author

Interview with Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

March, 2017

Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

 

Rachel

 

Rachel Patterson: The Kitchen Witch

Rachel Patterson, or Tansy Firedragon, is an accomplished witch with a passion for learning. She has written numerous books and is the High Priestess of the Kitchen Witch Coven, and an Elder of their School of Natural Witchcraft. I caught up with Rachel to find out a bit more about her craft and her writing.

Mabh Savage: Can you summarise what it is to be a Kitchen Witch?

Rachel Patterson: It is a term that has been used in the past to describe someone that is a bit of a food expert and actually nothing to do with witchcraft at all. It is also a term used to describe a Scandinavian doll that is hung in the kitchen to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

Now whilst I do like to think I am a bit of a whizz in the kitchen I am also most definitely a Kitchen Witch. I follow the path of the old ways, I work with the Goddesses and the Gods and I work the Craft. So, what makes me specifically a kitchen witch? I like to use whatever is at hand, I don’t need fancy schmancy tools or expensive items and I work a lot of my magic when I am cooking food or working with herbs and plants.

I do have beautiful tools to work with but I find that most of the time I prefer to use whatever nature provides, for instance I have several beautiful hand crafted wands but what I tend to use is my finger. When I am working in a circle I cast it with herbs and I use natural items such as stones and feathers to represent the elements. I do have a cauldron but you could use an old casserole dish, I don’t use a chalice as such, I use a glass from the kitchen cupboard (although you can get some interesting and beautiful glasses from charity/thrift shops). If you want an athame then a vegetable knife or even a potato peeler work perfectly and if you want to use a wand how about a wooden spoon?

The kitchen is and always has been the centre of the home probably originally because the fire was kept going to cook the food and was therefore the warmest room in the house. It is a place where I feel comfortable and ‘at home’ and that is not just because I love food…It is in my kitchen that magic happens.

MS: You also go under the name Tansy Firedragon. Is this your magical moniker, and can you tell us how it came about, or is it a secret?

RP: Tansy Firedragon is indeed my Craft name and I have used it for many years. Tansy came from a visit to a local Roman palace where they were hosting a Celtic re-enactment day. There was a lady cooking ancient Celtic recipes and a lot of them used the herb Tansy, one in particular caught my attention and that was Tansy pudding. The name resonated with me and as I love working with herbs and cooking it seemed to fit me well. Fire is my favourite element to work with and I work with dragon magic a lot so that fell into place too.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about the talk you recently did at The Enchanted Market, in Bracknell?

RP: The Enchanted Market is now in its third year and is run by Max and Baz from the band Spriggan Mist and it is a wonderful event to be a small part of. My talk this year was about Animal Magic and working with spirit animals. I talked about where to start to find your spirit animal guide, how to connect, how to keep working with guides and we also did a meditation to meet an animal spirit guide. We had lots of different animals appear such as deer, frog, bat and even a dung beetle!

MS: How many students does the Kitchen Witch School have, and how do you manage your teaching alongside being an author and a busy witch?

RP: The numbers vary as we are online and therefore open to students from around the world but I co-run the school with my friend Tracey Roberts (Sunchylde Dryadmoon) and we split the students between us so that we can always provide one to one mentorship. It is very important to us to always be available to our students and never to take on too many so as to be overwhelmed. We also have a team of Hearth Guardians who are students that have worked through the three levels at the school and have either already earnt their High Priestess titles or are currently working on it. They provide another level of support to Tracey and myself but also to the students.

I am always busy! I also have a job out in the real world and two school age children so life is definitely all about finding the balance. Thankfully I work from home so it is easier to fit everything in, I don’t always achieve it but I try. The key for me is having a schedule, I use bullet points in my diary to plan out each week. And in recent years I have also learnt that it is OK to say no sometimes. I always felt that I had to do everything that everyone asked of me, which leads to being totally exhausted and overwhelmed. Now I weigh up each request and see how it fits into my diary and how it impacts other things. My family and own wellbeing has to come first.

 

animalmagic

 

MS: Your upcoming book is Pagan Portals: Animal Magic. How did this volume come about?

RP: Working with animal spirit guides is one of my favourite areas of the Craft to work with and we teach about it within the Kitchen Witch School and we have run workshops as well so it seemed the natural next step to put it all together in a book.

MS: Who will this volume appeal to? Does it matter what path the reader is on, or is it accessible to people of all spiritualties?

RP: Hopefully to everyone! Although I am a Witch I have also delved into all sorts of magical pathways including Shamanic practice so it has elements of all sorts within the pages. I hope it offers something for everyone no matter what journey you are on.

MS: Previously you have written about topics as diverse as Hoodoo and The Cailleach. Do you find that you can work across many magical paths, and do you have a favourite type of magic, one that calls to you more than others?

RP: My witchcraft journey started in Wicca but probably because at the time that was the only structure of learning available to me. I did complete all three of the Wiccan degrees but I also started to venture off in different directions. I love to learn and I love to study so I have ventured into Hoodoo which I found I was working with a lot of anyway as it has folk magic roots but I have also studied all sorts of different pathways taking bits from each one that resonated with me and added them to my own practice. I am a bit of a miscellaneous witch really. In fact, at a recent talk a lovely lady suggested that I was a cocktail witch; lots of different flavours blended together with a paper umbrella and a plastic monkey…I like that description.

If you had to pin me down I guess the path of a Kitchen/Hedge Witch is my real calling with a bit of goddess spirituality thrown in for good measure.

MS: You write a great deal about magical food and plants. How did you first discover the intertwining nature of food and magic?

RP: Working with herbs was one of the first areas of the Craft that I really connected with. I love gardening, cooking and eating so it all felt very natural to me. Once I had worked with herbs for magic it seemed only logical that food ingredients would have magical properties too.

As a busy working mother and wife, I have to work a lot of my magical practice into everyday chores and cooking is one of my passions and also a daily necessity so it just fell into place that I add magic into creating food.

We also started baking cakes for our open rituals and workshops…we have ended up with a bit of a reputation as cake witches…

MS: Is there a special or sacred place where you can relax and unwind, away from the hustle and bustle?

RP: My garden is my sanctuary. It is not large (we live in a terraced house on the edge of a city) but it is the place that I love to escape to. There is something magical about sitting in the peace and quiet of the garden surrounded by plants that I have grown and tended.

MS: What’s your favourite festival throughout the year, and how do you mark or celebrate this?

RP: This is a tricky one because although I originally learnt and followed the dates of all the sabbats, a few years ago, I realised that I was not connecting very well with most of them mainly due to the mad weather we have. I suspect Mother Nature is menopausal. When it was too warm to wear a coat on the winter solstice and geraniums were still flowering in January it all seemed a bit upside down. So, I started to work more with the energy of each month rather than dates of festivals on a calendar and then it progressed and now I actually work with the energy of each day. One of our lovely Hearth Guardians calls it ‘falling off the Wheel’.

My birthday is 31st October (yes really) so I should like Samhain best but I prefer the energy of December and the build up to the festive season, so Yule is probably the festival I feel most connected to.

MS: What books can we expect from you next, after Animal Magic?

RP: I have three more signed contracts:

Witchcraft…into the wilds – the manuscript for that is nearly finished.

“A book that leads us through the wilds of nature and back to the roots and bones of witchcraft, a natural witchcraft that works with the seasons and all the natural items that Mother Nature provides drawing on magical folk lore and a little bit of gypsy magic too. No fancy schmany tools or ceremonial rituals, this is about working with the source. Mother Earth provides us with the changing of the seasons and within that turning of the year she gives us everything we need to work magic with from natural energy in the form of storms, rain and sunshine to tangible items packed full of magical energy such as seeds, leaves and stones.”

And then probably for 2018:

Pagan Portals: The Triple Goddess

“An introduction to the mystery and magic of the Triple Goddess exploring her history, meaning and individual faces.”

And:

Beneath the moon: Witchcraft and moon magic for a deeper practice

“A full and in depth book about working with the moon and the magic that she offers.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Do you have music that you enjoy, or a favourite book to lose yourself in?

I love to cook, specifically baking whether it is bread or cakes.

I love to read and my favourite author by far is Terry Pratchett.

My husband is in a rock band so music is always a big part of our life and my favourite band is Fleetwood Mac.

I make sure I have spare time and that is spent with my husband and children.

Who has been your biggest inspiration along your magical journey?

I have had some very good teachers during my years but I think the honest answer to this question is ‘my students’. The people that I have walked beside during their journeys have taught me so much.

And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

I am very blessed to be able to do what I do so continuing to write and share with others that which I have learnt and to spend more time with my lovely family. I do count my blessings, perhaps not as much as I should but I am thankful for the life that I lead…so more of the same for 2017 would be great!

Find out more about Kitchen Witchery at http://www.kitchenwitchhearth.net/ and http://www.rachelpatterson.co.uk/, and you can follow Rachel on her own blog, at Witches and Pagans and via Patheos.

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. See is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Interview with Elen Sentier: British Shaman

March, 2017

Elen Sentier: British Shaman

 

Elen

 

Elen Sentier walks in the Deer Trods of Elen of the Ways, and has written about this and many other magical topics. She is awenydd, spirit keeper, and keeps old British ways alive, passing them on for future generations. Elen spoke to Mabh here at Pagan Pages about her books, her magical life and more.

Mabh Savage: Your most recent release is Merlin: Once and Future Wizard. What inspired you to write this volume?

Elen Sentier: Well, actually, my publisher had the idea and commissioned it. It was great fun, and it seemed that he was thinking about Merlin at the same time as I was, and more than that, he didn’t want yet another academic-style treatise but something more personal. Our conversation ended with me saying, “Well, I’ve known him [Merlin] all my life.” To which Trevor replied, “Well, you’d better write him then.” Trevor also dreamed up the title – Merlin: Once & Future Wizard. He must have read the English author TH (Tim) White’s lovely sequence of hurian novels, The Once and Future King. It certainly fits Merlin as I’ve always known him.

MS: What were the biggest challenges writing this book? And what did you enjoy the most about it?

