Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Rainbow related awareness – a guest blog from Suvi

On facebook earlier this week, Suvi shared a post of things that they, as an intersex person, wanted the world to know. I offered Druid Life as a platform (this is something I am always happy to do, get in touch if you need to borrow the space.) For anyone not familiar with the term, intersex people are born with mixed sexual characteristics. I’ve seen estimates of around 2% of the population affected by this. Surgery to ‘normalise’ their bodies to one or other gender is usually carried out in infancy, with little regard to internal organs or how the child might self-identify.

Over to Suvi…

I have no physical sense of self or desire to make that connection

Puberty is bad enough; second puberties really suck

The secret we carry leads to our complete isolation

I have never been able to undertake any gender specific activities of either gender including sports

I’m inhibited, a mass of numb physical scars

I want to run away

Relationships with those of the gender you have been forced to conform to are difficult as faced with a body that looks nothing like yours. Normally they freak out and run away.

You avoid mirrors; outward appearances are very outward

If you can never live up to expectations of your parents; you don’t feel like you are loved

Desperation to be loved makes you very vulnerable as a young person and can lock you into abusive relationships; terrified that no one else will want you

Any manipulator can use the no one else will want you card; employers will use it against you too

Then, for many we don’t exist. That is until we have to fill in a form with gender boxes; we get caught up in every piece of red tape going. Until recently (in the last 5 years) we had no human rights. Tick the box ticked on your birth certificate they say; mine says “undetermined”

Trans and intersex are not the same thing; they want surgery and can’t get it, we don’t want surgery and have no choice in the matter. Apart from in Malta where intersex surgeries are illegal.

That said intersex people can be trans if they identify as male or female gendered and not amalga-gendered. Currently 10% of intersex people identify as trans. All of us have little choice but to be mis-gendered by those who don’t know us, and most of us play binary in public to avoid assault. Verbal and physical violence against intersex people is horribly common.

Intersex is not a sexuality. We are on the rainbow as due to being intersex the sexuality or sexualities we do have are going to be queer. Yes; we can have sex. No, we can’t have children.

If we have been operated on as babies or small children we are most likely to have been lied to. As have our parents. Trying to get any truth out of the medical establishment is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It was only confirmed in January that my condition (though I’ve known for decades) only affects boys; up to then I was told I was a girl and it was my fault I looked and felt differently. You would think though that having a prostate gland would be a give-away.

Please could we be included in the legalisation our existence is used to justify. Australian intersex folk can marry who they choose and Scotland to her credit is working on it. But nowhere else can we marry.

Could the world get over bathrooms please; if you have one in your home its unisex

My sign for Pride this year and no its not original, but very apt will say: Ugh, where do I start?


Guest blog from Jason Lewis

Jason contacted me by email to ask if I’d host this post. It’s interesting stuff – I think we should be doing more to explore the social impact of religion. I don’t think you need to believe anything specific to benefit from many of the things a religious practice can do – themes I’ve explored in Spirituality without Structure and When a Pagan Prays. I think what Jason says has relevance for all faith groups and its interesting to think about how we might apply this to a Pagan context.


This Is Why Seniors  Should Attend Church

Whether you’re ultra-religious, simply spiritual, or somewhere in between, church can give you perspective on life’s ups and downs in a safe environment. While people of all ages can benefit from a weekly prayer session, it can be particularly helpful for seniors — here’s why.


Mental Health

Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions or mindsets that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Seniors need activity in their lives to help ward off isolation and depression, which can lead to risky behavior like substance abuse. Studies show that seniors who regularly attend church have greater mental health than those who do not. In fact, depressive symptoms improved and they were able to cope with illness better later on in life.


Preventative Care

Seniors who regularly attend church are more apt to stay on top of preventative care such as flu shots and cancer screenings. Those struggling with medical costs will benefit from church-sponsored health fairs that offer service like those listed above and more. Church communities tend to promote ways to live a healthier life.


Social Life

Research suggests that when seniors retain some semblance of a social life, they can decrease — or slow down — the rate of cognitive decline. It’s likely that they’ll make friends who they’ll see outside of the church environment. Even acquaintances can be beneficial as there’s the possibility of meeting someone younger who can help with lawn work or occasional errands.

There may even be an opportunity to contribute to the community, which can give the elderly a sense of purpose that could help ward off depression. Going to a place of worship gives seniors a safe place to get support through good times and bad.


Cognitive Health

Between participating in church services (singing, reciting prayers, listening to a sermon, etc.) to socializing with other members of the congregation, the church environment can help prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders.


Longer Life Span

Studies indicate that attending church can lower stress levels, which reduces inflammation that increases the risk for disease — it actually may reduce mortality rate by 55 percent. Religious attendance is also known to boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure, and possibly change bad behaviors such as smoking, excess drinking, and promiscuity.


Increased Optimism

Though it’s not exactly clear why, there’s a link between optimism and attending church. Seniors who attend more than once a week are 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic outlook on life in comparison to those who never go. Churchgoers are also 22 percent less likely to experience depression.


Physical Health

Having a reason to get dressed and leave the house may be just what a senior needs to keep moving. Findings show that leaving the house every day — even a short trip — can help seniors live longer. Staying indoors regularly can contribute to physical and mental decline.


Improved Coping Methods

The golden years can be an emotionally challenging time because seniors live to see the passing of friends and family while experiencing their own illness. Going to church can help seniors cope through sad and stressful times by encouraging mindfulness.

It doesn’t matter who or what you believe in as the benefits that come from attending a place of worship are the same. Don’t worry if you never regularly attended church in the past. There’s never a bad time to incorporate spirituality into your life.


Photo Credit: Pexels

Thomas Hocknell: On getting published

tom-hA guest blog from Thomas Hocknell

I’ve been not published for long enough to allow a kettle to boil, much less forget how articles on How I Got Published are inspiring and galling in equal measure. I have however finally made it to print, so sharing the experience of how it happened feels at least appropriate, even if it feels like fluke. Getting published feels like the glowing perfection of a film’s first act, before a Boeing 747 crashes into the house. And this is how it happened, getting published I mean, not the plane crash.

