O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset wi’ thorns and briers?
That is the Path of Righteousness,
Though after it but few inquires.
‘And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the Road to Heaven.
‘And see ye not yon bonny road
That winds about the fernie brae?
That is the Road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae.
‘But, Thomas, ye sall haud your tongue,
Whatever ye may hear or see;
For speak ye word in Elfyn-land,
Ye’ll ne’er win back to your ain countrie.’
Thank you for stepping into the world of the Cailleachs Herbarium. Before you journey the mysterious and crooked path through the landscape of Scottish folklore, herbalism and magic form the point of view of a Scottish native, perhaps dragging some soap boxes to stand on with me along the way, it might be wise to ponder who the writer of these words is for a while.
Though, when someone goes public with information, discussing beliefs and experiences people assume all sorts of things about them. It is important to disclose some things. To help prevent bias and to perhaps, allow some perspective to settle on the diorama being presented.
This website is the creation of Scott Richardson-Read. I have been involved with the occult/pagan/folk magic community since 1990 around the time i was initiated as a young adult into a coven in the wilds of the Wyre Forest which used to run out of a small shop. Those were heady and complicated times of ‘witch’ politics, magazine articles, newspaper film interviews. Not something I wish to repeat. I eventually found myself looking for more. I sought out a different, more authentic, connection outside of religious dogma and pantomime tradition created on the back one of faulty ideas and inaccurate thinking. I moved on researching and exploring ideas and ways whilst returning to focus on the community around me and others who may have found themselves to be outsiders.
I am a four times graduate and hold Masters degrees in psychology, Social work, Research and occasionally find myself returning to my wish to finish my PhD. (Though i doubt that will happen – the academy is a narrow-minded place). I have dedicated my career, some would call it a vocation, formed from the early years of working in the margins of life to supporting those who are outsiders in their communities – marginalised maybe by illness, disability, mental health issues, sexuality or a culture they find themselves unwelcome in. I now have the privilege of championing these causes at government and parliamentary levels in Scotland and a lot of my writing on this subject is freely available online. I find the role of the wise man or woman so fascinating as they were all these things in a community – psychologist, social worker and healer in one. I have a solid grounding in different herbal schools and consider myself a full-time student of the school of folk herbalism and plants this is an eduction that never ends.
Magic is found, for those with eyes to see, right where we are. In our ancestors, families, however they may be made, to the community we are in and the land we find ourselves living on. It is not out “there”. It’s not found in a tradition requiring dogma, a million dollar vocabulary, or to cow-tow to a particular view point or point of worship of things perhaps alien to us. This is all smoke and mirrors. Us outsiders have never needed these kind of rules.
It’s a peculiarly western phenomenon that as soon as things appear in writing or in research they tend to gather a veil of authority. In light of this strange occurrence, I wish to supply the discriminating reader with right information to help them question this authority.
Nothing I say is presented by me as Truth but perhaps truth. At times, my truth will be very different from yours. Some things that I could write more about I have left as questions in the hope to engage you the reader in thinking further. The Truths and truths of the old ways are a lived experience, each of us understanding these in different ways, some sacred, some practically and perhaps some even profane. Through your eyes, the printed voice of these words shares my sum of experience, thoughts, research, ethics, observations and opinions. Hopefully along the way punctuated by what wisdom I have been able to gather. But everyone has a share of wisdom to pass around.
As your mind wanders through the landscape of ideas, research and stories presented to you please don’t allow your mind to slip into a passive state of observing and repeating. In light of your experience, question my assumptions and laugh at my conclusions. I accept and relish the opportunity to change my mind and reach different ideas. We are all seekers. I am aware that my mind holds constructs of thinking and attachments to things that it has deftly disguised as a certainty. Through community, we can help each other see past these pits in the road and move safely onwards with our journey.
I feel passionate about the old ways and folk tales of Scotland and other ideas I write about. If my idiosyncrasies suddenly present me as a street corner preacher please allow me this social mistake. Please try not to find fault with my passion. Please though take a note of what you do not agree with and get back to me about my fault in judgement by contacting us. That way we can be co-seekers and co-members toward a community and a way of life which still has a lot to still discover about itself.