Welcome to UK Pagan
For Pagans of all paths, and for Pagans of none.
UK Pagan has been an online home and discussion place since being founded in 2001. We pride ourselves on providing a safe space for active debate and conversation, and a place where followers of other religions are welcome providing they show respect and tolerance.
We strive to be a place for all Pagans, whatever path, whatever stage of their learning; a place where Pagans discuss issues with tolerance and respect for others; and a neutral forum with no "site line" or "site view".
We are made for the community and by the community.
At the end of April I wrote this post and told of a ritual me and Cerri participated in as part of our holiday. I did say that the ritual itself was worthy of its own article, but then my life was overtaken by the work on The Second Branch album, so it slipped me by.
Thank you for the polite reminders!
So the ritual we participated in was a recreation of the Bull’s Hide Trance. I think it was back in 2002 when the Anderida Grove began to look at ways to explore the workings of this ritual. We then did the ritual with the Grove, and then in 2004 it was the main ritual at one of the Anderida Gorsedd camps, and we did it again some years later.
It’s a long a deep ceremony based upon the evidence from a number of historical sources. Here’s the general gist of what happened back in pre-history.
A member of the tribe, who was probably a Druid/Ovate/Bard was taken to a womblike place, that may be an old barrow, or a cave. A white bull was sacrificed. Some sources say the journeyer then gorged on the flesh, others that they chewed upon a single piece, but they were then wrapped in the still warm hide, they had a heavy stone placed upon their chest, others chanted over them, and they took an inner journey. Often this journey would have a distinct purpose, such as who would be the next Chieftain.
That’s it in a very basic nutshell.
So how to replicate that in our modern age? Ok. So we weren’t going to sacrifice a white bull. We could have found a white bull skin, but who knows how that bull had been treated? We thought probably not in any sacred manner. So what was the bull’s hide for? Was ‘sensory deprivation’ its main purpose? So that’s what the Grove did. We got hold of large thick blankets, and tried to wrap someone in them.
The first issue was breathing. In the old writings it was said that the journeyer’s head wasn’t wrapped, but when we simply wrapped a person in a blanket and left their heads exposed, it didn’t do the job. So we covered their head, but then being able to breath became the issue, so we tried to leave a small breathing hole, and it was at that point we started to see some progress.
So what of the stone on the chest? Again it seemed that this was a sensory thing, kind of like focusing on your breath when meditating. So we tried different sizes of stone and found the size that seemed to work the best (although different sizes worked with various people). When the Grove and the Gorsedd conducted our version of the Bull’s Hide Trance we didn’t include the consumption of flesh.
I have to say that the results from the rituals we held were astounding. I’ll describe one from the later camp.
Evening fell and we asked people to gather around the main fire, and to bring their blankets and stones. Our marquee had been cleared, and during the day we had asked for about 10 volunteers to be ‘walkers between the worlds’ – people who would go and collect someone, bring them to the marquee, and then gently wrap them, placing their stone on their chest. There would be others in the marquee who would play chimes, a didgeridoo, singing bowls, and use their voices to create a soundscape people could journey to. So one by one the ‘walkers’ brought the journeyers and they were wrapped. The scene in the marquee did begin to look like one of those disaster photos, with maybe 60 shrouded people, all journeying.
Most of the journeyers travelled for maybe 45 minutes to an hour, and then, when one of the ‘walkers’ saw someone moving beneath the blankets, they went to them, and when they sat up, they held them. There were tears.
I know some people who made huge life-changing decisions based upon what they saw as they travelled. None of which they have come to regret. Did it work for everyone? Of course not. Everyone responds differently and sound/journeying methods work in different ways for different people, but on the whole they were all deeply moving experiences.
Now then. I had been a facilitator for all of the Bull’s Hide Trance ceremonies so when the opportunity came along to be a Journeyer, I took it. So we travelled to the Wildways Centre in Shropshire, a site complete with woodlands, and its very own replica iron age roundhouse. It was an invite-only group, and the aim was to see how the addition of the meat, plus the roundhouse, might enhance the rite. All of the participants had also completed a six months of preparation, and the rite would be the focus on a further weekend’s work.
So what were the differences between the rites held by the Gorsedd, and this one?
- We would be journeying in a replica iron age roundhouse, not a marquee tent.
- We all had 6 months of preparation.
- We would take our fill of beef before the journey.
- The length of the Journey would be three hours.
- We would try to work out, between us, the focus of the journey.
The facilitators had obtained a rib of beef. There had been lengthy conversations with an independent village butcher, and they knew the farm from which it came, and as much detail about the animal as is possible in this current age. We all helped to dig a pit, and placed some stones within, and lit a fire upon the stones, to heat them thoroughly. We then wrapped the beef in foil, and placed it upon the hot stones, then covered the whole thing in earth. We left it for four hours there to cook. In the mean time the roundhouse was swept and prepared, and as the sun set we opened the Earth Oven to see how the meat had cooked. It was perfect. We were then asked to eat as much of the meat as we could, and afterwards we were taken to the roundhouse. It was here we were told that the journey would be for three hours. So we lay down, and our blankets were wrapped around us.
