Payments to your spirits and gods 



Your spirits and gods demand your payment as soon as they have delivered on their side of any deal made.
They do not care if you have other things going on in your life, if you are late in offering their payment they will send not-so-gentle reminders that you owe them.

To give an example, I petitioned Bride for help in finding a new place to live. It was an urgent request as my boyfriend  moved in with me and my tiny flat wasn’t big enough for us and our stuff. I promised Bride that she would get a special space set up for her in the kitchen of our new home. 
We get a house straight away and move in a couple of days after signing the lease. Everyone knows moving home is stressful and keeps you busy. Unboxing years of stuff and books (oh so many books) takes time. So I did not set up her shrine space straight away. I said to myself I’d do that once I’ve settled in properly.

Bride saw things differently. Our gas boiler broke down about a week after moving in. It was November and it was freezing. The whole boiler system needed replaced and we went two weeks without central heating using shitty convector electric heaters which ran up our electricity bill.
I realised it looked like I hadn’t paid my due to Bride even though I had every intention of doing it. Action speaks louder however so I set up her shrine space once it clicked in my head. If I’d done this in the first place I’d have saved money on my electricity and wouldn’t have spent two weeks freezing my arse off during a Scottish winter. 
Pay your dues asap folks. Spirits and gods don’t like to wait..

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The Scottish Pagan Federation Conference 2015

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It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post here. Life has been keeping me pleasantly busy since I started my degree in English Literature, spending time with loved ones and doing full time work. So my apologies folks, I do intend to blog more this year.

As of 14th March Hag o’ The Hills turned 1 year old! I’m please to say I’ve had good feedback from people. This blog was really only intended as a place for me to gather my thoughts, get into the habit of regular writing and document my spiritual path. It pleases me greatly that others enjoy reading my words and get something out of my posts. Thank you all for your ongoing support 🙂

11th April saw me and some fellow witchy chums driving through to Edinburgh for the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference. Although I was still bleary eyed from getting up early (I am definitely a night owl), my spirits were high and we laughed and joked our way there.

I was last here a couple of years ago, but looked forward to it more this time around as one of the talks was about Scottish cunning folk.

Christina Oakley Harrington, an academic, historian and founder of Treadwell’s Bookshop presented the talk, taking us on a journey through the witchcraft trials in Scotland, and some of the spells and remedies said to be used at the time. She told us the stories of Alexander Drummond, Jean Maxwell and Adam Reid.

Some of the cures involved transferring illness from a person onto special water (usually collected from a south running water), or by transferring illness to animals or even people. A person’s shirt was cleansed in a south running water to provided a cure. She also mentioned “silvered” water (a piece of silver being placed in the water vessel) being used in place of south running water. She also gave us a wonderful source to search through trial records in Scotland (see links below).

The talk was very moving at points, you could really get a sense of how those poor folk suffered when they were arrested and found guilty. Christina had previously given members of the audience cards with the names of the cunning folk and each in turn were said out loud while we sat and thought of them.  Say my name that I may live. I felt my heart tug as each name was called, and the tears began to well up. It was a beautiful thing to be part of. We cannot change their fates, but we can remember them and honour them.

The next talk I attended was Hollow Hills and High Places by Julia Jeffrey – the artist of Tarot of the Hidden Realm. She recounted her experiences with the landscape and it’s beings, and how she incorporated the essence of it into her tarot deck and art work.

Next up was Paganism in Fairy Tales by Joanna Coleman, which started with Joanna telling us a fairy tale before discussing some of the themes involved. Then we ended with a workshop by Christina Oakley Harrington – Scottish Cunning Folk’s Magic. I was only able to attend this one for 30 mins as my friends and I had to catch a train.

I was pleased to see the animistic side of Paganism represented by this year’s talks. Paganism seems to be growing up a bit, maturing and moving past the usual goddess worship and digging back down to the roots and acknowledging the spirits around us. Not that I’m criticizing goddess worshippers, I just happen to think there’s more to Paganism than just that. I am definitely looking forward to next year’s conference.

