Author Archives: deporodh

Make your own hand-sanitizer…

Make your own hand-sanitizer…

Bottles of isopropyl alcohol have been a staple at every drugstore, pharmacy, and grocers since Victoria reigned the British Empire. Most of it is 70% alcohol (the other 30% is water). In the same locales, one can generally find 90% (or higher) isopropyl alcohol. Both are generally sold in pint (16 oz/0.47L) or quart (32 oz/0.95L) bottles, and cost $2–8. Either one is the crucial ingredient in making your own hand sanitizer—and it’s a lot cheaper than buying brand-name versions in tiny bottles.

You’ll want a small spray bottle (more than one is best, so you can keep them in many places around home, work, auto, etc.)


  • 1 pint (16 oz) rubbing alcohol, 70% by volume
  • 1 oz glycerin
  • 0.5 oz skin-friendly oil (apricot kernel or sweet almond or your preference)
  • 3-5 drops each of essential oils (not fragrance oil!)
    lavender, spearmint, geranium, lemongrass, lemon, sweet orange

You may choose other essential oils for preference; in particular, lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage essential oils are all antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.

  1. Using a clear measuring container, first add the alcohol.
  2. Add the glycerin and stir with a stainless steel implement until completely transparent, with no cloudiness.
  3. Add the skin oil.
  4. Drip in the essential oils of your choice.
  5. Stir again until entirely mixed.
  6. Using a small funnel, fill your empty, clean spray bottle(s), add spray caps, & label them.

Clothes & Clothos…redux

Clothos—the Original Fate

The Greeks loved their triads, every bit as much as the Celts (the oldest proto-Celtic & Celtic sites, in  the Austrian mountains, are several hundred miles northwest of modern Greece). Mythologies will tell you there are three Fates, one to spin the metaphorical threads of life, one to measure its length, and one to cut it to that length. However, any weaver knows one person does all three…and that one deity is Clothos (or Klotho). From Her name we derive the words cloth, clothes, clothing, and so on. Here are my collected blog posts on the subject of natural fibers, fabrics, and more.


Fiber Correspondences

Historical clothing is a major interest of mine: not the elaborate costumes of court, cathedral, and carnival that are badly redesigned in Cecil B. deMille epics, or even well-represented in the better theater and film efforts of more recent years; no, my interest is in the everyday clothing of the ordinary person, such as I might have been if I lived a dozen centuries ago. As I became involved in the Craft, I found that there are correspondence lists for almost every class of substance I could dream up—herb, color, and musical pitch, rocks, crystals, and precious stones, planets, stars, and constellations—but nothing I’ve read treats at all with the everyday take-it-for-granted magic of fiber, clothing, and garments. In the course of developing some classes that apply textile and costume history to pagan clothing, I’ve developed the following fiber correspondences.

There are four major natural fibers used now and historically in Western clothing manufacture: linen, wool, cotton, and silk. Among these four, I find several polarities. Linen and cotton are vegetable fibers and generally cooler to wear, while wool and silk are animal fibers and insulate the wearer, so that in Northern climes they are used to warm, while in the tropics they serve to cool. I associate the vegetable fibers with Mother Gaia and the Green Man, while the animal fibers evoke Herne the Hunter and Clothos. The sturdier fibers, linen and wool, correspond to the feminine, while the more ephemeral cotton and silk correspond to the masculine.


Linen is the natural bast fiber prepared from the long, pointed leaves of the flax plant, family Linaceae. Flax seed and linseed oil are all flax products. Linen fiber is tough, downright rugged. It requires extensive treatments from the leaf to a fiber that one can spin. There’s drying and beating and soaking and rotting (retting is the industry term) and beating and combing…the minimal prcess takes 13 steps, commercially it takes at least 29 steps. The resulting


long, sturdy fibers explain the folk tale descriptions of women spinning until their fingers bled. Such fiber naturally makes a strong thread and stronger fabric which softens only slowly with wear. Linen has been historically used for rope before hemp was available. Linen sheets require ironing to smooth them into a surface comfortable for sleep. The newest steam-iron still gives “linen” for its hottest temperature setting—and even so, most linen needs to be ironed damp in order to relax the fibers and smooth the surface. Like the element of Earth, linen is tough stuff.

Caption: This composite photo illustrates many steps of making Irish linen.

Linen goods, like all household fabric goods, were valued highly over the past millenia. Victorian households inventoried them, sent them for laundering with a laundry list to prevent theft, and repaired them regularly. Long before that, in medieval households, linens were inventoried, itemized, valued, and specifically distributed to heirs in wills. Household linens spun or woven, decorated or collected by young girls formed a substantial part of their dowries among working and professional classes. Between linen fiber’s toughness to prepare, resistance to change, longevity in use, and value to owners, it becomes evident that the element of Earth is its native home.


Wool is the long hair of sheep and other hairy mammals—cashmere is the hair of the cashmere goat, angora the hair of angora rabbits and goats, and camel’s hair is just that. Almost any long-haired domesticated animal around the world has been shorn or combed for its wool: musk ox, llama, dog, rabbit. Just as these coats and fleeces insulate and protect the animals from cold or wet, strong sunlight or high winds, so do those shorn fleeces and clipped hair provide humans with fibers able to lend us those same protections.half-shornsheep
Wool has the significant virtue of keeping one warm even when wet. Lanolin, the natural fat present in sheep’s wool (unless scoured out), is water-repellent, for one thing. Moreover, the microscopically kinked and scaled fiber surfaces maintain trapped air pockets throughout the fiber, which act as insulation regardless of how wet it is. Such insulation effects historically have served inhabitants of Saharan regions against the desert heat and chill, as well as inhabitants of the sea-faring peoples of the British Isles and Europe.

Caption: A half-shorn sheep demonstrates the amount of wool produced by one sheep in a single year.

Wool is also naturally fire-resistant. Wool fiber and fabric is difficult to light on fire and tends to self-extinguish, lending extra effectiveness to the historical fire-fighting technique of smothering or beating out small blazes with a wool blanket or rug. In similar fashion, the historic hearth-rug is a sheepskin fleece or heavy wool rug, on which hearth-fire sparks smolder quickly out. (Unfortunately, the synthetic fibers often used instead of wool are the very opposite of fire-safe, taking a spark or flame easily. Even those that resist the first heat, often do worse, flaring when they catch, and melting into goo that adheres to flesh in a fashion nastily reminiscent of napalm. Ask any burn-unit nurse about debriding a polyester burn and watch them shudder.)

Thus, a defining quality of wool is its antipathy to fire and flame and ability to retain or protect against heat. Taken together with its ability to insulate human and animal against the chill of wet weather, Water is its innate element. Remember, Water is the polar opposite of Fire.


The cotton boll is the fibrous outer coating of the seed pod of a genus of tropical mallow plants, Gossypium, requiring tropical climates, or hot subtropical, to flourish. Its light, open structure burns easily, cleanly, and quickly.

cotton-bollCaption: Cotton ready for harvest.

