Of Willow and Weeping


This drainage area in my apartment complex was guarded by a beautiful, haunting willow tree. Together, the drain and the tree marked a door into the Otherworld here in my little corner of the earth. Several days ago the willow tree was cut down by our landscapers. I was deeply saddened because its presence has been such a powerful blessing to me over the years that I have lived here. It’s grace and beauty will endure in my memory for many more years to come.


Zoning and Buffering: Keeping Shrines in Close Quarters

architecture-3102738_1920Since 2011, I’ve maintained the shrines for the gods and spirits that I honor in relatively close quarters. Streamlining my devotional spaces improved the flow of my spiritual work considerably and made it easier for me to accomplish various tasks. When I moved about two and a half years ago, I thought about changing my shrine arrangement back to what it had been prior to 2011: multiple sacred spaces diffused throughout my apartment. The prior arrangement had its benefits (without question), but because streamlined space functioned so well for me, I’ve not felt compelled to change it back. Honestly though, a lot has changed since 2011. For one, I work with more gods and spirits now than I did then. Also, the differences among the powers I honor are more pronounced now than a few years back.

Given the deepening differences among the powers I work with, I’m much more mindful of who is neighbors with whom. I work to ensure that everyone has their own zone and is not neighbors with anyone they can’t or won’t tolerate. Similarly, I’m also paying more attention to which powers are willing to buffer energy flows among other powers. Given the limited real estate that I have for shrines and the personal needs that I have for temple keeping, zoning and buffering are my friends. Honoring the lines – real and imagined – between certain Holy Powers has meant a few things for me:

  • Every power has their own section on the surfaces that I use for shrines.
  • Also, the powers are roughly grouped by pantheon and general “areas of influence” in order to reduce the chances of raised hackles across real and imagined lines.
  • In addition, I am mindful of whose shrine is “active” at any given time and I work to ensure that powers with potential beef between them do not have their shrines active at the same time.
  • I also observe a purification regime that helps to keep me clear as I move among the sacred spaces for each power.

The above considerations have helped me to better serve “phenomenal cosmic powers” in an “itty bitty living space” (to quote the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin).

Mari Lwyd’s Weird Cousin

“Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari
A sacred thing through the night they carry.
Betrayed are the living, betrayed the dead
All are confused by a horse’s head.”

— Vernon Watkins, excerpt from Ballad of the Mari Lwyd

In late December I wandered into my living room, heading for the kitchen to get a drink of water. It was late evening on a random day and I wanted to satisfy my thirst before going to bed. On the quick trip from my bedroom to the kitchen I shifted my gaze down to my feet and pondered my cold toes. When I looked up again, I saw a black robed figure topped with the bony skull of a horse. He was standing at my front door, on the inside of my apartment  starting at me. At first my brain did not register his skull head as a horse. Then he bared his clearly equine teeth. The being looked like the Mari Lwyd, the Grey Mare, but minus the warm fuzzies. There was no white robe, flower crown, or seasonal bliss. The spirit at my door was quite disconcerting. Along with his large, strange teeth he had unnatural eyes and moved like a horror movie character.

I asked why he was in my living room. He said nothing. I saw the door open into the starry night. I looked out the door and then back at him. He gestured like the Ghost of Christmas Future from every A Christmas Carol television adaptation ever. Still he said nothing. In a few moments he was gone. Days later I received a message, clear as a bell in my mind’s ear: “Go now.” I immediately remembered him and his gesture toward the starry spirit road. The two moments were connected. The dark robed horse spirit had been my guide, or at least my heads up.

The message he made way for could not be ignored. As soon as I received the message to go now, I knew exactly which journey to begin. I’ve been preparing for it for quite a while. The door is open and the time is now. As soon as the message settled into my bones, I gathered what I needed and I set out.

The series of journeys at hand will be long and hard, but necessary.