Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Notes on the Use of Mystic Rhythm

A guest post by Ing Venning

Many kinds of spirit work involve rhythmic patterns: drum circling, sacred movement, chanting, writing verse, sacred sex, and a number of others. Indeed, energy itself is constantly being described as being in motion, as flowing or ebbing, as pulsating, as vibrating. If energy can exist in completely static form, then that form must surely be quite rare.

We should, therefore, consider what energy patterns are most appropriate for the task at hand. Some tasks don’t require much thought. Most people can easily fall into a meditative pattern of slow, regular breathing without much conscious preparation. Likewise, it’s easy to go along with a chant, dance or song lead by someone else (assuming they are competent at what they’re doing). But what should we do if we need to facilitate rhythmic energy work? I find a handful of factors – namely, numerology, accent, and the balance of tension and release – to be key to the process.

There are a number of important numerical patterns associated with common spiritual practices. There are four or five components in most systems of magical elements. There are four (or three apparent) phases of the moon. There are three aspects of many deities. There is an in-out duality to breathing for meditation and a trinity of worlds in many geocosmic systems. We can use these sacred numbers, associated with patterns of accent or emphasis, to inspire our spiritual practices.

Here are a couple of examples:

– Alma is hosting a drum circle on the night of the full moon. In her practice, there are four main phases of the moon. Therefore, she decides to enact a drumbeat in 4/4 time (each measure, or musical section, has four beats). If we begin with the new moon, the full moon is the third phase. Alma decides to honor the full moon by accenting each third beat. Her musical pattern sounds something like this:

da da DUM da/ da da DUM da/ da da DUM da

(If she only recognized three moon phases – or recognized the new moon as a dark or hidden phase – she might opt for the following pattern in 3/4 time: da DUM da/ da DUM da/ da DUM da.)

The drummers create variations, of course, but they are anchored by this rhythm in honor of the full moon.

Another example:

– Sylvan is facilitating a ritual where people will share their musical talents with both worlds. He decides that, instead of calling the quarters, he will dance them. Like Alma in the first example, he chooses a four-based pattern (but, in his case, to honor the elements), but he decides to shift the accent to honor each particular element when he is summoning the energy for its quarter. His pattern might, therefore, go something like this:

DUM da da da (at air quarter)

da DUM da da (at fire quarter)

da da DUM da (at water quarter)

da da da DUM (at earth quarter)

 

As he dances each of the quarters, he makes a significant motion (a twirl, a jump, an arabesque) on the accented beat in honor of that quarter.

Considerations of phrasing and accent are also very important to the practice of writing spiritual poetry.

Here is an example:

– Mary has decided to write a poem that honors the sacred feminine and sacred masculine in the context of the elements, describing how the elements must balance inside each of the two before they can, in turn, balance with each other. She opts for a poem that switches back and forth between iambic and trochaic tetrameter. She chooses tetrameter because this kind of verse has four feet (in honor of the four elements); she chooses to switch between iambic and trochaic because they emphasize the different accents in sets of two syllables (one for each foot). She decides to accent the first beat of some feet (trochaic tetrameter) to honor male energy and to accent the second beat of other feet (iambic tetrameter) to honor female energy.

A “male” verse might read:

Echoes reach us, brightly spinning

Air, please tell me how to begin.

Fire, come kiss me. Touch me, wake me.

Stir the cauldron, season freedom.

 

(Roughly – DUM da, DUM da, DUM da, DUM da/ DUM da, DUM da, DUM da, DUM da, etc.)

A “female” verse might read:

The river sweetly flows beside

Where water sings and lilacs grow,

Where trees thrive long and blind moles dwell.

Come, stir the cauldron, lullaby.

 

(Roughly – da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM/ da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, etc.)

Last – but by no means least – is the consideration of how to balance tension and release. The principle of their management, in fact, is quite central to many concerns in life. We build a decent character by balancing relaxation and work. We forge a good novel by balancing exposition and climax. We create a fulfilling orgasm by balancing foreplay and intercourse proper. We can apply the same principles to spirit work.

Our goal is to build toward the climax of our work (whether that be invoking a deity, casting a healing spell, reaching the fastest tempo of the drum circle, etc.). But we cannot simply rush headlong toward our goal. We need context; a progress of nothing but tension will make the tension stop seeming tense and will create an anti-climax. We need to build by raising our tension and then relaxing it – but not quite as much as we raised it. We then continue to raise and relax our energy – always moving toward the final climax, which will be followed by a period of deep relaxation.

Here is an example:

– Herne is facilitating a sex magic ritual. He asks participants to chat with each other beforehand, but only about trivialities. He then encourages participants to touch each other over their clothing and kiss for a few minutes, after which he asks participants to separate and talk to each other about their most interesting sexual experience. Next, he requests that participants undress and touch each other sexually. Next, he asks them to sit while cuddling and talk about a sexual experience they’ve always wanted to try. He follows this by asking them to proceed to performing fellatio on each other, but then asks them to back away to touching if they near orgasm. Finally, after edging (almost reaching orgasm and then backing off to make the final orgasm more powerful) several times, he allows them to climax as they invoke deity. By building tension, releasing it, then building it again toward orgasm, the facilitator will help participants to reach a better climax, both in terms of body and spirit.