The fine, light cellulose fibers of the cotton boll form the means of wind-distribution to spread those seeds. That same fineness enables the spinning of extremely fine threads. Such fine threads in turn allow such closely woven lightweight fabrics. Such finely woven cloth makes up into cool, breathable clothing and bed-clothes. Modern cotton sheets often specify the thread-count per square inch on their packaging. Egyptian cotton, an extra long staple (natural fiber length) cotton, was used in clothing from at least as early as 3600 BCE. Our very word gauze is believed to originate with an Arabic word, and physically, gauze weaves of cotton resemble the “mist linen” worn by Pharoahnic Egyptian nobles, as depicted in a goodly number of tomb paintings there.

Similar quality long-staple Pima cotton was grown for clothing and decoration among the pre-Columbian peoples in south America—surviving examples of Pima cotton textiles there date to as early as 4400 BCE.

Today, hot- and warm-weather garments are almost exclusively made of cotton fabrics. Absorbent cotton has allowed humans to work in tropically hot and humid conditions, such as the British Raj in India, exhibiting almost a magical affinity to both use heat and protect one from heat. And candle and lamp wicks are now made of cotton almost exclusively. This affinity for Fire defines the native elemental correspondence of cotton.


Commercial silk is the fiber spun by the larvae of an Asian moth, Bombyx mori, when it becomes a pupa, spinning as much as a mile in a single cocoon. The fineness of the silk fiber when unravelled is so great that a single filament of silk was used to create one standard (a denier, used to measure linear mass density) for comparing fibers. An airborne creature for the element of air—seems obvious, no?
Most sericultured (the technical term for raising Bombyx for silk) silk is made from killed cocoons, though silk noil or raw silk is made from hatched cocoons, as is wild silk. Those intact cocoons allow the thinnest of fibers, sometimes as fine as a mere three filaments to a single thread (before spinning or plying).

Caption: A handful of cocoons ready to unreel.silkcocoonshand

If you’ve ever handled the type of silk fabric called habotai, or the silk kerchiefs used by jugglers, you’ll have a sense. And those kerchiefs seem to defy gravity as they take their time when novice jugglers learn how to snap their wrists with each toss upwards, allowing the kerchief to expand in its own breeze and thus drift, not drop, earthward again.

The silk fiber consists of a continuous protein chain, making it extremely strong for its weight. Spider silk, at about one-tenth the denier and one-fourth the diameter of silk, is considered to be the world’s strongest natural substance, based on materials standards of tensile strength-to-weight ratios. This extreme light weight and equally extreme strength of silk made it the fiber (and thus fabric) of choice when early experiments with lighter-than-air craft took place in the early 19th century.

L. Frank Baum’s 1904 description of the Wizard’s vari-colored green balloon in the first Oz novel specifies panels of fine silk fabric. The term “parachute silk” is still used in some circles, although nylon supplanted silk in parachutes and similar applications during the Second World War.

Silk fabrics can be extremely lightweight and compressible. So much so that a 19th-century test for lingerie quality was to pass a woman’s full-skirted, many-tiered silk petticoat completely through a wedding ring. At the same time, silk woven into heavier fabrics (noil, dupioni, etc.) such as are used in suiting or upholstery resembles wool in its ability to insulate against warmth or cool.

Just as young spiders disperse from their hatch sites by spinning a bit of gossamer to the breeze and riding the flying filament(s) to their new homes, a living bit of thistledown, so does the silk gossamer of the Bombyx moth enable it to fly to its native element of Air.

Fabric Correspondences

In a previous post, I discussed the elemental correspondences I find in individual natural fibers. In this one, I’ll continue with correspondences I’ve found to various weaves, covering commonly available fabrics in the U.S.A.

The weaver’s terminology is woven into the very fabric of the English language. Entire trades and family names remind us of the processes used in the making of fabric: weaver, walker, fuller, dyer, draper, napier, tailor… Our language is full of fiber references: we have close-knit families, prize our heirlooms, find ourselfs at loose ends, spend time woolgathering, and find our good temper wearing thin. We can be fleeced by a dyed-in-the-wool con man, strung out on coffee, shuttled back and forth between two places, and find ourselves in a run-of-the-mill day job.
Many use the phrase “warp and woof” but would look sheeish if asked what exactly it meant. warpOn even the simplest loom, long threads are strung on a frame and held taut to provide the strength of a fabric—collectively called the warp. Filler threads weave (threaded under and over in a regular pattern) tightly or loosely across the warp at right angles—collectively called the weft, or woof (both words originate in Anglo-Saxon.) weft

Any fiber may be spun to a fine or thick thread, a coarse or smooth finish. The weaver’s choice of threads combines with the weave pattern and closeness (thread count) to create a huge variety of fabrics. Most often silk and cotton are used in the lighter, finer threads and fabrics, while linen and wool are used for the sturdier, heavier ones. Fabric names from all corners of the world are now English words that describe different fabrics:

  • nankeen— from the place name Nanking (Chinese smooth cotton made from an Asian vegetable fiber)
  • denim—from the French city “of Nimes”—de Nîmes. Sturdy cotton fiber woven similar to wool serge,
  • scarlet—originally meaning a rich woolen cloth.  The expensive vivid color that wool scarlet was often dyed became the name of the color itself by the end of the middle ages.
  • muslin—named for the Persion city of Mosul. Originally an exceptionally high quality fine-weave cotton, expensive and valued. Now commonly used in inexpensive sheeting, upholstery underining, and in drafting garment patterns.
  • calico—first imported c. 1600 CE from the Indian city of Calicut. A fine even-weave cotton, commonly printed with patterned decoration. In the USA, calico today refers solely to the printed fabric.
  • gauze—debatably either from the Arabic gazz (meaning raw silk) or the city of Gaza (where it was made). Originally a transparent open-weave silk. Today cotton gauze is used in many applications, from cheese-making, to medical bandaging, to insect netting that protects sleeping people in malarial regions.
  • cambric, from the Flemish city Cambray. First referred specifically to finely woven linen shirting, later imitated in cotton. The now-commonplace chambray fabric originated similarly.

Any weave can employ any fiber, in theory. It may not be all that practical to try weaving velvet out of flax, canvas of silk, or corduroy out of woolens, but it is at least possible to attempt. Of course, correspondences, as always, vary among individuals. If you’re familiar with fabrics and fibers, use your own sense of what’s true. If not, perhaps you can use this information to enrich your practice.

Magical polarities further enhance the personality of a garment to suit its wearer. Although cold weather may demand a warm robe and cloak for an outdoor circle, any fiber can be used to make them. (Wool is the commonest choice for warmth.) But if allergies or magical properties prevent, then silk or cotton may fill the need. If a midsummer ritual calls for a “watery” fabric—to encourage empathic connections, perhaps—but even wool gauze (challis) seems too hot, cotton velour may answer, using the weave correspondence instead of fiber. As with any magical enterprise, the correspondences that work are those that ring true for you.


The lightest, airy weaves used in clothing include gauzes, laces, chiffons, lawns, batistes, and challis. Such weaves intentially allow air to penetrate the fabric and reach the skin.

