Posts Tagged ritual

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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Adventures!

So as you may have seen from my Social Media, a lot is happening this year for me. Talks, weddings, travelling about to teach and generally help…

I’ve often been asked to write more about these adventures, so I’ve decided that I will. My Patreon supporters will get first look, but I’ll then repost certain pieces here about a week later for you all to see. (If you’d like to both support me and see what I’m doing as I’m doing it, please click on the link above.)

Last weekend, Himself and I were right in the middle of Hadrian’s Wall. This was for a quiet, private Handfasting, but coincidentally in a very meaningful place for me as well.

I came here years ago, when I was studying A-level Archaeology (our class had to do this on our own time, as it wasn’t generally part of the curriculum). So there’s photos of me (that I’ll try to find), aged Teenager, sitting on the Wall and in Roman Forts, in the January cold of the Far Frontier.

On the drive North, I looked out of the window to see miles of remote grass and farmland, with only sheep (and new lambs) for company. I can truly see why this was the End of the World for the Romans stationed here. The mountains rise up to meet the clouds, with snow visible in the distance.

For the rest of the day, we rested from the journey and prepared for the ritual. We also planned to visit parts of the Wall and the excavated fortifications (time permitting). An update on this will follow…

I’ll leave you with a picture of our beautifully English Afternoon Tea, as we were fussed over and generally looked after by an amazingly friendly B&B host.

Raising my cup to you all, lovelies. This feels exciting, to be sharing these parts of my journey.

xx

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Writing Process

A few people have asked about my ‘Process’ – that dreaded method by which authors are supposed to sit down and write each day. Not just authors actually, but all creative people. Because we are but machines, cranking out Art no matter what’s going on in our lives…

I am joking there, but only a bit. It is important to have some sort of routine, like a workday in a regular office, which encourages the inspiration to flow.

Sometimes for me, it happens randomly. Quite often, ideas will happen when I’m walking the dogs, and I have to rush home to jot things down while ‘in the zone’. Or I have a dictaphone app to record the ideas for when I’m back. Then I can get on with enjoying the walk, and see what other ideas may come up (and they usually do).

This year, however, I have A Plan. This January, I want to get into the writing habit of Daily Words. Ideally 1000 words per day, hopefully more, sometimes less. Or none. But that’s all ok.

I read a lovely quote last week, which said even if you write 300 words a day, you’ll soon have a full book’s worth. This is true. Happily, I find it very difficult to write so little once I’ve started! But 1000 words is around a single blog post, so that seems a reasonable target.

Yesterday, there were no words. My brain would not let me. So I tried to distract it in other ways. I finished the second sleeve of a jumper I’ve been knitting (since Summer, as I had an attack of Fear and put it aside because it seemed too daunting). Now I just have to sew in the ends, and it’s done!

Something creative, every day. Ideally, words. Sometimes those words will be nonsense. But they are there, and I got myself in a place to allow them to come.

I carry a notebook and pen, or the aforementioned dictaphone app. Who knows what will appear in them? Again, setting the space.

I’m reading, as research usually lends itself to ideas. At other times, when engaged with mindless knitting or a fun movie, another Good Thought will pop into being. Catch it, make a note – slot it into the rest of the writing wherever it seems best.

The file currently on my laptop called ‘Book 3’ is a mess at the moment. A good mess, mind, with lists of ideas, key words, an introduction and several random chapters. Once it gets to a certain size, I’ll start editing, moving things around, realizing bits that I’ve forgotten and generally whipping it into shape.

In the meantime, I know that those words are there. My subconscious will be busy with them, allowing those new thoughts to appear, listening for ideas from other people (and very random sources!)… being open. Because every day, there’s the potential to let that creativity flow. I sit at my desk and…

In case you were wondering, today’s words have already been done. So far, at least. This is just a bonus.

What are you doing with your creativity today?

Addendum: Here’s my ‘muse’ Fen, who ensures that I’m always having regular breaks away from my desk:

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Making Inspiration

It’s the first Monday of 2019. Most people are going  back to work today, or school, or otherwise returning to ‘normality’ after the holiday.

This is not usually the most happy of occasions. The early start, the ‘presentable’ clothes, having to focus on things which are maybe not your first priority… perhaps the habits of late mornings in bed, comfortable ‘lounge-wear’ and doing what you want with your time are more attractive!

On many 9-5 (or equivalent) days, we feel the pressure of the season as it truly is now. Yuletide has passed. We’re into the dark, grey days of winter, with Spring months away. This is what the Yule celebrations were designed to help us through… but it’s not always so easy from this side of the calendar.