This is not an exhaustive piece and won’t prepare you for every situation involving spirit work and rhythm, for there are simply too many to document. I do hope, however, that it leaves you more conscious of the role that rhythmic patterns play – both in your mundane life and your life of the spirit.

 

Ing Venning is a pagan indie author who draws upon his experiences of being multiply different from the mainstream. His first two books (an eclectic sampler of his work and the first novel in a portal fantasy series featuring pagan protagonists) are available for free through https://ingvenning.com/


On Writing Historical Fiction

A Guest post from Laura Perry

Fiction is an interesting beast. It’s imaginary but also real. You can take a real-world setting and make up characters to go in it. You can make up the world as well, if you like, though some portion of it needs to be relatable to the reader, perhaps in the form of some of your characters being human.

Either way, the intersection of the real and the imagined creates the spark of the story. I’ve written two novels set in the known world, one in Central America and one near where I live in the southeastern US. Both had magical aspects to the story, and one had magical/supernatural characters as well. Still, both novels take place in the current time, in the world I’ve spent my whole life in. It’s familiar territory, in a sense, a world I share with my readers.

Then I decided to write historical fiction. That turns out to be a different beast altogether, with its own set of issues.

My novel is set on the Mediterranean island of Crete, among the ancient Minoans. They were a Bronze Age culture that flourished from about 3000-1400 BCE. Now, the Minoans are a subject I’ve studied for years. Decades, even. But when I started writing this book, I discovered just how much I don’t know, how much no one knows about the details of daily life and religion in ancient Crete.

So I filled in the blanks with educated guesses. That’s what every author does when they’re writing historical fiction. And I feel the weight of every one of those guesses, because there’s a thing that happens with any kind of historical fiction, whether it’s in the form of a book, a television show, or a movie: people take it as actual history. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many people get their history more from television than from the books they were supposed to read in school.

So this book took me a long time to write. That was partly because the story is heart-wrenching and I felt like part of my soul was being ripped out with each chapter. But it was also partly because I had to weigh every detail, consider every possibility as I built the world the action takes place in. I’m sure I’m wrong about some of it; that’s just how history and archaeology are. More information comes to light later on and we recognize our mistakes.

But in the meantime, I’d like to remind everyone that historical fiction is just that: fiction, even if it is framed with known facts and archaeological evidence. Historical fiction is a marvelous romp through another time and place, via the imagination of the writer. So enjoy it for what it is: a story about humanity, about the issues we’ve all faced through the generations. Some things never change.

 

Find out more about Laura’s Minoan novel here – : http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-last-priestess-of-malia

 


Goodnight Sweet Cammo

A Guest Blog by Avril A Brown

 

On the outskirts of Edinburgh there’s a place called Cammo.

Since its last reclusive owner died, Cammo has been the proverbial hidden treasure, known only to a few. Tucked away at the end of a residential street, it was originally an estate with a manor house and parklands designed in the 1700s by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik. The house was eventually damaged by fire and neglect and now only the external ground floor walls still stand. The Council owns Cammo now and call it a “Wilderness Park”. It was gifted to the Council in 1980 as a local nature reserve.

 

I only found Cammo by chance when I got interested in orienteering (there’s a permanent course within the estate). I loved going there because once you crossed the gate you were swallowed up the silence and the green. It felt like a liminal space, reclaimed by Nature and where a brooding yet friendly genius loci slumbered quietly.

 

 

 

Not any more!

 

Unfortunately a group of well-meaning local people set themselves up as the Friends of Cammo. Despite all the good that the group has done – eg improving the diversity of the flora on the estate by planting appropriate wildflowers, introducing honeybee hives, litter picking and so on – I still feel that they should possibly be more correctly known as the Users of Cammo. This is because their ultimate aim seems to be bringing more and more people to the place and using it for ‘education’ and ‘events’. To this event, they have prodded the Council into opening up and publicising the estate more widely and more worryingly, improving it. I confess that I wept to see the previously natural, gloriously twisty, muddy and challenging tracks through the estate being replaced by ugly straight ‘blaes’ type ones. The air resonates with the screams of children attending the Forest Kindergarten and the previously restored ornamental canal is once again full of debris and discarded rubbish.

 

 


Creative Osmosis, a guest-blog in two parts

A guest blog from Nils Visser

 

Please don’t get me wrong on this. I receive short book reviews with fierce and joyous exclamations that will startle the cats into a sulk. I’m at the self-publishing Indie stage where reviews, rather than the occasional sale, are the measure of success.

From that perspective, the length and complexity of a review is irrelevant. “I liked this book” is enough. Some of my favourite reviews are thunderous in their brevity. “Insanely well-written” for Escape from Neverland, and – I suspect by the same reviewer – “KICKS ASS” for Dance into the Wyrd. What more do you need to know? Plus, it’s pretty clear to me that the reviewer has read the books. J

I probably risk undermining the message that ‘any sort of review will do’ by gushing over longer and more comprehensive ones, but those longer ones do something entirely different. In their own way they’re as priceless as “KICKS ASS” and “Insanely Well-Written.”

