Witch Hovel in the Woods, the Light of Usnea: Home Now

After sleeping in a warehouse for three weeks after my 5 month hike on the PCT, I find myself driving to Eugene one sunny fall afternoon to look at a home. I found it on a whim on Craigslist while dreading reintroduction back into "regular world." The people who lived on the property liked me immediately and in our email changes we communicated with a familiar language. 

I am greeted by M, who shakes my hand and the shirt he is wearing tells me I am with my people. Local environmental activism. We walk around the property and he picks up acorns which he will dry, leach and grind into flour later. We talk about lichen and fungi dyes.

My heart breaks when I enter the main central building on the property. Filled with skylights, wood panels and that smell. Why is it that us more feral folk have that smell? A large wood stove anchors the room together and the walls on the southeast facing part of the building are just windows. A nuthatch crawls on the oak outside the window, chickens peck in the yard and a bobtailed cat suns itself on the couch.

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I leave with my heart pounding and my fingers crossed as I drive back to my warehouse couch. 

I move in a month later.

witch hovel

And, I sit. I sit and I stare out the window of my small yurt dwelling, perched up on a hill, surrounded by oak, pine and swaying usnea. I make a small altar at my own southeast facing window, where I watch the glow of the sun come up over the far hill. Sometimes, it lights the lichen up in the canopy first. Setting the whole place aglow, with brilliant shimmering mossy light reflected out of billions of dew droplets.

I pull out my old friends one by one, my crow bones, my squirrel bones and fox from a box labeled "WITCH SHIT". They feel cold, as we haven't seen each other for almost 9 months. My bone throwing set feels coldest of all, I breathe on them and they stir a little. They need fire, warmth, touch.

And so I make fires, as it's my only source of heat. I set the newspaper up, the kindling and wait and watch. "A watched fire will never lite correctly," I tell myself. 

I track mud into my room, lichen finds its way in and into my hair, alder sticks in my bed.

At night the rain hits the oculus skylight in the center of my roof. I panic, my trail mind going into survival mode. The drops sound like a leaking tent wall, and it takes me a little while to find the rain soothing during cold times. But isn't that for the domesticated? I ask myself. 

How to I keep my feral creature awake? 

The deer family, a small herd of doe and their young, greet me on my dimly lit morning walks down to the main house for coffee. Fine mist swirls in the air and fills my lungs. I hear them bounding off in their elegant leeps thunk! thunk! thunk! Hearing the ground bear the weight of their lithe prancing bodies, they look back at me with caution. My favorite is a young buck, the cutest of all.

I brew coffee and watch him out the window eating the usnea and the fallen lichen. His fur is thick and ruffled in some spots. He turns away and follows his mother up the hill and into the forest. My landmates wake and they make bird calls to each other in the morning, while coffee brews and eggs turn white in bacon fat and well conditioned cast iron.

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The anxiety of the rain never leaves me, I still wake sometimes at night and panic a little. 

Going To Town becomes an ordeal of maintaining my anxiety levels. I can breathe right when I finally get home again. But the town holds me better than Portland did. I see the usnea hanging from rearview mirrors. At the small grocery store, I buy dried pineapple and the old man behind the counter wishes me a happy solstice, instead of happy holidays. 

Eugene was an old bastion of green anarchism and radical environmentalism, since gone silent. Much that is wild and feral seems to be going silent as time passes. You can see see it though persisting like dormant seeds in the soil: in the bathroom graffiti, on the street corner, in quiet passing conversations, back patches and zines left to be seen.

Waiting.

On the solstice night, coming up from the house after a shower a wren flies into my room - in the pitch black dark. I try and try to shoo it away, but instead it roosts in my oculus and blinks at me. I shrug and eventually put myself to sleep. All night the little wren sleeps quietly. We wake at the same time, right as the sky begins to shift into light. I open my door and it flies away like nothing has happened. I feel it was an omen, but of what I have no clue.

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I keep sitting, for a month. I cry a little, I develop a romance with someone to distract me, I try to write but I cannot, I sit in hot springs and see the decaying leaves of Aralia californica, drooping weeping, my body aching for warmth and I stroke the lines the sun made on my body, remembering. Nothing can come out. Nothing wants to come out. 

