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I’m afraid that, due to my own unforseen personal issues, I will no longer be able to edit the Pagan Friends Webzine for the foreseeable future. As nobody has yet volunteered to take over the editorial position, I regret to inform you that the webzine will be on hold for an unknown period of time.

My many thanks to all the writers, artists and readers who, over the past year and a bit, have made this project such a success.

Rebecca L. Brown (Beary)

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Welcome to the latest issue of the Pagan Friends Webzine; we hope you have a fantastic Yule this year! We’ve been working hard since Samhain to put an extra-special issue together for you with features by Mogg Morgan, Judith Page and Vincent Ongkowidjojo, poetry by Yvonne Cunningham and much more.

Interviews

An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forums’ Own Midori

An Interview With Jodi Lee

Articles

Egyptian Demons & Magick, By Mogg Morgan

Theft of The Seven Ankhs, By Judith Page

The Sepiroth From The Bottom Up (Part Two), By Si Cash

The Origins Of Christmas Traditions, By Jessica Howard

Essays & Extended Features

Futhark: The Celtic Link, By Vincent Ongkowidjojo

Blood Bones and Fur: Personal Experiences of Working with the Remnants of the Dead, By Charlotte Rodgers

Regular Features

Yule Moonlore, By Liz

Renewal Magick at Pennsbury for Yule, By T. Fox Dunham

Tools, Tricks & Ingredients

Resin: Frankincense, By Rebecca L. Brown
Reviews

Secrets of Asgard, Vincent Ongkowidjojo An Instruction in Esoteric Rune Wisdom, Reviewed by Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

Fiction Review: Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner

Reviewed by Rebecca L. Brown

Fiction

True Beauty, By Linda Gibson

Sápmi Story, By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn (Summer Shudder)

Poetry Corner

Forgotten Cycles, By Yvonne Cunningham

Steal Into Winter, By Maggie Koger

Walking Down Sunday Roads, By Maggie Koger

Yule, By Kenny Klein

Tears, By Karie McNeley

Beaten And Blemished, By Karie McNeley

A Poem, By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn (Summer Shudder)

Want to contribute to the Imbolc issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Imbolc issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.


An Interview With The Pagan Friend Forum’s Midori

Q: Did you choose to follow Druidry or did it choose you?

I have been fascinated by Druids since I first saw News features about them at Stonehenge at Summer Solstices. This was either the Ancient Druid Order or another of the Fraternal Orders (Christian, Freemasonry types), long before the Hippies and the Festival movement started. I didn’t find Pagan Druidry until 1995, although I started in Gardnerian Wicca in 1966.

Q: I know you refer to your path as Druwitch, so what parts of Wicca still influence your path today and which parts have you rejected, and the same with Druidry please.

Nowadays there is very little Wicca in my path, I tend more toward Witchcraft alongside the Druidry. What happened was I saw the interweaving of Wicca and Druidry, and decided that they would blend well, so I stripped away the formal rituals of both systems and the God and Goddess forms, and took it back to absolute basics, the reverence for Earth, Sea and Sky, making my deities Mother Earth, from whom we came and to whom our bodies return, Father Sun, without whose warmth and light the Earth would be just a dark, frozen rock, and Sister Moon, who controls not just the oceans, but the tides of fertility itself. These form a Triad, (take one away and life ceases to exist) and Three is the sacred number in Druidry. I also venerate the Ancestors, and work with the Spirits of Place.

Q: How long have you folowed a Pagan path?

If I really look at it closely, I have had a Pagan outlook since I was a small child, although I didn’t become conscious of it unti I joined the Coven. I was always happier out in the woods and fields, observing animals, birds and plants, than going around with others of my age. I was always the ‘odd’ one, preferring animals to people.

Q: Who and what have been your greatest influences?

The Land has been my primary teacher and infulence, along with my first teachers in the Coven, all passed through the gates of the Otherworld now. Latterly, my Druidic influences have been Philip Shallcrass, Emma Restall Orr and Professor Ron Hutton, along with the many friends I have made along the way.

Q: How does your health affect your Path?

In the last four years my health has collapsed in a big heap  . Cataracts have stopped me driving, which has prevented me attending public rituals, Fibromyalgia has weakened me, and consequently I am in permanent pain, especially in damp and cold weather. Just to add to the mix, there is IBS, which means I can’t stray far from a loo, high blood pressure and Cholesterol, and I’m currently waiting on tests fro a possible cardiac problem. It all puts a decided crimp in my activities  . I like to perform ritual out of doors, so it is inconvenient, to say the least!

Q: How do you feel the portrayal of Paganism has change over the years?

It has changed immensely. When I started in Wicca, there was no Internet nor mobile phones, books on pagan subjects were like rocking horse manure!  To get hold of books you had to either get up to the esoteric bookshops in London, or obtain them through organisations such as the Golden Dawn Society. (Plain brown wrapper jobs!). Wicca was still very much ‘underground’, it was only fifteen years since the repeal of The Witchcraft Act, so we kept our heads firmly down! It was hard to find a Coven, let alone gain admittance! I was lucky enough to have a friend who introduced and sponsored me.

Nowadays Paganism is ‘out’, there are books everywhere you look, Websites abound, Psychic Fayres come regularly to your area and Complementary Therapies are thriving. Wiccans and Druids appear on TV, it is just a total reversal.

Q: What memories of your Path do you cherish the most?

Too many to list, but a few are, my first Coven meeting, the three Initiations, attending a Druid camp in 1995 and finding I’d come ‘home’, skinny dipping with another bunch of Druids one summer, Pagan camps in various places, interfaithing, Moots, watching sunrises, eclipses and stars, meeting up with old friends.

Q: What would you like to do again, given the chance, and what would you like to avoid?

I would like to have travelled farther and learned a lot more, don’t think I would change much if I could do it all again, maybe avoid a few of the people who have spread gossip about me, not sit in the nettles during a skyclad ritual, and not set my robes smouldering on a quarter candle!

Q: Who have you most admired along the way?

I have great admiration for Professor Ron Hutton, his writings, teachings and lectures at Pagan events, along with his TV appearances, I just don’t know where he finds the time! Philip Shallcrass, who kept going despite personal tragedy and Emma Restall Orr, who has struggled against ill-health for most of her life, but is still active in Paganism.

Q: Do you have ambitions with regard to your path once you move house and your health issues have improved?

Oooh! Tough one this. I would maybe like to start a group if folk would be interested in the way I do things, or maybe write a short book on Druwitchcraft, but all is fluid, so I can’t commit to anything right now.

Q: Is there a favourite place you like to spend time if you could? (sacred sites, etc.)

There are places I love, Danebury hillfort, Avebury, Swallowhead Spring, Cissbury Ring, Chanctonbury Ring, Kingley Vale, Devil’s Bridge, Elan Valley, Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, North Cornwall, Tintagel, Boscastle, St. Nechtan’s Kieve, Rocky Valley, (mostly I can visit only in memory now) I would have loved to travel in Japan, to see the Shinto shrines and gardens, etc.

Q: What’s your favourite way of celebrating Yule? (if money/time/ health were no object?)

Wow! Let me think… I would like to gather all my Pagan friends together on coaches and take everybody to a Roundhouse for a couple of days and nights of feasting and entertainment, somewhere where the neighbours couldn’t complain about the noise!

Why not visit the Pagan Friends Forums to chat to Midori and our other members?


An Interview With Jodi Lee

Jodi is a writer, editor and the owner of Belfire Press . You can find out more about her work by visiting http://www.sacredtriskele.net or http://www.jodilee.ca

Q: Tell us a little bit about your spiritual path; what was your first experience of paganism?  

When I was twelve, I spent two weeks with my uncle’s family. During that time, I picked up one of his books, which I could never remember the title of… but it spoke of magic, spirituality, witchcraft and the old ways. About a month after I went home, my uncle passed away suddenly. Within hours of receiving the news, many family members mentioned visitations, that he had come to them, perhaps to say goodbye.   He had visited me, telling me he’d be okay and I shouldn’t worry about him, and from then on, I began reading anything I could that covered any pagan or paranormal topic.   It wasn’t a surprise to my family, in the least, when I came out of the ‘broomcloset’ either. My gran had a wealth of herbalist knowledge passed to her from her mother and grandmother. My grandfather’s sister was highly psychic, particularly attuned to the members of her family. His grandmother had charms and recipes from her family in Ireland – I think I came by it all honestly.

Q: How has the path you follow changed over time?

In my early days, I kept it all secret, never telling anyone what I was reading. I followed every ritual and spell to the letter, timing and ingredients had to be just so. Now, I’m lucky if I have time or remember to give a passing nod to the Lady when she rides the sky. I’ve become less and less focused on the minutia, and simply give more of myself and my heart, I know now that my faith is far more important than whether or not I have sage or blessing oil!   I’ve also become more and more eclectic as time goes on. When I first began studying, it was mostly a Greek pantheon I gave homage to. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, a small voice whispered in my ear: “I’m Rhiannon.” I began researching the name, and the related pantheons – Welsh, and the other Celtic deities. It was like coming home, for sure.   And I ended up naming my daughter Rhiannon, too.

Q: In what ways is your everyday life affected by your beliefs?  

Not a day goes by that I don’t read or research something to do with rituals, mythology, the Celts, even when it’s something small.. and I try to find those teachings in the day to day things, even to the cleaning of the house and preparation of meals. I try to do and keep things as presentably as possible so as not to dishonor my ancestors, or my patrons. I never noticed until I was already well into my thirties, but I even fold the linens in threes. In half, in half, in half – and then in thirds.   The moon and solar cycles play a large part as well. In the summer we plant our container garden corresponding to the moon, and harvesting accordingly. Although I have ‘the touch of death’ when it comes to growing plants, my youngest is doubly gifted with the green thumb I lack. To make up for that, I blend teas and herbals with the harvested greens and flowers, either those she’s grown or those that we wildcraft. This year we had a fantastic harvest of wild bergamot, and with a bit of black tea and lavendar, we’re going to have a marvelous Earl Grey for Yule breakfast!

Q: Do you encourage your children to follow the same path as you, to find their own or a mixture of the two?

I’ve always encouraged the girls to find their own ways, as did their father who is atheist. When Rhiannon was young, she had a deep interest in the protestant church, then briefly in the local baptist church. After a very, very brief visitation to a pentecostal gathering, she has found her path as pagan.   My youngest, Carrie – she was casting circles in the backyard before she was four, before she’d ever seen one done. Although she had a brief flirtation with the United Church where we live, it turned out she was there mostly to argue philosophy with the Bible school teacher. That lasted all of half a morning… she’s just always been on this path, I think right from the day she was born.

Q: Your Yule chapbook is now available; can you tell us a little about the chapbook series? What made you decide to release them?  

Ah, yes! That little ebook has created quite a bit of excitement here. The girls have been thrilled to watch the numbers at Amazon. They know what I do for a living, of course, but this is the first time they’ve been involved as well. We’re all thrilled that there are going to be more kids out there that will have fun with the activities and recipes.   Two years ago, the chapbook series started out as a project for the three of us to work on together, as a way to teach them more of our path, and to help share what they’ve learned and what we do as a family. Being a pagan family was all new to me – my family may have been saturated with the customs etc., but they were always practicing protestants. Quite WASP, actually. When the girls were young, I was at a loss for the what and the how – we no longer had access to the library I had studied in, and at the time we weren’t connected to the internet. It wasn’t until 1999 that we began to connect with other local pagans (to my shock!)… Anyway, the girls and I were talking about it and we all seemed to come to the same idea, why not take what we’d started with Sprites Pagan Kids (on my website) and expand it for the sabbats!   And we did. So far we have Yule finished and published, and Litha was released as a handmade chapbook about 18 months ago. I’ve got it formatted now for e-books, and hope to have it available through the same venues as Yule soon.   Imbolc is in the final tweaking stages, and should be available around January 1st. After that, the sabbats will be released about six weeks ahead, until we wrap up at Samhain next year.

Q:Could you tell us a little bit about your own Yule celebrations?

Has there been a particular Yule which is more memorable than the rest?   We haven’t really had that many Yule celebrations as a family, in the larger scope of things. Although I stepped out of that closet in ’97, it wasn’t until after the girls and I were on our own that we really began celebrating Yule separately from Christmas. Before that, I was focused on Christmas celebrations with the family (I have a large family that used to gather together, sometimes up to 35 people), and Yule was also my wedding anniversary. Between 1999 and 2002, I also had a small gathering with the grove, usually just an exchange of cards and the imbibing of a great deal of coffee.   Now though, we celebrate with our grove, Glas Celli. There are about ten of us, give or take… We welcome the return of the Sun, and honor the Lady as she prepares to rest until spring. A version of the ritual we used as a sample for the Yule ebook is performed, and our HPs will follow that with a prayer from the Ceisir Serith’s A Handbook of Pagan Prayer. Then it’s on to the feast, which is pretty traditional except for the lack of turkey. Everyone gets turkey with their extended families, so we tend to go for ham or roast. We all share the cooking duties: HPs generally provides the meat and potatoes, the girls and I do the veggies and salads, and other members provide the rest.   If we haven’t all exploded from over-indulging, we let the little ones into the gifts. This year we have two babies celebrating their first Yule, so we’re all quite excited.

Our most memorable Yule though… it was a combination Yule/anniversary/life celebration. 1994 – my then-husband and I had been married for a year, and it had been a very hard one on both of us. He’d lost a job, I was at home with two babies (Rhiannon was preemie, and delayed in her development) and pretty much exhausted. We had money enough to last until the end of the month, but that was it.   The day of our anniversary – Yule – he received a job offer that really opened up our options, and lifted the stress we’d been under. Well, most of it. He loaded us into a car, and we went shopping… the first time the girls had seen the stores all lit up and shining. Rhia picked out presents for herself and Carrie, and then we picked up pizza.   At home, I cast a circle and we ate inside it… we’d received a blessing that night. Despite everything that’s come since, that will always be my favorite Yule.


Egyptian Demons & Magick

By Mogg Morgan

Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt

is an exploration of the role of “demons” in Egyptian magick and acts as an introduction to my use, together with fellow adepts of “The Companions of Seth”, of techniques from the Egyptian exorcism cult known as “Zar”. The Zar cult is a folk magical tradition from the Arabic world, principally Egypt and Sudan; that makes use of music and dance to “exorcise” intrusive spirits or Djinn. I first learnt of the cult from I M Lewis’s classic study of Ecstatic Religion a study of shamanism and spirit possession, so naturally my interest was drawn to piece a book by Jan Fries that detailed the foundation myth of the Zar tradition, as originating in Pharaonic Egypt.

Over the last few years several new highly technical academic studies have yielded yet more useful ritual information and indeed some corroboration of many assumptions in my own book. Robert Ritner is an Egyptologist whose work has become increasingly well known amongst the practitioner community as a vital source on ancient magic. Since the 1980s the academic study of magic has been revolutionised by people like Robert Ritner.

In a new essay Ritner further unravels the details of Ancient Egyptian demonology and shows how it eventually emerged as the driving force of Egyptian magic. One cannot get very far in this study without encountering the god Seth, who so often provides the archetype of the demonic entity. “The trickster character of Seth is well-known, but his ambiguous qualities can be shared by other gods.” Thus in a dramatic text well known as The Contendings of Horus & Seth, the underworld deity Osiris threatens a demonic attack against the other gods in the celestial tribunal if they do not hurry and make a decision. Or consider the action of Sekhmet as plague goddess particularly associated with the liminal space between the old and new year, sending forth her deadly seven arrows.

Hatayw, Shamayw and Akhw are common names for demons in the Egyptian language. I’ve transcribed this in the easiest way for the practitioner, the ‘w’ should be pronounced as a vowel – oo as in new; I give the computerised transcriptions in a footnote.

Hatayw is often translated as ‘Knife bearers’, ‘murderers’, ‘night spirits’ depending on the content.

Shamayw are ‘wandering demons’.

Akhw variously as ‘undead’, ‘transfigured dead’, ‘ghosts’.

Ritner’s essay concentrates on the Hatayw. In Late Egyptian language the term shortened to Hawet, Demotic Hayet, Coptic Shayet all meaning ‘inspiration’, ‘exorcism’, ‘doom’, ‘fate’, ‘fury’, or ‘curse’, depending on the context.

In the final millennial of ancient Egyptian history, in the seventh century bce, these could become personal protectors and are then called Pa-na-hatayw or Nas-na-hatayw (both meaning “he of the slaughtering demons”). In Ptolemaic Thebes there was a full-blown cult of the Hatayw (genies) that had its own dedicated prophet (hem neter). Later still one finds the syncretic deity Tutu (twtw), popular in the oases, whose name means “image” of the “collectivity” of disease bringing demons. Magical practice often does involve interaction with disease entities of one kind of another, one sees this very clearly in late the origins of Hindu Tantra and Kaula.

Although “the Egyptians did not live in terror of their gods’ capricious whims nor was Egyptian theology fixated on the vindictive or jealous nature of a god in the manner of Genesis 20: 5” even so healing spells often paired demons and gods together as possible disease causing entities.

The late Egyptian tale or Report of Wenamon has an episode in which Hatayw is, translated as ‘frenzied’, and used in a significant way: “when he sacrificed to his gods…the god seized one of his noble youths, [a medium] making him frenzied, so that he said: “Bring [the god] hither! Bring the messenger of Amon who hath him. Send him and let him go.”  Now , when the frenzied youth continued in frenzy during this night, I found a ship bound for Egypt, and I loaded all my belongings into it. I waited for the darkness, saying: “When it descends, I will embark the god also, in order that no other eye may see him.”

Hatayw is also used in the account of the Bentresh Stela, a monumental inscription of the Persian times although falsely ascribed to Ramesses II, presumable to give it extra authority. In this regard it is similar to the pseudo authorship of  magical texts such as Testament of Solomon. The stele contains a long tale of the relationship between Great King Ramesses and the distant princedom of Bakhtan, perhaps Bactria on the Pakistan/Afghan border. After a successful diplomatic exchange between the two kingdoms, they cement the relationship with a marriage of the Bactrian prince’s sister, she becoming one of Ramesses many royal wives. Years later news arrives from the young queen’s homeland that a mysterious malady had seized the body of her  younger sister Bentresh and she that  is possessed by a spirit (akhw).

Ramesses summons learned priests from the Theban House of Life attached to the temple of the moon god Khonsu. One is dispatched to Bactria to investigate and reports that the princess Bentresh is indeed possessed by a spirit and that he is an enemy with whom one could fight, although the priest needs a special object to finish the job. A statue representing a special form of Khonsu (Khonsu-who-determines-fate) is duly dispatched from the temple to Bactria.

After a very long journey the “god” arrives and prepares to make a magical  protection to cure the stricken princess. Then the spirit speaks to Khonsu: welcome in peace, great god, who expels disease demons! Bactria is your home, its people are your servants, and I am your servant! I shall go to the place from which I came, so as to set your heart at rest about that which you came for. May your majesty command to make a feast day with me and the prince of Bactria. Then the ‘god’ motioned approval to his priest, saying let the prince of Bactria make a great offering before this spirit.

While all this was happened the prince and his soldiers were very frightened, but they did what was required, organised a great feast for the entire day and at the end of it the spirit departed and the princess was cured.

The technique of animating statues with divine entities is a core technique of Egyptian magical practice. The way the statue indicates its desire usually involves some kind of forward or backward movement, rocking or change of position.

The story is almost identical to the foundation myth of the modern day Zar cult. It again shows that the “exorcism” in antique magick does not involve violent expulsion of a spirit, at least not as the preferred option. “Exorcism” is much more of a dialogue or transaction which in this instance ends in a wild party that all participants, including sick person undoubtedly enjoyed.

Both texts, the Voyage of Wenamun and the Bentresh Stella use a similar technical magical word for the process of expelling the demon. This is the Hatayw – which has connotations of frenzied, fury but also ecstasy leading to kathathis. It can be something one casts against another, or a power that possesses the magician bestowing the ability to conjur and prophesy. From earliest times in the Old Kingdom Egypt it denoted a class of disease entities but later, in the twilight of Egyptian culture, it meant the magician’s power to enchant and conjure. It is from this base that the technique passes westwards into the grimoire traditions of Europe and eastwards into the religious impulse that in about the 8th-9th ce became Kaula and Tantra.

In the Companions of Seth we are exploring and reviving many of these same techniques. I have also benefited much from the corporation of others in my workshops at Pagan gatherings that used Khemetic, postmodern versions of the same techniques. We are adapting traditional but simple Arab rhythms, blending them with late classical Egyptian magic from the Hermetical and Magical Papyri.

1   Morgan (2011) 2   Lewis (1971) 3   Fries (1996) Seidways, shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 4   Ritner (1993) The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, Chicago 5  Ritner, R (2012) “An Eternal Curse upon the reader of these lines ..” pp 3-? In Kousoulis P, (ed) Ancient Egyptian Demonology, Peeters.

6   Op cit p3 7   Other sources on demons: Te Velde LA I (1975); Meeks in Carelli, P; Vennus, Athribis, No 141 pp135-7 8   Computer transcription: xA(y)tyw = hatayw, pA-nA-xty-wy = pa-na-hatayw, Axw &  axw = Akhw (capitals for variation in spelling), SmAyw = shamayw 9    See Pestman RdeE 25 (1973) 10   Ritner op cit p 5 11   See for example amuletic decrees (a complete example is given in Supernatural Assault. 12   Col 1/39 & 40 13   Ritner (op cit) says the word translated as youth can also mean mediums and could even be a Semitic loan word meaning seer ( ‘ddn) 14   Lichtheim, M (1980) Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol III The Late period p 90sq. New translation in Simpson, W (ed) Literature pp361-6  col 611 35-36 15   See also BAw for magical power


Theft of the 7 Ankhs

By Judith Page

From my childhood I was fascinated by Ancient Egypt, the mystery of the pyramids, the lone Sphinx and the never-ending ever-changing colour of the river Nile. It is said that if you fall into the Nile you will always return to Egypt. In my youth when I was sailing on a felucca between Luxor and the West Bank, I didn’t hear the boatman’s order to duck my head as he moved the sail from side to side to catch small gust of wind. The wooden boom hit me in the head sending me plunging into the Nile waters.

Return I did, but have lost count of the times I’ve been to this land – beginning as a tourist in my early teens in the company of my grandmother, and later eventually working as part of a team in Abydos on the creation of a meditation centre.

Always the magic was there from the phantoms that appear in the desert region of Abydos to the mirages in the Sahara.

Mystery and magic go hand in hand when I think of Egypt and so many books on the subject have been written for adults; romance, adventure, tourism, history, archaeological – the list is endless. But what is available for children? Plenty of interactive games, marvellous historical tomes produced by the many museums of the world– but few are about adventure and Egyptian magic with children in mind!

So, I decided to remedy this and began in the year 2000 to write Theft of the 7 Ankhs. It is based on my childhood with my grandmother, a cousin who I adored, various characters I got to know when visiting Egypt, some famous and some infamous! My late friend Billie Walker-John I would say took the lead role as Meri-Khem; this being her magical name. Even my partner Alain is featured in the story and performs beautifully as Al-nia the shape-shifting Ushabti.

But what’s so special about Theft of the 7 Ankhs? And how can it compete with other books on magic written over the past ten years; what springs to mind is of course the famous Harry Potter series all steeped in magic. I am in no way competing with these stories as they all have their place in the scheme of things. What I have written is a different kind of magic, a magic that is not concocted, this magic is real; it was practised for thousands of years in ancient Khemit we know as Egypt. The magic exists still, if you want to tap into it.

Please bear with me, I’ll explain more – Although I use the word ‘magic’ which to many people tend to think that religion and magic of ancient Egypt are two separate practises, they are not – to these ancient folk, religion and magic was one and the same. It was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that played an essential part of ancient Khemit culture. It focussed on the Egyptian’s communication with a multitude of deities whom they believed to be present in, and indeed in control of the very forces and elements of nature.

The legends about these deities were meant to explain the origins and behavior of the forces they represented, and the practices of Egyptian belief were efforts to provide for the deities in order to gain their favour.

Ceremonial religious practice revolved around the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Even though he was human, the Pharaoh was believed to be descended from the gods. He acted as the mediator between his subjects and the gods, and was duty-bound to nourish the gods through ritualistic rites and offerings so that the gods could preserve order in the universe.

The state of Khemit gave enormous funds to the performance of these rituals and also to the construction of temples where these practises were carried out.

Individuals could also interact with deity for their own ends, asking for their help through offerings and prayers, or compelling the gods to act through magic.

Another very important aspect in the lives of the ancient Egyptians was the belief in the afterlife and the great importance they placed on funerary practices. They went to great efforts to ensure the survival of their souls after death, providing tombs, donating and giving grave goods, and offerings to protect the bodies and spirits of the dead.

But what has all this got to do with Theft of the 7 Ankhs? The very essence of this ancient belief system is imbedded in the story and as the child reads, they effortlessly absorb knowledge and the magical practices of the main character Prince Setne Khaemwaset who at an early age becomes Sem priest to his father King Rameses the second. He was also Khemit’s greatest magician!

The story begins in ancient Egypt when the prince discovers a precious papyrus that reveals the hiding place of a legendary scroll and uses its secrets to create the magical collar of the seven ankhs. The ankhs are stolen, and a riddle is set that will disclose their locations. Ramose, a Time Lord, travels to the twentieth century to locate the riddle.

One piece is in the Cairo Museum, and the other belongs to Vida Richardson Hardy in England. Her Granddaughter Meri copies this fragment, and discovers a recipe for a magic mirror. Kenneth, Vida’s Grandson, identifies the second half of the riddle in Cairo. On a visit to London, he and Meri de-code the riddle, and venture back in time to Ancient Egypt to search for the seven ankhs.

But Kenneth realizes that Meri’s in danger – with the aid of the magic mirror, he goes to the rescue – but will he be able to save her?

I wrote Theft of the 7 Ankhs for children 9 to 12  – but hey, is there not a child in all of us?

FREE PREVIEW

Without warning, Meri made a sudden dash between the paws of Shu and began pounding on a limestone slab. The ground rumbled beneath her feet as the slab slowly dropped down into the rock.

‘Quickly, Khaem, let’s go,’ Meri said, signalling to him. ‘We need light.’ She touched the crystal in her circlet, emitting a beam of light. ‘I’ll go first.’

Down several steps and along a narrow passageway, they ran.

‘There’re no markings of any kind on these walls,’ Khaem observed, disappointed.

‘Here’re some small caverns,’ Meri said breathlessly.

‘Let me see.’ Khaem pushed past her and peered inside.

‘There are incised marks on this wall but nothing I recognize. Perhaps it’s the language of the gods.’

‘Let me see. I don’t know other languages, but it looks like Greek. The Ptolemies were Græco-regals for a time.’ Meri looked at the text. ‘It’s very strange,’ she continued, turning her head on the side. ‘If this is the Sphinx of Tomorrow, he represents the future. Maybe the ancients couldn’t read the future, and they just left a load of graffiti.’

‘Meri, look, it’s here in a niche. I’ve got the fifth ankh.’ Khaem seized it and held it briefly to his chest and sighed. ‘The ankh of truth. I don’t deserve it.’

‘Listen,’ said Meri, putting her hand up to silence Khaem.

‘I can’t hear anything.’

‘Ssh. Come on, run!’ she said and grabbed him by the hand. As they reached the outside of the Sphinx, the limestone slab slammed shut behind them.

‘Look, Khaem the sun’s setting, taking Tefnut with it. She’s disappearing again,’ Meri screamed. ‘We’ve got to get inside her to get the other ankh.’

Together they broadsided in the sand and slid towards the lion’s chest through an opening, landing with a thud on a stone floor.

‘Oh my gosh, Khaem. Look around you,’ Meri gasped as the beam from her circlet lit up a huge chamber. ‘One of the walls is made of crystal. There’s a picture of a boat, a bit like the Boat of Ra, and there are two figures on it. One looks like Horus. The other is a man kneeling down being welcomed by another. Look at the symbols, Khaem. Can you read them?’

‘Meri, this is incredible.’ Khaem was beside himself with excitement. ‘I can make out a few.’

As he ran his fingers over the signs, they emitted sounds. He suddenly cried out: ‘The stones in the ankhs are vibrating.

I can’t move my fingers from the wall.’

Meri ran over, trying to pull him away. ‘The sounds are swirling round in my head,’ she cried, letting go of him and cupping her hands over her ears. ‘Aaaagh,’ she cried in pain, uanable to help him.

Khaem screamed: ‘Mmmerrrrihelllllpmeeeeeeee.’ His body shuddered, and his face contorted.

Suddenly, the symbols left the wall and travelled in sequence along the crystal beam of light, disappearing into the crystal circlet on her head.

Khaem fell away from the wall and collapsed on the floor.

Meri’s eyes glowed like orbs. She opened her mouth, uttering sounds that ricocheted around the chamber. A voice from within her spoke, forming multidimensional pictures around the words:

‘At the dawn of our beginning the heavens were much closer to earth, and we, the Neters, were more familiar with man. In those days, we could walk the land between heaven and earth. We were able to cross the abyss to create reality.

We created this room and hid these secrets beneath Tefnut, our Guardian of the West. Within her is the entire history of Zep Tepi. But man changed and was not ready for this knowledge, so we took Tefnut away from view. Within her are the keys.’

Meri blinked and looked at Khaem, who stared

wide-eyed at her.

‘Have you keys that hold the secret?’ pressed Khaem.

‘Yes,’ the voice answered. ‘But they’re not keys: one has to utter sacred sounds. They’re multilayered sound forms that will pass you through to another dimension onto other planes, onto other spheres of being, to the greater and the higher—to the place of the Neters, the Home of Gods, to us.’

Meri didn’t have a clue what the voice was talking about, but Khaem stood tall and spoke to the being that had taken over the girl’s body.

‘Ra appeared before me in all his godlike forms. I saw him, and felt his essence. As his golden light surrounded me, he touched these keys.’ Khaem touched his collar with deep emotion, and uttered:

May these keys, these ankhs of life represent trust, blessing, courage, rebirth, truth, wisdom, and mystery. Each time you speak to the ankhs, the gemstones will resonate to your voice.’


‘If you have the seven ankhs, why are you here?’ the voice questioned.

‘We seek the ankh of wisdom, which was stolen from me and is hidden in this chamber,’ answered Khaem.

Meri closed her eyes and threw back her head. Her mouth twisted and contorted. Khaem recoiled in shock. She emitted a note so pure it rang round the chamber, ripping through the air and shattering the wall. Shards of crystal wafted around them like feathers, each the colour of a rainbow.

Khaem and Meri were bathed in wondrous light.

‘Khaem, look on your collar,’ she cried with joy. ‘It’s the sixth ankh.’

He touched his chest and bowed his head, ‘I thank thee, Meri-Khem.’

‘Ah… it was nothing really,’ she said, rubbing her neck. ‘My throat hurts a bit though.’

‘I’m not surprised. Where did you learn to utter such sounds?’

Meri shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. ‘The only sound I was taught to make was with a triangle.’

‘A triangle.’ This time Khaem shook his head.

‘We have to get out of here. Our Lady Tefnut has sealed the entrance from the outside and my incantation won’t work in here,’ he said, feeling the wall.

‘No problem. Look the crystal flakes are clearing, and there’s our way out,’ Meri ran towards a doorway that led into a tunnel.

Theft of the 7 Ankhs is available in hardback and Kindle E-book.

· Reading level: Ages 9-12

· Paperback: 320 pages

· Publisher: AuthorHouse (May 23, 2011)

· Language: English · ISBN-10: 1452073279

· ISBN-13: 978-1452073279

By the same author:

Song of Set (hard copy – Aeon Publications and E-book – Kindle)

Song of Meri-Khem (hard copy – Mandrake Publishers and E-book – Kindle)

Song of Bast (E-book – Kindle)

Pathworking with the Egyptian Gods (hard copy)

Invoking the Egyptian Gods (hard copy) available in December 2011


The Sepiroth From The Bottom Up (Part Two)

By Si Cash

(Part One featured in our Samhain 2011 issue)

Once the veil of Paroketh has been passed. And its interesting to note that a lot of rituals on passing this veil have allegories to light, lamps and covering/uncovering lamps. Then the next Sepiroth is Tipareth.
Tipareth is the 6th Sepiroth its a balance point. If you were to look at the ten Spheres and their relationship to the human body then its in the chest and heart area. Looking at the chest in a magical rather than medical sense, it was believed that this was a intersection between three elements, Air, Fire and Water, Where Water and Fire combined made the blood and Air was the lungs which circulated and cooled it. Its associations are with the Sun, heat and life-giving properties. Which going back to the veil of Paroketh then Tipareth is the light which illuminates, As well as the heat which gives the power to all things to grow.

Yet Tipareth is a growing child. Associated with youth and playfulness. It is the sixth Sepiroth and is associated with the sixes of the Tarot all of the sixes, allude to finding the balance, or accepting solutions, but Tipareth is a temporary state, a place that is cyclic in nature just as the sunny day will give way to the night then the nature of Tipareth is to find a balance and then move on. Because of its Appolian as well as many other Solar Gods nature, its also useful for Mathematical workings and logically attacking problems.

When working in Tipareths a great place to physically re-energise oneself, Like a battery though that energy must be used it cannot be stored indefinitely as it will gradually dissipate. This energy can be channel in all directions. First of all down to Hod and Netzach or up to Geburah and Chesed. The closest Spheres. But also to Yesod, Binah, Chockma and Kether. This makes Tiparthet unique in the Kabbalistic tree as the one which is most directly connected to the others.

There is a more sinister, or to be more precise Sacrificial nature to Tipareth, Just as the corn grows in the sunlight it is harvested to be made into something finer. And Tipareth has these qualities too. The Gods of Jesus Christ and Osiris, Bringers of light and love and then themselves made sacrifice for the ‘greater good.’ or The law of conservation of energy and mass tends to corroborate this – in all cases of energy transmutation, a sacrifice is necessary so a new form may be born.

In my own experience Tipareth manifests itself in very physical ways. When performing the Ceremonial Magic ritual of ‘The Middle Pillar’ the concentration of energy from Tipareth can warm the whole of the body. Certain other CM rituals use Tipareth a focus point to draw in or expel energy from.

Travelling on and up then the fifth and fourth Sepiroth are Geburah and Chesed respectively. Like Hod and Netach discussed before they are Spheres of opposing qualities.

First is Geburah as in this day and age it is the Sepiroth who’s forms and emanations we are most familiar with. It is the Martial sphere, Associated with Mars, War, Aries, Hours and Thor amongst others. But this only tells half of the story, these Martial aspects are the more superficial aspects which should be examined and used when necessary but as we are travelling up the Kabbalistic tree here then the act of war is left behind and its important to concentrate on the reasons for this course of action. Concepts such as Justice, Strength, and the execution of Judgement’s to use a fruity metaphor, the stone is the concept and the flesh is the action-which in the case of Geburah usually results in something combative or creative, creation can be a destructive act especially forms of creation such as sculpting or carving. The creation practised here is not the calculated planned creativity of Netach-Hod-Yesod or a combination thereof, but the more primal and misunderstood side of things, This is the Sphere which if untempered can cause the artists to turn the energy inwards upon themselves and self destruct. The example which springs to mind here is Van Goth:
The left hand column of Boaz is classed as negative energy. Yet its probably better to think of a 4 way polarity not just a Left/Right Negative/Positive but also a Up/Down or North/South a more…well Elemental rather than just dualistic scale.

Its interesting to note that Scientists are starting to apply this 4 way model to energies now. Particularly in the fields of Magnetism and Electricity.

Without the negative there would be no positive. From my youth and training as a Electrical Engineer It is the negative that allows energy to flow. Something to bear in mind when studying and using the left hand Sepiroth.

Opposing Geburais Chesed, Sometimes know as dulha or ( this is Mercy to Geburas Severity. This is Water or the idea of Water to Geburah”s more Fiery actions, and while Fire can burn it can also warm, while water can give life it can also drown. Again superficially on the surface the qualities of Chesed are somehow ‘good’ actions. There is a deeper level of understanding required. To show Mercy then we have to understand that circumstances have driven us to that point of having to make that decision.

This is where translation from Hebrew and Aramaic languages into English causes some problems, there is no direct literal translation, the close concepts are Mercy, but to some scholars and in other languages Gedulha/Chesed can also mean Pity or Majesty, words which in English has completely different connotations. When dealing with these two Sepiroth then a little bit of thinking outside the rigid box of words is required. Look at the archetypes of the God of War and the Goddesses of Mercy and then the seemingly strange decision to place them in the Feminine for War and Masculine for Mercy columns. At first it makes no sense. Its only when a deeper understanding is reached that that decision becomes a little clearer. As I said in the previous part of this essay, notions such as gender become much more fluid the further away from Malkuth one decides to travel.

In both Geburah and Chesed actions in either one are not without consequences. This is why the balancing equilibrium of Tipaereth is so important.

Its interesting to note that some Kabbalists see the five Six Spheres of Yesod through to Chesed as a whole entity in itself, something which balances itself against the sheer mass of Malkuth.
The Origins of Christmas Traditions

By Jessica Howard

It’s that time of year again, and love it or hate it, there is no escaping Christmas. The shops are crammed with Christmas gifts and decorations long before December, Christmas songs are blasted from every available output and eating an entire box of chocolates before midday is quite often justified with the line, “Well, it is Christmas.” However you celebrate Christmas, under whatever name, there are certain customs and traditions that never seem to grow old, and are still observed by many today; Christmas trees, mistletoe, stockings for the children. But where did all these traditions start?

Christmas Stocking

According to legend, there was once a kind nobleman, who squandered his entire fortune after unfortunate death of his beloved wife, leaving his three daughters without dowries and thus doomed to a life of spinsterhood. The compassionate St. Nicholas, AKA Father Christmas heard of the girls hardship and so rode his white horse to their house and threw three pouches of gold coins down the chimney. The girls rejoiced, and hung them over the fireplace to dry, hence the popular imagery of the stocking over the fireplace, although these days with fireplaces very much out of fashion many people prefer to hang them at the end of the bed.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is in fact one of the many Christmas traditions with Pagan origins. Druid priests used Mistletoe some 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations, revering it for the fact that it had no roots yet somehow remained green throughout the winter months. It was believed to have healing powers, and used to ward off evil and an antidote for poison. It was also said amongst the Romans that any enemy who happened to meet under Mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.

However, it is believed that the tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe actually originated with the Scandinavians. They associated the plant with Frigga, the Goddess of Love, and it was said that those who kissed under the Mistletoe were ensured happiness and good luck throughout the following year.

The Holly and the Ivy

Like the Mistletoe, boughs of Holly were also believed to have magical powers as they too remained green through the harsh winter. The Holly and Ivy were often placed above the doors of homes to drive away the evil spirits, the ghosts and demons that could be heard howling in the bitter winter winds. Legend also has it that Holly sprang from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth, Holly leaves representing the pointed crown of thorns he wore upon the cross and the red berries symbolizing the blood that he shed.

There is also the famous and very similar Pagan story of the Holly and the Oak King; they fight at Yule, with the Oak King winning, (a symbolic representation of the waxing half of the year). The Oak King reigns until Midsummer, when they fight again and this time the Holly King (representing the waning half of the year) wins, and keeps his throne until Yule, where the cycle continues. Holly and Mistletoe were used to commemorate the battle, with Holly being hung for the Holly King, and the Mistletoe in honour of the Oak King.

Candy Canes

With the arrival of Christmas trees came special decorations used to dress them. Food items were a popular choice, such as cookies and candies, especially straight white candy sticks. It is said that it was during the 17th century that craftsmen began creating the white sticks of candy in the shepherds crook, or cane shaping that is familiar to us today at the suggestion of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. These treats were given to children during showings of the Nativity scene to keep the quiet, and the passing out of candy at such ceremonies soon spread throughout Europe.

Modern explanations of the symbolism of the Candy Cane explain that the colour white represents Christ’s purity and the red the blood that he shed, the presence of the three red stripes representing the Holy Trinity. Although there is no factual evidence to prove this, it is becoming an increasingly common belief.

Christmas Cards

Although a form of Christmas cards first began in England, when young boys would practise their writing skills by creating greetings for their parents, the first real Christmas card is credited to the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Sir Henry Cole. He found himself too busy during the Christmas of 1843 to compose individual greetings for all his friends, and so commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to do the illustration. This first actual Christmas card featured three panels, with the centre panel depicting your traditional family enjoying your traditional Christmas festivities, and inside the card was the message, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.’

Christmas Trees

It is believed that it was in 26th century Germany that fir trees were first decorated, indoors and outdoors with items such as roses, apples, candy and coloured paper. The fir tree covered with apples was used to represent the Garden of Eden, and in the middle ages the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, ending with the prophecy of a saviour coming was a popular one to be replayed during the advent season. Protestant reformer Martin Luther was said to be the first person to decorate these trees with lights, inspired by the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir tree as he walked home one night.

The Christmas tree was brought to England by Prince Albert from his native Germany in 1848 for his wife and family, and was soon popularized so that by the late 19th century the Christmas Tree has established itself as an important Christmas tradition.

The fir tree has long been associated with Christianity. When St Boniface, who was busy converting the German people to Christianity some 1000 years ago, saw a group of Pagans worshipping an Oak tree, he cut it down in anger. To his amazement, a young fir tree sprouted from the roots of the tree, a sure sign in the eyes of St Boniface of the Christian faith.

Food and Drink

There are certain foods and drinks we only consume at Christmas, or mostly at Christmas. For example, mulled wine, again originally a German custom, is favoured because of its warmth at this cold time of the year. Mince pies are a British tradition, dating back to the 13th century when crusaders brought the recipe back from the Middle East. When first introduced, it was indeed the size of a traditional pie and known by many names, yet it has always been seen as a Christian custom; in fact, they were even banned during the English Civil War as it was viewed as primarily a Catholic custom. The mince pie later returned, in a smaller form and without the Catholic connotations it had held before. The Christmas pudding, or Plum pudding’s associations date back to Medieval Ages when the Catholic Church decreed that on the 25th of December, every household should prepare this pudding with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 Apostles, and that every family member should take turns in stirring it in the direction of East to West to honour the Magi and their journey in that direction.

Father Christmas

The most notable Christmas tradition is that of Santa Clause, also known as Father Christmas or Kris Kringle. Often depicted as a large, jolly man dressed in red with a long, white beard, he is said to deliver presents to every child round the world on the 24th of December. There are many different cultural influences for this figure in every different country. St. Nicholas of Myra is the Christian influence for this universal figure.  He was known for his generous gift-giving, as in the story of the origins of the Christmas stocking. From Pagan Germany we have the figure of Odin, who was celebrated during Yule and owned an eight-legged horse that could leap through the sky, drawing comparisons to Santa’s reindeer. Children would fill their boots with straw and carrots and leave them by the chimney as an offering to Odin’s horse. In return, Oden would leave gifts and candy, a custom very akin to the popular tradition of leaving a glass of milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Dutch folklore has its own version of St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. The peoples of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg believed that Sinterklaas arrived mid-November from Spain by steamboat with a notebook containing notes on every child and whether they had been good or bad that year, and awarded the good children with chocolate and spiced nuts. During the next three weeks, Sinterklaas deposits these gifts down peoples chimney’s as he rides across the sky on a white horse. It is easy to see the resemblances between these figures and the modern depiction of our Father Christmas.


Futhark: The Celtic Link

By Vincent Ongkowidjojo © 2011

One of the most shrouded mysteries of the runic alphabet is its early history. As a matter of fact, no-one can really say how the script originated. We know that the runes exist and were used by the Ancient Germanic peoples, but where did they come from? When were they invented? Why were they designed? Who first used these characters? Drawing parallels between the history of the Futhark and the Ogham alphabet might just shed light on this.

The two earliest rune finds are also the two most dubious. They both date from the first century CE and stem from the same area. The best known inscription comes from Meldorf, the other one from Osterrönfeld. Both are located in modern day Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, famous for its historical settlement Haithabu. This, and the fact that the early rune finds (200CE-400CE) concentrate around the area of northern Germany and southern Scandinavia, makes it difficult to ascertain any link with an original parent alphabet. We are therefore confronted with a gap of evidence in both space and time. The runic script just seems to be there.

The most accepted theory states that the rune alphabet is based on one or several of the North-Italic scripts, must have originated in the first or second century of our era and is probably the result of contact with the Roman world.

At the Limes

At the time of the theoretical invention of the runic script, the Continent was a natural mix of many different tribes. Some of them were Germanic, some of them were Celtic. And all the while, the Roman Empire tried to lay claim on all of them. To the outsider, such as the average Roman, they all looked the same, and not much distinction was made between possible differences in ethnicity. Indeed, the culture of these various tribes looked very similar and influenced each other.

In fact, many tribes were ethnically confused, both by Romans in their time and now by us. Some tribes held to be Germanic turned out to be Celtic, and vice versa. Especially, of the Cimbri the debate is still going which of them they are. Their homeland is supposed to be Jutland, Denmark, but words associated with their tribe point to a Celtic background. Similarly, the Heruli, whose tribe name may have provided for the word erilaz occurring so often in runic inscriptions, are not by any certainty a Germanic tribe. Scholars are still at a loss to explain their name. Alexander Rackus believes they are a Balto-Slavic tribe. And so it is with many a tribe. Of most we have only a name, and it cannot be said that we are dealing with either a Celtic or a Germanic tribe, or any other kind for that matter.

One of the more perplexing aspects that both cultures shared was the adoration of the Mothers. Celtic as well as Germanic individuals raised votive altars in honour of the so-called Matres or Matrones. Dedications appear on stone altars and are always written in Latin. Only the names of the divinized mothers show that we deal with a native practice. Half of the inscriptions honours Celtic deities and half of them Germanic ones.

These votive offerings date from the first to the fifth centuries CE, coinciding with the period of the early rune finds. Their occurrence reflects a certain level of literacy. In the least, it shows that both Germanic and Celtic peoples made use of the existing Latin. From different sources it is known that the Celtic peoples were inclined to use existing alphabets to write. Often Greek and Latin are cited, but they also deployed the North-Italic scripts for their business. The use of Greek and Latin scripts by Celtic and Germanic people makes one wonder why a native script was needful.

The Parallel History

Why did the Celts have need of an own alphabet? It is generally assumed that the Ogham was exclusively reserved for cultic purposes. All the while they kept to using Greek and Latin for the profane. It is also well known that the Druids of old and new are under a sort of geis not to commit their wisdom to writing. It is also quite widely suggested that the first uses of Ogham were divinatory in nature. All these motives do call for a more exclusive set of symbols.

The Druid approach to writing may fill in the gaps of the Germanic development of the runic alphabet. Academic scholars of the Futhark are wont to disregard the cultic aspect of the runes and attempt to reconstruct their history from a writing perspective only. The only exception seems to be Bernard Mees, who has published much on the cultic importance of runic writing in their early history. Can we suppose that the Ancient Germanic peoples designed the rune alphabet strictly to perform divination? To answer that question, we will have to look deeper into the parallels between the runic and the Oghamic script.

The Futhark and the Ogham are unique in Europe in that they are no copies of the archetypical Phoenician alphabet brought to Europe by the Greeks. However, both seem to draw inspiration from the Mediterranean alphabets, each in its own way. The Futhark draws heavily on the letter forms of these alphabets, whereas all other aspects, such as letter order and naming are entirely native to the Germanic culture. Contrarily, the Ogham borrows names from the Greek mother alphabet, but its letter shapes and order are entirely novel.

A list of rune shapes and their possible Mediterranean forerunners might be insightful, as also a small list of the Ogham names with their Greek models. In the table, Latin is preferred over Greek possibilities.

Fehu Latin F
Uruz Latin V
Thurisaz Latin D
Ansuz Latin A (?)
Raido Latin R
Kenaz Latin C
Gebo Greek Chi
Wunjo unknown
Hagalaz Latin H (?)
Nauthiz Latin N (?)
Isa Latin I
Jera Latin G
Eihwaz unknown
Pertho Greek Pi
Algiz unknown
Sowulo Latin S / Greek Sigma
Teiwaz Latin T
Berkana Latin B
Ehwaz Latin E (?)
Mannaz Latin M (?)
Laguz Latin L
Inguz unknown
Othila Latin O (?) / Greek Omega
Dagaz Double Latin D
Beith Greek Beta / Phoenician Beth
Nion Greek Nu / Phoenician Nun
Muin Greek Mu / Phoenician Mim
Ruis Greek Rho / Phoenician Resh
Ailm Greek Alpha / Phoenician Aleph
Eadha Greek Eta /Phoenician Chet
Idho Greek Iota / Phoenician Yod

It is interesting to note that the Ogham letters named after their Greek sisters are the heads of the different families or aicmí. The heads of the four families are Beith, Huath, Muin and Ailm. The odd ones out are Nion, Ruis, Eadha and Idho. Now, Huath might be the right original counterpart of Greek Eta (Phoenician Chet), because the Celtic letter alludes to the spiritus asper most commonly associated with Eta, H. Nion, Ruis and Idho are all the last letter of their group.

As regards to the Futhark, it has to be said that most letters are shared by the Latin and Greek alphabets. Of the runes Gebo and Pertho it is quite clear that the Greek script was followed. This is corroborated by the Gothic alphabet, where the Greek Pi provides both Gothic P and Q and where the Gothic G is rendered by the Greek Gamma.

It must be remembered that the Ancient Germanic inventors of the Futhark were probably acquainted with more than one script. Often, the North Italic script is the favoured one, but the North Italic area contained more than one alphabet. Surely, the Germanics came in contact with all these diverse alphabets and remembered what they could when they set about designing their own symbols. In the meanwhile, the Celts too adopted the North Italic alphabets, such as the Etruscan, in preference to the Greek alphabet for their own writing.

Sacred Space

One archaeological find binds all these data together. In 1811 a deposit of Etruscan helmets has been unearthed in modern Negova, Slovenia. The helmets were made between 450 and 350 BCE and were ritually deposited at circa 50 BCE. These types of helmets are known to be worn by priests. Two of about 26 helmets bear inscriptions, so-called Negau A and Negau B. They are all written in the North Etruscan script and carry only names. The Negau A helmet bears about four Celtic names and the Negau B helmet bears one Germanic name and a title. It is supposed that these inscriptions give a date before which the runic alphabet had not been designed yet, neither would the Ogham have been. The inscriptions date between 200 and 100 BCE.

The Negova site may have been a nemeton that was visited by Celtic and Germanic priests alike. The Negau B helmet glosses the Germanic person teiva which can be translated as

‘priest’. Maybe Negova was one of the old centres of learning where initiates of the different mystery schools of Europe met and gathered. In the Celtic tradition, it is fairly well documented that Druids frequented the mystery schools of Ancient Greece and implemented lots of their knowledge. The almost Greek sounding names of some of the key Ogham fews bear testimony to this. In the same way, we see how the Greek system of alphabetic numbering is adopted by Wulfila when he designs his Gothic alphabet in the fourth century CE. We must be aware of the likelihood of communication between Druids and Germanic cultic functionaries at a regular basis. The cultures mixed, there was no fixed border between them, they had lived alongside each other for centuries since and routes of commerce run up and down their territories. It would make awkward neighbours if they didn’t speak to each other once in a while.

As a matter of fact, the Germanic word for a secret gathering is ‘rune’ and has been joyfully adopted by the Celtic priesthood. The Germanic word is actually quite well represented in the Celtic languages, such as Old Irish (500CE-1000CE) and Middle Welsh (1100CE-1400CE). Even in Viking times, the term still denotes a meeting. It might be from this meaning in the context of the alphabet’s conception that the word was first associated with this set of symbols.

In this respect, it might be useful to mention the Gundestrup cauldron. In 1891, the item was found in a place called Gunedstrup, Jutland, Denmark. It dates from the second or first century BCE. The size and iconography of the cauldron define it as a ritual object. The item has been found dismantled and deposited at Gundestrup, which suggests ritual use. According to specialists, the metalwork is Thracian in origin, but the depicted scenes are generally assumed to be Celtic. This might locate a place of origin nearer to the Negova site. More importantly, scholars cannot tell how the cauldron ended up in Denmark, but it may just prove a link between Celtic and Germanic mystery schools.

In Words and Wood

In comparing the time line of Futhark and Ogham, we see that the first Ogham inscriptions only occur from the fourth century onward. They appear on stone monuments and are found mostly in Ireland and Wales. The peak of inscriptions dates between 400 and 600 CE. When it comes to runes, we already possess a small corpus of inscriptions on different materials by that time, but curiously, inscriptions on stone monuments only appear from the fourth century onward and have their heyday in the same period (400CE-700CE).

Scandinavian rune stones are usually set in a funerary context, but also had a bearing on a person’s rights to land. However, the Ogham inscriptions mostly carry personal names and genealogical information, such as the name of a tribe that a person belonged to. Possibly, monumental stones in both traditions had a similar, legal, function. It is, however, queer that both traditions start at about the same time and it looks like one may be a response to the other. And maybe the creation of either the Futhark or the Ogham was also a reaction to the other.

The start of the stone monument tradition in either tradition may indicate a change in philosophy towards the employment of a magical alphabet. Given that Ogham was written exclusively on wood until that time, it will originally have served only cultic purposes. In the same way, all early rune find inscriptions are cultic in nature. Somehow this changed in the fourth century and a more profane use of runes and Ogham alike was suddenly applied. At the same time, we notice that the frequency of the key word erilaz in runic inscriptions suddenly decreases.

Since wood is a hard material to trace in the archaeological record, the creation history of the Ogham alphabet, as with the runes, has been shrouded in myth. Nevertheless, an approximate date of the creation of the Ogham can be fixed to no later than the first half of the first century CE. The Ogham alphabet as we know it displays a Q-Celtic basis. After the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, P-Celtic became more widespread on the Continent. Hence the early date. Intriguingly, the first possible rune finds date from the same period.

On Divination

Among Celtic scholars it is more commonly accepted that their native alphabet was used for divination. This would account for the gap in time between the conquest of Gaul and the first Ogham inscriptions. Runologists, however, seem reluctant to accept a thesis that explains the conception of the Futhark as a divinatory means or a magical alphabet. Yet, it does not seem unimaginable that the runic alphabet was designed to cater for a magico-religious need. For the Northern tradition, the thesis relies on the account of Tacitus (ca.98CE). The Celtic tradition finds evidence in the tale of The Wooing of Étaín. The written text dates from the eighth or ninth century.

