Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pimpin' My Altar

Here's a picture of my altar, all packed up in a special box I decorated just for this purpose. The box is 5.75 inches on a side, and has a gold oak leaf imprinted upon the top. The goal was to have everything I needed for the basic AODA rituals and ceremonies in a small enough container that it could be easily tucked into a backpack, suitcase or into my Crane Bag.

Here is a picture of the altar case, opened. The AODA patch I received when I first joined decorates the inside of the lid, and gives an idea of the scale. In the case are two altar cloths - one is a lacy white doily and the other is a pretty green mistletoe print that I can use under it if I want. I will have other holiday themed cloths at some point, I just haven't cut them out yet. Also in the case are two tiny chalices for water and salt, a small candlestick for the beeswax candles I use, and a tiny incense burner. There is also a small sword and sheath, a pack of matches, a bottle of some special water, a small jar to hold the salt when it's not being used, a small black cauldron, the actual altar platter that everything rests upon, and a small goblet and platter for cakes and ale.

This is a really nice piece of petrified wood that I often use to support the other items when I'm at home. It's nice and flat and polished on the top, and I like the idea of using something that came from a tree so long ago. This is also something that's been in the family for a while - came from a relative that was a geologist.

Here is everything for a Grove Ceremony all out on the altar and ready to go (except for the tiny token cakes and ale.) You can see the tiny sword and sheath out and ready. The sword is a martini pick, and I made the sheath from some heavy paper and decorated it with Awens.

Like Paper in Fire

I've been going through my CD collection lately and also soliciting suggestions from friends about songs that can be used as sources of inspiration for meditation and ritual. I received back quite a number of great ideas (thanks, AODA Public friends!) and have begun to comb through them. But this morning, while going through the music I already have, I came across this old favorite: Paper in Fire, by John Mellencamp. The verse that really struck me today was this one:

"There's a good life
right across the green fields
And each generation
Stares at it from afar
But we keep no check
On our appetites
So the green fields turn to brown
Like paper in fire"

I couldn't sleep this morning, so I got up for a while around 3am. During that time I read some of the online blogs I occasionally visit. One of them, The Automatic Earth had a guest article from a young man living in Kenya, who wants to know what is going to happen to his generation and the generations that come after now that we, the elders of our time, have incurred debt unimaginable, as well as burned through the majority of the "easy oil" on the planet and have used it to joyride in personal automobiles, wage war all over the globe, make stupid throwaway trinkets out of plastic, and pile all the residue and packaging from our excesses up in gargantuan landfills on the land and continental size "garbage gyres" in the sea. As painful as it may be to examine our own culpability here, well - I believe he has the right to ask. I just wish we had a good answer for him.

The bottom line is - "we kept no check on our appetites." For all our vaunted human brainpower, for all our supposed ability to reason beyond the moment - we chose to behave no differently than the simplest of single cell creatures. We behaved just like yeast do when given a rich environment. We used the easy energy to grow fat, procreate like mad, and then, in true yeasty fashion, to piss in our own nests. We gave no serious thought to the future, to what our children or grandchildren would need to live healthy and happy lives. We set up an economic system that rewarded our own short-sighted greed and pushed the payment for it upon the next generations. We, the generations who unlocked the potential behind the "black gold" from the ancient past have partied hearty on our inheritance and have refused to acknowledge that we are just as bound by limits as any other lifeform on this planet. We refused to keep a check on our appetites so that future generations could make use of this wonderful legacy of millions of years of fossilized sunlight. We chose instead to blow the vast majority of it on one continuous drunken binge - the energy that took geologic ages to accumulate and concentrate will be effectively gone within 100 or so years of its debut. Within just one human lifetime, give or take a decade or two, we blew an inheritance that could have lifted not just one, but many generations of our kind out of abject poverty, pain and despair. All that will be left to show for the party is a mountain of debt and a planet full of trash and poison.

