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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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Liminal Equinoxes

With the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox just past, I’ve heard a lot of, it’s too cold or snowy for it to be spring. I had some thoughts about that while driving back to Colorado in a snow storm today.

Picture the year as a circle.

Place the Winter and Summer Solstices at the top and bottom, doesn’t matter which is which, just whichever makes most sense to you. Now draw a line halving the circle, horizontally. Think of half with Winter as the Winter Half, and the part with Summer as the Summer Half. The Solstices are very clearly one season or the other, the further you go around the circle to that middle line, the less clear. Now make a mark half way along the circle between each Solstice and the centre line. These points are Bride’s Day, Beltaine, Lugh’s Day, and Samhaine (or whatever order makes most sense to you). Now, the top quarter of the circle, the arc from a point marked to a Solstice then to the other mark near that Solstice, and same on the bottom quarter, those two arcs are clearly Summer and Winter. You may get some odd weather that doesn’t fit, but those two sections are fairly clearly set (at least if you’re far enough from the equator, especially outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). They are stable, static, passive, unchanging.

But the arcs between the points marked crossing the centre line, these are liminal, changing, dynamic, betwixt and between. These are of course the Spring and Fall, Vernus and Autumn, arcs, with the centre line marking the equinoxes. But these seasons represent the transition between Winter and Summer, Summer and Winter. They are liminal. They are neither Winter nor Summer. And because they are liminal, winter characteristics can stretch later some years and earlier others, and the same for summer characteristics. So the Spring Equinox isn’t “spring” because of distinct spring characteristics, but because it’s the midpoint of the transition from Winter to Summer, and the Autumn Equinox isn’t “autumn” because of distinct autumn characteristics, but because it’s the midpoint of the transition from Summer to Winter.

You can see this also by putting a day on the same circle.

Place Midnight where Winter is, and Noon where Summer is. Midnight is clearly night, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the lowest point of the sun in summer and darkest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-night. Noon is clearly day, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the highest point of the sun in summer and lightest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-day, especially south of the Arctic Circle and north of the Antarctic Circle.

Unlike midnight and noon which are obvious and static, Dusk and Dawn are dynamic and changing, both moving closer to midnight in summer and closer to noon in winter. At lease outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, inside they are more static. But regardless of latitude, Dusk and Dawn aren’t set points like Midnight and Noon. They are transitional, a change from clear day to clear night. Twilight. Neither day nor night, neither night nor day. Liminal. They aren’t the point at which the sun appears or vanishes, they are the transition from the point the sky begins to lighten to the time the sun is fully visible, and from when the sun begins to set to when the sky is fully dark. Just like Spring and Autumn, they aren’t distinct, exact points of conditions, they are a liminal borderland between two exact conditions.

This is also true of course if you look at the directions.

North and south run to exact points, the axis of the world, whereas east and west keep going forever, overlapping. You can go far enough north that every direction is south, and far enough south that everything is north. But no matter how far east you go, you’re still facing east, west is still at your back, north is on you left, and south on your right. No matter how far west you go, you’re still facing west, east is still at your back, south is on your left, and north is on your right. East and West are liminal directions, relative directions. Like Dawn and Dusk. Like Spring and Fall. North and South are absolute directions. Like Midnight and Noon. Like Winter and Summer.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in muninnskiss

 

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The Willow Moon: Another Look at the Tide of Beltane

The year turns.  The tides come in, the tides go out.  The tides of the oceans, so far from where I sit, the tides in the Earth’s core, but also the tides of the seasons, the tides of the year.  It’s the nature of tides to ebb and flow, to come in and go out.  The tide must go out so that it can come back in.  Low tide must come so that high tide can come.  So, too, Winter must come to Spring can return.  Spring must come to bring in Summer.  Summer must come before Autumn can come.  Autumn must come to make way for Winter.  And so it goes.

