Hollow Hills Coven & Grove

an independent coven dedicated to teaching wicca and magic in hearth & home, coven & craft, tribe & tradition

   Apr 29

Spring Cleaning

Well it’s that time of year again! Actually, Spring came early to us here in Minnesota, after an extremely mild winter. While we haven’t been able to post as often as we would like, we have been extremely busy keeping up with Coven duties. Our Spring Equinox ritual went well. With the mild weather it was held outside and the last Esbat was held outside also. A few new people, and a Sky Stone elder have been by to visit. Our first class of the pre-initiate cycle was held as well.

Today we are getting ready for our May Day Celebration, which we are holding on the evening of May 1st. So today is all about cleaning house and setting up the space outside in preparation for that. It will be a long day, as I have to work late before circle. For some reason I found myself challenged by a too confusing schedule. Timing is everything, and Spring growth has brought a few time weeds in with the planting apparently. I am working on the finishing touches of our official coven logo/illustration.  We may be doing a re-design of the website when that is ready to go. The picture for this blog is my Avatar, an original drawing I did several years ago. It suits me now as Jenny Green.

So today I have an event to post, a house to clean, laundry to do, and hopefully a nap before dinner. A witch’s work is never done!


   Feb 26

Happy Holidays! (Jaiegunak Onak!) And have a Grand 2012!

Halloween & Thanksgiving & Christmas

New Year's Eve

As Witches and pagans in the U.S. our big Holiday Season begins not with Thanksgiving Day like most Americans but with Halloween, which is also our New Year’s Eve these days. But since we are Americans and usually have a lot of Christian relatives so it does mean this very busy season continues to the Christian New Year’s Day on January 1st. Four major Holidays in just over two months, two involving major shopping, all involving special foods, drinks and decorations, whew! It can get very busy which is a big part of why we haven’t posted for a bit. Sorry!

While Witches now love and joyfully celebrate Halloween and certainly won’t give it up, I certainly don’t want too! (Mmmm candy! Did you have the new Spider’s Eggs this year?) However the evidence is mounting that it is a holiday we Wiccans (or as I prefer Hwiccaens) adopted from the Celts long ago, perhaps even as long ago as 2000 years! Just as Gerald Gardner pointed out 50 years ago archeologists have now demonstrated the primary axis of the Megalithic year (c. 4000 years ago) is along the Winter and Summer Solstices, not the Celtic Samhain/Beltane axis. Stonehenge is the prime example. These were pre-Indo European farming tribes. Then came the first Indo-Europeans around 1200 B.C., cattle herding pastoral nomadic bronze using warriors who later became the Spanish, the Celts, the Germans, the Slavs, Latins and Greeks. The Basque are the last surviving descendants of those pre-Indo-European farming tribes in Western Europe with a relatively intact language and culture. Both of which are very different in very interesting ways from the Indo-European norm. The Basque have several names for what we call ‘Halloween’: Domusantu egunaren bezpera {lit. All Saint’s Day Eve}, which is to be expected in a Catholic country. Though they converted relatively late and were a border country with Moorish Spain for seven centuries or so before they finally went for the Pope. Then after Pierre De Lancre’s Crusade against the Basque Witches (The Sorginak) in 1600, one of the smokiest chapters in the Burning Times, the Church was firmly in control.

The next of the other two names I found were Urriaren azken eguna {lit. October’s End Day} and it doesn’t look like our Halloween is celebrated there. In fact it’s Mushroom Days” in the Basque province of Bizkaya. Bereziki haurrei zuzendutako jai[a] {lit. (The) Special Children’s Corrected Holiday??) is the most obscure of all three names, it may have something to do with education but all my web searches seem to be dead ends. I need to talk to a Basque person at this point but this holiday is minor compared to our Halloween. Likewise Thanksgiving is called Estatu Batuetako eskertza eguna which means the “United States’ Thanksgiving Day”. The Basque do seem however to be interested in the American form of Halloween, a number of Basque bloggers are commenting on how fun it is these days.

