Martin’s Stane

 

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Today I dragged my lovely man out in the cold air, crunching across a frosty field to see our local Pictish stone. Known as the Balluderon stone, St Martin’s stone or Martin’s Stane this is said to be the site where a local hero avenged the death of his lover by slaying the dragon who killed her. There were nine maidens and their father who lived at Pitempton farm. He sent a daughter out to fetch water from.a well and when she didn’t return he sent another and another until all nine maidens had been sent. Martin, a young blacksmith and lover of one of the daughters found that a dragon from the well had eaten all of the maidens and he chased the dragon around Dundee.

The saying goes:

‘Tempted at Pitempton,
Draigled at Baldragon
Stricken at Strathmartine
And killed at Martin’s stane.’

Each of these are places names around Dundee. I have ties to Pitempton through my grandfather and great grandfather who ran Pitempton farm many years ago. So for me not only was this a fascinating link to history but also a connection to my ancestors. I took home a piece of natural quartz from the field and will set it on my ancestors altar.

Family is a big thing for me right now, with my brother passing away over a year ago and sadly more recently we lost our mother who passed away unexpectedly and hit us all hard. It’s been a very sombre Yule and New Year.  I’m taking the time to appreciate each day making more time to spend with my relatives, and acknowledging those gone before me.

 

The Sidlaws, the fairy hills of Angus and Perthshire:

 

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Finishing off the day with a beautiful sunset

 

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A Solitary Solstice

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

–Edith Sitwell

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Yule candle with foraged pine

I had intended to have a sociable December and meet with my like minded pagan friends, however the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley. I thought I was weathering the storms of life well, with the stress of moving house and unpacking and the grief of losing my brother, not to mention the stress of a full time job and university studies. But everything took it’s toll and I caught the cold virus from a colleague which brought my plans to a standstill. I hate getting sick, and this cold virus exhausted my energy. I did not have it in me to properly celebrate December’s supermoon the way I had intended.

I was meant to attend a friend’s Mōdraniht (Mothers Night) ritual and although physically I felt up to it, I knew it would be selfish of me to go and pass on this nasty virus to others, especially during the festive period. Who wants to be sick during the holidays? So I gave that a miss.

The Winter Solstice came and I did my ritual alone. Once again I was meant to be celebrating Yule with a friend but after warning her I still felt ill we decided it was best to meet another time.

I have my own witch’s workroom now and it’s taking shape the way I want it. I bought a lovely green tapestry of the world tree to hang up on the back wall. My frame drum hangs above my altar like a large full moon. I still need to properly lay out the ancestor shrine. I love having a large space to work in!

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On the night of the Winter Solstice I burned palo santo in my witch room. The smoke cleansing away anything negative. Cleansing the self, and pleasing the spirits. I sprinkled rose water and bathed my palms in it and anointed my crown, forehead, throat and heart. I grounded myself, my roots journeying deep into the rich black earth deep below.

I created a sacred space, calling forth my blood ancestors and the Mighty Dead, calling forth my spirits. I beat my drum to welcome each of them in, the sandalwood incense swirls around me burning as an offering. I lay down my drum and wait patiently, listening.

The messages come, they tell me things I already know but have neglected; that winter is a time for rest and I have been burning my candle at both ends. They tell me my projects can wait, that I must be patient and I must look within and reflect and conserve my energy. I am a part of nature and must take inspiration from the natural world. I give thanks for these words of wisdom and light the pine candle on the altar.

I light the candle for my brother, telling him he will never be forgotten and to let the candle light his way. A couple of friends requested some help so I light candles for them too, adding a few herbs for their needs. They burn bright and clear – a good sign.

I burn a small amount of mugwort and wormwood and breathe it in to aid me in seeing. I shuffled the deck asking for messages to come through and with each shuffle three cards fall out. The meanings come to me clearly and quickly and I write them down.

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I spend a few moments reflecting on what I have learned this night, and what this season means for me. Then it is time to give thanks to the spirits, the ancestors and the Mighty Dead, and I say farewell to the beat of my drum and close my sacred space.

I spend the rest of the evening having a solstice meal with my loving boyfriend, of homemade lentil and vegetable soup and some melted brie bites, sausage rolls, mulled wine and chocolate Yule log. So good! I take a meal and glass of wine up to my altar and place it there for the ancestors and spirits in thanks and let the candles on the altar burn down. The Cailleach received some stollen and a glass of bourbon.

A friend of mine posted a Yule gift which I remembered last thing and opened – “Skin Spirits” by Lupa which I can’t wait to read. I am lucky to have such good friends.

Then my boyfriend and I do some crafts, I finished off a wand I was working on by woodburning some symbols onto it, and sewing up a little red bag with leftover fabric. My stitching skills need some work but it’s coming along better.

After all the work I have done it’s time to relax. I reward myself with a cup of mulled wine and immerse myself in folk tales brought to life by watching Grimm.

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May you be cosy and safe this winter. May your needs be met. May you always have food and drink and a safe place to rest your head ❤

slàinte mhath!

The Wheel Turns

This year has been a challenging one. It seems we’ve all had to face some battle and experienced some loss. It is The Dark Year as Sarah Anne Lawless put it.

My partner and I had been trying to find ways to live together. We both applied for numerous jobs so we could be together, and it was a year long struggle before we achieved it. It had been upsetting and frustrating when we thought we were stuck at square one. It was heartbreaking having to say goodbye at the end of each weekend. But finally he managed to get a job here, although that in itself was an annoyance; it took ages to finalise.

Then just before Samhain I received some bad news. My big brother had died. It was a complete shock to everyone. I hadn’t seen him in a number of years, life drifted us apart. But I always thought I’d see him again someday.  He had his demons, and he made bad choices in his life, but he was a good man with a kind heart. He never judged anyone, though plenty judged him. He had a great sense of humour and was always clowning around and making people laugh. He left behind his daughters and two grandchildren. My siblings and I are devastated beyond words.  I can’t believe we will never hear his laughter again.

His funeral service was lovely and we all gave him a great send off with a traditional Scottish bagpiper at his local church. Sometimes it takes a funeral to bring a family closer together, as terrible as that sounds it has been true in my case. My sisters and I are closer than we used to be, we’re making a better effort to communicate with each other. Now from my brother’s death I have also gained nieces. I hadn’t seen them since they were tiny children, and now they are all mostly grown up.

Then to add to the difficulty of this year, my partner and I moved into a new home and moving house is stressful enough in itself. I honestly don’t think I could have had the strength alone to see everything through. I am fortunate that I have the support of my partner, my family and my friends. They anchored me to reality.

For Samhain I had a small private ceremony. I carved a tumshie and my partner carved a pumpkin. I lit a candle for my ancestors, and for my big brother. I prayed that he would find peace. I prayed that he would be received by my Aunt and Nana in spirit, that they would care for him and comfort him.

 

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Rest well big brother, till we meet again.

Cha bhith a leithid ann tuilleadh