To Whom It May Concern

The following article appeared in the New Statesman 17 – 23 February 2017.  It was handed to me the other day by friends who thought I might draw insight from what it said.  It had previous to that been displayed in their shop as a timely reminder about human nature and all it’s idiosyncrasies.  I was impressed by the clear and pragmatic presentation of what can be a complex situation and was for me very enlightening; and so I thought I’d share it with you.  Words within […] are my comments  🙂

I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term ‘narcissistic’ has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal.  I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1% of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits.  First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement.  Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices.  [One would imagine a transgender person to have a blend of both]  In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as ‘supply’.  In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a ‘false self’ – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.  [To use magical parlance – glamour]

The third characteristic is termed ‘splitting’, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey.  As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called ‘love-bombing’.  However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder.  There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause.  Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood.  Paradoxically for a condition that manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem.  This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.  

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth.  It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them.  Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight.  A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.”  If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer.  Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying.  The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness.  They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance.  And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake.”

Dr Phil Whitaker

For the last 5 years (almost to the day) I have been targeted by a narcissist and it has been no surprise to find out that, according to the above article, I would be referred to by them as Bad.  However, this is part of my craft and nature, to point out glamour and falseness when it presents itself.

Articles like this are very handy to get things into their proper perspective and to have clarification of the roles folk play within these melodramas.


Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing

I have been a whistle-blower for most of my life.  It’s something I feel compelled to do when I come across injustices and needless to say it has got me into hot water!  Whistle-blowing can be awfully lonely because often the very people who you believed would support you, either turn against you or keep their heads down and act embarrassed with the hope that you will go away or cease such behaviour.  Whether this happens within a private or a public situation, there is almost always retaliation and/or reprisals from the bully or abuser (whether system, company or person).  Often ‘gas lighting’ is aimed at the whistle-blower, not only to attempt to distract or silence the instigator, but also as a salutary lesson to other workers, team members or acquaintances not to do the same or support them in any way.  It makes one wonder why on earth people like myself risk such circumstances?  Well, I can let you know why I do it.

As a village wisewoman I strive to be honourable and altruistic in my dealings with folks, bearing in mind that I am human and can make mistakes. This however, is not just a role I play within my community – it is a lifestyle.  I have a conscience that is not at peace unless I do my best to try to aid others who I feel are being bullied, abused or otherwise treated unfairly.  I really do try to be diplomatic in my handling of this but sometimes even then, my plain speaking triggers an anger response from the person I’m confronting about their behaviour.  Most of the time I try to deal with this stoically as I recognise that, to an extent I am drawing their fire away from the object of their persecution or bullying and instead become their target.

However, this trait can also create enemies and even what I call ‘frenemies’ (enemies who used to be friends).  Occasionally you get a banding together of these types of individuals into a cabal of plotters who get fixated on revenge – and sadly that is what appears to have happened to me – and by association, my partner.

The last time I took someone to task about what I perceived to be unfair and dictatorial behaviour, it ended in both myself and my partner being ejected from the Morris side that we were members of.  There was a heated exchange when I realised that this person had contacted people known to be part of the previously mentioned ‘cabal’ behind our backs and was parroting their lies.  The meeting ended with me calling him “A silly little man” and that was the end of that…or so I thought.

Never underestimate the vindictiveness of a overblown, and therefore fragile, ego!  There then followed a series of attempts to sabotage the event that I organise that he and his team had been part of and had subsequently left.  These I dealt with as they happened and did my best to rise above these obstacles and annoyances.  My partner and myself anticipated that there would probably be gossip and rumour to deal with, as there often is when people fall out for whatever reason, but then it got really serious.  At the weekend it was brought to our attention that extremely offensive and malicious lies had been fabricated in order to blacken our names and characters.  So vile have these accusations been that I am considering taking legal advice on this matter.

Why am I airing all this on my blog when normally I would keep a dignified silence?  The answer lies in the title of this post.  There are times when it is more appropriate not to feed negativity and refrain from trying to justify yourselves or reason with the unreasonable.  However, a line must be drawn in the sand when boundaries of decency and integrity are breached and this is one such time.

The Morris community on the whole is a merry bunch of revellers and pranksters of varying abilities who like nothing better than to dance, play music and party.  Of course they have their differences and their fallouts but I would hate to see this community riven by this level of attempted victimisation.  It has to cease immediately.