Apart from the sheer magic of realising that there’s someone out there who has demonstrably grasped the essence of a story, and their generous allocation of time in digesting a story comprehensively, it’s also awfully kind of them to formulate that essence in a manner which I could never do myself. I can write a book, but please – OH HORROR – don’t ask me to describe it.

I can get as far as saying, “Look, I did a thing, where before there was nothing, kinda neat, isn’t it?” If you respond, “Yeah, cool, what’s the story about?” (like a normal human being showing interest would), I withdraw back into my shell. “Erm…ah…nothing much…I dunno…you probably shouldn’t bother…”

Every now and then a reviewer manages to phrase what the story is about with such eloquence that it not only leaves me stunned, but also arms me with an answer to that “what’s the story about” question. I can now answer, “Well, so and so says…” Somehow that is easier.

Every now and then, a review is so sirageously awesome, that the aftershocks of sheer jubilation transform into renewed inspiration for stories.

I have been fortunate enough to receive two of these reviews recently, for the novella Rottingdean Rhyme. One by Nimue Brown and one by Mark Hayes. I’m profoundly grateful for these reviews, more than they will ever know, so have no hesitation to gush wildly about these two reviewers, and their skills in unravelling aspects of Rottingdean Rhyme.

Through these reviews, both Nimue and Mark have, unwittingly, made a big mark on the two novellas which complete this mini-series regarding the childhood years of Alice Kittyhawk, protagonist of Time Flight Chronicles Book 1: Amster Damned.

Nimue for Them that Ask No Questions (just published), and Mark for Fair Weather for Foul Folk, still in progress.

I’m not entirely sure they’ll be pleased to have been allocated parental responsibility for the stories, so will have to turn to you, the jury, to demonstrate that their creative DNA, strands of their own writerliness as it were, have been woven into the stories about Alice.  I’ll do this in two parts (sharing this same introduction), covering Them that Ask No Questions on Nimue’s blog Druidlife, and Fair Weather for Foul Folk on Mark’s Passing Place blog.

Creative Osmosis: Indie October Guest Post By Nils Nisse Visser

 

THEM THAT ASK NO QUESTIONS

 

Nimue identifies the novella Rottingdean Rhyme as a story about “smuggling and steam powered aircraft, and community and poetry, written with charm and heart.”

(Her full review can be read here: https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/rottingdean-rhyme-a-review/)

She mentions that she is aware of the darker aspects of the 19th century and believes that any story “pretending the past was a lovely place, is not for me.” She adds: “One of the reasons I appreciate Nils’ work is that he gets an excellent balance of squaring up to issues while creating an engaging adventure.”

That last stuck with me, as well as her analysis of the archetypal common denominator Rottingdean Rhyme shares with traditional smuggler’s lore, which of course forms an inspiration for my re-invention of Sussex smuggling within a Steampunk context.

The reason people can identify with stories about smugglers, pirates or highwaymen, according to Nimue, is that “in so many times and places there have been so few ways of dealing with relentless, grinding poverty. Robin Hood is the poster boy for this sort of thing, but he’s never been alone. These are all figures who, through British history have raised a finger to the ruling classes and pushed back against abject poverty. When you’ve got nothing, the story of someone who pushed back can be worth a great deal.”

That really gets to the heart of the matter, and was immediately relevant to the follow-up novella, Them that Ask No Questions.

In travelling back to Alice Kittyhawk’s past, I was bound by the background information supplied in Amster Damned (in which Alice is in her mid-twenties). In short, Alice was born and partially raised in the small fishing village of Rottingdean, right in the midst of an active smuggling community. That bit was covered in Rottingdean Rhyme, and Alice’s continued association with the Rottingdean Free Traders will be addressed in the third novella, Fair Weather for Foul Folk (more on which in the twin guest blog on the Mark Hayes page).

However, Amster Damned also revealed that the later part of Alice’s childhood was spent in the Brighton slums, and I wanted to use Them that Ask No Questions to expose that experience.

These days, The Lanes quarter of Brighton is a pleasant maze of little courtyards and alleys filled with eateries, pubs, and more boutique shops than you can shake a stick at, usually crowded with tourists. Go back less than a hundred years, and it was strictly a no-go area, reminiscent of Dickensian scenes of abject poverty. Having lived in Africa and Asia, I have visited slums and shantytowns where open sewers running through muddy ditches in the streets add a distinctive odour to the sheer horror of the rampant poverty evident all around you, an experience I could draw on in transforming the picturesque Lanes back into what they used to be.

The trick of course, was to weave this horror into a story as part of the setting, rather than making it the main focus. That included being fairly sparse with details, a long list of every aspect of Victorian poverty would make grim reading indeed. So, what to use, and what to leave to the reader’s imagination?

