Liminal Times at Liminal Spaces

During the intense heat of last week, I followed the wisdom of so many other creatures and hid in the shade. If I wasn’t under my porch writing, I was inside… writing, reading, or lounging around like a wet noodle. I found that I woke up, mentally, physically, and spiritually, at dusk.

When the sun began dipping toward the horizon, the temperatures lowered slightly. It is a liminal time – not quite day or night. I ventured into the open areas to admire wildflowers and harvest mullein. I made offerings to the land and sang songs.

Not the best photo, but you can just see a fox dashing by! Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

In what has become a near daily activity, I mounted the hill to peer through the wrought-iron fence into the cemetery. It started because I needed to water the hawthorn sapling I planted and improve her chances of surviving the drought. In working to nurture a plant and establish a relationship, I found myself surrounded by dragonflies and, later, fireflies. As the sky grew purple, the foxes appeared. They, too, come out at dusk. If I was quiet, I could admire them from one to two feet away as they walked along the fence to sniff chipmunk burrows. Sometimes they noticed me. They cocked their heads and continued on when they realized I posed no threat. It’s been absolutely wild and wonderful to see them most evenings, and I feel privileged to observe my often unseen neighbors in this way. I whispered gratitude to the land, gratitude to live near a liminal space – the boundary between my home and cemetery.

It is where death and life mingle.

It is both wild and tame.

I meet them there.

Three Things Thursday: Newsletters, Poetry, and Deities

Each Thursday, I share three things that are on my mind, inspiring me, or informing me as a Druid and a writer. Hope you enjoy!

My Newsletter

I’m starting off with a bit of shameless self-promotion. My first newsletter will go out into the wide world this weekend! It will feature information about my debut novel, River Magic, including some background and inspiration for the main character, a contemporary, American Druid named Lacey. If you sign up, you’ll get a first look at the character art I commissioned! If you’re interested in my writing, I hope you’ll subscribe to stay up with the latest since sometimes that pesky algorithm likes to hide things.

An Introduction to Rosc Poetry

Irish Pagan School is offering a fantastic sounding workshop this weekend! Irish File, Geraldine Moorkens Byrne, is going to teach us about an old, traditional form of Irish poetry used for magic. This is exactly the sort of class I’ve been thirsting for to deepen my relationship with my path, my Irish ancestors, and my writing. If this sounds interesting to you, I highly encourage you to check it out and sign up!

Developing Divine Relationships

Whenever I encounter new Pagans, online or in person, one of the topics they’re most curious about is how to start working with deities. Althea’s got a fresh email course coming out that sounds perfect for newcomers to polytheism. Developing Divine Relationships is meant to be a practical approach to get you on your way. Her email lessons are well-written and direct, complete with opportunities to reflect and dig your hands in with real-world experience. She also offers chats through her Discord server. I highly recommend it for the learning community! Finally, if cost has been a barrier before, inquire about her new payment plan.

I’m sorry Three Things Thursday came out a little later than intended, but it’s been super hot in Northern NY. I’ve been struggling to focus, so I hope you’ll forgive me. Stay cool and be safe!

What the Garden Teaches me

There’s so much to do during the summer. There are words to contemplate and tweak, but also plenty to keep me busy in the garden. When sitting becomes too much, I’m so grateful for the mini oasis I’ve been working with. The garden is an excellent teacher if you pay attention.

A basket full of lavender, roses, sage, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and mint. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

Today I harvested more herbs. I don’t have a huge garden, so I only took a little here and there. I must leave plenty for the pollinators and the plant itself. Most of these will become herbal tisanes or culinary seasoning that will comfort me through the winter.

Sage air drying in a net. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

I find a lot of parallels and lessons between gardening, writing, and my spirituality. They all interconnect in my being like a tapestry. My first gardens were tiny. My father helped to build them and did much of the maintenance. The same can be said of my books. When I was a mini writer of five, my mother recorded each word while I drew the pictures. As I grew, teachers and other mentors would support me in both cases. Each year, I discover more about these passions of mine. I grow in independence, and yet also interconnection to others who offer inspiration and expertise. That includes spirit allies. It’s a never-ending process, and I’ve found it’s more collaborative than solitary.

