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The Littlest Druid gets ready for Am-Foghar (Autumn)

Aisling sat on the stone step outside the healer’s cottage. It was late in the afternoon and for once no one was in any of the healer’s cottages. The cottage next door where they kept the herbs and the medicines was still. The Herbalist was out on the moors collecting plants and everything that could be cleaned or mixed was done at the moment. The last grain harvest would start in a few days when the moon was full.

Aisling had nothing she was supposed to be doing. Lessons would start again after the harvest and the village was quiet, something that didn’t happen very often. Aisling was thinking about harvests and the different kinds of harvests. The year would be ending soon and food being gathered for the winter. The weavers were busy weaving and knitting warm woolen and linen cloth to be made into winter clothes and yarns of different weights and colours to be used for knitting by the fire when the snows came. They had just finished dying the wools. Aisling had enjoyed creating the dyes with the herbalist. She thought it was rather magical when something that was green like yarrow could create a yellow dye or how some crushed bugs could make a rich red. She had learned a lot in this year. She had been there when babies were born and when the new lambs entered the world. She was there when her friend, the priestess had gone into the West. She learned about healing herbs and how to make teas and medicines. She learned some new divination techniques with the Ogham sticks. She’d learned to interpret the flights of birds and the patterns of clouds. She’d learned poem after poem and lots of new songs. Her friend the Raven had taught her so much about birds and things like how to go quietly and how to laugh at herself.

The harvest would start on the day of equal day and equal night that also happened to be the full moon this year so they could have the feast that followed the first day of harvest when the sun set and the moon rose.

Aisling was missing the priestess who had gone to the West. Aisling thought she had learned more from her than when she was supposed to be in class or with her mentors. She missed their cream teas. The priestess always managed to charm Cook into a plate of s’gons and some cream or freshly churned butter. The Priestess had become a favourite with everyone in the Druid village even the Chief Druid spent long hours comparing notes about their villages and how they did things. She had been a truly wise woman and when she passed over the water the last time the whole village had sung her home. The priestess had left almost as big a hole as her Anam Cara had when she had left. She knew Anann, the bean sidhe had said they were both fine and that death was a part of life but it didn’t make the harvest of loss any easier when you wanted to share a secret or what you had learned during the day. It didn’t make thinking you saw them in the distance and realizing it was someone else, any easier when you knew it wasn’t them and that you’re heart had fooled you again. She did wonder when she smelled the scent of lavender when there was no lavender anywhere nearby if someone was visiting so she had started saying hello and chatting when there was no one around to hear the conversation.

The cottage faced west and the sun was starting to set. Aisling closed her eyes and let the last warm rays of the sun bathe her in the warmth when someone sat down beside her. Aisling was almost afraid to open her eyes because so many big and strange people had sat down beside her to talk. Who was it this time? She sniffed the air and knew who it was and laughed.

“Why are you laughing, Aisling.” The Chief Druid chuckled softly because he knew why, he just had to ask.

“You know,” Aisling said, “I’ve had some pretty interesting people sit by me when I least expect it.”

The Chief Druid laughed, “So what were you thinking about so solemnly?”

“Everything I’ve learned this year. It’s almost Samhain and we’ll start over again before winter. I’ve learned so much but I’ve also lost things I didn’t expect to lose.”

“Like your Anam Cara and your friend, the priestess? You know, Latharn, thought you were something very special.”

“She did?” asked Aisling.

“She did, and I miss her too.” Said the Chief Druid. “She taught me a lot too.”

Aisling looked at the Chief Druid in astonishment. “She did. She taught me to face death with a full heart. She taught me to say when people mean something to them. She taught me to count my blessings.”

“I thought you knew all those things” Aisling looked at the Chief Druid with big eyes.

“I knew them but I didn’t KNOW them. Does that make sense?” Aisling thought about it and nodded her head.

“I think so.” Aisling said slowly.

“Latharn thought that someday you will be a great druid because you have an open heart and an open mind and because you love so completely.”

Aisling sat in stunned silence. Latharn had really thought that about her!

“She thought I should start teaching you some things that the others in your class aren’t ready for yet.”

Aisling was looking at the Chief Druid like an owlet that had been woken up suddenly. “Wwwhhyyy? Did she want you to do that?”

“Well, no one else your age or even among the other druids have had conversations with Brighid or Lugh or the Green Man or any of the others that have befriended you since you’ve been here.” Aisling was just staring.

“Think that would be a good thing to start after Samhain” asked the Druid in a teasing voice.

“Really? You want to teach just me? No one else?”

“Just you and maybe some of your friends will help sometimes.” He smiled to himself. This was going to be an interesting winter.

