Culture, tradition and bygone times

Recently I’ve been attending the wonderful online event that is Winter’s Last run by The Taibhsear Colleactive and my friend Scott of The Cailleach’s Herbarium.

They have been putting on wonderful events over the past few years; many talks, workshops and storytelling surrounding Scottish folklore and folk ways. It has been wonderful and I’ve had tried to soak up as much as I can.

You may be wondering why a Scots wumman such as myself should need to learn this? Shouldn’t I already know all this? Sadly no. Some of these folk ways discussed are considered historic, archaic even, and belong to bygone eras and people that have been a long time dead. Such is life; traditions change, old ways get forgotten or discarded and replaced. People get displaced or choose to move to a new land and take the vestiges of their culture with them.

Modernising has become a key goal of many local authorities as they try to keep up with the larger cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow to try and attract tourists and jobs. But they’re too busy looking forward that they’re ignoring their own rich history and culture. Old buildings that hold the stories of generations gone get torn down so new build housing can go up. We are destroying our own history.

What some of these people forget is that the appeal of cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow isn’t just because of their pubs and shopping centres; it’s that they’re old cities with a rich culture and history and historic buildings that draw people to them.

I was out walking with my fiance today near a local burn and pond. The ponds were formed by a local linen mill decades ago but the old sluice gates are still there. My fiance was looking forward to showing me the old mill’s water wheel. Sadly we learned it had been torn down, possibly due to it being near a new build housing development.

Old sluice gate

Some may think, so what? Well it was a fascinating piece of our city’s history. You don’t see too many water wheels anymore. I couldn’t help but feel mournful and angry that it was gone, possibly to modernise the region. The thing with modernity is that modern things can quickly look outdated. But old things, the really old, is what draws many people’s interest as they try to relate to a past time and wonder at the lives of the people then. One of the things I love about Edinburgh is it’s ancient buildings and monuments. I love the old ghost stories, and plague stories, the walking tours, the haunted pubs, and even the Scottish tourist shops proudly displaying tartans and The Saltire.

The Winter’s Last event this year presented some short films and documentaries. One of these was called Cailleach showing a brief glimpse into the life of Morag, an elderly woman living alone on her croft on the Isle of Lewis. She tends her sheep and she talks about the connection to her home and being the last of her family living there. We see her looking at photos of people long gone. It is a poignant reminder that when Morag passes, she takes her stories and her culture with her. Another short documentary presented was called When the Song Dies, which brings together the voices of several older Scottish folk discussing their ways, their family history, and the idea that some of this lore is on the brink of extinction. It was emotional to see this and know that we’ve lost so much already of what makes us Scottish.

I try to share stories of my culture through this blog, and every Friday I share a folktale via my shop Hearth and Hame. I call it Folktale Fridays and part of my reason for sharing these tales is to help preserve Scottish culture. I’ve even received some lovely messages from people thanking me for sharing stories relating to places they lived, and reminding them of fond memories with their family from the past. I feel deeply honoured that just sharing these tales has brought joy to people.

So, events like Winter’s Last are a lifeline for Scottish people today. They help preserve our culture and history. They pass on the stories to another generation and it gets to live that wee bit longer. Some of the voices telling these stories today aren’t Scottish voices which in some ways is incredibly sad, perhaps the other problem with the death of part of our culture lies in people not taking enough interest in these tales. The voices may not be Scots but they are doing a wonderful job in sharing our stories, in preserving the lore of bygone times.

We are in their debt.

Cailleach:

Cailleach - Scottish Documentary Institute

https://player.vimeo.com/video/94642820

When the Song Dies:

Hogmanay

Hogmanay victuals for the ancestors

I said farewell to 2020 with every part of my being and I’m pretty sure everyone else did too.

I know for some that 1st January isn’t their definition of the new year, or that a new day on a new calendar doesn’t really mean anything. But for me, I could feel this desperate need to get to 1/01/2021, that the powers of the bells ringing in the new year, and the fireworks somehow helped to send all that bad energy packing.

