Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Intentions for 2023

New Year's resolutions aren't for everyone, I know. Back in January, when talking about our goals for the year ahead was perhaps more relevant than it is now, Moss of Spiral Path wrote an interesting post about the toxic standards and unrealistic pressures that pile onto us year on year.

Yet, during that curious, dark and still time between Yule and Imbolc, I wrote in my journal this list of intentions:

- I want to be fully myself; to discover, express and live my truth. This will mean setting boundaries, speaking my truth, spending less time online so that I can understand and develop my own clear-headed thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas, being honest with myself, listening to my body and my intuition, honouring my own thoughts and feelings.

- Quitting Amazon. Over the coming year I will use the vouchers I earn from surveys to buy those things on my wishlist that are only available from Amazon; the remainder of my wishlist I will move to I will also stop adding books to my wishlist in 2023 - I will discover books through personal recommendations, physical bookshops and the library.

- I will continue my practices of yoga, meditation, grounding and centring. 

- I will spend as much time outside as possible - I will put my bare feet and belly on the earth, I will swim in the sea.

- As well as the OBOD Bardic Grade and the Sisters of Rock and Root course which I am studying this year, I will continue to focus on my exploration of Druidry and the enchanted life through reading and practice.

- I will start re-reading books that I already own.

- I will slow down and invite simplicity, joy, connection with nature, contentment, peace, healing and grace. 

- I will continue to honour nature, the passing of the seasons, and our cyclical nature. I hope to move deeper into these practices and grow my connections with deity, the ancestors and the world of spirit.

- I will complete at least one of my stockpile of crafts and models.

- Insofar as it is financially feasible, I will continue working towards a low impact, zero waste lifestyle.

- I will not cut or dye my hair.

It's March now, so I can share a little insight into how I'm doing with these things:

- a work in progress, but I am learning to set boundaries, stop carrying what does not belong to me, and to be honest even when it's uncomfortable. I was recently on a therapeutic retreat where I met some individuals on twelve-step programmes, and I was deeply impressed by their hard-earned ability to express their feelings honestly, unashamedly and with clarity. I've been online more than I wanted to be (mostly to promote my book) but I'm currently working on taking a bit more of a break.

- This is going well. I have added no new books to my wishlist this year so far, and because I am reading books I already own and using the library, I don't have such a towering TBR. 

- I have practiced yoga and meditated every day so far this year and it feels SO GOOD. I've practiced yoga sporadically for years but it's only since developing this daily practice that I've been able to see noticeable changes in my strength and flexibility.

- This has been a struggle - it's been mostly cold and wet. I want to double down on this intention as I think it will make a huge difference to my experience this year if I can carry it out.

- Really enjoying the Bardic Grade so far, and currently reading Zen for Druids by Joanna van der Hoeven

- Re-reading some of my older books has been something I've planned to do for ages, it feels great to finally get on with it

- It's been an unusually busy year for me so far so slowing down has been harder than I anticipated over the winter when I was basically a hermit, so I need to take some time for rest when I can

- Haven't taken as much altar time as I would like this year, but I'm finding a disciplined meditation practice to be very beneficial

- I am currently knitting a hat from a kit Marc bought me in 2019 😂

- This is going well. We're having veg boxes delivered, eating locally and seasonally, buying from a nearby smallholding, using a local milkman, and have switched completely to natural non-toxic cleaning products. We also make use of a local food waste prevention discount store and community fridge, which pass on food from supermarkets and online stores that would otherwise go to landfill and use the profits for charitable causes, but this sometimes means we end up with a lot of plastic packaging. Luckily, our local zero waste refill store have a partnership with Terracycle, so they pick up all our hard-to-recycle plastics. It's not an ideal system, and sometimes I am tempted to slip a note in with the plastic recycling to explain where it has come from ("I'm not just a bad zero waster, I'm preventing food waste!"), but it feels like moving in the right direction.

- This is a random personal thing; since childhood I've wanted to know what would happen if I didn't cut my hair for a long period (say, a decade) but with my butterfly brain have never carried out the experiment. Thought I'd start small, with a year!

2023 is turning into a really interesting year for me. The confidence I have been building since I started working on myself in my first shopping ban is growing exponentially. My comfort zone is expanding, I'm calmer, I'm addressing some traumas from my past with help from therapy, and I'm really excited to see where things go!

