Samhain recipes: Roasted pumpkin and butternut squash spaghetti.

It’s that time of year again folks!

The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping and the ancestors are drawing near.

Both Samhain and it’s relatively modern sister holiday of Halloween are a big deal in our household. The house is given a thorough clean and cleanse, ready to welcome the ancestors. Photo’s of as many ancestors are put on display around the living room and the ancestor lantern is lit, ready to welcome said ancestors with joy! Mirrors are cleaned and if possible covered- an adaptation taken from my Irish ancestry and custom. Adhering to the belief that mirrors can trap souls and keep them locked in limbo. Flowers are placed on the alter, family albums are flicked through, games are played and of course, my daughter is permitted to go “Trick or Treating” with her Dad.

However, one of the most important observances for our clan on Samhain is the family meal, which takes place in the evening.

When trick or treating is finished in the early evening, the door is looked and together we sit down for a quiet dinner (not silent as my children are too young to observe the tradition of a Dumb supper).

Not only do we eat, but an extra plate of food is left out for any ancestor or friendly spirit who may wish to join us in love and mutual respect.

Together we eat and share memories or stories we know of from our family tree.

At the end of the meal, the plate of food left out for the ancestors is carefully carried over to the fireplace and left there overnight for the spirits. For obvious reasons, the food is not literally eaten. It is instead symbolic of our respect to loved ones past. A sign that we, the living, are making time and space to remember and welcome our ancestral roots and those we love who have passed over to the realm of spirit. The next day, the food is composted in the garden. Not only an eco friendly option- to much goes to landfil these days, but symbolic of all returns to the earth eventually.

This Samhain I have created two recipes. One for Samhain eve, and the other for Samahain itself. Here is one you are welcome to try yourself.

Enjoy! )0(

Samhain recipe 1.

“Roasted pumpkin and squash spaghetti”

You will need:
Veg- Half a medium sized pumpkin.
Half a butternut squash.
2 red onions.
Four cloves of garlic.
Fresh Spinach.

Herbs and spices- 1tsp turmeric powder
1tsp mixed herbs
1tsp smoked paprika
2 pinch of sea salt

Extra: 100-150g of grated cheese (use more if needed, Vegan cheese can also be used)

1. Thickly chop the pumpkin and squash and remove all seeds. Place into casserole dish.
2. Peel and Cut the onions into thick chunks/quarters and add to casserole dish.
3. Peel and cut the garlic cloves in to halves and add to casserole dish.
4. Add in herbs and spices and a little cooking oil.
5. Mix well and replace casserole dish lid.
6. Cook on 180 for 40 mins.
7. Remove from oven and with a hand blender, blend well until you get a smooth sauce.
8. Add the cheese and stir into the sauce. Replace the casserole lid. Leave on the side- Do not put back in the oven! The cheese will melt with the heat of the sauce and doesn’t need further cooking.
9. Cook the spaghetti.
10. Once the spaghetti is cooked, add about two handfuls of fresh spinach to the sauce in the casserole dish. Stir well and then replace the lid to let the spinach wilt.
11. When cooked, strain the spaghetti and mix the spaghetti and sauce together in saucepan.
12. Simmer the spaghetti on a low heat for about five minutes to further cook the spinach and bring the taste of the pasta and sauce together.

Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of pepper and extra cheese if wanted.

Enjoy!

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Celebrating Birth, The Beauty Of A Naming Ceremony.

IMG_2764(Personalised Naming ceremony cake, made especially for our daughters).

In life, we go through many transitions and changes. Some momentous and celebratory, other more general, but still representative and important none the less.

In recent years, as the modern Neo-Pagan movement and its many branches have grown, and with that, less public hostility and more societal openness and acceptance, so too has the pagan community’s  open and willingness to recognise important life, and death markers.

A simple google search will bring up a host of professional Pagan celebrants within the U.K, even the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids have a list of recognised celebrants within the order.

We have moved into an era where it is no longer hushed and secretive to celebrate important milestones in life. One such important milestone is that of a naming ceremony, also known as “Welcoming” and occasionally a “Wiccaning” within some circles (largely, I have noticed, in American culture and appears to be a play on the word Christening).

But why are such celebrational rituals important, and are they just a bastardisation of the Christian ritual of baptism?

In the case of the latter; no, I do not believe that a naming is an almost copy-cat of the Christian tradition. In the namings I have attended I have never seen a Pagan child baptised by water or in a holy place, such as a church. Nor have I seen a child dedicated to just one deity, against their will, at an age where they cannot decide who, and indeed if any deity they would like to follow.

However, I have observed the many varieties in celebration and ritual for a naming. To me, this is part of the beauty of Paganism, being free of doctrine and  almost like a great tree with its many branches, there are no right or wrong within the ceremony.

Some choose an outdoor location, as we did. Others choose to hire a hall or use their own garden. The options are endless!

Some parents have a quiet ceremony with just family and close friends, others have a big celebration with a High Priestess, High Priest or Celebrant leading the ceremony.

Some parents and celebrants ask certain deities to guide and protect the presented child or children, without forcebly dedicating or binding them to said deity. Others choose to not mention specific God or Goddess figures at all.

The possibility and variation for creativity within a naming are almost unlimited.

But what of my first question? Why are such celebrational rituals and ceremonies important?

For me, as a Pagan Witch, Celebrant, speaker, Chaplain and Mother, I see such ceremonies as important markers of the journey we make through life. A pivotal turning point in our life’s journey. One that can cement our direction and celebrate its meaning.

There are many transistions we make in life that are worthy of celebration and marking. Naming is but one of them. There are marriages/handfasting’s, coming of age/moonings, entering into servitude as a community Priest or Priestess and of course, the final marker, death; the journey we must all make into the next realm, or whatever we as individuals believe comes next for our spirits.

To me however, a naming is a truly special occasion. The marking of new life and welcoming that new life into not only the family and tribe, but also the community.

This “Community” element was very important to both my partner and I when planning both our daughters naming ceremony. Both being very active in the North West of England’s Pagan community (both celebrants and lead talks, workshops etc) we wanted to make sure that all of our friends, family and acquaintances; who perhaps had never attended a naming before, would have the chance to share this special day.

It was very hard for me, initially, to move from my beloved East Anglia to the wild and rugged North West of England. But one thing I have always been greatful for is just how close and welcoming the Pagan community is here. It seems most people from Liverpool to Yorkshire are all connected in some form or another. Be that via mutual friends on social media or through the running of Moots or fantastic gatherings such as Woodspirit and PaganCon.

Our youngest daughter was born prematurely this year and spent the first five months of her life in a children’s hospital, switching constantly (it seemed) from the neonatal ward, to intensive care, and from there to HDU. It was the North West Pagan community that came to our aid and supported us. Coming second only to our family. They truly are our tribe.

Between us, as a couple, we had hundreds of messages via text and social media wishing us strength and our daughter healing. Not only this, people within the community were sending us photo’s of candles and altars, focused on different deities, depending on who the person worked with. Set to the intention of sending healing to our daughter. We even had many Reiki practitioners offering to send distance healing. One even as far away as Hasting’s, Sussex! (Thank you, this person).

This doesn’t include the amount of wonderful visitors we had and offers from people to send us home cooked meals and gifts of baby blankets and premature sized baby outfits.

It was because of the outpouring of love from the community that we, as a family wanted to make this naming a community event.

Usually with a naming ceremony, it is for one baby or perhaps twins. But ours was different in that my eldest daughter, who is not the biological daughter of my fiancé, also joined and had her ceremony alongside her baby sister. This is due to the fact that she never got to have her own as a baby, as sadly, her biological father was a domestic abuser. We were rarely allowed out of the house, let alone an important life ceremony. It was this combining of two children of different ages that made this naming all the more special, and, to an extent, really healing.

My eldest, finally got the naming she deserved and chose to take on both my maiden name and her stepfathers name (It is important to add that this is not legally recognised though, a name change must have a legal process. However, within the community she chose to have what will be my married name and what is already her sisters name).

