As 2013 comes to an end, my final blog post of the Pagan Blog Project provides an opportunity to have a look at the year just gone, take stock of where I am and perhaps more importantly look to where this witch intends to go next…
2013 has been an interesting year for the Degu Witch. Over the course of the last year I have written three novels, numerous articles, several poems and a play. I’ve taken on my first protégé in Witchcraft, been promoted at work, acquired seven tarantulas, taken part in a fashion parade, achieved acceptance into a respected witch community and survived a month in my most hated place - Milton Keynes (known to my fellow Twitterers as “The Keynster”).
Our family has both grown and diminished, 2013 saw the birth of my beautiful little niece Chloe, a very welcome addition to my cherished sister’s happy family. The cold winter winds brought a new kitten (Cleo) crying to our doorstep (and although she appears intent on slowly demolishing our entire house scratch by scratch, we haven’t the heart to let her go.) On a sadder note, I’ve lost two degus, one (Caramel) as recently as Christmas Day and our elderly cat Amy also crossed the rainbow bridge earlier this year.
The website has gone from strength to strength with “Ask a Witch a Question” receiving many questions and some very positive feedback. The accompanying Facebook page launched this year now has a community of nearly 3000 people and has been a great opportunity to network with witches all over the world. My public profile has grown steadily and the subsequent exposure has allowed me to hold out a hand of help to those seeking my advice or assistance.
My private working with the craft has deeply benefitted from working with my close friend Alice who has a wonderfully natural instinct for magic. In the last six months of the year we have run on a 100% spell success ratio and if ever there was a year for me to make my claim to the Magical Midas Touch, 2013 has been it. However the foundations of my craft run deeper than peripheral success and I’m ending this year with a real sense of peace and calm, a certainty that though bad times usually follow good, I’ve got ample spiritual resources to contend with whatever 2014 turns up.
So looking to 2014 and beyond I’ve got some very definite plans in place. The first thing is to stop procrastinating and get published. Time to put the old money where the mouth is and send off a manuscript or two. My long term goal is to be earning a living by writing within the next five years. I’m going with the romance novels although my long term plans do include several more plays and at least one non fiction book on the basics of following a craft path. I’m slowly finding my voice as a writer and I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with the romance genre, it was interesting to write something a little more philosophical recently. But one thing at a time – I’ve written half a million words in the last eighteen months and I want to see some of them in print. And any publisher sending a rejection slip to this witch had better watch out, that’s all I’m saying!
I won’t be taking part in the 2014 Pagan Blog Project (though I may drop in occasionally) and you will start to see a bit of a change in the website this year. I want to tackle some more contentious issues rather than solely focus on the teaching side of the craft. The blog posts I have enjoyed writing the most have been the “hot topics” and there will be more of those this year. “Ask a Witch a Question” will remain and I’ll continue to focus on advising, supporting and helping those new to Witchcraft. You’ll also see the Degu Witch getting into podcasting (tech team in place already) and tossing around a very long term (2016 and beyond) thought of getting into video communications. I’m also going to accept some of those invitations to guest write for magazines and periodicals and submit more of my articles to a wider audience than my own website.
