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The Land Where I’m Planted

This is an interesting part of the year, with various holidays and special days all dancing through the days together. The Jewish Passover began last week and will continue though tomorrow. The Christian Easter was yesterday. Living in Colorado, I must mention that yesterday was also 4/20. And today is Earth Day. We are between the Equinox and Beltaine still, in the second Moon of Spring, the Willow Moon, for which the Bright Moon, the High Tide, was last week. Trees are budding, flowers blooming, grasses turning green. A time of renewal and rebirth no matter which way you cut the seasons and days.

With the nature of this time, and with today being Earth Day, which many celebrate as a specific focus on helping the environment, and for many, the planting of a tree, it seems appropriate to look at what I do in relation to the Land here, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, sometimes proactively, sometimes just in an over all sense of what is important to keep in mind.

In this area, I focus more local that global, focused on the Land where I am at, including the human portion of that, not as opposed to it. I work for better practices and behaviors that allow humans to coexist with all other things in this space, animal, plant, fungus, mineral, spirit, and anything else that lives here, minimize the things that are harmful to the Land and all those that live in it, regardless of guise, and against those things that harm.

This includes:

  • fighting human trafficking (which is one of the things biggest on my heart)
  • how the homeless are treated
  • biases/prejudices and dangers based on those biases/prejudices to portions of the community (specifically trans* and the wider LGBT community)
  • mining/drilling/pumping techniques that are harmful (not shown by hype as harmful but truly harmful)
  • minimization of waste both to lower impact in consuming and to lower impact in disposal
  • supporting local businesses and producers (especially local farms and ranches) to improve the economy here and to minimize the impact of transporting from other parts of the country
  • limiting and clean up of litter and other things that can hurt the plants and animals around us
  • support for the Open Areas and encouragement of responsible development to both meet the human needs and minimize the impact on our neighbours be they animal, plant, fungus, or mineral, gardening and growing of your own food as much as possible

That type of thing.

Some of these I work more actively toward, some less so. Some I work primarily towards in my personal habits and behavior, others in outreach and education, others in more action based approaches. Some I use magical techniques toward, others it’s very much physical and direct.

And many of these, I can’t do much beyond my own actions without help, so I have plans to try to gather a group to work toward these aims. If you live in Plains Edge, the Northern Frontrange Area of Colorado, or near this area, or have ideas or would like to talk, feel free to reach out to me at plainsedge@grimr.org. I have no certain plans nor a sure direction, but I’d love to talk with anyone with a heart of the area, or who would like to connect for other reasons.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in muninnskiss

 

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Exitium in initio ponebatur

This is a time for endings.  My grandma died a week ago, my great aunt a week before, another great aunt in the last few months.  On Friday, my job ended.  It is a time of endings.

(This post was begin August 26, the evening after my drandma’s memorial service and the Dag after my job ended.)

All things that begin must end.  Something must end for something new to begin.  The end is present in the beginning.  The destruction is present in the creation.  Exitium in initio ponebatur.

An ending is an opportunity.  It clears the slate.  Until something ends, you are commuted to the current path.  You have to consider the consequences.  If you are working, accepting a job means quitting the old or determining how to do both.  If you are in a relationship, starting a new one requires ending the old one or facing how the new one will effect the old.  But when al job ends, you are free to accept any new ones that come.  When a relationship ends, you are free to accept any new ones that come.

Initiation of course comes from the word “initium”, “to begin”.  This is conjugated into “initio”, “beginning”.  One thing present in all forms of initiation is death and rebirth, though the form these take varies.

The first event in my life I can truly call initiation was the ordeal and connected rituals I went through joining an order as s teenager.  There were four elements to that ordeal: a night alone in isolation, silence, physical labour, and limited food.

The night of isolation followed a ceremony, a ritual, and was a time to contemplate the mysteries I had seen.  Isolation is always a time of contemplation, especially following seeing and hearing the mysteries.  Note that after his baptism and the holy spirit coming upon him as a dove, a very obvious initiation, the holy spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, the Eremus, the Wasteland, to be tempted.  Following the initiation he received, following things he had seen that were mystery and new, he spent forty days in isolation, alone, and the temptation only came at the end.  Also note in the Graal myths, the Graal Knight, after failing to ask the questions that would heal the King and with him the Land, spends years in the Wasteland in isolation, a self imposed excile, during which he contemplates the things he saw and the questions he didn’t ask.  Isolation is the Wasteland.

The second element was silence.  I was under oath not to speak the entire ordeal.  This also reflects the Graal myth, especially the earliest, where the knight that trained Sir Perceval instructs him to listen more and talk less, which leads him to not ask the questions.  This silence, and the events that follow it, leads to the Wasteland, and the Quest (to ask, to seek) for the answers to the unasked questions.  Silence is the Catalyst.

Third was labour.  During the day between the night alone and the final ceremony, the actual initiation, I performed manual labour, honest labour, service.  This is also seen in the Graal myth, for in the Wasteland, the Graal Knight does service, rescuing those in danger, protecting those threatened, feeding those who are hungry, helping those in need.  You see the same thing from Jesus between Initiation and Death.  This is selfless service.  This is changing Wyrd to help others, binding and loosing the Threads of Fate.  Overcoming Fate for others.  Labour is the Overcoming.

