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Ravynmoon's Appalachian Herbarium
The history of Ravynmoon is a long one, and as I've said on a few occassions,
we tend to reserve it to conversations over a few cups of coffee or campfire stories on a long summer night.
This isn't because of any shame or cover-ups, but because it's a history that spans almost three decades and is not easy summarized.
The story of Ravynmoon begins somewhere around 1984, with a few teens who found a few good
spooky stories and a hell of a good storyteller...Edgar Allan Poe.
This was actually the beginning of The Gothic Poets Society, but without this introduction,
and without this beginning, Ravynmoon may never have existed.
For some, that would have been well preferred, but we'll get to that later.
The Gothic Poets Society, aka TGPS, began as a teenage spiritualist group. It was Baltimore, 1984.
A comfortable Summer; the kind where the humidity outside didn't threaten to kill you,
and the nights were long and filled the senses with spices and sea-water,
and old street lights that as soon as they came on, was our signal to come home.
Home for me during this time was my Grandmother's house; another long story for another campfire.
Our little society consisted of the five of us at the time.
We made tents out of blankets and my grandmother's clean sheets that she had drying on the line, and armed ourselves with flashlights,
my Pop-Pop's books and a teenager's arsenal of risk, curiosity and imagination.
What started out on that back porch, reading "The Raven" by summer fare, eventually transplanted itself into slumber parties.
Those nights were filled with pizza, pranks, and gossip, as is in the traditional slumber party style;
however scary stories weren't limited to just the readings of various other authors such as
Lovecraft and Shelley and Stoker, but their adaptations or inspired works by way of movies.
Our tradition included seances, and as it became our regular routine, to attempt to channel these long since dead authors.
Coming from Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe was a part of the air that we breathed.
Every step we took upon cobblestone or the asphalt or cement that now only
showed secret of where they had been, were places he traversed, and his graves, a place of homage.
We left notes; well, I did at least, and spent many an hour conversing with an empty space where a body once was,
and leaving a kiss on the stone that memoralized him, his Auntie and his cousin.
A bronze plaque bearing his image stared back at me,
illuminated by the memory of old gaslights.
Bones in catacombs and ghosts of coweled shadows stood witness to new ideas at old meeting grounds.
Secrets exchanged and sealed with a handshake or a nod and a stranger that left a glass of cognac and three red roses.
This was in our blood. This became my focus, my duty to the dead and my majik found strength in it.
I had found a kindred, who saw what I saw,
felt what I felt. Edgar knew my pain, and perhaps in that connection, I knew what was yet to come.
Maybe it was precognitive.
Symbols had deeper meaning now. Shadows spoke and I no longer ingnored their presence.
Perhaps it was this spark that creeped out my friends, especially since those seance sessions actually started working.
One night in particular, circa 1985, changed everything.
As usual, we gathered to reap the benefit of creeping ourselves out by
book, bell and candle. This time, a party for my junior high best friend's fourteenth birthday party.
She didn't have many interesting friends and extended the invitation to my city friends: The Gothic Poet Society.
We gathered in her sister's empty bedroom. Empty because she had recently gone off to college.
We ate the snacks, talked of future plans, debated over things
I can't remember, and on blankets and pillows and sleeping bags on the floor, proceeded to tell the usual spooky stories.
The seance commenced, with one friend volunteering to receive the spirit of Mr. Poe.
This was not a good idea. We told her that, however, I guess she figured it had never much worked before,
and this would at least give her a perfect opportunity to facilitate a jump scare.
Candles lit, words raised, hands joined with image of the face of Mr. Poe in our mind.
"The Raven", "The Tell-Tale Heart", the thump, thump, thump from under the floorboards.
The smell of moss and old dirt, the clack of horse hooves upon cobblestone at the turn of the century.
The market sounds. The fear, the stranger peeking around the corner in shadowed alley-way,
quicken the heartbeat, faster the walk, ducking into an old tavern...
his name, his name, his name!
...and then the candle went out.
Silence; all but the breathing. That sound...raspy breathing...in the dark.
Flashlights aimed, illuminating aged hands, large in the knuckles.
No longer the primmed and polished hands of a doubtful young woman,
but the hands of...a writer?
Flashlights up to illuminate the face...a head down examining "his" own hands.
"Why?!" A shout bellowing with force from out of our friend's mouth.
Her head now turned towards me,
meeting mine...eye to eye.
Those eyes. Such torment. Spirit to spirit.
We screamed and ran for the door, and flipped on the light switch.
There we huddled, holding onto each other arm in arm.
"Did you see that?" somebody whispered.
Our friend now sat confused and dazed in the middle of the blanket circle.
"What happened?" she said bewildered.
"You don't remember anything?"
Then laughter from the few, as they assumed it to be a prank;
anger from our host, as in her opinion it was "immature" and "stupid"
and we that had "ruined her party".
Not only did this event ruin her party in her opinion, it drove a huge stake through the heart
of our friendship,which eventually drifted into nothing.