The perpetrators of this slander know who they are, and so do I.  I choose not to name names at present and hope that this post will be warning enough.  If they do the honourable thing and desist for the sake of the Morris community I will say no more about this.


A Tale of Two Osses.

At Beltane this year we completed Penkevyll’s final makeover or maybe it would be more accurate to say, emergence.  We celebrated that with a photoshoot taken by the talented John Isaac.


Penkevyll’s journey from there to here has been dynamic, dramatic, poignant and at times a little spooky.  Just for clarification I need to say that the title of this post does not refer to her life, and then her afterlife as an Oss, but of how she used to be a Penglaz and then transitioned into Penkevyll.  I do see the need for a little background so, time to settle down and hear the story.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, A Tale of Two Osses!  😀

The year was 2008 and I had received a startling phone call that was to have ongoing repercussions for years to come had I but known it.  I had been Teazer to Penglaz the Penzance Oss for many years.  This was a role that had slowly evolved over the years, building on it’s tradition as it went.  That previous winter we celebrated the very first Montol festival and Penglaz was to play a crucial role within the festivities.  This turned out to be the one and only time that this particular Penglaz appeared at Montol.  In April I received the aforementioned unexpected phone call from the chap responsible for creating and riding Penglaz, to the effect that he would be retiring from Golowan and Montol and that he was taking his Oss with him.  Bombshell was an understatement!  :O


It was only 6 weeks to Mazey Day, when Penglaz traditionally made her appearance, and I had to make some quick decisions.  Once I had permission that I could recreate another Oss modelled on the previous style, I gathered through networking a small, select team of people with the appropriate skills to do just that.  Despite having to work my way through a lot of obstructions and petty politics as a result of a rival Penglaz being made hurriedly, our Oss eventually made her debut at Montol 2008.

Sadly although a few traditions can survive despite conflict and rivalry this was not the case in Penzance.  Although our Oss team was completely open to sharing and co-operating, the rival team were not and wanted to be ‘the only Penglaz in the town’.  After a couple of years of this during which I’m sure everyone got thoroughly fed up with the wrangling, it all came to a head.  The outcome was that our Oss was asked to withdraw, along with the rival Oss, and the original Penglaz and Rider returned.


If you’re thinking that I’m missing out a lot of detail here, you would be correct.  However, I really don’t think it would be helpful to the community in general to open up old wounds – especially as things have moved on so much since.  So, I will content myself with this briefest of outlines about our Oss’s previous life as a Penglaz.  (So those who were relishing a melodrama about it all can put away their popcorn and depart back to the sidelines!)

So, there we were with an Oss with no name or a function.  Over the years I had researched Osses and associated beasties in the West Country and knew there was, albeit sparse, documented evidence of a Lands End Oss who stalked the outer margins of West Penwith.  Since we were based in nearby St Buryan that seemed an ideal role to revive and recreate.  I also came across an archaic Cornish name for ‘horse’s head’ which was Penkivell or Penkevyll which we then adopted for her during a naming ceremony performed in March on my birthday 2011. It was at this time that I took the crucial decision to buy Penkevyll from the co-creators for a mutually agreed price which we shook hands on.  She has been happily stabled with us, definitely part of the household, and rather wonderfully the community, ever since.  😀

We worked on Penkevyll’s appearance giving her some new improved ears and mane.  The kit started off with black, midnight blue and blood red tatters and ribbons.  Our Oss had been created primarily as a processional, dancing Oss and thanks to the skills of a brilliant local engineer she is extremely versatile in her movements – however, the downside is that Penkevyll is also extremely heavy and can only be operated by a male of appropriate strength.  This is because of her weighty mechanism plus the fact that she was obviously a big horse of German descent with heavy bones.  However, we have always had Riders for Penkevyll and at that time we had a very lively and enthusiastic Rider in Laetitia’s son, Rhys.  We brought Penkevyll out for her very first appearance in the community at the Penwith Pagan Moot, which we were hosting that Spring Equinox, where she was received with warmth and delight.  🙂

