Whenever there are stresses and conflicts in my life, my spiritual practice is the first casualty. Over the past year I have had so much happen that at times I could have easily thrown the towel in and sunk to the depths of despair. At my lowest ebb I questioned my belief in witchcraft – you see, when my Dad was sick in hospital I was working hard ritual wise to get him home and it never happened. On the day he died I stared in disbelief at my witchy stuff, wondering how I had not being able to prevent his death and was ready to turn my back on the all that is witchcraft.
I felt a similar thing when my brother died last December and I had felt like this previously after my Aunty died. I guess my own mortality really hit me hard, this year I have struggled to get myself out of the dark hole I am in right now. I feel hopeless at times, I feel like I should be able to do more when it comes to helping my family and there are times I feel as if I am being punished for something.
I know this is all normal when going through the grieving process, and let’s not forget, my brother died just before Christmas last year and then my Dad died 4 months later. Pretty hard to cope with one death, let alone two, I guess it is normal to question any faith because that faith was unable to save their lives, even though I know that is ridiculous now, at the time I felt cheated.
But the darkness has started to recede and I am beginning to find a place for myself within the craft again. Earlier in the autumn I seemed to find my way again but I know I am going to have days where I question everything and feel the dark thoughts take over.
I wanted to do something for myself that would help me reconnect with my witchy self. In the past when I have felt like this I have re-read certain books, performed a ritual to recommit myself and so on, but I have still, when faced with enormous challenges, found myself questioning all that is witchy.
So, I came up with the idea of doing something craft related everyday for a year and a day. This may seem like a Wiccan concept – you know, the whole year and a day thing – but it feels like the right thing for me at this time. Even if I can’t blog for whatever reason I am going to do this and will catch up blog wise at a later date.
The first thing I am going to look at is belief.
Belief is a major part of witchcraft – sounds quite obvious, I know. It is though, an area where I am lacking from time to time and is probably half of the reason why I all but give up on the craft when I am under extreme stress. So, for my first task of my 366 day challenge I am going to work on my belief, the belief I have in myself and my talents.
Practical Magic is one of my very favourite films. I have watched it so many times and never tire of the beauty of it, the sheer magic of it. Last Christmas I got the book and thought that I would love it just as much, if not more. With one thing and another going on I have only got round to reading it now…….and I have to say I was very disappointed with the book. The film is so much better in my opinion. The book is long and tedious and some points feel pretty pointless.
My daughter suggested I feel this way because I watched the film first, but I’m not so sure. I wonder if I would have felt the disappointment if I had read the book first. In the book Sally goes away to live, far away from the Aunts. The Aunts are barely in the book and Sally’s children are different too. Antonia is the eldest child and she is mean to Kylie, and they are teenagers in the book. Jillian has the same sassiness in the book as she does in the film, but Sally is made out to be even less of a witch. At the very end the cop comes along, rather than him being there sooner, this part feels rushed like Gary Hallet is an afterthought. Much is made of a relationship that Jillian has, which doesn’t make it to the film.
I much prefer the film to the book as the magick is centred around the Aunts and the house and the fact that Sally needs to accept her witchiness. Maria Owens is less of a wicked witch in the book, but both versions (book and film) of her are disappointing.
I am pleased I read the book, if only to quell my curiosity. I doubt I would recommend the book though. If you love Practical Magic I can’t see how you can prefer the book as you get lost in some of the more trivial parts and lose sight of where the story is heading.
A choice between book and film?
I’m making plans for Samhain. I don’t do an awful lot of ritual. This is for many different reasons, mainly because ritual can become very monotonous when flying solo. That isn’t to say I have never partaken in ritual, I have – both in a group setting and as a solitary – sometimes I really enjoyed it, other times I wished I was doing my own thing. I have a plan to start something at Samhain for this blog, but it needs a bit more work before it’s ready. What I always do though is divination for the coming year, so that is one definite.
