Today is a depressing day. I suspect it to be a day that will be remembered through the hindsight of history as playing a pivotal role in the face of British politics. To some it represents change. For people who believe in equality and democracy it is nothing but a slap in the face.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m making a reference to the by election held last night in the Kent town of Rochester. This by election was prompted by the defection of a Conservative MP to the UKIP party and, in a largely Conservative voting area, the voting was closely watched as the result was anticipated to provide an early indication as to how the main political parties would stand up to scrutiny in the General Election next year.
But this particular election did more than shine the light on political statistics, it formalised an ugly rising tide of hatred that has become steadily endemic in British society today. It painted a thin veneer of public respectability on the face of fascism and in doing so it took our country of freedom and acceptance one step further from the multiculturalism that puts the Great in Great Britain.
Britain, like most countries, has always had its bigots. We’ve had the BNP (British National Party) begging for votes in Parliament for years and street protest movements like the EDL (English Defence League) have made their anti PC (and often rabidly racist) views known both on the streets and in the press. But these people have never been taken seriously by the mainstream. The small number of people who actually admit to voting BNP have always been viewed with a certain amount of derision. This (so called) political party has never presented a serious threat to any of the more moderate and better known parties. Last night however marked a change in public opinion as with a sharp blow to the established two party status quo the right wing UKIP (UK Independence Party) took victory over both the Conservative and the Labour party.
UKIP on the face of it present themselves as a serious political party. They go to great lengths to appeal to the man in the street with policies relating to a referendum on staying in the European Union and their pledges for ending student tuition fees and abolishing inheritance tax. But the true face of the party is far more sinister. The economic case they present for reducing immigration is little more than a smokescreen to hide the racism, homophobia and Islamophobia that lie at the concealed heart of the party. To give some specific examples of this - only 2 days before the by election the UKIP candidate Mark Reckless admitted in an interview that he supported the idea of deporting immigrants from the UK – he told the press that a Polish plumber might “only be allowed to stay for a fixed period if Britain left the European Union”. Another UKIP candidate (Heinro Vockrodt) described the Islamic religion as a “totalitarianism ideology against everything modern Britain stands for,” and UKIP candidate Douglas Denny was particularly vehement when he referred to gay people as “abnormal” making the singularly unfunny comment that he wished “They [the gays] would stop trying to ram it down my throat.”
This quite frankly worries the hell out of me. It is one thing to have bigots lurking at the margins of our society but it is quite another to clasp them to the bosom of Westminster. In electing MPs who openly support the persecution of homosexuals, immigrants and participants of the Islamic faith we are welcoming hatred into our politics. UKIP and the equally offensive far right party Britain First (who also stood for election in Rochester) are looking to make scapegoats of huge sections of the British community. It doesn’t take much awareness of history to draw the very uncomfortable parallel with the persecution of the innocent in Nazi Germany.
Now as I am in a heterosexual relationship and as I’m neither an immigrant nor a member of the Islamic faith it would perhaps be easy for me (if I didn’t happen to be a person with a conscience) to turn a blind eye to the likely consequences of a UKIP government. But I can’t. And the reason I can’t is because I can’t forget that famous quotation from Edmund Burke reminding me “All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing...” Every time we vote for a party that supports inequality and discrimination we become those good men, complicit in the evil of self advancement at the expense of others. Even when we don’t vote (and the 50% turn out in Rochester suggests an apathy of which the non voters should be ashamed) when parties like UKIP and Britain First are standing for election even by not voting we are contributing to a society which says it is acceptable to view people as being of less worth due to their racial status, sexuality or religious persuasion.
The media have played a big part in the slow indoctrination that discrimination has somehow become socially acceptable. As more and more publicity is given to the extreme right wing ideology the result is that the public face of UKIP becomes easier to stomach. Faced with a candidate like Britain First’s Jayda Fransen (infamous for her revolting declaration that she will personally bury a pig under any ground receiving planning permission for a mosque to be built) voting for UKIP seems a comparatively moderate option. But it isn’t a moderate option, voting for UKIP is voting for a country where people will be persecuted for their race, their sexuality and their religion. It’s voting for xenophobic nationalism at the expense of human rights.
