Thursday, 24 May 2018

Soul Food

“In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess ~ we connect with her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all” 
― Starhawk

I make a pilgrimage every year to the bluebell woods. Not far from Halfway Up A Hill is a patch of beautiful woodland. It's privately owned, but the owners are generous enough to share their little patch of heaven, and every year when the bluebells bloom they open up the woodland to the public. To me it is a magical, sacred place. I look forward to my visit every year, it has become part of the way I celebrate the Wheel of the Year.

Bluebells are quite possibly my favourite flower: I love their colour, their scent; I love the time of year they appear; I love their woodland habitat. My annual visit to see them feeds my soul. I visit them with friends, with family, alone. I have visited on cool, damp chilly days and on brilliantly bright warm sunny days. But it is unthinkable to not visit at all. No matter what else is happening in my life, I make time to visit the bluebells.

The woods are approached through a bright sunny meadow. The owners have cut a path through the meadow, fringed with all kinds of wildflowers. I follow its gentle slope down towards the woodland's dark edge, and as I get closer the scent of bluebells starts to waft around me. I slow my pace, aware that I am approaching a holy place. At a gap in the hedge at one corner of the meadow I step through into an enchanted world. A sea of blue flows all around me, and early summer light filters down through tender new leaves of oak and beech, hazel, birch and hawthorn. Paths meander through the trees, and I step carefully, trying not to crush any flowers underfoot. It seems sacrilegious to damage such beauty in any way. As I walk slowly, mindfully placing each step, I breathe deeply, trying to inhale the essence of the place. At points along the path I stop and sit for a little while, listening to the sound of the woodland all around me. Insects buzz, the breeze ripples through the treetops, birds sing - wren, robin, chaffinch, chiffchaff, blackbird - and the sound of cattle, sheep and human activity drifts over from the nearest farm. I notice how, when I sit still and silent, the birdsong intensifies nearby as though having decided I pose no threat, normal service has been resumed. At one particular sitting place I am thrilled to hear the whirring of small wings directly behind me. I hold myself as still as possible, desperate to turn and see which tiny bird has dared to land behind me but knowing that as soon as I move it will fly away. 

I try to still my mind too, letting thoughts drift away like the clouds above the treetops, trying to open and receive whatever the bluebell wood has to offer me. I feel it as a gentle healing energy, which soothes and nourishes my soul. I want to stay and bathe in it forever, and yet I know that I will have to return home before long - visiting time ends at dusk - and that the bluebells will not be here much longer. There is perhaps another week before they fade, begin to set seed and their blue-purple glory is over again for another year. So I drink it in while I can, feed my soul on this peace and beauty while I can. It is enough - until next year. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

In The Woods

Don't try to make the magic happen.
Open to it, and then
Soften your gaze.
Let your shoulders drop.
Inhale, then exhale.
Feel the touch of grace in the breeze on your skin.
When it falls upon you gently, softly,
Let its beauty fill your heart.
Its power is immense, infinite,
It is always here for you to find.
Just open to it and wait.
It will come to you.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

ThriftWitch: Home From Home Charm

As a Cancerian, the concept of 'home' is very important to me. I am a home-loving person, and as I have mentioned before, my natural inclination is to put down roots. However, my idea of 'home' isn't confined to mere bricks and mortar, or that place I lay my head at night. Nor is it merely somewhere 'everybody knows your name' – although it can be all or none of these. I think for me, home is very definitely where the heart is.

I have been lucky enough to live in several different parts of the world, all of which remain dear to me in different ways. There are other places I love that have never physically been home to me. But I feel 'at home' whenever I am there.

This precious feeling of being in a place where you feel you truly belong is at the heart of feeling grounded and centred. The ability to ground and centre yourself is of course a very important basic magical skill, the starting point for everything else. To do effective magic, to enact ritual or ceremony, to move energy, you need to feel sure of yourself, certain of where you are and where you intend to go. This is why you need to know how to ground and centre yourself. The feeling of being grounded and centred is the same feeling you get when you are in your true home - as I said earlier, not necessarily that place of bricks and mortar, but that place where you feel relaxed, centred in yourself and where you can fully and truly be your authentic self. 