I know it’s not gone gone, as such, but I do feel this is a brand new cycle and hopefully we all have learned better coping mechanisms to ride out aggression and oversharing of social media and get through this bloody pandemic once and for all. Last year was a challenge set to us and this year is the overcoming part of the tale. We’re in a labyrinth and we need to follow the thread to find our way out again.

In neo-paganism the concept of the witches new year at Samhain doesn’t gel with me. I don’t see the start of winter as a new beginning. The lengthening days after the winter solstice make more sense if we’re identifying the new year with the sun. Further to this, Imbolc is just around the corner and that to me feels more in line with the concept of a rebirth and new beginning to me than Samhain does.

Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s Eve on 31st December. The origins of the word are uncertain, thought to either derive from Gaelic, Norse or French origins. Hogmanay was once more widely celebrated than Christmas in Scotland, and this is due to Christmas being banned during the reformation. Even though this was repealed in 1712, anything seen as a Yule festivity was still frowned upon by the kirk, who could not be seen to approve of anything Catholic.

So Hogmanay was the biggest winter celebration in Scotland for a long time, and I would even say today it’s still seen as a big deal.

Traditionally once the bells ring in the new year, people would open doors and windows to allow the old year out and the new year to enter, and this is something I’ve been doing for years. This year, I practically ran to my door to say goodbye to 2020!

Food and drink are traditionally cheese, shortbread, black bun and of course, whisky. I’ve never had black bun before, so I bought some from the bakery to share with my ancestors this year. Black bun is a heavily spiced fruit cake wrapped in pastry and has gone out of fashion in recent years. After tasting it I can see why, it’s potent and not something you can eat much of. Not many folk where I live are all that fond of any kind of fruit cakes. A lot of people have an aversion to the appearance of raisins and sultanas and as there is a much wider variety of desserts these days than perhaps 50 years ago, it’s understandable why black bun is no longer widely used at Hogmanay.

First footing is another custom; this was the first person to cross your threshold in the new year, and first footers would normally bring gifts such as salt, coal, whisky, shortbread or black bun to bring luck to the householder. People would make note of the hair colour of their first footer; dark hair was said to be lucky while red hair was said to be unlucky for the new year. Well, perhaps the food and drink offerings presented crossed out that bad luck!

Customs vary per area, but along the east coast dressed herring was usually given as a gift due to the strong fishing communities along the coast.

New Years Day was traditionally a good time to sain the home, and I used my own saining blend that I created for my shop to cleanse and protect my space. Saining can either be done by burning the herbs, or mixing them in water to wipe down areas or asperge them. Traditionally a juniper and water rite was conducted. The home was sealed shut, and any crevices were stopped up to prevent the smoke from escaping. Water collected from a living and dead stream (a crossing point that funeral processions usually crossed) was shared amongst the guests and the rest sprinkled in the home. Juniper was burned at the hearth and the smoke was allowed to fill the space for as long as people could manage before doors and windows had to be flung open to bring in fresh air. This is a particularly dangerous practice, as we know the perils of smoke inhalation so I would not recommend this practice today. If you are interested in saining then better to burn a small amount of the herbs on a charcoal incense disc or to asperge with water.

My Hogmanay was a quiet one with my fiance, as many people’s were this year, as Scotland went back into a full lockdown from Boxing Day. This wasn’t unexpected due to the covid rates rising, but this year was definitely more sombre. Still I shared a slice of black bun and some cheese and whisky with the ancestors, I performed my Hogmanay rituals and I opened the door to 2021 and I step out into the new year with hope in my heart.

Lang May Yer Lum Reek wi’ ither folks coal!

An update

It has been a while since I last blogged. I’ve needed the time to just be, to heal and to reflect. I became a bit of a hermit because that’s what I needed at the time.

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Grief is a strange phenomena. Sometimes when you think you are piecing yourself back together, something comes along: a memory, a scent, a sound which reminds you of your loved one’s absence and you’re back in that heartache. That’s how it’s been for me anyway, everyone grieves differently.