The tide of Samhaine comes in as the Serpent dies, then goes out.  The tide of Widwinter comes in as the Serpent sleeps in the deepest depths, then goes out.  The tide of Candlemas comes in as the Bride calls and the Serpent wakes and begins his journey, then goes out.  The tide of Easter comes in as he emerges, then goes out.  And the tide of Beltane at last comes in, at his wedding to the Bride.
Aspen with leaves,
May 2, 2012

We come once again to this point in the year.  Around me, new young leaves cover the trees.  The grass is beginning to grow, a light green tint to the fields and yards and plains.  Snow is gone from the valley, from the High Plains, though plentiful still on the mountains around.  Rain falls instead of snow.  The river begins to swell.  Bees and butterflies move around now, finding the early blooms.  The land is full of life, fully reborn, but still very young.

I’ve talked before about different ways to divide the year, Samhain as new year, Beltane as new year, Winter Solstice as new year, Summer Solstice as new year.  But the year turns, with no beginning or end, like great Ouroboros or Jörmungandr eating their own tails.  The tides turn, but each rolls into the next with no beginning and no end, not even fixed durations.  In and out, in and out, the tide comes.  For it is one tide with many names, one moon with many phases, one year with many names.  Every beginning includes its end.  Every creation includes its destruction.  Exitium in initio ponebatur.  And vice versa.  Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Everything that is born dies.  Everything that dies is reborn.  Though the Old Serpent, the King of the Old Year, dies at Samhain as Sacrifice, he always awakes at Candlemas and begins his journey, always emerges around the Equinox, around Easter, as the New Serpent, the King of the New Year, and always is married to Herself at Beltane, at May Day, at Roodmas.  Destined to die again, the Eternal Mortal King.
The Land Awakened,
May 1, 2012

And at this time, God Herself stands by him, or him by her, the Golden Serpent and the the Spotless Bride, the Peacock Lord and the Corn Maiden.  Pride and Innocence, Lust and Sex.  A time of fertility and abandon.  For that is what Spring is, and the Corn Maiden as Bride is the very soul of Spring, and the bringer of Spring, making way for Summer.  For this Beltane Tide flows in from Spring and out to Summer.  Though the high tide might land at different places different years, it is the true beginning of Summer.

Here is a Hopi myth, of the Blue Corn Maiden and the Coming of Winter:
It is a myth explaining the seasons, and puts the Corn Maiden in good perspective.
A Web of Aspen Leaves,
April 27, 2012

The moving of the tides is interesting to watch and to feel, for it varies with place and varies day to day.  Last year, it wasn’t until Beltane that the land began to wake here, or a couple days after, but this year, it started almost almost a month ago, near Easter, just after the Equinox.  Last year, it didn’t get to this point, to this high tide, for another month or two, closer to Pentecost (which was late last year because of a late Easter) than to Beltane.  It makes one wonder, for Easter, and hence Pentecost, vary year to year, because of the fall of the lunar phases in relation to the solar Equinox.  But the Equinox and Beltane are fixed.  Last year, Easter fell at real close to Beltane, both in the Easter and Western calendar, putting Pentecost almost to the Summer Solstice.  This year, Easter fell about half way between the Equinox and Beltane, a bit earlier in the Western calendar and a bit later in the Eastern, and Pentecost much closer to the midpoint between Beltane and the Solstice, once again a bit earier in the Western calendar and a bit later in the Eastern.  Makes me wonder if the lateness or earliness of Winter is lunarly related to the solar year.  Last year, Winter started late and ended late, November until May, July in the mountains.  This year, it started at least a month earlier and ended about the same.  Both years, Spring began around Easter.  Last year, it moved into summer around Pentecost and is on schedule to do so this year as well.  Or, more precisely, both years, Spring began around the first full moon after the equinox, and last year ended about 50 days later, or close to the third waning crescent moon after the equinox.

Aspen Grove,
April 27, 2012

Many people celebrate this high tide in different ways, the most well known being the MayPole.  A pole or tree is placed in the ground, with ribbons tied or fastened to the top.  The young girls and young boys circle the pole every other, so a girl then a boy then a girl and so one.  They each grab a ribbon.  The boys go one direction and the girls the other, dancing around the pole, weaving among each other.  The ribbons braid around the pole making delightful patterns, and pulling the dancers inward until they meet at the pole.  There is a lot of symbolism that has been described to the Maypole, from it being the Axis Mundi or World Tree, to phallic and sexual analogies, to the ribbons representing the leaves returning to the trees.  Regardless of the original meaning, it’s a beautiful portrayal of the tide.  In my second grade class, we had a Maypole put up in the classroom and danced it.