I’m expecting to watch my protégé make a formal commitment to a craft path this year –(uninfluenced by me, I guide, I don’t dictate but I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t). The key areas where my own influence will be needed among friends and family are already making themselves known and I’m expecting two (separate) friends to have some pretty serious problems next year which will involve me offering significant help. My own craft focus this coming year involves tapping into the idea of the collective consciousness – I want to utilise group energy beyond my own to direct my spell work. I’m keen on harnessing the power of other beliefs to further my intended outcomes. This sounds a bit like I’m gunning for world domination but rest assured I’m planning to save that at least for 2015…
On the personal front I don’t foresee too many changes this year. Certainly I’ll double the tarantula collection (Orange Bitey Thing here I come!) I’d like to squeeze back into a size sixteen skirt and October will mark the celebration of ten years with my husband. It goes without saying of course that I’m expecting to write another couple of novels. It should also be noted that I’m kind of due for some turbulence in my own life having coasted on the crest of a wave for the last few years. Possibly in the summer months? A little precognition there perhaps, we’ll see…
Every year I step further away from what the world deems conventional success and this year was as usual no exception. But every year that passes also reinforces my belief that breaking away from the crowd is no bad thing. I spend my lunchbreaks writing romantic fiction, philosophical plays and letters to young witches, I spend my evenings immersed in incense, spellcraft and tarantulas. I exist in a bit of a bubble if I’m honest - a big Degu Witch Rose bubble with its own very distinct reality. But I’ve no fears at all about looking back from a ripe old age and wishing I’d done more. On the contrary, there simply aren’t enough hours in my day for all the things I am doing! Mind, I’m lucky to have the support. Ten years of the Degu Witch would be a big ask of any man. Though as my husband sagely pointed out only the other day, every deep thinker needs a partner who’ll remember to buy the milk…
Ultimately my path and my purpose are validated by my happiness. That’s all any of us have ever really got to go on. If you’re on the path to happiness – keep walking. If you’re on a different path – change direction and walk somewhere else. And if you find happiness? Hold on to it with everything you’ve got. That’s certainly what I intend to do.
Air is one of the four primary elements and comprises one of the four watchtowers of a circle used for casting magic or raising energy for protection. The element of air is closely associated with knowledge and the intellect and it may be used to discern clarity in a situation or to bring new knowledge toward the caster.
Although witches do utilise the power of the wind to facilitate spell work it is perhaps more commonly documented that witches use spell work to control the power of the wind. In older times a witch used to sell the power of the winds to sailors. She would tie knots in a piece of rope and instruct the sailors to release the knots one by one to intensify the strength of the winds.
Many witches use wind chimes in and around their property. There is a lot of folk lore surrounding this. One function of the chimes is to keep negative spirits at bay, another is to attract good spirits with the vibrations of the tunes generated by the wind. The sound of the chimes can also be used to clear negative vibrations in the air and as some witches will use a bell to purify a circle before ritual, it is not unusual for wind chimes also to be employed for this purpose.
The element of air can be used for creating powerful shields. The visualisation of a wind generated forcefield or vortex can be a strong image to base personal shielding upon.
Wind can be used to raise energy, witches tap into wind power in a not dissimilar way to how the power is harnessed as a source of power for industry (minus the wind turbines, lol). It can also be used to sweep away negativity, by blowing negative vibes from the home.
One of the best ways to perform a spell using the wind is to take a piece of cotton and tie each of your worries into the cotton as an individual knot. The cotton is then cast into the winds and the worries are blown away as the wind carries them from the caster.
The concept of age in practising witchcraft is a contentious one, provoking hot debate among Witches on both sides of the fence. Some covens, indeed many covens, will only accept over eighteens and there is a school of thought that Witchcraft is a craft and a practise for adults only. I disagree with this view and instead of offering you a nice neutral article exploring both viewpoints and explaining the pros and cons of both, what I'd like to do this week is to focus on my own viewpoint and explain to you why in my opinion Witchcraft isn't for adults only.
Lets start with my own age. I'm 35. I hold down a full time job, I run a home, I'm married and I (almost) always pay my credit card on time. To all intents and purposes I am in the eyes of the world a responsible adult. And yet, in my head I'm still somewhere around fourteen years old... Certainly I've changed thoughts and opinions over the years and like anyone else in their thirties I've seen a bit of life. But my ability to discern what works for me hasn't changed since I was a teenager. Put simply, the fundamental blueprint of who I am was established in my teens and has stayed pretty much the same since. I think we put a lot of emphasis on the "maturity" of our adult selves but I bet most people, if they are honest with themselves, would admit that they haven't really changed inside all that much since their salad days.
