This morning I chose to pull a Dark Goddess oracle card and was graced with Aradia who brings us Defence.
Drawing this card I know that Aradia has come to warm against taking a defensive stance against things said today. Aradia reminds us that whilst we may have built up a natural defensive wall against unkindness and attack in response to our life experiences, it is only ourselves we make to suffer in the end by diminishing our own energy and spirit with negativity and doubt.
Aradia teaches us that we need to embrace who we are and live our lives true to our authentic selves, the self that lies hidden safe and cosy underneath the layers of acceptability we have established as the “us” twe present to the world. We need to shed those layers or risk being lost in their false shadows, hidden in the darkness of our own repression’s and restrictions.
We must defend the self that resides in our wild and primal senses, the natural, child of the Earth self that has been passed down through a long line of wise men and woman, the self that we feel in the very marrow of our bones.
We must howl our truths into the night becoming one with how they make us feel, bringing them into rhythm with the beat of the heart within our breast that can never be denied. With every breath we take through the day we must protect their validity and tune them into the ancient magic we draw from the Earth and the from the Ether.
Aradia tells us to stand tall, defend who we are, and to shine as brightly as the full moon as she smiles down upon us.
The origins of Aradia are difficult to pin down as there are many varying accounts of who she was. Some depict her as a Goddess of Ancient Rome, the daughter of Diana and Apollo. Others tell that she is the Daughter of Diana and Lucifer (a name pre-dating Christianity, meaning light bringer; this is not a reference to the Christian figure Satan). There are then those who believe she was a powerful mortal witch who’s magic and knowledge was gifted to her by Diana, and which brought her great renown and recognition.
The one common thread through most of the tales of Aradia is that she is the daughter of Diana, a Goddess widely worshipped in Ancient Rome. In these tales, Diana sent Aradia to Earth to spend time with the oppressed, the poor, and the disadvantaged. Her task, to teach them the ways of witchcraft and magic. The focus of Aradia’s magical teachings was helping witches to rise above their disadvantage, to seek retribution against their oppressors and to find the means to lift themselves out of poverty. Spells, hexes, enchantments and curses where at the forefront of Aradia’s lessons, along with imparting the knowledge, ways and recipes of earth based medicines and remedies.
Perhaps it was this deep and unquestionable source of knowledge, this most respected and omnipotent source that led to the title of witch; an old and weathered word meaning wise woman. Because those women were, and witches both male and female in modern times, are blessed with an innate knowledge and understanding of the earth and the wonders it has to offer us medicinally, nutritionally and spiritually.
Representation of Hail or Hailstones and pronounced haw-gaw-lawz.
This morning I pulled Hagalaz when asking for insight from the runes on the day ahead.
Hagalaz represents a sense of confinement and constriction that will melt away into freedom and fluidity. It speaks to us of wrath, destruction and forces within us that cannot be controlled, however their contemplation will bring us inner peace as they run their course. We must allow these force last to run their intended course as no matter how hard we try, we will not be able to bend them to our will or control the path they take.
When we draw Hagalaz we must be aware of being circled by sickness and crisis, suffering and hardship; our lesson here is that we must stand facing such trials and teach ourselves to become at one with them, to move with them so that they glide past us, still leaving their mark as they touch us, but not breaking us as they would if we stood rigid against their rage as they crashed upon us.
Hagalaz can also indicate that we are surrounded by chaos, or that we feel chaotic within our own minds or bodies. When I draw this rune I like to take a few moments to sit with my own thoughts and to really notice how my body feels; do I have any pain, unrest or aches to address that I’d not noticed or put off dealing with? Are there issues nagging at my mind that I am now being ushered towards dealing with? Maybe it’s time to put too many “to do” thoughts into a “to do” list to calm the storm swirling around in our minds – being able to look at things like that visually and then tick items off a list always helps to calm my mind if it’s in a storm.
In the runic alphabet Hagalaz is the letter H and many believe the colour blue entwines with Hagalaz.
