Interview with Diane Narraway by Charlotte Rodgers for the revised/enlarged, ‘The Bloody Sacrifice’.
I met Diane several times at Dolmen Grove gatherings and was impressed by this honest and powerful woman who possesses such a strong spirituality; a spirituality which is both archaic and very, very contemporary.
Diane is the same age as myself, and also went through menopause early. Her experience and intelligence, combined with having children and a strong family ethos meant that Diane was in a position to bring new perspectives to my research on changes in a woman’s spiritual approach and ability in different phases of her cycle…and beyond!
‘I was born in London and brought up in Dorset with my brother. My mother was a science teacher and my father a part time salesman and a full time alcoholic. Having been born with the scientific enquiring mind of my mother and the hedonistic streak of my father I guess the only available option was a magickal path; besides there were other members of my family who had practised magick and divination.
I worked with natural magick as a child using a variety of ingredients that grew around the garden as well as reading symbolism as a childlike form of divination. As I evolved so too did my magick and these days I take a more ritualistic, esoteric approach. It is easy to label or categorise me…I am a witch. Categorising my magick is more difficult. As a witch I will utilise whatever I need to and whichever form of magick will best serve my needs.
On the magickal side I tend not to wear a hierarchical hat but I do practice ritual magick and as a member of the Dolmen Grove I co – write and facilitate several of the rituals within the Dolmen Grove; I am sure if people gave me a title it would be priestess!!
Diane, tell me about your attitude towards blood in your spiritual and magical practice?
Blood is the life force. Using blood in magick and bringing that life giving force into a ritual giving it and subsequent thought forms life. The use of venous blood in bonding rites adds the essence of self whether as a mixing of bloods as a bond between priest and priestess, handfastings (my life force is joined to their life force etc.) or added to ink for spell casting where the concept would be control over the ritual. Either way it is my sacrifice to ensure an outcome or seal a bond on a deeper ritual level. Menstrual blood I would consider preferable to use where the intention is sexually or fertility driven, be it to attract or repel. Menstrual blood although entirely feminine is blood which has being rejected by the body and unlike venous blood is no longer ‘alive’. The living blood which flows through our bodies provides a more vital energy and although I would consider it often to be the ‘greater sacrifice’ can at times be fraught with some of our darker energies more often than we would choose to admit, with menstrual blood often being the safer option for feeding spirit houses etc, especially in our wilder teenage years.
As you no longer are able to work with your menstrual blood magickally, what adjustments have you needed to make to your practice?
Anything that required menstrual blood I find can be replaced by mixing venous blood with sexual fluids. This relies on a tantric understanding of oneself which comes purely with age, and the ability to use it cautiously because it is often far more powerful than the menstrual blood of my ‘Earth Mother’ years.
Have you noticed a difference in the way your spirituality operated during your menstruating years, pregnancy, childrearing and now menopause.
Although it wasn’t obvious at the time, now when I look back I can see that my spiritual path reflected the stage of life I was at. As a small child I practised a more nature based form of magic and because, like most children the great outdoors was a wonderland, I longed to experience the garden at night. I remember looking out of the bedroom window at the dark moonlit garden and seeing it as this beautifully magickal place with its own set of rules and inhabitants. I grew up opposite an incredibly old church and graveyard and there was something curiously comfortable about the graveyard by moonlight. By eight years old I owned my first book on Cornish witchcraft which gave me simplistic structured spells to follow. As a teenager my spiritual beliefs were as rebellious as every other aspect. Like most teenagers my brain cells were replaced with hormones and a challenging somewhat chaotic attitude towards everything and everyone. I did not, like many of my peers, ‘fall in love on a weekly basis’; still preferring to have control over my emotions. I tried marijuana and of course alcohol. As I had epilepsy as a child I was never tempted to try anything stronger. Looking back that was definitely a blessing in disguise. My spiritual beliefs revolved around the concept of, if the Christians were right then God (as they knew him) was really an old dope smoking hippy with a really warped sense of humour…hence the platypus and the bible. My polytheistic beliefs were not so much celebrated as they were in my infancy but had become somehow closer and more human. I explained my polytheism using analogies such as, if I wanted to buy knickers in a department store I didn’t ask the owner just the lady on the knickers counter!!!! Throughout my teenage years magick was replaced by teenage angst and punk rock. The louder and more offensive the better! Funnily enough it was at the end of my teenage years and prior to having children that I discovered I could read tarot cards.
As a mother I returned to my spiritual path finding a spiritualist medium that sneakily did spells on the side. She was the epitome of the archetypal medieval wise woman. From her I honed my skills of Tarot reading, clairvoyance and psychometry. When my son died I was only 25 years old and a deeper understanding and knowledge help me to understand not only why he had died but to appreciate and seize all that life has to offer. Nowadays my path has brought me to a greater understanding of ritual magick and the importance of channelled information and life experience.
How are you finding menopause? I’ve been post menopausal three or so years now, starting the process in my thirties and I must admit (dodgy physical manifestations aside) I feel the most integrated and centred that I have ever been
I went through the menopause quite early and have not menstruated for the last eight years and I have found that like you I am more centred and much more focused. I have a much greater understanding of how magick has worked for me throughout life including the years I seemed to step back from it. One of the things about the inner wisdom of the witch is the importance of knowing when not to do rituals ,as much as knowing when to do them.
