G is for Green Witchcraft

5446_576954122314584_224581038_nThis week’s post for The Pagan Blog Project is about Green Witchcraft, or what I see it as. Green Witchcraft is actually many things to many people but there are some things in common – a deep love of nature and in particular plants and trees, a deep interest in the old ways (i.e. the myths and legends pre-christianity), and a yearning to live ones life in synchrony with the seasons and the cycles of the moon. Of course many would also add the environmentalist and eco-witch aspect in there too.

Much has been written about Green Witchcraft, there are many really lovely authors out there who have written some very informative books on this aspect of witchcraft. One in particular is Ann Moura whose many books on the subject are well worth reading.  Some people see green witchcraft as synonymous with hedge witchery or being a kitchen witch and I guess this is true, at least for the hedge witch. For me green witchcraft is everything I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph but I don’t think there are really any hard and fast definitions with this, like life itself, the Craft evolves and definitions have to be fluid rather than rigid.

My life as a Green Witch largely revolves around what used to be called wort cunning; the knowledge and use of plants for healing and magical purposes – I guess I’m a 21st Century cunning woman! Although I live on the edge of a small town in Kent, England, I immerse myself as much as possible in nature. Even nature can be found in back gardens and suburban places. However, I’m lucky in that I don’t live too far from the country and indeed my back garden backs on to a small woodland area and beyond that fields. Environmentalism and concern for the ecosystems of the world do concern me but I wouldn’t call myself an activist by any means. I just go about my business fairly quietly with not too much obviousness. I leave the activism for others and I’m sure they do a very good job of it too but that’s not to say I don’t care. I just do my part in other quieter ways.

For me, Green Witchcraft touches my soul and it feels like finally coming home to the place I’m meant to be. It’s different for everyone though – we each find this ‘coming come’ in different aspects of the Craft, or for many too even in different religions, although the Craft isn’t a religion. I don’t think it really matters what religion one is, or what aspect of the Craft one follows as long as it truly speaks to your soul and you are balanced. As long as balance and harmony is there then it is the true path for you; fundamentalism in any form is just not good for the spirit and is a sign of ego thinking, which doesn’t come from spirit but from the human mind.

The ironic thing is, I never expected to be a Green Witch, not at all, it just crept up on me slowly over the years although I’ve always had a love of nature and green things and have never been happier in green fields and woodlands. But I truly believe that if you just open your mind and heart, and are patient, your true path will appear. It might take many years, as it did for me, or might come in a few months. It doesn’t matter – when you’re on it you will know, not in your head but in your heart. That’s not to say you won’t have doubts because I certainly did. However, my true path kept pulling me back like a song you just cannot get out of your mind. Although I’m sure there are some who never have such doubts about their path.

I love this path – the greening of the land; the changing of the seasons; the waxing and waning of the moon and the effect this has on things; the plants and trees and the secrets they hold for the betterment of all. It’s not always an easy path but it’s the one my spirit has chosen for me at this time.

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C is for Cunning Folk

cunning folk1Who are Cunning Folk, and do they exist today? Cunning folk (both women and men) have been around for centuries, and the term ‘cunning’ was entitled to these people as far back as the 1400’s (AD). When we think of the cunning woman (or man) we usually think of a poor peasant woman healing the sick with herbs, acting as midwife, or tending to sick animals and so forth. Indeed, cunning folk were all these but a lot more. The term ‘cunning’ did not have the same connotation as it does today, back then it meant someone who is skilful and knowledgeable. But they were also known as many other things depending on where their area of expertise lay. Not only that, they were not only peasants but also people of high status too. Titles that they were known by were wise man/woman, cunning man/woman, witch, wizard (for men), conjurer, charmer, magician, wight, necromancer, seer, blesser, cantel, soothsayer, fortune-teller, girdle-measurer, enchanter, incantrix (for women) and many more depending on the village or town where they lived, as these titles tended to be geographical in nature. Practically every village or town had a cunning man or woman often families of them, where their arts were passed down orally from mother to daughter, or father to son. They were honoured for their wisdom and knowledge; when they spoke, people listened. Such men and women carried on the beliefs and traditions handed down to them through the centuries – those of their traditions and that of the land and of nature. The practices of these women and men had much in common with shamans and witch doctors around the world- a belief that we are surrounded by spirits and that we can commune with them, that the land is alive and must be honoured and cared for, that our actions affect the world around us and we must seek to live in harmony with it, that we are part of the ebb and flow of the seasons and must perform certain actions at the correct time.

