Monday, 16 October 2017

Diaries

Graham has decided to have a sort out of the bookshelf near his computer in the bedroom. He has been emptying the shelves, sorting what he wants to keep and what he is happy to part with.
     As he has been doing this he came across a book 'The Diary of a Farmer's Wife 1796-1797'
     This book was originally a series published in the Farmer's Weekly in the 1930's. It is possibly based on an old family diary, but appears to have been stretched or filled out by the addition of old family recipes by the lady who submitted it for publication.
     It is a charming book, the diary written by Anne Hughes - the farmer's wife - basically recording the day to day happenings in and around the farm and its inhabitants. Anne writes as she would have spoken, with her own idiosyncratic spellings: potatoes are always 'pertaties', and she is always 'verrie bussie'. She records the trivial details of housekeeping, scrubbing the floors, caring for the animals and cooking meals, as well as the local gossip and celebrations.
     I have never really kept a diary as I've always thought that most days there isn't a lot to write about. Although I suppose my working day is a bit different to most. And it did get me thinking about what I would write if I kept a diary - my blog is the nearest I get to this, although I would say it is nearer to a Commonplace Book.
     I do often get people ringing up for advice, or to tell me about some strange happening, as well as to place orders.
     This last week a gentleman told me how he had used the Ouija Board 'and Beelzebub came through'. He then commented that I didn't seem very impressed by this - by which I can only assume that the object of telling me this was to impress me.
     The gentleman has been a customer of ours for some years, and had previously asked me to help him as he was making no magical progress, 'Nothing works' he said, which I was intrigued by as usually even the beginners at magic will get some sort of result with their spells (maybe not what they wanted or expected, but certainly some sort of response).
     So I wrote to him making various suggestions, which he took offence at, as I had written basic advice. But as I had not trained him, I did not know what he had any experience of, plus you need to make sure you get the basics in place before you can make progress in any field.
     Since then he has told me that actually he has certain spells which always work, such as a spell to find a parking space, and of course the apparent conjuration of Beelzebub.
     But what this gentleman means by 'Nothing works' is that he wants two things: a big win on the lottery, and to conjure a spirit, any spirit, to full physical manifestation.
     He has said that he doesn't need the money, he is quite comfortably off, but he just wants to prove that it can be done. He then asked me if I could send him a spirit. I said 'No.' which again didn't go down well.
     I told him that the spirits will help us with what we need. He said he knew that, someone else had already told him that. So I think this gentleman is doomed to disappointment.
     The spirits are always happy to help us, but they do not like greed, or being taken advantage of.
     A bit like most of us really.



Monday, 9 October 2017

Mist Magic

     It is easy to appreciate the beauty of an Autumn day, when the gentle sun is shining on the colourful leaves of the trees, or the grass is crisp underfoot with a dusting of frost. When the morning is drear and misty with a fine drizzle which seems light, but soaks into and through your clothes in no time, there is little beauty to be seen, and it is harder to appreciate the day.
     But actually it is these days, the dreary, misty days, when the dark magic is starting stir.
     Mist and fog are almost the embodiment of that rising magical current. Things look different through the mist. Colours and sounds are muted and familiar places can take on a different shape and character.
     The thicker the mist or fog grows, the more cautious you become, even walking a well known route. Was that lamp post always there? Why does this garden hedge seem to go on forever?
     Walking through the countryside it is easy to understand how we could step through into an alternate world without realising - or creatures from other worlds could slip into ours.
     I have seen strange manifestations of mist while growing up in the country.
     One of the fields behind our cottage was small and enclosed with high hedges and a small pond. On rare occasions it would fill with dense mist that stayed at knee height, rising gradually at the hedges.
     You could lie on the ground and be totally hidden from anyone only a few feet away.
     I have also seen mist confined to dips and hollows in the landscape, and some nights mist that looked like puffy wisps of cloud, hanging around head height. The ground and road beneath them would be totally clear, but if your headlights shone up at all, the light reflected off these strange and spooky misty clouds.
     Fairy encounters are often associated with mists and fog, and one of the horror movie cliches is strange mist or fog, perhaps with a dog howling in the distance.
     Perhaps because things look different in fog, it is thought of as having transformative properties.
     Mist is a manifestation of elemental Water. It rises from the water and may just hang over the surface of a pond or bog. It is a place where spirits can be encountered. The mist itself can take on the shape on an ancestor, or another spirit creature.
     Mist can also be used for concealment, to hide our doings or our movements, and to encourage shapeshifting. The mist can help us transform into a totem animal, or take on our magical persona.
     Mist can be 'the breath of the Dragon', as it was known in Celtic times, and it can be the touch of the sorcerer.
     If you can learn to use the powers of mist, you have access to a wonderful magical resource.
     And this is just the time of year to try it.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Doggy Treasure!

