Children and Religion

22 04 2011

My darling Rowan asked the questions at the Pesach meeting that my mother took him to. And he found the lucky matzo. They swapped it for him for £1. He was so proud of how good he’d been and so pleased with his prize. My mother was so proud and happy with his wonderful goodness and his interest.

I used to have a problem with my mother taking him to religious gatherings. Let me tell you why I don’t have that problem now.

My son  is not baptized and there was the bellows to mend when I decided he wouldn’t be. I endured all sorts of snide asides about the matter, not to mention a few direct attacks and assurances that he would be the subject of eternal damnation, cast into the outer darkness like an ordinary sinner, because of his unshriven state. I took a long time reminding the various commentators that Ro was a tiny child, utterly innocent, and therefore God would take him home. How could He do otherwise, if we were so unlucky as to lose him? So now, when my mother who is a committed Christian, and a good and solid woman to boot, takes him to church and to all manner of semi-religious meetings and gatherings, I don’t make a fuss. I have seen, you see, that she isn’t approaching the subject of Rowan’s religious introduction the same way as she did mine. I’m grateful for this, but also entranced and reassured.

It’s been a tough year and I’ve worked very hard to remove myself from, first, the terrible, aching, dragging depression I suffered over the winter, and two, the desperate hatred I felt for my mother that was growing and putting down roots and threatening to ruin my goodness, what there is of it.

A week ago today I called my mother and told her that I felt there was a growing rift between us, that I’d started to hate her, and that I wanted it to stop. Like mothers do, she put out a hand and said, ‘Let’s talk’, and so we will.

Meanwhile, she continues to show the care and love and devotion to her grandson, my son, that she always has, and she is being gentler on me, which I appreciate, and I believe there may be a place we can meet and share and care once more. I want to love her. She is my mother. I am a  mother.



20 10 2010

This morning was the first frost of the season at Three Chimneys, and as I let the dog out to scombre in the garden I looked up at Orion, blazing down on me, the town around me still, no wind in the trees, that crackling hush of icy air and distance upon distance, concentric layers of cold stretching away from the warm house, and I was glad of home and hearth.

In my work as a witch I often focus on the simple, on removing encumbrances and working again with the most basic ideas and items. During my tenure as a Christian I was often stuck by the layers of obfustication, of difficulty, set on purpose between man and god; there can be no greater dishonesty (or arrogance) than proclaiming yourself the voice of god, or his representative on earth. I think of Jesus saying, ‘no-one comes to the Father except through me’ and I wonder. Mediated worship, whether led by a god or a man, cannot help but dilute the message.

This is the central tenet I return to again and again in my study of my craft. All the bells, whistles, altars, robes, music, degrees of initiation and lineages in the world, and what does it come back to in the end? You, the god, your conscience and their message. Shut up, put down the wand that cost you £60 from that great little shop in Glasto, take off the Stevie Nicks fancy-dress, put down the Silver Ravenwolf yada-crap, stop worrying about getting into that select little coven and what they think of you and are you good enough and whether they think you’re a ‘serious’ witch, and listen. Listen for the still small voice. It’s there – listen.

House to Home, Heart to Hearth

8 12 2009

Now then, dear friends. Can it be a month? Yes, it can. What a month!

In the last 30 days I have:

Written a hundred Christmas / Yule cards, moved house, had flu twice (same bout, with an irritating hiatus in the middle), made Christmas puddings, painted the sitting room, been to London, finished my Christmas shopping, organised a supper party for 35 people, started a degree-level course with all the attendant hoopla and gubbins, hosted friends from far away, and run a house and more importantly a three-year-old. Not bad, when you look back on it all. The third week out of four was spent flat on my back in bed, wheezing stertoriously and wishing for a new thorax.

So it’s Yule shortly, and Christmas shortly after that, and I’m really, most excellently glad of this, and of the two week’s break I am owed and which I am darned well going to take this year. I was meant to be off last year, but we had an emergency contract drop in on the 27th December which entailed me and one of the Directors frantically getting a team together prior to the New Year. Bummer. Not this year though.