My regular job, the one that pays the bills, is working in homeless hostels, the most harrowing part of which is when ex-armed service homeless people are visited by their demons late at night. I will not repeat their most tragic memories of Iraq and Afghanistan here. Suffice to say I understand why they are haunted by them, and regularly feel helpless rage that men and women subjected to these experiences are conveniently forgotten by their country when discharged. The associations with the 19th century are easy to make, little has changed it seems. All the more so when some councils in today’s Britain still make use of the Victorian Vagrancy Act to literally punish people for being homeless, and even threaten to arrest grassroots volunteers distributing hot drinks and soup on cold nights.

Homelessness then, features as a theme, specifically that of ex-armed services personnel.

A more difficult theme to tackle was widespread sexual exploitation of children, especially when writing from the perspective of an eleven-year-old girl. To ignore it altogether, when one in five women and girls in Britain was engaged in prostitution simply to keep from starving, wasn’t a realistic portrayal of life in the slums.

But…eleven?

Unfortunately, yes. At the time the legal age of consent was twelve. After years of public campaigning to redress this matter, the government reluctantly raised it to thirteen (a year after this story takes place).

Alice would not only have been confronted by countless scenes of public fornication in the alleys and streets of The Lanes, she would have been eyed as fair game by many of the ‘gentlemen’ at the time. To give this further perspective, reading some contemporary accounts of slum residents, it was clear that slumfolk were seen as sub-human, just as the ‘gentle’ folk viewed the native inhabitants of their sprawling empire as being lesser members of the human race. Having sex with children was generally seen as wrong. Forcing yourself on slumgirls as young as eight or nine, however, was seen as something those sub-human children were pretty much bred for, and all they were good for.

Tragically, this theme is still relevant today. Not a day seems to go by without a hypocritical politician being exposed for sexual exploitation of girls or women. The speed with which women’s rights are being stripped in Red State America is terrifying, and because of my line of work I have seen for myself the County Lines exploitation of vulnerable youngsters currently taking place all over Britain.

I decided to include this ugly theme in Them that Ask No Questions, confronting the reader with this despicable reality in a harrowing scene, but avoiding graphic descriptions and assuming the threat, rather than the deed, would suffice. A bit of a spoiler here, but I had also recently read angry letters of complaint by Victorian men in both Britain and America about the fact that Victorian women, for some strange reason, had taken up the habit of wearing ever longer and sturdier hairpins in their hair. It wasn’t fair, the men complained, that their attentions were potentially rewarded with a jab of cold steel. Hence, Alice is equipped with not one, but two hairpins. Need I say more?

Nimue’s review served as a challenge to write about all this in a manner that avoided these horrors dominating the story entirely, left place for more light-hearted moments good for a smile or a laugh, and most importantly, play on Anglo-Saxon sentiments regarding down-trodden outlaws.

Alice freely admits, at one point, that a gentlemen’s observation of slumgirls being lost to a life of crime is accurate. When she’s apprehended by the Brighton constabulary, she is engaged in three unlawful activities all at once, a regular little criminal, though more in the light of Oliver Twist than the Artful Dodger.  My hope is that you, the reader, not only understand why she is breaking the law, but find yourself actively cheering her on, encouraging a child to be successful in her criminal endeavours. If I managed to achieve that, I’m a happy scribbler.

I inserted a few Easter Eggs into the story as a homage to both Nimue’s review and her own creative endeavours (of which I am an avid fan). The best course of action to have taken would be to wait to see if Nimue (and her partner-in-crime Tom) would pick up on this when reading, supposing they would read Them that Ask No Questions. However, being an impatient fellow, I wasted no time informing them of the fact even as I was writing, so might as well spill some more beans here.

In a wink to the most excellent and bodacious Hopeless, Maine series, by Nimue and Tom, there is a special role for a spoon, and even a spoon joke of sorts. It’s unlikely to be seen as anything remarkable, but I like the little nod to the perpetual spoon crisis on Hopeless.

As for Nimue’s splendiferous review, here is a (redacted) extract from Them that Ask No Questions.

“No buts,” Chief Forty-Guts said gruffly. “I don’t care what Lunnon says, it don’t come right to me. Savvy? Well done, Harding. Now where is this hardened and vicious, but charitable criminal of yours?”

“Miss Gunn,” Harding called out. “The Chief Constable requests your presence.”

“One of the Gunns, is she?” Chief Forty-Guts asked.

“Aye, Sarge. Fancies herself a regular little Robin Hood, robbing the rich, feeding the poor.”

Figuring she had no choice, Alice stepped into view, scowling at the Rozzers. “My name bain’t Gunn nor Robin Hood, and I’m innocent cause I bain’t robbed no one.”

The chief raised his eyebrows. “Innocent?”

“Yarr! I’d like to go home now, Guv. Me mum’ll be worried.”

 

One final touch has been to play on Nimue’s reference to “jolly japes in period costume” by inserting two encounters with followers of the ‘Flight-Funk’ fashion, which involves decorated top hats and goggles. It’s possibly self-destructive to poke fun at the Steampunk audience I’m trying to reach, but I couldn’t help myself. I freely admit that I’ve treated them a bit unfairly and will in future stories make up for this, but perhaps these scenes can be seen as a thought-provoking moment, because as we parade around in our finery, that war veteran still sits outside whatever fine location we’re at, still begging for a penny or a crust of bread just like he did in 1871.

