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Finding Magic

One of the most common questions that I get asked is ‘How did I get into Druidry?’

Now, for me, this is like asking a writer where they get their ideas. It seems a reasonable question, but the answer just isn’t as simple as ‘It came in a flash of inspiration from the heavens!’ There’s always a much larger story… which those asking may or may not want to hear. But I’m happy to share portions of it.

One of the first things I did when I discovered that Witchcraft and Druidry existed was to head to my local bookstore (fortunately I lived in London at the time, so this was a gigantic branch of Borders on Oxford Street). Books were acquired relatively easily, and I soon began to find what suited me – or not.

I’ve spoken about this before. I wasn’t keen on Wicca for its proscribed, almost dogmatic rituals and emphasis on gender binaries (yes, I was reading the Farrers). Scott Cunningham struck a louder chord, but after trying some of his words for myself, I quickly realized that a huge part of any spiritual practice for me would be formulating my own workings. I don’t really like having someone else’s words in my mouth (how unpleasant does that sound?!).

Even so, as a beginner, I kept looking for inspiration. As a bookworm, I was deeply interested in other people’s practices, and how they Did Things. But back then, there was relatively little in the way of pagan biographies or histories. Ronald Hutton wasn’t about yet, and the majority of the stories were from Gardnerian Wiccan points of view (still fascinating, but not quite me).

This week, I found myself looking through some of Rachel Patterson‘s work. And I felt that old urge within me once again: that wish to actively seek out inspiration through the work of others Pagan folk… only now, they were those I could call contemporaries, peers or friends.

I was reminded of how magic must be relevant. It must be sincere, without doubts or worries. It isn’t dependent on a particular place, and the tools used are only as good as the person wielding them.

Kitchen Witchcraft: Spells & Charms‘ has Rachel chatting amiably about her own practice, in the manner of a kind but determined Witch. She knows her stuff and is happy to share it, but you need to put the work in if you expect results.

I felt the shade of that beginner inside me stir. How long is it since I actually worked any magic for myself? I shared a ritual just last week at a local gathering, but with the turning of the year to Samhain, maybe this is the kick I need to clear space for whatever the winter holds.

But there again – that phrase sounds pretty complacent, doesn’t it? Witches definitely don’t sit back and do nothing, waiting for whatever they want to land in their lap! This is about connection as well. With the wider world, with those who guide, and with those who stand with you.

This week, then, I will be pondering what magic I intend to work on Samhain. No matter how busy I am professionally (and having fun with local Trick or Treaters!), I always keep time for what needs to be done that night. For the first time in many years, Himself is working Samhain night shift, so our family ritual will be the following evening. On the night itself, it’ll be just me.

The spell has begun now, in fact. I’m sharing my thoughts: what I do to prepare. First of all, I’ll be looking at intention: what am I hoping to achieve with my working? Then, how best can I form that into being? What ingredients might I need, tools and tactile objects – no more, nor less than is necessary.

What do I need to do beforehand – and afterwards? Cleaning before, grounding myself with appropriate food and drink after!

I feel like I’m making something that’s a cross between a Nigella Lawson recipe (complete with innuendo) and a Haynes car manual. Purpose, intention, visualisation, action, outcome… all of which I have to set up, instigate and then carry out. The latter can often go on far beyond the time of the specific ritual itself, of course, as I work within the momentum which I’ve started by throwing this tiny snowball downhill.

Also, I’m not just doing this for the sake of it. This actually feels as if it’s overdue. That I need to spend time with myself, my personal practice, the ritual aspects of my spirituality that have been somewhat lost in the amount of group work that I do. Something I’ve not been doing because of Life evens, lack of spoons… any number of reasons/excuses. So.

I get my thoughts together. Here they are. Now it’s up to me to metaphorically crack my knuckles and get on with it.

I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on. Do share your own plans (and results) likewise, eh? It’s a good time of year to get in touch with our magic.