Tacitus relates how a branch is cut and made into wooden slips. These are marked with signs. Then, they are randomly thrown on a white cloth. And finally, the person leading the ceremony takes up three and interprets them according to their marks. Tacitus uses the Latin word nota to describe these markings. According to Bernard Mees, we can safely assume that these are runes. He argues that Tacitus seldom Latinized barbarous words, but ever looked for a good Latin translation. Mees also assures us that the meaning of notae with all its connotations perfectly describes the concept of a rune, namely “alphabetical characters of any sort employed in … divination”.

The Wooing of Étaín

tells of how King Eochu Airem of Ireland lost his love Étaín to Midir in a game. Midir takes off and hides the girl, but King Eochu asks a Druid to find their hiding place. So, the Druid makes four rods of yew wood and writes an Ogham on each. Much as the Futhark, the Ogham is divided in different families. They are called aicmí and there are four. It is generally accepted that the four yew staves refer to the four aicmí. Possibly, the number of runes interpreted in the report of Tacitus equally refers to the three ættir of the Futhark. Incidentally, a threefold division might have been original in the early Ogham as well. The fourth aicme was only added later to provide for foreign sounds and still later for the vowels. The four staves of yew also feature in the story of The Phantom’s Frenzy. In this case, the Ogham is applied to select a king at a ceremony. The text was written down in the tenth or eleventh century.

The use of yew wood offers another clue. Druids preferred yew over other sacred woods to make divining rods from. This ties in with the role yew plays in the Northern lore, where it is associated with the World Tree Yggdrasil. The mythical tree has a direct relationship with divination. Between its roots lies the Well of Urd where the Norns reside and rule the fate of men and gods. It is also this well from which the prophetess of Voluspa is summoned. In the story, she divines the outcome of the last battle. Even more so, it is probably in this well that Odin found the runes hanging from the tree. Indeed, the sacred well and the tree are a motif well documented in Celtic lore. Plus, the yew features in both alphabets.

Wood in general seems to have been the preferred medium to consult the wisdom of the gods and both runes and Ogham seem to have been specifically designed for this kind of medium. Both scripts avoid curved lines and the letter shapes make us suspect wood as a primary carrier. As a synonym for ‘rune’ the Ancient Germanic word stabaz ‘stave’ supports the vision that runes were originally cut in wood, and probably used for divinatory purposes. Mees also points out that Celtic words for fate derive from a meaning of casting wood. This divination method is recorded as prinni loudin in the first century CE Coligny calendar, France. This lemma on the calendar is the name of a ritual and literally means ‘the throwing of the woods’. It is possibly connected with Ogham. Mees also reminds us that the morpheme ‘book’, as in German Buchstabe or Old Icelandic bók-rúnar, does not refer to the beech tree, but stems from an Indo-European root *bhag meaning ‘share’ and secondary ‘lot, fate’.

An exclusive application of the Ogham alphabet in wood can make up for the gap in time and space between the supposed conception before the time of Caesar on the Continent and the first inscriptions in the fourth century on the British Isles. If the names of the Ogham fews are studied, it appears that most of the vegetation referred to was only found on the Continent, not on the Isles.

Ogma and Odin

One of the earliest sources of the Ogham names is the Auraicept na n-Éces and stems from Ireland, dated to the seventh century CE. The Auraicept places the origin of the Ogham in Ireland, but claims the god Ogma to be its inventor. From Roman historians, we know that the same deity was known on the Continent as Ogmios, facilitating a Continental origin for the alphabet. His mention in historiographies coincides with the early dating of the creation of the Ogham alphabet. He was a poet and a god of eloquence, likened to Hercules but visualized as an old man.

The tradition of a deity ruling an alphabet is widespread but finds its direct parallel in the Norse god Odin. However, the tradition goes back much further and might well have been inspired on the Mediterranean cultures. The Latin alphabet was invented by Mercurius and the Greek alphabet by Hermes, who was Trismegistos, tracing the tradition back to the Egyptian role model Thoth. All of these gods share the same qualities. They rule both the written word and magic.

What is the connection between Ogmios/Ogma and Odin? As a god of poetry Ogmios/Ogma is nicknamed the Honey-Mouthed. This name corresponds to Odin’s heiti Farma-Tyr, referring to the myth in which he carries off the Mead of Poetry. He actually holds the mead in his mouth. Ogmios/Ogma is also called Sun-Faced. There does not seem a direct correlation, but Odin’s epithet One-Eyed might needs be of Celtic origin. In Celtic myth, one-eyed creatures are common and usually linked with the sun. To this, Odin’s nicknames Báleygr ‘flaming eye’ and Bileygr ‘shaking eye’ might testify.

Besides the comparison between Odin and Ogmios/Ogma, there seems be an even more exciting parallel. In my opinion, it might be possible to see a link between the poet god Ogmios/Ogma and Bragi the skald. And this parallel would be supported by information regarding Bragi’s wife, Idun.

In the Irish tradition, the wife of Ogma was Étan, sometimes spelled Eadán, and sometimes confused with Étaín. On homophonous grounds, there might well be a link between Étan/Étaín and the Norse goddess Idun. The Irish story of The Wooing of Étaín is paralleled by the Norse story of the abduction of Idun. By some evil cause Loki leads away Idun from Asgard and lets her being kidnapped by the giants and taken into the Otherworld. Loki is also the one that gets her back. In the same way, Étaín is kidnapped by Midir of the Sídhe. Interestingly, both stories feature the shapeshifting of the girl, a theme well known from Celtic sources but much less so in Old Icelandic literature.

Now, Bragi was a poet and a god of eloquence. He was possibly named after a ninth century skald, but has been integrated in the Viking pantheon as a son of Odin. He is an aspect of Odin. He is depicted as an old man with a long beard, symbolizing his wisdom. The Roman historiographer Lucian writes that Ogmios “is represented  as pulling along behind him a mass of men all kept together with gold and amber chains through their ears … the god’s tongue has been perforated so that it appears to be pulling along the men while the god turns smiling towards them”. It is a symbol of his eloquence. What is more, it relates directly to a cryptic passage in Sigrdrifumal where Bragi is said to have a rune inscribed on his tongue. Might Bragi be identified as Ogma?

On Poetry

Typical of the oral tradition is that the names of the runes and the names of the Ogham fews are only known from the manuscript tradition onwards. No doubt, these names were orally transmitted using mnemonic poems. The earliest attestation of the rune names is found in the Abecedarium Nordmannicum, a ninth century manuscript probably written at the Fulda monastery, Germany. The earliest attestation of the Ogham names is found in the Auraicept na n-Éces mentioned above, from the seventh century.

According to Alan Griffiths, the Abecedarium is modeled on the Celtic tradition to compose such verses. The contemporary Irish community in Northumbria would have influenced the native Anglo-Saxon intelligentsia in this respect. This would have led to the composition of the Old English Rune Poem as early as the seventh century, attributed usually to the eighth to ninth century, and would have inspired the composition of such poems as the Abecedarium.

Proof of the Old Irish influence would be found in the stanzas of the Old English Rune Poem. Griffiths sees a link between the commentaries on the Ogham letters and the stanzas of the Old English runes. He discusses in particular three runes, namely Hægl, Eolhx and Dæg, concluding that the stanzas of these runes correspond to the kennings of the same letters in the Celtic alphabet, Huath, Straif and Duir. According to his theory, the names of the Celtic letters were in turn based on Greek and Latin glosses, implying that the naming of the runes might have been a continuation of this tradition – or a parallel development.

From a personal word from Freya Aswynn, with the voice of Odin, I know that the Germanic peoples learned their poetry from the Celts. In the old days, poetry was the key to all knowledge and transference of knowledge. One aspect typical of oral lore written down in the Old Irish tradition is that it was framed as questions and answers. The Auraicept is a good example of this. The same technique rings through in the Eddic poems, such as Vafthrudnismal and Alvissmal. This might be due to skalds that were trained by bards and Druids.

The Germanic people would not only have adopted the naming tradition but also the tradition of composing mnemonic poems. As it stands, from a wider perspective, the runic alphabet might be a Celtic invention. In fact, the Younger Futhark, possibly from before the time of the Abecedarium, is included as one of the 150 different Oghams that Druids had to learn in the first three years of their training. At the least, this has endowed the Celtic research with an open mind lacking in the study of the Northern tradition.

One wonders whether a similar tradition existed in Ancient Scandinavia, in which different Futharks had to be memorized. First of all, it is almost certain that the Younger Futhark and the Elder Futhark coexisted for some time. Secondly, the Old Norwegian Rune Poem seems to be very precise as what had to be memorized. In this poem, each rune has two lines. The first line describes the name of the rune and, according to Bernd Neuner, the second line described the shape of the rune. Thirdly, the Old Icelandic Rune Poem gives not just the kennings, but also Latin glosses and names for ‘chief’. The latter comes very close in likeness and technique to the secret Oghams that had to be studied.

The ‘Chief Futhark’ would run thus: Fylkir, Vísi, Þengill, Oddviti, Ræsir, Konungr, Hildingr, Niflungr, Jöfurr, Allvaldr, Siklingr, Tiggi, Buðlungr, Mildingr, Lofðungr, Ynglingr. Possibly, a Futhark of god names had also existed in earlier times. This would account for the fact that the first ætt is called Frey and not Fé. It explains why this rune is named Frey in later Icelandic sources.

More Parallels Within

To support a common origin of Futhark and Ogham, a further curiosity of the alphabets themselves has to be discussed. One of the greatest mysteries of the Elder Futhark besides its origin is the enigma of the letter P. The names of the elder runes are only known through the Rune Poems, the Old English one especially, and the Gothic Alphabet. The Old English Rune Poem stems from the eighth century, whereas the names of the Gothic runes are only known from a treatise by Alcuin, written in the ninth century. However, they agree on the letter P, naming it respectively Peorð and Pairthra. The Ancient Germanic reconstructed form is Pertho.

What makes this rune so elusive is that the name has no counterpart in any Germanic language. Moreover, the rune was not retained in the Younger Futhark. Neither was it used in Early Germanic runic inscriptions. The stanza on this rune from the Old English Rune Poem has made interpretation only more difficult. The only plausible solution appears to be that the name is Celtic in origin. A Germanic Pertho might stem from the Celtic word for apple tree, Quert. In my opinion, the naming of the Gothic alphabet helps in deciding on the truth, since the alphabet has also Qairthra. It shows almost beyond doubt the Celtic P/Q-split. Examining the Gothic alphabet both letters are each other’s mirror image. They belong together. Their letter shape also seems to derive from the Greek letter Pi, strengthening the above theory.

Why this name was chosen for an otherwise Germanic alphabet is a mystery. Unless… Perhaps it might be too far-fetched to say that the Futhark was originally designed for the Celtic language, but it might just be near the truth to suggest that it was in fact designed or co-designed by Celtic initiates.

Similarly, the Celtic alphabet has somehow two redundant characters. These are Huath and Straif, representing the letter H and an unknown sound. As a matter of fact, these Ogham fews are not recorded in the epigraphical material. The Celtic language knows no consonant H, yet Huath is put together with other consonants. What is more, even if the Ogham derives from a Latin or Greek model, these languages had no letter H either. The Germanic people, however, did. The letter Straif is a little harder to place.

You would almost imagine that they swopped letters. The swopping of letters seems to point to some form of cooperation between the Celtic and the Germanic intelligentsia. It seals a pact. What we are faced with reminds me a little of the myth of the war of Aesir and Vanir. Legend says that both races of gods matched each other in war. Neither one can overcome the other. In the end, they call a truce. And to seal this pact of peace, they swop hostages. Njord of the Vanir and his children will live in Asgard from now on. Mimir and Hœnir of the Aesir will live in Vanaheim. Having the history of the twin alphabets in mind, this sounds much too alike to dismiss.

Maybe another bit of runic myth can tentatively be related to this parallel history. It is said that Odin finds the runes, but by that time they are already in existence, even loaded with power. Before that they were somehow created. According to both the Eddic poems and Early Germanic inscriptions, the runes come from the Regin. They invented the runes. They are a non-specified class of gods that were linked with the unfolding of creation. But the word regin means ‘advisor’. Who knows the Druids were meant.

Conclusion

What we end up with is two European scripts with a parallel history so close that they might have been invented at the same time by the same people and at one and the same place. Both alphabets in their own way seem to draw from Mediterranean tradition and deviate from it. The arrangement of sounds is different in both alphabets and entirely new for both scripts. Both alphabets would initially have been designed for cultic, specifically divinatory purposes, to be inscribed on wood. Maybe it was a test which one worked best? By the looks of both alphabets, they seem to have been planned events. And by the looks of it, they seem to stem from the same period and from the same geographical area. Might it be too much to imagine that Celtic initiates and Germanic initiates sat together one day and made plans to design a magical alphabet?

450-350 BCE Negau helmets made
200-100 BCE Negau helmets A & B
200-0 BCE Gundestrup cauldron
50 BCE Negau helmets deposited
0-500 CE Matres/Matrones inscriptions by Celtic and Germanic people in Latin
50 CE Caesar’s invasion
50 CE Latest timing invention Ogham
50-100 CE First runic finds
100 CE Tacitus’s Germania
350 CE Wulfila’s Gothic Alphabet
400 CE First Ogham inscriptions
400-700 CE Rune stones Elder Futhark
500-1000 CE Old Irish language period
600-700 CE Auraicept na n-Éces
700-800 CE Gothic rune names by Alcuin
700-900 CE Old English Rune Poem
700-900 CE The Wooing of Étaín
800-900 CE Abecedarium Nordmannicum
800-900 CE Alcuin’s Gothic letter names
900-1100 CE The Phantom’s Frenzy

Bibliography

·

Rolf H. Bremmer, Hermes-Mercury and Woden-Odin as Inventors of Alphabets: A Neglected Parallel, in: Old English Runes and their Continental Background, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg 1991.

·

Gregory A. Clouter, The Lost Zodiac of the Druids, Vega, 2003.

·

Stephen E. Flowers, How to Do Things with Runes: A Semiotic Approach to Operative Communication, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.

·

Alan Griffiths, Rune-Names: the Irish connexion, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.

·

Stewart R.A. Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland, Armorica Book Co/APA-Philo Press, 1976, reprinted by Craobh Rua Books, Armagh 1997.

·

James Mackillop, Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004.

·

Bernard Mees, The Celts and the Origin of the Runic Script, in Studia Neophilologia, Vol. 71 Issue 2, 1999.

·

Bernard Mees, Runes in the 1st Century, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.

·

Bernard Mees & Mindy MacLeod, Runic Amulets and Magic Objects, Boydell Press, 2006.

·

Paul Rhys Mountfort, Ogam. The Celtic Oracle of the Trees, Destiny Books, Rochester 2002.

·

Bernd Neuner, Das Norwegische Runengedicht – was sich hinter den zweiten Zeilen verbirgt, in: Runes and their Secrets, Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 2006.

·

Alexander M. Rackus, Guthones, Draugas Publishing, Chicago 1929.

·

Malcolm Todd, The Early Germans, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996.


Blood Bones and Fur: Personal Experiences of Working with the Remnants of the Dead

Transcript of a talk given for Atlantis Bookshop’s, ‘Moot with No Name’, November 2011.

By Charlotte Rodgers

I rocked up to a hospital once and was declared dead on arrival. My family were contacted and told that I’d stopped breathing and been clinically dead for long enough to cause me to be severely brain damaged IF I came out of the coma ,which was unlikely.

The thing is I had no light at the end of the tunnel, no voice telling me to, ‘go back it wasn’t my time’.

What I did get from this experience was an intense and previously unrealised knowledge of my own strength, fight and will to live and an insight into my essential and true self.

A friend of mine, Sarah Grimstone, referred to the experience as a fast track HGA ritual.

Prior to that I always had an attraction to death and its various remnants and trappings.

My favourite image at seven was in a copy of Man Myth and Magick of a ‘hand of glory’ lodged at the Museum of Witchcraft, and I still have a copy of Richard Cavendish’s Black Arts, pinched from Wellington Library when I was 14, with my pencilled-in notes on the chapter of Necromancy.

When I had the above coma experience at 24, I’d been working with road kill for some of the years prior in the name of art and magick.

This will be the main focus of this presentation; however first I want to give you some of my general thoughts, opinions and experiences of my work with death; back ground stuff.

I regard myself as an animist and my greatest pull towards an established magickal tradition is towards Haitian Voodoo, but I don’t go there because I won’t perform blood sacrifice.

Yeah, I have taught myself to gut and eviscerate road kill, and due to a personality quirk I have dissociative tendencies which in many ways my practise has enhanced. These tendencies would make animal sacrifice both relatively easy and possible; however the life I have lived has put me in a position to both see and experience a lot of violence, suffering and pointless death and my own magickal direction and knowledge of what makes my practice work, and what is right for me is implicit in no killing.

Make no mistake; I don’t condemn animal sacrifice in a culturally and spiritually appropriate context, just as I don’t condemn killing the meat that you eat. It is just not right for me.

Magickally I could be seen to be more experimental than sensible. For instance I’ve used the same, very effective recipe for protection sachets for years. I made one for a friend’s car and then the car was stolen. The police found it in perfect condition, with all the ingredients laying around it for torching it after the joyriding experience was over, and  said it looked like something at scared off the thieves and potential arsonists at the nth hour.

My friend actually benefitted from the theft as when his car was returned to him, he had gained a variety of ropes, tools and jump leads which the thieves had abandoned when they fled.

Now I mulled over from every angle why the car was stolen in the first place (even though something put the wind up the thieves before they could do any damage) as my protection sachets have NEVER failed .Then I remembered that like many of us, I had some graveyard dust in my supply cabinet and thought I would add it to my usual protection recipe …just to see what happened…

Anyway, there are a few anecdotes about my personal magickal morality and attitudes. Now to move onto the subject in hand.

Being brought up with an overly heightened awareness of the possibility of someone jumping up behind you and hitting you on the head, translates well magickally. It means you are more aware of your surroundings and what is out of place.

When I was younger and constantly broke as I preferred to spend my money on drugs rather than food or bills this was great, because I would focus magickally on finding money that was needed, and I always did.

Necessity or survival magick I think the term is.

Now zoning into remnants of death is similar; they create a difference in the environment even though they are ostensibly just vessels for something which once lived. However this container still holds memory and that memory can link to the essence of the species which is incredible and very powerful to work with both in art and in magick.

At this point it was be natural and easy to go into historical and cultural references to using remnants of the dead in spiritual and magickal practice and I’ve done plenty of research in this field; in part to validate and provide a point of reference to my intuitive practice, and in part out of interest.

However I want to stick more, at present, to my own experiences of the subject.

For whatever reasons human bone doesn’t actually press my buttons, although I’ve had various skulls and fragments pass through my hands over the years.

I will say that it was human bone, I believe, that provided a catalyst and a breakthrough in my long working of a personalised variation of the Mather’s ,Attainment of Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.

I’d been working systematically on this ritual for some time, when the London Underground bombing occurred. On the evening of the tragedy I decided to send comfort and acknowledgement to those killed. I integrated this into my daily rite. and used a fragment of human bone to access the collective human consciousness and help me tune into the recently dead.

For some reason this particular ritual culminated in achieving my goal re Holy Guardian Angel.

I don’t know whether this result came from my connecting with the dead, utilising the human bone or a combination of both, but I do believe that working with death on that occasion turbo charged the ritual to my benefit, even though that had not been my aim  at that time. .

As a child I did my share of poking around bones and sticking things under a microscope

In my teens I took things a step further. I started experimenting with mummification and preserving techniques. I taught myself to skin and gut road kill (seeing no contradiction in my being a staunch vegan, as I was at the time) and to make fetish objects.

My magick at this time was pretty raw. In that era in New Zealand the usual training implements were via the works of Dion Fortune/Crowley and the influence of a splinter group of the Golden Dawn in Wellington. As in England there was a natural drift towards what would later evolve into Chaos Magick and TOPY and my practice could be seen to ally with that in some respects.

Bear in mind that there was no internet connection then and I was living off the radar in trucks and squats up and down the West Coast of New Zealand, so wasn’t consciously aware of the current magickal trends and progressions.

My older self feels great discomfort at a younger me, taking mushrooms doing rituals and then crafting creatures from pieces of road kill.

However I cannot knock it in some respects as though I went through the initiatory rites of madness, addiction and dodgy sexual magickal groups, at the end of this I still have magick at my core. I still practice it and I learned as I always do( the hard way) why certain criterions of behaviour magickally exist; to make things safer as these can be dangerous and treacherous realms which require working with care and respect. However these rules were only learned through trial and error. For people such as myself mistakes are a natural part of a long and hard learning curve, and they indicate action; not necessarily good action but action all the same.

I have quoted, or misquoted Israel Regardie on this matter many times when he said that anyone who seriously undergoes magickal training should concurrently undergo a course of some sort of psychoanalysis.

I didn’t find that little gem of Regardie’s wisdom until way, way too late but it makes a lot of sense

I spent eight years or so immersed in working with the fetish on every level, both magickally and practically, then I took a break for a crash course in the REALLY problematic field of living in mundane reality.

Okay to zoom forward a few years to my return to fetish work, because this is where my personal magick seems to be centred and following that core self is really what it is all about isn’t it?

Okay there may be intellectual and creative diversions but finding our core, our talent and taking that potential as far as it goes  allies in my mind with definitions such as to know/to will/to dare or to effect changes in consciousness in accordance with will.

As I’ve already said being aware of my environment and the gifts it gives me is a big part of it. Finding a road kill badger and working with it was the beginning of a series of immensely powerful workings that lasted several years.

There is something decidedly shamanic about the focus of working with the dead. There is a necessary turning off of the conscious mind as the nasty, smelly side of preparing a corpse is undergone.

With a larger animal the physical effort itself is exhausting but as with meditation thoughts and insights drift through the mind; feelings of compassion for the method of death or the waste of such a life; respect for physical strength or beauty.

Truth to tell I don’t enjoy it. Finding a nature cleaned bone in a field is lovely but actually working with a dead body is unpleasant and sometimes nasty and at one time I actually threw away my knife and thought I don’t want to work with death like this anymore (although the next day I found a new and better knife on my way to work which could be construed as a sign of sorts)

Once I actually start working on a dead creature, all of this is forgotten and I get carried along with the process. The resident living animals in my house generally lose any atavistic blood thirsty instincts and stay well clear; in fact they get quite freaked out as everything becomes very intense.

This is a very different intensity to ritualistic workings I do in the house of a less blood thirsty nature as one of my cats will then REFUSE to be locked out of any room they are occurring in.

For some reason the body of an animal retains its identity longer after death than a human body. I suspect that human beings (and to a much lesser extent domestic animals) have a learned individual nature that tends to override the nature of the species more strongly. However that is a subject for debate as although I have been around a lot of recent dead human beings in my time, I have never worked on them as I have had with animals.

I actually prefer to avoid working with domesticated animals as they have generally had their essential nature obscured.

Again this may be due to my own perspective being biased as I have always lived with domesticated animals; but I believe that domestic animals take on the trappings of their environment and the traits of the humans that they live with to the point that their animal nature and essence becomes faded.

I’ve also never used inner city seagulls or pigeons or city rats.

Perhaps it is a latent snobbery, perhaps it is a hygiene issue which I haven’t acknowledged (although thinking of some of the animals in varying states of decay and infestation, I’ve worked with I doubt that) but they just don’t work for me.

It is possible that inner city survival also changes the essence of the animal, and whilst it would be interesting to work with a creature for that particular reason, at this point it is not something which I have gravitated towards or has gravitated towards me.

Although I have been working for some time now with inner city debris and integrating them with the bones of rural animals, this is an ongoing process which I haven’t structured and directed as yet. In this particular piece I have used as a base broken car window glass from New Orleans and recent riots in the UK  and am integrating them with natural and organic material to try and cleanse and transform the acts of violence that resulted in the windows being smashed. In some ways it is a post apocalyptical image, a sort of directing of Kali Yug or the Blasted Tower if possible and in many ways this art work is similar to ritual group workings to clear or cleanse space.

Whether I am more open to finding animal remains of a type that is necessary for me to work with because of a subconscious need, or whether they come to me and inform me of the direction that I need to explore, I don’t know.

Once the actual preparation of the creature is done, I’ll sometimes find a new home for it or sometimes I will put them aside until something I am making needs an addition that just happens to be sitting in a jar in my kitchen.

There are some anomalies that again may be coincidence but I’ll cite them anyway.

On occasion, generally in summer, I just cannot cope with the mess and smell of preparing a creature especially a larger one, so I’ll bury them to let nature do the work and mark the place I’ve buried them, often with something quite heavy so they cannot be dug up by living animals.

Now my garden has at least three foxes and two partial badgers buried in it (and sundry other creatures) and I have never been able to find them again, despite having dug over those parts of the garden many times.

What I make from these pieces falls into three overlapping categories.

I use pieces for charms or spells, which is pretty traditional and simple common sense.

I make spirit houses and I make magickal art which combines both of the above.

My initial work was with using bones and mummified animal parts and painting them with camouflage colours. Now camouflage techniques can have fascinating magickal applications, Austin Osman Spare explored them and Hugh Cottrell defines camouflage in very magical terms as,

one makes something unreal recognizable [while] the other makes something real unrecognizable.

Say I was working on a badger’s skull and creating a spirit house for protection of the family I would play up the solar qualities of expansion with golds, but have them banded in by Saturnine black to contain the energy and also protect and nurture it, giving it a defensive martial quality that will bite if threatened.

The black obviously absorbing the negative and threatening, and the gold radiating and expanding the positive whilst still contained in the skull container of the notoriously grounded ,family orientated and very fierce badger.

I also created a head piece for this creation to lift and elevate the intention.

This sort of work is like a jigsaw, being both meditative and intuitive.

When I was younger I made many pieces along these lines but in my 30’s I became more ambitious and  went through a period of baptising these creatures in blood and giving them life which was very foolish  and nearsighted of me as they already had life, I just couldn’t appreciate the power of it.

Using these creatures as spirit houses and  feeding them blood fed what was in the houses and caused them to grow into something that become near uncontrollable. Feeding them menstrual blood wasn’t a problem, but venous blood was. Everything has life but not necessarily power, and blood provided that power and the bone provided the form.

One very practical and not necessarily conventional application of spirit houses is for healing.

When I was undergoing a particularly invasive form of chemotherapy I used a horse’s skull from an abattoir; not a creature I would normally use as it hadn’t died in a natural manner, but is being hit by a car natural? However an abattoir is a deliberate and focused killing as opposed to most road kill.

I decided to use the horse’s skull as a chthonic spirit house and work with the horse’s violent death and my own descent into illness and madness (no exaggeration, this medication was very nasty) reconciling and transforming both into something more positive.

This mare was coloured in blacks and silver and had a small mummified toad in its pallet; the amphibian that can leap between the spaces.

When I finished the treatment I made a second talismanic piece to symbolise an uplifting from illness to a progressive and positive state. This piece, was all solar rather than lunar and incorporated snake vertebrae for focus, whale vertebrae for buoyancy, and an old Indian toy horses head…more frivolous than the N’mare and more a feeling of the fool than of the blasted tower or death that the mare epitomised, and there is always a slightly fool like element to any ascent or progression in my opinion, so it seemed apt.

I’ve also used this sort of work to illustrate tarot atu or trumps, although again that is a long work in process.

In some respects the above work could be seen to be blurring boundaries between art and magick; perhaps, although I believe that they are cut from the same cloth and as I grow older the line between art and magick becomes less distinct.

Death is part of who we are and remnants of it are gateways to greater knowledge and greater potentialities. Magickal practice gives us keys and rituals but art ties them into coherent structures.

When I look at magickal objects from places such as Benin, Naga pieces or masks from Borneo for example, I get greater clues of working magickally than I do from words which traditionally hold more deception and misinformation.

What I do is use my awareness of life force inherent in everything including death, magickal techniques of trance and focus and more traditional folk techniques to work with the web of life.
Yule Week MoonLore

By Liz
Yule Eve, Wednesday, 21st December 2011
The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 3 days off Dark (New) Moon, in Scorpio Wednesdays usually put the spotlight on Study, Travel and Divination while Moon in Scorpio often increases psychic potential A great night for scrying to see what’s ahead in 2012.

Yule, Thursday, 22nd December 2011

Winter Solstice The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 2 days off Dark (New) Moon, leaving Scorpio and entering Sagittarius Thursdays are usually all about Money, Investments, Generosity and Growth while Moon in Sagittarius usually boosts confidence, and increases imagination A great time to take a new look at the finances to make plans for the year ahead

Friday, 23rd December, 2011

The Moon will be Waning, in it’s Fourth Quarter, 1 day off Dark (New) Moon, still in Sagittarius Fridays are usually all about Love, Friends, Reconcilliations and Beauty While Moon in Sagittarius this day indicates there will be expansion and growth New friends made around now will stay important to you in your life for the months to come

Saturday, 24th December 2011

Christmas Eve here in the UK Dark (New) Moon, leaving Sagittarius and entering Capricorn Saturdays are all about longevity, exorcisms, endings homes and houses, While Moon in Caprocorn this day means the focus will be on developing strong structures Perhaps a good night to take stock of where you are heading and to make changes so there will be better order in life next year, to become pro-active instead of re-active

Sunday, 25th December 2011

Christmas Day here in the UK The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 1 day after Dark (New) Moon, still in Capricorn Sundays are all about Healing, Spirituality, Success, Strength and Protection While Moon in Capricorn this day would indicate the focus will be on responsibilities and obligations At least when you’ve done what’s required and expected of you, the rest of the day is yours to have fun with as you see fit, even if that’s to slob out in front of the television and do nothing!!!

Monday, 26th December 2011

Boxing Day here in the UK The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 2 days after Dark (New) Moon, leaving Capricorn and entering Aquarius Mondays the emphasis is usually on Peace, Sleep, Healing, Compassion, Friends, Psychic awareness, Purification, and Fertility While Moon in Aquarius usually brings fourth a sense of rebellion Going your own way or taking the lead can be fun, but try not to upset those around you too much while doing so.

Tuesday 27th December 2011

The Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, 3 days after Dark (New) Moon, still in Aquarius Tuesdays normally shift the focus to Passion, Sex, Courage, Aggression and Protection While Moon in Aquarius today gives us the strength to change bad habits, and to let go of that which we no longer need in our lives. Open and Honest communication is what’s called for in a situation like this.


Renewal Magick at Pennsbury for Yule

By T. Fox Dunham

In my articles and stories for Pagan Friends, I have pursued the theme of simple magick in quotidian life. I have reported of common magick, the energy we generate and focus through acts and customs and how our spirit responds to this energy. We create this magick when we apply our spirit to acts of life, to creating art. When we cook with spirit, we are imbuing the act and meal with magick. When we compose poetry, plant a herb garden, volunteer at a hospital—any act that we imbue with spirit, with passion—we are enacting a ritual magick. This is the ritual of those who do not practice magickal faith, the people who just live simple life.

Magick is also created through unique and meaningful experiences in our lives. I have often written of the magickal and spiritual journey I undertook as I battled a rare cell type of lymphoma, a journey that took me down many blind paths and created in me a cauldron of enchantment and power. This is essential to what I write of in this essay.

At the heart of mundane magick we find joy. This is the product of the enchantment, an élan of spirit, an energy that invigorates us, compels us, the source we live for.

I am reminded of this during in the weeks before Yule. This time and tide is the anniversary of my stay of execution, of my miracle reprieve from a cell type of lymphoma that had not been previously cured. After having prepared myself to pass through the silver veil, my surprise remission shattered my preconceptions and paradigms, granting to me the newborn’s gift and nascent sight from the point of view of a man.

Pennsylvania lives in its history. There are a multitude of reservations where the past is preserved and animated again, played out for education—and let’s admit it, fun. I worked at one such site, Pennsbury Manor, the colonial home of the governor and owner of the territory, the notorious English Quaker, William Penn. This country estate along the Delaware River that divides the state of New Jersey from Pennsylvania was a fully equipped farm and manor house, rebuilt from the ruins in the 1930s as part of the WPA program instituted by F.D.R. to provide jobs during the depression. I lived in the site’s kitchen gardens, among her stables. Peacocks roamed the site in splendor and violet vanity. This was the location of my first true story to Pagan Friends, Seabhac: the Wounded Hawk.

Each December, the site prepares for Holly Night, a special evening when open hearths burn in the kitchens, candles ignite the halls and stone paths, bonfires burn on the riverside where cider warmed and old woes could be cast into the fire, left with the previous year.

In shamanism, we have a concept: the spirit of the land. This is basic animism, the mountains, rivers, forests possess a living spirit, often seen as a deity or sidhe. This doesn’t just apply to natural settings. Have you ever gone into a building and felt it had character? Even personality? We contribute to this spirit of ourselves every time we interact with its field, growing it more. Places of history possess old souls with deep natures. Pennsbury was a popular place to convalesce. I knew many volunteers who were living beyond their assigned time of death. As the home of a Quaker, the place had a spirit of peace, of healing. And when the night lit up with candles glowing along the stone paths, when the open hearths burned, the chefs at work cooking colonial meals in big pots, and the choir sang traditional carols of the year, the salubrious magick of the land amplified. This was part of my healing process, my reconnection to the living world. I felt such a sense of youthful wonder and light.

Fox, you are alive.

Fox, the world is alive in color and song.

Fox, there is so much beauty in the world at Yule.

Every year at Yule, this feeling returns to me. I know people complain about the malls, but I love it—the decorations, the people shopping, the sound of carols over the speakers. It is so lovely being alive, and that’s the deepest of common magick. This is the essence of hope for a better year to come.

Traditions of renewal are common at this time for most cultures. It is a custom that transcends religion and is bound to the natural rhythms of a community. For a people surviving the winter without the benefit of modern technology—as was the case previous to most parts of the world before the last century—the need for a custom of renewal is vital to the emotional health of the tribe, whether it’s a village, a city or a nomadic caravan.

This tradition is enacted at Holly Night, as visitors may throw holly twigs into the riverside fire as a symbolic act—the heart of magick—called the burning of the woes, the release of the trials and hardships of the last year to begin anew with the nascent year. This tradition is so popular that often people would call the site asking about the burning of the woes, mislaying the event’s name. This is at the heart of common magick, the burning of a natural offering, holly imbued with potential.

I held my holly twig in hand, standing before the towering bonfire at the river. With only the candles on the paths, the glowing windows of the manor house, the orange aura of the fire to light the sward, the river at night turned to oil, hidden in the dark with only the sound of rushing waters to remind me that time progressed. I lifted my arm to lob the enchanted holly—enchanted now that I had imbued the sprig with metaphysical purpose—and I focused not on my woes, not on my struggle with cancer, but the woes of those suffering souls at this time of year. I thought of the hungry, the poor, those trapped in war. So many good people did not survive their cancer as I had. I thought of them, their families. I poured it into the slender holly. It cracked beneath the weight of the burden I had placed on it. Then I closed my eyes and cast it into the fire.

To my family—and those I love, you are all my family—I wish you all joy and potential for this Yule. I ask you to look to the world around you, to give a little back perhaps by contributing to a food drive or dropping off a toy for Toys 4 Tots. This is the time when we need hope the most, and hope can be found not in charitable acts that we receive but in acts of charity we commit. You will find magick in this connection.


Frankincense

By Rebecca L. Brown

Frankincense (from the French, meaning ‘pure incense’) is an Arabian or African tree sap from trees of the Bolswellia genus which is collected by peeling back the bark and then allowed to air dry into a resin. It is used in incenses and perfumes, mainly for it’s scent. frankincense is also sometimes referred to as olbanum.

Frankincense is mentioned in the Bible and is traditionally both given as an offering in some Jewish ceremonies and burnt in Catholic churches. The ancient Egyptians, who referred to frankincense as the tears of Horus, used it in their embalming processes (as recorded in the Ebers Papyrus) and in both scents and cosmetics. Frankincense was also known and used across Ancient Greece, Rome and China.

Magickally, francincense can be used to dispel negativity and evil influences. It has a purifying effect. Alchemists once recommended the use of frankincense to promote longievity.

Frankincense an anti-inflammatory and has some antiseptic properties. There is some ongoing medical research into whether or not it may be useful in fighting cancer and the treatment of osteoarthritis.


Book Review: Secrets of Asgard, Vincent Ongkowidjojo An Instruction in Esoteric Rune Wisdom

Reviewed Av Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

From the very beginning of the book, Vincent Ongkowidjojo shows a very strong grasp of the subject matter and a deep passion alongside his tremendous knowledge, which immediately draws the reader into the book. In my first read-through of the book, I was not only highly impressed by such a comprehensive mix of personal ideas and factual information, but also impressed by the style of writing; whilst I personally find most books of this nature to be tedious reads, filled often with mistakes and UPG, this book is filled with enough facts and information that the personal opinions of the author contained within are not the kind which make most Heathens cringe. Whether a scholar interested in Runes, a Godi reflecting upon and referring to sources to improve your rune knowledge or a novice starting out, this book is the most comprehensive and agreeable book I have ever had the immense pleasure of reading on the subject. Whilst the language is somewhat scholarly in nature and filled with big words that may put some people off, however, the authors use of language is comprehensible for the serious reader. It should also be noted that the author is from the Netherlands, the use of language and writing style is most impressive and easily understood considering it is by a foreign author; this fact itself impressed me – I have had the displeasure of reading books from foreign authors that the flow of the book is nearly unable to be followed. Being that I have formed my own opinions on Runes and Runic magic, I have found myself at some points disagreeing with the author’s opinions, however, the way the book is written is not matter-of-fact and allows the reader to make his or her own opinions, this is a trait few authors manage. It is with a deep respect and admiration that I write this review, despite disagreeing with a few ideas contained within it. I can see and understand the thought process behind these ideas, which makes the book not only a pleasure to read, but also the disagreements I do have with it are not ones that offend, like so many other author’s assumptions and presumptions. It is deeply refreshing to see a book filled with knowledge as opposed to ignorance, logical thoughts as opposed to presumptuous conclusions and filled with plenty of ideas for thought and reflection on. As a Norwegian Heathen, I am often wary of anything from outside of Scandinavia. I have found a great many Heathens are also wary of anything that is not the Havamal and Eddas, but this is a book I would wholly recommend to any Heathen, Scholar or Chaote requiring Runic knowledge to put on their bookshelves. The author’s grasp of the subject matter is such that it outdoes that of many Heathens I have the pleasure of knowing. I cannot think of any book I would recommend more highly if the reader is looking for a book on Runes; this is the book for anyone requiring knowledge of runes, whether simply beginning or advanced in their ‘Career’ as users of the Runes.  


Fiction Review: Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner, 

Reviewed by Rebecca L. Brown

Carry On The Flame: Ultimate Magic, By Jodine Turner

“I am ancient and I am now

I am the one that once was and I am the many who now are

I have climbed out from the jaws of blackness

I am one of many who were waited for and one who has found her way”

Carry on the Flame: Ultimate Magic, is the next book in Jodine Turner’s beautifully written Carry on the Flame series. (The previous book, Carry on the Flame: Destiny’s Call, which which was reviewed in our Samhain issue is a finalist in the USA Books “Best Books of 2011” New Age Fiction category; congratulations Jodine!)

Ultimate Magic is a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing read. As in her other writing, Jodine uses a combination of well-written characters, evocative description and an enjoyable plotline as a means by which to express her own obvious love of and attachment to the Divine Feminine. This book, and indeed the whole of the Carry on the Flame series are a definite must-read for lovers of Celtic-flavoured fantasy and of magical fantasy adventure in general!

For more from Jodine Turner, visit her website http://www.jodineturner.com


True Beauty

By Linda Gibson

Friends since nursery, Emma and Claire were more like sisters. Emma’s quiet serenity was the perfect balance to Claire’s loudness. Added to the mix was Josh, who they’d grown up with. He was confident and sure of himself without being cocky, and like Emma, he came from a family of witches, both families able to trace their lineage back through centuries. Claire just took it in her stride, and loved them both for who they were. She was loved by the families, and even though non-pagan, was included in all their family gatherings.

Emma had met Josh in the college dinning room and was discussing her Yule Blessing with him in a quiet corner away from prying ears. Claire rushed over to them, full of energy, as usual.

‘Hey Emma, what’re you wearing to the Christmas disco on Friday? You are going aren’t you, you too Josh? Don’t make me go on my own, please, please, please!’ Josh was about to protest, but Claire got there first.

‘Don’t try to use the Yule party at Emma’s as an excuse, because that’s on Saturday,’ she said, grinning at him.

‘Okay, okay! If it shuts you up I’ll go,’ laughed Emma, ‘and so will Josh,’ as he nodded his agreement for the sake of peace. ‘I’ll wear my purple dress with the black lace.’

‘Yes!’ squealed Claire, ‘you’ll look a knock out in that. I suppose you’ll try to get away with jeans,’ she said in mock sarcasm to Josh.

‘Actually, I’ll wear my suit, I do own one you know,’ he said, poking his tongue out at Claire. With that, they went to afternoon lectures.

Later that night, Emma prepared for her Yule Blessing, placing her Book of Shadows in her bag. It had been handed down through her family, and was wrapped in a silk cloth and kept out of sight. Emma never did a ritual without it. She made off for the woods, just half a mile from her home. Checking she hadn’t been followed, she made her way through the woods to the Sacred Grove, known only to the families. Emma greeted the Goddess, opened the Book of Shadows and grounded herself for protection before casting a circle and calling the quarters. As she performed her Yule Blessing, a breeze began to blow around her, generating energy. She asked the Goddess for blessings and closed the circle carefully afterwards. Emma sat down under a tree to meditate, as she always did after a ritual. She had a vision of her late grandmother. Emma often felt her presence guiding her, and she gave Emma a warning to watch her back. She faded before Emma could ask her what she meant, and it worried Emma.

After leaving an offering, Emma went home to bed, exhausted. She couldn’t sleep and kept playing her grandmother’s message over in her mind. Eventually managing only 3 hours sleep, Emma reluctantly went to college, barely staying awake for morning lectures. The last thing she needed was to be cornered by the ‘in’ crowd, lead as always by Alexa Winters and her two cronies. Deliberately knocking into Emma, Alexa sent Emma’s bag flying, sending the contents sprawling everywhere.

‘Oh look, here come your bodyguard!’ she sneered, catching sight of Claire storming over.

‘You’re a first class bitch, Alexa!’ yelled Claire, pushing her out of the way. The two cronies backed off, dragging Alexa with them before she could retaliate, leaving Claire to help Emma gather her belongings.

By the night of the disco, the incident had been forgotten, and Emma met Claire and Josh at the entrance. Emma was unaware of the admiring glances she drew as she glided gracefully into the hall. She’d worn the floor length purple gown with plain black satin ballet pumps, and let her waist length chestnut curls tumble loosely down her back. Josh couldn’t take his eyes off her.

‘Wow! You look amazing,’ he whispered.

‘Told you so,’ grinned Claire, nudging Josh playfully.

‘Claire, how do make overstated look so great?’ laughed Emma. ‘Only you could get away with those colours!’ Claire had chosen a bright cerise pink prom dress with matching three inch heels. Her black hair was piled high in a mass of glossy curls, and the whole look suited her. ‘Claire, you should show your legs off more often, instead of hiding them in jeans. You look gorgeous.’

The trio were enjoying themselves, dancing non-stop, and stopping for punch now and again. Suddenly the music stopped, and a voice they dreaded floated over the speakers.

‘Emma Bradbury, or should we call you Silvermoon,’ Alexa gloated, as a hush fell over the hall.

‘What’s this then, a Book of Shadows?’ Alexa proceeded to open the book and began to read from it out loud.

‘Give it to me Alexa, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ fumed Emma. ‘How did you get it anyway, its private property?’ She realised then that she’d forgotten to take the book out of her bag when she’d got home from her Yule ritual. It must have fallen out when Alexa knocked into her.

Emma rushed onto the stage and grabbed the book, glaring at Emma. It shook Alexa to see how angry Emma was, she’d always been so quiet.

‘Here, take the damned book, you and your family have always been weird, witch,’ she spat at Emma as she let the book go.

‘My family are witches too, going to pick on us too, are you, you nasty piece of work?’ Everyone turned to Josh. ‘Emma’s worth four of you. You may have a pretty face, but you’re so ugly inside.’

The hall erupted with cheers and applause when Josh finished ranting. Alexa flounced off stage with her cronies in tow, and impossibly vain, couldn’t resist checking her reflection in the hall’s huge windows. She shrieked in horror as she saw an old hag staring back at her, her face covered in open sores and boils, and wrinkled like a prune. Only Alexa could see this, to everyone else she looked normal.

‘What have you done to me? They’ve cursed me,’ she screamed, running about aimlessly, everyone laughing at her.

‘You’ve seen a reflection of your true self, just how ugly your soul is,’ said Josh. ‘Beauty has nothing to do with looks. It really is true that what’s on the inside counts for more than anything. I hope this teaches you to be nice to people, you’ll find they’re nice to you because they actually like you. Try it for a change!’

The three friends went home. They enjoyed the Yule party the following day, both families having been close friends for generations. Alexa had learnt a hard lesson, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that people did indeed like her when she let her guard down, and was popular for the right reasons. She even began to study witchcraft and its true history, asking the families for help and advice, and treated Emma with a healthy dose of respect since the disco.
Sápmi Story

By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

The air was cool and fresh, a reminder of the rainstorm that had battered the land the night before; the sky was still grey on grey, a mismatch of many different shades of grey colliding above our heads, seemingly ready to come crashing down on the head of the nomad. Patches of yellow permeated the grey of the sky, the sun reflecting off of clouds higher in the stratosphere, giving light to an otherwise near-dark day. It was hard going, trudging over the heath land, the soles of his feet felt cold and wet but he was not miserable as he would have been as a young man. He had come to enjoy the wind that carried the cold freshness of the air, his hard, leathery skin was used to the hardships of life as a nomad. Somewhere in the wilderness, a wolf called to it’s kin, adding to the isolated loneliness of the journey; the isolated loneliness that was the reality of the nomad, the isolated loneliness that was a constant companion and the isolated loneliness that was no longer lonely, but more of a reflective state of solitude. It took a hard man to do such a thing all their life, but the nomad would not call himself hard or tough, he would not speak to many people.

The wind carried drops of moisture with it as it buffeted the low-lying heather, the clouds would not hold their torrent much longer and the only shelter nearby was the Wolf-Cave. He could not remember when he had first been to the Wolf-Cave, that place with it’s many, many paintings by Noaidi from times passed. The nomad was sure that the cave was a Sieidi, but then, since his first Spirit Journey. Some said that he had gone mad from communicating with the Spirits and Gods. He had not been exiled, per se, but he knew he was no longer welcome in the cities, or at least, that is what he felt.

Finding that the cave had been stocked with tinder and firewood, he set about creating the life-giving warmth. Most of the Sami would have been with their community, been with their little Clan herding Reindeer in the small parcels of land that were given to them by the Government. It was a dying art, the boazovázzi, everyone knew it, yet no-one would say so. How much easier it would be if he had a Lávut, what had happened to his since he had left? What had happened to his family? Maybe they had all become normal people, living in cities with modern conveniences, electricity and supermarket-bought food. The easy life was not for him, though, he though as he lit his fire. The warm embrace of the fire enshrouded him, his old bones feeling the warmth and groaning appreciatively. He could smell the smoke of the wood, it was slightly damp but had lit without a problem. The crack of the fire consuming the wood hungrily made him think of his own belly, he removed his backpack, an old thing made of tanned Reindeer hide and removed some smoked meats and fish, cheese and vegetables; he took out a bushel of herbs for Biegkegaellies, the God of the Winter Winds so that he might have a good Winter, one where he would not freeze to death.

There was a time when his father had shown him this cave, when they had wandered freely with the Reindeer, when instead of being guided by the laws and fences of the strange men from the South, they had been guided by the instincts of their herd. It was a time when he was carefree, when his father would keep him safe from the evil spirits of the night.

The warmth of the fire and a full belly caused sleep in the old nomad. His leathery skin was softened momentarily as he dreamed back in time. Back to when he was a boy who ran free amongst the herds. A stillness set through his old bones as his breathing became shallower, the wind whistling past the cave that sheltered him from the world hid the sounds of the storm on the horizon. In time, the fire died out, the flames retreating from a blaze to embers. The old nomad’s eyes remained shut, the embers faded to non-existence so silently. Nothing would bother him anymore, now that he roams with the Spirits.

 


Forgotten Cycles

By Yvonne Cunningham

Forgotten cycles of a jaded world
An ageing time, silent, unheard Darkening wood, snow-driven night
Winter’s hurt has yet to bite.
Around the Fire, feel it burn
Gather friends, for slumber’s end
A new spring comes, light returns
In the unfailing cycles of an awakening world.


Steal Into Winter  

By Maggie Koger

Send a ring of ribbon flying

long and long on frosty air

reeling North on windy swells

swept in satin tales of snow.

Some pray to muddy myths

of angels, sheikhs and shepherds

but leave the single star adrift

look up, look up and witness

fiery planets, burning stars;

feel your lungs fill with light

breath aswirl in solar style.


Walking Down Sunday Roads  

By Maggie Koger

Winter at Robie Creek where crusted

snow crunched loud underfoot as

a white and blue world lavished wide.

Crystals of ice whirled sun high while

evergreen spires pierced sapphire skies.

Elfin snowmen lined each roadside

wet powder pushed in banks by plows

riven and sculpted by afternoon suns.

Saw a dingy old truck rusting to ruin

nosed to the door of a sporty red wreck

its cracked-open windshield a gaping hole

icicle shards draped with a gunny

sack reading:  Farm Feed & Seed.

Our echoing aroused an angry dog

he raced to the length of his chain, jerked

howled in his labor, bellowing, barking

raising up specters of ancestor wolves.

If you come here, show no fear

step slowly, firmly, and watch for ice.

Snow hides it and slicks the surface

you must save yourself from falling.

Maggie Koger is a Media Specialist with a writing habit. She lives and works in Boise (pronounced boysee) and celebrates Le Bois–the trees the city is named for. She has published poetry in Poet Lore, Avocet, Mused, WestWard Quarterly, Montucky, Blast Furnace, and Eternal Haunted Summer. She can be reached at maggiekoger@gmail.com


Yule

By Kenny Klein

Amongst the oak and holly leaves

The Wren and Robin sat between

“Come” the Wren said, “I shall sing

A song of winter cold

“My brother is the far-flung Crow

The black death-watch upon the snow

The swordless Horned One to him goes

When Autumn sun wanes cold

“My sister of dark night is queen

The hag that lives the moons between

Her womb is barren now of seed

Her lover gray and old

“And where have you been, Robin brother

Gone to see your white-breast Mother?

The white snow covers up Her bowers,

She’s taken Her home of old”

Amidst the Oak and Holly leaves

The Robin silent sat between

Until with sweet voice, calmly he

Began a merry song

“Long has my white crow Mother been

With your brother, black winged Bran

Until Her belly stirs within

As Yuletide sun grows strong

“And now at sunrise, silent, stark

Between the days and the winter dark

Rekindled is the fire’s spark

The Oak King sounds the horn

“In the forest’s icy gleam

There goes a shadow, swiftly seen

The Holly and the Oak between

The Green Man is reborn

“So tell me truly, dark eyed Wren

Where will you the winter spend

Until the wheel is turned again

And winter casts its thorn?”

But Wren’s reply was never got

By a golden arrow he’d been shot

And darkness died upon the spot

The Holly and Oak between

The Oak King now is berry-crowned

The Green Man born the forest ’round

But the Wren lays cold upon the ground

The Holly and Oak between

And young lads on the darkest night

Their golden arrows swift in flight

Will sing until the morning bright

The sun to welcome in;

“The Wren the Wren the king of the birds

On Yuletide day was caught in the furze

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

And give us a penny to bury the Wren”

Kenny Klein  www.kennyklein.net


Tears

By Karie McNeley
melted snowfall drips from reddened corners
the drips re-freeze as they release & silver stalactites
hang from those eyes
the icicles hold over ‘til the summer of frost ends
& then they drop again
heavier now and with the intent of hail;
daggers falling into wounded snow beneath footsteps of white
Beaten and Blemished

By Karie McNeley

You are floating above me

Never really touching my body

A completely severed layer

Connected only by tooth and nail

You protect me from burns

And from cold

You are water-absorbent

But only by circumstance

On occasion you break and bleed

Hard impacts turn you soft and brown

Like over-ripe bananas

Sharp objects pierce and cut right through you

And for a moment you show me

What I really look like inside

I can bandage you

Stitch you up sideways

Cause the blood to delay

Before it spews out of me

Green in the vein

Red on the streets

You wrinkle and scar

Pink and purple cross-hatch

You will never be the same

But I will love you solidly

As long as you keep me human

Karie McNeley is a mid-twenties non-conformist from Lakewood, California who conforms only to writing poetry. She has been published in Verdad!  and in Bank-Heavy Press’s first three publications. She is an editor for Bank-Heavy Press, a new poetry and fiction magazine published quartlerly in Long Beach, CA. She searches for beauty in everything, especially the ugly.  Her hobbies include drawing, writing, and rocking out to 90’s alternative  music.


A Poem

By Nattvarg Nattvargsonn

At a bus stop the urban thrall await

A mass exodus, that of the Nine to Five

Outside the bank, the urban congregation

Awaiting the promised saviour in green

The provider and sustainer that is cash

Inner city life, devoid of mystery

Meaningless in macroscopic view

Yet so intricately woven in the mind

The throng of the night calls to the brave

The adventure of downtown summons

The promise of better goods are shown

Consumerist materialism thrives here

Alone in the dark recess of the mind a voice

Asking what is yet to come in life and death?

Yet ignorance is our chosen path

The nihilistic self-confidence undermines

The solid foundations of community life

The walk of shame is a walk of pride

Another notch on the bedpost

Another name forgotten by dawn

The city lights set the sky ablaze

A testament to the genius of man

An affront to the Gods of old and new

There is only room for the Trinity here

Man, Machine and Money are our Gods

Hark! Call the Scientists aloud

The priests of the Brave New World

See our wondrous invention and discovery

Swallow our words like the bitterest pill

For superstition has no place in our time

Has mankind lost it’s way in the urban rush?

The spirit has been cast out and sold

The Gods are dead and remain no more

Man is as empty as the ape that came before

Our forebears forgotten in the grind of time

It’s that time of year again, and we’re celebrating Lammas with an issue packed full of great content. Read on for articles by Richard Smoley, Peter Carroll and Starhawk, interviews with Andy Letcher and Damh the Bard, part two of our Phil Hine interview and much more!

