Monday 8 September 2014

Reflections from the Cusp

We seem to be teetering on the cusp of Summer-into-Autumn at the moment. It is September already (how did that happen?) but as yet the days are warm and sunny even if the mornings are shrouded in mist and have a nip to them. No frosts yet, thank goodness.

It has been an amazingly busy summer, with much fun and celebration (parties, outings, picnics, a wedding complete with fancy dress!), plenty of sunshine and lots of hard work, both at home and in setting up a new business (or possibly two). Life is good at the moment.

And for once I am looking forward to the onset of autumn proper. Perhaps it is because we have actually had a decent summer for the last two years. But I am eagerly anticipating snuggling into cosy jumpers, warm nights around the fire, kicking through fallen leaves, making my favourite soups, roasting chestnuts...

Summer, don't be in a hurry to leave. But Autumn, I am looking forward to greeting you once again, old friend.

Sunday 1 June 2014

June 'Tree of Life'

The June issue of Pagan Pages e-magazine is now available free online. My 'Tree of Life' column may be found here:

Saturday 10 May 2014

Help Henry!

I haven't ever posted anything like this before, but I want to get this message out to as many people as possible so here goes. My friend Jenny's 10 month old puppy Henry is urgently in need of life-saving surgery. He will die without it.

Here's what Jenny has to say about Henry:

"My 10 month old dog Henry has PDA, a genetic heart condition which will cost him his life left untreated. Despite my responsibly getting the best pet insurance I could for him, they are refusing to pay for this life saving operation on a technicality.

We want Henry to be well and enjoy his life with all of us, but particularly for my son Matthew, age 5, who has Aspergers, Henry is his special friend, I had hoped they would grow up together, if we raise this money there is a good chance they still can.

We'll need around £3,700 for the operation, and we already owe £600 for the diagnostic procedures. If we raise more than we need, I'll donate it to Many Tears, a local dog rescue charity that does wonderful work here in West Wales.

We've been told by the specials cardiac vet that the operation Henry needs generally has excellent results, and needs little in the way of aftercare, once it has been done we'll all see the results, and most importantly, Henry should have a full normal life expectancy. I'll post LOTS of pictures :)"

Jenny has started a fund raising appeal to raise the money needed for Henry's operation. This link will take you there: If you can donate, please do. Every little bit helps get us closer to saving Henry's life.

This is a genuine appeal from someone I know in person, so I can vouch that it is for real! Thanks for any support you can offer.


Henry Update:
Henry has now had his operation, which was successful. He is making a good recovery and is full of beans! Many thanks to all who helped give this story a happy ending. If you click on the original link, you can read Jenny's update and see a gorgeous picture of Henry and Matthew celebrating together.

Friday 2 May 2014

Lessons From the Garden

It has always been a pleasure of mine to wander in the garden early in the morning: the new growth, the golden slant of morning light, the birdsong, the sparkle of dew or frost in the grass... Weather permitting I always used to spend at least half an hour out there after letting the chickens and geese out, checking progress or problems in the veggie patch and admiring the beauty of the garden in all weathers and seasons. That was when my main job was growing our food and minding the smallholding. Nowadays my changed circumstances mean I work outside the home and my once productive kitchen garden is reduced to a few perennial vegetables and soft fruit bushes that mostly mind themselves, a few potatoes in tyres, tomatoes in the greenhouse and one lone raised bed of salad leaves, radishes and Chinese vegetables (I am however intent in licking it back into better shape, which includes this year planting up a much improved herb garden).

But at weekends and on rare days like this when I have a little spare time it is still a pleasure to get out there and just soak up the sun and the sounds and sights and smells.

In May the garden and the surrounding countryside change on an almost daily basis - new leaves unfurl, change colour and opacity and shape, new flowers appear in sudden bursts of colour, the grass grows so fast you can almost see it. Birds that seemingly only yesterday were pairing up have somehow built nests, laid and hatched their brood and are busy feeding their hungry fledglings. Baby rabbits scamper in fields occupied by young lambs and calves. No wonder Beltane is such a powerfully life-affirming festival. The Earth at this time of year seems to positively hum with life-energy.

