Reclaiming my inner Witch, & exploring Magical Herbalism

 Even back in childhood I loved reading about witches and magic. A number of years ago I started researching the witch trials and Medieval magic, but most of it was so far removed from the forest and nature that I put it aside. That longing for connection remained, however, and it became a part of my spirituality. It’s why she doesn’t show much on the surface, but dig a little deeper and my Witchy nature is there. She called to me in February, but other things took over. I had a dream at the beginning of June where I discovered a powerful Witch in a tomb, and when I looked at her face she was me. I am rediscovering this part of me.

The ‘higher’ magics, in general, are not for me; that journey is for others. In relation to my work with my Northern Beloveds my path is with the greener and wild denizens of the Woods. It’s in the plants, the trees, the flowers and fruits. It’s with the animals and birds and insects. It’s with the Spirits, Elementals, the Fair Folk. It’s in charms and amulets, cleansing and protection. It’s the healing practices of the wild wood Mothers, in nature and land, in Runes, dreams and symbols. It’s in dance and the movement of my body. It’s in song and the power of words, in sound. And who knows what else?

As in February I feel Angerboda’s presence again. While She values physical strength, strength of will and strength of heart also speak to Her. Ours is not a ‘close’ connection, but I feel Her presence aiding me in connecting to the denizens of the wild woods once more, alongside Laufey, Whose presence I have begun to feel again on the periphery. The magical side of Herbalism  has long fascinated me, and it complements my Aromatherapy training and experiments; but the thought of studying so much at this time is overwhelming. I wondered what I could do, how I could do this. The morning after that wondering I awoke with this Inspired thought: start with three.

I have a deep love of, and connection with, Elder, Hawthorn and Blackthorn. They all grow in our current garden, all have lots of magical-related folklore, and all would have been growing in Viking-era Scandinavia – and thus perhaps the Iron Wood. Each have strong associations with magical practices, protection, witches and Fairies.

I was told recently by an intuitive that I have an Earth Mother/ Warrior vibe at the moment. Perhaps that’s why Angerboda and Laufey can start to come in again. I am reclaiming myself for myself, as Odin sacrificed to Odin to claim the power and knowledge of the Runes.

I’m sure more will be revealed to me as time moves on. For now, however, I’m welcoming home this part of me long-feared and long-ignored. I thank Angerboda and Laufey for Their gifts of the instruction to come, for however long that may be, whatever form it may take. And let us not forget that Loki has magics of His own – perhaps learned from His mother and Angerboda?

Beltane Fires ‘Release’ Ideas

At Beltane cattle were often herded between two fires to cleanse them. It’s also believed the heat killed off the insects, and that the cattle were blessed by the process.

One way we could take advantage of this custom ourselves is to do a meditation asking a particular God or Goddess to safely surround and suffuse you with Their flames. You can ask for help to cleanse any negativity or release any ties that you need to let go of. Deities aren’t limited to the way Their energies and healing can work, but they may have a particular speciality you can call upon.

Another way to adapt the Beltane fires ritual is to say a prayer or petition to the Deity of your choosing, asking for the specific cleansing or healing help you need, and then walk between two lit candles. As you walk between them imagine your Beloved’s flames (safely) surrounding you, burning away that which needs to be released. After Their flames recede feel the strength of the God/dess’s energy within you. Feel deep within that you have the strength and capability to go on to make meaningful changes and healing in your life.
A note on safety: I wouldn’t suggest being anywhere near candle flames if you’re wearing robes, a dress, skirt, or any long outift. If you do, try to make sure there’s a good distance between you and the candles, or put them on a table or shelf either side of you – somewhere they can’t be knocked into (or over) accidentally.

As Eyes of Ra a number of Egyptian Goddesses can help with cleansing and healing, but each may be able to help you in more specific areas:

  • Sekhmet can be called upon for a strengthening fire and ‘fighing spirit’.
  • Isis can be called on for re-integrating parts of the Self, as She pieced together her husband Osiris.
  • Hathor can help us with healing through self-love, creative expression, dance and music.
  • Bast can teach us independence, but also how to co-exist with others whose needs might be different to our own.
  • Neith can help to target areas of our life where we wish to heal, as her arrows fly straight and true.

You could also call on Ra Himself to help you feel the joy and strength of your own inner fire, your inner sun. Or Aten, if you ask, may also aid in this.

If you are in a dry or ‘arid’ place emotionally, mentally or by circumstance why not call on Set? As Lord of the Desert He knows how to survive dry spells, and may even guide the way to an oasis. His desert heat can cleanse and purify, as well, sucking out the moisture of that which no longer serves.

Loki will forever be connected with flames and fire for me. When you need to heal and let go ask His purifying flames to safely burn through what you need to release and move on from. Perhaps even write a prayer to Him and burn it, letting His flames consume the words and what you need help with.

Be safe, but most of all: enjoy!
Best wishes for Beltane to you all.

Honouring Persephone – Shadow integration

I’ve long had a fascination with the myth of Persephone and Hades; even in childhood I wondered if there was more to the story. As part of my Shadow work I’m trying to heal, work with and integrate parts of my Self that have been pushed down for too long. In giving them their say, and in trying to find constructive, positive outlets for their ‘light’ sides I have come to realise the importance of balance. In a healing session with J a couple of weeks ago Loki and Sigyn reminded me of Persephone, and how she had to learn to balance her Upperworld and Underworld time. She had to learn to balance these parts of Herself, and so She may also be able to help me.

