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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Guest Post by Mickie Mueller: Magical Illustrations for The Witch's Broom

Note from Deborah: I am SO pleased to welcome Mickie Mueller, who did the fabulous illustrations for my upcoming book. Take a look and tell us what you think! And I will be giving away one of those great little refrigerator broom magnets to one lucky commenter!


Hi all, I'm Pagan artist and writer Mickie Mueller.  Deborah invited me here to tell you all about how I created the interior illustrations for her upcoming book (that we're all very excited about) "The Witches Broom!"  Thanks Deborah!

It was a lovely October morning in 2013; the leaves outside my studio window were a golden orange, the same shade as the pumpkin on my porch.  My old wooden art table was freshly cleared off from my previous project Mystical Cats Tarot, and I was all ready to begin work on illustrations for the delightful book, “The Witch’s Broom” by my friend Deborah Blake.  I couldn’t have imagined a better time of year to pour over the witchy text and revel in the magic of broom lore! 
I fell in love with the cover art designed by John Kachik, I kept a print out of it prominently displayed as inspiration.  I wanted to make sure that I kept the cover art in mind while working on the interior illustrations. I felt that constant reminder of that cover would help retain continuity between the illustrations and the cover art.  I must admit, that I also loved looking at it!  The work on my art table that month was the best Samhain d├ęcor ever! 

 I gathered my supplies, for my interior illustrations I usually use a nice Bristol board with a super smooth surface.  My handy Staedtler Pro Mechanical Pencil is my weapon of choice when rendering my sketches, it’s like my magic wand, I’ve been using this one that was gifted to me by my dad for years. Staedtler also makes a great line of pens that I love to use for inking, my Pigment Fineliner set of four (0.1mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, & 0.7mm) has been my go-to inking choice for the last several books I’ve illustrated.
My first step is to go through the call out sheet for the sizes and descriptions and also refer to the books manuscript for extra cues as to what to include in each illustration. 

I lay out the sizes that I’ll need on the Bristol board, I “gang” them which means I will place several illustrations on a board, saving paper and time when they scan as well.  I’m sure to label each illustration in pencil so that they know what goes where when they lay out the book.  


First each illustration is sketched in pencil, then once approved by the Llewellyn art department and the editors; I begin inking over my penciled sketches. 


Once everything is inked, I wait about half hour to make sure the ink is good and dry, and I go over it with a kneaded eraser to remove all the pencil.  A half an hour is probably excessive, but all you have to do is smear one illustration, and you’re really careful after that! There is no white-out allowed in the process because it can show up in scans.  You get one chance when inking to get it right!

I was also was honored to be a contributing writer for this book.  In one of the “Real Witches, Real Brooms” sections I wrote about my personal magical brooms, how my old coven used brooms and my studio broom.  I was delighted to find a request to illustrate my studio broom for the book.  Here is my actual enchanted studio broom, and my illustrated version.  

When I saw the broom design Deborah described for a housewarming broom, I just had to include an unpacked box of books in the background.  Having recently moved into a new home that August, I had lots of those boxes marked “books” all over the house, it was a bit of a family inside joke.  I bet most Witches and Pagans have more boxes of books than anything else when they move too!

One of my favorite illustrations was the big splash page that spanned the first two pages in the book.  I was asked to illustrate a fantastic magical broom shop.  I saved it for last, like dessert! I dreamed of the vintage shopping district with cobblestone roads on Main Street in St. Charles Missouri where I have whiled away many hours shopping. I also imagined Diagon Ally from the Harry Potter books as well as every Pagan/Metaphysical shop I’ve ever visited. What I came up with is somewhere in between all those sources of inspiration, it’s a shop I would really like to visit.




I know you’ll enjoy The Witch’s Broom when you get it into your hot little hands, I sure can’t wait for my copy!  Now you have a little idea of what went into each magical illustration waiting on its pages that sweep across the pages of Deborah Blake’s new magical book, “The Witch’s Broom!”

