New video now up on my YouTube channel!
New video now up on my YouTube channel 🙂
Over the years I’ve heard quite a few people equate the riding of the broom by a witch to a sexual experience. Often these folks state that the witch used a hallucinogenic ointment which was rubbed onto the broom, and then inserted in a sexual manner which made her think she was “flying”. I can tell you, there are a lot easier ways to get high.
This theory comes from a few confessions extracted during the dreadful times of the witch hunts across Europe. What is often forgotten or purposefully left out is the fact that these so-called confessions were extracted under torture. Europe and Scotland had absolutely awful methods of torturing so-called witches to extract information from them, usually with questions led by the examiner to produce a consistent result among the captives. In England, torture was illegal, however, they still kept their victims awake and used sleep deprivation to get what they wanted, as well as having the person kept in one position for hours at a time without being able to move. That’s torture too.
If we are to believe that what was said under torture is factually correct, then we must also believe what else was said alongside this confession. We must believe that these people had sexual congress with goats, or the Devil himself. We must believe that these people suckled their familiars (animal helpers) with their own blood. We must believe a host of other outrageous stories that were created to instil fear and hatred, dividing a populace and creating a space where the old, the weak, the poor and the independent thinkers were targeted against the power of the Church and patriarchy.
It is my firm belief that the sexual imagery of the witch “riding” her broom is the result of the sexually repressed minds of the witch hunters themselves. It is only one of many sexual fantasies created by these men who were paid to bring people in for prosecution. This was their job, and they made money from it. You would have to be quite a horrible type of person to want to do this sort of job in the first place. Just saying.
In fact, the witch riding her broom comes from a long heritage of witches working with staffs, stangs, wands and distaffs. We can trace this work in Europe back to the völva (plural völur), a type of Norse shamanistic practitioner of magic and divination. Völva actually means “staff carrier”. Usually a woman, she always had a staff, sometimes wood, sometimes an ornamental iron distaff. We know this from the many burials found across Scandinavia which have these women buried with the tools of their trade.
I’ve even heard some folks say that the practice of the völva was seen as shameful in Viking society. They use the sexual fantasy imagery and overlay it against the profession of the völva, claiming that this is what she did with her staff, like a witch riding her broom covered in the flying ointment. First, let’s look at the “shameful” aspect.
For women, it was not considered shameful to practice magic, except from a Christian point of view. For men to practice the magic of the völva, known as seidr, it was seen in Viking times as “ergi”, often translated as shameful. For a man to do women’s work was seen as unmanly, though we do have to remember that the sources from which we get this information were written after the Viking period by the patriarchal Christian monks. We also see women warriors, buried with their weapons, and so the question of men’s work and women’s work is even more circumspect. We see in the myths of the gods and goddesses a couple of the gods doing womanly things: Odin learns the art of seidr from the goddess Freya (he’s not seen as unmanly), Thor dresses up as a woman to get into a giant’s hall (still not unmanly) and Loki turns himself into a mare to have sex with another horse (still not called out as unmanly and actually producing Odin’s steed, Sleipnir, in the process).
(Artwork from: https://www.deviantart.com/briannacherrygarcia/gallery)
Add on top of that the fact that all the burials found of the women who are considered to be völur are high status burials, and the question of shame seems absurd. The Osberg ship burial, perhaps one of the most famous Viking ship burials, had the body of a völva laid to rest with with a host of beautiful treasures (what was left of them, for the burial had been broken into a long time before, with many of the goods stolen). No person who was considered shameful would be given such a send off.
The question of drugs does come into play when looking at the ancestors of the more modern-day version of the broom riding witch. Many of the burials were found to have pouches of hallucinogenic herbs on the body, such as henbane or cannabis seeds. These seeds, when thrown onto hot coals would produce a smoke that, when inhaled, would most definitely get you “high”, but not in the way that the sexual fantasy of the witch riding a broomstick would by the witch hunters. The clue is in the staff itself, and what it symbolises.
The word seidr is thought to derive from spinning or weaving. The völur were those who could see the way that fate was woven or spun through their contact with the spirit world. Their distaffs were their link to that ability. For those graves wherein a wooden staff was found, the link lies more with the World Tree that one can use to travel to the nine worlds in Norse cosmology. Through the staff there is a sympathetic link created with the World Tree, with Yggdrasil, and it can be used to “ride” between the worlds.