Fourth was limited food, denying the body.  With Jesus, we see this as the fasting for forty days in the Wasteland.  For the Graal Knight, we see this in the oath he takes before heading on the Quest, to not sleep two nights in the same place, to avoid strange tales, to engage in combat any knight claiming to be better than another or any two nights claiming the same.  The denial here is of course denial of a home, denial of fancy, and denial of safety.  Denial is the Suffering.

These elements of course are all present in such initiations as spending the night in the Devil’s Chair.  The Catalyst is that which calls you to do so, to make the trip, to take the risk.  The Suffering is fasting and staying awake all night, denial of food and sleep.  The Wasteland is your isolation up there, no one to help you, no one to comfort you.  And the Overcoming is the result.  You will return mad, dead, or a poet.  The poet overcame.

This ordeal, Catalyst, Suffering, Wasteland, and Overcoming is the process in Initiation of Death and Rebirth.  The old dies in the Wasteland, to be reborn in the Overcoming, which is in fact Nexus, the coming back together, the Divine Twin of the Catalyst which begins the process of breaking apart.

We go through this process with the death of a loved one, though it’s not as clear.  In effect, in our mourning and sorrow, we die with them, and are reborn from that sorrow.  Their dying is Catalyst, making use experience death, look at ourselves, begin the sorrow and grieving process.  Our fear and sorrow, grief and pain are Suffering and the Wasteland.  We must Overcome to be able to move on, to live again.  We are reborn from the smashes of our sorrow and grief.  Changed, yet moving on.

Losing a job is the same.  The point of layoff or firing is the Catalyst, loosing the Threads that held us to the old job, unbinding the bonds that held us there.  The job hunting process is Suffering and Wasteland, Suffering being the sacrifices made to get through that time, eating as cheap as possible, not giving in to our desires, because money is short.  The Wasteland is that time of isolation when we have no job, no income, no boss, no coworkers.  We are the wounded Fisher King, no longer able to do what we once could.  We are the slain knight, beheaded in the act of losing our job.  But most of all, we are the Graal Knight, on a Quest for the answer to, “what is the meaning of these things?”  The Overcoming, of course, is a new job at the end of the Wasteland, Nexus, the coming back together of the frayed Threads, ragged in the Wind of the Wasteland, the anchoring back down of our lives.  Changed yet moving on.

“Behold, the old has passed away and all things have been made new.”

All things that begin must end.  Something must end for something new to begin.  The end is present in the beginning.  The destruction is present in the creation.  Exitium in initio ponebatur.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in muninnskiss

 

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Awakening: Wyoming in Early Spring

On Tuesday, April 10, I drove up toward the mountains to look at the trees and how they and the plants around them were progressing with spring.  I left town about 6:30 and returned about 8:00.  It was a beautiful and enlightening trip.  I took a few pictures, which I’ll share with you all.  Click on the pictures to see them full size.

Just outside of town on Curtis Street, after it becomes a gravel road, I stopped to investigate a group of cottonwoods that separated a field from the road.  This was the same elevation as town, about 7220 feet above sea level.


Cottonwoods were and still are planted as wind breaks between fields and along property lines.  With 30-70 MPH a normal occurrence, trying plant and harvesting hay (the only crop worth growing at this elevation), herding cattle, and doing the other tasks related to ranching can be a bit hard.  Cutting down the wind saves a lot of headaches and diminishes losses and mishaps.  Cottonwoods send roots down very deep, so they can reach the ground water table, often 20-40 feet down, and are sturdy in the wind, so they make great wind blocks.

I got out of the car and headed down the road towards the cottonwoods and a herd of deer came slowly across the road.  Well, some ran, some went slowly.  These are whitetail deer.  There was probably a dozen or so of them in the herd.  There are no antlers this time of year, so I’m unsure if they were all does or if there were somebucks mixed in.  The first four pictures are pictures I took of them.

This set of cottonwoods were allowed to grow naturally, so have an almost bush like or shrub appearance, though about 25 feet tall or more.  Some places around here and in neighboring states, they are trimmed yearly, causing them to grow taller, up to 150 feet tall or so, with no brunches until high up.  This diminishes their immediate wind block ability, but drops the over all wind for the entire field.  Left natural like these ones blocks the ground wind, so helps a lot to stop blowing snow, prolonging the field’s use for grazing.  In some ways, cottonwood rows are the equivalent of British hedges, a narrow wild area that in liminal and separates two fields of pieces of property.


From back a bit, the trees still looked dormant with no signs of new growth, but close up showed a fair amount of new growth with bumps for leaf buds starting to show.

The new growth has a red colour, verses the grew colour the bark normally has. The infant leaf buds are even brighter red, the colour coming from the hard shell around them that protects the bud until it’s big enough to withstand any frosts and the sun.

Some of the trees have already moved beyond that phase and have new leaf buds already visible.  They are very light green in colour, but will darken some as they unfold.

Here’s a close up of the new leaves, a bit unfocused but it shows the colour nicely.

The branches reach high into the sky (or as high as an ungroomed cottonwood can).  I like the look of branches against the bright blue clear sky.  It was a great day for this drive, 67 degrees F (19 degrees C) when I left town and only 59 F (15 C) up in the mountains.  And crystal clear skies.  There’s nothing like Wyoming skies.

