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The Great Craft Debate: Tools of the Trade

In the last post, I mentioned how much I love writing spells and ceremonies and rituals. I’ve always loved wordsmithery. However, present me with a selection of physical materials and ask me to produce something even vaguely serviceable and I’m afraid you’re going to be left thoroughly disappointed (or at least highly amused – my high school tech and home economics teachers always were!) It’s created a bit of a predicament for me over the years, particularly when met with the muted horror from certain corners at the proposition that you bought something you could have just made for yourself. Or, more to the point, should have made for yourself.

“I was told I have to…”

I hear it a lot in the shop, and it’s one of the (few?) things almost guaranteed to make me physically cringe. “Someone said I should only get this particular tarot deck” or “I was told I must read that particular book” and, frequently, “how do I learn to do this because I was told I have to do it myself”. It’s been a massive personal predicament for me over the years because when I was starting out (and there was a lot less info generally available anyway) I read endless amounts on things I had to have for my craft usually alongside the edict that the ‘best’ way was to make it yourself – buying it or acquiring it would never be ‘the same’, or ‘as good’. Some were helpful enough to outline how to go about this – patterns, recipes, instructions – and over the years I’ve made numerous well-intentioned forays into various crafts but it has rarely ended successfully and has resulted in a wake of disintegrating amulets, splodgy herbal soaps and odd smelling tinctures. It left me very much exposed once again to the ‘not a proper pagan’ worry – I might be magic with colour-coded spreadsheets and a walking reference library, but what use was that if I couldn’t whittle a wand without serious risk to life and limb?

What Goes Around

Of course I could spend months, years, decades (and potentially a lot of money, and loss of blood [seriously, I’m that clumsy]) to become a master tailor, potter, carpenter, blacksmith, herbalist, cook, chandler and gardener to craft all the things I should have and should be making myself. I’m not convinced I’d take particular pleasure in the pursuit – it’s simply not where my passion lies. Then again I’m fortunate enough to know plenty of people in the community who are creative and talented and who, at the end of the day, can actually make something beautiful and serviceable and absolutely fit for purpose (which is kind of a major consideration at the end of it all). Who are passionate about producing it (another big deal). And I think that’s what a community ideally is about – recognising the talents and contributions in others and supporting that and, perhaps even more importantly, recognising and valuing your own contributions.  Not feeling like you have to be all things to all people, that you have to take everything on yourself, that you should do something because you read it in a book or an article or a blog somewhere, or someone else (however well intentioned) told you that you have to. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of areas in our lives where there are obligations and responsibilities, things we genuinely ‘should’ or ‘have’ to do, but I don’t think it has much of a role to play in our spirituality. There are so many paths, so many options, so much information and inspiration to absorb and consider to end up trapped in the cycle of ‘should’.

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Solstice Musings: Thoughts on Celebration

The Wheel Turns

Summer Solstice is upon us! (For those in the in the north anyway, wave to those reaching midwinter) It’s a fleeting moment embodying both balance and transition, as the Wheel of the Year continues in it’s onward cycle.
At the risk of sounding trite, I feel like I’m just registering it’s summer, only to realise we’re halfway through. I’ve been feeling very out of sync with the festivals in general so far this year and, while I can make a fairly educated guess as to the reasons for that, I’ve still been finding it… unsettling. It’s much harder to give due acknowledgement when you’re not tuned in, not feeling it. And as someone who’s never particularly been one for religion by rote, it begs the question: to what extent should we feel obliged to celebrate when we don’t really feel like celebrating?

FOMO, Pressure & Perception

Thousands will be flocking to Stonehenge and similar sacred sites, and for many it will be much like a pilgrimage, for others a big party, for most somewhere between the two (and I do love a good party). As is usually the case around now, in response we’ll see a lot of, er, ‘commentators’ declaim this choice as too crass, too commercial, too crowded to be suitably spiritual. There will be  those who post about their beautifully bedecked altars, sanctified and dedicated ceremonial spaces (replete with handcrafted tools) and rituals that have been created and passed through a distinguished line of adepts. And there will be, er, ‘commentators’ who will denounce this as missing the point of a nature based religion, who will be taking themselves off to woods and streams and dells and groves, no crowds, no tools, no preparation, simply prepared to go wherever the spirit of the season takes them.
I won’t be doing any of those things, at least not uniquely. Does that mean I’m not doing enough? Missing out? Does it mean I’m not a ‘proper’ pagan? Less than? Or, worse, a bad pagan?
To clarify, there are a great many who are genuinely sharing their practices, their beliefs, their views with others to provide them with ideas and information, but at the same time with each festival that passes I’ve been noticing a worrying rise in the volume of “more-magickal-than-thou” themed offerings, in tone inasmuch as content, and it concerns me that this is creating the (incorrect) impression that there is a single,  ‘right’ way of doing things that could be very misleading to those who are new and trying to find their own way.

