Good Yule to all!
(“When is breakfast?” asks Fisher the dog. “Why are we hanging around up here?”
Good Yule to all!
(“When is breakfast?” asks Fisher the dog. “Why are we hanging around up here?”
The little southern Colorado town of Beulah has a traditional Yule log hunt that is almost as old as Wicca — it began in 1952.
M. and I attended with a friend and her young son in 2015, and I wrote a blog post about it, “Invoking the Birds and Hunting in the Woods at Yule,” with lots of photos.
Then I chanced across another set of older pix on Facebook at the Beulah Historical Society’s page. Here is one from 1954 and one from 1977. Those “huntsmen” from 1977 look like they are ready to get back to their moonshine stills, but I think a couple of them worked at the steel mill down in Pueblo, a city that is a sort of mash-up of Pittsburgh and Albuqueque, although much smaller than either of those. One’s surname is either Slovenian or Czech; I had a co-worker who might have been his relative.
When I watch the hunt, I think of something that the English folkorist E. C. Cawte wrote back in the 1970s. He was directing a group of schoolboys in performing a “souling play,” a traditonal entertainment from the winter in which St. George slays someone — who does not stay slain.
“The boys found the play much easier to learn and perform than others they were given . . . and the Wild Horse seemed to know, without rehearsal, exactly what he was supposed to do.”E. C. Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1978), 224.
The kids in Beulah know it too.
This year, of course, everything fun has been cancelled, but up in Beulah, they are planning for 2021. Covid-19 should not last as long as Oliver Cromwell.
Julian Vayne, author of a number of books on articles on psychedelia, esoteric matters, and occulture, has a series on YouTube called “My Magical Thing,” These are short interviews with other occulture-types to discuss some object that has a special meaning to them, either of its own nature or the story of how they came to have it.
Julian interviewed me in June, and I wanted to be outside so that I could have a supporting cast of broad-tailed hummingbirds. They don’t show up too well though, and there was glare in a face. . . oh well.
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.
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.
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.
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
You can see a couple more on Instagram, because Instagram is no place for long writing.
Now I have this box of skulls and beads and wire and you know, all the usual stuff, and when the weather warms up, I have more un-formed, inchoate subconsciously directed ideas.
“Weird things in the woods” pretty well covers it.
Other Barbie-related posts:
October 29, 2003, “Barbie, the Hot Pagan Witch.”
January 26, 2005: “Inanna Descends to the Underworld (Barbie version).” The link is dead though, and the Wayback Machine did not help.
March 5, 2005, “Some Pagan Publishing Gossip.”
April 27, 2006, “Pagan-Studies Barbie.”
One warning. Real-estate listings always lie. The Pour House coffeehouse has moved out, so you will need to find a new tenant for that ground-floor commercial space. You can easily find another antiques dealer to rent it — more income for building upkeep, purchase of new regalia, and printing elaborate esoteric books.
As for the Masons, sources tell me that they are about done for. They sold the building, and I think the few elderly members left have consolidated with another lodge in a nearby town.
The Colorado Sun, an online news site, dropped this into my inbox yesterday, giving M. and me both giggles and epic nostalgia. Back in the Eighties, we were “The Witches of Manitou” — at least two of them.
Maybe you’ve heard it from an Uber driver on the way to an area bar or while scrolling through a travel site. It’s a tale that often wanders through word of mouth. Wherever it comes from, legend has it there are witches in Manitou Springs. More, perhaps, than usual.
But is there an overabundance of witches in this town at the foot of America’s mountain, where at least one apothecary sells miniature broomsticks — or is it just a persistent urban legend?
That much is true. It definitely is a persistent urban legend — I encountered it in my more youthful days, circa 1976. Everybody had heard of ceremonies in “the big cave.”Actually, it was an abandoned limestone quarry, and it definitely was a site of high-school keg parties and that sort of thing. It was demolished when an upscale housing development was built in that … Continue reading
There’s the horror mockumentary, “The Warning,” a film by Summer Moore, a Liberty High School graduate turned filmmaker. Filmed in Colorado Springs, “The Blair Witch Project”-inspired script follows three friends as they investigate a local cult in the forest that borders the town.