What did I learn?
For whatever reason, and I think it is mainly the sensory deprivation aspect, the reconstructed Bull’s Hide Trance ceremony works. Sadly the consumption of the beef merely made me uncomfortably full, and to then lay down on my back for three hours was not a good idea. When we had done the trance in the past it had been on grass, and although people got cold, they were comfortable. The compacted earth of the roundhouse floor was hard, really hard, and by the second hour my back was very painful. In truth the main part of my journeying was over in that first hour. The second hour was more about endurance and just getting through. But I did journey during that first hour, and the insight it gave me was powerful, and held deep wisdom. But keeping relatively comfortable is obviously important.
The additional elements of the meat, the location, the preparation, didn’t in truth seem to add anything to what we had done before. And this got me thinking, why is that? We know more about the Bull’s Hide Trance, so when we include those aspects that had been missing from the rite created by the Grove all those years before why didn’t they enhance the experience? My personal conclusion is that it was meaning. I am sure the sacrifice of the white bull, and consumption of its flesh meant something really profound for our ancient ancestors. Of course we can speculate what that connection may have been, but that’s all it is, speculation. Our lives are very different. We can walk into the Coop at any time and buy a large ribeye steak, neatly shrunk-wrapped, with cooking instructions. Very few of us have ever seen the blood and death that brought that piece of meat to us. We may have known more of the origin of the rib of beef we cooked together, but that visceral knowledge of death is still kept conveniently out of site. I think that our ancestors had a very different relationship to their food, and their animals, one that is so alien to many of us that it simply can’t be re-created.
I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity I had to explore this rite in a deeper way. It helped me to realise that although we can seek the details of the rituals and beliefs of our prehistoric ancestors, we have to also accept that our lives are very different, and that we need different things within our modern ceremonies. Things that are meaningful to us. I once read some very powerful words. I have no idea of who originally said them, but to me they say all that needs to be said:
Don’t seek to walk in the footsteps of the people of old, seek what they sought.
To a woman trying to conceive, "unexplained infertility" is one of the most frustrating things to encounter. You're at a loss, your doctors are at a loss, and the prognosis seems bleak. However, it may be our body's fight-or-flight response that it is actually the root cause of the problem. A'ndrea Reiter, author of How to Get Pregnant Even When You've Tried Everything, explains how we can overcome this natural physical response and find our way to fertility.
There comes a moment when any creative person feels that a project is honing in, moving forward to a point when they can see or hear the almost finished creation. When a sculptor sits before a lump of clay or a piece of stone, a painter before a blank canvas, an author before a blank screen with a flashing cursor, or a musician before the empty screen of a digital audio workstation such as Logic or Cubase that moment can feel so far away, but with each stoke of the brush, movement of the hand, press of the key, or note on the instrument, that all begins to change.
All of the songs for my new album are now written. I have a few things to check, to make sure I record them in the right key for my guest vocalists, and then I’ve set aside the week of the 16th July and dedicated that entirely to recording the songs. A week, non-stop, and I should have most of the songs done, if not all of them. Then the process of mixing and mastering begins, and that is what can take the time. The final polish of the clay, the final editing of the manuscript, we all do it.
In the mean time, however, my son Zakk has been busy creating the teaser trailer for the album, and I put it up on YouTube channel and on my Facebook page a couple of days ago. But I know that many of you are not avid Facebook or YouTube users, so here it is on my blog.
Zakk is self-employed, and earns his living editing videos for professional YouTube channels, but if you have any video work that you’d like him to look at he can be emailed here.
So until the Autumn, here is a quick look and listen to what you have in store. If you’ve received this article via email, there is a chance the video isn’t embedded into the email, so just click on the header link of this email, and you’ll be taken online to the article.
Way back in DruidCast history, on DruidCast episode 4 from August 2007 to be precise, there is a talk given by Professor Ronald Hutton on the history of the Pagan Horned God. It’s his usual excellent presentation full of depth, entertainment, information, and humour, as is Ronald’s style. During the talk he says this:
“Too often the Horned God of Nature can be turned into a simple force of hoof and horn, and grain, and grunt, and thrust, and lurch, and armpits, and the men’s locker room, rather than of the intellect, the tongue, with words, the speeder of thought, the creator of beautiful, delicate things”.
When I heard this it led me down a rabbit hole. There are indeed many Pagan Deities whose gifts are magical, powerful, and empowering, but who does a Pagan go to when they are full of grief? When they need comfort, to be held, whilst they shed the tears of loss?
(There is currently quite a strong breeze coming through my open window and the strings of my harp suddenly just sang on their own volition, played by the wind itself.)
The Earth Mother? Certainly. It was my conclusion at the time. But since delving deeply into the stories of Y Mabinogi there is another Goddess, one who has herself suffered loss, pain, one who is there for the seven survivors of the battle in Ireland. I am writing of course of Rhiannon. Her story in the First Branch is one of loss, but then of being reunited with her son Pryderi. I really felt her close beside me as I created the First Branch album, whispering, guiding, holding. Cerri made me a pendant of a horse to wear during that time. I took it off when I started the Second Branch and it now sits upon my altar in her honour. Then, as I went deeper into the Second Branch there she was once more.
