Tag Archives: magic

Walking with intent

One of the things I love about labyrinths is that you can do whatever you want with them. If I lay one out in the grass at my local park, anyone who wants to come and walk it can. They can do so in whatever way they like and for whatever reasons, with no reference to what anyone else is doing. It’s a nice way to hold magical space for people. At the moment it’s also really good as as an answer to socially distanced celebration and ritual.

Labyrinths transcend any specific tradition. They are a form that allows us to bring our bodies into the same space without having to agree about meaning or approach. They’re also a very peaceful, powerful thing to do and require no previous experience.

Usually I walk the labyrinth as a meditative process. I like to be the first one in – to test that I’ve put it together properly, clear twigs from the path and make sure the space works. My process with the space begins far earlier, when I ask permission, talk to the land and put down the first curve of fabric to mark the centre. I will later do a second walk in and will be the last person to walk the labyrinth before we take it down.

For my midsummer labyrinth this week I did some things I have never done before. I walked with intent. I walked to make deliberate magical transformation and I walked in no small part to do that for someone else.  In doing so I learned that walking a labyrinth is a good focus for prayers and incantations. If your intention is clear, you can use the slow rhythm of the walking to set the pace for your words. The labyrinth I use takes a person into the middle and then you have to wind your way back out again. It makes sense to work your way into the heart of the issue on the way in, and use the return journey to work out how you want to emerge from the situation.

My first walk into the labyrinth was about things I wanted to change for the next day. It worked, simply. Or things came out right anyway – who can say? But I was pushing for a transformation and a radical change of energy, and that came, one way or another.

For my second journey, I was more focused on the slightly longer term, and I set intentions about the next labyrinth I will make. If that comes to pass I will probably write about it.

An unexpected third intention arose from this process. I want the space to make a permanent labyrinth. This goes with a number of other thoughts I’ve been having and is a good additional focus for the future I am trying to imagine and make real.


Things I am visualising

I recently blogged about tips for visualising – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2020/06/06/tips-for-visualising/

When building a thought form, it can be important not to undermine it by making it vulnerable to other people’s opinions. This means not getting anyone else’s input, but I think holding boundaries to protect a dream can be necessary and important. There’s a key piece of witchcraft advice around the importance of keeping things secret to keep them powerful. At the same time, putting something into the world can be a way of working towards manifesting it, and writing is part of how I now do this sort of thing.

I am visualising…

Standing at the train station, waiting.

A shed, with a comfortable chair in it, a rug on the floor, and decent lighting.

The sea wind in my face.

Long, luscious damp grass full of wildflowers.

The space that is deliberately empty becoming full in the way I intend.

An advert on the side of a bus.

A really big table.


The Burnt Watcher – a review(ish)

I won’t claim any objectivity on this one. This is Keith Healing’s first novel. I know him personally, and he is the bloke behind the Hopeless Maine role play game. I proof read for him on this book because he’s a lovely chap and I want to support him.

The Burnt Watcher is set in a dark future where there are nasty supernatural things, and people whose job it is to try and keep that under control. The Burnt Watcher of the title is one such person, who is dealing with a legacy of injury from the work. So, this is a book with a disabled main protagonist, which is something we just don’t see often enough. There’s also a kickass young lady in the story, which I really appreciated.

The story is really engaging, dark, sometimes a bit funny. I very much enjoyed it. There will be a sequel, which makes me very happy indeed. Excellent writing and elegantly put together. I thought the structure of it, and how the author plays with your belief, disbelief and sense of how this world works, was really good.

From a pagan perspective, there’s some rather splendid magical stuff going on. The Watchers use rune based magic and deal with the wyrd. Keith really knows his stuff, and it shows. There’s a lot of joy in a magic system with such substantial roots, written by someone who knows what they are talking about.

For anyone local, there’s also the joy that is having Stonehouse as a place of evil activity and eldritch horror. I love reading stories set in places I know, and especially books set in Gloucestershire. I am delighted by this future Gloucestershire full of gothic ruins, terrible threats and monstrous beings. We all need to see ourselves reflected in what we read, and having our locations reflected is certainly part of that.

