Maker's Moon 2016: On Turning Grief Into Beauty

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of grief in my corner of the world. Within my community alone, there have been numerous people experiencing deaths of friends and family members, marriages ending, and pets dying. Two of my friends are recent widows. Within our larger global community, many of us mourn the deaths of several influential entertainers in the world of music, film and stage. Minorities, particularly black and Native American people, are dying at the hands of police and a system that shoves them into the cracks. Trans women continue to be murdered at a frightening pace. It's a lot to take in, and during this past moon, the Silent Moon, we've had a lot of time to contemplate what this means to us.

In several communities I belong to on Facebook, I've been noticing a trend lately. People are taking their grief and pain, transmuting them into beautiful and powerful works of art. I've seen some amazing artistic tributes to those loved and lost come through in amazing woodworking projects, needlepoint, knitting and crocheting, instrument building, online visual art, and so much more.

The creative bug is definitely in the air. Today is the Dark Moon, heralding the beginning of the Maker's Moon. As we emerge from our physical, emotional and mental winter into spring, this is a potent time to pick up projects we have let languish, take up a new skill, or dive into something completely new. You don't even have to be artistically inclined! What you decide to create can be anything at all. Perhaps your creativity lies in the kitchen and trying out new recipes. Perhaps you want to focus on manifesting something new in your life: a budget, a new job, a new place to call home. Maybe you want to manifest an addition to your family. The possibilities are endless.

For me, I've been bitten by the choreographic bug. I am a lifelong dancer, but the drive to make dances only resurfaced for me a couple months ago. I've been taking dance classes to perfect the skills I will need to create these works of art. Also, this weekend marks the start of the work of my Initiate year, from which I hope to manifest being ordained as a CAYA Priestess next year. This will involve creating space within myself to grow and change in the ways necessary to being fit to serve this community as Clergy.

What are you grateful for in this past moon cycle? What do you wish to manifest in the coming moon cycle? The Maker's Moon is a potent time to ponder these questions, and then bring your creations to the world.

Ravensong Phoenixfire

Wheel of the Year Activities: Corn Dollies and Witches’ Ladders

by Doyenne Rowan Nightshade

I love the autumn: the clear, cold days and chill winds that blow your hair in your face; the leaves turning colors; and the “pumpkin patches” that start appearing in every vacant lot. This month, we celebrate the coming of the harvest by making corn dollies, a traditional activity that actually has nothing to do with maize, and witches ladders, a form of knot magic.

Corn Dollies


The name “corn dolly” is something of a misnomer in this day and age. They aren’t made of maize and they often don’t resemble a person at all. The word “corn” evolved from ‘kern,’ the old English word for grain, and “dolly” may have evolved from “idol,” so “grain idol” is a more accurate term. If you look for information on corn dollies nowadays, you mostly find corn-husk dolls, so “wheat weaving” is the more commonly used term now. Corn dollies were frequently in the shapes of circles, hearts, loops, and stars (sometimes even goats) and were hung prominently in the home through the fallow winter months. It’s thought the Druids believed that the corn spirit lived in the grain fields and was made homeless at harvest time. Hollow forms, the corn dollies, made from the last of the grain harvest were woven to house the spirit, until the dolly could be plowed back into the field in the spring.

There are numerous websites and books that have detailed instructions on making beautiful and elaborate corn dollies, if you’re so inclined. For our purposes, I will describe how to make a very simple, basic one.

In choosing your grain stalks, you should select long ones that are straight and slender, and measure at least 18 inches from the base of the head to the first joint on the stalk. Green stalks will never ripen to a golden color after picking, so bear that in mind as well; golden is the traditional color for corn dollies. Just before you start, you’ll need to temper the stalks by soaking them in cool water for 20 to 40 minutes. Never use hot water, as it will cause the grain to lose it’s natural shine. After soaking, wrap the stalks in a wet towel and lay them aside for about 15 minutes before use. Once they’re ready, you can continue to use them all day as long as you keep them wrapped in the damp towel, or until they get too soggy, whichever comes first.

Materials:
Five stalks of grain, all the same length.
Two lengths of string or ribbon
A large, flat working surface

Getting started:
Stand the stalks on ends to line them up evenly. Fasten them with string or ribbon just below the heads, giving you five long ends below the string and a bundle of grain heads above.

Next, spread out the long ends so that they’re fanned out on the table and the heads are standing up perpendicular to the working surface.

For ease and clarity, arrange the long ends so they point directionally, relative to you. (i.e. North, South, East, and West). Point the fifth stalk East, as well. Now you should have one stalk each pointing North, West, and South, with the remaining two pointing East, one on top of the other.

Weaving:
Take the bottom East stalk and pass it under both the top East stalk and the North stalk.

Now rotate the entire bundle one quarter-turn clockwise, leaving you with two stalks in the East again (having moved them from North to East).

Again, pass the lower East stalk under the top East and the North stalks, then rotate again one quarter-turn clockwise.

Continue repeating this step, passing the stalk under and rotating the dolly. Soon the long ends will begin to curl up around the heads, forming a basket shape. This is good, it’s what we’re going for. Continue weaving until the basket covers the heads completely.

Finishing:
Gather the loose ends together and tie them off with another piece of string or ribbon.

That’s it, you’re done! You may wish to make a loop from ribbon or wire to hang it with, or even weave ribbon in with the grain stalks themselves just for fanciness. You can also use this method to make lavender bundles. Once you have the basics down, there are almost infinite variations to try.


