I fantasize that witches, magicians, and sorcerors of all sorts2)That’s a metaphor from the printing trade, did you know? are sweeping their shelves of books with the familiar crescent Moon on the spine and tossing them into cartons to take to the nearest used bookstore to sell or to trade for store credit. Six Ways’ success threatens the old model of printing lots of occult books in small press runs and waiting to see if any author is the next Scott Cunningham.
I wonder when this white fir was cut. The 1950s? Anyway, it seemed like a good place for offerings.
This time last year M. and I were picking mushrooms at higher elevations — and almost were trapped in a fairy portal. At least, that is what it seemed like. I might have provoked That Crowd by feeling a little too arrogant about my woodsmanship, but at least I saw the trap in time.
Admittedly, we were right up against the red zone, “extreme drought” in southern Colorado.
That event was August 6th. This year we returned to the same spot on July 29th, just to see if any mushrooms were coming up — there had been a few good rains up high — but there was nothing, edible or otherwise. It’s been a bad bad drought year, even in the high country (above 10,000 feet / 3,050 m).
But I had another purpose. Drought or not, I wanted to leave something for The Locals. The Other Crowd. Them. I did not know what protocol would work in “the mushroom grounds,” so I just brought some whiskey and a tobacco bundle, made from Nicotiana rustica that I had grown last year and dried, tied up in a scrap of old bandana.
Whiskey in a stump.
I poured some bourbon into a natural “cup” formed by the stump, and I tied the tobacco bundle to a protruding spike of wood inside the hollow stump.
We went back up there on August 6th, a year after the “portal” event. Still not a mushroom in sight. But I strolled past that stump and the tobacco bundle was gone. Flat gone. This is not an area that gets many human visitors.
The lore is that if an offering disappears, it has been accepted. Now if we could have more rain. But that is a different ritual and a different story.
There have never been any little girls in my house, so consequently no Barbie dolls, but they cost only about $2–$4 in the thrift stores. So I decided last year to make a neoshamanic Barbie, because I like the idea of “theme” Barbies (like “New Mexico Barbie“) and because the very thought of her reminded me of a certain author and teacher who is “widely acknowledged as a major link between the ancient world of shamanism and modern societies thirst for profound personal healing and a deeper understanding of the pathway to enlightenment.”
I made one and on a warmish day in January placed her way up behind the house in some boulders that I call Ringtail Rocks. She has her magickal assignment, she is hidden by rocks, and I will never disturb her.
Neoshaman Barbie 2 with her necklace of power and her spirit animal.
But there was one more Barbie left, so today, now that the last snow has melted and the trail is dry, she went to a different cluster of boulders with a similar assignment, along with her spirit animal.
These are part of a series of “installations” that I have started. You can tell that I was not a studio-art major, because I cannot produce 3,000 words of art-prose about what I made.
But since producing prose (and editing other people’s prose) is what I do all day, these and the other installations are just thigs that Iet bubble up, and I don’t have to produce a lot of discourse about them. I am not even completely clear on their magickal purpose
A geocacher would spot this as a “suspicious pile of rocks,” but there are no geocaches in the area either.
I am starting this video at the 30-minute mark, because that is when Gary Snyder comes on. Quite simply, I think that most of what little wisdom I have about “nature,” the “wild,” and so on comes either from Snyder or from directions his work has given me. Read his poems, read The Practice of the Wildand The Old Ways,1)Buy it used. and you will have it.
Gary Snyder . . . Beat poet, Zen Buddhist-animist, not a self-proclaimed Pagan but aware of Pagan sensibilities going back to the Old TIme.
Here he reads the introduction that he wrote for Pharmako/Poeira and then gives a short biography of Pendell.
I would not be surprised if a lot of the people pushing “traditional witchcraft” poison-path stuff are not just lifting it from Pendell’s books. Because they are great.
In September, the flow is just a trickle, typical for the season. So I made a little wreath. M. used to make wreaths professionally, woven from grapevines from our backyard at the Cañon City house and filled out with dried flowers. Mine was simple by contrast: a willow branch and some Liatris (blazing star) blossoms. Yet my thanks and best wishes were sincere.
I had to follow Wind over Tide, “a folk band specializing in traditional music of the British Isles and Americas with special emphasis on tales of seafaring and adventure,” which was kind of a challenge.
The evening before I was scheduled to give the keynote address at the Fort Collins (Colorado) Pagan Pride Day on August 24th, M. and I were driving around the city, buying groceries for the camping trip we planned to take after the event, and sight-seeing a little bit.
The university town where I spent some of my teenage years has tripled in size. Yes, it’s weird seeing what was ag land turned into “technology parks” alternating with chain hotels and chain restaurants. And the drive up from the Denverplex was hellish.
Biologists studying the Poudre River above Fort Collins (Colorado Parks & Wildlife).