An actor friend told me two years ago how he was giving up his pursuit of acting, and I was struck by what a momentous adult moment this was; to surrender those dreams of his younger self. Well, I reached a similar moment. Over the past two years I had sent my novel to so many agents that I had reached Z in the literary agent lists, and given up even noting where I had sent it. Any advice of submitting to only 4 or 5 at a time long-since ignored.

Random House then showed an interest, which they probably regretted as I followed them home every night. Mind you, the meeting involving a free cup of tea and Kit Kat in the Random House cafeteria was the most exciting thing to have happened, which speaks volumes about my literary endeavours up to then.

Sadly, this was the peak of my involvement with Random. They had already recently signed a novel involving the Elizabethan alchemist and magician Dr. John Dee and feared it risked overkill. They also wisely declined to provide me with this writer’s home address, which might have risked another kind of overkill.

Over the years I also managed to gain and lose two literary agents. To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one agent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

At this point I put the manuscript to pasture, and started another novel, set in a small tenement block in London Bridge. Once I finished this, I glanced once again at the Life Assistance Agency. It was at this point, were it a movie, the audience would groan at magnitude of cliché. Yes, I decided to give it one more chance. I would give it another edit and tidy up, before sending it to every agent/publisher foolish enough to publicise their address in the country in a sort of mail-shot more associated with general elections.

There were no takers, but during this time I was building up a Twitter following, mainly by making friends with people in the hope they might return the interest. Once I had gained 2000, a newly found friend suggested Urbane Publishing, as publishers happy to consider manuscripts without agent representation. And it was while buying tickets to see Hotel Transylvania 2 with my son that I received the email I thought I would never get. It was celebrated by buying him the sort of ice cream he never thought he would get, and won’t have again, unless film rights are requested.

And it so happened. The first thing I did on returning home was to throw away the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2010 edition with a satisfying ‘fuck you.’  And spent the next 9 months endeavouring to not fantasise about selling enough copies to cover my expenses. Mind you, I’d prefer not to calculate the hourly rate. It feels surreal; all those dreams and aspirations now to be made public.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thomas Hocknell is a blogger at idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow – in the manner in which Jerome K Jerome might have, were he writing in 2016, and not 1886. You an find it here – The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel and is the journey of a blogger, Ben Ferguson-Cripps, who sets aside his literary failures to join the newly established Life Assistance Agency in pursuit of a missing professor obsessed with the Elizabethan alchemist Dr. Dee. He’s @TomAngel1 on Twitter (which is where I first met him and started reading his blogs).

The Life Assistance Agency is available to buy from local bookshops and at Foyles:,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

Kindle is available here:


Magical Realism: Contradiction in Terms?

A guest post from Laura Perry

I’m a writer, and a portion of what I write is fiction that qualifies as magical realism. My most recent novel, The Bed (, definitely qualifies. I’ve had a few people question that term, suggesting that it’s a contradiction. After all, according to mainstream society and “common sense,” magic isn’t real.

I’ve written before about Pagans who practice magic but don’t actually believe in it, a habit that can lead to very unpleasant side effects ( Mainstream society puts a great deal of pressure on us to conform to the materialist viewpoint that anything that can’t be experienced through our five physical senses or detected via scientific instruments simply doesn’t exist or is, at best, some sort of hallucination. So it’s an uphill battle against cultural pressure just to consider the possibility that magic is a real thing.

There’s a sizeable portion of the Pagan/alternative/New Age community that explains magic as some sort of psychological effect, which is fine as far as it goes. There’s plenty we don’t know about how the psyche works, so chalking magic up to psychological thingamawhatsies is tantamount to invoking a version of Clarke’s Third Law ( with the human brain in place of some sort of constructed technology. That, too, is just fine, since no one really knows why or how magic works.

The thing is, magic does work. It produces effects—sometimes unexpected or unpleasant ones—in the material world. Whether that’s through the forces of the human mind or the workings of Nature or the intervention of divine beings is up for discussion.

If magic works, then it’s reasonable to write stories about it and say that those stories are examples of magical realism. Bear in mind that fiction, even fiction that’s based on “true life” stories, is still a made-up thing. But good fiction is a believably made-up thing. I’ve seen the results of magic, both good and bad, enough times to be willing to slide it into the underpinnings of my stories. I don’t write about people flying through the air on broomsticks or shooting flames out of their hands. I write about the kinds of magic I’ve experienced myself: dreams and visions, rituals that go well or that get out of hand, customs that are designed to safeguard the practitioner and that can result in disaster if they’re ignored.

These things aren’t fantasy, though not everyone experiences them. And of course, even people who’ve experienced them may choose not to believe in them since mainstream society still says magic isn’t real (I’ve seen that happen—cognitive dissonance is a powerful and frightening thing). That’s another useful bit for my fiction: the conflict with friends and family members who think you’re crazy for even considering the idea that magic actually works. But in real life, it can be less than fun to deal with.

So no, I don’t consider “magical realism” to be a contradiction in terms. I enjoy writing it and I enjoy reading it. But more than that, I enjoy living it.

The land: always the land…

lambs_looking_01A guest blog from Talis Kimberley

I was fortunate enough t o spend my childhood in a house with a large garden. I have often said that the garden, not the house, are really where I lived; certainly my memories of it are stronger. Until I was 17 I knew a kindly green landscape where the wheel of the year was punctuated by the emergence of leaves, buds, fruit and nuts, all without any apparent ‘gardening’ whatever, and all free for the gathering, picking, eating, and – in my mother’s case – turning into jellies and jams.

The books I read as a young child undoubtedly romanticised farms and the countryside, and in my suburban garden, stag beetles, fox cubs, furry caterpillars and toads were common sights, and I thought myself a country girl for all I was living in a city suburb.

As an adult, I finally came to live in a village. For the last ten years my home has been in what feels, to me, a very much more rural setting, though as this already-large village expands, some neighbours feel it’s ‘not a village any more’.

I disagree. From the butcher’s shop where meat and dairy goods produced by local farms are sold, to the simple fact that a seven minute walk from my house in any direction will put me in a field, this, to me, is the contemporary countryside.

