Quiet Rebellion

The world seems to have gone mad right now. As the news rolls on, with the British Government apparently heading towards dictatorship (or oligarchy at least), I’ve felt so powerless. My MP has never listened to anyone but those who agree with him, so what can I do?

Himself reminded me of the image below.

We could run away, or as one fine Tweet said this morning, ‘Fuck off into the EU that you love so much.’ We could give up and flee.

Or we could stand. No matter what symbols they make us wear, or freedoms slowly curtailed.

This is my land, my home. It can do so much better. We must stand together – apathy is not an option. If we give in to powerlessness, those who benefit from that inaction win.

We must stay. Stand. Remain, even. When they come for us, standing to raise your voice beside the river of truth can be a powerful act of rebellion.

Much love, my friends.

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Truer than True

For many years now, the touchstone of my Druid practice has been ‘What are you Doing?’ For this summer, the answer has been mostly ‘thinking’.

I’m not a fan of summer. The extremes of heat and unpredictability of British weather mean that I suffer when the pressure changes, as well as burn at the slightest touch from the Daystar.

This year, it has almost felt as if Summer is replacing Winter as the season of contemplation for me. I’ve been out and about with talks and work as usual, but for the rest of the time, I’ve been very much inside with my thoughts.

Usually, I would share these in written form, most likely on here. But something has held me back. These thoughts are for ‘inside’ for now, as they cogitate and grow. See what I mean about Winter-like? Seeds not yet ready to break through the surface (I’m sure there are Autumn-blooming plants, but I don’t know enough about horticulture for details).

Being so insular has allowed me to notice things, too. Those little ‘coincidences’ that really aren’t. The twists of fate that are a cosmic kick-in-the-pants, because we notice them at just the right time.

I’m circling the subject. OK. Deep breath.

I’ve felt that I’m actually changing, right now. Not into a new person, and I’m not gearing up for a Big Announcement! I’m still me.

But the (debunked) scientific tale of a body regenerating itself completely every seven years has come to my mind today, and set me down here at last to have it out.

In recent months, I’ve felt strongly that the winds of change are passing through me. I’m past 40 now, close friends are hitting their menopause while others are celebrating their children’s teenage years. Life is moving forward.

As I explored what this meant when I hit Proper Adulthood at University – ie independent living and Looking After Myself – so am I feeling that exploration is needed now.

Not just What am I Doing, but Who am I Now?

I’m becoming more and more frustrated with the labels we give and receive. I’ve heard someone tell me that ‘Druid’ has some very bad associations with them, and I can see why – not all ‘public’ Druids are good people. ‘Pagan’ is too vague, albeit useful as an umbrella term. ‘Witch’ and ‘Heathen’ kind of mix into what I do, but I’d probably get told off if I claimed to be either.

I can feel myself properly entering my 40s and allowing those frustrations to help me see what, who and where I am, Right Now.

I feel the inner ‘chime’ of rightness when I do certain things: speak publicly from my heart (no matter how terrified I am), help people individually or through divination, share my thoughts here with you.

I feel the pain of wrongness when I try to push back into what I ‘should’ be doing. My inner gremlins constantly try to tell me how my current path is WRONG, and I should return to the workforce, find myself a nice secretarial job, have children quickly, and basically follow the ‘regular’ folks.

That’s not me. That’s not even the majority of people I know. That’s a fiction, which would be both bizarre and harmful if I were to try it. Square peg, round hole.

I cannot squeeze into my teenage jeans any more than I can return to PA-ing a demanding man-boss. That’s not who I am any more.

But then where does that leave me? I joked to Himself that I was ‘off the map’, in the blank pages at the end of the atlas. Here Be Dragons. Which resulted in laughter, because I know a few people who relate strongly to Dragon-types.

And then I thought… I’m a Dragon. In the Chinese Zodiac, I’m a Dragon. A Sagittarius Dragon, born with Jupiter rising. I’m so much Fire…

Perhaps the tears of pain come when I try to douse that flame, to dampen my crazy joy and enthusiasm, to return to ‘normality’ (whatever that is).

I’ve don’t have as much energy as I used to, but what I have is more focused, as I have to use it carefully. I suffer fools far less, and feel righteous anger when those I love are threatened.

I can’t live in a little box. I’ve often joked about Schroedinger’s Cat – how the cat in the box has sodded off to go and do its own things somewhere else. That’s how I feel.

The only snag is that I’m not entirely sure where I’m going next. The world seems truly insane right now – that or it’s having a collossal shakedown so that we have to stand up, shake off our powerlessness or apathy and really do something.