  • Of these fabrics, modern gauzes, lawns, and batistes are usually cotton fiber, although linen lawn or batiste may still be found.
  • Chiffons are most commonly seen in synthetic fibers that imitate the lustrous original (but expensive) silk. Silk chiffon is available from specialty importers.
  • Challis is usually made of wool or a wool–silk blend. Wool challis is an instance of a fiber commonly used for warm and heavy fabrics being used to the opposite purpose.
  • Other light and sheer fabrics include net, tulle, and mull. Most of these fabrics are transparent or translucent, and many are quite fragile, tearing or snagging easily. Tulle, for instance, is a type of netting (historically silk). Common uses in the twentieth century included veils (both bridal and for hats),  as well as the 1950s “new look” use for the tiered petticoats that supported the gathered skirts of the post-war shirtwaist dresses—and are traditional in square-dance circles. Further, tulle has long been used for ballet costumes, from the token skirt called a tutu, to the longer full, floating skirts seen in nearly every production of The Nutcracker.
  • eyelet-lace-fabricModern lace fabrics are most commonly machine-knit or woven using nylon, acrylic, acetate, rayon or polyester fibers.  Some cotton lace fabrics (rather than edgings) have returned to the market in traditional lace patterns, and eyelet cotton never left it. Fortunately, the resurgent interest in natural-fiber clothing has made available a great many more traditional lace trims and fabrics. Readily available as edgings and trims, machine-made cotton eyelet is available as lace trims and full width fabrics. Machine-made cotton bobbin lace is more common as various widths of edging, from tiny picot weaves to several inches wide.  Silk machine-embroidered laces are rarely available (as always, at a price). Traditional linen lace trims are also available in a few specialty locales.


The workhorse clothing fabrics today are most often cotton, a fire fiber itself. Work, especially any that requires physical energy, likewise corresponds well with fire. When selecting fabric weaves to correspond with fire, I have selected those both historically worn for energetic occupations, as well as those worn in places and locales with high temperatures. Sturdy yet cool weaves such as broadcloth, corduroy, twill, denim, canvas (duck), seersucker, and serge are all in common use wherever hot conditions prevail: gymnasiums, gardens, kitchens, aboard ships. twillweaveTwill originally described a weave pattern which produces a strongly diagonal appearance on one side; modern twill is usually that weave used in a single-color cotton. Twill weave is also used to produce both denim and serge. Cotton work shirts, once routinely dyed a paler blue than the indigo of brand-new blue jeans by re-using the same indigo dye bath for the lighter weight chambray fabric, gave rise to the term blue collar as one who worked a in physically laborious profession such as carpenter, factory worker, longshoreman, etc.    Caption [right]: the staggered 2-over, 2-under weave creates a strong fabric with a diagonal appearance.

  • Denim is commonly cotton (woven of colored warp threads and white weft). US navy dungarees, farmers’ and mechanics’ overalls, and contractors’ jeans are examples of the workaday garments worn where sun or engine heat demands both the breathability of cotton and the ruggedness of denim garments.
    Wool is traditionally used in a similar twilled weave known as serge, common in UK constables’ uniforms.
  • Broadcloth, corduroy, and seersucker each has its own characteristic weave.
  • Broadcloth is smooth, tightly woven tabby, common in workers’ uniforms of many sorts.
  • Seersucker is a fabric woven with alternating narrow stripes of loose and taut tension threads that produce a slight puckering in the loose-weave bands, often using white for the loose stripes and colored warp thread for the taut stripes. Heavy seersucker in dark blues was used rail workers’ uniforms in the steam age, and remains traditional there. Lightweight seersucker suits are a common sight among professionals in the southervelvet_corduroyn US, both humid and desert climes, and women’s Armed Forces summer uniforms are made of cotton seersucker.
  • Duroy was an English coarse weave sometimes used as a strainer. Cord-duroy added thicker cords in the warp direction, similar to the modern fabric  “ribcord,” but with the cords closely laid, and evolved into the pile (napped) fabric we know today. Modern corduroy consists of a woven fabric with rows of pin-width velveteen stripes. This classic corduroy is known as pinwale (wale meaning a raised weal or stripe); wide-wale corduroy having wales up to 1/2 inch have been made at times.


Fabrics with pile have extra threads woven into fabric and cut to stand up at right angles to the flat surface. Such are traditionally luxurious: plush, velvet, velveteen, velour, fur felt. Corduroy is made the same way, and can fall into either category depending on its other qualities. Also, satins with their shining surface and sliding hand evoke water in both appearance and touch. Such sensuous, luxurious surfaces correspond readily with things emotional, intuitive, psychic—the slippery senses.

  • Velvet, once made only in silk, is now most commonly synthetic or rayon, with better quality fabric available in cotton. Silk-blend velvet may be found in specialty import shops.
  • Velveteen, with its shorter pile and biased lightcatching quality, is routinely cotton. Unlike velvet, velveteen has a nap, a bias to the direction in which it catches the light, and how it feels to the hand, where one direction glides with the grain but the opposite direction bristles against the grain.
  • Plush, like twill, simply describes the weave of the fabric, the deep, soft nap of one surface, and may be made of any fiber.
  • Velour, a heavy pile fabric, is made heavier on sturdier backing for use in upholstery or similar applications; most modern velours use machine-knit (jersey) backing instead of woven.
  • The formal silk top hat was traditionally made of a silk felt so deeply napped it is called fur felt—reflecting historical use of real fur to make hats. The historical slang word beaver meant a top hat, made originally of beaver pelt sheared to a smooth sheen with a distinct bias.
  • Satin, orginally made of fine, smooth silk, makes the satin weave all the more successful at capturing light for a shiny surface. satin-weaveCotton woven using this satin weave is called sateen.   Caption [right]: Satin weave displays longer segments of warp fibers, allowing the smooth silk fibers to catch and reflect more light. One drawback to the satin weave is that these longer runs of fiber are more exposed to potential snags or damage, rendering the fabric less durable.
  • Moiré fabric was originally known as watered silk, having a wavy appearance to its surface, as if it were rippled. Unlike satin-weave fabrics, moiré requires a sturdier weave, such as grosgrain or taffeta. Moiré may be woven of silk, cotton, wool, or rayon.    Caption [below]: Photo of taffeta moiré fabvic showing characteristic ovals and ripple patterns. moire


Finally, there are the thick, heavyweight, or structural fabrics: monk’s cloth, canvas, heavy woolens, felts, and hemp or linen weaves.

  • Duck cloth (usually called canvas; doek is Dutch for the word canvas) is a simple plain-weave cotton cloth of exceptional sturdiness. tabby-weaveUsed for sailmaking, uniforms, and workman’s garb, duck remains a workhorse fabric. In the late 19th century, the corporate inventor of “levis,” Levi Strauss & Co. patented the copper-rivet reinforced worker’s pants known worldwide today as blue jeans. (Yet another city name, the workhorse fabric jean was made in Genoa, or Gênes, in French.) Early in the company’s existence, Strauss experimented with brown duck as another fabric to make into dungarees (“bib overalls”) and jeans (“waist overalls”). Duck of various weights (7 ounce up to 18 ounce, measuring the weight of a 36×22-inch piece; heavier duck is made but not numbered) may be used for everything from clothing and laundry bags, to duffle bags and hammocks and sandbags. Historically, canvas met the needs of sails and sacks, sandbags and tents, capable of withstanding long exposure to sun and weather when finished as “oilcloth” with several coats of linseed oil.      Caption [right]: Plain or “tabby” weave.
  • The term woolens describes the whole range of heavier, bulkier wool fabrics, regardless of weave. The difference between “worsted wool” and “woolen” is the length of the fiber; worsted uses long-staple wool that spins fine and strong, while woolen is short fiber which must be spun thicker and is necessarily much fuzzier from all the short-fiber ends in the thread. Wool is the fiber, woolen and worsted are the types of wool.  Wool fiber has been re-used in the past. woolmark-logo The word “shoddy,” specifically meaning wool fiber re-used in new wool fabric which quickly breaks down in use, dates to the U.S. Civil War 150 years ago. Shoddy has come to describe any poorly crafted work. Hence, the wool industry trademark for “virgin wool” (Eurozone “new wool”), which has appeared on Pendleton Woolen Mills labels for decades. felted-wool-blanket
    • Woolen, made of carded wool, has a fairly short staple (natural filament length), is likely to felt when laundered; one reason why laundering wool is not a task for the novice.
      Caption [left]: A woven woolen blanket that’s been felted, either accidentally, or in manufacturing.
    • Worsted, of combed wool, has a longer staple can spin to extremely fine threads, and thus weave to a lightness and fineness used for men’s summerweight suits even in New York City. (If you ever wondered how Middle Eastern nomads could wear wool, this is part of the answer. The other part is that wool insulates, whether against heat or chill.)