We could stop squandering what we have now and save at least some of this bounty for future generations, but most of us are too selfish, shortsighted or ignorant to make the sacrifices required. We would rather pretend that the limits do not exist, or that somehow our super brains will figure out a way to make them not count. And we will do this right up until the end. And what we will leave for our children and their children will not be pretty or healthy. They will live their lives in the stinking mess that we've created. And they will be the ones that pay for what we, their parents and grandparents, have done.

Kids, I'm truly sorry for my part in this, but I don't quite know how to stop. I guess it's time to put some serious effort into figuring that out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Proposed "Idaho Ogham"

I'm still working some of this out, but here it is as it stands now...

First Series

Letter: Beith
Traditional Tree: Birch
Idaho Equivalent: Water Birch (Betula occidentalis) -- This multi-stemmed tree grows 15-25 feet tall, producing decorative catkins in April and May. It grows well on moist sites, especially near a pond or stream. Native to the Rocky Mountain states - including Idaho - and grows from 3,000-9,000 feet in elevation.

Letter: Luis
Traditional Tree: Rowan
Idaho Equivalent: Dwarf Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina) - This 10-15 foot tall shrub to small tree is a cousin of the European Rowan. It is deciduous with compound, sharply serrated leaves. The small white flowers are borne in large, dense, flat-topped clusters and appear in summer. Fruits are reddish-orange, have the typical "five pointed star" on their bottom end and grow in large-ish clusters that ripen in late summer to early fall. Grows wild on the windswept tops of many mountains near here.

Letter: Fearn
Traditional Tree: Alder
Idaho Equivalent: Sitka Alder (Alnus sinuata). This is the alder that forms large glades at mid to upper elevations in the mountains of this state. It is notable for its very long male catkins and clusters of dainty woody cones.

Letter: Saille
Traditional Tree: Willow
Idaho Equivalent: White Willow (Salix Alba sp.) Many varieties of the White Willow are established in most of the riparian areas all over the state. Medicinally important plant.

Letter: Nuin
Traditional Tree: Ash
Idaho Equivalent: No native true Ash trees, but Canyon Maple (Acer grandidentatum), a shrubby or somewhat tree-like maple which usually matures at 10-15 ft is quite common in the mountains near streams. Its bark is dark brown and scaly and is branches are stout and erect. The thickish, three- to five-lobed deciduous leaves turn bright red and gold in the fall. A cousin of the Sugar Maple, larger Canyon Maples can be tapped for syrup if you can brave the snow and get to them early enough in the year.

Second Series

Letter: Huath
Traditional Tree: Hawthorn
Idaho Equivalent: Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) -- This thorn-bearing shrub can grow to 15 feet tall. It is moderately drought tolerant and produces a purple-black fruit in summer that is favored by birds. Fruits have medicinal value and can be gathered in fair quantity in the autumn, if you can beat the Grouse to them.

Letter: Duir
Traditional Tree: Oak
Idaho Equivalent: "Sweet Idaho Burr Oak" - found growing wild in north Idaho (Quercus macrocarpa) is found in a variety of habitats from dry hillsides to moist bottomlands, rich woods and fertile slopes, mainly on limestone soils, and the sweet acorns are considered quite edible and sweet with only minimal preparation (leaching.)

Letter: Tinne
Traditional Tree: Holly
Idaho Equivalent: Creeping Oregon grape (Berberis or Mahonia repens ) -- A low-growing, evergreen subshrub or ground cover with holly-like leaves. Drought and shade tolerant, it is native to the forest understory. Grows 1 foot tall and flowers are a bright yellow in April and May with edible blue berries later in the season.

Letter: Coll
Traditional Tree: Hazel
Idaho Equivalent: Hazelnut, Beaked (Corylus cornuta) Grows 3-12 feet in height, edible nuts; yellow, fall color; stream banks; well-drained soil.

Letter: Quert
Traditional Tree: Apple
Idaho Equivalent: Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) There are no native apples, but apples and roses are related, and there IS a lovely wild rose that grows in the mountains here, that has large rosehips that we make rosehip jam from. Native along riparian corridors primarily, this 3-4 foot tall shrub produced simple pink flowers in late May and early June. This shrub spreads vegetatively to form thickets. Bright red rose hips in fall and winter are showy and attractive to wildlife.