The novellas are set up as stand-alone stories, so can be read in any order you please, but they also form a series. If I’ve whetted your appetite, both Rottingdean Rhyme and Them that Ask No Questions are available as paperback or kindle. By the way, the kindle versions are cheaper than contraband brought ashore on a dark and moonless night. Fair Weather for Foul Folk, the third novella that completes this mini-series, will hopefully be out before Christmas, and is discussed in the twin guest blog on Mark Hayes’s page.

Fair Winds!

Nils

 

http://www.nilsnissevisser.co.uk

 

 


Stonehouse Myths – a guest blog

A guest blog from Keith Healing

When I was a young lad, more years ago than seems reasonable, there were two places in my home village that kids avoided. One was a particular part of the local churchyard, a rounded cross about a metre tall close to the door of the church. It was completely unremarkable, old, eroded and covered with lichen. It was, however, loose on its base. Not so loose as to be dangerous, but quite easy to turn on its axis. It attracted the myth that it could be used to summon…something vague. Satan? Possibly. Ghosts? Maybe. In truth, it didn’t matter. What did matter was the general nasty potential of it. It was the local equivalent of Bloody Mary or Candyman, although less specific.

On a different road sat a tumbledown house. Looking back it could well have been a “pre-fab” – one of the thousands of temporary houses put up rapidly after the war to deal with the problem of the number of families made homeless by the bombs. There was still rows of them behind my first home close to Boscombe Down, an experimental air base in Wiltshire.

This place was to a different design, but was made of corrugated iron and hadn’t been occupied for years. It was set back from the road in an overgrown garden and was plainly unsafe. It also, according to local legend, had a huge, deep hole in the living room from which weird sounds would issue. It was so obviously haunted that my friends and I would dare each other to peer through the mould-covered windows on our way home from school.

These were myths with no basis in history. They were local, modern folklore that were spread amongst kids and that went no further.

I now live in Gloucestershire, in a small industrial town called Stonehouse. Like many English towns it has existed for at least 2000 years, the Stone House being its main building of note when William created his big list of taxable property in 1086. It still has a decent selection of interesting architecture dating from the early 1600s. Some of these have bricked-up windows. Some were old hospitals. There was an animal pound, although no-one knows where. What are the stories that have built up over the years, or that could have built up?

In order to answer that I started writing short, one-off tales called the Stonehouse Myths. The first was a simple story of madness and the perils of listening to the Jackdaws that infest the chimney pots. The second concerned destructive invisible wallaby-like beasts in an area of town called Little Australia. It was a bit of fun and people seemed to enjoy them.

And then I was messaged by a local woman who asked whether the Wallaby piece was based on reality because she and her family had repeatedly seen something weird by the railway line – something they called the Railway Beast.

The chances are, of course, that they were seeing Muntjac deer, strange little beasts with fat bodies, long back legs and little tusks. But it doesn’t matter. The myth persists. They see something odd and someone else describes it, albeit accidentally.

And the myth grows.

People respond to stories in a way that they respond to nothing else. If they are the right stories they are believed on a subconscious level because they connect to our primal brain and they gain power because we want to believe them.

So what might happen if something enabled these stories to breed, to gain real power?

I realised that the stories I was writing were linked, so I began re-writing. Over time they will form a novel that will explore the way a small town deals with stories when they run out of hand.

I have set up a Patreon page to enable me to distribute the chapters and, as support grows I will add more layers of detail, including maps, drawings, old documents and songs.

Welcome to Stonehouse Myths – https://www.patreon.com/StonehouseMyths

 

(A note from Nimue – Keith Healing is also the creator of The Hopeless Maine role play game, and is an excellent chap).


A guest blog from Zoe Murphy

Brightest Blessings Blog Followers!

 

Before I introduce myself properly, I’d like to give a shout out to Nimue for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be a guest blogger on this beautiful blog. It warms my babywitch heart when writers/artists/creators support and show love for each other. For this post, Nimue asked us to possibly look at ‘living traditions.’

So, babywitch you may have read…yes, I am a baby witch, a witchling, an apprentice witch or whatever you’d like to coin me as and I am about eighteen months into my amazing, eye opening, affirming, incredible journey into witchcraft and spirituality. To be honest I didn’t find witchcraft, it found me and it found me through my irreplaceable mentor, craft mother, mama witch and very, very good friend Joolz Raven Stewart. This woman is amazing and has brought about a pivotal and important change and lifelong chapter into my life.

I am now known as This Welsh Witch on my social media channels and like I said above, I’m very much in the infancy of my learning so I am a maiden so to speak! I have actually found a warm and embracing witch and spiritual community on Instagram with some badass witches who regularly share resources and ideas and support each other’s ventures all the way. I have actually learnt a lot from the World Wide Web and while it gets a bad rap, for me and my learning it has been invaluable for contacts and study. It is now part of my daily life and learning. I am actually a Hekatean neophyte and very proud to be so. I am currently studying Hekatean Applied Modern Witchcraft by using an amazing book called ‘Keeping Her Keys’ by Cindy Branden. It’s a fantastic book and resource and will take me a year and a day (a traditional witchcraft period of study) to complete all the lessons. Hecate is the most fierce, complicated and renegade goddess I’ve read about~ Queen of the Witches~ but that’s another blog post/discussion altogether…;-)

I could discuss Hecate and witchcraft for days but my particular focus with this post is Welsh mythology, legends and the gwrachod- Welsh for witches. I am fiercely and immensely patriotic and proud of our rich and deep heritage and our language (I am a frustrated non-Welsh speaker haha) and as much as I am dedicated to my goddess Hecate, I will also be honouring the country of my birth.

