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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Howling at the Moon

On the night of the dark moon I lit candles.

I always light candles, so nothing unusual there. I lit the candles on my kitchen altar as I cooked, and unusually for me, I left them burning long after I had finished. I lit another in the pale blue tea-light holder hanging in my kitchen window and left it gently swinging in the draft from the just-cracked-open window. A golden glow filled that warmest of spaces as I turned out the light. Shifting shadows danced on the walls.
It had been a bad day. Dull, wet, cloudy, the kind of day that sucks all inspiration from you and smothers it. The kind of day where tempers fray for no reason, and words -though not meant to be unkind- are taken the wrong way. The kind of day where if something can go wrong, it will. My swollen, aching belly did little to lighten the mood and I allowed myself to wallow in that dragging menses energy instead of making it work for me.
In truth I was behaving like a spoilt child, wanting everything my own way...but it didn't seem that way at the time and although I wasn't handling things as well as I should, my grievances, my pain, my fears were justified. I guess I wasn't the only one in a bad mood, and maybe not the only one behaving badly either. Such was the energy of the day.

I left my sleeping Druid dozing in front of the t.v, the abstract flickerings of colour playing across his face. I had tried to write, to spill out my feelings and frustrations onto the page in a form of release, not necessarily to be read, just to be written, but my thoughts skittered and collided, whirling unfettered inside my tired mind. Nothing was making sense and as the tears fell I turned out the light to hide them. Only the colours from the television remained. Jarring. Disturbing. Silent tears became choked back sobs, my body wracking with the movement of the pain I could not voice.

My Druid slept on. I crept away on tiptoed feet, not wanting to wake him, knowing he would ask what was wrong, and that I would say 'Nothing'. Not lying, not hiding the truth, but having no way to put into words how I felt. My kitchen called me. The glow from the still burning candles beckoned me in and instead of hurling myself onto our bed in the darkness as I had imagined, instead of allowing my pillow to smother and swallow the sound of my tears, I stood alone in the centre of my small kitchen and sobbed.

I sobbed raw and broken. I sobbed until I could not breathe. I found myself turning, spinning in the candlelight, whirling in some strange, measured dance to the beat of the dark moon outside. I wept and I howled, I spoke in broken words over and over and over again, what it was that I wanted, needed, missed. I don't know who I called to, I don't remember all I said, only that I wanted to go back, I wanted to go home, not even really understanding what I meant. Back where? I was home! And yet still I spun and still I cried until I could cry no more.

And then I understood. And I knew it was impossible. We cannot live in the past, only move forward or stagnate, but it felt better to get it out.

I did not plan it, or even realise it at the time, but I worked powerful magic that night. Magic that is already moving through my life, stirring things up.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Itchy Feet

Ever since I read Rima Staines'  wonderful post over at her beautiful blog The Hermitage, I've been feeling the urge to go a wandering. Not that I have ever trailed along the highways and byways in the same wonderful style as Rima has (oh what a dream that would be) and I am not sure it is in my nature to ever be able to fully say goodbye to the security of having four solid walls around me but...... excuse me a while as I gaze wistfully into the distance......
While I don't think it would ever be possible for us to live a travelling life for any length of time (my Mad Druid does love his creature comforts ;) ) we have always been at our best when we have lived a life of spontaneity, heading out on a whim whenever, wherever the urge takes us, drifting with the wind whenever we could. Holidays were never planned, and often started out as nothing more than an afternoon or an evening out, but we'd follow the car wherever she led us and discovered so much more because of it. We once went out to buy fish & chips for tea and ended up in Brighton, and picked up our new car from the showroom on London's Commercial Road and came home via Wales! Those were the days.
The decision to leave London and move to Cornwall was taken quite suddenly. Even the somewhat shaky plans we had in place were cast aside over a glass of wine in a Liskeard pub one night when my Mad Druid said 'Sod it, lets just do it!' And in the space of a week our notices were given at work, belongings were either sold or put into storage and we loaded up the car bound for who knows where. Of course, things turned out to by not quite that simple and life had a few obstacles to throw in our way first, but those few months we spent just driving around the South West looking for work and a roof to put over our heads were the happiest I have ever known.

Occasionally we'd treat ourselves to a night of luxury in a B&B (hot running water, mmmm, bliss. lol).





but more often than not we simply parked our car up beside the road in a sheltered lay-by, or on the moors, or beside the sea. We drove where we wanted, stopped where we wanted, and woke with the dawn. Comfortable it wasn't. Liberating? Exhilarating? It certainly was. I had never felt so free.

