The Exhaustion of Grief

When I first started First Nations Studies, I knew Elders would be in the classroom. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I didn’t expect Uncle Ray. Instead of solemn, he was mirthful; he told jokes, and he laughed and smiled, and he lead us in joyful songs and prayer to start the day.

It was his presence that confirmed to me I was in the right place, and his presence that made me decide to stay and get my degree in First Nations Studies, instead of just taking the one class I’d planned on.


Years before, in college on Maui, I took Anthropology and made friends with a guy I ended up calling “Faramir” because the LOTR movies were fresh and he looked just like movie-Faramir. I had a massive crush on him. (On both of them, to be clear.) He was decent, and funny, and smart; he was exactly the kind of guy you wanted to be friends with because you knew he was safe. He wouldn’t randomly turn on you or treat you like shit; Faramir was fair.

I got to teach him about half-birthdays because his was on mine, and I called us half-birthday twins. He thought it was weird, but I didn’t feel judged for it. (It is weird. It’s a weird tradition, but it’s one that I stand by, because it gives one more reasons to celebrate, and that is not a bad thing.)

In Anthro class we had those stupid desks that were attached to the chairs, and when a small spider started crawling across my notebook and I reacted with hysterical fear because my arachnophobia was much worse in those days, Faramir gently picked up spider dude and took him outside, and he didn’t make fun of me for my reaction.

When I asked him out, awkwardly because I’m really shit at that sort of thing, he let me down gently, and we remained friends.

We hadn’t talked much lately, but every Valentine’s Day I would remember it was his birthday without Facebook prompting. That should tell you how much I cared for him.


Sunday as I scrolled through Instagram I saw a post that made my heart skip a beat. A picture of Uncle Ray and my classmates from First Nations Studies, drumming and singing, and the caption wishing him safe travels to the spirit world.

Not wanting to believe it was true, I went to Facebook to confirm…and saw multiple posts on Faramir’s wall, saying they couldn’t believe he was gone.

Two unexpected deaths, one of a friend and one of a mentor, hit me at once, and I shattered.

You would think that by now, after so many deaths in my life, and many recently, that I would have a process in place, a system, to deal. But grief isn’t like that. Every grief is different, and hits us differently, and we cannot predict how it will until it does, and we’re knocked for a loop.

With this grief, I am exhausted. And I am angry, and frustrated. I’m tired of mourning people. I go through brief explosions of anger and irritation at everything, followed by deep lethargy.

Monday I fell asleep in the recliner and slept most of the day. It was a monumental task to get up and make my way to the computer to sit and start to write this post out. And of course, I was interrupted by a call from my mom. It wasn’t a bad call, but it meant I didn’t get back to this post until now, 6am on Tuesday, and my husband is supposed to have gone to bed but *he hasn’t* and I cannot focus, and every distraction spikes my anger back up.

My sleep schedule, that I pulled an all-nighter on Saturday to fix, is fucked again, and it’s only been a few days. I’m angry about that too.

I’m angry that one of the few truly decent guys I’ve known in my life died far too young, because now the world truly is worse off without him. I’m angry at the cause, which was a motorcycle accident, but he wore all his safety gear and drugs and alcohol weren’t a factor, so it was just that — an accident, because even with all precautions taken, motor vehicles of any kind are still incredibly dangerous. I’m angry I can’t be truly angry about that.

I’m angry we lost Uncle Ray, who may not have been young, but I feel was still too young to leave us for the spirit world. I’m saddened and angry every time we lose an Elder, because we lose more than them alone; we lose their connection to the old ways, we lose their knowledge. I’m sure Ray passed on many of his teachings, and for that I’m grateful — but I also know that loss is inevitable, as so many teachings do not make the transition from oral culture to a book-based one, and so few people are trained in the former now.

I’m angry, and it’s exhausting me.


And then I hit peak anger, and it drops away, and I’m just tired. I’m tired of mourning people. I’m tired of hearing bad news. I’m tired of having a good day, the first in a while, get shattered by something awful happening. As seems to be my pattern for…oh, most of my life?

I don’t know how to handle this grief, and I don’t know how to handle the vagaries of my emotions the rest of the time. I have high ACEs — Adverse Childhood Experiences — and it’s made me unable to cope with trauma in a healthy way. It’s made me unable to cope with anything in a healthy way.

I feel like my entire life is a cycle of highs and lows; a cycle of me putting the pieces back together after everything falls apart and I’m seized with adrenaline, only to have things shatter again as soon as they’ve been put back into place.

It isn’t just my inability to cope with things that makes this so; it’s also living in poverty, it’s being a Millennial in a city that’s trying to kill me, it’s living in the shadow of nuclear war — a sentence I didn’t think I’d write until I was quite a bit older, to be honest.

I currently get up every day and think “When I sit down to write, will there a brilliant flash of white outside, and then nothingness, and then Manannan greeting me, to take me over the sea?” Because let’s face it — nukes may be able to hit the West Coast from North Korea, but I don’t have much faith in their aiming capabilities, and if they go for Seattle the chances are large they’ll hit us instead. And even if they hit Seattle, we wouldn’t be safe.

I’d prefer the flash of white and nothingness instead of slow death by radiation poisoning. When I talked with my mom, we spoke of the possibility of putting together suicide kits for such an eventuality. Don’t get me wrong — if there’s any chance of my living through rad poisoning, I want to take it, but if not, if it’s too severe for me to have a chance…I want to choose my manner of death.

