A visit to Dunkeld and The Hermitage

tumblr_ndv5xiYoiF1t6bh5fo1_500

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.

IMG_3040IMG_3041

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.

IMG_3042IMG_2966

IMG_2991

on the Telford Bridge overlooking the River Tay

IMG_2975

Dunkeld Cathedral

IMG_2976

IMG_2995

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.

IMG_3043

Can you see it’s face?

IMG_3044

Misty Craigvinean Forest

IMG_3047

Boulder with a troll like face

IMG_3050

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

IMG_3012

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.

IMG_3045

mini stream

IMG_3046

River Braan

IMG_3051

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

IMG_3049

Ossian’s Cave

IMG_3031

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.

Ossian's_Cave_front,_The_Hermitage

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:

dsc_2957

Inside Ossian’s Hall

Hermitage Ossians Hall_lge

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)

Advertisements

The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Image

 

“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:

 

Image

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.

 

Image

 

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.

Image

Templeton Woods, March 2014.

 

Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh!

(Great health and every good blessing to you!)