7 Nov 2014

Getting Ready for Winter


It's Samhain now - the winter quarter of the year which begins at Halloween. Not very cold as yet here in UK, but the birds are very busy on the feeders and my red squirrel is back, busily gathering hazel nuts. In the garage we found a welly half filled with sunflower seeds - it must have taken a little wood mouse days and days of hard labour and we felt very guilty clearing it out.

The trees are ready for winter too - their branches are suddenly quite bare after a few nights of stormy wind and rain. Another job for me, clearing the dead leaves out of the pond. But I don't mind - I love being out in the garden, just pottering about, noticing the chill in the air now, the way the clouds seem thinner and higher, listening to the kestrel calling up the back field. And the bare branches have such subtle, earthy colours, and you can see the intrictate shapes and forms of lichen and moss. I might try some artwork based on these.

All wild things are preparing for winter, the time of rest and long sleep and dreams. I've noticed myself growing sleepier, spending longer in bed and my dreams are back after quite a long absence. And I've got my knitting out again - time for those cosy activities by the fire.

27 Oct 2014

A Plea for Childhood


I was alarmed today when my daughter told me that my five year old granddaughter is now to have four homework sessions to do each week, as well as reading aloud every night. I assume this is some kind of government initiative or something - but I think they have got it wrong. Quite apart from wondering how the hell parents are supposed to have time to supervise all this on top of everything else, I feel it is deeply unhelpful for the children. Children need home time - not home work. They they need oodles of unstructured freedom to explore the world. And to do this they need time out alone and time to play with other children too, without grownups interfering all the time.

I didn't get homework until I was eight and even then it was traumatic. I was given endless spellings to learn and I still can't spell, even though I'm a writer! One night I was given forty sums to do and I was so overwhelmed by the scale of the assignment that my brain went into lock-down and I couldn't even do the first one. I just sat and cried - and for weeks after that I had sleepless nights, cowering under the bed-clothes while a kind of wraith of my teacher hovered outside my (upstairs) bedroom window peering in through a crack in the curtains.

Not only was I terrified - I was full of impotent rage and frustration, because homework was a complete bore and it meant I had less time get on with the important stuff. You know - building a tree house; lighting camp-fires; writing and directing a play; chemistry experiments; baking; painting; making coil pots; collecting stamps; reading enthralling stories; playing musical instruments; kite flying; stilt walking; watching a wren build a nest; planting sunflowers....not to mention simply lying under a tree gazing up at the clouds. Or finding Orion in the night sky. Or, or, or....I could go on and on. I should probably write a book.

In the process of doing all this I learned a lot about the world around me. My creativity was fired up, my body grew strong, and I learned how to take care of myself, and relate to other people.  Grownups hardly seemed to be involved at all - my parents simply provided interesting ideas, books and raw materials and then backed off, making constructive suggestions from time to time while largely keeping well out of the way and getting on with their own grownup world stuff. When my own children came along I brought them up in very much the same way because it seemed the natural thing to do.

Children need to develop creatively, emotionally, physically and spiritually, as well as intellectually. It's not all about learning how to spell, do sums and come top. So come on - let's give them back some freedom and that precious time to explore the exciting world they live in, rather than force-feeding them twenty-four seven. 


1 Aug 2014

Lughnasadh Bread

Today I had a visit from two small grandchildren and we decided to bake bread for Lughnasadh, which is today. I told them that it's the start of the season of harvest and autumn, and people will be busy cutting wheat for bread, barley and early fruit, such as plums. This is why we make bread to celebrate and give thanks for our food. 

This bread is based on Roman Marching Bread and is best made with spelt, but we used a mixture of flours as I didn't have much spelt left. I explained that the Romans came to our land long ago, so they are our ancestors. They used to march a long way on foot because they didn't have cars then - so this bread came in very handy for hungry soldiers!

I showed the children how to roll out three sausages and make their own small ball of dough into a plait. This is for the goddess as maiden, mother and crone. You can see some plaits we made in the photo, and a small cob loaf too. We baked them all on a big flat baking tray, greased with olive oil.


The children enjoyed the bread still warm from the oven with a thick dollop of butter, nothing else. They said it was very very nice. and they wolfed down a lot of it. They took the rest of their small plaits home to share, along with a posy of flowers for Mummy.

