It’s all about Lucy

This time of year, we tend to focus on a lot of male-centric mythologies. It’s not surprising really, the Solstice is nearly upon us and the return of the dying sun is forefront in our minds, and thanks to our still predominantly patriarchal society the boys tend to get the plum jobs. In the next few weeks it is likely you will hear of Odin whose eyes were said to be the Sun and the Moon, of Llew Llaw Gyffes grandson of Beli Mawr (the sun himself), Mithras and the Holly King. All of them either literally or figuratively light bringers, but it doesn’t take too much digging before you start coming across something that is mostly ignored in modern Paganism, the female light bringers. This is a subject for which I have a great fondness and love. Deities, holy women and honored ancestors, such as Hekate Phosphorus, Diana Lucifera, and most apt for this time of year the Disir and St Lucia (or St Lucy) all rocking the light and influencing humanity as only women know how.

St Lucy (Niccolo de Segna – Walters Art Museum)

The Feast of St Lucy is on the 13th of December, which prior to the change from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendar would have fallen approximately on the Winter Solstice. In Scandinavian countries St Lucy is still venerated on Jol/Jul with young girls dressing in pure white, their dresses adorned by a red sash and a crown of candles upon their heads. She is quite an interesting Saint in that she is both a very devout woman of Christ and potentially also a Witch. There are numerous folkloric tales about her, and these are region specific, but the essence of her story is that she was the only female child of a rich merchant family in Syracuse Italy. As a young child she travelled with her ailing mother to a shrine dedicated to St Agatha to pray for healing. St Agatha it is said performed a great miracle of healing which led to the instant conversion of the young Lucy to Christianity. But there was a slight problem, as was common in that time Lucy had been betrothed to a young man whose family was Pagan.

During the intervening years between Lucy’s conversion and her final Martyrdom it is said that Lucy persuaded her parents to give her the money reserved for her dowry so that she could spend it on alms for the poor, particularly those persecuted Christians who were at the time living as outcasts in the catacombs of the city. She traversed the dark tunnels with food and blankets loaded in her arms, her way lit by a crown of candles which she placed upon her head. Eventually her suitor came a calling and Lucy rejected him, claiming a life of virginal chastity dedicated to God. Outraged (and also probably miffed at the loss of the dowry more than anything else) the young man appealed to the city governor claiming the girl to be a Witch, something it seems that the Governor chose to believe. What followed is a sorry tale of abuse. Lucy is first taken to a Brothel to be defiled, but the soldiers tasked with escorting her cannot move her, even when they tie her to oxen and try and drag her. Next her eyes were gouged from her head, although in some tales these either regrew in their sockets or more alarmingly on the palms of her hands and finally they tried to burn her at the stake but no fire could be kindled. Eventually she was stabbed and died.

St Lucy has now become the Patron Saint of the Blind and is often prayed to or included in folk magic to heal afflictions related to the eyes including the effects of the ‘evil eye’. But there are some other magickal connections, Judika Illes[1] claims that in Austria the term “Lucy’s light” is another name for having psychic abilities and that in Hungary St Lucy’s eve is considered the time most propitious for performing acts of divination. As a cartomancer St Lucy is to me someone who can bring me clarity in my psychic works, allowing my deep vision to grow and develop, and it is for this that I venerate her at this time of year. A simple candle is all it takes, which I anoint with Star Anise and burn for a short while every night between the 13th and Christmas Eve saying a short spell as I light the candle.

Dear St Lucy, bringer of light,

protect me through the darkest nights,

Bring forth my powers of second sight,”

[1] Encyclopaedia of Mystics, Saints and Sages (2011) Harper Collins

I do believe in Flower Fairies

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Arthur Rackham

For many of us our first encounter with the kingdom of fairy is as a child. Girls in particular seem to get targeted with a whole range of books, toys, and clothing featuring fairies. My daughter drove me mad collecting the Rainbow Magic series when she first started reading, with such heroines as Poppy the Piano Fairy, Scarlett the Garnet Fairy and Olivia the Orchid Fairy. This isn’t a new idea either over 80 years ago illustrators such as Cicley Mary Barker and Arthur Rackham were creating delightful images of tiny fae that were associated with the seasons, trees, sacred sites, fruits and flowers. And the images they created found themselves into collections of fairy tales, play manuscripts, children’s television programs, films and books. In a bizarre way the western world has been indoctrinating their children to have an animistic world-view for over a century and not even realising it. Which secretly I find rather excellent.