As for shopping - well, I started a new shopping ban at Samhain, and I haven't broken it yet, which brings me to a personal best of 122 days without an unnecessary purchase. This time around, I'm definitely not finding it as difficult as I have in the past. I think I needed so many attempts to break the conditioning and habits that I had formed. This time, I think I will not only be able to achieve my 365-day goal (with some allowed purchases that I defined for myself at the beginning of the challenge), but also be under my annual budgets for the first time. Easy to say when it's only March 😂 but it just feels a lot more possible than it ever has before.

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Rewilding in 2022: Final Progress Report

This year, it's fair to say, didn't quite go as I expected. Between February and August, Dai, the Spud and I seemed to constantly shuttle between different illnesses and viral infections. The chronic migraines that blighted my childhood came roaring back and made my life a misery until I was able to start on several medications and a course of acupuncture. In November I was diagnosed with a gastro-oesophagal condition that was intensely painful but which is now managed with medication, and I was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which I think I had been masking with my excessive shopping behaviours instead of actually dealing with. I have since begun therapy and will be on a short residential programme next year.

Our little family spent an awful lot of time indoors, either taking care of each other or simply sheltering from the record-breaking sweltering heat during the summer. For a while, it felt as though my one remaining nod to something approaching wildness was the organic veg box I was getting with a half-price discount code, which at least encouraged me to cook from scratch more - a habit I'd neglected - and try out new vegetarian and plant-based recipes. The feral housewife rearing her head perhaps.

One thing I didn't expect this year was that I became much more committed to my self-care. I'm not sure what caused this, I think maybe I was tired of feeling like my own last priority, or perhaps my new collection of medical diagnoses, but I started gradually adding habits like dry body brushing, taking more time choosing my outfits, eating more plants, getting routines in place to keep my house clean and tidy, and daily yoga and then I felt like it kind of snowballed. I started getting out of bed earlier and feeling excited and motivated each day. I found I had more energy, so I started trying new forms of movement like Buti yoga, kayaking, paddleboarding and running. I became amazed and proud of what my body could do, and excited by all the things I could feel it wanted to do as I got stronger. My confidence increased dramatically and I found I was better able to deal with life admin tasks - and life in general. 

As time wore on I found myself developing in different ways. When I stopped dressing daily in Goth style some years ago, someone I used to work with posted an image on my Facebook page that read, "You used to be a wild thing - don't let them tame you," which at the time unsettled me, but in hindsight makes me laugh. I am much wilder now, in my 'basic' dress, than I have been since childhood. As a younger person I was too devoted to my image to do half the things I do now. I used to go to the beach in full make-up, fishnet tights, boots, a faux fur coat and hair extensions - you wouldn't have got me on a paddleboard for all the tea in China. This year I've been more willing to try things, more physically active, and even a bit braver than I have known myself to be before.

Yet I realised that, for three and a half years now, I've written, thought, moodboarded, researched and analysed almost constantly about clothes, shopping and style. This thing that I have been trying to escape from is consuming me. The least interesting thing about me has come to dominate my creative life. 

Speaking of which, what about my style challenges? My 'Mrs Baggins' Style Challenge, and my mission to wear every single piece of clothing in my wardrobe, co-existed very well and after a time became the same thing, interwoven with my no-buy challenge like a triple-strand braid.

When things really started to get interesting was when I took a look back at my childhood for some of the posts I was working on. I started to remember how I had most enjoyed dressing, what sorts of combinations made me feel good. I began layering waistcoats over dresses over jeans, mismatching my earrings, tying scarves around my waist over long skirts. I thought about the adage, said by (I believe) Iris Apfel, 'when you don't dress like everyone else, you don't have to think like everyone else'. I started to receive compliments on my outfits, but the best thing about it was that I felt good, I was having fun, I felt like myself.

It was weird how continuing to wear my own clothes felt like a slightly radical and subversive act at times. I found myself somewhat flabbergasted at the existence of the word 'rewearing'. When I was young, we didn't need a word to express the concept of using the clothes we had bought and owned. How our perceptions and culture around clothing have changed.

I also found that, although the cool style of a friend could still occasionally send me off on a couple of hours' browsing through Vinted and Depop, the distinctions between different clothing styles and labels - such as 'alternative' - came to seem less important to me. At some point mid-browse I would find myself getting bored, as defining myself (or anyone else) by clothing came to seem less and less relevant. Having learned to focus more on my other interests, I naturally found myself returning, over and over, to books, music, cooking, art and nature, and finding less importance in what I did or didn't have in my wardrobe.