Newborn Leaves,
April 26, 2012

There is also, of course, the tradition quite common where I grew up, of children picking flowers on May Day in a basket and placing it on a porch (or hung on a doorknob).  Where I lived, you rang the doorbell or knocked, then ran off, hoping not to get caught.  Much like ding dong ditch, but much nicer.  Reading about this tradition, it seems there are another piece we didn’t hear of, that if you got caught, you rewarded the catcher with a kiss.  We have two obvious elements here.  The flowers are very much a sign of Spring, the time when flowers grow.  And the kiss brings in a sexual and fertility element, also a Spring theme.  But the placing of flowers at a door, a threshold, a liminal place, seems significant to me, and I’m wondering if it once began as a blessing the home or the residents.

Willowy Pools,
April 22, 2012

Beltane isn’t just a time of celebration.  It is also a powerful time for workings.  As I discussed last year (Beltaine: Snows of Winter, Heat of Summer), Beltane is a time when the Veil is thin between worlds, a liminal time.  This makes it a powerful time for both crossing between worlds and for workings.  Specifically, this is a time to start things, for workings involving beginnings and births and creation, of new bindings.  Just as the waxing and waning of the moon have an effect and can dictate times that are better for certain workings, so too the waxing and waning of the year.  The tide is a point of waxing, whether you measure the yearly cycle from the Solstice or from Beltane, and hence a time for workings for growth and creation and new endeavors.  In addition, the moon is in fact waxing as well, toward a full moon on Saturday.

The May full moon is known by several names, including Milk Moon, Flower Moon, and Corn Moon.
The name Corn Moon is because this is the moon corn is planted under, for best results.  This ties back, or course, the the Corn Maiden and Spring.
It is called the Flower Moon, because flowers often start blooming in abundance around this moon, once again, a feature of Spring, as we noted with the May baskets.
The Milk Moon comes from the increase in rich, good milk at this time of year due to the abundance of fresh green food for animals to eat.  The Old English name for May was þrimilce, meaning three milks or three milkings, because it was a time when you could milk a cow three times a day instead of two.
In the Middle Ages in England, May’s full moon was the Hare Moon.  The hare, of course, is prolific in reproduction, a sure sign of fertility, a hallmark of this point in the year.  The hare is often seen as connected to the Dawn, and, of course, as Dawn brings in the day, Spring brings in the Summer.  Hares reach sexual maturity in the very early Spring, beginning the breeding season.  In most areas, they give birth around this time of year, hence the name Hare Moon.
To the Chinese, May’s moon is the Dragon Moon.  This is significant this year, the Year of the Water Dragon.  The Chinese lunar months begin at the new moon, with the midpoint at the full moon.  The Chinese Month for the Hare ended on April 20 in the Western calender, with the Month of the Dragon beginning on the 21st.  The Dragon is proud, direct, and decisive, arrogant, tyrannical, and dogmatic.  The Dragon Moon is a moon for action, as is fitting for the waxing Spring, and doubly so in the Year of the Dragon.
Willows and Fences,
April 22, 2012

Each of these names are based on observation of this time of year in different places.  Those Native American tribes that plants corn learned this was the best time of year to do so, so called this moon the Corn Moon.  The English observed that cows produced milk more and richer around this time and called it Three Milkings, the Milk Moon, and also noticed the abundance of new born hares and called it the Hare Month.    Many cultures observed the many flowers blooming and called it the Flower Moon.  The Chinese observed the tenaciousness and purposefulness that the plants renewed their growth and the animals produced their young, the very earth waking up, and the Spring plum rains of Eastern China and called the Moon the Dragon Moon.  Observation led to these names, and the names became aids to know when to plant and when to harvest.