Interviews

An Interview With Phil Hine (Part 2)
An Interview With Andy Letcher
An Interview With Mel Fleming
An Interview With Damh The Bard
An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Own Tas
An Interview With The Lady Selene (Part of T. Fox Dunham’s Herbal Magick)

Articles

Planetary Magic by Peter J. Carroll
The Pollok Witches by Tas Mania
Organisational Astrology by Fern Spring
Corn Dollies by Liz
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Not-So-Occult Foundations of Nazism
by Apuleius Platonicus
A Pagan Christ? by Richard Smoley
Sator Squares by Simon Cash
A Maypole in Prison by Starhawk

Personal Experiences

Going Into Brick Ain’t All It’s Cracked up to be by Liz
Pentre Ifan by Liz
John Barleycorn Must Die by Liz

Regular Columnists

Harvesting the Karma by Jules Harrell
‘A New Way of Thinking’ by Jonny Blake
Evolution of Change by Caledonia
Herbal Magick
With An interview from The Lady Selene
by T. Fox Dunham
Lammas Moonlore by Liz

Tools, Tricks and Ingredients

Dandelions by Rebecca L. Brown
Jet by Rebecca L. Brown

Reviews

One Turning: Poems for the wheel of the year,
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Upcoming Events

Treadwells Events

Fiction

An extract from Pelzmantel by K.A. Laity

Poetry Corner

All of a Lammas Evening by Elizabeth Barrette
Castoffs by Elizabeth Barrette
Firefly Harvest by Miriam Axel-Lute
Beauty in the Fertile Autumn; a Villonette by Julie Smith
Fire-Feast by Patricia Monaghan
Garland Sunday And She Calls Her Lover to Join Her on the Mountain
by Patricia Monaghan
Lost Harvests by Olivia Arieti
Harvest Time by Olivia Arieti
The Bounty of Nature by Olivia Arieti
God Bud by Danielle Blasko
A Rooster’s Tale by Hedgewizard Erb
Comfort of The Dove by Hedgewizard Erb
Lawn Care by Jackie L. Simmons
Looking Down From Uffington by Annabel Banks
Epiphany by Rose Blackthorn
Last August Light by Penn Kemp
Wild Craft by Penn Kemp
Stirring Not Stirring by Penn Kemp

Want to contribute to the Autumn Equinox issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Autumn Equinox issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

We are now also accepting material for review and events listings for inclusion in the webzine.

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The views and opinions expressed in this webzine are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent those of the Pagan Friends team. Any advice given within articles is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice, legal advice or otherwise.

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An Interview With Phil Hine (Part 2)
(Part one appeared here in our Summer Solstice Issue)

Q: You’ve talked about the difficulty of translating some terms into English (see (part one of the interview). Would you say that some ideas are so inherent to a cultural framework that only the language native to that culture can express them in their entirety? Do you think is it possible to completely master a language which is the product of a different cultural background and if not to what extent can Tantra really be understood by the western world?

Well to some extent I do feel that interpretation and understanding will always, like history, be partial – and I think its okay to acknowledge that. Having said that, I do know people who are very fluent in Sanskrit, Tamil, and some of the other languages that “tantric texts” are written in, as they’ve spent thirty-odd years reading, writing, and thinking in those languages – often living in India for years and practising themselves. I recently went to a presentation by Mark Dyczkowski, a highly respected scholar-practitioner who’s devoted most of his life to practising and understanding Kashmir Shaivism – and he was saying that the material he was giving us had taken him twenty-odd years to understand – so don’t expect that you will take it all in instantly. It takes time. My own understanding of particular tantric ideas has changed dramatically over the last twenty-odd years, and will continue to do so. So I’m very aware that, in many respects, my understanding of tantra is partial and limited. It’s too vast a field for anyone to claim absolute knowledge of.

Tantric studies, as an academic field, has changed drastically in my lifetime. Back in the 1980s, when I was first getting interested, there didn’t seem to be much information available apart from Arthur Avalon’s books, which were written in the early 20th century. Nowadays its very different, there’s a vast amount of material available, some of which is highly specialised, and I do “consume” a lot of it. Which can be a challenge in itself, because I then have to get up to speed on the theoretical disciplines that the scholars are drawing upon. There’s a wealth of translations of primary texts and commentaries available, as well as secondary literature which examines the various traditions which are labelled as “tantric” in terms of their historical and cultural settings.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about how you personally practice Tantra? How did you first experience the goddess Lalita and what kind of relationship do you have with her?

Practice has been on my mind a lot, lately, as in “what is a practice?” For many years, I’d say that I practiced unreflectively, in that I would do things such as meditations, rituals, attentive exercises etc. – because that what one has to do – in order to “make progress”, but I didn’t necessarily think too deeply about why this was necessary. Also – and I think this is related – I thought of “magical practice” as something very different to “everyday practices” (walking around, cleaning my teeth, working). You have to set aside time and a special place for “magical practice.” By the early 1990s, I began to get interested in the notion that how? “practice” gets conceptualised in two particular ways – firstly, by making magical practice seperate to the rest of our life-activity, we reinforce the idea that there is a difference between the magical world and the mundane world (spirit-matter, if you like). Secondly, magical practice becomes “work” – something you have to do, a discipline to be suffered, rather than something you want to do, or something that you do because you enjoy it. I think a lot of this emerges out of the eighteenth/nineteenth century (although you can trace it back to medieval monasticism) that work is the Raison d’etre of our lives – the kind of Protestant Work Ethic attitude. People say, “I’m working with this deity”, “I’m working with this energy”. I started to write about “playing with x” or “flirting with so-and-so” or “just messing around” – and its amazing how quickly you get judged by other people when you say “I’m just messing around with this stuff. I’m not taking it seriously.” Because by not being serious, more often than not (particularly on internet forums) you then get classed as a “newbie” because you’re not doing it properly, you’ve not made the commitment, gone the distance, “put the work in.” And sometimes, the requirement that you set aside a regular time and place for practice is really difficult if you’ve say, got kids, or or are on call 24/7. Another problem with the work ethic view of practice is that it’s very easy to get tied up in knots about thinking “I’m not doing enough practice” or “I’m not progressing fast enough” etc. Okay, sometimes you have to push past your own inertia. I’ve had some amazing unexpected moments come out of staggering about of bed at 5.30am still hungover from the previous evening’s revelry to do a daily meditation, but I don’t think that was because I felt I had to do that, but that I wanted to. Another thing, which I think is related to how we conceptualise practice is the way you get a distinction made between “basic” (or “beginners”) practices and “advanced” practice. I think this often leads to the conception that “basic” practices are boring, something you just do for a set period (or avoid completely) and then never go back to, and the “advanced” stuff which is interesting (and “powerful”) – and of course it’s nice to think of oneself as an “advanced practitioner” isn’t it? Rather, I would draw a distinction between “core” practices – things you do all the time, and “specialised” practices which are restricted to a particular domain of activity – but of course the two are not seperate really, they inform each other. So for example, at work I occasionally do animation, which is a specialised activity for me, but in order to do that animation, I obviously need to have a core set of practices (design skills, an understanding of how applications work, and the ability to visualise the outcome I want) which are in continual use?

In my tantra practice nowadays, I don’t make the distinction i used to between mundane-magical. In fact, that whole notion is kind of foreign to Indian life as a whole. So whilst i still do meditation, rituals, etc I don’t think of them as “seperate activities”. I meditate as I walk to work every morning. There’s a lovely stanza in the Saundaryalahari (“the flood of beauty”) which is a Srividya text devoted to Lalita which expresses the orientation I’m talking about:

“Let my idle chatter be the muttering of prayer,
my every manual movement the execution of ritual gesture,
my walking a ceremonial circumambulation,
my eating and other acts the rite of sacrifice,
my lying down prostration in worship,
my every pleasure enjoyed with dedication of myself,
let whatever activity is mine be some form of worship of you.”

Which brings me onto Lalita – “she who plays”. How do I relate to Lalita? Well, I don’t see Lalita as a particularised being – a person, if you like. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how books on paganism/magic tend to place limitations of deities. I’m thinking of the kind of approach you get in a lot of books, where you get a short “biographical” sketch of a god or goddess – what they “look like”, what their likes/dislikes are, a myth or two, and what their “function” is (i.e. you call on god x for healing, god y for courage, etc). It seems very reductive, to me. Like for magic to happen, everything has to get neatly filed away in little boxes.

For me, Lalita is everything, and everything is Lalita, so it’s about how I relate to everything – a much bigger proposition. And that, i think, comes down to making a commitment to live in a particular way, to recognise Lalita’s potential presence in every moment, every encounter. There’s this idea, in some tantric texts, that we are most close to the divine when we experience moments (no matter how fleeting) of astonishment, wonder, joy or delight, so my basic orientation to the world is to be open to being surprised, to being playful, because the world? is Lalita’s play. of course there are days when I forget this, and yet there are days when it seems I can barely contain the joy and wonder I feel for the diverse, playful, wonder of the world, and find my marvelling at the flight of birds, or retractable ballpoint pens. This comes out of the last decade or so, when my guru began to take me through some of the core practices associated with his approach to SriVidya, which is an approach to tantra oriented around Lalita. Doing that practice led to me questioning a lot of the stuff I’d done previously, and coming to think of tantra as being basically about attempting to live my life in a particular way, rather than simply doing a particular set of practices??

Q: When did you last experience a moment of wonder or delight?

Oh I have them all the time. The morning I received this question I was emptying the pots out of the sink in preparation for doing the washing up. It was about 5.30am and the sun was rising, but the sky was very overcast. A ray of sunlight must have broken through the clouds because it seemed to me that a ray of light passed through me and everything – pots, pans, knives forks, scrubbing brush, my hands, was lit up and shimmering. And for a moment, everything danced.

A couple of days ago, I was on the train home and there was some bird shit on the carriage window. I glanced at it and suddenly I was seeing the most amazing unicorn shape, with different shades of birdshit forming its mane, its flanks. I couldn’t stop looking at it after that.

For more musings by Phil Hine, visit his current project http://enfolding.org/

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An Interview With Andy Letcher

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been doing recently?

Well, I’m just back from a Summer Solstice pilgrimage, walking forty two miles along the Ridgeway to Avebury, where I met up with old friends and fellow bards – proper wandering minstrels! I’ve just finished writing a piece, ‘Dead Reckoning,’ for an academic book about our relationship to the dead (title and publisher tbc) and I’m halfway through writing a module, ‘Festivals in Religion and Culture’ for the Religion and Theology course at Oxford Brookes University, where I teach part- time. That’s on top of all my various musical projects, Telling the Bees, Wod, playing in sessions and so on. You could say that life is pretty varied. It’s certainly full of riches (metaphorical if not literal!)

Q: What was it that let to your interest in paganism?

Like so many people I discovered paganism in my teens. It put a name to the profound feelings I had towards nature (I was born grew up in rural Devon). Over the years I’ve followed various pagan paths, including Wicca and Druidry, but now I do my own thing, drawing eclectically from what I can glean about pre-Christian worldviews. And much of what I ‘do’ as a pagan isn’t obviously ‘pagan’ at all: hiking, learning bird song, watching wildlife, trying to understand the weather and so on. I try and foster what I call an ausculatory (listening) attitude towards the other-than-human world. It’s an ongoing process.

Q: In what way do your pagan practices relate to your activism?

I wouldn’t describe myself as an activist now, though many of my songs have a political or protest angle. However, I was very involved in the anti-roads movement during the 90s and my paganism was a big reason why I got involved. In fact I rather regarded protesting as a kind of applied paganism. At the time I saw the land as sacred and therefore felt it was my duty as a pagan to do what I could to protect it. My view is a bit more nuanced now (ten years of academic questioning have left me uncertain as to what ‘sacred’ actually means) – I see it as our responsibility to curb our impact so that the other-than-human people with whom we share the world can flourish alongside us.

Q: As a “modern troubadour”, do you feel you have a responsibility to fill a social niche or requirement? Did you choose this role, or did it ‘happen’ to you?

Well, I feel strongly that the role of the bard, troubadour, minstrel or whatever you want to call it – a role that was once recognized and given social sanction – is important and in need of reviving. In this I am obviously out of step with modern society, which is why like most artists and musicians I know, I have to find other sources of work to pay the rent (in my case, teaching part-time)! It was obviously my choice, but I feel that something in me was always reaching towards the role. I don’t want to go all Jungian on you here, but let’s just say that the figure of the troubadour always excited my imagination, and when I saw others performing in that guise, I wanted it to be me up there on stage.

The Bard strikes a deal with the audience: give me your attention and I will take you somewhere. Something extraordinary will happen and we will all be changed by it. It’s not something you can measure, or quantify, or put a monetary value to, or even name, but we’ll all know it’s happened. And to do that the Bard has to employ emotional honesty, a heightened sensitivity to others, skill achieved through years of hard work, all bound within the traditions of the art: scales, modes, metres and rhythms. It’s the antithesis of everything the modern, disposable, youth-obsessed music industry espouses. We need it back.

Q: What draws you to the bagpipes as an instrument? When did you first decide you wanted to play them?

I think I’ve always liked the sound of bagpipes but I first got excited about them when I heard the music of the late David Munrow (the man behind the British Early Music revival). When I first came to Oxford in 1991 I used to play whistle in the Irish sessions. One day a man called Simon Owen (now also sadly deceased) came in with a set of Spanish gaita. I had never heard anything like them and his minor scales electrified me. I was lucky enough to be given my first set of pipes, a knackered old set of gaita, by Giles Lewin and that got me started. Now I play English border pipes made by Jon Swayne of the band Blowzabella. They’re quieter, more flexible and can easily be played with other acoustic instruments. I can practise indoors too.

A lot of people find drone-based music stark, austere and repetitive but it speaks to me profoundly: I listen to a lot of drone music from around the world, especially India. The ancient function of the pipes (which haven’t substantially changed in design in seven hundred years) is to make people dance. I love the repetitive, trancey nature of bagpipe music, its power to get people on their feet. The pipes are the ancient precursor to the electric guitar or the Roland TB-303. They’re a design classic. It feels like a privilege to be playing them and to be part of the English piping revival. On the subject of which…

Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about your involvement in the Bagpipe Society and the revival of British bagpipes?

I’ve been a member of the BagSoc since 1998 and haven’t missed a Blowout (their annual piping festival) since. Their aim is to promote interest in the pipes you won’t have heard of (at least sixteen kinds of pipes are played in Britain, with many more across the whole of Europe, North Africa and the near East). These days I’m their publicity officer and have just been rebuilding the Society website, with new artwork by the phenomenal Rima Staines. The evidence from iconography, church carvings and other historical sources is that bagpipes were a common feature in England up until the seventeenth century, from which time they fell out of favour. There’s a lively piping revival in Southern England, very much influenced by what’s been happening in Brittany and Central France (piping in the North of England has never really gone away, but the music doesn’t quite speak to me in the same way). Various makers have arrived at a kind of standardized pipe that is more or less chromatic and has a range of an octave and a half. You can play minor and unusual scales in other words, and the pipes are becoming a popular folk instrument again.

Q: You’ve written and talked extensively about the history of the magic mushroom and psychadelic experiences in general. Your book Shroom recieved mixed reviews; why do you think that was? Why did you decide to write the book and would you consider re-writing it to take into account new evidence in the future?

Ronald Hutton (who examined my PhD thesis) was very much my inspiration for writing Shroom. I wanted to set the history of the magic mushroom on the evidence and to discover what, exactly, we know about its use in the past. My argument is that the claims made my the pagan/psychedelic community – that psilocybin mushrooms have been used in Britain for millennia – typically rest on very shaky evidence, or no evidence at all. The absence of evidence, of course, means that you can believe what you like – there’s just no evidence, for or against!

In fact I’ve had very good reviews of the book, especially by the academic community, but some people have missed the subtlety of what I was trying to say. But then I’m tampering with people’s mythology – always a dangerous pursuit – and many have a lot invested in the idea of a secret, oppressed, psychedelic tradition to which they are heirs. The question I always ask is, why does it matter so much to you that the story you hold dear is true? What have you invested in it? Why is the idea of changing your worldview so problematic?

I’ve also been accused of being anti-psychedelic which those who know me find laughable! That’s very far from the case. But I dislike ‘isms’ and the way that beliefs become ossified into systems, in this instance ‘entheogism’, and I’m all for shaking up received opinion. Using psychedelics in no way means you have to abandon reason. Indeed, I think the only way we can grapple the psychedelic experience is through critical enquiry – how else are we to make sense of something that is so alien and other?

I have no plans to update Shroom at present – to date no evidence has surfaced that would make me change my thesis – though of course, if it does I shall be the first to champion it!

Q: What does shamanism mean to you?

I know from my studies that the word shamanism is problematic: it’s a term that’s been stripped from its original Siberian context, romanticized by the West and universalized. But given that, the kind of shamanism that interests me is the kind that uses psychedelics. The glib answer is that the shaman is the guy who can take higher doses than anyone else and still function! The less facetious answer, again drawing on this profound animistic idea of other-than-human people, is that shamanism is all about forging relationships, especially with plants – listening again – for the benefit of the community, either through healing or en-visioning. As with all these things the name is unimportant. Anyone can call themselves a shaman: it’s what you do that counts.

To find out more about Andy Letcher, visit him at http://andyletcher.co.uk

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An Interview With Mel Fleming

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 53 year old man in Riverside, California. I’m also a survivor of decades of abuse from the Catholic and Christian churches. I grew up as a child, both physically and emotionally abused by the Catholic church, and then later in adult life by the evangelical church, due to my progressive social and political beliefs. I fell into paganism by accident, when I first moved to Riverside. I was walking along the markets, happened into the DragonMarsh bookstore and for some reason, happened upon two books by Scott Cunningham on Wicca. After reading and putting the principles from the book into practice, my path into a more eclectic form of paganism, became more embraced. I’m currently very eclectic, and my principle Goddess is Lilith and God is Bacchus. I have a group in California, named The Pheonyx Circle of Sacred Sexuality where we study, discuss, and celebrate the blending of the magickal, spiritual and physical planes to establish balance and harmony. The study of sexual magicks is becoming an emerging science within the pagan community having been long too neglected. I published a book on divination and sexuality; The Tarot and the Mysteries of Love and Sex, published by Ostara Publishing, owned by Cynthia Joyce Clay. I am one of sexual noted pagan authors, among Lasara Firefox, Donald Michael Kraig, Jason Newcombe, Karen Tate, Stella Damiana, Dr. Stuart Berlin, Inara Luna of the Red Lotus Temple, and Margo Anand, who are of the opinion that by living in a world of self denial, making it a virtue, that we’have lost sight of that which is both natural, normal, as well as a gift from the Goddesses and Gods. We see sexuality in ancient texts, practices, even with ceremony, such as the Great Rite. There is also a plethora of Deities, who have sexual connotations attached to them.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about why you decided to write “The Tarot & the Mysteries of Love & Sex”?

Sexual magick is a much neglected aspect of our magickal lives. The aforementioned authors, and myself feel, that the pagan communities still carry a very fundamentalist christian viewpoint, that their bodies are “sinful” to a degree and harbour societal and religious instil, and indoctrinated guilt about natural sexual desires. Many in our community either are ignorant of this fact, have never bothered to study this aspect, or believe that sexual magicks are for people who are “weird,” or have abnormal motives. Others have body issues: “too short, fat, not attractive enough” types of attitudes. Many come from abusive environments where self esteem is an issue. Others believe that the magickal practice should be limited to “spiritual values.” However is not our physical self part and parcel of our spiritual self/ And if not then why are there so many Goddesses and Gods with sexual attributes? Why are so many documented rituals filled with sexual connotations. For example, “The Chalice and the Blade” where the Blade, represents the male genitalia, and the Chalice the female? From the ancient times we see documented history of sexual rites, the sacred courtesans priestesses and priests. Regretfully, even with all this rich history, we modern pagans, wrap ourselves in the robes of “piety and self denial.” It is absolutely sad, and shameful. We are better people than that.

Q: You’ve written about the idea of having a Pagan sexual life; what do you feel *is* or *isn’t* ‘pagan’ in terms of sex? Is there always a definite link betweeen religion and sexuality and where there is, is it always a bad thing?

Well sexuality is certainly not a religious invention, although their institutions wanbt to either regulate or deny it altogether. however, allow me this opinion. We are born, both biologically, and chemically as sexual beings. If not, then we would not be born with sexual organs. The brain is our most sexually oriented organ, and the genitals complete the process. Spiritually in any group, Coven, Circle, whatever pagan tradition, I do stress some reasonable rules. All sexual rites among participants be consented to, without emotional or mental reservation, all participants must be of legal age of consent in their area, state, and country. And the rituals must have a specific spiritual purpose and not just be an excuse to simply have sexual activity. If your group follows those guidelines things should proceed smoothly. And there are things in my book, and the other people I’ve mentioned, who are wonderfully gifted, in their books writing as well. If I might “plug” a few places. The Temple of the Red Lotus, has a training program. Paganspace.net has groups on Sacred Sexuality. Karen Tate and LaSara Firefox-Allen. The resources go on, and people are welcome to contact me on these as well.

Q: What makes the Tarot of the Divine Union set so special? Do you think there is a link between sexuality and the tarot in general?

The cards, designed by Cynthia Joyce Clay, my publisher, and owner of Oestara Publisher, designed the cards, specifically to perform readings on love, sex, romance, intimacy and your sexual personality. And the text meanings are geared only in those directions. So, they are not suited for general type readings. Also, the Tarot Card artwork by Cynthia is both highly artistic and extremely erotic in design. I consider them a blending of works, based upon the great masters, and a bit of surrealism. People have commented favorably on the artwork. by the way we have a separate tarot deck with a booklet, as well, so people who desire, do not have to cut out the cards from the back of the book.

The Pagan imagery uses the Theban Code, and in the tarot and sexual relationship. The imagery of certain cards such as the Empress, High Prietess and the cups and wands are sexual imagery.

People will absolutely find them entertaining and a joy to have.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your experiences with these cards?

Being that it’s a new deck, I have done readings for people, based soley on the focus of the cards, as aforementioned. However, people who have purchased the deck have enjoyed the insightful meanings in the main book and report their sexual lives are improving, even if slowly. That makes it all the more worthwhile.

Q: To what extent do you think that tarot reading is about personal interpretations rather than other people’s divination meanings? Is it important to have a balance between the two?

Well you need to be careful about reading into what the cards mean instead of their actual meanings. Don’t do readings from a personal bias. Too many people do that. In fact do a confirmation reading with a single card. Now, that’s just a suggestion, not a rule. Be calm and perhaps do a bit of peaceful meditation, beforehand. come to any tool of divination in a balanced manner, otherwise you will direct negative energies into a reading, then receive a result that is highly incorrect

Q: Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Yes. a book on Astrology and Love matches. I also do life coaching in this area of sexual spirituality by email, and Astrology/Numerolopgy charts for love and sexual questions People may contact me at; acknchip@pacbell.net. I do not charge. I accept gratuities based upon their generosity.

If there are those in California, who wish to participate in my Sacred Sexuality group, they may join the Pheonyx Circle of Sacred Sexuality, at http://www.meetup.com/pheonyx-sacred-sex-and-pagan-rite. If you are on PaganSpace.net or WiccaOnlineTogether.com search for Mel J. Fleming II, PhD.

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An Interview With Damh The Bard

Q: Your music seems to be very much inspired by myth, folklore and legend; what led to you interest in these things?

Since I was a child listening to my Mum tell me stories I’ve always loved myths and legends. I’ve always felt like there was something else behind them, some hidden aspect of truth. They get my heart pumping. When I visit a site linked to a legend, such as Dozmary Pool in Cornwall with its Arthurian links, I will just sit and open my imagination (or some would say use my psychic abilities) to see through the modern into that world of myth. To tune into why this place has become so linked with myth. Often I find the energy just lurking under the surface, ready to be seen and heard.

Q: Is there a big difference for you between performing for an audience and playing music for yourself? Do you play differently when you are alone than when you are on stage?

The energy is still the same. When I’m playing to myself I’m often in a natural environment, such as a woodland, or on the moors. And although I’m playing music ‘alone’ I’m often very conscious of ‘Other’ ears listening too. See, that’s the drive behind my music and always has been – to give voice to how I feel about the land, the myths, the Faerie, the sacred sites and to give that voice I have to listen first. And just as I listen to the land, so you have to listen to an audience and judge what it is they want from my music on that particular night. Sometimes it’s to sit and listen, others times it’s to dance and have a party.

Q: Are there any legends or ideas you’ve come across which you wouldn’t want to use in your music and why?

Not so far. There are some that I’ve found more difficult to tune into and put into words, but I haven’t found one that I wouldn’t touch at all, not yet anyway.

Q: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing? How different as a person do you think you would be without your music?

Wow. I have no idea really. I’ve been playing music since I was eight and singing and driving my parents mad even before then!

Without my music I would be a very different person. During my teens and early twenties I was a drummer in a rock band. That intense drive of rhythm probably saved me from many of the traps of the teenage years. I had a real outlet for that frustration and aggression. But my introduction at 8 was through acoustic folk music, so my musical life has come full circle. I just would not be me without my love of music.

Q: Is music and rhythm a key part of your beliefs and practices? Is your interpretation of myth and folklore affected by the way your music takes shape as much as your work is by those myths?

When I discovered Druidry, and within that the tradition and lore of the Bard, it was at that moment my life began to make sense. So my spiritual beliefs influence my music, and my music influences my spiritual beliefs, they are like two great circles that overlap within my soul.

Q: Outside of your musical acheivements, what has been the greatest achievement of your life so far? What would you most like to achieve in the future?

My two sons are without doubt my greatest achievements. There is not a day that goes past that I don’t think of them and how proud I am of them both. In my music, my aim is to one day play the Royal Albert Hall. Can you imagine that? To have a Pagan musician play a concert there? If it was successful it would be one more thing that places Paganism firmly on the map in the world. It’s going to happen one day, I know it will.

Q: How did you come across druidry and in what ways has it affected you as a person?

I was just coming out of a Ceremonial Magic group and was looking for something more earthy. So I sent off for details of all of the groups in the classifieds of a magazine called Prediction. Fellowship of Isis, Guild of Pagans, Pagan Federation, and a small ad for the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. The cost of that stamp changed my life completely. It was like coming home.

Q: And finally, how would you sum yourself up in five words?

Ha Ha!! Ok, ‘I find music in Nature’ 🙂

Visit Damh at www.paganmusic.co.uk for more news and updates

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An Interview With The Pagan Friends Forum’s Own Tas
(Questions by other members of the forum)

This issue, the members of the Pagan Friends Forum were lucky enough to be able to interview Tas. Almost no restraints were involved at all! To chat with to Tas and other forum members, why not join us at The Pagan Friends Forum?

From Liz:

Q: Have you always been a solitary eclectic, or have you worked in a coven or followed a more specific path in the past maybe?

Put the kettle on folks – this could take some time!

I began my forays into the world of paganism by attending a meditation class run in a witchy shop in the city. I and a friend went, and when the lady who ran it decided to start a coven, we were first on her list of takers. It didn’t suit – long story, but as always, ego played a large part.

So for a long time I worked and studied alone, always seeking. Then I joined up for an online course, which – contrary to opinions that have made their way onto the WWW, was not a rip off, nor was it as dodgy as it was made out to be by the Magister’s detractors; sadly, some people have an axe to grind and don’t care how they do it.My teacher latterly was an amazing Lady who has now sadly passed over. On her death, I was offered the opportunity of working with her replacement, but I had misgivings, for reasons which are and will remain private. Suffice to say, a number of us left, and now sometimes work together, having moved on from what remains of the original group. I wish them well and acknowledge what I learned whilst a part of their teachings. I believe I made the correct decision.

Q: Do you think Scottish Paganism has ways about it that are different to Paganism in other parts of the world?

Of course! For one thing, we wear specially reinforced knickers when traversing the moorlands cos it gets damned chilly up here!

Q:What’s your favourite time of year and where would you spend it if you were free to choose?

It has to be the Autumn, Keat’s


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

I’d spend it on the Isle of Mull, in my dream cottage by the shore, harvesting and preserving against the coming of the Cailleach Bheur…

Q:What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while engaged in your witchery?

As I will mention again later in the interview – attempting not to give away my thoughts when watching someone who was so totally out of her depth it was laughable, and the fact others were being taken in by it – I had a real struggle that night!

Q: Do you have a home altar, and do you get much chance to do much path work at home?

I have an altar in my bedroom, on top of a cabinet, also one in the main room of the house with a goat’s skull, candles, and my Badge of the Wards on it, plus always flowers or greenery and anything else that speaks to me – same with the bedroom one. Neither of these are working places though – they are more for my own perusal and an expression of my beliefs.

Q: Or do you prefer to take yourself off somewhere more private and work in nature, perhaps?

I work outside, apart from the rare occasions I might want to use a still candle flame. Also, because of the way I have been taught, we no longer need to do an actual working in the physical. This may seem odd, but you can reach a stage in your development as Witch wherein you can work on, for want of a better word, the astral. One’s visualisations make the space and one works outside one’s physical self. We do of course meet up for various rites both as a working group, and as solitary workers when one’s secular life precludes meeting up. These latter solitary workings may be done as individuals, or if need be we time our own workings to coincide and work together although apart to do whatever needs to be done.

Q: Does the Moon make any difference to how you go about things?

It does and it doesn’t! The 3 days before a full are when we can access most power. The dark we tend to use for working with darker heavier energies, but we will do a working regardless of moon phase if it needs to be done.

Q:Are you into Astrology at all?

Other than a perfunctory glance at the horrorscopes in magazines in the Dr’s waiting room, I don’t pay much attention to astrology. I know it does work though, having read up about it and heard of how accurately it can predict things. Horoscopes and star signs just don’t appeal to me that much. However, the stars do have a lot to tell us about our past and our mythologies, the memes, and the very real and powerful forces that drive us. Caput Algol for one.

Q: Have you had any strange experiences like picking up on energies, hearing sounds, seeing orbs or feeling cold when visiting less familiar locations?

Where would you like me to start LOL! Umpteen, though I now know how to keep it all in check so it’s liveable with – for a while, especially when my own powers were first being awakened, I seriously began to doubt my sanity!
I do do something unusual from time to time and the way I choose to describe it is “a telling”. This comes more or less unbidden and it’s as if a switch gets thrown and I begin telling a person about themselves – past, current and future. This is a bit heavy and scary to some, but also unnervingly accurate. This can also happen via a held object.I have a tale or three to tell!

I also transmogrify.

Q: What are your dreams and aspirations for the future in realistic terms?

Realistically? To keep body and soul together and manage to keep earning until I can survive on whatever pension I get. On retiral, I intend taking my exams to become a Celebrant so I can work at that, also set up a website dealing solely with witchy things, without fear of losing my job! Maybe artwork? And writing. And sewing.

Q: And if money were no object, what then?

A plot of land. An architect built house on one level for easy maintenance, with a forest and a river and on the shore so we could sail. And spend the winters sailing in the Med! My stepdaughter and her kids would live with us (she’d have her horses and separate accommodation) so she could care for the chickens, goat and pig, plus all the moggies and the Irish Wolfhounds whenever we buggered off to the warm.

Q:If you could do things all over again, what would you change, if anything?

My initial reaction is to say that I’d never have met my exes, but then, I’d never have my lovely daughters. Or that I’d have a had a loving mother and a father who hadn’t topped himself. If I had had the funding, I’d love to have taken my PHD when it was offered. But I am what my life has made me, for better or worse.

Q: What’s in a normal day for Tas when she’s not at work?

Apart from gibbering at the wall you mean?! I do whatever takes my mood wherever possible. That may be a walk in the park, or reading, using FB, drawing. Usually though, it’s cleaning, laundry, taxi servicing!

Q: How do you like to spend rainy days?

Walking outside!

Q: And how do you like to spend hot days?

Lying outside getting brown and reading!

Q: And how do you like to spend chilly days?

Wrapped up warm and comfy with a full tummy and a dram to hand, the candles lit and some soothing music. Or else relaxed in a deep warm bath with a dram and a book, with a cosy bed awaiting in a candlelit bedroom, scented with incense, classical music on, and no bugger to disturb me!

Q: Have you ever used any witchy tactics on your own family members or friends at all?

I have used tactics on folk who are being a pain in the arse to me or mine, but never friends – why would I? One can add a little summat to one’s OH’s noms if one feels the need though!

Q: Have you got a favourite pizza topping?

Gluten free cardboard pizza is all I can now eat. Plain is best – toms and mozarella and torn basil and garlic with lots of olive oil and black pepper!

Q: Which herb would you say is the most useful in a witches cupboard?

Lavender because it’s a healing agent as well as being a dark herb, also mugwort, and ivy and vervain.

Q: Which tool would you most not want to loose from your collection?

My brain. And that’s not a flippant reply either! Tools are simply an outward expression of the will, and as such can be very useful, but ultimately, the mind is what is doing the work. I do still see my stang as my Guardian though!

Q:If you could be a super hero for a day, who would you choose?

See my reply to Caledonia which also answers this.

Q: If you had a time machine who would you go back and get to know?

Circa AD 50 so I could get to know what shaped Boudicca’s character and thinking, and learn about how she was taught about Andraste, plus all the other things that happened back then, before our land was raped. The Library at Alexandria, plus a translator would be fun to visit too.

From Vix!

Q: Do the Wights of the Wooded Glen prefer fruit cake or Madeira in your experience and what’s the nastiest thing they’ve done to you all those times you forgot to feed ’em?

These wee jobbies will take what’s given to them and be bloody well grateful! And they don’t do nasty any more. Not after the last time.

Q: I’d like to take you right back to the beginning…. what were your first experiences of “paganism” what drew you and have you changed your path over the years?

Vix, if you read what I wrote in response to Liz I think this covers it, but it’s also something that is in you and a part of you, making you different. As a child I travelled (OBE’s) but was punished for mentioning such things, also seeing things that weren’t there merited a hard slap. I wasn’t aware that I was unusual in this until much later when I’d learned it was “wrong”. What a pity parents/society curb such things.

Q: What’s your worst experience of Paganism, and do you have anything that’s “taboo” in terms of using magic?

The so-called coven that I joined locally, albeit briefly, all those years ago. I have never come across such manipulative, self serving, ego-ridden TWUNTS in my entire life, before or since, as some of the people in it! Mind you, I am a lot older and wiser now. It would take a page at least to explain; suffice it to say, it’s a good job I don’t buckle easily. And I also heard that the main culprit received his come-uppance from the Old Ones. In a delightfully apt manner, mwuhahaha!

I will NEVER act upon a person for their gain unless they have specifically asked me to, and even then it has to be considered carefully. It isn’t a game.

Note that I will work against a person should I feel the need demands it, though this is also never undertaken lightly. Even thinking about it sets the wheels in motion.

From Disillusioned:

Q: How have your beliefs helped you in darker times?

I had near terminal cancer a while back and my group worked with me to shrink the tumour. I couldn’t travel, but we worked on the same night. One rite involved me climbing onto a deserted hillfort on Islay in the middle f the night to call up the Heroes, a rite which is not undertaken lightly. One of my Sisters in the Craft did a similarly dangerous rite in her neck of the woods, one which left her literally feeling as if she was dying afterwards. The Consultant couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on – my blood counts actually came back improved rather than the opposite after chemo and radiotherapy!
I was out of hospital after major surgery on day 6 instead of the usual 12 to 14 days recovery period. My faith and my loyalty to all those who have taught me and those work with me means everything to me – it’s who I am.

From Winterwitch:

Q: Tas ..do you believe you were a witch/pagan in other lifetimes?

Yes I do.

Q: Do you have any memory of this?

It is something we access when we are fully initiated, and become Witch reborn, as are all Witches.

Q: Which element are you more connected with?

Air, though this could change. It always amazes me, calling up a winds in the middle of a still night! One Samhain when we all got together, we were all commenting afterwards about how calm and beautifully still the night was, with the moon shining down upon us, lighting our circle. Only to discover next day from one woman’s daughter that the area we had been in was being lashed by rainstorms and lightning and gale force winds during the period we were holding the rite!!!! Seriously – that isn’t made up – we seem to have been protected within a sort of bubble where the elements were held at bay!

Q: And I sooo much want to know more about your dolls. Maybe this one shouldn’t be here lol but I’m really interested.

Ah – the dolls….Basically you can make a doll which embodies a desire, breathe life into it, and have it perform what function it is designed for. It is not the same as a poppet.

Q: What is your favourite Sabbat?

Samhain, when the veils are thinned and the new year approaches.

Q: Describe yourself in 3 words.

Cantankerous old bat?

Q: Is spellwork an important part of your craft?

No, not any longer. When I first began learning, it was an important part, and the learning itself plays a large part in one’s development as a working Witch. But not now. As I mentioned earlier, one can work without tools, circles etc.

Q: If it is have you had any memorable successful spells?

Not spells as such, but certainly what I would term “workings”. There’s the stuff I explained about when I had the cancer. But even before I began on my chosen Path, the Witch within spoke and I became almost possessed at one point. It’s a weird one this – my ex was off shagging his bint on Orkney, and I was in pieces. Something seemed to take over and I mixed up oil, water, salt and flour, made a poppet and dressed her with green DM’s (which she wore and I envied!) fashioned from green paper in a magazine, plus black hair from around my dog’s backside for its pubes and hair. I wrote her name on paper and put it and the paper into an old margarine tub and shoved it to the back of a cupboard. Days passed with no contact from him and I was frantic. Again, I was compelled to get the tub, and I built up a roaring fire into which I hurled the poppet, saying, “Burn, bitch!” As I watched it being consumed, the phone rang. It was him in a call box, glibly telling me how the sun was shining – then there was an almighty bang and crackling and him yelling, “WTF!” and the phone being dropped. He eventually came back on and very shakily told me that suddenly the sky had darkened and from nowhere a bolt of lightning had stuck the ground just next to her! Then he hung up. To say I was disconcerted isn’t putting too fine an edge on it! Apparently the only thing that saved her life was the fact she was wearing those green DM’s…

This scared me as it showed me the power and how it can be used for ill – I was terrified in fact. I also believe I acted in a way I may have done in a previous life.

Q: What type of divination do you use the most?

Winterwitch, this ties to what I reply to Lucy – I think it comes later.

Q: What are your thoughts on the death penalty?

For anyone irrefutably convicted of certain types of crime ( sexual assault/cruelty towards children/animals and bombings, also serial killers) bring it on.

Q: Tas ..after posting my blog about the poor beautiful horse (in the forum itself) I would like to know…
How do you work through pain and anger?

As most people do, with effort. Anger in particular if a very real force which must be contained as it can be used almost inadvertently to harm by intent. And see too my previous reply to Winterwitch about “successful” workings.

Q:Do you feel anger has a part in say a ritual or spell to protect someone or something from harm?
Yes.

Or do you think any ritual/spell should be a calm working?

Not if one is directing anger; but it must be held and controlled before being projected otherwise things can get really pear shaped. This isn’t quite the same as calmness – it’s “different”. Otherwise, yes. One shouldn’t work unless one is contemplative and readied mentally – this requires calmness and control of mind/spirit.

Q: I think what I’m trying to ask is do you think anger/emotion makes a spell or ritual more powerful?

Yes – it does, if properly utilised.

From Lingib:

Q: Are you drawn to a particular Deity, and has this changed from when you first started in Paganism?

Now this one’s interesting, inasmuch as my answer might be a bit odd to get to grips with at first, so please bear with me.

First, I’d have to ask you – how do you view deity? Because the Path I follow doesn’t view things in quite the same clear cut manner as is usually taken as read (in particular by Wiccans) that dieties are a pantheon…

Here is my take on this, based on what I and other of my particular Path do:

We are all part of a much bigger picture. Whereas e.g. Wicca sees pantheons of all sorts, we see them as representative of processes which we have to go through in order to unlock things in our psyche to access the Divine.

For instance, in the Lilith rite other Paths might contact Lilith as a Goddess, but we approach the rite as a process which creates an altered state of consciousness. This unlocks a certain part of the brain and enables us to make the connection [with what she represents] – some would say on the astral level.

NB: This is NOT The same as using meditation techniques (of which there are so many from warm baths, to seated, and including visualisation, using breathing techniques etc.) to attain an ASC . During this rite we kick start if you like, certain endorphins. There is a fine balance which can only be reached working with people one trusts implicitly, especially as working this process literally catapults us to where we need to be to complete the working. This process (and the rituals involved) will be different dependant on which aspect of the Divine, as personified by a particular deity, we are working with.

Basically, for us, deity is a process rather than a particular being/God/dess.

Q:How do you cast a circle, and do you work indoors or outdoors, or both?

Anti-clockwise for all acts of magic because we work with the earth

Clockwise for all acts of worship, because the dead work clockwise.

From Lucy:

Q: What has been your most embarrassing moment, if any, during ritual?

None for me personally, although with that first group I joined, I literally squirmed inwardly because I just knew a certain person was, erm…struggling a bit!


Q: What successes have you had with scrying and what are your favoured methods?

I do try, honestly I do, but scrying using crystal spheres, water in a black dish etc. just doesn’t seem to do it for me. However, I have had epiphanies, usually followed by vividly telling dreams, after gazing into streams, lochs etc., and also looking into fires. I also have an old mirror in my back garden into which I have been known to gaze of an evening – invariably this results in transmogrification (of my reflection) which I assume to be partly my own past lives, and partly Others appearing.

Q: Do you have a favoured item of magical jewellery/decoration, that you rarely take off – why is it so special?

I do indeed – I met a lovely lady who had on a bronze serpent pendant which I admired greatly. When she returned to Norway she posted me a slightly smaller on, in silver, on a leather thong. This gift reminds me of my connection to the Serpent Mother. I also wear a solar cross, again silver, on a chain. These never come off.

From Caledonia:

Q: Have you raised your daughters to follow an alternate path? If not, why?

Believe it or not, I raised them as nominally Christian! We lived in a very small insular village, and the fact their father was English, and they attended the Gaelic school in the island’s “rival” village meant they were in danger of being left out of village life. So I volunteered my services as a Sunday school teacher! This meant they were integrated – I know, ingratiating myself LOL!

The beauty of it all is, neither believe in anything! Mind you, the younger one does have the gift, but she is currently in denial mode. What they choose is entirely up to them – all I ask is that they are contented, decently rounded, honest human beings.

Q: Does Himself follow your beliefs?

NO WAY! Himself is a died in the wool atheist. Probably his reaction to having received such a rigorous Catholic grammar school education from the infamous Marist Brothers!

Q: What ‘rumour’ about pagans most amuses you?

Ooooh – where does one start? Boiling up babbies in the cauldron? The problem with that, if they would just give it some thought, is that it takes a lot of effort breaking all their ickle limbs to make them fit in! And doesn’t leave much space over for the goat either.


Q: If you could have any superpower at all, what would it be?

To heal minds globally – that would stop wars I think…

Q: And what would your superhero name be?

Now I’m equating “superhero” with the popular concepts like Catwoman etc. – but I’d be an unpopular one – so summat darkly gothic but a piss take. Any suggestions? My mind’s just gone blank. Sadly watches as last brain cell trickles onto carpet in search of pastures new…

Q: What would your costume look like?

Oooh – FUN! I like dressing up! Either leather and bronze, Boudicca style adaptation, or – as is more likely, a sort of green foresty woman idea – all soft suedes, linen, and mossy traily leafy stuff….

Q: And the most vital of vital…… Coke or Pepsi?

I rarely drink either, but on the odd occasions that I do it would have to be Coke!

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Planetary Magic
by Peter J Carroll.
Fra. Stokastikos
Past grandmaster IOT Pact
Chancellor of Arcanorium College.

A brief essay on the origins of some contemporary esoteric ideas.

Over a recent lunch, Professor Ronald Hutton surmised to me that H.P. Lovecraft’s idea of the Necronomicon probably arises from the Arabic Gayat al Hakim manuscript which later appeared in Latin as the Picatrix Grimoire. The Gayat al Hakim/Picatrix itself shows the strong influence of Egyptian magic and Neo-Platonic and Hermetic magic and leads to conceptions of Planetary Theurgy, which later appear explicitly in the medieval and renaissance grimoires.

The whole idea of a dread grimoire having as its author ‘Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Arab’, fits in rather well with the Gayat or its derivatives having inspired H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos stories, or at least his idea of the Necronomicon.

Planetary magic or at least planetary religion seems to have begun in Hellenic classical cultures when the ancient Greeks and Romans identified some of their gods and goddesses with the planets of the solar system, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon, although the beginnings of this idea appear in the Babylonian culture.

As the classical religions fell to creeping monotheism, the idea of planetary powers or spirits survived in Gnosticism, reappearing as Archons, entities attributed to the various planets which the aspiring Gnostic had to master to achieve spiritual progress. Some Gnostics viewed the Archons as malignant or obstructive spirits standing in the way of the ascent of the adept back to godhood. In the medieval grimoires we also see the idea of some of the planetary intelligences and spirits having malignant characteristics, and such ideas may well have also fed into the Necronomicon mythos, after all the title itself implies a book of ‘dead names’, or at least those of long forgotten gods.

Eventually, ideas from Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism, Classical Paganism, Late Classical ‘Pagan Monotheism’, and Gnosticism, The Medieval and Renaissance Grimoires and a late form of Kabala, (together with a dash of spiritualism and colonial orientalism), all come together in the late 19th century to form a grand synthesis that we could call “The Standard Model of Magic’ forged by the adepts of the Golden Dawn (mainly MacGregor Mathers it seems).

From this synthesis comes most of the magical theory and technology on which various people built such traditions as Thelema, Wicca, Neo-Paganism, Neo-Druidry, Chaos Magic, and indeed most of the esoteric components of the New-Age movement, in the second ‘occult revival’ beginning in the last three decades of the 20th century.

In contra-distinction to the prevailing but declining monotheism and the increasingly dominant mechanistic-materialistic scientific world views of the late 19th and 20th centuries, this new esoterics began to view its ‘deities’ not as almighty cosmic creators but as archetypal ‘god-forms’ representing human scale abilities and aspirations, and ‘spirits’ as fundamentally arising from the activities of ourselves and living organisms and natural phenomena, rather than as the authors of such phenomena. Thus magic became again the art and science of theurgy; making ‘spirits’ and ‘godforms’, (or your own subconscious archetypes and parapsychological abilities), perform on demand.

Thus Invocation, Evocation, Divination, Enchantment, and planned Illumination came to replace the religious practices of worshipful prayer or prayerful supplication, and semi-mechanistic parapsychological models of apparently magical phenomena came to augment the developing ‘hard’ scientific paradigm.

The basic techniques came down to ritual enactment, the drawing of various mystical signs and symbols, incantation, visualization, and altered states of consciousness by various physiological means, to which Crowley of course added sex and drugs.

Chaos Magic then added an additional battery of consciousness altering techniques from many sources, and the theory that sacredness, sanctity, and meaning depend entirely on operator choice, rather than on historical or spiritual precedent, thus defining belief as a tool rather than as an end in itself.

Perhaps the most significant development of the second magical revival lay in the realization that you could use any symbolism you liked, ancient or modern or imaginary, and write your own rituals and incantations, and that these would have magical effects so long as you used the appropriate practical techniques, altered states of consciousness, and sleights of mind. This development lay implied in the great synthesis that the adepts of the Golden Dawn created, although they attempted to disguise the fact by attributing their creations to certain ‘secret chiefs’. It became fully explicit only in the second magical revival under the aegis of Chaos Magic where practical techniques assumed primary importance and the symbolic representations of antiquity became regarded as mere window dressings of choice.

Rather than adopt any particular ancient or antique pantheon Chaos Magic built a simple color coded psychocosm based on magical intent;

Blue for works of wealth and power. (~Jupiter)
Orange for works of intellect and quickness. (~Mercury)
Green for works of love and friendship. (~Venus)
Red for works of vitality and aggression. (~Mars)
Black for works of death. (~Saturn)
Silver or Purple for works of Sex. (~Moon)
Yellow for works of Ego and Extraversion (~Sun)
Octarine for works of Pure Magic Research & Quest. (~Uranus)

This scheme functions rather like the modified tree of life kabala that the GD originated except that the spheres do not lie in an hierarchy, but rather in a round table of equality with the possibility of combining archetypes for less straightforward entities, for example the newly revived goddess Eris might appear as having Red-Purple characteristics which we can use to structure an Invocation. Odin for another example; does not equate well with any single sphere derived from classical-kabalistic considerations.

At Arcanorium College, www.arcanoriumcollege.com, an international internet based adventure; we have an ongoing project to create what we have provisionally called The Portals of Chaos, a graphic grimoire. This will consist of a set of CG images on moveable cards which the magician can use for Invocation, Evocation, Enchantment and Illumination as well as just for Divination.

It will bear little resemblance to a conventional Tarot for it will have the above 8 major god forms and their associated planetary ‘spirits’ and intelligences’ as well as 28 god and goddess forms representing ‘mixed’ attributes corresponding to various personality types, assorted deities from many pagan pantheons, and various magical intents. Plus it will probably have a number of ‘random’ event cards for the anticipation of such in divination or the imposition of such in enchantment.

Also we have chosen the big five entities from the Necronomicon; Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth to represent various cosmic scale phenomena such as panspsychic panspermia, higher dimensionality, eldritch knowledge from morphic fields, and so on.

So, if we aim to create A Worke of Magical Arte, with useful practical applications, then perhaps we continue in a very ancient tradition. All Grimoires then appear as objectively ‘fake’ including the imaginary ones like the fabled Necronomicon, because the deities and monsters in them derive from cobbled together bits of our own psychology and mythology, which nevertheless can have a real psychological and parapsychological power for us. Perhaps then we should regard Grimoires in general as ‘workes of arte’, as convenient analogical impositions, rather than as objective maps of the incredible complexity of the cartography of our own psychology.

In the composition of The Portals we aim to give it all we have got, including superb computer assisted graphic design, in the hope that it will actually improve upon the Picatrix and the Necronomicon ideas, whilst acknowledging them as precursors in an historical tradition of artistic magical thinking……..

Peter J Carroll has written
‘Liber Null & Psychonaut’ and ‘Liber Kaos’, published by Red Wheel Weiser,
‘The Apophenion’ and ‘The Octavo’, published by Mandrake of Oxford,
and maintains a website and blog at www.specularium.org and an online magical college at www.arcanoriumcollege.com

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The Pollok Witches
by Tas Mania

Do you believe in witches? Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok certainly did, condemning five souls to death for the crime of witchcraft in 1676.

Sir George Maxwell was the Lord of Pollok in 1688, and is known traditionally as the bewitched baronet. On the 14th of October, he became suddenly and dangerously ill, with pains similar to pleurisy. As his ailment did not respond to conventional medicines, it was ascribed to witchcraft, with suspicion leading to certainty. A young, apparently deaf mute, vagrant woman, Janet Douglas, having heard of Maxwell’s “bewitchment”, undertook to discover the offenders, accusing several of the most respectable tenants on the Pollok estate. It appears that she signified,

“there is a woman whose son has broke his fruit yeard that did (censored) him in the side.” Subsequently, she asked that two servants accompany her (for protection) to the home of one Jennet Mathie, an old woman of evil fame, widow of John Stewart, under-miller in Schaw Mill. The two servants, Laurence Pollok and Andrew Martin, verified her findings, and the fact that the pins inserted were “in the right side very long, and that in the left shorter”, corresponded neatly with the severity of the laird’s pains. “She going in with the men, the woman on some occasion stepping to the door, the dumb lass instantly put her hand behind the chimney, and takes out a picture of wax wrapped in a linen cloth, gives it to the men; away they all come with it, and let the gentlewomen [of the Maxwell family] see it. They find two pins stuck in the right side of it, and a pin on the shoulder downward, which they take out, and keeps quiet; and that night the bird had good rest, and mended afterward, though slowly, for he was sore brought down in his body: and in two or three days they made him understand the matter.”

Jennet Mathie, was apprehended on the spot and sent to prison, but when questioned, denied all knowledge of the incriminating article, saying it was the work of the dumb girl. Nonetheless, it came to light that her son Hugh had once robbed Sir George’s orchard* – and when told that he was no longer in Pollokland, having gone to Darnlie, Sir George announced, “I hope my fingers may be long enough to reach him in Darnlie!”

Despite these accusations being held as sufficient proof of Jennet’s family intending to do the laird as much mischief as possible, the prosecution wanted no stronger proof. Jennet’s obstinate refusal to confess nothing resulted in her body being searched – and naturally, the Devil’s mark was discovered, whereupon Sir George’s health improved dramatically – for a time… When his pains returned the dumb girl said that Jennet’s eldest son, John Stewart, had formed a second clay image, four days since, which could be found in his house, in a bolster among the bed straw. Again accompanied by the servants, his home was duly searched and a freshly made image was discovered, as described, though it was “soft and broke in their hands”.

Interestingly, the servants kept her at a distance, but acted under her directions to find the image. John denied all knowledge of the thing, but he and his young sister Annabel were apprehended. The next day Annabel confessed. The events, as she relates them, now become more interesting. She tells that on the 4th of January while the clay picture was being formed, a black gentleman had come into her mother’s house. John Stewart, not then at home, had returned and been present at the making of the second image:

“After he had gone to bed, the Black Man came in, and called him quietly by his name, upon which he arose from the bed and put on his clothes. Margaret Jackson, Bessie Weir, and Marjory Craig did enter in at the window in the gable.”

The first thing that the Black Man required was that he should renounce his baptism and deliver up himself wholly unto him, putting one of his hands on the crown of his head, and the other to the sole of his foot . . . promising he should not want any pleasure, and that he should get his heart’s desire on all that should do him wrong. (All, having given their consent to the making of the clay image, which was meant as a revenge for Sir George Maxwell taking away his mother).

“they wrought the clay, and the Black Man did make the head and face, and the two arms. The devil set three pins in the same, one in each side, and one in the breast; and John did hold the candle all the time the picture was making. The picture was placed by Bessie Weir in his bed-straw.”

On this occasion, they had all had nicknames given them by the devil, who himself bore the name of “Ejool”. Jennet’s devil-name was “Lands-lady”, Bessie Weir‘s was “Sopha”, Marjory Craig’s “Rigeru”, Margaret Jackson’s “Locas”, and John Stewart’s “Jonas”.

She wavered slightly when confronted with John, but he too was searched, many marks were found on him and when found the spell of silence was broken: he confessed his pact with the Devil as openly as his sister, and naming the same accomplices. Of these, only Margaret Jackson, aged fourscore or so confessed, but with the great number of witch marks her body revealed, she had no hope for leniency.

