Wytch Hazel Cottage

Reclaiming Our Ancestral Folkways

Category: A Heathen Life

Rewriting The Past

Our past is being rewritten. This isn’t a recent phenomenon, but something that has been worming its way into every aspect of our culture for hundreds of years. Whether it is a new age author’s innovative interpretation of a certain spiritual tradition, an age old scholar under the patronage of a king or even a film portrayal of an historical event. Everyone has a bias and sometimes surprisingly an agenda too.

By reinventing our past to suit our needs we are not harmlessly changing a detail here or there for maximum effect in the retelling of an event or story. Whatever is changed, no matter how seemingly insignificant will eventually end up influencing our future. We are not playing an innocent game of Chinese Whispers. If one inaccuracy is placed on top of another inaccuracy then we will arrive at a point where we would have completely reshaped who we are: our traditions, our folklore, our mythology and our history; which in turn means everything that connects us to our ancestors.

Modern literature and films as well as television series that portray ancient history, mythology and spirituality are all gateways of inspiration for those of us who wish to return to a more meaningful life without the trappings of religion and consumerism. However, due to the fact that these gateways are so easily accessible and a huge part of today’s popular culture, many people accept these portrayals as fact, when sometimes this couldn’t be more further from the truth.

I fell into this trap myself in the beginning when I first began reading and researching European pre-Christian faiths and traditions. Thankfully, the phrase ‘Heathenry is the religion with homework’ saved me. By diligently doing my homework I began to realise that the more I was reading the more easily I was able to see discrepancies between different sources (dates, names and places for example) and this taught me very early on how to be more discerning when it came to the books I was choosing.

So how can we be sure that the sources we are using are the real deal? How can we sift through the lies to reach the truth? I am going to share with you some of the things I do to ensure, to the best of my knowledge, that I am reading facts not fiction when it comes to history, religion and mythology.

Firstly, I visit second hand shops and garage sales. These are excellent places to find old books especially published before 1945. After World War II particularly with the arrival of Wicca, it is important to understand that a lot more disingenuous information began being published. Of course I am not saying that everything you read before this date can be trusted either; just look at how Roman and Greek scholars portrayed the Germanic peoples or the Gauls for example. However, many authors before this date were not censored to the extent that we are today and I believe that they had an easier time as well when it came to finding original and authentic sources. So much material has been lost, destroyed or edited.

It is getting harder and harder to find old books, especially ones that are reasonably priced. So for those of us who are frugal I can assure you that you can continue saving your money. I rarely buy a book now unless I am one hundred percent sure of its integrity and instead I either borrow books from the library, many of which are very old or I make the most of public domain books online. These are the sites I use the most and that I recommend: gutenberg.org, sacred-texts.com, forgottenbooks.org and jstor.org. You will need to register for some of these, but it is free to do so. I guarantee that you will have several lifetimes of material to get stuck into with these websites. They are fantastic resources and I have read many great books.

I will add that when it comes to old history books be aware that some of them will have a heavy Christian bias and if you are reading books that have been translated, do your best to read the original translations. It has come to my attention that a certain modern translation of Eyrbyggja Saga has replaced the word ‘Yule’ with ‘Christmas’.

If you are wanting to buy a more recently published book then I would encourage you to lean more towards history rather than spirituality. You can learn so much about the spiritual practices of our ancestors from a history book based on facts with a decently sized bibliography rather than a neo pagan spiritual book which can be heavily biased towards the author’s own views and personal practice. Authors that I have recently read and respect are Kathleen Herbert, Stephen Pollington and Sinead Spearing. Also, don’t forget to support up and coming authors as well. Of course do your research, but in the meantime I highly recommend ‘Forgotten Roots’ by Karol Kolbusz whose writing is incredibly thought provoking and inspirational.

Also, I would just like to add that there is nothing overly wrong with using the internet for information, but only use it as a springboard for getting a broad overview of a topic before diving in deeper with other sources.

Please be wary of new age books that are contributing to the rewriting of our past by completely innovating our ancient traditions. These books are guiding us along a disingenuous spiritual path that has no links to our heritage whatsoever. Be mindful of the bias, prejudice and assumptions that can be made and start making a conscious effort to be discerning with everything that you are reading and watching.

Lastly, when you come across someone on social media who is stating something as fact and you know that this isn’t the case; find the courage to speak up, kindly correct them and point them towards original authentic sources. These untruths worry me deeply and I hope that I have inspired you to think about how you search for and share information. It is our duty, as custodians of our heritage, to defend its integrity.