They Be More Like Guidelines

I love composing spells, ceremonies and rituals. Absolutely love it. Weaving words, colours, concepts, smells and sounds to craft an experience that is at once richly symbolic and deeply personal. It’s where not only my passion but my skillset best comes through (though whether I’m good at it because I love it, or love it because I’m good at it, I couldn’t say!) But like any labour of love, it requires more than simply the demands of the calendar to do it full justice. It takes energy, focus, inspiration and while, even when demanding and difficult, it may be possible to “make time” the rest is not so readily produced or procured. That’s true of everyone, particularly if it’s something that doesn’t come as easily to you. There are fallbacks of course – there’s certainly no shortage of resources available through forums, discussion groups and, of course, books that you can borrow, modify (or use wholesale!) to make the process easier (although the sheer density of material out there  can make picking through it as much of a chore as starting from scratch). And I can always rely on forms I’ve used before.

If I want to.

What I won’t do is something half-hearted, because I feel I have to. Because I feel I should. Because I feel I’ll be judged, or be missing out, or be letting the side down.
There will always, every single festival and full moon and special occasion, be a part of me that wants to be dancing around a bonfire in ecstatic communion with the sublime. But if I’m exhausted, or uninspired, or even resentful, it won’t have the desired effect anyway.
So if come tomorrow night it ends up just being me, a candle and a cuppa in quiet contemplation, that’s OK too.

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Blogging On!

So that’s two weeks in a row, yay for minor but notable successes!

The rune workshop is on Thursday evening so looking forward to that again – for anyone who’s concerned or dismissive that it’s ‘just divination’ or ‘just Northern Tradition’ or ‘just Shamanism’… well, you should probably come along and discover otherwise for yourselves…
I reference it in divination of course but to reduce it to that would be far too dismissive. I love the scope of runes and runelore – they’re not only academically fascinating but beautifully practical and wonderfully versatile. Seriously, you should come!

Otherworld is now international! I spent far more time than is healthy last week being exposed to the intricacies of Royal Mail v. Post Office, but at least it spurred me on to getting the non-UK delivery settings sorted (it didn’t help with the parcel problem, but at least made me feel productive). Now the online side should be functional so I no longer have to do anything outside the UK on a case-by-case, get-in-touch-first type basis (but of course if you come across any gremlins, sprites or hobbits sabotaging the process please let me know!)

Have a good week Otherworlders, as ever just pop by the shop,  the Facebook / Twitter / Instagram or email / contact to say hi or ask any questions!


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Let the Blogging Commence!

Welcome to the first of the Book Witch Blogs!
Been pondering mailing lists and such for a while now but a) didn’t have anything to report regularly enough, and, b) didn’t want to start something only to find I couldn’t sustain it! A bit further down the road now, particularly with the Events side now in place, so giving this a try and if it works out can use it as the basis for a (monthly) newsletter or similar (or that’s the thought process anyway!)

Thanks to much help from my ever-so-glamorous assistant the website has been flooded with new additions this past week – both “new new” and “new pre-loved” including some very amazing rare and limited editions as part of the ongoing cataloguing process (for more see Special Finds). Brief glitch on day one when we hit some memory issues (the website’s not ours!) but fortunately resolved quite quickly.

June’s workshop will be a re-run of Runes (try saying that ten times fast) and will be on  the 15th – as usual you can book online or in the shop, see Events for further info. I’ve been absolutely loving doing them, and looking forward to some of the new topics I’m hoping to cover in the coming months.

I also managed to de-Americanise the website (apologies to Americans, but some of the terminology was driving me crazy) so no more ‘Cart’ and ‘Newness’ nonsense, it should be Baskets and Date Added all round now!

Another new addition is ‘Book Prescriptions’ – more designed for ‘distance customers’ since (hopefully) anyone who pops in the shop knows they can always have a blether about suggestions and recommendations,  but this gives everyone the opportunity the chance to fill in a wee form to do the same (or even just for days like this when it’s chucking it down and you don’t want to venture forth…)

Seems like most of the past week involved minor skirmishes with the website – I think it largely came out a draw but time will tell whether it’s all working properly and it might take me a while to get it as ‘pretty’ as I would like (if any WP gurus want to volunteer their help I’d be more than willing to accept, done a not-bad job at bodging through myself so far but know my limitations!)

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Otherworld Needs YOU!

This isn’t my usual sort of post, so please bear with me.

I’ve had absolutely amazing support from so many people over the last year or so – I can’t even start to say how grateful I’ve been for it, and I need to continue to ask for your help and assistance. In part that means buying stuff and coming to events – I’d be lying if I said otherwise!

But even more important is helping me to continue to get the word out about Otherworld as far and wide as possible. Please, please, please tell friends, family, sympathetic strangers. Share posts, write posts, leave reviews and comments, link people into the website and FB page, Instagram or Twitter. Let me know your thoughts, ideas suggestions, I’m always delighted to hear them (even if I’m not in a position to do much with them right away). If you hear of anyone looking for talk or event space, or with an interest in rare occult titles, or an addiction to incense – point them this way!

The online shop is fully functional so location isn’t an obstacle and I’m happy to post outwith the UK, or sort delivery on items not currently in the online shop (scarves, plaques, runes etc) by individual arrangement. I’m also happy to do customer orders on ‘normal’ books and DVDs, or you can order through the Hive bookstore and if Otherworld is nominated as your local shop (which you can do regardless of where you actually live) we get a little reward.

Everyone has been genuinely wonderful in helping me on this adventure and, as much as I might like to think otherwise sometimes, I can’t do it all by myself so your ongoing support is massively appreciated and free hugs and excellent book craic will always be available as a token of my thanks!