Spiral Nature – An Essay in Pictures

On our various spiritual and magickal journeys, we are too often consumed with the big questions, with the attainment of knowledge and power. Of course, in a way this is natural and there is nothing wrong with this in itself, but by narrowing our focus, we do ourselves a disservice.

There is a quiet type of knowledge that can be found in the slowing down and noticing the smaller worlds that we either overlook on our quests for enlightenment, ignore, just do not see, or worse of all, see no importance in. We’ve all heard the axiom ‘as above, so below’, and yet we rarely take the time to just stop and put this into practise in the most mundane way, by paying attention to the world around us, by noticing those smaller worlds within that appear to exist alongside us. I did that this afternoon. I sat in my garden with my camera and just paid attention to the goings on. It doesn’t take long to realise that our world, the world of man, does not exist alongside these smaller worlds as a separate entity, but rather that nature is a spiral. What exists in the microcosm does so in the macrocosm too.

There are lessons to be learned from nature and from those creatures that seem more in tune with it than we are. Sometimes those lessons aren’t obvious. Sometimes it is simply the act of stopping what we are doing and just being in which we perhaps learn the most important lessons.

This then is my first photograph essay. The pictures all taken in my garden, an oasis of green in the concrete jungle. It doesn’t matter where we live, nature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and nor should we!

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The lavender is in full bloom, it takes but a gentle breeze to carry the scent to me . I planted this as a tiny plant – they don’t take much to flourish.
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A single sparrow, just taking a moment in the morning sun. They aren’t renown for their song or for their beauty, but they are indeed charming.
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Just a little snail, sensibly taking shade from the sun.
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Look at this little guy! I wonder what’s caught his gaze?
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It actually took me ages to get some half decent pictures of the bees! They simply adore the lavender, that droning buzz as they flit between the blooms is lovely.
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There’s a wall of ivy in my garden and the sparrows roost in it overnight. The elder is for morning meet ups.
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Herb Robert has fallen out of favour with herbalists nowadays but their dainty pink flowers are charming. You can use the fresh plant to stop bleeding.
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If you want to bring nature into your garden, you’d do well to plant lavender and other flowers that attract pollinators.
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More bees!

Beltane & May Day Musings

Beltane is almost upon us, May Day too. These celebrations are some of my favourite (I know, I say it about almost every one!), but this year things will be so different. There will be no gatherings, nor any May Day fetes. Won’t it feel strange? But then I suppose in this way, it fits in with the strange year we are having so far.

This isn’t going to be a rehashing of Beltane or May Day origins or associations for there are plenty of articles and essays that cover that subject but instead I hope to offer some suggestions that will help you celebrate and mark these days in your own way.

Fire

Beltane has it’s origins as a Celtic fire festival and so having a small fire is the perfect way of celebrating. If you have an outdoor space and a fire pit, happy days. Light a fire and have a beer or wine and make merry with your family. But if you don’t have somewhere you can safely have a fire, then candles are a must. Light candles and spread them around your room. Collect flowers and foliage (bring in the May) and decorate your area. Make some food, have some drinks and bring the party inside!

Nature

Here in the UK we are in lock down but we are allowed to take our exercise outside. Use this opportunity to go for a walk. If, as I do, you live in a rural town or the countryside then make the most of the land around you and lose yourself in nature, if only for a short while. If you have a local woods then perfect. For those who perhaps live in more urbanised areas then you can still go out. I always say nature abhors a vacuum so why not go out and rediscover those wild places where you live. Take notice of the trees, of flowers, of the beasts we share this world with. Build a relationship with nature, with the genius loci where you live.

At this time, the hawthorn trees are in blossom and their flowers are named after the month – May flower. On your walk gather a few blooms from these fairy trees and  others beside and use them to decorate your altar, bringing in the May.

Ritual

I love a good ritual and Beltane is a good time for workings for protection and for growth. Back in the day, farmers would drive their cattle between two fires to purify and protect them as they moved them out to pasture for the first time that year. Men would leap over the flames for luck, protection and prosperity while young women would do so in the hopes that they would have luck in love. Married women would leap the fire in the hope of increasing fertility and those already pregnant would circle the fire for protection in child birth and the hopes of a healthy baby. In this way then, spells and rituals for luck, prosperity, fertility and love are perfect to work at this time.

