A Swedish Midsummer

This weekend just gone was my second Midsummer in Sweden. And, like every celebration ought to be, it was deeply, gloriously, refreshingly magical.

Midsummer in Sweden is a big deal. At this time of the year – the VERY FUCKING HOT time – in northern Sweden, the sun always remains above the horizon. In the South, it only sets for a few hours. This can prove to be a pain in the arse if you don’t have yourself a pair of black out curtains, as I have come to realise.

Swedes are so massively enthusiastic about Midsummer, you could almost say they become manic in the approaching days. It’s sort of crucial to just go with it, else you’ll be seen as a kill joy. As well as being an ancient pagan festival, Midsummer is the launch of the LONG summer break, which the majority of Scandinavia enjoys.

Everyone is flitting around trying to get things done, before the nights start to get longer, and the cold months start to creep back. This includes tanning the shit out of themselves.

Midsummer celebrates fertility and in gardens across this northern land you’ll find a phallic looking Midsommarstång (Midsummer Pole) erected.  A Midsummer Pole is a beautiful thing, decorated with foliage, masses of summer flowers that have been harvested from the fields and the forests and patriotic yellow and blue ribbons.

Food is central to the celebrations…namely potatoes in various forms. If you celebrate Midsummer, it’s inevitable that you will, at some point during the festivities, fall into a potato coma. It’s so worth it.

This year, like the last, we made the four hour journey to Middle Sweden to spend the weekend with the man’s family in Hagfors, AKA the small town in the woods…woods that are populated with moose, bears and wolves, as I relish pointing out at any given opportunity.

I had been dreaming about Midsummer for weeks, though predominantly  the potato and anchovies dish Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation) and Jordgubbstårta (strawberry cake.)

636341495984788135_Afterlight_Edit

The journey to Hagfors is through miles of farmland and thick forest. I always say a little prayer to the universe before we set off, asking if we can have the privilege of having a glimpse of the forest king – the moose.

The universe clearly doesn’t like me that much at the moment though, because I’ve yet to see a moose to gasp at.

636341505765290539_Afterlight_Edit

The style of the Swedish home is something really special, especially Sebastian’s family home. It had an air of tranquility about it that I  haven’t felt anywhere else. It’s virtually impossible to be pissed off when you’re being washed with light.

Woman of the house Pia has exceptional style, and I appreciate it that she appreciates   Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow. Every month this frame receives a new interpretation by Beskow.

636341496868329335_Afterlight_Edit

636341496477897286_Afterlight_Edit

Sebastian took on the task of creating the Midsummer Pole this year…I helped by snipping some greenery off a few bushes. The pole never did get it flowers though, turned out we were too busy inhaling potatoes…

636341562407260566_Afterlight_Edit.jpg

…and stopping the latest member of the family  – a Maltese puppy called Ozzy – taking off our fingers with his adorable needle teeth.

636341505392946499_Afterlight_Edit

I’m not much of a drinker, so preferred to just look at my glass of strawberry cider.

636341500193772768_Afterlight_Edit636341500727032854_Afterlight_Edit

Midsummer is very much about the Strawberry Cake.

636341506852549837_Afterlight_Edit636341499749327963_Afterlight_Edit636341497931169493_Afterlight_Edit

636341507911848357_Afterlight_Edit636341498812074908_Afterlight_Edit636341507323906691_Afterlight_Edit

With Sebastian’s dad living in the woods, when we visit we’re regularly reminded of the fragile line between life and death. Even on a blissful weekend like midsummer.

We always pass this ancient moose skull at the end of his road, and there is usually something recently dead when we arrive. In this instance it was a lizard that had met its fate at the teeth of the lawn mower. We also stumbled across a newly shed snake skin among the flowers.

636341535149173611_Afterlight_EditIMG_5545

IMG_5517

On the way home, enticed by a sign offering a view of a rune stone, we pulled off the main highway and ventured through the narrow country roads.

