I recently enjoyed a trip to Stonehenge with my husband. It was about an hour’s drive out of our way but Wiltshire is a beautiful county in the autumn and we rarely turn up anywhere on time so we made the diversion as we returned home to the North. I’m passionately devoted to the North. Nothing makes me more proud than being a Yorkshire woman born and bred. Very occasionally friends and family manage to lure me away for a couple of days but I’m out of my comfort zone as soon as we pass Leicester Forest. I’m not even all that keen on London. I like the big industrial northern cities, the kind of places Lowry painted with his little matchstick men. Factories, canals, smog…the honest grind of the working northern man. Rather a dichotomy really when I stop and think about it – I’m the pagan who finds beauty in industry….
But I digress. Stonehenge…. I spend a lot of time in stone circles, blessed as we are in Derbyshire to have so many close by. But I knew Stonehenge would be different, I anticipated a certain level of commerce so I wasn’t surprised when we drove up to a huge wire fence surrounding the site and a sign pointing me to the visitors centre. Yes, that’s the modern world all over. An ancient monument over two thousand years old and one of the most incredible achievements of mankind and where do they expect you to spend your time? Huddled indoors looking at a few photos they’ve stuck up with blue tak and being charged £7.30 for the privilege of doing so. Sometimes I could just tear my hair out!
I couldn’t really see the point of paying anything. I was happy to pay when we went to Winchester Cathedral because they need the money for the maintenance, but I’m really sceptical about where my Stonehenge money would have gone. Those stones seem to have done a pretty good job standing there without my £7.30. And I rather resent paying for a silly audio headset that will spoil the whole ambiance of viewing the monument anyway.
When I visit an ancient monument I want to sense the atmosphere, I want to run my hands over those weathered stones and imagine what they must have seen in a life time hundreds of times longer than my own. I want to absorb the vibes of one of England’s most spiritual sites. I don’t want to walk round with a headset on, looking like some vacuous tourist who can’t find the gift shop.
Its such a shame. When we went to Arbor Low, (claimed by those who live in Derbyshire to be the second holiest stone circle in the country due to its position on the crossing of several ley lines) it was so secluded I was able to spend time in the circle meditating. I was able to use it for what it was built to be used for, a place of peace and worship. I was able to touch the stones and connect with them. At Stonehenge those people who did pay to go “beyond the fence” didn’t get anywhere near the stones. They just got to walk a huge circle round the stones, a circle cynically designed to take as long as the audio tape to walk round. They were fenced off from the monument itself. I don’t know why they bothered, I got just as good a view from the other side of the fence. And fortunately my husband is pretty tall so he was able to take some pictures over the top of the fence without the wire getting in the way (see pic), so win win really.
I believe the only time you can actually get up close to the stones themselves is on Summer Solstice when it becomes a magnet for every pagan, druid, witch and new ager in the country. Actually it looks rather fabulous with all those people gathering together to use the circle for its proper purpose. I bet the stones really look forward to Solstice. I might go next year. I really might. Who knows - the power of Stonehenge and the lure of seeing it as a pagan rather than a tourist might be one more thing on the list to prise this northern witch away from her beloved north….
Chain letters annoy me more than a degu using its wheel at 3.00 in the morning. And why do they annoy me? Because they are absolute utter rubbish. They mean nothing, they harness no magic or energy and there is no truth, I'll repeat that - NO TRUTH at all that they will do any of the things they claim they will.
Yet the nasty spiteful people behind these mass cons always manage to succeed in upsetting somebody when they send out their pathetic little messages.
These horrid little missives can range from death threats to curses to hexes to wishing bad luck on yourself and your family. They can cause real distress in the recipient who often feels faced with the difficult choice of facing up to the bad luck or passing the letter on to somebody else and causing harm to them as well. So this witch is making an offer. Send them to me! Yep, no matter how nasty, no matter how hateful, no matter what they threaten, you are welcome to type them out and send them to email@example.com You can then rest knowing you haven't broken the chain but you've sent it on to somebody who isn't going to lose a minute's sleep over receiving it.
Now what will I do with them? Depends really. If I'm pressed for time I'll just delete them and break the chain. If I've got a few spare minutes I'll Google the text, try to find the person who started it and send them a letter of my own sharing my opinion of them and giving them a good dressing down for their childish ways. But if the letters arrive on a bad mood day, I will print them out and burn them in a ritual fire with a little hexing ingredient of my own. And that small minded creepy little letter writing nerd may well find out his/her letter generates a good deal more bad luck than they ever bargained for.......