On the 17th of January a portion of clay was found beneath Jennet Mathie’s bolster, in her Paisley prison. A woman’s portrait this time, it was decided that the witches were plotting against the entire Maxwell family! On the 27th Annabel made a fuller deposition, stating that the devil, as a black man, had come to her mother’s house last harvest, requiring her to give herself to him and promising that she should want for nothing good if she did. Being enticed by her mother and Bessie Weir, she did as was desired, placing one hand on the crown of her head, another on the soles of her feet, and giving over to him all that lay between – whereupon her mother promised her a new coat and the devil made her officer at their several meetings. In addition he gave her such a nip on the arm that she was sore for half an hour after, and given her new name, “Annippy”, or “an Ape” according to Law. It is noted that when the girl, after confession in bed in Pollock House, was asked what the devil’s name had been to her, “she, being about to tell, was stopped, the bed being made to shake, and her clothes under her blown up with a wind.”

All were said to have been present at the making of the clay image which was to doom Sir George to death. Formed of clay, then bound on a spit, it was turned it before the fire, “Sopha” crying “Sir George Maxwell! Sir George Maxwell!” and the curse was repeated by all.

She also described a meeting, attended by the Devil dressed in, “black cloathes and a blew band, and white hand cuffs, with hoggers en his feet, and that his feet were cloven.”

The black man, whose name was “Ejoall”, or “J. Jewell” stuck the image with pins, and delighted in giving himself various names, as when he caused himself to be called Peter Drysdale, by Catherine Sands and Laurie Moir, and Peter Saleway by others.

John’s confession quickly followed. He confessed to his own baptism; to the hoggers on the black man’s legs, who had no shoes, and “spoke in a voice hollow and ghousty”; to the making the clay image; and to his new name of Jonas.

On the 15th of February, 1677, John Stewart, Annabel Stewart, and Margaret Jackson all adhered to these depositions, though Jennet, Bessie and Marjory denied them. When the two young people had been committed to Paisley prison, Jennet, desired to see her son, and with the request being granted, “they make a third and new picture of clay, which the dumb lass again discovers.” It was supposed that this was intended for Sir George’s daughter-in-law, who had taken an active interest in detecting the diabolic conspiracy, and who fell ill about this time.

It seems though, that regardless of Jennet’s continued denial of her crimes, the Fates were against her. In spite of being placed in heavy stocks, her goaler declared her bolster was found beneath her – a feat impossible for a mere woman to have managed as the said bolster had been placed well outside of her reach. Had she summoned up superhuman reserves of strength to shift the weight of the stocks? Or had Auld Horny given his servant a helping hand?

Before the court she explained how she had got one foot out of the hole, and drawn the stocks to her, “a thing altogether impossible.” Exhorting their mother to confess, John and Annabel reminded her of all the meetings she had had with the devil in her own house, telling her accusers, “a summer’s day would not be sufficient to relate what passages had been between the devil and her”. “But still contemptuous” nothing could prevail with her “obdurate and hardened heart”. All, save young Annabel who in consideration of her young age (14) and penitence was retained in prison, were burnt.

On the 15th of February, the rest of the party were tried and condemned, Janet Mathie, Bessie Weir, and Marjory Craig continued to deny their guilt to the last. Mathie’s obduracy was considered the more horrible as her two children seriously exhorted her to confess: Annabel with tears, reminding her of her many meetings with the devil, but this was all in vain. The four women and the boy were burnt at the Gallowgreen of Paisley on 20th Feb. 1677. Mathie was first hanged, and then burned, along with the wax and clay effigies. When Weir, the last of the four, was turned off the gallows,

‘there appears a raven, and approaches the hangman within an ell of him, and flies away again.”
A modern ballad on the subject, by Mr. Peter M’Arthur, states,
“The story Is told by legends old,
And by withered dame and sire,
When they sit secure from the winter’s cold
All around the evening fire:
How the faggots blazed on the Gallowgreen,
Where they hung the witches high;
And their smoldering forms were grimly seen
Till darkend the lowering sky.”

* “broke his fruit yeard”

In conclusion:

There remains a great deal of speculation about the dumb lass who first accused the widow Mathie – how convenient it was that she was able to lead Maxwell’s servants to exactly the right spot and uncover not one – but two effigies. Having played her part in the uncovering and subsequent conviction of the widow Jennet and her kind, she disappears from the histories – maybe to vanish into safe obscurity, enjoying the payment she undoubtedly would have received for her help – or maybe she was the witch, and as such, responsible for the immolation of her rivals?

It was necessary to the satisfaction of the witch persecution’s ends to typify witchcraft as directly oppositional to the established faith, hence the need to identify the object of the witches’ veneration as the Devil.
It was desired by both church and state to typify witches as heretics – not as infidels, like Jews or Muslims. The concept of “maleficia” i.e. harm to people, beasts or property, was also important. Witches were blamed for causing everything from impotence to bad weather, thus optimising public support for the persecutions, whilst minimising any resentment over the seizing of friends, relatives and neighbours.

It is true that in our ancient history there is little mention of magic, and scarcely any vestiges of witchcraft. The first capital punishment for witchcraft was in 1479, and the last 1722. King James writes a book on the subject (Dæmonologia) stating therein,

“no age, sexe, or ranck should be exempted from punishment.”

However, he cautions judges,

“to beware to condemne, except those that are guiltie;”
and laments that witches,
“were never so rife as they are now”

It seems we were ever damned regardless – as the esteemed and learned Sir George M’Kenzie averred,

“witchcraft to be the greatest of crimes, and that the lawyers of Scotland cannot doubt there are witches since the law ordains them to be punished.”

Copyright Tas Mania

Tas is a 59 year old Witch who lives in Glasgow with her husband and two daughters – none of whom are remotely interested in pagan practices, but who have finally learned to ignore her mutterings. She doesn’t feed cake to wights.

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Organizational Astrology
by Fern Feto Spring

If you think astrology and business don’t mix, think again. Over the centuries astrology has been used by kings, leaders and other powerful figures to help guide the timing of major political and financial decisions. J.P. Morgan famously said, “Millionaires don’t use astrologers, billionaires do.” Morgan was known for routinely consulting his famous astrologer Evangeline Adams for advice on both his business and personal life. Adams also counted Charles Schwab, J. Paul Getty Sr. and Joseph Campbell among her clients, and she was well known in the early 1900’s for her high profile and successful astrological practice.

So how can astrology be useful to businesses in the modern era? Astrologers today consult with record labels, production companies and hedge funds. Providing advice from everything ranging to the timing of record releases, to the best new hire, modern astrologers are continuing an age old tradition of offering advice and counsel based on their knowledge of the cycles of nature, and the relationships of these cycles to our personal and professional lives.

Like the use of the Enneagram, astrology can also help to identify and isolate personality traits in individuals that lead to a greater understanding of how and why they work the way they do. The astrological chart shows both the potential of an individual, event or business, and also specific characteristics and patterns that will emerge over time.

In my own practice working with businesses and organizations, I have been called on to analyze the charts of new and potential hires, lead workshops at staff retreats, and analyze communication patterns amongst staff based on their astrological charts.

When explaining my services to new clients, it’s often necessary to do a certain amount of educating about how and when astrology can be helpful, and explain the difference between “sun sign” astrology, and the more in depth astrology that I use in my practice.

Most of us are familiar with “sun sign” astrology. Based on the sign your sun was in on the date you were born, certain characteristics and qualities associated with that sign are said to describe who you are. Newspaper horoscopes and books about sun signs abound, and depending on their quality, can be either surprisingly accurate, or wildly off base. But to say sun sign astrology encompasses the complete art of astrology is like saying that looking at the sun everyday will tell you everything you need to know about astronomy. It leaves out much that makes astrology relevant, and ignores a huge body of knowledge that can be practically applied not only in the world of business, but to life in general. Besides the sun, there are traditionally nine other planets that astrology considers when casting a chart: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Some astrologers also work with the asteroids, Chiron is the most commonly used, but other asteroids can yield useful information as well. The sign that was rising on the horizon when you (or an event or business) were born is called the “rising sign”, and this is also taken into account when casting a chart.

Each planet or asteroid represents a different sphere of life, a different quality, gift or challenge. The rising sign shows how we approach life, the way that we appear to other people, and the manner that other people most easily understand us on a first meeting.

In analyzing individual’s charts for work related issues, I usually look first at the placement of the planet Mercury. Mercury rules or governs the arena of communication. Writing, speaking, listening, learning, teaching. You name it, if it has to do with verbal, written, sung or signed communicating, you can bet Mercury is involved. So often, conflicts at work, as in most relationships, center on issues of communication. By looking at the sign that Mercury is in, it is possible to gain instant information about that person’s style of communication. Mercury in Aries for example would be blunt, confident and impatient. Mercury in Cancer is imaginative; feeling based, and has a remarkable memory. Combine the two in a work setting and you’re looking either at constant conflict, or the opportunity to harness some of the tension and energy that could lead to conflict, to create something new and untried.

An astrologer can explain and describe the qualities unique to each Mercury sign, and help to find ways that the different signs might connect, and interact in beneficial rather than challenging forms.

I’ve had many useful strategy sessions arise just from facilitating groups in a discussion of the sign and house of each person’s Mercury, and how their style of communication supported or hindered the work of the group as a whole.

Besides using the chart to troubleshoot the personality dynamics of the workplace, astrology also stands out as a tool for what I like to call “wise timing”. Just as our ancestors, and many modern farmers, used the cycles of the moon and the stars to decide on the best time to plant, weed and harvest, astrology can guide us in the right time to launch new projects and proposals.

By analyzing the current cycles of the planets, it’s possible to note what the daily, weekly and monthly planetary weather is, and plan accordingly. Traditionally speaking, the new moon is a good time to plant the seeds of a project, the full moon is the time to see both flaws and benefits, and the waning moon a time to both reap any harvest, and cut back what is no longer working.

When we apply the cycles of nature to our work in the world, we find that we are participating more harmoniously with the natural flow of life. Astrology offers one more tool to more intimately integrate the rhythm and pattern of the natural world more closely with our daily lives, creating a unique partnership between humans and nature, one that is more necessary now than ever before.

Though it may seem unconventional to some to marry the worlds of astrology and business, past experience shows that there is merit in this union, offering potentially unlimited opportunities for new growth and understanding. By allowing ourselves to draw on the wisdom of the past, we can create new models for a more successful future.

This article has previously appeared on Fern’s website, http://wisestars.net/

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Corn Dollies
by Liz

Corn dollies are a form of straw art work made as part of the harvest customs and practices in agricultural areas of the world. It’s widely believed by Pagans that the spirit of the corn lives amongst the crop and that the harvest makes it effectively lifeless and homeless. Making a hollow structure with the last sheaf of the harvest addresses that situation and it becomes a charm for the household over the dark part of the year; a symbol on the wall that crops will return again in Spring, so that there is hope during the Winter where less crops are available to us to eat.

The person who cuts the last ears of corn traditionally makes them into a corn dolly and it is traditionally brought home on the last wagon, symbolizing that the harvest is all safely home for another year. It was also a well known custom in days gone by for the young farmer to make something called a country favour just before harvesting began. to give to a young lady whom he had affections for. She would then know she was special to him and if she accepted the gift, they became a courting couple after the harvest came in. The harvested corn is soaked in water to make it flexible, and the pieces are joined together, wrapped around each other and plaited in specific patterns depending on the kind of dolly being made. Coloured ribbons are tied to it and the colour had specific meaning; red meaning new life, blue meaning happy future, green meaning good health, yellow meaning good fortune and so on.

The style of the dollies vary across the land and many have become associated with specific areas of the country, such as the Anglesey Rattle, the Cambridgeshire Umbrella, the Durham Chandelier, The Claidheach (Scotland) The Herefordshire Fan, The Kincardine Maiden (Scotland), The Leominster Maer (Herefordshire), The Norfolk Lantern, The Northamptonshire Horns, The Okehampton Mare, The Oxford Crown, The Suffolk Bell, The Suffolk Horseshoe and Whip, The Teme Valley Crown (Shropshire), The Welsh Border Fan, The Welsh Long Fan, and the Worcester Crown. But there are others like hearts (Mordiford), horns of plenty, glory braids, and many more. The corn spirit would then spend the Winter in this home until the “corn dolly” was ploughed into the first furrow of the new season to ensure the new crop does well.

And so the cycle starts all over again.

For more information on straw crafts, why not visit the website of The Guild of Strawcraftsmen?

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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Not-So-Occult Foundations of Nazism
In response to The Occult connection to the Third Reich by Simon Cash
by Apuleius Platonicus

The Latin verb occultare (occulto, -are, -avi, -atum) means to conceal or hide. Dion Fortune, in her classic work “What is Occultism?” (originally published as “Sane Occultism” in 1920) said that “occult science is really a branch of knowledge which is hidden from the many and reserved for the few …. Occult science, like classical music, reserves itself for the few whose training and natural gifts enable them to appreciate it.” Fortune makes it clear that she has no interest in what she calls “pseudo-occultism”, which she considers to be “worthless garbage” because “it cannot stand up to the most cursory examination.”

In popular usage, “the Occult” almost invariably refers not to genuine, intellectually sophisticated Esotericism (the “occult science” of Fortune), but to anything and everything that is considered mysterious, inexplicable and aberrational (“pseudo-occultism”). And it seems that there is something comforting in the idea that the Nazis came to power with the aid of mysterious, that is “Occult”, forces (in the popular sense), and/or that the racist and anti-semitic ideas at the core of Nazism arose from small, secretive pseudo-occult groups lurking on the fringes of society. This reassures us that Nazism was just a terrible aberration appearing suddenly out of nowhere, or, more precisely, that the origins of this aberration were themselves also aberrational. (Why, look, it’s aberrations all the way down!) The great appeal of this comforting explanation has led to a profusion of books, articles, websites, and History Channel schlockumentaries on the subjects of “Nazi Occultism”, “Nazi Pagans” and so forth.

The problem is that, like many comforting explanations, this is a lie. There was nothing hidden or secret or “Occult” (or Pagan) about the roots of Nazism. Most importantly, virulently racist and anti-semitic ideas were extremely popular in mainstream German society (and throughout Europe and also in the United States) long before the Nazi party ever existed, and these ideas were expressed openly and, indeed, proudly. No secret cults were needed for formulating the murderous racial theories that paved the way for the Final Solution, nor was there anything esoteric about how these ideas were spread, or how those who supported these ideas came to power.

The non-occult origins of Nazism are well illustrated by the case of a man who was an internationally celebrated intellectual in the early 20th century, but who is largely forgotten today: Houston Stewart Chamberlain. At one time Chamberlain’s writings were widely read and highly acclaimed throughout Europe and also in America. But he was also a vicious anti-semite who was praised and greatly admired by the Nazis and by Adolf Hitler in particular.

Chamberlain and the Kaiser

In the year 1900, Houston Stewart Chamberlain published “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”. The book was an instant best-seller, and its previously unknown author became an overnight sensation. Although an Englishman by birth (b. 1855 in Portsmouth), Chamberlain spent most of his life on the Continent. His earliest published works (on both biology and literature) were in French, but starting in 1888 he published mostly in German, the language in which he wrote “Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts” (which was only later translated into English).

An early fan of Chamberlain’s “Foundations” was the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Wilhelm was so impressed with the book that he invited the author to meet with him privately at his palace in Potsdam in 1901. That first meeting was the beginning of a lasting and close friendship between the two men. The Kaiser declared to Chamberlain: “God sent your book to the German people, just as he sent you personally to me.” The author was no less profuse in praising his Emperor: “May you save our German Volk, our Germanentum, for God has sent you as our helper!” Chamberlain urged the Kaiser to forge a renewed Germany that was “racially aware” and that would “rule the world.” The two exchanged dozens of letters, and material from Chamberlain’s letters often ended up in the Kaiser’s speeches. (See the next paragraph for the source of these quotes.)

For many years after WWII historians feigned ignorance concerning the depth and breadth of Kaiser Wilhelm’s anti-semitism. This started to change only in 1987 (over four decades after the fall of the Third Reich) with the publication of John C. G. Röhl’s book-length study “The Kaiser and his Court”, in which Röhl devotes the concluding chapter to the subject of “Kaiser Wilhelm II and German Anti-Semitism.” (The quotes in the previous paragraph are from page 205 of the 1994 Cambridge University Press paperback edition.) Unfortunately, however, today there continues to be far too little appreciation of just how significant a role Wilhelmenian anti-semitism played in preparing the way for the Final Solution.

According to Röhl (p. 191): “The notion of the Kaiser as an anti-semite is novel, historically highly controversial, politically inopportune and emotionally disturbing. In the 1960s, when Fritz Fischer succeeded in demonstrating [in his book “Germany’s Aims in World War I”] the high degree of continuity that existed between Germany’s aims in the First World War and those pursued by Hitler in the Second, some historians were at pains to break the continuity chain again by insisting that Hitler’s anti-semitism was unique, and his Third Reich consequently ‘qualitatively’ different from anything that had gone before.” This urge to “break the continuity chain” between the Third Reich and Germany’s (and Europe’s) anti-semitic past is also the transparent motive behind sensationalistic stories about the “Occult roots” of Nazism.

Wilhelmenian Racism and Antisemitism

As early as 1888, Wilhelm was referring to the doctors attending his father, who would soon be dead of throat cancer, as judenlümmel, a standard antisemitic slur meaning “Jewish louts”. Moreover, Wilhelm suspected these doctors of “racial hatred” (Rassenhaß) against Germans. [Röhl, p. 202] This means that a year before Adolf Hitler was born, the man who was about to become Kaiser (upon the imminent death of his father) was not only already giving voice to paranoid accusations of Jewish plots against the German people, but was articulating his anti-semitism in explicitly racial terms.

John C. G. Röhl writes (on page 202): “When Wilhelm acceded to the throne in 1888, anti-semites from Paris to Vienna crowed:

‘All those who are truly Christian-German are devoted with their entire soul to Kaiser Wilhelm II and cheer him along the paths that he has chosen to go.’

Also according to Röhl, the infamous Austrian anti-semite Georg Ritter von Schönerer was especially adulatory toward Wilhelm: “Germans had only one hope of salvation from the Jewish yoke, he [von Schönerer] declared, and that hope was Kaiser Wilhelm II.”

“By the mid-1890s, Kaiser Wilhelm II had adopted a thoroughgoing racism as a central element of his Weltanshauung and lost no chance of proclaiming the need for a pure and exclusive Germanic race,” writes Röhl . But Wilhelm was a little unsure about just where to focus his racism. In this, however, Wilhelm was displaying a common trait of racists, who often have long lists of “enemies” (the same was true of Chamberlain). The Kaiser’s enemies list included not just the Jews, but both the Slavs and the English as well. Wilhelm also had a lifelong obsession with the Asiatic “yellow peril,” and he even proudly claimed to have invented that term (a claim that is probably true). [pp. 202-203]

But by the late 1890s Wilhelm was focusing increasingly on the Jews: “Wilhelm’s visceral anti-semitism of the the 1880s resurfaced …. From around the turn of the century, under Chamberlain’s influence, and unnerved by the rising tide of
democracy and socialism at home and Germany’s increasingly exposed position internationally, Wilhelm II gave voice ever more openly to anti-semitic convictions.” [pp. 204-205] During this time, Röhl characterizes Wilhelm’s attitude as “wavering between pogrom anti-semitism and extermination anti-semitism.” That is, Röhl, probably the world’s leading expert on Kaiser Wilhelm II, claims that, “under Chamberlain’s influence,” the Second Reich was already moving in the direction of the Final Solution while Adolf Hilter was still ein Schuljunge.

But after the cataclysmic defeat of Germany, the (now former) Kaiser stopped his “wavering”. In December of 1919, Wilhelm wrote the following in a handwritten letter to General August von Mackensen (quotes are from Röhl pp. 210-211):

“The deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a people in history, the Germans have done onto themselves. Egged on and misled by the tribe of Juda whom they hated, who were guests among them! That was their thanks! Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil!”

Wilhelm went on to write that humanity must eradicate both “Jews and mosquitoes … in some way or another.” To which he added, “I believe the best way would be gas.”

“Key Ideas” of Nazism

Now lets look a little more closely at Chamberlain’s book, “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”. Richard Evans (Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge) in his 2004 study “The Coming of the Third Reich” investigates the various writers and thinkers who helped to shape the racist and anti-semitic ideological core of National Socialism. Evans singles out Chamberlain for particular attention:

“It was Chamberlain who had the greatest impact”. However, with his book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, published in 1900. In this vaporous and mystical work Chamberlain portrayed history in terms of a struggle for supremacy between the Germanic and Jewish races, the only two racial groups that retained their original purity in a world of miscegenation. Against the heroic and cultured Germans were pitted the ruthless and mechanistic Jews, whom Chamberlain thus elevated into a cosmic threat to human society rather than simply dismissing them as a marginal or inferior group. Linked to the racial struggle was a religious one, and Chamberlain devoted a good deal of effort to trying to prove that Christianity was essentially Germanic and that Jesus, despite all the evidence, had not been Jewish at all. Chamberlain’s work impressed many of his readers with its appeal to science in support of its arguments; his most important contribution in this respect was to fuse anti-semitism and racism with Social Darwinism . . . . Here were assembled already, therefore, some of the key ideas that were later to be taken up by the Nazis. [pp. 33-34]

Below are five of these “key ideas” of Nazism to be found in “Foundations”:

(1) Human history can only be understood in terms of race, and, in particular, in terms of the struggle of the Teutonic race.

“The leitmotiv which runs through the whole book is the assertion of the superiority of the Teuton family to all the other races of the world.” [Introduction by “Lord Redesdale”, aka David Mitford]

(2) The “races” of humanity are not equal.

“[T]he most learned gentlemen in Europe have solemnly protocolled the fact that all the races bear an equal share in the development of culture . . . . It provokes a smile! But crimes against history are really too serious to be punished merely by being laughed at; the sound common sense of all intelligent men must step in and put a stop to this.” [Chapter Six: Entrance of the Germanic People Into History]

(3) Aryans constitute the “Master Race”, that is, not only are Aryans superior, but they should rule over all other (inferior) races.

“Physically and mentally the Aryans are pre-eminent among all peoples; for that reason they are by right, as the Stagirite [Aristotle] expresses it, the lords of the world.” [Chapter Six: Entrance of the Germanic People Into History]

(4) Jews, as a race, constitute the great, internal enemy of the Aryans.

“The Indo-European, moved by ideal motives, opened the gates in friendship: the Jew rushed in like an enemy, stormed all positions and planted the flag of his, to us, alien nature — I will not say on the ruins, but on the breaches of our genuine individuality.” [Chapter Five: The Entrance of the Jews Into Western History]

(5) Jesus was Aryan, and Christianity is the natural religion of Aryan people.

“He won from the old human nature a new youth, and thus became the God of the young, vigorous Indo-Europeans, and under the sign of His cross there slowly arose upon the ruins of the old world a new culture — a culture at which we have still to toil long and laboriously until some day in the distant future it may deserve the appellation ‘Christ-like’ . . . . Whoever wishes to see the revelation of Christ must passionately tear this darkest of veils from his eyes. His advent is not the perfecting of the Jewish religion but its negation.” [Chapter Three: The Revelation of Christ]

Very Strange Bedfellows

Wilhelm II wasn’t the only high profile fan that Houston Stewart Chamberlain had. When “Foundations” was translated into English in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt wrote a review that began and ended on positive notes, but that also included a significant amount of criticism of Chamberlain, as the following passage shows:

“A witty English critic once remarked of Mitford that he had all the qualifications of an historian—violent partiality and extreme wrath. Mr. Chamberlain certainly possesses these qualifications in excess, and, combined with a queer vein of the erratic in his temperament, they almost completely offset the value of his extraordinary erudition . . . . Mr. Chamberlain’s thesis is that the nineteenth century, and therefore the twentieth and all future centuries, depend for everything in them worth mentioning and preserving upon the Teutonic branch of the Aryan race. He holds that there is no such thing as a general progress of mankind, that progress is only for those whom he calls the Teutons, and that when they mix with or are intruded upon by alien and, as he regards them, lower races, the result is fatal. Much that he says regarding the prevalent loose and sloppy talk about the general progress of humanity, the equality and identity of races, and the like, is not only perfectly true, but is emphatically worth considering by a generation accustomed, as its forefathers for the preceding generations were accustomed, to accept as true and useful thoroughly pernicious doctrines taught by well-meaning and feeble-minded sentimentalists; but Mr. Chamberlain himself is quite as fantastic an extremist as any of those whom he derides, and an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish hatred is even more unlovely than an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish benevolence. Mr. Chamberlain’s hatreds cover a wide gamut. They include Jews, Darwinists, the Roman Catholic Church, the people of southern Europe, Peruvians, Semites, and an odd variety of literary men and historians. “

But despite these reservations, Roosevelt began his review by calling “Foundations” “a noteworthy book in more ways than one” and ended his review with these words:

“Yet, after all is said, a man who can write such a really beautiful and solemn appreciation of true Christianity, of true acceptance of Christ’s teachings and personality, as Mr. Chamberlain has done, a man who can sketch as vividly as he has sketched the fundamental facts of the Roman empire in the first three centuries of our era, a man who can warn us as clearly as he has warned about some of the pressing dangers which threaten our social fabric because of indulgence in a morbid and false sentimentality, a man, in short, who has produced in this one book materials for half a dozen excellent books on utterly diverse subjects, represents an influence to be reckoned with and seriously to be taken into account.”

George Bernard Shaw (social reformer, playwright, and founder of the London School of Economics) also wrote a review of “Foundations”, which begins like this: “This very notable book should be read by all good Fabians.” The Fabian Society is a group (still in existence) that advocates moderate, non-revolutionary, Socialism. Among its illustrious members, in addition to Shaw, have been H.G. Wells, Annie Besant, Virginia Wolf, Oscar Wilde, and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Why did George Bernard Shaw believe that “all good Fabians” should read Chamberlain’s book? Because “it is a masterpiece of really scientific history. It does not make confusion: it clears it away.” Shaw ends his review by writing, “Meanwhile, as this book has produced a great effect in Germany, where 60,000 copies are in circulation, and is certain to stir up thought here, whoever has not read it will be rather out of it in political and sociological discussions for some time to come.” Shaw would also later write (in the preface to his play “Misalliance”) that “the greatest Protestant Manifesto ever written, as far as I know, is Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century: everybody capable of it should read it.”

As the reaction of the moderate Socialist George Bernard Shaw demonstrates, Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s anti-semitism was socially acceptable in the early 20th century, even in politically progressive circles. And the reaction of the Progressive Republican Theodore Roosevelt demonstrates that this acceptability still held even for those who recognized Chamberlain’s anti-semitism for what it was and explicitly rejected it in no uncertain terms. The importance of this acceptance must be underscored. Although to the average 21st century reader, “Foundations” sounds like an unhinged anti-semitic rant, its author genuinely hoped to reach out to and influence well-educated, serious minded, socially conscious individuals. The reactions of Shaw and Roosevelt demonstrate that he achieved some real success in doing so.

Conclusion: Hidden In Plain Sight

In the years following Germany’s defeat in WWI, Chamberlain’s health and spirits declined precipitously. But then in the fall of 1923, at the age of sixty-eight, the increasingly frail author received a young visitor who was at the time almost precisely half his age. Chamberlain instantly realized that he was now, finally, in the living presence of the great leader who would fulfill the grand vision of his “Foundations”. And the name of this Führer-to-be was Adolf Hitler. The day after their first meeting, Chamberlain wrote effusively to Hitler: “You have great things to do …. With one stroke you have transformed the state of my soul. That in the hour of her deepest need Germany gives birth to a Hitler proves her vitality.” That letter was written on October 7, 1923. Just one month later Adolf Hitler would stage his infamous Beer Hall Putsch, at which he declared, somewhat prematurely as it turned out, “The National Revolution has begun!”

The 1923 Putsch failed, but Hitler made use of his (brief) time in prison to start writing “Mein Kampf”, in which he specifically praises Houston Stewart Chamberlain by name. In 1925, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Chamberlain was proclaimed in the official Nazi press as nothing less than “the author of the gospel of the Nazi movement,” in an editorial written by Alfred Rosenberg, the principle “theoretician” of Nazi “racial science.” Rosenberg wrote his own sequel to Chamberlain’s work and called it “The Myth of the Twentieth Century”, which would go on to become the second best selling book during the Third Reich (right after “Mein Kampf”). In 1927, Chamberlain died. Neither Theodore Roosevelt nor George Bernard Shaw attended the funeral, but Adolf Hilter did. Six years later, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany.

What Chamberlain had imagined, and Wilhelm had aspired to, Adolf Hitler did. And Hitler and the Nazi Party did not rely on Occult ideas or Occult techniques to seize power, conquer Europe, and carry out the near total extermination of European Jewry. And while it is true that some Nazis may have dabbled in pseudo-occultism, it is also true that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, and no one (in their right mind) believe that this means there is a “connection” between Nazism and vegetarianism. It is also true that many Nazis supported equal rights for (“Aryan”) women, and some Nazis were active trade unionists, but that does not mean that we should look for the “roots” of Nazism in the feminist and/or labor movements.

The truly frightening thing about Nazism was the fact that it was a mass popular movement with the support of tens of millions of people throughout Europe, and that their ideology of racism was consistent with the mainstream culture of the day. The foundations of Nazism, when properly understood, are seen to be not at all hidden from view, but plainly visible for all to see, or at least for all who are willing to open their eyes.

You can read more of Apuleus’ writing at http://egregores.blogspot.com/

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A Pagan Christ?
by Richard Smoley

Strictly speaking, a pagan Christ is a contradiction in terms. The very concept of paganism was constructed by Christians who wanted to distinguish their faith from the old religion of Greece and Rome, which by the end of classical antiquity was observed only by peasants in remote rural areas — the pagani, or “country people,” or — to use words that are similar in tone — rustics, rubes, hayseeds. So there can be no pagan Christ. Paganism is all that Christianity is not.

Once we go past this elementary point, however, we see that the situation is not so simple. The resemblance between Christianity and its rivals could never be entirely overlooked. The Church Father Augustine (354–430) wrote, “That which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist from the planting of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion which already existed began to be called Christianity.”

Whatever Augustine meant by this — and it’s not entirely clear from the context — one thing it could mean is that the “true religion” is universal and has always existed; only comparatively late did it come to be codified in the teachings of Christ.

Before I go further into what this “true religion” might be, it’s necessary to stop and take a look at early Christianity in its context. Christianity, as is well known, grew up in the Roman Empire, a time of remarkable fecundity in religious belief, with a huge and dizzying marketplace of gods and cults and philosophies for the seeker to choose from, many of which bore more than a passing resemblance to one another. It’s impossible to believe that Christianity was not affected by this background. Although the Christians insisted that their religion was true and all the others were false, they still had to account for the fact that theirs was not so different from many of those they were denouncing.

Over the past century, one of the most influential views of the relationship between Christianity and paganism has been that of Sir J.G. Frazer (1854–1941), author of the classic work The Golden Bough, first published in 1890 and updated in many editions thereafter. A pioneer of comparative mythology, Frazer delved into the compendious collections of lore and legend that scholars were amassing in his time and noticed that Christianity had taken many of its elements from the religions it would eventually displace.

The most famous instance is Christmas. The birthday of Christ was not recorded and is not known; in the early centuries of the religion that bears his name it was not celebrated. But by the fourth century, Christ’s birthday came to be observed as a holiday. In the East (starting in Egypt), the date selected was January 6. But the Western church, which had never observed this date, set Christ’s birthday as December 25. Why? One Christian writer quoted (but not named) by Frazer explains: “It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth of January.”

Another, possibly more revealing, case involves the festival commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ. Today Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the March equinox. (This is to some extent a simplification of the complex process of fixing the date of Easter, but it will serve our purposes here.) Frazer noted that there was an ancient tradition by which the death of Christ was observed on March 25, regardless of the phase of the moon. Remarkably, this coincided with the date on which the death and resurrection of a pagan god, Attis, was celebrated. Still more significantly, the parts of the world where Christians observed Easter on this date — western Asia Minor and Rome — were precisely the areas where the cult of Attis was most popular.

Attis, according to the myth, was a handsome young shepherd who was born of a virgin. Beloved of the Great Goddess of life, he was said in some legends to have been killed by a boar, in others to have died after castrating himself. (The priests of the Attis cult were all self-made eunuchs, in imitation of him.) After his death, he was changed into a pine tree. It’s curious that the death and resurrection of Christ should have been celebrated in such close conjunction with that of one of the deities that the Christians so detested. What’s even more interesting is the underlying similarity of the myths: both are celebrations of a god, born of a virgin, who has died and risen again. More surprisingly still, Attis was not the only god in antiquity who was believed to have died and risen again. There was also Adonis, worshipped in Babylonia and Syria. Adonis, another beautiful young man, was said to die every year. His death caused passion to cease and beasts and men to forget to reproduce; all life would be extinguished if Ishtar, the goddess of life, did not rescue him annually from the halls of death. And of course there is Osiris, the slain and dismembered king of Egypt who was reassembled by his wife Isis (another goddess of life) to serve as the lord of the dead.

Even this cursory sketch suggests how many parallels we can find between Christianity and pagan religions. Moreover, it was obvious that the pagan faiths were much older than the Christian one. Christianity looked like a mere copycat of these religions, and that’s exactly what many of its pagan critics contended. The Christian fathers countered with a remarkably clumsy response: that Satan, foreseeing that Christ would come to earth, came down first and created religions that were merely diabolical imitations of the truth.

Those of us who find this argument implausible are left wondering exactly what the relationship between Christianity and these pagan cults was. Frazer saw the mystery religions of Attis and Adonis and Osiris as essentially fertility cults: Their rites were designed to mimic and foster the rebirth of life each spring. According to Frazer, Christ had come as a teacher of “ethical reforms”; the mythologies of the fertility cults were gradually assimilated to the faith of Christ’s followers “so as to accord in some measure with the prejudices, the passions, the superstitions of the vulgar.” Frazer writes:

To live and to cause to live, to eat food and to beget children, these were the primary wants of men in the past, and they will be the primary wants of men in the future so long as the world lasts….These two things, therefore, food and children, were what men chiefly sought to procure by the performance of magical rites for the regulation of the seasons.

This all may sound plausible — as it certainly did to Frazer’s rationalistic late-Victorian contemporaries — but there’s one small problem with it. The idea that the mysteries of Attis and Adonis and Osiris, and by extension of Christ, were mere attempts to reproduce and sustain the cycles of life was known to the ancients and explicitly refuted by them. Plutarch, writing in the late first century A.D., contends:

And we shall also get our hands on the dull crowd who take pleasure in associating the [mystic recitals] about these Gods either with changes of the atmosphere according to the seasons, or with the generation of the corn and sowing and ploughings, and in saying that Osiris is buried when the corn is hidden by the earth, and comes to life and shows himself again when it begins to sprout.

Cicero, the Roman statesman and philosopher (106–43 B.C.), also says there is something more to the mysteries:

These Mysteries have brought us from rustic savagery to a cultivated and refined civilization. The rites of the Mysteries are called “initiations” and in truth we have learned from them the first principles of life. We have gained the understanding not only to live happily but to die with better hope.

We can safely say this much: The ancient mysteries were more than rites intended merely to ensure that the crops grew and the animals bred. But what, then, were they? What is the dying “with better hope” that Cicero mentions? And why does the story of Christ, springing from the monotheistic world of Judaism, so much resemble those of the gods that went before?

At this point it would be helpful to address an extremely important issue: the reliability of the historical accounts of Jesus. Apart from a few extremely brief references in non-Christian writers such as Tacitus and Pliny the Younger (which talk about the Christians as a sect but say practically nothing about Christ himself), we have to rely on the canonical gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholars unanimously accept these as the oldest gospels, with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas, an early sayings collection with a strongly Gnostic tinge; the many other gospels that were written are almost certainly later — one reason they didn’t find their way into the New Testament.

Unfortunately, even these texts present Jesus at a remove. None of them, it is now generally acknowledged, was written by any of the Twelve Apostles or even by anyone who knew or saw Jesus personally. The earliest Gospel, Mark, is dated to around 70 A.D.; the latest, John, to around 100 (these dates are highly approximate). Nowhere in these Gospels is the claim that the writer himself has seen what he is describing. Indeed most scholars today agree that none of the texts in the entire New Testament was written by any of the Twelve Apostles.

The only surviving eyewitness account of Christ is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul did not know Jesus when he was alive, but he writes that after Jesus had appeared to Cephas (Peter), the twelve, and various other witnesses, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:5).# This experience, usually equated with Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–7), is an eyewitness account: Paul is claiming that he has had a vision of the risen Christ like that of the other apostles. Inasmuch as Paul died during Nero’s persecution in Rome in 64 A.D., this text is almost certainly earlier than any of the Gospels. But Paul does not say anything more about his experience, and he says almost nothing at all about Jesus before his death.

In their 1999 book The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy argue that the extreme scarcity of direct evidence about Jesus, together with the strong resemblance of his story to other pagan myths, means that Jesus did not exist as a historical figure. He was created by Gnostic sages as a kind of Jewish equivalent of the dead and reborn gods of the pagan Mediterranean world.

Freke’s and Gandy’s view, although interesting, seems to be an overstatement given the evidence. They say that Paul’s vision (as described by himself) may have been a later addition to 1 Corinthians, a claim that, to my knowledge, no reputable scholar would agree with; or perhaps that it was a mystical vision of some sort. But the context of 1 Corinthians 15 indicates that, as Christians have always claimed, Paul, like the others who claimed they had witnessed the resurrection of Christ, regarded it as an actual encounter with the risen Jesus. Whatever it was they saw or did not see, this much seems indisputable. Indeed, if we go to 1 Thessalonians, another letter of Paul’s, which was the first New Testament book to be written (it’s generally dated to around 50 A.D.), we see Paul saying, “The Jews…both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets” (1 Thess. 2:14–15). “We believe that Jesus died and rose again,” he writes in the same letter (1 Thess. 4:14). In both these instances, he is stressing the historical actuality of these events: they are not a myth. Furthermore, Paul is not introducing this idea as a novelty but as a premise that he expects his readers to share. About the historical Jesus, then, we can say this much: that as early as 50 A.D., no more than twenty years after his death and still well in the lifetime of his disciples, his followers preached that he had suffered and died and was resurrected. These facts are not later mythic accretions but among the first things the historical record says about Jesus.

What, then, does this all mean? Paul’s own ideas seem to have grown and changed over time. In 1 Thessalonians, his first surviving epistle, he sounds like a modern-day fundamentalist, obsessed with the Rapture. In fact the idea of the Rapture comes from 1 Thess. 4:17: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with [the dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” Later, Paul becomes more mystical. In 1 Corinthians he explicitly denies the physical resurrection of the dead: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body….Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:44, 50). This, incidentally, puts mainstream Christianity in the bizarre position of teaching a doctrine — the resurrection of the physical body — that is explicitly denied by its own scriptures. I do not know of any other such case in all of world religion.

Nonetheless, resurrection is at the core of Christianity from its earliest days, just as it was of the mystery religions of Attis and Adonis and Osiris that preceded it. And, like the pagan mysteries, which enabled its initiates to die “with better hope,” Christianity viewed the resurrection not an isolated case that happened to one (possibly divine) man, but something that is the common human inheritance, potentially available to everyone: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). This was not the concept of resurrection as commonly taught, but part of what the Church Father Origen (185–253 A.D.) called “the deeper and more mystical doctrines which are rightly concealed from the multitude.”

The nature of this resurrection lies at the heart of the old pagan mysteries and the Christian faith alike. To best understand it in a short space, it would be helpful to use the common metaphor of a seed, used both by Jesus in the Gospels and by Paul (as well as in some of the pagan mysteries). A seed is something extremely small and contains only in germ the full plant; this is the metaphor Paul uses to compare what he calls “the resurrection body” with the “natural body.” Christ in the Gospels likens the kingdom of heaven to a seed on several occasions as well: for example, “the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 13:31).

What, then, is this “seed”? What is the kingdom of heaven, for that matter? If you were to read the works of many theologians, you might conclude that they don’t know. But this is a central concept in esoteric Christianity. It is not difficult to grasp, but it is subtle. I’ve discussed it in detail in my book Inner Christianity, but in essence it comes to this: There is that in you which says “I.” It is consciousness in its pure form; it is never seen, but always that which sees. You may think you are your body or your emotions or your thoughts, but the fact that you can step back and look at all these things at a distance proves that these things are not you — not in the truest and fullest sense. In fact it is your very confusion of your “I” with your thoughts, emotions, and sensations that constitutes the fundamental problem of human existence. Liberation or enlightenment or, as the early Christians called it, gnosis is the freeing of the “I” from its identification with its own experience. Paul writes, “That which thou sowest is not quickened until it die” (1 Cor. 15:36). Esoterically, this means that the “I” must “die” — must detach itself from its former identifications — before it can be “resurrected” or “born again,” that is, realize its fullest potential in a life that is not limited by the body or the psyche. In the course of this liberation the “I” realizes its own immortality.

This, in the simplest and most concise language that I can muster, is the secret that I believe lies at the heart of esoteric Christianity and of the Christian mystery itself. To speak of the resurrection of the physical body, explicitly denied by Paul, is to misunderstand; it is the symbolic death and rebirth of the true “I” — called “I am” in the Gospel of John — that is really the point. But it is an arcane point, and not everyone can grasp it. Early Christianity eventually allowed ordinary believers to believe in a physical resurrection because it was easier to understand; only those who wanted to go deeper were told the truth. As Origen writes, “The resurrection of the body,…while preached in the churches, is understood more clearly by the intelligent.” Origen is saying that the doctrine “preached in the churches” is not the whole story. Regrettably, however, as Christianity developed in later centuries, those who had only an inaccurate, secondary understanding of this truth came to lead the church. Because they did not understand the deeper message, they suppressed it, with consequences that have been disastrous for the spiritual life of the West.

In any event, the revelation of the true nature of the “I” makes the correspondence between the Christian mystery and those of the pagans much easier to understand. If these things are true, they are universally true, and if they are universally true, they must have been known in many times and places and cannot be the property of a single religion. That, I would suggest, is why Augustine can say that the “true religion” always existed. It’s also why the mystery religions so resembled Christianity. They were expressing a universal truth to which Christianity was also pointing.

All the same, this does not entirely explain the innumerable parallels between the Christ of the Gospels and the figures of ancient myth. Often it does seem that characteristics of the ancient pagan gods were later associated with Christ — and at a fairly early stage. The virgin birth, for example, is not mentioned in Mark, the earliest canonical Gospel, or for that matter by Paul. But it does appear in Matthew and Luke, which are generally dated to between 80 and 100 A.D. This suggests that by this point certain myths and legends had attached themselves to the basic story of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Exactly how this happened is unclear. There is no contemporary documentation of this process, or, for that matter, of Christ himself apart from the Gospels to serve as a check. The best guess seems to be something like this: The earliest Christians believed they had some experience of the risen Christ, and this was the central part of their message from the very beginning. By the end of the first century, as the Gospels were being written, the historical kernel of the story of Christ was expanded and recast, partly to imitate familiar aspects of pagan myths but also to symbolically express certain truths.

That’s why Origen could write:

Very many mistakes have been made because the right method of examining the holy texts has not been discovered by the greater number of readers…because it is their habit to follow the bare letter….

Scripture interweaves the imaginary with the historical, sometimes introducing what is utterly impossible, sometimes what is possible but never occurred….[The Word] has done the same with the Gospels and the writings of the Apostles; for not even they are purely historical, incidents which never occurred being interwoven in the “corporeal” sense…. These passages, by means of seeming history, though the incidents never occurred, figuratively reveal certain mysteries.

This process began with the Gospels but did not end with them. It continued for several centuries later, as we’ve seen with the Christian appropriation of Christmas and Easter in the fourth century. Later still, in the fifth century, when the cult of the pagan goddesses was suppressed, there was a need for a feminine face of divinity, and the mother of Christ was elevated to this role; many of the attributes of Ishtar and particularly Isis were then attached to her. Christianity’s success was at least partly due to its remarkable genius and flexibility in adapting pagan myths to its own ends. Ultimately, however, the true greatness of the faith lies in its profound and haunting expression of what may be the central mystery of human existence.

Bibliography

Brown, Raymond E. Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Frazer, J.G. The Golden Bough. New York: Macmillan, 1922.

Freke, Timothy, and Peter Gandy. The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? New York: Three Rivers, 1999.

The Greek New Testament. Edited by Kurt Aland et al. Third edition. N.p.: United Bible Societies, 1966.

Mead, G.R.S. Thrice-Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1972.
Originally published 1906.

Origen. Contra Celsum. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953.

———. On First Principles. Edited and translated by G.W. Butterworth. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

Richard Smoley has over thirty years’ experience in studying the world’s esoteric teachings. His latest book is The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe. His other works include Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (written with Jay Kinney); Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism; The Essential Nostradamus; and Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity. He is editor of Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America and of Quest Books. His Web site is www.richardsmoley.com. This article originally appeared in New Dawn magazine.

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Sator Square
by Simon Cash

Those of you that know me may have noticed that on a some days I wear this talisman

Its a Sator square and translated from the Hebrew letter it reads as:

SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS

As you can see its a 5X5 square with a Latin Palindrone inscribed on it. And there is a long tradition of using squares like this for protection. Why protection? Well there are several theories, one of them being that the logical perfection of a square of letters like this will confuse, another that the Devil who will get lost inside them as in a maze. Another older but similar theory is that the symmetry of the pattern of the letters is a example of how the Order of Logic can “triumph” over the Chaos.

For those interested, the translation of the Sator Square is as follows:

Sator-Sower, planter; founder, progenitor (usually divine); originator
Arepo-(arrepo) (I) creep/move stealthily towards, also trust, or likely an invented proper name; its similarity with arrepo, from ad repo, ‘I creep towards’, may be coincidental
Tenet-hold, keep; comprehend; possess; master; preserve
Opera-(a) work, care; aid, service, (an) effort/trouble
Rotas-(rota) wheel, rotate; (roto) (I) whirl around, revolve rotate

Which is usually read as “The farmer Arepo has works wheels.” or as a instructional mantra “The farmer must work the land.” But, like many things in Magic, this is open to interpretation and understanding on many levels. It could just as easily mean “Progenitor moves towards coprehension efffort rotating.” or “I slowly understand with repeated efforts.”, a mantra for teaching and the aquisition of knowledge and understanding which the Greeks prized so highly.

The Greek and Roman cultures prized symmetry and geometric patterns. Their Civic buildings were constructed on strict geometrical lines, not just to satify the rules of constriction and architecture but also to show how Logic and Geometry could stamp order out of the chaos of nature and to remind the Genral populus that Order will prevail.

There are Magic number squares, A 3X3 grid where all the numbers in the horizontal and vertial axis add up to 15 like so:

276
951
438

This square has apperaed all through history and different cultures, such as in the legend of Lo Shu from China 670 BC where a turtle emerged from a flooded river with the pattern arranged in dots on its back, and from this the people were able to control or predict the flooding of the river. There are many variations on the numeric square, not just a simple addition, but squares where the numbers match, through multiplication or squares where a base number is added.

The Kubera-Kolam is a floor painting used in India which is in the form of a magic square of order three. It is essentially the same as the Lo Shu Square, but with 19 added to each number, giving a magic constant of 72, this being a mystical number of some significance.

23
28
21
22
24
26
27
20
25

Larger squares contrain more information, sometimes at the cost of the mathematical simplicity of a smaller square.

Such as the Enochain Tablets:

B O A Z A R O P H A R A
U N N A X O P S O N D N
A I G R A N O O M A G G
O R P M N I N G B E A L
R S O N I Z I R L E M V
I Z I N R C Z I A M H L
M O R D I A L H C T G A
O C A N C H I A S O M T
A R B I Z M I I L P I Z
O P A N A L A M S M A P
D O L O P I N I A N B A
R X P A O C S I Z I X P
A X T I R V A S T R I M

where the names and more important the hierarchy of the Enocian Angels were written into the squre. I’m not going to give examples of how to ascertain and use the Enochian Magic here, instead I’ll warn that using the Tablets can be very dangerous. I would advise as much reseach as possible into them before attempting any type of Magic using the squares. The above square is merely intended to be a visual example and nothing more.

A larger numeric square is the 7X7 grid of the Planet Venus where the horizontals and verticals add up to 175 giving it a symmetry.

22 47 16 41 10 35 4
5 23 48 17 42 1129
30 6 24 49 18 36 12
13 31 7 25 43 19 37
38 14 32 1 26 44 20
21 39 8 33 2 27 45
46 15 40 9 34 3 28

Where a sigil can be constructed for Angels, Spirits or Demons. For example, if you draw a line starring at 5 diagonaly down to 3 then vertically up to 10 and then down to 3 again you have the shape (sigil) of the Spirit “Hagiel” which looks a little like \ll and also the numerical values of 5+3+1+10+30.

The Spirit Hagiel has the follwowing qualities:

“Hagiel is regent of Venus and of Friday. He is a chief of two choirs – Virtues and Principalities – and is listed by some authorities as one of the Great Archangels. His name translates as “Great of God” and he is believed to have been one of the few angels given the honor of assisting at Creation. Tradition names him as the angel who bore the prohpet Enoch to Heaven.

It is said that merely pronouncing Hagiel’s name can provide protection from malign influences. As ruler of the zodiacal sign of Libra, Hagiel helps mediate between opposites and intergrate diverse elements into harmonious balance. As the Angel of Venus, Hagiel creates beauty, love, affection, and harmony. He can intercede in all kinds of relationships – family, friends, lovers – to end quarrels, heal rifts, forge friendships, and bring lovers together.

Numerology and magic have such a history that it could be a complete other article in itself. Suffice to say it requres a leap of faith and then a commitment to studying using what the Ceremonial Magicians term “Gemetrica”, where letters are assigned numerical values and the sum of these values can be “reverse enginered” onto other words. This is based on the Hebrew Kabbalistic theory that each letter in itself is a powerful magical symbol.

This system falls down a little as it was designed to work with the Hebrew not English alapabet and is subject to the errors made in translating; whilst the letters can be translated over, the context cannot. And while Hebrew is written and, more importantly, undersood in the right to left manner, English and the Europian languages are written and understood Left to Right.

This brings me back to the power of palindromes.

Whilst not Magic Squares, palindromes worth touching on. In one of the more recent cultural examples of Numerology, the model Agyness Deyn, born Laura Hollins, used Numerolgy to change her name to Agyness. Seeing as she’s a well known and a well paid model/actress (playing Aphrodyte in the film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) I’ll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about the effectivenss of numerolgy. Bear mind, though, that Agyness/Laura was born with that genetic handout that got her spotted as a model in the first place!

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A Maypole in Prison
by Starhawk

“When Pagans get their rights, everyone gets their rights,” says Patrick McCollum, who for the last fifteen years has volunteered to serve as a Pagan chaplain in the California prisons. McCollum, a talented jewelry designer and craftsman by nature, has in the last decade spent the bulk of his time—and money—helping prisoners and making interfaith alliances worldwide.

This last weekend was the second time I’ve gone with him to visit women’s prisons in central California. Valley State Prison for Women and Central California Women’s Facility are across the street from one another out in the fields near Chowchilla. Bland, concrete structures, they look a lot like my junior high school had its chain link fences been topped with razor wire and surveyed by guard towers.

Being in prison is like being in a hellish version of junior high school—where your every movement is monitored and controlled, subject to the prison version of a hall pass, called ‘duckets’—a word which I find extremely irritating for some reason, maybe because I suspect it’s really supposed to be ‘dockets’? I don’t know—of all the humiliations and assaults of prison it’s probably the least significant, but still it bugs me.

Although I’ve been arrested and jailed numerous times for political actions, I’ve never served time in prison. “Short time is hard time,” one of the lifer women told me. When you’re in for life, or for a long time, as many of these women are, something happens to you. Your ties to the outside world fade, and the prison becomes your world. You let go of the hopes and dreams you once had, and find new, smaller things to hope for within the narrow world to which you are confined.

All the more reason why these celebrations and moments of spiritual commitment take on a greater importance, here, than they do for us outside. When we have infinite opportunities to revel in flowers or dance on the grass or connect with those who share our spirituality, we get blasé. “Maybe I’ll go to the ritual—maybe I’ll stay home and watch kitty videos on YouTube.”

In prison, if you’re Pagan, you might get a chance to connect once or twice a year. If you are Christian, of course, there are weekly services, Bible study groups, special programs, Christian Alcoholics Anonymous meetings—but if you’re Pagan, your religious rights to meet, to study, to learn about your tradition, to celebrate your holidays and practice your tradition are not generally respected. Patrick and others have fought major battles to gain the limited access we have, and although he is recognized as a chaplain by the State of California, he still has trouble bringing in ritual supplies, books, or volunteers.

I went with Patrick and Johanna and Tiki from the Pagan Alliance. http://thepaganalliance.org/. To get down to Chowchilla by 9 am, we need to leave the Bay Area by 6 am, which means waking up at something like 4:30 am, which is something I try never to do. I don’t take 6 am planes or go power jogging before dawn, and I’m not one of those writers who like to work in the wee hours of the morning. Back in the ‘80s, when we were doing some of those political actions mentioned above, we’d wake up at 4 am to get into place to blockade early workers at nuclear plants. Since then, I’ve grown to favor actions that start at noon. But waking up that early is inextricably linked, in my mind, with going to jail, still, so it seems appropriate.

At VSPW, they have ‘lost’ our paperwork, which Patrick has dutifully submitted and had approved. They’ve also moved us out of the gym and field so they can set up for a Christian group’s dedication of a new, interfaith outdoor chapel which is still days away. However, the warden showed up and intervened, not only putting us back in the gym but actually helping to carry in the Maypole! (Which Patrick has constructed from plastic pipes, so it’s light.) However, while 160 women have asked to come to the ceremony, only about forty actually have gotten their duckets and been allowed to come. There are a surprising number of Pagans in prison—Patrick estimates something like 20,000 in the U.S. Most of them become Pagan while they’re incarcerated. While the numbers of Christians are higher, the Pagans have some of the highest numbers of active, participating members of any religious group—and are among the least served, with no paid chaplains and endless barriers for volunteers.