Here’s a good view of the new growth and leaves.  The more reddish bark is new this year.  You’ll notice the new growth and new leaves reach always upward, trying to get as much sun as possible.

The branch structure is quite complex, and once the leaves are fully grown and fully expanded, it will be hard to see through the trees, and, of course, hard for the wind to blow through it.

Stepping back a bit, you’ll see what I mean by a more bush or shrub look.  The part you can see here is probably 20 feet tall, with the branches reaching probably five or ten feet higher, off camera.

Finished with the cottonwood row, I headed on out of town, toward the setting sun.  There was still another two hours of daylight, though there were clouds over most of the sun.  Sun or moon shining through clouds is always beautiful.

As you can see, the High Plains are very flat and open.  Wind travels across them with little resistance unless wind breaks are put up.  In the summer, this means lots of dust and lots of things blowing away.  In the winter, this means blowing snow that can close a road more thoroughly than the actual storm that dropped it, and can make fields unable for grazing.

But the Plains are beautiful this time of year, as the grass begins to put up new growth.

In the distance, you can see the Snowy Range, my ultimate destination that evening.  They don’t look too impressive from here, but Medicine Bow Peak, the largest mountain in the range (which is part of the Rocky Mountains for those familiar with them), is 12,013 feet at its summit, and the pass below it is around 10,000 feet.  I was around 7400 feet when this picture was taken.

On my way up, I stopped where the highway crosses the Little Laramie River to look at the willows there.  Down in the valley, on the High Plains, there are only really two native trees.  Cottonwoods and willows grow along the rivers, and cottonwoods grow where they were transplanted, further out.  If it wasn’t for pioneers and ranchers, only along the rivers would there be any trees, or even shrubs.  Out on the Plains, there is only grasses and sage brush.  And much of the sage brush was cleared for ranching.  But next to the river, the willows are a thicket most of the length of the river, with cottonwoods standing guard above them.

Though similar growth patterns to the cottonwoods, willows seldom reach a tree form in Wyoming.  Most of this is because of the short growing season and the dry climate.  Willow thickets are very dense, virtually impossible to pass through unless you use an existing animal trail.

This willows, too, were starting to put on growth, though they had no leaves yet, just the bumps that would form them, or would form pussywillows, not sure which.

Like the cottonwood, the new growth is red in colour, but it will change to a golden yellow as summer comes.  There are two types of willows that I have observed here, but I haven’t looked up the names.  These ones are normally yellow in colour and feel very solar to me.  The other, which I’ll show later, stay red in colour and have a much more lunar feel.

Here is a good view of the yellow colour and just how dense the willow thicket is.

And another good view.

Here you can see the hard shells over the future leaf buds or pussywillows.

Above the willows rose more cottonwoods.

The tall cottonwood in this picture were once groomed, giving them a tall straight trunk without branches or forks.  But it’s been a long time since it was grooms, and you can see all the small branches coming out the side, and the cottonwood thicket that formed below, growing to the edge of the willow thicket which doesn’t show in this picture.

There was still snow gathered under the shadow of the road bank, in 60 degrees F whether or warmer.  Very dirty snow, since all the dust and dirty settles down as it melts.  On the right is the road bank, on the left is the willow thicket.  Straight ahead is the tower used for monitoring the river.  There’s another tower on the other bank, with a steel line between them and a small trolley that can be pulled out over the water to lower down bottles for samples.

Across the road, the cottonwoods were much taller, but younger.  The bark is almost as white as aspen bark.  It will darken with age.

Getting a bit closer, we can see the river.  Notice the new growth in the foreground.  I believe cottonwood, but I don’t remember for certain.

Notice how much dirt and dust is left behind as the snow melts.  This grass is last year’s growth.  It’s still pretty cold in the shadows and beside the snow.  The new grass will sprout later.

Getting closer, we see the sun reflecting on the cottonwoods across the road.

Observe agan how the branches reach for the sun.

Notice the younger trees in the foreground with their whiter, smoother bark, almost aspen like, and the older, rougher, darker trees in the background.  Also notice the thickety feel near the ground, compared to the reaching feel up above. Above where there’s more room, each branch, eat leaf, reaches up to find its own place in the sun.  Below, there is very little sun to reach for once leaves come, so they spread out, looking for places the sun breaks through.

You’ll see that once again the cottonwood are on the edge of a field, this one with horses grazing.

Across the field are pretty tall willow thickets (the red coloured plants) and more cottonwoods behind them, following the river.

Returning to the car, the cottonwoods against the sky looking west were gorgeous.

This field is pretty typical of the ranch fields on the High Plans.  The hill it borders is more ray, and still has sage brush.

Looking back at the willow thicket, the cottonwoods, and the bridge across the river.  The eastern sky is so beautiful, the colours a great contrast above the browns and reds and greens of the vegetation.

One last look toward the south across the highway.  The natural layers are gorgeous.

Zoomed in a bit, you can see the snow still resting in a narrow furl.  The gnarled old cottonwood on the left guards the willows below it.

And then I headed west once more toward the setting sun.