Could I still see myself wanting to buy more things in the future? Yeeees, but not in the same manner that I have previously. I have been amazed by how much I can do with what I already have. Interestingly, fast fashion, even second-hand fast fashion, holds less appeal than it ever has. I no longer want to continue accumulating. 'My wardrobe' no longer feels like a semi-abstract concept encompassing all the things that I have yet to buy. Instead, I see a future of creating endless combinations with my existing clothes, visible mending, making and customising my own pieces, and the occasional vintage or charity shop find, spiced up from time to time with commissions from slow fashion artisans or purchases from small businesses on my travels. A simple shift, a change of mindset, and yet I feel so much more grounded and happier in myself.

That said, by early December, I found I did have to make a few purchases - I had almost run out of socks, my everyday bras were no longer fit for purpose, my slippers had split at the seams, and several of my wardrobe staples (favourite T-shirts and jeans) were falling apart. It was a pain to have everything disintegrate at once, but I also felt triumphant - it was probably the first time I had needed new clothing since being post-partum. Replacing my worn-out socks at Christmas was a staple of my nineties childhood and I felt oddly proud to return to it - even if it had taken three and a half years to wear through my existing collection!

I was told that firewalking would change my life, and by the end of August, a month after putting my bare feet on hot coals, I had come to believe that. There was an energy that I could feel rising in me, a new sense of my own power. I was starting to get a feel for the enchanted life I had been yearning for - I didn't, and don't, know exactly how to get there, but I knew how to start, and the seeds are beginning to unfurl. I began by spending less and less time online (it's possible that you'll be seeing less of me on this blog in the new year, but we'll see how that shakes out). I took up my knitting needles and painstaking hand-sewing projects, accompanied by an innate understanding that every stitch, every purchase not made, every mass-produced object not consumed, took me another tiny step in the right direction.

I began clutching at creativity, as if every thought and urge I had suppressed in the all-consuming maelstrom of new-motherhood suddenly came surging to the forefront. Reading poetry. Brewing my own tea from herbs. Making natural dyes. Weaving. Sketching. Playing pennywhistle by firelight. Devouring folktales and stories of women losing and finding themselves in the natural world. Travel plans and festival tickets. Something is beginning to take shape around me, and it's a little bit wonderful and exhilarating and electrifying-frightening all at once. 

This is the rewilding I was looking for. It is slow-coming, creeping up little by little through art and story and the play of starlight on frost, but I can see at last a time approaching - inexorably - when it is me and I am it. I can't imagine ever going back to a life of Primark hauls and spending every waking moment on Instagram. I don't need those crutches any more. 

Inspirational reads this season:

Make, Thrift, Mend by Katrina Rodabaugh

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth

Wintering by Katherine May

Wild by Jay Griffiths

Sustainable Badass by Gittemarie Johansen

You Are Not A Before Picture by Alex Light

Tatterdemalion by Sylvia V. Linsteadt and Rima Staines

A Still Life by Josie George

Other inspiration:

The Hagitude podcast

Workshops and newsletters from Walk the Spiral Path

 I devoured the entire archives of The Hermitage with joy and wonder

I'm going to be taking some time off over Christmas and New Year, and next year I'm considering not sticking to such a regular schedule of posts, but we'll see how that goes. For now, blessings of the season to all of you, and best wishes for 2023.

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Into the Cauldron

During November, I scheduled myself a week of Cauldron Time, after taking the workshop Into the Cauldron with Moss of Spiral Path. Moss's concept of Cauldron Time is about taking time to rest and look deeply inwards during the dark half of the year. For me this involved taking space away from social media and screens, reading, journaling, meditating, yoga, divination, foraging, spending time in nature, cooking nourishing meals, and taking naps.

I'm a carer and parent, so I couldn't take a week off as would have been ideal, but I did try to maintain an atmosphere of calm and restfulness, and I also thought hard before agreeing to any social plans and only accepted invitations if I really wanted to. I found all this much harder than it probably sounds! Turns out, I am not brilliant at resting.