Some years, the garden is not as productive. Or perhaps one plant is not as fruitful as desired. Some may disagree with my choices in plants or placement. I can say the same of writing. Some stories never take root or blossom. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to bear fruit. Your work will not impress everyone, yet you mustn’t get so discouraged that you give up. You reflect, you learn, and you dig a new garden bed (or revise one). You go back to the seedling drabbles and nurture them. You rebuild shrines. You rewrite prayers and whole novels.

My spiritual path has been the same. There will always be periods more fecund than others. The plant world teaches us that it is perfectly acceptable, even healthy, to go through dormant intervals. If that is you right now, it’s okay. Gather what herbs you can for later.

And just like the plantain that grow through the tiniest cracks, never give up.

Three Things Thursday: Intersectional Environmentalism, The Tigers of Scotland, and Camp Nano!

Each week, I share three things with you, usually media from others that informs and inspires my spirituality and writing. I hope it helps you grow and learn with me!

Intersectional Environmentalism

If you’ve done any reading about race and feminism, you should already be at least familiar with the term intersectionality. I recently learned about Black activist and environmentalist, Leah Thomas. She’s founded the group Intersectional Environmentalism.

This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + the planet.

– Leah Thomas

If you’re like me, you came to Druidry or Paganism in general out of a genuine love and concern for the Earth. Just as we consider how we’re including and elevating BIPOC in our Pagan communities, we need to consider it in our work to protect the environment, too. Since there is overlap between Pagans and environmentalists, I highly encourage you to read her recent Vogue article and check out the important work that Thomas is doing. This could help inform and prepare your circle for community service, planning Pagan Pride events, and wider activism.

The Tigers of Scotland

Longtime readers probably noticed that I enjoy watching documentaries. Lately, I’ve been watching things on Netflix while I do dishes or prepare dinner. I recently enjoyed The Tigers of Scotland, a documentary about the natural history and push to conserve Scottish wildcats.

I first learned about these amazing creatures as a teenager reading the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. As I grew into a Pagan who found meaning in the lore and ecology of Europe, I continued to appreciate the wildcat. The documentary actually discusses one theory connecting this creature with the cat sidhe of legend. If you’re looking to learn more about the lore and ecology from Scotland, I think you would enjoy this film.

A badge that says, “Camp NANOWRIMO 2020 Writer.”

It’s Camp NANOWRIMO time again! Unlike the bigger event that happens each November, Camp isn’t limited to writing a novel of a specific word count. Many writers come up with personalized goals. I participated in the April Camp to give myself a strong start writing the sequel to River Magic. I met my goal of 20,000 words and continued over the next few months. I finished the first draft at the very end of June! Perfect timing, because now I really need to focus on the first round of River Magic edits from my publisher! Once I’m done with that, it’s back to revising the sequel.

I really appreciate the community and focus NANOWRIMO provides me. I actually started River Magic during a past NANOWRIMO. I did it unofficially, but enjoyed feeding off the momentum. If you have a story in you that’s ready to come out, I suggest you look into Camp NANO. It may be just what you need!

Ready for some River Magic?

I was going to post this several weeks ago, but the time wasn’t right. It’s since been released on Twitter, but I waited until June 28th to share more on my social media because today is my main character’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Lacey Moran! (I actually bought her a gift… more on that below.)

My publishers created this beautiful ad for my book to go in the most recent issue of Stone, Root, and Bone ezine! This isn’t the cover, but I believe certain elements will be included! I’m very excited about it. I love the scaly background, the bubbles, and the beautiful seaweed font!