When we finally found it, it turned out that it was no ordinary rune stone, it was, in fact, the Järsberg Runestone, one of four in the region of Värmland and one of the best known stones in all of Scandinavia. Discovered in 1862, it dates way back to the 6th Century. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched.

636341534749762413_Afterlight_Edit

The road home.

NOTE: If you’re interested, you can read about my first Midsummer here on my archived blog The Girl With Cold Hands.

Advertisements

Wyrd Things For Wyrd People

My shop A Living Witch is a treasure trove of wyrd things for wyrd people. Some of the things I part ways with have been found during thrifting adventures…

I was on my way to the library the other day when  my heart said ‘stop by the thrift store…’ Never one to ignore my precious organ, I made a detour. Once inside, my sixth sense led me to the home ware section, where I found three Konge-Tinn napkin ring holders in immaculate condition. I scooped them up, knowing that I’d found something very fucking special.

My research told me Konge-Tinn translates to King’s Pewter, and this special, Viking era pattern circulating the holders had been in use – and celebrated in Norway and across the world – since 1958. One source told me these date back to the 1960’s…though another one said the 1980’s. Either way, they’re probably the most epic looking napkin ring holders you’re going to find. Buy them here!

IMG_8163vIMG_8168vIMG_8171vIMG_8173vIMG_8175v

As well as thrifting for my shop, I also made things. We’re hardly out of winter and already I’m missing it’s chilly breath on my neck. To cope with my loss, I’ve been wearing snowflake earrings, so I can always carry a little bit of winter with me.

I’ve always thought it magic that no two snowflakes are the same, and that singularly they’re so fragile, but when collected together are powerful beyond imagining.

This earring set, composed of two unique pewter snowflakes, embodies the fascination, and respect I hold for the crystals of the cold.

I made three sets to sell for other winter craving creatures. You can find them here!

IMG_8219IMG_8222IMG_8225IMG_8229IMG_8231IMG_8235

April’s Reading Stack

Is there really anything more beautiful than a stack of books you haven’t read yet? More beautiful than those unturned pages? More beautiful than the adventure of a new beginning? In my head, nothing can come close.

Living in Sweden means I don’t have immediate access to my entire book collection (I have 1% of it here with me…need to bring it in dribs and drabs) which fucking hurts. It also means that only a tiny portion of books in Borås library are available for me to inhale. Though I can’t complain. I should be grateful they have any at all.

April’s ambitious stack is a smorgasbord of all my favourite things –  Arctic nature, Scandinavian culture, black metal, magic in the everyday, polar exploration and horror.

636270224945890809_Afterlight_Edit

The Ghastling Edited By Rebecca Parfitt

‘Our fears take on many shapes and forms; from the intangible – the lurking shadows in the periphery of the mind; to our own mortality and fear of what comes after and will it come back for us?’ – From the editor’s letter.

636270215679523548_Afterlight_Edit

Black Metal Into The Abyss By Dayal Patterson

Features exclusive interviews withFURIA • MASSEMORD • 1349 • FORGOTTEN WOODS • TSJUDER • NOCTURNAL DEPRESSION • VEMOD • ONE TAIL • ONE HEAD • MYSTIFIER • BLACK ALTAR • BESATT • MORD ‘A’ STIGMATA • TRIST • HELHEIM • HYPOTHERMIA • LOITS • DEINONYCHUS • PSYCHONAUT 4 • KOLDBRANN • URGEHAL • SACRILEGIUM • BLAZE OF PERDITION

636270219841205456_Afterlight_Edit

The Little Book Of Hygge By Meik Wiking

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to the cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight.’ – From the back cover.

636270216277383240_Afterlight_Edit

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

‘Jill Akkerman’s husband had been wanting to have a talk with her for weeks, and she was two hundred percent certain that it was going to be an unpleasant one.’ – The first sentence in the short story Presence.

