Monday, 29 September 2014

Not Always An Average Girl

It’s just period pain, every girl gets it

Oh how I hate that saying, that cold, dismissive, ignorant statement. The minimising, the acceptance of suffering as though it is normal, a part of the road, par for the course, something we’re expected to not complain about. I rage at the idea women are supposed to suffer in silence because it is part of ‘being a woman’. I’m sick of the expectation that we need to ‘just get on with it’ because it’s ‘only while you have your period’. I’m over it, I’m here screaming from the mountaintops that it is not acceptable to expect women to not vocalise their pain, it is not acceptable to expect women to just get on with it, and it is sure as hell not acceptable to act like it is normal. Excessive period pain is not normal.

I’m writing about this now because I was inspired by Magaly’s posts to share something of myself, especially this part of myself because I know I am not alone in the suffering. Thankfully for the most part, in my life, it hasn’t had to be silent. I’ve had the luxury of being able to vocally rage against the pain, the agony without having some one treat me like I’m being unreasonable but I know this isn’t the case for all women. I was twelve when I got my first period. They were heavy and painful, and at twelve, even with family support, it can be very difficult to deal with. It’s not something, at that age I found, your peers can relate to, it seemed I got mine quite early compared to most of the other girls in my grade. I struggled with a cycle that was never regulated until I was 16 and the doctor put me on the pill. It regulated my periods but the pain was unending. Missing near on an entire week of school during that time of the month wasn’t unheard of for me, I would spend most of that week in bed taking various forms of painkillers, coupled with an exceptionally hot hot water bottle in order to try and manage the pain. The unfortunate thing is as I got older the pain got much much worse.

You see, I was born with a disease called Endometriosis. Now while the instant thought of some will be ‘that only causes pain when you have your period’, I can assure you that is not the case. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 18 but my mother had it, so my disease is hereditary. My mother suffered for years until she had her hysterectomy, but the thing is that didn’t actually solve the problem of endometriosis growing outside of the reproductive organs. Yes, you heard me right, endometriosis isn’t strictly reproductive, it can and will spread outside of the uterus to other organs and areas of the body. And it is incurable, it can be managed, but there is no cure for endometriosis. It affects about one in ten women if it isn’t hereditary like mine. But what is endometriosis exactly? The Endometriosis Care Centre of Australia defines endometriosis as:

Endometriosis is defined as the presence of normal tissue in an abnormal place. The endometrium (lining) of the uterus spreads to the pelvis through the tubes and settles most commonly in the pelvis. Like the lining of the uterus, the endometrium grows under the influence of the major female hormone oestrogen. The most common sites in the pelvis are on and below the ovaries, and deep in the pelvis behind the uterus, called the Pouch of Douglas. Here the endometriosis grows on the ligaments behind the uterus and on the vagina and rectum. It also may grow on the bladder, appendix, abdominal wall and even sometimes in the upper abdomen.”

It sounds unpleasant, and it is. It is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Because I have a compromised immune system, it is just that much worse. It also puts into perspective the issues I had as a child with my immune system since those who have hereditary endometriosis are generally born with it. Endometriosis affects your entire life, not just the part of it when you menstruate. I suffer with lower back pain, migraines, chronic fatigue and even vertigo (although that could be unrelated). As Wikipedia states:

Other symptoms include diarrhea or constipation, chronic fatigue, nausea and vomiting, headaches, low-grade fevers, heavy and/or irregular periods, and hypoglycemia. In addition to pain during menstruation, the pain of endometriosis can occur at other times of the month. There can be pain with ovulation, pain associated with adhesions, pain caused by inflammation in the pelvic cavity, pain during bowel movements and urination, during general bodily movement like exercise, pain from standing or walking, and pain with intercourse. Pain can also start a week before a menstrual period, during and even a week after a menstrual period, or it can be constant. The pain can be debilitating and the emotional stress can take a toll.”