Here's the recipe:

400grams spelt or wholemeal flour, or a combination
100grams white flour (you can use all wholemeal if you prefer, but the white makes it lighter)
1 tsp dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon of honey, or malt extract, or black treacle
400 ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix it all up in a bowl, and then turn out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead well, adding a little more flour as necessary until it stops being sticky.

Leave to rise for 25 minutes to half and hour or so, in a warm place. (This recipe does not need `knocking back' - you only knead it once.)

Bake at 200C (180 fan oven) for about 20-25 minutes for buns, or 25-30 for the small cob loaf. Bread is done when it is nicely brown and sounds hollow when you tap it underneath.


26 Apr 2014

Bumble Bee Dance

I just had to share this picture that my daughter and 18 month old granddaughter made together. I love the wild energy of it!

25 Apr 2014

The Ancient Forest

Long ago Britain was covered with forest. It must have been amazing and so magical - I wish I could time travel there. This is part of that ancient forest that was uncovered on the beach by the winter storms near where I live. The wood is black with age - who knows how many thousand years ago that tree was alive and green?

Trees are so very special; I have known this since I was a child, when I would sit for hours up a tree, just watching the world go by.  I was not bored, I was in a special, meditative kind of place that needed no words, no structure, and, most importantly of all, no adult input. It is so vital to give our children space to do this kind of thing. Climb a tree, play with mud and pebbles, dig in the earth, plant seeds. This is how they learn their deep connection to the earth and all that is living. It is one of my greatest wishes that people will begin to remember this. That they will go and sit under trees and speak to them. That our cities will become green and growing, full of trees and gardens.

13 Apr 2014

Easter Fun 3 - Chalk Art


Children really enjoy the freedom of this way of making art. All you need is a tub of coloured chalks and a patio or paving stones. You can get special big fat chalks for children to use very cheaply. But if you get a large tub, as I did, don't give them all out at once - one or two of each colour is enough and they will last longer that way and not get wasted and lost. 

This is the picture that Emily and I made after our Wildflower Walk (see post for April 11th). We used the shapes of the leaves and flowers of daisies and dandelions. We decided it was fun to make up new colours for the flowers, and Emily drew exceedingly long stalks which make an interesting effect don't you think? It is surprising how art comes alive when you allow children to be inventive.

When my children were little they spent hours doing this, and also got into trouble with the neighbours for making works of art on the pavement outside our house. I didn't stop them though - after all it rains so often in Britain that the pictures are very fleeting. Luckily no more was said and they carried on doing it. But do make sure your kids don't scribble on other people's private property or walls!  

Copyright Ruth Snowden, 13/4/2014

12 Apr 2014

Easter Fun 2 - Pace Eggs



I made these yesterday with four year old Emily. First of all we hard-boiled the eggs with onion skins to make them a rich raw sienna colour. You can also use spinach (green), or beetroot(pink). You might also try using food colouring.

These are the eggs after we boiled them:

 
When the eggs were cool we took them out into the garden to paint them in the sunshine. (If you do this make sure the paint is non-toxic paint, for children.) Emily discovered that when you mix blue and yellow you get green, and when you mix red and blue you get purple, which was very exciting. When I was a child we often painted faces on our pace eggs and then stood them up in an egg cup.

Later on, when the paint was dry, Emily's little sister, Molly, arrived. I pretended to be the Easter Bunny and hid the eggs around the garden, along with two chocolate Easter eggs I had bought for them. They had great fun hunting for them and putting them into a little felt basket. Then they had more fun peeling and eating the pace eggs. I only made three because that was all the eggs I had left, but they scoffed the lot, so it was probably just as well.

In Cumbria where I live, people always used to take pace eggs on Easter picnics. A competition was held, rolling the eggs down the side of a fell (mountain), and seeing whose egg got the furthest with the least breaks. Children could easily do this in a local park if you can find a grassy bank to roll them down.

Pace eggs are a very old tradition, and in some parts of Britain there are still Pace Egg Plays, where St George battles with the forces of evil, such as dragons etc. Many of these have died out but there is nothing to stop you inventing your own with the kids and letting them put on a little play!

Copyright Ruth Snowden, 12/4/2014

11 Apr 2014

Easter Fun 1 - Wild Flower Walk

I have been asked to do a few posts about simple, low-cost activities you can do with the kids to celebrate Easter. Did you know that Easter is derived from the name of Eostre, who is an old Anglo-Saxon goddess? She is associated with hares, so maybe the Easter Bunny is a lot older than we may realise! Another pointer to the fact that Easter is really a pagan festival in origin, lies in the fact that it always falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox. But whatever - the joyful message of spring-time, resurrection and rebirth is similar for Christian and Pagan alike.