It isn’t enough to sit in an armchair and watch the face of Britain slowly changing in the hope that somebody else will do something about it. We all share the obligation to stand up for those facing the threat of persecution. It isn’t enough to say I’m not gay or I’m not a Muslim therefore the problem doesn’t affect me. This creeping hatred affects us all. Once we start saying it is acceptable to oppress and discriminate against any group of people we pave the way to any one of us facing discrimination. In a world where discrimination is acceptable nobody is safe from persecution. Today’s minorities become tomorrow’s victims and the apathy of those who turn their backs or refuse to vote just strengthens this growing culture of fascism.
Our forefathers who fought in the wars didn’t (as UKIP and Britain First would have you believe) fight to keep Britain free of foreign influence. They fought for the freedom of the honest man. We don’t need weapons or military power to emulate those brave men and women. All we need is the determination not to allow the evil that is discrimination to flourish in our hearts or in our politics.
We need to vote against the parties who view hatred as the basis of their policies.
This week's guest blogger needs little introduction. DJ Martin is a well respected published author with an enviable knowledge of herbs and plants to compliment her deep understanding of witchcraft and magic. I am honoured to be able to present her own account of her personal history as a witch on Witch Path Forward.
It took me a long time to say that sentence. Like, over 30 years.
I have a feeling I’m older than most of the audience for whom I’m writing, so my story needs a preface:
When I was growing up, computers fit in buildings, not pockets; the Internet existed only for the military; and the majority of the witchcraft-y authors you’re reading today were also still kids. (Some weren’t even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.) Unless you belonged to a family of witches, there was nothing available to tell you what was going on.
I’m not one of those lucky ones. I started hearing plants speak at a very early age and no one in my family was able to tell me it was normal. Quite the opposite. At first, I was indulged – children have such marvelous imaginations, don’t they? Then, without being told, I understood it was something I shouldn’t speak of unless I wanted to spend time in a psychiatrist’s office. That the houseplants in my bedroom grew better than any other plant in the house was put down to lighting, soil, something…
Then there’s hearing and seeing spirits. The earliest encounter I still remember vividly happened when I was about twelve. We lived in a house that had been converted to apartments; the house next door was the same. The bedroom across from mine was occupied by a boy around my age and we would spend hot summer nights leaning out the windows, talking to each other until we got sleepy – or were caught by one of the mothers.
Late one night, his house caught fire and the boy died from smoke inhalation. A night or two later, as I was staring out my window, missing him, he leaned out the now-blackened window to tell me he wouldn’t be able to talk to me anymore – he had to go somewhere else. I was sad but we said our goodbyes. When I told my mother about it the next morning, she put it down to me being distraught over his death. Obviously, I missed him and my imagination had conjured him up. I knew better but didn’t contradict her. Nor did I ever tell her anything else along those lines.
But that’s not the whole of it. As I entered my teenage years and wondered how to control or change certain situations, spirits guided me on how to wish real hard while burning paper on which I’d written that wish, or tossing a pinch of herbs “borrowed” from Mom’s spice rack into the wind. Thankfully I was, and still am, a night owl. I could do my wishing long after my parents went to bed. I didn’t want to explain to them the “voices in my head told me to do it”. I knew
how that conversation would have ended.
I had no idea what I was doing was spellwork. But I trusted those voices – even more than I trusted the humans who, in theory, were guiding me to adulthood. Many times what the spirits said helped me through teenaged problems – real and imagined. Mom and my stepfather (probably rightly) assumed most of my issues were simply teenage angst and rather than offer advice, told me, “You’ll have to figure out how to handle it on your own”.