For me, it’s especially heartbreaking to see so many women locked up for life, or for very long sentences. Many, many of them were arrested as teenagers and tried as adults when they were sixteen or seventeen years old—a practice which is, in my mind, itself criminal and unjust. Teenagers are not adults and do not yet have adult understanding—not just of their actions and consequences but also of what their rights are, how the legal system works and how to negotiate it. The most common reasons they’re there are drugs, getting caught up in their boyfriends’ drug deals and attacking or killing a pimp or a rapist. They end up with heavy sentences, sometimes, out of loyalty—they won’t rat out the boyfriend while the men have less compunction about throwing the women under the bus. In prison, boyfriends and husbands generally stop visiting after around six months. Women connected to male prisoners visit them for years.

The women themselves created our ritual. They asked me to invoke the Goddess, and I called in the She Who Blesses All Forms of Love. One reason prisoners embrace Paganism is that we accept people as they are. We think sexuality is a good thing—including gay sexuality, and we tell people that they are children of the Goddess, who loves them even if they might have messed up badly at some point in life. Even in prison, you can continue to grow and develop spiritually, to serve the Goddess and to serve the community. And a number of the women have stepped up to learn how to create and priestess rituals.

We set up the Maypole in the center of the running track. After some time spent untangling the ribbons, which the wind had whipped into a tangle, we danced. I had to sit down for a while—between the blazing heat, the early morning, the lunch of Complete Carbohydrates—veggies and dip, French fries, a biscuit and cake—I was having a bad blood-sugar moment. It was beautiful to watch the dance, however, and see how much the women enjoyed it—the hilarity of moving in and out, under and over, mostly getting it slightly wrong but nonetheless the ribbons weave. Then it was time to go.

Between the heat and the stress, we were nearly comatose by the time we got to our hotel. We went out for Mexican food with Sister Mary Ann, who is the Catholic Chaplain at CCWF, where we were going the next day. Sister Mary Ann is a true Christian—dedicated to the women and the work, selfless, and very supportive of Patrick and all our efforts. She reminded me of the many wonderful nuns, priests and ministers I’ve met through the years, especially when I was teaching at Matthew Fox’s institute back in the ’80s and ‘90s. We may hold different beliefs, but we share common values.

But our visit to CCWF did not go well. Again, they had ‘lost’ our paperwork—this time, five separate copies of our event package which Sister Mary Ann had personally delivered to five separate officials. The warden was not on site on a Saturday—nor were other personnel who could have okayed the event. The Watch Commander, who could have authorized it, said “No way.” We were allowed in as visitors—which meant a much more exhaustive process of listing every single thing we were wearing or carrying. Tiki’s underwire bra would not go through the metal detector, and she had to go out, change into a bathing suit, and put up with snide comments about her breasts. But, we got in, though Patrick was quietly fuming while being ever so polite to everyone.

We met in the Chapel, where about twenty of the sixty or so women who had asked to come were assembled. The group at CCWF had been much, much larger—but the prison had systematically transferred out anyone whom they identified as a Pagan leader, so it’s now slowly recovering. We weren’t allowed to bring in our Maypole, our flowers or any of the ritual food we’d brought, but we had ourselves.

We set up a simple altar with materials on hand, and I led a grounding and taught some basic energetic exercises. We talked with the women and had time to do some counseling one on one, while four volunteers went to get our lunch from the food service.

Then suddenly we got word that the Watch Commander had stopped our food volunteers and sent back the carts, while throwing three of them into Administrative Detention—‘the hole’—for doing what they’d been asked to do. Sister Mary Ann was now in trouble for supporting us, and we needed to go before the rest of the women also got into trouble. While Christians get rewarded for attending their services, and their faith is a mark in their favor at parole hearings, Pagans run huge risks.

They can get written up, they are often threatened or persecuted, and their faith can be used against them in parole hearings and earn them years more jail time. Nevertheless, they still come.

So we left, going back out through the succession of control points and sally ports. At the visitor’s gate, we had to confirm that every single earring and hair ornament we’d brought in was accounted for. Unfortunately, one of us had lost track of her Chapstick. That resulted in frantic calls back to the chapel—and Patrick eventually went back in to find it while we waited. He came back, at last, triumphantly bearing the ‘contraband’, and we got out. Luckily, one of the chapel clerks had found it—just as the Watch Commander was about to order the guards to put us all into Administrative Detention until they ‘investigated’ the incident.

The world always looks brighter when you get out of jail—even after a short visit. But any encounter with the system always makes me angry. I’m angry at the discrimination Pagan prisoners face, and I’m even more angry at the system as a whole, which targets poor people and people of color so disproportionately. The prison industrial complex has become a profit-making industry, a new form of slavery. Instead of rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders, it creates a permanent underclass. Draconian sentencing laws, the ‘War on Drugs’ which is really a war on poor people who use drugs, especially people of color, the whole punitive orientation of our society means we in the U.S. imprison more people than any other country in the world.

Fighting for prisoners’ religious rights is just one small way to challenge some of the injustices inherent in the system.

Patrick has been carrying the ball for many years now, and has spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money doing it.

He has important court cases making their way upward through the system. Check out his website, below, and if you can support him with a small donation, that will be a huge help.

When Pagans get our rights, everyone gets their rights!

Patrick’s website:

http://thepaganalliance.org/

Reprinted with permission from Stawhawk’s blog ‘Dirt Worship’ http://starhawksblog.org/

Copyright (c) 2011 by Starhawk. All rights reserved.

This copyright protects Starhawk’s rights to her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may reprint this essay for nonprofit uses. www.starhawk.org.

To join the campaign to make Starhawk’s book ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ into a film, visit http://fifthsacredthing.com/home/

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Going into brick ain’t all it’s cracked up to be
by Liz.

There’s a saying amongst my community that going into brick, (for you Gaujo’s- non-Roms that’s leaving one’s nomadic lifestyle behind and replacing rolling van wheels with static house foundations underneath you,) although considered a better way of life by many, ain’t all its cracked up to be, and when the summers here, it really comes to mind more than at any other time of the year.

Call me a fair-weather Gypsy if you like but it’s true; there were times, in my youth, the weather didn’t matter quite so much, I’d happily swap the house for a van all year around, come rain come shine.

But time flies, the years catch up with you so very fast, families come along and take a lot out of you, injuries slow you down and make you feel the cold and damp a lot more, some irresponsible travellers get the genuine ones a bad name with the selfish messy ways they go about things, so councils get better and better at turfing you off their land. Residents turn and attack you just for what and who you are because they fear us in their bias and ignorrance having read the bad press and tarred us all with the same brush, and you don’t always feel the same way.

It doesn’t stop me remembering though, back to all those days spent roaming free, learning from nature and by watching and listening to the wise elders. All those evenings spent under the stars, listening to the tales of days gone by and falling asleep on the rugs, the chilly baths in the old tin tub making you cold but clean and feeling really alive while dancing in the rain, cooking on the camp fire stove with GrandMa, chucking what we could in the pot, – best not to ask sometimes what was in it, but it always tasted good whatever it was! My favourite part was always seeing to the horses with Pops and running barefoot through the grass or on the sand. It was a wonderful, but a hard way of life.

I didn’t treasure it at the time; it was all just normal to me. I must confess to days when I even felt bored, but if I’d known then what I know now and life hadn’t changed like it did around the time I was growing from a teen into womanhood, I would have lived every second of it to the full, never have got bored with any of for one single second (for it went in a flash) and all I have left of it now is a couple of tatty faded old photographs in an album and memories, happy ones mostly, but I guess I wouldn’t really have wanted it any other way.


Pentre Ifan
by Liz

Last Summer, my favourite Pembrokeshire Pagans Moot of the year took place at Pentre Ifan Cromlech so I thought I would share what I learned about it with you.

Pentre Ifan – the name means ‘the homestead of Ifan’ – is the name of an ancient monument, a neolithic dolmen in the civil parish of Nevern, North Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

In 1884, it was the first monument in the UK to become a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the recommendation of General Pitt Rivers.

Pentre Ifan observes a wonderful view on all sides, hills and forests, sweeping fields, a wide view of the coastline and out across Cardigan Bay, to the north east of Carningli Mountain. This site truly is spectacular.

The dolmen dates from approximately 3,500 B.C. and would originally have formed part of a much larger mound. It is possible that it was used as a communal burial site but some would possibly argue it could equally have been a temple used for rituals.

The facade surrounding the portal was built with carefully constructed dry stone walling and it would once have been covered with earth and cobble stones.

The existing stones form the portal and main chamber of the tomb, which would originally have been covered with a large stone mound about 36.6 m long and 17 m wide.

The capstone is 5.1 m in length, and is estimated to weigh 16 tonnes and rises 2.4 m above the ground. It is delicately supported by the narrow tips of three uprights and it seems to sit balanced finely on the pointed uprigths with ease, although you can almost imagine it taking off and flying down into the bay because it’s a little aerodynamic looking in its shape (like an arrow head). It points at the Nevern River.

From the east side of the site looking west the capstone leads your eyes to the mouth of the Nevern estuary at Newport.

Some of the other stones have been scattered, but at least seven are in their original position.

What is thought to have been the original door way in to the cairn is blocked by a huge upright boulder which is believed was put in place to close the cairn after its use.

Archaeological excavations took place in 1936 – 1937 and 1958 – 1959 led by William Francis Grimes. Various finds were excavated including a small amount of flint flakes and some fragments of pottery.
But, as yet, no human remains.

The dolmen is owned and maintained by Cadw, the Welsh Historic Monuments Agency. The site is easily accessed from the road if you arrive by car there is a small layby to park in (although avoiding busy times is best) and entrance is free.

It is located about 6 km by road from Newport (the Newport in North Pembrokeshire – there is more than one Newport) and 17 km from Cardigan.

Directions:
From Newport, head east along the A487. After passing Llwyngwair Manor on your left, take the next right sign posted ‘Pentre Ifan’.
Keep going straight on at the cross roads for another three quarters of a mile.
Follow the right hand lane sign posted ‘Pentre Ifan’ and after some half a mile you will see a layby on your right.
Park here and the entrance to Pentre Ifan cromlech is at the lower end of the layby.

If you need more information about visiting the site, please contact Site Operations staff at Cadw, telephone 01443 336 104.

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John Barleycorn must die
A song for summer drinking
by Liz.

Every year when the Summer Solstice has been and gone, my thoughts start turning to harvest time and an old folk song I used to hear a lot in my youth growing up, as I did, in agricultural parts of East Anglia. That old folk song is called “John Barleycorn”.

John Barleycorn referred to in this old folk song isn’t actually a real person, it’s the name given to an important cereal crop harvested for the brewing industry used to make ale and whiskey, namely barley, and the song is a lament to the “sacrifice” it makes laying down it’s life every Summer to quench man’s ever raging thirst.

In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death and further indignities which correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

There are many versions of the song as it has been re-written over the years by numerous people, but the version I am most familiar with goes:

There was three men come out o’ the west their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn must die,
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow, John Barleycorn was dead.
They’ve let him lie for a very long time, ’til the rains from heaven did fall
And little Sir John sprung up his head and so amazed them all
They’ve let him stand ’til Midsummer’s Day ’til he looked both pale and wan
And little Sir John’s grown a long long beard and so become a man
They’ve hired men with their scythes so sharp to cut him off at the knee
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist serving him most barbarously
They’ve hired men with their sharp pitchforks who’ve pricked him to the heart
And the loader he has served him worse than that
For he’s bound him to the cart
They’ve wheeled him around and around a field ’til they came unto a barn

And there they made a solemn oath on poor John Barleycorn
They’ve hired men with their crabtree sticks to cut him skin from bone
And the miller he has served him worse than that
For he’s ground him between two stones

And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl and his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last
The huntsman he can’t hunt the fox nor so loudly to blow his horn
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle or pots without a little barleycorn

For the musically minded, it has been covered by artists including Chris Wood, Steeley Span, Jethro Tull, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Heather Alexander and many others. To hear a rendition of it being repeated in country pubs across the land where the ale is flowing well is not altogether unusual at all.

So, next time you are enjoying a pint or two of ale, or a couple of wee drams of the Landlords’ finest malt, remember to raise a glass to the memory of good old John Barleycorn and what he’s given up in the name of a good bevvie at the bar.

Cheers!

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Harvesting the Karma
by Jules Harrell

As I write this article, I reflect on how the Summer has gone. We’ve experienced a very high heat index, bigger than life weeds, Japanese beetles, slugs, a llama who ate my corn. A fox who ate my cats, fishers who ate many other local cats.

Flowers, birds and bees. Then there’s the larger wildlife who live here and freak out my dogs. Bears, for example. One day, I took a morning off from the garden to track a longterm resident big black bear from his morning swamp root breakfast to his pawprints to his den by a wild berry patch, deep in the woods. Have you ever seen a bear’s bed? It’s a big surprise, let me tell you.

Other excitement included having my locked, 2009 Toyota truck stolen stolen in broad daylight in downtown Pittsfield, MA. Truckless, expecting to never see my beloved Tacoma again, I sent the thieves really good vibes even though I felt like buying a shotgun. I told the thieves that if they knew me, they would never take my truck. I physically sat next to them as they pawed through my stuff, including a silver necklace on the gearshift. I felt sorry for them that I had such abundance here on the farm while they were reduced to stealing trucks. I even told them their mothers loved them… 48 hours later, my truck was returned to within two blocks of where it was taken, with all contents intact, including checkbooks, jewelry, Netflix, and CDs. The Pittsfield police are amazed. These were professional thieves with a pass key. I think they just changed their minds.

Then there’s the harvest. Recently, four of my friends came over to ferment veggies together, probably 40 pounds of beets, carrots, garlic and cabbage. Jim and Mary don’t have a garden this year, so they come to our place and work in ours. I always call Vince as he’s my fermenting guru. While Mary trimmed the Japanese beetle eaten grape leaves, Jim harvest broccoli, cukes and cabbages, and Vince prepared our large containers by hosing them down and scrubbing them out.

We all sat around chatting, and scrubbed veggies, trimming the tops and bottoms. Moving the operation over to a large, wooden block on our picnic table, we commenced to chopping and bruising the veggies in a big 10 gallon pot. We added salt, bruised, and mushed with our very clean hands.

Next, I crammed jar after jar with the luscious soon to be bubbling veggies, while Mary added a little salt to the top, a little water and topped them off with waxed paper and a lid. Then we all had a feast, as my husband was busy cooking while we were fermenting. My friends each took several jars of veggies home with them, filled with organically grown, good energy, love and friendship.

At the moment, we have about 75 pounds of garlic drying, as the garlic harvest was early this year. After pulling all the garlic and hanging it to dry, I replanted the beds with some peas and clover to add nitrogen to the depleted soil. I’ll replant these beds in October with the best garlic, and mulch it over well for the winter.

We ate large when our friends invited us to pick their blueberry bushes. Mine are still young babies. We will enjoy beets and cabbages and carrots made into kimchee with garlic and cayenne this winter. I still have corn growing from the other side of the garden as the llama who escaped didn’t know about that well-hidden patch. This year, the most exciting news is that almost everything in the garden was grown from Co-op seed, started in beds in the cattle panel greenhouse.

Probably my favorite aspect of gardening is sharing with others. I took a huge wad of garlic up to the neighbor’s house so that they have some to plant, promising them more as they have six children and are avid garlic eaters. Growing food in great abundance and sharing with friends is the best reward for a summer of hot, hard work, gargantuan weeds, loose llamas, and voracious bugs.

Here’s to another great harvest.

You can find Jules at www.cherryplainfarm.blogspot.com

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‘A New Way of Thinking’
by Jonny Blake

This is a blog about the process of me becoming a pagan, my spiritual path and what I intend to do with it. I am writing these blogs as a means to propose my thoughts to whoever is reading. My aim is that people who are having similar thoughts to me will make contact and discuss what I write about because I know that statistically it’s impossible for me and only me to have come up with any of this. For those who won’t find any similarity, I’d be very happy if this does anything at all that makes you think about it, literally, just scratching your head and briefly humming will do :-). I am by no means preaching, I find the act of it ill-intended and cheap (in my village, they call it ‘’a crock of shit’’).

I like to think (no pun intended) that I belong under the Pagan label when ‘beliefs’ are concerned. I grew up with an atheist family, and as an attempt to give me a better education and attitude to learning that he didn’t get my dad brought me up with science and history books modified for children. Of course, the only logical thing that happened was that I became a bit of a geek; I had my phases of huge interest in dinosaurs, space, ancient civilisations, animals (sharks, reptiles, mammals, and insects, nearly all of them), geology and the human body. I also have the gift of artistic talent, so finding inspiration in the works of fiction (in all forms of how it’s presented) I found an interest in the mythology behind stories, and as I grew older I started to find social/political meanings or a philosophy behind such things. My modern/scientific way of thinking could only allow me to speculate to a certain level, after I found that neo-paganism embraces all un-established ‘religions’ most of which I have already studied or are heavily referenced in a work of fiction, I thought I’d give it a go to feed my inquisitive nature a new flavour.

The reason why I am telling you about my childhood is because I have always been left with more questions than answers: I was never told ‘’the sky is blue because god made it blue’’, or when relatives passed away and they said ‘’he is in heaven now’’ and I ask ‘’how do you know?’’ I would be answered with ‘’I don’t know, nobody does, but I hope he is’’ rather than a patronising answer most children are met with. I come to realise that to get a good answer, you need to ask a bloody good question. Many people get too held up on finding the answer they desire (or worse, just an answer), rather than getting into that mentality of a curious infant who just wants to know because they accept that the world and everything beyond it is a total mystery. The greatest minds of pagan cultures totally understood this mentality, and they obsessively embraced it, and many writers unknowingly engage in it; hence they have such brilliant imaginations to fill up the mysteries with their own ideas (at least I think that may be it, it was for me anyway lol).

I titled this ‘’a new way of thinking’’ because its something I’m in the middle of crafting for myself at the moment, in terms of it being generally new, it’s really not… but, I am trying to see if I can comprehend the unknown in a different way than what I’ve read and researched. My philosophy collection isn’t to a standard yet, but I’ve read books on Greek philosophy, the Tao Teh Ching and a few others. A lot of what is said in these writings can be made relevant today; in the same way that a lot of the ska and punk records from the 80’s that I listen to seem to speak a lot of truth about our current conservative government. Of course, a lot of this is down to interpretation, but isn’t that the point? I believe the fitting description is saying that these things are ‘’timeless’’, but then I thought back to all the things I’ve learnt from science and then I realise we now know the answer to something like ‘’if a tree falls and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?’’, because we know that the impact of a falling tree would send a shockwave through the air as well as the ground, therefore making a loud noise regardless of anyone being there or not. So, I want to create my own new way of thinking because I don’t feel any need to restrict myself to the old ways, but I’ll remain aware that those who do not learn from history will just repeat it.

There came a point when I saw so much truth in ‘’the only thing you can know, is that you know nothing’’ that it almost stopped me asking any questions I had on the spot. However I didn’t fancy just becoming a ‘realist’ or hopping onto whatever spiritual wagon that seemed pretty. I have a fear of becoming arrogant, I know many arrogant people, and I fear it because arrogance would stop me from learning and wondering, that to me sounds like a miserable fate. So many people who go down a spiritual path become arrogant in the large amount of knowledge they gain therefore limiting their spiritual insight, their thought patterns and eventually their intelligence; I have seen many teachers been torn a new one by
students for refusing to accept new or different ideas, hell I even had a go myself once. So, I was left in a struggle between overwhelming myself with knowledge (which may or may not be true) and creating a god complex or just accepting that I will never know any secrets of the universe and focus my spirituality on nature and those I hold affection for….

However, I completely missed that I don’t need knowledge or a lack of it to be spiritual or to simply look into the unknown; I just need myself and the ability to think. I feel like a right tit that I overlooked the fact I am free to question as much as I like, I am free to think about whatever I can think about, I can speculate just about anything I can comprehend.

Thinking is not like Pandora’s Box either, if you unlocked something you didn’t want to you could easily forget about it later, instead it enables me to ask questions; questions that if I did not ask like ‘’is this what I want to do in life?’’ then I would be doing something that I actually didn’t want to be doing. Therefore I can just think freely and so far, this new way of thinking is bringing me much joy, wonder and a shit load more questions.

I can’t stress enough that for me being pagan didn’t lead to being spiritual, but being spiritual lead to being pagan… I’d like to think I am writing this as a pagan and from a pagan’s point of view, but as far as I’m aware it’s only my perspective and interpretation, but that’s why I call myself a pagan. There are many paths through a valley, paganism presents all the paths that previous travellers have found, and you can chose whichever one you like, but it doesn’t say anywhere that you have to stick to an exact path like many other religions do, so I thought why not run off into uncharted territory once and a while, if it goes nowhere I’ll come back and do the same elsewhere, after all isn’t that how the first pagans mapped out the existing paths? And these people lived thousands of years ago.

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Evolution of Change
by Caledonia

Life is not static. It grows and dies, expands and shrinks. The only thing one can ever be certain of is change. How is that for quixotic?

Just as the landscape changes with each season, so does our relationship with the gods. When the pantheons had wide-spread attention, many centuries ago, there were specific roles assigned to each of the gods. Over time, the roles have changed by necessity.

Why is this? The needs and requirements of their followers have evolved. We no longer fear and tremble when the skies thunder and lightning flares. We understand why the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. While there are still numerous mysteries in the natural world around us, we no longer need to attribute those we don’t understand to the supernatural.

By necessity our society, religions, beliefs and gods have evolved.

Due to modern technology many things which were simply unimaginable even 30 years ago are now commonplace. We can read a newspaper from London without having to wait for it to be delivered to the local newstand. The distance between countries seems almost nonexistent because of instant messaging. Information can be shared with a much wider audience through forums and websites. We live in the age of information and technology. Through the advantages of http://www.com there are new opportunities for learning and growing than have been previously afforded us. In short, our world has evolved.

How does this affect a belief structure? The evolution of learning and teaching expands the knowledge available. Much like the Romans did as their empire grew, we also adopt the teachings which appeal to us as individuals and make them our own. We insert these new ideas into our own rituals, spells and core beliefs.

As we change, so too do the gods. Some neo-pagans call to those deities which cannot be found in a book of mythology at the local bookstore. New gods have been created, and some have found new homes in far different lands than their birth. A prime example of this would be the lady Libertas. Her name is obvious as to what she is patron of, but she is still not as well known as she should be. Researching her even in today’s information friendly world is very difficult. She was a very minor Roman deity whose followers vanished off the earth before Christianity took a grip on Europe.

The Romans first codified the idea of liberty in the person of the goddess Libertas. This minor deity was the patron of a freedom which has echoed through the ages, and while only obscure references remain from her Roman origins, she has shaped the face of nations. During the reign of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire was crumbling under its own weight from the inner corruption which invariably comes from an unchecked government. Caesar’s heir, Augustus left his mark on history by easing the Republic of Rome into a less domineering principate, which lasted for close to three centuries (Garrett G. Fagan).

Augustus Caesar also “made a point of restoring the temples of Libertas” (Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion 318) and reinstated the liberating aspect of personal freedom by making her “the goddess of the Roman commonwealth” (Encyclopedia Mythica).

Libertas has appeared, in various incarnations over time. For those wishing change, those demanding to be free and yearning towards a better life, she is a rallying point, though her worship has long since disappeared into the dusty annals of history. She has faded into obscurity, her offerings have long since crumbled into dust, and her altars lie empty. Her name unknown in this much more modern world, or is it? The wretched whisper her name. Her guise is immediately recognized the world over. Her voice has thundered quietly over the waters. She represents prosperity, freedom, and opportunity. Her name is uttered every day, spoken with reverence, shame, incredulity, vehemence, pride, and sarcasm. She says, “Give me your tired, your poor, /Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (“The New Colossus”, 10-11). A bright beacon in her hand, she welcomes all to her warm embrace; with broken shackles at her feet, she stands tall, gazing sternly towards the east. She gazes almost defiantly towards the “old country”, the lands of repression and poverty. A view of her most certainly brings one to thinking of the larger than life country to which she is a symbol of the American Dream. The tablet she holds in her arm recites an almost magical date, July 4, 1776. She is Liberty. Libertas no longer has altars. Her worship and followers have evolved, most no longer acknowledge her as real. She is not recognized in her original country. But we all know who she is, and what she represents. She has evolved.

The way we worship the gods as a whole has changed as well. While some of the temples devoted to them still exist in many parts of Europe, they are now viewed as historical artifacts rather than religious shrines. Much of this is directly due to the wide-spread reign of Christianity, but not completely. One of the most effective ways to indoctrinate a conquered people is to incorporate their religious beliefs and practices into that of their conquerors. This is something Europe was first taught by the Romans, and then again by the Christians.

Now the public rituals and gatherings are becoming a bit more commonplace and accepted, but such has not been the case for a very long time. Through necessity, the gods were hidden and worship was secretive. The evolution was stunted. Massive quantities of lore and wisdoms have been lost, never to be regained. All we can do now is retrieve what knowledge we can and add to it. Is everything we know and believe exactly the way it was when Lugh rode the sun? No, nor can it be. Nor should it be.

Why should we believe differently from our forebearers? First and foremost, because we are much more sophisticated in our knowledge and understanding of the way the Universe works. In many ways, we are as knowledgeable as the druids. We comprehend many of yesterday’s Mysteries through our learned ways. A druid did not worship the same way as the common man did, for the teachers had devoted their lives to knowledge and understood far more than their less sophisticated neighbors.

Secondly, it is much more difficult to obtain ceremonial opiates…. not to mention illegal. Mind-altering drugs were commonly used by those who were the knowledge keepers of the communities. Many neo-pagans eschew the use completely.
Third, we no longer need blame the thunderstorm on the rages of Zeus, or the hurricanes on the whims of Poseidon. Are they still the lords of their realms? Of course! But, we also comprehend the physical and natural reasons for these forces of nature.

Who came first, the gods or the devotees? This is a circular argument which can never be resolved. The gods exist, and shall continue to do so…. even as they change and grow.

Kind Roads,
Doni

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Herbal Magick
With An interview from The Lady Selene
by T. Fox Dunham

When you’re a pagan diagnosed with a rare cell type of lymphoma, a cancer with a high mortality rate, you need to find options in addition to the treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. I needed an edge, to add an element to the treatment. I wasn’t going to survive if I depended only on current medicine.

As part of a spiritual regimen, I turned to herbalism, but not just chemical herbalism—the use of oils as part of pharmacology. Magickal herbalism is more than just alkaloids and essential oils. It uses a spiritual element, a drawing of the life force of the goddess earth, taking her love, connecting to her soul so she can heal you. Sages have understood this for centuries.

When the United States National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) asked James Lovelock to develop a model of life on other worlds, he hypothesized the Gaia Hypothesis. His theory is an elegant union of science and pagan belief. He perceived the earth as a single organism, interconnected as our own bodies—heart, mind and immune system. He saw it as the fecund womb of the goddess, something peoples close to the earth have always known.

Hildegard Von Bingen, a medieval mystic, spoke of Viriditas, the Greening Power. This is an empowerment gained through working with the earth, with plants to enhance quality of life. When I endured radiation therapy for lymphoma, I took an active role in healing the disease, thus creating a cycle of energy through my garden, mixing with the energies of the earth, enriching the salubrious properties of the plants and thus to aid in curing the imbalance in my body.

Greening power is not just the administration of herbs; it is taking an active role in your recovery by seeding, harvesting, preparing, enchanting. This is the heart of spiritual herbalism. Just as farmers who grow their own corn and wheat feel more connected to the soil, so can a herbalist seeking remedy feel the greening power by actively seeding, growing and harvesting their own medicines. Magickal herbalists create a web of energy in this cycle they use to heal.

There are many so-named hedge witches who practice magickal herbal healing. The Lady Selene, a respected teacher here outside of Philadelphia, took some time to answer some questions about her craft.

Q: How do you determine which herbs you use to help?

There are plenty of magickal herbals out there. It’s a popular bandwagon to jump on right now. I have always been an outdoor girl and found many plant devas communicated with me when I was younger. As I grew, my gardening became more practical at first, food being high on my list of necessities. But I couldn’t stay away from the herbs and flowers that spoke to my soul.

Doing research in Culpepper and Grieve, as well as more arcane works, I found that the plants I was drawn to were usually those that had historically been used in witchcraft. So I think that if herbalism is your thing, then using plants becomes a combination of research and intuition. Everything has its own spirit, or Deva, and vibrational pattern and frequency, that is how plants can be helpful in your magickal working.

Q: What is the source of your wisdom? Where did you get your training in the use of magickal herbalism?

There was no Practical Herbal Magick class when I was seeking occult wisdom. I actually developed that class and teach it at irregular intervals at Ostara (A Pagan Shop) in Bethlehem, PA. So I steeped myself in herbal lore, reading and doing research, research, research. I also gardened every year, became a Master Gardener thru Penn State Extension, joined a garden club, and became a student and lover of all things horticultural. You can find snippets of occult wisdom in the most mundane sources, sometimes taking you by surprise.

Q: Do you have a special ceremony you use for harvesting and/or preparing herbs?

The harvesting of herbs for magickal purposes is influenced by astrology and the phases of the moon, and many more complicating factors. There is a special knife called a boline which can be used, or one may choose to use a white-handled knife. Any tool used should be blessed and consecrated and used for that specific purpose. Then there is the school of thought that proposes that the intent is in the practitioner, and it doesn’t matter what tool you use to harvest. I believe that if I am harvesting a plant for magickal purposes, any tool I use is a magickal tool, even my hands—especially my hands.

Permission from the plant Deva should be obtained first, and a gift should be left in exchange for the material harvested.

Q: Are there any special techniques you advise while using the herbs? Meditation? White light cleansing? Using candle magick?

Herbs can be used to assist in meditation, can be included in crafting candles and oils, used in energy cleansing. The possibilities are almost limitless; in fact, the list of uses is too extensive for me to attempt to go into right now, and—well—we witches have our secrets.

Q: How does magickal herbalism fit into modern medical treatment? How does it augment or replace?

Magickal herbalism can be used in conjunction with modern medicine, but I would never recommend herbalism alone, magickal or otherwise, in lieu of diagnosis and treatment from a competent and qualified medical practitioner. My class mentions medicinal uses of plants purely from a historical perspective as I am not qualified to give medical herbal advice. I am a witch, not an M.D.

Q: Any special stories you’d like to share of your experience?

I have met the nicest people through my interest in gardening, both magickal and mundane. I think that plants bring out the best in people, and we have always been meant to coexist, bringing out the best in each other. I’ve found magickal plants and fairy gardens tucked into the corners of gardens belonging to people I would never have suspected of entertaining such esoteric practices. We exchange secret smiles if they don’t want to be outed. And then sometimes a gazing ball is just a gazing ball, lending a bit of Victoriana to a cottage style garden. And that’s OK too, ’cause fairies are still attracted to shiny things even if they are not put out specifically to welcome them.

The Lady Selene is a native Pennsylvanian, having had several careers, including teaching, business management and finally nursing, a role she still enjoys. She makes ritual jewelry, as semi precious stones enchant her. Their vibrations usually leave her a little high and make her friends afraid to let her drive a car.

As many of us who have not been raised pagan, she was a spiritual seeker for most of her life. She was a self initiated priestess and solitary practitioner until meeting Mary, a local witch and owner of the pagan store, Ostara. She became one of the High Priestesses in the Butler Family Tradition of Witchcraft, which Mary teaches at her store. The Lady Selene is a Crone, and she has come to accept that title with the graciousness and satisfaction that her years in this incarnation have brought her.

***************

The world is full of such hedge witches and wizards, drawing lenitive and curative from the soil as flowers, roots, leaves.

They cook them, make tisanes, balms, oils, incense, liquors, soaps and all sorts of gentle administrations. They carry an ancient tradition, providing alternative medicine with a divine element. They understand that more than the body must be treated, also the mind and the spirit. Modern medicine is only now beginning to understand this. These are effective treatments that have a powerful effect over the body and spirit.

As a responsible herbalist, I must write this caveat. These are potent chemicals and energies that must be treated responsibly. Herbalists study for years, learning the dangers and proper uses of herbs. For example, potent herbs such as Foxglove (Digitalis) affect the heart. Before administering, you must carefully study and test, such as rubbing a bit of the essential oil onto your skin to check for an allergic reaction. Also, always know the source of the plants. Herbs from unfamiliar ground maybe contaminated with pesticides. Be responsible with your herbal magick, study the subject herb, know its history and folklore, its place in the natural cycle.

I suffer from an array of debilitating symptoms after my Pyrrhic treatment of chemo therapy and radiation. Because of my allergies and sensitivities to harsh medications, I must seek out alternative treatments. I can’t use normal medications for my nausea. Herbal treatment—usually ginger—along with meditation are my only remedy. I use sage incense to cleanse myself while projecting a white light sweeping through my body. I use scents such as honeysuckle to enhance my energy levels. My work with spiritual herbalism fills the gap where medical science fails, providing me relief and a better quality of life, both physical and spiritual.

LINK to the Ostara Store: http://www.awitchscauldron.com/

T. Fox Dunham is a modern bard, cancer survivor and author, having stories appearing in many international journals. He is currently finishing his first novel, The Adam & Eve Experiment and is writing a sci-fi series for Beam Me Up Radio and Podcasts. His friends call him Fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time.
http://www.facebook.com/tfoxdunham

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Lammas Week Moon Lore
by Liz

On Sunday July 31st, Lammas eve, the Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, in Leo. This will be a good time to listen to that inner wisdom we all have tucked away deep inside our thoughts but so often doubt and second guess. We need to trust our instincts more and all will be well. There will be a deepening of our spirtual understanding, the seeking of new interests and thrills, and the chance to heal old wounds.

On Monday, 1st August, Lammas Day, the Moon will be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, leaving Leo and entering Virgo. Don’t be surprised if you spend the day dancing to somebody else’s tune, especially if that somebody is higher up the chain of command than yourself.

It might also be prudent to pay attention to niggling health matters around now because to be pro-active is always better than to be re-active, and you can’t be too careful when it comes to one’s own wellbeing. The message here is very loud and clear, and that is less is more so don’t go over-doing it today or trying to burn your candle at both ends, or the cost might be a bit higher than anticipated.

On Tuesday 2nd August, the Moon will still be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, still, and remaining in Virgo. It’s influence there on that day may well put a bit of a dampner on passions, and your relationships could well be somewhat strained, but the good news is it’s only temporary, and it will pass as quickly and as uneventfully as it began. Don’t say anything you can’t take back, or cause a scene, and all will return swiftly to normal by return of the clock.

On Wednesday 3rd August, the Moon will still be Waxing, in it’s First Quarter, still, and moving on to Libra. With Wednesdays putting the spotlight on study and travel, and Libra putting influences of partnership and balance to everything, you should have an enjoyable and enlightening day. Friends may issue an invite but the travel may put you off, force yourself to go and it could make you really glad you did!

On Thursday 4th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, still in it’s First Quarter, and in Libra still, cash matters may well spring up but the good news is this time it’s value for money, a fair price paid for something of value to you, so it could be worse.

On Friday 5th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, moving into it’s Second Quarter, and leaving Libra and moving on to Scorpio. Fridays are associated with love and friendship, while Scorpio tends to increase our intuition and psychic awareness, so prepare to be more in tune with those dear to your heart and quite possibly be ready to feel all loved up. Romance is definately in the air tonight.

By the end of the week, Saturday 6th August, the Moon will still be Waxing, and in it’s Second Quarter, in Scorpio still.

Saturdays tend to be mostly about homes and houses, while Scorpio’s influence could warn of an ending of some kind, but as one door closes, another door always opens. Change isn’t always a negative thing. Embrace the new!

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Dandelions
by Rebecca L. Brown

Wherever you are in the world, there’s a good chance you can find some dandelions if you’re looking for them. Their puff-ball seed heads and bright yellow flowers are a familiar sight on lawns, in parks and on wasteland. Whilst widely considered to be a weed, the dandelion has a suprisingly large number of uses in cooking and herbal medicine.

Dandelion flowers can be used to make a wine or eaten battered and fried, whilst the leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked in the same way as spinach. Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E as well as iron, calcium and potassium. In the past, it was common for dandelion leaves to be blanched and eaten as a vegetable.

The roots of dandelions can be made into a coffee-like drink. The root is best harvested in Autumn, then sundried and roasted until brittle. It is then ground and used in the same way as coffee. It can also be sliced, sauteed and stewed in salt water until soft and eaten.

Dandelion leaves have been used medicinally as a diuretic and to treat liver or gall bladder problems. The root may have potential in the treatment of diabetes and can act as a mild laxative. The sap has traditionally been applied to corns, verrucas and warts and may act as an insect repellant.

Dandelion should not be taken alongside diuretics. It may increase the blood sugar lowering effects of anti-diabetes medication and so should be used with caution by medicated diabetics.

The seed head of the dandelion is often blown because it is said to carry wishes along with the seeds or to ‘tell the time’. The seed heads have also traditionally been blown to carry thoughts to loved ones. Dandelion heads can be used to predict the weather. The seed heads fold shut when it is likely to rain and only opens again when the chance of wet weather has passed.

Magickally, dandelions are associated with Jupiter and fire. The seed heads have been used in divination whilst rubbing yourself with the sap is said to encourage unusual hospitality towards you. Dandelion flowers collected on St John’s Eve were historically thought to protect against witchcraft.

Symbolically, the dandelion thrives in all situations and is almost impossible to get rid of. It regenerates itself quickly from the tiniest part of root. the dandelion also undergoes a metamorphosis from yellow flower to puffball, preparing itself for the moment when the seeds escape on their journey to new places.

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Jet
by Rebecca L. Brown

Jet stone formed from fossilised wood deposits in water; the hard jet which most people are familiar with is formed in seawater. Jet has lower thermal conductivity than many stones, meaning that it is not usually cool when touched. It is easily polished and relatively easy to carve. Like coal jet can be burnt and so jet jewellery and objects should be kept away from flames.

Jet jewellery in the form of beads or pendants has been found in paleolithic deposits including the Kesserloch cave deposits. It is thought that these pieces would have been worn close to the skin. the Romans calld jet ‘gagates’ and used it decoratively. More recently, jet was used to make crosses and rosaries for the inmates of 7th century Streoneshalh (the monastery which pre-dates Whitby Abbey) and was a popular material for 16th century rosaries because it was thought to attract the favour of god. In the Victorian era, it was commonly used to make jewellery as only jet jewellery was permitted to be worn in court for the period of Queen Victoria’s mourning beginning in 1861. Modern Native Americans cultures still use jet in the creation of certain amulets and in burials for it’s supposed protective qualities.

Magickally, jet is connected with the planet Saturn and with the Earth. It is used in grounding and to increase spiritual awareness. Jet is thought to have a calming influence and is used to create balance. It is said to help relieve the negativity which is often felt by people suffering from depression or stress and by people who are grieving by absorbing it. It’s negative electrical charge is used to draw power and knowledge.

Jet is often used in association with amber and is sometimes known as ‘black amber’.

Jet is available to buy at Rainbow Spirit Crystal Store

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Review: One Turning: Poems For The Wheel of The Year
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Review by Rebecca L. Brown

One Turning is a selection of wonderfully written poetry which addresses the circle of life from a modern pagan perspective. Miriam’s brave and honest exploration of the wheel of the year builds on the pagan tradition rather than looking wistfully back into it’s past, addressing the way in which we experience the seasons now and perhaps in the years to come.

“Connection is not, after all, about beauty.” Miriam writes,
“It’s about stories. It’s about attention.
It’s about moving in the same space, and knowing it
and continuing to move.”

In these poems, Miriam has moved into the space of paganism past and continued to move and she has done so beautifully. She has connected with her audience in a way which is both eloquent and thought-provoking.

Miriam’s poem, ‘Firefly Harvest’, is included in our poetry corner. For news of her other work or to buy your copy of One Turning, visit her at www.mjoy.org/poetry.html

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Upcoming Events

For more information on events at Treadwell’s, visit their website.

05 August 11 (Friday)
Magical Pagan Quiz Night:Hijinks at Treadwell’s
The Treadwells Gang
How’s your trivia for things pagan and magical? Our quiz night will have a cheesy-grining compere, lots of beer and wine and your convivial company, we hope. The quiz will have questions for beginners and oldtimers, in categories of Magick, paganism, witchcraft, mythology, witches. You can play on your own or in a team of up to 4 people. Prize worth 35 quid for the lucky winner.

Price: £3.00 on the door, bur email or ring to sign up in advance

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start, ends 9.30

06 August 11 (Saturday)
Abraxas Journal:Issue Two Launch Party
Fulgur Ltd and Treadwells
The long-awaited second issue of Abraxas is celebrated tonight with a party for everyone. Scholars, artists, writers and musicians from almost every continent have contributed to this collection of work on esotericism and esoteric culture. Postal advance orders can be made via Treadwells or via the Fulgur website. Treadwell’s parties are as legendary as Fulgur’s high-quality books, so we think this is a mix too heady to miss; please join us. RSVP to Treadwell’s, and do say if you would like a signed launch copy to be reserved you.

Price: Free but RSVP required

Time: 7pm till late

08 August 11 (Monday)
Your Own Hypnosis and Trance Induction:For magical practitioners, shamanic workers, pagans, magickians
Mark Smith
A practical evening teaching hypnosis methods to self-induce trance states and to work on unconscious mind patterns, in your magical practice. Techniques will enhance visualisations and pathworkings and intensify your ritual workings — whether you work in chaos magic, shamanic journeying, general meditation or witchcraft. It will go through the three levels of trance; trance induction and deepening including visual (sight), auditory (sound) and kinaesthetic (touch). Plus fractionation techniques, fixation techniques and progressive relaxation. Practical exercises through the evening mean you can immediately apply these methods. Mark is a professional clinical hypnotherapist, professional drummer, gym addict and chaos magician. A rare opportunity from someone with a remarkable blend of experience and skill.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

11 August 11 (Thursday)
Hecate and Diana:Pagan Ritual Evening
Caroline Wise and Friends
Mid-August brings the days sacred to the goddesses Hecate and Diana. This ritual evening in their honour provides an occasion to come together for learning and ceremony. The first 45 minutes is an illustrated lecture and group discussion on these deities, and the second half is a temple-style ceremony in which all participate. If you wish to explore group ritual, this night is for you. It will also suit experienced pagans who wish to honour these goddesses in the week of their ancient festival day. Caroline Wise has been working in pagan traditions, and in priestess training, for over 30 years. An experienced and gifted ritualist, she enjoys sharing the beauty of temple ritual and its forms. She is a senior member of the Fellowship of Isis.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

17 August 11 (Wednesday)
Smoke and Mirrors:London’s Voodoo Psychogeography
Stephen Grasso
Writer and witch doctor Stephen Grasso unveils the hidden occult landscape of the City of London. ‘Dark rum hits old stone at the crossroads and we enter heavy Voodoo terrain, tuning into the dub echoes of history. The mysteries of the boneyard and the buried river slide into focus. The lunar temple of St Pauls Cathedral opens its doors for witchcraft, and the chained giants of the Guildhall break their bonds. Our Lady of the Thames pulsates outside of time … Senses are washed clear and duplicitous spells are undone. All cities have magic.’ Stephen Grasso lives in London, practices Voodoo, and is published in many journals, most recently Strange Attractor IV.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

26 August 11 (Friday)
Dark Working Sorcerers:Illusion and the Occult
The London Magician
Spirits to visual appearance, levitation, creating gold: these are some of the phenomena associated with the great magicians of history, whether they be theurgists or alchemists. Tonight explores, and shows, what an illusionist can do with these effects.

Price: £10.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

01 September 11 (Thursday)
Great Goddess Inanna:A Night of Her Stories
June Peters, Storyteller
One of the most significant ancient narratives in modern paganism is the Descent of Inanna, which in various forms lives and breathes in modern esoteric spiritualities. Modern audiences are enchanted by the stories in which the Mesopotamian goddess descends to the Underworld, while in other stories she quests for magic, confronts death, seduces her lover, and praises her own sexuality. Tonight, renowned storyteller June Peters recounts her favourite Inanna myths — centring on the iconic Descent. June is a vivacious, captivating performer who brings the gut-wrenching and humorous myths to life: she received a thundering ovation for her last Inanna performance at Treadwell’s.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

05 September 11 (Monday)
Thorn Coyle:Speaking on Self-Possession
Visiting from the United States
Thorn Coyle is an innovative pagan thinker and magical practitioner ; she is trained in the Feri tradition of Victor Anderson and enriched by an ongoing and rigourous personal practice which is informed numerous spiritualities. Treadwell’s customers include many fans of her work: her Kissing the Limitless and Evolutionary Witchcraft are among our most often recommended titles. Tonight she will be talking about spiritual personal transformation, sharing her perspectives on radical self-transcendence as a goal in pagan magical practice. If impeccability has an advocate in modern paganism, it is surely Thorn Coyle.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

15 September 11 (Thursday)
Interview with a Witch:
Shani Oates in Conversation with Christina Oakley Harrington
Shani Oates is a traditional witch — Maiden of the People of Goda of the Clan of Tubal Cain, to give her her full title. Tonight she will talk about her experiences of this path, and what it means to her. She will be also explaining more about the tradition and its ‘muse’ and how it called her. This is a night for people who are interested in lived experience, what it means to live within a witchcraft tradition, and for those interested in Cochrane-based traditional Craft. More on the Clan: www.clanoftubalcain.org.uk (Shani is shown in the photo with her mentor, Evan John Jones).

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

21 September 11 (Wednesday)
Floods in the Ancient Desert:The Ark, the Archaeology, and the Latest Discoveries
Dr Irving Finkel (British Museum)
Much-loved British Museum curator and scholar, Dr Irving Finkel, comes to Treadwell’s to update us on some ground-breaking discoveries in ancient Near Eastern studies. The biblical story of Noah’s ark is well-known to anyone who went to Sunday school, and the reality of a flood is a subject for the archaeologists of the region. Now, it looks like there is an idea of what such an ark might have actually been like. Irving Finkel, a charismatic speaker who works on the cutting edge of ancient scholarship, is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian) script, languages and cultures, in the Middle East Department of the British Museum. Join us!

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

03 October 11 (Monday)
Learning the Tarot:Foundation Course for Beginners
Diana Taylor
Learn how to read and work with the tarot with a gifted, experienced teacher. In an active lively class, progress from basics to more complex classic tarot, grounded in mystical symbolism. Includes homework, handouts, and backup support. By the end, students can do basic readings and use tarot in meditation. Tutor: Diana Taylor has been reading tarot for 15 years following her training in the Western tradition, continuing studies with teachers such as Rachel Pollack. Eight Tuesdays, starting 19 July. See the

Price: £160 (£80 deposit, balance due on first night)

Time: 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

04 October 11 (Tuesday)
Tantra:Exploding Some Myths
Phil Hine
Phil Hine, known through the 1980s and 1990s for his important work in chaos magic, is a longterm practitioner and researcher into tantra. His blog, enfolding.org, is an active site of articles and ongoing thoughts on issues between west and east. This talk takes on western ideas of tantra, particularly those prevalent in occult circles. The ‘left-hand path’ will never look the same ever again. More information soon.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

09 October 11 (Sunday)
Candle-making for Ritual and Magic:A Hands-on Day Course
Nathalie Beveridge (Little Owl Candles)
Learn to make candles by hand from a specialist maker who caters for ritualists and magicians, and learn the techniques for best results from a friendly specialist. Each participant will make and take home two types of candle, and will have the knowledge to make candles at home with basic equipment. Nathalie will also teach how to use candles in magical workings and in ritual. This day is ideal for practitioners who want to be able to make personal candles for their own practice, be it ceremonial magic, hedge witchcraft or shamanistic working. Price includes teas, coffees, handouts, supplies, your own just-made candles to take home.

Price: £45 (£25 deposit, balance due on the day)

Time: 11 am – 6 pm

11 October 11 (Tuesday)
Pictures from the Book of Sleep :Alchemical imagery in dreams
Paul Cowlan
‘Individuals still experience the revelations and visions that were so instrumental in the creation and development of alchemy, and understand them in terms similar to those of the ancient and medieval alchemists.’ (Jeffrey Raff) Any student of dreams is, in effect, a researcher into their own vibrant, but largely hidden personal language, a geographer of inner landscapes; and it is certainly true, as Jeffrey Raff states, that alchemical imagery still occurs frequently in contemporary dreams; regardless of whether or not the dreamer is acquainted with alchemy. In this illustrated talk Paul will be presenting selected dream symbols and exploring them from an alchemical viewpoint. Having been actively engaged with his own dreams for more than forty years, and with alchemy as a way of life for nearly thirty, he speaks from personal experience, and will welcome any questions and personal contributions from the audience.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

18 October 11 (Tuesday)
Kenneth Grant’s Against the Light:Reflections upon the Work
Michael Staley
Tonight the head of the Typhonian Order speaks on some of the themes arising in the book Against the Light, written by the Order’s founder, English occultist and writer Kenneth Grant (1924-2011). Grant was one of the most influential forces in the culture of late 20th century esoteric culture, with his particularly compelling magical imagination, his championing of the artist Austin Osman Spare, and his interpretations of Aleister Crowley’s doctrines. Tonight is for all who have appreciated his work. Michael Staley is his successor as head of the Typhonian Order, and is the founder of Starfire Publishing.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

23 October 11 (Sunday)
Open House with the Phoenix Rising Academy:Western Esotericism Studies Today
Sasha Chaitow and Colleagues
The UK contingent of Phoenix Rising Academy gather for an evening at Treadwells to discuss the study of esotericism in the modern world. Short talks from Sasha Chaitow, Angela Voss, Hereward Tilton, Orlando Fernandez, and Geoffrey Cornelius, will explore the relevance of various aspects of the Western esoteric traditions to modern life, and highlight the value of rediscovering them from a modern perspective. They will also discuss academic perspectives to Western esotericism and answer any audience queries on this, and other aspects of the study of esotericism. More on Phoenix Rising Academy.

Price: £7.00

Time: 7.15 for a 7.30 start

25 October 11 (Tuesday)
Learning the Tarot:Foundation Course for Beginners
Sue Merlyn Farebrother
This intensive, engaging class offers a solid grounding in classic tarot. The mystical symbolism, the key archetypes and the card meanings are all taught in a vibrant class, by a tutor with 30 years experience. Classes have diverse activities: lecture, discussion, pair-work, meditation, and practice sessions, so that you will finish the course able to do basic tarot readings and use it in personal work. You receive handouts and back-up support, and homework and memorisation is expected. Bring a Rider-Waite deck or similar. Tutor: Sue Merlyn Farebrother has been reading tarot for 30 years, and teaching for over ten. Also an accredited psychologist with a Master’s in Cultural Astronomy, she brings intelligent acuity to her teaching – and a wonderful dry sense of humour. This is her fifth year teaching at Treadwell’s.

Price: £160 (£80 deposit, balance due on first night)

Time: 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm

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Extract from Pelzmantel
by K.A. Laity

I am very old, though not so old as the hills. Kings and queens have been born and grown and died, while still I go on.

Perhaps I am only curious. But many will tell you that it is because I am a witch. It is true that I know many of the hidden ways. But I am a story-teller first, last and always. Many stories, too, have passed before me, but there is only one that I turn to again and again. I do not know, yet, how it shall end.

Once upon a time, there was a queen. She had hair of brilliant gold. It would shine like burnished metal in the sunlight, dance in moonlight spears. Her face had the radiant glow of genuine happiness, for she loved the land in which she dwelled, and she had found her own true love. Her king loved her truly and deeply, and nothing but death could part them. This is the end of one story that I know: a happy ending. But it is the beginning of this story, so of course something terrible is going to happen.

The queen’s name was Gunnhild. I came to her land in the time of her great-grandmother—or was it perhaps her great-great-grandmother? No matter. Like all these women, she called me “Nanna” and became my charge. She was very special to me, this child, for Gunnhild was born small and weak, barely alive. The midwife frowned and sighed. The child’s mother cried silently, clutching my hand with dread. But I looked into the baby’s eyes and saw no nonsense, no fear. I smiled. She would survive.

It was never easy. Gunnhild’s mother, the queen, never lost her look of worry. There was the fever at one year, the pox-scare at two, a dog-bite once, and a strange sleeping-sickness that lasted a week. Each time a little thinner, and yet more radiant, Gunnhild would rise weakly from the pillows of her sick-bed and smile. The queen would clasp her joyfully and I would clap my hands with delight. The king would bless my healing salves—I would thank the clear, bright light, which glittered within Gunnhild’s eyes.

But this is not the time for the child’s story. All the triumph and the sorrow of her early years I leave for another time.

Today I tell of Queen Gunnhild. The child is grown—though never strong—luminous and energetic. She is a useful and beautiful queen, as the best ones are. Gunnhild knows the spinning wheel and the wine-press, the library and the quill. She understands the people of her realm, their desires and their fears. More importantly, she cares about them too.

She has found a man – Kormac – she loves like no other. Her king, too, is a handy man as well as handsome. He can jest with the farmer and ride with the hounds. He has ventured abroad to return with stories of fantastic lands and incredible people.

Together, Gunnhild and he ride across their land to visit their families and to settle disputes. At feasts, they share their laughter and a loving cup, to toast the brave warriors and gallant women.

But they have no child.

It vexes the queen. Her people expect an heir, she will tell me, her brow furrowing.

“Do they say so?” I ask her.

But she will only tell me they need not, for she knows her duty. The women of her line have always ruled here. She must not be the last. In a family older than the Ynglings themselves, to be the last of such a powerful lineage of women after so many generations is a shame too great to bear. Much as she loves Kormac, Gunnhild does not wish to have her realm pass to his hands should she die. She has seen what such power can do to men, what it has done to the war-loving dominions around her.

Besides, she sighs as we spin, how the king, too, would love a child.

“Does he say so?” I ask her again.

But she only gazes sadly out the window, her hands carrying on the work her mind has forgotten.

But one day Queen Gunnhild comes to me with bright hope shining from her eyes of mossy green. “Nanna, is it true? Do you really know secrets to help me bear a child?”

I drop my fine needlework to my lap. “Who has been telling you such a thing, my dear?”

“A mage, a new mage, from your land, he has come to the king, he says it. Nanna,” she repeats, “Is it true?!”

The blood drains from my face and I feel cold. “It has a price—all such wizardry does. Have you seen this mage?”

“Nanna! We must begin at once! A child, a child, a dear child of my very own, oh Nanna, today!”