If you have any tips or tricks on how to be more discerning when it comes to choosing what you read then I would love for you to share them.

Reclaim Your Ancestral Roots

I believe that our DNA holds the key to our ancestral legacy. I say this because there is compelling evidence that memory is biologically transmitted. What this means is that the wisdom of our ancestors is somehow transferred from their memories to their genes allowing knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation.

However, these past few decades, British school children are being taught about the ancestors of other cultures; about the Egyptians and the Greeks or even the Japanese; all the while being under the impression that our “British” ancestral legacy begins with the arrival of the Normans; as apparently, Britain was a vacuum up until 1066.

I remember quite clearly learning about pre-historic Britain when I was at school in the seventies. Days that were barely holding on to our beautiful Isles’ incredible deep past. A school trip to the Iron Age fort of Maiden Castle was such an awe inspiring experience for me that it has stayed with me to this very day; thirty nine years later. Looking back with what I now know, I was truly blessed to have walked in the footsteps of my ancestors.

Heartbreaking as it is, how are we supposed to reconnect to our ancestral memories within us when the sound of our ancestors’ voices speaking their truth is being drowned out?

With the lack of knowledge of who we are and where we come from, is it any wonder that at their first opportunity young people are off backpacking across the world experiencing other people’s customs and faiths without even realising what beautiful cultures we have right here in Europe? We have our very own diverse heritage, we have our very own diverse indigenous spirituality and we have an identity that is ours despite being told otherwise. It is unrealistic to try and attempt to connect on a soul level to the folkways of other cultures because we do not share the same root systems; we do not share the same languages, we do not share the same histories nor do we share the same folkways; for all of these things are shaped by our landscape and our genealogy. Europe has become such a melting pot of cultural influences that we have completely lost sight of what is actually ours by birthright.

We have an incredible gift coursing through our veins. Everything that our souls are yearning for is embedded in our DNA. Our sense of place in the world, our identity, our home. If we don’t grasp the fact that what we need to do is to start looking inwards instead of outwards then that nagging feeling of something missing will never go away.

Many people find themselves yearning for another time or another place. At first there doesn’t appear to be any logical reason for this, but if they started chipping away at the surface they would soon discover that it is their blood calling them home. More and more people are hearing the voices of their ancestors, but they are finding it difficult to answer the calls because they cannot pinpoint the direction the voices are coming from. If only they could look a little closer for they would find that the voices are coming from the overgrown stones in the corner of a field, the remains of a windy hill fort or a cloutie tree that signposts a sacred place of pilgrimage. Honouring our ancestral past allows our children to have a future, but if we do not show a deep reverence towards our lands, our ancestors and our folkways, then how can we expect our children to care for these things and realise how greatly they matter.

In the distant past, our forebears through reciting their genealogies, telling tales of epic heroes and practising tradition, instilled in them the sense of being part of something larger than themselves. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, however, followed by the spread of Christianity and the forced migrations of thousands of Europeans, it didn’t take long for our ancestral roots to wither and almost die. The Industrial Revolution was the last nail in the coffin and today we are left with scores of people who don’t even know the names of their own grandparents. Even family heirlooms are a thing of the past as photos, personal items and the memories they once held are consigned to flea markets and car boot sales.

Do you feel spiritually lost with no traditions that ground you? Have you immersed yourself in other cultures, honoured their gods and practised their customs, but have never felt truly fulfilled or connected? I felt this way myself many years ago when I was cherry picking from different cultures from around the world. But little by little like Hansel and Gretel, I began following the breadcrumbs back to my ancestral spirituality and I have never felt more grounded.

If you are wanting to mend the broken threads that tie your ancestors and their folkways to yourself, but don’t know how to go about it because it just seems too overwhelming a task, then you can follow the easy steps that I am going to share with you and I promise that they will help you find the way back to where you belong.

I had wanted to take an Ancestry DNA test for a very long time because I felt that it would open up a doorway to my past and my roots. When I finally did and the results came back it was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I could see how everything made so much sense especially when it came to what I was instinctively drawn to. Folk memory dies hard and with a little nudge our amnesia can be lifted.

For the first time since leaving Christianity behind I could at last immerse myself in a meaningful spiritual practice that was rooted in my genetic makeup. I decided to explore my largest DNA percentage first because logically more of my ancestors from these regions had contributed to who I was. Therefore, I believed that this would make it easier for me to reconnect with them and I totally immersed myself in this branch of my tree.