Take the kids for a walk somewhere in the countryside or park and see if they can identify a few wildflowers. (You can find them growing as `weeds' even in a city!) Take a wildflower book if you can, or for very small children maybe print off a simple little tick chart of your own using photos from the internet. Here are three common ones to get you started:

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)


The name derives from the French dent-de-lion, `lion's tooth', because of the shape of the leaves. . The Officinale part of the Latin name is a give away - it means it was used as a medicinal herb. Older children will probably be amused by its Old English name, piss-a-bed, so called because of the strong diuretic effect of the roots, used in folk medicine. It has many other names and country children used to use `dandelion clocks' - the fluffy seed heads - to tell the time (very inaccurately!). This was done by counting the number of puffs it took to blow all the seeds away. Children still love this game and it will help tiny ones to learn counting. Look for dandelions in lawns, flowerbeds and gardens. The roots are often ground up to make dandelion coffee and the leaves are used to make tea, or in salads. You can also make wine from this plant.

Daisy (Bellis Perennis)


Another very common little wildflower, much beloved of children. It grows irrepressibly in lawns and flower beds everywhere. Children will love to make daisy chains to wear as necklaces. Simply gather some daisies, keeping the stalks long. Pinch a slot in each stalk and thread the next flower through it. Carry on until you have a long chain. This is undoubtedly a very old game, and the daisy is supposed to bring love, so the chains were likely used in fertility rituals and May dances. The name derives from day's eye, because the little flowers endearingly open with the sun and close at night. It is used in salads and as a tea and herbal tincture. When I was a lass it was also used in simple love divination - you cruelly pulled all the petals off a flower one by one chanting he loves me, he loves me not until the last remaining petal revealed the answer!

Cowslip (Primula Veris)
Country folk still use cowslips to make wine. They grow in damp, grassy places, and may have got their name from `cow slop', the cow pats of dung found in the meadows where they flourish. Like most common wildflowers it has loads of other names - I rather like fairy cups. Magically it is useful if you are feeling anti-social, as a leaf placed under the door mat is said to discourage visitors. Cowslips got quite rare in Britain for a while because of agricultural changes, but thankfully they are now widespread once more, mainly thanks to seed spraying along grass verges by enlightened local councils :-)

When you get home the kids might like to make a wildflower ID chart,  or do some art work using the shapes and colours of the leaves and flowers. You can use leaves to print patterns with using non-toxic paint. If you have a garden they might also like to buy some wildflower seeds and grow a tiny bit of meadow, or a wildflower area in a flower bed. This will help to encourage butterflies, bees and other insects to your garden.

A note about picking flowers
Small children love to pick little posies of flowers and as Granny I often get given these special little offerings. But it's important to teach children that it's only OK to pick the very common, abundant ones and never to uproot the plant. Flowers make seeds and so if we pick too many there will be no new flowers next spring. You also need to make children aware that some plants are poisonous - for example they must not eat buttercups. Get to know your plants! As children get a little older it is good to teach them respect for the plants, asking their permission before picking flowers or leaves. if you get any feeling of hesitation or reluctance then the answer is a firm no and the plant should be left in peace.

Copright Ruth Snowden, 11/4/2014

5 Apr 2014

Graveclothes for the Stillborn


I walked away from being a professional poet some years ago when I found out that it seemed to me to be largely about competition, one-upmanship, being the most clever academic, being published in prestigious poetry magazines, and horror of horrors, performing on stage. None of these things felt important or real to me. But now and again a poem still flows out of me, expressing something that simply cannot be said in prose. 

My daughter asked me to embark on this poignant knitting project because she had been talking to a woman who had had a still-born babe. She told her that one of the awful things was that there were no clothes small enough to dress the child in. So here, with love in every stitch, is a tiny outfit that will go up to the hospital. Now I am going to knit a blue one, and meanwhile, here is my poem. (If anyone else wants the pattern, I will attempt to write it down for you. I crafted this whole outfit from a single 50g ball of random yarn and two small heart-shaped wooden buttons)



Stillborn

You never drew breath in this world;
you died before you were born.
Even your toenails were ready
and your perfect, shell-like ears.

