Tag Archives: paganism

Why perform ritual? 

“Do you perform it for their glory, or for yours?” Was the question that popped into my head as I poured the water from Monday’s ceremony into the kitchen plant. 

    A slight rewording from the question posed to Dr. Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but an effective one nonetheless. 

    That previous night had me perform a personal meditation in order to find an answer to something I was thinking through.  Well, more accurately, the meditation was the middle bit of my ceremony (to my fellow members of the Grove who wanted to know how it is I can recall the words by rote….. This is how).  And to perform the meditations and visualisations I use without the ceremonial bits feels…. Naked.

    This is how I do it: 

    1. Peace to the quarters.
    2. Cast the circle.
    3. Bless the circle with fire and water.
    4. Prayer to deity or deities.
    5. Awens.
    6. Middle bit.
    7. ‘Hour of recall….’
    8. Thanks to Deity.
    9. Uncast the circle.
    10. Declaration of the end of ceremony. 

        It’s mainly based on the general OBOD ceremonies, but I have found the form that works for me.  No flowers though.  Can’t be doing with taking from the plant realm for the sake of aesthetics!

          The Order encourages members to try things out and see how things work for them, even saying to stop something if it doesn’t work for you.  I have kept the above as it works for me.  Some of the wording is different and the words I say to deity are my own. 

        The ritual water I give to the household plants, a way of giving back and not wasting what was taken.

        There was a time I would perform this every day, and even though it did calm my being, I became stifled with the repetition.  So now, I like to do it with meaning, the ritual bringing calm and satisfaction to myself as well as honour and communication to those that are listening.  

        Do I do it for their glory?  Not really, as I have other personal rituals for giving thanks and honour.

        Do I do it for my glory?  Perhaps.  But when I perform the ceremony it isn’t for glory, it is a series of repetitious actions that allow me to enter a certain level of consciousness that allows me to find a stillness.  This stillness can be used to calm my fiery temperament, to gain insight or inspiration.  

        And even if there is no one in the ether, the ceremony still serves it’s purpose. 

        “There are FOUR lights!” Pic by Locksley2010.
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        The Masculine Principle in Paganism- Part 3: The Life Force

         

        yin-yang-symbol-variant_318-50138

         

        The Life Force is what is in each one of us; it is in all living things.  Not just animals and plants, but down to our cells and all of them reproduce.  They pass on what they are to the next generation, or in some cases, simply replicate each other.  I could have just labelled this particular post as ‘Sexuality’ but that’s not just what this post is about.  Ok, I lied.  It is!

        When talking about the Life Force as procreation, most species do require male and female parts in order to procreate.  There are other species that do not.  Cells replicate their DNA asexually, as does bacteria.  Some species such Earthworms are hermaphrodites, beings that don’t require sexual partners because their biology enables them to create their own offspring.

        For the sake of this blog series, I shall be referring to the Human Condition, already aware of how complex that already is.  Yes we as a species require a sperm and egg to fertilise in order to reproduce, but not everyone who is born identifies with the simple male and female categorisations.  It does indeed appear that the Human Condition is not as binary as we originally thought, but does need binary Humans in order for the Human Race to continue.

        And reproduction was seen as the basic manifestation of the Life Force.  The model of Sky Father and Mother Earth for example is something that was big in olden times.  The sunlight and rain make the Earth fertile and grow millions of flora and fauna, feeding and housing countless species around us.  Interesting then that in some cultures the Sun is seen as female (The Irish name for the sun is Grian, a feminine word.  The Norse mythology has the sun and moon as sister and brother respectively as Sol and Mani.  In the Japanese Shinto it is the deity Amaterasu).  To counter this, some Neolithic monoliths have phallic features carved into the rock, the phallus of the earth pointing to the impregnable sky.

        We also see this in ancient statues, the Venus type, for example showing the round image of a pregnant woman.  In some cases images like these were carved to include phallic shape in order emphasise the male parts + female parts = life.

        Ain Sakhri Lovers
        Two lovers carved into a phallic object, the Ain Sakhri Lovers

         

        Ritual & Magic:

        In the Western Magical Tradition, this union of masculine and feminine energies is one of the most powerful acts of magic.  The act of placing the wand into the chalice is extremely symbolic of the penis entering the vagina in order to create a magical outcome.  Not every magical act requires this as there are thousands of ways to make a spell without any sexual connotations or symbols.  That’s right, faithful reader, anyone who practices magic isn’t just going around shagging everyone and nor should they.  Sex can be used in magic with consenting adults or just between a couple and not just limited to heterosexuals.

