Do the Mundane!

/rant

“Magic is the solution to all problems.” Not. If that were the case, every experienced witch would have won the lottery; they and all their family and friends would be in perfect health (and probably immortal because who wants to lose a loved one?); there would never be any disagreements (world peace, anyone?); etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I see this so much in new witches, especially young ones who are looking for a quick fix to all their woes, but where I find myself explaining and educating the most is to non-witches. (Duh. They don’t understand how magic works because all they know is what the movies show them. “We don’t sparkle” could be applied to us as well as vampires!) Case in point:

A neighbor (the only one who doesn’t mind living near a witch and therefore takes care of our cats when we’re away) has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We were talking about it after my husband and I returned from vacation. He asked, “isn’t there something you can do, you know, woo-woo, to cure me?”

My reply was, “Diet and exercise.”

Him: “Yeah. That’s what the doctor said. But…”

Me: “I can help but you have to do the hard work, too.”

Him: “But…”

Me: “You know the phrase, ‘God helps those who help themselves?’ Same thing with magic. My Universe is like your god. If you don’t do the work to get well and maintain your health, why waste the energy? It just becomes a vicious cycle – your body heals itself for a while but because you haven’t done anything to prevent a recurrence, the symptoms come back. You ask me to do another spell, it works for a while, the symptoms come back. See where I’m going with this?”

Him: “Aw crap.”

Me: “Listen, neighbor. Prove to me you’re willing to follow doctors orders and I’ll do what I can to help. Call me in a month after your next doctor’s appointment and we’ll talk, okay?”

It’s been six weeks and I haven’t heard a peep. CHF is nothing to screw around with and I have a feeling I’ll be losing this neighbor (who is younger than me) sooner rather than later. It makes me sad.

To be frank, most problems can be solved without the use of magic. It’s usually not easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is. To me, magic is just another tool in my arsenal – a tool to be used either as an aid in what needs to be done or, as a last resort, when mundane methods fail. (I’m getting to the ‘last resort’ stage on one issue.) Am I glad I have that extra tool? You bet. But outcomes are more lasting if the mundane is done either first or alongside the magical.

So, next time you have a problem, look at all the mundane things that could/should be done before resorting to magic. You (and your resident witch) will be happier in the long run.

//rant

 

Belize

As most of you know, we went to Belize for our vacation this year. It was …enh. And not the fault of anyone, really. I chose the wrong time of year to go for fishing (my husband’s hobby), and the weather was unusually rainy, making it unpleasant to go for walks on the beach. But there were bright spots!

The place we stayed was wonderful. After a rough start (our flight was almost an hour late leaving Atlanta, making us miss our connection from Belize City to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and thus to the resort), we were greeted by smiles and

Tidbit: we were talking with one of the owners over drinks our first night. (A Dutchman who’d been in Belize for 17 years.) He was telling us about all the different sorts of people who populate Belize…Maya, mestizos, blacks, whites… and some of the personnel difficulties he had when developing the resort. Apparently one worker got pissed at another worker of a different race and put a curse on him! It was mentioned casually, as if witchcraft was normal. I loved it!

The first day was relaxing – sort of. Our cabaña was right on the beach, affording a lovely view from the porch.

Unfortunately, they have a major fly problem. They do spray for mosquitoes but haven’t figured out the flies, yet. Sitting on the porch meant a lot of swatting. But there were “pets”, too.

This little guy lived below our porch and we saw him every day. He didn’t do a lot of snacking on flies, though.

Palm trees usually mean coconuts, right? Yep. But these sure don’t look anything like the ones we get in stores here – they’re about twice the size! I had to watch where I walked because I didn’t want to get beaned by one…

Tidbit: coconut water comes from green coconuts. Coconut milk comes from ripe ones. The staff person who answered my questions offered to knock down one of the green ones, bore a hole, and let me drink the water. I declined but it sure was sweet of her to offer!

