Category Archives: Blog

Summer Solstice in Australia

It’s December…Summer Solstice time in Australia. The time of Full Bloom. And Gratitude.

Lately I have been encouraging people to create a gratitude jar – Write little notes whenever you notice something to be grateful for and pop them into a jar. Then, every month at full moon, read them. Some people save there gratitudes for the New Year and read their gratitudes as a way to end the year and begin afresh. 

I notice my gratitudes when I walk in nature, or sit quietly and when I have a gloomy day (which is thankfully not that often).

Right now I am especially grateful for the health and wellbeing of my beloveds – all of them – my partner, family and dear friends. I’m also grateful for my own health and wellbeing and for my homes and connection with the earth.

And I am very grateful for you, who read my newsletters, come to counselling and/or workshops or connect in other ways. Thank you. I am sending love and many blessings at this Solstice time to you and your loved ones.

May the year ahead hold health and happiness and dreams-come-true. 

I pulled these cards for the Solstice; they are from the Wisdom of the Cailleach Oracle deck by the marvellous Irish artist, Jane Brideson.

Am I addicted?

Not so long ago, upon a moment when I was throwing my hands around explaining how very tired I was and how very very busy, a dear friend suggested (ever so gently) – “Did you ever consider that you might be addicted to busy?”

So, after a string of illnesses and body frailties (for which I have no tolerance or time), I decided to dedicate some time for reflection by using what I call “The Addiction Diamond”***

I often use this with clients who are in the thick of addiction. Truth be told – the last straw for me was after being ill off and on for months (tempted to blame covid, but who knows?) I missed a Circle that I lead every Wednesday morning (that means I didn’t turn up folks) because I forgot to change my clock to daylight savings time…I know, I know, anyone could do that, but it is totally unacceptable to me and a sign I am not in my flow.

Back to the Addiction Diamond…below is a truly dreadful drawing, but you’ll get the idea.

I begin by standing in the south (the place of air and thinking) and look at the “Busy” (the object of my addiction) and ask “What do you give me?”. Busy says, “I give you financial security, a sense of self importance, a sense of purpose” (and other things, but I’m not writing a book right now, just a newsletter).

Then I move to the East (the place of water and flow and emotions) and ask Busy, “What do you protect me from?” Busy says back, straight away, “I protect you from boredom and from being a No-one…Nobody and probably from being unloved… Busy gives me love – who knew? (A childhood imprint maybe).Urgh! And other things…Busy is quite protective.

Then I move to the North (the place of fire and passion) and I ask Busy “What do you Cost me?” Busy says that this involves a rather long list which includes exhaustion, not caring for body, not taking nourishment in nature and by writing etc etc.

And then I move to the west (the place of earth and the ancestors) and I stand in my Wise Self. 
This is the place of integration. Here, I can be kind to my wounds and anxieties. Here, I can think in a clear way about the needs underlying the gifts of busy, the wounds underlying the protection of busy.

There is more work to do. I will slow down. Re-create my space for walking in nature, exercising and a daily writing practice and caring for my altar. As I write this I can feel a settling in my body of gentle slowness…Which feels even better now I have finished this newsletter!

***The Addiction Diamond is a psychodramatic technique which I have adapted with gratitude from the book ‘One-to-One Psychodrama Psychotherapy: Applications and Technique’ edited by Anna Chesner. The chapter on Working with Addictions is also by Anna Chesner (Routledge 2019)

November 2021 New Moon News

As I write this, it is the day of Beltaine – High Spring (in Australia). Thunder and lightning seems to be the order of the day! (In fact Beltaine day came with a direct lightning strike which knocked out our modem and the simultaneous thunder truly felt like all the Gods and Goddesses were playing 10 pin bowls on our roof! A deeply disturbing way to be woken up!) 