And this is where the descendant of the völur appears today, in the form of hedge riding, an aspect of Hedgewitchcraft. Riding the staff/stang/broom/whatever you have to hand that resembles the world tree helps you to travel between the worlds in order to find the information that you require in your Craft. Most Hedgewitches today do not use hallucinogens, being able to perform the working through trance states that are induced by other means.
So, in conclusion, the equating of broom riding and sex seems more like a far-fetched fantasy than the actual reality when we dig a little deeper into the history and the ancestry of witchcraft. That it is continuing to be spread today only helps to demean and undermine the power of women in working magic, turning something extremely symbolic and important into a sexually repressed fantasy created by the patriarchy. When a witch is riding her broom, or using her staff, stang or wand in ritual, the lineage is far greater than most people can ever assume, and is far more powerful than any witch hunter could ever dream of.
For a great video on the staff of the völva, see Freya’s video below:
For some Pagans, asthma can really affect their personal practice. It can get in the way of so many things that you want to do, and overall be a real challenge to your way of life. I have weather-triggered asthma, as well as seasonal asthma from tree pollen in the spring and early summer. This means that many of my own personal practices had to be adapted in order for me to still be able to do all the things that I love. Here are some of my tips and tricks for getting through the difficult times when your condition is acting up. Please note, I am not a doctor, I am just passing on some advice that my own doctors have provided, alongside tried and tested methods that work for me.
First off – take your medication. If you’ve been prescribed inhalers, take them. For seasonal asthma, my GP has also recommended in addition to the inhalers, take an antihistamine every day, such as Piriteze. I take mine at night, just before bed. If you know when you asthma will start to kick in, ie. roughly which month, start taking the antihistamine a few weeks before so it’s really in your system when it all kicks off.
Second – look into supplementary herbal remedies from a qualified herbalist. I use the Love Your Lungs and the Allergeze formula from Nature’s Pharmacy. Melanie Cardwell is a licensed herbal practitioner who has worked with Druid College for many years. She also offers really good herbal courses and workshops. Let your herbalist know which medications you are on, and also consult your doctor too on the herbal remedies you wish to take.
A big tip for seasonal asthma – keep the windows closed if pollen is a trigger. You can open them at night when pollen levels are lower, to air out the house. I also used screens on my windows, initially to keep out the mozzies, moths and horseflies from my home in the country, but which I’ve found also keeps out the larger particles of pollen. At the end of every autumn, I take down the screens to wash them and put them away for the winter, and I’m amazed at the amount of pollen on them, luckily on them and not in the house! I bought flexiscreens that attach to windows using Velcro strips around the window edges. These are great because you can just throw them in the washing machine when you need to.
As well, wear a mask outside. These days, people won’t look at you funnily if you wear a mask. Years ago, I wore a bandana around my mouth and nose when I was working outside, to keep the pollen out of my lungs. This enabled me to do what I needed to do. In the evenings I could do rituals outside without a mask, for the most part. Some days were better than others. If a thunderstorm was coming, I had to grin and bear it – and use my reliever inhaler.
There are also a couple of yoga poses that open up your chest, such as supported fish pose. I prefer the supported version of this pose, because I find the traditional pose throws out my lower back. Using pillows and blocks to get into a comfortable position, I can lie there for about a minute and just concentrate on opening and expanding my chest and airways.
Getting an air purifier has also really helped. We bought ours second-hand, and put in a new filter. It didn’t cost us very much, but has really helped, especially overnight in high pollen seasons. It has a night setting, which doesn’t make as much noise as the normal setting. We also have a de-humidifier, which can be used during winter and through low pressure systems that bring a lot of rain and thunderstorms, which for many is also a trigger.
I’ve had to be meticulous about cleaning the house as well. Dusting, to remove any airborne particles has been my mission these last few years. I dust and vacuum every week, and twice a year I do a big clean in the spring and autumn, getting into all the nooks and crannies, under sofas and behind beds, etc. I’ve also found a wonderful tool for cleaning inside the radiators. It’s a long brush that really gets down inside them and pulls all the dust and other stuff that can get trapped inside, only to be released every time the heating comes on. The first time you use this, expect a lot of dust, so wear a mask! I also have the vacuum cleaner nozzle right by the brush head, so that when it’s pulled out, it catches the dust before it spreads to the rest of the room. Kind of like that suction thing that’s used while the dentist works on your teeth.