You may not know it, but Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world. Although I’m used to the sound of surf when near the ocean, the waves breaking over the reef sounded very much like the roar of a distant interstate, minus horn honking and the howling of jake brakes. And because of the reef, the water really isn’t very deep. At the end of the resort’s pier, it’s only about 3 or 4 feet and (according to my husband who knows about these things) only about 30-40 feet at its deepest inside the reef. Not really deep enough to go swimming. Not that I wanted to. I dipped my toes into the water and it was cold. (For friends: I panicked over getting a new swimsuit needlessly. It never came out of the suitcase.)

Enlarge & look closely. There’s a line of waves indicating the reef.

I spent a lot of time on the porch, supposedly reading but in reality, watching the birds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of the frigate birds flying around but there were at least four of them.

Pelicans.
White Ibis

Tuesday was the highlight of the trip. We made our way inland (15 minute boat ride from the resort to the airport, 15 minute flight from the island airport back to the mainland, one hour drive north) to the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve. Our tour started 27 miles downriver from the Reserve with about an hour boat ride. The guide stopped several times for us to see cool things along the river.

Water Lilies
Can you spot the Iguana?

Two things I couldn’t get a picture of: one crocodile (Lamanai means “Sunken Crocodile”) who submerged too fast for me to get the phone up, and a pair of Jabiru storks (google them, they’re cool), who were too far away for the puny camera on my phone to capture. (One of these years, I’m going to remember to bring a real camera with me.) I have a couple of photos of howler monkeys that are so bad, I won’t share them.

The ruins were fascinating. Lamanai was active for about 3,000 years (1500 BCE to 1500 CE) and encompassed 20 square miles. The Reserve (the protected area) unfortunately only covers about a tenth of that. The estimated population was between 40,000 and 60,000, quite a bit larger than Tulum. It’s not as open or excavated as Tulum, either. Three temples plus a few other structures have been uncovered. The first we were taken to was the “Mask Temple”:

Mask on the left bottom side of the temple. There’s another one on the right (the stairs are on the right of this photo.)

What you see isn’t stone. It’s a fiberglass shell covering the original stone, preventing further erosion. Our guide had a drawing of what it looked like when initially uncovered:

The blue paint was only visible for about a month before it washed away.

Nearby, a building with a stela, depicting a Mayan chieftain.

Tidbit: as a chief, his headdress has feathers in it. (I forgot to get a picture of the sketch of what it originally looked like.) I verbally assumed quetzal feathers and got a glare in return. The guide’s response was, “Have you ever seen a quetzal? [No, of course not.] They’re small, very rare birds with only three tail feathers. There’s no way every chief could have quetzal feathers in his headdress. Me? I’d rather have feathers from an ocellated turkey. Their feathers are bright blue.” I googled them when I got home and agree with the guide. The feathers are gorgeous!

The second temple we were taken to is the main temple for Lamanai.

In its heyday, it was 13 stories high. Eleven are still (mostly) intact. Tourists may no longer climb the stairs in front. Almost 4 years ago, a lady climbed the precipitous stairs and took the express down. She was airlifted back to the US, unconscious, with multiple broken bones. No one I could find knows if she survived, including our guide. Instead, there are now wooden stairs to the left so you can go all the way up to the top. My hips and acrophobia said, “nope” to that one.

Tidbit: a good friend has visited the site and says it’s still active. Not wanting to piss any local spirits off, I took some cornmeal with me as an offering. (No one in customs had a second thought about a container of powder in my cosmetic case. 🙂 ) About five minutes into the walk to the first temple, I started getting a migraine. I haven’t had one of those in decades. While everyone was clambering around the top of the main temple, I excused myself from the rest of the group, walked a ways away, and sprinkled the cornmeal around with a quiet ‘thanks’. Five minutes later, the headache was gone. Active? You be the judge.

In addition to the ruins, they’re very good about marking the types of trees. For those of you who enjoy copal resin, this is what its source looks like:

The last temple is called the “Jaguar Temple”. Yes, those lovely animals still populate the surrounding area.

(The grassy area is large enough to put in a football pitch with room to spare.)

