Mrs. Claus

Santa & Elf“Mrs. Claus is an elf and I can prove it”, she said.

The old woman looked at me with a sparkle in her chocolate brown eyes that had me wondering if she was serious or just trying to get my attention. Well, she had my attention already, she needn’t bother with that one so I decided to take her seriously.

She continued rummaging through boxes as she explained how she could prove such a thing.

“It was many years ago when I was just a young girl, too old for toys but too young for boys.” She winked at me and held up a small doll with black woolen hair matted from years of being crushed in a box under heavier objects.

“Or at least that’s what me mum thought.” Another wink and a thickening of her Irish accent led me to believe she was about to delve deeper into her past which had to be a very, very long time ago judging from her ancient face and gnarled hands. She handed me the doll telling me to hold it and not let go until she was finished with her story.

She continued her rummaging as she told me her tale.

“It was spring of the year that I turned fourteen when they moved into the old stone cottage down the road from me house. Everyone thought the old place would cave in soon if someone didn’t take it on. They said it was one of the last buildings left from the old days, said it was built when folks still gathered at the stones and wells on the sacred nights when the moon was their only light. Stories were told of strange lights coming from within the old cottage on the solstices and most everyone kept a wide berth when passing by the place. But I had seen those lights so I knew they were more than just stories. I knew that these people that moved into the cottage either didn’t know its reputation or didn’t care. I knew I had to get to know them.

I was a very brave child. Mum would disagree calling me reckless and impulsive. I would go exploring when she thought I was weeding the garden or tending the chickens…or sleeping. That’s how I came to see those lights I spoke of. And that’s how I came to meet Mrs. Vinclaus.

Her and her husband, Kris, spoke with an accent but I never could tell where they were from and they always simply pointed north or changed the subject when asked. They had what they called ‘extended family’ living with them which consisted of about ten men and women who seemed to me to be more like servants or employees than family. They were always doing something, mostly making things like furniture or clothing or toys when they weren‘t working on the cottage. One of them made the doll you are holding. But the most curious thing about them was how they dressed. Always in green, except for Kris, and always with hats that covered their ears. Even Mrs. Vinclaus wore hats that always covered her ears. But after visiting with them on many occasions Mrs. Vinclaus told me to call her Anna, which she pronounced like Awnay and she took her hat off to reveal perfectly pointed ears sticking out from her long raven black hair. I let out a little gasp but then smiled into her emerald green eyes.

“Go ahead,” she said with a grin,” Touch them.” And I did. And they were real!

After that She started telling me stories about their northern home and why they were living in the old cottage in Ireland for a time. She said the cottage had called out to them, that it needed to be repaired before it was lost forever. That particular cottage had been home to her ancestors for many years before her people had been driven out of Ireland. When I asked what she meant by driven out she just sighed, something she did whenever I touched on a subject she’d rather not discuss.

One cold winter evening after me parents were asleep I walked up the road to visit the Vinclause’s and bring them a gift of apple tarts I had made for them. It was the night of winter solstice and I knew it was special for them so I wanted to show me love with this gift. When I got there a celebration was going on in the garden behind the cottage. A big fire had been lit and Anna and Kris and all their extended family were roasting things over it, singing lovely but strange songs and making all kinds of merry. I had never seen anything like this before. There was a warm glow surrounding the whole garden and little sparks of green and blue lights kept flitting around my head. I joined the festivities and had my first taste of mead, sweet, golden and warm. Some of the family played fiddles, flutes and drums and the rest of us danced. They knew all the old Irish jigs and reels and a lot of tunes I’d never heard before. A few other people from the area were in attendance as well but the Vinclause family still out numbered us locals.

Sometime before dawn the festivities took on a slower pace with soft, sad songs being sung in both the old language and one I didn’t recognize. Light snow was falling and Kris, in his red festival clothes, was sitting on a huge old tree stump, Anna, in her velvet greens was on his lap, both smiling and swaying to the beautiful music when a garish flash of light enveloped them. At first I thought it was some supernatural light of some kind but then it instantly became quiet. The music stopped as did all conversation and all eyes were drawn toward the place where the flash had originated and a man stood with one of those new machines called a camera. Everyone seemed to be in shock for a few moments then all hell broke loose. The man was pounced upon by most of the family and a few of the locals. The camera was confiscated and the man driven out into the breaking dawn screaming like a banshee.