“A child cannot be rolled and baked in an afternoon like a pie,” I say crossly. But her smile does not dim and I can see that this desire cannot be turned away, whatever the cost shall be. Her stubborn will! It kept her alive through fevers and chills, against the wish of her flesh. The terrible price means nothing to it. But the king may feel otherwise.

I put aside my handiwork with some determination of my own. “Let us go see this man from my country. Is he with the king still?” Perhaps he can sway her stubborn heart.

“Nanna, Nanna!” Gunnhild tugs at my sleeve. “Can it be done?” Her eyes gleam dizzyingly, hope blinding them.

I look up into her face. “My queen, it can cost you your life,” I say softly, hoping my own eyes convey the enormity of this risk.

But she merely laughs and pulls me into sprightly dance, circling around the floor. “Oh Nanna, my own mother thought I would never live out my first day. Each one after that has been a gift. You, of all people, should know better than to forecast gloom. I’m much stronger than I look.”

“You do not know what it’s like to bear a child. With even the healthiest and strongest women, it is often dangerous and difficult. A thousand complications arise, a thousand challenges to your body—and your body is not one made for birthing. It tries to tell you that.”

“Nanna, listen to me.” Gunnhild’s face is gravely fixed. “I will have a child. You will help me.”

There is no more to discuss. She is my queen. We go to the king, her strides purposeful and swift, my own solemn and slow.

In the great hall of the castle, King Kormak stands before his high seat, laughing with his counselors and a short dark man.

I feel a chilly finger touch my spine as my gaze falls upon him. I know this one. And I know evil has come to this pleasant land—from my own.

The queen hugs her man happily. His joy in her radiates from his face. “My dear, you must meet my new friend. He tells many an amusing tale.” The king turns to me. “Nanna! He is from your homeland too and says that he may know you.” The king winks at me encouragingly. I hold my feelings close to my heart. This is no time to betray fear.

I summon a cheerful countenance. “I can always recognize a son of Bricriu, whatever shore he may walk upon.” The crowd turns expectantly to regard the guest. His smile masks much from them, but its malevolence is clear to me. He has not expected to find one who knows him—and knows him so well.

“When last you were seen, was your hair not fiery red?” he asks. “Could it be so long ago? Or have the people of this land frightened the bonny color away?”

Everyone smiles at his japes. They have heard it is the way of our people to banter and jest. I decide to reply in kind.

I raise an eyebrow and regard him with careful scrutiny. “And you, friend, still no taller? I was sure you were going to grow a little. Never mind; here they say the measure of a man comes not from the length of his legs.”

They all laugh, he loudest of all. I keep my bantering tone. “Is there a bark that can restore my hair color? For since my trip to the Sithe, it has lost all its fire—and you are so skilled in the secrets of the wood.” He knows all too well that I see his true nature.

I itch to uncover his plans, his reasons for traveling so far. Why has he come? And what evil does he bring?

Later in the evening I get a chance to ask, but the answer is not to my liking. We stand on one of the balconies stretching out from the great hall, looking on the twilit-land below. It is the first warm day of the year. The doors and tapestries are thrown back to let the night air in.

“Well, Mná,” he says with a self-satisfied grin, “you have taken the name of grandmother. Were you named by a child?”

“Yes I was. It is no shame to me. Indeed here it has other resonances. What evil wind blew you to this country, Maldachta, or should I call you Thomas as you have asked my lord and lady to do?”

“Ah, you remember me.” His smile is a sneer. He need not bother to conceal his sinister heart from me. “Yes, we know one another’s true name. No matter. I’m sure neither of us wishes to have them widely known. And we know one another’s true self.

Lord and lady! How like a slave you talk still, though I hear you have been freed long since.”

“It is true I came here as a slave. But I have always been free. I own my soul, my mind. My lord and lady respect me and value my knowledge. I show them the same honor. In our land I was but one of many wise women—here I am unique.”

His smile shows teeth, small and flashing. “You were unique. I think I may stay awhile. If a weak old woman like you can have so much, surely I can have more.”

“Like so many men you confuse strength and power. Do not underestimate resistance.” I can feel my face redden with the anger I wish to contain. “Why come here? Were there too many who called for your blood in the Emerald Isle? Like that village I once helped chase you from when your mischief brought those poor shepherds to near ruin?”

“There were inconveniences,” he admits, waving them away with his hand. “I have had adventures here and there. But when I hear that one of my country women has taken this realm in hand as her own domain—how can I resist such a challenge?”

“It is not my domain. I find only peace and joy here. I do not seek to rule.”

He barks with laughter. “You are too modest. I see how you have inserted yourself into this land. And it will be my pleasure to wrest it from your control.”

I bristle at this. “You will not find it as simple as stealing a cow from your neighbour.”

Hate burns in his eyes. “The sons of Bricriu are not cattle thieves.”

“Nonetheless, you will not succeed in ripping this realm apart. I will not allow it.”

“Do not stand in my way, woman. You’ll find out just how much power I command. You who were captured as a slave— “

“Do not forget, too, that I have been to the Sithe. The otherworld taught me much and fortified me in ways I am still discovering.”

“We shall see, old woman.” He measures me with his eyes. “The daughters of Mná have had their way for generations. You may have stolen many secrets in the Sithe, but I know that the women of your kin have a geiss against thwarting the magic of the sons of Bricriu, so your pilfered knowledge is useless. You cannot stand in my way. And I swear by all that my people swear by that you will regret it if you try.”

“Perhaps—but the geiss only prevents me from using my magic against yours. There is much else I can do.” But my words are more confident than my heart, and I fear for this land and these people. Can he tell my courage does not match my words? For the first time in decades, I miss my sisters and my green me.

Pelzmantel is available to purchase from Immanion-press.com. http://www.kalaity.com

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All of a Lammas Evening
by Elizabeth Barrette

The moon is a silver sickle
Reaping the twilight’s yield

The mist is a silken blanket
Lying upon the field

The corn is a golden pollen
Riding upon the wind

The cricket’s a chorus-master
Singing of summer’s end

The wheat is a bearded giant
Waiting the razor’s kiss

All of a Lammas evening
Nothing is sweeter than this

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Castoffs
by Elizabeth Barrette

These things are everywhere
in the late August evenings:

butterfly wings
in brown grass –
abandoned dreams

flower petals
fallen in a cooling wind –
forgotten scents,
fragrant memories

cicada shells
backlit by the setting sun,
turned to lambent amber –
armor from some
erstwhile altercation

Summer is packing her bags
and going back to her mother,
leaving behind her only
this bright detritus of her visit.

Elizabeth Barrette has been involved with the Pagan community for more than 23 years. She served as Managing Editor of PanGaia for 8 years. She has written columns on beginning and intermediate Pagan practice, Pagan culture, and Pagan leadership. Her book Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants, and Prayers explains how to combine writing and spirituality. She lives in central Illinois where she has done much networking with Pagans in her area, such as coffeehouse meetings and open sabbats; see the Greenhaven website. She enjoys magical crafts, historic religions, and gardening for wildlife. Her other writing fields include speculative fiction, gender studies, social and environmental issues. One of her Pagan science fiction poems, “Fallen Gardens,” was nominated for the Rhysling Award in 2010. Visit her blog The Wordsmith’s Forge (http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com/ ).

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Firefly Harvest
(Lughnasadh)
by Miriam Axel-Lute

Rising commas
inflecting the night air
with a silent din
of small talk and prayer
Summer’s semaphores
embellishing childhood memories
gone vague with time.

This is as it always is
in this field at this time of early corn,
sweaty mules, and late black raspberries.

Except tonight there is
an extra beat in their pulse
a tremble in their collective echo
as the storm of the year approaches
steady and wild over the ridge.

We wait, flattened against the
back wall of the porch,
breath held, minds blank
not thinking of how it has been a year of hungry weather
hail-bitten apples and sodden, blighted tomatoes.

But the lightning bugs give themelves in worship—
dancing through the ozone heralds
moving when everything else
has frozen in anticipation.

We were made in your image (they say)
or at least named in it.
Same thing.
Pluck us, an early harvest, from the dusk,
a bonfire substitute.

They alone still have the voice to ask for mercy
on this abundance
that’s not our own.

Firefly harvest is taken from Miriam’s chapbook, One Turning: Poems For the Wheel of the Year (see our review)

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Beauty In Fertile Autumn
by Julie Smith

Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.
The weaver and fabric of destinies,
Cycles of time thread like a tapestry.
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

A rainbow of earth tones float under sky;
Yellow and rust waltz around the trees.
Autumn chills mix with the late summer thinned,
Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.

The end of summer spawns lust in the eyes.
Fruition whispers, the time now beckons,
A fertile dance before the winter’s sleep.
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

Cerelia sings, wind carries her cry.
It’s almost time for dreaming and slumber,
Harvest ended, stacked and stored with a sigh.

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Fire-Feast
by Patricia Monaghan

In the middle of the city the men
feel a sudden tenderness above the ears.
As the sun sets they lie down,
heads throbbing. As the moon rises
horns push out like seedlings
from the temples of all the men.

Most sleep through the hot night
and wake exhausted wet with sweat,
full of dreams they can’t remember.
All day at work they snap warily at other
men, look weakly after all the women.
All day they search their pockets for lost keys.

Only a few rise in the moonlight,
heads full of antlers, to seek
the women dancing on the leaves.
Only a few men know the power of stags
dancing through them as they are ridden
by the eager women of the night.

And the next day, and the next,
we know these men when we meet them.
We see them from the corners of our eyes
turning into animals, turning back, turning.
We know them with our doe skin,
we know them with our steaming breath.

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Garland Sunday, and She Calls Her
Lover to Join Her on the Mountain

by Patricia Monaghan

How many years since you pressed
that first kiss upon me, up on
the hilltop in the shining season?
I laughed and filled your mouth
with bilberries. I laughed, you
filled my mouth with love.

The next year we were joined,
we climbed the mountain
arm in arm, smiling at the
courting couples. The next year
I walked slowly, full of love;
the next year, and the next,

and now the years all run together
and now I cannot remember
which year my brother died, which
year your mother died, and always
before us the mountain, its gray
green presence a reminder of summer

and always, at this time, the climb,
always the climbing, for what is life
but seasons passing, what is love
but memories and ceremonies—
what is love but a pledge taken
on a midsummer hill and kept?

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Lost Harvests
by Olivia Arieti

Too ripe
And swollen
The orchard fruits
No longer carriers
Of the reaper’s
Sweat,
Sneer the glory
Of Abundance
And fall
Like dead birds
On the muddy
Field.

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Harvest Time
by Olivia Arieti

Proud and ripe
The fruits drop
In the old cart
That slowly
Sets forth
Through the misty
Fields
To fill
The cornucopia
Of all wintry
Hearts
With joyous
Abundance.

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The Bounty Of Nature
by Olivia Arieti

The Harvest Moon
Smiles gently
On the weary
Fields
Ready for their
Wintry sleep
As the swollen
Crops
Wait silent
For the morning
Sickle’s
Final cut,
Their ritual
Offer
To the bounty
Of Nature.

Olivia is a US citizena high School English teacher and lives in Italy with her family. Her plays were published by Brooklyn Publishers, Desert Road Publishing, JAC Publishing, USA, Lazy Bee Scripts, UK. Her poems appeared in Women In Judaism, The Wanderlust Review, Poetica Magazine, Eye On Life, VWA: Poems For Haiti, Cliterature; her short stories in The Smoking Poet, Enchanted Conversations, Pill Hill Press Anthology, Voices From The Garage, Riverbabble.

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God Bud
by Danielle Blasko

Once in the light
of the stage
during the vegetative phase
her growth was stunted
for lack of nutrients.
So now, she takes her fill
in words, nurturing
them into flowering
where they stay until harvest.

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A Rooster’s Tale
by Hedgewizard Erb

Remembering when the Rooster’s calling bid everyone to come
To the time they called First Harvest under the August sun
My Grandmother and my Great Grandmother would render
Lye soap from a steaming cauldron, dry corn on a Summer day
Worked to can the fruits of the land for peaches in Autumn’s way
And the farmers stacked the hay bales
Those were far different times back then
We were bound to the land and seasons
The chickens, the cows, and the pen
And if any had the price of bread
The same would have their reasons
To fret about the coming cold, ice, rain and snow
Those days the harvest was more than just a TV show
It was life itself there were no big stores to shop
No berries out of season
No meal in a frozen box
Simple days from February to Mays
Most folks owed their lives
To that old August sun upon the land
And the Roosters morning calling cries

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Comfort of the Dove
by Hedgewizard Erb

The shards of heartache fall to time, if enough has past
To the waters of forgetfulness, to the rivers of tears
Fears keep the cut festering in the soul

Unless the light of all is sought out in peaceful valleys
And unless the light can fill the voids left bare to pain
There may be no end to the cause and effects in life

Only hope and faith in the seen and unseen spirit
Only the deep understanding of how reality shifts
Only the vision of saints and stone, heals the wound

The eye of the universe sees everything there ever was
Everything that is and will be or might have been
There is the whole thing written on silver pages

Let those who have ears to hear, understand this
All things unfold in their own time and place
And the peace of the living spirit is never far away

We have only to find it within ourselves to trust
Our steps will flow out of pain and into the future
Better, for having known our own human heart

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Lawn Care
by Jackie L. Simmons

My neighbor down the street
speaks with all the confidence
and authority that her carefully
manicured lawn & nails can muster.
“You can’t plant different kinds
of fruit trees in your yard”
she tells me
“or you’ll get strange hybrids.”
“Like a catfish or a dogfish?”
I ask her.
“No, really, you’ll get weird fruit,
plums too small
& apples too tart to eat.”

She wanders off abruptly, because
it’s suddenly too loud to converse.
Across the street, lawnmowers
come blazing off a trailer,
dozens of sharp, spiral rotors
guffaw as they lay waste
to the defenseless green blades.
Weed whackers join the fray, then
exotic shrubbery and ornamental
grasses are placed strategically
around the grounds.
Chemicals are spread stealthily
to ensure the lawn’s health.
The workers leave as loudly as they came,
leaving the picture of perfection in their wake.

I turned and saw a friendly dog next door,
her tail wagging, until she got too close
to the electric fence her owners
had just installed, got zapped,
yelped, and lay down.
She wasn’t the one that needed to be collared.

I have to admit, our lawn really stands out.
It’s the one with kids rolling around in the grass,
looking for brightly colored bugs and
four-leaf clovers while
cats chase mice and chipmunks.
It’s the one with perennial gardens
of strawberry, rhubarb, and asparagus.
The vegetable garden’s tomatoes and pumpkins
thrive as their vines wild.
The home orchard yields real cherries, peaches,
apples, plums, pears, and mulberries.

Our neighbors shake their heads in disdain.

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Looking Down From Uffington
by Annabel Banks

We are high. The wind makes my hair
a lash to fringe this horse’s eye unblinking

we find the chalk exposed to show
the curving lope of slowing earth

across to see the harvest-half
the bones of fields, hedged and dark

some left to nod the summer out
some bared, prepared for sleep

down to where those last few seeds
stick in the crease of her lifeline.

Annabel Banks is a writer living in London. She has had poetry and short fiction published and is working hard on her
novel. Find out more at annabelbanks.com.

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Epiphany
by Rose Blackthorn

Bluebells softly chime
In a gentle southern breeze
Long grass shows a silver underside
Rippling in meadows
Like the far-off ocean’s waves
The sighing of the tall pines
Lends a background melody
To orchestras of cicadas
And the buzzing of contented bees
A sky of brilliant sapphire
Pasture for the herd of wooly clouds
Which jostle, piling higher
Before escaping my view
I’m lying here content, alone
Connected to the earth
By the full extent of sweat-glazed, aching muscles
Which have brought me to this place
An epiphany . . .
As I surrender to what my senses tell me
That despite all logical argument
We’re not alone, the Gods are alive, and they live on in me.

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Last August Light
by Penn Kemp

Kore, Ostara, Flora, sing light intimacy
of air, flights imagination will lilt with.

Goldfinches float above the daffodils,
hang upside-down on the stalk of old
sunflower to catch last fall’s last seed.

Wasps and bumblebees scheming for nectar
dip and swim through the haze, yellow and
black, carrying home their burden of pollen.

Seasons have their hues: ours is sun-steeped
translucence lit from within till it brims over.

Females dun beside their bolder mates, goldfinch
cross the sky in graceful loops of liquid

flight and song, sway on green fronds that bow
under light weight to the doctrine of signatures.

River carp leap and fall, rippling circles the stream.
Like calls to like through bright air before sunset.

Celebrating Ceres, celebrating Demeter, goldenrod
scimitars flash solid arabesques of late summer, late
afternoon, late in our lives for such luminous entrance.

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Wild Craft
by Penn Kemp

My daily bouquet of dandelion
satisfies the neighbour’s need

for desert of green grass and mine
for wild propagation, untamed.

Those yellow vibrant heads last
just a day, and then plunge sodden

into compost, to rot and feed more
flowers, not to go to seed and
propagate as they are raised to do.

Daily, the flowers bloom closer
and closer to the ground, as if

to speed the cycle, to seed before
the lawn mower lops off their
vibrant unmistakeable heads.

In thwarting their will to reproduce,
I celebrate their evanescent charm
and serve their leaves for lunch.

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Stirring Not Stirring
by Penn Kemp

Honey drips from my nose, coats
my hair in blond stiff strands.

I am standing very still calling
bees by scent. Pheromones draw

them to collect on me, hiving off
to a giant new temporary queen,

spun down from my chin in a grand
pharaoh’s beard. My eyes, my ears

are bee-shut, open only to their buzz,
attending emergence, awaiting sweetness.

As in old stories the swarm might birth
out from entrails of black bull and bear.

Bee goddess, bear goddess, midwife,
be with us mid-life and beyond, be here

Activist poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has published twenty-five books of poetry, devoted to aspects of the Goddess. She is London Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate. As Writer-in-Residence for University of Western Ontario, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. She hosts an eclectic literary show, Gathering Voices, archived on CHRWradio.com/talk/gatheringvoices. See http://mytown.ca/pennletters/ , http://www.poetrymap.ca/profile.php?PoetID=42.

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The sun has been shining, the flowers are in bloom and it’s time for the Summer Solstice issue of the Pagan Friends webzine. We’ve got plenty of exciting stuff for you to read, including an exclusive interview with Phil Hine, an extract from Gary Budden’s ‘New Lexicons’ and pieces from Jill Malenoir, Raven Kaldera and Melanie Marquis. So pour yourself a glass of something summery, put your feet up and enjoy!

And if you enjoy the webzine, why not visit the Pagan Friends Forum? There, you can make new friends from around the world, chat to other pagans and even take part in the forum’s quiz.

Interviews

An Interview With Pagan Friends’ own Liz

An Interview With Phil Hine

An Interview With Aidan Kelly

Articles

Crystal Elixirs & Gem Essences by Beth Holtum

Summertime Tarot Magick by Melanie Marquis

Quantum Physics is Wyrd by Eoghan Odinsson

Oft-Overlooked Dangers in Indoor Workings by Jill Malenoir

Element Meditation: Fire by Beth Holtum

Excerpts from Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches by Aidan Kelly

The Occult connection to the Third Reich by Simon Cash

Tricks, Tips & Tools

Litha Moonlore by Liz

Gemstone: Moldavite by Beth Holtum

Resin: Labdanum by Rebecca L. Brown

Herb: Nettles by Rebecca L. Brown

Personal Experiences

Seabhac: The Wounded Hawk by T. Fox Dunham

Being The Change by Raven Kaldera

Three Sculptures: Inspiration and Creation by Ama Menec

The Sacred Clay by Rebecca Brown

Fiction

I Hear Your Cry by Lynne Gibson

In The Green (Excerpt from New Lexicons) by Gary Budden

Excerpt from the Novel Goddess Murder by Aidan Kelly

Poetry Corner

Incantation for a Summer Solstice by Dawn Walls Thumma

Our God by Hal O’Leary

Flight of The Wizard by Hedgewizard Erb

Reality by Aidan Kelly

Ancient Tribes by Ron Koppelberger

Willow Road by C. B. Anderson

My Epitaph by Hal O’Leary

At My Age by Aidan Kelly

The Unborn Goddess by C. B. Anderson

Hearthfire Remedies by Ron Koppelberger

To Remember Thomas DeLong,

Who Wrote as Gwydion Pendderwen,

On the Second Anniversary

Of His Going into Eternal Lifeby Aidan Kelly

Summer Solstice by Hedgewizard Erb

Puti Poems:

Flower-Picking Mudra by Changming Yuan

Sky-Reaching Mudra by Changming Yuan

A-Mi-Te Mudra by Changming Yuan

Artwork & Photography

This issue’s photography was contributed by Cai Thomas

Want to contribute to the Lammas issue?

Are you a budding writer, artist or photographer? Do you have something to say to the pagan community? We’re already looking for exciting new content to include in our Summer Solstice issue. We’re interested in your personal anecdotes, poetry and short stories; if its interesting and relevant, we want it. For more information on how to submit to us, visit our submissions page. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

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An Interview With Liz From Pagan Friends


Q: What’s the most important tool for a Pagan to have?

I can’t answer for every Pagan, of course, but for me, apart from having an inquiring mind and a very big heart, that has to be my lighter. Mine’s a little silver refillable one, with a picture of a glittery purple and pink fuschia flower fairy on the front, and it has an unusual pretty green flame.

Brian, my Hubby, got it for me when we were in Galway, Ireland for my 40th Birthday in 2000 so it has a lot of sentimental value and it came from a very cool place.

Sadly, it’s packed away in my box of my most precious Pagan stuff because we are moving house again before Yule, so for now, I just use a black plastic throw-away lighter, instead, but I miss it, loads, and can’t wait to have it back in active service along with all my other important working tools.

Q: Have you ever felt awkward about being a Pagan?

Yep, only the once, that was last year, sat at a table in the beer garden of our local pub, The Ferry Inn, with my Son’s girlfriend, Jo.

She’s devoutly Christian, and when I told her I was Pagan, she said, “Oh, that’s OK, just as long as you aren’t one of those witches who do spells, or put curses on people….” *gulp* I’ve never been known to fall so silent. Cat got my tongue, big time. Talk about being put on the spot….. For Dan’s sake, I didn’t answer. But I suspect she kind-of guessed, anyways, I don’t see her so often now

Q: Do you have a threshold guardian?

Tricky one, that, I guess it all comes down to personal definitions of a threshold guardian.

If you mean in a practical sense, like does a guardian protect my doorstep, then yep, I charged a dragon to do it for me, and he does an excellent job.

If you mean in a spiritual sense, then it’s not so straightforward to answer right now, no.

I’m going through a lot of changes in my path life at the present time, and some of the protective forces I enjoyed previously have sadly gone awol, but I am sure others will replace them eventually if the need should arise.

Q: What number is most significant to you? (3, 7, 13….)

Having numerical dyslexia, I’m not big on numbers at all, I kind-of see them as the enemy.

I’ve tried getting into the whole numerology thing, many a time, but it’s isn’t happening. Lol- but I think 13 tends to be lucky for me rather than unlucky, so I’ll go with that one.

Q: The dark Moon affects your moods, does it affect you when you try to do magik, or rituals?

Oh, yes, enormously! I can’t do much at all at Dark (New) Moon, other than get depressed, cry a lot, eat chocolate, drink lots of wine, or port, or rum, and sleep a lot – 14 hours a time some times.

Equally, I go into over-drive at Full, cat napping here and there, picking at my food like a bird, de-toxing like a nutter, surviving on adrenaline, doing all sorts of meditating, scrying, cleaning, healing, making charms, changing my alter over, collecting nature’s gifts for my casting, just call be Bi-Lunar. Lol!

I still manage to do my morning “greeting the day” and evening “giving thanks” rituals at Dark (New) Moon, they never stop, (even still did them in hospital when my kids were born and when I had my hysterectomy,) but meditation, healing or other spell work is out of the question, I just don’t have the motivation or energy to do it.

It’s like my elastic snaps, and I’m useless for about a week, some months are worse than others.

The recent lunar eclipse at Dark moon was a particular low for me, and I’m only just starting to recover from that a week on.

Q: How do you celebrate the Summer Solstice?

It’s my wedding anniversary too, this year it’s our 31st, so we usually go out to dinner in a swanky restaurant somewhere for a double celebration, then when I come home, I tend to light a candle, do a meditation, perform a little scrying for the second half of the year,then I kind-of get a bit excited knowing the wheel is turning, the dark half of the year is approaching, nights will start drawing in, and my beloved Mabon/Samhain/Yule isn’t very far away. Yay!!!

This year I have been invited to a moot with a friend called Becky who lives in North Pembrokeshire.

I think we might have a little musical event as she wants to learn to play the celtic harp like me and I’d quite like to take up the drums like her.

Q: What is one of the earliest acts of magic you attempted with any degree of success?

Lol! That would be winning over a teacher who didn’t like me in Primary school.

Her name was Miss Tideman.

I’ve no idea why she took dislike to me, but I suspect it was more to do with my Mother having a go at her for something rather than me, I thought she was lovely, but she seemed so hostile.

I got hold of a photo of her from a school magazine, took it home, placed it in a dish with a rose quartz crystal and an amethyst crystal, lit a sandalwood candle beside it, carved with my name on one side and hers on the other, I made an offering to my (then) Deity, Lugh, (of soda bread soaked in honey), then I placed an apple in my lap, and envisaged Miss Tideman sitting me on her lap reading me Enid Blighton’s Faraway Tree – my favourite book at the time. I gave her the apple for her lunch the next day and she ate it.

Did it work? Yep. Sure did! I was sitting on her lap listening to her read my favourite book later the very same day. Woo-Hoo!!!

Q: There is a great deal of symbolism and activity associated with Romanii – is there a God/Goddess generally favoured?

I am thinking in relation to lives hinging principally on travel and (more so in olden days,) horses as a vital element.

The majority of Rom Pagans I knew back in my youth actually chose “Black Sara” as their Patron Goddess. Her image is that of the Black Madonna, and Her links seem particularly strong with the sea. That might explain why I am bonding with my lady Yemaya now that I am turning more toward root work in my own path as thewre are many things in common between the two of them.

http://kopachi.com/articles/the-romani- … onald-lee/

Q: Have you ever seen a spirit person or animal?

I was quite young when a Policeman rushed passed me on my GrandMa May’s stairs as I was coming down them one day. He was stout, with a red bushy beard, and I knew he was Irish by his accent because he was muttering away under his breath as we drew side by side. He had come to arrest Grand-Dad for violence. When I told Grand-Ma, she went pale, the Policeman who arrested Grand-Dad was actually shot dead before I was born, she had a newspaper clipping to show me all about it, and she told me that what I had seen was the Policeman in spirit still coming after Grand-Dad, something she had seen a few times herself, and it was precisely the reason GrandMa never went upstairs in the house again for the remaining 10 years of her life. Grand-Dad had moved her bed into the living room after that.

Q: Are you like your lovely Grandma Maud?

In many ways, yes I am, to look at, a chip off the old, especially when it comes to the round face and thinning hair, the ample figure and problem with the swollen legs and feet, so it’s not all good, however, behaviour-wize, I am very self-motivated, very community-minded, and capable of many things, some of which might be considered to be more “mens work” than womens’ work, like my love of brick building and plastering, putting up shelves, and car mechanics, and I know that makes her very happy and proud of me. Her attitude was always don’t be hanging on a man to get by, do it yourself. So I do. She used to be the local agony aunt, friend to the friendless and Mother to the Mother-less, and so was I before I moved out of London. I see a return to that once I get back into paid employment and start circulating in society a lot more. I’ve already got plans to kick the Pembroke Dock Civic Society into the 21st centuary soon by getting it out there onto the web, and meeting with the local council to see how I can imporove my new area to better serve the residents, plus I’m considering starting an annual Welsh Pagan Pride event, possibly in Cardiff, then there’s the Goddess Temple project in Pembrokeshire, and I can feel Maud approving of all those things, already.

My artistic and musical talents and gardening skills come more from May, my other GrandMa.

I know she approves of my harp and zither playing, and shes been nagging me from over in Summerlands to get back to gardening and drawing, something I plan to do when the move has happened.

Q: If and when Liz, you feel disconnected with your path/beliefs/nature, what helps you to re connect?

Normally, I get some sort of psychic wake up call or proverbial kick up the backside from either of my GrandMa’s, Maud or May, or my M-I-L Joyce over in Summerlands, that usually works, but failing that, I take a walk down by the river, or pay a visit to the forest, or try meditating on a Full Moon night or something like that. Camping is always a good way because it fetches you closer to nature.

Q: What piece(s) of music would be your preference to honour your passing to Summerlands?

I jokingly once said Monty Pythons’ Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, but I don’t think that’s really Gothy enough, do you? so it’s gonna have to be Funeral Bell by Black Label Society.

Back to Index

An Interview With Phil Hine (part 1)

Q: At your new blog, enfolding.org, you have already explored some very interesting ideas. Are you happy with how the project has developed so far, and where do you see it going in the future?

Yes, I’m very happy with it so far. It’s really helped me get back into writing – and it’s already taken me into unfamiliar territory. Last year, for example, I thought it would be interesting to do a short post on Richard Payne Knight, author of Discourse on the Worship of Priapus – written towards the end of the eighteenth century. So I started digging around into his life and social milieu, and found it so fascinating that I soon had enough material for a lecture, which I gave at Treadwells Bookshop in February, and I’ll eventually get round to writing it up for publication. I’d never really looked into eighteenth-century history before that, and I’ve kept that interest going – now I’m researching the relationship between shamanism and sexuality in the eighteenth-century.

The original idea for Enfolding came up in a conversation with a few friends about creating a place to explore some common interests – tantra, queer paganism, history, etc.. It was originally intended to be a “group blog” but at the moment it’s mostly me posting, with occasional posts by various friends. I’d like to get more of my friends to contribute, but that’s largely a matter of me hassling them to write – and recognising that, like me, they’re often busy with other projects.

As for the future, I don’t know. I’d like to get more book reviews posted, and I’d like to get back into interviewing people – something I used to really enjoy when I was editing Pagan News but probably with a camera this time.

Q: Do you think that shamanism and alternate genders are intrinsically linked or that any link between them is based on perceptions external to the culture within which they exist? Does the shamanic practice in itself perhaps relate to an additional and wholly separate gender?

It’s complicated. I’m going to restate part of it simplistically as: (in culture x) do you become a shaman because you’re gay, or become gay because you’re a shaman? (i.e. because the spirits tell you to). This is a question that anthropologists have spent a long time grappling with – and tends to look weird because in the West we’ve used to thinking of gender-preference in terms of identity rather than related to a specific social role.

If you look at any culture, you’ll find that the relationship between “shamanism” (and by extension, any other kind of ritual or magical specialist) and gender is highly complex and variated, and anthropologists’ attempts to represent such complexities has shifted accordingly – with an increasing trend to, rather than use broad categories such as a “third gender” – actually find out how the persons they are studying represent themselves. So in India, for example, not only are there Hijras, but there are also other subjectivities, such as kothis, zenanas, jogappas, siva sathis, as well as men who identify as gay in much the same manner that we are used to in America or the UK. Generally speaking, Hijras themselves distinguish between three gender identities – panthis, kothis, and narans – panthis are masculine men who take the penetrative role in sex (with kothis or women) kothis are “feminized” men (“not-men”) who desire the receptive role in same-sex encounters and like to do “women’s work” and narans are women (regardless of age, marital status, etc) – and Kothis are “like women” but not women. So for Hijras, gender identity revolves around who does what to whom, rather than anatomy – sexual behaviour rather than identity. The more you look at it, the more complex it gets, and some researchers have also stressed that western categories such as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” are just not valid for India. Shivananda Khan a few years ago, quipped that “there are no heterosexual men in India – just married men and men who will get married.”

One of the things I want to concentrate in the series I’ve started on Enfolding.org is to look at the way the relationship between shamans and gender has be represented historically in “western” accounts of indigenous peoples. It can be interesting to do this because not only can this kind of discussion highlight the complexities of the relationship between shamans and gender, but also show how they’ve changed over time – and – how accounts of gender often say more about the people giving the account than the people they’re talking about.

For example, I do feel that there’s a tendency sometimes, for pagan authors to assert that – either in “ancient times” or in “tribal cultures” (sometimes both) gays and lesbians were “special people” who were honoured were often shamans – and from there it’s very easy to go from there to a rather simplistic, romantic view that those peoples are “just like us” or that cultures where there appear to be gender-variant magical specialists are honoured in the same way, that perhaps, we’d like to be.

Just doing a quick search around the net, I found this blogpost:

“One of the most interesting theories is the existence of a ‘third gender’ – that there are certain sacred people “between the genders”. These people serve their community in some priestly or spiritual capacity. Examples given include the ‘two-spirit’ shamans in some Native American traditions, the hijras of India (men dressed as women who bless newborns, among other things), or the Galli, the ancient priests of Cybele.”

Which I think illustrates the problem, for me – because Hijras are not the same as “two-spirit shamans”. Reading this (and I’m not trying to single this post out, just using it as an illustrative example) there’s a tendency to focus on “sacred people … serving their community” and it’d be easy to assume that as such, Hijras are (a) thought of as sacred and (b) get respect back from the community they serve. What it’s easy to forget (or perhaps avoid thinking about) is that Hijras are widely viewed as “outcasts” in India and are regularly subjected to tremendous abuse – arrest, rape, eviction – and have virtually no legal rights.

I feel quite strongly, that if we as pagans are going to draw strength/inspiration from the identities of people in other cultures, then we need to do so ethically – which entails respecting their histories, material conditions and present struggles and not reproducing simplistic stereotypes just because they make us feel good.

Here’s a great article For All Those Who Were Indian in a Former Life which highlights some of these issues:

“The New Age movement completely trivializes the oppression that we, as Indian women face: that Indian women are forcibly sterilized and are tested with unsafe drugs such as Depo-Provera; that we have a life expectancy of forty seven years; that we generally live below poverty level and face a seventy-five percent unemployment rate. No, ignoring our realities, the New Age movement sees Indian women as cool and spiritual and therefore, available to teach white women to be cool and spiritual.”

Q: Why do you think some pagan (and non-pagan) authors are so keen to present gay and lesbian people from other cultures as being honoured and special? Is (as suggested by interpretative archaeological theory) any ‘re-reading’ or interpretation of the past necessarily subjective and if so can any interpretations be more or less valid than others?

In a way, I think its a perfectly understandable consequence of the way that – up until fairly recently (roughly, the last thirty years or so) LGBTQI persons have been characterised in western culture as deviants or outsiders who had no “place” in society or history, and certainly no right to speak for ourselves. And let’s face it, this hasn’t gone away.

I recently remarked on a blog post that I remember when almost no one was writing positively about LGBTQI themes in mythology, occultism or paganism and what sparse references there were to LGBTQI people in pagan/occult texts was overwhelmingly negative. There was a widespread belief that “only heterosexuals” could engage in magical/pagan practice which I encountered on more than one occasion – and it was not uncommon to find authors stating that “homosexuality” was “black magic”; that “homosexuals” were elementals occupying human bodies, or that “sexual deviance” was due to people’s chakras being blocked. I met a couple of quite high-profile British pagan authors in the 1980s who both told me that if they came out as gay, their pagan workshop audiences (from which they gained much of their income) would “go away”.

I think, given these circumstances, it’s understandable to go looking for evidence – from history or from other cultures where things might be different.

In the late 1980s, Mark Thompson edited an anthology called Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning A theme central to Thompson’s introduction was the idea that -for gay men – the “coming out” process was very similar to “the shaman’s journey”. What’s quite revealing though, is his footnote – which makes it clear that he’s drawing on the work of Eliade – particularly the idea that shamans undergo an initiatory crisis and that shamans are “separated from the rest of the community by the intensity of their own religious experience” (footnote, introduction, p14). Thompson is, as I read him, making an explicit plea for gay men in terms of their similarity to shamans (in that they have roles (healing, mediating, leadership) yet are at the same time “separate” from their communities. Later in the book, he makes a case for viewing drag queens as shamanic “trickster” figures – again, citing the prevalence of sacred transvestites and cross-dressing shamans. Thompson wasn’t the first person to make an explicit connection between non-normative sexuality and shamanism, but when I first read his book at the end of the 1980s, I wasn’t aware of that. But I wasn’t really convinced by this argument. I’d become very interested in shamanism in the mid-1980s (see my “shamanic trilogy” downloadable here ) and kind of went through a “shamanic phase” of practice. One of the “convictions” which came out of that was that it doesn’t matter what label you attach to yourself – i.e. that you can call yourself a shaman if you want to – but if you’re serious about taking on that role, it entails having some kind of community within which you are recognised as a specialist – doing things like divination, rituals, or healing for people. I couldn’t really take seriously the idea that all gay men were “potential” shamans – just by virtue that they were gay.

One of the critiques of archaeology/anthropology is that the disciplines treated “facts” as though they were context-free objects passed around much like commodities. Now in the context of shamanism and gender-variance, there’s a tendency to treat shamanism in this way – as an abstracted, “universal” category which is found everywhere (often with the implication that it is pretty much the same everywhere). a variation is that all magical (or “shamanic”) techniques are essentially similar, irrespective of culture, context, history etc. This is a view I’ve becoming increasingly critical of over the last decade or so. Eliade is often critiqued nowadays because his work did a lot to promote this universalised image of “the shaman”.

Stephen Breyer has done a useful critique of Eliade’s approach here and again, I’ll get around to looking at some of these issues on enfolding.org in due course.

Your invocation of interpretative archaeology, followed by the question about subjective interpretation is particularly interesting as Interpretative archaeology is often accused of cultural relativism – the belief that there are no universal criteria that we can use to compare or judge values, customs, beliefs, interpretations. So yes, how can one interpretation be more “valid” than another? It’s a question that I get asked quite frequently by pagans & occultists, who are often surprised that I have opinions (and beliefs) on the basis of which I (perhaps sometimes too readily for some people) reject theories and positions.

Some archaeologists & anthropologists have proposed that no actions can be separated from their cultural context – from frameworks of meaning. These “frameworks” are not universal, and so the same act conducted in two different societies will not necessarily carry the same significance. The consequence of this relativistic approach is that it is held to be impossible (or very difficult) and problematic to abstract a practice from the framework of meaning that renders it comprehensible. This perspective was popularised by anthropologists such as Boas – their original intention being to highlight the problem of basically judging other cultures by our own standards – and was a reaction against earlier methodologies which unquestioningly assumed that, for example, western civilisation was the pinnacle of human progress and that “primitive” races either had to become civilised or become extinct – or that they were evolutionary dead-ends who would probably die out anyway which would be no great loss to “evolution”. I’m going to look at some of these theories and how they related to historical interactions with regard to indigenous peoples as my “Shamanism and gender-variance” series of blogposts develops.

History is always going to be partial, incomplete. We are not neutral (“objective”) when we read the past, and how we interpret the past (or other cultures) is going to depend on what we are looking for, and what our commitments are – our politics. So you can accept a pluralistic perspective but still be capable of making moral or ethical judgements based on your own commitments. So, readings of history/culture which promote and underwrite genocide; that support violence towards persons by making them “less human” than oneself – because of race, gender-identification, etc., are all abhorrent to me. So I can’t accept that fascist ideologies, or the kind of Christianity espoused by the likes of Fred “God hates fags” Phelps are as equally valid as a commitment to view the world as pluralistic, richly diverse and complex. If that’s going to be viewed a failing on my part, then I’m okay with that.

But going back to this appeal for being special/honoured. As I say, it’s understandable, but its tricky because its often rooted in an appeal to sameness. Appeals to sameness are always problematic because once someone has defined what a “real person” is – in terms of a particular identification, then it becomes very easy to start excluding people on the basis that they are not “proper” persons. A lesbian friend in India tells me that she is frequently accused of not being a “proper Hindu” because her lesbianism is a “western import” and women who love women never existed in India prior to the foreign. colonial influences of the Mughals and the British. When the movie Fire first showed in India, nationalist groups firebombed cinemas and made death threats to the director and cast and petitioned for the film to be banned on the basis that if “women’s physical needs get fulfilled through lesbian acts, the institution of marriage will collapse” and “the reproduction of human beings will stop”.

Over the years I’ve been involved with paganism I’ve seen various attempts to define what paganism in terms of condition-statements. Projects which are, IMO, doomed to failure as paganism is extremely diverse and heterogeneous, and any attempt to set up a sense of paganism in terms of “principles” (i.e. “all pagans believe “x”) is going to be tricky, as sooner or later you’re going to encounter people who identify as pagans but don’t agree with the conditions that have been set up. And its very easy to say “well x isn’t a ‘proper pagan’ because they’re not a vegan, or they don’t honour the god and the goddess.” And this is a problem of identity-based politics in general – that essentialised and homogenised identities tend to erase differences and have the potential to silence and erase others. Which is one reason why I referenced Andy Smith’s essay in my response to the previous question.

Q: As you’ve already said, it has been proposed that specific actions are inseparable from their cultural context and the ‘frameworks of meaning’ surrounding them. In relation to your explorations of Tantra, how does your Western background affect your experiences? How important is it to you to understand the cultural context of Tantra?

I first became drawn to Tantra in the early 1980s after experiencing a recurring dream in which I met the goddess Kali in a cremation ground. At that time, the only sources of information I had access to were occult texts, many of which produced an explanation of tantra which was rooted in western concepts and terminology or emphasised the “sacred sex” and – a predominantly psychological approach to the subject. I wasn’t really interested in “new age” (for want of a better term) approaches to tantra – I wanted something more directly “magical” – which an emphasis on ritual, if you like. By 1986 I’d moved to Leeds, and met a guy who was an initiate of an East-West Tantric “order” known as AMOOKOS. AMOOKOS was my entry into the “magical” tantra that I’d been searching for, as a lot of its practices were rooted in historical Indian tantra practice – streams such as Patanjali’s Yoga, Sri Vidya, Kaula. Under the guidance of my initiator – my guru – I began to perform these practices. I was very much focussed on the practice itself – the doing, and not really concerned with the “theory” (the philosophy, if you like) in which these practices were rooted. But gradually, I began to understand that something was missing. I’ve been writing about the problem of assuming that our concerns, aspirations, etc. are universal. So, during this initial phase of my involvement with tantra – which was about ten years – I’d more or less assumed that what I was practicing were just “techniques” and that the context which underwrote them, wasn’t important. Probably because I’d internalised a set of western understandings of ritual, meditation, selfhood, etc., to the point where I’d stopped questioning them. And I’d probably been influenced by a western picture of tantra that had grown up – one which says, effectively, that tantra is just “techniques” and is completely “separate” to the rest of Indian religion – and that is isn’t a religion at all.

I think that I began to change my view primarily because I began to get interested in how these western understandings of tantra arose, historically. I found that western “imaginings” of tantra – and indeed, the very notion that there was this particular thing called “tantra” arose when western scholars in the 18th-19th century tried to understand Indian religion, and how a lot of the ideas about tantra which are circulating in occult texts are rooted in a set of misconceptions which come out of the nineteenth century. I became very interested in this, because by that time I was doing a lot of workshops and lectures – occasional on tantric themes, and would have to deal with other people’s misconceptions as well as my own. At the same time, I was beginning to read tantric texts themselves – which is interesting in itself as many western accounts of tantra don’t seem to be aware that there is a vast tantric literature out there – or indeed that there are different tantric “traditions” – and trying to make sense of them. I gradually came around to the realisation that assuming that tantric ideas were basically “the same” as the ideas that I was familiar with – from my background of western ceremonial magic and Wicca, was a mistake because they were actually very different – based on very different understandings of the world and how we relate to it. So in “translating” a term, a concept or a “technique” from one culture to another, often things get lost, misinterpreted, or erased if we do it from the point of “sameness” rather than difference.

Let me try and give a basic example. In western magic we’re very used to the idea that there is a distinction between the spiritual and the material – and so when we perform ritual, for example, we are “creating sacred space” and thereby separating ourselves from the mundane, everyday world. But in the tantric streams which I was increasingly beginning to drink from, that “hard” separation just isn’t there. All space is sacred, because the entire universe is the body of the goddess. When we perform ritual, we’re intensifying or coagulating our sense of the sacred temporarily, but nothing is itself, not sacred. So we don’t denigrate the “everyday world” or try and separate ourselves from it. Does that make sense?

Another fairly fundamental example is that in the west, we’re used to thinking in terms of a basic mind-body divide – or that the individual is separate to society. A lot of occult texts assume that there is a division between “inner experience” and outward forms. Now there are Indian philosophies which look similar to this, and so tend to get interpreted as “dualistic” – although I would argue that even Indian dualistic philosophies – such as Samkhya (which was very important for the development of Yoga), are different in important ways to western ones. But in explicitly “tantric” philosophies those divisions are not present. The gods, for example, are held to be simultaneously immanent and transcendent, and we experience them through our bodies, our senses, our experiences.

Similarly, how we translate terms can be tricky. In European and American accounts of chakras, you’ll often see the term “nadi” translated as “nerves”. So there is a tendency to conceptualise nadis in the same way that we think about nerves in the human body – as being fixed in place. But if you translate nadi as “stream” as in a stream of water – it instantly becomes more dynamic, because streams dry up, run at different speeds, change their course, etc.

And these issues/problems become much more difficult when one tries to make sense of a tantric text. I’m going to take an example from the Saundaryalahari – “the flood of beauty” which is a key text in the Sri Vidya tradition (one of the traditions I am drawing inspiration from). Verses 7-8 are part of a description of the goddess Lalita (“she who plays”) suitable for meditation or ritual:

“Banded with a tinkling girdle, heavy with breasts like the frontal lobes of young elephants,

slender of waist, with face like the full moon of autumn,

bearing on the palms of her hands bow, arrows, noose, and goad,

let there be seated before us the pride of him who shook the cities.(7)

In the midst of the Ocean of Nectar, where covered with groves of heavenly wishing trees

is the Isle of Gems, in the mansion of wishing jewels with its grove of nipa trees,

on a couch composed of the four gods Shiva, your seat a mattress which

is Paramashiva – some few lucky ones worship you, a flood of consciousness and bliss.(8)”

Yet there is much more here than just an image for meditation. Let’s go through just a few of the imagery. Firstly, the text, likens Lalita’s face to the full moon of autumn. This reinforces the radiance of her face to the devotee. India’s autumnal period (approximately mid-October to December) is relatively free of clouds, allowing the moon to shine brightly and clearly. Then there’s “bearing on the palms of her hands bow, arrows, noose, and goad” – these are four weapons often associated with Lalita (although of course other deities bear them as well). The bow is the mind, the arrows are the five senses. The noose can be thought of as Lalita’s capacity for drawing Her devotees towards her, or a reminder that Lalita is the source of all attachments; the goad for encouraging devotees on Her path – to be unwavering in their devotion/practice. Together, the noose and goad can represent attachment/desire (noose) and aversion/anger (goad) – both of which emerge from Lalita – one implication being that in order to experience Lalita fully, one has to not be bound by either. The bow Lalita holds is often described as made from a piece of sugarcane, with a drawstring of bees, the five arrow-senses, as flowers.

“him who shook the cities.” is a reference to Siva in respect to one of his deeds as recounted, for example, in the Siva Purana. The four gods who make up the couch (they are the four supports, or legs, of her seat) are Brahma (southeast), Visnu (southwest), Rudra (northwest) and Isvara (northeast). The Isle of Gems and the mansion of wishing gems may be taken as references to the nine layers or chakras of the Sri Yantra – which is Lalita herself in multiple form. It can also be a reference to the human body, which is composed of nine constituent parts – hair, skin, etc.. which can be found in Ayurveda and tantric alchemy. The Ocean of Nectar is both the bindu of the yantra and the devotee’s heart-space in which Lalita is eternally present. Nectar – which can be thought of as the joy of experience, flows from Lalita. This is reinforced by the reference to Nipa trees (“water coconuts”) are a type of palm tree, bearing clustered fruits, from which can be extracted sugar. Its sap ferments very quickly. The flowers of the Nipa are sometimes associated with inciting feelings of love, particularly in classical poetry. Having Lalita seated on a couch made up of four important deities, with Paramashiva – “supreme Shiva” as Her mattress emphasises the primacy of Lalita over all other deities, and the entire description of the “island” is very similar to that of royal pleasure gardens – emphasising Lalita’s royalty and power.

So you can see, even in these brief two verses, there is quite a lot of “context” to understand. Now the Saundaryalahari is a fairly popular text, and there are many commentaries available which will help understand its various meanings and interpretations. But even with these to help, it can often be difficult. There is no one book – or indeed one person – who can tell you everything you need to know. So I find myself coming back to a text again and again, as my understanding deepens through practice and reflection. Tantric texts are not really literal instruction in the way that we often relate to texts in the west. They are often cryptic, dense and richly layered, and were often complemented by an oral and commentarial tradition. They were, by and large, written by and for practitioners – so you’re not going to find any “tantra 101”-type texts from within the traditions themselves, and one often finds assertions that the “mysteries” of a tradition cannot be found just by reading a book. It sounds complicated – and it is, but if, for example, I’m mediating on Lalita’s presence in all experiences at any one moment, be it the feel of the sun’s warmth on my skin, the traffic noises, outside the house, the smells around me, the sensation of fingertips touching fingertips, it becomes much simpler.

Our interview with Phil Hine will be concluded in our Lammas issue.

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An Interview With Aidan Kelly

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’ve been working on recently; who is Aidan Kelly these days?

Being 70, it’s often a mood of:

At my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

I come from a long-lived family and I’m in good health; so I do have a good chance of seeing Bella, my youngest, now 8, graduate from college. I’m still working—teaching part-time for ITT Tech to supplement the Social Security—but I spend as much time as I can, allowing for home schooling our three kids, on my writing. I’ve gotten three books—a history of the NROOGD, a wild novel called Goddess Murder, and my collected poetry—up for sale on Amazon. (I think the Print on Demand technology is wonderful. I don’t have to argue with agents about whether I know what I’m talking about. The corporate publishers are doomed; their ecological niche has evaporated.) Next I’m completing an overall history of the Craft in the US and Canada from the 1960s into the 1990s, to be called A Tapestry of Witches. But largely all that’s to get stuff out of the way, so that I can work on my autobiography and on a theology of the infinite, which relates to religions in general about the way that quantum mechanics relates to Newtonian physics and common sense. One can get some sense of what I’m doing by looking at my blog at aidanakelly.blogspot.com. I’m continuing to work on improving my now 17-year marriage to my beloved Melinda and on being a better father to our three children, Evan, Chloe, and Isibella. And I’m hanging with the Gnostics; they do exist; fascinating!

Q: You’ve talked about several of your experiences of the mystical, including your first spontaneous mystical experience at fifteen. What has been your most recent mystical experience? And which (if you can pick just one) do you think was the most important to your spiritual development?

I have described those experiences in essays that will be incorporated into my autobiography; one was at 14, the other at 23. They certainly gave me a view of reality different from that of most people, even though such experiences are actually not very rare. What they showed me was:

(a) we are aspects of the divine, despite our illusion of being separate beings;

(b) our minds are not what we think (at least two meanings there);

(c) what the Catholic church had been teaching about sexuality for about 1900 years was thoroughly pathological.

I really haven’t had acute experiences like that since, although getting sober in AA, getting my Ph.D., and surviving being in a manic state for 20 years were all quite transformative.

Q: What was your original intention when you established the NEW Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn? Are you pleased by how it has developed since then?

I and my friends were primed to create an adequate spiritual path for ourselves in the late 1960s, and I was merely the catalyst for that. In effect, I was hired by three powerful women to serve as their mouthpiece. Our goal was certainly to create something better than what we had often suffered from in the institutionalized Christian churches. I’ve described all that in my Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches: A Social History of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (available on Amazon for $25; crass commercial, sure, but look, guys, I’ve got three kids at home I need to feed, clothe, and educate, so I promise to spend your money wisely). As for how it developed: it’s one of the oldest active traditions in the US. I was quite surprised and pleased by Chas Clifton’s argument in Her Hidden Children that the NROOGD has achieved a viable balance between keeping the essential concepts of Wicca intact, yet encourages creativity, and in that sense represents the genuine mainstream of the whole Wiccan movement. I thank you greatly for that, Chas.

Q: For several years, you withdrew from the Pagan community and became a practicing Roman Catholic; I know you were raised as a Roman Catholic but how did you reconcile the two different kinds of worship (if, of course, you felt you had to at all)?

No, I didn’t have to reconcile them. They, like all other genuine religions, don’t conflict, because they all are talking about ultimately different issues—which is why they are all needed. I tried being a practicing Catholic again in order to maintain my sobriety, since in 1977 I could see no way to do that in the Craft, as well as to resolve issues left over from my youth, but to do so in an adult way. As I said to Lisa Lawrence, I didn’t stop being a Witch; I just didn’t practice it for a while. I still have my original athame from about 1968, and when I reactivated in the Craft about 1987, I found that there were now Pagan AA meetings; the movement had matured that much. I did not have my fingers crossed while being a Catholic again—you can’t stay sober that way—but I finally could not stomach being a member of a church that still owns all the machinery of the Inquisition. And I did manage to insult in print the guy who has become the current Pope. I’ve heard backchannel that he knows who I am.

Q: You’ve had an uneasy relationship with the Gardnerian tradition (and with certain Gardnerians in particular) for quite some time now. You have been accused, for example, of being an oath-breaker. How do you feel about this?

I feel that many of those critics are simply malicious, jealous gossips. They don’t seem to get that all my research on how Gardner recreated the Craft was done as an outsider using publicly available sources in the mid 1970s, and that I did not accept Gardnerian initiation until about 15 years later (I’m still not sure that was a good idea at all). As it was, Lady Brigit (Meredydd) let me add a codicil to my oath stipulating that the oath did not apply to anything I had learned before my 1* initiation. Much of the rest of that brouhaha resulted from my ignoring rules invented by one small faction among the Long Island Gardnerians in about the late 1970s, rules that neither I nor the British Gardnerians had ever agreed to. Some of that got cleared up when I was finally able to prove to the COG BOD that a certain HPS in Alberta had simply lied to them—not that that shut the gossips up. Enough. Such discussion simply feeds energy down a rat hole, and I have important work to do now. Actually, the best way to evaluate the merits of my critics is to read their books.

Q: You’ve admitted that you’ve made mistakes in the past (as, of course, everyone does). What do you think has been your biggest mistake and would you do things differently if you knew then what you know now?

