On the list of things despised by the Degu Witch (Tescos, people who talk too much, Boots advantage card, people who like sport, tea, mobile phones, people who disagree with the Degu Witch, Pandora bracelets, discrimination, 5p pieces, chewing gum, cheese flavoured crisps, cockroaches and the Conservative party …) one item shines as a beacon of hatred worthy of its own blog. Litter.
I hate it. I hate those completely oblivious fools who throw their litter to the floor thinking somebody else will pick it up. I hate the kids who think its funny, the adults who don’t care, the parents who don’t teach their kids respect. I was brought up to never drop my litter. I’d have got a good smack from my mother if I’d gone around dropping my crisp packets on the floor. And quite right too. She brought me up to respect the environment and to take responsibility for my own mess. And how hard is it to put a crisp packet in a bin anyway?
Its not any one generation to blame. I see as many old people chuck their wrappings on the ground as I do teenagers. There just seems to be this whole attitude that it is somebody else’s problem. I personally don’t know how anybody can bring themselves to just carelessly drop something on the floor. I chase anything I accidentally drop down the high street…even in a strong wind. I’d rather flash my knickers to an unsuspecting public than be tainted with the foul stench of the litter lout.
To give you an example - I went out for a picnic last summer with my husband and a couple of friends. Very pleasant. Upon leaving our spot we packed up everything carefully, cleared our litter into my husband’s rucksack and left the spot exactly as we had found it. Nearby where we were sitting was another family who were also enjoying the rare summer picnic weather. However when they wandered off, they left all their litter behind, the remnants of their picnic, plastic bottles, dog mess and would you believe it, even dirty nappies. Disgusting. And so completely unnecessary. As far as they were concerned, they had had their fun and they didn’t care that they had made the place horrible for the next family who came along. (Mind you fellow witches, pretty handy to pinch a bit of dna for a spot of revenge? These idiots obviously don’t think that one through….)
Litter has a real impact, beyond mere frustration and unsightliness. It pollutes the rivers and lakes and poisons our fish and birds. Those nasty plastic things that keep cans of lager together can trap animal heads and strangle them. Birds swallow chewing gum and it sticks their insides together. Left over food attracts rats which bring disease into our towns.
There is a major environmental issue here as well. Do you know how long it takes an empty coke can to biodegrade? Two hundred years. That means that coke can you chuck on the ground could still be kicking around in the time of your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild.
Plastic? Bottle tops and the like? They can stick around for 400 years. So if they had had plastic at the time of the gunpowder plot and James 1st had dropped one on the floor, that could theoretically have survived until the present day.
When are we going to wake up to the fact that we can’t choke our beautiful planet indefinitely without consequence? And when are we going to realise that we are not as important as we think we are and instead of banging on about our “rights” to do we should be looking harder at our responsibilities and duties to do things. And these very much include caring for the only habitable planet we have.
Nature will win in the end of course. I watched this brilliant documentary about Life after People and it showed how long it would take for nature to entirely reclaim the planet when (and its when and not if) people are finally wiped out. Most signs of man even including monuments like the Statue of Liberty would be gone without a trace after 10,000 years. Roads will crumble, buildings will fall, the green and the wild will once again rampage through the planet. Animals will return to our cities and within just a few thousand years you wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where London, Tokyo and New York ever stood. That reassures me somewhat.
But even so you horrible, ill mannered, ignorant litter louts – your contempt for your world and for those around you revolts me.
Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=383352 (Drewlface)
There is a real polarity in the way witchcraft is perceived by the general public and it is interesting to see how some people view witchcraft as a science and others much more as an art. I think this distinction even extends to witches themselves. There are witches who focus very much on the practical and scientific aspects of the craft – herb growing, potion making etc and witches who are drawn more to the artistic elements such as spell writing or poppet crafting.
As with any cross section of the public, some witches have a more scientific bent than others. Some seek out rational explanations of how magic works and others have no idea why it works but embrace the fact that it does.
I know some brilliant witches at both ends of the spectrum and I don’t believe a fundamental interest in science is a barrier to being a witch. I’ll be honest, it isn’t the way I personally approach the craft. I’m not very interested in knowing why or how things work and I don’t like getting too bogged down with an intellectual appreciation of what I do. I just like to get on with it. I actually have little personal affinity with science (I’m even secretly a bit dubious about the whole evolution business…) but I can see how an academic reasoning behind their craft can help some witches to commit to what they do.
