Media Minefields

Just recently I granted an interview to someone from a local news agency about my work as a village wisewoman.  I was initially reluctant as we had been badly let down by poor reporting in the past.  I requested editorial input and specifically asked that my interview would not be offered to any tabloid publications.  These conditions were agreed to and the interview went ahead. 

Weeks went by and I must admit that it slipped to the back of my mind as I was kept busy by other concerns.  However I was brought up short a few days ago by seeing the following headline come up on my news alerts:  UK’s only ‘official witch’ puts spell on the tax man and claims expenses for magic – The Daily Star

Me at the Maidens

Not only had the agency reneged on what we had agreed upon, but they had thrown me to the lions by choosing to give the interview to the worst possible tabloid for publication.  To say I was incensed would be an understatement!  The only positive thing about it was the quality of the photography by a young man called James, sadly we didn’t find out his full name.  Since then the story appears to have gone global by appearing in various local newspapers from India to Australia and the Americas.  

Once I had calmed down somewhat I realised that the majority of the article remained true to what I had said, but there were some added inaccuracies which were annoyingly left in despite my correcting the interviewer on them earlier.  For instance, I have never claimed to be the ‘only official village witch in the UK’ – nor do I cast spells indiscrimately as suggested.  However, what truly bewilders me is, why all this sudden media attention and sensationalism about something that actually happened and was reported on 25 years ago?  I include a newspaper clipping to prove my point.

Business start up

So, why I am I surprised I hear some of you saying?  Well, quite frankly, it’s not good enough to just let the media off the hook in that way.  Why do they report inaccurately, especially when it comes to anything remotely to do with magic or alternative spiritualities or lifestyles.  Headlines in particular are often spurious and always sensational in order to attract the worst kind of attention.  TV also is just as guilty of this type of behaviour.  In the past I have appeared on all sorts of feature programmes about my work as a wisewoman, but almost inevitably the introduction to such footage contains spooky music and/or sound effects – owls hooting and the like.  I notice members of the clergy are never accompanied by organ music or heavenly choirs!  It’s all so tiresome, unnecessary and belittles the subject matter. 

Social media can also be a minefield.  As this story spread, so the article appeared on many social media forums and groups.  Subsequently we were informed about certain remarks made.  Given that most people know that the media often exaggerates and stretches the truth, lots of comments were based on the assumption that it was all accurate, and I was judged accordingly.  I joined one such group recently in order to join in the discussion that my article had triggered.  Imagine my surprise when my introductory comment was declined.  I had assumed that I would have had a right to reply since they were discussing me.  Unsurprisingly I didn’t bother staying in that group.  

So why do I have anything to do with the media at all?  Well, in the past I used media as a platform to help inform and educate the general public about folk magic and paganism in general.  I saw it as part of campaigning for human rights.  I still have that point of view, but I’m getting too old and cranky to want to have any further dealings with newspapers.  Sad really…  😦 


Will We Remember Them?

Today on television I watched the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph.  This year was the centenary of the First World War so great importance was focused upon this event.  I watched with mixed feelings.

Britain Remembrance

Considering we are supposed to be a nation of ‘stiff upper lips’ we put on remarkably emotive pageantry that is unbeaten anywhere else in the world.  For one day the elders in our community are honoured as the narrator describes in respectful, measured tones all that these men and women did for us in the hour of our greatest need.  Ordinary folk achieving extraordinary things.

Once all the fervour and rhetoric has died down, these self-same people will become, once again, the invisible generation.  How ironic that these people can file proudly past the Cenotaph and be applauded by the crowds, and yet be completely marginalised and ignored by most of society for the rest of the time.

I used to work with the elderly and have seen first hand how so many of them have been literally dumped in nursing/ residential homes, their own homes sold from under them and left to die alone and unwanted.  Obviously not every pensioner suffers in this way and some fortunate ones are supported by a loving family, but sadly the majority have been abandoned not only by relatives but also now by the State.  Government cutbacks have shut so many care homes and respite centres that the future looks very bleak indeed for our older generation.  Is this anyway to treat the very people who fought for our freedom?

During the war everyone had to pull together and learned to help each other out.  Times were meagre and there was no room for wastage.  Now they are surrounded by greed, fear, indifference and political apathy.

War still continues unabated so was it all just a futile, terrible waste?

This song sung by June Tabor sums up how I feel about this.





People Power

In spite of all the advances in technology, plus our ability now to contact news stories all over the planet almost as and when it happens, most people when asked do not feel that their input will make much difference to the world.  Most folks feel impotent in the face of corrupt organisations, rampant capitalism, denial of human rights and the squandering of the world’s planetary resources.  What difference can I make?  Why sign another petition – no-one takes any notice of them anyway.  Everyone else is being wasteful, how can my little bit make a difference?  Who’s going to listen to me?  And so on and so forth…


If for some reason you rise above this generalised apathy through disempowerment then what you meet is the divide and rule scenario.  ‘Everyone on benefit is a scrounger.  All homeless people are drop-outs,vagrants, mentally ill or on drugs.  Anyone who objects to the status quo is a dangerous radical revolutionary.  All Muslims are terrorists.  All foreigners are after our jobs.’  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Notice all these are absolutist statements.  Tabloid media fire this mob mentality all too often with sometimes tragic consequences.  It lacks compassion and humanity particularly for the vulnerable within our society and emphasises the loss of community that has occurred over the last few decades.


