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Showing posts from February, 2018

Autumn Stirring

As most of you probably know, the Wheel of the Year is a schedule of seasonal feastdays which mark and celebrate the changes in nature through the year. Those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere have the mild struggle of inverting the traditional schedule so that we are not, for example, celebrating Yule, with its burning logs and pine cones, in the middle of our summer. Yesterday I wrote about how I was moving towards an even more personal expression of the Wheel of the Year; for example, changing the names of feastdays for myself, just as I have already created localised moon names too.

The thought was timely, because all through the day I noticed some definite changes to the weather and the feel of the sky. Other people around the country mentioned to me that they had noticed the same. Today, that feeling continues. It's more than a shift in weather. The moon looks softer, the night rises earlier, there is enough chill that a blanket is needed on the bed at night. And the…

The Wild Stories of the World

This land in which I dwell is a ghost land, haunted by the sea. The Pacific tribes who came here before my people have myths and legends to describe and explain it; my own people, a practical lot, have never really bothered with that kind of thing, and they didn't bring much of their own mythology with them either - they were, after all, running away to make a fresh start. The other cultures which live here now keep their own traditions which seem to have nothing to do with our shared land (although I may be wrong about that.)

Because of this, for years I felt like an exile in my own country. I was drawn to old stories and traditions from the north but had to literally turn them inside out to make sense of them here. I tried immersing myself in Maori mythology, but apart from the taniwha found nothing that spoke to my soul, for their mythic language is not my own. But then, neither truly is the Celtic language of my heritage. I have had to find my sense of home, of belonging, in a…

The Wolf in the Forest

The first thing is, her name is Rebecca. She's spent years being identified as what happened to her, and she hates that. She hates the way people talk about whether her mother failed her or not, instead of asking her how her day went, what books she recommends, what her recipe is for the lavender scones she likes to make. So we won't be calling her Little Red Riding Hood here.

Secondly, she clenches her jaw every time someone brings up the wolf. She used to correct them, but she's given that up now. If they want to think there was a wolf in the forest, and that this wild and cunning animal was the point - if they want to ignore all the statistics about stranger danger, and go on with their lives in the comfort of knowing they just have to keep their children out of the woods - then she's content these days to let them. She tried as much as she could to set the story straight. My mother, she tells them, also believed in the wolf in the woods. She warned me about it, clo…

Going Down to Our Knees For the Goddess

I have read that the goddess is rising, but I don't believe it. I believe it is we who are deepening. And she opens herself beneath us, always there beneath us; she is our ground.

(I don't mean only our soil and bedrock, although that too of course.)

And she does not rise because she has not been slumbering, nor been hiding. It is we who let her name be stolen from our hearts, who turned our faces from her presence. She never left us, and never will.

I am an old witch; I have spiderwebs in my hair. (I'm not so old literally speaking, but I wander around tracklessly through all the ages of myself.) My youth is encapsulated in one memory: rollerskating to the witchery shop with my birthday money when I was no more than thirteen. It's funny, faith in the goddess is widespread now, but the witchery shops hereabouts have all closed down. You can buy books and tarot online instead - but you can't smile at other women with flowers in their hair as you browse the aisles, n…

Kissed by the Fairy King

I have the flu. I am an overwhelmed mess of fever and misery, and of course it's the hottest month of the year. I have been trying to carry on as usual, which is a big mistake. It feels like I've left mess behind me where ever I've gone this week. Mind you, it always feels like that, because I'm an introvert.

Being an introvert is hard. I think even if the whole world were introverted, it would still be hard. Being an introvert with too many opinions is the worst thing. You know you don't have the courage to say them, but you know you can't live your whole life in a secret ditch, so you push yourself and your opinions right out of that comfort zone as fast as you can, before your tiny scrap of courage fails - and often before you've given those opinions a little sensible, calm consideration. Then you're left with not only having spoken up, but having done so in a way you're no longer sure you can support, and people are going to look at you, and thi…

Home Tales

I love the rush of wind around my house, cocooning it for a moment in storm. I could make a hundred stories from it - the Hunter is sweeping his great net around, seeing what toothed shadows he can find; the Mother is exhaling stars. But really the wind is too familiar for that. It simply is itself.

Yesterday I went for a little while to a land of oak trees beneath a round green mountain. I almost never go to this place, and yet it too felt familiar. I walked a way I'd walked only once before, years ago, and it was if I'd walked it yesterday. I wonder what makes some lands like that and others endlessly fresh and intriguing. Perhaps the old heavy oaks were responsible for holding time slow and steady there. Perhaps it was the gravity of the mountain. I wanted to make a magical tale about my visit, but the land simply was itself.

Of course, if I lived there I would know its secret self-stories, its enchanted intimacies. In some places, the magic ... the rich beautiful magic ...…

Snow White & Rose Red

Every night, Snow White and Rose Red waited for the bear to come out of the wild and lay down at their hearth. They both loved him in their own way, although they only half-knew it at the time. The half of them that swept their mother's cottage floors and read school books was innocent. The half that cast aside aprons and ran in the sunlit woods, the watchful shadowy woods, understood. It heard the new drum of their blood. It felt the tiny fires in their palms, their throats.

