Recently we have lost two artists of exceptional talent whose work was inspirational and loved by many Druids, Wiccans and other Pagans. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to both of them here.
Chris lived on a 60 foot narrowboat called ‘Netty’ together with her partner Jinny Peberday and their ginger and white rescue cat called ‘Catty Pants’. Together, Chris and Jinny ran Skyravenwolf, producing leatherwork of incredible beauty. They began by making leather bags, books and purses and then around 2016 extended their range to include hair barrettes, earrings, pendants and bookmarks, with feathers and leaves being a specialty. Their leatherwork leaves were so realistic that when Jinny used a branch from a hazel tree to display their pendants and earrings for sale at a ‘Floating Market’ one passerby was heard to comment that “These boaters will do anything for money. They will even stoop to picking up leaves off the towpath and trying to sell them!”
Everything that Chris and Jinny made was beautiful, but it was particularly their leather bags that were absolutely exquisite, total works of art with unbelievable attention to detail. Jinny would cut the leather and create the bag itself, while Chris would create the tooled artwork on the bag. It is incredible to think that everything they created was made in a tiny working space of 6 feet by 8 feet.
Chris and Jinny also sometimes made leather-bound books, such as this stunning Book of Shadows with the theme of the Taliesin story:
And this lovely little notebook the size of a postcard featuring a fox amongst bluebells and dog roses:
Chris studied Druidry with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The expression of her Druidry was through her art and her craft. As she once wrote, her “Magical Things Druidry has given way to a Looking At Nature Druidry, and a Making And Crafting Things For Others kind of Druidry, and that’s a fine thing.”
It was through a shamanic journey as part of her OBOD Druidry course to meet the spirit of the Goddess Ceridwen that she re-connected with her creativity. Chris told the story in her blog:
“Once upon a time from 1970 to 1990 I was a very successful fashion illustrator. The pressure of such a job, plus having to wait months and months for payment, made me have a massive breakdown and I (by the time this story happens) hadn’t done anything creative at all for about 20 years. I was scared of pencils, and brushes, and everything like that. I trained as a homeopath (because homeopathy helped me more than anything else), and a shamanic practitioner, and was learning about Druidry.
So, The Story begins with a bag. Druids-In-Training have to have a bag. They put all their special things of mystery and magic into their bag. It’s called a Crane Bag, because traditionally it was made from the skin of a crane (but I suppose you could have used a heron if you could get one). Druid teachers these days are kinder and more realistic, so you can use anything nice, but it is considered A Good Thing to make your own. I didn’t consider the idea of Me making Anything good at all because I was still scared of creativity, so I went to a shop in Tenby (living in Wales at the time) called Equinox and bought one. It was nice. Unassuming. It had sequins. And beads. Anyway, for part of our work we had to do an imaginative journey to The Goddess so she could bless our bags. I did my journey sitting inside an ancient, hollow yew tree in a deserted churchyard near Llandeilo. It didn’t go to plan. I was met by an elf, who took me to the Cave of Ceridwen. It was at the top of a slatey mountain (which it would be, because she used to gather herbs to brew the Awen around Snowdonia). It was a long way up the slatey mountain, and all the way up the elf kept eyeing my bag and sighing. “Not going to plan,” I thought. “Damn.” Eventually we reached The Cave. Herself (pale of skin, red of hair for me, Jinny’s Ceridwen is dark and very Welsh, everyone has a unique version I think) took my bag. She took my bag between her thumb and forefinger in a gesture of distaste and threw it away. “Blimey!” I thought. “She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t look like she’s blessing it exactly, even not blessing it at all.” She looked at me and said, “You, of all people, can do better than that!” I managed to find a bit of a voice and asked what she thought I should do. I was probably a bit petulant, but maybe a bit intrigued. She did something with her hands and magicked A Thing out of the air. It was clearly leather, it had all kinds of Celtic designs all over it, and it was amazing. I gawped. “But that’s tooled leather,” I said. “I can’t do that! I don’t know how to.” Well, go away and learn!” she said. So I did. And that is How It Happened. I don’t know why I took up the challenge, there and then, and didn’t think I’ll do it now in a minute, or next year, or when things are better. Something was important, essential even.”