So what do we do?  What can we do?  We could decide to turn a blind eye and be secretly thankful that it’s not happening to us.  We could self righteously proclaim that we would never find ourselves in such straightened circumstances, implying that these poor unfortunates have only themselves to blame.  All I can say to the folks who feel like this is to quote the now famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoller who pinpoints the dangers of political apathy:

“First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me”

I know it’s difficult to find the motivation sometimes due to the full-on nature of just surviving on a day-to-day basis; and I too have viewed yet another campaign/petition with impatience sometimes.  However when it happens to you, or someone you know who is close to you, it becomes a different matter.  It makes you realise that all these apparently ubiquitous requests for help have their individual stories of heartbreak and difficulty.  This was brought home to me recently when I learned of awful circumstances that had befallen an old friend of mine and I am unashamedly mentioning it here on my blog as an opportunistic example of the potential of people power.

David Haigh

This is David Haigh, raised in Cornwall, who I have known for many years.  He is one of life’s rarities – a kind, compassionate man of integrity who works in the cut-throat world of high finance.  Unfortunately for him and his family, he now languishes in Dubai Prison after being deliberately stitched up and falsely accused of fraud.  He is unwell and is being deprived of his Human Rights. Here are some links for the details of the story:

As things stand at the moment, this petition will not be recognised until it has at least 30,000 signatures.  This is one of the reasons I am mentioning it here so that hopefully, not only will you sign it, but will pass it on to others to do the same.  Your signature/vote really does make a difference if you believe in People Power. Remember this advert?  It’s a perfect example of what I am talking about:

I find it hard to fully engage with life with my usual vitality and zest when someone I care about is in such dire straits, so goodness only knows how heart-rending it must be for David’s family.  😦 Just remember the next time someone’s plea for help reaches your ears, this is someone’s son,daughter, wife, husband….. (fill in dotted line).  It only takes a few minutes of your time – less time than it takes to make a cup of tea – and this small action could bring hope to so many.  🙂

Power to the People

Latest Update

It is now 4 months later and sadly David Haigh still languishs in Dubai prison without charge.  This denial of human rights is appalling but it seems that MPs and government are more interested in General Elections than the fate of Britons abroad!

Here is a link to Prisoners Abroad, the only organisation that appears to be effective in helping in this situation.  There is an interview with David about the conditions he has had to endure.   The petition ends on 30th March 2015 – please find time to sign it.  Thank you.


I am delighted to be able to tell you that at long last David is home safe in Cornwall!  He spent a harrowing 23 months in that Dubai jail where he was unjustly imprisoned, and he actually looks remarkably well considering what he has had to endure – but the trained eye can see the toll that has taken of him.

David Haig - Photo credit: The Guardian newspaper
David Haig – Photo credit: The Guardian newspaper

For more details go to this link:

Also here is some coverage of an interview with BBC’s Newsnight:

My thanks to the many folks who have shown their support for David,  signed his petition and remembered him in their thoughts.  We are *so* glad he is home!  😀

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me – See more at:
First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me – See more at:

Make Do and Mend


I was born in a time of austerity.  It was shortly after the Second World War in a time of rationing.  We didn’t have much to eat – I remember sugar sandwiches and bread and dripping – not considered terribly healthy but we appeared to thrive on such meagre victuals.  There were not too many fat people around and obesity was very rare indeed.  Mind you there were a lot of medical oddities walking around as a result of various mineral and vitamin deficiencies.  It was still the early days of penicillin and antibiotics so there were childhood deaths due to the incidence of TB, diptheria and polio.

Bathtime was a tin bath in front of a stove as we didn’t possess a bathroom.  There were no such things as washing machines, just a gas fired copper which clothes were boiled in and later put through a hand turned wringer before hanging on the line or drapped around the kitchen on clothes horses.  The only heating we had was a stove in the kitchen and a coal fire in the living room which was used sparingly.  There wasn’t a fridge, instead we had a larder with a meat safe and terracotta covers for the milk bottles.  Nothing was thrown out until everything was used up, from scraping butter wrappers/or keeping them for later use in greasing cake tins, to (if times were particularly hard) opening up toothpaste tubes to get out the remnants.  Left overs and hand-me-downs were par the course and if you needed something new you saved for it, which often took a long time.  The watchword that was drummed into us was ‘Make Do and Mend’!