Blessings from the old wooden art table,
Mickie Mueller

Mickie Mueller is an artist of Pagan myth and legend, creating images of faeries, gods, goddesses, witches, mages, and nature spirits. Both her art and writing have appeared in the Llewellyn periodicals. She is also the illustrator of The Well Worn Path and The Hidden Path decks and the writer/illustrator of The Voice of the Trees, A Celtic Ogham Oracle.  Her latest illustration project, the upcoming Mystical Cats Tarot is coming May 2014.

Drop by her blog and see what's new at the old wooden art table http://www.mickiemuellerart.blogspot.com/






Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Baba Yaga--guest post by Gail Wood

My writer pal Gail Wood put up a great post on her The Rowdy Goddess Blog about the mythology and spirituality of Baba Yaga, and how she and her coven were using Baba Yaga energy to help them get through the bitter winter. (She might have mentioned my name a time or two as well...) And since we've spent some time here talking about my Baba Yaga characters in the upcoming novels, I thought you folks might like to see it. Thanks for sharing, Gail!
(And no, that's not a picture of the lovely Gail, it's a picture by amazing artist Kinuko Y. Kraft of Baba Yaga. Silly people.)
http://rowdygoddess.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/baba-yaga-2.jpg

This eternal winter, dubbed the Polar Express by the press, has turned into a polar depression for many people.  The persistent cold and sudden snow squall is peppered by blizzards, traffic accidents, and cruel, teasing almost-thaws.  It can lay siege to our hearts and our nerves.  How do we melt our frozen wills?  By celebrating.

Our circle celebrates the hag.  We laugh, we kvetch, we keen, and we laugh some more.  Two of our witches have decided to bypass the wisdom of the crone and, as they say, “go straight to hag,” because the hag doesn’t care.  She wears what she likes, she says what’s on her mind, and she does as she pleases.  If children cross the street to avoid the hag’s house?  So what, the hag views that with glee!  And that is what the hag has become for us:  a woman of a certain age who stands in her power and acts as she wills.
Each quarter this year, we are identifying a Witch of legend and lore to celebrate and explore.  In the grip of a cold, harsh winter, we celebrate the Hag, Baba Yaga.

There is no character in folk-tales or mythology who is so irredeemable and wicked as Baba Yaga. She is a fearsome, ugly old hag who lives on the edge of the forest. Her house is surrounded by a fence of bones and topped with skulls whose eyes glow red in the dark. The house itself is set on chicken legs and can move around with great noise and frightening disruption.

The hag herself is not a pretty sight. Her nose is so large, it is said that it touches the ceiling when she sleeps. She has iron teeth and is frequently called, Baba Yaga Boney Legs. While she is said to have no control over the pure in heart, she does have a reputation for baking young children in her huge oven and crunching on their bones.

She rides around in a mortar using a pestle to propel her and when she arrives a great winds begins and stirs up the world around her. When she leaves, she removes all traces of herself with a broom made of silver birch. Sometimes her conveyance is a huge kettle. Other times, she appears as a kindly old crone, assisting people in distress.

Like so many legends and stories of the mythic creatures and the gods, there is great power underneath. Who was she before these stories; and who will she become as we work with her. The author Deborah Blake describes her journey of creating a modern-day story with Baba Yaga in it. You can read it at her blog. I am very much looking forward to reading her first novel published by a major house–it now has a cover.

As Blake points out, John and Caitlin Matthews in The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures have researched the story behind the story of Baba Yaga, pointing that although she is portrayed as an “archetypal bogey-woman, she is actually a primal goddess. The mortar and pestle are symbols of creation and destruction, and her broom cleanses and cleans.

She inhabits the borderlands, those places between life and death, the places between this world and other worlds. She gave Koshei the Deathless, a dragon with human shape, his mortality. She also controls another fire-breathing dragon, Chudo-Yudo who guards the Water of Life and death.  She has fierce companions and friends.  She befriends the friendless and empowers the powerless.  She is one of those teachers you strive to meet her standards, because she hold the bar high and demands your achievement.

