It hardly needs saying but I am a bibliophile. I am a total bookworm and spent much of my childhood with my nose in someone else's life, but in a good way because their life was written down. I went through different phases, as all kids do. It probably started with the Ladybird books of fairy tales. Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Snow White all taught me that to be a princess was, quite frankly, fraught with danger and you couldn't even trust an apple. After that I moved on to classics like "The Jungle Book", "The Secret Garden" and "The Wind In The Willows", which I seem to remember were fine but the girl in "The Secret Garden" was a right posh little madam who had no business letting herself into locked gardens and was far too disrespectful of authority, while talking animals was just a bit silly and for children really. It was around this time I started browsing the Young Adult section of my local library and started reading a lot of Stephen King and Judy Blume as well as anything that looked interesting. I also started raiding mum's book collection, which was mostly sci-fi, fantasy and historical stuff. I remember avidly reading John Wyndham's "The Day Of The Triffids" and loving it, though mum did suggest that the Dragon Riders of Pern series might be a bit rude so, um, you know, if you find some rude bits try to skip them, um, or ask questions. Turn's out mum was right, though I just snapped the book shut and carefully returned it to the shelf and decided that there was no way I was going to ask about the bits I couldn't figure out.
|My local library|
© Copyright Mike Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Why am I telling you all this? I suppose it's to show you that on the one hand I was a bit of a strange child, but on the other I knew how to trust my intuition. If something intrigues me I'll read it, whether it's fiction or non-fiction. Every book, if it is even half decent, will teach you something about the world in which we live, even if that lesson appears to be that you can only be a princess if you're pretty and you have to marry the prince to somehow make up for the lack of fruit in your diet. Of course if you weren't pretty you had to be the wicked witch by default, there being no other roles for women in such tales. I truly believe my path to witchcraft started right there.
Sometimes, however, my intuition seemed to get it a bit... well not wrong, just a bit wonky. A few years ago I was browsing the mind, body and spirit section of my local bookshop and was instantly drawn to an intriguing book, "Cottage Witchery: Natural Magick for Hearth and Home" by Ellen Dugan. I started flicking through it, fell in love with it instantly and knew it was perfect and exactly what I had been looking for even though I hadn't known what I was actually looking for. You see for me witchcraft is all about the home and the family rather than complex rituals and the exclusivity of secretive covens. I've always bought into the Granny Weatherwax school of witchcraft - you can leave the skulls, dribbly candles and occult jewellery to the wizards and high magick; a true witch makes do with what she's got to hand because she is the power, not the tools. This book was so full of information I could relate to, and indeed it is one I still refer to all these years later.
Being something of a domestic witch, when I later saw another book by the same author, "Garden Witchery" I nearly squeaked out loud with excitement. This was exactly what I was looking for! Trusting in my intuition I didn't even flick through it, I just went straight up to the till and bought it, along with her "Garden Witch's Herbal". When I got home I started reading through the "Garden Witchery" book and suddenly realised just how American it was. There were so many plants I wasn't familiar with that apparently grew as weeds they were so common, and while some I could guess at because they were British hedgerow plants going incognito, others baffled me. As for all the hardiness zones, when Ms Dugan writes "You have seen these maps before. Every gardening magazine has one." I thought no they don't, we've got one map here in the UK and if you watch "Gardener's World" on the BBC and you live north of the Midlands then you know you need to wait a few more weeks to do what they suggest but that's it. Suddenly I was full of doubts. Yes her writing style drew me in like a friend's hug, yes there was lots of brilliant information in there, and sure most of it I could do or figure out the British equivalent, but what I couldn't figure out was why my intuition had been so keen for me to get these very American witchy gardening books.
Then finally everything fell into place when I found myself moving to the United States back in 2012. Originally we were stationed in Florida, and to be honest I didn't like it. The energy was all wrong, the rain was all wrong, and even the wild flowers and weeds were strangers to me. I felt lost, so I did what I always did and buried my nose in books to escape. Of course I let my intuition guide me as I browsed the rather limited number of books I'd been able to bring out with me, and of course my heart found the perfect comfort in the books of Ms Dugan's wonderfully American variety of garden witchcraft. Suddenly I was empowered! Armed with my books and Google I managed to identify some of the plants I was seeing out and about, and whether they could be used, and I started to feel my own roots finally growing into the sandy soil of the Floridian heath.
I see this episode as a perfect example of how the Universe knows what you need long before you do. When I bought these books moving to America was as unlikely as moving to the moon, yet they called to me. Most of my occult library consists of British witchcraft, whether that's Kate West, Phillip Carr-Gomm, Emma Restall Orr or Marie Bruce and anything American always felt so foreign, yet this move has been a very important step in my learning. The energy of Florida was so young I felt it had barely sunk in to the surface, whereas I was used to magick and gods that had been a part of the landscape for thousands of years, but just as I felt I would always struggle I realised I already had the key to connect myself to this foreign soil. The Universe knew I would need these wonderful books, and thankfully I'm a good enough witch to know sometimes you've just got to go with your intuition and see where life takes you, because sometimes you're heading for an adventure bigger than your wildest dreams.
Until next time everyone,
Blessed be )0(