Maybe you got one glimpse
of life's crazy dance and turned back.
But you brought us the gift of silence;
the golden path to the stars.


© Ruth Snowden, April 2014



4 Apr 2014

Full-time Formal School from Age Two? Hmmm...

video

So - the government wants all children to be in full-time school from the age of two? What does that mean? Does it mean bums on seats, learning to hold a pen, recognise numbers, be `taught' stuff in a formal way? Why do I have a great feeling of unease about this?

Yesterday my two year old granddaughter came to help me in the garden. For the first few minutes she simply stood, unmoving, about ten yards away from me. I let her be. I was in no hurry to involve her in any particular activity. I simply got on with digging out the compost. Then a smile spread over her face, she pointed up into the trees and said bird. She had been listening to the thrush singing - the bird that you can hear throughout this little video. I told her it was a thrush. Later in the afternoon she paused from her task of helping me load the compost into a pot. She listened, looked up again and said thrush.We both stopped and listened together.  It was small moment, but oh, so profound and precious.

Children need space. They need silence. They need to learn how to BE as well as how to read, write, count etc. I think one of the main ills in society now is that everyone is simply too busy. They haven't got time to pop round for a cuppa after school because they have to rush the kids to a swimming lesson/karate class/ extra maths ....fill in the space.

Many years ago I taught a class of infants. One little boy of six was rather slow academically. But one day he brought me an amazingly good picture he had drawn of a tractor. It's a David Brown, he said proudly. He couldn't read - but he sure knew more about tractors than I did. That little boy taught me a very important lesson that day. Let's let a little silence and birdsong into our children's lives. Let them play with water and mud, sticks and moss and pebbles. Leave them be. Let them learn to BE.

25 Mar 2014

Colt's-foot


These are the jolly yellow flowers of colt's-foot, much loved by children, probably because they are one of the earliest to spring up in wild places. In fact the flowers come before the hoof-shaped leaves which give the plant its name. This unusual habit gave rise to another name son-before-father. It has many many other names, suggesting that it was widely known and used by country folk. The leaves were gathered and smoked as tobacco, supposedly good for asthma - hence British Tobacco, Coughwort or Baccy Plant. The leaves are furry underneath and this fur was scraped off to use as tinder.

The plant is sometimes used on a spring altars to welcome in the bright sunny days of Imbolc and new growth - although, like most members of the daisy family it will tend to close its flowers sadly when picked, as I discovered as a small child, to my great disappointment. For that reason I think it is better appreciated in situ. It grows widely on waste ground, especially in damp places, especially on clay soil. You can still buy sticks of colt's-foot rock at my local heath-food shop. I haven't had any for ages, so I think I'll go and get some. Takes me right back!

21 Mar 2014

Frogspawn - hooray!


Very good news - my frog calling ritual was a success! (See my post for 15th Feb if you have not read it already.) My pond is now a mass of frogspawn and the tadpoles are starting to develop, as you can see. I am so chuffed about this.

When I was a child people always brought frogspawn into school in jam-jars and we watched it develop into tadpoles. (That sort of thing was allowed back then when it was not illegal or against health and safety.) The windowsills that bore the jam-jars were high up - it was a Victorian school room. I am not THAT old actually, but my school room was, and when it was built people thought it distracting for children to be able to see out of the windows. Instead we just got distracted by the exciting wriggling tadpoles and the opening sticky horse chestnut buds in other jam-jars that spoke to us of wild freedom and fields and spring.

It seems to me that people are still making mistakes about how children learn. It's not a competition! Children don't learn by ticking boxes, passing tests, and having teachers who are stressed and watching their backs all the time. They learn by having their interest aroused. They learn when they want to. My daughter taught me this when she was about two or three.

Like many keen young mums I started out in the competitive school of thinking - you know the sort of thing - who is on solids first, who sleeps through night, who crawls/stands/walks/ poos first on the potty etc etc. On this occasion a friend had come round for a play date and proudly announced that her daughter could now write her name - Janice. This was duly demonstrated, much to my alarm. The friend turned to my daughter and asked smugly `Can you write your name yet?' My heart sank. I knew fine well she couldn't. Any attempts to encourage her had met with a blank, obstinate refusal. But she grabbed the pencil and paper and said, in her business-like voice `No. But I can write Janice.'...and proceeded to do so, with ease!

