Honoring my Ancestors through the Living

My ancestor work hasn’t exactly been going how I thought it would. In my head I had this idea of sitting in front of an altar everyday or every week, offering food, drink, incense, and speaking with my ancestors. Well, despite trying to work with a couple of different schedules, that has worked out about as well as a New Year’s Resolution. But that isn’t to say that I have just left my ancestors by the wayside. No, they, specifically my recently passed grandfather, have become a part of my daily routine.

Now before I go any further, I want to make a quick distinction. Right now my ancestor work is divided into two camps. I use the word ancestor when I am referring to the dead that are relatively recently passed, so grandparents, great-grandparents, and generally people whose names are still remembered. These also include the people who I’m not blood related to but would still consider recent ancestors. These are people from communities I am a part of, mentors, people in my fields of work, and the like. In the other camp are my disir, who I understand as my female ancestors that are connected to the Norse tradition. I work with these groups separately both because of the difference in deities, and because they have very different vibes to them.

So for this post I will be talking about how I have been honoring my ancestors, specifically my grandfather, in ways I didn’t quite expect. My grandfather’s passing has been a roller coaster of emotions. I won’t get into details, but his death was very painful for me and his affairs have been handled less than fairly. I will make another post talking about the few possessions I was able to get in a different post, but right now I want to focus on the most important way I have been honoring my grandfather.

You see, probably the most important and emotional thing my mother and I brought with us from my grandfather is his dog. My mom started taking care of him when my grandpa went back to the hospital and once he passed, he became a permanent part of our family. He’s a loving lab/golden mix named Buddy, who was never really taught to play, but loves to sit it front of you asking for pets or stand just far away from you while you are sitting down so you can give him a belly rub with your foot.

My grandpa loved his dogs. I think as soon as he could have a dog, he adopted one from a local shelter and would save another after the inevitable happened until the day he died. Adopting shelter dogs has become an important family tradition because of him. Buddy gets along with our other dogs well enough, but he also suffers from some bad separation anxiety and a terrible fear of storms and other loud noises. Buddy also, as we found out several months after my grandfather died, has cancer. It can’t be cured but we are making him as comfortable as possible for when that time comes.

This is what I mean when I say I am honoring my ancestors through the living. My grandpa’s dog was the most important part of his life. Even when my grandpa became somewhat of a hermit after he retired, he always had Buddy keeping him company. So giving this dog the best rest of his life is what I owe my grandfather and how I am honoring him. It means staying up with Buddy at 2:30 in the morning and keeping him company while a bad thunderstorm roles through and only going to bed once I can barely hear the thunder.

Honestly, it’s still too painful to have more direct contact with my grandfather. I’m not sure when I will be able to sit down in front of the little ancestor altar in our house. But I am not forgetting my ancestors. I am choosing to honor them by focusing on the living they would want me to take care of. I’m honoring my ancestors by trying to keep the peace as best as I can. Plus, when my beloved dead need to tell me something, they aren’t shy about making the message loud and clear.

 

Learning to Spin

After a lot of foreshadowing by the universe, I have started to teach myself how to hand spin. Eventually I want to incorporate spinning into my practice as a method of trance, attraction, and as a part of seiðr alongside using the spun yarn itself. Right now though, I am just trying to get to the point where I can spin consistently and comfortably enough that I can do it without paying much attention.

I didn’t think I would take to spinning so quickly. There’s a certain rhythm to it, and once you find it, everything else fades away. Watching the fibers come apart, getting just enough for the thread you want, and then releasing and watching it all come together again. It’s fascinating. Mesmerizing. Spinning also happens to be a great way to distract me when I am angry, which is an amazing plus for me considering all the toxicity I’ve had to deal with lately.

Spinning isn’t my first venture into fiber work. I knit and sew fairly well, even if I can’t do anything too fancy. But neither of those feel like spinning does. With sewing I am ever aware of the needle, trying to keep even and not poke myself. With knitting I am always aware of my stitches and often stop check my progress and to recount just in case. Spinning doesn’t have that tenseness to it. It is also incredibly easy to fix a mistake when you spin. Going back and drafting the fibers thinner, twisting splits into one piece, working around the stray knot in the fiber… All of these are incredibly manageable.

I can see why spinning is used for trance. I haven’t even spun that much and I can already feel myself inching closer to that state. There is also a connection I have noticed when I spin. The spindle is one of the humanity’s oldest tools and the drop spindle, which I use, was commonly used in the parts of Europe where my ancestors are from. There’s a weight to that, using a tool that is pretty much unchanged since your ancestors were using it.