Another five minutes or so, and Centennial comes into view.  Centennial started as a mining town.  It is nesselled at the base of the Snowy’s right before the rise up into them.  You’ll notice the steep hills that are a back drop, still showing snow in the drainages.  These drainages are all bright green with aspens in the summer and yellow and orange in the fall.  Between the drainages, the hills there are covered with lodgepole pine.

Leaving Centennial behind, I drove up into the lower reaches of the Snowy’s.  The aspen grove I stopped at, where the old highway branches off, is at about 8160 feet above sea level.

Near the intersection, there’s a dense willow thicket of the yellow variety, getting water from the same stream as the aspens.  I stopped to take pictures of it first before crossing the cattle guard to get to the aspens.  Cottonwoods are rare once you get up off the Plains.  Up here, you have primarily three types of trees, willows (though they’re usually more shrubs), aspens, and lodgepole pines.  You can find a few others if you search.  Pretty rare, but mountain ash can be found (UK residents, think rowan), and in some areas you can find a lot of dwarf oak, but I didn’t see either this trip.

On this willow thicket, the pussywillows are starting to show.  I love the softness of them, both in looks and in feel.

Here’s a more close up view.  They truly are beautiful.

Looking back toward the road, you can see both how dense the thicket is and how many pussywillows there are.

The contrast between the smooth bark and soft pussywillows of the new growth, and the gnarled, rough bark of the older growth is very neat.  Notice also just how think this thicket is.

Mixed in with the willows are some wild roses, still with rose hips on them from last fall.

Close up, you can see the thorns nicely.

Moving on, we finally come to the aspen grove.

When trees fall, they provide habitat for animals and for some types of plants.  In this picture, you can see the clear area on the other side, and the pine covered hills beyond.  This grove is about 300 feet wide and probably five miles long.  It amuses me when people in Europe say aspens grow in small groves only right along a river.  This is a fairly small grove in Wyoming, some are much larger.

Looking out into the grove, you see the main stream channel.  The grove has broke the stream into three channels, though the other two are much smaller.  And, really, the whole grove is the stream, because the grove spreads the water and the whole area is damp, and almost marshy.  This is normal for an aspen grove.

You’ll notice how most of the aspens grow very straight.  They form pillars throughout the grove, with the canopy above forming a roof when the leaves are on.  Makes the grove feel like an organic temple.  Which really it is.

A better view of the inside of the grove, looking from the road.  You see the stream through the middle of the picture, with the trees up slope leaning over because the hill isn’t very stable with all the water below it.  You’ll notice how dense and random the underbrush seems.  Great ecosystem in there, with the aspens protecting the other plants and the animals both from the wind and from the harshness of the sun that shines through the thin atmosphere this high up.  The fallen leaves from the Fall combined with the melt off in the Spring combine to make great growing conditions for those plants that grow in the shadows.

The tops of the trees against the setting sun is beautiful to behold.

This will give you an idea both of the density of the grove and what the mountains of the area look like.  The dark colour is the lodgepole pine darkened in shadow.  They are pretty dark normally, though.

This shows well how dense the canopy is.  This is the bare branches.  Imagine them covered with leaves.

Stepping back a bit, you can see the willows growing on the hillside above the stream and grove.  Willows can’t survive below the canopy of an aspen grove, but will sometimes flank it, intermixed with encroaching new aspen clones.  Both side of the road here are mostly willow, but with very small aspens intermixed.  If the aspens grow up, the willows will die back underneath them, but spread further from the grove.

This small grove of aspens stands on the hill high up above the main grove.  The main grove is female, but this small grove is male.  There is a chance the pollen of this male grove will fertilize some of the catkins of the main grove and produce seeds.

No album of flora in Wyoming can be complete without sage brush.  This one is fairly young and small, but you can find old growth sage brush in Wyoming that is  six or seven feet tall and two hundred years old.  Sage brush is very hearty and can survive a lot, but it doesn’t transplant well, and seldom does good replanting, so once it’s gone, it’s gone until it spreads from a neighbouring area.

The first flowers you find in the mountains are the buttercups.  In the still mostly brown and dry hillsides, the bright yellow is shockingly beautiful.

Here is a closer look at one of the male trees.  You can’t tell male from female by looking at them, only by the catkins that form this time of year.

Here’s a close up of some male catkins.  Notice how they dangle?  Female catkins are erect, moving with the branches, while male catkins sway in the wind, allowing pollen to more easily blow off of them.  Only male catkins produce pollen.  The female ones produce seeds.

About twenty feet from that male grove is one lone female aspen.  Here is a close up of a female catkin on the branch.

Here are two female catkins I harvested.  They had already gone to seed, which means the male catkins already bloomed and passed most of their pollen.  This is odd, since in town, a thousand feet lower, the male catkins are just now blooming, almost a week later.  I would think the lower elevation trees would bloom first, as it warms up earlier, but it appears to be the opposite.  Very odd.

At the base of the single aspen female was a small thicket of willow with prominent pussywillows.  You’ll notice these are of the red variety.

Here’s a wonderful example of a buttercup, near the female tree.  Notice the five petals, making it in the Magnoliopsida class, like roses.  Roses are the Rosidae subclass, while buttercups are in the Magnoliidae subclass.

Here is the entire male grove.