My children and grandchildren have taught me many lessons since then. They never cease to amaze and interest me. Ever since that day I have known that children do not develop in a linear, orderly kind of way, according our adult rules and agenda. They have their own ideas and interests.

Things to Do
Get out there. Look for frogspawn. Get muddy and wet and find out what pond-weed feels like. Print off a chart of tadpole development and stick it up on the fridge. Make frog art, with froggy colours and patterns; put on green clothes - I am wearing my frog green dress today as a celebration of spring.

Do you know the difference between a frog and a toad? Frogs are smooth and greener while toads are bumpy and brown. Frogs hop, toads prefer to crawl. And toads are often bigger. If you are working with children, find some frog and toad stories - Jeremy Fisher and the Frog and Toad books are good, and the old story of the Frog Prince.  Maybe you know of others?

20 Mar 2014

Why Childcare is So Expensive


Why is childcare so expensive?
I am utterly amazed that this question even needs to be asked. It's enough to turn me into a frothing, raging tyrannosaurus rex. ARRRRGGGGHHHH
But it has been asked - so here is my take on it;

  • Looking after small children (properly) is a very important, responsible and demanding job. 
  • It goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are no holidays, no let up and - if you look after your own children yourself - no pay whatsoever. In fact it will cost you a whole living wage unless you can manage a part time job AS WELL
  • Anyone who has ever been responsible for the care of small children will tell you that this is exhausting and tough going. But - it is worth it in the long run, because....
  • .... our children are very, very precious. Tell me why should we be surprised that their care costs more than our mortgage, our cars, our new designer kitchen, our holiday in Crete, or whatever? I am baffled, frankly.
  • The first five years in a child's life are absolutely crucial. They develop more rapidly mentally, physically and emotionally then than at any other time. Get this part right and the rest will follow on, with hiccoughs, problems and heartbreak, yes - but your firm foundation will be there. A good friend of mine who was a social worker told me this when my own children were little. Stick it out, she told me - it will be worth it when they get to their teens. She was right.
  • Why on earth would anyone want to give this immense responsibility to a badly paid, untrained stranger? Which, logically, is what we will get if we pay LESS for childcare. If we need to pay someone else to do part of the child care then surely that person deserves a really good living wage for a difficult job, and should be someone with integrity whom we can trust and relate to. Ideally they should feel like part of the family. They are, after all, effectively just that from the child's point view.
  • Our children are our future. ALL of us - not just those who have children. They grow up into teachers, plumbers, nurses, entrepreneurs, entertainers, doctors, refuse collectors, rocket scientists....They ARE our future society. If we screw them up we screw up our whole society. We foul our own nest. It's a simple as that. 
  • Think about it. Families are where we live. Children matter. For goodness sake, let's wake up and get this right.



4 Mar 2014

A Pebble Oracle



In Britain our Norse ancestors used an alphabet of rune symbols for divination, and these are still used today. Usually each rune is marked on a small pebble and these are then put into a bag and drawn out at random in order to gain insight on a question.
If you are not familiar with the runes it can be fun to make your own pebble oracle. Collect a set of about twenty pebbles of a similar size. You can use those glass nuggets that they sell in florists shops if you don’t live near a beach or river. Now think what meanings you want to have for your pebbles.
Make a list – for example, you might have:
Man  Woman  Child  Travel  Money  Joy  Gain  Yes  No  Doorway  Star…and so on.
Some of your meanings may be more abstract –for example `star’ could mean a special event; `sun’ might mean happy things and `moon’ might mean using your intuition. It’s really up to you because this is going to be an oracle with special personal meaning just for you.
Think of a simple symbol for each meaning and then draw it onto one of your pebbles with a waterproof marker pen. Choose one special pebble to be the `significator’. This pebble represents the person who is asking a question and is left blank. When you have finished you may wish to fix them with spray varnish. Make or buy a small bag for your pebble oracle to live in.
The simplest way to consult your oracle is to ask a question and then draw one or more pebbles without looking. These will provide an answer to your question. If it is not clear just try again!
When you have practised a bit and got more familiar with the way the oracle works you can try `casting’ your pebbles. Think of a question and then tip all the pebbles out of the bag. Remove any which have fallen the wrong way up.
Now read your oracle, taking note of patterns, pairings and so on. Pebbles which fall nearest to the significator show events in the near future and those further away represent things which are more distant, or less likely to happen.
Another simple way to do a reading is to ask a question and then chose three stones. The first one - `for' - is for positive aspects of the situation. Then chose an `against' pebble, for negative aspects. Finally a third stone `outcome' that shows what is likely to happen if you continue along your present path.
Make a chart of your chosen oracle symbols drawing each symbol and recording its meaning. Don't forget to write down your readings too, and any comments that you wish to make. It's often very interesting and revealing to look back at readings later on. You can see how you are progressing, as well as spotting repeating patterns that you get stuck in, and beginning to think out ways of escaping from them. You may also find occasions when your oracle has weirdly predicted events that unfolded soon after the reading.