Hard to pick just one, most had nothing to do with the Craft, and most occurred during the 20 years I was in a mild manic state because of being on the wrong medication. I look at all that and think, “If I had made any decision differently, I would not have Evan, Chloe, or Bella now—and I would not trade them for the universe—so, no regrets.”

Q: How did you handle being at the centre of all the controversy your books, particularly ‘Inventing Witchcraft’, caused?

Mostly I ignored it. Most of the complaints about my research came from people who would benefit from taking a freshman course in religious studies and who have no idea what doctoral studies in that field involves. As an analogy, I am not obligated to explain the tensor calculus to people who cannot do algebra, who are not paying tuition, and who therefore have no clue that they should be learning anything new.

Q: How do you think Paganism has changed since the mid 1990’s as a result of the internet’s influence? With information more readily available, the Pagan community has expanded, but do you think this is an advantage?

I’m aware of the tremendous growth since the Internet became available in the 1990s, but I really have not looked at it carefully. That growth is the major reason why I’m using the mid-90s as the cutoff time for my history book. The history since then will have to be someone else’s problem. I know my colleague Doug Cowan has made a good start on studying it.

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Crystal Elixirs & Gem Essences

by Beth Holtum

Elixir OF Crystal Life

An elixir, or essence is a liquid preparation made to hold the vibrational qualities of the base material being used. Here’s a guide to the varying methods which you can choose from, depending on your time, intent and purpose.

Crystal Water

Purify water from psychic impurities by placing a small Clear Quartz crystal which has been cleansed in the bottom of a glass contained filled with tap water. Allow it to remain undisturbed for twelve hours, preferably in natural sunlight. When drunk, this crystal clear water will have a wonderful cleansing affect on the bloodstream. When taken with other essences, such as flower essences or vitamins, the crystal water will promote their action.

Gem Water

Gem water is made in the same way as crystal water, with the addition of a cleansed gem instead of a quartz crystal. Drinking gem water is an excellent way of becoming aware of the healing properties of different gems. Label the gem water so that you know which gem was used. Keep notes on your feelings before taking the water and the differences you feel afterwards. You can keep gem water for 2-3 days, but if you want to keep it for a longer period of time, you will have to make a gem essence.

Gem Essence

A gem essence provides a balanced pattern of specific energy that operates like a recording, playing the same pattern of vibrations each time it is taken. While taking herbal remedies affects the etheric and the physical body, gem elixirs also affect the emotional, mental and spiritual subtle bodies.

To make a gem essence, place a stone in a clear glass container that has been sterilized by pouring boiling water into it. Add spring water or distilled water. Ask the Devic kingdom for help in charging the water for healing. Cover the container and place it in the sun for several hours. You may wish to leave it out for twenty-four hours under a full moon. This allows both the dynamic energies from the sun and moon to activate the gem.

When the gem water is ready, sterilize a number of brown glass dropper bottles. Half fill the bottle with your gem water and fill to the remainder with a good quality drinking alcohol (Gin, vodka, or brandy).

Label the bottle with the gem name and give the essence a use-by date of a few months for the best effects.

Taking Gem Essences

Add between two to five drops of gem essence to a glass of spring water. Sip this at intervals throughout the day. It is best to determine intuitively how much to take.

Please note- always seek medical advice for any long term or severe condition.

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As with all alternative practices, care should be taken to check the details of each remedy, and seek GP medical advice if a condition is serious or persistent.

Some stones and crystals are not suitable for making elixirs or essences. My rule of thumb is if they look metallic or one of the colours associated with copper or lead secondary minerals – then avoid. It’s always worth checking their mineral composition for copper, lead, sulphur or arsenic. Most crystal guide books will specific if a stone is not to be used in an elixir.

Here’s a quick reference guide to ones to definitely avoid:

Copper – Amazonite, Atacamite, Azurite, Chalcopyrite, Chrysocolla, Cuprite, Dioptase, Gem Silica, Malachite, Mowhawkite, Quantum Quattro, Smithsonite

Lead – Antimonite, Barite, Galena, Stibnite, Vanadanite, Wulfenite

Sulphur – Boji Stones, Chalcopyrite, Pyrite, Realgar

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Visit Beth’s store Rainbow Spirit at http://www.rainbow-spirit.co.uk/ where you can purchase beautiful hand-picked and cleansed crystals.

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Summertime Tarot Magick

By Melanie Marquis

Summer is a time when magickal energies associated with solar influences are at a high point in their yearly cycle. It’s an excellent season for divination and magick in all its forms, and is especially fortuitous for love magick, mood-lifting magick, and spells to bring success and opportunity. Here are some tarot spells to help you make the most of summer’s power.

Tarot Magick for Love

Who doesn’t like a Summer romance? Try these simple spells based on the principles of attraction magick and see what happens! Attraction magick can be carried out with different methods. One technique is to combine the energies of what you wish to attract with your own energies. You simply weave the energies together, entwining them, through visualization, will, and symbolic action. So for a tarot love spell based on this principle, you can choose a card to represent yourself, a card to represent your ideal lover, and a card to represent the feelings you wish to share. Place the Sun card above these cards to amplify the spell with summer’s magick. Imagine all the energies shown in the cards combining. Look at the images and stack the cards on top of one another. You can say an affirmation if you like, a positive statement in your own words such as, “These energies are now entwined, in love, united.”

Another way to work attraction magick is to project the energy you wish to attract. This principle is based on the rule of three commonly used in the Craft, that whatever energy you send out is returned to you threefold. Choose a tarot card that represents pure love, such as the Ace of Cups, conjure this feeling within yourself, meditate on the card to amplify this feeling, and then release the energy out into the world to bring you what you seek.

Tarot Magick for Happiness

Here’s a good summertime spell for inducing happiness. One of the ways to work mood-lifting magick is based on the principle of expelling and absorbing. You simply let go of and neutralize your negative emotions, and then absorb the energies of the emotion you wish to feel. So for a tarot spell to bring happiness, you would simply choose a card through which you will release your negative emotions. You can pick a card that represents these feelings, or a balancing card such as Temperance. Explore your sadness or anxiety, and then touch the card and visualize the negativity flowing away from you, coming out of your fingertips and going into the card. Now blow hard across the surface of the card, or shake it in the air, thinking, “Neutralize!” You can visualize the colour gray if you like, to help neutralize and dispel the negative, unwanted energies. Now look through your deck and choose a card that represents the emotion you want to feel. The Sun, The Magician, or The High Priestess are effective cards to consider. Feel the energies symbolized in the card, then hold it high above your head upside down, pouring these energies into yourself and feeling your joy expand.

Another way to work mood-lifting magick is with a shielding charm. For a shielding charm, you simply build a shield around yourself comprised of the energy you wish to be surrounded with. The shield will help keep you immersed in this energy while protecting against the intrusion of unwanted emotions. For a tarot shielding charm to increase happiness, choose a card that represents positive strength and positive emotions, such as The Sun, Strength, or the Ace of Cups. Hold the card face out and turn around in a circle, visualizing an orb-shaped shield of this energy forming around you, much like a witch might cast a protective magick circle.

Tarot Magick for Success

It’s summer, the season of golden sunshine and fierce energy, so dream big and put tarot’s magickal power towards achieving those dreams. One way to work a spell for success is with the combining principle of attraction magick. You’ll simply weave your own energy together with an energy of success. For this tarot spell, choose a card to represent yourself, and choose a card to represent the success you seek. The Sun, the Ace of Pentacles, the Ten of Pentacles, or the Ace of Cups are fine options. Place the two cards together as you visualize yourself being entwined with a successful energy. Imagine the energy wrapping around you, making you shine brightly. Stand confidently and proudly, just as you would if you were extremely successful. You can carry these cards with you to act as talismans, if you like, or you can leave them sitting someplace safe underneath a citrine crystal or other success-bringing stone.

Another way to work attraction magick to manifest success is to project an energy that will attract what you seek. For a tarot spell to attract success, you could choose a card that represents leadership, ability, willingness, or desire. The Magician is an excellent selection, but be sure the card you pick is one that holds personal meaning to you, that shows a quality you feel you would have in abundance if your aims were achieved. Hold the card and visualize yourself having the success you desire, and feel this powerful energy coursing through you. Now focus your thoughts on the qualities you have within you that make you worthy of this success; you might think of your strength, passion, wisdom, talent, vision, determination, or creativity. Write your full name on a piece of paper, and place the tarot card on the paper above your name. Magnify your feelings of success as much as you can, willing the energy to grow and glow within you. Now project this energy into the card and into your written name, touching each separately then both together as you feel the magickal power flow out of your fingers. If you like, say an affirmation such as, “Here I am, ready for success! Opportunity and tools, come to me, and I will use you well!”

A Magickal Summer

Summer is a great time to try new things and explore new horizons. Why not try some tarot spells as you soak up the sunshine and power of this magickal season? Take a deck on your travels for emergency charms work on the go, cast a tarot spell to attract a summer romance, or just lay back and relax with a tarot spell to release tension. Although the summer’s not endless, the potential of magick is, and tarot is a ready key for opening the door into unlimited possibility.

Melanie Marquis is a lifelong practitioner of magick, the author of The Witch’s Bag of Tricks (June 2011, Llewellyn), and the founder of United Witches global coven. Find more ideas for personalized, powerful magick in her book and on the web at www.melaniemarquis.com

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Quantum Physics is Wyrd

By Eoghan Odinsson

Ok, firstly, I am NOT a Physicist. I did take a Physics class at University, but that’s was years ago, and not my area of expertise. So please take what I say with a grain of Salt, and feel free to set me straight if I’m off base.

For those of you who are new to the Northern Traditions, Wyrd is somewhat like fate. The word “Wyrd” is cognate (related) to many words in the Germanic languages and roughly means “to come to pass, to become, to be due”.

Wyrd is not your fate or destiny carved in stone, we are not trapped by Wyrd, but our lives are shaped by it. For example, suppose you were born with no legs. Would that mean you would be fated to never run a marathon? Certainly not. It would make it a big challenge, but with today’s technology could be over come – via prosthetics for example.

So Wyrd sets us on a certain course, but we have the ability to alter course, and change our lives – so our forefathers believed.

My thoughts one day happened on Wyrd, and my belief in it. From time to time I like to consider what I “believe” in…..we all change, and sometimes it’s good to re-examine old beliefs in light of new experience, evidence etc.

Here’s where we get to the Scientific stuff (cover your ears if you must).

The Physics our grandfathers learned were heavily dependent on the works of Sir Isaac Newton – you know the guy who thought up gravity after being hit on the head by an apple . So we know that branch of physics as Newtonian Physics. I like Newtonian Physics; it’s neat, tidy, and certain. You can calculate things, and know what to expect.

If the multiverse were governed purely by Newtonian Physics, then the Universe should be totally predictive…that is, if I had all the information, I could predict any event with 100% accuracy. So life would be pre-destined, which would contradict our understanding of Wyrd – which we can influence. Hmmm….so do we throw out the concept of Wyrd in favour of Newtonian Physics? Not yet.

Quantum physics or mechanics, tells us that there is no certainty, only probability (things exist in multiple states simultaneously), there can be no prediction of a single outcome, all outcomes are viable, and do occur. So we likely have layers of realities – multiple universes, or the multiverse – a bubbly frothy foam of possibility.

So actions I take, according to Quantum Physics, will affect things in a way nobody can predict ahead of time. We can only talk about probable outcomes. So then my “fate” is not set in stone! My “Wyrd” is mine to manipulate, and even the Gods don’t know where I’ll end up.

So, Quantum Physics gives me faith in Wyrd!

Canadian born Eoghan Odinsson is an award winning journalist and author with a lifelong passion for the knowledge of our Northern forefathers – or “folk lore”. Literally, the knowledge of our people. Graduating from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland with his Masters of Science degree, he subsequently taught for the University, and was a dissertation advisor for graduate students. In addition to his academic background, Eoghan also holds a Black Belt in Shito-Ryu Karate, and has taught Martial Arts in Canada and the USA. Eoghan has just returned from a 10 year stretch working in the Washington D.C. area, and is now back in his native Ottawa Valley where he lives with his wife, son and three dogs.

You can find out more about him and his book at www.northernlore.com

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Oft-overlooked dangers in indoor workings

By Jill Malenoir

Especially for those who always work indoors, there are certain dangers to beware of.

If you often find you need to cleanse your home of bad vibes, etc., it could be that you are unaware of the ways some entities gain access.

One way is a circle cast without considering certain safeguards.

Mirrors, tvs, computer screens, Glass tabletops, glass doors and windows, pictures and other reflecting surfaces need to be covered, as they can allow entities in. Mirrors and pictures can be turned to face the wall, or be covered with a sheet or similar cloth.

Clocks should be stopped or removed from the room, although I’m not expecting you to get a hernia trying to remove the grandfather clock! Watches too need to be kept out of circle.

Phones should be unplugged or turned off, including mobiles.

There are good reasons for all of these measures, inside your circle you are out of both place and time, and you do not need a clock chime or a phone ringing whilst you are meditating, it can cause you to come out of trance too quickly resulting in a mental shock, as well as ruining your working.

Mirrors have a special place in magic and folklore. We all know the superstition of seven years bad luck for breaking one, but there are many reasons to be wary of them.

Getting between two mirrors (take care at the hairdressers) is supposed to take a part of your spirit, in the same way as photographs. The more reflections you can see, the more is taken from you.

Conversely, entities multiply in multiple reflections as they seek to gain entry, they are drawn by energy workings.

They are not all bad though, there are plenty of spells using mirrors, just take care when using them.

Take reasonable precautions and you should have less trouble with unpleasant entities and atmospheres.

Happy Circle Raising.

Jill Malenoir has been openly Pagan for 45 years, Coven trained, she now works with a blend of Witchcraft and Druidry, is a Hospital Visitor and celebrant.

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Element Meditation – Fire

By Beth Holtum

As it’s the Litha edition of the Pagan Friends’ Webzine, I thought I’d share a Fire Meditation.

If you wish, start by casting a circle in your usual way around the area you’ll be working in. Place a Carnelian crystal, or object you associate with the Fire element at the South of your circle. Alternatively, you could hold the crystal/item – try it and see what works for you.

You may also wish to light a candle that can burn safely while you meditate, and have that in the South too. I associate the colour red with Fire and the South – but go with what makes sense to you.

Sit in the middle of your circle facing South (preferably on a cushion or chair if you need back support, to avoid physical distraction from your meditation).

Settle yourself into a comfortable position and read through the meditation to familiarise yourself with it.

Remember to have a notebook and pen with you for taking notes afterwards.

The Meditation

Sitting comfortably, facing South. Close your eyes and shift into a meditative state in your preferred way.

Imagine that there is a semi-circle on the floor that spans around you from West to East, your right side round behind you to your left. Visualise it as a dark line on the floor. Gradually visualise that arc rising over you, shrouding you in darkness, rising as a dome that covers you in a protective shell. It passes behind you, over you and slowly down in front of you until it gently touches the floor in front of you and you are completely contained within a darken dome.

Settle yourself into this safe stillness. Accept the silence and solitude. Focus again on your breathing, with each breath inhale tranquillity and exhale tension.

Slowly you sense heat building around you and light rising in front of you. The Sun is starting his ascent for a new day in your life. The light starts to fill you with warmth and anticipation.

Beneath you, the Earth responds to the sun’s presence and conducts heat to your body. You sense heat building from the Earth below you – it is a sensual heat that caresses you and awakens you. The heat rises, and suddenly a spark ignites within in you – lighting your inner fire. Visualise it as a glowing coal that sits below your belly that compels you to stare into it.

Your inner fire holds the power of your will; your creative ability and sexual expression. It sparks your anger, your fear and your ability to take action. Enjoy the heat without fear of being burnt. Stay a while, gazing at your inner fire and how it burns. How bright is it? What fuels it?

Your attention moves on as you hear the rhythmical, metallic beat of an anvil and hammer, and you gain vision of a blacksmith at his forge. You approach to watch him at work. It reminds you of your own creative ability.

He’s making a sword of power, and it is a gift for you. Watch as he shapes and forms the metal, seeing it glow red as he takes it from the fire and transforms it from a rod to a powerful tool. What does this sword mean to you? Feel the anticipation of waiting for it to be ready. What power do you wish to weald with it?

When the sword is ready, accept it as a gift to take with you. Study your sword, its texture, shape, decoration and the scabbard that will hold it safe. Know its purpose. How does it feel to hold it? Your sword remains with you as you settle back into your physical being and return your inner gaze to the horizon in front of you and the light that surrounds you.

When you are ready, visualise the dome rising over you, slowly adjusting you to your everyday surroundings. Return to thoughts to your breathing, and slowly come back to normal consciousness.

You can purchase Carnelian crystals from Beth’s shop Rainbow-Spirit

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Excerpts from Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches

By Aidan Kelly

At some time early in our evolution, certainly by about 1969, our core group one evening was discussing the classic question from The Wizard of Oz: “Are you a good Witch or a bad Witch?” Naturally, we all wanted to be good Witches, and therefore we would need to work White Magic rather than Black Magic—but we quickly discovered that the difference in practice between those two types of magic was not at all obvious.

Someone proposed that White Magic is used to help people, Black instead to harm. Then we began trying to define what constituted help and what harm. Such definitions also proved to be not obvious. Someone suggested that the Golden Rule might apply—but Glenn objected to that line of thought.

“You don’t have the right to decide what is good for someone else,” she said. “They have the right to decide for themselves whether something would help them or harm them. After all, the Inquisitors said they were burning the witches for their own good. You have to ask if people want you to do magic to help them. They might not.”

“You mean we would need to ask permission?” someone asked.

“Yes,” Glenn said. “That’s what it means.”

“But what if a person is unconscious?” she was asked.

“You need to ask someone with the right to give permission for him, or her,” she said.

This now led us into an almost Talmudic dialog.

“Can a mother give permission for her child?”

“It is allowed.”

“A husband for his wife?”

“It is allowed.”

“A boyfriend for his girlfriend?”

“If you know they are committed to carrying each other’s karma, yes. Otherwise, it is not allowed.”

And so on.

We had many more discussions of how ethics should work in the Craft, and in about 1971 I wrote these up in the document entitled “Aporrheton1 Five: The Craft Laws,” which began to be circulated during the following years. The principle that one must ask permission before doing anything that would affect another person, whether by means of magic or physically, thus became generally accepted among Wiccans in America. As far as I know, Glenn Turner should be credited with having stated it first.

From 1969 on the Order began holding regular public circles for the Sabbats and has continued to do so ever since. The circles were held in public parks in good weather, in rented halls during the rainy season. It was not unusual for several hundred people to attend a Sabbat, even though one could hear of them only by word of mouth. That is, the NROOGD Sabbats were larger than many of the later festivals in the 1980s. In the San Francisco Bay Area of the late 1960s, beset by student revolts, war protests, and civil rights marches, the peaceful NROOGD circles attracted no official attention whatsoever. The success of these public circles was one factor that helped overcome the initial secrecy of the Wiccan movement and led to the creation of regional and national festivals beginning about 1979.

For our Mabon Sabbat in 1969, we decided to hold a weekend campout at Samuel Taylor State Park in Marin, a central location that we could all get to. At that Sabbat we gave white cords to a few people who hadn’t been able to get to the Lammas Sabbat. The strain of commuting had begun to tell on our northernmost members; so perhaps what happened that night resulted as much from a premonition that this would be the last gathering of our original hardcore as from my spontaneous additions to the ritual.

I knew we were meeting on the night when the Eleusinian Mysteries would have begun if the classical Greek calendar were still being used; so I broke the order of our usual ritual, by leading all off in a torchlit procession, crying “Kore!” and “Evohe!” and “Iakkhos!” down the hillside, across wooden bridges, down to a spring, where, as I recall, I first spoke the myth of Kore’s gift of immortality, then back to the circle, where we invoked the full Ninefold Muse with nine priestesses, whom I, like Orpheus, audaciously let in a chain dance about the fire; then all joined the circle, and we danced until all but Catherine and I had dropped from exhaustion, until again that silent energy rose and lapped its waves around us, filling the entire campground with a warm mistiness that was everywhere except where I was looking. . . .

Given our excitement at having been able to raise such energy, given that we now had our white cords, for whatever they were worth, and given also that the dust of moving had settled somewhat, we finally met for our discussion about esbats on October 25, 1969, at the new home of Joe and Glenn in Lagunitas. We had a potluck dinner and listened to a BBC interview by Theodore Roszak with a London witch, Zachary Cox, who was then (I learned later) the High Priest of Gerald Gardner’s original coven. (Geoff B. later commented, “It wasn’t until I heard that tape that I was certain this whole thing was not just Aidan’s headtrip!”) I also explained to the group what I had recently learned about Soviet psi research. Late in the evening, after a few people had already left, we finally turned to talking about our main business: could we hold nude esbats? It soon became clear that everyone there wanted to hold them. Okay, but how do we get started?

At this point, Fritz — and may the Lady preserve him in Canadian winters! — stood up, said, “The only way to have one is to have one,” and started taking off his clothes. We all looked at each other, got up, and began taking off our clothes too — and there we stood, naked, grinning shyly at one another. Glenn got out her tools, and we began the ritual. For lack of space we danced with our arms around waists or shoulders chanting, singing, stamping our feet — and the energy came: we got high, and higher, and even higher. “Goddam, stoned again!” Joe sang out, and we all giggled. Finally, we were too tired to go on. We broke the circle, and got dressed, and drifted homeward in a pleasant glow that lasted for days afterward.

Thus our coven began. As Larry S. commented later, it should have been obvious, and of course at the time it wasn’t, that our first esbat would have to happen spontaneously.

1 “Aporrheton” was Greek for “that which may not be spoken,” and referred to the lesser secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries; Athenian law made it a capital offense to reveal those secrets to the uninitiated. However, the greater secrets were “arrheton,” i.e., impossible to state in words and therefore needed no protection by a mere human law.

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Healing Victor

For Beltane 1973 the NROOGD Red Cord Council decided to try having a skyclad Sabbat, for initiates only. We were all used to being skyclad at esbats and to going skinny-dipping at the nude beaches, but we thought that having a concentration of several dozen skyclad Witches to raise a cone of power might be an interesting experience. As it turned out, this experiment also had a useful purpose.

We were holding the Sabbat on a Sunday night, since that was when we could rent the Unitarian hall. On that Sunday morning, Alison Harlow phoned at 6:00 a.m. to tell us that Victor had awakened at 4:00 a.m. vomiting blood, and had been rushed to the hospital; he was in intensive care, and his prognosis was guarded. Could we work for him at the Sabbat? Well, yes, we should be able to do that.

After some local calls to the other people running the Sabbat, at 11:00 I got through to Herman Slater at the Warlock Shop in New York City. He in turn phoned Lady Theos, who had recently become the reigning Queen of the Gardnerians in America after the Bucklands had retired, and at 11:30 she, to my surprise and delight, phoned me. We chatted; she offered to send me what information she could on Gardnerian practices. She said most covens had already met, but they’d at least get a circle of Elders together to work for Victor. I phoned her back at 2:00 to double-check time, and she said that covens had been contacted in Chicago, Philadelphia, Texas, Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere; and many were reconvening to work for Victor. She was quite astonished; this was the first time that all the traditions were getting together, despite the squabbles, to work for a common purpose. Thus the plans were laid for a national cone of power to be transmitted to Victor at 9 p.m. PDT, and it worked out that Alta would be the Priestess who would focus it. She wrote the following account of that experience.

This was to be a special Sabbat for our Order: the first closed, skyclad Sabbat, with only coven members attending. We had all expected it to be a special evening—and now we had work to do for a dear friend. Since I was to be the Green Priestess for this Sabbat, I was already “keyed” for the occasion, but the thought of energy, not just from our group, but from other groups as well, passing through me to Victor was a little awesome. I tried to spend the day becoming and keeping as psychically clear as I could. I fasted and meditated, and by the time the ritual was starting, I was very trancy, but determined to catch our energy, gather what was sent, and send it on to Victor, without being knocked off balance by it.

I stood in the center, facing south, as forty skyclad people danced wordlessly around me, stomping out complex rhythms. I was filled with a fantasy that the walls of our temple had become a giant grove of trees, that I was surrounded by massive beasts shuffling in the darkness. Off to one side was the sound of a drum, and the drumbeat became a collective heartbeat. The energy began to build and rose like a pulsating wall around me. At the cardinal points the heat and tension of it was magnified. The energy peaked over us—and the group held the feeling. The circle moved faster, and we entered into a time vortex. The smell of warm bodies, the sound of rasping breaths, began to press in on me.

From the middle of my upper back, a warm, tingling feeling spread to my chest, through my throat, to my forehead and crown. There was an urgent feeling of pressure in me—I called for the group to drop. As they dropped, the collected energy entered my heart, flew up into my head, passed through me into the wand I held. But the energy from the East hadn’t arrived yet. Somehow I had to hold that energy poised, and wait. I stood, holding the wand before me, both hands outstretched, feet braced against the floor, rooted to the center of the circle. Now, finally, a door seemed to open, and energy from elsewhere began to pass through me, into the wand. I held on as long as I could, and when I could hold no longer, I spun the tip of the wand, forming the energy into a ball, and threw it with the words “Victor! Catch!” The ball streaked out, leaving a bright tail connected to the wand.

I tried to sit down, but found that my knees were locked. Finally I managed to sink slowly, awkwardly, to the floor, and sat crosslegged, holding the wand before me, as the group chanted and Om’d, and more energy flowed through me to Victor. A century or so later—fifteen or twenty minutes, at least—the power stopped flowing, the group was quiet . . ..

When the ritual ended, I was very high. I had no doubts it had worked, nor had any of the 40 or so others there . . . . It was not until the following Tuesday afternoon that I was . . . out of my altered state of consciousness.

Alta was and is the most gifted clairvoyant I have ever known. The preceding is not metaphor, but is a factual description of what she felt and perceived.

The doctors had planned to operate on Victor Monday morning, but he was feeling so much better that they postponed the surgery and did another examination. To their surprise, they could not even see where the bleeding had been coming from; the wound had already healed. The technicians were also quite puzzled, Victor said, about why all the instruments attached to him had gone crazy at 9:00 Sunday night.

Gwydion did some counting and found that exactly 13 covens were working that night. However, since many covens had already met on Saturday night and simply could not reassemble the next night, many Witches were also working for Victor individually at the appointed hour; Gwydion estimated there might have been about 500 people altogether. Alta had commented after the meeting that there had been enough energy to blow a battleship out of the water, and that Victor had taken only what he needed and had sent the rest back, or on, or somewhere. It was thus not surprising that everyone at the Sabbat was high afterward and that it turned into quite a party. . . .

Alta also said that when she started focusing in on Victor, she kept seeing a room with two beds, which seemed odd, since most intensive care rooms have only one. But in fact there were two beds in Victor’s room. On Monday, when Victor was feeling much better, he began chatting with his roommate, who turned out to be of Hawaiian extraction also. They had a fine discussion of Hawaiian folklore and suchlike, and after a while the other man got up enough nerve to ask Victor, very circumspectly, where all that mana in the room the night before had come from. Victor laughed heartily over that. He was home by Wednesday, feeling quite well.

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The World Parliament of Religions

The Second World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1993, marking the centennial of the first such parliament, was a major step toward world ecumenicism. For the first time delegates from many major and minor religions, including COG and the NROOGD, met face to face and have remained in contact ever since. Many amateur papers on things religious were read to diverse audiences, as well as a few by recognized scholars. The renowned Hans Küng authored a manifesto on religious rights and freedoms that was adopted by the parliament. Deborah Light, the only person present who was a member of COG, of the Fellowship of Isis, and of the Church of All Worlds, signed it as the representative of the Pagans.

Not all was sweetness and light. The Greek Orthodox delegation walked out of the parliament to protest the presence of the Witches, whose request to hold a circle in the nearby park was initially denied by the Parks Department. However, in preparation for the grand entrance procession that began the parliament, a spectacle modeled after the entrance parade at the Olympic games, the groups were arranged alphabetically in the staging area. Thus it happened that the Covenant of the Goddess was stationed right next to the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, and Phyllis Curott, lawyer, author, and then First Officer of COG, was able to chat casually with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, the archbishop of Chicago.

After COG’s request had been denied, Phyllis turned to Cardinal Bernardin on live television and asked him if he could please use his influence to ensure that the religious rights of other American citizens would be respected. The Cardinal could hardly have refused. The permit was issued, and the COG circle was held on the spot (carefully chosen) where the riots had broken out at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The ritual, led by Phyllis, was spectacular, and the huge circle included Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and members of many other religions. The worship of the Goddess made front-page news and could no longer be ignored, at least, not so easily.

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Litha MoonLore

By Liz

The approaching Solstice on June 21st (Summer for those of us in the Northern half of the globe, Winter for those in the Southern half) this year falls on a Tuesday when the Moon is Waning in it’s Third Quarter, in Piscies and 10 days away from dark (New) Moon.

Tuesdays are all about love, passion and sex, courage, aggression and protection, fire in the belly, and burning desires,

and Piscies being all about dreaming, nostalgia, intuition, psychic impressions and a good time for spiritual and adventurous social activities, it should find us all looking back to early encounters and previous conquests with fond memories

and preparing for good times ahead, but maybe with some caution thrown in for good measure.

The Sun also enters Cancer on the 21st, so this is where things should get rather interesting.

So begins a short period of contentment and enjoyment for your midweek so long as finances allow. If the money situation is pulling you down, now might be a good time to shop around to get a better deal and make the money coming in go just that little bit further. There’s a bargain to be had that could make all the difference if you can find it.

Also those of us who tend to bite our tongues and keep quiet really should speak up for ourselves a little more around this time, or it will be a case of too little too late.

Saint Johns’ Eve (and Cornish Golowan) on the Thursday 23rd June coincides with the Moon entering it’s 4th Quarter in Aries.

Thursdays are all about money, cash, cheques, banking, loans, prosperity, expansion, generosity and investment,

and Aries is good for starting things but lacking in staying power, rapid changes, and folk being somewhat argumentative and difficult to get on with, so we should find it a time when we are needing to continue to be extra careful with out money.

We could find ourselves faced with changed plans, or caught up in some kind of disruption. Perhaps we ought to distance ourselves from those who aren’t being very sociable.

Traditionally a good night for jumping bonfires, taking a dip in moving waters and making special “wishes” to fetch good luck! And I can think of much less enjoyable ways to spend the evening, of course!

The following weekend should be quite grounded for us as the Moon progresses through to Taurus, but be prepared to become quite selfish and greedy as we all know that’s the sign of wanting instant gratification and longing for sensory experience. We could develop a taste for the finer things in life.

The end of June sees the Moon moving into Gemini and for a few days away from the next dark (New) phase, our courage may be riding a little on the low especially if put to the test.

As Wane turns to Wax and we start July at Dark (New) Moon, in Cancer, on a Friday, the focus will be on meeting new friends and making changes in our surroundings.

So there we have it, exciting and challenging times ahead and mixed blessings for us all!

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The Occult connection to the Third Reich

By Simon Cash

Did the Nazi party utililise Occult means to gain power and how deep did their interest in the Occult go?

In order to understand the rise of the Nazi Party to power in the 1930’s, it is important to step back in time a little to the formation of Germany in 1871 from a mixture of many smaller German-speaking territories which were all divided in turn into several hundred kingdoms, principalities, duchies, bishoprics, fiefdoms and independent cities and towns. Suddenly, this new young country formed out of all of this was thrown into Europe against the background of social change that was the late 19th and early 20th century. So there was a young nation with no sense of History and very little sense of identity.

At the same time, there was a wind of change all across Europe. The established authority of the Church had been shaken by Darwin’s “Origin of the species”. There was a time of spiritualism, fuelled partly by Queen Victoria’s interest in contacting the deceased Prince Albert. From their very beginning, the Ripper Murders were tagged with a occult significance. Occult and Masonic type lodges flourished among the upper and middle classes, both in Britain and the European continent. New fiction was putting forward some radical ideas; Bram Stokers Dracula was published in 1897, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had been published 1818 but found popularity in the later half of the 19th century. Jules Verne and H G Wells explored some speculative ideas which a century before would have been deemed heretical by the church. Science was moving at a fast rate and the effects of that science could be seen. Electric street lighting and radio; devices like these had a immediate effect on the general population, factories were becoming more mechanised and mass production had its effect on social order.

It was the era of the “Gentleman Scientist”. Along with Darwinism and the microscope, these were the early days of psychology and sociology. Exploration into the ‘wilder’ areas of the world such as the Amazon basin and New Guinea led to new theories in anthropology as for the first time explorers came face to face with so called primitive tribes. This led onto the theory of eugenics. These ‘Gentleman Scientists’ were of the upper middle classes, the same people who were members of Lodges.

It was a time when the established pillars of religion and science were being shaken and out of this Spiritual mix came several key characters in what would be the eventual rise of Nazism. Its important to remember that at this time no one foresaw what would eventually happen; with the value of hindsight this essay is easy to write.

Starting with Helena Blatskavy and the Theosophical society; Blatskavy claimed she was in telepathic contact with a race of homo superior called the Aryans, that they had been a highly developed and evolved race like the Atlantis and the Hyperborians and that they were a “root” race (that is to say the current world races, were mongrel mixes of the Aryans and other less developed primitive races). The once mighty empire of the Aryans was now nothing more than a couple of outposts in the Himalayas and they had travelled to northern Europe where they had seeded the Nordic races. And while Blatskavy certainly influenced British Occult Lodges such as The Order of the Golden Dawn, she influenced the European Occult lodges too.

The Godfather of Nazism was Guido Von List. Von List popularised the notion that Runes had magical properties, much in the same way that the Kabbalistic scholars attributed magical properties to the Hebrew alphabet. He studied heraldry and incorporated a lot of occult meanings into coats of arms. He believed that in the middle ages there was a secret society a kind of Templar society called “Armanashaft” who were Warrior/King/Priests who ruled the richer European lands from behind the scenes. Its very doubtful this society ever really existed, but List projected all his nationalistic fantasies onto them. He also wound into this fantasy the dominance of the Roman Catholic church in Germany as a kind of “Occupation of the German states by the Roman Empire.”

Along with List was a ex Cistersersian monk called Jorg lanz Von Liebenfrels. Jorg was living in Vienna in 1904, where he published his book Theozoologie (“Theozoology”) in which he advocated sterilization of the sick and the “lower races” as well as forced labour for “castrated chandals”, and glorified the “Aryan race” as “Gottmenschen” (“god-men”). Theozoologie could also be said to encompass what has now come to be called cryptozoology. Lanz justified his Neognostic racial ideology by attempting to give it a Biblical foundation; according to him, Eve, whom he described as initially being divine, involved herself with a demon and gave birth to the “lower races” in the process. (A mixing of the “Lilith” Story of the Hebrew’s into the Book of Genesis. )Furthermore, he claimed that this led to blonde women being attracted primarily to “dark men”, something that only could be stopped by “racial de mixing”. One year later, in 1905, he founded the magazine Ostara, Briefbücherei der Blonden und Mannesrechtler, of which he became the sole author and editor in 1908. Lanz himself claimed to have up to 100,000 subscribers, but it is generally agreed that this figure is grossly exaggerated. Readers of this publication included, amongst others, Adolf Hitler and Dietrich Eckart. Lanz claimed he was once visited by the young Hitler, whom he supplied with two missing issues of the magazine. Also in 1905, Lanz and some fifty other supporters of List signed a declaration endorsing the proposed Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft (Guido Von List Society) which was officially founded in 1908. He also founded his own esoteric organisation, the Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Templars) in 1907. These movements were supposed to “further the racial self-confidence by doing pedigree and racial research, beauty contests and the founding of “future sites” in underdeveloped parts of the Earth” (“das Rassebewusstsein durch Stammbaum- und Rassekundeforschung, Schönheitswettbewerbe und die Gründung rassistischer Zukunftsstätten in unterentwickelten Teilen der Erde zu fördern”). To further this agenda, he purchased the Werfenstein castle ruins in Austria. Neither organization really managed to attract a large member base, though; it is estimated that the order had around three hundred members, the most prominent of whom was the poet Fritz Von Herzmanovsky-Orlando. Lanz’s claim that the organization was already founded prior to 1900, and that he met with August Strindberg in 1896 and managed to convince him to join the order, have been shown to be fabricated. Even though the order was small in number and some of its claims unfounded its influences were sadly very wide reaching. Prior to all of this Jorg Von Libenrfels had made his name as a Bible scholar, which lent an air of authenticity to his later work.

Now the young Adolf Hitler joined the German Army at the outbreak of hostilities and his job all through the War was a communications messenger on the front line. He ran messages from trench to trench, a job which had a short life expectancy due to the dangers involved. However, Hitler thrived in this environment; he had extreme ‘luck’ and was awarded the Iron Cross, though never made it past Corporal on the promotions ladder. Hitler was temporarily blinded in a gas attack towards the end of the First World War and some say he had a epiphany while recuperating in hospital. While he was in Hospital the German High command surrendered, not because of a military disadvantage (in fact the German Army was “winning” in 1918), but because in Germany itself its infrastructure was collapsing. Citizens in Germany were starving, the workers in the factories which supplied the war machine the were striking and it is this severance in supply which prompted the end of hostilities. Germany was more or less starved into submission, something that along with the hyper-inflation of the 1930’s fed the German peoples sense of being unjustly treated, especially among the Military. The old Solders believed they could have won and blamed the Surrender on the strikers, labelling them Communists and Trade Unionists.

On some photographs and newsreels of the First World War, German Solders had decorated their kit with the Swastika and Runes for luck. The ideas of Von List had filtered down from the intellectual upper classes to the solders in the trenches, Its possible these ideas and concepts of people like Von List and Liberfrels had been used as propaganda on the front line troops.

After the War Hitler, still in the employment of the Army travelled to Munich, Also in Munich was the “Thule Society” one of many Occult Lodges which had sprang up after the War, who’s membership was a mixture of Aryan promoting intellectuals and War hardened veterans. The “Thule Society” decided to create a political wing and called it “The German Workers Party”. Hitler was sent into to gather information on communist groups and he had been sent to gather information on the German Workers Party. Hitler, however, found himself in agreement with their ideas and within a few months was leading the Workers Party. The Thule Society found this Iron Cross decorated war hero and began to “Groom” him, they introduced him to the upper classes and industrialists, he received lessons off a drama coach to improve his ability and charisma as a public speaker. This is the start point of Nazis here in Munich with the Thule Society and people like Alfred Rosenberg (Hung in the Nuremberg trails) and Dietreich Eckart. Rosenberg was a anti Semitic and anti Communist, and published the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; a hoax or propaganda document of the alleged minutes of the 1896 world conference of Jews where the high ranking Jews all over the world have a summit and take minutes of their master plan?

This document still resurfaces every now and then as different factions try and pin their own agendas to it. The most recent one being that Rosenberg substituted Jews for Masons and its actually a Masonic plan to take over the world! The Thule Society wasn’t just a intellectual society though; they became active. The closest analogy I can give is that the Thule Society were the IRA and the German Workers Party, Sinn Fein. The Thules got their hands dirty and committed violence against other political groups, especially in their home base of Munich. Hitler’s relationship with the Thule’s was symbiotic, they needed a charismatic spokesman and he needed power, suffice to say Hitler manoeuvred himself to power as his power grew his methods of gaining power became more sophisticated. Hitler however saw the Occult side as a means to a end, there were more active and occult practising members of the Nazi party who gained power along with Hitler in the 1920-1940 time period.

So the base for Nazism was certainly influenced by Mystics, Occultics, Proto Historians and Spiritualists.

Heinrich Himmler and Rudolph Hess were probably the two most occult driven members of the Nazi Party, Hess was fascinated by Astrology where Himmler was much more Aryan influenced. It was Himmler a academic who had studied classical literature who founded the “Ahnenerbe” (A think tank that promoted itself as a “study society for Intellectual Ancient History.” Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe’s goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan race, and later to experiment and launch voyages with the intent of proving that prehistoric and mythological Nordic populations had once ruled the world). This group is the base for the Nazi Artefact hunters in the Indiana Jones films and while the Indiana Jones films are fiction, historical research shows that the Ahnenerbe funded expeditions to, Iceland, The Crimea, Italy, The Ukraine and Tibet to search for proof and artefacts that could be shoehorned into the Nazi Propaganda machine. The Ahnererbe members were usually members of the SS or given “honorary” commission in the SS as in the case of Otto Rahn who’s Homosexuality was conveniently overlooked as long as he was achieving results… Of course when Otto Rahn’s search for the Holy Grail began to fail it was a different matter.

Hummler’s SS adopted the double Sieg rune as it’s symbol, again going back to the theories of Von List and fallen SS solders had a different gravestone, another rune instead of the cross. This was again to set them apart as a different race. They celebrated different holidays and swore some very Occult sounding Oaths on joining the SS.

Himmler himself thought he was a reincarnation of a King Heinrich of the 10th century who ruled over the lands west of Rome and was thought to be one of the mythical Armamanaschaft. Himmler also devised a practical method of reintroducing the Aryan race, Membership of the SS was based on physical and genealogical characteristics, Polygamy was encouraged among the SS and there were what now would be called Breeding and Nursemaid programmes. This reached a point where Aryan looking children and babies were being removed from their parents in the occupied countries and taken to the Aryan Nursery. Himmlers plan was a expansion of the German peoples “living room” eastwards across the Baltic states and eventually Russia. He was also in charge of the “Race and Resettlement Had the ideas of the Third Reich come to pass and they succeeded to some romantic notion of a pre industrial society, where majority of the population were peasants but the ruling over-class had the upper hand in all things including technological superiority inventions of the age (Rockets, jet aircraft, Television) would be under the control of the Armanashaft ruling class. As well as the mystical icons and spiritual well-being of the Third Reich.

Hess was one of Hitler’s original groupies. Introduced to Hitler through the Thule society. Its debatable what the reasons for Hess flying solo to Britain and trying to broker a peace treaty, some say it was a plan by secret agents who used Hess’s interest in Astrology and his personal Astrologer to manipulate Hess into doing so, some say it was a independent action of Hess and he believed he was acting in the best interests of Germany and Hitler for doing so. Whatever the reasons, Hess failed in his mission and ended up a prisoner. (Its interesting to note that Ian Fleming proposed that Hess should be debriefed by Alistair Crowley in a attempt to lean any Nazi occult secrets and plans.)

In Germany however, days after Hess’s flight Hitler (who had Dictatoral power over the German people by then) decreed that all Astrologers, Fortune Tellers, Palm readers etc. were to be arrested. Many were and subsequently to disappear into the concentration camp system. The Occult Lodges were systematically raided by the SS and their books and artefacts confiscated, most ending up at Himmlers’ Wewelsburg castle in the Alme Valley which was the headquarters of the SS. This put a end to German occultism at least for a while and it is interesting to note though, that for all its occult themed Propaganda, any actual successes from the rituals of the SS seems to be ill documented.

A myth has grown up around the Hapsburg Spear, supposedly the Spear of Destiny, the Spear thrust into Jesus’ side by a Roman Solider at the Crucifixion. Indeed one of Hitler’s first actions once he annexed Austria was to have the spear removed to Nuremberg and it is said that on the 30th April 1945 (the day Hitler committed suicide) the spear fell into the hands of the 7th American Army.

Whilst the American Space program certainly benefited from the Nazi scientists and debate still rages on should current Medical Science should use the results of Nazi medial experiments, Nazi occultism is a forgotten field. Were all the successes of the Nazi Occultists successfully eradicated? Or is it far more plausible that they never really achieved success in the first place and even at the highest levels of their most secret societies the practices were nothing more than ritual without any tangible Occult Result?

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Moldavite

By Beth Holtum

Here’s the low down on another of my favourite crystals, which I use for protection; pursuing a spiritual path and for transformation through life.

Moldavite is a baby of the crystal world, having been formed relatively recently, compared to the other rocks and minerals we use.

A natural glass formation, Moldavite is a green variety of Tektite that formed 14.8 million years ago when a large meteorite entered our atmosphere so fast that it melted before it crashed and exploded on impact in the Czech Republic.

The impact was so great that it formed the Bohemian plateau and Moldavites are found across the vast area. It has a very high vibration, activating all chakras, often giving you a light-headed feeling.

It aids awareness – both personal and spiritual – of your inner secrets and also those of the universe. Moldavite resonates with all chakras, particularly the heart, and carries the power for transformation, rapid spiritual evolution and expansion of awareness, of synchronicity, seeing dark fears in a new light and connection to guides.

It can shine a light into the darker corners of one’s life so that we can see that the things we fear in truth, and find out that they’re not as bad as we thought.

In divinatory terms, drawing Moldavite can indicate a time when you feel alienated from others – that you follow your own path with a greater awareness that others cannot comprehend.

Moldavite, and many other stones are available to purchase in Beth’s store Rainbow Spirit

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Labdanum

By Rebecca L. Brown

Traditionally collected by combing the coats of sheep and goats or by raking plants with a rake called a ladanisterion, labdanum is produced by certain species of rockrose native to the Mediterranean. The best quality resin is said to come from the rockrose which was originally native to Crete, although the majority of modern labdanum comes from Morocco, Spain and France.

Although best known as an incense, labdanum has historically been used in a variety of ways. In Egypt it was also used within the embalming process, in perfumes, whilst the Cretans used it as an ingredient in skin creams.

At room temperature, labdanum is a thick resinous liquid. To make it easier to use, it can be poured onto wax paper and frozen until required when pieces can be broken off or shaved away using a blade.

Labdanum incense was widely used across the Mediterranean. The Hebrews, and later the Orthodox church, used it as a ceremonial incense and it was popular in the Minoan kingdoms (where it was often combined with mastic) and Egypt (where it was a common ingredient of Kyphi mixtures).

As an incense, labdanum can be used to heighten visions, moods or memories. It is said to strengthen a person’s awareness of their body and help uncover inner warmth. It is also useful for grounding or for those seeking self-discovery. It is used as a fixative for other scents and to add a mossy or leathery undertone to blends.

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Nettles

by Rebecca L. Brown

The name nettle is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon ‘noedl’ meaning needle.

Nettle leaves can be picked fresh (whilst wearing gloves) and boiled or steamed as a vegetable and the water in which they are cooked can then be drunk as nettle tea or used as a hair wash. The cooked leaves can be blended into soups, added to sauces and added to a variety of dishes or eaten like cooked spinach. Nettles can also be dried or bought as tea bags or in capsules.

As a crop, nettles are easy to grow and cultivate and will adapt to almost any conditions, but be aware that their roots are as intrusive as mint. For this reason, it may be best to grow them in a pot or container.

The nettle has been used in the past to relieve arthritis or to improve circulation through a process of self-flagellation. It supposedly has anti-inflammatory and anti-hystamine properties and has been said to relieve allergy, asthma and hayfever symptoms when taken internally in dried form. Eating stewed nettles has been traditionally used in some countries to relieve pain. They also contain boron and silicon which are thought to alleviate the symptoms of bursitis, tendonitis and arthritis and are rich in vitamins A, C and E. The natural diuretic properties of nettles mean that, when taken internally, they can help lower blood pressure, relieve bloating and even reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Nettles should not be used by pregnant or nursing women as there is some evidence that they might induce contractions and cause an imbalance in electrolytes.

Nettles can be used to make cloth or paper. The juice can be used to make green or yellow dyes or as a substitute for rennet in cheese making. A burnable oil can be extracted from nettle seeds and nettles are often included in hair treatments to improve shine or as a remedy for baldness.

Because of it’s many healing and nourishing properties, nettles have been used magickally to nourish the spiritual self. At the same time, it’s sting has led to it’s use as a protective and warding plant. Nettles are the promise of a gift at a price, a prize which is only reachable by the brave.

The inclusion of nettle fibres in some ancient British burial cloths might mean that it was associated with the boundary between life and death and it is traditionally a boundary guardian and a ward against curses.

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Seabhac: The Wounded Hawk
By T. Fox Dunham

I leaned against the lone oak tree at the river, among the grass and acorns, pen in hand, pressing it to my writing journal till a puddle of blue ink soaked the pages. The words failed to come. I’d lost them somewhere just after my first chemo treatment, fallen out of my heart like the hair from my head. Even now in remission, I couldn’t compose one line of prose. Writing had always come to me like breathing, an automatic function of my life, the way I met the world. Sans my work, I’d fade from the living world.

My body, only nineteen years in age, had hosted battle to a rare species of lymphoma—a rare, composite cell type that always proved fatal. They’d burned me to ash with toxic chemicals, with daily lashings of radiation. Through some miracle or mistake in god’s abacus, I survived, becoming the first, but I’d never asked myself whether I wanted to live.

Now it was done. The true trial in my life began the day the cancer went into remission five months before.

I had used magick in my battle with cancer, my work with shape changing, animal transformation like one of my ancient mentors, Taliesin. Fighting the cancer, I envisioned myself a fox, tricking and leading the tumor away, which I perceived as hounds. We are gentle spirits, foxes. It became a game. This was part of my path to becoming a bard.

My body felt battered that late afternoon, worn after an event at Penn’s Manor, the museum where I worked—an eighteenth century, colonial manor estate in Pennsylvania, complete with manor house, bake and brew building, servant’s cottage, a farm with animals, and gardens. On June twenty-first each year, minstrels played, volunteers mingled in period dress, blacksmiths hammered and cooks baked and boiled over the open hearth. Families came to travel backwards in time to a gentler era. Escaping to the kinder past was why I had come there months ago.

The twenty-first of June was also a sacred day in the Celtic-pagan calendar: The Solstice, the beginning of the summer season, a day of life afire, fire reaching to me, waiting to touch, to ignite. I still felt inchoate, not finished, part of me here and part of me in the other world. Shamans face death as part of their initiation, their education, emancipation. My uncle had told me this when I was a lad, my teacher, my bearded beloved uncle. I didn’t realize it would be so literal.

For a moment, I slipped back to that place where I always dwelled, the private patient waiting room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Eighty pounds. No longer able to walk. My fair hair starting to grow in like peach fuzz, like soft nettles. My oncologist wanted to stick a tube down my throat, inflicting more pain, an agony already just to swallow. I declined. I made a choice. I let go, ready to die. The next weeks I spent in hospital, slipping away. I sensed a place of summer-always nearby, just beneath the layer of this world. Still my fox brought me back. I had work to do yet. I’m doing it now.

Then I was at the museum again. I resigned my pen and walked the shore of the Delaware River till the swards turned to ferns and the ferns to trees. Silver skinned sycamores and noble oaks stood sentry along the river wild. Here pulsed the ancient wood, preserved as the eyes of the Lenni Lenape tribe had seen it for centuries. The river had recently flooded, scattering knobby driftwood on the forest floor. Mocking birds lilted in triple call on the branches, and I rejoined, knowing their song from many mornings in their company.

I sensed something calling to me, leading me deeper into the ancient domain. I could sense it close—fear, rage, fighting till the end. Bards are sensitive to subtle rhythms. I followed its song deeper, through the sticker brambles. I caught my shirtsleeve on thorns, ripping my skin in dashes. I used the globe in my chest as compass.

A red-tailed hawk waited for death on the roots of a birch tree. Her healthy eye whipped, searching for cat or fox that would exploit her vulnerability. Crippled with broken wing and swollen head, blood dripping into her faded, crimson feathers, the old mother hawk understood her helplessness, but still she thrashed, reminding any who dare come near of the fury in her claws.

So close, I could sense her fury, the tornado in her heart. I could feel her rage, her need for life. She bellowed, allowing death not one extra second.

I knelt by her, and she lunged her head at me.

“You carry a message for me.”

Hawks carry messages between this world and the next. I felt certain she had come to guide me in my faded time. Animal, spirit guides play a vital role in my faith. I’m a bard, a type of Celtic shaman—a system using animism, spirits in the land, in the trees, in the rivers and the wind. An animal spirit walks with us on our path, shares its nature, aids us in our healing and our work with others. During my treatment for cancer, I performed visualization exercises, sending my fox to lure the cancer into the ferns, drawing the beast out, tricking it to the river where the current would take it out to sea, the poison drawn from my body.

“Don’t be afraid now. I’ll guard you, keep away predators.”

I felt my face dampen with tears. We were kin—both trapped between life and passing, inchoate of spirit, torn between both worlds.

“I’m going to get Charlie,” I told her. “He’ll know what to do—Charlie the Goat.”

I feared leaving the beast, but there was nothing else I could do.

Charlie worked by the manor house, cleaning up the front gardens. I told him about the hawk, and he plucked on his oak-moss beard. He fetched a burlap sack from his shed, and I took him to the old mother hawk.

We were careful of her talons as we swept her up into the sack. We secured her, and I held her to my chest, feeling her light body tremble. I sat in the back office of the visitor center, while Charlie made some phone calls, cradling her in my lap. I moved my arm to reach for a cup of tea, and she curled up, driving her talons through the burlap where my arm had just been. She would have pierced my flesh straight through.

Charlie found a non-profit clinic for wounded, wild animals in Newtown—the Ark—an hour’s drive from Morrisville. Charlie didn’t have a car, and I searched for a volunteer, since I wasn’t allowed to drive. The museum staff looked forward to heading home after such an arduous day and didn’t care to drive me. Finally Mary, my friend and mentor at the museum, volunteered.

I’d always been a little in love with Mary—her professional aspect, yet so gentle. She’d taken me under her wing, treated me like a brother. She didn’t own a television and spent her Sundays birding. I always thought she was a bit lonely.

We got into her white Volvo—the little car with zip. I cradled the hawk. We drove out of the site parking lot, beneath muddy skies smothering the sun. The mother hawk became still, taciturn. I feared she wouldn’t survive, we wouldn’t. Only an hour had we been connected, but I could feel a tether between our two lives. Mary also knew. She’d lost her sister to cancer and her mentor, Alice, the site director. She could see the need in my eyes, how much I needed the hawk to live. I’ll love her forever for that day.

I could feel the sturdy clockwork of the hawk’s heart, a minute mechanism like a windup soldier, such a tiny locket to hold the wild, wind spirit. Her heart had been her mother’s heart and the heart of all mothers before, inherited, their spirit shared—something humans had lost—and now this was her first lesson to me.

I’d died once in the hospital and was resuscitated, my body burned away and made new, my raw spirit cleared of fatty fear; and now my spirit surged just beneath my skin. I felt my heart beating in choir to the hawk’s.

Driving over the Tullytown Bridge, the sky’s back snapped, and a river burst onto the Volvo. The sky howled in thunder, igniting the premature dusk with flashbulb whips. Mary wrestled with the steering wheel to keep the car steady against the stampeding buffalo wind.