The following few years were full of action and drama as I entered the Morris world for the first time and we introduced Penkevyll the Lands End Oss to Morris festivals up and down the country.  We created a dance team called Boekka (Cornish for scarecrow) to accompany Penkevyll, and special Oss and Teazer dances were devised by Laetitia in which we both danced and teased the Oss in a choreographed manner – very unlike the improvised madness that I had been used to on the streets of Penzance with Penglaz!  However these dances were quite spooky and atmospheric!  It was great to meet so many different Morris sides and performers and it definitely opened up a new world to me.  I truly never anticipated learning how to Morris dance in my sixties!  😀

Time moved on, and so did people.  There was an amendment to the kit colours as we were finding that all sorts of different shades of red were creeping in, including pink (!).  So it was decided to change this in favour of dark purple and it stayed that way until quite recently.  One thing that became more and more noticeable as the years passed was that it was quite difficult to get Morris dancing off the ground in Cornwall.  Ironic when you think that there is a school of thought that has referred to the bench ends of St Columb Church, Cornwall as the earliest evidence of Morris dancing in the country!  Some declare that Morris is too English for the Cornish and there certainly is a focus on Cornish dancing instead being more popular.  The outcome was it was getting increasingly more difficult to find members for our team who were willing to travel and perform elsewhere.  Add to this the pure logistics of travelling to venues outside of Cornwall and it became inevitable that the dance team would finally subside which it did in 2015.

However, all was not lost – far from it!  This meant we could concentrate more on the Oss and Teazers only and this is when it became really interesting…

I had always wanted to meet the famous Welsh Mari Lwyds and finally at long last it happened in 2014 – a year that was to prove quite a breakthrough for Penkevyll the Lands End Oss & Boekka.  I write in detail here about that initial meeting of a Cornish Oss with the Mari Lwyd:

Cornish Penkevyll makes history by meeting the Welsh Mari Lwyd

Something magical happened when that meeting occurred, because from that first contact,  wonderfully creative and exciting events have developed.  I have written extensively about this marvellous journey here:

All Hallows Gathering 2014


All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

and here:

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part One

All Hallows Gathering 2016 – Part Two

Penkevyll has travelled widely within Britain including Scotland and Wales, but not Ireland as yet.  I would personally love to take Penkevyll to Brittany to complete her tour of the Celtic Nations!

Recently, and the reason for this blog post, we changed Penkevyll’s kit for the final time.  It was shortly before St Piran’s Day this year and I was admiring the lovely Cornish banners we had around our nearest town, Penzance.  It was then I had the idea of since our Oss is a sort of ambassador for Cornwall when she visits other towns and countries, and that Lands End is so iconic, it made sense that Penk (as she is affectionately known) would wear Cornish colours for her kit.  So, I leave you with Penkevyll the Lands End Oss, accompanied by her Teazers, resplendent in black, gold and white.

Kernow Bys Vyken!  (Cornwall For Ever!)







Needs Must When the Devil Drives

Sadly this post will start off on a slightly negative note, but will hopefully soon rise above that and develop into something much more interesting.

About six months ago I was contacted by the Museum of Witchcraft managers and informed that the soundtrack to the Wisewoman’s Cottage tableau which I had narrated was being replaced by another that had been created by some of the Friends of the Museum.  Although I was initially rather miffed that I hadn’t been consulted before this decision was made, I did agree that it had been a long time since the original recording and that it was time for new material.

Then just recently a link to Gemma Gary’s blog was circulated via the Museum’s Facebook page where it described the update of Joan’s Cottage by herself and others.  Upon reading it I decided to rise above the rather disparaging comments made about the previous soundtrack, as everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, although I’ve never understood why some feel the need to denigrate what preceded them; however I couldn’t ignore what was an inaccuracy within the text.  I politely pointed out to the Museum that despite what was stated, I did not get paid for narrating but gave my time and energy freely, and asked for the mistake to be rectified.  The Museum duly got back to me and said that they would contact Gemma Gary and wrote an explanatory note on their blog page (where Gemma’s link had also been posted).

Please note: If you follow the link to the article, you will see that it suggests that the person who provided the previous incarnation of Joan’s voice (Cassandra Latham Jones) was paid. In fact, she gave her time voluntarily. We remain grateful to everyone who has been involved in any project which has been of benefit to the Museum.