(As an aside, despite my guides’ admonishments, I did the whole Ouija board thing most teenagers did – once. My friends thought it was a joke. I got the pants scared off me because I could feel what they were attracting and it wasn’t pleasant. Thankfully, they stopped before anything unfortunate could happen.)
Fast forward a few years. As an independent adult, I had more things to worry about than making wishes come true, like paying bills. Wishing didn’t exactly fall by the wayside…it became more of a leisure activity, ranking somewhat down the list from barhopping. I did both, just not often because I didn’t have time.
The spirits didn’t abandon me, though. When times were tough (and there were a lot of tough times), I could feel their presence. I was always wrapped in a cocoon of love. That was nice but when I asked for help and didn’t get any, it was more than frustrating.
In retrospect, the spirits couldn’t offer guidance. Surprise! My parents were actually right – I had to figure it out on my own. There are so many things in life you just have to experience – it’s what forms the person you become. As an example, my guides could have suggested a better way to wish for money (a larger pay rise, perhaps) but if I’d not learned how to manage on a very tight budget, my husband and I probably wouldn’t be comfortable today.
I was in my mid-30’s when I realized those wishes (that worked!) were actually spellwork. I don’t remember what triggered that epiphany but what I did was just a little less spectacular than what witches in my favorite fiction books did. No sparkles came out of my fingertips and I never did see the point of turning a handsome man into a frog (however much a cad he may have been), but I got what I needed done. Whatever it was, ‘witch’ became part of my private vocabulary.
I also finally had a house with room for a garden. I hate to cook so growing herbs for culinary use isn’t appealing but I put in a small plot next to the house for herbs I liked the smell of – among them, Rosemary, Peppermint, and of course, Catnip for my feline housemates. I re-established my relationship with the plants I’d come to love in my grandmother’s garden so many years prior. A friend loaned me books on herbal medicine and that was the start of learning how to combine what I knew with the science I learned from those books.
It took until my 40’s when I could surf this new-fangled Internet – and had some disposable income to buy now-available books – to find out there were other ways of working magic. Some are much more involved than my methods, some incorporating religion, others just different.
It’s fun learning about how others go about their magical practices, which are almost as diverse as the human race. I can respect and appreciate that diversity. This isn’t to say I’ve changed my ways. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My practice today may be a little more sophisticated than just wishing but it’s still fairly simple. I do pick up an interesting tidbit every now and again that fits with or can be adapted to the way I work.
I’ve been most of the way out of the broom closet for a few years but it’s not something I blatantly throw in people’s faces. Outwardly I look “normal” for a businesswoman who has enough gray hair to justify her status as grandmother. Not only do I live in a part of the world where most of the population thinks witchcraft is bad but there are some in my life who wouldn’t accept anything more than what they see. And that’s OK. I’ve learned to pick my battles and revealing that part of me to an 80-year-old Christian client isn’t a fight I want.
But to those I know are accepting of all of me,
I am a witch.
Deborah J. “DJ” Martin, known to many as The Herby Lady, is a practicing witch living in the north Georgia (US) mountains. She is the author of both fiction and non-fiction books. Learn more about her at http://www.authordjmartin.com.
Image: Author's own
This is a guest blog very kindly written by K Perrin
What are your beliefs one asks? Are you a Witch another asks? Oh no YOU practice “Witchcraft”..it goes on..people I meet hear the world “Witch”, and “Pagan” they tend to look at me a bit differently than the “norm”..throw in “eclectic pagan witch” and some run the other direction..why? You tell me! Here is my story. It will contain bits that I am sure you will disagree/laugh/judge/or even roll your eyes at but please, just remember it is my story, my life as an Eclectic Pagan Witch, the label I give myself.
I was born in April 1966. In a Hertfordshire town in England. My parents, quite young, married due to the pregnancy. Family/friends knew it wouldn’t last and it didn’t. I was only 4 months old when I went to live with my maternal grandparents. My Dad, carried on with his life, my mother carried on with hers. My Grandparents were my Parents from that day forth.