636270221265878684_Afterlight_Edit

The Abominable By Dan Simmons

‘June 1924 : On the brutal North East Ridge of Mount Everest, famous adventurer George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanish into the snow whipped night. Daredevil explorer Richard Deacon devises a plan to follow in the men’s footsteps, accompanied by two friends. Off piste and with almost no support tea, the three men strike for Everest’s peak and the most vicious climate on earth. As the winds rise and the temperature and oxygen levels drop, Deacon and his companions hear howls in the distance…’ – From the book jacket.

636270221721551463_Afterlight_Edit

Islands Of The Arctic By Julian Dowdeswell and Michael Hambrey

‘The Arctic islands are characterized by beautiful mountains and glaciers, in which the wildlife lives in delicate balance with its environment. It is a fragile region with a long history of exploration and exploitation that is now experiencing rapid environmental change. All of these themes are explored in Islands of the Arctic, a richly illustrated volume with superb photographs from the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard and the Russian Arctic.’ – From the back cover.

636270222184379978_Afterlight_Edit

At The Mercy Of The Winds By David Hempleman-Adams

‘It is instructive to write here that on his doomed attempt to fly a hydrogen balloon across the North Pole in 1896, the explorer Andree took along with him a dinner jacket in case he was obliged to feast with the king of some as yet undiscovered arctic country.’ – From chapter one.

636270289497584186_Afterlight_Edit

Which book here is grappling with your attention, and what do you find yourself reading this month?

 

On Mondays We Walk For Wellbeing

It didn’t matter that I’d only caught five hours of sleep, this morning (I was writing about reasons why home birth is best until 3am…and watching YouTube videos of bear attacks. I have an odd fascination with people meeting their ends at the jaws of animals…) outside was too beautifully gloomy to miss. I was just as lucky last week too.

I’d like to say I know the forest well, but eventhough I’ve been navigating it for over 12 months, I know I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.

I try to have all of my senses awake when I’m out in the forest, but often my mind wanders to places I’d rather it fucking didn’t, and I find myself wanting to back track to take in everything again with a clear head.

636268441023932366_Afterlight_Edit

The finely spun spiderwebs were so finespun, that I could only see them when I angled my head a certain way.

636269004482148917_Afterlight_Edit636269002329762263_Afterlight_Edit636268999004809934_Afterlight_Edit

I’ve trudged past these views hundreds of times before. But they always have a new magic waiting for me.

Spring has started to shake herself awake – all the signs were there. My mittens remained tucked away in my bag, and the birds were so ecstatic it was catching.

636269003293543692_Afterlight_Edit636268997689054880_Afterlight_Edit636268998473326967_Afterlight_Edit636268449985236775_Afterlight_Edit

The frogs have come out of their winter hibernation, and are making babies…by the thousands. I haven’t lost that childlike sense of wonder when it comes to frogspawn. I still crouch down to get a better look and am mystified by the little jellied embryos.

636269013151464146_Afterlight_Edit

Much of the time, the forest requires you to have your adult head on…to be wary of where you are standing and to not loose your bearings. But there are times that it also lets you drop the weight of adulthood for a while, and recapture what it meant to be little, curious and open to magic.

Discoveries : March

I have been looking forward to putting this post together for weeks now!

If there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that I very rarely switch off. Even when I think sometimes that ‘perhaps it would be nice to have a quiet head for a while,’  it’s not often that I’m mentally capable of it being so.

It has quite a lot to do with the fact with the fact I live with bi-polar, and it’s an illness that’s renowned for not letting its carriers allow their thoughts to rest. And it has quite a lot to do with the fact that I’m just too bloody interested in my interests to be able to let my mind drain out. I tried it once last year, to just be without putting out my feelers, and I felt like it was the end of the fucking world.

Anyway, here I present to you many of the great things March informed me about in its 31 days. If there’s something that moves you or inspires you or gets really under your skin or perhaps you know of a better way that I could document my discoveries, let me know…!

P.S. The little bullet points are the rune Kenaz which symbolises – among other things – knowledge, illumination and creativity.