Kris was given the camera and in turn he handed it to his wife. “You know what to do with this, my dear”, he said.

Anna walked over to me and gave me the camera. She looked into my confused eyes and told me that only the most innocent of them could possess such a thing that could prove who they really are. She trusted me to keep their secret and only tell those who believed or needed to believe.”

“You need to believe”, she said.

“By the first of the new year they were gone leaving behind only the lovely now renovated stone cottage and this doll.” She touched the doll’s raven black hair with one of her crooked fingers.

“This note was attached to it.”

She handed me an old yellowed, crumbling piece of paper with the most beautiful fancy handwriting that read:

Whomever holds this doll that looks like me shall have my blessing of a long life filled with the wonder of magic.

Loving Blessings,

Anna

Then the old woman reached into another box. As a slow satisfied smile spread across her face she pulled out a photo and held it to her chest.

“This is what’s left of the photo the man took at the celebration”, she said handing it to me. “At some point I cut away all the background that had completely faded away and painted a new one and glued them onto it.”

I looked in astonishment at the photo not just because it was clear proof of Kris and Anna’s existence, but because it was in color!

“Yes”, she chuckled,“ It seems magic was afoot that night inside that old contraption.”

I’d like to say it was the old photo that helped me believe but in the end it was the doll that accomplished the feat. When I touched its pointed ears and looked into its emerald eyes a strange tingling went up my arm and into my heart settling there like warm honey and since that day, just as Anna promised, there has been the wonder of magic filling my life. An innocent kind of wonder that is had naturally by children but seldom by adults. I have seen the lights in the woods and talked to faeries and they let me paint their portraits. And every Winter Solstice I light a fire in the back garden and call to Kris and Anna and their family with thanks for all they have given me. Then I sing and old song and dance an old jig and raise a cup of cheer to them for through that small toy they have given back the childish wonder I’d lost along life’s difficult journey.

May you find that wonder again as well.

 

The Circle

With besom made

from Mother’s herb

sweep old away

negativity curb,

A circle round

to stand within

upon the ground

keeping power within,

Call the spirits

of the four directions

to come and bring

their sacred protection,

Take up the pipe

or sword or wand

invoke the deities

within and beyond,

State your purpose

work magic and spells

raise energy now

shake rattles, ring bells.

For their presence and help

send a thankful call

then open the circle

farewell to all,

Stand firm upon

the Earth below

breathe deep of air

and peace shall flow.

Set besom then

beside the door

and blessings of Samhain

will surely pour.

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The Lonely Spider

lonely spiderI found a faerie trapped

in a spider web one day

I grabbed a hold of her wing

and helped her get away.

The spider eyed me then

such anger and distaste

I thought I’d have to run

and do it with some haste.

But then I heard a voice

the spider spoke to me

“I am too small to hurt you

there is no need to flee.

I am so lonely here

on this web I call my home

nobody comes to visit

no friends have I, not one.”

So I sat with her awhile

our conversation mellow

and now whenever a spider I see

I stop to say hello.

The Dark Night of a Faerie’s Soul

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When an earth faerie’s heart becomes darkened by grief and despair the sky fills with wind driven clouds, grey and heavy. Tree branches toss, dripping leaves like tears, casting shadows between their earth bound bodies. Her head fills with mist that pours from her eyes now dulled by the sky’s rushing gloom. The mist grows, coiling around her, creeping fingers of fog filling her woodland den. Upon her feet she wears the ashes of dusk, a blackness that seeps deep into the pores of her soul. Her steps hesitate, pull her in too many directions, turn her willowy legs to burdensome logs sinking into the mud. Once regal wings that sparkled crystalline in the moonlight now hang languid, listless under the leaden clouds, flight a memory, joy a song lost somewhere deep in the forest of lost love and regret. The drumbeats of hearts no longer beating echo through the vines, twisting their rhythm into lost visions of forgotten dreams.

Darkness becomes her ally guiding her through moonless nights and storm filled days. Caressing her like a drunken lover he soothes her broken heart with tales he has woven from raven wings and owl claws. His words are filled with the breath of night, a sweet darkness that envelops her in its velvet cocoon lulling her deep into the welcoming black dreamless sleep.