This morning as I wandered, everything I saw seemed to hold a message. A limp, uprooted feverfew plant I had rescued from a compost heap and re-potted has perked right up which probably means it's re-rooted successfully (where there's life there's hope - or perhaps, everything deserves a second chance). A strange shock of leaves right at the top of a hazel which is yet to come fully into leaf itself turned out to be a honeysuckle which by sheer force of will had managed to scramble about 15' all the way up through the hazel and right to the top (if you keep trying eventually you will find the light). A white butterfly paused in its dancing flight to sip from a blackthorn blossom (take time to enjoy the beauty that crosses your path). All these messages have resonance for me. Today I remind myself of hope and second chances, the power of persistence and the importance of pleasure.

My garden may be overgrown but it is beautiful, and so, so wise!


Thursday 1 May 2014

May 'Tree of Life'

The May issue of the free online magazine 'Pagan Pages' is now available. You can read my 'Tree of Life' column here:

Sunday 27 April 2014

Avalon Spring Witchcamp

I have attended, helped to organise and co-taught at Avalon Witchcamp (latterly Avalon Spring Witchcamp), since 1998. Today I am saddened to be posting that we are at the end of an era. Avalon Spring has come to an end.

I loved Avalon deeply, have had some life-changing experiences there, met wonderful people and learned so much. I am deeply saddened at the loss of this event, yet I know that things must change and move on, and Avalon Spring seems to have reached an end point. I am also glad that there is an alternative British Witchcamp, Dragonrise, where the British Reclaiming Community can continue to meet and grow.

R.I.P. Avalon Spring.

Below is the statement issued by the organising team:

Dear British Reclaiming Community,

We (the organising team for Avalon Spring) regret to announce that there will not be an Avalon Spring Witchcamp this summer or in our foreseeable future. After 16 years, Avalon Spring organisers have taken the decision to end their work of running an Avalon Spring Witchcamp. The cancellation of the 2012 camp left Avalon Spring without any 'seed money' to finance another event, and in addition the current organisers all have various time, health, finance and work circumstances which have led to the decision. This leaves a clear magical space for any others to offer their time and energy to the challenge if they so wish. We hope that others may feel inspired to take up the mantle of another witchcamp as an event that belongs to the community, or of initiating a new event/events at some point in the future. Ending Avalon Spring does not mean that the current organisers will not participate in new endeavours for the community, but in fact several have moved on to other organising and community teaching activities.
We would like to thank all current and past organisers for their contribution, who all gave freely of their time and creative energy. They were not paid for the work, and financially subsidised the events in many ways. We would also like to thank all those in the wider community who supported the events, both financially and in other forms. A particular mention goes to the Earth Group who gave generously of financial backing so that camps could go ahead. 
On reflection, we recognise that camps have evolved and changed over the years, as has the economic climate. This included the growth and developments at Earthspirit, a venue created not long before our first camp, and which has offered us positive support throughout. The nature of camps changed allowing for a more experimental model, but this was in parallel to increasing pressure on our attempts to maintain affordability. We realised that certain numbers attending were required to support lower costs, and lessons have been learned about the type of flexibility required in this work.  
To conclude, we believe that Avalon Witchcamp  has offered many people positive and valuable magical and communal experiences over the years. The camp played its part in introducing teachers from overseas, training Reclaiming teachers in the UK, providing links to the wider Reclaiming community internationally, and creating links between people which facilitated the formation of the British Reclaiming Community. 
Thanks once again to everyone who has supported Avalon Spring over the last 16 years - campers, organisers and teachers.

 AnneMarie, Georgia, Mikey, Monica, Susan, Suzanne, Will, and Annie

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Holding On, Letting Go

Spring is so beautiful, I find myself wanting to hold on to every bit of it. The river meadow covered in celandine... The joyful return of the swallows... The frothing abundance of pink and white blossom... The bees bumbling round clustered cowslip bells... The faery scent of hawthorn on the evening breeze... The galaxy of starry windflowers twinkling in the dappled sunlight beneath trees... The intense vibrancy and tenderness of new leaves...