Diane you have talked about the changes in your inner and outer worlds post menopause; have there also been changes in your relationship with spirits, deities or God forms?
As a child my magic was more intuitive and natural…the simplicity of childhood reflected in magick and I remember being about 7 when I came to the conclusion that I must be Pagan as the Greco Roman polytheistic belief system made more sense than the mainstream monotheistic beliefs of the community. Given that I lived in a village with two C of E churches this was quite a radical decision. Having made that decision I was drawn to Venus and Jupiter; the all – powerful father god and his daughter, the goddess of love and beauty. There may have been an element of my coming from a single parent family but it more likely is that this God/Goddess combination eased my transition from monotheism to Paganism.
Later, as a teenager I was more drawn to the fiery energy of Mars and the dark energies of Pluto/Hades and the energy of the hunt associated with Diana/Artemis, while as a mother I felt closer to the softer energies of Venus/Aphrodite and Pan the God of fertility and lust.
Although I have aged and my life taken many turns, there remains a pattern to my existence as now I can see that even without any awareness or knowledge of Diana, Lucifer, Hecate and Cerridwen their energies have always been present. I see Cerridwen more with age as I experience more of life and see more of death; through these I understand rebirth. Hecate in her most ancient of guises has been there at all the crossroads and now she calls to the darkness within me just as Lucifer has always been there showing the way towards enlightenment.
How about changes in your relationship to the environment?
I suppose there are many contributing factors but having passed the years of needing babysitters, I became free to pursue my magick in a way that connected me more to the surrounding environment.
Initially this took the form of running a witchcraft shop which included teaching witchcraft and tarot, bringing me out of my closet and into the pagan community. It was this that brought me into contact with the Dolmen Grove, eventually leading me to my role within the Grove now.
These days my magick is centred mostly on raising the consciousness of those within the surrounding circle initially, and hopefully beyond, and I suspect the deities I work with now facilitate this concept.
In some non Western cultures post menopausal women are afforded higher status and initiation into areas previously barred to them and in Tantra the power of magick is said to move from a women’s genitals and womb to her heart. Do you think that post menopausal women in the western magickal community are given enough resources, respect and recognition? Do you think that the mythos around ‘the crone’ covers all the bases?
The short answer has to be Hell No!!!! The mythos around the ‘Crone’ falls very short of covering all the bases, but at least it tries to cover some of them. While I understand the concept of the tantric idea that the magick moves from the genitals and womb to the heart, my own understanding and experience is that post-menopausal women have a greater understanding of using all of these areas and how to incorporate them into their tantric rituals. By allowing the magick to be present and flow freely through the genitals, womb and heart the effect of tantric rituals will be much greater. It is probably fairer to assume only the crone has the freedom and maturity to incorporate all aspects of love and creation without the ego getting in the way.
Whilst it is certainly true that many other cultures have more reverence for age, there are also many other cultures that don’t although I suspect it is only in Western countries that the beauty of youth is celebrated above the wisdom of the elder. With age comes life experience and a deeper understanding and I find that people respect me for that and perhaps over the years I have learned how to gain respect. The resources available to all those practising magick are much easier to attain since the internet. Whether it be obscure herbs, magickal tools or simply the need to chat with like – minded individuals it is all there on a plate….and of course solitude is a rare luxury but when it turns to necessity it is attainable.
As a child I lacked the experience, as a teenager I lacked the focus and as a mother I lacked the time, but now …K’ching!!! Now I have all of these and I find that I know have the serenity for my understanding to eventually become wisdom.
Diane, how would like to see an evolution or change of attitudes towards post menopausal women develop within the magickal community? Any thoughts for actions that would positively shake up a stagnant status quo and be of benefit to the community AND to the women concerned?
In order for any change to be of long term effect it needs to begin by educating the younger members of the community, this sadly extends to the community as a whole. We have reached a stage in mankind’s evolution, particularly in the western world where a strengthening of family values is not just important but essential. I feel sadly that it is my generation who have failed to see the wisdom of their elders, seeing them more often than not as a burden. By the same token the innocence of youth is all too often seen as something to be conquered rather than nurtured. In my house three generations live side by side comfortably.
As I watch my youngest daughter look forward to the birth of her first child I become aware as to how little our children are prepared for the experience of motherhood, and she is grateful for the chance to learn how to be a Mum from someone who has not only been through it but within a safe and loving environment. I know a few others in three generation households all of which are Pagan.
I hope this trend continues as I see my mother being respected for her compassion and knowledge by her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I hope I too earn that love and respect.
That said they will only learn respect for their elders, if their elders earn that respect.
With age we attain wisdom and learn how to accept and use the darkness that lives inside us instead of fearing it …or worse still fighting it!!
Dark Moon Hag.
Wonder at the daughter,
Of the pale new moon,
Who dances through her life
And wishes on the stars
For it goes all too soon.
Adore the chaotic ways,
Of the crescent youth,
Whose beauty lies
Beyond skin deep
and hides their inner truth.
Worship the matriarchal fullness
Of the fertile moon,
For her belly holds
The seeds of life
And sings creations tune.
But glorious is the aged path
Of the dark moon hag
Who can finally understand
All that youth tries so hard
To hold within its hand.