We have “sprung forward”, and are rejoicing that the daylight hours are longer. Some of us are STILL adjusting to the time change, however happy we are about it. Spring officially starts in four days from the time I am writing this, and many have already had their Sabbat celebrations for it.
Like many others, I am coming out of hibernating with the warmer, longer days. My energy levels have increased, and my mood is more enthusiastic. I have been a LOT more busy, and that means that I have forgotten to pace myself. As a result, I have had a couple days when absolutely nothing got done, and I sat around a whole lot.
One thing that has gotten done is massive patio cleanup, and hand fertilizing of the raised garden bed we built some years ago. I have carefully crumbled eggshells, cut up fruit peels, and thrown in both tea grinds, and used coffee grinds.
I am glad I live in modern times and get to “cheat” and throw in store bought soils as well. Soon, peas will be planted in the beds, and after those are spent, pretty flowers, all of which I have seeds for already!
Spring is a big deal at our house!
In Nature, everything is sprouting, and the snowdrops are already glittering through last fall’s dead leaves, on the forest floor. Daffodils are about to sprout, and our crocuses came up first, and soon, fritillaries will follow suit.
Birdsong has returned, and gets louder daily. Squirrels, and bunnies are jumping all over the place, reminding us of how very alive the Earth is. I’ve even seen a couple of mosquitoes already!
Everything in creation from plants, to animals, and even people , are seemingly awakening from Winter’s deep sleep, and are raring to get out in the sunshine and enjoy life!
Some of us spend time outdoors, gardening, and “grooving with Nature”, as my Priest puts it, but are more into the arts. We create, we dance, we enjoy music and theatre. Many of us LOVE to read! What is better than a nice book, and a hot cuppa’ in a cozy room with Spring light streaming in?
Those who are prolific readers are in for a real treat!
A new book was published recently, and let me tell you, it’s an exquisite read.
It’s called Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), which is part of The Bury Down Chronicles by Rebecca Kightlinger and is set in Thirteenth Century Cornwall, England. It is magical, chock full of mystery, the Old Ways, and Family Traditions. This book draws you in immediately, and Kightlinger’s descriptive narrative voice is so deep, you actually FEEL like you are THERE, watching in person. The firelight flickering in the darkness is so well detailed, you can almost smell the woodsmoke, and the faces of the women are so well described, you can almost reach out and touch them. You need this book, like , yesterday. Step into Bury Down with Kightlinger’s book.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with Kightlinger via emails, for an in depth, very intimate interview, in which she speaks not only of her book, but her own background, and women’s issues.
First, please have a look at her amazing website:
And next enjoy the interview! Afterwards, this month’s working will be provided below.
Interviewing Rebecca Kightlighter
Saoirse (S)– Bright Blessings, Rebecca. First, tell me a bit about yourself and your work!
Rebecca Kightlinger (R)– My book, Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), is about the daughter of a midwife in medieval Cornwall. Megge’s mother and aunt– a healer and a seer, respectively—each hold an ancient grimoire that they must pass down to their daughters, who will then become their apprentices. The books are companion tomes that together enable the women to harness the knowledge and wisdom of every previous heir to the books. They are able to query these ancestors in order to learn the secrets that enable them to serve the people of their village. The problem is that although Megge wants nothing more than to become a woman of Bury Down and be truly a part of her family, she is frightened of her mother’s book. When the time comes for her to accept it, she refuses.
The stakes are very high for Megge’s mother, so she and Megge’s aunts must bring Megge to accept her charge and assume her role as a woman of Bury Down.
The themes are the desire to belong while being unable or unwilling to do the one thing that will make you a part of the group; the desire to find and follow your own path despite pressure to follow one laid down for you; and the closeness that can unite two people of different generations, the younger being able to learn from the elder, who brings wisdom and unconditional love.
I was an obstetrician gynecologist for many years; but in 2010, a serious injury to my right hand brought that work to an abrupt end. It was then that I started writing fiction. One day in 2011, when I was writing another story, letting scenes play out in my mind and describing them on paper, I saw not New York City or Amsterdam, where that story was set, but a pastoral scene: a grassy hill where sheep were grazing and a girl dressed in rough, heavy woolens was sitting on a big rock at the top of the hill. The girl seemed to look right at me and said, “When you’re done with those Dutch people, I want to go next.” And when I had finished the other story, she showed up again and just started telling me about her life and the lives of her ancestors. At the time, I knew very little about Cornwall and even less about the middle ages. But Megge spoke to me clearly, and with humor, showing me the scenes, and I felt this was something very real, though I had never before experienced anything quite like it.
