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UK Pagan

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About UK Pagan

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  • Birthday 03/19/2001

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    UKPagan is a web community site for Pagans in the British Isles and across the world.
    Running since March of 2001, we have relaunched in 2004 and again in 2011.
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    UK Pagan is…
    * a site for all Pagans, whatever path, whatever stage of their learning.
    * a place where Pagans discuss issues with tolerance and respect for others.
    * made for the community and by the community.
    * a place where followers of other religions are welcome if they show respect and tolerance.
    * a neutral forum with no “site line” or “site view”.

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    Being the best pagan forum on the internet.

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  1. For a number of years in the early 2000s I read hundreds of self-help books. Literally hundreds. I trained as a Stress Consultant, and qualified as an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner. I even considered training to be a therapist and councillor. But in truth, looking back now, I was completely missing, or unconsciously ignoring, what I needed to do, and that was to go and see a therapist myself. In the end I did and our year together was a gift that helped me to clear the fugue my mind had entered into. My therapist was trained in Transactional Analysis (TA) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), both amazing ways to help an air head like me to understand what might be going on in this lump of meat in my head. It’s amazing the little tricks our minds can play on us, self-talk suggesting how just sitting down and talking to a stranger could possibly help the way I’m feeling, but that self-sabotage can be paralysing, and make a step towards real change take some time. Even when we plant our backsides on the couch and begin to talk there can be some resistance – I felt that too – but I knew something was not right and, over time, I began to feel the difference. It still amazes me, that the simple act of expressing our feelings out loud, in words, can make such a difference. But it does. One of the things I noticed in those self-help books was the idea that happiness is the ultimate quest of life. Nearly two decades later and I’m really not sure that’s the case. It seems to me that the human world, and life in general, is a roller coaster ride of emotion, and that maybe having happiness as the bench mark of how our lives are progressing is actually damaging. Just as looking at Instagram feed photos suggest that everything in the lives of those we follow are simply peachy is a huge distortion of the reality of life (including theirs), so the endless search for continued happiness can be exhausting. Maybe happiness isn’t the aim of life at all. In fact making it the benchmark of the perfect life can make things much worse. Maybe life is about finding meaning. Finding meaning can be much more sustainable than the endless search for happiness. Many of us can find meaning in simple things such as watching the sunrise on a new day, or the flight of a gull, the sound of birdsong right now outside my window announcing the arrival of Spring. The smell of decaying leaves in the Autumn, the way that a song or piece of music makes us feel. The company of friends and the connection with our family. So many things can add meaning to our lives. Obviously another is a spiritual practice like meditation or walking the land on pilgrimage. Making the decision to look after your body by making better choices of food and drink. The list is endless. And guess what – a life lived with meaning can open the doors to that illusive happiness so many seek. Not that happiness should necessarily be the goal of finding meaning. If that happens we can find ourselves back at square one once more, feeling unfulfilled and down. Don’t get me wrong, happiness is great. I love a good laugh, and the feeling that everything is just right, and all is good. The thing I’ve found is that it just doesn’t last. As the great sages say, Shit Happens. Things bring us down, sometimes with a big heavy bump. I’ve heard some people say things like life gets in the way. And this may be another problem. If all of the things that get in the way are seen as life, then all of the things that make us feel good, well, what are they? Isn’t it all just life? So here’s a thought to end with. What are the things that bring meaning into your life? Let’s talk meaning and purpose and see if those things ultimately bring us more balance, perspective, and in the end, happiness. View the full article
  2. When the Pagan community comes together with an open heart amazing things can happen. I have witnessed it at the OBOD Summer and Winter Gatherings in Glastonbury each year, at many Pagan gatherings around the world, and I felt it again this past weekend at the Pagan Federation Devon and Cornwall conference. I have been going to the PF D and C conference since it was in a tiny little pub on the high street of Tintagel in February 2000 and have played my music there at pretty much every one since (apart from the one when I cracked a rib just days before, chasing Oscar around the garden and slipping on some wet decking…). As some of you may know I was born in Cornwall, so a chance to go back each year and spend time with friends in a place I love is a gift to me. This weekend was their 20th Anniversary event with speakers including Julian Vayne, Penny