Doubt and renewal

For months doubt had been creeping into my feelings about Epona and the Herd Mothers. I hadn’t really noticed any of Her subtle touches in my life. I wondered if in taking time to get to know other deities our relationship was fading and I wasn’t sure if that was my fault or just a natural change.

Doubt is so much more common in people of faith than some like to accept. It’s a normal part of your journey to question and evaluate experiences. Sometimes the doubt gets so strong that you feel you have lost something. You begin to wonder if that being that you thought was so important is really there for you. Perhaps you haven’t seen any signs of them recently, not felt their presence. Perhaps you feel you have lost something, done something wrong or just simply been left. In some cases a relationship that was once incredibly important fades and comes to a natural end. Doubt is natural. Questioning your faith is a part of your growth. The beings I honour don’t want blind faith, they want you to actively choose them. However, sometimes they will take a back seat for a reason of their own, fade from your awareness and let the doubts creep in.

For months doubt had been creeping into my feelings about Epona and the Herd Mothers. I hadn’t really noticed any of Her subtle touches in my life. I wondered if in taking time to get to know other deities our relationship was fading and I wasn’t sure if that was my fault or just a natural change. I kept my devotions going even though at times they felt a bit empty. I also planned a trip that would be something of a pilgrimage for me, a trip to see the Uffington White Horse, a place I had been wanting to visit for many years.

In early March, during my weekly devotions for the Herd Mothers, while I was praying and in particular asking for healing support for a friend’s horse, my prayer beads broke.

Image of my original prayer beads

These were my first prayer beads made for me by my mum, restrung once before by her when they had broken through use. But I can’t get mum to restring them this time. I knew at some stage they might break again as I used them so much but for them to break at that moment was a painful shock. That connection to my mum has gone. I have other prayer beads, other sets that she made, other jewellery that she made for me too but these were special.

In that moment I didn’t know if they were broken as a consequence of my doubts or taken as a price for healing support.

I decided to draw three runes and the runes seemed to confirm to me that this was a price and not a kick in the teeth for having doubts. A forth rune fell down from the plate I keep them on to where I had placed the others and this strengthened my interpretation of this being a price. While this still hurts I have now accepted that this was a sacrifice taken in return for Her aid. The beads, none lost in spite of scattering on the floor, are in a bag on my altar waiting for me to know what to do with them now.

A few weeks later finally the time came for our trip down to Uffington. This was a family trip with my eldest choosing to stay at home for a first experience of being home alone while three of us went South. We had chosen Cirencester as our base for this trip which was more than visiting Uffington and it took us about eight hours to get there. We travelled down on Monday 4th April and returned home on Friday 8th April so we had three full days for more local trips.

The first was Uffington on Tuesday. You can’t see the whole figure from close up. Even from the car park area the top of the next disappears of the hill but still when I got to see my first glimpse standing on that landscape my heart swelled with emotion and I had tears in my eyes. I had made it!

We walked across the fields and up towards the horse itself. As we walked I spotted hoofprints on the path and felt the presence of the Herd Mothers in the land. There’s a rope boundary protecting the horse due to increased erosion but you can still get pretty close. We walked to the nearby Dragon Hill to see if the view was any better. It wasn’t but the winds were wild and cleansing. As we walked down Dragon Hill to climb the other side of Whitehorse hill I noticed a fresh twig of blossoming blackthorn on the ground. I’m sure it hadn’t been there when we went up the path to the top of Dragon Hill. It was freshly broken off from the blackthorn it came from and dropped there like a gift. I carried it away with me. And on Whitehorse hill I made an offering to the spirits of that landscape thanking them for the gift.

From there we walked to the structure known as Uffington Castle. It’s a large hill fort probably originally built in the bronze age and inhabited into and throughout the iron age. It’s one of the largest hillforts I’ve experienced so far and a very impressive location. I was pulled towards the centre of the hillfort area and felt the need to sing out wordlessly for a time. I made another offering before leaving.

After that we returned to the car to get our packed lunch before walking to Wayland’s Smithy. Wayland’s Smithy is a restored Neolithic long barrow about a mile and half away from Whitehorse Hill. It’s surrounded by some beautiful beech trees. I found the presence there to be quiet and gently welcoming. And although it had nothing to do with Wayland or was ever a smithy the links have encouraged someone to add a horseshoe to a fallen beech log near the front of the tomb.

Image of horseshoe attached to a fallen log near the front of Wayland’s Smithy long barrow

Needless to say it felt appropriate to make an offering there too and I poured a little wine from my hip flask over the horseshoe.

It was a good day and by the end of it I felt a sense of renewal in my relationship with Epona and the Herd Mothers which has stayed with me. I feel stronger for this period of doubt and renewal and more trusting in my relationship with Epona.

Hail Epona! Hail the Herd Mothers!