Having been a visitor to Lily Dale spiritualist community many times, I called a medium, Jackie Avis, to talk to her about it. We had a telephone visit, and even before we started to talk about Megge, Jackie said she was seeing near me a big, very old book with a heavy wooden cover carved with symbols. She perfectly described The Book of Seasons, the book Megge was so afraid of. Our long conversation set my mind at ease, making me comfortable inviting Megge into my life.
I knew that in order to tell this story well, I would need some serious writing skills, so I applied to The University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. Poet Annie Finch was the director, and we spoke by phone. It was she who accepted me into the program.
In the summer of 2013, I went to Cornwall to visit the place I thought might be the region Megge had described as home. Arriving at Botelet Manor, where I was staying, was an incredible experience. Everything Megge described was right there. There is even a house on the manor that had been there during Megge’s day. The remains of Bury Down hillfort, built thousands of years ago, stood at the site Megge had described as the healer’s grove, where women came for healings at night. The church, the village location, and the castle were all as I had seen as she spoke.
Writing this book has been the most rewarding experience, and I hope this comes through in the book.
S- I will add, I am a psychic advisor/seer/reader, or whatever people choose to call me also. I am thrilled you spoke with a seer! I refer to this as a gift of spirit, as do many others. I feel we all have gifts of spirit including, speaking with the dead, healing, comforting the grieving, ability to use prayer to intervene in other’s lives, etc. What are your personal beliefs and views about oracles/seers? Do you feel you have gifts of spirit, and if so, what are they? It sounds like a spirit showed up and told you her story! Is that right? What is your spiritual path, and how does that influence your writing of this book, and your writing in general?
R- My mother and great-grandmother had strong spiritual gifts, and it may have been their openness to spiritual communication that has enabled me to accept this communication without fear, judgment, or censure. Like you, I think we all have the ability to perceive the presence of some who are now, as Megge says, in the ether. I sometimes feel my mother or father very near and have had communication of a sort with my mom through dreams after she passed. She told us in her final days that she would “stay nearby as long as possible” to comfort us after she passed, and when she did, I felt her spirit in the room with us for a good long time. It was a sense of joy I’ve never forgotten.
I believe strongly in the power of intention and prayer, and I know that people’s needs are somehow made clear to the person who can help. I’ve been in that situation many times as a physician, and I know it’s true.
Is Megge a spirit? I can’t say. All I know is that when I’m ready to write, she seems to come and take me through her story. I don’t see or hear her with my senses, but her words come through me onto the page along with scenes as clear as any you’d see in a movie. And the only time this happens is when I’m at my typewriter or keyboard, ready to write. Her home, her village, and all the people in her world are just as vivid and consistent as anything in this world.
I don’t know what my spiritual path is or where it is leading. One thing for sure is that my daily life is much more solitary that it ever was, and this feels right. It’s not lonely or boring in any way. The writer’s life seems to suit me now, where it would have been wrong for me before this. I used to have a busy practice, which I loved, and I worked with and taught some wonderful, caring, skilled, intelligent people. My patients, mostly middle-aged and elderly women for the last ten years of my practice, were smart, canny, funny, and insightful. I loved being their doctor. I remember talking to a lot of them about matters of the spirit, and I saw that as we all got older we seemed more in touch with it. It stopped seeming like something outside ourselves and became a source of both comfort and, well, interest, for lack of a better word. As I and my patients and friends began to experience more of the spiritual, we began to talk more openly about it and realized that we were having many of the same experiences.
Other authors, I’ve learned, experience a similar kind of communication in their writing. One young man related in a lecture that when he sat down to write, he would close his eyes and see his narrator arrive at the door and ring the bell. He would let her in, and she would tell him her story. At a recent book-signing event, I asked the author how he invented his characters, and he kind of laughed and shook his head. “They just show up,” he said. “They do whatever they want. I had no control over this story.” Other writers have no idea what this means. They construct charts and plot points and have the beginning, middle, and end mapped out before they even start their story. Many search newspapers for inspiration or ideas, or capture snippets of conversation that they write down and build a story around. That sounds harder to me, more cognitive, but is probably a more efficient use of writing time!
