Category Archives: Wildlife

Spirituality Without Fanfare

Once you have been on your spiritual path for a while you will start to realise that it is best to not take yourself too seriously.

There are two types of people who practise spirituality, in my experience. Those who tell others how powerful they are or how enlightened they are or how good their expensive courses are…and those who just get on with it, quietly and without fanfare. Do a course for fun if you think you will get something out of it but do realise that the only thing really worth spending is time itself. Time to learn, time to experiment, time to let things simmer.

Unfortunately being bombarded with all these enlightenment sellers can put some potential newcomers off discovering more about themselves and their possibilities and that’s a shame as there is nothing to be nervous about. Don’t be scared by the hype, don’t be put off by those who dress themselves up as mystical beings who need to be adored. They are selling a service which is the spiritual equivalent of getting your nails painted…it’s fun but it isn’t an essential life choice. You can do what you need to do with a little online research, free resources, reading books and, most importantly, living the life and gaining the experience.

Those who are quietly spiritual know that everyone is an individual who will be spending years on their unique path, no expensive course is going to get anyone there quicker. Sorry. Sometimes it can even slow progress down as you are following someone else’s path not your own. Their way of doing things might not be yours.

Your path is your own and you don’t have to be doing A, B or C to qualify for any award. There is no award. There’s a reward for taking a spiritual path though. Several of them.

If you can successfully meditate you can make your daily life calmer and happier. This can take the edge off the hardest situation. YouTube has some really good meditations. Try Michael Sealey or Jason Stephenson.

Practising mindfulness will give you a better outlook on life and will make those challenges easier to deal with because you stay in the moment, at least long enough to have a break from your mind chatter. Here is a 8 week free course, run by Dave Potter a fully certified MBSR instructor.

Being able to work with the energies to heal yourself and others for free is your way to give back and to do your bit to help change one small part of the world which is suffering…whether that be an individual or a situation.  Learn how to give reiki to yourself with this previous article of mine Reiki For Self Love.  Where you go with it afterwards when it comes to helping others is for you to decide.

Ritual is a way to bring order to chaos as well as engaging in aged practices – whether you just count your morning ritual of shower, tea and toast before work or rituals used with your deity of choice, such as prayers. A good morning ritual sets you up for the day and most of us have several rituals which we enjoy. Perhaps yours is a candlelit bath or a cup of chamomile tea last thing before bed. A ritual is simply something you do at a certain time and, sometimes, for a certain reason. Getting a few rituals of your own in place will bring structure and certainty to your day and you will find you look forward to doing them. They will bring a comfort and a smile, a sense of well-being.

Learning how to work with herbs is another way that you can help yourself. Again there are many online courses out there for the basics but a good book will do you just as well too if money is tight. The work of Susun Weed is a good start if you are in the USA or Herbcraft by Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender is an excellent choice for those in the UK and Europe. Herbcraft gives a broad use for plants including medicinal and magickal as well as a bit of history for interest.

Learning which plants are edible is very important so do take care as there are some deadly ones out there too. 

Knowledge is essential when using herbs in whatever form you choose them. Several good books for cross referencing are essential and you should never rely on just one photo in a book to decide which plant is in front of you in the wild. Several good, clear close up photos are needed. Of course, the company of someone who already knows is ideal but few of us have that and so we must take things gradually and be careful with our choices by being sensible.

Here is a fun video done by someone just starting out using herbs. We all have to start somewhere…

Many of us enjoy a cup of chamomile tea or peppermint tea so why not take it a step further and start learning how to work with the energies of the plants in your vicinity, growing your own or even just in their essential oil form. Pure oils can be used for cleaning and sanitising your home, refreshing the aroma, getting rid of garden pests, used to heal yourself and pets and in a multitude of ways.