All well and good I thought, sorted without any complications.  Wrong!  😦

Far from discreetly amending her text, Gemma Gary in her wisdom chose to ‘up the ante’ and escalate the whole situation by writing the following:

“For many years now, visitors to the Museum have been able to hear the voice paid to represent ‘Old Joan’ [18/8/15 it has been brought to my attention that the provider of this voice claims to have volunteered her time. She was in fact paid to do ‘promotional work’ for the Museum. It was my understanding that the recording was part of this work] reciting (with the incongruous inclusion of the odd cold and sinister cackle) an extraordinary and wonderful collection of verbal charms and spells,”                                

This, a blatantly untrue statement, is ludicrous when one considers that Gemma Gary was not present, or ever involved in any of these events which happened nearly 20 years ago.  No-one knows better than I, whether I was paid or not! Furthermore, I have never been paid for any promotional work for the Museum.  Someone needs to check the veracity of their so called ‘facts’.  As a direct result of this, Gemma Gary’s blog links were removed by the Museum from both the Facebook group and the Museum’s blog.  It remains to be seen whether that lie stays within her blog – but whilst it remains I think it says more about Gemma Gary than it does about me.

Anyway, enough of all this unpleasantness and on to more interesting things.  Although these events had unsettled me it did make me think about whether it might be a good idea to share exactly what did happen all that time ago as it’s quite an interesting tale.  Certainly it would add a bit more clarity, and might even avoid future inaccuracies and assumptions from certain quarters.

Let’s go back to the late nineties, to 1997 to be exact.  I had a phone call from Graham King who had recently purchased the Museum of Witchcraft from Cecil Williamson in Boscastle.  As a result of this call Graham came down and stayed overnight in my cottage in order to speak at our Pagan Moot later that evening.  It was the start of a long and stimulating friendship with Graham, the Museum and countless others who helped him initially to revamp the Museum in those early days.

Horned God tableau 1996
Horned God tableau 1996

One of the main objectives in the Museum’s transformation was the removal of the rather disturbing (to some) and sensationalist ‘Dennis Wheatley style’ tableaux.  These incidentally were fascinating to deconstruct, as some very unusual and enigmatic items came to light which wouldn’t have been seen by the average onlooker passing by.  Graham had some very definite ideas of what he wanted to put in their place and a reconstructed Wisewoman’s Cottage was top of the list.

Although Graham had to introduce and purchase a lot of new materials to replace old, outworn things, he wanted to use recycled materials whenever possible.  This not only fitted in with his environmentally friendly ethos, but he felt that this would have been the way that a wisewoman would have acted – utilising and reusing the materials available to her.  He was absolutely right – at least as far as this particular wisewoman is concerned.  🙂

I remember that there was a lot of discussion about how to get sufficient stones for the building of the cottage walls and how costly they were to obtain.  Graham admitted to me that after he had seen where I lived, it gave him inspiration for the Wisewoman’s Cottage planned for the Museum.  Just so that you can see what he meant, here’s my cottage as it was back then:

My cottage
My cottage in West Cornwall

Later that same night there was a storm at sea which managed to find its way into the inner harbour, because when Graham and Liz woke up the next day they found that a huge pile of stones had been deposited by the Museum door by the thrashing waves.  It appeared that the wind and sea gods had heard of their plight and had provided what was needed!

Graham and the team set to with gusto to create the inside of the Wisewoman’s cottage with the stones, wood and window frames recycled and/or found in the local dump and any skips they came across on their travels.  Once the ‘grunt’ work was achieved I was assigned the job of covering the walls with whitewash and painting the woodwork.  At one point Graham remonstrated with me that I was doing too neat a job and to roughen it all up a bit!

Once the cottage was starting to take shape,  Graham told me his plans to have a mannequin created of an old woman around age 70 years to represent the wisewoman.  He was going to call her Joan in honour and in remembrance of Joan Wytte the Guardian of the Museum (another story!)  Graham then asked me whether I would be willing to narrate a soundtape of charms as he specifically wanted a wisewoman to be the voice of Joan on tape.  It would mean travelling up to Hampshire to Graham’s friend who owned a sound studio.  I readily agreed to this and plans were made to travel within that week.

In the end, four of us travelled up to a small village called Wherwell in Graham’s old van.  After a long and bumpy journey, (I think the suspension was a bit dodgy!) we arrived at the White Lion and had a few well-deserved pints and a bite to eat.