Eventually, of course, the money ran out, health problems began to interfere and the lure of simple luxuries like a front door and a bed grew stronger. I packed away my camping stove in favour of a 'proper' kitchen and fitted myself into that box that is a conventional life. I am not unhappy. I look out of my window across rolling hills, I can walk in the woods or by the sea whenever I want, we make regular trips up to the moors. I have made a home from this stark cube of a council flat, I have a little garden and a warm kitchen and when I lock the door at night I am content.
But....
I feel the need to go a wandering, to head where the road takes us with no plans, no reason. To wake as dawn creeps across the land, to sleep with the sound of rain drumming on the roof, to gaze at the stars, to take off my watch, to be free; if only for a little while.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

12 Days of Holy Supper

Once again Ms Graveyard Dirt threw down the Holy Supper gauntlet and invited us all to participate in the Midwinter Madness of Sviata Vechera. And once again my plans all went awry. That's not to say I gave up, anymore than I did last year (2011's attempts are here and here), it's just that things didn't quite work out the way I had planned.
In my head I imagined some glorious feast. A day spent in my kitchen lovingly creating the dishes I had researched, a table beautifully decorated, places tenderly set for our beloved dead, and a full on evening of gluttony and merriment and (less welcome) the fuzzy head the following morning as proof of our sucessful excess.
Inspired by last year's challenge, and the realisation that I actually knew very little about my roots, I have thrown myself enthusiastically into researching my family tree. It has been hard work at times and I've hit many brick walls and dead ends along the way, and there is still much work to do, but I know much more about my own history now than I did a year ago. It's only the bare bones, but it's something to go on.
I have found stone masons from Ireland and seamstresses from Cumbria; I have found family in Devonshire papermills and Wiltshire farms. There are soldiers and labourers and gardeners and master bakers. My line zig-zags across the country from Devon to Surrey, from Gloucestershire to Norfolk, from Suffolk to Cumbria, from Northern Ireland to the East Midlands. And I've only just scratched the surface.
There was so much to go on, so many people to acknowledge, so many faces to welcome, so many dishes I could make. And then there was my Mad Druid's family too. Oh yes, I was going to do so much this year. This year I would get it right, it would all go to plan, everything would run smoothly and we would party!
Yeah right!
What I hadn't bargained on was the rotten and lingering cold I brought back as a souvenier from our trip to visit family and distribute presents in early December that completely wiped the floor with me and drained energy with an eagerness I can barely describe, nor the decline in the Mad Druid's health of late and the devastating effects that has had on his appetite.
A feast? Even if I could stand up long enough to prepare it, he wouldn't have the strength to eat it.
So what was I to do if a full on Sviata Vechera celebration was out of the question?
Well, spread it out over the whole damn holiday, obviously!
And so the 12 days of Holy Supper idea was born. It wouldn't be one feast, one night, one celebration, but a whole collection of smaller observances from the Winter Solstice right through to New Year's Day. The table would be laid, a place would be set for our ancestors, for the whole festive period. And something about that felt very right.
We didn't really get off to the best of starts. The Solstice itself was a bit of a disaster (the less said about that, the better) and I was more than a little disappointed that the Mad Druid asked for a dish that not only didn't fit in with my plans but that I don't like and won't eat -so we wouldn't even be sharing it! A few tears later and I got a grip of myself and realised that our likes were just as important and there was nothing really wrong with sharing a meals of our choosing rather than what I expected my ancestors to prefer. So as it was I made Carbonara for him, or rather a strange almost-like-kind-of dish that is based on Carbonara and just the way he likes it. If at some point in the future his children were to hold a Holy Supper of of their own (unlikely, I know ;) ) this would be the one dish they ought to create for him. Carbonara, just the way I make it, minus most of the proper ingredients and with few others just for good measure. (I ought to come up with a different name for it really). It went down well with my Mad Druid and I didn't hear any complaints from anywhere else so, so far so good.

Then we made our way, over the next few days, through such simple things as sausage rolls and mince pies (I always make my own 'mincemeat', usually a mix of dried fruit and apples and sometimes nuts, simmered in brandy), little things that the Mad Druid could just nibble at as he wished and would be familiar to our grandparents and great-grandparents, things we remember coming from their warm and cosy kitchens.

And then I got to make a sausage pie. This is a family recipe that has been doing the rounds for years. My mother sampled something similar at a party many years ago and liked the flavours but not the consistency or appearance, and 'tweaked' it to suit herself. It has made an appearance at every family occasion for as long as I can remember. I've always known what went into it, its not hard to work out from eating it (sausagemeat, tomatoes, garlic, plenty of herbs) and I've seen her make it many times but at last I got my hands on the actual recipe. It's been a closely guarded secret for decades! It came out of the oven, gleaming and golden, filling my kitchen with the smells of my childhood transporting me back to days long gone. It was a joy to make and a joy to share.

Christmas Day I pushed the boat out and gave in to my urge to cook a full Christmas dinner. I was fairly certain I could tempt my Mad Druid with roast duck, no matter how he was feeling and even if he only ate a little that was fine, I had plans for the leftovers ;) And so, rather late in the day as that's when he most feels like eating we sat down to a table laden with duck and roast potatoes, steaming bowls of vegetables, roast parsnips and onions and glazed carrrots. It's a good job I invited the ancestors along (and not just our own ancestors but the 'forgotten dead' too, those who have no one to welcome and share with them- a Christmas Day tradition we started last year) as it was way too much for just the too of us. lol

Boxing Day was bubble and squeak day, using up the left over veggies served with a bit of crispy bacon. My grandma would have loved that :)

Desserts featured rather strongly as we indulged our sweet tooths, recreating dishes we remembered from long ago or trying out regional fancies that may be familiar to our guests. Rum Nicky, a dish from Cumbria I discovered when researching last year's holy supper that we both loved. Westmorland peppercake (which also got an outing as Christmas gifts this year), if you've never put pepper in a cake before, you should try it! A yule log (originally intended for the Solstice -best laid plans and all that) became a birthday cake for my Mad Druid's late mother on New Year's Eve and Clementines, hollowed out and refilled with the segments and cream, something my Mad Druid remembers his grandmother making as a special treat, only this time a more grown-up version spiked with liqueur.

