Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Lord and Lady in Druidcraft

"There is a value in discipline and routine to maintain the connection between your spiritual and your worldly life." - Druidcraft LWB

I've always liked the High Priest in the Druidcraft Tarot. I like that he makes the sign of the Horned God, and that there is a chalice and athame by his side, representing how the male and female are balanced in pagan spirituality. His throne is topped by horns, and overhead is the sun, as he is associated with the sun (and goddess energy with the moon). I know in this deck the Emperor is called The Lord and the Empress is called The Lady, but this guy seems more 'Lord' like to me. And as this stage of my life, I'm less attracted to depictions of youthful pregnant females as Goddess, I prefer the Strength card to represent Goddess, in this deck. Strength and High Priest are like Lady and Lord for me, in this deck.

Having said all that, today is the full moon, this first full moon since Samhain, and it is in Gemini. It is a time for words, and a time for seeing dualities. Let that inform any workings that take place in your practice tonight. :)

Blessed be!

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Guardians - Elder, Birch and Hawthorn

I've been looking at three of the decks in my collection: Druid Plant Oracle, Green Man Tree Oracle, and Celtic Oracle. I noticed that three trees are grouped together in Druid Plant Oracle and called 'The Guardians', so I thought I'd see if they were in the other decks and then find out why they are called 'guardians'.  They are Elder, Birch and Hawthorn. 

According to Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm in the Druid Plant Oracle companion book, the Guardians act as 'preservers of our health, possibly even prolonging our lives, by strengthening the immune system and the key organs of the circulatory system, heart, liver and kidneys.' They go on to explain that the Elder is like the Mother, Hawthorn the Father, and Birch the child. This is because the Elder has the contradictory nature of the goddess, who can both create and destroy (its flowers and berries are fortifying, but its leaves and bark are poisonous). This does call to mind some of the more powerful Empress images in tarot, which show a female force that can give birth but also does not scruple to destroy (such as the rather fierce Empress in Anna K Tarot, who nurses a baby but has a rather malevolent bearing). Hawthorn is the Father because the tree is associated with sexuality and the circulatory system (a good circulatory system being key to male performance!). The Birch is associated with beginnings, birth and cleansing, so makes an appropriate symbol for a child. The sap can make wine and also a detoxing tonic. 

In John Matthews' Green Man Tree Oracle, the association of the Elder tree and witchcraft is made. Lots of folk stories have witches turning themselves into Elder trees, and in the Scandinavian countries in particular, there is a folk tradition of honouring a figure called 'The Elder Woman'. The Elder is also seen as a protection against dark magic. Associated with the benefits of the Elder tree, though, is that some sort of sacrifice will be made on your part as part of the deal. And so the Elder can be interpreted as some sort of sacrifice or trade off. 

The Birch, John Matthews points out in Green Man Tree Oracle, is knows as the Lady of the Woods. It does have a feminine, elegant look. It is one of the first trees to blossom in the spring, and its light colour links it to the moon, sun and stars. Birches were traditionally used to make switches for punishing children, and also for making cradles -- and broom handles, as in the witch's broom, which lends them flight. 

The Hawthorn is linked to May Day, Matthews says, and Beltane is closely associated with fertility and rites of love and marriage. 

May the Guardians protect me as I move through this week. :) 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ramblings on books

This is a good card for today! I am using my new Mac Mini and it's all certainly a mystery to me. There have been a few surprises. First, it's not lightning fast -- though to be fair I bought the lowest spec machine. Second, even though it was meant to be plug and play, I have had to buy a new monitor and a cable to get the thing to work, so that's an extra £140 I wasn't expecting to spend. I also thought all those Windows updates would be a thing of the past, and I guess they are -- but since turning it on last night, I've had two rather lengthy 'update' sessions for software on this computer, so it seems like six of one and half a dozen of the other! And finally, I have no idea about firewalls or anti-virus protection and if I need to install something. I assume I do, but I forgot to ask about it in the shop and the guys there never mentioned it. They did say I have two weeks to decide to take it back, so there is the grace period. But maybe in two weeks I will be used to it all.

Now, what have we here on this card? We've got a hare and the full moon. The hare I presume is meant to be leaping over a stream, though it looks more to me like a white fur carpet runner. He's in a grove of oak trees in the fall. An owl watches the scene, and in the corner, some of those fairy mushrooms with red caps and white dots on them so beloved of children's drawings. The keyword is 'Timing'.