I recently had a lovely massage with Angela from Awen Natural Therapies in Leura, up here in the Blue Mountains. Turns out she also creates amazing mandalas from flowers and plants that are provided to her. As it is Beltaine time in the southern Hemisphere were I live (high spring on the seasonal wheel of the year) I happened to have hawthorn flowers available in my garden, as well as some freshly unfurled oak leaves. So I sent her a photo of both.

Hawthorn is very special to me – the thorn tree that graces so many sacred wells in Ireland and graced with white blossoms (over there, in May and here in October). And oak trees (I have so many, but the one named Sheela na Gig in my front garden is most loved!), so precious with their strength and connection to the ancestors.

I love Glennie Kindred’s work on the Tree Ogham and here is what she says (in part) about these wondrous plants:

“Hawthorn – Love, the Heart, Cleansing, Releasing Blocked Energy, Protection, Preparation for Spiritual Growth. 
The hawthorn has the ability on the subtle level to open the heart to spiritual growth and love. It continues and aids the process…of healing the inner child and resolving with love any areas where you might be manifesting a victim complex that will keep you vulnerable and lacking in power and energy.

Oak- Inner strength, endurance, courage, a doorway to self determination.
The Oak is a doorway to inner spirituality….she will lead the way to the truth, especially about past layers of action, and this revelation brings strength and vision, and a gateway to new understanding”.

Women’s Mental health and the Shadow Wound

The Cave of Shadows

Have you ever wondered
Where in your body 
Or perhaps your mind
Is tucked away

The Cave of Shadows?

And if the Keeper of the Cave (a fierce warrior by all accounts)
Would allow you in (or perhaps let them out)
Who or what might these shadows be?
There might be a tuneful singer
Who comes warily to the cave entrance
And suddenly shouts in retreat “But I cannot sing!”

And as you lie in the softness of dreams
You hear your own beautiful voice of song as it drifts from some dark cranny at the back of the Cave.

And here are the terrified/terrorised and angry ones.
The Keeper takes special care that they remain inside
They are small. Tiny and mis-shapen
They have the sneakiest ways of escape
And when they get past the ever-vigilant Keeper of the Cave (because they can).
They grow
Like a stain of ink in water.

Have you ever wondered who or what
Lives in your Cave of Shadows
And have you met the Keeper of the Cave?

The Cave of Shadows is the residence somewhere within your psyche and body of all those disowned, disavowed roles in you.

They reside – pushed into the dark as things that are fear full or provocative or unacceptable somehow. 

A cordial meeting with the Keeper of the Cave is a necessary venture if you wish to become intimate with the unconscious in your life. It is the work of a lifetime to bring the shadows of the unconscious into consciousness. Only then will we have a choice. 

We meet the Keeper of the Cave at the entrance to The Wheel of Woman’s Life.

That seasonal cycle that has mirrors and layers depicting the movement of the sun, the moon, the seasons, the menstrual cycle and indeed the movement and rites of passage of a woman’s life. 

I meet the Keeper at the time of Samhain (also known as Halloween). That point in the south west of the wheel that is the darkest and also the point that my ancestors (in Ireland) believed was the New Year beginning. I met her there.

You may meet her elsewhere in this organic measurement of time, this wheel. Samhain is marked in Australia at the beginning of May-it is the time when the veil between the worlds is at its’ thinnest and so makes sense to me that the Cave of Shadows would be at its’ most accessible. It is the time of Crone Woman- woman at ages of 75 plus (sometimes earlier or later as this wheel is not governed by the numerics of patriarchy- I simply offer a number as this is our “common” language at this time in Australia). Samhain is the beginning of winter and the end of autumn. And a time of deep rest and dreaming. 

