Sunday, 22 December 2013

Stonehenge - Winter Solstice 2013


To celebrate my 21st birthday, and of course the winter solstice, myself and some friends travelled down to Stonehenge! I had never been before and it was an experience I absolutely had to have.
 
I have heard from numerous friends disappointed reviews about the summer solstice celebrations and the overcrowding, sometimes disrespectful and ignorant behaviours that can occur there; however I have also heard very positive reviews, for example from The Four Queens (on Youtube) and my friend Mel. I am rather introverted and dislike large crowds so the summer celebrations may not be suited to me, and I chose the winter one with fewer people.
 
We waited with the crowd (possibly only 1000 people?) for access to be opened up and then walked down the path to the stones. I had worried that people would charge towards them (anxiety over crowds kicking in) but people respectfully walked slowly towards them in an orderly fashion. I felt anticipation building as I approached the stones. I was in awe of them as I grew closer and it seemed to be silent all around, people quietly approaching, and taking photos. It was dark still but the stones could be seen.
 
They were both larger and smaller than I had expected. The circle wasn't as big as I thought it would be (though the full crowd may have caused that view), but the stones were huge! The circle and its stones are absolutely beautiful!! I cannot express this enough, they are stunning!
 
I couldn't hear or see the Druid ritual taking place so I walked around the circle and took some photos. I really was just in awe. I didn't take part in any ritual, meditate or touch the stones, but I still could sense the energy of the place.

At one point there was some drumming going on and the sound bounced off of the stones and into the earth. When I closed my eyes I could feel it rising from my feet into my soul and it was like the pulse of the past.

Now, my experience of them will NOT be the same as other peoples; I got a distinctive feeling of absence from the stones - not absence of power(!), but absence of something... Stones like at Avebury, I felt were still very alive and in the present, but I felt that Stonehenge was almost asleep - certainly still pulsing with power, but something was hidden from us. The sense of 'hiding' seems to be the best word for such a feeling... The memory of what happened there in Prehistory is still hazy and for the most part uncertain and maybe it was the deep mystery I was feeling, combined with an awareness of the presence of all those people (1000 is still a lot!). I guess I felt that they were almost invaded and exposed, like skeletons in a museum, beaming power but seeking privacy? This is just my feeling of it. I don't mean to suggest the celebrants and ritualists were unwanted by the stones! I don't really know what to make of this feeling, yet.
 
There is something about Stonehenge that still draws people in their thousands every year; people who seek a spiritual connection, people who enjoy culture and history, and people who don't know why they want to visit but know that they want to! There were some party-seekers of the non-sacred sort, with little understanding (or maybe appreciation?) of the sites sacredness, and there were many people standing on the fallen stones with their cameras, just seeking to absorb the famous solstice experience. But most people were there with respect and awe and friendly greetings. The rain probably helped keep numbers down too, to individuals who really wanted to be there.
 
Unfortunately though, the rainy sky prevented the sunrise from being seen, which I had very much wished to see. Nevertheless the spirit of the place still resonated in the earth, air and stones. I really feel like I needed more time there, and that a part of myself didn't quite return with me. I'd be delighted (as I'm sure many would be!) to go back there one day with privately booked access to the stones (I'd rather not pay £15 to enter though...). Maybe that opportunity will come to me one day, and then I will speak to the stones personally.
 
What a stunningly beautiful place it is! It have definitely left an impression on me and has left its imprint in my heart.
 
A video record of the experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxOm9ljhm44

Monday, 5 August 2013

My Goddesses

As aforementioned I am now dedicated to the Goddess in Her names of Nut, Aphrodite, and the Great Mother and here I would like to talk a bit about them.

