I was born on Dartmoor and grew up on Exmoor; my parents, family and the old ones in the villages where I grew up led me into the old ways of Britain. My mother’s mother was a witch from the Isle of Man, and my father was a cyfarwydd (taleweaver) and awenydd (British shaman) who lived in Devon, so I was born into an old family of cunning folk. I pass on the old ways through writing books on British native shamanism and in my magical-realism/mystery/romance novels. I also offer training in the old British ways.
I’m a wilderness woman at heart, couldn’t cope with living in a village let alone a town or city, so I live with my cats, husband and a host of wildlife in the back of beyond in the Welsh Marches. It’s a magical twilight place, between two countries and between two worlds. I’m awenydd (you pronounce it Ah-when-ith), that’s one of the ways we call ourselves in the British native tradition and (like shaman) it means spirit keeper and one who knows. I write about, and teach, our old British traditions and, when I’m not writing, I read, spin, knit, weave, cuddle my cats, paint watercolours and play in the wild lands.
Dad was a cunning-man from Lancashire. He met and fell in love with Mum before WWII but I didn’t come along until shortly after the end of the war. My grandmothers on both sides were magical women but, unfortunately, I never knew them as they died before I was born. Mum passed over into the Summer Lands very early too, when I was four years old, but I remember her well and sometimes she still comes to me if there is a need. We lived on the edge of Dartmoor for the first eight years of my life, even after Mum’s death, living with aunts and with me learning from Dad and my relations as well as the old ones of the village.
When I was eight Dad moved us up to settle in an ancient little village on the edge of Exmoor where the church is dedicated to the goddess Iwerydd. Quite soon after we moved Dad fell in love again, with Vera, the woman who had come as our housekeeper. Her family had owned the house we now lived in so I was again living in an old place steeped in lore. Dad and Vera were soon married. Vera, my new stepmother, and her sister were among the elder folk of the village so, again, I was much involved in the old ways, following the deer trods, along with the other young people of elder folk. Her sister (my Aunt Ida) owned the goddess’ sacred well which cured cataract and gave clairvoyance, which was set in the wall between her garden and ours. The woman next door was a herbalist and healer, and also the village’s midwife-for-the-dead, she taught me many things including the ways of the dead. One of my uncles was a woodsman who could talk with animals, and who would take me out with him, teach me the ways. I’ve seen him call a wild hawk to his wrist and, many times, sat all night by his side under a tree watching foxes and dormice, weasels and rabbits, badgers and hunting owls, and all the other night denizens of the wild woods. I learned gardening from my Uncle Perce (Aunt Ida’s husband) who talked with the plants and taught me lots of biodynamic things. I grew up in an environment full of everyday magic.
Always living with otherworld, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people like Lila Bek, Caitlin & John Matthews, Emma Restall Orr, C Maxwell Cade, Colin Bloy, Hamish Miller, Tom Graves, Paul Devereux, John Michell and many others during the 1970s and 80s. My father’s family were friends with Annie Bessant and Rudolf Steiner so I grew up with all that too, especially Steiner’s biodynamics which Dad and Uncle Perce practised. My husband, too, does biodynamics and, between 2004-6, I designed three biodynamic show gardens at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. As well as the theosophy my family knew, I also studied the Alice Bailey way for seven years, and did tai chi for twenty-odd years, so I’ve explored all sorts of magical paths.
I’ve done all sorts of other things during my current incarnation. I went to Exeter University and was part of the group that created the first degree in Rudolph Laban’s Modern Educational Dance; I went on to The Place in London where I studied contemporary dance with Robert Cohen. Then I took a big step sideways and joined the Ministry of Defence. I enjoyed my time with the servicemen and finished up becoming project manager in computer systems design as well as a systems analyst, designing a networked system for Defence Sales. After leaving the MOD, I met Ian Gordon-Brown and Barbara Somers and trained with them in transpersonal psychology and had a practice, working especially with dreams, until I moved out of London in 1999.
Until I began to crippled by rheumatoid arthritis in the mid-1980s, I carried on dancing – my bragging rights being that, for several years, I was demonstrator for a friend who taught for Arlene Phillips at the London Pineapple Dance Studio 🙂
My own reading-loves spin around mystery, I grew up on it as Dad loved a good mystery story, and could tell them too. We had an amazing English mistress who was up for all sorts of “odd” reading for the 5th and 6th forms and she helped, introducing me to Dorothy L Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon and other such super writers and poets too, like TS Eliot, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Thom Gunn and Roger McGough, as well as French writing like Alain-Fournier’s Le Grande Meaulnes. Writers like Mary Stewart and John le Carré are always on my shelves, along with Agatha Christie (and I love the Joan Hickson video versions) and Daphne du Maurier, particularly Rebecca and The House on the Alain-FournierStrand, Raymond Chandler (well, say no more) but Alan Judd, Ross Macdonald and Patricia Cornwell are all good too. Ellis Peters is another standby.
And I love fantasy. Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy counts in this genre for me as well as mystery, and so do her romantic novels which I also love. My ult faves for fantasy are Roger Zelazny and Ursula K le Guin, and I’ve read most of both of them. Le Guin’s Left hand of Darkness, from the Hainish Cycle, and Zelazny’s Amber chronicles are top of the list. Suzanne Ruthven’s Whittlewood has been a favourite since it came out (wish she’d write more of that!), and Melusine Draco’s House of Strange Gods series is great fun too. I also re-read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon books on a regular basis, as well as Restoree , the Ship Who Sang and Crystal Singer. And I like Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Bear, Angela Carter, Sheri S Tepper, Elizabeth Moon and Jody Lynn Nye … and many more.
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