My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Neo-Pagan Solstice Part 2: The Tree

Photographs by Raven, 2018
We have a Yule Tree. Calling it that is a good compromise between calling it a Christmas Tree and calling it a Solstice tree, seeing as variations on the name 'Yule' are used to refer to Christmas in many languages, and Yule is also what a lot of Neo-Pagans call the Winter Solstice. As I mentioned before, our household does Solstice out of faith, and Christmas out of tradition. The decorations are mostly gold for the returning light, red for the kinds of food that last into winter, and white/clear for the snow and ice of winter. For the most part, it is like the average Christmas tree, as Christmas trees are themselves of Pagan origin - the only difference with ours is that it has a few more deliberately solar decorations. Most people these days put up a tree as an entirely secular festive ornament, an element of tradition that may be divorced from its roots in some ways (much like the average 'live' tree in that respect...) but I think it is a beautiful thing that we keep doing them, and I love how many people use their trees to express themselves, or as a creative medium on which family traditions are built. As such, I would like to share with you all our tree. It's possibly a bit self-indulgent, but as the tree is probably one of my favourite things about the festive season, and this is my blog, here we are!

2011 Yule Tree, 
not sure who took the photos
We have had our Yule Tree since Raven and I have lived together, always topped with the radiant sun. I think I made a post about our Yule Tree in 2011, or at least intended to, because I found an old collage of the Yule Tree from when we still lived in the apartment! Raven and I have been together for a decade now, and I like how we have formed our own mini-traditions for our mini-family. Every year we have celebrated Christmas day with found-family, some of whom have strained family relationships and painful memories of the festive period like myself. Solstice has often been celebrated with the broad group of friends met through the Highland Open Circle. The Yule tree has glittered through all of that, a symbol of both festivals, and of Raven and I merging our ideas. 

2011 Solstice decorations. I think I took these photos
I have a second, smaller tree in my study, known as the 'Gothmas' tree or the 'Cryptmas' tree which is black, purple and silver with sklls, bones, black cats and tomb-stones, but it will get its own post as it is an entirely secular festive decoration - and very much an aesthetic suited to the main Gothic theme of this blog rather than a Pagan thing. 

The Yule Tree, 2017. My photo
The main difference between our tree and the average Christmas tree are the solar decorations. As well as gilded plaster decorations of the sun and moon, there is a large sun on the top of the tree instead of a star. I think it was actually manufactured as a starburst, but being gold and amber, and with so many radiating points, it certainly looks very solar.

Sun-burst tree-topper with gold & amber sparkles. 2017, by me

Glowing sun bauble, 2017, by me.
I am on the look out for more sun-themed decorations for our tree, especially gold ones. It is not, as is to be expected, the most popular motif among mainstream sellers of decorations, however gold decorations in general are pretty popular.Plain gold baubles can look pretty solar, as can translucent ones if they are the right texture and carefully illuminated - I think they are the most 'realistic' solar depictions on our tree. We also have the other kind of solar decoration, the sun-face design reminiscent of Sol made popular in medieval heraldry.  It's an image that hangs on our tree, but is also in the Solstice decorations around our house and on our altar, as visible on the altar post. 

Sun decoration. Photographed 2017

Sun bauble 2018, my photo.
I bought the sun, and it's twin - a gilded moon - secondhand on eBay. I buy a LOT of things secondhand, online on eBay, in charity shops, from Facebook sales groups, etc. mostly because it is cheaper, but also because it seems you find more unusual things, especially older things, if you shop in those sorts of places. I know folk are probably tired of hearing me yammer on about the environment, but it is very important to re-use the stuff we have already made, or recycle where possible, rather than constantly use up more and more of our natural resources to make new things by energy-intensive and polluting processes (it's also worth noting that some forms of recycling are high energy, too). If you are feeling crafty, there are plenty of craft projects for tree decorations that are also recycling projects; maybe next year I'll put some on my blog.

 Moon bauble, 2018? My photo.
We have a moon bauble as well as a sun one, because while we celebrate the returning sun and coming of warmer weather, we also celebrate the longest night and those cosy evenings indoors, the snow on the hills and importance of winter in the cycle of things. The balance is important, and although there are a lot of harsh things about winter weather, that harsh weather kills off harmful pests and parasites, the frost can be what triggers some plants to grow, and snow-sports are a big part of the local economy in some regions of the Highlands. Winter is not inherently a bad thing, just as summer is not inherently a good thing; they both have their benefits and also bring problems (eg. summer can bring drought, wild-fires, sunburn, heat exhaustion etc.). In my form of Paganism I try and celebrate the seasons as they come, and while there is always something hopeful about the returning light in darkness, sometimes it's important to appreciate that darkness too (a familiar mentality for Goths!). 

Star decoration chosen for the pentagram of ribbons and sunburst centre 
Our Yule Tree has decorations that aren't solar, like owls (getting a new owl each year has become a tradition in our household, too), a blown-glass witch, some skulls, lots of tartan and deer, a fuzzy wolf to represent our friend 'Sarge' and a lot of pine-cones, some glass, some real, as well as snowflakes and snowy things of various designs; it's a seasonal tree at its heart; the ever-green pine (in our case because it's plastic and thus literally can't die) decorated with symbols of winter, much like most festive trees... and unlike my Gothmas tree, which is more a touch of Hallowe'en in midwinter! But the Gothmas tree will get its own post next! 

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Study/Studio Re-Decoration Part 2: Book-Nook

In my much earlier post about decorating my study ::here:: I showed some pictures of it with lighter purple walls, and vinyl decals of Gothic architecture. I felt the bright purple was a bit too kitsch, and was having doubts about the vinyl decals. As such, I became motivated to re-decorate, firstly by removing the decals and re-painting the room a darker purple, and then by adding new flooring (finally!) and screening my meditation area/book-nook with  curtains. There is quite a lot to cover, so I am splitting this between several posts. The previous post ::here:: was about my gallery/display wall.
Sensory Space
My Book-Nook has been a part of the study/studio design plan right from the start. It's probably the most 'Hippie' rather than Goth corner, despite the dark purple walls and black furniture. Its purpose is to provide a quiet reading and chill-out space for me.