However, once I made the effort, I found it very effective. Taking time away from screens and spending lots of time outside under the grey November skies almost made it feel as though I had slipped slightly sideways out of ordinary time and into a liminal space. Suddenly I had loads of extra time which I had previously apparently been wasting fiddling about on my tablet and achieving very little. I also hadn't realised how rushed I normally feel, hurtling at ninety miles an hour from one responsibility to the next - again, apparently pointlessly, since during Cauldron Time the housework still got done, the Spud arrived at nursery on time, and everything was accomplished which needed to be, without me turning up everywhere sweaty, out of breath and slightly miserable. It was such a relief to stop trying to push the river.

I also spent time in darkness - the Spud and I sat out one night to watch the sunset, and were delighted to discover that our garden is apparently a bat hotspot. We also went walking under the full moon one night. I realised that I habitually do everything indoors, but I will try to make the effort to wrap up warm and head outside for reading, writing and playing (drinking coffee, doing surveys and checking emails could all be done outside too).

I found myself getting creative in the kitchen - mixing Penicillin cocktails on a whim to use up the last of the 'good' whisky, collecting rosehips and making syrup. 

I blitzed through my reading pile, and delved into poetry for the first time in a long time (The Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill was my starting point). Another notable book I read was The Stopping Places by Damien Le Bas. I found it really interesting to have a glimpse of different cultures and different ways of seeing the world, as well as different ways of experiencing this island where I live. I've been seeing Britain very differently since I started looking more into Druidry, folklore and history and learning about what's beneath and beyond the malls, car parks and council estates, and I find it fascinating to have these small peeks into a multiplicity of ways of living and of being here. We may share the same small bit of ground but we relate to it, see it and understand it in completely different ways. 

The lack of social media was a blessing during Cauldron Time. I often feel torn, as I've made some great connections on Instagram lately and found out about some wonderful events, but I can't deny I am more content without the mental chatter and feeling of being surveilled. No amount of giveaways are worth my peace of mind, surely?

The days felt strange - my life revolves mainly around caring for others and managing the household, so it was hard to find time alone or to deeply meditate as I might have liked, but the week was full of little coincidences and synchronicities, and that feeling that I was just outside normal life, in a secret and special space. The slower pace was wonderful - I did about as much as I normally would, but without feeling frazzled or habitually tense. And I prioritised time with my son over time with other people, which felt right - an important boundary that at times I had been lax about upholding.

I found taking Cauldron Time to be valuable, profound and powerful. There were many lessons that I plan to take forward, such as not letting all my time drain into my screens, being present, slowing down, and recognising that time with the Spud or time alone is also special and important, and that it's okay to prioritise it even when that means saying no to other things. 

Afterwards I felt more nourished, more settled, less scattered. I didn't really want to come back to normal reality, and I hope to try to keep my focus on rest throughout winter. I definitely plan to take Cauldron Time again next year, and at least once more this winter, to help me continue to live with more mindfulness and intention. 

I also had a guest spot this month talking to Hazel and Jenny on The Wheel podcast for their Sustainable Yule episode - listen here.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

How I Shop Sustainably: Basic Cosmetics

I've generally operated a policy for this blog where I don't post links to products or shops, but as more and more people are getting interested in sustainable, ethical and zero waste products, I thought this might be a good time to share how I've tweaked my personal shopping habits for those things I use on a regular basis. As well as what I currently buy, I'll discuss what my criteria are, what I look out for, and what I actively avoid - and why. If you find this interesting or helpful, drop me a comment and let me know, as this could become a series. 

I'm UK-based so this will be quite UK-focused, so friends overseas, do please chime in with your own best tips and recommendations.

The very basics

Deodorant: switching to natural deodorant was one of the first swaps I made, during my pregnancy when I read that aluminium from antiperspirants has been found in breast milk. The detox phase, when the aluminium 'plugs' leave your pores, was a real thing, and there was a fortnight when I smelt absolutely horrible, and a period of a few months' trial and error while I hunted down a natural deodorant that actually worked. I found that I'm sensitive to baking soda, which limited my choices somewhat as it's a common ingredient in natural deodorants. I also prioritise plastic-free, recyclable or compostable packaging and only use products which are cruelty free and vegan.

I still have a few products in rotation and try new things as I come across them, but my go-to favourites now are Space Cat by Awake Organics, which I find very effective - I don't have to wash and reapply several times a day as I do with other products in my rotation, and one tin lasts me about six months so it's good value - and the sensitive range from Wild Deodorant, which I was originally gifted by a friend and found so effective I used it at my wedding.