The Home From Home Charm is a way of condensing down the essence of the place(s) that you call home and being able to carry that essence with you wherever you go. Your charm can be used as a short-cut way of grounding and centring yourself, or it can be a magical item you carry with you when you are away from home yet want to keep its essence with you. You could also make Home From Home Charms as gifts for loved ones – while they are away in hospital, travelling, or studying. It would be a lovely gift to go in the backpack of a child as a comforter on their first day of school.

As with all ThriftWitch projects it requires little expenditure - just a bit of forethought and planning! You need a container for the charm - a little cork-stoppered glass jar or bottle is cute and looks good on a portable altar. If there's a chance it might get a bit of a batterin g while you're travelling it might be better to use a small plastic bottle or container (with lid), or a fabric, felt or leather/suede pouch. If you're really travelling light you could use a Ziploc bag.

What you put into your charm is entirely up to you, as what means 'home' will be different for everyone. But here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • A tiny pinch of soil from your garden or special place.
  • A tiny scrap of fabric snipped from the furnishings of a favourite room (curtains, duvet, quilt, cushion). You only need a tiny bit and should be able to find a suitable seam or hem to take a teeny bit from without ruining the item in question!
  • Some dried flowers or herbs from your garden (a pinch only)
  • Is there a particular smell that means home to you? You could add a spritz of your loved one's cologne or perfume on a scrap of fabric to your container; a chip of scented candle wax; a small piece of joss stick or incense; a chip of cinnamon or vanilla pod; a drip of essential oil or even a spritz of furniture polish on a piece of cotton wool...
  • A lock of hair or snippet of fur from your loved one(s) and/or pet(s)
  • A piece of twig or bark from a beloved tree
  • A small shell or pebble from 'your' beach
  • Small photos of a place or loved ones
  • Any symbols that mean 'home' to you - either small symbolic objects or sigils or runes inscribed on paper
  • A button from a loved one's shirt

These are just ideas to get you started. Only you can know what will be meaningful to you, and bring a smile to your face when you look at your charm. As this is intended to be a small, portable magical item suitable for travelling with, be careful not to get too carried away and add large items/too much. Travelling light is always the best idea! In all cases, if you're travelling internationally, tailor the contents of your charm carefully to avoid attracting the wrath of customs officials - many countries will not allow soil, vegetable or animal matter to be imported.

The only thing that I suggest you definitely include in your charm is a small snail shell, which is a perfect symbol for the ability to carry your home with you wherever you go! You can either put this in your container with all the other items, or glue it to the lid or perhaps thread it on a piece of yarn or ribbon and tie it round the neck of the container.

Once assembled, either start using your charm straight away or consecrate it first in your preferred manner.  

With a little tweaking and some appropriate magic, the Home From Home Charm could easily be adapted into a protective amulet for those beings and places you love. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Signposts on the Way

I was talking with a friend who has been going through a rather turbulent time recently. She asked me if I'd used certain spiritual practices to help me through my own troubles in recent years. I replied that I had... but in all honesty I'm not sure that they really made a substantial contribution. So I have found myself since that conversation pondering, what did help? What got me through the darkest days after my life disintegrated around me? What kept me going?

Firstly I should say that I don't believe there's any one magical 'right' way through the swamps of grief, depression, despair. We all have to find our own way and that's one reason it's so hard. But I do think that those of us who've managed to wade through, swim through or sometimes merely keep a nostril above the murk of those swamps can leave some helpful signposts for our fellow travellers. These then are my signposts, the things that helped me.

1. Understanding the mechanism of grief.

I had heard of Elisabeth Kubler Ross's theory of the Five Stages of Grief but I really only took the idea on board when I was struggling through them myself. Basically the idea is that when confronted with sudden, traumatic change - bereavement, diagnosis of serious/terminal illness, profound loss - most of us go through five stages: denial, bargaining, anger, grief, acceptance. Briefly, the denial part is when we can't quite accept that this is happening to us and try to distance ourselves by pretending it's not happening; bargaining comes when we accept that it's happening but try to bargain our way out of it ("if I lose weight he'll love me again!", "If I start eating healthily the cancer will go away!", "If I pray hard enough she won't die!"); anger is when we rail and lash out at the unfairness of it all; grief comes when we finally let ourselves feel the loss; acceptance is when we reach the other side, absorbing and integrating our experience. We don't necessarily work through these in a neat linear fashion, often we go back and forth through them before we finally reach true acceptance.