  • Monk’s cloth describes a particular heavy, loose-weave fabric that was historically made of wool. Modern cotton monks-cloth is easily recognized—the weave pattern uses a very loose tabby pattern of four threads warp and weft interwoven. The resulting fabric resembles the appearance of a cotton thermal blanket, in which air pockets woven into the fabric act as insulation in hot or cold weather. Monk’s cloth woven of solid color cotton often is available at modern fabric suppliers.
  • Felt, although sometimes an entirely non-woven fabric, has also been made by weaving heavy wool yarn and shrinking and napping it to produce an extremely warm fabric with a water-repellant surface. Modern felts are usually synthetic fiber, non-woven, and used solely for non-structural craft work. However, the process of felting wool can be closely reproduced in a modern washer, as many an incautious launderer still learns today. (Hot water, soap, and steady, gentle agitation allow the surface of the wool fibers to ratchet more and more tightly together.) Thus a deliberately felted blanket woolen can produce a fabric similar to a traditional felt, greatly improving the insulation value and adding it to the woven structural strength.

Whether your fiber project requires a careful choice of magical correspondence or just the best fiber and fabric for a purpose, some understanding of the options on today’s market can help modern pagans choose to suit their needs and ends.

Footnote: magical consideration aside, walking lightly on Gaia’s surface is helped by choosing natural fibers over synthetic ones; no one has ever answered one question satisfactorily: what happens to polyester fabric in a landfill? So far as we can tell, xeno-archeologists of the 40th century may find those wrinkle-free knit slacks and polyester leisure suits in near-wearable condition when their humanologists dig our middens!

A Word About Wood—
Natural Fire Management

The first article I ever wrote for a Pagan magazine described my attribution of the four common natural fibers to elemental correspondences, in which I spoke about wool corresponding to elemental Water. There’s good reason for that. When exposed to flame, wool ignites reluctantly, the char spreads slowly, and tends to self-extinguish. These facts were used in early 20th-century quality-control textile testing of wool fabrics, according to the 1942 industrial Encyclopedia of Textiles. Every householder knew those fact before the days of synthetic fiber and central heating.

The Hearthrug

Historic home traditions in fire-fighting and fire prevention may puzzle the millennial generation. A hearthrug, as its name says, was a rug laid before the hearth or hearthstone. Modern dictionary definitions merely state that their purpose was to protect the floor—if your home had a floor made of wood—a luxury in many cottage households, while earthen floors were commonplace. Back to the wood floor; sparks jumping outward from the hearth fire—a cook-fire & heat source at once, were a commonplace event that marred that cherished wood floor. Hearthrugs were, of course, were made of wool. And wool hates to burn! A hearthrug, whether a whole sheepskin, a patterned wool weaving, or a rag rug that recycled the rags of worn-out wool clothing, lay where the sparks from an open cook-fire might leap, and extinguish any opportunistic flames that tried to take hold.

Blanket Means Wool

Home fire-fighting equipment consisted of a bucket of sand (not water) and old blankets—no one in the 19th century felt any need to specify that blankets were made of wool. During my childhood, Army surplus blankets—those olive-drab green remnants of WWII & Korean War oversupply—were routinely a few layers of the bedrolls mother taught us to make (what’s a sleeping bag?). The family camped with them in Mohave Desert, in Joshua Tree National Park, and in Sequoia National Park we discovered the environment on the western edge of the continent. By the time we lived in northern California in the mid-1960s, I recognized the value of that traditional fire-fighting technique, when dog-day grass fires saw every able-bodied man grabbing a blanket or throw rug as they ran towards the edges of the fire to contain & control it, often accomplished before the local all-volunteer fire department could arrive—who then wetted down the entire site to prevent surprise re-ignition. Wool blankets, wool area rugs, wool horse blankets: emergency equipment on ranches, farms, homesteads, and ordinary households.

Wool has a magic all its own.

IMPORTANT! Don’t try this with just any blanket today—
synthetic fibers like polyester, acrylic, or fleece will flare,
stick to human skin, and retain heat long after active flame is gone—
more like napalm than fire-suppressant; people have died wearing polar fleece.)

©Deborah Snavely, 2006, 2015, 2019 all rights reserved.

Joseph Chapman: My Molly Life – James Lovejoy (Independently Published)

A read for all seasons…

Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews

Buy from Amazon

James Lovejoy’s début novel is an impressively researched, charming story about a young man coming of age in 18th century London. As a portrait of lower-class strife, the story has the feel of a Dickensian tale with added subject matter on how gay men might have lived centuries before homosexuality was decriminalized.

Joseph narrates his own story, and he gets off to a compelling start with a childhood that sounds as sordid to the reader as it seems quite normal to the narrator. His father was a “waterman,” ferrying passengers on the Thames, an occupation that afforded their family of five plus a grandmother a two-room flat in a crowded renthouse.

A fever made worse by the misguided medical treatment of the time takes his father’s life. In a delightfully curious turn, his mother re-enters the boxing stage to make ends meet. Women’s boxing was in fact…

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A Spectrum of Opinion: Chromosome Testing

Twenty Years Later…Just as Relevant

In the Winter 1997 issue of the Pagan Muse & World Report, we began running a forum feature entitled  A Spectrum of Opinion. The three points of view represented below are just as relevant today as they were twenty years ago when first published—say, rather, even more relevant in a day when corporate entities like and are advertising spit tests for the low, low price of $99…

NOTE: reprinted without change except editing for grammar and spelling from the original.

I Want to Know

by Sharon Steiner

Chromosome testing? I’m all for it. Who would not prefer to know whether the child they are carrying may have any of a number of genetic disorders that could cause problems for the child and or the family? If there is a possibility of Down’s Syndrome (significant mental retardation, minor physical effects), would it be better to abort the child, or are there resources available that would enable you to care for the child as needed? It seems to me that children have so many problems anyway, that knowingly bringing into the world one who must fight twice as hard just to stay even with their peers ranks as cruelty of the first water.