If you choose to use a DNA test to help you gain insight and direction for your spiritual as well as your everyday life, then I would strongly suggest that you only work with one branch at a time. It just isn’t possible to connect meaningfully to every single branch of your family tree at once and in any great depth.

Reconnecting to our lost heritage reawakens our kinship to the lands, rituals and traditions of our people. The threads are terribly worn, but with patience and time we can weave new life back into our ancestral tapestry. It will never be the same as before, but if our hearts and minds are in the right place we can again become one with those who came before us.

However, we do need to put the work in to rediscover our ancestral folkways: the songs, the music, the dances, the myths and legends, the nursery rhymes and the fairy tales, as well as regional cuisine, art, literature and festivals. If you are able to, then visit and explore the regions or countries where your ancestors come from. You could decorate your home with items from that region or with family heirlooms, as well as visit museums, galleries and libraries. You will learn so much about yourself in the process as this whole new world opens up to you.

I have found the pre-Christian worldview and spiritual practices of my ancestors to be the most compelling aspect of my research and with so many passionate revivalists starting up groups in real life, as well as online, it has never been easier to find out about your ancestral folkways and connect with your tribe. For example, if you have French ancestry then you could find other people who practice Gaulish Polytheism or Frankish Heathenry. Or you could go even further back in time and dive deeper into the bear cult for instance or into the shamanistic practices represented in the prehistoric art of France’s infamous caves.

A huge component of reclaiming your ancestral roots has to be language. Linguistic diversity has been on the decline for hundreds of years and of the seven thousand languages spoken around the world today, half of them are endangered. Language is the greatest defining aspect of any culture and Wales is an example of a declining cultural identity due to English being more widely spoken now. Cornish and Manx are two examples of dozens of European languages that are critically or severely in danger of disappearing forever.

Some languages, however, are being thrown a lifeline with many groups pushing revitalising efforts. Scotland now has three Gaelic schools all at full capacity and in Sweden the ancient forest language of Elfdalian is being fought for with the help of schools and other language projects too (only sixty children actually speak it). Learning an ancestral language can be a wonderful way to meet like minded people and a fun project to do as a family. Learning the language of your ancestors makes it so much more easier to understand their beliefs, values and worldview. This way nothing can be lost in translation.

In 2015, The Heritage Crafts Association published ‘The Red List Of Endangered Crafts’ which highlights the plight of traditional craftsmanship. Two hundred and twelve crafts are currently on this list from broom making to arrowsmithing and oak bark tanning to slating. Every year sees more crafts being added or becoming extinct altogether because craftsmen and women are taking their skills to the grave.

The reasons for this are many fold. Firstly, the education system puts a greater emphasis on ‘intellectual’ subjects rather than life skills such as learning a traditional craft. Secondly, an interest in learning a craft is falling due to young people spending much of their down time online or trying to keep up with their heavy study workloads. Thirdly, families no longer have several generations living together anymore so older generations are just not passing their knowledge on to their children and grandchildren. Even if parents have ‘hands on skills’ they are too busy or too tired to even think about teaching their children. Traditional crafts were at one time deeply embedded in our culture due to these generational connections.

And lastly, in a day and age when most people want convenience, uniformity and cheapness over quality, authenticity and uniqueness, traditional craftsmen and women are fighting against the globalist beast. Do you honestly want the exact same item that a million other people own? Every piece an artisan creates has a little part of themselves crafted into it; their love, their passion and their determination to keep traditional crafts alive. Each and everyone of them is promoting a set of values that corporations will never have. Traditional crafts are another thread that connect us to our heritage and by not only buying from these artisans, but also learning a traditional craft, we can be proud of ourselves for preserving our heritage for future generations to enjoy. If you actually have a skill, then it is your responsibility to pass it on. Let us be creators not consumers.

Before I finish, I just wanted to say that if you are able to then please reach out to your living relatives and rebuild family bonds. Spend as much time with them as you can and get to know them on a deeper level. As for older members of your family, find out what you can about your heritage and don’t just ask for photos or dates, but also about your ancestors’ life stories, their heartbreaks and successes. I regret not having been interested in my family history when I was younger and had the opportunity to ask questions to my great grand mother and grandparents. Time is the essence.

The path back to our roots is not a simple straight one. It twists and turns leading us from one place to another with no rhyme or reason. Our roots are part of a complex knotted system which requires patience to unravel, so take your time and enjoy the journey all the way back to your beginning. And if you have children, please involve them as much as you can. Bushcraft, bake, sew, sing them nursery rhymes, tell them about your life and the life of your parents or grand parents if you can, for it is our duty as ancestors in training to pass on this sacred knowledge.