My second daughter got to not only celebrate her naming – but also the fact she had, by the grace of the Gods an a frankly fantastic team of surgeons and geneticists, survived. Together, we celebrated coming together as an entire family unit.

In a way we were not just presenting our children to extended family, community, Gods and Ancestors, but ourselves as a newly formed family unit. Which, for my eldest daughter and I, was like the happy ending to a fairy tale – especially considering what we had both gone through in previous years.

It was as though our scars were sealed and knitted together in this new family union and blessing, and the wounds we had all suffered in spending months in a Children’s hospital, never knowing if our youngest would ever make it were also blessed and healed.

If we take into account healing alone, we have validation for a naming. Yet it is all the stronger when we add in unity, bond, blessing and the beginning of a new family chapter.

So yes, no matter what a family’s background or current situation, I feel such celebrational rituals are important and shouldn’t, if possible, go unmarked.

But what of the finer details of the ceremony? How did we plan the ceremony and what did we incorporate.

Well, our first step was to plan what we wanted for the girls, and that was an outdoor event in a well worked local woodland (this particular woods is worked by several Pagan groups). An outdoor event, we felt, would not only be closer to nature and the elements, but grounding to those who perhaps were attending and not of the Pagan community and for the numerous giddy children we were expecting.

Numerous giddy children…

With this, it brought its own necessities. With our oldest daughter being nearly six and us, as a couple being in our early thirties, we knew many of our friends would be bringing children. Being both a Naming and a community event, we would never exclude children from attending – the way some do with fancy weddings. Instead, we resolved to book an absolutely amazing children’s entertainer, who is not only fantastic at her work, but is also very active within the Pagan Community. Freyja the fairy kept any children who did not want to participate in the ritual busy with arts and crafts. Afterwards she proceeded to deliver what can only be described as being like a mini festival for the children! Disco music, sand art and eco glitter tattoos.

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(The wonderful Freyja the fairy)

Our next step was to find a Celebrant or HP/HPS to perform the ceremony. My partner and I went through the list of usual suspects within the community when it suddenly dawned on me, that having a friend, who although was not an official celebrant, was active, spiritual and confident in his practice was actually the best person for the job. Not only were the beforementined attributes desirable, he was a close family friend and his children are good friends to my eldest daughter. It turned out, we had made the right decision – he was absolutely wonderful!

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(Celebrant, Mark Collier and friend/photographer Jason Smalley drumming the circle)

Together, we planned the ceremony. The celebrant would lead, but my partner and I would have active roles too.

There have been two specific deities prevalent in our lives as a family and we wanted to invite them into the circle. Not to dedicate our children to them. We firmly believe it is their choice who they will or will not work with as they grow. Instead we simply ask that these deities would guide and protect our daughters in the mean time.

It was agreed that I would call to the Goddess Brigid, and my partner would call to Mannanan. The Manx God of the sea.

Here is the calling I wrote and recited to Brigid:

“Hail to you Brigid of the flame!
Sacred mother and midwife,
One who safely helped bring these two
cherished daughters into this earthly realm.
Forger of not only metal, but promises, bonds and unities,
Be with us this day and forever guide this family.
Brigid of the flame.
Brigid of the holy wells.
Brigid the birther and forger.
Brigid of divine inspiration.
Unify and bless this family today.”

After this, my partner and I felt it crucial that the ceremony did not leave out the ancestors. They are, after all, in our personal practice and belief with us all the time and ever guiding us.

I had dedicated two years to researching family trees and even creating an ancestor lantern (a lantern I made with a family tree on it going back to 1790, to be lit at Samhain or ceremonies such as this). As such it was decided that I would call the ancestors.

I chose a method I created in East Anglia of calling or marking a circle, this involves the use of a hag stone on a black cord that is swung in a circular motion while walking the circle.

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(The handmade Ancestor lantern)

While doing this I would call:

“Ancestors and Family in spirit,
Be with us in joy and love this day!
You are welcome within this circle to
Celebrate and bless the new generation.
I call upon the Ancestors of the Kelly line.
Join and be welcome!
I call upon the Ancestors of the Buxton line.
Join and be welcome!
I call upon the Holmes and Baxter lines.
Join and be welcome!
I call upon the Willis and Weston lines.
Join and be welcome!
I call upon the Allsop and Greenacre lines.
Join and be welcome!
I call upon the Howe and MCcrory line.
Join and be welcome!
And if there are any other ancestor not here mentioned on
this most blessed of days, and still wish to join, celebrate and guide
This new generation, we welcome you too and offer you thanks”

As parents, we then designed our parental vows to our daughters.

Here is an example of mine:

“Evelynn and Niamh, I promise to always love you both equally
With the fullness of not just my heart, but with my soul too.
I vow to always do my upmost best to protect you both from harm, but
At the same time, encourage and enable you to be the best you can be.
To live life to the full and take chances.
I promise that when in life you stumble, fall or make mistakes, I will do
My best to remain patient and help you back on your feet.
I vow never to force you to lead a path that I think is best for you, but instead encourage and support your life choices.
I promise to dedicate my life to you and my family, and not even personal calling’s shall overtake this.
I promise to wipe your tears when you cry and cheer you on in your triumphs.
I will always be your mother, but I vow to also be a friend, guide, teacher and supporter.
This I Vow to you in the presence of this, our community, our family, the ancestors and the Great God and Goddess.
So shall it be!”

(The giving of Parental vows)

The only thing left in the planning of the naming ceremony was the life guides for the children…

Somthing akin to God parents, but less formal. A person or person’s our daughter’s could look up to and ask for advice if needed.

In the end we chose three life guides each- and importantly, not all from the Pagan community. As a couple we joked that the girls should be able to get “Muggle” advice from time to time too, as well as from that of those in the Pagan community (Chuckles).

The life guides joined us in the circle and also made vows to the girls. Which was deeply moving.

The final aspect of planning, after invites, location etc was to choose a really special cake. My eldest had specifically asked for one, but everything we found was solely for Christenings.

Disheartened, I eventually bit the bullet and approached a cake shop in town. I explained we wanted a cake, suitable for a naming ceremony and enquired if they would be willing to adapt the Bible cake with the crucifix into a Book of Ways (our family version of a book of Shaddows) and possibly substitute the crucifix for a pink triquetra…

After a somewhat confused look from the shopkeeper, she phoned her manager and explained what it was I wanted, and to my relief she accepted, with no extra charge! I was relieved, a part of me expected hostility at asking for a Christian designed cake to be adapted into a Pagan one. But no, instead I was assisted and received no judgement. A true testament to how far the British public has become more respectful and tolerant to other faiths and spritualities. And as you can see from the photo at the start of the blog, the cake was stunning!

After the cost of the cake and children’s entertainment- which was not much, but we are also saving for a Wedding. We decided to ask guests to bring food to share for a community picnic for after the ceremony.

When the time came, I was stunned! Forget picnic! It was more like a banquet. We still have cakes and biscuits left over a week later!

That Saturday afternoon, I left the woods, after the ceremony, feeling revived, blessed, healed and unified. Not only as a Mother, but as a partner, family and community member. It felt as though a new day had dawned for my family, that we had been blessed and recognised in the presence of loved ones and together now, we would begin a new chapter. Truth be told, my youngest daughter knew little to nothing as to what was going on that day, but my eldest daughter was delighted! Saying she felt like a “Big girl” now and “We have a big family now Mummy, I really love it!”.

The conclusion to the day and of the naming ceremony was that it was simple, yet perfect and powerful. Healing and joyous!

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and if you are looking to do a Naming for your children, that you were able to glean some ideas of how to or even, how not to do your ceremony!

I wish you all the very best!

 

Note: if you enjoyed this blog, you can find others and future blogs on Facebook via the pages “Brythonic and Beyond” and “Woman of the woods”

Keeping house. Witchcraft and home cleansing and protection

 

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(Photo courtesy of Google)

When invited to do a talk or lead a workshop, I tend to speak mostly on Protective Magick, Psychic Protection, Cleansinng and occasionally Poppet work.

Unfortunately, I often find that it is Protection and Cleansing that are the areas of Witchcraft which are most often overlooked by many practitioners, and therefore always gain a lot of interest from others whenever I do speak on the subject.