For me, the cognitive part begins after a scene is down. I research the era and place–I visited the place Megge described–and cut and splice scenes, sometimes changing names or details where needed. But I don’t change the overarching story. I stay true to what I’m seeing so the story can continue to move forward. It may sound funny, but I want my narrators to trust me. I want the narrators who are waiting in the wings to tell their stories to know that I won’t mess with them too much.
It feels like there are countless narrators/spirits out there waiting to tell their stories and searching for someone who can “hear” them. Is this how we return to the living world? Through a storyteller? Is this why many stories somehow just ring true? I can’t say. The first novel I wrote was narrated by an entire town. I had asked my husband for a manual typewriter for Christmas one year. He bought me an Olivetti, and I sat down at it for the first time ever and had no idea what to write. So I closed my eyes and thought, “Who has the story?” And in seconds, probably thirty or forty people showed up in my mind’s eye, all looking like working-class people and farmers from the 1930s, and all jostling to be the one to tell the story. It seemed they had all come back to tell their part of a horrific event that involved all of them but that that none of them knew the whole story of. Each one ended up telling his or her part, often interrupting each other and correcting details. Every night, at 8 pm, I sat down to write. For an entire year. And the whole story came out, all the details that had been kept secret. When it was done, those narrators disappeared. I’ve not heard from them again. One day, when Megge’s story is done, I’ll go back to that one. I hope I will have developed the skills by then to tell it well.
And this is probably much more than you wanted to hear! But it is unusual for me to be able to relate this kind of information about myself and my writing to someone who will understand and not judge. I’ll be very interested to learn if others have this experience and how they deal with it. How it first started and how they reacted. To me, it felt natural, inviting. I’ve never questioned it, and I hope it never stops
S- As somebody with a medical background, how does the past misunderstanding of illness, combined with superstition strike you? What do you have to say about it? Have you ever seen similar attitudes in today’s world?
R- There have always been and probably always will be superstitions about illness. Back in the Middle Ages, when so little was known about the body in health or illness, it’s understandable that people would confuse association with causality. The scientific method hadn’t yet been designed to distinguish between the two. So, when a patient made a spontaneous recovery from illness after taking a remedy or submitting to bloodletting, charms, or prayers, the association of that treatment with recovery meant that it must have worked! Word went out, and the treatment became more widely used.
My feeling is that even today there are treatments that work but whose mechanism of action we don’t understand despite considerable scientific research. Additionally, there are many treatments and remedies that might be beneficial but that will never be adequately studied simply because no one has a sufficient stake in the results of controlled, double-blind studies. And if the research might show that the product doesn’t work, it’s a gamble. For this reason, some approaches that are considered “superstitious” or “magical” may never be scientifically proven safe and effective, even if they are.
But, while superstitions in healing can sometimes result in harm, I’m less concerned about that than I am about people harnessing the power of superstition to do ill to the most vulnerable in society. We saw this in Megge’s story just as many have seen throughout history: the most powerful in society using both superstition and strong beliefs against the most vulnerable.
In the worst cases, superstitions are thinly-veiled excuses for committing violent acts. In The Midwife and the Witch, author Thomas Forbes cites “the crowing hen.” From the time of Aristotle until as recently as the late 1800s, a female showing masculine characteristics or behaving “like a man” (i.e., talking) was said to foretell doom. Often, this resulted in the death of the offender.
Whistling maids and crowing hens
Should have their necks wrung early.
(Scheftelowitz, 1913; Jones 1880)
A German proverb prescribed punishment for both hens and women who would dare make their voices heard:
When the hen crows before the cock
and the woman speaks before the man,
then the hen should be roasted
and the woman beaten with a cudgel.
So, to my mind, the danger of superstition is not so much that the superstition itself will directly harm the believer, it is that others often use the power of belief to control and punish. In the case of Megge and the midwives in her life, someone uses both religious dogma and fanciful beliefs as an excuse to harm both women and children.
S- Attending University in Maine placed you in New England- not horribly far from Salem, Mass. where one of the most famous accounts of witch scare happened. Have you studied this much, or have any insight into it?
R- I’ve studied witch trials from all over the world and in different eras. When I first started looking into the history of this horror, I went to the Cornell University special manuscripts library and studied some original trial transcripts.
