Last week I had the most lovely interview with Eron Mazza on The Witching Hour podcast. You can listen to the whole thing HERE.
Whether you’ve been practising your spiritual path for 30 years or 3 years, you will need to shake things up every now and again. Nature doesn’t stay the same. Nature changes, each and every day. As I look out my window, things have changed, sometimes minutely, sometimes drastically, but I can see and feel the change. When I’m out and walking the landscape, I see the wider changes happening, beyond my own little hearth and home. By spending time noticing these changes, I become used change, and so I am also able to transform what I need to in my own life.
My spiritual path does not remain an unvarying constant. It is ever shifting, changing, flowing in and out with the seasons and the cycles. With my many, many, many (oh so many, where did the years go?) years of experience that I have in following my own tradition, I can honestly say that no two years have ever been alike. My interests, my environment, my circumstances lead me down different routes that inform and re-energise my current modus operandi. I am not the same person I was twenty years ago, and nor would I want to be.
Anything that is alive, changes. We often forget that in our day to day existence. We often relive past experiences, but these are done and gone; what we need to do is re-live, to truly live once again in the present moment. Accepting change and circumstances and experience that should, hopefully, lead to wisdom.
Some days are harder than others, for sure. Some days our Craft might seem to take a backseat in our lives, as we try to deal with the hardships and grievances, the pain and the struggles that come from being on this planet at this moment in time. But it is always there, waiting for us to tap back into it, to bring it back to life.
What if your rituals no longer bring you joy? Do something different! Instead of casting a circle, invoking the gods, etc. why not simply go out and walk the land? Whether you are in the countryside or in a city, find a place where there are green and growing things, and be out there in it. Sense the energies, the time of year, the season and the cycle. Feel that deep within your soul, feel your soul reflecting this back out into the world. Let this invigorate you, and take you out of your rut. Let the change flow into you.
Now re-charged, take some time for re-visioning. See how you would like your Craft to be, not how it has always been. Make the changes that you desire, try new things. If they don’t work, put them aside and try new ones. Take some time to visualise the person you want to be, and then go out and be that person. It won’t happen without a little time and effort expended into the process.
Be the change.
I’m very pleased to present the cover of my next book, coming out with Llewellyn Worldwide in October!
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:
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of my latest video! To see all such videos, and to have access to Patron-only posts, giveaways and more, please join me on my Patreon page 🙂
A full day of filming, another of editing and some extra hours on sound. But I’m pleased with the results!
New video now up! Complete with bluebells!
It’s finally complete: the entire audiobook of The Hedge Druid’s Craft. Thank you so much to my Bandcamp followers and subscribers for sticking with me throughout this one, as I had a couple months off due to surgery. I hope you enjoy this audiobook. Narrating is hard work, as is editing, maintaining the website, etc. But I’m proud that I’ve been able to do it, and of the finished work.
Now, to write another book!
Hello all! Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new blog for Witches and Pagans at Pagansquare – Hedge Riding. This one takes us on a new journey into the art and practice of the Hedgewitch. All my previous posts for Druidheart are still available, and you can access them just by clicking on my name.
I hope you’ll join me there, as well as here!
So, here’s a little teaser about the work that I did a couple of months ago, when the gods decided to sit me down quite literally and make this book happen. This book will not be available until 29 June 2018 through Moon Books, but I just thought I’d leave this here… 🙂
Endorsement by Mabh Savage, author of A Modern Celt and Celtic Witchcraft:
“This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking to deepen their magical nature or set out upon a path to connect with the world around them. Jo is incredibly inclusive and covers aspects of witchcraft, Wicca and druidism interspersed with an alamanac-style folklore juxtaposed against modern science and a common-sense realism about the modern world we find ourselves in. As a witch on an eclectic path, and a trainee Bard, many of Jo’s words and experiences really resonated with me. Like Jo, I have always been a witch, but appreciate this can mean different things to different people, and I also have found that some Druidic paths can at first appear dry and academic, but with this volume you can sink your toes into the earth and reach high into the sky to touch the stars; to feel what being a Hedge-Druid can really mean; how it can change your world. Jo works with herbs, plants and animals, examining all types of creature, from what we might consider the lowest, such as insects and invertebrates, to the magnificent mammals such as stags and horses. She reminds us that each has a vital place in the world, and in its eco-system, and even shows us how we might go about finding our own animal ally. As well as the earthly beings we can connect to, Jo teaches us how to connect to the celestial beings; the sun, moon and stars, and the aspects of our earth that they control, such as the tides and the seasons. Jo speaks to us of the inherent goodness in some people; how we can look past the horrors that some humans have brought upon the world and see the hard work of those (including many druids and those on similar paths) who are trying to fix the damage and repair the connection between humans and nature. Jo reminds us that we can fill each day with ‘the magical and the mystical’, and gives us the tools and knowledge to create our own deeper understanding of this truly wondrous world we live in.”