As with all good speculative fiction, this is a book with plenty to say to the present moment. About what kinds of deals we make, and what we think is in our best interests, and what we do when we gone off the rails…

You can find the book here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Burnt-Watcher-Fear-Book-ebook/dp/B08964Q14H/

and here – https://www.amazon.com/Burnt-Watcher-Fear-Book-ebook/dp/B08964Q14H


Tips for visualising

Visualising is a really useful technique with a number of applications. You can do it for entirely spiritual purposes. You can do it as part of making magic, and you can also do it to direct your own mind in a specific direction. I also find that visualisation and divination can be connected if you are inclined to more of the oracle work. Testing visions of the future to see what looks plausible and where that goes can be interesting work.

I’m going to take a non-magical approach in offering some tools here – they would work magically, whereas magically orientated approaches won’t do it for people working more psychologically. The key thing about visualisation is that you build belief. You imagine yourself in a situation, doing a thing, and so when you get there you can handle it better. Or when the opportunities come by, you see them and grab them. Or you do better because you know what you want so the path that heads the right way is more obvious. Visualisation can be a great tool for self knowledge, and also for building courage and helping you take action.

However, some things are really hard to visualise. The bigger and more life-changing your intentions are then the harder it is to picture the outcome of that. If you can’t believe it, feel it and invest in it you won’t make it work for you.

My advice is to aim small. Rather than focusing on the big event you want to manifest, visualise something you can easily imagine. Maybe about how you go for coffee with a dear friend and tell them about how it all worked out for you. Pick a scenario where you can dig in with the familiar details and weave the intended content into it – picture phoning someone to say that the thing has happened. Pick the part of the process that you know most about and envisage that, and frame it with your understanding that the whole thing is in place.

For example, if you’re trying to attract a lover, and you don’t have anyone specific in mind, you can’t visualise them or anything that happens with them. But you could visualise yourself lying alone in bed, afterwards, feeling warm and contented and happy. You don’t have to know exactly how you got there to hold that image, and in holding it you will start to find out things  about how that would work for you.

Equally, if you want a life changing job, you may have no way of picturing how that would work or what you would be doing. But you could far more easily visualise yourself on a day off from that fantastic job, feeling good about yourself and happy in the direction your life has taken.

You won’t know what the new house should look like, but you can visualise lying in the garden listening to the bird song, perhaps.

It’s not always possible to picture the outcome we most need. If you’re feeling a lack and trying to work towards an answer, you may not know what that answer looks like. If you’re too specific, you may shut down opportunities and miss out on the good stuff. Sometimes, focusing on a small, believable detail is a really powerful way of opening up the entire future that you want to create.


Re-reading The Owl Service

The Owl Service, by Alan Garner, was a really important book for me as a child, and my entry point into Welsh mythology. More than that, it was resonant, and I felt a kinship with the woman made of flowers and turned into an owl. That kinship would define much of my teenage Paganism. It summed up for me the way I found my own nature contradictory. I still do. I’m still working on understanding what it means to be owl and flowers.

This is a book I’ve read repeatedly over my life, but I re-visited it this time as part of my re-enchantment quest. I was surprised by what I found. I had never appreciated before how much female rage there is in this book.

There’s Alison, a young woman central to the plot, who also own the house central to the plot but is never allowed her own voice and opinions. She’s talked over, spoken fork, bossed around, her anger is always there beneath the surface, but there’s never room for it to come out as more than snapping. Her mother never appears in a scene with other characters, but her anger is a constant presence – the fear of not upsetting her. Because her anger is only allowed out as distress most of the time. There’s Nancy – domestic servant, profoundly wronged and the only woman who is able to express her rage, or at least some of it, but nowhere near as much as she wants to. And behind all of them is the mythic figure of Blodeuwedd, wronged, and wronged again, and then wronged some more.

In all the years I have spent thinking about Blodeuwedd and her story, I’ve never really thought about her anger before – just as I’ve not thought enough about mine. How much anger this story should bring up. She is made of flowers and given to a man – which is ghastly enough, and then when she wants control of her body and sexuality, the only way she can do that is by getting the man who owns her killed. And while he comes back to life and her lover is slain, she is punished with transformation into an owl. At no point, in the usual version, does she get to say who she is. And in Garner’s novel, she doesn’t speak at all – which is a powerful way of expressing this.

I’ve always felt there must have been another story that pre-dates this one. A story about Blodewedd, who is owls and flowers and that the story we have is the story of men and feudal thinking taming that myth and getting the dangerous woman under their control. It’s a story I’ve wondered about, and wanted to know and tell. Perhaps it will come to me.


