New video: The Goddess in Witchcraft

The extreme winds we’ve had for the last few weeks have made it very difficult to film outdoors, especially here on the coast. So I made a new video this week, using footage filmed from last year. I hope you like it!

The Goddess has a plan… or does She?

I’ve come across the phrase “the Goddess has got a plan” or something similar within the Pagan community, especially when people are trying to sort out why good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. For me personally, there are a few reasons why this just doesn’t sit right in my own Pagan worldview.

To begin with, I simply don’t believe in predestination. Many people have a simplistic view of “fate”, which seems to preclude the concept of free will. Many things are “fated to happen”, or meeting that person was “just fate”. Sometimes the notion of free will is forgotten in these instances, other times willingly overlooked in order to explain or justify the reason something has happened. Many Pagans, and all Wiccans, believe that we have free will, such as in the Wiccan rede (maxim or “counsel”) “an it harm none, do as ye will” which translates to “do not harm others while you live up to your full potential”. You will is your potential, your spiritual goal, your highest self.

But everyone is on this same ride. We are all going through life together, and someone else’s will may come into your life to challenge, support, annoy, or validate your own experience and your own will. Some would argue that a higher power has a plan for everyone, and that they are in some sort of control over the final destination, which means that there is some sort of control over the everyday experiences that lead to this final destination. This precludes free will, in my opinion.

Some have turned away from deity because of what has happened to them in their lives. They can’t believe that a deity would allow such things to happen to them and/or to the world in general. This is still a belief in pre-destination, and a deity that controls everything like some master puppeteer.

For me, deity is most certainly not this in any shape or form. Deity is the energy of life, of death and of renewal. That is its agenda. This energy may be seen in many different ways, relative to culture, to personal preference, to environment and so on. Different people attribute more associations to this basic agenda, myself included, into a more specified spiritual practice. But overall, the plan is life, death and renewal (or regeneration).

Our relationship with deity is very personal, and can be very specific. But does my Goddess have a plan for entire world? I know that she most certainly has a wish for the world, but it’s not up to her. It’s up to us.

Our free will, our own capability of taking full responsibility for our lives and the lives of others is part of that overall plan of life, death and renewal. It’s the growing up of the human race, the evolution that hopefully will take place sooner rather than later. In a Druidic sense, it is coming to realise that we are part of an environment, and that we need to be a contributing and beneficial part of that ecosystem in order for the whole to thrive (us included). In a Wiccan sense, it would be to do the least amount of harm and to become the best person that you can be in a similar context. In Hedgewitchcraft, it would be to understand and work deeply with the cycles of nature in your own home environment, crafting your life in complete attunement to the world around you, both the seen and the unseen. In all of the above, we are opening ourselves to deity in order to better understand ourselves, and how to live well on this planet.

That, in my opinion, could be the only plan the deities could have for us. Bad things will happen to good people, not because it’s part of deity’s plan, but because there are bad people out there who harm others knowingly or unknowingly. Human ego, greed and fear get in the way of so much that could be accomplished.

Sometimes it’s really hard not to despair when the world seems like such a mess. But we have to put faith in ourselves, in our own actions and be the example we want to see reflected back to us in the world. Working with the wonderful energy of the gods is one way, though not all Pagans are religious. Working with the energy of the land where you live is at the core of all practice, to better understand our place and how we can make it better not just for ourselves, but for all in order to have a sustainable future that follows life, death and renewal, even when not viewed from a religious standpoint.

Your own Will is that which will see you through the most difficult of times. If you align your will to the flow of nature, you will come to understand the true inter-connectedness of all things. And these all have free will, just as you do. It’s learning to meet each other, soul to soul, and work with that energy which in Druidry is often called “awen”. In our relationships with the world we come to better understand the world and really participate in this great, vast cycle within cycles. We will see the good, the bad and the ugly on the way, but we have to realise that not all of that is part of any deity’s plan. It just is, and we can learn to work with it, to condemn when we need to, to be the light we want to see in the world, and to really think long and hard about our own ethics and morality.

That’s my plan, anyway.

A little magic and spellcraft…

Did you know that on my Patreon page, I share magic and spellcrafting tips? Every month I put up a new spell, alongside some other tips, herbcraft and more. Here is an example of the spellcrafting that’s on offer for the top two tiers with my Patreon community 🙂

The Cairn of Stones Spell

In this spell, we use the power of stones to help bring about what it is that we need/desire. Ensure that your intention is good as well as being nice and clear. You can perform this spell outdoors or indoors. I personally prefer not to work with crystals unless they are ones that I have found myself out in the wilds, because a) they may have been mined through blasting the earth or obtained using dubious labour practices, and b) most crystals for sale are tumbled, meaning that they won’t pile one of top of the other very well.

