Project Update

Hey all! I wanted to share a quick update about The Meat Project.

First, I’m pushing back the ‘due date’ to Lughnasadh. I think it will be a good way to celebrate the ‘harvest’ of a summer’s worth of work. Also, to be honest, I need more time. Due to sickness and travel I haven’t been able to work on it as consistently as I’d like. So August 1st it is!

Also, for those of you’d who would like to check out some of the sources I’m using I have an interesting book that I’m just now getting into.  The title is Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie. It’s pro-meat and anti-industrial, which makes a lot of sense to me. It’s also pretty thick in the research department.

Well, off I go to keep working. Hope you’re all having a good Tuesday!

Midsummer Thoughts #1: Drought and Flood

Around each Sabbat I find myself talking it out with C on our morning walk. She sits in her stroller, looking up at me with wide-eyes (which I either interpret as criticism or adulation for my genius) being forced to listen as I pontificate and wheel her around the neighborhood.

Not an odd sight. Not at all. Does wonders for the Pagan/Witch image of eccentricity, let me tell you.

Anyway, this morning I was going on about Litha. Litha is that one of two Sabbat holidays that doesn’t really ‘click’ with me–the other being Ostara/Spring Equinox.

As I talked to C about the traditional meanings of Litha I began to compare and contrast the four season model (of which the Wheel of the Year is based) and South/Central Texas seasonality.

What we have is more of a two season model, warm/hot and cool. From March till October temperatures are generally warm, hardly ever dipping lower than 50 except for a few freak incidents. From November till February temperatures are cooler (‘cool’ being relative), and it freezes occasionally, usually in January and February (right before it warms up).

Most of the Sabbats work quiet well in warm/cool seasonality. A ghostly chill can be detected in the autumn breeze at Samhain, and the immediacy of spring is easily felt at Imbolc.

Litha/Midsummer/Summer Solstice/Whatever seems to be kind of lost. I understand the more cut and dry part of the holiday: it is the longest day and shortest night. The zenith of summer yet the onset of winter, etc.

But the more seasonal connotations don’t really jive here. It’s not a time of fertility. It’s actually a time of death. The harvest in our warm-season gardens has been coming in and reaches its peak. Soon, in July, most of us will be composting the last dying tomatoes, eggplant and squash. Whatever spring rains we have given way to drought.

Drought.

As C and I continued our stroll my mind worried over that word a bit. Drought. It’s a constant in Texas nowadays, each few years worse than the last. Right now Central Texas is in an ‘Exceptional Stage’ drought.

…Texas…is experiencing harsh drought impacts in both the short-term (up to 90-days) and the long-term  (beyond 90-days). For the March to May period, San Antonio reported only 0.88 inches of rain, the second driest such period since 1885, with the driest being in 1961, when only 0.52 inches of rain fell…Temperatures ranged from 6 to 10 degrees above average across the state, causing even further dessication of soils.

It’s important to note what drought is and what it does. Drought is “a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this” (Google Definitions). Drought accelerates erosion and the loss of topsoil. It increases risk of wildfire. The lack of water poses a threat to habitats and ecosystems, especially those that aren’t conditioned to regular drought.

In a farming state like Texas, drought combined with intense irrigation practices can wreak havoc by increasing soil salinity and draining aquifers. I wondered about the ranchers trying to feed their livestock on brittle grasses. As I drove across the state last weekend I marveled at field upon field of maize, corn and cotton. How were they surviving? Some looked the worse for it.

When I was a Christian ‘drought’ symbolized a time when God didn’t really talk to you. You were in a “season” of drought, in a “hard” place. A time of “suffering” perhaps because your relationship with God was “dry”.

What are the spiritual connotations to a Pagan? Especially an earth-centered Pagan? Is drought ever necessary?

I thought about the implications of a spiritual drought: I could see that if you felt your gods were ignoring you, or you were ignoring your practice, how it could snowball into undesired effects. Maybe bitterness and apathy arising like salt from parched ground. A dying off of important parts of self. Certainly, drought is destructive. The only benefit of drought I could find mentioned was…wait for it…more sunny days for golfers. So, drought doesn’t seem necessary the way that flooding can be for some ecosystems.

Flood.

Now, there’s a concept I haven’t really considered in spiritual terms, Pagan or not. As Texas is experiencing yet another drought, to the north people are contending with epic flooding.

Flooding is defined as “An overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines” (Google Definitions). Flooding is destructive, obviously: it destroys homes and communities, crops and ecosystems just as surely as a drought does. But it also has benefits that a drought does not. Floods can recharge groundwater, as well as increase nutrients in lakes, rivers and on floodplains. (Source) (Source)

For some reason though, the idea of spiritual flood is overwhelming and unpleasant to me. What is that even? A supernatural experience so vast that it overloads the circuits? There are only two that I can recall off the top of my head. The first was when I began to speak in tongues. The second was this past February when some weird shit went down as I was cleansing my house. Each time had serious, immediate ramifications. One was met with joy, at the time (tongues), and the other, fear (cleansing). The tongues incident propelled me even deeper into that branch of Christianity; the cleansing repelled me from magical practices for a while.

