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The Wonder of York: June 2

     Morning in York!  I have a morning ritual that inspires my day. It starts my day everyday no matter where I might be. Propped up in bed, I sip my coffee and journal. I acquired this habit in February of 2005…living on my own in an old farmhouse built on the most sacred of lands in Vermont. I had begun reading a book by Julia Cameron (Cameron, Julia, The artist’s way: a spiritual path to higher creativity, New York: J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002). Her proposed exercises include writing three pages each and every morning. She refers to them as morning pages. For me they were MOURNING pages. At the time I discovered her book I had experienced an unexpected and unwelcomed shift in my life and I was searching for some way to swim through the profound sadness that this shift left in its wake. This concept of morning pages proved to be so helpful and so healing for me that I have continued to write them more than 15 years later. Every morning starts with three pages of uneven prose, vague ideas and mundane musings. The second part of this ritual is my morning meditation, twenty minutes or so of conversation with the Goddess or focus on living in the present tense. And thus my morning in York begins.

   A hot shower and the wonders of ibuprofen have alleviated the aches of attempts to get from train station to guest house and then explore a bit of York. Having successfully charged phone and Ipad, I slip my travel journal into my day pack, count me pounds stirling…yes, need to find a bank…and head downstairs to the dining room following the promising fragrance of bacon. 

  The dining room of the Arnot House has a lovely large bay window that looks out on Grosvenor Street. The view is perfectly framed by cascades of roses. There is a couple in the dining room as well, but they have not chosen the table by the window, so clearly it was meant for me. I help myself to a bowl of Greek yogurt and fresh fruit from the sideboard. Kim appears with a french press full of coffee and a plate of wheat toast and fresh baked scones. I am suddenly hungry and have no problem eating my two eggs over easy with bacon breakfast.

  Conversation always comes easily to travelers sharing a dining room at a guest house. Very soon I learn that the couple is from Victoria, Canada and that they too are travelling through the UK. We shared our impressions of York and recommendations and a few helpful suggestions. As they were finishing their last sips of coffee, an older woman entered the dining room. She too is Canadian but from Ontario. She is originally from Kent and is visiting England for the first time since leaving Kent during World War II. She is in her mid eighties, and clearly all those years in Ontario have not erased her English accent.  As the couple leaves, we briefly discuss our plans for solitary travel. She is back in England on a sort of pilgrimage, paying homage to her past, to her history, to her land, to her people. She speaks of a childhood marked by rations, darkness, sirens, the sounds of bombers, the persistent and pervasive fears. She worries that this generation will forget because they not only have not learned, they have not listened. She tells me that one of the unexpected benefits of this journey has been the number of people who have shared her history of war ravaged England and the validation of sharing their stories and hers. She has experienced the country emerging from 1945, and like her, it is resilient, but she worries that the healing will mask the scars and it is the scars that bear witness. The wisdom of the Crone.

  Just before crossing the street to enter Bootham Bar is the Yorkshire Museum. It adjoins St. Mary’s Abby, the gardens and the Church of St. Olaves. There is a place to sit and I am able to use the wifi emanating from the Museum. My plan is to explore York without a plan and with no expectations, although written in pencil is my wistful plan to attend Evensong at the Minster and finally hear it sung. I gather my touristy stuff and decide to explore the gardens, St. Olave’s Church by Marygate and the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey.

 

St. Olaves, Marygate
A view of the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey and the gardens.

Unfortunately, I am so mesmerized by a sea of iris as I approach St. Olaves that I neglect to take out my phone and take a picture. The blooms defy description. The gardens fittingly adorn this complex that dates from the early 11th Century. The Church was built in 1055. Originally dedicated to St. Olaf II of Norway, the Church remains an active Church to this day. In May of 1088 the church was rededicated to the Virgin Mary and the area grew into the richest and most powerful Bendictine Abbey in Northern England.  The richness of the Abbey did not escape the notice of King Henry VIII, and in 1539 he closed the Abbey and destroyed the structure that had been rebuilt in the 13th Century.

     I circle the Abbey Gardens drinking in the early June blooms and the echoes of times past;  meander around St. Olaves and leave via Marygate to find the entrance to the stairs that lead to the top of the wall. I have decided to walk the wall this day.

     The Wall Walk is one of the best ways to experience York. Medieval city on one side, the hustle and bustle of modern day York traffic and life on the other. The Friends of York Walls have produced a helpful and  informative guide for exploring the Wall…at www.yorkwalls.org.uk, there is a ton of information and a valuable map for making your way between the gaps, places where the wall is not, but should be. 

     The Minster dominates the city within the walls. The wall is a mosaic of city view…chimneys, roof tops, glimpses of gardens and green spaces, the wonders of the Minster appearing and receding, sunlight splashing off windows.  The path is well worn, with the steps of history on each stone.