And the single female tree near it.

Leafless trees against the sky are always beautiful.

Going back to the large grove, I climbed the bank down into it.  The crystal clear water is so beautiful, and the sound is divine.

Looking up stream, you can see how the grove shapes the stream and the stream shapes the grove.  Also note the deadfall.

There’s something otherworldly about walking in an aspen grove, even without the leaves to cast it in shadows.

Wild strawberries are starting to rise up out of the ground.

Here’s a close up.

Scrolling deeper into the grove, you see the tall straight trunks and the smooth white bark.

The grove seems to go on forever.  It’s a world apart, larger on the inside than the outside.

Besides the strawberries, these are the other plants that have shown leaves so far.  I’m not sure what they are yet.

A closeup.

Notice all the dry grass and other vegetation from last year.  Also notice the scares on the one old tree.  More than likely, they are from a wildfire.  Aspen are very resistant to fire, and it stimulates new runners that will become new cloned trees.

Notice just how many trees there are in a grove, and how close they are together in places.  Also notice the green colour of the tree in the foreground.  It is much younger than the white ones behind.  As it ages, it will lose the green colour.

Looking up toward the canopy, you see the branches silhouetted against the sky.

Here is one of the secondary channels of the stream.

Here’s looking up it.  It is much smaller than the main channel.

Here’s a close up of the trunk of a tree.  The colour and texture of the bark is very distinctive.  Young cottonwoods and aspens (both poplars) look very similar, but by this age, a cottonwood would be almost black with rough bark.

Some parts of the the grove are very thick with underbrush and have trunks very close together, but some parts, like this area, are much more open.

Here’s the third channel of the stream, the smallest of them, but the area around it is the most marshy part of the grove.

Here’s another view of the third channel.

Here, you can see how the open area gives way to a very dense thicket.  Also, note that some snow hasn’t melted yet.

Aspens can get quite tall.

Another view of the open glade.

I love the feel of an aspen grove at any time of year.

Another view of the trees against the sky.

There aren’t much yet, but here’s more of the green leaves sprouting up.

Another good view of the bark.

So peaceful.

These branches are going to be amazing when the leaves come.

Among the aspen grove, there are a few pines.  They grow very slowly under the canopy.

Back to the main channel, there’s something very beautiful about water.

A good view of the tapestry of the dense thickets and open glades within the grove.  The main channel is mostly obscured by the deadfall.

The sky and branches reflected on the stream.

A small waterfall.

A closer view of the waterfall.

I *think* the bone is an antelope (Pronghorn) leg bone, but I could be wrong.  The bone was sticking out of the hillside, the dark end buried in dry leaves and soil, the light end bleached by the sun.  The dark end is rough from the blood and meat that was once on it, the light end clean and smooth.

The bone spoke to me, so I kept it.  I think the dark/light, dirty/clean, rough/smooth, flesh-blood/bone contrast shows well, the Divine Twins, the Divine Androgen, Yin and Yang, opposites, but one being, one thing, united.

Going back to the car, I went up a bit higher to a lodgepole pine forest at about around 8460 feet.  Pines are much different from the rest of the trees I’ve mentioned, obviously.  Instead of the random spread canopy, pines normally have a central trunk with branches radiating out.

Pines are evergreens and needled, rather than deciduous and leafed.  After the bare branches of the aspen grove, the green of the pine forest is quite a contrast.

Also notice the difference in bark.  The aspens, willows, and cottonwoods have a constant, solid bark, but pines have a layered bark that sheds its outer coat as it grows.

The first thing you notice walking into a lodgepole pine forest after an aspen grove is the general lack of ground cover.  No grass.  Very little underbrush.

The canopy is much more sparse, but the trees are tall enough that the ground is in shadow year around.

The young trees are stunted.  Very few survive and they grow very slowly compared to young aspens.  They need sunlight to grow quicker and bigger.  This only happens after a fire.

Some snow hasn’t melted here either.  In addition to the snow, this picture shows the openness of a pine forest.

Notice the lack of needles on the middle two trees in this picture.  The only time needles are missing are when part or all of a tree has died.  These trees were more than likely killed by the pine beetle.  There is a cycle in these forests.

The trees grow to a point where young trees can no longer thrive, becoming a pretty static forest, the dead needles piling up, created a thick carpet that very little can grow in.  This is ideal habitat for the pine beetle, which begins to thrive and multiply.

The pine beetle boroughs into the trees and kills them, more and more dying.  A dead pine is very dry and burns easily.  When the amount of dead trees reach a threshold, fire comes.  The fire burns through the dead trees and dead pine needles, destroying much of the forest, but killing most of the beetles.  Lodgepole pine have two types of cones, the normal ones that bring about the stunted small trees I showed above that only grow up when a large tree falls and lets sunlight in, and a type of cone only opened by fire.  The fire that destroys the older trees opens the years of cones buried in the dead needles, and the forest rises from the ashes like a phoenix, growing up to replace the burned trees until the forest becomes static again and the beetles start to destroy it again.  Creation and destruction.

Scattered among the pines, there are a few aspens.  They tend to be in clearings, and seldom spread into a grove, as sunlight is sparse.  You’ll notice the snow here.  This is a result of the clearing.  Most of the snow that falls doesn’t make it to the forest floor, resting instead on the bows above, only coming down as it melts.  But in clearings, it falls clear to the ground.