Personally, I found it tremendously helpful to know these stages so that when it seemed my emotions were in chaos I could identify them as part of the process and know why I was feeling and reacting as I did. It was also helpful to know that by working through them I was making progress on my journey towards healing. In many ways the theory of the Five Stages of Grief is a vast oversimplification, but to me it was a vital map, a way of keeping my bearings when I really didn't know which way was up. And most importantly it held out the possibility that one day I would be able to drag myself out onto the longed-for distant shore of Acceptance and begin to move on with the rest of my life.

2. Remembering that you are not the first to go through this.

Strangely, I found some really sad break-up songs were helpful. Now I don't recommend sitting listening for hours to miserable music. I can't see that helping anyone. But there were a couple of tracks I loved because they articulated so well what I was going through. It helped me to know I wasn't the only one who'd ever felt like this. But most importantly, they were by artistes whose catalogue I was very familiar with, and I knew that the story didn't end there. These people had been where I was, they had felt as I felt, but they had moved on. They had lived through it and gone on to write other, happier songs in happier times. It held out the possibility to me that I could both feel this bad yet know that I wouldn't be stuck there forever. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, even if I couldn't see it yet, the songs let me know it was there and let me believe that one day I too would find it. 

Of course it doesn't have to be a song that holds out that promise. It could be a book, a poem, a work of art, a film, a friend's story. But whatever it is, it is a reminder that you are not alone, others have trodden this path before you. And if they got through it, you can too.

3. Letting it out.

You can only come to terms with what is happening to you if you let it out, expose the wound to light and air. If you hold it tightly to you and keep it in, it will fester and you will never heal.

If you can, talk. To friends, to family, to the person at the bus stop. Verbalising something gets it out of you, takes away some of the pain, reduces its power to hurt you. Sharing a burden eases its weight.

But of course, not everyone is able to do that. Sometimes there isn't anyone to talk to, sometimes we feel we have to shield those around us from our pain and anger, sometimes it's too difficult to express. But there are other ways to let it out. For me, I talked, but writing was a life-saver. Not just here on the blog. Some of what I had to express was too raw, too painful, too personal. So I also journalled obsessively. And each word on a page leached out a little more of the poison and pain.

Words are not the only means of expressing yourself. After the death of my son, I couldn't find the words to express how I felt. So I drew, and painted and scribbled on paper. And it was like a magic balm that eventually dissipated my pain until I found I could talk about it after all.

So let it out, however you can. In speech, or writing, or painting, or building, or punching a cushion, or dancing, or running, or playing music, or screaming or whatever it takes.

Let. It. Out.

4. Pursue happiness.

Who doesn't want to be happy? Yet too often we are passive in our pursuit of happiness. We wait for it to come to us, and we take it for granted when it is in our possession. 

Don't be passive! Seek out happiness. Make a list of things that give you joy and make it your mission to incorporate them into your life. It goes without saying that most of these things should be non-material or the pursuit of joy can easily sour into consumerism, hoarding and massive credit card bills. None of which are going to make you happy, quite the opposite in fact. But hang out with people you love, cook your favourite meal, sniff the roses, dance to your favourite music while doing the housework, watch the beautiful sunset, watch the DVD that always makes you laugh, cut fresh flowers for your home, snuggle up with your pets, nurture your garden, wear your favourite dress, play with your kids, walk in the bluebell woods, toast marshmallows round the bonfire with friends. And don't be too puritannical to give yourself a few materialistic treats too. If that designer perfume really does make you feel happy every time you smell it, invest in a bottle and spritz away.

I recommend two things - make a list of things that never fail to make you smile. My own list includes seeing the first swallow of summer, being with my favourite people and the exuberance of Tambourine Guy in this video. Just reading the list can lift your spirits, and you can also use it to remind yourself to do nice things! I've also made a playlist of all my favourite joyful songs that I can listen to whenever I need a boost - or just because.

And start a Jar of Blessings (or record them in a journal, or stick them on a noticeboard, or take digital photos of them...). Counting your blessings really does work.

5. And when you are finally out of the swamp...

Leave signposts for others.
Share your insights.
Listen to someone who needs a friendly ear.
Keep seeking out happiness - and spread it where you can.