Most especially, I count farmers among my friends and acquaintances – unheard-of back in the city of my childhood. And those farmers and the things I’ve learned from them have shaped my experience of living here, and inspired many of the songs that comprise my ‘Cloth of Gold – Songs of Sheep and Farming’ collection. (1)

Farmers have it tough here. This townie-born Green activist knows the lure of the romantic idyll, the mixed farm with the named beasts, the five-barred gate, the speckled chickens in the yard, the vintage tractor – these are still the stuff of childrens’ books and TV series , though we should know better. The truth is that farmers are under pressure to diversify because the food they grow and raise often fails to cover its costs. The price of cheap food – and I know that many are hungry in the UK, to our shame, and that ‘food deserts’ exist in many of our cities – is that many farmers have left the land, and increasingly, our food will be grown by agribusinesses whose sole aim is to make a bigger profit than they did last year.

Don’t blame the farmers for the corners some may cut, for the less-than-sustainable choices some may make, when you and I do as much in other aspects of our lives, when we are under pressure and lacking better options.

The farmers I know, from the shepherd who spent most of April’s nights standing in death’s way for her lambs, to the farmer who taught me to kill and draw a chicken for the pot (I am not vegetarian, no. I challenged myself to do what was needful and take responsibility for the birds I raised that they should have a good life and a fast death, and that they should not go to waste) and the farmer-shopkeeper-and-cafe-proprietor who has had several careers in other fields … sorry…! … and who cares passionately about good food and the community who eat it – he sent out a tray of hot sausage rolls for the volunteers when a fundraising event was taking place on the pavement – and the much-missed farmer who sat beside me on the Parish Council making me giggle with his dry observations, drawn from a lifetime on the land: whose cattle were his delight, and who would disagree with me across the council table with gentle humour and civility and a big grin… none of these were or are, careless of the land, nor of the beasts in their care.

Townie-born, I know there is a depth of ignorance on the part of the city-dweller for the countryside, and vice versa as well. As with every other division between us diverse human souls who bleed the same kind of red and are all as prone to despair and loneliness as each other wherever we live, this division serves best those who are laughing down their sleeves at the lot of us, who make the biggest and most powerful national choices in our names, who think that fracking for oil and gas is a good idea, who think that licensing chemicals which are exterminating our bees and other pollinators is a splendid and profitable plan… those same people who have created systems in which good food is deliberately spoiled and sent to landfill while the most vulnerable in our society go hungry – yes, and have in cases starved to death. (2) Yes, in fair England.

I love the land. I always did, in a romantic way, a childlike way; trees were for climbing, streams for fording, grass for rolling down hills in. Now I have a little patch of land to tend and garden, and I know how deeply it feeds my soul, and the demands it makes on me, and I have learned that farmers carry that same weight manyfold.

Some of the songs on ‘Cloth of Gold’ were written about the flock of sheep I am privileged to know. (3) Others inspired by the BBC TV series ‘Wartime Farm’ (4) and still others emerged over the years as again and again, I have tried to tell in my songs the stories in my heart about the land and those who work it. Here are the sheep I know, here is the barn into which I helped harvest hay, here are the people who spend their hearts and strength serving the land that we live on, and here are the ways it matters to me. I hope you will enjoy the songs. Thank you.


Talis Kimberley, May 16, 2016

[1] Cloth of Gold at Talis’s webshop:

[2] The death of Mark Woods:

[3] Alfie Purl, a most remarkable Cotswold sheep:

[4] BBC’s Wartime Farm:



Unbound Publishing, Ashael Rising

A guest blog from Shona Kinsella (requested because I’m really interested in how publishing house Unbound is doing things). Over to Shona…


My debut novel, Ashael Rising, is currently being crowd-funded through the world’s first crowd-funding publisher, Unbound.

Unbound give readers the chance to choose what books are published. You find a book you like the sound of and pledge your support. At the basic level, you get your name in a list of supporters in each edition as well as a copy of the book and the rewards go up from there, tailored to each book. When a book has reached its funding target it gets published and marketed in the same way as it would with any traditional publisher. Authors receive royalties of 50%; considerably higher than the standard 10% – 15%. Unbound is a truly innovative way to approach publishing and I’m really excited to be involved with them.

Ashael Rising is the story of a tribal filidh (healer and spiritual leader) who finds herself in the position of having to protect her people and her world from the evil Zanthar, invaders form another world who extend their own lives by feeding on the life force of all around them.

When I decided to write a novel, I knew that it would be epic fantasy, and that it would have a female protagonist, something that’s not particularly common in the genre. That was about all I knew at that point. You see, I’m a discovery writer so every day I sit down at my computer and see what words fall out. I was surprised at how much I came to love Bhearra, Ashael’s mentor and the spiritual leader of her people. I love how vibrant and complete she is and she became one of my favourite characters, despite being old enough to be my grandmother.

Iwan, a slave of the Zanthar sent to spy on Ashael’s people, started out as a plot device but as I wrote him, he came to life and demanded to have his story told. He is a man of principle, who has to walk a tightrope between protecting his mother and protecting the woman he has come to love.

As I wrote, I realised that Ashael and her people were not white, though I initially pictured them that way. I wrote a same-sex couple who are accepted and loved for who they are. I tried to imagine a community of gender equality.

I also came to realise that much of the spiritual story came from my own beliefs and experiences as a Celtic Polytheist. The Heart-Fire that serves as the heart of the community is kept burning eternally and given offerings for the gods. It reminds me of Brighid’s sacred flame. The folk even take shifts to tend their sacred flame just as I and my Cill mates do.

Bhearra’s and Ashael’s relationship with the All-Mother reflects my own relationship with Brighid, leaning on Her, serving Her, asking Her for guidance and giving Her thanks. Ashael’s certainty in the presence of the All-Mother is the same as my own certainty in Brighid’s presence in my life.

Ashael Rising is ultimately a story about balance and relationships. It explores the nature of our relationships with each other, with our gods and with the earth that we live on. It is my attempt to find a world that I would want to live in.