Last year, I did a workshop at PaganCon, Lancashire, England, where I explained not only the importance of Protection Magick, but also the importance of keeping a Witch’s home clean and cleansed.
A clean area is usually a safer area. Not just physically, from trip hazards, but protected spiritually too.

Physically, cleaning a home removes dirt, prevents hoarding and keeps the living area tidy and relatively harmful bacteria free.

Emotionally, cleansing the home creates a happy space, free from clutter. A peaceful environment with space to think and create; be that memories, projects or relationships.

Most of us know that freeing and happy feeling of relaxing in a tidy environment.
Whereas an untidy home space creates stress, tension and nearly always hinders creativity.

Spiritually, cleaning house is very uplifting and even protective.
You are removing the old to allow space for the new and dislodging static (be that negative, or sometimes just stale) energies and encouraging the flow of more harmonious and proactive energies.

The more often a home is cleansed spiritually and physically, the safer and more protected it is.

Spiritually and magically speaking, It’s a lot harder for negative energies or entities such poltergeists or bad luck etc to settle, if a living space is cleaned of old, stale or negative energies, habits and tensions- all of which many insidious entities thrive from.

The following ritual was designed about six years ago in 2012, and I have used it nearly every Sabbat since.
In 2012, me and my now ex husband moved into army marriage quarters.
Despite being a beautiful three bedroom home in a lovely area, it was absolutely clogged with all sorts of unhelpful and stale energies.

You could cut the atmosphere with a knife,  as soon as you walked through the door.

And I knew immediately why.

Being army marriage quarters, most of the families that had resided in this house had never usually stayed long, many military families are moved about fairly regularly, and not always able to make a house a home, or, even put down decent roots.

The act of laying down roots in itself is highly protective.

We ground ourselves, yet do not bind ourselves to an area. We form friendships and relationships. We make memories and forge bonds. All of which not only help us emotionally, but offer the protection of a “Clan” around us.

But in the army marriage quarters, tension hung in the air, probably from countless stressful situations and goodbyes from wives and children saying farewell to their husbands and fathers every time they were deployed on operation to places like Afghanistan or Iraq, perhaps even just extended periods on training exercises.

Note: I am aware that not all serving military personnel are men, we also have a good amount of females serving our country. However, it cannot be denied it is a predominately male dominated profession and in my time of being a military wife, I believe I only met one female soldier. So please do not think I am  being sexist.

Being very psyche-sensitive and eight months pregnant at the time of moving into said marriage quarters, I found it very difficult to settle or even sleep properly.
So I designed the following ritual to be performed, ideally every Sabbat to cleanse the home.

This ritual also served me particularly well after the  breakdown of my marriage. Not only my daughter and myself fled a very difficult situation, we found we had also moved into a far more complicated property, that wasn’t this time, heavy with old memories, but in fact haunted.

It would explain why the then tenancy officer said, “Funnily enough, no one ever seems to stay here more than a year”

The house cleansing ritual within this blog, along with the marking of the homes perimeters with certain sigils for protection,  served me and my daughter well.

In fact we were very happy in that property. However, we have recently moved from that wonderful bungalow in Suffolk. Not because of supernatural goings on, but to live with my wonderful Fiancé in the rugged North West of England. Although I painted over my sigils to hide them from the next occupant, I ensured to leave a parting blessing on the home, as a gift for the next tenant. I also left the perimeters in place for some protection (An East Anglian tradition of burying Hag Stones in either the four corners of the property, or better yet, the North, East, South and West directions).

You, the reader may be wondering what my reasoning is for performing a house cleansing so often. Why every sabbat? Why not annually or when needed?

It is performed so often because the eight Sabbats of the Witch’s year represent key points in the Neo Pagan calendar when there are energy shifts and power that can be harnessed.
The wheel turns again and nature in the natural world is changing from one season to the next.
Mother Earth is moving on and so do my family and I. We move with the year, with the seasons and so we wave goodbye to the old and greet the new.
Be it in my creative projects, the finishing of one to start another, or cleansing my home of the previous season to welcome in the new.

This turning of the wheel, I believe can be harnessed and used to further charge the house cleansing ritual.
Also, the more often a home is cleansed, the stronger it’s protective boundaries are because you are regularly cleansing and maintaining perimeters.

For the sake of honesty however, I should mention that the ritual did only semi-work to an extent on the army house I have mentioned previously.
Sadly, I was not in a happy marriage, and with that, brings its own negative energy into the mix.
You can cleanse a home or space as much as you like, but as long as a negative relationship or toxic person remains on the scene, you can never fully cleanse because the “infection” or source of negativity is still always present.

That’s not to say a marriage or family relationship cannot be worked through- but there comes a time when you must look at yourself and who resides within your home and decide whether it’s time for someone or yourself to move on…

However, the ritual has worked perfectly in both other properties I have resided in with my daughter since, along with our current family home.

I also get extremely positive feedback from those I have shared this ritual with and they now apparently practice it themselves regularly.

This is especially true of one lady, who moved into a new property that apparently had a very heavy and oppressive atmosphere. Coupled with an uneasy feeling of being watched by unseen eyes for much of the time.

I feel it is important to note though, that you do not have to religiously stick to cleansing and protection workings like this solely on Sabbats.

Cleansing and protection rituals and workings  can be done at other key points during the year also, or after certain events. Especially high emotion events. For example, if an extremely heated family argument has occurred, the cleansing ritual, or even a less detailed one can be used to clean the atmosphere.
Sometimes a simple smudging or drumming will do.

A house cleanse is highly recommended after a death or break up of a relationship.

However, it is not always negative events that warrant a cleansing or protection working.

I personally now do them before the birth of my children as well as when my partner and myself got engaged recently; as a way of making way for the new.

I remember, someone thanking me in 2015, because they apparently used this ritual after the death of a loved one.
They felt it not only restored peace into the home, which in turn helped with the grieving process, but, also believed it helped their loved one move on too. To this, I cannot bear witness, only relate back the feedback given to me.
However, I truly hope this was the case.

Our homes are like sponges, they absorb everything.
The good; births, birthdays, celebrations, parties, family milestones etc
And sometimes the bad; relationship breakdowns, death, burglary, arguments etc.

This is why when a home is often claimed to be haunted, it actually isn’t.
The natural material of the house like stone, wood etc has just absorbed highly charged emotions (such as a murder, hence why murder houses are often said to be haunted. Amityville for example).
Most of the time, the buildings themselves  are not actually haunted, they just “remember” the highly charged event and replay it. Sort of like someone who sadly suffers from PTSD/C-PTSD. They re-live traumatic memories.
It is this replaying in the atmosphere of a building that people tend to pick up on, not necessarily ghosts causing a haunting.

Cleansing rituals are ideal for homes that have accumulated such negative build ups.
Healing the home by sweeping away those old memories and giving it a chance to fill with new happy memories, and so heal.

(Left: fresh mugwort smudge sticks made in June this year, 2018, drying in the hearth. Right: lavender and rosemary smudge stick made in July 2018- both used in cleansing works)

Please go ahead and try this for yourself.

~House Cleansing Ritual~

You will need;
One white candle
A lighter
Sage or mugwort smudge
Protection incense of your choice (make your own or there are a variety that can be purchased).
A drum – a toy one if you don’t have a real one
Thieves vinegar – white vinegar if you don’t have this.
A window cleaning cloth
House cleansing strew made of the following: bi carb soda
Dried or fresh lavender, rose petals, sage and salt mixed together into a bowl.
Note: you will need enough to sprinkle over every carpet/ floor in the house.
A vacuum cleaner.
Bin bag
A spritz bottle containing water and sea salt. Shaken up to make a purification spray.
Feel free to add lavender essential oil for scent.