Besides being a hermit, I’ve had to focus more on my uni studies and I’m pleased to say I’ve completed my degree and will graduate next month. Studying towards a degree has been a challenge for me with working full time, losing loved ones the stress of day to day life, and I’m so pleased and relieved to have passed my course. Once I’ve graduated I will need to then do some research about what I would like to do with my degree. One path leads to another.

In other news, my partner and I got engaged and we’re getting married next year, so I’ve been doing a lot of wedding planning. We also bought our first house together and moved in during the winter months. So a lot has been going on for me this past year!

I plan to get back into blogging because I’ve really missed writing and researching folklore and witchcraft. So keep tuned because more content will be coming soon!

My fiance and I are just back from a trip to Berlin, and it was amazing exploring all of the sights such as the Berlin Wall, the TV Tower and Brandenburg Tor and trying currywurst for the first time. I’m now having currywurst withdrawal so I’m hoping when the next German food stalls appear in town they will be selling this as well as regular bratwurst.

 

We also went to see the Icelandic techno-punk BDSM perfomance art group Hatari play in Berlin, and it was honestly the best gig of my life. I loved it so much that I’m going to see them in London again next year for their Europe Will Crumble tour. Hatari have inspired me to get back into being my creative self, as well as looking deeply into the state of the world. Their music speaks of the paradox of man’s existence in a capitalist society, of the destruction we’re causing the planet and thus ultimately destroying ourselves. Everyone has a price, everyone is for sale. From their instagram:

Hatari is a political multimedia project which aims to unveil the relentless scam that is everyday life. We cannot change things, but we can unveil the anomie of neoliberal society, the pointlessness of every minute spent in the race, and the low price for which man sells himself ever more blatantly.

 

 

 

I had intentions to set up a witchy shop online, but I never got round to doing it due to studies. It’s something I consider doing every now and then but ultimately I’m unsure if I will at this stage. I’ve been rather busy as mentioned above!

I mentioned in a post a little while back about fundraising for the Tales of the Taibhsear album, and it’s been released and the project is such a success, that Scott of The Cailleach’s Herbarium also set up a organisation called The Woven Land Network designed to raise funds to restore and preserve important sacred sites around Scotland such as holy wells and standing stones as well as education people about their history (if known), their function and how to visit these sites respectfully. You can find out more on their facebook page or website: The Woven Land Network  It’s a very exciting project and I’m proud of Scott for working so hard to educate others and conserve these sites.

I plan to get blogging again more frequently, there are still plenty of folkloric tales to tell and spells to do.

Beannachd Leibh x

 

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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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..

The Magic of Rowan

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When the days were still as deith,

An’ I couldna see the kye,

Though I’d mebbe hear their breith

I’ the mist oot-bye;

When I’d mind the lang grey een

O’ the warlock by the hill,

And sit flegged, like a wean,

Gin a whaup cried shrill;

Though the hert wad dee in me

At a fitstep on the floor,

There was aye the rowan tree

Wi’ its airm across the door.”

– The Silver Bough, Volume 1, F. Marian McNeill

 

The magic of the rowan tree has enchanted me since childhood. It seems to be a tree which marks the end of summer and beginning of autumn, with its red jewels drooping towards the earth. I’d felt a pull towards this tree long before I knew anything about witchcraft. Perhaps a wee bit of ancestral memory was passed down, as this tree is very important in Scottish folklore.

The rowan, rodden, or mountain ash – ‘the mystic tree whose scarlet berries were the ambrosial food of the Tuatha de Danann’ – may still be seen growing hard by many of our cairns, stone circles and other sites of pagan worship. As a potent charm against witchcraft and evil spells, it was used in many forms about the homestead – in fact, an old Scots word for the cross-beam in the chimney is rantree, a form of rowan tree, o which, as a lucky wood, it was commonly made. Rowan wood was also used for the distaff, the churn-staff, the peg of the cow shackle, the pin of the plough or water-mill… a rowan tree was commonly planted at the door of the homestead to ‘keep the witches away’.