Candles are an easy way to incorporate fire into your working and not just as a nod to the elements. If you have a cauldron or fire proof bowl then making a small fire and burning herbs such as sage, rosemary and lavender is perfect. Create sacred space however your practice or tradition dictates and light the candles or the fire. On a piece of white paper, write your wishes, dreams and hopes for the future. Fold the paper and burn. When the fire has finished, go outside with the ashes and a food and drink offering. Sprinkle the ashes into the air and let the breeze carry them away. Leave your food offering and pour a libation to the land.

Another one of my favourites is to set up your ritual space. Take a pot of soil and seeds of your choice (choose hardy or fast growing seed that will last until the autumn. Nasturtium are a great choice). Write your wants or wishes on paper and bury it towards the very bottom of your pot. Then  sow the seeds and utter some words such as:

”These seeds and my dreams I do sow

And with my care they shall grow.

Flowers bloom and my dreams do flower,

What I grow shall empower!”

Then simply take care of your plants and work towards making what you want a reality.

So there you go, just some of my thoughts on Beltane and May Day. However you celebrate the turning of the wheel and the cycle of the seasons, make merry and have a good time. I leave you with this traditional May Day Rhyme:

Thus the Robin and the Thrush

Musicke make in every bush

While they charm their prety notes

Young men hurle up maidens cotes.

 

 

Folk Remedies Part 1 – Medicine From the Kitchen Cupboard

I adore folk traditions such as folklore and folk magic. Folk remedies and natural healing stem from both of these and I think what I like about them, their allure, is the ease of their application. I do not mean that they are easy and in fact knowledge and practical application do require skill, patience and being active, but what I do mean is that once these skills have been learned, once the time and effort have been put in, then the application of them requires no huge financial outlay. Here we will explore folk remedies using everyday ingredients, many of which can be found at home. In the first of these articles we will explore the medicinal qualities of common foods. I will say here that foods benefit us most from the ingesting of them, but it’s useful to which foods can help which ailments. Ingredients can also be used in the making of tinctures, poultices and compresses to help ease external wounds and irritations.

Preparations

Before looking at individual ingredients, first let us consider some of the preparations that can be made using them.

Decoction –  a preparation made by extracting active ingredients by boiling. The plant matter or ingredient is boiled in water until the liquid has reduced by half. The resultant liquid is then drunk.

Tincture – these are made by steeping the plant matter or ingredients in alcohol with a high content, usually vodka, rum or brandy. Not all active chemicals are water soluble and so a decoction would not extract them and this is where tinctures are useful.

Teas – a tea is made by steeping plant matter in hot water, and again, not all active ingredients are water soluble but teas are good at extracting those that are,  soothing symptoms and for increasing the intake of water.

Compress – these can be hot or cold. A compress is quite simply a clean cloth soaked in liquid such as a decoction or tea and applied to the affected area.

Poultice – similar to a compress, this involves spreading healing matter onto a cloth or bandage and wrapping it before applying to the affected area. The healing matter is usually a damp substance, plant matter, soap, whatever the infliction requires.

So now let’s take a look at some common ingredients that can be used to help alleviate and ease common ailments.

Cinnamon

A common spice that is found in the kitchen cupboard, cinnamon is a staple in baking, classically paired with apple and in biscuits. Medicinally, cinnamon is warming and strengthening and can be used to ease the symptoms of the common cold, flu, fever, chills, coughs and infections. Cinnamon tea sweetened with honey is an easy and cheap way of utilising the medicinal benefits. Decoctions of cinnamon can also be made, adding honey after the boiling process. The essential oil of cinnamon is a natural antiseptic with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Add to washes and waters for use in compresses to treat scratches, bites and stings or make a poultice using  the ground spice.

Honey

Honey is a favourite ingredient of mine for both the food cupboard and medicine cabinet owing to its many medicinal properties. Firstly, honey is full of nutrients and good bacteria and when ingested these will help maintain health and well being. Honey is of great use in treating the symptoms of coughs and colds. It is an expectorant and as such causes thick mucus to loosen and thus be easily expelled. The syrupy texture of honey soothes the throat and it is this texture that modern cough medicines use to help soothe the symptoms of a cough and sore throat. Honey is a good medium for the taking  of other medicinal herbs that are unpleasant tasting.