Keeper of Secrets

Image of badger hand carved from driftwood

New life I have been given
Carved and shaded
Shaped with delicate detail
Spirit reborn from dreams

I grew tall in a forest
Whispered with my siblings
Felt the rain and sun
Breathed deep

I fell into a river
Tumbled and bounced along
An otter played with me
Then left me to the sea

I soaked in the waters
Felt the sun’s warmth
Was swept into currents
Travelled with the tides

Washed up on a shore
I waited…

Found and taken
I waited…

I dreamed and waited
Mysteries of the land
Secrets of the sea
Wonders of the star lit sky

I dreamed of a cub
Grey in the night sky
Snuffling at the roots
Buried beneath me

I dreamed of a badger
Walking the land
She felt my dream
And I took form

I whisper to another
Of mysteries and wonders
For I am reborn
As Keeper of Secrets

Second image of badger hand carved from driftwood

Badger beautifully hand carved by Of half imagnined things

Words by me.


We went out the other weekend exploring Glen Lochay near Killin in Pethshire. We chose that area because of something Neil had read about Creag Na Callich which overlooks Glen Lochay and because I had been feeling the need to seek out the Ancient One in the land.

Several years ago the wooden hammer that had been given into my care and used since in ritual had been destroyed by my ex-husband. That hammer was dedicated to An Cailleach and I still feel it’s loss. I had been thinking about this a fair bit recently and felt that something wasn’t resolved between An Cailleach and I over this loss. I felt I had to know if I needed to make some form of reparation to Her for the hammer’s loss and my failure to anticipate my ex-husband’s behaviour.

The first snows were on the mountain tops and much of the colour lower down was of late autumn. I had offerings with me of whisky and oatmeal. We drove along the Glen stopping from time to time to explore something or for Neil to take some photos. I was seeking for something, somewhere I could feel An Cailleach and commune with Her. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, just that I’d know if I found it. If I didn’t find that something then I would need to do more, If I found that something then I hoped things would become clearer for me.

At one point we spotted something unusual. We stopped and went for a closer look. We had found something, something quite special. Closer to the river on the other side of the field I found a place that called to me, a tiny island forming just by the river bank. A place of magic that sang to me and my heart filled with wonder. I poured out part of my offerings there. Then I returned to the centre of the field and the tree that was growing there.

I have seen trees growing out of cracks in rocks and cliffs. I’ve seen trees of one species growing out of another older living tree of a different species but I’d never seen something like this before. A stump of what must have been a pretty old tree was still connected to the large rocks it had grown on top of and between. Growing on the top of that stump were several types of mosses and lichens and in the midst of them a silver birch tree. As I walked round this gazing in wonder at this a single word resounded like a bell in my head. “Rebirth!”

I gave more of my offerings there in that place beside that tree.

Glen Lochay - renewal

Later in the day we walked part way up the route out of the other end of Glen Lochay in a route that leads towards Glen Lyon, we didn’t have time to do more that go part way up. Before we turned back I made my final offerings in a place that looked back along the Glen towards Creag Na Callich among other peaks.

I sought An Cailleach and She had answered me.

We took a slightly different route out of the Glen towards Killin and in the dusk as we came towards a couple of fields we saw a herd of red deer. There were a couple of stags, one clearly more dominant as he chased off others bellowing at them, and about forty does. A wonderful end to our visit to Glen Lochay.


All photos thanks to Neil Pitchford, Awen photos

Away with the Fairies

“Pause”, they said.  “Take time to reflect”.

“Can you hear the call?” Asks a voice.
“Will you answer?” Whispers the wind in the trees.
“Where will it lead you?” Words felt more than heard.
“What gift will be yours? What price?” Voices ripple with the water.

A journey begun with beech and oak to the sound of blackbird song.  A wide and bramble lined path followed through birch woods with silence falling about us.  A muddy branch taken leading onto a darker path, twisting and turning past trees and over shallow streamlets.  A destination found among the hazel trees.

Confirmation sought and a sign received.  Spirits asked and permission given. A bridge crossed.  A gift of acorns fallen in my path.

Climbing down into water rushing past me.  Careful steps taken past the realm of trolls.  A faery realm I entered. A call I heard to drink and I did. I drank of faery waters and ecstasy poured into my soul. Laughter erupted from my voice, flowed like the waters around my feet, pouring into the air, echoing into the land.

No room for pain or sorrow.

Fairy Bridge, 16 Sept 2017
Fairy Bridge, Glen Creran, 16 Sept 2017

Calm returned I left the waters, treading with care among the rocks. I sang my gratitude and climbed up once more.

I sat by the bridge and sang to the land then wandered once more among the hazel trees.

Blessed with a gift of hazel nut I returned.

Muddy path retrod we walked back to grass covered, bramble-lined path among the birch trees. Berries tasted, rich tang of autumn.

