How Do You Make Equinoctial Magic?
This morning I stepped into the autumn equinox weekend with a walk over Harting Down, a chalk hillscape on the South Downs that never fails to cast a spell over me. There were swathes of mist in the valley below, larks in the air and tattered fronds of yarrow and ragwort along the path edges. For the first time in several weeks, I felt completely calm and stress-free. Ash was asleep in his buggy, so I took my shoes and socks off and walked us up to the top of the next hill, feeling the cold, wet grass beneath my feet and the sun on my face. It reminded me of one of those electricity experiments we did at primary school, snapping crocodile clips onto batteries to make little lightbulbs glow. Standing on the earth with bare feet (also known as ‘grounding’ or ‘earthing’) is like plugging yourself into nature’s circuit board. And on the equinox weekend, when day and night slide into perfect balance, it felt like the intensity of summer was being swept away to make space for introspection and composure. It felt like a sigh of relief.
Walking barefoot came up in conversation last weekend when I caught the train to London and visited the Atlantis Bookshop, a century-old esoteric bookshop specialising in magic and the occult. I was there to hear my friend and fellow author Jennifer Lane talk about witchcraft, writing and mental health. Her latest two books cover (with great skill) all three of these subjects: The Witch’s Survival Guide: Spells for Healing from Stress and Burnout (April 2023) and The Black Air (her first YA novel published earlier this month). When asked for a simple ritual to connect with the magic of the earth, Jenn recommended walking barefoot. In The Witch’s Survival Guide, she writes how grounding has been shown to help with depression, heart conditions, PTSD, sleep disorders and chronic fatigue, possibly because the earth’s steady electrical charge helps to stabilise our own.
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I’ve been intrigued by witchcraft since I was a kid, when I bought my first Little Book of Pocket Spells, made potions, cast spells and even co-published a witchy magazine with my fellow nine-year-old schoolfriend. As an adult, I’m still fascinated by it. Today, on my walk, I thought about the concept of witchcraft in the wider narrative of western society. Women, in particular, were persecuted for centuries for practicing magic, but I wonder if the idea of ‘witchcraft’ is something that has only come to exist since we have disconnected from our natural roots. In pre-Christian Europe we had a much closer relationship with the natural world, and it was only when we started seeing ourselves as stewards of nature, overseeing it from a distance more than being in amongst it, that we started to exploit and fear it. I recommend reading Lynn White’s essay The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis if you’re interested in the relationship between religion and ecology - it’s a fantastic piece of writing.
It is easy to cast witchcraft aside if you whittle it down to cauldrons and broomsticks and curses. But standing barefoot on the hillside this morning, feeling the equinox energy coursing through my body - that could only be described as magic. Not everything can be quantified and measured. Trees talk to each other through their roots; swallows fly thousands of miles without getting lost; plants rot away and become new plants. I am relearning what it means to make magic, reconnecting with the ecological energies around me and finding balance within it all. And this autumn equinox, as we begin our voyage into the darker half of the year, I hope you find your own sense of balance, too.
(Thanks to my friend Richard for introducing me to the word ‘equinoctial’ - what a banger!)
Something I Made - Good Gourd Organic Tote
Celebrate the season of harvest and abundance with this rootin' fruitin' design. From butternut to acorn squash, munchkin pumpkin to delicata, join the cucurbita gang this spooky season and sing your praises for delicious gourds, fresh from the autumn soil. Available in black and natural.
Something I Like - Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park
Last weekend we visited this lovely little farm in Dorset with the family and it was wonderful. It’s completely independent and run by the most passionate people, full of knowledge and care for the horses that live there. We had wagon rides, fed and groomed the ponies, got to know all the heavy horses and the history of their breeds, enjoyed delicious coffee and cake in the cafe, and even snuggled some rabbits in pets’ corner. I can’t recommend this place enough if you’re looking for something to do this autumn.
Recipe of the Week - Dorset Apple Cake
In honour of apple season and my visit to Dorset last week, here is the most delicious recipe I could find for a traditional Dorset apple cake. It’s the crunchy demerara crystals that do it for me… The perfect bake to celebrate the equinox weekend with a cup of something cosy.