I would note that what works for me may not work for you; one of my close friends couldn't get on with natural deodorants at all and proclaims herself firmly Team Antiperspirant, and you will almost certainly have to try a few products before you find your perfect fit, but for me it's worth it because antiperspirants and many conventional deodorants contain ingredients like propylene glycol (which is also used in antifreeze and is considered potentially dangerous to the nervous system and heart) and parabens (which potentially can cause hormonal imbalance in our bodies and have been flagged as possible carcinogens, as well as being linked to birth defects).

A word on ingredients. You may be wondering, if these ingredients are so bad, why are they in so many of our everyday products. Well, of course the cosmetics industry is regulated, although this varies depending on where you live - thousands of ingredients deemed dangerous in Europe and the UK are widely used in the USA and elsewhere. However, ingredients are often tested individually and declared as 'not harmful' as a small dose within a product - except when you then have the same ingredient as a small dose in your shampoo, your body lotion, your hand soap, your washing up liquid and so forth, you could be applying the same potential toxin in quite a large dose indeed without realising. We also don't commonly test for how ingredients that may be in different products react with each other - for example, if you have one potential hormone disruptor in your body lotion and another in your shower gel, we don't know how the combination might affect your body once it's absorbed into your skin.

For more information about this subject I would recommend the book No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt, here's a basic list of ingredients I avoid, and here's a database you can use to find out how safe your products are.

Toothpaste: my main issue with toothpaste is packaging, which is usually plastic and non-recyclable. Many well-known brands also test on animals, including Colgate and Sensodyne. 

An obvious swap I would recommend is a bamboo toothbrush or an electric toothbrush with recyclable heads, which are becoming more widely available (check your local zero waste shop, if you have one). I use toothpaste tabs with fluoride, which are available in refillable tins or compostable bags. (I also use a copper tongue scraper, and mouthwash tabs - the ones I'm currently using are from Lush and come in a plastic pot which you can return to the store for a discount on your next purchase, but ideally I'll be looking for a plastic free alternative.)

Body wash: solid soap is your best bet for minimal packaging. I like Lush's soaps as a treat, but they're not that budget-friendly, so in general I use one of a variety of soaps from the Really Wild Soap Co. You can also usually find some lovely natural, organic soaps at your local farmer's market or zero waste shop, or on Etsy.

Face wash: my go-to is Movis from Lush, because it comes in a solid bar (and I like the yeasty smell). 

Moisturiser: my favourite moisturiser is Imperialis from Lush. It does come in a plastic pot but again this is returnable to the store for refill and reuse. My skin has always been a source of embarrassment for me as I'm prone to breakouts, but since I stopped wearing foundation on a daily basis and switched to natural ingredients I have seen a big improvement.

Sunscreen: I have several priorities for sunscreen. Firstly, I only use what's known as a physical sunscreen rather than Nivea et al, which produce chemical suncreen. This is because chemical sunscreen contains some less than pleasant ingredients, which when they are absorbed by the skin can leach into the bloodstream. Physical sunblock, aka zinc oxide, is not absorbed by the skin (so you do have to put some effort into application to avoid the Friendly Ghost look), but does block both UVA and UVB rays.

The other downside to those chemical sunscreens is that they are highly toxic to marine life and coral reefs - even if you're not using it on the beach, all our water reaches the ocean eventually. For my little one and on my tattoos I use a high SPF sunscreen from Amazinc - yup, it's pricey, but I've been using the same bottle for three years now. For myself, particularly on my face, I use an SPF 25 from Shade, which comes in a sturdy tin so I can carry it about with me and reapply when needed. 

Shampoo and conditioner: finding a natural shampoo bar (I like bars because there's no packaging, in case you didn't guess) that works in hard water when I'm at home, without leaving my hair greasy, sticky or waxy, was a bit of a challenge. If you live in a soft water area, you can pretty much take your pick.

Sea salt seems to be the magic ingredient for me, and in hard water areas you also need a foaming agent like SLS, which I would generally prefer to avoid. There are some good, effective alternatives now made from coconut, so I'm hopeful I'll eventually find the perfect bar. Meanwhile, I'm using Seanik from Lush.

For all your solid soap bars I do recommend a soap drying rack, as letting them dry between uses makes them last much longer instead of dissolving into a soggy mess.

I also use a conditioner bar - I'm still open to trying new products here and looking for a leave-in conditioner that doesn't come in a plastic container, but the conditioner I'm using currently is from Wideye.

