Category Archives: Magic

Why I don’t have a spirit guide

Once upon a time, many years ago I went to a workshop where we had a guided journey to meet our spirit guides. I’d never really tried to do this sort of thing before. So, I lay down, followed the instructions, and went headlong off script.

I was met with incredible anger. I was supposed to know better. I was supposed to know that this wasn’t for me. I have no idea who or what was angry with me. I then had a very intense experience of being fruited from a tree and dropped on the ground to rot, over and over again. I had no idea what it meant at the time, I still don’t know, but it was alarming and uncomfortable in the extreme. As soon as I could, I pushed out of the visualisation and waited quietly for the session to end.

Everyone shared their experiences. Everyone in the room aside from me had found something lovely, affirming, uplifting and so forth. I felt very alone with what had happened. The chap running the workshop didn’t have much to offer me beyond his own confusion and his feeling that what we were doing should have been totally safe.

That belief in the inherent safeness of spiritual endeavours continues to perplex me. A glance at any folklore or tradition from pretty much anywhere makes it clear that there are risks. The universe is not made of light and fluff and a desire to make us feel comfortable at every turn. If the universe has our best interests at heart, it does not operate from an assumption that our best interests are served by being really nice to us.

Many years later, I’m still not sure what to make of that experience. I have however, taken the clear message to heart and have never since sought any kind of guide.


Omens and Rainbows

I’ve never been one for omens. It bothers me when I see people online talking about encounters with bits of nature and what it might mean when it sounds like a creature was just doing its thing. I worry about how human-centric and ego-centric it can be to assume that the rest of the world exists to bring us messages. Maybe we’re not that special.

As an animist, I think everything has the potential for opinions, preferences and ideas. I can’t reconcile that with thinking that anything is interrupting its own life to try and tell me stuff about mine. The ravens have better things to do than bring me omens, I have no doubt. However, if a raven turns up, it may well be connected to all kinds of other things going on.

We’re all part of the same weave. If you’ve encountered any of my Wherefore fiction (on youtube and in my ko-fi store) then you’ll know I’m quite into the idea of the weave. Everything is connected, everything affects everything else. And so there may be signs and omens because what one being is doing exists in relation to everything else. I might see the butterfly flap its wings and have a decent stab at guessing where the hurricane will be. Although in fairness, I probably won’t!

Rainbows have always been a bit of an exception on this score. Partly because they aren’t creatures going about their own business in quite the same way. They have causes, and reasons, but how they show up varies so much. Light conditions, times of day, density of rain – there’s a lot of variables go in to making a specific rainbow, and that feels to me like a place where you might take a reading or infer some significance. I’ve had some moments with double bows, an incredibly vibrant hailbow, and rainbows that have seemed reassuring at times when I had a lot to worry about and very little reassurance. They always seem like a good omen.

A rainbow is a moment of unexpected beauty. Whether it really is a sign of anything else, it is certainly a reminder that wonder can come out of nowhere, that beauty is powerful, that life is full of unexpected things and not all of them are shit.


To keep talking

In witchcraft, keeping silent can be an important part of what you do. In Druidry however, I think it is more powerful and important to keep talking. Our magic doesn’t depend on secrecy anything like as much as it depends on communicating. Bard magic is very much not about keeping silent.

Talking, writing and communicating are key parts of activism. If you’re interested in peaceful protest and non-violent ways of making change, then it has to be all about communication. Education, information sharing, awareness raising – it all counts. Speaking truth to power, speaking personal truth to anyone who needs to hear it – this is all part of the Druid’s work. In many circumstances, silence is complicity.

There is magic in what we can share with each other. We can enchant, uplift, support and encourage each other with music and with words. We can put beauty into the world, comfort the uncomfortable, challenge the people who are too comfortable.

Druidry tends not to be secretive. We meet in daylight, often, we meet in public places. Many Druid groups offer public ritual at least some of the time. The heart of our magic is inspiration and for many people its also found in the transformative power of ritual. This is the kind of magic where to keep talking is more powerful than to keep silent. We all benefit from ideas shared and knowledge passed on.