Gather up some stones to use in this spell. If you are collecting them out in the wild to take home later, then please ensure that there are no restrictions as to what you can and cannot take home with you from this area. As you walk the land, keep your intention in mind, and your eyes and heart open to stones that seem to speak to you. Pick them up as you go, feeling their energy to see if they are in tune with your intention. If you are using stones that you already have, then do the same with each of them at home. Leave an offering to the earth after you have collected the stones. Thirteen stones is an ideal number for this work.

Find a place that speaks to you, and where your stones will be left undisturbed. Don’t place them in a prominent spot, say, in the middle of a busy beach, because children, adults, dogs etc. will probably knock them over before they’ve had a chance to work. It’s a good idea to find a place near to where you gathered the stones, so that they are all staying roughly in the same area. If this is not possible, bring to mind the area where you found the stones when you are ready to start the spell, and say a word of thanks.

In your designated place, cast a circle if you so wish and call upon any deities, ancestors, spirits of place or Fair Folk as appropriate to your path. Call upon the element of earth specifically, and really focus on this element. Through the stones, your spell will be working through the element of earth.

Hold each stone separately, and think of your need/desire. Blow gently on the stone to attune it to yourself and your personal energies. Then, place your intention into the stone, letting it flow from your mind and into the stone. Pour some of your personal energy into it as well, and visualise yourself as having obtained or achieved your goal. Say these or similar words after you have done this, to seal it into the stone:

Stone of earth, elemental power

Lend your strength here at this hour

To my spell manifest for me

This is my will, so mote it be.

Place the stone down, and repeat with each stone in turn. Make the little cairn or pile of stones wider at the bottom, so that it narrows towards the top where you can place a single, topping stone. As you place this final stone with the words spoken, see the whole pile lighting up and glowing with

combined energy. This energy radiates outwards and into the world to manifest your goal. Take a moment to relax, ground your energy and then leave an offering nearby (but not right by the stones – an animal might knock it over if it is a food offering). Rise and make your way home if you are out in nature, and let the spell do its work. The rocks may radiate your energy and intention for some time.

If you are performing this indoors, use your altar or a place where the stones will not be disturbed for several days at least. Leaving the stones for a cycle of the moon is ideal. When you are ready, dismantle the stones and thank each stone for lending their aid to your work. You can do this with an outdoor cairn as well, returning the stones to where you found them, or you can leave the stones there as you wish. If you need to break this spell at any time, simply dismantle the cairn and state “the spell is broken, through the words I have spoken” and see the energy of spell dissipating into the air. Some residual energy may linger, but you may not have any control over that, as it has been “put out there” so to speak and you no longer have complete control over it.

Working with stones is a wonderful way to get to know the earth and its energy.

Zen and the Cello

The world-famous cellist, Pablo Casals, was once asked why he practiced eight hours a day, considering his already incredible skills. His reply? “Because I think I’m beginning to make some progress.”

In meditation, these are words to live by. No matter how many hours, days, weeks or years we’ve spent meditating, each and every day is brand new, with different situations affecting our mind. Just going to sit down and do some zazen (sitting meditation) every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes, is a great act of courage.

Why courage? Because you are taking the time to dedicate to your own mental health, and through helping yourself you are better able to help the world. And it takes courage to help the world, alongside resilience and inner strength.

Every time we sit down to meditate, we are performing an act of devotion. We are devoting ourselves to our practice, and in this case, practice does not make perfect; it makes for continual practice. There is no permanency in life; nothing is the same as it was a moment ago. Everything is in constant change, and sometimes those changes are too miniscule for us to see with our eyes. But it is still there, flowing, changing, moving in a world of impermanence. Even the insight that you may gain while sitting down in meditation is impermanent.

It may come as a flash, that brief moment of enlightenment. But then it’s gone, and we are left to carry that tiny insight with us into the rest of our lives, to help us learn and cultivate new insights. That moment where we realise that all is one, that we are all connected, where our ego drops away and we know; that moment of insight is impermanent, like everything else. You will not forever be at peace once you have gained this insight, nor will you become some enlightened being. What that flash of insight brings is more practice, so that you can understand and cultivate that awareness more and more into your daily life. Practice makes practice.

