There is a quote I read somewhere that says ‘a tree does not a forest make’. Well, I disagree with that statement. In this increasingly overpopulated world we live in it is becoming harder and harder to find what our ancestors would call a woods let alone what they would refer to as a forest. Deep within the heart of every tree there lives the potential for a forest. Each year as my single Norway Maple drops its leaves I am reminded of that. By the time it is finished they carpet the ground with the promise of a thousand trees. The promise of the Witch Wood.
I am on a spiritual journey with the trees. I have been talking to them since I was a child and for the past few years they have been talking back. It was a very large tree that showed me that she is indeed a forest in her own right. I have always had the extreme luxury of being able to enter the sanctuary of a large woods or forest but I realize that a lot of people don’t have that. And the trees also realize that. They want people to know that all it takes to enter the woods is to simply sit with a tree. Touch it, talk to it either out loud or in your head. It will hear you and if you listen with your heart you may hear it talk back. When you have experienced this connection you have entered the Witch Wood. It is a magical place where other worldly creatures dance and play with the earthly ones. It is a place where peace resides, a place you can go when life gets too hectic and you just need a little break from it.
All it takes is one tree and a few minutes of your time. The Witch Wood is calling. Will you answer?
Lately I’ve become aware of my lifelong relationship with fire. There is a possibility that I inherited it from my father; he was always setting our houses on fire – accidently, of course, and no, he wasn’t a smoker. The fires were always caused by carelessness and, I now believe, his inability to actually connect to the spirit of fire, which was strange because his occupation included the installation and maintenance of home heating systems, more fire-work. So you might say his life revolved around fire but it took him most of his life to find that balance with it that kept it from getting out of control on him (he had his last house fire when he was in his eighty’s). Throughout my life I watched and tried to learn from his mistakes. Over the years there have been some close calls; a pot holder catching fire, a kerosene lamp blackening my apartment wall, the occasional grease fire and the chimney fire that taught me the importance of keeping the chimney clean. But along the way fire and I have come to the realization that we are deserving of each other’s respect as living, breathing beings on a planet wrought from fire in a universe rife with it.
In the house I lived in for over thirty-five years the focal point of the living room was the big iron woodstove which was in the front part of the house. Later we added another smaller one in the back part of the house. For most of those years they were the only source of heat in our home and I was their major caretaker. They and I had a very passionate love-hate relationship. They were a lot of work but they gave back so much in warmth and ambiance that most of the time it was a labor of love.
When I finally moved out of that drafty old Victorian in town into a newer house in the country the only thing I really missed were those woodstoves and their amiable blazes. At first I thought I could live without them and I did – for about a year. The house was defiantly warmer with its in floor heating and good insulation, warmer than the old one even with its two iron fire breathing beasts.
But as time went on I realized there was an empty space inside my spirit that that couldn’t be filled with anything other than fire. So with the help of a grandson an outdoor fire pit was crudely built out of all the local rocks we could find. It was just a circle of stones inside of which I could safely build a fire. The woods around my house provided plenty of dead limbs to feed my addiction and I was happy for a time. Then I realized that in the dead of winter it was nearly impossible to dig out the pit and fire wood from under a few feet of snow. So the next year I acquired a metal chiminea to set on the small patio outside my back door. Through the fall I filled two totes with kindling and fallen branches to keep it all dry and when winter came I bundled up, shoveled the couple of feet to the fire source and enjoyed many cold evenings visiting with my fire friends. Life was good. But in the back of my head there was a little voice getting louder by the month complaining that it needed fire in the house. It needed a woodstove.
I mentioned this numerous times to my partner but he was not in agreement. Then I went for the logical angle (since he is into that sort of thing) and told him we needed something for heat when the power went out. He said he’d work on getting a generator. We’ve been here for over four years now and there is neither a woodstove nor a generator in our possession.
So this summer I decided to try a little sympathetic magick. Basically I needed a sort of poppet of a woodstove that I could use as a lure for a real one. After much thought I realized it would be easier to make a faux fireplace than a woodstove. And it would also be nice if it was life size. I had most of the supplies to build it hanging around the property; old wood from an abandoned and fallen tree house my grandsons had built, bricks I’d picked up from a demolished old building, and a big wooden crate that was just the right size for the core of my project. The only thing I purchased for it was an electric fireplace insert that tries to look real – and almost makes it.
Long story short, the fireplace poppet is now a focal point in my living room where it gives off heat, ambiance and the magickal intent to bring a real live fire breathing iron beast into my home.
My partner hopes the fake one will pacify me. But all he has is hope. I have a fire poppet and a whole lot of magickal intent.
I love mushrooms. I love looking at them, painting them, searching for them in wild places. To me they are the symbol of all things Faerie.
Today I was planting some bulbs and came upon a familiar mushroom, two, in fact. The Wood Blewit is one of the prettiest mushrooms you’ll ever encounter. It comes in shades of purple and lavender and best of all, it’s edible. So I carefully picked these two little mushrooms and set them on my kitchen counter. Later in the day I set about cleaning them, gently brushing dirt from them, sometimes blowing dirt off that was stuck in their tiny gills. When they were sufficiently cleaned I set them down on a cutting board and turned to grab an onion when a flash caught my eye coming from one of the mushrooms. I picked it up to examine it and noticed a fleck of glitter on its cap. Then I noticed another and another and realized the entire cap of the mushroom was sprinkled with the tiniest specks of glitter I’ve ever seen, so tiny that I had missed them during the cleaning process. The strangest part about this was that they were very hard to rub off. I had to scrape them off with my knife.
Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that glitter is not a natural occurrence on any mushroom. Loads of scenarios flickered through my thoughts. I have been known to brush off my glitter laden clothes just outside my door where I enjoy the sparkle on my doorstep for months after. But the area I found the mushrooms in is nowhere near my door, not even near my house. I live in the middle of eleven acres of woods in the country so the idea that someone tossed glitter on my property wasn’t a viable one. Then there was the fact that of the two mushrooms standing within a few inches of each other only one of them was glittered.
My logical mind wants to find a practical answer to this conundrum.
My spirit knows the answer.
Nature spirits, which I choose to call Faeries, took glitter which they found somewhere – perhaps on my doorstep – and carried it possibly on the wind, possibly by bribing some insect to carry it on her back, then deposited it onto this one mushroom. Then they set about leading me to that place knowing I had flower bulbs to plant that would give them beautiful flowers to play with in the Spring. In my heart I feel they rewarded me for planting those flowers by giving me not only something to eat but a sign from them that they really are there.
So – does that make my mushroom Faerie Food? We all know we have been cautioned not to eat faerie’s food or we will be lost in their world for a long time, maybe even forever. Well I live with one foot in their world already.
Maybe it’s time to jump right in.
Anyone who gardens in the north knows that this is the season for dirty feet. It doesn’t seem to matter if you go barefoot, wear shoes, sneakers, or mud boots; somehow the dirt from the garden finds its way to your feet. I’ve tried tucking my jeans into the boots, wearing them on the outside of the boots, even going so far as putting a rubber band at the hem of the jeans around the boot. No matter what I do at the end of the day my feet still look like someone has dumped dirt into my boot and rubbed it into my skin.
I blame the garden gnomes.
I saw a garden gnome some years ago. Not one of those statues of garden gnomes you see all over the place, which I believe give them a good laugh. No, this was a real, honest to goodness gnome. Did you know that what people think is a pointy hat on their heads is actually the shape of their heads? Yup, that’s what I saw.
It was a one moonlit summer night when he appeared in my flower garden. He stood about three feet tall and just stared at me as I stared back at him. I got the feeling he was just as surprised to see me as I was him. It was difficult to make out colors due to the blue cast the moon gave everything but I did notice that he was not wearing clothes and he was a bit hairy all over. And, like I said, there was no hat on his head, just that domed point with long, dark hair cascading from it. His facial features were quite flat, eyes that slanted toward pointed ears held close to his head, a wide nose with flaring nostrils and full lips below a large mustache that hung well past his chin and his skin appeared greenish-blue in the summer moon light.
The night I saw the gnome I was wearing my wellies due to a resent downpour which made the garden wet and muddy. When the gnome disappeared – and I mean disappeared, he just seemed to sink down into the earth on the spot he was standing – I finished the ritual I had been doing when he first appeared then I went back inside. As is customary in many pagan paths, I had bathed before doing my ritual so imagine my shock when I removed my wellies and found mud caked on the top of my feet and between my toes. That was the first time I made the connection between dirty feet and gnomes.
That was the only time, so far, that I’ve seen a gnome but I know they’re out there in my garden just beneath the surface. I know they are waiting for me every time I go out to weed or water, gather or plant. They are just waiting to use their own little brand of earth magic to somehow put dirt into my boots. Sometimes I make their job easier by wearing sandals or simply walking around the garden barefoot, letting the dirt toss up onto my feet, squish between my toes. I can almost see them smiling knowing I have gotten their message to not forget what is responsible for making my garden grow.
Now when I take my boots off and knock the dirt out of them heading for the bathtub to wash my dirty feet, I think of that gnome staring at me in the moonlight and smile.
They were lost and alone with no shadows to guide their way, no sense of direction only the wind and rain. The sky had been grey for days on end and at night there was darkness so thick they huddled in a hollow tree with their eyes closed in order to glimpse a little light. They wandered in the rain seeking any glimmer of light; a candle flame, a little camp fire, a glow worm or firefly. But the rain was so steady it put out all the fires and the cold was so harsh the tiny light-bearers stayed underground. Without light there were no shadows, without shadows there was no direction and so they stumbled in circles from one hollow tree to the next.
The children listened to the stories of the elders who spoke of a time in the past when the sun and moon had grown tired of all the complaints of the people and so refused to guide them until they stopped their grumbling, fretting and whining and once again found their joy. The elders warned the people that this had come upon them for the same reason and encouraged them to be brave and find something to be joyful about else their days of wandering with no shadows would continue.
The people grew sad many succumbing to tears which only aided the task of the rain and the sobbing at night frightened the children to tears as well. All hope seemed lost as the people pressed close in a mass of anguish and despair within the damp void of a large tree.
Then one darkest empty night the people were awakened by the sound of a reed flute and the tapping of a small drum that pulled them all up from their fitful sleep. The darkness was so dense they had to rely on the sound of the music to guide them. And so holding onto each other they ventured out into the cold dark rain in search of the sweet sound. As they drew closer to it some of the people began to smile others to hum along with the notes that filled the night air. Some even found they had not forgotten how to dance, the soles of their feet itching to step to the beat of the tiny drum. By the time they reached the source of the music all their sobbing had ceased. Most of them had smiles on their faces and the tiniest glimmer of dawn lay flat against the rain soaked sky. They gathered around a piper and drummer who sat upon a wet mound of green moss playing the most joyous music any of the people had ever heard. Before long they were all dancing and singing, laughing in spite of the rain and dark grey that filled the sky above them.
The elders smiled at one another as one of them slipped a silver coin into each of the pockets of the musicians, then moved toward their people to join in the celebration as a tiny sliver of golden light could be seen on the eastern horizon.