What is enticing is to let ourselves fall into that sense of drudgery. Of running behind, chasing an endless ‘To-Do’ list, wondering how to cope with weeks until payday. We can feel ourselves slipping, letting the grey clouds overwhelm us. But we don’t have to.

Times like this are precisely when we need our own magic the most. You may be rolling your eyes now, wondering how on earth we can do that when we feel so unmotivated, uninspired and generally unwilling. But that’s precisely it!

The brightness of Yule was to remind us of the good things we have, of the love of family and friends, good food and laughter. Even the quiet of peace, of the time to do your own thing, with the New Year full of plans and potential. That hasn’t gone away – that was setting the foundation from which we’re now working.

Even if the holidays were themselves difficult and returning to ‘normality’ is now a welcome relief – then let that fuel you. The season has turned, and with it the reminder that we’re still here, still moving forward. We have the power to make this year what we want (or need) it to be.

The trick of these dark days is not to succumb to the sleep of hibernation again. It’s natural to want this, as the morning are still dark and the sunlight in short supply. But we have to keep ourselves moving in both darkness and light. Hold on to the good feelings of recent weeks to keep yourself reminded of what’s possible, or what you’re dreaming of.

My December was not the best, and I won’t be remembering it fondly. Illness, severe mental health battles and general battling meant that I was generally surviving day-to-day. However, the bright spots stand out even more because of that.

Time snuggled up with my husband and animal family, warm and fed, together. Visiting family, laughter and silliness; pictures of distant folks enjoying themselves. Sharing stories of adventures during that Christmas week, which seemed both too long and yet over so quickly at the same time.

Now here we are, needing to get Back to Work – and we can use those happy moments to keep us going. We’re still working in the midst of winter, yes, but that means setting foundations for the year ahead. This is just as exciting, if not more so, as making those plans, dreams and wishes, because now we’re actually able to do something about them.

Our daily work may be hard to face, but it allows us to have the resources to use as we need. Even if (like me) work is scarce at this time of year, we try to use what we have and plan for the busier seasons on the horizon.

Inspiration may not be immediately apparent right now. It’s hard to see the magic in the January dampness, here in the UK. The news is full of difficulty and sadness. So even more, we need to dig deep and find that inner inspiration to keep ourselves moving.

I’m back at my desk today, and pondering what to write. I’ll do a blog post – that’ll get the creative juices flowing! Perhaps it will, perhaps not. That’s the dilemma of a writer: what to write that I will find interesting, while second-guessing how it will appear to my readers! That’s an endless wheel of worry, which can itself be a trap. As many other writers have said, put one word after another and keep going. That’s all you can do. So here I am.

I was also glad to be able to sit here and think straight, to write at all, after a week of being Very Ill. Yesterday saw me pondering my own ‘To Do’ list – and looking forward to the tasks on it, rather than feeling overwhelmed. I had to figure what method of planning worked best for me, without setting off my inner fears. Again, I can’t anticipate what every person will want this year. I can only do what I feel called to do. Hopefully, people will be interested and want to join in.

This is itself a small ritual. I set the space, in terms of ideas and plans. Then I gather the tools I need… and today, I’m starting to get things moving. Nothing tangible will be apparent yet, as we’re months from seeing some of these events happen. But… actually, no, even that’s not true. These words are tangible, right now, here on this screen. I’m reaching out to others to share my thoughts and ideas, and hopefully inspire you in turn. What can you do to make this year good? What are you doing right now to that end?

It might just be about putting one foot in front of the other, or one breath after the next. That counts too. Every creation, event or rite starts with the spark of an idea, then the energy put into it, the pondering, the scribbling of notes, the calling for help from friends… Momentum can be sudden, like a lightning-strike, or quiet, a single snowflake that leads to an avalanche. Both have very real results!

I’m still feeling rather furry-brained today, but now I have some writing to share, to show that I Am Doing Things. I look to my list, to see what I can do next. I remember that there’s unlisted jobs too, such as household chores. I consider what music I can play to make those more fun.

I’ve planned a couple of rewards for myself, breaktimes with tea and some knitting, then some research later (reading rarely counts as work for me!), perhaps a movie tonight. Walking the dogs over the fields – still exhausting, as I’m not back to full strength yet physically, but the first snowdrops are starting to appear, the birds are singing and the land isn’t quite as asleep as it might seem.

The challenge of the dark months is to keep going. But we can do it, both alone and by connecting with supportive friends and the world around. Look at what motivates you, not what makes you sigh with frustration. Consider the potential of the year ahead. Imbolc isn’t far away – do you have any plans? What about small daily rituals to keep you smiling, holding on to who you are beneath the business suit or boring uniform?

I sit, the typical author alone at her desk… and thinking of how I reach out to others through my work. The words I write today may not be seen until (or if!) they’re published months from now, but these ones, right now, are certainly enough.