The urgency I have felt for months to get out of dodge, to move up north, has only increased. And we still have a year to go.

(My mother, of course, is spending time thinking “Dear gods, I hoped my daughter wouldn’t live through this too.” She was alive during the threat of nuclear war in the 60s, after all. She spent her childhood doing nuclear bomb drills where they went under their desks, and she remembers thinking “This won’t do anything. We’re dead regardless.” But I suppose it was the only way people knew how to deal with such a terrifying reality.)

Meanwhile, while I live with this daily anxiety, while I go online and see more about the pissing match between two certain leaders and wonder when the end will come, meanwhile people I love are dying in the most ordinary of circumstances. It seems almost comic, in a ghoulish way.

While grocery shopping on Sunday I thought “Faramir doesn’t get to do this anymore,” but now I think “Well at least he doesn’t have to fear dying in nuclear war, I guess.” It feels like a horrible thought, but it also makes me laugh, because gallows humour has always been a faithful bedfellow to me. And I think…I think maybe it would make him chuckle a bit too, because he had an excellent and broad sense of humour, and he didn’t take himself too seriously.

I keep thinking that I wish I had had the resources to get land and put together a fallout shelter, as I’ve been thinking of doing since my teens. The apparent apocalypse is looming much faster than I thought it would, and I’m not prepared.

The world rushes forward to its extinction, and it seems decent people are shuffling off this mortal coil before we reach the destination. Soon it will only be us sinners left in mourning to stop the oncoming storm.

The thought exhausts me, along with my grief.

When the Magick Dies

I skipped Beltane advent. I didn’t want to. I just did. I forgot about it until the first week of it had passed, and then I forgot again, and again, until it was April 29th and I had no plans for Heksennacht or Beltane. Now it’s May 1st and I still don’t know.

See, this year is a year I actually started a year-long working on Imbolc. I added to it on Spring Equinox. And this month I had to face up to the fact it’s not working, and I need to scrap it.

How do I know?

Because I put the magic into a pot of crocuses. They sprouted, and then they wilted and became covered in mold. I don’t know how the mold got in there. I followed the directions on the package exactly, but maybe they were just too old to do anything with. Or perhaps I truly have a black thumb.

A pot of dead crocuses rests on a plate on a table. The crocuses are sprouted, but wilting, and covered in mold. The table contains pagan religious items.
My poor, dead crocuses.

So now I have a nice Delft pot of dead crocuses with sprinkled eggshells on their dirt sitting on my shrine, and I have to get up the energy to put them into the compost bag and offer them to the spirits of decay in my city. Along with finding the energy to finish up the third load of laundry from last night, because by the way, I haven’t slept yet and it’s 11:30am.

The moment I realized the magic was dying was a hard one. What I was doing a working for was big. Essential for my well-being, my health, my life, my future. Essential for me to feel anything but utter, complete despair. And it died. It wasn’t working. I didn’t want to accept that.

Seeing as it’s done now, I’ll talk about it. The magic was for a house here in the GVRD, a place to live so Mr Morag and I could start a family together and have a good life. This has been the dream we’ve been trying to work towards for, jeez, 5 years now? Since we got engaged, so yeah, five years. We’ve lived in this place for three years now and in that time hope for finding an affordable place in this part of town has dwindled to nil. Three years ago you could still find reasonably sized places at prices that weren’t cheap, but were theoretically doable. It was rare, but you could find them. Now? Nothing.

Rentals have gone up too, so we are currently stuck here, here in the house of ceiling-rodents and floods on a semi-regular basis, it seems. The house of mildew in the bedroom even before the floods. The house with 2 windows and no light. The house with a terrible, small kitchen, and a bathroom that’s impossible to keep clean because there is no fresh air in there and no fan, so it’s nothing but mildew.

We’re stuck. The rent here is expensive, but it’s still cheaper than the vast majority of places out there, and continues to be cheaper than a place the size we’d need to start a family. To rent a place that size — well, what’s the fucking point? A mortgage would cost less, and we’d have more freedom and security.

It’s hard not to feel depressed and full of despair over this whole thing. It was hard not to give up right then on everything we’ve worked towards when I saw the magick dying. But what else could I do? The universe had answered my question, and the answer was not something I wanted. It was the opposite of all my hopes. The confirmation of my fears.

I tried not to think about it too much. I couldn’t handle the added burden of more despair; felt I might drown. I focused on work, because rent still needs to get paid, even when I spend the first half of the month out of commission because my spinal injury flares up and I’m stuck on opiates just so I can function without agony. (Oh, yeah, that happened too. That’s why I’ve been so quiet in April. Excruciating pain, opiate haze, recovery from both, and then a lot of work, and now it’s May.)

But in the past week, I’ve come to a different conclusion than my initial one. I don’t want to speak much about details, not publicly, not yet, but the conclusion I’ve come to is this: the universe had to shut the door on Vancouver for me so I would look elsewhere, and possibly find where we’re really meant to be.

We started looking elsewhere this past week, and we found more hope there than we ever did here. Now we are researching, figuring things out, thinking, talking, planning. I’m praying. We have a chance at a life now, and I am praying that it all works out, that what we hope for and so desperately desire comes to pass.

And I’m terrified. Elsewhere is far away, though within the same province, and this would be a massive change. I never thought I’d look at settling anywhere other than Vancouver, than the GVRD. I thought my move back here was my last big one, that any moves after would be within the GVRD. But I don’t think that’s so anymore, and now we’re looking at something big and scary and yet — so exciting.

