Archive for Personal

My First Livestream!

So last night, I randomly decided to go live on Facebook for the Full Moon.

Why? Because I miss my friends. Because I wanted to reach out. Because I felt that I should.

I’ve done no public ritual this year, and very little private. Hopefully this would help inspire me.

I talked for just under an hour. The sky turned from the pale blue of sunset to black; the wildness of my garden filled with birdsong became full of flittering moths. People came and went, friends far and near.

Typically for a public ritual, things did not go exactly as planned. The Moon didn’t show up, for one! But the changing light showed me the movement of day into night, the gentle turning of the planet. Standing in place, yet moving. Alone, but connecting. Reaching out…

When I finished, I felt emotional. The house seemed so quiet! I absolutely do miss everyone, but I’m so grateful to the technology that we have, which allows us to connect in this way. Round a tiny single candle-flame instead of a bonfire in a field, but no less meaningful.

I’ve uploaded the stream to my YouTube channel here. Quite a few people who weren’t there live have said it was good company last night. Sometimes a voice reaching out, a face and even just fingers brushing a screen allows us to remember that we have friends in spirit as well as body.

Quite a few have asked for more – and if it helps during this crazy time, I’m absolutely glad to.

Let me know your thoughts, if any. What would you like in a livestream from me? I’m open to suggestions for topics and themes, not matter how unusual! What would you like to talk about? It’s just me talking, but everyone in the chat is involved too. I’ll hold the space if you want to come along and spend time.

Things are changing i nthe wider world, but it doesn’t hurt at all to take a moment with friends. I was so nervous, but I’m very glad that I did. That time last night was precious and will be remembered.

Much love to you all xx

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When Nobody’s Right

Throughout our lives, we’re constantly trying to find our Selves. Who We Are.

There’s entire industries making money from that quest. Advice comes from every angle, how to transform your mind, body and spirit to become… what? Your ‘Truest Self?’

I’ve come to believe that this is actually the journey that is our lifetime – and even then, some folks don’t get there. That’s what Reincarnation is for 😉

However, it’s always confused me why some people seem to invest so much of their energy in telling others that they’re wrong.

Sometimes this is well-intentioned. Children are taught what is socially right or wrong, for example, and so society is maintained.

But what if those guiding hands are themselves wrong? Or at least misguided.

We learn early on that we have to trust in order to find out what’s acceptable (or not). Ideally, we also learn who to trust. Or who’s unreliable.

The real challenge comes when we grow up… and discover that our foundation was itself warped or incorrect, perhaps from best intentions but poor knowledge.

There’s so many examples here. The ‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong’ argument will continue as long as humans can communicate. From international politics to having/raising children, everyone has an opinion. Read any philosopher’s works to see more.

Different points of view are absolutely fine, by the way – that’s part of what makes the world interesting and varied. The problems arise when opinion becomes absolute Fact, regardless of evidence.

I’ve seen recently how difficult it is for some people to acknowledge that they might – just a little! – be wrong. The governments of both the UK and the US, for example, will not admit error, even when the evidence is overwhelming and they may gain some positive credibility for holding hands up and simply apologising.

Which heads us into Blame. ‘I’m Not Wrong, this person told me so…’ And thus we have (again, well-intentioned) random strangers yelling at others for being outside during lockdown, for example. One glance = one conclusion = judgement and reaction. Which may very well be wrong.

I look around right now and see so many people doing their best. Our current world situation is crazy, and seeing the truth is like looking through a multi-faceted lense – there are many perspectives (not least the multiple medias through which we get our information). So what do you do, when it seems that nobody is Right?

My illness has taught me to take a look at those Right/Wrong absolutes. What someone says to me somehow warps in midair, being interpreted by my brain in an entirely different way.

But I’m sure you know the sort of thing. What’s your immediate reaction when someone gives you a compliment? Do you presume they’re just being polite, or lying, or want something from you? Stop. How disrespectful is that to the person in question? Did they, in fact, simply mean what they said, and wanted to tell you something true for them?

If those who helped build our moral foundation were acting from a warped standpoint, we may well have become suspicious of everything we’re told. I know I’ve been gaslighted many times in the past – told that my opinion or understanding was flat-out WRONG, no two ways about it! When in fact, that person could not accept that I might be right… because then they would have to be wrong.

And back we are to absolutes again.

We are having to learn right now that it’s not that simple. Life is not, communication is not; everyone has different perspectives, knowledge bases and motivations. What we need to learn is how to listen, to discern intention behind the words.

We also need to stop ourselves from jumping to conclusions. I absolutely do this too, by the way, especially when I’m in a fragile place. The inner depression voice takes any opportunity to jump on its favourite narrative, of How Awful/Useless/Ugly/Unwanted I am.