It’s obvious she’s a great witch of power.  I met her during a healing journey.  She was fierce, strong, and in good fighting shape.  She gave me strong words of wisdom for my protection and healing.  I’m working through a lot of uncertainty and sorrow at this point in my life, and she made it clear that she was at my back.  She joked about the chicken legged house, saying a lot of disruption and noise is not a bad thing.  She changed her visage from kindly old crone, to girl, to hot chick and back to fearsome hag before me; and then told me people see what they need to see where she is concerned.  She gave me some advice about some of my struggles and then said “I leave that with you to do or not do.”  Then she gave me a very fierce hug and was off again.
Baba Yaga
I am the wild, untamed nature of the world
I am the whirling music of nature
And the strange heartbeat
Of life and death.
I fly the world in my vessel of change
Propelled by creation and destruction.
I sweep from this world to the others
Clearing and cleansing the way.
I am in love with the unusual
Finding beauty and interest in the odd.
Wonder and curiosity move me
From marvel to marvel.
Shift your vision and you will see it too!

May the paralysis you feel about certain things be melted in glee, delight, and fierce determination

You can find Gail on Facebook too. 



Saturday, February 22, 2014

And the Winner is...

Doreen Grogan won the mug! Yay, Doreen! But don't worry if you didn't win--I have one more mug, the cool notebook, and a number of the little broom magnets to give away. When do you think I should hold the next giveaway? (Hint--NOT tomorrow!) What will it be? FIVE of the refrigerator broom magnets! (Yes, so we will have five winners.) So keep your eyes open...

Congratulations to Doreen, and thanks to everyone who took part. I really appreciate your support!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Feline Friday: Magic and the Mug

As most of you know, I have been running a contest here for the last few days to give away a mug with the (extremely cool) cover of my upcoming book, The Witch's Broom, on it. Because the black cat on the cover looks so much like Magic the Cat (Queen of the Universe), I posted a picture with her sitting next to the mug. Some people thought she didn't look that impressed.
 Rebecca Elson, of The Magical Buffet has been to my house a time or two, and met Magic the Cat in person. This was her comment on the blog: It's true, everyone, that truly is Magic being impressed. I've seen unimpressed--every time I visit :-) (Sadly, she's not kidding...she and Magic have a love-hate relationship. Mostly Magic hates that Rebecca won't share her food.)

This is Magic REALLY being unimpressed.
It's true everyone, that truly is Magic being impressed. I've seen unimpressed....every time I visit. :) - See more at: http://deborahblake.blogspot.com/2014/02/giveaway-2-mug.html#comment-form
It's true everyone, that truly is Magic being impressed. I've seen unimpressed....every time I visit. :) More importantly, I gots to get me that mug. - See more at: http://deborahblake.blogspot.com/2014/02/giveaway-2-mug.html#comment-form
It's true everyone, that truly is Magic being impressed. I've seen unimpressed....every time I visit. :) More importantly, I gots to get me that mug. - See more at: http://deborahblake.blogspot.com/2014/02/giveaway-2-mug.html#comment-form
I don't think she cares who wins, as long as she gets treats. But I care!

You have until Midnight EST Friday night to enter the contest. The "tweet about this" option can be used every day. What are you waiting for? And don't forget to tell me what you would drink out of the mug, for extra points. I, of course, would fill it with steaming witch's brew. Magic, I'm assuming would just ask for a mug o' tuna. THE CONTEST BLOG

To preorder the book (currently on sale!) you can go HERE -- the book will be out on April 8th!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Giveaway #2--THE MUG!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


As promised, I am doing the next "swag" giveaway for my upcoming The Witch's Broom--this one featuring the fabulous mug I showed you last time!
 Here's Magic the Cat showing how impressed she is by the giveaway. (No, really, that's her impressed face. You should see what she looks like when she's not impressed.)
My apologies to all the out-of-the-USA folks--this one is for USA residents only (due to shipping costs). If you want to enter anyway, anyone out of the country who wins will get one of the cute little broom refrigerator magnets instead.
All you have to do is use the Rafflecopter form up above, and choose as many options as you want. Note that the "tweet about it" option can be used every day until the contest ends at midnight EST on Friday.

I hope you all have fun and tell all your friends! Good luck, and GO!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Pollyanna Winter

Looking down the driveway while shoveling. Again.

