The Peace After the Storm – The Cailleach of Winter



I find myself stood alone on moorland in the depths of winter. The sky is bright with countless stars and the ground glistens with frost. The air is crisp and sharp against my skin. Above me, on a rocky crag I see the glow of a fire and I instinctively walk towards its light. When I reach the summit, sat in the golden circle of fire light is a woman, her face is lined with age, her long silver hair threaded with buzzard and owl feathers. Her dark cloak is dotted with stars as mesmerising as the night sky and around her neck hang circlets of threaded bone. To her left is a staff rooted in the ground, topped with a deer skull and to her right a hunched, leafless tree, weathered and gnarled by countless storms; amongst its branches an owl nestles, its dark eyes as fathomless and watchful as the depths of space.

I know this woman…she is as ancient as time and held within her silence is the knowledge of countless ages and generations; of countless lives and deaths – she is the keeper of ancestral memories. I know this woman…Cailleach, Grandmother of stone, of mountain, cliff and cave, and rocky, windswept crag; she is my bedrock of strength and endurance. Ancient Bone Mother, she is the frame upon which our lives take shape. Rugged and timeless, her wildness inspires journeys into the remote and lonely places of our souls, for it is here that we find her, her face bright in the moonless night, her profound winter stillness our sacred song of dark wisdom. She is the starry heavens and the depths of space, the place where life returns after death, the place where all potential dwells. Spinner and weaver, she works the threads of life into complex patterns of beauty and wonder; she sings over our bones and remakes us anew; keen as beak and talon, beautiful as the arching sky that carries her feathered spirit, she is the Ancient Crone of all knowing and in the depths of winter she calls to us.

The above is a meditation I experienced just after the Winter Solstice. I had settled and made myself quiet, not expecting to have an active visualisation but this came without prompting and played out in my mind without any effort or direction on my part. As I sat before this extraordinary Goddess, she showed me a vision of myself. I was being hauled up by a rope through a narrow vertical passage of rock, rising up from deep within the earth. I looked up and the circular opening at the surface was perfectly aligned with the sun. Its light was breathtakingly golden and lit the chamber as I rose up toward it; it was a stunningly beautiful sight, both exhilarating and comforting.

Since then, this Ancient Crone Goddess has occupied my times of contemplation and meditation; she has been opening me up to the energy of the season and the beauty of winter. January can be such a difficult month. Although the light is gradually increasing, here in the Northern Hemisphere winter shows itself in earnest – it can feel very gloomy post the Christmas frenzy and the accumulative lack of sun and light can lower our spirits and leave us lethargic. However, I have felt something very different this year. I have felt incredibly settled and peaceful.

My life over the last three and a half years has been deeply challenging for many different reasons. It had begun to feel like I had taken up permanent residence in the churning cauldron of Ceridwen’s transformative energy. I was suspended in a perpetual Samhain of loss, grief and enforced release and I seemed to be fighting it all the way. Inwardly, I knew that these experiences were asking me to make some profound changes, a relentless confrontation of my shadow self that was urging me on to a more authentic and honest relationship with myself and my life. I was being simmered in the heat, my old self falling away from the bone – it was painful, took a seeming age and brought me moments of deep depression and anger.

This winter has brought a sudden and unexpected peace. It’s not like I don’t have challenging situations still to deal with, and yet something has shifted. My perpetual Samhain has lifted and in finding my own personal wheel moving round to the Winter Solstice, I have had a powerful realisation of the gifts of this season.

In my own experience, the Crone energy of Samhain is incredibly dynamic.  Although the world is dying back, there is intensity in this transformation reflected in the burning colours of autumn. The energy of transition can be a massive challenge and our resistance to it can create a tension that produces its own energy. Samhain brings us to that moment of release, to the pain of loss, to the place of acceptance and letting go but the Winter Solstice and the heart of winter shows us a very different Crone energy. After the intensity of Samhain we come to the peace and stillness. Life sits and waits deep beneath the soil; this is the moment between the exhale and inhale of the year, it is that place where we are given a chance to assimilate all the powerful transformation that the deaths of Samhain have brought us. I have known this intellectually for years but this year, I have felt it in my heart and body.

This ancient Goddess of winter offers us the chance to grasp the bigger picture of our own lives; in her stillness, we can make sense of the patterns and take in the lessons at a cellular level until they are part of us. She is an Ancestral Goddess because these lessons become layered upon the experience of all our ancestors like a rich much that will fuel the future. In the cauldron, we are stripped down to the bone, the bare essentials of who we are, and the Cailleach of Winter tenderly gathers this messy bundle of bones, laying them upon the frozen earth, piece by piece, until our core shape can be seen once more. In the still, lifeless darkness, she dreams the flesh back upon our bones; her strength becomes the fabric of our sinew and as she herself transforms into the fiery Brighid of Imbolc, she will – when the time is right – light the spark of inspiration within us that reanimates our being.