Nut

By Kath Morgan

Nut is a Goddess who has been in my life for the longest amount of time and so is the primary name of Goddess that I work with. She is the star and sky Goddess of the Egyptian pantheon, consort of the earth God Geb and mother to The Five: Osiris, Horus (the Elder), Seth, Isis and Nephthys. She is a Goddess of many qualities and I feel She has been simplified or neglected in recent years; She did not have any temples of Her own in Egypt and little evidence remains to suggest that She had Her own cult worship. What does remain is images on coffin lids and religious documents, passages in the Pyramid Texts and a beautiful zodiac on the Hathor Temple ceiling at Dendera. It is clear that despite a lack of of cult, Nut played a key role in the cosmos and was one of those deities in the pantheon's that was ever present. She did not need Her own temple because She could be seen every night in the starry sky. 
She was the Goddess of the sky, who stretched protectively over the Earth,  who held every soul in the stars, gave birth to the Sun each day and held up the moon; the Gods sailed through Her body each day and night and She stood between the ordered world on Earth and the chaos of the Nun beyond. This makes Her not just a 'simplistic sky Goddess', but a Great Mother, the Creatrix who moves the Sun through its cycle allowing life to exist on Earth; she is a Goddess of motherhood and birth, giving birth to the Sun each day and being the mother of more offspring than any other Egyptian Goddess (The Five); she is a Goddess of death and rebirth, swallowing the Sun each night and holding the souls of the dead within Her body; She is the water bearer, wearing the pot hieroglyph upon Her head and pouring life giving waters upon us; the Milky Way was seen as Her form stretching over us and the Nile was seen as a reflection of this... Nut is a Goddess who stands for unity and connection to all things, from the smallest cell to the vastest galaxy in space. She stretches Herself over everyone on Earth, shining Her light on us all, in the day time and at night, constantly watching. She does not discriminate between people and animals; we are all beneath Her light.
This is who Nut is to me.

Aphrodite

Primordial Fire, by Myself

Aphrodite is a Goddess who has come to me only recently. I discovered Her love whilst attending a talk by Jane Meredith at Witchfest International 2012. She lead us through a meditation in Aphrodite's temple, looking into three mirrors into Her mysteries... I cried during this meditation and felt truly touched by Her love. Again Aphrodite has been a much simplified Goddess, perceived as a beautiful slim, white woman reigning over sexual love and 'typical' Western beauty.
Whilst She does indeed manifest as a beautiful slim, white woman and reigns over sexual love, She also reaches far further. To me, in the meditation She revealed Herself in the Venus of Willendorf abundant figure. She was a full-bodied primitive woman exuding beauty, fertility and life! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in the Western world society and the media has created an unrealistic and damaging view of what beauty is. Few of us are seen as beautiful and the ones that are, only are when smothered in makeup and photoshopped - we cannot look like these women in magazines and film because not even they look like that! Real women, and men for that matter, are vastly varied in shapes and sizes! Some of us have full bellies and thighs, freckles, curly hair, black skin, no hair, wide hips, slim figures... Aphrodite's eyes see only beauty in us all - and we need to see through Her eyes; if only we did, then we would find it hard to criticise the beauty that She gave us. 
Aphrodite wasn't always depicted in the Classical form that the Greeks and Romans portrayed Her; in Her Anatolian origins She was portrayed with many breasts upon Her chest to represent Her life giving power. As a Goddess of love and sexuality She is also a Goddess of the fertility and abundance that comes from that. She is a Goddess of all forms of love too: Love between a romantic couple (of any sexual preference), love between parents and children, family, friends, pets and their owners. She manifests in that feeling of love - when you feel that lift in your heart, that bliss, you are filled with Aphrodite's essence.
There is no way that I couldn't feel drawn to Her! She is just such a beautiful, loving, and inspiring Goddess, again reigning over many aspects of life.

The Great Mother

Tellus on the Ara Pacis (Rome)

I dedicated to the Great Mother, of whom can indeed be seen as the Universal Goddess Herself; I decided to focus on the Goddesses' Mother aspect, as opposed to Her many other aspects (Maiden and Crone for example). The Great Mother Herself can have many names and be found in many cultures, which is why I felt drawn to Her. She has been recognised by humanity for millenia, from the origins of our material culture, expressed in the primitive Venus figurines found worldwide. She is Magna Mater, Gaia, Tellus, 'Venus', Maria... Specifically I honour Her in Her earthly manifestation in the mounds of earth, mountains, farms, and fertile places. She is the mother who holds Her hand out to us in our time of need, no matter who we are. She shares many qualities with my other Goddesses, Nut and Aphrodite, reigning over Life and Death, love, sexuality and fertility. I am drawn to such Goddesses it seems... The Great Mother transcends cultural boundaries and can link me to any place. I can stand on a hilltop and call Her name, I can anoint Durga's statue at a Hindu festival, I can pray to Maria in the Church. Mother is a part of us all, even in the religions that choose to ignore Her and place Father in Her place; those people have mothers and even if they choose not to acknowledge their mother's divinity, She is still there to offer Her unconditional affection, and stern guidance if needs be.

