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21 February 2017

W2



When I hit publish on that last post, magic happened. Ha. But no, something special did happen. First, I felt an immediate opening. A falling into place of something I'd shut out. In fact I almost came back and rewrote it before deciding that no, it was a good marker for me. Next, I got private messages, emails, and the wonderful comments left here and on Instagram. Some of them surprising.

I wrote that post in a hurry. It was a tentative step into exploring something but obviously it was trivial. I mean, I've never actually believed that witches are like Willow or Piper, I was writing about popular culture's take on the subject and how it served to bring witches back into the open for my generation.

Fictional witches are often all about the magic. Then and now. Magic that conjures and changes, makes miracles in a puff of smoke. Wands, cauldrons, spells. For me, real witches are something else. Something that changes with geography but holds within it earth medicine. A sister to shamanism.

I've received emails from friends and acquaintances who have family witches in living memory. I don't. Although, it occurred to me, I do have an uncle on one side (no longer earthside) who was a "wolf-loving pagan" (his words), and another on the other side who by his 60s (he's now 80) was, to the absolute amazement of all who had ever met younger him, a Reiki Master who imported crystals for a living! Interesting that it should be the men who were open about this stuff. But not surprising.

As for the women, I know very little about them. My dear sister-aunt is of course a very spiritual, earth-loving plantswoman like her mother before her. Green fingers, thumbs and toes, both of them. But I've no known blood claim to wise women or healers.

That said, I'm the product of these islands and I'm very aware of the earth that built me, physically and spiritually. It's been a life-long love affair with Nature, my true comfort zone, that has got me to this place where I can confidently build my home in Witchery.

It's the land, the plants, the other animals, the weather, the spirits, the intuition, the fixing, the healing, the feminism, the wholeness, the ritual, the 'superstition', the edges and the ways. And there's so much more to say but I had to come and keep this moving. More soon.

x

17 February 2017

The W Word



Let's talk about Witches. It's a popular topic these days. I'm noticing that I have a strong reaction to how younger women are using the word and I'm curious about why that is. I have a great respect for words and names, I believe they have their own power (although I'm not sure if I think this is a good or bad thing), so I try to be careful about how I use them.

My first version of Witch was the typical childhood fairy tale bad gal. The black pointy hat, the hooked nose, wild hair, broom, cat, and warts. Always the warts. I was given a Pelham puppet when I was about five - love those things - and it was this one. I was never quite clear on why she had green skin but the rest of it I accepted without question. Remember, this was in the days before The Blessed Jo Rowling and all who followed in her footsteps, making Witches and Wizards cool for little kids.

Later I learned more about the terrible hunts of the 17th Century and my internal image of a Witch became more that of a persecuted wise woman who was 'probably just a herbalist', and more than likely 'a bit gobby'. Next up, in my New Age years, was an awareness of Wicca and the feeling that only practitioners of that should be called Witches. This was happily superimposed with the wondrousness of the Buffyverse, The Craft, Charmed and (*puts hand on heart* *sighs*) Practical Magic.

I discovered the concept of hedgewitchery only in the last few years and found that I could really identify with it. I've dabbled in various versions of earthcentric faiths and practices but always ended up going solo and patching together my own way, so hedgewitchery kinda fits. I have a 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn*' t-shirt and when I wear it, I mean it.

Ack tho. 'Witch'. Does that not make me sound like some teen emo who likes to play dress-up and drone on about how 'different' she is, along with a dozen friends who look exactly the same? I just recoil from it because grow up.

But I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of the more spiritual of them are hosted, and guested, by women who are anything from 20 to maybe 32, 33. Their experience with the word Witch is different. Not to say they aren't aware of the history because mostly they are well-read, intelligent women who are curious about their roots, but it's just different. Maybe it's the post-New Age culture. The way the world is more open to the esoteric and what used to be 'alternative'. It's no longer something to be hidden; it's cool. And suddenly everyone's a Witch. Meditate? Witch. Like plants? Witch. Essential oils? Witch. Believe in spirit? Witch. Candles? Witch. Yesterday I heard someone describe Jesus as 'The Grand Poobah of Witches".

My knee jerk reaction was WTF? (That's pretty much my 'go to' reaction for anything these days.) Then I caught myself and asked why. The word Witch has evolved and if young women are reclaiming and celebrating it, is that wrong? Of course not.