Landscape of Wyoming,
April 22, 2012

Many people trying to resurrect older cultures, to become more “earth-based”, to determine when to do workings, take these old names that were given in a specific location and culture and translate them from a moon to a modern month, and try to apply it in their local setting without ever making the observations themselves.  This might work, and it might not, but if you want to be close to the land and to Nature, you need to experience it, you need to observe it, you need to smell it, you need to taste it, you need to listen to it, you need to feel it, both physically and spiritually.  It’s not the global landscape you need to consider, but your local landscape.  What does the moon or the tide mean where you are at?  What blooms when?  What sprouts when?  What puts on leaves when?  What mates when?  What gives birth when?  What goes to seed when?  What changes colours when?  What loses leaves when?  When does it rain and when does it snow?  When is it hot and when is it cold?  When is it wet and when is it dry?  All the signs are around you, just observe.

Willows, Aspens, and Pines,
April 22, 2012

For me, the new moon very much feels like the beginning and the end, with the full moon at the high point.  So we are approaching the middle of the Moon.  Which Moon is this?  This Moon started the same weekend as Easter, the old Moon ending on about Friday, April 20th (Good Friday), and this one starting on Saturday, April 21st.

That places the previous Moon as March 22 (two days after the equinox) to April 20th.  Basically the Equinox until Easter.  That Moon can be described in my Easter post (On Easter and the Fertility of Aspens).  I would call it the Catkin Moon or Aspen Moon, for though there was some growth in other species, that was the most profound and noticeable.  Naming it for flowers, I would call it the Buttercup Moon, for buttercups were the only naturally growing flower I saw during that Moon.
Pussywillows in Bloom,
April 22, 2012

So where does that leave this Moon?  I’ve observed less than half of it, but this Moon has brought green leaves and green grass, butterflies and bees, and rain.  I could call it for anyone of those.  One part of the world does in fact call it the Grass Moon.  I could choose that, or Leaf Moon, or Green Moon, or Butterfly Moon, or Bee Moon, or Rain (or Rainy) Moon.  But the thing that really has stricken me so far this month isn’t any of those.  It’s the pussywillows that were large in the willow thickets when I visited them the weekend after Easter.  As the Moon before was characterized by the flowering of the aspens in the form of catkins, this Moon is characterized by the flowering of the willows in the form of pussywillows.  So, for now, not knowing what I’ll see in the second half of the Moon, I shall call this Moon the Pussywillow Moon, or Willow Moon.

The Risen Lord and Laughing Queen
By Muninn’s Kiss

The wakened sleeper clothed in gold,
Warmed with Spring and rising sun,
Drapped in green and newborn leaf,
Who once had died but rose again.

Golden scales and raven hair,
Skin of blue and feathers fair,
Who began a journey by candler’s flame,
And rose in glory in first leaf’s show.

In comes his Bride the fair Corn Maid,
Whose blackened veil now glowing white,
Grass stains on her small bare feet,
And bloodied sword upon her back.

The dancers dance and singers sing,
Risen lord and laughing queen,
The snow has melted and green grows strong,
Winter then Spring give way to sun.

Veil of white over golden hair,
A cotton dress with playful tears,
Small feet dance as if on air,
She laughs in joy at his peacock flair.

Round they spin just like the year,
Celebrating life and new found love,
Love reborn from past the grave,
Youth and Maiden, lust and joy.

The time has come to start again,
A marriage feast and strong bond hands,
New life, new love, all is born,
Eternal love, past Death’s cold hand.

Around the pole the ribbons fly,
Dancing round in lustful fun,
In honor to the fair Corn Maid,
And Peacock Lord reborn again.

FFF,
~Muninns’ Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 2, 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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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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"He is risen, he is risen indeed!"

“There are two seasons in Wyoming: snow and road construction.”

A few days ago, it was still snow and cold, winter dying but still kicking, but today it feels like spring.  My walk this evening was very lovely, a joy.  Bright blue sky, gentle breeze, air warm enough to not need a coat.  The Summer King is definitely risen.

Everyone was out today.  There was a girl on rollerblades with a tiny dog walking beside her.  There was two girls walking three goats with sparkly collars.  There was a guy out riding his horse.  I saw more people out than I have since fall.

Some grass is green, but not a lot.  No buds on the trees yet.  But I saw plenty of birds, not the crows and ravens that stay all winter, but the small song birds flitting between trees.  A few days ago, there were a couple, today there are many, in almost every yard and field.

The land is waking up.
Winter has lost its sting.
The Winter King is in the grave,
And the Summer King has risen.


FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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