Weirdly I’d been buying pomegranate seeds for salads for a couple of weeks beforehand, not even remembering about Persephone’s story. I had also bought a little pomegranate pendant last year because I felt Her calling, but then got caught up in health concerns and other things that took over. This time I am in Her domain, somewhere She understands, trying to find my way back to the Upperworld but still healing my ‘Underworld’.

I went on Etsy and found a lovely bright pomegranate clay piece, and checked in with Her, asking if it would be an appropriate offering and focus for my work with Her. I got the impression it was indeed acceptable, so bought it. I’m a very visual person, and I love different textures; I like to have something to look at or hold onto that helps remind me of my Deities, or acts as a focus for Them.

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Loki and Sigyn: facilitators for deep healing and Shadow integration

Loki and Sigyn by Michelle, Northern Tamarisk

If Sigyn is the Goddess of holding space (see previous post) perhaps Loki is the one who takes our hand and let’s us know it’s safe to open up. He is the one who encourages us to express our most vulnerable selves. All the while Sigyn holds the bowl, catching any poison and throwing it away. Together They are the ones who support us through the deepest levels of healing.

If there was ever a Deity suited to helping us heal our own Shadow it is Loki – He who knows His own, Who loves all His children; knows how to love the seemingly unlovable. He is also the one who calls out hypocrisy and the Shadows of the Gods Themselves. He is the one who helps us heal our deepest wounds.
When we are in our own caves, bound by things once dear to us, upon rocks of our own shame, Loki is there with us. He knows the agony, the torment, on a whole other level. But knowing the cave as He does He can help us through our own time in the Underworld. When our own Shadows, our own repressed selves, drip down onto us, tearing us apart, He is there. 

All the while Sigyn, compassion personified, holds us steady. She takes us in Her arms like She holds the bowl, letting the Shadow poison spill out, helping us to heal. She lets us know She’s there whenever we need Her again. She will always return to hold the bowl when needed.

What we need to hold on to during this process is that, somehow, Loki made it out of the cave. Somehow He was freed from the darkness, and Sigyn could finally rest Her strong but weary arms and heart. That means we can make it out of the darkness too. We can start to reclaim our lives, go out into the world and do what we’re meant to do. We are all the stronger for having been through our trials.

They are a partnership for deep healing. For how do we heal the Shadow? With understanding acceptance and compassion. Loki and Sigyn.

When the masks fall we meet Them as we Are

I have often enjoyed reading the works of mystics and contemplatives from different traditions. Those two words call to me again now. I have remarked to others several times before that I seemed to have been cast in a role akin to a pagan nun, not necessarily by choice, more through circumstance and beliefs.

I re-read Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition by Sister Mary McCormack of the Carmelites last night and was reminded so much of the all-pervasive love I held for my Beloveds before the loss and upheaval of the last 6-7 weeks, the last month in particular. Sister Mary’s words reminded me of how my whole world seemed coloured by contemplation of Them, particularly Loki and Sigyn.

I wept as I read, because not only did her words remind me of what I have (for now, at least) lost, but because she speaks of the “dark night of the soul” where we face our own shadows, where all we hold dear falls away and leaves us grasping in the dark, often affecting our connection with the Divine. Yet Sister Mary, through her own words, those of St Therese of Avila and St John of the Cross, gives hope.
Only when we are broken down, only when we face those harsh truths about ourselves can we stand before the Divine, no longer encumbered by masks. Only then can we enter into a truer relationship with the Divine; one that transcends anything that may have come before. When we stand as we Are we greet our God(s) with our true face, our true Self, and any preconceptions of how we relate to Them can fall away, allowing our God(s) to in turn reveal more of Their true Selves to us.

So I have hope again. I am remembering once more that all roads lead back to Them, no matter the detours.
I am also determined in these things: never again will I allow the words and misconceptions of another to poison my link with the Gods. Never again will I forget that though I may go through trials They are always there. My heart is Theirs, my love is Theirs, my devotion is Theirs. All I go through breaks down barriers and leaves me a better person, and a more open heart to receive Their loving guidance.

With love and a sapling heart I reach once more for Them.

My deepest thanks go to J, who lent me the book that has provided such solace for my heart, and returned my determination to keep reaching for Them. Little did we know how important this tiny book would become only a matter of weeks later. May your Beloveds hold you deep within Their hearts.

Upon the Mountain: Prayer in the Carmelite Tradition can be bought from the Notting Hill Carmelites –http://carmelitesnottinghill.org.uk/product/upon-this-mountain-2/

Shadows in the Dark

A contradictory title? If, like me, you’re currently ‘exploring’ the Underworld it may make more sense. My journey into the Underworld began in February, on the day my brother flew back to America. It was like some energy that had been stirred within when he arrived was suddenly unleashed by his departure. You see, in our family my brother is the trailblazer, the independent spirit who tries to shake us up and convince us to leave our safe cocoons. The Gods seem to be in agreement.

During this Underworld journey I have been in the dark about so many things. One after another old constructs, things and people I once held dear, and my safety net have been ripped away. While painful and sometimes terrifying in the empty potential they leave behind it has been my Shadow Self that has repeatedly reared its head.

Just when I feel I can catch my breath yet another dark, unlovable part of my Self arises, hungry for attention. Because I’ve pushed them down for so long, ignored or denied them, they have chosen very visible ways to make themselves known to me – most notably in communication with others.

While I like to believe I’m a good, honourable, ‘light’ individual I have had to face up to the fact that I can also – on occasion – be a darker, selfish, judgemental person. Not often, but boy have those Selves made themselves known in the last few weeks.

Yes, my Shadow Selves are having a field day,  rearing their heads like those whack-a-mole games you see at fairs or the pier. Continue reading