Billington, Marian Green, Suzanne Rance and Professor Ronald Hutton. Most of the speakers’ talks were about Paganism, the changes over the past 20 years, and where it could be going. Absolutely fascinating perspectives on my beloved Path. There was also a panel on which I sat as we answered questions from the audience. A Gemini’s dream quite frankly. The more challenging the question the better, with no time to think. I loved it. There is literally so much to write about but I will focus on just one thing in this article. During the panel the question was asked, “What is one thing or moment that changed Paganism over the past 20 years?” I wasn’t the first to answer so had a little time to consider it, as it wasn’t something I had been asked before. Some answers included the affect the reverence to the Goddess has done for women and feminism, another answer was the influence of the internet, but there, right next to me, was Ronald Hutton. I had my answer. Of course there have been many important changes over the last 20 years, but what I said was that there was one book, that was written by the gentleman sitting next to me that changed almost everything, and that was his book Triumph of the Moon. It seemed to me before that book was published the dominant story was the one written by Margaret Murray, of the surviving Witch cult, and the 6,000,000 Witches put to death during the Burning Times. But here was a book that put all of that into context. It took us through 200 or so years of story that could be traced with some kind of historical accuracy. It looked at the people involved in the birth of Wicca, and it came to pass that what many had said was an ancient surviving religion, was actually something that had taken its inspiration from the past, but was actually about 50 years old. Ok. This did not go down well with some, and the response to the book was, shall we say, not entirely 100% positive. But time moves on, and over the years more books have been written by modern historians looking directly at the path modern Paganism, including Druidry, has taken. Years later that moment, when Triumph of the Moon was published seems to me like a watershed moment. When we were given the permission to take off the burden of trying to find ancient, unbroken, authenticity, and accept that we were here, right at the very beginning of something miraculous and wonderful. Modern Paganism is not the result of unbroken ancient lineage, it is the result of the needs of people to reconnect directly to the Earth, to rediscover their stories, to see the sacred in the falling rain, the sunrise, the river, and hill. A path that speaks directly to the soul with no need for an intermediary clergy. I find that all so exciting. One day, unless we do something particularly stupid, we will be the ancestors. In 3000 years time we will be the ancient ancestors, and the people who were there at the beginning of what will by then be an ancient spirituality. Crikey! We hold it in our hands. It’s fragile, and beautiful. Maybe like an egg that is yet to hatch we hold it, incubating it, to pass on to future generations who will then take it further. Apparently, after Christianity was founded it took at least 200 years of debating, arguing, falling out, making up, exploring, to find any kind of coherence and direction. If modern Paganism is indeed only 60 or so years old, then we are in that same position as those early Christians. What an exciting time to be alive! View the full article
  3. Dice have a very long history as oracles; they were prominent in ancient Greece and Rome, and popular again in medieval Europe. But, when you try a dice oracle for the first time, you will notice a big difference from other forms of divination (such as the tarot). So why use them? Here, Elemental Divination author Stephen Ball illustrates his new dice oracle, exploring its ease of use and breadth of wisdom. View the full article
  4. We are thrilled to announce that Loreena is about to release her first recording of original songs since her 2006 recording An Ancient Muse. Her new album, Lost Souls, is set for international release on May 11, 2018. You can hear “A Hundred Wishes” our next instant gratification track NOW on all music services and from our website. [The first single, “Breaking of the Sword” was released for Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) in November of 2017 and can also be heard on all music services and our website.] Over the months of April and May, we will continue to reveal a few more tracks culminating, with a full album experience in early May. International touring plans for 2018/2019 will also be announced in the coming months. As a member of the LM Community you will be the first to be informed of tours and exclusive pre-sale opportunities. This long-awaited and eagerly anticipated album is a rich and eclectic tapestry of songs woven with influences from the Celts to the Bedouins, stitched with the sounds of a diverse and exotic collection of musical voices, including the nyckelharpa, oud, kanoun, flamenco guitar and a Canadian military band. “Although Lost Souls does not follow the next chapter in my pursuit of the history of the Celts, it has been gratifying to complete a selection of songs on which I’ve been working on for some time” says Loreena. “Life has been so full and demanding these past ten years – both personally and professionally it was also gratifying to get back to the creative part of the process.” There are nine songs on the new album. Several were begun by Loreena some time ago, while others have been progressively taking shape in the midst of more recent projects and journeys. A few draw on the poetry of John