Third Series

Letter: Muin
Traditional Tree: Vine
Idaho Equivalent: Clematis, Western Virgin's Bower (Clematis columbiana) up to 15 feet long, blue to lavender flowers; feathery, plumed seed pods, blooming May - July in moist forested areas.

Letter: Gort
Traditional Tree: Ivy
Idaho Equivalent: Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is a species of Rubus, native to western and northern North America, including Idaho. It is a dense shrub up to 2.5 m tall with canes 3-15 mm diameter, often growing in large clumps which spread through the plant's underground rhizome. Unlike most other members of the genus, it has no thorns. The leaves are palmate, 5-20 cm across, with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture. The flowers are 2-6 cm diameter, with five white petals and numerous pale yellow stamens. It produces a tart edible composite fruit 10-15 mm diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer.

Letter: Ngetal
Traditional Tree: Broom or Fern
Idaho Equivalent: Western Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) Western bracken fern does not persist in forests beyond about 200 years, and is considered a useful indicator of seral forest communities in some forests, and in aspen (Populus tremuloides) communities, an indicator of site deterioration. Edible fiddleheads in the spring.

Letter: Straif
Traditional Tree: Blackthorn
Idaho Equivalent: Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) -- This deciduous shrub typically grows 8-15 feet tall and spreads vegetatively. It produces clusters of white flowers on pendulant spikes in the spring. Fruits ripen to a deep purple to black color in summer and often make a great syrup for pancakes.

Letter: Ruis
Traditional Tree: Elder
Idaho Equivalent: Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) - Deciduous shrub to 15 feet tall, it produces small white flowers in summer and powdery blue fruits in late summer. Blue elderberry has pinnately compound leaves, grows best in well-drained soil in sun to partial shade, requires plentiful water, and is not preferred by deer.

Fourth Series

Letter: Ailm
Traditional Tree: Silver Fir
Idaho Equivalent: Fir, SubAlpine (Abies lasiocarpa) The majestic spire-shaped conifer of our highest elevations. Soft, blue-green needles.

Letter: Onn
Traditional Tree: Gorse
Idaho Equivalent: Silver Buffaloberry (Sheperdia argentea) - This deciduous shrub to multi-stemmed small tree reaches 10-15 feet in height. It has silvery, narrow, entire leaves. Branches are opposite and spine-tipped, and its fruits are reddish-yellow and provide an excellent food source for birds. Will spread vegetatively. Drought tolerant and grows best in full sun.

Letter: Ur
Traditional Tree: Heather
Idaho Equivalent: Purple Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in the family Ericaceae (Heather family), in two closely related genera: Vaccinium and Gaylussacia. The huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho in the United States and has wonderfully tasty and fragrant purple to black fruit. It prefers the moist and humus-y forest understory at higher elevations in the northern part of the state.

Letter: Eadha
Traditional Tree: Aspen
Idaho Equivalent: Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). An extremely attractive, fast-growing tree which spreads aggressively by underground suckers. Rarely reproduced by seed - many stands are genetically identical and can be thousands of years old. "Pando (or The Trembling Giant) is a clonal colony of a single male Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) located in the U.S. state of Utah, all determined to be part of a single living organism by identical genetic markers and one massive underground root system, although whether it is a single tree is disputed, as it depends on one's definition of an individual tree. The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000 tonnes (6,615 tons), making it the heaviest known organism." [wikipedia.org] Gorgeous gold and golden orange fall color on the leaves and the almost chalk-white bark with deep black markings make groves of it stand out in the mountains in the autumn.

Letter: Ioho
Traditional Tree: Yew
Idaho Equivalent: Yew, Pacific (Taxus brevifolia). Our Pacific Northwestern native yew is a shrub or small tree with unusual plate-y bark and a very interesting cone. Needs summer moisture.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Samhain - necklace of the ancestors

And, they're all made of oil, too. ;-)