We can get impatient for Imbolc in the depths of the dark and cold days, but that is missing out on a gift. This Ancient Crone teaches us the mysteries of suspension. When I think of her, my thoughts are drawn to the Hanged Man in Tarot, an archetypal experience that, on one level, can be deeply frustrating, particularly when we have the urge to move forward. However, he is often portrayed with a halo of light and a peaceful expression because he is essentially about surrendering to stillness, going inward for the purposes of Gnosis. Winter can do this for us; we can allow it to teach us to patiently wait, and in the waiting – as the dust of the year settles upon a barren earth – we can begin to truly see in a new way, from a new perspective, all that we have learnt, each lesson that has become a part of who we are. This Goddess brings us clarity – she asks that we be honest and authentic in our review of what works in our lives and what hinders but she also dwells in our envisioning; she is the flight of the mind and imagination; the architect of our future.

The Ancient Lady of winter brings us peace after the storm; still waters after the churning. Her enduring love, deep knowing and wisdom, brings us to that place of hope of joy. That place where the dark stillness explodes into star light. For we are each a burning star born in her dark and infinite womb; we are each an expression of hope and new vision born of endings and release. We are each a Solstice sun.

This winter, don’t be too hasty for spring; revel in those frosty mornings and feel her clarity in its bite. See her take shape in the fog of your breath; turn inward and find her there; know that she has the power to birth new life from death, warmth from cold. She is your faithful guide, your sacred strength and vision. From the soil of the earth and the dust of the stars she has shaped you.

Carolyn Hillyer

Carolyn Hillyer

Art work by the wonderful Carolyn Hillyer – her website can be found here.
Photo source 

Reaching For The Balance


The Autumn Equinox is here again. As the sun’s path lowers in the sky and the season changes, the light changes also; it becomes a paradoxical mixture of clarity and softness; there is a kind of sweet melancholy in it, but also a joy. These seemingly contradictory states lead me to reflect on the themes of this festival, and as we honour the time of equal night and day, my thoughts turn to the subject of balance.

Balance is often equated with stillness and yet when I stand on one leg, I am aware that in order to stay still and not topple, my body is going through a series of subtle muscles adjustments. This suggests to me that balance is actually quite active – we put effort in to achieving that centred, rooted place. I think this is true for all areas where we seek equilibrium, right from our emotional selves to our health and working lives, we constantly have to adjust our balance to settle, and it’s not hard to realise when we are off kilter  – we feel it in the symptoms of unease, worry, illness and discord. But even these are not a problem because such emotions and conditions communicate that it is time to adjust our footing and regain balance. The trick is to stay aware and keep actively engaged with the process.

I have been drawn to work with the Egyptian Goddess Ma’at recently as part of a wider practice of honouring the lunar cycle. I have chosen a series of Goddesses who, to  me, express certain energies of the moon’s phases and I have been meditating with each Goddess and journaling on how each of their energies are currently playing out in my being and my wider life.  I am focusing on the Maiden, Lover, Mother/Queen, Wise Women/Priestess and Crone Energies at the waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, full, waning crescent and dark moon respectively, with the goddess Bast, Hathor, Isis, Nepthys and Sekhmet.

I had felt the need to reconnect with the moon cycle because I had been struggling to maintain balance in my own life, upended by difficult changes, struggling with depression and realising that I had become stuck and stagnant in my energy and focus. Recognising how much I was resisting change, I thought that working with the mutable cycles of the moon would be both helpful in breaking the dam and going with the flow.

Ma’at came into the equation because I was reminded by my own experience that the ever-moving cycle of birth, expansion, fullness, harvest, release and death is governed by a harmonising principle; this constant adjusting to maintain the balance is what keeps creation functioning; every part of the cycle is vital to the harmony of the whole.

To the ancient Egyptians, Ma’at was Divine Universal Balance that functioned both at the Macrocosm of the Cosmos and Nature and the Microcosm of Society and the human individual. To them, it was crucial to the well-being of the whole – be it nature, community or person – to seek balance and harmony between all the constituent parts. Without Ma’at, there is chaos, discord and imbalance, the interconnected flow of the cycle is broken and trouble ensues.

The Egyptians recognised that maintaining the balance of Ma’at was active and ongoing; building a relationship with Ma’at was a job for life. We see how destructive ignoring the function of Ma’at is when we look at the environmental problems we face, where the harmony and interconnectedness of life has been disregarded and is causing a terrible imbalance with dreadful consequences. At the Micro level, my lunar journey has helped me to see the painful results of ignoring Ma’at in my own life; getting stuck in the intense shedding and shadow work of the waning and dark moon, whilst forgetting the renewal, joy and expansion of the waxing phases, has led to complete burn out for me, both physically and emotionally. Working with and fully engaging with every phase has widened my focus and I feel much lighter and brighter for it.

What working with Ma’at has taught me is that we are each active participants in our own well-being; that we have choices in our responses to life and that we are constantly guided back to that place of equilibrium if we listen to our intuition and act for our own highest good and the highest good of others. It is heartening to think that being out of balance contains its own lessons for growth and in itself holds the key to regaining our footing.little-girl

Ma’at demands that we honour and engage with all the parts of ourselves and our lives; that we embrace and stay present in each phase of the cycle, always mindful of its relationship to the whole. In this season of the Equinox, take time to reflect on your own balancing act; honour all that you are, every experience; take heed of any discomfort you might feel and let it speak to you about how you can come back into alignment with yourself. In truth, balance is not total stillness, it’s a dance.