Famous cunning folk of old are numerous. Some examples are that of George Pickingill (1816-1909) was a well-known cunning man who practiced his art in the Essex village of Canewdon. Julia of Brandon, who had lived in a village north of Thetford in Norfolk.  In Essex, from 1812 to 1860, nearby Hadleigh was the home of James Murrell, called Cunning Murrell, the seventh son of a seventh son. Robert Berewold from St Mildred Poultry, who was accused of theft in 1382. John Harries (1785–1839) from Cwrt y Cadno in Wales and Mother Merne from Milborne Down in Dorset.  These are just a handful, yet research has shown that men actually made up two-thirds of all cunning folk. For every famous cunning man or woman there were probably many more who went about their business out of the public eye.

cunning folk2

Now we come onto that word ‘business’ because contrary to popular Wiccan belief these old cunning folk did in fact charge for their services, either financially or by bartering. It is a popular notion today that one should not charge for magical or healing services yet this is not traditional. Remember, many cunning folk were poor and had to eat and find shelter, so charging something for services rendered was perfectly acceptable and expected. It is the same for us today – those who perform magical or healing services should be expected to charge for their services and it is not against any pagan law to do so.

Cunning Folk practiced in all kinds of ways – some were experts in plant lore (or wort cunning), some had a great knowledge in astrology or divination (also weather magic), and others cast all kinds of spells on behalf of their customers. What most of these earlier cunning folk had in common was their reliance on folk magic and amalgamation of earlier times such as druidic  and Anglo-Saxon practices. In England during the Early Medieval period, various forms of folk magic could be found amongst the Anglo-Saxons, who referred to such practitioners as wicca (male) or wicce (female), or at times also as dry, practitioners of drycraeft (there is speculation among historians that this was the anglicised term for the Irish drai, meaning Druid). Even after Christianisation, cunning folk would still hold onto their ways because magic is energy and perfectly natural.

So what about today? Well, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of cunning folk across Britain had dropped markedly from that of a century before, and by the 1940s they had essentially vanished from the country. Despite this, other professional practitioners of popular magic, such as astrologers and fortune tellers, continued to remain popular. Historian Owen Davies suggests that the reason for the decline in the cunning craft was the declining belief in the existence of witchcraft in the country brought about by modernization and increasing education and literacy rates. however, I believe that anyone who still utilises folk magic and the healing arts,  and is attune to the natural cycles of the seasons can call themselves a cunning man or woman.

References

Owen Davies – Cunning Folk: Popular Magic in English History

Anna Franklin – Wise Women

Ronald Hutton – The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft

Emma Wilby – Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic

 

A new witchy blog award

What a lovely comment I had waiting for me this morning. I have been awarded another award…this time a Witchy/Wiccan/Pagan themed one and that’s really nice since it’s the first of this kind I’ve ever been awarded. It’s really lovely to be appreciated in this way. I would like to thank Poppy for awarding this to me. Do please check out her lovely blog!

What Ayslyn says about the award: “Today is a very special day. Not only is it Samhain, the most important Sabbat on the Wiccan Wheel of the year, but it is also the unveiling of a project Cassandra and I have been working on for a couple of months. Over the past weeks, we have both been graced with several blogging awards, but we couldn’t help but notice that none of the awards floating around were Wiccan in nature. And so, the idea was born to create an award specifically for Wiccans/Pagans/witches.