        Modern Paganism is filled, saturated even with sexual celebration, even if only metaphorically.  The ceremonial wheel of the year, for example, sees The Goddess bloom until the God has grown into adulthood, they marry and have sex as the Summer goes on until the God begins to wither and dies as Autumn turns to Winter, the Goddess gives birth during Midwinter after which she takes on her Crone aspect until she is reinvigorated at Spring.  The Modern Pagan version of Beltane would have us believe that May is a time of sexual awakening and the whole of summer is about the celebration of the growing energy in our part of the world.  This, despite that Human Beings don’t have a set mating season, but it’s all in the cosmology and symbolism of the Modern Pagan view of the awakening world around them.

        Of course not all Pagan spirituality follows this imagery as there are different paths and interpretations of the seasons.

        This imagery happens once again in the relatively recent personification of the Green Man entering his Oak (another phallic device, just think of the shape of an acorn) phase and as Spring grows into Summer he brings his Life Force into that of the Earth so everything comes alive.

        The Elements

        Even in the Alchemical Elements we have examples of the Life Force split into masculine and feminine in the energies of Air, Fire Water and Earth.  This is most regularly seen in the Tarot:

        Air:  Masculine:  Represented by the Swords, a piercing (phallic?) device with warlike connotations.  The realm of air is normally associated with logic, thought and ideas.  Supposedly these are the traits of the intellectual MAN.

        Fire: Masculine:  Represented by the Staff or the Wands.  A more obvious phallic device, especially when the fiery qualities of dynamism, determination, passion are thought of as traits of MAN.

        The staff has more phallic imagery behind it when we identify Bile (Tree) as being the name of the Irish father-god, the consort of the watery mother-goddess Danu.

        Water: Feminine:  Represented by the Cups or Cauldron.  The watery world of emotions, of dream, of the heart has been assigned to the qualities of WOMAN.  The Cup has been used as a device of the vulva and the Cauldron as the womb.

        Earth: Feminine:  Represented by the Stones, Coins or Pentacles, although not sexual in imagery, the stone is symbolic of the Land.  And with the land comes Sovereignty.  Mother Nature, the Mother of All: She gives and she takes.   This is the realm of the physical; the malleable and tactile.

        Interestingly, given the masculine attributes of the symbol of the sword it is in Arthurian Legend we find the sword as being temporarily given to man.  It is loaned from the Lady of the Lake and must be returned before the user dies.  The sword known as Excalibur originally came with a scabbard (vaginal device?) which protected the user from harm, but this was stolen from Arthur by Morgana La Fey.  In the story of Balin and Balan, a sword of power was drawn by Balin, a knight of Arthur and Camelot.   He was supposed to give it back to the Lady of the Lake, but in his hubris he kept it and beheaded her!  His life was then cursed until both he and his brother died fighting each other.  A prime example of the Masculine Principle being too out of flow with the Life Force and not heeding the request of giving the power back to its source, the feminine.

        Being a part of the Arthurian world, which takes its themes from the Celtic myths and legends that came before, the Lady of the Lake not only represents the Divine Feminine, she is also the Goddess and guardian of Sovereignty.  In the Celtic stories, Sovereignty could only be passed on to the chief by the Goddess.  In other words, it could not be taken, the women chose the men to give it to!

        Ultimately, when talking about the Alchemical Elements, Air, Fire, Water, Earth or even the universe itself:  Planet Earth, the moon, the sun, planets, stars….. None of these have gender.  It is only us, the Human Beings that assign such things to them.  Yes, it is fascinating when different cultures have different names for the sun or even different genders for it, but at the end of it all it is a great big star in our sky.

        What we have to bear in mind here is that this particular system of Masculine and Feminine energies became widespread among the known world during  medieval times, of which the mindset was utilised by the Church and saw Masculine as dominant and the Feminine as submissive.  Because my main spiritual focus is of the Pre-Christian peoples of this land, I can share that they saw things differently.  Both men and women could be chiefs and warriors and they could also be hunters and Druids.  Quite often in the old tales, it was the women who would initiate courtship or sexual relations.  Even the gods shared similar powers but there is one thing women could do that men could not: bear children.  For that reason alone, for the mothering of future generations, can we see why the Celts traced their blood through their mothers?  As previously mentioned, women could give their sovereignty to a man of their choosing making him chief.  Indeed, it was normal for the chief to marry the goddess of their land.  This was an act that our Celtic ancestors shared with our Germanic ones.  Our Germanic ancestors even had a magic called Seidr which was said to be for women only.  It involved speaking to the ancestors, healing and divination and was priestess led.  It was considered taboo for a man to learn this and any man who did was considered feminine.  Curiously enough, Odin, the Germanic All-Father god in his quest for wisdom learned this.   I am no expert when it comes to the Germanic lore, and if I have got this wrong, then that is my own ignorance.