If one knew that one had a chance of developing Alzheimer’s (premature senile mental deterioration), is it not better to be able to know beforehand and take steps to have one’s affairs in such order as to enable one’s caregivers to effectively care for you when that time comes? Or to have the means available to take one’s own life before reaching the point of needing care? If one is aware of the probability of passing on to one’s children bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, would you not prefer to know and so make an informed choice whether even to have children?

Of course, there is also the possibility of using chromosome-testing information frivolously—say, to ensure that one had the smartest and prettiest child on the block. In fact, I would find this use the most likely, given the very human proclivity to vanity. For some insight into this possibility, just look at the pet-breeding industry. Some breeds of pets are fast becoming nonviable as a result of genetic manipulation.

I guess the question is whether one wants to have all information available to make informed choices, or to continue to stumble around in the dark. Admittedly, the human race has done a fair job of stumbling around: we have produced a fair lot of geniuses and we have gotten a fair piece down the road of exploring our world and ourselves. DNA testing can be another tool to find out about both. There will no doubt be a number of misuses and foolishnesses, but this is what we are here for, to explore and find out.

You Can’t Go Back

by Deborah Snavely

I come from a long, matrilineal line of women’s cancers. My great-grandmother died of breast cancer; my grandmother more indirectly, of an intestinal blockage caused by one too many abdominal surgeries, including the hysterectomy for cervical cancer. We live to ripe old ages anyway, but when it comes to death, breast or cervical cancer has been in every single woman’s life, right down to the currently living generations. My sister’s had an ovarian cyst, my mother was a 39-year breast cancer survivor, and I’ve periodically quit caffeine in an attempt to dodge the fibroid bullet.

So when I heard that they’d developed a chromosomal test for one of the contributors to breast cancer, I had to think about taking it. But it didn’t take me long to decide that it was still much too vague a definition of risk to suit me. Only a small percentage of breast cancers are genetic, according to the current research. So, if I test for the chromosome, and I come up positive, does that increase my chances of actually getting it by any amount? No. My risk is still the same as it was. But now I know that my chances are 1 in 7 instead of 1 in 8. So? Does that mean some nosey-parker health insurance company is going to jack up my premiums?

When it comes to chromosome testing like that, I’m not sure knowledge is power; it may be that ignorance is bliss! That possibly mutilated myth of Pandora and her box comes to mind: once you’ve opened the box of information—eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge—you can’t go back, you can only go forward. Once scientists had started theorizing how to split up atoms, those little bits of intrinsic matter once thought indivisible, it was only a matter of time before human curiosity led someone into trying out how to do it. The genie was out of the bottle.

In the same fashion, we must now deal with the rapidly increasing collection of genetic data thrust upon us by the march of science, curiosity, and that common drive to be able to fix things for people. Helping people is one of our social instincts, just as is hurting in response to being hurt. The Human Genome Project, ambitiously determined to map the entire sequence of DNA in the human animal, contributes stray new facts every week. Medical researchers meet them in the middle with chromosomal markers found to identify a particular trait or disease or predisposition. And actuarial bean-counters sniff along behind them both, noting the associations between a particular family history or genetic trait and various diseases. Why? Insurance—that juggernaut business casino that bets you you’ll live long enough to pay more in premiums than your family will get when you die. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that the house always wins? They get their percentage off the top.

In a long-winded autobiographical article last year [1996], a New York Times Magazine staffer went through a research project’s chromosome testing for a relatively rare condition that’s statistically likely (better than a 50% chance, I think it was) to affect him. It’s grouped in his family tree, so he knew it was in the range of possibilities; he’d made his will at a relatively young age. Still, this was different. This wasn’t just the odds—humans gamble every day. This was him. His genes. The test wouldn’t indicate certainty that he’d get the disorder, but it would verify whether or not he had the potentially deadly gene. The researchers provided counseling, both about the relationship between the statistical data they were compiling and what they knew about the disorder, and personal counseling to help him decide whether he wanted to hear their results—which had some small percentage for potential in- accuracy, after all. Existing methods for determining DNA details are extremely slick, to be sure, but we’re using macro tools to examine micro events; there’s almost always some small chance of the observer affecting the outcome. In the end, he decided he didn’t want to know.

It’s a position I can sympathize with: make preparations, then live every day as if it were your last.

Will Big Brother Test You, or Will You Test Big Brother?

by K.C. Anton

In a broad sense, humans have worked with genetics since the first herdsman or farmer realized that if they forced the mating of certain animals or plants, they could get a planned offspring. Through the ages this manipulation has, by its very use, determined the “nature” of this planet and the societies that reside on it.

Scientifically, we are once again at a crossroads (Hecate’s turf), where we, the people of the world, need to re-evaluate our feelings regarding this question. Genetic science, and specifically human chromosomal information, has reached the point where hard questions must be asked.

I believe every society comes to the conclusion that it “needs”; it changes what it wants into what it needs, creating an excuse for its actions, thus soothing its collective conscience. The answers a society reaches in these philosophical waters builds the direction that that society will follow for years, decades, or centuries, if it’s lucky. This pattern has been proven repeatedly; seldom has a society taken the time to choose whether the route it takes is preferred, or the ramifications understood.

The hard sciences were affected by this pattern for centuries—by religious philosophies before and during the European Renaissance. Astronomy, theoretical mathematics, and medicine are examples of what happened when men decided that they had control of themselves, their actions, their environment, and their fate. They were the center of all, until proven otherwise.

We laugh at their simplistic and obviously “unenlightened” outlook on the world. As you smile and smirk at the audacity of our grandsires, remember that we also answered these questions in our society—through the use of atomic energy, controlled livestock breeding, and agrarian genetic manipulation to produce bigger, stronger, and larger yields. Human medical inoculation and preventive medicine are only a sampling of how we have already altered our world and ourselves. We have created a world in which our own natural selection is and will be affected profoundly. This power is why genetic chromosomal testing must be looked at and consciously decided upon by the individuals in the world’s society. This issue will have far-reaching effects in the years to come; I see it as a major nexus in our societal and world history. As an example of these effects, the insurance industry already has far-reaching influence shaping our society via health, travel, lodging, and business insurance. Overall, this industry runs upon choices made by actuarial charting—the percentage or chance of a particular occurrence happening when a certain amount of the variables are known.

Insurance gambles on percentage of risk in a given situation. The more variables you can control in a situation, the more you can predict the outcome and the less of a gamble it is. With chromosome identification, you can “chart” the possible outcome of a person’s offspring much better than without. The insurance industry is very interested in chromosome testing. Should you be concerned? Possibly, if only because it is the job of the insurance industry to plan for societal trends to come, decades in the future. The rest of us have a hard time seeing where we could be next year, let alone in 2020. But think about the prospect of governmental policies:

  • keeping people from marrying because they have the potential for familial abuse.
  • denying couples children because there is a potential of passing on “unpleasant” physical or emotional characteristics.

Such restrictions are possible. Just as we now eradicate disease before it can infect a human host, chromosomal manipulation offers the possibility of eradicating cancer, viruses, mental illness, and physical infirmity.

Now is the time to consider your thoughts and feelings on all of these questions. Take action to inform others. If you choose not to share your thoughts and thus help form the world’s opinions on these questions, that’s okay. Others are acting on their decisions, too, and the world will change and be created anyway.