But one thing has changed for the better — the community’s relationship with the Cache la Poudre River, which leaves the mountains nearby and flows down through the city before continuing eastward across the High Plains.
My outdoorsy friends and I went rock-climbing at Horsetooth Reservoir, backpacking in the Rawah Wilderness, etc., and hunting wherever, but we ignored the Poudre River once it came out of the canyon and was no longer considered fishable. I don’t recall anyone canoeing it or anything like that. It was just a conduit to farms and towns further east.
In Fort Collins, a sign under a bridge shows the river’s flow in cubic feet per second.
Now the river has been dignified as the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area. In the city, the change is huge. Suddenly it is a place that people want to visit for hiking, biking, kayaking, tubing, fishing, and so on. And at its nearest, it flows along edge of the downtown area, only three or four city blocks from the park where the festivities take place.
Where College Avenue, the main north-south commercial street, crosses the Poudre River.
So as I was standing there talking about nature religion and urban animism and such things, it hit me: the Pagan Pride Day ought to end with a procession to “honor the river.” (“Honoring” sounds suitably bland and inclusive, don’t you think?) Make up some wreaths of native flowers and grasses and toss them in with appropriate invocations. And of course there would be music.
I put that suggestion into my talk. Whether anyone takes me up on it remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I should be doing something like that for Hardscrabble Creek. Devotion begins at home.
Photo: The Very Reverend Jane Hedges rides the 55-foot high “helter-skelter” inside Norwich Cathedral in England.1)While her official biography says she was ordained a “deaconess” in 1980, she was elevated to “priest” in 1994. You can’t say “priestess” in the Anglican church — evidently the word makes them think of filmy skirts, tambourines, and sex. If you want a sort of objective correlative for the church’s health today, there it is, a downward spiral. (BBC)
Be patient, I am coming at this the long away around.
I was raised in the American Episcopal Church, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, at the time. When I walked into an Anglican church in Canada or in Jamaica (where we lived for a couple of years) and picked up a prayer book, it obvious we were all in the same family, so to speak. There was an Anglican joke that referenced the church’s strength in all the former British colonies in Africa: “The Africans pray, the Americans pay, and the British make the rules.”
None of this is true anymore. In the United States, several different organizations compete for the allegiance of local Episcopal church parishes: the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, the Anglican Church in America, the Church of Nigeria, and The Episcopal Church, the original body. And there are more. It’s very complicated and not germane at this point, except to say that the total membership of The (original) Episcopal Church is cratering.
The Reverend Canon Andy Bryant, from Norwich Cathedral, said he could see why people would be surprised to see the helter-skelter.
But in addition to showcasing the roof, he said it was “part of the cathedral’s mission to share the story of the Bible” and was a “creative and innovative way to do that”.
I don’t remember miniature golf (crazy golf) in the Bible, but maybe they are using a different translation.
I have two takeaways from this story.
For one, it is obvious that a lot of the Anglicans have “lost their contacts,” as the ceremonial magicians say.2)That is not the same as dropping a contact lens into the lavatory sink drain. In other words, their connection to their deity is not there anymore, there is no “juice,” and they are just trying to fill the void by social movements and entertainment.
For the second, at least within the liturgical churches there is a lot of learning for children. Not the hellfire part, but the importance of symbolic art, the transformative power of music (especially when you are doing the long chants yourself), some knowledge of sacred theater, exposure to ritual ways of dealing with birth, sickness, death, and everything else, and even a little about meditation and sacred reading.
I walked out the door myself at age 16. I was not mad at any one. No priest molested me or any of the altar boys that I knew about. I was not stewing about “adult hypocrisy” more than the average teenager might. I had just come to the conclusion that the church’s picture of the cosmos was not mine and that I could no longer accept its theology. So I spent the next five years as a “seeker” before someone showed Herself to me.
Now if I had a dollar for every Pagan who has said in my hearing “We won’t ‘push our religion’ on our children,” I could pay my fare to the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Diego next fall.
What I would like to say is, “If you don’t put something in that space, what are they going to fill it with?” Digital nothings? People need forms for doing things. We need to be aware of other dimensions. I am no longer a Christian, but I do in retrospect thank the church for giving me a “vocabulary” of ritual and so forth — not the only ways of doing ritual, but at least some ways.
Of course, being Christian, all their focus was on the vertical axis — God up there, us down here. There was no significant “horizontal” engagement with the other-than-human world, aside from an occasional Blessing of the (domestic) Animals. Everything was put here for us to use, as described in Genesis. (The “stewardship” teaching is just watered-down domination.)
It delights me to see adult Pagans involving children in ritual and other “horizontal” engagements, giving them ways to think about relationships with other beings and ways to mark life’s changes. Memories made with the body and witch actions last longer than words and doctrines.