I have Asperger's with sensory processing disorder, and one of the most difficult symptoms to manage is sensory overload. To mitigate this, I have deliberately created a calming sensory space. It is important that it is dark, with muted colours, because one of the major ways in which I get overstimulated is through too many bright lights, garish colours, etc. (envisage a supermarket or mall full of bright shop lighting - that will affect me badly, for example). I can gradually increase the light to reading level by using string-lights for dim light, then using the ::Klevercase:: Harry Potter book-shaped reading light (bought in a sale!), or turning on a stand light that is just outside the Book-Nook.

Double mesh curtains filters any glare from the window, and also adds a little sound insulation, although it is a quiet corner of the house, anyway, away from things like the kitchen and bathroom which might have noise. Loud noises and noisy environments are also very difficult for me. I can again gradually increase my sound exposure by putting calming music on with head-phones, or from my computer speakers. I find urban environemnts far too loud for me a lot of the time - too much traffic, all the H.V.A.C systems on buildings, the sounds of people, sirens, etc. all become quite overwhelming (especially traffic noise trapped between the hard surfaces of buildings so it becomes almost an indistinct rushing noise...). It's one of the reasons I moved to somewhere rural, and I am sad about how much busier and more developed where I live is becoming.

I also have to recharge after socialising because the constant analysis and 'masking' required for me to function socially is quite exhausting, so this space provides a retreat and recharge space for that. Having this space is very important to me avoiding meltdowns, especially as I have to try and hold everything in when I'm out and about, so that release when I get home can sometimes be a gush as the dam breaks if I'm not careful.

Meditation Space
I have a half-height book-case that I use for university books (not all of them; they don't all fit!) in there, and originally I was using the top of the book-case for photo-frames. I took down the photo-frames for two reasons; firstly I wanted a more permanent set-up for my personally altar, and secondly I haven't got around to having prints done to fill all of the frames. I don't have many photographs of friends of family, and this is something I want to work on - mostly printing out photographs I've taken myself. When I do fill all the frames, I'm going to put them on the radiator cover (more on that later). 

Darker purple wall with moon mirrors and stencilling.  Gothic fairy.
Photo-frames with pictures of my Dad and Uncle. Dragon frame will be for Raven
I apologise for the quality of some of the photographs; where I have used the camera on my mobile phone the photographs are grainy and poor resolution, where I have used the camera on Raven's phone, the pictures are crisp and better quality.

One addition to my study has been replacing the photographs on top of one of the book-cases with a new iteration of my meditation altar/personal devotion altar. As it is on a book-case, and therefore effectively on a space that is more shelf-shaped than table-shaped, the arrangement of the altar is necessarily elongated.  I like having somewhere quiet and tucked away I can practice privately without interruptions. The book-nook area is behind curtains, so it is even more secluded than my study, which itself has a door onto the upstairs hallway. There's no window facing directly onto the book-nook, so it is probably the most private corner of the house - perfect for not being disturbed while I'm meditating, as well as perfect for reading in peace. I am somewhat reclusive by nature, so hiding myself away in a corner is my idea of heaven. It's a little inner-sanctum in my house, a corner that is just for me.

These are some pictures from early September of my altar set up - I will show some more recent ones later one, so keep reading for those.

Personal Meditation Altar
The two 'pink' candles are actually more of a fuchsia purple, slightly darker and bluer than fuchsia pink, however they look quite pink once lit - they are hand-dipped candles bought from The Maker's Mark in Newcastle Emlyn/Castell Newydd Emlyn in Wales. It is a fabulous wee shop, and whenever I'm in Wales, I try and make trip especially to that shop. The lavender jar-candle is one I made myself from the reclaimed scraps of candles I have burned at my altar in the past - the stubs of so many white tea-lights diluting the purples and blacks I have often used. As has been mentioned in other posts, I am now buying beeswax or soy candles, and this jar-candle of recycled paraffin wax stubs is the last of the paraffin wax used on an altar. I'm phasing out paraffin wax altogether, burning through the last of my stash of tealights, and replacing them mostly with beeswax.  More recently, I have been buying rolled beeswax hand-made 'dinner' size candles. I will probably make a blog post all about candles in the near future.  One of my main candle suppliers is ::Sweet Little Candle Company:: because of the variety of sizes and colours.

Close-up of my chalice, two spell pouches, the box for my Black Book and
candle-holders, pentagram plaque
The black and purple pentagram plaque was bought on eBay, it is hand-made, and I am not sure if it is secondhand, or made by the seller. It was originally gold and black, but I repainted the pentacle purple to better fit in with my décor, using some purple nail-varnish to get a high-gloss and durable finish. The moon shaped glass tea-light holder was second-hand on eBay and it was only £1 (excluding postage). The stack of skulls resin ornament is just there to weigh down the altar cloth, because it was quite light and sheer and kept sliding off the gloss-painted book-case. Not that long after this, some falling incense burnt a hole through the altar cloth, so I have replaced it (pictures further below). 

Contextual image of my Book-Nook. Some colour distortion on right side.
Corner shelves on left have travelled with me since I lived in England!
There are stars stencilled all along the upper edges of my walls. I bought the stencils on eBay for £4.99 from a shop called 'The Stencilist' which is no longer on eBay. I also got an individual star-burst mylar stencil for £2.99 from Stencil Zone. All the stars were sponged on with acrylic paints, with a mixture of gold and silver acrylic used in the Book-Nook to give a shimmer effect. The mixed paint isn't quite as fun as colour-shift paint, but it does have an interesting mottled look, and how gold or silver they look depends a lot on the lighting conditions.

I did the abstract painting in the middle - it is an acrylic pour painting done with metallic paints with colours inspired by the Aurora Borealis. I live north enough to see the Aurora from my house sometimes, although often the weather is too cloudy to get a proper look. At the time of writing this, the painting is part of an exhibition I am in at the Inverness Museum And Gallery (ground floor, in the Room to Discover), and I've replaced it with a large moon mirror. 

Large moon mirror. Photo taken during full moon ritual. Purple lantern reflection
I think the moon mirrors are made in Indonesia - one is certainly labelled as such (the smallest one), and I think as they are all so similar, that they are likely all made in the same place. I have three on this wall, an oval one on the side of the book-case, and a matching carved wooden wind-chime hanging over my window. All of the moon mirrors were bought secondhand, mostly on eBay. The large one was £3.95, the small one £3 and the medium one £3.73, all from different sellers, and excluding postage and packaging.* I think these moon mirrors might be made as tourist souvenirs, as it is relatively common to see them turn up second-hand. I haven't seen this specific sort of thing in import shops catering to the hippie demographic (like FarFetched in Inverness) but that is also a possibility. I display them because of the religious significance of the moon to me as a Neo-Pagan Witch. My meditation altar is where I do my moon-phase devotions, so there is a lot of moon iconography on that altar. I see a lot of similar mirrors on sale from American eBay sellers, but I can't afford postage and customs from America. I don't often buy things new, so wouldn't know where to look for one new. 