"When Moon appears, it indicates that timing is important to consider," says the companion book. "Everything has its moment of greatest potency and expression. What has been hidden from you will soon be revealed, as you let things flow without obstruction...You carry hidden treasures and potentials, which can be effectively explored at the moment. Plant seeds for a bright future and plan ahead."

Well, let's take stock. I'm still waiting for my pack from OBOD. I know they've received payment because my bank statement reflects it. I do hope it comes soon. I've also been reading Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente and A Witches' Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar. I'm doing a lot of exploring of old school thought lately. It's like a stock take. The last time I did was in 2010. It's really interesting to look back on the notes I took then and compare to where I am now. Some things I embraced or rejected outright back then are quite opposite now. I guess that is to be expected.

Something I'm finding really interesting in A Witches' Bible is the chapter called 'The Rest of the Book of Shadows', which gives the non-ritual passages of Gardner's Book of Shadows, along with commentary on it from Doreen Valiente and Janet and Stewart Farrar. It presents you with the chance to examine Gardner's notes and practice, read the thoughts of some of the most influential people in the modern pagan witchcraft movement, and formulate your own responses. It's a lot more useful than some fluffy 'witchcraft 101' book that just gives you a bunch of rigamarole like 'burn a pink candle to attract new love'.

Speaking of moon, it's a full moon on Wednesday, the first full moon after Samhain. It seems like an auspicious time for rededication.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Stability is the word of the day

MoonAquariusA sense of emotional coolness or detachment at the personal level, combined with an emphasis on idealism: such is the nature of the cycle you are now entering. It's ideas that count for you now, more than narrowly personal concerns - and you may have little tolerance for people who do not operate at this level. The new, the unusual, the avant garde - these are the things that instinctively appeal to you. (

The Moon is in Aquarius today, a time when we feel a bit detached and want to intellectualise everything -- and don't suffer fools gladly. (Not unlike most days for me, then!)

Druidcraft Tarot 
At least I can see from my draw today that there won't be anything to much to disturb me. (Fingers crossed). The 4 of Wands is a card of stability, shown here as the hearth fire. Four is a number of steadiness -- 'Four does not change', as the playing card rhyme goes. And in each of the tarot suits, four stays the same -- in Wands the hearthfire glows, in Cups the feelings are calm, in Swords the thoughts are at rest, in Pentacles there's no income or outgo of physical or material activity. Four is almost like a kind of stasis. And sometimes stasis is good! 

We had some good news recently, that my husband's department will not be having any 'involuntary redundancies' (where I'm from we'd say 'nobody's getting laid off') and so that is a relief. We pretty much have to play it year by year, but as it was, we weren't sure if he'd be in a job come April 2016, so this is good news, and does indeed restore a much-needed sense of stability to our hearth fire. 

Yesterday I took the day off because my back was playing up and I spent most of the day alternating between hanging over a stability ball on my stomach and on my back. It's still a little sore and I'm going to have to be careful, but taking the day off to look after it has probably prevented me from doing myself a serious mischief. 

Hope everyone has a great day. :) 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Shielding and Opening Up

The Wicca Deck by Sally Morningstar 
I've been thinking a lot about my spiritual practice lately, and so I decided to draw from The Wicca Deck by Sally Morningstar. I've drawn Black Cat, which denotes psychism, clairvoyance and psychic protection. 'Energies around you can guide you to great clarity,' it says, but also, 'watch those within your circle of aquaintances, as someone may not have your best interests at heart. Increase your psychic protection and withdraw your energy.'

Yesterday a mini-cyber-saga played out that reminds why I am solitary. I joined an online circle, which shall remain nameless. I was questioned before allowed to enter, and then when I got in there I saw that the circle claimed to be a 'tradition' I'd never heard of, and I have actually read rather widely. I'll call it the Ralphian tradition. Turns out that it's named after Ralph Jones (not a real name) who lives in Podunk State (not a real state) and has proclaimed himself the 'Witch King' (that is the real title). The photo I found showed a person of such youth that this 'tradition' can't be of very long standing. This sort of thing makes me squint and scoff, but I thought, what the hell, let's see what this place is all about. I decided to post an announcement that a Doreen Valiente museum is opening in Brighton next year, as surely a group that calls itself Wiccan (even if of the 'Ralphian tradition') would be interested in that. A moderator made vague comments suggesting I read the rules. She referenced one of them.  I had read them. I went and read them again. I asked her how this contravenes a rule. She didn't tell me. I said, 'Are you going to tell me what I've done?' Another member of the group started guessing what I may have done, and I thought, you know what, sod this. I've been in this group 2 minutes and I'm already breaking their rules. Plus I've looked at Ralph's rituals and he thinks there's a 'vale between the world' at Samhain. Learn to spell, mate. So I left. One day in a group, I felt burdened. As soon as I left it, I fell relieved. Some of us just don't belong in a group, and that's okay! (Well certainly not that one in any case!)

