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.
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.
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.