Originally written as a talk for the Pagan Federation Online Lughnasadh Festival 2016. Feel free to view the whole talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5fPKOmp2k
Lughnasadh is more or less the mid-point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, and as such a point of transition, of change and of transformation. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my own experiences with pregnancy, motherhood, and how my spirituality transformed alongside my own transforming body and mind.
It was a complete shock to me, finding out I was pregnant. I had experienced a few odd symptoms; dizziness, alternately low and high blood pressure, not wanting to smoke or drink any more. I didn’t read anything into this until my 2nd missed period. When the test came out positive, I just stared at it.
It was a difficult time. My boyfriend at the time, though thrilled 24 hours later, was either disbelieving or simply didn’t care. I remember feeling totally alone. Then my friend Jane came to visit, and I was reminded of the power of friendship, and the joy of having people in your life who simply want others to be OK.
I was pretty active in my magical group at the time. I remember when I had got together with Nathan’s dad, telling him he would have to be mindful that I took my practice seriously, and at first he was supportive, although there were often snide comments about dancing around naked, or having orgies; I’m sure you’ve all heard the like.
I immediately started to think of all the things I might not be able to do. Would I be able to go to coven meetings with a new born baby? Would I be able to practice magic whilst all hormonal from pregnancy? I’d never been pregnant. I had no idea what to expect, and no idea how it would affect my spiritual path or my magical life.
The answer is, pregnancy and motherhood changed me in a multitude of ways, but ultimately I am the same person with the same spiritual leanings, and if anything I feel closer to the world, to nature, and certainly to my inner child since having Nathan.
One of the things I love about being on my nature based path is the way it encourages you to notice the details in the world around you; the butterfly resting on a leaf; a cloud shaped like a dragon, or a sunbeam breaking through leaf cover. Having a child, and noticing how a child sees the world, is like having a direct line into that way of viewing the world. A child, especially a young child, is seeing everything for the first time. Everything is a joy, a treasure; a gift met with wide eyes and wonder. Walking the world with a child gives us the special pleasure of channelling this sense of newness. It gives us the chance to experience the world afresh, to almost begin anew.
Going back to my pregnancy, I found that there were certain things I couldn’t do, and certain things I could do better. I didn’t want to or feel capable of doing any focused intent work; no healing, no transformation and no spell work. I felt that my intent was too unfocused, and that the hormones raging within my changing body would not cope well with this. I was worried that my magic would go astray, and that I would not end up with the results I wanted. I felt like I had energy bubbling out of me, and that, in my mind, was dangerous. Once, near the winter solstice, I stopped in front of a charity shop window, eyeing up some rather beautiful festive decorations. I was about to check my purse to see if I had enough money, when a woman reached into the window to pick them up for a customer. I was angry, in the way you get angry with unfair situations, and immediately that this emotion was upon me, the woman dropped the decorations and they smashed. I remember walking away quickly, red faced and ashamed. I can’t say for certain that I had anything to do with that, but I felt responsible, and it put me off any sort of ‘spell’ work in case this ‘bubbling over’ of energy occurred again.
Although I pulled away from actual magical work, I found great solace in meditation, yoga and pathworking. My mentor did some wonderful guided meditations and pathworking with me, and I found that while I was pregnant the visions were all the more vivid, and the symbology that occurred seemed to have great meaning. I wrote everything down and found I had a depth of patience for analysing the visions that I had never experienced previously. I could now take the time to really go through the images ad figure out what they meant to me.
I had never done yoga before, but my friend gave me a dvd that was adjusted for pregnancy, an also had exercises that could be done whilst suffering with symphysis pubis disorder, which hit me quite badly during my second trimester. The pain was really severe at times, and I had to take time off work, which was not ideal.
Being able to meditate and do yoga made a huge difference for me. I suffer from depression and during my pregnancy it became quite severe at times. There was the combination of my physical discomfort with the SPD, a poor relationship with my then boyfriend which led to deep feelings of loneliness and disappointment, and the underlying depression that was always there to some extent. Finding that I did have an affinity for meditation which I had hitherto not really explored was a massive gift, and one I have treasured since that day.
I imagine that these findings would be different for everybody. I know some people become very vigorous and fit during their pregnancy, and therefore they may find a stronger spiritual connection with nature and the outdoors by going for more walks, and exploring their surroundings. Others may find themselves drawing closer to their covens or communities, whilst others may develop their solitary work to a deeper level. I think the latter is quite common, as when you are pregnant I think there are always times when you end up on your own, even by the necessity of needing space, so to be able to use this time and space to develop your own innate skills is fantastic.