Ginger

Ginger is one of my favourite ingredients to use in cooking and is so very versatile, it can be used in baking sweet  treats and in savoury dishes alike. Ginger is warming, is an expectorant, stimulating, antibacterial, detoxifying and is useful in the treatment of digestive troubles. Ginger is a good food to include in your diet as a preventative to many common ailments and illnesses. It stimulates the heart and circulation and hot ginger tea can be taken to help ease the common cold. Ginger helps with digestive problems because it promotes enzyme secretion. Ginger can be used externally to help ease muscle and joint pain.

Lemon

Lemon and other citrus fruits are well known for their healing and health properties. Full of vitamin C whilst also being diuretic, antiseptic, astringent and full of antioxidants, it is no wonder lemons have such a reputation for helping to guard and treat many common ailments. It boosts the immune system and when taken in conjunction with other ingredients such as honey or ginger, it makes a powerful medicine. Gargle with warm water to help soothe and heal sore throats, tonsillitus and other infections.

Potato

The humble potato is a food staple, If you have potatoes in your cupboard then you’ll always have a meal! More than that though, the potato is full of good stuff despite it’s bad rep. It is a highly nutritious, high energy food containing proteins, vitamins and minerals and as such it promotes good health when eaten. Externally, raw potato juice is good for the skin and can be used to soothe inflammations, infections, wounds and ulcers. The sap can be used in washes and compresses or can be grated and used in a poultice.

Vinegar

This acidic liquid is most used for preserving and as a condiment. It is antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, antifungal and a decongestant. Apple cider vinegar is very nutritious and a teaspoonful can be taken in a glass of water once a day as a health tonic that may help digestive problems It can also be gargled to help sore throats and other infections. Vinegar also helps in the breakdown of other minerals such as calcium. Externally vinegar can be used in preparations to help reduce swelling and inflammation and to ease bites and stings as well as to clean wounds. It is also good in the treatment of athlete’s foot and worms.

Garlic

Like lemon, garlic is well known for its health promoting qualities. It is highly nutritious with antiseptic, decongestant, antioxidant benefits with the active ingredient, allicin being an antibiotic. As a microbial, garlic is useful in the treating of many common ailments including colds, flu, fevers, coughs, lung infections and even worms. It may also help in reducing blood pressure and its sulphur compounds can inhibit tumours. Eat a clove, raw, once a day to help maintain health. It can be used in conjunction with honey and ginger to make a health promoting tonic that can also be taken as a medicine when suffering from colds, coughs and fevers. It can also be used in a poultice but avoid applying directly to the skin as the sap can be strong and cause irritation.

 

Onion

A common kitchen ingredient, onions are extremely useful in cooking as it is used to enhance the flavours of many dishes. It  helps promote healthy circulation and digestion, as well as being detoxifying, diuretic, antiseptic and can help lower cholesterol. Onions are also useful in the treatment of many common ailments such as colds, fevers, coughs and tiredness. Onions can also be used externally in the treatment of stings and bites. For this it can be used in a poultice. The juice can also be drawn from the onion by slicing and covering with salt. This can be dissolved in water and used in compresses.

In truth, many of the common ingredients can be used to help promote good health and wellness, but the ones included here are some of my most commonly used when I prepare remedies myself at home. 

On Taking A Stand

 

Before I get down into the nitty gritty, I’m just going to say that there’s been no one incident that has prompted this post, but rather a series of personal experiences and recent observances from the wider world that got me thinking. You see, quite recently I think there’s been a trend of people expecting that we should just take their shit.

Sometimes, it’s family, other times friends, even colleagues. Sometimes it’s wider societal expectations and pressures placed upon us. And it’s fair to say that these issues affect non-witches as well as those of us who identify as such, but seeing as this is a blog about witchcraft, this is the angle I will be taking.

I sometimes think as well that people often assume that because of what we do, our practices and such, we are more able to deal with their nonsense, or perhaps it just boils down to people not engaging their brain before opening their mouths, or maybe even just not caring. And the whys and reasons don’t really matter because ultimately it all boils down to the same thing – people thinking we have to take their shit.