Years ago, when I was going to counseling to overcome long-standing depression issues, the fabulous psychologist I was seeing taught me one simple tool which made me look at the world differently. Not only did it help me to become a much happier person (lalalalalala), it changed the way I dealt with everyday frustrations. Like, you know, this Winter to End All Winters. (It is currently snowing. Again.)
Need some ice for your martini?

What's that? Oh, the simple tool was this: every time you have a negative thought, recognize you're having one, and replace it with something positive. For example... "I hate all this snow!" Oopsy, negative thought. "At least it's not sleeting!" [Hey, I told you it was simple. You were maybe expecting rocket science?]
Shoveling a path to the birdfeeders. Have been unable to train birds to do it themselves.

The only downside of this is that sometimes I tend to be a little Pollyanna about things. Always seeing the upside. Still, there are worse ways to live. Mind you, this winter has made it a bit difficult to stay positive at times, but I'm doing my best. If the bad weather is getting you down, here is my Pollyanna View of This Winter:

  1. Wherever you are, someone else probably has it worse. (Unless you're in Minnesota. Sorry, Elysia.)
  2. All this snow means we definitely don't have to worry about drought come summer.
  3. The bitter cold means less bugs like mosquitoes and ticks (which have been terrible here after a few mild winters in a row).
  4. The extended bitter cold also means less ragweed in the fall. (Huzzah!)
  5. Shoveling snow is like having your own personal gym, conveniently located right outside your door.
  6. It is really beautiful--especially when viewed from the couch while holding a cup of hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other. But seriously, beautiful.
  7. We'll REALLY appreciate spring when it finally gets here.
  8. It gives us an excuse to hide out and hibernate, taking some time to be quiet and introspective. (See #6, above)
  9. Harsh winters can make us truly appreciate all the modern conveniences we have to help us through. Think about doing this kind of winter without electricity, running water, or grocery stores. Not to mention indoor plumbing!
  10. If you like winter sports or making snowmen, you are really in luck!
  11. Only 31 days until the Spring Equinox! Not that anyone is counting...
Winter will never been my favorite season, but I try to appreciate it for its part in the Wheel of the Year, and go with the flow.
So, can you add to my Pollyanna Winter list? What is good about this winter for you, if you are in a place that's dealing with it?

Friday, February 14, 2014

COVER REVEAL Wickedly Dangerous!

I never do two posts in one day, but I finally got the okay to post the cover for the first Baba Yaga book, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS, and I just couldn't wait! 

I hope you all love it as much as I do! 

Meet Barbara Yager, the first of three Baba Yagas, and her dog (well, sort of, when he's not a dragon), Chudo-Yudo. And yes, that's the front of her classic BMW motorcycle you can see in the bottom right corner. Berkley did a FABULOUS job, and I couldn't be happier. 

So tell me, what do you think? Do you like it? Would you buy a book with this cover?

Deborah, who is over the moon.

Happy Valentine's Day to the Love of My Life

For those of you scratching your heads, and thinking, "Wait--there's a man in Deborah's life?" No, you haven't missed anything :-) I have, in fact, had two guys I would consider the two great romantic loves of my life. One of them has been dead for over 30 years, and the other is alive and well and living in Maine, and we're still friends. And while I haven't completely given up hope of finding lucky number three, so far guys who want to spend their lives with a back-country witch with five cats and a tendency to spend most of her time writing are pretty thin on the ground. Shocking, I know.

The great love of my life was really this woman:

That's my grandmother, Jeanette, fondly referred to for many years as Germambie (due to my inability as a child to say "Ger...andma") and then later called GG, short for Great-grandma, once my sisters had kids.

She was not just my greatest supporter and cheerleader, but also an amazing example of what one person can do with a "regular" life if she has enough determination. (Mind you, both my parents are great examples of that too.) She was a concert pianist in her youth, and a master weaver later in life. She married my grandfather, who was the love of her life in a romantic story against her father's wishes, and stayed by his side until he died of cancer in 1976. After that, although she missed him, she also gloried in living her life her way; she was a vegetarian, a life-long learner, and woke up every morning excited to see what the day might hold.