The concept of a fairy or spirit being associated with a particular plant has a bit of a spotted history. The new age movement is much taken with the idea of “Plant Deva” divine spirits also known as ’shining ones’. These are connected or possibly the actual essence of each living thing. My researches seem to suggest that this name was probably first broached by the Theosophist Geoffrey Hodson but whilst the use of the old sanskrit word Deva maybe a little dubious, the idea is sound. Most of the Shamanic Cultures (North and South) have a long history of working with spirits of particular plants, rocks, and stones etc. But are they Fae? My considered opinion is yes they are, for once you work with them their sentience shines through loud and clear.

I am not a herbalist, or even a very competent amateur and cannot imagine a time where I would ever be, it’s not really my thing. But on a nature walk I’m pretty good at identifying different trees, plants and flowers and there are times when a particular plant will jump out at me. I remember the first time I consciously examined and took notice of the Blackthorn, it was like a presence inside it spoke to me. Before it was a tree that I just about recognised in late Autumn when the sloes were ready to be harvested. Because there is nothing like a good homemade Sloe Gin at Yule so picking the fruit had a purpose. I am all about purpose. However, afterwards even in winter I could even recognise the bare wood. I’d walk down paths I’d walked a hundred times before and be shocked to realise that the hedgerow was primarily Blackthorn, at times I would dream of those trees and a humanoid spirit with violet eyes and no sclera would peer at me through the branches. When I had need of a sturdy walking stick it was a Blackthorn cane I automatically picked out of a bundle at a village fair. In later years Blackthorn would come to me in my dreams, one memorable time to warn me of the destruction of the ancient hedge near where I was living. Blackthorn wasn’t and isn’t just an essence, it is a sentient tangible entity. Akin to a Dryad.

And Blackthorn isn’t the only one. Scarlet Pimpernel works with me often in the summer months. I remember being enchanted when I saw these tiny delicate orangey flowers with a deep crimson centre. So petite it’s easy to miss them, it foretells of good times and bad. Once known as “Old Man’s Weather vane” its little flowers close in foul weather, Ive come to realise that this little plant spirit most often reveals itself to me when there is a promise of good things to come. Turning up unexpectedly in unlikely locations on a memorable day, I always take note of what Pimpernel has to say.

It’s really easy to connect with these Plant Fae. If you can plant them then do, watch them and learn from them, talk to them, meditate with them, cook with them and bathe with them even, assuming that’s appropriate. The more you assimilate the physical plant the easier it is to connect to the Fae who are attached to them. And I specifically use the word attached because  it is definitely a case of individual spirits of a particular species that belong to that specific plant. But once you’ve made connection with one, it’s a lot easier to make connection with others. Like learning French from a native speaker and then going to visit France. Makes communicating so much more simple.

It’s not totally necessary to understand its medicinal purpose or the folklore associated with it the plant, but I do find that it helps to understand the nature of what this “Shining One” is trying to say or it will suddenly make that initial connection easy.  Currently my latest stalker plant is Black Nightshade. I came across a patch whilst playing a scavenger hunt in central London some weeks back and its been stalking me ever since, appearing in places I’ve walked and worked for years and I know I have never noticed this plant before. Its season is nearly over, but still I am finding it in flower in all sorts of places so I always stop and acknowledge it. Gently touch a flower or leaf and ponder why it is that I am only now noticing its presence. I can’t wait to find out what this little creature has to teach me about the Otherworld and myself.

My Big Fat Citrine Experiment

If anybody remembers back to the heady days of livejournal you may remember my “big fat citrine experiment” from circa 2005. Guess what it’s come to an end, finally, maybe, or maybe not.

For those who are none the wiser let me set the scene.

It was back in the day when both myself and the husbeast were contracting and consulting a lot and from time to time there would be short lull’s in the work available. We usually embraced this time with joy choosing to do mad things like buying a VW camper van and taking our then ‘not even out of nappies’ daughter touring France for a month. But this particular instance had me on edge, I was nervous. I couldn’t say why, I just wasn’t happy and as one month stretched to two I started fretting about money. I fret a lot about money, I fret when we have it, I fret even more when we don’t.

One evening I was asked if I would like to go to the local moot. Honestly when I heard the subject matter, I wasn’t very keen. Crystals and Feng Shui. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with crystals because I fundamentally disagree with the way the majority of them are mined. And I don’t believe suppliers when they say that what they are selling is ethically ‘sourced’ – the hint is in the word sourced, they rarely use the word ‘mined’; there is a difference and this rings alarm bells for me. I am also extremely sceptical about the actual power of crystals. Like really sceptical.

I get the whole sympathetic magick thing, Ive been using it successfully for years after all; I also cannot deny that you can pick up certain rocks and they have an energy to them. For example I went to a wonderful talk by the amazing Orion Foxwood back in February and he handed around a whole collection of stones he called scrubber stones, basically stones that have the power to cleanse and heal energetically. I am now the proud owner of a largish piece of Sulphur included Quartz which I sit with after particularly horrible days at work. But really, I look at those crystal infused water bottles and folks shoving crystals on their chakras; and if they subscribe to anything ‘Goop’ related, where the sun doesn’t shine; and well as a general rule I am just not buying it.