View from the Wall

  The Minster from the top of the York Wall

     Walking the Wall is a two hour undertaking…for this traveler a  bit more…I want to see it all, to hear it all, I do not want to miss anything, but of course, I do. I reach the last bar and descend the stairs to the street below. On my way to the Shambles, hunger gets the best of me and I slip into the Wildwood Restaurant on Lower Petergate. An Italian restaurant with modern decor, I am soon sipping wine and eating perfectly cooked whole wheat penne pasta with vegetables…yummy. The diffuse sunlight has disappeared and as I leave the restaurant I am greeted by a light drizzle. This is the England I know and love!

     Any history or travel guide of York will tell you that the Shambles is the best preserved medieval street in the world. Its overhanging timbered structures and narrow streets bring back memories of times long past. Although there is a street names the Shambles, the area is a twisty turny maze of beckoning alleys and narrow streets…a maze of delight and fancy.

The Shambles

 

 

 

     The Shambles certainly looks like J.K. Rowlings’ inspiration for Diagon Alley.  There is even a shop that takes  full advantage of this inspiration.  30 The Shambles is now home to the Shop that Must not be Named. The shop is purveyor of all things Potter. Even in the chilly drizzle of midday there is a cue extending down the block of  devotees eager to explore the shop and spend their money. Because the shop is so popular, shopkeepers are only letting in a few people at a time….a crowded store must most certainly limit sales. The wonderful benefit of Harry Potter and this shop is that this new shop has endeared York to a whole new generation who will feel its magic and soak up its history.

30 The Shambles, York

 

Photo from yorkmix.com

I did not take the picture of the inside of the shop…I copied from another site. I do love Harry Potter, but not enough to stand in line in a cold drizzle just to get in the door!

     I wandered the walled city for the rest of the afternoon, dipping in and out of alleyways and small shops, making my way back to the Minster for a bit of time in the garden before attending Evensong.  As I entered the garden gate and located a bench close to the Minster, the clouds and drizzle gave way to a rosy hue that bathed the exterior of the Minster in a mystical glow. A woman asked me if she could share my bench and I smiled, nodded and moved over to make room for her. A young woman from northwest of York, I discover that she often comes to York on her own to rejuvenate and renew. Leaving children, husband,  work and mundane life behind to bask in the more ethereal. When I mention my plan to finally hear Evensong sung, she shakes her head sadly. “Not tonight,” she tells me. A bump in the path has occurred and the service will be a spoken one. Disappointed I decide to enter the Minster and sit quietly just for a few moments. I have always been drawn to the magnificence of Gothic cathedrals. Souring tributes to a god built by pagan hands. Built on sacred sites, celebrating the human spirit. York Minster is particularly beautiful. Inner arches soaring to the summit, stone embracing soaring stained glass windows. The Great East Window, the size of a tennis court it is the largest expanse of stained glass in the country. I learn that half of all the medieval stained glass in England is embraced within the walls of York Minster. During World Wars I and II, the windows were removed, hidden, protected and later reassembled. I also learn that keeping them in good repair, like the preservation of the Minster is a never ending task done by many loving and dedicated protectors.

The Great East Window

   

      After an all too brief interlude gazing at the intricate wonders of the Minster interior, I decide to return to the Shambles for a light dinner.  On Lower Petergate I discover the Rouge Cafe. Within moments I am seated, sipping a glass of red wine, enjoying a salad and a bowl of onion soup.

Tomorrow I leave York for Edinburgh, and oh, yes, I will have that apple dessert and yes, include that scoop of ice cream.       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time….
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One Step Leads to Another: June 1

 

    The Crone’s Way continues…on terra firma, the first day of my time in the United Kingdom begins. I have had little sleep but I am well fortified with caffeine.

     Gatwick Airport has clear directions to the Rail Station and clear signage for Platform 4, the train to Kings Cross. I quickly learn some mundane lessons as I begin my journey: using a rail pass is both quick and convenient, its use requires a very short learning curve. Part of that curve includes the ability to reserve a seat of your choice on most trains without cost. This reservation will assure you of the location of your seat as well as the direction the seat faces. Forward facing seats are usually preferable, unless, of course, you are the sort of person who is more comfortable viewing the path already taken. The use of a back pack was further validated. A backpack expedites a rush from airport to train station to crowded platforms. Something carried on your back is easier to maneuver onto the train and infinitely easier to stash in the luggage areas provided on each passenger car. These lessons I learned having settled into my rear facing seat having been ejected from my front facing seat by a fellow traveler who patiently described the reservation process to me while pointing out the tags on the various seats throughout the coach. Once settled into my seat I also learned that legible journal are not possible when travelling by rail.

     Gatwick is  about 20 miles South of London and the trip to Kings Cross lasts just over an hour, so I watched as the view outside my window emerged from airport to country and bit by bit became an urban landscape.  How long had it been since I had been to London? I leaned into the window and marveled at the skyline, new buildings, bridges, a weaving of affluent and working class neighborhoods.