If you have any helpful signposts of your own, please leave them in the comments section! Thank you.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Checking In

It has been a good long time since I last posted - nearly a year. So I just wanted to check in and say, I'm still here, still breathing, and I'm still *intending* to write a blog! 

Life has been so busy of late that on the rare occasions that I get time to write I am almost always too tired to dredge up any inspiration or too brain dead to articulate my thoughts clearly. So as a quick'n'easy cheat post - a bit of a TV dinner of a post in fact - here are a few photos of life in Moonrootland over the last 12 months. I hope to be back with something a bit more substantial and nourishing in the not too distant future!


Friday, 28 October 2016

ThriftWitch: Getting The Most Out Of Your Pumpkin This Samhain

Oh yes, it's that time of year again. Whether you call it Samhain or Halloween, the shops are full of pumpkins just waiting to be carved into spooky Jack o'Lanterns. But is that all you normally do with yours? The young daughter of a friend of mine expressed shock when she heard me talking about cooking pumpkin recently. "But you can't eat them!" She declared. "They're poisonous, aren't they?" I was even more shocked than her; surely children know pumpkins are edible, don't they? Well evidently not. Presumably for some people they are just a Halloween decoration. What a waste! My inner ThriftWitch has decided this just won't do. So here is my list of suggestions, both culinary and magical, for getting the best possible value and most use out of your pumpkin this year.

Firstly, if you do want it as a Samhain/Halloween decoration, don't carve it too soon. Pumpkins really don't last very long once their protective tough outer layer has been cut, so for best results don't carve them more than 24 hours ahead of time. My friend's husband carved her a beautiful Jack o'Lantern that was a work of art - but unfortunately he did it a week before Samhain and it had turned to mush by the time it was needed. 

Keep all the flesh for your favourite recipes. Pumpkin pie is of course the classic dish, though I have to confess at this stage I'm not a fan (heresy, I know). But if you'd like to make a pumpkin pie just Google recipes and I'm sure you'll find something to tempt you. Personally, I usually make Pumpkin Soup, but you could also try converting the flesh into many other sweet or savoury dishes, or even chutney or pickle. If you like the soup idea, though you could try this:

Moonroot's Pumpkin Soup  
Scoop out the flesh of a pumpkin. Separate out the seeds and put to one side. Chop the flesh into chunks, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and chilli powder and roast at 180°C until it's soft and a little caramelised. Meanwhile, chop and fry an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic until soft. Sprinkle in some ground cumin and paprika, and perhaps some finely chopped ginger, saute for another 5 minutes and remove from the heat. When the pumpkin is cooked, add to the onion mixture, and pour in a tin of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato puree and enough vegetable stock to cover. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to blend, then whizz in a food processor to a smooth consistency. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Just before serving stir in chopped fresh coriander leaves and a swirl of single cream or natural yogurt if liked. Enjoy!

What about the pumpkin seeds? Well they are delicious roasted, and it couldn't be simpler. 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Just clean off as much of the stringy flesh as you can, give them a rinse and spread them out on a baking tray. Drizzle them with a little oil and soy sauce (give them a quick stir to ensure they're evenly coated, then spread them back out evenly). Roast for about 10 mins at 180°C. Allow to cool and enjoy with a nice cool glass of something.

What about magically? You could keep back a few of the washed, uncooked seeds and use a marker pen to inscribe them with runes to use for divination. Or choose a rune to symbolise what you want to draw into your life, inscribe it on a seed/some seeds and plant them in spring to 'grow' your desired outcome. Alternatively, you could inscribe what you want to be rid of on a spare seed or two and chuck them in the fire to burn it away!  And of course you can enchant your soup - or other pumpkin recipes - by murmuring spells and incantations over them as they cook, stirring in your wishes as you go. 

If you like you can also save a few seeds simply to try and grow next year's pumpkin. They do need a bit of room to sprawl, but if you can fit one in, try sowing the seed indoors in April, placing the flower pot or seed tray in a warm spot such as the airing cupboard. When it's germinated, keep it on a sunny windowsill and plant out when all danger of frost is past.  

Finally, when your Samhain ritual or Halloween party is over, put your carved pumpkin out in the garden. There are plenty of critters who will be glad of the chance to nibble it, and if you put it in an out of the way spot when the critters have finished it will decompose quickly, returning its goodness to the soil.

Samhain Blessings! 