And all of it true and a lot of it me, I remember times curled up in bed hugging my hot water bottle crying because nothing was helping the pain. The emotional toll is real because sometimes it just gets to be too much to deal with. Heavy duty medications like Codeine or Endone are used to manage it because of the intensity of the pain. Surgery is another option though not always successful. I had my first surgery at 18, then another at 19 and was told by the second surgeon that I had a lot of endo for some one of my age. I recently had my third surgery. I imagine I may end up having more. My mother had 11 in total and it never solved the problem. I’m sitting here right now in pain because I got sick of lying in bed. However, because the Universe just loves to torment me on occasion, over the past twelve months I have developed something that is called ‘Umbilical Endometriosis’, essentially the endometrial tissue pushes up through my belly button causing bleeding and pain – this usually the week after my period. Umbilical Endo is actually really rare; it affects maybe 1% of women that have endo, mine I suspect has occurred because it is near to the site of scar tissue. My gynecologist told her trainee during my consultation that she would be lucky if she saw this once in her career. She said to me ‘this makes you unique’. Personally I’d rather have something else that made me unique.

I wanted to share my story because there are a lot of women and young girls out there who suffer with excruciating pain during their periods, and probably have no idea why. There are those, like myself, who probably experience severe cramping, chronic fatigue, nausea and headaches outside of the time of their period and have no idea why. And there are those who are expected to suck it up and get on with life no matter how much pain they’re in because no one cares enough to truly understand what they’re going through. You can tell a person you have bad period pain and you get that condescending ‘we’ve all dealt with that love’ attitude, so women are left thinking it’s normal. If you find yourself coming to on the floor because you’ve passed out, if you find yourself vomiting or experiencing headaches when you have your period or find you have to medicate yourself to near catatonia in order to function then it really is not something that most women have ‘all dealt with’. If any of what I have written sounds like what you experience then go to your doctor and be checked over. I know in some countries, medical treatment isn’t free (like my surgeries have been) but if you can get correctly diagnosed, you will have a better chance of treating it or at least managing it.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you’re experiencing is normal because it’s not. As I said earlier, excessive period pain is not normal, passing out, vomiting, migraines, severe cramping and heavy periods are not normal. It is not something every woman goes through, regardless of what people or religion say. Rage against the pain, scream from the mountaintops, but never let anyone minimize what you’re going through. Ask questions of your family and find out if any other women in your family have experienced this, and even if they act as though they dealt with it or it was normal you should still be examined and find out for sure. Endometriosis is a serious and debilitating disease, even if it is not widely recognized as such by the general public, and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. It affects your entire life, and for those who are keen on having children, it can affect your fertility.

So please anyone who thinks this could be them, suffer no longer, find a way to be heard and be treated. Even if ultimately it may not do any good in the long term (such as my case is proving so far) at least you will know and no longer question the whys of the pain.


Endometriosis Care Centre of Australia
Endometriosis Australia

Friday, 12 September 2014

Of Henbane and Poisons

My poison garden has sat quietly throughout the winter months. Some herbs have done well, others succumbing to the cold weather despite my efforts. I’ve not been as enamoured of my poison garden as I should have been. Whilst going through the issues of being detached from my Craft, I observed only basic courtesies of watering, feeding and mulching. I was as divorced from them as I was from everything else. Unfortunately, despite the care of a greenhouse, my daturas and brugmansia are looking a little worse for wear but I am hopeful they’ll come around to health once the weather warms. I haven’t been focused on the poison path of late, I haven’t felt called to it in awhile but as I gather myself to throw myself back into my path (in baby steps of course), I feel the need to reach out and connect with them. Apparently my subconscious agrees because a dream came that reminded me I had ignored my darkly delightful garden for too long.