-The Silver Bough, Volume 1. F. Marian McNeill.

In Highland life, a family’s livestock was often their only source of food and money and rowan charms were used to protect animals from bewitchment and mishap.The rowan tree was also shaped in the form of an arch over the byre door to protect cows, and on Quarter days a wand of rowan was placed above the lintels of the house and out-houses and a twig carried in the pocket for protection. A tree was often planted near a gate or front door of the property.

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One of the most popular pieces of Scottish folk magic is the rowan tree and red thread. An auld rhyme states:

“Rowan tree and red threid, Gar the witches tyne their speed.”

Two twigs of rowan were shaped like a cross and tied together with red thread and this was carried on one’s person for protection from witches and evil spells, or the evil eye.

This practice has a long history, having been recorded by James VI who wrote about the use of rowan charms in his book Daemonologie 1597. He noted that people protected their cattle against the evil eye by “knitting roun trees or sundriest kind of herbes to the haire and tailes of the goods (animals)”.  It is likely this practice dates back much further than 16th century.

In 1709, Thomas Pennant recorded that,

“The farmers carefully preserve their cattle against witchcraft by placing boughs of the mountain ash and honeysuckle in their cows’ houses on the 2nd of May.”

This practice was also seen well into the 19th century in the north-east of Scotland.

Red thread was also used alone by Highland women as a charm tied around the finger or wrist. The colour red was associated with blood and life force and having protective qualities.  Women would also wear a string of rowan berries as necklace for protection.

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The rowan trees outside my home are heavy with lots of bright red berries and I had a dream that the first fall of snow will come early this winter. Folklore suggests that an abundance of berries on a tree can indicate an early and cold winter is on its way. The elder berries this year were very quickly gobbled up by the birds. The signs are telling me to buy a lot of thick woolly jumpers and cardigans! As much as I dislike the thought of a cold Scottish winter, I do feel it’s needed. Last year’s winter was too mild with little snowfall.

So, besides their mystical and folkloric properties, rowan berries were also used as a traditional medicine in Scotland. Mary Beith states in Healing Threads that,

A good gargle can be made from the berries by boiling them to a pulp, then they should be squeezed through muslin and strained for use. Whooping cough was relieved  with a decoction of apples and rowanberries sweetened with brown sugar. Lightfoot mentions that in Jura, ‘They use the juice of [the rowan] as an acid for punch”. (Rowan contains sorbic acid).

Rowan berries must never be eaten raw, because the acids in them can cause indigestion and lead to kidney damage. But heat treatment such as cooking, heat-drying and to a lesser extent freezing, neutralizes the acids making them benign.

Rowan Jelly

Ingredients: Rowan berries, apples, water, sugar.

“Gather your rowan berries when almost ripe. Remove the stalks and wash and drain the berries. Put them in a preserving-pan with enough cold water to float them well. Let them simmer for about forty minutes or until the water is red and the berries are quite soft. Strain off the juice, being careful not to press the fruit in the least. Measure the juice and return it to the pan. Add sugar in the proportion of a pound to each pint of juice. Boil rapidly for half and hour or until some of it sets quickly on a plate when cold. Skim it well, pour it into small pots and tie down quickly.

If you allow pound for pound of apple juice to rowan juice you will get a delightful jelly. Allow a pound of sugar to each pint of apple juice. Rowan jelly is an excellent accompaniment to grouse, venison and saddle of mutton.” 

– The Scots Kitchen, F. Marian McNeill.

 

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Slàinte mhath!

Sources:

The Silver Bough, Volume one – F. Marian McNeill

The Scots Kitchen – F. Marian McNeill

Healing Threads, Traditional medicines of the Highlands and Islands – Mary Beith.

Myth and Magic, Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places – Joyce Miller

Mystical Scotland – Ann Lindsay Mitchell

The Witch in Wildcat Country

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Clan Macpherson motto and badge

 

A few days ago myself and my boyfriend took a trip to wildcat country (Badenoch and Strathspey), in particular Newtonmore.

