Pwyll’s Descent – Welsh Mythology and some Faeosophy

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My work has risen from my experiences with spirits and magic, my theories have come from exploring the stories and putting the tales and my experiences together… So something I’m working on is weaving the theory back into context of the stories for the talks and workshops I have coming up this summer and I thought my lovely readers here would enjoy a taster!

On 5th June I’ll be co-teaching a workshop on working with the spirits of the land and this little video introduces the first part of the story and some of the ideas behind this work.

Pwyll is the “Prince of Dyfed” and, whilst out hunting, he finds himself on a strange adventure to the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn. Later he will meet Rhiannon, but first he had to prove himself worthy of honour from Annwn and its denizens… 

 

This story is from the first branch of The Mabinogian, a cycle of stories written down in 12th-13th Centuries and compiled together (and translated into English) by Lady Charlotte Guest. Because of the time they were written they are couched in terms of medieval society and social structures, but the magic shines through, carrying with it evidence of the oral culture and understanding of the world in which these tales were born. Tracing the patterns of the myths and stories can teach us a lot about the relationship we humans have had with the land and its spirits, and what we had learnt (and have recently mostly forgotten) about how to navigate those relationships for the benefit of both worlds.

I believe this is so important I wrote a book on how to get in touch with your own connection to the otherworlds, and you can see more about that here, and I’m constantly exploring new ways to share that understanding and the skills that worked for me with others. Bringing it back to where I began, rooted in the stories, where we learn best, feels like and important thing to do now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Faeosophy; Are Faeries Real?

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Faeosophy – the philosophising of and about faeries and fae-ness.

Back in this post I shared some questions I’ve been pondering in my development of a Faerie philosophy. Of the questions listed I though these were a good place to start:

“Who and what are the Fae? How metaphorical are they? How metaphorical is our relationship to them?”

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On the path of working with faeries, it’s useful to know what they are…

When working with faeries this is a kinda fundamental question on the one hand, and completely irrelevant on the other. My bottom line is that this work works for me, and it works best when I act as-if they are real. From a pragmatic perspective, then, I will continue to act as-if, and to believe that, faeries are literal, non-metaphorical beings.

One other thing – your mileage may well vary. Just because I encounter Faeries in this way does not mean that this is the only way of doing it, or that I’m right! Faeries are notoriously tricky to pin down. They are known for living in liminal spaces, for being betwixt and between, for leading us astray. They are perfectly capable of being kind and cruel, tangible and otherworldly, here and not both at once.

In which case – one answer to the question “what are the Fae?” is “paradoxical, illogical and variable.”

That’s not quite the kind of answer I was looking for though, so I’ll try again.

Little Lilith

They are the magical consciousness of nature.

In the stories they are a people with a different ethic and attitude to us. Or they are creatures intent on leading us away from human civilisation. They live in wilder places than we are used to. They can offer us help and unexpected wealth. They are uncompromising when their rules are broken. They are powerful, but subject to certain rules. They are beings of the natural world, but beings with magical powers.

 

In which case, they are the magical consciousness of nature.

But is this just a metaphor? Are they actual beings or are they stories we tell ourselves about the natural world but actually we don’t mean it?

When we encounter anything we have an experience, which we then understand in a certain way. We hear laughter – soundwaves are generated by someone, they enter our ears and are interpreted by our brain as laughter – just as we feel that something otherworldly is at play in the depths of the wildwood. When the laughter does not come from another human but we still hear it, echoing like bells over the waves, or when we are unsettled and certain something fae is watching us, whatever the tangible facts, we are experiencing faeries. The experience is not a metaphor, it is very real.

And, as I’ve said before, when I act as-if, when I believe that something more than what I would expect is possible, magic happens. I see or hear things that don’t make sense until I tell myself the story of faeries. They are a real something, there is a reality to them, and they make the most sense to me when I approach these experiences as faeries.

If they were just metaphors, however, they’d still be useful. If I told you a tale of dryads as a metaphor for the ways in which trees communicate through fungi and care for seedlings and stumps, and if you listened to that tale and treated trees better for it, then the metaphor would have given you a healthier way of relating to the world.