I hope that what I have written has given you some food for thought and has inspired you today to find out more about your heritage and what you can do to preserve your birthright.

Being Mindful Of The Land

The majority of us who walk an earth based spiritual path have at its core several seasonal celebrations. This ever changing cycle of seasons guides us and connects us to the natural world beyond our front door; from times of fertile abundance to times of stark simplicity. Celebrating each turn of the wheel has helped me to forge my own rituals and traditions that are in tune with where I live. By celebrating this way I am now more aware of the subtle signposts that Mother Nature leaves for me to follow and despite the passing of time never ceasing to rest, each moment has become so much more enriched and appreciated.

Up until recently I believed that what I was doing was not only reconnecting me to the land that I lived on, but also to the creatures and plants that shared this beautiful British landscape with me too. However, four weeks ago, I started coming across more and more information on the worrying subject of the growing water shortages across the world. I wasn’t purposefully researching or reading about this topic, but it just kept popping up over and over again. What I have read and consequently learnt has changed how I view and live the changing seasons forever and I believe that it will do the same for you too.

We live in a world of instant gratification that allows us to have almost anything we want, whenever we want. There is no longer the need to wait patiently and anticipate anything anymore. If you want to buy a new dress, no problem; pin number at the ready. If you need to research for a college project, no worries; your trusty smart phone has all the answers; no dusty library books for you. If you fancy eating a tomato and cucumber salad sandwich in January, no sweat; it’s just another lunch break at the office.

On the surface, all of these appear to be your normal day to day mundane activities, nothing out of the ordinary you might say; but the way we live our lives today has consequences. So what could possibly be one of the consequences of eating that tomato and cucumber sandwich on a January lunch break? Sadly, if you are living in the northern hemisphere, an extremely tragic one. What follows is everything that I have learnt over these past few weeks.

There are tens of thousands of cargo ships on our oceans that transport fruit and vegetables to our ports everyday to feed our growing need to eat what we believe to be healthy fresh produce all year round. A single one of these large ships emits more pollutants into our atmosphere, in one year, than all of the cars on the planet put together. As for cargo planes, they are able to burn four litres of fuel per second, needing almost 250,000 litres for just one trip. Pollution is not the only consequences of us eating fresh food that is not in season.

Transporting these huge amounts of perishable foods requires gallons and gallons of water, which in the form of ice keeps everything as fresh as possible during these very long journeys. This means that we are taking water from communities that already have so little, especially as the process of growing fruit and vegetables requires huge amounts of water in itself.

California has suffered on and off for years from droughts and more often than not the fault of global warming is cited as the cause. Personally, I believe that the huge burden that California has to feed the whole of the United States with fresh fruit and vegetables to be a more sensible reason for its water shortages. Ninety percent of the broccoli that Americans eat comes from California: ninety seven percent of kiwis, ninety seven percent of plums, ninety five percent of celery, the list goes on and on. California is also the number one American exporter of fresh produce to Canada, Europe and China and it is now turning into a desert.

Whereas California has the responsibility of feeding the United States, Spain has this honour in Europe. The country’s soil is being depleted of all of its nutrients. If you live in Europe, the next time you go to the supermarket have a good look at the fruit and vegetable labels. Nine times out of ten, when it isn’t the summer, they will say produce of Spain.

South Africa is another huge exporter of fresh produce and in three months time Cape Town will have completely run out of water. Residents are being heavily rationed and I dread to think of what will happen if it doesn’t rain before then. Is this another victim of the billion dollar fresh produce industry?

As you have surely realised by now, eating food that is not produced in your country and food that isn’t in season is not sustainable. How have we arrived at this point where we are not only harming whole communities, but the Earth’s resources, animals and plants as well? Industrial farming and all that it entails is destroying our beautiful planet. It is blurring the distinct lines between our seasons and turning them into one big mono season. What we are eating is also dulling our taste buds to the extent that we no longer know what real food tastes like. We have so lost touch with the seasons that we no longer know what crops naturally grow on our land, when they are naturally in abundance and when they are not.

Have you ever asked yourself why tomatoes are crunchy and taste like water when you buy them in the winter? It’s because these tomatoes are actually green and unripe. Even if they are grown in heated, energy guzzling green houses in Spain they are unable to ripen. So to fool us into believing that they are ready to eat, the tomatoes are sprayed with a gas called Ethylene which turns them red. Delicious!