Newtonmore is the land of Clan Macpherson, a clan I have ties to through my father. As a small child I grew up listening to the tales of the Macphersons; of the outlaw James Macpherson – a Scottish Robin Hood to some, an outlaw freebooter to others,  and the tales of Cluny Macpherson living in Cluny’s cave as he hid from the redcoats after the ’45 Jacobite defeat. I used to sit crossed legged on the floor in front of the fireplace,  my hands cradling my chin as I waited to hear more of my father’s stories. He was very passionate about his clan roots, and Macpherson is but one clan we can identify with. Since tracing my family tree, I’ve discovered I have ties to Frasers and Macleods also. I have some Irish roots through my maternal grandmother also

I love travelling in the highlands, I love seeing the mountains and heather-covered hillsides, I love seeing the little rivulets of water streaming down them and the tiny streams flowing through the landscape. I love seeing the mists and clouds kissing the top of the munros. It feels like such a raw and wild landscape and it makes my heart soar every time I see it. This land sings through my veins, it whispers to me of songs and stories and battles; of families huddled together by fireside, of the indomitable spirit of the Scottish people living and thriving on such a wild and harsh landscape. There is magic there in every rock and river, every bush and tree and wild flower, there is a charge in the air and it feels as though you have entered a different world.

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I was so excited to be in Newtonmore, the land of my ancestors. My father once visited here to go to the Clan Macpherson museum many years before I was born. He passed away when I was a teenager, so coming to Newtonmore felt like a way I could also connect with him. I am a witch who venerates my ancestors so coming to Newtonmore allowed me to connect more with them and discover more about myself.

We stopped off at a cafe on Main street first for a bit of lunch then walked down to the Clan Macpherson museum. We were greeted by a jolly and pleasant curator named Ruiseart, who spotted my pentacle necklace and questioned me about it. I felt a bit put on the spot at first, wondering if I should declare my pagan practice, but I needn’t have hesitated as it turns out he is also pagan! We had a good chat about our paths and it was a nice surprise meeting another like minded person.

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The first display I saw showed Jamie Macpherson’s broken fiddle and a replica of the two-handed sword he was said to wield. My father had been here decades before viewing this very fiddle. I felt both happiness and slight melancholy seeing it. I wished I could have visited this place with him. I wished I could have experienced this trip with him. But instead I got to experience it with another very important man in my life – my boyfriend, who wasn’t as enrapt  with the museum since he has no personal ties to this clan. Still he brought me to Newtonmore and he knew how important it was for me and I absolutely love him for it.

After the Clan Macpherson museum we walked down to the Highland Folk Museum –  an open air museum giving a taste of how highland people lived from 1700s to 1960s. They have over 30 historical buildings on display including an 1930’s sweet shop, an old post office, a working croft, a blackhouse and smokehouse, as well as an outdoor farm.

It was a roasting hot day with temperatures reaching up to 30 °C! Don’t listen to what everyone says about it always raining in Scotland, because we do have some gorgeous summer weather at times. Me and my man walked about in that temperature for well over an hour, seeking shade in the pine forest where we could. I wanted a piece of this land to take home with me, so I picked up a small rock and a plucked a piece of heather growing abundantly around me.

After a quick stop at the cafe and then the gift shop it was time to get back on the road for the long drive home. As much as the heat was unbearable I still loved the journey, I spoke silent prayers of thanks to the spirits of the land, to the hills and mountains, to the spirits of water and heather.

One of the first things I did as I got home was to to put the rock and sprig of heather on my ancestor altar and whisper a thank you to my ancestors, giving thanks for the love of generations before which gave me life and for gifting me a strong will and indomitable spirit.

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Creag Dhubh (The Black Rock) as seen from the Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore.

Beannachd leibh x

 

 

 

 

 

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A Pin to Prick your Conscience

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There are times in life we experience inequality, we face those on a power trip, or those who simply try to bring us down. I created this spell for one such situation in my life.

