The Seen and The Unseen


It’s that time of year again when folks of pagan persuasion start to bang on about the Worlds Seen and Unseen and inform us that ‘the Veil is thin’ at this time of year.  Well, I don’t  feel that ‘the Veil’ is particularly threadbare at this time – unless of course you think that as there are a lot of Festivals of the Dead around now that somehow this is causing the Veil to be eroded in someway.  I think the Veil is made of much sterner stuff than that!  Remembering the Ancestors can be done at any time and in my opinion there needs to be more acknowledgement of them all year round.  Otherwise we end up just paying ritual lip-service to the Old Ones.  It’s a bit like honouring the veterans on Remembrance Day and then ignoring them for the rest of the year – see my post on this: Will We Remember Them?

Now let’s look at the Worlds Seen and Unseen.  Usually this term is blithely trotted out by many but what does it actually mean, apart from sounding slightly spooky and darkly romantic?  Well bad luck if you thought otherwise, but I’m not going to deliver some sort of esoteric and erudite lecture on this subject.  There are plenty of books and articles out there, beautifully presented in quaint archaic language for you to indulge yourselves in… at a price I may add.  My thoughts will be presented in the way I know best – pragmatically!

There is a familiar saying which goes, “Seeing is believing”.  Well, do you believe that is the case?  There are all sorts of things that go on right in front of us and yet we don’t see them.  It’s called being ‘In Plain Sight’.  As humans we rely pretty heavily on the visual to inform us about our environment, to the detriment a lot of the time of our other senses.  This over-reliance on the visual can however leave us pretty vulnerable, especially to those who take advantage of this trait and use illusion, allusion, subliminal messages and glamour to achieve their ends – and it doesn’t stop there.  The mind can play tricks too.

We’ve all heard of brainwashing and indoctrination and many fundamentalist religions and cults utilise this with horrifying effectiveness.  However, we can also do this to ourselves unwittingly if we form prejudices against anything/anyone that reminds us of what/who has harmed us in the past.  When we experience trauma in anyway it’s very difficult but oh so necessary to keep things in perspective.  Not everything/person who triggers that response is going to be equally distrustful but it’s hard not to think that at the time it’s happening.  Alas however if we do not, then we start to develop a kind of knee-jerk tunnel vision about the whole situation.  If you look for something hard enough then you will start to see it manifesting itself in front of your very eyes.  In a sense you have invoked it and if you have a strong magical mind it will be even easier to perform this illusion – for that is what it is.  It’s a kind of thought form – and that’s where the danger lies – when we assume things, and then act on those assumptions and reach what we see as the inevitable conclusion.  We are believing what we are seeing.

It’s all a bit of a minefield isn’t it?  So how do we avoid these kind of pitfalls?  It’s said in the occult world, ‘Test the spirits to see if they are real’.  I’d say have your powers of observation fully turned on.


When I was young in my craft I was taught how to fine tune my focus by concentrating fully on a candle flame.  I was then taught how to gradually extend that focus to include the sides and then my peripheral vision.  Eventually after considerable practice I was able to extend this focus to include behind me as well but that took a long time.  The point being was to be fully aware of what was going on all around me.  In the same way we need to have full information of any given situation and to sift that information with an unbiased, flexible mind.  Evidence is of no value if it is assessed by a mind that is programmed to see things in a fixed, pre-determined way.  What I’m referring to here is the magical Will – the ability to let go yet be fully aware.  If you don’t have your Will in a healthy state then the effectiveness of your magic, not to mention your day-to-day life, will be adversely affected.

There are other more prosaic methods that stand in good stead to develop good powers of observation and at the same time, a fine appreciation of those around us.  Notice what people do.


We often use the metaphor of the swan apparently effortlessly and gracefully gliding across the surface of the water, whilst underneath the flippers are exerting a lot of energy to maintain that.  This sums up neatly what often happens for a lot of people.  They work quietly in the background getting necessary organisational and logistical tasks completed whilst the person or project that is more visible gets the majority of attention and praise.  Even though every now and then these folk are mentioned in dispatches and referred to as unsung heroes, these backroom boys are usually consigned to an afterthought.  Take time to acknowledge and thank people for their input and hard work.  Show appreciation to the tea ladies, cleaners, and shop assistants.  Take a moment to pass the time of day with someone who generally doesn’t get that sort of attention – you’d be surprised at the difference it can make.

Whilst I’m on the subject I want to make my own contribution to this.  Being a published author and having worked with the media over the years I have become visible for the sort of work I do and my lifestyle as a village wisewoman.  For 13 years I ran my own business making just enough to get by on.  I then retired from full-time employment and handed the business on to my partner Laetitia.  I have to say that since that time she has been simply brilliant as an organiser and promoter of the business.  After years of ‘just getting by’ she has worked steadfastly to create a profit margin and the work has blossomed accordingly.  We’ll never be rich in the financial sense but we do alright and the books are in a much healthier state than when I was at the helm!  I have also seen this diligence in action with other background roles she has taken on board, particularly connected with publicity and promotion.  Laetitia runs websites and maintains Facebook groups as well as keeping her blog up to date.  Every time our Morris side or Penkevyll (our Obby Oss) goes on a gig she takes the camera with her and records the action.  Often if she gets home early enough she’s on the computer updating the websites/groups with the latest photos and videos – if not, it’s the very next day.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t manage even a quarter of that!  I just wanted to publically acknowledge my gratitude for her hard work and how much it is appreciated.  🙂

So, rather than just fixating on what is seen and blanking out the rest, remember the unseen that is actually right there in front of you – if you only had eyes to see it.