Thankfully, all hope is not lost and each and every one of us can do our bit by mindfully eating what is seasonally grown in our own country. My family and I have been eating seasonally grown food from the UK for the past month now and the positive ways it has affected our lives far out weigh the superficial loss of not eating bananas, avocadoes and cucumbers. We actually haven’t missed eating them at all and we now have an even greater respect for our ancestors who did perfectly well without them too. So what are some of these positives that I am talking about?

By buying local and seasonal food we are supporting our country’s farmers and producers. We are getting food that is at its prime freshness and cheapest too. I have actually saved money, even when buying organic. An abundance of crops pushes down the prices.

With less ingredients to cook with I did start to panic a little in the beginning, but honestly I didn’t have anything to worry about. Mother Nature knows best and everything that is harvested at the same time of year all goes perfectly well together. It has also given me the opportunity to experiment and try out new recipes. Bubble and Squeak anyone? It’s a British classic!

Seasonal food is tastier, fresher (it isn’t days old before even arriving at the supermarket) and more nutritional. Food that is grown on the land where we live has all the minerals and vitamins that we need for that time of the year. Fruit and vegetables grown in the summer have a higher water content, perfect for hydrating us and are lighter to digest. The humble tomato which of course is a summer fruit contains Lycopene, which can actually protect our skin, to a certain extent, from the sun. Winter produce is more denser, grounding and filling, perfect for keeping us warm and satisfied. Like I’ve said before, Mother Nature knows best!

Buying seasonal food is a great way to connect with and learn more about our local landscape and all that live there.

Eating mindfully and authentically allows us to appreciate the food that we have because we only have it for a short period of time. There is no chance of us getting bored before anticipating the arrival of the next season. Even before deciding to eat only fresh seasonal food, we have always only eaten British plums, strawberries and raspberries due to the superior taste compared to the produce from Spain. Which means that for a very long time we have only eaten these during the summer or early autumn.

Growing and selling food seasonally brings local communities closer together and encourages people to try out growing methods such as permaculture which our ancestors would have practised and it heals the land. Consequently, we are not exploiting the Earth’s resources or marginalised communities.

Here are some ideas that you may like to try out that will help you to eat more seasonally too.

  • Visit farmers’ markets and chat with the growers. Ask them questions about how they grow their produce. More often than not your small local growers are using natural growing methods and not herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilisers.
  • Go to farm shops.
  • Read the food labels of fruit and vegetable packaging to find out where they are grown.
  • Notice what fruit and vegetables are the cheapest. Cheap normally means plentiful and in season.
  • Have a go at growing something yourself: on your balcony, your windowsills or even on your decking. You can find space if you look for it.
  • Once you have your beautiful home grown harvest, learn new skills and make jams, chutneys and sauces. You can also freeze most of it too.
  • See if there is an allotment or community project in your area.
  • Subscribe to a veggie delivery service. These are usually organic and everything is normally grown within 100 miles of where you live.
  • Especially buy apples from your own country. In Britain, due to intensive farming, property development and many supermarkets refusing to stock home grown fruit; 60% of apple orchards have been destroyed since 1970. Three thousand varieties of apples and pears have been lost. This not only damages the wildlife and land, but also the livelihoods of family businesses that have been working the orchards for generations. Orchards are a wildlife haven for so many mammals and insects especially foxes, badgers, bees and butterflies. Of course we mustn’t forget the humble mistletoe too. 680,000 tons of apples are eaten in Britain every year and are the second most popular fruit after bananas.

I believe that what we eat and where our food comes from not only affects us on a physical level, but on a spiritual level too. How can we truly forge a relationship with the changing seasons and the land we live on if we are not eating its seasonal bounties? The concept of harvest has a completely different meaning when we choose to wait patiently to savour a juicy tasty ripe tomato in August for example. I definitely have a deeper connection and respect now, not only for the land itself, but for those who came before me and who hunted, gathered and harvested its fruits.

For the past few weeks I have only bought seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the UK. The exception for three out of the four weeks has been onions from Holland (drying onions in the UK after harvesting them is extremely difficult and sadly they go mouldy very quickly). This month I have bought cabbages, leeks, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, carrots, potatoes, kale, turnip, parsnip, swede, beetroot, and apples; all of which are UK grown. I have supplemented the fresh produce with organic dry beans, rice (I am looking into buying Italian rice) and tinned tomatoes. Canned and dry food has much less of an impact on the Earth than fresh produce from abroad and I am still doing my best to research about what comes from where. It isn’t always easy, but then change seldom is. It is a gradual process, but one that I know will definitely yield a positive outcome.