As we travel anti clockwise (in the southern hemisphere- clockwise in the northern*) around the wheel , we come to the following transitions:

  1. Samhain, the New Year in the South West. A Crone transition. Deep dreaming. Winter.
  2. Yule (Winter Solstice) in the South. Crone time. Winter. In the darkness, the light is conceived.
  3. Imbolc (early spring) in the South East. Maiden time. Birth of individuation. New shoots.
  4. Eostar (spring equinox) in the East. Maiden time. Differentiation and uniqueness.
  5. Beltaine in the north east. The Lover. The first celebration of the Mother
  6. Litha (Summer Solstice) in the north. The Mother- family and the fullness of creation
  7. Lammas (Lughnasad) in the north west. The Maga- she who is after Mother and before Crone. The recognition and valuing of wisdom.
  8. Mabon (Autumn Equinox) in the West. The Maga- the Giver of wisdom to community

And so back to Samhain and the depths of the dreaming.

*again for the sake of the “common” language as clocks are a relatively recent patriarchal invention for the purpose of structuring our days. In the old language (northern hemisphere) clockwise is deosil  (sunwise or with the sun) and anti clockwise is widdershins, the opposite of deosil. Therefore, Deosil for us in the southern hemisphere is travelling from west to east via south and continuing northward from east until we come to west once again.

I have learnt to speak the language of Mental Health

In my work as a Counsellor/Mental Health Occupational Therapist, I must enter into relationship with Medical Practitioners and Medicare as well as other Insurance and Legal Institutions- these all bastions of the patriarchy. I have learnt to speak the language of Mental Health in these circles, including Diagnosis and Medication as well as Evidence Based Treatments. 

How can the Woman’s Wheel of Life support understanding and healing?

First I thought of the common “diagnoses” borne by people I see. Diagnosis is the labelling of an illness or problem so that treating practitioners can easily match the symptoms, with the diagnosis, and then with the standardised recommended treatment (often medication).

I am not an advocate of diagnoses, however like most things they have their place (as does medication which can be a life saver/life enhancer for people with mental health issues). I am told by a client who had been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder that receiving a diagnosis gave validity to his unusual way of living and also helped him to navigate the often bewildering world of Centrelink. So I don’t dismiss diagnoses out of hand.

The gift of the wounding – as well as the pain

If I think about the Shadow of a Woman’s Wheel of Life, I am easily able to connect with the place where shadow may arise and this place on the wheel gives the ideas for treatment- we identify the wounding- that place where shadow is often born. And there is a gift of the wounding – as well as the pain. Where on the wheel might this wounding occur; where is the shadow born?

I have identified a shadow for each of the Sabbats on a Woman’s Wheel of Life– and each of these locations gives us clues to the Healing possibilities. There also clues to healing wisdom held at the opposite point of the wheel…

  1. Samhain, the South West. A Crone transition. The Shadow Wounding: Ageing, Grief and Death. Healing Wisdom: Mulching, Dreaming, Resting, Relationship. (Opposite is Beltaine)
  2. Yule (Winter Solstice) in the South. Crone time. The Shadow Wounding: Chronic Pain, Loss and Unwelcome Change. Healing Wisdom: Planting the seeds, Conception, Acceptance, Empowerment. (Opposite is Litha)
  3. Imbolc (early spring) in the South East. Maiden time. The Shadow Wounding: Uncertain or damaged identity, eating disorders. Healing Wisdom: Nurturing the seedlings, Differentiation and Individuation. (Opposite is Lammas)
  4. Eostar (spring equinox) in the East. Maiden time. The Shadow Wounding: Purposelessness. Healing Wisdom: Growing the Seedlings, Celebration of goals and exploration. (Opposite is Mabon)
  5. Beltaine in the north east. The Lover. The first celebration of the Mother. The Shadow Wounding: the wounded feminine, issues of gender and sexuality. Healing Wisdom: Passion, Body movement, self love, attraction. (Opposite is Samhain)
  6. Litha (Summer Solstice) in the north. The Mother. The Shadow Wounding: Dysfunctional intimate relationships and family, emotional and physical abuse. Healing Wisdom: Communication, Listening skills, Discernment, Love. (opposite is Yule)
  7. Lammas (Lughnasad) in the north west. The Maga. Shadow Wound: Anxiety, Depression, Addictions. Healing Wisdom: Community and Connection, Harvest life experiences (Opposite is Imbolc).
  8. Mabon (Autumn Equinox) in the West. The Maga. The Shadow Wounding: Guilt and regrets. Societal views of Menopause. Healing Wisdom: Letting Go, Giving Back. (Opposite is Eostar)
  9. The Centre: Where all things come together- life and death, joy and sorrow. The Shadow Wounding: Trauma. Healing Wisdom: Connecting, relationship, empowerment. 