Instead of believing that path, of slinking away to hide and suffer, is it possible right now to hide away for a little while… and challenge? Not from anger, but from experience? From your own learned knowledge, valid opinion and validation from trusted others? Of what you sincerely and deeply feel to be true for you?

We are living in a very fearful environment right now. People are reactionary, knee-jerking and lashing out with blame. That’s not helpful – we can review later, when we have more information.

In the meantime, is it possible to not just speak before thinking? To take time, ponder and then offer an opinion? To start a dialogue, not an argument?

It’s easy to believe our words and thoughts aren’t valid when we are shouted down by louder voices. That doesn’t mean we’re wrong. But we can take time to review, to see where that person is coming from, and agree or disagree. Then, is a response possible? Are they open to other views? If not, perhaps the best response is to walk away.

None of us are right – or wrong – 100% of the time. Nobody is a bad person for misjudgements or mistakes. Or rather… only if they continue to compound their errors by ignoring other possibilities.

I’m doing my best to listen to the many notes that make up the (somewhat discordant!) music of life right now. I sincerely hope that it becomes more tuneful soon. In the meantime, I try to do my best, so that my own notes inspire and add to the song, rather than take over and drag others with me.

Take the days gently, my friends. We’re still moving.

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Challenging

*possible triggers for abuse*

This morning, in an activity that continued since yesterday, my brain decided to tell me all the things that have been shouted at me over the years. Often directly into my face. Sometimes wordless, just a deluge of vituperation (aren’t words great?).

‘Oh, stop being stupid.’ – too many to count.

‘You’ve got an answer for everything.’ – Mum.

‘Don’t think – just do what I tell you.’ – lecturer/boss (female), Derby University.

‘I think you’re disabled and shouldn’t be here.’ – boss (male), NHS.

*uncontrolled, mocking laughter* – too many to count.

‘You know the only way to get taken seriously is to *mimes cutting wrists*’ – on-call Doctor.

‘Just stop talking.’ – boss (male, not mine), previous workplace.

‘What were you thinking?!’ – boss (male, mine).

We’ve all got these lists. Key words fly out at me from where my subconscious has stored them: stupid, know-all, ungrateful, bitch, cunt…

A lovely friend summed up this negative-deluge as ‘the brain misfiring.’ Wires are crossed and a safety switch triggered, fight or flight become confused and you’re overwhelmed with noise, emotion, feeling, panic.

This is a symptom of anxiety and depression, mental illness generally. But… I think it’s a symptom of modern life as well.

I’ve never understood how someone can act in such a way. To cover up for themselves? To project power? What could I (or anyone) have possibly done to warrant such treatment?

Conclusion: I must have done something REALLY BAD.

For most of my childhood, I was quiet. Bullied regularly, scared to speak up, often the new girl, mocked and tricked. I learned defensive tactics, and hid inside stories – my own and mountains of books. Libraries and green spaces were my refuge.

At University, I learned to speak up, to stand up… but still found myself a target. Of course I wasn’t perfect, but it was as if I was never allowed to make mistakes. Taking responsibility and trying to fix things didn’t help – I was still WRONG.

In recent years, it seems as if a ‘last straw’ was somehow reached. Sometimes, when my mental state is at its lowest, I feel like an abused animal, cringing away from imagined blows about to fall. And hating myself for it.

I wish that I could summon my strength, that I know is inside, and return to those moments when I just took those words in. I wish I could raise a hand and simply say ‘No.’ Or turn and walk away.

So many of us have experienced such things; I know it’s not unusual, and I’m not seeking sympathy or pity. I know I got off comparatively lightly.

I’m asking that we learn and stand up moving forward. We stand for ourselves or with others who can’t, and say NO.

I’m so glad that young people these days have so many strong role models. I love that we’re being told to challenge. But of course, we know that it’s not always so simple – that a verbal threat can quickly become a physical one.

I try to stand, inside my own thoughts, imagining that ‘NO.’ Stop the misfiring. Mentally time-travel and silence the abuse. Challenge the thoughts.

And so be able to challenge the wrong when I feel or see it today.

This post was inspired by others, mostly from the #InternationalWomensDay tag on social media. It’s not confined to women, though, not at all.

To all my friends, be they male, female or any other shade of the rainbow, I will try to stand with you as best I can. Know that you are not alone.

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Images of Paganism

What does a Real Druid look like? Or a Real Witch? Or… insert keyword/label here.

I’ve spoken before about my frustration about labels, and the limitations that they bring (especially when you don’t conform to someone’s ideas about what that label means).