24 Feb 2014

Art in Nature

I often get inspiration from nature for my artwork. These are dead stems of winter hogweed, which I photographed in the field behind my house. I love the fractal patterns that hogweed makes - it's amazing how often you can spot them in nature when you take time to look.

Wild Art
Go for a walk in nature and look for interesting shapes and colours to photograph. Mosses and lichens are particularly rich in colour at this time of the year. Look at tree bark too and examine the many different patterns and textures. Slow down. The more you look, the more you see. Get in close. Get down to ground level. What can you see?

20 Feb 2014

Druid's Egg


I love wondering along the sea shore collecting pebbles. It's an endlessly fascinating occupation: you never find two quite alike and somehow the very activity of searching puts me into an altered sate of consciousness, a bit like light hypnosis. I can spend ages doing it and children love doing it too, so it's a really good granny/child activity, or something to do in the fresh air with your kids in the holidays.

This is the Druid's egg that my daughter found on the beach. Well - for us it's one anyway. There are lots of theories about what a Druid's egg actually was. Some say it was a fossil sea-urchin; others say it was a hag stone - a stone with a hole in it. The Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny maintains they were highly magical stones formed by a writing mass of adders who got all frothed up and made loads of spit, which formed the stone. This was then hurled into the air and had to be caught in a cloak by the Druid, who then had to rush off on horseback in order to escape the wrathful snakes. A likely story....Whatever it was it was clearly a powerful amulet, and this one will  do fine for me.

Once you have your pebbles you could make a tower and see who can knock it down first by chucking stones at it. This is really good for improving throwing skills and aim! Or you could choose some flat ones, take them home and paint them. Or you could throw them into the sea, which is always satisfying. Or you could make a pebble oracle - I'll tell you how to do that another day. You might even be very lucky and find a Druid's egg of your own - a Power Stone. See my ebook Spinning the Web - Soul Journal in Autumn.

18 Feb 2014

Moss


I have had this moss agate crystal for many years and it always makes me think of a magical pool deep in a mossy wood. I use it when I need healing, especially for my lungs, and also when I want to contact nature spirits and elementals.

Moss is such wonderful stuff - I can never understand why people are so keen to get rid of it. The colours are so intense, and the textures so rich and sensual. Look at this fantastic moss on the trunk of a tree. It's like a brilliant green velvet jacket. I'm sure the fairy folk must make clothes out of it! 



Soul Journal
Here's an extract from one of my Soul Journal books, Spinning the Web:
Moss World was above the sitting room window, along the bit where the rendering had cracked and water had seeped down whenever it rained. We sometimes lay on our backs on the sitting room floor and looked at Moss World upside down. There was a whole kingdom there of tiny green bushes and trees, undulating hillocks and grassy plains. Minute kings and queens went hunting there, riding fairy horses. Minuscule hunting horns sounded with notes as fine as spun glass. But now Moss World has gone. The builders have chipped it all away, not realising what they were doing. Stripped the wall down to bare brick, ready to be re-rendered. A whole kingdom swept away by huge, unheeding hands and chucked into a skip.
Take a walk and find some moss in a wood or garden. Really have a good look at it, noticing shapes, colours, textures, the way it sends up filaments for the seed pods, the way it spreads...Get down to child eye level. Feel it, smell it, take off your shoes and stand on it and wiggle your toes. Now, write about moss in your journal and see which fairy paths and memory lanes the moss leads you down.

15 Feb 2014

Frogs


Last year was dreadful for the frogs in my garden - winter held an iron grip right through until almost June; there was little spawn and what there was died in the cold, leaving no tadpoles.

