Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Gather the Witches and the Pendle Pardon Campaign


Hey everyone, I’m taking part in the @witch.with.me annual #gatherthewitches hashtag challenge over on Instagram. Today’s prompt is Pumpkin, and here’s my “The Cemetery Witch” pumpkin. 🎃 I didn’t have enough room for the “The”, but I managed to get in a gravestone and a bat at least! 👻🦇😆

I’d love to take this opportunity to remind you all that I am supporting Blackpool Tower Dungeon (@btowerdungeon) and Semra Haksever’s (@mamamooncandles) campaign to pardon the Pendle witches.

This Halloween they’re recounting the terrible tale, and launching a campaign to call on the UK government to grant an official pardon for the ten innocent people who were convicted and hanged for Witchcraft in 1612. Of course, the Pendle witches were not the only ones who suffered in this way. Many innocent people were victimised, and suffered the same fate.

Please add your signature to the petition (link in my Instagram bio and more information on all three of our pages).

Be sure also to check out Gather the Witches - the second, annual online witchy event happening this Samhain - head over to the @witch.with.me page for more information. Have a go at this challenge, you could win some free tickets!

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Turning the Wheel ~ Samhain is coming…


It’s a strange time. There is a palpable change to the energy of the world. Our thoughts are turning inward, becoming more reflective. We are ending the old year and getting ready to start anew.

The Full Moon in Aries brought with it vivid dreams and nightmares, as is always the way for me. My dreams have now shifted into dreams of my ancestors, the list of those walking before me growing ever longer. I am connecting with them in my dreams - my grandparents clear as day, the night before last. Their voices, their mannerisms, their smiles; so easy to recall. Easier than when I try now.

It’s not just spending time with loved ones passed over, it’s messages, insights, small moments of knowing.

The air feels heavy, expectant.

I feel compelled to tidy, to clean, to organise. To prepare for winter, so that I may rest. So that I can concentrate on nothing else but staying warm in this freezing house. I feel compelled to let go of the things that no longer serve me, and to spend some time thinking about the changes I need to make.

How are you doing in the run up to Samhain?

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Monday, 25 October 2021

The Witches of Warboys


This is the sign that hangs in the village of Warboys, Cambridgeshire. My parents live there, and around the village you will spot witches on bumper stickers, weathervanes, and in company logos. The local football team is known affectionately as The Witches, the local cricket club has a witch in their emblem, too.

Whilst I love seeing the witches everywhere, there is a devastating reason for their presence.

The Witches of Warboys were Alice Samuel and family. Alice was accused of being a witch by a 9-year old girl, and the family were executed for witchcraft between 1589 and 1593. This case attracted a great deal of attention, and it was this trial especially that influenced the passage of the Witchcraft Act 1604. The Act's full title was An Act against Conjuration, Witchcraft and dealing with evil and wicked spirits, and it was this statute that was enforced by Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General.

Poor Alice Samuel (76) was accused by Jane Throckmorton. Her four sisters - only slightly older than Jane- and twelve servants, would later echo these accusations. The sisters were daughters of Robert Throckmorton, a well connected commoner who was a close friend of Sir Henry Cromwell, grandfather to Oliver Cromwell. Lady Cromwell had a conversation with Alice about the trouble she found herself in. That night she had nightmares, fell ill and then died, which cemented the idea in the Throckmorton’s heads that Alice and her family were witches.

A parson convinced Alice to admit to witchcraft and despite retracting this statement, she admitted to it again when placed before the Bishop of Lincoln; later a keen supporter of the Witchcraft Act of 1604. The trial that resulted would find Alice, her husband, and her daughter guilty. They were hanged in Warboys.

Their corpses were examined and Alice had a “witches’ mark”, which was important legal proof at this time. If she had a mark at all I’m sure it was something common like a skin tag.

How awful it must have been to be defenceless, and at the mercy of the wealthy ruling classes. Whenever I see this sign I think of these poor people, and wish it could have been different for them.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Mother Ludlam’s Cave and the Cauldron


This is Mother Ludlam’s Cave, also known as Mother Ludlam’s Hole; the alleged home of the 17th Century Surrey Witch, and a stone’s throw from Waverley Abbey, which I showed you the other day.