*

Together these Goddesses help to form my path. My partner pointed out to me that I had chosen Goddesses that together reign over Earth, Sea and Sky, Maiden, Mother Crone, and three parts of the year. They do so fluidly and can merge into all aspects in their own right but broadly speaking they can stand for these aspects:
Nut is the sky and rules over the winter part of the year, taking on a Crone (/Sovereign) role in Her chthonic aspect.
Aphrodite is the Sea and rules over the blossoming part of the year, as a Maiden (/Lover) growing to fullness and experiencing the variants of love.
The Great Mother is the Earth and rules over the time of harvesting as the Mother, giving birth to the bounty of the year.

In addition to these three there is an additional stone on my altar to represent any other Name of the Goddess that comes to me at different times. One particular one has stood out to me, one who actually represents fire... But this Goddess for some reason at this time wishes for me to keep our relationship private. It is a personal, blossoming relationship with this Goddess of whom I never expected to draw me to Her. I'm excited to see where this new relationship goes.
I would also like to address the God briefly in this post. I believe that the Divine comes to us in the best way that we will understand, with all our cultural and social conditioning to consider. The Divine comes to me in the form of the Feminine face of God. I believe that the Divine is both masculine, feminine, neither and both. I believe that God is equal with Goddess and both are absolutely necessary in existence. But, I do connect to the Feminine greatly and so She plays a greater role in the practice of my path - in rituals, prayers, devotions ect... In my heart the God - Osiris - stirs a great love within me. Osiris plays a silent by ever watchful role in my life; I feel that He is content with my devotion to the Feminine because He knows that He lies within my heart. I shall do a post about Him in the future too.

Video of Primordial Aphrodite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T82pYTiEi8

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Celtic Christianity and Pagan Survival

 St Peters Chapel

Christianity was introduced to the Celtic Britons around the 2nd Century AD due to the current Roman occupation. Conversion was a gradual process that obviously began to take root with the soldiers and those in direct contact with the Roman Christians. When the Roman's left Britain these new converts were free to develop their own form of Christianity, known as Celtic Christianity which was also adopted by the Anglo-Saxons. 
A main difference between Celtic Christianity and Roman Christianity was the Celtic emphasis on the grace of God's gifts in life and nature. The Celts were very much connected to nature, agriculture and the seasons - their lives revolved around it; it is therefore natural that when converting to a new religion, this important aspect of life would continue to be honoured. Women were also respected and allowed to take an active role in religious services, and clergy could be married. Conversion appears to have come due to peaceful evangelism rather than through warfare, and so the Pagan converts would have made the spiritual decision for themselves. 
The Pagan agricultural festivals were still celebrated but were Christianised, such as the harvest festival, LuchnasadhLammas, or the spring festival, Imbolc - Candlemass. Sacred sites were still believed to be sacred - after all, why would that change? So in the beginning Celtic communities worshipped outside with simple wooden crosses, possibly at these sacred sites, but eventually (perhaps due to rekindled relationships with other traditions putting the pressure on) they mimicked the building of Roman churches in a later attempt to separate God and Creation. Magic and healing crafts were still performed, but again with Christianised with prayers to God, Jesus, Saints and Angels, rather than a Pantheon of Celtic deities.
After hundreds of years in peace, more pressure was put upon the Celtic Church and it was criticised by the other churches and accused of being Pagan in its origins. 
Modern Pagans like to belittle Christianity and boast of Christianity's Pagan origins, commonly seen in the usurped festivals. It is easy to imagine a group of staunch, stiff-necked clergy-man gathering in a dark building and plotting world dominance, and destruction of the Pagan ways, usurping festivals out of desperation for converts and hypocrisy. In some cases, especially later on, I imagine that this was close to reality. True enough, the Pagan ways were hard to eradicate and so compromise was needed on the side of the Christian clergy; but I think it unfair to point the finger this way. A possibly more accurate picture is of a small Pagan farming community who welcome the presence of a missionary and hear what he has to say; some things they think are too alien for them to accept, others seem reasonable and similar to their own current beliefs already. They choose to become Christian and follow the peaceful message of Jesus and celebrate their promised salvation; but they also decide that it is unnecessary to lower the status of their women, and stop celebrating the bounty of the harvest festivals. They were free to continue in their own ways, with their new beliefs too.
This story of the growth of Christianity has captured my imagination. This wasn't the case everywhere and for everyone and every time. But early on this is the story of the conversion from at least where my ancestors originate. I learnt it from visiting two Anglo-Saxon churches recently, one of which was the mesmorising Chapel of St Peter in Bradwell-on-Sea, England. Here is a place that was founded in AD654 and still functions today. I saw prayers written on paper and stuffed into cracks in the ancient stones; I saw handmade wooden crosses and stones at the altar with people's names on for prayers. Outside the North Sea greets you, and fields stretch out behind you. There is no doubting that this place is a sacred one, no matter what religious belief one may have. We're all more similar than we realise, or wish to accept.