I have been reading a brilliant book called ‘Welsh Witchcraft, Charms and Spells’ by Marie Trevelyan and I have been researching Welsh mythology for around seven years for my debut novel, which incidentally is due out this year. The crafting and writing of my novel has taught me so much about witchcraft that I’m hoping it will provide people with a insight into the tradition of Welsh witchcraft to carry forward. The novel and subsequent series will be a large part of my little legacy I hope!

I have also started my own hashtag, the #welshwitchseries which focuses on the legends and mythological aspects of Wales. What I have come across is that there is a wealth of knowledge among people regarding Greek myths. However, there isn’t a whole lot about Welsh ones and our heritage contains such a lavish tapestry of tales, oral traditions and a wide pantheon that it seems a shame not to bring it to the fore. I have always connected so much to Cymru on a spiritual level and it’s even deeper now because I know we have a very strong mythological identity. Obviously, we have the undeniable Mabinogion but there are also so many more creatures, figures and stories within the realm of Welsh mythology.

One aspect of my witchcraft life is my homemade charm/spell bags that I have recently listed in my Etsy shop and the bags names, intentions and contents all correspond to the Welsh language, historical figures or the tales of Wales. Within the range there are bags for Harmoni, Joio, Cwtch, Seren and Pilli Pala which pertain to manifesting harmony, joy, love, peaceful sleep and transformation. I have also bags for Cerridwen, Arianrhod and Gwenllian. I think a lot of people will be familiar with those last three and these have been a focus of my #welshwitchseries posts. As part of my #welshwitchseries posts I have also been honouring several old customs and traditions such as Nos Calan Gaeaf, Nos Calan Mai and the Mari Lwyd.

Cerridwen was on the table as a possible contender for my dedication but I was drawn to Hecate instead. You could probably call Cerridwen the Welsh equivalent of Hecate and she is still a strong warrior goddess witch that you could call upon. Cerridwen represents magic, wisdom and creative inspiration and a lot of people will know about her creation of the bard Taliesin! Arianrhod is the goddess of fertility, rebirth and the weaving of time and fate. She is also strongly linked with the moon; lunar practice being embedded in witchcraft and rituals. Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was a warrior princess of Wales and was beheaded defending the country.

To conclude this post, in terms of my own ‘living tradition’ I have tried to imbue the qualities that these fierce women embody, into my own life and my practice. The tales of these female figures and their narratives have been passed down through oral tradition and are a symbolic part of Welsh heritage and by learning about them and extending my knowledge I feel like I have become part of another community and the wider witchcraft community. Witchcraft is becoming slowly more accepted in certain parts of society and what could be more living tradition than a lifestyle and practice that reaches back years and years and that also teaches you to reclaim your personal power. Witchcraft is teaching me to look within the depths of myself and teaching me to embrace the universe and its energy and to harness it for the good of myself and others.

I am hoping that I become part of that living tradition by passing it on to my children who can become the next tradition bearers but for now I am very much living!

IG: @thiswelshwitch

FB: This Welsh Witch


Referencing the Tradition by Alys West

When I read Nimue’s posts about Living Tradition and The Folk Process they resonated strongly with me. I write contemporary fantasy inspired by folklore. My first novel, Beltane is set in Glastonbury and I had a fabulous time weaving as much folklore as I could manage into the story.  I’m currently editing my third novel, Storm Witch, which is inspired by an Orcadian folk tale.  Folklore is the initial seed from which the books germinated. It’s woven into the setting of both novels but, once I started dealing with the nuts and bolts of constructing a novel, the pressures of structure, characters, pacing etc. took over.

Then, last year, I started working on a collection of short stories which are re-imaginings of folk songs and ballads. I wrote the first three stories as my dissertation for my MA in creative writing and suddenly I found myself dealing with the issues which Nimue talks about in her post on the Living Tradition.  It’s fair to say I did a lot of research. I read Francis J. Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, I spent afternoons researching in the Vaughn William’s Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House and I got the university library to order me increasingly obscure academic texts on ballad and folk song theory.  And I started to feel I was doing something far more subversive than I’d anticipated in retelling the stories of these songs.

To use Nimue’s metaphor, these academic texts pinned folk song to a board but, in this case, in a library rather than a museum. I started to feel like I couldn’t change anything. Under the weight of all of this academic erudition, I was getting further and further away from my initial vision and my words started to dry up.  The dissertation had two elements, the larger element was creative content and there was a shorter critical element.  It got to the point that I couldn’t write anything creative. My words felt too flighty, too fragile for the pressure of all of this theory.  In the end, various friends gave me a fairly stern talking to and I found enough of a way back to get the dissertation finished but my confidence in myself as a writer had been severely shaken.