In the modern world of the internet and the concerns of internet safety and being aware that a lot of young people read my website, I have a couple of concerns I would like to share with you. It worries me that some of the questions I have received have been sent with email addresses linking back to the individual person's full name. I've also noticed that some people are very forth coming with personal information about themselves. Now I know I am not a sleazy fifty year old predatory male looking for people to con and prey on, (I'm a thirty something non predatory female actually) but that isn't the point - how do YOU know that? Think about it, I could have nicked the picture of myself off the net, written a load of twaddle to get you interested and then started using the information I glean from enthusiastic young witches for dodgy purposes. (I didn't, it really is me, but you see my point, anybody can say anything and pretend to be anyone they want...)
The anonymity of the internet is both a blessing and a curse. And it is so easy to be conned. Its easy to be told that you would benefit more from meeting in person (RUBBISH!) or you'll get a better answer if you tell loads of info about yourself (FRAUDSTERS!) or even sex magic and nudity are the answer to your problems (PERVERTS!)
I'd really like some of you to think about how you use the net. If you are going to contact someone on a website, why not set up a separate email address that says nothing about who you are. So if you make contact with someone who makes you uncomfortable you can delete it and move on. And if a webform says you MUST give your full name and you MUST give your full address (barring legit sites where you are making credit card purchases) then to be honest I would give them a wide berth. In fact, if anyone ever asks for your full address on the net I'd just avoid them completely.
So, just to put my mind at rest that I've done my bit for internet security, here are my five website pledges and my five top internet safety tips.
My site pledges
1. I will NEVER ask for your real name, address, phone number, school, place of work or other identifying information. If you do accidentally send this to me I will destroy it securely. I will not share this personal information from myself with you either.
2. I will NEVER ask for a picture of you.
3. I will NEVER ask to meet you. Nor am I afraid will I agree to meet you if you ask to meet me. Internet security works both ways!
4. I will NEVER answer questions of a sexual or adult content on the site.
5. I will NEVER contact you without you asking me to. I reply to your email confirming when your question has been answered and I reply to any subsequent emails but I do not use your email address for further contact once your question has been answered.
My five top internet safety tips
1. NEVER agree to meet anyone on the net who asks you to. Doesn't matter if you are nine or ninety, it is foolhardy and dangerous.
2. It is a guarantee that any picture you send to ANYONE will appear on the internet somewhere. Keep your photos private and only put them on sites where you can control who views them. NEVER EVER EVER send a photo to someone who asks you for one. Remember, they can use that photo to fake an identity to trap other people.
3. Tell as little as possible about yourself and stick to the topic at hand. If somebody starts asking you questions that don't involve the main topic, avoid them.
4. Don't believe ANYBODY is who they say they are. Sadly there are foul perverts who pretend to be teenage girls to win the trust of real teenage girls. Its horrible but its true. Just because someone says they are so and so aged whatever doesn't mean they are.
5. Take EVERYTHING you read on the net with a hefty pinch of salt. A lot of it is rubbish and the vast majority of what you read is just somebody's opinion. Don't believe all that you read, in fact don't believe most of what you read!
Safety first. It may be a cliche but in the case of the internet, its the truth.........
http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=1201945 (Billy Alexander)
Last week I visited Winchester, the old capital of the country. Winchester is a beautiful city full of romantic old buildings and redolent in medieval history. It has less of a feel of homogenous McDonaldisation than many other towns and cities in the UK and for this reason alone I applaud it. (I don't rate the exorbitant prices charged by the coffee shops...least said soonest mended....) but on balance it is a fine city and well worth travelling to spend a day there.
The Cathedral (building started circa 1100 and much of the Norman architecture is still evident today) dominates the city. It houses the final resting place of notables such as Jane Austin, Isacc Walton and a lot of other people who to be honest I haven't heard of. As we were visiting in November there were also several poppy clad memorials mourning those who had died in the World Wars. It would be hard not to feel moved by the Cathedral's simple but sincere respects to its deceased.
I particularly enjoyed seeing the Cathedral library. I have this feeling that were I to spend a few days there, the dusty serene and scholarly atmosphere would inspire even this procrastinating witch to write something profound and worth while. Though that would be if I ever got round to putting the books down..... It was fascinating seeing first editions of Milton's Paradise Lost and early works by John Donne. The treasured Winchester Cathedral bibles were very interesting as well, the curate pointed out the error notes in the margin and explained how the scribes had to painstakingly scratch off their work in order to write the corrected versions over their original work. And it was good to see that budget problems existed even in the Middle Ages, there were several illustrations in the bible only half completed and the curate explained that the Cathedral at the time had simply run out of money....
Now you might ask - what is a witch doing in a place of Christian worship anyway? Well I'll tell you. To me, it doesn't matter what religion a holy place is dedicated to. Any place that has absorbed the vibes of people going to share their lives with their creator, particularly places like Cathedrals that have been standing so very long, picks up a spirit of its own. Walking through the halls of the Cathedral you can feel the strength and belief of all those who have walked there before you and it's a humbling experience.