It’s a small cave in the sandstone cliff above the River Wey in Farnham. People would visit Mother Ludlam here, and ask to borrow her pots and pans. She would kindly lend anything, provided it was returned within two days.

A man asked Mother Ludlam if he could borrow her cauldron. She wasn’t keen on this idea at all, but relented. But unlike the other villagers, who frequently borrowed and returned her things, the man failed to return the cauldron.

Word soon got out that the witch had left her cave and was extremely angry. The man, absolutely terrified at the thought of what might become of him, sought sanctuary in Frensham Church, where he remained, and where the cauldron belongs to this very day.

It is also said that the Devil came here once, disguised as a man, and he asked to borrow the cauldron, but Mother Ludlam spotted his hoof prints in the sand, thus refusing his request. The devil stole it anyway, and she chased him in pursuit. The Devil made three great leaps, which are locally known as the Devil’s Jumps, which are just down the road in Churt. 

There are other stories, too. The cauldron has been linked to Norse gods, fairies, Saxon chieftains, Celtic gods, burrowing monks, and many other things. I haven’t visited the cauldron yet, but I intend to, the next time I go home.

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Monday, 18 October 2021

The Story of Black Anna


Locally there used to be a cave, called Black Annis’ Bower, and it was believed to be inhabited by a savage, bedraggled, and scary woman, with blue skin, great pointy teeth and long, sharp nails.

When the local children went out to play they were warned that Black Anna, this horrible old hag with blue skin, would snatch and devour them. To be caught by Black Anna would mean being scratched to death, sucked dry of blood, and having your skin hung up to dry; later to be worn around her waist as a skirt.

You could hear her howling from five miles away, and some said you could hear her grinding her teeth as she approached; giving people time to lock their doors and move away from their windows, which were hung with protective herbs. It is said that the cottages of Leicestershire were built with one small window so that she could only get one arm inside.

“Tis said the soul of mortal man recoiled,
To view Black Annis' eye, so fierce and wild,
Vast talons, foul with human flesh, there grew,
In place of hands, and features livid blue,
Glared in her visage, whilst her obscene waist,
Warm skins of human victims close embraced.
Not without terror they the cave survey,
Where hung the monstrous trophies of her sway,
'Tis said that in the rock large rooms were found,
Scooped with her claws beneath the flinty ground.”

By the end of the 19th century the story had changed somewhat. She was instead known as Cat Anna, and was thought to be a witch living in the cellars under Leicester Castle. She was said to run along underground tunnels from the castle to the Dane Hills, the area where her cave was situated, on the lookout for lambs and small children to snatch.

There are lots of theories about Black Annis. Some say this story is based on an actual woman named Agnes Scott, a hermit of the forest, who died in 1455. It has also been suggested that she represents Anu the Celtic Goddess, or the Cailleach Bheur; the blue hag of the Highlands. For others she is a dark aspect of the Goddess, or the Crone. For others she is partner to the Leicester Bel; Annis being Samhain to Bel’s Beltane.

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Campaign to Pardon the Pendle Witches


I am supporting Blackpool Tower Dungeon (@btowerdungeon) and Semra Haksever’s (@mamamooncandles) campaign to pardon the Pendle witches. They have called upon the expertise of Robert Poole, Professor of History at the University of Central Lancashire (@uclanuni).

This Halloween they’re recounting the terrible tale of the Pendle Witches, and launching a campaign to call on the UK government to grant an official pardon for the ten innocent people who were convicted and hanged for Witchcraft in 1612.

“The Lancashire Witches were the victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. They were convicted of an impossible crime, by methods that amounted to persecution, on the basis of patently false evidence which they were not able to contest. It’s high time they were given a pardon.” ~ Robert Poole

The names of the Pendle witches were:

Anne Whittle 
Ann Redfearn
Elizabeth Device 
Alice Nutter
Alison Device 
James Device 
Katherine Hewitt 
Jane Bulcock 
John Bulcock 
Isobel Robey

Sadly, the Pendle witches were not the only ones who suffered in this way. Many innocent people were victimised, and suffered the same fate.