Thus the purpose of this award is to bring positive recognition to those bloggers who share their experiences on the less-traveled path, whether in the form of a journal or by standing up for themselves and others. Our award logo was a collaborate endeavor made with love that we are both very proud of. So without any further ado, onward to the details of the newest award to find its way to the blogosphere!

The Rules:

Post the award logo within your blog post.

Thank the blogger who passed the award to you.

Answer the seven questions below.

Nominate five Wiccan/Pagan bloggers (If you don’t know five other Wiccan bloggers, nominate as many as you can).

Notify your nominees of their pending award.

Give a short description of the blog/blogger and why you nominated them.

Stop by Ayslyn’s Corner and Book of Shadows to add your name to the list of bloggers awarded.

You may customize the questions as long as they are still Wiccan- and Pagan-related.

Seven Questions:

How did you “discover” Wicca/witchcraft/Paganism? I think I’ve been a pagan all my life although probably didn’t realise it when I was young. I guess I ‘found’ my pagan path in 1994 when I had an ‘experience’ with Cernunnos in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire. However, officially I began my Wiccan/Witchcraft path in 2006 when I joined Sacred Mists.
Do you grow herbs? I eat, sleep and breathe herbs! LOL I love all things botanical, not just for growing but communing with too. Check out my Botanical website here – All That is Alive!
Are you “in the broom closet”? If not, share your coming out experience. I’ve never been in the broom closet. I am blessed and fortunate to have very understanding and open-minded friends and family, and live in a country where paganism of all kinds is well tolerated.
What tradition do you follow? I follow a Celtic Wiccan tradition, which is the tradition of my Coven. However it is also eclectic so I’m open to learning from many different sources and traditions.
Do you consider yourself a witch, Wiccan or Pagan (or maybe something else?) Yes, I’m a witch! I refer to myself as a shamanic witch but I am an initiated priestess of Sacred Mists, which is a Celtic Wiccan tradition. I use shamanism heavily in my practise, and also aspects of druidry too. However, there’s also some Buddhism and Taoism in the mix too.
How much of witchcraft/Wicca/Paganism are you able to incorporate into your everyday life? I don’t incorporate my spiritual path into my life – it IS my life! There’s no boundary between the spiritual and the mundane – it is all one beautiful whole! There is spiritual in all things, even the washing up.  My favourite expression is…All is Alive!
Do you have a familiar? If you do, tell us how you meet him/her and how s/he takes part in your practice (if at all). No, I don’t have a familiar but I have plenty of Spirit Guides and Allies who frequently participate in my spiritual practices. I have two beautiful, wonderful, and very funny cats but I wouldn’t call them familiars – they are my furchildren and bring great joy to me.

For this award I’m nominating the following:

Forest Fay

Ashtoreth

Brighde

Phoebe

Darrell

R is for…Recovery, of the Pagan kind

I decided to write this post about my experiences of recovery and how my life path of paganism (especially shamanism) has helped me. Just a bit of back ground first though, you see I suffer from mental health problems and have done so probably all my life although I wasn’t diagnosed until a few years ago. I had an extremely traumatic childhood involving emotional, physical and sexual abuse right up until I actually began my spiritual path, although by the time I’d got into adulthood I was abusing myself rather than others doing it. Suffice to say I was a complete and utter wreck!

It is true to say that in the past I’ve spent quite a bit of time under the care of psychiatrists, even spending time hospitalised, and even now I am still in therapy and take certain medications, which actually really help me to be able to live a life that isn’t psychotic. However, I truly believe that what has helped me even more is finding a spiritual path that felt right to my soul, that ‘fitted’ me like a glove. One that nurtured my creative and unique spirit and helped me to be authentic. That path is paganism, specifically Shamanic Witchcraft.