ES: Oooo heck! Challenges … I suppose, really, the worst was, and still is, exposing myself. In this day and age of debunking, especially esoteric stuff, it’s very scary to come out about have a personal relationship with someone known as perhaps the most famous wizard in the world. I could imagine the comments of “Oh come off it!”, and the potential shredding by academics. I talked about it with my husband who reminded me of the Hamlet quote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” It worked, began a new way of feeling for me. And then I remembered some work, early on, with my psychology teacher, Ian Gordon-Brown. He disagreed with an experience I’d had in an active imagination exercise, shredded it in fact. Then, at the end of the session he came over to our little group and said, “Wait! I must say something. I’m sorry, Elen, you were right and I was wrong. Your experience is yours, I should not have shredded it.” Remembering those two things, Hamlet and Ian Gordon-Brown, gave me a new vision of reality, and so the courage to get on and write the book as Trevor had asked me to.

I still worry, on and off, now, and I’m slightly nervous when people ask me about it, but I’ve got a handle on it now. It’s mine, it’s real, it happened and – even more important for me – it’s useful to others.

What did I enjoy most? Oh, the memories. I loved reliving the memories. Time-travelling. That’s what you do when you go over memories, you travel in time. Remembering the journey with my French teacher, when I was sixteen, was amazing and has encouraged me to spend a week in Brittany this summer, going there on my own two feet instead of in a spirit-journey. There was also a wonderful closeness feeling as I retold the story of how I came to live where I do. That’s all Merlin. After all, hereabouts is both one of his birthplaces and, nearby, is one of the places where his crustal cave is in the stories. I’ve been there, to the top of the little mountain called Mynydd Myrddin, taken students there, and every one of us has had a marvellous journey to the cave.

MS: Your author page tells us you grew up surrounded by mythology and cunning folk. What’s the most enduring memory of your formative years on Exmoor?

ES: There are so many! I loved going out with Uncle Jack. Sometimes we would sit under a tree most of the night, in the dark, watching and listening to the wild night-animals come round us. We sat very still, I learned what fun it was to be still from a very early age, how wildlife would come up to you, and that if you screamed and fussed and shouted you never got to see anything. Uncle Jack could call wild hawks down to his wrist, and owls too, and I’ve sat beside him when he had an adder twined round his wrist, stroked her even. And I can still call owls now, and ravens.

MS: What inspired you to pass on the old ways of British shamanism and magic?

ES: I think it was the shouting! Otherworld can be rather like the Vogon guards in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I sometimes think they’re only in it for the shouting! They pestered me, shouted at me, hung spirit-carrots in front of me to lure me on, fed me fun happenings, and generally coerced me into passing them on. And they’re right, it’s great fun, students are great fun and so are readers. Readers quite often come back to me, through Facebook usually, with comments and questions and descriptions of things that have happened to them. I love this, and I often learn from them too. I’m always happy when I get feedback from readers.

Also, I feel it’s absolutely vital that we remember that, here in Britain, we have our own tradition. Archaeology tells us there’ve been humans here for at least one million years, and they even found little goddess amulets. Then there’s the cave with the sophisticated abstract reindeer drawing over in West Wales; the faint scratchings on the wall show a reindeer with a spear in its neck, and date back 14000 years. We have plenty to know and learn here, from our own spirit of place, spirit of Britain, we don’t need to look abroad, and the world will be richer for us remembering and bringing the old ways to light.

MS: Do you feel more at home in the Welsh Marches than you did on Exmoor, or does each place have its own magic for you?

ES: I love both, and Dartmoor too which is where I was born and lived until I was about seven years old. And part of my soul always lives in the far north Highlands of Scotland, in Assynt, and also on Orkney. I have spirit-memories from many places. I love living in the Welsh Marches now, it’s home, and although I still travel it wonderful to come back. And I love going back to Exmoor which I do with my students every autumn for their practical workshops. Each one has its own magic, its own spirit of place within the over-lighting spirit of Britain.

MS: Do you have a favourite book that you have penned so far?

ES: Very difficult, I’ve loved writing them all. I think, if pushed, I go back to the novels. I love writing fiction and all my fiction is bound up with the old ways of Britain while, at the same time being stories of mystery, danger and love. I’ve learned a great deal throughout my life from reading good fiction, probably more from that than from non-fiction, after all we all live a good story, don’t we? I hope I’m slowly contributing to those.

MS: And what’s your favourite book to read for pleasure?

ES: It changes all the time, with my mood, the seasons, the weather. If the house was burning down, or I was about to be dumped on the desert island I’d have to demand to be left with more than one. At the moment the choice would be The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K le Guin, and the 10 Amber novels by Roger Zelazny. There, you see? All fiction LOL.

MS: Who or what inspires you the most, either as an author or as a magical person?

ES: Waking up every day to something new to do. Working for otherworld – which is what I do – is such fun, and anything that’s fun inspires me. I really do get something new to do, write, explore, teach, tell, draw, paint, sing or just enjoy, every single day. Oh, and the dreams each night are good too *smile*.

MS: What new books can we expect from you in the coming months/years?

ES: Well, I’m under contract to finish the Numerology book at the moment, it should go into production over the summer. Then I’m contracted to do a compilation book called “Conversations with Witches”. It will be a collection of conversations with witches coming from all sorts of British traditions and will be a lot of work but great fun to do. And I’m going great guns with the third novel too. It’s another mystery, and romance, set in London and down in the Cathar country of southwest France, which I know very well. And no, it’s not another variation on the Da Vinci Code! It’s being great fun to write and I hope you’ll all enjoy reading it as much as I am writing it.

MS: Most people might not be aware that there is a tradition of British Shamanism. Can you tell us a little bit about being a British Shaman?

ES: Ooof! There is one fundamental principle to the old ways of Britain and that is to ask. We ask everything, all the time. Other traditions speak of anima (spirit or soul) in all things and we know this too, and we act on it. We ask the trees and the spirits of place, the rivers and the hills, and all the spirits of otherworld … but we also ask things many folk consider inanimate like our car, fridge, computer, teapot, the house we live in, the central heating, etc etc. That likely sounds fairly weird because most people are not used to it. But it works. You can ask my students if you like.

Asking, being able and willing to ask, put you in a whole different relationship with everything. By asking, you acknowledge it has spirit, is alive in its own way, can help you, and also has its own opinion on what you’re doing. That is truly acknowledging you are connected to everything. It’s hard to learn for many, they come to it in the middle of their lives, already very well ingrained in the idea that humans are top-dog and everything else is here just for us to use. Learning to ask tips all those ideas on their heads.

So we truly work with everything, knowing ourselves to be the most junior species on the Earth, and learning from everything else, for everything else is our elder brethren – and all shamanic traditions teach that, including ours.

 

Elen2

 

MS: How have your presentations on Merlin, Thresholds and the Fatherless Child been received?

ES: Very well, very enjoyable. I’m now looking forward to do the workshop on it on 2-4 June at my home here in the Welsh Marches. There are a couple of places left … but probably not for long.

MS: Once and Future Wizard is a Pagan Portal, an introductory volume; would you expand upon this at any point to give us a larger volume on Merlin?

ES: I really don’t know. It’s one of the questions I’ll be asking when I go to Brittany this summer. I’ll be staying in what was the old Broceliande so it’s a good place to ask. It’s possible …

MS: What is your favourite time of the year, or festival, and how do you mark or celebrate it?

ES: I love all our seasons, and the eight seasons of the year in our old ways. The busiest season for me is from Midwinter through Sun-Return and on to 12th Night. I’m working every day then, partly because of the biodynamics we do. Midwinter is the turning of the year, the real new year because this is the time the sun itself turns around, from midwinter the days begin to get longer again, so this is my new year celebration, not the silly human calendrical 1st Jan. I celebrate from Midwinter’s Eve, 20th Dec, right through to the Wassail of 6th Jan. perhaps the most important part of the celebration is making the biodynamic potion of frankincense, gold and myrrh, the three things represent upperworld, middleworld and lowerworld. It begins on Midwinter’s Eve and the potion is gradually made up to 5th Jan then, on 12th Night (6th Jan) I sprinkle it on the garden.

MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

Finishing the novel! It has to be that, I’m loving writing it but I need to get it out there … it needs to come to birth.

You can find out more about Elen and her work at www.elensentier.co.uk and on Twitter, Facebook and her book are widely available.

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author and musician, as well as a freelance journalist. See is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Follow Mabh on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Interview: Melusine Draco- Author, Teacher & Witch

February, 2017

Melusine Draco: Author, Teacher and Witch

 

Melusine Draco

 

Melusine Draco is a very prolific author, with titles ranging from Pagan Portals: Pan to Starchild I: The rediscovery of stellar wisdom. Melusine talked to Mabh at Pagan Pages about her writing, her teaching and other mysteries.

Mabh Savage: Why are some of your books under the name Suzanne Ruthven and some under Melusine Draco?

Melusine Draco: For many years the ‘day job’ was working as a creative writing tutor, author and editor of a creative writing magazine. In order to keep the persona different from my esoteric writing there had to be a different name for readers to identify with. I’ve written fact and fiction under both names, and the lines get blurred sometimes but there’s no real problem anymore as I do very little tutoring work outside my own personal writing interests. Nowadays I use my real name for the non-magical novel series, i.e. The Hugo Braithwaite Mysteries (set in the antiques trade) and The Vampyre’s Tale series, although my first magical novel, Whittlewood, was published under that name. Melusine Draco writes all the magical stuff including the novels in the Temple House Archive series.

MS: What is the book you are proudest of, if you have one?

MD: Actually there are three and for completely different reasons. The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery was never intended for publication having been compiled for my own personal use. John Hunt thought it might make a good addition to Moon since it has more entries than anything similar in publication. Wearing my writing tutor’s hat, I can honestly say it is a really useful book for esoteric writers.

Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones reflects the essence of the magic taught by Coven of the Scales in that we draw our energy from what’s beneath our feet. One of my tutors had a doctorate in geology and so I had a thorough grounding in the subject and this was my offering of thanks in recognition of the knowledge that had been passed on.

Root and Branch: British Magical Tree Lore has just been re-released and gives a glimpse into the world I grew up in – a countryside unspoiled by urban development. Again there is another aspect of CoS teaching encapsulated in its pages.