Figures of Fun and Folklore

It’s hard to believe that there hasn’t been a Museum of Folklore before in Britain.  I just imagined that there would be one somewhere tucked into a little side street off Kensington.  I remember vividly being taken to most of the main museums in this area when I was a child.  I used to gaze in awe and wonder at extraordinary things in the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, British Museum and so on and so forth.  Even in later years when I was employed in London as a teenager, I used to spend most of my lunch hours trailing round the more little known establishments and curiosities near where I worked.  I have a fascination for such places…

Now there are plans afoot for the first Museum of British Folklore and rather than write reams here on this blog, it’s probably better – and more concise to guide you towards this promotional video:“>

Exciting stuff!  One of the ongoing projects that caught my attention in the early days of meeting Simon Costin, Director of the Museum of British Folklore, was the ambitious Morris Doll collection.  The aim is as follows:

The museum has launched a new initiative to represent the wide variety of Morris sides within the UK. Any teams wishing to take part will be sent a blank figure to decorate with their team kit. The idea being that over time, the collection will grow into an original and unique visual record created by the people who participate in the dance. For any teams wishing to receive a figure, please email us –

Morris Doll

Morris doll poster

Story posted on September 21, 2013 from the Museum of British Folklore’s website:

I have belonged to a Morris side for about five years now, so had a special interest in creating a doll that would be part of a display in a museum.  The side I’m with is called Boekka (Cornish for Scarecrow) and I’m a founder member.  Myself and Laetitia along with her son Rhys first formed this group following the departure of our Obby Oss, who used to be a Penglaz, from the Golowan Festival.  We changed her appearance, her name and title – she then transformed into Penkevyll the Lands End Obby Oss appearing alongside Boekka.

Following many months of pestering the beleagured Simon (a notoriously busy man!) eventually a large package arrived at our cottage containing not one, but two dolls.  This lead us to believe that maybe they wanted us to create not just a doll representing our side’s Morris dancer, but also our famous (or should that be infamous?) Obby Oss as well!  Simon had seen our Oss, Penkevyll in 2012 at Charms Day in Boscastle when Boekka gave a performance to wind the day’s events up.

Boekka & Oss3
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012

So it was time to start making the dolls.  First job was to assign who was going to do what – always a tricky one!  We started on the Teazer doll first. Laetitia drew the short straw and was lumbered with all of the sewing.  She has small hands and produced neat work creating the T shirt, tailcoat tatters, trousers and boots.  (This is what comes from being really good at something, you become the victim of your own success – a lesson I have found out many times to my cost!)  Whereas, I have large hands for my size and am very clumsy with tiny, meticulous work.  I sourced materials, created and cut out templates and was a general ‘gofer’ (go for this, go for that etc).

We were trying to think of how to make a snapper for the doll.  This is what we were trying to replicate:

Teazer Snapper
Teazer Snapper

I asked a good friend of mine, Chris White for advice on how to make this as he is into model making; and before I knew it he had kindly offered to help us out by creating it himself – and what he created was superb!

Model Snapper

Chris is an amazing guy who we have meet only via the Internet/Facebook.  He used to be a Beast Rider with a Morris side and has a really fine sense of what is required of someone who dares ride these fabulous creatures.  Sadly he no longer is able to do this as he has a progressive medical condition that has rendered him seriously disabled.  However, he has an indomitable, cheerful spirit and a delightful sense of the absurd and ridiculous.  He often has Laetitia and me crying with laughter over something he’s written – he’s particularly good at finding the right caption for many photos, especially ones that include Obby Osses and the like.   One day we would love to meet him.  🙂

After several weeks of sporadic work on our Teazer doll in between work and gigs, we finally had our completed doll:

Boekka Doll 023

Then it was time to consider the Oss doll.  We had approached a local lady who makes, amongst many other things, marionettes and puppets.  We knew she would do a very good job but we weren’t too sure whether we could afford her services, even though we were offered ‘mates’ rates’.  As Chris had already alluded to the possibility before, I tentatively approached him and asked whether he was interested in attempting the unusual modelling project of making a mini sized Penkevyll head for our doll, although we insisted on paying him for materials.  Chris said he would be honoured and to offer him money for the privilege would be tantamount to offending him – so we quickly agreed!  😉

Between me and Laetitia we created another T shirt, trousers and boots, plus the Riders skirt for the doll and then waited for the necessarily long process of creating Little Penk’s model skull.  It was such a fascinating process, and so many folks have asked us, that I think it best if Chris himself takes over the story at this point:

The Construction of Little Penk
Chris White

I’ve been asked to write about how I did the construction of what all involved came to call ‘Little Penk’.

I’d just like to stress a couple of things. I’m disabled and this took months rather than days. Secondly I’ve never done anything like this before. Although my background is in art and design I have no skill in symmetrical sculpture and had to work out just how to do this from scratch. What I came up with was a combination of hybrid techniques that would give me a guide to work to as it progressed.