So what exactly do I mean? Well, the truth is it can mean many different things. It might present itself as others coming to you for help but never being there when you are the one in need of support. It might be your nearest and dearest mocking or shaming your practice and beliefs . Other times it might be questioning decisions you make when you decide to respect yourself or blaming you when you move yourself away from damaging or even abusive relationships. It can be outrage when you decide to take a stand and stick up for yourself instead of rolling over and just taking, well, shit. Sometimes it might be one of the above or none and quite often it might be multiple issues rolled up into one big mess.

But you know what, we don’t have to take that shit.

You do not owe anyone anything. You do not have to let it eat away at you, taking up your time, effort, energy and power. You do not have to leave yourself feeling guilty, miserable or emotionally exhausted, all of which detracts from your witchcraft practice.

It can be difficult distancing yourself from it all at first, especially when it comes from family and friends. But you must. Never apologise for doing so. It seems that just lately the love and light brigade (the magickal and non magickal branches)have us thinking that we need to heal others whilst sacrificing ourselves. We do not.

The truth is that we just have to remove ourselves from situations and people who are damaging. We are not responsible for them. We are not responsible for healing other peoples trauma when they do not want to take an active part in their healing. Sometimes we have to tell those we care about most to mind their own business, to just shut up, especially when their opinions are hurtful and harmful instead of helpful.

Ultimately I guess I’m just gently reminding you that you are a magickal badass being and that you do not have to take shit from anyone. I keep saying let 2020 be the year of the witch, let it be the year of action, rebellion and resistance but in order for that to be, we need to get our own houses in order by taking a stand and saying a big fat no to taking shit from anybody!

Putting in the Work – On Getting Down & Dirty

 

The issue of gate keeping often arises in witchcraft circles – people telling other people what makes a true witch or rather what doesn’t . Sometimes the advice is well meaning though unsolicited and often patronising, whilst other times it is pure snobbishness. Sometimes it arises as a defence mechanism from those who have experienced some sort of trauma or negative treatment, either because of their own practice or at the hands of those who would appropriate and exploit it (and just for the record, I’m not opening that particular can of worms here, you know what I mean. I have written about cultural appropriation before and if you want to, I’m sure you could find those writings).

You will find no gate keeping here either. In my own opinion, people can attach whatever label they like to themselves. However, if we are to be serious about witchcraft, if we truly want to be more than just a label, then we have to put in the graft, there’s no two ways about it. If we are witches, then surely we must practice witchcraft? You can be interested in it but if you are not doing the work or laying the foundations for doing the work, then the title of witch just becomes a meaningless label. Let me explain using my own kickboxing experience as an example.

I used to compete in the kickboxing and boxing rings. I have had numerous fights spanning a ten year period, perhaps slightly longer. I say used to because my last fight was around two years ago and I’ve been absent from my gym for around a year, maybe even longer (I always say I’m going back but sometimes life just gets in the way as we prioritise what becomes more important to us like work, family life, writing…). Now I still think of myself as a fighter. Being a fighter is different than just going down to the gym to train in these disciplines, being a fighter is a mindset. I might be a little ring rusty and a little slower and perhaps quicker to tire, but a fighter none the less. I’ve still got a mean left hook and could still deliver a roundhouse to the head or a steep to the face and I still have that work ethic, though admittedly it is now applied to other endeavours. But am I a fighter in the same sense as those competing now, as those athletes who are currently in the gym, six days a week? I’m not putting in the work as they are, or not at all if I’m being completely honest with myself. I’m not spending hours in gruelling sparring (as any fighter from a good gym will know, sparring is the worst and the best – iron sharpens iron after all), or putting in the road work, or the discipline with eating and diet, so in this sense, am I a fighter? I couldn’t step into a ring right now and hope to win against a good opponent who has been putting in the work. And though I’m an avid fan, if I’m completely honest I’m not a fighter in the true sense of the word, in the practical sense.

To my mind, witchcraft is no different. If we aren’t putting in the work, if we aren’t getting down and dirty magically speaking, then what’s the point in calling ourselves witches? It becomes a hollow and meaningless label and nothing more. In not doing the work, we’re only doing a disservice to ourselves. We are only fooling ourselves.

Like I said at the beginning, there’s no gate keeping here and folks are free to call themselves whatever they so choose. Instead you will find a gentle nudge of encouragement to start or continue the work of becoming all that you are and more. Let us make 2020 the year of the witch and in doing so, the year of action.