Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Drip, Drip, Drip...

The sound of dripping trees, birdsong and running water.

Fog hangs in the air like a pall of gunsmoke. The crushed grass bears testament to the great battle that occurred overnight.

The Snow Queen's mantle lies in tatters as she retreats - for now.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Deep and Crisp and Even

The Snow Queen has spread her mantle over the hills.

Thick snow, piled deep on a silent world. A world of beauty, the soft, round drifts at odds with the harshness of bitter cold. No owl quavers, no fox screams. Only the tracks left in the snow betray signs of life.

I trust that under the snow, snowdrop, crocus and narcissus dream the first faint stirrings of spring. For now all is quiet, all is still, all is frozen.

I feed the birds. I watch the sky, praying for a thaw, waiting for the days to lengthen. The Snow Queen is beautiful, but she is without mercy.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wishing the Arctic Well: A Spell of Healing and Transformation

Image ©Donald Engstrom-Reese 2010

My friend Donald Engstrom-Reese is inviting people to join him in a spell-working to support the Polar Bear and other inhabitants of the Arctic, who are threatened by the pressures on their unique eco-system.

The spellworking officially began on the Winter Solstice, but you can join in at any time.

Many thanks for your help - and spread the word!

Peace & Yule Blessings.

Friday, 17 December 2010

ThriftWitch: The Clean Start Soap Spell

Do you know which kinds of spell I hate? The kind which say, 'On the full moon, take some powdered frankincense, a quartz crystal and three black feathers and place them in a velvet pouch. Go to a secluded place and bury them, whilst chanting: "Love be mine, love divine, come to me and we'll be fine". Walk away without looking back. You will meet your soulmate within a month.'.

I mean, huh? How does that work? Why would that work? (not to mention the godawful sub-greeting card rhymes that are inevitably integral to the process)

Actually, as a witch, I do very few spells. In my experience, it's usually way easier to take the mundane route to getting what you want than the magical. Like all those daft movies where the gorgeous teen witch absent-mindedly stirs her coffee by 'magic' rather than by hand? Or she floats or balances a pencil? Seriously, can you imagine how much psychic power it would take to do that? Why on earth doesn't she just stir the damn drink by hand and if she really has the power to effortlessly move objects with her mind, why isn't she using it to do something that's not utterly pointless?

Plus magic - like water or electricity - tends to take the path of least resistance, meaning that it's almost certain that the spell won't work out the way you planned. And believe me, that leaves plenty of scope for misfires, unforseen consequences and complications (yes, that was the older but wiser voice of experience speaking).

Even so, I think there are times to use magic, when appropriate. Sometimes the Universe needs a little nudge. More often than not, it's about re-setting our own psyches, moving the energy, opening up possibilities. Although I made up the the sample spell above, it's pretty typical of much of the stuff bandied about as 'magic'. And I don't for one minute believe 99.9% of those types of spell work, for one very good reason: your psyche wouldn't understand a word of it. The 'ingredients' used in a spell are there to tweak at your psyche, your subconscious (and perhaps thereby the collective unconscious or even the fabric of reality), but if your subconscious can't understand what's being said, that's where it'll end.

The ingredients are really just symbols, for symbols are the language of the subconscious (all the better of course, if those symbols seduce the subconscious with their colour, scent, taste, texture). Frankincense, quartz crystal and black feathers may mean one thing to the person creating the spell, but they may mean something completely different to you. Frankincense may mean 'higher spiritual connection' to the spell-originator, but to you - if you had a very oppressive religious upbringing for example - frankincense may speak to your subconscious of repression, guilt, fear, anger... not exactly the things you would want to be musing on (even subconsciously) whilst trying to conjure a soulmate. Some ingredients/symbols, such as rose petals for example, have such a widely accepted connection with love and pleasure, that it's no wonder they appear often in love spells. Yet how many people would have the same subconscious knowledge of the symbolism of yarrow, say, or thyme, or comfrey? Most likely they would all have different interpretations - and many may never have come across less common ingredients like yarrow before. No wonder our subconscious is bamboozled and the spell fails to work as planned.

The spells I like are grounded in reality (if it's possible to say that about a subject like magic). I like symbolic actions carried out mindfully, the kind of thing that says to my subconscious (and the Universe), "I am opening up space for the possibility of [insert desired outcome here] to happen."

For example, almost two years ago I wrote about vigorously cleaning the house on New Year's Eve and then spending New Year's Day focussing on the things I wanted to draw into my life, to change my luck after a horrible year in which my marriage had ended. Lo and behold, the new year did indeed change my life for the better as my heart began to heal, I achieved some long-cherished ambitions, and much to my surprise, fell in love again.

The Clean Start Soap Spell runs along similar lines. I have been doing this for the last couple of years, and although it originated in my desire to not waste things (soap!), in doing it mindfully, it has become an act of magic (which as Dion Fortune famously said, is after all, 'The art of changing consciousness at will').