Home made soup and soda bread, mid way between Christmas and New Year, allowed me to fondly remember my grandfather's vegetable garden, and acknowledge my Irish ancestry, while also providing a welcome relief from some of the richer excesses of the season, and homemade chicken liver pate(not from the blender incident, that came later!), taken from my grandmother's cook book and served with fresh homemade bread in a nod to the master baker I discovered in my line six generations back.

Much of our on-going feast was washed down with home made wine or mulled cider which filled our home with the spiced scents of the season, aromas that have enlivened our homes in the bleak mid-winter for generations.

New Year's day saw the end of our feast with a large bacon joint, at my Mad Druid's request, which provided a New Year meal, a rich soup and cold meat for sandwiches just the way it should, and always did before the 'throw away' culture of today.

Holy Supper may not have worked out just the way I planned this year, but I think we did it justice and I'll raise a glass to that.



There should have been more photo's but for some unknown reason blogger won't let me upload them. Obviously it isn't only facebook that's out to get me!





Thursday, 3 January 2013

2013 Came in With a Whimper

Actually, it was more of an OUCH than a whimper, although I did a fair bit of that too after I stuck my hand in the blender on New Year's Eve while making chicken liver pate for my Mad Druid. It was an utterly stupid thing to do. I was tired, my mind was on other things, and I was trying (as usual) to do too many things at once. I thought I had sensibly turned it off before I removed the last little bit of pate from under the blades but, as it turns out, I had unplugged the wrong thing. As a result we spent a very quiet night in front of the TV rather than joining the revellers down on the beach to watch the fireworks, but that's OK. It was nice, just the two of us.

Of course if I'd used the shiny new blender my Mad Druid had bought for me it wouldn't have happened at all, but with the wisdom of ages I decided to use my old hand blender (no pun intended!!!) thinking my new one would be a pig to clean for such a tiny batch of pate. With hindsight I would rather have done the cleaning! Fortunately I only carved up one finger, although that is painful enough, and it is still pretty much in one piece even if it does look a mess.
It made me realise just how much I rely on my Mad Druid, how calm and unflappable he can be, how utterly reassuring his presence is. I was fine at first, remarkably calm in fact, until I realised it wasn't just one cut but several, spiralling around my finger and pumping out blood faster than I could wipe it away, and I felt my knees go and I started to shake.

He's made me promise that my number one resolution for this year is Not To Do It Again! I think I can go with that one :) I think I'll take it a bit further though, and say that I'm going to do my very best to pay attention to what I'm doing, give each and every task the attention it deserves. Easier said than done, maybe, but I'll give it a whirl. This year I'm going to try to focus more, not be rushing around trying to do everything at once. Who knows, maybe I'll even get more done as a result.
The rest of my resolutions are much the same as last year's, with one or too additions.
I always write a whole list, about 13 or so, of not so much resolutions exactly but of things I'd like to achieve during the coming year. I don't always stick to it, sometimes I get to mid-summer and throw the whole lot out of the window -sometimes I have a year like that, where my priorities change. I don't worry too much if I don't get them done either. They are things to aim for, guidelines rather than a 'must do' list.
Having said that though, I don't feel I really achieved much last year, it wasn't an achieving kind of year. Which is why so many of them have made it on to the list again this year, such as learning to drive- something that seems more important than ever. Maybe it's time to dust off my 17 year old self again and get back to the lessons!
I want to get my garden really growing this year too. Last year I barely even set foot in it despite all my promises to myself. Other things took precedence and I neglected one of the things I love the most. This year I'm going to take time for the things I enjoy, not just gardening but writing, painting, sewing. I'm going to take time for me.
Socialising more is still on the list too. I have a nagging feeling I'm going to need a social network this year. I'm getting a little better at interacting on-line but Hermit Witch is still too much of a hermit when it comes to real life people.
But I also want to spend more time with my Mad Druid. That may sound a little strange to anyone who knows us. We're usually together 24/7 these days and our family jokes about us being joined at the hip, but the one problem about being together all the time is that we don't often make as much of it as we should. When we first got together he worked nights (hellish long hours when I missed him desperately) and I was out all day, first at uni and then work, so our hours together were precious. We took nothing for granted and made every second count. I think I'd like to have that back (without the working nights bit, I can live without that ;) ) Certain things that have happened with our family recently have made us realise we often spend so much time thinking about everyone else we have no energy left for us. 2013 is the year we put US first again and take time for those precious moments.
There was one resolution I kept last year though. I vowed to get out into the Cornish countryside more, and when I took up running I certainly did that. The premature birth, and death, of my step-grandson spurred me on to try to do something I had never done before. I was going to run a marathon! Unfortunately plans don't always come to fruition and despite my best efforts I have not been able to raise the amount of money needed to keep my 'gold bond' place for the London Marathon and so I made the painful decision in mid-December to hand that on to someone who could. I haven't given up with my fundraising though, I'll just be doing it at a slower, steadier, less stressful rate (you wouldn't believe the amount of sleepless nights it gave me) and I haven't given up on running a marathon either. I may not be able to run THE marathon this year but there are plenty of other marathons, and other years. I have discovered a love of running that I never expected and so I WILL continue, just at my own pace. I'll get there in the end. Especially as it also helped with another of last year's resolutions...to lose weight, shape up and get fit. I've lost two whole stone (28lbs) and only put 1lb back on over Christmas! I'm wearing clothes I haven't been able to get in for years and I'm fitter than I can ever remember being (no more huffing and puffing as I walk up the steep hill to our flat)...
...You know, maybe I achieved more last year than I thought.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Weathering the Storms of 2012

I think it's safe to say that 2012 wasn't my greatest year and I, for one, am glad to see the back of it.