I'm still not ready to embrace it myself though, however fitting it may be. I bought domains based on hedgewitch. Can't bring myself to use them. I love the whole hedge/edge thing with all my tree-hugging heart and I'm very comfortable there but the W word? Not yet. Maybe never. It just feels disrespectful on the one hand, and childish on the other. I wish it didn't. Also, if I'm as honest as I promised I would be, I feel excluded (by myself) because I'm not young and hot anymore. I don't look like the Instagram Witches. I know that's crazy, but it's true.

Do you have feelings and/or experience around identifying as a Witch? Have you found your way into peace with it? I'd love to know your thoughts.

x




*Pedantics Corner: when people rewrite that as 'We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren't able to burn' it makes me want to scream. READ IT OUT LOUD. Where's the rhythm?! Oy. I know. I'm that petty.

7 February 2017

From the heart


Back in the winter of 2011 we were struggling. We didn't know, thankfully, that the struggle would get deeper and harder until we hit the infamous 'rock bottom' from which we all hope we'll bounce, should we hit it. I was holding on to my part-time job, post-economic crash, and looking for anything else I could find to fill in the gaps. In a local free paper I spotted a little ad saying that a person was needed to help look after some dogs. Phone number. So I rang and arranged an interview for the following week.

Come the day, wearing smartish (as in, clean) clothes that didn't look too much as if they'd be ruined by muddy paws, or that I'd care if they were, I found my way to a beautiful, big country house. The owners, a very elderly gentleman and his son, showed me to the study where we could talk. They were lovely. We talked about dogs. Then they told me that the dogs' number one human, their own wife and mother, had passed away the day before. We were all very stiff upper lip - although I tend to let the side down with watery eyes on occasions like these because heartbreak - and I was reminded that the older generation of the British upper class simply doesn't talk about 'this sort of thing'. Or perhaps, more likely, they were still in shock. I've been there.

A week later I returned to start my new job. Every Tuesday I'd visit the seven Beagles, bath a couple, groom a couple, and clean/hose their kennels and yard. I also got to play, cuddle and generally make a fuss of them.

It transpired that their late owner was Someone Big in Beagles. She was a nationally respected breeder and had judged championships all over the country, including Crufts. She had also been instrumental in setting up the Beagle welfare organisation in the days before such concerns were a given.

The thing is, because us humans were virtual strangers and I didn't want to intrude on what was profound grief, we simply never spoke about her. We talked about the dogs, my life and family. We shared an interest in environmental and conservation issues so we'd talk about that. Most of the time it was just me and the dogs. What I learned about her, Google told me. Photographs all over the house, of a stunning woman, showed me her face. She was clearly, going by Google facts alone, awesome. But we still never speak of her. The family does, obviously, but I don't.

The seven dogs - six female, one male - were the tail end of a dynasty. There had been, at one time, more than 40, virtually all of them Champions. I'm all about the rescue when it comes to dogs and I'm no fan of breeders. Nor do I like what showing has done to breeds over the years. That said, the Beagle - thanks in no small part to the role played by the woman whose dogs I was caring for - has stayed true to original type, strong and healthy. And there's no doubt that the dogs I was working with were wonderful and so very loved.

However, they were hard work for the family and slowly the difficult decision to rehome the younger ones was made. Three left home to new (known and trusted) families, sending regular tales of adventures and destroyed furniture (these are Beagles, after all) via their carers, and I was left with four charges. The eldest, already 14 years old, passed away in her sleep about a year after I started. Then my boy, Flyer as he was known at home, passed away about three years ago. So nowadays it's just me and the adorable mother and daughter pair that's left. Somewhere along the line I started visiting monthly, rather than weekly. The family moved home. I stopped needing the work years ago but somehow couldn't leave, so here I am...six years on.

This last weekend I visited and found that the elder of the two dogs, Plum, had been a bit under the weather. She was off her food, and her people thought perhaps it was a tooth problem. She was also being a bit clingy and inclined to snap at her daughter. Usually Plum is the gentlest of dogs so it was all a bit 'off'. A gentle exploration and massage along her jaw, then looking at and touching her teeth showed no problems there. Her eyes and ears were no different and she was comfortable with me feeling along her legs and feet, and doing a few other checks. And yet she wasn't right. She was pushing her head into me and just leaning. 

Reiki can be really helpful in this kind of situation, so as I dried her from her bath I kept one hand over her heart and slipped into a Reiki space. It's a kind of meditation 'bubble' into which you invite whoever it is you're working with. Animals will often choose to experience it from afar, flopping down to rest on the other side of the room, stable or even field. Distance isn't an issue. Others really enjoy close touch. I stood with Plum for a moment and just took deep breaths, centring myself and visualising a white light around us. And then I started to cry. Just like that. Out of the blue.