And yet it is the very ephemerality of spring that lies at the heart of its magic. It is the daily changes in the world around me that so enchant, the passing from winter to spring and on into summer, autumn and round again. Only in letting go do I receive...

Every spring I learn the same lessons anew. The power of new beginnings. The beauty of renewal. The joy and fragility and force of life. The importance of gratitude, and of letting go.


Thursday 3 April 2014

April Tree of Life

The April issue of the free online magazine 'Pagan Pages' is now available. You can read my 'Tree of Life' column here.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Spring Equinox Labyrinth

In a dimly candlelit room fragrant with sage, we walked the labyrinth one by one. Six women, each preparing by silently meditating on those things she wishes to shed from her life, then focussing them into a thread of yarn, to be carried into the labyrinth with her.
When the first was ready she stood by the entrance and was smudged with sage as a cleansing. She began to walk the coiling paths slowly, mindfully, reverently. There is only one way in, and one way out of a labyrinth (unlike the trickster-ish maze with its false leads and dead ends) and yet as the winding paths take you closer in to the centre then further away, then closer, further... you lose track of where you are, where you've been, and relinquish control of the journey to the labyrinth, focussing on the simple magic of one foot in front of another. Then suddenly - and it is always a surprise - you are There. At the centre of the labyrinth, the knife's edge, the place of transformation, mystery, paradox, where inward journey becomes outward journey.

At the centre of our labyrinth was a cauldron, in which to dispose of the 'things we wish to shed' yarn, which would later be burned. There was also a gorgeous Goddess altar with a beautiful Phillipa Bowers statue holding in Her lap an array of gifts for us. These were pretty little sparkly eggs in a rainbow of colours, each mounted on a stick, tied to which was a piece of card with a few words of wisdom from Her.

A few moments to be well and truly rid of the yarn and what it symbolises, some time communing with the Goddess and receiving your gift. And then back retracing your steps around and about the twists and turns, this time focussing on what you would like to draw into your life, what you are thankful for.

One by one we took our turn, and for once I had plenty to put into the cauldron. Money worries, fear, self-doubt, anxiety, dead-end job - I twisted it all almost savagely into my piece of yarn. I was eager to start, sure of myself and what I wanted. But the labyrinth has a strange way of... not so much taking over, but showing you, giving you, what you need. To start with, I was certain that I wanted drumming to accompany my journey, but I forgot to ask for it before I began, and strangely knew almost immediately that actually this was right for me. I needed to make this journey in silence.

I have walked many labyrinths, but on this occasion I found myself stumbling, even though the paths were smooth and easy to walk. My hips were stiff, my ankles felt weak, my back ached, my balance was off. What was wrong? I wanted to make this journey, I wanted to dump this stuff in the cauldron... didn't I?

And that was it, I realised. A part of me was very, very resistant to letting some of this stuff go. I slowed my pace, breathed, focussed. One foot in front of the other. Concentrate on what you're doing.

It came to me that my fear and self-doubt have been there so long, are so deep-rooted that they were not going to leave without a struggle. And some part of me was invested in keeping them there because they give me an excuse to hide, to not try too hard, to not take risks. It may not be a comfortable place to be but it's not as scary as putting yourself out there. I had a mental vision of a big root being pulled out of the soil by great effort and persistence, a root so big and solid that it leaves a hollow imprint of itself in the ground when it is gone. I was determined to grub that root out.

I felt it coming. I felt that plug of fear and self-doubt being pulled out of me, out of the top of my head from all the way down to the soles of my feet. I felt strangely empty, strangely clean. And a little queasy.

But then I could walk OK again. And suddenly I was there, at the centre of the labyrinth. I twisted the yarn in my fingers again, concentrated on focussing all those negatives into it once and for all. Goodbye self-doubt. Goodbye fear. Goodbye money worries, dead-end job, goodbye anxiety. I lifted the yarn to my mouth and blew it all in there. And then I let it drop into the cauldron, gone.