There will be trade-offs, of course, and it will be hard to adjust, but I still think this is it. This is why the magick died — for new magick to be born. I needed a clear ending to the dream of Vancouver in order to truly look elsewhere, and find exactly what we need. And now I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen.

For the first time in a long while, I truly feel some hope again. It’s a strange feeling…but a welcome one.

So now I’m going to figure out what I’m going to do for Beltane this week, with an eye to this new opportunity. After I get some sleep.


(Addendum: I wrote this this morning and posted it to my Patreon page ahead of posting it here on Everyday Magic, which I scheduled ahead of time. I’ve likely gotten some sleep by now. I hope. Gods, I hope so.)

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Spring Equinox Ritual 2017 debrief

My spring equinox ritual could have gone better, but on the other hand, I did it only a day off from the actual equinox. Which I think might be a record for me of doing a ritual actually close to the day. So I’m impressed with myself for that, and giving myself a pat on the back.

Ways in which I screwed up: totally forgot separate offerings for the land spirits and ancestors. Totally forgot my salt water and incense for the making of sacred space/invoking land, sea, and sky. Forgot my journal for meditation and had to BRB during the ritual.

I didn’t realize I’d forgotten the separate offerings and salt water and incense until after I’d already BRBed once, and I decided it was better to just go ahead with what I had at that point rather than having another interruption. I ended up using part of the piece of bread I had for the main offering/sharing of food for the ancestors and land spirits, and they didn’t seem to mind.

Something new I tried was playing music during ritual. I created a Morrigan playlist on Youtube using some of my Songs of the Gods songs, and played it through from beginning to end, with the songs arranged in accordance with the mood I wanted for each part of the ritual. This worked okay. I had the music volume up for the beginning and ending, which was how I signified the beginning and ending of ritual instead of ringing a bell or something similar.

One way in which it didn’t work was that I was a song short, and ended up having to click replay on the second to last song so I had time to finish the ritual. So I’ll need to find an extra song for the playlist for the next Morrigan-centric ritual I do.

I also actually used my Imbolc water this ritual! I’ve put out water for blessing for both Loafmass and Imbolc, and now I have 2 jars of water that I’m looking at and going “I didn’t actually think this through. What do I use you for?” But before spring equinox ritual I sprinkled a bit on the shrine, and anointed my forehead and wrists with it. That felt right. So there’s one use, at least. I’ve got a few others to figure out so I can actually use the stuff up in the 6 months between the holidays.

Because the equinoxes are for the Morrigan, I’ve decided it’s very important I do magic during them. She is the queen of magic in my view, and I don’t think it would be right to do a ritual to her without some kind of working. Your mileage may vary. So I did do a working during this ritual, but I’m not going to talk about the details just yet.

I also left something on the shrine overnight for blessing: my container of pens that I use for planning, journalling, etc. The Morrigan has made it very clear that my writing is important to do, that it’s something she wants me to do. So it felt right to have her bless the pens.

I’ve come to the realization that I really need to do things in order to understand them, and I come to this realization every time I do something and understand a little bit more about it. I’ve done a lot of navel-gazing on my religion for the longest time, but actually forcing myself to write and perform a ritual? I figure out a lot more about what it is I’m building.

This time I figured out a lot about what the spring equinox means to me. It’s midspring, because I measure the seasons by the presence of light, not weather. It’s a midpoint. It’s a time of awakening — so I offered tea, not alcohol. (Ok, it was decaf tea, because I couldn’t access my tea cabinet so had to grab one of the new ones I’d just gotten, but the symbolism remains.) It’s the moment between sleeping and waking, the moment when you’re not quite sure what’s real and what’s still part of your dreams. The tea is symbolic of the need to wake up, to get stuff done.

It’s the moment between decision and action. It’s a moment of the unknown; it’s the moment you know. It’s the moment between the dark half of the year and the light. It’s balance; it’s liminality.

I wouldn’t have figured out half this stuff if I hadn’t just written the ritual and done it. If I hadn’t done the work. And within my meditations on Spring Equinox I also figured out some things about Fall Equinox: the moment between waking and sleeping. The getting ready for bed equinox. A time to drink alcohol, for it’s time for a night cap. Readying the world for its sleep.

Epiphanies happen during experience. I keep coming back to that; I keep coming back to the fact that there is no substitute for just doing something. Anything, really — it does not have to be perfect. But the more time I spend thinking about religion rather than doing it the more time I’m not really understanding what it’s all about. Theory is all well and good, but I can’t understand this path until I do it, and that just means taking the plunge.

Despite fucking things up, I think this equinox ritual was a success. I think that, because I actually felt the Morrigan’s presence for a moment, near the end. I am so cut off from the gods in this place; I haven’t really felt their presence in this house, not as strongly as I used to. But I felt her. Like hot wax dripping down my scalp, that goosebump shiver that tells me she’s there. She was there. If only for a moment.

So I know I’m on the right track.


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Little Things

On Wednesday I woke up with intense pain in my neck and a massive, pounding headache. My plans for working on kitchen clean up and thus my year long project went out the window. So I took the drugs I could take, and waited for things to fade.

Eventually I had enough energy to do a little. I cleared off half of the windowsill that sits next to our front door, the door that opens into the kitchen. Whenever it’s warm and rainy — in fall and spring — we get salamanders on our front step. They climb out of the grate that rests under our mat, and by morning they’re gone — up the stairs and into the forest behind our property.

