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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.

Magic and stories in Photos Part 4

I’m having fun so I’m going to keep going for awhile.

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Sometimes even Snowy Egrets have bad hair days. A few months before my brother died we went up to visit him in Mountain View and as my family all have penchants for wandering around in the shrubberies, he and his partner took us to Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto. It would be the last day we spent as a family.

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This was before the wind got to his topknot.

My sister hates this picture of she and my brother laughing. This was in April or May and he would be dead in July. It’s a window into that period that he was taken from us. Chemo and surgery had made him balloon up but he was still my beloved little brother. He could take himself too seriously and he was the one nonpunner in a family that ran on puns. So that day was a gift. The next time we would got up we were supposed to be there for his next surgery but instead we flew up for his funeral. He died of multiform gliomablastoma. A particularly nasty form of brain cancer. It came back after 15 years in remission.

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My sister’s totem is the dragonfly and I just love them and this was out at Sepulveda one afternoon when I was testing my patience. I caught it with my point and shoot Sony with it’s Zeiss lens. Patience and not breathing sometimes gets you amazing things.

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Sunset at Lake Balboa. I was pissed at my bitch of a boss at the time and needed time to decompress before I went home. The White Pelicans are only there in January so it was an early sunset. It gave me much joy and still does.

Magic and stories in photos – Part 2

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I took this the morning Laura made us Druids. It would be the last time the Grove was able to have ritual with Laura and that Mary could walk to. We were at the Sepulveda Wildlife Sanctuary almost at dawn on a fairly chilly January morning. The side of the refuge that was almost never open was open that day and it was an open invitation to journey into the January mist accompanied by Laura’s and the Grove’s favourite bird, the Great Blue Heron who watched us during the whole ceremony from a nearby tree limb.

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This was taken a Lake Balboa on the opposite side of the street from the refuge. The others had gone and I decided to walk around the lake alone. I’m terrified of swans since getting bit badly many years ago when I was three or four and Dad took me to Forest Lawn because he wanted to visit his aunt and uncle and he decided to let me feed the swans there. I have never before or since seen swans at either the refuge or on the lake but there they were a momma and her cygnets. Ever since I got bit, swans show up when I’m supposed to face a fear. Usually someone with give me a gift of one out of the blue, They rarely show up physically but there they were that morning and I got close enough to take these. The Goddess has a sense of humour and timing, make me a Druid and shove me at something that frightens me, Gee thanks Mom!

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I love Descanso Gardens and my wonderful cohort Nancy volunteers there and she also volunteered to take to my MRI when they were trying to figure out what my tumour was doing before the surgery because I wasn’t allowed to drive myself because they were going to give me joy juice and because this was about my 10th or 11th MRI and I hate them.

Nancy offered to let me go for a short trip to Descanso before the MRI and this is the back of the lake area they just redid to allow people access. It used to be walled off. It helped so much to have that walk. Nature always makes things better for me. It was a wonderful gift.

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This is a bat I rescued from small children that were frightening it while pretending to be frightened of this little guy. This was at our camp reunion last year and I got to use my Naturalist skills and teach them something. They were so close he couldn’t echolocate, So I made them back up and talked to them about why he couldn’t get away until they moved. That he was more worried about them than the other way around since it was broad daylight and he was in diffculty under the eaves of the cabin. The minute I got the kids far enough away he was off into the woods. And I was answering a ton of the kids questions. It was a fun moment.

 

 

 

Magic and stories in photos

Photographs are stories in light and air. Every photo has a story, some you will never know, some you may not want to know but they all have tales to tell. So I thought I’d tell some visual tales.

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I used to enter a lot of my jewelry that I made in the LA County Fair. I won ribbons on just about everything I ever entered and this gave me my only blue ribbon. I got red/second and white/ thirds and a bunch of pink fourths. I’m still proud of it.

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This is my first camera and the start of my joining the family obsession with picture taking. I think I was 6 or 7 when  I got it and it went with me every where and hardly still has a scratch on it. It lives with my Nikon FM who no longer works in the tiny hope chest my Great Uncle Winn made my cousin and I one Christmas where my treasures live.