Step one: clean all your windows with the vinegar.
Vinegar is very cleansing and protective. It has been used for hundreds of years to cleanse homes and even banish the plague- hence the invention of thieves vinegar.
As you clean your windows with the vinegar and cloth say;
” These windows I clean.
Reflect out the bad and let in the light”

Say over and over again for every window you clean to build up intention.
Put the cloth used to clean into your bin bag. It contains all old energies and negativity. It must not be washed to use again. To some this may seem wasteful, as it will likely end up on the landfill. If this is an issue for you, perhaps consider paper towels that can be burnt or are biodegradable anyway.

Step 2: sprinkle the strew on all the floors of your home.
This will not only absorb odours ( thanks to the bicarbonate soda) but will impart the lovely scent of the flowers and oils you put in to the mix.
Most importantly it seems to absorb much of the negativity from the home – should there be any.
As you sprinkle the strew say aloud;
“This strew I part with a loving heart will cleanse the old and banish it true.
The flowers within shall leave love here in this home”

Repeat over and over to again build power and intention.
Once every room has had the strew laid down, leave for about 20 minuets and then vacuum up the strew while chanting:
“This home I clean is cleansed and new.
All old is sucked into the strew ”

Once the whole home is vacuumed it’s crucial to empty the vacuums contents into your black bin bag that already has the window cleaning cloths.
The vacuum has old stale energies in it and you don’t want it lingering in the home!
If you so wish, you can even clean the vacuum out after use. But this is only if you want or feel the need for extra cleansing.

Step three: light the sage/mugwort smudge stick and go about every room in a clockwise manner. Paying special attention to doorways (‘tween places that can hold a lot of energy and hidden entities) also,  windows and mirrors. These are also ‘tween places and reflective surfaces can contain a lot of energy, some cultures also believe spirits too! Being of Irish decent, it was customary to cover mirrors after the death of a loved one, so that their spirit would not become trapped in the mirror, forever unable to be free and stuck in limbo.

As you smudge your home say”
“Negativity that invades or hides within this sacred home. I banish you now!
I banish you.
I banish you.
By this herb and my will, I cleanse my home”

Step 4: Next, pick up your drum and chose any beat that comes naturally to you.
It is thought that Shamans have used drums for millennia to drive out negativity, sickness and even exorcise possession, as well as to also incite in good energies, the flow of natural harmony, peace and wellbeing. Neo-Pagan Witch’s have now also adopted the use of the drum, fully aware of its power to raise power, energy and focus.
Use the drum (don’t worry if you really can’t find a real one, use a toy- or really improvise and use a pot/pan and spoon), focus on doorways, centre of rooms, beds (to drive away nightmares ) and stairways. Stairs represent a shift both physically and spiritually from one level/plane to another.

Step 5: next light the white candle and go about your home saying;
“I shine this light for all to see,
I bring In light and darkness flees.
Love, hope and healing light enters here and all that’s ill will now take flight”

Repeat over and over.
Shine the light around the whole home.
Especially into corners, cupboards, wardrobes, behind furniture, under stairs and into any nooks and crannies.
Once done, place the candle on the alter and allow to burn out safely and naturally.

Step 6: spray the salt water around the home as a final cleanser and say. “I cleanse this home in love and light”, over and over as you go about the home.

Step 7: Take out the bin bag with all ritual refuse and put into the main outside rubbish bin, ready to be collected by rubbish collectors.
It’s packed full of old, stale and negative energy.
Don’t leave it lying about.

Step 8: light your protection incense on your altar and allow it to just burn. That’s all. It will do it’s thing without words and chants

 

I hope those who read this blog found it interesting and of use.

If you are interested in reading anymore of my work, you can find me on two Facebook pages, woman of the woods and Brythonic and beyond.

By Zanna Kelly

Evocation of the horned God

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Evocation of the God.

Hello everyone and thank you for once again clicking and taking time to read this blog!
No long introduction this time, like with the Goddess evocation last week.
Just a simple share of my God evocation.
Please feel free to use and share.
All I ask is if you do decide to use, share of write this down in your book of shadows that you please credit me as this is my original work.

Evocation of the God.

Hear me thunder and roll across the sky.
Hear my hooves gallop and speed throughout the plains.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain that grows in the fields.
I am the hunter, the horned one of the chase.

I am of strength and power.
But my true power lies not in control or patriarchy.
Nor am I strictly anarchy.
But I am the God and I am the great force for change.
The leader for justice.
Pioneer and healer.
The wild one, the weaver of magic.

The strong and fertile one.
Wherever my seed spills life shall sprout.
I am the spirit of the Stag running through the woods. My hooves thunder the leaf strewn floor and my antlers stand tall and erect. Only the brave dare to approach me.

The consort of the great Goddess.
Together we reign in balance.
She of night and I of day.
She is the ocean and I am the shore.
We lay side by side, meeting land to the tides and bridging all divides.

I am the phallus, the thrust and the drive.
The instigator, the seducer, the beast and the man.
I can create and destroy.

I am the ever green!
Oak and ash in summer months.
And simple holly in the winter.
Although I wain I never truly die.
I am the ever changing flow in nature.
Sleeping in darkness, ready to burst forth in the spring.

I am the God.

By Zanna Kelly, 2017

If you enjoyed this blog, please feel free to check out my Facebook page Woman of the woods- musings of a Witch, or a page I run jointly with my partner called Brythonic and beyond. Here you can find all blogs documenting our journey into forging our own spiritual practice.

 

Note: Artwork on this blog is not that of the writer, merely borrowed from google images.

“I am the Goddess”

I Am The Goddess, an evocation.

IMG_0747                      (Picture courtesy of Google images, the rising network)

I would like to share something that I was prompted to write after being both inspired by the tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin and reflecting upon the seemingly dual nature of the Goddess within Neo Paganism.

Lately, I have found myself drawing ever closer to the Goddess and her various guises.
Through both studying my Bardic grade with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and reflecting upon the birth of my second child, Niamh, I have had much time to think and forge a connection.

My mind has been turned to contemplations on:

– The triple aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone.
– Her appearance in the natural world and in human nature.
– The apparent duality of the Goddess; in that she seems to represent both life and death, love and hate, Night and Day, bountiful harvests and the barrenness that can plague land.
– Her being the female counterpart to the God figure.

The origin of the Goddess evocation, below, stems from a personal dual reflection on the tale of Cerridwen and my own journey through motherhood.
I understand, only too well, the drive of being willing to do absolutely anything for your children – especially when one is struggling.
Cerridwen shows fierce devotion towards her children. To the point where she arduously journeys to seek out knowledge and the preparation of a potion that will help her son, Morfran.
That same fierce devotion is what also creates the insatiable rage towards Gwion Bach for inadvertently stealing the Awen, and thereby Morfran’s chance of wisdom.
Here we see a Goddess with complex emotions that serve a twofold purpose; ferocity in love and rage alike.
I could go into a lot more detail regarding the topics of motherhood, the Goddess, duality and the tale of Cerridwen.
However, they are perhaps better saved for separate blogs where each could be looked at in finer detail.

In the meantime, here is my reflection on the Goddess as an evocation.

I am the Goddess Evocation

High as a mountain.
Low as a stream.
I am the sparkle,
the gleam on the horizon.

Fierce as the night.
Full of power and might,
yet soft as fur and gentle as a new mother.

I am the goddess.
Of everything, I am.
I bridge the opposites;
the paradoxes. And I hide all of life’s mysteries deep within my womb.

I am there by your side.
From the cradle and all the way to the tomb.
If only you would listen and see.

Every one of life’s heart beats, is hidden in my breast.
I am both night and day,
Love and hate,
Life and death.
I am both murder and retribution,
justice and injustice.

I am the scales that hold everything in balance.
I am all, for I am nature.
Neither evil, nor good.

I am by your side through every test that life brings.
Hear me whisper ancient wisdom to ears that listen.

I am the Maiden dancing wildly in the dawn.
I am both the sacred Midwife and mother.
I am the wise woman who nurses at life’s end.
I am the goddess.
Both fear and love me at your will,
or, turn away entirely.
It matters not to me.
I will still stand tall.
I was here before time began and shall be here when it ends.

I am the great cycle.
Never ending.
I am the goddess”

By Zanna Kelly 2017

 

The triple Goddess and the three trimesters of pregnancy.

