Book Review – ‘Wights and Ancestors, Heathenry in a Living Landscape’ by Jenny Blain

 

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Wights and Ancestors – Heathenry in a Living Landscape‘ was first published in 2000 and has now been reprinted in 2016 with additional essays. Jenny Blain gives a fascinating insight into the varied types of beings inhabiting the landscape and ways in which we can respectfully and safely interact with them. She details how to discover one’s fylgja – which is essential for safely navigating the other world. She advises ways to meet the wights and introducing one’s self to a tree spirit, all to be conducted respectfully before entering the being’s space.

I admire that Jenny Blain has discussed shamanism and that by doing the things a shaman does – i.e. entering the other world, meeting spirits etc – does not make one a shaman. Shamanism is not an individual activity and shamans were usually selected by their community. This is an important statement where any kind of spirit work is involved as many take upon the mantle of shamanism without understanding the full cultural context of the word.

Jenny also discusses sacred sites and what makes them sacred and how landscapes are not static – they have their own processes of erosion, silt deposition etc and that because of human interaction, a landscape becomes cultured and interpreted by people in many ways. The land itself is a being, populated by many other sentient beings and plays a part within the settings of many tales.

Jenny also discusses ancestry and her own personal discoveries of her own family research in Scotland. The reader is taken down a fascinating journey into Scotland’s landscape and the ties the author has to the places of her youth. She discusses that landscapes are “more than history and personal memory. They are living, now, and have their own place-ness which impacts on the tourist, traveller, viewer or seeker“.

I am not overly familiar with the beliefs and terms of Heathenry or Seidr, but this book is written in a way that provides good explanation without being overwhelming. The use of personal anecdotes and the stories shared with the author from other practitioners gives a better understanding of the exchange between a person and wight. Although the concepts of land wights and ancestry are written about within a Heathen context, the guidelines given seem universal – the author even advises to look into fairy tales for wisdom before approaching land wights. A lot of it is common sense, the most important thing to remember is to be respectful.

I would greatly recommend this book, whether one identifies as heathen or not. This is a good read for anyone interested in animism, seidr, spirit work or heathenry. Using the advice within this book provides a good foundation when building relationships with the land spirits.

 

Hear the Hag’s voice

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Tumshie lantern

This is a time of great transition for me as Samhain approaches, I will be leaving my home of 12 years to live in an much bigger home with my beloved. So begins the nightmare of packing up!

I laid out my decorations, it’s as much of a spiritual time for me as well as a time to get fun and festive. The skull lanterns and black candles are laid out, the pumpkin banner is stretched across the fireplace and I will be baking pumpkin spice loaf and carving tumshie and pumpkin lanterns. I just might write another blog post about my Samhain revelries.

I did a brief interview with BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors programme, the link is below, and only keeps on iplayer for 30 days. I’m working on getting a more permanent link arranged on my blog. Skip to 1 hour and 11 mins to hear me:

BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors

In the meantime folks be good to one another, hold your loved ones close and keep cosy this season.

Slàinte mhath!

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/