I’ve had to give up using incense, which was a real blow. I adore incense. I bought handmade incense from my favourite store in Montreal for many years, and also loose incense from StarChild in Glastonbury. Gorgeous, gorgeous scents. However, incense releases too many particles in the smoke, and triggers attacks in me, so I have had to give them up. Sometimes I might use it outside during ritual, if I’m sure I won’t be inhaling it, but even then that’s now becoming a rare thing for me, and I prefer just to enjoy the scents of nature. I can’t do saining or smudging anymore either with smoke, so I use different methods of purification, such as water (from the tap, rainwater, salted water or moonwater that I’ve made by leaving water outside overnight under the full moon, sometimes with a quartz crystal in it to add power to it), deep breathing, allowing the breeze to clear and cleanse me, the sunlight or moonlight, or energy drawn up from the earth and down from the stars.
To scent the home, usually I just have a window open when it’s possible to get some fresh air inside. In winter, this is lovely, as I don’t have to worry about pollen. I can open the windows while I’m making the bed, just to get a few minutes of air into the bedroom. If I want a particular scent, I can use an essential oil. Not in an oil burner, however, as this again triggers my asthma, as the water particles from the steam and the oil attached to them get into my lungs and cause it to tighten. Instead, I take five to ten drops of an essential oil and place them on an organic cotton ball or pad, or even a wadded up tissue or loo roll, and then hide it in a pretty bowl somewhere in the room. For extra oomph, I can place the container on a radiator, where the scent will disperse without the steam that triggers my asthma. For some, this may not work, as scent can be a trigger, so you will have to really know what sets you off and what doesn’t in order to be safe. My favourite oils to use are geranium for the living areas, and patchouli for the bedroom. I use little brass cauldrons that I found at antique fairs and shops, and these are dotted around my house. I also have one on my altar, for when I am working inside. I like to use lavender at my indoor space, as it brings peace and the cats seem to enjoy it.
Candles – you will have to be careful which ones to use, if you can use them at all. I’ve found that all petroleum-based paraffin candles aren’t good for me (or anyone, really) and so I use soy or beeswax candles. Beeswax is expensive, and so I use soy candles from reputable and sustainable sources. You will have to do your homework to find a good soy candle maker/distributor in your area. These give off less smoke and particles than the usual paraffin candles, and so aren’t so much a trigger for me. I air out the room afterwards too.
I haven’t found that changing my diet has had any effect on my asthma, but for some that has worked. I’d advise talking to your GP and herbal specialist about this, as they might have advice to share with you and be able to work with your needs. As always though, everyone should eat their fruits and vegetables!
Meditation also helps to lessen the effect of stress-related asthma. Stress can be a big trigger, and so the more you are at peace with yourself and the world, the less you will suffer, not only from asthma but from a whole host of ills. Meditation also helps you to get in touch with yourself, and the more you know about yourself, the better off you will be able to take care of yourself, and others.
I hope that this blog post has been of help to some of you out there who suffer from asthma, with some tips and tricks to living your fullest Pagan life without triggering attacks. If you have any advice that works for you, please do feel free to leave it in the comments section below. First and foremost, talk to your doctor about your condition, and if it hasn’t been diagnosed, get one as quick as you can. What some people might think is asthma could be a heart condition, and so you really do need to get it checked out immediately.
Blessings on your practice!
But it’s raining.
It’s cold, and my arthritis is acting up.
It’s going to be dark soon, and it’s nice and warm in here.
My feet, shins, hands and back hurt. The air is cold on my face. I currently hate the world, because it’s full of idiots who aren’t abiding by the guidelines to keep this pandemic at bay. I hate our government. I hate not seeing my family. I am sad and angry and lonely and fed up and in pain.
The beech wood has mostly passed me by. I finally look up, and see the light coming through the guardian oaks that border the wood. The ground is hard, the mud has frozen. In that pale, low light, on the edge of the heath, I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with winter.