Lessons from the boar

When I met the wild boar, he showed me with his tusks how to break myself open, how to spill and bleed. Sacred dismemberment, messy, painful and full of lessons that must be studied over a year and a day. “Learn to do it willingly,” he said. “Learn to rip your guts out and tear your heart to pieces. He did not say why.  Did not tell me what it would achieve. What we might find there. What good it would do.

I have clutched my hands to my stomach so hard, not wanting to be pulled apart. I have guarded my ribs and avoided what goring I could. There is something unavoidably sexual in the violence of a male tusk invading a female body and I never wanted that brutality, or that femininity. Is it possible to be torn on other terms?

I have been coming to this the wrong way. It is not about how much I am willing to suffer; for art, for love, for Druidry. The quest is for a breakthrough, an opening, but not as wounding or victimhood. No more lessons in pain. To do this to myself, willingly.

Because my guts were where the shame lived, and a lifetime of hurting. Cut that open. Pull it apart. Dig out the vicious shards of barbed wire grafted into tender flesh. Leave the body to heal. Do it willingly. Embrace the sacred wounding and take out what never belonged there. Choose it.

And what of my heart? What happens if I take the tusks to my heart? If I invite them in? A whole country folded inwards, needing to open out. A galaxy of self waiting to be born. The prospect of birthing it as bloody, messy, painful as any birth has ever been.

All of it is terrifying. All of it is too much. All of it is unthinkable. The boar is waiting, because we both know that I have already decided what to do.


Underworld journeys

I choose the dark road to the underworld, and I set out singing. In my head are songs of the land, songs of the seasons and it is good to share them with the road as I travel. I am not afraid of this road, I have walked here before. I know the broken hearted songs of grief and loss and I will sing these too because grief is love and this is what it takes to head down into the darkness.

Let me be clear – I am not singing to make a bargain with any underworld deity. I am not here for them and whether their hearts are touched or not by my songs is of no consequence to me. I do not come to the realm of the dead for the sake of the dead. Of course I am glad to comfort who I can but I am not here to argue with death or to plead for an exception.

I am here for the living. It happens sometimes that grief is so dark and deep a river that the current of it pulls a person down into the realms of the dead. When love of the dead is stronger than anything remaining in the living world, a person can forget themselves and become a shade.

I bring my songs. I sing of life, landscape, love, foolishness, fondness. I sing the trials and challenges, the hopes and fear. I wrap my living breath around melodies, shape words softly in my mouth. I sing the songs I sang as a child, and new ones learned specifically for this journey. I sing the songs that are part of my life and I pour my aliveness into them. It is the best magic I have. I walk, and I sing.

I have made no promises to look ahead and never look back. Not that it matters. This is a dark place and I would not see much anyway. I sing of trust and of the future. I sing of reasons to feel and hope and I keep walking. I will not get lost here, my song is a thread of life to hold me connected with the living world and I can follow these notes and words back to myself at need. There will be a path because I insist on it.

I trust that you hear me. I trust that the breath of life and magic sung into the darkness will sustain you, guide you, enable you to follow me. I trust that I can walk us both back up from the depths and into the living world again, and that we will emerge together, alive to each other and singing the same songs.


Bardic Magic

In my current re-exploration of magic I’ve also been thinking about what the bard path means to me, and how I relate to it. Bardic work is a big part of what I do – more and less subtly. I use creativity to achieve transformation and I depend on the flow of inspiration, but I’ve not let myself think of this as a magical practice.

Sometimes I write in order to know. With a pen in my hand, I can open doors to insight, intuition and become aware of things that I didn’t previous see or understand. This is something to do quietly, curled up on the sofa. There’s no ritual, no drama, and so I tend to persuade myself there’s also no magic. Those insights come most readily when I’m writing silly things, and the mirth means I have been in the habit of not taking myself seriously. I have no intention of taking myself seriously, but I need to stop seeing mirth as at odds with reverence.

Sometimes I write in order to change things, for myself and other people. Most of my poems are arguably also spells. I write them to explore the changes I want to make, to re-imagine, to commit to things. I write this blog to help other people change as well. I’ve started doing this a bit more deliberately of late.

I also sing as a way of getting things done – to change the atmosphere in places, to comfort and to uplift.

I’m writing this blog post partly to figure out what I do.