The storm thrashed at us for most of the trip till its energy waned as we drove into Newtown. Mary flipped on the radio. I knew the song well.

I sang along:

“It’s still the same old story,”

“A fight for love and glory,”

“A case of do or die.”

She shook her head as I exaggerated the song, posing like a lounge lizard.

“The world will always welcome lovers,

“As time goes by.”

Afraid I might continue my act, she flipped off the radio.

“One of my favorite films,” I said. “In all the gin joints in all the world—”

She shrugged.

“Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone before?” she asked.

“Everyone does.”

“Casablanca never did anything for me,” she confessed.

“No!”

We arrived at the Ark. Volunteers took the hawk back and tended to her. I knew she would live. We both would live. A few minutes later, she would have bled to death or been the meal of a lucky cat. I could still feel her cradled in my arms, pressed on my chest, sharing my heart. The old mother hawk raged for every second. Something of the hawk’s spirit went into me, reminding me of my need for life, waking my soul from a coma buried deep in a glacier.

I knew I would dream of her. She would join my fox as a guide for my journey. She drove her dagger talons into me, awakening me with the pain. Life suffered. Life ached. This made it real.

I added her Gaelic name to mine. Seabhac.

I hugged Mary outside, dried my eyes on her cardigan sweater.

“Let’s go home,” I said. “This will make a good story.”

T. Fox Dunham lives outside of Philadelphia, PA. He is a cancer survivor, a historian, and an author published in many international magazines and anthologies, some under the name of T. Joseph Dunham. He is currently finishing his first novel, The Adam & Eve Experiment and writing for Beam Me Up Podcasts. He follows the path of a modern bard. His friends all call him Fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: deconstructing civilization one story at a time. www.facebook.com/tfoxdunham

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Being The Change

By Raven Kaldera

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

-Mahatma Gandhi

In the morning, I wake up between my two partners.

I’m polyamorous and pansexual, and I sleep every night between my wife of 16 years and my boyfriend of 8 years. Both of them came into my life after I asked the Gods to provide me with the right partner – not once, but twice. They were given to me, complete with invisible tags saying: “Arranged relationship package from Divine HR, by request – please take delivery!” How do I know what that tag looks like? Easy. It’s a Vesta-Juno conjunction on the ascendant of our composite astrological charts – hers and mine, his and mine. Both times. The odds of that happening twice in a row are … astronomical. But when you’re dealing straight up with Gods, all the odds go to Hel. Literally, in my case.

Of course, it also means that I can’t ever get divorced, should I want to. It’s been made clear to me that to do so would be an insult to Divine HR (also known as The Love Goddesses), and They would punish me accordingly. I’ve seen what they can do. I know better. I also know I’d never get anything better after that, either. This gives me incentive to make my relationships work, with communication and consideration and being a mature adult instead of a jealous child. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I make mistakes, but I try to love through and around and beyond all the social garbage that we’re told about long-term committed relationships. I try to love as if I’d grown up in a world where those didn’t exist. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

My wife usually gets up before me and goes out to do the morning chores. She feeds the sheep and goats, the chickens and ducks and geese and rabbits, and if it’s winter she starts the big old Victorian wood cookstove that heats our food and our house. We found our stove at a yard sale when we’d first bought our little 18-acre homestead, more than a dozen years ago, and named her Esmeralda. She is the guardian spirit of the kitchen in our admittedly animistic eyes. She costs us nothing but labor. It’s said that woodstoves warm you three times: once when you cut the wood and drag it home, once when you split it, and once when you burn it. We’re working toward energy self-sufficiency, but it’s a long, slow, expensive haul. In the meantime, when the power goes out during our fierce New England blizzards, at least we have hot water and hot food. We log our little piece of the forest in sustainable ways that do not offend the forest spirits. When we say that, we mean it; it isn’t an affectation or a metaphor.

We get our meat and eggs from our farm, and much of our dairy when the goats are in milk. It’s my job to milk them, a meditative job that I’ve come to enjoy.

Hearing the squirt of milk rattle in the pan somehow connects me to centuries of ancestors who heard that same thing on their daily quest for nourishment. When I do the nighttime milking and come outside to a full or near-full moon, I make sure to catch the moon’s reflection in the bowl of milk. It’s good mojo for my nourishment. No, it’s not superstition, it’s all part of the great spell of my survival.

I belong to Hela, the Death Goddess of the Northern Tradition, but I also honor many other gods, some from other pantheons. The patron of our farm is the Norse corn god Frey, the Sacrificial King. We sacrifice to Frey by holding ourselves strictly to organic farming, even though it’s sometimes more work and we do lose crops occasionally. Food is sacred, says Frey, and should be produced and eaten with respect due to the sacred substances that keep you alive. This includes both plants and animals – it was Frey who first explained to me that raising plants that are genetically modified to be soaked in chemical pesticides and still survive, and then extracting their fruits and heating them to such a degree that they develop trans fatty acids, is just as disrespectful to the plant spirit as keeping a chicken in a confined, disease-ridden cage is to the chicken spirit.

I wouldn’t suggest homesteading, getting back to the land, to anyone unless they really loved it. This is not the kind of lifestyle that you take on quickly or thoughtlessly. The physical work alone can eat you, unless you see it as an earth-centered meditation, an act of mindful worship. If one can rake patterns in a Zen garden, one can hoe potatoes with the same mindfulness. Pulling weeds becomes a magical act of cleansing, removing stressful or obsessive thoughts and feelings from one’s mind. There’s an African Ashanti word – fofoo – that literally refers to a kudzu-like weed that must be entirely obliterated from a garden or it will take over and choke the melons and millet. It is also used metaphorically in that language to mean the sort of negativity that will take over your whole life if you let it. Every time I kneel in the garden, it’s a chance to remove fofoo from my head … and other places as well. Every time I lay another bed fertilized with nothing that came from a chemical factory, I remember that I am modeling this for others in some small way. See, it can be done, and done well. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The vegetable garden is also my job, as is the herb garden that has entirely taken over our front yard. Since my childhood, I’ve talked to plants. I didn’t have any wise old family members who held old herbal knowledge and taught it to me, as so many famous herbalists have recounted. I did have a grandmother who was into gardening, but she tended towards pansies and pachysandra. My family were middle-class American suburbanites who saw everything in terms of the latest scientific theories, and would have found my practice of talking to plants fanciful at best and ridiculous at worst. Gardening was all right – for a few years my father grew some vegetables in the back yard, and my mother put in a few small trees and some chrysanthemums – but plants weren’t medicine, and they certainly weren’t people that you could talk to.

I knew better. I was one of the outcast children at school, poorly coordinated and oddly behaving, picked last for gym teams and exiled to far left field for many phys-ed classes. Sometimes an hour would go by without a ball coming my way (not that I could have caught it, anyway), or anyone noticing that I was sitting down in the tall grasses at the edge of the recess field, touching weeds. Sometimes I would pick leaves and fold them, pull them apart. Sometimes I just stroked them like a pet. (I wasn’t allowed pets at home due to the allergies of other family members.) Sometimes the plant would communicate with me, not exactly in words, but I could tell that its consciousness had responded to me. A clump of plantain read about like a mouse to me in terms of consciousness sophistication, although one was mobile and one sessile. Like one might talk to a mouse in a box, I would talk to it, and it would respond in some small way that did not include physical movement. I’d long ago learned that I could see the glow of life force in a living thing, and I could see it in plants just as strong as animals. As I petted it, it glowed brighter. That plantain was just as alive as an animal, although it wasn’t very bright.

But there was something else present that was. Sometimes when I talked to plants – on the recess grounds, in the back yard, at my grandmother’s house – I sensed a larger presence looming behind the plant like a parent standing over me and watching my interaction with their child. Whenever I sensed this sort of presence, my heart would pound and the hair would stand up on my neck, and I would be careful not to pull off any leaves while they were there. I convinced myself that I couldn’t see them, largely because I didn’t want to look. Besides, I sensed that whatever it was, was very old, and as a child I felt that I oughtn’t to associate with my elders. The little clump of plantain was just about my speed.

As an adult, I ended up in the city and all my dealings with plants ceased for years, caught up in a cycle of poverty, single parenting, chronic illness, and general scrambling for a living in the concrete jungle. However, somewhere along the line a friend drove me some hours away into the country, and we visited a herbfarm. I was captivated, wandering around in a daze. The herbs seemed so much more alive, somehow, than the over-fertilized tame hybrid vegetables or plastic-colored bedding flowers or scraggly weeds that I’d known in my youth. (I had no idea, at that time, how isolated I was from nature, how isolated most modern people are.) They called out to me with those voices that were not voices, and I ended up frantically buying a dozen of them to bring home and keep in pots. The herbs weren’t timid; it was as if they sauntered up and demanded my attention. From that day on, I would never again live without live herbs in or around my house.

I read everything that I could find about them, ransacking the public library for books. As I read, something echoed in me again and again: I’d done this before. Not the reading, but the growing of them, the talking to them, the harvesting and preparation and … dosing? Yes, giving them to people who were ill. I’d known what to do then, although I got the feeling that while some of the information I got out of those rather general library herbals was common knowledge I’d had before, some of it wasn’t. I’d known things that weren’t written there, scraped up through trial and error and the advice of those who had taught me. I also noticed that while there were many herbs who would call out to me, there were many more who wouldn’t. It was the European herbs that drew me in with those memories, and specifically ones from northern latitudes, or that had been naturalized there. I also felt that from some of the local North American plants in the ecosystems where I lived, but those seemed to be less about “I remember you – don’t you remember me?” and more about “Hey, I saw you when you were a kid, talking to that plantain. Want to talk to me?”

I learned, now that I was older and wiser and no longer afraid to look large spirits in the eye (in fact coming to terms with the fact that I could see human ghosts helped me face the spirits of nature), that the Presences looming over me were the overriding spirit of that sort of plant. Devas, some New Age folk called them. I called them Grandmother Mugwort and Grandfather Plantain, Mother Dill and Father Comfrey, Master Fennel and Mistress Hyssop. They sometimes looked human in my mind’s eye, but I never assumed that this was anything more than the way that my mind interpreted their energy. Some didn’t look human at all. Some were simply undelineated Beings. Some seemed to like me, some were indifferent or even hostile. Some helped me, offering advice. I found that when the Grandparent spirit was standing over them, the little plant spirit didn’t mind giving up its leaves, and even the sacrifice of its entire being was not accompanied by negative feelings. The Grandparent spirit simply gathered it in, and I took its body to make medicine with.

For medicine they were. I was poor, and had no health insurance, and was chronically ill. Taking herbs saved me from wasting my meager money on doctors often enough to make it definitely worth my while. It was quite satisfying, too – I was getting one over on the Man. Every time I fought off a cold with garlic and elderberry, I was robbing a pharmaceutical company, a doctor’s office, and the entire medical industry. I was walking in the ways of my ancestors, some of whom might have once been me.

I have lupus, and by the time I was diagnosed I was already allergic or resistant to all the front-line medications prescribed for it. Go home and wait until your organs start failing, I was told, then check into the hospital and we’ll give you chemo drugs. I can do better than that, I thought. With acupuncture, massage, live food, staying away from as many chemicals as possible, avoiding allergens, and depending liberally on the aid of my friends the greenwights, I am still very much alive when by all predictions I shouldn’t be. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The story of how I became a shaman, how the Northern gods and wights came for me, killed me, brought me back, and trained me in the other parts of my job is a path that runs parallel to my dealings with the plants … or Greenwights, as I began to call them after the cultural context of my practice congealed around me. When most people think of shamans and spirits, they think of animal spirits – the shaman’s allies are Wolf, or Bear, or Eagle. (You’ll also notice that the popular stories all have large impressive animals; you rarely hear of famous shamans using Rat or Sparrow.) While I did eventually get introduced to a handful of animals, it was always plants first for me. Instead of Wolf, I got Agrimony. Instead of Bear, I got Burdock. The stories also tended to refer to the shamans as only having one or two allies; instead, I was expected to make some kind of alliance, however tentative, with every sort of plant that would talk to me.

Two plants in particular dogged my footsteps, and I began to refer to them as my watch-wights. Before I had learned that term, I just made sure to look for one or the other of both whenever I found a new apartment, even in the city. If I saw one or the other, it was a sign that this place would be important or useful to me. One was Belladonna, the other Elder. They were the first Grandmother spirits that I ever faced. Lady Belladonna was dark and sleek, languid and sardonic, sorceress and Black Queen, sharp and dangerous as a stiletto, the Mata Hari of the plant world. Even though she told me that she had been set to guard me by my patron goddess Hela, I have always been careful to treat her with respect and never turn my back on her. Dame Ellhorn, on the other hand, was a dignified grandmother, a wisewoman of noble blood who expected me to treat her with courtly manners. At first I thought that she had been set to guard me as well, but she told me that she had merely seen me once as a child and had taken a liking to me, which suggests that all my talking to weeds paid off.

One was Gerda, the wife of Frey the god of agriculture, the Sacred Corn King. My wife is descended from Frey’s festival-got children – her mother’s maiden name was Ingerson – and we both called on his blessing when we began our small farm and the first vegetable beds went in, the first goats and sheep and chickens found their pens. It would be later that I met his wife. Gerda is a giantess-goddess, quiet and dark and heavy where Frey is golden and bright and laughing. Her name means “guard”, and she came to me as the Lady of the Walled Garden. Frey oversaw our farm, but the herbs were Gerda’s place. Indeed, as the garden grew, she claimed more and more of it until the whole area within the stone walls and fences became her sacred place. She would come to me while I was weeding or digging – conveniently already on my knees before her – and talk to me about the herbs, telling me their stories. (They weren’t stories I’d ever read, and I don’t know if they have ever been written down. The shamanic tradition of my ancestors was lost while they still had an oral culture.)

Gerda introduced me to plant spirits that I didn’t yet know. Some who had previously been indifferent to me stood up and took notice when I followed in the wake of her quiet dark-cloaked figure. She specifically introduced me to certain types of greenwights – the Wisewomen like Mugwort and Yarrow, the Magicians like Fennel and Speedwell – who knew the gossip about other greenwights, and who ought to be used for what, and might be willing to teach. To this day, when I meet other herbalists, they invariably ask me who I’ve studied with. I know that this is their way of determining my credentials and methodology, but I always have to be honest and say, “The plants taught me.” Some raise their eyebrows, smile fixedly, and move away. Some smile more deeply, and nod; there’s really nothing else to day about it.

Has there been a price for my involvement with the greenwights? Of course there is. In all worlds, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Some greenwights (like the Ancestral Fathers and Mothers) are bound to us as a species and are obligated to help us. Others simply like humanity and have a close relationship with it, or are healers of such power that they are spiritually obligated to heal when asked under the right circumstances. Still others are indifferent to humans and must be convinced to aid us. The greenwights have demanded that I be more aware of what I eat, especially plant matter; they would prefer it if I only consumed organic food, a deal that I can’t fully consummate yet but I am sincerely working toward. Genetically modified food is out of the question, and overly processed food is also an abomination to them. I have had to be mindful of what I harvest in the wild and how; what I feed to my livestock; what I throw out and where it goes. A picnic at a park may become waylaid by a greenwight who wants to talk to me, right now in the middle of the sandwiches.

Another strange taboo they’ve laid on me, which will probably upset a good number of people, is that I cannot be a vegetarian for reasons of principle. If I required that sort of diet for health reasons, that would be one thing, but my body likes meat protein and does well on it. To the greenwights, saying that it is wrong to kill animals but right to kill plants would be privileging animals over plants, and a plant shaman can’t do that. The carrot has as much reason to live as the cow, and is as necessary and worthy of respect when sacrificed so that we may live. Ironically, my involvement with plants has therefore also led me back around to supporting organic and cruelty-free livestock farming. (If you don’t think that the two are related, go have a talk with Master Clover, or better yet, Frey.) And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

And yet … with all this natural living, I never forget that my body is a product of modern technology. I’m an intersexual, born with an endocrine system poised between male and female that exploded into a double puberty at age 13. I was raised female and transitioned hormonally to male; I pass as male on the street, but between my legs and between my ears I am both male and female and always will be. I didn’t understand why this was important to my future until I bled to death, quite literally, and Hela took me apart in an almost-hallucinogenic vision while I laying dying, and reconstructed me again … differently. I can do things now that I couldn’t do before, but none of those things are mine to use outside of the job that She has set me.

One of her most difficult orders was getting sex reassignment. I took testosterone, made by a large pharmaceutical company, and I will take it forever for the rest of my life. I don’t like large pharmaceutical companies. To someone with my politics, they are a nightmare, and yet I’m bound to this path now. To pay for what I have to do, I made this vow with my first injection: I will take this corrupt, poisoned substance into me, tainted with all the ill work that its makers have spread, and I will transform its substance. Like snake venom, it will be turned by my flesh and spirit. It will be used to fortify a life that will work to slowly prevent that ill work. Let this medicine be a tool against the source of its own taint, and thus be cleansed.

And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

After transition, I found myself passing fully as male … and I was told that I must wear skirts whenever I could safely get away with it, as a sign that I was still one of the Sacred Thirds. I am not allowed to choose one of the two ends of the gender continuum and stay there; I must claim the middle ground as my own. I can never fully be a part of woman’s or men’s space; I am the living anchor for the alternative – a space where all genders are welcome, but the Thirds know best. You don’t have to be like us to be here, but you do have to like us – and you do have to give up, however temporarily, the uniform and values of your precious War.

I see the Gender Wars between men and women more clearly from this outsider perspective. In the Dineh myth of Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl, the ancient quarrel between the sexes once grew so bad that they stopped speaking altogether, and only the two protagonists – both nadle people, the in-between sacred transgendered folk – could talk to both sides. As they were the only ones who ever came down to the river that divided the two camps, they were the only ones who realized that its waters were rising, and that everyone had to be herded into the same boat in order to survive the flood and save the human race. They took the task on themselves, and thus saved the People. This is part of what we were born for, we who are destined to walk in both pairs of shoes. We are the sacred mediators, whether we like it or not. This is our job – to save humanity in spite of all the efforts of the men and women that make up most of it.

My skirts symbolize my nature as two-spirited, and they also hide the very real bodily fact of my nature. It’s not a theory or an archetype to me. What’s between my legs is some of both, and it will stay that way. My Goddess has forbidden me to surgically change my genitals to something wholly male-looking; even though the rest of me has been shapeshifted, that needs to stay Third. Even while I belong to neither side, I embody both in some way.

In a very real way, my sex reassignment – from almost-female to almost-male – is my truest embodiment of the Gandhi quote at the beginning of this essay. I live as both, and I love as both – not figuratively, but quite literally. My partner Bella is a male-to-female transsexual – are we heterosexual, or the same sex because we are both Third? Who is the man and who the woman? My partner Joshua is female-to-male – we’re definitely same-sex, but in whose camp? I lie between them every night; what does that make me – besides very happy? Our love bypasses all of those boxes and labels. We don’t try to claim them so much as we show how incomplete they are, how irrelevant they are to our experience. You can only describe a rainbow with the colors of yellow, blue, and green if you are color-blind. We’re a whole different part of the spectrum. We are sacred, we tell people. Our path is sacred. Just watch what it does to the minds of those who observe it! That’s how you can tell that something is sacred, you know. It’s one of the reasons why sacredness is so often shut up into small boxes … for the safety of the people who might be changed by it.

In our house, there are no sexist assumptions. No one is allowed to do something or refuse to do something on the basis of what’s between their legs, or on their chest, or what they were taught that they could do or not do while growing up. We’d point and laugh at the very idea, and going into environments where this sort of thing is unquestioned – in any direction – often boggles us. We’re used to living in space entirely unbothered by gender-programming … but somehow, the price that we paid to get that space horrifies “normal” men and women so much that they don’t even want to hear our stories of what it’s really like to live this way. Still, we tell those stories, and we model this world, and we will continue to do so until we’re dead. And this, too, is a great and terrible act of magic to change the world.

Then there’s the other battle, the dark battle. Once I won my sexuality back from gender dysphoria, I realized that it didn’t look like most other people’s sexual desires. I like the exchange of pain, of intensity. I like to be in control of other people, to run the show completely. I like terrifying my partners. Obviously, these urges could have been very bad had I allowed them to run wild, but I didn’t. All sexuality is sacred, Pagans say … and does mine count in that category? Of course it does. There was the initial step of learning about BDSM, learning how to be safe, how to become a one-man adult haunted house that my lovers could use to go down into their personal Underworlds and rise again better for the experience, but soon this, too, became subsumed into my job. I became an Ordeal Master, designing rituals of passage for those who came to my door and requested them. The potential danger was, once again, harnessed into an act of redemption, potential poison used to heal.

I take people down into their own darknesses, and scour them clean. I show them that authority does not have to mean corruption, that pain does not have to mean wounding, that power-over does not have to mean abuse, so long as it is entered into with consent, mindfulness, and awareness of the sacred. It is a position simultaneously of great arrogance and great humility, a place of power roped into service to provide a place for … service. And transformation, and purification, and honor.

For this work, I needed a deity who could understand – and embody – the place where my sexuality comes from. That force walked into my life on clanking hooves, and his name was Baphomet. I get the feeling from reading various accounts that the side of Baphomet that I experience is very different from the Baphomet experienced by ceremonial magicians and chaos-magic types. He swaggered into my life, a hairy, half-goat hermaphrodite whose job is ferreting out one’s ignored internal rot and rubbing one’s face in it. He embodies a sexuality that is dark and intense, even sadistic, but that is always dedicated to helping people attain a stronger knowledge of their selves, including the deepest, darkest parts. And, of course, he embodies this in a form that is both male and female … and highly sexual. Many androgynous deities are safely sexless; Baphomet is the opposite of both those words.

He is also ruthless about making sure that I face my own darknesses in a useful way. It is said that anyone who would play Shiva the Destroyer must have a Kali to throw him down and tear his guts out, and while Hela performs that role for me in the rest of my life, when it comes to my sexuality – the part of me that has the greatest risk of becoming dangerous to others – Baphomet does the Kali role with implacable beauty – mentor, dominant, teacher of humility and arrogance, Rex Mundi. King of the World, this world, the world of flesh and blood and humus, of rot and growth and the eternal cycle of life. He is Lord of Perversions, taking that which others reject as monstrous and turning it into a tool of healing. I am one of those tools. And this, too, is an act of magic to change the world.

The beauty of all this is that I didn’t choose to do any of it to change the world. I chose every piece for other reasons, or the Gods chose it for me and forced me to comply. Changing the world is simply a wonderful side effect, and I think that this is the most effective change of all. There is nothing that cannot be used as a field of redemption, for yourself or for the world. There is no end to the Work of the Repair of the World, and this is a good thing … for it is in this Work that we repair ourselves, and through our own repair that we do the Work. Macrocosm to microcosm. As above, so below … as long as you do it mindfully and with intent.

My friend Fuensanta writes poignantly about walking along Monterey Beach and picking up litter, and willing each act of stooping and removing filth to be not only a physical undoing, but a spiritual undoing of the ignorance and selfishness that created it. She likens it to undoing the stitches made with a needle: magically, it’s not enough to clip the threads and pull them out. You must work the needle backwards through each hole that it came through, and this makes your work reverberate throughout the worlds. It’s simple. You just live everything you believe, wholly and unreservedly, and most of all consciously, making everything that you do a spell of change. As I pull these weeds, I pull my own fears and hatreds, my own internal obstacles. As I pull these weeds, I pull the fears and hatreds of the human species whose world and genome I inhabit. As I change this hospice bedpan, I cleanse my own fears about my eventual aging and dying, my inevitable helplessness. As I change this hospice bedpan, I cleanse the social fears about aging and dying that imprison people away from the world where they do not have to be seen by the ones with the fears. Be the change and make the change. You’ll be surprised by how powerful you are.

That also means that there’s plenty of work to go around. So enough with the posturing, the whining, the bogging down in irrelevant things! Get out there – or in there – and get your hands dirty. Shaman says it’ll be worth it. Promise.

Raven Kaldera is a Northern-Tradition Pagan shaman, herbalist, astrologer, transgendered intersexual activist, homesteader, and founding member of the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel. He is the author of too many books to list here, including the Northern-Tradition Shamanism series, Drawing Down the Spirits (with Kenaz Filan), Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner (with Galina Krasskova), Pagan Astrology, and Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook. >Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Being The Change has previously appeared in the short-run anthology ‘XVI’.

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Three Sculptures: Inspiration And Creation

By Ama Menec

The Dreaming sculpture came about as a result of me having messed up an appointment and so having 3 hours to kill and nothing else to do. I spent the time making a small hand sized sculpture trying to fit a female figure into a spiral. The result was a maquette for ‘Dreaming’! The sculpture herself took 3 months!

The Hare In The Lane, was the result of an encounter I had with a Hare in the lane on my way home, at midnight, (of course!) after working late at my studio. She was just sat in the road, and unwilling to move, and given the high ‘Cornish Hedges’ we have here, couldn’t get out of the road. I followed her slowly for nearly a mile, in a slow stop start kind of way, and was struck by the jinxing way of running hares do. I grew up in East Anglia, and saw Hares regularly, but this was the first Hare I’d seen in 10 years of living in Devon, and I had completely forgotten the way they ran. She kept stopping and looking back at me, measuring the distance. All the time I kept thinking I should be ‘getting’ something from this, there was something so profound about the way the Hare zig-zagged. Later I discovered the running of Hares has been used as a form of divination, and that Boudicca divined using the running of Hares before her last battle with the Romans.

The Wolf and Raven sculpture came about as a result of reading that humans couldn’t have domesticated the dog if it weren’t for the Raven…. Wolves and Ravens have a cross species symbiotic hunting relationship, Ravens can spot a kill miles away and can lead Wolves to the carcass. Ravens also have a wide vocal range, and can make themselves understood to the Wolf. By leading a wolf to a large kill, the Raven gets a dinner, as the wolf is better equipped to open up a large animal. If the Wolf and Raven hadn’t already crossed the species boundary, humans wouldn’t have been unable to do the same. Imagine how human evolution would have been without the dog? I love this; it puts us in our place as a species, we’re not as smart as we think we are!

The shape of the Wolf and Raven wall sculpture came to me in a dream. The only time this has happened, and I listened to wolf song on CD while sculpting it!

These sculptures and more are available to buy at http://www.amamenec-sculpture.co.uk/. As part of World Animal Day, Ama Menec will be exhibiting sculptures on the 2nd October at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading.

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The Sacred Clay

By Rebecca L. Brown

I press my palms together. The clay seeps between my fingers, staining the backs of my hands a dark, wet red.

It sucks at my fingers as I peel them away, leaving behind a landscape created by the contours and the lines of my hands. The grooves where they sank into the yielding core become valleys, the peaks mountains. I imagine myself surrounded by those mountains, kneeling to take a pinch of clay to shape between my hands, feeling it seep between my fingers.

I press with the heels of my hands, crushing that landscape into a flat and featureless desert.

The clay shifts beneath my fingers, flexible and changing. I rolled a rock between my hands once, a fixed and unchanging crag of a landscape balanced between a thumb and two fingers. It’s slopes were timeless and yet barren, an ancient and stable emptiness, stark contrast to the fertile promise of cool, damp clay I am pressing flat beneath my sticky hands. It’s ability to transform matches the shifts of my thoughts, an expression of my will limited only by my skill (or lack of it).

With one fingernail I form a word, marking it into the clay: met. Another stroke, another line and met becomes emet. I my hand across the surface, smoothing away those words until they might never have existed.

I am more sure now, my hands moving with a purpose they had lacked before. Now, I become an echo, my hands a dim reflection of Ninmah’s as she created man from the primordial clay. Two shoulders, two arms tapering down into hands which press together as if in prayer.

The clay is warmer now, more rigid where the heat of my hands and the sun have touched it. Soon I will cast my creation into the fire where it will harden or else crack and be ruined.

As I place the figure on the ground, I realise I have created myself.

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I Hear Your Cry

By Lynne Gibson

The bus was full of passengers going to work, into town to shop, and children going to school. It was full of chatter. Suddenly there was a bang and the bus screeched to a halt, throwing people around. They screamed.

‘Oh God, I’ve just hit him! He stepped out of nowhere, I couldn’t stop’ shouted the shocked driver.

He got out of his cabin and went to see what had happened to the old man that he had hit. He could see that the man was half stuck under the bus and called the emergency services, which arrived within minutes. The road was closed off and the passengers were ushered off the bus and treated for shock.

I got woken up by the sound of sirens blaring. Something bad must have had happened. I could hear that Mummy had the radio on in the kitchen so I went down to her and asked her if she knew what had happened. She just said that there had been an accident in the town.

‘You had better get dressed Gemma and have breakfast if we’re going shopping’ said Mummy.

‘Ok, can we go to the Newspaper shop first, please? I like going to see Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. They always give me a chocolate bar if nobody else is in the shop.’

‘They spoil you, they have since the day you were born. They have known me since I was your age’ laughed Mummy.

It didn’t take me long to eat breakfast, wash, and clean my teeth. I put on my favorite dress and sandals because it was a sunny day. It didn’t take long for us to walk to the village shops and the Newspaper shop was empty, so that meant a chocolate bar for me, yummy.

‘Hello Mandy. Hello Gemma I suppose you have come for your comic, young lady, and seeing as there’s no one else here you can go and pick out your chocolate bar’ said Mrs. Jenkins, smiling at me.

‘You spoil her’ laughed Mummy.

‘Gemma, find me!’ Gemma heard coming from somewhere in the shop.

‘Where’s Mr. Jenkins, is he out the back?’ I asked, because I’d just heard him calling my name.

‘No, he’s nipped into town to get your birthday surprise for tomorrow.’ said Mrs. Jenkins.

‘Oh, that’s strange! It sounded just like he was out the back,’ said Gemma in surprise.

I knew that we had to go to Town now, because something was very wrong with Mr Jenkins. I don’t know how I knew, I just felt it.

‘Come on Mummy, we have to go, now!’ I said shaking her hand.

‘Ok, let’s go. I’ll see you tomorrow Mrs Jenkins. Bye now,’ she said taking me to the car.

It didn’t take long to get to town in Mummy’s car. We had to park just out side town in a little road because the high Street was closed off. I could see some ambulances, fire engines and police cars near to a bus. I suddenly felt frightened because I could see the bus stuck in the middle of the street and somebody was lying next to it on the ground. I grabbed hold of Mummy’s hand and she held it tight.

‘Does anyone know this man?’ asked a policeman.

Just then one of the ambulance men moved and we could see who it was.

‘Oh, no’ said Mummy. She started to cry. ‘It’s Mr. Jenkins. Pleased let him be alright.’ Just then he groaned and moved and looked at me.

‘You heard me Gemma, didn’t you’ he whispered as Mummy talked to the policeman.

I nodded, too shocked to speak. I was right, I had heard him.

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In the Green

(part of ‘New Lexicons’)

by Gary Budden

Odd things had started to seep into even our media-deprived consciousness. On the front cover of the London Lite was a blurry, grey-green image of an anthropoid figure, caught on cheap camera-phone somewhere, apparently, on the Hackney Marshes. Emerging from a small crop of overgrown nettles and bracken, the figure stared directly into the camera, pixellated eyes making contact with my own as I gripped the paper in my hands, the bus crawling through Tuesday traffic toward Old Street. The image was jostled by large, obnoxious print; some new declaration regarding the actions of minor, surgically altered celebrities. A cultural detritus soon to be swept away by what I could feel was coming. Olympian folly and the disruption that had come with it had destabilised something, the world now felt less steady underfoot. Instability infected the air. Vision flickered. The London Lite image fixated me, my mind afloat on a tidal wave of imagery that ran from Jack-in-the-Green to Cerunnos the Horned God, the Green Knight, woodwose, sprite, Sheela-na-gig, a whole pantheon of dank, woody gods and spirits that only existed in my old books of mythology; books I had pored over as a child, mixing the mythologies with that of bad fantasy novels.

A child had been found dead in the River Lea, barely one hundred metres from the beginning of the Olympic Site, the tiny body desecrated, the child’s name trotted out as grief-pornography in the national press for months after the event. No killer, no evidence, nothing. I dismissed with over-enthusiastic rationalism the enthusing of various friends, heavily into psycho-geography and theories of occult capitalism, who became drunk on theories that the land itself was revolting against the new capitalist temples being built upon it, that this was a warning. Grindylow really did swim in the Lea, if only one looked for them. So they said. Bullshit, I said again and again.

Jerome laughed off the image when I showed it to him.

Cerise and The Poet took it more seriously. Cerise had been recording the graffiti and the actions of the NSM, attempting to order the chaos, lock it down in a sensible pattern, an art project, an installation maybe. I saw fear in her actions. The Poet, he had hinted, was involved to some extent. I never knew whether to believe him. Maria, I felt, must have got involved somewhere along the line. As the reality we thought so stable began to buck and shudder my rational mind retreated, assaulted by barbarians of myth and terror, our lives becoming allegory for people to read and extrapolate meaning from.

Sometimes I tried to lose focus and see the city I knew was buried beneath what my eyes could register, the world as it could be, a shining urban Arcadia, a beacon of hope to inspire the world and the world’s dispossessed would flock here not through desperation and fear but with hope, welcomed with arms outstretched. Multiculturalism as it should be. No fear, hatred, division. I could see this city I hope for in the reflection on the water of the Regents Canal, the Hertford Union, the River Lea, the Thames itself. It was forever out of reach, inhabited only by the fauna of mirrors. My doppelganger would smile at me through a distorted, flickering barrier, and I would envy him with murderous hatred.

But this was where I was, and I had to deal with that. Murderous reality was pressing in.

The NSM were on the move, and I had to make a choice to make a difference and fight for something better, sense the sea change or be buried under history’s rubble. It was sink or swim. Time to make that great leap forward, to create a new lexicon that we could call our own or be bound forever to the past by the language of our ancestors.

Gary Budden is the co-editor of the anthology ‘Hackney: Acquired for Development By…’

He runs Out of Step Promotions, who have been putting on an eclectic mix of punk, ska, folk, hip-hop and spoken word for the last four years, in venues ranging from massive crumbling squats to the intimate settings of bookshops and cafes.

He has most recently worked on the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, as well continuing work as a one-to-one English tutor with disadvantaged young people across London.

He has worked for the Richmond Literature Festival, the British Film Institute, and has written for Stalking Elk, Distorted Magazine, Cigarette Burns. Pinpoint Music, the Hackney Hive and Hackney Citizen.

He loves punk rock, literature, and being a vegetarian. He lives in London.

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Excerpt From the Novel Goddess Murder

by AIden Kelly

In the morning soldiers slammed open the wooden door to her cell. One walked over to her and shoved her down onto the rough cot. He forced her legs apart, rammed his cock deep inside her, and raped her, brutally. The others stood and laughed at her screams, then took their turns with her. When they were finished, they dragged her naked from her dungeon cell, up the stairs, and out into the courtyard.

The balconies on the walls of the ancient Italian castle, where three Roman generals had once carved up the Republic, were ringed with the Cardinal’s men, their families, priests, and monks. But none of the common people had been allowed inside.

“Here you are, gentle lords,” the soldier cried, throwing her to the ground. “Come f*ck the Witch while you can.” Half a dozen men walked to the center and raped her, their faces grotesque with malice, while the rest cheered and jeered at her cries.

The Cardinal’s courtiers began shouting, “Burn the witch! Burn the witch!”

The soldiers tied her to the stake in the middle of the courtyard and heaped hay and wood around her. A servant girl came with live coals. The soldiers lit the hay.

Flames leaped up around her. Suddenly she shouted, “Ubaldo Allucingoli, hear me! The fire you have lit to burn me will burn down your church, and no one will ever rebuild it, not in three days, not in three ages of the cosmos. But you will not be rid of me: I shall return to haunt you.”

Bending over, she breathed in sharply, deeply. There was a searing pain in her throat and chest, then there was nothing.

She did not scream and writhe as flames consumed her body; she was no longer in her body. The crowd was disappointed; it was boring.

Outside the castle a small crowd of peasants, largely women, stood weeping, watching the smoke rise into the sky.

The Cardinal stood in silence, thinking.

JESUIT SCHOLAR

KILLED IN ROME

Rome , Italy, April 23, 1995 (Reuters) — The body of Reverend Robert Marlowe, S.J., a visiting American scholar, was found in an alley near St. Peter’s early this morning.

Father Marlowe was Professor of New Testament Hermeneutics at the Graduate Ecumenical Seminary of the West in Santa Theresa, California. He was spending his sabbatical year in Rome, pursuing research in the archives of the Vatican Library.

Aldo Cardinal Tetrazzini, Vicar General of the Society of Jesus, stated, “Father Marlowe’s death is a calamity for Biblical scholarship and a tragic loss for the Society of Jesus as a whole. He was one of our most respected and popular teachers and authors.”

Detective Dante Gabriel Rossini of the Roman Police stated in his preliminary report that Father Marlowe’s death appeared to be a simple case of mugging and robbery. “However,” Officer Rossini admitted, “there are some odd factors that merit further investigation. We have no suspects at this time.”

Walking down from my apartment, I had contemplated the rooftops of Santa Theresa cascading down the hillside to the edge of the bay, than looked across the bay to San Francisco and the bridges, remembering how Bob had loved this vista. Mounting the steps into our old brick office building, I was feeling about six inches removed from reality.

As I walked into the office downstairs, Sharon was yelling at a young priest who was walking toward me, “That’s Professor Edwards’ package!”

I blocked his path. “May I see that?”

I grabbed it from him. It was addressed to me. I raised an eyebrow at him. He glowered, pushed his way past me, and walked rapidly away.

“Sharon, do you have any idea who that was?”

“No, though he looks somewhat familiar.”

I walked upstairs and put the package on my desk. That is where the path began that led to my relationship—no, to hell with that buzzword—to my ridiculously romantic collision with Andrea and the mysteries of magic, metaphysics, and witchcraft.

There was no return address. It was postmarked Rome.

Who do I know in Rome? Could this be from Bob?

Tearing the package open, I extracted a sheaf of paper about an inch thick, with a note from Bob on top.

Is Bob still alive? No, the Italian police and the news media would not have gotten that wrong.

The note read:

Dear Eddie,

I found these by accident and knew I had to get them to you immediately. I couldn’t copy them, but managed to smuggle them out. I don’t think I’ve made the staff here suspicious.

I found the originals hidden in a drawer devoted to an utterly different (and yet related) topic: Florentine economics. The one in Greek is a Gospel of Mary; it seems related to some known fragments, but is apparently complete. The Old Gaelic is a Gnostic gospel of Simon and Helen, fairly antinomian. The one in Italian is called the Gospel of Diana. It’s a gospel for witches! Brendan & Megan will love it.

Even skimming through them quickly . . .

(He skimmed them in three different languages—and we’ve lost that incredible mind.)

. . . I realized they must be dealt with openly. I could guess their significance only because of discussing witchcraft studies with you and reading some books you recommended. Others before me probably thought these were just patristic commentaries or pastiches. The anthropophagic minotaurs who lurk in this labyrinth certainly don’t want anyone else to ever see them.

If my suspicions are right, their suppression has been a far worse crime against humanity than my stealing them could possibly be. However, that the Curia lacks an adequate theology of the Holy Spirit is their problem, not mine.

Mazel tov, and let me know what you do with them.

Shalom,

Bob

I was breathing hard. I could feel my blood pressure spike. It was like discovering a fabled hoard of buried treasure—but of something far more valuable than gold or jewels, at least to me and the guys I talk shop with. A new Gnostic gospel! I love the Gnostics—but I’ll talk about them later.

I began speculating about what these gospels might be, what they might reveal about religious history. The speculations were abruptly interrupted by an apparently random thought: Bob dies. These show up. Could Bob have been killed over these? Library theft might be considered serious, especially from the Vatican library, but it’s not usually a capital offence. Could someone have learned that he had these manuscripts and killed him in attempting to retrieve them? But why?

I gathered up the papers, took them downstairs, and had Sharon lock them in the safe.

I know a graduate seminary seems an unlikely venue for murder and international intrigue—until one considers the passions that religion can arouse.

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Incantation for a Summer Solstice
By Dawn Walls Thumma

I hail this day when fire gives neither warmth nor light,

I fling wide the windows,
Play with the wind and court the sun,

For this day is transient, yes,

But this day it is. It is.

I beg of thee only these three things:

Give not solace to shadows,

Give no nod to sorrow,

Grant not that this day shall end.

Even as fire rims the west

I will hold wide my arms, embrace the light,

Let it linger long, like syrup up my tongue.

I will walk in the night

I will walk without lanterns.

Dawn lives in Manchester, Maryland, USA, with one husband, two golden retrievers, ten assorted types of hens, and about 15,000 bees. She writes for a living, mostly about gardening and sustainable lifestyles, although she is recently certified as an English teacher and hopes to start in the classroom soon. Dawn and her husband are working to turn their almost-acre of land into a self-sufficient homestead.

A year ago, Dawn and her husband were initiated into the Ancient Order of Druids in America. This poem below is one of a series that she started writing after her initiation, trying to capture what she felt on each of the Solstices and Equinoxes.

Our God
By Hal O’Leary

“Our God is with us every day.”

The preacher said. “Let’s kneel and pray.”

To whom? I don’t think I can say.

Just who is this god anyway,

Who seems to have a field day

In taking lives with no delay,

Of even those who do obey?

If its omnipotent, we may

Just wonder why we have foul play,

For it is much to my dismay.

If its omniscient, why pray?

It knows our future anyway,

It knows the ills we might defray.

It knows the goodies to purvey.

Since all seems in such disarray,

I think that I might just display

My own revolt, and come what may,

I’ll steel myself and just say Nay.

I’ll set my life and never sway.

It makes no difference, yea or nay,

They won’t accept me anyway.

I’m Gay.

Hal O’Leary is an eighty-five year old veteran of WWII who now renounces all war as nothing more than a get rich scheme for a very few. As a Secular Humanist who has spent his life in the theatre, he believes that it is only through the arts that we are afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.

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Flight of the Wizard
By Hedgewizard Erb

As this spring draws to summer, spanning the cool nights

I walk the penumbra of dimensions, alone with my thoughts

I pass over the land and oceans as a shadow, I have no form.

The gossamer threads of space create my globe of travel

Silently moving over the fields of creation ever learning about what is and is not

The living Earth, the plans of Gods, the keys and locks to forbidden knowledge

Are all there for the taking, to be used only when the great clock ticks

No, I do not control a thing, I am a messenger and a tinker of the cosmos

I set the pins in the alley and see to it the ball rolls to the proper place in time.

Hedgewizard Erb writes alot and studies all kinds of things including the natural and the mystical. He is 65 years old and very active in Pagen Druid thought and practice.

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Reality
By Aidan Kelly

One night, in John Logan’s class,

I read a draft of my “History” poem.

Jack Gilbert asked, “What

am I supposed to make of that?”

I wondered, “Why does he think I should care

how he reacts to my poem?”

I asked to study with him the next year,

but he refused, saying I was

too set im my ways to learn from him.

I felt he was wrong, because I liked his poems,

and I wanted to know how his poetics worked.

so I learned from his students

that he saw a poem as a way to choreograph

the readers’ feelings as they read.

I could see that, in theory, but it did not

appeal to me, since saying whatever you like

to manipulate people’s feelings

is usually called lying, not poetry.

(I sense Plato nodding in agreement.)

I value poetry as a way

to explore what and how we know.

I have been to the borderlands,

where the bronze wind bells the melting birds,

not because I use drugs–I don’t like

How drugs feel, and though

they may get me into Fairyland,

they do not get me to the edges, beyond

our consensual reality, where I wind up

because my brain decides to take me there,

And I go with camera and notebook,

make what notes I can, on roses,

whose every color is a flame

and every thorn a thought of smoke.

When I come back I turn them into poetry,

describing what I have seen

and therefore know

as accurately as possible.

And when I read it to you,

I confront you with

as much truth as I can discover.

It may shatter your comfortable reality,

your illusions, your assumptions.

I hope it does; it’s not healthy

for humans to live in delusion,

as almost all of us do. Poetry

should be more mind-altering than any drug,

more subversive than any Communist plot,

more dangerous to dogma than any heresy.

So I don’t care whether you like my poems.

How you face reality is your problem.

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Ancient Tribes
By Ron Koppelberger

Made by markings and ancient tribes in consort with

Wolves and clans of secret desire, the passionate urge to pass the warmth

Of settled fire, by eyes and fond touch, by sighs

And huntress weary depths of fancy, by the children

Of born futures and circles of howling rant,

In the day and evening-tide way, by gasping teeth

And tender dissident metamorphosis, by the

Love of sunrise souls and dewdrop dreams.

Ron has published 495 poems, 349 short stories, and 86 pieces of art in over 157 periodicals, books and anthologies as well as in radio broadcasts. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Writing Raw and Necrology Shorts.

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Willow Road
By C. B. Anderson

Down along the dream-dappled gravel road
overhung with bows of bright green willow,
eager travelers unslung their shouldered loads
into the spuming ripples of yellow

alyssum growing from illumined stone
old wagon wheels had thrown aside. Farther
on were spaces strewn with the whitened bones
of animals, whole skeletons weather

had preserved intact, which they could just see
from where they rested their unburdened backs
against the stolid girths of vestal trees
tilted sunward. But oh! such artifacts

they’d spied the day before: a silver plow
blade-deep in fertile loam up on a hill
too steep to climb, a summer home below
a stunning waterfall of molten steel,

and a city sitting like a bauble
in a block of solid glass. Near beside
the place they paused, a clear vernal puddle
down slope of grassy high meadow forbade

easy passage until the willow roots
should drain it dry. They sat, not making sound,
content to wait a decade for a shot
to set their boots upon the middle ground.

C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and India.

“Willow Road” first appeared in The Neovictorian/Cochlea (Vol. IX, No. 2 — Spring-Summer 2006)

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My Epitaph
By Hal O’Leary

With open mouth and open mind,

I came into the world to find

Life’s riddle in one word defined.

BELIEVE!

And now, that life is left behind,

And though I know they meant be kind,

With open mouth and open mind

I LEAVE!

Hal O’Leary is an eighty-five year old veteran of WWII who now renounces all war as nothing more than a get rich scheme for a very few. As a Secular Humanist who has spent his life in the theatre, he believes that it is only through the arts that we are afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University

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At My Age
By Aiden Kelly

I never meet

Anyone new,

Only ones who

Remind me of

Those I once loved.

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To an Unborn Goddess
By C. B. Anderson

Your silver members wand the thickened air,
and all your borrowings are soon
bequickened as the phases of the moon,
in which your newborn love affair

has bloomed, give rise to unexpected waves
of pleasure, waves which counteract
the dark blue strains that none on earth have lacked
since Eden’s fall: the dread of graves

and intimations of the spider’s web.
Beneath it all, inside the warm
beginnings of your bosom’s final form,
the milk and honey flow and ebb

in rhythm with the beat of mortal hearts,
the righteous formal cause of your
benign emergence. In the ancient lore
that speaks of lost creative arts

your gradual arrival was foretold:
a latter-day divinity
devoted to a new epiphany
as Time itself grows gray and old.

C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in scores of print and electronic journals out of North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and India.

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Hearthfire Remedies
By Ron Koppelberger

Complete in exquisite wilful metamorphosis and terms

Of eager affection, in manners of desire and wont,

By the demand of insistent passion and display, by the innate

Shouts of frigid allure and warm terrain,

In keep with the eye of experienced

Effect, caused by the passage of abandoned

Lands and desolate thrones, in quick mercies

Of convention, a boast in talismans and

Sophisticated arrival, the grimace in born

Raves and hearth fire remedies of heed.

The bettermost diligence of skills in confederate resistance

And thorny dangers in gossip. A heart built by the ashes of constructed

Always, forever a conveyance in reflection.

Ron has published 495 poems, 349 short stories, and 86 pieces of art in over 157 periodicals, books and anthologies as well as in radio broadcasts. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Writing Raw and Necrology Shorts.

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To Remember Thomas DeLong,

Who Wrote as Gwydion Pendderwen,

On the Second Anniversary

Of His Going into Eternal Life
By Aidan Kelly

I remember the night I first met you

On Bernal Heights, before we knew

The Craft would cross our paths.

The strident horn of your flaming car

Drew me to the street: before

The doors of Hightower, where

Lord Randall ruled his mad

Court of science-fictioneers,

Van the Dagda read an Anglican wake

Over your still-smoking engine.

I remember you, and I begin to let you go.

I remember how you sang to me and Alta

When you first visited us in Oakland,

And how you gifted us at our wedding,

Singing us new a wedding song

Worthy, I think, of the kings

We thought we were perhaps descended from.

On the first anniversary of your death

I heard Sally Eaton sing of you

A wilder music than I knew she held.

As dragonflies draw flame your voice

Has drawn and draws forth song.

I remember you, and so I try to let you go.

I remember the nights I came to your circle

Or you to ours: cautiously we reached

Toward friendship, dialog, pursuit of the chimeras

Of history. You praised me, friend, in print,

To our friends, and to our enemies,

Whether you agreed with me or not. In Nemeton you

And Alison published more of my poems

Than any other person ever has. We were

Initiates in the same tradition at the end,

And no conversion or dying or any other

Transformation changes that. It hurt, and still

It hurts, that you are gone.

I remember you, and so I slowly let you go.

I remember the nights when we drank together,

Drank and talked and talked and drank again:

The night I met Ed Fitch, the night we bombed

Hans Holzer, the Sabbats at Coeden Brith.

Especially I remember how on my last drunk

You gave me a clew that helped lead me

From the labyrinth: only a real Irishman,

You said, would carry the wine jug with us

From room to room as we rambled on

About things earthly, unearthly, and in between.

And you were with me that night,

In that car with no brakes in which I drove

Six people home, over the Bay Bridge,

Fading in and out of blackout.

I remember, vaguely — but I’ve let that go.

At thirty-six I got sober;

At thirty-six you died

Of drink and drugs and dying

As surely as if you has

OD’d. It is not

Fair, it is not

Just, it makes no

Sense: you weren’t that much

Crazier than me. I hoped

You’d get it too, and we’d be

Friends again, but that was not

Your path. Toward the end I heard

How rapidly you were dying,

How little song was left in you.

You did not die of poetry.

Now on each anniversary of my sobriety

I remember you, and more I let you go.

Strange that the night you died I dreamed

I met George Cockriell, who’d lived with me

On Bernal Heights, who died of World War Two

In 1971. Striding down the hill, as if

Off to something urgent, he stopped, surprised,

Saying, “I haven’t seen you recently,”

And questioned me about what I’d been doing.

And in the dream all our houses were one

Communal home on Bernal Heights, handbuilt,

Complex in its textures, vast within: perhaps

Our work on the Craft will have results we could

Not know.

Yes, George could have been sent

To get you from that ditch: he’d known who you were

On Bernal Heights, had watched the Hightower crowd

With his black Irish sarcasm, and God knows in France

He’d walked through Hell already to rescue other men.

(“Why you?”

“They’ve got nobody else who knew you.

Come on, I’ll explain what I’ve found out so far.”)

So, yes, I can see George walking with you,

Quietly explaining the lay of the land,

Walking with you up the hills of Heaven that look

Much like Bernal Heights,

Much like all our hills writ large.

I can see you singing, with a real harp,

Of real gold, in a robe all of white

Except for the seven colors proper to a bard

Embroidered in its flashing: you are

Wreathed with mistletoe.

I see your eyes:

They are clear and serene: in the distance

You can see the accommodating gods and goddesses,

Who are both one and many. They sing to you,

Drawing you always further in

And further up. Now you go

Singing ever higher into the hills:

You are finally, utterly healed.

I remember you, and now:

I let you go.

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Summer Solstice
By Hedgewizard Erb

June 21st would mark the turning of the cool days into summer days.

I remember; we would play, from morning till late at night.

And ride bike and skate, and roam the hills and wade in the creek

Honeysuckle lined the edge of wild forests

We’d go swimming in the town’s macadam pool in icy cold water

Until July came and the weather got warmer

My grandmother would can things and dry beans and corn.

And we would play baseball at the “cemmie” (our field of dreams)

And drink quarts of chocolate milk afterward.

We would go on long rides in the country in my uncle’s 46 Plymouth

Nowhere in particular, roadside stands, and local sights mostly.

Summer was a time of plenty and plenty of time to be a kid.

We would get dirty, not mussed up, but dirty, earth damn dirty.

I remember sitting under old maple trees and I was happy just to be

Breathing in the summer sun and doing nothing proudly.

I hope I never become so old as to not enjoy the summer sun.

Or to hide from life in air conditioned comfort and miss the bees

Humming around flowers that were only seeds in May

I hope I never become so connected to social norms as to worry

Night and day about jobs and dollars and who has power

Over gas prices and school boards.

Work ethics that maim the soul? No thanks. I’ll stay a kid.

At least I’ll keep the kid in me alive enough to watch

The turning of the wheel.

Hedgewizard Erb writes alot and studies all kinds of things including the natural and the mystical. He is 65 years old and very active in Pagen Druid thought and practice.

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Puti Poems

Flower-Picking Mudra

By Changming Yuan

With all your tenderness

Bend down gradually

And reach out your left arm

To pick up your favourite flower

From the inner garden

Behind the fence of your thought

And bring up the flower

Close up to your face

Where you can see its bold brilliance

Melting into a pool of fragrance

Where you and the flower

Become one and the same.

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Sky-Reaching Mudra

By Changming Yuan

Like a universal dam broken

Vast bodies of heavenly light

Burst, bursting out

Pouring right onto my body

Splashing into myriads of inspirations

Falling, penetrating my inflated selfhood

Cleansing each cell of my brain

My chest, my belly

every corner of my inner being

filling in my whole body

as it gets thicker and thicker

Until all my cells and senses

Dissolve into nothingness

Under the lightfall

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A-Mi-Te Mudra

By Changming Yuan

Palms against each other

Fingers pointing to your central forehead

Keep yourself upright

And from under your lowest vertebrae

Drive out of a gourd-shaped mouth

These heavily voiced syllables:

A-

Mi-

Te-

As well as all the negativity

Within your body

And every evil spirit

Trying to possess your fate

As a wide curtain of light

Reddish and yellowish

Shoot up high to the sky

From behind your lower back

Changming Yuan, author of Chansons of a Chinaman (2009), is a three-time Pushcart nominee who grew up in a remote Chinese village and published several books before moving to Canada. Currently Yuan teaches in Vancouver and has poetry appearing in Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine and more than 360 other literary journals/anthologies worldwide.

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