Saturday, 8 July 2017

Jasmine

     I love Jasmine.
    We have a well established Jasmine that grows up outside our front door and tumbles around the porch. At this time of year it is smothered in little white flowers, all of which seem to last for only one day, then tumble to the ground.
     The bees love it, although they need a long tongue to get into the trumpet shaped flowers and reach down to the nectar. Some of the bees cheat, and rather than accessing the nectar as they are supposed to, they manage to push their noses into the bottom of the flower from the outside and get their dinner that way.
     Jasmine always means summer to me, especially as it always reminds me of the Isley Brothers song 'Summer Breeze', with its lines 'Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind.' It is the stuff of happy summer memories.
     Although Jasmine perfumes the air all through the day, it is in the evening when it really smells its best, so it is really a flower for long Summer evenings, when you can spend time outside. Its pretty flowers with their five petals also put me in mind of stars.
     For centuries Jasmine flowers have been gathered for their sweet scent. It is one of the most expensive essential oils as it takes 1,000 flowers to make a single drop of the oil. And at one time only young girls picked the flowers, because their hands are softer and less likely to bruise the flower petals.
     Jasmine is sacred to the Moon Goddess and also to the Goddess of Love. It is said that love will grow wherever a Jasmine flourishes. You can pick the flowers and use them as part of a Goddess incense, or put them in a pouch either to draw love, or to increase your psychic and magical powers.




     I'm just glad that ours has recovered from the 'trim' Graham gave it a couple of years ago.



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Aconite

   This is an extract from an article 'A Witch's Garden' from the last issue of the Raven Newsletter  

     At this time of year there are many flowers in bloom, and in our front garden we have a particularly magnificent clump of aconite, known also as Wolf's Bane or Monk's Hood.
     This is a wonderful deep blue and has spires of flowers all with their distinctive hood shapes. Because it is such a beautiful flower it often finds its way into table decorations at weddings, often without the florist realising that this plant is extremely poisonous in all its parts.


     Aconite can be tricky to get going, but once it has settled it will come up year after year. However be careful as this plant should only be handled while wearing gloves as it can make itself known even through unbroken skin.
     Interestingly the antidote to Aconite is Belladonna, another extremely poisonous plant, and both were used together in many recipes for Witches' Flying Ointment.
     Aconite juice was used by many ancient cultures as a hunting poison, to coat the tips of arrows, and it has been speculated by many including Dr Margaret Murray (author of 'The Witch Cult in Western Europe'), that this was the poison used by the fairy folk, the indigenous tribes of Britain and Ireland, to coat their elf-shot. Thus making their arrows particularly deadly.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Day of Big Hair

The other day, when it was really hot, I was in the bath and sloshed water over my head, just to try and cool down a bit.
     The water felt so lovely that I slooshed a bit more, and of course my long hair got well and truly wet through. But I was quite happy with that, and let it dry naturally, steaming gently in the heat.
     Of course that meant that it dried plastered to my head in a particularly unflattering way.
     The next day, when I combed my hair out, released from its plastered-ness it decided to celebrate by going LARGE. But not consistently BIG all over, Oh No! It had to go Wild Child at one side and normally wavy at the other.
     This HUGE plume of sticky-up hair really amused me, so I decided to take a photo of it - well, I asked Graham to, actually. Then I went to put the photos on the PC and see if the large fluffiness had shown up sufficiently.
     And it was then that I got a shock.
     We have a nice digital camera. It is a few years old now, and was an xmas pressy from Mike and Cherise, and it takes excellent piccies. It has an optical zoom facility too which helps with photos of flowers or close-ups of small objects.
     However, when I looked at the photos of me I had a heck of a shock. My God! How hairy am I ?!
     This is the problem with a good digital camera, the detail it captures is amazing.
     Now I have always had a problem moustache - pale skin, black hair, my word the unwanted ones really show up! And I deal with it regularly with magnifying mirror and tweezers.
     But the digital camera picked up every hair I had missed. And as I focus on dealing with the moustache, I had not noticed the creeping growth of long hairs dotted around the sides of my face, and around and under my chin.
     I know that I am an oddity, and that my Crone-ness is growing daily, but I had no idea that I was turning into the Wild Woman of Melton Fields.
     Needless to say, those photos have been consigned to the re-cycle bin, and I have been busy with my tweezers again.
     But why is it when the rest of my hair is turning grey, the moustache is still persistently and photogenically black?