The triple Goddess and the three trimesters of pregnancy.

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Note: This particular blog was written in December 2017, but only able to be posted in February 2018 as I went into premature labour.
However, the blog remains unchanged in order to not dilute from its original meaning to me and what I want to share with you now.

I have been fairly quiet of late.
 2017 has brought me many amazing blessings and each has well and truly kept me busy!
I found peace after much trauma and grief, began writing again, held a workshop at Pagancon (UK), made new friends, began the wonderful journey of home educating my eldest daughter, fell in love with my friend, and to top it all off, me and that friend are now a blissfully happy couple expecting our first Child together in the new calendar year!
However, despite all of the wonderful gifts and happy abundance this year, I must be truthful and say that it has not been all straight paths leading to joy.
This pregnancy has had many twists and turns in the form of health problems.
Debilitating hypermesis, symphysis pubic dysfunction, reduced mobility and bouts of reduced foetal movement.
Much of my second and now third trimester have been spent in the comfort of my home, as I have been unable to get about much.
Trying as this was at first, it was perhaps the time I needed in order to finally “Stop”, pause for breath and reflect.
It did, after all, at times feel as though the excitement of 2017 was running away with me.
By the thirtieth week of my pregnancy I began to stop resenting this very much “forced” rest and instead began to retreat within… to meditate, reflect and prepare for birth.
It was in this time that one early evening I found myself beginning to “Ride the hedge” -crossing the divide; the mists that subtly separate this realm and the others: a journey.
In this particular journey I saw the Goddess in her triple form- both beautiful and terrifying in the same instance.
At first I saw her as the maiden.
Young, slender and undefined in figure.
Cusping on the verge of womanhood.
Her hair free and wild, eyes wide and sparkling at the possibility of life.
Full of hope for the future.

Then the maiden turned and became the mother…
Full bellied, heavy breasted and hair neatly braided away from her face while her hands busily worked wool to form a circular item; perhaps a blanket for her unborn child.
This creative endeavour reminded me of the Norse Goddess Frigg. The All-Mother and wife of Odin, a Goddess who has been appearing in workings and sights for me a while now. Frigg is often associated with weaving and making, And although the mother Goddess form was not weaving in the manner most usually associated with Frigg (spinning wheels, the weaving of destiny and so on) The piece being made was circular in shape, which for me brought Frigg and the spinning wheel to mind.
The Mother’s face glowed with hope and happiness – her hair was of flaming red. Which in turn reminded me of another Goddess I work closely with, the Celtic Goddess Brigid.
Brigid, often seen as a patron to midwives, and ergo motherly, strongly resonated with me. This was not only due to my pregnant state, but because she held so much symbology that I could relate to both in my physical and spiritual life.

In my journey the Goddess in front of me turned once more and now became a Crone.
Her frail form stooped over with her grey and straggly hair once again loose.
A sense of Death surrounded her, but not only the death suffered by those of us afflicted by mortality.
there was also a sense of the death of old and worn ways, spent and done with ways and the coming of the new.
Fresh starts and rebirth.
The Crone’s face, was dark and grave. Serious, but not unkind.
There was something comforting about her, like an older nurse who knew her craft and could care for a soul in need.
The Crone’s air of caring reached out to me and took me by surprise somewhat. I was expecting the Crone’s association with Death to be a more negative connotation.
However, the words “Death Midwife” came to me (again, something of importance to me, as death Midwifery is something I have been looking to study).
This Crone Goddess is one that passes everyone from this life and guides them to the next phase.
Yet I also felt as though she strongly worked with the healthy living too: guiding them from one phase in their lives into another.
A phrase replayed in my mind “As one door closes another opens”.
And I was reminded then, that the Goddess in her Croneship guides us in life too. She Births us from our old selves into the new.
Was she about to midwife and escort me into my second time as a mother? 
Perhaps to oversee this new transition in my life?
It had, after all, been five years since my first child was born and my situation was now very different.
Everything from where I was living, to the wonderful partner I now had had changed.
In sight, I watched mesmerised and in awe as the lesson slowly unfolded for me, with the realisation as to why I was seeing and experiencing this, at this time of my life.
The first trimester is like that of the maiden. 
In early days of life. 
Full of hope and potential.
The Excitement and anticipation of what to come, even though the pregnancy is still so young and not clearly defined or certain. Sadly, for me in the past, there have been times pregnancies have ended in its “Maidenhood” or “first trimester”.

In the sight, the young maidens figure being young and undefined represented the yet unnoticeable “Bump” of pregnancy.
The secretive potential and what lies deeply hidden within.
Her hair free and unbound representing the freedom of fertility, seduction and allure. Unfettered in her potential.
The second trimester is like the Mother.
Finally showing a rounded belly, glowing (if you’re fortunate enough to be one of the lucky women that do glow in the second trimester), with her heavy breasts representing mothering and nurture.
Her busy hands and hair braided away from her face suggestive of the productively busy phase that most pregnant women go through… “Nesting”.
Preparing the home space and cot; the buying of clothes and frantically cleaning. Maybe even making baby clothes or other lovingly crafted items.
And finally the third trimester.
The one I am in now as I write this. It is therefore no wonder that this guise of the Goddess spoke to me most of all.
The Crone, for me, represented the slower and longer days of pregnancy.
Where mothers naturally begin to slow down and retreat within to physically, emotionally and even spiritually prepare for what is to come.
The experience of frustration, the desperate anticipation for pregnancy to be over so you can meet your baby! 
From a spiritual standpoint, if one believes in reincarnation, the Crone could stand watch over two transitions.
Firstly, the death of one person and the subsequent rebirth and reincarnation to their new mother.
Secondly, the transition and personal growth every woman experiences when becoming a mother. Be that for the first or fifth time!
From a personal point, the Crone aspect of the Goddess could well be preparing me to pass from one phase into the next.
Readying me to pass from being a mother of one, into being a mother of two and so starting a new chapter in life.
It intrigued me how the three aspects of the Goddess in Neo paganism could also be likened to the three trimesters of pregnancy.
It made me wonder how many other pregnant mothers had made this connection and why I had noticed it in this pregnancy, and not with my first child’s?
 Was it perhaps because I was having this enforced period of rest? And therefore had more time to reflect? 
Or was it just that I was now ready for this lesson in life and that mentally and spiritually I was more open to it.
 Either way, it is something I plan to reflect more on. I may perhaps even work to tune into these revelations more deeply should I ever have any more children.
Perhaps the Goddess has yet more to share on her triple form and the magick of pregnancy. If she does, I’ll share what I can

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myself with my two daughters

Embracing the darkness

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Embracing the Darkness

It’s bloody cold tonight.
It’s February and Imbolc, so there is a grasping nip in the air, here in Suffolk.
I pull my shawl a little tighter and decide to also fling the warm fleecy blanket about me too.
Its warmth relaxes my muscles a little bit, which in turn helps me to concentrate.
At 10pm my large garden is pitch black; the sky is shrouded in cloud and so no stars are visible.
But it is the darkness I am looking for…

sitting under the Apple tree, I face away from my home (to avoid the distraction of the distant lights being on. Etc.)
-Living on the very outskirts of a town and facing the open country side has the benefit of it being relatively quiet.
The only sound I occasionally hear is the odd Siren of ambulances speeding to the local hospital, which is about a mile away.
But not tonight.
All is calm.
All is silent.

After what’s been a very busy week of appointments, school runs and releasing my first blog online, I’m ready to let it all go.
Drop the intensity and overstimulation of a very chaotic world and just “Be”
Spending a short time to be in the moment and just “Exist”.
Something that’s often overlooked by people these days, probably why stress and anxiety are so rampant. Everyone is busy “Doing” instead of taking time to just be…

I’m lucky enough to have both an Apple and Pear tree in my garden.
My Apple tree looks very old, possibly part of the original farmland that these properties were built on.
I’ve come to my Apple tree intentionally tonight as Apples hold a very specific bond with Avalon.
The sacred spiritual realm where much knowledge and wisdom is to be gained- for those who choose to listen.
Avalon is a source of energy I regularly work with and I don’t think I could imagine my path without it.
The word Avalon is thought to come from Avallach, which means isle of Apples.