636259544838272617_Afterlight_Edit.jpg

Creative

< Having a baby can change a writer for the better

This quote was lifted from my friend, writer Carmen Thompson’s Facebook page.

‘I admit it I was so scared about how having a baby would affect me as a writer. How could I go from the fast paced intensity of deadlines to doing nothing but baby? But he’s made me slow down to his time until I see the details in each moment. What is innocence but having the patience to wonder? What better way to write, to live?’

Stephen King Doesn’t Write In A ‘Room Of His Own’
< The Influence English Folklore Has Had On Writers
< Darby ‘Old Hag’ Lagher Is Learning To Express Herself Through Drawing
< The Man Who Runs Free With Hoses In Iceland
< The Heartbreaking Difficulty Of Getting Rid Of Books
< Caitlin Doughty Has A New Book Coming Out Called Here To Eternity

Macabre, Death & Wyrd

< Turkeys Circling A Dead Cat
15 Historical Time Consuming Torture Methods
Yeti Could Be A Sub-Species Of The Himalayan Bear
<  The Term Sasquatch Was Coined By A Journalist In 1920
New Digital Document To Help You Find Out If You’re Descended From Witches
< Zana The Wild Woman
< Baking Students Create Chocolate Geodes

History

< Why Greenland’s Vikings Vanished

Mental Health

< Shawn Cross Illustrated Mental Illness & Disorders
< Why Mental Illness Makes People So Tired
< Conveying Depression Through Photography

Nature

< Icelandic Aurora Photo Published By Nasa
< Quest To See The Northern Lights
< Peculiar Crack Forms In Þingvellir Lake
< Satellite Detects A Massive Anomaly Under Antarctica
< Norway Prepares For A Mass Slaughter Of Reindeer

Things To Try

< Viking Bread Recipe
< Turmeric Lemonade
< A Clothing & Sigil Protection Spell

 

Beginning Anew : An Invitation To Collaborate

I didn’t need to wear mittens today, a tell-tale sign that my third favourite season has well and truly arrived in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Spring equinox has, for a bloody long time, been a period to let go of the old and welcome in the new. So, I decided the best way for me to celebrate would be to start making tracks with collaborative ideas that have been sitting in my head for too long.

Many projects which I’ve started during my career as a creative never made it past infancy, primarily because I was to stubborn to ask for help, and had that whole ‘I’m a lone wolf’ mentality. While I still have a lone wolf streak, I’m no longer afraid to ask others if they’d like to come aboard and navigate an uncharted sea with me.

Wyrd Words & Effigies Magazine was one such project that didn’t reach the peaks I dreamed it would. I can only imagine where it could have been if I’d been more open and had brought in some other enthusiasts of the macabre.

But back to now. I’m going to lay my ideas down on the table, and if you find yourself thinking ‘holyshitballs I would fucking love to be involved with that,’ then send me a note and we can talk. If you find yourself thinking ‘I know someone who might fucking love to be involved with that’ then drop them a note and link them to this post.

636254630845116153_Afterlight_Edit

Arctic Fever – A Spoken Word Journey

What Is It? Arctic Fever will be a live spoken word show, centered around the thawing of the Arctic, and how the catastrophic changes are impacting the people, flora and fauna of the great white north.

What Help Do You Need? I’m looking for one or two adventurous female musicians who are passionate about the Far North, and in raising awareness about the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

I would be extremely happy if you would be willing to challenge yourself to learn some  Inuit throat singing and drumming techniques, as these are elements I envisage accompanying the poetry. Ideally, you would be based in Västra Götaland County, Sweden so we could meet on a semi-regular basis. 

I’m also hoping to bring on board a female artist from Scandinavia who is infatuated with the north. You would work with us to create promotional material,  as well as an accompanying pamphlet featuring poems from the show, tied in with exclusive artwork.

It would be beyond incredible to have someone experienced with fashion and/or costume and stage design to provide guidance on putting together the ‘look’ of the show. For example, help me to conjure up an idea of how myself and the accompanying musicians should look on stage.