MS: Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

MD: I enjoy writing novels because there are no limits to where the imagination can take you. With non-fiction you are confined by the factual brief of the subject matter – although one reviewer commented that one of my non-fiction titles ‘feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet’. I was very moved by that comment because I felt as though I’d reached out and touched him.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about Coven of the Scales? How did it start, and how many students do you have?

MD: The Coven is traditional British Old Craft and was founded by Meriem and Bob Clay-Egerton from a lineage that can trace its roots back to the mid-1880s in Cheshire. I’ve been acting as caretaker for the past ten years since their deaths, and officially retired as of 1st January, because I have a wonderful husband and wife team to take over as Magister and Dame – although I remain Head of the Order to help with any magical queries. Students have to complete a year’s probationary course before they are accepted as full members; and since we are an Initiatory Order, this is the next step on their magical journey. We currently have a dozen full members and some twenty students at varying stages of study.

MS: How do you balance the needs of your students with being such a prolific writer?

MD: Ten years’ experience as a conference organiser means you can balance anything! I have set days for dealing with specific jobs

MS: You are also involved with the Temple of Khem. Do the two groups have any cross over, or are they completely separate?

MD: I am Principal of the Temple of Khem and the Egyptian Mystery Tradition has always been my first love. Now that I’ve discharged my obligation to CoS I have returned full-time to ToK. They are completely separate organisations and do not interact with each other since the magico-mystical methods and techniques are not compatible. The existing ToK members have been with me for a long time

MS: Do you find one aspect of the Craft appeals to you more than the others? Or are they all equally fascinating?

MD: Back to those natural earth energies and tides, I suppose. It never ceases to amaze me just how simple it is to harmonise with them and utilise them for magical purposes.

MS: In several places, your teaching methods are described as ‘Highly individualistic.’ What is it that makes your mentoring style so unique?

MD: The wording isn’t mine, by the way, it came from a student who was asked how it was for him, and it stuck! The simple answer is because I don’t teach from books or any provide set answers – and it’s possibly very much a case of ‘you have to have been there’ to fully appreciate the technique. Each student is catered for according to their needs and strengths and each one is completely different; therefore, the teaching comes from the student’s answers to a question, and my response in order to open up a dialogue about magical applications – and not just a straightforward Q&A session.

 

Melusine Draco2

 

MS: Your latest book, Pagan Portals: By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root, is already receiving some great previews ahead of its February release. What inspired you to write this volume?

MD: Yes, people are saying some very positive things about the book and it gives a nice warm feeling inside to read them. The inspiration came from research I was doing for one of my novels and, like Topsy, it just grewed!

MS: Do you have your own garden of poisonous or unusual plants?

MD: No, but I have an acre of uncultivated land surrounding the cottage and many of these plants grow quite naturally without any help from me. In the summer and autumn my woody nightshade is a joy to behold.

MS: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? And what was the best thing about the process?

MD: At the risk of sounding flippant, there was little challenge as it wrote itself. The most interesting thing about the process was the direction it took in making the point that the poisoning Olympians of history weren’t witches at all.

MS: Another popular series you have written is the Traditional Witchcraft series, of which there are six volumes currently. Are you planning to add to this series?

MD: No. I’ve said all I have to say on that particular subject since the series takes the reader on a journey from beginner to initiate without giving any ‘secrets’ away. Book learning is always only an introduction to any esoteric system – it’s the personal journey that provides the answers. We can, however, arrive at Initiate level and still come to realise that we know nothing!

MS: What other books do you have planned for the future? Are you working on anything currently?

MD: The second book in the Hugo Braithwaite series is at the proofing stage and the third in the series of The Temple House Archive is almost finished. Then it’s back to The Vampyre’s Tale … there are a few non-fiction ideas moving around in there but nothing concrete yet.

MS: Do you have a favourite sacred or spiritual place that you like to retreat to?

MD: I’m in the throes of creating an authentic Japanese Garden in a private corner that will be my own private space for musing and meditation.

MS: How do you relax when taking a break from teaching or writing?

MD: I’m (un)lucky that writing is my work and my hobby, so I find fiction writing to be my relaxation. Now that I’m officially retired from Coven of the Scales I hope to find the time to create a new vegetable garden complete with greenhouse. So that should keep me busy for the summer.

MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

MD: Nothing for the moment but I dare say I will soon have my lot quaking in their boots when they hear those dreaded words: “I’ve had an idea!”

Find out more:

Website: http://www.covenofthescales.com

Website: http://www.templeofkhem.com

Blog: http://melusinedracoattempleofkhem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Melusine-Draco-486677478165958

http://www.facebook.com/TradBritOldCraft

http:// www.facebook.com/TempleofKhem

http://www.facebook.com/TempleHouseArchive

https://www.facebook.com/BraithwaiteMysteryRuthven/

https://www.facebook.com/VampyresTale/

 

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Mabh Savage is the author of Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. She is also a freelance journalist, musician, poet and mother of one small boy and two small cats. Find out more at https://soundsoftime.wordpress.com

Interview with Author Nikki Starcat Shields

December, 2016

Nikki Starcat Shields: Centered in Reverence and Joy

 

starcat

 

Starcat is a Pagan based in Maine, and the author of numerous books, including Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living. She’s the co-creator of the 30-Day Core Belief Kit and a personal spiritual coach. Despite her busy life, Starcat took the time to talk to Mabh at Pagan Pages about her world and her inspiration.
Mabh Savage: Where does the beautiful name Starcat come from?
Starcat: When I was choosing my Pagan name, more than 20 years ago now, I was inspired by Starhawk’s writings and her name. I too resonate strongly with the stars, and I have had a lifelong love of all things feline. So I decided to choose the name Starcat. Years later, when I attended a Reclaiming Witch Camp, I was worried that some of the people there who knew Starhawk might think my name was a bit of a rip-off of hers, but actually when I chatted with them about it, they thought it was a lovely tribute.
MS: When did you start documenting your experiences as a Pagan? What inspired you to do this?
NSS: I began in the early 1990s, when I discovered that there were others who had beliefs similar to mine. I found a local newsletter that was published by the EarthTides Pagan Network, a group of Pagans in Maine who had formed in order to network with other Pagans in those pre-Internet times. I wrote a letter in response to one of the articles in the newsletter, and the editor wrote back and encouraged me to share my own thoughts by writing regularly for their publication.
MS: When did you realise you could make the transition from blogging to a book?
NSS: Well, first came the transition from writing for the EarthTides newsletter into starting a blog, which happened in 2006. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but was discouraged from it by family and teachers who felt that I should focus my efforts on a career that would earn me a living. When I began to revive my dream, it occurred to me that I had been writing for a while, and could share those thoughts and ideas with readers in the form of a book.
MS: Were there any challenges putting the book together? What did you enjoy most about it?
NSS: I loved putting the book together, because I could really see my evolution as a writer and a Pagan, and I figured that my journey might help to inspire others on their own path. One challenge was making sure that readers understood that the writing was done over the course of more than a decade, so the writing “voice” wouldn’t be exactly the same throughout the book. I think we accomplished that through the way the book is organized and the explanation given in the introduction.
MS: Are you planning any more books? If so, would they follow the same format or something new?
NSS: I have actually since written and self-published a couple of books, which are intended for a wider audience interested in personal spirituality, not just for Pagans. As for more Pagan books, I’ve been branching out into writing fiction. It is urban fantasy, and the main characters are Pagan. I’m still in the early stages, but I look forward to sharing this new endeavor in the next year or two. Also, a long-time Pagan friend of mine asked me when I was going to stop writing introductory-type books and start branching out into sharing more intermediate ideas and practices. So that’s a new and intriguing idea.

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MS: Who do you think will get the most out of your book [Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living]?
NSS: I think that it’s targeted to those who are either new to Paganism, or have practiced for a while but are looking for some inspiration. It’s for those who want to bring their Pagan beliefs and practices more fully into their everyday lives. That’s the main focus of the book.
MS: Tell us a bit about the EarthTides Pagan Network.
NSS: The EarthTides Pagan Network was formed in 1989 in order to help Maine Pagans find each other in those years before the Internet. Maine has a small population, but is spread out over a fairly large geographical area. The Network helped us to find one another and stay in touch when Paganism was still fairly obscure in the area and there weren’t easy ways to stay in touch. These days, the Network hosts the annual Beltane on the Beach celebration each May, which is well attended, and offers a booth at an autumn organic-living fair.
MS: How do you keep a connection to nature in our modern and ever changing world?
NSS: I am blessed to live in a beautiful rural area where I am surrounded by natural landscapes. So, simply spending plenty of time outdoors, especially barefoot, helps me stay connected. I also honor the passing of the seasons and the phases of the moon, which helps me to stay in tune. Daily meditation is my favorite spiritual practice; I do at least 20 minutes of silent meditation each morning.
MS: What is your favourite spiritual place?
NSS: My favorite spiritual place is Acadia National Park, located in Down East Maine. The energies there are incredible. It’s very fae. You can hike through the forest, emerging onto a pink-granite hilltop, where the view is the ocean all around you, sparkling and gorgeous. I love it there.
MS: What music are you listening to at the moment? Do you have a favourite piece that is magical for you?
NSS: I like all kinds of different music. I really love Michael Franti and Spearhead, and their latest song, Once a Day, is very uplifting and magickal for me. I’ve also been enjoying Anoushka Shankar’s album Traces of You. It’s excellent.
MS: Do you have a favourite season or time of the year?
NSS: Late summer into early autumn is my favorite. It’s still warm enough to spend time outdoors, and that vibrant harvest energy of fall is in full swing. My birthday is in mid-September, so it feels like a special time of year for me.
MS: What inspires you on a day to day basis?
NSS: Meditation, my dreams, reading lots of books of various genres. I love stories, and they always inspire me. Actually, the Doctor Who TV series is very inspiring, because it makes me think about alien life and other planes of existence and all kinds of magickal philosophies.
MS: If you could give one piece of advice to someone venturing onto a Pagan path, what would it be?
NSS: I would encourage them to listen to their inner wisdom. It can take some practice to tune into your inner voice, because we’re not encouraged to do so in modern society. But with time and attention, you’ll discover a rich inner well of inspiration and connection. Your intuition can lead you to more joy, love, creativity, and magick.
MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in the coming months?
NSS: My partner and I have a business called Feline Dreamers, and we help people connect with their own inner wisdom with a variety of tools, including guided meditations, Reiki, and spiritual mentoring. I was inspired to create a new program called The Heart of the Goddess, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with our clients this year, and helping more people to get in tune with the Divine Feminine that resides within each of us. I believe that’s what our planet needs, the expansion of human consciousness, so that we’ll begin to live more in harmony with nature and the cosmos. We’re all contributing to this evolution in our own ways.
Starcat can be found on her website, and you can purchase Starcat’s Corner at Amazon and other reputable bookstores. Follow her blog at http://www.starcatscorner.com
Mabh Savage is a Pagan writer and journalist, and the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. You can follow Mabh at soundsoftime.wordpress.com.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

September, 2016

 

Book Review:“The Big Book of Practical Spells by Judika Illes

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Merry meet.

