In The Spotlight - RiverWitch Apothecary
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Hello and welcome to the RiverWitch Apothecary.
I am over the moon to have been invited by Emma to write this feature about the work that I do.
My name is Michelle Axe, and I’m also known by many as the ‘RiverWitch’.
I live with my talented artist partner, Jamie Joel-Blackwater, and our delusional cat - Furball - he thinks he’s a Bengal tiger when clearly he isn’t! He’s ‘just’ a cat with an epic attitude, and delusions of grandeur, but we love him for it all the same.
Together, we live squashed into a 72ft canal boat which is also called the River Witch. It seemed a good idea at the time, living on the boat that is, but two artists and a cat… what could possibly go wrong?!
Interestingly, the boat’s name when we bought her was ‘Apothecary’, so the RiverWitch Apothecary is completely the right name for this arm of my business, creating a rather lovely synchronicity and completion within this particular circle of my life - and as we say, “there are generally no coincidences in life”!
I’m widely recognised as a Druid, Witch, Teacher, and Practitioner of Indigenous British, Magical, and Spiritual Craft, and author of the bestselling book ‘Beyond The Blood Red Cave’. It is semi-autobiographical and focuses on women’s craft and magic based on my own experiences, where I share stories, meditations, insights and knowledge from my life.
I am also a Glass Artist, specialising in combining both traditional techniques of glass staining and the more modern fusing. I take my inspiration from nature and from the sacred aspects of myth and legend, with a healthy sprinkle of inspiration from my own personal magic and craft. Throughout the year I run weekend glass workshops; sadly, due to the lockdown, we have had to temporarily pause them, but hope to continue with the workshops when it’s safe to do so.
For over 25 years I worked in the Health and Social Care sectors, working with teen mums, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation, youth and community development, Gypsy and travellers, and setting up and running the Family support services in South Bristol.
Since the late 1980s I have qualified in various complementary therapies and disciplines, all of which support the many and varied aspects of my work. As an experienced personal development worker/life coach, multi-faceted therapist and practitioner - which includes counselling support, medical and clinical hypnotherapy - I have been able to put all these elements into my personal cauldron of creation.
Along with Jamie - who is also from a hereditary Pagan family, which is very unusual - I am the founder and Joint Head of the Order of Gwyddon, organiser of the wonderful Spirit of Awen Camps, as well as and not forgetting, the ‘Ancient Goddess Retreats’, which I run for Women throughout the year.
ll in all I am blessed with having an extremely busy, varied, eclectic and fulfilled life, albeit that I actually feel quite shattered now having read back everything I do! Isn’t it amazing how often we fail to recognise our own achievements and instead beat ourselves up thinking we should be doing more and not be so lazy?
Another important aspect of me and my life, is my love for the art of divination. I have been reading the cards and stones since the age of 12, when my first tarot deck was serendipitously put through the front door of our home, on my 12th birthday. I was always told you should be gifted your first deck if you are to be a seer. I never have been able to work out whether it was my Grandma or my Auntie Ann who gifted me them, but I’m pretty sure it was one of them.
Over the years I have built a reputation as a professional celebrant and priestess working with complex, diverse, multi-faith individuals and communities. I have been involved in setting up and running camps and festivals for over twenty years; and in-between all of the above I still try to find time to give talks as a speaker at events up and down the country.
So, apart from being a Celebrant, running the Spirit of Awen Camps, Ancient Goddess retreats, writing books (slowly!!...) and creating with Glass, I also LOVE to make, create, heal and lavish gorgeousness, with my Lotions and Potions...
Here’s a brief background on the RiverWitch Apothecary.
Since early childhood, I have been a lifelong practitioner of Hedgerow Herbalism/Lotions and Potions. Where possible I pick and gather my ingredients, i.e flowers, roots, leaves and berries. I sing over the healing brews, charms and songs of healing. I was taught to do this from a child.