Privacy in this 2018 world is rapidly evaporating. Data gathered from all sorts of sources infests how the technology we use daily interacts with us…and behind the scenes are the programmers and algorithms and actuarial analysts manipulating emotions and opinions so visibly in our world. If you choose not to believe that foreign hackers altered the results of the 2016 presidential election in the USA, you are welcome to live in your fantasy world. Alas, the rest of us have to deal with Brexit and Trump and strongman politics…which makes me, at the least, reluctant to give anyone DNA data to play with!

Hippocrates Would Be Proud

A topic revisited…

On September 22 1996, Dr. Philip Nitchke assisted at the world’s first legal doctor-aided suicide,* made possible by the Northern Territories (Australia) enactment of a voluntary euthanasia law that became effective on July 1. At the Darwin, Australia, home of Bob Dent, Nitchke connected up the retired carpenter, who suffered from advanced prostate cancer, to a computer-controlled “death machine.” Dent answered a series of questions on the computer keyboard, until it asked the penultimate one, whether he understood that a yes answer to the final question would, after 15 seconds, inject him with a lethal mixture of barbiturates and muscle relaxants. It then asked him simply, “Are you ready to die?” Dent answered yes, and died with his wife at his side.

*The Australian Northern Territories  outlawed physician-assisted suicide within before 1999.
At present, several U.S. states, and several countries around the world legally  allow either passive euthanasia (refusing/withholding life-extending treatment) or physician-assisted suicide (“death with dignity”). Oregon’s statistics, the first U.S. state with such a law, record fewer than 250 persons per year making use of this choice.

Euthanasia Is Witchcraft?

The controversial law that made this event possible is hedged with precautions: it is only available to those terminally ill, they must be evaluated by two doctors and a psychiatrist, and patients must wait nine days after evaluation before an injection can be administered. Nonetheless, the usual suspects are mustering in opposition. Clerics along with conservative doctors are mounting an effort to create national legislation outlawing the practice. Some aboriginal leaders join in because they believe euthanasia is a form of witchcraft. The belief seems to stem from an aboriginal concept that is the flip side of the Asian belief that if you save someone’s life you are responsible for it. In the same vein, according to sources familiar with aboriginal ideas, if you take someone’s life, you have taken control of his soul—and that’s witchcraft, by their lights.

Thou Shalt Do No Murder

Let’s look at that: the taboo against murder is very nearly universal among humankind. That doesn’t stop humans from killing each other in all sorts of other ways: self-defense, war, plain old accidents. Causing someone’s death directly without their permission or knowledge is taking control of them, certainly, and heinous…but what about with their permission? at their request? Curing someone is taking control, too, you see. That’s why so many Pagan belief systems teach that a patient must give permission for any healing beforehand. Requiring permission leaves control of a person’s own being in the hands of that individual.

So, are we then responsible for the soul of someone who slips—and breaks a neck—on the banana peel that missed the compost heap? That scarce commodity “common” sense, I think, would say no; you didn’t mean to, it wasn’t intentional. Intent is the key. You planned to kill him, you meant to kill him, youdid kill him; that’s first degree murder. You didn’t plan to kill him, but in a moment’s fury or despair or misery or terror, you acted and did kill him, that’s still murder, but second degree—except in self-defense. You didn’t plan to, didn’t intend to, but your actions caused his death, that’s not murder, that’s manslaughter. Thus embedded in our statutes is the belief that intent counts. It’s what you mean to do that matters.

First of All, Do No Harm

Among the initiatory mystery traditions of ancient Greece are the spiritual Eleusinian mysteries, the mathematical Pythagorean mysteries, and the medical Hippocratic mysteries. Yes, Hippocrates founded an initiatory tradition of physicians, who all swore, as M.D.’s today still swear, to “first of all, do no harm.” The traditional Hippocratic oath includes a promise not to provide “a deadly drug.” I note that there exists very nearly no drug, pharmaceutical or herbal, which can be defined as not being at least potential toxic!

That command is uncannily like the Rede—the nearest thing to an ethical “law” among witches and magic users. And their decisions and actions must, like those of magic-workers, take into account relative degrees of harm. For, if pain itself were harm, then no doctor in all of history could in good conscience cause the pain of setting a broken leg, excavating a bullet or arrow, lancing a boil, stitching a gash. Yet the consequences of such inaction will be predictably worse for the patient; so they harm the fewest the least, and go ahead with the procedure.

Heroic Measures

That same rationale, however, is applied today in cases where the outcome is no better than a crap shoot. Using toxic compounds and near-lethal radiation, doctors try to make the human (host) environment fatal to a deadly parasitical growth, no matter how much suffering the treatment causes the patient. It’s an approach similar to that of the body’s own immune reactions, when the fever, histamine, and swelling, produced to kill off some invading bug, go on to create miseries and even life-threatening conditions of their own. The question usually becomes, is the host human strong enough to survive the prescribed treatment?

In these cases, we’re at the edge of Hippocratic territory—are we doing no harm?—yet such medical action is routine today, the world over. Doctors bump heads with Hippocrates every time they provide resuscitation treatment to a patient who has documented a wish not to receive it. The reason, for it’s more than an excuse, is the law. Not taking action to preserve any scrap of life, regardless of human or dollar cost, has become more hazardous to a doctor’s livelihood than taking action. Hence, between bureaucracy and statute, doctors are squeezed into a pattern that’s only now being broken up—by too many tales of medicine gone mad.

Brain-dead hulks “live” for decades with machine and hand-tending, vacuuming up precious medial and financial resources. Experienced physicians know the system so well that they’ll have tattooed on their sternum the words “no code”—hospital slang for “do not resuscitate, the patient has signed the papers”—only to awaken attached to machines, with broken ribs and a week-long life expectancy, because “it’s not a legal document.” No wonder the world fears medicine—the prospect of surviving can be infinitely more terrifying than the prospect of death.

Punishing the Dead

Christianity judges everyone, even the dead. It is from Christian medieval teachings that some of our weirder laws spring, such as the law that makes it a crime to commit suicide (Christianity is built around a final judgment). Medieval suicides were denied Christian burial for committing the mortal sin of self-murder…unless they did so while insane. This heartless practice—for denying religious services undoubtedly hurt the surviving family, while damage to the deceased is debatable—led to the routine practice of declaring suicides to have taken action while “of unsound mind”—a euphemistic convention that allowed for funeral and burial according to local custom. Some 19th-century wit said that suicides were deemed “of unsound mind” because any other conclusion would cast doubt on the soundness of mind of those who choose to remain among the living.

Limiting Choices

Modern psychiatry would have it that suicide attempts are commonly cries for help; but what of the successes? What of the 88-year-old man and his 85-year-old wife who quietly take a “Final Exit” rather than be forced by infirmity, bureaucracy, and insolvency out of their 35-year home? What of an advanced AIDS patient whose disfigurement and disability has cost him his assets, his home, and his friends? What of the young pregnant girl, cast off by a “God-fearing” family to the mercy of the streets? What of the cancer patient, untreatable beyond continuing toxics and pain-killers, unable to pursue the activities that make life life? What of social pariahs who, like Socrates, choose a cup of hemlock over exile from their life’s meaning? And what of society’s prisoners, who face that most personal of violent crimes, rape, while imprisoned; is it societal concern, or vindictiveness, that dictates such elaborate precautions against inmate suicide?