The past week or so has been warm enough for salamanders, despite winter digging its claws in for the long haul. (We’re due more snow on the 19th.) I opened the door and looked at the little guy out there; he was sitting just under the threshold, hiding, only his head poking out. The night before there had been two, one on each side, heads poking out like little guardian amphibians.

I thanked him for blessing our house and guarding our front door. I said he and his siblings were always welcome here, and I deeply appreciated their presence. He didn’t react, just sat there motionless, so I closed the door so the big scary hairless ape would stop staring at him.

I cleared off half the windowsill of both stuff (piled high with a hammer, a flashlight, and a few containers of coffee) and dust, a thick black layer of what looked like soot. No, just dust. I then found the metal sculpture of a gecko that my mom got me from one of her latest trips — it looks much like the salamanders outside. I put him on the windowsill.

It’s a spot for salamander spirit to sit and rest whenever it wants to.

I don’t think this house had a house spirit before, or if it did, it was sick. So I made a home for the salamander, and invited it to be part of our suite at least. I have been calling it Salamander Cavern for a while; it seemed only right.

A photo of a metal gecko statue on a windowsill. The photo has been altered using Prisma, and has a reddish sheen to the windowsill and outside the window.


Earlier this week our landlord came downstairs to tell us there was a new flood in the unfinished part of the basement. It’s our third one since the first one in fall, 2015. Luckily it’s also the mildest.

Unfortunately it still means I need to get on my hands and knees to check for water seeping through in our storage space under the stairs. I’ve already checked the closet in the office, and luckily that is still dry.

The constant problems in this place are wearing on me. Every time I take two steps forward, I’m forced three back. It’s this latest flood that has convinced me there is something spiritually wrong with this house. The sheer amount of crap we’ve had to deal with, and just as renters…there’s something off here.

After the last flood we bought clear plastic bags to throw down on the problem areas of the carpet, so if there’s more moisture our stuff stays dry at least. We cannot bring ourselves to care if the carpet gets mildewy at this point. There have always been moisture problems in the basement suite of this house; it’s likely why my allergies are so bad here. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the carpet is already mildewy (and it’s all new, put in after the first big flood). I just can’t face constantly moving my stuff around in case of water. I haven’t been able to actually *store* anything properly in the storage areas of the house because those are the ones that get affected.

I’m not done putting down the clear plastic bags. I need to put one under my portable wardrobe in the office, which will be a big job, and in the storage area under the stairs so we can actually put away our Christmas stuff.

I’m seeing things again, too. Little black flashes in the corner of my eye; figures skittering from one corner of a room to the next. Either the rat has moved down from the ceiling and is running around our place, or we’ve got more astral bugs. I did a massive cleaning before to get them out and put up new wards when I did. Looks like another one is in order, and fresh wards.

I’ve never been in a place that needed so much maintenance, spiritual or otherwise.

The salamander home is a partial answer to that. Salamander has been hanging out here for a while, so it’s my hope that offering it a home, a place to sit, will mean it’s more able or willing to assist me in keeping this place…well, habitable.


I’ve been doing more magic in general. I wrote out a plan to do magic once a week, but I’m hoping to do it more often than once. (Once a week = at every moon phase.) I’m doing this because I’ve spent a long time just not doing spells until I need to break out the big guns. I want to practice doing magic for smaller things. I want to hone my skills, and the best way to do that is to just practice, practice, practice. Which means not waiting until it’s a big issue to do a spell.

If I’d heard about the #domagick thing before it started I might have attempted that. But on the other hand, magic every day might be a bit beyond my spoon levels right now. I think once a week is a good place to start.

I don’t know how long I’m going to do my moon magick (as I’m calling it). It’s open-ended. I feel I just need to do it until I feel stronger, magically. I don’t exercise those muscles as often as I should. This is my magic workout plan.

I did my first bit this last full moon. My next bit is scheduled for Monday the 20th, last quarter moon.

It’s better than going to the gym.

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Imbolc 2017, Ritual Debrief

My Imbolc ritual wasn’t a full ritual, not like I did Loafmass last year. Hopefully at some point I’ll get it figured out enough to actually do rituals for the 4 big holidays in one contiguous year.

Anyway. I went simple, because my brain has been fried lately, because I’ve been exhausted, because the pressure of all the crap I have to do has been pushing me into the dirt.

The first thing I did was move the brats off the shrine. The night before Imbolc I’d put various things I wanted blessed on the shrine, including a jar of Imbolc water (though I should note, my Loafmass water has still not been used, and is currently sitting in a jar next to my computer as I write this). The brats included the thing I’m making for the Cill exchange (which I need to finish and mail off this week! A-hahahaha) and my shift headscarves, the pretty red one for writing and the green one for cleaning or going out in.

(My shift headscarves are knitted kerchiefs. The red one I reserve for writing and non-physically strenuous activities, because it’s a nice wool and I don’t want to sweat in it, and also because as soon as I put it on I get fire in the head. The green one is older, was not made specifically for shifts, and can handle some sweat on it as it’s made from machine-washable yarn. I also wear it out, because it’s a shift-related head-covering that won’t put me into inspiration overdrive/will still let me interact with other humans.)

Anyway, I moved the brats off the shrine, because I wanted to light candles and not set fire to them. Mainly. It’s a small shrine.