We are all off the map, really. We’re charting courses through unknown seas. The unexpected is happening every day, and we cannot ignore our place in it.

I’m exploring what I can do, that is truly True for me. As people find me and feel a pull towards what I do, and as I do likewise with others, so we inspire and help each other. The challenge is finding what those True things are… as well as being aware that they may change next week.

It’s the Deep Truths of life that I’m swimming in right now. The foundations are shifting and I’m not sure where I’ll end up. As I try to find out what my mind, body and spirit are doing Right Now, so my journey may find me alongside others, old friends and new.

Either way, I am so ridiculously grateful to those who choose to walk with me: human and (very patient) deity alike.

All of this came about while I was musing what to wear today. What does my skin feel like now, how can I best express that… hmm. Small changes lead to bigger ripples.

I look forward to what Autumn brings. Onward.Truer than True

Much love, my friends.

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Sharing, Service and Gratitude

I want to say that this week has already been busy, but that’s not quite true. Saturday was busy. I spent the day at Witchfest Midlands, and from the moment I stepped out of my car, I was deluged with wonderful hugs, greetings, chat and updates from friends near and far (often known better via virtual ‘connection’ here!).

I gave a talk. It was… intense. Aware that I was surrounded by some very Big Name Pagans (all of whom I know and have spent crazy times with!), nonetheless I wanted to really give my all to those people who chose to sit and listen to me for an hour.

There was quite a few of them. Several dozen, in fact. As I talked, I noticed latecomers finding seats, and even sitting on the stairs in the little lecture theatre.

At the end, there was a deluge of lovely folks wanting to chat, buy books, share stories, get hugs… and say Thank you. I might’ve just made them cry, but I spoke truth, and I think most everyone heard.

I did intend to nip home and then return for the evening music, but by the time I was halfway to my hilltop, I was flagging. Loud music and song got me home, food had been prepared previously, and I fell over.

The day after had been set aside for Rest – but it turns out that wasn’t enough. Even today (Tuesday), I’ve been napping, because I’m still not quite recovered yet.

A lot of thinking has been going on, however. Such events always throw up their own wisdom, whether from other people’s talks or just chit-chat with like-minded folks. This time, there was so much synchronicity with recent lines of thought in my head… well, let’s say that it’s not so much Guidance from the Gods as a Good Kick in the Butt from Them.

I’ve started writing down ideas on what that’s all about offline, but don’t worry – it’ll be shared soon.

What I wanted to write about today was the more clear-cut synchronicity. The energy exchange of What I Do in very real form.

I gave my talk, yes. I spoke my truth, gave my all. Those who’ve seen me know that I don’t tend to hold back (sorry/not sorry). But I do not want, nor do I feel able to give half-measures. That’s always been my way. It has got me in trouble in the past (not often, and usually with folks who want to pick an argument!), but more often than not, it strikes chords with people and is both useful and needed.

I give hugs, gladly, and receive them just the same. I found glitter all over my cheek from a heartfelt kiss from a truly lovely lady, she of the fabulous crystal hairstick and wooly hair-falls!

I caught up with the amazing Cristina from Spirit of Artemisia, who provided some of her truly magical potions.

Myself and some creativity-loving friends made a small Yarn Corner in the restaurant, and shared much laughter.

I received the usual Very Squeezy Hugs and care from the Dagda, security without peer at most Pagan events these days!

I saw those I hadn’t met in person for years. I felt smiles light up as greetings were made, shy introductions and dirty jokes.

I sat quietly, observing more of this going on around, feeling the whirl of this, my community, dressed in its finery and free as it could ever be.

The space was held, across the rooms we used but in the little ritual space of the talks, the social bubbles of stalls and tea-tables, as social fears fell away. No matter how nervous you might be to join this gaggle of apparently crazy people, you quickly learned that It Is OK. You are safe here.

The tendrils of connection from that powerful day are still reaching out, even now. Folk have returned home, but inevitably reacquainted with new friends across the usual social media portals. I may be exhausted, but I’m smiling at every new picture and anecdote, and already have next year’s event in my 2020 calendar (a year which very much seems like The Future!).

It’s no secret that on Saturday morning, I was nervous too. The anxiety in me tried to stop me from taking those steps to get to the event, but I was determined, and I’m so glad that I did. I heard the same from others, too.

Never more have such loving communities been needed in this world, right here and right now. By which I mean as the news media is full of negativity and division, we have friends who selflessly help each other up, cheer us on and send support as needed. I always help if I can; and if I can’t, I always pass details on of others who are more qualified. Nobody is left out in the cold (I’ve been there, and it’s not fun).