Current collection of round moon mirrors, two with coronas, all three purple.
Stylistically all very similar: carved wood with a similar style of painting,
thin eyebrows, soft gradients of colour, three stars and similarly drawn eyes.
As I mentioned above, I recently got a new altar cloth. It's always a risk having incense or candles near fabric, and unfortunately some smouldering bits fell off a joss stick, and landed on the layered altar cloth over a rather more flammable plastic-based synthetic lace skull table-cloth I'd been using to keep my books less dusty, and a hole, rather noticeable, got burned into both of them. I've ditched the Hallowe'en table cloth idea entirely, and I'm going to make a curtain for the books that is under the lip of the top of the book-case, so less likely to come in contact with anything falling from incense on my altar. It is good that I was right there when it happened; this sort of thing happening unattended could start a fire. Always think of fire-risk if you use candles, incense or any other naked flame or source of ignition in your spiritual practice. Witch-burning is a bad thing!

New altar cloth, beeswax candles, candle-sticks, witchy boxes, etc.
Ash next to incense burner rolled there once very much extinguished, and because
I was faffing about with re-arrangement; it did not land on my new altar cloth.
I want to mention the candle-holders. Both the two small ones and the two taller ones are from charity shops. The two taller ones are the first altar candlesticks I ever bought, back when I lived in England, probably back in 2002 or 2003. I had misplaced one for a while, so they weren't on my altar because I don't like asymmetry.  I try and source as much of my stuff secondhand as possible; there's no reason to spend a whole heap of money to put together an altar, or even to have intresting decor. I see a lot of expensive stuff being sold to the Pagan community and also to the Goth community and it's frustrating when I see people who feel like they NEED to have all these expensive things to be a proper Witch, or to keep up with all the Instagram Goths or Instagram witches,(of which technically I am one of both, so look me up at @domesticatedgoth that is where I put all of these photographs before they went up on here) and you don't need to spend a lot of money or have whatever item is trending on Instagram to be valid. Have a good rummage in a charity shop/thrift shop, look on eBay, Depop, your local sales group, etc. etc. There's plenty of very reasonably priced items out there, and they are often more unusual and unique than what is mass-produced.

*I exclude postage and packaging fees from all eBay prices because it is something that will be so variable depending on location. Many sellers offer direct collection, which is very useful if you live in a large urban area with lots of eBay sellers, but I live in the Scottish Highlands, so not only do I rarely have anyone nearby selling, I also have to contend with a surcharge on deliveries sometimes, something I feel is deeply unfair as I still live on the mainland and we are serviced by a proper road and rail network. I am not on an island! It does not take a ferry or plane to deliver me post!. Also, a lot of sellers have a 'doesn't post to Scottish Highlands' issue. It's a pet peeve of mine - we're not as remote and isolated as people think.

Study/Studio Re-Decoration Part 1: Feature Wall

In a much earlier post ::here::, my study had bright purple walls, vinyl decals, etc. I felt it was too kitschy for my current tastes, and started redecorating. It has been a slow process, as decorating is costly, and there are other parts of our house that have needed our attention more urgently. The room isn't finished yet, but it's pretty close. As it's quite a complicated, multi-purpose room. 

Featuring the Wall
My feature wall, also termed a 'display-wall' or 'gallery-wall' is probably the part of my study that most embodies the aesthetic that I am aiming for with my study. It was initially a black wall with silver Valspar glitter for some sparkle. I repainted it after the initial surface got scuffed up by me reposition the pictures, knocking it with furniture etc. For the repaint, I wanted to have a slightly green colour, partly to balance the purple walls, and partly because I just like green. I couldn't find the shade that I wanted in the range my local DIY shop carried, and I had tried some testers, so I bought another of a more neutral black tester I liked and mixed it with a black that was more like a very dark blue-green and blended the two at home with more glitter to get a colour that I liked. The glitter shimmers somewhat green, rather than silver, because of the green dye. Yes, I am that finnicky

The display wall 
My collection of frames are mostly from TK Maxx and Dunelm Mill, bought before I decided to drastically reduce my purchase of new items. The moon painting that I did was professionally framed by Riverside Gallery in Inverness, and the large mirror with the swirly frame was bought second-hand in in Inverness' PDSA branch. I like the silver gilt finish on these different frames because quite a few have some texture to them, more than just a metallic finish. Some of them also have some dark dry-brushing in the cervices, or a wash - things to make them have a little more life on them. I think things like texture, some variance in colour, etc. quite helpful for making the arrangement more dimensional and interesting. They're not all the same silver, not the same level of metallic finish, they're diverse, but also - hopefully - harmonious too. These ones were bought like that, but in our bedroom I've repainted and varnished frames to try and get the same concept.

Very terrible photograph of my wall with bad lighting (and wonky stars).
Terrible grainy photos are what happen when I take photos on my own phone.
I managed to align the dado rail along the bottom of the photograph, but because of perspective distortion, lens distortion, etc. there's more slope along the top of the pictures than real life, however the wonky stars are all my own fault; I haven't got the black paint all the way up to the ceiling partly because I can't reach up and partly because I know that along the top there will be cornice, however unfortunately I didn't leave that gap evenly, and I matched the stars to the wonky edge instead of the ceiling. I regret this. I will stencil in some more high up stars at the right edge, and more low stars at the left end and try and level this out. I will wait until I have the coving up, however, so I have a good visual straight edge to match things up to. It's really important to have a good visual marker, especially when you're dealing with something big and you're painting up close. Also, it will never be truly straight when working in a building like mine, and I need to give the visual illusion of straightness when the walls and ceilings aren't straight. 