Living halfway up the country I didn’t have direct access to Penkevyll so I bought a digital model of a horse’s skull. I was lucky that one was available! I brought this into Cinema 4D, a program I’ve used in the past for digital modelling. It was used for the dragons in the Harry Potter films so it’s a really versatile program. I scaled the skull to size using photographs of Penk’s skull next to her ‘Rider’ so the small one would be the appropriate size next to the Teazer doll.
The important first stage was to build the basic skull from a series of cross sections taken from the digital model, printed out of the computer then cut from a material called ‘Plasticard’. I found out about this from a friend who does a lot of model railway modelling. I hadn’t a clue what materials I’d need so this was the first step of many like this. All the cross sections had to be kept in careful order obviously until I could put them together. I used three different kinds of adhesives until I found one that did what I wanted too!

So now we have a rather fragile basic construct that gives us and accurate 3D reference to work on to. That’s the hardest part over. Very scary and very slow, that bit.

Next I used expanding insulation filling. This comes in an aerosol can and is a pig to use! It’s sticky and sloppy and risks distorting the flexible cross sections as it expands between them so I had to scrape some of this gloop out as it started to dry.


It expands so much it pretty much buries the form. However, weight is a major problem with man-animals of any scale and insulation foam gives you form with minimum weight. The adhesive property of the stuff bonds the Plasticard sections together very nicely.

Disgusting isn’t it? So now I could cut and sand the foam away back down to the surface of the cross sections without distorting the base of the shape. Now I had an accurate, symmetrical 3D shape.


Although I had a stable form it was still quite fragile so I had to coat it with something to give it strength. I opted for something like polyfiller. This was quite heavy at first but, being water based, it dried much lighter. I skinned this one and sanded it back as much as I could to retain the outline of the underlying form.

I’d been looking forward to this part. I love the delicate, architectural form of skulls, especially rodent and bird skulls.

The orbits of the eye sockets are particularly lovely and as the form refined I spent a lot of time just enjoying running my hands over the emerging shape. The more I did though, the more there seemed to be that needed doing! It’s just as well I didn’t have a deadline for this.

The fine point at the top of the nose was another piece of Plasticard which I embedded.

This brings me to the final ‘skin’. It had to be strong and light while being smooth, being able to take detail well and giving a good surface for paint. I found the perfect material. Called ‘Miliput’, it’s a two-part epoxy putty. Once I got it stretched onto the surface, working it carefully across the form, flattening and smoothing, I found that working with wet fingers makes it very smooth, taking out any finger marks and smoothing out irregularities in thickness beautifully! Once cured, it’s very hard; sands well and takes detail very well.

The teeth posed a bit of a problem. I opted for Plasticard again. To bend the teeth around the curve of the skull I heated the ‘denture’ in very hot water. Fortunately Plasticard is a thermoplastic so once heated and shaped, it will cool to that new shape and can be glued in position without it trying to flex back again.

To my delight the jaw fitted perfectly! All that slavish measuring and cutting at the beginning had paid off. Just as well, because to correct something like that in three dimensions would have been a nightmare. I drilled and hinged the jaw using a piece of coat hanger wire. All the usual bits and bobs that Animal keepers end up resorting to!


When it came to the eyes I decided to print directly from the photos of Penkevyll. Cassandra and Laetitia took such good pictures that I was able, correcting for distortion, to copy and scale the eyes straight from those. They were glued onto disks of Miliput and varnished to keep them bright and lively.

Since my fine art days I’ve always preferred alkyd paints. They have the depth and transparency of oils but dry much, much faster. They’ll go onto practically any surface and can be layered and glazed for depth and subtlety. Perfect for bone, then, as it’s such a tricky colour and changeable under different lights. Alkyd can take care of all that.

Finally the ears. I carefully copied the profile (thanks again to lots of rapid feedback from Cassandra!) for the ears and cut them from black leather.

Then came the support for the head. Tricky. Traditionally I’d always kept the internal bits of my Animal in my Green Oak days, strictly schtum. So it goes a bit against the grain. Nevertheless, this is essentially an archive piece so on we go. Although Penkevyll has a harness support, the doll would not be able to support this Animal so I had to think of an alternative. Pole mounted heads are traditional so I went with that option as it could be set to take the weight off the doll. I nobly sacrificed one of my metal walking poles. Let me tell you, aircraft aluminium is a pain to saw!!


Ears, jaw strung and working and staff mounted. Ready for the off! It’s been a long project but very enjoyable. I was able to test some ideas and see how much I’d retained of my skills. Truth to tell it was hard on the hands (as I’d suspected) and when I occasionally overdid it I had to take a few days off. But in the end I got a result that I was very happy with.

Next she was shipped to Cornwall to be properly dressed and coiffed by Latham-Jones Haute Couture. And a magnificent job they did too! See Cassandra’s pictures.

Photos in a moment.  Once we’d got over oohing and ahhing over Chris’s remarkable work we set to finishing off the dolls.  Together we managed to lash the doll to its accompanying pole, secured the ears and the mane that I had painstakingly woven loads of tatters into, and then Laetitia sewed on her gown which was lovingly covered in tatters.

Here’s a close-up of Little Penk’s head showing the skill of Chris’s work:

LittlePenk 014

Then we introduced Little Penk to Penkevyll…

Little Penk 005

This is when we realised that Little Penk was looking far too neat, so I set to with a pair of scissors and made her tatters more ragged and more in keeping with the ethos of Boekka.  Here are the final photos of all the dolls and Penkevyll together.