From pagans of our ancient history through to the Neo-pagans who practice today, almost all work with the five elements; Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit in some way.
So, when on the way home from a camping trip to Kielder, my boyfriend asked if I fancied a bit of a walk up to a waterfall he’d read about online, I was very much up for the adventure. I mean, how many witches are going to pass up the chance to see and feel such a powerful force of nature and collect some of that energy as it carves it’s way through the Northumberland landscape?
The waterfall is Hareshaw Linn in Bellingham and is outrageously beautiful once you conquer the 1.5 mile uphill walk to get there.
Though if we’re honest, I exaggerate a little. Yes the walk is uphill, however on the whole it is a gentle incline. There are a few steep parts, a few sets of very cool stone steps, and the ground is uneven – a truly wild forest path unsuitable for anything but feet in good footwear (I wore luminous pink Crocs which were fine, the poor people trying to negotiate or carry buggies were less fine)) but I think most levels of fitness would manage it. There are plenty of spots to stop and take a breather if you need to.
As always, we packed drinks and snacks, rolled up our picnic rug, found a little towel in the boot of the car, parked in the little free car park, and set up off the woodland path. Initially the path is open and you pass an unlikely caravan park with only a few resident caravans before coming to a bit of a grass clearing with some picnic benches and a small path to the left leading down to a low waterfall. Climbing down this path into the water must be how Lucy Pevensie felt when she stepped out of the back of the wardrobe to find herself in a new and magical land. The water level is no more than ankle deep at the foot of the waterfall and there are many stepping stones across to the opposite riverbank. We stood in the middle of the river and took in the energy given off by this magnificent prelude for many minutes.
Trees grow tall around the banks of the river and create a hazy green canopy above the water; the atmosphere is entirely ethereal. If you close your eyes this green haze seeps into your mind, the sound of the the red tinged river trickles through your ears, the smell of the our Mother Goddess enchants your senses and the hairs on your arms will stand on end. This spot feels old and aware; purposefully emitting it’s consciousness of our trespass and our peaceful welcome into our awareness. This feeling brought a peace and tranquillity to me that was utterly opposite to the force of the water cascading over the edge of the red clay rock face above us. Past this you will wander gently uphill for a few minutes before entering the forest path.
Tall, proud and ancient trees surround you as you walk this path, their roots apologetically snaking across the path to entwine with each other and daring you to stumble or trip. Again, this is not a path for the unsure of foot, pushchairs or wheelchairs.
Immediately as I entered the woods I felt other presences and my mind brought to its forefront thoughts of Elementals and the Fae. I knew instantly that both reside in these woods and that our journey through it was watched by them. Not just our journey; the footsteps of all who step upon their winding pathways. These hidden eyes have been watching these trees since they were saplings, nourishing them and communing with the growing forest.
It took us around 60 – 70 minutes to get to the main waterfall from it’s smaller sister at a reasonably slow pace as we stopped often to take in many of the beautiful views, trees, the flowing water and plant life, and the rest of the time walked slowly in general awe of the obvious magic sparkling through the air, breathing it in deeply and letting it cleanse us from the inside out.
Slivers of sunshine came through the trees highlighting vivid greens, the river ran red, dyed from the clay in the surrounding rocks. We heard but didn’t see the red squirrels rummaging around in the branches high above us and the foliage below us on the banks of the path and we watched as listened to birds play in lower branches as they sang to each other in the glow of the suns warm rays.
When we reached the main waterfall, I will repeat what I said at the beginning of this rambling; it took our breath away.
We scrambled up a few rocks onto a little platform with a rock face covering, settled onto our picnic rug, ate marshmallows and drank (now warm) pop before the crashing cascade of water rushing over the cliff high above us. It was worth the walk. To be honest, the walk itself would be worth it without the waterfall at the end, but Mother Nature really gives us a treat at the end of this trail.
