Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review: Heart of Life, Shamanic Initiation & Healing

The Heart of Life is a shaman's story - both the personal story of one man's initiation into shamanism and the story of how shamanic healing could help all of us on this planet to break out of destructive cycles and make the world a better place. I know that might sound a tad pretentious, but the book is written with such honesty that it doesn't come across as pretentious when you read it.

Author Jez Hughes didn't set out to be a shaman - as a kid he wanted to be a footballer - but a series of shamanic experiences, starting when he was a child, led him on his path of self discovery and insight. His experiences were diagnosed as periods of mental illness, but by going through them, and not only overcoming them but also realising that there were lessons to be learnt by them, he become an archetypal "wounded healer".

Jez says: "The path of the shaman/healer involves intense initiations that cause them to face their darkest sides and the darker side of life. This is why they are known as ‘wounded healers’. Training can help with this, but in a way the best training is the initiatory illness that they go through."

Many of the books you will find about shamanism these days are written either by academics or by those who as an adult have consciously chosen to follow a shamanic path. This is the personal story of someone who very much had shamanism thrust upon them. It is a fascinating read. Even if you are sceptical about shamanism, Jez's personal story is a gripping one and if you don't agree with everything he says, the genuineness of his convictions are nevertheless thought-provoking.

Publisher Moon Books says about The Heart of Life, which has the subtitle Shamanic Initiation and Healing in the Modern World: "The Heart of Life is an exploration into the depths of what it means to be alive, when the ‘cellophane packaging we wrap around life to keep it safe and sterile has been unwrapped and discarded’. It reveals how the ancient path of shamanism and indigenous wisdom can offer us solutions to the many problems facing the modern world, both global and collective. It offers a unique cosmology that explores how these problems, from potential global ecological catastrophe to the multitude of mental and physical illnesses afflicting individuals, are intrinsically linked and how they can be treated. How the soul sickness that is affecting the modern world may well be the initiation we are going through as a species. This is illustrated through the personal and professional experiences of contemporary shaman Jez Hughes, who cured himself successfully of convulsive fits and mental illnesses using shamanic methods and has since gone on to treat thousands of people in the same way."

The book can be ordered via Amazon.

Jez Hughes is a British shaman who runs Second Sight Healing:

Links and previous related pots
The Heart of Life: Shamanic Initiation and Healing in the Modern World

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Charity Shop Find: Stonehenge Midwinter Pottery

Now I know 1970s style isn't everyone's taste, but I have to admit some of it reminds me of my childhood in a cosy, nostalgic kind of way.

When I saw this Midwinter Stonehenge dinner service in a charity shop for £15, I had to buy it. It consists of 6 dinner plates, 6 side plates and an oval serving plate

The name alone makes it perfect for serving up a winter solstice feast on - much more to my taste than the chintzy Victorian porcelain set I inherited from my grandma, which I've used at Yule in the past.

However, the Midwinter name on the dinner service isn't actually referring to the pagan festival in the wheel of the year, it is named after the potter behind it, Roy Midwinter.

Looking it up on a Pottery Histories webpage, I learnt that it the range is a design icon of the 1970s. The Midwinter factory started in the 1950s and 60s, but merged with J. and G. Meakin in 1968 and then became part of Wedgewood. The website said: "As part of Wedgwood, Roy Midwinter remained at the head of his former family business and in 1972 Wedgwood launched the Roy Midwinter-designed Stonehenge range of oven-to-table ware."

Looking on Ebay and Etsy, it seems I got a reasonable bargain too, as a couple of plates alone can go for about what I paid for 13 items. Thirteen certainly wasn't such an unlucky number for me when I found it.

Links and previous related posts

Monday, 23 November 2015

News: Plants, Trees, Threats and Extinction

Three recent stories from BBC News about plants, trees and the environment:

"Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees?" - story reporting that some scientists describe plants as "intelligent":

"HS2 route Cubbington pear is 2015 'Tree of the Year'" - story at

"Half of all tree species in Amazon 'face extinction'" - story at

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Winter, Nature and the Time when Hunger Rules

Over the past week I've been thinking a lot about death and what happens to us after we die. Not what happens to our spirits after death, but what happens to our bodies.