Generally most people have a bias as to whether they approach the world with instinct or intellect. Some people are very considered and think before acting, others have a more “hope for the best approach.” Both approaches bring their own benefits and challenges to the craft.
Instinct is usually based on subjective knowledge, personal experience and gut feelings. It is an “in the moment” philosophy. A witch who is guided by her instinct will feel her way through the craft, she will perhaps be less inclined to the theories of books and more drawn to trying new ideas out for herself. An instinctive witch is much like an instinctive cook, she probably won’t follow spells or recipes, she will try a little bit of this and a little bit of that until she comes up with something that works for her. (And when she’s done it, she probably won’t be able to tell you how she did it….) The instinctive witch reminds me of George in Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine.” She’ll try a bit of everything with great enthusiasm. It might work, but of course it also might blow the house up….
The advantage of being an instinctive witch is that you are not stifled by the thoughts, ideas and practises of others. Your path evolves along original lines and is likely to be an eclectic one pulling from bits and bobs that have personal appeal. However the downside of being an instinctive witch is that sometimes not enough learning is completed to gain a sound understanding. This can be a real barrier - for example in a witch who wanted to follow a particular tradition. Set traditions can’t just be made up as you go along - you need to learn the rules and the fundamentals of how that tradition works and practises. Although you can go quite a long way in the world of witchcraft without any book learning, an understanding of how witchcraft itself has evolved and a knowledge of what has worked for others is necessary for a witch to progress beyond the naturally limited confines of their own personal experience.
An intellectual witch is likely to study the craft extensively. She will understand different traditions and ways of working and will be inclined toward spells, rituals and documents that have worked well for others and have a historical base. She will question the meanings behind why things work for her and will incorporate or reject elements into her workings based on whether she rationally believes that they are of tangible benefit in her craft. The intellectual witch’s sound understanding of the mechanisms behind her work may mean that she has a stronger belief that what she does will work for her. Certainly she can be confident she has the knowledge to know what she is doing.
The advantage of approaching the craft through intellect is that it opens up a wider base of knowledge and allows the witch to explore viewpoints different to her own. She will spend less time experimenting and more time with the tried and tested. She will have a wider pool of knowledge than her own to draw from.
The disadvantage for the intellectual witch is that sometimes she can be so attached to the study of witchcraft, she never gets her hands dirty with actual workings. So while she may often have a greater knowledge than her hands on sisters, she may never develop the same level of skill as she always has her nose in a book….
You know what I’m going to conclude… The best witches use a blend of both instinct and intellect to further their path in the craft. The combination of book learning and personal experimentation is a powerful one for the witch. Experience builds on the solid foundation of theory and knowledge to further the progression of the individual witch. Both intellect and instinct have a valuable role to play in witchcraft and a witch ignores either at her peril….
Ok, for those of you who have requested I do something to show you some pictures of my tarantulas....this week for the non arachnophobic among you there is a chance to meet Charlotte and co and see some pictures of my beloved scuttlers.
Click here to see the tarantulas. Don't click if you don't want to see pictures of my tarantulas.....
(You will not come across the pics anywhere on the site accidentally, I've done this as a separate page only accessible from the click link so I don't scare those of you who don't like them).
For the rest of you, here are some of the pictures I have created to promote my site on Facebook page. The page is called "Witch Path Forward" so no real surprises there....
A common theme on Ask a Witch a Question is the morality behind performing magic on another person without their consent. A lot of people seem to worry that they will have magic cast on them against their will or without their knowledge.
So I thought I’d explore my own position on this a bit in today’s blog post.
My views have changed over the last couple of years. Initially I was very live and let live and quite conscious of not treading on the toes of other people. But the more I work with magic, the more strongly I feel that if I can use it to achieve a benefit in my life then why shouldn’t I do so? As a fundamentally selfish individual, I’m all about making my life as easy as possible. If I can eliminate a few obstacles here and there, I’m going to do it
Also, working with magic is an intrinsic part of what I do. It’s hard to define what is or isn’t magic. There is no clear demarcation in my day to day business anymore. The magical part of what I do is tightly woven into the other parts of what I do. There is little discernable boundary. Standing on my welcome desk at work earlier today and giving every one of my customers a smile that makes them leave the branch happy is working a little magic in itself. But few people would object to having this kind of magic worked on them.