     I was bound for Kings Cross and a train that would bring me to York. Kings Cross Station is situated on northern edge of London. A merging point of local and long distance rail, the station is the busiest train station in all of the United Kingdom. As I enter the main station I am surrounded by a sea of travelers, travelers with maps and questioning faces, travelers with brief cases and faces of deliberate purpose as they thread through the throng. I find the energy of this place exhilarating as I make my way to the long distance train section of the terminal.

Kings Cross Station, London

 

    Entering this part of the terminal, I am struck by how familiar it looks. Clearly I have been here several times before, but it has been many years, and there is something else about it…I smile as my eyes fall on Platform 9. For an instant I almost expect to see Platform 9 ¾ emerge from the center area. As I look at the listings of departures for my particular train, it does seem only fitting that at some point this train should take me not to York, but to Hogwarts.

     Have I mentioned that I am a big believer in magick? The power of intention. So I am not surprised that my seat to York –even without a reservation – is forward facing and boast a large window with an unobstructed view of the landscape. The passenger car itself is brimming with excited and joyful chatter; warm smiles and a cheery hello great me at every glance. The back of the car is hosting a group of women bound for York and a bachelorette weekend. I know this because they share their plans as freely as they share the plates of goodies they have brought on board, as well as the bottles of champagne that appear out of nowhere and travel throughout the car. One young woman is adorned with a short veil and its label reveals that she is the bride to be.  

     New beginnings, it is a fitting theme for my own travels and the excited chatter of the passenger car becomes a fitting sound track to my thoughts and my own expectations. I feel the magick of my own new beginnings swirl around me, tempting me to explore the possibilities, daring me to dream,  teasing me to open the gate, the magick is whirling and glittering and giggling, it sings to me, dancing and laughing, all I need do is flick my wand.

     My moment is interrupted by the arrival of the snack trolley. Lost in my own thoughts I half expect the trolley to be selling Bert’s Botts, Pumpkin Pasties or even Chocolate Frogs. But alas, the spell dissipates and I purchase a package of nuts, a small bottle of wine and a bottle of water. It is almost a two hour ride to York, so I settle in with guidebooks and itineraries.

The Train Station at York
An internal view of the York Station…note the stairs!
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     York Railway Station is also a bustling station, especially since it is the station midway between London and Edinburgh.  Built in the 19th Century, it is functional and picturesque, but it is here that I have my first experience of stranger in a strange land. My sense of direction abandons me and I see no signs that clearly point me in the direction of my B and B. I have a map, and the directions to the B and B…are they written in English?  I sit on a bench to regroup and look around. Having developed a plan, I head for the crossover to get to the other side of the tracks. That seems to be my best bet.  The cross overs involve stairs and carrying your luggage. There are elevators (lifts) but the lines are long and stair climbing is certainly part of my future. All stairs at the station clearly remind travelers that this is the U.K. and the rule is PLEASE KEEP LEFT. I smile as I find my forward process impeded by a small group of travelers struggling with their luggage and clogging the staircase insisting on being to the right.

     As I leave the train station, I am surprised to find that nothing in the real world seems to match my maps and directions. I ask several people only to discover that I have somehow chosen folks even worse at map reading than I. I finally find the correct car park, but not the designated path, I wander looking like the lost tourist that I am. My not quite 16 pound back pack feels much heavier and the map appears even more obtuse. A gentleman stops me. “May I help you?” Gratefully I detail my plight. He smiles and tells me that I am very close, simply missing the turn onto the path. He also shows me how very close to the train station Grosvenor Terrace is once you know the way.

     Grosvenor Terrace is a quiet street lined with trees and large Victorian styled homes, many of which have been converted to B and Bs.  The Arnot House, owned by Kim Slater-Robbins and her mother Ann is a large brick home adorned with roses and resting in the middle of the street. The home was built in 1885 and has three floors, the upper two being devoted to its work as a guest house.

Arnot House
17 Grosvenor Terrace, York

     Kim greeted me with a huge smile and listened to the tale of my adventure from train to Arnot House with empathy…I removed my three ton back pack and she insisted on carrying it up the one flight of stairs and into my room. The room was sparkling and spotless with  those extra touches that were to set a very high bar for the rest of my travels: little necessities like band aids and a sewing kit to the canister of baked goods, pot for tea and coffee and a decanter of the most lovely sherry. Kim gave me the grand tour, explained about breakfast and options for my visit in York.  Although I was tired, I was also hungry, so after Kim left, I washed my face, brushed my teeth and headed downstairs to ask Kim about the nearest place where a hungry traveler might find food and a pint.

    

     Suggestion and directions in hand, I turn left off Grosvenor Terrace and head toward Bootham Bar. I have learned that Bootham Bar is not a bar in the American sense, but rather an opening, a gate through the city wall. York’s City Wall is impressive. It is the most complete example of a medieval wall in all of England, and stands on the ruins of the Roman Wall built before it. I enter Bootham Bar, leaving all motorized vehicles behind and I am in the midst of a river of pedestrian traffic. A narrow street lined with shops and eateries, High Petergate is closed to both bicycle and vehicle traffic from 10:30 to 5:00 daily.  Kim has recommended Hole in the Wall Pub which is not far within the gate, on my left. I enter and am relieved to find an open table close to the large window that opens onto the street. As I sit I can see the passersby and I notice a large table of locals to my left. I know they are locals because even though they smile at me, they have been complaining about the early influx of tourists.

