About Byron Ballard

H. Byron Ballard, BA, MFA, is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and other gatherings. Earlier this year, she presented “Gnarly Roots: Exploring the British Sources of Appalachian Folk Magic” at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference and will facilitate a workshop on Deep Grounding at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in August. Her writings have appeared in print and electronic media. Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press). She blogs as “Asheville’s Village Witch” (myvillagewitch.wordpress.com) and as The Village Witch for Witches and Pagans Magazine (witchesandpagans.com/The-Village-Witch). Her pamphlet “Back to the Garden: a Handbook for New Pagans“ has been widely distributed and her first book “Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo” (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on “Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet”. She facilitates the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum in Asheville, NC and was active for many years in the United Religions Initiative.

What Does Interfaith Mean?

artichoke

  Since last we met, my little corner of Interfaithland has been a patchwork quilt of emotions and events. I’ll start with the surprising death of one of my local interfaith colleagues. His name is Ahmad Amara and he came to our town in his retirement and it was his quiet voice that brought me to the place I stand regarding Palestine. He was my first Muslim friend and his stories of growing up in Jaffa were sweet and heartbreaking. Ahmad died an old man so he remembered playing … [Read more...]

Approaching the Season of Balance

amongst the trees

With Imbolc and a polar vortex behind us, we are entering the early planting season here in the southern highlands of Appalachia. As we approach the Vernal Equinox--the quaint season of balance--I am acutely aware of the precarious balance in the human world, even as the natural world turns in its Wheel toward the start of the agricultural year. As happens a couple of times a year, this cool UU church in a neighboring town has asked me to do the service for them around the Equinox. My title … [Read more...]

MLK Day and Your Average Wiccan Priestess

public prayer

  It's been a difficult couple of weeks in our little corner of the interfaith world. All of us who are mindful of the dear old Earth are conscious of the horror of West Virginia--a horror of carelessness compounded by the invisible world of classism that kept the eye of the nation on the governor of New Jersey when it should have been on the people and critters and waterways and corruption in West Virginia. Yes, we've sent water and held candlelight vigils and called the governor and … [Read more...]

We Are All Travellers Along Life’s Tricksy Ways

sol invictus

  This season of ice and rime, of greeting cards and indoor trees--it can be the hardest of seasons in our multi-faith world. In this country, the season is dominated by the curious and often-repellent observation of Christmas. We have been celebrating it in the wider culture since October and it will not end until the last discount store has rid its shelves of marshmallows shaped like snowfolk and plastic tablecloths sporting imitation patchwork in red and white and green. In my … [Read more...]

We Don’t Have a Golden Rule…and yet…

Years ago, when I was in a Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative, there was an interfaith-y poster of how religions across the spectrum of spirituality had their own version of The Golden Rule--Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done Unto You. There were very similar mottos from lots of different creeds but my spiritual tradition doesn't have a thing like that, not really. We harken back to the ancient laws of hospitality and that could sort of pass. But not really. We spend … [Read more...]

Blessings on the New House

SWWHC 016

  a welcoming garden bench When interfaith really works in the religious corners of a community, you are rewarded with doing more than the monthly meeting and candlelight vigils when something goes terribly wrong in the world. You establish relationships with people on other spiritual paths and you bond over the things that people bond over. And if you are very lucky, you make friends. Real friends. That has been one of the gifts of the years of interfaith I've done--I have actual … [Read more...]

An Interfaith Summit on Child Poverty

This past Wednesday evening, I dressed in what passes for my business suit and went downtown to Trinity Episcopal Church to participate in an interfaith summit on child poverty in my county, which is Buncombe.  Yes, I know--and that is, in fact, where the word "bunkum" comes from. It was sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of western NC and others and several non-profits presented some frightening statistics about the level of poverty in this county that includes the Biltmore Estate and the … [Read more...]

What I Meant to Say Was…I’m Not Interested

Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape

I know, I know. This is going to sound harsh. But after two decades of hoeing a tough row in the interfaith fields, I have finally gotten to a place where I can follow Nancy Reagan's advice and Just Say No. I initially entered this rough-plowed field out of a sense of self-preservation. As a minority religionist in a culture where the majority doesn't seem to mind throwing its weight around, I thought that if people in other religions actually knew someone who was Wiccan, they'd mellow a bit. … [Read more...]

The Solace of Holy Stone

Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape

I am on pilgrimage for a couple of weeks. I have also called it "field research." And sometimes "visiting friends." I am in Britain to teach a workshop at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference and am using some time ahead of that adventure to see some old standing stones, some old churches, and some old riverbeds. It has me thinking about this element of earth and how we begin to approach it in ways that we deem holy. Certainly there is the phrase "holy ground" and there is also "the Holy Land." … [Read more...]

Back to the Garden

Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape

This morning I received an email from a dear Anglican friend with whom I have done interfaith work in my community for many years. She and her husband have moved to a retirement community south of the city and we don't see her much anymore. She was drawing my attention to an interfaith forum that was televised a couple of nights ago at Elon College. She thought it was excellent but was wistful that there was no voice to speak for "Nature religions", as she put it. And she said some kind words … [Read more...]