Olentzero brings toys for the children.

Winter Solstice and Christmas however is a whole different matter in the Basque Country. The Winter Solstice (Negumuga or Zubillaro) and Christmas (Eguberi or Gabonak) are among the most popular of Basque Holidays. The only other one that comes close is the Summer Solstice or ‘Udamuga’ which supports that Winter Solstice Summer Solstice axis notion I mentioned above. They even have their own Santa Claus named ‘Olentzero’ and Christmas trees are called Eguberri zuhaitzak (New Day Trees). Now some legends say that Olentzero was the last of the ‘Jentiliak’, the giants that built the stone rings and other megalithic structures. Zorionak is ‘Best Wishes’ or ‘Congratulations’ in Basque and Feliciadades is Spanish for the same.

The Basque ‘Christmas’ transliterated should be Kristaumeza just as the English Christmas is from Christ – Mass, but it’s not what they use. The Basque for Requiem Mass is Hilmeza, funeral is Hileta and tombstone or cenotaph is Hilarri so they have used ‘-mass’ or ‘-meza’; the ‘z’ is s as in hiss in Basque, not z as in zoo. They chose both Eguberri for Christmas, which is literally ‘New Day’ from Egu – ‘day’ prefix and berri – new, recent or news and Gabonak (Good Nights) for Christmas (Gabon! = Good Night!) rather like the Scandanavian ‘Yule’ or ‘Wheel’ for Christmas which originally was used for the pagan Winter Solstice. They simply preferred to use the older term. New Day makes perfect sense if the pagan New Year began at the Winter Solstice and since the Basque traditional festival calendar seems to support the solstice axis this fits. Also The Good Nights or Gabonak (-ak ending is the plural) for Christmas also links to the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night of the year, which one would certainly hope would be good.

The Basque also have an interesting ‘Yule’ Log custom, this chunk of wood is called subil or zubil and it is the tradition of “beating the Yule log “. The log is brought to the house under a cloth blanket. The relatives and the children say a prayer towards the log, then each of them beats the log three times with a small branch. When the blanket is removed the Yule log is exhibited together with candles and cakes. It is unclear whether this is a native tradition or an early import. The Christmas Tree – Eguberri zuhaitza, does appear to be an import. Here are some more Basque Christmas terms: Gabonabesti – Christmas Carol also Gabonkantari – Christmas Caroler; Gabonkantu – Christmas Carol; Gabonaldi – Christmas Time, Holiday Season; Gabonjaiak – Christmas Holidays; Gabonegun – Christmas Day; Gabonetako – Christmas…(adj.); Gabongau – Night of Christmas Eve; Gagonsari – Christmas present or bonus

Curiously Gabonzahar is also a term for New Year’s Eve, the Gregorian Christian New Year’s Eve. This says to me that the Winter Solstice was the old New Year’s before Christianity came to the Basque. Happy New Year’s in Basque is “Urte Berri On!” Another old custom is of boys gathering water in the last minutes of the old year, Urtezar (New Year’s Eve). Then after midnight bringing home the ‘ur berria’, the new water for the family and village. If the returning boys can find a family in bed so soon on this special night they splash cold water on them to wake them up! I think I like ours of a simple party of light drinking and making noise at midnight and kissing that special someone lots better. Either way from Hollow Hills Coven…

“Urte Berri On!”


   Sep 18

Now It is Time That Gods Came Walking Out

Now it is time that gods came walking out
of lived-in Things…….
Time that they came and knocked down every wall
inside my house. New page. Only the wind
from such a turning would be strong enough
to toss the air as a shovel tosses dirt:
a fresh-turned field of breath. O gods, gods!
who used to come so often and are still
asleep in the Things around us, who serenely
rise and at wells that we can only guess at
splash icy water on your necks and faces,
and lightly add your restedness to what seems
already filled to bursting: our full lives.
Once again let it be your morning, gods.
We keep repeating. You alone are source.
With you the world arises, and your dawn
gleams on each crack and crevice of our failure…
~ Ranier Maria Rilke


   Aug 28

The Right Path

You know you’re on the right path when you go to the lumberyard and find a book on witchcraft. Right now you’re probably thinking we found a used bookstore along the way, or found it in the trunk of the car, but that’s not the case. Used books were for sale at the lumberyard for 50 cents each, and one of them was The Magic Cauldron – Witchcraft for Good and Evil by Margaret F. O’Connell. First published in 1975, we got the second printing 1976. So we left the lumberyard with a box of shake shingles to replace the warped and cracked ones on our house, and three books.

