Equinox Musings – Of Spirit & Land

Don’t you think ghost stories are another herald of the darker months? Not the stories of gore designed to frighten and elicit screams, but stories with more than a hint of truth, the stories of loss and tragedy ….. These are the kind of stories to be told with friends in candle light over a glass of good brandy or rum.

From Emma Kathryn

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The equinox has been and gone. Autumn is here. The darker months have arrived.

The nights are drawing in now, so that when I meet in the woods with my sister (biological & magical) tonight, it’ll already be dark beneath the boughs.

All over the town you can smell the sugar beet factory. It is another herald of the autumn. I love the scent of it, pungent and sweet.

This time of year, as much as I love it, always makes me feel somewhat melancholic. Perhaps it’s my natural state. Not in an overly depressive way, but rather my thoughts turn inwards (as within, so without, and all of that), and I think about the year so far, time passed, and those months still yet to come. It is a time of recollection and introspection. Anyway, I got to thinking about my connection to the land, not only the woods and the fields and the river, but the town itself. The places where I walk day in, day out.

Sometimes, especially when I’m walking through the town centre (it’s real old, many of the buildings and whole parts of the town date back to before the English civil war and in some cases are hardly changed at all), it’s easy to imagine the past seeping into the here and now. There are hidden alleys, quaint buildings with crooked roofs and a cobbled market, complete with red and white striped stalls, and then the church, a huge gothic affair, easily the tallest building in the town, overlooking it all.

Because of its age, because of its history, the town is full of ghost stories.

Don’t you think ghost stories are another herald of the darker months? Not the stories of gore designed to frighten and elicit screams, but  stories with more than a hint of truth, the stories of loss and tragedy.  Like the story of the ghostly friar, murdered in the times of Henry VIII, who now stalks his former home, the Friary, though now that building is separated into private homes, and the grounds are a public park. Or the phantom horsemen who, it is said, can still be heard galloping through the narrow streets . Or the Scotsmen who died whilst digging tunnels beneath the town in the civil war days.

These are the kind of stories to be told with friends in candle light over a glass of good brandy or rum.

But these stories also hint at something else as well. They show us that spirits are everywhere.

Why should the spirits of land, of nature be any different?

Sometimes, or quite often in fact, when I write about connecting to the land I do talk about my woods, or the river. But the spirits of nature are everywhere. If we accept that there are spirits in this world, if we accept the spirits of the dead, in ghost stories and otherwise, then why not the spirits of nature, those felled trees or filled in ponds? Don’t  they remain also? Do they not endure as well?

I believe they do. A few years ago, the local council decided to fell one of the oldest trees in the town. I can’t remember the reason given, only that it really wasn’t much of a reason at all, in my own humble opinion of course, and people were quite offended, at least it seemed so, judging by social media posts. But at least they were bothered in some way, right? On some level at least, they knew it was wrong. Anyway, the point is, what do you think happened to the spirit of that tree? Did it just go? Did it die along with the tree? I think not.

And what of the spirits of those who once walked where we do now? Is connecting with them not a way of connecting with the land too? One of my favourite novelists is Kate Mosse. In many of her stories, often set in the Languedoc,  time is stretched and played with, manipulated, so that you have two stories of two different peoples from different times, but set in the same landscape. There is magic in such stories, and there is a truth in that magic. I can remember the first time of reading her work, and that feeling of recognition, not of any one thing in particular, but more of a feeling, a knowing. Something I couldn’t put my finger on then. But the more I read of her work, the more I realised that it was the land and the connection to it, and the centrality of the land within her works, that was what stirred those feelings inside of me.

In all great stories, even the most fantastic, there must be authenticity. It has to work. You can’t fool the reader, and besides, the reader is there to be swept away. Bad story telling doesn’t do that, and so there must be something real, and the truth of her stories is that the land does connect us to the past, and will connect us to the future too. It is in this way that the spirits of those who came before can be a link to the land. That the land is a connector of people, of beings, and of time.

Those things, people and otherwise, that die, that are buried beneath tons of concrete and steel, they are still there. Their spirits remain.