This is different to saying they have a reality independent of our stories – I and others have definitely encountered something when we’ve gone looking for faeries. When I say “I’ve seen a faery.” I don’t mean I’ve seen a flower do something I can’t explain, or that I’ve run across a natural process which I’ve needed to respect according to it’s rules. I mean I’ve had an experience, a real experience, which I understand as seeing a faerie.

Waiting for the Sun

The have a reality which is based in our personal and direct experience and so they walk alongside us, as family.

When I say “Faery”, I’m not talking metaphorically, I really mean “Faery”, because that is how I experience them. Ultimately, there is a reality here, it is my reality, and it works for me.

And perhaps that’s part of the magic of faeries; our relationship with them, our connection to them, is inherently and essentially personal and direct. We meet them, for the most part, one-to-one. They are not distant beings directing things from afar, they are walking beside us through the woods. Those that work with us are holding our hands, tripping us up, pointing out shiny things… like cousins ready for a giggle at our expense, but also, often, ready to be our family.

 

Workshop in Wales! Spirits of the Land!

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Spirits of The Land Workshop! Sunday 5th June, 10am -7pm

Spirits of Place Workshop by HaloquinJoin us in the wild hills of West Wales for a day of magic!

Working with the spirits of the land and the stories of Pwyll, Arawn and Rhiannon we will delve deeply into working with the Spirits of the Land and developing our own practices for building and deepening our relationship with those spirits and powers.

This one-day event is in the tradition of Reclaiming Witchcraft in which we often honour the “Spirits of Place” or the “Spirits of the Land”, so in this workshop we will explore what this means and ways in which we can recognise and honour those spirits who graciously allow us to work our magic in their homes, and who support us as we do.

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Little Foal

Rhiannon, who once ruled over Dyfed, returns to help us learn to honour the spirits of the land…

In the first branch of The Mabinogian, Pwyll meets the Lord of the Otherworld, travels there, learns its ways and returns with a deep connection and friendship which benefits both worlds. Then, one of their ladies, the Goddess and Faery Queen Rhiannon, comes to live in our world and offer her wisdom and compassion to the people of her land. Through engaging with these stories and working directly with the spirits of the land in which those tales were born we will develop our skills for recognising and honouring the spirits in (almost) any place we find ourselves, building a foundation for future work with the spirits of the land and the faeries.

Who is this for?

This will be a practical, intensive day of magic. Some experience is helpful, but an open mind and willingness to participate is essential. If you would love to honour the spirits of the land and the Fae, deepen your relationship with them, and gain skills for continuing your own journey with them, this is for you. If you love the Welsh tales and gods, this is for you. If you enjoy hands-on, magical experiences, this is for you.

This is not a lecture. This is not therapy. This is not spellwork. This IS experiential work focussed on supporting you in developing your relationship with the spirits who have been here long before we have, in the way they present themselves to us now.

Visit my website for more details!

Questions? Want an online version of this? Fancy inviting us to put this on in your home town? Comment below or email Halo!

Some Faery Philosophy

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Pandora's Box by JW Waterhouse

In my heart of hearts, I’m a philosopher, which means that I like to have thought through logically the reasons behind my beliefs. (This is sometimes like opening Pandora’s box… so here’s a disclaimer; these are my beliefs and thoughts, so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me by any means, I’m not out to convince anyone! I do find it interesting to hear why people think and say what they do though, so let’s have a discussion!)

In my last post I talk about pondering Faery Theology (there has to be a better word for this… any ideas?) so, by way of preliminary thoughts, here is an extract from chapter 3 of my book “Pagan Portals; Your Faery Magic” wherein I ponder the nature of faeries (as I see them) and the value of working with them.

 

If we look at the stories of Faeries, all the myths and legends, we see a common theme; they are all very strongly connected to, or embodying, nature. They are not, however, merely the plants or trees or forces they embody, they are beings that are inherently magical, beyond limits. Faeries are natural magic and, as part of nature ourselves, the magic within us is fey.

Humans are lured into Faeryland by beauty. Beautiful music, beautiful visions, beautiful food. And this beauty, once we return to earth, we pine for. So Faeryland is that place within the world, and ourselves as part of nature, in which the sense of magic, wonder and beauty lies, the natural core of our being. The heart of the world we reach through connecting to our Faery Heart.