With the above in mind, I find it difficult to understand why some Witches are so determined to exclude teenagers from studying and practising the craft. I get a lot of email from Witches, teenagers and adults alike and I have to say that the correspondence from younger witches is every bit as informed and aware as their older counterparts. Based on my own experience of Witches across a wide range of ages I can see no difference between the way the age groups approach the craft that would induce me to exclude a range of practitioners based on their age alone. I strongly suspect a lot of this exclusion is based on the desire to keep the craft secretive and esoteric and I'm afraid I dislike such practise intensely. I don't validate myself as a Witch by clinging onto what I have learned and keeping it secret with the intention of feeling superior to others and I would seriously question the motives of those who do.
Each age group brings something different to the craft. The crones bring wisdom and hindsight, people of my own age somewhere in the middle have a mixture of experience and energy and young people have passion and fire. Each of these makes a contribution to the craft, either as an entity in its own right or as the solitary path of the individual. And lets not forget that the experience of the middle aged and the wisdom of the crone is based on what has gone before. We could argue that starting the study of Witchcraft at the age the individual feels right to them contributes to the eventual fulfilling of their potential to be the witch they will one day become.
I often work with a Witch who is a good ten years younger than myself and find her gifts compliment my own very well. I think a lot of this is actually due to the difference in our ages. At 35 I have the confidence to create and direct spell work and I have enough experience behind me to know what works and what doesn't. My apprentice however has a much greater level of energy and intensity that brings a real focus to the work that we do. Fifteen years ago I'd have been considered intense but intensity does dwindle as you approach middle age and I find it hard now to bring that level of absolute intensity into my work. It suits me very well to work with somebody who is still capable of generating that level of emotion.
My apprentice is what you might call a natural Witch and again I think such gifts are entirely independent of age. You don't start feeling like a Witch on your eighteenth birthday, Witches who have that inherent ability within them will show signs from a very young age. I think it unfair to let such a person languish in ignorance and be discouraged from developing those gifts until they reach an arbitary age imposed by society. Not only is it unfair it is also potentially dangerous as an untrained Witch is likely to be a liability. The abilities of a Witch are not dependant on age, I've known Witches in their teens be capable of generating far more powerful magic than their adult counterparts. It seems churlish not to offer them the support and guidance at the age they need it.
I'd also argue that if we deliberately exclude the young from our knowledge and experience of the craft we are doing them no favours because young people are notorious for doing what they want anyway. Without a credible channel of support they will seek out the dodgier sites on the internet and become fodder for the self styled ego feeding gurus who will teach our children Goddess knows what and lead them down a path designed to fuel the ego of the teacher, not to develop the path of the individual. It is with this thought in mind that I would always personally strive to offer all the support I can to young people. If they are going to get advice from anywhere, best they get it from those of us who genuinely have their best interests in mind.
Witchcraft is as we all know a secular craft but it is becoming increasingly more entwined with religion in the modern sense of the word. Speaking more in relation to Wicca than to Trad Craft, when we exclude young people we are denying them a chance to practise their spirituality in a way that feels right for them. Religion can be a valuable source of strength for the individual and, particularly in the difficult teenage years, having a religious structure in your life can be a real support.I would hate to think we denied our young people the opportunity for this support at what can be a very difficult time of life.
I'm not suggesting all the covens drop their age limits and we start treating all children like adults. That would be inappropriate, children are not adults and pushing adult knowledge and responsibilities onto their shoulders would be too big an ask. But what I am saying is that there are ways to introduce a child or a teenager to the craft gently. I see nothing wrong with answering their questions, helping them to understand how to direct their energies into basic spell work or pointing them toward books on the subject that will help them understand the workings of the craft they wish to pursue. By demystifying the craft and allowing young people to explore, we help them to seek out appropriate channels of information and enable them to explore their own skills and abilities in a safe environment. I believe very strongly that in doing this we are contributing to their future as mature capable adult Witches who in turn can use their abilities to help and support others.