The Children of Artemis work harder than most to make their events the best they can be. The Pagan Federation gladly offers support for all Pagans (not just members), and I see their Community Support Teams are really stepping up lately (particularly for Disabled and LBTQIA Pagans). The Police Pagan Association is working hard to have our voices heard, as are the Pagan & Heathen Symposium and personal, local representatives on various Multifaith Groups and Interfaith Councils.

I’ve had many volunteer and working titles over the years, but ultimately am just one person. I support those who have supported me, unreservedly and gladly. I’ve seen those who are ‘in it for themselves’ come and go. Those who give generously find themselves supported by those who see them and vote with their feet – hence this weekend’s event selling out well before the day itself!

Most of you know that I do this for a living. I have to do as much as I can, as I’m supported by this community; but also, everyone knows that I face my own challenges and need time for those as well.

So when I receive anything that helps. I’m often brought to tears by the generosity of those who freely offer.

At Witchfest, I was given lovely gifts, words and hugs. Since then, in my email Inbox I’ve received many messages of thanks, and still more stories. These all mean so much, and I am deeply grateful to those who share their tales with me.

Today, in my postbox, came a package from a friend. Amusingly, as I got up this morning, I realized that today I have No Spoons (for information on Spoon Theory, click here). Until…

I’m often gifted real spoons, and usually attach them to my desk or my knitting project bags. This one may be placed in the kitchen, to keep me reminded with its brightness, of the love and care of friends. So very, very touched.

Then this afternoon, it wasn’t spoons that were sent, but coffee! I’d all but forgotten about my page on Ko-Fi, a lovely site that allows you to send virtual coffee to friends – and something had been sent, from across the world. I’m still amazed that anyone outside of the UK knows me, but I always want to grab a handy TARDIS and zoom over to hug thanks in person!

I have a Patreon, which many writers, artists and general creative folks use to keep themselves going while we Do Our Thing. Again, it means so much, and more Special Posts will be going up there soon as personal thanks.

As we move forward into this new century, we are finding new ways to show our support and love, of how much we value those who work hard but in a manner that’s new, outside of the usual Working World. There’s no ‘Employment Ladder’ here (is that even a thing anymore?), but there is tremendous give and take.

I spoke on Saturday about energy. As I gave my words, I felt the connection with those I spoke to, of their understanding at a deeper level than at any mandatory Powerpoint Meeting I’d ever attended in an office environment! And I’d rather this path than that, on any day.

So long as I get a wee bit of time to recover before the next adventure…

Huge love, dear ones. We are all walking our paths, together.

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The Week After

(As before, previously published on my Patreon. I’m very much home now!)

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since our Serbian adventure.

The days at once flew past and yet seemed so long. Cross-country friendships were kindled and I saw many move forward on their own individual journies.

One of the main things that has stayed with me was the process that Team UK went through while preparing to enter the arena to fight.

Initially, there was quiet. Just the sound of metal jingling as armour was buckled on, the odd request for help, but an absolutely intense atmosphere pervaded the Camp. I felt as if I was intruding initially, and retreated to my favourite bench to watch, close by if needed.

As the days went on, I was somehow absorbed into the activity. I helped Himself into his armour first; then another person, and another. As I’ve spoken of before, I was happy to work on odd jobs, but this was rather different – I quickly became aware that each piece of kit had to be positioned as its wearer wished. Too tight and movement would be impaired; too loose and injury could easily happen. Broken weapons demonstrated how hard each blow was, and the armour had to hold up against this.

By the final day, every time I made ready to go to my place in the audience, I was being grabbed multiple times for ‘just a quick bit of help?’ and I was carrying several peoples wallets, passports etc in my handbag. It feels peculiar how light it seems now I’m carrying just my own things!

I became incorporated into the busyness without force. I watched, respected each fighter’s preparation process, and took instruction (pointing out potential problems if I saw them). I was caring, efficient and – again, after years of PA work – able to do what was needed. They were patient with me, and (I hope) glad of the help.

The thing that has stayed with me, however, is that atmosphere. It wasn’t just about doing a job. The absolute focus was crucial. Every person had their own method for getting ready to face a team of other men or women, and each wanted to remain standing at the end.

I would imagine it to be similar to before an important sporting match, but with the added edge of higher potential for injury. Everyone saw and heard the little Serbian ambulances trundling on and off the field each day. Fortunately, nobody on Team UK suffered more than a concussion.

But I was honoured to be included in these rituals, and said as much to the Team Coach afterwards.

I’m reminded a lot of a line in the movie ‘The 13th Warrior’. Antonio Banderas’ Arab scholar is given a sword, like all the other warriors present. He protests, ‘I cannot lift this!’ One of the others smiles and yells ‘Grow stronger!’