I should warn you, if you don't like gruesome stories - stop reading now.

Last Sunday, upon returning home from a nice lunch at my local pub, I found the corpse of my beloved cat that I had buried a couple of months ago unearthed and stinking in my front garden. Presumably it had been dug up by a hungry fox.

I had buried my cat reasonably deeply and put a cairn of rocks over the grave. The fox had tunnelled under the cairn from a couple of feet away. The fox must have been very determined - or very hungry. I reburied him and doubled the rocks on his cairn, but there's little you can do to deter a hungry fox and the next morning found that the fox had tunnelled in yet again, and gnawed on the leg of my dead cat.

It is an image that I know will never completely go. It is something I wish I had never seen.

I spent a good hour hunting for more rocks, heavier rocks - and even a couple of old car wheels - to keep my cat's corpse in the ground. And, yes, that photo is part of the cairn.

But it got me thinking. Everything must eat. What is the difference between worms eating the corpse of my cat under the earth and a fox eating it above ground?  It feels different to me, but in reality it isn't. I like the idea of roses blooming above the grave in memory, but the rose is feeding on the corpse too, in its own way. It is just my sentimentality that I want my cat to lie under the soil, next to his brother who died the year before.

In the cold and dark of winter, nature cannot be that sentimental. The fox has to eat to live.

Then, last night, I had a dream.

I dreamt I went to a park where I saw a woman with a hawk. The woman had hair the colour of red gold, but I couldn't see her face as she was walking away from me. The quilted jacket she was wearing over dark red leggings seemed to have a timeless quality but there was a sense of unearthly perfection about them that matched the woman herself. The woman had her back to me and I had no idea if she realised I was there when she let the hawk fly from her glove, but the bird of prey did not return to her. Instead it circled round and landed on my shoulder - much to my surprise and, initially, fear.

But the bird didn't peck at me - instead it spoke in human words, to my surprise. First it said something that didn't quite make sense. It said it was looking forward to going to somewhere beginning with C. It seemed insistent that I pronounced the name correctly and remembered it, and got me to repeat it several times - but it *was* a dream and I have to confess I cannot fully remember the name now.

The bird then spoke of the joys of soaring high and finding places where corpses lay, ripe for eating, then swooping down, ripping the flesh from the carcasses and plucking out a juicy eyeball.

I could sense the bird's memories of doing this almost as though they were my own. Then the bird asked me if I had flown yet. I was a little taken aback and said, "No, of course not, humans don't fly." But the bird said, "You will fly." And that was the end of the dream; I woke up.

Now, I'm really not sure what the bit about flying meant, and the best I can remember about that place name beginning with C is something like Coloughly - except that there is no place called Coloughly that I can find with a Google search.

However, it has made me reconsider my attitude to death. The bird was right. Feeding on carrion might seem gross to our human sensibilities, but it is what much of nature does - especially in winter, when hunger rules.

The hawk pictures were taken by myself at the English School of Falconry A good book on the using dreams as part of a spiritual path is Pagan Dreaming by Nimue Brown.

Links and previous related posts

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Competition Reminder: Pagan Portals Candle Magic

Here's a reminder about the competition I'm running at the moment to win a copy of my new book Pagan Portals - Candle Magic: A witch's guide to spells and rituals.

Although the book isn't due to reach the shops for a couple of months, you could get your hands on a copy early by entering this competition. I'm giving away a paperback copy of Pagan Portals - Candle Magic to one lucky winner who answers this question correctly:

What is the name of a type of candle traditionally lit as an offering to a deity:

A) A spell candle
B) An advent candle
C) A votive candle

Email your answer to me, the Bad Witch, at by the closing date of midnight, Monday, November 30, 2015, to be in with a chance of winning.

The competition is open to anyone living in the UK and there is one prize, which is a paperback copy of my book Pagan Portals - Candle Magic. The winner will be drawn at random from the correct entries received.

Please include your name and postal address with your entry so I will know where to send the book.

If you would prefer to pre-order the book, you can do so via this link: Pagan Portals - Candle Magic: A witch's guide to spells and rituals

Links and previous related posts
Pagan Portals - Candle Magic: A witch's guide to spells and rituals