The Holloways



We Break to Join

highpriestessilluminatiWe have hatched. We have crack’d our limits. We have stumbled out to blinding risk. Each breaking brings us room, until we press our growing against the next shell. And the final shell we break will open us to death.

But these current crackings come so often, we barely rest and stretch and let ourselves be a little, before we come aware of a constriction. New walls compress against our spreading arms, our swelling needs.

We are cramped by a smallness, by a law, by a custom, We are live files grinding against confinement.

Yet shell by shell we break past a culture that stunts. By raw will of woman towards creation, I move. And you. We use even the shards. We bury them to fertilize our earth again. Each of us, cracking the madness the drastic madness that says we are divided. We break to join!

Written by Susa Silvermarie

Artwork: The High Priestess from the Illuminati tarot deck by Erik C. Dunne

Janus face in 2012


No, this post is not about Janus per se but rather it is more about looking back and looking forward, as we near the end of this year, 2012. I thought, however, that the Roman god of  beginnings and transitions to be a rather apt metaphor to use. And it echoes a little Yule poem I wrote recently, which I used on a Yule card to my Coven:

This card is sent to you all with love
Coming swiftly on the wings of a dove
As we embrace the newborn Sun
Let’s not forget to have some fun
As the Wheel slowly turns anew
To our spirits let us remain true
Kiss the Holly King as he now sleeps
Half the year his brother now keeps
Embrace the Oak King as he now wakes
His upturned face touched by snowy flakes
Yule is a time for looking back and looking forward
Your efforts will reap blessed reward
So merrily sing
To the newborn King

So I’m doing some looking back and looking forward on this year to discover what I’ve reaped and what my goals are for the coming year – kind of like News Year’s resolutions except not. My actual new year began at Samhain following Celtic tradition but there’s something special about Yule that encourages us to look back and look forward I think.

So what did I achieve this year? I completed my Clinical Herbalism Diploma, the Sacred Mists Herbalist Course (well, everything but the Final, which I am going to be turning in in the next few weeks), I also completed 4½ years of therapy (with 1 year of intensive therapy), I shared my greatest ‘skeleton in the closet’ with my therapeutic group just before ending and it was a HUGE relief, I was Student of the Month in my Coven in September, I started The Herborium newsletter (at Samhain), my relationship with my daughter continues to improve, I’ve carried on with Oracle Studies with very good results and I have really improved in taking personal responsibility for myself. Last but definitely not least I’ve learnt to practise mindfulness and remain in the present moment to a greater degree than ever before.

That’s not to say things have been easy for me – there have been a lot of ups and downs and quite scary patches for me to deal with. A couple of times I’ve faltered and resorted to self-harm. However, even at these times I mustered the courage to do the things I had to do in order to sort the situation out and didn’t rely on someone else doing it for me. That’s not to say I haven’t asked for a bit of moral support, and I think it’s important one does ask for support when going through difficulties. I’ve had experiences and learned valuable lessons in 2012 and I thank my patron deities and the Universe for these, and also thank my guides for steering me in the right directions. I also thank my friends, spiritual, human and animal for their support and help in ‘keeping it real’.

In thinking about the biggest stumbling block to achieving what I would like to do in my life, and my growth, I think that it is still my nemesis FEAR. Yes fear has stalked me and is the root of everything that holds me back. So, this time at my Coven’s Yule Ritual I made it my purpose to cast fear into the depths of the Cauldron of Life:

I release fear into the depths, where its power can be transmuted and changed into that which is positive and healthful. So Mote it Be!

Next, I made my spiritual goal for the coming year 2013.

I draw into me the power of the Universe in order to help me achieve my goals in 2013, with courage and fortitude. So Mote it Be!

Making these simple affirmations really helped me to focus on being able to achieve what I want out of life, what I would like to achieve and what would make me happy…maybe not straight away but working towards these steadily and with courage and purpose instead of being consumed with fear and doing nothing. I truly believe the power of affirmations is immense but in order for them to work you need to keep saying them, make the saying of them into a simple ritual perhaps – light a candle, write your affirmation on a slip of paper, repeat it three times and then burn it in the candle flame. This way your intent rises upwards in the smoke into the Universe, where it can be directed in a positive way for your benefit. Keep repeating the affirmation throughout the day too. If you’ve never used affirmations before all this might sound silly but believe me, the more you do it, the more you can actually manifest in your life and the happier and more grounded you’ll be.

Many fruitful blessings to you for the coming year, 2013!

Wishing you all a very blessed Lammas/Lughnassadh

The Wheel turns and Lammas comes again

Full of mellow fruitfulness and golden corn

John Barleycorn must die once more

The harvest bounty to ensure

But while he dies a little while

New life in the Mother’s belly does stir

And so the Wheel will turn once more

Bright blessings and love for an abundant Lammas



O is for Ocean

This week’s Pagan Blog Project post is about the ocean. Why does this pertain to Paganism I hear you ask? Well, the oceans are made up of water (of course they are silly I hear you say). Water is especially significant to pagans of all sorts. Even if you’re not a pagan there is something completely magical about the ocean, or the sea.

At first glance people seem to always think the ocean is blue but that’s not the case at all. The ocean can be blue but green and silver too. In fact it can be a myriad of shades of blue, green, brown, gold and silver. It all depends where you are and the light. Its colour and nature can change suddenly, in a flash, just like our emotions can. The connection here isn’t surprising since water is closely linked with the emotions. In fact being by an ocean or sea is a very good way of releasing pent up emotions and an extremely cleansing experience. There is always a sense of invigoration being by an ocean or sea, the salt spray on the face and the smell of the brine. I have always gotten the best night’s sleep ever after visiting the ocean.

