About Lily

A teacher of youngins, Lily finds meaning through the pursuit of knowledge. She is an artist, a witch, a hedge-rider, a rune reader, and animist who finds solace in books, folklore, and coffee.

A Samhain Ritual

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The dead are always listening, but now the Veil has thinned it is time that we listen.

Last night I took my silver tray, a portable alter of sorts, to bathe in the darkness of a moonless sky. I lit candles and sage and called upon my three disir to form the boundary of a triangle for my sacred tasks. I called on each corner as an aspect of my womanhood.

Bloodied Warrior of vicious protection.

Dark Mother of unknowable depths.

Dreaded Enchantress of infinite wisdom.

I called on the the wights that live within my home.

Wights of Place, of Hearth and Home,

of Brick and Beam, of Wood and Stone.

Heed my Triangle, drawn with power,

I summon your strength in this sacred hour. 

I called on the spirits of blood and bone and shadow.

Spirits of Blood, Spirits of Bone,

Spirits of Shadow I call you Home.

Beyond the Veil and through the dark,

Come and heed the witch’s hark.

And finally I called upon the beloved and mighty dead of my ancestral tree. I called them by first name and surname and I sang to them through our bound of kinship and as I chanted the wind blew out my candles leaving me shrouded in darkness. I whispered.

I know you.

I see you.

I hear you.

I will speak your names.

And the dead spoke.

Of Spooks and Hallowe’en

The veil is thinning, my little darklings. Can’t you feel it? Samhain, Hallowe’en, All Hallows Eve is one of my most favorite times of the year. I love darkness and pumpkins and nights that are growing increasingly colder and longer as we begin our trek towards the solstice. I love when the haunts and ghouls and spooks and spirits come out of their hiding to join in our revels because- despite attempts by the Abrahamic faiths to destroy our pagan celebrations- Samhain has stood the test of time.

She has evolved, to be sure, she has changed and adapted, but her essence, her core is a revelry of the dark and the weird. This is the only time our society deems it acceptable for children and adults to don their costumes and celebrate with the dead. Admittedly the good Christian folk of Texas don’t know that’s what they’re doing, but we know better, don’t we?

I see children dressed as ghouls and adults decorating their houses and dwellings and I smile, I smile wickedly. Carve your pumpkins, your jack-o-lanterns and place them on your doorstep, a warding you don’t even understand. Let your children out at night, dressed in disguises so they can dance with the dead on this most sacred night. Celebrate with us, even though you don’t understand the celebration.

Look how desperately they’re starving for their roots, how the remnants of our deepest pagan values couldn’t be destroyed even after hundreds of years. Embrace it, good folks, if only for one night. scary-vintage-halloween-creepy-costumes-130-57fcaebc54a9b__605

 

Sin Filled Heathen

I am an elementary teacher living deep in the heart of the Lone Star State and because of who I am and where I live, I have never discussed my spiritual or even political beliefs at work.

Even when Especially when my colleagues discuss theirs’.

You see, I am a young woman of European descent living in a region where the dominant culture is conservative and Christian, so it’s not shocking when folks assume I am a member of this dominant culture. Depending on the circumstances, in certain situations I may correct assumptions with a simple “I’m not Christian,” other times I’ll go a little deeper and explain I’m pagan.

But at work I bite my tongue. Literally. I literally bite my tongue to keep from screaming expletives that have no place in an elementary school.

While I sit in the teacher’s lounge with my team and we eat our lunch they start talking about god and I bite my tongue, but my thoughts are alive with malice.

“It was god’s grace that allowed me to survive that car accident.”

Or maybe he’s punishing you. 

“God only deals you what you can handle, that’s why I didn’t wind up in a wheelchair.”

Those Syrian children buried under the rubble of terrorist bombs must be able to handle it then, hmm?

“They won’t let us call it an “act of god” in class, we have to say “act of nature.” But who controls nature? Science they’d say, but we know better.”

You ignorant pond scum. 

“You’re father’s unexpected death was all a part of god’s plan.”

There aren’t words in the English language vile enough for me to properly tell you to fuck off. 

“I’ve confessed all my dirty secrets to you now, I guess you know I’m a sin filled heathen.”

Oh sweet child, you have no idea who you’re talking to. 

Impromptu Binding or Why You Don’t Fuck With Me

Yesterday as I sat at home by myself, sipping a glass of wine and listening to the steady breathing of the cat asleep next to me I began to think. I began to think about a few people who are in my life who I really wish weren’t and I began to think about how they have manipulated and harmed someone close to me and then, I began to grow angry.