Wondering what I might need to shield from, I drew three playing cards:

White Knuckle Playing Cards 
At the most basic level, Spade - Diamond - Spade denotes 'a troubled purse'.  Looked at individually, 2 of Spades is exchange and trouble, ie, arguing. 4 of Spades is stability of trouble, ie, par for the course! Now to the middle card, 5 of Diamonds is body/health and means to ends, ie, what is profitable for me personally. I need to psychically shield from anything that troubles or upsets me or has had a history of doing so. Now's not the time for that sort of challenge. Well, obviously. (I might also need to take this quite literally and be careful of my finances.)

So what sort of challenge is it the time for?

White Knuckle Playing Cards

Ah! Hearts - Clubs - Hearts = expending energy on passions. The 8 of Hearts shows thinking a lot about what we love, 5 of Clubs shows hard work in the physical realm, the 4 of Hearts is emotional stability. I'm almost certain I know what this is pointing to. Yesterday I decided to send off for the introductory pack of OBOD. Druidry has plonked itself into my path over and over of late. It started around the same time I started seeing 11:11 everywhere, as it happens. Then at Witchfest on Saturday, Druidry caught my eyes and ears again. The phrase 'people of the sun' has been making itself known to me a lot lately. I visited the website and this cinched it:

Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol, says in his book The Druids:

I felt like it was another sign, because Ronald Hutton is a person who I esteem very, very highly. I think exciting times are ahead! 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Witchfest and the Great Coven Question

Yesterday I journeyed to Croydon to my first ever Witchfest, held at Fairfield Halls every November. It was a big adventure starting with a funny story.

I had to change trains twice to get there - Watford Junction, then Clapham Junction to East Croydon. At Clapham Junction, I went hurtling down the platform to leap onto a train to East Grimstead, and said to another lady getting on board, as you do, 'Is this to East Croydon?' And she says, 'Yes, East Croydon,' and we get on the train. She turns to me and says, 'Are you going to the Craft thing?' and I said, 'Why yes!' We sit down together and she talks a bit about how she's worked with the organiser and how many years she's been going to it and how she's on her way there to work it. I am impressed. She's got beautiful long white hair and we get to chatting about how she was a nanny in Canada in the 70s. I say I'm very impressed with the programme on offer and am really looking forward to it, mentioning that the main attraction for me is the talk by Ron Hutton. She nods.

We get off the train at East Croydon and she is met by a friend and off we trot toward the venue. We're going in the right direction, but she turns off toward the Universalist Church. Fairfield Halls is across the street. 'But, Fairfield Halls is over there,' I say. She says, 'No here's the venue, see what it says in the window?' I say, 'I'm going to Witchfest, what are you going to?' She says, 'I'm going here to the craft fair!' So we laugh and I shoot off across the street. Thank goodness she was going to a venue near mine, or I'd have followed her to the wrong side of Croydon. (Never at any time did she contradict me when I said the event would carry on to 2 the next morning, or show any surprise when I mentioned going to hear Ron Hutton speak at the Pagan Federation Convention in 2011. Either she was slightly mad or thought I was.)

With great relief I spotted purple velvet capes and hats with feathers across the way and sped over to my tribe. (Even though I clearly looked more like a church lady off to make tea cozies at a craft fair than a witch ready to spend a day immersed in the Craft, despite my sizeable pentacle pendant and earrings -- I discovered how conservatively dressed I was as the day wore on!)

I bought stuff

In addition to the Sacred Sites Oracle, I also got a new handmade chalice and representations of the God and Goddess. I like them. :)

I heard stuff
The only reason I went to this event was because Ronald Hutton was speaking and believe me, it was worth the trouble and expense of going there just hear him talk for an hour. I would have traveled there and back again even if that were the only thing happening, so for me all the other stuff was just extra. I may have made some unfortunate choices on some of the workshops I attended...but others were good, and walking around looking and gawking was also great fun.