The White Lion Inn, Wherwell

The next morning at breakfast we were introduced to a couple of people I hadn’t met before, but who I still know and occasionally see today.  It was Paul Broadhurst and Vivienne Shanley.  Paul is well-known in the dowsing world as he used to team up and co-wrote with the famous and beloved dowser from Cornwall, Hamish Miller.  Vivienne, who was Paul’s partner at that time, was an accomplished artist who has produced many fine works of art, some of which can still be found within the Museum.  For example, a beautiful presentation of The Wheel of the Year:

wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year by Vivienne Shanley

Apparently our services weren’t required until later in the afternoon whilst the studio was being prepared, so we were free to explore the village – which we duly did.  There was no question that Wherwell was very picturesque, however as we wandered around the lanes and then the surrounding fields and meadows there was this distinct feeling of unease bordering on unreality…and then the penny dropped.  It was Fran, a member of the team at that time who pointed out that in the fields there was a huge amount of dead wood lying around, which down our way in West Cornwall wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.  It would have been gathered and collected ready to be stored for kindling and logs for the winter.  When we made our way back to the village lanes and walked past all the cottages, we noticed that there were logs stacked ready for open fires and log-burners – but they were uniform and neatly stacked, obviously delivered rather than harvest the same from the fields a few yards away.

Wherwell cottages
Wherwell Cottages

When we looked closer, we could see that the thatch and surrounding gardens were manicured and well-controlled – even the climbing ivy was chopped off in a straight line in an attempt to regiment and tidy up nature.  We realised that this was one of the places that had been taken over by the affluent who loved the idea of a country idyll often seen in copies of Country Life.  They lived in what used to be peasant and farm workers cottages, probably turfing out the locals who now were forced to live on council estates or in urban poverty.  It’s an elite fashion craze followed by folks that I call ‘Aga Louts’ or the ‘Green Wellie Brigade’!  I heard that in Knightsbridge, London where monied people drive around in needless (considering the terrain) 4 x 4 landrovers known colloquially as ‘Chelsea Tractors’, that they actually use spray on mud to make it look like they’ve been driving across the countryside!  I was dumbfounded when I first heard this – and I’m not entirely convinced that this is true…maybe it’s an urban myth (or should that read rural myth?)  A perfect example of approbation by the rich of what used to be a peasant/working class culture.  This has been mirrored in the occult world too, in my opinion, but that is another story for another day.

Back in Wherwell it was time to attend the recording session.  Firstly there was the Pagan Chants for background music to the Museum which was to be performed by Liz Crow and her friend Heike Robertson which was worked on and successfully completed after about an hour or so.  Then it was my turn.

I had my script of sayings and charms compiled by Levannah Morgan which I had familiarised myself with.  I am a trained theatre performer, but in one sense I didn’t have to act as such because I was already a working wisewoman.  All I had to do was add a few decades to my age as I was in my forties at the time.  Fortunately to all concerned I managed to record the whole script on the first take and I was just about to climb down off the stool I was perched on, when Graham’s voice came over the tannoy system -“Can you give us a selection of cackles please Cassandra?”  I have to say I was not expecting this, but duly gave them what was asked and then we were all released from our hours of intensive work and spilled out like naughty schoolchildren into the garden outside.

Graham and his friend said that they needed to spend the next day editing, adding sound effects and working on the tapes so we were left to our own devices.  Me, Fran and Liz went for a long, relaxing walk down a wooded lane to find what was locally known as the Witch’s Cottage.  It was situated as per tradition right on the outskirts of the village far away from any other dwelling.  It was a lovely spring evening and Liz gave us a beautiful rendition of ‘Lady of the Woods’.  She has a unique poignant quality to her voice and is especially skilled at singing laments.

When we returned it was time for dinner which was followed by an evening at the White Lion Folk Club which was very entertaining.  Me and Fran were doing our best to remain upright on this ancient leather sofa that dipped in the middle rather alarmingly – so much so, it felt that you were on one of those Waltzers that spin around at fairgrounds.  Mind you, this was probably enhanced by the many excellent real ales we sampled that night!  The evening was being facilitated by a rather bossy woman who could only be described as a ‘born-again Redcoat’!  You know the sort – they insist that everyone does a turn, in this case, either singing or playing an instrument.  Quite frankly Fran and me were incapable of performing anything because we were giggling so much.  This seemed to make this woman even more insistent…which made us laugh even more and…well I think you get the picture!  In the end she gave it up as a bad job and moved on to someone else, much to our relief and I’m sure to all the others as well!

