Witchtober

Many of you will know about inktober where individuals are encouraged to draw something each day that fits a particular prompt. This year I’m joining in with a variant called Witchtober with prompts from @saffrussellart and @jacquilovesey. I’ve never done anything like this and I’ve had encouragement to give it a go from the ever wonderful Tom and Nimue Brown. 

I’ve been posting most of my efforts so far on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (mainly because my Instagram account is linked to my Facebook account). One effort, a poem has been posted on this blog.  For me this has become a multi media art project as my efforts have now included poetry, modelling clay, paint and pencil.

I’m finding the process of doing this to be fascinating. I look at the prompts well before I try and do anything and I think about how I can express the theme. As the day progresses I get to see what others have done too and if I haven’t come up with an idea that sometimes sparks something. 

The different prompts are making me think about different aspects of witchcraft and what it means to me. I like trying to come up with something a bit different if I can so it’s making me think deeply which is good. I’m also having fun creating a bit of art each day. I can see improvements in my skills too. 

I’m very grateful for what I’m learning in taking part in this Witchtober. 

For my Friends

I wish I could tell you
I'll fix this
For I hate to see you in pain.

I wish I could tell you 
I'll sort it
And make it better again.

I don't have the power
To mend this
But please don't suffer alone.

I can't wave a wand
And dispel it
Nor weave my spells as a crone.

But I'll listen to all
You share with me
As you fight to change your life.

And I'll cheer you on
From my corner
As you overcome each strife.

Practicalities of a home retreat

I was asked elsewhere if I could write a bit more about the practicalities of doing a home retreat following on from my last post.  The simple answer is yes, the more complicated one is I can tell you what I did and what I learnt from it but this was something planned solely for me so various aspects may not transfer well to others.

The first thing I did after making the decision to have a home based retreat was to plan out what I could do and when. My first initial thoughts had been to just do a day but I felt this wouldn’t really give me enough time to really benefit from the whole process. I think I was right in that.  I decided to do a three day retreat. I felt that would be enough time to feel the benefit but not so much I would start having difficulties in focus while at home.  I didn’t get that quite right but life has ways of throwing up things you don’t anticipate.

Here is the plan I developed:

Aim: To reset mind, emotion and spirit in a busy world

Minimal technology use – no facebook or email checking. Meals to be eaten, and chores to be done, more mindfully. Reading to be spiritually focussed.

Planned daily routine

  1. Morning devotional mediation before breakfast honouring Brigantia
  2. Breakfast
  3. Morning prayer and chanting in honour of Maponnos
  4. Mindful chores
  5. Devotions to and communing with the Herd Mothers
  6. Lunch
  7. Devotions to and communing with the water beings
  8. Afternoon exercise – walking or yoga type stretching
  9. Reading or devotional craft work
  10. Mid afternoon devotions to and communing with Gofannon
  11. Reflection time – may include journaling or blogging
  12. Devotions to and communing with Loki
  13. Dinner
  14. Evening activities – could include reading, crafting or divination
  15. Late evening devotions to and communing with An Cailleach
  16. Bed

As you can see the routine above includes several periods of prayer/communing with different beings. These are the beings I have regular devotional practices with at the current time.

So that was the plan. It didn’t work out quite like that in practice although it wasn’t far off it. I learnt I made a pretty big mistake putting exercise in the early afternoon. It was too soon after lunch and I had to tweak that so I did some reading or craft work after my post lunch devotions in order to let my lunch digest a bit more before doing exercise.  I also usually ended up sitting down and doing a bit of reading after my chores and before doing my pre lunch devotions to the Herd Mothers partially to relax a bit physically after the chores and partially because I had more time available than I anticipated.

In addition to the devotions of the retreat routine I also felt I needed to incorporate my usual daily devotions which include a libation to the being/s I focus on that day.  The retreat devotions did not include libations or other physical offerings. As my retreat took place on a Tuesday to Thursday that meant the first day there was an evening devotional to Brigantia, the second day I honoured my ancestors and the third day I did my evening devotions to Gofannon.

I was pretty good at restricting my online time but I did have the odd quick look at facebook or emails if I was looking for something in particular, for example on Thursday, where I usually join a zoom singing session with Sing aLoud.

Thursday, the last day of the retreat was a more difficult day to keep the retreat focus going. There were a couple of unanticipated interruptions. One was a brief visit from my kids who were staying the week with their dad. Lovely to see them but unexpected and it knocked me off the routine a bit. The other was news from my husband family down south that his mum had taken a turn for the worse and she wanted to him to visit. We had known she wasn’t well but this sounded much worse. Fortunately travel restrictions in Scotland were just lifting and we decided to travel down that weekend to see her. If the travel restrictions hadn’t lifted I think we would have still gone anyway under the circumstances but we didn’t have to make that call. I still completed the retreat but as you can imagine my mind was much less focussed after that news. It did seem apt that I needed to work harder on a day where my daily devotions were honouring Gofannon who UPG tells me appreciates hard work and perseverance.

