Posts Tagged pagan

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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Speaking as a Woman

Today is International Women’s Day. This always gets me thinking. Much like Mother/Father/Secretary/Dog’s days, aren’t those every day?

Well, of course. But it’s worth taking a specific day out to think about that particular group.

(Yes, there is an International Men’s Day. That’s not what I’m looking at today).

From an early age, I learned that there were more male role models than female. In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Wonder Woman was my idol. The only superheroes I saw back then were on TV, so while I loved the lonely strength of the Hulk and the corny fun of Adam West’s Batman (where Catwoman always seemed to win, somehow), there wasn’t much else to choose from that I could relate to.

As any so-called minority knows, it’s tough when you don’t see yourself in the world around. You seek out something that reflects You, and hold on to it fiercely when you find it.

It seemed that a certain social group of straight, white men was the norm, the ‘default’. I ended up being somehow tomboy-ish, because the specified female roles weren’t in the least interesting to me. Then that one female leader, Margaret Thatcher… well, no. No, thank you.

I remember adult ladies around me making jokes about the bra-less, freedom-fighting women of Greenham Common and Newbury. Third-wave feminism seemed a long way away from me, and not at all aspirational.

I saw many female teachers, but led by a Head Master. I saw male bosses and female secretaries. Of course, in later life, I became a PA, and understood how deeply true it is that while men stand up to run things, they couldn’t do it without the strong women behind them, hiding their wits and brains behind their battle-armour of Wonderbra, heels and fierce makeup.

It’s often true that women have had to fight twice as hard to gain as much recognition as men do ‘normally’. Which is why on days like this, it’s both fun and necessary to catch ourselves in perpetuating those default norms. Feminism is about equality, for all. This is not about women above men, but asking for equal respect. Be we gay or straight, trans or cis, our stories are just as valid as anyone else’s. No matter our ancestry or current social role or job, we can find commonality, hear each other and stand up together. Our relationships, and the gendered language we use, is still evolving and maturing as it is required to represent new things.Pagans have a great deal of respect for women, given that it is a very female-led spirituality – but again, we still have room to grow. We stand with our brothers, fathers and sons, together in our power, unique and connected. This is the revolutionary act that we can demonstrate, each and every day, in ritual and regular life.We say that we see women as sacred – yet many are still taken advantage of, used or disparaged. In recent years, I’ve got into (rather pointless) arguments about how I call myself a Priest, not a Priestess. While I know that the suffix ‘ess‘ simply denotes the female of the word, once again, the default is male. That always annoyed me, as it seemed so arbitrary. Actress but not directress (or directrix). Many people have called me a Priestess, which I don’t mind at all, but it’s interesting to note that a Priestess is treated as if the title is an honorific, not derogatory (even if you need to be a High Priestess to carry any clout *grin*). That word appears to have been reclaimed, and I’m glad of this. Priest and Priestess, standing together as God and Goddess. And I am deeply grateful to those men who stand at our side.
Today and all days, I call on my lady-friends, women in body and/or spirit, to stand in who they are. Sometimes that’s the biggest battle of all, but know that there are so many others who have your back and love you for that honesty, integrity and bravery. Whether our weapon is a sword, pen, wand or knitting needle, know that we are all Wonder Women at heart.Wonder Woman

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Small Magics

(Cross-posted with Drops of Awen).

To paraphrase many notable occultists, Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.

We all do this, all the time – but unconsciously. We let ourselves be influenced by outside forces, as our attention is moved from one thought to the next.

But when we take charge of our consciousness, with intentional and will-power, we can feel the change happen.

As I walk this path, I often say that Paganism is a constant practice (in the same way that we practice magic). We learn about ourselves and our connections with others, and create change with our thoughts, words and actions.

Today… perhaps a simple change, but to me, a profound one.

I felt myself beginning to slip, to spiral down into the depression. Quickly – time to take action.

Moving is the first step. Sometimes I don’t even get that far, which is why I usually have a book or a knitting project to hand.

Then Doing, something which brings me back to myself, usually through happiness, an activity I enjoy. Alter the negative feeling, grab onto something to stop the spiralling fall.

I distract myself with this, even though the anxiety-voices are telling me that I have things to do, I should be working! But no.

Right now, I’m spending this hour in an indulgent, sweet-smelling Bimble bath. I’m reading a book. I’m washing myself thoroughly, then using pleasant scented Lush oil afterwards. I wrap myself in a soft dressing-gown, and fuss the pups (who’re always glad I survived The Bath).