Admittedly, of late, my views have become a bit less sympathetic to others. Put simply, a lot of people (actually, most people) annoy me. Some on purpose, some inadvertently. Even those who don’t go around annoying me often get in my way. And if somebody impacts my life negatively then I am becoming increasingly less concerned with taking direct action to push them out of the way or stop them doing whatever it is that I don’t like them doing. So when the behaviour of another person affects me I am quite likely these days to interfere. I don’t really have a moral problem with this. I’m proportionate - I don’t go flinging curses around just because somebody gets on my wick (Unlike some witches I could mention….). In fact, for me to take an aggressive stance, you’d have to really go out of your way to be a thorn in my side. But in terms of manipulative magic or defensive magic, I’m quite happy to employ them where needed. Not that I’d advertise the specifics of course! (Also, if you know someone practises witchcraft and you go out of your way to irritate them, you’re kind of asking for it, aren’t you?)
I’ll give you an example. If I felt someone was nagging me, I’d work a spell to shut them up. I wouldn’t hurt them, harm them or punish them but I would ensure that in relation to me, they shut up. I might do this proactively by shutting them up or I might do it reactively by changing the effect their nagging has on me. Either way, I’d bring about a situation where it would bother me no longer. This, in effect, is using magic on a person without their knowledge. Opinions will differ widely as to whether or not it is acceptable. For me, it is becoming a much more acceptable way of conducting myself. For others it is perhaps an unjustified action. (To be fair, I’d look at my own behaviour too, if I’m doing something so stupid that the nagging is justified, just stopping doing it might be the answer to my problem!)
Malice is a different game entirely. I can be pretty tolerant with people who annoy me and exceptionally tolerant of people who affect me negatively for positive reasons of their own. If my feelings happen to be the “fall out” I can understand that. I’d never do the whole woman scorned thing and I’d never blame someone for putting their choices/feelings in front of my own. That’s just how life works. However, if someone displayed deliberate intentional malice toward me, I’d take a very gloves off approach. I’d be deliciously vengeful and I’d enjoy it deeply.
I’m very hands off when someone makes poor life choices that don’t affect me. I’m still of the mind that it’s probably none of my business what other people get up to. Some people make what I consider to be astonishingly terrible life decisions, but I’ve always been a believer in personal responsibility and hold the view that a lot of situations are down to the person to sort for themselves. There are exceptions of course. If my little niece ever got bullied at school, I’d interfere magically like a shot. Equally if someone asked me to interfere then I probably would. But I don’t have either the extreme arrogance to believe I know all the answers or if I’m honest the effort it would take to go round the world being a moral crusader. Its very hard to make choices for other people. People are complex creatures. You don’t know enough about them to know what the right choice would be to make for them. I’d be really angry if someone assumed they knew what was best for me and I would therefore hesitate to do it to someone else. I suppose I can imagine extreme exceptions where I might intervene in someone else’s life, but generally I’ll let people get on with it unless they a) get in my way or b) ask me for help.
The only time I ever do go on a moral crusade and proactively get involved with something that has nothing to do with me is when I go through the papers and do the odd curse here and there for people who have hurt animals. (You are so going to regret what you did to that hamster James White ….. and I mean really regret it). Possibly a bit vicious of me but it’s my little way of fighting injustice in the world. I’ve worried about the morality on occasion, the possibility of getting the wrong person etc. etc. But my eventual conclusion was what the hell, just do it. It serves them right and it makes me happy.
So really, I have my own personal rules and I rarely stray beyond them. I put myself very much at the centre of what I do and so I think do most people if they are honest. I don’t have the fluffy viewpoint of making the world a blessed and sugary place for everyone I meet, I’m primarily concerned with making my own life work for me. I do try to conduct what I do within some confines of morality and I do try not to permit neither temper or personal dislike to cloud my judgement but ultimately, I use who I am and what I do to get what I want. I don’t think this makes me any less lovely than the next person, just perhaps a little more honest……
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1109760 (mc kenna 7 1)
OK Mr Cameron, step aside. I’ve watched you messing things up for too long now and I think I can do a better job. So Degu Witch for PM.
