A Great Bear

March 26, 2021

For a class this week, I’m translating a story about Yellow Yellow, a Black Bear who was famous in the Adirondacks for breaking into bear cannisters. For some reason, she was tagged twice and got her name from the two tags. While most bears drop the cannisters over a cliff, hoping to break the cannister, Yellow Yellow actually figured out how to open the lid. She foiled a few generations of cannisters, driving hungry backpackers crazy, before she was killed in season by a hunter.

Sharing Community Stories

February 26, 2021

Over the past few years, a community in the Adirondacks has been coming together to record local history through stories. Under the brilliant organization of Jeri Huntley, with the support of the Keene Valley Library, My Adirondack Story is a website where the meaningful stories of ordinary people who live in the Adirondacks are told in their own voices. The stories are about five minutes long, and together they give a mosaic of life here. For people who come to the Adirondacks for a few days of recreation during the summer, it can provide a fuller picture of place.

Now there is a resource guide for others to create a project like My Adirondack Story in their communities. Our Story Bridge is a great way to connect and preserve history. There is also a teacher’s guide for helping schools create a similar project. The guide is designed for middle and high schools, but many colleges in New York State are already using these materials.

Yours truly shares an Adirondack story for the project here.

Moon Con 21

February 19, 2021

Mark your calendar! Moon Books will be sponsoring a conference featuring its Pagan authors June 5-6. The conference, live on Facebook, will feature talks, panels, and Q&A sessions. It will be free!

Photo: Ryan Hagerty, USFWS

Yours truly will be speaking at the online conference on Sunday, June 6th at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Below is a description of the talk, which is open to everyone.

Staring Back at the Deer

The deer is an emissary from the world of fey, a shapeshifter who watches from a distant place and brings messages which touch our spirit. This session will examine the deer from a material and cultural point of view, with the aim of interpreting deer signs and courting the deer to enhance our magic.

Hearth Moon Rising pursues an animistic practice of Witchcraft in the Adirondack Mountains. She is the author of Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the pagan priestess and Divining with Animal Guides: Answers from the world at hand. She is ordained in the Dianic Tradition and the Fellowship of Isis.

Getting ready for 2021

November 27, 2020

Here’s a picture I made this week for a 2021 calendar. This is for the Strawberry Moon (June). It depicts a Delaware Indian story about a turtle and a hummingbird. The two agree to race, but Turtle tricks Hummingbird by sending a look-alike friend to wait near the finish line.

Terror of the Forest

November 6, 2020

The return of large tracts of mature forest in the eastern United States has meant the resurgence of two fierce creatures: the Fisher and Northern Goshawk. I wrote about the Fisher here. I have had the distinction of having been seriously threatened by both animals, although neither made contact.

I wrote about my encounter with the Goshawk for Moon Books Blog back in 2018, but the pictures got messed up when they changed the website. Here is another one.

Photo: US Forest Service

To be fair, I’ve had plenty of encounters with Goshawks and Fishers where I did not feel threatened. Fishers, especially, have snarled at me from their perches in the lower branches of trees, but I stepped away to relieve their distress, not because I was in danger.

The Goshawk is a favorite falconry bird, because she is large and agile. Whenever I encounter a hawk or falcon in meditation, I feel an overpowering urge to take up falconry. Then I come out of my trance and realize I don’t have what it takes to commit to a feathered familiar. They require a great deal of time and attention, and most raptors are long-lived. So I continue cultivating my relationship on a metaphysical plane.

Photo: Emily Brouwer, US National Park Service

When I hear that ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-ki in the forest, however, I respectfully back away. That encounter with the Goshawk was the most frightening experience I have had, worse even than meeting that Mountain Lion that refused to back off. I have a theory that an aggressive encounter with an animal can transfer power, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time. Certainly there are some encounters that change a person forever.

House of the Belted Kingfisher

October 23, 2020
Photo: Kevin Cole

The Belted Kingfisher appeared in a recent journey-meditation to tell me…what exactly?

This colorful bird will be leaving my locale soon as ponds and lakes freeze over, though in much of the United States the Kingfisher overwinters. Various types of kingfishers live around the world, wherever there is open water, with the most colorful species in the tropics (of course).

Even in northern latitudes, kingfishers are relatively bright. The Belted Kingfisher is a lovely rich blue. This is a high profile bird, soring over ponds and divebombing for small fish. Sometimes she skims the water, her blue coloring blending in. The female in my area is blue to blue-gray, like the male, but with a rusty “belt” on her breast.

Kingfishers nest in mud burrows along the banks of rivers and ponds, tunneling on an upward slope three to six feet to lay their eggs. They form new nesting pairs every year. Males court females by bringing them fish.

The sound of a Belted Kingfisher is an unmistakable series of rattles that each last a full second or more. She makes this noise flying or when perched looking for prey. She is quite territorial and aggressive toward intruders.

I associate the Belted Kingfisher with the astrological Eighth House, that time of day when the afternoon sun has commenced a noticeable decline in the west. The Eighth House rules death, psychic activity, the occult, and other things that are hidden. Think of the Kingfisher diving into the still water for her meal. Think of the Kingfisher laying her eggs not in the trees or on the ground but in a cavity beneath the soft earth.

Photo: Teddy Llovet

Proud Emblem of the City

October 9, 2020
Photo: Dick Daniels

An encounter with a pigeon could have great import, because pigeons are guardians of civilization.

Pigeons are intellectual birds, associated with education, government, and religious institutions. They roost in libraries, government buildings, university buildings, and large places of worship. Wherever there are cities, there are pigeons.

Because pigeons and other doves roosted in the first temples, pigeons became associated with the goddess. Mesopotamians believed these birds came to the temples to carry prayers to the sky deities.

The white pigeon, especially, is a messenger of the goddess. Aphrodite, Ishtar, and Astarte are sometimes pictured with the white dove, which is a pigeon.

The pigeon is the ultimate pro-social bird of complex society. Interestingly enough, while the Mourning Dove and White-winged Dove thrive in open spaces throughout North America, the Rock Pigeon (that introduced species most people are referring to as the “pigeon”) doesn’t survive outside of cities due to predators. Even in the city, Peregrine Falcons and Red-tail Hawks feed on pigeons.

Pigeon numbers are decreasing, although they are not at all endangered. Is this decline caused by an increase in urban raptors or is it a reflection of the anti-intellectual times we live in? Many people claim to hate pigeons, but pigeons are connoisseurs of human institutions and culture. The urban dweller and the pigeon have much in common.