        So what have we learned about the Masculine Principle in the Life-Force? According to this particular paradigm, it is but one part of a whole in our species.  The example of Balin shows what happens when the Masculine Principle becomes too dominant, it becomes aggressive.  Without the temperance and sustaining rationale of the Feminine Principle to balance the cold, hard logic and powerful dynamism, it becomes destructive and harmful.  One half is needed to balance the other, without both halves, the whole dies out.  Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

        Cormac had already lost his wife and children to The Stranger who had exacted his price, it wasn’t just his woman or his legacy that he had lost; it was what completed him.  His reason to keep going, his cause to be the best chief he could be.  Yes, he had material wealth, but what is that without his family to share with?  Only too late did he learn this, and so he went in search of them.  Not just in a rescue, but a quest.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

        Wisdom or Cliché?

        Templeofapollogtp.gr

        Image of Temple of Apollo from gtp.gr

        I recently read a blog writing about two phrases that are often parroted in modern Pagan writings.  I first came across these in my early and mid twenties and was interested by one and confused by the other. You will have come across these many times, they might mean something to you or they won’t.  But if you’ve read any blogs or books, magazines about Paganism, Occultism, New Age Philosophy, you will have encountered them:

        Know Thy Self”

        And…

        ” As Above, So Below

        I looked at them and thought to myself ‘Wow, are we still using those?” I’ll admit to being a bit jaded when I see those quotes.  It’s not so much that I don’t like them, but feel that they are often over used in forums and articles alike.  Y’know? Like a really good song with too much air time.

        What I do like about them is that for those who first come across them, they are inspirational! I mean ‘Know Thy Self’ Man! That’s deep! The phrase from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi (Used as a sign in the kitchen of the Oracle in The Matrix- Oracle of Delphi- gettit?) That challenges YOU to KNOW who YOU are.  Yet how many of us do?
        How many of us look at that phrase and actually, really examine ourselves? We are complicated meat-bags walking around with emotions and thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  But how many of ourselves actually know ourselves?

        To know yourself is to know where you come from: your background, your childhood, your parents or guardians, the environment you came from, the education you received (and what it did or didn’t do for you), the beliefs you found or were indoctrinated with.

        If you believe in anything, to know yourself is to challenge what those beliefs are to you, constantly.  How did you come to those beliefs, how did they shape you? Did you come by them yourself or were you taught? What do they mean to you now? Are they applicable to who you are anymore?

        To know yourself is to see all your strong points and accept them.  It is to also know what your weak points are and accept them too.  And if you don’t like them, what do you need to do to change them?  What are your limits? Why do you dislike something? What inspires you? What do you dream?

        To know your self is to be completely honest with yourself.  It’s no good if all you are doing is painting an image of the person you want to be or the person you are not.

        Deep huh?

        One of the things I love about studying the Bardic course in the OBOD Gwers is that you learn to know yourself before you can proceed to the Ovate and Druid grades.  Because how can you explore the deeper mysteries if you don’t understand the deepest of mysteries…. You.

        And then we go onto: “As Above, So Below” When I first saw that I eloquently came out with: ‘What the fuck does that even mean?’
        This only made sense to me if you look at it in terms of the weather: rain makes things wet or floods.  Snow clouds making the ground whiter and whiter, a sunny day makes for dry land and thriving plants, etc….
        This phrase apparently comes from the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and even then is supposedly part of what he wrote:

        That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing“*

        Yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia but only because it provides the source of that translation.
        I’d love to know more about that and also about to what Trismegistus meant by the ‘One Thing’. Creation? Life on Earth? Ponder, ponder ponder……
        It’s an absolute wonder that our planet generates its own electromagnetic field to protect its multitude of life forms from the solar radiation of our Sun.  From the collection of dust and rock of the ‘Above’ has the ‘Below’ been created.

        I’m sure there are very deep insights you can gain from either quote and when used for inspiration they do exactly that.

        Writing this post, I am very aware that I have indeed just created another article featuring both phrases.  Well at least I didn’t mention ‘Microcosm’/’Macrocosm’…… Doh!