I have had no training in essential oils but taught myself gradually over many years and now use them in every part of my life. They are surprisingly versatile, useful and helpful and, of course, chemical free if chosen wisely. There are many articles online which will help you choose a starter arsenal of essential oils. My first three choices would be roman chamomile, lavender and peppermint. I have linked to an article for each to get you started if you are new to essential oils.

If you are starting off on your path and follow the signposts above and in my previous nine articles then together they should give you your first few footsteps. You will be on your way to a spiritual life which allows you to grow, gain confidence, deal with challenges, heal your everyday niggles and give love and strength to those around you. There will be days when it all seems too much and you will want a break. Be kind to yourself on those days and do whatever you need to do. Everyone has a spiritual crisis at some point in their lives…sometimes more than one…but this is good because this is where the biggest shifts happen.

My final suggestions are to enjoy life, love who you are and do what you have to do to make your life your own. Never be dictated by those who surround you or even those in your area of choice spiritually. Always trust your instincts and if you aren’t sure what they are saying then meditate and wait. The answer is there.

This article is part of Your Spiritual Life series. Other articles in the series can be found in the top menu.

Update – Air Dry Clay Playtime: Herbal Impression Tiles and Earth Goddess

Just a little update to show you how the tiles I talked about in my previous post came out after painting. They aren’t quite finished yet as I intend to add some imitation gold leaf before setting them out as a large tile. I am really pleased with how it is going so far.

I am itching for my Earth Goddess to dry completely so I can cover her with gesso and start painting. I will be adding dried plant matter to this under some mod podge and concentrating on textures rather than detail before covering her with colour and some imitation gold leaf.

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I can really recommend getting stuck into some sort of craft project. Make the time to create. Find something which brings you joy. You don’t have to be an expert in it, the important thing is to get satisfaction from the creation and have fun doing it 🙂

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Earth Goddess…finished ‘for now’

In the end I really liked the way she looked as above and so I decided to keep her like this for now and see how she develops. Lovely energy from her!

Staverton Thicks

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Even on an overcast day in February, Staverton Thicks near Woodbridge, Suffolk is still the ultimate fairy tale wood of childhood stories in its bare bones of winter.

This place is tucked in very near to the very popular Rendlesham Forest (yes, the place where the UFO is said to have popped by for a visit next to the former USAF base) but few people seem to know of its existence.

It is a place which sets pen to paper. Robert MacFarlane talks of it in his book The Wild Places where he recounts a tale told to him by the late Roger Deakin of naked dancing deep in its heart. Sara Maitland tells of her own visit in her book Gossip from The Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales where she had an encounter when she strayed off the path.

We didn’t see any cross landowners whilst we were there although I was prepared to sacrifice one of the teenagers to the cooking pot should the need arise. They are SO expensive to keep these days, aren’t they? Fortunately there was no need and we proceeded unmolested, enabling us to ask the spirits and elementals who dwell there for a few twigs and feathers to take home with us.

I took so many photos that I have decided a gallery is the only answer to fully share this wonderful and very magical place with you.

As my adult daughter with learning difficulties said of the trees “They look like paintings, Mummy.” and she was right, they do.

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Breathing Wilderness

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So this week I am writing just a little update. All is well, I just have a few minor health issues…full blown flu, women’s problems (yes, I thought I was done with that too since July last year! I can’t express how glacially thrilled I am) and a migraine to be exact. Tacking that lot on to the less than perfectly working body I have these days and I am, as one of the children put it, an ill bean. Probably of the broad bean variety if my ever increasing girth is to be taken into account…

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I have been napping since Saturday afternoon, tis true, but in between I have been defying the double vision and reading with an eye covered…awfully clever, I thought, you’re impressed too, I can tell… and sliding into the world of Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. What a joy this book is! Macfarlane shares my love of a vista, a hidden nook and a furious coastline. Whilst I have been languishing he has taken me on a journey across moors, up mountains and through holloways. We have collected pebbles together, drunk from crystal streams and moved bramble to get into sleepy hollows. We haven’t eaten bugs because this is the UK and here, in our wilderness, we rub two sticks together, get a pan out and heat up something delicious we brought with us. And we did. And it tasted even more wonderful for that. Although we didn’t use a picnic rug which I thought would have been only right and proper. I shall perhaps send an email and point this folly out.

