Veronica Lake

 

 

 

October was such a whirlwind! I can’t believe it’s November already. This time of year always makes me want to go into hibernation mode. I just want to snuggle, write fiction, read, drink copious amounts of tea and eat comfort food. So it’s the perfect time of year for me to hunker down and get on with writing my book. I know I’m not alone in this endeavour, as National Novel Writing Month kicks off today. I don’t have the greatest track record with NaNoWriMo because in the past I’ve always failed. I think where I went wrong was to get too hung up on wanting a perfect, fully-formed draft all at once, which is completely unrealistic. All first drafts are supposed to shitty, and that is the fantastic liberating thing about writing them. So I need to embrace that freedom and kick my bullying inner critic to the kerb for the next 30 days. Will you join me?

 

Yesterday I was featured in an article about modern day witches. It felt really good to come out of the broom closet on such an epic scale and say, yes, this is who I am! Not that I was exactly hiding my interests. I’ve been using the hashtag #witchesofinstagram for quite a while. I’ve had an absolutely lovely response from the article, and also some questions from people who are interested in the craft themselves and want to learn more. I’m thinking of doing an introductory series to let you guys know a little bit more about my practice. I’m currently brain dumping ideas, but I’ll keep you posted. I also want to write more about my writing process, as I know writing a book can be overwhelming. Even combining writing and magic! I do it all the time.

 

Being witchy doesn’t mean that technology can’t still fail you. I have to admit that I avoided this blog space for a while last month. It all started when I wrote a three-parter post about my wonderful trip around the US in September. A few people had asked about my trip and I was keen to share, but technology thought otherwise. For some reason, none of my photographs would upload. I kept getting the same ‘error’ message. It was really frustrating. Then a couple of other posts I wrote just completely disappeared, despite me saving them. So I threw a strop and avoided coming here like the plague. I took part in a fun #innerwitchoctober picture challenge on Instagram. I returned to my lovely witch sisters in Woodstock and learned archery, and I got a magical influx of inspiration, hence the intense need to write.

 

 

But I also felt the need to write without my author hat on. Sometimes throwing yourself into a story can be like struggling underwater and unable to come up for air. It can become an obsession. Sometimes you forget where you start and your protagonist ends. So it’s good to be back. It’s good to write about something real and honest. Until next time.

 

Heather x

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A round-up of everything I’m loving this week:

 

Howl:

 

This short film is just beautiful and raw and exquisite.

 

HOWL from Jaime Jhilmil Gianopoulos on Vimeo.

 

 

Sabat Magazine:

 

 

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I’m excited that the second issue of Sabat magazine is out. Sabat is a gorgeous magazine, described as fusing ‘Witchcraft and feminism, ancient archetypes and instant art’. The first issue was just so beautiful and I can’t wait to get my hands on this latest issue. Pick up your copy here

 

 

She Explores:

 

 

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The website and podcast, She Explores, is about the relationship between women, nature, and adventure. It’s a theme which has come up a lot lately in my life, and I’m so pleased to have come across this beautiful site. The site features gorgeous photography, artwork and essays by inspiring women. Also check out this essay Stop Telling Women Not to Go into the Backcountry Alone by Krista Langlois.

 

 

American Horror Story:

 

 

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American Horror Story season 6 is underway and I must say, I’m impressed so far. This season harks back to the mystery and the horror which worked so well in season one’s Murder House, but which was undermined in season 2 by the amount of weirdness crammed in, and the soap opera quality of Coven and Freak Show. I didn’t even bother with season 5: Hotel. I’m not sure the mockumentary style necessarily works – it’s more of a distraction – but so far I’m compelled.

 

I’m also loving this short comparison of season’s 1 and 6 from Nerdist. Warning: contains spoilers!

 

https://youtu.be/Oa91mY6Mf-I

 

 

Sisterhood:

 

 

Recently I was in beautiful Wales at The Wisdom Gathering, a magical retreat for women created by the lovely Jayne Goldheart of Sisters of the Wild. At the retreat, I learned to make Ojo de Dios through weaving, foraged in the fields and created my very own wonderful smelling smudge stick. I spent time with a fantastic group of women and really being part of that sisterhood community; learning, sharing, creating and singing. I loved it. As a writer, my days can be quite isolating, and I’m often a bit of a hermit. Spending time with a group of creative like-minded women is the perfect remedy.

 

Adventure:

 

 

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The Wisdom Gathering took place in a remote part of Wales, and the location was so perfect because just out of the site, there was a short walk to a largely secluded beach, with an alternate route including a woodland hike. Nearly every day, I would awake at just before sunrise and set off on my own with my camera and journal, enjoying the quiet time to myself, the rustle of the trees and the sound of the brook rushing by the path. At the beach, I would nestle into the rocks and just sit and think, listening to the crash of the sea on the shore and the sight of the clouds moving overhead. I wanted to go for a dip in the sea with all my being, but I kept putting it off, swayed by the intimidatingly large waves and the prospect of cold water. On the last day, I took off my shoes and socks and paddled a little. The sea foam bubbling over my skin wasn’t that cold, but it was refreshing. I saw a couple of seals, their heads bobbing above the waves. Whenever I see seals I always think of the Selkie tales I used to hear as a child living in Scotland.

 

I followed them, eager to get a closer look. One of the seals got quite bold and swam closer to me, eager to get a closer look at this strange being on the land. It got so close that I thought it would be washed up on the beach beside me, each wave sweeping it closer and closer to me. I took this as a sign, followed my fear and left my things on some dry rocks along with my clothes and threw myself in the water. Not at all gracefully I might add. I had to battle every huge wave which bore down on me, so in the end I didn’t exactly swim, but more reenacted what it was like to be in a washing machine on the spin cycle. I was so proud of myself for doing it though, and not letting the fear beat me! It was exhilarating.

 

 

Mary Oliver:

 

Sleeping in the Forest 
 
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
 
from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver
© Mary Oliver

sam

 

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.

 

art

 

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.

 

 

altar

 

 

crow

 

 

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.

 

 

me smoothie

 

 

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.

 

 

booty

 

 

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.

 

museum

 

 

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.

 

 

gables

 

 

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.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

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.

 

 

charmed

 

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!

 

 

Hello!
Heather Blanchard

Welcome. Are you a writer, a bookworm, a daydreamer? Are you still clinging on to that magic that pervaded childhood? Pull up an armchair and get cosy. This blog is my dreamscape through an enchanted forest to a world of stories and the little things that make me happy; a chance to add a dash of sparkle to the daily grind. Here you will find the whimsical, the coveted, the Gothic and the romantic. Happy exploring!

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