I’m currently on a two-week holiday around the USA with my husband and our first trip was to Salem, also known as the Witch City. I first heard about Salem when I was a teenager studying The Crucible in English class. I went on to be cast as an elderly lady accused of witchcraft in our school production of the Arthur Miller play (cue lots of talcum powder to make my hair grey).
Now my interest in Salem far surpasses just the witch trials, as the town is home to thousands of witches and the streets are lined with shops selling witchcraft paraphernalia and herbs. There is even a Harry Potter shop.
I had booked us a round trip on the fast ferry to Salem, but sadly the ferries were cancelled due to rough seas so we got there using Uber instead (nothing was going to stop me missing this trip!).
The first sign of witches in Salem was the statue of Samantha from the much-loved tv show Bewitched. A friendly resident Brit told us that the show actually had no connection with Salem and that the statue was simply gifted to the town. Later we were told by our tour guide that a few episodes of Bewitched were filmed on location here, and then, confusingly, one of the guides in the Salem Witch Museum told the group that all the episodes were filmed there. Strange, but only one of numerous inconsistencies I have in this strange but wonderful place.
1. The Salem Witch Walk
After getting some coffee and breakfast pastries for the road, we headed towards the oldest witchcraft shop in Salem, Crow Haven Corner, for our Salem tour, The Salem Witch Walk, the only guided tour run by actual witches, because, let’s face it, I trust their opinion on these matters more (case in point, the misrepresentation of modern-day witches in the Salem Witch Museum, where they told us that all witches are Wiccan – talk about generalising!). Our tour guide, Tom enthusiastically led us through an opening ritual so that those less in the know could see that witchcraft isn’t at all scary and certainly not evil. After that, we were led to the Witch Trials Memorial and the Old Burying Point Cemetery while Tom explained that magic is much more prevalent in modern day life than people would expect, as well as talking about the pagan origins of Easter and the days of the week. We also visited the healing altar in the Omen store on Essex Street, and the Altar of the Dead in Hex. I really enjoyed the tour, and although I’m pretty clued up in witchcraft and didn’t learn anything new there, I certainly learned some interesting facts about the witch trials. You also get a free crystal.
2. Life Alive Cafe
After our tour, my thoughts immediately turned to food. This is nothing new. I love food and my day pretty much revolves around thinking what my next meal will consist of. My husband is vegan and I’m a pescatarian so I often use the website Happycow to find where the best veggie restaurants are. We found Life Alive and it’s veggie paradise. It was very busy in there but we managed to find a table. I had the Love Alive smoothie; blueberries, strawberries, banana, dates, chia seeds and almond milk. It was so delicious, but the real treat was the Green Goddess salad bowl. Made with broccoli, avocado, kale, tofu and an amazingly yummy Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce, I need to try and recreate this at home! That is if I don’t just move into this gorgeous organic cafe and live off their nourishing raw food forever.
3. Hauswitch Home + Healing
After lunch, I made a beeline for the Hauswitch Home + Healing store. I had seen this light, beautiful space on Instagram and just knew that I would love it. While the other witchy shops in Salem are all dark and cramped, this place is spacious and has a chilled out boho vibe going on. I really had to struggle not to buy up everything in there, and in the end I only bought a new moon candle, a Witch City tote and a lovely book called The Herbal Homestead Journal, but I desperately want to go back and buy the ‘We’re the Weirdos Mister’ cushion and basically every gorgeous art print in their stock.
4. The Coven’s Cottage
I also visited The Coven’s Cottage, a cute little witchy shop with a great selection of dried herbs. This was particularly exciting for me as I am yet to find a decent herb stockist where I live, and often have to order the rarer stuff online (although I am cultivating a little herb garden). I was pleased to see that the basket of dried Heather was nearly sold out, but then that hardy little shrub which I’m named after is famous for bringing luck. From there I bought some dried witch hazel bark ( for clearing paths), pink roses (for love and healing, but also for aesthetic reasons), and some Calendula (for respect and admiration). I also got some really lovely parchment paper embedded with dried flowers and my annual purchase of the Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook.
On our way to the Salem Witch Museum (apparently the best museum in town), I popped into the Crow Haven Corner to have a browse, and although I didn’t end up buying anything, I was extremely touched to see a couple bring in a tiny mewing ginger kitten, which they had found abandoned nearby. Lorelei, the owner of the shop is also the founder of the charity Salem Saves Animals, a great cause not only helping local animals in need but also promoting the education and awareness of animal care in the community and of the dedication to changing the animal abuse laws in the States.
5. Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum has timed presentations, the first taking the audience through the events of the 1696 witch trials, and the second giving a bit of background to the term witch, from the ancient medicine women and midwives through to the popular Hollywood depiction of witches and an overview of Wicca and the Wheel of the Year. I found the museum interesting, but as I mentioned earlier, their information on modern witchcraft was somewhat basic.