I set the jar of water onto my pentacle, for some reason that was clear when I did it but it’s weeks later and I’m going off my scrawled notes now and I have no idea why I did that. Possibly to save space on the shrine. This seems likely. Also possibly to let it charge with pentacle energy, now that it’d been blessed by Brighid. This is also likely.

I then lit the candles — the four Imbolc Advent ones, and the main Brighid candle I light when I’m doing stuff just for her. (The shrine also has a Morrigan candle and a Manannan candle; I light all three for Loafmass or when I’m doing anything that involves all of them.) I poured some whiskey into Brighid’s offering cup (Fireball whiskey; it tastes like cinnamon), and then I stood there and was like “Ok I don’t know what to do next.” I hadn’t really planned past that part.

So I decided to clean! Why not? Brighid likes it when I clean and tidying up the office is an ongoing, Sisyphean task. I started organizing some stuff on the floor while bending over before realizing I needed to sit on the floor to actually do stuff. So I did, and folded laundry, and thought about Brighid, and cleaning being sacred work, and then I looked up…

…and found the library book I’d lost. I’d been looking for this book for THREE. WEEKS. And it had been driving me insane, because I am normally so good with library books. The others I had out it took me approximately 30 seconds to find them all and gather them and get them to the library. This one? No. This one had just *disappeared* and I’d had no idea where it had gone. Every day for the past three weeks I’d spent looking in some corner that I’d already checked thirty times because it was just nowhere to be found.

Well, it was where I had not checked, because logically it shouldn’t have been there. I’d already checked under several pieces of furniture, but only ones that hadn’t been moved in ages. The book was under a chair that I had just moved to its present location. So I hadn’t checked under it, because I’d just moved it and already knew that the floor under it was clear. Except it wasn’t.

I grabbed the book, yelled “HAIL BRIGHID!” and started crying with relief and joy. I then wrote a prayer to Brighid in my state of wild-eyed ecstasy. Here it is, raw and unedited:

Hail to Brighid,
Patroness of lost things
I wandered in a field
and you guided me home
I lacked for kinship,
and you fed me
I was vulnerable,
and you covered me in your mantle
I am mortal
and I am blessed
for I know the love
of She who guides me.

I might edit and tweak it at some point, but that’s exactly what I wrote in my journal. Except you can actually read it, because it’s typed and not handwritten by me.

I also posted on Instagram that Brighid was good and had helped me find the book back. I think there’s probably no coincidence the book that had gone missing and been found was The Women in God’s Kitchen, a work of feminist Christian mysticism.

(I now owe the library 17 dollars and have been too embarrassed to show my face there again. But I will get over that, because I need to pay the fine, and also need to re-borrow some books at some point soon so I can read them. I am a slow reader; I often need to renew and re-borrow books from the library several times to finish them.)

After writing the prayer I continued cleaning, at which point I found back a pot of crocuses my mom had bought me. It’s a Delft pot, white ceramic with blue paint, and it came with soil and crocus bulbs in it as well as instructions on how to plant them; mom bought it for me because it’s very Dutch, and I love things that reaffirm my connection to my Dutch ancestors. Well, if ever there was a perfect time to plant crocuses, it was Imbolc, right?

Purple crocuses bloom in a sunny field.
These are not my crocuses. Picture used from Pexels under a CC0 license.

I decided this was the next part of my ritual, so I started work on planting them. The soil came in a hard, compressed disk, and the instructions were to fill up the pot with water and put the disk in it until it absorbed all the water. Then you plant the bulbs in it, and put it in a dark room that’s about 5 to 10 degrees for several weeks before moving it to a sunnier location, watering once a week.

Well, it so happens the office, where the shrine is, is the only room I can keep dark for any length of time. It’s also probably one of the warmer rooms in the house. So that worked out perfectly.

I worked on planting the crocuses, and when they were planted I put the pot onto the shrine, on Brighid’s side of it. I then decided to infuse them with a little magic. I held the pot and envisioned what I wanted, stated my intent, and stated that as the crocuses grew, I would get closer to my goal, and that as they blossomed, I would realize my aspirations. I felt the magic leave my fingers and go into the pot, into the bulbs.

They’re sprouting now, and hope alights in my heart. I water them every week, and when I do, I know that the magic is being watered too.

I blew out the main candle and let the advent tealights burn down. Imbolc was over, and I felt purified and fulfilled deep in my soul.


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Reflections on Imbolc Advent, 2017

So, this year I attempted an Imbolc Advent, and it went in a very Morag way.

First, some explanation: I didn’t do 4 weeks before, I did 3. This was a conscious choice because of my things about the numbers 3 and 4 and how they relate to my path following the Three. There are Three gods, they each have a main holiday, but there’s one more holiday that’s for all of them. 3 + 1; 3 plus more than the sum of its parts. Also, land sea and sky, but also earth, air, fire, water. 3 and 4 keep appearing in my structuring of this faith, so I felt I needed to keep with that for the Advents this year.

As well, it gives me a chance to focus on a specific side of Brighid each week, and it will give me a chance to do that with the other gods for their holidays as well. (For Loafmass…I don’t know. Haven’t figured it out yet.)

First week I lit my candle, sat down, and wrote a little about Brighid in her smith aspect. I realized partway through that it might have been better to do smithcraft last, as I was seeing it as a blend of poetry and healing: creation and fixing things, making things and putting them back to rights. But I was already in it, so I kept going and made sure to note my thoughts for next year.