This year, for the first time ever, I am hosting Christmas for my dear family, and at Three Chimneys to boot. My parents, and one of my brothers and his partner, myself, the BB and my darling Boostermouse. Our festivities begin next Wednesday with Rowan’s debut performance in the Nativity as the Innkeeper. At his practice last week, he solemnly informed Mary and Joseph that they couldn’t come in as there was no room at the bar… one generally prays for death when one’s children utter such solecisms but I have to say I laughed my socks off and have been dining out on it ever since. He’s just as bossy as me and will, most likely, run the whole show from the centre of the stage and at the top of his lungs.

After that, I’m out to dinner and drinks on Thursday with my dearest friend Seshat – Thai and a couple of snifters and some wassail and general catch-up as we’ve been ships that pass in the night of late. Living 25 miles from her doesn’t help matters but all I need to do is get off my lazy butt and make the effort!

Friday I’m on a half-day and we welcome early party guests to Three Chimneys for dinner and a stroll about the shops of our fair mountain town. Saturday is our Christmas Supper-Party, which has been enthusiastically taken up by all invitees so far, with guests coming from Suffolk, London, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire as well as many of our friends from the local area.

Sunday I’m making things – what, I haven’t yet decided. I have put aside the time for creativity to blossom without being proscriptive aobut what to use the time for. Should it be jam? Chutney? Beading? or sitting in front of the fire with a bar of Green & Black’s Sour Cherry and a glass of red?

Then we have the run-up to the days themselves… the 21st I’m working, which is nothing if not unfortunate, but I will contrive a celebration even so. We’ve got the family arriving on the 25th in the morning and staying on until they want to go home – so at least Boxing Day, if not beyond. How wonderful!

And so we come to the title of my post today. House to Home, Heart to Hearth. This is what I see happening, both in Three Chimneys, and in my heart.

All this cosy domesticity is truly what I love best in the world. It’s one of my strengths, and I love the way it can relax and invigorate me simultaneously. We have all noticed a flowering of the creative spirit inside us, when we found our paths… I think it is a response to addressing questions about oneself and learning about what you like and what excites you. It is also a function of becoming open to the world around you, becoming observant and appreciative of the beauty in quite ordinary things. If I had my druthers, I’d do this sort of thing permanently, but I do have to work; still, I have more opportunities than most to follow my dreams. And this is due in no small part to the wonderful person I’m with, and his ability to love me and let me be me. We are rebuilding the house he bought together, consulting on things, compromising, fitting our furniture in around each other, mucking in as a team to ready the house for Christmas. And at the same time, my heart is being cleansed of the dross and pain and fear and unhappiness it carried for so long, and it is becoming lighter, clearer, more candid, more open, more receptive. It feels clean. My heart is now a home for my BB. The hearth is the fire of the love I feel for him, and the central warmth of the home we are building together.

I’ve got buns in the oven

8 11 2009

Nooo, not the metaphorical type; literal buns! In fact, bread, and shortly chocolate chip cookies, if I don’t eat all the dough.

It’s a grey, dank and cold day here at Three Chimneys. I went out running with the dog this morning at 8am alongside the river, which was roaring and churning, the ducks prudently staying in the few shallow bits. I saw a heron trying to spot fish but he looked like nothing so much as an angular and grey pensioner, hair awry, peering myopically both ways into heavy traffic, looking for a gap in which to shamble across the road. Eventually he gave up and creaked skywards, his body language unmissable in its defeat.  No breakfast for you, mate.

The dog took to every rut and muddy puddle down the lane on the way back, and one comedy moment thankfully didn’t go down in history, but only because there was no-one else there to see me; clinging to the hedge and teetering on the edge of disaster, as I inched my way past a puddle the size of the Red Sea, which I know to be lined with brick fragments and assorted building rubble, and which I did NOT want to fall into. Back home and a nifty attempt by the dog to go and dry off in our bed was foiled at the off; now he’s sulking in his special armchair in the sitting room, clearly underwhelmed and wanting to sleep the day away.

Myself, I’m deep into culinary pursuits; I have found a glorious recipe for mincemeat (tip to our overseas friends – mincemeat comprises currants, raisins, mixed peel, cherries, butter, brandy and spices. I eat it from the jar, which I believe is a shameful thing to admit, but you can put it in a pastry case and call it a tart. It won’t mind). I’m intending to fill medium Kilner jars with this unctuous mixture (heavy on the Cognac, GW) and offer them as gifts to friends.