Bootham Bar, York,

     If you were asked to describe a typical English pub, you would describe Hole in the Wall. As you enter, the brick façade gives way to warm woods, brass the hint of music under laughter and serious conversation, a well-stocked bar and the smells of chips and ale. The pub at first seems small and intimate, but further exploration reveals twists and turns and the promise of a larger gathering place.

     One of the women at the large table catches my eye and leans toward me, she explains that food needs to be ordered at the kitchen, and drinks at the bar. I laugh and thank her saying that without her help I would have waited quite a long time for my first meal in York! The group is friendly and I easily get directions to the kitchen and suggestions on the menu, as well as other information on how the entire process works.

     Of course, I opt for fish and chips as my first official meal in the U.K..  The woman at the kitchen window asks if I want mushy peas with my fish. Mushy peas?  How could I have forgotten about mushy peas? Yes, of course, mushy peas…then to the bar for my pint of Guinness…double poured. I arrive with my drink at my table, hoist my glass to the helpers on my left, they approved…my dinner arrives…life is good.

    

     I step outside the pub and decide not to go back to the Arnot House, but rather turn left and head up High Petergate to the Minster. York Minster dominates the city, I step through the garden gate and my eyes reach skyward. It is impressive, majestic, beautiful, breath taking. The bells are tolling and I hear the organ drifting through the garden. It is Evensong. There are no words. Regardless of your beliefs, no matter what your religion, no matter your history, sometimes your soul just knows, this is a sacred time, this is sacred space in a sacred land.

 

  

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And So It Begins

The night before a journey is a sea of anticipation. My morning meditation, waves of distractions…so hard to keep focus, I surrender to the flow and instead do an impromptu ritual for safe journey and magickal inspirations. I walk by the river and bless the rising sun. Today is the day, finally, after all the planning, all the pieces are beginning to become visible. The manifestation of intent. Returning home, I review my packing one more time. I have downloaded the most helpful guidebooks onto my IPad so that I need not carry the weight of the books themselves. I have torn out a few relative maps just for orientation and also added some apps on to my phone and tablet that might prove convenient. Copies of my documents and what itinerary I have conjured are left with my children. Copies are also tucked into my backpack. I have added things to my cross shoulder bag which will carry my IPad and other items that will need to be accessible during my travel…okay, I am ready, as ready as I can be.

     Excited and assured, I grab my bag and my backpack and head for the airport. The airport is doing some construction within the main facility and so I do not linger there but rather take the tram directly to the airside after checking in and printing out my boarding pass. With no bags to check and a well- organized backpack, security is not a problem. I enter a small restaurant at the airside and order wine, cheese and roasted vegetables. An overnight flight and dinner will be served on the plane, but a celebration is order. Thank you, Goddess, for the gifts of the Earth.

     It will be awhile before boarding. I make myself comfortable in a seat near the boarding gate. I gaze pensively out of the tinted windows to the wide expanse of cloudless blue skies. So many stories to be told. Are they worth telling? How will I tell them? I am a woman, like many women who has thought herself not pretty enough, not smart enough, not wealthy enough, not creative enough, not talented enough, and not spiritual enough. Always judging myself and always coming up wanting. I think back to a book by Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, there is a valuable mantra in that book, “my job is to do the work, not judge the work,” followed by, “Goddess, I am in charge of the quantity, You are in charge of the quality.”  And thus one by one I have snipped the tethers of never enough, the oppression of self-imposed limitations and restrictions, I am learning that I am enough, and I hope to light that flame of enough, of spirit in others. That is the journey we all make to our inner core; the Dark Moon work of the Maiden, the Fullness of the Mother and the Wisdom of the Crone.

     There is a freedom today that permeates my soul, my heart, my total being. I am sitting at the airport having permitted my red hair to become white, having cut the long curls to a close cropped cap. I sit here with my 16 pound back pack, fingering my pentacle with its Alexandrite center, dreaming of the path ahead, a ribbon of known and unknown; planned and unplanned, knowledge and discovery. I take a deep breath and then another, I allow my eyes to close and the meditative journey to begin.

 

Thursday

     Good morning Great Britain!  British Airways, comfortable flight, a bit of sleep, some food, some wine, some conversation, some time reading…life is good.