One of the things I’m very good at doing is finding reasons why what I do isn’t as valid, shiny, important as what anyone else does. I don’t have visions, I have ideas while writing stuff. The Gods do not talk to me, unless I am making up a story that pertains to them, but that’s me making up a story. I don’t do magic, except with a pen, which I have decided doesn’t count. But if I don’t claim too much for what I do, there’s nothing to take from me.  There’s no inherent invitation to knock me down.

I can’t imagine claiming any great spiritual significance for my own creative work. I’ve seen other people do it and marvelled at their confidence, and at a relationship with the world that is so very different from my own. Obviously what I do isn’t sacredly inspired, isn’t held by a relationship with a divinity… and it comes down to a sense that what I do isn’t good enough. Of course this is just the story I choose to tell. People who choose to tell stories in which they are magical and doing important work get to put that into the world. But, I have no idea what it would take to feel entitled to tell a story in which my work has weight and significance.

This all raises more questions than it answers. I suspect I’m waiting for permission, but I have no idea whose. I guess whatever the answers are, I will discover them by writing about them.


Druidry and Blackbirds

Of course blackbirds are in the animal oracle and do come up in myths, so they weren’t on my list of creatures to consider from a Druid perspective. But, none of that content here, this post is all about personal experience.

For some years now, we’ve put bird seed on the living room windowsill and had visitations from blue tits and great tits. This year, we’ve got a couple of blackbirds. This has turned out to be much more exciting because they don’t just grab food and fly, they hang around.

Tom and I sit at the window to work, so we’re very close to where the birds might come in. The blackbirds land on the window sill – there’s a male and a female visiting, they show up one at a time. Initially they were nervous about us and if we moved or made any noise they would flee at once.

Now they’re curious, and they pause to watch us, and when we say hello, they do not fly away. I’ve had some extended periods of eye contact, watching the blackbird as it watches me in turn.

It is always powerful when a wild thing looks back at you. To feel accepted by a bird, to be found interesting and not threatening, is also powerful. I listen for the sound of their beating wings, for the scrabble of beaks gathering seed. They’ve become part of my day and I am so glad to see them.

I’m not experiencing any messages here, or any sense of the supernatural. It is however the simplest kind of magic – the kind that comes from making a connection and being affected by that. A gentle, heart opening magic.

What is curious is that the blackbirds have also tried the windows on the other side of the flat, where my son has also put out food. It’s a big enough block of flats, and you’d think ideas about human living arrangements might be a bit complicated and alien for birds, but there they are, showing up at our other windows.


The Way of Wyrd

This is not a book review. Having found my magical map recently, I’m on a deliberate quest to seek re-enchantment. I decided to start by revisiting books that opened doors for me when I was young. I think I was under ten when The Way of Wyrd was read to me. I read it to my own son at about the same age, it’s a wonderful book to share with a Pagan child.

Re-reading I realised that this book was a formative experience for me because of the underlying reality it describes. The web of wyrd, the interconnectedness of all things, became a key part of both my sense of reality and my notions of how magic might work for me. I think, on re-reading this, that author Brian Bates was also drawing on Taoist thinking. When I got to concepts of the Tao, it all felt familiar and a very natural match for my sense of how things work. At the time I didn’t consciously make that connection, but I was a curious teen and I wasn’t tracking my own processes. I didn’t need to.

Reading The Way of Wyrd opens up two further texts that I now know I need to revisit. Clive Barker’s Weaveworld may not seem like an obvious candidate for a formative spiritual experience, but I have a feeling it was and I want to go back and see.  I also need to re-read the Tao Te Ching with all this in mind. That’s a book I habitually re-read in various different translations.

The books that shaped me as a young explorer contemplating magic and spirituality, were fiction. I know it’s not an unusual experience. It’s something I need to think about more in terms of my own writing – fiction and non-fiction alike. It may not be an accident that my current fiction project – Wherefore over on https://www.youtube.com/NimueBrown has a lot in it about weaving magic. I started that theme weeks ago, long before I considered a deliberate quest for re-enchantment. It could of course just be coincidence, but it doesn’t feel that way, and the significance of creating a character who is a weaver and works with the fabric of reality, is something I need to spend some time with.

Wherefore is an unashamedly silly project, most meant to charm, distract and amuse. But at the same time, it keeps resulting in some of my most important (to me) spiritual work in a great many years. Being too serious doesn’t work for me. One thing is for certain – that laugher and merriment and the desire to cause happiness in others is part of my spiritual path and if I can do the things while giggling like the mad pixie I am, I will do a better job of it all.