The Kitchen in the 1950's

A lot of our toys were home/handmade and lasted for ages as we knew they wouldn’t be replaced if lost or broken.  I would spend hours playing with big cardboard boxes to make caves, castles and houses and was forever making dens outside and in with the use of everyday items that were magically turned into …well, anything I wanted them to be.  I developed a very rich imagination which stood me in very good stead for most of my life – especially useful for my magical and spiritual work.

At first we didn’t have a TV and used to go on occasions to a neighbour’s house to crowd around with others to watch their black & white set, which was often ‘on the blink’.  We did have a valve wireless though which took ages to warm up and was listened to every evening.  Most of our spare time was spent outdoors whenever possible and/or doing something constructive.  Lots of children made models which certainly taught us a degree of dexterity.  My brother made model aeroplanes and Meccano sets and I did my best with Airfix kits which were all the rage – loads of glue and paint everywhere.   I recall the smell of solvents permeating most of the house – particularly something called ‘dope’ which coated the wings of model aeroplanes.  Given that most of paint was lead based then and flies were attacked with flit-guns which used to squirt a fine spray of DDT over us, I’m surprised some of us survived!  Having said that, we developed very robust immune systems as we were exposed to so much.

Another pursuit I thoroughly enjoyed was I-Spy books.  These were wonderful spotter guides that covered all sorts of environments – the seaside, countryside, farmyard etc.  They were little booklets that gave a brief outline and description of an item and when you spotted them, you ticked them off.  The aim was to fill the booklet up and send them off to get a small prize – I’m not sure what that was as I didn’t ever send one off – it was enough to take part in the various hunts for different items.  Of course it would be easy to cheat but you didn’t because Big Chief I-Spy would know(!)…besides where was the point?  😉


If you were a boy then you joined the local cub group and as a girl I joined the Brownies.  Our troup was run by a couple of women called Brown Owl and Tawny Owl – it consisted of different sub-groups which were divided into various Fey Folk – there were Sprites, Fairies, Elves and I joined the Goblins (which for those who know me is not surprising!) – and believe it or not we used to end every meeting by skipping around a mock Fly Agaric Toadstool!  We were taught all sorts of countryside skills like fire building, foraging and went on camps which were great fun.  Once a year we all went out into the neighbourhood for ‘Bob-a-Job’ week.  This basically meant you called on your neighbours who paid you a whole shilling (a Bob – old money roughly equivilant to 5p) to perform some service like cleaning cars, shoes, windows, cutting the lawn, getting shopping  and so on.  They filled in your card and at the end of the week all money collected would go towards some local charity.  Hard work but very rewarding and really helped with the local community spirit.

The main thing was all these childhood pursuits were not only fun, they helped build a body of knowledge and skills that has stayed with me all my life.  Also I have the ability to live frugally which is a real asset when your chosen profession does not produce a high financial income and especially nowadays given the present political economical situation!  Looking back at the things I enjoyed doing when I was a child, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I ended up at the ‘grubby’ end of witchcraft by becoming a village wisewoman as it suits my nature and temperament.

In my opinion so much of rural witchcraft comes from an upbringing where connection to community and the surrounding countryside was a crucial factor to understanding the spirit of place and thereby the essence of the local magic.  I suppose this is why I get a bit irritated, or ‘teazy’ as they say down here in West Cornwall, when I read about all these fine limited edition witchcraft/occult books covered in rather distasteful materials like toad skin that cost a small fortune to buy.  What kind of a person will pay out a couple of hundred pounds for a book that can be bought as a paperback for £10 – £15?  Would it actually be used – or will it end up in a glass display case along with other, albeit beautifully crafted but equally impractical ‘talismanic’ objects?  I must admit I never dreamed that such a homespun tradition like rural witchcraft would become so elevated and elite – but there we go…there’s no accounting for taste and obviously some people have more money than sense and there will always be some who will market that propensity!

In the meantime I am happy and content with my rather shambolic but very effective wise craft.  🙂


The Brownie Promise:
I promise that I will do my best,
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community,
To help other people,
And to keep the Brownie Guide Law.

The Brownie Guide Law is:

A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.

The Brownie Guide Motto is:  ‘Lend a hand’

A Double-Edged Sword


“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”

Attributed to Chief Seattle 1854

Within the last couple of decades we have seen the emergence of another web – the World Wide Web, or www. as it’s more commonly known.  A wonderous thing indeed and I’m sure my predecessors would have marvelled at it and utilised it as a useful tool.  However, like many things of power it is two-edged and can also be used as a weapon to abuse others.  Man’s invention is astonishing at times but I wonder how much inventors think about the future implications of their discoveries when they fall into the hands of ruthless and irresponsible people?  Lets look at the phenomena called Social Networking which incorporates the use of chatrooms, forums and particularly the use of Facebook.

