My Name Isobel


Yesterday, a book that I have been waiting to read for a while – The Visions of Isobel Gowdie by Emma Wilby arrived in my post box. This book has been on my list since reading Emma’s first volume Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits five years ago. Now I am deep in research for my own book, I have revisited Cunning Folk and want to move onto Isobel right away.


I have been thinking a lot in the last few days about the things that have been taking place with Covid recently in France, i.e. a law being passed that says no one can enter museums, cinemas and tourist attractions, soon to be bars and restaurants without a vaccination pass and how much our self-reliance is being eroded because of these laws. It no longer seems to be the case (especially here in France) that individuals can decide how they want to protect themselves from the virus (by staying healthy, boosting their immune systems, practising isolation if they so desire etc.), instead the government seems to think it needs to prescribe the vaccination and make it law for everyone, despite how much self-reliance they may possess.

It seems to me that the persecutors in the early modern-era witchcraft trials somehow played the same kind of role, to my mind in an embryonic way. I feel there is a connection between that time and the state of the nation right now, although my hypothesis is not yet fully formed. Hopefully, when I have finished reading this book and another I have on order, Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici, the hypothesis will have firmed up some more.


This morning on my walk, the dog that I am currently looking after, managed to pull yet another creature out of the undergrowth, this time a fledgling song thrush who looked literally just out of the nest. All legs and yellow beak, as soon as I managed to get the dog away, I saw that they were not particularly hurt but as soon as I went near, they turned their lolling head up towards me and begged for food; that total and complete trust in the enemy – even though I was trying to ‘save’ them. The fledgling’s mother came and showed me her agitation and displeasure at being too near, until I assured her that I was just putting her baby back in the undergrowth and that I would leave post haste.

On returning, I turned to the cards, this time searching for what I knew I had been looking for these past few days – The Pope. I am forming an idea about the institutions that govern us, witch trails and the thing that I am starting to understand could embody this Pope card completely – Reliance. In the classic Marseilles Tarot, we see him blessing the congregation in benediction with his two fingers, here in the Tarot de l”Etoile Cachée, pope-man holds a fag between his blessed digits whilst making the same gesture; a subtle – or not-so subtle – dig at the church, something that could never have happened in the 1600s without a call for heresy being held over one’s head. Thankfully, modern freedom of speech allows for divisive commentary, with the hidden agenda of the church – of in fact, any institution that controls the masses – in plain sight. I quickly equate it with another two-fingered sign I could show back to them. All in jest, of course.


Reliance – on the state, on the church, on the government, on those that take away our power without our knowing it, of the enemy who comes to save us, that is what this card is all about. Old Popey is showing up to let us know just how much we have succumbed to the dictates of others. Literally under our noses, us ‘children of the church’, so dependent like good disciples on the liturgy, the dogma and the facebook feed, in my mind become juxtaposed to those ladies of the night, snatching up besoms and riding off, cavorting with whomever the hell they choose, regardless of liturgy or law. No wonder the powers that be needed to eradicate all those witches. I feel right now that the anti-vaxxers or more specifically, those who are standing up to the way our liberty is being swiftly taken away from us, are being silenced too, if not blatantly, under the writ of that Holy Consecrated Institution – Science.

Right now, I am still a little murky about all this. I would like to write more about it but I need to do a bit of reading, a bit of thinking and some more shuffling of the cards. Laying a spread is always a good thing to do when clarity is needed.

Meanwhile, I remind myself that very soon after rescuing the fledgling this morning, a beautiful bullfinch flew to a branch very near to my head, puffed up his ruddy chest and then darted off into the woods. I always take occurrences like this as divinatory messages and today, I found myself uplifted by his small act of kindness towards me … be strong, be bull-headed and confident. Never, ever doubt the validity of your beliefs. Coming up against the Pope, do not stoop your head for his benediction but turn back to your own heart; never doubt your own truth emblazoned on your bright chest, there for those who are able to see, to see – as obvious as daylight, as subversive as night.

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