LittlePenk 034

LittlePenk 010

LittlePenk 001

LittlePenk 006

At last we were finished!  Both me and Laetitia agreed that we didn’t want to trust the Post Office with delivering our finely crafted Oss & Teazer dolls – we had awful visions of them throwing the parcels across the room and ruining all that hard work.  So I sent a deliberately tantalising email to Simon Costin and asked him when was he next down to the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle, as we had something very delicate and fragile with a guaranteed ‘Wow’ factor to deliver to him.  It worked beautifully and we successfully delivered the dolls (which we had become quite attached to over the months) to the Museum.  Here we are presenting Simon with them:

Little Penk2 004

To directly quote Simon, ” Thank you so much for coming over with your wonderful creations! They really are spectacular.”  It was well worth all the hard work and we look forward to seeing the dolls displayed within the next exhibition of the Museum of British Folklore.  It’s good to know that you are producing something that will be preserved for prosperity and displayed within a museum environment.

What a Team – Well Done to All!  🙂


The Devil’s in the Details.

Over two years ago my partner Laetitia set up a Facebook group for me called Village Witch.  It was specifically created to be a forum for anyone who had read my book and wanted to ask questions about it.  Here’s the general description:

This group is for discussion about the book Village Witch, the life and work of Wisewomen.  Feel free to ask any questions relating to the book and Village Witchcraft, Folk Magic and work within a village Community.  The emphasis will be on down to earth practical application of Cunning Craft.

Village Witch
Village Witch

For a long time not much was asked and apart from the occasional, albeit positive feedback from the members, there has been a lack of interesting threads to follow.  However, just recently this has begun to change.  The other day I was asked about one of the spells that was mentioned in my book called ‘Pinning the Devil’.  The querent wanted more detail hence this particular posting! Here’s the details of the spell as lifted from my book of charms:

Spell for Finding Lost Objects

Aka Pinning the Devil

Write on a small piece of paper the object that you wish to find.

Take a long pin, a hatpin is ideal, and run your finger down the pin towards the sharp end speaking aloud the name of the lost object.

Continue chanting this over and over, building up the energy until you feel that you can’t put anymore energy into the needle.

Then thrust the needle through the piece of paper and stick it on the back of your sofa/settee.

Leave in place until the object is found.

The aforementioned Devil, I  believe is referring to mischievous house spirits who delight in hiding objects and later revealing them in the most unlikely places.  I decided to also consult a colleague of mine who I know utilises this particular example of folk magic.  Her name is Seldiy Bate who is a renowned psychic,  an accomplished astrologer and a mine of information concerning intriguing magical spells.  I asked her  views  upon ‘Pinning the Devil’ and here is her response:

seldiy bate

This is a tradition that was in almost every branch of my family.  The way I was taught was that you write the name of the lost object on a piece of paper and then you pin it violently to the back of the sofa with a hatpin (or a pin if no hatpin available). Once the object returns, you remove the pin. You say “I pin the Devil” when you stick the pin, and I would imagine it is to fix the object into your possession and perhaps to spur the house spirits into action, whether it’s a goad to get them to return your property, or a punishment, I am not sure! Perhaps it’s to make them squirm until you remove the pin, which only happens when you get your stuff back!

Some people do it without the piece of paper, just by naming the lost object. Some say you have to take the pin and circle it anti-clockwise over the arm of the sofa, whilst visualising the lost object, you say “I pin the Devil! Return to me my …. (name the lost item)” as you stick the pin in the arm of the sofa (a bit dangerous for an unsuspecting guest!).  If you don’t own a sofa, use a cushion. I’ve done that with good results.

As with most folk magic I would imagine that the Gods, spirits or daemons got demoted into being called the Devil over time. It’s funny how some people who wouldn’t dream of mentioning the Devil in any other context seem to be ok doing this spell!


It’s interesting and ironic to consider how much essentially Christian imagery is used in so much of folk magic.  I say ironic because so many people associate witchcraft and the like with paganism and like the well-known Gospel song – “It Ain’t Necessarily So!”.  Although it is my belief that witchcraft is not a religion, folk magic/cunning craft utilises whatever is around that is effective and that includes belief systems.  When the majority of your clientele comes from a Christian background then it’s not too surprising to see that symbolism creeping into the spellcraft.  This is why so many of the old charms incorporate, Mary Mother of God, the Devil and the Four Apostles.  The flip side of this of course is the realisation that given this, you can understand why some ‘Ministers of God’ see such practices as Black Magic and Satanism!

However, as I have mentioned in my book I believe the Devil/Satan/Lucifer, or whatever you chose to call him, is a scapegoat figure deliberately created as a symbol of projection.  It’s so much easier to project one’s fears, anxieties and insecurities onto a blame figure rather than take responsibility for one’s own shadow.  This why people who are fanatical, fundamentalist Christians live in fear of their own Shadow which they then project onto others, seeing evil in all sorts of people, practices and alternative beliefs, calling them demonic and the work of Satan.

Cunning craft/witchcraft is far more mundane and pragmatic than these sensationalist imaginings, working with ordinary folk to try to help resolve their everyday but important issues and problems.  It’s been that way for centuries and probably will ever continue thus!