Back when I was young I remember every neighbourhood and community had their share of what was called ‘net-twitchers’.  These were individuals who kept a close eye on all the comings and goings of their neighbours – they were also referred to as ‘busybodies’ and nosey-parkers’.  They were usually rather sad individuals who were often socially inadequate in some way, didn’t have enough going on in own their lives of interest and so they compensated by vicariously spying on their neighbours.  Consequently they were also avid gossips and knew their community well enough to know who to pass gossip on to in order to spread rumour.  This was always conducted from behind net curtains so that they couldn’t be seen – hence the term ‘net-twitcher’.  On the whole these folk were seen as nuisances only and were often pitied by the more charitable in the community.  Occasionally however, these irritating but harmless people would turn into something more sinister and you would get malicious rumours starting which would then escalate into a hate campaign against some individual in the neighbourhood.  This could be further fuelled by ‘poison-pen’ letters being distributed which could wreak discord and havoc within a community by appealing to a ‘mob mentality’ where actual bodily harm could be the unfortunate outcome.  The victim of this kind of ‘witch hunt’ was often the focus of envy by the perpetrator, or stood out in some way as different from others.  This is something that periodically occurred within small communities and it took a while to build up.  Not so anymore!

Due to the immediacy of the internet, large numbers of people can be reached within seconds. I have watched with horror how quickly nasty rumours can turn into a vicious hate campaign with others actively inciting further venomous comments and threats.  I have witnessed this first hand, and it was chilling to observe how quickly the poison spreads – no wonder it’s called ‘viral’ when it really runs amok!  It now has earned itself the title of cyber-bullying and it is on the increase especially when like-minded individuals jump on the bandwagon and gang up.  It really can bring out the worst side of human nature.

In the old days so to speak, if someone said or did something to upset you then you would talk to your partner when they got in from work, or rang your friend(s) up – it would take a while to communicate your upset to others.  Consequentally some time went by before you responded which gave you a chance to think things through.  However, most people now respond immediately and often impulsively without consideration, often misunderstanding or assuming insults where none were intended.  Since most of the communication is written,  much is open to misinterpretation despite ’emoticons’ being used.

I personally have a rule of thumb where, generally speaking, if I receive a message that I find emotionally upsetting, I will ‘sleep on it’ and respond the next day.  This gives me a chance to process it and respond in a more measured way.

The anonymity of hiding behind a PC with a false profile/name gives some free rein to unleash all sorts of unjust accusations through insinuation and rumour in order to ruin reputations.  Regrettably there are quite a few ‘saddos’ out there who get their jollies through this type of manipulation and intrigue.  Mind you, some folk do themselves no favours when they forget that Facebook goes worldwide and tend to use it like a diary and treat it like a friend – this leaves them wide open to these pernicious predators.

It’s such a shame because so many wonderful things can be achieved through constructive networking.  The sharing of inspirational music, art, dance and other creative endeavours; the rallying call of worthy campaigns; easy links with loved ones and reuniting long-lost families and friends; the dissemination of learning and knowledge – the list is fascinating and endless!

Then you get the darker side with intrusive pornography and ever-increasing violence and bigotry…  What’s the answer?  A lot of people blame Facebook and the like – but it’s not the system, it’s the operator that makes working with the Internet a good or bad experience.  Like magic, the Net is basically neutral, it’s how people utilise it that colours it.

So what do we do?  We can’t undo it, the technology is here to stay and is escalating whilst so many of our young people live more and more ‘virtual’ lives at the expense of their actual lives.  Some feel that the answer is to disassociate from all social networking but is that too little too late?  The introduction of the Internet is truly a double-edged sword.  Are we going to wield it with integrity as a sword of truth?  Or will it be used to wound and murder?


Answers on a Postcard please!  😉

A Can of Worms…

What follows is a supplement to ‘Village Witch’ that was omitted as it was considered to be possibly too controversial for publication at this point.

These are my thoughts and feelings around the subject of Traditional Witchcraft, bearing in mind that I am not a Traditional Witch in the generally accepted sense.  It is simply my opinion which folks are free to agree or disagree with as they choose.

A Can of Worms
Taken at Zennor by Angie Latham

An Addendum

aka A Can of Worms

Having always been a curious and avid observer of life and people, I have watched how society has changed in a myriad of ways and not all of them good. I am fully aware of the fact that I have become a grumpy old witch and feel entitled to moan about some things I mourn the loss of – like common sense that appears to be rarer and less common as the years go by.

I have also been somewhat bewildered by some of the changing trends, certainly within witchcraft in particular.  When I first put pen to paper in my book over ten years ago, there was a popular trend of shamanism that I alluded to, along with an eclectic style of Wicca.  This has subsequently been rejected by the more serious magical practitioners following academic scrutiny by historians and anthropologists who have more than adequately revealed that there is no line of continuity of organised witchcraft within Wiccan tradition.  What appears to have replaced this instead is something called Traditional Witchcraft.

Traditional Witchcraft means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, depending on your point of view and where you live.  If for instance you use the term Traditional Witch in the USA you probably would be referring to a British Wiccan from ‘The Old Country’ who adheres to what they conceive to be a British witchcraft tradition.  When I was younger, a Traditional Witch would be a person who claimed a direct hereditary link within the family – later on that term was utilised by Wiccans to describe a direct coven link to either Alex Sanders (Alexandrian) or Gerald Gardner (Gardnerian).

