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Article Specs

Article ID: 8430

VoxAcct: 147939

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 5,680

Times Read: 5,275

Creating Sanctuary

Author: StormDancer for Mandala
Posted: April 24th. 2004
Times Viewed: 5,275

For my family and me, Magickal Gardening is about creating Sanctuary. When I was a teenager living in the suburbs my father and I would frequently daydream about living on a farm. We visualized a barn, a rambling farmhouse, a vegetable garden and definitely, woods. We would protect the trees and create a haven far from the madding crowd. After I graduated high school, Mom and Dad bought an old house on a large lot. It had a small barn, enough room for a vegetable garden and a small section of woods at the back of the property. Not quite a farm, it was close enough to one for Dad and close enough to civilization for Mom. I got married soon after and moved into an apartment, but managed to help out with Dad's vegetable gardens and realize my love for gardening.

Fast forward twenty-four years. My family and I lived in a small town on a corner lot in a big Victorian that needed lots of work, inside and out. Although I had gardened previously, our Magickal Gardening started there. What made it Magickal? Our respect for the Earth had deepened, our sense of responsibility had grown, our desire to leave the land a better place for having lived on it had blended with our eclectic Wiccan, Native American Shamanic and Norse spirituality. The main difference is that we recognize the land as sacred and plant our Gardens with intent.

We planted the yard with a variety of plants: herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruit because we had learned diversity is healthier. We were already blessed with a few large trees, the standing people. We wanted to create habitat for whatever we could, so we added a birdbath and birdfeeder, planted flowers to attract the flying ones. Butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, cardinals, bluejays and more visited our gardens. We bought a field guide to identify the many birds whose songs and flashes of color brightened our days. My husband brought home endangered praying mantis egg sacks ­ once.

And yet, the old dream of a farm with a rambling house, barn, vegetable garden and trees I could protect would not let me go. After much reflection and six years there, we removed the crystal from the widow's walk, removed some layers of protection from the house and put it on the market. We sold our suburban haven to a family who loved it almost as much as we did and decided to find our dream and expand our Sanctuary.

For us, Sanctuary is a place we and others are free to be ourselves as we consciously work to mentally, spiritually and physically improve. It is a place we are comfortable, accepted and loved, nurtured and protected. It is a place we can commune with nature and be renewed and refreshed by Her beauty and bounty. It is a place we can celebrate our beliefs, honor our Gods and be reminded of those things we hold sacred. Sanctuary is a synthesis of Spirit and site, heart and hand.

We searched for a place that would help foster those feelings and that we could lovingly enhance through conscious choice, will and hard work.

After we found it, we went back for a second look with my parents. Mom fell in love with the large German Shrunk in the living room that would stay with the house and Dad was so enamored of the place the owner thought they were the ones looking at the property. We loved it too. It took six long months to finally achieve our goal. Almost daily Tarot readings indicated the only way we would receive our desire was to work Magick and focus more on our spirituality. We knew when we received this gift it would require an ongoing commitment to live spiritually and build on the Magick of the land.

When we moved in on Winter Solstice, Dad signed the housewarming card, "Congratulations on attaining your dream - and mine."

We've enhanced our Magickal Sanctuary with special garden areas and plan more as time and budget allows.

The Kuan Yin Garden, dedicated to this Goddess of Compassion, is behind Toad Hall, a one-room many-purposed retreat. It is named for the anonymous quote "Never underestimate the power of a woman or the usefulness of a toad," and the toads that jumped onto and sat on my skirt as we built it. A large window in Toad Hall overlooks the statue of Kuan Yin. Her presence is a constant reminder that one woman's love and compassion can be a powerful force. Her presence imbues Toad Hall with calming peaceful energy. Her statue is surrounded by shade-loving plants with calming colors, except for the tall orange lily that comes as a joyful surprise in late summer. Japanese Maple, Columbine, Bleeding Heart, Dwarf Iris, Hosta, Echinacea and Bee Balm add their energies to the space.

The Vineyard Path leads to a woodland trail. We planted three varieties of grapes on the hillside. At the beginning of the first row we put a pergola, painted purple. A plaque of Bacchus is perfectly at home here. At the end of the path is a rustic archway. Its posts are painted pale purple and the arch is made of a downed cedar trunk, reverently utilizing a fallen tree and creating a transition area from cultivated area to wild woods.

The Friendship Garden has plants favored by and given to us by friends at our first annual Maypole Dance. Plants here were given and received with love and remind us of the Magick of our relationships. The Friendship Garden flows into the small Smudging Herb Garden. We have Sage and Russian Sage growing there and plan to add Sweetgrass.

