Book Talk

Last night I went to a talk at Treadwell’s about books.  Treadwell’s is an occult bookshop in London.

The talk was fantastic!  The lecturer was an art historian who had written a dissertation on books.  Not books as in fiction or non-fiction, but the book itself, how it originated and how it was perceived through the ages.

It was my first time at Treadwell’s and I’ll certainly be going back again for more talks.

Carving Turnips

I’ve finished carving my turnip for the Samhain celebrations.  I carve turnips because my ancestors would have carved these instead of pumpkins, and also I don’t like the taste of pumpkin, so the innards go in the bin.  If I use a turnip then I’ll eat the innards.

Tools needed : 1 gurt big knife, 1 small knife and 1 potato peeler.

First take the gurt big knife and slice the top off the turnip.  Use the small knife to make cuts round the edge of the turnip.  Then use the potato peeler to gouge out a core in the centre.  Then you can really get started, by either using the small knife or the potato peeler to gouge out chunks of turnip.

Gouge out enough turnip till you think you have then got to the bottom of the turnip.  This will take around half an hour to do so.  Then you can start to carve the face with the small knife.

You will probably get as far as carving the smile and then realise that you are carving into the unhollowed out base of the turnip.  This always happens to me, and I have to go back and hollow out some more of the base and the sides.  Somehow I carve away from the sides, which leads to a thickening of the sides as I go down and then I mistakenly think I’ve got to the bottom when I haven’t.  I then go back and finish carving the face.

In previous years, I have always left the lid off because if you put the lid on a turnip there isn’t enough air for a candle to burn.  This year I’ve experimented with putting holes in the lid, so I’ll post later and tell you if it worked or not.

My betrothed made me a handle for the turnip, which I can attach to turn it into a turnip lantern.  In previous years I’ve carved out a candle holder at the bottom of the turnip, but since we’re staying in the kitchen this year I won’t bother.

Tree Talk by Marie-France Boyer

This is a book on trees in myth and ritual.  It tells us about trees in myths, although unfortunately not in Celtic myths and talks about tree worship, giving us reasons why the trees are worshipped and examples from all over the world with over one hundred photos of trees.

This is a fabulous book and a must-have for any tree enthusiast.  I’ve taken one point off the rating because it does not go into enough depth for me.

Rating 9/10

Experiments in Infused Oils

I have three lengths of seasoned oak wood, which I am planning to join together to make into a stang.  A couple of months ago I realised that the wood, which should be oiled every year needed oiling urgently.  Seasoned wood needs to be oiled otherwise it will start to become brittle and snap.  Some people varnish the wood to seal the natural oils in, but at the time I was not sure what I wanted to do with the wood, so I plumped for oiling it.

I used olive oil, because it was what I had to hand.  The wood really drank the oil and I used a lot of olive oil, but what surprised me was the kinship I felt with the wood after oiling it.

I know some people say that you don’t need to oil the wood, but I think that by feeding it with olive oil and taking the time to care for it, you make a stronger bond with the spirit that resides in your wood.

A few weeks ago on a foraging (wildcrafting) expedition I picked some oak leaves to try to make an infused oil.  I used olive oil as my base.  If your infused oil is going to be used for healing purposes I advise you not to use olive oil as the olive oil that is bought for cooking has little medicinal value.

But in this case, the oil was not going to be used for medicinal purposes, and since I had used so much a couple of months ago, I erroneously thought that I was going to need a jam jar full of oil.  Other base oils such as almond and grapeseed are much more expensive and with the quantity I was making would have cost me around £10 for the base oil.

Infused oils are easy to make.  You pick some dry vegetable matter, chop it up and put it in a container and pour the base oil over it, making sure it covers the vegetable matter.  With normal base oils, such as almond and grapeseed you wait for three to four days, when the base oil will have taken on the smell and the spirit of the vegetable matter and then you remove the vegetable matter and you have an infused oil.  This oil took ten days to infuse, because until then it still smelt like olive oil.

Other witches do things like leave the oil and infusing matter in the sun or the moon for a various number of days.  I’m just starting to do infused oils, so I’m going slowly and keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t.  I will keep you updated with my experiments.

I made an oak infused oil for my wood because the wood itself is oak, and I wanted to remind the wood of what it is.  This is another reason why I used olive oil as a base for my infused oil, as I wanted an oil that has come from trees as it will remind the wood of what it is far better than a base oil from plant matter.

The oak infused oil worked much better than olive oil and the wood now feels much more of the characteristics of oak when I hold it : I can feel the strength and stamina oak has to stand up to almost anything, instead of it just being a piece of wood.

I have a lot of infused oil left over.  On reflection, I didn’t need as much to oil the wood as last time because the wood had already been oiled a month or so ago.  I have kept the infused oil, and will see if what they say about infused oil having degraded after six months is true.

Next time I plan to use sacred numbers in the making of the infused oil.  For example, I could gather nine, twenty seven or fifty oak leaves to make the oil.  All three are sacred numbers to the Irish.