Moving some of the pine needles, you find that under the dry needles is rich, wet soil.  The needles hold the moisture in, creating great soil for the pines to grow in.

The needles in this forest are about two inches deep.  Some forests, they can get six or eight inches deep.

Here you can see the straight trunks and open space of the forest.

This forest feels and looks completely different from an aspen grove, but is just as still and just as peaceful.  Both are a world apart.

The whole forest isn’t flat, but rolls down the hill toward the river below.

The trees are so majestic.  If an aspen grove is a temple, a pine forest is a throne room.

The sky is always visible and brilliant, but all the light is indirect.

Another look at some of the stunted young trees.

Lodgepole pine are called lodgepole because their straight trunks are ideal for building with.  The Native Americans used to build their lodges from them.  This back and rail fence is made from small pine trunks.

Another nice view of the forest.

Here is a small try in a clearing that has had the sunlight to grow without being stunted.  It’s trunk is currently about six inches across.  The older trees are about a foot and a half across.

A small tree and another view of the buck and rail fence.  Buck and rail fences were quite popular, because they are free standing, not requiring digging a hole for a post, and very stable.  The buck is a two sides triangle, two poles meeting in the middle, the other ends on the ground.  Rails are then nailed to these bipods, connecting them and stabilizing them.

Another view against the sky.

Here’s a view of part of the forest from back a bit.

And of a pine covered hill.  This particular forest covers many, many acres.

One last view of the trees before heading home.  The tree on the left is beetle killed, and the one on the right is healthy.

So, there is a tour of what the trees in this area are like this time of year.  There are a lot of esoteric truths you can find in the details of these trees, and the forests and groves are textbooks and sacred texts, teaching the secrets of the universe.

If you want to learn the craft, if you want to walk the path, the best thing to do is to start to observe.  Observe what’s around you, the cycles, the little details.  Learn from the landscape around you, from the flora and fauna, from the rocks and streams, the soil and rivers.  Watch.  Observe.  Learn.

The answers to all things are in the Air – Inspiration, and the Winds will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly. The Trees of the Wood will give you power, and the Waters of the Sea will give you patience and omninesense, since the Sea is a womb that contains a memory of all things.
~Robert Cochran’s Third Letter to Joe Wilson, Feb 1, 1966

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in muninnskiss

 

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On Easter and the Fertility of Aspens

Ostara by Johannes
Gehrts, 1884 

Most people know (or should know) that modern Easter is a celebration of fertility and spring in Europe, joined with the death and protection of Pesakh (Passover) of the Jews, and the resurrection of Jesus of the Christians.  There’s some common threads there, if you look carefully.  Death and Rebirth.

The Resurrection of Christ
by Carl Bloch, 1890

The Christian calendar shows Good Friday, which was last Friday, as the day Jesus was crucified.  He was dead before sundown, as they removed the bodies before the Sabboth, with begins at Dusk.  So Good Friday is the day of Death, and Easter, Sunday, is the day of Life, or Rebirth, when Jesus returns from the grave.

A depiction of the blood
on the door posts.
Artist unknown.

The Jewish Passover, of course, recounts when G-d came to kill all the first born of Egypt.  To be safe, the Jews had to put blood on their door posts, and G-d would pass by.  This is in a way a story of rebirth as well, though different.  And a story of magic.  Death is coming around, and blood is placed on the door post to fend it off, to turn it aside.  It is a sacrifice.  A lamb was prepared and taken care of until the time, then killed, their blood put on the door post to ward off Death.  It is a ritual, a Rite.  The meat had to be roasted.  Everything had to be eaten before morning, or burnt.  You were to eat it with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet, your staff in your hand.  There is the practical aspect that they were to leave immediately afterwards, so needed to be ready, but there is the symbolic aspect of the Rite.  You are prepared to leave, because you will be able to leave.  Blood for Death to pass by (pass over), a meal to consecrate the action, dressed to leave to show that the magic would work.  A Rite both of protection from Death, and to be allowed to live Egypt.  Overcoming Death, receiving a new Life.  In this way, it is a Rite of Initiation.

From a Witch point of view, these symbols and connections are important.  If we look back, we have the Sacrifice of the God on Samhain, the Old Year, the Darkling Twin, he passes through the Gates of Death into the Underworld, the Otherworld.  His journey ends at the Winter Solstice, he settles in.  The old year is dead with him, Autumn gives way to Winter, as his coils curl up around it and he sleeps.  The sun is reborn, a premonition of his return.

At Imbolc, his Bride calls for him and he awakens, uncoils, and prepares for a new journey, swimming up across the Veil through the Well of Worlds, seeking Her, who he died for and will now be reborn for, the New Year, the Bright Twin.