The text says:

River Magic

a Magical Realism Novel by M. A. Phillips

The river calls to Lacey through dream and song, but it takes an encounter with a mermaid to make sense of her abilities, open her heart to love, and embrace her path as a Druid. Available in Kindle and paperback October 31, 2020

Shadow Spark Publishing

I’m currently working on my first round of edits from Shadow Spark. I’m excited to share my book baby with you all, but it’s also becoming more “real,” and impostor syndrome is definitely setting in. I don’t have time to wallow in that, though, because my publisher also contracted me for books two and three in a series we’re calling The Rituals of Rock Bay! Book two will release on Imbolc 2021, and book three comes out for Bealtaine 2021! Needless to say, I’m writing and editing like a crazy person, putting everything I learned during the years it took me to construct River Magic to work in a matter of months. Thankfully, I already had some outlines, concepts, and snippets. By the time I signed the contract, I’d written half of the sequel during Camp Nano. My goal is to finish the first draft today!

As I approach publication, I’m working on some fun things to share about my writing process, inspiration, and the characters. I’ll post soon about a newsletter that will feature many of these tidbits. Oh, remember that gift I bought my main character? I officially commissioned an artist for an illustration of Lacey! Once I get my newsletter started, subscribers will get a first peek! Stay tuned!

Three Things Thursday: Herbal Reparations, Ogham Pronunciation, and Never Date a Siren

I feel like I blinked and it’s Thursday again! Here’s my weekly roundup of interesting items that have informed and inspired me this week. I hope you find something to help you on your way!

Herbal Reparations

Herbal practitioner Regina Kankinza of In Her it Blooms added a way for people to make donations to help her provide service to those in need. A donation of $10 or more will help.

Support black folks, indigenous folks, queer and trans folks of color to have access to wellness services by purchasing part of or a whole consultation. This supports folks get the wellness support they need who might otherwise not be able to access wellness services due to finances and/or due to the embedded racism that exists in our medical industrial complex.

If you’re on Instagram, I highly suggest you follow In Her it Blooms for more updates. She’s going to post more ways people can support the cause each New Moon, and she continually posts great information and content that forces me to reflect and grow as a fledgling herbal student.

Ogham Pronunciation

I can’t recommend Lora O’Brien’s work enough, especially for those of us who are drawn to the Irish polytheist tradition. I’ve been working through the Ogham with a friend to deepen our understanding of this complex and beautiful system of language and divination. It’s helping us grow in our spirituality, but also our understanding of Gaeilge (the Irish language). We’ve been rereading Erynn Rowan Laurie’s book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom (another excellent resource). Someone else shared this video by Lora, and it was so helpful! Despite my best efforts with pronunciation guides in books, I was mangling many of the Ogham names. Hearing an Irish speaker say them is precisely what I needed.

Never Date a Siren

The cover of “Never Date a Siren” by Byrd Nash.

I recently finished the first book in Byrd Nash’s College Fae series. This was such a fun and magical read! Nash clearly respects and studies the old lore that informs and inspires this modern fairy fantasy. The characters are interesting and lovable. I especially enjoyed Brigit’s feisty “lawful good” personality, and found her interactions with nature and objects derived from plants to be delightful and unique. I always enjoy seeing deities from my tradition interpreted (respectfully) in a modern setting. I won’t spoil anything, but I was both amused and very intrigued with a particular goddess’ cameo! I will definitely read more of this series in the future! If this intrigues you, you can this this title for free for a limited time!

Socially Distant Summer Solstice

An image of the St. Lawrence River. Sun glistens on the blue-green water and trees growing from an island. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

This time last year, my grove celebrated the Summer Solstice together. We gave gratitude to the Kindred, to the sun, and to the network of rivers that connect us all in the North Country. We gave an offering of yellow flowers to Manannán mac Lir. This year, I missed my people, my grovemates. We will still celebrate virtually, but it isn’t the same.

Still, I count my blessings that I’m not entirely alone. I have a family to celebrate with me – my supportive agnostic husband who finds something peaceful and wondrous about nature, and my self-described little Druid, my daughter. We went to the St. Lawrence River. It is a juncture of the Three Realms. Land, Water, and Sky all meet in this magnificent conduit that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. We found a quiet, out of the way place at a state park and were able to put our feet in and commune with the elements. My daughter and I left our offering of flowers there. Marigold from our gardens and wildflowers we picked from the yard. A tiny bit that will go back to the Earth. We took nothing but photos and memories while there.