Antique sword. Also a close-up of the wallpaper and the orb string-lights. 
I collect bladed weapons - what I really like are swords (there is another one in my study) but I have a couple of knives. I would like more fine daggers, especially antiques. Currently I don't have the income to collect antiques right now. I have considered selling off some of my collection because of financial situation, but there are complex laws about blade sales in Scotland so I'm keeping them, plus I remember how much work I put into saving up to buy them in the first place. There's something fascinating about the history behind objects: for example, the sword pictured is Italian, I think from the 1870s, perhaps later, and while it is displayed in its scabbard, there are beautiful engravings - somewhat scuffed - that tells a bit about the military background of the sword, and it also has dings along the spine of the blade that look like it may well have actually used in a sword-fight, or at least in defence of another bladed weapon (the context could be all sorts of things!). I also think it fascinating how much beauty and art that is often invested in embellishing what is primarily a weapon. I am interested in H.E.M.A, used to do modern sport fencing, as well having had a few kendo lessons, so I have an interest from a historical swordsmanship perspective, too. I think a lot of people think it's creepy, or that I have some murderous intent - I joke that I'd never use my collection to stab anyone because they're too precious to get blood on (true, honestly. Even skin oils are bad for them!) and 'creepy' is a subjective judgement. These are art objects to me, even if that is not what they were made as - but they were made with craft, care, and creative skill.

I repainted this moon. The camera angle is really awkward.
Good camera because I used Raven's phone instead of my own... 
Moon iconography is a prevalent in my study - mostly in my near my Book-Nook and meditation space because one of my ways of remaining in tune with nature is doing devotions according to the lunar cycle at the meditation altar in my Book-Nook. My next blog post will have more details about my Book-Nook. This particular ornament was bought as a yellow glossy moon with the slogan "Sleep tight, sweet dreams through the night" painted on it, so I repainted it to fit in better with my study décor. The original ornament was £1.50 on eBay. I tried to make it a slightly adorable sleepy moon. It's hung up just by the entrance to the Book-Nook. 

Sword, mirrors, picture frames, art. 

I have, since these pictures were taken, got more pictures, and pictures I like better, to fill the frames. I'm aiming for more fine-art prints, as well as my own artwork. It is an ongoing process, but having the frames first means I can arrange the wall and then find pictures to fit on the wall, which I find is easier than when I have had the pictures first and then tried to find a place for them (situation with our living room). A lot of the prints are repurposed greetings cards and I'm eyeing up some Caspar David Friedrich and Salvator Rosa postcards.

The moon-phase banner was a Winter Solstice gift from Raven. He bought it for me from someone on Etsy and I have been asked on Instagram where it is from, but unfortunately he can't remember where. The moon-phase garland along the top was from SpookyBox Club when I was subscribed, and I painted and assembled it myself. 

Moon phase banner. 
I think the picture above is pretty useful for illustrating how the curtains tie together the aesthetic for the main area of the study/studio. and screens off the Book-Nook. I am not always proud of my decorating decisions, and often it takes more than one go to create what I visualise in my head, or for me to realise that what I visualised doesn't work out so well in real life, but I really like how the damask voile curtains go with the wallpaper and monochrome wall. Also, this is possibly the only photograph I have with the stand-lamp in it.

Terrible, terrible photo; why I'm part-exchanging my phone for a better one.
If you can see anything at all, it's an old photo of the Book Nook before the altar
I will be doing a few more posts about this room specifically, and then more about specific projects, especially furniture repaints. I will also chart more of decorating the rest of the house, although not all of the house is in a particularly Gothic aesthetic, so I will be focusing on the more Gothic-looking rooms. As you can probably tell from the square photographs, most of these pictures are or were on Instagram, where my accounts are @domesticatedgoth for this sort of content and @architecturallygothic for ruins, cathedrals, churches, monuments, and other spooky or pretty buildings. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Summer Solstice: Open Circle Ritual

I'm still working on my series of posts on the Wheel of the Year, used as a seasonal ritual framework by various modern Pagan/Neo-Pagan groups, including Wiccans and Druids. The celebration that is probably most famous as a Pagan holy day is the Summer Solstice. I attended more than one Summer Solstice celebration, and this post is about the one I attended as part of the Highland Open Circle/ It was a small private gathering at one of the member's home. 

Solstice Altar
Photo by Lynnie K
Midsummer is the celebration of the longest day - in the Northern hemisphere, this is June 21 or 22 (as our calendar year is imperfect in relation to the solar year, it is not always the same day). While Beltane is the start of summer, Midsummer is the season's peak. In Scotland, the warmest months are usually actually July and August, making Lammas, the next holiday, closer to summer's peak in terms of weather, but late June is pretty warm too. There's different terms for the Midsummer Solstice in different traditions and languages. I call it Midsummer's Night (quite traditionally English; you may recall the Shakespeare play) and it's linked with St John's Eve in much of the British Isles; a common case of a local holiday being linked with a Christian one. I've seen the Scottish Gaelic term for the holiday being Féill Sheathain, and the Druidic term is Alban Hefin (Light of Summer) and the Wiccan term, taken from the Anglo-Saxon, is Litha. Ancient cultures also had a significance for the Summer Solstice, as can be seen from the building of megalithic architecture aligned to the Summer Solstice, most famously at Stonehenge. We have comparatively little on the religion of the ancient pre-Roman Celts, let alone the cultures before that who built megalithic monuments; archaeological evidence can only tell of some of what happened physically, without the written word, it is difficult to interpret the meaning and mindset that accompanied the actions.

Solstice Altar. Photograph by Lynie Kutler
One of the most interesting things about the Open Circle is the diversity of traditions and backgrounds of our members. We're inclusive of many forms of occultism, witchcraft, Paganism, Neo-Paganism and pantheism/animism, so our celebrations tend to be a mixture of cultures and traditions reflecting the attendees' paths. Not everyone in the group is out as Pagan, so I can't comment too much about who believes what, but there are Norse Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Chaos Magicians, traditional Witches, and even a Christian witch in the group, and we've had people from non-European traditions/non-Western traditions join from time to time, too. Our altar reflects a mixture of traditions, and also sometimes items that are souvenirs from the travels and experiences members have had that have influenced their spirituality, but aren't part of their tradition directly, or which are connected to the season we're celebrating. The gathering allows us to discuss our different experiences, and to have a collective altar that has elements that are deeply meaningful to all of us, as there is something special from each of us on it, and many things that become meaningful through their ritual use.