To mindfully shop for fresh seasonal food is possible. So let’s bring our seasons back to their former glory, heal the land and banish the mono season forever.

The Importance Of Tradition

The British Isles were once overflowing with customs and rites that could be found weaved into the landscape and the rhythm of life itself. Isolated tribes sprung forth from camp fires and eventually formed close knit communities that shared the same values, traditions and worldview. Their art, story telling, music and ancestry were things they held dear and protecting them was paramount to the tribe’s legacy. By doing this they created a never ending line of ancestors that rooted them to a place of origin. They all knew who they were and where they came from and they were extremely proud of that.

The quickening tempo of progress, however, brought with it industrialisation and little by little the roots of each community began to erode and all the folk memories of our heritage and traditions with it. It was the church as well, in an attempt to stamp out pagan customs, that was also responsible for the decline of ancestral traditions. Christian churches were built over pagan temples, altars replaced pagan idols and Christian feast days were celebrated at around the same time as earlier pagan festivals. Gradually, although never entirely, the old gods were overthrown and an underground resistance appeared. The old ways were practised behind closed doors and our pagan ancestors did the best they could to pass on their folkways to the next generation until they too faded away.

Today we live in a society that encourages individualism and rejects collectivism. Many people listlessly roam from one thing to another, searching for something meaningful and familiar to feed their souls. They don’t know exactly what this is so they buy themselves useless gadgets and fashions, they over indulge and spend hours on social media, regurgitating other people’s opinions so they feel like they fit in. But those feelings of emptiness and yearning never truly go away and they ignore the truth that they are in fact homesick. They are actually missing their ancestral home. By separating themselves from their past and their heritage they have now become uprooted.

Marcus Garvey once said,” A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

In this day and age it is more important than ever to look back and reconnect the broken thread between ourselves and our ancestors. Once we lose our rich cultural heritage we become lost. We lose sight of our north star and can no longer see the path that our ancestors were guiding us along. If we don’t know where we come from then how can we know where we are headed and if our customs and folklore all die out then we lose the colourful diversity that makes up our heritage.

Psychologists have proven that having an intimate knowledge of our family roots and the history of our people is extremely important if we are to be well adjusted and self confident individuals. Understanding our past and knowing that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves fills us with pride and purpose. Traditions and rituals are part of our human story and provide us with an identity and a sense of place in the world. By sharing and experiencing these with others who have the same values and goals, we create a collective identity which in turn shapes our work ethic, our sense of community, our personal responsibility, our morals, empathy and how we respect one another. They also create strong role models and instil in us a sense of belonging. Traditions therefore have an extremely powerful way of replacing unhealthy and unnatural habits and mindsets that many young people possess today.

Thankfully, there are still many of us who hold our heritage dear and have a desire to preserve the practices of our ancestors and in doing so we stop them from disappearing altogether. By coaxing these ancestral memories back to life we are giving them a new sense of purpose so we can safe guard them for future generations. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to live and breathe our traditions and not have them stuffed behind glass cabinets in museums or hidden among the pages of musty books.

Appreciate your ancestral traditions and embrace them, for they are the accumulation of all of your ancestors’ knowledge and understanding of the world. Our traditions rise up out of our culture and if we don’t practise them then we lose them which in turn has us losing an integral part of ourselves forever.

Seek out your own heritage and be curious because your ancestors have so much to show you.

The painting depicts a traditional Morris dance and is called ‘The Thames at Richmond with the old Royal Palace’. It was painted in the early 17th century by an unknown artist.

Reinventing The Wheel

Stepping onto an earth based path from having previously been a Christian was very unnerving for me. I had absolutely no idea what to do to get myself up and over the invisible wall that I imagined was blocking my way. Even though I knew deep down that the faith I grew up with no longer served me, at least there was a safe familiarity about it; the routine, the boundaries, the expectations. All of these were ironically comforting. I didn’t have to think for myself because it was all done for me.

My free fall into unfamiliar territory was thankfully short and my discovery of ‘The Wheel of the Year’ gave me the structure and guidance that I so desperately needed. ‘The Wheel of the Year’ as many of you will know is the neo-pagan seasonal calendar that celebrates the solstices, the equinoxes and the four fire festivals; the latter being based on the agricultural year and Celtic mythology. Collectively, neo- pagans call these celebrations ‘Sabbats’.