Keats and W.B. Yeats, while another evokes a distinct Middle Eastern flavour. The album will be available as a CD, 180-gram vinyl record, and through all music services including iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify. Pre-orders and pre-saving (for streaming services) begin Friday March 9th. The CD and vinyl record are bothavailable for pre-order from a number of preferred retailers. The album was recorded from May through October 2017 in Hamilton, Canada at Catherine North Studios and at Peter Gabriel’s Read World Studios near Bath, in South West England. It features Loreena on vocals, piano, keyboard, accordion and harp, accompanied by her core group of fellow musicians, many of whom you know: Brian Hughes on guitars, bazouki and synth, Caroline Lavelle on cello and concertina, Hugh Marsh on violin, and Dudley Phillips on acoustic and electric bass. Engineered by Yossi Shakked, Stuart Bruce and Jeff Wolpert, lost souls was mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios. The album package was designed by Jeri Heiden, of Smog Design, Inc. The album also features such specialty artists as Robert Brian and Tal Bergman (Drums), Hossam Ramsey, Graham Hargrove and Rick Lazar (Percussion), Nigel Eaton (Hurdy Gurdy), Panos Dimitrakopoulos (Kanoun), Sokratis Sinopoulos (Lyra), Haig Yazdjian (Oud), Ana Alcaide (Nyckelharpa), Daniel Casares (Flamenco Guitars) and Miguel Ortiz Ruvira (Flamenco Percussion). The post New Album Set for Release May 11th! appeared first on Loreena McKennitt. View the full article
  5. I’ve decided to do reviews of books, music, films etc that might be of interest to readers and today is day one. Science and Spiritual Practices by Rupert Sheldrake From the inside cover: Dr Rupert Sheldrake is an internationally acclaimed biologist and author of more than 85 scientific papers and 11 books, including The Science Delusion (Science Set Free in the US). As a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, he was Director of Studies in cell biology and a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. He worked in India for five years at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), where he was Principal Plant Physiologist. From 2005 to 2010, he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project for research on unexplained human and animal abilities, and funded by Trinity College, Cambridge. He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Neotic Sciences, Petaluma, California, and a Fellow of Schumacher College in Devon. Quite a resume. I was made aware of this book while listening to Russell Brand interview Sheldrake on his excellent podcast Under the Skin. It’s obvious that, particularly in some areas of the scientific community, Rupert Sheldrake is quite a controversial character. In 2013 he gave a TED talk where he outlined some of his book The Science Delusion. In his talk, Sheldrake stated that modern science rests on ten dogmas which “fall apart” upon examination. This talk obviously didn’t go down well with some members of the scientific community who recommended that the talk “should not be distributed without being framed with caution”. The video of the talk was moved from the TEDx YouTube channel to the TED blog accompanied by the framing language called for by the advisors. The move and framing prompted accusations of censorship, to which TED responded by saying the accusations were “simply not true” and that Sheldrake’s talk was “up on our website”. All very interesting, and puts the relationship between Sheldrake and some areas of the scientific community rather at odds, but this is a book review, so what about the book? Sheldrake makes the point that science helps to validate seven practices upon which all religions are built. These are: Meditation. Gratitude. Connecting with Nature. Relating to plants. Rituals. Singing and chanting. Pilgrimage and Holy places. Now I am obviously going to read this book through my own filters and ask whether these seven practices are not only present in modern Paganism and Druidry, but how they influence Paganism as a whole. I wrote an article about meditation before I even bought the book, and then his chapter on gratitude inspired another post last week. As I read the book I found myself very often nodding in agreement. Let’s look at a some of the points he raises. Meditation – The practice of Meditation is undergoing a huge renaissance right now with the Mindfulness movement, and there can be little disagreement that the practice of meditation can offer huge health benefits, for the body as well as the mind. Gratitude – Yes, people who feel grateful for what they have, sometimes when it is very little indeed, are often more content and happier than those who have an attitude of privilege, or who don’t have a sense of gratitude. Over the years, particularly when I was a Director of my own company, I have seen that people who expect to be treated in a certain way, or feel they are somehow more important/superior than others because of their job or their money, can sometimes be more angry, quick tempered, and generally unpleasant to be around, than those who are grateful for their lot, regardless of what that lot is. Sheldrake backs each of these chapters up with scientific research, but also looks at how some of these practices can be used by capitalism, such as the huge market for Mindfulness right now, and the way that companies can use psychological manipulation with its employees, particularly gratefulness, because a grateful workforce is a happy workforce, and, well, the company will make more money. Reconnecting with Nature – A chapter that obviously speaks directly to the Pagan heart. In a