The Templars: Keepers of a Shocking Secret by Lynn Picknett
I have no idea why I selected this one, but I walked out after about 20 minutes. It was about something called Johannite heresy, how the Templars were accused of worshiping a severed head of a bearded man and spitting and stomping on the cross, and how it turns out that they actually did do that because they believed that John the Baptist was the real Messiah. Or some such. It wasn't the content of the talk that I disliked so much as Picknett's hostile tone toward Christians. That's uncalled for. Plus I guess I have enough positive feeling  for Jesus that I don't want to hear someone talk about him as if he were nothing but a scheming former student waiting for his teacher to die so he could usurp his teacher's place. I wish I had gone to Wiccan Myths, because I gather Margaret Murray was discussed. If I had realised that was what the talk was about, I would have gone, but I wasn't sure what 'Wiccan Myths' meant and didn't want to hear a talk on how 'It's a myth that you have to be initiated in a coven'  (or vice versa, that you can't self-initiate) or some such. Shame.

Doreen Valiente -- Life and Legacy by John Belham-Payne and Ashley Mortimer
Once again the title misled me, as I was expecting to learn something about the life and legacy of Doreen Valiente. What I got was an update from John Belham-Payne about the work of the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation. This information was not unwelcome! I was hugely pleased to learn that 1) a Doreen Valiente Museum is opening in Brighton in April 2016, where her collection of magical items and books can finally be exhibited and 2) Philip Heselton has completed his biography of Valiente, to be launched in February 2016. It was also dead exciting to see so many pagan luminaries on the stage at once -- everyone came up -- Heselton, Payne, Mortimer, of course, joined by Rufus Harrington, Neil Geddes-Ward, Ronald Hutton, Tam Campbell and I don't know who all! There were so many I can't remember them but Ashley said, 'My entire book case is standing here on the stage right now!' Then the huge treat came when John handed out little slips with the Witch's Rune printed on them and taught us to chant it the way Doreen Valiente had taught him. 'You have to get angry at the verse,' she said, and she refused to allow any of her verse to be set to music, because she said the meter must be observed, must be chanted. If you get a beat going and make sure each of the marked syllables falls on the beat, you will have it here as I learned it at this event (I marked it as soon as we finished to make sure I didn't forget it):

You can see that even chanting, it is done double-time to what you would expect. I have always chanted it


but it is actually DARKsome night and SHINing moon, EAST and South, WEST and North. (You slow the beat down, but the words actually end up coming out faster...)

The double time version is far more like a drum beat than the every-other-syllable style. Try it!

Meet the Witches Panel Questions - or 'The Great Coven Question' 
The panel consisted of Tam, Damh the Bard, Tylluan Penry and John Belham-Payne, and much wisdom was shared, but the most poignant moment came when a woman stood up and said 'I have been looking for a coven for 25 years and cannot find one. How do you find a coven?' She was clearly distressed and frustrated. This made me think of the Pagan Federation Convention I went to in 2011, when the same question was raised.

There are people out there who have devoted their lives to pagan witchcraft, and still can't seem to find a coven.When the question was asked at this event, the faces of everyone on the panel looked sympathetic and weary. You could see this was a question that they could not answer, for whatever reason. Advice was offered. Attend open events. Go to a Wicca for beginners class, take a correspondence course. It was mentioned that Children of Artemis was formed to try to help people find covens, but eventually it was realised that this task was 'impossible'. A member of the panel explained that the balance and energy in a coven is delicate and a new member will change all that, and so many/most covens are not very interested in taking in new people. Another panel member mentioned that 'it is called a mystery religion for a reason,' then explained that his journey had involved doing everything, taking every course, going to everything he heard of, trying it all.

Persistence and intention are the two key messages that I got from both the Witchfest panel and the Pagan Federation panel back in 2011. Those speakers in 2011 urged seekers to send out their intentions to find a coven to the universe. It was said the intention will act as a beacon that will be heard. There was also, however obliquely expressed, the suggestion that some people's beacons might not be heard. Maybe some people just don't have the right stuff, that's the message I got back then and it ruffled my feathers greatly. But maybe being in a coven is like making it to the big time in life -- you have to have the drive, the passion, the ambition, the tenacity, the unwavering belief that you will achieve this goal. And if you don't have it, you don't get it. It may be as simple as that. No kindly wise old witch with sparkling eyes and a giant pentacle pendant is going to walk up to you in a witchy shop one day and say, 'I can see you would make a fine witch, would you like to join our coven?' It's not going to happen.

