BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Author Interview: Juleigh Howard-Hobson



[Today, we sit down for an interview with poet and author, Juleigh Howard-Hobson. Here, she discusses living off the grid, sonnet spells, her latest poetry collection, her first novel, and building a relationship with the local wights.]


BookMusings: How do you define your particular spiritual path? Do you follow a specific tradition?


Juleigh Howard-Hobson: I used to have a lot of names for my path, but lately, as I’ve gotten older and further along, I’ve grown to understand that labels and definitions are limiting by their very nature. So, I can only tell you that I follow the old ways. Specifically, the old ways of one of my particular ancestries: I am English, Lithuanian, and Danish. It is only the Danish path that calls to me.


It’s not for want of trying that I don’t follow my English or Lithuanian ancestors’ paths as well. I’ve stood in English groves, I’ve delved deeply into the ancient Lithuanian Pantheon …it’s simply that nothing is there deeply echoes in my soul like the path of the Danish Gods and Goddesses does.


That said, I know that the Danish were in England for a long time, and that there are vestiges there that I caught.  I know that Lithuania is so very close, geographically, to England and Denmark and because of that there is much of Romuva (the Lithuanian-Baltic Pagan Religion) that I grasp to my core — but only because, again, it is very close to the ways of my own faith.


I used to refer to myself as a Heathen, it covers so much, but … in the end, it covered too much and the term, like the terms Asatru, Odinist, Forn Sed, Pagan, means different things to different people. That’s both good and bad, but not clear enough to use for any real definition. You are limited to being whatever people define the term as.


We follow the ancient traditional wheel of the year here, observing the Equinoxes and Solstices, the Holy Days, and we hold daily tributes (if you will). By daily tributes I mean more of a constant regard, awareness, respect and co-operation with the unseen world, the spirit realm, the soul of the land and the forest. We leave a parcel of our woods absolutely undisturbed; we offer the first of every harvest to the spirits of the land; we have several outdoor altars and harrows that we use to leave gifts to the wights (fae, divas, elves, pixies …). It is not so much a spirituality as a complete recognition of all that is — both the here and now, and there and ever. Like I said, the old ways. Very old!


BookMusings: You recently released Our Otherworld. Congratulations! How did you go about deciding which poems to include and which to set aside?


JHH: Thank you. Some of the poems whispered themselves to me, as I wrote them, and I knew they were bound to be part of the book. Other poems flickered in my head for a while after I wrote them — it’s hard to describe, but some poems are smooth like stone when I think about them, others are jagged in my mind (these are more ‘reality’ poems and I knew they would not fit). The poems that flickered, though, that flitted through my memory and settled like a grey mist to keep coming back in my head — they were the ones. 


I often think that I don’t so much write certain poems as much as I capture them (this is not true of all my work, of course, but it’s true of the work that I think is the essence of me).


BookMusings: Which was the most difficult poem in the collection to write?


JHH:The Pixies Price for Forest Passage’ — I didn’t like portraying the pixies as quite so mercenary, but the poem kept wanting to be written that way.  And, truth be told, pixies are not exactly the pleasantest of numinous beings … I admit to a healthy fear of crossing them. 


BookMusings: You drew upon a variety of sources to create the poems in Our Otherworld. What does your writing space look like? And your personal library?


JHH: My writing space lies under an old canvas awning, not unlike the old 1930’s adventurer base camps, up a hill in our own forest. It is surrounded by trees and huckleberry bushes. And huge rocks. I write my poems down in a small brown notebook, sitting on a log that fell who knows how long ago. The log is the reason we set up the writing space there. It just seemed right. We own ten acres in the middle of nowhere, we are building our own house with our own hands on it. Half of the land is meadow, where we live, and half is a forest — dark, craggy, tall, and untouched. We also nestle up to miles of forests that seem to go on forever. But only ours will never be touched — so there are a million vibrations, clouds of unseen energies, as well as deer, voles, ravens … that somehow know our little woods is a safe place in the world. 


It sounds strange to tell anyone, but there are evenings when we hear a faint strange music coming down from the hill — it’s not neighbors (we can’t hear them, they aren’t close enough) and it’s not wind in the trees — it’s something you almost don’t hear so much as sense. But it’s there. And while it is pretty, it is daunting, too — I know too much about the otherworld!


My personal library is something that is both huge and not big enough to suit me. 