The next day I emerged rather bleary-eyed.  I was sharing a room with Fran and what I didn’t realise was that she snored – very loudly and erratically.  I didn’t get much sleep so I was pleased to hear that we were visiting nearby Winchester that day.  This gave me the opportunity to purchase some ear-plugs – and I haven’t travelled anywhere without them since!

Before that we visited St Catherine’s Hill where there was a huge labyrinth cut into the turf on the summit of the hill.  I spent a spell-binding 20 mins walking that mazed path and, as usual when I do such things, felt my energy and consciousness shift into another level.

St Catherine’s Hill Labyrinth

Winchester is the ancient capital of Wessex and you could feel history all around in spite of a lot of 21st Century trappings crowding the space.  I was entranced by Winchester Great Hall with its famous Round Table and was amused to find when I emerged into the yard, Liz madly rummaging through a skip she had found there.  She emerged victorious with yet another foraged prize for the Museum.  🙂

round table
The Great Hall Winchester

Soon it was time to return to Wherwell and to Graham who was well pleased with how the sound tapes had turned out.  We all returned to Boscastle that night battling through a seriously thick fog to the Museum, tired out but with a strong sense of achievement.

A few weeks later the commissioned mannequin arrived and was carefully and appropriately dressed by us girls and there was Old Joan ensconced within her newly crafted cottage and looking very much at home.  I have to admit that I was startled by her appearance at first because the finished Joan bore an uncanny resemblance to Rowena Cade (Creator of the Minack Theatre) who I had nursed about fifteen years ago.  It was all feeling a bit weird and deja-vu ish, especially when the soundtrack started up.  I felt like I was in the middle of an episode from the Twilight Zone!

Rowena Cade
Rowena Cade
Joan in the Wisewoman’s Cottage

I have included this link because this film commissioned for the Museum wonderfully conjures up the atmosphere of this unique place – it also contains some excerpts of the original Wisewoman tape.

So here we are back in 2015 and things have moved on.  Graham has handed the Museum on to a new owner who is redesigning a lot of the presentation of the exhibits into a more up-to-date genre.  Joan’s voice is now different and is now more motherly and I suppose as a result, more acceptable/accessible – although to be honest I have heard some call it “a bit like Jackanory”.  I guess in comparison I would have sounded something like Granny Weatherwax (without the cackle!) but I make no apologies for being ‘Old School’.  That’s the one thing we can always guarantee – All Things Will Change.  🙂

Update – Candlemas 2019

Several months ago Simon Costin, presented me with the last remaining copy of the Wisewoman Spells and Charms soundtrack that was created for Joan’s Cottage in the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in 1997.  Recently, Laetitia had one of her brainwaves…

There are many people who have bewailed the loss of the original soundtrack, and those who have yet to hear it. Being that the CD is no longer in the public domain we thought we would create a video filmed in my cottage using the soundtrack in the background whilst I worked at the hearth.  I’m nearly 70 now so much closer in age to what I was attempting to portray all those years ago.  The footage is not of the highest quality due to the spirits as usual playing around but then I’m used to that sort of thing when I work.  However, it is atmospheric with no gimmicks or techno-wizardry to distract from the energies evoked.  Here’s the finished video – we hope you enjoy it.

Here We Go Again…

It has come to my attention that regrettably once again Gemma Gary has issued a statement from her blog  about myself that is both incorrect and deliberately misleading.  Here is a link to what has been written: Gemma Gary Response 2 It’s difficult to know how long this has been published on the net as there is a very misleading date heading the statement of November 1st 2012.  Given the content, this statement is obviously referring to A Can of Worms which was not published until May 25 2013.

Firstly she starts off with rather vague references to ‘false claims’ and ‘barely hidden personal agendas’ without explaining what these are, thereby rendering it impossible for further comment.  We then wander into a very strange situation where I find my Christian name  has been subjected to the spurious “inverted commas” treatment, another one added in brackets, followed by half my surname.  Maybe it’s a deconstruction with a twist?  <I’ve been watching too many ‘foodie’ programmes!>  Or…maybe Gemma is confusing me with my younger sister Sue who lives in Canada, a formidable Witch in her own right.  I think Ms Gary needs to get her facts right before publishing such bizarre comments – I can assure her that  Sue Latham is not a name I have ever been called.