Working Tools
Photo credit: Ella Nicholas French

Penkevyll makes it as a Cover Girl!

Shaman Penk Yes, Penkevyll the famous Lands End Obby Oss, has made it as Cover Girl to the glossies!

“Out soon – Indie Shaman ‪#‎shamanism‬ magazine Issue 25. A great time to subscribe – get Issue 24 on subscription and Issue 25 at the end of July at

Includes: ‘Cunning Folk’ a chat with Cassandra Latham-Jones;

‘Reconnecting To Ourselves Through The Consciousness Of Plants’ by Davyd Farrell;

‘Horse Scents’ by Hearth Moon Rising;

‘Working with Wolves: The Wolf Life Path Cards’ by Lorenzo Guescini;

Eoghan Odinsson continuing his series on Northern Plantlore with ‘Comfrey’;

An interview with G.W. Bénard;

‘Animals, a shamanic story’ by David Sparenberg;

Some thoughts on telepathy from Ann Fallas and columnist Yvonne Ryves in Shaman Moon;

Book reviews including Itzhak Beery’s ‘The Gift of Shamanism’ and ‘The Toltec Secret’ by Sergio Magaña Ocelocoyotl plus Shamanic Events calendar.

With thanks to all of the above contributors as well as to Mike Chapell for the wonderful front cover photo and wildlife photographer, Rochelle Kent-Ellis, and poet, Chris Roe, for the beautiful back cover. Thanks also to Peter Carter, Rebecca Orford and Jack and Nigel Dugdale for article photography. With special thanks to Martyn Kington for the inspiration and of course not forgetting grateful thanks to proof reader, Martin Pallot!”

I’m looking forward to receiving my copy at the end of the month when it will be added to my Archive.  🙂

Mag Article

My copy of ‘Indie Shaman’ arrived this morning with my article inside. A good quality glossy magazine. If you want to read the rest of the article you’ll have to get your own copy!  🙂

The Terrors of Public Speaking.


I’ll always remember the very first public talk I gave about my work as a Village Wisewoman.  I went through a whole gamut of emotions, and my nervousness conjured up, in my dreams and waking hours in the days leading up to the event, all sorts of imagined scenarios.  My doubts and fears concentrated on things inevitably going wrong in some way.

We’ve all seen it happen with others,  and in my time I’ve seen many speakers that quite honestly should just stick to writing and leave it at that!  However, they are often pressurised by their publishers to give talks in order to promote their books, and I have witnessed first-hand the tortures and mental anguish that they (and their audiences) suffer as a consequence!

Standing up on stage in front of perhaps a hundred odd people is a very lonely and exposed place and can be terrifying.  You will be closely scrutinised by everyone in the audience for most of the talk, so appearance really plays an important part.  We don’t realise sometimes how our body language and mannerisms can say so much about who we are.  Some try to counteract this by hiding behind stage furniture such as lecterns and tables or bury themselves in sheaves of notes that invariably get dropped or muddled up.  In this technical age many resort to slideshows or Powerpoint presentations in order to avoid the relentless public gaze.  This to a certain extent can work to distract, but equipment is known to be notorious for breaking down at the crucial point, or showing the wrong slide and any machine is only as effective as its operator.  Besides which, if you have become known as an author, many folks want to see what the writer is like in the flesh so to speak, so this kind of curiosity is to be expected.

Some advocate staring into ‘the middle distance’ in order to focus and concentrate but often this method produces the effect of the talk being pitched at the audience which isn’t in my opinion very inclusive.  I’ve seen this way employed by many lecturers who have swathes of information that they endeavour to instil into their listeners.  Unfortunately this can have the effect of sending the audience into a semi-trance because they are not being actively engaged by the talk.  No matter how interesting the topic may be, if you don’t have at least occasional eye contact with your audience, then they can either get restless or worse – fall asleep!  Fortunately this has never happened to me, yet!


Nowadays most talks are conducted with the aid of a microphone which neatly deals with the problems of voice projection, but care is needed especially with old equipment to avoid feedback howling and the like.   Tone of voice, pitch and attitude is also crucial for obvious reasons.  No-one wants to be dictated to in any kind of hectoring way,  but it’s also important to avoid monotone voices which inevitably leads to monotonous boredom.

I think that most people’s biggest fear of public speaking is ‘drying up’.  This can be literal, so it’s always a good idea to have water handy.  Take sips only, gulps can cause choking if it ‘goes down the wrong way’ – and watch out for those ice cubes that some helpfully add to the water, they can be lethal!  Mostly though, what I’m talking about here is the dreaded mind going blank scenario.  This can happen at any time to anyone, and all I can say is that it’s down to the individual personality as to how this is handled.  A lot depends on your audience and your relationship with it.  It’s always well to remember that (1) you will never please everyone – there will always be detractors, and (2) there will always be some who are there supporting and agreeing with you.

I feel that it is important to allow time for questions at the end, as folk can feel a little cheated if this is denied to them by a speaker rattling on over time.  I know that this can be particularly nerve-racking as you never know what people might ask you. If you know your subject thoroughly and are ready to expect the unexpected then you’ll be fine, and may actually enjoy it!