As the years went by the demand for historical accuracy was increasing – and rightly so in my opinion.  I’ve always recognised that there is a tendency to romanticise the past in some people, along with the feeling that ancientness and historicity somehow validates things.  Alas, it certainly is not always the case with others as there seems to be an active dislike of any academic enquiry into their practices and claims, and they baulk at any scrutiny by historians and anthropologists.  What is usually trotted out is the clichéd “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence’ or claim that oral tradition accounts for any discrepancies.  All well and good, but it must be backed up with documented evidence.  Oral traditions aside, we all know what happens when a story is passed on – with each re-telling the tale is embellished even more until sometimes what remains bears very little resemblance to what was there in the first place!

However, there is an area that has been well documented and that is within the folk magic practices of the cunning folk, and this is where the next movement within witchcraft began to emerge.

“Given the current climate of debates that argue against Gardnerian orthodoxies and state that there is no historical evidence for organized, religious witchcraft, it appears that one way of reconceptualizing continuity is through claims to the professional and craft-based practices of cunning folk.”[1]


“In the face of increasingly intractable doubts concerning Gardner’s Wiccan origins, modern pagans have been forced to reconsider the historicity of their beliefs; many abandoned Gardner’s account and alighted on another: upon a spiritual ancestry and praxis focused around the historically certain low-magic practitioners known as cunning-folk.” [2]

I think it is fair to say that in general the practices of cunning folk were confined to the peasant or working class, mainly due to the fact that they couldn’t afford the services of doctors and vets.  This is not to say that the gentry and/or middle classes did not consult these practitioners because on occasion they did, but the majority of their clients could be found amongst ordinary townsfolk, the farming community and villagers.  This is why it is surprising for me to see how, what can only be termed as a somewhat elitist approach, seems to be developing within some branches of Traditional Witchcraft nowadays.

This can show itself within a style of language that is peppered with Latin phrases and deliberately obscure words, which unfortunately runs the risk of sounding very pretentious.  I know the importance of Latin in certain specific situations, for instance it is very useful to have these terms within say, medicine or botany where they are used to classify and identify different species.  However, its use in communicating about what used to be called ‘peasant magic’ is at best condescending and at worst pompous and arrogant.  Upon enquiring about this tendency to some ‘Trad’ witches, I have been informed that if people don’t understand what is being said, then they are not meant to!  There are many revered books, grimoires and publications out there which come from this point of view, and I am left bemused as to why on earth anyone would attempt to write anything that the average person didn’t have a hope of understanding without the help of a good dictionary!

Now, although I know that in the past cunning folk did rely a lot on impressing clients with their apparent book knowledge and openly referring to occult books in their presence, I really don’t think they would have got very far if they were unable to communicate in a language that their clients understood.  Maybe this movement of Traditional Witchcraft isn’t so concerned with the needs of the community anymore?  Perhaps it is all ‘talk’ and no ‘walk’?  I know that when I first started on my crooked path towards witchcraft and began to understand more about how simple magic can work, I wanted to share that by helping others – I’ve always had a strong vocational streak within me.  I needed my clients to easily understand me so that I could help them find solutions to their problems.  However, not everyone is like this and all too often overblown egos step in and try to take over, turning a pragmatic service to the community into some sort of secret fraternity with an arcane language that only true followers will understand!

I don’t want the Reader to get the wrong idea – I have nothing against others’ beliefs and practices, as mentioned before, I fully support diversity.  I’d also like to state here for the record, that I have met and communicated with many wise and experienced folk who consider that their work, or to use the latest buzz word ‘praxis’, is called Traditional Witchcraft, and who welcome stringent examination of anything to do with the ‘Old Ways’.  They’ve also managed to do this without falling into the trap of fantasising and thereby fabricating the past.

However, I have a very strong adverse response to those who claim that their way, or in this case tradition, has authenticity without any evidence of historical precedence.  Given the way I am, you can imagine my reaction when I found out that there was just such a movement created, not only down here in West Cornwall, but within my own village calling itself Traditional Cornish Witchcraft (TCW)!