Elemental Ritual Masks and altar from above. Photo I took myself.
I brought the small sun plaque underneath the sun candle-holder at the front of the altar, and the elemental ritual masks. In many forms of Neo-Paganism, especially those that are Wiccan-derived, the Classical elements are honoured in Aristotle's form as Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Aether, or as it is more commonly termed 'Spirit'. In Wiccan ritual structure, part of the opening sequence is to call the elements, either to invoke spiritual entities seen as Guardians of the Watchtowers (a concept brought from the Golden Dawn occult framework, but simplified and altered to fit in Wiccan ritual), or as a way to acknowledge the different aspects of the natural world. Personally, I prefer the latter method. I made the masks for participants to better embody the elements they were honouring, and to take the self out of the equation a little for those who are nervous about speaking in front of a group. For the element of Fire, I painted a mask to look like flames, for the element of Water, I painted it to look like a tropical sea, using dimensional paint to make cresting waves for the hairline, eyebrows and nose, for the element of Earth I tried to make the mask look like geological strata, for the element of Air I painted it with shimmery silvery paint and then used more dimensional paint to make little clouds for the eyebrows, and for the element of Spirit (or 'Energy' in my practice) I painted it with metallic dimensional paint over purple, with metallic shimmer paint too, to try and make it look like lightning. You will see a sixth mask, this is a Nature mask I made for the Beltane ritual which I was asked to bring this Solstice too. 

Sun bowl , mirror plaque and orange candle. Photo taken by me.
As our ritual was indoors (it was predicted to rain), and the host does not have a fireplace, we had a large orange floral candle as our ritual centre rather than a bonfire. Many of our rituals have had an outdoor fire, especially as several of those who regularly host, myself included, have fire-pits. The fire or candle in the middle represents the sun, and remains lit for the whole of the ritual. It's ina nice big brass sun bowl for fire-safety reasons - candles have a tendency to melt and drip, and their wicks can shift. Always be careful when you use candles in your rituals. 

Gecko image next to the sun bowl. Photo taken by me.
It was nice to get together as a group - the Open Circle has been difficult to organise this year as we've all had a very hectic time, and those of us who usually do most of the organisational work, running the rituals and moots, etc. have had problems with our health (I mentioned that in May I had significant issues with my mental health). We've not been meeting up as a Circle very regularly, let alone me for many workings or rituals.

In my next post I will write about my visit to Druid Temple stone circle - a circle formed by the remains of a cairn. I went there in the evening after this ritual, and did some meditation. 

Friday, 21 June 2019

Summer Solstice: Our Home Altar

As with every spoke on the Wheel of the Year, I change the household altar to reflect the season. I find building a seasonal altar is a good way to connect to the changing year, to what is going outdoors in nature. I have a personal working altar in my study, which is more static in overall layout, and the altar I am showcasing in these pictures is our household altar in the living room. It's on wheels so I can roll it out into the middle of the space for group rituals, which is useful!

The two main aspects of Summer Solstice are 1) how the natural world is verdant and blooming in the height of summer and 2) celebrating the warmth of the Sun at it's peak (and also acknowledging that the days will then be drawing shorter again). The altar is set up to reflect those two things.
Green paneled wall, yellow altar cloth, pentagram candle-holder with sun plaque, home grown roses. Two green candle-holder jars. goddess shaped incense burner at the back. Two taper candles in green holders. The altar is a mostly symmetrical arrangement. Three incense sticks in a pentacle shaped flat incense burner.
Summer Solstice Altar. Incense sticks are on a pentacle incense holder.

The altar-cloth is yellow to symbolise the bright summer sun, but yellow is also the colour of many of the flowers blooming at this time of year. I also have the yellow altar-cloth over a green knot-work and pentacle altar-cloth, but it isn't visible from this angle. I put down two altar-cloths to make sure the top of the trolley I use as an altar cloth is protected, as it's a vintage item of furniture and has already got minor damage to the surface that I don't want to get any worse. For printed altar-cloths, I buy them from a local importer that sells Fair Trade hippie goods, and for plain ones, I use scarves I've bought, usually secondhand on eBay or from charity shops. The yellow altar cloth is a scarf (and the same one I used for Imbolc).

The wall behind is white with white dado rail, then green painted paneling. The altar has two white soy candles in green-glazed chunky candle-sticks. In the middle there is a pentacle candle holder with a purple soy votive candle at the top, a blue soy votive candle at the upper left point, a yellow soy votive candle at the upper right, a green soy votive candle in the bottom left, and a red soy votive in the bottom right, and there five tea-lights in the middle of the pentagram holder at the junctions. A sun plaque in red and yellow is hanging off it. There is a bouquet of mixed roses, peach pink and red, in the middle of the altar. On each side of the roses there is a green candle-jar, mottled with a leaf-shaped tag hanging off it. On the left of the altar there is a Goddess shaped metal incense sconce, on the right there is a pentacle-shaped flat incense burner, three incense sticks are visible. The altar cloth is bright yellow. In the foreground there is a sun-shaped ceramic candle holder with gold leaf and a tea-light. The image has a warm ambiance and was taken in the evening.
Summer Solstice altar. Sun candle-holder in foreground. 
I like going for a symmetrical arrangement on my altar; I think the beautiful altars from the churches I went to in childhood have inspired me, as has the traditional Wiccan arrangement for an altar, and just my own enjoyment of symmetry and order. I like that sort of formal arrangement, I feel it's a balanced aesthetic. I am not so much into seeing half of the altar as 'feminine' and half as 'masculine' because I am not into the duotheism of Wicca or the gendering of arbitrary traits - the Goddess incense burner is on the left but as is the Green Man above her, and the Green Woman plaque is on the right (you can just see a corner of each in the image above). Instead, I'm going to be shifting the imagery to fire and air on the right, and earth and water on the left - I will be switching the Goddess incense burner to the right side next time, but I have salt (in a stone dish, representing earth, on the left) as well as the green lotus leaf incense holder, which I've categorized as earth/water due to the lotus, rather than as fire/air due to being an incense holder.

