Updated: May 1
(The Wagon-by-the-Woods, on a Spring morning).
An Introduction to the Wagon Witch.......
The 17th Century Herbalist, Nicolas Culpeper, would often use the phrase "where it most delights to grow" when referring to the favoured growing place of a herb or flower, the place where it will flourish. I have adopted this phrase to explain to enquirers why I have chosen this way of life for the last 20 years. Bricks and mortar are not for me it seems.... tried it, didn't get on with it! My wagon, and the surrounding countryside, is the place where I "most delight to grow". I live with, and constantly learn from Nature - she has all the answers.
I grew up in a semi-detached cottage in the Surrey countryside, surrounded by common land and woods. Leisure time was spent building bush-camps and climbing trees, collecting berries, scrumping apples, picking herbs, making pots with red clay from the stream and baking them on a twig fire. I enjoyed frequent camping and caravan trips away with my parents, one of my favourite places being the New Forest in Hampshire. My imagination could run wild, and so could I. From a very young age I began to regularly draw pictures of my dream home and life; a tiny cottage on the side of a hill, with woodland behind, a stream or spring running beside. I dreamed I would be friends with the animals of the wood. I would forage for fruit and wild mushrooms, gather my wood, dry my herbs over a fire and mix potions and potages. I would make things and paint things and fly along the hedgerows on a broom beneath the full moon and..... (I had/have a good imagination!). But this was my childhood dream, I was manifesting.
At school my favourite subjects were art, music, nature studies and early history. I particularly enjoyed learning about the folklore, the everyday life style and practices of the common people, especially during the dark ages and medieval period. I wasn't terribly fond of having to study the politics, although an integral part, I had no interest in the upper echelons of society. The peasant folks held far more appeal, I felt a much stronger connection to them.
But........ "You can't make a living as an artist, living in a shack!"
Unfortunately, on leaving school, I succumbed to pressure to live a conventional life. I fell into the regular job, eventually marriage, house and a mortgage etc. Yet all the while I felt a sense of unease, restriction - like an ill-fitting coat which grew tighter around me. My childhood dreams of a living in a tiny home, surrounded by trees, living with nature and enjoying my creativity, all seemed to be drifting away. I did not want to live this 'normal' lifestyle, it did not suit me, it drained my spirit. My dream remained, I wanted to be a wild witch! Living in the woods with the wild animals, dancing around a fire when I wanted, cooking in a cast iron pot, mixing herbs, playing music, crafting and creating. Something had to change.
Whilst still living the 'regular' life I had met and joined a group of musicians, initially as a fun distraction from the mundane, normality of things. We played lively, medieval style music on traditional instruments, wore simple but colourful costumes and fully inhabited our characters. We became popular on the re-enactment circuit and were invited to play at castles and festivals, banquets and celebrations, across the country and overseas. We spent many nights, days and weeks under canvas tents, living simply but well. As our popularity grew it became more difficult to maintain my 'normal' job as well as all the travelling and gigging with the band. My husband grew increasingly unhappy with my absences and the diversion away from him. I grew increasingly unhappy with him and all that went with our lifestyle, our home, work, everything .
After a particularly long stint of camping away with the band, in the grounds of a castle in Germany, I came to the realisation that one could probably live this way for as long as one chose. We had shelter, food and drink, enough money for the odd treat. I was healthy, energetic and ...alive! This way of life was my natural state, this was where I flourished. The seed was set, the spell was cast, So Mote It Be!
So it was that, on a winters night in January 1999, I made the decision to run away with the travelling minstrel band! I left the ill-fitting job and the ill-fitting life. I dumped the ill-fitting coat on the doorstep of the ill-fitting house. Thus began my adventure, a never-ending journey on the path towards my dream. I have met many wise and wonderful people along the way, some of whom have greatly assisted me on my travels....but that's another story....
(The campfire beneath a full moon)