“Rest, my sweet love”, Darkness whispers in her pointed ear, “Let me take you to places where movement ceases and dreams lie still at the bottom of the moor. Places that echo with silence, where light is but a memory of star shine behind sullen clouds passing on their way to tomorrow. Sleep long and full in my woeful arms until there is no more sorrow left in your grieving heart. Only then can you awaken with hope in your hand, sun on your wings and peace the crown you wear. For only in darkness will you find the elements of rebirth, the fodder for new life that waits beneath the frozen soil of sorrow. Only night can give birth to day and darkness to light.”

She sleeps under the blanket of earth in the arms of Darkness while night sways like an ocean above her dreams.

The Well Traveled Road

Grief is a road we all must travel during our stay on this earth plane. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your position in the world is, you will know this heavy grey cloud that sits upon your chest trying to steal the air from it. I am walking that path at the moment. I have been on this road many times in my life and each time I learn something new about its trail of sorrow. Each time I grow a little closer to understanding how to cope with it.

My first venture onto this road was when I was 12 years old and my maternal grandfather died. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because my parents thought I was too young and they didn’t want me to remember him that way. What I do remember was being very upset and crying more than I probably would have had I been allowed to go. My memories of that time are mostly of the sorrow my mother was experiencing for what seemed like years, a sorrow that I felt as well, being a young empath, something I would not know anything about until I was much older.

The road did not call to me again for many years but when it finally did it exploded into my life with four deaths within three years. I walked into the deepest parts of the forest of grief with no one to hold my hand. The path was winding, dark and fog covered. I tripped on many holes and got snagged by twisted vines that reached up and grabbed my ankles. The sound of this grief was like a tornado rushing above the trees in a deafening roar threatening to suck me up into its empty vortex. There were times when I feared I would never find my way out. It was during this walk that I was made aware of the powers that come from those who have passed through the veil of death. I discovered that they can ease our pain if we will let them. It was during this time that I also discovered I was a medium although I never called it that until much later. To me it was just simply me talking to them and them talking back. They showed me the way out of that darkest part of the forest into a clearing where the road became straighter and smoother and although it would take quite a few years before the end could be reached, I never felt alone after that.

Good planning always makes for a better journey. So when it was clearly obvious that my dad was nearing the end of his stay here on the physical plane, I began preparing for another sojourn into that forest upon the road of grief. My past experiences were such that I had felt shoved forcefully onto it. This time I wanted to step softly onto it of my own free will. My ancestors and Fae guides from the other side helped by giving me signs and staying close enough that I knew it was imminent. All my preparations were put to the test a week ago when my sweet father finally stepped into the other world.

This time I stepped onto the road of my own volition knowing full well that what lay ahead of me was still just as uncertain as it ever was but at least this time I am somewhat prepared. My backpack is filled with loving friends, family and guides, long walks by the lake and reams of poetry written in the dark of night by candlelight. My hands are being held by the spirit guides I have grown to love and depend on and the faeries are scouting ahead to warn of any holes and or vines in the path ahead. The heavy grey cloud is still sitting on my chest but I have learned a different way of breathing through this grief so that its power to steal my breath has greatly diminished. And as an empath I have learned how to put the proper shields up so that I don’t have to feel everyone else’s grief as well as my own during this time of family mourning.

I know that the path ahead is long and may wind into places yet unknown but I also know that there is an end. One day I will awake to find the sky a little brighter, the breeze a little softer and my mind a little lighter. I know because I have walked this road before and shall walk it again but I will never walk it alone. My guides and ancestors, including my dad, walk with me.

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For The Love Of Bees

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Some people believe that bees are faeries. I don’t believe they are faeries but I do believe they are sentient beings that faeries, being nature spirits and custodians of the earth, care for.

One would have to live on another planet not to know that our honey making friends are in trouble but what you may not know is that earth spirits are doing everything necessary to insure their survival. They are whispering in the ears of many enticing them into the rewarding pursuit of bee keeping. One of the recipients of these whispers is my friend George. A couple of years ago he decided it was time to raise some honey bees. George’s reason for this had very little to do with acquiring honey. His idea was to help give local bees a safe place to live and thus possibly save some swarms that might otherwise be lost to all the environmental threats being ravaged upon them. I believe George has some very powerful faerie allies around him. (Sometimes I wonder if he actually has some Fae blood, but that is a thought better left for another essay.)