I was brought up as a Christian, my mother being a lapsed Catholic but still holding the tenet of Christianity although my father was an agnostic. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I embraced Christianity for myself, joining an organisation which held the Bible (in its entirety) as the sole guide for humans, in fact more than just a guide – it was the rule book! Now, I’m NOT bashing Christianity here because for some this path works, and we each have our own individual path, but for me it didn’t. So, after having turned my back on Christianity I was searching for ‘something’ that would work. I always needed to believe in something bigger than myself, something that would feed my soul. Then, one day, in the middle of the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, I came across what I can only describe as the spirit of Cernunnos (although I didn’t know the name at the time) and my life changed. It was a life defining moment and an experience that still makes my eyes well up with gratitude and the hairs prickle on the back of my neck. I had finally found what I was looking for, a spiritual path that could give me what I needed and wanted.

Of course my path has majorly evolved since then, from beginning as a real newbie interested in Wicca through to what it is now and along the way I went off along different paths such as Druidism but always came back to witchcraft. Then I was mentored by a shaman and encountered the spirits of plants and animals for the first time and that had a major impact on my recovery. So my path is what I have made it while being guided by the spirits and my patron deities – you could call it a bit of this a bit of that, an eclectic or whatever but it is meaningful to me. And that’s what counts!

So how has my path helped in my recovery? Well I think the main thing is that it’s taught me that I am responsible for my life, no one is going to ‘fix’ things for me and actually there are no ‘fixes’. Life is what it is in any given moment. Everything is energy, pure energy, and life is fluid, not static. I have choices and depending on the choices I make my life can be positive or negative but even if the choice is negative I can still learn something from it. I don’t have to be perfect because there is no perfection – perfection is just a human construct. Even nature isn’t perfect – it just is what it is! The reason why all things in nature work is because there’s harmony. We often call nature cruel but in fact this is another human construct. There is no goodness or cruelty in nature, she is what she is but there is always harmony and balance (as long as humankind doesn’t stick its big clumsy feet in and unbalance things). It often makes me smile when people see an Orca (so-called Killer Whales) throwing around a seal they’ve just caught. I’ve heard people say ‘oh how cruel’ but it’s normal, it’s nature, it’s what Orcas do on occasion. Actually they do this to skin the seal so it’s more easily eaten. To us it’s cruel but in actuality it’s just nature doing her thing. Anyway, I digress.

So, there is no ‘rule book’ to tell me what to do or how to behave – I’m on my own baby! But as a Wiccan priestess (yes I’m also one of those), I do have the Wiccan Rede, which at the end says ‘An it harm none – do as thou wilt’, and as I’ve talked about before in an earlier post this puts the emphasis on me to take responsibility for my thoughts, speech and actions. I can’t blame anyone else, there is no one to blame. If I fuck up it’s because of me and not my best friend, the woman down the road, the person who crashed into me with their shopping trolley, what happened in the past, those who hurt me…and on infinitum! I guess you could say the buck stops with me! That’s a sobering thought isn’t it.

Another aspect of paganism that has truly helped in my recovery is how my sense of time has changed from linear to cyclical. The Wheel of the Year, seasonal change, birth, death and rebirth. There is no end, no finish, just continual cycles and for me that’s really comforting. If nature goes through cycles then so do we. I know that if a difficult time hits me, if depression sets in or whatever, it will pass…change is inevitable. So when I have a particularly emotionally difficult day (as I did yesterday) I know that it will pass eventually and meanwhile I can still learn much about myself and how to change myself from the bad times as much as the good times. In fact, I no longer think of the difficulties as something to shy away from (even though sometimes I do just want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all). The difficulties I still experience are learning curves and we as humans never stop learning, not ever!