     We landed just before 8 am. Not having to wait at baggage claim is always a blessing, but especially when you need to navigate the lines at passport control. The walk seemed like miles of moving sidewalks, twists and turns. I am sure it was a function of my being excited to just get on with it. Carrying my back pack also meant that I could pick up my pace when the crowd permitted me more access. I could not stop smiling. Finally the hallway gave way to a wide expanse of open space, a huge maze of passengers, lines up and down, left and right, all leading to the front of the hall where a long row of kiosks with high windows and cameras stood guard. There was a shorter line for passengers with EU passports, but the “other” line was the one that demanded my presence. I went to the end of the line…yes, still smiling….ahead of me was a group of about ten people, mostly women, pushing huge carts of luggage and carrying huge purses on their shoulders. They had flown to London to board a cruise. They were laughing and chiding each other as they complained about having to manage their own luggage and bemoaning the length of the line as well as its slow forward progress. I smiled as I realized that my perception of these people had been that they were older, senior, mature adults. I laughed as I realized that although I saw myself as younger, vital, energetic and adventurous, to all around me, I was decidedly a 69, almost 70 year old woman with white hair and a backpack!

     I was still thinking about that as I stepped up to the passport control desk. My 2011 passport showed a woman with shoulder length red hair, hmmm. The Brits use facial recognition software so the discrepancy was not an issue. My lack of a concrete itinerary was at first questioned but my rail pass and my York reservation addressed those concerns. My passport was stamped and I was sent on my way with a very warm welcome to Great Britain and wishes for a successful adventure.

     I belong to a credit union so I used my debit card at the airport to get just two hundred pounds sterling. I would get more cash with my card at a bank once I arrived in York. I planned to use credit and debit cards when I could but I also was able to negotiate better lodging rates by paying in cash. ATM accomplished, off to the train station. Rail pass validated, next step of the journey Platform 4, a train to Kings Cross, London where I will board a second train heading to York. Still excited, still smiling, but wait, what is that I see? A Costa oasis on my way to Platform 4? Well first things first… it is almost 9:30, time for a wee bit of caffeine and a huge cup of latte…Blessed be!

 

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Drawing from Ether to Substance

  A journey of body and spirit begins long before the first steps on solid ground. I had dreamed the journey, I had cast spells for the journey, I had journaled my wish for the journey and set my intention to draw this journey out of the ether and into the world of substance. I began to weave the magickal and the mundane in preparation for those steps. My search engines and YouTube became dedicated tools as much as all my notes and books and magickal workings. In retrospect, I chuckle at some… for instance I became a frequent viewer of the very dated but very helpful You Tube series, “Speaking our Language…Learn Scottish Gaelic.” I chuckle a bit as I remember caring for my toddler grandson and rattling off “Ciamar a tha sibh? Tha gu math, tapadh leat.” Spoiler alert…I did not succeed in learning the language, but I did use that phrase a few times…especially the tapadh leat, which means thank you.

     Having been to the United Kingdom before I listed areas that called to me to return. I compiled information on ley lines, sacred sites and especially places meaningful to me. I am a Vermonter and rugged landscapes with rock outcroppings always make my heart soar. I knew I wanted to walk in the Highlands as I had done years before. I wanted to feel the cold winds that carry the cold rains, I wanted to breathe sweet air and sink my feet into the dark Highland mud. I debated just getting off the plane with no plan verses having an itinerary with dots laid out on a map. I opted for drawing only broad brush strokes and coloring in lots of flexibility. Once that decision was made I made my first purchases: Guide Books, Rick Steves’ Guide Books for Scotland, Great Britain and Wales; Lonely Planet guide book for Scotland and the Rough Guide book for Scotland.

     I have always opted for travelling light, whether an overnight jaunt or a month of travel. This has been somewhat of a challenge for me because often times in my ritual and teaching life, lugging heavy baskets and multiple items is the rule rather than the exception. I am convinced, however, that to travel via plane for any amount of time is to travel light, and that was especially true for this journey. I have learned that back packs work better for me than any size suitcase on wheels. When a suitcase has wheels it seduces me into believing that adding an item or two to the mix does not matter…usually those items are best left at home. The goal was not to check my luggage, to be able to carry it on my back for extended distances and periods of time, and also to be able to comfortably lift it into the overhead compartments of planes, trains and buses. For me, that meant that the pack had to weigh no more than 16 pounds and be able to fit in most of those compartments. I have climbed enough stairs in train stations and B and Bs to learn that carrying something on your back is easier than tugging something up a staircase, heavy and sighing with every stair. I have also witnessed my share of tourists who struggle to get luggage on and off the trains or wait in long lines for the elevators while the stairs are just a hop away. So, I did treat myself to a new Rick Steves Classic Back Door bag… the basic one, not the convertible one. The convertible one expands and I knew I would have a difficult time convincing myself not to tuck some other items into that compartment. That being said my bag is 21’X14”X9” and weighs less than two pounds. It does not taper like many packs and it’s squared off design is more easily organized. This trip I also planned to use packing cubes to keep everything in order and to eliminate packing and unpacking and packing again at every stop.