“I’ll let you digest that for awhile. I’ll see you at ritual. Would you recite a poem at ritual about what you are thankful for this year?”

Aisling nodded. She didn’t feel able to speak yet. She looked to the West just as the sun was setting over the far hills. She felt like someone far away had just smiled at her and maybe they had.

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Saturday’s Faire was magical

Saturday at the Faire was wonderful. At our winter Faire I was sick and I was living with a diagnosis of advance ovarian cancer, supposedly Stage 3 or 4 and I hadn’t told anyone that it was that bad. I went through Faire wondering if it was my last time at Faire. I didn’t take as many pictures then as I usually do. I just wasn’t fully present and I was being pulled away.

Saturday was joyous. I have never been hugged and kissed by so many people. I’m firmly convinced these people saved my life by their loving wonderful energy. I% of the tumours like mine are advanced ovarian cancer but the doctors were wrong and I will take the 1% I was given with love gladly.

I took pictures which I will post some of soon. I even had my traditional photo battle with my friend Tony. We both do a lot of pagan events so we are always getting each other on film , He says I’m sneaky. I like to take candids and he likes to pose people. So we have a bit of fun, I smiled, I even danced a tiny bit. I hugged my friend, Ruth Barrett and was hugged and thanked in return for her support. I’ve known Ruth for 30 years. I started in the Dianic community and I will always have at least one foot there. What the pagan community is doing to her is wrong. And the majority should not rule in their bigotry to women who worship the Goddess and love other women.

For once I was not horribly nervous when I was reading. I did it from my new Kindle which was not cooperating about which stories it allowed me to access. I think the faeries had control. They kept bringing up the Littlest Druid story I posted yesterday. I just couldn’t read that. I was already in tears from thanking everyone for their energy so I could be well.

Faire is always between the worlds but Saturday it felt so obvious that it was a rare safe space to be pagan in public. Womenspirit Faire was magical.

A prayer

Hallows winds blow ’round me
Hallows winds protect me
Hallows winds go with me
I take this journey out of love
Be with me as we do difficult things
We travel in love
Carrying with us the blessings
Of sisterhood
We are sending a sister
Into your arms, dear Brighid
Kind Hecate
Healing Quan Yin
Let us be her strength
Let her know she is loved
Let her be calm knowing
She is never alone
She is being born again
in the Summerland
May a new sun shine above her
May a new moon watch over her
May the new stars guide her
Let the loved ones who meet her
Know she was loved to the end
May they greet her with welcoming arms
May they teach her new ways
May she remember us
We will miss her
We have loved her
We have held her spirit
And it is beautiful
May she feel no pain
As she passes from us
May she be healed
In her new body
May she be blessed
Bless us as we hold the space
Bless us as we do hard things
Bless our tears
They are because she is loved
Bless our tears
We will miss her
Bless our tears
And let them cleanse us
Death is a passage
We can’t walk yet
It is not our test yet
So we watch for her
So we protect her
So we love her
Let the wings of Isis enfold her
Let the cloak of Brighid cover her
Let the ways of Elen guide her
So mote it be.

Reunions are special places

This weekend’s reunion was wonderful. Reunions are the closest you can get to a time machine for camp. The only problem is that you no longer climb like a mountain goat with no thought about how you are going to hurt when you are done. We all look different from our past selves. Most of us are heavier, we all are grayer but are hearts are pretty much the same.

Some camps were filled with sunshine, grace and love, some weren’t but Teresita is one that was. I have to admit that I felt like I was a fish out of water there but they have shown in spades that they didn’t feel that way about me and that is a gift.

They aren’t all Catholics now, we have gone are separate journeys. I was a budding Pagan then but now some are Buddhists, some are still Catholic, some are atheist and some are agnostic and some have moved to other forms of Christianity but we all respect each other.

I was amazed Sunday morning how many showed up for my Chapel before breakfast, last year there were 8 adults, this year most came and they brought their kids.  That was very special. Miss Kat is the crazy Druid and they let her have Chapel on Sunday of all days. It felt really good especially since I had a brain storm the night before and threw out what I was going to do and wrote a service on magic and my definition of magic because for me magic = nature and being up in the mountains and in the trees is my church so we listened to the wind in the pines and the oaks and we watched and listened to my nemesis the acorn woodpecker. We saw all the colours of green and we saw the magic in each other’s laugh and smile. That is my definition of magic.

And this is the prayer I wrote:

I ask for power to make good decisions this day and every day

I ask for wisdom to see the magic in the world

I see magic in the wind

I see magic in the sun’s rays

I see magic in the greens of the trees

I hear magic in a friend’s voice

I hear magic in a bird’s song

I hear magic in music

I know the magic of loving friends and family

I know the magic of learning new things

I know the magic of peace, the magic of hope, the magic of love

Let me take these things with me through this day

And home with me this night

May we know we are blessed and that we carry blessing

To those we meet

May we be blessed.