Brighter Future


I have recently had a couple of wonderful Rahanni healing sessions with Georgie from Brighter Future. As well as giving Rahanni healing, Georgie offers Reiki, Life-Coaching, Holistic Theraphy and Meditation; I met her when I attended a meditation evening held by her at my local crystal shop Waves of Inspiration. During the meditation, Georgie gave me some Rahanni healing; I have received energy healing before in the past but never as strongly felt as this. I experienced tangible, physical sensations and instinctively knew that I should book a session with her.

The last five years have been a time of intense transition for me; many major life changes – everything from separation and divorce to new love and bereavement – and after the death of my dad three years ago, the immense changes took their toll and I began to slip into depression.

When I think of that time, it leads me to recall that amazing opening line from Dante’s Divine Comedy:

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost…

Dante’s famous quote sums up beautifully those times in our life that are often called ‘dark nights of the soul’. I have come to believe that those challenging moments – when all of our dependable signposts on the path seemingly disappear – are actually a vital part of the process of living and growing (more on this in a future post). Of course, that feels like cold comfort when you are struggling and after an extended period of feeling incredibly low and hopeless, I came to recognise that I had become a little stuck in that ‘dark wood’, holding on to the hurt and the grief in ways that were self-destructive.

After realising I needed some help, I initially took the conventional route of anti-depressants and CBT counselling, both of which were useful. However, the pills were hellish to withdraw from and it became clear that it would be easy to become dependent on their weirdly numbing and unreal euphoria for ever – plenty of people do.

I appreciate that the Doctor’s who helped me, tried their best with the time and resources available, but what is so apparent when you visit healers such as Georgie, is that there is a vital element missing in the conventional treatment of emotional and psychological pain. For me, that missing element is a spiritual dimension.  I have come to believe that we are energetic beings and how we manage that energy will shape how we feel and act.

The first session with Georgie was very emotional for me because she created and held such a loving and compassionate space to begin releasing and healing. That spiritual aspect of my being was included and welcomed. I felt totally heard; Georgie listened without judgement and made me feel utterly safe and at ease. She gave me some wonderful practical advise and the Rahanni healing had a powerful impact on me. My second session was joyful – I felt like giggling the entire way though! – and left me absolutely buzzing. In both sessions, the healing seemed to draw to the surface insights and realisations, openings in my psyche that have continued to widen as the weeks have passed. It has made me realise that I need to reengage with my creative self, with the things I love doing – writing here on my blog being one of them – reconnecting to and healing my sense of self. I can also see that I need to forgive and trust life again.

Not only is Georgie a gifted energy healer, she also gently guides you to a greater understanding of where you are and to how you can find a more positive route back to well-being and happiness. With Georgie’s help, I have felt that knot of tangled and stuck mental, emotional and physical energy gradually unraveling and shifting; the stagnancy and apathy of depression  washed through with a lightness and vibrancy that feels deeply cleansing and uplifting. I know there is still work to do, but it definitely feels like the ice is melting and the river is starting to flow. Thank you Georgie! Your help and understanding are priceless gifts.

I highly recommend working with Georgie, particularly if you are grieving, or finding it hard to move on and let go of hurt and loss. She is a beautiful, kind and empathetic soul, a wonderful healer and a fabulous meditation teacher. Her Facebook page Brighter Future can be found here.

Let Go And Let Goddess/God

autumn mist

Samhain is upon us and I have been feeling strongly the energies of release this year. At this festival, we think about our connections to the Ancestors and to all those we have loved in this life who have now passed over. I have been moving through my own grieving process having lost my dad a couple of years ago. It has been a long and difficult journey but there comes a point when we arrive at a place of acceptance within ourselves. Letting go of those who mean so much to us has its own time span; it is something that cannot be forced or faked; we must feel those painful feelings of loss that the absence of loved ones can bring. Eventually, something shifts. It is not that we ever let go completely, for those dear ones are never very far away, however, there does come a moment when we can surrender up our grief, handing it tenderly over to the Divine. As the trees prepare to shed, I feel that I find myself willing to offer up my own grief in order to move on.

Samhain is a gateway, a door to be walked through between two places. Physical death is a threshold between one state of existence and another; we can grasp the truth of this in a psychological sense through the many experiences of our lives when we are confronted with endings. Of course, not all ending are unwelcome; some are easier to move through but all endings bring us to that threshold and, to truly pass through it, we must eventually surrender what was, in order to embrace the potential of what will be.autumn branches

I recently bought myself a decorative gift box – I had read somewhere the idea of having a ‘Let go and Let Goddess/God’ box. This would be a container where I could place all those issues or situations in my life that I was holding on to, to the detriment of moving on. I would write on slips of paper, anything that I felt I was struggling to release. This very simple act of writing down and placing inside the box with the intension of giving over to the Divine, has been for me a wonderfully helpful experience. It has felt like an emotional fist inside me – my rigid psychological grip around all those hurts and struggle – has been relaxed and opened, transformed into a hand ready to receive.

