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.)

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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

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Midsummer is very much about the Strawberry Cake.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Wild Blueberry Smoothie

I have always loved food, but at the age of 14 I developed anorexia, and for the next decade and a half, food food was my enemy.

Food had the power to make the number on the scales increase and my bones disappear from the surface of my skin. It had the power to make me feel like my existence was pointless. It had the power to make me want to give up on life.

I didn’t want food anywhere near me.

For year after year, I ate the same food at the same time in the same room. I was terrified of even the slightest change, I felt lost without my routine. Two rice crackers with peanut butter instead of one rice cracker with peanut butter? You’ve GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME.

Eating food that hadn’t been scheduled into my day was a terrifying prospect, and it was something that happened once in a blue moon.

In my mid-twenties, when my recovery started for real, re-feeding my body and reaching a weight where my head was more me than my illness, I slowly re-kindled my good relationship with food.

Foods and drinks that had been forbidden for years were slowly re-introduced, then, I started to explore new tastes with more gusto. I treated my body with respect which not only meant eating healthily but also treating it without feeling weighed down with shame. I found something of a balance and once again felt comfortable eating.

Smoothies were one of my discoveries when I came back from my anorexic exile, and since then I’ve been trying to find a smoothie that’s not only medicine for my body and soul, but that tastes like it should be a bit bad for me. A smoothie that is thick, creamy and deeply, satisfyingly sweet.

If I had it my way, I’d be out trawling the cafes of Sweden, hunting for sorceress or sorcerer of smoothies, but seen as though I’m on a tight budget I’m trying to make the most magic of smoothies myself – one that can give me all the goodness of mother earth while still satisfying my 32 sweet teeth.

Wild Blueberry Smoothie

Ingredients For 1 Big Serving

< 250 ml semi-skimmed milk (you can make it with any milk actually…)

< 1 frozen banana

< 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

< 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

< 2 handfuls of wild blueberries (we collected ours last summer)

< 1 handful of oats

Directions

< Blend everything together, pour into a tall glass, sit down with something good to read and enjoy slowly.

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I have been eyeing up Mason drinking glasses for months, but haven’t the cash to splurge on some. So, I went into DIY mode and made my own using an Apple Mos jar that was going to go into the recycling bin.

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Of all the smoothies I’ve poured into myself over the years, I have to say that this one is probably one of the best. Like, the second best smoothie. Seriously. It’s that good. It’s just sweet enough, ridiculously thick and creamy, and there’s enough of it so that I was left feeling really, really satisfied. The fact that I’d picked the blueberries myself, washed and de-stalked them made the experience that much more magical. When I was done, I felt like I’d swallowed a forest. Can’t ask for much more than that.

 

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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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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On Mondays We Walk For Wellbeing

I am one of these strange people that actually enjoys Mondays. Making my ‘To Do’ list the day before is one of the highlights of my weekend. When I wake up at the start of the new week, I’m so excited to get going and start fulfilling my goals that I wouldn’t be surprised if some people said ‘she’s not normal, that one.’

One of those goals is getting out and moving as often as I can. I try and walk in the forest everyday. It’s good for my body, it’s good for my head, it’s good for my creativity, it’s good for my soul. I can be feeling like I want to blow something up before I go for a walk, but as soon as I’m outside, this feeling rapidly melts, and with each step I take further into the outdoors, and with each breath I draw into my often tense body, I feel better.

But sometimes, days are crunched up and before I know it it’s 5pm and I haven’t so much as opened the window. And this is far from good. So, from today onward, I will promise to myself that on Monday’s I walk.

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The snow that should have arrived in December fell thick and fast and heavy the other night. We were driving back from my man’s family home in Hagfors (a little town in the big woods where we had spent the weekend BBQing in the snow, examining wolf prints and hiking in the dark) when it started to come down, creating cozy yet inexplicably dangerous whiteout conditions. I can’t say I was anxious though as the car slowly slipped its way back to Borås, simply happy to have my good friend back.

I needed to pull down the blinds this morning because there was work to be done, and I couldn’t leave the apartment until I’d written at least 3,000 words on The British Monarchy. Though I did keep peeking behind them every half hour, just to check that the snow was still there and that the rain Borås is sadly famous for hadn’t cleared it to mud.

When I did manage to get out into the forest, my senses were working in overdrive. Though I could hear Spring’s voice – water rushing from the streams that edged the pathways- the dense snow was coming past my ankles and making that gorgeous ‘like you’re eating a meringue’ sound.

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Not even five minutes after leaving the apartment.

The icicles I thought I had seen the last of last week had grown back in different, albeit more delicate forms. Because I knew that this could be the very last real appearance of winter for several months, I looked and I looked and I looked. I paid attention to the blinking icicles, no matter how small or how tiny the crevasses were into which I had to creep to photograph them.

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I paid attention to the curious, Tim Burton-esque way the snow had collected on the firs. I paid attention to how the clouds masked the sun and preserved the snowy forest kingdom.

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I ate my first solitary snowy Fika. (Though my ‘hot’ chocolate was lukewarm. I’ll take tea next time. It’s more reliable.) You haven’t lived until you’ve taken Fika in a snowy Swedish forest.

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Put simply, I didn’t really want to go home. My heart, my legs, my soul was enjoying the forest too much. Despite the fact my fingers were screaming bloody murder, and I still had another 3,000 words to write when I arrived home, I found myself walking slower and slower the closer I got to the apartment. I wanted to preserve every memory of every footfall so that they would see me through the coming warmer months.