Control and Consent

These questions all relate to the issue of controlling one’s destiny. Regardless of my belief of what is right for you, I should not dictate—nor should society. Mr. Dent of Darwin chose to exit peacefully, with assistance, maintaining control of his life and his death. My late uncle chose to go on living as long as it worked; yet, in the end, he, too, chose “no heroic measures.” For a man afraid of death, as my uncle was—who might have lived months longer, medicated and hospital-bound, periodically losing parts to surgery—was this suicide? Perhaps. He died naturally the night before his transfer to a hospice; after less than a week in hospital. Yet we learned that he had refrained from using prescribed morphine for a year before he died. What pain one may survive with fortitude, another may find unendurable. But each—Mr. Dent and my uncle—made his choice, kept control, and gave consent.

To Relieve Suffering

In September 1996, Dr. Nitchke told the press that Bob Dent sought to end his suffering by dying, and that his role as doctor was to listen to the patient, and to try to act to relieve that suffering. In the end, Nitchke made Dent’s suicide possible. So did the person who wrote the controlling software program. So did the people who passed that law, the first to be put to use.

Hippocrates would be proud.

This blog entry originally appeared in the Pagan Muse & World Report Winter 1997 issue as the column “Conversations Over the Forge.” Slightly updated, it remains largely as written.


The Trouble with Dichotomy

Either–or Thinking

Someone is saying it—whaddya mean, dichotomy? Dichotomy

So let’s start with an image: Two circles, one black labelled A, one white labelled B. They are identical in size and shape, completely separate in position, and have no shared content. This is a pictorial representation of a dichotomy. Oxford Dictionary defines dichotomy as “a division…between two things that are…entirely different.

So why does a witch care? Simple. The absolutism of either–or thinking, a concept that goes back at least 2500 years in religion to Zoroastrianism and affects all modern religions “of the book” also permeates occult writing of the past two centuries. For example, Theosophy, a religion (or “esoteric religious tradition,” to quote Joseph Campbell,) was promulgated by the Theosophical Society with Helena Blavatsky primary among its 1875 founders, In Theosophy, the atma (Sanskrit, “soul”) is the Higher Self so often taught in New Age self-help practices to be the individual’s source of true wisdom.The difficulty with the term higher self becomes evident when one asks the obvious question, “Higher than what?”

The notion that a lower self (or consciousness) exists within us all and must be overcome or improved by a higher self (or consciousness) pervades the New Age assumptions drawn from 19th and 20th century esotericism—which, in turn, borrow extensively from Hindu and Buddhist concepts that buried the Old English vocabulary of the witch, and even the Latinate vocabulary of the ceremonial magician. Even the religion of Thelema, product of Aleister Crowley (and Rabelaisian fiction) presupposes that practitioners have a “True Will” that manages their ethical dictum: “Love is the Law, Love under Will.”

Where Witchcraft Meets Dichotomy

Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

—The Wizard of Oz, Glinda the Good the witch of the north, to Dorothy upon her arrival in Oz

Glinda’s question mirrors a more modern one, often posed to me: “Do you do white magic?” And the questioner invariably looked nervous while asking. Twenty-odd years of teaching, and I reflexively reply, “Is a hammer good when it hits the nail and bad when it hits your thumb?”

Magic is a tool, just as is a hammer. It is a tool used by witches, and a great many others; goodness or badness is a matter of perspective. More to the point, it is not a dichotomy, a division, at all. Goodness and badness as qualities are two ends of a spectrum, and less than that, or more. For a spectrum implies a line, or a series along a line, and goodness and badness do not fall into such a narrow space.  Good magic may mean effective magic, or helpful magic, or healing magic. Bad magic may mean baleful magic, or ineffective magic, or selfish magic. And sometimes selfish magic is beneficial, just as sometimes good magic is interference.

Outside of deliberately contrived fiction, witchcraft connects us to each other, to nature, and to balance. At the solstices, dark or light, humans yearn for a return to a balance. Summer solstice having just passed in the North, the 16 hours of daylight begin to interfere with needful sleep. Walking for fun or exercise is done at times of day when shadows fall broadly, and one instinctively chooses to walk on the shadowed side of the street. In the same way, at winter solstice, with daylight throttled to a scant 8 hours, dry moments of daylight are cherished, and the sun-warmth on skin is welcome, if rare.

labyrinthNorseWicca celebrates the Wheel of the Year, and yet the wheel we speak of is not a wheel but a spiral, for when we reach a point along its cycle, we are in a different time and space. Ancient and modern petroglyphs depict such spirals and their cousin–labyrinths.

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel…

“The Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)



The past as prologue

Sorting the many piles of paper that need new permanent homes, I came across small something I wrote in 1973. And it still speaks to me, and perhaps to others. I choose to share it.


Fair and far the world may seem,
caught in sun or moonswift sheen.
Cold and clear is sight of land,
well to touch or see or stand.
Bright the brimming waters flow
shadow-dappled as they go
running under green-leafed trees,
singing softly in the breeze,
and moving on towards foreign seas.

Worlds may lap sometimes at need—
sorrow calls and woods may heed.
Quiet calms the troubled soulp
healing slowly makes it whole.
In the mundane light of day,
sylvan folk may walk and play.
Down a dark or dreary hall,
where troubles wait or cares befall,
listen to the fair ones call…

—spring 1973

©1973–2018 Deborah Snavely, all rights reserved

Reverence Wonders…

…let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

—the Charge of the Goddess

Here concludes a series of blog entries undertaking to examine each of the eight qualities that our Great Mother advises us to cherish in our hearts.

What Is Reverence?

Modern culture won’t teach you the meaning of reverence. The dictionary defines it as “a feeling of deep respect; awe; or veneration.” Veneration in turn points back to reverence, and modern usage of the word awful (full of awe) renders that word nearly meaningless in our invent-a-word-every-week approach to language—more accurately to the jargon we so often substitute for language. Respect retains a little meaning…yet most people think of Aretha Franklin’s feminist anthem before—unless they’re thinking of Rodney Dangerfield.

Reverence, then, is perhaps the most difficult of all these qualities to pin down. Multi-layered excavation into the word focuses my attention on two words:

  • Awe
    Originally, awe meant simply, “struck with dread or fear”; Oxford today defines it: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or dread.”
    Wonder—a word equivalent to miracle a millennium ago, and, the emotion felt when witnessing a miracle—that is the closest I find in today’s lexicon that conveys such meaning.
  • Worthy
    Worthy comes into reverence when defined as “worthy of respect.”  Worthy, however, is a word with key meaning to British Traditional Wicca. Having merit or nobility comes closest to defining one’s worth, at least within the Wicca.

So, what is reverence?

In the context of the Charge, having reverence within you, tells me to heed, and to cherish, those interactions—conversations, meditations, observations—that elicit wonder, that are worth my time, that flutter my heart, that shake my spirit.