Intuition is not irrational

We take in far more data than we can consciously process. What rises up as intuition may be in no way irrational, and arguably not even that woo-woo – it’s just a different way of using our brains. Also it turns out that our thinking is far more distributed through our bodies and not just a brain thing, so the idea of a gut feeling may be highly valid as a form of thinking that is actually happening.

There are questions to ask around intuition if you want to establish what kind of relationship yours has with the rest of reality. It’s important to keep track of how those gut feelings relate to what actually happens. Humans are very good at persuading themselves they were right all along, so you do have to be self aware to do this.

How do you tell between anxiety and intuition? Or wishful thinking and intuition? Also, rather critically, how do you tell if your intuition is right but you’re being systematically lied to? How do you hang on to your intuition in face of gaslighting? Especially if you’re dealing with someone who is using the woo-woo as part of their tool set? What do you do if you’ve trusted someone, and that one mistake leaves you wide open to having your confidence in yourself entirely sabotaged? These are not easy things to figure out, and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer here.

The most important thing is to keep checking in with yourself. Cross reference what you feel with what you know from other sources. Compare and contrast. How anxiety manifests in your body is likely to be different from what it’s like to have a gut feeling that something is wrong. The same goes for wishful thinking. Only if you want to avoid self-delusion will you be able to pick these things apart. There’s no helping the person who is hell bent on asserting that their intuition means things regardless of all evidence to the contrary. I’ve been in those situations too, and if someone is adamant that they know what you’re ‘really’ thinking or feeling, and won’t hear otherwise, there may be nothing you can do. It may be a case of deciding to put up with it, or deciding to quit. I honestly recommend quitting.

It’s also important to remember that you have the right to say ‘no’ in most situations without the obligation to explain exactly why you feel that way. Over-explaining can itself be an abuse legacy, or a sign of an unsafe situation. If your ‘no’ isn’t acceptable on its own, and you have to justify what is a gut feeling, and saying ‘this doesn’t feel right for me’ is not going to be a good enough excuse… you may well not be in a safe situation. If you can act on your gut feelings without having to justify yourself, it speaks well of your circumstances.

It’s ok to do that – if it works for you. Navigating life intuitively is just as workable and reasonable as trying to make evidence based decisions. We are all only ever guessing and there are always more variables than we know of. None of us can ever be totally certain about exactly how our choices will play out. Some of us do our best thinking by being as logical as possible, and some of us do our best thinking unconsciously. Some of us blend the two to good effect.

Watch out for people who try to play to your ‘intuition’ to persuade you of things that aren’t true. Conspiracy theories often depend on engaging your feelings to override your knowledge, logic and wisdom. If someone tells you that you are so intuitive that you’ll get why they are right… mistrust them.

An it harm none, do what you will – and if that means your choices look a bit irrational to other people, that’s ok. We’re not obliged to make sense to each other. Kindness is also far more important than making sense. Do what works for you.


Reclaiming Intuition

Inspired by Natalia Clarke, I started thinking in earnest last year about what I might do to reclaim my intuition. Looking back I think it would be fair to say that I invited opportunities to rebuild my intuition and to work actively with it. As is sometimes the way of it, when you ask, you get.

I made a dramatic leap of faith in the spring of 2020, based on a dream I had, and a feeling.  It was a decision that had a huge impact on my life, and that continues to do so. It’s probably a choice that will turn out to have been a major point of change for me with a massive impact on my future. It’s not something I could have done as a reasoned decision.

Having taken that leap, I found myself in a situation where pretty much all I had to work with was intuition. I went from having largely ignored and refused this part of my life for many years, to suddenly having it be the thing I had to most rely on. As the year progressed, this became increasingly the case. I made a lot of decisions based on what my intuition said because I simply didn’t have any other substantial information sources to work with.

This, in all honesty was a scary place to be, and incredibly disorientating.  It felt more than a little insane, and I spent a lot of time second guessing myself, and wondering at the wisdom of where my intuition was leading me. How do you tell what’s intuition and what is just wishful thinking? That’s a hard one, especially when you have reason to think you may be being led by something else entirely. I was also very aware that if I had miscalled some of these things, I would make an enormous mess and cause considerable damage to myself and the people closest to me.