Yellow flowers on my altar for Summer Solstice. Photo by M. A. Phillips

Between Father’s Day and life’s other demands, we put off a fire until tonight. We burned the ribbons from the old May Bush. Tomorrow, if I can beat the cooling rain we so desperately need, I will spread some of the ashes throughout the garden to distribute nourishing potash. Either way, Bealtaine’s blessings will continue to aid in the fertility of the land as Summer unfolds.

Ribbons in a bonfire. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

I have been doing other quiet workings. Keeping Brigid’s flame, making offerings to my Beloved Ancestors, and reflecting on what needs to be done to right past wrongs. There are things to wash and burn away. Perhaps we all needed a more solitary Summer Solstice away from the more celebratory feasts and frolicking. This year, the High Days demand more introspection.

Three Things Thursday: Discussing Race in Pagan Spaces, Myths and Monsters, and Stonehenge

Each Thursday, I share three things that I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise enjoying. Perhaps they will inspire or help you grow in your own path!

Youtuber Discusses Race in Pagan Spaces

I recently found Youtuber Benebell Wen. A couple people suggested I check out her content, and I’m so glad I did! Not only does she share informative videos about tarot and other metaphysical topics, but she’s put out some very thoughtful videos about race in the Pagan, spiritual, and tarot communities. Her most recent video discusses her take on why Black Lives Matter and other race-related topics are totally appropriate for Pagan authors and vloggers to discuss on their platforms because they’re human rights issues. I agree 100%! Go watch and give Wen a follow!

Hey Spirituality, Pagan, Tarot Community: We Need to Talk About This Shadow – Youtube video by Benebell Wen

“Myths and Monsters” on Netflix

I recently finished watching the documentary series “Myths and Monsters” on Netflix. This TV-PG program from 2017 explores common themes in European mythology. Each episode explores a topic: heroes and villains, the wild unknown, war, love and betrayal, change and revolutions, and the end of all things. While the usual Greco-Roman focus is there, the producers also highlight tales from the Vikings, Slavic culture, Germany, and even Ireland! The narrator relates the tales to the audience with the help of art and occasional explanations and interpretations from scholars – some of whom were women! Yay! I would love it if they expanded on this series to explore more diverse mythology with experts from each culture, but it’s definitely worth watching if you enjoy European lore.

Summer Solstice Livestream from Stonehange!

I’m sure most of you know this already, but in case you didn’t or aren’t sure where to go, English Heritage is set to livestream both sunset and sunrise at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. According to their website:

Please don’t travel to Stonehenge for Summer Solstice: we know how special this occasion is to so many of you, and we’ll be live streaming both sunset on 20 June and sunrise on 21 June across English Heritage’s social media channels for free.

Are any of you planning to watch?

Return to the River

The St. Lawrence River flowing past Keewaydin State Park in Upstate NY. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

Like many of you, I’ve been striving to keep my family safe. We stayed home and only my husband and I went out for essentials while always wearing a mask. We took my daughter to the greenhouse once in May, but she fussed so much with her mask that we worried about bringing her places and needing to go into a store for access to a restroom.

We’re lucky in that we have a yard, a garden, and a trail in front of our home. I can only imagine how difficult it’s been, especially in the colder months, to be inside tiny apartments… Even with my blessings of private green spaces, my soul missed the river.

With warmer months, and our deep yearning for family and beloved places, we decided to encourage our daughter to practice mask wearing with some day trips closer to home. The previous weekend, we returned to the St. Lawrence River by way of Keewaydin State Park. It was like a homecoming or a pilgrimage.