Finally, I would greatly appreciate some council from someone experienced with crowd funding and who would be able to guide me through the process of setting up a crowd funder for the project. The initial goal is to perform the show in Borås, Gothenburg, Stockholm and a location within the Arctic Circle, and to be able to do this, I’ll need to round up some krona.

To recap, I’m looking for:

2 female musicians

1 female artist

1 fashion and/or costume designer

1 experienced crowd funder

An Independent Press Run By Eclectic Women

What Is Is? It has been my dream, since before time began or something to that effect, to run an independent press publishing authors whose writing is a world away from the mainstream, writing that’s capable of changing your dark world in a heartbeat.

After a few attempts and some near misses, I left the dream to simmer on the back burner. But I never stopped thinking about it and, recently, when my thoughts started burning so fiercely it felt as though they were going to sizzle through the skin on my forehead, I realised I had to say something. I regularly see writing – mostly on Instagram at the moment – and it’s making me think ‘I WANT TO PUBLISH THAT RIGHT NOW IN A BEAUTIFUL BOOK!’

I can envisage starting with a few titles a year – poetry, collections of essays, short stories, non-fiction, whatever happens to come up that is too good to pass on. The only requirements would that it would need to be of a dark nature and/or about the far north. I’m also doting on the idea of having a yearly annual featuring unseen work from ‘our authors’ and other carefully selected writers.

What Help Do You Need? Aside from my lone wolf mentality, another reason I think many of my projects didn’t succeed is that I don’t have a good head for business. I have tried to change this, believe you me. I have been to countless business courses but could rarely stay longer than one lesson. Something in my brain prevented me from learning past a certain point. (I never was the brightest student.) However, I don’t want this ‘handicap’ to prevent me from publishing and celebrating writers I truly believe in. I just need help with the number crunching and other such things.

So, I would need to bring a woman on board with experience in the publishing industry (ideally), or with a good head for business in general, who wouldn’t feel exasperated by the mere sight of the word ‘overheads.’

I’d also need another person who would feel comfortable working as  an editorial assistant. Ideally, you would be based in Scandinavia and and enthusiast of the macarbe and, preferably the north, but elsewhere in Europe is okay…so long as you possess the passion for print and the best in peculiar literature.

To recap, I’m looking for:

1 female with experience in the publishing industry

1 female with editorial experience

If your finding yourself getting a little bit excited about any of these positions,  email me at katiemariemetcalfe@hotmail.co.uk with your thoughts. Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you’d like to be involved and link me up to where you are online.

I’m also always up for collaborations, so if you have an idea for a project you’d maybe like to have me involved in, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Photo: Erzabeth Svedlund

Wisdom From Moominvalley

Whenever I feel like I need a bit of extra support during the day, I automatically reach for my Moominland Midwinter Mug and use it for my tea. It gives me a gorgeously warm sense of reassurance, hope and even peace. Everything seems better when I have it full with a hot, strong brew. And even when it’s not full – which is rare – I keep it close to me.

636184353737033854_Afterlight_Edit636184354613600582_Afterlight_Edit

The Moomins TV show (the Japanese-Finnish anime one) was on Channel 4 every Saturday morning when I was growing up. It was on early, about 6.30 am. It had a different, more peaceful vibe than many of the other shows, and that peaceful vibe established itself as a huge comfort throughout my childhood, teenage and yes, even my adult life. I was watching the Moomins on DVD well into my 20’s. Basically the Moomins calmed me the hell down. It made me laugh. It made me think. It made me consider things and life and stuff in different ways.

I also, naturally, wanted to live in Moomin Valley (Tove Jansson was inspired by the area around her family’s summer home in Northern Finland), I was massively curious about the Groke – and simultaneously fucking terrified by it – and I had one of those weird childhood crushes on Snufkin, who’s actually gone onto greatly influence my fashion choices. I kind of wish that I had been alive and in Sweden in the 1950’s because The Moomins were such a big deal you could actually take Moomin studies at university. Just imagine what I could have done with that degree!

