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.

Samhain 2009

30 10 2009

It’s all change for TGW! New home, and a new happiness. I have all but moved out of The Little House and have taken up residence at Three Chimneys, the home of my wonderful partner M. Perhaps most wonderfully of all, he sussed my paganism from the start – in fact from our first date – acknowledges its importance but crucially isn’t the least bit interested in hearing about it. There’s none of the prurience, pretend understanding, cliche-ridded heavy-handed ‘humour’ or other badinage or railery that I’ve become so weary of over the years. Stepping out of the broom closet to important others in your life is a trial sometimes; thankfully this time it wasn’t.

This Samhain I have so much to give thanks for, so much to feel blessed about, so much to cherish and so much to remember. It truly seems to be the most fruitful Autumn I can remember.

Where to begin? I could tell you about the wonderful walks we’ve been on, gathering conkers by the river with R as the leaves fall in shimmering files and drifts; I could tell you about watching the swan family on the river as they serenely brought up 7 chicks to near-adulthood. Or how about the baking of cakes and pies and bread that fill the kitchen at Three Chimneys with fragrance and comfort every weekend? Or the aromatic, piney fires we build and bask in front of on windy, rainy nights? So much to tell.

Casseroles, wine, fellow-hail, comfort, safety and warmth. Mellow light on old stone. Burnished copper reflecting candles, reflecting golden flames seen through the clear glasses in the front of the log-burner. Deep rugs, soft chairs and warm throws to cuddle your feet into. Hot tea on tap. Whiskey and ice, to round out the evenings together. Books, everywhere books. Combined possessions of two people with similar interests, tastes and pursuits. Love, care, understanding. A welcome without and a welcome within. At last, a safe mooring and a home for me and for R.

The house is a work in progress, and it is progressing apace; only this week we’ve finished restoring the panelling in the drawing room, commissioned three more radiators, replastered the landing and the master bedroom, cleared out a skip-load of junk preparatory to my furniture arriving and mended the floorboards in the hall. I’ve planted the urns outside the front door; we’re planning a large Yuletide party to warm the threshold and everyone’s really excited, not least us!

There are carved pumpkins in all the windows, made by R and myself; one happy, one sad and one ‘grumpy’  which came out slightly wrong and actually looks like the poor fruit has indigestion. We’re due at the local Fire Festival on Saturday night – procession of giants, wicker man, fireworks, huge bonfire and all the hot-dogs R can stuff down his maw during the evening. Mulled wine, boeuf carbonnade and mashed potatoes before we go out, to ensure centrally heated bodies as we process through the darkness to the festival site, to the transformative magic of fire, lights and brilliance in the sky, cheer, wassail and the beginning of the New Year for me and for mine.

The moon will be waxing full tomorrow night, the best of all times for me to wish ahead and work for the future.

Blessed Samhain, to all my dearest friends.

Back from the Isle of Winds

16 06 2009

Tanit's LandIbiza again; and the magic and majesty of the island refreshed and amazed me anew. I have posted pictures which might tell you all you need to know about this amazing place.

Ten days in the sun and breezes, walking in the campo, looking at the flora and fauna, smelling the juniper scrub and the pines, listening to the sea and the trees, eating the generous, hearty food so customary on the island. Feeling the weight of the history, the invaders who came, were seduced by the softness and the welcome of the red land and stayed. Imagining the unbelievable relief of making land on the Isle of Pines; salt-struck and half-blind from the sun, to find a place where water runs, fruit trees bloom and the ground bears crops unstintingly.

The Fertile Land

And over all, Tanit, goddess of the Moon and of the flesh. Beating Her path over Tagomago to the inland waters and the shore.

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.

It’s Time

15 05 2009

… for the altar to be set up once more!

I’ve had all my pieces and items in a box since the move, waiting to have the right space in which to use them. I now do so – a large pine trunk set up facing North in my sitting room, empty so all the pieces can be stored away, and perfectly placed for the garden, so I can open the doors and sit behind the altar looking out.

I aim to work tonight, rededicating all my items in the service of the Goddess, and beginning my devotions afresh. Since Beltane, I feel as though I’ve landed; I’m home. Now it’s time to start working again.