Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

Menu Close

Month: December 2014

In 2015 I Resolve to…

…make no resolutions. I don’t believe in them. How many people say, “I’m going to go to the gym”, “I’m going to eat healthier”, ad nauseum, and then don’t follow through?

It seems to me that if something needs changing, addressing, or the like, once that issue is identified, it should be worked on immediately. Why wait for a specific day or year? No time like the present, eh?

My New Year came about ten days ago – I work on a solar calendar so the Winter Solstice is my New Year’s Eve and the day after, my new year. (Sorta. Depends on when during the day the Solstice happens.) That’s not to say I don’t celebrate tonight and tomorrow like everyone else. Why go against social custom? I get two for the price of one, so to speak.

The Winter Solstice is when I do my reflecting on the previous year and plan for the upcoming year. (If dates are involved, I’m stuck with the Gregorian calendar since that’s what everyone else uses.) I look at what happened versus my planning at the prior Winter Solstice and if something didn’t go right, what I can do to effect change. Then I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year and plot that out. If you want to call that a resolution, go ahead.

I wished everyone Happy New Year ten days ago. Here’s your two-fer:

1533850_721891677822376_1644677007_n

May 2015 be everything you wish it to be.

DJ

 

Christmas 2014

Hubby and I spent a quiet day yesterday. We always do…our kids are with their other families, and that’s just fine. That doesn’t mean there weren’t presents & I thought I’d share some with you:

coffecupchocolateMy kids know me well, don’t they?

The boys couldn’t play with their gift from my oldest son’s family (we didn’t have the proper size batteries in stock) but the wrappings seemed to be a good substitute:

CatsXmasLeo The-Not-So-Stray even got a gift: his very own, custom-made, fully-insulated house:

LeoXmasWe don’t know if he’ll use it (he has a nest in the leaves underneath the other end of the porch) but we thought we’d try.

But my favorite of all:

card(I couldn’t get the image to rotate for some reason. And…his verb conjugation sucks but it’s the thought that counts!)

I want to see “Into the Woods” but we live in the boonies so driving to a movie theater down in the big city was out of the question since hubby had to work today. Instead, we watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” on pay-per-view. Finally! I know what the “I am Groot” that was going around the ‘Net earlier this year means!

I hope your day was exactly what you wished for!

Interview with a Witch: Jen Rue

Last but not least in my series of snooping into the lives of some friends: Jen Rue. Many of you know her fabulous blog or perhaps her shop (links below). Enjoy!

Jen2

Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you? Asking me to choose a favourite book is like asking me to choose a favourite plant. Oh look…you did that a little further down the page…

I will say that now in my practice, my favourite “witchcraft books” are my field guides to local flora, poetry books, and cookbooks, with fairy tales and folk stories thrown in for good measure.

The first books I read, borrowed from a friend, were Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance,” “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margo Adler (which I shamefully still haven’t finished), and Cunningham’s “Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner.” I then floated around quite a bit reading whatever my tiny library could get in for me – which was very little, as most of the witchcraft books had gone missing.

I think the first two books I bought were “Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs” and one of Christopher Penczak’s books. I would have to say that in the first few years of my journey, Christopher’s books, especially his Temple of Witchcraft series were my biggest influence. I was inspired by how knowledgeable and open minded he is, and how he is always researching, testing ideas, and finding his own way. He has such a deep passion for his work. Although I don’t have the same practice as I did then, I still love his books and I’ve learned a great deal from him.

How long have you been practicing & how did you come to your path? As far as number of years of formal practice – I’m a baby-witch. As of early 2015, it will be seven years since I stumbled across a chat thread talking about Wicca. The woman who was facilitating on that thread was terribly patient with me and a few others and we grilled her mercilessly. She sent us out looking for books and I never looked back. She is still one of my treasured online friends.

My practice today looks much like my life as a child. I grew up running through the woods around my home, working in my grandmother’s garden, camping, fishing, sitting around the feet of the adults, listening to stories. My parents believed in road trips, good music and tall tales, and having family dinners at my grandparents’ home at least once a month on a Sunday night. Although my grandparents are gone now, those things are still important to me.