The Degu Witch Manifesto
Now, I'm aware that the country is in a bit of a mess financially, so the first thing I'd do is boost up the treasury a bit.
I would scrap Trident on my first day in power. Yep, I’d slash the defence budget until they could barely afford a solitary hand gun. And as I wouldn't be following the American constitution on their right to bear arms any time soon, I probably wouldn't let them use it anyway. We're a small island with no real power any more, we don't need a massive defense budget. The only people who want to invade us are too far away to manage it anyway.
So I'm already a few million quid up on the Tories.
OK. Taxation. I'd have a much more tiered system and anyone earning over £100k would be taxed at 70%. But my real focus here would be on big companies. I would make public disclosure of profits mandatory even for private companies and I would enforce such eye wateringly large fines on tax evasion that it just wouldn't be worth doing it. I'd scrap the FSA and all their pernickity little pressures on the banks and I'd set them to work spotting tax fraud instead.
That's saved me a few billion a year.
I'd tax the knickers off junk food, chocolate, alcohol, takeaways, fizzy pop, sweeties and processed food. This would have the impact of a) more money from taxes, b) eating healthy would be the new cheap option c) save money from the NHS as impact on better health.
I'd also use monetary fines as more of a punishment in the legal system. I'd financially penalise white collar crime, thus reducing my prison bills and boosting my coffers from the fines. I'd fine anyone dropping litter as well – I'd fine them a lot!
Now I'm in charge and I'm rich I can start actually doing stuff...
I'd completely overhaul the sex offenders register and apply a much needed dose of common sense. 16 year old lads bonking their 15 year old girlfriends would not be considered sex offenders on my list.
I'd legalise prostitution (and tax it), cannabis (tax it a LOT) and I'd employ a good deal less prudishness on the porn laws with the obvious exception of child porn. I'd toughen up on that by forcing Google and co to disclose key word search history data (I know they can do that...)
I would unprivatise all the key utilities and ensure water, gas, electric, rail and the mail were all non profit organisations. (And I wouldn't compensate the share holders either, they've had enough money over the years.)
I'd do a massive overhaul of the welfare state. The trouble with the welfare state is that those who need benefits don't get enough because people who don't need them claim them. Take child benefit for example – I wouldn't give that to the affluent middle class as a basic right but I would give more to people to whom the money really makes a genuine difference. And I'd go entirely on household, not individual, income. None of this two people earn £30k each so they qualify nonsense.
Environmentally I would heavily tax the second car in a household but I would take tax off petrol. The idea being that necessary journeys become more affordable but unnecessary trips are minimised.
I'd bring in mandatory pet licensing for all animals and give the RSPCA rules some serious power against animal offenders (maybe that handgun will come in use after all....) All acts of cruelty would result in a lifetime ban. I'd ban fox hunting, badger culling and bring in strict
rules for more humane pest control.
I'd cut management in the NHS and use the money for more nurses. I'd tell teachers to suck it up, stop going on strike and be grateful for their long holidays. I'd go further with the services, I would make it illegal for any of the public services to go on strike and I would make it punishable by jail sentence.
I'd make all schools multi faith and insist that discussion of all faiths forms a core part of the syllabus. Traditional days of worship across all the world religions would be equally noted. This would promote knowledge of others and general tolerance from an early age.
I'd return common sense to the legal system and appoint the judiciary from completely non legal walks of life with an emphasis on weeding out thousands of pound payouts for some mewling mare who's had her bottom slapped (whichever journalist said a real woman would deal with it, I agree with him wholeheartedly....)
I would ban mobile phones on all public transport and use some of the billions I've saved to put up mobile blocking signals in areas on national importance.
I'd stop censoring naughty words in songs on the radio. I'd be pretty tolerant with censorship full stop. I'd let practically anything go through the cinemas but would be tougher on dvd release as more chance of falling into underage hands. I'd take a harder line on gratuitous violence than sex because I don't believe watching a bit of nudity ever harmed anyone.
Finally, I would criminalise chewing gum. I'd make it illegal to sell, buy or chew it.
So there you have it – the Degu Witch manifesto. Do I have your vote??
Ok, a slightly fragmented blog this week. On the Pagan blog project we are currently working with the letter H and I and I suspect many of my literary witchy colleagues just can’t resist the chance to let this one pass without a quick nod to Harry Potter.
