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Oh Hecate

Hecate

Now is your time

You walk among us as the veil thins

Please be with your Priestesses

Wherever they may be

They are called to ease the loved ones

The ones that are choosing this time

To pass through the veil

Let them know what is needed

Be with their hearts

They are breaking

Be with the ones leaving

Ease open the curtain

Let them pass easily

Surrounded by those that love them

Let them know that love awaits them on the other side

Comfort those left behind.

Stand with them

Hold their broken hearts

Let them know that love lasts

And is not gone

It’s never gone

Only harder to see

Hecate

Be with us at this time

We turn our faces to the veil

It is not our time

Heal our hearts

Let us know peace

Let us know there is no end

Only endless beginnings

Be with us and to the hour of our passing

Be here now,

A prayer for an early autumn morning 

I greet this fall morning with my face to the new dawning of the day asking for good judgment at the ending of the year from first light to beginning of the night and all through the comforting darkness.

From the first red of thin clouds

From the last furious fiddling of crickets

From the sleepy croaking of a  crow

From the peeping of just awakening small birds

From sun hitting the last of the corn fields

From the sweet smell of osmanthus on the air

From the buttery good taste of my English muffin

From shine of dew on the grass

From first chrysanthemums blooming in their neat beds.

Let me think clearly, act rightly, and do willingly all through this day to the Twilight and through the darkness until I greet the dawn again.

A Prayer at Autumnal Equinox

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I ask the blessing of this fall season on all I care about.

Blessing of the equinox sunlight at dawn that travels directly from the east and that sets in west

Blessings of the squirrel that rains down pine cone petals preparing for cold

Blessings of the raven keeping a careful eye on the garden

Blessing of the plants setting seed for next year

Blessing of the falling sycamore leaves in the yard

Blessings of the taste of freshly harvested corn

Blessings of the brightness of colour from pumpkins and squash

Blessings of the fall Santa Ana winds that blow.

Blessings of the crisp morning air

Be with me and those I love from the later dawn

Through the violet and pinks of twilight

Through the midnight blue of stars and night

To the next dawn of light.

A day in the refuge

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The C word. It’s a scary word. I’m facing yet another abdominal surgery. I’m about ready to tell them just put in a zipper. I should be hollow and as my sister says ring like the Tin Man. No appendix, No female organs except ovaries, no gall bladder. So I guess the trouble makers who got left behind decided they needed to cause a problem. A 13 cm problem.

So this yesterday I went for a walk with two friends to one of my favourite places, the Sepulveda Wildlife Refuge in the Sepulveda Basin. If this really is an El Nino year then it may be the last chance we get until spring. It’s where the overflow goes when the water backs up behind the Sepulveda Dam.

It was beautiful and my loves, the white pelicans were there. They only come for a month every year. They are so beautiful and they are huge. Over 3 feet tall if they are standing on land.

I was surprised there were no Great Blue Herons out, there were egrets and a number of Night Herons but no Great Blues. I was glad to see the Osprey, usually there is a mated pair but I didn’t see the mate but he had a fish he was enjoying right under a vulture who was drying his wings up in a tree. There were several out, some were out soaring and looking majestic.

We saw BunniHoTep hightailing it into the brush, otherwise known here as an Audubon Cottontail or when I was in class at CSUN an Audubunny.

It was chilly but beautifully sunny and clear. The colours looked sharp because the air was so clear. Tons of cormorants and some mallards and one white duck that had somehow wandered in. Lots of turtles and fish putting their heads up.

It was a great day for a walk with Elizabeth and Tagh. The best kind of healing of all.

 

Hecate

The rattling bones sound from the Golden Rain tree seedpods follows me as I walk

The low tok tok tok of the ravens in the tree as he looks at me with cocked head

The low fog disappearing as I walk through the morning

I thank the Hecate for mornings that remind me of her

I walk in the between times of autumn

Leaves of flame from the liquidamber

Leaves of dust from the guardian sycamore

Leaves of green from the oaks I pass

Breezes that stir the leaves on the walk

Winds that clatter the fronds in the palm trees

Gusts that push you in front of them like sail

Colours of gourds in shining piles

Pumpkins with toothy grins and leers lurking on walkways

Sheaves of wheat and corn piled in doorways guarding, always guarding.

