Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Colours of Summer

I love the colours in my garden at this time of year. The dark purple-blue irises and aquilegia are the perfect backdrop for a bright splash of sunny yellow Welsh poppies. Add the delicate lilac-pink of chive flowers and a sprinkle of blue and pink hardy geraniums for the most gorgeous early summer palette.

Friday, 22 May 2020

New Moon Musings

Cards from my favourite decks
Top row: The Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert
Bottom row: The Green Wheel Oracle by Danielle Barlow

The fierce, stormy weather today has me feeling not much inclined to leave the house. Instead I have a strong introspective urge. I decided to simply sit with this feeling and let it instruct me. This is the upside of lockdown. I don't have to be anywhere or do anything in particular, even if I had plans for today I can be flexible and change them on a whim. The 'normality' that we are all saying we want to get back to really doesn't allow this most of the time. We have work schedules - and chore rotas to fit round our work schedules - and obligations and social calendars and set routines. We put ourselves under pressure to be busy and productive at all times, and beat ourselves up if we fall short. How lovely to be able to take this time out of time and sit with ourselves and listen - really listen - to that quiet inner voice which is too often drowned out by the everyday clamour. 

My inner voice says it's OK to pause and cocoon for a little while. To just be with my thoughts. I intuitively felt the need to take some time out, do some serious cleansing (both of myself and the house!) and perhaps a little divination - I feel that itch to get out my tarot and oracle cards and see what they have to tell me.

Then I realised that there is a new moon this evening, at 6.38pm. So as I write, we are in the last phase of the old moon. What an appropriate time to pause for a breather, to clear away any stagnant energies, to look ahead to what the next instalment may be! 

This is my plan for the rest of the day:
  • Make and use a home-made salt body scrub for myself
  • Use incense and singing bowl to clear the energy of the house
  • Check in with my divining tools 
  • Finish clearing out and filing my messy paperwork drawer (a job I started a few days ago and have yet to complete).
If you would like to do some deep cleansing, here is my recipe for a salt body scrub to use in the shower or bath.

Salt Body Scrub Recipe

Grapeseed Oil
Essential oils of your choice

Put a couple of handfuls of salt (preferably seasalt, but you can use good old fashioned table or kitchen salt if that's all you have) into a bowl. Pour over just enough grapeseed oil to coat the salt, but not so much that it's swimming in oil. Add a few drops of essential oil and stir the mixture well. 

To use, take a little on your fingertips and rub in gentle circular motions into damp skin whilst in the shower or bath, then rinse off. The salt will exfoliate any dead skin cells and the oil will moisturise. Don't use it on sore or broken skin.

* Note on ingredients: 
  • You can use any kind of salt, but the coarser it is the harsher it will be on your skin. Really coarse salt is best reserved for a foot scrub. I like to use salt because of it's purifying qualities, but if you have scratches on your skin, the salt will sting - so you could consider using sugar instead which will have the same exfoliating qualities but won't sting. For a facial scrub, substitute a softer substance like ground almonds or oatmeal for the salt. 
  • You can use any kind of liquid vegetable oil. I like grapeseed because it's quite light and also inexpensive (it's my choice of carrier oil when I'm doing aromatherapy massage) but any oil you have to hand will do. You could even make a blend of different oils. 
  • Don't be tempted to put in too many drops of essential oil. Remember they are very concentrated and too much could irritate your skin. I would use a maximum of 3-4 drops for the quantity given in this recipe. 
  • I find it easiest to just make as much as I need each time, but if you want to you can scale up the quantities and make a jarful. The salt and essential oils are both great preservatives, so it won't go off quickly. But bear in mind that the oil will eventually go rancid (you can preserve it a bit longer by adding wheatgerm oil or a few drops of vitamin E oil), though this is unlikely to happen before you've used it all up!   

Sunday, 10 May 2020

ThriftWitch: Creating Personal Oracle Cards

I've been thinking for a while about creating my own Oracle Cards. I've made oracle sets before, mostly runestones from painted pebbles or air-drying clay - some using the standard Elder Futhark runes and others with my own invented symbols etched into them. Last autumn I taught a workshop during which the participants made their own divination sets. Most people opted to make oracle cards and I've been itching to make my own set ever since. The lockdown means I have time on my hands, so I've finally started.

Home made air-drying clay Elder Futhark rune set

I found some blank playing/tarot cards (to decorate yourself) cheaply online - but you could also use craft card or re-use packaging card/cereal boxes, or old birthday or Christmas cards cut to size (if you re-cycle card, you may like to cover the backs with wrapping paper or something similar so they are uniform).The blank cards come in a pack of 100, which is way more than I'm intending to make, but the extras mean I can afford to experiment and make mistakes. Unlike a Tarot deck which has a standard number of cards (78), oracle decks can have as few or as many cards as you like. I imagine I will start with a certain number of cards but probably add to them over time as new images suggest themselves. 