China is getting to be a bit elderly, in doggy terms. She is over ten and her joints don't work as well as they once did. She is also rather matronly, and rarely manages a jog, let alone a full blooded gallop (unlike Bridie who is rarely still and has the turn of speed that a whippet would love).
      China has also long given the impression of not being the brightest spoon in the box.
      So after lunch as we settled down to watch Bargain Hunt, and Graham had taken the plates through into the kitchen, suddenly China arose from her customary place at the other end of the sofa, and staggered across the living room, ending up under our table.
      I was a little concerned, was her eyesight going? Was she getting confused about the layout of the room?
     We have a drop leaf table that folds away, and even has a section underneath to slide in the four fold away dining chairs. It is quite a neat piece of furniture when you do not have a very big house.
    Anyway, China was getting further and further under the table, and I was wondering whether I should pull her out, as she was ignoring me when I called her name. I could see she had her head now jammed into the recess where the chairs were stored, and I thought Graham might have to get her out. China has a special trick when she does not want to be moved. We call it her 'sack-of-spuds' impression. She suddenly drops to the floor, and if you want to move her, you are going to have to pick her up and carry her.
     I knew Graham would be back any second, so I thought I'd wait until he arrived then we could discuss the matter. At which point, China found what she had been hunting for, and keeping her back to me and Bridie, there were the distinct sounds of much crunching going on.
     It was at this point that Graham arrived. China trundled slowly back across the room and leapt onto the sofa and back to her normal position.
     It turned out that just before lunch, Graham decided to move the tin of biscuits that was on the living room table. Only when he picked it up, the lid wasn't on quite right and it popped off. Well clanged off, it made quite a row and Bridie shot upstairs. China didn't. She must have watched carefully as Graham swore and picked up all the biscuits he had dropped all over the floor.
     Well not quite all the biscuits, because one had managed to drop into the recess under the table.

    So the joints may not be all they once were, but the brain still seems ok.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Mellow Fruitfulness

This is an article from the latest Raven Newsletter, for those of you who miss out on its full fabness.

     I always think that the Equinoxes are the times when you become really aware of the Turning of the Wheel of the Year.
     At midsummer and midwinter there is a delay in the way the seasons reflect the astrological moment. The Summer Solstice falls around the 21st of June, but that is rarely 'midsummer' as far as the weather and temperatures are concerned - although this year June was very warm. It is usually July and August which are the hottest months and hence why we have our 'Summer Holidays' in these two months.
     It is the same thing in Winter: the Solstice falls around the 21st of December and is the shortest day in length, but the coldest weather, and the greater likelihood of snow is in January and February - one of the reasons that Imbolc is called the feast of the White Lady, is because snow is more likely then than around Christmas.
    But the Equinoxes really do mark turning points in the year. In Spring it is the feast of Eostre, the Spring Maiden who brings new life to the world, and this is so easy to see with the swathes of flowers springing up, and trees flaunting their fertility with catkins or flowers.
     And at Autumn again nature obliges by turning the leaves of the trees beautiful colours of yellow, orange and red, then falling in great drifts. Hedges are dotted with hawthorn and elderberries or garlanded with vines of jewel bright, red, bryony berries, our English Mandrake.
     The Autumn Equinox is the festival which celebrates the bounty of the harvest, and the thanks that it is safely gathered into storage. From late July the crops have ripened to fullness and there has been a flurry of activity as fields are shorn of their golden grain. Hops, grapes and apples are also gathered, as are many other crops. These are the foods which will see us through the bleak Winter months, and provide alcohol to feast with and bring joy at the darkest of times. Until the new shoots re-appear once more, next Spring.
     The Equinoxes are times of abundance. Either filling the barns and lofts, or filling the earth with new life. They are also times to give thanks to the Earth for providing such riches for us.
     They also remind us that we are lucky to live in such a place, where we can have food all year, to the extent that we can be profligate and wasteful with it.
     So let us celebrate the time of the Harvest. Thank the Goddess for her bounty and the God for his protection.
     Study a head of wheat, or an apple and above all: appreciate, taste and enjoy your food.