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for!

It wasn’t until spring of this year that I started getting any significant feedback to put my choices in a rational context. I paid dearly to get to that point – in fear and distress. However, early in 2021, I started finding out what the consequences of those intuitively made choices were. It turned out that I had been right about pretty much everything.  I had steered an almost impossible course through some trying times, based purely on what my gut feelings told me. I emerged into a place full of remarkable possibilities that just keep opening up.

It’s been a very powerful experience for me. It would be fair to say that Natalia’s book on Intuitive Magical Practice changed my life – there’s a more prosaic review for it over here.


Losing my Intuition

Reading Natalia Clarke’s book on intuition in magical practice made me think a lot about my own history with intuition. In my teens, I pretty much steered by my gut feelings, and in my twenties, that changed. It wasn’t loss exactly, more a series of experiences that damaged my trust in my own gut feelings.

I dealt with several people in succession who were manipulative, gaslighting types. One in a work context, one in my personal life. Before I realised what was going on with them, I was fed a lot of information that contradicted my gut feelings, and I did not know what to trust. I’ve never been a massively self confident person, and was persuaded that my intuition was wrong and not to be trusted. To further compound this I had people claiming magical knowledge that was so alarming and uncomfortable that I pulled away from all of that sort of thing in self defence.

My Druidry became more agnostic, sometimes more atheist, because belief no longer felt safe. I couldn’t afford any sort of woo-woo. It was a lot to lose, especially my ability to trust in my own judgement and gut feelings.

The thing about abusive people is that they will tell you they know best. If you resist, it is further proof of how wrong, silly, and misguided you are. What they do to you is always justified. The same is true of toxic systems, that will tell you why you deserve how you are being treated – the appalling treatment of disabled people in the UK, the way police shoot innocent Black people in the US, the history of oppression for any group that has been oppressed includes messages about why the dominating culture feels entitled to do this. Worthlessness is taught. It can be hard to trust your own judgement when you’re subjected to this kind of treatment.

I abandoned my intuition. I did so in order to try and stay sane and survive situations that were really unhealthy. I found that I needed to be able to evidence and justify anything I wanted to express – and even that didn’t reliably work, but starting from ‘I feel’ was likely to cause more trouble than it was worth. I fought a losing battle to be allowed to be a person, and I cut off a lot of parts of myself to try and survive. An animal in a snare may gnaw its own leg off to escape, and for a long time, that was what I was doing.

I read Natalia’s book, and I asked whether I could change things, and make room for my own feelings and intuition. I set a process in motion. I’ll be back in future posts to talk a bit about how that worked for me.


Druidry and Magic

Recently I encountered a chap who said that the only magic in Druidry is communing with the ancestors. I offered a counter list – communing with the land and the old Gods, the magic of inspiration, or beauty, spirits of place, and so forth. He said that was magical, not magic. I have no problem with disagreeing, but it struck me as curious.

I know there are Druids who go in for spells – Kris Hughes talks about it, inspired by the magician Gwyidion, from the Welsh myths. Druidry is certainly not short of polytheists, and a prayer to a God is most assuredly an act of magical intent. I know for many Druids, magic is less about ‘doing’ and more about connection, about the numinous experience and a sense of wonder created by encountering wild beauty. You don’t have to believe in anything much to be a Druid. Magic can be found in the transformative power of ritual – whether you think that’s woo-woo magic or a simple consequence of showing up and doing the things.

The magic I have most deliberately sought it the magic of inspiration. I know no more powerful or glorious feeling than the moment when it crashes into me.

There are many ways of defining magic. Which is excellent. There are many ways of experiencing magic, feeling something as magical and feeling like a participant in something magical. There is however a world of difference between saying ‘this is what magic means to me’ and insisting that your take on magic is the only one available. Magic is personal, Druids are diverse, Druidry is full of possibilities. There is more wonder and delight to be found by being open to other people’s experiences than by insisting that yours is the only real one.


Sabrina

Content Warning.