I raise my cup of tea to you, lovely reader. Go find something warm to share alongside me. We’ll keep working together, sharing virtual space through the magic of this electronic tale. My candle is lit here too, keeping me reminded.

We am still here. What are we doing?

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Overcoming Fear

A week ago, I had a call that should have made me happy and excited. I’d won a makeover and photoshoot with a local company, so Himself and me would be off to their studios to be looked after and made to feel like stars.

I was terrified. I was so close to saying ‘No, thankyou’ and hanging up the phone. Because the prospect of such a thing was almost too much for me.

I’ve always hated pictures of myself. I know this isn’t unusual, as we never quite look like we imagine from inside (I always think the ‘residual image’ of Neo in the ‘Matrix’ films would never be quite as effortlessly cool as they present it to be!). But years of mockery at school combined with the usual personal anxieties as an adult have not made me tremendously comfortable in my own skin.

But something in me seemed to rise up and silence those naysaying voices. ‘Nope. You’re doing this.’

For the last few days, it’s been an undercurrent of worry, rising to just under panic levels the night before. What do I take to wear? What will they ask me to do? How can I hide?

Ridiculous, perhaps. But so runs the track of irrational negativity.

Even on the morning we were due to set off, I sat for a while in a heap, not knowing what to do. Finally we both shoved some things in a bag and set off. Keep moving. We’re on the way now. I took knitting for the journey (yes, as passenger!), to calm myself as best I could. I know that my lovely husband was nervous too, but he seemed so calm, so ‘together’ and at ease. I was envious.

I’m so glad to say that I needn’t have worried. From the makeup lady to our host, to the merry and talented photographer, we were both put at our ease from the first. I was convinced to undertake what they called a ‘boudoir’ shoot, and throughout, the voice behind the camera kept telling me ‘beautiful, lovely, yes!’ The negative niggles kept telling me ‘she’s lying…’ but I gritted my teeth and kept smiling. Or looking moody. Or just gazing into the middle distance at a random stepladder out of shot.

Much fun was had when Himself was convinced to fetch his armour out of the car, by the way. In case you didn’t know, he does full-contact medieval combat (HMB) – so the sound of a cutlery drawer falling downstairs was in fact a real Knight stomping down the corridor. Everyone was impressed. Not your normal day in a photography studio, I imagine.

We were taken into a room and shown the results. Jaws dropped (ours). Smiles began… and grew. Laughter. Hugs. Stories shared with the photographer. She’d never guessed that I was so scared, nor that I fought depression, anxiety and panic every day.

I look now at the pictures we made, and the smile rises again. Ultimately, all I did was show up – the skill was all in those who crafted the images (and did the makeup). But stepping through the door was almost too much. Leaving my house was almost too much.

I’ve undertaken rituals to face my own darkness. I’ve been forced to look at myself, inside and out. This day may have been primarily fun, playing with props and clothes, guided by skilled hands. But it was no less a rite of passage, facing the unknown, overcoming my terror (I’m really not exaggerating there) and stepping forward.

I’m keeping copies of my favourite pictures handy, to remind myself when I’m feeling fearful. I left that studio feeling so brave, as if I could do anything. I want to hold on to that, to remind myself of what I can do when those negative voices rise. Because the deeper voice is remembering how to speak, to say ever more loudly ‘You can do it, you know.’ And here’s the proof.

Images and makeup by Chique Photography. Shawl is ‘Morticia’ by Boo Knits, yarn by Posh.

(I’ll be including a little more story and some additional images for my Patreon friends – please do hop over there and support me if you can!)

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Living Magic

I promised that I’d write about my Samhain ritual this year. It began with my last blog post here, actually, where I was pondering exactly what I’d do. Some planning began, but largely I let things happen as they would. Which led to interesting results.

Several days after writing that, I was very ill indeed. My depression attacked with full force. Medical professionals were called (and were helpful, insomuch as they could be), I battled hard to get through. And I did, for here I am.

Right in the middle of all that was the weekend before Samhain. Most people seemed to be celebrating it then, for some reason, and several journalists called to ask for chats. Honestly, this was the last thing that I wanted. But game face went on, and it was on the telephone at least. Chatting to many people from the comfort of my sofa. I could do that.

The usual questions came. ‘How did you become a Druid?’ ‘What does Halloween mean for you?’ ‘How will you be celebrating?’

The Sunday morning DJ was lovely. I was there on the phone, with a pagan friend present in the studio, and the host clearly wanted our discussion to go on for longer. The fascination in her voice was clear – she genuinely did want to know more.

I felt myself smile. I opened up, shared anecdotes of Samhains past, tried to convey some of the sense of magic that I’ve always felt at this time of year.