        * https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism

        A Moot Point (or points)

        witchestea-1024x721

        Image from wizardmagicfantasy.com

        At a networking night at the beginning of this month I was in conversation with someone about storytelling.  Something, which in her opinion, seemed to be often done badly (going on and on and on, not engaging your audience and telling tales of sexism are NOT the ways to go.) and are popular with ‘Those Pagans’.

        After revealing that I am one of ‘ Those Pagans’ and much talking about Pagans in general, I discovered that not only did this person not like Pagans, she had a general disdain for any type of religion or spirituality at all.  She told me of how (some years ago) she went to a Pagan Moot, here in Notts, to find it was filled with “lecherous old men and damaged young women.” Tried as I did, I couldn’t piece together which moot she could have gone to.  Most of the Moots here certainly have a higher proportion of female members and attendees, it’s not often a Moot here in the East Midlands will have a male majority, rarer still are they ever filled with ‘lecherous old men’.

        Although the lady did have a point.  We do attract a lot of damaged people, don’t we?  I suppose it’s because we’re an accepting lot, many of us are rarely mainstream and quite a lot of us are considered ‘outsiders’ to the social norms… Interesting that.
        I like to think it’s because Paganism is as open and diverse in its flavours and themes as well as its members.  We are healthy, we are sick, we are entertaining, we are socially awkward, we are wise, we are angry, we are disabled, we have emotional problems, we are every sexuality under the Sun and Moon, we are confident, we are nervous we are…. Everyone.  It’s just that we accept our differences as well as everyone else’s.  Doesn’t mean we all get on though.  Like every group of Human Beings, we have our Dick-heads as well.

        I’ve been fortunate to go to quite a few moots in many different places, Hell, I even co-run my own.  Each have their own ways of doing things, but here’s a list of do’s and don’ts of attending, running, hosting and behaving in a Moot.  These are of my own experiences and from what I have observed in others.  And yes, even from some of my own mistakes:

        DO be polite and welcoming.
        DO consider disabled people coming to your Moot.  Not everyone can do stairs.
        DO take the time to talk with everyone.
        DO be prepared to be able to take the piss out of yourself if you are going to take the piss out of others.
        DO be accepting of others paths and points of view, just because theirs might be different from yours it doesn’t mean that they are an enemy.
        DO encourage discussion and friendly debate, much can be learned from each other.
        DO talk with your Moot friends about any advice you might need.  Some people gel together really well and might want to share personal information with each other.  And that’s fine, that’s amazing!
        DO respect others privacy (see the point above, as some folks might need to separate themselves from the larger group to discuss something private).
        DO listen to others.
        DO include everyone in any ritual work.
        DO explain to first timers what is going on and give them the option of observation if they are not comfortable.
        DO call time if a conversation has gone wrong and is getting out of hand.  Also if someone is telling their life story in an exercise where it should just be “Hello, my name is Locksley and I’m a Pagan Druid” “Hello I’m Ronnie and I’m a Wiccan” etc, then steer it back!
        DO tell everyone in good time about what is happening, where and when.
        DO be prepared to explain to outsiders who ask you what’s going on when they see you do a ritual or a meeting…. They might learn something.
        DO stop staring at that rather attractive goth witch girl in her early twenties…

        I have had the good fortune of going to moots that are well organised but there are always maybe those few attendees who are questionable.  And again, some of these points are from my own mistakes:

        DON’T go to a Moot demanding respect.  Respect is earned.
        DON’T go to a Moot thinking it’s ‘all about you’, it really isn’t.
        DON’T sit there being ‘mysterious on purpose’ you’ll just come across as a mardy prick.
        DON’T try and peddle your wares without permission, especially if your Moot takes place in a shop….
        DON’T come out with sarcastic comments after every sentence in a ritual, it might have been funny the first time, but any more after that and you just come across as obnoxious.
        DON’T ruin a moment of revelation for a group.  Just because YOU might have been privy to a secret rite or poem in your old Coven; and then a special guest speaker reveals it to the group, the worst thing you can say at that moment is “I’ve already heard that!”
        DON’T go to a Moot expecting a sex orgy….
        DON’T slag off other traditions, you wouldn’t like it if someone slagged yours off now, would you?
        DON’T go to a Moot, not talk to anyone and then go to another Moot and slagging off the previous one as being ‘cliqueish’ as they didn’t include you.  You got there, make the effort!
        DON’T be cliqueish, try and include everyone, especially new comers.
        DON’T turn up and start telling everyone about your ‘powers’ discussing abilities is fine, as is sharing your experiences.  DON’T start talking about how your Grandmother described how you will be ‘One of the most powerful witches she has ever seen.‘ And even if you are that’s great, wonderful. Terrific! But apart from telling everyone how powerful you are, what have you done to make the world a better place with this power? Yeah.  Didn’t think so.
        DON’T just turn up to a Moot and sit there reading your mobile phone.
        DON’T throw a tantrum if someone questions what you do, questioning is healthy.
        DON’T assume everyone knows what you know, take the time to explain.
        DON’T give up on your Moot, be prepared to adapt and change it.  What does your Moot specialise in?
        DON’T be that lecherous old man preying on young damaged women!