Lately, however, I’ve seen so many images of Pagan People generally, being shared on Instagram and other social medias, usually to sell products but also because it seems a certain style change is happening across the Pagan world.

Lots of ‘barbarian’ looks, such as thick makeup, runes on the face, matted dreadlocks and animal fetishes tied in hair. Pagans are going back to the woods, but having taken a long time in front of the mirror first!

Let me state: This isn’t a bad thing. It’s always been fun for me to see the different trends in social groups, be it the fondness for crushed velvet, particular colours, hats or size of pentagram on display. Whatever makes you happy, or whatever you find fun to represent you.

The difficulty comes when the insidious little subtext sneaks in, saying ‘You’re not a Proper Pagan if you don’t look like that.’ You need to be… whatever the current trend is. Thin or curvy, pale or dark, flaunting wealth or preferring peasant looks; this can be anything.

I love people-watching at events, because these tend to show that the majority of Real Pagans – you know, those Out in the Wild of The Real World – generally are just having fun. At Pride, at conventions or big meetups, it’s all an excuse for glad-rags and adornments, because it’s so very different from the everyday-wear. For most people, anyway; I have both seen and been an Office Goth/Pagan.

What scares me a little is when the image becomes more important than the reality.

I’m happy to say that in my experience, Paganism doesn’t suffer a great deal from clique-iness. This isn’t about peer pressure; folks are more likely to say ‘Oh, I love your outfit/jewellery/makeup/hair!’ than put anyone down for what they look like.

This is a more internal battle, I suspect.

A while ago, I posted a video on my Youtube channel in which I was in bed. Because a) we all can relate to that, and b) sometimes it’s the best place to be!

I absolutely don’t look like I’ve dressed up for the occasion. This video is not ‘pretty’. So… I do wonder how many people disregard it.

I don’t tend to dress up for my Instagram pictures like many of the younger Pagans. I like to show me. But I am also aware that image is increasingly important in these times of visual social media over most other methods.

On my lower-mood days, this does worry me. Makeup is not always possible, but it helps my mood if I look nice to myself – that’s a dilemma. Dressing up and going out in public can be daunting. Self-image is tough.

If everything goes to plan, it can be huge fun, as I said. Walking from my hotel to Witchfest last year, dolled up because I wanted to be, it was hilarious to see the looks on the faces of regular folks!

I’ve run down the street after cosplayers to tell them how great they look. The same goes for dressed-up Pagans, goths, LGBT folks at their Pride… it doesn’t take much to compliment someone, especially if their happiness and display of plumage is infectious.

So while I’m glad to see this out and about, what stops me from putting in the effort every day? Simply: I can’t. I don’t have the spoons. It does take effort, and confidence, and money. I do it when I can, and that does make such occasions that bit more special.

But thinking that you have to be a certain way, display yourself correctly or judge others for appearances is a path that leads only downwards. Because you won’t always be able to hit that mark. Because that mark is amorphous, constantly changing and ultimately, not always reflecting who you are.

Paganism is a spiritual path. The act of putting on robes, or particular jewellery or makeup, can be a powerful ritual act.

Paganism is also a lived path. Sometimes the ritual is to prepare ourselves for the workaday world, as armour for a commute, as tools to get us through something challenging. Sometimes getting dressed is the achievement on a bad-pain day.

We present ourselves according to what is needed, but also as reflections of who we are. Trying to base ourselves on others cannot work… but being inspired by others can.

We cannot buy our spirituality. The size of the pentagram does not make for a better ritualist! Perhaps that was one of the motivations for skyclad ritual: that we are all naked beneath our robes.

I try to remember that as I walk through each day. I’ve been involved in naked ritual, and the first time (for a sweat lodge) it was absolutely terrifying – and a hugely powerful rite of passage. Everyone looked Themselves, and everyone was beautiful in their own way. Curves, scars, hair or tattoos, each person was just who they were. And because we weren’t worrying about presentation (not after that initial panic of disrobing, anyway!), we were able to laugh more freely, hug and dance. The wildness, playfulness and physical removal of social restraints was amazing, in ways I’d never thought. The judgement was gone.

I’ve no doubt that the phrase ‘Do I look OK?’ will continue to loom large for me when presenting in future. That’s just who I am.

But I will try to let my outer self reflect the inner, working together as needed. Be that giving a talk, surviving a shopping mall expeditation, or recording a video from my bed!

I’m Pagan in all of those situations. As within, so without. We can admire those who present themselves well online, but then also see how their words and actions represent as well.

We all explore who we are, and this is part of the process. Let’s just be a little more conscious of that as we move forward, and have fun with it, rather than letting it define us.

