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Monday, 31 October 2011

Samhain - the Witch's New Year

Samhain, from which many of traditions of Halloween are borrowed, marks the end of the old year & the beginning of the new, it celebrates the third & final harvest of nuts & berries & heralds the coming of Winter.  The Wheel of the Year has turned full circle & at this point we are reminded that death is an inextricable part of the great Cycle of Life.  The cold, dark, quiet of Winter allows the land to rest.  But deep down in the earth the seeds of new life are buried & will surely stir again.  Birth, growth, death & rebirth.  So the Wheel turns.

At Samhain, as the year dies, the veil between the worlds are at their thinnest, which gives the day its perceived 'spooky' feeling.  It is a time to remember our ancestors & dear departed, to open our hearts to their wisdom & honour them.  It is a perfect time for divination - scrying mirrors, tarot cards, rune stones, etc.- all designed to help us receive messages that the Spirits may have for us. Our Celtic ancestors believed the dead were free to walk this world on Samhain eve.  They celebrated Samhain with ceremonial bonfires, making offerings to the deities in thanks for the year's harvests & symbolically clearing out the old year & welcoming in the new year.  During the celebrations they would wear costumes & as they danced around the sacred fires & honoured the dead, their disguises also served to 'hide' them from any malevolent spirits who might try to haunt or play tricks on them.  Home fires, which would have been extinguished during the day, were then re-lit from the flames of the sacred bonfires & kept burning to protect the household during the Winter months.  Food & drink were also left outside their doors for any spirits roaming the land.  And so we can begin to see the basis for modern, commercialised, Halloween traditions.

Today a witch might decorate her home and altar with symbols of the season - autumn leaves, berries, nuts, pumpkins, etc, with photographs of departed relatives, friends or pets & with black & orange candles.  She might celebrate with fire & a full circle ceremony or light plenty of candles, burn incense & quietly gaze into the flickering flames.  She might use this time to journey through the veil & to cast spells, but in whatever she does she will be connected to the God & Goddess, to Mother Earth & Father Sky & be in tune with the turning of the seasons, the tides of the seas, the phases of the Moon.  In harmony with all that is.

Just as Samhain is a time of  death so that there may be rebirth, so it is time to recognise ideas, feeling & emotions that have become dead to us (or to the wider world), which are not serving us well & banish them.  If we can achieve this, then during Winter's quiet months we can reflect peacefully on the past &  begin to dream of the coming year.  Our hearts will then understand that even the darkness is fertile.

Happy Samhain to you! Blessed be )O(

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Yesterday the sacred Wheel of the Year turned again & we entered the Sabbat of Mabon, at the Autumn Equinox.  The Earth stood in perfect balance, just as at Ostara, with the day being exactly the same length as the night. From this point onward the days will become shorter until the Winter Solstice.

Mabon is a time to be thankful for the abundance of the harvest & to take stock.  A time to fill the larder with homemade preserves & the freezer with vegetables, stocks & soups.  In Pagan symbolism Mabon is the time of the second harvest, the Fruit Harvest.  The Goddess is radiant as Harvest Queen & her union with the God has produced both the abundance all around us & the seed for next year's harvest.

Inwardly, Mabon is a time to examine whether the hopes, ideas & dreams we sowed in Spring have come to fruition, rejoice in those that have & to ponder the lessons of those that haven't.  Just as we are thankful for the harvest it's a time to be thankful for all that is ripe & rich & good in our lives.  Just as the chaff is discarded at harvest time, now is the time to discard our emotional & spiritual chaff so that we can begin to lay down the seed to be sown next year.  

The apple is a symbol of the Fruit Harvest & this year we are lucky to enjoy a particularly good crop of apples in the UK.  For Pagans the apple contains a hidden secret.  If you cut one across its middle rather than top to bottom you reveal a hidden pentagram containing the seeds.  The 5 points of a pentagram represent the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth & Spirit.