section titled benefits of exposure to more than human nature Sheldrake says: The effects of exposure to the natural world have been studied scientifically. According to a recent summary of this research, nature improves mental health – people are less depressed when they have better access to green spaces. The beneficial effect is not just a matter of physical exercise, although that is part of the picture. There is something about a natural environment that improves peoples’ well-being… Put simply, being in nature feels good. During this chapter he lists evidence, time and time again, that the very act of simply being within a natural environment (ie, not a human city, town or village) brings people peace, healing, health, and vitality. I’m sure this is something every Pagan, actually not just Pagan, everyone reading this can agree with. And that is how I felt about all of this book. All seven of the points he raises not only made sense, but are also backed up with scientific research and evidence. Paganism is obviously another ‘religion’ that utilises all seven of these practices, and it utilises them really well. From the connection with the Natural World it encourages, to the Wheel of the Year and getting out there to conduct that very practice in another of the seven listed in the form of ritual. Singing and chanting around campfires, or at concerts given by Pagan musicians, rituals of initiation and rites of passage are an integral part of group and solitary Pagan practice, and Pilgrimage to sites such as stone circles on lonely moors, to passage graves like Weyland’s Smithy, to towns like Glastonbury, lakes like Llyn Tegid, and mountains such as Dinas Emrys, all call deeply to the Pagan soul, and I’m sure there are countless other sites all around the world, each calling Pagans to their shores and hills. Rupert Sheldrake obviously has an axe to grind against some of the materialist/reductionist/atheist scientists out there, and it seems that axe is equally sharp and pointed back at him from them. At no point does Sheldrake go off on a rant through. He does make points that, for instance, one of the reasons some materialist scientists want to see the back of religions, is all of the wars that have been responsible because of them. But he goes on to says that: The most destructive system of all was the atheist ideology of communism, as in the Soviet union under Stalin, Communist China under Mao and Cambodia under Pol Pot. By Conservative estimates, the death toll in the Soviet Union under Stalin was about 20 million people, with a further 20 million soldiers and civilians killed in the Second World War. In China under Mao there were 40 to 70,000,000 deaths as a result of his policies. In Cambodia and Pol Pot about 2 million people perished, around a quarter of the population. No nation, no religion, no ideology, and no commercial system comes out well from a close examination of its history. All human institutions are fallible. I get that, but I’m pretty sure the total death-toll of so-called religious wars would still be higher. Would getting rid of religion stop that? I’m not so sure. Sadly I feel that us humans would simply find something else to fight about. The book reads in a very balanced, pro science, pro spirituality, way. Which is exactly how I feel. I love science, and I love most of the technological advances humans have made. I also love spirituality and my Paganism. The chapters that deal with Panpsychism really gave me a huge Bill and Ted Whoa! moment. I wrote about that just after hearing the podcast here. This really was a thought-provoking read, backed up by re-inforcing my already held opinion, that Paganism and Druidry is already doing a lot of things well. Highly Recommended. View the full article
  6. I’m currently reading Rupert Sheldrake’s Science and Spiritual Practices and one of things I’ll be doing more here on the blog is book and music reviews, so expect a full review in the next couple of weeks. In the mean time the book has inspired me to look at the topics it covers from a modern Druid perspective. There are seven topics covered in the book, the first being meditation, which I recently wrote about here, the next is gratitude. It was many years ago now. I still remember taking part in one of my first interfaith conferences. The talks were interesting, and there had been some very thought-provoking theological discussions, but eventually it became time for lunch. We all queued (as is the divine-given right of all Brits) and eventually sat down together to eat. Everyone immediately tucked in to the jacket potatoes we had chosen. All except for one Christian priest. I watched him pause for just a moment or two, eyes closed, obviously saying Grace in quiet contemplation of the food he was about to receive. It touched me deeply. I looked around and everyone else, all of the Pagans, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, everyone, was all eating and chatting, oblivious to that small moment of gratitude. It was obviously done is a regular practice. It didn’t come across as holier-than-though, and at no point did he look around to see if anyone had been watching. It was a beautiful, honest, moment where a human being acknowledged their gratitude for the life-sustaining food he was about to eat. In the section of Rupert’s book he makes this observation – when we go to a restaurant the consumption of food has become more about a financial exchange. We sit down, chose from a menu, and place our order. When it comes to the table we expect it to be well-cooked, attractive, smell delicious, and to be exactly what we ordered. The food is about enjoyment, and coming up to expectations. If