I knelt before the Goddess. At the start of the evening, I had been sure that at this point I would collapse in a weeping heap at Her feet. But the tears in my eyes were of fierce joy, and they did not fall. I thanked Her from my very heart. And took the egg that called to me.

As I walked back out my steps were sure, and I smiled. I kept repeating to myself a new mantra: "I am strong. I am resourceful. I am capable. I will start my own business. I can DO this!". And I knew it was true. As I left the labyrinth I was beaming.

As the others completed their own journeys, I held the space and helped drum for those who wanted it. When we were all done, we looked at each other in wonder. It had been a powerful and moving experience for everyone.

With the lights turned back on and the kettle put to boil for some much needed tea and coffee, we read our messages from the Goddess to each other. Every one was completely right for the woman who had taken it. Mine read, "Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try". And of course, every decision to try starts with overcoming fear and self-doubt. I have shed a long-carried burden. I have been given instructions for the next part of the journey. And it's OK, because "I am strong. I am resourceful. I am capable. I will start my own business. I can DO this!".
(Thank you to the ladies of the Carmarthen Moonlodge for their facilitation and sharing of this journey.)


Post script: The very next day I went down with an absolutely horrendous cold which has completely knocked me for six. I suspect this may be a physical manifestation of rooting out those negative emotions. That was a very powerful labyrinth!


There is just about everything you could want to know about labyrinths on
Sig Lonegren's page. His books are also excellent, and I recommend going to hear him speak if you get the chance.

Monday 3 March 2014

March Tree of Life

The March issue of Pagan Pages e-magazine is now up, and you can read my latest 'Tree of Life' column here.

Tuesday 18 February 2014


Chopping wood in the sunshine while the kittens play tag.

Watching the chickens through the kitchen window while I wash the dishes, elbow deep in suds.

The smell of woodsmoke from the range, sweetened by the hyacinths on the windowsill.

Upstairs, the older cats sprawl in patches of sunlight on the bedspread.

Snowdrops and crocuses brighten the world. There is birdsong.

Water drips from the roof. It will rain again soon.

Time for another cup of Earl Grey. Then lunch. Then off to work.

Today is unique, yet full of the familiar. Today is a day like and unlike every other day. Today is the one and only today. Just like yesterday, and tomorrow, and all the days to come...

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Sun and Rain, Hope and Sorrow at Imbolc

Sunday 2nd February
After seemingly endless weeks of wind and rain, the morning of Imbolc was calm and bright. I donned a waterproof jacket and packed a small rucksack with a bottle of water, some snacks and a torch, just in case. I was on a mission.

Two days earlier, our two kittens, Mandrake and Woodruff had gone missing. We were beside ourselves with worry. Although by now 6 months old, it was very unusual for them to disappear for any length of time. And with the weather being so awful it didn't seem likely they were off adventuring when they could be warm and dry by the fire and the food bowl. We spent all day Saturday searching and asking neighbours to check their garages and outbuildings, but without any luck. We ended the day despondent and worried the boys may have been taken by someone. It seemed unlikely, but as they had both disappeared at the same time it seemed a possibility.

On Sunday morning - Imbolc - however, that possibility seemed remote, as Woodruff returned. Unfortunately he returned alone. After some discussion, we decided that IB would continue searching the immediate area around Halfway Up A Hill, while I would walk a circular route around the valley, calling for Mandrake in hopes he had merely wandered off away from familiar surroundings and got lost in the area.

Although there was a light shower of rain as I left the house, by the time I had walked to the end of the lane and begun climbing the first hill, the sky was blue and the sun reflected dazzlingly off the wet road surface. At the top of the first hill I had to stop to take off my rainproof jacket. Everywhere there was birdsong and the sound of running water. It felt like spring. Where the hill levelled out, water running off the fields covered the road and even the grass verges, and I had to tiptoe like a tightrope walker along the centre of the roadway where the water was shallowest in an attempt to keep my feet dry.