Surrender is intimately linked to our capacity to trust. When we accept and let go, we place our trust in the Divine, in ourselves, in life and in the healing power of Divine Grace. It is a powerfully magical act that brings with it an enormous sense of peace and relief. Not only that, it is the first step that we take over the threshold and into another life .We leave behind what needs to be shed but we take with us the wisdom and the hope that wisdom brings.autumn-threshold

Samhain has many layers. One of them is undoubtedly the pain of loss and grief – the Dark Goddess and God with scythe in hand whose initiations can leave us feeling like our entire lives have been dismantled. But this is only a part of the process. For me, the deepest mysteries of this festival are found in the profound transformation that comes at the moment of surrender. The dark expressions of the Divine that brings us our most challenging life experiences, soften into the deepest compassion at the moment of true release. It is at that moment that we can fully understand the paradox that each ending is in fact a new beginning.

I dream of my dad often and feel his love as strongly as ever but I now realise that I can let go of the pain and loss, and in doing so, embrace the love. Loss is like the alchemist’s alembic; it holds us within its often unbearable intensity until we are distilled into a more potent version of ourselves. It is the Goddess’ cauldron that we all enter, surrendering to her all that we are in order to become all that we could be. As I cross over the threshold this Samhain – as I let go; as I trust in the power of release – the sweet, dark, softening peace of surrender will hold me.

Are You Your Biggest Fan


Previously, I have written about the Base and Sacral Chakras and their gifts of grounding and joyful grace and continue now with a short exploration of the Solar Plexus Chakra.

The Solar Plexus Chakra, as its name suggests, can be likened to the body’s engine room. As the sun fuels life on our beautiful planet, this chakra enables us to metabolise our food into energy; it also aids us in taking our thoughts and turning these into action. It is a wonderful yellow in colour, our very own sun at the centre of our body and being.

As an energy centre that deals with action, it is also a place where both our fears and our courage reside. We all know that feeling of agitation or butterflies in our solar plexus as we engage with our anxieties or desires. The Solar Plexus Chakra teaches us that we can move through these fears with positive action, and in doing so, we build our courage and confidence in the process.

This Chakra has held the greatest challenges for me. I have long wrestled with my confidence and my fears of not being good enough. This in turn has often made it very difficult to act. When we fear we will fail; when we let our lack of confidence prevent us from even trying, the light of our inner sun is diminished and we rob the world of our talents and potential to serve and contribute. When this becomes a habit, it can rob us of our energy and joy too. We are beings in a material world and positive action is key to materialising our visions and plans. In short, we all need to take risks and to act in the world if we are to truly grow and learn.

I have slowly and painfully realised on my journey with this energy centre, that’ feeling the fear and doing it anyway’, as the saying goes, is a far less damaging option that retreating from it.sunflower closeup

In working with this Chakra, I noticed how difficult it was for me to support and encourage myself. Like many, I had internalised this hyper-critical voice that denigrated my efforts. I felt the need to act but this was so often undermined by my rather hateful and mean-spirited inner critic. There have been so many times in my life when I have walked away from challenges that would have enriched me and built my confidence because I convinced myself there would be no point. This conflict between our inner judge and our urge to act can be utterly paralysing, demoralising and de-energising. It can lead to depression, apathy and a lack of inspiration; it can feel as if the light has gone out in our life.

This chakra flourishes when we decide to allow ourselves to shine. Many of us were brought up to believe that expressing our talents was tantamount to ‘showing off’ and therefore inherently negative. Humility is a noble virtue but not if it robs the world of your divinely gifted talents. I love to see others shine; it is so wonderful to witness people deeply connected to their life path and sharing this with the world and I always feel good when I encourage others. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself? The world needs us to express and act on our gifts; it enables beautiful, healing, inspiring, life-changing things to be birthed into the world. We owe this to ourselves and each other.


It is vital that we all allow ourselves to shine and to encourage others to do the same by showing appreciation, by praising, by bearing witness to our unique and glorious selves. We each need to be our own biggest fan! When we do this for ourselves we can take joy in our actions, we can back ourselves to take the risks that are needed to move forward, and we can encourage ourselves to recover when we fall. We can also rid ourselves of petty envy and jealousy; let go of the ‘compare and despair’ mentality that can lead us to be less than supportive of each other. It is interesting that the Solar Plexus Chakra resides between the Sacral and the Heart Chakras. For me, this suggests that our actions flourish best when they work in tandem with pleasure, playfulness and creativity (Sacral) along with love, compassion and joy (Heart). When we express these qualities in our actions with self and other, everyone benefits.

This energy centre teaches that we are all more than enough as we are; children of the Divine; blazing stars in the body of the Universe. So, let that sun in your tummy glow brightly – let it warm and energise your body, heart, mind and spirit. Be your own biggest fan and shine!

