So THIS is why witches smile so much!

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This week I heard, for the first time, the origin of the iconic witch-on-a-broomstick image – and it’s AWESOME!

Halloween background with witch flying in the skyI have often wondered what the whole broom thing was about. I idly mused that it might be a phallic thing. Then I’d dismiss that, assuming that my brain was going off trying to find sex at the bottom of everything –  #typicaltherapist…

But hurrah for the radio! I caught a snippet of an interview on NewstalkFM where a guy was talking about witches, broomsticks and female masturbation. I missed most of it but my interest was piqued, naturally, so I decided I’d try the Google machine. It didn’t take much to find a few pieces written on this topic. Those witches – what amazing women, and what fun they had! When they weren’t being shunned, mistreated and murdered for being, well, women.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ rolling –  or riding, or whatever…

From our modern viewpoint, female drug use and sexual pleasure are not quite so shocking as in the middle ages. Although it could be argued (and I do argue it, all the time) that people still seem to have enormous difficulty with women enjoying sex as much as men. Dare I say even more? The female arousal experience is one I’d love for men to experience – oh yes guys, you are missing out.  Apparently though, we all have similar orgasms – apart from ours being longer (a lot longer, but it’s not a competition so I won’t go on about it. But if it were, we’d win, just saying).

But I digress…

In enlightened and civilised circles, female enjoyment of sexuality is now seen as liberating. But witches were “invented” at a time when a woman choosing to do what she wished with her own body or mind was so unthinkable as to be synonymous with the devil himself. This might have echoes of a more recent discussion we had here in Ireland. Sometimes, OK often, I shudder at how little has changed.

In the “olden days” as we well know, women were tortured and killed because they dared to explore such personal liberties. And as we also well know, that still happens, although not here thankfully. Not in the literal sense at least.

The Science Bit (NSFW)

“Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – Macbeth IV, i

You might be wondering – what has this has got to do with broom sticks?

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Well, it turns out that the historical depiction of witches riding broomsticks has its origins in hallucinogenic plant pharmacology.  Shakespeare knew this, but the indigenous knowledge predates him.

Hallucinogenic compounds called tropane alkaloids are produced by several plants:

  • Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
  • Hyoscyamus niger (henbane)
  •  Mandragora officinarum (mandrake)
  • Datura stramonium (jimsonweed).

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You’ll have heard of some of these and their effects. During the Middle Ages, parts of these plants were used to make erm… ointments… for witchcraft, sorcery and other nefarious activities. Somewhere in their evolution, these crafty ladies discovered that these ointments could be absorbed through the armpits or via the mucous membranes of the anus or vagina – also bypassing intestinal discomfort which might y’know, ruin the mood.

And just how did they apply this ointment?

According to Mann, the earliest clue comes from the case of Lady Alice Kyteler (1324):

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“In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of oyntment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”

And from the 15th century records of Jordanes de Bergamo:

“But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.”

Other hairy places. Isn’t that brilliant?! Ann Summers eat your heart out.
And the flying? Well, they were high!!
So there you have it. All my favourite boxes ticked – a drop of drugs education, a sprinkling of sex education and dollop of female liberation all in the one post. No wonder witches are smilers.
Happy Halloween!! #wink
Now, hmm….does that floor need sweeping?

Lost for a word

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October. It’s infant and pregnancy loss awareness month as designated by Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Did you know?

What strikes me this week is how quietly it’s slipping by, we’re nearly in November. And not much has been said. Is it par for the course? Child loss is one of those things we don’t talk about – that women (and men) often “bear” in stoic silence and secret, private agony. One would think, given the referendum and outpouring of grief and concern for women and their babies that there would have been more said this month. Or maybe it’s because so much has already been said – maybe there is a collective compassion fatigue? Are we just exhausted from it? Because loss is exhausting, there’s no doubt about that. Or maybe there are just too many other things going on this month – it certainly has been busy in the media.

Is it that?

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Have you been hurt by an addicted parent?

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There’s a “syndrome” called ACOA – are you familiar with it? It means Adult Child of Alcoholic, or, as experience has taught me, Adult (or teen) Child of any Addict.

I came across it years ago, before I trained actually. Before I really understood what alcoholism was, or how common it is. I was lucky, I know.  Since then I’ve learned how the idea of ACOA as a collection of “habits” really helps to explain a lot of the thought patterns and behaviours that thousands of adults experience and struggle with every day – every hour maybe. And the people who love them struggle too.

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Is Suicide Selfish?

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Some people woke up this morning feeling dark, empty, hopeless. Maybe they didn’t sleep, again. They feel desperate, crazy even, from lack of sleep. Not being able to think straight, not even knowing that they’re not thinking straight. Some people today can see no value, no point in being alive. There is no joy, not even peace. A quiet mind would be enough. But how to get that…

 

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When Leaving Cert results are disappointing

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So the results are out!

For many, I hope, today brings a sense of relief, achievement and celebration.

YAY!

But for some there is mild to utterly devastating disappointment.

For some, the LC results bring a sense of relief, achievement & celebration. Yay! But for others there is mild or utterly devastating disappointment. How to cope: #leavingcert18 #parenting share with another LC student or parent

DisappointingResults

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We’re all gone Mango Mad!

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I was talking my niece who lives in Australia last week. We whatsapp regularly which is great, but we have only small windows during which we’re both awake and alert enough to be super witty and entertain each other – or indeed support each other as the need arises. (We’re only 8 years apart for anyone who might be concerned I’m leaning on a child for my entertainment and emotional needs!)

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Exams? Hold onto your sanity with these 10 quick tips!

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Just hours to go guys! (Like you don’t know…)

I’ll keep this simple and not link to supporting evidence – but, as with my last on Leaving Cert tips, know that I have it if you’re interested:)

DURING EXAMS:

1: Read the question (practice HOW here – that will make sense when you open it!) – you’ll know you understand it if you can rephrase it.

2: Underline key words.

3: Draw out a plan for your answer – scribble any names, dates, formulae you’ll need immediately.

4: Think of the invigilator as a helper, not a disciplinarian. Their job is to assist you in doing your best.  

5: Think of the person assessing your paper as trying to help you get the best marks, not take them away from you. These people want you to do well. Help them to help you by being clear and simple.

6: Avoid the temptation to discuss the gory details of each paper afterwards, especially with the ones mentioned in that last piece.

7: Eat in between exams. Even if you’re nervous and feel a little – eating will help.

8: If you feel a panic coming on try this:

Squeeze every muscle in your body including your face all the way to your toes.
Hold tight for 3 seconds, and then flop eveything.
Place a hand on your tummy and take a deep breathe into it, past your chest, so your hand moves. Keep your shoulders low. Breathe until your breath has slowed to a speed in the gif below 
Then do the squeeze again, hold for three, and flop.

 

Box breathing

 

 

This will help calm you down so that you can carry on. Don’t worry about other people seeing you do it. Firstly it’s discreet, secondly, they won’t be looking at you, you are the last thing on classmates’ minds right now, and that’s normal!

9: Reread all your answers and make any changes or additions necessary.

10: Check that you have answered as many Qs as required in each section.

When you’re done, pat yourself on the back knowing that you’ve just done one of the most difficult things in your life and that you’ve done your best.

 

That’s good enough!! (Yes it is!)

Good luck to you all – I wish you the very best that life has to offer – and that’s loads!!