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  1. Today
  2. Last week
  3. Last weekend was the Winter Gathering of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. The Order holds two gatherings each year, one in June, the other December, both in the Somerset town of Glastonbury. 200 members from all across the world gather together for community, music, ritual and discussions. The theme of this year’s Winter Gathering was Walking the Land – Ritual, Magic and Pilgrimage. One of the highlights for me was listening to the two founders of the British Pilgrimage Trust talk about pilgrimage, the work of the Trust, and some of their adventures. Their presentation was a blend of history, anecdotes and folk song, and it was wonderful. I’ve made a few pilgrimages in my life thus far. Journeys made with intent, purpose, and completely on foot. For two years me and a few friends walked the same route over the weekend of the Summer Solstice. We met at a small harvest mound just outside the Sussex Country Town of Lewes called The Tump. There we sat together and contemplated our Journey. We would walk a total of about 35 miles. The route would take us across the Lewes flood plains, up Itford Hill, along the South Downs Way, then down into Alfriston (for a well-deserved pint), then to climb the hill above the Long Man of Wilmington, to pitch our tents near the Long Barrow for the first night. The second day would take us into the valleys of Lullington Heath, home of adder and sparrow hawk, through deciduous woodland, then up once more onto the Downs at Firle Beacon, there to sleep upon a dug out Bronze Age Barrow. The final morning would take us across the A27, up the slopes of Mount Caburn, there to rest a while and contemplate the end of the Journey. Picking up our backpacks once more we walk the valley thats leads us back to Lewes, and the Snowdrop pub, for a last pint. Those were good days. Each step was taken with purpose, and meant something. There were times, particularly Itford Hill, when we were gasping for breath, and gravity proved a real problem. But most of the time spent walking the Sussex landscape brought me closer to the land, the Spirits of those old trackways, their stories, their songs. The conversations were never mundane, and there was a real bond between us as we walked. On both weekends the weather was wonderful, and the only problem was a little sunburn. This was a time before mobile phones too, so as we left the roads and towns behind us, there was no way for that peace to be broken. As we left The Tump, and made our way past Lewes Priory and under the A27, then out into the Sussex countryside, so we left much behind, and I’m sure each one of us felt lighter for it. I had no idea that Pilgrimage had been banned here in the UK. Hearing that came as quite a shock. It’s hard to understand why, or indeed how, that could have happened. I’m guessing it came about during Tudor times when the Crown were trying to wrestle power away from the Pope and Catholicism. I think there is such a calling to walk, to travel to some important religious or spiritual place, that this need lies within our very souls, and at some point the call becomes overwhelming, and on go the walking boots, out comes the rucksack, and into the countryside we go. In times past that might have been to a Cathedral, a Relicary, or other Christian holy site. For us it was the local landscape, and several ancient Pagan sites. When our lives are lived at such a high speed, it can be both rewarding and challenging to leave that phone behind, make a pledge to yourself that you will stay off Facebook for a few days, and walk out into the green. Can you drive on pilgrimage? Well I guess that’s a choice we each make, but I’m not sure it works for me. There has to be at least some space from the car, to the site. Some time spent on foot walking to the destination – time for contemplation. The longer we spend on foot, the more we leave our stuff behind, the more we focus on the slowing down, the more connection there is to the Journey, and I’m not sure that can ever be experienced in the same way driving in a car. We are in the end still on that fast-paced conveyor belt, but that conveyor belt runs out at countryside Public Footpath signs, and the earth is simply too slippery for it to move as fast. What did I take with me? I always had plenty of water. There were places on the South Downs Way where I could fill up, but they weren’t guaranteed. I had a Trangia, a tiny way of heating food with a methylated spirit burner; some dried food and energy bars; a bed roll; a small walkers tent; a change of clothes; good waterproof coat; a hat; a torch; an OS map of the area; a compass, and good worn-in walking boots. Oh, and a walking staff. The staff has several uses – for balance, measuring distance, and also to help create a walking rhythm. It really does help. We planned the route. A pilgrimage is a walk with intent, a purpose, and a specific destination. So we always spent some time with the OS map, planing the route, the places we could stop, the places we could safely camp, our beginning and the final destination. Things might not always go to plan, but that time spent before was very useful. After listening to Will and Guy talk at the OBOD Winter Gathering it has inspired me to take another Pilgrimage next year, but it has also reminded me of those past walks I’d made – of the connection to the land and my gods that they brought me. Life can sometimes feel like a race, but for what? May my footsteps tread lightly, may my mind be free enough to stop, to see, and to hear. May I walk gently upon the Earth, in the footsteps of the Ancestors. View the full article
  4. I tend to read "on the rise" and such as "we have noticed that", especially in more main-stream media such as this. It's a good hook into the article for them, but as so many have said, seldom actually fact.
  5. I don't think that paganism and witchcraft are any more on the rise or not or "in fashion" than they have been at any point during the last thirty years or so. What may be falling out of fashion is the "Charmed" school of witchcraft. That, I think is a fashion or maybe craze is a better description. When it comes to "serious" (for the want of a better term) paganism or Wicca I don't see any evidence that there's any more or less than there's been for a while. My son and his partner live in Scotland and partner is a postgrad student. She reckons that the number of pagan students is about the same as when she was an undergraduatre a few years back - and it all sounds a pretty similar split between the people who take it seriously and the Llewellyn/wicca lite types as when I was at university although the styles of clothing may have changed.
  6. Most people have heard about the Law of Attraction and how it can be used to attract the things you desire in your life to you. Yet, this is but one of many natural laws of the Universe. Can you imagine how successful you'd be if you were able to connect to and apply some of the other natural laws to your specific needs? Melissa Alvarez, author of Believe and Receive, takes a look at four laws that aren't as well known as the Law of Attractionandmdash;but are just as powerful. View the full article
  7. Oooh...  We have a more interesting colour scheme at the top of the page...