Snow White prepared soft blankets for the bear, plumped cushions, made food. Rose Red burned pinecones in the hearthfire so he would dream of his forest home.

Snow White lit candles and memorised classic poems to share. Rose Red gathered into herself the silences she had heard and loved in the deepest wood, beneath the palest moons.

Snow White saw the wit in the bear's honey-coloured eyes and the gold beneath his fur, at his heart. Rose Red smelled the musk and pine-bark on him and felt the warm strength …

Instructions For When The Sky Falls

The stars have fallen down. I ride over them with my bike; they are gold and gold and silver on the small dark road, in the fine-boned rain. I feel like I am the moon's shadow going around and around over the stars, in the dark, in the storm. This is where I want to be, travelling stars, dress billowing, hair tangled, heart flying wild, through the night.

Some of us are not warriors, our voices or placards thrust into the air. Some of us are not wise gentle gardeners, instinctively knowing how to negotiate between lettuce and snails. But we can be witches if we want. Our own kind of witches - baggy stockings, pink purse, old Frost poetry as spells, or anything else. Anything we are.

Witches in the weeping night.

If you find fallen stars, taken a moment to grieve the wounded sky. Take another moment to look how beautiful the ground around you has become, even with those prickled star-edges and broken things. There is beauty in the broken, because now we can see the truth at the h…

The Song of the Jessamine

There is a jasmine hedge along my shared driveway which sings to me quietly every time I go past. It mingles with another kind of hedge that blossoms tiny, shy purple flowers ensconced in green wings; I do not know that they are. Half a dozen young trees rise behind the hedge, and altogether they gently shelter the kindergarten that owns them.

I have gathered flowers from the hedgerow for three years. Four years? Has it been that long? I have stood beneath it with my best friend, both of us laughing and dreamily sighing, as a sudden hailstorm pelted down. Every day I pass the hedgerow with its companion trees and think, at least I have them. In this neighbourhood where trees are slaughtered frequently, at least I have my sweet hedge.

Today they ripped it down.

I know there are many villains in the climate change story. Right now, I'm pointing my finger at the middle class. Those people who have just enough resources to try to get themselves more. They can pay the landscaper to cut…

Having A Staring Contest With The Trickster God

I have discovered my favourite style of house decoration is "in the middle of moving everything around." I don't think my gypsy heart is ever more comfortable than when there are picture frames, books, and baskets piled up on the sofa, and a stack of chairs in the middle of the room.*

I'm currently in a stage of disorder not only with my house but also my writing project. I'm here with a ramshackle pile of mythological resonances and no idea where to put them. I have characters stuffed in edgewise, scenes on top of other scenes, and a plot that has to go in the middle no matter what. It feels like Gwydion is sitting here with his feet up on the edge of my latest chapter, smirking like he always does.

Gwydion's a trickster-magician god of Welsh legend, incase you're wondering. He tends to swindle me into a story and then turn up a third of the way through saying, oh by the way now it wants a name ... and then after another third, oh by the way now it wants…

White Gold and Pearls

She comes in through my door bringing rain and the smell of gardens, the memory of long misty meadows. She smiles in that way she has. I tell her how good she looks and she won't hear it. (Women, why won't we hear it? We can believe our home decor and children and work presentations are good, beautiful, valuable - why not our hair, smile, face? We are made for love and to be loved.)

She goes out again what seems only a moment later and it's like she's been dancing around my heart. I've known her for decades, talked to her almost every day, and still this feeling - this being left with a smile. I feel like I could dance myself.

A small voice in my head tells me it was a good moment because I was part of it; I was smiling to make her smile. But I won't hear it.

The day is cold autumn rain and fierce summer cicadas. I am far away with the sea and old witches, and only tea is keeping me in touch with reality. I keep looking up and it's deep night and I'm sit…

Rain Witch

The sky is bone white and murmuring old grievances. I am wearing a cardigan for the first time in months and feeling that autumn is a possibility, even though I know the heat will soon come back more intensely than ever. Just for now though, I am feeling like myself. Did you know that a witch would wear a cardigan and a long lace skirt? Well this is how it goes: a witch wears anything she wants.

I found the following picture on twitter and have been sharing it with all the women I know. I'm afraid there's no indication of the original artist, but it would have been a girl, for sure. Maybe men feel like this too sometimes, but I suspect society has talked most of them out of teddy bears, which is a real shame.

Now I have to return to working on my latest project. I don't actually know what day this is (Friday? I think?) all I know is that it's Chapter Three. The hardest chapter to write, in my experience. I find short stories easier because they are about two and a half…

Wishes For Stories

Today someone asked me if I dreamed of fame and fortune as a writer. The honest answer is that I like the idea of fame, or at least to know thousands of people want to read my words, which is why I am grateful for a weblog because it gives me a public platform to better enable that. As for fortune, it would be lovely to make a living as an author, but that happens so rarely, and in most cases for a particular kind. I do not want to write young adult love triangles and I can not write humorous romances; I am given the stories I am given, and must serve them.