Every night I dream about being on the PCT. Sometimes, it's snowing and I am still out there. Waiting in some warm building wondering to myself why am I waiting? It's done. I did it. Go home. Then I am filled with sadness and the deepest longing.

Sometimes I accept and refuse my post trail depression. Mostly, the sitting was deep metabolization of... everything that happened. And I loved it, I swam in it, drank deeply from it.

In those last cold Washington days, as I approached the Canadian border I knew, I was going to find my witch hovel in the woods. Where I would incubate myself with plants and spirit and fire.

And they must have agreed, because here I am.

My mornings now filled with incense and water in offering to the spirits of this land, to my own spirits that watch over me and walk with me, and to my ancestors. I write my dreams down and pray for more rain, as our winter so far has been so dry. It makes my nerve endings feel sapped and brittle. Like usnea left to dry. 

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I snap dried alder twigs for tincture and pour pine pitch salves, I set the florida water out under that Cancer full moon. I find my flow. I let myself sink into the difference of now vs. then. I manage to find ways to make myself suffer for my pleasures. For the goodness I have.

Funny, how for some of us, we feel we must suffer to have good things and so we create this ourselves. "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven," I mock to myself. "So the John Milton says." Sometimes I tip my head back and cackle at myself.

I find my plant allies that will help me with my mind and they soothe me. 

A wind rattles through the trees one night, leaving piles of usnea glowing on the ground. They mesmerize me. If I am so attracted to them, they must be attracted to me. So I collect them, they fill all corners of my room. Leaving the scent of air, the trees, the wild.

Which I try so hard to keep within me.

A Reading & Resource List for Every Witch

These are the titles and books that every witch should have in their collection, or somehow get their hands on and read. I am sharing this in reference to questions I have received from Instagram on book/resource recommendations. I have read many of these books and there are many that I have not read yet myself but are on my never ending to-read list. This is by no means super comprehensive, or an end all be all list, but it's a good jumping off point for those looking to expand their knowledge. 

My reading list leans towards traditional witchcraft of primarily European origin. I lean in on my heritage and understand my ancestors and their pre-Christian traditions. Our ancestors are our greatest guides, they want to see us do well and we need to remember them because they are being forgotten. Folk magic is a huge part of my practice as well, so I do have an emphasis on reading about folklore and low down dirty magic. As well as Shamanism, mythology and working with spirits and gods. I'm a dirty ol' witch, pagan, animist and polytheist if you were wondering. 

This list will also include books that have influenced my craft and some recently discovered zines and small independent publishers that I am super excited about! If I am missing anything of note, please leave a comment and I will add it.

Reading and Resource List for Every Witch

Classics

More Modern Classics

  • Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente *a must read to understand the origins of modern resurgence in Witchcraft
  • Natural Magic by Doreen Valiente
  • Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente
  • Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks & Covens by Paul Huson
  • Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson
  • The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
  • THE BLACK PULLET by anonymous

Witchcraft & Practices

  • The Sorceror's Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick by Jason Miller
  • Protection and Reversal Magick by Jason Miller
  • Craft of the Untamed: An Inspired Vision of Traditional Witchcraft by  Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold 
  • The Witches Sabbats by Mike Nichols
  • Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection by Draja Mickaharic
  • A Century of Spells by Draja Mickaharic
  • Crones Book of Charms & Spells by Valerie Worth
  • Treading the Mill: Practical Craft Working in Modern Traditional Witchcraft by Nigel G. Pearson
  • The Robert Cochrane Letters: An Insight into Modern Traditional Witchcraft by Robert Cochrane

American Witchcraft, Southern African American Hoodoo & Conjure

  • Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure by cat yronyode
  • Pow-Wows, or Long Lost Friend: A Collection of Mysterious and Invaluable Arts and Remedies, for Man as Well as Animals by John George Hohman
  • The Silver Bullet & and other American Witch Stories by Hubert J. Davis
  • The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work by Orion Foxwood
  • Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson, 2005
  • The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic by catherine yronwode
  • Hoodoo in Theory and Practice An Introduction to African American Rootwork by cat yronwode