Unlike many witches, I’ve got rather a soft spot for JK Rowling. I’ve fought her corner a few times when her writing style and her knowledge of the occult have come under fire. As someone who knows a bit about both writing and magic I don’t think she strays all that far off the mark with either. The books kept me entertained for many years and – here’s a rare confession from the Degu Witch for you – yes I did queue up at midnight to buy the last one….
So I thought today, what I’d like to do is pull a few fictional examples out of the Potter Universe and use them to illustrate some of the inspirations and roots for where the fiction originated from.
There are many historical, mythical and cultural (Azkaban/Alcatraz anyone?) references but the focus here is on actual magical practices.
So to start with – wands. Witches get asked all the time if they use wands (some do, some don’t). I do personally. I can’t confess to have a phoenix feather or unicorn hair in my wand but what I do have is several crystals attached to each of them. The idea of a wand is that it is used to direct energy. Although energy can be directed just as effectively with your hands (and many many Trad witches prefer this method) the idea of using a wand is that your intent picks up the characteristics of the wood and the crystals that the energy is generated through.
And interestingly enough, I do have a wand made from elder….
The whole idea of the horcrux has got to stem from the traditional idea of making a witch bottle. With a witch bottle, a witch will seal her essence inside, often protecting it with baneful herbs, glass, broken nails. I’ve done this with serenity spells by sealing my essence inside lavender and giving it a shake when I want to feel calm. It’s the idea of separating a part of yourself so it cannot be harmed, which fits in very nicely with JK’s soul splitting.
A witch learns how to become invisible. Not literally (which is a shame) but she learns how to blend into her surroundings, how to be unobtrusive and covert, how not to draw attention to herself. This is obviously where JK gets the idea of the invisibility cloak from. However, in her world, invisibility sounds a lot more interesting!
Witches work with spirits. In the real world this is often achieved through a séance, a Ouija board or simply by opening up the spirit channels. JK has a lot of fun inventing ways for her characters to speak to the other world. Probably the most charming to my mind are the portraits of the Headmasters in the Headmaster’s study at Hogwarts. And as witches may seek the advice from the other world, many of the magical characters in the Potterverse are advised by the various pictures and portraits that bridge the gap between the worlds.
Scrying is a method of divination. It can be done with a crystal ball (a la Ms Trelawney), a mirror (The Mirror of Erised) or any flat shiny surface really, even a bowl of water. JK really picks this up with the whole looking into the Mirror to see the future thing. However, unlike modern witches who use scrying more as an aid to unlock the inner wisdom of the mind than to actually physically “see” an image (though that can work as well) –the characters in the books see the visions as clearly as they would their own reflection. Which is taking the whole scrying idea and souping it up somewhat.
Incidentally, talking of divination, many people still read their tea leaves. I don’t personally, I cannot abide tea. But it is still a future foretelling method used widely today.
One area where our friends at Hogwarts seem to have it a lot easier than real witches is spell casting. All they seem to do is mutter a few random non rhyming (mostly gobbledygook) words and amazing things start to happen. Yes, there is a parallel to spell casting, words are important, they frame and express your intent. To keep the focus, many witches will rhyme their spells. But there is a world of difference between mumbling a word or two and writing a spell to lay out specific intent. I always think spell writing is much more akin to writing a formal legal contract – its important to consider all the loopholes…
Sticking with spells. Bellatrix Lestrange comments how you really need to learn to hate to work a curse. She’s right. Cursing is a tricky area of magic. Going into it tentatively or doubtfully will achieve nothing. This is why curses are real one off, probably not used very often spells. Not many of us can sustain the levels of anger and hatred needed to work a curse. Different with hexes, the lighter side of aggressive magic, much less hate needed. Vexation and irritation. (And people who use their mobiles on the bus. Slap my wrist!)
Culturally I think JK Rowling is making some interesting sociological points about racism when she refers to the non magical beings as “Muggles.” However there is also a definite cultural link to the world of real witchcraft where many an argument burns about whether witches are born a witch or learn to become a witch. Hereditary traditions can often be quite scornful of a witch who comes to the craft rather than being born into a family or tradition. Equally, many traditional witches are negative about Wiccan witches, seeing them as inferior because they only practise “fluffy magic.” As with any generalisation, it isn’t a behaviour you see in everyone, but it does exist and the backbiting between the various groups can be every bit as vicious as Lord Voldermort’s dislike of the Muggles.