She died, a couple months shy of her 100th birthday, three years ago today. Thanks, Germambie...like Valentine's Day didn't suck enough for me already? (Snort.) In the end, I find that somehow fitting, because she was the personification of love for her family, all of whom adored her. One of the interesting things that we discovered after she died was that just about everyone had the feeling that they were her favorite. I know she was certainly mine.
That's one of the last pictures we took of her in her home in Schenectady, before she headed out to San Diego to live closer to my parents when she was 96. (And still driving, and doing her own shoveling, if my brother in-law didn't get over there soon enough to stop her. Did I  mention that she was a little stubborn?) That's me in the back, of course, next to my sister Sarah (whose own home is a block and a half away from where my grandmother used to live--a decision she and her husband Rich made on purpose, both so they could be around to help, and so their kids could grow up close to her). My niece Bri is on the left, and Addy (who had just made the funky scarf GG is wearing) is on the right.

I hope that on this Valentine's Day you have someone--romantic or not--to be one of the great loves of your life. If not, I'll loan you GG; she had enough love for everyone.

Miss you, Germambie.

And for those of you who complain when I skip Feline Friday, here are the current loves of my lives, in all their furry glory.



By the way...stay tuned because early next week, I'm going to have another swag giveaway! Which do you think I should do next--mug or notebook? And who is the greatest love of your life?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Price of Water



What is the price of water? At my house recently, it was $2,400—a rather large sum of money to deal with a rather small problem (tiny iron bacteria in my 340 foot deep well, which while harmless to humans, makes the water smell and taste bad, and builds up gunk inside pipes and appliances, all while staining everything it touches a charming reddish-brown). The money was to treat the water and then filter it. 

It wasn’t fun to hand over all that cash, but it got me thinking about the price of water. Most of us, me included, tend to think that water is free. After all, it can be found just lying around in lakes, streams, and oceans, and falls from the sky as rain. If you turn on your faucet, water comes out. What could be easier?
True, if you own a house in a city or town, you will probably pay some kind of water tax; essentially paying the city to take make sure that the water is clean and safe to drink, and doesn’t have nasty little critters like iron bacteria in it. Folks like me who live in the country sometimes have to pay to have a well dug, if there isn’t one on the property, or the one you have runs dry.

But that’s not the real cost of water. When I started really thinking about it, I realized that in our modern world, there are all sorts of hidden costs, many of which our ancestors never dealt with.
Not that water came without a price for them—on the contrary, they were well aware of how precious it was. If they wanted water to drink, they carried it by hand from wells, or used pumps that required actual muscle. If the rains were scarce, they irrigated their fields by hand, dragging water from nearby sources if they had them. And there was no guarantee that there would be water for crops, or even to drink. Little wonder that they prayed to gods who controlled the weather, and prized water as one of the four great elements.

These days, we don’t have to work nearly as hard for our water, but that very fact has led us to disconnect ourselves from the price we pay to have our modern lifestyle. We have polluted many of our precious sources of water with runoff from chemicals from manufacturing, as well as chemical fertilizers (not just from huge factory farms, but also smaller farms, and regular folks who want perfect lawns).

And then there are the manufacturing plants. According to the World Wildlife Federation, “It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans.”[1] That’s a pretty pricy outfit.

One of the hot-button topics these days, especially in upstate New York where I live, is fracking—hydraulic fracturing, which is a technique which is used to access natural gas in shale deposits under the surface of the land. Fracking uses many poisonous chemicals, and the natural gas itself can end up breaking through and contaminating the groundwater in a huge area surrounding the wells. Most people know that, and either think it is plenty safe, or very dangerous, depending on which side of the argument they come down on. But what you hardly hear anyone talk about is the fact that the process uses thousands of gallons of water—which is then too contaminated to be used again for drinking or crops.

Much of the United States is currently in the middle of an ongoing drought which shows no sign of ending anytime soon. Farmers and ranchers in the Midwest are at risk of losing everything, and the loss of corn crops and cattle have already driven up the cost of food. There’s a price to that water as well. Droughts have decimated other countries too, especially those of third world countries. It is estimated that over a billion people across the world don’t have access to clean, drinkable water.

