Halfway Point

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After taking a break from social media and blogging for November (that sort of ran into December a bit too), I thought I’d check in.

The Winter Solstice is, in the words of Kazran Sardick in Doctor Who, the point where “we’re halfway out of the dark”. Since the Autumnal Equinox, the days have been getting shorter and the nights longer here in the Northern Hemisphere. At the Solstice, we reach the shortest day and from that point on, the days will lengthen and the nights retreat.

This halfway point naturally makes the Winter Solstice a good time for reflection, for checking in on yourself and your plans. I’m not where I wanted to be just yet, but I’ve come a long way from this time last year, which in a time of pandemics and bad governments is no small achievement.

Six months ago, at the Summer Solstice, I decided to set myself the task of a “Year and a Day” of Witchcraft, to immerse myself in a new approach to Pagan practice that shares kinship with the Druidry I knew but was distinctly different enough to shake me up from the spiritual rut I was finding myself in.

So at this halfway point, how are things going?

My Year and a Day goals were:

  • Honour the eightfold Wheel of the Year festivals (Sabbats) and the Full Moons (Esbats)
  • Read and review at least 6 books on witchcraft and/or Paganism
  • Learn and practice at least 3 basic forms of spellwork
  • Learn and practice one divination tool
  • Spend time in nature, observing the “20/5/3” rule

This was intended to be realistically achievable, so things like “meditate for an hour a day” or “find a coven and get initiated” were not on the list. I haven’t done all the things, but I have managed most of them.

The Wheel of the Year was part of my regular practice and structure anyway, and I have continued to observe the festivals – sometimes with formal ritual, sometimes just by going for a walk in nature and seeing what’s growing, ripening, or dying back. The full moons on the other hand have barely got a look-in beyond me noticing them on the calendar, thinking “oh, it’s a full moon tomorrow, I should do a thing” and then forgetting, so I need to get better at that and have a standard easy full moon rite I can just run without too much prep work.

After finding my concentration levels dipped significantly during the pandemic, I have enjoyed getting back into reading and so far have worked through a good number of witchy books (some of which I will write more about on here at some point) including:

  • A Spell In The Wild: A Year (And Six Centuries) Of Magic, Alice Tarbuck (Two Roads, 2020)
  • Of Chalk and Flint: a way of Norfolk Magic, Val Thomas (Troy Books 2019)
  • The Devil’s Plantation: East Anglian lore, witchcraft and folk magic, Nigel Pearson (Troy Books, 2016)
  • Weave the Liminal: living modern traditional witchcraft, Laura Tempest Zakroff (Llewellyn, 2019)
  • The Witch’s Path: advancing your craft at every level, Thorn Mooney (Llewellyn, 2021)
  • Druidcraft: the magic of Wicca and Druidry, Phillip Carr-Gomm (Thorsons, 2002)

So that’s fulfilled the “six books” requirement I set myself, and I have many more lined up on the bookshelf, ranging from contemporary practitioners to queer perspectives to historical works about the East Anglian witch-trial panic. Although, I think I may take a break from witchy reading for a bit and go pick up something totally different.

This year, I began courses with the Raven Academy of Mystical Arts, an online school based in the USA, who teach classes on spellwork, herbalism, divination and other such topics. This term, I took “Witchcraft Theory” which was a coursework essay-based class, and “Spellwork 201” which involved crafting your own spells for various assignments. As a result of this class, I have learned spells for wealth, healing, binding, weather magic and more – and actually cast a few of them too. Spellwork is something that was lacking in my Druidic practice, and I’ve found it to be something I really enjoy. The act of writing a spell, then actually gathering ingredients and doing it, feels practical and “witchy” – even though I haven’t quite figured out what I believe about spells and magic (or magick if you prefer) just yet, but even from a purely psychological perspective as a tool to focus the mind on a particular intention, I’ve found them useful, and I want to keep working with different spell forms and get good enough to do regular spellwork without scripts.

Divination is something I do sporadically, and something I want to focus on in the new year. I’ve tried a few different tools so far and am still looking for the one that really “speaks” to me. It isn’t Tarot. Sorry, but I’ve tried, and I love the artwork on so many beautiful decks, but it’s so complex and has so much room for interpretation and ultimately it just isn’t me. So…runes maybe?

Finally, spending time in nature is, and always will be, my refuge and my joy. It’s as necessary to me as breathing, and I find myself really struggling on those winter days when it’s dark when you get up, dark when you finish work, and rainy during the day. I do try to make an effort to get out at the weekends for a good few hours, but there have been times when anxiety and depression have made that challenging. Still, getting out more is always there as a goal, and I find myself more connected to the sacred stomping through the fens than I ever do in a more formally ritualised setting.

So, yeah, that was a super self-indulgent post, but hey, this is my blog, right? It’s helpful sometimes to stop, reflect, and check in with yourself because in the midst of the day to day, especially during a stressful and ever changing time like now, you don’t always notice how far you’ve come or what you’ve managed to achieve. The dark and cold Winter days seem naturally to lend themselves to this reflection as well.

What I have learned so far is that there are definitely aspects of Witchcraft that I love, and that I want to incorporate into my personal Pagan path, but equally there are aspects that don’t do it for me as much. I think I’m probably still a Druid at heart – but who’s to say a person can’t be both?

And so, on to the next half of my initial Year and a Day exploration, in which I plan on continuing my studies with the Raven Academy and branching out to include some herbalism (medical and magical), runelore, and apotropaic magic. I also want to do more with the folklore of my local area, which is steeped in witchy history and story, and thanks to Of Chalk and Flint, I now have a whole list of sacred places within an hour or two’s drive to go and visit!

I’ll keep blogging along as I go, so I’ll share the journey with you all.

Blessings for the Winter Solstice, and Blessings of the Summer Solstice to anyone reading this in the Southern Hemisphere!

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