Friday, 1 September 2017

The Wicker Man

Last night there was a rare treat on the tv, a showing of The Wicker Man film, on the Horror Channel.
     This is a film I have always loved, and apart from Edward Woodward's characters demise, burned alive in a giant wicker man figure, I've never understood why it was classed as a 'horror' movie.
     The rest of the film is a wonderful imagining of a Pagan community, where the Scottish islanders are brought up in their ancient beliefs, to understand the turning of the seasons, the old gods and old ways. The music and songs add enormously to the atmosphere of a community in harmony with each other and nature, with the jarring note being the christian virgin police sergeant, who cannot understand the beliefs, or sexuality openly expressed by all islanders.
    It was made in 1973 and is very much of its time, with naked girls dancing around a fire and singing 'Take the flame inside you, burn and burn below, fire burn and fire turn, make the baby grow.'
     The landlord's daughter, played by Brit Ekland with an obviously dubbed voice, is the epitome of female sexuality, and referred to as the goddess Aphrodite, by Lord Summerisle, a suave Christopher Lee.
     I have always loved folk songs, and do sing to amuse myself, so the many songs which link through the film are a real joy. I think the first time I watched the film I focused so strongly on the Pagan elements and the music, that the story barely impinged. I have since read the book by Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy, Shaffer wrote the film and Hardy directed it, which I enjoyed but had nowhere near the impact on me that the sound and visuals of the film did - and did again last night.
     I love the idea that the children are taught that there is no death, but that the spirit carries on and goes into the hares and other creatures in nature.
    The eternal cycle of existence is expressed in a song sung while the young boys are dancing around the Maypole, which the girls are being taught is a symbol of male sexuality and the erect phallus.
In the woods there grew a tree
And on that tree there was a limb
And on that limb there was a branch

     The song continues to a nest with an egg, containing a bird, a feather becomes a bed, where a couple conceive a child who grows and dies, and on his grave there grew a tree, and the cycle starts and goes round again, eternally.
    I read that Shaffer and Hardy raided the book 'The Golden Bough' by J G Frazer, a monumental work of comparative mythology and folklore, and took chunks from here there and everywhere. Which put the hackles up of some people.
     The film was not a commercial success when it was first released, and suffered from being hacked rather than cut. The general public didn't understand it (hardly surprising) but it did gain a cult following (again hardly surprising).
     It has been slated over the years for various reasons, some decry its openly sexual nature, some that it is too Pagan, others that it is not accurately Pagan enough.
     Frankly I love it, apart from the final burning scene - and my main objection to that is the animals and birds fastened in the Wicker Man, go ahead and burn the christian (they've burnt enough Pagans, the Goddess knows), but don't harm the animals!


