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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A Witch Working Out With Karrimor Running Shoes

When it comes to working out, I usually keep the same pair of trainers until the soles are practically transparent. Bad habit? Probably. But I can’t bring myself to replace a pair until they’re so worn out my socks are making contact with the trail I’m bounding along.

I was brought up to use my shoes until they were A: too small (in which case they’d be passed on to the next in line otherwise known as my younger sister) or B: literally falling to pieces.

While I wear a thrifted vest top and a pair of £2.50 leggings from Primark to work out in, I know the importance of a good pair of running shoes. But I also know that you don’t have to spend a small fortunate on getting a pair…if you look in the right places.

A few weeks back I was in the motherland (England) and had come to the realization that my Reebok trainers of two and a half years were done. They’d run their last mile. I had always struggled to get decent, all black trainers that were in my price range (£15 – £30), so my Reeboks, and the Reeboks before, had been red and white.

Now, while they’d been supremely light, amazingly comfortable and all round epic to run in, I hadn’t felt entirely comfortable wearing them. And I never put them on to do anything other than workout in. Which is kind of sad, really.

I went to Sports Direct, having already accepted that I’d probably be leaving with another predominantly red pair of trainers…but lo and behold, I practically walked into a podium of Karrimor Running Shoes, the majority of which were actually black. Needless to say, I said a quiet ‘thank you’ to the universe.

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I picked out a pair of entirely black Duma Running Shoes. Perfectly, beautifully, satisfyingly black from lace to sole. (Apparently they’re men’s…but pfff. Really don’t care. Anyway, I have wider feet than most women, so they fit me much more comfortably than the narrow princess sized women trainers on offer. ) Apparently my feet are junior size (Euro 38) so I managed to nab my pair for the very sweet price of £25. I have had Karrimor before – a pair of walking boots – and the quality had always been ex-ce-llent.

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The first time we went out running together, I felt so freaking confident that I felt like gaily skipping my way around the trail. I was also so mesmerized by how good they looked they I almost went arse over tit several times.

The fact they allow air to circulate around my feet means that over heating, sweaty skin wasn’t something I needed to worry about. They were light too. Oh my word, they were light. There’s nothing worse than heavy trainers. They make the experience of running more of a chore than anything else. With the Duma Running Shoes I enjoyed my run and actually smiled through the burn.

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The Pros

  • The colour – I feel like me when I’m out running, not like I’ve just nabbed someone else’s running shoes. Also because they’re black I can wear them to do stuff other than workout, which I’ve never been able to do before with my running shoes. They liberate me.
  • The fit – The fit couldn’t be better, and the padded and shaped ankle collar makes them supremely comfortable.
  • The weight – I can fly in these they’re so light.
  • The breathability – The breathable mesh upper covering the top of the shoe is thin (but immensely durable…I’ve tested it by hiking off the trail in the Swedish forest) allowing air to circulate to my feet meaning I don’t overheat and finish my run in a pool of sweat water.
  • The price – My previous running shoes (both Reebok) have set me back £15 a piece on sale…but I was more than happy to shell out £25 for these.

The Cons

  • I’m struggling to find any!

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I’ve yet to test these out in wet and muddy conditions, but I might do a second review a few down the line to let you know how they are faring!

 

 

 

I Was The Winner Of A Raintower Giveaway

I have been crazy crazy crazy passionate about the mystical world of Swedish artist and designer Naomi Nowak for years now, and have, with a great deal of respect in my heart, watched her Stockholm based sustainable business Raintower take shape and grow wildly, beautifully towards the stars.

I’ve been a painter, graphic novelist and illustrator my whole life…Raintower clothes and jewels often begin in the same place my paintings or drawings do – by wishing a vision in my mind existed in the material world. I experiment with fabric textures, colours and dyes and many of my garment designs come about organically just like a piece of art. – Naomi Nowak

So, when Naomi did a giveaway on Instagram of any three prints, I leapt at the opportunity like a hungry she-wolf into the back of a bison. Our walls at home are starved of art and I have been yearning to fill them up.

The giveaway took a matter of minutes. All I needed to do was share my favourite piece of art by Naomi and put down the appropriate hashtags. I’ve taken part in countless giveaways before, but lady luck has never put her hand on my head before…

However, a week or so later, the news came that it had been my name that was plucked out of the hat. I endured a few moments of hyperventilation, before springing over to her Etsy Shop to choose my three prints. It wasn’t an easy choice by any stretch of the imagination…but here are the three I selected.

*Interested in buying these? Click on the titles to do so.

Mountain Flowers

Ulf

Baba Yaga’s Garden

Thank you Naomi, for your generosity, for your visions, for your being here and magicking more beauty into this trembling, fragile world. xx

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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