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On a couple of his journeys he had Roger Deakin as a companion. The two men together wandered as schoolboys in The Wild Places, squeezing into gaps most would pass by and using ivy to get into holloways which probably haven’t seen a human for many years. Deakin has also written some truly wonderful books with Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees being a particular favourite of mine. Printed after his death, it is a collection of his travels through woodlands in many places across the world as well as the UK. Moreover it is a book which brings alive every step he took so vividly you can reach out and touch the bark with him.

Macfarlane slept in the open air on the edge of island cliffs with birds roosting beside him and the ocean crashing on the rocks below him, lulling him to sleep with nature’s melody. He sought the fury of a storm on a mountain and the loneliness of a shingle bank (spit) out in the North Sea with a distant seal colony his only companions.

These books are about having fun whatever your age and going where your soul is nourished. For those of us who are called by the wild they are also a welcome respite from the sounds of the town around us. They are books which tempt you off the beaten track, which get you pulling out dusty maps from the back of your shelves and pouring over them. They are also for those of us who yearn to run our fingertips down the face of a granite outcrop again and marvel at the time it has been there. I miss my mountains.

We are here for as long as it takes a mountain to take a breath in. Make it count.

The Best Things In Life Are Free

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This is Arnold. Now don’t worry, I don’t go around talking to my stones all the time (or do I? *cue spooky music*) but this chap has been around long enough in my vicinity to get himself a name and a purpose. He is the stone I turn to where others may use Boji Stones or Moqui Marbles. Why? Well, because he was found in England where I live and so has the energy of the land turned into him over all the years Mother Earth took to make him. Add to him a big dollop of intention and he is the English equivalent in my mind and serves the same purpose in my meditations – a focus for my work, an anchor for my travels, protective and grounding.

I don’t know exactly what Arnold is made of, a bit of a mish mash I think, but he sits nicely in the palm of my hand and I love his criss-cross lines of quartz. I wouldn’t mind if he was part house brick…no judgement here. Plus he was free. I stumbled across him and took him home so long ago I can’t remember when I actually got him but he is still here and still actively being used.

The idea of showing Arnold to you all is to point out that, even though I love my crystals and their energies, there really is everything we need out there on our walks and in the woods around us, no matter where we live. The most in-tune energy wise and powerful tools we can use are the ones which have the energy of the land directly around us imprinted on them, just as we do. A river stone, a beach stone, a twig of fallen wood, pine cones, herbs from the garden, a feather…all these things are free and do not need to be purchased.

When you discover the world of nature around you, you discover how rich you actually are, not how rich you need to be to work with it. Freely given is always sweeter, in every area of our lives, and that includes what we choose to have around us to decorate our homes and what we use in our personal celebrations of nature.

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This week those of you in the UK may wish to join Big Garden Birdwatch coming up on the 28th January. It is free to do, great to do with kids and very easy. The packs are downloadable and it doesn’t take much time.

The Wren – All The Best Things Come In Small Packages

 

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Last week Wren came to me as my messenger animal totem and I had fun drawing her and listening to what she has to teach me. I am not an artist really but I do enjoy pretending I am and playing with pencils and paper 😀

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I live as quite the hermit due to circumstances and responsibilities and Wren medicine is all about being part of what is going on. Amongst other things she tells us to get out there and be counted. Sing at the top of your voice and be heard above the crowd. She is nimble, agile and vibrant with energy. Wren talks of relationships with others and nurturing the here and now. She encourages adventure and living life to the full. Be bold.

