Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Saga's Cottage Etsy Shop

This is not something I usually do but something I would like to do more often - to help promote the work of some awesome Pagan artists and crafters, bloggers and authors, all of whom I respect and whose work I greatly admire. I know most of these people through my personal life or through social media and have either purchased items from these people, followed their blogs regularly, or read their books. I will be doing this more frequently in the future but will always be asking the person permission to do so first. I will not however be reviewing the artwork, crafting, writing or services of anyone with whom I have not personally dealt. So without further ado...

First up is Saga's Cottage, soon to be known as Hemlock & Garnet, an Etsy shop owned by my friend Loren Morris. Loren is a wonderful Pagan artist who makes all of the items in her shop. Right now, she has several handcrafted items in her shop, including prints, plaques, wax poppets, notecards and spirit boards. As noted in my previous post, Just Hang In There, I purchased a beautiful item last week from her. It is the Elemental Ostara Eggs Altar Set. Here is a picture of it:

The set includes six hand-blown and hand-painted eggs (one for each of the elements, one for spirit and one for the Goddess), Wishing Stars on which to make your Spring wishes, and a Spring incense containing frankincense, benzoin, dragon's blood, nutmeg, violet oil, orange peel and rose petals (following a recipe from Scott Cunningham's Complete Book of Oils, Incenses and Brews). It is all contained within a moss-lined feather-rimmed nest which Loren notes can be used as "an offering bowl".

This item is just what I need to warm my Winter-weary soul and I can't wait to celebrate the Spring Equinox with this upon my altar. In fact, it's there already just waiting for the rest of my Spring items to join it! Each egg is so colorful and a perfect representation of the elements (I just adore the gnome for Earth!), Spirit and the Goddess and the incense smells positively divine and will be perfect as part of my Ostara ritual this year. Loren has 2 other sets in her Etsy shop right now for sale, a bit different from this one but just as beautiful and magical.

Not only did Loren package this item securely for delivery and get it out to me very quickly, but it came with tissue paper that emits a heavenly scent. Earlier in the month, I won a necklace Loren made for an Imbolc giveaway for The Sunday Stew over at The Secret Life of the American Witch. It came wrapped in that same tissue paper. I asked her about it and she said she keeps the tissue paper in her incense drawer. Said tissue paper is now stowed away in parts of my house to keep that beautiful scent around!

So when you are looking for some beautiful Pagan artwork to incorporate into your every day Pagan life and practice, check Loren's Etsy shop, Saga's Cottage, and see what items she has for sale. Don't forget that the shop will soon be undergoing a name change to Hemlock & Garnet! Also keep in mind that every item is hand-painted and hand-crafted so each item may not be the exact same as the last or may not be available at the time. I am sure if you contact Loren through her shop that she will be able to help you find what you are looking for.

Loren also has a wonderful blog entitled Saga's Cottage, where she shares spells, rituals, and recipes to be used is sabbat celebrations and rituals and throughout the year. Don't forget to follow her blog as well!

Just Hang In There

Believe it or not, Winter is waning. I even find it hard to believe myself at times. Each week since Yule has brought either extreme cold or snow accumulations, often both. The most recent storm to come through, a Nor'Easter, dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us, burying everything in the gardens. But through each and every Clipper or Nor'Easter, I have reminded myself that Spring is on its way. I did things around my home, even in the garden between storms, to remind myself that it is coming. Mother Earth herself sent me little signs that Spring would soon be here with a whisper on the winds of "just hang in there".

Winter, for me, is always a time of preparing for Spring. The first of my gardening and seed catalogs usually arrive right around the Winter Solstice. I tuck them aside on a shelf until right after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and then dive in to them around the second week of January. I spend evenings researching new ideas for the gardens to come, paging through gardening books and texts to learn new techniques, and sketching out designs for each garden bed with my favorite set of colored pencils. Each day, I go around the house to the plants that were moved indoors for the colder months, checking on their health and reassuring them that they will be out in the fresh air and sunshine very soon, whispering to them, "Just hang in there". After each snowfall, I go out to the garden to assess the damage, if any. All of my shrubs suffered some sort of injury after the ice storm we had a couple of weeks ago. It's to be expected. In bitter cold temperatures, I shook snow from each shrub to lighten its load and pruned back broken branches. I gently cleared away snow from the plants that were wrapped in burlap to protect them from the Winter weather. Going from plant to plant and shrub to shrub, I told each one, "Just hang in there".