Blackberry & Apple Jelly

4lb blackberries (when taking fruit from the hedgerows remember to always leave enough behind for wildlife)
2lb cooking apples
2 pints water

Rinse & drain the blackberries,wash & chop the apples & place both into a preserving pan with the water.  Simmer until soft, the strain the pulp & measure the juice produced.  Return the juice to the pan, along with 1lb of sugar for every pint of juice & boil until setting point is reached (roughly 10 mins of rapid boiling).  Allow to cool slightly before potting into sterilised jars.

Mabon is an excellent time for gathering herbs & spices that will help fend off those pesky Winter colds & chills.  For example sage, ginger & hyssop are all good for treating the congestion of colds & flu.  Cinnamon & nutmeg are warming & improve circulation.  Echinacea works as a natural antibiotic & immune stimulant.

Warming Winter Tea

1.5 cups of  freshly boiled water
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp each grated lemon & orange zests
1 to 2 crushed cardammon seeds
1 or 2 drops of vanilla essence
1 cinnamon stick
Allow to infuse for 5 mins or to taste,sweeten with honey if desired.

May Mabon / Autumn blessings be with you,

Sara xx

Friday, 2 September 2011

Connecting sole to Soul with Nature

Sometimes I ask myself what has created this seismic shift inside me, this huge surge in spirituality?  I guess its always been latent in me, just waiting to be given room to blossom & grow.  This single greatest catalyst has been my deepening connection to Nature.  The Goddess & God speak to us through the landscape & if we tune in everything we need to know is right there.  It's key to healing ourselves & to understanding what we need to do to live in deeper harmony with Mother Earth.  I can feel the shift happening in me & I am so excited to be joining the Essence of Wild Barefoot Breathing e-Course this month as I journey deeper into Nature.
I'm so happy that Jason at Essence of Wild has written this beautiful guest blog post for me to share here, illustrated with his sumptuous photography:

'Overhung by bluebells, brambles and ferns I lay on the musty woodland floor feeling the cold damp seep through the waterproof picnic rug beneath me. The boggy ground provided a perfectly soft resting place as I lay there keeping company with the bowl of flower essence that Jackie and I had been given by the geum flowers. We knew it was necessary to be fully present with the essence until it told us that it was time to be taken away from the parent plants, so I happily rested with nature.

The rain began to pour. I wrapped the rug around me, leaving only my eyes and my feet uncovered. Gazing up to the topmost canopy of sycamore leaves I watched the path taken by the raindrops. They spiralled down to me. They actually spiralled! The journey took a count of 3 seconds. I stayed with the woodland for 4 hours and got to know so much about that tiny corner. Even now, months later, I can revisit every nook and cranny and recall the birds that came to see me. Particularly the tawny owl.

Being still for so long isn't new to me, I've spent many a day in cloth 'hides' waiting to photograph birds and have sat for hours willing the right cloud formations to dress the landscape in front of my camera. However this was different. I wasn't just waiting for nature to give me something, I was a part of nature's process. Without me the essence wouldn't have the spirit of the plant. My presence was serving a purpose, allowing some alchemical magic to take place between the diva of the geum, the spirits of the place, the guides, ancestors and higher beings we had called on and my own heartfelt intent to honour and respect this sacred work.

As we sat with the flowers earlier in the day and absorbed the messages of their healing little did I realise that what we were doing has been done since the days of prehistory. It felt like a new discovery to me, a new connection and I wanted to tell the world. I still want to shout about it and to share the knowledge that plants know a thing or two, but have come to understand that it really is nothing new. Nature has communicated her gifts to those who care to listen for as long as humans have foraged in her midst. After all, other animals self-medicate don't they?! Most of the modern world have simply lost the way, that's all.

Being able to slow down to nature's pace, learning how to be absolutely present with her and most of all, exuding a heartfelt love and warmth for nature that cannot be feigned are the keys to developing this relationship. Once we've begun the journey the mysteries that begin to unfold are many. Shamans and Hedge Witches have long known the deeper connections that result from nurturing this relationship with nature and our land, and perhaps not surprisingly modern scientific research is beginning to support what we have always felt through the bones of our ancestors.