St Peters Chapel, inside.

More Information: http://www.st-cuthberts.net/celhist.php
More Information: http://www.celticchristianitytoday.org/
St Peters Chapel: http://www.bradwellchapel.org/
Tour of St Peter's Chapel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8xpO4Usyw

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dedicating to the Goddess



On the last new moon, on the Sun's day, I stood beside the river Thames by 'Cleopatra's Needle' with four others and became a Priestess of the Fellowship of Isis. As I have explained from previous posts I have been undergoing training through online correspondence for the last two years now. Distant training is hard because there isn't someone to hold your hand, or prompt you in ritual and meditations. All you have is the arrow to point the way to the printed liturgy, and the rest is between you and Spirit. After doing the 'work', the words of encouragement and advice from my online guide after each rite were valuable in pushing me forward on wards. After two years she decided to meet me in London and ordain me as a Priestess of the FOI.

I dedicated to a primary Goddess and two support Goddesses that day. It took a lot of hard decision making but I feel that I made the right choice - a choice that is always guided by the Goddess Herself/Themselves. You don't just randomly select a Goddess, of simply pick the one you like the look of most; every connection you feel is from Her. When you look at a statue or image of the Goddess (or God) and feel drawn, inspired, and admiration, that is from Her. If you feel that you can relate to the Mother/Huntress/Mage/Crone ect archetype, that is Her energetic pull. Many things can trigger this attraction. You should follow it. It may lead you a short way and teach you what you need to know, before moving you on; it may lead you throughout life. Just listen and follow the ebb and flow.

So on that day (and even before then) I dedicated to the Goddess Nut  (Egyptian), Aphrodite (Greek) and Great Mother (Earth).  I am now a Priestess of these Goddesses. What does this now mean?

Each of the Goddesses have something in common, that links them to the Priesthood of the FOI: The FOI teaches unity, equality and love. No one is higher than another, all are a part of this universe and Divinity and peace and love are promoted. Each of these Goddesses represent this for me and as a Priestess of them and the FOI I believe that I should uphold this attitude. I wish to unite people, promoting peace and understanding; I want to help people to recognise the beauty of this world and each other and help people to love others including themselves; and I want to be creative and express the Goddess's love through my actions, art and rituals.

At this time in my life, Priestesshood is between me and Her. I of course represent the FOI and have a role to play in the community in helping to spread the Goddess's love, but I do not have any higher status than another person. It is my way of expressing my dedication to Her and others may have just as much a connection (or more) but choose to express it differently. As a Priestess I have formally dedicated to Her and this is a very personal thing for me. This is the beginning of a new start for me and I wanted to record it on this blog. 

Blessed Be!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

My Native Sacred Landscape


When you grow up somewhere the places around you may seem mundane, ordinary and unexciting; when you move away somewhere this new place may be the very opposite, because it is different. When I left home to go off to University hundreds of miles away (both in the UK) I found exactly this; however, each time I returned home I found that home became more and more interesting and now I feel a great fondness towards it.