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In the years before Christianity took over pagan festivals, the 26th December (or in some parts the winter solstice) was a day when the wren was hunted. Wrenboys would capture the King of Birds and would parade through the town with the bird asking for money. The money from patrons would then be used to put on a Wren Ball for the whole town or village. Songs were sung and you can view some here. Later the Wren was buried with full honours in celebration and pudding was served. This tradition is said to be the acting out of the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, a hero in Celtic myth, who gains his name by tricking his mother Arianrhod into lifting her curse and naming him in a tale involving a wren. As he strikes the wren “between the tendon and the bone of its leg” Arianrhod says “the fair haired one with the skillful hand is his name now” and her first curse was lifted. She was to do two more, such was her annoyance, but each time she was thwarted.

There is a lovely description of the tradition of Hunting the Wren which can be found over on Pie Religion which speaks of the humour involved (as is in all the best traditions of this sort still followed) and Steeleye Span have a little ditty to share, both of which I shall leave you to enjoy.

 

 

A Reindeer Is Not Just For Christmas

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I have had an interest lately in British shamanism and Elen of the Ways (I wear a stone necklace for her with a picture of a ‘cave art style’ deer on it) so I have decided to talk about Reindeer today.

I have always had an affinity with deer as my grandfather was a man of the land and he and my grandmother would take me on walks in woods where deer would often make themselves known. A few months ago, my partner and I were lucky enough to come almost face to face with a beautiful stag near an ancient wood we visit locally. This sealed the deal for me. I have bought a couple of books since about Elen of the Ways by Elen Sentier which have been of great interest – Elen of the Ways and Following The Deer Trods which give an interesting glimpse into British Shamanism.

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In the days before land and animal ownership, when man, woman and child moved with the herds, the people worshipped the Goddess of the animal that kept them alive. They worshipped her spirit and respected her laws. In return, they were fed, and their own young were given life and sustenance. This was a time when all the land and that which was on it was held in high regard. It was a time when the balance of life and death between all things was weighted equally. For these people, she (who we call Elen for the purpose of this story) was the spirit of the reindeer and it is to she herself whom we now look to experience the energy and medicine of the reindeer.

Reindeer gave those who followed her strength and stamina. She also gave social skills for she travels with her family and friends en masse, all heading towards and onwards. Yet there is no dependence on the others as she is also her own heart and at peace with herself.

Reindeer encourages those who are faltering to regroup and move forward. She gives the determination to succeed and the tenacity to get things accomplished. Determination, endurance and trusting one’s own instincts are also gifts given by reindeer.

When you feel stuck and directionless, reindeer, as a power animal, will show you what you need and share with you her gifts to get you there.

The Reindeer Clans used kulning (a Swedish herding call) to call to the herd. A shaman female would use this song to call forth the reindeer (or other animal or bird she was working with) to let them know she was there. A beautiful example of kulning can be heard being given by Jonna Jinton on YouTube. It is one of the most beautiful things I have heard. There is something very primal about it which touches my soul.

There is a fascinating site called reindeerherding.org which gives lots of information on reindeer herding, as well as a history for each region.

Various Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Northern European and Asian peoples performed reindeer sacrifices. The ritual was performed at the beginning of their hunting season and consisted of sacrificing a young doe in a lake or pond or burying it in the ground as a sacrifice to their chosen god. On special occasions, Mesolithic hunters would place the skull and antlers of an older reindeer on a pole at the edge of where the doe was sacrificed. Superstition and the need for sacrifice has always been rife in all cultures, ancient and some more modern, so this behaviour is not unusual, despite being so difficult to read about for some of us in these modern times.

Reindeer shamanic rituals have been carried out as recently as 1980 by the Evenki people of Northern Siberia. The ritual centres around the belief that –

“Reindeer were created by the sky god, Houki, not only to provide food and transport on Earth but also to lift the human soul up to the Sun”

From Piers Vitebsky’s book, The Reindeer People: Living With Animals and Spirits in Siberia.