To many Pagan’s, Avalon is believed to be a spiritual plane of magick, knowledge and healing.
A place of Gods and ascended Priests and Priestesses who share their wisdom with those who truly seek it.
In fact, if you cut the apple width ways, it reveals the sacred five pointed star. A telling giveaway of the apples sacredness.

I have worked closely with Avalon all my adult life, even as a child I knew it to be a real place.
Not simply mythical, from the realm of stories.
But a place of magick and wisdom.
As real as any other astral concept.

But I digress a little, I’ve come here tonight to do two things. Connect with the apple tree/Avalon and just embrace the darkness.

But why do all this in the dark?
Can’t I just do this tomorrow when it’s light and my daughter is at nursery?
Possibly, but I’m using the dark for a reason tonight.
Darkness brings so much.
Stillness, quiet, lack of visible distraction and spiritual development.

To be alone in the dark is akin to the experience we all had before birth, of being held within our mother’s womb.
The place we grew and readied ourselves for the outside world.
The first place where most of us felt unconditional love, even though kept in the darkness, our hearts beated alongside our mothers as she carefully nurtured us, before she could lovingly embrace us in the light.
In darkness, we face our fears of what may be lurking in the shadows, not necessarily around us, but the secrets within our core, our shadow self.

Witches are used to working in the dark, we don’t fear it.
To fear is to surrender power and to surrender power reduces our skill and renders us useless.
-A reason why I always encourage fellow brothers and sisters to surrender fears and phobias when walking the Witching path.
Fears can be used against you and to surrender them liberates you.

Witches embrace the darkness like an old friend, we work with her and welcome her power.
We know that we entered life through growing in and then exiting  of the darkness of the womb, and that we will leave this world shrouded in the temporary darkness of death (temporary because we pass on to our next reincarnation, the summer lands etc.).

There is a line in a song I have always loved and it’s the opening line from “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.
“Hello Darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”.

Fitting, because that’s what I’m doing here tonight.
Sitting in the comfort of darkness, under the apple tree.
Mentally talking to the darkness and the spirit realm.

I close my eyes and just begin to be.

No sooner do I close my eyes, I hear a twig somewhere off to my left snap and a rustle of leaves.
In realty, the rustle was probably very quiet, but when sitting alone in the dark, the senses are heightened and everything is just that little bit louder.

My natural biological response is that of fight or flight.
But I use logic to suppress this.
“It won’t be a person in the garden because the gate is locked…
And it won’t be a larger animal like a fox, because the noise was too small- it’s more likely natural sounds of the garden, or a hedgehog.”

Satisfied with my reasoning, I begin to relax again and dwell in darkness again.
Already I’ve faced one fear, that something untoward may be nearby and I’ve silenced the fear and begun again.

Slowly, with my eyes closed, I begin to become one with my dark surroundings.
Every sound tells a story now instead of startling me.
The darkness begins to be a comfort, a place of rest from noise, toils, people, TV and social media.
Instead of fearing the darkness, it becomes rest, my safe place, my retreat.
Now completely relaxed I mentally tell the darkness and the apple tree what is going on in my life.
I talk about my joys, my hopes and my problems.
It’s not long before I hear both the darkness and apple tree whisper back advice…
While talking about a manipulative bully who won’t leave me and my family alone, the apple tree whispers “hang him from me and leave him to suspend.”.
I’m shown a vision of a clay poppet hanging suspended from the apple tree. Motionless.
I’m told this magical act won’t harm the person who threatening to me and my family, but will suspend their actions as they are suspended from the tree. Sort of muting their maliciousness against me.
I like this idea and thank the apple tree in my own way.
Knowledge and new craft practice gained already!
I tell the darkness about my frustration with overcoming my dyslexia and writing.
How sometimes I get so tangled in words and become stuck. That the creative thoughts and spoken word that flow so freely from me don’t often translate so well to paper.
A tear runs down my cheek at this thought, sadness and frustration can be overwhelming when you are truly passionate about something- as I am with writing.
-“write about what you know” the darkness whispers.
“Write about tonight and the darkness of the garden. If you write about something so current and fresh it might not be so difficult.”
-And on and on my talk in the darkness goes until the cold becomes too much and I begin to feel myself getting tired.
No wonder!
When I cross the garden, and get inside, it’s gone midnight!
I had no idea I had been sitting outside nearly two hours!
But I feel deeply satisfied! Not only have I managed to sit alone in the dark again- something I used to find very challenging in my early Witchling years, but I have come away with a new possibility on how to silence that obnoxious bully and found new inspiration for my writing.

The darkness can be daunting to many, the idea of working alone in a wood or garden.
And the reason why it is daunting is because humans are naturally wary of the unknown.
We are hardwired with the fight or flight mechanism to keep us safe.
But in the craft, we seek to overcome the unease of the darkness for various reasons.
As stated before, if we overcome our fears we gain strength, power and liberation.
We can also often actually see more in the dark then we can in the light.
Now, this may sound absurd, but it’s not if you think about it.
In the light, everything is obvious to us, to the point we take everything for granted and can overlook the most obvious things.
In the dark, there are few distractions to occupy our mind, because of this the mind can expand and notice things a hell of a lot more.
Our senses sharpen and the spirits that may well be around us constantly in the light are now far more obvious in the dark.
Messages our guides may have been trying to give us for days or weeks are heard so much easier because our eyes and ears have quietened down. Thoughts we have pushed deep into our psyche can finally come to the surface to be worked through, and so on.
The darkness is a Witches ally and shouldn’t be feared or shied away from- it should be embraced and harnessed!

 

Note: the clay poppet of the manipulative bully hung from the apple tree worked. The person has backed off and so far been very quiet of late. One to consider adding to your grimoirs or books of shadows perhaps 😉

When a Witch listens to the trees

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Artwork by Terri Floss (taken from Google)

I’ve sat here now, amongst the trees in a Suffolk wood, for over an hour.
As my blog name suggests (Woman of the Woods), I enjoy being in woodlands, among the trees.
Although a social person, who loves being around friends and family, I do also equally enjoy being silent and alone among nature, when possible.
It’s not unknown for me to become  restless, fed up and overstimulated by what is a very noisy and often intrusive world. Regularly feeling the need to retreat.

Perhaps it’s the solitary Scorpio in me that makes me enjoy alone time so much.
Or maybe it’s the fact a woodland always makes me feel welcomed, grounded and at home.
To me, no alone time is better then sitting in the woods, forest, park or my wildly overgrown garden.
Just sitting quietly, listening to nature live around me.

As I quietly entered the woods today, I accidentally disturbed a Deer, who galloped swiftly away.
I don’t blame her for mistrusting me, Human’s are not always the kindest species towards other animals.
I walk along the familiar track marked out by ramblers and dog walkers until I soon reach what me and my daughter call the “Faerie tree”.
It houses a woodland guardian who my daughter says is called “Hobble”.
Hobble apparently looks a cross between Hoggle, from the 1986 movie “The Labyrinth”, and a leprechaun.
According to my young daughter, Hobble is very small and casts magick spells on anyone who is naughty in the woods or leaves rubbish behind.
I’ve yet to have the pleasure of making Hobble acquaintance (the same goes for most of my daughters fey encounters), but my daughter seems on very friendly terms with him… 😉
I cannot deny there is a definite presence to this fearie tree, it’s as though piercing eyes are watching as I pass. Ensuring that I don’t cause any damage to woods.
If there are people of the Sidhe here, they probably are watching me..and they no doubt already know full well I’ve come back to the woods, yet again to perform the Craft.

The natural looking Fearie door at the bottom of the tree is relatively clear of dead winter leaves…
Strange, as the rest of the area is covered!
Perhaps “Hobble” has had a sweep up of his threshold.. 😉
I nod my head politely as I pass the tree (My Irish heritage refuses to permit me to not extend courtesy to the Sidhe) and I carry on along the path.

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A similar Fearie tree found in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, Suffolk, England.