At my University home (locations will be kept private for this posting) I am surrounded by a rich area of cultural, historical and natural beauty and intrigue. I am in love with the place; but, when I walk through the woodlands and hills, and look upon the historical sites I don't feel a sense of personal identity and belonging. My own ancestral and cultural heritage has been an uncertain void for me, since coming to know Paganism. I thought I had left home and been given all I needed from that place, to move on, but I was wrong. Now when I come home and walk in the familiar fields and modest remaining woodlands I feel a sense of pride and belonging; this is my land, my heritage, the place where my roots are planted.

Upon traveling from one land to another and entering the familiar surroundings of home I definitely sense a different energy in each area. This is beyond explaining in words and really is something you have to feel (and that through connecting to the earth, everyone can learn to recognize with time). All I can say is that the feeling of the different places, the places spirit, ancestral memory, gods, energy - whatever you wish to call it, is noticeably different. 

The gods of my birth place are for the most past unnamed due to being lost by history, contrasting to the gods and mythologies of my University's area, which are largely known. But naming these gods is not necessary. My home county is actually very rich in history and has been occupied for thousands of years - but this is why comparatively little ancient remains, remain; constant occupation, industrialization and population increase has removed many ancient sites. Pagan myths were not written down by their followers and only the Christian clergy much later were able to record their religious teachings in writing. So what is left here?

There is something so obvious yet so under-appreciated that I have only just seen it for what it is. Behind a suburban area where our past school is located is a relatively steep hill, overlooking a gently rolling landscape and the villages lining the river. Already in this gentle landscape this hill stands out today, and it must have for our Prehistoric ancestors too because upon this hill is a round barrow mound, possibly of the Iron Age. For most people (myself previously included) the mound is not much to look at, and the view is not one of outstanding beauty, but this site is indeed significant to our local cultural (and for some, Pagan) heritage. When so many other sites are buried beneath houses, industry, and even water, here we have a site from our earliest past still standing high up overlooking it all. It appears to go unnoticed by locals, vandals and Pagans. I, myself, in my early Pagan years thought little of it. Now it is fueled with meaning for me. A beacon of our past stands there atop that hill, surviving the test of time, overlooking us upon the belly of the Mother Goddess in the landscape.

Currently for me this is the most noticeable site of interest, but there are many more places that I am yet to explore further. Many areas are rich in history, ancient and modern which could be discussed elsewhere, but little physical actually remains to visit (the area was a particular spot for the witch hunts of the 17th Century; the village nearby to my home village is still a famous 'witch haunt' today). There are no stone circles, but I have traced recorded Saracen stones, of which are unfortunately dismantled, privately claimed or discarded. A few later ruins exist, such as old churches and a particular castle overlooking a river that I rather like! I have also traced a holy spring that I plan to visit. Less attached to a historical sites is the local landscape living today. Aforementioned is the hill with the ancient mound upon it; local to me is also a sacred river, and I am surrounded by humble farm land, and remember being greeted by the sun shining through the clouds over the yellow fields as we travelled towards a our house at the end of each day. This is very simple, yet familiar and special in its own right.

There are many more sites of local significance for me. Local fields, local churches, local rivers (however muddy!) and other special sites remain, to be discussed elsewhere. It is a shame that I have not found this information until I had moved away (without intent to move back honestly), but it means I can soak in the energy in my treasured trips home.

I am looking forward to learning more about the home of my family and birthplace.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Solstice Waters