(I just typed ‘magic’ as ‘majic’. I kind of prefer that :D)

I spoke of how we feel the presence of our ancestors at this time of year, but not at all in a scary way. These are our family, from those we knew who’ve passed recently to relative strangers only met in ritual. But those who are there care for us enough to come along, to see how we’re doing and share some time.

I felt my spirits begin to lift.

The day came. My husband was at work on night-shifts on Samhain Eve and Samhain itself, so he spent the day asleep before heading out. I was mostly on my own, or with the dogs and cats.

I woke up feeling terrible. The black dog was gnawing at my mind, questioning everything that I had thought to do. Could I even do this at all? Who was I to share thoughts on this when I couldn’t even sort myself out? The movie ‘Practical Magic’ was on – I felt like one of the leading witches, hiding under her blankets, worn out.

I thought of my ancestors. I didn’t want to let them down – a constant challenge in the back of my mind when I’m unwell. I want to honour them in my life, my work, to do my best.

And the sense of many grandmothers were at my shoulder. Not so much saying ‘You can do this’ as gently, encouraging a child. ‘Come on, you can do it. Let’s take the dogs out. Get yourself dressed, nice and warm. Remember hat and gloves!’

I wrapped up safely and walked out into the day. The darkness receded, as my ancestors walked with me. My eyes opened and my spirit too, as I truly felt the connection to the simple, everyday places that are my hilltop home.

I was reminded of the myth of the Cailleach in the light touch of frost on my cheek. It would get a lot colder, but for now I had a beautiful blue sky, sunlight occasionally peeping from behind white clouds, and crisp grass under my feet. Golden leaves surrounded us as the pups played. I looked out and saw the mist over the houses below. Always strange to be ‘above’ that, being so high up, especially when so much of my life was spent a mile or two from the south coast.

I felt my heart lift, and the depression stayed away. I kept seeing and hearing the same phrases around me – to see clearly, to see through the dark. I kept my eyes open, and my thoughts.

And sometimes, when what could be considered an ‘omen’ or synchronicity just whaps you in the face, you can’t ignore it. I realized that I had to see clearly that day – I had an opticians appointment at lunchtime!

The high street was full of seasonal decorations. I sat in the waiting area next to a beautiful little witch with a bag shaped like a cat. I listened to those around me talk and laugh about the things they’d seen (Spiderman had come into the shop ahead of me, to get his glasses fixed after he sat on them). Everyone was in a tangibly festival mood.

Not only was the eye test fine, but my eyes had actually improved. I could see more clearly. I need to change my reading glasses, but I could see more without them. I tried not to laugh.

All day, the mix of the mundane and the magical swirled around me. I never felt alone or overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how to prepare for the evening, though – what ritual to do. Hmm. Continue to let it come naturally?

Himself and I had a brief hour together before he left, and we saw the children on the street enjoying their monstering. Many houses were having parties, as it’s a school holiday week, and the parents were getting involved as well. The air was filled with subtle lights and woodsmoke.

I had spent much of the day baking – something I’d been unable to do before, due to mood and lack of energy. Now the house smelt of pumpkin cookies and cake.

I sat with my tea after the last small zombie had left. What to do, what to do…

And I walked the house. I started looking out over the garden, at first seeing nothing but the darkness… and then the reflected lights causing shapes to dance in the windows. The kitchen was still warm. The candles I had lit in the living room flickered, reflecting in the mirror.

The spirits of the house were there. The ancestors were there. Not just that evening, but always, should we choose to recognise or call upon them.

The lesson of the day truly was to ‘see’ – clearly and deeply. To cut through the dark, to look over the mists, to see shapes in the negative spaces. This wasn’t about casting a circle or formal words. This was about everyday practice, real and lived. Talismans, incense and special clothing may help, but I carry the magic within me, in every breath. In the words and feelings that I share. In my open heart.

I do my best. I live my practice, and my truth. Sometimes the darkness rises to overwhelm me, but I know it. I know that it can be beaten back or overcome.

I hold on to my faith – in my Self, in my ancestors, in my Gods (who were absolutely looking on and laughing as I came to each realization through the day). I share my stories, and smile as I hear the tales of others. We all move forward into the winter together, and we keep each other’s light burning to help guide us all.

What are we doing? Whatever we can.

***

A small addendum. As we enter the ‘quiet’ months, I’m working more from home, but am still definitely here. I have a Patreon, which very much keeps me going when I’m not out and about ‘doing’ a lot – there will be more stories on there every week (as well as other unique creations!), as a thankyou to those who support me. Please do join in if you’re able, as every little really does help ($1 = 60p approximately!).

Samhain blessings, my friends xx

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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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