Dappled sunlight filtered in through the lushly green trees creating a gentle checkerboard pattern upon the green earth. It was a beautiful spring day, neither warm nor cool but a balance of both, birds sang and insects danced. A perfect day for wildcrafting. Travelling to a strange place not known, overgrown and left to nature’s will, it is said that the Dark Lady, Belladonna, grows wild; her bounty full and generous. She is framed by weeds of nettle and black nightshade in a grove of silver birch, old growth trees and young saplings fighting toward the light. Hidden in amongst the grove of greenery I could see purple flowers and black berries. Approaching with caution and respect but with an eagerness to see if she was willing to share her bounty; I became surprised when I saw her berries were the size of Roma tomatoes yet her boughs did not bend or break. It was an incredible sight, plant after plant of Belladonna in its own tiny grove, shrouded by a hedge of flowering henbane, melting into the landscape. Belladonna was gracious enough to share herself with me and I was able to collect an impressive amount of plant material, and of Henbane. This long forgotten, green grotto hidden from view, almost forest like but yet not a forest, it hid its treasures well. I felt at peace in this place, so connected to the land and its inhabitants. They had reminded me of wishes not yet fulfilled and as I left this place with my bounty, I felt at peace with the path ahead. 

There was also an old shed with antique glass bottles, didn’t know what that was about. The dream was so real, I could feel the weight of the berries in my hand, the scent of the grove, the freshness of the air, the dappled sunlight warming my skin in areas. It felt as though it was a real place and perhaps it was, perhaps I actually journeyed somewhere in my sleep. I used to spontaneously astral project as a child but could never recall where I’d been. I’m also a prolific dreamer (honestly, sometimes I have upwards of four in a night) so it could have simply been a dream. I tend to lean toward it being more because I can recall quite a bit of it with some clarity, whereas when I dream regularly, I know I have but I don’t remember what I dreamt of. It seemed to be important and I think it was a wake up call to pay attention to my poison garden, to get my butt back in gear since the weather is coming nice again. 

My poison garden is soon to expand with the addition of Belladonna and new Henbane plants. I am hoping to grow a variety called Belladonna var Lutea – a yellow flowered, yellow berried version said to have been the preferred belladonna of witches. I’ve not always been successful germinating the seeds of this family so my plan is to try to kickstart it with Gibberellic Acid. If this is successful I may use it in future on other hard to germinate seeds. Gibberellic is supposed to be quite good on seeds that require cold stratification, which Belladonna, Henbane etc do. Fingers crossed!

I had also planned on experimenting ointment wise with henbane, datura and mandrake separately to test strength, reaction, experience etc however I have surgery next Wednesday so I won’t be. I had planned to prior to surgery since I had time, but alas, the Universe decided my time would be better spent coping with the pain of a blood clot in my thigh; not wanting to cause any issue, I have, again, suspended these plans. Although the clot is in the superficial vein, I’d rather not tempt fate. Hopefully everything resolves itself quickly and I can get on with what I had planned to do.

Happy Side Note: Went out to water my Daturas and give them some fertiliser and they’re sprouting lots of lovely new green leaves!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Moving Forward Reading

Prior to my ‘Mojo Spread’, it’s been some time since I’ve posted anything divination related on this blog. I used to do it quite often but much like my detachment from feeling properly like a witch, I found myself detached from anything tarot or oracle related. It’s always been a passion of mine, divination, so after taking some time away from my cards I decided to tentatively get back on the horse and see what’s what. I’m curious about my life, moving forward from this point, what do I need to know? To keep it simple I went with a one card draw. I wasn’t much looking for complexity, just something simple and easy to read. I am using my Wildwood Tarot, I often find myself drawn to it more often, especially when matters can include spirituality. Rather apropos, I drew the Wanderer (I kid you not).

The Wanderer

Traditionally the Fool in other decks, there is a certain joyful abandonment to this card. The advice of this card is relatively simple. To take that next step. I’m at a turning point in my life whereby I can either move forward to create the life I want or I can stay where I am, stagnant, too afraid to move forward, too afraid of failure. Without taking a step, nothing can happen, the spirit feels the need to move on, to take that step into the unknown. Imagination opens up new possibilities, there are new and challenging aspects of the universe waiting to be explored. The thing about the Wanderer is that he represents both an end and a beginning, some chapters need to be closed and new ones opened. Burdens have to be let go of (I think this points to what I discussed in this post) and old thought patterns shed in order to embrace this new path, this new journey.