Monday, 12 June 2017

Magical Fern

Ferns have always struck me as being magical plants.
     They are certainly one of the oldest, and long before there were other trees, massive forests of tree ferns covered parts of the earth.
     In the UK they are found in cool, dark and mysterious places. They form the undergrowth in many ancient woodlands, and by ancient springs. They don't need good soil and are happy to re-populate derelict ground or old industrial sites.
    I love the way they emerge in Spring and unroll their fractal fronds. Some times patterns on icy windows resemble feathers or fern fronds and it is because these follow the same method of construction. A piece plucked from a frond has the same overall shape as the entire frond.


     They are said to be at their most magical around Midsummer, and are one of the plants associated with the Fairy Folk.
    It is said that at sunset on Midsummer's Eve the ferns put out a bud which glows blue in the dusky woods. It grows into a flower through the evening and at midnight is ready to shed its seeds. These magical fern seeds should be gathered by holding a pewter plate beneath the plant, while you gently tap it with a hazel wand. The seed will fall onto the plate and should be stored carefully as they will confer invisibility on the user.
     Of course we know, these days, that fern does not have flowers, and that it reproduces by spores, or by sending out underground runners.
     But at midnight on Midsummer's Eve, when the Fairies are about, and you know how to enter the magical world, then you can still gather your magical fern seed, and work the spell of invisibility.


Sunday, 4 June 2017

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

Today is the first Sunday in the month, so (yippee!) it is the Humber Bridge Farmer's Market and the Walkington Car Boot Sale.
     Today we found a butcher stall selling raw beef bones - 20p each! Bargain! So we bought a hunk of ribs for Bridie and a single rib for China to have a go at.
     As soon as we got home, we couldn't wait to give the dogs their bones, while we treated ourselves to some sponge cake and coffee.
    China quickly snaffled hers, and even though we tried to keep her on the floor, she was soon back at the far end of the sofa, with her back to us and giving her bone a good nag.
     Bridie on the other hand seemed a bit unsure about the rack of ribs, and I was getting a bit worried that we had picked something that was too big for her, and we would have to try and split it up for her. She sniffed it and rolled it around the floor, and went upstairs. Then came down again and snook up on the ribs and had a sniff and tried a little bite at it, and it moved. So she shot upstairs again, and then came down and eyed it and us as if deciding whether this really was hers and could she steal it away.
     We decided to come up and have a little look on the internet. And it wasn't long before Bridie and the rack of ribs arrived too. And before long there was much standing on the ribs and pulling with the whole body and cranching and thumping against the floor and lots of panting - this is a whole body exercise for the dog, it would appear.


     We thought the ribs might keep her occupied, maybe for a week.
     Two hours later, there is currently a knobbly thick boney bit left, and I hear the distinct sounds of a dog who has pinched China's bone and is now secretly eating it around the corner where I can't see her.


   

Saturday, 3 June 2017

To Dare

This is an article I wrote for the May 2017 edition of our Raven Newsletter:

One of the things you come across when you start to practise magic is the Magician's Pyramid: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent.
     And the one that most people will struggle with is, surprisingly, To Dare.
     These four attributes give you the ground rules for successful magical practise. But the key thing is to put into action the things you have read about.
     Most people are quite happy with the theory of Witchcraft or Magic, they will happily read about spells and magical workings. They will accumulate magical tools and accoutrements, so that when they start to practise magic, they will be ready to go.
     But actually putting that knowledge into action is where most people fall down. I remember years ago a friend being at a meeting where a well-known White Witch in full ritual regalia and waving a magic wand about, was pontificating about spell working, how to do it, what you needed, what phases of the Moon to use. Until my friend said to him, 'So you have tried this spell have you? What sort of results did you get?'
     The man blustered for a bit and then admitted that he didn't actually practise magic, but that he didn't need to, because he knew all the theory and so was fully qualified to act as a teacher to others.
     When my friend told me about this, I remarked, 'Well if I was going to have brain surgery, I would rather have treatment from someone who had done the actual operation before, not someone who had just read about it in a book.'
     And that is why 'To Dare' is such a crucial part of any magic: NOTHING will happen unless you get on with it and put your theoretical knowledge into conscious practise. And there is a whole heap of an advantage once you have started working your spells.
     There is an old saying: 'Nothing succeeds like success.'
     And what this means is that practise and experience will ensure that your chances of success are so much greater.
     We all know how easy it is to 'look the part' wearing wafty clothes and symbolic jewellery, and to give the air of 'one who knows'. But you may well find that the real practitioners are the ones who look like a little old lady or gentleman sitting in the corner, just watching and listening.
     However there are some individuals who will not have success with spell work, no matter how hard they try. This is the same in all walks of life: it is no good trying to be an accountant if you hate maths. And here I am reminded of an old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch, where Moore acting the part of a one legged man, has gone to audition for the part of Tarzan, during which Cook points out that Moore's right leg is a great leg for the part, and he has nothing against it, but unfortunately neither has Moore.
     But at least Dudley Moore's character was having a go.
     Until he went for the interview he believed that he had as good a chance as any, only by trying it out did he find that this was not the part for him.
     And so it is with spell work, until you actually try it, you will never know whether this is the Path for you.
     Perhaps it is fear of the unknown, or fear of failure, which holds people back. But I have found that this extends to when they are asking someone else to do the spell for them.
     When your friends find out about your magical interests, very often they will ask you to cast a spell for them. I have found that a very easy way to find out if they are serious about the process is to ask them to provide the materials you will need.
    The standard response is 'Oh, can't you get them, and I'll pay you back for them after.'
     If you refuse and insist they must provide you with candles etc., in 99 times out of 100 that is the last you will hear of it.
     So even To Dare, by proxy, is still a difficult hurdle to get over.
     Magic and Witchcraft are not theoretical subjects, they are practical and experimental, and great fun, and awesome, and difficult, and really, really easy and surprising and something which is very addictive.
     So go on, give it a go.

     Dare a little!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Dog and a Half

Well, having Bridie has certainly enlivened China!
     In fact we are all getting more exercise than we expected.
     This is no fault of Bridie, she is just a very energetic, inquisitive and interested dog. She is also a lot bigger than China.
     Bridie is the result of the incorporation of American collie genes into British breeding stock. The British rough collie has been getting gradually smaller over the years, to the extent that we have been asked if China is a Sheltie, the Shetland Sheepdog. Angela (Wicani Collies) took the radical (apparently) step of bringing a large male Texan collie into her breeding programme, with the main aim of breeding out certain genetic defects which can lead to health problems for collies.
     Unfortunately these days,there are some nasty inherited genetic defects to some dog breeds, to such an extent that those who tend to win the 'best in breed' at dog shows may also exhibit some of the most grotesque of these defects. We all know that the 'flat faced' dogs have breathing problems, so why not breed their noses back in again? Some dog breeds have back or hip problems, others have heart or even brain problems, the results of the skeleton, rib cage or skull being bred into a specific shape or size.
     Angela has now succeeded in breeding out the genetic defect, a collie eye problem, from the dogs in her kennels. However it is amazing the pure hatred she has been subjected to - including death threats! And all because she has wanted to truly improve her dogs not only in looks, but in their health too.
     Bridie stands head and shoulders taller than China, and I mean that literally. We have never had a dog who could just stand and look at what might be happening on our dining table, usually the collies can reach to run their noses around the edge of the table. She is also a lot more solid, strong and energetic dog. China seems to find this quite stimulating and trots quite happily after Bridie, and is having to keep looking to see what Bridie is doing, as Bridie is moving elegantly from room to room and in and out of the garden. However Bridie does tend to lean on China, she likes to lean on me too, and you certainly know when you are being leant on!
     Graham took both dogs out for a walk for the first time on Monday, and arrived home ten minutes earlier than usual, simply because Bridie naturally walks more quickly than China. He said he was also sure that his left arm was now longer than his right as Bridie tried to go in all directions at once and sniff everything thoroughly too.
     Normally Graham doesn't bother with a lead, once the dogs are across the main road, and into the fields and woodland, but as this was Bridie's first walk in a strange area, she was on a lead. We need to make sure firstly that she will come back when called, and that she knows the route so can find her way home if she gets lost.
     So far she seems to be settling in amazingly well, considering that she is seven years old. She has quickly learnt how to use the stairs. In fact once she found out how to get up, and then down again, this became a game that kept her interested for some time, either thundering up and down at top speed, or wandering up, then down gently, then thundering back up again.
     We just need to teach her how to use the dog flap next.

Bridie is at the back of the photo and China  at the front. The nose in the middle belongs to Graham.