We sat for a good spell, watching the water, watching others come and go, watching a beautifully silly dog swim in the substantial and magnificent pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Then we clambered down to the pool ourselves (some of us less gracefully than others) and let the water run over our skin as it fell into the pool below it.
Naturally we took photographs. I collected a little water for use in spell casting. Only a little, I never like to take too much away from where nature naturally resides. Collecting the water I got wonderfully soaking wet and later that day my boyfriend commented on how extra soft my hair and skin felt; the magic of the water?
Looking out back towards the trail you’d never even realise it was there. If you’d sprung into life in this clearing your would know the waterfall, the ceiling of Ivy decorating the sides of the high cliff faces and the oddly still pool lying at the foot of the waterfall, beneath a rocky and tree lined micro valley of hidden loveliness.
After filling our eyes and souls with this magical space we packed up our empty bottles and packets, dried our feet, rolled up our rug and head back off for the mile and a half walk back to the car.
On that walk my mind was filled with the Elementals and Fae. Our passage through the woods seemed to be smiled upon as we met no difficulties. As we walked many Fairy Doors seemed to be appearing before us and showing us their presence. We felt welcomed. We gave thanks as we passed through the forest and let these nature beings know how much we appreciated their hospitality and how stunning their domain is. After all, this is their home not ours, we are simply visiting. These beings have resided in our woodlands long before us and will continue to long after us.
They allowed us to photograph their doors, and I feel confident in saying this as I have tried to photograph such portal between our world and theirs before without success or explanation of camera failure or other sudden and random obstacles. On this day, the Elementals and Fae were watching in friendship as we walked their paths.
The last thing about this journey that I wish to share with you is the wishing tree we found. It was obvious that for many years those with a wish to put out into the ether for who or whatever they believe in, have been offering a con to the bark of a fallen and wonderfully preserved trunk. As Goddesses from two very different cultures, Persephone and Inanna were in my wish as I added left a 10p coin given to me at that moment by Colin, my soulmate, who was and is always standing by my side.
When we got back to the car we were ready to sit down, a little tired and ready to find somewhere for a drink, but also utterly refreshed and revitalised. I have absolutely no doubt that we will return to this special place; however in the meantime I hope this recount of it will remind us all of the regenerating and peace inducing benefits of engaging with and spending time with our ever resilient Mother Earth and Goddess.
Today’s card is Ereshkigal with “coercion” from the beautiful Dark Goddess oracle deck by Flavia Kate Peters and Barbara Meikle John Free.
They also have a Familiars deck that is most definitely on my wish list but for now I will be sharing my daily cards from this beautiful deck or a rune drawn from the set very kindly made for me by a friend I made last year.
The Card This card tells me that today is a day to make sure boundaries are in place that I make sure people don’t cross those boundaries. It also tells me to make sure I know my priorities and that I put them first, not letting others hold those priorities against me. I need to be mindful today that others don’t coerce me into putting my own needs on the back burner. A warning against neglecting self care and allowing others to walk all over me.
The Goddess Ereshkigal is the ancient Mesopotamian Goddess of the underworld and the sister of Inanna who was one of the most popular Sumerian Goddesses of ancient Mesopotamia, and the Goddess who murdered Inanna before her rise from the Underworld.
I do a lot of work with Ereshkigal and Inanna and will most definitely be doing a feature blog on these Goddesses in due course.
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Also known as Duddo Five Stones, The Women, and previously Duddo Four Stones.
This magical place will forever occupy one of the most special places in my heart as I first visited with my boyfriend and soulmate as part of a wonderful trip he took me on near the beginning of our relationship.
Duddo Five Stones is an ancient stone circle lying remote and hidden on the outskirts of the small, quiet town of Duddo in the very Northern regions of Northumberland; only four miles from the Scottish Border.