Finally, how did I get on with my first talk?  Well, it actually went very well.  The person introducing me thought it was a clever idea to start telling the audience some of the anecdotal material that I was going to include later.  I was so incensed by this that I forgot my nerves and started with “For a moment there I thought he was going to do the talk for me!”  This produced supportive laughter from the audience and I was away and off to a good start.  I had formed a rapport which to me is the most important thing to have between yourself and your audience.  I loved my subject matter and it showed through my animation.

Reading back, I think I have definitely written on the ‘terrors’ of public speaking.  The only helpful advice I can give is:

If you’re passionate about your subject matter, then try and share that enthusiasm with your audience.

Be yourself, whatever that is.  It just won’t work if you’re trying to be something that you’re not, because on that stage you will fool nobody, so you might as well be natural.

Good luck – you’re going to need it!  🙂






Bringing the Past Alive: Part Two

Last Tuesday Jason Semmens again brought the past alive by his illuminating talk on Cornish witchcraft in the 19th century. Given that the majority of all documentation available mentions Tamsin Blight, or Tammy Blee as she was referred to, it was no surprise when most of the talk focused upon her.  Her baptismal records are held by the Cornish Studies Library, and it was very evocative to see her entry within in a splendid old tome of a Register, in beautiful copperplate writing: Aug 4th 1793 Thomasine Williams at Gwennap.

Gwennap Parish Church
Gwennap Parish Church

Interestingly most accounts of her life state that Tamsin Blight was not only born in Redruth, but claim her birth year to be 1798, a five year discrepancy.  The 1798 usage is understandable as on her death certificate her age is given as 58 years by her son.  Maybe this reveals a vanity side to Tamsin by ‘losing’ five years from her age, especially as she later married a man 21 years younger than her!  I’m not going to go into further details regarding Tammy Blee as there will soon be an excellent book published by Jason Semmens which describes her life in vivid detail with even more evidence of her work as a conjuror in 19th century Cornwall.  I look forward with anticipation to receiving my copy hot off the press!  🙂

Other intriguing facts touched upon were the strange correlation between the incidence of witches to conjurors: Witches were 70% female/30% male whereas Conjurors were 70% male/30% female.

Then we learnt that the term ‘Pellar’ (used exclusively in Cornwall) was a relatively late appellation (1849) utiliseded mostly by the 19th century folklorists, Robert Hunt in ‘Romances of the West of England’ and William Bottrell in his ‘Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall.  In the romance, ‘The Old Man of Cury’ appears the character of Lutey who mets a mermaid and in exchange for a kindness, she bestows upon him the powers of counteracting witchcraft and sorcery (the ability to Repel, hence Pellar).  Thereafter these Pellar abilities are then transferred through the family line of Lutey.

Lutey and the Mermaid
Lutey and the Mermaid

All fine and good until it is revealed that there are no incidences of Lutey as a family name anywhere on the Lizard penisular, the only incidence presenting in Ludgvan near Penzance.  It would be interesting indeed to research just how many of the colourful characters in these local folkloric tales actually existed or not.  🙂

I had myself used this term of Pellar to describe my work some 15 years ago, thinking it was a Cornish name for the sort of work that I performed for my community.  Then I realised  its origins,  and as a result since then I no longer do so.  However, it now appears to be a term that has been adopted by some occultists  within Cornwall and even some further afield,  as a way of describing their magical heritage/lineage and  practices.

The hour passed far too quickly (always the sign of a good talk!) and before we knew it, it was question time where Jason dealt with a host of avid queries from the audience.  We were all left wanting more and I sincerely hope that the Cornish Studies Library invite him back for a further talk.  I particularly would like to hear Part Three: Witchcraft from 20th century onwards.  It would be intriguing to know what Jason Semmens would make of the modern witchcraft movement in relation to the historical past of Cornwall.  After all, in a few decades time this also will be part of local history!  🙂



Willpower and Addiction


If you are going to be effective as any form of magical practitioner, then you must have not only a strong mind but indomitable will power.  This stands to reason if we are going to exert our will towards anything,  if we are weak-willed we aren’t going to get very far!  Four years ago I was challenged by my partner to stop smoking as it was an example of not being in total control of myself.  This post is about how I went about this, but firstly a bit of background.

I grew up in a family of smokers, in fact I cannot remember when my adopted mother didn’t have a cigarette hanging from her lips!  I vowed when I was a child that I would never take up such an unpleasant habit however, as a direct result of my career choice, teenage rebellion and peer pressure I started smoking at age 18 years.  I became a nurse, and if that sounds crazy you will find that the incidence of smoking in the emergency services was very high.  We were all dealing with very traumatic, life and death situations and needed someway of unwinding at the end of a shift – therefore a cuppa and a ciggie did the trick!

