Snow, Snow, Snow

I love the snow, my heart leaps as soon as a speck of white is spotted in the distance. I wish for it to settle, turn the place into a winter wonderland.

Blacksmiths Lane Dog Walkers Flower Holly LaneSnow close up

In fact, I love winter as a whole. I suppose the miserable wet days are no fun, but you do get those all year round. As soon as the frost bites and hats, gloves and scarves come out I feel the need to make a hot chocolate (perhaps with a splash of Baileys in the evenings); drink soup; make steak pie followed by treacle sponge and custard. I want to buy jumpers, snuggle up in front of the fire on the sofa in a cardigan with a good book or film.

Snow TreesSnow
Unicorn Inn
Trees (2)Pots

Everyone hustles into the house and whacks the heating up so high you’d think it was mid-summer. No, I prefer to layer up the jumpers and wear my cosy slipper boots. Much more satisfying – especially with that bailey-spiked hot chocolate ūüėÄ

Red leafTrees

Berry

The photos where taken on a day where literally everything was white – ground, buildings, roofs, trees and sky – so some may not be as good as the could be despite my efforts in altering them on the computer ūüėÄ

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A Witches Calender: January

I brought a calender this year – I know, not exactly thrilling news. I picked out one themed with witches because I liked the pictures, when I got it home I discovered each month tells a little story. Today I thought I’d share January’s. Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

HoldaJanuary

We are in the time of the Snow Queen, who is also known as the Northern Germanic goddess Holda. Holda, or Holla, is a deity associated with spinning, fertility, childbirth, and domesticated animals. Holda is the keeper of a sacred pool through which the souls of newly born infants enter the world. It was thought that if women bathed in Holda’s sacred pools, they would quickly conceive. Holda is also one of the leaders of the Wild Hunt. The season of the Wild Hunt began at the Winter Solstice and continues throughout the months of winter. Holda is a patroness of Witches, and she has a shamanistic type of energy, as Witches called on her for nighttime flights or to aid in astral projection.

Holda may appear as an old, bent crone cloaked in gray or as a beautiful young maiden dressed in shimmering white. According to folklore, when Holda makes her bed and fluffs up her feather pillows, it snows. This is how she earned the title of Snow Queen. When fog rolls in during the winter months, it is believed that this is the smoke for Holda’s fire. In southern Germany, this deity is known as Perchta (sometimes spelled Berchta). The name Perchta translates to the “bright one”. Also, a goddess of the Wild Hunt and childbirth, she was accompanied by and cared for the souls of children and babies who had passed to the other side. The festival day for Perchta/Berchta and Holda is January 6.

These goddesses of fertility and death walked here between the worlds of the living and the dead. During the month of January when the snows settle in and the night seems very long, you may call upon Holda to watch over and protect you.

Spell to Call on Holda

All around me now icy, winter winds do blow, 

I call Holda and Perchta, the Queens of the Snow.

Leaders of the Wild Hunt, great ladies, please hear my cry,

Watch over and defend me as you sail through the sky.

By the powers of the earth, air, fire and water,

Guard and protect you magickal sons and daughter.

January Correspondences

Stone: Garnet

Animal: Snow goose; owl; bear

Flower: Carnation; snowdrop

Ruling planet: Saturn

(Not my own words, copied from ‘Llewellyn’s Witches Calender 2013’: Ellen Dugan)

 

 

The Title: ‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’

‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’i (Sister to the Independent)

At first I thought this was one of those wacky surveys that strenuously connects those learning how to drive with those quitting A levels. But no, pupils across the country are leaving their A level courses (up to 31% students in some areas). The reason? Too much heavy focus on academia.

I can see their point, the few practical A level options available are looked down upon. BTECs which the Government claims are equal to A levels are considered the easy option by the general public.

quitting a levels

from Google images

However, is the issue attitudes towards practical subjects or is it more of a problem of unnecessary pressurization? Each Government wants to drive more and more students into further and then higher education. A levels and university ¬†doesn’t suit everyone. Sure, encourage people and fund equal opportunities but if some pupils enter A levels only to realise it’s not for them then perhaps alternative paths such as apprenticeships should be endorsed.

 

If A level and uni applications decrease then so what? As long as students are doing what they enjoy and not what parents or the Government think they should enjoy then don’t fuss. Currently, university applications are decreasing. As I’ve just mentioned this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, I believe at the moment the¬†chief¬†reason is more to do with the rise in tuition fees and the increased costs of living in a difficult economic time rather than self-realisation and back bone from students.

Well Overdue Project

My best friend and I brought some material about five years ago (?) at a Patchwork and Quilting show in Birmingham and promptly forgot about it.¬†Occasionally¬†I’d come across it in my wardrobe smile and think ‘we should do something with this’, put it away again only to find it next time I had a clear out.

This summer Izzy decided she wanted to try her hand at making a cushion. So out came the material which had sat patiently for five years and a week or so later we had our cushions. ūüėÄ Probably my third cushion but my first without Mums help so although it might not be a work of art I’m rather proud of it. I ¬†just need somewhere to put it now.