Magical Spiritual Herbalism & Witchcraft

  • Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl
  • The Pharmako Trilogy by Dale Pendell
  • Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
  • Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green
  • Magical and Ritual Use of Aphrodisiacs by Richard Alan Miller
  • Magical and Ritual Use of Herbs by Richard Alan Miller
  • The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines by Matthew Wood
  • Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul by Ross Heaven & Howard G. Charing
  • Plant Spirit Medicine: A Journey into the Healing Wisdom of Plants by Elliot Cowan 
  • Medicinal Herbs of the Mountains West by Michael Moore *if you live in the western United States
  • The Green Book by Heliophilus

Spiritwork, Ancestors and Gods

  • Cunning-Folk & Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
  • The Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Witchcraft and Dark Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland by Emma Wilby
  • COMMUNING WITH THE SPIRITS: The Magical Practice of Necromancy by Martin Coleman
  • Communing with the Ancestors: Your Spirit Guides, Bloodline Allies, and the Cycle of Reincarnation by Raven Grimassi
  • Dwelling on the Threshold: Reflections of a Spirit-Worker and Devotional Polytheist by Sarah Kate Istra Winter
  • Hekate in Ancient Greek Religion by Robert Von Rudloff 
  • Gods of the Greeks by Karl Kerenyi 
  • Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature by Sarah Iles Johnston
  • The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion by Daniel McCoy

Women's Mysteries

  • The Wise Wound by Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle
  • Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
  • Pomba Gira & the Quimbanda of Mbùmba Nzila by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold
  • The Red Goddess by Peter Grey

Small Presses, Zines and Publishers

  • Hadean Press occult books, journals, and pamphlets in standard and handbound editions.
  • Scarlet Imprint "Our work is intended to support practising magicians, students of the occult arts, the esoteric community and the fine book arts." Hands down one of the best publishers right now in the occult world. Incredible work and fantastic blog as well.
  • GODS & RADICALS "Gods & Radicals is a non-profit Pagan anti-capitalist publisher. Our focus is simple: inexpensive print and digital works to inspire hope and rebellion." Fuck yeah!
  • Three Hands Press The premier publisher of contemporary occultism and metaphysica, representing the new generation of esoteric scholars, artists and practitioners. 

Blogs and Fellow Witch Folk

And that my friends, is all I've got right now off the top of my head! I will likely update this and add to it over time. Again, if you feel there is something to add here, please leave a comment. 

A WITCHES RESISTANCE & ACTION LIST

 yarrow demonstrating its resilancy, strength and potency when growing in a harsh place

yarrow demonstrating its resilancy, strength and potency when growing in a harsh place

Just last Tuesday, like so many others I saw the headline that Trump silenced the EPA, USDA and it's scientists and a whole host of other horrifying events. I found myself hunched over my laptop or over my phone, white knuckled, jaws clenched, shoulders caved in, knots in my stomach. I went to bed that night my mind a swirling chasm of dread. Crushed under the weight of what to do, how to act, we're doomed I thought. It's happening. 

It's happening. And so very fast.

Times are fucking scary and very intense right now. For all of us, and even more so for so many other people. As I laid in my bed, unable to move from anxiety and the depression I have felt the past several weeks I realized, this is the exact reaction they want. Several people and friends I follow on Instagram talked about this very crushing weight we're all feeling right now and that we need to take care of ourselves and each other. We need to connect with each other and reach out. Build community or further strengthen those bonds, however that manifests for you.

Yesterday morning I woke up and dove into the news first thing, not the best idea for mental health. Somehow I surfaced from the deep current of it all and grabbed a breath of air and began a list for myself. I'm sharing this list with those who will pass by this. It's a reminder that small acts, the tiniest acts do in fact have an impact. Even if it means taking a hot bath with crushed red cedar leaves you found in your local forest. Resistance can be as subtle as a weed growing out of a crack in the concrete, or as bold as hanging signs in front of the White House and defying orders to stay silent.

So, this is my list of actions, prompts for more learning and understanding and self care for the witch in these times.

If you're reading this and have something to add, please leave a comment. This is by no means a list of perfection. Its things that feed and placed to start.

Be well, be strong.

Bye Bye Bye 2016

The years last bone broth is simmering behind me and everyone everywhere on social media is talking about the end. I want to too, just for myself. As Mercury has turned his back on us in the sky and transits seemingly backward for now, my words have felt hollow, shallow and useless. Like they hold no power. So usually in a time like this I am not prone to write, but here I am anyway. I wanna, for personal reasons, catalog the end of this year a bit. Or at least put something up where I can look back on the goodbye. 