Green paneling and yellow altar cloth. Pentagram candle-holder, with soy votive candles. Either side of the pentagram candle-holder are green ceramic candle-holders with soy taper candles. In the middle-ground is bouquet of roses with a peach rose facing the camera. On the left there is a grey stone pentacle dish with white salt, a green lotus incense burner with a traditional incense stick
Roses from my garden.
I like putting plants that are in season on my altar, so I picked some of the roses blooming in my garden and put them in a little glass bowl. I actually grow a lot of colourful flowers in my garden; not a very Gothic thing to do, I guess, but I enjoy gardening, and the front garden is tiny so just has flowers in it. The front garden is actually looking a bit scruffy at the moment, so I have a plan to tidy it up in the near future, with some bark chippings in the flower beds to help keep the weeds at bay (although weeds are just flowers growing in the wrong place - I actually put pretty 'weeds' in pots; they grow happily with little attention, and some have rather nice flowers on them, like wild pansies). Some more solar flowers would be sunflowers or marigolds, if you wanted to put something really big and yellow on there and they're flowering at the right time for you. I don't like buying flowers when I can grow my own ones. Having real flowers that inevitably wilt is a good metaphor for many of life's transient things, including remembering that summer isn't forever. 

The two chunky green candle-sticks at the back are glazed in a wonderful rich green. I bought them secondhand in a charity shop. The two mottled looking candle-jars in the middle were gifts from a friend and they have little fabric leaves and charms on them. The Goddess incense burner was a gift from Raven. The sun candle-holder with a tea-light in it is another altar item that I have had for a very long time, probably nearly as long as I've been a witch. The pentagram candle holder was bought in the January sales a while back. I will soon post about our Open Circle ritual. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Beltane: Our Home Altar

I am posting this very late; the scheduled date will be May 1st, but the actual date I'm writing this is Sept 18th. The delay is throughout May and into June I had final exams and final projects, which really did not do my mental health any good, and I had to take some time away from things to recover. I have now finished my architectural technology degree! However it does mean I was really rather busy and didn't get this blog post about my altar up on time. My graduation ceremony will be in October. I am still studying, however, as I'm doing a second undergraduate degree - History & Archaeology joint honours degree (with some electives in things like Cultural Studies... more in that in a different blog post). I will also be posting up stuff about Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh, and Mabon.

The household altar dressed for Beltane
This is the household altar again, and as there are already shrines and statues to specific deities and spirits elsewhere, this altar is used for working, and is seasonally decorated. The arrangement for this design is a very Wiccan interpretation of Beltane, and I'm not entirely comfortable with that. Wicca was my entry to the realm of Neo-Paganism, and in recent years I have become more and more interested in traditional practices and Celtic (a broad umbrella term that I don't like too much as a historian, but I know communicates the concept well enough) practices. That's not to say I dislike this altar set-up, but that it embodies a few things that don't necessarily reflect what I want out of my spirituality.

The most Wiccan thing about it is the red and green colour scheme. In Wicca, Beltane is associated with the colour green, especially vibrant greens, for the fresh green foliage coming into the fullness of summer, and red for fire, but also for passion, lust and sexuality. Beltane is seen as a fertility festival, and the May Pole seen as a phallic symbol. There's a really interesting ::article:: from Cailleach's Herbarium why yellow flowers and yellow birds, and possibly the colour yellow in general is a more traditional colour-scheme than the red of Wicca.

A lot of Wiccan practices surrounding notions of things like pan-European Paganism, or fertility rituals as the basis of the Wheel of the Year is based off Romanticist interpretations of folklore from the 18th and 19thC, rather than historical practices, and for a while I wanted something more 'authentic', by which I meant older and historically accurate, but the pendulum of my opinion swings, and I think that perhaps embracing these later interpretations, but understanding them as what they are - slightly fantastical re-imaginings of an earlier past by people not in possession of all the facts, and with a yearning for some mystical former golden age (that never was in actuality) is valid in its own way - Beltane may never have been some phallic festival of sex in actuality, but in a world where sex is often either demonised as sinful lust, or commercialised in objectifying hyper-sexuality, having a celebration of sexuality can be a very positive thing. These re-imaginings often sprang from a need for something that was missing in culture at the time, sometimes things that are still missing from culture now, and I don't see a problem with adapting practices to face changing needs, as long as we are honest and open about those changes, and don't try to pass off something merely old (even Gerald Gardener's work has been around for well over half a century now, and a lot of what he did was built off earlier 20thC, 19thC and even 18thC ideas) as something ancient.

[Aside: a celebration of sexuality is a good thing, however some people's idea that they're somehow entitled to sex on Beltane and you're not a good Pagan unless you're participating in some orgy to which they are invited needs challenged; you'd think this would be a rare phenomenon, but I've come across this attitude more often than I would like! Usually from older Pagans who think this is still the '60s and '70s free love scene.] 

I'm still not really Wiccan any more, as I've moved away from the duotheism of Wicca and a lot of its liturgy, and I'm more of a pantheist/animist exploring notions of polytheism now, and while I like a lot of Wiccan ritual structure, I've been incorporating other elements into my practice for quite a while now. One of the great things about Paganism is that as an umbrella for many faiths, it tends to allow for a lot of personal spiritual exploration - the notion that we all have our own individual paths is quite prevalent, so there's not really a sense of orthodoxy and heresy as with some other faiths. 

Flowers from my garden
One of the things I love to do with my altar is to decorate it with flowers from the garden that are seasonal - not so much in autumn and winter when it's not the time of year for many flowers, but certainly for spring and summer. All of the flowers were picked from my garden, with the cherry blossoms wreathing this little posey vase from the cherry trees outside my house. Early summer is when my garden is most colourful, and as this summer I planted a lot of bulbs, it is likely that next spring I will have even more flowers to dress my altar for Vernal Equinox and Beltane. I live in the Scottish Highlands, so some of the spring flowers bloom a little later here than they did when I lived in England because of how much further North we are and the colder winter, shorter days, etc. Pansies bloom from spring to late summer here, however. 

Ornate chalice
This is the last time I used this particular chalice. It is glass with some sort of red lacquer, and I bought it in Homebase in their January sale a few years back, for a very reduced price. Unfortunately, the red has started to flake, so I am concerned it is no longer food-safe, and I will be retiring it. It has been very pretty sitting on my altar with its ornate red moulding, but its time has passed, and it will go into the glass recycling.

In Wicca, the chalice is used for the Symbolic Great Rite, representing the reproductive/creative union of masculine and feminine energy, which for a lot of Wiccans will be an important aspect of Beltane, however this is not what I use mine for. Mine represents the element of water, and is also used for drinking a toast to the departing spring, and to the incoming summer. My toast is non-alcoholic as I cannot drink alcohol with my medication so am tee-total now. 