If our hearts, at their untamed core, are places of beauty and magic, then following the call to Faeryland will open our hearts again to the beauty of the world. If we learn to touch the fey parts of ourselves then we can move through our lives open to the beauty that surrounds us and so we can reconnect to the natural world, with the other beings on the Earth as our brothers and sisters and kin.

And, of course, we recall the other parts of the stories of the fae…the wilder parts…the dangerous parts… They are untamed and not human and so their ethics are a little less strict than ours tend to be. In our heart we are natural beings, just like them; we have learnt really wonderful human skills, such as compassion and language, but in our search for order we have tried to tame our essential Selves and instead we have locked them away. These parts of ourselves hurt, so each day we die a little inside.

Here we choose to walk down a path that will lead us back to the parts within us that hold who we truly are. We seek all our parts, those that are good at communication, at compassion, and those that are good at standing up for us and being free. We do not have to give up the gifts of humanity in order to find our Faery Hearts and heal our lives, we can free ourselves of those things that do not serve us, release those things that hold us back and fly, carrying both gifts of humanity and gifts of Faery. We can choose to be both human and wild. That is what it means to be fey.

Fey means free. Free of the locks we’ve used to keep ourselves acceptable and free to choose to move in compassion and beauty. Fey means to be free to be our real Selves, to live our lives without unhealthy compromises, to dance to Faery music so we are filled with love and joy and deep feelings of connection even in a business meeting or on a busy, grimy underground train.

Fey means so full of shiny, happy, beauty, that you cannot help but share it.

Faeries are the conscious manifestation of the wild magic of the natural world. At our untamed core we are also part of the world, so part of our heart belongs to the realm of Faery… in which case, those of us that find our hearts singing with that wild magic? We are Fey. And when we allow ourselves to express that magic in ourselves we feel happy and we can share that happiness with the world.

It is always important in the stories to be respectful and to cultivate a good relationship with our “Good Neighbours” with whom we share a kinship, and the stories are where we first learn how to approach this people. In the same way we must learn to respect the wild world around us, to take only what we need and not deplete the land and her resources.

Growing up I was taught that the trees are conscious and aware. I was taught that the plants have feelings which deserve to be respected. I was taught that non-human animals are people just as we are. I learnt that the world around me was alive and the spirits dwell within everything. I have to eat to survive, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to say thank you.

We are given masks to wear in our lives, but I have seen that we are much happier when we learn who we are under the masks and choose which masks to use and which to discard… and when to cast them off entirely and dance under the starlight with our friendly cousins.*

Book Cover YFM

 

*And it’s good to know which cousins bite, or don’t want to dance with you! You might swim in a river you know well, or cuddle your childhood canine-friend but you wouldn’t swim in a storm-tossed sea, or pick up a wild-wolf-cub with mamma wolf about to pounce, now would you? The Fae are the spirits of the wild, with all that entails.

 

Brewing Magic

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This last year I’ve been dancing and storytelling and studying more than I have been writing.

I’ve been brewing thoughts, and allowing them to percolate. There have been many challenges, and a whirlwind of changes: Two house moves, marriage, turning 30, publishing my book, learning to dance.

Pen and Ink - Dances with Trees

My love and I now live in our own caravan! It is a static caravan rather than a mobile home like I dreamed of, but I think it’s better for us. Wales is our home and it is good to have a foundation here. Roots. I’ve been putting down roots, I suppose, choosing where I stand. Reflecting on who I am and where I am.

In my book (Pagan Portals; Your Faery Magic) I talk about some of the thinking behind my beliefs, I philosophise on Faeries and the Feyhearted Path. This is only scratching the surface though! And for a while I’ve been pondering questions, like;

Who and what is The Faery Queen – how does She relate to deities, archetypes, spirits? How does she tie in with the many goddesses that hold the title Faery Queen? She isn’t an archetype, though “Faery Queen” is also an archetype… so what is She? How does she manifest throughout the year? Does she change or it is constant… and what does that mean for her nature?

Who and what is the Faery King? Am I just falling back on my early neo-Wiccan reading when I want to bring Him in too? (Most of the books I got hold of when young and just finding my way were neo-Wiccan, and many of the books I see now are heavily influenced by that, whilst it can be a very useful structure, I don’t want to force energies and beings into a pattern that doesn’t serve them, or me, so what patterns belong to them?) Or is there a good reason for bringing Him in explicitly? (Aside from the fact that he turns up! But just because they come, does that mean we should work together?)