We even have an Outhouse Garden: "We might as well make it a focal point!" We painted the old outhouse bright blue and use it as a tool shed. We've had Delphinium, Cosmos, Hosta and Passion Flower Vine growing there. Beautifying the land, creating a positive from a negative, is an act of love and devotion to the Gods, the Earth and our fellow beings.

The Culinary Gardens are enclosed to keep the "scratching for bugs in the newly planted patch/ripe-vegetable-loving" chickens out during the growing season. We have raised beds separated by gravel paths for easy tilling and access. The beds are subdivided with concrete paving stones, allowing us to access plants in the middle without compacting our growing soil. We compost, mulch, weed by hand or hoe, and never use pesticides or chemicals in our Gardens. We bless the Garden before planting each Spring, and bless the seeds or plants before putting them into the soil. We have fun by writing blessings and affirmations with colored chalk on the concrete pavers. We respect the Earth, the plants and the energy of the site and in return we receive quiet hours of contemplation in the garden, exercise, fresh air and food that is nutritious, beautiful, healing and exceptionally tasty.

The Courtyard Garden was inspired by Feng Shui, to fill an empty area. Now enclosed by two exterior walls, trellis and an arched gate, it is accessed from the house through a new leaded glass door. Feverfew, Sweet Woodruff to flavor May wine, Hosta and Lady Ferns join annually-changing annuals in the rock-lined beds around the perimeter of the Courtyard. Clematis Nairobi climbs the trellis wall as does one grape vine. Favorite annuals are Snapdragons, Strawflowers, Moonflower and Vinca Vines, Petunias and Dusty Miller. We've added benches, lanterns, a table and chairs and chiminea to make this special place a favorite relaxation area for our family and friends. After our group celebrates the Sabbats, the Courtyard Garden is a popular destination after making music and singing around the fire pit. A statue of a faery holding a bouquet of flowers reminds us to thank the Devas for the beauty that surrounds us.

On the other side of the house are the Maypole Circle, Ritual Circle, Ancestor Shrine, Fire Pit and the beginning of another trail leading to the myriad wild spaces in the woods that provide habitat and safe haven for the many creatures sharing this Sanctuary with us.

We erected a Maypole for our first Beltane on this land and have celebrated with a Dance every year since. We focus on fertility and healing of the land as we dance and build community. Our first Samhain here, we created the Ancestor Shrine. A large Sycamore tree had been cut down many years ago and new growth had sprung from the trunk. The new growth is now a tree. Moss covers the large old stump. New life springs from death; the cycle continues. We added Crystals and dedicated the area to the Ancestors. Between the Maypole and the Ancestor Shrine, appropriately, is our Ritual Circle. Our group, Mandala, celebrates Sabbats here by a small creek.

One of our techniques for Magickal Sanctuary is to leave well enough alone. Some areas don't need or want enhancing. Their energy is wild; we leave it that way. Sometimes the best thing you can do is recognize, listen to and honor sacred sites.

We protect the trees. Sometimes this means having to cut one down for the health of the trees around it. When this happens, we explain to the tree why we're cutting it and leave an offering for the spirit of the tree, usually cornmeal or a special stone.

Co-creating Sanctuary by gardening Magickally reminds us of our origins in Spirit which helps us more wisely choose our personal paths. We are restored and renewed in nature and resonate with All Our Relations. Here we are reminded that even as everyday life hustles and bustles around us, somewhere a lizard suns itself on a rock, waves crash onto a secluded beach, wind caresses leaves, trillium grow deep in the woods, and Spirit moves through everything. We are connected. Blessed Be.

Trish Breedlove


StormDancer for Mandala

Location: Bethel, Ohio

Author's Profile: To learn more about StormDancer for Mandala - Click HERE

Bio: Trish Breedlove is a Gardener and Witch. She has a Fundamentals of Permaculture Design Certificate and teaches workshops on Garden Design, Witches' Gardens, and Creating Herb Gardens. Trish lives and gardens on nearly eight acres of Sanctuary registered with the Cortesia Sanctuary Project and serves as a Priestess of Mandala. Trish's first Witchvox essay was on the Magick of GemStones in 2002; this is her second. She and Edred Breedlove are the authors of a Wiccan novel, Dancer of the Dead, published in August, 2003. Trish is nearing completion on A Witches' Garden, a book on creating Magickal Sanctuaries.

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