Some books stand the test of time and I find myself returning to them time and time again. “The Big Book of Practical Spells” is one of those books, in part because it’s in its third incarnation. In 2001, it was published as “Earth Mother Magic” and again in 2007 as “Pure Magic.” It was Judika Illes’ first published book.

Into it, she poured all her working knowledge of magic, making it a comprehensive reference book for those new to the path as well as for those with experience. The first part covers working with the earth, a glossary of magical vocabulary, a primer on the elements, supplies and more. Part Two discusses magic allies such as animal totems, ancestors, crystals, botanicals, altars and dreams. The last section has spells for 16 different situations including protection, psychic enhancement, fertility, money and healing.

The book serves as a basic reference with solid, accurate, practical information, making magic accessible to everyone.

It has been around longer than I’ve consciously been a witch, and I’ve referred to it along the way. Like many others, I learned much of what I know about paganism and witchcraft through books. Starting out, their quality is especially important because you have no other frame of reference. I appreciated the introduction this book gave to many aspects of magic. It was also important to me to learn early on that there was no one right way to practice magic, and that its most important elements were the desire and focused energy I brought to it.

Illes explains that magic in its purest form is a dialogue between you and the earth. “Magic is your birthright,” she states. Then she offers straightforward, easy steps to working with energies and magical allies.

Can’t decide which psychic enhancement spell or which luck spell is most suited or most powerful? Illes’ sound advice, given in the introduction to the section on spells is, “Read through them and see which ones call to you.”

Looking through the latest book, published in June 2106, I found it still had things to teach me. For instance, I did not know that copper is a purely positive metal, that it’s sacred in some cultures, or that it stimulates romance and healing.

On Amazon, Illes’ page reads, “When I was six, my older sister brought home a deck of tarot cards. I took one look at them and fell in love. Around the same time, I heard (and loved) the Rolling Stones’ version of Benny Spellman’s song, ‘Fortune Teller.’ Either or both of those experiences may have been what started my career. I have been a student of metaphysics and the magical arts ever since.”

The Big Book of Practical Spells” is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her other books include, “Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells,” “Encyclopedia of Spirits,” “Encyclopedia of Witch Craft,” “The Fantastic and Forgotten,” and “Magic When You Need It.”

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

Interview with Author Raven Grimassi

June, 2016

Raven Grimassi: Communing with the Ancestors

Raven

I was sent a copy of Raven Grimassi’s latest book, Communing with the Ancestors: Your Spirit Guides, Bloodline Allies and the Cycle of Reincarnation, and was immediately intrigued by the beautiful style of writing and the inclusive nature that encompasses people of all paths. A full review of the book will be available on Pagan Pages next month, but in the meantime, I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Raven some questions about this fascinating volume.

Mabh Savage: Tell us about Communing with the Ancestors. What was your main aim with the book, and what type of reader will get the most out of it?

Raven Grimassi: The primary purpose was in deepening the work of connecting with the Ancestors.    It’s important that we enlist the aid of the Ancestors.  I feel that the readership for this book is anyone who wonders about the purpose of Life and about the role of reincarnation.

MS: You say that in your book you avoided focusing on any one particular cultural view or practice, which makes this book very accessible. What culture so you most identify with though, when communing with your own ancestors?

RG: If I had to focus on just one, then I relate most to my Italian heritage.  However, I am also German and Scot and I do not ignore this lineage.

MS: Is everybody capable of making a connection with their ancestors, or the ancestors?

RG: Yes, definitely.  The Ancestors are part of our DNA, they reside within us to the cellular level.  Even adopted people who don’t know their lineage can connect deeply with their bloodline heritage.  The Ancestors have never lost track of them for they reside within them.

MS: You speak of ‘getting out of the way’ during the writing process. Can you tell me more about that?

RG: When I struggled with writing this book, I head the inner Ancestral voices say “Stop trying to write this book and let this book be written.  I had to stop forging and directing the work, which meant I had to let things come through me as opposed to from me.   The hands on the keyboard were mine, but the material was coming from some other source.

MS: How did you first come across the concept of the Spirit Rider?

RG: Like so much else in the book, it was passed to me from the Ancestral voices. At the core was a concept I found in studying the Mayan Vision Serpent, an entity intimately connected with the Ancestors. I had also run across some material on the Hawaiian Huna concept of connecting with the Ancestors through a Shamanic technique that requires projecting consciousness outward from the tailbone of the spine. The purpose was to meet the Ancestors. From this two concepts, something formed and was passed to me. I was given the imagery of the Spirit Rider as a serpent form in which the Ancestors can connect with us through our spines.

MS: You write in a beautiful, metaphorical style. Do you think there is magic in poetry?

RG: I think that the essence of magic can be conveyed through poetry.  can also initiate a magical consciousness that can open inner portals that lead to visions and enlightenment.

MS: You mention that in writing the book you became a student to it. What further lessons have been imparted since the completion of this volume?

RG: It’s been an ongoing process.  The most activity has been around trying to firmly grasp where the persona worn by the soul comes from, and what exactly is the “pool of consciousness” that legends suggest was the original of the human consciousness.

MS: The ancestral realm you speak of; is this what lies beyond what many Pagans refer to as ‘the veil’?

RG: I’ve come to see the Ancestral Realm as the residing place of those who came before us.  It is connected to the Earth Plane and the Elemental Plane, even though technically it is in the Otherworld or Inner Dimensions.  That being said, I think that what is found on the other side of the veil is the Afterlife Realm, a temporary realm in which the Dead dwell for a time.  This is different from the Ancestral Realm.

MS: What part of the landscape gives you the closest connection to the ancestors?

RG: In general, areas with distinct rock formations seem to hold memory best.  This includes manmade formations such as Stonehenge.  Caves are excellent gateways to the Ancestors, and lakes and wells are also good points of access. 

MS: Are you working on any more books at the moment?

RG: I always have at least two books going at one time.  My primary focus at present is to complete a book I started over 30 years ago.  It is an examination of the Witch Lore contained in the writings of folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland.  In the book I will also present new findings about his “Witch informant” and the authentic tradition that she revealed to Leland.

MS: The writings in Communing with the Ancestors sound like quite an intense process. How did you relax or take time away from it?

RG: I actually don’t take time away from a manuscript that I am submitting to a Publisher. I work every day on it, and the process takes months to finish (anywhere from 3 to 6). I often take my meals while writing, and there are no days off.

MS: And finally, what are you most looking forward to over the next few seasons?

RG: Reconnecting with family and with old friends. Too much time has passed while pursuing my work.

Raven’s latest volume can be purchased here and more information about his previous words can be found at his website http://www.ravengrimassi.net/.

Interview with Singer & Writer Kellianna

May, 2016

Song Inspires Book: Story of ‘Warrior Queen’ Moves Kellianna from Singing to Writing

 

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I cannot remember my name

as I lay on the battlefield

and hear the war drums.

I died here with honor today,

Warrior Queen with my sword by my side.”

So begins one of the nine songs on Kellianna’s first album, “Lady Moon,” released in early 2004.

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The song, “Warrior Queen,” tells the story of a hero’s death on a battlefield.

When I played the song for my mom back in 2003, she said, ‘I love it. What’s the story?’ I said, ‘That is the story. She dies.’”

Kellianna remembers her mother saying, “No, that’s the story about her death. I want to know about her life.”

That planted a seed. For 11 years, Kellianna thought about the backstory – who Warrior Queen was and what her life was like.

I never let go of a good idea, even if it takes me a long time to pull it off. It marinates until the time is right.”

The time was right two years ago.

While performing at the Australia Goddess Conference with her good friend Wendy Rule in 2013, Kellianna met Kaalii Cargill, the author of “Daughters in Time.” The following summer they met again in England at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference.

Picking up a copy of Cargill’s self-published book, Kellianna said, “It was a stunning book, a novel. I loved it. The next morning I was talking to her about [Warrior Queen]. By the next day, she and I had already started doing research on Nordic names. I already had a timeline. In the vending room, we started writing it.”

Cargill insisted the Warrior Queen have a name, and chose Llianna.

My ego did cartwheels,” Kellianna said.

A year later – after many telephone calls and Skype sessions – the rough draft was completed. In the process, they got close.

So much so when she tore her rotator cuff, my shoulder hurt for a week,” Kellianna said.

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It took another six months to produce the finished version. “Tapestry of Dark and Light: Book One of the Warrior Queen Chronicles (Volume 1)” was officially released in late March.

The first day, Kellianna said, she got 400 likes on its Facebook page. Two weeks later, that number had doubled.

In this first book, Llianna learns she comes from a line of women that were given powers to help beat back the darkness 1,000 years earlier. The darkness is rising again, and at age 14, she realizes she is descended from warrior queens and that she, too, is a destined to become one and save the land. She finds her shield and begins to gain self-confidence.

When I was that age, this is the stuff I wanted to read,” Kellianna said of the young adult fantasy. “Young girls need to know that you can step into your power, that you can be strong you can be self-sufficient … and do great things. … The time it right for a woman of power to come forward.”

You can read an excerpt at http://www.warriorqueenchronicles.com, where you will also find book tour information and an interview.

We started the second book already,” Kellianna said of brainstorming sessions she and Cargill have had to develop the story line. “We think we need to kill someone off and we’re debating on who needs to die.”

We decided to self-publish,” Kellianna said, confident that after getting her music into every corner of the globe, she could do the same with the book – three cases of which are at her home in Western Massachusetts.