Quite angry, in fact. I was pretty fucking pissed.

I stood up and looked around. I put down my wine glass and clenched my fist and I thought to myself, “Fuck them.”

And then I thought, “I don’t have to put up with this shit.”

I walked to my bedroom, where my altar sits, and while I was walking I began banging on the walls and doors to call my spirits. I sang to them, calling them to me, letting the pounding of my knuckles on the wood and drywall be like a drum leading them home.

Spirits of Blood, Spirits of Bone, Spirits of Shadow, I call you home.

From my altar I took my mother’s pocket knife, my grandmother’s silver thimble, the picture of my great-grandmother, my Freyja blessed cat statue, sage, and my megalodon tooth. I held these sacred things in my hands, still chanting to my spirits, and I took them to my kitchen.

I laid out my supplies on the counter and grabbed a cord and sheet of paper. I lit the sage and inhaled the smoke into my lungs. Filled with righteous fury at those who had wronged me and mine, I began to sing to myself.

Sacred is the bitch, for she is vicious in her power. Sacred is the bitch.

I tied the cord three times and began sharpening my mothers knife, calling on my ancestors for their help. I walked around the kitchen sharpening the knife, honing my intent.

On the paper I wrote the names of those I wanted out of my life and I chanted, demanding they leave my family alone. I sealed their names with a bind rune created from perth (who knows me best), algiz (who understands protection) and tiwaz (who understands violence).

I folded up the paper tightly, chanting to my ancestors, and when the paper was good and folded I took my mothers knife and stabbed it in the middle. Holding the paper down with the knife, I spun the paper counter-clockwise and chanted “Stay away.” until I had worn a hole through the paper. Then I took the thrice knotted cord and I tied the note up, whispering incantations and prayers to my spirits and my ancestors.

I need to bury it, I thought to myself. I need to bury their names so the dead can find them, so my ancestors can do the work. I put the bound paper inside my mouth and wiped my saliva onto it and then I took salt and rubbed it into the paper, then I dipped it all in my wine. An offering, an offering for the dirt of spit, wine, and salt.

I held the bound paper, the bound names, close to my mouth and I whispered, “Send my words to the dead, send my words to the ancestors.”

I went outside into my backyard and dug, continuing my whispered chants.

Send my words to the dead, send my words to the ancestors.

I dug a hole with my bare hands, huddled over the ground on my knees, dirt beneath my nails. I stuffed the paper into the ground and covered it. I saw an old rusty screw next to me and I smiled. I grabbed the screw and pushed it down into the dirt and I whispered.

You have no power here.

And I went inside and I finished my wine.

Where is our family’s home?

I’ve been doing a great deal of work on my family tree- tracing my ancestors and learning their names. They appreciate the recognition and I want to ensure my name and the names of my blood are repeated and acknowledged by my descendants.

I’ve spent a great deal of time imagining these descendants, these children I don’t have. Imagining what I’ll teach them and the stories I’ll whisper to them as they fall asleep about their grandparents and great-grandparents. The recipes and tricks I’ll pass down and the traditions I’ll forge new with help from their tiny hands.

I don’t have any children yet. I am young. I have time.

It’s a strange thing to have children, stranger still is to raise them in a foreign land. My family is a product of immigration. I am second generation born in the United States from Germany and third generation born in the United States from Italy- this is  not the land of my ancestors. Even my parents, raised in New York and southern California, come from a different land than I.

My mother’s home is the ocean, warm sandy beaches and cool surf.

My father’s home is the city with towering skyscrapers that obscure the sky.

I am from none of these places. I am a creature of mountains. A daughter of grey rains and dark skies. I am a child of the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest.

But my children will not share this with me, my children will be of yet another land. They will grow up knowing the mightiness of the sun and blue skies that are unending. They will be creatures of open plains and unyielding heat. When I talk of rain that never stops and a grey chill that permeates your skin and soaks into your bones, when I talk of the dense forests of my childhood they won’t understand.

I wonder, is this a taste of what my grandmother felt raising the first of her family not born born in Germany, not born in Berlin? Is this what my great-grandparents felt raising their children so far from their ancestral shores of southern Italy?

What is the price of this familial disconnection from the land? What is the benefit?