that food happens to be an eight ounce rib-eye it needs to have been cooked to our requirements. The fact that we are paying good money for this meal is one of the over-riding elements. Not the fact that we are eating what was a living being, or that this experience is such a privilege when compared to many areas of this very same planet, where many are starving. No. It’s all about value for money and getting the service we require. Now, there might be many reading this who may be thinking, well, that’s not what I feel or do, but you can’t deny that it’s what seems to be the norm. The western capitalist sense of privilege over-rides the sense of gratitude. I’ll be honest. I’ve done it. And sometimes it takes reading a chapter in a book to remind me how much I can take for granted something so essential, so primal and a part of being alive. I’m making the promise to reset, to remember the actions of that priest all those years ago, and to take a moment each time before I eat, to give thanks for the food that sustains me. I’ll add this to my morning daily practice, and my daily meditations, which are already making such a difference to my life. If you already do this, hats off to you. If you don’t, maybe you’d like to join me? But of course gratitude doesn’t stop with our food. There is our health, family, friends, job, where we live, the music we listen to, our very breath, wild nights out and calm peaceful moments of contemplation. Like meditation, moments of active gratitude can help with our moods, our well-being, our health. When things are so weird in the world it might sound odd to suggest that taking moments of gratitude can help us to be more positive, but it’s probably because of those things that we really need to seek out and remember what we are grateful for right now. From the sun rising every day, to the glass of clean water we drink, there is still plenty to be grateful for. And I am grateful for you for taking the time to read this article. Let’s be grateful together. View the full article
  7. [Llewellyn] Tarot Compendium

    Tarot Compendium is the third and final book in the innovative and wonderful series from Lo Scarabeo. Barbara Moore explains why these books are "beautiful to look at, a pleasure to peruse, and yet full of essential information." View the full article
  8. Shownotes for DruidCast Episode 131 Imbolc Song – S J Tucker – http://sjtucker.com The Good Ship Polyphemus – Spriggan Mist – http://www.sprigganmist.co.uk Interview by Matt McCabe with OBOD Honorary Bard, Simon Emmerson, co-founder of the Afro Celt Sound System and The Imagined Village. Release – Afro Celt Sound System – http://www.afroceltsoundsystem.org.uk Tam Lin Retold – The Imagined Village – http://www.theimaginedvillage.com Chrystalmir Morning – Todd Reiser – https://druishinthedesert.wordpress.com/ Misfortune of Vision from The Druid’s Brooch – Christy Nicholas – http://www.GreenDragonArtist.com Paganicon advert – http://www.paganicon.org DruidCast theme music – Hills they are Hollow – Damh the Bard – paganmusic.co.uk For further information about the Druid tradition – druidry.org View the full article
  9. We all have negative energy in our lives, be it luck, bad habits, or lingering relationships. However, Conjure offers practical, and often, simple, fixes for a variety of these human concerns. Chas Bogan, author of The Secret Keys of Conjure, provides 5 of the most effective tricks to make these changes in your life. View the full article
  10. Some of us hear the Universe whispering. We're nudged to do something, to say something, to pay attention to something. We can ignore these, of course, but that doesn't mean the Universe stops trying. I find myself in a situation where I ignored the nudges that ranged from words jumping out at me from a novel to an encounter that forced me to act. I need to write this post. It's time. It's past time. I put it off at first because I was so upset, and ignored it for a while when my family was dealing with the flu. Wednesday, I found that these thoughts wouldn't leave me alone, and now, I must write. It's always your responsibility. If you can see it or hear it, you are there to do something about it. The world is full of preventable disasters and evils that somebody saw and never did anything about, and it's time for that to stop. We all must accept a small burden of responsibility to change this world into to something healthier, something better, something more beautiful. It's time. We all can wait no longer. Things are bad, and nobody wants to see them get worse. Nearly a month ago, my husband and dragged two of three kids to Target after I picked him up from work. One kid was feeling poorly, and the other was tired. The teenager was at a rehearsal for a play he was working. The store was full of tired, cranky people who kept getting in each other's way. It was pretty miserable, and I was looking forward to leaving. I was tired of inconsiderate people, coughing strangers, and whining kids. While we were on the escalator down to the parking garage, I noticed a woman in blue sitting on a mobility scooter and rocking. Something about her was very, very off. People walked past her, in spite of her obvious distress. Watching, I realized that I needed to check. Nobody else was going to be bothered. She wasn't okay. She was in pain, scared, and seemed like she was not mentally okay. I stayed with her for a while, trying to figure out what was going on. I talked to her. I held her hand. I helped her calm down. She was lost and scared and wearing a hospital bracelet that made me suspicious that she may have been unethically discharged. Patient dumping isn't really that rare. I called an