For me, the best book in the series is the Half Blood Prince and I think the ending is one of the scariest chapters I have ever read in a book ostensibly intended for children. The army of the dead who rise from the waters bear an uncanny resemblance to the Voodoo (voudou) zombies of Haitian legend. Dead in soul and spirit but alive in flesh. There is something terrifying about an enemy who cannot be reasoned with and JK uses this imagery very effectively to chill the blood of her readers.
As this has turned into rather a long blog post, I’m going to throw a few more ideas at you now and then go have my dinner (which I’m rather hoping is fish and chips….)
The witch’s familiar? Voldermort’s snake, Harry’s owl, Hermionie’s cat….
Astral Projection? Harry’s death, the Dementors, the time travelling device?
Meditation and mind clearing? – The Pensieve?
Sacrifice? The blood offering in the cave in the Half Blood Prince.
Ok, I’ve made my point. In my humble opinion, JK has done more research than her critics admit. She’s got a pretty thorough knowledge of the magical world and a good understanding of myth and legend (maybe a blog post on that one day, who knows….)
And why do I get the feeling I’ve only scratched the surface here…? That there are thousands more I’ve missed. Let me know if you think up any more. x
A new thing on Witchpathforward. A guest writer on my blog! I was going to write a post about how to create a memory palace but to be honest, my fellow witch Athena has already written such a good explanation that I ended up asking her if I could just use what she has written instead.
So, with the very kind permission of Athena (slightly abridged for reasons of space):
If you have never heard of a memory palace I would describe it as a physical place within your mind that you access during deep meditation. A memory palace can technically be any place. Some say you can use blue prints and construct your palace from that but I would instead recommend you use a place you actually know very well. I use my Great Grandma’s big rambling old home. No matter where it is you need to know it very well - as in going to the bathroom in the pitch dark with no night lights well - because it will allow you to access your way around with greater ease and will enable you to focus on the memories stored there. You really do want to know the memory palace like the back of your hand otherwise it’s kind of pointless because you will always be trying to figure out where something is and frustration is not conducive to the process.
The next step is to start stocking it with memories. You can use whatever you would like to hold the memory. An example in my memory palace - I have a lot of sculptures like Nefertiti and when I see that bust it holds the detailed memory of Egyptian artwork for me. On the other hand the painting of Venus de Milo holds a very detailed memory of a trip to Agate Beach with my family where I can feel the sand under my feet and feel the bite of the wind as it ruffles my son’s hair. The main thing is that the correlation works for you. Now that's just two small items in a huge house and suddenly you can see why the Memory Palace is such useful place. You can stock it with as many items as you would like and every candle stick can evoke its own vivid memory
To create your memory, focus on each and every detail including smells, sounds, textures… You want to create a immersive experience and the more you focus, the more complete the memory becomes. You may even discover things in the memory you didn't even think you could remember at first!
I have even added to my original memory palace. I added a barn with horses who are the pets I grew up with and here I can visit with my old friends, stroke their fur and smell the well oiled leather from my favourite saddle. In this way a memory palace can be a great comfort. However you can also choose to have a room to store blocked memories where you can carefully go through the unopened boxes of a painful past. Or you could shut the door on a recurring memory by shutting and locking the door so there it will remain until (or if ever) you want to deal with it.
One thing I do now when I'm in a “soon to be memory” is think how I want to remember the moment exactly. It might be a little hard at first to get started because you will have lots of flashes of memories that you want to store away but go slowly, treating each memory as the priceless treasure it is. I try to organize my rooms so like memories are stored together and in a way that makes sense to me.
You can get so detailed that you can even store memories in books so that the flip of each page invoke a different stored memory. The possibilities are endless - it's all a matter of how well you construct it and that you take care of it.
You can also use your memory palace to look into the future. I made a room specifically for crossing over to the spirit realm. My point is you should do what works for you, what triggers your own mind to go where you want it to. In this way you can build an amazing mental palace that's as real as any place in the physical world.