An oak tree over a still section of the Otter Creek Preserve. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

This weekend, we went to the Otter Creek Preserve. It’s a beautiful tract of land conserved through the Thousand Islands Land Trust. The creek joins with the St. Lawrence River. Walking the trails was a fun way to visit with and learn from the land and waterways while also socially distancing from others. No masks required until encountering other people or visiting the bathroom after!

My feet in the St. Lawrence River in Alexandria Bay, NY. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020.

Putting my feet in the water and greeting the river has become a yearly sacrament. This is the lifeblood of the land. It shapes the ecosystems, history, and culture. For me, personally, the St. Lawrence River is a major source of spiritual and creative inspiration. My recent short story, “Invasives,” takes place in Clayton, NY, and the seaway plays a major roll in my upcoming novel, River Magic which is coming out in October through Shadow Spark Publishing.

I will be posting more about my novel and all the places in the 1000 Islands that inspired the story soon. In the meantime, I hope you are able to safely visit the sacred places that are dear to your heart.

Three Things Thursday: Uncomfortable Conversations, Black Witch Resources, and a Call for Submissions

It’s Thursday, which means I have three things to share with you. Three Things Thursday is becoming my way of highlighting people and causes in Druidry, Polytheism, and the overall Pagan community. I have some new content about my own life, spiritual practice, and writing to share with you next week, but I’m going to work to keep TTT a place where I continue to elevate diversity as often as I can. Of course, I will continue to share info and books from many Pagans and artists, but I need to do a better job of looking outside my usual circle. Druidry and Irish Polytheism is my path, and I know many of my readers are here for that… but we don’t exist in an isolated grove. Just as forests are diverse, we must be aware of the many voices around us. We’re in this together, after all.

Uncomfortable Conversations

Like many of you, I’ve been studying books, articles, and other content by BIPOC on race, privilege, policing, and, because I’m a teacher, education. Due to the nature of my job, this isn’t the first or the last time I’ll engage with such materials. This impacts my students all year, every year! But I decided to dig into it with some Polytheist peers. I keep wondering about how to help create a more inclusive, SAFE environment in the greater polytheistic and Pagan community. This video, which is specific to the herbal community, really got me thinking. My grove is predominantly white. Whenever I go to Pagan Pride or similar events, it’s mostly white. The presenters and entertainers are mostly white. We have work to do. I hope you are having these uncomfortable conversations within your own circles. It’s an important part of the process. If talking is too much for now, I hope you’re reading, listening, and thinking about it.

Black Witch Resources

This article, Black Witch Resources: Getting Started, came across my Twitter feed a few days ago. Originally from Spiral Magazine back in 2017, author Donyae Coles outlines the basics of Black witchcraft and working within the traditions of the African diaspora. I know my usual readers may scratch their heads and wonder why I’m sharing this. Well, some of my readers may be Black and seeking information! It’s so easy to assume that anyone seeking info on Druidry is automatically White. I’m also sharing it because I think that even if we aren’t going to engage with those practices, we should know about them. Just as it’s useful as a ritualist and human being to know the similarities and differences between Greek polytheism and Irish, it’s just as informative and inspiring to learn about other world religions. The more we know, the more we can recognize our brothers and sisters in the greater Pagan and Polytheist communities. On that note, I must admit a great deal of ignorance about the traditions of the African diaspora. I’m very excited to get this new book: Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens: The Divine Feminine in the African Religious Traditions by Lilith Dorsey later this year. At the very least, I’ll be more prepared with facts when people make dismissive or racists comments about the traditions.

Call for Submissions

Hagstone Publishing is once more open to submissions! Issue 4 of Stone, Root, and Bone magazine will be out in August, and they’re looking for stories, poetry, and articles related to animism and polytheism. They are especially interested in content from BIPOC, queer and trans writers, and writers with disabilities because, as they recently tweeted, “Nature is for everyone!”

I will not be submitting anything this round because of my publishing schedule (more on that in a post for another day), but I’ve had such a positive experience with Hagstone. Working with them to publish three short stories truly felt like a collaboration. As fellow animists and polytheists, my writing was respected and understood.