I was raised Southern Baptist. I believed in magic and faeries, and talking animals, so Jesus wasn’t a hard sell for me. I left the church in my teens, but returned in my early twenties looking for some kind of connection. I thought I found it for a few years, but it wasn’t what I really needed. I went for a counselling session with the pastor, and I told him that I wasn’t finding God in the church. I was finding God in my garden, and in my nieces’ eyes, and on walks with my dog. He said “perhaps your church isn’t a building,” and it was exactly what I was waiting to hear. That was about 13 years ago.

How does being a witch help you in everyday life? There are a hundred answers here – I’ll try to give you one. It doesn’t make life easier, but it makes life richer. I feel a connection in a way…well, in a way I always have, but could never understand before. Even the smallest things seem important, like mowing my lawn, or cooking or cleaning. I do everything with a great deal more presence. And that’s probably the best way to describe it for me. I feel like I’m present in my daily life – not just getting it all over with so I can get on to the good stuff.

Not that I’ve seen it anywhere but your photos (we need to remedy that), but your valley looks lovely. Does living where you do influence your path? It does. I was fortunate in that I grew up with parents who were outdoors-people. Weekends, especially Sundays, were family time and it was important to my parents to be out in the hills or driving through the valley on day trips. They instilled a great love for this land in me, and it has only grown over the years. I drive up the road into the hills and wander around, sometimes for wild-harvesting, but more often just to be out there, breathing, observing. I walk by a river at the edge of my little town each morning. My altar is littered with stones, herbs, feathers, cones, and bits I’ve picked up on my walks. I sometimes wonder how long I could survive without being in the valley – I feel like it is a part of my soul.

The Wheel of the Year gets a bad rap – usually from those of us who don’t consider ourselves Wiccan, but also from those who feel that the celebrations don’t really match the seasons where they live. Here in the valley, it’s about as close a fit as you can get. It’s a spectacular area for agriculture, and by February the thaw begins and orchardists and viticulturists are out in their orchards and vineyards trimming their trees and vines. At Samhain, the final harvests of tomatoes, squash, and late pears and apples have just come in. Every sabbat falls upon some agricultural activity, save Yule (unless you are wassailing the fruit trees). Tuning in to the seasons as they progress in the valley and growing food and medicine with the land, is central to my practice. I may not hit every sabbat on its assigned day, but I’m definitely observing and celebrating the cycles of the land here.

I know your garden is rather extensive and the valley gives you plenty of opportunity for wildcrafting. What’s your favorite herb (yes, I’m making you pick one) and why? This really is the most difficult question to answer. My response changes all the time with the seasons, and often depends on the plants that are appearing around me. It also changes as I gain more experience with, and knowledge of, plants I might be working with.

If I had to pick one today, I might choose common garden sage, because I’ve been struggling with a bit of a cold, and I find a sage tea calming and a nice way to ease a cold or fever out. It works well as a throat gargle, and of course, this time of year tastes fantastic with turkey! Plus, I’m a tactile witch – always with the touching – and I love those fuzzy little leaves! I often just pick one to sniff and carry around with me.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? I don’t know that any one piece of advice fits all. Witchcraft is so varied now, in the way people practice it, and even how they define it. My advice has always been to find a way to befriend meditation and I still believe that it, as a tool, is invaluable. I always go back to it. But I think that new folks might want to spend a good amount of time looking into why they want to follow this path. I don’t think it’s the easy choice. Sure, we have fun toys and great parties, and if you want to be a full moon and sabbat witch only, then rock on – but you can find a good party in a lot of places. I think doing some real checking in to why this particular path or lifestyle is important to you is useful.

What is one thing you’d like to accomplish before you die? I live a small life, but a really rewarding one. I’ve had adventures, and travelled. I’ve had great loves, and helped raise my nieces. I have amazing friends and live in one of the prettiest places on earth. My life doesn’t feel like it lacks for anything.

I think, if it counts as an “accomplishment,” I’d like to meet the people that make me smile – those online friends that I’ve made, that are so cool, and brilliant, and funny. I can think of about a dozen or so, right off the top of my head (you included) that I’d love to gather with and hear them tell their stories, and sip luscious drinks together, long into the night.