Now, I just need to practice my eye makeup before the next Witchfest… 😉

By the way, I’m not including a picture of me in this post. Instead, have a think of what comes to mind when you think of me. Know that I’ll be doing that for you too, if you comment or Like. What we hold of a person is so much more than how they look on just one day.

Much love, my friends.

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A Listening Heart

Imbolc has passed. We’re still feeling the chill of winter, but the snowdrops herald the imminent Spring. The sun is with us for a few more minutes each day, and all around, I see projects slowly beginning to bud…

It’s been a long winter. I’m not going to recall the turbulent times we live in, but we’ve all felt the length of January like never before, it seems.

I’ve spent the winter months trying my best to survive, literally and figuratively. My health has been poor, and despite all of the urges from The Internet to seek the help that I’m apparent entitled to, I’ve been met with walls of silence – or at best, suggestions to ‘go for a nice walk’ and suchlike. Imagine eyerolls here. Then imagine the tears.

Over and over, each rebuff hurts. When it takes all of your strength to reach out, to be told you’re either not sick enough or that there isn’t anything to be done is crushing.

For years, ever since a GP told me to ‘go away and cheer up’, I’ve managed. Recently, though, moving forward has felt next to impossible.

I’ve read all the books, tried all the techniques. Hell, I’ve written my own! What more can I do?

One evening, I found a secret stash of Bravery and reached out to a friend. Professionally and personally, tentatively and with slight fear of rebuttal (based purely on experience from every other quarter!).

I was heard. Such a small thing, but I was heard. Helpful suggestions were made, which I will follow up, but the main power came from the fact that someone heard my cries, understood, and listened.

This has made such a difference. A voice from outside my head, telling me truths that I was unable to tell myself. That’s all. It is ok – it really is. There is hope. I can do this.

Sometimes the battles we fight seem hopeless purely because of the weight of time, as we’ve been fighting for so long. I can understand how people give up.

The simple but profound gift of a listening heart made all the difference. Quiet invitations to shared healing events. Belief in me, when I had none in myself. Feeling seen, held, heard.

These are gifts that we can give to each other. Sometimes I can’t – which is when I know things are bad – but I try as often as I can, when called upon. I try to hear that mystic tap on the shoulder. Deep breath and…

I’m stepping up. Creating Things to help. Setting space, reaching out to like-minded folks. The Cauldron of Calm will be happening this year. Message me if you’d like to join in.

As the world stands confused and hurting, we need to come together to help each other. Every individual can make a difference. We can try.

There’s a lot of 2020 yet ahead, but I’m doing my best to stand up again – and find my own strength along the way. By reaching out with a hand to hold and be held.

Much love, my friends.

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Everyday Bravery

Many times in the past decade, I’ve been stared at. I’ve been asked why I’m dressed in a certain way, heard some (frankly ridiculous) jokes and generally been on the receiving end of some very visible confusion.

Mostly this is because I’m Out in Public wearing my ‘work clothes’ – robe, cloak, staff etc. But sometimes it’s when folk see my tattoos, or a particular t-shirt statement.

Going back even further, I was sometimes stopped when out and about because I was dressed all in black, including hair and trenchcoat. Apparently this was fine when one is a teenager, less so when an adult.

I have never understood how some people can accost a random stranger in public and berate them for how they look. Even light mockery. I learned to have a small smile on standby, so that I didn’t reply with something rude; that way, at least one of us is being polite.

But then years ago again, I quickly learned what was acceptable and what was not, through being openly laughed at and ridiculed when I failed to conform. I vividly remember wearing an outfit that I absolutely loved (a long hippy skirt and top, nothing too shocking) and rushing back to my room to change, blushing wildly, because of that terrible laughter before I even left the house.

I still don’t quite understand that, either. How wearing something that I absolutely love can cause such a negative reaction. How does this threaten people so badly? What harm does an unusual hair colour, period clothing or simply expressing yourself do?

Sometimes it’s a knee-jerk reaction, with no malicious intent. That’s (relatively) ok. Other times…

Apparently it’s my fault, of course. For daring to Go Outside not looking like everyone else. For not aspiring to that societal goal of Being Normal (whatever that means).

Which leads me to the times that I have called out to others in public.

I’ve told random goths how beautiful they look. I’ve run down the street after reenactors to compliment their efforts. It can be as simple as ‘I hope you don’t mind my saying, but you look fantastic.’

Nobody ever does mind this. There can be surprise, of course, at this unexpected woman complimenting them, but hey – it could be worse, right? See above for examples. And that’s not even mentioning when words become physical violence.

