Reclaiming Ourselves by Emma Kathryn – a review

Eco-Revolt

Radical discourse is sadly dominated by nostalgic-sentiment regarding rebellions and revolutions that happened outside of most of our life experiences and by future-oriented Reality-planning bound to hope-hopelessness advocacy, both of which hold little-to-no here and now meaning or relevance. This is why books like Emma Kathryn’s Reclaiming Ourselves are so valuable, beautiful and something I’d love to see more of.

Rather than Marxist posturing about revolutions or transhumanist wishful thinking about the prospects of future technologies, which are dependent upon the narratives of scientific production and social machinery; Kathryn’s thought across this short collection of thoughts and suggestions are ones that individuals can engage with independently, from their own will-to-life/power. With it’s strong anti-consumerist theme, Kathryn’s thought could be considered anti-consumerist-pagan individualism – not individualism as liberalism, as presented by collectivist ideologues and liberals, but authentic individualism that is not bound to political ideologies.

With her focus on food, medicine…

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Spirits of Obeah: Papa Bones, The Lady of the Pitch Lake & Anima Sola

* This information is given by me in good faith and is my understanding and experience of the spirits. Obeah is not a one size fits all practice. An understanding of the horrors of the slave trade and the spread and mixation of peoples and practices gives something of an understanding of how practices are shaped by the land and times they find themselves in. I offer my take on these spirits for information only.

If Sasabonsam is the Lord of the Wild Forest and Obeah, then Papa Bones is the guardian and protector of them. While it is Sasabonsam who ultimately gives the power of obeah, it is through Papa Bones that it fuses with the skeleton, filling the bones of the obeahman or woman and while Sasabonsam chooses whether one is worthy of such knowledge and power, it is Papa Bones who chooses worthy initiates to go before Sasabonsam.

Papa Bones is often seen or regarded as a spirit of death and is often equated with the Guede of Vodoun, the lwa of fertility and death. There is something of a trend in equating various African derived spirits with others in the diaspora and while there are often some similarities between those spirits and beings, viewing them as the same spirit is lazy and offensive and ignores the diversity and vibrancy of African spiritualities and the many different peoples from which such practices ultimately emerged. But Papa Bones is not just a spirit of death. He is the guardian and protector of the wild wood, the green forest and nature and within those realms, the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is most potent, for indeed such cycles are the basis of life.

There are many aspects of Papa Bones, as many as the bones that make up our skeletons, each one with a specific purpose and which aspect you work with or appears to you will depend on your own specific practice and area of expertise.

There are many other spirits who fall beneath Papa Bones including Anansi the Spider god or who, more specifically, represents the spider mind of the distant creator god Nyame and we will come to learn more about these spirits as we progress through the course.

Papa Bones is ‘married’ to the Lady of the Pitch Lake, sometimes called Kumama or Asase however this is not a marriage in how we might understand the term but should instead be seen as a mysterious connection. We would do well to see this connection between the two in the same way as the land is related to water, the differences they have between them and their relationship to one another.

Anima Sola, Abysina Clarissa, is the daughter of Papa Bones and Anima Sola and acts as an intermediary between them and for them. Anima Sola is a product of assault and aggression and so do not make the mistake of thinking of the female spirits as being gentle earth mother types…they are not! Anima Sola and Kumama are spirits of suffering. Sola Anima is hot and fiery while Kumama is cold and distant and both represent different types of suffering and thus the lessons learnt from each are very different. Sola Anima is associated with pain and rage while Kumama is the desolation of feelings of hopelessness. However, with that said, they are not so one-sided and shallow, their mysteries are deep.

If Papa Bones is associated with the land through the aspect of the forest, and Kumama Water via the Pitch Lake, then Anima Sola is associated with the moon. As each phase of the moon has its own energy and aspect, so too does Anima Sola and this is a mystery that one learns through working with her, though be warned, she is no serene moon goddess!

Obeah is the often misunderstood and perhaps the least well known of the African Diaspora traditions and practices. It’s mysteries are those of spirit and magic, the relationship between ourselves and all the realms of being. To practice obeah is to traverse them all.

Happy New Year Witches!

Let’s be honest, last year wasn’t great for many people for many reasons but we all know the impact Covid had on us and our lives, of which I won’t go into here. Instead, I wanted to share with you all some simple ways you can kick off the new year. I’m not one for new years resolutions but there is nothing wrong with having achievable goals to help you make the most of the year ahead and I think having goals is a good thing when it comes to your own witchcraft.

A Simple Candle Ritual

Take a candle, of any colour and inscribe it with words of power, sigils or runes. Dress it with oils and herbs ~ basil for prosperity, lavender for peace and calm, rosemary to ward off negativity and so on , you get the idea (and if you need a little help in terms of associations, there are plenty of good websites or, treat yourselves to a decent book, I highly recommend Treadwell’s Book of Plant Magic).

Set aside a time when you will be undisturbed and light the candle. Enter a meditative state and envision all you wish to achieve in this coming year. Let the candle burn down, releasing your intent into the world.

Ritual Cleaning

Cleaning is a bore! I will never be one of those women who enjoy cleaning…it is a necessity and little more. And yet, there is much to be said for having a good ritual clean, particularly at the new year. Open your windows and doors, blast some of your favourite music and have a good old fashioned clear out! Make a herbal wash, again using oils and herbs associated with ridding negativity and attracting all that you wish to achieve and burn cleansing herbs!