Its the same with Mosques and Synagogues, neither Islam nor Judaism is the right path for me but I have a real respect for their holy places. Yes, my particular path may prefer to seek out standing stones rather than the more traditional indoor places of worship but fundamentally the denomination is irrelevant. Religion is just a path to the Gods. Ultimately it doesn't matter how we choose to walk that path, we're all walking it to the same end. And its nice sometimes to stop and take a look at each other's paths and know that although we are not walking together, at least we are walking the same way.
I have a funny relationship with the old green eyed monster. In many if not most things he doesn't bother me very much at all. Jealousy isn't an emotion I have a lot to do with and seeing the destructive affect it has on so many people, I'm quite glad about it.
A lot of people are often surprised at my very relaxed attitude to my marriage. I've come in for quite a bit of criticism over the years for my polyamorous open marriage where my husband has a great deal of freedom to see other women. The thing is that I genuinely don't see infidelity as something to get too worked up about. I'm a pretty confident kind of person and even my most verbose critics would be hard pressed to paint me as some kind of victim bullied by an over bearing husband. So with that in mind, even people who disagree with what I do have to admit that I enjoy an open marriage because, well because I enjoy an open marriage.
I suppose I also have a touch of arrogance. I know my husband would be hard pressed to find anyone more interesting than me to take my place. This gives me the confidence to slacken the conventional reins of marriage. Why shouldn't I have my cake and eat it? Why shouldn't he?
The question I am often asked is how I can bear to let my husband cheat on me. Well the thing is that it isn't cheating if he has my full knowledge and consent. Cheating implies lying and there are no lies in my marriage (well except the price of that coat I bought last year but we really don't need to talk about that now, do we...). He keeps no secrets from me and his first loyalty is always to me and to our relationship. I rate my husband highly as a friend as well as my partner and if he has needs and desires outside our marriage then as his friend I do not want to ask him to deny those desires. Nor do I expect him to ask me to deny the things I need that he cannot provide me with.
I do not believe that any one person can fulfil every single one of another person's needs and I honestly believe that couples who claim that they can are either deluding themselves or have some pretty simplistic needs.
There are things that I would consider to be a betrayal of our vows but to be honest a bit of sex would certainly not fall into that category. If my husband wants to fill our house with lovely ladies who are happy to help me out with the washing up, then why would I want to object? Some of his lovely ladies have become very close friends of mine and I can't imagine a life any more where it is just him and me. We would drive each other slowly round the bend and we would be living a life of compromise. I don't want to compromise, I want to live my life exactly the way I want and do whatever it is that I need to be happy. I can't do that inside a conventional framework.
And an open marriage has other advantages as well. Should I want to take a lover, my husband wouldn't object which would save all that sneaking around that goes on in so many marriages. He respects the time I devote to my witchcraft, to my friends, to my novel writing and even to my 12 hour Dallas marathons.... I don't feel I have to be "the wife.." I have my own identity as a person, independent of who I have chosen to spend my life with. I'll never be a Shirley Valentine type cooking chips and egg and talking to the wall, I couldn't do it, I couldn't compromise being me and if I have to give away all the freedom in the world to get that same freedom back then so be it and I'm more than happy with that.
Also - I resent being dictated to by society. I resent being told by the media that I ought to be living my life a certain way. It makes me angry when people criticise the lifestyle I lead when actually I've probably got it a lot more right than they have. I've lost track of the number of people fuelled by paranoic suspicion who have confessed to me that they constantly go through their husband's pockets or his phone or his computer. I don't want something as trivial as a bit of adultery to become an important part of my life. I don't want to be someone who characterises themselves by their relationship with others rather than their relationship with themselves.
I've written this blog because sometimes I get very frustrated by the judgements of other people and the idea that people living an alternative lifestyle should keep quiet about it. I'm getting a bit fed up of being quiet about who I am and what I do. I've jumped out of the broom closet and now I'm jumping out of the polyamory closet. (There's no room in this closet anyway, my husband seems to have filled it with scantily clad girls lining up for his amorous attentions. I'll just go make a cup of tea....)
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/30043 (Nickwinch)
This picture shows the finished sculpture of my candle tree. Lol, don't for one minute think this witch has finally managed to achieve something creative! The credit for this work goes to my very good friend who was given a picture I found on the internet, a pile of wire and the briefing that I would be very grateful if she could just sculpt the wire together to make me a candle tree. As you can see, she rose to the challenge brilliantly and I am absolutely delighted with the results. It will look even better when I have used it a bit and got the effect of the wax dripping down the branches. So today's journal entry is dedicated to my very very clever friend and comes with a big thank you to her for taking so much time and trouble to make me something so beautiful. (She's doing me a painting of Gaia next so watch this space for her next creative artistic adventure.....!)
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