Since having this discussion with Athena I’ve been building my own memory palace. And she’s right – the total recall you can achieve in deep meditation is astounding. I’m using mine more for storing emotions and feelings and I have a room of absolute utter tranquillity (funnily enough, my Grandma’s old house, same as Athena) where I go in my mind whenever the world gets a bit too chaotic. And I like Athena’s ability to adapt as well, your mind doesn’t have to be limited by the physical world. My Grandma’s house used to be on a street but I think I might pick it up mentally and put it on some nice shady little island with gently lapping waves and leafy trees.
A memory palace is an excellent tool for a witch. We have a lot of remembering to do, a lot of what we need to remember is probably best not written down and we also spend a lot of time practising control with our minds, so taking mental organisation to such a structured level is not really a hardship for anyone practising the craft.
The book that Wiccans refer to as a book of shadows and Traditional witches call a Grimoire is essentially the notes of your personal journey on the craft. This can be a binder, a file, a leatherbound pentagram embossed tomb of aged looking paper or even a simple notebook.
I’ve gone high tec recently and computerised mine much to the horror of some of my friends, particularly the one who writes in a mixture of red ink and her own blood. Well each to their own, but I like my files organised, structured, neatly typed and accessible from any part of the globe. So yes, I have my Grimoire saved on Google Drive!
In terms of what is kept in a Grimoire, well this varies spectacularly from witch to witch. Some use it as a spell book, others a journal. It can be used to keep recipes, correspondences, herb growing instructions. A lot of mine is nice little charts on Microsoft Excel that I add to when I have a new idea or something interesting comes to mind. I keep pictures on there as well, personal pictures of my altars and nature pictures of days out where I’ve felt particularly inspired. Sometimes I copy interesting forum posts for future reference.
And just as the format and context varies from witch to witch, so does the style. Some write in their native language, others use a personally devised alphabet or write in Theban script. Some only feel it works if it is handwritten and I know several witches who refuse to take a paper print out into a working circle.
The secrecy levels vary as well. I’ve got a spiritual journal which is handwritten and kept completely private (and very recently endowed with a hex just in case of prying eyes). But I’m quite open with my other bits and bobs, I even put things of use on my site from time to time. Secrecy is of immense value to a witch but sharing and helping others to progress is also a big part of the craft and certainly a big part of who I am. But a lot of witches would not entertain the idea of being even remotely public with anything that they do. Which is fair enough. It isn’t really a one size fits all solution, we all have different ideas.
So the main purpose of a Grimoire is to have a main body of reference from what you learn in the craft, your own thoughts and ideas, what has worked well for you, what you might do differently next time. And the most crucial piece of advice I would give any new witch starting a Grimoire for the first time is to use a format that is expandable. That pretty leather bound book may seem a great idea at the time but months and years down the line will you really be able to find the spells you need without having to decipher yards and yards of your own scribble? No. Indexing is the key. So perhaps a ring binder or a box file? You might record everything you know about herbs NOW but five years down the line when you know a lot more, you will want to expand your section and it just becomes too unwieldy if your sections are all over the place. So don’t be conned into thinking your book as to look “witchy” it doesn’t. A simple filing system will be of far more use to you.
And think about the purpose of your writing. Is it for you in your old age? Your children? Are you starting or continuing a tradition? Will you ever want to go public with your info or is it just a private reference tool for you? Will typing decrease how “Witchy” you feel? Is your handwriting good enough to read back on?
Consider all this and more when starting a Grimoire because trust me, I moaned and groaned through three weeks of solid typing when I changed my mind about keeping a handwritten document. Lets face it – we live in the modern age – make the most of what it has to offer!
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1403785 (mst_b)
I never imagined a world where I'd end up writing an article that wasn’t wholly 100% vitriolic toward the Daily Mail. But after the latest debacle in the press, I don't feel I can let the moment pass without adding my own point of view.
(For those of you not familiar with the recent events, in December 2012 the Daily Mail published an article criticising the decision of a transgender teacher to return to school as a female after undergoing a gender realignment process. After the “outing” by the Daily Mail and the subsequent invasion of privacy, the lady in question chose to take her own life.)
Now you know my thoughts on this kind of thing. I detest bigotry. My own live and let live attitude is frequently at odds with most contributors to the Mail (and certainly the idiots who write in to their letters page). But I equally dislike sanctimonious uproar and thats what (as usual) this whole business has turned into. Witch hunting the author of the article....witch hunting the Daily Mail, online petitions.... The usual uproar.