 

For the spell you will need:

1 dinner candle and holder

9 pins (I used sewing needles)

lighter

offerings

***

Take a dinner candle in a colour of your choice. I picked a dark blue to suit my purpose.

Call upon whatever energies/deities you want assistance from. I chose to work with the elements and my ancestors.

Lay out offerings, feed your spirits, your deities etc. Tell them what you need help with.

Hold the candle and take a deep breath, breath out over the candle, breathing your own energy into it.

Warm the side of your candle with a flame to make the wax more malleable.

Take the first pin, insert it near the top of the candle and say:

A pin to prick your conscience, you will see with compassion”

Take the second pin, doing the same, say:

A pin to prick your conscience, you will act in fairness

Third pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, you will see my worth

Fourth pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, to see all my hard work

Fifth pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, you will feel empathy

Sixth pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, to move things my way

Seventh pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, to see sense in what I say

Eighth pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, to have the balls to fight for me

Ninth pin:

A pin to prick your conscience, now you must do right by me!

Burn your candle over the coming days (you may choose to burn over 9 days for each pin if you have the time. If it’s an urgent situation allow the candle to burn fully.)

Thank the spirits/deities/energies involved.

 

Slàinte!

 

 

© Hag o’ The Hills

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Imbolc

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Bride’s cross

 

Last night I met up with my local pagan moot to celebrate Imbolc. Braving the harsh wind and rain from Storm Henry, we gathered and huddled inside the building clutching steaming cups of tea and coffee.

We gathered around the altar, gazing into the candle representing Bride’s hearth fire, with Bride in her bed overlooking our circle. A motley crew of pagans; among our party was a heathen, two animist folk witches, a green witch and a kemetic witch. Yet despite our different paths and beliefs we met common ground and came together to celebrate the season. We all took turns talking about what this time of year meant for us. For me it is as though I were a bear, slowly coming out of a spiritual hibernation. Winter makes me retreat, hermit-like and I store my energy inwards to help me focus on the mundane tasks at hand.

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Bride in her bed

But as soon as Imbolc approaches I feel the need to go forth like a seedling bursting through the cold, damp soil towards the promise of the sun. The inner fires within me burn and rise, and I feel the aching need to get back into my craft and socialise, as well as plot and plan projects over springtime. Bride has come, and She renews us, giving us the vitality needed to break out of the lackluster winter darkness.

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Moot Imbolc Altar

We cleansed ourselves with incense and blessed water with purifying herbs, using a bird’s foot as an aspergillum. We each lit a candle from the central hearth fire, and later snuffed it out to be relit, taking Bride’s fire into our homes. The moot co-ordinator Ffyona guided us through a seasonal meditation and I felt myself relaxing, sinker deeper and deeper into it, the imagery filling my senses. When it was done I felt like I’d woken up from a nice long nap. Using the energy we’d gathered, and the light from Bride’s hearth flame we sent out healing to loved ones and took some of the healing within us too.

Then after all the energy work, we laughed and chatted and feasted together 🙂

Although we were a small gathering this time round, I can attest to the success of our moot as I was one of the co-founders. The moot is now running in its fifth year and going strong.

A moot is only successful when it’s members contribute. So please folks, support your moots and gatherings. They are run by hard working volunteers with busy lives,  so although showing up to moots is great, perhaps you can also offer to lend a hand? If you have a skill, or a talent, put it to use 🙂 Moot co-ordinators don’t want to be running the show 24/7, the point of a moot is to create a safe community for members to get to know others of a like mind and for celebration, but also as a place of learning. We all have something we can contribute to the community.

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My Imbolc celebration has turned into a two day event. This evening I relit my hearth flame from the candle I used at the moot to welcome Bride into the home, an offering of milk was placed on my altar and then I made some Bride’s crosses out of pipe cleaners.

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I am looking forward most to the days lasting longer and can’t wait to get out foraging again when new things start popping up out of the soil.

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Bride’s hearth flame

Wishing you all a very blessed Imbolc, Là Fhèill Brìghde and Candlemas.

slàinte mhath!

 

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)