Last year I did a specific meditation – it was aimed at honouring the ancestors and during that meditation my brother and my Dad both appeared beside me. I thought it strange at the time but dismissed it and forgot all about it until my brother got sick and then died. I thought about it again after my Dad died and it made me realise that I was getting forewarning of their deaths. I had intended this meditation to be part of my Samhain traditions, but now I’m not sure that I want to go ahead with that again. It spooked the hell out of me when I realised what it had foretold.
Having said that, I had dreamt about both of their deaths a couple of years ago. Again I had dismissed these dreams because they were nothing like the dreams I had when my Grandmother died. That was a recurring dream and I had it again just before my Aunty died, so I had expected to get it each time someone was going to die.
Honouring the ancestors has always been something I have done at Samhain and this year it is going to be alot more personal, given that my brother and my Dad will be included. It won’t be about long dead relatives and people I wasn’t that close to – though I do include my Grandmother and my Aunty in my rememberance, they died in 2002 and 2005.
I’m still making lists and looking into what else I can do though because I want it to be very much relevant to me and my life and not a replica of someone else’s plans.
In the Northern Traditions today is known as Winter’s Day, Vinternatsblot. Also, next weekend I have something similar marked in my diary – Winter Saturday and Winter Sunday. I cannot remember where I picked these days up from, but I know that I have been observing them, quietly and without fuss for a few years now.
Winter’s Day mark’s the beginning of the winter season in the old northern European calendar. It would be a time when the activities of the Summer were stopped and preparations for the coming winter began. Those who follow the northern traditions will know that the festival we call Mabon is called Winter Finding in this particular tradition.
I often feel that the names Winter Finding and Summer finding – celebrated at Eostre/Ostara are quite appropriate for these festivals. They give a sense of it being the right time for the summer/winter to be coming in. When we celebrate our equinoxes we are celebrating a time of balance – equality in day and night. I often think that the coming season gets forgotten in these celebrations and I like to take a little time to see where I am at with my preparations for the summer or winter.
This is why I felt drawn to the Winter’s Day celebration. We have had Mabon, the second harvest and the time of balance. We are acutely aware that the light is dying and we will soon be in the depths of winter. But in recent years our seasons have become very confusing, we can no longer rely on them to be as defined as they once were, whether that is down to global warming or something a bit more naturally occurring. Up here in Cumbria the spring and autumn seasons have always been very defined; they are often colder than what people in the south experience and generally wetter. Usually autumn is creeping across the land by late August, more noticeable than in the south and it is fair to say that by mid October we have usually had at least one lot of frost and it is a lot cooler than it is right now.
I understand that the whole country is experiencing a milder autumn and that Cumbria is included this time – notice the sarcasm here, it is a well know fact that Cumbria is wet, wet and more wet and generally doesn’t experience the out of season warm snaps.
So with this kind of climate confusion in mind, we can get more of a sense of where we are supposed to be at seasonally when we mark days such as Winter’s Day. For it can only be a matter of time before the milder weather gives way to the colder weather of late autumn/early winter. We can get so caught up in not having to wear winter clothing and enjoying the extended warmth that when winter does finally descend on us we can feel shocked by it.
It’s easy to say that we are aware of the fact that it is mid October, but it is only natural that we get carried away with the warmer weather and don that carefree attitude we all seem to have during the summer months. Personally, I would much rather the weather played nice and acted like a typical October, even I am finding it hard to prepare myself for the coming winter and all that it brings. Autumn feels as if it has been paused. The leaves aren’t as golden and orange as they should be and certain plants in my garden haven’t died back yet, which they really should of by now.
This feels alien to me, like I am no longer living in Northern England. It feels as though I have gone to another country and it is rather odd to say the least. Fellow witches are blogging about Halloween, yet to me that festival feels like it should be a good few weeks away yet, rather than in just over two weeks.
With all of this in mind, I wish you a Happy Winter’s Day – even if you can’t quite grasp that Winter really is just around the corner.