I started out with hope, like most of us do, for the clean, fresh year ahead. 2011 hadn't been a bad year, not a great year certainly but it had been OK. There had been the roller coaster ups and downs that mark our passage through most twelve month periods and that's only natural, but it had also been a dull year, a stagnant year. It was year marked with a sense of waiting, of marking time. I was ready, or so I thought, for the changes, the movement, I felt sure 2012 would bring.

2012 has been a bitch.

My son was hit by car.
My step-grandson died when he was born prematurely.
My Dad had a stroke.
And Pneumonia.
And another stroke.
My Step-Dad was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.
Complications during his operation to hopefully remove the tumour led to an emergency operation a few days later to also remove his spleen.
He still needs chemotherapy and the prognosis is not good.
There has been a split in my step-family, a major rift I don't know how, or even if I want, to heal.
The Mad Druid is ill. Much more so than he's letting on. I fear a chest infection that won't heal (it's been months now) is a symptom of something much worse.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I thought 2012 was to be a year of changes and I took that to be a good, positive thing (and maybe it still is) and looked forward to it, but for those changes to take place there has been a destructive process, a tearing away of comfort and security. For new things to grow the ground must be cleared, but that is a painful process. The storm clouds must gather before we can truly appreciate the blue.

I have been through turmoil of many different kinds this year, I have experienced emotions of frightening intensity, and learnt much about myself in the process.
Though the storm may rage, and the shores of my life may be battered, there are some things that are so strong, so solid, that I can anchor myself to them and ride out any storm, no matter how savage.
And no matter how bad things seem, as long as I hold true to the things, and the people, I believe in instead of forcing myself into a pattern that is not really me, there will always be a light in the dark
and rainbows
and blue sky...

If we know where to look for it.
Life is what we make it. 2013 will be what I make it.

I'm not expecting it to be easy, in fact I'm expecting a wild and difficult ride, but what 2012 has taught me is that I can make every minute of it count, if I want to.

Oh, and there was one good thing to come out of 2012
My newest Grandson x

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Gratitude, Is it a thing of the past?

When I was a child (many, many moons ago) Christmas was a time of great anticipation, excitement and joy. It was a time to laugh and play and relax. I look back on those Christmases with very fond memories. They are memories I can call to mind easily, without the aid of photographs or songs or smells, they are strong and good, forged out of the best of times.
Religion didn't really come into the Christmas of my childhood beyond the school nativity play and occasional carol concert, my parents weren't church goers, but thankfulness and thinking of others was big. Our Christmas was fun but there were rules, strict ones, but ones we never minded keeping. Somehow they were just all a part of it and it just wouldn't have been right, it wouldn't have been Christmas, without them.
Not going hunting for our Christmas presents was a big one, it would be wrong to spoil the surprise and to this day I'd rather poke my eyes out than peek at something before it's wrapped. Not going downstairs before Mum and Dad were up was another. We had a stocking, and a sack left by Santa, in our rooms but our main present was always under the tree, sometimes we'd be almost exploding with excitement but that rule at least gave my parents a fighting chance of getting up at a decent hour. The next big rule was not going outside to play too early. This was torture if Santa had delivered a longed for bike or roller skates, but respect for the neighbours who may still be abed was drummed into us. But the main rule, the BIG ONE, was saying thank you without having to be prompted.
Christmas afternoon, straight after lunch, my brother and I would ring around all those relatives we were not seeing that day to thank them for their gifts. This was always, and I do mean always followed up with a thank you letter. It would have been unforgivable to not take the time to write to everyone, regardless of whether we had seen them, or spoken on the phone, to tell them how much we had enjoyed our new toy. More often than not someone would have bought me a pretty stationary set for Christmas anyway, so sitting down to write would be a pleasure. It was always what we did on Boxing Day, when the excitement had started to wear off and we needed to be kept away from the chocolate and out from under mum's feet, we'd sit down at the table to write our thank yous and then go for a walk to the park and drop them into the post box on the way. It was a ritual, a routine, a rule. And it was a good one.
Sadly, it seems it's one no one keeps to any more. In this day and age of instant messaging, of mobile phones and internet, when communication is simpler, faster, than ever before... No one bothers to say thank you. 
Does it really take so much? Are people really so busy that they can't take a moment to send a text? A few did manage to message to say 'Merry Christmas' but no 'Thanks for the prezzie' or 'loved the gift, ta!'
I wonder what they'd all say if I didn't bother giving anything next year?
Well, they may not be thankful but I am.
I am thankful I am sitting here, warm and cosy. I have a nice glass of port, there's plenty of food in my kitchen cupboards, and a box of chocolates within reach. There are twinkly lights around my fireplace and candles burning, I'm sleepy and very soon I shall be going to bed, and tomorrow will be another day. Yes, I'm very thankful indeed.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Gift From Beyond The Veil