    1. Show previous comments  2 more
    2. deebs

      deebs

      You'll just have to wait and see! :o_lol:

    3. Ellinas

      Ellinas

      Looks fine.  Prefer it to the solid earthy colour.  Are any alternative themes likely to appear?

    4. deebs

      deebs

      Possibly, I'm hooking into a lot of things using the themes system at the moment, so adding and maintaining new ones would require a bit of fiddling.

  8. Earlier
  9. Genuinely Good Reading

    Agreed Bob. I found Contemporary Paganism by Graham Harvey very very useful in the early days. It gave me a vocabulary that I sort of understood before I went to my first moot. The first, general, chapter is the best definition of Paganism I've seen given the it's virtually undefinable. He goes on to cover a wide range of "paths". ( I DO dislike that word)
  10. I don't think that interest in true witchcraft /Wicca is "on the rise" - certainly the instant-ness of stuff on social media may mean that there is an increase in pop-witchcraft termed as wicca but not the real initiatory thing! I see a watering down of what is witchcraft/wicca, in the public domain and it is all to easy to pick up information from the internet and call yourself a witch. It is my personal view that you are either a witch or you are not and reading books and stuff on the internet and deciding to pick this or that and have go at it, does not make you into a practicing, effective doer of magic - and that is what a witch is. If you can't do magic, you are not a witch nor a magician.!
  11. Bob - that implies that paganism is simply a fashion. That's a tad depressing ... or perhaps not. ;)
  12. Still finding my way around the new site features but I'm back in the UK again and huddling around a roaring fire, longing for the Sicilian sunshine...