On Imbolc, Spring begins, though it’s slow in awaken in Wyoming, often not realized until May or June.  By the calendar, Summer will begin on the first of May, but these are tides, not calendars, and May 1 is a convenient date, but the tide falls where it will.  The Spring Equinox marks the approximate middle of the Spring Tide.  Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan.  As I’ve discussed before, the Hebrew calendar is Lunar.  Each month begins when the moon becomes dark.  The 15th of each month lands on the full moon, or close to it, the mid point of the month.  The 15th of Nisan is always the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, so it’s a lunar event timed to the solar mid point of Spring.  We’re in the middle of Passover at the moment, so the Christian Easter landed on its old determination this year.  Essentially, Passover (which originally determined Easter, Good Friday being the first Friday after the beginning of Passover, until changes in calendars messed it all up) is point of importance between Imbolc and Beltaine.

Cernunnos (La Tène) / ‘ernunno
on the Gundestrup Cauldron

Around Passover and Easter is the resurrection of the God.  Jesus, of course, is a type of the Sacrifice God, so it’s no surprise that his ressurrection would fall around this time.  Since Imbolc, the God, the Bright Twin, has been swimming upward, and now he emerges, the First Fruits, the rebirth of Spring.  New Life comes from the Death of Samhain.  Now he prepares for his wedding to the Bride, the May Queen, God Herself.  The Serpent warms himself in the sun, and prepares for what is to come.

Spring, be it Imbolc and Candlemas, be it the Spring Equinox and Passover and Easter, be it May Day and Beltaine, is a time of rebirth.  It’s Himself reborn, the Sacrificial Mortal God, but also the rebirth of the earth, of the land.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching the aspen trees wake up.  I work during the week and have an aspen right out side my window.

Aspen tree beginning
to bud, April 2, 2012

On Friday, March 30, it still looked asleep.  No sign of buds.  The next Monday, April 2, there were small buds.  I presumed they were leaf buds, that I would see leaves soon.  It had been in the low 70s F that weekend, but had dropped below freezing that day.  I could see a hard coat around the buds and figured that was to protect the new leaves from the cold that could still come for a few more months.

The same aspen tree
with larger buds, April 5, 2012

By Thursday (April 5), the buds had grown quite large.  I still thought they were leaf buds, but they were getting big enough, over an inch long, that I thought I’d see leaves in the next few days.

The same aspen tree,
now with male catkins,
April 9, 2012

Today, however, I discovered I was wrong.  They had indeed opened, but it wasn’t leaves inside.  They were flowering.  In the trees where the buds had been, there were almost two inch long catkins hanging, dangling in the wind.  Very neat to see.

I’ve never really had a chance to observe the cycles of aspen before this, I haven’t looked closely at them over an extended period. But with a tree just outside my window at work, I get to see it, with all its changes, every work day. Very interesting to observe. I’d love to figure out a way to observe the willows and lodge pole pines in the same manner.

From what I read, male catkins droop, and female catkins are erect (make what metaphors you want with that).  The male ones produce pollen, and if fertilized, the female ones produce tiny seeds.  But reproducing that way is actually fairly rare.  Each tree is either male of female, and most groves are basically one tree, reproducing via runners that form an exact natural clone, so essentially, each grove is either male or female.  Logically, this means that a male grove with always remain male only unless it grows far enough to combine with a female grove, whereas if the catkins in a female grove get fertalized, potentially it could contain both male and female aspens.  I really wish the mountain roads were open this time of year, so I could go up and look as several groves and find out which ones were male and which were female and find out if there was a different “feel”, a different “energy”.  But you can only determine the sex when the trees are in bloom, which is around this time, and the roads don’t typically open until Memorial Day, which is May 28th this year (last year, they couldn’t get the roads clear for Memorial Day for the first time in like 30 years, because the snow was eight feet deep and kept blowing back full every night, so they couldn’t make progress; the roads opened in July).

Which brings us back to fertility and rebirth.  The Aspens awake first, not with leaves to harness the sunlight, but with flowers, the catkins, to reproduce.  They awake in fertility, in Sex, the essence of Creation.  As should we all.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in muninnskiss

 

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The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

As the snow covered valley slowly lights up from the new born sun, I sit here contemplating life and death, ends and beginnings, old and new, cycles within cycles, wheels within wheels.  The words of Semisonic’s song, Closing Time, echo in my memory, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

(Please note that this is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, which much different associations and implications.)

Many, many holidays that are celebrated can be seen as new years.  Samhain marks the end of any possibility of harvest in the British Isles.  It truly is the beginning of the dark fallow time of winter, despite most modern calendars proclaiming today as the first day of winter.  On that night in Ireland, all lights were extiguished and New Fire was brought to light and heat the houses through the cold Winter.  Beltaine marked the rebirth, for spring comes later most places than Imbolc and the US celebration of the Ground Hog, reflecting the much older custom of the serpent emerging in February.  Beltaine, an ultimate fertility festival, celebrated the return of life after that long fallow winter.

In the far north of Europe, where harvest comes at Midsummer, Midsummer marked the beginning of the raiding season, when the men went to sea.  That ended before the first snows, usually long before the Autumn Equinox.  The short summer meant two very short periods, the first for farming, the second for raiding.  Planting, growing, and harvest all came within a few months.  And raiding didn’t last long before the Norse, the Swedes, and the Danes retreated back to hibernate for the long, dark, cold winter.  When you realize how long the nights are that far north and how cold, you see quickly why the Norse end of the world is marked by Winter, not fire, why the fear is that Winter will never end, why the idea of the sun and moon being consumed to no longer light the day makes perfect sense for the end.