Bronze aged peoples thought there was an association between reindeer and flying which we can see by their use of Reindeer Stones. These were found above graves or places of sacrifice, with images of reindeer with their necks outstretched and their legs out as if flying through the air. There antlers are like wings and go as far back as their tails. The disc of the Sun was also present, again giving an impression of skyward travel.

Reindeer amulets have also been found in herding regions and the Sami had depictions of reindeer on their dress, pendants and brooches too. Zoomorphs of reindeer were drawn by Sami people who lived along the coast of Northern Norway 10,000 years ago.

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Mjandasj was the primordial Sami ancestor who was half reindeer and half human and birthed by Máttaráhkká herself who was known as the Sami Earth Mother. Rock art depicting the birth of this ancestor was found on a wall in Russia on the Kola Peninsula and has been dated to 2000 – 800BC.

If Máttaráhkká is the Sami equivalent of the Earth Mother then it wouldn’t be a stretch to argue that, by the Sami at least, reindeer are considered to have been present at the very birth of life itself. Perhaps this is because, to them, reindeer were givers of life providing all they needed to survive the harsh arctic conditions.

Autumn FungiFest 2

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These are a few photos taken from a visit to a second ancient wood today. I really wanted to show you this fabulous beauty around the bottom of this tree. I have left the photo on the rather large side so you can appreciate the size of this fungus. This particular one went around the tree about three quarters of the way around.

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There were other fungi present too. This tree seemed to be in symbiosis with several types.

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Then there were these fungi on the ground just on the border of the wood…groovy.

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A rosehip which ‘swayed still’ long enough for me to photograph it 🙂

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There were loads of these spider webs over holes in the field where the deer wander. I was half expecting Aragog to pop up…

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And finally, for your personal appreciation, one of the more exclusive properties available for the fae hearted in these parts 😉

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Autumn Fungifest

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We have had a wonderful week off! We managed to go back to the ancient wood just in time to see the fungi explode. Several old favourites were there including, of course, the infamous fly agaric 🙂

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There is something enchanting about fungi…strange but true, at least for me 🙂

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Beautiful colours and shapes of all sizes. Did you know that fungi are the biggest organisms in the world? Did I spell ‘organisms’ correctly? *checks* Phew!

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Do you recognise any of these? There are over 3000 species of fungi in the UK. Most guidebooks tell you about 100 or so of them…be careful which you chew on if you want to tell the tale of it later as many of them are poisonous and fungi are very difficult to correctly identify as they can look very similar to each other! Cross check them in several books yourself to be on the safe side and never rely on just one photograph on the internet for correct identification.

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Some fungi are so big they are practically a meal on their own…if you have the right stomach for it.

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Flowers and berries were still scattered about…rosehips and black bryony aplenty too.

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And THIS is where the fairies live… 😉

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Ancient Woodland Tour

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Last weekend was spent settling our garden in for the colder months again so we had time yesterday to go a little further afield and visit an ancient wood we had been meaning to see for ourselves.

This wood is particularly special to me as it was the wood my grandparents walked in as they courted each other many years ago. My grandmother’s family moved up here from London and she was born not long afterwards.

The wood is looked after very well and the ancient ash stools created by the coppicing make some of these trees the oldest living things in my part of the country.

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There are wonderful plants growing in the woods including Spindle with its popcorn shaped fruit.

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Crab Apples – my grandmother made crab apple jelly when I was a child, very sweet to counteract the bitterness of the fruit.

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Lots of lovely berries and fruits including rosehips.

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There was plenty to see here, untouched by pesticides and just how a wood should be with food and healing plants enough for all. At the end of October the fungi this wood is also famous for will start appearing in abundance.

If only all woods were kept like this we would be able to heal ourselves of so many ailments using what Mother Nature has so generously given us. As it is we salivate at conservation areas like this, look but don’t touch and wonder if lessons will ever be learnt.

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