I can’t say for sure if this book would be accepted by a traditional publisher because Unbound is the first publisher I submitted it to. I have my doubts though. Within the fantasy adventure, there are lots of unusual aspects and that’s the kind of thing that gets books rejected. One of the reasons for that, is that traditional publishers don’t believe that there are readers for books that do things differently. With Unbound, we have the chance to prove them wrong, to show that we do want female protagonists in our fantasy, that aged characters can still be exciting, that we want PoC in the lead roles.

We have an opportunity to change publishing. I would love it if you joined me.

Find out more about Unbound and about Ashael Rising at: where you can read an excerpt of the book and pledge your support.

Shona is running a prize draw at 50, 75 and 100% of her funding target. When each of these are reached, Shona will draw the name of a pledger from a hat and that person will win an Amazon gift voucher, signed page of the manuscript and a handwritten thank you note from Shona. For further details, read the post here:

You can connect with Shona on Twitter (@shona_kinsella) or Facebook as well as following her blog at where she blogs about the experience of being a writer, warts and all.


Walking the Rainbow Path

A guest blog, by Nina Milton

One sunny autumn morning, fifteen years ago, I shipped up in Bath, to attend an introductory workshop on shamanism. As a druid, I was used to enjoying guided visualisations and wanted to know more about what happens when you stop being ‘guided’ and sink deeply into a trance that takes you away from everything around you. I’d started reading about shamanism; books like The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda, Cave and Cosmos, by Michael Harner and Your Shamanic Path, by Leo Rutherford, showed me that shamanism was a historic world-wide phenomenon, but also that it still thrives today.

I’m an OBOD a druid, so it was British shamanism I was most attracted to. It uses archetypes I already knew from the Celtic myths, comforting symbols such as cauldrons and oak trees, and did not depend on mind-altering drugs to attain a state of trance. I’d consumed a lot of books by Caitlin and John Matthews, especially The Celtic Shaman and Singing the Soul back Home, but books a shaman maketh not; and here I was, sitting on a floor cushion alongside thirty other people, waiting for John Matthews to introduce us to this magical place. He looked ordinary, sitting cross-legged between us, and he opened the workshop in a quiet, almost muted voice.

“I’d better warn you now,” he said, without drama. “Shamanism will alter your life.”

Although I was keen – really keen – I’d paid money to be here – I couldn’t help thinking…’yeah, right’.

But John knew what he was saying. For me, things were never the same again.

John reminded us that although shamanism can be a spiritual path, from its very early beginnings, it has been used as a tool; a method of getting close to another world – the world of spirits. It’s a very ancient practice indeed; there are those who think shamans are depicted in the Neolithic cave paintings found all over Europe. Shamans are thought of as special people by the communities they function within.  By entering a trance, often using nothing more than a drum beat or the rhythm of a dance, they move between the solid world we all live in, and the otherworlds, bringing back answers to questions that have no answers.

It is said that to become a shaman, one must be called by spirits, but I think the spirits are calling us all…it’s just that only some people listen. When I talked to the other work-shoppers that weekend, I found several who described having the ‘shaman’s sickness’, a health crisis that had brought them visionary dreams. Other had found their minds opening during a ‘vision quest’ in wild country or during a dark night.

“The rainbow path of the seeker takes you from your own world to the inner-worlds,” John advised. “You will become walkers between the worlds.” We lay down, scarves or sleep masks over our eyes, and listened to the singing tone high above the beat of John’s bodhrán and let our imagination take us along the rainbow path to the otherworld.

The more I delved, the more fascinated I became. By closing my eyes, listening to a fast, regular drum beat and allowing my mind to steady and focus, I found I was able to walk between the worlds, accompanied by my spirit ally who came to me in the guise of a mole, able to burrow down into lower realms. When I stroked his back with one finger, his coat felt as soft, warm and sleek as any mole of this world. Mole and I would come upon otherworldly presences who spoke to me, either in perfectly normal conversations or in mysterious symbols and signs. They often advised or directed me, or offered a gift of significance. I’d emerge feeling refreshed…amazed.

I worked through Caitlin Matthew’s series of practitioner workshops, and I’ve since worked with other respected shaman too, building up my skills, and using them to some degree in my work as a palliative care nurse, and also for my own self-development. I loved the way this secret, rainbow world was mine to visit, enjoy and learn from at all times.

I was already a writer. In fact, I think I’ve always been one, ever since my first infant school teacher, Mrs Marsden, read an animal fable to the class, then asked us to write a similar sort of story. I was dumfounded – for the first time I understood that the books I loved had actually been written by real human beings. Before that, I believed they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation – from then on I was scribbling down stories all the time.

Sometime after I’d been practicing shamanism in work and for myself, a new fictional character walked into my head.

“Hi,” she said. I was driving to work, at the time, and she seemed almost to plonk herself down on the passenger seat. “I’m Sabbie Dare.”

She looked like a woman in her late twenties, of mixed race, with a cute little gap between her front teeth and very long, almost black hair, which kinked as it fell. “I’m a shaman,” she went on. “A therapeutic shaman.”

“Ah, I responded,” (in my head, and keeping my eyes on the road, of course), “you take clients with problems. Probably problems they’ve already seen a gamut of professionals about; doctors, herbalists, even hypnotherapists.”

She’d nodded.  “Some have souls that are complete shattered. And some bring me some very difficult problems. They are people on the edge.” I felt guided to write about Sabbie Dare – I became obsessed about her life and thoughts. She was like my younger sister.

The books are set on the Somerset Levels, a place with a truly fay and mysterious atmosphere, which can turn tricksy and dark, when mists come down, or floods rise, and I use the most isolated, desolate spot on the moors for the first Shaman Mystery, In the Moors. Things get very scary indeed for Sabbie, as she tries to help a client in trouble. She’s a girl who only wants the best for those she meets, and she’ll regularly put herself on the line, not only in the spirit world, but also in the apparent world, because The Shaman Mysteries, published by Llewellyn’s Midnight Ink imprint, are thrillers, albeit with an edge of spiritually.

I write them for pagans and crime fiction lovers alike, so I have to be careful to walk a line between the truth of my own spiritual path and the story I’m creating. I don’t want to spin a line, suggesting shamanism can ‘solve crime’ or ‘get people out of trouble’.