  13. Genuinely Good Reading

    True but don't underestimate how even a little reading can help a newbie tackle their first face-to-face encounter with other pagans. Sometimes just having enough of a clue to steer around the obvious Daily Mail questions (animal sacrifice, sex magic, horse mutilation, white power etc.) can help a person actually engage rather than clam up in embarrassment. My go to book to recommend to all aspiring Druids is The Druid Handbook by John Michael Greer. It is a remarkably practical guide to fairly mainstream Druidry with a Welsh rather than Irish flavour. The important thing is that it leaves enough gaps to act as a framework for your own journey, rather than being a prescriptive journey in itself.
  14. Is it on the rise still? I work with young people (apprentices/school-leavers up to early 30s) and there are far fewer Pagans of any stripe than there used to be maybe 5 years ago. At one time you could guarantee that almost anyone with a feminist, green or neo-hippy leaning would be at least interested in Paganism if not a practising Pagan. These days I find many more atheists and humanists among these groups alongside the vast majority who simply don't care about anything spiritual at all. Charmed is very vieux chapeau now and American Horror Story: Coven is fading from memory, the local mind body & spirit fairs are all but gone and only a couple of shops in a 50 mile radius still sell pagan books and supplies. As far as I can see the Pagan scene is pretty flat right now.
  15. That 'Witchcraft on the rise/ recent rise in people becoming witches' line is one that journalists have been using as a hook to talk to Pagans for rather a lot of years. Last time a journalist tried that with me, I asked them how many years it would be before it stopped being 'recent'? I then suggested they might like to go away and come back when they'd thought of something a bit more specific they wanted to talk about... perhaps after they'd spent at least 5 minutes actually reading around the subject. It comes across to me as lazy journalism, and journalists need us much more than we need them. So I feel we should be holding out for higher standards before agreeing to interviews.
  16. When you read or watch or listen to a fairy tale, who or what do you identify with? Does it change? I hadn't thought about this until I listened to an interview with Michele Tocher, an author who writes about fairy tales for personal healing. In the interview, she focused on the tale of "Briar Rose", and I found myself connecting with an old, beloved, and familiar story in new ways. In the past, I'd seen myself in Briar Rose and the Bad Fairy, but this time, I also connected with the wall of thorns, the golden plate, and spinning wheel. As I've written before, fairy tales, myths, and legends remain pertinent so long as we can find ourselves in them. If we expand the realm of possibility, we can become magical objects, be transformed, or see our life from a new, more magical, point of view. Pick up a story you are familiar with and re-read it. Try to remember what you loved about it the first time you were introduced to it. How old were you then? What image did you most love? Do you still feel that way? Shift gears and think about what images make you feel something strong now. Do you see something sinister in the story that you once overlooked, or do you have a pang of sympathy for the bad guy? Do you understand something new about the story or your life? Is it comfortable? In "Briar Rose", I now wonder about the mother of the princess. Did she feel helpless, or did she agree with the actions of her husband? What about the fairies? Why were they not insulted by one of their own being left out of the festivities? Was there more to that decision than we can see? DId the people of the kingdom see their leaders as fools or wise men? I am uncomfortable now with the kissing of an unconscious princess. I see myself as the castle covered in thorns and roses. I wonder how everyone reacted to their century-long nap; did they acclimate or did they wither away? All of these questions and thoughts show me how I order my world and what I prioritize. My choice of stories is also a glimpse into my mind and heart. There are tales I love and feel drawn to at different times of my life. These are the stories that I have read many retellings of and that I treasure for comfort. On the other side of that coin is the stories that I feel deep discomfort with. For example, stories of Baba Yaga make me want to read them, and at the same time, they deeply scare and repulse me. One day, when I am brave enough to look at why, I am certain that I will learn a lesson that I am in desperate need of, until then, I can only speculate about why I am drawn to and pushed away from those images. I have seen my inner life reflected in stories, and it can be illuminating. It's a way to look indirectly inside and to wonder about how we see our own image. Putting your finger on an image or idea can open the door for a mental conversation about why we think what we think. It also allows us to play dress up with our identity. Try on a new character, explore their thinking and feelings, look at the world through their eyes. In the process, you may gain two things, an understanding of someone else and mirror for your own thoughts and feelings. View the full article
  17. The ‘normalization’ of witchcraft is helping people feel safe to explore it. She knows talked to Lisa Chamberlain, a witch and Wicca practitioner who has published more than 10 introductory Wicca books and e-books, about how she views the growing interest in witchcraft. http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1137183/witchcraft-on-the-rise
  18. Genuinely Good Reading

    I guess the trouble with established pagans - Wiccans, Druids, Heathens and so on - giving an opinion on a 101 book, is that we already know the jargon and much of the stuff and can evaluate it accordingly. For someone who has read little or nothing yet at all, such jargonese even in these books purporting to give a simplistic overview, must be quite disconcerting! There really is no substitute for getting out to moots and conferences and meeting and talking to real folk!
  19. Genuinely Good Reading

    Nice. This is what I've been looking for, and only £3.79 on Kindle right now! Thanks.
  20. [The Bardic Blog] I go to the Church of Trees

    Some while ago I was invited to a church in Worcester by my friend Eva, who was at that time it's parish priest. I had met her on a Pagan web site while discussing circles. She wanted me to see her circular church. The alter table was on an eight inch high octagon about eight feet across, positioned at the centre. As I stood in the circle I thought that the octagon dais looked very like the rock outcrop that we would use as an alter for out Druidic rituals. When I looked up through the skylights I saw the same pine and beech trees that I would see at the gorsedd. To all intents and purposes [well almost] I was in the same place.
  21. I have no status to update.

    Where do I apply?

     

    No no Deebs, that was the best I can do for humour.  I don't use the blog/status features.

    1. deebs

      deebs

      Have you tried turning it off and on again?

    2. Ellinas

      Ellinas

      Turning your status off and on again sounds painful

  22. [The Bardic Blog] I go to the Church of Trees

    That is lovely and well said. I have sometimes thought that the architecture of churches and cathedrals in some ways mimics a forest of large trees, the soaring pillars the trunks and arches like boughs above, dapled light shining through stained glass windows like the light through leaves. A poor imitation though compared to the living breathing forest. You mention yews. Anyone visited the ankerwyker yew? It's increadible! And there are many other particularly amazing trees nearby and lovely walks too.
  23. That magnificent nature poem was written by my Bardic Buddy Arthur Hinds and to me sums up in just a few verses the reverence we Druids hold for these beings. If ever I feel upset, or disconnected from my Path, if ever I need to remember what it is all about, all for, it is to the woods my feet take me. Just as a Christian will make a pilgrimage to an ancient church, there to sit in the pews and to soak up the atmosphere of that sacred space, to be in a place where they can speak, and then hear the voice of their God reply, so I go to the woodlands, and walk among the trees. My feet touch the earth, and the smell, that forest smell, makes me feel so alive. The aroma of the woodland is something that changes from season to season. I think, even though I love Spring and Summer the most of all seasons, it is the aroma of the woodland in Autumn, wet earth and leaf-fall, that fills my heart within the forest. Yet as I consider those words the sight of the snowdrop, of young primroses, dog roses and may flower, elder and rowan; the taste of the woodland air as the first warmth of Spring warms the earth, suggests that is not entirely true – there is always some glorious sight or smell within the trees. And as the woodland is the Church of Trees, so there are places that are Cathedrals. One such place here in Sussex is Kingley Vale. It’s near West Stoke, just outside Chichester, and is the largest yew forest in Europe. 30,000 yew trees cover a huge part of the South Downs, and as you enter the forest of yew the light changes to monochrome, the birds stop singing, and the earth is bare beneath your feet. It is magical, head-swimmingly strange, and deeply sacred. But before you get to the yew forest you must first walk through a large deciduous woodland, and within that typical English woodland there are older yew trees, ancient beings who have known this land for millennia. These trees knew a world without the combustion engine. A world much more peaceful, yet they also have seen wars, and plague. People on horseback have ridden past wearing tricorn hats, and poets have doubtlessly walked among their bows, listening for the Muse. But there is more. Here within the deciduous woodland of Kingley Vale there is a Grove of Yews. And this, to me, has always been a Cathedral. I have visited many times, and each time I cannot enter without a huge wave of emotion overwhelming me. Sometimes I have been there and there have been families picnicking in the Grove, their children climbing on the ancient branches and, although my immediate response is negative, I soon realise that I am placing my own construct upon the place, and that in their own way these children are learning to love nature, just as I did at their age. I sit, and enjoy their delight, as they climb, and laugh together. At other times there is no-one there. Upon entering the Grove the silence is so empty that it surely must have been filled just moments before with the voices and music of the Fey. My hands touch the bark of these ancient beings. And soon that silence is filled once more with the voices of the Old Ones. One of my most favourite experiences is taking people to see the Grove for the first time. No amount of description can explain the atmosphere, the power, that place holds. Trees, with their roots in Annwn, their trunks in Abred, and their branches in Gwynvyd, span all Three Realms. If I were to follow my Druid path right back, to what drew me to the Druid tradition, it would be the Sacred Grove. When I heard that the ancient Druids met in Groves of trees, something awoke in my soul. I completely understood why they would have done that. I had felt that reverence myself, although I had no name to hang upon it until I heard the word Druid. I go to a Church of Trees. View the full article
  24. Many of us have recurring physical pains, whether mild, moderate, or severe. Why does this pain re-occur? Are we missing another layer of treatment? Emily A. Francis, author of The Body Heals Itself, explains why we need to heed what our bodies have to say...and perhaps heal ourselves on a deeper level as well. View the full article