Human beings have built huge cities in what was previously uninhabitable desert land. My parents and sister live in San Diego, a beautiful city where fifty percent of their water is brought in from the Colorado River, another thirty percent comes from the Bay-Delta in Northern California, and a mere twenty percent comes from local supplies. According to the San Diego County Water Authority, “Local surface water runoff from rainfall is an important part of the San Diego region’s water supply, but it hasn’t provided enough water to meet all of the region’s needs since 1947.”[2]

There are plenty of other examples for how human beings are using and abusing this precious natural resource, but I think you see my point. Water isn’t really free after all. There is a price in water attached to every action we take, every decision we make in our day-to-day life.

The point of all this musing, brought on by my own unexpected confrontation with the hidden realities of dealing with water, was not to depress you. It’s not a political statement of any kind, or even an environmental rant. (Although believe me, I could give you one of those if you wanted it.)

It’s nothing more than a gentle reminder that in our own way, we are as dependent on the precious element of water as our ancestors were. And although we may have easier access and the ability to move water to the places where we want it—some of the time, within serious limitations—this only increases our need to use it wisely.

We can all do this in little ways every day, with very little sacrifice. Buy your produce from organic farmers who don’t use chemical fertilizers. Instead of getting new clothes each time you want a new outfit, pick up something gently used from a consignment store. Keep your own water sources as clean and protected as possible. Don’t try to grown the perfect lawn, and focus on plants that grow naturally in your area, since they are usually designed to work in that particular ecosystem. Do a little research and become better educated about the price of water in the modern world.

As Pagans, I believe we have a responsibility to be mindful of the planet we live on, and how we treat its gifts—earth, air, fire, and water among them. We can’t always change the big picture issues (although we can certainly try), but we can be more conscious about our own patterns and choices.

Yes, there are many ways in which water is free and readily accessible, and that is a wonderful thing. But in some ways, it also comes with a cost, and not just if you happen to have iron-eating parasites in your damn well.

Friday, February 7, 2014

WINNER! Okay, TWO WINNERS!

I couldn't believe the response to my previous post on swag, along with a small contest. I got over 650 page views and we had more than 80 entries to the contest. I think you like the swag! (And I guess no one thought I went overboard.)

I was so happy about the response, I decided to pick TWO WINNERS! And if you didn't win this time, don't worry...there will be lots more chances as we close in on the book release on April 8th.

Drumroll, please.....thanks to random.org....the winners are:

LYNN SOREL and PAGE PENNINGTON
Congrats, ladies. They both said they wanted one of the little broom magnets, and so they shall have them! Ladies, email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo and let me know where to send them.

What do you think...should I do another giveaway next week, or is that too soon?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SWAG!!!! GIVEAWAYS #1! The Witch's Broom

Okay, it is just possible I got a smidge carried away. (Ahem.) Just a teeny tiny bit. I know--how unusual for me.

The thing is, my next Llewellyn book, The Witch's Broom, is coming out in just over 2 months. The release date is April 8th. *bounce bounce bounce* Yes, this is not exactly the first book I ever had come out. Heck--it's actually the 7th. (Blinks. How is that possible?) But I really loved the way it turned out, and the cover is THE BOMB.
Seriously. How could you not like that? Even Magic the Cat approves, for obvious reasons. (No, it isn't a picture of her...the idea came from an old postcard image my fabulous editor Elysia Gallo found online. But if it makes the cat happy, who am I to argue?) And there seems to be A LOT of excitement from my readers about it, although I don't know whether that is due to the topic, the cover, or some other reason. (I heard a rumor that some people actually like my writing, but that can't be it.)

I always try and get something fun to do a giveaway contest or two with, leading up to the release date. Eventually, I'll also give away a book or two, but I won't have my copies for a while yet; they haven't even gone off the printer yet, as far as I know. And because this cover is So Damned Cool, I ordered a few extra things to give away. I might have gone a little overboard. What do you think?
 I've got a ton of the business cards with a picture of the cover, and some matching postcards. They both say "Coming April 8th, 2014" at the bottom, and as you can see, the back of the postcard also has a picture of Magic the Cat. If you want one or both, email me at magicmysticminerva at yahoo and I'll be happy to send you one. If you happen to own a shop or a bookstore and want extras, just let me know. I have 100 of the business cards as magnets (between the mug and the notebooks)--if you want one of those, they will be given away first-come-first-served!