The otherworld rarely gives a direct answer – any shaman knows that. When Sabbie finally unravels the tangle of symbols and auguries her spirit world shows her, she’s never presented with a simple answer. Instead, she’s led to the place or moment where those answers will be best revealed. Unfortunately for Sabbie, those are the places of most danger. Sabbie knows this, but walks towards them anyway, because she’s passionate for her clients, and for justice – and she can’t help being insatiably curious!

As the series progresses I’ve introduced some of the aspects of shamanism and paganism that might enlighten the ‘muggle reader’. Book one, In the Moors explains Sabbie’s job as a therapist, and describes her shamanic journeys, introducing her animal ally, an otter called Trendle. In the second book, Unraveled Visions, I begin to develop Sabbie’s otherworld associations, and her ritual life celebrating the celtic wheel of the year. Book three, Beneath the Tor, has a theme of transformation, including shapeshifting. I also introduce the reader to the lower realms of the otherworld. This book is set in Glastonbury, and it was my great delight to be able to use some of the legends of the Vale of Avalon.

Meanwhile Sabbie herself begins to understand who she is. She was brought up in the care system, after her mother died when she was six…she’s never known her father. As the books develop, she uses her shamanic pathways to find out more about her own past , including her maternal family, who are from Somerset, and her Caribbean father, who becomes her spirit guide.

I’ve never forgotten John Matthews’ claim that shamanism will change your life. It transformed mine, and I’d recommend pursuing the rainbow path to any pagan. Once you know how to access the world of spirits, you really never know what might happen next. What happened to me was that I now write books I love, and that people seem to love reading them. It was the one thing I’d longed to be able to do, and I am sure that the spirit world brought me this blessing.


Nina Milton’s blogsite for readers and writers is and she’s also on Facebook at The Shaman Mysteries and on twitter as @ninahare.

Life on the teapot

I read this piece when Lou Pulford posted it to Facebook a few days ago, and requested it for the blog, and she kindly said yes, I could share, so, here we are…

In my head, the world is like an enormous teapot; the little people are sheltered by the bright threads of its tea cosy, sustained by the amber nectar which flows abundantly from its slender spout, warmed by the gentle heat which emanates from deep within its belly. Whenever the pot begins to run dry, it is swiftly refilled by the loving hands of some eternal sky-deity, pouring forth the holy boiling water from their grail-like kettle.

In such a world, where all are cosy, warm, wrapped in bright threads and sustained by tasty tea, each person is at ease and free to go about the important business of being nice to every other person on the face of the teapot. There are always enough hugs to go around, there is always time to listen, time to chat, time to rest or play or lend a helping hand because the important things like sustenance and shelter are already provided freely for all by the teapot. In my head, there is a plate of jammy dodgers beside the teapot and those who have the misfortune to fall off (for everyone falls off the pot eventually) simply fall into the marvellous plate of jammy dodgers where they can gorge themselves silly for all eternity.
Sadly I am a mentally unstable and highly deluded individual and life is not like this at all.

In reality, the teapot is not completely covered by the tea cosy. There are areas where people are forced to subside without the bright threads, either burning themselves on the scalding barren surface of the pot, or freezing to death upon the handle.
Sadly, many people live far from the life giving spout, and those who do live near it tend to guard it jealously, charging phenomenal prices to those who wish to sip or denying access to the life giving amber nectar entirely.

In reality, there is war on the surface of the teapot. People war over the threads of the tea cosy, they war over which threads belong to who. Sometimes they enslave eachother, force these slaves to gather up all the threads and then try to sell the threads to those who are already suffocating under the weight of their own thread piles.

Sadly, while everyone’s back is turned, some sneaky bastards have slipped up to the lid and polluted the blessed golden blend with copious amounts of filthy Assam. (A little Assam is of course necessary in a good blend, but too much can be fatal) Now even the greedy guzzlers at the spout begin to die and, although some do mutter under their thread piles about the suspiciously malty taste of the tea, their mutterings are soothed and silenced by the surreptitious addition of more placating pollutants to the mix; namely milk and sugar.

Sugar is of course addictive. More war breaks out over the sugar. Some people try to ban the sugar. Others try to grab all the sugar for themselves. Many die in a sticky heap of mangled sugar and threads while still more starve having never tasted sugar or felt the warmth of thread upon their skin.

This is the reality and this is why no one has time to go about the important business of being nice to every other person on the face of the teapot. This is why there are never enough hugs to go around, never time to listen, time to chat, time to rest or play or lend a helping hand because the important things like sustenance and shelter are not actually being provided freely for all by the teapot. They never have been and they never will be.

In reality, there is no plate of jammy dodgers beside the teapot and those who have the misfortune to fall off (for everyone falls off the pot eventually) simply fall onto the hard work surface of an over burdened domestic goddess and are swept into the cosmic garbage bin without a second thought.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, I know because it was my first reaction to this awful epiphany too but please, put the knitting needles down gentlemen, we cannot knit our way out of this – not this time. I know every fibre of your being is straining to try and knit a bigger tea cosy that covers the entire pot but, trust me, it cannot be done. You will die in the attempt and your tattered fingers will shed blood like tears to stain the tea cosy and even darker shade of crimson. No I’m sorry but for once there is a problem that is too large to be solved by a pair of knitting needles.

And I know what others of you are thinking, because it was my second reaction, but please, put down those home-made energy ray pistols ladies, I’m sorry but no amount of violent vigilantism is going to help us this time. If you start rampaging about the streets in your mask and cape, attempting to ‘take out’ the greedy perpetrators of world injustice you will end your days incarcerated in a padded cell. No, I’m sorry but for once capes and masks are not the answer either.

I did have a last thought which has perhaps occurred to some of you as well, that of attempting to leave the teapot entirely by means of some mad, ingenious invention… but then I remembered that I am not a genius. Only mad, and this is no help at all.

I am however starting to grow my own tea. In old baked bean tins. In discarded wellington boots. In yoghurt pots on window sills and in cracked and broken coffee mugs. (I may not have sugar or milk, but good tea does not need toxins added to it to enhance its flavour.) When I see a friend or family member in need of tea, I am pouring them a brew and passing them some seeds and a little pot of earth. This process of growing tea has taught me something – we can be tea to ourselves and to eachother.