Wintering, from The Coracle Sky

I am asked to write for quiet people, wild dreaming people who may not smudge their houses with sacred herbs or know the names of woodland mushrooms but still are wild in a deep, internal way. Our kindred love books, and can never have enough of those that hold our hearts gently even as they take us into magic. These are the books I want to write, the people I want to reach. It is a quiet thing to do.

Travelling Through Water

The sea is close tonight. It washes over the plain not with water but dreams. I'm sitting in the dark, having forgotten to go to sleep. It's too late to head on down to the shore but I wish I could, for it feels like the shore is trying to come to me.

This evening someone asked me to go back in time. For a moment I thought yes, I could do that. I know how. But then I saw what I'd been unsure of until that moment - I really don't want to go back. The river doesn't flow like that. Following the current may be frightening, but it seems even more frightening to be swimming backwards, or standing on some old bank watching everything else move on without you. It's a different proposition of course to take what the past gave you and carry it forward. Wading, floating, paddling, motor boating - however you go or how fast you go doesn't matter, so long as you are always facing towards the sea.

See this is what summer does - fills my mind with water. Come winter I…

The Paths Amongst Her Bones

There was a round wooden house in the hills, amongst the trees, and somehow it became part of me. I was only there twice, back before I should have had real memories. But that was enough, apparently. Enough for the smell of wood to be in my breath when I'm trying to calm myself. Enough for leafshadow and incence to lie beneath my skin.

There was an island of broken stone, and somehow I've walked its paths everywhere I go.

Some days I need to remind myself that I'm a grown up woman - almost fifty! That's when I put on quiet music and think back through rock rubble beneath bare feet ... pohutukawa singing ... rugs thickened with forest shadow ... the hills looking back at me ... and I place myself in all the places that are myself, until I'm here again.

On twitter recently the wonderful Robert McFarlane inspired a conversation about the small, private places we go on pilgrimage. Some people responded that there were places where they felt they'd left a part of th…

The Rules of Love

My days lately have been swathed in rain. Even better, it's been a little cold, which is like a special beautiful blessing for me. I wrap myself in a shawl and drink tea and let the breezes coming through my open door tell me their dreams.

But I am strange, and society never fails to tell me so. I'm supposed to love the summer, the warmth, the beach. This seems to be one of the rules of the human heart these days.

These days there are a lot of rules about love. I know we're getting better on the LGBT front, but the list of ways it's acceptable to love someone, or something, seems to be getting longer and more complicated as we work out how to find balance in our society. As a writer, I find it difficult sometimes. I take my inspiration from the old stories, the mythic tales, which are so often about the coming together in marriage of two different types of power - the king (mind, body) and the maid (heart, soul). To modern sensibilities, it seems like an imbalance of p…

The Heroine's Mythic Journey

I have seen stories described in many ways. A path. A pyramid. An arrow shooting the story, and the reader, forward with increasing momentum. Everything is about the journey towards a goal. But for me this is a very masculine view of storytelling, and I wanted to conceive a narrative process which was more feminine in nature - ie, a template which gathered things in to create a richness and depth, rather than discarding things for the sake of a streamlined plot.

Women in  particular know that, in real life, no one focuses entirely on one problem, one goal. Even while toiling against the dragon (be that a work project, a family problem, a health issue, etc) we must help our children with their schoolwork, phone our elderly parents, put the rubbish out, buy birthday presents. And we know too that these everyday incidentals make our toil all the more dramatic - and all the more worthwhile.

I believe the best novels - at least, for me - are those which focus on the processes of people, ra…

The Songlines of My Sky

A dear reader asked for my list of personal moon names. I came up with these many years ago when frustrated with all the northern native moon names. Some of them were mentioned in The Storyteller of Cyriae, one of the tales in Driftways. I believe we benefit from developing intimate relationships with nature - therefore, noticing what each month (moon) brings to our own neighbourhood and acknowledging that with a particular name.

These are my personal moons, the songlines of my sky ...

Bee-wing Moon. 

August. Imbolc in my part of the world: the first stirrings of spring. I have written about the Bee-wing moon here. It's probably my favourite chapter in the annual story of life.

Lilac Moon.

September. This is the month when lilac and wisteria begin to blossom all through my neighbourhood. It was a little late this year, but climate change has been making obvious alterations to the natural pattern of weather and growth here, and the lilac blossom was one of them. Infact we had little …

The Medicine of the Upturned Sea

I was almost home this morning when I decided to keep going. Sometimes that happens, doesn't it? You just keep going until you find yourself at the edge of the world. I stopped on the last strand of it, the pale sand, and watched seafoam wash up almost to my feet. I do not love the sea but this morning I had been drawn irresitably to its wild peace.

Waves were crashing against the stone walls, and the king tide filled all but one filament of the beach. I smiled because I know this sea in all her moods, her silver-netted gentleness and her storms. That was where the medicine lay for me - simply in that quiet connection I have with her. I needed nothing from the waters, no weeds or dreams, no bottled words, no rising whale. I only needed to see her, recognise her, and so in some strange way recognise me.

I came home to blueberry scones and tea, and to a book in which the characters said I love you to each other, something I needed after the bleakness of the le Guin stories I'd b…