Bulgaria: Etar Living Museum

Easy to get to from Veliko Tarnovo- Etar Museum is based in Gabrovo and take under an hour by car to get there. It’s a world inside its own gates, a selection of building showing how life was in Bulgaria until quite recently, how families lived and worked,many still do here. Lots of crafts to see and buy, my favourite are the wooden plates. This is a safe place to bring children and there are two very good restaurants at either end of the complex. This open air museum is very cheap to go in at about 5 Lev plus free WiFi too. This is a Brilliant place for a day out.

This is an enjoyable walk through the recreation of how Bulgarian life used to be-if you are a history buff or culture vulture, this beautiful place is for you. Set in a very scenic location this outdoor village museum shows the trades and traditions of Bulgaria in way that keeps you interested. Information boards are in both Bulgarian and English and explain what each house was used for and the items inside, the living quarters were also shown with an explanation to complete the full picture.

There are many seating areas to rest at as you take a slow wander around the site.

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The Sacred Feminine & Yoga Philosophy: My Thoughts

I’m saving for my 200hour yoga teacher training. I am planning for it to either be in Thailand or Bali, I will discuss this decision in a future blog post.

I’ve never really been extremely drawn to gaining deep knowledge of Hindu or Yoga Philosophy as I find it quite heavy, although I do have an obsession with studying the chakras and Tantra and have done since my early teens. But I’m also not your typical modern yogi either that sees yoga as a form of fitness. I’m kind of an in-between that includes Pagan and Shamanic ideas into the mixing bowl too.

A couple of years ago I did a short course on Yoga Philosophy with Oxford University’s Hindu studies online program of which I received an Upper 2:1 certificate, and I did it because I felt it was a great introduction for me on my path towards becoming a yoga teacher.
If you are interested in this course, click on the link: Yoga Philosophy online study and I’ve continued my studies in Chakra Balancing & the Subtle also.
In the past I have read the usual classics such as The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Upanishads, The book of Dharma, The Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and at the time I saw it as obligatory reading to feel like an authentic Yogi and teacher but my heart wasn’t in it so I will be rereading these books again.

Recently I’ve had urges to delve deeper into the world of yoga philosophy and the mystical realm of Devotional Practice and Ritual more than ever before.

I’ve also become extremely inspired by a woman named Sharada who records her chanting, facilitates sacred feminine workshops and retreats and has recently published a sacred Devi book with chanting prayer cards. She has studied Yoga, Vedanta, Sanskrit, Satsang, Vedic chanting, Odissi Dance, Puja and much more- I would love to meet Sharada and be trained by her one day.

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Moonology, Moon Journaling & Moon Signs

Rachael Rice, moon paintings

I’ve been studying the zodiac in correlation to the moon and planets since I was 13 years old and I am from Iberian and Romany gypsy heritage- My great Aunt was a tea leaf reader and fortune teller. I love all this stuff but its only recently on the path as a Pagan priestess able to facilitate sacred feminine circles and moon blessing ceremonies I’ve researched and concentrated more on the moon and its impact on us as individuals and collectively.

So, your sun sign (star sign) determines your basic approach to life and your general nature. Are you extroverted and grandiose? You might be a Leo. Are you idealistic and altruistic? You could be an Aquarius. Home-oriented and sensitive? Probably a Cancer. Mine is Libra- in general I am fair, playful, a lover of beauty and art and I do well in harmonious environments. But your astrological makeup is more complex than just your sun sign.

Two other signs that contribute greatly to your character, dreams, relationships, and temperament are your moon sign and your rising sign.

Your Rising sign illustrates your outward self: a social mask of sorts, it influences people’s first impression of you, how you interact socially, and how you view and relate to others, Your rising sign is so outward, it can even influence your physical characteristics and mannerisms-Your rising sign is simply where the sun was RISING at the time of your birth. Those with an Aries ascendant most likely walk quickly, have broad shoulders, and are prone to headaches and sinus problems. Those with a Gemini rising are often tall and slender with dark hair. Librans are often good looking and Scorpios often have piercing eyes. My rising sign is Scorpio, meaning on first meeting me I can appear mysterious, inward, introverted, brooding and sharp tongued, which is why I’m very misunderstood. I also have the piercing Scorpionic eyes that I’ve been told can make me look intimidating, if I let my guard down, you’ll get past this first impression to meet my Sun sign in Libra.

But today we are talking about the Moon and your moon sign.
moon painting by Rachael Rice

Your moon sign reveals your inner self. It can give insight into the way you handle your emotions and fears; it can also give insight into the way you love and feel. The moon also governs your moods. Have you ever met someone with your same sun sign and found that person to be nothing like you? You probably have different moon signs. When you go home after a long day, get into your PJ’s and crash on the couch, this is when your moon sign comes out. It is the unguarded you, the you only those closest to you know. It is your subconscious.

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Bulgaria: Emen Gorge

Emen Gorge is super close to the Balvan village, which is about 20 minutes away from Veliko Tarnovo city centre. We had no idea at the time that Emen is walking distance to my mum’s home in Balvan and its pretty awesome this place is literally in her back garden. It is a little local secret, tourists are unaware of Emen Gorge and it is difficult to get to if you don’t have a car- but not impossible. There are local buses from Veliko Tarnovo to Balvan and Emen or you can get a taxi straight to Emen village & the Gorge- however taxis and buses only run until around 5pm in regards to going somewhere out of the city centre, so if you did opt for local transport, timing is crucial in order to catch the last bus back from or tell your taxi driver to collect you at a designated time. There is also no phone signal out there so other than the local kiosk in Emen village that has a landline phone, you have no way of contacting a taxi company AFTER your walk around the Gorge- so pre-book your taxi journey back to Veliko before you visit Emen and please make sure it’s before 5pm, the drivers will get grumpy with you and charge you even more or in our case, just decide its not worth their time!

That being said, we didn’t know all this information when we went there, ha! We booked a taxi to take us there which took 10 minutes from Balvan to Emen and when we were done exploring, Jon realized there was no signal so he couldn’t ring up to get a taxi back to my mum’s home and we had missed the last local bus (You might need to check for local buses to and from Emen, we mainly used buses to and from Balvan for day trips because that was our main base).

Thankfully the lady who runs the Emen kiosk took pity on us, gave us water and rang up a taxi company from the shop’s phone line, however as stated above, the company wouldn’t come out to get us as it was after 5pm. One of the locals over heard our issue and said he was going to Veliko Tarnovo after he’d finished his beer and do we want a lift? We said yes as it was our only option being stranded in this place, he dropped us off in Balvan and we gave him some money for a couple of beers as a thank you and then we found out that Emen is walking distance from Balvan- so we could have walked home. Walking from Emen to Balvan is about an hour and 30 minute walk, which would have been nice to take in the scenery on the way back to my mum’s house because we are a couple that loves walking plus saving money in the process- ah well!

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7 Magical Realist books I recommend

Magical realism is probably my favourite genre, I first discovered it in my early 20’s when reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “100 years of solitude” which was both torturous and tremendous to read- torture because it’s slow paced spanning over 3 generations and the language that describes the daily life of the family is very realist and at times tedious- just like real life and there have been times where I’ve lost my patience and had mild tantrums at the lack of action in that novel and then suddenly like a long awaited orgasm something mystical or odd happens which unfolds like a rare flower blooming in a mundane landscape. Needless to say 100 years of solitude is actually a favourite novel of mine- with divine hot chocolate that upon sipping, made the local priest levitate 4 inches off the ground, a girl hanging out bed sheets to dry, suddenly looks up at the sky and without saying a word, floats up to heaven never to be seen again, a boy is born with a pigs tail and it rained for 4 years, 11 months and 2 days in the epic tale. It is a unique literary experience, overwhelming in its virtuosity and magnificent in scope.

So what is magical realism? Magic realism is a technique which combines the real and the imaginary to create a fantastical, yet believable story, and also forces us to question the absurdity of our everyday lives, as if on a long, very normal and boring train journey to work and then suddenly your mind drifts into a seeping day dream. In the magical realism world, the people treat magical happenings as normal and part of every day life- a flying carpet is not awe-inspiring but perhaps something useful to society? And a beating heart made of diamonds could be sold on ebay? And a house is jealous of a girl as though it has emotions and a soul?

Magic realism is what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. So with that being said, here are 7 of my favourite magical realist novels you might fancy reading.

The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

A stunning and lyrical novel about a young girl called Ari, her invisible seahorse, a turbulent childhood and her poetic, magical view of the world around her.

The language so poetic, so allusive, so enigmatic that for the first few pages I found myself agreeing with Ari’s teachers later in the book as he reads one of her stories: “I haven’t a clue what half of it means but I feel it, I see it, and on some level I understand it completely.”

The puzzlement clears soon and it becomes obvious that Ari is telling her story in the only way she can –sideways because the full on reality is too harsh.

The novel follows Ari from eight — when her father kills himself, her mother has a breakdown, and the sisters are doled out to various relatives — to sixteen when she has an opportunity to put into action the lessons life has taught her. During those eight years, Ari bounces between wonderful, nurturing situations and people — and other people and situations that will test all her resilience.

A very hauntingly, beautiful book, buy it here: The Clay Girl

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Walton

This book reminds me of traditional fairytales in their purest forms – before being sanitized or gentled for the presumed fragility of young minds. it positively drips with death and loss: people cutting out their own hearts, turning into birds, people suffering endlessly because of impossible loves.

and in the midst of all this, a girl is born with a pair of wings.

It is magical realism at the height of its potential. it is like Marquez in its chronicling of the relentless suffering of the different generations of a family, and it is esquivel in its food-as-magic: “Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered – the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn’t any cake left.

Reading this book felt like wrapping myself in a warm blanket on a misty, autumn day. The writing was beautiful. The characters were magical. The entire book felt like something you could sink into. This tale was not just made, it was threaded and crafted. I feel like it has burrowed inside of me.

Buy this dream-like book here: The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Dovekeepers

“They say that a woman who practices magic is a witch, and that every witch derives her power from the earth. There was a great seer who advised that, should a man hold a witch in the air, he could then cut off her powers, thereby making her helpless. But such an attempt would have no effect on me. My strength came from water, my talents buoyed by the river. On the day I swam in the Nile and saw my fate in the ink blue depths, my mother told me that I would have powers of my own, as she did. But there was a warning she gave me as well: If I were ever to journey too far from the water, I would lose my power and my life. I must keep my head and not give in to desire, for desire is what is what causes women to drown.”

This is a historical-saga fictional novel with slices of magical realism woven softly into the narrative like silk. This book has been called Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece, her most ambitious and mesmerizing writing, and I surely agree. This is the richly told story of four strong and mysterious women from diverse paths who find themselves drawn together as sacred dovekeepers for the 900 Jews who held off the fierce Roman army for months in the Judean desert at the mountain fortress Masada. Hoffman explores themes on ancient magick, sexuality, freedom, gender, love, eroticism, daily life, family, war, childbirth, landscape, historical facts and much more all within this epic tombe!

Each word, each sentence and each paragraph felt precious and personal as though reading a diary. All 4 women had beautifully strong personalities and stories that interlinked with each other and it was such a breath of fresh air reading a novel where the secondary characters were male which allowed the female characters the opportunity to tell their tale and be deep and complex beings in their own right- love and relationships was a strong theme in the book but each woman had other important tasks to concentrate on than centering their livelihood around the men in their lives.

Seductive. captivating. factual and thick like desert air. This story is gorgeous.

Buy the book here: The Dovekeepers
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