There’s also a rather amazing sweet-sour tomato preserve which I have found in one of my Elizabeth David anthologies; it comes up garnet rich and cornelian red and sparkling through glass jars. A perfect selection for the upcoming Christmas fairs locally. There’s thirty pounds of regular marmalade to make before the big guns come out and I have orders for a further thirty pounds of proper, amber-coloured thick-cut Seville orange marmalade to placate my stepfather and my best beloved, who both dote on the stuff and feel totally deprived if there is none in the larder, or if, god help us, they have to go out and buy some sub-standard simulacrum in the shops.

Pausa there as I went to take a large Swansea loaf out of the oven. Golden brown and crusty, risen high in the centre and with a cross cut into its floury top, I’m hoping it measures up against the ones we buy, which have the distinction of being utterly delicious even when three or four days old, and manage (somehow) to combine all the chewy, tasty character of a sourdough with the crisp crust of proper English bread.

The cookies will be coming to work with me tomorrow, to be devoured by the wastrels in my co-employ; really, I don’t mind, it’s great to watch people eat things you’ve made. I’ve always been far more of a savoury person than a sweet, temperamentally speaking; this comes out in my cooking to a great degree. Now I’m feeling light, happy and settled for the first time in years, I seem to have fallen into a routine of cooking for pleasure on the weekends; baking pies and cakes, making bread and scones, planning storecupboard batches of chutneys, pickles and jam.

My BB is upstairs planing wood and making a lovely job of finishing the landing. I’m settled in the kitchen, off in another part of the house, listening to Radio 3 and pottering happily. Work again tomorrow; but this isn’t a bad thing. I’m just loving the creativity that seems to be flowing through me at the moment. This evening, beading, I think. Mmmmm.


Postscriptum – The bread has cooled sufficiently for me to pick it up; the smell coming from the still-warm crust defies description. Is there anything more simultaneously comforting and quickening to the appetite than freshly-baked bread? I’m in bliss, just hugging the bread I made and breathing in its spicy, fresh yeastiness and savour. Delightful.

Divergence and Laziness

27 05 2009

There’s a very great deal to be said about the power of the urge to do nothing. It’s closely allied to the conviction that there’s no time to do x, whatever x happens to be. In some people, this could be characterised as a conscious decision. In me, I’ve seen it as simply laziness and inattention.

I was looking round my rooms the other day, and saw all the books lining the walls for the first time in a long time. In many respects, books, moveable press, are a form of interior decoration to me. Not, as I saw once, a way to add colour to a room – when I asked the owner of the house if she’d read any of the books in question she gave me an extremely funny look and said no, of course not; she’d bought two tonnes of green-spined books from a wholesaler and was using them as decoration. No, my definition of decorative goes more toward Rennie Mackintosh – both beautiful and useful.

I’ve got books in every room and some of them are unread, the bindings uncracked. Most of the books in this category are regarding pagan studies. I realised concurrently with my musing over the number of books unread that I haven’t done a really meaty book review (read: hatchet job) on anyone’s work for a good long while. And as I am going to be absent from the Ludlow Symposium this year, and therefore unable to provide a digest of the day, I should get reading and noting.

One of the downsides that we all acknowlege about practising solitary witchcraft (if we do; you might not!) is that sometimes, and sometimes for extended periods of time, life supervenes or you lose your way or your thread or your enthusiasm, even, and everything stops. I’ve had six months or more of this, feeling like there’s no energy or will in the pot for anything other than dragging myself out of bed, getting Rowan ready for nursery, keeping the house straight and trying (and mainly failing) to keep up with my friendship commitments.

One of the things I always do in this situation is believe that the false dawn of returning energy is the end of the problem. I forget every single time that it’s just a burst, a sprint for the tape, a momentary second wind. I become part of the problem, by forcing myself back into the fray. This tendency has an unfortunate side-effect – it seems to make other people doubt me when I say I’m fine (or maybe it’s the edge of hysteria on my voice. ‘I’m fine. No, I’m fine. FINE!’ 🙂

I don’t think I’m fooling anyone, though; least of all me. I’m getting too old to be constantly hauling myself up right and soldiering on if I’m down. And I am down; why do women like me never give themselves credit? I’ve left and divorced my husband in less than a year, moved house, become a single parent, dealt with crises at home and at work, held down a full-time job, done a good job as a parent and haven’t actually gone insane or become emotionally incontinent in the process. That’s quite good going.