I have recently made a video talking about the significance of water during the festival of Litha/Summer Solstice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7aEjjJYM18 
To sum up the video, I spoke about the fact that in Britain is almost always rains on the summer solstice. There are a lot of grumbles and complaints about this, of which I do understand (we all want to greet the rising sun, and bask in its warmth on the beach!), but I think we need to accept that this rain is very much a part of this festival. If we had pure heat and sunshine at this time of year then there would be a drought; they'd be no greenery or gushing waterfalls, no flowers and no refreshment. In the warmth of summer sunshine (when it does appear) we rush to the sea or to pools and bathe in the water; we naturally want to be in the water at this time of year - think summer beach holidays. The water is absolutely essential at this time of year!
If we look at Wendy Andrew's Litha goddess in her wheel of the year art (see above) we see the Goddess pouring water in the summer sunshine. The chalice, the womb, the grail is full at midsummer ready to pour its bounty! Last year for my Litha celebration we were under cover and the rain was falling; the air was warm and green plants surrounded us all around and on the roof, dripping with excess water. It was stunning! This festival is where fire and water meet and are celebrated at the same time, celebrating unity and balance -  opposites that complement each other.
This Litha I went to Glastonbury to celebrate. We walked in the sunshine of the Chalice Well gardens, listened to the water of the White Spring, drank deep of the waters and were drops in the ocean of the watery ritual at the Goddess Hall. Although we did not see the sunrise on the 21st, we watched the sun go down and moon rise, and later arose at sunrise the next day for our ritual in which we pondered the story of Blodeuwedd and Lleu. We visited the Goddess Temple which was decorated with watery blues and stunning artwork (below); here I had my own watery revelations. Water is the element of the emotions and of release and healing. In the Goddess Hall ritual the Priestesses had spoke of the flow of emotions and letting them free; in recognising this I pondered my own feelings and experienced release in tears in the temple - which I hope were subtle and not too disruptive! I had to let them flow. I had to really acknowledge the core of my feelings and release them to be healed. Sometimes when you leave Glastonbury you get the Glastonbury-Blues, longing to stay; this time I took my experiences home with me and the waters are healing me.

Blessed Summer Solstice to all! )O(


Friday, 7 June 2013

The Red Tent Movie


I recently had the privilege to gather with a group of women and take part in a viewing of the Red Tent movie, 'Things we don't talk about'. Information on the movie can be found on their website: http://www.redtentmovie.com/

My initial ideas about what the movie would be like was surrounded by feminist quotes and detailed talk on menstruation (both of which I don't actually mind, but know that many others cringe at). I was very happy to find that, although menstruation was mentioned - as it is an important part of the female experience - it was mentioned as a small part of the film and was certainly not the focus. 

The film focused on women setting up these red tents around the world, in the past and present and learning from each other what it is like to be a woman. Women share with each other the joys and trials of their lives, each having an equal chance to speak with everyone listening. There is no judgement, just support and understanding. Women can be women's worst enemy in life and in modern society we have hard expectations burned upon us from all sides, especially from each other; this film brought out our better sides, the sides that create, support and love one another. Without intending to sound like a hard-core feminist - it was liberating! It was incredibly freeing and inspiring to see the love and beauty of women in such a healing atmosphere.

After the film our group went around and shared what we thought about what we'd just watched. There was a mixture of honest responses,but almost all found it an inspiring experience. Those who were skeptical of the film even left the event having opened up and expressed themselves - whether they noticed or not! From my own response there were a few key things that I took from the film: Firstly, the acknowledgement of the love we can have and give to each other. I know this sounds very fluffy, but that's not a bad thing! I am surrounded by love in my life, but am often too busy to express my love back; I get surrounded by my working bubble and let love pass me by. I wish to be a more loving person as a result of this film.

I also appreciated the diversity and undiscriminating nature of the Red Tent. Women of all backgrounds, cultures, colours, sizes, sexual preferences and religions could come together in this environment and celebrate their diversity and their unity. They are all women and could celebrate this great thing in common. Being a woman means so much more now. Being 'just a housewife' or 'just an old grandmother' are elevated to the status of a Goddess! 

And finally, as I had been discussing with a friend that day, this year is my year of transformation - when the caterpillar becomes the butterfly, the maiden becomes the lover. I am coming into adulthood now, and am 21 in December this year. For the last few years I've been terrified to grow up. When I turned 18 I literally felt ill at the idea. I was afraid of aging, of taking on new responsibilities, paying bills and losing my childhood awe. After developing my spirituality, living my life, being involved in women's circles and watching this film, I feel more able to accept this new stage in life. I've seen older women than I who are beautiful, full of life and are inspiring figures. It doesn't seem so scary now. It is something to celebrate and look forward to. In coming into adulthood I can look forward to becoming financially independent, a role model, sexually awakened, a mother, and a wife - all in good time.

As a result of this film, our women's circle (which was previously Pagan orientated due to circumstance) has decided to morph into a Red Tent. I would give more detail about our group on here if privacy and safety were not an issue. I highly encourage all female readers to go out and find local Red Tents - or to start their own! The best thing about it is that any female could join! I also couldn't recommend the film enough. In case you were unaware, the Red Tent Movement was inspired by Anita Diamant's book 'The Red Tent' which I also intend on reading soon.