What are two things about you not too many people know? #1 – I love a drink, but I’m not a big drinker. If you come across me online, I’m inevitably going to be mentioning alcohol. This is how rumours get started, I’m sure. I really love a drink. But I like one. One really great glass of wine when I’m out for dinner, or one well-made martini, or some fabulous concoction that a bartender has invented. I once spent an entire party with the same glass of whisky, just getting my tongue wet. There are always exceptions to any rule though – like when my best friend makes a blender of her famous lime daiquiris, or the trip I took to Mexico a few years ago. (Vacations don’t count, right?)

#2 – I’ve pretty much been afraid my entire life. Of everything. And I used to think that the goal was to be not afraid, and I worked toward that. But that never really had any staying power – being “not afraid.” So I decided that I’d just be afraid and do everything I wanted to do anyway.

I’m afraid to fly, but I travel by plane. I’m terribly shy, but I make an effort to talk to strangers. I’m terrified of fast carnival rides, so I took a trip to California with a friend and went on roller coasters in four different theme parks. I’m afraid of heights, but I walked a rope bridge across ravine, and I went skydiving. I’m nearly paralyzed by spiders, but if they are in my house I get a glass and a piece of paper and pray they don’t jump on my face and eat me before I get them outside. Telling myself “don’t be afraid” doesn’t work. I just say “fuck it – let’s try this anyway.”

And finally, coffee or tea? Both, of course. Like pretty much everything else, the preference will shift slightly with the seasons. I drink more tea in the Winter and Spring. More coffee in the Summer and Autumn. I couldn’t even tell you why.

Jen is the author of the Rue and Hyssop blog and sells her herby goods through the Etsy shop Three Cats and a Broom (and if you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, I believe her stuff is in one or two brick-and-mortar stores, too). Follow her on Twitter @rueandhyssop.

Interview with a Witch: Johanna Lawson

Continuing on with my nosiness where some lovely ladies are concerned, this week we’ll learn a little about Johanna Lawson:

 

Johanna Bio Picture

Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you?  My first book on witchcraft was Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance”. My mother purchased it for me and it was perhaps the greatest gift she ever gave me. She knew I was in the process of exploring my spirituality and thought it would be helpful. The book opened up a whole new world for me, one in which I knew I belonged, and started me on my path. Its pages are now yellowed and dog-eared, the spine creased and the cover flimsy from my multiple readings, from being stuffed in luggage and handbags, and from being pulled from its familiar place in the shelf for often-needed references.

How long have you been practicing & how did you come to your path? When I was 20 years old, living in my first apartment, I was introduced to a woman who was a witch by a mutual friend who thought she and I had much in common. It turned out we did and she started me on a quest to discover my true path. She has been my best friend and mentor since the first day we met. I have now been practicing witchcraft for 26 years and, with each passing year, each turn of the wheel, my practice evolves and becomes one with my daily life.

What was the hardest lesson you had to learn – one that you credit your path for teaching you? Perhaps the hardest lesson I have learned from this path is to be proud of who and what I am, not to hide. For many years, I was in the broom closet, constantly worrying what others may think of me if they found out that I was a witch. It kept me from so many things, most of all from being true to myself. About 12 years ago, I threw that door open and felt as if I was reborn.

How does being a witch help you in everyday life? This was a really hard question for me and the only answer I have to it is this: Being a witch doesn’t necessarily help me in my everyday life. It just is my everyday life. It permeates all aspects of my life, from housecleaning to cooking to raising my son to my job to being a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and all the roles of my life. I believe witchcraft is much more than just ritual, ceremony, spells and charms. It’s helping a family member in tough times to see things a bit more positively thus creating more positive outcomes for them. It’s cleaning up the skinned knees of little ones with a healing herbal preparation and gentle words of encouragement. It’s whispering a few words of good energy out into the universe at the same time your son is taking the SAT’s. It’s lighting a green candle for prosperity as you place a call to the electric company when the bill is overdue. It’s thanking the basil plant every time you clip off a few leaves for the pasta sauce you are stirring up in the kitchen. It just is everyday life.