Breathing in Skadhi.
I am taken back in my mind to hours spent in the forests of my home, on my skis, with no one around me. Just me and the chickadees and the blue jays, the snow and the snow shadows. And here I am, across the ocean, with just me and the crows, the deer and the long shadows. I remember.
My heart awakens to winter. Its song fills my soul. I step outside of my pain, and embrace being alone. I am sovereign and I am free. I am out in the wilderness of the heath, with the deer herds and the hawks, the falcons and the foxes. I am with them, I am of them. I am winter. I am in the utangarth, beyond the innangarth. And it is good. It reminds me who I am.
I am strong, I am resilient. I know what I want. I have made it, I have made a life and a home. I am happy, I am doing what I want in life, what I was meant to do with the skills I have. I am resourceful and I am lucky. I am grateful.
Skadhi walks beside me. She has been there my whole life. She doesn’t guide me, she inspires me. I walk my own path through the snow drifts, I glide where I can, I toil where it’s necessary. I hear her song in the north-easterly winds that blow against the house, bringing sleet and snow. I am hearing her speak her mind, and I do the same. Skadhi took on the might of Asgard. I can take on the might of Midgard. For I know who I am.
I get home, the darkness is all around me. The winter night draws in, the frosty ground crunching under my feet. I look up at the stars and find the North Star, my guiding light in the inky blackness. I set my bearings, to steer my life on the course that I desire. I then go inside, and have a cup of coffee. My cheeks are flushed, and the house is warm. I feel better. And I know why.
I listened to Skadhi’s message.
Here’s how I celebrate the Heathen tradition of Mothers’ Night 🙂
In this blog series , we will go through the runes as they are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem.
The fourth rune, Ōs has two different interpretations, yet which are linked. The first is that Ōs means god, or divinity, and usually Woden (Odin). The second is that Ōs means mouth, which again is related to Woden, who uses the breath of life and also the breath of inspiration. So it most likely that this rune relates to Woden directly, whichever way we look at it. Ōs is also known as Ansuz, which means a member of the gods’ family or tribe. With the shape of the rune Ansuz, the ends of the branch do not turn upwards as they do with the Old English rune Ōs.
In the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem, the verse reads:
God [or mouth] is the origin of all language
Wisdom’s foundation and wise man’s comfort
And to every hero blessings and hope.
Woden is the bringer of runes to humankind, who sacrificed himself on the tree for nine days and nine nights until, screaming, he took up the runes from the Well of Wyrd. This scream is again related to the mouth, breath and inspiration. It is all coming from the inside, to be expressed externally. As the god of frenzy and inspiration, this suits Woden very well. Woden also specialises in eloquence and poetry, let’s not forget.
Warriors and heroes were supposed to valiant in battle, but also eloquent afterwards. They had to know how to trade verses and come up with poetry, sometimes on the spot (though not while fighting!). This might relate to the hope and blessings aspect of the rune verse with regards to heroes, or perhaps that they will be remembered for their deeds after they have died with good words, poetry or song. Woden’s later incarnation as Odin in the Viking Age was both a boon and a bane to his chosen heroes, for he often betrayed them. And so, the blessings and hope we see in the rune poem make more sense in the remembrance of the hero, rather than a divine blessing or hope.
Albertsson states that Woden was much different for the Anglo Saxons as his later Viking counterpart was to his people: Woden was primarily the wise one connected to words and speech, the creator of spoken language, he who inspired the poets. He ruled the wind, which included the breath that creates speech (æthem). This breath of life is also the final thing that we do upon death: we exhale for one last time, thus denoting Woden’s role in death as well as life. Thus, Ōs can also be seen as the rune of life and death, perhaps even rebirth.
Ōs has a relation to the use of magic as well, as spoken words in charms were and still are very common. In the text, Hávamál, Odin claims to know galdor, to know how to use the words and spells against fire, sword edges, arrows, fetters and storms. He could also summon up the dead and speak to them to gain more knowledge.
