16 Jul 2009

About me

I live in the very far South of Devon, surrounded by rolling farmland and close to the coast, with my partner Andrew with whom I’ve enjoyed over 27 years of unmarried bliss! We share our home with an assortment of rescued cats and dogs who spend most of their time making sure there's no room for us on the sofa. I’ve always lived in this area, we live in a hamlet 4 miles from the village I was brought up in and I’ve never lived more than 9 miles from there. We live in the last house in the village, which is exactly where a witch ought to live! We have an acre of garden, which had been part of a disused and neglected orchard until we arrived 12 years ago, and our bit only had two trees left. I have no idea how long it had been an orchard, but we have a map dated 1894, and it’s clearly marked as an orchard on that. On one side we have a single track lane that leads to the beach, on another we have the garden of our next door neighbour, and the other two sides are next to the rest of the old orchard. There are quite a few Apple trees left in there, mostly cider apples, but it mainly gets used for grazing sheep or bullocks nowadays and nobody bothers with the apples. It’s been in the same family for at least 4 generations, and the oldest surviving family member assures me it’s never been sprayed, so I think it definitely counts as organic! There are trees on all sides of the garden, as well as a few scattered about inside, and these provide almost all the wood I use. Wood from the varieties of tree that I don’t have I usually scrounge from my friends’ gardens, although I have been known to screech to a halt by the side of the road to pick up a fallen branch of something I wouldn’t have otherwise. It means I never know what I’m going to have available, or how long it will be before I get some more after I’ve used it all up. I don’t think it’s right to cut trees for wood to sell, unless they’re the sort of trees that are grown like crops and regularly coppiced or pollarded anyway, like Hazel and Willow in some parts of the country. I don’t think it matters how many offerings are made to the tree, it’s not going to like you hacking off great lumps simply in order to line your pockets! In any case, the traditions surrounding the ceremonial gathering of materials for magical purposes were really designed for people collecting what they needed for their own personal use, and one person cutting one small branch for a wand or staff isn’t going to do a tree a lot of harm. Not to mention the fact that most of these traditions are very old, they come down to us from a time when the population was a lot smaller and there was a lot more countryside than we have left today. Probably 90% of the wood I use comes from my own trees, and the same percentage is lost by “natural wastage”, which is usually winter gales, but includes tractors and too-wide trailers, hedge trimmers and my delightful grey squirrels! Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly approve of wildlife, (except perhaps when it’s released indoors by one of the cats in the middle of the night!) but I do wish the squirrels didn’t strip the bark off the trees because it kills quite large branches that are capable of causing a lot of damage when they fall. The rest is what needs to be cut back, usually because it’s blocking access to somewhere or has become unsafe for some reason. I tend not to use regular prunings for any of my items as I don’t feel the wood has quite the same energy. I try to stay as close as possible to the traditional way of working with the wood, I refuse to use power tools of any kind on magical items and every bit of the work is done by my own muscle power. For bringing out the natural beauty of the wood and providing a protective finish I use organic, vegetable derived oil, but you can choose to have pure bees wax polish if you prefer on commissioned items.

I’ve officially been a witch for about 25 years now (since Beltane 1986) although I tend to think they’re born not made, so you could almost double that figure! I’ve never hidden my beliefs and I’ve seen attitudes towards the Craft change over the years; I think it’s an awful lot easier to come “out of the broom closet” now than it used to be! I’ve always made things one way or another; I sew and knit, I paint, I’ve even dabbled in crafts that are quite involved like papermaking, mosaics and stained glass. But working with wood is my favourite by far. From time to time it’s provided me with a primary income, but mostly it’s been a hobby, and in any case I don’t think it would ever make me rich! I’ve made many pentacles, wands, staffs (or should it be staves?) pendants and rune sets over the years for friends and friends of friends, as well as having a very occasional stall here and there, and not long before Samhain 2005 someone suggested that I should try selling some items on eBay. After careful checking, there didn't appear to be any items available that were like the ones I make, so I thought maybe there might be a place for them in the larger pagan community. Until then almost all my work had been on a commission basis and people were usually recommended to me by someone they knew, so the slightly more commercial aspect of online selling was very new to me. It took me until about Yule to get my act together and actually get some listed, but the response was phenomenal. I think I take for granted living here surrounded by countryside, with wood for wands quite literally dropping at my feet. It would appear there are many people who aren’t so lucky and find it difficult if not impossible to find their own wood, but I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the vast majority of people do live in an urban environment these days, and even with access to the countryside gathering wood isn’t particularly easy. In Britain every inch of land belongs to somebody, even if it’s only the local authority or the Crown, and unless you gain permission from the landowner the simple act of breaking off a twig from a tree can potentially land you in serious trouble. Even picking up sticks from the ground is, strictly speaking, illegal and so not worth the risk. You could end up facing charges of trespass, criminal damage, vandalism, theft and goodness knows what else! Admittedly, there is a very small amount of common land left, but what you can actually do there is quite limited, often dependant on the time of year, and you have to be entitled to use the land by registering your rights. So I seem to be answering a need by gathering what I can find on my own land and working with it in the way people have done for centuries, and I’ll carry on doing it for as long as I can!

You’ll notice from my listings that I don’t bless, consecrate, empower, enliven, charge or even talk to the wands I sell. Nor do I lecture potential buyers about only doing good and the “Rule of Three”. This is because it’s none of my business what you decide to do with your life, and just because you might buy something from me doesn’t give me the right to tell you how to live. Witchcraft is about responsibility as well as power, and it’s up to you to square up to your own conscience and deal with any potential karma. I try not to impress any of my personality or my own thoughts or feelings into any of the things I make for other people, it seems like an imposition and besides, there isn’t really much point when it would (hopefully) be thoroughly cleansed before anyone used it anyway!

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