For my male readers, I am aware of men's groups appearing around the world also, although so far in fewer numbers. I am in full support of such groups as men have things to talk about and learn too! I believe that men and women should do things together and that we should all be equal, but I also believe that whilst equal we are also different and some things each sex needs to learn about, that perhaps the other doesn't as much (i.e a circle devoted to talking about menstruating is not going to appeal to most men...).

Blessings!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Islamaphobia



I feel the need to comment upon the Islamaphobia that has increased over this Woolwich murder. I can't talk about this topic enough and sadly the fear is so ingrained in society that it'll be hard to budge.
It's such a huge topic and my arguments about it mirror those of so many others. I see countless anti-Islamic rhetoric circulating online and in person because of this terrible murder and all of the others committed in the name of Islam. I feel deeply sorry for the innocent Muslims who are suffering blame for this. Innocent people (who happen to believe in Islam) have even been murdered - to call justice for a crime that someone else committed (who happened to use Islam as an excuse to kill). People who are Middle Eastern in appearance, who may not even follow Islam at all (who may be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Atheist for all we know) are even being targeted! There is NO sense in this.
In order to murder someone or commit and atrocity there has to be something deeply wrong with you. 
I have Muslim friends who, just like me, would not be capable of such a thing. Just like any normal person! Any psychopath can commit a crime and blame it on whatever pleases them: Islam, Christianity, the Economy, the class system, famine in Africa, adultery, it being a Monday morning! That doesn't then mean that the thing they blame is necessarily at fault - but they are. If the thing blamed happened to produce this kind of result in EVERY person exposed to it then, yes, maybe there is a problem. But let's look statistically at the majority of innocent Muslims there are, and the MINORITY who have committed these crimes.
We could go back in time and look at other group-centered crimes. How about the numerous Christian crusades and their mass murder of innocent people? Christian's are included in the people critisising the Muslim minority group today - yet in the name of Jesus their faith represented the same act. Their faith was REPRESENTED by this dreadful act, but that does not mean the faith has anything to do with it. Jesus taught about peace and love and forbade murder - yet here we are with armies marching in and slaughtering innocent people (men, women and children) in his name. The same is happening in a modern context in the name of Allah.
In some cases their murderers have been indoctrinated by messed up, sick individuals whose ideology has passed on. Again, this is originating with someone who has misunderstood the religious teachings and is mentally ill, passing these teachings on to either vulnerable children or equally sick individuals. These are the people who need to be stopped and dealt with - not every Muslim. Just like it is the white murdering rapist who needs to be dealt with, and not every white male. 
This anti-Islamic media coverage and manipulation, and the misinformed, upset and frightened public opinion, a dangerous situation is appearing. Anyone can be a Muslim, a black man from Liverpool, a white female working at Sainsbury's, a teenager going through a tough time at home.  But not just anyone can be a murderer. Being a Muslim is nothing special. Just like being a Christian isn't, or being a Conservative, or a Labour-voter. By spreading this hate we are tearing ourselves apart, hurting our neighbours and our friends and innocent people who have no connection to these crimes.
Hate the the crime and stop the criminal. Keep people safe. This generalised hate towards a whole population of people is not keeping people safe at all.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Drawn to the Sacred


Over the last 5 years of studying religion, in particular Pagan religions and lately Abrahamic, I have had many mixed feelings and confusion. When I found things that ringed true for me in the Abrahamic faiths I questioned whether these faiths had got it right, and whether they were the right way; then logic told me that that couldn't be, if other beliefs that did not belong to these faiths also ringed true to me. There had to be a mixture of truth and falsehood in all religions. 

I have spoken about Universalism before and how I believe in truth residing in all religions. I believe in Goddess, who is masculine and feminine and neither, One and many all at once; She is the Divine Being who has made Herself known to all faiths and even non-religious people.

There is a difference between being religious and being spiritual. I know people who are deeply religious but who lack any spirituality; I know spiritual people who are not religious; and I know people who are a mixture of the two.

I've found that I have been called to my own Eclectic path because I am drawn to the sacred, which can be found in all religions. 