Honour Your Ancestors

Now is a perfect time to start an ancestor practice or to kick start your current one if you’ve been lacking (and let’s face it, last year has meant many of us might not have been as dedicated as we would have liked to have been in many different areas).

If you live close to where they are buried, then why not try to make a ritual of visiting and tending their final resting places. Set up an ancestor altar, even if this only consists of a candle and a cherished photo, it gives you a space in which you can sit and remember them as a simple veneration practise.

Researching your own family tree is another way in which you can feel closer to those who came before.

Undertake Some Extra Learning

And finally, why not get deeper into your own witchcraft practice. Take a course, learn more about whatever interests you. Check out the Online section to see the latest upcoming courses and workshops.

Finally, whatever you do, may this year bring you all that you desire. Happy new year witches!

The Importance of Boundaries

Boundaries are just as important in our spiritual and magical practices as they are in our everyday lives. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

That isn’t to say that boundaries are fixed between people or even in time. They aren’t and each individual is free to decide what they are willing and what they are not willing to take and this may change as they see fit. But boundaries are good.

I was recently invited to be a panelist for a university class, the title of which was ‘What is the Witch?’ Of course I said yes, I mean I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to talk about witchcraft. I’m not lying when I say I could talk the back legs off a donkey when it comes to this particular topic. But seriously though, I had a great time. The students’ questions were intelligent and informed and the other panelists provided thought provoking answers, some of which had had me mulling them over since then.

As with many discussions about witchcraft, the topic of ancestor worship and veneration came up with one person asking the question about having shitty ancestors. Should you still work with them then?

One of the panelists, someone who is a healer in their spiritual and mundane work really got me thinking. She said she sees it as our responsibility to heal them. After all, they are shitty for a reason. What happened to them to make them so? And she is right in that usually, how we are treated can affect how we then treat others. But is it our responsibility to heal them, I say hell no!

Our ancestors are the reason we are here, living the lives we have and for that perhaps we do owe them at least a nod, but it is not our responsibility to heal them. At all. If one wishes to undertake that work then great, but it isn’t easy. It is hard and draining and you best believe you need to be in the right place to undertake such work. But it is here boundaries come into play. If doing that work means it is going to leave you in a worse place than you find yourself now, if it is going to damage you or those around you, the people you care about, then fuck that shit. 

Look at it from a mundane point of view and it is here I will just include a trigger warning for the topics broached. 

Imagine someone is in an abusive relationship. Is it their responsibility to heal their abuser. Absolutely not. I know people who have stayed in such relationships because, at first, they feel bad for the abuser, have some insight into why they might have turned out this way and they love them, perhaps feel they can save them from themselves. But even past this point, many stay because their self esteem is rock bottom. 

Addiction is another area which highlights the need for boundaries. Addiction is an illness, but it is one that changes the people we love. It is painful to see what they go through. There’s the constant worry about their wellbeing and the anger that comes with the lies and the stealing. Addiction affects not only those suffering with it but the people around them and can change the dynamics of that relationship so very much. And while help should be there for addicts, it absolutely should, we cannot be their saviours. They must choose to make that decision for themselves. They must be ready to accept that help otherwise it just isn’t going to work. So as much as we might want to help them, until they are ready, we cannot.

The same logic can be applied to magical work including ancestor veneration. To not work with an ancestor doesn’t mean we don’t care for them and nor does it mean we are not grateful to them, but if they have issues we are not able to help them with, then boundaries are necessary. 

Ultimately, in our mundane and magical lives, boundaries are a must. They are what keep us safe. They are healthy. So if you have a shitty ancestor and you don’t want to work with them, then that is absolutely fine, and when they are really shitty, it is easier to put up those boundaries than if they are difficult because of circumstance. But still, you should no way jeopardize your mental and physical health and well-being because of some sense of responsibility. 

Like I said at the beginning, our boundaries can change and adjust. They are not fixed but they are essential for both our magical and mundane lives.

News & Updates

This year has been strange, and that’s putting it mildly. As terrible and dark as some of the times have been I think they have also served to remind us what is important. For me, more than ever, that has been my practice, animism and the people around me.

All of this has urged me on and given me the courage to do something that I had been thinking about for a long while and that is reach out to the wider community. I do this anyway, well kind of, what with my writing but I also wanted to offer folks something more practical and this is where the workshops, courses and journeying / meditation work come in. So here I will share with you some of the upcoming events and tell you a little more about each.

December Journey Work (19th December)

I know many folks who will sneer at the idea of journey work and I can’t help but feel so sorry for them! Journey work and meditation are vital not only for your own spiritual and magical practices but also for good mental health.

In the December group, we will reconnect with the spirit of the time and remember the real reason for the season. Through journeying we can connect and realign with the spirit of the land which in turn can impact our ‘real life’ connections to the land and the spirits that reside there.

Herbal Healing Workshop (13th February 2021)

During this workshop you will learn how to make and apply herbal remedies for many common ailments and illnesses.

While this is no replacement for medicating serious illnesses, so many of us have begun to realise that for many common complaints, natural remedies can work just as well as over the counter medicines and cost much less too.

Not only will you learn about natural medicines and how to use them but you will also understand and appreciate the relationship that is formed through working with plants and how this can help the healing process as well.

You can find the booking information here.

This year, as we approach the festive season, instead of buying people polluting gifts they don’t really want, why not consider giving the gift of experiences.