Eyes treated to dappled light on mountain side we returned to woods of oak and beech once more.  A journey over.

And half an hour later, pain felt. A price taken but delayed for a time.

Bridey’s Gift

Your beauty drew me close.
I reached out, gently touched you,
Gazed on you, mesmerised.

Silently I asked to draw closer.
Deep inside I felt your welcome.

I crept down beneath your sheltering skirts.
Sat, curled, at your feet,
Felt your life surround me.

Deep breath of wild garlic.
River laughter and spring bird song.

I closed my eyes to better feel your embrace.
My spirit slowly rose within me,
My soul let drop my burdens.

Triple tree woven into one.
Your gift to help me be.

me and tree

looking up


 Photos by Neil Pitchford, Awen Photos

Seeking Summer

Flash of iridescent blue catches my eye
Damselflies dance round me.
Fat bumblebee hums towards a golden flag
Crawls into the vibrant flower.
Sweet chorus of bird song cascades
while sun’s heat warms my back.
I visit Aspen that called me once before
Walk through long damp grass to the foot
Companions grow round about
Oak, Ash and Thorn.
I recognise now a place of the sidhe
A single word resounds in my mind – Leave!
I move away, then turn and speak
“I meant no harm to come among you.
No offence was meant.”
Leaves whisper in the stillness.
I move on, watch the Heron stalking,
Swiftly strike, then slowly pace on.
Deer coat gleams with bronze lights
I am watched as I watch.
Moth fluttering, caught near thistles
Wing damaged yet freed he flies on.
I hunt summer and find delicate moments
Strung like glowing beads on a necklace.

Experiences with Yew

Like many with an interest in druidry (and that is where I started in Paganism) I have a fondness for trees and am a self confessed tree hugger.  One type of tree which has continually fascinated me over the years is the Yew.  I first did a meditation to commune with the spirit of Yew in September 1999 after a Spirit of the North Gathering (SONG) at Ford castle in Northumbria and an experience there of singing under some yew trees.

On that first meditation with Yew I met two spirits one male and one female whose appearance kept changing from young to old and back again.  At that time this was very disorientating for me so I asked them to take on one form and they picked the appearance of an old woman and old man with twinkling young eyes.  They seemed somehow ageless and yet ancient at the same time.  Their message for me at that time was about the importance of living in the present moment.  The past and future were important yes, but if you dwell too much on either you forget to make the most of your present.  It’s a lesson that I continually try and keep in mind.

I will admit that I haven’t done much further meditation with Yew since that time but I have often spent a bit of time communing with yew trees I have come across.  I have also used parts of yew trees in healing spells for others from time to time.

Recently the yew tree has been making its presence felt in my life in a different way.

When I visited north Wales in early May our host, Stephen, took us on a walk along a river and past the ruins of a village (written about in Brython gathering May 2011 which was a visit at the end of May to the same place).  Near those ruins I was pulled towards a yew tree.  I stood beneath it’s branches and reached out to touch it.  I asked it for cleansing and healing of some of the negativity I was experiencing at that time. As I did so I began to feel a welling up of energy inside me, it grew within me centred around my heart and then erupted out of me as if I was being sick.  This happened three times with the physical effects of the third time in particular making me double over and practically retch it was so powerful.  After that I moved away from under the branches shaking like a leaf myself.  When I had recovered a bit I moved in again and offered some water near the roots of the tree.

I visited that tree again when I returned to the area for the Brython gathering but at that time the effects with the yew were not the same – probably because I had already undergone a powerful cleansing ritual not long before visiting the tree.

Last weekend I had the opportunity of visiting the Fortingall Yew.  It wasn’t a planned visit, I was actually up visiting the Scottish Crannog Centre and while there discovered that the Fortingall Yew was only 7 miles away so naturally made a detour to see it.  While this beautiful ancient tree is now protected by a wall and railings you can still get close enough to it to touch its outermost branches and it was a privilege to be in the presence of what is described as the oldest living thing in Europe.  I didn’t reach out to it with anything in particular in mind, I just wanted to say hello.  I didn’t expect what happened.  In a similar way to my experience in Wales energy started to gather within me centred around my heart.  I was able to use the wall and railings as support as this energy was pulled out of me again as if I was being sick.  Again I physically felt as if I was about to retch and was pulled over towards the wall.  This happened twice and it it was pretty powerful both times.

The Fortingall Yew

It seems that there is something within me that the yew tree is cleansing me of, probably emotional in nature I suspect.   I had to move further away from the tree for a bit but when I had recovered a little I moved closer and tied a small thread of wool I had handspun earlier that day to a branch as a gift in return for the cleansing.

I am grateful to the yew for these experiences and for what seems to be a purging or cleansing but I wish that the effects of it were a little less physical!  I intend to try and fit in a shamanic style journey in the near future to speak to a yew spirit about these experiences as I suspect there is more to be learned.