I know you’re a Master Gardener. Did/does that designation & the study that went with it help in your path? Becoming a Master Gardener seemed like the natural progression down my path. In my studies, I learned just how magical the plant world is in and of itself, for example the delicate balances in nature that can cause marvelous growth or destructive diseases and the interdependence of different species of certain plant life while others can be deadly when planted together. It also led me to better understand the healing effects gardening can have for not only the planet but for one’s spirit. For me, gardening is my way of deeply connecting with Mother Earth and is a ritual in itself. Being a Master Gardener has also allowed me to bring that magic to other people through volunteer work with the program.

If you were just starting your own herb garden, which herbs would you plant and why? As I learned in my Master Gardeners courses as well as in my magical studies, so many more plants fall under the category of “Herbs” than I ever imagined. Herbs are any plant with flowers, leaves and seeds used in cooking, flavoring, medicine and perfume. This definition opened a whole new world for me when it came to growing herbs in my own gardens. I would tell a new herb gardener to start with some basic herbs, those that are good for cooking as well as in magic, and to throw in a few “witchy” extras that brighten the landscape, lift the spirits, and bring pollinators to their yards. Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano/marjoram, sage, lemon balm, mint, and parsley are the ones I started my own herb garden with several years ago. I would then add some yarrow, coneflowers, calendula, catmint/catnip, chives, and lavender. All of these can be used in magic and healing, not to mention they bring bees, birds, and butterflies to the garden. Oh, and garlic! Every garden should have garlic!

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? The most important thing I would tell anyone beginning to walk the path of witchcraft is that there is no right or wrong way. What works for one person may not work for another. Do not let others dictate how your path should proceed or where it should go. Infuse your witchcraft with yourself, your beliefs, your traditions. Therein is the real magic!

What is one question you wish someone would ask you? Oh that’s an easy one. Can I make dinner? I am the chief meal planner and creator in my household and sometimes it would be nice if, every once in a while, I could just sit back and enjoy a meal that I had nothing to do with and that did not come from a restaurant.

What are two things about you not too many people know? First, I love writing in bad weather. Since I was a teenager, a gray stormy, rainy, or snowy day gets my muse all a flutter and I take to the keyboard. Second, I believe the next step in my path is to become a Master Herbalist and I will be looking into that over the Winter.

And finally, coffee or tea? It depends. I must have coffee in the morning and after dinner. But, the rest of the day is for herbal teas, mostly made from my own herbs, and hot or iced, depending on the season and the weather. I also always have a cup of chamomile tea or my own nighttime blend of herbs before bed.

 

Johanna Lawson is a longtime solitary-practicing witch and the author of the blog, Village Wise Woman, that documents her journeys on the Pagan path, through the changing seasons of her magical garden, and through the life of her small Pagan family. She has been published in several Pagan anthologies and various magazines and newsletters.

And the Winner is …

WickedlyWonderful_cover_revise final

Amber Barnes is the lucky winner of a signed copy of Wickedly Wonderful! Congratulations!

Interview with a Witch: Deborah Blake

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve met some interesting witches on the ‘Net over the last several years & thought I’d ask them some questions to get to know them better. Next up: Deborah Blake, whose new novel, Wickedly Wonderful, hit the shelves on Tuesday. Keep reading…there’s a surprise for you at the end!

DeborahBlake

 

When did you start writing and what prompted you to do so? I have really been writing all my life. I think I started my first “novel” when I was in 6th grade. (I believe it was something about sentient cats in a spaceship and I wrote it during most of my classes when I should have been paying attention.) There were many times in my adult life when I started seriously working on writing and then gave up after a few rejections. I never did finish a novel. Then I sold my first nonfiction book to Llewellyn in 2005 (it came out in 2007) and said to myself, “Ha! You CAN finish a book! No more excuses!” and started working on novels again. Three years after that I got an agent, and three years after signing with her, we sold my Baba Yaga series to Berkley. (And my 8th nonfiction book will be out next March.)