That is my main take-home from this event. I saw so many fighters working to grow stronger, physically and mentally. I was very aware of my own weaknesses (likewise), but have been trying to figure out how to overcome them. I want to be better as Team Support in the future. I want to be as strong as I can.

Perhaps such inspiration will help mind as much as body. I saw much that I would call bravery, but which would be shrugged off as ‘normal’ to the fighters.

The members of Team UK are already looking to future events both at home and in Europe in the months ahead. Some I will be able to attend, some not. I was surprised how disappointed this made me.

I see parallels in recent thoughts and writings. What is important, what is not. How can I grow stronger, to do what I need to do in everyday life and its associated battles.

I hope my striving to be a Mental Health Warrior will be reflected in my physical spoons as well. Either way, I’ll do my best, for myself and those around me. I’m honoured to do so.

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Serbia – Last Day

(Again – previously published on Patreon. Please support for immediate access)

We’ve been very lucky with the weather this weekend – kind of. It’s been sunny and hot, which is great for the crowds, but not so much for the folks in armour.

Yesterday, though, the rain began. Gently, over the UK v France fight (cue lots of jokes about British weather helping us), but heavier overnight. Today, the site is rather muddy. Now the jokes are about Agincourt.

(Addendum: It got worse. Flooding-worse. Fortunately, all the fighting was done by then!)

I’m feeling philosophical. It’s our last day of the event, as we fly home first thing tomorrow. I’ve not been fighting, but Support is so important to the team. In the past, supporters were (briefly) treated like squires – but that was quickly knocked on the head. We’re not unpaid servants!

The (ex-Polish military) Team Coach took all of us Support crew aside last night and thanked us. This was really amazing, and I felt myself welling up – I was touched. It’s easy to forget the helpers, but without us, preparation and constant assistance would be much harder. Extra hands are needed for a knight to get into armour, and water is ALWAYS needed post-fight.

Back on the second day, the Team Captain asked if I could sew. A few minutes later, I was sat in his tent, his helmet between my knees (stop sniggering), stitching the cloth around the metal. Everything must be historically accurate to the eye, but the fabric collar was too thick and ungainly, getting in our Captain’s way.

When I’d finished, he was surprised how even it all was, much more comfortable and still looking good. Since then, it’s been noticed that when I’m asked to help with something, I get it done, quickly and well. It’s almost as if I’d been a PA for years… impossible tasks are my specialty 😂

What they didn’t see was my workarounds. I hadn’t expected to sew this week, so had no thimble. The material was thick linen with padding inside. So I found some fabric plasters, put them around my fingertips and – Tadaaa! Bodged thimbles. Also less blood, which is a bonus.

One fellow’s straps broke on his tabard. I ran for the needle and thread and was stitching things up before he had a chance to move. Again, surprise.

I’m Support. I help. From taking photographs for tourists with the knights in the marketplace, to fixing armour. Not glamorous, but necessary (and also kind of fun).

Each Team has also contributed to the overall running of the event, specifically an ‘Environmental’ charge. This means the toilet blocks are kept clean (not overflowing), litter-bins are emptied regularly… the site is cared for. As anywhere else, this is a tourist site of historical importance. Serbia is very proud of its history, and everyone here knows that they’re a part of that: medieval fighting with a 21st Century awareness and ethic.

I am writing this on my bench under some lovely trees, small leaves landing on me as I type. Team Israel is next to me, chatting and laughing. The rain has stopped, the sun is out and the mood is jovial.

It’s been a hard week spoon-wise, and we’ll both need serious rest when we get home. But again, I’m tired but proud.

Off to the traders now. I spied a small bronze Spoon pendant yesterday amidst the Heathen (and Witcher!) symbols for sale. Wonder if it’s still there…

Update: It wasn’t. But some beautiful acorn-tipped bronze pins were. Sewing accessory souvenirs! 😊

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Serbia – Day 4

(As previous, originally published on my Patreon. I’m at home right now 😊)

I have my first cup of tea since leaving England. A Yorkshire fighter brought dozens of Yorkshire teabags. And we found milk. I am happy.

Despite best intentions, blogging has not been possible in recent days, due to immense busyness and lack of wifi signal. I am currently sitting on a bench by Camp UK in the middle of Smederevo Fortress, typing this to upload later. Also listening to a multitude of languages and a group of minstrels playing not far away.

Life has been frenetic. Without all the modern gadgets we take for granted, Camp UK is incredibly focused on what it’s there to do – so at any moment, I see men working to clean their armour, work to repair dings with a small anvil and much-used tools, and women returning from fights, sweaty and either happy or frustrated.