Reverence Without

I have experienced reverence — wonder, awe, respect — most frequently in two sorts of locales:


  • California_River_Otterwatching a wild river otter playing waterslide over the rapids in the Trinity River, from close enough that my toes were in the river on the far bank!
  • when old-growth redwoods entreated/pleaded/demanded I continue my inexpert solitary recorder serenade played on the stage of the open-air Redwood Forest Theater redwoods_forest_theater_stage.jpgamid Armstrong Redwoods in the Russian River valley — I had always wanted to try the acoustics, was there on an early March drizzly day with the place empty, and had with me a second-hand wooden tenor recorder, which I was learning to play; the trees made us continue until the recorder lost its voice owing to condensation in its throat.
  • observing the shadow bands over the eastern Oregon desert during my first total solar eclipse in February 1979…and sharing them with my partner in August 2017

Between the Worlds

  • deity contacts
    RabbitintheMoonwhen Selene showed me the marchhare-moonMarch Hare
    – when Athena chose me as Her priestess
    – when Lugh identified Himself as my protector
    – when Pan & Spider Woman made Themselves
    evident among the redwoods
    – when Salmon Woman informed me she’s a face of Brigantia, Athena, & Bride
  • discovering ungroundedness when I was brought in to the Wicca
  • experiencing the Descent of the Goddess
  • whenever one of my initiates draws down for the first time

Reverence Within

Here is where the Lady’s advice proves most challenging, when individual Witches must learn to be gentle with themselves, to cherish the wonder & awe within themselves, to acknowledge & respect their own strengths…while uncovering & addressing their own failings.

“For behold, I am the mother of all things, and my love is poured out upon the earth.”
The Charge of the Goddess, prose version, Doreen Valiente (Ameth)



a word about wool…

Natural Fire Management

The first article I ever wrote for a Pagan magazine described my attribution of the four common natural fibers to elemental correspondences, in which I spoke about wool corresponding to elemental Water. There’s good reason for that. When exposed to flame, wool ignites reluctantly, the char spreads slowly, and tends to self-extinguish. These facts were used in early 20th-century quality-control textile testing of wool fabrics, according to the 1942 industrial Encyclopedia of Textiles. Every householder knew those fact before the days of synthetic fiber and central heating.

The Hearthrug

Historic home traditions in fire-fighting and fire prevention may puzzle the millennial generation. A hearthrug, as its name says, was a rug laid before the hearth or hearthstone. Modern dictionary definitions merely state that their purpose was to protect the floor—if your home had a floor made of wood—a luxury in many cottage households, while earthen floors were commonplace. Back to the wood floor; sparks jumping outward from the hearth fire—a cook-fire & heat source at once, were a commonplace event that marred that cherished wood floor. Hearthrugs were, of course, were made of wool. And wool hates to burn! A hearthrug, whether a whole sheepskin, a patterned wool weaving, or a rag rug that recycled the rags of worn-out wool clothing, lay where the sparks from an open cook-fire might leap, and extinguish any opportunistic flames that tried to take hold.

Blanket Means Wool

Home fire-fighting equipment consisted of a bucket of sand (not water) and old blankets—no one in the 19th century felt any need to specify that blankets were made of wool. During my childhood, Army surplus blankets—those olive-drab green remnants of WWII & Korean War oversupply—were routinely a few layers of the bedrolls mother taught us to make (what’s a sleeping bag?). The family camped with them in Mohave Desert, in Joshua Tree National Park, and in Sequoia National Park we discovered the environment on the western edge of the continent. By the time we lived in northern California in the mid-1960s, I recognized the value of that traditional fire-fighting technique, when dog-day grass fires saw every able-bodied man grabbing a blanket or throw rug as they ran towards the edges of the fire to contain & control it, often accomplished before the local all-volunteer fire department could arrive—who then wetted down the entire site to prevent surprise re-ignition. Wool blankets, wool area rugs, wool horse blankets: emergency equipment on ranches, farms, homesteads, and ordinary households.

Wool has a magic all its own.


IMPORTANT! Don’t try this with just any blanket today—
synthetic fibers like polyester, acrylic, or fleece will flare,
stick to human skin, and retain heat long after active flame is gone—
more like napalm than fire-suppressant; people have died wearing polar fleece.)

Mirth Lightens…

…let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

—the Charge of the Goddess

Here continues a series of blog entries undertaking to examine each of the eight qualities that our Great Mother advises us to cherish in our hearts.

What Is Mirth?


Harvest merriment outside the walls of Rome.

Mirth means joy or pleasure although modern dictionaries equate the word mirth with laughter & levity. The word itself is simply the noun form of the adjective merry, which means pleasant, agreeable, or sweet. Every winter in the USA people wish each other a “Merry Christmas” while across the Atlantic the British express the same sentiment as “Happy Christmas.”

A traditional time for merriment is after the annual harvest—grain, fruits, fish, nuts—has been successfully gathered and stored. Harvest Home festivities include the early October Erntedankfest in Germany including the famed Munich Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving in Canada on October‘s second Monday, and Michaelmas in Scotland at the end of September—a occasion which inherits customs from the Celtic games at Lughnasadh.

Mirth Without

“We all need joy, and we can all receive joy…by adding to the joy of others.”
—Eknath Easwaran, The End of Sorrow

“Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased…”
—Spider Robinson

CAbuckeye-flowerspikeMirth or merriment is sometimes where one finds it. The seasonal Easter marquee that fronts a local (Christian) church along a minor arterial street in my neck of the woods reiterates the annual proclamation I’ve heard & seen for 60 years…“He is risen!”—for years an in-your-face irritant of springtide, at least when combined with the annual plague of grass allergies.

EARLYARTFreyrMost recently, the image that brought mind is the priapic image of the flowering California buckeye in all its phallic glory—in its turn a reminder of the sacred sexuality of the Hornéd One. And I burst out laughing, with a whole new twist on that old irritation—one that will no longer irk as it has for decades.

Mirth Within

Clearly, having mirth within you is not the same thing as laughing all the time. Mirth is an attitude, taking joy in everyday things, being pleasant with yourself and with others. Certainly laughter may be a result of such an attitude, and supports the attitude itself. Mirth and merriment acts to counter-weight life‘s inevitable irritations and frustrations; much more significant is support of such attitude when facing crisis, tragedy, and loss.

“They that love mirth, let them heartily drink,
‘Tis the only receipt to make sorrow sink.”
—Ben Jonson, Entertainments


NOTHING is like a Burden Cloth!

Enjoying small things even in the midst of sorrow is an instance of keeping at least a spark mirth within. Although I grieved at the death of my mother, I took pleasure in the knowledge that she was able to live her life independently until the end; she sold her Burden Cloth totes at Eugene‘s Tuesday Market the very day before her death. As I gave instructions for her bodily disposal, I handed the funeral home one of her own Farm Size Burden Cloth™ totes to be used for her shroud…and she still wore the prior day‘s t-shirt, one she”d had silkscreened with the image at left & beneath it: “NOTHING is like a Burden Cloth!

Other aspects of her disposal also pleased me, as it would her—the funeral home had arrangements with a local MD who would remove her pacemaker (not suited for either burial or cremation), containing as it did heavy metals)…and although the MD could not do so within the USA, he workd with an organization that sterilized such used pacemakers and supplied their life-saving technology to patients in poor countries abroad. Carol ones wrote an article entitled “Where in the world is Away” on the topic of re-use and re-cycling. I could feel her approval as I signed the paperwork for that detail. Odd to feel pleasure amid the grief. Odd, but true, and supportive. Mirth—joy or pleasure or merriment or even levity—does indeed lighten the spirit.