The Chinese New Year occurs on January 23rd this year, according to the Western Gregorian calendar, basically a month from now.  The New Year always falls on the second New Moon (Dark of the Moon) after the Winter Solstice.  Since the Chinese months are lunar based and start on the New Moon, this means the New Year is always the beginning of the second month that starts after the Solstice (unless there’s an extra month that year).  On that day, this year of the Rabbit (Rabbit is actually a bad translation, it is the Year of the Hare), a year of compassion (the US didn’t get the message, obviously), creativity, and sensitivity, will give way to the Year of the Dragon, a year of dominance and ambition, of independence and raging passion, of innovation and bravery.  Lanterns are lit to celebrate the New Year.

The Hebrew calendar has two New Years, one ecclesiastical, i.e., the religious New Year, and the other secular, i.e., the political New Year.  The first lands on the first of Nisan.  The Hebrew months begin on the night the first crescent is visible after a New Moon (in contrast to the Islamic calendar that begin when the last crescent vanishes, and Chinese month that begins on the actually Dark Moon, half way between the Hebrew and Islamic; all three have lunar based months).  It fall on March 24th this coming year.  You’ll note this falls very close to the Vernal Equinox.  Nisan always begins the first new crescent after the Equinox.  The secular New Year falls on the first Tishrei (the seventh month starting as Nisan), and falls on Septmeber 17th this year.  Called Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year, this New Year falls right around the Autumn Equinox, just before it this year.

The Islamic New Year begins on the first day of Muharram and is called the Hijri New Year, because it is the day the Hijri calendar started.  The Islamic year is purely lunar, so it shifts in relation to the Gegorian calendar we’re used to.  The New Year was about a month ago, November 24th, and will be November 14th next year.  For Shai Muslims, it is a day of grief, not celebration, as it marks the day of the death of Muhammad’s grandson and his family.

So, does the New Year begin with the death of the old (like Samhain) or the birth of the new (like Beltaine)?  Does it begin with the beginning of Winter or its end?  The Winter Solstice is both.  Each night until this point gets longer and longer, and each day gets shorter.  The further north you go, the more apparent this gets.  It’s not surprising that in southern Europe, the celebrations in Winter had very little to do with death and rebirth, that the Celts, further north, focused on Samhain and Beltaine, with less focus on the Solstice, but that in the far north, only the Solstice was important.  While it was the death of the Old Sun, which had been getting shorter and shorter, it’s also the birth of the New Sun.  From this day forward, the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  The Solstice is the promise that Winter will end.  If the sun doesn’t rise, it’s Ragnarok, and we have winter and darkness for three years with no break for summer.

But the sun did rise, and the day is new, like the phoenix rising from the ashes.  “His mercies are new every morning.”  So we great the day and great the sun in new life, new light.  With the sun, we died last night.  With the sun, we were reborn this morning.  Let us go forth and not just exist, but live.  Make this New Sun, this new life, this new light, count.  Go forth and change your world!

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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The Throne of Bone

The Throne of Bone
A Poem of the Winter Solstice
By Muninn’s Kiss

Darkest night and shortest day,
Shadows reign and darkness calls,
The shadowy figure of Death stands by,
Patiently waiting for all to fall.

Each child born will surly die,
None is spared and all know why,
At Death’s bone throne each one will come,
He needn’t search for all will come.

The sun sets earlier for half the year,
Night grows longer, shadows strive,
The year he ages as do all,
Growing weaker, growing frail.

The time draws near when he will die,
The year we’ve loved so hard to watch,
The mourners all do gather round,
For letting go is the hardest task.

With the sun, the year does set,
Sinking down into the grave,
Like each man, he bows his knee,
And presents himself at the throne of bone.

In his birth we knew he’d die,
For every beginning contains the end,
We watched him grow like a new born lamb,
We watch him die at the Slaughterer’s hand.

Every beginning has it’s end,
But every ending is born again,
With Dawn’s first light like the Morning Star,
The new year rises and live once more.

Fresh and hopeful, full of life,
The year reborn begins his flight,
We watch him stretch and try his wings,
We glory that he lives again.

Forgetting the grief and sorrow past,
We pretend he didn’t see Death’s own face,
With the new year, we fly away,
Trying to forget our own mortality.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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May’s First Crescent

Priestess card in

May’s First Crescent
By Muninn’s Kiss

A clouded sky, a shadowed night,
With springtime in the air.
Through the clouds, the crescent peeks,
A sliver in the sky.

Nimue’s seen, beneath the skirts,
Peeking out at us.
Slowly stepping, out to us,
From her Mother’s sacred skirts.

Selene’s crown, the priestess card,
A crown upon her head.
A crescent moon, just a peek,
Hanging in the sky.

Horns up turned, through the clouds,
Her light it lights them up.
A gentle glow, an eerie light,
Upon the darkened clouds.

The moon reborn, Celeste raised,
From the Dark Moon’s silent grave.
Luna grows, from new to full,
A sliver now we see.

Isis stands, before us now,
Rising with the moon.
A crescent moon, upon her brow,
The new born baby in her lap.

Spring has come, the fresh moon too,
New life comes to us.
Growing forth, from Winter’s grasp,
Like the crescent moon above.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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