Scientific textbooks such as 'The Secret Life of Plants' and 'The Secret Teachings of Plants' demonstrate how plants can detect our emotional states. More than that, they can actually alter their chemical make up in reaction to our emotions, crafting the perfect soul medicine we need! This came as a real revelation to me and helped answer many questions about herbal medicines. Previously I had this vision of the herbal healers of old working hard to find a remedy for a particular ailment and toiling their way through all the thousands of plants available before finding the correct one. Now I know how they did it. They simply asked. They went out into the land and asked which plant would like to help cure this illness. Being open hearted towards nature they would know the answer when it was given. Similarly they would enjoy a communion with the spirit of place, with the moon... with every single element of our universe and between them they'd come up with a solution.

The very real beauty of this is that nothing has changed.We can do this too! Nature is still there, she is still happy to work with us if we but ask. Healers, mystics, lightworkers

Connect with your earth, go barefoot, feel the difference, soak up the energy from the heart of our planet. Reconnect sole to Soul. Remember, as far as nature is concerned we are a part of her. How much better can it possibly get! '

Thursday, 1 September 2011

A wildwood journey

The hedge witch sat under her world tree, her feet bare, hair loose; her basket of charms by her side.
She watched the sun set & the light retreat from the land, seeing the fire edged clouds shape shift & understanding their message.

She embraced the peace of the day's end & let her soul fly free across the darkening Hills.  She smelled the earth & the bark of the tree pungent in her nostrils & heard underground creatures begin to stir.  The crows in the woods cawed sleepily as they began to roost & all became still.

The witch rested her head against the rough bark of her beloved tree & as she heard the distant sound of the shaman's drum she knew it was time.  Slowing her breath she let go & allowed herself to slip between the worlds.
Her shaman friend was there to greet her in the Underworld caverns.  He reached out his hand & shivering slightly she stepped into his boat.  The oars cut quietly through the dark waters & together they slipped into the mists, owl flying before them as silent as the mist itself.
The shaman's torch grew brighter & the witch began to make out the beautiful river they were travelling along & the souls walking its banks.  She did not feel afraid.  She felt at peace amongst the spirits & winged ones.
Her heart ached to know more, but sounds from the outer world penetrated her senses.  The shaman heard too & took her to shore & as she kissed his cheek in gentle gratitude he was gone. 
Standing firmly on the river's grassy bank she saw that he had given her a wooden staff with owl carved into its top.  She smiled & knew that when she was ready to return to this place of wild wood wisdom & mystery she would not be alone.....

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Yesterday had that delicious Autumn eeriness about it; that stillness & sense of suspended animation & slight melancholy.  The nights are drawing in, the first skeins of geese have traced their way across the sky & the fires of Autumn sunsets & gold & russet leaves are replacing the fiery heat of the Summer sun.  To me, despite the blustery weather it can bring, Autumn is the most calming of the Seasons.

Calmness & inner peace is something I really appreciate but often find difficult to obtain, as I suspect we all do.  Our lives seem to be so busy & crowded; our roles are many & human emotions are difficult to keep in check.   We may constantly mull over the past,  wishing we had done things differently, cringing at actions or deeds that might have caused others pain or licking unhealed wounds inflicted upon us which still haunt & torment.  We may stress about the future, wondering what tomorrow will bring, wondering if things will get better or whether worse is to come.  Round & round it goes, causing stress, blocking us from achieving inner peace & being the beautiful souls we are meant to be.

Here are a few of the ways I intend to invoke the calm of Autumn in my life:

I always feel calm & serene under the light of a Full Moon.  I take every opportunity to sit under her beautiful silver light & let it wash over me.  I find it soothing, cleansing & restorative.  The Lady Moon seems to me to be an orb of pure love & infinite wisdom.  Ask her a question from deep in your heart & she will answer.  You just need to listen.

