Finding Peace On High Ground

From the age of 7 to 14 my family and I lived under the swell of the North Yorkshire Moors, and we would travel much of their breadth day in, day out to get to school. I knew the dips and turns of the road as well as I knew the lines creasing my palms.

I loved the moors best in winter, when blizzards would rise up and we’d be forced to turn back. ‘Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!’ We would chant, while clapping out hands and hitting our thighs.

I also loved the heather burning season. The moors were created by man thousands of years ago…a fact I don’t really want to believe is true. Settlers from Sweden, Norway and Denmark used fire a management tool, in much the same way as farmers continue to do today.

Though I was nearly always observant of my surroundings, I took it for granted. It was home, I was used to it. I could read a book on the bus, never minding the sun retreating behind the hills.

Nowadays I regret that. I regret not taking it all in. When my parents and I recently took the familiar journey, it was like the moors were welcoming me back, embracing the car with a thick fog and providing a gorgeously eerie outlook. This time around, nothing was taken for granted. I drank in everything and achieved the most beautiful sense of calm. Nature is always the remedy.

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Strength Is Around Here Somewhere

I’m feeling weak today. My self-esteem is somewhere out of sight, and the temptation to flee the internet is almost overwhelming. I’ve been having panic attacks about love heart emojis, and comparing the size of my breasts to someone elses, someone I don’t even know and whom I will never meet.

I’ve been bullying myself for not being able to stop overthinking and overthinking and overthinking. I’ve been bullying the one I love because I was struggling to love myself. Looking in the mirror today was impossible because I felt too disgusted with myself, with my appearance, with my thoughts and actions.

I’m wishing we were still in winter. I’m wishing I could go to ground with a brown mother bear, and hibernate in her massive arms. I wish I could regurgitate the berries I’d eaten during the autumn months and feed on them when I was hungry. I wish I could come back to earth’s surface strong and capable of fighting off anything that tried to go for my jugular.

In an attempt to gather back some strength, I’ve been looking at some self-portraits where I try and epitomize what it is to be a strong woman. I’ve also rounded up some quotes that bring me comfort and fire. I’ve fallen, but it’s time to woman the fuck up.

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The people
who consider you weak
have not yet noticed
the wolf hiding
behind your eyes,
nor the flames
inside your soul.

Let them think
you are weak
and do what
wolves and fire
do best.

Surprise them
when they least expect it.

– Nikita Gill

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It makes utter sense to stay healthy and strong, to be as nourishing to the body as possible. Yet I would have to agree, there is in many women a ‘hungry’ one inside. But rather than hungry to be a certain size, shape, or height, rather than hungry to fit the stereotype; women are hungry for basic regard from the culture surrounding them. The ‘hungry’ one inside is longing to be treated respectfully, to be accepted and in the very least, to be met without stereotyping.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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A strong woman is a woman who craves love like oxygen or she turns blue choking.  A strong woman is a woman who loves strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong in words, in action, in connection, in feeling; she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

— Marge Piercy

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Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One. ― Elizabeth Gilbert

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

A Living Witch Photographs…Winter’s Ghost

Most people come into my life and leave without me misplacing so much as a breath. Few come into my life and have an impact so tremendous that, for a while, I forget how to breathe. They tattoo an imprint on my soul and, when I feel I’ve lost the magic that is life, they help me to find it again.

Erzabeth Svedlund is one such person. She’s a powerful single mother, a beautiful creature and a creative extraordinaire who will do anything for her art…she will cover her naked body in pigs blood when temperatures are below freezing. She will climb to the top of treacherously positioned rocks. She will give her whole self to the moment so I can capture it as a memory forever.

For this shoot, we had a vague idea…’something Laura Palmer…something…white wig….something make the most of the snow…something.’

We thought that winter had left us for real, but when he came back for a brief visit it was all systems go and we sped into action to make the most of his return. Here’s what we captured.

* I will be uploading a full album onto Facebook soon with many more shots…*

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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.

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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…)

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“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.