ambulance. She was in pain. She needed help, and it was too cold a night for her be wandering around without a coat. While I was doing this, my husband was keeping the kids out of the way. A woman came up to him and asked him about what was happening. She'd noticed the woman on her way in, but she didn't do anything. She assumed I was a nurse until my husband corrected her. I 'm just a regular person who saw something that wasn't right and stepped in. Target's managers and security stood by whispering, obviously aware that the woman in blue had been down there a while, but they never even asked me what was going on. It was their responsibility, and they were dancing around, fidgeting. It made me feel icky in a way I can't explain. The paramedics showed up a couple minutes later, and I was waved off. The car ride home was just long enough for me to go from concerned to annoyed to sad to angry. Tears in my eyes and shaking, I tried to wrap my head around how little the people in my community care about others. I'm saddened by the realization, and I was so angry that I couldn't talk about this for days to anyone but my husband. My family had finished reading "A Hat Full of Sky" just a few days before this. A quote from it kept ringing in my head, and it did so again loudly as we left Target: "Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility." I've been thinking about these words frequently. We have a responsibility to each other to not ignore suffering, to help where we can, to contribute to the world through whatever means are available to us. It's the only way we will feel full. It is what counts. So, I'll end with this: It is always you. You are the person who can do something. If you can see something wrong, you can start to change it by acknowledging it. You can perform this incredible, brave magic, and it is your responsibility to act, even if the act seems insignificant. Doing something is far better than doing nothing. Maybe we can't change things all at once, but we can start fight indifference by embracing our power, our agency, our sovereignty over our lives and pushing back against apathy. View the full article
  11. My child has been going with me on field trips to other religions' houses of worship lately, because I teach "Neighboring Faiths" at the local UU to middle schoolers. Last week, we went to a Catholic mass. I personally was admiring how everyone was on the same page with the hymns, call and response, and how beautiful the sanctuary art was. Mass ritual can be so soothing, you know? Meanwhile, Rowan was confused and upset. We had some talk while we were there that had to be tabled for a larger discussion at home because I did not want to be a bad guest to our hosts. Things my little witchlet did not understand or like: 1. "Why do they have dead Jesus everywhere? Doesn't that hurt their feelings? Doesn't that celebrate his death instead of his life?" I had to explain that Jesus was the Christian version of the divine kings who were king for a year, and sacrificed in the summer to create good crops for the people. It was his role to die. God made Jesus so that he could be sacrificed for the people. Except in the Christian version, it's not about fertility and abundance, it's about this idea of "sin" and "forgiveness". (For the record, he doesn't like the pagan version of the divine king story either.) 2. Which led to more conversations about sin and forgiveness. I told Rowan that Christians believe that you have to say that Jesus is your savior to be forgiven for bad things that you do. That everyone does bad things, but you have to make that statement before you die to go to heaven. Otherwise, you will go to hell. I explained the Christian ideas of heaven and hell to him and he thought their God was mighty unfair. "Their God can forgive people at any time, but he makes them do that or he punishes them?" I told him yes, their god had a lot of rules including not working with any other Gods besides him. So if he were a Christian, he would have to say everyone else's Gods were fake and wrong and only work with God and Jesus. He thought that was prejudiced. He also was confused how Christians become good people if all they do is follow rules and not think for themselves. I explained that value was not placed on that idea- we, as Witches place value on that idea. But many Christians was Christians to be sheep and follow their leader. That we are more like goats than sheep. I also explained that god sent lots of punishments to non-believers and tests to his followers, not just when they die- it's a lifelong thing. I explained plagues and the story of Isaac. He was very upset and thinks that the Christian God is a jerk now. He is mad that kids at school who are Christian spout some of the things that they do (going to hell comments), especially now that he understand the context better. He thinks those kids are now "God's bullies". 3. I explained that Mary (the church was named after Mary) was Jesus' mom. He did not know that, and had questions. "So Mary was married to their God?". My response: "No, Mary was married to a man named Joseph." Rowan: "But Mary had a baby with God instead of Joseph?" I laughed and told him he knows many people that have had babies without being married or while being partnered with more than one person. (We know many poly people or people unmarried with kids.) Me: "Well, she did not plan it, God put baby Jesus inside her." Rowan: "She didn't know? HOW IS THAT NOT RAPE?" (At this point, we had to table the conversation to after church, as to not be offensive and disruptive guests. I mean, the kid has a point of course. I have thought all of these things and rejected Christianity because of them as well. But the kid has to live in a majority Christian world and be OK with others having these ideas. View the full article