Sabrina offers me the comfort of her arms. She promises to hold me like a mother holds a small child. She will comfort me, and take away the pain. There will be peace in her embrace, and relief, and release and none of this will matter anymore. Sabrina invites me to sleep in her arms.

She offers this invitation widely, gathering to her the lost and distressed, the hopeless and despairing. She will hold anyone who can no longer bear to breathe. She will take anyone into her keeping who has nothing left to live for and no faith in the future.

Once she had a reputation as a river that kills. The Severn always gets her man, they used to say. With her tides and mud and unpredictability, she was never kind to the careless. These days they come willingly, when they can take it no more. She does not need to lure the fisherman or tantalise the careless child.

She calls to me. I hear her promises, her reassurance. It is a brutal mercy that she offers, a killing kindness for those who can take no more. She is always there, always offering to be the end of the journey, the place of rest. ‘Sleep in my arms,’ she says ‘and forget.’


Trusting my intuition

I have a hard time trusting my intuition. It’s something I’ve been exploring deliberately this year. I’ve also found myself in situations where there are no other sources of information, and intuition is all I’ve had to go on. At this point I’ve come to the conclusion that I can afford to trust what I intuit.

One of the single biggest problems for me in all of this is that I suffer from anxiety. I have a powerful imagination and can come up with many ways in which a situation could go wrong. There are reasons, rooted in my history, that make it hard for me to imagine good outcomes. It is hard to trust my intuition when my anxiety is screaming ‘you’re doomed’ and my imagination is playing out all the worst case scenarios. It’s not easy to tell what is just anxiety screaming, and what might be something else.

Being an anxious person, I tend to assume that any hopeful feeling is just wishful thinking on my part. I have been in the habit of writing off any good or uplifting feelings on the basis that they must be irrational. This hasn’t been helpful.

The answer has been to make time and really sit with whatever I’m feeling. To pay attention to what fits in my habitual thoughts and what doesn’t. If I interrogate those impulses I can often tell what is just anxiety as usual happening for me. Alongside that I’m making a conscious effort not to dismiss out of hand any possibility that doesn’t lead to crushing failure, disappointment and distress. Sometimes things do work out well, and I have evidence of this. I no longer live in a situation where there is someone intent on crushing me, and I no longer need to assume the worst for my own safety.

My intuition has room for the best in other people. It has room in it for hope, and good outcomes. My intuition is much more open to trust than the rest of me. It’s a small voice, long ignored, but this year it has held up where conventional sources of insight have failed. My intuition has kept me going where otherwise I might have broken down entirely. I do not have to accept a life without hope and possibility. I can consider that better outcomes are possible. I can afford to trust existence and the universe to be neutral towards me, not actively hostile. I can trust myself, and I can stop feeling that my more hopeful impulses are naïve, self indulgent or ridiculous.


Candles, prayers and magic

My first experience of using candles for prayers was in my late teens, visiting Gloucester cathedral. The cathedral continues to offer spaces where a person can light a candle as an act of prayer, and it’s something I and my family continue to do. The cathedral is a place I go to connect with my ancestors, amongst other things.

There’s an immediacy to using a candle – the flare of light as you strike the match, or the transference of flame from one lit candle to another. You literally put light into the world. It’s a good focus for will, for petition, for need. The observable effect of the lit candle feels like having done something, so it makes the spell, or the prayer seem more real, more in the world. Then, if you so desire, you can spend time with that candle and with your intentions.

I’ve become uneasy about burning things and using fire in any spiritual context. With so much of the world burning and overheating, I’m ambivalent, these days, about the role I think fire can play in my spiritual practice. Gone are the days when I would want to do ritual around a fire.

There is however comfort in a candle. It’s a small flame. A small gesture of hope even at a time when fire seems problematic to me. The warm light of it is inherently comforting, and when you are praying from a place of need, distress, discomfort, that small comfort can be worth a lot. When distress makes concentration hard, the focus of a candle flame can be a welcome thing indeed. There is light in the darkness. There is warmth and cheer. There is hope, be it ever so small.

So long as the candle flame holds, there is hope. So long as there is the means to light it, there is hope. So long as I refuse to give up on hope, there is hope. Sometimes, small symbolic actions can make a great deal of difference.