The veil is still thin here. Thinner, almost, than it was at Samhain. That shouldn't surprise me, I've never been one to place too much significance on the calender. Things come when they are ready to come and not before. That's not to say I didn't mark the date itself, I did, I always do, and there was no doubt the veil was thin... but not at it's thinnest I think. It was too warm, too still, too light, too green. Death and dark were on their way, there was no doubt of that, I had felt their presence creeping in for a while, stalking me, but it is stronger now.
 
The wind howls outside my window, driving tatters of rain up the valley, running down the cold glass blurring all beyond. The sky is a brooding grey and a few stubborn remnants of autumn hang yellow against dark claws of branches, bending before that invisible force.  It seems appropriate.

I still feel I'm trailing a crowd of ancestors about with me. I'm living in a world of babbling conversation and loaded silence, as though they are waiting for a realisation to dawn out of the still. My sleep is filled with dreams that are more than dreams, vivid and intense. Messages are everywhere, clear, concise, leaving little room for misinterpretation. I don't like what I'm being told, I don't like it at all, and yet it is strangely comforting, this knowledge. Knowledge is always better than being kept in the dark.

So I'll take that for the gift it is, and be thankful.

 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Sense of Waiting

Despite the whirlwind of activity in the cyber community regarding preparations for Samhain, I have found it almost impossible this year to even show much interest, let alone enthusiasm, for the festivities. The unseasonally warm weather we've been experiencing up until the last couple of days wasn't helping, it's hard to think of Samhain while walking around in short sleeves, soaking up the autumn sun, but that wasn't all that seemed out of place.
 
I have an uneasy feeling about Samhain this year, a kind of impending sense of doom, that I just can't shake. It's been building since early September, a kind of butterflies-in-the-stomach wariness that has been my constant companion. I've had feelings like this before -haven't we all?- but always in the past it either dissipated, presumably because somehow I had, all unawares, averted the imminent disaster, or it would reach its unpleasant conclusion within a week or two. Never before have I carried this feeling around with me for so long.
 
There are serious health issues with a close family member, and I don't think that's helping matters. Especially as I discovered yesterday that he his going in for major surgery on Samhain. Coincidence? It doesn't bode well.  
 
But I think it's more than that. I think my step-dad's health has become my focus but I don't think that is the root cause. There's something else, not as immediate, but possibly bigger, life changing. There are whispers in the wind. Warnings. There is a strong sense that I'm being prepared for something and Samhain is just the start of it.
 
The ancestors are drawing near, but there is a difference this year. They are gathering in their droves! Whole crowds of them have been following me around. I've become so accustomed to their presence that once or twice I've caught myself mid conversation with them as I walk the lanes and footpaths around here. I'll get myself a reputation as 'that nutty woman who talks to herself' if I'm not careful! They are wrapping around me like a comforting shawl, waiting. They are gathering about me like a protective cocoon, preparing.
 
It's an uneasy state of affairs, this sense of waiting.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Octoberfest

A big, warm welcome to anyone popping by on the Real Witches of Halloween blog tour from Wise Whispers. And an especially big thank you to Lyn Thurman for including me, it's quite exciting! I've never been part of a blog tour before.

Make yourself at home, pour yourself a coffee, there should be cakes coming out of the oven any minute now and I think there's even a bottle of rhubarb wine around here somewhere, just help yourself.