  12. There are certain folk from the mythology of this little island that fill my heart. Taliesin, Arthur, Gwydion, Rhiannon to name just a few. Another is the figure of Merlin. I guess my first encounter with Merlin was in Disney’s Sword in the Stone back when I was a very young child. I remember it well to this day. Going to the cinema and seeing this crazy magician change shape into various animals. Maybe that film was my first encounter with the idea of magic too – it’s too long ago now to remember that exactly, but my fascination with Merlin was lit, and continues to this day. When we try to find the historical Merlin our quest leads us all over the country – from the tip of Kernow, to the Caledonian forests, and then to the mountains of Snowdonia. It seems that Merlin lived everywhere, at all times. It’s entirely possible that, like Taliesin, the name Merlin was a title, and not the name of one person, hence the various Merlins found across Albion. It was the Merlin. We also find the spelling of the name changing slightly in each location. He’s an enigmatic and complicated figure who is impossible to tie down. And maybe that is the point. The Merlin is simply too big, to much a part of the island in her entirety to be placed in just one area. One of the ancient names of Albion is Clas Myrdhin, Merlin’s Enclosure, he was that widely known. However, probably the best known version of Merlin is that of Malory’s Le More d’Arthur. In fact this medieval novel is probably the basis of most Arthurian lore, and certainly, in my opinion, the best Arthurian film ever made, Excalibur. Merlin is the mage to whom Arthur is given as a baby, directly after his birth from the womb of Igraine. His father is the High King Uther, so this tiny baby is heir to the throne of Albion. Raised by Merlin he then returns as grown man and Squire to Sir Kay and unwittingly removes the sword from the stone at a jousting competition. Most of us know this tale. Merlin then becomes Arthur’s most valued advisor during his time as King. But what of the child Merlin? Who does legend say he was? King Vortigern, a bad King, was losing control, and needed forces for his armies. It is said that it was he that invited the first of the Saxons to these shores as mercenaries. Here they saw the fertility of the land, and when Vortigern failed to pay them, they demanded their payment in land. Now this King wished to build a Tower, high on the top of a mountain in Snowdonia, but no matter how they tried to build it, the Tower would always fall. He consulted his Druids who said that a sacrifice was needed. The sacrifice should be a child with no father. The search took them to Carmarthan where they did indeed find such a child. The mother had no recollection of the father (though in some tales he is a demon, others a Pagan God), so the child was taken to the foundations of the Tower, there to be sacrificed. It was there that he had his first prophetic vision. In my mind I see the child Merlin fall to his knees and screams of the two dragons that lay within the mountain, one red, one white. The red dragon representing the Britons, the white dragon the incoming Saxons. The boy Merlin pronounced that the red dragon would win over the white. The red dragon is still upon the flag of Wales. The hill was then named after the boy – Dinas Emrys – and if you walk to the top you will indeed still find to this day the foundations of a roughly square tower… There are other stories though. Merlin is said to have been the Bard and advisor to King Gwenddoleu who, along with all of Merlin’s family and friends, was slaughtered at the Battle of Arderydd in 573. A battle that some say was the final battle between a Pagan King, and the incoming Christian. A battle that was so bloody Merlin fled the battlefield into the forest in madness, there to hide, running wild as a Wild Man of the Woods, befriending animals, and speaking prophecies. Returning to the wild after witnessing great slaughter is also within the story of Suibne Geilt, or Mad Sweeney, in Irish mythology. Many of us yearn to return to nature and live within the woods to escape the madness of this modern life, and maybe the metaphoric slaughter of community is indeed a part of that modern life, with many of us not even knowing the names of our neighbours. But within the forest, and the madness of Merlin great lessons were learned, and after many years it is said that he returned to the human realm, there to be of service, as a man of great wisdom. Wisdom gained through his years as the Wild Man of the Woods. So although when we say the name Merlin, many default to Malory’s Medieval Arthurian tale, I wanted to try to write a song which honoured the many Merlins of this Isle. So the opening verse tells of his birth, and subsequent death of his mother in childbirth, acknowledging his unknown, and possibly supernatural father. The second verse tells of his youth, found in the town of Carmarthan and taken as a sacrifice into the foundations of Vortigern’s Tower. Yet there he speaks his first prophesy… But the child sees deep in the Earth, Two Dragons are spreading their wings, Two tribes will fight, for to claim this land, Many die, for the folly of Kings… The final verse is split between the pain and torment Merlin witnesses at the Battle of Arderydd and the final acknowledgement that his Great Spirit still lives on within the very Bones of Albion herself, or Merlin’s Enclosure. The verse is split by a section of prose that has been attributed to the ancient Bard Myrddin himself. As he runs in madness into the forest of Caledonia he sits at the base of a tree, there hugging to him a tiny piglet, saying these words in utter torment and grief: Listen little pig, oh little trembling one. Under this thin blanket I find no repose. And since the Battle of Arderydd, I no longer care, if the sky falls or if the sea overflows… For years I simply couldn’t get through that last verse without tears in my eyes – so devastating those words are. Merlin am I was recorded on my second album Hills they are Hollow, an album on which I really began to experiment with different sounds and instrument textures. It taught me a lot, and Merlin am I is still a live favourite wherever I play to this day. View the full article