Another aspect I had to be careful with was my herbalism. I had just started my herbalism course when I discovered I was pregnant, so of course had to be very careful about what remedies I self-tested, as the last thing I wanted to do was harm Nathan or myself. So ultimately, I stopped working with herbs, except for making lavender bags for friends and the like. I continued my studies without the practical side, and remember bawling out a lady at a craft fair for recommending a raspberry leaf product for pregnant women, without even realising that raspberry leaf is only indicated in the very late stages of pregnancy, to help encourage the onset of labour.
When Nathan was born, it felt immediately as though he had always been there, whilst at the same time being completely surreal. I really didn’t want to stay at the hospital. I wanted my own home and hearth, my ancestors around me; but of course, they always are, wherever I am. Hopefully you feel that too. I really, really didn’t want to stay in the hospital, but my blood pressure was high and I had a fever. Nathan wasn’t the most vocal baby, but of course one baby on the ward would start crying and it was like a chain reaction; the next baby would cry, then the next, and so on until the whole ward was a cacophony of wailing. It was incredibly depressing, and it was felt like it was just Nathan and I against the world. I should have realised that this was quite prophetic in a way, as it was only a few years before we were back to it just being me and Nathan again!
The first few weeks being home with him shot by in a sleep deprived blur. I was communicated with people in only the barest of ways, and although I was still in touch with my magical group, we hadn’t been together in a circle for a long time. I felt a yearning in my soul for something, and as is the way of things, something came along to fill the gap that had been developing.
Through friends, I discovered the Covenant of Hekate, and wrote a hymn, and some music, and found I was again exercising that part of myself which had been becoming lax and lazy. I could write in my journal while Nathan was sleeping. I could meditate during nap times. I was honoured to perform the Rite of her Sacred fires as a solitary practitioner the very first year it was a global event. I felt the energy of Hekate very keenly, and I do feel that she was a very strong presence during my early months of becoming a parent. I don’t think this is because she is a particularly motherly goddess at all, but I was at a junction in my life, a crossroads, a point where decisions needed to be made in order for me to keep moving forward, and Hekate is the goddess of the crossroads. Her twin torches light the dark roads ahead, and illuminate tired and clouded eyes. She is Enodia, of the ways; she guides but she also pushes us to find our own way; to open our own doors and combat adversity.
I was already devoted to the Morrígan, who also teaches us to combat adversity, albeit in perhaps a more confrontational way. I think it is very telling that at a time of fatigue and depression, when I couldn’t face confrontation head on, Hekate seemed to find me and remind me that there are other ways to move forward that don’t involve head on collisions or having to fight.
Once I had found my feet back onto my spiritual path, I found it easier and easier to write and record my experiences, until at last I was on the way to writing my first book. I would sit with Nathan in his sling, feeding, whilst I tapped one handed at the keyboard- not terribly good for my back, I grant you! But I began to be proud of myself for what I what achieving, and joyful to be able to combine this with spending so much time with my little one.
Now he’s six, and we are both busier than ever. I am technically a single mum now, although I live with my partner and his little boy, so we help each other out and the boys love each other to bits. I don’t hide my paganism from Nathan but I don’t encourage him to believe what I believe. If he asks me anything, I answer, and his own wonder of the world often leads him to the same conclusions as me about a lot of things. He tells me all the time that he sees spirits in the trees, or in the sky, and whether he is seeing these or they are just figments of his wildly over active imagination; well, I don’t think it really matters. He is comfortable talking about such things and that’s all that matters. If he didn’t mention them at all, I would be equally happy, as his path will be his own, and I certainly don’t expect it to be quite like mine, if anything like mine at all.
If I inspire Nathan in any way, I hope I will inspire him to be kind, compassionate, and caring; to be considerate to the world, to others both human and non-human, and to never judge others for the path they walk on unless it deliberately harms others.
If he asks me about magic, I tell him. If he wants to know why I call myself a witch, I explain this to him as well. Sometimes he wants to look at my wand, or my crystal ball, or my crystals, or my cards. He likes to flick through my books, and asks me to read him excerpts from the books I have written. But sometimes weeks will go by when we don’t discuss anything that could be considered ‘pagan’, and that’s OK too. But of course, we are always out and about, exploring nature, turning over stones, singing songs, listening to birds, watching squirrels, identifying plants; so maybe we are discussing pagan things every day, or at least the aspects of paganism that can benefit everyone, regardless of your spiritual path.
I hope my experiences of pregnancy and motherhood resonate with some of you. It’s not something I’ve discussed at great length before, but would be happy to answer any comments you have. Joyous Lughnasadh. Sláinte!