I know you love that concept as much as I do so I’m going to say it again,

“We can be tea to ourselves and eachother”

And what I mean by that is that we can begin to see one another as fragile, porcelain cups (oftentimes cracked and weeping) holding varying amounts of amber nectar. We can see ourselves like this too and when we start to look at everyone and ourselves of cups of tea we can judge whether a person is able to give us a sip of their time, their resources, their help… essentially a sip of themselves, or whether we need to be helping them to be refilled. We might see ourselves as pretty empty and that might well be true, but I suspect we don’t have the right to drink someone else dry just to save ourselves.

This small change in perspective from one small group of slightly insane and tea obsessed individuals will not save the world. But in some small way, in this small space, for one small portion of time, it might mean that there are a few more hugs to go around, a few more people with time to listen or to chat, a little more opportunity to rest or play or lend a helping hand because we are making it our responsibility to shelter and sustain eachother as well as ourselves.

As for the plate of jammy dodgers, well, everyone has to have dream don’t they? I suppose I’ve not given up hope on those just yet…

Bee Garden Offering

Image by Magnus Manske

A Guest blog by Heather Awen

In early spring many people’s thoughts turn to gardening. Deciding what to plant and where to plant it, some start growing seeds inside while others make a list of flowers to buy and seed savers trade precious heirloom varieties. Gardening is commonly thought of something that people with yards only do, but there are many ways to garden even if you have no private patch of land.

This year why not plant a bee garden as a living shrine to a Deity or bioregion? Bees are dying in such great numbers there is now a term for it: Colony Collapse Disorder. According to Bees Free, “Since 2006, North American migratory beekeepers have seen an annual 30 percent to 90 percent loss in their colonies; non-migratory beekeepers noted an annual loss of over 50 percent. Similar losses were reported in Canada, as well as several countries in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America.”

During this time of peril for bees, the great pollinators, an offering can be made of a safe haven.  Traditionally Pagan rituals focused on the renewal of the interconnected world. Today with 2 in 3 bites of food linked to the need for bees, renewal ceremonies for the pollinators in practical form are needed. Beyond Pesticides One Page Fact Sheet

states the biggest threat is “Neonicotinoids—including, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid—are a class of insecticides that are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. They are systemic, meaning that they are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink.” They not only kill the bees, but sublethal levels cause bees to get lost.

Photograph by Onderwijsgek

Neonicotinoids were banned in the EU in 2013 but this may be overturned according to The Soil Association. “The temporary EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is looking like a fragile barrier against the political and financial muscle of the chemical companies.”  Unfortunately 100% of the soil samples from the UK’s hedgerows are still filled with neonics, especially the hawthorn, a favorite for bees.

Honey is connected to many ancient pagan sacred rituals while Deities of flowers are abundant. In folklore Fairies are connected to flowers. Eco-pagans working to regenerate the land where they live recognize the important role of flowers, bees and other pollinators. No matter what your spiritual path, creating a native flower garden for bees is a practical ceremony that can be a living temple or offering to whomever or whatever you consider sacred. Consider it for a group ritual or a private meditation.

Your living shrine could be a container garden, a flower box, seed balls thrown into vacant lots, guerrilla gardening or planting flowers in the land where you live. Even if you are an apartment dweller there are many ways in which you can create a bee garden.


Step 1: Who (besides the bees!) is your bee sanctuary a living shrine for?

In designing a garden the first thing is to decide who will be the recipient of this devotion. If you are bioregional animist take time getting to know the place where you will be gardening. Listen to its needs, to its past, intuit its hopes for its future. Research what the land was like before industrial civilization changed it so drastically. Look carefully and talk to the land about the garden and sense what it needs. There are a lot of benefits which the land may want to hear about such as bringing beauty to the people and how that could result in the land being treated differently . When doing this sort of work think of yourself as a diplomat reaching out to a land that may not have much reason to trust you. Form a relationship by being honest with your intentions and listening to the environment. Any vow that you make about tending to the garden including watering be certain you will keep. You are not just creating a place where bees can pollinate; you are reestablishing a sacred relationship with place.

Whether you are a hard polytheist, believe that the different gods and goddesses are aspects of the divine or a duotheist Wiccan and believe that all goddesses are version of the Lady and all gods to be versions of the Lord, there are many Deities connected to flowers and honey for who you can plant a living temple. If there is one with whom you have a strong relationship or one with whom you would like to develop strong relationship, consider dedicating the garden to Her or Him. You can also dedicate the garden to several Deities perhaps, arrange a section for the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone or have yellow flowers for a solar Goddess and red flowers for a sacrificed God. Most of all follow your intuition. Please take a look at the following information about the Gods and Goddesses in ancient Pagan cultures and imagine how important the bee must have been.

In the Germanic tradition we have Freya, with flowers falling from her hair; Freyr’s female helper Beyla whose name is suspected to be connected to honey, from

Photo by Umberto Brayj

which the sacred mead is made; and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the Dawn and Spring Eostre. Brythonic Britain gives us Blodeuedd “flower face;” Flora is the Sabine Roman goddess of flowers and springtime; Gaelic Scottish Bride is the Goddess of Spring; and the Gaelic Airmid is a healing Goddess of herbalism. Maia is an ancient Italic goddess of Springtime; Mycenaean Goddess Potnia is called “The Pure Mother Bee”; and the Greek nymph Chloris is associated with flowers, transforming many Divine heroes into flowers such as Hyacinth and Crocus. Hindu goddess Parvati kills a demon by stinging him from the bees that come from her body. Bhramari is the Hindu Goddess of bees, Austeja is the Lithuanian Goddess of bees while the Mayan Goddess of bees is Colel Cab. Mayan fertility Goddess Xochiquetzal’s name means “flower standing upright;” the blossom Princess Konohanasakuya-hime comes from Japan; and the Yoruban Orisha Oshun loves honey as an offering.


