Monday, 30 October 2017

A Country Halloween Remembered

Here is an extract from one of the articles in the Samhain issue of the Raven Newsletter, I hope you enjoy it:

Halloween has always been my favourite time of year. I can remember looking forward to this magical night from being a very young child.
     The idea that Witches might be out and about was never scary to me. I never found the wickedest of Witches in any way frightening. I remember watching the Disney film 'Snow White' as a child and finding the wicked stepmother Witch a fascinating creature. Seeing her brewing potions, speaking to a magic mirror and shape-shifting to alter her appearance, was wonderful, and merely made me eager to find out how to do those things for myself.
     The idea of ghosts and spirits being free to roam was exciting and gave me a delicious shivery feeling. I read ghost stories and folk tales from a very young age, and my mother was also a fund of folklore, spells and invocations (although she would not have considered them as such).
     I longed to find a great black dog, with eyes the size of saucers accompanying me along the dark country roads. Black Shuck was welcome any time.
     When I was young there was no 'Trick or Treat'ing. That American import did not arrive for many years.
     There was also no street lighting in most villages, it was found only in built up areas. So the walk home from school in Winter, and sometimes to school in the mornings, was done in the dark. The only light was from behind the drawn curtains of the houses I walked past, or from the windows of the two village shops and the Red Lion pub. It was a quiet walk home too, apart from the odd passing car.
     We saw the Moon every night, so we didn't have to wonder what the phase of the Moon was. And if you were ever unsure, then every calendar and pocket diary told you the Full, Half and New Moons.
     My mum would always remind us when the Moon was New, to go outside and turn our money over, 'And mind you don't see the Moon through glass!' she would warn us, so that we kept our eyes to the ground until we were safely outside.
     At Halloween one year I decided I wanted to make a lantern, but pumpkins were unknown in our part of the country. The only option was a swede. Having made many pumpkin lanterns since, I can tell you there is a whole heap of difference cutting the lid off a pumpkin and scooping the inside out, and trying to do the same thing to a swede!
     I struggled for hours to make any kind of impression. I had to use a knife - I bent a spoon trying with that. Eventually I ended up with a sort of depression in the top of the swede, and my mother gave me a candle to stick in it. It looked nothing like I had imagined, and nothing like the pictures of pumpkin lanterns. I hadn't managed to get enough of the inside out to be able to make any sort of a face for the candle light to shine out of. But at least I felt I had made the effort.

Friday, 20 October 2017

New Notebook

I really like a nice notebook.
     And starting a new one, is to open the door on a whole new set of adventures.
     Today I started a new notebook. This one is ring bound with nice mottled pink, hard board covers. This actually happens more often than you might imagine. Not because I am such a prolific writer that I rapidly fill my current book and have to find a new one, but because, like my glasses, I tend to carry them about and put them down in odd places.
     There are some places which are more likely to accumulate them, rather in the same way as drifts of pairs of glasses accumulate, small hills of notebooks begin to grow. Usually by my work pc and my game computer.
     I like to have a notebook to hand, so that if some idea strikes I can write it down straight away. And I usually take a notebook with me when we go shopping. That way, while Graham is trundling around the shop with his list and shopping trolley, I can sit in the car and write - this piece was started in Aldi's car park, by the way.
     What is supposed to happen is that when we get home I will transfer my notes, or article to the appropriate computer - stuff for my blog will go on the game pc, articles for the Raven Newsletter will be typed up on my work pc - then the notebook will be returned downstairs, ready for the next bout of inspiration to strike.
     What is more likely to happen though, is that I forget to take the notebook downstairs, and pop it on top of the growing pile of notebooks near the pc, all of which are theoretically heading downstairs.
     So when we are ready to go out, I suddenly find that THERE IS NO NOTEBOOK to hand.
     But DON'T PANIC I have a little stock of yet-to-be-written-in notebooks on one of the bookshelves downstairs.
     So I get a new one.

Just a few of the notebooks currently in use.