Anyway back to 2005, along I trotted, with just enough money in my pocket to buy two drinks and get a bus home. I have never worked out what came over me as I listened to the woman giving her talk. When she started discussing citrine, my ears pricked and my heckles bristled. She explained the difference between natural citrine and heat treated (aka Amethyst), how she used it and where in the house was optimal for financial success. She talked about several customers who had followed her instructions to the letter and within days had come into substantial sums of money. That was it, I was sold, I would call it an empirical experiment. Although I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it empirical, but there you go. It sounded plausible.

I bought a palm sized rough citrine cluster and a small tumble stone. I duly followed the instructions which was to place the tumble stone in my purse to ensure it was always full and the cluster was placed in the furthest left hand corner of the house away from the front door. I then blogged at some length and rather satirically about it. But I kid you not within days both the husbeast and myself had landed work with quite eye wateringly good daily rates. It wasn’t the citrine was it? Gah! perhaps it was, and now because I fret about money I was afraid to take the damn things away. And so for the last 15 years I’ve had a rough citrine cluster on my kitchen windowsill and a small piece of citrine in my purse. Until well, sometime in the last 5 days. The purse stone is gone!

I suspect I lost it at the weekend. I ended up with a lot of change in my purse and coins are starting to spill out from those weird little slits at the bottom of the coin pouch. It probably dropped out. And I can’t bear it so I’ve had to order a new one. And there in lies the power of magick, I have invested so much belief into that little bit of rock it now has masses of power, oodles and doodles of it. And I wants it my precious and I will do whatever it takes to get it.

I also hate the idea that I’ve potentially left the house ‘without’ so today I created an extra bit of something for the household. A prosperity/success jar. It is a super easy spell and can often be put together with things you can find in the house. I’ve made a little Youtube video (please be patient I’ve never done a full tutorial before) to get you started. It’s a fab spell and you can add to it over time; a piece of star anise here, a coin there, knotted ribbons and fake gems whatever takes your fancy. Let me know how you get on if you give it a try!

 

Thank you Frieda, Lady Harris

“She devoted her genius to the Work. With incredible rapidity she picked up the rhythm, and with inexhaustible patience submitted to the correction of the fanatical slave-driver that she had invoked, often painting the same card as many as eight times until it measured up to his Vanadium Steel yardstick!”

― A. Crowley, The Book of Thoth

Ancestral Spirits play a huge part of Pagan and Magickal world view. For me this isn’t just blood Ancestors, although I’ve got a couple of pretty exciting ancestors in my history. If my fathers tales are to be believed my family line includes a Scottish Cattle raider and a sailor who went with Columbus to find the New World. But that is by the by. I also believe that our political, religious, spiritual and magickal ancestors should also be venerated. Their lives, their work, their struggles, have all contributed to who I am now. Had Emmeline Pankhurst and her sisters never been born I would not have been able to vote in our local elections last week. Thats worthy of rememberance.

Without Gerald Brosseau Gardner, Philip Peter Ross Nichols (who I have recently discovered went to school in the same village I grew up in) or Orrell Alexander Carter (Alex Sanders) I would not have the religious and philosophical view that I have. They are another form of ancestor. And I also venerate them accordingly. As a result my personal diary doesn’t just contain the important dates relating to family and friends it also lists the birth and death dates of other important people. This week we have the anniversary of the death of Helena Blavatsky and Frieda, Lady Harris. Both movers and shakers in the Occult world in the last 150 years.

I shall leave Mdme. Blavatsky for another day because her influence on the world probably deserves several posts dedicated just to her alone. But Lady Harris is currently of great personal interest for she, along with Moina Mathers and Pamela Coleman Smith form a Triad of talented mystical women who have shaped the face of the world of Tarot. One of my life’s great passions.

Much of late has been done to recognise Pamela ‘Pixie’ Coleman Smith and the part she played in the Rider Waite Smith deck. And not surprisingly because its is probably the most popular deck in the world. I know very few readers who didn’t start out life with some variation of this deck. But two other decks have also shaped the world of tarot, although they are somewhat less talked about. Possibly because their symbolism is a little bit more obscure, a little bit more abstract, and at times dare I say it, more beautiful.

The Thoth, sometimes called ‘The Aleister Crowley Thoth’ is to me as much the work of Lady Harris as it is of the Great Beast, as Crowley liked to call himself. And it is said that this deck is the stunning, complex, detailed and deeply occult deck it is today because Frieda encouraged Crowley to add his own knowledge and imagery to the work rather than just creating another derivative Book T inspired Tarot deck.