Image http://www.deviantart.com/art/Young-Witch-214008939 (Elite Art Owner)
I quite often get sent things to read and critique - novels, books, websites, magazines... but never before have I been asked to review an album before release. I suspect this is largely because I know very little about music... (Maybe one day I'll get drunk enough to prove this by publishing the contents of my Ipod but I'm perhaps a little sceptical there is quite enough red wine in the Midlands to get me quite that inebriated... I've got Jason Donovan on there for Goddess sake.)
However when one of my oldest and dearest friends asked me to take a listen to his due to be released album I was happy to do so. I'll be honest and admit that the reason I agreed was because I knew whatever Mr Pisanu wanted me to listen to was undoubtedly bound to be damn good. I'd ask that those of you with lesser ability don't start whizzing your offerings to this not so musically educated witch in the mail. I'm making an exception for this man and I'm making it simply because I genuinely believe he will become one of the most influential musical artists of our generation.
Andrew Pisanu is an independent singer songwriter who can sum up the passions of his life in one single word - music. He teaches it, writes it, sings it, plays a range of instruments to professional standard and boasts a credible track record of lead singer band performances. I firmly believe that for an artist to reach the true potential of his creativity he needs to feel the all consuming obsession for the metier in which he chooses to express himself. Andrew epitomises this idea, he does not simply listen to music, he is music. This has never been so obvious to me as when I heard his latest album - Collecting Diseases.
I've been telling the man for years that his talent is best showcased when his voice is the main feature of the music so I was delighted to see that this new album focuses primarily on the simplicity of one man with a beautiful voice playing the hell out of his piano. And he does have a beautiful voice - you can hear the husky sensuality of his Italian ancestry in every low tortured whisper. This is a man who understands sex (too bad ladies, he's gay) and that understanding translates to his music. (Listen to the building of the crescendo in the song "Until the rain stops," That's an orgasm if ever I heard one. A true manipulation of sexuality via the senses.
The range of his voice is exceptional - there's probably some technical term for it but as I don't know it I'm just going to say he explores the entire length of his vocal cords with the emotional intensity that has become the trademark of his work. I do believe however that he has a guest soprano on the album - on "Nazi Falls" - (either that or he has had some surgery that he hasn't told me about...)
Speaking personally as somebody who is more comfortable with the written word than the mysterious world of music, I have to say I am often very disappointed when a tune is able to perfectly capture an emotion only to be let down by trite or cliched lyrics. One of the things I have always admired about Andrew is his determination to convey his message with all elements of his art. As much effort has gone into the lyrics as the music, some of which could actually make a respectable claim to stand alone as modern poetry. I particularly enjoyed the poignancy of the lyrics in the song "You should be with me." (OK I'll admit I cried. Oh to be a romantic...).
Having a personal relationship with the artist, I'm aware of some of Andrew's own musical tastes and some of the influences can clearly be seen in this work. Its influence not imitation, Andrew has very definitely established his own voice and musical identity but even the very greatest of artists have inspiration and this particular musician is no exception. The raw simplicity of Tori Amos singing alone at her piano, the epic showmanship of Rufus Wainwright and the cynical ennui of Janis Ian are all very evident on this album. I'd also be able to guess if I didn't know already that Andrew is rather keen on Chopin. The second track "Better Off" has a very distinctive Chopin-esque feel. My husband described it as reminiscent of music belonging to a slightly dystopian ballet.
I've mentioned a couple of songs already but what I would like to do is highlight a couple of my favourites on the album. Andrew will no doubt tell me I have picked the most easily accessible ones (he says precisely that every time we both like an album) but in truth I think an artist who can make me fall in love with a song on the first listening has got what it takes to make me come back and listen to the more complicated stuff. "John Doe" to be fair probably is the most mainstream song on the album but it would make a great single and it grabbed me from the first play. I also liked "Dot Cotton" (which for my American audience I will just explain is a character from a British soap opera. Nice to see Andrew hasn't lost his sense of humour...)