     This trip presented some additional challenges for light packing. I was travelling in the Highlands where temperatures would still be in the 40s, but I would be there for an extended period of time, plus I might spend some time in England, so there was a chance I would experience much warmer temperatures. An on line search produces numerous resources and advice on light packing. I found a video on line produced by Rick Steves featuring Sarah Mudoch. Sarah is one of the Steves tour guides. She had just returned from a trip to Italy, so not only did the video show how and what to pack, but it was based on the pack she had brought to Italy. The video was so helpful that I subscribed to her blog: Adventures with Sarah.net. Not only was it informative and entertaining, but she was quick to answer emails regarding my particular dilemma. And Sarah is really hard core on packing light.

     In order to help anchor the journey in substance, my first tether would be my airline ticket. I quickly discovered that flights from Tampa to London were considerably more convenient and less expensive than flights from Tampa to Edinburgh. Since I planned to purchase a British Rail pass to ensure flexibility as well as savings, flying to London seemed the best plan….it did however, cast part of my journey in stone…the beginning and the end. London, not Edinburgh; England not Scotland. Regardless of the free flow of travel, I enjoy the security of having reservations for my first and last nights of my journey. After a night flight from Tampa, I wanted to have an easy and comfortable, but still interesting place for a night or two to regroup and recover. There was York staring up from the map in bold letters.  I am not sure what I love about York, but I had fond memories of my last trip, so without further deliberation, I booked two nights at the Arnot House. The Arnot House is within walking distance from the train station and just around the corner from the City Wall. Perfect, fly into Gatwick, navigate passport control, train to King’s Cross, hop a second train to York. Sigh of relief.

  The need to decide on the last night of my journey forced me to make a major decision about where to spend both my birthday and MidSummer. My initial plan was to be at the standing stones in Lewis or at Tigh na Cailleach in Glen Lyon or even on Ben Nevis, but now that would not work because I needed to be near Heathrow for my return flight on June 22. A few years ago I had thought about MidSummer at Stonehenge, but that no longer called to me.  Much to my surprise messages popped up everywhere…random thoughts, random images. During one of my walks I was playing an album by Kellianna. “Mists of Avalon.” Okay, Goddess, I get it…Glastonbury. I would spend both my birthday and MidSummer there before heading to London and Heathrow. I had to make reservations because it would be three, maybe four nights. Synchronisity…a pagan themed B and B. The name? The Covenstead, the room? Hedgewitch. Sometimes the Goddess changes your plans, sometimes they are different, but prove to be infinitely more magickal.      

        Bags packed…..the adventure begins!

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The Journey Continues

    Sometimes the Goddess challenges our resolve with distractions. We hear this inner voice of inspiration, purposeful possibilities, numerous threads of future action, then as the weaving begins, as the warp appears set, the distractions begin, the tension seems amiss. Like some witches, I have struggled to balance the magickal and the mundane only to discover that it is the arbitrary boundary I have created between the two that is the tension, that creates the problem. There is no boundary, it is our intentions about our magickal life that heightens our awareness and permits the magickal to shimmer through all that seemed mundane.

     It has been almost three years now since I sold my hillside farm, bid a gentle farewell to the woodland spirits, meadow elves and water sprites to return to urban living. The difficult choices of a crone was eased by the loving embrace of children, grandchildren, old friends and a beloved spiritual family. Here I discovered the water witch within my soul and the promises of footsteps yet to come. Sun in Gemini, Moon in Cancer, Leo rising, no longer the  Priestess, time to embrace the Crone…but how…where is the next step?High

      On this morning, I ask myself, “Why do this at all?” Why as I struggled to anticipate the next step in my 69th and 70th year did I create a web site, attach a store and embark on this strange journey? More importantly, why, as I begin my 71st year have I intensified my commitment to continue? The answers spill out in a series of heartbeats…I love this Goddess path with every fiber of my being, and I love to write…surely at this crossroads, it is time for one to give voice to the other such that others may hear. Another answer to my question also emerges, a crone at 60 dances the power dance around the fire, creates magick at the altars of the Forest and the Mountain top, but who is this crone at 70? I had to discover her, own her, love her and share her, believing that in some small way this sharing will be seen by just the right person at just the right time and that sharing will inspire her or his journey forward as well.

      As I anticipated my 70th birthday,I was determined that my 70th  would be both a remarkable celebration and a life altering experience. I love birthday parties, balloons, friends, ice cream, and especially birthday cakes, but not this time, I wanted this to be a time of a personal journey, my Cailleach journey, and for me, that meant Scotland. I set my intention with a wee bit of reservation, but as so often happens when you set your foot on a true path, the Goddess gave me a major shove forward. A debt I had long ago written off was paid and suddenly, I had a savings account and work to do. 

     From that beginning was born this site and this blog. I wanted to write about this journey, I wanted to share it and suddenly mundane ideas became very magickal indeed. I did not embrace my crone-hood or my 60s gracefully. I colored my hair,obsessed about the lines on my face and neck, all the while agonizing over just the right anti-aging products. Somehow in all this denial, there was a light of inspiration. I started taking care of myself. Holy basil tea became a daily indulgence, I started eating a bit more healthily, I started walking and OMG, even exercising. I lamented my lack of stamina and determined to improve. There were hits and misses, times of discouragement and a few times of exuberant success. I discovered some of my patterns – I do better when I have a goal, especially a really big goal, and I need some sort of schedule. The trip to Scotland was a really big goal.