Her home on a mountain surrounded by forest, she said, is her sanctuary and her source of inspiration.

I love the solitude of my environs. I could not survive in the city.”

She’s committed to spending every other summer in the United Kingdom. While there this summer, she will do a vocal retreat in Holland and, for the first time, will be a tour guide for 13 women: Walking with the Goddess 2016: A Sacred Journey To Avalon.

I started my career in Glastonbury [England] at the Goddess Conference in 2003,” Kellianna said.

Although she’d been singing, playing in clubs and joining assorted bands, it wasn’t until she swapped classic rock for magical themes that her career took off. With guitar and vocals, she tells stories about Gods and Goddesses. Chanting while beating a frame drum, her primal rhythms and captivating lyrics honor the earth and the ancestors.

Blessed Are We” was another of her songs that “downloaded in my head in a second,” Kellianna said, adding, “I’ve had other songs that took three years to write.”

She Is Crone” was written for her friend Leandra Walker’s croning ceremony in 2009.

Who says the crone has to be dirgy and dark? I wrote this as a celebration for a woman stepping into her power,” is how it’s described on Kellianna’s website.

She was there way before the beginning; she helped me,” Kellianna said of her longtime friend who also inspired what is probably the best-known pagan anthem, recognized around the world: “I Walk With the Goddess.”

Walker once mentioned she’d never written anything except, “I walk with the Goddess and the Goddess walks with me.”

On the way home from that meeting we were at,” Kellianna said, “I was writing the chant in my head. Then I called Leandra and I sang it to her. She wouldn’t take any credit.”

Where there is a song behind “Book One of the Warrior Queen Chronicles, there is also a story behind the song that inspired it.

Kellianna recalled playing music with friends when Donna Horn, the artist who drew the “Lady Moon” cover art, told her, “Oh! You have to write some lyrics to my song.” Picking up a guitar, Horn played “this little two chord thing,” Kellianna said, “and all of a sudden this entire epic vision flooded my brain. … It was like a purging. It happened in five minutes.”

She took a recording of Horn’s music home and on a Saturday afternoon, she arranged it and wrote the lyrics. Monday she recorded it.

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I’ve been singing and performing that song for 12 years and every single time, I get the chills all over me,” Kellianna said.

A shamanic reader in Seattle once told her that the Warrior Queen was an ancestor whose story was not yet done being told.

I think everything I do is colored by the ancestors somehow,” Kellianna said. “I come from Norse, Viking and Canadian Indian backgrounds, so I think there’s a lot of my strong spiritual ancestors guiding me in this life.”

The first 10 years of her career were solo years as she wrote songs and promoted her albums. The second decade has been marked with collaborative projects.

In addition to the book, she released a CD this past December with Jenna Greene, “Fairy’s Love Song.” Their two voices harmonize perfectly in the 12 Irish and Scottish traditional songs.

She’s also involved in the “Green Album,” a collaborative project with 13 other bands to raise awareness of the natural world and to support the organization Rainforest Trust with 25 percent of the proceeds from album sales being donated to land conservation. Each artist wrote and recorded a song for the compilation.

I love this era of my career,” Kellianna said of the “many wonderful projects with friends.”

Greene said she smiles when she thinks about the 10 years she’s shared a stage with Kellianna.

The first word that comes to my mind is fun. Fun because besides having an exquisite singing voice, she is a gifted storyteller. Whether sitting in sacred circle during her workshop, out to dinner after a show or introducing a song, she tells stories that evoke inspiration and laughter.

I was so excited to hear of the release of her book because it gives people around the world the ability to experience this gift.

Another word that describes Kellianna is dedicated. She is dedicated to every word she weaves in song, every note she crafts in the studio, every step of her journey across the world. It is all done with such great heart and passion. She is truly a fiery Warrior Goddess!”

If a movie deal evolves from the books, Kellianna said, “I would want to do a cameo, perhaps the old seer in the cave.”

She noted, “There’s no limit on my dreams. I dream big, I really do. … Anything’s possible.”

Purchase Kellianna’s products from her website: kellianna.com. (More profit is realized when merchandise is order from her directly.) You can also find the CD and book on amazon.com. On Facebook, look for Warrior Queen Chronicles.

Interview with Author Lucya Starza: The Bad Witch

April, 2016

Lucya Starza: The Bad Witch

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Lucya is the author of the very popular Pagan Portals: Candle Magic, which has now spawned a series of workshops. Lucya also has a ‘bad witch’s blog’ which I hoped she would be able to tell me more about…

What inspired the name of your popular blog, badwitch.co.uk?

The name A Bad Witch’s Blog was inspired by the book How to be a Bad Birdwatcher, about birdwatching for people who only know how to identify normal garden birds. I wanted to get better at being a witch. I had been a witch for some time, but wanted an incentive to do more witchy things and learn more. Writing a regular blog forced me to read books that I’d meant to read for ages, to get to more pagan events and generally to be more active.

When did you first become drawn to witchcraft?

That’s a difficult question, because it depends how you define witchcraft. I came from a family that was into all things magical. My grandma was a Theosophist and had worked as an astrologer. My parents would probably best be described as New Age. My dad taught me palmistry and dowsing when I was a kid. Back in the 1960s, the word witch was still not a polite thing to call people. My school friends called my family witches – actually they also called my family The Addams Family – but that wouldn’t have been what anyone in my family called themselves.

When I was in my 20s I became interested in Celtic spirituality with a boyfriend. We would go into the countryside or onto the beach and spend time honouring the Celtic gods and goddesses in prayer or meditation. However, I didn’t technically become a witch until I was about 30. I trained with Shan at House of the Goddess, in London, and then later joined a Wiccan coven, where I was initiated.

Tell us a bit about Pagan Portals: Candle Magic. What prompted you to write this volume, and who is it aimed at?

Friends had been saying for a long time that I should write a book based on the type of things I write about in A Bad Witch’s Blog. Candle magic is my favourite type of magic, so it was the obvious choice of subject for me. The book is in Moon ’ Pagan Portals series, aimed at beginners to the Craft.

Can anyone perform candle magic?

Yes – and pretty much everyone does. Who hasn’t made a wish over the candles on a birthday cake?

How was the launch party at Treadwell’s?

It was lovely. Treadwell’s is a wonderful venue for the launch of any esoteric book. As well as being one of London’s best occult bookshops, it has a great basement room that is ideal for book launches. The staff looked after me very well too. Christina, who owns the shop, told me to just let the staff organise everything so I could be the “belle of the ball”. I must admit I did get a little tiddly, so perhaps it was best that I wasn’t doing the organising!

Are you planning workshops or courses on candle magic or similar subjects?

Christina invited me to run workshops on candle magic at Treadwell’s. The first one was a couple of days after the launch and was fully sold out. The next one is on April 9, but I think that’s sold out too. I expect I will run another later in the year. Here are the details: https://www.treadwells-london.com/event/practical-candle-magic-2/.

Was it a shock to find Sainsbury’s selling your book in the Satanism and Demonology section? Do youthink this is indicative of a wider misunderstanding of esoteric topics? Or is it more reassuring thatSainsbury’s is quite happy to even have a Satanism and Demonology section?

I think it is quite funny, but it is a bit sad that there is such a misunderstanding and that some people still think that anything to do with spellcraft and magic must also be Satanism.

Are you planning more books? What other projects do you have on the horizon?

Yes – when I get time to start writing it! I still write A Bad Witch’s Blog and put new posts up every day.

You recently used Thunderclap to promote your book. How do you think social media has transformed the way we market our products, whether these be books, crafts, music or any other creation?

Social media has transformed marketing massively. I used to work on a local newspaper and before social media most marketing involved sending out press releases to journalists and trying to get reviews in magazines and papers. That’s all changed. Now you need to promote products online first and foremost.

What are you looking forward to most in 2016?

I’m going to the Druid Camp (http://www.druidcamp.org.uk/) in the summer. I’ve been invited along to give tarot readings, but I am likely to also give a talk or workshop on candle magic. I’m very much looking forward to that.

Do you have a favourite season or time of the year, and why?

I love all the seasons; the first flowers in springtime, the long hot days of summer, the golden leaves in autumn and the festivals of midwinter. However, if I had to pick one as my absolute favourite it would be spring, when blossom is on the trees and the woods are a carpet of bluebells.

And is there a particular place that you find more magical than any other?

Yes indeed. To quote Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

Follow Lucya at her Bad Witch’s Blog and find her book on Amazon and all other good retailers.

Interview with Author Rebecca Beattie: Nature Mystic

April, 2016

Rebecca Beattie: Nature Mystic

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Author of Pagan Portals: Nature Mystics, Rebecca is also a regular contributor to the UK’s premier Pagan magazine, Pagan Dawn, and is in the process of writing another book called Urban Nature Mystic. I had the chance to find out a bit more about Rebecca, and about nature mystics.

Tell us a bit about Pagan Portals: Nature Mystics. Who are Nature Mystics?

Nature Mystics are people who connect with Nature as a part of their spiritual lives, and experience mystical epiphanies in nature. A mystical epiphany is something that brings knowledge from outside of yourself, something you would not have otherwise known. They might have a slightly ‘otherworldly’ air, as they exist between different realities, and not just our supposedly solid, physical world. Nature Mystics can come from any religious or cultural background, and the mystical experiences will differ from person to person, depending on their worldview. For example, someone from an Abrahamic religion may frame that experience as being one that fits within their religious framework (seeing a burning bush is one example), while a pagan may encounter a god like Pan or Cernunnos, nature spirits, or elementals. The key thing is that the experience happens whilst being immersed in Nature. It is the Nature Mystics’ ability to transcend all religious or spiritual labels that appeals to me (although I realise it also conversely creates another!)

What inspired you to write this volume?