Friday, 25 August 2017

Solitary Confinement

I love the Radio Times, it is the only magazine I subscribe to, and I look forward to reading it from cover to cover.
     I love the way it draws my attention to programmes I would not necessarily have looked at. And this time it is a programme on Solitary Confinement, in which several people are locked away, with no stimulus for five days. They are allowed to take three personal items with them (although I'd imagine that a phone and laptop would not be allowed!).
     The introduction says that one person only managed five hours before demanding to be let out.
     That got me thinking about how well I would manage in those circumstances, and what I would take in with me.
     Pen and paper are an obvious choice, but what would the third item be? I don't think you would be allowed a book, but if you were then five days of nothing would be the ideal time to plough through The Lord of the Rings.
     Sorry folks, that is the one Tolkein book that didn't grab me. Loved The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings I found to be disjointed. I'd just get engrossed in following a character and whoops, the next bit was about someone or somewhere I'd never heard of - and great chunks of it I just found boring.
     But anyway, back to solitary.
     I wonder if they'd let you have a tin of biscuits as your third item? ..... mmmmm biscuits .....
     Try and keep to the point: how would I cope with solitary confinement?
     Some people never spend any time alone, and especially these days when most people are constantly connected with mobile phones and pc's. I know there are those who find it impossible to be without their phones, let alone having no other contact with other humans.
     Working from home though, now that does prepare you for solitary confinement!
     Although Graham and I work together, we are often doing different things in different rooms, so we may not see each other, let alone speak, for several hours at a time. And there have been times when I have spoken to no-one but Graham for the best part of a week.
     I think as you get older, perhaps your life gets more solitary too. Our son has his own home and family, so we may get to see him once a week. Friends move away, or find a new interest, or even die.
     I am not being morbid, merely realistic.
     Oh, and don't feel sorry for me. I have always enjoyed periods of solitude. My hell is dealing with large numbers of people.
     To be honest, a period of time in solitary confinement sounds both restful and refreshing to me.
     Often I am so busy with the routine of living and working, that I don't have time to be creative. And I love giving my imagination free reign.
     What luxury to have five whole days of peace and quiet with a note pad and pen.
     I wonder if they are looking for volunteers for another go?
     Where do I sign up?



Saturday, 19 August 2017

Smoking

At ten to nine on a Saturday morning, the works phone goes. By the time we have clattered downstairs to catch it, whoever it was has rung off.
     Interested to see who had rung us at that time on a Saturday, I did dial back - the thing where you type in 1471 and it tells you the number of whoever rang you last - and rang the number given.
     'Hello, I'm Chris from Raven, did you want me?' I ask
     'No-one has rung you from here,' says the man on the other end.
     'Erm, yes they have,' I say, 'Because I've just done dial back.'
     A lady obviously takes the phone off him and says, 'Do you do smokeless incense sticks?'
    'No sorry,' I say, 'The whole point of incense sticks is that they give off smoke.'

     There are some times when you know that it is a waste of time detailing the alternate options available, and this was one of those. So we ended the conversation pleasantly, and I went back to checking out a catalogue from one of our suppliers.
    Incense and perfume both come from words which mean 'fragranced smoke', so by their very nature, they are smoke. But smoke which is used for its aroma.
     However these days there are alternatives, and one of the best is to use a perfume burner. These do not (or should not) actually burn the perfume, they create a fragrant steam which carries the perfume molecules into the air. You put water into the top recess of the burner, add a few drops of perfumed oil and light the candle beneath it. The candle flame warms the water which evaporates and carries the perfume into the air.
     I make a lot of magical oils, which can be used for personal perfume, to anoint candles for spell work, used in your bath (only a few drops at a time) or used in oil burners too. This is a very pure way of experiencing the perfume, and is a lovely way of filling your ritual area with an aroma which can enhance your ritual or spell work.
     Also the incense and particularly incense sticks, can often smell very different when burnt, to how it smells in the packet. Perfumed oils smell the same, but the warmth enhances their fragrance.


This is my favourite oil burner, which we bought from our friends at Zoo Ceramics at Waddington in Lincolnshire.

     There is also a huge variety of perfumed oils, from single fragrances, to the magical blends I make. Our most popular are Kyphi, based on recipes found carved into the walls of temples in ancient Egypt, Ruthvah which was created by Aleister Crowley, and blends such as Lucky Master, Come To Me, Aphrodite and Van Van.
      And there are literally thousands of others!