Getting in touch with Mother Nature always help me feel nurtured, helps melt away the stresses & tensions of modern life & takes me to a simpler place.  Time spent wandering my little garden or walking out into the countryside soon brings to me what I need to feel better.  A conversation with the heart of a beautiful rose,  a pow-wow with a butterfly as it sits awhile to drink nectar, the sweetness of a blackberry freshly picked from the hedgerow or time spent simply cloud gazing can be immensely healing & soothing things.  Just kicking off my shoes & wriggling my toes down deeper into the grass brings a sense of relief & calm at the end of a working day.  Breathing deep down into my lungs, flinging my senses wide open & just absorbing all the Nature energy on offer is more powerful at beating a tension headache than any pill.  All that gorgeousness is there, available to us each & every day, just as soon as we step outdoors.

Learning to live in the moment is another important lesson I'm trying to embrace.  To value the beauty & possibilities in the here & now & be free of the past & future.  When I achieve it it is immensely liberating, bringing a sense of lightness to my soul & opening gateways which allow more love to flow into my heart.  Bliss!

Other things I use to relax are flower essences, aromatherapy, meditation & crystals.  Each brings its own unique healing to the senses & to the chakras, helping to release negativity, restore balance & enhance well being.  I find if I take time out to heal myself I am much more open to the message of Spirit & less likely to be confused by the voice of Ego.  

Sleep & rest are obvious, but often neglected aids to a calm, refreshed mind. Pushing ourselves too hard physically or failing to get enough sleep are as harmful to our inner, spiritual workings as to our physical bodies.  Here's a little sleep charm / spell that I recently made for my mum when she had trouble sleeping after a period of stress in her life.  I'm was so happy when it worked for her :)

You will need a drawstring bag made of a material lightweight enough to release the smell of the herbs you're going to pop into it - cotton for example.  To make mine extra magical I used a silver material - the colour of the Moon & the Goddess.

Add to the bag a good pinch of amethyst chips (to soothe), a pinch of rosemary (to protect against bad dreams), a few pink rose leaves (loving & comforting) & then fill to the top with a mixture of approx 2/3rds hops to 1/3 lavender. As you fill your bag imagine the person who it is intended for enjoying a restful night's sleep & awaking refreshed in the morning. Most importantly, don't forget that vital ingredient for your bag - LOVE.  The bag can be hung by the bed or popped under a pillow. Taking a good few deep breaths of the herbs before lying down to sleep will help bring the most gorgeous night's sleep.

What methods do you use for achieving that illusive sense of inner calm? 

With love & bright blessings

Sara xx

Monday, 8 August 2011

Tree of Love

Just as the sacred wheel of the year has turned & we have celebrated the sabbat of Lammas/Lughnasadh so it seems the seasons are turning.  The leaves on trees & hedgerows are taking on Autumn colours, flowers & grasses are seeding, hawberries, sloes & rowan berries are ripening & the first grain has been harvested from the fields.  A time to be thankful for the abundance around us & to celebrate the circle of life & rebirth as we remember that this year's grain will bring next year's harvest.

I first noticed the trees in Tewkesbury take on Autumn hues about 2-3 weeks ago & then almost overnight here in the countryside the leaves along our dog walk seemed to turn yellow & russet.  Trees have played a big part in my life recently.  Last weekend I had the best of days when I went to visit a long standing Twitter friend, dearest heart Hen over at Heart & Soil.  A happy time was spent in the warm embrace of her company & of the woodland she cares for.

We strolled amongst the trees, feet cushioned gently by leaf litter, my eyes as big as saucers drinking in all the beautiful things around us - from funghi, delicate lichen, great oaks, wild raspberries, butterflies & birds to tiny faery umbrellas & diamond rain drops caught on spider webs.  And perhaps most magical of all we caught tantalising glimpses of shy red roe deer melting quickly & nimbly into the woods as they heard our approach.

The energy of the woodland seeped through my pores; strong & yet so gentle; invigorating & yet so soothing. Hen introduced me to her favourite tree, a very special oak, & as I lay my head against a mossy nook in its branches & wrapped my arms around its trunk, the tree spirit took me to his heart & held me gently.  I felt incredibly peaceful, a child held in caring arms.  A moment frozen in time free from any care, just me & the tree spirit connected heart to heart in a perfect moment of tenderness.  I understood completely why to Hen this tree was so special.