On finishing my MA in October, I was shattered and, after lying on the sofa reading trashy fiction for a few weeks, I put my song stories away to concentrate on other writing. I went back to going to gigs and listening to folk music and I tried really hard not to think deep thoughts and simply to enjoy them.  Then a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a folk musician which made me reconsider what I’m trying to achieve in re-imagining folk songs.

For me, folk is essentially about people. It’s about the people who sang the songs in the past and the people who sing them now.  It’s not an accident that the stories I’ve written are all about women.  As a writer, I want to hear the narratives which aren’t explicit in the song and too often it’s the woman’s perspective which isn’t told.  The original idea for writing these stories was sparked by wanting to know why the wife ran away with the gypsy in ‘The Gypsy Laddie’.  I’ve written a story about that now and it feels like I’ve found jigsaw pieces which have been missing since I first heard The Waterboys version of ‘The Raggle-taggle Gypsies’ in 1990.

I learned about the concept of traditional referentiality in my research which suggests that every performance of a traditional song resonates with all of the previous performances of that work.  I know this is true in the way I listen to folk music. When I hear a new interpretation of a song, I listen to it in tandem with all of the previous versions I’m aware of which means each folk song echoes with the interpretations which have gone before. For me, that’s part of folk’s magic.

I’ve realised I’m happy to refer to the tradition but I don’t want to be bound by it. The stories I’m writing need to reach forwards more than they reach back. Folk has to evolve and grow in order to stay relevant.  Anyone who is part of the living tradition is keeping folk alive in ways which are, I think, far more vital to its survival than anything you’ll find in a museum or a library.

 

Bio:

Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk.  Her novels BELTANE and THE DIRIGIBLE KING’S DAUGHTER are published by Fabrian Books.  She’s currently editing her third novel, STORM WITCH which will be published in autumn 2019.  Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University. She teaches creative writing for Converge, an education project for people with lived experience of mental health.

You can find out more about Alys West on:

Her website: www.alyswest.com

Amazon: Alys West

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer

Instagram:  @alyswestwriter

 


Creating a new genre – a guest blog from Laura Perry

Have you ever wondered where genres of literature come from? I’ve watched the birth of a new genre over the past year or two and I’m very excited to see where this one goes. The new genre? Witch Lit.
A lot of the time, a genre of literature comes into being when someone (or more likely several someones) realize there’s a bunch of writing out there that follows a common style, theme, or set of contents. That’s exactly what happened with Witch Lit.
The term started out in casual use, as a sort of witchy-magical version of Chick Lit – fiction with strong female characters and a heavy dose of magic and witchy-ness added in. Sometimes it was magical realism; other times it was fantasy or updated fairy tales. But the magical element and female characters held strong, regardless. I was gratified to realize that my novel The Bed fits nicely into this genre, since I felt a bit off-kilter trying to stuff it into categories like urban fantasy or occult fiction.
As the conversation continued, the term Witch Lit acted like a magnet. What is Witch Lit, exactly? Does it have to be fiction? What about non-fiction that helps us appreciate and encourage the magic in our lives? What about poetry and songs that celebrate that magic and witchy-ness?
Yes to all the above.
It turns out, Witch Lit answers a need/desire a lot of people have to bring some magic into their lives via the stuff they read. Especially when that stuff involves strong, relatable female characters and maybe a touch of humor.
Unfortunately, Witch Lit isn’t an official category you can search for on Amazon or anywhere else that sells books. Not yet, anyway. Those of us who write Witch Lit began to wonder how, exactly, people were supposed to find works in this genre once they heard about it.
So we started a Facebook group for readers and writers of Witch Lit and began tossing ideas around. After a bit of conversation, we settled on the production of an anthology. It would include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from writers whose styles varied but whose works counted as Witch Lit. It would be in e-book format only to keep the price low, and all proceeds would benefit charity. That way, people could get a taste of the genre and authors could get some exposure to readers who want a little more magic in their TBR pile.
I’m amazed at how fast this genre has built up and how quickly the anthology has come together. With 23 contributors and a total of 26 short stories, essays, and poems, the anthology is quite a substantial read for quite a low price (99p on UK sites, where we started out, which converts to about $1.26 in US currency). All proceeds go to the excellent charity organization Books for Africa. The official release date is 21 June (Summer Solstice here in the northern hemisphere) but it’s available for pre-order now, pretty much anywhere you can buy e-books online. It’s titled Witch Lit: Words from the Cauldron and it is very much a community project.
I hope our daring march into the world of publishing helps get the word out about Witch Lit. It may not be a label on bookstore shelves yet, but it’s a genre full of great reads and plenty of magic. I think the world could use a little more of that these days.
LINKS
Facebook group for readers and writers of Witch Lit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055104057875422/
Witch Lit on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WitchLit1
The Anthology:
It should also be available in the Apple iStore and on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online sites that sell e-books. Just search “Witch Lit Words from the Cauldron.”

Disrespecting the Gods

A guest post from Aspasía S. Bissas

 

I blame Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and Neil Gaiman (American Gods).