Tidbit: husband had a closer look at this temple than I did. He said there are the remains of something being burned very recently (probably incense) on one of the stones.

Opposite this temple are the remains of a palace. We know the Maya were small people according to today’s standards but the rooms uncovered are smaller than my bathroom!

That was the extent of our tour. There are mounds, and mounds, and mounds that they haven’t yet uncovered but have scanned. They know at least two are burials … that much was shared with us. But the rest? Nobody’s talking. And frankly, I don’t blame them. If they published all their findings, looters would probably be there in a heartbeat.

The ride downriver back to our starting point was miserable. The air temperature was in the mid-70s (F) but it was raining. (Yes, we brought rain ponchos.) 25 mph boat speed into a windy rain for about 45 minutes. I froze. I changed into jeans & a long-sleeved shirt when we got back to the resort, put on my lightweight jacket, and was still shivering through dinner. I spent the rest of the evening huddled under a down comforter and didn’t feel completely warm for several hours.

Our last day was sunny … and rainy … and sunny … But it afforded this gorgeous shot:

If we go back (and I say ‘if’ because there are a lot of other places in the world we want to visit), we’ll stay on the mainland. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to get to stuff to do, and you still get all the water sports you can get on the island. (Fishing for husband only. The rest don’t interest us.)

Yuletide* Ruminations

I know, I know. I’ve been terrible about blogging. 2017 has had its ups and downs, most of which I don’t care to share with the public.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere. Because I celebrate a solar year, that means Friday is New Year’s Day for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what has happened and plan for what (hopefully) will come to pass.

The reflections: it’s been a tough year for both not-straight-white-Christian-and-rich humans and the Earth. Between all the natural disasters around the world and the crap coming out of our elected officials in Washington, DC, I haz a major sad. My one public political rant: I see things happening in 2017 I thought we were moving past. Hell, I protested against some of it almost 50 years ago. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) Seems history isn’t being studied much anymore…

I haven’t written a whole lot, even outside this blog. I’ve been too busy reading old herbals/medical texts as research for the next herb book. And by old, I mean 16th-19th century stuff. Let me tell you, it’s eye-crossing. Some of the “remedies” are jaw-droppingly horrid (and probably quite ineffective), and there’s the issues of archaic language, handwriting, and typography. (The typography is especially difficult if you’re reading a scan of a book printed on thin paper – the print bleeds through, further muddling what you’re trying to read.) I can only handle it in small chunks, which makes the research slow-going. It’s frustrating because I’m usually a fast reader.

A bright spot: our 6th grandchild was born in March. Although we don’t get to see him much, son & daughter-in-law are great about posting pics on Facebook so I’ve been able to watch him grow that way. The other 5 are growing like weeds and we delight in every accomplishment.

The planning: first and foremost, completing the aforementioned research and actually start writing! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but I’m not quite there, yet. I’m hoping to have a first draft completed sometime in the 4th quarter of 2018. That means actual release mid 2019.

Also writing related: figure out how to get myself out of the fiction funk. I’ve only written a few thousand words on Amy’s third adventure with Ev this year. Although I know what has to happen, I haven’t been able to talk myself into sitting down and typing it out.

I need to almost completely replant the garden. 2016 was a drought; 2017 was so wet I had pools rather than raised beds a lot of the time. You know it’s been a stressful couple of years when the catnip gives up.

And finally…finish up the work on the house so I can enjoy the peace & quiet for a few months until my husband retires late next year and will be home all the time (eek!). The weather hasn’t cooperated with some of the outside work and local contractors don’t seem to want or need my business to do the few things I want done inside. I suspect it’ll be next spring before my sidewalks are finally finished (they were started in August). I solved one inside problem by calling someone I know down in Atlanta who agreed to come all the way up here. That’s what I call service!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope this is one of the best holidays seasons for you!