I celebrate the Sabbats with a dedicated group of women. The Shadow is never forgotten.

The Cyclic Wisdom of a Woman’s Wheel of life is the touchstone for the work I do in the world. How someone presents the “symptoms” of Shadow, gives me clues of where to offer their beginning in their healing work. 

I give gratitude to my wisdom lineage for the learnings that come through in this article. In particular, gratitude to Jane Hardwicke Collings of The School of Shamanic Womancraft, Glenys Livingstone of Pagaian Cosmology and Kathy Jones of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.

This is a path of grief and hope

I sometimes find myself saying to a person who is staying in a grindingly unhappy relationship* (often abusive-except when it isn’t, of course) that “hope is a great deluder”.

I wondered today if that means I am cynical? Certainly I have been in relationships* for far too long because I hoped the other would change. I hoped the other would eventually “get it”.

Maybe if I loved them “enough”, or tried “harder”…

I like to think I am reaching my wisdom years – a small chuckle tells me that wisdom simply means that I am prepared and eager to learn more…To understand more.

There is never stasis in wisdom. Maybe acceptance and peace – but never stasis.

If I stop hoping I will grieve the loss of hope. The loss of the dream of what could be. Now, “what could be” is a pretty amazing thing – and can lead to an immense amount of awesome creativity. And my capacity for hope and dreaming must be honoured.

How do I honour this amazing gift?

Discernment. Honing my skills of discernment. On which particular altar of relationship will I place my hope (and my grief)? Who will honour my dreaming in the way my dreaming deserves? 

Listen to your voice of discernment.
Locate it. (Mine is at the back of my neck – go figure!).

Most days now I go down to Witches Leap (Leap being the Scottish term for waterfall and the witch being a face in the rock- (see image above) and say hello. I don’t usually say it out loud, (well…ok, sometimes), because my discerning voice has some reservations about being put in a straight jacket or burnt at the stake (oh hang on – there’s a difference between discernment and fear – there’s that wisdom again)…and I listen to her, in this place of my belonging.

She reminds me that hope is (or should be) always tempered and informed by ‘what is’. And what is in this moment, at this time has many layers of joy and pain and beauty and aloneness.

Listen to ‘what is’ and be discerning about the threads of hope you decide to follow (that is the witch speaking as I listen to her).

We are in a place of great learning

My hope at this time says to me that we are in a place of great learning. It’s not easy – in fact, a lot of it feels f***ing impossible (my apologies to those of you who do not know that I can be quite sweary at times).

But, relationships only work if we allow ourselves to love and hope and tolerate difference. And, to be discerning about what aspects of difference are “dealbreakers” for you.

There is a spectrum of tolerance for difference.

Where are you on that spectrum? Are you at the….

  • I want everyone to be and think and feel the same as me” end?
  • Or more towards the “I love and accept everything and everyone no matter who or what they are” end?

I encourage you to wonder (wondering being another exceptional wisdom tool, a close friend of curiosity) where you might stand (or sit or lie or dance) on this spectrum.

And what has formed this place? What brings you here? And how do you feel and respond to others who may stand (or sit or lie or dance) at a different spot on this spectrum?

Can you be with ‘what is’ and hold hope and grief in your heart (and soul)?

Please wonder, and move forward with hope and discernment gently.

*a small note about what relationship means: it might be with an intimate partner, a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or a workplace. It could also be with trees, plants, animals and rocks…it’s all about relationship!

Witches Leap – Katherine Howard
Bird – Hayley Melrose