A great aspect of how paganism has helped in my recovery is…lack of sin! Yes, getting away from the idea that we are sinful creatures in need of a saviour has really helped me in living a better, more wholesome and authentic life. It takes away the guilt and shame of living somehow (although I still feel guilt over other things), what I mean is it takes away the guilt of being human. We, as humans, are imperfect…we are meant to be because it is how our souls experience and learn too. If everything were perfect there’d be no need to learn anything at all, no challenges, no satisfaction…and dare I say it…little joy! I guess that last one might be just me because I do feel joy when I overcome some hurdle. In paganism I am my own saviour and that’s not really narcissistic because it means I have sole responsibility for myself. Through freedom from sin I have found I also do not fear death. Ok, I perhaps fear a little the way I might pass on but death itself is just a portal, a doorway….transformation, and if we take life seriously (meaning responsibly) we are transforming all the time anyway. Death of the physical body is not an end, it’s really merely the beginning if you like. Paganism has helped me release my attachment needs, although I still have them but when I stay in the present moment they dissipate and the attachment dissolves.

Most importantly maybe paganism has put me in touch with deities and spirit guides (animal but for the most part plants) who through their support and great wisdom have helped me realise that there are always opportunities, no failure and through honouring them I gain a sense of coming home. It is often at odds with what I am taught by secular aspects of my life and I do find it hard to live in different realities at once because I still feel I ‘should’ do this and that because other people say so but when I go to my guides and patron deities they show me the middle way…and yes, I have become a ‘walker between the worlds’, which isn’t always easy but it feels right to me.

So, am I recovered? In many ways yes but in some ways no. My journey of healing continues and exploration continues but this is life…and it is what it is! There are no quick fixes, there is no magic wand that will make everything all right and ok. I believe that suffering serves an important purpose and that a person has to suffer in order to be able to relinquish it in the end. I believe in evolution of the spirit as well as the body, and that evolution continues in a cyclic fashion bringing with it more lessons to learn, more exploration and with it more satisfaction. That is how paganism has helped me recover!

An it harm none…do as thou wilt!

There have been so many arguments over this little phrase…‘An it harm none – do as thou wilt!’ In fact it is still a topic of discussion in many Wiccan and even pagan circles. Here I’m going to attempt to bring clarity as to what it means from my own viewpoint of course (so you can take it or leave it as you will LOL).

Like the phrase ‘perfect love and perfect trust’, these words ‘An it harm none…do as thou wilt’ appear at the very end of The Wiccan Rede, which is counsel as to how a witch is supposed to behave. So obviously it is something focusing on Wicca rather than any other tradition or path in paganism. Actually, not even all Wiccan espouse the Wiccan Rede, some Traditional Wiccans hold more to the Charge of the Goddess. Nevertheless, these eight little words have caused much debate amongst the pagan community.

Some liken these words to the Golden Rule, treat others as one would like others to treat oneself, which dates from the 1670’s but is a concept that is far older with similar statements appearing in texts from ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece as well as India. So the concept is not a new one! Some have even likened it to an amalgamation of the Ten commandments all rolled into eight words. However, I think the real meaning of these eight words is far deeper and requires some thinking about. That’s what I like about paganism as a whole – the fact that nothing is actually laid out and explicit but requires some thought and personal responsibility.

First we need to decide what the words mean – An it harm none, do as thou wilt – many people have said that the first word ‘An’ means And but it doesn’t…it is actually an archaic word meaning ‘if’. So if we try to translate into modern English the words are…If it harm none, do as you will (or some people translate this as ‘want’).