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Picked this up from the stalls

Next thing I have planned is to go to the Beltane Fire Festival again at the end of this month. I can’t wait for that! Good company, plus the delights of the festival and then the wonderful pubs after it, then the full Scottish breakfast the next morning. Gonna need it for the hangover 😛

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River Tay

Hope you all have a wonderful Beltane and Walpurgisnacht!

Beannachd Leibh!

The Hag x

Links:

http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/

http://www.scottishpf.org/

A visit to Dunkeld and The Hermitage

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Image from Tumblr

We are in the depths of Autumn now, where the weather is taking a turn towards winter. I can feel the chill in the air and I’m taking bad with waking up in the dark mornings, and finishing work in the dark too. I’m definitely more of a Spring and Autumn person. Those are my seasons. But winter is not without it’s charms. Is there anything more inviting than fresh snow waiting to be walked upon?

I always want to get outdoors this time of year, before the weather turns really bad. So my witchy friend J and I hopped into his car and took a day trip to Dunkeld and then visited The Hermitage.

Dunkeld is a lovely town, it feels very villagey and very old. Dunkeld is thought to date back to sixth century when a monastery was founded by the banks of the River Tay. Kenneth MacAlpin, the first King of Scotland, moved the bones of St Columba to Dunkeld around mid 9th century, which established Dunkeld as the first ecclesiastical capital of medieval Scotland . Building of the current Dunkeld Cathedral began in the 12th century and additions were added up to the 16th.

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I spotted this beautiful yew tree close to the market cross and had to take a photo. There were tons of yew trees growing around Dunkeld Cathedral, I’ve never seen so many in once place before, though they are frequently grown in churchyards.  The Yew has a lot of folklore behind it, as it is an evergreen tree and known to grow for thousands of years. The oldest yew tree in Scotland is at Fortingall and estimated to be between 1,500 and 3,000 years old. The yew is a tree of death and rebirth, it contains a poison in it’s wood, leaves and seeds, and known for it’s longevity not only by the number of years it can live for, but also because it can continue to grow new shoots from cut surfaces and low on its trunk, even at an old age.

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on the Telford Bridge overlooking the River Tay

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Dunkeld Cathedral

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We stopped by Palmerston’s cafe and had tea and scones. I opted for the Earl Gray blue flower and an apple and cinnamon scone with jam and clotted cream. Ahh it was amazing. Palmerston’s is a lovely cafe and the food is home made. Would definitely stop by there again when I next visit Dunkeld.

It was getting a bit late in the afternoon so we quickly made our way to The Hermitage through the Craigvinean Forest. We’d said prayers to the forest spirits to let them know we meant no harm or disrespect. I’d brought offerings along too, and placed them out throughout the forest as we walked along. I was gifted with a chunk of quartz which appeared on the path I walked. So I said my thanks and took it with me.

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Can you see it’s face?

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Misty Craigvinean Forest

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Boulder with a troll like face

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Totem pole, carved from a Douglas Fir tree by a native Canadian from the Squamish Nation

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The forest was huge and easy to get lost in. But beautiful to see the firey oranges of the ferns and the evergreens. Very autumnal, with the scent of the damp earth and rain soaked trees. Rivulets of a stream ran through the forest to join up with the River Braan. A ferocious hungry river, travelling fast and crashing against rocks. I cast out offerings into it’s hungry jaws.

Many people have walked these forest paths, some famous people include Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner.

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mini stream

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River Braan

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River Braan leading to the Black Linn Waterfall and up to Ossian’s Hall and bridge.

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Ossian’s Cave

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From inside Ossian’s Cave

We found Ossian’s Cave in the middle of The Hermitage.  Named after James MacPherson’s Ossian . The cave and the Hall of Mirrors are Georgian follies created by the Duke of Atholl. The cave is a small man made cave, along with Ossian’s Hall of Mirrors which overlooks the Black Linn falls.