It’s a lovely hardcover with blue fabric about the color of denim, and it contains a history of witchcraft as well as an account of witchcraft in modern times. Lovely old woodcuts and illustrations abound, and I’m looking forward to reading it. When we got home, we proceeded to replace some shingles, scrape old paint, and do some weeding in the garden. Keeping up an older home is a lot of work, with a good deal of trial and error, trips to lumberyards and hardware stores, mosquito bites and other frustrations. But it’s part of being human, and therefore part of being a Good Witch.

This amazing little “coincidence” preceded the nights work: a dedication ritual for a new student. Our first official dedicant as a matter of fact. The weather was perfect and the stars were out, and following the ritual we hung out around the fire. A good time was had by all which is how it should be.

Encouraged by our unexpected book blessing and our first official student, we are looking forward many more nights under the stars and around the fire, doing good work and walking the path of magic. It’s what witches do.


   Jul 25

A Few Words About Elves

When you mention elves to most Americans, small animated white haired men who live in trees and make cookies come to mind. Or, for the fantasy lovers, the tall gracious elves of The Lord of The Rings who bring wonders and enchantments spring to life.

But when you talk to the Norse peoples, mischevious nature spirits who must be respected and not disturbed are their experience. Case in point:

Icelandic town hopes angry elves have been soothed by songs

Local residents sang songs and said prayers in honour of the peeved hidden folk and elves this week in an effort to smooth ruffled feathers. Dynamiting began again midweek following a nasty incident, reported here, where rocks and soil rained down on Bolungarvik.

Some people pointed the finger of blame on angry elves who had finally snapped. The dynamiting for the town’s new avalanche defence barrier comes less than a year after a new road tunnel through the Oshlid hill was completed — neither of which with the prior blessing of the hidden people

Part of the path of the Hollow Hills Coven is working with Elves and other Gentle Folk to live in harmony with them and with nature. The history of the Wiccan people include a time when they lived in round earth homes, which some people termed the hollow hills. Our magical ancestors became confused with their partners in nature, the Faerie folk and the Elves. Or they may have joined them. Either way, we have learned not to piss off the Faeries. There is even a plaque to that effect here in my Reiki & Music Room.

They were the original Hidden People, and the wise ones learned their ways well. Being half Norwegian myself, I have been working on building a good relationship with the Elves in my area. But a quick search brought me to what might make a nice weekend trip, Valley of the Elves in Wisconsin!


   Jul 05

A Week in the Woods

I really need to talk about the Earth House Midsummer Gather that we attended in Wisconsin. This was my first full week at a pagan gathering, and I was really excited about it. Spending a week living in a pagan community is an extremely empowering time. With so many people to talk to, workshops to go to, and the nightly community bonfire, it’s hard to know where to begin exactly, but I’ll try.

It began with a long drive on Sunday June 19th, about 5 hours including a stop for a meal. We arrived just as the opening ritual was finishing, bummer! We picked out a spot to pitch our tent and got to work unloading and getting things set up. Our new tent neighbors were a big help, since we had a brand new tent we had never put up before. It was bigger than we thought it was going to be, which is just fine with me! We actually had room for our queen sized blow-up mattress and a couple of folding chairs and a table.

We received a very warm welcome from familiar faces and a few new ones too. That first night was kind of a blur, but I’m sure we spent some time around the fire, I can’t remember if I joined in on the drum jam that night or not.  Our tent was right across the dirt road from the community fire and ritual space, so it made it really easy to pick up our camp chairs and join in the fun.