  13. If you've ever opened the daily paper to look up your horoscope, or consult the same through a more modern media, you have in some regard Evangeline Adams, a descendant of the J.P. Morgan family, to thank for it. However, Aleister Crowley also played no small part in the content of her popular astrology books. So just how did Aleister Crowley's touch affect our embrace of astrology today? Colin D. Campbell, author of Thelema, digs in to the history. View the full article
  14. Ok, let’s just address the elephant in the room right away. No, we don’t know if the ancient Druids practiced a form of meditation. Right, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s move on. What we do know is that meditation, or something like it, forms part of most religions and spiritual practices around the world. We know through scientific research of the benefits of meditation on health, peace, balance, and that the practice of meditation can bring an overall sense of meaning to peoples’ lives. Right now meditation is being practiced by everyone from Buddhist monks to business executives who are embracing the current trend of ‘mindfulness’. It’s a good thing. I know many of my friends practice meditation, but I’ve also heard people say that they haven’t tried it because they don’t know the rules, or think it is too complicated. Of course there are many styles of meditation and some are indeed quite complex, but to begin a practice it doesn’t need to be that way. I thought it might be useful to let you know how I practice, so you can try it out too, if you’re someone who has been standing on the edges. Before we begin, what do we do about those thoughts? The ones that arrive, just as we begin to meditate. Don’t stress about them, that’s for sure. Thoughts will come, it’s a given. Even to seasoned meditators they come. The way to deal with thoughts is to treat them kind of like clouds in the sky. When one arrives, don’t berate yourself, or try to actively push the thought away. Instead acknowledge it by saying you yourself, “Oh look, I’m thinking” then allow the thought to dissipate, like a cloud gently moving across a blue sky, and refocus your awareness back to the meditation. And remember, it’s called a practice for a reason. Just enjoy the ride, the feeling of peace, the stillness, and accept what happens. Don’t ever feel like a failure in your practice. So make sure you have some time for yourself when you know you won’t be interrupted. Try 10 minutes to begin with. You can sit on the floor, on a chair, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re on a chair just sit with your back against the backrest, with your gentle gaze just above where you think the horizon may be, arms to your side, hands and lower arms rested on your legs, feet on the ground. Relaxed and comfortable. For about 30 seconds take some long slow breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Then on an out breath just gently close your eyes, and return your breathing to normal. Become aware of the space around you. Listen to the sounds around you, feel the weight of your body on the chair. Become aware of your place within that space. Just enjoy that sense of presence for a while. Then bring you focus back to your breath. Sense it moving in and out of your body. The feeling of the moving air. The rising and falling of your chest. Don’t force anything. Just breathe normally. After a little while you might like to begin counting your breaths. One for the in breath, two for the out breath, three for the in, and so forth, until your reach ten, then begin again. This counting of the breath can also help focus your awareness, so those thoughts have more trouble getting through. But if they do, don’t forget, just acknowledge them, and let them float away. After a while you can stop counting your breath, and bring your focus back to your body in the room. Listen again to the sounds around you. Sense yourself within that space. And when you are ready, gently open your eyes. Don’t move immediately. Just enjoy the sensation and the peace. It really is a wonderful practice that not only affects you during the practice, but also, after a while, that sense of awareness and focus walks with you throughout the day. I try to meditate for a little every day as part of my daily practice. If you want to have a little help I would recommend an app called Headspace. It’s on all of the app stores, and well worth checking out. Enjoy! View the full article
  15. When most people think about clutter, they think about a large quantity of unused items in their home, perhaps even bordering on hoarder status. But clutter can also apply to a few items we hold on to that keep us stuck in the pastandmdash;preventing you from living the life you want to be living. How do we know what items are tethering us to people, places, and things from our past? Tisha Morris, author of Clearing Clutter, provides 5 ways your stuff may be keeping you stuck. View the full article