappeared (such as replacing floor vents in the bedrooms or steam-cleaning carpet in the basement; the floor vents are all being replaced, as is the flooring in the bedrooms, and there’s no longer carpet in the basement), and we’ve taken the opportunity to rearrange rooms and how they’re used (not moving walls or anything). After a concurrent renovation, since the house is torn up anyway, we’ll regain the use of a basement bathroom. We’ll end up with a house that’s better for us in the long run.

In July, in the midst of all this, I successfully underwent the rite of elevation to the second degree in Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca. In some ways I am still digesting this. I waited so long for first-degree initiation that I was 250% ready for that ritual, to call myself an initiate and to carry myself through the world as an initiate. Second came more quickly — not undeserved (which my initiators emphasized), just without years of buildup and waiting, I think. So there are some elements of figuring out what I’m doing here, where I need to work on myself. Who I’m gonna be when I grow up. In the past few months, it’s felt more like stepping into the power that I’ve always had but wouldn’t acknowledge, or like I’m doing and saying the same things I always have but they now carry more weight, more authority.

August and September were filled with house-related tasks, hope that restoration would be done soon (it wasn’t), work (both in-house and freelance), and my kids going back to school. In August, my husband Hlevang and I presented a Lammas main ritual at Detroit Pagan Pride Day, with about 30 people in attendance. In September, I came home from a run and slipped on the stairs in my socks, breaking my pinky toe. By now it’s mostly healed, but achy if I walk any long distance, and I haven’t been able to return to running yet. Also in September, we attended Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day, but we weren’t facilitating any rituals this year and (partially because of my broken toe) I didn’t read Tarot. Not as much of a public appearance as prior years.

All through this, I’ve also been at Artes & Craft, attending or facilitating rituals, as well as participating in rituals with MoonFire. In another post, I’ll talk a little bit about solitary practices that I’m maintaining (with varying degrees of success).

Yahoo Groups shutting down

I’m breaking my silence here with the news that Yahoo will be deleting all Groups content on December 14, 2019. According to a Yahoo support document, which also explains that files, photos, message digests, and message history (among other content) will be deleted, you won’t be able to upload additional content as of October 28 — that’s 11 days from now — and all groups will become private or restricted instead of public. Groups will still technically exist, but new members can only be added by invitation. And, of course, a group’s archives will no longer be available.

This is relevant because Amber & Jet, which was once a great resource for seekers (and one I link on the Resources page) is still on Yahoo Groups. A&J has existed for 20 years now, and although the days of hundreds of A&J messages sent per month were a solid decade ago, the archives yielded wisdom for seekers willing to deal with Yahoo’s terrible search features. (They were barely usable even then. The better solution was to sign up for the list with a Gmail address, read messages as they come in for a few years, then use Gmail’s search features to find messages in your email archive. Alas.) Teresa and Eddie, the owners of the A&J list, are downloading the archives and looking for somewhere to move the list; in a post this morning, Eddie assured list members that he would not let the information gathered on the list over the years be “vaporized” on a whim.

So, where the hell is everyone these days? That’s a question I’ve been somewhat lazily asking for the past five years or so. I don’t know that there’s any similarly central location. Plenty of folks have moved to Facebook, although there are also folks who refuse to have anything to do with Facebook. (Let’s just say it’s not the place to be if you have any concern about being outed as a witch. Facebook does not respect that boundary and will show your racist, bigoted uncle that you’ve RSVP’d yes to next weekend’s Full Moon event or suggest that your Christian friends add you even if you’re posting under a Pagan pseudonym, to take two real-life examples.)

The thing to do is, likely, find BTW folks on whatever platform you’re already on. If you’re not on Facebook or not joining Pagan groups there, check out #witchesofinstagram and #wiccansofinstagram (and similar hashtags on Instagram), groups.io (which may be absorbing a number of groups from Yahoo), and r/TraditionalWicca on Reddit, which may end up more active now and has seen several blogs and resources posted in the past week. I’m honestly not sure about Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Discord, MeWe, or the state of the Pagan blogosphere beyond Patheos Pagan, but you can likely follow some breadcrumbs in these resources to find something worthwhile.

