A Living Witch Photographs…A Skogsfru

A few months ago, when winter briefly re-appeared in the south of Sweden, I photographed my fellow witch and good friend Erzabeth Svedlund. She was, for an afternoon, Winter’s Ghost.

We are now in mid-summer and it was fine time for a reunion. Yesterday we met, with not much of an idea of what we were going to do, and only a few hours in which to conjure something magical. And conjure we did, in the forest less than five minutes from my front door.

When we create together, we often look to folklore and in this instance, we approached the idea of creating a Skogsfru (wood wife) using a floor length blonde wig as a prop, and little else. Here’s what we captured.

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I Woke Up And Decided To Be Happy

Bi-polar + anxiety can equal a fucking disastrous ride through life, full of hurt and angst and misunderstandings. Hell, if you only knew how many times I’ve fallen hard, and needed to gather my damaged self back up again…my head is home to a world of scars.

Sometimes it feels like life has never been a straightforward experience. I’ve always been falling over and breaking, then staggering back upright and fixing myself, determined that I’d never be caught off guard again. That this time I’d stay ok.

But of course I’m caught off guard, of course I fall. In some ways, I think I was put here to show people that you don’t have to disappear underground forever when shit gets bad. Even though I’m one who can do that…the disappearing act…I always come back after a while because I refuse to be defeated.

The valuable thing for me to remember is that I know I can pull myself from the maelestom. I know I can get my head above the water and breathe and live for the moment, instead of in the darkened past or an imagined, shaky future.

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This morning I woke up and said to myself,

‘From now on, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to accept that life is uncertain and embrace the uncertainty. When negative thoughts try and plough into my consciousness, I’m going to let them starve from lack of attention, and when shit gets difficult, as it inevitably will from time to time, I’ll deal with it and move the fuck forward without hesitation.

I have a beautiful life, in one of the most spectacular countries in the world, and a partner I wouldn’t trade for anything. The people around me own the biggest hearts. I have my eyesight, I have my hearing, I have my voice, I have four working limbs and a strong heart. I have life-bettering opportunities offering themselves to me, and I have experience enough that I can tackle any challenge head on. I want to inspire happiness in people, I want to inspire hope.’

Further Reading

Further Watching

A Living Witch Reviews Sabat Magazine : The Maiden Issue

It was a while back now that the first issue of Sabat Magazine, The Maiden Issue was introduced to the world, but, as usual, I was late to the party.

As it happens, I was broke when The Maiden Issue was unleashed, and it sold out so fucking quickly that I didn’t have chance to gather the coin I needed for it. But, thank the universe, it’s been reprinted.

Having read The Mother Issue before this one (I didn’t make the same mistake twice and ensured I had money set aside for that one) I had an inkling of what to expect. I knew I’d be getting a publication of the highest quality imaginable, with a durable cover and unyielding, gloriously thick paper inside. I knew that I’d be getting intelligent writing that would educate, entertain and enlighten me. I knew, that by the time I closed the magazine, I wouldn’t be the same woman as who’d opened it.

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The front cover, as with all of the Sabat magazines, is spectacularly composed with the title on the spine running onto the cover. It’s the first example of the experimental design that I could expect to find. With it being The Maiden Issue, I was treated to a visage of the lithe, virginal Drew, photographed by Simone Steenberg.

It’s evident that editor Elisabeth Krohn has been submerged in art and design for eons, because her eye for detail is fucking extraordinary. Just skimming through the magazine, I could see little pink paper inserts used to introduce me to various articles and their creators, and on the flip sides, some stirring art.

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Let it be known that Elisabeth Krohn knows how to write a really fucking decent editor’s letter, and introduces the theme of the magazine with an enviable succinctness. I can practically feel the energy of this witchy endeavour crackling!

‘This Maiden Issue of Sabat goes out to teen witches of all ages, exploring Witchcraft today. Encouraging a coven of thought, it preaches a fearless approach to finding the powers within. Sabat champions tactile creativity in this screen-orientated world.’

The first feature I want to bring attention to is What Does The Word Witch Mean To You? For it, Elisabeth asked a number of contributors to explain…I particularly liked the response from Katie Karpetz.

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‘It’s who I am; I feel like I live and breathe it. Every day there is magic to be seen everywhere: the ever-changing seasons, the gleam in a rabbit’s eye, the last breath of a crow. I feel like people don’t look around themselves enough. If they did, they would see it too.’

