I thoroughly enjoyed reading this timely book and was thrilled to be able to interview Ms. Murphy-Hiscock….
Robin Fennelly (RF): What brought you to the Craft? and Can you tell us a little about the Black Forest Clan and your work as High Priestess.
Arin Murphy-Hiscock (AMH): I discovered the Craft in my twenties when I did research for a collaborative storytelling project. I was invited to join BFC in 2000, and have been working with them ever since. We have a small coven here in Montreal that takes self-care very seriously. I don’t teach workshops as much as I used to; writing books has taken the place of in-person teaching. I reach a lot more people this way!
RF: You’ve crafted a very comprehensive book, chock-full of information and ideas. Were there any specific events that inspired you to write this book?
AMH: Not specific so much as a general theme that kept surfacing in my life. I have a tendency to work very hard and I am bad at taking time for myself or seeing that I’m headed for a collapse. That has a lot of repercussions. My publisher suggested I write something along the spiritual self-care line, and I was struck by how timely it was in my own life. I got to examine my coping mechanisms and isolate the ways in which I handled stress, and explain them in a way that helped me as well as could help others. It also had the associated consequence of a divine two-by-four, the effects of which I’m still handling.
RF: …..” The practice of magic seeks to establish or balance connection between an individual and the environment. If a spiritual aspect is added, then magic also seeks to balance or maintain the connection between the individual and the Divine.”.. You speak of magical practice and spiritual practice. Do you see these as two separate streams? How do you see these as part of healing the disconnect we have to self-care?
AMH: I do see them as separate streams. You can practice magic without involving deity at any point, and of course you can have a spiritual practice without magic. We bundle them together a lot, but they can absolutely be practiced independently of each other. As witches, we can and should address both aspects in our self-care. Nourishing only one part of your connection—to the world around you or to the Divine—limits you. And being able to access both aspects enhances the effects of each.
RF: You introduced us to the Danish concept of Hygge and its benefits for self-care. Could you tell us a little more about this?
AMH: Hygge has been a buzzword for a couple of years now. When I started reading about it in media back then, a lot of it was kind of a “well, duh” moment for me. The concept of hygge resonated with me and reflected so much of my existing outlook. I’m very home and hearth-based; my personal practice is rooted in comfort, simplicity, security, and caring for others. In self-care, those concepts are underlined, but with the primary subject being yourself. In North American culture we tend to perpetuate a martyr-like ideal, sacrificing the self for the good of others. That’s very noble on paper, but it’s terrible from the point of view of self-care. And it’s absolutely not sustainable. Hygge self-care suggests that caring for yourself has benefits beyond just making yourself feel better; it suggests that if you are feeling better, stronger, rested, more content, that spills over into the rest of your life, too, affecting those around you and your spaces in a positive way.
RF: Being a mother, HPs, wife and author and the stresses that come with all of those roles can you speak more about how to find the balance between self-care and maintaining the pressing responsibilities that require more of you?
AMH: It’s a constant juggling act. It’s important to step back and take stock regularly, probably more often than you already do, to catch problems before they become severe issues. And when you take stock, you have to be as objective as possible. I’m… not very good at that part, to be honest. I’m a work in progress. It’s one of the reasons why I try to fill my cup when I can, and look for the serenity and small pleasures of self-care in daily life. Ongoing maintenance is easier than a full-scale repair.
It’s wonderful to have a support network that keeps an eye on you, too. You can think, “No, I’ve got this, I can totally do this,” but good friends will haul you into their kitchens and say, “Look, you’re working yourself into a dangerous place, and we are going to intervene so you have a bit of time in which you can disengage and clear your head.” Sometimes that intervention is coffee, sometimes it’s supper at their place so you don’t have to think about what to make, sometimes it’s an impromptu playdate at their house so you don’t have to think about the kids for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be as sane as I am without my in-person network, or my online network. Or my family, come to that. My husband will up and take the kids to a friends’ house and leave me alone for the morning, or my kids will randomly bring me cups of tea or chocolate because they know I enjoy them.
My coveners are amazing. They are all about the low-impact practice, bless them, and a lot of our spiritual work happens through food or arts and crafts. Weather or illness or overtime means we don’t get together as often as we all wish we could, but the bond is there regardless. I’m so grateful for them being the people they are.
RF: I loved the idea that we often fear having “more agency and control over (your) life than you may be comfortable accepting.” What have you done to break through and push back when confronted with this?
AMH: It’s really scary to accept responsibility for what happens in your life. It’s so much easier to believe that you’re a victim. But there is strength that comes from recognizing that you made a mistake somewhere, and acknowledging that hey, that wasn’t the right choice to make at the time. The moment you take responsibility, you open up the possibility that you can change, and you can effect change. That’s a powerful move. People can be uncomfortable with power. It’s easier to let someone else make the decisions.
RF: What is your favorite part of the book and/or exercises?
AMH: The arts and crafts, I think! I love uniting creativity and spirituality, and I’m a big supporter of using art to express or explore your relationship with the Divine. It encompasses keeping your hands busy and disengaging the overactive mind, has the benefit of producing something tangible, and works to stimulate different areas of your brain.
RF: Having completed your book, what other piece of wisdom would you offer about self-care that wasn’t included?
AMH: I really want to hammer home the idea that you are worth taking care of. I know how hard it can be when you’re in a crappy situation and you feel like there’s no way out. Even if you can’t throw it all out and start again, you can make small changes to remind yourself that you are worth it, and work on it incrementally; it can be a long road, and it’s an ongoing pursuit. Mistreatment by others (casual or otherwise) doesn’t mean that’s the kind of life you merit. Everyone deserves respect, health, and happiness!
This is a book I will return to frequently to savor the experiences and remind myself that self-care begins with the self. Thank you, Arin, for so seamlessly integrating practical advice and magic that is healing and restorative.
About the Author:
Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.
She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):
It’s Written in the Stars
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three
The Eternal Cord
A Collection of Esoteric Writings
Aligning the Parts of SELF
Musings on the Magick of the Natural World
Nights of Devotion
Musings for the Year
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