Letting perfectly good food sit on an ancestor shrine was so foreign to my kids when our family began ancestor offerings. It smacked against their overculture, their appetites, their unawareness that physical objects are envelopes of intent.
If the parents are Wiccan, for example, will the kids be Wiccan? Who knows? But at least they will have a vocabulary for the sacred dimensions of life.
While her official biography says she was ordained a “deaconess” in 1980, she was elevated to “priest” in 1994. You can’t say “priestess” in the Anglican church — evidently the word makes them think of filmy skirts, tambourines, and sex.
There are at least five stages to mushroom-hunting.
You walk in the woods but do not see the mushrooms.
You begin to see mushrooms here and there.
Your unconscious is seeing mushrooms. For example, every reddish-tan thing on the forest floor that approximates the cap of a bolete will jump out and grab your attention.
Even before you see the mushroom, you know it is right around that clump of trees — and it is. (This happens to me rarely, but it has happened)
You have full bags of mushrooms in your pack or in your hands. Then you look around, and it’s “Holy Pan, how did we get to be here? And just where are we?”
That was yesterday, up in the Wet Mountains, a thick fir forest at about 11,000 feet elevation. “Let’s swing around and work back to the Jeep,” I said to M., and she was ready, so we started moving slowly up the broad ridge.
Then I looked around, and there to the north (on our left), was a steep-sided ravine that I had never seen before — any steeper and no trees could have grown on it. Where did that come from? Just where were we?
Oh, we could make it down into it, I figured, but climbing back out would be a struggle. Something was Very Wrong. I decided to move uphill and try to get above it.
“Nice job, pixies!” I said aloud.
I could see daylight ahead, so I hustled to the gentle crest of the ridge. Walking fast at that altitude mixed with just a little anxiety had my heart going thumpety-thump.
“Are we lost?” asked M.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Maybe we are a little south of where we should be.”1)Later, at home, she said, “I can read you like a book. You were lost.”
Far in the distance were were Sheep and Little Sheep mountains. Yes, we were too far south. We just needed to go east to cut the little dirt Forest Service road we had come up on. I got my compass, and saw that East was not precisely where I thought it was.
A few minutes on, we came to a small clearing, and looking downslope to the south, I could see a gravel road — not our road, but one that I knew intersected it. Since I had a clear view of the sky and was high up, I checked the iPhone. Sure enough, three bars.
I turned on the GPS, clicked the Avenza Maps app, and discovered that I did not have the necessary topopgraphic map loaded. Nor had I brought a paper map. Why should I? Hadn’t we been mushroom-hunting that area since the 2000s without getting lost?
This old hollow fir trunk looked like the mask of a forest god.
But there was a good county road map loaded in the phone, the one that EMS and volunteer firefighters use for navigating mountain subdivisions. Sure enough, the blue dot was close to the road that I was looking for. We would have crossed it anyway, but the high-tech confirmation was comforting, I will admit.
We kept walking, and about half a mile later, there was the Jeep parked in the overgrown old skid road where we had left it.
I think the forest spirits have a message: “Don’t get cocky, kid. The world is a sharp as the edge of a knife.”
But wait, there is more. That night we were busy processing mushrooms, but the next evening I went to Google Earth and looked over the area. That steep ravine? I could not find it.
Google Earth is not perfect though. It used to exaggerate slopes; now it seems to flatten them. So I opened the paper USGS topographic map for that area. (Those are usually based on aerial photos.) I looked carefully. No steep-sided ravine appeared in the area where we were.
That gave me chills. That seemingly bottomless ravine did not officially exist.
A few items for context: a.) My family immigrated to Northern California shortly after the Gold Rush, and that’s where I grew up; b.) it was apparent to me that Fairy beings of European character were present and active in Northern California, and I later gathered that post-Gold Rush practitioners had more or less done things to make these Fairy beings feel at home; and c.) it was apparent to me that the European settlement of the Americas–and particularly the European settlement of California–had massively, catastrophically disrupted Native American lives and cultures and those of resident Fairy beings known to Native Americans. In my experience, at least, contact with Fairy beings of NativeCalifornian character was complicated and chancy. (Read the whole thing.)
You can read quite a few supportive stories if you look at the North American section of The Fairy Census 2014–2017 (PDF file, 5.3 MB).
It is part of an ongoing research project, the Fairy Census.1)Ha, like it’s possible to count them!
The Fairy Census is an attempt to gather, scientifically, the details of as many fairy sightings from the last century as possible and to measure, in an associated survey, contemporary attitudes to fairies. The census was inspired by an earlier fairy census carried out by Marjorie Johnson and Alasdair Alpin MacGregor in 1955/1956, a census that was published in 2014.
There are two (anonymous) census forms: one for witness accounts and one for second-hand accounts (experiences of grandma, uncle, friend etc). Confidentiality is assured and, in the case of publication, personal details will be changed to assure anonymity. Note, however, that by filling out these forms you approve their use in an academic survey.
