Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How to read a stone (DIY fortune-telling)

On their way to Cow Castle, Hunter, Rowan and their Ferish companions stop by a stream to eat. Rowan decides to ask a stone for guidance and finds out that danger lies ahead.
I have been fascinated by methods of divination (telling the future) since I was very young. I started off by learning to read the tarot when I was around eight years old. Then I learned how to cast runes in my early teens and how to read the Chinese oracle, the I Ching, when I was about sixteen.
Reading a stone is the shamanic version of reading tea leaves, I suppose.

This is an excerpt from Tabitha Greenway’s book, in which she explains how to read a stone. Try it!


Nature can give us answers to all our questions – it’s just a case of asking the right question to the right animal or object. I sometimes think nature must think we’re really stupid – we worry and fret about all kinds of things but never bother to ask what we can do about them. If something important is bothering you, probably the best “person” to ask is a stone.
Stones are ancient. They have watched the rise and fall of countless civilisations. Our entire lifetimes are merely the blink of an eye for a stone. So don’t expect immediate answers from this method of divination. You will need patience and respect. You can’t rush a stone. However, if you are prepared to slow down a bit (not entirely to their level but at least a fair bit calmer than our usual frenetic state) then you can learn a lot. Stones have huge wisdom and it’s just a bit surprising really that so few people bother to ask them for answers to tricky questions.

Use this technique for any serious question for which you need a serious answer. It’s not intended for mundane stuff (although I know someone who always asks a stone when she loses her keys).

1. Go outside into nature with the intention of finding a stone or rock that is willing to help you. You will know it’s “your” rock because it will nudge itself into your attention. Something about it will appeal – or equally could appear unpleasant.
2. Pick it up, making a note of where you found it so you can return it afterwards. Thank it for its willingness to help you.
3. Sit down quietly somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Breathe slowly and deeply, starting to feel calm and peaceful. Don’t force your breathing, just keep it natural but let it automatically deepen as you relax.
4. Decide on your question and repeat it to the rock three times – you can either say it out loud or to yourself (the rock will understand).
5. Look at one side of your stone or rock. If you like you can half-close your eyes. What do you notice? Are there any markings which remind you of anything? Do you see anything that could be a symbol? An animal perhaps? Write down what you see or imagine you might see.
6. Now turn the stone over and do the same on the other side. Now you have eight symbols.
7. Ask the rock your question. Now take the first symbol you saw (say, for example, lightning) and imagine what that symbol has to say to you. “Crack up!” perhaps, or “Make a flash” or “Beware – danger!” Write down the first response than comes into your head, however silly or stupid it might seem.
8. Now do the same for all of the symbols. Think about the messages you’ve been given. For example a hunter might tell you to be bold and fearless or equally to use stealth and cunning. A fire could advise you to burn brightly or to burn away the muck and dross from your life. An ant could warn you to keep your head down, to be small and unnoticed, or to work as a team, or to work harder at school! Only you will be able to make sense of what you’ve seen.
9. If you like, you can weave the answers you’ve been given together to make a sentence of intent. When I did this once I found myself left with “Trust, laugh and be yourself – leave the dross behind” which was very timely and a good reminder for me.
10. Thank the stone and return it to its place. Now all that’s left to do is to follow your own advice!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Questions and answers on reading mainly

A while back, I was asked a bunch of questions about reading and writing....these were my answers...

What would you have answered?

When you were very young, did anyone read to you? Yes, my mother read a lot – I clearly remember Winnie the Pooh and Paddington being favourites. We sobbed over Black Beauty and Shadow the Sheep Dog. It was a bedtime ritual and totally sacred.

Did you have a favourite picture book?
I don’t remember picture books at all, weirdly. But I loved the illustrations in Pooh.
Did you read to yourself, can you remember what age you started doing that?
I think I was about seven when I started and by the age of eight I was voracious, hiding under the covers with a torch when I was supposed to be asleep.

Why did you read? To escape or experience adventure? Or another reason?
To lose myself in other worlds, to be inspired by adventures…same reasons I still adore reading now.

Did anyone ‘ignite’ a passion for reading, a teacher/relative/librarian for example?
No, not that I recall – though I do remember the Book Races run by the local library every summer. As we didn’t go away on holiday that much, and also because I read very fast, I always did pretty well and once went to a party in London for winners where I met Joan Aitken and other authors (names forgotten).

Were there any book characters who influenced you and your behaviour?
Yes, the Famous Five and Secret Seven made me desperate to solve mysteries – I would hide behind bushes and snoop on my neighbours. One, bless him, joined in the game and would leave coded notes around for me to find!

Were there any places in a book that you longed to be?
Boarding school (Mallory Towers). Anywhere with ponies (Jill books). On an island (Island of Adventure).

Were you inspired to read poetry or were you put off the genre?
Again, I loved Milne as a very young child but don’t recall reading much in the way of poetry as a child.