It makes me think of this show I was watching once called ‘Brain Games’ (I think that's what it was called) and there was a picture of a red circle between two thick black lines. When adults were asked to say what it could be, they really couldn’t come up with more than two or three answers. Children were asked and the things they were coming up with! The lesson, I believe, is to approach things with the wonder of a child or at least using the imagination instead of relying on the rigid thought patterns we tend to embrace as adults. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Around the Garden

Spring has sprung in the garden, everything is coming to bloom or starting to bud.

Random flower popping up

Plumcot budding

Valerian reshooting


Flowering Rosemary


My Wormwood

The Oak budding

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Deciding on a Career

I’ve always been one of those people who take their time making decisions. I’m a great procrastinator. I think and think and then think some more. Although I’m an Aries, I don’t tend to display the more forceful aspects of the Aries personality. I’m reserved, shy and I prefer not to be around a lot of people, I find it very draining and it often gives me a migraine – though I do enjoy the sarcasm and quick wit that is part of the Aries personality. Toss in some severe immune issues and I find solitary life is a better fit for me than something that requires a large amount of people contact. But it does limit job opportunities and it has forced me to truly confront what I would like out of life. What are my dreams? My hopes? What do I want to be doing with my life? What is important to me and how can I adapt that into a satisfying lifelong career? It took me some time, but I honestly think I’ve found where I want to be. What I want to be.

My dream is to be a wisewoman, witch and healer. To write my experiences, to share a charm, cast a spell, and consult the tarot or offer healing through herbs. There is a longing in my soul for a simple life of magic and healing, of growing herbs and being in nature. I am not desirous of clinical herbalism, I have this dream of being the type of herbalist that invites people into her kitchen for a cuppa and a chat. A herbalist who can whip up a remedy on the spot for the person to take home, I want to share the experience and have people connect with herbs on a greater scale. 

I want the winding, whimsical herb garden home to butterflies, bees and faeries. I want a magical garden full of wonderous herbs and plants. I want to go to markets with my products and share the wisdom of herbs with people; I want to sell healing herbs for people to take home. I have this idea of having my table full of herbal remedies and alongside it, a selection of seedlings so people can go home and start their own herb garden. I’m not expecting it to be a wealthy lifestyle, at least not in the monetary sense. But I think I will feel wealthy and prosperous because my soul will be happy doing what I love.

I want to have a little herb nursery, only selling what I grow and encouraging people to embrace the quiet power that herbs have. I’ve not visions of a large nursery overflowing; it would not suit my lifestyle but a small nursery with happy plants calling for a home of their own; this I can manage. I’ve always wanted my own nursery; I’ve always liked the idea of being so intimately connected to plants. I’m studying horticulture in order to make this dream a reality – a successful one.

My witchcraft is also a big part of this life change I want to embrace. I want it to be as large a part as the herbalism because ultimately it is all tied together. I want to be able to cast charms and spells, create incenses and ointments, to do readings and continue to write articles, maybe have a book or two published. I want every day to be magical and every day to feel fulfilled and not empty. I want to be connected to the inner most parts of myself and answer the call buried so deep.

I want so much. I had thought perhaps too much. How does one even begin to create something like this? How does one begin to even wrap their mind around it? With small steps, very small steps, I’ve realized just when you think that luck has gone and your soul dreams have been abandoned, help can come from surprising places. Unexpected places. And sometimes when almost everything else seems lost there is a light if you just look ahead. I am soon going to be in the position where I just may be able to take small steps into making my dreams real and real in a way that works for me. I soon may be that herbalist who has some one at their table drinking a soothing cup of tea while learning to use herbs in the best way to help their health. I will be able to have my little herbal studio where the magic of potions and lotions can happen. 

It is almost terrifying to think the things you want most can happen, especially when you are so used to feeling as though they are never going to be possible. Sometimes I feel as though I almost have to pinch myself to see. But for now it is a waiting game with quiet planning happening in the background. Little notes, research and the understanding of careful management is the idea of the day. So for now I wait and see, planning, hoping. 