Those consequences were likely anyway, especially considering I was about to move an
hour away and all of us would soon be attending different high schools in a few months.
The slumber parties stopped. My circle of friends shrunk, and I realized that I was
no more just a weirdo that could contact the dead.
I had been seeing them; interactions people told me was in my mind. Imaginations they said.
Fears from reading all of those scary novels...but it wasn't. This time, I had witnesses.
This time, it worked...and by grave, book, bell and candle...Ravynmoon was born.
The book group went in various directions. I'm sure they kept up their reading,
but I took the weight and the seriousness of it.
The purposefulness. The majik though...the necromancy...that was something else;
something that only a practice of majik could fulfill.
A circle in his honor, by the raven and moon. Ravynmoon.
My mother remarried and I had uncomfortably settled into our new home in Western Maryland
on an old pig farm, just a mere hop from Gettysburg.
I felt out of my element. This was civil war country, and the belt buckles and bullet holes
and fences confirmed it at every turn.
These were different ghosts.
Neon and street lights were nonexistant.
The old city history I had become so acquainted with didn't seem to stretch out this far.
It did, but that was something I had yet to learn.
All of the sounds from people at all hours of the night that used to make me feel
comfortable and safe was all gone.
The people I knew were an hour away...and they rarely answered their phones. This place was silent except for the frogs and crickets and goats and that screaming
sound coming from beyond the fields. What was that sound?
I asked my step-Dad what the noise was, thinking he'd tell me it was nothing or my imagination
or give me some explanation of animal, but he didn't.
He looked at me in all seriousness and said "it's the Sykesville Snallygaster. You'll get used to it".
"The what!? Fuck if I will get used to it! It sounds like it's dying."
His answer, "It probably is because people won't stop shooting at it".
"You can't be serious."
Oh, but he was...very serious.
Apparently, according to legend or lore and the multitude of sightings of said beasty, it was a mountain lion that had been
shot over and over for eating the livestock. Over and over, mind you, for over a hundred years, and he was serious about my safety and
warned me about going off by myself into the forest.
Well, me being me, didn't listen. I had no great old architecture to explore anymore.
This was the forest that my father loved and traversed before he died 5 years prior. Now, in place of old buildings, I had the trees.
I had no friends; now I had animals. I had no gaslight or neon to illuminate my way; I now only had moonlight.
This was my home now, and I was going to make damned sure I knew every inch of it, snallygaster or not.
I packed my books and my journal (which I had been keeping since I was 7); I had snacks and flashlight, an old dagger, candles,
a walkman and a compass that barely pointed North. I made my way by clearing bits of overgrown brush, leaving markers and getting to
know the geography by way of hill, barn and sunset. Landmarks were my friend. Each sound began to reveal itself by face,
be it owl or fox or rabbit...except for one...that "snallygaster".
I spent all of my time in those woods. I created a majikal circle in those woods that first summer.
It was just me, but I felt there would be others. I could "see" things that hadn't happened.
I formulated a relationship with the trees. I cleared and cleaned, swept pine needles with a broom made of branches.
I got my water from the little creek. The deer no longer ran away from me.
Crows took a special interest in my bells and shiny baubles that now adorned the trees.
Watchtower candles now rested on rocks while I wrote in the shadow of those trees.
I read my books up until the last rays of sunset. I no longer had the street lights to tell me when it was time to go home.
When the last rays of sunset no longer illuminated the back woods, I had exactly 10 minutes to run back to the house
before all was shrouded in darkness...especially at New Moon. If I heard that screaming, I better run triple time.
I went to school. I came home. I grabbed my bag and snacks, and I went to my circle in the forest. I made new friends.
We would sit around in gym class and talk about metaphysics and compare ideas and experiences.
Ravynmoon now had other members. Now, we were three.
Three until graduation. I got married and had a baby. One moved very far North to the land of the Sioux,
and the other joined the military.
I was again by myself. Me, my little family, and my majik.
Years compounded. Life happened. More babies were born. People came and went...and then I met Sean.
As it turns out, it appears that this story is the story of me. I can't say that it isn't. Ravynmoon became entity.
More friend, more spirit then just mere name. Perhaps it was in my own lonliness.
Perhaps it was in the connections I made with my enviornment or it was a bit of Edgar's spirit.
I think it was a combination of everything.
Sean was the first person that I actually trusted. He came to me with questions of majik, and as a result became my majikal partner.
He was strong. Creative. He loved me purely, without need or want or consequence.
A true friendship.
Eventually, our circle went from just us two to thirteen. All ages.
Mostly high school and folks in their early twenties.
It was during the Autumn of 1996 that Ravynmoon became the "cursed coven".
I'm sure you've heard of it. Everyone has.
A warning against stepping too heavy, of losing your focus, of losing your way.
I'd like to tell you something quite opposite.
Yes, we were cursed for being different. We had ways that not everyone agreed with.
