Happy spring…?

Oh what a year this is shaping up to be. Still, I’m trying to look on as much of a positive side as I can considering the circumstances. So far it seems me and mine have remained uninfected, and while I’m still waiting to hear back from my previous employer as to whether they’ll be willing to take me back and put me on furlough so I won’t haemorrhage £200 a month before I even buy food, I have to say that so far lockdown has been no different for me than any other period of unemployment. Aside from the lack of the occasional visit to friends and my flatmate being at home all day, my everyday life has been remarkably unaffected by all the measures that have been put in place to deal with our latest tiny nemesis. I’ve had many periods of unemployment where I haven’t had the money to go out anywhere even if I do decide to stop lounging on the sofa with a book and the TV, and I live off frozen and long-life food already, so the only thing that tells me we’re living in interesting times is the extra quiet and extra handwashing.

Even though the Equinox was on the 20th of last month, I confess I have yet to do my Ostara or Imbolc rituals, and have only recently done my Yule one. I did promise myself I was going to do better this year, but it looks like my better will be actually doing the rituals, even if they’re late, as opposed to last year where I managed to not do a ‘proper’ ritual for about half the sabbats. ‘Proper’ in this sense being a planned-out ritual in a fully-cast circle, as I have at least this year done something to mark each sabbat on the calendar day itself, however low-key it may have been.

This year’s Ostara celebration just involved me casting what I’ve taken to calling my quick-and-dirty version of a circle, using the first two fingers of my left hand together to accomplish what I usually use my wand and athame for. As far as I can tell it has the same effect, and doesn’t look any different when I visualise it, but it feels more… rough and ready? Impromptu? Jury-rigged? than normal. Once set up I used the version of the knot spell found in the All Souls trilogy of books by Deborah Harkness on my Ostara sabbat cord, seen second from left here, to imbue it with the energy of the day, and then just spent some time sitting in front of my altar chatting to my Deities and thinking about balance, my life, and how the two relate.

I’ve been following Marietta’s series on shadow work, and while it took me a couple days to leave a comment, her post on the benefits of shadow work had set me thinking before I sat down for some shrine-time that Equinox evening. Shadow work is something I’ve done a bit of before in one of the Open Circles at Treadwell’s, but that was very much a one-off taster of what such work entails. It’s also something I’ve known/felt for a while that I need to do in my life, but I’ve been avoiding it because it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and takes a lot of time and effort to do. Much like sorting out paperwork and deep-cleaning the kitchen really, except shadow work also comes with the lovely side-benefits of making me look at a load of things I’d rather not (alluded to here), and opening cans of worms is never fun. But on the Spring Equinox, when night and day are perfectly balanced, the imbalance in my life was impossible to ignore. Partly the need to do shadow work and balance myself so to speak, but also wanting (and probably needing) to have more of a balance between procrastinating relaxing and doing things like the deep spring-cleaning, and writing blog posts, and seeing friends (which will have to be on the back burner for the foreseeable), and getting my spiritual practices up to where I want them to be.

The above paragraph is pretty much what I ended up saying while I was sitting in my circle that night, just with a lot more rambling involved. The stuff I say out loud in front of my altar is partly directed to my Deities, partly me vocalising to see how it actually sounds, and partly me talking to myself. Now as I appear to have more of a god-telegraph as opposed to a godphone (tarot cards yes, anything else no) I’m not sure whether what I had were instructions or just inspiration, but I was contemplating and talking about how at Ostara there is balance before everything seems to leap outwards into a time of growth. The days are now getting longer, blossom is everywhere, and there’s a lot of nest-making going on among the birds. And then my train of thought followed the longer days to Litha, when they start getting shorter again until we reach the next point of balance before everything starts to wind down and go into hibernation as the dark comes back. And it was when I reached the end of that train of thought that the inspiration/instructions came to me. It wasn’t really a lightbulb moment, more of an ‘ohhh, okaay’ moment. The idea is that I use this time of light and growth to build up my spiritual practices so I have a good solid foundation by the time we get to Midsummer (the building of such a foundation has been mentioned in quite a few of John Beckett’s posts recently on Under the Ancient Oaks, which may have helped), then from Litha I maintain that foundation at the same time that I start doing some preliminary work on my shadow-self, quite possibly starting the exercises Marietta has put at the end of her posts on the subject, but doing more as the nights get longer until we hit the Autumn Equinox and the next balance point of the year. By which time I’m supposed to be ready to fully face the darkness and shadows, and go deep into shadow work as the year spirals down. Presumably to recover/re-emerge at Yule, but that wasn’t something that was mentioned in all this.