Life Is A Dance

life is a danceMy previous post was about the importance of grounding and of my love of the Chakra system; of how the Root Chakra teaches us to feel ourselves as embodied beings. As important as it is to feel ourselves steady as a rock, it is equally important not to allow our beings to become set in stone. We need to be rooted but we also need to experience flexibility and motion, physically in the movement of our bodies but also in our emotional, mental and spiritual expression.

The Root Chakra is ruled by the element of earth, it has weight and density. The Sacral Chakra however, is ruled by water; it teaches us about the value of flow. When this chakra is functioning healthily, we can move through life with ease and grace, riding the currents, adapting our course without resistance, embracing the changes with faith and optimism. We feel our emotions moving through and out of us, thereby, never overwhelming us as they might if we held them tightly within us. When water becomes trapped, it can become stagnant and deadly to us; it is the same with our emotions – if we repress, suppress, or become rigidly fixated and stuck, our emotions can cause us a great deal of pain and even illness.flexible Just as our bodies need flexibility for ease of movement, so do our minds and emotions. Stiffening on any level limits our experience and increases tension within our beings; to stay flexible we have to keep moving. Being flexible and open allows for an exchange between us and the world that can shift us out of our stasis; there is a circuit set up between us and other which challenges and exposes us to new ideas and ways to be. It is the place of relationship and union, a place where we allow the connection with life to transform us.

Going with the flow demands a certain level of trust in life and self. Our fears can cause us to stiffen and resist just at the point life is asking us to relax and surrender to the rush. It is no accident to me that the sacral chakra is also the place of our child-like joy and the seat of sensual pleasure. There have been many times in my life when I have frozen myself out with the fear of ‘what if’ rather than trusting in the direction my life is taking me. When you start to engage with your adaptability in the face of change, it is a real joy and a confidence boost, and makes the transient nature of life more of an adventure than a struggle. We are reminded to draw upon our child-like innocence and excitement about life, where each day is a new adventure and we feel ourselves at home in the dance of the day to day.

lovely_dolphinstangoThis chakra is also the place of our creativity. We need that circuit of exchange with the world to feed our creative spark. We cannot hold on to our creations, they must be shared with the world; once again that circulating current between within and without must be honoured. If we hold onto our creativity, if we don’t express it because of fear or lack of confidence, then we often find that it starts to wither. Little can survive in stagnancy; we can’t thrive in a stranglehold.

If you feel stuck, if you are joyless and feel resistance straining within you, try one simple technique – move! Move your body: get up and dance; go for a walk, a run, a swim. Move your emotions: share an intimate moment with someone you love; make love: listen to music that moves you, or watch a movie that stirs you. Move you mind: read a book; have a discussion. Move your Spirit: perform a ritual, chant, pray, speak of all that you are grateful for today.

We are not designed to stay still. Even in our moments of deep meditation, huge shifts are bubbling away in our deepest core; our cells constantly dying and being reborn.

Make a promise to yourself to approach your life with trust, ease and grace. Life is a dance.what am i grateful for today in the sand


Back Down To Earth


Nature never hurries. Atom by atom, little by little she achieves her work. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you noticed how our perception of time directly affects how much time we have? When you have a million things on the go and a ‘to do’ list that seems endless, observe that when you respond to the situation with a sense of panic or rush, time starts to whiz by alarmingly fast. Conversely, when we relax and go slow, time slows too and we get things done with less effort. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Slowing down and relaxing into the moment is a magical process. As Pagans, we come to know the value of grounding – our spirituality teaches us the importance of feeling the tap root of our body and psyche secure within the earth. Sometimes we when start to explore spirituality we can become overly enchanted by flights into spirit or the otherworld; we can find ourselves working solely in our heads, reading and thinking about a path but not actually committing to the work of manifesting that path in our lives. Earth spirituality reminds us we are matter; we exist within a material universe that requires that we feel the value of gravity, the way it shapes and strengthens us. It encourages us to celebrate and embrace the limitations and boundaries of earthly life and to recognise that all those exciting flights of spirit and inspirational thought can only benefit ourselves and others when we ground and manifest them here in the material realm.the-redwoods-in-yosemite-national-park

A great part of an Earth based path is learning to perceive energy. We do this by tuning in to our environment and ourselves. Some energies are light and have a faster frequency, others have a greater density and are slower moving – the energy of a dragonfly feels very different to a boulder on the beach. As we develop sensitivity to these differences, we can also begin to sense the energy frequencies of our own being. I am a huge fan of the chakra system because it understands that the various levels of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual makeup are composed of energy centres resonating at different speeds, each with its own qualities and purpose but all working together as (hopefully) a healthy, functioning whole. No one centre is more or less important than any other and to place too much of a focus on one or two at the expense of the others can bring us some challenges and even impact on our health. Balance is key.

rooted photo

To go back to our earlier example of being stuck in our heads, we know that thought resonates to a faster frequency. We don’t experience it as having the same limitations or boundaries that our physical bodies are subject too. However, if we spend too much time in our heads without tending our physical needs, an imbalance will occur – we cannot live by thought alone, we need food, water, exercise, cuddles, a roof over our heads… In short, we need to ground ourselves in Mother Earth and our bodies; feel our roots within her, enjoying the soil’s denser, slower energy, allowing it to steady and energise us.

