Meet Our Authors: December F. Bryant
Welcome to our new blog series, Meet Our Authors. Today's author is December F. Bryant, who wrote "Raising Animist Children" for issue 1 of Stone, Root, and Bone, and has an article in the forthcoming issue of the magazine as well. December was also instrumental in the launch of the Plant Spirit Ally Challenge which we hosted last May. Now here's December, to tell you more about herself in her own words:
Tell us about a significant magical or spiritual experience that stands out in your memory.
It's not flashy, but it’s something that happened recently that touched me deeply and changed my perspective quite a bit.
I was giving offerings to my ancestors in preparation for the upcoming Yule season. I’d just finished an embroidered cloth that I now use for ancestor journeying called Walking the Blood Lines. I needed to sanctify it and was drawn by intuition that it needed to be soaked in water infused with Datura plant essence, my blood, and some plantain.
In my singing and meditating I was brought to the gates of Helheim (the land of the dead) and there I was greeted by my ancestors. They laid hands on me, told me many things, and above all that they were proud of me.
I have a tumultuous relationship with my immediate family so this was so healing for my heart. They also made sure I knew they would be there any time I needed them, that I didn’t need to worry about coming to them for anything. I asked about offerings and they reminded me the offerings weren’t just for them and their strength but to strengthen the connection - to make the path between us easier to walk.
I felt their hands on me and the connection between us all like a grand spider web reaching back farther than I can imagine.
In the days to follow I was hit with some deep wisdom regarding my path. Much of it counter to what is often taught in mainstream books but my ancestors didn’t care - they want me to use what works and they know what works from lived experiences. They became my active teachers that night.
Name one thing about yourself that you consider a little quirky or unusual.
There’s a lot of things but one I think is interesting regarding witchcraft is the first spell I had proof that worked. I was in middle school and was practicing making myself invisible. Obviously not in the no one could see me way, but more in the no one noticed me way. This worked so well I was counted as absent in classes until I spoke up and drew attention to myself, breaking the spell - that was the way it was broken, talking to someone or touching someone.
It worked so well, some of my friends noticed and asked how I was doing it. When I told them they demanded I do it to them just to try it. I did it at lunch - I’m sure we looked very odd at the lunch table, six misfit kids holding hands. I wasn’t sure it could work, but it did. I told them the rules - no touching anyone other than those who are spelled and no talking to anyone or the spell would break. It lasted nearly an hour then I felt it fall. When I talked to them later, one admitted they had to speak up in class or be counted as absent and were afraid of getting in trouble. It was the first time I had ever seen a spell work AND had it work for other people - it made me a believer in magic, and I think the first spell a witch does that works might have more to say about the kind of person they are than any personality quiz.
What are you reading right now?
Herbal Clinician from PlantHealer.org
What’s one book you love to recommend to others?
I can’t pick just one because it depends on the person and the situation, so here are some favorites with who might need them.
Favorite fiction to recommend to lovers of fantasy - Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente. It is dark and beautiful and my favorite fictional book. I reread it so often I had to get a new copy because my first fell apart.
Favorite herbalism book - Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by James Green. It tells you how to make almost every formula and is a necessity for anyone interested in herbalism.
Favorite witchcraft 101 book - I really like the textbooks by WitchSchool. They cover a variety of the basics including the necessary energy work, cleansing, and protection. I do wish they went into the history a little more, so these are by no means the only books any witch needs, but they’re a great starting point. I’d also throw in Althaea Sebastiani’s By Rust of Nail and Prick of Thorn for basic and necessary protection work.
Favorite 101 book on Heathenry - Galina Krasskova has some amazing books for those interested in the Heathen Path. I highly recommend her book A Modern Guide to Heathenry as well as her book on Runes and her book on Ancestor work. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner is great for the Heathen witch who wants to begin their practice.
Where else can we read your work?
My website TeaAndPumpkins.com is the best place to find my work - I link there when my work is published elsewhere.
What types of things do you write?
Articles and blog posts on Heathenry, Witchcraft, Parenting, Herbalism, and the Hearth/Home.
How long have you been writing?
I started blogging in 2009. I began freelance writing in 2015.
Do you have any work coming out in the future we should know about?
I am currently working on a Devotional Anthology to the Goddess Frigga but don’t have a publishing date at this time. I’ll post updates about that on my site.
What else would you love readers to know about you?
I could talk all day about magic, herbs, ancestor work, and the Gods. If anyone wants to chat about those things they can hit me up on Twitter @TeaAndPumpkins or on my site in the blog comments. If they have any questions about any of these things or my practice please feel free to ask and I’ll likely respond as well as write a blog post or do a vlog about the topic.
Do you practice divination, and if so, what’s your favorite divination method or tool?
I began reading tarot professionally in 2008/9 and did that for nearly a decade. During this time I tried out a bunch of other methods including tea leaf reading, libanomancy, pendulums, and more. I began learning runes as well and love working with them. Right now though, my favorite method is bone reading. Its clearer, deeper, and cuts through the BS more than any other method I’ve tried.
What’s the primary focus of your spiritual and/or magical practice?
Devotion to the Gods
Healing and Venerating my Ancestors
Helping people around me reconnect with the Earth and the Divine and remember their magic.
The majority of my practice is rooted in herbalism, hearth, and Heathenry.
What inspires you? You can name more than one thing.
My Gods and Ancestors
My family - especially my kid
Fellow witches sharing their deep experiences
What are some of your allies/plant allies/stone allies/animal allies?
Thunder Clover (Bugleweed)
Is there a place you’ve been that felt amazingly magical?
The holler in eastern Kentucky where my family lived and where many are buried.
Mammoth Cave when I was a kid - I’ve been there since and it didn’t feel the same.
Parts of New Orleans.
Some wild places in Alaska
What do you do to combat burn out in your practice?
Once when meditating and talking with my ancestors, a Disir (a distant grandmother and guardian) shared with me her work in life - delivering babies sometimes with sorrowful results, blessing marriages, drying the tears of women, and tending to the dead as she prepared them for their wakes. With all of this sorrow and pain, or even when life just got difficult, she would go to the woods. There was a cave and from the cave flowed a creek. She would sit within the mouth of the cave, press her back against the moss and stone wall, and let her worries, fears, sorrow, and tears flow into the stone and water. She said let the stone and water take it from you - it has depths we cannot fathom and it can handle it when we cannot.
When my practice gets to be too much, when my stress is too high, I check in with myself. I give it to the stone and water. I also make sure I’m nourishing myself - sometimes I neglect my cleansing and nourishment practices when I’m busy and this always leads to burn out.