I find the whole concept of #WitchesofInstagram fascinating and Elisabeth explores and explains it so beautifully in the feature #Witches

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‘A new generation of Witches are embracing social media and making the Internet their own. Moody and monochrome, the aesthetics of the eerie squares range from the dark Victoriana to poetic renditions of nature or the more alternative and artistic…The level of photography and composition is so sophisticated it rejuvenates the world of occult aesthetics creating a new visual hierarchy the pushes the ancient into the instant.’

The next feature to blow my mind wide open was Bitter-Sweet by Pam Grossman, which explores the idea that the maiden isn’t actually all shimmering purity…

‘The “perfect” maiden is in the same category as the Dream Girl: an idealized version of femaleness completely lacking in dischord or grit…I think of the maiden energy that teems in nature: the viridescent vitality that sets the world aglow in springtime. Though we often associate this season with levity and flowers, first growth is anything but sweet. Spring greens taste the most bitter, and new fruits are acrid before they’re fully ripe.’

Divergent Deities was the next piece of enthrall me. Elizabeth interviews American artist and queer witch Fay Nowitz, who creates transcendental collages and photography. Wise beyond her years, the following interview segment really stood out for me.

 ‘An artist’s practise is a ritual itself – the way one goes about gaining knowledge, forming ideas, processing that information, and creating something out of it.’

And her first experiences with the occult as a child struck a chord, though unlike Fay, I was fortunate to grow up in a family that wasn’t ‘traditionally religious,’ and who embraced pagan ways.

Elizabeth: What is is about the occult that inspires you in your art?

Fay: The otherworldliness, the darkness, to put it simply: the magick. I’ve always been inspired by the unusual. Ever since I was a kid, I remember deeply resonating with the concepts and ideologies presented in Witchcraft and various neo-pagan traditions…

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Earth Magician turned out to be one of my very favourite pieces in the magazine. I’ve been following the photographic work of Rik Garret for ages, and was over the fucking moon, to put it lightly, that I was in such close connection to his dark and distinctive art using analogue techniques and mixed media. Passionate about Witchcraft, feminine archetypes and humankind’s relationship with nature, this became the foundation for his Earth Magic series and book. It was a moving and exhilarating experience to see under this skin of this most talented visionary.

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When asked about his first experience with the esoteric he replied…

‘The werewolves in Micheal Jackson’s Thriller video – I have heard enough people’s stories about being inspired by fiction to be ok with saying that.’

Segovia Amil is a poet I’ve been on the trail of for a couple of years now, and if I’m being honest, the fact that she had an in-depth article in this magazine is one of the things that first prompted me to get it. Describing herself as a product of solitude, poet Segovia Amil caresses the dark and lonely corners of the soul through spoken word and videography.

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Segovia has a way with words that makes my heart tremble, I was especially enthralled when she was talking about her ‘raven-like aesthetic…’

‘As artists, it is our job to make people question their beliefs. I’m very often stereotyped, but when people meet me, they see that I am kind, bubbly…Even though I have this dark demeanor on Instagram, I’m actually really friendly.’

If you haven’t already encountered the work of photographer Nona Limmen, I’m proud to be the one to introduce you to her spectral work through her series Dark Lands shot in the Icelandic mists. Sabat dedicate large portions of the magazine to just photography and I just fucking adore it. Dark Lands is my favourite photographic feature from this issue, but there’s several others, each conveying the maiden in a unique and deeply thought-provoking light.

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Lisen Haglund AKA Nattskifet is one of my heroines, so when I encountered Satanic Feminism when I was reading the magazine for real, and not just skimming, I recall thinking to myself, ‘and can it possibly get any better than this?’ Listen lists ‘the Witch, feminism and metal’ as just a few of the inspirations for her art, from which she created her very own brand of satanic feminism.

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The final feature I was to unveil is Get Your Rocks Off, an illuminating insight into ‘the best stones to crystallize your inner Witch.’ Written by Elizabeth, it examines the powers of four crystals, including one which I always like to have in my presence, crystal quartz.

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‘The most powerful healing and energy amplifying stone on the planet – channels and unblocks energies and heals all ailments. Throughout history Crystal Quartz has been valued by nearly every civilization…’

Closing this issue of Sabat felt like so much more than simply closing a magazine, it was almost as though I was closing a part of my life that needed to be laid the rest.