At dusk, I light a candle in a green glass cup and call for my frogs to return. Beside the candle I place two small frog ornaments and a Druid's egg that my daughter brought me from the sea. Like Frog, this stone is a being of two elements: earth and sea; conscious and unconscious. Frog is a helpful spirit guide for moving between the worlds. She can help us to enter the mystery, dive into the unconscious, water element. Guardian of spring and sacred well, her magic is very very old, deeply rooted in the psyche of Northern Europe.

In early childhood we all belong to the water element. We are not limited by conditioning and imposed beliefs; anything is possible and we come and go between the worlds at will. My earliest memory of frogs is from that time. I am standing peering down the grating above the cellar window. At the bottom of the pit are piles of dead leaves, among which many frogs sit, ballooning out their throats and croaking richly and magically.

I take my grandmother down to the cellar to show her the frogs. She is filled with delight, loving their ancient, golden eyes, so full of wisdom. Unlike May, whose reaction of horror and revulsion is a mystery to me. How odd grownups can be. But then, it's obvious to me that my grandmother is part frog after all. She is short and fat, with soft, loose chins that melt into her neck and her hands are mottled.

When I read the story of the Frog Prince not long after, I was delighted - how wonderful to have a frog as a companion; to be allowed to take him to bed and have him on your pillow! I was bitterly disappointed when the frog turned into an everyday, boring old prince in silly leggings. I never did want to leave the world of the magical well, but fortunately I never needed to, because that is where poets and artists live.

Soul Journal
Make a list of words that you associate with frogs. How do feel about them?
What is your own earliest memory to do with frogs?

14 Feb 2014

A Spring Meditation Corner


Do you feel in need of new energy in your life? Weighed down by miserable weather and the long dark days of winter?
But something is beginning to stir...maybe it's time to start writing a soul journal and begin to discover more about who you really are. Wise Woman can help! Visit my author page on Amazon to find the Soul Journal ebook for spring Stirring the Cauldron.

Meanwhile, why not make a spring meditation corner? Gather some spring shoots and flowers, such as pussy willow, snowdrops and daffodils. Add water pictures, such as a fresh spring, a deep pool, a waterfall, or a picture of the sea. Crystals will add their own healing too - use clear quartz, or moss agate. Burn incense, or light a burner with an essential oil - maybe rose, or geranium. Light a candle too if you wish, in white or green. (Make sure you light your flames in a safe place.) Now sit quietly and let the subtle energy begin to clear away the stagnant energy in your psyche.

Soul Journal 
Think about these questions, and write in your journal: 
What do I want to change in my life?
What do I want to begin?

13 Feb 2014

Starting a Soul Journal




Journaling is a vital part of getting to know oneself; one of the chief tools of inner magic. It's like having an inner dialogue - getting all those thoughts down on the page helps us to look at them, think through new ideas, and keep a record of progress. If you have read my book Exploring Your Dreams you will already be familiar with a second important tool - working with your dreams. Recording your dreams is one of the best ways of getting in touch with your unconscious, so make sure that you begin to do this. You can keep your dream journal and your soul journal together in one book, writing down your dreams in a different colour so that they stand out. Number the pages of your journal and give each dream a title, so that you can index them at the back for easy reference later on.
If you are not writing a journal yet, then it's time to begin! Buy a blank, A4 size exercise book - the hard-backed ones with a spiral spine are the best because they behave and lie flat when you write in bed (essential for recording dreams.) If the cover is boring then you might want to personalise it by covering it with pictures that appeal to you.
As well as writing down your thoughts and dreams, you can add to your journal gradually with anything else that interests you. You might want to include artwork, cuttings, creative writing, quotes, poetry, oracle readings, coincidences, book reviews, recipes and more. All these are part of our inner work and in years to come you’ll find it fascinating to look back upon your past thoughts and ideas.
You will find many more ideas for your Soul Journal in the books in my Soul Journal series. Early spring is a really good time for new projects and the first book Stirring the Cauldron - Soul Journal in Spring,  is a great place to start.  You can get your copy on Kindle here. 

11 Jan 2014

Creative Fun


Having a lot of fun today painting a mural on my bath panel. Much more interesting than plain paint and it will match the seaside theme. Got carried away and spilled paint on the carpet - oh well, I guess it shows I'm an artist!

Wild Art
Use a palette of blues and greens, grey and white, the colours of the sea. Make your canvas large and watery and just go with the flow.