I was doing a PhD on Mary Webb, who was a much forgotten writer of the early Twentieth Century. She used to meditate in nature for long periods, and then awaken with a fully formed novel in her head, which she would then have to write down frantically, before she lost the details. Using this method, she wrote her first novel in three weeks. I fell in love with her last completed novel, Precious Bane, when I was fifteen, but always struggled to see how she fitted in with mainstream writing of her time. When I started doing an MA in Modernist Literature a few years ago, and I spent a good chunk of my time wondering where Mary Webb could or should be placed among her peers (writers like Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Vita Sackville West, Evelyn Waugh etc) and she just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The Bloomsbury set looked down on her as she made her own clothes and wasn’t fashionable enough, but she also didn’t fit in with the Victorian writers of the generation before either, as her subject matter really wasn’t Victorian. She felt like a Modern Pagan, but I knew that Modern Pagans didn’t emerge until a few decades later, after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951. I started to research other writers of the time, to try and trace who she might sit alongside, and I discovered that quite a few writers also had very pagan elements before they ‘should’ have, writers like D.H. Lawrence, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Mary Butts etc. I revisited Hutton’s Triumph of The Moon to look for clues, and had a bit of a lightbulb moment, when Ronald started talking about the influences that contributed to a culture from which Modern Paganisms could emerge. Gerald Gardner and his peers were not working in isolation. These elements were all found in both Webb and the other writers I was re-discovering. That was when I realised there was a whole research project there, waiting for me to dive in.

This is your first work of non-fiction. Will you be writing more?

Absolutely! I love writing, full stop, but I realised non-fiction allows me to write about the things I am interested in. It’s not academic, but it is definitely influenced by my academic training, and I absolutely love the research angle. All those libraries to visit and get lost in! At the moment I am writing another ‘Work In Progress’ blog for Moon , which is called “Urban Nature Mystic”. In it I am exploring how we practice our Nature based faith systems whilst living in the city. Someone once asked me how I could be a ‘proper witch’ whilst living in the city, and my immediate answer was, how could I not be? Nature is all around us, even in the most urban settings. It’s great, as it enables me to reflect on my own practice, and the differences between Dartmoor (where I grew up) and London (which has now been my home for nearly twenty years).

How was the process different to writing a novel or a short story? Was it more challenging?

In some ways the process of writing is similar, as you have to have the same discipline, but they do use slightly different skill-sets to get there. With non-fiction, you get a chance to go down the rabbit hole and explore topics that you are fascinated by, and then share that with other people. One of the dangers in post-graduate research is the risk of getting lost in the research and forgetting what it is you are ‘supposed’ to be doing. You can end up going off on tangents, and getting lost in the woods. Writing non-fiction gives me a chance to go off the designated path and deliberately get lost. It can give me a legitimate reason for exploring, and examining, and uncovering truths I was not consciously aware of. I am absolutely passionate about reading and writing, and the non-fiction writing enables me to share those enthusiasms with other people, and really see the world from a different angle. With fiction writing, you get to show people the view inside from the character’s head, which is a different skill entirely. I trained as an actor originally, and that skill is very useful when writing fiction, as I get to put on another person’s skin, and walk around in it for a while. Non-fiction keeps me inside my own head a bit more.

You enjoy walking; do you have a favourite route?

Where I grew up on Dartmoor, I had one favourite walk I used to do regularly, that I really miss, even now. It took me across the moors to a little valley with a brook that flowed through it. I used to sit for hours under a beautiful old Willow tree, and tell it all my troubles. For years I really resented the fact that I couldn’t go there as often as I would like, and then, more recently, I have tried to stop looking back with regret, and instead focus on what I have near me now. I realised I need to walk regularly in order to ‘walk things out’ in my head – it helps me to think through what I need to write about next, lowers my stress levels, and enables me to connect up with my gods. Although I have an active spiritual life with my coven, the walking becomes my day-to-day practice, and keeps me sane. Last year I discovered there are a number of ‘green trails’ all though my part of North London, and I have now discovered a trail that is my favourite walk. It goes through a nature reserve, and then winds on towards a farm with a riding stable. Finally, it ends in a wood where there is a pond that I can sit by and contemplate the world. If I am lucky, I get to see cows, horses, lots of birds, and the pond at the end is visited by the occasional swan or heron. Even when it is not, it is a lovely place to just sit and watch the reflections of clouds, or ripples on the surface of the water.

What’s the most mystical or magical place you have ever been?

Dartmoor is a very mystical place for me. Wherever I go in the world, I will always have an invisible cord that ties me to it, so much so, I have already bought my burial plot, several decades ahead of time (hopefully!) so I know that I will always end up there, just next to my Mum. There are a lot of other very special places where we can connect to the Divine in nature, and it is usually the really wild places that I connect to, like Scotland, or the Isles of Scilly.

I think the most mystical place I ever went to was Egypt. I have had a lifelong fascination for Egypt, and went there eight years ago. I went with the intention of visiting as many temples as I could in a week.

From the moment I landed there, I felt more awake than I have ever been. It is the first time I have consciously had that sense of ‘knowing’ about a place, the feeling that you have been there before. I was drifting up the Nile seeing sites that were so familiar to me, and when I visited the Temple of Philae near Aswan, even though the island itself has been moved from its original location, I could tell you where the gardens were laid out, and what went where around the temple.

Egypt is also one of the places where I have felt the presence of the old gods most clearly. It was a week of deep emotional shifts, and coincidences, and magic, and I would be lying if I said I came back the same person. I had been studying Psychic Development classes at the College of Psychic Studies, and also learning NLP and undertaking my work of the first degree in Wicca, so I had a lot of different development work going on. I think I felt my way around the tour that week, which is how I could connect so deeply to it all.

And the most mystical experience? A truly magical moment you could recount for us?

I think the key with Nature Mysticism is that you are connecting to life in a way that most people wouldn’t notice, as they go about their day to day lives. There is a big dollop of mindfulness involved, and you also have to be prepared for experiencing things that your senses can’t quite explain, and also for knowing things that you wouldn’t otherwise know. Some of the most mystical experiences can also be the most personal – the moment when a friend of mine came and tugged on my hair when I was at his funeral (he was a very playful person) or midwifing my mother through a terminal illness was pretty mystical. There is also an element of ‘knowing’ things – insight that comes from those mystical encounters that I couldn’t otherwise know. But it is also incredibly subtle – I won’t tell you that I experience daily visions of the Goddess while commuting to work on the Underground. Mystical experiences can be indicated by minute details – for instance, under my willow tree on Dartmoor, I would gradually start to see the ground beneath me undulate in waves, which I knew was not ‘physically’ possible. For me those mystical moments in nature are a way of ‘checking in’ to see what’s next on the agenda – a life in Wicca is also a life of service, so it’s a bit like checking in to get your instructions for what you need to do next. Also, the insights that come can’t always be shared – you have to get a feel for what you can and can’t appropriately tell people, without them thinking you are barking [crazy, for the American readers!].

How do you think the perception of modern paganism is changing as it becomes more widely understood through books like your own?

I think that the biggest change we have seen in recent years is the shift from ‘Modern Paganism’ to ‘Modern Paganisms’, as we have realised that it is perfectly acceptable to have many different blueprints for this faith system, and they are all as valid as each other. What appeals to people is the ability to follow your own path, and not to have too much dogma or doctrine imposed on you (unless you like that kind of thing). In the past we have gone through periods of debunking old myths (such as the unbroken line to pre-Christian societies) or the de-bunking of the myth-makers, like Margaret Murray who wrote The Witch Cult in Western Europe, or Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote The Mists of Avalon. I feel like we have spent many years apologising for some of our roots (when we are not arguing over them!) whereas now, I think we are coming back round to acknowledging that, while those myths may not be true, it doesn’t mean they are invalid. Margaret Murray’s view may not have been factually accurate, but it still influenced a lot of people, which means it still has value.

Although my own background and training is in Wicca, I wanted to ensure that “Nature Mystics” was a book that transcended some of those labels – it can be just as relevant to a Traditional Witch, as to a Druid or a Heathen as it could be to a Wiccan. The readership seems to be reflecting that back to me, so I *think* it may have worked. The thing I love most about researching our cultural (and specifically literary) roots, is that it gives us space to embrace all of those ideas we love so much, such as the idea of Priestesses of the Goddess living on an island that is only one step in the mist away from the ‘real world’ or the world of faery, or the idea of rats and moles encountering Pan in the woods, or the idea of a woman leaving her home in the 1920s, to go and join a witches’ coven in the countryside. We can embrace those magical moments without having someone come along and break the spell, even if those moments are essentially fictional. And the poetry that comes from these authors’ love of nature seeps its way into the language of our prayers and rituals.

Did you always want to be a writer? What’s your ‘day job’ and how do you fit it around your writing, or vice versa?

As a child I was absolutely adamant that I wanted to be an actor from the age of about seven. I kept this going for quite a few years, until I was feeling quite bitter and unhappy as I had a lot of creative energy that was going to waste, as you had to land the acting work before you could use that energy. Having one of those ‘what if this is as good as it gets?’ moments, I decided that I needed to take a sabbatical, and would only return to acting when I could feel positive about what I was doing. This coincided with decision to spend more time exploring my spiritual life. Although I had spent many years as a solitary witch, I had met my HPS, and was just embarking on the beginnings of my year and a day. One of the tasks given to me was to explore your local folklore. As I was researching, I came across the story of the Lychway on Dartmoor – a pathway lead to the Parish Church across the open moors, before the Turnpike roads were built. If you lost a relative and were living in my village, you would have to have carried your dead loved one across the moors to bury them, a path that was said to be ‘eight miles in fair weather, and fifteen in foul’. My dad and I did the walk, and it was exhausting, even on a nice day (and we did it over two days). As I was walking, I started to think of a short story of a girl who had to make this journey, except when I sat down to write it, the short story kept growing and growing, and it became my first novel, “The Lychway”. Although it was a bit of a surprise at the time, I realised I got the same buzz from writing as I got from acting, only I had more control over writing, as I could do it any time I wanted to, as long as I had a pen and some paper. Somehow I never went back to acting.

I have always maintained a day job alongside the creative work I do. Although it started as a necessity, it has become a habit, and it has the dual functions of keeping a roof over my head, and also freeing me to write whatever I want to, as I don’t have to be governed by what will bring the money in. It also keeps me very grounded as I work in a drug and alcohol charity. When I started there sixteen years ago, I told my colleagues not to get used to me, as I was only staying for a month. (Did I mention I also like to think of the Divine as ‘the cosmic joker’?)

What other projects do you have on the go?