Flooding also brings to mind how over the course of history civilizations that depended on flood built to accommodate them. They didn’t try to fight it. The rains would come, the waters would rise. Therefore, they grew x-crop that could benefit; they oriented their calendars around a certain set of seasons (for instance, rain-flood-dry/harvest). They built the foundations necessary and expectant of such events.

 

Summer

Summer is…

Ripe tomatoes.

Pests.

The promise of sweet corn.

Going to the beach. And, if you’re C, eating sand.

Seeing extraordinary things, like a sea turtle release.

Summer is here, no doubt. This Pagan house (as in my literal home) is in a bit of a disarray, but it almost seems normal with the heat of summer descending on us to have an adjustment period. The brief spring is over and the season of (wild)fire has begun.

Litha/Midsummer has been on my mind lately. I’m not sure what to do to celebrate it. Last year, heavily pregnant, I went around town and snapped pictures. This year I’d like to do something a bit more formal.  I think what I have to work out is what summer, heat, fire actually means to me. I much prefer autumn and winter, so this is a bit of a mysterious holiday. I’m taking note of the weather especially, as it’s been odd this year (especially the constant gusty winds!).

What are your plans for the summer? What does Midsummer mean to you?

Wild yarrow growing in my backyard.

And Then It Rained

The humidity began Tuesday. One moment sunshine carpeted the parched grass; the next, a gloomy lavender-grey shaded the yard.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s been dry (understatement) in central Texas this year. It harkens back to 2009 when we went months and months without a single drop of moisture. Pictures showed piers jutting out over deserts with names like Lake Travis and Highland Lake.

I can still remember the first rain shower that autumn. That summer had seen a record string of over 70 100+ temperature days in a row. I was getting out of my car at a friend’s condo when a cool, almost cold, gust of wet air made me turn my gaze to the sky. Bulbous purple clouds loomed over, sunlight streaking through whatever crevices it could find. I stood outside until the clouds broke and gentle, wet sploshes began to coat the sizzling sidewalk.

It hasn’t been that bad yet this year. But it’s still been dry, and my garden has certainly suffered from the drought.

So, Tuesday, when weather reports began to announce that we had a 30% chance of showers (!) one couldn’t help but feel excited. Clouds seemed to loom over every highway fly over. Humidity creeped up to smothering levels. People seemed to buzz, just a little, with gathering electricity. Yesterday even the usually drooping plants got in on the action, tilting and cupping their leaves to the sky.

Earlier that day to give thanks for a stray rain shower I set down an offering at the base of ‘Thor tree’.

I don’t really know where the name Thor came from in reference to this tree. Well, I do, it just sounds so insignificant. One day, while walking amongst the overgrown area of our backyard I felt the urge to finally look at that tree. I had lived almost a year at this house and never really seen it. So I looked, and knew it was special. For awhile I just kind of addressed it as Tree. Sometimes as Special Tree. Then one afternoon it just popped in my head–Thor Tree–and it kind of stuck. It’s a massive, spreading oak so I figured it wasn’t too off base.

Yesterday I afternoon I prayed at the tree that they would nudge the rain our way, and thanked them for the shower they did send. I felt it accepted.

Later that night, the humidity rose in our home as J and I finished the last season of Friday Night Lights. Two hours of crying–sympathetic magic, perhaps? 😉

This morning dawned damp. Smothering. J left for work as the first rumbles of thunder rolled overhead.

Then…

I think the proper term is unleashed. Lightening flashed; thunder cracked. The sky turned a delicious purple-black. The rain smacked the pavement and pounded the grass. It wasn’t a gentle summer storm, no. It raged violent, torrential.

Eventually the intensity eased up into a more genial shower. A few hours later it tapered off. Now I sit listening to a cacophony of jaws, robins, blackbirds and squirrels nattering back and forth, reveling in the slip-n-side green playground. The air is cool; the atmosphere one of almost relief.

I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t lived through droughts could quiet understand the utter joy at seeing, feeling, hearing rain. It’s such a primal relief–the crops will grow! The livestock will have water!–that as it pounded the roof above our porch I danced with my daughter, thanking the atmosphere, the spirits of the land, garden, summer, rain, Thor, whoever. I’m not sure. All of them? Perhaps.

Summer Tarot Spread

For the my seasonal Tarot reading I chose to do a spread I found online called Hekate’s Sickle, in honor of the darkening moon. The spread can be found here.