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This is a plant I always dreamed of seeing. It was in my first wildflower field guide by Golden Books. I had a full collection of their field guides by the time I was 5 and was allowed to lecture grownups for some reason on what they contained. I used to stare at the picture for hours because I thought it was so cool. It doesn’t grow in Southern California so I never thought I would see one. The first time I went up to see Mary and Denise in Oregon, Denise and I went to the Leach Botanical Gardens for a few hours as it was already too hard for Mary and her purple chariot to move around. This was the first plant I saw getting out of the car and I’m sure Denise thought I was nuts. It was just a wildflower that was on the driveway but for me it was a long time dream to see one and it was just as pretty as I hoped.

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This was a bit of serendipity at the Self Realization Fellowship Shrine in Palos Verdes. A mushroom in a mini Stonehenge lintel surrounded by shamrocks. You just know there is a faery close by.

 

My heart is broken

Yesterday at Faire, I was reading my stories to everyone and this was the next one I had picked to read and standing there I just couldn’t read it. Now I wonder if I should have. So here it is,  and it’s dedicated to my gay brothers and sisters who died because of someone’s hate celebrating their pride and love.

The Littlest Druid finds the good in the bad.

Aisling looked around at what was left of the tiny village, everywhere around her the building’s roofs smoked. Household goods were strewn over the landscape. People lay where they had been slain. The marks of the weapons clear to be seen. There was nothing here for a healer to do.

She looked at the other druids around her. Some were in tears, some were in shock, some were angry. Aisling wasn’t sure how she felt, numb?

In the middle of the night a young boy had come yelling into the Druid village about the sea raiders that had come to his village up the coast to the north. The Chief Druid had quickly roused all the people old enough to help and they had come as fast as their ponies would go but it wasn’t in time. It looked like the boy was the last one left from his village.

Aisling looked at a loom in pieces on the ground and the half finished wool blanket in slashed hunks around it. She could see it would have been beautiful when it was finished with all the colours of sea and sky in brilliant hues. It made her sad. What made people think that they could come and harm a small village? Aisling’s heart hurt.

She could see an abandoned butter churn milk and butter left to curdle on its own. Ravens and crows gathered in the trees above some of the cottages as if waiting for a meal and she was glad her Raven was back home and not here. She couldn’t stand the thought of her being part of this.

The blacksmith must have run to his forge and laid about with his big hammer but it had done no good but she could see he had taken some of the raiders with him to the Summerland.

The older men went to build a pyre to burn the dead. The ravens and crows would get no meal here today. She wondered if the raiders had taken anything of value or if the reason the devastation was so bad was because the village was so poor. It made no sense at all to her and the tears ran down her face.

What made some people do this? No one in this village had done any harm. They had lived quiet lives. They sometimes sold their extra crops to the Druid village. The Chief Druid put his arm around Aisling and gave her a hug.

“Why? Why do people do this?” she asked him. The Chief Druid looked around and shook his head.

“I don’t understand it myself.” He said. “But it makes me cling to the good I can see. Some people want what others have. Some people think they have the only way. Some people just enjoy doing evil.”

“But what’s the good in this?” Aisling asked. She couldn’t see anything good at all.

“Hamish is alive, he’ll have a broken heart but he is alive. People came to help even though there was nothing they could do about the raiders. People will rebuild this village together and new people will help Hamish rebuild the village and his life. This village will be able to show its best hospitality again as is our way.”

People were now starting the clean up around them. Stacking timbers, collecting the things that were spread around the village. Someone was herding the sheep that had been on the hill above the village. One of the women was getting ready to milk the village’s last living cow. The cow was not happy, She should have been milked hours ago. The cow had blood on her horns and none of it was hers. The cow had obviously fought in the battle. Aisling wondered if it was one of Brighid’s cows since it was red and white.

Aisling went to start help collecting the goods left around the village. Maybe they could collect enough to put one household back together for Hamish. Someone had said his grandparents and an aunt and uncle had been sent a messenger. Would they want to settle here?

She looked towards the fields that appeared to be untouched. The oats were just starting to grow and the fields were aglow with the green of new growth. Would Hamish’s family tend them? It was strange to see such a strong symbol of life when she knew if she turned around she would see the blacks and grays of destruction.

Aisling collected a set of wooden bowls, some linens from where they had been dumped. She found someone’s prized bronze pin of a wild boar. It had a broken clasp but she thought it could be mended again and worn with pride. As the day went on the village started to look more like it would have life again.

Men were up on the thatched roofs pulling down the old straw and the burnt parts so they could be re-thatched. They had found the village thatcher’s store of straw and reed in an outside shed.

Some women from the next village were washing out the cottages and mixing white wash. Soon the cottages wouldn’t show any burn marks.