The root chakra – Muladhara – is the place within us that has an extraordinary and magical capacity to take our creativity and manifest it here in the material realm. It is not afraid to take it slow because it has stamina, strength and endurance – it knows the patient power of consistency. It takes one look at our ‘to do’ lists, shrugs and goes about them one simple step at a time, utterly rooted in the present moment, no rush, no panic.

As one chakra opens us to the next, being thoroughly grounded in the root can then lead us to the ease of movement, flow and flexibility that comes with the second chakra, a centre of joy and creativity. As we become rooted in our bodies and the earth – as we feel at home in the moment – we can then explore the uncertainty of change, learning to respond to its ebb and flow with grace and joy. It is so much harder to do this without our tap-root deeply secured.roots

When you feel stressed, rushed and overworked, slow down; enjoy being in your body, nurture it, feed it, give it pleasure, let it rest, feel the worry drain into the earth and watch as it transforms into peace and renewed strength.

Remember, when you ground, time is always on your side.

Aphrodite – Lady of Sweetness


I am starting my mini-series about the deities that I currently honour with a goddess who I have known about all my life but only recently felt compelled to build a relationship with.  Given that I have been coping with grief and loss for many months, Aphrodite’s bright, vibrant energy felt very attractive to me, a much needed balance to my own journey through Persephone’s shadows.

As I began to read about her, it struck me how much in the popular imagination of our culture, that her deeper mysteries and power have been rather reduced. She is often depicted as a sex kitten, which is not to say she doesn’t have her flirtatious, promiscuous moments, but as a goddess of love, passion, union and sex, this rather shallow interpretation minimizes the depth and impact of all she represents. After all, love and sex can initiate our most profound, transformative experiences.  Aphrodite is the energy in nature that draws things into union – a connecting force; through her we build relationship not only with lovers, but all the other things in our life that draw passion and love from us – be it our life’s work, nature, our families, our creativity. She teaches us that such unions of passion and love change us, challenge us and work on us. Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship will know that in our lover’s eyes we ultimately find ourselves – the very best of who we are but also our shadow. Through union with another, we are offered the opportunity to not only know our partners more intimately but, in the process, learn more about ourselves; this can been the best of journeys and the most painful but it will never leave us the same – it is just not meant to.



It has been of great interest to me that Aphrodite and Persephone have mythic connections.  They share a love of Adonis – after his death he lives part of the year in the underworld with Persephone and part in the land of the living with Aphrodite. They are also both key players in the story of Psyche and Eros. Psyche is tested by Aphrodite, given almost impossible tasks to prove her worthiness for the love of Aphrodite’s son, who himself is also a god of love. Psyche translates as ‘breathe’ and can be understood in the deeper sense as ‘soul’. This feels key to me with regard to Aphrodite’s more profound mysteries – the story of Psyche seems to suggest the soul’s growth and transformation through its encounter with love. Psyche’s trials on her journey to be reunited with Eros, takes her to the Underworld – Persephone’s realm ; love with all its pleasures and joys, undoubtedly has its shadow side, and we often meet these head on in our relationships: jealousy, betrayal and conflict. Like Psyche, our naivety about love and ourselves is burnt away in the crucible of our emotions, and the most direct and powerful of arenas for this transformation to manifest is our relationships with others.

This link between Aphrodite and Persephone resonates with the earlier Sumerian mythology of Inanna and her sister Ereshkigal . Inanna was a goddess of fertility, love, lust and battle, and like Aphrodite was associated with the planet Venus, as morning and evening star. Although the Classical Aphrodite was only associated with love, we can see echoes of Inanna in her connection to the God of War, Ares.  Inanna descends to the Underworld realm of her sister Ereshkigal and is kept prisoner there. Like the Persephone/Aphrodite/Adonis myth, we see the seasonal story enacted, but it also says much about what happens when love is lost to us or our assumptions about love are dismantled. When love turns sour, or love is denied us through rejection, conflict or even bereavement, we too must engage with our own emotional descent.  This journey, although challenging, potentially deepens not only our understanding about love but our ability to love in a more profound and authentic way.

aphrodite roses1


When we examine the power of love to impact upon our very souls, Aphrodite’s ‘Sex Kitten’ image really doesn’t do her justice. Having said this, she is an essentially joyful goddess – love may bring us to our knees on occasions but it also brings us our happiest moments. For me, she is key to our creativity. As a goddess of attraction and union, she opens us to life and experience. When we look through her eyes, we are struck by the beauty not only of our beloved but of the world. Her energy is expansive, it is hard to contain it – love flows outward, to be miserly in its expression means that it shrivels and dies. Aphrodite knows that energy functions in exchange –the more we give, the more we have. She is a goddess that heals the split between body and spirit because for her there is no separation; through the sensual pleasures of the body and the intense emotional  connection that sex can bring, she affords us the opportunity to ground ourselves in the world  and in our bodies in the most joyful and energising ways.