Summer Seasonal Tarot Reading, Hekate's Sickle Spread

1. Significator (drawn randomly)–Queen of Pentacles

2. The Key to unlock mysteries–Eight of Pentacles

3. The Rope that binds, for good or ill–Knight of Swords

4. The Dagger that cuts through illusions–Death

5. Torch 1, the maiden, raw energy/beginnings–Nine of Swords

6. Torch 2, the mother, creativity/growth–Two of Pentacles

7. Torch 3, the crone, death/rebirth–Six of Cups

——-

I’m a newbie Tarot reader. I only have one deck, the Shadowscapes Tarot, and I’ve only had it for about a year. I’m definitely no expert, so if after I post my analysis you, dear reader, can see some things I’m missing please point them out! I have no idea how to contextualize relationships between cards yet, or anything like that…So any guidance would be appreciated.

That said…here’s my (working) analysis.

The Significator (tone of the season), Queen of Pentacles: When I drew this card I felt an immediate kinship with it. This card contains a lot of elements I recognize in myself that I don’t think will change over the summer: a mother, lover or nature, keeper of the home, working to nurture and provide. I take it to be a positive card, one of contentment and the potential for future positive growth.

The Key to unlock mysteries, The Eight of Pentacles: I had not drawn this card before. At first, I saw elements of universality: the spider spinning a web much like a storyteller spinning a story. It speaks strongly to my desires to write and continue my craft, though I seemingly hit bumps all the time. It is a card that represents hard work and admonishes us to consider our earthly home as well as our natural and universal one. It is a great personal reminder that the way to get what you desire in life is work.

The Rope that binds us, for good or ill, The King of Swords: Easily the hardest card for me to interpret. It seems like the Shadowscapes card says one thing to me and other, more traditional cards say another. In the Shadowscapes card I see a troubled, slightly melancholy man. A warrior, obviously, trying to balance the dark and the light. His boot sits on a skull; his throne has Davinci’s Vitruvian Man carved on it, exemplifying the blend of art and science. The suit of swords tells me this is about the mind and thoughts. A sword itself is an implement of pruning (positive) and potential destruction/death (can be positive). That it is the King tells me the energies might be a bit more forthright, aggressive. The title of the card placement–for good or ill–already tells me that I’m working with a ‘double-edged sword’, so perhaps the advice is that though my I can think about ____ all I want to, eventually, I need the experience/feeling/action/creativity behind it.

The Dagger that cuts through our illusions, Death (XIII): Nothing cuts through our illusions like Death, right? This card is vivid and in context of all the others–the purple-hue Swords, green Pentacles and blue Cups card it stands out like a beacon. I don’t think it requires much explanation–change, transformation, pruning, wildfire, birth/death/rebirth.

Torch 1, The Maiden, raw power/beginnings, The Nine of Swords: At first glance this card stumped me. This card definitely did not seem to be about energy! I huffed a bit. Then after I finished the spread and looked over it again it made sense. The figure on the card is fearful, so anxious about the threat out there (!!!) that she doesn’t even notice that a raven is pecking her wings off. She clutches her sword to her, has her fear/anxieties tattooed on her chest. The message was clear: you can’t access your power or even begin while you’re too busy being afraid of what people might think, what the future might bring. I’ll talk about my issues with anxiety later, but especially paired with the Six of Cups (Crone placement) it was the most potent combination of the spread.

Torch 2, The Mother, creativity/growth, Two of Pentacles: A playful card. Light greens and yellows, a jester juggling two pentacles while a monkey, butterfly and lizard watch on. Symbols of spirals indicate a universal theme of balance with juggling all things and play time, too. A reminder to have fun, that creativity and growth isn’t all about ANGST.  It’s also about…fun. Plain and simple. Play time. Imagination time.

Torch 3, The Crone, death/rebirth, Six of Cups: A child has tea time with her stuffed animals, fae, dryads and sylphs. Golden fish swim along the stream. The background is richly colored in blues, illuminated by soft gold. A reminder of simpler times, of childhood, of the freedom of imagination. To me, in direct opposition to the Nine of Swords. Sometimes the knowledge of a crone is in the wisdom of a child.

——

In summary: I thought this was a very interesting and layered reading. Lots to chew on for the summer season. I think it is overall advising me that this summer I need to work, research and develop my crafts. Whether that be witch craft, herb craft, writing, house keeping, whatever…It is a season where work will bring pleasure and reward, as well as help me get past mental hangups and anxieties.

Not to be forgotten in all of this work though is play time. Summer is a child’s time. Even if you’re an adult you can feel the freedom and exultation on your community’s last day of school. That’s a powerful energy to tap into. Temper work with play, better yet…find play in work.

The card of Death sets a powerful overall tone for the reading. It is a reminder that this summer I might lose things I hold dear. Perhaps I’ll come out more publicly as Pagan and lose/damage some relationships. Maybe I’ll fight those fears and anxieties with phoenix-fire and emerge stronger for it. All possibilities. All interesting possibilities.

That’s what I like best about the Tarot. Nothing can be foretold, absolutely, but the possibilities are always so interesting.