I wrote the following prayer in my journal (unedited):

Hail to you, Brighid the Smith
Brighid of the Anvil on which stars are formed
May I walk in your light as I kindle the flame of love and justice
May I walk with your grace as I smoor the fires of hatred and oppression
May all of us seek to undo the chains of one another
and forge a better tomorrow
with you, the Smith
guiding and helping us.

The first week was the best, in terms of my actually doing things the way I wanted to. Second week I was going to focus on healing, and I came down with flu and didn’t actually get to doing it until Sunday, the day before the third week’s day. I didn’t write anything down. I just lit a candle and tried to find some energy to pray.

Third week, a day after I finally did second week, I focused on poetry. Ironically the prayer I wrote was no where near as fleshed out as the prayer I did for smithcraft, but I was still recovering from flu, so my brain wasn’t back to functioning really.

Hail to you Brighid
Creator of Poetcraft
Leader of Bards
source of creativity itself
let imbas burn in my head and down my arms
let my hands find the right words to say
let my fires change the world.

As for Imbolc itself, well as I write this it’s not over. I put some things on my shrine for blessing before I went to bed on the 1st (no, 2nd, because it was like 10am by the time I crashed), and I plan on doing a small ritual today (the 3rd, but still the 2nd because I haven’t slept yet) where I light all four candles and…do something? I don’t know, I didn’t plan this very well. Classic Morag.

Regardless my being classic me and not planning things and basically just being a hot mess, religiously, I’m happy with my Imbolc advent. It was really simple and I didn’t do a lot, but it still helped me reconnect with Brighid and my faith. Also my husband and I spent time in the last part of January cleaning out the fridge together, and that felt very proper, and right, and in line with things I want to do for Imbolc time anyway, and I feel like that was part of my advent.

For Beltane advent I’m going to plan better, hopefully. We’ll see.


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Advents and Anniversaries

I just realized recently that this January is my 7th anniversary of beginning to keep the flame for Brighid and starting up a true devotional relationship with her, as it’s when I requested to join the Cill on TC. (I went through a brief hiatus of being part of the Cill, but the relationship with Brighid didn’t go on break.)

I’ve also been thinking recently about advents. Last year I did an Imbolc Advent, as organized by Erin Lund Johnson. It really helped me deepen my practice with Brighid, and reconnect to Her.

December was the Christian Advent, the waiting period before Christmas and the birth of Christ. I learned all about this in church, and went to almost all the Advent services in December. (Snow + night shift schedule made it very difficult.) When I was a child, “advent” meant “24 pieces of chocolate just for me!” Now it means something different (though we still bought an advent calendar, but not a real one, as it was for ALL of December to count down to New Years as well; dear gods the chocolate was bad, but it tasted like childhood, so that is something).

In my calendar for the Three the big holidays are the four festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Loafmass, and Samhain. I’ve begun to feel that I would like to do advents for all 4 of these festivals, not just Imbolc. It’s not a practical idea for me to do advent for every one of the 8 holidays in my calendar, at least not at the moment nor long term (might be a fun experiment one year, though!).

The beauty of an advent for a holiday, however, is that it can be one day a week for the weeks leading up to it, thus not taking up quite a lot of time (Christmas Advent was, max, a few hours per week for me as a layperson). Traditionally this is Sunday in the Christian tradition, and Imbolc’s Advent last year was on Sunday as well, which makes sense as a day that many people will have free and also as a day that could be associated with Brighid, if you are the type to associate days with gods. However, it needn’t be Sunday if that day doesn’t work. It can be any day of the week.

So it is a way to deepen one’s experience of a holiday while still being fairly flexible in time commitment, and it’s for these reasons I am really liking the idea of doing it these four holidays. Hence 2017 is going to be the year I do an advent for each one, not just Imbolc.

Imbolc Advent was supposed to be on January Sundays, as last year, because Sunday makes sense to me as a day for Brighid. However, in practice this ended up being Monday — I still feel odd sitting in just the next room from my husband to do religious stuff while he plays video games or whatever. This isn’t a thing from him; he’s supportive. It’s my own weird hangups about Doing Religion when living with a partner, and this is really the first time I’ve had to deal with it. I’ll eventually have to get over it, especially if I want to raise our future spawn with religious stuff, but for now it’s still an awkward phase for me.

I plan on changing the day of the week for the other holidays — Thursdays in April for Beltane, Saturdays (or Tuesdays? We’ll see) in July for Loafmass, and Wednesdays in October for Samhain. I associate Thursdays with the Morrigan and Wednesdays with Manannan, and Saturday feels like a good day for all Three. We’ll see how that goes.

At this moment I’m not entirely sure exactly how I’m going to celebrate the rest of these Advents, but that’s what I’m going to figure out. I really loved what Erin put together last year, but this year I need to figure out my own thing for them. I am still in the process of building my own system, and this is part of that.

Brighid’s blessing upon you this Imbolc!

(Stay tuned for a write up about how Imbolc Advent went for me.)


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A Christmas Ritual to Santa

(Note: This post was meant to go up much earlier than the beginning of February, but I spent most of January being pretty sick. My apologies! –M) 

It was very simple. I think it had to be.

I got the idea a while ago, maybe born out of desperation, I’m not sure. I was thinking about Santa, as I do in the gear up to Christmas, and how it wasn’t terribly hard for me to switch gears from Santa being “not real” to Santa being real, duh, just incorporeal. I probably did go through a phase where I felt maybe betrayed by the revelation that Santa as I’d envisioned him didn’t actually come down our chimney, but really — it made sense he’d ask mom to put things under the tree and in our shoes. He’s a busy guy! And she’s a very competent elf.