Whilst I would agree that there are a lot of Cornish traditions within our local folklore and indeed many tales of witchcraft, there has never been anything before called Traditional Cornish Witchcraft.  This is in essence a modern invention that, if the accompanying publications are anything to go by, claims continuity and ancientness but has no historical references within the text to back this up.  The occasional passing reference to the 19th century folklorists William Bottrell and Robert Hunt’s literature does not carry sufficient academic weight to be considered proof of historical tradition.  It’s really not good enough on one hand to write disclaimers that point towards the idiosyncratic approach of the many and varied magical practitioners in Cornwall; and then affirm and state with authority on practically every page that TCW is what Cornish witches do, and by inference have always done.  A perfect example of this is where reference is made to one isolated incidence of witch bottles being found buried by a stone cross in North Cornwall.  This has been extrapolated and elaborated upon to become a West Country Tradition.  TCW statements referring to the way the ‘Old Cornish’ used to do this and that are not only vague but as irritating as that smokescreen term ‘Lost in the Mists of Time….’  What is wrong with writing things like “I would like to believe” or “Maybe this was the way that practitioners in the past worked”?  At least then readers are clear about what is being said or imagined and can make their own minds up, which is infinitely better than a rather woolly subterfuge.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone who wants to start their own traditions – choosing local spirits as their deities, creating their own liturgy and vocabulary for their magical gatherings and building a body of knowledge that is inspired by the local environment.  There is much within the self proclaimed TCW to commend it from an aesthetic, evocative and creative point of view, but however beautifully embroidered, it cannot in all honesty be referred to as Traditional Cornish Witchcraft and be viewed as a specific Craft that has evolved from the past.  This basically is style over substance.  The word Traditional is misleading by intimating that it is something that has been handed down from one practitioner to another, and the use of the term Cornish in this context is purely geographical as there is very little in this practice of folk magic that makes it essentially Cornish, or indeed different from folklore magic anywhere else in Britain.

“As the congruence of ethnic and ‘outsider’ approaches … has recently found its strongest statement within the modern pagan community in Cornwall with the emergence in this last decade of a self-styled ‘Traditional Cornish Witchcraft which claims for itself the continuation of pre-modern, vernacular witch beliefs and practices…Its progenitor having been born in Kent, moving to Cornwall only in the late 1990s.”[3]

It appears that Traditional Cornish Witchcraft was specifically set up to fill a void noticed by the founder of this term.

“She had made contact and entered into friendship with Traditional Witches in other areas of Britain and worked as a solitary Witch in Cornwall with a view to reviving the ways of the Cornish Craft.  She researched Cornish folklore, traditions and seasonal customs, looking for clues to the practices and beliefs of Cornish Paganism and Witchcraft…Through her contact with practitioners elsewhere in Britain saw how the Traditional, regional Crafts were maintained with much more enthusiasm than was the case in Cornwall.  Whilst Cornwall had a rich heritage of Craft lore, there were very few Pagan and magical folk in Cornwall with an interest in, or awareness of, Cornish Witchcraft traditions.”[4]

Although I think I have said enough on this subject for now, I may well continue my exploration of the strange and ever shifting world between facts, folklore and fantasy…now there’s a potential title for future writing methinks!

[1] Helen Cornish, “Cunning Histories: Privileging Narrative in the Present”

[2] Jason Semmens, “Bucca Redivivus: History, Folklore and the Construction of Ethnic Identity within Modern Pagan Witchcraft in Cornwall

[3] Jason Semmens, “Bucca Redivivus”

Tell the Truth and Be Damned!

Tell the Truth and Be Damned!

I guess it was fated that a lot of my life would focus on issues about truth considering my name is Cassandra.  It’s a name from Greek Mythology and is about a Trojan princess who was a daughter of King Priam of Trojan War fame.  According to the account from The Iliad, Cassandra was a Priestess of Apollo who was visited by the god who offered the gift of prophesy to her in return for her ‘favours’.  Cassandra accepted the gift but when it came time for Apollo to receive his due payment, she reneged on the agreement and refused him, fearing that she would be consumed by fire and perish.  Greatly angered by this Apollo knew that he couldn’t take his gift back but demanded at least a kiss, and as their lips met the god spat in her mouth.  This caused the gift to change into a curse which was: that although Cassandra would always prophesy the truth, no-one would believe her!  She went on to prophesy against Paris returning home, and famously against bringing within Troy the Trojan Horse shouting warnings of ‘beware Greeks bearing gifts’ to no avail.  Some sources said she went mad, others that she was taken by King Agamemnon back to his home where she was hacked to death with an axe by his wife,  Clytemnestra – either way Cassandra came to an unhappy end and she was known as The Prophetess of Doom.  No pressure living with that name then!

Very early on in my life I lived with the utter frustration of not being believed when I was telling the truth, basically because it was expedient for certain others to keep things that way – this is how a lot of abusive people operate.  Even better if as a result of that inner torment that one has to work through the shadowy hinterworld of psychological and emotional breakdown/breakthrough, then if there are queries surrounding your integrity then your mental suffering makes you a prime target for unscrupulous and manipulative types.  However, in spite of these difficulties during my younger years I still stood by my word irrespective of whether I was believed or not.

Some situations did puzzle me though.  Often when an injustice was evident to others as well as myself and they appeared to support me until it came time for standing up for the truth.   So many times I have turned around to appeal to others for that support only to find that they had evaporated like a summer’s morning mist.  I’ve always been one of life’s Whistle Blowers and I guess I always will be, but I have to say that it can also be a lonely and isolated place to be a lot of the time and can land me in deep trouble – and then you can feel very exposed out there on your own,  a prime target for snipers!   At least I comfort myself with the thought that I have a clear conscience and can live with myself, which I would find next to impossible to do if I compromised my convictions by saying nothing and letting injustice flourish.