The ocean (or sea) has always played a huge part in Celtic tradition. The Celts were sea-faring folk, as well as being pastoralists. The Celtic diaspora shows originating in Europe and settling in far flung places such as Britain, Ireland, Iberia and so forth; yes, they were good sailors and established many lucrative trade routes across oceans and seas.

For me, the foremost Celtic sea or ocean deity is Manannan mac Lir, who is a sea deity in Irish mythology. He is a ‘gatekeeper’ god, guarding the entrance to the Underworld, as well as the weather and mists.  Although often seen as an Irish deity he also has strong associations with Scotland and the Isle of Man. As is common with Celtic deities, he has many magical possessions – the goblet of truth, a ship that did not need sails (known as Wave Sweeper), a cloak which rendered him invisible, a flaming helmet, a sword named Fragarach (Answerer or Retaliator) and a horse named Enbarr of the Flowing mane, who could travel over water and land. He is also associated with the Cauldron of Regeneration, which isn’t surprising since to journey to the Underworld and return is to be transformed (literally doing deep shadow work on oneself).

The poem Sea Fever by John Masefield (first published in 1902) really does sum up the ocean for me. Here it is in its entirety, evoking the spirit of the ocean.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,  

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,  

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,  

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide  

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;  

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,  

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,  

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;  

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,  

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

I is for Immrama

Immrama (singular – immram) are Celtic (specifically Irish) stories about a hero’s journey to the Other World, or Western Isles. The voyages are full of adventures, meeting with many strange beings and challenges along the way, and arriving at various magical islands before reaching the destination. Typically the hero may or may not be able to return home again.

The stories, told in the oracular in pre-Christian times, were written down as early as the 7th century by monks and scholars. Originally there were seven recognised Immrama in the ancient text but only four now remain – The Voyage of Mael Duin, The Voyage of the Ui Chorra, The Voyage of Snedgus and Mac and The Voyage of Bran.

The mill of grudging from the voyage of Mael Duin

In her book The Celtic Book of the Dead (book with oracle deck), Caitlin Matthews compares the Irish immrama to the Tibetan and Egyptian books of the dead. Whilst all three can be seen as preparation for dying and a means of navigating the after life, she suggests that the Irish immrama have a dual purpose – not only to prepare the soul for the afterlife but also to aid a person to circumnavigate the ‘mystical journey of the soul’ in this life.

She says:

The tradition of the immram is based upon certain fundamental understandings: the voyage enacts the passing into the Otherworld, the testing of the soul, the passage into and beyond death and the empowerment of the spiritual quest.

These voyages have constant motifs of a person, or persons, in a boat, voyaging across the water (ocean or sea) to far off lands. Even today, we hear the term ‘gone West’ to refer to something or someone that has become dysfunctional in some way. To the Celts, the Isles of the Blessed – the Otherworld – lie in the West, across the sea. Any kind of watery body was a gateway to the Otherworld and Land of the Shining Ones. Streams, rivers, lakes, and seas were considered sacred sites but the sea was always considered dangerous and a ‘soul challenge’. The sea is symbolic of the cauldron of creation from where all life springs. To take a voyage across the sea is symbolic of returning to the womb of the Great mother, to discover and to be mystically and magically transformed.

The word ‘immram’ means rowing out, or rowing about, and vessels of the sea whether they be ships or small coracles, are an important symbolic motif in Celtic mythology. The ship or boat is a feminine image – we still call ships ‘she’ and in times passed there was a tradition of adorning the prows of ships with the images of various goddesses. Therefore, it might be deduced that the ship or boat (whatever its size) acts as a protector for the travellers. Moreover, seafaring vessels also have been found in burial mounds, sometimes votive boats made out of gold as have been found in North Wales and Broighter in County Derry, Ireland.

Broighter Ship discovered in 1896, probably dating from 1BC and in the La Tene style

We also have the story of Gwion Bach who, as a baby, is cast adrift by the goddess Cerridwen in a coracle – this is a return to the womb and he is rebirthed as Taliesin, he of the radiant brow, the great bard. Again, the motif of being cast adrift in the waters and returning transformed.

Of course the main purpose of a Book of the Dead is to prepare the soul for passing over and into the Otherworld but we can also take these stories as archetypal too – we begin in ignorance but at some point in our lives we start a spiritual quest to become enlightened. We feel something is missing from our lives and journey to find the missing element…this can be likened to our own immram. Along the way we meet all kinds of obstacles, physical and non-physicals and have all kinds of adventures but all through this we are being refined; it is our soul journey.

To further explore The Celtic Book of the Dead, and one immram in particular I will be working through the Voyage of Mael Duin in further posts.

References: Wikipedia; Discover Irish (website); Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs (wikisource); The Celtic Book of the Dead by Caitlin Matthews

First Frost, a poem

The first frost of the season,
Winter drawing near.
Glistens and sparkles like faery icing
On the green we hold so dear.

Crisp leaves hold sleeping critters,
curled up in their warm abodes.
Their dens sprinkled with faery dust
Their nuts and berries stowed.

Jack Frost, he paints pictures
on the cold window pane.
But still remembers what’s come before,
Because he paints the leaves again.

His icy fingers trace the leaves,
in frosty patterns flowing.
More beautiful than Monet’s art.
In candle light aglowing.

Tread gently on the frosted grass
Each blade a sparkling spear.
The faeries have dusted green
to white each and every year.

Deep~Glade, November 2011