The Man Who Taught Me About Magic

Lineage and Legacy



You all know that lineage matters a great deal to me yes? I’m a strong believer that those who teach, as I do, should especially be clear and honest about their lineage – who are the people who gave them both information and inspiration? I’d like to tell you about one of my earliest, deepest, and truest teachers today, my grandfather.

Today is my grandfather’s birthday and if he were still among the living he would be 82 years old. He died on July 28th five years ago after living in a state that was very much in both worlds (due to a massive stroke) since October 31st, 2005. I miss him every single day; but I also speak with him every single day. That is one of the gifts of remembering your Beloved Dead.

I don’t think it would be too extreme for me to say that the first person who taught me to walk in both worlds; the man who taught me magic, was my grandfather.

From a very young age he instilled within me a love for story, for the wild and unruly (whether it be plant, person, or critter), for music of all kinds, and for the holy. It was on long walks with him through meadow and thicket that I found the roots of my own radical reverence; planting zinnia’s in row after row as a storm rolled in, sitting barefoot on the front porch shelling peas while he played his acoustic guitar, closing my eyes while he would take my hand in his own much larger, dark brown, work-calloused hand and listening with my skin as he would tap out the beat of a song and then ask me to guess what the song was – learning to listen, he called, it, with more than my ears.

My grandfather was a devout Baptist after meeting my grandmother (he himself was raised with the “old ways” and there was never much elaboration on what, exactly, that meant); but I knew from an early age through his teachings that church was not where one went to properly see and speak with God – in order to do that you needed dirt under your nails and dew on the hem of your gown.

Papa taught me where to hide offerings for the Little People, how to make a sacred vessel out of a bored out knot hole in a living tree so that the animals of the field would always be allies (you fill it with acorns and honey naturally enough), how to spot and harvest the wild onions and garlic that grow in the springtime, the Texas Persimmons that are ready right about this time of year, and the chili piquin peppers that show up in February. He taught me that the juiciest blackberries are always hidden beneath the most thorns and that it is worth the prickles and a few drops of blood to get to them, how to burn a piece of land to prepare it for sowing in new life, what rocks could be moistened and then used as red clay body paint, and where the fat horny toad lived. Papa taught me to help wherever you could, to never kill a spider, and what snakes were helpers or dangerous by turn. He taught me about how barn owls will come and speak to some people in their dreams and when they do, you best listen to their messages.

My grandfather was not perfect, not by a long shot. He came of age in a place where everyone was poor but even among them, his family was seen as especially poor. Considered a half-breed because his mother was Cherokee, the family grew up on literally the wrong side of the railroad tracks. Physical violence in his family was the norm as it was in so many families at the time and Papa told many stories of traveling over to the Black part of town (in highly segregated rural east Texas) and learning how to play guitar there. He would be “skinned alive” by his daddy when he got back home but it was worth it because it was music. Talk about a language that transcends. He was in many ways a hard man to live with by all accounts, with a terrible and often violent temper. The times with him were not easy, especially for those who loved him best.

Sometimes I am asked by students and clients if I think people can really change. This is an old, old, question. I say yes. No hemming and hawing, no qualifications. Yes. People can change. Fundamentally and deeper than deep; yes, it is possible. I know that because I know my grandfather did when I was born. According to our family it was sudden and extreme, as if much of the anger, frustration, and violence was breathed out of him in one great gust. He still had his moments – I remember a few of them myself, but with the arrival of me, his first grandchild, the storm raging inside of him mostly passed on. I would never say such change is easy or common; but is it possible? Oh yes.

I was talking to my grandmother yesterday about today, my papa’s birthday. She reminded me of the date of his death (I always forget) and I remember being able to sit beside his still body with my husband and my five-month old son. It was a blessing to sit there with him, hold is now-cold hand in my own one last time before we set about creating the rituals and blessing ways that we make when one of our beloveds passes on.

I told my Nana that I do not memorialize the time of his death, but rather I remember him at the time he was born and came into life, today, August 7th. His candle has been lit, I’ll make the cornbread he so loved and drink some Big Red soda pop in his honor. I’ll continue asking him questions, he will continue telling me stories, and when the owl shows up in my dreams now, I know it comes as a gift from him.