Many years ago I made the decision, which I have never regretted, of having honest friends in my life.  That sounds pretty normal until you realise that so many folks prefer to have so-called friends in their life who don’t tell them the truth but instead tell them what they want to hear instead.  If you have truly honest friends then you will learn a lot about yourself, if you don’t then you learn nothing new and often will end up living in some kind of a fantasy world.  If one of my friends asks what I think of what they’re wearing/or their new hairstyle or whatever, I will tell them exactly what I think – not what I think they want to hear.  This approach doesn’t mean that you have to smack people round the face with the truth – diplomacy of delivery is very important.  There have been many times in my life when I have had to deliver the truth to someone, knowing that it will be received badly.  I give an inward sigh, take a deep breath and tell them politely but firmly what needs to be said.  It’s what I call Tough Love or Plain Speaking – I have no wish to be unkind but some things just have to be told to set the record straight.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who have an overblown impression of themselves which is fuelled by other ‘friends’ or followers telling them what they want to hear about how wonderful they are – these friends do this because of  either fear, sycophantic behaviour,  misplaced loyalty or infatuation.  You can usually recognise this type of person, who basically has a very fragile ego and finds it next to impossible to take or receive criticism in any form, thereby once again learning nothing new and remaining in some sort of illusion or fantasy world and lack the robustness that is required to live in the real world of hard knocks and character building experiences.

When I first wrote my book, ‘Village Witch’ I was in a dilemma as to whether to include certain details of my past which I knew would probably have repercussions in one way or the other; but in the end thought that it was best to include it,  so that people could see how my difficult journey through life directly informed the practice of my Craft as a wisewoman/witch.  So in a way I was prepared for a backlash and I wasn’t wrong…but more of that later – I have written enough for one night.  Time for a cup of Horlicks before bedtime!

Would You Lie For Your Partner?

Would You Lie For Your Partner?

I learnt very early on in my life that in order to lie you had to have a very good memory.  Not being  blessed with that particular skill, I found it expedient to develop a way of diverting people away from the subject if I wanted to avoid telling the truth for whatever reason – it’s called cunning.

It’s not only an ethical issue with me, but it is crucial to the well-being of any relationship, in my opinion.  I have always  stated to close friends not to ever expect me to lie for them, because I won’t.  To me, the main thing that marks the death knell of any relationship is when people lie.  Once I know they have done that, and I don’t care what colour untruths are – I don’t hold with ‘little white lies’ – to me that irrevocably changes that relationship and I can never trust them again.  Even if they’re saying really nice things to you, how do you know when they’re telling the truth?

Just recently I have found to my cost that the vast majority of people assume, that if you back up your partner as a witness when their integrity is questioned, then you out of ‘commendable loyalty’ would not be telling the truth.  I can’t tell you how shocked I was when I realised this.  Also I believe that in British Criminal Law a partner/wife/husband is not allowed to give evidence in support of their spouse for the same reason – a sad comment on today’s society where lying is expected.

However, once I entered the Craft many years ago, I also realised the importance of keeping your word.  I personally think that telling lies or not keeping oaths magical or otherwise,  seriously undermines the effectiveness of any magical work.  So much Craft work involves the power of the mind, so if you cannot keep your word, what effect will that have when one commands or petitions spirits?

In conclusion, wouldn’t it make life a little less confusing if everyone was honest in their dealings with others?  I am fully aware of how naive I sound but part of me is a strange mix of being pragmatic and visionary… we live in hope!

Why is Common Sense So Rare?

Cats cradle -

Why is Common Sense So Rare?

Common sense was a term used a lot when I was growing up, you were encouraged to work things out for yourself and to use the brain you were born with.  Often you were left to your own devices all day as a child and could wander at will in the countryside,  safe in the knowledge that you were always kept an eye on by your community who knew who and where you were.  They were not above giving you a good telling off if you were up to mischief or a clip round the ear if deserved.   You found out by trial and error what was a good thing to do or not.  We learnt to climb trees and explore the woods, we learnt what was good to eat from the wild food of the hedgerows and what was not when we ended up with a lot of belly aches.  I was forever coming home grubby, with grazed knees with twigs in my hair and grass stains on my shorts – a right scruffy little urchin!  But I knew my natural environment – the trees, flowers, berries and the many forms of wildlife – those times of simple enchantment taught me a lot about life.

Sadly nowadays a lot of all this has gone.  From age 5 years old I used to walk a mile to school and back on my own.  This would be unheard of now and I feel very sorry for kids that they don’t have the freedom to explore and educate themselves about their natural environment – hell, a lot of them don’t even know who their immediate neighbours are let alone where the best tree for conkers in the autumn is!  It’s getting that kids won’t even be able to tie their own shoelaces anymore with the age of Velcro making this redundant – so they’ll miss the magic of knots and ‘cat’s cradles’ and the like.