I see it on their faces as I approach. The mental ‘brace for impact’, the anticipation of a kick – and the surprise and pleasure when the interaction is actually safe and friendly.

I try to hold this in my mind when people approach me. I’ve often said how blessed I feel that the reactions to me are 99% positive (and 1% stupid). I’ve yet to be beaten up for my looks.

I know that I’m lucky in that respect. I hear the stories of trans folk who suffer by just being who they are in public. Goths beaten to death. Breastfeeding mothers verbally abused.

I see it all around, and feel it on my worst days. How dare I show my face. Anticipating that laughter again, the mockery, the judgement.

But I am trying to be brave as I grow older. To retort if safe to do so. Engaging with the speaker can be quite enlightening sometimes, as I explain what I’m about.

Other days, I don’t have the strength to do much except keep walking, with my head held up. That can be the hugest of victories. The naysayers didn’t win. The bastards aren’t grinding me down.

I actually feel it becoming paradoxically easier and more difficult as I grow older. Because while I care less what people think of me than I did as a youngster, I’m also aware that ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ is a Thing. Unfortunately. So I’m still exploring what I’m brave enough to do, day to day.

The world can be a scary place, of course. By walking my walk when I can, I try to shine a light for others. By affirming that folks look amazing just for being who they are and that I’m happier for seeing them doing their thing, can be a tremendously powerful act.

It’s not just about me, I know that. But when I’m stuck inside my head, with the world pressing loudly against me, standing up as Me, in my Truth, is a miracle. Sharing that validation with others is a gift that I hope I can always keep giving.

Go be You out there today, lovely friends. Know that I’m cheering you on.

This post is dedicated to all of those gorgeous people at Witchfest, with their finery and wonderful happy smiles, holding safe space for the community. I’m looking forward to wearing my new feathered hat in public too.

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What Do You See?

This morning, a lovely friend shared an image on his social media:

I remember being a very small child and seeing what would have been an Original Punk on the High Street. My parents pulled me away, saying that I shouldn’t go near Those People.

This must’ve been the 70s. And fair enough, some punks were… well… a bit mad.

But since then, I’ve often been the weirdo on the High Street. Whether it be a teenage goth in full drag (stopped traffic), or in my wedding dress (stopped pedestrians), or in robes and cloak for a Handfasting (both).

This taught me a few things.

1. Learn to dodge people who stop to stare right in your path.

2. Have a smile on. Because it confuses people.

3. Be aware that if you dress differently to ‘the Norm’, be prepared for people to react.

I’ve had car-horn beeps and cheers, children gently stroking the velvet of my cloak, and any number of questions or catcalls.

But you know what? It is always an adventure.

When people approach to ask something, they are both curious and brave. It takes guts to go up to the Strange Person and speak to them. After all, who knows what might happen?

I do wonder if people would believe some of the questions they ask, but it’s to be expected. Eddie Izzard has quipped about people staring at him:

‘Man in a dress!’

No frame of reference… oh god, what do I do…

That kind of sums it up.

In recent years, however, I’ve seen that bravery grow. I’ve never had insults thrown; the worst was ‘what are you supposed to be?’

I’ve been asked if I live in a commune, Hobbiton, if I always dress like this, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings quotes (usually spells, oddly).

I keep smiling. I stop and try to answer. I’ve a number of retorts to familiar questions, but keep it lightly humorous. Then, when people see that I’m an Actual Person and not about to bite their head off, we can engage in conversation.

If it’s younger people, I always have time to chat, to let them touch my cloak or staff (or tattoos), and generally to teach them that It Is OK.

This is about respect, in both approach and response. It’s about engaging at a level that encourages understanding. It’s about inspiring, showing people that there is magic in the world, even if it turns out to be a normal(ish) human being underneath.

This is about walking the talk. Not showing off, but being who you are in that moment, and reacting well when people engage with that image.

I often wonder what people see when they look at me, all dressed up. Do they then go home and say to someone else ‘Ooh, I met a real Druid today!’

What do I want them to then hold in that image of me? ‘I met a real Druid and…’

Ideally, that I was friendly and nice, not stuck-up or daft! That this is real, not just for show.

I have so much respect for those who go out into the world showing their plumage. Be it punks, goths, pagans, drag Kings and Queens…

It takes bravery to do that, too.

What image do we present to the world, in both outerwear and engagement? Are we staying in ‘protective’ mode today, or dressing up? And when people approach to ask – with genuine respect and desire to know – what do we say?

I’ve been mulling over what to wear to Witchfest this weekend. Do I glam up or stay everyday? I usually like to give talks in my civvies, because my Druidry isn’t actually dependent on outfit.

But perhaps a little bravery is required this time…

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