So I was thinking about him, as I do, and my decision to see him as one of the many gods I honor, with parents and such doing His Work in the world. And it occurred to me: I should do a ritual to him and ask him for what we really want.

Because we’re desperate. We swim in desperation. Its stink is sunk into our bones. Sometimes I think I’m more desperate than my husband, but really I think he’s just good at bottling it up so it doesn’t overwhelm him.

We live in an era and place where the dream of having a place to call your own gets you called entitled; where the dream of having kids and supporting them in their lives is considered unrealistic; where any time you lament your lack of choices, of options, your absolute stuckness in this rut of despair you are called a whiny Millennial who wants everything handed to them, and admonished to work harder.

We live in this place and time and we want to be parents; we want a little bit of earth to call our home, to raise our children in, to give them a good life. We want to do this here, in the Lower Mainland, the land we were born and raised, the land that is part of us. We both believe it would be selfish of us to have a child before we are on better footing, financially. I never want to raise a child in the type of poverty my mom and I knew after the divorce (and we were doing relatively fine compared to many) and right now, we struggle to come up with rent some months. That’s not a situation either of us want to bring a child into.

So I asked Santa for help. I sat down at our table and I wrote him a letter and asked him for 2017 to be the year we get our own place and start a family. I was specific that money was the real issue, and we’d been praying to win the lottery, or for Mr. Morag to get an incredible raise. I bled out my desperation onto the page.

I took this letter and folded it up and addressed it to him, and I put it on the fireplace with a plate of homemade cookies and a glass of milk. I left it out all night, and the next day when I disposed of the milk down the drain, it felt wrong to do what I usually do with food offerings (put them in the compost) to the cookie. I was urged to give it to Mr. Morag. So I did, and he ate it, and that felt right.

(Perhaps because traditionally it is the parent who puts the presents out who eats the cookies and drinks the milk; maybe this is how Santa gets his offerings. Through his priests and priestesses. That was Mr. Morag’s idea, and I think it’s a good one.)

The letter stays on the hearth until Epiphany, at which point I think I may burn it if I can (burning things here can be complicated; part of the reason we really need our own space). I can’t burn it in our fireplace, it being gas, but the idea of the smoke going up the chimney will remain.

I felt very hopeful after doing the ritual, and I’m continuing to hold onto that hope, despite 2017 kicking off with my desktop’s CPU frying and my shaky medication footing making it hard to human effectively (prescription expired; I’ve got it sorted now but I was without my meds for a bit and it was bad).

Desperation might not sit well with some people, corporeal or not; somehow I get the feeling that Santa really doesn’t mind it, and just wants to give. And if he can, he will, and I’m trusting and hoping and praying and having faith that he can and he will and we can get ourselves out of this hole we’re in, that we can get to a place of comfort. And yes, it does really say something about the housing market and economy of our city that “winning the lottery” is the main way we see to get to a place of financial comfort.

So I flung my desperation out there, and soon I’ll burn it, and may Santa hear my wishes and help me. May we find a place to call our own this year; may we start a family.

Ho, ho, ho.


Post Script: Obviously, it’s far past Epiphany as I post this. I haven’t actually burned the letter yet. But it’s Imbolc, so I am going to try to do so tonight.

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Lantern of the Ancestors

Sermon in church yesterday was exactly what I needed.

I was late, somehow, even though I made the decision to stay up later and make the 8:30 am service instead of snatching 3 hours sleep before the 10:30 am; distraction set in, and then I’m running out the door at 8:25, which is fine as it’s a five-minute drive, only to be confronted by a car covered in frost and nearly frozen shut. Winter is hard on us perpetually late people.

I snuck in during a song and found a space on a pew; no one was angry with me, but still I felt embarrassed. I keep telling myself that I am going to make a change, and then it’s Sunday morning and I’m late to church and sitting there with an empty stomach, always a bad idea before communion with real wine.

The pews are hard, even with the cushion I always ask for. I can feel the wood in my butt, my back, my legs. I stand as much as I can during the service, but that is difficult too. Luckily no kneeling is required; I would not fit anyway, between the narrow pews. But this discomfort is small, and it does not detract, it is not reason to quit. I feel much of the same discomfort in my daily life. It is part of life for me, now.

The 8:30 crowd is older than the 10:30 crowd, no doubt because the 10:30 service includes Sunday School and thus is more popular for people with young children. The woman in front of me had hair that reminded me of my Oma’s, and she wore red, Oma’s favourite colour.

I always think of Oma at this time of year. Today is Sinterklaas Day, known to many as “Dutch Christmas”. It’s an ancestor day for me now, but someday I hope it also becomes something to spend with children.

Yesterday I felt myself wishing I had started going to church when she were still alive, so it would have been something we could have shared, but it wouldn’t have worked. Six years ago I wasn’t in a place where I could have attended church and still remained true to my personal faiths; I wouldn’t have been able to reconcile the two spaces. So really, I found myself wishing she were still alive, so I could sit with her and sing, and pray, and do the things she found such comfort in and returned to with vigor as she lay dying.

I smelled her soap, and felt her sit beside me. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. And next to her for a moment, I thought maybe it was Opa — my step-Opa, the man she married in her 70s — but no, I think where ever he is, if he spends time with her and his first wife, he might draw the line at attending church with either of them. No, it was my Opa Jake, as young as I’ve imagined him, the only way I can picture him, as I have no memories of him at all. He sat as young as he was when he died, holding hands with a much older Oma, who glowed with an ethereal light.