I can now feel mind and body relaxed. The tension has dissipated, the worried voices gone quiet. I was able to beat it (this time). It’s not always so simple, but I celebrate this victory.

Each win tells me that I can do it, and keep on doing it. Even on the worst days.

I’m now sharing this, cross-posting so that in these small words can themselves be a magic spell, to inspire in turn.

If you need it, feel my hand reaching out to you. We can get through it, dear ones.

Small magics, together.

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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?!

Photo 23-08-2018, 12 09 19

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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Harvest

Today is Lammas. I’ve written about it in general terms before, so I won’t be going over what it is and how to celebrate – there’s plenty of ways to explore that on this big Internet-place.

This year, I’m truly pondering what Harvest my household is bringing in.

July was virtually barren in this part of the world. No rain at all. Yellowing fields, parched crops, pups who couldn’t understand why there were no daytime walks… and I felt stifled by the heat. It’s very unusual to have such a long period of intense sun here. Our one and only fan broke, and it turned out to be an almost fruitless quest to find another – there were none to be had in the main towns and cities around!

July saw me more or less constantly covered in sweat and with an overheated brain that just wanted to rest.

So when the rains finally came last week, they truly were like a cooling balm. The ground feels ‘well’ again, and activities (for ourselves and the pups) can resume.

This has got me pondering (of course). We are so intrinsically connected to our home habitats. We were forced to realize the effect that such extremes of weather can have. As with people trying and failing to carry on as normal in deep snow, those heading outside without protection found themselves needing medical attention. We have to adjust to our circumstances – which we have, in part, helped to create.

I’ve been doing what I can during the period of Enforced Rest due to Heat. A lot of the time, this has involved siestas, either to read or simply to think and dream. I’ve been listening, prioritising, endeavouring to realign myself with the flow that I need to be in right now. Certain things have become clearer as a result.

I’ve cleared my timetable of some commitments, giving me more time to plan and do. I’m writing more (see?). I’m figuring out where my heart wants me to go, and what I can reasonably do to make this happen.

I’ve found myself working more with deity, especially after a recent trip to Denmark for a beautiful Handfasting. Nothing like talking to Norse folk in their own backyard… and then realizing that as we fly home, so they’re here too, in my own ancestry, my visible DNA.

Doorway

I see so many people trying to work out what they want from the world, and what they can do to achieve it. LGBTQ+ Pride. Protests to express strength and determination. Personal power standing up to create change.

Perhaps, as the cold, long winter forced us to stay inside and share time and stories, so this Summer is pushing us in a similar way. To do what we can. To celebrate who we are, truly. To look around and say Yes! (Or No)

My household has also found itself undertaking a belated ‘Spring Clean’. Tidying, getting rid of what is no longer needed, reworking space and items to better fit. Inevitably, old things are rediscovered. Unwanted items are passed on to those who can use them. Home-space is being reworked in readiness for the time to come.

This is my harvest, as it begins. Working to explore the ideas that have come about over this warm season. Setting space for them. Preparing for the next turn of the year, by focusing on what fuels us and changing our surroundings accordingly. Storing up, ready for winter.

I see the berries on the bushes, appearing early but not quite ready yet. I see many bees and butterflies, busy about their work, transforming themselves and their homes.

I take time as needed. I do what I can. I share with others, for we are all connected. I’m inspired by the land and people around, the ‘vibes’ of the world right now. I stand in hope this Lammas-tide, that we can make our space what we need it to be.

I give thanks for the love of a good home. For laughing company, through thick and thin. For determination and the energy to express it. For connection with those who guide me. For the strength to step back when self-care time is needed.

What is our harvest this year, truly?

Raising a glass to you all, my friends. Thank you for continuing to keep me company in these interesting times. Much love x

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Practical Magic

It’s interesting to see how the modern Pagan ‘labels’ translate in the minds of those who don’t know a Starhawk from a Sabrina.

I’ve had a lady come up so close to my face and demand urgently to know ‘Are you a mystic?!’

Hubby has been asked his opinion on angels. Repeatedly. By the same person.

We’ve both been asked for ‘love spells’.