My papa loved to tell stories and he loved a good audience (Leo). I know he would like me telling all of you part of his story, and he would want each of you to go out, find magic, and tell many more stories of your own.

May it be so.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

10 Teachings I learned from Fairy Tales

Lunar Letter


ear Miracle,

Fairy tales often bring to mind rosy-cheeked children, sunny preschool classrooms, and lavishly illustrated storybooks. It is no surprise, then, that fairy tales become but an aspect of the childishness we put away later on in life, never to pick up again.  They are made for the child’s world, while we have jobs to do and bills to pay.

But the truth is that fairy tales were created, told, and re-told by people very much like us – adults who led busy lives, engaged in hard, often physical work. They entertained themselves with tales produced not by commercial speculation, but by the timeless act of passing a story down from generation to generation, from hearth to hearth.

We like to pride ourselves on the unique complexity of our twenty-first century world, but who can claim with any seriousness that the world of yesteryear – the world that gave birth to story-telling traditions – was any less exposed to hard problems of love, life and death? We have only to consider the much higher infant mortality rates and deaths of women in child bearing in order to disabuse ourselves of that notion.  We too have to face life and death, for all of our technical ingenuity. Could it be that the old tales still have something to say on this most important real world matter?

Each fairy tale has many different versions depending on what part of the world it comes from but also many different flourishes given to it by each unique voice that tells the story anew. Fairy tales are also much more dark and frightening than their later written and redacted versions might suggest. In earlier versions of the story Cinderella, for example, the vicious stepsisters actually cut off their toes trying to fit into those glass slippers. In more than one version of Little Red Riding Hood the scarlet cloaked maiden is simply devoured by the wolf, never to be seen again.

Due to their fantastic, otherworldly nature, even when we take fairy tales more seriously or encounter them in re-worked forms meant for adults (the wonderful film Pan’s Labyrinth comes to mind), we still tend to think of them as escapist and not really saying anything relevant about “real life”.

Before proceeding, it is important to see that this viewpoint rests on an inadequate premise.  According to this premise, escaping, or taking time-off from “real life”, doesn’t have an important role to play in the way we confront the challenges of waking life. But we know from our own experience – and it is a fact established by much scientific research into the brain – that this is not the case. The greatest need of our time, in this age of ever-increasing anxiety, may not be to simply toughen up and face reality, so much as to find a means of escapism truly worthy of ourselves and the actual problems we face in the twenty-first century.

Fairy tales lend a guiding light through this terrain. They provide an entertaining form of escapism, but they also possess profound life-lessons. They contain little embers of wisdom that are breathed to life once again every time we utter the words “Once upon a time…” And so, here’s a short list of some of the life-lessons I have taken from my love affair with fairy tales and the worlds that they create.


1.)   It’s OK to feel lost…

..for now.  Fairy tales never really begin until at least one main character and often several feel lost, disoriented, hopeless, and confused.

Seeing the hero or heroine get abandoned or forsaken, listening to their words as they circle back in the wild wood one only to pass the same landmarks one more time, tells us that adventure is about to happen, that big choices are on the horizon, and that instead of always looking outside for reassurance and direction it is now time to look inward and come into contact with our inner knowing.

Feeling lost is often one sign that an initiation is about to begin and that the individuals involved will not be the same after their story has unfolded. The modern therapeutic term is dissociation and describes the cognitive event of detaching from this time and this place so that one may experience “time out of mind” as C.S. Lewis puts it – time beyond time and a world that is decidedly Other. It is in this rupture that great  magic waits to be discovered.

So when we feel lost, overwhelmed, even abandoned by life, fairy tales instruct us to take a deep breath, get our bearings however we might, and begin again, one foot in front of the other. All is not lost, and many great discoveries are afoot.


2.)   Life begins in the woods.

Or in vast deserts, rocky wastelands that seem uninhabited. Or at sea in a digital universe, flooded with more information than we know what to do with.  It is a common trope in fairy tales for the main action to take place outside of the cities, towns, and villages and in the places commonly regarded as unknown, wild, and a little bit dangerous. So it is with us.