I came away with a picture of ordinary women being tried, often tortured, and put to death after having been accused of witchcraft, sometimes by her neighbors, and often out of fear or retribution. The accusations rarely made sense, and the atmosphere of misogyny and hatred was almost palpable in these documents. Those who controlled communities engaged in witch trials needed a scapegoat for their rage and to control those in their jurisdiction, and this was often either the most vulnerable member of the community or the outsider.
Midwives were often targets of accusations, especially in the Middle Ages, as they treated the most frequently maligned portion of the population–women–and they often did so through techniques and remedies outside the understanding of the medical and religious communities. This made them suspect, and suspicion made them victims.
S- Magic is all around us, and in many forms. Your ladies in your book understand this, and practice well. They understand the power of blood bonds, as well as adoptive family bonds. They understand the power of women working together in a man’s world. They understand the power of working in generations. Today’s neo-practitioners are 50/50 in love or hate with this idea. Some shun it, and recognize no elders, believing they are born very powerful and don’t want anybody telling them how to practice. Some like me value our elders, who are passing our craft on to us. This is more ancient, and what the women of Bury Down are doing. I see value in both, personally. In your historic readings, what have you read about passing traditions down? About mentors and students? About family traditions? What examples can you share from history?
R- Nearly every profession, skilled trade, and educational or spiritual community relies on one generation teaching the next through both formal, didactic education and mentorship or apprenticeship. The alternative to being thought by someone more skilled or educated is to be an autodidact. People will dispute this, but while I understand that many of us possess innate talents and gifts that we can develop to some extent on our own, I think raw talent needs shaping from the outside, otherwise one’s learning tends to center on readings and teachings that substantiate our own theories and biases rather than challenging or questioning them with an eye to dispelling misconceptions, arriving at a truth, and honing our skills.
Living by and passing down traditions is documented in religious, cultural, medical, artistic, and every other societal group or profession I can think of. While there are many short-lived splinter groups organized and led by one person, religion and spiritual traditions probably provide the most universal example of laws, rules, mores, and history transmitted to children through their parents, their schools, and their religious/spiritual leaders and teachers, with didactic learning supplemented by sometimes very intimate, inter-generational mentorship in the home. This is documented throughout history in religious texts and in literature ranging from The Iliad to the Mists of Avalon and The Red Tent.
Another example of passing down traditions is the oral, storytelling or bardic tradition strikingly manifest in The Mabinogion, a suite of eleven Welsh prose tales passed through generations by storytellers (another profession whose practitioners learned from masters from the preceding generation).
Finally, witchcraft and magic have a long tradition of being practiced by those who draw on ancient knowledge coupled with the skill and insight of a master practitioner. In preparing the manuscript of Megge of Bury Down, I studied numerous grimoires including Picatrix, a compilation of works from the ancient, the medieval and the Renaissance eras, which urges its readers and students to learn from sages: “The wise who are endowed by nature with intelligence never cease nor neglect to seek and inquire that they might learn and understand the secrets of the sages, who sealed them up in their books and wrote them in hidden words, that the aforesaid might search them out by careful investigation until they attain what they desire…” [The Picatrix, Trans. Greer, John Michael, and Warnock, Christopher. Adocentyn Press, 2010, 61.]
While I am neither witch nor magician, I see in the writings about spiritual practice the value of sages, of teachers, of mentorship. This is the basis of Megge’s story and path. She seeks and finds mentors throughout her life; and this, I believe, is what many people have always intuitively known they’ve needed, have sought throughout history, and continue to seek.
S- What that we have not discussed would you like included in my article, please?
R- Megge of Bury Down is the story of a young girl growing up in another time and place. It is historical in that it takes place in the past. But it is not really about the history. It is magical realism in that Megge’s family is charged with passing down two grimoires whose power preserves the spirits of their ancestors. But it is not about the genre of magical realism.
The historical research and the literary technique here serve story: the story of a girl growing up in a family of women. A girl who wants to be one with the mystical women she admires but whose fear and misconceptions keep her apart. A girl who must find the courage to look past her fears to a terrible truth and find a new path. It is about the love, the traditions, and the teaching that unite generations. It is about the women of Bury Down, but it is mainly about unbreakable bonds, crafted over lifetimes, that precede us into each life, sustain us as we find and do the work we came to do, and then guide us into the next.
Many thanks, Rebecca for this amazing interview! Blessed Be!