So by the time I was issued with the challenge to stop, I had been a regular smoker for 42 years.   Once when I was pregnant I gave up immediately for the sake of the baby, but that was followed by a miscarriage at 4 months and the profound upset caused me to start again.  There had been a few attempts of non-smoking without much success, basically because I enjoyed it too much so I wasn’t fully committed to abstinence.   I knew it was pointless even attempting it if I didn’t have the right motivation in place.  This is different for everyone; some find the money they save is the motivating force, others their health, and for others it’s a motivation outside of themselves – which was to prove the case for me.  What I needed to do was fall in love with a non-smoker – I didn’t know this at the time but it proved to be the prime reason, although the barb of ‘being out of control’ did hit home!  😉

So how did I go about it?  After having watched and heard other people’s experiences of attempts to give up, one of the things I wanted to avoid was to use anything as a crutch or a substitute – otherwise I’d just be under the influence of something else.  Also when I’m about to embark on any new project, I research and do my homework on the subject and as a result, I found out some very interesting information which I will share with you:

Recovery Timetable

20 mins after quitting – BP, pulse and temperature of extremities have returned to normal rates

8 hours – remaining nicotine levels will have dropped to 6.25% a reduction of 93.75%

12 hours – blood oxygen levels rise to normal, carbon monoxide levels drop to normal

48 hours – nerve endings start to regrow and smell and taste start to recover

72 hours – entire body will test 100% nicotine free, lung capacity will increase and breathing will ease

The above are highlights of a list of benefits that start to kick in the minute you stop smoking and the body begins the recovery process.  For more details :

When I realised that it only took 3 days to eject nicotine from my system I knew that I wasn’t going to waste time, money and effort on nicotine patches or other substitutes as it was only putting off the inevitable, and therefore seemed pretty pointless.  Nor was I going to indulge in any form of group therapy – in fact, I wasn’t going to mention I was quitting to anyone, apart from my partner.  I knew that there might well be resistance from some of my friends at that time who were also smokers, and I didn’t want to make any announcement until I was well over the first stages of withdrawal.

One of the other important things I learnt was that when a craving hit, it lasted for only a couple of minutes so I would distract myself by doing something else whenever that happened – my partner also helped with this in imaginative ways…!  😉

After a week or so I was free of the more addictive substances and then had to deal with breaking the more pernicious habit of lighting up at particular moments.  The only way that worked for me was to subtly change my routine, not so much that it caused disruption – no need to add to the wobbly stress levels!  I found that having something to do with my hands helped a lot.  A lot of smoking is connected to oral fixation and one has to resist sucking sweets instead – I suppose that e-cigarettes are addressing this to a certain extent – but as a friend of mine recently put it ‘it was like having a dummy in my mouth!’

I found it helpful to use a ‘thumbstone’ of Astrophyllite whenever the habit and/or craving hit.  I kept it in my pocket all the time and used it a bit like worrybeads, rolling it over and over in my hand.  I chose Astrophyllite for its anti-addiction properties primarily and apparently it has grounding and transformative qualities as well.


Although I was a bit ‘teazey’ for the first couple of days, on the whole I found the whole process less arduous than I feared, and I feel a sense of pride that I have successfully maintained a 100% smoke free lifestyle for 4 years now.  This is in spite of dealing with some dramatic and devastating incidents which in the past would have seen me reaching for my baccy tin!

To have a supportive partner and friends is very important and is a bonus, but when all’s said and done – it was down to my personal will power that I overcame this without the need of drugs or therapy.

I’m hoping that this post may help others who are going through a similar experience because I do feel much better for it.  I enjoy my food more because my taste buds have recovered, I don’t get so breathless on exertion, my skin is clearer and as one painfully honest friend told me – ‘you smell a whole lot better than you used to!’  What’s more, given the rise in tobacco tax I doubt very much if I could afford it , and I wonder how others can.

Thankfully, I haven’t turned into one of those awful, smug and often dictatorial ex-smokers.  I have no problem with my friends who continue to smoke but I will offer support and encouragement should they try to give it up.

Before I finish this post I want to stress that this whole process is ongoing – I take each day at a time.  Even now, I still have moments of temptation but when I remind myself of what I’ve gained rather than what I’ve lost, I can regain my equilibrium and carry on.


“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will.”  Mahatma Ghandi

Bringing the Past Alive

Leverton Charm

A few days ago I had the opportunity to bring the past alive by producing a voice recording of what has been referred to as the Leverton Charm.

Listen to it here:

Although many Witch Bottles have been unearthed over the years, it’s rare to find Instructions For Use, or in this case, how to construct your own personal charm.  Although the Wisewoman or Conjurer can easily construct a charm, in some circumstances it is so much more powerful for the client to produce their own under instruction, especially if the ingredients require a contact item and/or body fluid of the client.

The Leverton Charm was first discovered, according to the Archives & Cornish Studies Service, in amongst  miscellaneous documents contained in a bundle of deeds of the Leverton family based in St Merryn, Cornwall.  Little else was known until I consulted with Jason Semmens who was able to provide me with more of a possible background as he followed this lead back in 2000 when he was researching for his article on Witch Bottles (Semmens, Jason., ‘The Usage of Witch-Bottles and Apotropaic Charms in Cornwall’ Old Cornwall 12, No. 6 (2000) pp. 25 – 30) 

“In fact the charm contains its own clues as to its dating, as it refers to Saturday 17 September which can only have fallen in specific years.  As the handwriting is of early 18th century date, I concluded that this probably unique instruction for the manufacture of a witch-bottle appears to have been given to a heavily pregnant Thomasine Leverton of St Merryn in 1701 by a now unknown local conjuror to whom she had probably resorted after becoming ill, her pregnancy no doubt causing her anxiety.  She gave birth to a daughter 2 months after the charm was written.”