This does not mean that we must literally pick up and leave the city we love or the town we reside in. Rather, it encourages us to look for the wild places within our own lives – the talents, fears, delights, thoughts, and feelings that feel edgy and dangerous and vast. Working and living from our creative edge breathes great life into all that we do. It makes the words we speak truer, the songs we sing truer, and the lives we live deeper.


3.)  Appearances can be deceiving.

Sometimes people, animals, and even objects are not what they seem to be. Beasts turn into cursed princes, scary women living alone in chicken-footed houses keep the sacred fires of all creation, and sweet treats hold a truth that can lead to doom.

On the other hand, sometimes things are exactly as they appear and the trouble is that the hero or heroine doesn’t believe what they know to be true. Yes, that witch firing up the oven really does intend to devour you. Yes, the fact that your grandmother is looking rather wolfish this morning should send alarm bells coursing through your body. So we must learn to…


4.)  Try to see with more than just our eyes.

Because appearances only give us part of any story in fairy tales, we find that the key is to perceive reality with more than just our eyes. Fairy tales were developed in agrarian times when most everyone, certainly the people sharing stories with each other, were working on land and in the fields. Thus they speak to an original audience that would have been more easily able to “see” with all parts of the body.

This is a kind of seeing that calls upon all parts of ourselves.  We want to see with our hands, learning from them as they touch old wood or the soft downy hair of a child. We want to see with our feet as they carry us from place to place; to see with our nose as we catch the scents carried on the breeze from so many directions. And we want to see most of all with a clear, discerning mind, and an open, sacred heart.


5.) Bad things will happen. The question is: how will you respond?

Bad things will happen, often with no apparent reason or rhyme. There you are minding your business and oops! a new person comes into your life who would like nothing better than to see you suffer, lose out, miss your chance at love, luck, or fortune, and most of all be convinced that you cannot do it and it won’t ever get better.

Maybe it is isn’t a person at all, but an event out of your control that brings you to your knees. Or a minor irritation like a pea under a mattress that keeps you from resting, from seeing clearly, from responding with wisdom and wit. Bad things happen in fairy tales all the time. Blood and ash are the fuel that feed many of our most beloved tales. The secret is not that bad things will happen, but how we deal with bad things, how we engage with them, is what brings out our inner hero or our inner villain.


6.)   Be kind.

Be kind to everything, and I do mean everything. In many stories it is a child’s unhesitating kindness to a tree afraid of being chopped down, a cat that is hungry for some milk, or a gate that has not been oiled in years that ultimately saves the day, prevents certain death, and leads to happily ever after. Be kind. Even when it is hard, even and especially when you think no one will notice, kindness will carry you through. Of course in order to be kind you also have to see clearly (refer back to lesson number four).


7.)   Time doesn’t always work the way we think it does.

Fairy tale characters experience time in unique ways. In the folklore surrounding faeries we often hear of young men and women of great talent and beauty who are whisked away to faerie land for what seems like a day and night or three days and three nights, only to re-emerge in their villages and find that one hundred years have passed. It is a good teaching to keep in mind when we feel that we are always running late, always behind, never prompt enough, never timely enough. Time works in mysterious ways. Chances are you are exactly where you need to be.


8.)   Gold is not the goal.

Any time a character in a fairy tale does something purely motivated by gain, greed, and the desire for fortune things do not go well. Gold and riches often accompany the endings of fairy tales, but the real gold that is sought out has already been discovered by this point – the gold of inner character, inner strength, clear-eyed intelligence, and loving kindness. Characters who are only interested in the shiny coins wake up in the morning to find their palms filled with nothing but old, dead, leaves.


9.)   There is a hero in every child.

Original fairy tale versions are dark and stark. Though they were told by adults to adult and to child audiences, and of course they often feature children. Children who live in and undergo the most impossible, crushing, depraved circumstances and conditions. In fairy tales we are first given the truth that not all elements of childhood are sugar sweet, innocent, and good. We learn that bad things happen to good people, and that children are not always protected as they should be. And it is this way for us too. Never in my practice have I come across someone who does not carry several wounds from childhood. Those children, wounded though they are, live on inside of us. And what is more, when we read fairy tales, we learn that children are incredibly resilient, intelligent, adaptable, and most of all courageous. There is a hero in every child and there is a hero within you.


10.)   The most powerful magic always comes from an act of love.