How do these powers/beings/deities(?) relate to deities that share the titles which seems to be their names?

How does this Enchantressing path relate to the Craft? To Priestessing? What are the differences? How do they overlap? Are they all words for the same thing or distinct practices?

What is the purpose of what I do?

How does this honour the land? How does this help my community?

How does my work fit within historical practices and traditions? What is my “lineage”? I’m clearly deeply rooted in neo-pagan structures, practices and attitudes, but that isn’t the only influence. And what does it all mean?

Who and what are the Fae? How metaphorical are they? How metaphorical is our relationship to them? How do they relate to other spirits? Is Faery-work just a form of spirit-work?

And so on… Alongside continuing practice I’ve been mulling theory, and I’m feeling the urge to start sharing again. I make no promises on how much or how often I’ll post, but I hope that some of these questions are interesting to you, and perhaps you can take them and apply them to your own practices and beliefs for an interesting think! (If you enjoy that kind of thing… not everyone does!)

It being Imbolc over the next few days it feels good to be seeing the seedlings sprout and these questions begin to find the light of day. My Queen wears white now, as do many goddesses at this time of year, and she beckons for us to awaken to ourselves and dance among the snowdrops and hailstones as the light grows and the land begins to stir.

Back to working on my Thesis now…

 

Dance and the cane…

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At the beginning of the summer I did a duet, using moves that are designed for 4/4 time to a waltz no less. It was wonderful. It felt amazing. It looked gorgeous. I’d been dancing ATS for only just over a year. (Just goes to show what a good teacher I have!)

I am, rightly so, proud.

The work I’ve put in shows. The dedication. The love. And it has given me as much back in return. A tribe. Health and strength and joy. An understanding that I can.

I’m a dancer.

That video was taken at the start of the summer. Two weeks ago I bought a walking stick. A wooden cane. For, you know, walking with. Because my ankle began to strain and my knees became stupid, inflamed, burny joints of ouch.

Not impressed.

And frustrated… why is it that I’ve finally begun to reach a level where I can be properly proud of dancing and suddenly I have mobility issues again? I spent years (literally years) working to heal a back that stopped me being able to function properly and the dance took the pain away.

Now? Dancing aggravates it. But while I dance I feel so much better. I can dance across the dance floor (for a while at least) more easily than I can walk. I almost cried in frustration today. And yet I know I’ll keep going, I know this will pass… I just have to lace up my boots and strap up my knees and keep dancing until I’m strong again. And be grateful that I can.

Book Release Date! Your Faery Magic

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It’s official! Your Faery Magic is on its way!!!*

Release date: 11th December 2015

Ready for pre-order with Amazon now!

This is a book for beginners on the Faery path, it is for those of us who loved the tales of flower fairies but felt more at home with the goblins and dryads, carving our own wands and brewing up our own potions. This is a book for finding your way towards a faery path of your very own. It is the book I wish I had found when I began in paganism, and I hope it will help guide many feet towards uncovering their own relationship to the spirits of nature.

It has been described as gentle and mature, non-prescriptive and fascinating.

This is the official blurb:

“Have you ever felt that you were ‘different’? That the Otherworld was closer for you than it is for other folk? Have you ever wondered how you can tap into the wild, untamed magic of your own faery heart? Then this book is for you. Once upon a time ‘Fey’ meant both the spirits of the natural world and the nature of those humans that were in touch with that magic in themselves; the seers, the spirit workers, the ones who walked between. This is your guide to finding that Fey magic which sings in your heart. Through this book you will meet your guide, visit faeryland, learn about the beings of the faery worlds and develop your own faery craft to work in harmony with the power and cycles of the earth by unlocking the nature of your Fey spirit. Time for you to become the Fey you truly are.”

I’m SOOOOO excited!!!

*happydance*

*I’ve been offline since moving house… and the release date, book cover and advance copies all arrived whilst we were offline! So technically this news is a little late, sorry!

Dancing Tribe!

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Tribal Unity Wales having fun!

Tribal Unity Wales having fun!

I’ve written before about how much the Tribal Belly dancing means to me… and it continues to be a source of strength and joy.