Also I know that some of our teachers at school could be pretty sadistic and/or sarcastic and were very strict, but they did impose discipline which is sadly lacking nowadays in schools.  I hear some horrifying tales of the way standards have plummeted because of this complete lack of respect for teachers and the like.   The lack of respect shows in other areas as well especially on the home front.  Fate decreed that I didn’t succeed in having any children this time around, but I have to say that on the whole, after observing others, I am relieved at that.  I find the total disregard that some parents are held in by their offspring simply appalling, and sadly as a direct consequence a large proportion of the youth of nowadays have no ingenuity, motivation or what we used to call ‘gumption’.  They seem to expect everything to just magically fall into their laps without any effort from them.

I left school at 15 years and immediately went into my first job in order to earn my living, half of my wages was given to my mother and I left home permanently at age 18 to start my nursing training.  Today getting a job seems to be the last thing on a lot of youngsters’ minds, or if they do it’s just to fund their excessive drinking binges at weekends.  I know of many people, especially males, who are still living with their parents until well into their thirties.  And before I get lots of parents saying that their children aren’t like that, I’m talking about a general trend that I have noticed that I find worrying.

So many people seem to live in fear nowadays.  A high percentage of my clients when I was working were suffering from one form of fear or another and counselling them was a frequent part of my consultations.  I realise now, and especially following the counselling training I underwent, that a lot of the advice that I used to give came under the category of ‘common sense’, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) or maybe ‘headology’ as Granny Weatherwax out of the Pratchett books would say.  Often there are very pragmatic ways to resolve many of life’s situations but some need an addition of a little bit of witchcraft to help them on their way.

I think that’s enough grumbling for tonight as something’s just happened that makes me despair.  Why is it that some people seem to derive so much pleasure from finding fault in others and causing so much pain in the process?  Isn’t it so much easier to just get on with people and be kind?  Sigh!

Just a little addition to this subject lifted from Facebook:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who had been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain
– Why the early bird gets the worm
– Life isn’t always fair
– and maybe it was my fault
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.   Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.  Common Sense declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot.   She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.  He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; – I Know My Rights – I Want It Now – Someone Else Is To Blame – I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

If you still remember him, pass this on.  If not,  join the majority and do nothing.

23rd September 2012

Well Met at Equinox

Yesterday evening  me and my other half Laetitia, went down to the local woods and met up with an old and dear friend of mine, Jo.  It was very evocative sitting in the woods by his old wooden caravan warming ourselves by the crackling fire and supping mead wine.  After a little while myself and Jo took ourselves off to visit his small stone circle in order to catch up on what’s been happening in our Craft lives which was very enlightening!

I’ve always admired Jo’s pragmatic, down-to-earth approach to life and his simple worship of the Great Goddess and the Horned God.  He stays well out of petty disputes, doesn’t claim unsubstantiated unbroken Craft lineages or name-drop, and regards those that do with kindly amusement.  Although Jo is a bit of a technophobe and doesn’t subscribe to the Internet in any way, he has always been a great networker and has corresponded with thousands of fascinating Craft people over the years by writing good old-fashioned letters.  He is a mine of useful information, particularly regarding Egyptian archaeology which he generously and willingly shares to all who are interested.

Jo and me go back a long way (we were initiated in the same year) and although we come from different traditions, Jo being a devout Gardenarian, we worked within the same magical group for nearly 10 years until we amicably went our separate ways.  We occasionally met briefly at various local functions such as the Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft weekends and the PF Devon & Cornwall conferences.  Talking with Jo felt like the years had rolled back and we reminisced about the old times and laughed about some of life’s absurdities.  It was my pleasure to gift a copy of my book to him as he had requested he would be very interested in acquiring a copy.

We returned to the fire, me and Laetitia had one last drink and then left for our Equinox  ritual at our own hearth and definitely felt well earthed by the timeless quality of the evening well spent with our brethren in the Craft.


Although I can retire from the business of being a village wisewoman, it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.  I have withdrawn from many things that took up a lot of my time like my voluntary and campaigning work in the Pagan community, and set to in order to finish my book, Village Witch, which thankfully has at last been published.  I have taken up some new pursuits like Morris dancing and I’m about to enter the strange and slightly confusing world of blogs!

I’ve noticed that the older I’ve got, the grumpier I’ve got about a lot of things, particularly about the Craft and find that I keep saying “And Another Thing!” and off I go on another observation about human absurdities.  My partner, after having put up with a lot of this, suggested that I write a blog to share some of these realisations, and also to have a few words of advice or wisdom to pass on to others who may be trying to find their way through the plethora of witchcraft books, articles and websites on offer nowadays. This blog will be based on my opinions which I am not claiming to be the only way, I’m wise enough to know that I don’t know everything and I am always open to learning new ideas and listening to other opinions.  What I can promise is no ‘boffo’, no bullshit just the truth as I perceive it.

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