I've always loved this time of year, possibly because my birthday is only a week away and no matter how old I get, I've never lost my childlike enthusiasm for birthdays, but strangely my birthday isn't the most celebrated date in October. The 31st looms large on most witch calendars, with Halloween far outstripping any other date in the popularity stakes. In fact it was way back in July when I first heard an excited 'Ooooh, it's almost that time of year again.' I have to put my hand up here and say at first it took me a while to work out what she meant, and when the penny finally dropped I thought you can't be serious? But she was. In certain quarters the pressure cooker that is Halloween has been building since July!
It's an attitude I'm coming across increasingly often and it puzzles me immensely. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade here, but I do wonder if Halloween is in serious danger of becoming the pagan equivalent to Christmas?  And by that I mean over commercialised, over done and over emphasised. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing!
Is Halloween your favourite time of year? Do you feel the urge to spend the whole of October dressed in black, freaking out all the other mums at the school gates? Is your box of Halloween decorations twice the size of your Christmas tree? Do you go through a year's supply of candles in one day, or live off pumpkin soup/cake/pie for a month? Do you want to scare the neighbourhood children silly and have them daring each other just to walk past your door? (OK, so I've always fancied doing that one! Not that I would of course, but, y'know... ;)
We all have our favourite seasons and festivals, I'm sure we all observe certain dates in different ways, some receiving more emphasis than others and that's only natural. For myself, I came to paganism through Wicca and although I left that behind many years ago the Wiccan wheel of the year is still ingrained. I find it very hard to ignore certain dates even though I find some don't sit well with me personally, or no longer seem to fit with our changing seasons. As a result some observances are little more than the lighting of a candle ( and the main event adapted and moved to when feels/smells right) while others give rise to full blown planning, feasting and honouring deity, ancestors and land.
Samhain is one that usually involves more planning, but that usually means a couple of days, maybe a week, in advance, not months! There have even been years when I've done very little at all because it just hasn't felt right to do more. I may have a pumpkin (but mainly because I have a fantastic recipe for pumpkin cake), we may have a 'dumb' supper although that's a bit of a misnomer as silent it is not! I've discovered over the years that our ancestors are rather rowdy. I will have a bag of sweets by the front door in case any of the neighbour's children come to call trick or treating.
I don't really have a problem with the 'fun', commercial side of Halloween. My Mad Druid however, does. For him it is an insult to his faith that such a sacred day is now awash with plastic pumpkins and skeletons, fake blood and cobwebs. He sees it all as a Christian assault, making fun of a holy day. 'How would they feel,' he says, 'if we did the same to Easter, or Christmas, going door to door in fancy dress with a plastic crucifix?' Personally, I think he's a bit over sensitive and we bang heads over it EVERY year. I make a clear distinction between Halloween and Samhain, and that stops me tearing my hair out with frustration when I hear trite inaccuracies rolled out year after year by everyone from the press, to Christians, to Pagans themselves, about what it all means. In my head at least, Halloween is for fancy dress and silliness, Samhain is for ritual and respect, but try as I might I can't get my Mad Druid to separate the two and it's getting harder and harder every year as the Halloween hullabaloo starts ever earlier.
October? OK, nothing wrong with a bit of a build up if you enjoy it. But September? August? July?!!
The trend towards promoting October to 'Witch Month' disturbs me. It's a bit of fun, yes, and there is nothing wrong with that, many of us enjoy the drawing in of the nights, a return to misty mornings and yes, the occasional evening curled up with a glass of wine in front of Practical Magic, but I've recently seen or heard October described as 'that witchiest of months' and 'the most sacred time of the year' and 'the time of real magic', and 'the month of the most important pagan festival'.
Really?

Is October really any different to any other month? Am I more of a witch in October? Is my magic more effective? There are aspects to this time of year that I love. There are energies I work with that are stronger now, but I could say that about any month, any season. Each has its own quality, its own strengths. Is it right to put October up on a pedestal and hail it as some magical giant of a month? Is it cheapening our craft to jump wholesale into the hype? *ducks to avoid flying objects- yes, I know I'm probably on my own with this one.

It's not that I mind all the blood and gore, ghosts and ghouls, candy and fancy dress (I still fondly remember the two year old 'witch' I encountered last year, tripping over her broomstick and proudly announcing 'I is a witch. I not 'fraid dark. No!' I defy even the staunchest Halloween hater not to melt over that one!) It's the way it seems to take over these days and swamp everything else for so long. It swallows up the last dusty days of summer and hangs over the harvest, it gobbles up the green in a great rush greet the dark. Well, the dark will come in it's own time,when it's ready, we don't need to hurry it and bully it along. I'm all for letting the seasons roll as they will. I'll celebrate their turning and enjoy it, when the time comes, when I feel that shiver, when my nose picks out that defining note, when I sense that change. Until then, I'll enjoy the now, the last of the sun, the harvest, the still warm days. There will be plenty of time to think of Halloween later.

What do you think? Is Halloween given too much precedence these days? Do you agree that it's starting to override other, equally important, festivals and seasons? Or do you love it just the way it is?




Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tipping the Scales

I'm a Libra (birthday very soon, Yay!) so balance is important to me. Not so much perfect balance, although that used to be the case, -there was a time when I could really obsess about things being matched, or straight, or balanced. I couldn't bare to be in a room with a wonky picture, or wear mis-matched socks, even under boots when no one would see,-but these days it's a different type of balance that is important.

It is the balance of nature, the balance of the soul, the balance of emotions, that are really important. I still might feel the urge to straighten a wonky picture but life, by its very nature, is wonky and its taken me a long time to realise that. It comes built in with ups and downs, and that provides its own balance. The trick is in spotting when the balance is due to change, and anticipating, preparing, for whatever it brings.

The recent Equinox showed me a few things, pointed me in the direction I should have been going. It reminded me of my need for balance, but more importantly showed me how to find it. This year has been a difficult one, there have been slow lulls, setbacks, shocks and tragedy. I have found myself staggering from day to day, just waiting for the next blow. I've been on edge constantly, and although I thought that made me prepared and aware, in reality it wore me down and dulled my senses and creativity. I have achieved very little so far this year, and that needs to change. Now.

So I'm tipping the scales, I'm adjusting the balance.  

I've spent so long now just waiting for things to go wrong that I've forgotten how to live, I've put all the things I actually enjoy on hold. From now on I'm going to focus more on my creativity and spirituality. I'm going to get out more, even if its just a walk up to the cliffs. I'm going to dig out my paints and my pastels. I'm going to bake cakes and brew beer. I'm going to light a candle, pour a glass of wine and go for a long, hot bath. If things are going to go wrong, they'll do so without my watchful eye and at least I can enjoy myself while I'm waiting. The only preparation for the tough times I really need is to make the most of the good days, and long may they continue!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Simplicity

Yesterday we met up with my step-daughter and her husband who were down in our part of the world for a few days. It was a couple of days after her birthday and I had a moment of panic when I realised we hadn't got a birthday present for her. A trip to visit a sick family member had eaten rather cruelly into our finances and it was all we could manage to put a splash of fuel in the car to get to where they were staying.