For those who don’t know, Baba Yaga is a witch (some say a trio of witches with the same name) out of Slavic folklore. How/why did you pick her as the protagonist(s) in your current fiction series?  I wanted to write an updated fairy tale story (I love those when other people do them), but I didn’t want to use something like Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella that had been retold a million times. And of course, I love a witch as my protagonist, but that meant I had to find a fairy tale witch that wasn’t a two-dimensional bad guy. Baba Yaga was perfect, because she’s not as well known, and because the tales about her were detailed and interesting; she’s neither good nor evil, but she can be quite cruel if a seeker’s heart is not true.

Next I just have to ask about my favorite character in the first Baba Yaga book (Wickedly Dangerous), Chudo-Yudo. Will we see him again? Chudo-Yudo is everyone’s favorite! Who wouldn’t like to have a traveling companion who was a dragon magically disguised as a dog. Our first Baba Yaga, Barbara Yager from Wickedly Dangerous, has a Chudo-Yudo who looks like a huge white pit bull. You will definitely catch glimpses of him in future stories, but in Wickedly Wonderful, Beka Yancy’s tale, you will get to meet HER Chudo-Yudo, who she calls Chewie, and who is disguised as a gigantic black Newfoundland. [DJ: Oh my. I love Newfies!]

How do you balance your writing between fiction and non-fiction? Most of the time, I write them both about equally. Since that first book (Circle, Coven & Grove), I have written one nonfiction and one fiction book a year. These days, I’m moving more in the direction of the fiction, so it remains to be seen if any more nonfiction books yell at me to write them. I am, however, working on a great new project for Llewellyn—a tarot deck! (I’m writing the book for it, not doing the art. Nobody wants that.)

Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you? So many favorites! But probably the one that influenced me the most was Marion Weinstein’s classic, Positive Magic. It’s not a 101 book—there’s very little about how to cast spells, or what color candles to use. Mostly it is about what magic really is, and how we can use it to make our lives and the world better. I recommend it highly.

What was the hardest lesson you had to learn – one that you credit your path for teaching you? It’s one I’m still struggling with, really, although I hope I’m a little better at it than I used to be: patience and faith. I’m someone who works really hard to make things happen, and also kind of a worrier, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to just do your best and then let go, and have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to. (Which isn’t, I might add, the same thing as “the way you want them to” some of the time.)

How does being a witch help you in everyday life? See question six. (Laugh.) To me, being a witch is all about connection—with the gods, with nature, with other people, and with myself. I think all of those connections have gotten deeper along with my practice. Plus, of course, I can cast spells…

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? Witchcraft is a spiritual path that is mainly focused on becoming the best human being (and witch) that you can be. Don’t forget to focus on that, and not get too distracted by the shiny fun stuff like magic and spells and cool tools.

What are two things about you not too many people know? Well, I’m pretty sure most people know I love cats! But they may not realize I also really like dogs (even though I was afraid of them as a kid). My cats would never put up with me getting one (Magic in particular would probably kill me in my sleep), but I am often tempted. And most people don’t know that I am also a professional jewelry maker—I’ve been selling semi-precious gemstone jewelry for about 25 years, although I do it less now that the writing has taken over my life. I occasionally post pictures of the jewelry I make on Facebook or my blog, if people are curious.

And finally, coffee or tea? I used to be a major tea drinker, and I have a collection of teapots and lots and lots of different teas in my cupboards. But these days I mostly start my days with mocha (hot chocolate with a cup of coffee mixed in).

Deborah Blake is a Witch who writes nonfiction and fiction. Author of 8 books from Llewellyn, including The Witch’s Broom (2014) and Everyday Witchcraft (2015) and The Baba Yaga series from Berkley Romance (Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous, Wickedly Wonderful). Read her blog here, follow her on Twitter @deborahblake, or follow her on Facebook.

 

WickedlyWonderful_cover_revise final

Now for the good stuff!

Deborah will send one autographed copy of Wickedly Wonderful (plus some cool swag) to one lucky winner from this blog post! Unfortunately, she has to limit it to a US mailing address. To enter, simply leave a comment below. (The blog software requires you to enter an email address that only I can see – be sure to use a valid one!) Around noon on Monday, 8th December, I’ll draw one name from the hat & contact the winner via email for a snail mail addy to pass on to Deborah. Good luck!