An act of true love carries deep magic, whether it is the kiss that wakes a slumbering princess, the devotion that transforms a beast into something more, or the faithfulness of friends standing by their fallen companion no matter what. This magic is swift-acting, often curing immediately whatever hurts have been suffered up to this point. It is interested in justice and quickly works to right wrongs and deliver freedom wherever it has been withheld. Most of all, this magic is dedicated to and for life. So it is that we know our fairy tale heroes live happily ever after because they live with full on vitality and verve. As can we.


A few months ago, I came across an article in a peer reviewed scientific journal about a discovery made by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope: according to the team’s observations, massive lobes of energy tower tens of thousands of light-years over the center of the Milky Way galaxy. These lobes have been named Fermi bubbles, and no one yet knows how they have formed.  The bubbles could be formed by jets of energy streaming from the center of the galaxy; or they could be evidence of violent events in our galaxy.  But the mathematical model describing Fermi bubbles resembles a spindle with thread wrapped around a distaff. I was enchanted at the idea and immediately thought of all of the creators and fundamental powers throughout time who have been described as Weavers of one kind or another. I was surprised by the latest scientific discovery, but I suspect that Sleeping Beauty and her witch would not be.

And that is the greatest lesson I have learned from fairy tales. It is the knowing that the Otherworld is not a made up story but rather the seedbed that inspired and informed all stories, all journeys, all discoveries. Modern science can describe with precision that Otherworld; religion might teach you different ways to worship it; and psychology will remind you it lives within you as well as outside of you. But stories – the stories are what take us there.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

What “Happily Ever After” Really Means

Lunar Letter


ear Miracles,

You know the phrase “And they lived happily ever after”?

Has there ever been a phrase that has generated more doubt, cynicism, hopelessness – and yet through it all, more hope and desire – than this one? I think not.

When we hear the words happily ever after we typically meet them with an eye-roll, an exasperated shrug, an annoyed “pfft! Yeah, right.” The promise of happily ever after has been betrayed too many times for anyone in the modern world to really buy into it. If that isn’t the first reaction, then it is something closer to this: happily ever after sounds great, and maybe it can even really happen…but only for other people, and certainly not for me.

Every time we witnessed as children our parents fight, our teachers check out, and our friends be unfair – or as we witnessed much, much worse happen to our bodies, to our homes, neighborhoods and communities – the message was driven home: happily ever after is for suckers. The world seems so unhappy, and no adult certainly seems happy: who wants to be a sucker? Wake up and get real. And then, as we entered into adulthood and experienced the pressures of life for ourselves: making money, making love, making a home, a career, a name, a difference, we felt it again: happily ever after is a cruel lie made crueler by the fact that deep down it is what we most want or what some small piece of us believes is still possible. More than more money, sex, health or love – under all of those is our hope, our silent yearning and our absolute disbelief in the possibility of happily ever after .

happily ever after is an idea that reveals just how divided within ourselves we really are. Exactly for this reason, this phrase and its native ground in the fairy tale are useful tools, for they point to where the real work is for us, ultimately to the possibility of discovering a genuine and lasting wholeness.

I think a great illustration of this division is the popular conceit right now that you can choose to have a happy life or an interesting life but that you cannot have both. The notion is that a happy life is a stable, normal life, so for us in America it would look something like a stable marriage, 1.5 kids, and a white picket fence, a diversified stock portfolio – so they say. An interesting life, on the other hand, involves grand adventures, travel to exotic places, love affairs that end as passionately as they begin, great art and food and music. But you won’t have someone to come home to at the end of the day or if you are coming home to someone there will be lots of existential conflict and difficulty.

Those who encourage a worldview split between happiness and passionate interest claim that you cannot choose, cannot have both. When we look at the sources from which happily ever after springs, however, we discover that the idea is much richer than it sounds at first blush, and we might even find that a happy life and an interesting life are closer together we think.

Much like their best-known ending phrase, the fairy tales we grew up with as children had a reputation of being very sweet and just as unlikely. But much has been written and said to help us remember that this is not the native truth about fairy tales, that these stories are often much edgier, scarier, and bloodier than their more recent cleaned-up versions suggest. Or, to put it in a different way: the pressures of life, what we once called the necessities, are not overlooked in fairy tales but on the contrary are the fulcrum around which such stories turn.