Monday, 16 October 2017


Graham has decided to have a sort out of the bookshelf near his computer in the bedroom. He has been emptying the shelves, sorting what he wants to keep and what he is happy to part with.
     As he has been doing this he came across a book 'The Diary of a Farmer's Wife 1796-1797'
     This book was originally a series published in the Farmer's Weekly in the 1930's. It is possibly based on an old family diary, but appears to have been stretched or filled out by the addition of old family recipes by the lady who submitted it for publication.
     It is a charming book, the diary written by Anne Hughes - the farmer's wife - basically recording the day to day happenings in and around the farm and its inhabitants. Anne writes as she would have spoken, with her own idiosyncratic spellings: potatoes are always 'pertaties', and she is always 'verrie bussie'. She records the trivial details of housekeeping, scrubbing the floors, caring for the animals and cooking meals, as well as the local gossip and celebrations.
     I have never really kept a diary as I've always thought that most days there isn't a lot to write about. Although I suppose my working day is a bit different to most. And it did get me thinking about what I would write if I kept a diary - my blog is the nearest I get to this, although I would say it is nearer to a Commonplace Book.
     I do often get people ringing up for advice, or to tell me about some strange happening, as well as to place orders.
     This last week a gentleman told me how he had used the Ouija Board 'and Beelzebub came through'. He then commented that I didn't seem very impressed by this - by which I can only assume that the object of telling me this was to impress me.
     The gentleman has been a customer of ours for some years, and had previously asked me to help him as he was making no magical progress, 'Nothing works' he said, which I was intrigued by as usually even the beginners at magic will get some sort of result with their spells (maybe not what they wanted or expected, but certainly some sort of response).
     So I wrote to him making various suggestions, which he took offence at, as I had written basic advice. But as I had not trained him, I did not know what he had any experience of, plus you need to make sure you get the basics in place before you can make progress in any field.
     Since then he has told me that actually he has certain spells which always work, such as a spell to find a parking space, and of course the apparent conjuration of Beelzebub.
     But what this gentleman means by 'Nothing works' is that he wants two things: a big win on the lottery, and to conjure a spirit, any spirit, to full physical manifestation.
     He has said that he doesn't need the money, he is quite comfortably off, but he just wants to prove that it can be done. He then asked me if I could send him a spirit. I said 'No.' which again didn't go down well.
     I told him that the spirits will help us with what we need. He said he knew that, someone else had already told him that. So I think this gentleman is doomed to disappointment.
     The spirits are always happy to help us, but they do not like greed, or being taken advantage of.
     A bit like most of us really.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Mist Magic

     It is easy to appreciate the beauty of an Autumn day, when the gentle sun is shining on the colourful leaves of the trees, or the grass is crisp underfoot with a dusting of frost. When the morning is drear and misty with a fine drizzle which seems light, but soaks into and through your clothes in no time, there is little beauty to be seen, and it is harder to appreciate the day.
     But actually it is these days, the dreary, misty days, when the dark magic is starting stir.
     Mist and fog are almost the embodiment of that rising magical current. Things look different through the mist. Colours and sounds are muted and familiar places can take on a different shape and character.
     The thicker the mist or fog grows, the more cautious you become, even walking a well known route. Was that lamp post always there? Why does this garden hedge seem to go on forever?
     Walking through the countryside it is easy to understand how we could step through into an alternate world without realising - or creatures from other worlds could slip into ours.
     I have seen strange manifestations of mist while growing up in the country.
     One of the fields behind our cottage was small and enclosed with high hedges and a small pond. On rare occasions it would fill with dense mist that stayed at knee height, rising gradually at the hedges.
     You could lie on the ground and be totally hidden from anyone only a few feet away.
     I have also seen mist confined to dips and hollows in the landscape, and some nights mist that looked like puffy wisps of cloud, hanging around head height. The ground and road beneath them would be totally clear, but if your headlights shone up at all, the light reflected off these strange and spooky misty clouds.
     Fairy encounters are often associated with mists and fog, and one of the horror movie cliches is strange mist or fog, perhaps with a dog howling in the distance.
     Perhaps because things look different in fog, it is thought of as having transformative properties.
     Mist is a manifestation of elemental Water. It rises from the water and may just hang over the surface of a pond or bog. It is a place where spirits can be encountered. The mist itself can take on the shape on an ancestor, or another spirit creature.
     Mist can also be used for concealment, to hide our doings or our movements, and to encourage shapeshifting. The mist can help us transform into a totem animal, or take on our magical persona.
     Mist can be 'the breath of the Dragon', as it was known in Celtic times, and it can be the touch of the sorcerer.
     If you can learn to use the powers of mist, you have access to a wonderful magical resource.
     And this is just the time of year to try it.