If it harm none! What does it mean by ‘harm’? Is this alluding to physical violence or what? In what ways is it possible to harm another? Well obviously the answer to that is in all kinds of ways, not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. so it’s rather a veritable mine field isn’t it. How can we ‘do what we want’ without harming others in any kind of way? The thing is that whatever we say, do or think has a ripple effect…many people are, in some way, effected for good or bad. we have no idea who we touch with our words or actions. This is a simple example…you’re walking down the road and there is someone coming in the opposite direction…you smile at them, you might even say ‘good morning’ to them. Now you have no idea how they are feeling but your smile and friendly words just might have an impact on them…so they go and say hi to someone else, or they might smile at another person and so on. It’s like a ripple effect. Of course that’s a really simplistic example but you get my point yes? However, the same thing goes for something negative too. Our words and actions, and yes even our thoughts are energy and energy travels and never stays still. Obviously, anyone with any compassion for fellow human beings doesn’t want to harm anyone do they? So the onus is on each one of us to take responsibility for our thoughts, speech and actions. Obviously we cannot know who, down the line, might be affected and in what ways but in the immediate circle of our reality we can think about how our words or actions might impact on someone.

Of course there’s another perspective to this ‘harm none’ phrase. What about ourselves? Should the harm none admonition include not harming ourselves? Well, I believe it does…the words say ‘harm none’ so by definition that obviously includes ourselves doesn’t it. Sometimes this is easier said than done because we actually harm ourselves in all kinds of ways don’t we, from the obvious things like smoking, to the not so obvious like our diets or even our life styles. And what about the inner critic that beats us harshly with a metaphorical stick if we make a mistake? Isn’t that harming ourselves too?

So in my opinion, these words are something we strive to do, not perfectly, but at least strive to do at the very least. These words put the onus on us to take responsibility for ourselves, our thoughts, deeds and words, not only directed at others but at ourselves too. But bear in mind we are going to slip up from time to time, as is human nature to do.

The final words of the phrase…’do as thou wilt’ (or in modern parlance ‘do as you will’) really allows us freedom to do whatever feels right to us but ONLY if we keep to the first part. It’s not a licence to just go out and do what the heck we want regardless of the impact on others or ourselves. The whole phrase is meant to make us think and weigh up consequences before we act. It’s meant to encourage us to be AWARE!

M is for Magical Names

Many pagans, and most witches have a magical name. What is a magical name and what is it’s purpose? The origin of magical names seems to be cultural and rooted in the ancient past. Parents would give their children a secret name shortly after birth in order to protect their children from harm. This name would be whispered in the child’s ear and would be kept secret, even from other members of the family.

Ancient Britons, Romans, Egyptians and many other pagan cultures believed that a person’s name was inextricably tied to a person’s soul; through the name a person would be remembered. This can be seen in an obvious way through Egyptian hieroglyphs, where Pharaohs would inscribe their names in many places. If a carved name was destroyed, the person was obliterated and their soul could not enter the After Life.

So too witches and magicians of old had secret names that were only known to those in the ‘inner circle’. It was a common belief that if anyone from outside the inner circle knew the magical name of a witch or magician, they would lose their powers, or even come under the thrall of the person who knew the name. Moreover, magical names seemed to be a form of protection. In the days when practising witchcraft was illegal and punishable by death, those who practised the ancient arts would use a public name in order to protect their real ‘magical’ name.

So, what is the purpose of having a magical name today, and do you really need one? Well, many witches and pagans choose to have a magical name in order to separate their magical lives from their mundane one. For some, having a magical name helps them focus on the magic at hand be it spell work, ritual or some other kind of magical/spiritual endeavour.  Another reason is that of protection, for similar reasons as witches from the past. Not all countries have legalised witchcraft and even in those countries which have many witches (and pagans) still come up against a lot of discrimination.

There is a lot of debate among witches and pagans as to whether a magical name is actually necessary. Whilst some feel that having a special name is an important aspect of the Craft or their belief system, for others it seems unnecessary because they have no distinction between their ‘mundane’ and their ‘spiritual’ lives. Having, or not having, a magical name is a very personal decision. While it is quite usual for those belonging to a Coven to have one, many Solitaries choose not too – either way it is a personal choice.