Born in 1877 Marguerite Frieda Harris seems to have lived the first half of her life in relative comfort and respectability. The daughter of a Surgeon she went on to marry an MP of the liberal party who thanks to a baronetcy awarded in the 1930s was entitled to call her self Lady Harris. There is an interesting quirk regarding this title. As the wife of a Baronet she was entitled to use the name Lady before her surname, so in formal situations she could be introduced ‘Lady Harris’ but in more informal situations she could not be called ‘Lady Frieda’. Thus when discussing her it is correct to call her Frieda, Lady Harris. However this didn’t seem to stop her from ‘adopting’ the name ‘Lady Frieda’ and it seems to have stuck. It’s not very common to read articles or listen to discussion involving her that use her correct title.

Although an apparently quite private conventional person, in my opinion this little quirk alone is indicative of a more free spirited personality hidden underneath. The fact that at the age of 60 she took up with the man who was known as ‘the wickedest man in the world’ to paint the most amazing tarot deck ever created cements that belief in my eyes. What is it they say, behind every strong man there is an even stronger woman and I truly believe that to be the case when it comes to Coleman-Smith, Mathers and Harris.

She was obviously a deeply loyal woman, she continued to care for Crowley supporting him both physically and financially right up until the end. She used her connections to promote gallery exhibitions of the original artwork for the deck. Helped finance the first run of 200 decks, and as a woman of means even paid Crowley an allowance to allow him to pursue his work in the Occult. And when his body (and many friends) failed him she provided nursing care. Finally she then gifted the original artwork to Crowley’s secretary Gerald Yorke before moving to India to live out her days.

She died on this day 11th of May 1962 in Srinagar Kashmir.

 

Travel well Lady Harris,  daughter of the firmament, may your artwork continue to inspire students of the Tarot and the Occult for generations to come.

A Sense of the Sacred

Ive just spent a lovely half hour walking my mothers dog. We wandered down to the pebbly beach and I collected hagstones, an item of great worth in my work with the fae. It’s an amazing beach, it is probably one of the most bountiful in its provision of holed and unusual stones that I have ever come across. Just a few minutes will yield a pocket full of stones. Most of which I return at the end of my stay. Although sometimes, just sometimes the odd one makes it way permanently into my life. It’s a very special place, its seen me snuggled under a duvet watching the stars with what was then my soon to be husband. It comforted me as I howled at the moon whilst grieving the loss of my father. It welcomed my small daughter summer after summer, watching her grow into a strong and independent woman. In short, it is personally one of the most sacred places in the world as far as I am concerned.

Sacred doesn’t have to mean a long archeological provenance. It neednt be a place of worship. Nor do the Ancestors, Guardians, Old or Mighty Ones have to be involved. No magickal beings have to be in evidence. Although in reality I tend to find they seem to crawl out of the woodwork (quite literally) once you acknowledge the hallowed nature of a place. It’s actually why I tend not to cast a circle at all outdoors. I don’t banish. I work in harmony with the energies of the place. It’s why choosing your ritual locations is quite important. Picking a spot because its easy to get to, infamous or just because you are curious about it isnt’ always going to give you the results you expect.

I live within a 40 minute drive of the near legendary Alderley Edge, well known by certain initiatory Wiccans and practitioners of several Trad craft lineages. Ive tried working formal magick there. Normally with others who think it would be really cool “Coz witches do stuff there” ! Ive stood back as they have cast a circle or bellowed out an LBRP*. And Ive felt the place close down, it feels thick and muddy, and I can sense this treacle like sensation spread out into the woods which then fall eerily silent and still. But equally I have sat very quietly against the trunk of one of the giant beech trees that line the route to Stormy Point. Letting the darkness creep in around me. Ive listened to people congregating at the Druids circle totally oblivious to the Magick (and the magickal people) going on around them. Ive regularly seen a Goat like figure wander along the pathways. Stop to observe me, bow its head in acknowledgement before silently moving on. At that moment the whole place is overwhelmingly sacred. But because I am in communion with it.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot practise formal ritual in chosen places of power. It means that a relationship has to be built. Permission has to be given. Experiences shared. My beach has seen me invoking the planetary powers, at sunset and sunrise. Long formal Orphic hymns used as the invocations. A circle scratched in the sand with the planetary symbols etched around its circumference. A rite of balancing and growth. Considering the history I have with the place it was the ‘only’ location right for the ritual. The Ocean has silently observed my passing years. Whilst to it my existence is but a blink of an eye, it knows me, it knows my energy. And that is the key.

*Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram