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The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox
Graydon House, 1525833014, 368 pages, October 2018

My husband picked up The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox for me at the library because he knows how much I love my witch lit books (yes, what a gem!). What I was not expecting when I started reading was a marvelous GHOST story. As if the tantalizing antique drama coupled with romance is enough to draw one’s attention, there’s more; it’s filled with haunts and frights. Hester Fox has blended genres in this book, adding the perfect amount of spookiness to make it an eerie, yet delightful historical fiction read.

The Montrose family has just relocated from Boston to New Oldbury because scandal caused their reputation in society to be tarnished. While the town and their estate seem rather sleepy and boring, more is lurking beneath the surface than they realize. Though it does take quite a bit of time to uncover the secrets of the energies in play.

Sisters Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline are doing their best to adapt to life in their new town. Catherine, the eldest, desperately misses her life in Boston and is keen on finding a husband. Meanwhile, Emeline, the youngest, is focused on seeking mermaids in the nearby pond. In the middle, Lydia does her best to balance her relationship with both sisters.

Lydia and Emeline’s connection runs deep; it’s as though they are intimately connected in mind and soul. Whereas Lydia and Catherine’s relationship has always felt a bit tenuous and strained by competition and jealousies. Catherine is very confident, flirtatious, and self-centered, while quiet Lydia prefers a good book and little attention. When the dashing Mr. Barrett, their father’s new business partner, comes into the picture, both girls have their feelings stirred.

However, Catherine turns her attention towards Mr. Barrett’s friend, Mr. Pierce, leaving the romance between Mr. Barrett and Lydia to develop quietly, slowly. But that’s not the only thing blossoming in Lydia’s life; she’s being haunted by ghosts in her new home. There’s one who paces outside the window, another that wails throughout the night. Warnings from an ancestor beyond the veil tell her to be cautious, danger is afoot.

When tragedy strikes the Montrose family, Lydia’s life is turned upside. The hauntings start happening more frequently, and there is no one for Lydia to confide in about what she’s experienced. Meanwhile, her family is falling apart: her mother is ill and Catherine is keeping a secret that could utterly destroy everyone’s livelihood. Reality and the unknown are pushing Lydia to wit’s end.

At least she has Mr. Barrett to look after her. But as if all of the family demands, secrets, and hauntings aren’t plentiful enough to keep Lydia on her toes, her ex-fiancé Cyrus is desperately trying to marry her to save his family’s fortune. Willing to get what he wants at any cost, Cyrus threatens to destroy everything Lydia cares for by revealing Catherine’s secret – and one of her own – if she doesn’t agree to be his wife.

Oh yes, Lydia is also having a come-to moment about her own power. Recalling an incident where she harmed a young boy that had ruthlessly killed her pet bunny, Lydia must reckon with her own power she always had tried to deny. She’s strong, but has no one to guide her in understanding who she truly is or how to control the force within.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, it’s true! The Montrose family is filled with hidden secrets and the estate is filled with ghostly inhabitants. But what I love about the book is how Fox keeps a very tight storyline. Everyone is in the midst of their own crisis, but the interplay between the characters is brilliant. The book is never confusing or hard to follow, and the build-up makes it a real page turner.

Fox is truly gifted in the way she’s able to transport readers back in time. I felt immersed in the time period of 1820, from the decorum to the speech of the characters. The chillingly haunted aspects were very believable. This isn’t a far-fetched ghost story; it’s almost plausible for those who believe.

Whereas many stories about witches focus on magic as the theme, this was not the case for The Witch of Willow Hall. Though, towards the very end, Lydia realizes her talent with herbs, for the most part her power just keeps attracting ghosts hoping to communicate. I feel like this aspect of witchcraft, the openness to the spiritual realm, is often overlooked, and therefore I was glad that Fox focused on it. It also made for a scarier story than most witch-lit books.

There were little mysteries along the way to discover too, such as what the scandal was that made the Montrose family flee Boston and who the ghosts haunting the Willow Hall estate are. All the while, readers are taken on the journey of a heartfelt love story between Mr. Barrett and Lydia – don’t worry this is not a spoiler. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go, even though they have their twists and turns.

One very shocking event happens mid-story that completely changes the pace of things. I definitely shed some tears, as the sorrow was immense and Fox had done a fantastic job of building emotional connection with the characters. My heart broke right along with the Montrose family.

So there you have it: tragedy, love, mystery, witchcraft, and redemption. Sounds like the ideal blend for a book, right? I think so! The Witch of Willow Hall will definitely be high on my recommendation list. And I was excited to realize that Fox has written three more books since this one was published. I just requested The Widow of Pale Harbor and The Orphan of Cemetery Hill. Then in February, Fox’s next book is being released: A Lullaby for Witches. I’m looking forward to reading that too!

Interview with Spirit Guide Erin

Oh, the fun ways spirit will work to align people meant to be in our lives! Who would have thought I would synchronistically meet Erin in 2020, despite living on opposite ends of North America. Her journey with spirit, especially her advocacy for awakened children, has been immensely rewarding to see unfold.

I immediately was drawn to Erin’s work because I used to see and talk with spirits when I was a young girl. Through my teenage years and into my 20s, spirits often communed with me. I could always envision the spirits that lived in my friend’s homes, and could very quickly sense the presence of spirit in my daily life. However, I always felt isolated and alone in these experiences, especially as a child.

As a nanny to dozens of families over the course of a decade, I often had children speaking to me about their imaginary friends they saw and had relationships with. The majority of parents shut down their children’s experience, deeming it imagination or simply made-up, but I always knew they were seeing spirit. This is why Erin’s mission means so much to me. Her work with spirit is something I truly believe is going to make a great impact in the world as people begin to acknowledge children’s awareness of the spirit world, which is often a natural part of childhood and deserves to be nurtured.

Erin’s journey is real, authentic, and empowering. I was thrilled she agreed to do an interview for Indie Mystic, as she’s currently busy writing her first book about her experiences. Additionally, she also assists with meditation classes and has her own ghost hunting group! But I won’t give too much away… Let’s dive in!

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what called you to work with spirit?

Of course!  I live in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada.  My husband John and I are parents to two beautiful little girls.  I was born in Toronto, and my family moved to Brantford when I was 12. I’ve had many experiences with spirit throughout my life, starting at age 3.

In my early 20’s, spiritual activity around myself and my family intensified, leading up to one specific experience that would be my spiritual awakening.  It was when my daughters also started having spiritual encounters that I began searching for answers. I wanted to learn more about the spiritual world in order to help my daughters navigate their own lives with spirit. So, I guess my calling to work with spirit was for my girls.  I wanted to help them and all of the other children and families out there who are in need of compassion and guidance.  

How does spirit usually manifest itself for you?

I have seen spirit take form twice in my life. One was a little girl and the other a woman in her mid 50’s.  These stories are in my book.  Seeing them take form makes me uncomfortable, so I have asked spirit to show themselves to me with flickering of light in the air, or orbs.  Spirit has also given me a physical sign on my body to show me when they are close.  My right hand will go numb and start to tingle which is always my sign spirit is near.

Can you describe your spiritual awakening process, or perhaps events that lead you to developing your connection to spirits?

I’ve had many experiences over the years, but I would say my spiritual awakening happened when I was 8 months pregnant.  We were at my cottage on Lake Simcoe and my uncle, husband, and I decided to take the boat out for a tour around Snake Island.  Lake Simcoe is a huge lake, and it can turn dangerous quickly, which it did on this day. We were caught in a fast moving storm and it was a near death experience. When we were finally able to get back to shore safely, a very powerful spiritual moment occurred: my deceased Papa made himself known to my uncle and I in a very profound manner. It was after that experience that the spiritual world became very prevalent in my life. 

Do you have any on-going relationships with spirits? Why do you think they are drawn to you and your family?

I do.  I am very connected now to my main spirit guide. I see her often in meditation and feel her presence around me. My Papa is one of my guardian angels, and he is with me at all times.  I also see him often in meditation.  When you start practicing a spiritual life, spirit will begin to appear. My husband and I have always encouraged our girls to share their experiences with spirit and have never shut those conversations down.

Being sensitive to spirit runs in my family.  I think when it’s in your lineage, it will eventually manifest itself, which it has for myself and my girls. My mom told me my great grandmother would speak to my great grandfather’s spirit each day in her room after he passed. I never met her, but knowing she was sensitive to spirit, I am not surprised my girls and I are as well.

We have two spirit children who are with us constantly. Their names are Charlie and Lila.  They are my oldest daughter’s spirit guides and they know they are accepted in our household – with boundaries, of course.

What’s one of your favorite stories involving spirit?

My favorite story is about our spirit boy named Charlie.  When my daughter was just over a year old, I opened up a new business.  A client came in who I had heard was a medium in my small town.  I knew by the way she was looking at me that she was going to share something with me. Sure enough, when she was leaving, she began to give me a reading. She knew a lot about my past, which was quite shocking to me at the time. She then began to ask me if I knew a Charlie or if there was a Charlie in our family. I said no, and thought to myself that she was completely off about that piece of information. She then proceeded to tell me that there would be a small boy who would be visiting my daughter and would be with her for some time and his name was Charlie.

I told my husband and my immediate family about my reading and about the little boy named Charlie. Life went on as normal.  When my daughter was a year and a half old, she was at our family cottage with my husband, parents, and sister.  My brother, brother-in-law, and I were unable to attend the cottage that weekend.  When they came home from the cottage my husband said, “I have to tell you something.” He told me our daughter had said her first two words in a row. At first, I was upset, as I had missed that milestone. But when he told me that our daughter had walked around the cottage all weekend long saying “Goodbye Charlie,” it was a powerful moment. From that moment on, our little spirit boy Charlie has never left her side.

How did you feel when your children first started sharing their experiences of spirit?

It was a very confusing and lonely time in my life. There were many emotions. I felt afraid, anxious, and had a lot of questions I needed answers to. We kept it as a secret in our immediate family, and we did not discuss it with anyone else, as we were afraid of the judgement that is sometimes associated with believing in spirit.