Not too distantly, I hear the busy motorway.
Always annoying, but I know the further into the wood I go, the quieter it will be become.

Eventually, I find the tree that indicates to me it’s time to leave the ramblers path.

I turn left, climb over brambles and duck under low lying branches.

This part of the wood is much wilder- hence why I love it!
A five minute walk off the track takes me to my usual spot and I sit down.
Silently soaking in the surroundings and meditating on life.

A nearby tree catches my attention.
I am one of many Pagan’s who believe trees have spirits too- just like people, and if we only listen, they can tell us much.
I don’t quite feel the need to “lift the veil” (see earlier blog on lifting the veil if you are unfamiliar) but I do feel the urge to “tune in” to this tree and listen.
I relax my body and gaze at the wonderful oak tree.
I allow myself to just listen and feel.

Sure enough, after a few moments I feel connected to the old Oak.
I don’t “Physically” hear the tree speak to me, that would be absurd.
But I do receive guidance via feelings, thoughts and intuition.
Almost like a wifi connection, we each send each other signals and messages back and fourth.

The tree seems to understand why I am here today.
To escape the current stress of my marital breakdown and with it, it’s legal entanglements.
“You’re safe here” I sense the tree say.
We have been sitting in each other’s company a while when I get the sudden urge to share energy with the tree.

I walk over and place both hands on the thick tree trunk.
In my head, I calmly say to the tree “We can swap energy if you like?
I will give you my over active energy and you can use it to grow, and in return you can give me strength and grounding. Do you agree?”
I barely finish my sentence when I already feel my body relax and ground.

Almost as though my feet are extending roots into the ground- just like a tree.
Stress and anxiety leave my body and in return I visualise that my left hand is sending active energy from my body into the tree, while my right hand draws out the grounding energy the trunk offers me.
After a few moments I feel it’s time to pull away.
I feel completely different now.
Less anxious.
More grounded.
Not so “Wired”.
More relaxed.
To thank the tree I decide to clear its base a little.
Clearing away dead leaves and twigs.
“That’s better” I whisper.
“Much tidier for you”.

I then go back to my original seating place and meditate for a while before formulating an action plan on how to organise and tackle the obstacles in my life.

~November 2016 (adapted from a journal entry)

The above is just one way in which Witches work and commune with trees.
Witches, Druids and Pagan’s have always held a deep reverence to trees.
We use them to connect and commune with.
We craft Wands, Staffs and Bessom’s from them.
We collect the leaves, bark and other forgeable goods in order to make herbal remedies, spells and charms.

The relationship between Witches and trees is as old as time itself, and is one of the strongest.
Not only do they offer us so much, but, compared to other humans, Witches genuinely appreciate trees.
often going out of their way to protect and nurture them.
I know many a Pagan Witch who engages with local wildlife and preservation groups or taking part in environmental protests. Witches are natures defenders. And we intend to remain so!
I even know some in the pagan community who are supporting the setting up of Forest Schools and nature clubs.
So encouraging the next generation to love and respect nature.

Without trees, the human race would struggle to survive.
Not just because of the much needed oxygen produced by trees, but because they offer so many other things too..

Tools for our practice.
Food to sustain us and warmth if we need to make a fire.
Shelter if we need to build a home and wisdom if we only listen.

When a Witch listens to and works with trees, their life becomes enriched.
We learn to connect and work with the natural world around us and understand our habitat.
We gain wisdom, secrets and insight that isn’t comparable to other sources.
We begin to understand more about ourselves.
We learn how each different species of tree has a different personality and offering/teachings to share with us and the rest of nature.
One tree may help with protection and another with healing.
And so we learn how each tree’s components and essences can be drawn upon to assist daily living and craft practice.

Below is a simple connection ritual that I created a few years back when showing a group of other Witches how to connect with trees.

It can be done in any open space that offers you privacy and safety.
I would of course advise against doing this on private land or at night time, when you are alone.

You will notice that this ritual may seem very vague and flexible. This is intentional. There’s no formal way of casting the circle, inviting and discharging the quarters etc.
There are two reasons for this.
The first is because I practice a form of Witchcraft that I have very much forged myself, and in many ways is very different to traditionally recognised formats. I don’t want to confuse participants, or have to give long winded details on my own practices. That’s for future blogs and the book I am hoping to be published. The second reason is because I want this ritual to be very personal to whoever decides to use it, I don’t want it to be very dogmatic. By leaving it flexible and open to interpretation, it gives the participant room to be creative, but still operate within the Ritual perimeters and objective

“Listening to the tree”

 

1) Find an outdoor space that offers relative privacy so that you will not be interrupted. This can be a park, woodlands, country side or simply your own back garden.                    When you find the space you wish to work in, find a tree that you feel you either want to or are drawn to work with. It’s not uncommon for a tree to reach out to you by sending you a “gut feeling”.

 

So, if you suddenly find a tree that seems irresistible and you cannot ignore it- it’s a sure sign you’re being welcomed to work with it.

 

2) Once you have found the appropriate tree, get comfortable. Take off any excess clothes like coats or scarfs (providing it’s not cold and therefore needed), put bags down and lay out any tools needed, like wands, staffs etc.

 

3)  Find a comfortable spot in front of the tree and sit quietly in front of it. Clear your mind, and allow yourself to let go of all troubles and distractions from the world outside, this now sacred space.

Take a few deep breaths and just relax.

Let go of everything not needed for this exercise and make the conscious decision to now focus solely on the tree

 

4) When ready, extend your thoughts to the tree, silently speaking to it in your mind.         This may feel silly and totally alien to you at first, but don’t worry.   You will get used to this in time. you’ve found a place of privacy- so no one should disturb you, and you are only speaking in your mind at this point.

So no-one can hear you. Tell the tree why you are here today, Why you want to commune with it and if the tree is happy for you to do so.You should, at this point, get a feeling whether or not the tree is happy to work with you. The tree will speak through your intuition. Don’t worry if you feel the tree isn’t interested. This can happen. Just thank the tree, bless the area in your own way and then carry on your journey to find a tree you can work with.

However, nine times out of ten, trees are more then willing to work with people of the Craft. Once you feel you have participation from the tree, you can begin.

 

5) Stand up and walk over to the tree, place your “Working hand” (Your dominant hand) on the tree and say aloud..

“Blessings on this sacred tree of (Oak, Rowan, Ash- whatever you are working with). Together, may we bond and grow. Sharing the secrets of life together”.

 

6)  Step away from the tree and pick up your wand, staff, Athame etc. starting in the direction of the North (you may need a compass if you don’t know the directions of the area you are working in) begin to trace your circle in the way you are used to or have been taught too around you and the tree. Giving you adequate space to work in

 

7) Once the circle has been drawn, proceed to call the quarters. Starting with the North. Then east, and so on..

 

8) Once the quarters have been called and the circle is cast you can begin.

 

9) Approach the tree again and simply place both hands on the tree trunk.
Say aloud:

“I offer you my hand in friendship and loyalty. May my spirit and the spirit of this tree share wisdom and secrets”.

 

10) Lean in to the tree and gently place your forehead on its trunk, with your hands still placed on it. This is to form a connection.

All you need to do now is take as long as you need to just listen to the tree. This may feel very odd at first, especially if you are new to working with trees, or the idea that they have spirits and can commune with you. But persevere and be patient. You may be surprised at what you experience…

Remember, you’re not going to hear a voice either externally or internally. The tree will speak you you through feeling, thought and intuition.

I once saw a fellow Witch begin to cry when she did this exercise. She began reliving happy memories of a deceased loved one. It turned out the tree she was working with was comforting her and reassuring her that it was time to let go of her grief now. She came away from the ritual apparently feeling a lot of relief and even grounded because she had been silently bottling up her emotions for a good while. This is a very good example of how a tree can communicate with someone.

The woman in question never once heard a voice, but the tree provoked deep emotion and when she experienced these feelings (that she had apparently been bottling up) she didn’t fall to pieces as she had expected. She found peace and surrender through accepting and acknowledging her grief.

Trees will communicate with us in different ways because we are all unique Individuals.