        The Masculine Principle in Paganism – Part 1: The Fairy Branch

        This was originally written back in November 2015 following the talk I gave for the Pagan Federation.  I also apologise for it being sort of badly written as I originally posted it after writing it on my bus journeys to Derby and back.  And I can only think ‘Men’ with a capital M was from my phone’s autocorrect and I overlooked it.  Enjoy….

        Earlier on this month I attended a Pagan Federation conference on exploring ‘The Masculine Principle’ within spirituality.  It was perhaps the first time there was a very strong presence of men in a Pagan meeting!  Indeed there was only one woman and she was keen for her Husband to find masculine-centric things to be involved in.

        The talks covered different ground: Smith Gods and the powers of fertility, potency and creation, the journey of Male Spirituality through the ages of a lifetime and how we cope (or not), male bonding and finding acceptance with oneself.  It was especially interesting throughout the whole day these following points came out that seem to be the things that Men are looking for in any spirituality or path: Fellowship, initiation, acceptance, their place in the world.

        My talk covered the character of the Masculine Principle.  It was originally made for the Nottingham Goddess Camp, where the event organisers asked if I could give a glimpse into ‘Male Spirituality’.  Were they mad?  Could they not see I am not exactly the burning example of full blown testosterone fuelled machismo?  Either way I arose to the challenge (there’s a phallus metaphor in there somewhere hur, hur….) and did the best I could back then.  The talk was made and done, but I knew it was unfinished.  There was more to contemplate and examine as well as live through.  And that was back in 2012 or thereabouts.

        Cue 2015 and I was asked to resurrect my talk.  I’ve lived since then and in doing so my mind expanded to give the talk that I delivered on Saturday the 7th November at Treadwell’s Bookshop.  So I dusted off my old thoughts, talked with a few folks and helped form my talk anew.  It’s still not 100% finished.  And like any artist looking at their work, it never will be.  But, faithful reader, I present to you a series of posts (I predict 4, however if I end up with more, that’s ok) exploring the murky world of The Masculine Principle.

         

        WHAT THIS WILL NOT BE: Is a Cis-white-heterosexual-male written tirade against Feminism, Women’s Right’s or any immature self-sympathy wallowing in misogyny or seeing the world as “unfair” to Men.  Scratch that- to anyone!  Neither will this be an instruction guide on ‘How To Be A Man’, although you might take stock from any of the material given and be inspired on how to be a better person in general.

         

        ***

         

        So, what’s The Fairy Branch got to do with it?

        Why it’s this story which I used for the basis of my talk.  I originally got it from Claire Hamilton’s ‘Tales of the Celtic Bards’ but I’ve put my own spin onto it, as any storyteller should and shall do so for this blog series:

         

        Once, long ago, Cormac MacArt, the High Chief of Ireland looked down from his fortress on the hill of Tara to see a man walking the land from the West.  He had long white hair and a cloak that shimmered with teal, green and blue hues, the colours of the sea.  Going down to meet this stranger, Cormac learned this man came from Tir na n’Og, the Land of Youth.  The Stranger told of how his land was a land of plenty, there was no want and everyone lived in peace.

        ‘If only my lands were as peaceful and prosperous as yours, come! Let us be allies and friends!’  Cormac offered, the Stranger accepted and they laughed and talked some more until Cormac saw the silver branch with three apples golden in colour.

        ‘This, is a magic branch,’ explained the Stranger.  ‘With three shakes, it will send all who listen to it into a short slumber.  You can have it if you like, but I will name my price a year from now.’

        Cormac agreed, thinking that he has plenty of cattle, gold and weapons with which to trade.  The deal being made, the Stranger left and Cormac showed his new toy to the court.  He was very pleased.

        A year and a day passed, and at one feast with his people, Cormac is alerted to the Stranger’s appearance.