However, even this is beside the point.  Countless people experience name changes in their life and I fail to see anything untoward in this, despite the unspoken suggestion otherwise.  Indeed what is even more perplexing is the fact that Ms Gary has undergone several name changes herself, but I don’t feel the need to refer to her as “Gemma” (Shane) Gary.  However, I suppose it is one step up from being referred to as ‘that woman’ as was the case previously.  See A Response to Bruised Egos The final paragraph ends with the odd accusation of ‘cultural racism’ in response to someone simply mentioning when Gary moved to Cornwall.  However, that’s not for me to answer as this was a direct quote from an academic’s work,  so I suggest that she takes up any issue she has with the person concerned directly.  Incidently I had no reason to question this claim as the late Nineties coincided with when I first met Ms Gary , or Shane Gary as he was then.  Shane was a quiet, reserved young lad in his late teens who approached me to ask for teaching in the ways of witchcraft.  I turned him down because I had given up teaching at that time.  In view of recent developments, I think that was just as well!

The rest of the statement only reiterates what has been said before regarding Traditional Cornish Witchcraft which has already been dealt with in the past – see Necessary Rebuttals I cannot see any merit to continuing these debates as it is obvious to anyone that this is a situation where we will have to agree to disagree.  Whenever anyone publishes a book(s)/blogs/articles etc.  it has to be understood that there will inevitably be criticism of that work in some form or another, as not everyone will agree with your point of view.  It would be beneficial to Ms Gary to be realistic and to accept this and move on in her life.

Necessary Rebuttals

This post is a response to ‘A Response to Bruised Egos’ which was recently posted on  Click on the following link to read: A Response to Bruised Egos

Necessary Rebuttals

When a controversial polemic is written, heated responses are to be expected.  My post entitled A Can of Worms is about the subject of Traditional Witchcraft in general and refers to a local example of this specifically.  I have worked on this over the last few months and put a lot of time and effort into my research and learnt a lot.  I spent considerable time making sure that this was written in a sensible, non-defamatory way that would be on a par with a review or magazine article.  I was hoping for a robust debate around and into the whole subject – but this is the risk you take when you knowingly open up a can of worms – often there are negative reactions to deal with.

However, even though I’m not too surprised that this happened I do need to set the record straight about some incorrect personal accusations that have been directed my way.  I will endeavour to keep this brief and to the point.

I do not publicly claim to be a Pellar nor do I consider myself to be a Traditional Witch.  I am a Village Wisewoman and I have worked within my village for over 30 years.  Nor have I claimed any direct continuity to any form of witchcraft practice.

It was Troy Books that approached me and offered to publish my book.

The ‘initiation’ witnessed was not to become a wisewoman – that rite was performed a couple of years later and not witnessed by any except the Old Ones.  This was an act of dedication and the cord shown in the photo is not the same cord as in this rite.

It is true that Jack Daw performed the opening and closing ritual at our Handfasting with the help and interaction of our guests but to my knowledge did not include any writings from Gemma Gary.  Our first choice and specifically chosen Celebrant came all the way from Scotland to conduct the rite – I wasn’t aware of any other ritual material being utilised from elsewhere.

It is news to me that I appear to be largely responsible for a revised edition of Traditional Witchcraft.  I had assumed that she was updating her book to redress some inaccuracies that had already been highlighted by critical reviews of her original book.  As for the Penglaz situation, it would take a small booklet to describe the ins and outs of all of that particularly petty political situation!  Suffice to say that the reason given for the rewrite is both unjust and untrue.

Finally I would like to see evidence of these references to a so called ‘extensive web campaign’.

Now we have dealt with the more glaring inaccuracies and personal affronts, let’s concentrate on the response to the subject of the polemic.  I suppose I should have expected that only part of my post would be shown on her link thereby lifting it out of context – see link entitled latest published attack (!) Following a few arbitrary and unnecessary insults the response starts off with the disclaimer that I had already referred to in my post.

“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.”