I have long been a collector of the British Romantics — particularly Shelley and Leigh Hunt — and I have many old editions, some firsts and one prized book with Hunt’s signature in it. They used to be offered for a song, no one wanted rhyme or meter or biographies about those who wrote it. The roots of my style, if you will, harken here.


I also have books on everything from Runic Magic to UFOlogy — if it’s speculative, numinous, magick, spiritually-inclined or divine in any way, I’ve got it. Again, a long time collection. It doesn’t help that my husband is interested in the same areas; we never disagree on whether or not to purchase a book. The content of much of my speculative and otherworldly work is directly reflected in this collection. Lately I’ve been reading about stones and crystals and earth magic much more than any other topic. Scott Cunningham and Nigel Pennick are the authors of most of the books I have on that subject. Great writers both, and we have many of their books. 


BookMusings: Where can readers find Our Otherworld? 


Amazon Books here


I follow the old ways, but not to the detriment of being in my own time. I love the internet. I know many magical folk hate it, and others disdain it for all sorts of reasons, but … it’s magical to me to be anywhere, mentally/cyberspacely, that I want to be in a matter of seconds (sometimes many seconds, our internet connection is extremely rural and only works fast when it wants to. Which is good for having plenty of contemplation time between web sites!)


BookMusings: Your work also appeared regularly in Heathen Call, the official publication of Heathen Circle. Where can readers find Heathen Call, and can anyone submit to it or purchase it?


JHH: Sorry to say, but I think Heathen Call is gone now, they haven’t published anything in a year or so. They found me by way of one of my earlier books — The Cycle of Nine — that the publisher was selling at an event on the East Coast. I liked that they were a zine rather than a journal — it’s my old punk rock youth showing there. I think back issues of many of their zines can be purchased on Amazon though (there I go again!). My work appears from 2014 – onwards. I hope it comes back into print, and to actually answer your question here,  since I’m not in the Heathen Circle I would assume that you don’t have to be a member to have work in it. 


But even without Heathen Call, my speculative/mystical poetry appears regularly online and in print. I believe in submitting-submitting-submitting when I’m not writing-writing-writing. Recent work is everywhere from Faerie Magazine to Eternal Haunted Summer to Zoetic Press’s Literary Whip Podcast. I have more trouble finding editors who will not discard formal verse out of hand than I have with submitting poetry that contains my metaphysical outlook on things. Yay, for freedom of religion. 


BookMusings: Will you be attending any book fairs, conventions, or other events in the foreseeable future?


JHH: Not in the foreseeable future — building a house sustainably by hand is probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on (I have three now-grown children who survived their teen years pretty much unscathed, and I thought that was a challenge) — and we have given ourselves five years to concentrate on just that. We are in year three. I wouldn’t swap it for the world though: we are off grid, the night sky pours down on us, the trees are becoming familiar friends, and there is room for us to be exactly who and what we truly are.  Magical rites done here have been markedly more powerful and more deeply felt. 


I realize I didn’t answer your question quite properly, I hope my meandering will make up for that. 


BookMusings: What other projects are you working on?


JHH: I am working on a book of sonnet spells — there are a few of them in Our Otherworld, but I want to create a larger, more thorough, book of spells. Including some curses, as curses have a place as much as charms do, but people so seldom include them in spell books. I am not Wiccan, so that frees me from the Rede.  Norse magic loves a good curse!  Sonnets lend themselves well to spellwork — the rhyme helps with ritual, the limit of fourteen lines creates a succinctness. Using sonnets also integrates the English side of who I am with the Danish side (allowing for the fact that sonnets are Italian in origin … of course the Romans were in England for centuries, so …!)


And, as well, I am working on a project that is outside my comfort zone in a number of places — it’s a novel (already written in first draft, but the second one now is truly tough to get on with). It’s a speculative gypsy/loup garou action novel — or perhaps it’s a thriller — written in a more 19th century style than contemporary. It started as a whim, or a folly, and it has taken on a life that demands actualization. Quite a responsibility, and one I wasn’t expecting. We shall see how it goes. And where it goes. Blame H. G. Wells. 


Finally, thank you Ms. Buchanan, for inviting me aboard to answer your questions and for allowing me to meander happily on a few of my most favorite subjects in this world and our other one. 





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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


  • Christianne
    Christianne Monday, 10 September 2018

    It's always a pleasure spending time with Juleigh in Cyberspace - for now it's where we meet - and getting more of the full picture which is quite beautiful; thank you!

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