The Clean Start Soap Spell
This is a spell I do over the course of a year, though  you could adapt it to a different time period to suit your own circumstances. I begin afresh on 1st January, and quite simply each time I get to the last sliver of a bar of soap throughout the year, I put it in a drawstring muslin bag on the bathroom shelf. Personally, I like to suit the soap to the season, so in winter I may have a warming cinnamon and orange scented one, then a floral for spring, maybe coconut for my summer holiday and vetivert or patchouli for autumn... As the year progresses the muslin bag fills with aromatic slivers that each bring back vivid scent-memories of the past months. And then, towards the end of December (I judge this by eye, depending how full the muslin bag is) I begin to use the muslin bag to wash myself in the shower instead of a fresh bar of soap. The idea is that as we approach the end of the year, I am re-visiting and integrating the experiences of the last 12 months. It's pretty effective, as of course scent is a great catalyst to memory. It is also symbolic of washing away the last vestiges of the old to make way for the new. The important thing is to time it so that the last of the soap dissolves away on New Year's Eve. And then of course, a carefully chosen, fresh new bar can be unwrapped on New Year's Day, and the spell begins for another cycle. You could of course choose a different start/end date, your birthday perhaps, or maybe Samhain or some other significant date. You could even choose a different time period than a year, perhaps stretching the process over a period of difficulty (such as medical treatment, a legal battle or time of emotional upheaval) so that you can finally wash it all away as the period comes to a close.

I also recommend the cleaning the house on New Year's Eve/mindfully choosing your activities on New Year's Day spell. It certainly starts the year on a good note!

P.S. I have to confess I am particularly fond of the soaps produced by Lush, although local West Wales company The Soap Shed have some delicious products too.

Monday, 13 December 2010


I can't help it. I just hate seeing anything going to waste. Perhaps it's the influence of grandparents who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930's followed by the austerity and rationing of the War years, and parents who were born just before the advent of the Second World War.

Both my Grandmothers were (and my Mum is) great advocates of making do and mending, preserving food during times of abundance to keep for the 'hard times', making inventive new meals from left overs, scraping every last smear of jam from the jar, squirrelling away safety pins and rubber bands and lengths of string; or scraps of ribbon or lace or fabric to 'make things over'. None of them would have dreamed of throwing away today's cold, leftover veg which could be transformed into tomorrow's bubble & squeak, or soup, or casserole. Each of them had a 'button box' to store buttons cut from old garments (themselves usually handed down, passed on, restyled or - if they were beyond redemption - used as rags). I used to love playing with the contents of the button boxes, sorting their shiny contents into colours, or shapes, or sizes.

Somewhere along the line, this behaviour rubbed off on me, and I too love being inventive with leftovers, I have my own stashes of pins, string, fabric and rubber bands, and even my own button box. I look hard at things before chucking them to see if they have a possible chance at re-use, and recycling has become second nature.
Sometimes that's a good thing. I can feel pretty good about my minimal contributions to landfill sites and my habit of only buying a replacement for something when it dies completely must have saved me quite a fair amount of money over the years. On the other hand it does also result in gluts of jams and chutneys, I'm usually at least 5 years out of date with gadgets (mobile phone the size of a house brick, anyone?), and well, yes, I am a terrible hoarder. With a cry of 'That will come in useful one day!' my cupboards (and drawers, and the outbuildings, and the garage) soon fill up, and it is oh so hard to contemplate throwing any of it away because, well - you never know when it might come in handy.

Like most things in life, there must be balance. It is one thing to save yourself money and save the planet from drowning in consumables, yet it is quite another to find yourself overwhelmed by boxes of 'stuff that might come in useful one day'. My own challenge seems to be in keeping the hoarding instinct under control. Now that T has removed all the things he wants from the house, I need to take a deep breath and start sorting out what is left into what is truly loved, needed and/or useful and that which is merely taking up space. I suspect the local charity shops will soon get very sick of seeing me arrive with yet another box of donations for them to re-home, and at some point I may even get really ruthless and make a trip or two to the local dump.

On the other hand, I don't want to totally lose the thrifty habit. It's good for my bank balance and it's good for the planet when I reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle. And I still love playing with the contents of the button box occasionally!

In these cash-strapped times, I thought it may even be useful to pass on a few thrifty ideas via the blog. These will be many and assorted, ranging from ideas for re-using things and materials, to recipes and even spells. I'll label each with the tag 'ThriftWitch' so you can find them easily.

My first ThriftWitch tip will be 'The Clean Start Soap Spell' appearing in the next day or so. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Fog and Ice and Gratitude

A new skyline on this day of fog and ice. The world ends across the valley, distant hills erased by fog. Sounds speak of life continuing 'out there' - a barking dog, a tractor, jackdaws - yet my eyes tell me the world is much smaller today.

Sheet ice covers the ground, even the chickens are slipping and sliding around. I walk intently, bent like an old woman, testing each step before carefully chancing my weight on it.

Cold, damp air chills my bones.

Yet the house is warm, the fire is lit, and my love and the cats await me. I count my blessings.