Fairy tales do not seek to dispatch with difficulties; rather, they teach us how we might engage them more directly and more fruitfully. It is easy to hear in the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” or in many of the other effortless resolutions we find at the end of a fairy story, the attitude of hearkening back to some once upon a time, a golden age, as perfect as it is unreal. But that sensibility is alien in the stories themselves.  The tales are about the hardships we face in life, told and created by the people who live up close and personal to those same hardships, who often knew fear, hunger, danger, and powerlessness much more intimately than we do today.

So it is not honest to say that the idea of happily ever after is simply pie in the sky emerging from a more innocent time, place, and people. Perhaps then it was a phrase of escapism – in real life, stories did not end well and many hardships were not overcome.  But in our stories at least we could give our heroes and heroines the happy ending they deserve.

But what is escapism if not the movement from an idea that is real and knowable to an idea that is at once more real and contains more mystery? This is what J.R.R. Tolkien meant when he wrote that every airplane wishes to escape into being a bird and every cathedral secretly desires to become a grove of trees. So here too the argument that happily ever after is merely spun sugar escapism falls flat. The idea of happily ever after carries weight and pain exactly because we know that it or something like it really does exist and is possible.

Another argument is that because fairy and folk stories came from lower classes, happily ever after was inspired by economic mobility and the much easier lives of the wealthy nobility. Yet even a cursory glance at fairy tales reveals to us kings who lose their kingdoms, queens who cannot have babies, and royal children who are kidnapped, betrayed, and even killed.  Hard necessity is an equal opportunity player in fairy tales and folk stories.

So then we are left with another fresh possibility. Perhaps the real meaning of the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” is not what we think it is. Is it possible that living happily ever after is not to live in absence of suffering, pain, loss, difficulty, and death?  Could it be that happiness is living with all of those experiences (as well as job, love, desire, hope, and beauty) in a certain way?

In this way what we witness in these old stories is not a utopia or an unrealizable ideal, but in fact the possibility of a living happiness. This living happiness becomes a promise only if we are willing to rise up and meet the challenge: how to find life gladdened, enlivened, enriched, empowered and enchanted, not because bad things never happen to good people, or times are never chaotic or devastating, but exactly and precisely because they do and they can be.

Now when I use the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” in the stories I tell, I pose it as a dare: when they least expected it, when it seemed most improbable, they discovered the source of a living happiness…will we?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

We are Spinning Gold

Spinning Gold


ear Miracles,
As many of you know, I have declared this the Summer of Spinning Gold.

It is the second year of this powerful program and to celebrate I am teaching, telling stories, and sharing some of the ways that we can all call a bit more enchantment into our lives. If you have not already, I would love you to join me.

Start with the First Threads Guidebook. (Pop in your email address and then download it). It gives a beautiful and deep glimpse into my teaching style and approach.

Within its pages you will find my original telling of Rumpelstiltskin, my two favorite daily practices, and a series of little practices that you can do at home – among other things.

Then join me for a series of free calls I will host throughout the summer during which stories will be told, practices will be shared, and the initial steps to more enchanted living will be taken, together. Listen to the first and second calls: On Attunement and Learning to Listen and On Attention and Seeing with Clarity.

Finally, come join the Sacred Artists Facebook group where we will carry on the conversation. (Your membership request will have to be approved by one of our admins and we are good about approving quickly!)

And now, for your pleasure, the origin story of Spinning Gold.

Once there was a cutting…

A knife sliced against the soul as we separated everyday life, the so-called mundane from all that is rich, beautiful and sacred — all that we call enchanted.

A cutting, an act of violence and violation of the pristine substance of our lives, as we bought into ideas and relationships that told us we do not have what it takes to get it together. Do we – or do we not – lack the inner resources and inner knowing to meet the greatest obstacles and challenges of life in ways that are beautiful and inspiring?

Doubting, denying, we have done ourselves the greatest violence, cutting right to the bone: the dissolution, the inner fragmentation, the dismantling and severing of the soul strings. Instead of remembering we found ourselves dismembered.

Cutting. We knew it in our bones as we felt isolated from one another, our communities, our lands, our sense of wonder and possibility. It need not be so…

For we are a weaving.