If you are on Facebook, you have some more seeker-friendly options, listed from very general to Michigan-specific:

When you request to join, be sure to answer any questions that may be part of the joining process; you don’t have to write a heartfelt essay, but do be sincere and represent yourself honestly. Once you’re a member, in all of these groups except Tarot Nerds, you can post that you’re a seeker (include your location) and someone might be willing to connect you with whatever BTW folks might be nearby. Again, however, the answer may be that the closest groups to you are several hours’ drive away — for example, the Gardnerian group has a list of covens willing to talk to seekers; some states have 5–10 listed, and some states have none at all.

[Here I had mentioned the Michigan listings on Witchvox, but as of early 2020, Witchvox has also shut down. Witchvox was of a similar vintage as Yahoo Groups and did not verify or even weed out old listings, but there were listings for covens and groups that still existed and welcomed seekers. Mandragora Magika has stepped up to provide some coven/group listings.] Pagan Pride Day season has passed, but events are held annually in August and September in Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. Each PPD event has open rituals to attend and vendors to shop at and chat with.

Again, my Resources page has some more info for seekers; I’ll be adding some of these resources to that page. More news on A&J as it develops. (And, hey, maybe some more regular posting from me. I’m starting to get the itch again.)

Spring tidying and catch-up

I’ve definitely been feeling the rising tides of spring. Serious housecleaning started last fall, when we adopted a kitten who was likely to get into all sorts of small hiding places if I didn’t clean and move things to reduce the number of hiding places. It continued in November and December, when the plan to have family over for holiday dinners created an intense need for the house to look absolutely perfect. (I have kids, so it doesn’t ever reach perfection, but you have to try.)

So things were ticking along nicely when we had a series of family health crises: in January, my dad was hospitalized for about two weeks with heart problems (he’s now recovering well at home); in February, my husband’s grandmother had cancer for the sixth and final time; in March, my mother-in-law slipped and fell on some ice in her driveway, breaking her knee (she’s also recovering at home). Each event has been a pretty damn big deal.

The past few months have been instructive for me in caring for people I love, for maintaining family connections and support networks, and also for not immediately rushing to solve everything and do all the heavy lifting myself. (I was really glad I was starting from a mostly clean house, though, instead of coming home and freaking out about the mess.)

In the meantime, I’ve taken over the writing and performance of regular public Full Moon rituals at Artes & Craft. Because of family stuff, I’ve only performed one of the three I’ve written so far, but they’ve all been well received. On Saturday, my husband (Hlevang, who has stepped up to be my working partner) and I led the Vernal Equinox ritual, part of the Provider Cycle, a Chthonioi-specific bit of liturgy. I’m kinda still processing my experience of that, but the short version is that I feel like I’ve leveled up as a priestess, both for being able to pull off the ritual (attending to all the details, from baking cakes and buying flowers to coordinating ritual roles and blocking) and for the actual magickal experience that the doing of it gave me.

Which brings me to one of the reasons I’m writing here today. I’m busier than I ever have been, but because much of this work involves other people, I am far more hesitant to blog about it. I still think and process by writing about things, but I keep that writing private these days. Much has changed, in me personally and in the world at large, since I started this blog. I’m not really sure what the direction of it should be — except I do still want some sort of signpost out there, some way for seekers to find me.

I’ve done some site updates and added some dates to the Upcoming Events calendar. What happens next, I’m not sure, but I’ll say that my weekends are pretty well booked for much of 2019.

The year ahead: building

It’s the season for Year Ahead Tarot spreads (if you didn’t do one at Samhain). Here’s one from The Wild Unknown, which is also a deck I got for Yule! I laid down the cards one space to the right, so they go around like the numbers on a clock face, and mine actually looked more like a diamond so it was easier to see which cards were reversed. But this is a pretty spread image that gives you the general idea.

I won’t spend hundreds of words talking about my cards here, but there was a pretty strong Wands influence and a theme of power and authority. Which, since I don’t wield a whole lot of authority in other aspects of my life, made me think of this not-coven I’m building.

Honestly, it doesn’t look like this was the year it will come together. I didn’t see or intuitively sense any other people in the cards. And yet… what else have I been working on here?

So, this year, I might be talking more about building and creating. I might post more in general and find something to talk about at least once in the month. (The first half of the year might be pretty quiet, my cards say.) There might be more literal woodwork, as well; I’ve got a broom and a staff to work on, and yesterday I was talked out of building a bookcase because the temperature has been in the single digits and the garage is not only not heated, it has some gaps big enough to see daylight through. I’m also considering creating a fiery oil to dress candles with and encourage that Wands energy, which doesn’t come all that naturally to me.

We’ll see where 2018 takes us.

