Spirits roam free on Hallows’ Eve

Halloween means something to me. I know what you may think – Americanised, sugar-fuelled madness. However, as a Pagan it is the start of the New Year. Samhain was the beginning of the year in Anglo-Saxon times. The whole month of November was associated with the dead. For witches, Samhain is when the realms of the living and the dead are at their most sensitive. Hecate Goddess of the underworld – this is her festival.

Dancing scantily clad under the moon, drinking wine and burning fires are amongst traditions wishing a good end to the harvest and preparing for the winter. Ok so most people would agree that that doesn’t appear to be the case for most modern Halloween celebrations but it certainly rings true for me.

A witches broom is something of protection and power associated with the Willow Tree (Hecate’s Tree) – Traditionally made from an ash stake, which is to protect from drowning, birch twigs to entangle evil spirits and willow to bind the two together. The root word for Willow is ‘wike’ and also means the same as witch or wicked.

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The interesting thing is that, since I was a little girl, the dark has been somewhere I fear but also seek solace. I find comfort in darker places and I really enjoy exploring fear. Fear is so interesting for humans. Some find Hallows’ Eve a waste of time and refuse to accept that it is one of the oldest celebrated holidays in the history of mankind. The Halloween we know today has deep-rooted history and I believe in all of it, the creatures of the night, lost souls who haven’t found their way and the practice of magic. All fiction comes from some truth maybe a small fraction however, do not turn your noses up to something that is a possibility.

Our souls simply dwell in a physical form and All Hallows’ allows the lost ones to roam free amongst us once again.

The fantastic thing about where dressing up comes from is it was a way of warding off evil. Much like carving faces into Turnips (yes turnips originally – pumpkins came later) and popped them at the door to keep spooks at bay. All these practices have deep rooted wonderfully magical history. It’s fascinating and exciting.

I love being scared, the adrenaline rush is addictive and for me all things creepy and intriguing really play into this. This year Halloween is particularly exciting and powerful as the Moon has been at her brightest and full so close to the 31st – her energy is intoxicating. Pagan traditions are all centred around celebrating life, the earth and food and drink.

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So as the nights get closer to the eve, paint your face and explore your dark side. It’s fun, for me it’s so fun I find it hard to come back from.

I love the fashion, the films and the literature that surrounds Halloween. Having fun with baking and clothes in a Halloween theme are fun too! There are so many forms of fabulous references to self-exploration in all of them that relate to fear and it’s magical to me. Witches have been feared and celebrated throughout history. I for one embrace my spiritual side and find comfort that we aren’t the only beings roaming the earth. That feeling on the back of your neck or the shiver down your spine is a sign that someone may be with you.

I find it a comfort, others may wish to hide under the duvet.

By Alexandra Brownsell, creator of Through Haim’s Eyes. Give her some appreciation over on Twitter.

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Affordable health & well-being in Brighton

In my last post I spoke about how I’m on a mission to be still. I have to admit, I’m struggling – I just really like being busy and there’s a part of me that feels guilty any time I take a break. However, I’m realising that the difficulty of achieving something may provide greater self-realisation than the achievement itself. As my brother says, “the struggle is real”. Struggle1680x1050 Luckily, I’m not walking this talk alone. I have a whole centre of practitioners on hand to help me and it’s these gems of karmic splendour that I wish to talk about today. So, let’s take a walk down East Street towards the sea. Stop outside Vbites Cafe and go in a while, have a cup of tea. It may not be immediately obvious but above this vegan eatery are two floors of treatment rooms and a beautiful yoga studio. Now, usually things that are good for you cost a lot of money – gym memberships, yoga, Pilates, massages, organic food, wine – but this is health and well-being with a difference. About Balance is like the Hisbe of the holistic world. It’s run by two lovely ladies, Hannah and Effie, and was started as a way to provide a wide range of health practitioners an affordable space to rent so that they, in turn, can provide an affordable service to you. About Balance has around 20 different therapists practising everything from the well-known, yoga, massage and acupuncture to the more abstract, constellation therapy, scenar (which is basically like mini electric shocks) and  craniosacral therapy. The classes are already cheaper than you would pay at a regular treatment rooms, and if you buy a “Karma Card” for £15 a month (you don’t need to sign a contract), you will get the majority of them half price or less. This may not be a sustainable option over a whole year, but if you’re looking for some calm, or are recovering from an injury, and want some intensive treatment for a few months, it’s really the best deal I’ve seen in Brighton. What I love the most about the concept is the community feel – they regularly do open days where you can meet the therapists and try treatments for less, as well as days to raise money for local charities. I’ve been to 12 of the classes over the past two weeks, which has resulted in a feeling of real appreciation for the work they do – I’ll write some more detailed accounts about the more off-the-wall experiences later in the week. I know holistic therapy isn’t for everyone. In fact, I joke regularly about my chakras being out of alignment and the total absence of zen in and about my person. So, if there’s one takeaway that can really resonate with everyone, regardless of your scepticism, it’s that opening your mind to a new experience, especially if you didn’t really believe in it’s merits, can let in a choo choo train of unexpected realisations.  I saw that I often act without thought, and I’m trying to stop myself and think before I say yes to things from now on. Just like living better on a budget, health and well-being take an investment of time and energy. For me, About Balance is a really fantastic place to start that journey. At the very least, you’ll have some pretty wacky experiences to put in your pocketbook for later. By Sophie J Photo by EnKayTee

Learning how to be still

I’ve found myself a zen master. I’m pretty sure he’s spent several years perched on the side of China’s highest mountain and now he’s teaching me – buzzy old, mental me – to be still.

It’s not easy.

Thursday I rocked up, having no idea what to expect, and ended the session with several needles in my face, trying desperately to embody the type of person who know how to relax. It didn’t really work. If anything, it highlighted my absolute inability to be zen. Must try harder.

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I got introduced to Marcus, which is his name when he’s not looking deep into people’ chakras, through a barter  situation I have going on with a health and well-being centre in town – more on how to get yourself one of those in another post. Marcus has taught me some breathing techniques to carry with me on my jolly journey to absolute chillosity.

I thought this deserved a post because learning to be still is just about the cheapest thing you can do. Literally, you do nothing. Just breathe and think about your breath. You spend zero money doing that. And the beauty of this stillness business is, the more you do it, the more you want to do it and the greater benefit it will have on your overall well-being. Also, the more you do things that are free, the more money you save – right?

The challenge is this – grab a pillow, get yourself comfy, set your alarm for five minutes, close your eyes and breathe. As you breathe in, relax your feet, as you breathe out, try to make yourself as heavy as you can and drop your shoulders. Imagine the sound of waves; the rocking of a boat.

Do you feel more zen? I’m still not there yet but I’m going to keep trying. I have a feeling the practise will make me better at thinking before I spend, which is, of course, the aim of this whole giddy thing.

I’d love to know if you have any tips on how I can be better at being still. Let me know in the comments below.

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If being still sounds up your street, check out these centres around the city where you can go for guided meditation for £3-£7 a session:

Meditate in Brighton

Brighton Buddhist Centre

Sussex Meditation

Also, check out About Balance – they’re new to the health and well-being game and offer a wide range of therapies at reasonable prices. Again, more about those fine fellows later.

Author: Sophie J

Images by Moyan Brenn and Alice Popkorn