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Signs of Spring

Spring is beginning to unveil herself, yet still at night Winter lays her frosty coat on the ground. It is rather interesting weather we're experiencing right now. I look forward to early spring when the gardens start to flourish. I look forward to being able to spend time with my hands in the soil, strengthening my connection to land and plant.

Although I generally don't celebrate Imbolc, I took the time this year to honour it in a way that sat right with me. I did this by planting lots of seeds. I think I probably went slightly mad but that's half the fun. There is Clary Sage, Angelica, Rue, Chamomile, Chickweed, Tea Tree, Yarrow, Red Clover, Meadowsweet, Pennyroyal, Heartease, Datura and more. They sit in a sunny position, the alfalfa and cress already greeting the day, a small nub of green in the Cayenne section will soon be a lovely little seedling.

The Sarsaparilla is climbing all over the place, looking lovely, hiding in amongst the Banksia Rose.

Yellow always brightens the day when winter is grey and unwelcoming.

A young Crow often sits in our trees, the immature caw an interesting sound. We've been getting a lot of Crows this year, more so than usual which is nice as I adore these birds!

And my Mandrakes, autumnalis and turcomanica are growing. I am hoping that this time I have a successful plant come to maturity. We have a complicated relationship, Mandrake & I, so this time I would love to have a fully grown, fruiting plant!

So the garden is beginning to turn, soon I will plant out apple, peach, chestnut, elm and ash. I will work over the gardens, adding nutrients of compost, manure and soil. I will embrace the garden and feed her, watching her flourish and praying that come summer, she is able to thrive and survive despite the temperatures we get.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Realisation & Inspiration

I haven’t really been practicing my Craft lately, and by really, I mean not at all. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I did something remotely witch related. My altar has gathered dust, my tools lay unused and forgotten, my grimoire not updated for so long. It is simply because I haven’t had the motivation to bother. I haven’t felt at all inspired, and once inspiration is lost, enthusiasm and passion soon follow suit. What do you do when inspiration, passion and motivation walk out the door? How do you find it again? I think I have found myself in this place because I’ve been uncertain of who I am and where I’m going, I’ve not had a clear picture for a while and I’ve been left feeling empty, without purpose or direction. It terrified me, the idea of a purposeless life, I’ve always wanted to believe that I have a reason for being who I am, doing what I do but that has been lost of late. And in this digital age, it is so easy to doubt everything.

I have spent some time even considering whether or not I truly am a witch because I feel like I’ve failed; failed at being a witch, failed at practicing my path, just failed. So many years ago, I had the passion, I was practicing all of the time in one form or another, I was forever using my tarot and oracle decks, I would take the time to sit outside and reach for connection. I would fret over my gardens, excited when plants would sprout or blooms would reveal their delicate faces to the sun. I was so into my Craft that it permeated everything I did. I haven’t felt this level of passion for a long time, and it isn’t just the winter blues or burnout, it’s the insecurity of inadequacy that seems to fuel this current thought process of mine. I feel like I’ve failed because I’m not doing what I feel like I should be, and this is where my reference to the digital age kicks in.

I am a hedge witch, a green witch, consequently I tend to term myself under ‘traditional witch’, it seemed the most appropriate of “labels”. However, this had led to comparisons with others. I see what they do, how they practice, what is expected under the term ‘traditional’ and I see myself failing at even the most basic of things. I found myself doing things because I felt like I should instead of them being something that spoke to me spiritually. I started collecting bones because I thought that is what I should be doing – and while I do love my little collection of skulls, I’m not a bone worker, but it’s what traditional witches do right? While I adore my skulls and am currently weathering a collection of them outside, I don’t think I will grow my collection anymore because I don’t know that I will ever feel pulled toward bone working or working with animal spirits. And this brings me to my next failing.