His first move was to learn more about bees. He spent hours scouring the internet for information. He talked to other bee keepers and read anything he could get his hands on. Before long George became a font of information on the care and feeding of the honey bee. Then last year he decided it was time to finally make a start. He gathered up materials, much of it recycled, to make his first beehive. After it was finished he then went about the task of attracting some local bees.

bee collector

Using the skills he learned from his research he built a small attracting box in his pine tree and was able to entice a small swarm of honey bees within about a week.

From there he carefully transferred them into the beehive he’d made and placed it on a small wooded space near my house.

bees finished

The hive grew and eventually, to George’s delight, separated and gave him another whole colony to place in his own back yard. The two hives thrived throughout the summer being a delight to his little grandson who would fearlessly help grandpa with his periodic hive inspections.

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Originally George was not going to harvest any honey the first year but during one of his inspections he managed to take a small quantity of comb that had accidentally fallen out of the frame. He brought me a tiny jar with this lovely pale golden comb of wax and light amber honey dripping off it. It was beautiful in its simplicity. Then I tasted it and was surprised to taste mint in the honey. When I talked to George about it he agreed he had tasted it as well. It was then that I knew where the bees had been working. There is a space about 20 or 30 feet square in my garden which I have allowed to go wild and it contains mostly mint, about three or four different varieties. George told me later he was told that mint honey fetches a higher price than other honeys.

bees first honey

Summer turned into fall and fall to winter and George continued to care for the bees until one day in early winter some kids were seen near the bee hive. When George went to investigate he found the top had been tampered with. He replaced it and tied it down tighter than before. He also put some fencing up to try to deter any future invasions.

As soon as we had a day above 40 degrees a couple weeks ago the bees in George’s back yard were out looking to sun bathe so he decided to check on the other hive in my woods. To our great sadness he discovered that the hive had died. After some research George found that the hive’s demise was probably caused by it being in an area that didn’t get enough air flow thus causing too much moisture to form which turned into ice crystals when the temperature went down causing the bees to freeze. It was also possible that the top had been strapped down too tight after the invasion occurred.

Sometimes lessons can be learned from books and through other people’s experiences but the ultimate ones are always learned through trial and error. We both learned that putting a bee hive in a densely wooded area is a definite no-no. A mistake that will never be made again.

bees comb 2

The silver lining to this tragedy is that we each got a peanut butter size jar of honey and George now has honey instead of sugar to attract and feed a new colony and natural comb to begin building their new hive with, a definite improvement over last year. He is still not sure where this new hive will end up but he is looking forward to another year of bee keeping and learning, and so am I.

bees george

Searching For Spring

I walk these woods

watching my soul

searching for yours

bound by an old

yearning

to touch your spirit

by the light

of a midnight fire

under the clouds

of spring and feel

your breath in my hair.

But all I feel

is the cold wet

earth beneath

my tired wings.

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A Gift of Wool

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As an animist I can feel the life force pulsing through everything. As an artist and craftsperson this force can shape the projects I am working on. Sometimes when I have an inspiration to create something with the result pictured in my mind, the substance I’m working with ends up taking over and changes the whole outcome over to its own inspiration. Then there are the times when I’m working with a substance and it begins to give me glimpses or visions of its former life. This is what happened last night while preparing to spin some wool into yarn.

I love natural fibers and one of my favorites is wool. When most people think of wool they think of a scratchy, stiff fiber that they would wear as an outer layer for warmth but never as something they would want next to their skin. If you have never spun or worked with wool then you may not be aware of all the different types there are. For each kind of sheep there is a different kind of wool. They range anywhere from extremely course to the softest, silkiest fiber that wouldn’t dream of being scratchy or irritating. The wool I was working with last night is from a type of sheep called Corrie Cross. Their wool is somewhere between soft and slightly course. I like it because it is one of the easiest to spin and dies extremely well with my favorite dying medium, Kool-Aid (which is the only thing anyone should ever use Kool-Aid for). I have been spinning and dying a lot of wool lately for a large rug I’m crocheting. Last night after going outside into the freezing night to pay my respects to the hazy full moon and speak to the ice faeries that dwell near my back door, I settled in for an evening of drafting and spinning by a warm fire. Drafting is when you gently pull on a rope of thick wool called roving to prepare it for spinning. How much you pull it will determine the thickness of the resulting yarn. This process can be very meditative so as I sat quietly pulling the wool, delighting in its soft, soothing texture, I began to feel a presence within it. At first it was distant like the call of a bird echoing in the morning mist. Then as I continued to draft, it slowly crept up closer to my consciousness until I could see its shape, hear its thoughts.