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Image from Google

My phone battery died at this point so I didn’t get great photos of the cave and hall, so here are some from google:

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Inside Ossian’s Hall

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Ossian’s Hall

We stood by the railings of Ossian’s Hall, tuning into the energy of the river and getting soaked by the spray of the waterfalls. I asked for energy from the river, to help me on my spiritual path, to give me the energy to fight through apathy. Witchcraft involves hard work if one is to move forward. So many of us reach a plateau and do not have the energy or the will to move past it. For me I’ve been in a somewhat dark night of the soul. I think it’s because so much has changed for me. The wool has been pulled from my eyes, I’ve banished illusion and I’ve stepped away from another’s dogma. I’m seeking my own truth, as we all must.

I love our witchy car conversations. On the way back home we were discussing the new projects we were looking into; gods vs spirit work, occultism, and where we see our practices in 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t like man made limitations being imposed on my practice. My practice is fluid and has changed dramatically. I started off being a solitary wiccan at age 14, then joined a Gardnerian coven at age 25 and was initiated at 26, I left the coven for various reasons earlier this year and now I’m back to being solitary.My craft is very fluid and eclectic. But I can’t honestly answer where I would like to be in five years time, spiritually. My practice is very much a day to day existence at the moment and I can’t currently see where it is I’m heading. The one thing I hope for, is that wherever I end up I hope I get there through my own will and following my own truth and not the will or truth of another.

I call myself a witch not Wiccan as that’s no longer what I practice. I use a more natural, instinctive approach to my craft, utilizing whatever I have to hand. I include a lot of Scottish folk practices as that’s my culture, but I don’t call myself a Gaelic polytheist or a Celtic re-constructionist. I incorporate some hoodoo practice but not enough to call myself a rootworker. I’m looking into traditional witchcraft, folklore, animism and modern occultism. As for gods… well I used to be a god worker in the sense of working with a god and goddess in a Wiccan format.  But now I would say I’m more of a spirit worker. I work with my ancestors and the spirits of the land. I tend to view gods as spirits too, although more powerful spirits than say the spirit of a plant or tree. I’m still trying to figure out the rest of what I believe. I’ve rejected some of what I’ve been taught by books and the coven, because I don’t want to adopt another person’s worldview. I’m currently trying to figure out exactly what it is I believe in. At the moment I need to stop thinking, and get doing.

But the journey is part of the fun 😉

Tìoraidh an-dràsta (Goodbye, for now)

Into the Trees!

“Come closer and see
See into the trees
Find the girl
While you can

Come closer and see
See into the dark
Just follow your eyes
Just follow your eyes”

– The Cure, A Forest.

I took a trip into the trees late last night with some friends and my big brother. These trees in particular were based at Faskally Wood for The Enchanted Forest event just outside Pitlochry. We ventured out during the passing of hurricane Gonzalo with strong winds in Dundee (no fecking hurricane was going to stop me going, I can assure you.), but as we reached Pitlochry there was barely a stir in the air. I had been focusing a lot of my own will power and visualizing clear dry weather, and I reckon all of the other ticket holders had done the very same, and thankfully we got our wish 🙂

When we walked into the woods all beautifully lit up and colourful, I was instantly transported back to my youth and  recalled all those girlish dreams of magic. I felt and sounded, and most likely looked like a kid at Christmas, grinning ear to ear. The magic of the forest worked on everyone around me as all I saw before me was happiness, a lightening of the heart and a spring in the step of some of the older visitors. We had crossed an invisible threshold into the realm of youth again. Truly magical!

I only managed to capture a few photos before my phone battery died, but it’s a good thing as it ensured I enjoyed my journey through the woods by being present in the moment,  using my own eyes and not simply glancing through a camera lens. Here are some of the ones I managed to capture:

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These photos are courtesy of The Sea Witch and my big brother:

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One of the acrobats

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One of the water “Kelpies”.

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Now my first thoughts of these woods were: poor nature spirits having to put up with us humans and our mad schemes. If I were one of the genius loci I would run away and hide till the smelly humans had gone.

Second thoughts were: hmmm the genius loci are here though, I can feel it.

Third thoughts: holy fuck! They’re fucking loving this, they’re feeding from the energy!