  25. I received an excellent question via my Facebook page over the weekend. It was this: It’s a little complicated, but thinking on Paganism and Druidry as more than a spiritual belief, but as a lifestyle, in today’s modern life, is it possible to live in such a lifestyle? Instead of replying directly I thought this might well be something that other Pagans struggle with, so a more open blog article called. Let’s go back to the beginning. Well, my beginning to be exact. When I felt the call of the Old Gods I was already a fairly experienced Occultist. My teenage years had led me to the books of Crowley and the Golden Dawn (I’ll say it again, not the far right political party, but the old Magical Society. You might not think that’s necessary, but when I wrote that I was into the Golden Dawn once, I received an email from someone in utter despair that I was a fan of the far right. So people do make that mistake.) Yet I heard a call from the land, and that call led me to Druidry. When I left school my second job was at a knapsack sprayer manufacturer, on the assembly line. I worked at the same firm for 11 years. Going from the assembly line, then into the repair centre, then I was promoted to the Research and Development department, then I was plucked from there, given a company car and an expense account and sent off into the UK as their Home Sales Manager. From there I was sent overseas as the company’s international training officer, and then export sales. I went to Africa a number of times. It was a good job considering I’d left school with barely any qualifications. In 1991 we were told that the company was moving to Northumberland. I was offered a good deal, to sell the house and move, and had to give it good consideration, but in the end I chose not to. Towards the end of my time with the company I went on a business trip to an agricultural show in Spain with the then Export Sales Manager. We spoke about what we were going to do next. He had made contact with a Polish injection moulding company, and he thought we might be able to form a company and work with them. So when our old company moved, we hopped on a plane and had a meeting with them. When we arrived we were led to the board room. Me and my buddy opened our briefcases and began to talk about our plans, but the Director raised his hands. “In a while we talk business. Now. We drink.” Out came ice-cold bottles of Vodka, and we did indeed drink. A lot. When there were a number of empty Vodka bottles on the boardroom table, and me and my business partner were, well, you know. The Director then stood up and said, “Now… we talk business.” It was a very different way of working. He told me he wanted the truth, and that Vodka was a good way of getting quickly to the truth. It worked. They heard our plans and the next day agreed to work with us. We had our own business. So in early 1992 I was my own boss, had my own business, company car, it was good. But. Around the same time I had found my Pagan Heart. I joined the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Discovered the Pagan Federation. Got involved in an Earth-centred spiritual path, and really felt it. This leads me back to the initial question. It’s a little complicated, but thinking on Paganism and Druidry as more than a spiritual belief, but as a lifestyle, in today’s modern life, is it possible to live in such a lifestyle? I became embroiled in the agricultural industry when I was 16 years old. It was all I’d known, and I had made a bit of a name for myself within it. I was a paid-up member of the British Society of Sugarcane Technologists. I was at the meeting where they spoke about the need for a sugar-based, low calorie sweetener. That sweetener later became Splenda. My clients were the big bad boys – Monsanto, Zeneca, the big chemical companies. I remember being at the Zeneca plant when they were just beginning to talk about developing plants that were genetically resistant to disease – the very beginning of GM crops. And as my Paganism grew, it became harder and harder to square my work life, with my spiritual beliefs. They were out of sync with each other. In the end something had to shift. I took my Spaniel to work with me every day I was in the office. Our office was in the countryside on a farm, a lovely place to work. One lunchtime we walked out into the Sussex countryside, and went to visit an old oak tree. I went there every day, spoke the Druids Prayer, and intoned some Awens, but this day something was different. I spoke to the tree. I said that there must be some way to live a holistic life. A life that was in tune with my Paganism. I said to that wise old tree that, if there was a way, I was ready. Bring it on. The very next day I received a phone call that would change my life. Afterwards, I went into the office and sat at my computer. My business partner was at his. How could I even bring this up? We had created this company together in good faith, for the long run. But I simply couldn’t do it any more. My life was going in another direction. I sat there for a long time wondering what to say. Then I just said’ “How would you like to own all of this?” He stopped work. Looked at me and said, “Ok. Let’s talk.” So we