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.
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.