I won't go into grave detail here, but what we were doing was considered dangerous,
unwelcome as it wasn't the way other circles did things.
We had no high priestess or high priest. Everyone was equal. We channeled spirits.
We worked necromancy and did a lot of dimensional work. We worked folk majik of our own design.
Sean favored more ceremonial magick.
I was more comfortable with my bones and stones and notebook...my own kind of Appalachian majik;
a Gothic folk conjure and what was to become the Veshigi way.
It scared people. We scared people.
This shadow work was a learning experience. It taught us. Some people call it qliphotic work.
Some say "you either work the shadow or the shadow works you"....this is true.
Ravynmoon shrunk again in 1997. Our life together was weird.
It was majik and adventure and addiction
and experimentation and ultimately that led to grief and separation and some jail time.
When you choose to embark on the path of self, to really truly understand who you are
and what you are, sometimes, difficult things happen.
For us, cocaine also happened.
Ours was a friendship that physically spanned for over 20 years. Sean passed away in 2015.
It was my high honor to have known an worked with him, and he is sorely missed.
Keep in mind I said "physically" spanned for over 20 years.
After all, no one really "dies".
As of today, there are only two members of the original coven Ravynmoon that are still alive.
Myself, and another one who ended up leaving the country altogether for reasons that
weren't "entierly" circle related.
I hear rumors. She won't speak to me, so I can't tell you what her reasons were exactly.
From what Sean told me before his passing,
was that she wanted to "close the chapter" of that book, and that meant "closing the chapter" on us.
Well, no hard feelings, and I hope that life brings her joy.
Everyone else either went crazy or died. This is not a metaphor.
This is not some "try to make us sound edgy" scheme, either.
It's all public record. It's all real. It all happened.
In 1997, trouble found me. A lot was going on in our little Northwestern town, and people needed a scapegoat.
Rumors told of the witches who practiced in veils of shadows under forest moonlight.
Stories told of mists encircling us when we didn't want to be seen, and a circle in the woods that people
would disappear into once they crossed the threshhold of it.
These stories are all true.
The story that isn't true, is that I was the head of a Satanic drug cult.
The paper wrote about it. People believed it. I had no priors and they made me a scapegoat for
"doing something to stop drugs" in the area.
In 1997, it was definitely getting worse. You could see it it mainly in the inner city.
I was not a cult leader. I was not a "satanist".
The truth is that Ravynmoon was learning. We (mainly Sean and I) experimented with drugs
and got in some trouble because of it,
and because we were different (non-christian) in a place that was predominantly such,
I was set up and branded and left with a conviction.
After a time of adjustments and moving to a new place...P.G. County, S.E. of Washington D.C.,
I pulled up what I had left and decided to open Ravynmoon Creations Online Metaphysical Store.
We did really well. We were the first online metaphysical store on the internet.
We had the first herbal compendium on the net,
a work I had been collecting for over 20 years at that point. I gathered information from asking people,
magazine articles and general experimentation.
I shared this information. I sold over 1000 pieces of this and that.
For me, it was a therapy and a service to others.
It was something I had wanted to do for me for a very long time.
That little beloved shop lasted until 2004. There were rumors of Yahoo killing metaphysical websites.
I don't know how much truth is in that,
but a lot of folks I knew mysteriously lost their sites as well. I received an email that said basically that
this happens sometimes, and that I should've backed up my data.
I did have it backed up...through yahoo. That disappeared as well.
For the next few years, I taught in private. I took care of my family. I created things.
I devised runesets and card sets.
I wrote in my book. I met with remaining members of Ravynmoon on occassion.
They practiced in their way in their spaces. I remained in mine.
My husband died in February of 2004. A lot can be said of my experiences during this process,
but even though it is relevant in regard to majik and my
own personal thought processes, I don't find it immediately relevant to the history I am attempting to present here.
Over the course of the next 15 years, Ravynmoon remained in limbo.
A memory. A ghostly practice. A black and silent circle.
I focused on my art and my writings and other projects, keeping Ravynmoon in my own time.
I met my soulmate in 2006 and together we've refined the majik.
If not for him, Ravynmoon may have not come back into a public existence.
He inspires me. He supports me. He empowers me. We moved to the deep forest on the Appalachian plateau in 2007.
I healed here.
I worked the most powerful majiks I ever have, here.
I have a powerful relationship with the enviornment here. I found family here.
In 2017, he was also the one who repurchased the olden Ravynmoon domain as a gift for me.
We made a plan, had ups and downs. Energies to reverse and remove.
Experiences and revelations had been coming quickly.
Majiks placed had been unraveling the past and formulating things into what was desired.
Ravynmoon formally went back online and the coven was formally reinstituted.
It works side by side with the formal version of The Gothic Poets Society and our home, Wintermoon.
We are motivated, refined and re-designed, and looking forward to the future.
Oh and as for that Snallygaster...I never found out what it was.
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