This ’voice’ began to show me a field, green and lush surrounded by trees. A warm sun filtered through the trees and I had a distinct feeling that it was a spring morning. I could hear the buzzing of insects, the song of birds greeting a new day. But something was feeling uncomfortable. My skin felt hot, like I was covered in heavy clothing on a summer day. The thought went through my head that I really wished someone would take this winter coat off me. It was then that I realized I was being given a peek into the mind of the sheep that once wore this wool I was drafting. It brought to mind all the times I had wondered how sheep feel about being sheared. Watching the process it seemed they didn’t particularly like it. Bringing myself back to my sheep’s mind I did fell the fear and frustration of its shearing but then I felt the feeling of relief when it was completed and the lightness it felt from having all that heavy wool removed from its body. It actually reminded me of bathing and trimming my dog which she hates, but after I’m finished and she is free to go she takes off and runs, coming back running circles around me, tail wagging with a big doggy smile on her face. Like my dog the sheep moved faster and easier and there was a greater joy in her step as she returned to the green spring field to fill her belly with fresh grass.

I looked down at this lovely pile of wool in my lap and its energy spoke of the warmth it gave the sheep through the cold winter but it also spoke of the releasing of that which no longer served its host and in that releasing came this gift of wool. I took a moment to send gratitude to that sheep who once wore this wool, created from its own body then released so that I could morph it into something useful, beautiful and warm.

A Faerie Tree For Winter

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Living in the north takes a certain kind of vigor, one that won’t let you down during the long cold and dark months of winter. Some folks seem to revel in it finding pleasure in the snow and all its playful ways. Their bodies seem to know how to cope with the frigid temperatures as they carry on with their lives as if winter was just another side of summer. I can remember as a child being one of those people. My mother would have to bribe me to get me to come in the house after an afternoon of snowy delight. Winter for me back then was just another side of summer. But as I got older I noticed a melancholy settling in during the winter months. It became harder and harder to feel any kind of kinship with the cold and frozen earth. Instead of feeling like another side of summer it began to feel like the death of summer. I missed my flowers and the green. I missed warm nights lying on the soft earth under a starry sky. I felt like a flower faerie buried under the cold, unforgiving blanket of snow, shivering through an endless night of darkness.

One frigid winter day as I started to feel myself sinking down into that familiar dark, depressing pit of anxiety, my meditations were interrupted by a group of sprites appearing as tiny lights circling around me. They sounded like bees buzzing in a flowery garden patch. As I listened to their sounds I began to hear voices forming amidst the buzzing. “Come with us.” “We have something to show you.” It will help you.” It will bring you peace.”

So I followed them to a forest covered in knee deep snow where they began to dance around a huge tree that stood before me. Then I heard them all giggling as they disappeared through a hole in the side of the tree. I lost track of time as I stood there waiting, for what I didn’t know, and was about to give up on this whole meditation journey when I heard a distant voice calling from within the tree, “Aren’t you coming in?” Oh…that makes sense, I thought to myself. So I mustered up some shrinking power and slipped through the hole in the mighty tree.

At first all I saw was darkness and the thought occurred to me that I had been tricked by some pesky sprites looking for a good laugh. Then light began to seep into my vision and I blinked a few times thinking – this can’t be right. But as my surroundings became clearer I saw the little group of sprites dancing on my couch, and my table, and my bed, and all through my house. Inside the tree was a perfect replica of my own house! I stood there in awe. How nice it would be to live inside a tree for the winter!

As I was thinking that thought one of the sprites came up into my face.

“Silly…you are inside your house!” she giggled.

“No I’m not,” I replied.

“Oh but you are.”

“But this is the inside of a tree.”

“So – what is your house made of?” she asked.

“Wood,” I answered.

And then it hit me.

“The tree we entered is the spirit assemblage of all the trees it took to build your house.” she explained. “ When you are inside your house, you are inside this tree.”

All at once the sprites were in front of my face giggling, doing flips and pointing at what must have been a very funny (to them) look on my face. I was having one of those a-ha moments.

From that day on I haven’t had any more problems with winter depression. Whenever I start to feel it creep in I just close my eyes and see that giant tree in the snowy forest. I know where I am. I know where I live. I live inside a tree during the winter just like all the other summer faeries while we await the arrival of spring and the return of the Green.