Now I fully realise that doing shadow-work and dealing with all of the glorious issues I have will take a lot longer than the rest of this calendar year, and even the prep work may well take longer than the time from now until Mabon. Even without factoring in finances, therapy session timetables, actually finding an appropriate therapist and form of therapy, and whenever the coronavirus allows us to resume normal life again. Not to mention my overwhelmingly good skills as an expert procrastinatrix. But at least I’ve got some set goals to work towards, rather than saying I’d sort myself out ‘someday’ and that day never quite arriving. But early this year something happened that a) brought home how much my time in ICU has psychologically affected me (all tied in to the alluded reasons above) and b) meant I’m going to have to get professional help rather than just working on it myself as this stuff goes a lot deeper than I thought it did. And if it was instructions rather than inspiration I’ve got even more reason to make a start this year.

So yeah, happy spring to me! Plague in the world and shadow-work at home. Such fun…


And when I said above that I have ‘only recently’ done my Yule ritual, I mean recently. As in Tuesday 31st March recently. But better late than never? Unfortunately I forgot to knot up my Yule cord on the solstice day itself, but even without that stored energy I found it remarkably easy to bring to mind and/or conjure up the feeling of that time of year. For a while now when casting circle I’ve been saying it is ‘a place between, a space apart’ just before I close it, but this was the first time I’d tried making it a different time from what was going on outside as well. I got the idea from a talk given by Kate West on ‘The Mystery of Witchcraft’ at Witchfest last year, where she pointed out that as well as being a place out of place a cast circle is also a time out of time, as while Pagans would all like to be able to do spells and workings at the right time of year and moon phase and on the right day of the week, that isn’t always possible. ‘If you need to do magic you do magic’ said Ms. West, and if the timing isn’t right we change the time within our circle if required.

Whether you agree with this is an entirely different matter, but the idea made sense to me so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And it worked surprisingly well. I didn’t make knots in my Yule cord though, as I had a feeling the altered time was about on par with my quick-and-dirty circle casting – it worked and it did what I needed it to, but I wouldn’t trust it long-term or want to base something solid/serious on it. I did however do my usual Yule ritual bits, involving some candle work followed by writing down my hopes for the year (and reading the previous year’s list which always involves a certain amount of ‘well that didn’t happen did it?’), and doing a holly fire spell. I found it years ago on a now-defunct UK-based online shop called Pagan Magic, and I’ve done it every year since – long before I ever thought about taking Holly as a Craft name. For this spell you take three dried holly leaves, crush them to powder (which is surprisingly difficult without a herb grinder. My mortar and pestle does not do the job properly), and twist the as-close-to-powder-as-you-can-get into the middle of a four-by-four inch piece of paper on which you have written a single word in red ink representing a quality you would like to see born in yourself along with the newborn sun. Then set it on fire using the flame of a red candle, and proper fire safety precautions.

I do cheat somewhat with this though – the paper is vaguely square and around four inches wide, the red chime candle gets reused every year and spends the rest of the time sitting in my box o’ sabbat stuff, and my red ink is a rollerball pen I’ve had for years as well, but the holly leaves are the real thing, harvested using my boline. Except for this year, when I realised I’d run out. I used to harvest three at Lammas so they’d have a chance to dry out by the time the solstice rolled round in December, but one year I was supposed to have friends over for ritual as well, so got enough leaves for all of us. Unfortunately none of them could make it on the day, but on the plus side I ended up with several years’ supply. That ran out in 2018. Which I’d forgotten until I opened the cardboard box I keep them in and found it empty. So I improvised:


It’s actually the stamp I use to turn common brown paper into Christmas wrapping paper, but after all it’s the intent that counts more than the props, and it also fitted in quite well with the whole this-is-Yule-honest vibe.

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