But for me, the most beautiful piece of work that I think Chris ever created, and possibly the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen, is her ‘Drum of the Equinoxes’ featuring “the White Stag of Annwn who leads unwary princes and ordinary mortals into transforming adventures.”
We would like to extend our deepest condolences to Chris’s family and friends and especially of course to Jinny. Chris had the gift of seeing beauty in the everyday, the little dandelion flower, the tendril of ivy. Her artwork shone with life and vitality and a love of the birds, flowers, leaves and animals that she drew. She left the world a far more beautiful place and her legacy will live on for as long as people carry her bags and wonder at their beauty and the beautiful soul of the lady who created them.
Chris Palmer 29th December 1952 – 27th April 2022
Poppy Palin was an artist, an author, a tattooist, a singer, a songwriter, a natural psychic and seer and a free-thinking spiritual seeker who did not allow her spirituality to be constrained by labels such as ‘Pagan’, ‘Druid’, ‘Witch’ or ‘Wiccan’, which she felt to be limiting and divisive, preferring her own all-encompassing term of ‘Wild Spirituality’ – “simple, green-spirited, free-flowing faith in the sanctity of all life and in the mystery of existence.”
Poppy trained as an artist and a teacher and graduated with a B.Ed Hons in Art and Education from Middlesex Polytechnic in 1991. For the majority of the time she was studying she ran a business painting leather jackets, which she turned into beautiful pieces of wearable art until she later became vegan.
It was from painting these leather jackets that Poppy had the inspiration to go on to learn how to tattoo. In the early 2000s she opened a tattoo studio in Glastonbury where she offered tattooing as a sacred tool for personal transformation, creating one-off pieces to mark rites of passage for the person being tattooed. For Poppy:
“Tattooing can be a deeply beneficial process which enables the person being ‘inked’ feel at home in their own skin. It is so rare for us to find someone who feels comfortable inside their own human body, or proud of it, warts and all, and tattooing … sensitive, sacred tattooing … can assist in this. When a tattoo flows with the curve of a muscle or follows a serpentine path of energy over the body’s landscape then it is something that can awaken us to the true miracle, and inherent beauty, of our own form.” (Interview done for the South Australian magazine Silver Wheel in March 2005).
Poppy created two tarot decks and also illustrated and authored their accompanying books. Her first was the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot published in 2002, which were in fact created as ‘divination cards’ and put out against her wishes by the publisher as a tarot – Poppy preferred to think of them as “aids for transformation enhanced by magical fiction and imagery”:
Her second pack was the Everyday Enchantment Tarot published in 2018:
Poppy authored 10 books including the two books accompanying her two tarot card sets and her novel The Greening – Rise of the Faerytide. Her other non-fiction books covered topics such as magic, wild spirituality, reincarnation and working with the Otherworld. She also contributed a chapter to an 11th book – Spellcaster, edited by Ellen Hawke. Many of her books were non-profit making, with any profits made going to animal charities, a cause that Poppy was passionate about. Only two of Poppy’s books now remain in print – Craft of the Wild Witch and Wild Spirituality and these can both be bought in e-book format as well as physical format.
There is an interview with Poppy on The People’s Art programme on You Tube:
The Hermit’s Cave has a very heartfelt tribute to Poppy on You Tube, looking at her beautiful artwork and specifically her tarot cards:
There is an interview with Poppy in The Druid’s Voice magazine from Spring / Summer 2003.
Poppy had a website which was taken down a few years ago, but an archive of it is still available via the Wayback Machine.
Poppy also had a You Tube channel featuring her songs and artwork, including her recent updates of her Wild Spirit tarot cards. Please be aware that Poppy scheduled the final three videos on the site to be published after her death and although not referencing anything explicit they are quite upsetting to view – but Poppy wished them to be published as her farewell to everyone.
Poppy Palin 19th March 1966 – 26th May 2022