So overall not bad, they get a tasty treat and we get to pretend we’re part of a faery court twirling around a enchanted realm for an evening. Or at least that’s what I did anyway 😉

One of the guides, calling himself a “druid” mentioned to be careful crossing the bridge as the kelpies were well known to spray water at you for fun. I had to laugh when thinking of the folklore of the kelpie, for it will do much more than spray water at you.

We got home later than my bedtime for I had work the next day, and I crashed into bed and awoke a zombie, red eyes and crazy hair. But it was well and truly worth it.

I would definitely like to go back to the event next year and would love to visit Faskally Wood in the daytime too.

My one month of magic is… well not going to plan. I tend to have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, and silly me thought I could work in depth with sigils in a week… err no. It’s a fascinating system that’s occupying my focus just now, as I try out different methods of design and activation. I love that it can be done pretty much anywhere, friends and I have activated a few in a cafe and a pub. So that’s my focus for just now till I feel ready to move onto learning something new.

Mercury retrograde… well I’m not usually one that likes to blame poor old Merc for whatever catastrophe befalls me… but this month has been hellish for breakdowns in communication and travel disruptions, for delays and forgetfulness. I believe there is a reason for everything, and people tend to see a Mercury retrograde as a negative thing. But I can see how it’s useful. Mercury retrogrades teach me patience. They remind me to slow down. They remind me to stop and take a breath. They remind me to never assume. They remind me to focus on one thing at a time. They remind me to think first before speaking. They remind me to be flexible as plans can change at the drop of a hat.

Lastly, they are a reminder that everything changes all of the time, including ourselves and that’s no bad thing 🙂

Mar sin leat an-dràsta! x

Midsummer & Wildcrafting

It’s been a busy June month for me, I don’t know about you guys but I feel this summer season is just whizzing past and it won’t be long until it’s the knitwear and soup season of Autumn (which I’m looking forward to).

I’ve recently had one of my essays published in an anthology by Moon Books, called Witchcraft Today – 60 years on. The anthology is out to commemorate the 60 year anniversary of Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today. It was printed at a perfect time, as recently a blue plaque was placed at Gardner’s old home in Highcliffe to commemorate him as the father of modern witchcraft.  My wee essay is about how I took a step onto the path of witchcraft and where it has led me, so far. My journey from solitary to coven practice, which was the case at the time of writing though now I’m back to being solitary. I haven’t gotten through the whole book yet, as I’ve got a huge pile of things I still need to read, but there are some fascinating essays which have caught my eye 🙂

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A friend and I spent the full moon on Friday 13th June taking a pilgrimage up to a local hilltop cemetery, where we were sheltered by three tree spirits as we worked our rite. The heavens with impeccable timing opened up and thunder rumbled in the background –  the perfect background music to witchcraft, no? 😉 Well we got completely soaked, but it didn’t bother us. It worked well with the purpose of our rite and it reminded me of how much I loved being out in the rain as a kid.

 

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Then at midsummer I worked a solitary ritual then had a long walk outside to go foraging. There was tons of elderflower so I felt inspired to make some cordial this year. I’m a responsible forager, I make sure I never harvest more than around 10% so I leave plenty of the plant left for growth and to provide food for wildlife. I also make sure I ask permission and leave some sort of offering to the spirit of the plant. This time however I’d forgotten to bring the usual offerings, so I used what I had to give. A little bit of saliva on the bark, “some of me, for some of thee”.

 

Going foraging seems to be a great conversation starter with passers by wondering what you’re doing, and it delights me to see that they find it fascinating and never knew it could be so simple. I hope I have inspired them in some way.

 

I adapted the recipe from the River Cottage website: http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/elderflower-cordial/ I used less sugar and only one lemon and one orange.  The next day I strained the brew then heated it in a pan and added the sugar and orange and lemon juices and then (carefully) poured into sterilised bottles. I couldn’t wait for it to cool so of course I had to sample some mixed with soda water, and it was truly beautiful, a perfect summery drink. I took some into work for my colleagues to try and it seemed to be a big hit with them too 🙂 I will be making more next summer.