Lotion: if I'm being really honest, lotion isn't really a basic for me as I tend to only remember to use it when I shave, but the one I'm using currently is this one from Happy Holistics, which is rich and smells delicious.

Hand and foot cream: also not something I use terribly regularly, but I go straight to basics here and just use a jar of shea butter, a tip I got from Lucy AitkenRead's book Freedom Face, with the immortal line "No matter how you say this - "shee-uh" or "shay" - you will be corrected by someone. I like to do a huge fart at the same time as saying it, to distract from the fact I may be pronouncing it wrong."

Thursday, 24 November 2022


It's finally here!

The product of several journals, a collection of sleepless nights, a sockful of baby naps, a frustration of footnotes, a great deal of anxiety and the odd meltdown or two...

My first published book, The Anti-consumerist Druid, officially launches tomorrow.

Click here to see more on the publisher's website.

I've also been popping up in various places around the Internet ahead of the launch - I had an interview with ev0ke magazine this month, which you can read here, and over here with Musing Mystical, to chat about the book.

Here are a few of my favourite comments from reviewers and readers so far:

 "From the start I was drawn in by Townsend’s friendly tone and nonjudgmental style. She showed her own failings and made it clear that it is normal to be drawn into the cycle of consumerism in our modern lives. Her story is probably at least a little familiar to most of us.

Her struggles are so relatable. Her honesty is refreshing.

The second part of the book about connecting with nature and magic was also something that resonated with me. One thing that really hit home for me was to create instead of consume. In an era where we seem to be expected to monetise our hobbies, Townsend talks about creativity as part of life not just as an identity or for profit.

The Anti-consumerist Druid is a book that reminds us to embrace creativity and mindfulness over consumerism. To simply do creative things and embrace the everyday joys that life has to offer.

Personally, I think this book has inspired me to be more mindful of what I consume and how it affects me and those around me. It has reminded me of the importance of real connection and to become the person we want instead of just trying to build a personality through consumption and social media." Laura Morrigan

 "Katrina Townsend's experience of navigating from a consumerist world into one that enters the realms of spirituality is beautifully expressed in this book. Her writing is open and honest, humorous and thought-provoking and takes you along the journey to where one can find peace in both the self and the world. It's an ongoing process, as she demonstrates so well in this book, of reviewing and reflecting upon one's habits and, for some, addiction, and being able to come out with a real sense of breaking the cycle of wanting more, through learning to love what you have. In this we find spirituality, expressed in this book through the tradition of Druidry and its love of nature which guides us to live our lives according to that love. I highly recommend this book to everyone, Druids and Pagans, and people of all faiths and none." Joanna van der Hoeven

"Katrina Townsend's journey from hedonistic consumerism to a deep communion with nature makes for a fascinating and compelling read. She writes with engaging honesty as well as humour, delving into the wisdom and magic of our Celtic past to find her own truth in the modern world. Her story will resonate with anyone who has found solace in walking England's green lanes, or glimpsed an older reality in the contours of hill and hedgerow." Jill Todd

 "Katrina Townsend has written a really important book that explores – based on her own experience – what consumer culture does to a person. She shares her experiences of compulsive shopping, social media addiction and the way all of this eroded her sense of self. Furthermore she does so without falling into the kind of judgemental puritanism you can find in the newly converted, and also avoids self pity or anything that seems self indulgent. It’s an impressive balancing act and makes the book exceedingly readable." Nimue Brown

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Fifty-Three Ways to Rewild Your Mind

1. Read poetry, even if - especially if - you haven't read any for years

2. Ditch Amazon - go to your local library

3. Begin a meditation practice

4. Make a meal from local, seasonal goods

5. Cut down your social media time (I signed up for email newsletters from my favourite creatives so I don't miss the relevant stuff)

6. Have your first or last hot beverage of the day outside in the garden

7. Challenge your habitual consumption behaviours - for example, take a break from online shopping and visit local retailers instead, or try buying only second-hand for a while. Disrupt the consumption engine in your head

8. Make or mend something with your hands

9. Swim or paddle in wild water (obviously take all relevant safety precautions)

10. Spend an evening by candlelight

11. Make offerings to your ancestors

12. Consider celebrating, marking or acknowledging the solstices, equinoxes and fire festivals to create awareness of the cyclical nature of time

13. Rest

14. Tend a plant or garden

15. Forage for wild foods (this doesn't need to be more complicated than blackberries or apples)

16. Compost

17. Become aware of the phases of the moon

18. Spend time in starlight

19. Speak your truth

20. Make space in your life to appreciate art. Obviously this is very subjective, but some artists I love who to me express wild mind include Rima Staines, Iris Compiet, Jackie Morris, Hannah Willow, Brian Froud, Julia Jeffrey, Nadia Turner and Brett Manning.