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Snow Falling On Pines Cross Stitch

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The Scandinavian Witches Cross Stitch

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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.”

 

 

 

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Stand Up And Be Heard…Always

Maybe I should have posted something on the 8th of March – International Women’s Day, but something kept me from doing so. Though I did quietly celebrate the news that the glorious country of Iceland will become the first country to require equal pay for men and women. I also enjoyed the waterfall of inspiring posts from women I follow across the world on Instagram and Facebook.

I’m of the belief that we don’t need a specific date of the year to have our voices heard, to have our faces seen, to have our spirits celebrated. Being a woman is something that should be – and can be – rejoiced in every single day.

To rejoice in my own womanhood and the womanhood of my sisters, I’m going to offer some white space to one women who has inspired me immeasurably over the past decade – Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

Jungian psychoanalyst, poet and author, Clarissa is the mind behind the hugely empowering book Women Who Run With The Wolves, one of the most important tomes to have come into my life. It was one of those books which I was told countless times ‘that I needed to read,’ and, at the moment when I needed it most, it practically fell into my hands from a charity shop shelf. I parted with 75p and went home with a book that genuinely radiated positive energy.

In this post, I’m pairing up a number of my favourite quotes from Clarissa, with self portraits I’ve taken in the last six months. I hope you leave illuminated by her wisdom and, if you haven’t already read it, prepared to part with some pennies for her tour de force.

*While I can’t stress how important is it for every women to own a physical copy of Women  Who Run With Wolves, I’m also aware you might need to keep the purse strings tight. So I’ll let you in on something…the book is available as a free downloadable PDF file. Just Google for it, then get yourself a physical copy when you’re able to.*

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“The things that women reclaim are often their own voice, their own values, their imagination, their clairvoyance, their stories, their ancient memories. If we go for the deeper, and the darker, and the less known we will touch the bones.”

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“The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place.”

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“If you have yet to be called an incorrigible, defiant woman, don’t worry, there is still time.”

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“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”

Winter Witch VI

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories from your life – not someone else’s life – water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work.”

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“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

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“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”

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“The most important thing is to hold on, hold out, for your creative life, for your solitude, for your time to be and do, for your very life.”

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“How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all.”

Return Of Winter III

“A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving.”

A Thrifty Witch Haul : True Love Tarot Deck & Book

I went thrifting with the intention of finding some fabrics to cross stitch on – sadly all the nice ones I unearthed from the heaps had curious stains on them – but instead came away with A True Love Tarot : Deck & Book Set for 35 krona (about £3.20).

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I was hugely taken with a raw food cookbook (can’t remember the title) but at 45 krona it was a little bit steep for this haul, plus, the ingredients were slightly too exotic and included the likes of nuts found only in the Himalayas and grass that needs to have been meditated on for a week before eating. (Sarcasm). Though if it’s still there next week and I have enough dough, you can bet I’ll pick it up. All the raw food meals I’ve eaten in my lifetime has been sublime to the point of orgasmic, and I would be only too happy to eat more raw.

There was also a gorgeous vegetarian recipe book from the early 90’s. It was so used it’s pages were cotton soft, and every recipe used ingredients of the like that we could actually afford, like onions, carrots and lentils.

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So, the tarot package. While I’ve already found true love, this guide states that as well as being a lovers guide to dating, it’s also a guide to mating and relating. And anything that’s going to help me be better at ‘mating and relating’ is worth exploring.

If you’ve been here since the beginning, you’ll know that one of my goals this year was to learn tarot, and I’ve been on a search to find a set to get started with. Like with my other haul, I think fate led me today and put this tarot set – which is in impeccable condition – in my hands. The artwork has already spoken to me, and the guide looks to be superbly well written. (I will be doing a review of the set and book, as well as my experience using it!)

Created by tarot experts and ‘legendary lovebirds’ Amy Zerner (she’s responsible for the deck) and Monte Farber (he’s responsible for the accompanying guide), I think I’m in good hands to learn how to use the ancient power of tarot to empower the relationship I have with my man.