My journey along the path of seasons and ancestors was and still is a slow and appreciative one. I see the world through the eyes of a child, noticing the subtle changes of Mother Nature’s breath; subtleties that I never would have made the time to notice before because I was just too busy being busy. But now I make a conscious effort to stop and take note.

How could I have seriously believed that February was winter and that August was summer? Lambs take their first tentative steps in February among the snowdrops while crocuses burst through the frozen ground. These are the subtleties of spring. And as for August, how did I not realise that the leaves begin to turn and the mornings hold the promise of cooler days ahead? These are the subtleties of autumn.

As I have been celebrating each turn of the Wheel I have come to realise how much more connected I feel to the land around me. Each spoke of the Wheel gives me the opportunity to take stock of my life and to appreciate how far I have come. With our busy modern lives it is all too easy to lose track of time as we get caught up in the daily humdrum, forgetting that we are one with the world; the world that is right outside the kitchen window.

If we were to just take notice of the earth’s rhythms, her ebbs and flows, our five senses would explode into life. We would see the grass snake basking in the last rays of sunshine. We would hear the swallows as they take off for warmer climes. We would smell the musty damp leaves as they slowly decompose and become part of the rich soil. We would taste the bonfire smoke on our tongue and feel the crisp sharp wind on our face.

So this is how it has been for me for these past few years until this autumn when I didn’t celebrate Lughnasadh. My heart just wasn’t in it, there was no anticipation and this led to me feeling very disappointed with myself. I had never missed a seasonal festival ever; I loved them all.

Yet I came to the stark realisation that a change was needed. I had to start thinking for myself again and break away from yet another stale practice. Even following the ‘Wheel of the Year’ can deprive a person of a free flowing, organic and creative spirituality.

The traditional ‘Wheel of the Year’ has been a wonderful introduction to a pagan practise and I am grateful for the solid foundation that it has given me, but I no longer want to be comfortable, I no longer want to follow the crowd and just go through the motions. I needed a practise that meant something to me; to my land, my ancestors, my folkways.

My spirituality is a living breathing organism. It doesn’t want me to practice the same rite on the same day, year in year out. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? It wanted me to go outside and be guided by the wildflowers, the trees, the standing stones and the streams, to follow the heart beat of the earth and allow it to show me when the right moment was to celebrate the transition between the seasons of where I lived. Spontaneous and unpredictable it needed to be nurtured.

This way of conscious living reflects entirely how our pre-Christian ancestors would have lived. People long ago were not enslaved by the clock and the calendar; instead they allowed themselves to be guided by the earth and the moon. Rituals were not rushed and the preparations took the time they took. Celebrating the arrival of spring on the Isle Of Man did not happen at the same time as celebrations in the county of Kent and so it should be the same for us today.

So now I am looking to reinvent my own wheel of the year at the same time as being mindful of the rhythms within the landscape that surrounds me. And if I happen to celebrate the turning of a season the day before everyone else or a week after everyone else then that is just fine. We all need to follow the beat of our own drum, as well as to remember that our ancestors celebrated more festivals and rites on their own than they collectively did with their tribe.

For the moment I am thinking about ways to personalise my year so that it will compliment my spiritual path as it stands today. To achieve this the following are just a few ideas that I would like to incorporate into my daily practise.

  • Research the folkways of my Celtic and Anglo Saxon ancestors and how they celebrated the turnings of the seasons.
  • Mark meaningful days to me on my calendar such as Joan of Arc’s feast day and days of remembrance for my kin and other figures that inspire me to be a better person.
  • Carve out time to explore and reconnect to my landscape, trusting in the natural signs that indicate when change is occurring in my environment and not just celebrating a festival because the calendar says I should.
  • Go for daily walks even in the rain.
  • Leave small daily offerings in the garden or out on my walks, such as native wildflower seeds, acorns, hazelnuts or homemade bread. These offerings could be for a deity, my ancestors or the land spirits.
  • Keep a field guide where I can write about my explorations, thoughts and impressions. A notebook that I can fill with sketches, maps, leaves and flowers. A place where I can observe and note down the weather, temperature, moon phases and the time that the sun and moon rise and set or even the return of the swallows that nest in the old barn behind our cottage. Poems, herbal remedies and rituals. A messy and wonderful keep sake of my spiritual journey.

If you are feeling that your spiritual practice has become stale and uninspiring then I urge you to give some of these ideas a go and let me know of the things that you do to keep in tune with the unfolding of the seasons. I would love to hear about them.