I faced some truths as a crone headed to age 70. Stamina, flexibility and strength require more effort than in younger times. Much to my chagrin I found that I was no longer able to sit cross legged for extended periods of time. (Just when did that happen?)  I needed to be able to carry my backpack and walk a minimum of 5 miles a day – that would take some effort…and then, there was that face in the mirror, no longer the face of youth, but rather the face of experience and a journey well traveled. Coloring my hair did not change that face no matter how I tried to convince myself otherwise. Nor was the secret to that face found at a cosmetic counter…two major changes emerged…. the first was to cut my hair short, really short, for me painfully short, and to permit the locks of the crone to sprout forth. The second was to put aside the false promises  of anti-aging creams and instead to find a healthy skin regime that worked for me. In Vermont, I had attended several Women’s Herbal Conferences sponsored by Sage Mountain and they had become the building blocks for my own herbal work. I returned to that knowledge and now that I was no longer working full time, there was space to create my own skin and hair products, to conjure my own magick while dancing between the worlds in their creation. The bath fizzies on this site are a function of that magick and there will be more to come.

 My journey has had some interesting twists and turns, such is the stuff of magick. Each week I will post and invite you to share that journey with me…. Next time, how i planned and how I prepared…Blessed be.

 

 

 

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New Moon in Aquarius….Time of Imbolc

Today begins the time of the New Moon. The powerful inspirations for the New Moon cycle are released as Mercury finally is moving forward again. In my work with students, I have emphasized Moon Cycles and Solar Cycles and how they interact. I find the Waxing Moon in the Waxing year to be especially powerful for magickal workings. Intent becomes substance and the seeds for the year are especially potent.

Aquarius is the innovator, the progressive, the curious one, how does this work? How can this be made better? A New Moon in Aquarius is especially inviting for me. During my New Moon ritual, I asked a question, “What am I missing?” Being a New Moon child I find the New Moon closest to Imbolc is especially important for me…one of those times when ideas are everywhere and intent brims with overflowing … and sometimes…often times….unrealistic possibilities.  Time to consult the tarot cards, what is missing? I use a deck by Poppy Palin, Stories of the Wild Spirit,  The image on this page is the card I drew during my ritual. The Five of Earth, the Cauldron. I am wise woman and crone, I have conjured quite a brew in my cauldron and now in this new time I am challenged to improve the mixture….a dash of common sense, a dollop of creativity, a huge ladle of inspiration and many splashes of new knowledge.

The New Moon illuminates my path of spiritual, mental and physical action…a dance between both worlds…it also illuminates my path of political action. I have seen the activism of Starhawk both revered and reviled, I have seen other teachers criticized on line for taking political stances. I believe as a witch I cannot be silent….the Face of the Goddess is the face of all the Earth…and we are Her children. 

What was I missing? The strength of the brew….yes, there are ways for me to improve my personal brew, but there is more is there not? When I owned Mugwort and Malachite, I was privileged to host a workshop by Kellianna. I then attended the Women’s’ Herbal gathering hosted by Sage Mountain….Kellianna was there with drum and chants, one reverberates today…..and remember, we only have power if we claim it, if we use it….

We are a people at the full height of our power, now is the time and now is the hour. We recognize our sacred birth, we have the power to transform the earth.

 

 

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New Moon Beginnings…

The New Moon in Capricorn…I started the morning with journal on my lap and hot coffee in my cup…and then began to dream and wander. Gemini woman born under the New Moon…I am prone to dream and wander. Follow through is my challenge but not my excuse…I use a tarot deck by Poppy Palin and this morning I decided to draw one card in honor of the New Moon…. I drew the Ace of Earth, the Seed. A New Moon in an Earth Sign and I draw the Seed. 

I try to walk regularly and since I live in an urban landscape, the RiverWalk holds a special attraction for me. On one segment of the RiverWalk there is a large labyrinth. I walk the labyrinth at Solstice and Equinox and at other times when She calls to me but today I walked swiftly by to the rhythms of Emerald Rose. Still pondering my tarot card and the New Moon possibilities on my return path, I suddenly realized the music had transformed to some selections from Ruth Barrett’s  album, The Year is A Dancing Woman. The Pentagram song ended and the shuffle of the selections conjured her song, Labyrinth…I looked up….guess where I was? You got it, I got it, I get it… the words to the song, my steps on the Labyrinth, the questions in the center, deep in my center, the answers I finally permitted myself to hear.

At the beginning of my personal Solar year, I asked a dear friend to do a reading for me, a card for each month. A twelve month spread that contained five…count them…five major arcana cards. Oh, dear Goddess, this is going to be a year! The card for December is one of the five. The card in her Osha Zen deck was XV Conditioning, in my deck it is XV the Fiddler…different cards, subtle variations but reverberating message…I had not paid much attention to that card throughout the month, but today in the light of the New Moon, the pieces fit together and I knew that Fiddler, the Labyrinth, Ruth Barrett, the Ace of Earth were messages and guideposts to challenge me to embrace again what I had chosen, to step forward with courage, bound but unbound.