 

*Yuletide was once celebrated for 13 days, starting with the first full moon after the Winter Solstice. So, going by what our ancestors did, that would be January 1-12, 2018. I gave up trying to follow that calendar a few years ago, and now go with the general pagan definition of 13 days beginning on the Winter Solstice (as opposed to the Christian definition of 13 days starting on December 25th). It’s just easier…

 

 

2017 Solar Eclipse Thoughts

Pick any superlative adjective … it was all that and more.

We were lucky enough to be in the path of totality so invited friends who weren’t to join us on the deck for a day of fun and a (probably) once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the time I issued the invitation, no one knew what the weather was going to be like. Summer afternoons in Georgia can be anywhere from perfectly clear, to partly cloudy, to popup showers/thunderstorms, to completely covered up. Even the morning of, the “local” (Atlanta) meteorologists were predicting 30% cloud cover in the areas of totality in Georgia. It was a crapshoot.

We lucked out and as guests started arriving, it was perfectly clear. Which meant wonderful viewing but on a deck that gets 12 hours of direct sun, it was toasty! Adult beverages, lots of conversation, and some guitar jamming by my husband and a friend … it was a party!

I did, however, watch some clouds building in the south with a little apprehension. Would they hold off?

A light lunch, then sky-watching – it was still clear above us. It started shortly after 1:00 p.m. I wanted photos but had read that taking a direct photo of the sun can harm the camera lens on a phone, so ingeniously (I thought), I taped a lens from a pair of viewing glasses over my phone’s lens. Nope. Just an orange blur. I even tried the same thing on our regular camera. Not quite as blurry as the phone but still didn’t show anything of import. The photo below was taken with my phone at totality without any filter. The sun’s corona still overloaded the camera so you can’t even tell the moon is in front!

I’m still heaving a big sigh. However, we do have a lot of trees which become a good filter if you look down, rather than up. See the half-moons?

The moment (a little over a minute) of totality was probably the most awesome thing. The lighting was a nice twilight (ah, a little relief from the heat!) but the silence. No birdsong, no bugs’ buzz, not even the usual slight background hum from the 4-lane four miles away. It wasn’t quite dark enough for the night critters to start their song, either. Just a couple of quiet “wows” from us.

The “diamond” appeared (the first glimpse of the sun as the moon moves out of the way) and that moment was almost over. We were still quiet until…a small plane flew by. That ruined the moment and it went back to being a party again. The clouds finally made it this far north about an hour after totality (we even had a very brief shower) and obscured the rest of the eclipse but that was okay.

I didn’t experience any “woo” during the eclipse but I can tell you that neither my husband nor I slept at all well that night. We’re wondering if it messed with our circadian rhythms a little. Thankfully, it was just one night – I slept like a log last night!

I’ve been thinking about that day since then. Unless we travel (which we might), husband and I will never see a total eclipse again in our lifetimes. (If we travel, I will definitely buy a real solar filter for the camera.) But what I really took away from it:

There were ten people on our deck that day. All friends of ours, to be sure (which automatically means they’re cool people), but they’d never met each other before. Christians, Pagans of different paths, Agnostics, and Atheists all intermingling, enjoying themselves, and making new friends. I wish that would happen more in the wider world.

The Wheel of the Year – A Rant

Wheel of the Year

/begin rant

August first was Lugnasadh, Lammas, First Harvest, whatever you want to call it. A friend who also lives in the Southeastern United States posted on Facebook that he wasn’t celebrating … it was still summer. And I agreed. We were both called on the carpet (somewhat) for saying such.

FYI, the “Cross Quarter” holidays aren’t celebrated by all, and sometimes not on the same date. Lughnasadh/Lammas and the other three cross-quarters holidays were started in climes much more northerly than mine and by cultures who relied on farming for their living. When I lived farther north, around August 1st was indeed the beginnings of harvest and although the days were still hot, there was a feeling that Fall wasn’t far away. First harvest around here happens about mid-July. I saw the neighboring farmer harvesting part of his kitchen garden then. He cut the first crop of hay the middle of June and is now growing his third crop. So, August first? Mid-harvest.