Anyway, when I’m in need of a dose of wisdom – and sometimes a laugh – the majority of the time I find myself Googling for quotes from Tove Jansson, Moomintroll and the gang. One of my all time most loved quotes from Tove is

“Maybe my passion isn’t something special, but at least its mine.”

As I know there are plenty of other Moomin devotees out there, I decided  to share some favourites  that I collected earlier including plenty from one of my Spirit Animals, Little My. (Though I’m also a bit Snufkin…)

636252054938209988_Afterlight_Edit

“Believe me, I’m wise.” – Little My

 

“The Groke knows.” – The Moomins

 

“I want everything to happen fast.” – Little My

 

“This was not a particular funny celebration.” – Moomin Troll

 

“And if that doesn’t work, I’m gonna go bite them.” – Little My

 

“I own everything I see and everything that pleases me. I own the entire world.” – Snufkin.

 

“It’s not my fault!” – Little My

 

“Making a journey by night is more wonderful than anything in the world.”- Moominpappa

 

“Don’t you understand art? I’m in a Groke-mood, so I make a Groke.” – Little My

 

“It would be awful if the world exploded. It’s so wonderfully splendid.” – Snufkin

 

“Nonsense. My spirit isn’t lifted.”

I Opened My Shop Today

The moon is distracting me from writing this post. It’s full in the sky, glowing like an expectant mother. When the moon is full, it’s the perfect time to practice gratitude, and that is exactly what I’ve been doing, in between piecing together my Etsy Shop selling things ‘too wyrd for most people.’ Today has brought one beautiful surprise after another, and it’s like the universe is looking out for me. I can practically hear it say ‘you’re going to be alright kid.’

One of the surprises was that I actually succeeded in opening up my little shop. I’ve been doubting myself over the past few days, looking at my cross stitch and thrifted pieces and thinking ‘Are people going to want these things? Am I being a total buffoon by opening this shop? Am I just going to embarrass myself with my rudimentary embroidery skills? Do I even know what I’m doing?’

It got to the point where I thought about selling everything much less that I’d originally intended, simply because I didn’t think anything I’d done or found was good enough, and because, basically, I’m winging it. But then something moved in me.

I remembered all the hard work, all the time, all the love that has been put into every stitch, every moment thrifting, every day writing and re-writing and editing. I remembered all the daydreams I’d had about people finding something in my shop that they could connect with, be it a book, a cross stitch or a piece of vintage clothing. Yes, I’m winging this, but aren’t we all just winging everything? I read a brilliant quote from Charles Bukowski which made everything feel that bit better.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received: ‘No one else knows what they’re doing either.’

So I went ahead and finished establishing my little shop and launched it, leaving those negative, detrimental thoughts out in the cold. While the things I make and find won’t be to everyone’s taste, I know there are people out there walking a similar journey to my own, and hopefully they will find A Living Witch – both the shop and blog – and feel like they’ve arrived home.

Here are some of the things I’ve created and thrifted and am now parting ways with…if an image starts to speak to you, click on it to be taken straight to where it sits in my shop.

636248549511316812_Afterlight_Edit

Snow Falling On Pines Cross Stitch

636248549936400921_Afterlight_Edit

The Scandinavian Witches Cross Stitch

636249242287523535_Afterlight_Edit

A Fragile Vintage Collar Trimmed With Lace

“While I can promise that there will always be handwoven embroidery and my writing available, you will need to think of this shop as a place where you’re never quite sure what you’ll encounter.

Much of what you will find here will have been thrifted and altered, and you know the nature of thrift stores…they’re a treasure trove of the wyrd and wonderful, and are never the same from one hour to the next. That’s very much the nature of A Living Witch – it’s a place with a pulse. I’m deeply passionate about re-homing precious things, and giving objects that have been abandoned a chance to breathe again and be loved.”

 

 

 

.