At the Winter Solstice we danced for the Cellan Beer Festival, and then last weekend was a Hafla (a belly dance party) in Cardigan run by local dancers. It was so nice to see the other groups dancing and experience the atmosphere of a supportive dance party. One lady did her very first solo, to very summery music, with the happiest expression!

One of the things that has come home to me about dancing ATS(r) with Tribal Unity is how much of a group activity it is. We are all working together, all supporting each other. It is not a solo performance, we thrive when we dance in tune with each other. I’ve never really felt at home in all female groups, but there is something about this dance (and the people in our little family) that breaks down the competitiveness that I’ve seen elsewhere and encourages mutual support. We all look out for each other and are thinking of each other when we dance.

The Hafla was a couple of firsts for me, as well as for the group. It was the first time we’d performed to live drums and the first time I’d led in public. It was the first fast duet I’d done (and it was VERY fast) and our first hafla. Watching over the videos I can see how much we’ve improved since last summer, how much more in tune with each other we are, and how much we all enjoy it! You can also very definitely see how happy I am dancing.

So… our first dance:

Our second dance:

When we were invited up to dance to live drums:

The duet Wendy and I decided to have fun with:

In a Thought Bubble

I’m in Leeds, at a comic convention and I’m loving it! Surrounded by smart, creative people I bimble from table to table, asking about art techniques, subject matter, medium preferences, processes, dreams… I spent an hour chatting to Dr. Geof, the curator of a fictional tea museum about passion, branding, science and getting art done! I spoke to a guy writing historical comics about bards (bards!) And found a Time Lady, who looks for time between the panels. Not to mention the comics in medicine I’ve just learnt of…

And I’m wondering about attempting to write a comic again. Art and words together, storytelling on the page…

I ponder, is this where the Goblin Circus comes to play? Where dreams are made? .
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Creative Wayfaring – Pondering on a Dream

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I have always dreamed of doing something almost exactly like this, a quiet, persistent wish that I return to again and again but never quite believe it to be possible. One day… a sustainable way of living. A home with wheels. Travelling light (which may be the hardest task of all as I’m such a hoarder!). Blessed by the stars. Taking creativity and performance and magic to people round the country. As a child I was fascinated by the idea of ‘gypsy’ caravans. As a teen I brushed against the idea of being a new age traveller. Both seemed impossible; one a dream of cultural misappropriation, the other drug-addled and full of drama. I toyed with the idea of touring festivals in the summer but wasn’t even sure where to begin… so I didn’t.

And then, the other day this dream wandered across my FB feed. Hedgespoken is a vehicle for the imagination and a beautiful, creative, sustainable home. I am jealous and envious and oh-so excited for them.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hedgespoken

I realise I’ve spent most of my life gathering skills suitable for this kind of life including; tarot reading, art-making, singing, acting, writing, holistic therapies, magic, teaching, storytelling and most recently belly dancing and clothes/costume making… I’ve always always dreamed of the romantic idea of the life of a traveller, a wayfarer. The one thing I’ve refused to do, the one thing that would actually make it a possibility, is learn to drive (it terrifies me). Is this self-sabotage? The whole thing seems impractical, impossible and hopelessly romantic. Not to mention that my husband hates the idea of living in a converted bus! And yet…

Still I dream. And now I see more evidence of how it is possible. I make a donation as a spell to help them reach their dream and a wish towards my own. I wonder if I really want to live such a tough lifestyle. If I’m up to it? But then, perhaps it is only as tough as the life I’m living, just in ways I’m unaccustomed to.

For some reason I have spent the last decade in seeming diversion, I’ve dedicated a huge chunk of my life to something I also love, but which seems diametrically opposed to the wayfaring lifestyle – academic philosophy. I adore it. I love lecturing and giving papers. And it feels both part of this dream and something contrasting it.

And so I return to where I am. Let me finish my PhD and continue honing my skills. Let me dream my Wayfaring home into being, even if it exists alongside a home with roots. Even if it only exists for a summer.  Let me find the wandering wonder I’ve longed for since I was young enough to dream.

In my heart I am a Wayfarer, though I fear the reality would prove that I only love the idea of it… and perhaps that is why I’ve yet to commit to it!

If you’ve read this far, I thank you and I’d love to hear… What are your weirdest dreams, the ones you return to again and again but never quite can bring yourself to speak aloud?