In some of the reading I have done on how spinning relates to seiðr, I wasn’t expecting to find such a strong connection between spinning and witchcraft. Art of witches with a distaff were pretty frequently brought up and I plan on digging into more resources once I am back at school. I never put much thought into things like Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger and actual folklore, I guess. But now that I know more about that connection, I feel even more drawn to spinning. There’s more mystery, more to learn, and more to experience. I feel drawn to my disir even stronger. I feel drawn to seiðr even stronger.

I’m looking forward to learning more about spinning and from spinning. But for now, I am enjoying spinning a few grams of yarn at a time. I’ve also gained a lot more appreciation for the clothes I wear and the cloth I buy. Knowing what it takes, and how long it takes to spin just a dozen feet of yarn, uneven as bulky as mine sometimes ends up, really puts the growth of textiles in perspective. It also gives me a much greater appreciation for the many cultures that do still spin and the distinctness of all of their spindles.

If you are at all interested in learning to spin, I say go for it. There are plenty of great starter kits on Etsy and plenty of YouTube videos to help you along. Spinning, along with other fiber crafts, have really made a comeback with the surging interest in DIY projects. I’ve also found spinning with a small spindle more accessible for on the go crafting than knitting can be. It is also beyond satisfying when you make something with yarn you’ve spun. It’s the most satisfied I have been in a long time with a project. Happy spinning!

My Love of Liminal Spaces

I’ve always been attracted to liminal spaces. I love archways, courtyards, graveyards, and crossroads. I love stories about places that are in a time out of time or gateways to other worlds. So it is no wonder that as I continue to actively practice witchcraft, that I keep noticing just how much liminality plays into my craft.

Witchcraft and folk practices are filled with references to liminal spaces. How often do we see spells or superstitions telling us to put something in a doorway, window, or fireplace? How often do we see references to doing something at dusk, dawn, or midnight? How often do we read about crossroads, railways, graveyards, or even paths in the woods?

But I do not think it is enough to just blindly incorporate liminal spaces into one’s practice. Just like with every aspect of the craft it is important not to just blindly follow or copy, but to learn and understand the hows and whys of what we do. By researching and learning about liminal spaces, both in the folkloric and practical sense, we develop a greater appreciation and understanding of these spaces and, in turn, we can better work with them.

Right now, a lot of my work with Hekate has involved learning about crossroads. I knew a bit about crossroads before I started working with Her. I knew that crossroads were places you left not so nice spells, and that they were places people met to make deals with figures like the Man in Black or the Devil. But in working with Hekate, there is more to crossroads than I could have ever thought. The crossroads is a way to travel, it is a piece of an infinitely larger web connecting paths and places. To look back when leaving something at a crossroads is not only disrespectful because you might offend the being you are working with, but it is also a great sign of doubt. This is only the tip of the iceberg and I know I still have a lot more to learn. But I now have so much more respect for crossroads and what they represent.

The liminal space has become a sacred space for me. My circle is more than just a protective barrier. It is creating a place betwixt & between. I am between the mundane and spirit world, able to interact with both. My trance work is making my body into a liminal space, giving me that gateway to ride the hedge. The andalusite I wear around my neck is carrying the crossroads with me.

I firmly believe that to be a witch is to accept liminality as a permanent part of your life. It is always having one foot in the mundane and the other foot in the spirit world. I think that is why I love liminal spaces so much. Not only are they practical places to perform my magic, but there is also that sense of kinship, of home, when I am there. They are certainly not places to dwell, but they are not meant to be dwelled at. They are meant for travel, for moving forward. They are places that are beautifully betwixt & between. The liminal is sacred, belonging to no one, yet innately a part of all of us.

 

Tumbling into the Earth

Tumbling into the Earth

The sun has set behind the hedge
The gnats rise from the hay
I reach my hands into the grass
And fall into that ancient space

Like tumbling in water I tumble into the earth
Slowly drifting deeper into her embrace
Until I find myself suspended
For I have reached that ancient space

I cannot see but indeed I know
Aho! I say and you return
We greet each other
In this vast unknown

For a moment we know each other
Our greetings mix and turn
But then the moment is over
And I tumble out of the earth

The Wheel

The Wheel

Past the vast forest filled with beasts and plagued by fog
Past the great desert being washed away by storms
Through the obsidian gate that goes past the sky
Into the bone hordes

Dive deep, deep through the ribs and past the skulls
Fall into the chamber where the bone pickers lie
They tend to their cauldrons and wait for their kin
To pick apart and reform again

But it is not them you are here for, it is for her
She asks if you are ready, and takes you through the bones
Your back is cut on rips and spines, skin shredded and left behind
But it is all worth it for what you find

A spinning wheel in a cavern its own, standing atop a pile of bones
She takes you to it and asks you to spin, to find out just what is within
Fate in hand you take your seat, turning the wheel you cease to think
Spinning for her and your seiðr