And while I'm happy to point the finger of blame when its needed, I like to make sure I'm pointing the damn thing in the right place.
I'm going to introduce you to someone. This is Mr Jones. Mr Jones lives in a smart semi detached house with a conservatory in the better part of town. He drives a sensible car that he washes once a week without fail. He has a wife, two children, a socially acceptable breed of dog, sex on Saturday nights, football Sunday afternoons and the odd pint at the pub when his wife is at bingo. He reads the Daily Mail.
Now Mr Jones doesn't think hes a bigot, obviously he wouldn't have made the mistakes that would result in bringing his children up gay and he'd prefer if all the non British went back to where they came from (Not that he's a racist, he's always perfectly polite to Mr Patel in the corner shop. Wouldn't invite him for Sunday lunch of course, but that's ok, his wife only cooks English dishes anyway.) If you press him, he'll admit that he thinks the world was probably a better place fifty years ago.
Mr Jones thinks he's the backbone of what our society should be founded on. He embodies the spirit that built the Empire. He grits his teeth and gets on with it. He's not really all that sure what goes on beyond his own front door and if he's honest, he doesn't really want to know. Ok, he glances out of the window occasionally to make sure nobody from the local council estate has come and vandalised his car (Take their benefits off them, they'll get a job quickly enough then!). But thats as far as it goes. He likes his own four walls.
But what Mr Jones doesn't know is that every time he walks to his corner shop and hands over his 45p (I’ve no idea how much it actually costs, the Degu Witch wouldn't be seen dead with a copy) in exchange for a copy of the Daily Mail, he is contributing to a national conscience of narrow minded discrimination and hatred. He is endorsing a world view of bigotry.
He doesn't see it like that of course... he thinks he's just buying a newspaper.
But its very much at the door of Mr Jones where I place the blame for this current tragedy. I blame him for buying the rubbish the Daily Mail publishes. If he stopped buying it, they’d stop writing it. I don't really blame the Daily Mail. Essentially they are running a business. Yes it’s a bloody terrible paper but its really only following the market conditions of supply and demand. I guarantee you that if everyone boycotted it for a week and wrote to the editor saying they don't want to read such right wing extremism the paper would become the epitome of liberalism within the space of a week. They write what people want to read, people like Mr Jones.
The underlying problem is that we live in a society chock a block full of Mr Joneses. A society where scandal fills the papers and the pockets of Newspaper editors. A society where we allow the press to mock and sensationalise the innocent. And then we turn and blame anybody else to get the stench of blood off our hands. It started out with the cult of celebrity but as the boundaries of who actually is a celebrity becomes blurred, anybody at all has become fair game for exposure, censure and the cruellest of personal criticisms.
Mr Jones doesn't understand why a man would ever want to become a woman. Its all a bit new age in his opinion. Wouldn't have happened fifty years ago. Government wants to get a grip on using NHS funding for that kind of thing. Mr Jones refuses to prise his door open a crack and imagine for a moment how terrible it must be for someone born into the wrong body. He can't empathise because its outside his comfort zone. The Daily Mail suggests its all a bit unnecessary, possibly even a little dirty and he's happy to go along with that. Empathy requires too much effort for Mr Jones. He's a sheep and he'll baaa along quite happily with his fellow Daily Mail readers.
The answer doesn't lie in blaming a paper that gives its readers what it wants, the answer lies in changing the very fundamentals of society. The more gay, transgender, bdsm, pagan, (whatever) people speak out, the more we slowly educate the bigoted and move our world into a more tolerant place. I've spoken a lot recently about jumping out of my own personal closets and this is why I do I it. Because every time I stand up and say - Look at me, I'm not following the crowd, I’m striking out on my own and being true to myself - its one in the eye for the Daily Mail and a little more education for their charmingly limited readers.
On the subject of transgender. I doubt anyone has ever woken up and thought, I fancy a change today, I think I'll swap gender. Being born into a body you have no emotional connection to is a deeply traumatic burden to carry. It makes me very angry that someone who has found the courage inside them to tackle and overcome that burden should then be subjected to ridicule.
So RIP Miss Lucy Meadows. I sincerely admire your courage and frankly I am ashamed to live in a society that has contributed to hounding you into taking your own life.
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