The other thing that chaps my ass is the date. You do realize the calendar by which we now live only dates back to the 16th century (1582, to be exact) but wasn’t adopted by all areas of the world until the 18th century? I can’t speak for my ancestors, but I’m willing to bet they celebrated their first harvest on different days. Weather is a huge factor in farming. More or less sun, more or less rain (or snow) affects when you would be able to get your seeds or seedlings into the ground and the length of the growing season, all affecting when you’d be able to gather your crops. Horrible weather year? Might not be a celebration at all because there was nothing to harvest so nothing to celebrate.

I apply the same sort of logic to the Equinoxes and Solstices. The “official” dates for each vary by a few hours one way or the other due to the tilt of the Earth and the not-exactly-365-day-year, making them fall somewhere in a 2-day period, but they’re calculated by when the sun crosses the Equator; and when the Sun is at its farthest points from the Equator. I don’t live at the Equator. I’d also be willing to bet my ancestors celebrated these events when they happened where they lived. I celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices when they happen here. I go by the “longest day, longest night, and equal night” definitions. As an example, the true Fall Equinox here, September 26th, is as close as one can get – less than a minute off equality. The official date is September 22nd.

I don’t celebrate Cross Quarter days because they really hold no meaning for me – I am decidedly a city girl in that regard. (Samhain? The veil’s thin around here every day and I venerate those who have gone before every day.)

I can’t recall a time I ever argued with someone else’s holiday. If “First Harvest” is August first for you, have at it. If you want to celebrate the other holidays according to the calendar, good for you. But don’t climb in my shit because I don’t celebrate as or when you do.

//end rant

 

Catching Up

It’s been a (long) while since I’ve posted anything here. Quite frankly, I haven’t had a lot to say but thought I should at least let you know I’m still alive.

Apart from the clickety-punch (which is never-ending), I’ve kept myself busy:

  • Bemoaning my garden. Last year was a horrid year because of the drought. This year is just as bad in the opposite direction. We’ve had about 150% of normal rain and everything is drowning. The beds are pools of mud. (It’s pouring as I’m typing.) About the only thing growing well is the grass, which I’m being hard-pressed to keep out of the beds. On the bright side, I don’t have to fill the fountain!
  • Having some things done around the house. The writing tent is no longer a tent but has a permanent roof. (I have to come up with a better name, now.) I’d post a picture but see the above statement about it pouring. There’s still a bit of staining to do so it completely matches the house but again, the rain… My handyman has a list of things I’d like done (next up is making hard surface walkways from the house to the garden steps and over to the compost bin so I can avoid chiggers) and he’ll eventually get around to it all but the rain…
  • While fiction is still on the back burner (but not off the stove), I’ve been researching for the next herb book. Not certain of the title or format, yet, but it’s going to be a look at herb use through history. It’s been a fascinating (and sometimes frightening) read thus far. It’s also been a sometimes difficult read. English spelling wasn’t standardized until about the eighteenth century so I have to “translate”. There’s also the “fun” of reading that same non-standard English printed in blackletter.
  • Preparing to do my first show in many years. I’ll be at the Appalachian Renaissance Faire October 14-15. While I won’t have nearly as many products as I once did (mostly my books and oils with a few other odds and ends), I have to revamp some things to fit the “new” shop.
  • Still trying to learn the Herbal Tarot. It’s not going well. I can tell you if I’ve pulled a card before but what the meaning is? Still have to look, even seven months in. Rune reading is far easier for me, and I’ve been doing that for people.
  • I got pulled into the time-suck of genealogy research. I’d started maybe a decade ago and tabled it but my kid’s interest prompted me to go back. The really fun thing about it? I’ve always wondered where my witchiness came from. While I believe anyone can be a witch if the propensity is there, my gut feeling was there was one in my family tree, somewhere. I knew it wasn’t my maternal side – I know that side well and someone who was “not right” would have been talked about. (I mean, apart from my gay great-uncle who was only spoken of in whispers, when they spoke of a man who “chose not to marry”.) Last week, I was able to trace part of my father’s side – of which I know nothing because the asshole wasn’t around. Got to my 2nd great-grandmother, whose family photo was posted by another person on Ancestry. There was something about her, y’know? While I was musing, I heard, very faintly, “ye found me, child”. I sent thanks, then let out a whoop loud enough to scare the cats. I’ll never know much about her but just knowing she’s there is good enough.