Determined not to go empty handed, I baked cakes. They weren't much, just a few little fairy cakes covered in pink butter icing and sparkles. In truth, I just did the best I could with what I had in the kitchen cupboards. I felt a bit rotten that I hadn't been able to make more of an effort and yet as it turns out, no one had ever made her birthday cakes before! My family all baked so I take that kind of thing for granted, but for someone who grew up in a home where cakes came out of packets...well, she was over the moon. Such a simple thing and yet it prompted real emotion and genuine gratitude.
 
We stayed for a couple of hours before they started their long journey home. We walked their dog on the beach, drank coffee made on a little camping stove, ate cakes and laughed. It cost nothing but gave us so much.
 
As we drove back to our tiny flat with it's near empty kitchen cupboards, little pile of unpaid bills sitting on the kitchen work top and an electric meter worryingly close to empty, I smiled to myself. A plate of little pink cakes and good company had reminded me that sometimes I worry too much about things and complicate life more than I need to. I don't need savings in the bank, I don't need to buy expensive things (hey, Christmas is looming on the horizon, don't tell me you haven't been worrying too?), I don't need everything to run smoothly and be completely organised. Those things would be nice its true, but as long as I can rustle up something from the larder, keep more or less on top of things, and take the time to enjoy the people I love and the beautiful place I live, then life is actually pretty good.
 
Life is as simple, or as complicated, as we make it and these days I'll take simplicity every time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Disconnected

It's fair to say I'm feeling out of sorts. Disconsolate.Tetchy. Agitated. Unsettled. I'm sure we all feel these things from time to time, it's normal to ride a roller coaster of emotions throughout the course of life, but what concerns me is the intensity and regularity of these bouts of what I am reluctant to call depression, despite the accuracy of the term.
 
I'm normally a very relaxed and easy going person. I take things in my stride and adapt to whatever challenges life throws at me -and it's thrown quite a few over the years- I've always considered myself, somewhat jokingly, to be indestructible. I'm no super woman, often things have hit me hard, but before I have always picked myself up, shaken myself off, and got on with whatever needed doing.
 
So I really don't know what is wrong with me at the moment. I don't recognise myself.
 
Everything, even little things, seems to be getting me down. My temper flares for no real reason, the tears flow uncontrolled. A lethargy and despondency has settled on me that I don't know how to shake off. I no longer feel in control of my emotions.
 
It's not even that there is anything wrong, not really. There are things I'm concerned about, a few (possibly major) health problems in family members, the normal financial worries and stress, one or two personal concerns that if I take the time to think about I know I'm blowing all out of proportion, but nothing really significant. Nothing to make me feel the way I do.
 
And yet I am tired and tearful, stressed out and angry, bubbling over with frustration and worry and resentment. It's holding me back, it's stopping me getting on with the things I need to do. My mind is on go slow and I'm just not functioning. I feel disconnected from everything around me. And none of the usual things are working.
 
I watch the moon in her stately dance across the sky and feel nothing. I see the sun without feeling the urge to get outside and enjoy it. I watch storm clouds gather on the horizon without that feeling of excitement and anticipation. I'm going through the motions of living without even questioning what I'm doing. Chores are completed, meals prepared, candles lit, prayers said, but it is all routine and I don't feel a part of it. I have moments where I think oh I must do that, research this, prepare that...but then the moment is lost and the lethargy returns.
 
Am I ill? I feel OK, other than the occasional migraine, I seem to have most of my health issues under control at last and I'm even managing to run and lose weight.
 
Is it the start of the menopause? My doctor has been bleating on about that for the last couple of years but I'm only 42 and I don't feel ready for that stage of my life yet. Besides, my periods are still on the same cycle I had at 20.
 
Is it that I've simply taken on too much? My fundraising has proved much harder than I imagined, especially without so much of the help people promised before I took it on. (Isn't it amazing how many people are willing to talk about doing stuff but then run for the hills when there's work to do?) But hell, I've worked hard before, its no more than a full time job would be and I'm sure I can still hack that!
 
So what is it? Why do I feel so sad and disillusioned? Why do I feel so disconnected?
 
And most importantly, when the hell am I going to get back to normal?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Roots- part one

For much of this year I've been dipping in and out of my family tree research. Often it's been a frustrating and seemingly futile search where I have felt I am repeatedly banging my head against a brick wall, but sometimes, oh sometimes, it has been a heady roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, twists and turns, humour and intrigue and fascination.

After a particularly depressing time of constant dead ends, leads which lead nowhere and an ever growing pile of confusing paperwork I took myself off to bed one night feeling especially despondent. And then a thought cascaded in from nowhere...I'm a witch, what was I doing spending all my time neck deep in census returns when all I had to do was ask? Durrrrrr! I can be pretty dense sometimes. I work with my ancestors (the ones I know) all the time and yet it had never occurred to me to go looking for the ones I was searching for.