So when I talk about connecting to the land, and those spirits of the land, of nature, know that they are there, wherever you are in the world. We are not apart from them, even though it may feel like we are at times. You don’t need to go anywhere special or exotic to connect with the spirit of the land.

So as the nights draw in, and as the winters chill breath grows stronger and colder, then light your fire, open the good brandy, and with friends share stories: folklore and ghost stories and old wives tales local to where you live. Find the spirits, forgotten and new, of where you live, and remember it is the land that connects us all.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


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Into The Woods, Into The Dark.

“We struggle to understand that which our eyes cannot see, and so our minds revert to the years of conditioning we all have had. It is but another way at disconnecting us from our true selves, from our true nature.”

From Emma Kathryn

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Last night I went to the woods.

It always feels like a dream when I go into the woods at night. The first time I ventured beneath the boughs after nightfall it felt more like a nightmare.

The woods where I go to are close to my home, I’ve written about them before, the ones tucked away, across a field, hidden between the industrial estate and a housing estate. To get there from where I live you must go across the field and through the industrial estate. Even at this hour the factories are still lit up, still churning, still producing. Then you take a gravel track between a used tyre factory that makes playground surfaces and their storage facility. On either side are plastic covered piles, too high to see over. On nights when the clouds cover the moon and the stars it feels like you’re walking through a tunnel.

It feels like you’re the only person. It’s liberating and scary all at the same time, and all the while there’s the noise of production, the ceaseless hum and whine of machinery and the sound of the gravel crunching beneath my feet.

On one side, the fence ends and the trees begin. There’s a tall bank and if you look as you walk, your eyes play tricks on you. Sometimes you think you see something that isn’t there. I don’t look, lest I should lose my nerve. The dog stays close, as though she can sense the battle that wages inside of me. Just go home Emma, that traitorous part of my mind whispers, go home. Why are you even here? What’s the point? But I know that voice, I’ve heard it many times in my life. It’s that voice that tells you to close your eyes when things get tough, to turn the other cheek when you see something terrible, that makes you want to say stop. It’s the voice of fear.

But I ignore it. I must. I know that if I give in, if I turn and leave now, that I will regret it even before I reach my own front door. I know from experience that when we confront our fears, we reduce them and then get over them. For instance, I used to be afraid to walk across the playing field in the dark. And so I push on, feeling the burn in my calf muscles as the path ascends. When I reach the top, it opens out into a huge meadow. The grass is long and after the heat of the summer, it’s yellow, like straw.  Here the path forks. One path takes you around the meadow, the other leads into the darkness. This is the path I take.

The path heads straight through the woods so that it looks like it disappears into darkness. The woods on either side are pitch black, a dark shadow against the backdrop of the night sky. Even now I get that feeling as I approach. I don’t know if it ever really goes away.

Have you ever been in the woods after nightfall? It’s so dark beneath the canopy of the trees that you can’t see anything and even when your eyes have adjusted to the gloom, you still can only make out what is right in front of you. Your other senses take over, especially your hearing. You can hear everything. Twigs snapping and the rustle of undergrowth as the night critters go about their business. If there’s a wind, the trees creak as they sway. It’s easy to imagine all of monsters from all of the horror films you’ve ever watched are lurking within the woods, hiding in the dark. Even when you go with others, you still feel that.

Perhaps what is really so frightening though is that loss of control. We struggle to understand that which our eyes cannot see, and so our minds revert to the years of conditioning we all have had. It is but another way at disconnecting us from our true selves, from our true nature. Why are we afraid to be in the woods? Why are we afraid to be out alone in nature? We are a part of it, not separate from it.

So what’s that got to do with going to the woods at night, you may well ask?

For me, it is about confronting my fears. It is about facing them head on, knowing that really it is the confronting of my own mind. It is the first act of rebellion against a system that destroys the very thing from which we all come all for the sake of profit. It is about taking back our minds. As Hermeticism tells us, everything is mental, the all is mind, and so it is the first step in reclaiming ourselves.

But it is also more than that too. For when you conquer that fear, it gives you the opportunity to relearn, to form a relationship with that which you used to fear.

Last night I went to the woods and found myself in the darkness.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

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