So, as you can see, I’m still here, continually caffeinating to keep up with it all – and our crazy cats. You can generally find me posting interesting snippets of my research on Twitter or Facebook.

My New Charm

No, I haven’t changed my personality. 😉

As background, for years I’ve worn several things on a necklace – always under my shirt. (I have conservative clients. They wouldn’t understand.) However, my thoughts on some things have changed and what I wore no longer really had meaning to me. It was time for something new.

I really like the idea of a pentacle (the four elements plus spirit, surrounded by will) but wearing one of those openly seems to immediately identify you as Wiccan, which I certainly am not. But what to wear?

If you’ve been following along on my Facebook page, you know I’ve been learning the Herbal Tarot. Early on, I set the companion book aside because it’s geared toward herbalists who consult. I don’t. But one thing in the introduction (page ten) struck home: “[…] the ancient Greek letter theta. The circle divided into two halves signifies spirit-matter held together by the underlying principle of Divine Spirit.” I interpreted that a little differently. Body and mind, surrounded by spirit – the principle of holistic health (and witchcraft, if you think about it).

The text shows the lowercase theta. If I’d been thinking a little harder, the upper case theta would more completely show that connection – it has a little space between the horizontal bar and the surrounding circle. There is leakage between the mind and body. But then the charm would’ve had to have a back, been heavier, and I wouldn’t have liked it as much.

It took about five seconds to decide where I was going to get my new charm. My friend, Jen, introduced me to the work of Aidan Wachter several years ago and I’ve been in love with his work since. About a month later, this arrived in the mail:

Isn’t it beautiful? Go look at his website, or his Facebook page, or his Twitter feed. What he does is amazing!

Now I have a charm I can wear on the outside of my clothes, with an explanation even the most conservative of people will understand. Nestled next to it is my father-in-law/husband’s first wedding ring. Yes, there’s a story there, too, but only the fact that it was my husband’s needs to be told.

By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root – A Review

When the publication of this book was announced, I got excited. Yet another book to add to my collection on poisonous plants! In addition, Ms. Draco is a respected author in the occult world.

Once through this small book (a whopping 96 pages), I was both pleased and disappointed.

The pleased: She gives a very nice history of poisoning, detailing instances from Socrates’ famed ingestion of hemlock, through the times of the Roman Empire, to the Borgias and de’ Medicis of the Renaissance, poisonous intrigue in the English courts, and finishing with various accounts of poisonings in the 18th century (which, naturally, were mostly perpetrated by women 😉 ).

An entire chapter was devoted to the “Proving Tree”, which was a “metal stand (often attached to the salt dish) that had from five to fifteen different ‘stone’ pendants hanging from its branches.” For a few centuries, it was thought that dipping one stone or another into food would either detect or neutralize any poison found in food. Servants would have been a part of that “Proving Tree” because several would taste their master’s food before it even got to him.

The final chapter, “Cursing v Bottling”, was useful. She goes to great lengths to discourage someone from cursing which, in a book for public consumption, is a good thing. A milder retaliation is bottling and she’s got some good ideas in there.

The disappointment: the listing of the plants themselves. While the information presented is, for the most part, accurate, only a chemistry buff would be interested in the list of toxic chemicals in each plant. I’m used to reading scientific papers and I found my eyelids drooping at points. Foot- or endnotes would have made reading easier, rather than citing sources within the text.

It’s obvious this book wasn’t reviewed by someone who is an herbalist prior to publication. One example: she cites “Margaret Grieve” as the author of A Modern Herbal (Chapter 3). The initial “M” stands for Maud.