Some of the results (Fairies speaking Irish?) would sound like the Fair Folk came over the water. But maybe they just offer up whatever will resonate or disturb us the most. (“Gray” aliens, for instance.)
In the PDF, the experiences, recorded between 18 Nov 2014 and 20 Nov 2017, are divided into five sections based on geography: Britain and Ireland; North America; Europe; Australasia; and the ‘Rest of the World’. Editor Simon Young, a British historian who has written extensively on the topic of folklore, says that the Census is being released in PDF format free of charge in the hope that it will allow and encourage others to undertake their own research into the topic of fairies.
In my own comment, I mentioned Alex Bledsoe’s “Tufa” novels. In his telling, the Fair Folk were here before the first immigrants followed their dogs through Berengia, tens of thousands of years ago. I suppose that that is possible.
I like this one. I have added some paragraph breaks, punctuation, and notations.
§215) US (Alaska). Male; 2000s; 31-40 . . .
‘I, at the time, worked as a sawer [sawyer] for *** crew fighting wildfires in the Alaskan interior forests. As we were cutting line around the fire, it began to rain a bit ,and for the most part the fire was controlled but still not contained.2)There is a technical distinction here used by wildland firefighters.
It is our job to cut line around the entire fire to eliminate any chance of it drying up and spreading. So it was [a] low-adrenaline regular run-of -he-mill day at work. Slow and steady. My saw partner and I would each run the saw till the tank ran out and switch. One would act as saw[y]er and the other as swamper.3)The assistant who tosses the cut branches and small tree trunks out of the way. As we switched tanks, I began to cut and he began to swamp the trees; the burnt hot ones go into the black while the green ones went to the green side, this [thus] cutting our eight to ten foot control line on top of this rocky ridge.
As I was cutting down these pecker poles about two to three inch wide and ten to fifteen feet tall, I went to cut into the bottom of one, and right before my eyes the tree shrunk down and a not-so-handsome little man about a foot tall with a beard and many wrinkles on his face stared up at me and screamed ‘Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo’.
My hands held steady [on]the saw that vibrated from the four hundred and fifty cc motor and my eyes widened large. My partner later told even through the screen protective lenses he could tell something [was] amiss.
He yelled ‘***, *** [the sawyer’s name].’ With no response, I stood stiff. He shook my shoulder; then my partner, a seasoned veteran and paramedic shut off the saw and again asked me what happened? I still stay[ed] stiff into [sic] he turns me with grabbing both shoulders and tells me to take a seat. For fifteen minutes he tries to get what happened out of me.
How could I tell this man who trusts me with his life that I saw? That I saw… Finally he says he will have to call our crew supervisor,. I turn to him and say ‘***, I saw an elf!’ He looks at me and just shakes his head in full acceptance. I look puzzlerd, I say ‘You saw it too?’ He says ‘no’. I say ‘what?’ Trying to read his mind, ‘others, others on the crew have seen them?’ He nods his head, yes. Understanding this I keep silent and continue about my day. I nor the others on the crew were ready to share and hold their truth amounts the possibility of fall out that could have incurred. Happy to share it now. Blessings and love to the many dimensional beings we share this world with.’
‘Old rugged kinda ugly though I don’t like to say so. Kinda bald and dirty.’ ‘I said elf to my buddy but it could easily be a name. I just know what I saw. It was in the woods, and my wisdom spoke up and remembered something that lay dormit [? dormant].’ ‘[Fairies are] a dimensional being that can support humans if they wise up in connection with Mother Earth. Fairy is a large dimension of characters. Some to trust while others are a bit more tricky.’ ‘Being a thirty-nine-year old man that has retired from a job that most people considered brave, tough, and masculine. I love sharing this story to those who are like. Well I [it?] got me thinking anyway.’
I’m not the sawyer on our fire department’s crew, but I took the class. My own chainsawing usually takes place on the hill behind the house, for reasons of firewood or fire mitigation. I don’t feel so bad about cutting dead stuff—and I have left a few beetle-killed pines for the cavity-nesting birds, but I get more and more edgy about cutting live stuff.
“Hey, I need to cut these little trees, Just pretend that I am a fire, OK? It will mean more water for the rest of you.”
We have forest fire burn scars4)That’s the new term. We used to just say “burns.” on all side. If you are going to live as an animist, there is always someone else you have to talk to.
Let’s face it, all traditional (that word again) polytheisms involved sacrifice, usually of animals. You give to the gods, they give to you, right? There was even carryover into the Middle Eastern monotheisms — Kapparot for some Jews,sacrifices of sheep or cattle at Eid al-Adha, and of course Jesus as the “lamb of God” who is the supreme sacrifice. Some people sacrifice their sanity—less blood that way.