At Imbolc, February 2nd, I began to want signs of Spring around the house. "Just hang in there," I told myself as I began taking down some of the Winter decorations and burning the remainder of the Winter pine-scented candles. Some more snow came and then I became desperate for signs of Spring. Just then Mother Earth sent me the most beautiful sign. Last Monday, three days before the big Nor'Easter, I was coming home from work and heading to the back of my house. I looked up at my neighbor's tree to see it filled with robins. Dozens of them! And not just in that tree but in all the trees around my house. There were hundreds of robins everywhere! I stood there for the longest while, freezing cold but I didn't care, and just watched the robins. Some stayed right where they were and some went flying from tree to tree. With each flapping of wings, I heard, "Just hang in there". The robins stayed until Wednesday and then disappeared right before the Nor'Easter hit.

The day after the storm was Valentine's Day and by then I was really in need of another Spring fix. As if in answer to my prayers, my hubby came along that morning with beautiful red roses, white hydrangeas, white daisies, and red carnations. As the sounds of snowblowers and shovels filled the neighborhood, I emptied the vases of the Winter pine branches and holly that decorate my house in Winter and replaced them with the flowers. "Just hang in there." Later that day, another gift arrived, one that I gave to myself. I purchased an elemental Ostara eggs altar set from a friend of mine through her Etsy shop. (NOTE: There is a companion "Review" post coming on the heels of this one for more on this!). I immediately and carefully unwrapped it. My heart did leaps of joy and my spirit was filled with the promise of Spring! Both of these gifts said, "just hang in there".

It was also the Full Snow Moon on Valentine's Day. That night (and throughout the weekend), after I spent some time under the brilliant light of Mama Moon, I spent the evening working on cleaning out and straightening up my magical and sacred spaces. I organized the magical drawer in my kitchen, taking inventory of what I needed to restock. I condensed jars of dried herbs and flowers. I dusted off and neatened up my altar, lighting some sage candles to cleanse the area of nasties. I planned out my Ostara altar set up and made a list of some items I would need to have it exactly as I wanted for the Spring Equinox. Being and working with my herbs, candles, oils, crystals, tarot cards and all my other magical items made me feel peaceful, hopeful, grounded and centered. With a sigh of happiness, I reminded myself, "Just hang in there".

Now, here I am today, the sun shining brilliantly helping to melt away the top layer of snow but with some more snow expected tomorrow. However, a warm up is expected later in the week and lots of melting will occur. I'll use that time to gather some forsythia branches for forcing indoors in vases around the house and, by the end of February, I will have beautiful yellow flowers blossoming everywhere. The rest of February will be for the final garden plans and lists to be made, to begin the Spring cleaning of the house, both physical and spiritual, to assemble all the items I will need to begin seeds indoors, and to dream of Spring. We are in the home stretch now. There are only 30 days until Ostara, the Spring Equinox. I can deal with whatever Mother Nature brings my way knowing that. I will use the time, like my garden, to prepare for Spring. Just hang in there!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

"It's a Major Award" or Two

I received some really great news a couple of days ago. My friend, Vickie, who has a wonderful blog over at Aoibheal's Lair, nominated me for two blogger awards - the Awesome Blog Content Award and the Sunshine Blogger Award! Thank you so much, Vickie! I am so excited about this. It should be really fun. There are a few things I have to do in response to her nominating me. In so doing, you will get a chance to learn a little bit more about me. So let's get started!

The first award is the Awesome Blog Content Award. The rules for this are as follows:
  • Download the award logo and add it to your acceptance post.
  • Nominate a few fellow bloggers. (This has to be done for both awards so I'll postpone it until the end of this post).
  • Take each letter of the alphabet and use it to tell something about yourself.
I first thought I'd make my ABC list about me, the Pagan. Then, I thought, no, I would do it about me, the gardener. Okay. Scratch that. I'd make it a general list of what is important to me in life. After a bit more thought, I just sat down with a pen and paper, wrote each letter of the alphabet down one side of the page, and wrote out a word or two for each letter. The list ended up being a combination of things about me - pagan, gardener, just me. This is what I came up with:

A - Autumn - my favorite season of the year and the one my birthday falls in.
B - the Beach - the place that brings me such peace and solace, renews my soul.
C - Chris and Christopher - my husband and son.
D - Dirt - yes, I said dirt, as in soil, from where my garden is nurtured.
E - the Environment - of which I am a fierce defender.
F - Family and Friends - who I share so much with.
G - Gardening - not just a hobby for me but part of who I am as a witch.
H - Herbs - my favorite things to grown in the garden and to work with in magic, healing, cooking, etc.
I - Individuality - it's what makes me, well, me.
J - Justice - I am the sign of the scales after all.
K - the Kitchen - where I work with most of my herbs, share meals with my family, and can see my gardens.
L - Love and Laughter - such important things in life, good for the body, mind and spirit.
M - Mother Earth and Mama Moon - two beautiful "beings" to be in tune with.
N - Nature - it's my church.
O - the Ocean - where I let my cares float away whenever I can.
P - Peace - in my home, my life, and my heart.
Q - Quiet - the older I get, the more quiet I enjoy.
R - Reading - my favorite past time.
S - Sisters - both my familial sisters and my spiritual sisters.
T - Trees - the most majestic of the garden beings
U - the Universe - where each strand in the web of life meets.
V - my Village - all the people in my life who play a role in who I was, am and will be.
W - Writing - my passion, the thing I have always loved to do since I was a young child.
X - X - the band, like in "Wild Thing", just because I couldn't think of anything else.
Y - Yule - which marks the beginning of the return of the Sun.
Z - Zeitgeist - my favorite Smashing Pumpkins album and which means the spirit of the time.

And now for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Here I have to nominate 10 fellow bloggers. Alas, not many bloggers like to participate in things like this so I will only nominate a few blogs I really enjoy.  The first is, of course, Vickie's blog, Aoibheal's Lair. Vickie's blog is always a good read and allows you to really know who she is. Next up is my friend Molly who has a wonderful blog at Green Grove - A Place to Grow where Molly takes you with her on her spiritual path through life in the West Virginia mountains. My third nomination is for My Moonlit Path, a fabulous blog by my friend, Autumn Earthsong. Autumn shares delicious recipes and great ideas for sabbats in her blog. And last, but certainly not least, is A Witch By Any Other Name. This blog is written by Tess, who is not only a friend and a fellow witch but an incredible craftswoman, making beautiful jewelry.

I have also been asked to write 11 facts about myself. Some of these are very general and others look a bit deeper into me.
  1. I am married, for almost 19 years now, to the love of my life, my very best friend, and the guy who still sweeps me off my feet.
  2. I have a teenage son who is intelligent, handsome, a bit anti-establishment, and sometimes seems to be channeling Jim Morrison.
  3. To quote the Fresh Prince, "In West Philadelphia born and raised". Yep, that's where I'm from. I have lived in or outside of Philadelphia all my life. It's only a short drive to the Jersey Shore where I spent every Summer, the entire Summer, for the first 18 years of my life and have vacationed or spent countless weekends ever since.
  4. I am a Master Gardener. Well, I still have some volunteer work to do and a project to complete before I receive my certification but I passed the test with flying colors and am well on my way.
  5. I have been a witch for almost 25 years. I am mostly solitary, having spent a brief time in a coven many years ago, and wanting a circle of my own in the near future.
  6. I always wanted to be a meteorologist. No, not the one you see on TV giving you the 5-day forecast but the one behind the scenes at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service or the Storm Prediction Center, the real science behind the forecast.
  7. I technically have three jobs. I type medical reports at home, am office manager for a chiropractor, and an administrative assistant for a medical review company owned by the same chiropractor.
  8. I have one tattoo but have always wanted more. I just can't make up my mind on what I want and, after getting the first one when I was 19 and not really thinking, I don't want to screw it up. They're permanent after all!
  9. I am a hippie at heart. Give me an old pair of jeans, a really soft and comfy t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops any day of the week over any other outfit.
  10. I like to collect old things - first edition Maxfield Parrish prints, Roseville pottery, art nouveau lamps and vases, and vintage postcards from the 1890's through the early 20's mainly.
  11. I am a chocoholic. Yes, I admit it. I have a real problem. I love any kind of chocolate and have been known to eat unsweetened baking chocolate if desperate!
Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little better. Don't forget to check out my fellow bloggers!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter Wanderings

It is the day after Imbolc and another day of snow is here at the Village Wise Woman Gardens. It's really coming down out there, about an inch an hour right now. It's a heavy wet snow, not the lighter fluffier stuff we've had over the past few weeks. Gazing out my kitchen window, I catch an occasional flash of red at the bird feeder in the rock garden. Our resident Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal are not letting the snow get in their way.  Neither are the chickadees. They keep flying in and out of the feeders on the patio, with a "cheep, cheep, cheep" with each arrival and parting. My Burkwood's Broom has created a canopy for the birds and squirrels to hide under, the branches are so heavily weighed down with the snow. Although this extremely cold and snowy weather is becoming a bit overwhelming now, it has given me the gift of time - time to get things done in and around the house, to close chapters of my life and begin new ones, to better understand myself, my purpose and my path.