Born from the foam, she is also a Goddess of the ocean and as fishermen once prayed to her to guide them through choppy seas to safe harbour, she can protect and navigate us through the turbulent waters of our emotions. I am lucky enough to live merely feet from the ocean and I watch over Aphrodite’s waters every day. I am struck by how relentlessly changing they are, very rarely truly flat calm. But Aphrodite’s numerous ancient epithets had her as Lady of Safe Harbour, and through her connection to Venus, Goddess of Gardens, she can bring us to a place of peaceful sanctuary.


These last few weeks have seen Venus as the evening star.  I have watched her from my balcony shining above the sea as the sun is setting. She is stunningly beautiful and bright. As evening star, we watch her set below the horizon on her Underworld journey and we are reminded of our capacity to hold onto hope in our darkest times. As the morning star, she seemingly rises up from the earth, returning from the Underworld and teaching us of renewal. These settings and risings can remind us about the cycles of love, the way it can renew, burn fiercely, die back , then renew again, each of these emotional states a gift that can deepen our understanding of who we are and how we relate.

Aphrodite is both profound love and passion, and the horniest sex – she doesn’t see the separation between these. She can bring flippant encounters that are pleasurable but will never be lasting, but she truly comes into her own in our deepest love matches. The Greeks had her as both Aphrodite Urania, the starry goddess of Spiritual Love and Aphrodite Pandemos, earthy, goddess of the masses: Aphrodite contains these seemingly contradictory states within her and confounds all our most limiting assumptions about love.

She is also supremely helpful in teaching us how to love ourselves. It may be a cliché to say it but we love others more effectively, and perhaps less painfully, when we have a healthy sense of self-appreciation.  Aphrodite can teach us to take tender loving care of ourselves and to love and take pleasure in our bodies and beings; she can also encourage us to enjoy life and its pleasures, to revel in ourselves and the things that bring us joy.

Aphrodite came to Classical Greece via Cypress. The Cypriot Aphrodite was a much more rounded and complex goddess who, for me, is closest to how I experience her. She is essentially life-affirming; demanding that we engage with it, be touched, moved and changed by it. When we hammer up boards to keep life out, she will come like a tsunami to break our defences but when we embrace her fully and openly, we are rewarded with sweetness, depth, joy and transformation.  She is a garden in blossom, a sun-filled sea, an unforgettable kiss; she is every moment that reminds you how grateful you are to be alive; she is the flower that opens to the bee.







Deity, Gender and the Problems of Essentialism


Before I post about the individual deities that I work with, I want to write a little about the problematic area of deity and gender. As explained in my previous post, I view personified deity as aspects of nature and the cosmos. One of the most liberating attractions of modern Paganism is that it offers us images of the Divine Feminine. Female images of ‘God’ have been woefully lacking in our culture for hundreds of years and this has undoubtedly had a negative impact for both women and men. Neopaganism, and particularly the modern Goddess movement, has seen a resurgence in the honouring of the Divine Feminine in a variety of forms. Being able to see oneself reflected in the Divine has been an immensely empowering experience for women, one which has for countless years been taken for granted by men. It is extraordinary to me that when we say the word ‘god’, the majority of us will automatically assume that figure to be male. Even if we haven’t been raised in an Abrahamic faith, the assumption is so deep rooted in our culture, that even the most secular of us will still perceive God as male.

Embracing the notion of a Goddess has enabled both men and women to challenge the restrictive essentialism that is entrenched in our societies, which can only be a good thing for all of us, but I recognise that there are problems when we attempt to determine what defines and differentiates the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. One issue is that in trying to explain what these are, we inadvertently slip back into essentialist notions of gender. Many will respond by saying that there is a difference between gender – which is a cultural construction – and wider concepts of Goddess and God. This might be so, but a lot of the time it seems gender essentialism is still hard to shift when we attribute qualities to male and female faces of the Divine.

If I were a pure Pantheist, this wouldn’t be a problem for me because the Cosmos as Divine energy in action would be too vast, mysterious and complex to place a human face upon. However, I am drawn to work with individual goddesses and gods, so how do I approach the tricky issue of gender and deity personification?

I tend to work with deities as archetypes. When I engage with a particular deity, I am attempting to contact the energies of that archetype so that I can understand them better and express them more positively in my life. In my next post I will write in more detail about my relationship with Aphrodite, but for now, if we say that Aphrodite’s energies are love, connection, union, attraction, the first thing we might ask ourselves is, are these things specifically male or female in nature? Culture has given them a female face in the form of the goddess Aphrodite but if I am honest, I would say that these energies, for me, transcend gender. To me, the energy of the archetype is ‘pure’;  when we approach and attempt to engage with it, we bring to it all our own cultural conditioning. We can tend to view the archetype with a somewhat distorted lens. Aphrodite is a good case in point. She is often viewed as a coquettish sex kitten, which is a woefully inadequate perception of a deity of love and passion (as anyone of us who has been in love will attest). What we see in this image is the distorting of a powerful archetype that says more about a culture’s attitudes towards its female members (Classical Greek Society was notoriously misogynistic!) than it does about the full, flowering power of that archetype. Part of the joy and challenge of working with deities is that we each bring our cultural distortions to the table; working with deity is an opportunity to strip these away and see ourselves and the archetype more honestly.