We were just a regular family living in a little counsel house. My Grandmother, Catholic, My Grandad, Church of England. Then there was me. Sure I was baptized Catholic, have a God Mother & a God Father, but I knew I was different in the Religious spect. We didn’t say grace at dinner and didn’t go to church but I knew my dear Grandmother did her “in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Ghost thing”. I never witnessed my Grandad pray..maybe he did silently, I don’t know. What I do know is he was a very good gardener. I was always “tinkering” around with him in the garden, thus the nickname he gave me “Tinker”. This is where my path begun, in the garden!
My first memory of being in the Garden that truly stuck was my pet Hedgehog. He (or maybe it was a she) lived under the hedge in between our back garden and the neighbors, who, by the way, had a son, that rode a motorcycle. He would chase after me and scare me while wearing his helmet. Making him stop was my first attempt at casting a spell…it worked, as he did stop..was it my spell casting? Or was it my grandmother politely asking him to stop scaring me?..I want to believe it was my spell! I loved watching H.R Puff n Stuff with Witchie Poo and of course the movie Wizard of Oz. I felt connected to the Hollywood portrayed “Witchies”..little did I know the reason for my connection had a meaning in my life.
Back to my Hedgehog, I called him/her “Hedgy”..I believe he was male so I will refer to it as a him from now on. Hedgy was scared of me at first but as the weeks went on I would sit and talk to him beside the hedge, one day he actually came towards me, I was so excited, it was almost like he understood what I was saying and knew I wouldn’t hurt him. I didn’t tell anyone about hedgy & my relationship, although my grandparents did know he existed. He seemed to talk back to me. I would sneak him bits of bread ect to feed him. One day my granddad was outside doing his gardening and I was tinkering as I did and I felt an over whelming sense of loneliness. I went over to Hedge’s layer and he wasn’t anywhere to be seen..I called him..he didn’t come. Days went by, no hedgy. I told my Grandad. He explained that maybe another animal got him or he just moved along. I was devastated. I sat next to the hedge by Hedges layer. Crying. Then I heard him speak. Almost soothing me, explaining he had to move along and he was sorry he had to leave. I felt a bit mad at him but at the same time content he was ok. I still think of Hedgy’s spirit. Everything has one you know. I call on him in times of trouble and he seems to sooth me.
My next “friend” was a crow, then a frog (who lived in our pond, the frog not the crow), Crow was great although very naughty, I loved his naughty behavior, he made me laugh, I loved the way he cocked his head when I spoke to him (or was he a her?). Crow is still with me, he lives forever, he has followed me from England to Canada. More on Canada later. Frog, well, he was a bit boring, but he did offer me protection from ugly spider, I didn’t like spiders then (funny, a Witch not liking spiders). He told Ugly Spider not to scare me or come to close to me. I would be the one to come close when I was ready. I found Ugly Spider curled up in a ball not moving one day, I was quite upset, maybe I did like spiders after all. I picked him up, he had passed from this world, I spoke to him, and promised to protect him and all his family from that day forth. I buried him in the Garden. Told Crow, “don’t you dare dig him up and eat him”…He listened! When a spider visits me now, I tell them quietly about Ugly Spider and not to worry. I will never hurt you. I use Ugly Spider’s spirit in my spells..I also call on Crow & boring Frog.
When my Grandad would do his pruning and or cutting grass, I would follow behind him and talk to the plants, the trees, the grass. Explaining they will feel much better with a hair cut. Sometimes I would go off ahead and explain to the next bush, its your turn soon. Not to worry. My connection to Nature was huge. My love towards the plants, the trees, everything down to the insects grew on a daily basis. It felt like the love I had for my Grandparents. Nature was a part of me, I was a part of it. I remember staring out my bedroom window at the full, bright moon, her energy seemed to fill me, to heighten my awareness of the spiritual world. She seemed to speak to me. I wouldn’t close my bedroom curtains on a bright moon night..I needed to see her as I fell asleep.