January was busy. The halls were undecked and the holiday decorations were put away for another year. The Yule/Christmas tree was stripped of its branches and placed in vases around my home and over the garden beds to insulate them from the cold. The house was returned to its Winter normal. Some minor home repairs and updates, delayed by the holidays, were finally completed. Winter colds and sniffles plagued the household for a few days and visits to the doctor were made after home remedies failed to knock the nasties out. Standardized state-mandated tests and midterm/final exams took up about two weeks of my son's life at school. I placed the past year where it belonged - behind me. And, through it all, there was lots of snow to be cleaned up.

The month culminated in the emotional roller coaster of removing my Dad's things from his apartment. I thought all of this would be easy but, Goddess, was I wrong! I still feel like I am recovering from something 10 days later. To take the contents of someone's life, put it all in boxes, and remove it from the place that they called home, where they felt safe and secure, where the energy of their life filled every nook and cranny of each and every room, is not an easy task. The physical labor of doing it takes its toll on your body (especially when you do it in a snowstorm like we did) but then add the heaviness on your heart, mind and soul of the grief, the memories. It was not easy. And this wasn't moving just furniture and lamps and things like that. It was boxing up and moving my Dad's lifetime of poetry, volume after volume of typed or handwritten journals, manuscripts and marble copybooks, and hundreds of framed and unframed collages, the unique artwork of his life. It was like taking my Dad's live-out-loud spirit and brilliant mind and piecing them out into plastic totes and cardboard boxes. A life in boxes.

And now, right there, on my sun porch, stacked neatly in black plastic totes and cardboard boxes of various sizes, is my Dad, a life in boxes and even his ashes in a lovely urn on a shelf awaiting the trip to his final resting place when Spring finally arrives. I am slowly working on taking some of the things, the things that are now mine, and incorporating them into my home - a lamp here, a picture there, a book on a shelf. Each day, I take one or two things and find a place for them. His writing, personal papers and correspondences, of which I am curator, await careful organizing and cataloging. His collage art is in a storage space at my sister's awaiting the same attention. With the help of some dear longtime family friends, my sisters and I plan to keep Dad's memory alive through his poetry and artwork for years to come.

Since moving Dad's things and in the days leading up to Imbolc, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the closing of this chapter, this volume, of my life. Both of my parents are gone now. Well, physically gone. They live on in me and my sisters. They live on in my son. (I never realized how much my son is like my Dad until my Dad was gone.) As I continue on my path in life, I carry all the wonderful gifts they gave me in their life. Much of what I do in my life, from my writing and gardening to homemaking and cooking to the spiritual path I am on, is because of them, the way they raised me, the way they lived, and the lessons they taught. I have embraced who they were, for better or for worse, and learned from them about myself. The best of both of them runs through me, in my veins, my mind, my heart. But I also carry some of their baggage. They were not perfect (no one is!) and they carried their baggage in life, some of which I carried for them for a while, making it my own. I have to leave it behind or I cannot be me. I have to take that baggage, open it up, take a long hard look, learn from what's inside, close it up and leave it behind. The next volume of my life, the one that I live without my parents, depends on it.

I did that last night, during my Imbolc ritual. I let it all go, left it behind, weeded it out. In its place, I planted the seeds of the next volume of my life, one in which I help my son off onto his own path, create an empty nest life with my hubby, plant healing and nourishing gardens, write articles, essays and books, create a circle of magical and lifelong friends, guide others on the Pagan path, and allow the memory of my Mom and Dad to live on. In a haze of sage smoke and shimmering white candles, I saw this next volume of my life, laid out before me like a beautiful moss-filled path through a wonderland of trees, flowers, faces, and places and, although it was rocky in spots, had a few detours here and there, it felt right, looked right. It was all there for me, for those who wanted to walk it with me. I think I am quite ready for more of the adventure!

It's still snowing. I am warm and toasty by the radiator in my witchy kitchen with my steaming hot cup of herbal tea. I'll sit here a little while longer, enjoying my gift of time, watching. More bad weather is on its way this week so I will have more time to work on my house, the life in boxes, garden plans, and the next volume of my life. Winter is a time to rest, to dream, to envision, to plan, to await rebirth. I am doing just that. Spring will be here soon.