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I’m almost 31 and I feel my maiden years are close to being rounded up, as I talk with my partner about children and the like. I closed Sabat and felt invigorated in the most precious of ways by this most magical of publications.

You can buy your own copy of The Maiden Issue here, and don’t forget you can check out my review of The Mother issue.

More Sabat

Sabat Website

Sabat Instagram

Sabat Facebook

 

My Friend Bud

I will forever see myself as having been a truly fortunate kid, because we always had dogs in the family…including a precious border collie cross springer spaniel called Sally.

In her later years, she would take herself off to one of our neighbours house where she’d settle herself down by the fire, and be fed Weetabix by the tolerant old lady who lived there.

However, when my dad would whistle from the back door, she’d hurry home for dinner. I can still remember her floppy spaniel ears waving in the wind as she trotted down the back lane. So obedient she was, so beautifully loyal.

But she was sick towards the end, her body riddled with cancerous tumours, which I could feel when I’d bury my bare feet in her long fur at nighttime, when we were sat in front of the fire. I can recall her last day, how I fed her some of my Snickers ice cream bar. It was hard to look into those hazel eyes while she wolfed down the cold treat.

Yesterday I saw Sally again in the eyes of Bud, a friend’s one year old border collie. Intelligence, loyalty, happiness – his eyes and sublime face brought back what I’d lost when I parted ways with Sally.

For the few hours I was sat in my friend’s living room, I felt a calmness like I haven’t been capable of feeling in a long time. My anxiety was thousands of miles away, and all I was in possession of was joy of the very purest kind. I daydream about when the man and I can bring a dog into the family…I day dream about the genuine joy it will infuse our lives with.

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“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings

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“Dogs are minor angels, and I don’t mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it’s “only” a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being? Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day– we’re just so used to them that we pay no attention.”
― Jonathan Carroll

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“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”
― Charles de Gaulle

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“I believe in integrity. Dogs have it. Humans are sometimes lacking it.”
― Cesar Millan

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My First International Exhibition Is Happening

A few months ago, an art curator called Jan Van Woensel contacted me. He’d seen my photography and poetry on Instagram, and was interested in exhibiting my work in Belgium.

Needless to say I first thought it was some kind of joke. I mean, my photography on walls? Nah. Wouldn’t happen in real life.

But it wasn’t a joke. It was mightily serious. And I have the photographs to prove that it’s actually happening.

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If you happen, for some reason, to be in Genk in Belgium on May 24th, check out the Your Eyes Burn Like Wild Fire show where I and dozens of other artists are having our work on public display.

Why I Am Going To ‘Woman The Fuck Up’ About Money

I don’t know when or why I became sensitive about money. I  do remember when I opened my bank account though…I was 12 and had £10 to put in that I’d received for my birthday. And believe me, I was dead set that that £10 wasn’t going anywhere.

Every time I could put something in there – be it £2 or £20 – I felt like I was accomplishing something really fucking significant. I felt no shame in going up to the cashier and saying ‘I’d like to put this £2.50 into my bank account please.’

As a family of six, money was never something we had much of, and while my friends were rocking their new Nike trainers, I was wearing my aunties hand-me-down mid 80’s Reeboks that were three times too big. While my friends were crossing the sea to Greece, my siblings and I stayed with my Grandmother in a caravan on the blustery North East coast of England. While my friends brought in licorice and chocolate to school for break time, I brought in half a jam and margarine sandwich made with Safeway Own Value white bread. Despite our frugal living, we were happy and my childhood was one I wouldn’t change, it was impossibly rich in creativity, adventure and love.

My mum would welcome in all the kids from the street, and give them the food she worked two jobs for. Our homes during the years – we moved a few times – became refuges for kids whose parents didn’t give two shits about them, or kids who just wanted to get away and discovered that they found peace at our house. It was a very rare occasion that mum made anyone go on back home. Some would stay for days, others weeks. Our house was always a buzz of activity with new faces appearing every five minutes.