As we wandered I noticed the energy of the woodland shift in certain places.  It surprised me.  I felt very in tune with the vibrations of the place, my senses were acting on a spiritual level as well as on a physical one.  I saw subtle changes in the light, felt changes in temperature, heard differences in bird song but it was much more than that.  I sensed one area was being watched over by the protective energy of a guardian spirit, I felt spooked by an area where the ruins of an old stone barn tumbled to the ground & I felt one area to be so profoundly peaceful it felt almost other worldly.  I rambled away to Hen, words from my heart clumsily tripping across my tongue & forming words that thankfully she understood.

Hours flew by like minutes & all too soon it was time to leave.  I could quite happily have stayed in Hen's company, seeing the woods & landscape through her eyes for days & days, but I left with bonds formed that I know I will treasure forever.

The next day I felt so zingy with woodland energy.  My eyes, ears, nose & mouth were still carrying vividly the sights, sounds, smells & taste of the place.  I felt so lucky to know not just Hen, but a whole network of amazing Nature spirits, all caring desperately for Mother Nature, all roaring at the wrong doing mankind is doing to our beautiful planet & all struggling to shout loud enough to be heard above the greedy corporate, political & materialistic rhetoric.

In a flash I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to plant a tree not only to remind me of my day with Hen but in honour of all the beautiful souls I know who care about Mother Earth; in honour of the God & Goddesss &      as a symbolism of my own wish to tread lightly here. Then a touching thought came from special soul @Lady-Gyr via Twitter.  What if we all planted trees together?  So - would you care to join me?  Would you like to plant a tree with me to make a statement that says you care?  To enjoy a sense of community with other people who care too?  To do a special thing for Mother Earth?

If you would then simply choose a tree suitable for your environment - as small or as tall as you can manage.  A tree small enough to grow in a pot would make just as big a statement as planting a baby Oak King.  You can find lots of information on planting trees - how, when & where- & native tree species for sale at the Woodland Trust, or you could simply pop along to a local nursery or garden centre.  My beautiful friend Victoria over at Scrummycupcake's Blog suggested willow trees would be perfect for their incredible carbon munching ability & the fact that they come in all shapes & sizes.  Hen says there is a wee native willow 'Kilmarnock' that would be perfect for smaller spaces.  Can you imagine all those willow trees whispering a message of Nature love to heaven & earth?  Wow! Or maybe like me you feel particularly connected to birds & so would like to plant a tree that will bear berries to feed them in the Winter months? Whatever tree speaks to you please do join the Tree of Love community by posting photos of your tree to Twitter using the hashtag #treeoflove, joining the Facebook group Tree of Love which I've created (hopefully!), or posting about your tree on your own blog (do please leave a link to it by commenting on this post).  That way you will always have that inner knowledge that you are not alone in caring, that you have done a special thing to honour Mother Earth & that every day you will have the amazing energy of your very own tree spirit to connect to.

Here is an inspiring piece of writing from Hen that moved me to tears: Every every action taken in love to right wrong doings can send huge ripples.  Every tree planted is special.  It connects the earth to the skies.  It harbours & nurtures wildlife. It reminds us that all things are INTERCONNECTED.

May you find great blessings in planting your Tree of Love,

Sara  xxxx

All the amazing photos in this post were taken by my youngest son :o)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Buddleia blessings

I wandered my garden barefoot today needing to connect to Nature & shake off the stress of the week.  My beautiful pink buddleia bush called me to her & drew me to her heart.

She showed me some of the spirits she was nurturing & offered to nurture me too.  I stepped close to her & quietly soaked up her energies & just as the butterflies & bees were thankful for her sweet nectar I was grateful to her for feeding my soul.

I left her side to light incense for some barefoot meditation & was taken on a journey skywards with the bees & butterflies.  I felt light & free, carried on soft breezes.  It was just the release I needed.

This evening I was careful to make sure I watered my buddleia especially well & soon I will have some 'liquid gold' from my wormery to feed her in return.

May Buddleia blessings be with you too xxx