The feeling of sadness was overwhelming, truly a wave. I 'felt' Plum as she said to me,"I'm sad. I'm very sad. I miss her. I wish I could be with her again."

Obviously I knew who she was talking about and as I comforted Plum and continued to hold us in the Reiki space, I remembered that this week marks the anniversary of her human mother's passing.

At coffee break I shared that I (as a non-veterinary person) couldn't find any physical discomfort in Plum. I didn't want to start a conversation about Reiki and grief so I just added lightly,"She does seem sad though. Perhaps she just wants some extra cuddles."

The son, who is a lovely man and very insightful - met this with a few moments' silence. Then, apparently changing the subject, he said,"Oh by the way, my father is in talks with the Beagle Club about having a section of their annual publication dedicated to people who've played an important role in the past." I'm glad that he also made the connection.

Clearly, Plum had been hearing conversations about her late human as the anniversary of her passing came around. No wonder she was sad. No wonder she was seeking closeness and affection. 

This is not the first time that Reiki has opened doors to something else for me. It's not an aspect of Reiki that you pick up images or thoughts or anything else, it's just not about that, and yet it seems to allow me to find a frequency (for want of a better word) where this is possible. It's never been this strong though. This direct and almost audible. 

I spent a couple of days wondering what to do with it. Trying to unravel what happened and see if it was just coincidence, just a thought, but it wasn't. It was Plum, sharing her sadness with me. I have no doubt about that.

So maybe this is something I need to explore. To try here at home with my dogs. It might seem strange that I haven't already done this but to be honest, I've always been a bit skeptical about animal communication. I'm skeptical about most things but always open to persuasion. I've never tried to talk on this level with my dogs because a) I think I read them pretty well non-verbally, and b) I'm scared they're going to tell me they hate me and want to call the RSPCA. Ha. But I think sweet Plum's openness was a gift in more ways than one. I owe her.

x




3 February 2017

Being human



When you're lucky enough to live cheek by jowl with wildlife, it's easier to remember that we all belong to Animal Clan. That we share this planet with other beings who are really very like us. I'm all about respecting and learning from plants and stones, but our kinship with other animals defines us, fraught as it is with the history of 'dominion' and abuse.

Part of that tragedy is, the further we distance ourselves from the true lives of our fellow animals, the further we stray from our own species. Aggression against animals is linked inextricably to similar behaviour around humans, while the act of opening our hearts and minds to even just respect other species seems to create compassionate people*.

We work better together, us warm-bloodeds.

There's little doubt that as we deny the freedoms and characteristics of other species, seeing them simply as a resource with no feelings, thoughts or emotions, so we dehumanise ourselves. And as our lives change, so fast, so much, with the development of technology - much of it wonderful and desirable - so we're losing sight of our roots. Our place among the other animals.

As I think about who, what and where I want to be as I get older, who I have always been and can now express fully, remembering my animal identity is central. I'm planning 'rehumanise, don't dehumanise'.

I wonder what the description of the human would be as a spirit animal. If a squirrel had a human come to him in a dream, offering guidance on creating an abundance of winter food, what qualities would he attribute to that person? I can well imagine being totally bummed out as a badger if you were to go into the dreamtime, down in your sett, and journey to a furless two-legged. I think I'd be tempted to lie. "Yeah, no, I totally saw a wolf. Like three times and everything. Seriously."

But at our best we might actually be a little bit cool - apart from the furless bit because that's so not cool. I think the old Wild Google might throw up some pages on humans that describe us as, hmmm...

  • sensitive
  • physically awkward, but brave and risk-taking all the same
  • a tendency to cling to childlike behaviours
  • affectionate
  • nurturing
  • capable of great gentleness
  • defends family at own risk
  • highly developed humour
  • intelligent problem-solver
  • good mimic
  • highly spiritual

Let's stick with those positives. And hope for

  • looks like David Tennant


x


*I'm not oblivious to the wounded rescue worker who hates all people. Goodness knows they have to deal with cruelty that I could not face. Ever. My true heroes are people who step up into these situations and still don't give up on the human race.

This little light of mine

best clue at (c), King, 1982





Four in the morning and I'm usually wide awake. Again. Only I'm learning to embrace it as my new normal. After all, this is a time with no distractions, no light, no noise and for someone with my chronic lack of focus that makes it an ideal time to do something that needs proper attention. Perfect for some personal Reiki. Or at least, healing work.