Sometimes, being a public Pagan in the 21st Century can feel a bit like this:

Aunts

As if you’re an On-Call Witch (or Druid, or Wise Woman, or whatever). In the movie ‘Practical Magic’, the wonderful and talented ladies in the image above will perform spells on demand – we see dollar bills thrown onto a table, less important than the outcome of the magic. A dove is sacrificed, poppets made, herbs picked…

In the Real World, it’s a bit more complicated.

Some people, when they find out that Druidry is my ‘job’ (as is author and chaplain, but those seem less sexy somehow), want to ask what’s involved. Then they start asking what I can ‘do’. For them.

In itself, this isn’t a problem. I’m very flattered that folk trust me enough to share their lives, and also that they can ask me – a relative stranger – for help in some quite tricky personal matters.

A while ago, a lady asked me about love spells. She was very pretty, to my mind, but had apparently been having trouble finding the right man, and was starting to worry as time went on… a familiar story to many.

I did try to explain that I don’t perform ‘love spells’ as such, but I’d do what I could. In the meantime, I took her aside to make her promise me something. She was to light a candle by her bed each night, and consider love. Drawing love to her. Feeling love for herself. Really focusing on love surrounding her. Because like calls to like… and also, this was empowering her to take the action, to hold this in her mind and to perform transformative magic on herself. It was not me forcing others to do things against their will.

I don’t know if she did this or not. But that is how I plant seeds – by encouraging the querent to take some responsibility themselves. To focus and believe that they have the power to make change as well.

Mind you, I’ve had people come to me – either happening upon my website, or via word of mouth from friends – asking for help or advice, but with a clear cynicism, even as they say what they need. Like a child making a wish on a star as they grow older, they want their impressions of magic to be true, and yet cannot quite shake the Mature Adult who tells them it’s all nonsense.

Disney-style Magic, to me, is the fairytale. The true change comes about when you look deeper, see the story beneath the surface.

The aunts in ‘Practical Magic’ are beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted and rich (if single). They are societally acceptable. But they are also a modern archetype of the Wise Women, living at the edge of the township and helping those who sneak out to ask them for favours.

I see this quite often in contemporary media. The magic-user must be attractive if they’re a Good Witch, and so acceptable to approach. You don’t go near the crazy, wild-haired woman with the black cat. You never know what might happen.

So you may be able to see why it amuses me when folk come to me – the lady with uncontrollable Merrida-curls, who’s on antidepressant medication and has not one but two black cats. And makes gingerbread (if you ask nicely).

The last person to approach me actually did ask – very politely, mind – how I did ‘what I do’ when I wasn’t able to heal myself. I had to admire his honesty, and can understand why he would wonder this.

Because one thing magic is not is the waving of a wand and instant change. Prince into Frog (or Beast). All wishes granted. Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s aunts. Sadly/thankfully not.

Most of those I know who’ve walked this path for a while don’t perform ‘spells’ as such very often. We’ve learned that they don’t always give the results we ask for – or rather, they do, but not necessarily in the way we expected. These things also take time and consideration.

For me, it’s more a matter of seeing that story beneath the surface. Of discerning the flows and acting to work with them, so that our connection with the wider world allows events to continue in a favourable manner as we move together, rather than magnets set to poles which only push each other away.

This is not easy. Many modern Pagans are ill in one way or another, but it doesn’t mean they are terrible magicians. Fragile human beings, maybe, but that’s life.

We all face our challenges. We work with what we have: physically, emotionally and financially, societally. But we can work to help our situations. We can’t necessarily fix long-term chronic conditions, but we can ease symptoms. We can find solidarity in dark places and cast a light to see that the shadows contain wisdom that we needed.

A lot of my work is doing this for others. It’s not a quick fix. But I endeavour to show people that they can make changes for themselves. They aren’t alone; I’ll accompany them on the journey as far as they wish me to. Together, we’ll do our best to find the path through the forest.

And when we do, sometimes the Regular Person will smile, give a little laugh and say Thankyou – and then be off, on their way again. They can forget our brief time together; what nonsense it all is anyway, like newspaper horoscopes! Just some feel-good pseudo-therapy.

I smile too. I’d say my own particular form of Headology works, because I’m still here and working. And people are made happier for it. I know that I’ve saved lives. To successfully perform this role is a huge responsibility and privilege.

We all do what we can.

And right now, I have a black cat who’s come to sit across my lap and gaze at the screen as I type, purring loudly. The almost-full Moon shines outside. I think I’m doing something right.

Much love, my friends x

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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.

Photo 11-07-2018, 09 17 55

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