Each thread flying quickly through warp and weft alike, remembering that the present is determined by the lineage of our past and the legacy we build for the future.

Weaving, the shuttle moving deftly in and out, recalling to mind that the inner and the outer worlds were never meant to be separated, that to understand and fully inhabit one is to understand and fully inhabit both – to live an enchanted life.

Weaving, it binds us to our lives, to our choices, and yearnings; it binds us to each other fostering connection and creativity. Weaving…our stories and songs, our old knowledge and new hopes, our magic into our daily lives. This is our inheritance…

But first, there is a spinning…

Blood cells dancing through the cosmos of your precious body, allowing for light and heat, and life. Spinning, the movement of the earth beneath our feet, imperceptible and nevertheless constant. The movement of the heavens all around us, holding us in their starry hands.

A spinning out into Creation, a spinning into inspiration. There is a spinning, rhythmic, timeless, a spinning of gold, of lives and stories, fears and worries that seem like so much straw, transformed into all that holds meaning, into right relationship, into all that is sacred.


There is gold in all that you are, all that you know, and all that you do. Finding it, here is the work, here is the return to enchantment.

The images in this post are taken from the Spinning Gold curriculum and all are created by Cassandra Oswald. All rights reserved.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

August New Moon Notes: Back to School Essentials, Storytelling and Tarot

Learning and Community



Happy New Moon in Leo!

I think we are all feeling the desire to step out, step up, shine out and roar! The desire to celebrate is also strong right now, Leo is the original party animal. One of the big things that we are celebrating at casa de saussy is the fact that my beloved husband and business partner would normally be back in the classroom at this time of the year but instead we are enjoying a working vacation in Santa Fe — so awesome and such a blessing.

But there is much more to celebrate too, and I have rounded up some of my favorites to share with each of you.

For those already enrolled or getting ready to enroll in Spinning Gold (registration closes on 8/31), here is the school supply list to end all school supply lists. You’re welcome.

Speaking of school, for many of us the end of August and beginning of September kick off the back to school season of hustle and bustle, as we roll with this it is a good idea to remember to honor our need for rest.

One of the topics that I see seekers of all stripes get very confused about, very quickly, is money. Wealth. Prosperity. Cash. A few weeks ago I chatted about all of these themes with Bari Tessler Linden as part of the Spinning Gold curriculum, listen and learn.

For those of you who love tarot reading and want to share your insights with your people, I highly, highly, recommend Theresa Reed’s article on how to do a card a day post, Theresa put a lot of work into this one and it shows.

On the other hand, for those of you who feel like being asked to do one more thing is going to make you pull your hair out, then you need to go and listen to the latest Talking Shop episode where Theresa and I spoke to Racheal Cook about how to rock the business and life balance.

More in the mood for visual stimulation? I love @kastaleen’s daily reads on instagram (you can find me hanging out there too)! And of course, don’t miss the collection of Daily Blessings – because we need less advice and more blessing, yes?

I love storytelling. When I decided to create Spinning Gold I knew I wanted the art of storytelling to be front and center, because really, that is how we learn. Meghan Genge is doing some fabulous storytelling too, reading a chapter a week from her novel Unfurl.

Franci Claudon creates beautiful, vibrant art. Feast your eyes!

Jupiter, planet of wealth and abundance, has moved into the sign of Virgo and will be there for about a year. As a result many are feeling the need to examine money ideas that no longer serve, clean and clear financial funks, and generally bring a new level of organization and structure to their financial lives. Limitless Megan can help.

J.D. Rose is taking people on an intuitive journey, sounds enriching and enlivening.

Looking for a new intuitive reader or cartomancer? Check out Sydney Rebecca’s work, she is lovely, kind, and absolutely present.

And finally, if you are experiencing relationship angst do yourself the favor of checking out Jacqueline Freeman’s work on relationships.

As always with the New Moon notes I am not affiliated with any of the products, services, or individuals I promote. I receive no kickbacks or financial incentives and I know each and every single person and have worked with them, often over a long period of time. That’s why I can recommend them so sincerely! Blessed New Moon and Happy Friday!

How are you celebrating New Moon in Leo?

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.