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This Month’s Working
Our next Sabbat after this is published is Beltaine. For the first time in years, I am not hosting!
I’m also not planning to attend Sabbat anybody else hosts!
“What will I do with myself for Beltaine this year?”, I wondered.
I thought on it, and was inspired by some things I saw, and decided to send out an appeal to other women to do a One Month Challenge with me instead of a one-time Sabbat rite.
In Wicca Beltaine, May traditions crown a May King and May Queen, and they represent the Goddess and God in ritual, blessing everybody, and bringing life, growth, and in some traditions, sexuality to the people in the ritual.
There are a lot of “Sabbat Pagans” who attend Sabbat, and seemingly forget they are Pagans until the next gathering.
What can I say? It saves time for some folks.
Not everybody has the time, or ability to do lengthy daily, or even weekly devotions. It is easy to assume that we do, but the truth is, for some people, it’s just not happening, and it’s not in any way a choice.
What I thought of was a way to, for 30 days, bless other women, and ourselves, thus blessing, venerating, and adorning the Goddess in each of us women. Collectively, then, we adorn the Mother Goddess through the bodies , hearts , and souls of her daughters, the Earthly representations of her.
The topics brought up in the interview, specifically of abuse of women, and children made me think of an ugly truth. We often focus on abuse men direct at women, and completely ignore the toxic competitiveness we have with one another.
“That bitch thinks she is something, doesn’t she? I’m prettier than her!” Instead of “You go girl! Shake that tailfeather!” We sometimes become jealous that another woman has pride, and we are afraid if she is proud, she will take away the good things about us. Instead, we need to ALL root for one another.
It is not a competition- we should ALL want to help each other succeed.
I see examples of women who are not fat at all get attacked online, and called fat by women who are obviously jealous. Why does this happen? Because we think we don’t look as attractive? Because we would rather she be physically ill and bulimic or anorexic than comfortable in her skin, and healthy?
And why do we make fun of the “scrawny” girls? Maybe they DO have an illness, but this does not mean they should shroud themselves away, unfit to be seen.
Why do we place unfair demands on mothers? If they work, they are accused of putting career before family. If they are stay at home moms, they are accused of being ambitionless freeloaders. If they are tired, and not all made up fancy from keeping up with kids, we accuse them of “letting themselves go”. If they do not want children, they are accused of refusing the “responsibility” of being moms. If they have a lot of kids, we ridicule them, calling them breeders, sluts, and baby factories.
These harsh words do not just come from men. They oftentimes come from other women.
We cannot do this.
We need each other.
We need to build one another up.
This is the inspiration for my working.
Without Further adieu, I would like to share my working with you.
If you would like to, do this working with me.
Saoirse’s Solitary 30 Day Adornment of the Goddess/Crowning of the May Queen
For thirty days, do these three things. If you forget a day, oh well, nobody will know!
You may journal every day what you do if you like, but you don’t have to.
- For 30 days, give an honest compliment to one woman per day. Build another woman up with your words. Words are mouth magic, and we create whatever we want to with them. Use your words every day to build one woman up to bless, and adorn the Goddess.
- Reach out to one woman in the next 30 days, and do something nice for her that will make a difference in her life. It can be small, or great. Maybe you know a lonely woman who loves coffee. Dedicate one day every other week from now on to sitting down to coffee with her. Say you know a woman who is trying to eat healthier. Encourage her, and share recipes with her if she would like that. Say your neighbor loves plants, but says she has no time to garden this year. Gift her with a hanging basket, and offer to help keep it watered if she needs it. What you do to make a difference in one woman’s life can be a great thing or a small thing, but it will make a huge impact.
- Finally, do not forget the Goddess in you. It might be easy to do something good for others, but not yourself. It’s time to do one of the kindest things for yourself.
Think of something you really find frustrating about yourself. This can be something as simple as age spots on your skin, or something big like, having panic attacks. This is to be a thing that always bothers you. Something you are upset with yourself about.
Now, you are to start forgiving yourself of whatever this is.
This is going to be the most difficult part of the challenge, and it will last beyond 30 days. It may entail deprogramming, tears, or the resurfacing of past aches, but it’s very important.
While we can easily see the Goddess in others, and nurture that, we also need to see the Goddess in ourselves, and nurture that as well.
Enjoy the Spring, Beltaine and being the Goddess you are.
About the Author:
Saoirse is a recovered Catholic. I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.