So to get irritated at myself for not continuing my observances, work, writings, visits, pilgrimages and dedications seems specious to me. None of these things are dispensible in my life, but neither is my son, earning a living or having peace of mind and heart. So, not indispensible; but slightly more dispensible than the things I kept up with.

I’m here, Goddess, I still hear You. I worship You. I think the life you’ve given me should be lived well; and so I dedicate all my efforts to You. By doing my best I give my best to You.

Beltane – New Dreams

27 04 2009

jools-photos-062As I sit here, listening to the rain pattering on the roof of the unit where I work, I cast my mind back across the last twelve months. Rocky roads, rocky times; not time to think or to feel. Things left undone. But here in the burgeoning Spring of 2009, there’s suddenly light and room to move and to breathe.

I have thought I was fighting my way clear of the ties in previous months, but had the wit to realise it’s like climbing a mountain – numerous false horizons and that the key is never to give up hope. Conserve your energy. Keep plugging away. Take breathers. Don’t forget to breathe!

I’ve been out meeting new people, exploring new interests, and simply enjoying my home and my garden. Balancing solitude and the comfort of relaxation and downtime with going out and enjoying myself in company. I’ve been travelling more, seeing new places. Taking small risks, small excitements and relishing them. Working on my physical fitness, and my mental fitness. In essence, echoing the process of fettling and greening that I see going on around me every day.

So here we are at Beltane, beginning of our Summer; the Goddess and the God meet in the birthtime of the buds; so it couldn’t be a more auspicious time for me to reconnect with my path once more. Beltane this year  is also at the time of the First Quarter of the moon, which is perfect for the work I wish to do; building, strengthening, affirming work, consolidating the distance I’ve come so far.

I find the witchcraft path is like this – we allow ourselves to  become distracted by quotidian vicissitudes, separated from our source and the spring of our power; perhaps one day I’ll learn the trick of keeping my hand on the unicorn’s rein! Till then, I come home again, happy in the knowledge that I can rededicate, resubmit, revitalise my work, look at it once more with a new eye, keep the good and prune the no-so-good and shake the dust from the raiment.

I am taking Beltane Day off work, for an extended meditation, reorganisation and prayer session. I am taking time, precious time, to do what is necessary, what is right for me here and now. I like this. It feels like being able to spread my wings for the first time in an age; I will spread them wide.

Choosing to Choose what I Bloody Well Choose!

2 04 2009

My divorce is now on the map – the paperwork was submitted to the court and approved, yesterday; I should have my decree nisi by mid-July and my absolute by August. I know categorically that I won’t feel any different when I have that piece of paper than I do now – a free woman, who is once again able to make decisions based on what I want out of my life; to choose the people I want to spend my intimate time with. I have the gift of choice. I can have any damn thing I want, within reason.

I’m older, though, and I have the benefit of a huge amount of extra experience, knocks and bumps; things that worked, things that failed catastrophically. Stuff I chose to do and reaped the whirlwind for; risks I took which had unexpected benefits.

The fact of the matter is; whoever I choose, however it ends up, whatever happens, it’s been my choice. We take the consequences for the things we choose to do; it’s the first step to knowing oneself; responsibility for action.

Witchcraft gives one a certain amount of prescience; but we’re not goddesses or gods, just plain old word made flesh; human, fallible, subject to all the usual humdrum lusts and desires that cloud our judgement and make us act irrationally. Everyone is like this. No-one’s experience is so like another’s that there’s an automatic read-across. So why the big urge to drop in the four penn’orth of  ‘useful advice’?

There are those whose guidance I seek and listen to, because I respect them and understand their motivation. There are others who give their opinion whether I want it or not, and whose view I discount if it doesn’t suit my purposes at the time.

I know I’m going to fuck it up at some point. Who doesn’t? But the crucial thing is; don’t tell me I’m going to fuck it up ahead of time. What do you think that says about how you feel about me? Think about that.