The campgrounds themselves were truly beautiful, and there were even showers and real toilets and sinks at one end of the grounds. It was truly wonderful for my first full week out camping. The amenities sure help!

Each day began with Rick’s Cafe. While lying in my tent listening to the birds each morning, there was a 7 a.m. call out saying “It’s Coffee, Hot Water too” so I knew it was time to get up, get dressed, grab a coffee cup and my camp chair and stumble down to Rick’s. Usually I would wait for the sound of laughter before I got down there, so I would be assured of a good time.

After that there would be time for breakfast back at the campsite, and then the morning meeting with announcements. The first workshop would be at 10:30, then time for lunch and the next workshops would be at 1  and then 3. There was plenty of time to sit and talk, prepare meals, wander the grounds, browse the vendors which were scattered about everywhere rather than in one location.

There was rain almost every night, and some drizzling or mist most mornings, but it was cool and comfortable rather than muggy which was nice. A couple of days saw us taking refuge under canopies or the lodge for large events due to rain. The mosquitos are not as plentiful in Wisconsin as in Minnesota, which is a good thing, though it still did require attentive applications of insect repellent.

The rituals were lovely, the drumming was magical, the brewing contest tasting was fantastic, and when the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance went up the hill one night, they were joined by many of the Good Folk and Old Ones. As pagan gathers go, this is a small one with about 78 people in attendance. Many of us were there for the first time, and found ourselves quite at home in a village of friends. There was laughter much of the time, fun things for both adults and children to do, and fun times just sitting around talking.

I even got to bring out my trusty Autoharp and sing some songs around the fire with Bear of Folk Magic which was a really good time for me. :) Saturday night brought us the Barbarian feast followed by the Talentless Contest which was completely hilarious.

When the final morning came along, I knew that I’d be taking a piece of the gather home with me. I can’t recommend this gather highly enough. If you’ve never been to a gather, this is a great place to start. If you’ve been to some huge gathers, this is a great place to come home to. It’s one community, no drama, all ages welcome. It  was a wonderful week in the woods. Blessed Be!


   Jun 03

Sorginorratzak

A common joke in Minnesota is that the State Bird is the Mosquito. Actually it’s the Common Loon, Great Northern Loon or Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer) but we have a lot more mosquitoes than loons even if you include all the Homo sapiens. Being a partial fan of the Archdruid Report and Green applications in daily life we have decided that biological controls for the evil, flying vampire bitches from Minnesota would be the best approach. There are 170 species of mosquitoes in North America and over 50 in Minnesota, such as Culex pipiens. There are over 3500 species worldwide! Their primary predators are bats (Chiropterae), purple martins (Progne subis) and my favorite: mosquito hawks or dragonflies (Odanatae). There are about 140 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Minnesota. So when we were working on the yard last weekend it was nice thinking about what we want to do for the gardens while swatting at the mosquitoes driven out of the long grass as I mowed it. I’m also seriously thinking about participating in The Minnesota Odonata Survey Project (MOSP).

Our plan for our last garden, the East garden will include some native plants, a complex water feature and a dragonfly hatchery. Building a few bat houses first to put up in the big Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) will be relatively easy in comparison. The bats will control at night and the dragonflies during the day. When I attended the Rainbow Gathering the summer of 1990 in Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota the bats and dragonflies did their job phenomenally well. I never forgot that. The State of Minnesota on the other hand regularly uses chemicals to control mosquitoes. I remember as a kid the trucks driving by fogging the area for them. If you want to live as Green as possible with a minimum of chemicals then you use local Biological Pest Control wherever possible or fast biodegradable chemical applications like nicotine as an insecticide, which degrades in a matter of a few days for example.