Another: she lists “Bryony black and white” as Bryonia dioica. B. dioica is red (or sometimes white) bryony, while white is B. alba. Black bryony is in another genus (Dioscorea) altogether, although no less toxic.

And one final nitpicking: all but one of the Latin binomials are in lower case, sometimes without the species name attached (making it a monomial). In case you didn’t know, the genus is always capitalized, the species not. If all species in a genus are considered, then ‘spp.’ should be after the genus.

So, I’ll give this 3.5 stars of 5. It presented a lot of good information on poisonous herbs but there are other books out there that present it better (a couple she used for reference and cited in the bibliography would be a good start). Buy it for the history lesson and how to bottle rather than curse.

 

 

Tulum

As I said last week, it’s taken me a while to process my visit to Tulum. I’m not certain I’ve still fully grasped everything, but here goes…

(Note: most of what I’m saying here is from our tour guide who, in addition to being an archaeological guide, is part Mayan. Take it as fact, or not.)

 

First, Tulum was built on the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula and the temple – El Castillo – sits almost at the edge of the bluff. (Husband, who grew up along the coast, estimates that in its heyday, it was probably visible five or six miles out to sea.) And what a perfect site to build on – so defensible! Landward, it’s surrounded by mangrove swamps which, in addition to being almost impossible to move through without a lot of machete work, are inhabited by animals like crocodiles and venomous snakes.

Thankfully, we were there on a dry, sunny day before the rainy season. Our guide told us Tulum means “stinky soil” and that would definitely apply when things were really wet. Yet, the official site says Tulum means “wall”. I think either would apply.

One you’ve made it to the wall, you don’t have much of a choice of entries unless you want to try to scale the wall. There are only five gateways, and they’re tiny – even for a small person like me. Husband had to duck and I saw several people going through sideways. (The exit is now a path with stairs, thanks to the restoration.)

Once through the gate, you see a beautiful clearing with the ruins. (I can’t imagine the work that went into building the city, much less uncovering it again.) Not many structures are still standing and those that are, aren’t fully intact. But compared to today’s cities, it’s small. The entire site within the wall & up to the cliff is only about 300 acres – that’s about 1/3 the size of Olympic Park in London!

The first thing that hit me was the silence. Even with a bunch of tourists walking around and several tour guides giving their talks, it was so peaceful! The first word that popped into my head was “sacred”. Makes sense. The Mayan were very careful with their land, living in harmony with it rather than trying to force it to their will.

Tulum was a trading port – one of the most important in the Mayan Empire. If you look at where it’s situated on a map, you can see that it’s in a perfect spot for people to bring things both by land and sea. There’s a natural cove at the base of the cliff, making it easy for boats. Although, I wouldn’t want to haul my goods up or down that path! I would love to see a different site (leaving the ruins as they are), set up as it originally was, with re-enactors. At least, re-enactors doing what we think they would’ve been doing 800 years ago. We can thank the conquistadors for destroying virtually everything related to the Mayan culture.

Some pics of the ruins, including El Castillo*:

*Those two lumps on El Castillo (better in the closeup) are the sacrifice stones. The person would’ve been laid on their back over those two stacks of rocks so the priest could more easily go up under the rib cage rather than trying to go through it to get to the heart. Ouch.

As an earth witch, I wear moccasins when I can’t go barefoot so I can feel what’s happening around me. While I still got the feeling of “sacred”, I didn’t get the energy buzz I normally get, which puzzled me. Husband and I talked about it later and we think it was because of all the underground water. The Yucatan Peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, and cenotes are all over the place, providing fresh water – if you want to climb down for it! Which, of course, they had to. Water seems to negate earth energy for me. I’m curious what I would’ve felt if we’d been allowed on the ruins themselves. Stone has a long memory. (But thankfully, we weren’t. I’d hate to see them destroyed any further.)