This one in particular was a very intimate song and I can imagine it being sung impromptu to a small group of people, sweeping the mood of the room along with it. That really is the hallmark of the music I want to listen to - something that will make me feel. Like I said I know nothing about the intellectual or the scientific side of music and I'm not interested in all that nonsense anyway. I listen to music for the same reason I read books and poetry - to make me feel something. If it fails to engage my emotions then as far as I'm concerned no matter how clever it is, its failed. This is why I have always listened to Andrew Pisanu and why I will always continue to do so. He knows how to engage me on an emotional level and I can't ask any more than that from any artist.
I'll leave you with a link to the music video from Andrew's album. Its pretty surreal but it sets the tone for the album beautifully. I'll also remind you that the album is out on 2.12.2013 and you can buy it here.
The Sabbat of Yule celebrated around December 21st is often referred to as the witch's Christmas and rightly so. In much the same spirit as most other midwinter festivals Yule is a time of celebration and joy. It is a time to say thank you and to show how much we value our family, friends and loved ones.
Yule is a time to celebrate the strengthening of the Sun and the return of the light. It is perhaps this idea of the returning Sun that led to the festival being adopted by Christianity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yule is a time of peace and happiness as the wheel turns from the dark to the light. Again, as with many winter festivals, Yule offers a message of hope, not just for lighter times but for a greater awareness of humanity. In times of old when Winter meant real hardship and the elderly and infirm turned to those they loved for comfort the bonds between loved ones were strengthened and nourished. This emphasis on caring for family is honoured among Pagans as part of their Yule celebrations.
Yule marks the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. It is at this point of the year that the days start to lengthen and the nights shorten until the Spring Equinox at Ostara when the length of the day once again overtakes the length of the night. For those of us going to work in the dark and coming home at night in the dark it is a very welcome reminder that eventually we'll be going to work in the sunshine again. That's very a cheery thought on the shortest day of the year!
The symbolism associated with this Sabbat is very heavily concentrated on images of the light. Candles, bonfires and the appropriate named Yule log all promise the returning of the light.
(The Yule log is traditionally a piece of an ash tree, a reminder of our links to Yggdrasil, the eternally green tree of life. The log is lit from the remnants of the previous year's Yule log and left to burn for the entirity of the longest night of the year.)
This returning of the light is both literal and symbolic. Literal in the sense that the wheel is turning back toward the light as the days get longer but also symbolic in the sense that darkness can always be pushed aside by the light. We are reminded of the cycle of life - that nothing is all dark and nothing is all light. Perhaps to a Pagan it is a reminder of the old saying that the "darkest hour is just before the dawn." It is also a reminder of the concept of balance, that nothing within our lives or our craft is all dark or all light but a blending and an ongoing cycle of both.
Traditionally Yule is a time of rest. The crops have been harvested and the planting season is yet to arrive. The dressing of the Yule tree symbolises the return of nature and the return of Spring to the earth. The winter blooming flowers of the mistletoe were a symbol of life returning to the earth once again. It is perhaps not difficult to see how this particular symbolism became incorporated into the modern practise of kissing under the mistletoe. Love, after all, being the foundation of life renewing itself.
For those Witches and Pagans who choose to incorporate religion into their celebrations, Yule marks the rebirth of the Sun God who died at Samhain. The Sun God will grow in strength until his powers peak at Midsummer (the longest day of the year) to dwindle once again in the ever perpetuating cycle of his death and rebirth. Yule is neither the start nor the end of the Pagan year, bur another reminder that life has no beginning and end, it is merely an ongoing cycle.
Image http://www.deviantart.com/art/Spirit-of-Yule-105215723 (AnneStokes) Check out her other wonderful pagan imagery here.
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