I have a magical name (Deep~Glade BrackenFae) that I’ve had for a number of years now and it is so much part of my life that I sometimes forget what my ‘given’ name is. I tend to refer to myself as Deep~Glade even with friends who are not of the Craft. I think this has happened because I have no separate ‘mundane’ / ‘spiritual’ life. I only have one life and ALL is spiritual. That does not mean I spend all day in meditation, or casting spells or performing rituals. Far from it actually but I do see the spiritual in everything – I am a spirit having a human experience and NOT a human having a spiritual experience. So having my magical name is very important to me.

How does one find a magical name? Well, again this is a very personal experience and it is different for each individual. Some people only ever have one name and others change their magical names as they grow in spiritual maturity. There is no right or wrong method of choosing one’s magical name, should you decide you want one. The only thing to keep in mind is that your magical name should reflect your personal values and ideals. Here are some ways of finding you magical name (and this list is not exhaustive by all means):

* Choose a name from your favourite myth or legend

* Choose an animal name (a spirit guide or totem animal perhaps, only don’t forget to ask permission first)

* Choose a name from a plant or tree, or crystal (again ask permission from the plant, tree or gem first)

* Do a name quest journey or meditation and see what comes up

* Use divination tools to help you find your name. You could use runes or ogham fews, the tarot or an oracle deck.

*Use numerology to help determine the letters of your magical name

* Scry for your name using a crystal ball, a scrying mirror or a candle.

These are just some ideas, there are many methods of choosing or being given, your magical name. Use your imagination and creativity and be open to the Universe and its workings. You will ‘know’ in your heart when the name is right – it will feel right and sit right with you; you will have no doubts. Although sometimes, as I’ve mentioned before, some witches take on a different name later on, or even change their magical name many times throughout their life. This is perfectly ok just as long as whatever name you take at the time feels right to you in your innermost heart. It’s often the case that some people just outgrow their names as they mature spiritually and become more experienced in the Craft.

However, some do keep their names all their lives and that’s perfectly ok too. I’ve never changed my name and it has remained the same since the first moment I was called to the Craft many years ago. It fits perfectly now, just as it did then and I am very happy with it – it is me!

Two interesting books that you can read about the topic are The Sacred Power in Your Name by Ted Andrews and The Complete Book of Magickal Names by Phoenix McFarland.

G is for Growth

In this blog post I’m going to write about spiritual growth, at least with my own as a template. You see I think it’s quite hard to write about spiritual growth generically because each one of us is different and on our own unique and special path, and no two are exactly the same. So it stands to reason that our spiritual growth will be different too. However, I do believe that there are signposts along the way that are common to all. How and when we get to them, however, is up to us and our guiding souls.

Quite often we are brought up with the religion of our parents, or maybe not. I know that although my mother was Catholic I was not brought up as one and never even got baptised (something I think my mother always regretted). Nevertheless, I was brought up with Christian principles and attended church with my mother from around the age of 8 to 12. So, although I had a Christian background it never really meant a whole lot to me. Doctrine was not thrust down my throat (maybe this was because my mother was a lapsed Catholic at the time).

For many years I had no spiritual path and kind of wandered in the ether doing sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Although I always had a great love of nature, something my mother nurtured in me. Despite my lack of spiritual direction I always new in my heart that there was ‘something’ other than just myself. Of course at the time I knew this ‘other’ as God (as in monotheistic religion). When I was in my twenties and having just had my daughter I was visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time I was a single parent struggling with a new born baby and motherhood and had severe post-natal depression. The Jehovah’s Witnesses seemed to offer me what I’d never really had – a family, which is something I yearned for. So I began a bible study and within three years I’d gotten baptised. I truly felt, at the time, that I’d found my spiritual path and that it was the ONLY spiritual path worth having. Yes folks, I was a bonefide door knocking zealot!