Now for the Fairies..oh goodness those little Fairies. They lived at the bottom of the Garden. My Grandmother told me so, it was a mission of mine to find and introduce myself. I thought I saw one once, from the corner of my eye, a funny little creature with wings, this one had a big nose ,green shorts and no shoes. I would go to the bottom of the garden and call on the Fairies to help me with a certain issue..they always wanted something in return. If I didn’t give it, they didn’t help( I felt they were angry at me). As soon as I gave an offering(bits of food or something shiny), the help was there. I didn’t know this then but I sure know now how important it is to always have an offering. By the way, my Fairies lived close to a cluster of bluebells. I knew they were close when the bluebells would gently sway as if in a breeze but no breeze present. Never did I have to protect myself from the Fairies, I have never cast a protection circle in any of my work. If I feel the need to be protected I would call on the “powers that be” to protect me..as well as the Spirits of Hedgie, Crow & Frog.
In 1974 my Family packed up and moved to Canada. I didn’t like the idea but what could I say to stop the family, My mother had remarried, had three more daughters and had taken me back to live with her and her new family. I still remember the day my mother said,” I lived with her now”.. It’s a nasty piece of my life I would soon like to forget but I will touch on it briefly later. I feel its connected to my life path.
I remember being in the Garden, the day before leaving for Canada. I ran around saying goodbye to my trees, the flowers,plants, rocks, my fairies, the spirit of Hedgie, Crow & Frog. Even ugly spider under the earth. I had no idea what Canada was about. All I knew I was leaving my magical Garden in my beautiful magical homeland of England. While saying goodbye, feeling like I was being ripped away, an energy seemed to wrap me in warmth and calmness. It seemed to relax my senses and tell me we (who-ever we was) will never leave you. From that moment Canada didn’t seem all that bad…
Oh I forgot to mention, when I moved back with my mother and her family, our home backed onto a church grave yard. My bedroom window looked out onto the graveyard. That’s when I saw my first spirit in human form. I was 7. It didn’t scare me, it fascinated me, from then on I was fascinated by the “paranormal” . I love visiting graveyards. I often take a cutting or soil from an old grave to use in my workings.
I have this “feeling”.. I know when the spirit of a certain person or loved one is present. I am planning on studying this “sense”. I have been to numerous places and get these feelings, later to find out that the places are haunted or the more appropriate wording is “active”.
There was this little house on my way school, I was always drawn to this house, I would stop and look, the kids I walked with would say “don’t stop there, that’s a Witches house” but me, I needed to stop there was something about the house. One day I walked by the little old lady living in the house was out in her garden. She saw me looking she said “hello”, I said “hello” back. I felt kind of like an electric energy pass through me. It scared and soothed me at the same time, the little old lady smiled turned away and continued in her garden..to this day I ask myself “what the heck was that”? I never saw the old lady again it was shortly after this our house sold and we moved to Canada.
Ok, so in Canada now. I am 8 years old. Missing my garden, my home, my grandparents. It took months for me to get a settled feeling. My grandparents arrived later that year. My settling begun or did it? I wasn’t loved by my mother thus the home with her wasn’t a comfortable one. There were numerous times while in the sacred space of my bedroom I would sit and call onto my spirits and powers that be to protect me. It lasted until I was 15 years old. I gathered my powers with in me and ran. My sacred bedroom was no longer sacred. I won’t go there but I will say It was my one and only time I wished harm to another. Very soon after cursing I unraveled the curse, hoping it wasn’t too late. It wasn’t, thank you powers that be! I left never looking back. I moved back in with my Grandparents. I was home again. Only in a different country. The country that didn’t have the radiating magical feel but one I could still work with as I know my spirits were still with me. Don’t misunderstand me, Canada is a beautiful country but it just doesn’t have what England does in a magically speaking way.