 

 

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I hope you all had a wonderful midsummer 🙂

 

Slàinte mhath!

 

 

 

Adventures in the Undergrowth

 

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I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2.1.255-60)

Herbalism can seem like a daunting project to take on board, what with their being over 10,000 species in the world. However, you don’t need to know what thousands of herbs do. You don’t even need to know what a hundred herbs do. You’re most likely only going to use a small number of herbs regularly in your life anyway.

I don’t have a garden but I’ve found the best way to learn about herbs is to go outside and LOOK. See what’s growing on the land YOU live on. Don’t know what kind of plant it is? No problem.Take a photograph of it and research it online or with a reference book. Or even better, talk to the plant and ask it what it does. I would recommend not touching the plant, as some can irritate the skin and some are poisonous.

I get excited when I spot a herb I don’t know, and it’s not uncommon for me to dash up a muddy hillside to get a closer look at it. One minute you could be talking to me, the next I’m running up that hill before you’ve even noticed I’ve disappeared!

There’s nothing wrong in learning from herbal books alone, but it’s no comparison for doing your own field work. Also some books tend to focus on plants that aren’t native to your home soil. Walk throughout the land nearby you, through all seasons and you’ll soon be able to spot what certain herbs look like in their different stages of growth, and when the best time of year is to harvest them.

So get outside folks, get back in touch with the spirits of the land, remember your manners too –  herbs are living organisms after all – ask permission before taking any cuttings and never harvest more than 10% of a plant. It’s always nice to leave an offering too.

Over time you will have compiled a sizeable knowledge base of herbalism all by yourself 🙂

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

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“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”

– Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 1818

 

The sleepy Earth is awakening, and with it grows my need to get out into the green land. Dundee may be the fourth largest city in Scotland but luckily there are no shortage of green spaces here, there are plenty of woodlands and parks to access.

My witchy friend J and I wandered through Templeton Woods to draw in that green energy. Upon our arrival there we were greeted by a red squirrel at one of the feeders, but he disappeared before I could get a photo of him. We had both visited these woods a year before and what a difference! It was snowing last Spring Equinox:

 

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Templeton Woods, Spring Equinox 2013

It felt good to be outdoors, our feet treading the well worn paths through the woods, breathing in the crisp air and taking in the glorious sight of acres of giant trees sighing in the wind. And how does one describe the perfume of a woodland, except to say it smells like green and gold?

What do witches talk about in the woods? Well, witchcraft 😉 We discussed different ways to hedgecross and the shamanic version of journeying by using an opening in the earth, when we came across an uprooted birch tree – a perfect example of an opening in the earth for shamanic journeying/travelling.

 

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We talked about hoodoo and flying ointments (I hope to buy one of Sarah’s mandrake ointments in the near future – http://blackartsfoundry.com/ ) and workings each of us were considering doing in the near future. Sometimes a walk in the woods and a good witchy chat is all one needs to feel revitalised again.

As we walked deeper into the woods, the energy began to feel more untamed and less human. I remembered my manners and said a silent prayer to the spirit of the land to tell it we meant no harm.

The woodland floor was covered in a blanket of dead leaves and the skeletal bones of old trees. I was hoping to find the perfect branch for making a stang, but sadly I didn’t bring any cutting tools. I did find a mini stang which had a curious little face on it, but the branch had been weathered down and picked hollow by insects and I want a branch with a bit of life left in it.

On our way back to the car a deer jumped in front of our path and darted off in the dark heart of the woods. I only glimpsed it briefly, J got a better view and was enthralled.

The sun was setting and we continued our chat on the drive to get food at the witchiest of places… McDonalds lol. Then a stop at mine for tea and cream cakes and nostalgic chat about the most successful and absurd spells we cast in our youth. Some of them totally cringe worthy and ridiculous, I was definitely more than a bit fluffy back in the day. But hey we all start somewhere, no judgey 😉

I will be back in the woods as much as I can be, working with the genius loci and looking for my stang and just breathing in as much green and gold as possible.

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Templeton Woods, March 2014.

 

Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh!

(Great health and every good blessing to you!)