Another example might be useful.  Kuan Yin is a Buddhist bodhisattva who has also been embraced by many Neopagans as a Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. For many throughout the Far East, Kuan Yin is perceived as female, however, Avalokitesvara is her male form, and although not as popular as her female manifestation, is still honoured.

This fascinates me because it suggests that the qualities that Kuan Yin embodies – Compassion, Mercy and Kindness – are here associated with both Male and Female figures, which further suggests that the qualities themselves are of greater importance than what personification we clothe those qualities with. I suspect that there will be many people who connect with those qualities more easily via a female form (and no doubt a little essentialism has influenced this – the gentle energy of this archetype being more in keeping with many people’s assumptions about women’s ‘innate’ being). However, we are all capable of compassion, regardless of gender, and that we connect with this energy is more important, ultimately, than the face we choose to give it.


Having said this, I do recognise that there is a good deal of rebalancing that needs to be achieved, so giving expression to goddess forms is vitally important for challenging gender assumptions. However, we have to guard against a further essentialism by valuing the image over the quality. For me, the quality or energy of the archetype is central; what personification I choose to clothe that quality with is deeply personal. Basically, I have chosen the forms that, for me, make the most direct and potent connection.

With regard to Aphrodite, I choose to see her as a goddess but she could just as easily be perceived as male in form. I know this because I see her and experience her through my partner (who is a man). For me, her energy is not confined by gender. This being said, I am also aware that as I work with her as a female image, as I challenge the sex kitten image and discover a deeper and richer expression, I am in some way liberating myself as a women from so much of the misogyny that underpins our attitudes to female sexuality.

I will now follow with some posts about those very faces of the Divine that draw, challenge and inspire me the most…

What is Deity to Me?


Over time, I have become less and less concerned with spiritual labels. It’s not that I don’t think them useful but I have come to believe that we should remain as flexible and open in our definitions as possible. Fundamentalism is a frightening and limiting view to me. I am of the opinion that how we perceive and relate to the Divine is a very personal thing and will differ from person to person. Hearing others speak of how they relate to deity is fascinating; I might not agree with that person’s approach but I feel my own experience is enriched in the sharing. And so in this spirit, I will offer my own current take on the Divine. Having said labels are unimportant, I am now going to reel out some of my own; however, I am aware that all of these are subject to change as I walk my spiritual path.

I consider myself a Pagan and essentially a Pantheist – that is, I believe that the Divine is present in the Cosmos, in fact, IS the Cosmos and exists in all life-forms, both animate and inanimate. These days, I feel that I am probably a Panentheist in the sense that my Pantheism is also open to the possibility that there is something beyond the material universe, a spiritual force that transcends it whilst also being imminent within all existence, much in the way that Hindus might view Brahman. Once again, like Hindus, I believe that the Cosmos functions through the dynamic interplay between the complimentary forces of the Goddess and God, although I don’t understand these in terms of gender, more in the way certain energies – for instance creation and destruction – move in an endless dance that fuels life.

Awen RaysMy Pantheistic/Panentheistic sensibilities are the broad stroke, that is, they are a view of the Divine that for me cannot be contained or fully understood by my limited consciousness – the Divine at this level is a vast and unknowable mystery, one that inspires but is a little difficult to get to know in a human way. I get a little closer when I start to see this force as Goddess and God, but for me, it begins to get a lot more up close and personal when I view these forces in their expression of multiple goddesses and gods. To clarify, the Cosmos is a unified whole made up of a myriad of natural forces; the gods and goddesses are facets of that Divine whole. I recently heard someone refer to them as lenses that focus in on aspects of the Divine whole.  I seek my most intimate connection to deity through selected lenses, that is, through particular goddesses and gods. These deities are aspects of nature and by extension, human culture. I work with these as archetypes (more on this later).

By now, some of you will recognise that I am a ‘soft’ Polytheists. Polytheism is the worship of many gods but there are differences in the Polytheistic approach between what is now termed ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Polytheism. Hard Polytheists view their deities as distinct, individual beings who exist in their own right and are not seen as merely aspects of an overarching Goddess and God (who in themselves are aspects of an even greater overarching Universal Force).  Soft Polytheists are often accused (mainly by hard polytheists) that they are actually not Polytheists at all but Monotheists ; Monotheism is the belief in a single God (are you still with me!!) and for hard core Polytheists, Pantheist are seen ultimately to honour that Cosmic Oneness, regardless of how they might break it down from there.



This all leads me back to my original point. All the labelling, trying to work out what we believe, can be useful in orientating ourselves and deciding what our spiritual practices will be, but in truth, defining the Divine is not nearly as important as the relationship we build with it. I have discovered that the methods are important only in so much that they have to work for you, they have to make possible an authentic and enriching relationship with the Divine. For instance, if you choose to be a Wiccan but discover that the Wiccan view of the Divine just doesn’t help you to connect, explore another way. Don’t be hemmed in by dogma or rules of any one belief system.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, and so, I will follow with a series of posts that explore the deities that I currently work with and how these impact on my spiritual understanding and practices.

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