This campaign is a stance against prejudice. As well as adding your signature to the petition (below), we want to hear tales of solidarity and commitment to stamping out stereotypes. You can add your voice by tagging your posts #imawitch on social media.

Thank you.

🖌🖌🖌  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/598232 🖌🖌🖌

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RIP Smurf


Another great man gone. For the second time in as many months, I’ve had my heart broken, and been shown that life will never be the same again.

You were an absolute hulk of a man, and a joy to be around. A big smile, a big booming voice; you gave huge and heartfelt hugs.

Loved by so many, you did so much for our Pagan and LARP communities; and you made a brilliant Father Christmas for the kids each year.

I’ll always think of you dragging around that bloody mandolin (what I wouldn’t give to hear a few notes of that now…), and wearing your sandals, ready to greet everyone with your joyful enthusiasm.

Our wonderful moot brother, our friend, our family. ❤️

Our moot leader has dedicated this beautiful lament by Doreen Valiente to Smurf:

 Elegy for a Dead Witch
(Written by Doreen Valiente for Robert Cochrane)

To think that you are gone, over the crest of the hills,
As the Moon passed from her fullness, riding the sky,
And the White Mare took you with her.
To think that we will wait another life,
To drink the wine from the horns and leap the fire.
Farewell from this world, but not from the Circle.
That place that is between the worlds
Shall hold return in due time. Nothing is lost.
The half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon
Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves
This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep.
Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.

Rest in peace, dear Smurf ❤️

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Find YOUR Magick


A little public service announcement… 📢

I get many messages from you asking about your spellwork and devotions; looking for ideas, reassurance and approval. I just want to put it out there that your magick is your own - you don’t need approval from anyone, least of all me. ❤️

I can’t comment on the connections, correspondences, and relationships you have forged with your deities, spirits, magickal tools, plants, crystals and festivals. I can’t tell you that they’re “right” or “wrong”.

I can’t tell you if the offerings you’ll be making for a particular god or goddess are correct, or if they will help you manifest the things you have your heart set on, because it’s your relationship with them. ❤️

I can’t tell you if working a particular day or moon phase is “right” for your spell, or if it is going to be successful, because this is your magickal journey to grow, nurture and expand. There are many reasons why a spell might not work, and I have no control over the outcome of spells I’m not working myself.

I can’t give you a spell that worked for me, because you are not me. Yes, there are certain traditional associations with plants, tools, moon phases (and the like), but forging your own relationships with these things, and writing your own spells, is way more powerful. 💪🏼

You are as beautiful and individual as the lichen on this standing stone; and so is your magick. Don’t let a lack of confidence weather your abilities. ❤️

Craft magick YOUR way. Be guided by YOUR intuition, and the feelings and thoughts YOU develop towards magickal things. Try things - take what you like, record your experiences, and discard what doesn’t work. Believe in YOUR power. You are more capable then you know, and quite simply: YOU are the magick. ✨

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Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Craig Addison Photography


On Monday I had the pleasure of working with Craig Addison Photography. www.craigaddisonphotography.com 

Craig is a portrait and wedding photographer from Warwickshire, who simply loves taking pictures of people. 

Craig was very patient as I hobbled around with my stick, and between us we came up with several ideas, with full credit going to Craig for the amazing images he produced (more to come). 🖤

You can find both Craig and myself over on Instagram, further information below. 

The evening gave me inspiration to write this poem (below). 

O sweet Samhain, 
I welcome thee.
Wrap around me,
your tight embrace.
Hold me close, 
as I hold them.

They walk near.
Straying from their path,
to walk by mine.
My mother’s mother,
calling my name.
Tell me more…

Feast with us one last night. 
Sit in this place, 
and set aside for you.
A chance, once more, 
to share.

📷 Photograph by @craigaddisonphotography
🖌 Poem by Wren @the_cemetery_witch

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Waverley Abbey


At the weekend we travelled back home and visited one of my favourite places; Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey.

