Lady, Why Is There a Bag of Cornmeal on Your Mantle?


Well, I’m getting a bit more oriented, although I managed to confuse yesterday with today and step on MrsWhatsit’s lovely Words for Wednesday.  I still haven’t hung my calendars and I’m usually just one step ahead of my appointment with the guy coming to hang light fixtures, the county tax assessor, and the guy coming to install an irrigation system.  I’m still trying to figure out which day is for trash and which is for recycling., but obviously still have a way to go since I thought yesterday 

Meanwhile, I am working slowly through the books.  I seem to have one pretty productive day and then a slower day, a productive day and then a slower day . . . .  I do both poetry and fiction alphabetically by author’s last name (although poetry is shelved separately from fiction) and non-fiction by the Library of Congress system , which, helpfully, is on-line.  One complication is that, these days, many books are self-published and don’t get a LoC catalog number and this seems especially true for a number of good Pagan books.   I have Pagan books in a bookshelf separate from the other non-fiction, so if the Pagan author does have at least one book with a LoC catalog number, I put their other books next to that one.  But if not, I put them on the bottom shelf, alphabetically by author’s last name.  It’s a complicated system, but it works for me (and by “works,” I mean that I can generally find the book that I want), although shelving them does take time.  (And, of course, it takes even more time to shelve them when you keep coming across a book and going, “Wow!  I remember this!  I need to re-read this.”)  My goal for this Winter, once everything is shelved, is to use Library Thing to get a complete list of what I have.  How do your organize your books?

Here’s a story from my move.

I drove up here and settled on a day when there were bad storms predicted between here and my old home, so I did not stay to do any kind of an elaborate house blessing or even introduction to the land.  To be honest, the land has been aware of me (and rather interested) for a few weeks now, since I’ve been coming up for inspections, orientations, and so on.  We’ve been chatting and I’ve been letting the Spirit of the local woods get to know me, slowly, on His own terms.  So on the day that I settled, I came into the house, promised it that we’d do a more comprehensive getting-to-know-you session, a real blessing, and a claiming once the stars aligned and I was less exhausted.  As a sign of my intent, I poured a little bourbon on my new fireplace and left a bag of locally-ground cornmeal on the mantle.

I went back to my old home and spent  few days with the movers packing up my things and loading them on their truck. On move-in day, I met the guy who was here to hang the blinds at 7:30 am.  He worked quickly and wasn’t disturbed by the movers showing up at 8:30 to start moving in furniture.  He finished up about 9:00 and had some papers for me to sign.  When we finished he said, “Lady, can I ask you one question?  Why is there a bag of cornmeal on your mantle?”

I replied that it was an “old Appalachian custom” to offer cornmeal to “the spirit of the house and the land” when moving into a new home.  I said I did it for “good luck.”  He was fascinated and wished me lots of good luck in my new home.  I find that a lot of my very Pagan practices can simply “fly under the radar” when I have neither the time nor the inclination to launch into a deep explanation of animism, offerings, deities, etc.  It’s an old custom and I do it to be in right relationship to a home and a place and, if I do achieve right relationship, that will be lucky for me, so every word I told him was true.

What’s your favorite way to get acquainted with a new place?

Picture found here.

5 responses to “Lady, Why Is There a Bag of Cornmeal on Your Mantle?

  1. First: all my best wishes for a comfortable and nurturing time in your new home. (We’re fans of Yelton’s Corn Meal here, because the lovely-and-talented grew up in South Carolina and it’s a taste from her childhood. Sadly, we are out of Duke’s at present, though she recently made pimento cheese with a locally produced sharp white cheddar. A wonderful addition to a tomato sandwich.)

    For new residences, I do two things. First, taking a leaf out of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I always show up at a new place (mine or a friend’s) with a box of salt, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine. At the threshold, I declare each offering:

    Bread, that this house will never know hunger.
    Salt, that life here will always have flavor.
    And wine, that there will always be joy.

    When we moved to the Tiny Beach Cottage almost two years ago, we relied on our phone apps to tell us how far we are from the ocean: 271 steps. The Pacific Ocean is a pretty obvious dominant spirit, but we have mountains just a few miles to the east of us as well (on this coast, the sun RISES over the mountains and SETS into the ocean). I made a point of laying hands on the trees around our home, walking the park and the natural area beyond, and simply opening myself to the surroundings. I introduce myself to the resident spirits and let them know I honor and respect them.

    And at some point, within the first few days, I deliver my benediction, in what I still believe to be some of the most magical words in the English language:

    If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended:
    That you did but slumber here
    While these visions did appear,
    And our weak and idle theme
    No more yielding, but a dream.
    Gentles, do not reprehend:
    If you pardon, I will mend,
    And, as I am an honest Puck
    And would not have unearned luck
    Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
    I will make amends ere long.
    Else the Puck a liar call!
    And so, good night unto you all.
    Give us your hands, if we be friends,
    And Robin shall restore amends.

  2. “It’s a complicated system”

    Why it’s a straightforward sensible system! And the one I use, lol.

  3. I like to circumambulate sunwise around the dwelling if possible. If it’s an apartment, I try to go around the whole building (unobtrusively). Indoors, as soon as a modicum of order (not to mention some space) is created, I like to put up Wards British-trad-style. Btw, I also find putting up Wards an extremely effective way to stop a panic attack, or after waking up from an epic nightmare.

  4. all the female members of my family have done the same ritual for generations Into a new house we bring in a loaf of bread a new broom something to drink and say a house blessing. We also make noise to chase out any spirits or other influences from the people before congratulations on your new home

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