Wholeness of the Witch

A few days ago I came across a blog post by Alana Louise May called “Fuck New Age Purity. Get Dirty. Get Off On Your Shadow.” and everything inside my soul screamed “Yessssssss.”

I won’t do her words the disservice of summarization, so just go freakin’ read it and bask in them yourself. Did you read it? Excellent. Let’s continue.

The post is a few weeks old, but it sang to a part of me I didn’t even realize I was repressing. The dirty, corroding, dark, putrid part of me. The part of me that belongs to the witch above all other parts.

The witch is the outcast.

The witch is the untouchable.

The witch is the misfit.

The witch is the freak.

Standing outside of society, the witch embraces chaos. Morality is a social construct. The universe does not recognize good or evil, dark or light. These are tools society has invented- tools to understand, tools to coexist, tools to repress- but tools are only necessary for as long as they are useful.

I am a creature of my nature. I refuse to become less by fracturing my soul and assigning values to certain aspects. I am everything that I am.

I am violent.  I am creative. I am callous. I am manipulative. I am generous. I am fair. I am possessive. I am hateful.

I am whole.  

My tools are deceit and cunning, wrath and viciousness. My tools are acceptance and patience, imagination and resilience.

Dark and light are a farce. Deep in the universal abyss all things are one.

I won’t “rise above” my shadow. I am my shadow.

Don’t tear yourself asunder in the name of purity. You are already everything you need to be, Witch.

Daily House Cleansing

When I have free time during my day I like to cleanse my house, but really it’s less a cleansing and more of a make-the-house-wights-happy. Happy wights, happy life. I have  found that the wights of my home like to be acknowledged, they like a house kept clean and looked after, they like libations, and they like smoke. So I pack prayer smoke into my pipe and light it with a sigh. I walk my house, inside and out, and I sing to my wights, drawing a bindrune sigil of my own invention for them.

Wights of Place
Of hearth and home
Of brick and beam
Of wood and stone

Heed my sigil
Drawn with power
I gift these evils
To your mouths; devour.

I have found house wights to be not necessarily benign creatures. They are prone to moods and opinions similar and much different  to us and it’s good to keep them on your side. So instead of asking them to banish negative energies or people or spirits, I ask them to devour and destroy anything that would harm our home. It seems to me better to destroy your enemies rather than shoo them away.

Capture

Runes and Whispers: UR

14px-runic_letter_uruz-svgProto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: UR 
Meaning: “wild cattle” or “water”

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Ur byþ anmod ond oferhyrned,
felafrecne deor, feohteþ mid hornum
mære morstapa; þæt is modig wuht.

Norwegian Poem
Úr er af illu jarne;
opt løypr ræinn á hjarne.

Icelandic Poem
Úr er skýja grátr
ok skára þverrir
ok hirðis hatr.
umbre vísi

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

Norwegian Poem
Dross comes from bad iron;
the reindeer often races over the frozen snow.

Icelandic Poem
Rain is lamentation of the clouds
and ruin of the hay-harvest
and abomination of the shepherd.

Musings:

Ur, often Uruz or Ura, is the second rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the u sound within the alphabet. Though Ur has a stanza in each rune poem, the poems all contains a different meaning for this rune, making Ur one of the more complicated and nuanced of the runes. The Anglo- Saxon poem, written in Old English, refers to this rune as “auroch,”  while the Icelandic poem refers to Ur as “rain,” and the Norwegian poem speaks of “dross/slag.”

All of these are completely different things! Why you do dis, rune poems?! These words don’t even have the same roots! The Old English word for “auroch” and the Icelandic word for “rain” come from two different Proto-Germanic words, “ūruz” and “ūrą“ respectively, and from an etymological sense, these words are not related in a way we can currently trace. It’s possible the Norwegian word for “slag”, which is the stony liquid byproduct of smelting or refining ore, could be derived from “water/ūrą,” so perhaps the Icelandic and Norwegian meanings are distantly related…but slag and rain are completely different concepts.

Most sources and modern interpretations that I have read accept “auroch” as the meaning for Ur, as a rune for “water,” “ice,” and “hail” already exists within the Futhark, making “slag” and “rain” all but unnecessary. I generally agree with that conclusion, however one should not ignore or discount the layers of meaning afforded to Ur by the Icelandic and Norwegian poems. The Icelandic poem calls Ur “rain” and proclaims it to be the “lamentation of the clouds and ruin of the hay-harvest and abomination of the shepherd,” while the Norwegian poem warns that slag “comes from bad iron.”