Take as long as you need for this part. It’s all about your connection.

 

11) When ready, gently pull your forehead away from the tree, and still keeping your hands on the trees trunk say..
“I thank you for your guidance and wisdom today and part from you in respect and gratitude”

(Note: this is to end the communication and begin to ground. Almost like when we disconnect a phone call. We are consciously ending the active communication).

Pull your hands away from the tree and sit within the circle you have cast around you and the tree, taking detailed notes on your experiences. Avoid leaving the taking of notes until you get home.
You tend to forget all the finer details and lessons learnt.
Use the benefit of the circle and still being close to the tree.

 

12) when ready, discharge the directions and release the circle.

 

13) To end the ritual it’s very important that you thank the tree in some way. By which I don’t mean just saying “Thank you Tree” and then toddling off home.

If suitable, pour a bottle of spring water on the ground to water the tree. Clear away any weeds that may be cluttering the roots (make sure they are weeds though, and not foliage related to the tree).
Perhaps sweep dead leaves away from the tree etc.

Once this is done, so is the ritual and so is the aim of connecting and communicating with the tree

Happy tree workings

Lifting the Veil Vs Riding the Hedge

The calendar year has ended and started anew.
Cold January air nips at my fingers, and sweeps sharply over my face, as I stand in my porch, looking out over the bare fields that stretch out before my home.
At 4:45pm, the day is already waning, and night is drawing in.
A thick misty fog is descending, and creeps around, blanketing the field before me almost entirely.
Yet It seems so inviting…
So mesmerising…
As though I can feel the silent spirits of the East Anglian country side call me.
“Come on Zanna.. Listen to our secrets..we know many.”
The only thing between me and the fields, is the lane I live on, and a long hedgerow.
Winter bare, but thick with blackthorn.
It’s sharp thorns putting off any intruder who may wish to breach the hedge and enter the field.
And yet it’s not very tall…
A job to climb, but easily seen over to the fields before me.
The hedgerow may physically bar me from wandering the private field, but my spirit prepares to wander..
I allow myself to lift the veil, a silent state comes over me.
Not sleep, but the conscious mind does indeed quieten while the spirit stirs.
I feel my awareness shift and a part of me reaches forward to the misty fields.
Suddenly a small voice from behind me jolts me back into the present moment.
“Mummy, can I make Playdough Dinosaurs now?”
My daughter is now with me at my side, eagerly looking up, hoping her wish will be granted.
I smile and proceed to compromise, saying if she eats her dinner, she can get the Playdough out afterwards.
The moment has now passed to
Lift the veil and wander off- or ride the hedge, as some will call it.
The wondrous duty of being a mummy must always come first.
But who knows what encounters I may have had this time?
There are countless names for this practice.
The title of this blog suggests just two.
Hedge riding
Crossing the divide
Seeing beyond
Or as I call it, Lifting the Veil.
They all come down to one intricate and complex practice.
The ability to see beyond what our physical eyes show us and observe what is all around, and yet hidden.
The realm of spirit.
Now this (The realm of spirit) is a very loose term for many things.
It could describe Seeing into or traveling other Astral realms, communing with Spirits (be that ancestral, ghost, nature spirit or Sidhe), journeying and so on..

Hedgeriding is a long and well documented practice in many Witch traditions. It is easily comparable to the Shaman’s ability to journey and commune with spirit.
In traditional Shamanism, the purpose of journeying was usually to seek knowledge of how to heal a community member, Or how to undo misfortune if someone had perhaps upset the local spirits of the land.
The Shaman would act as the “Medium” between this realm and the next.
Being physically human, but spiritually able to do what many others could not.
Much is the same for the practice of Hedgeriding or lifting the veil.
One key difference is Witches don’t necessarily lift the veil and cross the divide just to seek wisdom, or to cure someone’s ill- though this is indeed done when needed.
Sometimes we do it for the sheer adventure and curiosity.
And why not?
If we are grounded, know what we are doing and are well protected (psychically), why shouldn’t we explore what’s over the hedge?
The way we would say, a forest or coastal line?

So, why do I personally call it lifting the veil and not hedgeriding?
Well, It’s largely just the way the process feels to me.
The term crossing or riding the hedge means to psychically cross the divide, a symbolic boundary between this physical world and all that in spirit.
Just as the Hedge outside my house, on the lane I live in, acts as a boundary to that appealing field beyond it.
When I cross the divide in spirit, it feels as though I’m shutting down a part of my mind that focuses on everything mundane in this physical reality.
I begin to not just see what is physically there in front of me, but lift a veil and see all that is so obviously there, but hidden too.
It’s like seeing a beautiful bride on her wedding day.
There she stands in her dress, her face veiled from the congregation.
You know that behind that thin veil is a beautiful blushing bride, but you won’t see her clearly until the veil is lifted.
And so it is with me and crossing the divide.
I’m allowing a veil to be lifted so I can experience what is there already, just shaded from the normal eyes I use daily.

To me, the great divide is a veil, not a hedge.

So, when I “Lift the Veil”, do I see everything with my physical eyes?
No. I don’t. I would be lying if I said I did.
Everything is seen in spirit, sort of like when you use your imagination, only so much clearer and almost tangible.
I’m often asked, “How do you know you just don’t have a very vivid imagination and not inventing all these experiences?”.
Others would be offended by this question.
However, I am not.
It’s actually a very good question and deserves to be explored and explained.
Not just for the sceptic asking, but one for the Witch to really contemplate…
How do we know that we don’t just possess very active imaginations or are just a bit, well, mad?
The answer lies in the experience we have while riding the hedge/lifting the veil.
I am gifted to possess a very creative and active imagination.
In fact, I remember, my first ever teacher in primary school commented on it in my school report to my parents.

“Zanna has a very active imagination and takes role play and storytelling very seriously. Often making up her own stories if she cannot read a book. Using the pictures to influence and guide her.”
It is through my imagination, that I invent, what I am told are great stories-many of which I use to entertain my young daughter and niece, when I see her.
However, this is just a talent.
A skill I use regularly and very much part of my physical make-up and personality.
Completely different from when I ride the hedge/lift the veil.
When I lift the veil, the feeling is unmistakable.
So real and filled with feeling and experience.
I’m neither conscious or unconscious.
I just am.
In the moment.
Feeling, seeing and experiencing.
When I am engaging my imagination I am fully conscious and allowing my waking mind to just explore thoughts and scenarios.
It starts with an idea, like a small seed, and grows from there.
Imagination is all very much in the mind and physical, it starts with a “thought”.
Lifting the veil is in the spirit.
It’s not physical as we know it and doesn’t start with a thought.
It starts with feeling and is carried forward by sight.
By witnessing.
Perhaps not with our actual eyes, but with our senses for sure.
This is how I attempt to explain the difference to Sceptics and other pagans alike.

To me, lifting the Veil is a crucial aspect of my Craft practice. It is how I gather knowledge, speak with spirit and often receive guidance from what many call “Spirit guides”

spirit guides don’t just rock up to you while you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV and munching away on snacks.

They send you subtle signs, like a white feather, a distinct sound, or seeing a series of numbers or a word repeated everywhere you go.

spitits may well give you little nudges, but ultimately, we need to tune in and listen to them in order to receive their guidance. This is where lifting the veil comes in.

Sometimes I may be in need of performing a spell or ritual, for whatever reason.

I know my aim, my objective. I have all the necessary tools, and yet, somthing seems missing. What do I do? I lift the veil and seek inspiration. Sure enough, nine times out of ten I find what I am seeking.

I learnt very early on in Witchcraft, that books and teachers will only take you so far..

the rest of the way must be learnt in the field (fields again) Through practice and working with spirit.

This is why lifting the Veil is so important, and why many new Witches should consider learning more about riding the hedge. It truly enriches Witchcraft practice and without it, I think I would be a Witch in name only, not in practice.

If you enjoyed this blog, please check out my Facebook page “Woman of the Woods-musings of a Witch” or the joint page that I share with my Partner, “Brythonic and beyond” which documents our journey through forging our own pagan path.

Bright Blessings.

Woman of the Woods )0(