Did you enjoy fairy stories?
Which fairy story or myth, if any, has stayed with you?
I ADORED fairy stories and myths (still do - my book Walker is stuffed with local legends). The more gruesome the merrier. The Tinder Box was a favourite and I devoured Greek, Norse, Celtic myths too. The myth of Persephone always stayed with me….

Was there a book you hated? More than one?
Not as a young child. I loved the lot.

Can you think of any modern writers of children’s literature who you think will survive the test of time? Any that won’t?
Philip Pulman, Garth Nix, William Nicholson, Michelle Paver, Michael Morpurgo, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper.

Won’t? Hmm…..Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson. Jury’s out on JK Rowling.

Do you think that reading as a child made you want to become a writer?
Undoubtedly. I started writing when I was about eight or nine and have done ever since, in one way or another. Though being a reader also makes one painfully aware of one’s own shortcomings.

If you wrote for children in the future what form would it take? Poetry, novel, film, quick read, short story etc? Have you ever done so? Been published?
Novel. Yup, have written two children’s novels. First one long ago consigned to the dustbin. Second one now doing the rounds of publishers.

Do you have children, grandchildren or young friends/ relatives? Do they enjoy books? What do they prefer? How do you encourage them? If you do?
James (my son) enjoys reading but, left to own devices, would probably prefer his XBox or Wii or whatever. He loves action books though – the Cherub series is his absolute favourite right now. He has only read the first chapter of Walker as he says he is ‘scared of spooky books’.

Do they visit a library on a regular basis?
Yes. We're very lucky as we have a fabulous library just down the road……

Do you buy books for children? What was the last one you bought?
Tons. I buy a horde of children's and YA fiction for myself and also a bunch for my son. Last one I bought for myself was Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Last one for my son was The Set-up by Sophie McKenzie.

Is the love of books becoming rarer?
I hope not.

Has the computer/TV/DVD screen taken over from the written page?
Not quite, but it’s doing its damndest.

If so, will it herald the decline of imagination?
I don’t know. I think one’s imagination can be inspired by film (good film) as much as books – images and words are equally powerful. Just as art and theatre can inspire imagination. Above all, I'd recommend getting out into the natural world - that inspires the imagination like nothing else.

Do you have ONE favourite book from your childhood?
Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath (a two-parter, so hope that's not cheating) – my favourite books EVER.
Also loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising
The Narnia series
Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet

If you were sent to a Desert Island and were only allowed one children’s book what would it be?
The Northern Lights trilogy (I would like to read them in one go, rather than spaced out over a few years).

Okay, so I'd love to know what your favourite reads were/are.... And do you think TV, DVD and gaming is wrecking the imagination?

Why did I write Walker?

Why does anyone write a book? Because they have a story to tell, I suppose.

But there are several reasons why I wanted to write this particular book.

Exmoor: When I was a child I used to stay with my grandparents at the other end of Somerset, in a small town called Castle Cary. We would go on coach trips to the seaside but the trip I really wanted to go on was to a place called Exmoor. It just sounded wild and magical. When I finally went there, many many years later, I realised it was all that and more.

I have lived on Exmoor for about twelve years now - firstly right out on the wild moor, and now on the edges of the National Park, in a (very) small town called Dulverton.

Exmoor is packed with legends and with wildlife. At our old home we would watch the wild red deer come within yards of our house. We followed the progress of fox cubs, observing their earth about twenty yards from our kitchen window. Buzzards circled overhead and at night we would hear owls - tawny and barn. At one point we even had a family of stoats living just outside the front door...

It's not just the animals. On Exmoor there are hills supposedly built by fairies. There are strange beasts and ghosts and places people won't go after dark. It is an ancient place, with wild open moors, deep combes (steep valleys), fast-flowing rivers and isolated villages. The perfect setting for a spooky story...

Shamanism: Many years ago I met a shaman called Leo Rutherford and he sparked my interest in this most ancient of practices. Intrigued, I went on courses run by The Sacred Trust, both in London and in Devon. Here I learned how to 'walk between worlds' for myself. I met spirit guides and was taught how to do healing; how to practice 'soul retrieval' and how to help the dead to transit over into the afterlife. All the practices you will read about in Walker, actually.

I wanted to write a book that was steeped in real magic - not just make-believe. Pretty well every shamanic technique you read about in Walker is real - and I've done them all. Okay, I took a bit of liberty with the shape-shifting in this reality - but you can indeed take on the characteristics of an animal guide. For example, if I'm driving my car on a difficult journey, I often call on the power of the far-sighted eagle. If I'm in a tricky situation, with sneaky people, I will summon up the characteristics of the smart coyote or cunning fox.

Good old-fashioned storytelling: When I was young I was entranced by the books of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper. They were authors who wrote about strange things happening in this world, in the everyday world. I have always loved the idea that the world of magic or the supernatural is really there all the time, if you know where to look for it. I am fascinated by things you see out of the corner of your eye; by the mood or atmosphere of places; by the spooky and uncanny.

This is just a few opening thoughts. If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them...just leave a comment.