Things I missed from a home retreat included simply being somewhere else which can help in distancing yourself from your usual routines and interactions with other people. I’m lucky in having a pagan and Druid husband as talking bout some of the things I was reading or thinking about was helpful.  If I did this again I think I’d try and set up a zoom/skype session or two with others I could talk to and reflect on some of my retreat experiences with so probably fellow druid types.

Overall the home retreat did help me with a spiritual reset and I came out of it feeling more strongly connected with the beings I honour. I also came out of it with a desire to re-kindle the druid aspects of my path and signed up for the British Druid Order (BDO) distance bardic course.  I’m also trying to be a bit more active in the Scottish Druids Facebook Group I set up and admin.

Hopefully if you are considering doing some form of home retreat this will give you some ideas to consider in your own planning.

Thoughts on a retreat at home

Today is the second day of an attempt at a home based retreat.  There are good aspects and not so good aspects about trying to do a retreat at home. You can set your own structure with a home based retreat. In the current circumstances of Covid-19 you don’t have to worry about social distancing while travelling or staying somewhere else if you do something on your own and at home. But it is much harder to leave the mundane aspects of your life behind when you stay at home and unless your family joins you in retreat activities you don’t have others to talk to during times of reflection. You also don’t have anyone else keeping you on track for activities.

I developed my own retreat structure which is a mix of devotional time, contemplation, mindful chores and exercise with time each day for reflection too. On the whole it’s working pretty well although there are aspects that I am finding need a bit of tweaking – I definitely wasn’t thinking clearly in putting exercise after lunch for example even with a light lunch. I have also greatly reduced my time on email and Facebook during this retreat and any reading I am doing is focussed around spiritual or religions matters.

I picked this week to try this as my kids are staying with their dad for a week which means my days are not punctuated with their day to day needs. Not that either of them are particularly needy during school holiday periods but there are some care requirements in an autistic family. Technically it’s only one at school now but the lad did try college this year and is now looking at modern apprenticeships. Anyway, I digress, suffice it to say it’s easier to immerse myself in spiritual matters without them here.

Luckily my other half, Neil, is also a druid as many readers will already know so although he hasn’t joined me in this retreat I have been able to talk to him about some aspects.  We had an interesting conversation yesterday while walking round our local park.  In it the idea of Druidry as an entity came up.  This immediately brought to mind a passage I had read earlier that day in the book “Contemplative Druidry” by James Nichol in which Penny Billinton speaks briefly about the concept of egregores although Neil had come to the idea of druidry as an entity in a different way.  I have been musing on the idea ever since.

Druidry as a being,
An egregore.
A child growing
Changing into…

Would Druid then become both the name of someone in a form of relationship, consciously or unconsciously, with “Druidry” and the name of the relationship itself? This could also help explain why it is so difficult to define “Druidry” as it is partially formed by those that have relationships to it. This also changes how I feel about being druid as it becomes my relationship, my connection to the entity “Druidry” and like any of my relationships that will always be unique because it is partly shaped by me, a unique being.

It’s been an interesting experimental home retreat so far and I have one more day to complete my intended aim of a three day home retreat.

 

My Cauldron

What should I mix in my cauldron?
Should I nourish body or soul?
How long should I let the mixture brew?

Some cauldrons are used to nourish the body
Contents blended for health.

Some cauldrons are used to feed the heart
A mix of compassion and courage.

Some cauldrons are intended to support the mind
with whimsy and enchantment.

What should I blend in my cauldron?
How should I share its contents?
Who needs to taste this brew?

Inspired by “The Cauldron of Calm” a developing project led by Cat Treadwell 

DSC_1006
My Cauldron

Lifestyle changes

In July 2016 I lost my job as a an administrator with the University of Glasgow on capability grounds due to stress, depression and anxiety.  I wrote about some of this a year later here. I was on medication for depression until the end of 2016 and had some counselling therapy in the later half of that year too.  On that occasion I’d been on medication for a year. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on medication, if I remember correctly it was the third time over a period of about four or five years. It was however the first time I’d had some therapy on the NHS. I’d had a bit of counselling through work before but hadn’t found that very helpful. I’ve been out of the workplace since that time.

In October 2016 I had my induction for volunteering with the RDA Glasgow Group. I’ve been volunteering there ever since and I still love it.  I also think volunteering there has had a very beneficial effect on my mental health.  I’ve been off the medication for depression for almost three years now.  I’m feeling much more balanced within myself. I still get the occasional episode of anxiety it is not nearly as bad as it used to be and I can usually push through the anxiety and carry on.