While promoting her film in 2015, Moore told The Gazette she spoke with 50 of her classmates who alluded to “true accounts” of dark happenings in Manitou. Moore went on to write, produce, and star in her film. . . .
When Bryant T. Ragan, a history professor at Colorado College, was teaching a class at Colorado College in 2018 titled “Sorcery, Magic, and Devilry: The History of Witchcraft,” he wanted to bring in a practicing Wiccan from Manitou Springs to talk to his students. He ultimately couldn’t track down someone willing to do it
Obviously a must-see. How did I miss it? (The cave in the movie trailer is not the cave that I mentioned above.)
I can say that for a time there was the Iron Mountain Coven, named for the little peak above our house, labeled at the left edge of the photo above.
We used both the second-floor of the Spa Building (labeled) and the basement of an art gallery for ritual/festival/handfasting sites. At the time, a Pagan-friendly couple operated a hot tub and flotation tank-rental business in the Spa Building, which included a large room facing out over the avenue. When ritual ended, the tubs were waiting.There was a separate legend about the “old Indian curse” on the Spa Building, which does have a soda spring in its lobby.
But I disagree with the Rev. Thorian Shadowalker, Wiccan leader. Salem, Mass., is the “witch capital of the U.S.” as far as I am concerned.
M. worked at Celebration, the West Side (Colorado Springs) metaphysical store mentioned in the article, for a couple of years. Its original owner, Coreen Toll, later served on the Manitou Springs city council and narrowly lost a race for mayor in 2015.
Current mayor John Graham, when he published the Pikes Peak Journal, let me use his equipment to typeset Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, which was an ancestor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. John is not a Pagan, but he facilitated Pagan publishing.
So where did the “witches of Manitou” legend originate? Since it was firmly in place by the mid-1970s, it would be easy to blame it on “the Sixties.” To be honest, I cannot say. I do know that our coven was not the first.
To quote a story about the iconic Manitou artist Charles Rockey, who was our own Van Gogh, “Manitou Springs has always harbored a sizeable community of artisans, musicians, potters, healers, New Age masseurs, alternative gardeners, dharma motorcyclists, metaphysical high-techers and liberal-artsy bohemians of every stripe and hue.”
UPDATE 25 March 2020: The Wild Hunt interviewed me for their follow-up story, “The Witches of Manitou Springs and Their Tale of Two Cities.“
|↑1||Actually, it was an abandoned limestone quarry, and it definitely was a site of high-school keg parties and that sort of thing. It was demolished when an upscale housing development was built in that area.|
|↑2||There was a separate legend about the “old Indian curse” on the Spa Building, which does have a soda spring in its lobby.|
When I went to graduate school, I wanted to write a paper on how so many interesting natural sites have “Devil” or “Devil’s” in their name. Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming might be the best-known in the United States.The federal government has been confused by the possessive apostrophe since the early 1900s.
There are several “Devil’s Kitchens,” “Devil’s Playgrounds,” etc. Not too far from where I live, a circular valley adjacent to the canyon of the Arkansas River in central Colorado is known locally as either “Big Hole” or “Devil’s Hole.”
I thought that maybe I could trace the proliferation of “Devil” names back to a literal interpretation of the (sometimes) Christian teaching about Satan being “the prince of this world,” but the topic never fit into any class I took and definitely not with my thesis topic, so the database printouts, etc., still rest in a file cabinet across the room.
Meanwhile, the operators of a limestone mine near the town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, want to expand it drastically. But something “witchy” is in their way.
Where you have limestone, you have caves. (See much of Missouri and Kentucky, for example.) In Glenwood’s case, while the town started as a mining camp, it grew into a Victorian-era resort, with a well-known geothermal pool overlooked by a massive Italianate hotel, the Hotel Colorado. I have stayed there, part of an informal attempt to stay at places that Theodore Roosevelt also frequented. There are several other hot springs and caves open to the public — the “historic” Fairy Caves became a tourist attraction in 1886, complete with electric lights.
In fact, in 2018 the National Caves Association Convention held its annual meeting there — that is the trade group for operators of private cave tours. Now, conveniently and fortuitously, the discovery of a new cave has been announced, whose presence might be another obstacle to expanding the limestone mine.