When I finally accepted it was real and happening all around myself and my children, I finally felt free. But I also realized I would have to navigate this on my own, as there are no support groups or information for parents who have awakened children.  There aren’t many books written on the subject either. So I basically had to figure it all out on my own, which I have done.  I found out two years ago that the spiritual community is quite large in our small town, Carleton Place.  More and more people are becoming awakened, especially during this pandemic, and it’s becoming more accepted to talk about spirit and share experiences and stories.

What’s the biggest challenge raising awakened children?

I would have to say that our biggest challenge will be making sure they are always protected and allowing them to share their experiences without judgement.  My children’s generation are the most awakened, and it is my generation that holds on to judgement.   If parents shut down those conversations with their children, it closes their children off from the spiritual world. It is so important to listen and learn from our children.  Their generation will do unbelievable things in their lifetime.  

Why do you think many parents shy away from acknowledging their children’s connection to spirit? How do you think the world would be different if instead, this was encouraged?

They are scared.  Many people are terrified of what they cannot see.  I also think it goes back to the feeling judged.   If we could all be a little more open to spirit, great things would happen.  Our loved ones are always with us, guiding us, and showing us the signs.  The spiritual world gives people hope and peace. If we listened to our children and their experiences, many would benefit from what their children could teach them through spirit. 

How was your family impacted by these events? Are you able to openly share your experiences?

My family has been impacted greatly by all the events which has ultimately led me to write my book.   I love talking about spirit.  I would talk about spirit all day long if I could.  I love telling my family’s story and hope that it will help many other families and people around the world who are going through their own spiritual experiences.  I wanted to share our story to provide compassion, hope, and guidance. I have been blessed with a group of people who are all very spiritually connected, and I’m able to talk to them about anything relating to spirit on a daily basis, which has been an amazing outlet for me.  

Have you ever felt the need to protect yourself from “bad” spirits?

I don’t believe in bad spirits.  I believe there are lower energy spirits but I have never referred to them as bad or negative spirits.  I wear a black Tourmaline crystal stone necklace daily to keep any lower energy away from me, and I put a variety of crystals under my girls’ pillows to keep them safe. I sage my house often, saying the same prayer every time, and always follow a strict routine of saging, especially in my girl’s bedrooms. I also pray every night to God, the Universe, Ultimate Divine — whatever you want to call it.   I pray to God and also Archangel Michael to always protect my family, especially during these trying times.  I ask them in prayer to also protect my family through the process of writing my book and sharing our story with the world.

I know you work at the store Amethyst, how has finding your spiritual community enhanced your life?

Oh my! In so many ways.  I work at the store part-time, as I also run the Carleton Place Denture clinic across the street.  The store Amethyst came to be from a spiritual class I took.  One day, I was looking out my front window of the clinic and saw an empty store space across the road, which I told my friend about. She opened the store last February.   The whole story is in my book.  I love my spiritual community and it’s extremely freeing to be around like-minded people.

Amethyst opened only last February and the store’s Facebook page already has over 850 likes, which is close to some of the established businesses in downtown Carleton Place!  That shows you right there how many people are awakening.   Most that enter the store are spiritual, and it’s beautiful to listen to their own stories and experiences with spirit.  The store brings me a lot of peace. I love being there and taking my girls there to pick their special gems.   

What types of activities do you do with your ghost hunting group?

Oh yes, my ghost hunting group! There are eight of us women, who would have thought right?  Friday nights, the eight of us embark on spiritual investigations. We are a group that is made up of very different ages and personalities, but we all have one thing in common: Spirit. Each of us uses our gifts during our investigations to call spirit in. We have explored a few outdoor places, trying to obtain as much detailed footage on camera as we can to show people spirit is real. Due to all the current restrictions with COVID-19, we are not allowed to explore indoor spaces at the moment.  We have many in mind and a few lined up, so we are hopeful we’ll be able to do these investigations again in the spring.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about spirits?

I think the biggest misconception is that spirits are evil and scary.   Ghosts or Spirit are just trying to get our attention.  They try so hard to show us they are there. They want to show their loved ones they are always with them guiding them and providing unconditional love. The spiritual world is beautiful.  There is nothing more empowering than knowing that when we die we are all reunited with our loved ones and that there is this beautiful place waiting for us all to go.

How do you suggest others learn how to connect with spirit in their own life?

Through meditation.  I am asked this question a lot.  Spirit will come through strong during meditation.  The first time I meditated I was shocked at what I saw.  That story is in the book. The first step is believing and letting go of the fear.  We offer meditation/connecting to spirit classes at the store, and they are always full due to more and more awakening people wanting to learn to connect with spirit.  We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, meaning we can all connect to the spiritual world if we learn the tools and practice.

Where can our readers learn more about your work and upcoming book?

I have a blog they can follow along called We Are Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience. I am on Facebook We Are Spiritual Beings Having A Human Experience. I am also on Instagram and Pinterest @Awakeningbookserin.