I’m just about finishing writing the songs for the Second Branch, and the whole story leads to a point of redemption. I won’t say too much but as the seven survivors gather at Harlech this happens –
We travelled to the court of Harlech and when we arrived we were regaled with the best food and drink. As soon as we began the feast three birds came. We had to gaze far out to sea to catch sight of them, yet their song was clear and true. As if they we in the court with us. Their song was the most beautiful sound we had ever heard. All other birdsong was harsh when compared theirs. The peak of each wave on the ocean shone white in the sunlight, as if a million white horses galloped towards the shore. Then I knew. These were my Mother’s birds. The Birds of Rhiannon had arrived.
The song this leads into once more brings Rhiannon right into my soul. She is the Great Queen and if any Goddess is currently calling me, it is her. If there is a Goddess on whose shoulders you could cry those tears of grief and loss, it is Rhiannon. There is a linguistic link between the ocean, and the soul. Rhiannon’s Birds sing out to sea, their song so beautiful that in the story of Culhwch and Olwen, the giant Ysbaddaden says these words, that they “wake the dead, and lull the living to sleep”. They sing far out to sea, yet their song sounds as if it is near you. Rhiannon, in the First Branch, arrives on a white horse. The songs of her birds are brought to shore by the white horses of the sea. The sea is the soul, the soul is the sea, and the Otherworld is said to lay beyond the waves, on islands far off to the west.
On this island there is still a taboo when it comes to eating horse meat. There is no logical reason for that. But this distaste for horse meat must go back hundreds, if not thousands of years, and maybe, just maybe, comes from a time when the horse was the spiritual symbol of Sovereignty, with the white horse carved into the chalk of downland and hill.
The more I experience these tales, the more I know they are more than just random stories written down in the Middle Ages. Myth is said to be the second level of story – of the occult mysteries that lay behind the tales themselves. There is magic here, with hands and spirits reaching out over centuries that can reconnect people with the land herself.
And out to sea, just beyond the horizon, three birds sing, and those whose hearts are lost in grief may well hear their song, and feel some of that grief lifted.
What a blessing.
Silently across the snow steps made without a sound, Nothing but the imprints of lost footsteps might be found.For standing under a cloak of midnight blue, The stars glistened like sapphires within the winters hue. Whispers of secrets and magick released for what shall be, The coming told in whispers of this elemental release.A gift a of magick from a future yet designed or pasted, As the seasons shall turn into memories and moments to forever last.
Folk magic is a magic of the people, a holistic one that connects us to the earth below and the sky above. So, how do we begin to use this simple and effective magic? Hexe Claire, author of Magical Healing, illustrates its history and provides three simple spells for improving our lives.
The news is that I am one song away from finishing writing the songs for the album. All of the spoken word has been recorded and edited, so once the final song is written the next stage will be to record, mix and master those songs. And once that’s done they will be dropped into place within the story, and the final bits of juggling will take place until I have the finished tale ready.
So my plan to release it this Autumn is looking good, very good indeed.
In the next week or two I’ll be posting a little video trailer for the Second Branch, much as I did for the First Branch, to tease you a little and give you an idea of what you have in store.
This is a VERY exciting time, and as the album comes together, and all of the parts fall into place, that’s when even more magic happens. Intros to songs lay just right under the introducing spoken word; places lay bare ready for the tale to continue. It’s amazing – as if the whole project is being guided by hands other than my own. Sometimes I just step entirely out of the way and let those hands work their magic.
Before I go I’d like to share something with you that happened just last week. There is a moment in the tale, when the seven survivors of the war return to the Island of the Mighty and land on the Isle of Anglesey. Branwen looks out toward Ireland, and then to her homeland. She says, “Woe is it that I was ever born, two islands have been laid waste because of me”. Her heart breaks and she dies. It’s an incredibly sad moment of the tale, and in the retelling, a song goes here. It will be sung by a guest female singer (in the same way S J Tucker took the role of Rhiannon in the Mother and the Mabon song in the First Branch) and there is some spoken word in the song too. When I finished writing it I played it all the way through, complete with the spoken word. As I struck the final chord a wave of grief hit me so hard that I had to put down the guitar and just weep for Branwen, and the survivors too. It was as if I could feel Branwen with me, her hand on my shoulder, as we shared those tears.
So my friends things are progressing well. I hope to get you the trailer in the next week or so. How exciting!!!
When we first begin the journey of psychic development, it may be difficult to discern what are psychic thoughts and what are simply our own thoughts. So, how can we tell the difference? Sherrie Dillard, author of You Are Psychic, explains.
Most OnlineNewest Member
By UK Pagan, in Around the Web
- 0 replies
- 29 views
- 0 replies
- 29 views
- 0 replies
- 46 views
By UK Pagan, in Around the Web
- 0 replies
- 54 views
- 0 replies
- 65 views
- 0 replies
- 50 views