“It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.” – Amanda Palmer

I was seventeen and in collage when I got my first job. I worked the weekends as a catering assistant at a KP Foods factory and brought home £47.60 a week. I hated my job. I hated getting up while the rest of my family were sleeping and cycling in the dark to a factory whose smell made me gag from even a mile away. I hated the fact I was always given the shitty jobs ‘Katie, clean out the smokers room…’

I hated that 80% of the people I cooked, served and cleaned up after were spiteful and rude and seemingly unable to eat a cooked breakfast without half of it ending up smeared all over their table. I’m sure they did it because it would mean I’d have a nightmare scraping it up once they’d left, and the bean juice and egg yolk had dried. I hated the bitching and the behind the back talking. I hated that my skin and hair smelt like I’d been dipped in the deep fat fryer whenever I was finished for the day. If I’d been able to smell my bones, I think they would have stank too.

Much of the time I’d go home and cry. But I didn’t quit. I worked every weekend for three years at that place before packing it in. What would get me through wasn’t thinking about what I’d spend my money on, rather what I’d write when I got home. I was working on my second book and it took up almost all the hours when I wasn’t at college or work. It was my everything. It was what made me get up in the morning.

Several other jobs followed this one, none of them enjoyable, none of them satisfying, none of them made me think ‘hell, I want to do this instead of writing as a career!’ My mental health meant that I wasn’t as ‘on the ball’ I should have been. My anxiety meant I was afraid to confront customers. My values and how I’d been brought up left me unable to pressurize people into buying things I knew they probably couldn’t afford.

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.” – Amanda Palmer

I never ‘fitted in’ with any of my work teams and was always the ‘weird one.’ I didn’t mind being the weird one, but I did mind the gossip, I did mind the laughing, I did mind the ‘quiet word in my office’ moments where I was told I ‘had to come out of myself.’ I couldn’t come out of my self. Hell, I was enough out of myself by turning up when fatigue made my body heavy as an iron lady. But it was always the thought that ‘when I get home I can write’ that got me through.

I’d known, since I was a kid that I’d ‘have to work a normal job’ while waiting for my writing career ‘to take off.’ And I’ve worked enough ‘normal jobs’ to know I don’t cut it, that it’s not for me. My bi-polar and anxiety means that to get to my ‘normal job’ is hard enough as it is. Many don’t realize that managing to get through the day when you have bi-polar is achievement worthy of reward. This quote from Carrie Fisher sums it up quite perfectly:

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” Wishful Drinking, her 2008 memoir about her mental illness and prescription drug addiction

I’m a lone wolf who thrives in solitude, and feels weakened when she’s crowded or put under the rule of someone else. I’ve never wanted to work for anyone but myself. I found my life’s meaning when I was four years old, and I’ve never strayed from that path, not even for a second. But to keep on that path, I need to do something which, at first, made me feel ashamed because I’m a fucking proud woman…

Since being in Sweden I’ve been living off my savings, freelance writing work, hand outs from my parents and by the support of my partner. But the savings are gone now. The work doesn’t pay well, and the discussion of ‘getting a real job’ has been raging for months. I’ve been working harder, faster, but the money never seems to catch up.

I’ve signed on at what’s essentially the Swedish Job Centre, but I don’t get any hand outs nor do I get any actual useful help. My partner thinks that, despite me having a 1st class degree, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll have to work as a cleaner or something. To think of this makes my heart become as heavy as a handful of wet sand. It makes me feel weak and helpless and vulnerable. It makes me worry about the hours that I’ll have left to create and do what I need to do to keep my spirit from rotting.

The contents of my bank account have always been a secret. I haven’t wanted to share its numbers with my family or anyone else. And when someone has asked ‘how much is in there?’ I’ve become deeply offended and angry. A large part of me feels I’ve let myself down by not being a fully self-sufficient writer by the age of 30.

“There’s really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders. And…it’s lonely” – Amanda Palmer

But not I’m letting my guard down. I’m not going to be secretive about money because if I want to make it I need to ask for help. I need people willing to support me in my journey to becoming a fully self-sufficient writer. I’m not only asking for help with this because writing is what makes me happy, I’m asking for help because writing is what helps me keep my sanity.

So I’ve established a Patreon page. There’s the option for you to pledge as much or as little as you would like to, and with each pledge comes a reward. By setting up a Patreon page, I’ve let go of my sensitivity to money and am openly asking for support in my life’s mission.  I’ll leave you with this uber poignant quote from the incredible Amanda Palmer whose book The Art Of Asking I highly recommend.

“Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”  ― Amanda Palmer

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