The world of flowers and bees is not limited to the feminine. Ah-Muzen-Cab is a Mayan bee God; the Egyptian sun god Ra’s tears turned to bees when they landed on desert sand; and the Hindu love God Kamadeva’s bowstring is made from honeybees. Melissus “honey man” comes from Crete; Aristaeus is the Greek God of beekeeping; and the Lithuanian God of bees is Bublias. Chinese mythology has the 12 Deities of Flowers. In Haitian Vodou Papa Simbi is the herbal healer and magician and Grand Bois is associated with trees and herbs, often given offerings of honey. The Egyptian fertility God Min is offered honey.

Wiccans could create gardens for the Triple Goddess, perhaps focusing on the Maiden or Mother depending on the type of flowers planted. If focusing on flowers of the underworld, the shrine could be for the Crone. The Green Man is an obvious candidate for a fertility pollination garden. If you are a bioregional animist these bee gardens are be offerings to the spirits of place.

Different deities are associated with different flowers. The Lily was a symbol for Ishtar, Hera, Juno and later the Virgin Mary, and of Upper Egypt. Venus and Epona both received roses as offerings. In Scotland Bride brings snowdrops with her in the Spring. In Greece the red anemone is linked to the death of Adonis while the violet is the blood from Attis, killed while hunting a wild boar. Carnations in Mexico are the flowers of the dead. Asphodel is the flower of the underworld, sacred to Hades. Ganesh Jee is known to love red flowers. Irish Diarmaid and Grainne made beds out of Heather to hide when they eloped. Celtic water goddess Coventina is depicted holding a water lily. Freya is associated with milkwort, cowslip, primrose and daisies “day’s eye.” The roots of Aster, the “starflower” of the Greeks, were crushed and fed to bees in poor health. When Virgo scattered star dust to the earth it became aster flowers. The Greek goddess Iris led the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields, so purple irises were planted on the graves of women. Pansies were white until pierced by Cupid’s arrow when they turned purple. A maiden named Clytie fell in love with the sun God Helios who abandoned her and the Gods turned her into a sunflower. The Brythonic Olwen’s name means “white clover.” Weyland the Smith used to be left Valerian in exchange for horseshoes.

If planting a garden for the Good People, land spirits or elves consider some of these flowers. Fairies love strawberries and St. John’s wort. In folklore fairies meet in gardens of chrysanthemums. The spear thistle is the emblem for Scotland. In Wales foxglove or Maneg Ellyllyn (“the Good People’s Glove”) is sacred to fairies. Elecompane is a good offering for the Alfar who, like the Fey, also love Sweet Cicely. The Dutch called Rosemary “elf leaf” and once believed it to be haunted by elves. Daisies are helpful with forming relationships with nature spirits who also connect strongly to the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley, which should never be transplanted lest the land be offended.

Honey is part of the ambrosia of the gods of Olympus; one of the five ingredients for the elixir of immortality in Hinduism; the basis of the Scandinavian holy drink mead, while in Buddhist myth Buddha made peace among his disciples when a monkey brought him honey to eat. Even the oracles at Delphi originally are thought to be connected with honey.

Obviously honey has been an important part of human ritual for centuries! In the nation of Georgia archaeologists have found honey in an ancient tomb about 5000 years old. The dead had three different varieties of honey for the journey to the Afterlife.


Photo by Severnjc

Step 2: Designing the Garden

In planning where your garden will be check where the sunlight is at different times during the day. Bees like sunny places with protection from the wind. Most packages of seeds will tell you how much sun the plant needs and may say what soil conditions are best. Some plants like sandy soil while others prefer clay. Your seed or plant seller should be able to help. In a container garden the right soil seems especially important.

Here is a list of common plants that bees especially love:

Basil Ocimum

Cotoneaster Cotoneaster

English lavender Lavandula

Giant hyssop Agastache

Globe thistle Echinops

Hyssop Hyssopus

Marjoram Origanum

Wallflower Erysimum

Zinnia Zinnia













Aster Aster

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia

Caltrop Kallstroemia

Creosote bush Larrea

Currant Ribes

Elder Sambucus

Goldenrod Solidago

Huckleberry Vaccinium

Joe-pye weed Eupatorium

Lupine Lupinus

Oregon grape Berberis

Penstemon Penstemon

Purple coneflower Echinacea

Rabbit-brush Chrysothamnus

Rhododendron Rhododendron

Sage Salvia

Scorpion-weed Phacelia

Snowberry Symphoricarpos

Stonecrop Sedum

Sunflower Helianthus

Wild buckwheat Eriogonum

Wild-lilac Ceanothus

Willow Salix

Bee balm









(Remember to make sure that they are native to where you live.)

Bees also feast on the flowers in vegetable gardens, especially:





Cherry trees







Image by Wojsyl

Bees like variety, especially the colors blue, purple, white and yellow. Because different bees have different tongue lengths, include a variety of shapes of flowers. To keep them fed all season, plant a few varieties that bloom in spring, summer and autumn.

Plants that are traditionally considered weeds are the sturdiest. They make flowers, too, and many of them are helpful medicinal magickal or culinary herbs. We have seen bees excited about lemon balm and oregano. You may want to consider having your flower shrine double as a garden for cooking, magick and medicine, which may tie into any deities to whom you devoted the garden.


If you are buying seeds be positive that they are organic seeds, with nothing that could kill the bees. Beyond Pesticides has a webpage dedicated to the safe companies in the US. Look for heirloom, organic seeds if you can because those are plants in danger of becoming extinct and we want lots of diversity. Be sure to focus on native wildflowers which will be hearty and support the entire ecosystem. You do not want to risk harming the bioregion while doing something to help it. Every area has a beautiful diverse variety of indigenous plants. Many stores sell an organic native wildflower mix.  eNature has a state guide for the US, Bee Happy Plants

lists organic pre-19th Century Pollinator Cover Crops (which you could buy from them) or you can look online.


Finally if you need to, buy organic soil at your local garden shop.

If you do not have a patch of land where you can plant flowers perhaps you have a windowsill, rooftop, stone patio or balcony where you can have a container garden. There are many resources for creating a container garden. Check your local library or these websites Rhode’s Organic Life

And Popular Mechanics

(Please remember Popular Mechanics is not about organic gardening.) Avoid shipping pallets as they have chemicals sprayed on them to prevent rotting, plastic as it leaches off chemicals and other containers that may be toxic.