I sat that night in my bed, wrapped in a cloak of darkness, and simply asked the question 'who are you?' I knew nothing of my paternal Grandmother, my Dad lost touch with her years ago and for some as yet unexplained reason, it is very hard to get him to talk about her. All I knew was her name and where she was born. I had a feeling there was Irish blood in the mix somewhere although I had no reason for that other than my own intuition, and my pull to discover this unknown family was almost overwhelming.

I could not honestly tell you if I fell asleep, or if in trance I slipped between the worlds. It didn't really feel like either but I found myself walking through underground caverns past familiar faces who stepped out from the rocks themselves to greet me and see me on my way. I stopped for a while to talk with my maternal grandparents before I was lead deeper, down less populated passage ways by my guide, a child I knew now full grown. Then suddenly he was gone and I was alone in a cave with a crystal clear pool, lulled by the sound of distant cascading water. In the shadows I could make out the shadowy form of a man and I knew he was my Great Grandfather.

He seemed a little surprised when I told him who I was, 'How did I miss you lass?' he asked. His accent was northern, a warm lilting sound I recognised from childhood holidays. He wore a flat cap, and a brown jacket over a pullover, his trousers were tucked into his boots and although his clothing was rather worn it was clean and obviously cared for. He told me his name was Charles. His accent was quite strong and I couldn't catch the name he said was his wife's but I thought Amy/Annie/Edie? It wasn't clear. he told me he'd met her on a train and that she was very beautiful.

I had so much I wanted to ask him but suddenly I was pulled away and the sweet smell of grass filled my nostrils. I stood in that rolling, green landscape before a small, wiry man with dark, wavy hair and twinkling blue eyes. He had that weathered skin of one who works outdoors. His voice was rich and belied his size and definitely Irish... but sleep overwhelmed me and I woke the next morning convinced it was all a dream.

It was several weeks later when I finally had a little money spare and ordered my Grandmother's birth certificate. I stood staring at it for quite a while, hardly daring to believe what I saw.

Her parents names? Charles and Annie!



Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Thank You and Some Randomness

My friend Natalie over at Bridget's Daughter has kindly nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. I don't normally bother much with awards and such but, hey, it's always nice to be appreciated :) I know Natalie has a lot on her plate at the moment so it actually means a lot that she took the time to think of me. I like Natalie, a lot. She is a wonderfully supportive lady who is much stronger and smarter than she gives herself credit for.

Now, there are rules attached to this award but there is nothing more fun than breaking, or at least bending, rules so pleased don't be too shocked if I don't stick to them all. Let me see, what am I meant to do... Thank the blogger who nominated me. Done. Link to their site. Done. Include award image in your post. Hmmmm. My technological incompetence is showing now. I don't know how to do that! Give seven random facts about yourself. Ok, I can do that. Nominate 15 other Bloggers for the award and let them know they've been nominated. Right, who to pick? Sooooo many to choose from.

Random facts about me.

1) I love to walk barefoot outdoors. It gets me some funny looks but I don't care.
2) I haven't seen my natural hair colour since I dyed it burgandy at the age of 15. Since then its been various shades of red and black, everything from a bright ginger to raven. Originally it was to escape my natural but boring shade of dull brown and now its to hide the grey!
3) My favourite food is homemade rice pudding, thick enough to stand a spoon in.
4) My children all have unusual names which most people can't pronounce or spell. (although they all have simplified, shortened versions they use for everyday)
5) I live by the sea but I love the mountains and I hear their song calling me home always.
6) People are strange beings I don't fully understand.


Continuing the 'Random' theme I've chosen these blogs at random as my indecisive Libra personality makes me often incapable of making decisions so rather than sit here ummming and arrring all day I let the universe take a hand, and I have to say, the universe chose pretty well :)


Lunar Hine, the strongest woman I have ever come across, her courage humbles me. She is a true inspiration.
Diary of a familiar-in-training makes me laugh and The House in the Roses is just so pretty.
Wytch of the North is very apt as Odin has lately haunted my dreams and Downstrodden so very often gives me a timely reminder that the path I've chosen requires me to actually get off my bum and do some work! Ye Olde Crone's Gazette is a pleasant amble through life and Beyond The Fields We Know stuns me often with its simple beauty. And Finally Dark Wench reminds me just how big this world of ours really is as she tells of seasons, opposite to my own, from Down Under.

Yes, I know that's not 15. Well, I did say I'd break the rules...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Unknown



I awoke this morning to a world of white. During the night tendrils of mist had crept in from the sea, swirling, gathering, blanketing this little town. The wooded hillsides, with their square, white houses; the deep valley with its still, green river; the narrow alleys, streets and crooked lanes had all been silently swallowed by the fog.

The fog horn sounded mournful as it cried its eerie warning to the vessels out at sea. For some reason I usually like that melancholy sound but this morning it seemed desperately sad. It suited my mood as I gazed out into the disappeared world.

I could see the trees, green and lush, at the end of the garden but beyond that, nothing and I was struck by the parallel with my life. That is how I feel today, with immediacies clear and fresh, the mundane household details stark, but beyond that? My sight is muffled and unclear, the future hazy without a reference point to follow.


I set out with hope, and more than a little trepidation, into the unknown.