My first step was to give much thought to what my symbols would be. I already had a good idea of my own personal symbolic language, so I started a list which I added to as more symbols occurred to me. I believe the meaning of symbols is a very personal thing, and as I wrote in The Clean-Start Soap Spell the accepted symbolic meaning of something may be completely different to what it means to you (I gave the example that Frankincense may mean 'higher spiritual connection' to one person, but to someone with an oppressive religious upbringing it may speak more of repression, guilt or fear). Symbols are how our subconscious communicates with us, and will be as individual as our experiences and memories. So while books which claim to interpret dream imagery or symbols may be a useful jumping-off point, it is always more important to trust your own instincts and feelings about what things mean. Once you do, it makes understanding messages from the subconscious (dreams, images from guided meditation or trancework etc) much easier!

Starting my list of symbols

For example, in my own personal language of symbols swallows mean joy (and summer). A hand with a spiral on the palm represents power and manifestation. A frog means change and/or initiation. And so on. My symbols are mostly nature-based, drawn largely from observing and interacting with the land around my home, but your own personal language of symbols may be inspired by very different experiences and imagery. Go with what your subconscious knows and understands. You could even use characters, images and events from the canon of a well-loved fictitious world - Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Sunnydale?

I initially intended to draw/paint the images on my cards but ultimately (mostly through lack of trust in my artistic ability!) decided to collage the cards, with some added hand-drawn decoration where appropriate. I had an idea in my head for what I would like for most of the cards, and also did a few preliminary sketches, which helped get the creative juices flowing.  

With an idea of the cards I would be creating, I started to look through old magazines to find suitable pictures. This was instructive as I found not only symbols I'd already listed but also some that spoke to me which hadn't been included on my original list - so that got longer. The images I found also helped me refine or revise the design of each card. For example I'd originally envisioned a 'Tree of Life' to symbolise Ancestors and Descendants, but having found a wonderful photo of an old hand holding beautiful ripe apples I immediately revised my ideas for the card (apple trees in my own personal symbolic language being inextricably tied up with my grandparents and my childhood). I then found a beautiful black and white photo of an old, wrinkled hand holding that of a child, and together the two images sum up the meaning of the card perfectly for me.  

Then - gulp - it was time to bite the bullet and begin putting the cards together. Having cut out the images I intended to use, I laid them out on the cards before sticking them down to check that they'd look as I expected them to. This enabled me to change the composition around, and in some cases I found the pictures didn't gel together the way I'd hoped, so had to find new images or re-design a few cards. Once I was happy with the way they looked, I stuck them onto the card with PVA glue, and trimmed the edges where needed. Using permanent fine-liner marker pens, I added symbols to some of the cards. 

I found the cards had a tendency to curl up slightly after being collaged because of the glue, but this was easily remedied by pressing them under a heavy book once the glue was dry. 

I think this is going to be a continually developing Oracle set, as new symbols occur to me or I find suitable images to use. It may be that I have to draw/paint some cards if I can't find the right pictures to collage. But I'm very happy with how they're turning out so far.

Here are a few of the finished cards.

Top Row, L-R: 
  • 'The Moon' - The unconscious mind, dreams, intuition, night
  • 'Sparrows' - Community, negotiating with others
  • 'Blackbird' - Beauty, pleasure
  • 'Snail' - Home, security, 'baggage'
Bottom Row, L-R:
  • 'Blackthorn' - Protection, defence, isolation
  • 'Spiral Hand' - Power, manifestation
  • 'Ancestors/Descendants' - Family, heritage, humanity, past/future, legacy
  • 'Snowdrops' - New beginnings, spring
Let me know how your cards turn out if you decide to make some!

Monday, 4 May 2020

Counting My Blessings

A day bright with birdsong and apple blossom. Scatters of mayflies drift dreamily across the sunlit valley. The bluebells are in their full glory - but in lockdown I can't make my usual sacred pilgrimage to them. They call to me, and I'm sad that I can't go and immerse myself in their beauty. 

Yet I am grateful too. There is so much for which to be grateful. That I live in a world of marvels like bluebells and swallows and apple blossom. That I am here in this beautiful place to experience another spring. That even in lockdown I can walk down the lane taking eggs to Mair (I leave them in the mailbox at the end of her driveway, she leaves an empty eggbox with payment inside for me to collect), and commune with the hedgerow flowers - including bluebells. The scent of appleblossom wafts by and the swallows joyfully chatter overhead. I am blessed.