did, and in a couple of months all of the loose ends were tied and I was out. I took a huge drop in wages, but that decision also led to having the space to write songs, record songs, and the rest is history. It was a massive step, and a big change. Not everyone needs to do that. Some hold on until the time is right, but in reality that right time often doesn’t come along. It’s like having children. Sometimes you just have to go for it, and see what happens. What does a ‘Pagan Lifestyle’ Look Like? To answer the question. Is it possible to live a Pagan lifestyle? I guess one has to consider what living a Pagan lifestyle would look and feel like. That is a very personal thing. To some it would involve making sure to do the recycling, maybe getting an allotment where you can grow your own food. Buying ethically, and making difficult but important consumer choices. Some might chose to become vegetarians, or vegans. Like me some may feel that they need to change jobs. But the thing to stress is that these are personal choices. Not every Pagan thinks the same way, and when we chose to make those lifestyle changes, it’s important to accept that not everyone will do the same. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for almost constant disappointment. Being a Pagan with a Busy Life This is a real thing right now. How did the technology we created, to give us more time, make us even more busy? How do we find time in our lives for our Paganism when we barely have enough energy to collapse on the sofa and sit bleary-eyed in front of the TV without falling asleep after a hard day’s work? These are questions my Grove are working through right now. One of the things that can help is to drop the resistance to those things us Pagans unhelpfully call mundane. I heard a great quote the other day. It came from Dion Fortune and she said something like “we have to honour and tend our Hearth fire, before we can tend the Temple fire”. Not only that, but our Hearth fire can feed and ignite our Temple fire. It’s a challenge, but it might help if we stopped pigeonholing aspects of life into boxes of mundane stuff and spiritual stuff. One feeds the other, constantly, and the result is wholeness. Life. There are some people who are so busy they really cannot find time for a spiritual practice. But for most of us we can always find time for Facebook. How about not going on Facebook, but instead doing 10 minutes of meditation? Instead of diving into the newspaper first thing in the morning, how about starting your day in a different way. Go outside, smell the air, connect. Little changes can really help. There doesn’t have to be a massive shift that changes everything. Small things can build up. Make them habits and they can have a knock on effect on our mood and relationships, both to others, and ourselves. If we also make tending the Hearth fire a spiritual act, well, that shift in perspective can be utterly life-changing. Having written all of that I have to come back to one thing – what does living a Pagan lifestyle look like to you? And what small changes can you make to edge towards that? Be gentle with yourself. It helps nobody if we are overtly harsh. These things can take time. Make those small changes and this time next year that imagined lifestyle may be the one you are living, or at the very least you will have made changes that make you feel more connected. I hope that helps. Let me know your thoughts. View the full article
  26. Monday evening, my husband and I took dinner to our dear friend whose daughter is int he PICU. We were happy to be able to do anything for this family, as they are wonderful, and we know how hard this is for them. Typically, when things are going wrong for the people we love, we often feel helpless, and it was a nice change to be able to something, anything for them. While we were visiting, I had the chance to see something beautiful and amazing and magical. When my friend's daughter needed to change positions, it took an entire team. Not only is there the act of moving her, but there are tubes and monitors, toys, pillows, and communication devices that have to move with her. It's complicated and has to be done every hour or so. My friend, who is two weeks into this hospital stay, is tired. She's worried, and she's lonely, but she is so kind and gracious to the everyone. She jumps in to help move things, she asks questions and gives reminders with incredible patience. She thanks everyone for the things they do whether it's dropping off dinner or emptying the trash. She could be complaining or despairing, but she radiates light instead. We don't choose what happens to us, in many, many cases, but we do get to decide how we respond. My friend is an incredible inspiration to me because she chooses to be amazing through every rough patch she experiences. View the full article
  27. A Need To Join.

    Some of that sounds relevant to the threads on being to academic and ideas to get people involved, both in the Axe Grinder's Workshop board. You may like to cast an eye over those.
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