As I walked, I called 'Mandrake! Mandrake!' hoping each time that I'd catch sight of his sweet, quizzical face peering from a hedgerow or thicket, but instead I was regarded only by stoical sheep and scornful crows.

Pausing every now and then, I listened intently for an answering miaow. Sometimes my ears would catch a faint sound and I'd freeze, listening hard, only to realise it was not a cat's miaow but the mew of a buzzard, not the chink of the bell on a cat collar but the dripping of water down a drain.

The road dipped down again into a shady, steeply moss-walled part of the valley where cascading waterfalls hurled themselves into the river below. By the time the road turned back uphill again and I emerged back into daylight, thick grey clouds were threatening the sun. 

'Mandrake! Mandrake!'. No sound, save the outraged barking of a distant farm's dog, and the harsh 'Cronk! Cronk!' of courting ravens wheeling in the sky above me.

As I took the turning that would allow me to cross back again to 'my' side of the valley, the horizon turned misty and I hastily pulled on my waterproof jacket, knowing the rain would soon reach me. It did, propelled almost horizontally by a sudden, fierce wind. I sheltered under some evergreens by a thick hedge but even so I was thoroughly soaked by the time the squall had passed. If Mandrake was around I hoped he was sheltering somewhere out of the elements.

The sun and blue skies and birdsong returned so astonishingly quickly that only the clamminess of rain-soaked denim against my legs confirmed that I hadn't in fact imagined the storm.

Another turning took me that little bit closer to home and my heart quickened. Surely this was where I'd find him. Close enough to home to be feasible, far enough away for him to have got confused and lost his bearings.

'Mandrake! Mandrake!'. But still nothing, and my pace began to slow as the possibility that I may not find him after all started nibbling at the edge of my mind.

Downhill again, this time to the little chapel by the river. Now I was feeling anxious. What if I didn't find him? What if he wasn't just lost somewhere nearby?  Unpleasant possibilities began to seem frighteningly more likely.

Just the other side of the chapel in a sheltered spot I came across a bank of snowdrops, the first I'd seen. I remembered an old tale that if you 'rang' the bell of the first fully open snowdrop you saw, Brigid would grant your wish. I said a little prayer to Her, thanking Her for Her gift in this sacred place of bubbling springs and rushing water, and 'rang' a snowdrop, praying for his safe return. Then another, and another. Please, Brigid, please. Let him come back to us.

Back up from the valley floor on the road that leads to the ridge of the hill. Slower and slower now. I don't want to return without him. I don't want to allow the possibility that Mandrake may never return. Up along the ridge. Surely from here, he will hear my voice and come running. But he doesn't come, and now all I can do is begin descending back down from the top of the hill to Halfway Up A Hill.

I return alone, face streaked with more rain. Rain and tears. Where is he?


Today, Wednesday 5th February

No Mandrake. Not on Sunday. Not on Monday. Not on Tuesday.

By Wednesday IB and I are depressed and exhausted. We have run out of places to look, people to ask for help. Neither of us have slept properly since Friday night, tossing and turning and fretting through each night, rising to fresh disappointment each morning.

We return from work and sit in disconsolate silence sipping tea at the kitchen table. Woodruff miaows and I turn to tell him to hush. And realise it is not Woodruff miaowing at all. It is the cat at the catflap, the cat miaowing to be let in. The cat who is Mandrake.

And then he is in, he is back, and we are all falling over each other, cats and humans alike in a frenzy of joy at this longed for yet unexpected reunion.

He is starving. He wants food and cuddles and cuddles and food. Woodruff jumps all over him in excitement at getting his brother back. We laugh, and cry, and laugh again, and shower him with kisses.

He is back, tired and hungry, but he is safe and he is home. I could ask for nothing more.

Thank you Brigid. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 



Saturday 1 February 2014

February Tree of Life

The February issue of Pagan Pages online magazine is now available. You can find my 'Tree of Life' column here.

Happy Imbolc!

Thursday 2 January 2014

January Tree of Life

There was no December issue of Pagan Pages e-magazine due to technical problems, but the January issue is now online. You can read my latest 'Tree of Life' column for Pagan Pages here.