When the Duddo Stones were erected cannot be known for sure, however archaeologists have told us that the likelihood, as with many other British stone circles, is that the circle was erected around the late Neolithic / early Bronze Age period. The site is extremely beautiful, situated atop a small hill with a clear view of the Northern Cheviot’s to the South, and the hills of Eildon in Scotland to the North on a clear day. As far as the eye can see there are crops, fields, grasses and forests with no man made / artificial structures or eyesores to spoil the view.
Originally, as is common place with Stone Circles, there were seven stones, however until 1903 only four stones remained standing. As with the age of the stones, nobody can tell for certain why three of the stones were missing from the circle, however in 1903 the fifth stone was found and erected again to stand with it’s fellows on this magical site.
We all know that stone circles played an important role in the lives of pagan communities and those who followed nature based religions as far back as the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3000 BC to 1209 BC. It was during this period in history, as prehistoric man moved out of the Stone Age and into the Bronze Age, that the first communities and settlements were formed; the most well known being Ancient Egypt and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
However, pre-dating Christianity significantly, pagan practice and nature based worship was the most prevalent of religions, and more than a religion, but rather a way of life, in the UK and European regions also, until the dawn of Christianity drove these practices and those who practised then underground and into the shadows (I will talk more about this on another post).
Moving back to stone circles, my boyfriend and I ended up at Duddo Stone Circle as he had looked for some pagan sites in the area for us to visit whilst we were staying at an enchanting cottage on the Scottish Border. When we got there we parked on the grass verge at the side of the road beside a gate and a small sign for the Stone Circle. There is nowhere else to park, and all of the sources we found online also recommended parking on the grass verge. There is plenty of space and we felt like leaving my car (Ivy) there was perfectly safe, so we set off on our adventure.
The walk from the gate to the stones was a reasonably flat and easy one and only took around fifteen minutes across grass and a few muddy areas. We visited in Mid March however I’ve read that if you visit in the summer months the walk up to the stones is through long grasses and corns. We knew we wanted to sit and take in the magic and the atmosphere and to feel the energies of the stones and the location, so we took some snacks and a drink so we could spend as long as we wanted to there.
When we got there the wind was howling and wild and the bite in the air was bitter. And as much as I’m generally not a fan of the wind as it messes with my gazebos, on this day and at this moment the wind reflected how my soul felt exactly; wild and howling with delight at the raw and ancient energies flowing across and though these stones that have stood on this hill top since the Pharaoh Menes united the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of ancient Egypt marking the start of the first dynasty.
We walked around the stones, through the stones and around the circular Henge that is an obvious ring in the grass around the stones. We visited the visitor plaque which us tastefully and discreetly places slightly away from the stones down a short grass path. We laid our hands on the stones and felt the vibrations course through us as if the stones wanted to tell us the many stories of their long and enduring history.
Whilst we sat and had our snack (I am Type 1 diabetic – there is always a snack at hand) and drink, sheltered behind one of the bigger stones from the rage of the ravenous wind, we just let ourselves feel. To me, the air felt electric and as I closed my eyes my spirit danced to the drum beat rhythm of the pagan rituals I feel sure this Stone Circle has hosted over it’s centuries of dominion over this cold hill.
As I laid my hands on the stones my hands and arms felt cold, a connection with the ancient was made, energies of past wisdom shared were absorbed and a sense of peace settled deep in my wild woman core where the Goddess resides and cries out for this connection to the ways of the wise woman of old.
I also feel sure that Duddo Stone Circle is home to many of the Fae; how could they not live in such a energetically alive, wild and baron place. I want to talk about the Fae much more over coming posts as they will take more than one post to cover.
A Spooky Tale
When we reached Duddo Stone Circle, we set down our bag in the centre whilst we walked around and absorbed everything around us. In the centre of the stones is a small circle of rocks; this is where we placed our bag. When we left I picked up a stone from outside of the circle; it was not a part of the formation in any way. Beside it was a length of Ivy. You may have noticed above that my car is called Ivy. I also have an Ivy tattoo and feel a strong affinity with this evergreen. At the location of the Duddo Stone Circle there is no Ivy and nowhere obvious that this one single length of Ivy would have come from. I collected the Ivy and the stone, thanked the Mother Earth for these gifts, and took them with me when we left.