Rock-salt in a soapstone dish and tiny cauldron
This soapstone (I think; it's definitely carved stone, anyway) pentacle dish is full of rock-salt, both which are used to represent the element of Earth, which to me is the literal, mineral ground rather than nature, plants and leafy things (I see all living things as a combination of the elements). I use salt for consecration and representation of both life and death - without salt we would die due to the lack of transmission through nerves, and with too much salt we, and a lot of other things, die.

The small cauldron behind is the terracotta container from a tiny candle the equivalent of a tealight in size that I bought in a Fair Trade import shop in Wales and lit for the full moon during spring last year. It is made by ::Dalit Candles:: who are a social enterprise that employ people from the Dalit ('untouchables') in India to make the candles and their holders, and who help fund schools and hospitals in districts with severe poverty. The terracotta cauldron is a perfect size for inclusion in my travel altar, where it is also a symbol of water, and of fecundity. It was on the household altar at Beltane because the altar was otherwise crammed with candles, cherry blossoms, and other things, and it was small enough to cram in between everything else.

Candles on the altar
This altar had a lot more candles than any previous altar from this year. This is because after I had consecrated their use on the altar, I extinguished them and then arranged them, and some more candles in candelabras too large to put on the altar, into two groups on our living room floor (cats safely shut out the room!) and used it as a way to have the two Beltane fires for blessing and purification indoors, without setting our house on fire and without setting off all the smoke alarms. Usually I only use beeswax and soy candles, but I was bought some red dinner candles - the three at the back - made from paraffin wax (unfortunately a petrochemical) but which as they are already made and purchased and given to me for the purpose of Beltane, I would use anyway. The two really tall candles are vintage candles decades old made of stearin, which is an animal by-product (definitely not vegan-friendly), and which are older than I am. They are looked after very carefully and only burnt on special occassions. All the tea-lights are beeswax, and the votive candles in the pentagram candelabra are soy. The red rolled candles in the curving metal candelabra are beeswax. I am trying to reduce my use of petrochemical-based materials, especially single-use plastics and candles which are effectively single-use plastics I set on fire. Due to the deforestation for soy plantations and the methane generated by livestock, currently beeswax seems like the most sustainable alternative.

Also on my altar are some items not individually photographed; the rectangular Celtic knotwork lantern belongs to my partner Raven. I bought it for him as a Winter Solstice gift last December. I have two incense burners. One of the burners is a censer held up by a Goddess figure, made of metal and bought by Raven as a souvenir from one of his trips to Glasgow, from the independent occult retailer ::Enigma 23::. The other burner is a wooden pentacle, which is the one I use most frequently on the altar to burn incense as offerings. Neither wand not athame are present on the altar due to space; they were temporarily put on the shelf under the altar for this ritual.  

Witching corner; the altar in context
The altar is on wheels, but when not brought out into the middle of the living room for group rites, it remains in this corner, where I have a Green Man figure from ::The Maker's Mark:: in Castell Newydd Emlyn/Newcastle Emlyn in Cymru/Wales. I make sure to visit every time I go through the town, especially as it is near a very picturesque castle. I have unfortunately forgotten the sculptor's name, but the plaque is based off an old London church's Green Man. The Green Woman plaque is also hand-made, and was a gift from a friend in Peterborough, many years ago. It is signed, with a mark rather than a full name but I don't know whose mark it is. The pentacle shelf above is a custom piece from CAS Design in Berlin, and has been reviewed in the past on this blog. I think it is an excellent piece of furniture, and thoroughly recommend them.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Vernal Equinox 2018

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I've decided that in response to the popularity of Witchcraft in the Goth community in recent years that I would chronicle what I do as a 'Celtic' Witch (for lack of a better term... I'm an ex-Wiccan, gradually re-embracing the term 'witch'. I'm also interested in various magical and folk traditions from the British Isles and Brittany, at many different points in history from prehistory to Druids to medieval, renaissance, 18thC, Victorian to present) in order to show people who might be new or just curious what it is some of us do. I'm only an example for me, but I share a lot of practices with many Neo-Pagans. As it is a few days in advance of the Equinox, I'm writing about that spoke on the Wheel of the Year.

Before I go into what I'm going to be doing for the Equinox this year, I want to explore what I did last year. For the last Equinox I attended my first ever Pagan event hosted by Highland Fire Gatherings. I have helped run group events with the Highland Open Circle, and celebrated the Sabbats with them, but this was the first time I'd been to an event hosted by this different group. The Fire Gatherings are not formal ceremonies like the Open Circle run, they are - as the title states - gatherings with fire. 

I have organised many of the rituals I've participated in with the Open Circle are ones I've been leading and/or organising, and that is a lot of responsibility, and despite being Neo-Pagan for close on two decades now, I don't feel like a Priestess, I don't feel like I have got to the spiritual stage for that. I always struggle to write rituals that cater to our eclectic group, to pick the right words that don't sound contrived or pretentiously theatrical, to organise the ritual to work practically... I have the ability to speak in public and to adapt to alterations in situation, but I feel more like the 'mistress of ceremonies' than an actual Priestess. I get so caught up in trying to make a functional ritual on a practical level that I struggle to do the key, core element of any Neo-Pagan ritual; to engage in spiritual practice. Being part of someone else's gathering or ritual is something I much prefer. I'm happy to work as a solitary witch/Neo-Pagan, and I'm happy to be part of a group energy, but I don't want to be the group leader.

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Corn-dolly, eggs, and candles on the altar.
Photograph courtesy of Highland Fire Gatherings and used with permission.

The gathering was outdoors, in a deciduous woodland grove near to a pine-woodland, on a hillside overlooking the Moray Firth.  Spring can be late and slow to emerge here in the Highlands, due to the northerly climate, so instead of somewhere green with new growth, the trees looked quite bare, and the autumn leaves still lingered over the grass. One of the benefits of celebrating outdoors is that you end up appreciating the seasonal changes at their pace, not one of the artificial calendar of the Wheel of the Year, which is only approximate because the weather fluctuates yearly, weekly... multiple times a day because this is Scotland and the weather is best described as 'changeable' and 'damp'! In Southern England it was likely a time of flowers and greenery, and that is probably what Gerald Gardner saw when he celebrated with his New Forest Coven in the early 20thC, but firstly I'm a long way North of that, and secondly climate change is noticeably affecting seasonal patterns. It ends up that the Sabbats are day to take the time to see how the wheel is turning, rather than expecting it to have turned exactly to a specific point on a specific date. The seasons should turn the wheel, not the wheel turn the seasons.