Hecate, guard the crossroads that I walk each day,

Show me what is to be feared and respected

And what needs no fear.

I see you in the eyes of the raven

Or the eyes of the shy cat hiding just under the bush

I hear you on the wind and in the leaves

I smell the dry dust of fallen leaves and in the crush of rosemary

I touch the brittle softness of leaves fallen and about to fall

Hecate, I know you are here now

This is your time of year and I listen.

Thoughts and geekery about autumn

I have two favourite times of year here in Los Angeles, spring and fall. And yes. L.A. has both spring and fall. Spring is easier to see since California has more varieties of wildflowers than any other place on earth. Partly because we have more varied ecosystems and partly, well, no one really knows why and it can give a budding botanist a headache. The key guide for California plants will always be the Munz and mine is well thumbed and has way too many leaves stuck in it. If you have to have one, here it is but be warned it’s all keys and few pictures. You want pictures get a Sunset Western Garden Book or an Audubon Plant guide. http://www.amazon.com/Flora-Southern-California-Philip-Munz/dp/0520021460

But my other favourite season is now, autumn or fall. And contrary to non-native belief, it isn’t all brown. We do have colour. Some of the colour is from non-native species but others are from natives. Fall/Autumn also involves one of my favourite English words – abscission. What is Abscission? Abscission is why leaves change colour. Abscission is the process that makes leaves separate and fall from the trees. Trees form what is called the abscission layer between the leaf and the tree. Deciduous trees do this seasonally. Evergreens and conifers do it all the time and isn’t as noticeable

The layer forms at the base of the petiole. A petiole is a fancy word for stem of the leaf. Leaves turn colour as the chlorophyll recedes from the leaf back into the tree. (well, they don’t really turn colour, the green fades away.) Some plants do this chemically or functionally such as the light changing as the day gets shorter or the temperature changes or changes in salinity and some do it hormonally with hormones like ethylene and auxin. Either way, it activates the abscission layer and says “Hey! Time to give a show and drop your leaves!”

Interesting fact: Trees that turn yellow are trees that are found in open areas and trees that turn red are trees that have a longer time to send nutrients back to the tree and need more protection from the sun. The red is called anthrocyanin and it is a sunscreen to protect the leaf just long enough to send more food back to the trunk. Warm sunny days followed by cold nights bring the brightest reds out of the red turning trees, according to the US Forest Service.

The yellow is caused by carotene. The same thing that makes carrots, orange and is what’s left when the chlorophyll is gone.

In California, we have mostly trees that turn yellow that are native like alders and cottonwoods. But in the city you find whole streets of liquid amber trees that are specifically bred to change to certain colours. If you buy one in a nursery you can choose a burgundy or a scarlet “Palo Alto” or yellows and oranges. It’s a lovely sight to see whole streets lit up in fall. It’s native in the Americas and was introduced to Europe in 1681 where they call is Sweet Gum. I’ve never heard anyone call it that here.

So now you know why the leaves change and fall and you know one of my favourite words – abscission, and what it is.

On Samhain from my clan chieftain

Samhain shona daoibh, a dhaoine uaisle! (Merry Samhain, ladies and men!) History of Samhain Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and Samhain on November 1st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night. For it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically potent time of this festival is November Eve, the night of October 31st, known today of course, as Halloween. Samhain (Scots Gaelic: Samhuinn) literally means “summer’s end.” In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as Oíche Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan Gaeaf, the eve of the winter’s calend, or first. With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery. In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in –barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples –for come November the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal. In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year. The greatest assembly was the ‘Feast of Tara,’ focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year –not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age. At all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire, and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come. The Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries. In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards, ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months –and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!” Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winter’s dark.