For the next two days many strange things happened. Plates flew off the draining board, items went missing, candles refused to light. After this continued into the second day I set up a ritual space and gave an offering and further thanks for the Ivy and stone and included my boyfriend in this ritual also. Immediately the strange happenings stopped. The moral of this story; whether it be the Goddess, the Fae, spirits of ancestral pagan or something else, a proper and appropriate thanks and offering is not only necessary but the right ting to do, if you are gifted anything at all by an other worldly being.
I think I’ve spoken about these fabulous stones enough, and cannot re comment you visiting them enough. But for now, or me it is time for bed.
… is celebrated on 1st August every year. Lammas is an ancient Gaelic festival, with festivities on this day stretching as far back as the first Anglo Saxon settlements in the 6th Century AD, and is known as Lunghnasadh in the Gaelic tongue. Literally translated it means Lugh’s Gathering and Loaf Mass and is the time of year when we see the first harvests of fruits and grains and give thanks to our life gifting May Queen, now our Mother Earth Goddess, for blessing us with the crops to make enough food to last us around the next spin of the wheel of the year.
Whilst many consider this to be a Christian festival, the honouring and celebrating of the earth and the fruits of nature in all it’s colourful and cyclical glory is very much reminiscent of the practices of pagan earth based religions rather than the omnipotent patriarchy of Christianity. The Lammas festival is incorporated into the pagan wheel of the year for this very reason; the honouring of the earth and the bountiful sustenance’s she provides to us year in and year out.
This day is also called High Summer by many; granted the days have started to noticeably shorten by 1st August, the sky is darker on a night showing us more of his stars for us to wish upon, but the days and nights remain warm and we are only at the half way point between the beginning of summer on 21st June and the beginning of autumn on 21st September.
So, as Pagans, how do we celebrate this day and give thanks an honour to our mother earth, our goddess? It is customary to bake (or buy if you don’t have the time or inclination) beautiful breads from grains and fruits. Communal celebrations see pagans from all paths forming friendships in magical circles, sharing breads and other earthy foods with each other. Songs are sung, drums beat in time with the heartbeat of the goddess and folks dance and tell stories amidst their own. There is laughter, merriment and happiness, this is a time to spend outdoors with a heart filled with joy, gratitude and community.
I celebrated exactly like this last year in the most wonderful surroundings of the Spirit of Awen Camp in Gloucestershire. This week long pagan camp is one of the most wonderful places I have ever had the privilege to spend time. The community welcomed me with open arms, I made deep and profound lifelong friends and everything in my life changed for the better from the moment I set foot on the camp site. The Lammas picnic was a wonderful day filled with everything I hold dear about being a pagan; honouring the earth, forming friendships based with genuinely good people, spending time in and with nature, singing with the Goddess, dancing to the beating of drums and drinking good cider and mead round a roaring camp fire.
This years celebrations were very different but equally as wonderful. COVID-19 meant it was not safe for the Spirit of Awen Camp to go ahead but that didn’t mean we couldn’t come together as a family at home to give our offerings of thanks to the Mother Earth Goddess.
In another of the most widely practised customs of Litha, we, as a family, made corn dolls to throw into our ritual fire along with our wishes or intentions for the future. We made a fun game of this for the children and hid them around the garden for them to find, before putting magic fire packets on fire to make beautifully colourful flames and throwing our corn dolls into the fire to ask who or whatever we personally believe in or work with to guide us down the right path to see our wishes, hopes and dreams come to pass.
Of course, we can’t tell what our wishes are, as to speak a wish made is to ensure it will evade us. But keep reading the unravelling ramblings, rituals, practices and adventured of Ginger Witch to see more of this pagan path and more of the unrivalled stunning diversity of Northumberland.