DSCF3689 DSCF3693 DSCF3712

 

Anyone out there who’s brought something to do but has ended up shoving it to the back of a drawer then this year get it out and complete the project – you’ll feel better for doing something just for you.

De-opinionated Education

It’s often commented that sometimes my articles lack personal input, they are perhaps a distant, out-of-body experience. It can be quite an effort to inject opinion into writing which tackles issues or history, whether this shows or not, I don’t know.

Some people will be thinking how could you not have your own thoughts on the matter? They silently wonder does the writer feel or indeed think for themselves at all?

I do feel; and I do think.

Writing however, has become¬†separated¬†from opinion. It is second nature to think one thing while writing the opposite or to purposefully hold back. Education asks you to devoid yourself of emotion; you write the facts,¬†memorise¬†the dates and quote the sources. No personal thought allowed. If it doesn’t come from a scholarly source, it’s not important.

Examiners force students to abandon thinking in favour of memorisation. It may not be rote learning but the effect is the same.

Surely this stunts development? Its no wonder young people enter the workplace with little or no initiative. Its been taught that if it wasn’t written down and published it’s not right. Thinking for yourself is a talent schools¬†suppress¬†by repeatedly dictating that what the individual student considers important is irrelevant.

Opinion and creativity are vital, discussions and debates allow information and understanding to be carried beyond exams. Memorisation is not help in the real world if it is cast aside once pens are set aside and the holidays begin. Like anything children’s thoughts, understanding and opinions need to mature if they are to flourish as individuals, this is only achieved through encouragement, intelligent conversation and recognition.

The Body

Sorry I’ve not been around a lot in the past few days, apart from the internet connection troubles I am settling in at University again and have been spending more time watching rubbish TV with my housemates (being a proper student ūüėÄ ). Anyway, I did find the time to write a little something.

Nowadays the body is viewed quite differently due to increased mobilisation with the mass use of cars and a change in the job market from labour intensive to office work/computerised systems.

Berber Women

Mostly we experience and theorise about our bodies in medical terms. Critical thinkers have rejected this biological reductionism and state we need to see the body in cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Feminists agree that the body should be recongnised as a part of the surrounding environment. For instance, male bodies are stronger because they are encouraged to take part in sports which develop muscles. However, Berber women are the ones who carry heavy loads over long distances and thus are viewed as stronger than men.

Phenomenology, briefly, is the idea that the ‘self’ (mind) and body are inextricably linked. When normal body functions become impaired or restricted it’s almost impossible to not reflect on the ‘self’. Medical illnesses can not only disrupt how the biological body works but can cause psychological issues resulting in a loss of self-confidence, hence, affecting social life, economic participation etc. Something I’m intimately aware of.

Phenomenology provides a bridge between the naturalist perspective which advocates the body as a biological entity and social constructionism which focuses on the body in a cultural context, being influenced by the society within which it resides.

To me, the body cannot be¬†separated¬†from the ‘self’ as¬†Cartesian¬†dualists claim, as the intentions of the ‘self’ have a direct effect on the body. If you decide to climb a vertical cliff your body takes the strain, similarly if you prefer to restrict exercise to the more conventional morning jog/walk it’s the body which ultimately becomes stronger and consequently causes your self-esteem to build.

In the modern age where beauty is defined in comparison with air-brushed magazine photos and tall, slim models inevitably generations of insecure people have learnt to assess and criticise their bodies in¬†conjunction¬†with their self-worth. This attitude has created the ‘beauty myth’ of socially constructed, unattainable beauty.

In desperation many turn towards the medical profession and cosmetic surgery. This technology could be utilised to create uniqueness but instead it’s exploited to form ‘normality’. The freckles which brought individual character to your face are deemed unsightly and the laughter lines by your eyes which show a life of experience and¬†fulfillment also have to be cast away. It’s as though society wishes to stifle personality by subtly encouraging us that our appearance is somehow ‘wrong’ because we don’t confirm to the ‘norm’. The consumer culture is not only exploiting our pockets, influencing our opinions¬†and lifestyles but causing the body to be objectified in a manner which disregards personality or talent. Just look at celebrities, what does Katie Price actually do? Who cares, with knockers like that she can force herself into the media all she likes. Who cares if the latest singer mimes during live concerts because they can’t really sing, as long as they look the part they’re allowed to strut about on stages across the globe.

Cosmetic surgery primarily targets women, some feminists see this as an extension of patriarchy as men seek to control and objectify women through the ‘beauty myth’. Other feminists argue medical professionals don’t advocate patriarchy but seek to increase their own influence and acquire power.

Whatever your view on the ‘beauty myth’ and cosmetic surgery it’s evident society is being oppressed and educated into a docile, false consciousness which is responsible for the lack of confidence and inferiority experienced by those who attempt to resist the ‘norm’.

(Obviously I’m talking about cosmetic surgery for beauty, not for reconstruction after burning, skin cancer or other accidents/illnesses).

Main References:

Katie Davis Reshaping the Female Body: the dilemma of cosmetic surgery

Susan Bordo Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body

B.S.Turner Medical power and Social Knowledge  and The Body and Society: explorations in social theory

N.Wolf The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women

Images from google