6. House of the Seven Gables
From there, my husband and I took a walk through Salem Common and down to The House of the Seven Gables. The house is named after the Nathaniel Hawthorne gothic novel of the same name and served as inspiration to Hawthorne, whose cousin once lived there. The tour took us through the rooms of the house. I particularly liked a hidden staircase leading up to a secret room, and the attic which was once the servants’ quarters. Unfortunately, the tour guide didn’t mention any ghost stories about the house, which was a pity as I got a definite creepy vibe upon entering, although this eased up the further I moved through the house. This place is great to visit if you’re interested in history and want to step inside a genuine Colonial house, and/or if you are interested in Hawthorne. There are also pretty gardens, a great view of the sea and a quaint little museum store which sells literary gifts and lovely notebooks.
7. Nightmare Gallery
From there we headed to Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, a small museum housing life-size figures of cinema’s scariest monsters. I must be becoming more of a scaredy-cat as I get older, because at first I was worried this would be one of those attractions where actors dressed up in creepy gear jump out on you as you walk around in the dark (I still haven’t got over the terrifying clown ripped straight from my nightmares who stalked me through The London Bridge Experience). Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but the incredibly life-like detailed figures were very nightmare-inducing anyway. As a lifelong horror movie fan, it was great coming face to face with all manner of vampires, werewolves and the like.
If you’re a geek and/or comic book fan then head to Harrison’s Comics and Pop culture store. I’m not a comic book reader but as well as the comics they had a great selection of collectibles including old film magazines and vintage print film posters.
Ok so we didn’t actually eat at Howling Wolf Taqueria, but we intended to. I’m a big fan of Mexican food (I could probably live off guacamole) so this was definitely on my places to visit. Unfortunately, it’s so good that the place was crowded and the wait for food was 40 minutes. I was starving so I wasn’t prepared to wait, but it did smell amazing.
Today I’m exploring Boston, before catching a flight to Chicago. After a few days in the Windy city, I’ll be off to Anchorage, Seattle and finally Los Angeles. If you have any recommendations of places to visit, please post below! I’m particularly partial to foodie haunts, book stores, and metaphysical shops. Thanks!
In my ongoing quest of self-improvement I decided to explore the various personality tests online. I was hoping to learn more about my personality traits so that I could tailor my routines and working day accordingly. One of the most famous personality tests is the Myers-Briggs; a comprehensive test which puts the reader into one of 16 categories. It turns out that I’m an INFJ which, as it happens, is the rarest type of personality. The deeper I delved into researching my personality type, the more it made sense to me. I’ve always felt kind of misunderstood, weird and unlike other people. My whole life I’ve been called shy or an introvert. Some people misinterpreted me as being aloof or thinking that something was wrong if I was quiet.
The more I read about INFJs, the more the term Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP kept coming up. Reading about HSPs made me rethink how I function as a human being. Here are some of the common aspects of being an HSP. For more in depth information, Elaine N. Aron’s website on the subject can be found here.
The Normal Mould doesn’t fit
I learned early on that working in an office, doing the typical 9 to 5 and working with other people didn’t work for me. In fact, it made me really depressed. HSPs are often very creative and/or intellectual and therefore may feel unfulfilled working in a conventional job.
You Need Time to Recharge
One of the main issues I had with working with other people was that by the end of the day I would be completely and utterly drained. I always thought a large part of this was because I couldn’t be myself with other people, and was putting on some kind of act. I wasn’t at ease and so I was using up all my energy being a false version of myself. What I’ve realised though is that hanging out with any people, even my friends and family has an affect on me. I would certainly hate for my loved ones to think that when I’m with them I can’t wait to escape, or that I would describe spending time with them as draining because that isn’t the case. No, simply I just need time to myself on a regular basis. Time alone for me gives me a chance to recharge.
Change is Bad
I’m a creature of habit. I like routine and I am very stuck in my ways. I find upheaval very unsettling, and I find it takes me longer to adjust to change than perhaps other people do. I would love to be the type of person who lands on their feet every time and knows exactly what to do and when, instead I often find that I am a fish out of water, flip-flopping and hyperventilating. When I travel, I like to unpack as soon as I arrive, and also to establish some kind of loose routine to keep me grounded. It’s also important for the people around you to know that it might take you longer than them to adjust to change and to be patient with you.
Overwhelm is Also Bad
Overwhelm is not my friend, yet she hangs around me a lot. It’s my fault because I invite her along for the ride. Another problem I have is that I’m a scatterbrain. Overwhelm and Scatterbrain are like the creepy twins from The Shining. This displeases me greatly on a daily basis because I would love to be hyper-organised. I don’t really suffer from creative droughts, rather, I get a million ideas every day, and it’s a mad race to scribble each idea down before it floats off into the ether. I have a notebook for every goal, course or project, but then I end up cramming loads of unrelated stuff into the pages. I usually have no fewer than ten tabs open on my computer at any given time, my to-read list is higher than Everest and I love making lists so much that I often make many versions of the same list. All of these lists and ideas are great but my brain constantly suffers from information overload and then threatens to shut down. I get headaches, I get tired and I get really pissed off. The only method I’ve found that counteracts these issues is to break down each task into a manageable daily step, to time block for each task, and to use bullet journals and habit trackers to mark off when I’ve completed a task. Also, limiting your daily to-do list to 3 top priority items is a lot less overwhelming.