Reiki, although something I've done on and off for coming up on 19 years, has become less of a singular discipline for me during these early hours, and more of an entry to intuitive, guided work.

When I began working with a Three Diamonds technique using Reiki and the symbols that sometimes go with it - it centres on earth, heavenly and heart ki and what corresponds to the sacral, crown and heart chakras - I got gently nudged into chakra opening and then journeying and other things. I've been shown things that frankly, I've scorned in the past. Things that completely stand up to research in broad daylight. I'll be honest, I find this exciting.

In the early hours of this morning I lay quietly, and thought about how women are healers. All of us, even if we don't put it into practice often. Or ever. We have the ability to care, nurture, nurse, rebalance, connect with spirit. Of course men often do too - my Reiki teacher is an incredibly gifted man - but women have the sacred feminine stuff going on even when we're unaware of it.

I have no influence on foreign politics. Limited effect on domestic, although I'll do what I can. I will meet a tiny proportion of the people on this planet during my life and influence maybe less than a dozen. But I can connect with the healer in me. I can be a positive presence who helps when I can. I'm a great believer in the Great Bright Light. *

x

*'Great Light Spell' is also rather splendid.

1 February 2017

Spring is nearly almost on the way


I was so busy being pinched and punched for the first of the month that I almost forgot today is Imbolc. Not that it makes a huge difference because I tend not to mark the quarterly festivals with any regularity as I'm not a Pagan, neo or otherwise. I don't think of these dates as anything more than astronomical landskymarks, although they're special to me in that context. My favourite is the winter solstice because LIGHT, and I suppose I should be more mindful of Imbolc because, like the Lunar New Year which we also don't really celebrate in our house despite one of us being Chinese, it flags the return of spring.

This is our eighth spring here and I know the rhythms now. The wildlife, the land, the plants and how our house looks and feels as we start to stir out of winter. Sure enough we have snowdrops in the garden and the jackdaws are scrapping over who gets to nest in our chimney this year. Their arguing echoes down the chimney into our fireplaces and is hugely entertaining, as long as we don't think about the sweep's bill, come next autumn. Still, something tells me that we'll be waiting a while for any really noticeable change. The last two or three years have seen a false spring of sorts where the bullace trees in the hedges flower like crazy, too early for the bees really, and then a harsh cold snap hits, killing the blooms. Late summer brings no fruit as a result, much to Dooley's disgust. He's the only canine wannabe fruitarian I know and his luck's been out since 2014. Fingers crossed.

Good Imbolc to you if that's your bag, and I hope Lughnasadh is treating you well if that's something you celebrate where you are. It's always good to have something to celebrate, right? We could all use some of that about now I think.

x

Stone medicine

Earth is my element. I suppose it's only natural that the stones therein should hold some connection for me but the truth is that hasn't really been the case until very recently. As a card-carrying member of the New Age back in the old age 80s, I loved the physical feel and presence of 'crystals' but the fluff that went on around them - still does - always gave me a brain rash that looks like little unicorns. 

My night time healing journeys have changed that but I'm still a little antsy around the topic. I've cleaned the floor, made everyone snacks, and emailed my Landlord about that patch on the living room ceiling rather than actually write this post. But when I allowed myself to log back in to Blogger I did it on the understanding that I would do it bravely. That I would stop hiding away things that I knew might provoke rolling eyeballs and sniggers. I told myself to ask,"Is it true? Might it lead someone else to something useful for them?" and if both answers were yes then I should write it. So here it is.

My collection of stones (because whatever the truth, I really can't get past my reaction to the c word, and not all of my stones are crystals) is small. There are a few treasured items that I really love to be around, plus a whole bunch of smaller bits and pieces that I brought home from a day's fossicking in Queensland. And how great a word is fossicking by the way?

Just this last week I've been 'given', during healing sessions, carnelian, unakite and blue chalcedony (see above)(not those actual stones because that would be some weird manifesting shit right there). Each was given for a reason, described to me, and when - because I had no idea what they were for (see unicorn rash) - I researched them later I found the description to be correct. So I'm listening and learning.

I've heard that Leslie J. Franks Stone Medicine is a good resource. Anyone out there got it? I've added it to my wishlist along with a deck of oracle cards on the subject because flash cards are my jam when it comes to learning new stuff. I can always hide the box so I don't have to look at it.

x