The photo is of the Boskednan Stone Circle in Cornwall

Finding My Way Back Home

August 2016

I am finally writing my very first blogpost. It has taken me a long time to pluck up the courage to do this, as ever since I have joined the online pagan community I have believed that no one would be faintly interested in hearing what I had to say.

I am no pagan or occult expert; I possess no witchy credentials or have astral travel mileage behind me. I don’t even own a single animal skull. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did buy a plastic crow skeleton last Samhain and he has sat magestically on my bookshelf ever since.

I am just little old me. A girl who has found herself on an exciting path of spiritual discovery who wants to strip everything back to the bare bones so she can heal herself and others too who wish to come along for the ride. And I also want to find my authentic place in the world.

As a child growing up in the Christian faith, it was easy to feel part of a family, a part of something much larger than myself and it never crossed my mind to question any of it. Every Sunday and every Day of Obligation I dutifully turned up to celebrate with others just like myself year in and year out.

But I gradually became aware of a dawning realisation. I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t feel or believe everything that they believed. It wasn’t a one religion fits all scenario. I was going through the motions, but I felt numb inside. I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t just to keep the peace. And what had happened to my connection to God and the Virgin Mary? Did this connection even exist? Perhaps I had always been blindsided by the pomp and ceremony to even realise that it was never there in the first place.

I didn’t want to be here anymore. I wasn’t here for me. I was here for others. Even God didn’t want to be here.

The day I told my family I was no longer going to church anymore is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Seven years later it is all water under the bridge. They have accepted it, but they don’t like it. They believe that I am still a Christian albeit one that no longer practices and I will never tell them otherwise because would hurt them too much. Of course this makes me sad that I am unable to share this part of my life with them, a part of my life that means so much to me and brings me so much joy and inspiration. I do my best not to dwell on it. I am blessed, however, to have a wonderful husband and two children who are as open minded and free spirited as I am. They are also walking their own unique paths in this life, discovering awe and wonder in the world around them and I am proud and excited to be a part of that.

Walking away from Christianity, was a lot easier than I imagined it would be, it was liberating and it felt right. Not once did I fear the fires of eternal damnation. The hardest part was actually filling the void that was left in its place.

Shortly after I had to move from the city to the countryside, a floodgate inside of me gushed open. A spiritual awakening was happening that was somehow miraculously triggered by my new environment. With no light pollution I could see the moon and the stars in high definition, even the international space station zipping over my head. While my hands were in the earth, I could hear buzzards and swallows calling from nearby. The Divine was here, but nothing like I had experienced before, except only as a child. Childhood memories came rushing back; faeries, spirits……magic.

There was something here more ancient than Christianity, even more ancient than time itself and it was calling me. I needed to know what it was, what it was called. So I read and researched, watched videos and researched even more, absorbing as much as I mentally could. I was like Neo and I was definitely plugged in.

July 2017

For many people who break away from Christianity, the realisation that the world is their oyster sinks in pretty quickly. I was no different and the feeling of euphoria was incredible, albeit overwhelming. Feeling like a child in a sweet shop I ‘travelled’ around the world picking a little something from every belief system I wanted and began tailor making my own spirituality.

At times I must admit this did leave a bitter taste in my mouth. The words “cultural appropriation” cropped up now and again, but I drowned them out with the excuse that I was a universal spirit, a part of the diversity that is life. I believed that just because I wasn’t a Native American or Tibetan Monk in this life, didn’t mean that I wasn’t one in a previous life time.  We were all part of the same spiritual soul family.

However, the unease of mixing different spiritual beliefs within my practice came back in full force. An understanding hit me; I was lost because I had cut myself off from my own ancestral roots. I was caught in the shining lights of exotic lands. I thought I believed that I was honouring my ancestors, but how could I be if I was off walking the Medicine Wheel and applying Buddhist teachings to my life?

Having an Ancestry DNA test confirmed my misgivings and gave me such clarity, that I knew exactly where I needed to look for spiritual and ancestral guidance. My own heritage. The land on which I tread is the same land as my blood kin and that is why I now follow a path of Anglo Saxon Heathenry.

I am not the same person I was seven years ago, not even the same person I was last month. My knowledge, understanding and spiritual beliefs are continuously evolving. My journey is changing who I am and this transformation is for the better.

I just wanted to share a little part of me and if you have stayed to the end of this post then I am truly grateful that you have taken the time to listen to what I have had to say. If I have touched or inspired just one person to break free and find the courage to step onto their own path of self discovery then I am content.