21. Read widely and voraciously on anything that speaks to you

22. Again this is subjective, but some books that specifically evoke the feeling I wanted to achieve include Wild by Jay Griffiths, The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie, Rooted by Lyanda Lynn Haupt and The Way Home by Mark Boyle

23. Listen to live music

24. Dance

25. Consider your relationship to movement. What would you do if changing the appearance of your body wasn't a factor? I have a particular hatred of the sterile box that is the gym, so I admit to being biased, but I love to exercise in a way that makes me feel good, which for me includes yoga, walking, dance, the occasional run, swimming and paddleboarding when I am near the sea, and the odd game of badminton.

26. Check out the ingredients in your cosmetics. Consider a switch to cruelty free products. Better yet, natural, organic and cruelty free. Or even consider making your own - books like Wild Beauty by Jana Blankenship and Freedom Face by Lucy AitkenRead have an abundance of recipes

27. Buy only what you need

28. Learn the names of the animals, plants and birds in your immediate environment

29. Wander

30. If you have the opportunity, listen to stories being told out loud - this can be magical

31. Look at the world around you with fresh eyes. Slightly cheesily, I think of being a tourist everywhere I go, and look for historical buildings, unusual details, things that tell a story about the place. I have a particular fondness for old pubs, which are often the longest-lived buildings in an area and packed to the beams with ghost stories, and if this also includes sampling a local ale or cider, well, so be it. Often we go about with half our brain in 'the great digital nowhere', and this can be a way to bring ourselves back to physical reality

32. See what's on near you. Whilst I find that minimising my social media use as much as possible is the best thing for me, I can't deny it's really useful for finding out about workshops, markets, mending cafes, live music, Pagan gatherings, community gardens and all kinds of other interesting events that help me feel more rooted in and connected to my local area

33. One concept of Stoic philosophy that intrigues me is of not being addicted to anything. I can easily fall into habitual ruts (this whole blog started because of my shopping addiction), so I find it useful to regularly challenge those habits and make sure I am in control of them and not the other way round. Phone addiction is probably one of the most obvious, particularly for those of us who are rewilding, but this year I have gone without caffeine just to make sure that I could! Maybe consider having a look at your dependencies and shaking things up a little

34. I was surprised this year to discover how much I am held back by negative body image. I have found books like Beyond Beautiful, The Beauty Myth, Just Eat It and You Are Not A Before Picture really helpful in challenging this

35. Watch a sunrise or sunset

36. Let your bare feet touch the earth

37. Feel the sun, rain or wind on your bare skin

38. Let yourself change with the seasons. Be aware of yourself and your needs. In winter, when nature is sleeping and dormant, you may find that you, too, need to rest, and go within. Don't fight this urge. Capitalism and ideas about productivity and linear progress have made this very difficult, but do what you can. (This is a work in progress for me. I recently encountered ideas about living more cyclically through the work of Moss at Walk the Spiral Path, and I was surprised by how much of an emotional reaction I had to the concept)

39. Consider learning some of the skills your ancestors would have had - weaving, spinning, knitting, pottery, playing an instrument, for example. Ancestral crafts connect us to our history and our bodies as well as being beneficial to our mental health

40. Sketching, writing/journaling or painting are all ways to unwind without resorting to the endless scroll

41. Plant lore and herbalism teach us more ways to connect to the world around us. Although there is a vast amount of knowledge available here, don't be intimidated - you don't need to know everything about everything to brew a simple herbal tea (my simplest is this: I chuck a handful of lemon balm leaves into a mug, pour on hot water, and drink) or make an incense blend. 