Westonbirt Tree Arboretum

Last Saturday we went to Westonbirt Tree Arboretum, which is near Bristol in Gloucestershire.  It was an early birthday present from my betrothed.

Unfortunately the weather remained grey, and did not brighten up until the next day (when we were home) so it wasn’t the best of days to see the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is a collection of trees made by a Victorian family, with a huge collection of maples.  Some of the trees were in various shades of autumnal colours – lovely yellows and reds, while others remained green.  When I get the photos developed I will post some of them – if I can find out how and if the photos are any good.

We went on a guided tour, which told us about the trees.  I already knew what he told me about the native British trees, but didn’t know about the non-natives.

It’s a very beautiful place, with magnificent trees and enough to satisfy any tree enthusiast for hours.  I would very much like to go back to this place some time.

Bat Walk

Last Thursday the Friends of Linslade Woods ran a bat walk.  We met at the Knaves Hill entrance to the woods, where bat distributors were distributed and Steve gave a short talk on bats.

They eat insects and the light pollution is harming them, as insects gather round the lights, while they prefer the dark.  Bats will not get caught in your hair, but will stay in dark, warm places.

Then we went into the old part of the wood (Bluebell Wood) to find some bats.  A lot were heard on the bat detector, but I didn’t see any for a while.  As it became darker and darker we seemed to see more and more bats in the sky, where they were nicely outlined in the gaps between trees.

Unfortunately we had to head home as the walk was over.  I would have liked to stay and watch more bats.

This was the first time I’ve been on a bat walk, and I would do it again, but it would depend on time and what I was doing, as I’m not going to see anything different the next time.

The Colloquy of The Two Sages translated by Christian J. Guyvonar’ch

This book is an Irish text, in which the two sages (Nede and Ferchetne) are having a verbal contest for the position of Chief Druid.

This translation of the text is okay, but I prefer Whitley Stokes’s translation as Guyvonar’ch uses terms such as “doctor” and “science” which have only been around for a couple of centuries.  I know translation has to be fluid, as often terms do not directly translate into another language, but my opinion is that these terms do not translate at all well into the Irish culture of the time the book was written.

Unfortunately translation of this text does not mean you understand it, because the sages are using obscure terms.  I suspect that today’s scholars could understand easily what the sages are saying if they were immersed in the culture of the time, but because people are not this complicates things.

In order to gain some understanding of the text I would have to take one line per week of the text and meditate on it, plus gain more detailed knowledge of the culture of the time.


Foraging is more often called wildcrafting, but I prefer to call it foraging.  It’s the art of collecting food from the wild.

Last weekend I went into the woods to forage and to introduce my betrothed to our tribe’s tree.  The introduction went smoothly enough, as it was not a ritual, just as you would introduce one friend to another.

Then my bloke stepped back and said “first thoughts : our tree is at a crossroads, is there any significance in this?” upon which I hit my head because I should have realised that!

There will be a ritual to solemnize the relationship between our tree and us, but I’m still working on it.  I’m using a form of poetry called quatrains, which are used in the Irish texts and I’m finding it very hard going.

We found some blackberries, which I will eat for breakfast with yoghurt, hawthorns which I have a chutney recipe to try out and oak leaves.  There were only a few rose hips and a good few sloes, but I have a bottle of homemade sloe gin sitting at home.  I’ve only recently remembered that I should have taken the sloes out six months ago, so I’ll have to do that soon and tell you all if it’s drinkable…

The oak leaves are for an infused oil that I’ve started making for the wood of my stang/rod that I’m also making.  I don’t know if the leaves will infuse properly, plus I’m using olive oil as my base instead of sunflower (because olive oil comes from trees) so I’ll have to see what happens.

We also found the old part of the forest.  It has some marvellous trees – a huge hawthorn, the biggest I’ve ever seen that towers up to the sky.  I really wanted to investigate it properly, but time was getting on and we needed to forage.  It’s going to take me a lot of time to get to know this wood properly.


The old tales are often dismissed as “fairy stories” but in Ireland tales used to be told to protect or bring good luck.

I believe that stories have their own spirit.  They change bodies in the form of facts or names, but they live on.

Every storyteller will tell the story differently, and differently from how they have heard it.  It’s not just the fact that they remember it differently, it’s that they’re telling it to different people, at a different time.

A story written down is just a snapshot of the story at that particular time in its life.  I read a book of stories recently and didn’t get past the first few stories, as the storyteller had made up bits and pieces.  Those stories did not have any spirit, they didn’t live for me.

One time I was going to a witchcraft gathering, where I had brought a story to tell.  Twice I had had doubts about this, thought I would do something else and twice I changed my mind.  I said that if it happened a third time I would do something else.

When I got to the gathering, the leader told us that one of the rules on the gathering was that everyone had to tell the truth.  The story I had had doubts over and told at that gathering was a story about telling the truth.