I’m not inclined toward spirits; I learned that when I spent a weekend in a haunted gaol; everyone else was feeling it and me? Not a whiff of anything, although through an energy worker who was there I did connect somewhat with the energy of a spirit but it’s not natural for me. But as a witch I should be able to do it right? Especially as a hedge witch, I should be able to connect with spirits and work with them right? I should be seeing them everywhere and spending most of my time in the Otherworld building relationships, or so I keep thinking because that is what hedge witches do. I haven’t crossed the hedge in quite some time, but yet I can feel that my animal guide over there is not happy with me. Weirdly, I can feel that. Black Panther energy is powerful I guess, especially when it is being ignored. And there’s the rub in essence, because since I was a child I have had what is considered to be a very powerful and ancient guide yet I find myself noting only my failures and losing heart. I hold faith with the powerful hedge crossing I had the last time I did so, I hold faith that it means something greater than my utter lack of witchcraft practice.

I compare myself and I hate it because I’ve always been one of those people who don’t really care what people think of me. I’m not some one who chases praise or superficial friendships in order to boost my ego. I’d rather be alone than around people to be honest (apparent common trait of some one who has a panther guide). Yet I find myself reading blogs online, seeing witches achieve all these amazing things and I give up because I feel like I can’t do what they’re doing. I’m not a witch if I’m not doing what they’re doing. It’s damaging to see yourself as a failure in the witch world, and it is even more damaging when you know that you don’t care what they do because it is not what you do, yet being stuck in this place of stagnation because you’re not doing what others perceive as traditional witchcraft or hedge witchcraft or whatever it is. It’s a contrary position to be in. Especially when you’ve only noticed it being recent and not something that was particularly bothering months ago.

So instead I have spent my time focusing on my herbalism, writing recipes, trying new things, building a website. Doing anything other than witchcraft really and late one night I came to a realisation that should have been obvious from the very start. I threw myself into my herbs because that is where I am most comfortable. That is where I find my peace and my passion. And that is where the passion was years ago. When I used to teach, I taught Magical Herbalism. I wrote the course myself and then wrote another on Herb Crafts. The first true witch tool I ever bought was a little herb kit off eBay. The first things I ever sold in my eBay store was herbs and herbal incenses. My passion for creating products for my store whether they were incenses, salves or infused oils stemmed from herbs. And this is what I realised so late one night.

Herbs is what I do.

Herbs is who I am.

I have always been passionate about herbs. Because I doubted my witch self, I threw all of my energy into my herbal self, yet they are not separate. I first became interested in herbs magically and this lead to my studying herbalism. I forgot that, it seems though at the same time my subconscious was trying to remind me of it. I may not be a bone worker or spirit worker but I work very well with herbs. I connect on an elemental level with herbs. I have four mandrakes up at the moment, and I’ve been reminded of the excitement that comes from seeing the little green leaves pop their heads up (whether they stay alive for a length of time is another thing, we have a complicated relationship mandrake and I), seeing them develop more than two leaves. It’s not the excitement so much of knowing a complicated and rather temperamental plant is growing in my garden; it is the excitement of seeing herbs come alive in the garden. The gardener aspect of my personality revels in the thrill of successful germination and heartbreak of losing plants when it happens. The herbalist in me appreciates the aspect of growing your own herbs to use, because they almost always are more potent from your own garden. It also involves you in the cycle of the plant’s life. And the witch rubs her hands with glee to see the natural world so represented in its varying diversity, knowing that the Spirits of the Green are dancing happily amongst the garden.

I forgot who I was because I was so busy trying to be what I thought I should be. The fundamental foundation of my practice has always been herbs; I lost that because I wanted to be the incredible spirit contacting, bone working witch who has beings knocking on her door. I lost what made me love being a witch in the first place; I lost that connection to my magical self so my soul reminded me in other ways of the thing I love the most about practicing my Craft. I work with herbs, that is my calling. Whether I make a healing balm or a flying ointment, a restful tea or an incense I always worked with herbs. Rediscovering that is almost like discovering witchcraft again. My path has always been the green world, and in that, I do work with spirits and bones, mine are the just the Old Ones of the land, of the wilds. I am a hedge witch, I am a green witch, I’m not so sure I would call myself a ‘traditional witch’ anymore, but I am who I’ve always been. I know that now, I accept that now. I walk my own road, my own twisting path. My journey is my own and just because it is not like another’s does not make it less, it simply makes it mine.