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Review: ‘Dark Goddess Oracle Cards’

Dark Goddess

I’ve been an explorer in the world of divination for a fair few years now, with my favourite Tarot decks usually nearby at home, as well as Norse Runes and Celtic Ogham. I’ve had a bit of a hit-or-miss relationship with ‘Oracle Cards’ in the past, though, as they sometimes seeem a bit random or difficult to connect with. So when I was asked to take a look at this deck, while I trust the creators as friends, I was a little nervous. Nobody likes to give a bad review!

I needn’t have worried. These beautiful cards seemed to jump out at me as I ‘tested’ them, pulling cards here and there for willing friends to see how well they ‘worked’.

Now the thing to remember with divination sets is that when I say ‘worked’, I don’t mean empirically: turn light-switch = bulb brightens, for example. I mean that the cards resonate with both seer and querent, connecting as required to provide effective and useful guidance.

This is most easily measured in the response to the image on the card – often a gasp, as relevance is immediately found (rather than ‘Well, I don’t understand that.’)

These cards hit the mark every time, without exception. That’s rare.

The images are lovely. Not necessarily all depicting each Lady as I’ve encountered Her, but you can certainly see the relevance – and how difficult is it to photograph a Goddess and capture every aspect of Her?!

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Barbara and Flavia have used their considerable experience to create images to help inspire deep thoughts in those using the cards. Each also has a key word on the front… which I confess, I didn’t actually notice initially, as I was so caught up in all of the drama in each picture! I’ve found that my own experiences of each Lady has helped understand the connection for those coming to me with questions; the keyword is useful, but as it’s hard to capture a full image with every meaning of each Goddess, so one word can never do Her justice. The words are a useful guide, however, as is the handy and thoughtful book which is included in the pack.

I would say that this deck works at the level appropriate for the user. They may just be pretty pictures, with a word to help; or the images may spark something much deeper. It’s not simply about the figure, after all, but what’s going on within the picture, in context of you asking for aid or guidance.

I look forward to continue using this cards in the future, as and when they call to me. Although my main complaint is simply that Barbara and Flavia haven’t included themselves in the imagery! Two beautiful and clever witches who definitely deserve to be visited if you ever get the chance, either at events around the UK or at Arnemetia‘s in Buxton, Derbyshire.

This pack is available on Amazon or at most reputable book/alternative shops.

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Review: ‘Darkest Part’, by Madeleine Harwood

‘Darkest Part’ is the first album by Madeleine Harwood, an a-cappella folk singer from Gloucestershire.

I’ve been seeing a lot of Madeleine lately on social media, from friends in the Folk and Pagan scene, as well as on Folk radio programmes. I was therefore thrilled to receive a copy of her CD to review.

The art was the first thing to grab me. By Tom Brown, co-creator of ‘Hopeless, Maine‘, it hints at the musical tone within, but doesn’t give too much away.

This was an album unlike any I’d heard in a long time. I pressed Play, only to hear a deep intake of breath… before a beautiful voice soared from the speakers, like a bird’s first song breaking the silence of the morning. Madeleine’s vocals are absolutely breathtaking; her words rise and fall as a lone instrument, clear and strong. It’s easy to image these songs performed instrumentally by a flute, for example, but the poignancy of the words would then be lost – she needs no accompaniment. A-capella is one of the most difficult ways to perform, but every single note hits its mark.

The songs stand as individual pieces, while still flowing together to tell a tale: the journey of love, the ups and downs of life, deep emotion and touching encounters.

While she certainly stands alone in terms of style, her range reminded me of two other (very different) favourite vocalists of mine: Lady Gaga and Johnette Napolitano. I suspect she could lend her voice to pop, rock or country tunes, but the way that these songs are structured comes so deeply from the heart, I suspect she’s not interested in genre so much as conveying her story.

I hear the voices of thewandering ancestral bards in these songs, rising from the tiny speakers of my 21st century technology. And I forget where I am for a moment, as I’m swept up and away.

Please do check out this album, available now on Amazon, iTunes and all other good media outlets. If you get the chance to see Madeleine live (as I now hope to!), grab it. Her music is both inspired and inspiring.

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