What I am referring to here are the inferences and implications that are suggested within the publications – it’s very difficult to pin it down and maybe I have been clumsy in my attempts to highlight it, but it’s a genuine concern that I have.  It’s almost like the disclaimer is thrown in and once that’s in place, it gives full permission to talk about what Cornish witches do with an assertion of authority.  If I quoted how often the words Cornish Traditional witch appear together on practically all the pages we’d be here all night!  Anyway there’s enough repetition of that phrase to warrant calling it a movement.

As previously stated:“There is much within the self proclaimed TCW to commend it from an aesthetic, evocative and creative point of view” and I have repeated this time after time.  Her prose and ritual is beautifully evocative which is why I have been happy to utilise these in various theatre performances to good effect and had encouraged others to do similarly – however, given the circumstances, I think it might be wise to desist from this in the future.  Incidentally, it should be realised that just because someone has created some wonderfully imaginative rituals, that doesn’t give them the right to claim monopoly on cord colours or ritual gestures.

I’m not going to bother commenting upon whether it’s good to work with the media or not because that is down to personal opinion, and as a result does not seem pertinent to this debate.  However, to suggest that my contract with Troy Books was terminated because of others’ disapproval of interviews I’ve given throws up all sorts of questions.

These apprehensions about certain aspects of Traditional Witchcraft did not spring fully formed from my mind – it was an accumulative thing that grew over the last couple of years as I listened to and observed what was happening around me.  Incrementally I began to notice an air of elitism, verbosity and superciliousness creeping into writings and interviews that I read about within Cornish Traditional Witchcraft that did not sit well with me.  It is incorrect to state that I did not voice these misgivings because on occasions I did but this was met with awkward silences.  So to suggest that this was never discussed is rather disingenuous.

I am saddened that there has been such hostility directed towards my partner as she didn’t write A Can of Worms, I did.  Although we are partners it is well known that she doesn’t agree with me on everything!  I was prepared for a backlash because of the observed changes of attitude already mentioned above, but I don’t feel it is fair for her to be attacked in this way.

Whilst we are on the subject of attitudes towards others, I find it offensive that in her quote from her blog, academic historians are described in such negative terms.  First of all they are treated to the denigrating ‘inverted commas’ that suggest pseudo or so-called; then they are referred to as cold, which is certainly untrue about many that I have met – most of them are very passionate about their subject!  Lastly to use the term autistic as a term of abuse is really not appropriate, and is an unfair comment on what is simply a different approach to research.

I have witnessed many negative situations within the Craft and especially the Pagan community which have mostly been driven by a heightened sense of emotionality that can cloud the real issues.  The Pagan communities are notorious for back biting and petty jealousies – it’s called ‘Bitchcraft’.  It’s not a world I inhabit anymore – my community is my village, my friends and other animals.  My practice lies with dealing with everyday problems of ordinary folk and that is my role within my community.  I am fortunate enough to be practicing a craft which is of interest to historians and anthropologists so I enjoy discourse with them – there’s a lot we can learn from each other.  I also find it very refreshing to talk with people who keep a cool and rational head when discussing contentious issues.  I don’t understand why there is this knee-jerk reaction to academic enquiry – if your tradition/craft/practice is genuine it will stand up to scrutiny.  To me witchcraft is so pragmatic and down-to-earth; I don’t understand why all these confusing terms have crept into common or garden everyday folk magic/care in the community.  In a sense I come from the Granny Weatherwax mindset and I ‘can’t be doing with’ all this fuss and bother – I’m not interested in ‘winning’, I’m concerned with doing ‘what’s right’.  In one sense, I don’t care a jot what tradition people follow so long as they are following their heart and spirit rather than their egos; however I would prefer it if I wasn’t looked down upon by others for doing this.

I can’t predict what will happen as a result of this, but at least the worms are free rather than being cooped up in a tin – and maybe I should have taken more notice of the label ‘Handle with Care – Could be Poisonous!’

Note to Self:  I really must try to stop ‘lurking’ in my photos in the future…  🙂

Watch This Space!

There has been a somewhat reactive response to A Can of Worms that contains some gross inaccuracies but nevertheless needs to be addressed to put the record straight.  I will attempt to respond soon, however I also have to bear in mind that I need to prepare myself for surgery in hospital within the next few days,  so it may take a little longer.

For those who  wish to view this response in the interim:

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