It is in a beautiful spot situated by the River Wey. It was the first monastery in Britain to be built by the reforming Cistercian religious order; a group of French monks settling here in 1128. The monks valued hard, physical work as part of their devotions, building a series of medieval bridges along the River Wey from the Abbey to nearby Guildford.

There is ample archaeological evidence to show that the river has attracted human settlement in this area for thousands of years, and it certainly holds a strong pull for me. It is only ruins now, but I’m amazed that what has survived has done so at all. It was my thinking place when I lived just down the road. Many a lazy afternoon, many a book read, and many a picnic has happened here.

It has been featured in several films: Elizabeth (1998), Into the Woods (2014), Hot Fuzz (2007), and my personal favourite, the post-apocalyptic zombie film 28 Days Later (2002).

Around the corner is an ancient spring (that supplied Waverley Abbey), and a cave that is the alleged home of the Surrey Witch, which I’ll share with you a bit later.

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Friday, 8 October 2021

Halloween Pumpkins


There’s a lot of blurring between Halloween and Samhain, and this is especially true on Instagram. In fact, Samhain is the only festival that Stewart and Janet Farrar suggested celebrating on a different date, mostly so that observances would not be interrupted by trick or treaters.

So how have pumpkins come to be associated with both festivals and this time of year? 🎃

It has been suggested that at around November 1st, the Celts carved faces into turnips and put candles inside to distract wandering spirits. It was believed that the souls of those who had died that year traveled to the otherworld, and some souls would return to their homes.

We also have the story of Stingy Jack, a mythical creature associated with All Hallows’ Eve. The story goes that Jack, a devious and manipulative drunkard living in Ireland several centuries ago, cleverly tricked Satan into turning himself into a coin to pay for Jack’s drinking, which ultimately spared Jack’s soul from Satan, but also stopped it from entering heaven. Jack was left to roam in limbo, with only an ember, which he placed in a hollowed out turnip to light the way. The ghostly figure was known as Jack of the Lantern, then later Jack O’Lantern.

Jack used the lantern to guide his soul, in the same way that the lit turnips of the Celts would guide spirits, and scare off evil spirits.

European traditions made their way across the Atlantic with Irish and Scottish immigrants in the mid-1800s, and pumpkins - native to North America and absolutely perfect for lanterns - were used, and I guess eventually found their way back to the UK. Turnip, potato and beet “pumpkins” were all carved in the UK long before regular pumpkins were used.

I’m a day late but I’m going to tag @pagan.parenting for their October challenge. Their theme for the first week was “Harvest”, and this gorgeous pumpkin patch will be harvested very soon. 🎃🎃🎃

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Is it a sign?


It’s important to remember that not everything you see is a sign.

Sure, it’s good to be open to receiving signs, and keeping an eye out for them; but it’s important to maintain a level of objectivity, too.

I have four crows that regularly frequent the cemetery, so I can’t depend on crows to be a sign in this location. Unless I choose to interpret their behaviour as divinatory; a method known as augury.

But on walking through the middle of a neat, cut grass field, with no trees nearby, I saw this. The only sticks around, they almost seemed deliberately placed. Do you think this is a sign?

It reminds me of the Nauthiz rune in the Elder Futhark, which represents Need (naudh).

“Need makes for a difficult plight; 
the naked freeze in the frost.

Need is the pain of the bondmaid,
and a hard plight,
and toilsome work.”

📚 Taken from Northern Magic: Rune Mysteries & Shamanism by Edred Thorsonn.

This stave represents the resistance or friction that can be found in all parts of the world; in nature, in society, and in ourselves. Whilst this resistance or friction may come from an outside source, it is up to us to utilise the energy of this resistance, on the understanding that we have the power and the control to do so.

Magickally, this stave can be used to overcome distress ~ or even stress ~ so perhaps that’s the message for me in this sign. I need to employ Nauthiz.

Do you look out for signs often? Do you get answers to your questions? What’s the biggest sign you have ever received? 

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