        ‘Greetings, Cormac Mac Art, I trust the branch gives you pleasure?  I have come to ask my price for it.’

        ‘Greetings and name it.’  Cormac agreed, prepared to empty his coffers of whatever the Stranger asked.

        ‘I demand the price be your daughter.’ The Stranger declared.

        The court hushed in silence, but Cormac had already agreed and could not go back on his word.  He nodded in agreement.  Well, the court burst into uproar as the young girl left with the Stranger.  So stricken was Cormac at the lament, he took out the branch, shook it three times and made everyone sleep.

        The next month, the Stranger appears once again, this time asking for Cormac’s son.  Once again, Cormac cannot stand the upset to himself and his people, he shakes the branch a second time.

        The Stranger comes a third month, this time asking for Cormac’s wife.  Being honour-bound to keep his oath, Cormac agrees and he shakes the branch for the third time.

        ‘ENOUGH!’ Cormac roared upon waking.  ‘The Stranger has asked too much of me, warriors to me!  Get your best horses, weapons and armour…. we’re going to find this stranger and get my family back!’

        And so Cormac on his strongest horse, finest armour and keenest weapons charged down the hill of Tara with his host, but as soon as hoof touched the base of the hill there was a great fog from the ground.  It was so thick that none could see their comrades nor hear their voices.

        Cormac pressed forward alone until he came across a land not his own.  The grass was thick and a vibrant green.  The sky was the deepest blue with peachy-gold lining the horizon.  Each tree he passed had healthy and bountiful fruits.

        Travelling further, he came upon a house with horsemen trying to lay huge white feathers for the roof.  Each time they did this, a breeze would whip them off and they would try again and again.

        Travelling further, he comes upon a young man keeping a fire which would die down quickly, so the lad thrust a log into it to keep it going.  Which it would then flare up but immediately die down again and so the lad repeated himself again and again.

        Travelling further, he comes upon a pool of water being fed from five streams.  Around the well were nine hazel trees, and when a hazelnut would fall, a salmon leapt out of the pool and took the hazelnut into its jaws.  At this pool, Cormac climbed down from his steed and took a handful of water into his mouth.  A calm took him and he realised he was being watched, yet felt unthreatened, he turned to see a woman and a warrior dressed in blue.  They were beckoning him to join them in their feasting hall.

        Cormac joined them and sat with the small company around a cauldron.  Before them was an old man, an axe and a pig.  The old man nodded and smiled to Cormac, indeed the woman and warrior seemed as if they too were pleased to see the High Chief.

        ‘This is how this works.’  The old man began; he then took the axe and chopped the pig into four quarters.  He took the first piece and dropped it into the water of the cauldron.

        ‘The fires of this cauldron will only light when there is a truth being told; so as this will be our meal it will be warmed by truth.  And my truth is this:  When my neighbours’ pigs broke free of their pen, they came near my home.  I helped him gather all of the pigs until they were at his farm and as a reward he gave me one of those pigs, this axe and this cauldron.  And he told me that I can cut the pig into four pieces everyday and boil it in the cauldron and never go hungry because the pig will be whole the next day.  And with that truth, the flames flared up, the waters boiled and his meal was cooked.

        The woman was next; she took her quarter, dropped it into the water and said:  ‘The animals around us keep us warm with their fleece and hides.  The cows I have are plentiful in their milk and if allowed to roam freely, their milk would probably feed all in the world.  The animals are our friends not just our livelihood.’  And with that truth, the flames flared up, the waters boiled and her meal was cooked.

        The warrior was next; he took his quarter, dropped it into the water and said:  ‘There is a force that grows in the Earth.  It allows us to grow crops and puts fruit on the trees.  Our lands sustain us.’  And with that truth, the flames flared up, the waters boiled and his meal was cooked.

        Cormac was last, he took his quarter, dropped it into the water and said: ‘I met with a stranger one day and because I was so enchanted with the magic branch he had, I lost what was dearest to me.’ And with that truth, the flames flared up, the waters boiled and his meal was cooked.

        The warrior turned to him and asked ‘Then you must be Cormac MacArt, the High Chief of Eire?’

        ‘I am he,’ Replied Cormac ‘and in my foolishness I traded my family for a magical bauble and seek to get them back.’

        ‘Come now!’ said the old man ‘are you not enjoying your meal?’

        ‘I would enjoy it better with the right company.’  Cormac admitted solemnly.

        ‘Then be sad no longer!’  Said the old man, but not in an old man’s voice.  The old man stood and disappeared in a bright white light which vanished after a few moments.  In the old man’s place was the stranger with long white hair and his cloak shimmering like the sea.

        ‘Greetings, Cormac Mac Art!’ Said he.  ‘I am Manannan MacLir, it was I who gave you the branch in order for you to find what was most precious to you: your wife and children!’ With that, the two doors at the other end of the hall opened up and to Cormac came running his family.  They embraced in joy, they were unharmed and time moved slower here they said.  All took part in the feast and Mannanan MacLir explained the three mysteries Cormac came up on:

        ‘The horsemen were like the man who follows his own vanity; he has no substance for vanity is fleeting.  The young man is like a man who uses up his strength too much for others and has none left for himself.  The well you saw had the Salmon of Wisdom which is fed by the inspiration of the hazelnuts that fall.  That well is the well of the heart and is fed by the five senses, for it is only by knowing the world around us is wisdom gained from it.  But the world is fed by the wisdom we give into it.  You can keep the branch; I have another gift for you, here.’

        Mannanan MacLir passes a cup with four sides to Cormac, explaining that it will break upon a lie being told in its presence, but a truth will make it whole once again.

        After their meal and drinking everyone fell asleep and Cormac MacArt, with his family awoke back at their fortress in Tara.  The people were confused as Cormac had only set out an hour whence!

        All Good Things…

        image
        That NEEDS a wash, Mister!

        It’s Monday, 3rd of August and I am lying on my bed.  Absolutely stuffed after being to an All You Can Eat buffet with my Parental and Brotherly Units.  This morning, my body still felt the events of Pagan Pride 2015: a tiredness from being awake from 5am to be on site for helping set up.  Hips, knees and ankles aching from running around checking my venues throughout the event (not to mention legging it at the parade to find it was much longer than before), my voice; hoarse from yelling to keep the parade spirit up with jeering.  These are not complaints… They are badges of honour!

        I’ve been with Pagan Pride UK since it’s inception back in 2008.  2009 saw it as a picnic in Nottingham.  2010 saw it’s first festival complete with fundraisers (PP has been and is a non-profit organisation, it relies on donations from the fundraisers and people to make it happen.).  It has been getting bigger and bigger each year.  Always on the first Sunday of August, come Sun and rain!  Hey, it’s an outdoor festival, you’ll experience Nature in ALL of her glory! 😁

        If you’ve never been, it’s a free festival that starts with a parade from Nottingham City centre which leads up to the Arboretum where an opening ceremony takes place. It has stalls, food vendors (never seems to be enough), there are bands, dancers (Belly Dancing and Border Morris), story tellers, speakers and workshops.

        And it’s been my job to sort out the last three, for 6 years.

        I have learned much about festival organisation and about how much to inform the potential speakers, or how to politely refuse any speakers if they aren’t suitable (“That’s a great talk but has nothing to do with Paganism…“)

        I have learned that negotiation is a great tool.  And if something is just impractical to work out, then refusal is the last option.

        Patience is a virtue… Only in the world of books.  There have been times I’ve yelled out in frustration (“Whaddya mean they fucking cancelled!?”) or wanted to throw my smartphone across the room (“But I already told you about THAT!”). Alright! I’m parodying myself a lot here, this doesn’t apply to any specific person except me.

        Ok, shit happens. Deal with it.

        It’s all been worth it though.  If someone wanted to be at a different time slot, ask others if they are willing to help before refusing, you’ll be surprised at Human Kindness!  Fulfilling requirements to help someone’s disability or anxiety issues and they deliver a talk with a big audience, priceless!   If a workshop leader cancels, leaving you with an empty slot, call on your backups… In fact, ALWAYS have backups!

        And remember your team on the day! Advise them, tell them everything they need to know.  Treat them like people and don’t assume they can read your mind.  Help them to help you! Luckily, I worked this one out really early.

        Chat, laugh, take no shit (like the guy with the boom box who me and a big marshal escorted off the premises, when he called me a ‘fucking fascist’, I glibly replied with “I’ve been called worse.” Step in when you need to (“You have 5 mins to wrap up!”)

        When I check that all the speaker zones are running well and folks are good, that’s when I know that all those late night emails, material checking, insurance evidence asking, experience checking, problem spotting, information chasing has been worth it.
        I’ve truly enjoyed my service for Goddess and Country and have met many wonderful people during the past festivals, a lot of whom I can call friends*.  I sincerely wish the rest of the PP team the best of luck for next year as I have been part of that team and know what effort it takes to get each festival underway. And no, it isn’t easy.