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Spiderweb woven from yarn and string-lights, made by one of the organisers.
Photograph courtesy of Highland Fire Gatherings, used with their permission.

Those attending brought their own materials to make shelter, and their own contribution. I didn't intend to stay the night, so instead of a tent, I brought a purple Celtic (well, Insular) knotwork blanket, and built a shelter out of fallen branches, propped up against two trees, and with the base filled with an extra layer of gathered dried leaves for insulation. With the large purple blanket acting as a windbreak, and my tote-bags acting as something damp-proof to sit on, it was actually quite cosy in my shelter, and I spent a lot of time in there during the gathering. I am not the most gregarious person, actually quite introverted in person, so I needed my own little space away from the gathering proper, and so my little shelter on the periphery was quite useful to me, I could retreat to it between moments of being social and friendly. I also hung my little silver lantern on the end of a branch to light my shelter, as I stayed with the group well into the darkness of evening. I didn't bring a camera, as I didn't know if that would be considered impolite, so I don't have any of my own photographs, and I'm most sad that I didn't take any photographs of my little shelter. It was a lean-to, with one ridge-pole branch, supported at either end in forked branches rammed into the ground, and then numerous branches lent against that, with the blanket over it all, tucking in the edges and partially under the rear to keep the wind out. At the front, I made a slightly higher entrance way with two more forked branches creating a triangular opening, and the blanket pulled down low either side. My shelter was against a slope, so it seemed quite low at the front, but with the ground dipping towards the back, it was actually quite roomy inside.

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An eight-fold woven spiral frames the forest beyond.
Photograph courtesy of Highland Fire Gatherings.
Me singing in my black robes.
Photograph courtesy of H.F.G
The gathering itself was quite informal in structure, and there was a blessing, but there was also lots of drumming and communal music, which had a really good energy. I'd brought some recorders and whistles with me, and I played a lot of music that day - sometimes in the circle (where I used two plastic recorders knocked together as a percussion instrument as well as playing them the conventional way), sometimes just playing tunes while sat in my little shelter. I find music is a good way to express the sort of spiritual feelings that just come out awkward when expressed in words - if the best I can do with language is cringe-worthy attempts at poetry, I will stick to wordless sound. I did attempt to sing at one point, but singing publicly is not something I comfortable with so I was nervous and thus did not do so well at that.

My purple shelter is on the right. I think I'm inside it! Photo courtesy of H.F.G.
Faces are obscured because I don't know who might be 'in the broom closet'.
As you can see from the photograph above, there was a reasonable but smallish group. I think I was in the shelter when this photograph was taken, obscured by the lady sitting in front, and there were a couple more people not in the shot. We gathered firewood communally from fallen timber to build our little fire - which was built on a bed of stones as not to damage the ground. On the tree behind us is an ancient sun-wheel symbol which exists in cultures worldwide and may be very, very ancient indeed - it's certainly simple to draw; a circle with an equal-armed cross, which occurs in ancient carvings across Europe, might well be the heritage of the Celtic cross, and which is also similar to the Medicine Wheel. It can be the four elements, the four directions, the sun the cross of the solar year within the eight spokes of the Wheel of the Year (appropriate for an Equinox which is part of the solar cross), etc. It's Earth in Astrology, copper alloys in Alchemy and Odin's cross in Norse Paganism. In its centre is a stag's skull. I don't know what that skull meant to the person who made the sun-wheel, but to me the horns are that of Cernunnos. 

Celtic Bodhran
I really enjoyed the way music flowed in and out of the group. There was a planned drum circle, but there were also moments where music seemed to spontaneously spring up, and we would just jam, with a variety of instruments present. A lot of the people brought frame drums and bodhrans (traditional drum from Irish and Scottish music), and apparently they know each other from a drumming group for those specific types of drums. I nearly bought a bodhran many years ago, while visiting Ireland with my great aunt Judith, but it was just outside my price range, and instead I bought a whistle. After this bodhran-rich music group, I went and bought a half-size 'mini-bodhran' with Insular style knotwork painted on it. It's nothing as beautiful as the one covered in beautiful Celtic spirals pictured with the firelight through it. The owner of that drum is a lucky person; it's a beautiful drum with a beautiful sound. 

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A row of lanterns hung with garlands at the entrance to the grove.
More distant lanterns as specks of light in the distance. Courtesy of H.F.G
I stayed with the circle late into the evening, until it was quite dark indeed. I spent a while as a self-appointed lantern-lighter, stringing lanterns up into the trees and lighting the tealights - often relighting when the wind extinguished them. I actually found out afterwards that my attempt to secure them from the wind taking them down was a bit too successful as it made the lanterns difficult to get out of the trees, especially the ones hung over high branches. It is something I have learnt not do again. I have felt there's something particularly magical about lanterns for a long time, especially after a dream I had, where I was riding a white horse through a dense deciduous forest all hung with coloured lanterns. Another young lady from the group joined me in cooperative lantern lighting. 

 Dusk, looking back towards the path.
 Photo from  H.F.G.
Eventually we got to the far end of the camp, and I looked back and it seemed truly special seeing all the lanterns glint and glimmer through the trunks of the trees, the woven wheels at the far end bright with LED string-lights. It really inspired me, and since then I've nearly doubled my personal collection of lanterns, and brought them with me for the Open Circle Beltane Gathering I organised that was an outdoor event, to the Summer Solstice (although it was still light when I left that! The sun lingers long on the Solstice this far North!) and even to the Winter Solstice ritual in the garden of another Circle member, each time finding a few more lanterns. Eventually I will have enough lanterns to recreate the vision from my dream, of the trees hung with lanterns as jewels. It was seeing lanterns in the trees in actuality that made realise I had to make what I'd seen in the dream a reality.

I stayed until it got truly dark, but as I had to be at college the next day, I went home late, but not too late, and didn't camp. I really enjoyed attending the event, and I went to other events hosted by the same group last year, including their Summer Solstice event, which I will post about nearer this year's Summer Solstice.

The Highland Fire Gathering group has a Facebook page ::here:: if you're local and interested. The Highland Open Circle has it's Facebook page ::here::, too.