I began this blog as an exploration of the wisdom of the Crone and to share my path with others.  In my heart I have wanted to be many crones. Some were elegant and strong and beautiful, some were wild and vibrant and free, some were a little of this and a lot of that. But I am a crone, my experience of myself as crone and the wisdom of the Crone Goddess I will share with you, and I will take on the challenge of follow through as I explore wondrous possibilities. I hope you will find wondrous possibilities in your life as well.Earth Mother, I honor you. I honor the Earth Mother in all of you.

 

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Solstice Greetings…..

 The Darkest Night has past and a New Light is born. There are magickal possibilities to be grasped and intentions to be forged. Astrologer Henry Seltzer predicts a chaotic year ahead….written in the Stars and clearly visible in the World that surrounds us. A time of challenge, for us to hold firm our values and beliefs and not permit fatigue to diminish the Light we carry within. Bright blessings to you on this day. May you walk in the love and light of the Goddess. Blessed be.

 

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The Journey Within

Mabon has slipped past, and the Solstice promises a return of the Light. In the Northlands the trees  no longer display the glorious colors of the Autumn Sun, the days are short and the chill crispness in the air has turned to cold.. But I am now a witch of the Southlands where the turning of the Wheel is more subtle. There is a hint of lightness in the air, the days grow shorter but not the deliberate darkness of the Northern mountains. And yet the energy, the vision, the flow turns inward, the Dark Times of the Dark Moon intensifies as the Dark Times of the Solar Cycle urge us to turn inward. My teacher once assigned a Dark Times Journal. From Samhain to Solstice, I looked into the Dark Mirror, deep within the Darkness, then I wrote: This night I gazed into the Dark and I saw…. Like the Dark Moon, the Dark Times encourage the journey to the hidden self and to embrace the inner light, connecting to what we know, connecting to our inner truth, releasing what no longer serves, and fueling that flame of Truth.  

The Dark Times are the time of the Crone…She who holds the wisdom of Her blood within. She tends the cauldron, She who holds the secrets of the cave, She who weaves the web of the universal forces…I begin these writings to honor the Crone, to speak of Her journey,  I was never sure where it would lead, but only that I was putting one foot in front of the other and following my heart.

My Croning was a celebration of Life and of my Path, It was joyous and full of love and possibilities. It was a transition but I was dedicated to Brigid, I did not see the Crone nor face her power. On the night of my Third Degree ritual, my teacher painted lines on my face, I had seen and embraced the face of the Cailleach…or so I thought until that night. Lined face I carried Her heavy stones, finally dropping them one by one as I approached the ritual circle.  That night, within that Sacred Space, I saw Her face, I heard Her call and Her voice was my own.

The face in the mirror now is definitely crone, the lines are no longer painted, they are earned, and so I write of my journey in these troubled times.  I have many role models, many who have gone before, many who walk with me now, many who will come after….witches all. Starhawk is protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline…she is witch, activist, crone… I see her face and I remember how long she has traveled this journey for the Mother,how strong her voice has been, how it continues to strengthen in the face of adversity.  We are people of power too long silent. Each of us can make a difference, As I continue my journey within I embrace the light of my next step…I encourage you to do the same, even if it is but a candle with a prayer for Peace placed upon your altar. Hold my hand, we walk together.N

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Witch Whispers and the Crone

      There is something so delicious about New Moon energy. Subtle, diffusive, elusive. It is that magickal essence of dreams…there is a thought, a breath, but it has not quite yet taken shape. The New Moon is of wishes….Time to ponder possibilities. The New Moon promises new beginnings and eases past disappointments. we can refresh or simply re do. After the meditative and physical releases of the Dark Moon, the Spirits seem once again enticing us  forward into the mist.

        For me, this is the beginning of an adventure. Many months ago I shared a Dark Moon ritual with three  of my dearest friends….powerful witches, remarkable women, talented priestesses. What was hidden in our inner depths? What shadows lingered? What dreams were cast aside because we feared the light of the next step? For me, that next step was to write, to create, to use my words and my wisdom, to dare to reveal myself. I was not sure how or why or when, but on that night the message of the Dark Goddess was clear…BEGIN,  

      I was born under the sign of Gemini in the time of the New Moon, so this adventure has many possibilities indeed, tiny wisps and fibers swirling off in many wanderings..  I will weave the threads of my journey thus far and the paths of the present, there will be a bit of magick in the Cauldron, the essence of the Wynde and the promises of the store. There will be experiencing the power of the Dark Goddess, gazing upon the face of the Cailleach…travels, mystery, whimsy…  But it is still the time of the New Moon, and other winds whisper of what may be yet to come… who knows what  more will  emerge….Welcome and  Blessed be.