When the Christmas biscuits are finished…


There were04-DSCF1019 three biscuits left in the tin from Christmas. I took them out, gathered all the empty paper rosettes from the tin, and left the them on top of the tin to be consumed by whoever grabbed them. Those white paper cupcake rosettes were silently screaming “make something…”

The need to create had been building over the past three days. Make something with what? I didn’t have a canvas…but I had sticks in the back yard, and string…What else? This thing wanted to make itself. Wrapping paper left over from Christmas… Beads I wanted to rescue from what had once been a dry arrangement of sorts, due for chucking out… A necklace I didn’t use but that had sentimental value…A bit of gold braid…Feathers…

I lashed the sticks together into a rustic frame and wove the string back and forth across it a few times to create a useable space and realised that perhaps the best description of what I was making was a shamble.

‘A shamble (also called a shambles) is a handmade device used by witches to detect or amplify magic. It can even be used for protection or to send a spell. The device itself is not magical. Shambles are like spectacles, they help you see, but don’t see for you. A conversant witch can assemble a shamble in a matter of seconds using stuff like strings, twigs, leaves, feathers, beads, coloured paper, an egg or even a beetle. The whole thing looks like a “cat’s cradle”, or some sort of nest made of rubbish. The ingredients are not really important, although the centre should contain a live ingredient (e.g. an egg or a beetle. On one desperate occasion, a Nac Mac Feegle has been employed as the living part of a shamble).

The magic lies in its assembly and use, which is to catch the moment. “The way you tie the knots,” said Miss Level, who was a Research Witch, “the way the string runs – the freshness of the egg, perhaps, and the moisture in the air – the tension of the twigs and the kind of things that you just happen to have in your pocket at that moment – even the way the wind is blowing. All these things make a kind of… of picture of the here-and-now when you move them right.”’ (https://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Shamble)

The bits just seemed to know what they should be and where they should go and I thought as little as possible, letting the thing make itself for the most part. An assemblage for the here-and-now moment of starting a New Year – a potentially challenging year with an un-well mother and university stuff to do…

Once I hung it on the wall, I realised it needed something behind it, so added the cheap scarf that it seemed to ask for.05-DSCF1020

I didn’t have time to sit down and consider what my shamble was telling me as I rushed headlong into a busy week, but now I’m grabbing an opportunity to use it and see what it has to say.

The sticks were grabbed off a pile of old branches. at least least some of them are from the old Ti tree that probably predates the house and the neighbourhood being built up. It’s a link to the ancient soil and rocks beneath this suburb – a link to deep time. Lashing them together brought back  memories of my time as a Girl Guide, learning to lash and tie knots. Working with the sticks in my bedroom left bark all over the floor mingling my indoor life with outdoor life merging realms and timelines.

Weaving the string between the branches invoked the weaving of life, of portals, complex pathways and mazes, things for seeing through, scrying, dreamcatchers…it forms a gateway to other worlds, other views, other perspectives, the spiritual realm.

The biscuit papers – strewn across like flowers on a vine – are the moments i treasure  – times with my children, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephews, and my friends, blight sparks of laughter, togetherness, meeting over food and drink, building community and sharing adventures and life events.


The butterfly painting – something I did in 2003 – fifteen years ago, now. It was, back then, a moment of reconnecting with my creativity, reminding myself that I could paint if I tried. Butterflies are always a symbol of transformation, of stepping through the next gateway on the path, moving onward and upward and taking life lightly, too.


The wrapping paper leaves run across counter to the biscuit paper flowers, invoking growth, but mostly they are there for their delicious aquamarine colour, my favourite colour – a combination of the green of the heart chakra and the blue of the throat chakra – a reminder to speak from the heart, to speak my truth, to be guided by compassion.


The dragon pendant was a gift from my mother, who knows I love dragons. It represents her love for me and her desire to nurture me. Dragons are symbolic of the power in wisdom to me – an ancient mythical being from so many cultures. It’s hard to find the words to explain what a dragon is to me – a sort of gathering of the essence of something, be it a powerful intention greater than the some of the people or creatures intending it, or strong emotion that gains a momentum of it’s own…I see dragons forring or summoned in those sorts of things.


The bell – probably left over from some past Lindt bunny – it wanted to be part of the whole to add sound. It’s presence invokes the wind chime in the back yard, and the voices of the birds. It is present to give warning of comings and goings, to include other senses to create the whole.


The feathers! – ah the feathers – bird gifts. Where would I be without my birds? I am in constant conversation with the birds around me. The cockatoos come for a bit of bread and seed, gently and politely accepting to be hand fed.

The lorikeets ask for apple at the kitchen window.

And ravens – visit occasionally. 15-DSCF1030

The birds link me back to my maternal grandmother who taught me to watch and love them and to tell the difference between a Laughing dove and Rock Pigeon at the birdbath in the centre of her lawn as we watched from her bedroom window when I was little (back in South Africa)


The ribbon comes from a Christmas gift from a dear friend and fellow kenshi, representing the importance of friendship and kinship – the ties that bind us, and the link to the sword, the life giving sword – only drawn to defend and protect.


The golden braid was left over from the making of a druid robe. It meanders coming in at an unpredictable point and going who-knows-where, because the way is like that. We catch glimpses of the thing that draws us forward, and for a while we are certain or our path, but then it seems to vanish for a time, yet as we press on it reappears, gleaming strongly again. This is like my current relationship with druidry which I would dearly love to give more time to, but just can’t while busy with university studies, and yet at the same time, the university studies align uncannily with druidry.


The beads represent light and reflection moments to pause and be still.

The scarf behind was originally bought as part of my costume for the first druid assembly I attended, where are evening festivities focused om Manannan mac Lir, the sea god. It forms an appropriate background as the way of being that druidry represents, with its strong sense of being situated in nature and part of nature, connected to place and season and creature, is what governs my life.

This is no small shamble. It focuses everything that is important to me – a web of community, love, friendship and support. Through this I can focus the magic of the year.

~ by Dragonwyst on January 28, 2018.

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Julie Brett

Author - Australian Druidry - Artist



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