Posts Tagged Samhain

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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Entering the Darkness

Today is Samhain. Not yet the longest night of the year, but the time when we’re forced to face the reality of the darkness drawing in at dawn and dusk, with less daylight inbetween. Some breathe a sigh of relief, looking forward to the ‘hibernation’ period of quietness and introspection; others gird their loins against inner darkness, SAD and the loneliness of closing the curtains on another day.

I’ve talked about Samhain as a festival many times in the past – I’d rather not go over that again here. Rather, some personal thoughts about this time, this date, here in 2013.

The last month has been crazy for me. Busy in preparation for the launch of my second book (and the associated travels and logistics thereof); also a considerable period of forced rest, as the household came under the sway of a particularly nasty and virulent cold. Yes, germs teach us lessons about patience and recuperation, but we’re not always good students…

I was looking forward to writing a few ‘travel blog’ pieces here as my journey moved around the country – a bit of fun, but some nice pictures and tales of the road. Still mad times, but worth remembering.

Then some bad news. Very bad. The night before we were due to set off.

The trip moved ahead as planned, of course. But my mood was dramatically different. Every hour has been either doing or moving, with rest periods being grabbed as best we could before moving on again.

I did my best for those who came to see me and have been awed all over again by their attention, love and voices. I’m always grateful, and so very honoured. New friends and old, I’m so glad to meet folk – whether they liked my words, or are just curious at the mad Druid lady explaining her ideas.

Now, back at home, there’s more chance of quiet, in familiar surroundings, with my wee ‘family’ united again. But it’s still hard to fully relax – waiting for the phone to ring, hoping that the news is good, but unable to avoid the worries and fears. And work continues, of course, with the full Inbox and diary. Life goes on.

I’ve been honoured to speak with so many over the past few days, in person and via email or internet message, but all brave enough to open up to me as a result of my own opening up in my books. A floodgate is unlocked, tacit permission is given. I listen to the stories shared with me. Hugs, smiles, nods, tears. Connection.

I hear of pain – mental and physical. Of overdoses, triggers, secrets hidden and worries shared. Individuals are brought together by crisis or daily need. Reminders are given, of those who can help within our spirituality: the simple therapy of a walk through woodland or quiet street, as the trees, birds and animals share their own voices with us without judgment or threat. Permission to just be who we are.

So we come to Samhain. Talk of the ‘veil is thin’ as this liminal time arrives, worlds merging, energy feeling different. Yes, it does. Today is always a unique time in the turning wheel of our lives.

This year, then, it’s not about those who’ve passed – although they will be remembered. It’s for those who remain, who fight their own battles every day. Those who’ve reminded me all over again during this dark period of what’s important, of how we can help each other, of how our very modern – and yet disjointed, fractured, uncertain – communities can come together in the dark nights, to provide warmth, comfort and nourishment to those in need.

Families in blood or spirit – it doesn’t matter. We hold each other. Tonight, at my fireside, I will give thanks.

Thank you, wonderful readers. May your flames of inspiration keep you warm through the cold nights ahead.

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Changes

The year is turning. We approach Samhain. I’ve written about it before, but suffice to say, this time of year makes sense to me as a ‘New Year’, a time when the harvest is done, the latest season is concluded… and newness is on the horizon.

While life has still been busy for me recently, I’ve noticed more and more ‘writing on the wall’ – repetitive signs of what I need to be looking at, now and in the coming months. I get the feeling it’s a seasonal thing, as my connection with the wider world always flows strongly at this time of year. The spirit of Autumn, with its beautiful colours, scents and textures, has been my favourite since I was young. One of the first ‘tasks’ suggested to me as a baby Pagan was ‘get out there and roll around in the leaves!’

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While I’m being called to explore certain avenues in my personal practice, it’s been suggested (by a much respected, wise and (at times) extremely marvellous/silly friend) that I move this blog further as well. It’s been a few years now, and I agree: it’s time to move things deeper.

As you may have noticed from recent posts, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of the wider world, both in the Pagan and secular communities, and am less inclined than ever to suffer fools gladly. This may signal that I’m getting older and turning into a grumpy Crone before my time, but I suspect it may just be that I’ve now reached some internal limit with bullsh*t, and want to dig my heels in – to actively challenge, to encourage change.

My constant mantra of ‘what are you doing’ now has the well-known addendum of toddlers (and, rather significantly, philosophers) everywhere: ‘Why?’ So much of what I’ve seen around has made absolutely no sense to me lately – alleged adults acting in ways entirely contrary to their wishes and wellbeing, with the sense of ‘I do it because I should’ still in control.

Look around. Never before have we needed to challenge outmoded ways of living. We fancy ourselves Modern and 21st Century, yet we act in ways that would make our ancestors cringe. Including those recent ancestors, still within living memory, who fought (sometimes with their lives) for the ‘rights’ we take for granted today. Somewhere in our comfortable lives we’ve become complacent, and in doing so, forgotten our own power.

Please remember, though, that there’s already a lot of positive out there. Mutual feeling, desire for united change, growing communities (tangible and online) – we can’t stop evolving, learning. We just have to check our motivations and methods as we go.

I’m sure you know this already, Preaching to the choir. So:

Why are we doing what we’re doing? And, to inspire action rather than cynical giving up: ‘What do I really want to do?’ This isn’t selfish. This is looking inside, to consider oneself as well as those around – to see where those connect, personal boundary to wider world, rather than being subsumed by the mythical societal ‘should’. What are our real priorities? How are we bringing them to fruition over the next year?

Let’s trust ourselves, and move forward. The New Year approaches. I can feel it in my blood and my guts, smell it in the woodsmoke, feel it in the hard ground of new frosts. I’m excited to see where the path leads as I walk forward, both alone and as part of this community.

Oh, and by the way – this is also the time of gathering around the fire and telling stories, to nourish and inspire. Do feel free: comments are there for sharing 🙂

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Photos by bish – used with grateful thanks

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