One of my earliest memories is of being taken by an old lady around a garden, picking flowers and leaves, before putting them into a bowl whilst we danced and sang over the bowl charms of healing. Singing your intent into your sacred healing brew is an old tradition and ensures the focus and intent of your brew is blessed and full of extra universal magic... I know I sound as mad as a box of frogs!! But it has always worked for me and something that I was taught to do since a very young age.
As part of my lotions and potions making, I talk about the ‘Therapy Without The High’. It is something which seems to be ‘totally on trend’, what with so many of us looking more towards the natural world for our medicines, cures and therapies. However, herbalism, the power of nature, and the elementals that live within its realm, are not new to the human race. An understanding of healing plants, and the magic of nature has long been an important and essential aspect of life.
Our Ancestors down the millennia have understood the power of plants, flowers and trees; in short, the natural gifts of nature. By the time orthodox medicine came to the fore, the old ways of the Hedgerow Herbalist, the Cunning Folk, Wise Woman and/or the Witch, were already being shunned and dismissed. Now they were viewed as nothing more than quacks and charlatans by the ‘establishment’. All of which is quite ironic since many of today’s essential medications have their origins in the botanical herbs and plants administered by the herbalist and wise ones of old!
But let me be clear - I strongly believe that we cannot and should not dismiss the importance of modern medicine or the uniqueness and essential value that the NHS provides. I believe that both paths of conventional and alternative medicine/healing have an equally crucial role in our lives, and can complement each other.
There is a saying that, for every illness, nature has and can provide the cure. Hedgerow herbalism or wild medicine is natural, effective, holistic and sustainable if practiced properly. It is/should be seasonal, which means that the harvesting, gathering, and making of any given remedy, will usually coincide with the medicinal need of the plants and their healing properties.
For example, comfrey is a fantastic skin and wound healer, it is brilliant for treating sore or injured skin and is available in the summer months when the need for its medicinal properties for treating wounds, sun burns, bites and rashes are likely to be at its highest. It is also highly effective when combined with wild Plantain for treating psoriasis and eczema, combining both of the plant's healing properties for the most effect.
However, there is a vital point to remember when picking, gathering and brewing with natural botanicals, roots, herbs, leaves, fungi and trees, which is “that which nourishes also poisons”. So too much or too little of something can be equally harmful.
Many herbs/plants can also get a very bad press. Sometimes this is justified, sometimes it isn’t. Cannabis/hemp is one such plant. It has had a controversial history and press which makes it difficult for many to see this incredible plant for its spectacular healing properties, its ability to treat pain, to help in palliative care, and help those with conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and cancer.
The illegal component of Hemp is the TCH which gives it the ‘high’. Now there is a good amount of research that the TCH reacts differently in someone that is ill with a chronic and or perhaps life limiting condition, but the ‘high’ aspect can be a big drawback for many. Apart from the fact it makes what you are taking illegal.
However, I make CBD oil from hemp pollen and bud, which means I am using legal hemp; legal because it has had the illegal ‘high’ removed, yet all of its goodness and medicinal properties remain, just leaving the “Therapy Without the High”. As long as the TCH is no higher than 0.3% it is legal. My product is 22% CBD which is one of the highest CBDs you can legally buy and 0.2% TCH. So it’s a win-win in my book.
Originally, pretty much all of my products were developed for my own personal use. So everything that I now make to sell is exactly how I make them for me, my family and my friends. The CBD products in particular are made to help with the ailments, conditions, stresses, anxieties and pain that each item has been specifically labelled for.
Over the years I have made lotions, potions, ointments and creams for lots of people; selling them on my festival and market stalls, and even to boutique shops in nearby Bath.
I have started off small, but will slowly increase my range as I go along, adding more gorgeous, natural goodies which will include moisturising face and body creams. Everything I make is - where possible - made with natural, organic and sustainable ingredients. I try to be as sensitive as possible to the environment, ensuring that all packaging is biodegradable and/or recyclable.
Thank you for allowing me to share this window into my world. I have really enjoyed writing this for you. I hope that you will pay a visit to the RiverWitch Apothecary, where I will be glad to welcome you all, and perhaps you will find the much needed "Therapy without the high" that you need.
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