Something to punctuate the end. 

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For me, this year was about breaking down, building up and moving into new territory. It was one of the harder years of my life, but an amazing one. Some major things that happened:

  • My paternal grandmother died. She helped raise me as a kid and she was the grandmother I was closest to.
  • Painfully watched my father succumb further to alcoholism. Recognized my own hereditary susceptibility to alcohol and realized that this beast is dormant within me. 
  • I hiked most of the Oregon Coast Trail. In doing so I learned how to backpack and manage hiking long distances all by myself.
  • I grew vast amounts of confidence (and give no fucks) in my writing while on trail/post trail and am totally comfortable calling myself a writer now. Despite my lack of formal education. 
  • I made the decision to leave my business and primary source of income at Haus of Gloi, of which I have been founder, creator and co-owner of for 9 years.
  • Launched Blood Moon Botanica and am now also reading tarot and bones professionally. 
  • Laid down ground work to step into a new job with Blood Moon Botanica after I finish the PCT.
  • Fell in love with a person I did not know could actually even exist.
  • Solidified personal political views/beliefs post election and will act accordingly to resist facisim and protect/defend what I love.

As the year has come to a close, I find myself separating from many of the monolithic structures I've built for myself to pursue deep and serious life callings. It's been a long game. Two years as a matter of fact (long perhaps, for an Aries). Making the decision to hike the PCT in early 2015 was what actually spurred a lot of these changes and decisions. It opened many doors I longed to walk though and to think I haven't even stepped foot on this trail and it's already changed me. 

In these last few months of this year it's actually happened. For some reason I've been startled to see years of work, dreaming and reaching finally materialize before me. Like, I'm making it happen. All those little tiny steps and things I did years, months, weeks, days ago are making these current moments and future moments happen. Inching closer and closer towards my (as cliche as it sounds) my own truth. Searing, white hot truth.

Saying that doesn't mean that I am not afraid. I am trusting that my thriftiness and Blood Moon Botanica will sustain me with a home and a living wage after I complete the PCT. The risks are great, the leaps are huge, learning to trust has been a struggle, learning how to let go. I've never been in a better position to chase after the things that matter the most to me. Plants, the land, herbalism, protecting and serving that which I hold most dear. I want to thank my past self, my spirits and ancestors and to all those who helped shine light on this crooked path I choose to walk. No matter how painful it was in the past to get me here to this point, this is the only way I would have it.

The witch has been created by the land to speak and act for it.
— Peter Grey, Rewilding Witchcraft

When you're moving toward what you're deeply called to do, the universe, God, Her, whoever - they conspire to put you where you need to be.

Now, I continue onwards towards what I know is right and I will trust the process.

The future is unknown.

2017 is unknown.

I am ready.

Bye bye bye 2016.

Blackberry + On the Work of Self Love and Our Bodies

Recently in an Instagram post, I wrote about struggling with my own body image and recognizing my relationship to my body and that it is time to mend it. I'm not an expert on this subject of being a woman and how I deal with my own body. Or maybe I am, because I am living and dealing with it just like so many other people. I also do not contain the eloquent politically correct language so many others posses, to express myself confidently. But you know, fuck it. Alas, my Mercury in Aries does its usual thing. 

Please, read through the comments. There are a lot of lovely and wonderful nuggets in there.