21st Century Witchcraft by Diane Narraway
It was during this time that I went and bought my deck, chalice and totems. The direction the talk was going in didn't seem on topic at all, so my friend and I slipped out after about 10 minutes. We slipped round and chatted briefly to the three readers from TABI who were tucked away in a corner by the bar, and Carmella, a friend who I met at the UK Tarot Conference, had a reading while I went and secured us spots in the Concert Hall for the main event, Big Ron!

Dangers of Witchcraft by Kate West
Another misleading title -- I thought I was going to hear cautionary tales, and I did, but of the funny kind. Kate told stories about backing into the fire, falling down the stairs, and having Ryvita for cakes and wine. All very amusing. I laughed a lot. Especially the bit about how for some unknown reason, witches use three times as much toilet paper as normal people. It was a great warm up for Professor Hutton.

Modern Pagan Festivals by Ronald Hutton 
Best talk of the day, of course, thoroughly engrossing and I felt completely nourished and well taught by the end of it. Hutton explained in his usual precise, incisive and engaging way about the history of the development of the so-called Wheel of the Year. I wish I had a transcript of it.

Sigils by Kevin Grove
A very funny and engaging talk about how to use sigils in magic. But by this time I was getting tired...

So I toddled off to the train station...and caught another train...and then the Tube...and then another train...and then when I got to Coventry, a 20 minute drive from home, I found my connection was an hour and 40 minutes I called my hero hubby and he drove over and picked me up.

And that's the story of my first Witchfest. A fun day!!

Unboxing the Sacred Sites Oracle Cards

I went to Witchfest 2015 yesterday and even though I vowed to myself I wouldn't buy a deck, guess what I bought. BUT, in my defense, it was a deck that I had never seen or heard of, I looked through a sample deck on the table fully expecting to dislike it, and ended up liking it and buying it.

Sacred Sites Oracle Cards: Harness Our Earth's Spiritual Energy to Heal Your Past, Transform Your Present and Shape Your Future by Barbara Meiklejohn-Free, Illustrated by Yuri Leitch (Watkins, 2015)

Two reasons I decided to look at it: 1) it's an oracle and not a tarot (I bought the Sacred Sites Tarot and disliked it) and 2) the artwork appealed to my eye. (I fully expected to dislike it because I do tend to have that reaction things. Ha!)

I opened the deck on the train home - of course - and made some pleasant and some unpleasant discoveries.

Concept - pleasant
For each of the four cardinal directions, Meiklejohn-Free has selected 13 sacred sites. Some of them I've heard of, some not. Only two of them I've actually been to! I like the number 13 for each of the directions. There's also an extra 'Power card' - Mecca. Interesting choice. I like how there is a simple arrow in the border pointing east, south, west, or north, to avoid having to print the words on the card. The borders are also different pale shades, not too distracting.

Suggestion for reading - pleasant
Meiklejohn-Free suggests that the cards should be examined in three segments from bottom to top: the lower third is the 'Lower World' and represents your past, the middle is the 'Middle World' and represents both your present and the present energy of the sacred site, and the upper third is the 'Upper world, which is your potential. For each card, she provides interpretations for each of these three segments of the card, as well as a visualisation, invocation or ritual to perform in association with the card. All of this packed into a compact companion book of 120 pages (co-written with Flavia Kate Peters).

The box - pleasant 
A word about the box. It's a lovely sturdy and compact slip cover style box. I like it.

Now for the disappointing bits - unpleasant

The cards are not perfect. They are not all the same size! And the corners are not all the same size. I used a large corner rounder to tidy those up, but the difference in actual size of the cards is appalling. I've done better hand trimming with scissors than this! (I took the above photos after I rounded the corners!) AND, some of the images are offset -- too close to one side of the card. This is Watkins here. I would expect better. Really disappointing. If this sort of thing bothers you, just be warned. This is one of the dangers of buying from a vendor at an event. No seller to return it to -- I suppose I could try Watkins but meh. I hear they're a pain to try to deal with. So I'll just have to accept it.

Now let's look at some cards 

The two places I've actually been to

Some of the places I hadn't heard of

Some of the places that always excite my imagination

More places that excite my innards 
The Verdict
Overall, I like the deck. The art work really appeals to me, the concept of the deck makes sense to me, and the book is quite helpful. I look forward to using it!