Friday Foraging 15

A snuffle in the undergrowth – is it a badger? A fox? Nope, just me with another Friday Foraging! In no particular order, here we go:

Country Living magazine has a feature on “Witch markings”, those strangely beautiful graffiti sigils found in medieval and early-modern barns, churches and rural buildings: 6 things you need to know about Witch Markings.

We get a fair amount of these around East Anglia, and I’m always fascinated by them. Of course, the moniker “Witch Markings” may be a bit off, as they were for the most part charms to ward off witches, but they are definitely part of a folk-magic tradition.

“Men and women would scratch specific symbols as an act of devotion or to evoke good luck – the most common is the daisy wheel, or hexfoil, a pattern with endless lines that were supposed to confuse and entrap evil spirits. Other common marks that appear are pentangles (five-pointed stars) and the letters VV or AM, often intertwined, which refer to the Virgin Mary. Other more pictorial marks have been uncovered, from sailing ships to monstrous demons, musical notes to windmills, all representing voices from the past hoping for the safe return of a ship, a plentiful crop or protection in the afterlife.”

Lila McLellan in Quartzy reports on The Lost Words, a beautiful and much-needed book by one of my favourite nature writers, Robert MacFarlane, and illustrated by artist Jackie Morris, in a piece called The spellbinding power of reading nature’s “Lost Words” aloud. Designed for both children and adults, this book aims to bring back a sense of the connection and wonder of nature. Inspired by the decision from the Oxford Junior Dictionary to cut words like “moss”, “blackberry” and “bluebell” to make room instead for words like “blog”, “chatroom” and “database”, The Lost Words wants to summon back these nature-words, and the landscape of meaning, relationship and association they carry with them.

The book seems to be a poetic form of protest, true Bardcraft in its original, magical sense:

“Macfarlane’s method of engaging the senses through sight and sound is strategic: he wants to create experiences we remember as clearly as Proust did his madeleine. We can’t protect something we’ve forgotten about, he argues. Like ancient “binding spells” of Egypt and Greece, which sometimes took on palindromic or other riddle-like forms, these texts are linked to a specific desire, to defend the earth’s dwindling diversity by helping us see and marvel at what’s left first.

Speaking aloud is another way to leave a lasting mark on the mind. “When we say things, that is where literature begins. And to put them back in the mouth is to put them back in the mind’s eye,” Macfarlane told the CBC. “Magic works with speaking aloud, and so we wanted to catch a little of that.””

The brilliant Jane Goodall offers a prayer for all of us: Jane Goodall’s prayer for all creatures on Earth. Inspiring words, needed more than ever.

“Today, let us join a growing number of those who are working to save the wonders of the world. Let us pray for a growing awareness of the fact that each one of us must do our part in creating a better world, for though the small choices we make each day – what we buy, what we eat, what we wear – may seem insignificant, the cumulative effect of billions of people making ethical choices, will start to heal the natural world. And let us pray that those of us who have, do something each day to help those who have so little, that they too are able to make ethical choices rather than choices based on the need to survive another day…

…So on this day, I am praying to the great spiritual power that I feel so strongly in the wild places, to give me the strength to play my part, to continue spreading awareness that each one of us has a role to play, that each action is important no matter how small it may seem. This is my prayer.”

John Beckett discusses 4 mundane skills to support your spiritual work, with a useful reminder that the sacred and the mundane are not separate realms, and we need critical thinking, communication and organisational skills to successfully navigate both.

“A good religion stays with us always – we should not have one set of values for Pagan circles on Saturday and another set for our paying jobs on Monday. But while we may be walkers between the worlds, that doesn’t mean we live in a permanent liminal state. Sometimes we’re in sacred space but most times we’re in ordinary space. The phrase “dual use technology” refers to items and software that can be used in both military and civilian applications. I sometimes speak of “dual use skills” – things I learn in my paying job that I can use in my religious work, or things I learn in my Pagan practice I can use in secular situations.”

And finally, I leave you with some epic music. The new song from Delain is phenomenal, and the video features the majestic landscapes of Iceland. Enjoy.


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