Monday, 5 September 2016


I first noticed the signs of Ash Dieback Disease this summer in a young ash sapling at the back of the house. The twiggy ends of branches were losing leaves in the middle of summer; an unusual occurrence unless a tree is diseased or otherwise stressed - by drought for example. Soon, I noticed the same thing happening in other ash trees in the locality, large and small. Strangely although some seem very badly affected and have already lost all their leaves, others - for now - show only minimal damage and others seem completely untouched. I hope this means there is some degree of resistance to the fungus in the trees. Time will tell. It tears at my heart to think of all the ash trees in the landscape dying. I remember my parents and grandparents lamenting the tragedy of Dutch Elm Disease and the changes it had wrought in the landscape. It seems we have not learnt the lessons we should have from that disaster. 

I love trees. A wooded landscape is my favourite place to be. I spent my childhood in a small Essex village with large gardens and an orchard of apple trees to roam in. The orchard was a magical place to me. I wandered under the twisty old trees looking for fairies and teaching myself the names of wildflowers, snacking on windfalls and blackberries. I climbed into the friendly, spreading branches of the apple trees which held me kindly, giving me a sense of daring and security at the same time. The apple trees seemed like a group of benevolent, grandmotherly beings who fed me with their fruit and soothed me with their tranquil presence. 

All trees in fact seemed to me to have their own personalities. The big oaks at the edge of the orchard were aloof, yet protective in their own way. The rowan tree outside my grandmother's kitchen was a quixotic, magical being akin to a good fairy. The twin hawthorns at the front of Nanna and Granddad's house a pair of gruffly good-natured gnomic characters. The tall, graceful ash tree in our front garden was a totemic family guardian. Later, as a teenager, a particular beech tree - serene and non judgemental - became my confidante, as I sat with my back against its smooth bark pouring out my adolescent woes. 

The trees that surrounded me as a child were my friends, and when Dad and Granddad decided to cut some down I begged them not to and cried so hard that they relented and the trees were saved.


One evening, years later I was over at my parent's house - the house I had grown up in, next to my grandparent's house and the orchard. The family - my Mum and Dad, Granddad, brother and sister and assorted partners were gathered in the lounge chatting cosily. I went out to the kitchen to get a glass of water when I suddenly felt a strange urge to go out into the garden. It was winter, it was dark and cold, and yet I felt a strong pull to go outside into the night air. Shrugging on my coat, I unlocked the back door and stepped quietly out into the chilly air. It was a clear night with enough of a moon for me to see my way without a torch. Following the little voice inside I crossed into my Grandparents' garden. The night was still and silent, not a breath of wind. And yet laid before me like a slain warrior was the fallen body of one of the apple trees, its trunk and branches silvered by moonlight. This was the apple tree in whose branches Granddad had built a treehouse for us. I remembered climbing up there on the day I left primary school and whispering the news of this rite of passage to the tree, trying to make sense of how I felt about this momentous occasion. I remembered playing up there with my sister and brother. I remembered sitting up there in the shade on a hot summer's day reading a book. 

I brushed the branches with my hand, felt a tear slide down my face. The tree was old but had shown no sign of dying. Yet something - honey fungus? - had been eating away at its roots and tonight, quietly, finally, in the still night air it had fallen, giving up its hold on life. I blessed the tree, thanked it for it's friendship and fruit. I bade it farewell and returned to the company of my family feeling sad, yet somehow peaceful. How had I known? There had been no sign, no sound, no reason for me to go out into the garden at night. And yet somehow the tree had called to me, had wanted to say goodbye. I was glad I was there at the right time and place.


Other trees have called to me, offered friendship to me over the years. The cathedral-like grove of cedars planted at the windward side of Halfway Up A Hill as a windbreak. The silver birch T and I planted on our son Peter's ashes as a memorial. The great beech trees at the top of the hill, which sang to me on the day of my initiation. The weeping silver birch under which my Welsh grandmother used to hide gifts for us when we were children. The rowan tree I am nurturing in a pot to be a friendly fairy outside my kitchen, just like the one my Nanna had. 

I love the trees surrounding my home. I pray for the health of the ash trees, hope they will weather the coming storms. I breathe in the oxygen gifted me by the trees, and gift them with the carbon dioxide of my exhaled breath. May we live together in symbiosis and friendship. Bless the trees.