        Well, it’s time for me to step down and let fresh blood take my role of Performance Manager.  This year has actually been a struggle for me to balance this, my full time job (with two reassigned locations this year) and focusing on my performing.  I can now hang up my purple shirt as I won’t be at PP2016 in an official capacity.  I’ll be there to help set up on the day, but that’s it for now.  I can definitely say that I’ve ended on a high, that I AM PAGAN AND I AM PROUD!

        If you’d like to know more about Pagan Pride UK, or get in contact, visit the site: http://www.paganpride.org.uk

        *And to those random people who snuck me sneaky drinks of Hobgoblin from a horn, or mead in a plastic bottle, ta very much!

        The Morrigan’s Mask…

        I was inspired by this piece written on The Morrigan in Danu Forest’s article on ‘The Gods are not for sale!’ which you can read for yourself here.

        So, I have to thank Leithin Cluan, really because she posted it to our Grove.  My particularly favorite bit is:

        No the Morriigan is not an easy goddess- disrespect her land and she will want blood. Literally. She is sexual, primal, gutsy, scary- she will do the hard, horrible work, embrace her fury so a clean start is possible- but no she she’s not interested in comforting you because you don’t want to be as tough as your life requires right now, don’t want to wade into difficult moral or emotional terrain. She won’t hold your hand if you are scared of the dark, but she might smile if you pick yourself up, get fed up with your cowardice and do what needs to done. Read the old tales, research the folklore- visit the places on the land that honour her, in the real world. It’s all there. Get out of your own head, your own story- she’s waiting outside.   

        Indeed!

        Not a simpering maid, this Goddess.  This portrayal is one that evokes primal strength, a bolshy nature of “Well, do it then!“.  It also brings, at least to my mind, the now stereotypical image of the Morrigan: A flame haired beauty screaming across the battlefield with a bloody sword and gore splattered shield.  Heralding the death of her foes as she unleashes a furious murder of crows on those whose souls she has come to claim.  She is the black of night, the crimson fountain, the pale moon all in one and death is her punishment to the weak.  She mesmerizes with her blatant sexuality, oozing appeal with every curve and her eyes dare you to take her… if you can.

        This imagery and the above quote, reflect only part of her being.  The Morrigan, believe it or not was only classed as a ‘Goddess of Battle’ only recently.

        Everyone who has heard of her is familiar with the iconic raven and crow association, they are carrion birds after all, and eating the slain on the battlefield is a pretty sure way of a having them represent death.

        Her powers influence battle to be sure, The Daghda, after seeing her washing in the river convinces her to ensure victory against the Fomorians by having sex with her.  At the end of the battle of Moytura, she sings a song of victory and also prophecies of the end of the world.

        In the Cuchulainn saga, she tries to seduce Cuchulainn, only for him to refuse her (something she really doesn’t like).  In that story she shows her shape-shifting abilites: as a maiden, an eel, a wolf, a crone.  The Crone guise is used when Cuchulainn meets a crone with a cow, and is tricked into blessing the crone and thereby healing all the wounds he had inflicted on her.

        So yes, she does have an association with death, with transformation and with prophecy.  More than that she is also a Goddess of Sovereignty (this is where the cow comes in, it represent the land, generosity and a number of Goddesses).  Where she is death, she also represents life: fertility and bounty,  both of which make way for the future- something she appears to know of before others do.

        I am very aware this is merely an introduction into The Morrigan and will give more of my findings when I have them.  The way I see Her is like the bright full moon behind a cover of cloud: You know she is there and every now and then, she’ll be visible, but only for a moment and even then, was it the full picture?

        Like her guises, The Morrigan has many masks.  The mask I see her with isn’t of the screaming warrior, or of the regal queen.  To me, at least, right now, she is mysterious woman showing me I must pay attention.  The choice she brings is to pick myself up or lie where I am and wonder where I went wrong.  Thankfully, I chose the former… after all, in front of such a pretty lady, it simply wouldn’t do to wallow.

        I remember meeting the Morrigan in a dream in early 2013, the most distinctive feature I remember is the red make up around her eyes… the below image reminds me of her.  Taking hint of Cuchulainn, offering her a blessing, I have trialled giving offerings of milk.  So far, she likes anything I can give in Her name, but mainly milk, beer, whisky, tobacco, food (Not beef) and chocolate cake.

        Image from Old Camarilla Wiki  – artist and details unknown, but would love to give credit to whoever did this.