Sensitive to Conflict
I will do anything to avoid an argument. I hate conflict. If I was a turtle I’d quickly retreat into my shell and not emerge until the coast is clear. The only exception to this is if I’m driving and feeling safe in my little car, I freely spout a whole array of colourful language at the shitty drivers around me.
Playing back events over in your mind. Worrying that a message you sent to a friend had the wrong tone or that you’ve somehow offended them. I do these things all the time.
How to help:
I used to call this ‘Weekly Round-up’ but I think that title sadly lacks romance and imagination.
I’ve fallen in love with a lot of things over this past week, and I’d like to share them here with you. Sit, brew a tea and curl up. Be still, be quiet. Read…
Winona Ryder/Stranger Things
If you haven’t yet gobbled up Netflix’s nostalgic 80s set series, which evokes Stephen King novels, Spielberg movies, and Tangerine Dream, then please, add this page to your reading list and get on with watching it now. I watched all eight episodes in one weekend. I adored all the 80s pop culture references, the music and that neon red opening title. I felt a fondness and empathy for the four schoolboys stumbling across the strangeness, and a fierce protection over Eleven, a mysterious girl with telekinesis. But for me, it was a welcome return to the screen for Winona. Sure, she’s cropped up in films in the past few years, but nothing really meaty, and I felt that this was a return to the good old 80s/90s Winona who I loved, albeit a more mature, adult version. Winona was my favourite actress when I was a kid. She played the outcast perfectly in Mermaids, Heathers, Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael and Beetlejuice, and even when she was supposed to be the popular girl, in Edward Scissorhands, she brought a frailty and quirkiness to the character that more conventional-looking actresses of the time would have lacked. Winona makes a great mother in this role because she retains that outsider archetype whilst being a loving parent. Unlike the typical mothers in these films and shows, where the truth must be hidden from them, because their duty is to restore order and in some cases call the cops, Winona, as Joyce Byers, is a believer from the outset. She is on her own journey to find out the truth about why her youngest son has disappeared.
Cardamom + Rose iced latte
I’m obsessed with anything rose scented or flavoured, or actually anything with a floral flavour, so when I stumbled across this recipe I was pretty pleased that I could make a yummy flavoured coffee at home. I always have a decent supply of dried rose petals in my pantry, and I’m always looking for new ways to use them. Find the recipe here
Alysia Nicole Harris
This American poet writes poems that are absolutely gorgeously stunning. And I really admire anyone that does spoken word poetry. Check out Alysia’s poem ‘Paris in the Rain’ here and ‘Crow’s Sugar’ here. I don’t read poetry often enough, probably because I like to get lost in a story, but when I do pick up a book of poems, I like the ones that veer from feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut to seeing something rare and spectacular like a moonbow (yes, that is a thing).
Florence’s dreamy townhouse and garden
I saw Florence + the Machine live at Alexandra Palace a few years ago. She moved across the stage like some ethereal, fairy alien being, some willowy wood nymph from a Pre-Raphaelite painting. This tour of her home is perfect. I’m nosey and I love looking at other people’s homes. Florences’s is eclectic and romantic, and that garden!
Smells like Spells
I discovered this company whilst perusing the shelves at my favourite esoteric shop, Watkins in London. Carved candles and gorgeous scents. I couldn’t resist. I am obsessed with scented candles. And one with a little magic inside. Oh go on then! Buy here
The Love Witch
I posted about this on social media because I am so freaking excited for this movie. I love the horror films and melodrama pictures from the 60s and 70s. Hammer Horror films were my late night sneaky treat. The outlandishly fake-looking blood and even dodgier bats on strings were all part of the fun. Filmmaker Anna Billing has made a sumptuous ode to those movies, but with, I suspect, given Billing’s blog posts, a feminist twist. The Love Witch is about a modern-day witch named Elaine who is unlucky in romance, and will do anything to find that elusive forever love. Newcomer Samantha Robinson reminds me a little of that naughty Je ne sais quoi that Lana Del Rey possesses in her music videos. I’m attending a showing of the movie in late August at FrightFest in London and will be posting a review then. Stay tuned! Check out Anna Billing’s blog here
The Folklore Podcast
I’m a bit of a folklore geek. I love hearing folk tales and ghost stories from local areas or in places that I’m visiting. If you’re a geek too, you’ll love The Folklore Podcast. Each episode is dedicated to a different theme or type of folklore or urban legend. Listen here.