All right, I don’t really blame them, but they and a host of other fiction writers and TV showrunners aren’t helping. By turning the Gods into mere characters, showing no real regard for the beings that inspired and populate their stories, they’re setting the stage for an atmosphere of disrespect.

There’s an emerging culture of scorn for the Gods. Not the usual scorn heaped on Them by various monotheists and atheists, but a new form, coming from people identifying themselves as pagans and polytheists, even adherents of the Gods they’re disrespecting. You can find them online, especially on Tumblr, where cursing a God out happens as casually as shipping a favourite couple.

Zeus is a common target for misplaced hate. “F*** Zeus” is tossed around both jokingly and angrily, in both cases usually in reference to His perceived promiscuity and adultery. Hades is another such targeted God, thanks to the myth of His abduction of Persephone (I won’t even start on His name being used synonymously with the Christian Hell).

There’s also a gentler form of disrespect evident, where those who feel connected to a particular God or Goddess decide that they can speak for Them. I’ve seen many a post presenting Aphrodite as a magical gal who sprinkles blessings like candy on all who believe. Although these posts claim to offer insight into the Goddess, they show little awareness of Hellenic forms of worship or the concept of kharis. Neither is there a sense that the writer is sharing personal gnosis; rather, the posts read like wishful thinking or fanfiction, where the Gods exist to befriend and take care of humans.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be close to the Gods, or even with questioning, doubting, or rejecting Them; but our interactions with the Gods should come from a place of knowledge and learning, not from reactionary ignorance. Aside from applying modern human standards and judgments to ancient stories and deities, what these instances of disrespect all seem to have in common is a lack of knowledge, as well as a lack of interest in delving deeper. The Greek myths are not canon, and they’re certainly not meant to be taken literally (the story of Persephone and Hades, for example, represents transformation, not actual abduction and imprisonment—a point many critics seem to miss). Furthermore, much of what has been written and translated about the Gods has come to us from non-pagan, often antagonistic, sources. They can’t be treated as reliable or definitive.

For those interested in the Gods of a particular path, there’s no getting around it—you need to study. Read contemporary sources and scholarly works (and pay attention to potential biases of writers and translators). Read books and articles by other pagans and polytheists. Read multiple versions of myths, and pay attention to symbolism and deeper meanings. Talk to other pagans and polytheists—if something about a particular deity or myth bothers you, ask others what they think. Do you want a relationship with a God or Goddess? Learn how to best approach them. Find out what you can do to forge a meaningful connection.

We don’t have to abandon our favourite authors, ignore what bothers us, or stop being fans of the Gods. But when the urge to disrespect them strikes, maybe we should question our own assumptions, rather than the Gods themselves.

 

Aspasía S. Bissas is a Hellenic polytheist and seeker of everyday magic. She’s the author of the dark fantasy novel Love Lies Bleeding, and can be contacted via her website or Facebook page. She can also be found on Tumblr.

 


Wisdom from a White Hare

A guest blog from Jacqui Lovesey

 

 

So,  some things you need to know about Ursula Brifthavfen Stoltz:

  • She is a white hare.
  • She is a witch.
  • She appears in the Matlock the Hare books I create with my husband, Phil.
  • I have been painting her for 7 years now, in various guises, and on various adventures in the Matlock the Hare trilogy and our other books.
  • She ‘talks’ to me.

 

Probably all good until point 5, I’m guessing – the ‘talking’ one.  Here, surely, is the rambling of a hard-working illustrator who doesn’t get out that often.  But please bear with me. As other artists and writers will tell you, the longer you’re focussed on creating and bringing ‘life’ to a character, the more they begin to surprise you with unexpected mannerisms, gestures, opinions – and yes, even ‘advice’.  And Ursula, a white hare-witch from across the Icy Seas, certainly has a lot of that.

Gradually, the idea to create an oracle deck of Ursula’s  ‘witchy wisdom’ grew in my mind.   Here could be the perfect platform to allow her thoughts on all sorts of matters to be aired.  As someone who both owns and uses oracle decks, I couldn’t think of a better vehicle to express the insight that has bought me both comfort and whimsy in the past.

So I set to work painting 44 brand new watercolours for the deck, alongside Phil writing a 108 page booklet that details all the meanings of each card. The deck itself will be split into 7 sections: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Spirit, Celtic Festivals & Witch – and using it to connect with your own inner wisdom couldn’t be simpler!  Just let yourself be drawn to the card that ‘speaks’ to you, then discover how its meaning relates to your situation.

 

 

I’m currently funding the deck on Kickstarter – and if you’d like to join the project and let a little of Ursula’s ‘White Hare Wisdom’ into your life, please take a look at the project to discover more about, me, Ursula and the deck.  And, of course, besides the deck itself, there’s a saztaculous plethora of other goodies and rewards for backers, too! Hopefully, you’ll decide to become a backer, and allow Ursula to begin ‘speaking’ to you, too…

 

 

 

(I’ve supported this Kickstarter, Matlock the hare stuff is reliably gorgeous and soulful. You can get involved here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/934318055/white-hare-wisdom-oracle-card-deck )