I’ve already written about some of the changes that have been happening recently with my family. Since that post something else has developed. I started to do a few more hours of volunteering in the RDA Glasgow group office again.  And not long after I started doing that a job opportunity with RDA Glasgow came up.  It’s a part time admin post for volunteer coordinator and the things I have begun helping with in the office are part of that post.  I thought about it and decided to apply so a few days ago I sent in my thoroughly updated C.V. and an application letter.  The closing date isn’t until the 19th of this month so I’ve got a bit to wait before I will hear if I am selected for interview.  My husband, Neil, has sensibly advised me to just put it all out of my head. I’m not very good at that. I’m not exactly worrying about it but I can’t help thinking about the possibilities of things I could maybe do in the role.

Part of the role is to deal with volunteer paperwork and support the newly revised induction process. I’m already starting to think about improving checklists that can help me keep track of who is at what stage of the process. I also think I might be able to help with some aspects of the initial induction, the health and safety bits for example.  Another aspect of the role is supporting active volunteers, introducing ways to recognise and thank them like social activities and awards. An award certificate for Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) volunteers might be a good idea as they need evidence of what they have done for the DoE awards, at the moment they get is a simple record card of the hours worked and what they’ve done.  I keep musing on aspects of the job. I’m excited by the possibilities. I am trying not to get too enthusiastic, after all I might not get it but I find it difficult not to think about what this job could mean for me.

General musings

Last time I wrote about setting intentions and I’ve had some success with what I had hoped to achieve.

I am continuing to go to the RDA Glasgow group. I’ve had some challenges with both my emotional state and things like back pain and colds which have meant missing the odd day but on the whole I’m managing ok. And I still love being there so that helps.

I am now singing almost every day again. Not always a more formal practice, sometimes it’s just a couple of things but very few days go by now without song in them again.  This makes me feel good too. I sing for so many reasons. I sing for my gods, for comfort, for joy and for my ancestors.  Sometimes I sing things I learnt when I was at school, sometimes things I’ve crafted and sometimes I sing without words letting the notes flow where they will.

The writing though hasn’t come back.  I’m not even sure if I want it to. I have so many doubts about whether I really have anything to write that others will want to read. And yet there is so little out there written by polytheists.  There is more that there used to be but often focussed on one particular deity or a particular path.  I started my efforts to write a book last Samhain with the intent to write it bit at a time through the year.  We are once more nearing Samhain and I’ve not managed to write a word on it since my mum died. I no longer know if I could start it again without feeling tears in my eyes. And yet not going back to it makes me feel like I’ve failed somehow.

I’ve finished two shawls that I started before mum died and I’ve finally made a tea cosy.  I put off trying to knit one for a while as that was something mum had asked me to make her.  I had found yarn I thought she would like and a pattern but hadn’t begun before she died. Last week I tried making my first tea cosy with the yarn I had got for my mum but I realised it wasn’t going to work with that yarn so I used something else instead but I did it. Knitting wasn’t something I wrote about in my intentions but it is good to be completing projects and trying new things again.

Life continues…

Setting intentions

I’m beginning to set some intentions to get a few things back into progress once the kids go back to school on Wednesday.

I stopped the singing practice I had begun when my mum died, that’s one thing I want to try and start again. I have sung a few odds and ends since mum died but I haven’t done any serious singing practice since then.  I know Mum loved my singing and I know she wanted me to sing more. I have tears running down my face writing this and it’s not easy to sing when you are close to tears or crying but it’s time to try and sing more again.

I also stopped my attempts to write a book on my experiences as a polytheist.  The last things I wrote were about the festival of Beltane and I wasn’t satisfied with what I had written on that topic.  I have chapters planned on the deities I have devotional relationships with as well as sections on other festivals.  Mum was keen for me to write and wanted to introduce me to her current publisher. I wasn’t ready for that stage, I’m still not, but I’ve been in touch with mum’s publisher about mum’s books anyway.  I need to try and get back to my writing again.  It might be slow but I need to try. Mum would have wanted me to keep going with it and to try and get it published when I get it to that stage.

And I will still be going to the RDA Glasgow Group stables on a regular basis. I can’t imagine my life without going there regularly now.

All these are things I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now. Setting them out like this will hopefully help me to move forward.

 

Pagan Healing Circle changes

In June last year I wrote about being called to try and do more of a healing nature in a post titled Healing Needs.  I set up a Pagan Healing Circle at that time but keeping it going has become something I no longer wish to keep up with.  While there has always been healing sent to a small number of personally known individuals, other requests to the group have been rare. It has become increasingly difficult for me to keep going with any enthusiasm for this venture so I have decided to stop.  I have closed the Facebook page I had set up and removed the page about the healing circle that I had on this blog site.

One of the members of the group of healers, Geoff Boswell, has offered to take the group forward with the support of the others in the group and he has set up a new Facebook group for it.  The Pagan Healing Circle has been renewed under the guidance of a Druid I have known and respected for many years.  Healing requests should be directed to this new contact for the group.