After subsequent explorations last fall, the [finders] wrote a report detailing their discovery — including warm, moist air blowing from fissures leading to lower levels, potentially indicating a connection to geothermal systems that feed the city’s hot springs below — and submitted it to the [Bureau of Land Management] for review as the agency analyzes the expansion plan.
In other words, if mining geothermal system extends out into the area that the company wants to mine, the expanded mine would put the hot springs themselves in danger and, consequently, much of the town’s recreation-based economy.
I smiled at this part:
The pair named the cave — the first new cave found in the area since 1985 — Witches’ Pantry after the pile of animal bones they found below the steep entrance.
“Like bones stored for cooking a witch’s brew,” Rhinehart said.
I suppose that is better than calling it “Devil’s Cave.” Just a little. You can see some photos at the link.
“A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Own Altar This Día de Muertos,” from the Remezcla (” the most influential media brand for Latino Millennials”) website.
Rooted in pre-Hispanic traditions and mixed with elements of Christianity, the ofrendas – which can consist of several levels, depending on space – are a place of gathering. Not only do they unite the living and the dead, they’re also a space to share stories. Each family member contributes by talking about their history.
You can build ofrendas, which include items that reveal a little into the person you’re celebrating, anywhere within your home. Centered around the photos of a loved one, ofrendas typically commemorate those you knew personally. But it’s not rare to see ofrendas honoring celebrities, especially those we feel we know firsthand.
The beauty of these altars is they can take any shape and are highly customizable. But they should represent the four elements: fire (candles), wind (papel picado), earth (food), and water. While no two ofrendas are alike, here is a eight-step guide to get you started.
And after that, La profesora became upset that students were doing it wrong — in other words, they were being too much multicultural with their altars to celebrities, etc., and so the campus-wide altar building in the Student Center was stopped, while only one “correct” altar was erected in a showcase in one classroom building.
I once stayed a couple of nights at Carl Weschcke’s house, when he lived out in Marine on St. Croix, and on the drive back and forth to the old Llewellyn Publications office in St. Paul I heard a lot of his stories — but I am sure there are more!
Colorado author Melanie Marquis has written several books for Llewellyn, but the one that I most want to see is Carl Llewellyn Weschcke: Pioneer & Publisher of Body, Mind & Spirit.
From the publisher’s description:
To the countless people he inspired, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke will forever be known as the Father of the New Age. This vivid and entertaining book tells Carl’s story, from a childhood influenced by his Spiritualist grandfather to his early days as a member and president of the Minnesota NAACP. Discover the fascinating account of how he transformed Llewellyn Publications from a small publisher of astrology pamphlets into the largest and most important publisher of body, mind, and spirit literature. Read about Carl’s relationships with the most influential thinkers and teachers of the counterculture, and his public Wiccan handfasting and enduring relationship with his wife, Sandra. Written by longtime friend Melanie Marquis?and including photos and contributions from authors, artists, family, friends, and collaborators?this is a book that looks back at the kindling of a movement while empowering fellow travelers on their journey forward.
When people talk about the history of Paganism, most of the emphasis is on the groups, leaders, and inspirational writers. Carl did some writing too, but I focus on his accomplishments as publisher and facilitator. He added Wiccan and then other Pagan titles to what had been an astrology-focused list. He threw parties. He published Gnostica, his “magalog” (magazine + catalog) with people like Isaac Bonewits (briefly editor) and Robert Anton Wilson writing for it. His Gnosticon festivals, along with the Church of Wicca’s Samhain Seminars (both of them hotel-based conventions) were among the first large Pagan gatherings where people actually met practitioners from other groups beyond their own.
Really, could you imagine North American Paganism without Llewellyn books, say what you will about some of them? No Buckland’s “Big Blue Book“? No Scott Cunningham? No Silver Ravenwolf? No Chas Clifton’s Witchcraft Today series?
According to Marquis, interviewed on the website Voyage Denver, Carl was “an absolutely fascinating man who took a small mail-order company of astrology pamphlets and built it into a multi-million dollar publishing house focused on New Age and occult literature. He was also a lifelong student of the occult sciences. and a dedicated activist and engaging speaker and outspoken leader during the civil rights era.”