However, a few years passed and I began to feel dissatisfied with my spiritual path. I was fed up with not being allowed to think for myself, for being judged on everything I did and being constantly told that even watching certain TV programmes was sinful. I had begun to have a nervous breakdown over the constant pressure to be a perfect citizen of Jehovah. In the end I had a complete and very nasty nervous breakdown requiring hospitalisation and a lot of antipsychotic drugs – in fact at this time I was rampantly self harming. I do not blame Jehovah’s Witnesses for my illness (little did I know I had long standing and biological mental ill health) but the religion was certainly a catalyst. So there I was in a complete and utter mess and I knew even through my brain fog that I needed something…something I wasn’t going to get from Christianity or any other monotheistic religion for that matter. But what?

Then one day my mother took me and my daughter to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to visit her cousins and I had an epiphany. Actually I met Cernunnos in the woods and it was an amazing experience. I knew from that time on that I needed to sing with the birds, run with the deer and howl at the moon. Of course I had no inkling about witchcraft or even paganism at the time, although I’d heard all about the wickedness of them via Jehovah’s Witnesses. By this time I’d been a long time disfellowshipped from that religion because I’d started smoking again while in hospital.

In amongst other things and life in general I began tentatively researching nature religions. My very first pagan book was Wicca: A guide for the solitary practitioner by Scott Cunningham. I lapped this up and soon purchased Living Wicca too. I had finally found something my heart and my soul resonated with. It all made perfect sense to me and the wonderful thing was I wasn’t going to called sinful if I masturbated (another Jehovah’s Witness oddity). In those early days I practiced tentatively on my own with no real structure or anything but it felt good.

Gradually I wanted something more. I wanted to learn the Craft properly and in an organised framework (my graduate thinking coming out here) but I knew of no one else in my locality who practiced witchcraft. So I cast around online and found a couple of pagan/witchcraft sites in the UK. Unfortunately, no one had told me how condescending and judgemental some witches can be. There I was so full of enthusiasm and I was met with utter distain. To say I felt disappointed was an understatement and I quickly left these groups. But I was determined not to give up so I asked the Goddess to guide me if I was meant to do this. After surfing the internet for a couple of days I stumbled upon Sacred Mists – Wiccan College. And that is, as they say, the end of the story.

However, it’s not at all the end of the story. Yes, dear reader I completed my 1st and 2nd Degrees in an initiatory Wiccan Coven and became part of this wonderful online family (and I’m still there by the way) but my spiritual path was evolving. I had found my path but as I grew with experience and practice I noticed that I was being called down other paths too – paths that branched off from the main path I was on. At first I dabbled in Druidism but it didn’t feel right at all, even though I actually had done some structured learning and practice with two well known Druid organisations. I took on the tradition of my Celtic ancestors and this felt very right. I had already surrounded myself with friendly and wise plant spirits from my garden and I was being encouraged by them to explore Shamanism, so this is what I did.

Bringing the story up to date I describe myself as a Shamanic witch although I also still am actively involved with my coven. Some might call me eclectic, others might be horrified but the point is it works for me – religion no, spirituality yes! And there’s even a little Buddhism in the mix too. But the story hasn’t ended yet, not by far. I realise just how much my beliefs and path has changed and evolved since that meeting in the woods with Cernunnos (one of my patron deities by the way) and even from reading those first couple of books by Scott Cunningham. In fact my path has meandered all over the forest and what an exciting journey of exploration it is. As I pass through the wooded glens I meet all kinds of beings, some are helpful, others are not but it doesn’t matter because it’s the journey that counts and it has been exactly as it was meant to be.

Maybe some of this might resonate with you, maybe it wont but the point I’m trying to make is that spiritual growth is a given…your path will evolve if you allow it to. When growth is hindered or blocked we stagnate. Growth is what our souls need…so don’t ever worry about your path evolving…it’s a good thing!

NOTE: I feel I need to write this little addendum to all those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who might take offence at what I’ve written concerning my time with them. I am not setting out to bash Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I always advocate – each person’s path is unique to them and should be respected for that alone if nothing else. What I have written is MY experience of this particular religion. so please take it this way ok.