I commented to one of the team that I can now see why Himself finds it so hard to sum up what happens at these events when he returns. Because EVERYTHING is happening, all the time.

I managed to find a quiet space, in a tent on a friendly squaddie’s cot. It’s been helpful to be able to retreat when things get overwhelming, but I’ve actually found the friendly atmosphere so lovely. Even if someone does badly in a fight, teammates are there. They may agree that Yes, You were shit – but get better and get back in there. (!)

One team has notably been losing, but perhaps not helped by their focus on 100% positivity. ‘You did great, that was fantastic!’… even when they haven’t. Flaws are ignored, mistakes glossed over. So they continue to lose and get angrier each time, crying ‘foul’ because it’s clear they ARE the best! Everyone else just doesn’t realize! Except they aren’t, and by missing that truth, they can’t get better. There is a very clear lesson there. Weakness is not failure. Be aware of and take responsibility for your flaws, and work to improve them – or they’ll remain, and you’ll be left wondering why.

Otherwise, the sense of many nations coming together in shared sport is something I’ve never quite experienced before. Someone was saying that football has its own atmosphere, but this is so different, because of the nature of the fighting. Rugby’s the nearest thing that we could think of: fighting together with full awareness of risk, but absolute willingness to commit, body and soul, as an individual and as part of a team.

I was also chatting to the Chilean team Captain. Initially, his friends at home had said ‘You’ll come back in a coffin!’ Because everyone thinks that this sport is crazy! But year on year, they’ve improved, gained more support, and people are now congratulating him on doing this and representing them.

Yes, it’s scary. Real weapons and armour, real risk. But absolutely balanced by the unity and fulfilment of what is being done.

I’m very proud of these men and women. So glad to be able to be here and be a part of this, even as just a supporter. I think we’ll be returning home happy.

UPDATE: Night has fallen. I’m writing this looking over a field of dropped armour and campfires, singing and laughter.

Team UK has beaten France to win Bronze in the 30v30 fights! Guess who was sitting in the ‘supporters’ stands surrounded by French folks. But still managed to get a Serbian family cheering for England 😂

So much of this is about shared experience. There’s (obviously) aggression in the lists when fighting, but all of the supporters cheer each other as enthusiastically as their own. The sense of fun and shared good feeling is visibly (and audibly!) crossing borders, and I absolutely love it. We need not be defined by lines on a map. We can fight in sport and then help each other up to fight again tomorrow.

Only one sour note: I was chatting with an Argentine lady Marshall. She was watching from the stands because apparently the (Russian) organisers had forbidden all women from Marshalling. Her husband was waving to her from the field. It turned out she’d trained with Himself a few years ago, and was very proud of her job, being ‘Mother’ to the fighters.

I’ve noticed a certain attitude to women here, and it makes me both nervous and sad. Some places still have to move into the 21st century, it seems. But we battle on, with those wonderful men who stand as our allies.

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Serbia – Day 1

(Originally published on my Patreon, two weeks ago. Please follow me there if you’d like to see my Summer adventures as they happen!)

Here I am, miles away from home… and as always, seeing both the similarities and differences between Here and There.

I’m in Serbia this week, as Himself is part of Team GB for Battle of the Nations, the huge international medieval fighting event. DON’T call them reenactors.

We’re staying at a lovely (self-described) traditional hotel outside Belgrade, driving to Smederevo Fortress every day for the event.

This means that we (briefly) saw Belgrade on the way out of the city. A sharp contrast between Old and New, I suspect it’s what London may have looked like in the 1950s. Lots of building work going on.

Out here in the countryside, it’s beautiful. We’re close to some very dense forest, with enormous birds of prey swooping above, and so many crows everywhere!

We noticed that from above, the landscape looks like the English countryside, with its patchwork of fields and towns. Up close, it kind of still does… until you notice certain fields have been ploughed by animal, not machine.

Many houses are being constructed, and again, there’s a contrast between Cold War-esque bloks (ie apartments) and lovely new homes, often with several stories and unique features. One house is bright yellow, another has Grecian pillars… make it what you want it to be!

Also today is a Bank Holiday for May 1st. Shops shut, celebrations happening, and flowers garlanded over house fronts and gates. I woke up to the scent of incense floating in the window. Serbia has absolutely not forgotten its history.

One notable downside – as in a lot of mainland Europe, driving is a survival sport 😂

I’m hoping to take more pictures over the next few days, as there’s a lot of beauty to see. For now, here’s a familiar image. But look at the top, at the cast names.

This is how it feels. Similar to home… until you look closer.

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