I'll also be sending a bunch of the cards, magnets, and postcards to Pantheacon with Elysia, held in San Jose in the middle of this month, so if you're there, look around for them.

Elysia will also have a few of the little broomstick refrigerator magnets you can see to the right. Here's a close up of them and the mug.
Aren't they COOL? I saw the origin on Etsy, where a woman named Willow Dancer makes all sorts of fun stuff at her shop, Willow Creek Herb Company on Etsy And she very kindly worked with me to come up with something special just for this book. Notice the little cat charm on the front of the broom. I will have a few of these to give away on the blog, and I'm sending a few of those with Elysia for Pantheacon, too. (I only got 25 of those, and a few are going to people like my editors, and my uber-researcher, Sierra.)

I only got two mugs, since they're pricier and harder to ship. Maybe I should start the giveaway with one of them? I also got two cool lined notebooks with the book cover on front. Maybe I should start with them?

Did I mention I might have gotten carried away?

Which is your favorite bit of swag? Tell me which things you like the best, and I will pick someone at random at the end of the day tomorrow (Thursday 6th) and send them whatever they picked out. (If you're outside of the USA, I will have to limit what I send to the small stuff...sorry.)

Please spread the word, both about the swag and the book itself. If you want to preorder the book, you can go here:
Amazon (Where the book is on a pre-release sale at $11.95!)
B&N (Also on sale!)
Llewellyn

So, do you think I got too carried away? And which is your favorite?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Imbolc: Light in the Midst of Darkness

Most folks know February 2nd as Groundhog Day, when a furry critter is hauled out of a hole to predict the length of time remaining until spring, based on whether or not he sees his shadow. Of course, for us witchy types, the 2nd is Imbolc,a quarter-cross holiday (midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) that celebrates the first stirring of life under the quiescent earth. Along the way, the day also transmuted into the Christian Candlemas.

What do all these holidays have in common? They are focused on that small light in the midst of the winter darkness. For many of us, winter means cold and dark. Think how much more impact that had on our ancestors, whose only light came from candles, lanterns, and the flames of their fires. By the beginning of February, the food they'd fought hard to preserve for the lean winter months was probably starting to run low, and it may have seemed as though spring would never come.

My cupboards are full, but I know exactly how they felt!

The name Imbolc has Celtic origins, and means (depending on the source) "in the belly," "fire in the belly," or "ewe's milk." The essence of the word is two-fold: the stirring of seeds in the belly of the earth, and the literal milk in the belly that resulted from the arrival of the first lambs, and the milk their mother produced, which often meant the difference between starvation and survival.

These days, we don't need sheep's milk to survive, thankfully. But we can all use a little bit of light when things are dark. For me, the theme of this holiday has always been simple--hope. That little glimmer of a candle's flame in the dim, cold night of winter.

Imbolc is a good time to look inward and choose the seeds to nurture in your own metaphorical belly. Sit in the darkness and think about what you want to work on in the year to come. Where will you focus your energy? What changes can you make to bring the most light into your own world? I like to pick three focus words that I can come back to over and over in the coming months. This year, my words are these: Balance, healing, and success.

What three words would you choose? If you need some guidance, this is a good holiday to use quick and easy divination [I blogged about that earlier, if you need some suggestions]. Light a candle and sit quietly, emptying your mind as much as possible. Then ask the gods/the universe what you should be focusing on in the coming year, and pull a couple of rune stones or tarot cards. Alternately, if you have some ideas but can't narrow them down to three, put all the words or phrases on individual pieces of paper and pull three of them out of a bowl.

Of course, you don't have to use three words. You could use one, or two, or four. The idea is to plant the seeds for your own growth in this quiet time, before the energy shifts and we have to start moving forward more dynamically. Don't limit yourself to small goals either. Think about what you really want, really need to grow and prosper in the year to come. Be your own light of hope, no matter how dark things might be.

And here's hoping that spring comes soon!

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