42. Spend time with your friends and family (whatever family means to you). Sharing food by firelight is often wonderful

43. Stop mowing your lawn

44. Don't be afraid of the weather - just get a good coat

45. Go off-grid for a little while

46. Turn off phone notifications for email

47. If you can, spend a night outdoors

48. When you're outside, check in with all your senses (maybe not taste? But also maybe yes?)

49. Focus more on what makes you feel grounded, content, joyful, free or simply grateful. Living by your true priorities and values, not those of the dominant culture, is not easy, but it is importantvalues

50. Spend time alone

51. Challenge your comfort zone. So much of our money, time and energy is poured into our comfort and convenience. We are, in a sense, domesticated. How will we cope with the societal changes ahead in this era of climate change? (Many more of us in the UK will be experiencing cold and darkness this winter. Having these changes foisted upon us as the result of inept governing is, of course, terrible.) Finding ways to increase our strength and resilience could turn out to be beneficial in the long run. Common suggestions include cold water exposure, spending time in wild places or without electric light, breathwork practices such as the Wim Hof method, building relationships and communities, and learning how to grow, preserve and forage for food

52. Find a sit-spot that you can visit at least once a week

53. Care for and nourish your body, whatever that looks like for you

Thursday, 10 November 2022

The Rarr

You might think I'd be used to getting my ass handed to me by oracle cards by now, but sometimes the accuracy of the insight revealed by a picture on a bit of cardboard still blows me away.

I pulled a card from my Faerie Oracle deck one morning when I was freaking out about style - again. I asked the cards, essentially, who I should try to be, but the card I pulled was the Rarr, reversed - a somewhat ominous warning that my energy was out of control, I was all over the place, distracted, I should make no decisions but take a cold shower, meditate, and try to ground myself.

I was slightly alarmed by this, and gave myself a quick three-card reading, which basically said 1) you need to reground yourself; 2) you need to reconnect with nature; 3) you need to slow down and stop trying to push the river.

Surprisingly (to me, perhaps not to you?), one of the most helpful practices for staying happy and motivated during my current no-buy was renewing my study of Druidry. My books are now peppered with post-its, I developed a strong daily routine that includes time outside and tending my altar before my yoga practice each morning, and I feel grounded, calmer and more contented. Seeing my everyday activities as sacred really has an effect on the energy that I am able to bring to them. Not that I'm never Shouty Mum any more, but definitely not as much. 

At this moment I have decided not to sign up to one of the two 'big Druid' correspondence courses in the UK, which are offered by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and the British Druid Order respectively. I'm aware that both are highly regarded and I have sent off for samples from both, but found myself reluctant to proceed. Partly because a lot of the basic material is already known to me from fifteen-ish years knocking around the Pagan community and studying folklore (and assorted New Age practices, many of which don't resonate with me - the OBOD course in particular I have seen described as New Age), partly because I'm not a joiner by nature, and partly because I'm not a huge fan of scripted ritual or male/female binaries. Yet I feel very connected with and drawn to Druidry, I just feel that as such I need to approach it in a way that makes the most sense for me. 

So I have a massive stack of books from different authors with different 'takes' on Druidry, and I'm also considering a course or two from Sharon Blackie, which aren't specifically Druidic but offer a deep dive into concepts such as the anima mundi and the mythopoetic worldview, which I feel would be useful. (I also attended Moss's excellent Re-enchantment is Resistance workshop back in the summer, and loved it.) So I've ended up with a sort of hodge-podge ramshackle hedge Druidry, and I imagine that there are people who may object to me using the word 'Druid' because of that, but I cannot overstate the value this way of relating to the world brings to my life.

For a few months this year I'd drifted away from studying Druidry. I always seemed to have other things to be doing - laundry, dishes, mucking about on my tablet. But after renewing my nature connection in Pembrokeshire, it seemed totally natural to return to it. Not only did it add fresh motivation and enjoyment to the practice of my no-buy, but it felt like a step I needed to ground that frantic, out-of-control Rarr energy.

I also recently re-read some of my own work, including my own book and this blog. I was startled and disappointed to notice how easily I'd slipped out of some good habits and into some bad ones. I actually had my shit much more together and felt overall more content when I was working much harder on my no-buy challenge. I think I knew that, deep down, and I think that's why I keep coming back to the idea of a no-buy year even when common sense should be telling me to give up. I've tried, in my book, to express the sense of freedom and deep joy I began to discover when I reoriented my life around not shopping, but even so, I've increasingly drifted away from it in the years since.

I think I need to take my own advice once again, go back to the beginning, and re-root myself into the practices that led me here. It isn't easy, but it is so beneficial to me.