Living back with my grandparents was my settling. I could work my magic secretly in my bedroom and out side in the (new) garden, my new garden wasn’t as nice but it was outside where I felt my connection, surrounded by the trees, plants, flowers, the gentle breeze, the bird songs and of course, Crow! My Dear Grandmother passed from this world in 2002 and my Dear Grandad in 2006. Those days were dark and horrible. Although I miss them terribly it was my magical mind that helped me deal with their loss. My Grandmother knows that I practice Witchcraft now, although at first she didn’t like it, it was because she didn’t understand it. She now is one of my protection spirits. My Grandads’ spirit helps me in my garden.
Many times I would go for a walk, look down and find a certain stone or a stick that spoke to me. My best day was the day I found my “holey stone”,( witches stone, hag stone). I was over the moon with delight. I read holey stones were and can be very useful in a Witches bag of tricks. That stone, to me is very sacred. No one is to touch it. Witches can be very protective over their tools and touching certain bits can cause energy dishevel.
In my adult life now, I can say I have always been a Witch. My connection was made as a child in the Garden. I use the word Eclectic because I don’t have one true path. It’s a bit of a crooked path I walk. I take little bits of knowledge, beliefs, ritual from other walks and apply them to my own workings. Always Thanking for that bit as I go. I’m not vocal in my workings. I speak with my minds voice. You will see me very quiet, it is during these times I am stirring a little bit of magic into my day. I sometimes come across as I really don’t know what I am talking about but in my mind its all there, my workings, my spirits everything I need to practice my spell crafting and walk my crooked path.
My job in the mundane world was in health care. I was a Care Aide (nurse aide). I worked over 14 years caring for the sick & elderly, until one normal day at work my back decided it had had enough. In a moment of lifting, my back gave out, it resulted in two surgeries and now a life of chronic pain. I am on a disability pension at 48 yrs old but in saying that my magic has helped me deal with my injury. I went through my ordeal( and still) with hardly any pharmaceutical drugs for pain or such. I do have my really bad pain days that no magic will help that’s when I will take a very low dose of (pharmaceutical) pain relief and put all my energies into healing to feel somewhat better. I also went into a deep depression due to my work place accident and again I use my magic to help me along. Again no Pharmaceutical intervention just magic. You need to believe, focus and your magic will work. Clear your mind and focus on the task at hand.
I use the word Pagan to describe (label) myself because I like the real meaning I read once it means “country dweller”. None of this “umbrella “ term. I also like Traditional. I am big on Traditions. To me, a tradition is something that is passed down from generation to generation one who practices the old ways, historical speaking not necessarily passed down but learned from reading the old ways.
I have visions/dreams as someone in a past life. Someone who lived in a little cottage on the out skirts of a little village. Someone villagers would come to for healing. This little cottage had a thatched roof. Lots of herbs, flowers in the garden. My visions or dreams don’t give me much information just enough to know that once I lived many years ago a much simpler life. It also had a huge fire place and lots of little bottles that contained herbs and bits I can’t make out. This is where I get my label “Witch”..I believe at one time, long ago I was a Village wise woman.
So that’s a bit of my life how I came to walk this sometimes crooked path, I love crooked, straight lines bore me. I do have to mention I have a fabulous husband, who understands my path and sometimes even walks it with me. He’s definitely not a witch but supports the ways I live. Together we have a daughter; she is married and has two beautiful sons. Our grandsons are more than precious to us. We also have a little dog, part Chihuahua part Pomeranian. I would have a cat but my husband is highly allergic. We also have a house Elf. He is Dobby from the Harry Potter film. We won him in a contest when the first Harry Potter film came out. We love him very much and I sometimes include him in my work. He was meant to be in our family. When I entered the contest to win him I poured magic energy into my ballot for Dobby to come live with us..it worked!!
I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about me..I do tend to go on a bit..I have deleted much, maybe I should write a book and put the bits I left out back in ;-) Witches tend to be quite private people. Sometimes my Facebook says differently ;-)
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