As well as the non-fiction writing, the full time day job and keeping my sanity intact (barely!) I am also studying for a PhD. Through two years of a traditional English PhD about Mary Webb, I struggled to make her ‘fit’ into among her Modernist peers, and realised I had to bring my interest of Paganism in as well, which was a bit of a no-no as far as my old university was concerned. I decided to jump ship and switch to a Creative Writing programme. Now I get to write a novel about Mary Webb, as well as explore my Nature Mystics a bit more for the critical commentary part of the project, so I get the best of both worlds.

Aside from that, I also write regularly for Pagan Dawn, and I also have the Urban Nature Mystic blog going for Moon .

If you had to recommend three books that highlight our connection to nature most beautifully, which three would you choose?

My first choice would be Mary Webb’s novel, Precious Bane. The lead character, Prue Sarn, has a facial disfiguration, which it is believed was bestowed upon her by way of a curse, as her mother crossed a hare during pregnancy. Prue is also accused of being a witch, and has to deal with the prejudice she encounters in her community, as they believe that if there is something wrong on the outside, it must reflect the inside. Prue is a Nature Mystic, so she gains consolation for this prejudice by going out into the landscape to commune with the unseen force that resides in Nature. There are some truly magical encounters in the novel, and reading it for the first time (at the age of fifteen) enabled me to make sense of how I saw the landscape around me. Webb writes the landscape as a magical, mystical space which has agency, and a space in which anything can happen.

Second would be Robert Mcfarlane’s book, The Old Ways. I loved his descriptions of walking the landscape and the feelings he encountered, especially the encounter he had with a mysterious force among the trees in the middle of the night when he was trying to sleep. The encounter occurs on the South Downs, and it is really eerie. Usually, Macfarlane is quite logical – It reminds me that even the most logical of us can still make room for the mystical.

Thirdly, I would probably have to say Elizabeth von Arnim’s novel, The Enchanted April, in which two very downtrodden women decide to flee the boredom and dissatisfaction they encounter in their own lives by running away to Italy for a month. The descriptions of the gardens overlooking the sea are so arresting in their intensity. As more people come to the house, they all gradually start to unfurl and find themselves among the flowers and the birdlife. The descriptions are really beautiful, and the place has a real sense of magic.

What is your favourite Pagan festival and why?

I really love the Wheel of the Year, and it has to be my favourite part of the Pagan path(s) as it allows us to pause in whatever we are doing, and just focus on nature. It’s a reminder to be mindful. This is going to sound a bit gloomy, but my absolute favourite festival is Samhain. I lost my mum to cancer about eleven years ago, and I love the fact that Samhain gives me an opportunity to focus on her and my other ancestral spirits. Attending Samhain circles was a really important part of my healing during the years when my grief was new and at its most raw.

On your website you say you help others who are creatively blocked to unblock themselves. How do you do this?

I have a few tools in my toolbox that help with this, but they don’t all get an airing at the moment. Firstly, I am a master practitioner of NLP and a certified coach. So, at times when I haven’t had the PhD on the go, I can use my coaching skills to try and help them work through things (although these days it is mainly me that I work with!) The other tool I have is as a proof-reader and editor for other writers. Again, it’s not something I get to do much of now but I really like the challenge of coaching other writers through their work, as it enables me to help them, and also to reflect on my own practices. It is something I return to from time to time, and I can see a time in the future (probably post PhD) when I dust this one off and use it again. I have worked with quite a few authors on their novels, and it is really rewarding, especially when you see someone getting a light bulb moment after struggling with something for a while.

As well as writing and studying for your PhD, you make beautiful jewellery and pendulums. How do you find the time for everything?

With some careful time planning, but also by following the natural patterns of my own energy cycles. I am definitely a morning person, so I have developed this slightly bizarre habit of doing most of my writing on the tube, during my daily commute to central London. I actually go out of my way to make this last as long as I can, choosing a route that gives me the time I need to have a fairly concentrated burst of writing. I tend to be a ‘short bursts, very often’ kind of writer. I wrote all four of my previous books this way, and it seems to work.

At weekends I tend to have more at home time. The beading work seems to work best then. It’s something I can pick up and put down, as my time and energy allows. I also used to make natural soaps and bath products, but when I started my MA I had to hang up my soaping shoes, as there just wasn’t time for everything. I think we have natural cycles for things, and times and moods that elicit different bursts of creative energy. It’s just a case of needing to work out what works, and then you harness it. But I also have to be quite ruthless about how I choose to spend my time. It doesn’t leave me much time for ‘shoulds’, which is never a bad thing. You know, ‘I would like to go for a walk, but I should be painting the bathroom’. Stuff the painting, I say!

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I try and swim several times a week. I have an outdoor (heated) pool I go to in central London, which is just magical. On really cold days you get a mist that rises from the water, and I really love lying on my back in the water, watching the clouds and the birds flying overhead. It’s my water element moment.

At weekends, I take time for myself by walking. My husband is a night owl, which means he is still snoring while I am awake early with ants in my pants. He doesn’t love mud as much as I do either, so I use the mornings to go off walking while he has a lie in. These are my earth and air moments.

I think there is also something truthful in the idea that if you are doing the things you love, you find the energy somehow. I know when I am engaged in all the things that fit my life’s purpose (to have as many creative adventures as I can) somehow it all flows naturally. When my energy levels nosedive (I have M.E.) then I have to hibernate for a while so I can come back renewed.

And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2016?

One of the things I am looking forward to is doing more talks. I gave my first talk at Treadwells hop in Bloomsbury recently, and I felt like a duck who had found her pond. Somehow it harnesses all the skills I have learned over the years and brings them all together in one place. I loved every minute of it – from the talk, to the question and answer session, to the social time afterwards. It was really nice meeting readers face to face and being able to share our enthusiasm for our literary gods, and people have been really enthusiastic. It’s a great (and immediate) way of getting feedback, and knowing if you are on the right track or not. And it’s also a lovely way to share the research I am doing.

Find out more about Rebecca at http://www.rebeccabeattie.co.uk/ and follow her blog at the Moon website.

Interview with Ellen Evert Hopman

March, 2016

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Ellen is a druid, an herbalist, and a prolific author. She runs the Willow’s Grove shop through her website. She also runs a course in herbalism for those wanting to learn the marvellous powers of plants. I was fascinated to find out more about this incredibly busy and talented woman. Ellen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Mabh Savage: Tell us a bit about your upcoming book A Legacy of Druids. How did it come about? What drove you to write this book?

Ellen Evert Hopman: I have been a Druid officially since 1984, which was the year I joined ADF which is an Indo-European Druid Order. I received my “Second Circle” initiation from Isaac Bonewits and then went on to co-found The Henge of Keltria, a Celtic Druid Order. I was Vice President there for nine years and I am a Keltrian “Ring of the Oak” (which is basically a “third degree” for those who think in Wiccan terms). Along the way I kept running Groves, initiating Druids, studying Celtic history and plant lore and writing books.

One of those books is called Being a Pagan – Druids, Wiccans and Witches Today, which is a book of interviews with Pagan leaders from across the USA. The Huffington Post named it one of twenty-seven essential books on Paganism and I know of at least one comparative religion class that used the book as a text for understanding the Pagan religions of today.

I had the idea that a follow up volume about Druids would be logical, so when my father died and I had a very small inheritance, I used the funds to travel to Britain and Ireland. I had a strong desire to see what Druids on the other side of the pond were up to. I wanted to see how British Druids were the same or different from American ones, since I was teaching other Druids and writing about Druids and answering people’s questions.

Despite the importance of that book in terms of illuminating our path, the sales for “Being a Pagan” were not that robust compared to my other books, so I kind of lost interest in publishing the follow-up Druid material. I wondered if there were enough people who would want to read it, to justify the hard work of seeing it published. After hand typing everything from audio tapes I basically sat on the Druid interviews for almost twenty years.

In the meantime, I went on to found the Whiteoak mailing list and then co-founded The Order of Whiteoak which is a Celtic Reconstructionist Druid Order. I was co-Chief there for five years and initiated a bunch of folks and kept writing other Pagan and Druid books; both fiction and non-fiction.

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Then the Gods came along and hit me on the head as they often do. I woke up one morning with a sudden determination to get the Druid interviews out to the general public. I asked Philip Carr-Gomm who I should send the manuscript to and he said “Moon ”. So I finally sent them the typed interviews and the book was accepted within twenty-four hours.

MS: Who is the book aimed at? Who will get the most out of it?

EEH: I think that Druids here and in Britain and Canada will be fascinated by the material because it shows the amazing diversity of thought and opinions held by the elders of our tradition. I suspect that most Pagans know very little about Druidism and this would be a very rich introduction to the faith for them. Religion scholars and those teaching comparative religion should find it a basic text for understanding the breadth of Druidism as it is practiced in the world.

Another aspect of the book is the descriptions of how people came to be Druids; what thoughts and impulses motivated them and how they were raised as children. Sociologists and students of modern culture will find a gold mine in there.

MS: What did you enjoy most about putting this book together?

EEH: I was pleasantly surprised by the graciousness and willingness of Druid elders and teachers to speak with me. I had a vague sense even then that the work was historic; I don’t think anyone has quite done this before. Over time the work has become even more valuable since a number of the persons interviewed have now crossed the veil; Isaac Bonewits, Lady Olivia Robertson, Tim Sebastian and most recently Septimus Myriddin Bron. These are probably the very last interviews anyone will see with them.

MS: You also have an upcoming book about medicinal plants. Is this a passion of yours? How did this start?

EEH: My newest herbal is called Secret Medicines from Your Garden. I have been teaching and practicing herbalism since 1983. herbalism is an ancient Druidic calling – in the Whiteoak Druid tradition everyone who is an initiate must “declare a major”, that is swear to master a traditional skill and pass it along to future generations. To that end I have written a number of books on Celtic herb lore; A Druid’s herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, A Druid’s herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine, and Scottish herbs and Fairy Lore. I also penned a children’s herbal called Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s herbal which is a book for parents and teachers to teach herbalism to kids. Home schoolers really like it. Another book that is geared to beginning herbalists is Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen which is about making home remedies from foods, herbs and spices already in your home.

So, yes, this is a passion of mine. I wrote in depth about how it all started in Secret Medicines from Your Garden but basically I had a mystical experience when I was on a religious retreat in Assisi, Italy. A voice told me I was supposed to be working with plants and I believed it.