Witches’ Ladders

Knot and cord magic is an old type of folk magic used to bind things to you. You can bind something you want, or bind protection to you to keep away things you don’t want. A witch’s ladder is just that, traditionally made from plaited hair or cord, with feathers woven or tied in. If you can make a braid you can make a witch’s ladder. Typical witches’ ladders use one black, one red, and one white ribbon (to represent the maiden-mother-crone aspects of the triple goddess) and nine feathers, though you may prefer to use colors or numbers that correspond to your working. You might choose pink and white ribbons to attract love, green and red for Yule or for prosperity, etc. You can purchase dyed feathers at craft stores in just about any color, though I, personally, like to collect found feathers and use them. You can also weave in beads or stones, or other objects, to enhance your spell, but the most important thing is to focus on your intention as you work.

Note: If you do collect “wild” feathers, I recommend washing them before use because wild birds tend to have mites.

Some color/feather correspondences are:
White: purification, spirituality, hope, protection, peace, lunar energies
Red: physical vitality, courage, good fortune, life
Blue: mental abilities, peace, protection, psychic awareness
Yellow: cheerfulness, mental alertness, prosperity, solar energies
Green: money, prosperity, growth, health, fertility
Orange: attraction, energy, success
Pink: attracting love
Grey: peace, neutrality
Brown: stability, respect, home, grounding
Brown feathers striped with black: balance between physical and spiritual life

Brown feathers banded or mixed with white: happiness, invisibility from harm
Brown and red mixed feathers: healing to animals
Black: mystical wisdom, spiritual initiation, banishing
Black iridescent feathers: mystical insight
Black and white mixed feathers: union, protection.
Black (or gray) feathers banded or mixed with white: hope, balance, harmony
Black mixed with purple: deep spirituality.
Black, white, and blue mixed feathers: change
Peacock tail feathers: protection from the “evil eye," stimulates clairvoyance
Rooster tail feathers (called sickles): God and Goddess.
The black ones resemble the horns of the Horned God and are a symbol of male virility.
The white ones resemble the sickle with which grain sacred to the Goddess is reaped.
 They also resemble the waxing and waning moon.

Once you’ve made your witch’s ladder, hang it near your door for protection, in the Feng Shui money corner of your house (southeast corner) for prosperity, or maybe next to your bed to attract love.

Happy Harvest!

Artemis Midwife

Born a midwife, born in between the cracks of life and death
on the island between day and night
Artemis! I hear you.
I hear your strong voice calling
calling me to step up.
Barely heartbeats born, and the strong-voiced one
aided Leto in Apollo's birth.
Imagine: blood on her hands, blood between her mother's legs
herself newborn learning what a body was, how to move her feet and hands
knowing that her mother needed help
and there was no one else to give it.
Artemis, strong-voiced one
calls us to step up
because, she taught with her first moments of life,
when need calls
we have what we need to answer.
Women are powerful survivors.
We are justice-warriors.
We get up after the long dark night
and make breakfast for the children.
We get up.  We step up.
We are powerful.  We get it done.
Artemis, strong-voiced one
calls us to cut it out, figure it out,
be the change we need to see.
We are powerful.
We get it done.
Sometimes we are flood-powerful, crashing through resistance,
swift and true as a hail of the Huntress's arrows.
Sometimes we are creek-powerful, small and quiet
and persistent.
There is a saying about rocks and rivers.  The smallest, quietest trickle
will carve its way in time, if it does not allow itself to be diverted.
Artemis, strong Huntress!
Help us find our strength
that we, too, may do what needs doing
however hard, however long the struggle.

Artemis by Joanna Barnum

Artemis by Joanna Barnum

The Art of Storytelling

by Chieftain Branwen

First Rule of Storytelling: There are no rules.
Second Rule of Storytelling: Everything can be substituted.
Third Rule of Storytelling: Remember the Rule of Three.

One of the key elements to good public storytelling is tying in the theme of the occasion to the story. It then becomes not just some time filler to listen to, but a part of the energy and magic of the event itself. Oral storytelling has a long rich history of imparting wisdom, morale, and evoking emotion. It is that history that you want to tap into in the moment. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What is the theme of the occasion?
How do modern people relate to this theme (and what are some difficulties they might have)?
What are some conflicts that reflect this theme?
Are there key elements tying into the next activity that need to be present?

Even when simply re-telling a myth, asking these questions and infusing the theme of the story into it can elevate the story, and the event. Most classical myths are the mere skeletons of stories, and are ready and waiting to be used as vehicles for magic and lessons.

Storytelling is about creating history in the moment, do not be afraid to change myth and stories to fit the need of the event. People will remember things that connect directly to them much more, and we are creating our own traditions in doing so.

Rule of Three

It is easier to remember stories with elements of three. At its simplest, any story can be broken down into three parts:

Introduction: Climax: Resolution

Each of those parts can also be simplified into three points:

  • Introduction: Set up the world, set up character, set up conflict and/or lesson "theme."
  • Climax: Three quests/tasks/challenges all tying in to "theme."
  • Resolution: Achievement of lesson "theme," ending for character, tie into next activity or the event itself.

Tips and Tricks

  • You don't have to memorize everything!
    (Memorize the bullet points of the Rule of Three, names, and one or two details.)
  • Look your audience in the eye, make connections.
  • Volume and inflection can make or break you.
  • Movement is good, make sure it's intentional.
  • Remember the first rule of storytelling, there are no rules.

Resources

Books on world folktales and mythology
Wikipedia's List of fairy tales
Children's storybooks
Folk songs
Look into the "Hero's Journey"