The Alchemist

Alchemists in the Middle Ages tried to find a way to change ordinary metals into gold. It was a process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary.

I think I have a little of the alchemist in me. As a crafter, I am inquisitive and have tried many ways of creating things. I use scraps and leftovers from one project to make another item. In that process, I take something very ordinary – a collection of assorted debris – and turn it into something else. Not always extraordinary but certainly unique. I am definitely not a professional; sometimes things work out well, sometimes they are recycled before they have really seen the light of day.

I love making jewellery – earrings and necklaces. And of course I have far too many beads collected and stashed away waiting for the next spurt of creativity to inspire a flurry of making things.

Working with my hands to create beautiful items gels with many of my pagan beliefs. Dismantling broken necklaces to change into something else fits with my desire to be eco-friendly, not throwing things away if they can be re-used. It also confirms my belief that just because something is old or damaged does not mean that it is not useful nor worthy – and that applies to people as much as it does beads.

For me, the time and thought that goes into making something makes it more valuable and precious, even if it isn’t perfect, with its own unique flaws and personality.

I spent time converting some of my bead collection into symbols to be used in ritual. As many of us are not able to get out to ritual in the wild, especially with Covid keeping us indoors for safety, I put together a small ritual pack that could be used on the table in your dining room, or the coffee table by your sofa.

I made a representative for East, South, West and North, and one for Spirit. Each of these has a different quality and strength, and I tried to emulate that in my workings.

East is where we look for the rising sun. I made a circle of yellow beads with a single ray reaching out to me. I wired the beads in such a way that the shape remained fixed, just as the sun is a constant in our lives.

South is warmth and fire. I used red and orange beads on flexible wire. Four arms bent up from the centre, moving when touched. Flames rising from the seat of the fire.

West gives us water. This time I used very thin wire threaded with blue beads, folded back on itself. Shaped like waves, it moved through your hands with the fluidity of water.

North needed the stability of earth, so I made a firm straight line of beads. I used wooden beads to represent the strength of trees. Smaller green beads slid  inside the wooden discs, only revealing themselves when you moved the piece, just like the first green shoots that spring from the earth when you least expect them.

Spirit had to be wonderful, so I used a clear faceted bead surrounded by a circle of small pastel beads. Spirit at the centre of all things, spreading light around it.

This may seem all very fanciful, but as I made them, my intentions became part of their creation. I added a circle of hessian to be the safe space to place them, and also to gather up after the mini ritual, as a keepsake.

I made several, to send to friends. The everyday transformed into something special. How about making Yule gifts? I’m sure fellow pagans will appreciate your thoughts which make your gift extra special, a gift with good intent.  

Written by Portland Jones, PF Disabilities Liaison for the West Midlands