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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The Dark Months Are Coming

We look out for one another. These are my people, but I am not theirs. They know it and so do I. I am a part of their world, and not of it.

I am witch.

From Emma Kathryn

The dark months are coming and I await them eagerly.

I cannot wait to hide in the darkness, to become invisible, to become myself. The dark is comforting, like a mother, holding me in its embrace. It nourishes my soul, heals it, and makes it whole again.

It is at this time that I feel the pull of nature, of the great outdoors the most. I love all seasons, but these darker months are mine.

I can hear my woods call to me, can feel it. It is an urge that must not, no, cannot be ignored, and so I pull on my boots and whistle for the dogs, and together, witch and hounds, we set off.

The sky is a tumult of grey, boisterous clouds, heavy with the promise of rain. I can smell the ozone.  I love this place, where I live the most on days like these, always have. I don’t know why, except that maybe because it seems to match this council estate.

“The concrete jungle,” people call the street on which I live…when they are being nice. It, and its residents are the butt of all jokes. When you tell people where you live they struggle to hide their distaste and hold onto their bags a little tighter, as though my living there makes me a criminal.

I suppose it does, to some.

I love these people. They are mine. Weed dealers, single mothers, struggling families, terrible teens already disillusioned with life: the estate is a veritable melting pot of life’s downtrodden. I trust these people. These people  will argue with you, fight with you, but I trust them.

We look out for one another. These are my people, but I am not theirs. They know it and so do I. I am a part of their world, and not of it.

I am witch.

I turn my back on the estate, if only for a while, and head across the playing field and onto the industrial estate. It’s never quiet here, not even in the dead of night. The factories never shut, not even for one full day a year. God forbid anyone should have any time off. We kill ourselves for this, to come and work in these giant grey windowless behemoths for a wage that doesn’t stretch, doesn’t even cover the basics.

The dogs pull for they know the way, are eager to swap the concrete for grass and soil. These woods are theirs too, and they know they can be free, if only for a while. We turn a corner and, snuggled between more grey buildings, is a narrow gravel track. We follow it, past yards of piled tyres and rusting machinery.

On each side, the trees, sparse at first, grow thicker and denser, the path steeper, until you finally reach the top, a big wide meadow. The tall grass is yellowing and soon it will die back, but for now the dogs disappear in it. They reemerge, running and nipping one another, playful things, enjoying the simple pleasures of being free, with the wind in their faces and the grass beneath their feet.

I sometimes think we could learn a thing or two from dogs. How to be free. How to be content with our own naturalness.

I follow them slowly, lost in the beauty of this place. It’s not a secret, but it feels like it is today. There is no one, other than myself and the dogs here, on this grey and gloomy day. Finally, I can breathe.

The churning of the industrial state, ‘productivity’, can still be heard if you listen for it, but it’s easy to block it out, ignore it. The sounds of nature take over.

Kestrels circle overhead, hovering every so often, uncannily still in the air.

Rabbits hurry to find cover, but the dogs are oblivious to them; they are still too far away, and there are too many scents that delight their noses between them and the rabbits. I sometimes think that dogs have got it right. Look how happy they are to be outside, to be free; to just enjoy the fresh air in your face.

The track leads into the woods, a narrow opening between crowded trees. It’s not a big woods, but it’s mine, and not the straight rows of man-planted pine common in so many areas.

We slip off the track, disappear into the trees and it’s like a different world. Hushed, but alive. The moss covered trunks of hawthorn and birch and oak rise from the ground, and I let my hands linger across them as I move past them, deeper into the woods.

Devils Woods this place is known as. I don’t know if that’s the official name, but as kids we would come here, and Devils Woods it was then, and is now. They’ve tried to reclaim this wildness, it is now run by a trust. The work they do is good to be fair, without them these trees would no doubt have been torn down, replaced by more of the housing or industrial estates that ever seem to creep closer.

But they also want you to stay on the track, and tracks are not for me.

The dogs dart here and there. They love it beneath the trees and I let them run. They will not stray, ever the faithful friends.

I’m nearly there now, my clearing. Others have been here, they leave the remains of campfires, rubbish too. I pick up the rubbish, and can feel the thanks of this land. Then I sit down and just be. No meditation or ritual today, though it almost kind of is.

Here I can just be. I feel the power of the earth beneath me, can feel the spirits of land and tree and animal. I wonder if more people knew this, could feel this, would they do more to protect it?

We are connected to this land, to this earth.

Find your spot and protect it.

The threat of fracking creeps ever closer to my town. We can’t look to the local authorities to protect us, because even when they try, Big Government slaps them down. So much for democracy.

I won’t let it happen here, or anywhere in my town, and to stop it will take action on all fronts, magical and mundane. I will fight. Fighting is second nature to me. I relish it. But I must do more, as must we all. It is all of our responsibility, don’t we all rely on Mother Nature?

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, take in the smell of the soil, the scent of the woods. I can feel my strength returning, the healing of my soul, and know that it is time to go, even as I wish I could stay for hours. Time to go and put on my many masks, go back into the world of man.

I call the dogs, and they know, but relish every moment of their freedom, and come running past me and back out onto the tracks, back through the meadow and onto the gravel track. Back into the world of man and commerce and impositions. Back to the forty hours of mindless work a week for wages that do not stretch.

I am of this land, I am of these woods, I am of the rivers and the oceans and the sky and the stars. We all are. Never forget it. It is our strength, this knowledge, this truth.

Rediscover your own wildness and you will rediscover yourself.

 


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 magick, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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