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The Art of Conversation

This week’s blog post is so late coming because I’ve been privileged to have lots of lovely, lovely visitors this morning and therefore lots of lovely, lovely chats, everything ranging from healing v. health services to obscure oracle systems to potential future (exciting!) event possibilities.

The Kindness of Strangers
While in general terms I’m perfectly content to be pottering around the shop in the next few weeks, one of the things I will miss due to my more-limited-than-usual exposure to the festival will be the random chats and bizarre encounters – exchanging reviews with unknowns, having to laugh off closer-than-plastic-seating-proximity with strangers, odd banter in the wee hours at random locations you never before new existed. Of course if this morning is anything to go by I’m not going to be wanting for stimulating chat (whether as an extension of the festival or otherwise) I would definitely encourage those foraying into the fray of it all to take advantage of the opportunity to engage with new people about wild and interesting things. Or even just the weather (which is certainly varied enough to give cause for comment). Learn new things from new people. Learn new things about new people.

Or if it all seems too much, pop in here for a blether. Either way, it’s good to talk.

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Festival Frenzy

Well, it’s Lammas already – not quite autumn (for me anyway) but a definite nudge to make the most of whatever summer that remains (or, in the case of our summer in Scotland so far, whatever we might actually still get…)

Make Bread While the Sun Shines
For anyone new to or unfamiliar with the festivals (and I would recommend Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun for anyone wanting to learn more about the history, evolution and development of various annual festivals in Britain) this is a type of harvest festival, where we give thanks for the bounty we are (hopefully) about to reap and reflect on the hard work that has gone into achieving it. This is / was symbolised by loaves baked from the first of the harvest; Loaf Mass -> Lammas.
I grew up in a small town surrounded by various farms so this time of year was very literally about bringing in the harvest but coincidentally (?) also marked the end of summer holidays and a return to school, so while the farmers were bringing in crops we were collecting school uniforms and gym kits and talking about digging the jumpers out from the backs of the cupboards. Each in their own way an acknowledgement of the slide towards winter, a need to start the preparations for the cold season to come.

A Little Party…
Of course in Edinburgh the beginning of August heralds quite another kind of festival, or festivals to be more accurate. The whole city will be crammed with shows, venues, performers, tourists (and as a result there will be a mass exodus of locals, but hey). I love Edinburgh during the festival, people from all over the world coming together to experience ideas, art, humour and humanity. In many respects it’s a world away from the quiet, reflective sentiment of Lammas but on the other hand it is the fruition of (at least) a year’s worth of effort for most, the culmination of their hard work all brought together in a massive celebration of diversity, possibility and engagement, providing us with the memories, the ideas, the stories and creativity to help us through the deep dark. And this would also have once been a large part of Lammas, with bards and music and dancing, a last chance for a big party since by the time the harvest was over the weather would often have turned too unreliable for such gatherings to be possible.

Let It Shine
All of the festivals lend themselves to a combination of both celebration and reflection and Lammas is no exception. The saying of course is ‘make hay while the sun shines’ – unfortunately while there can be no meteorological guarantees, this is a great time for really appreciating all your achievements so whatever rewards you are reaping take the time to make the most of them in whatever way suits you best!

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The Power of Books

So in the last post I talked a bit about how I settled upon Book Witch Blog as the name for the, er, blog, and I plan to go into the ‘witch’ presumption element another time as promised, but there was an astounding snippet from a conversation the other week which has stuck with them that I think is absurdly relevant and ridiculously important.

There are many people who wander in out of vague curiosity as much as anything else, looking for an overview or explanation of ‘what it’s all about’. I’m fine with that (and of course happy to point out books in that vein too!) But having done the quick intro with someone the other week (very charming spiritual seeker) his observation was “but you have to be special to get drawn into this stuff in the first place”. I was flummoxed, genuinely. I must have been at a loss for at least a whole ten seconds (which for those of you know me is something in itself). So I had to clarify – “what do you mean, ‘special’?” “Well, you have to have some sort of pre-existing talent, or have been brought up to it or something. Someone couldn’t just walk in off the street and learn all this stuff.”

I was astounded once again – for me, the whole point of books, and the bookshop, is so that you CAN just walk in and learn stuff. After all, that’s how I came to it all in the first place. My family certainly didn’t have any mystical or magical leanings, I’ve never felt myself to be particularly psychic or gifted in spiritual disciplines and I’ve never been part of any sort of formal or informal learning or practical group. Pretty much everything I learned, I learned from books (and then practised as much or as little as I needed). Now, admittedly I’m a bit of an academic type at heart, but my view is in most cases it just comes down to finding the ‘right’ book that suits your style, approach and current level.

No Such Thing as Can’t
What I don’t accept is the idea of ‘can’t’. There will be plenty of things that I don’t take to, or might never be particularly good at (don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of circumstances where natural ability helps!), or want to pursue very far but as long as there’s a book out there (and there almost always is) then it’s within my capabilities to have a go at, well, whatever I want to have a go at.  I don’t have to be ‘gifted’ or ‘hereditary’ or ‘special’ or ‘talented’.  I don’t need a mentor or a guru or a circle or a coven. I can select, design, create and inform my own education, my own path, my own practice by something as simple as deciding what I want to read next.

And that, to me, is the power of books, and of bookshops.

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What’s In a Name?

When I decided to crack on with a blog, I figured it had better have a name of some sort rather than just ‘the blog’ – seemed a bit lazy, if not downright unimaginative not to, especially when there are so many great examples of titles, nicknames and pseudonym’s out there.


I’d been through this before of course, when I was trying to pick a name for  the shop. Something that would at least attempt to reflect the breadth of what was covered – not too witchy, not too pagan, not too ceremonial, not too fiction-based. I was fortunate on that occasion, it sort of just came to me and I was instantly in love. I had a few concerns once I realised it coincided a bit with Kelly Armstrong’s Otherworld novels, but by then I was smitten and I’m not convinced even the most witty, inclusive, enlightening suggestion from anyone else would have persuaded me away from it.


Then came the job title. Every aspect of life seems to entail endless form filling and invariably I’m asked for my job title. It’s always been easy in the past, I’ve always been ascribed one (usually the kind that meant people couldn’t make head nor tail of what I actually did for a living, but there you go). The ‘normal’ options were thoroughly unappealing. Owner? Manager? Director? CEO? Bleuh. This was my chance to define myself, after a fashion. So far no joy though. I toyed with ‘Head Bibliomancer’, or ‘Chief Libromancer’, or ‘Guardian of the Tomes’, but since they all sound pretentious and, frankly, a bit daft I am as yet untitled (answers on the back of a postcard please!)


So now the blog! I’ve never even had a nickname, or a craft name, or anything other than what’s on my birth certificate and ‘Claire’s Blog’ just seems… lacking. Book Witch came to me quite early on but I resisted for quite a while, firstly because once again I wanted to avoid emphasising ‘witch’ above any other discipline, path or aspect (although it seems there’s no getting away from it, I think to some this will always come across as ‘the witch shop’ no matter what titles I put in the window!) and secondly a quick check showed at least one other book witch blog in  the world already (although not a long similar lines, interestingly). Still… it stuck with me, and niggled at me, and just seemed to fit.

What’s For Ye…

I know there’s a lot of stigma about labels, rightly or wrongly (more on that another time), but I was watching the film Pride with my mum when she was here last week and there’s a point in it where, having been ‘shamed’ the response was “When somebody calls you a name … You take it and own it.” I may not have set out to be a Book Witch, or a Witch Shop (or that weird magic place, either) but I’m comfortable with it, and I think it suits me.

And thus the Book Witch Blog came to be!

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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!