During sermon the priest told a story about a child who has made a present for his family in class, but in his excitement to meet them, trips, and it breaks into a million pieces. He is upset, and he cries, and the parents try to comfort him by saying “You are okay, and it doesn’t matter.” The grandmother picks up the child, and says “It does matter, it matters very much,” and she weeps with him.

In the rest of the sermon she talked about the paradox of freedom and danger, and how the wilderness can be a place of freedom, but also a place of judgement. She talked about how when god’s people felt lost and disconnected from him, they made idols of gold and silver to help connect themselves better to him, until they could learn to trust in him again.

I have grown reliant on my shrine trappings, on the items I use to trick my mind into a religious mindset. There is nothing wrong with using them on a regular basis, there is nothing wrong with using objects and symbols; we are symbolic creatures. But when something such as a flood happens, when my life is upended and my office filled with things so I can no longer access any of my shrines, or my altar; when I am unable to do the physical aspect of religion: the rest falls apart.

There was no Samhain for me, and I have been spending this past month feeling guilty over that, feeling as if I’ve failed the season for the dead. Yet the season has not ended. Sinterklaas Day is Christmas, and it is a time to honor the dead. I am reminded of that by Oma’s presence in church as much as I am reminded by the tiny bottle of gin I have sitting nearby, ready to make a gin and tonic to share with her. (I don’t yet know if I like them, but they were her favourite, so I want to try.)

I teared up multiple times during service yesterday, but none so much as during communion, because I knew she was with me there. I felt her so strongly. And I felt Manannan too.

I realized today why I suddenly felt the need to start attending church this season, and why I’ve started up my Honoring the Mothers project, and why all this is falling into place at once. It is all to do with ancestor honoring, it is all to do with the Mighty Dead who shine light on my life.

“A prophet holds up a lantern to help us find our way,” the priest said today. I feel like a lantern has been shone on my path, and finally things make sense.

I have not failed in not having a Samhain, and I do not need to do a full ritual (though I would like to write one). I do not need the fully done shrine. I can pour out a drink for us all, and simply sit in love with my ancestors and Manannan, and feel at peace in my soul.

I can put my trust in the divine, and rely on faith to get me through, and it is enough.


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The Samhain that Wasn’t

Following up on a successful, if belated, Loafmass, this year I wanted to have a good Samhain celebration. I tried to get to it by October 31st, but that didn’t happen — work ate my face last month and I was supremely busy.

That’s okay, I thought. Samhain season lasts until Remembrance Day for me anyway. I have some time.

I started the first steps of my Honoring the Mothers project, which was setting up the dining room table. And then I got ready to put together a Samhain ritual that was about the ancestors, about Manannan’s adoption of me, and about starting this year and a day project.

The night of the day I finished the table I walked into my office to journal…and heard a squelch as my feet got wet and cold.

Our house flooded.

I’ve spent the past week packing up things, doing a million loads of laundry, dealing with ruined items, getting sick from mildew, and dealing with landlords and insurance people in and out, in and out. I haven’t said my morning and evening prayers all week; I’ve barely been able to write because until tonight I wasn’t able to access my laptop; most of our belongings had to be taken down and moved around; half my shrines are taken down and packed up and the other half are inaccessible.

At points I thought the stress might kill me. I’ve had trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, trouble thinking.

Somehow in the middle of all this I found a few moments of peace, found a few moments of clarity. Although it felt as if my year and a day plan had been tossed out the window, it hadn’t. I just needed to factor things like this into it. Adjust. Pivot. Still, some part of me is deeply bitter at the repetitious play of my life: make a plan, watch it fall to shit. Get things slightly together, brace for impact. At some point, I start to wonder if maybe it’s not better that I just give it up. At some point, I start to wonder why my mother didn’t name me Sisyphus.

Now I need to make the decision if I want to do Samhain sometime this coming week or not. I’m physically exhausted and I have no actual physical space to hold any kind of actual ritual. But maybe I can write something simple, share a gin and tonic (my Oma’s favourite drink) with the ancestors and Manannan, and just be. Even if it’s at a ridiculously messy kitchen table. (Currently holding my laptop, my mom’s PC, two boxes of Christmas ornaments, a bottle of distilled water, Monopoly and 1980s Trivial Pursuit, a box of random crap, my music books, a stack of catalogs, a box of CDs, two of my headscarves and one headband, my library book bag — but not the library books — three journals, the proof of the Polytheist Devotional Journal I’m trying to work on, a box of Spongebob stickers, pliers, a screwdriver, and the liquor licence for my wedding last year.)

I think I should do something, even if I’m so stressed and tired I feel like whatever antennae I use to sense the gods and spirits have been cut off, taped up, otherwise incapacitated. Even if I feel like something broke in me this year, and help has yet to arrive. Maybe I just need to fake it till I make it, show up and do things and hope I can feel something. It’s not just my extremities that are numb these days. I’ve built up a thick shell around something darker, something I dare not express, something that needs cotton swabbing to keep it hidden.

I am fumbling my way through the dark, hoping I don’t hurt myself or others. I am trying to keep the beacons lit, striking matches against my rock hard flesh, hoping someone will see the flame on the horizon, ride to my aid, cut me out of this prison I find myself in.

Show up. Do the work. Hope it saves you.

It’s all I can do for now. It’s all I can manage.


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