The Charm for Thamson Leverton document is at present on display at the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth, Cornwall.  It forms part of a fascinating exhibition which runs from 10th October – 2nd November 2013.  I highly recommend attending this if you can as the exhibits are fascinating, and include items from the Museum of Witchcraft and Saveock Water Archaeology

'Bewitching History' invite

Laetitia and me attended the opening night where Jason Semmens gave his talk on Witch Trials in Cornwall.  The talk was very informative and focused on the 15th – 17th Century, and although there was very little evidence or incidence of recorded convictions, what activity there was appeared to cluster around the West Penwith peninsular – no surprises there then!  😉  I found it to be an excellent starting point as Jason’s next talk in March will concentrate on the 18th – 20th Century with particular emphasis on the renowned Cornish Wisewoman, Tamsyn Blight.  If the questions after were anything to go by, then there will be an excellent turnout of interested parties for the next talk as well!

Jason CSL Talk

It’s thrilling to be able to work with professional people who work with the past in this way and it reminds me what a privilege it is to be able to continue a craft that has been utilised by so many country folk over the centuries – now that’s what I call being part of the ‘Old Ways’.  🙂


The Sagacious Ash

When I walk out on the Land there are many reasons for doing so and how I am feeling has a great influence upon where I end up walking to.  Today I was distressed and at first made for a place deep within a blackthorn thicket because that is where I wanted to be.  Away from human life and its petty dramas and tucked away where no-one would find me, except the spirits and creatures of that place.  After some time spent venting and ‘debriefing’ as I call it, the distinctive sound of a raven calling summoned me from my emotional struggles.

Now the raven has always been a special creature to me and I have had a connection with this enigmatic bird for decades – way before it became all the rage as a ‘totem animal’!  The ravens here in Cornwall tend to nest on the cliffs but occasionally a solitary raven makes an excursion inland and I have always found the appearance of them to be of significance to me.  This particular raven was soaring high in the sky and, every now and then, tumbling in the air over an ash grove that is nearby.  Responding to the call of the Lady of the Woods as sometimes the ash tree is known, I left my thorny cave and walked down into the heart of the grove.


The ash grove is a place that I have used for workings and contemplation for more years than I care to remember.  Whilst nowadays pagans and new-agers swarm to the stone circles and chambered tombs which litter our landscape, my personal idea of a sacred site has been hidden amongst dozens of old ash trees.  Ash is renowned for its magical and medicinal properties and is indigenous to Britain.  It is thought to have healing powers and ash logs burnt on the fire protect from evil spirits.  Its wood is a natural shock absorber which is why it’s used for tool handles such as spades and axes.  I think that it is this quality that comes to the fore energetically speaking when I’m shocked or upset.  Time spent amongst these old ash trees is time well spent indeed.

I have noticed that although parts of an ash tree can die, young shoots can still grow out of and alongside its carcass so, like the yew, I feel that it has regenerative qualities.  There is a particular moss-covered tree that I gave the last of my wise-blood to before surgery nearly 15 years ago.  Alongside this is a younger tree that over the years I have utilised for wart charming as it is peppered with some wonderfully warty holes.  Another tree has been used by honey bees for their hive for ages and there are active badger sets scattered within and around the edges of the woods.  I’m very familiar with the spirits of place here and the grove does contain some particularly potent guardians who lie in wait for the unsuspecting.  They aren’t always apparent but can follow the unwary traveller home and wait until the time is right to act with the utmost mischief if they feel that they deserve it.  Nothing to worry about if appropriate respect is shown – but they abhor interference, arrogance and  mean-spirited troublemakers.

On a couple of occasions I have come across evidence of ‘pushy pagans’ who insist on leaving their mark on the place by building circles with stones and the like.  These wild places don’t need rearranging  so I make sure to deconstruct these edifices when they appear.  We see enough of this sort of debris at West Penwith’s ancient monuments without having to clear up the woodlands as well.  I’ve never really understood this need to leave a mark behind – it smacks of territorial issues to me.  I was taught to leave no traces behind me and I continue to maintain this as good practice.

It appears that some folk make a real song and dance about who they are and what they do magically speaking.  Lately there seems to be a tendency for some to take upon themselves rather grandiose titles for actually quite ordinary functions.  For instance, I have heard of one man who goes around calling himself the Keeper of the Stones(!) – when all he is doing is the same as dozens of others locally who regularly visit an ancient site near to where they live and report any damage.  Not too surprisingly these volunteers are simply called Site Monitors – I’m one myself for Boscawen-un stone circle.  There are sadly countless other examples of Priestesses of Waterfalls and Guardians of Barrowmounds – which means there are an awful lot of people who are so deeply insecure that they have to think up rather ridiculous titles for themselves to make them feel self-important.  As you can tell, I get a bit crabby when I come across that sort of pretentiousness…!

Sitting quietly in the grove reminds me of when I used to escape to the woods as a child.  Home was not a good place to be, and the only place I felt safe and secure was amongst the trees and the woodland spirits.   I find I can truly open myself up with impunity and absorb the energies from all the creatures and growing things surrounding me.  It’s a sort of letting go and being fully aware at the same time.  I don’t always come away from my times of contemplation with fully formed answers, but I do have a much stronger sense of how to handle things, even if I haven’t totally resolved whatever problems I had when I first arrived.

Woods child

I have learned so much from this haunted grove and surroundings that it feels part of the very bones of me and nothing can take that away.  🙂

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