Another option is guerrilla gardening. From WikiHow:

“Guerrilla gardening is a term used to describe the unauthorized cultivation of plants or crops on vacant public or private land. For some practitioners, Guerrilla Gardening is a political statement about land rights or reform; for others, it is primarily an opportunity to beautify and improve neglected, barren or overgrown spaces. Guerrilla gardening can be conducted either via secretive night missions or openly in an attempt to engage others in the idea of community improvement….”

Many of the community gardens in New York City were guerrilla gardens in the 1970s. Guerrilla gardening is very popular in Europe especially England. Where there has been gay bashing pansies have been planted and recently there was an international sunflower guerrilla gardening event. The Guerilla Gardening blog has a Getting Started page

to help you with the process as does WikiHow. (Remember, you will have to return for watering and caring for the plants.)


Seed balls are actually a farming technique started by Fukuoka which has caught on with many people. “Homemade seed balls are a clever way to sow seeds (single species or a mix) without digging.  It’s inexpensive, easy and you can cover a lot of ground.  They are just scattered onto the soil surface, not buried.  Then they just sit there, ensconced in their mud-and-compost ball until it rains, safe from birds, rodents,  drying out, and they won’t blow away.  They are especially useful in areas with unpredictable rainfall.” Explains

with great instructions on to make them. The balls are made of clay, compost and seeds, one of which should be a nitrogen fixer like Clover. Bees love Clover. Making seed balls is not hard and it is a fun group project. The Druid’s Garden

has the most truly environmental way to make seed balls, although many of us probably won’t be able to locate clay locally. (Please note that in the Druid Garden blog post there is no nitrogen fixer added to the seed balls because these balls are going into places where there already are a lot of nitrogen fixer is growing. Their post is about restoring native medicinal plants to the land.) Other instructions may be found at Mother Earth Living


Step 3: Ceremony for the Shrine

Let the process of gardening be an act of magic. If making seed balls, envision peace, health and safety for the community. Bless all the seed balls at the end with a sacred intention for the land. If working with a group, chanting or singing as you make them can enhance the ritual atmosphere, even creating a trance state.

Planting in your yard or containers offers you a chance to experience a new form of moving meditation.  How you approach guerilla gardening may require different enchantments. Planting at night with a lookout, you may want to ask for invisibility.  Many people have stated that planting during the day, especially if they look like a city worker (some even wear a neon vest), makes them almost invisible because they act as if they are “just doing my job, sir.” If you are on friendly terms with your neighbors, they probably will be happy you are planting flowers in the abandoned hole where once there was a tree or nailing flower boxes on to the fence. Some businesses have space for flowers but no money for landscapers and could be receptive to you brightening up their storefront or parking lot, especially when you mention you will be returning to care for the plants.

If your bee garden is going to be for a deity you might want to think about painting, wood carving or making a mosaic sign in honor of that deity, perhaps something like “Flora’s Sacred Shrine,” “Potnia’s Protection” or “The Field of Mead.” Symbols related to that God or Goddess can be painted onto the pots, buried into the ground or hung from a fence or tree. Images of bees or honeycombs, the Gods drinking their honey drinks, and open flowers are all appropriate. Finding images at the garden store for a Fairy garden should not be hard.

When the flowers are in bloom and the space feels settled consider having a dedication ceremony. Perhaps invite some like-minded people over and explain how you are working with nature to repair the damage from Colony Collapse Disorder. Let them know the dangers of pesticides. A group meditation to raise energy to attract bees or requests to the Deity for whom it is a living shrine about honey and nectar could be the central focus of the ritual. Then drink mead or eat honey sweetened cakes as people sign international online petitions about protecting bees at Care2 and

Greenpeace to cement the energy in the political world. Toast to the sweetness of life and bees themselves. Tending to the living temple (not needed with seed balls) continues your offering to the land, Fey ones, Deities and bees.

Imagine garden after garden united in the sacred return of the blessed bee!


Heather Awen’s Writing Archives

The price over everything and the value of nothing

Christopher Blackwell comments regularly on this blog, and I greatly value his sharing of insights and experiences. He recently responded to a post –What is your worth? with such a long and thoughtful comment that I felt it ought to be given a bigger platform. So, I’m re-blogging the comment, with Chris’s permission. Over to Chris…

Here in America it is often said that we Americans know the price over everything and the value of nothing. To some extent this is true as this is very much a consumer society. I watched a two year old in a grocery store rush to get a cola from a cooler, already trained as to which brand he wanted. I mentioned to his mother so young and already knows the brands to want.

But even if trained and taught to behave this way from a young age, one should start to question as one sees that money and having things owned does not guarantee happiness. One begins to note that being happy with ones life in general is rare in our world and start to ask the question of what would make me happy in various parts of my life. Once you start asking the question then you can step out of the slavish consumer framework that you have been trained to follow.

The first thing that you learn is there is never a one size fits all, contrary to the advertisements on the Telly. Each of us is different with quite different needs. It is in discovering what our true needs are and fulfilling those needs that we stand a chance of becoming happy. That means first that we have to discover just who we are, not the imaginary person that we have been told that we are suppose to be.

There is some risk to doing this in that many of the people around you may think you are strange because you do not slavishly follow the herd from advertised need of ownership and changing fads like everyone else. But there is no real happiness if you become a fake to fit in. Letting others determine what you should be gives them too much power over your life and no matter what you do, or how much you give up to fit in, you will find that you never will be good enough for some people. It is control of you and your life, not your happiness that they want for you.

Discover what is different about yourself, what makes you unique and then develop that difference and enjoy it. Sure some things will be similar to the people around you and that is fine, part of being human. However there are differences that you need to develop and cater to if you are going to be generally pleased with living your life. Becoming a happy person is the real success. It is not only important for you, but for the people around you as you give out what you have. If you are miserable, then you tend to spread misery around draining the happiness out of anyplace and person. If you are happy, then you start to light up the people around us. Become the person that you would like to be around, and others will likely want to be around you as well. Those that don’t can always move to be around the people that they are comfortable with. You are not required to please everyone.