Wicca 101 classes beginning!

The next step on this not-coven adventure is that I will be holding weekly Wicca 101 classes at my home! They will begin in conjunction with Wicca 101 classes taught by my coven sisters at Artes & Craft in Hartford.

Saturday Night Witchcraft begins on November 11 at 6:00 p.m., either meeting at my home or traveling to Artes & Craft for Sabbat rituals (and to hang out with the larger coven). We’ll start with the basics of what Wicca is and what witches do, likely with many digressions full of nerdery and comparison, because I am a huge fan of context and background. On New and Full Moons, we’ll have esbat rituals based on an Alexandrian structure with additions from published sources. Beyond that, topics will depend on the needs of the class or my current magickal interests. We’ll talk theory, we’ll make stuff, and we’ll do magick.

If you’re local, contact me to set up a coffee-shop meeting prior to attending class.

(Why a first meeting in a public place? Showing up at a stranger’s house for the promise of Wicca is a risky thing, and it’s wise to take precautions for your own safety. That said, Saturday Night Witchcraft is an affirming, inclusive space where all are welcome — except Nazis and their ilk, who are very specifically unwelcome — and I invite you to verify that in a way that’s safe and comfortable for you.)

Need more detail? Read Saturday Night Witchcraft: What to know.

Pagan Pride Day 2017!

I had a blast at this year’s Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day! This year I was helping with Artes & Craft‘s booth and offering Tarot readings. (Kids in tow, once they were done with Saturday morning’s soccer game. Being a soccer mom and a witch at the same time is a special kind of liminality.) I’m glad I got the chance to talk to so many old friends and new people!

Time really is a spiral, and you really do come back to the same points over and over again, changed as a person. Two years ago I was here with a different, looser Pagan group. MoonFire put on the main ritual, and I only heard about it afterward. A year ago, I came specifically to ask about joining MoonFire, an introduction from an elder having paved my way; I’d read Tarot on and off for years but always with a book and only for myself. This year, I was here as a member of MoonFire, and I’d studied Tarot enough to read for others. Maybe next year I’ll be back and something else will be different.

Merry Beltane!

This weekend I’m off to MoonFire’s Beltane celebration. There’s so much going on! It’s like a mini festival! Which is doubly exciting for me because I don’t usually get to go to festivals (from some combination of brokeness, lack of ability to take time off work, and anxiety about traveling there or attending alone). This time, however, I’ll be there! Possibly with bells on, in a very literal sense!

In other news, I’ve borrowed The Witch’s Athame by Jason Mankey, The Witch’s Broom by Deborah Blake, and The Witch’s Wand by Alferian Gwydion MacLir (all from Llewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series) from my local library, and I’m currently reading through that last one. All three are tools that I’m currently making or working with, and I’m enjoying the deep dive.

Spring cleaning also continues, possibly a little harder because the whole family will be away this weekend and I like to come home to a clean house (as much as possible with little kids; I’ll settle for being caught up on the laundry and the dishes before we go). When I was at the library I saw The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on the shelf, and the KonMari trend has mostly passed (I think?) but I hadn’t actually read the book yet. I’m giving her folding method a chance — so far I kind of love it; every time I open my dresser drawers, it’s like picking something new from a store, just because every piece of clothing is now visible — and I’ve gotten a little ruthless about tossing or donating items that we don’t need. (Like sheets. We do not need 10 sets of sheets. Five or six of those sets are just taking up space.) And as many jokes as the “does it bring you joy?” thing has spawned, I honestly love the animistic approach Marie Kondo takes to considering each item in your household and where it would best be happy and useful. If you are the least bit sensitive, you can make this same kind of connection to your stuff and think about who you are, deep down, and whether you need or want this item, what its function is in your life. If it’s worn, you can thank it for its time in service to you and send it to the trash; if it’s still useful to someone, just not you, release it to the Goodwill bin or maybe an eBay buyer with gratitude. (Also I totally am throwing out my electric bill. I don’t need to keep the past four years’ worth of bills — and shouldn’t I be getting them as PDFs anyway? Go online and click that e-statement option.) And I do personal transformation as sort of a hobby, so the challenge for me right now is to go through all my stuff without the pressure of moving, to reinvent myself while remaining rooted to the house and the family I’ve worked hard for.

OK, back to packing. Overnight bags for two adults (for a ritual weekend) and two kids (at Grandma’s) are about as much work to pack as a camping trip for one adult.