Our Kindred is small, but growing. The core membership is centered around a handful of active and dedicated members, but new people are starting to gain some reputation as well. It warms the heart and excites me, seeing the scrappy group that started as a meeting in a bookstore cafe less than a year ago turn into this organized tribe committing itself to service, ritual, and mutual support.
When people hear the word tribe (especially those who aren't Pagan) their mind wanders to cartoon images of movie barbarians and axe-slinging brutes. We think more along the lines of Game of Thrones than we do of the Amish, but the plain people are far closer to what a Heathen tribe is than any movie poster. We are here to support each other, learn from each other, hold up each other when we fall down. Sometimes our rolls in each other’s lives are closer to pitching in for farm chores and sharing a beer in the back of an old pickup truck. That is exactly what happened this weekend.
On the events page I listed a day called “Hawking and Firewood” and that is what the day was. I thought morning hike with some guided falconry with friends would be a fair gift for their help moving the cords of firewood in my front yard to a safe, covered, space to dry. I had been putting off the chore for weeks since a woodshed was supposed to be built and I didn’t want to move it twice - but the reality of upstate New York hunting season was delaying any real chance of getting the shed built and the wood needed to move before snowily. I was starting to loathe the piles in the yard. It wasn’t until another in the Kindred suggested we all stack it together the lightbulb went on.
You get nothing without asking. So I asked. Two members of this humble tribe showed up at 9AM from an hour south in Troy. They shared a ride and before we headed out with the bird for the morning hunt, we took a horn full of winter ale from a local brewery (Thank you Saranac!) out into the forest where we have been creating our sacred space. An altar, blot bowl, and three carved god poles reside there under an ancient apple tree in a glen carved out of the side of the mountain. A small herd of Scottish sheep and a paddock of free-range pigs can see us when we sumbel there. They are nice witnesses to have around.
This morning, the ritual was short and to the point, but very much intended. Tim raised the horn and said a few words of appreciation for the Gods of the Hunt and for the local wights and we all drank and poured ale onto the forest floor at the feet of the poles. What was left of the horn went into the blot bowl perched on the old jaw bone of one of the farm’s pigs from the past. When facing the poles and the faces of those carved God images you look east and the sun shown behind them and I caught my breath from it all. I was warm and well fed. I had friends beside me in prayer and hunting. I had a healthy hawk, good work, and cold beer ahead of me. What more should a woman dare ask for?
When I said Hail, I meant it.
Our first stop was at a falconer friend’s home (there are a lot of falconers around Washington County, NY). Anna needed new anklets for her feet and my skills in leather craft barely pass. My friend was happy to make them and in return for his gift I handed him a pound of breakfast sausage from the pigs I raised. It took him a few minutes but Anna’s new footwear looked amazing and was a true improvement! Community and gifting is not just about your Kindred, it’s about all the people who share in your story and your life. I was so grateful for his skill and so lucky to have the opportunity to return the favor. My bird has better gear and his family of three (fiancé and son) have a pound of farm-raised local meat.
After that we spent the morning out on some private land of another friend, walking through woods and across streams as my hawk flew above us in her new, shiny, anklets. We were out for squirrels and rabbits. It was warm for December and we worked up a sweat as we gained miles. We didn’t see any game but we did nearly lose Anna.
While out in a brushline trying to scare up some rabbits, a giant local female red tail who saw a stranger in her territory screamed and flew close to scare her off. My heart stopped. A big female like that would scare Anna off forever or possibly even kill her. Anna was still as a statue in the trees and every instinct in her body told her to fly away from the monster yelling at her. I held up my glove with a giant chunk of meat on it and was shaking, so worried my friends were about to see me lose my bird to the giant hawk. I called and called to her. The moments of waiting for her to fly to me or fly away felt like years. But everyone kept quiet and still and eventually the bird flew to my glove. Her choice to return to the human she’s been with for months instead of flying off was what made the day for me. She chose me over the sky.
As we loaded back into my pickup (thank the Gods for bench seats from the 80s that fit three adults comfortably!), I made a comment that perhaps the gift of the morning’s small ritual and offering in the ve space wasn’t for a successful hunt, but for that safe return of the bird? We didn't come back with any rabbits but we also didn't lose Anna. Tim nodded and David agreed and we talked for a bit about what gifting and building luck truly was. Gifts return to us in many ways.
After the hunt when Anna was back in her mews with food and water, we stacked a lot of firewood here. I'm a woman living alone on a farm and while I had been stacking a few wagonloads at a time it was nothing compared to the work of two eager Kin. As a team we had all the wood stacked in uner two hours. It was a sight to behold, that full woodshed and knowing that before any snow or rain came, the wood was safe. It is all I heat my home with. I was very grateful.
Afterwards we shared some beer on the back of Big Red, my '89 F150. We talked some more, sharing stories and just enjoying each other's company. I am in awe of these two, both acedemics. Tim has his doctorate and David is working on his. They are kind and clever and gave up an entire Saturday to hike and stack firewood. My life and farm is better because of them. They are only here because of Tyr's Good Hand and I can't imagine not having them in my life now. They are teaching me so much about what it means to be a better person and gain worth within a small tribe.
In the next few weeks we will have our Yule Gathering. It'll be held here at the farm and we'll be warmed by the firewood that already warmed up stacking and piling it up today! I will be raising the horn to them and have a better gift in return for their time than the two beers and basket of eggs I sent them home with. Not because I feel I owe it to them in some odd tally of deeds, but because they mean so much.