Unfortunately, the number of people walking around sort of kept the wildlife away. According to our guide, there are several coati-mundi living there, including two that aren’t shy. I was so disappointed I didn’t see them! But here’s a cool bird and a squirrel that didn’t immediately split when I got close:

Another disappointment: our guide said there were native Maya selling things they’d made in the village attached to the historical site. We would’ve definitely bought something if we’d seen anything we were certain was handmade but all the wood carvings looked like they’d have a sticker that said, “hecho en China” (made in China). So, we didn’t.

The place fascinated me. And I still want to go to Chichén Itzá.

Our First (and Last) Cruise

Yes, it’s been a while. Not much has been happening in my world, unless you count my (hopefully) learning how to read the Herbal Tarot and starting the research for a new book. We did, however, go on vacation last week, taking our first-ever cruise.

Not having any real clue whether we’d enjoy it or not, or which was the best line, I chose a 5-day, 4-night cruise with Carnival. (It’s actually a lot shorter than that, leaving late Monday afternoon & returning first-thing Friday morning. So, more like 3-plus days, 4 nights. That suited me, too.)

Our first stop was Key West – someplace I’d always wanted to visit. Mostly to go to the Hemingway House to see the six-toed kitties. Boy howdy, do they have cats! 53 currently, but not all with six toes on the front paws. Some had the normal number, but one had 24 toes (six on all four paws – a rarity)! Did you know? They have their own on-call veterinarian, and a cat cemetery on property. All the cats are named after movie stars. I think the top pic is of Betty Grable. Or maybe it’s Marlene Dietrich. (I never could get one in a position to actually see the toes in the picture.)

All cats drink out of toilets, if allowed, right? The bottom of that fountain is a urinal out of the original Sloppy Joe’s. 😀

Key West has a lot more to offer in the way of sightseeing, though. There’s the Truman “Little White House”, some pretty neat trees, and the Key West Museum with awesome sculptures:

Truman White House
Banyan Tree
Kapok Tree
Sculptures at the Key West Museum

Upon our return to the ship, our cabin had already been serviced and we were greeted with a towel animal (a different one each morning):

Poison Ivy is a running joke with friends. You’ll see her in my pics here & there.

Then it was on to Cozumel and our tour to Tulum. (I’d wanted to go to Chichén Itzá but they cancelled that tour.) I’ll have to do a completely separate post on that – I’m still processing what I saw, heard and felt. But, here’s some pics to get you started:

If you have an opportunity, go. It’s one of the most awesome places I’ve been.

As usual with shore excursions, our time was too short everywhere. We had about forty-five minutes in Playa del Carmen before the ferry back to Cozumel. (And got caught in a shower without an umbrella, to boot!) Our tour guide mentioned one of her favorite places in the shopping district – Ah Cacao. Chocolate! Of course, I had to visit – and make a purchase. Unfortunately, that souvenir didn’t last long.

One day at sea (which was windy), then back to Miami and our plane (and drive) home. During that day at sea, we discussed the cruise and whether we’d want to do it again. The staff was extremely friendly, the food wasn’t bad (we wouldn’t consider it gourmet but it was quite edible), and we made new friends. The answer was ‘yes, but on a different line and a room with a balcony’. You see, we’re old folks. Music started blaring at 9am and didn’t stop until very late. There was no where to go on deck that was quiet enough to just enjoy the view without the bass beat pounding its way into your thoughts. Our cabin was on the lowest deck, right above the deck they use for entering/exiting the ship. The noise associated with docking started as soon as the ship made port, usually at dark-thirty. A room higher up would eliminate that problem.

The answer was ‘yes, we’d do it again’ until I woke up Saturday morning still feeling like I was on a ship. Thinking it was temporary, I wasn’t too worried about reeling around the house. Unfortunately, a week later, I’m still reeling. And it’s really a thing. It’s called Mal de Débarquement Syndrome. (Naturally, I’d be one to get this…) So, no more cruising for me and fingers crossed this eventually goes away. I feel like I’m drunk without any of the benefits of being so!

I’ll write another post on Tulum when I get my thoughts together. In the meantime, it’s back to the grind.