After writing two ‘I’ posts for The Pagan Blog Project, that felt like a personal offloading against “pagan moralising”, I decided to take some time out from the blog-sphere, at least in terms of my own writing. In the last 13 days I’ve been really productive, in tangible material ways, and more subtle ways.
Adventures with Jute Twine
I seem to have a pattern. I’ve only just started to understand this pattern, I think. After a long period of writing and reading, and feeling a little overwrought with ideas, I craft like a mad thing. I had a period over Hallowmas during which I crafted for several days in a row, my lounge and kitchen becoming a small cottage industry space of candle making, spell box creation and personal items and icons/fetishes for my Beloved Dead. After which I returned to the laptop and introspection and intellectual consideration. Mark II followed my last post.
Crafting rattles is probably my most favourite crafting activity. I usually make one rattle at a time, over a few days, usually. This time, over a week, I made several. Two, a donation to the local community through the Tasmanian Pagan Alliance, and three available for purchase at Australis Incognita on Etsy. Increasingly, I find this activity very much alike to Divination.
I know that sounds odd, but as a process, it is almost identical to pulling story from a stones and bones, or Rune casting. I collect things constantly, bones, feathers, woods and nuts… Occasionally the purpose, or person for whom I am Crafting informs the rattle. And I do adore that work. But when I am working to craft because Land inspires, and it is the work itself I need to do in order to find that meditative, quiet space that comes with repetitive tasks, with no set prescribed outcome, then my lounge-room floor becomes like a large divination table. Various things I have that could work scattered about. Then, with handle in hand, like dowsing for water, the other parts are selected, until the story is finally divined.
I realise there is a distinct construction. It always begins with the handle, the wood or bone, usually crafter earlier, and already, as part of this last crafting spate, I’ve several blanks ready and waiting for their turn at the “divination table”. The handle for me is the “body” the place or spirit vessel, at the heart of the tool, connected with the practitioner. The rattling parts become its voice, almost by its own choice, and adornments and offerings. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and though the handle is ready, I’ve not got the items it requires for its voice. And so the blank handles become scattered about the house; some soaking up sunshine, others wrapped and stored in dark places, others couched amongst dried gum leaves and branches, others stored wrapped in snake skin on a shrine to a Great Spirit I work with… In time, someone will come forward with a need, or there’ll be a dream, a conversation with a possum, something I read, a walk that produces a strange discovery of something I’d not previously thought of, and then one of those handles will come into it’s voice. And then, really, I am just the one with the jute twine that brings them together.
Journals & Jul
We’re well and truly past the Hallowtide, but as the days shorten and darken, the presence of the Dead grows stronger. Of course, like many witches, I’ve been feeding and offering to my own Beloved Dead and working on specific items and offerings. It’s good practice. Working in line with the in-turning forces and meditating on the blood connections and the lessons and wisdoms inherent in them. Despite an overall feeling that I was “on the right track” I found myself feeling somehow like I wasn’t “hearing” those voices usually so strong, and that somewhere, something had missed its mark.
So I pulled out my journals.
I can not recommend this activity enough. And I’m not the only one, so many do. Why is often lost on us, right up until it’s perfectly obvious. I suck at it, I might add. I blog, sure, but my journal is more “Collection of notebooks, random bits of paper, & post-it notes”. With a big emphasis on the later two. But they are generally organised, at least, in neat piles, often by subject, “list of recipes” here, “vision /dream experiences” in that pile, “natives” over there. Sketches, paragraphs, a quick post-it of something one of my students said in a phone convo, an incense recipe with multiple things crossed out, an added expletive, and a then a single ingredient underlined with “Thanks *spirit’s name or sigil*” scrawled, so I remember who inspired the one that worked. The piles are ever changing, as I add things I’m confident with into my Books, blog and lessons for my students.
Looking for entries that are date specific is not as easy though, and I considered perhaps I should alter my system. After I found a few random observations from Hallowmas past, I decided to stick with what I was familiar with. It turned out to be a post-it note stuck to a ritual note that caught my attention. A reminder to ask my Mum for a recipe, because I planned, at that time, to bake as an offering to my Foremothers. It coincided with my Mum having sent me another heirloom recipe, quite independently. So bake Grandma’s apple cake I did.
I was elbow deep in scone dough with a second cake in the oven (a date loaf I’d found on the internet), and a large pot of spicy tomato and roast pumpkin soup bubbling away on the stove, that I realised three things: 1) I don’t really like pumpkin soup, and date loaf is not my first thought in life; 2) I live alone; and, 3) this was the best scone mixture I’d ever made! And I suck at making scones.
My Mother is a master of scone making, and she got that from my Grandma. I thought about that as the date loaf came out, the scones went in, and I tasted my soup. Which did not taste very pumpkin-y, and I had to look in the fridge to find what was missing in order to establish what the hell I’d put in it. It occurred to me then that repetition is a process of internalisation. And that perhaps, rather than something having gone awry, my Hallowmas experience of “quietness” was actually an indication that it was time to level-up. That the voices of my Foremother’s were not missing, just now a familiar, a seamless part of my thought process, and that actually, in that seeming quietness was the space for practical applied channelling, and scones my Grandma would be proud of. I say it to my students all the time “just keep at ‘it’, ‘it’ will come.” ‘It’ does, that moment of real communion, when in our material lives the spirits manifest, their wisdom and skill becomes tangible. This was what my Foremother’s did, all three of them that I honour, they were practical women, who raised families, made awesome warming food, knitted jumpers, and they did for me when they lived. Now I was doing it for myself, and they were still doing it for me, albeit with the same heavy-handedness one might expect of Grandmas, Nannas, and Gamla Mödrar. I still have soup.
Jul approaches, and there couldn’t be a better time to honour the Foremother’s and their wisdom. The Dísablót, (O.E.: Mōdraniht, lit. “Mother’s Night”), also marks a year since I began teaching, and, obviously, a significant time for one of my students. Though it will probably involve a lot less baking, the things I want to do to celebrate that festival and our anniversary now seem more tangible, in the simple act of making scones I’d come into the space I need to in order to realise my own ability to channel and manifest the wisdom of the Spirits. Made red and vital by simple habits kept by not only myself, but my Mother and Sister, and everyday invitations for them to come in and share that wisdom with me.
Needles to say there was a flurry of journalling, and a few extra post-it notes over the kettle: “Don’t forget to bake!” and, “Don’t forget to knit!” After all, it is a fabulous time of year for it.
P.S. ‘J’ is for Jul, Jute and Journals! This post participates with The Pagan Blog Project.