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MS: Do you have your own herb garden?

EEH: I live in an oak forest (perfect place for a Druid!) so there is not much sunlight here, except in a narrow strip around the house. I do grow a few herbs; angelica, comfrey, echinacea, blood root, nettles, elderberries, raspberries and blackberries, but most of what I use I wild craft. Of course I am surrounded by trees and I often use them for medicines and food; pines, hawthorn, birch, oak, and maple.

I have another book that is currently out of print called Tree Medicine Tree Magic. That was my first book, written while I was in grad school. When I first moved to New England I was astounded by the short growing season and I couldn’t imagine how the Native Americans or the settlers survived here with fresh greens available for only a few months of the year. Then it dawned on me that they must have been eating the trees. I looked around for a book that would show me how to do that, and even though I was working in a library at the time (in the early 1980s) I couldn’t find such a book. So I made a supreme leap of illogic and decided I had to write it myself! I had no training as a writer but that never stopped me – I just plunged in and, being me, injected magical and spiritual lore along with the herbal basics of how to use trees for food and medicine. I think I must have been a teacher or a writer in a past life.

MS: You’ve written numerous books over the years. How do you find the time?

EEH: It’s not easy. My brother recently asked me why I do this when I have an education and could be making a lot more money. I said; “Because I can’t not do it” which he accepted as a perfectly valid response. He is a trained musician after all.

The way I have structured my life is to always work part time at a “day job” and teach on weekends. The rest of the time I write. As you know authors generally make very little, as do Druids and herbalists. That has meant a life of poverty but it has been an interesting life and I do live in a beautiful part of the world, in a forest, so who am I to complain?

MS: What inspires you as a writer? Is there a particular place, or time of year, or the company of certain people?

EEH: I have been churning out books since the mid-1980s. I never know what is going to inspire the next one. For example, I wrote a trilogy of Druidic novels; Priestess of the Forest – A Druid Journey, The Druid Isle, and Priestess of the Fire Temple – A Druid’s Tale. I started writing these fictional tales of Iron Age Ireland and Scotland because each time I came back from my travels I was brimming over with ideas about certain ancient sacred sites and how they might have been used.

I also wanted to find a painless way to teach Druid spirituality to beginners who didn’t necessarily want to delve into intense scholarship (we Druids have always been and still are intellectuals, anyone who is seriously dedicated to this path is going to do a serious amount of reading and scholarship).

The third novel happened because I read just one sentence in a history book. It said that Saint Brighid of Kildare’s fire temple was based on an “earlier Pagan model”. No more details were given. The whole book came out of my visions of that Pagan temple and my personal experiences at Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne) in Ireland.

I usually wake up at five AM with a vision of the structure of a book and then all I have to do is go and write it. That’s how it happens for me.

MS: What first drew you towards Druidry?

EEH: I was born in Austria, in the Hallstatt, which many believe to be the place that Celtic culture first emerged. The culture was already around in other places but it wasn’t until the Celts were mining salt in the Hallstatt that they had enough wealth to commission distinctive jewellery, weapons and so on.

When I was a baby there were a lot of archaeological digs going on in the area and my mother, who was an artist, was fascinated by what they were finding. She used to tell me about the Celts with such reverence. I thought everyone grew up hearing about the Celts so I thought nothing of it. I tucked it all away in my memory and it wasn’t until I was in my thirties and I heard Irish Celtic music for the first time and then heard about Druids that it all came rushing back. I have been a Druid ever since.

MS: What is the role of the Druid in our modern world?

EEH: If you read the new book A Legacy of Druids you will quickly learn that there is no one role for a Druid in the modern world. Ask any Druid what they think and you will get a different answer. But at our core we all feel an intense mystical relationship with the Earth and her seasons.

In ancient times Druids were the intellectuals of the tribes, the “people of arts” or “Aes Dana”. For me the word “Druid” means “an expert”.

Druids were the teachers of the children of the nobility, the lawyers, judges, ambassadors, genealogists, history keepers, doctors, herbalists, sacred singers, philosophers, magicians, poets, seers, harpers, sacred singers, and public ritualists for the tribes. To be a “Druid” was to perform a tribal function. The idea of a “solitary Druid” makes little sense in that context. The Druid served the tribe. Every ruler had to have a Druid at their side because the Druids knew the laws and precedents and could advise the king or queen who was basically trained as a warrior and then elected or elevated to the office.

It bothers me when someone reads one book and then declares themselves “a Druid”. Or says they “love trees” so they are a Druid. Or they had an Irish grandmother that makes them “a Druid”. I think that is very disrespectful to the memory of the ancient Bards and poets and Druids who mastered the mysteries and arts. It also bothers me when people assume the Druids “were all men”. We have plenty of evidence for female Druids and female poets. I wrote an article about that called “Female Druids”.

Obviously we can’t all be advisors to the nobility as we were in times past. Druids were intimately involved in the politics of the tribes which is a major reason the Romans took such pains to try and wipe them out. I think it’s important for Druids of today to be well educated about the political systems of the countries they find themselves living in and to be a voice for justice; for the animals, for the land and for the people.

MS: And what is your role as Arch Druid? What does this entail?

EEH: At the moment I am Arch Druid of a teaching Grove within Whiteoak called “Tribe of the Oak”. The Grove is not public; it is somewhat hidden because everyone in it is a serious student working towards initiation. My goal is to train a bunch of competent Druids so they can in turn keep training other Druids and keep the tradition alive.

Our system is very different from most of the British Orders. We are very Irish based and we use a marvellous collection of seventh century Irish writings to illuminate our studies. We treasure the oldest documents because they are probably the closest we will get to what Druids of the past were actually teaching and saying.

Before the seventh century those writings would have been passed down orally. We owe a great debt to the patient monks and scribes who transcribed the stories but we sometimes have a hard time pulling out the Christian bias, the additions and deletions they left in their accounts. We occasionally have to use our “Imbas” or poetic imagination to re-Paganize the material.

We also read the Upanishads, the Rig Veda and other Indo-European wisdom texts, to approximate what Druids of the past were teaching. Druidism and Hinduism both come from the same proto-Vedic roots.

MS: You’ve been on TV and Radio several times. How do you think the media’s perception of Druidry and Paganism has changed in recent times?

EEH: I can’t speak for Britain but here in the USA Druids are still not on the radar of the popular culture. For example, I am on a Facebook list that consists of historians and archaeologists and people who study ancient religions, philosophies and civilizations. There are almost nine thousand people on that list. There are only two Druids and one of the list members expressed surprise when I mentioned I was one, saying they had never met one before. There are three other Pagans there and that’s it, as far as I know. So we are still hiding in plain sight.

The Witch hysteria seems to have calmed down a bit in the USA, especially since Witches and Vampires have become a big facet of contemporary entertainment. I think hard core Fundamentalists are still afraid of Witches but they seem to be afraid of everybody (which is why they love guns so much…but I digress).

In other places like Saudi Arabia and Africa men, women and children are still being burned, hung or stoned to death for being “Witches”. So I guess the West has evolved, somewhat.

MS: You’re qualified in mental health counselling, which I imagine can be challenging at times. Do you think Druids or Pagans often shy away from traditional mental health care, as it often fails to take their spiritual leanings seriously?

EEH: Many years ago Green Egg magazine did a reader’s poll to find out what the dominant professions of Pagans were and how educated we might be. It turned out we were far more educated than the general public and the most popular professions among us were teacher, therapist and computer programmer.

I don’t think that educated people shy away from therapy if they really need it. There are so many options now that there is a wealth of therapeutic practices to choose from. I think the biggest problem for us is people relying on themselves or their Coven mates or Pagan clergy instead of going to a trained professional just because they think their magical tradition has everything covered.

I recently heard of a case where a person had a dream that they thought must be coming from the Gods. They thought the Gods were telling them to sell their house and they “saw” the house they would find in exchange. Well, they never got the new house and now the old one is gone too and they have lost their faith as a result because they think the Gods must have abused them or tricked them.

Any mental health counsellor who was trained in dream interpretation could have walked them through that dream to determine what it was really trying to tell them. As a Druid I know that there are experts in every field and we should take advantage of that. If we don’t like a particular therapist or doctor we can always move on and find another one.

MS: What is your next writing project?

EEH: Right now I am “between books” which is always an interestingly fallow place. I don’t know what the next book project will be. I am currently collaborating with a script writer and an actress (with real Hollywood creds), on a possible film project based on the novel “Priestess of the Forest”. It’s only in the germination phase at the moment so stay tuned.

I just spent the past year working a day job, teaching herbs classes and Druid students, travelling hither and yon to speak, and simultaneously editing two books. Then I got suddenly laid off after being at the same job for almost ten years. I am finally getting some sleep!

MS: You sell elixirs and other items. What’s your most popular product?

EEH: This year I started making an herbal salve that I now sell in five local health food stores and coops. That began when I was invited to teach in California. I am from Massachusetts which has completely different flora so how was I supposed to teach herbalism to Californians? I was at a loss until I looked up which tribe was native to the area and it was the Pomo. Then I looked up what herbs they used traditionally for skin conditions. I discovered that they used herbs like redwood, cedar and bay laurel. So I concocted a wonderful formula using native California plants and taught the locals in northern California how to make the salve. It’s a beautiful green ointment that I call “Green Goddess Goo”. I am not shipping it out too much because the glass jars occasionally break. But folks in my area love it. It is soothing to the skin. I have a few herbalists in California who send me the fresh plants and then I make the salve.

Besides that, what I sell the most of are my books. Folks can order them from me and get a signed copy with a personal note from www.elleneverthopman.com I also have a ‘Moonthly’ blog on that website where I recap the past month’s archaeology, book, religion, Pagan, Druid, herb, nature, political and ethical news.

MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2016?

EEH: I and my fellow Druids are planning a Druid camp in Massachusetts this summer which is exciting. I would like to see a true Progressive like Bernie Sanders get elected president of the USA. And I look forward to the Gods handing me a new job that will nourish my spirit (and my pocket book!).

If anyone wants to produce a film about Iron Age Druids, with strong female characters and deep Pagan spirituality, please let me know.

I hope this year brings peace, health, prosperity and happiness to everyone who reads this. Thank you for asking.

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