Aisling was near the back of one of the cottages when she heard a soft cry. She looked around to see where the noise was coming from. There was a pile of old abandoned clothes she guessed wasn’t good enough to steal and gently went over to sort through when she heard it again. This time she could hear that it was a mew. And she dug through the pile. Nestled under someone’s old tunic was a tiny black kitten. Its eyes were barely open. Aisling looked around quickly to see if there were any more but this one was alone.

Aisling cradled the kitten to her chest, it crawled up to her shoulder and nestled into one of her long red braids. So there was still life in the village, she thought. The kitten purred into her ear as she gently stroked its back and she wondered how long it had been since it ate. She headed over to where the woman was taking care of the cow, she had tied it to the outside of the pig sty.

Aisling had grabbed a napkin and fashioned into the shape of a nipple. Maire took one look at the kitten and grabbed the napkin. “I see someone needs to be fed here at least,” and dipped the napkin in the bucket of milk and handed it back to Aisling. “Are you ready to be a mathair?”

Aisling nodded and looked at the kitten as it greedily sucked on the napkin, at least one good thing had happened this day. She looked at the kitten. The Chief Druid was right, it had felt good to help even when she wished it hadn’t been necessary, but there is always some good with the horrid. It just can be hard to find.

“I’m naming ‘Nuadh Bheath’. ‘New life’ seems a good name, Beo for short? Do you like that?” Aisling looked down at the purring sleepy kitten and smiled for the first time that day.

How “the Dance or BunniHoTep and the real reason for the Flood” was written

A lot of my stories were dreamed but this one wasn’t. It was born on the way home from our twice yearly Solstice Faires. Long Beach Womenspirit and TOILA (Temple of Isis Los Angeles) have been putting on Faires for over 25 years now. It’s goes to once a year on Summer Solstice this year, we are too old and there are fewer and fewer of us to do all the work but anyway we do Faire.

We always have plenty of good pagan entertainment and some years we have had at least 3 groups of belly dancers, as well as storytellers like me and musical acts like Ruth Barrett and Lisa Thiel or Miri Hunter. We used to end every Faire with a group bellydance led by Anniitra after her performance. The year I wrote this it turned into lessons and C and E were two kids there dancing with Anniitra and just glowing with life and joy.

Somehow this touched something in my heart and the story started to take shape. It solidified when I got home and was going through the 400 photos minimum I usually take to document Faire, one year it was closer to 800. And I managed to capture some of it and within an hour I was writing and the Dance was born. It’s still one of my favourites if just because it’s so anti Judeo-Christian interpretation of the event that actually does show in geologic sediment in the Mediterranean as having really happened and since cultures all over the world have Flood stories, why not another one. Anyway, that was how this particular story came to be.

And here are the photos:

The 2nd BunniHoTep story

This is the second story also not found anywhere else but the 2nd blog post I ever wrote. This is what I dreamed the next night. BunniHoTep was very hard on my sleep for a long while.

If you know the story of Osiris and set and the dismembering, you know what was in BunniHoTep’s basket so I’m not sure it’s a safe story for children unless you want to do some explaining of the birds and the bees.

BunniHoTep does her job or Why We Use Baskets For Eggs in Spring.

Once upon a time long, long ago in Egypt there lived a small rabbit goddess. She loved Isis and she knew Isis was very sad because a very mean god, Set had hurt the one Isis loved most, Osiris.

Legend says that Osiris was cut up by Set and scattered in 14 pieces around the ancient world but there were really a few extra bits and bobs left over. BunniHoTep decided she would find all the extra pieces left around. She knew those pieces were very important to Isis.

So BunniHoTep went out to search for the missing pieces. She searched the shores of the Nile. She searched in the corners of the big temples. She searched the Valley of the Kings. She searched in the lotus ponds and under the papyri. She searched in all low out of the way places the other gods had missed. She found many dust bunnies but no pieces of Osiris.

BUT she found the last 2 special pieces in a hawk’s nest. She was very brave and made sure Missus Hawk was not at home when she went to look. She was brave but not THAT brave.

She put the pieces in her basket and hopped back to Isis. Isis was SO happy she rewarded BunniHoTep was a very big honor. She said that when BunniHoTep was tired of being on Earth, she would place her in the full moon where everyone would see and remember her forever and this is why there is a rabbit in the moon.

Because BunniHoTep carried the pieces back in her favorite basket all easter bunnies have baskets to carry their eggs in.