In runic readings, Ōs means communication, inspiration, poetry and knowledge, usually of divine origin. If the querent is a devotee of Woden, it might have even more meanings. You can us Ōs magically to help increase eloquence, to find the inspiration to write that book or poem. Holding up the rune to your lips while concentrating on receiving inspiration can open up new pathways gifted by Woden. You can trace the rune on work surfaces and tools such as laptops, especially if you are a writer. And here’s hoping it brings wisdom, comfort, blessings and hope, even to the most stubborn writer’s block! Finally, you can use it to communicate with the dead, should you so wish, as this is one of the realms of Woden’s power.
 Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books, (2011), p.46
 Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books, (2011), p.46
 Albertsson, A. Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer, Llewellyn, (2011), p.186
 Wodening, S. Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times, Angleseaxisce Ealdriht, (2003), p. 185
This summer, as I recovered from major surgery, as soon as I was able I stood outside every morning and honoured my Lady and the day. I honoured and praised my Lady with her many associations, and I also used an adapted version of Sigdrifa’s Prayer that I came up with:
Hail to the Day, and Day’s sons
Farewell to Night and Her Daughters
With loving eyes look upon us here
And grant peace to those living here
All to the Gods, Hail to the Ancestors
Hail to the mighty fecund earth
Eloquence and native wit bestow upon us here
And healing hands while we live
But these last few weeks I haven’t said this prayer, and instead simply stood outside and felt the wind upon my skin, listening to the sounds and smelling the air. No words. My life is filled with words, and I guess I needed to stop with the words, for they were empty after a while. I needed to feel, from deep within, reaching for the silence first and then feeling the connection, rather than trying to state it as happening when it wasn’t. Too many words.
And so, now that I have my new seasonal altar set up, I sit and meditate at it every day and call to my Lady in my mind, feeling her inside my heart like a warm amber glow that spreads slowly into my awareness. I reach down with my energy into the earth and call to the earth, whose dark and rich energy comes up with my breath through my spine. I get out into the forest and onto the heath several times a week, with the action of walking as my prayer. And I am often blessed with wonderful sightings of the deer, the low-flying hawk, a falcon, a badger’s den or a robin in full song within arm’s length. Some of these moments I have captured on camera, but they will always reside deep within my heart.
I have changed, since my surgery. I had a hysterectomy at the end of June, due to a uterus full of fibroids and a very large ovarian cyst. I am only now coming to terms with the aftermath: living a mostly pain-free life is wonderful, but there is an emotional tsunami of pain and suffering that looms on the horizon every minute of the day. I call to my Lady to help me, woman to woman, for it seems that all the pain I’ve ever had in my life is now just below the surface of my skin, and the slightest bump sets it loose in a torrent of tears. I want to scream, to sob with abandon, to be held in the arms of my mother. I call to the earth, the Mother of All, and find myself supported on her green and dark bosom.
I found myself leaving all my old pathways of being, I floated for a couple of months, not doing anything except healing. I did not do full moon rituals, though I knew the cycles each and every day. I did a very short blot to Freyr at Lammas. I walked for the autumn equinox. Instead, I meditated, walked the land, and began to find my place within it once more, changed, different.
I felt like I was between the worlds, between a child and a middle-aged woman. I felt separated from myself. My detached self looked down with pity at the sad little girl, at the sad woman dealing with her life’s pain. Perhaps this was my Lady, taking me up to a higher point of view, to see myself from this other perspective, to keep me functioning in day to day business.
“Are you having having a bad day? You are not. You are a Bad Bitch. Continue. Is your depression weighing you down? I know. Continue. You can keep going. You can do this. Continue. You are fighter. You are strong. You are smart. And you are wonderfully made. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep going. Keep going. Continue.“
– @playcheerleader on Instagram, sent to me very timely by an old friend
I have to let my Lady’s love of life fill my soul again. The earth supports me with warmth and strength, even as she turns colder and falls back into rest. With mind and body numbed from the trauma, I now have to dance in the woods with the elves once again. I remember that time. It was nearly thirty-odd years ago, and more in other lifetimes, but it is still there, they are there, waiting.
My Lady, fill my soul with your golden light, to guide me through the darkest night and find my way back to those woods, and back home to my soul.
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Here’s a video describing a Winternights blot, a heathen ritual to welcome in winter. I honour my Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian ancestry at this time of year, as well as the growing darkness and the cold north winds.