We might like to think that once we have gained some insight, that we have had some sort of “awakening”. But here’s the thing: when we go to sleep every night we still awaken every morning. We don’t just wake up once and have done with it. We constantly need to go through the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. It is so with our minds as well.

Someone who thinks that they are enlightened, that they know all that they need to know, is perhaps one of the most ignorant people on this planet. I’ve been there. We all have, at some point or other. And then we wake up and realise that it is a continuous process of awakening to our lives and to the world. We learn, we grow, we change each and every day. Sometimes we regress, sometimes we progress, but it is still work of some kind.

I like to think that with age, I have developed some sense of being no more than who I am in the moment, right now, and that’s enough. And as soon as I have that moment, it’s gone, and I’ve changed, we’ve all changed. There is nothing special about gaining this information or insight. It’s just me, it’s just you, it’s just how things are right now at this point in time. And that’s all that we can do. As Martin Luther said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Except maybe to practice the cello.

For more on Zen and especially in relation to Druidry, see my book: Zen for Druids.

Last video of the Year!

Working with the darkness and the light, the Divine Child and Great Mother – for me, it is the defining theme and journey for this time of year.

Pirating and E-Book “Re-sellers”

How can you tell whether an e-book download is legit? Well, the simple answer is unless an author or publishing company offers you a free e-book direct from their website, then you most likely dealing with illegal material. Most people know that the many “free” pdf download sites are really just sites that are trying to install malware and other nasties on your device/system, but there has emerged a new, more legitimate-sounding con: the e-book “re-seller”.

It’s recently come to many Pagan authors’ attention that there are quite a few sites “re-selling” digital formats of their books. Please note that you cannot “re-sell” a digital format of a book. Every book that is sold is protected under copyright, and may only be used and read by the person who purchased the item.  E-book “re-sellers” sites offer illegal pdf downloads of the works. Some of the digital “re-sellers” have websites that look very authentic, and are even using large well-known second-hand platforms that make you think that what they are doing is legal. But please, make no mistake, a “second-hand” e-book is an illegal version.

Publishers sell licensed versions for Kobo, Nook, Kindle, Googleplay and more, ensuring that with each purchase, the author is getting paid for that sale. These are protected versions of the book to be put onto your chosen device. An e-book “re-seller” selling a pdf is not the same (it is not protected in the same way as the above versions are). What’s worse, once a single pdf is out there on the internet, hundreds of sites can then use it for their own personal gains (with nothing going towards the author).

Pirating of e-books is something that is rapidly starting to undermine the publishing industry. What most people don’t realise is that when they illegally download a book, they are putting another nail in the coffin of authors everywhere who are trying to write more books. Most authors these days can’t even afford to have writing as their sole career: it’s very, very hard to make a living as an author. For instance, did you know that the standard percentage that an author gets per book sold is 10% net? That’s net, not gross. So, after the publishers, the sellers and everyone else has had their share, the author gets 10% of what’s leftover. Sometimes that’s just pennies. The percentage is sometimes higher for an e-book, but it is still very much lower than what authors used to take home ten or twenty years ago. With the illegal downloading of books, this throws the industry into a tailspin and it is the author who suffers the most.

Many, many people are feeling the strain of earning less and working more, authors included. Many, many people can’t afford to buy all the books that they want. For some, illegal downloading seems to be the answer. What people might not realise is that the more they do this, the more likely it is that an author will not be able to sustain themselves and, therefore, will stop writing all those lovely books.

So what is one to do? If you are short on cash, you can always use a legitimate e-library, and if they don’t have the books you want, you can always ask them to order them for you. My husband has used the county library’s e-book department and read hundreds of books through them. Libraries pay for the license, and so you can read the material you want legally. As well, the author gets a crust of bread with her soup.

You can also work as a book reviewer in your spare time, and dedicate online places to book reviews such as a website and blog. Then, once you have a legitimate platform established, you can ask the publisher for a review copy, and then write your review (usually sending an email back to the publishers with the link to your review). I have a couple of publishers that I work with in this respect, who send me info on new book releases a couple of times a year. I email them back with the titles that interest me, and then I after I’ve received and read the book, I write up a review. I haven’t had to pay for the book monetarily, but I’ve devoted my time and energy into helping promote the work on various personal platforms. In this way, I am engaging in a legitimate exchange of services for goods. Plus I get real books to keep and put on my bookshelf 🙂

Help keep your favourite authors going through legitimate retailers, libraries and a fair exchange of services. x