This is the body I wake up in every day. Lately, I have been having an increasing anxiety about my body and it's shape. It has been building up to an extremely uncomfortable anxiety ridden point. I have been fat and I have meticulously counted my calories and lifted weights until I had visible abs, which often only brought a superficial appreciation of my body. I mentally beat myself up when I skip the gym for a week, or when I decide to eat like shit for a day or two. When I don't move my body, or come into it I forget that I am in it. Which is strange to me as a highly physical Aries/Taurus person. Often I feel like a cloud of consciousness, just floating in the ether, with nothing to root me or ground me. I look at @bodyposipanda and so many other women in love with their bodies no matter the shape. I feel shame, envy, anger and self loathing that I can't seem to ever ascend into acceptance and even more than that LOVE for my self and mainly, my body. I know where the loathing comes from, but I cannot fend it off some days and some days it's really bad. The whole world can tell you you're beautiful but you'll never believe it until you come into some form of love for your self and body - until you do your own internal work. And I realize, that I need to spend time with myself and with my body more. It's time to do this work I have put off so long and ignored. To feel the shapes and roots of, "I'm not good enough" "I'm not lean enough" "I'm not as pretty as that person" "I am not worthy" etc. and treat them with compassion and understanding. To transmute that. Vulnerability, transparency and sharing in my community (all community) have been a way for me to heal parts of myself. Supporting each other in the struggle, as I know I am not alone. I know many of you feel this, I feel it too. We can unlearn what we have been taught is "beautiful" and stop hating ourselves for what we actually are. It's ok. We're ok. We are enough. . . . #bodypositive #bodyposi #bodypos #selflove #feels #thestruggle #curves #pcos #vulnerability #transparent #witchlife #transmute #unlearn

A photo posted by ♈️Britton (@archaichoney) on

It wasn't easy to put all of that up, but I'll say it again: fuck it. Because I know I'm not alone in the struggle. The shame that I am made to feel for my body, no matter its shape. I am three years out of an abusive long term relationship followed by a string of dating and relationships where 95% of the time I was purely an object meant to please and when I did not please, when I challenged, when I fought back against misogyny I was made to feel terrible and unwanted for it. I had no idea what was even happening at the time. I just felt like an unloveable, ugly, unworthy human being.

I know that is not true about me, or you or anyone.

So, as I sat looking over comment after comment, story after story I grabbed my tarot cards. Naturally. I wanted to do a reading for all of us as we recognize and begin to heal these thought patterns and how we view our bodies. This will be a lucid rambling of card reading, so thank you in advanced for following along.

The deck I am using is my beloved Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, created by the wonderful folks at Uusi

The first card was the most profound, and I almost just wanted to stop the reading right there but I pulled one more just to back it up.

10 of Swords - Queen of Wands

Being a plant person, the first thing I see here are the brambles and what looks like to me like the highly invasive Rubus armeniacus (Himalayan blackberry) that plagues my home in the Northwest. And how representative this plant can be of patriarchal and misogynistic values. As it creeps into our minds telling us how to live and how we should think of ourselves. It binds us and chokes the life out of all other living things. What seems most oppressive in this picture though, is the crushing weight of those swords. The whole thing, on the surface looks like a tangled mess of sharp painful objects and death. At the same time however, this plant provides food, shelter for small animals and even medicine.

Blackberry is in the Rosaceae family, placing it alongside other fruit bearing and thorn wielding plants such as Crataegus (hawthorn) and Rosa (rose). The lesson these plants often provide us is safe boundaries that protect the self and often help support love of the self. Bridging the wide gaps and disconnect we can often find between our spirit, mind and body.

It is worthy to note that in this card its rootball is exposed, where a good portion of it's medicine resides and in this state it is vulnerable. This is where my focus is being drawn.

Classically, the 10 of Swords is the end of the suit of Swords and the end of a cycle. The darkness before dawn. In this card, we see the opportunity of transmuting the roots of invasive and persistent thoughts about our bodies and our own worthiness despite the oppressive situation we find ourselves in. Do we use the swords in an aggressive angry act to hack away at something that will just spring back time and time again, offering only a temporary reprieve? Or, or, do we get our hands dirty and transform the mire of our thoughts about ourselves into a potent medicine that heals and teaches us? 

The work is not easy. The work does not come without getting scratched, or bleeding, or remembering and seeing just how far those roots go back.

Alongside this card was the witch of tarot herself, the Queen of Wands. With her cat, her secrets and her knowledge of positive growth. This kind of Queen can act as a guide and muse for those of us working on the struggle and our journey into a healthy and positive relationship with our bodies. Her focus is inward and yet she can turn that and radiate it outward as warmth, love and compassion for herself and others. A Queen is a Queen because of her experiences, both good and bad. If you have a tarot deck, find her and carry her with you. Put her in a place you will see often and be reminded of her energies. 

If you're reading this chances are you're probably a witch, right? We have the power and ancestral knowledge to turn something into another. To transmute and alchemize. To make a healing balm and find power and strength out of what would otherwise crush us and snuff us out.