I tend to think of Fehu and Ur as complimentary runes. Where Fehu is the domesticated “mobile wealth,” such as cattle and sheep,  Ur is the auroch, a savage and proud wild bovine yet to be brought low by mankind’s harness and fences. When Ur appears in a spread, I consider it a symbol of the querent’s untapped potential, a messy beast yet to be wrangled and the wealth inside which we may not even be aware we possess. Sometimes that wild cattle has horns and is difficult to capture; left to its own devices, Ur can easily become the “ruin of the hay-harvest”. But, if one can take control, then that untamed beast inside can become a powerful ally or a cleansing storm.

Note: More on the rune poems here.

My Father

This is not a normal post for me. This post will not contain musing of witchcraft or thoughts on magic. It will contain the story of the current worst moment of my life.

Two days ago I sat on my parents couch with my brother and my sister  and listened as my father told us the results of his biopsy. Cancer.

Cancer. 

My father has cancer.

I stared numbly at his face that looks so much like mine, at his nose that I inherited and at his mouth that was spilling out words that were all at once murky and perfectly clear.

Aggressive cancer. Cancer that spreads. 

I ferociously bit the inside of my cheek, focusing on the pain of that and not the pain in my gut as he continued. I looked over at my brother who stared stony faced at the hardwood floor and my sister who was already crying. I am the oldest, I am their keeper, I cannot cry. My father is not even fifty-five. I am not even twenty-seven. How is this happening?

I tried to listen to my father, I tried to understand what the doctors had said and what tests he needed, but all I could think about were his massive forearms lifting me up onto his shoulders. I was thinking about how he’d make me lay down with him underneath his car so I could see how to change my own oil. I was thinking about holding his hand and all the times I yelled at him or rolled my eyes. I was thinking about each and every lie I had ever told him.

And quite suddenly I imagined the chair he was sitting in empty. And I imagined my parent’s house without him. And I imagined a world without him. And I imagined my life without him. And my mother’s life without him. And my brother’s life without him. And my sister’s life without him.

And then I cried. The type of crying you do when you’re a child and your whole face contorts in the ugliest way, with snot coming out of your nose. The hysterical sort of crying that hurts your mouth and your throat and you don’t know how to stop. My face twisted in agony, but inside I felt numb and as empty as this whole fucking world was going to feel without my father.

Then my father smiled at me with all the kindness that is in his giant heart because this was what he was the most worried about- telling us. He was afraid of our pain, he was worried about our suffering.

I don’t know what I’m going to do or what’s going to happen.

Runes and Whispers: FEHU

14px-runic_letter_fehu-svg

Proto- Germanic Reconstructed Name: FEHU
Meaning: “wealth, cattle”

Original Text in Poems:

Anglo-Saxon Poem
Feoh byþ frofur fira gehwylcum;
sceal ðeah manna gehwylc miclun hyt dælan
gif he wile for drihtne domes hleotan

Norwegian Poem
Fé vældr frænda róge;
føðesk ulfr í skóge.

Icelandic Poem
Fé er frænda róg
ok flæðar viti
ok grafseiðs gata
aurum fylkir

Translation:

Anglo-Saxon  Poem
Wealth is a comfort to all men;
yet must every man bestow it freely,
if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

Norwegian Poem
Wealth is a source of discord among kinsmen;
the wolf lives in the forest.

Icelandic Poem
Wealth
source of discord among kinsmen
and fire of the sea
and path of the serpent.

Musings:

Fehu is the first rune of the Elder Futhark and represents the f sound within the alphabet. Conveniently, not only is fehu attested to in all three runic poems, it’s meaning is also agreed upon in all three poems: wealth. The Anglo-Saxon poem uses Christian imagery to encourage one to give away one’s wealth (a common theme in the Abrahamic faiths) while the Icelandic and Norwegian poems both contain a warning about the nature of wealth. Specifically, the latter two poems urge us to beware of the dividing power of wealth, citing wealth as a “source of discord among kinsmen.”

I encourage you to check out the runic poems yourself, but for me the Norwegian and Icelandic poems conjure images of war and betrayal. Wealth is power and all wars come down to power. Fehu is the wealth (not just monetary wealth, but knowledge and skills as well) and power that we can and should share with our communities. When throwing runes and fehu appears, I suggest assessing what runes are influencing it (so which runes are near fehu), because fehu rarely acts alone, before urging the querent to figure out what “wealth” they have to offer.

Note: More on the rune poems here.