Another item that was a big boost for me was what I found while I was studying Basque Language and Culture as the only surviving Pre-Indo-European society in Western Europe. The old Basque pagan beliefs (they are largely Catholic now) offers many clues as to what pre-Celtic and and pre-Nordic paganism was like. Anyway I discovered the Basque word for ‘dragonfly’ was ‘sorginorratz’ which literally means ‘witches’ needle’ Wow! How cool is that! The plural, ‘dragonflies’ would be ‘sorginorratzak’ in Basque hence the title for today’s blog. So with all that I decided what I wanted to build is essentially a solar powered dragonfly hatchery water feature with four aquaria for minnows, goldfish and such for the larvae, an Odanate Tetraquarium so to speak.

A common Twelve-spotted Lake Darner that landed on the house the summer of 2009


   May 29

A Bit of Earth

Easy Methods for Every Gardener

Yesterday was very productive for yard work . Forecasts of rain were greatly exaggerated, and it was beautiful and partly cloudy for most of the day. Jack mowed the lawn while I dug around our front bush garden to set a border of stones. We have three peonies: pink, white & red double blossom zebra, and red; and a large old lilac in with dark purple blossoms which were planted by Jack’s mother years ago. Last year we added a crimson barberry and a goldflame spirea, and I just added a white azalea this year. I may plant some annual flowers for color, but it’s possible I will run out of steam after the last block is set and the garden is thoroughly mulched. There are five more blocks to set and that part of the job is done. Our city has a site with free wood chips for mulch, so as a conservationist that is deserving of a special trip. My legs are a bit sore from digging, and I want to complete the border on the back patio garden today as well.

I found the Rodale Book of Composting in our library upstairs, I think we picked it up at a garage sale last year. Tomorrow looks like the best day  to stay in, light candles, and read. I will set that on the pile with a selection of others, so I will have a variety to choose from to read on a rainy day. Today I shall go on a quest for the last few plants for our patio garden. A Fern in memory of my mother, a couple of Hostas, and some impatiens for color. The Lily of the Valley currently there is blooming and delighting my senses with their fragrance. I call it a patio, but we haven’t paved it yet, so it’s grass and weeds which we will try to keep trimmed up.

I think I will set out a bowl of milk & honey for the faeries today, so they can bless the gardens. We added a cream colored foxglove and an english lavender to our moon garden in front, as well as creeping flox to our driveway garden, which is a strip of lawn about 24 inches wide between our driveway and the neighbors. The only edible plants we have is a small raspberry patch in the back, and we hope to put in a large vegetable garden next year. The neighbor has a dying elm above the best location so we are waiting to see if he will be taking it down this year.

We are blessed with a large back yard, so there  are plans for more gardens as well. Right now, they tend to be border gardens rather than the kind you can walk in, but that will come soon, as we will be putting in a labyrinth under the huge silver maple in the back yard behind the garage. It is currently our outdoor circle space, and will continue to serve as that when the labyrinth is in. It’s a very good thing.


   May 27

Getting Into the Green

Today I have the day off of work so I can stay home and work around the house. So naturally I’ve devoted much of the day to a long hot bath and nap. I spent a very brief time in the garden, only to realize gardening is hard work and then something stung me. Sunday would be better to do my gardening I think. So inside I sit, and I am in charge of researching composting methods. Right now, the gardens are mostly flowers and bushes, with one lonely raspberry patch. (Jack would not be Jack without his raspberries!) So online I went, excited about the various options online and I came across Do It Green Minnesota, or DIG for short.

It’s a website about green everything, not just gardening. I knew minnesota was cool that way, but I didn’t know how cool. It’s so helpful finding a local resource. As we go along working to update our little cottage to make it more green friendly, we will have lots of questions. What they do in California is very different than what we can do here in Minnesota.

Today the clouds will turn to rain soon, so indoor project time is about to begin. At least I got to visit the raspberry patch, even if I didn’t get it all cleared out. Back to the assignment, I also quickly located How to Compost.org, which has wonderful tips for beginners like me. I have also started a collection in an empty coffee can, because I’m serious about this composting thing this time! When not being sidetracked by naps and baths, I am also easily sidetracked by raised garden bed kits, because I really do want to start a vegetable garden. But I need to work out a plan first, I know I had that graph paper around here somewhere…