A little thank you to my readers 🌻
One hundred people to be thankful for,
One hundred people who share
A love for the Gods at their core.
One hundred people out there.
One hundred people I’m grateful to,
One hundred people who love
And honour Those above.
One hundred people strong and true.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
(c) Michelle Gilberthorpe, Northern Tamarisk
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I first learned about the Mesoamerican culture in my teens in history classes, when we were studying the Spanish armada and the Conquistadors. I also saw a program on the Discovery Channel and was hooked. I watched as many programs as I could, later turning to books – cenotes in particular fascinate me. I based a GCSE drama assignment on the Aztecs – something about an argument between the Sun God Huitzilopotchtli and the Moon Goddess Mitztli – I got to play Mitztli, complete with a big silver crescent moon tied to my head. I even went to an exhibition on the Aztecs in London and based an A-level art project on the statues I saw there. Quetzalcoatl, Xipe Totec and Coatlicue were particularly memorable. When I started exploring spirituality and opening up to Spirit I dreamed of two temples, and after trawling the internet I found out they were the Mayan temples of Tikal and Palenque. A few years ago the Mayan Goddess Ixchel seemed to come in a lot; never saying anything, but coming in during certain times of pain and making it known She was there. She is said to have founded Palenque.
When Loki came into my life three years were devoted pretty much solely to Him, Sigyn and Their family. While I wouldn’t take back those amazing years for anything it meant that I often didn’t give much attention to my other Beloveds. Since the upheavals that started in late February my attentions have gotten more diverse, and I’m engaging with more of my Beloveds. I’m also getting more coming back into my life.
I am a Spiritual Nomad.
There is no tradition where I hang my hat.
I answer the call of the Deities,
Following the path They direct me on,
Working with Whoever decides
To make Themselves known to me.
For however long or short
A time that may be.
I am a Polytheist, first and foremost. While I adore my Deities, I have come to feel constricted by indentifying myself so strongly with the Northern Tradition. The truth is that the Gods and Goddesses, the Spirits of the land, and the land itself are my belief system. I feel constrained by the structure of a path where I’m told the way I relate to my Deities is ‘wrong’ somehow. I feel like a butterfly pinned down while still alive, unable to spread my wings and fly into my own flow.
So while I respect those in the Northern Tradition for choosing one path, I realise now that it is not mine. Loki, Sigyn, Hella, Jormungand and Family remain my Beloveds, and They will continue to be much-loved and honoured by me. But the Tradition itself is not for me. I will continue to find pleasure and meaning in reading the Eddas, and pondering my Norse Beloveds, and I will continue to research Norse culture as I please. But the main words I am reclaiming for this are freedom and enjoyment.
How is this for a sign that things are both ‘on the move’ and renewing? The council has decided (after umpteen years of it being overdue) to choose today to start resurfacing the road through our tiny village. Today also happens to be phase one of us moving house. Tomorrow we complete it and move into our rental property.
Roads are about exploring new avenues, and moving on to better things. In being resurfaced they can also represent smoothing over the ‘scars’ and hurts of the past, all the bumpy patches, and bringing about healing.
So is the road work starting on the same day we start moving out sod’s law, or a divine sign? I prefer to choose the latter explanation.
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.
Despite the more obvious practices of Seidhr, spells, enchantments, divination and shapeshifting, there is another powerful magic in the Iron Wood: the women Themselves.
The women are the fiercer, more powerful sex among the Jotnar – think of Angerboda and Skadi, of Groa and Gerda. But this strength isn’t just physical, and nor is it purely ‘magical’. Their true power lies in Their personal power, Their Sovreignty, Their sacred expression of Their Selves. They are empowered women, the Ones Who stand up for Their needs and desires, standing Their ground, asserting Their boundaries.
To the writers of the time these powerful, self-assured women must have been seen as a real threat to the ‘way of the world’. These are independent Goddesses who know Their needs and magics and are respected for it. How much of the ‘terrible and terrifying’ description of Them is really true, and how much is the filter of the writer?
While these amazingly strong Goddesses can be fierce and awe-inspiring, is there a chance They have been somewhat misrepresented? How much of Their true nature has been rewritten or lost? Just as Sigyn is reduced to the long-suffering wife of Loki in the Eddas, with the gift of her magic as galdr fetter hinted at in just one epithet, how much of the Jotnar and Iron Wood has been lost?
In being drawn back to the ways of nature, the Earth and the crystal, plant and animal kingdoms I feel my inner ‘wild woman’ calling. This is part of me I have been too afraid to claim, but now I’m tentatively curious. Whereas Angerboda used to terrify me I can now be in Her presence with a great deal of respect for Her power. I know She values physical strength, but She also values strength of will and heart.
Beside Her more obvious Iron Wood connections, to me She is a Goddess of empowerment. Part of Her gift is bringing us into our own power. While this manifests differently in each of us – due to different personalities, abilities and paths to follow – She is the embodied Powerful Feminine.
Although Hers can be a tough love, She does love… and fiercely. She is loyal and true to Her Self and to those She loves. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Some of my projects from recent weeks:
For the first time this year I actually managed to do some sketching! I’m out of practice so the proportion and perspective need working on (especially in Sigyn’s picture) but I’m pleased that I am able to start working creatively again.
For my Danish Great Aunty Else, who had a wicked sense of humour, loved Robert Ludlum books, Midsomer Murders, Chinese food, ‘collecting’, birds, and her family.
May you be held
In comforting arms
As you go
Upon your way,
May you leave
With loving thoughts
And memories of better days.
May you always be remembered
In our hearts
And in our prayers,
As you take
The next step
On your soul’s
Flight of stairs.
She will now sit with her sister, nephew and parents in my family shrine. I have a wooden comb she gave me when I was 8, and will always think of her when I use it.
Continuing the subject of Deity statues: I have ended up keeping one I thought I would be selling. The statue of Athena arrived one morning last week, and I was really pleasantly surprised that she’s taller than I was expecting. The faux antique tea effect makes her look a bit dirty so I thought painting her virginal white would suit that aspect of her. I placed her on my desk.
When I woke up the following morning I looked over and saw her there, thinking she’d look lovely in the same verdigris effect I have used for some of my personal collection. But other people might not like that, I thought, other people might prefer her painted white. Then I realised I didn’t want to let her go. I remembered that the year before the Egyptian Deities made such a lasting impression on me I had learned about the Ancient Greeks. Out of all the Olympian pantheon it was Athena who I remember attaching myself to. I even bought a little bronze reproduction of the owl of Minerva two years ago in York because it reminded me of Athena’s.
So she’s been there in the background, waiting patiently for over 20 years for me to find her again. Strangely it feels like a little piece of me has returned too; that childlike wonder upon first learning about her at age 7/8. I love Loki and Sigyn and Their family, and my wonderful Egyptian Beloveds, and now Athena is that childhood Inspirer returned. I don’t know if she’s here to stay, but how strange and fascinating that the Goddess of wisdom, battle and healing should come back into my life as I feel like I’m starting over; as I adjust to a relapse in health yet I’m finding my feet as an author, creator and business woman. She is strong but wise, knows her own mind, and is great at planning ahead in minute detail. Who better to guide me through this phase of finding this in myself?