And we ended with sending the blessings of the weekend into the wind in bubbles.

A prayer for today

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Brighid, Kwan Yin and Hecate

Be with those who walk the twilight path

And be with those who watch them go.

Brighid, they walk a path lighted with your flame

A flame that those watching cannot see but have to trust is there

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Kwan Yin, they walk your healing way

And those who watch cannot see the healing

Hecate, you wait with your arms waiting to greet them

And accompany them on that path.

Please reassure those who have sent them to you

Let us know they are safe.

The walker holds our hearts, knowing and unknowing

Brighid, Kwan Yin and Hecate

Comfort those of us left behind

We grieve too early, the walker is not gone yet.

She is just gone from us.

She is in a different time and place from us.

Let her know she is always in our hearts

We await the times in the next life we will meet under the trees

We wait at the door we can’t pass through yet

It isn’t our time

We will follow you and the Green Lady

To where our own paths lead.

Our time is not yet.

We hold open hearts

We love and we honour each of our paths

Our time is not now

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How hearts break

Hearts can get broken in tiny increments and hearts can be broken in the flash of an ax. When you love someone with a terminal disease your heart breaks in tiny painful and deep slices. When you love someone with the terminal disease if they pass into dementia, the blow lands hard and is no longer a tiny slice, it is the ax blow. And you stand alone helpless because now you get no feedback that is positive and it hurts.

M has now passed into the realm of dementia. Dementia for each person seems to be a different place. Sometimes there are lucid moments that can steal your breath and hope springs because you think they might stay but then they slip back into that faeryland and you lose them again and it hurts even more. Some dementia is a land the loved one never returns from and you stand there a stranger to the one you love, adrift and bereft of any comfort because you no longer are part of their landscape.

M can’t even really communicate what that new land she ventures into is like because the ALS has stolen that too. D’s heart is breaking and I know Di and mine are too.

M is our sister in our Grove, she is a sunny spot in the four of us. She is a vital piece in our friendship and she is passing into the realms of faery. She doesn’t know where she is and she has lost where she is in our time.

I wish I could be there for D, but at the moment that isn’t possible and it hurts my heart.

This isn’t the first time in my life that life has turned cruel and it won’t be the last but it doesn’t get any easier.

Grief the thief

I’ve had an awful lot of people pass in an out of my life through the Veils. In the 1980’s it was a lot of the gay men in my life including my best friend, Art. I’ve lost all my great aunts and uncles and my grandparents when I was a lot younger. When I was a kid babysitting it was a baby we babysat at church who was born with an incurable and identifiable disease. In the 2000s I lost my parents and my little brother. That one will never stop hurting. Two years ago we lost Laura Janesdaughter, our Heiromum to multiple myeloma. Now Mary is on that path.

I know you aren’t allegedly supposed to grieve before someone is gone but it’s very difficult not to and even more difficult when you are well aware of the process. Because what they don’t like to tell you is that grief is cumulative. Every death is another stone on your chest and a piece of your heart that is missing. Every death is painful and they lie when they tell you it fades, it doesn’t. It ebbs and it flows and can hit you hard when you aren’t anticipating it. It can be set off by the sound of a stranger’s laugh that sounds like your loved one. The scent of a perfume or flower or of a food you ate with them. It can come when singing a song that you used to sing with or for them. It can be watching someone walk down the street and the walk is like theirs.

I’ll be 61 in a month and a day. My first funeral was my great-grandmother’s when I was 5. I still remember her and I remember sitting with my grandmother while she made her handkerchief into a hopping rabbit while she kept us quiet with chocolate mint Lifesavers in the back of the car. My great-grandmother was 92 and I remember her heavy Swedish accent at the holiday dinner table but when she died I really didn’t understand what death meant. At 60 I’m well aware of what death means and the pain it can make a body endure.

Never let anyone tell you it gets easier. It does not. They are saying that because it hasn’t happened to them yet. When my brother died it took a year before I stopped bursting into tears every time I thought of him and it still reduces me to jelly if I get hit unwarned by something like someone wearing my brother’s cologne or a book we read together or a song we sang together. It’s been 10 years this July and sometimes it could be yesterday.

So this is a familiar if unwanted journey. I know it’s even harder for M and D. Someone you thought you would grow old with way into the future isn’t going to be there. The future is just not going to be what you thought. As a priestess of Hecate and a past on-call clergy with the AIDS Service Center gives me some framework but when someone is close to you, all you can do is hold a circle of love and the memories and hope it’s enough for all of you.