I am drawn to the sacred standing stones and Pagan rituals in ancient woodlands.
I am drawn to the sacred headscarf and song of Quranic verses.
I am drawn to the sacred icon of the Virgin and child in the cathedrals.
I am drawn to the sacred dances and mantras of the Hindu traditions.
And so on and on...

The sacred exists in all of these religions, and even outside of religion, within the natural world and the ancient ruins of civilisation. There is no need to restrict yourself to just one source of sacredness and you can explore as much of it as you can.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Belly Dance: The Spiritual Art Form


I have been Belly Dancing for about 4 years now and am preparing to teach a class of spiritual Belly Dance to our local women's group. There are aspects of the dance that I would like to talk about in this post:
1) The Respectable Art Form
2) The Spiritual aspect of Belly Dance

1) Perhaps because of the costumes or the nature of the feminine body, Belly Dancing has a stigma around it and a stereotype of being highly sexualised and inappropriate. Every time I see fantastic dancers appear on talent shows the male judges shamelessly gape at them and make jokes of letting them pass the round, without needing to see their dancing ability. I danced for a charity event last year and was actually told to aim our shimmies at the 'rich older men' in the crowd and even allow them to donate money to our hip scarves! - I was appalled at the lack of respect and obvious misunderstanding of our dance form.

We are performers and skilled entertainers, with thorough training and discipline behind our dancing. In most cases I've seen the women dance for themselves, for their love of the dance and how it makes them feel; they also dance for other women. Shows like Project Belly Dance and dancing Haflas, where most Belly Dancer's perform, are watched by other women (maybe the occasional and rare male dancer included). We do not aim ourselves at all men's clubs and dance for men. It is a feminine art form for the most part and is shared by women.

The costumes are often but not always revealing. You will commonly see a dancer in a bra and split skirt. Again, this is for her own beauty and the practicality is that the dance is focused on hip and belly movements - which is not best appreciated behind a t-shirt and jeans! But there are a whole range of other costumes too.

There are instances where Belly Dancers choose to show case themselves in the more stereotyped light, which is their choice, but it does not reflect the bulk of us. I must stress that it is a hard earned skill to master and certainly an art form. Give it a go yourself and see.

"Our troupe will not perform for Stag Do's or to male only audiences", says one dance teacher's website.

2) It is also a spiritual practice for many women. Even if a dancer is not normally spiritually inclined, the dance does connect her to her feminine body and lifts her spirits. It is a dance that celebrates the female form, in all of her forms. What is so freeing about it is that women of any age and size can look beautiful doing it and indeed feel beautiful too.

For some, they can enter a moving trance or meditation, feeling the divine feminine take over and express herself. It is a dance form that allows you to know what your body can naturally do.

In our group we plan to explore this dance spiritually together; some women feel uncomfortable or insecure about themselves when dancing in front of others. They feel like other women will be watching and judging. They may all feel that way, and the likelihood is, they'll either be concentrating too hard on themselves to look at you, or they may catch a glimpse at you and think that anyone is better than they are. What I plan to do is to teach the basic moves and then with safety measures taken, blind fold the women and allow them to dance freely without anyone watching. When they feel their body move naturally and freely they will become more comfortable and eventually the blindfold will come off. 

May Hathor move with you ladies )O(

Friday, 10 May 2013

Pagan Escapism

I am aware that this post will probably offend some people but I feel like I need to speak my mind here.

I have come to know of many Pagans out there who appear to delve in to the world of 'fantasy' and dress up a bit too deeply and a bit too seriously. To name a few examples (with the intent that these people cannot be identified on here): I have recently come across a woman who calls herself a 'female wizard' and as a part of this spiritual path of hers she wears a big blue pointed hat and blue wizard robes - just like you would see in a children's cartoon. I have also been introduced to an (actually lovely) woman who is a 'real fairy' and wears plastic fairies ears. To top this off I have also come across 'real vampires' and 'real werewolves'.

Now I think there is a point where us modern Pagans get a bit carried away. As Pagans the majority of us feel that we must be tolerant and accepting of all paths of Paganism, welcoming everyone with open arms, embracing diversity. Whilst I think this is important I do think the 'let anyone in' attitude can be detrimental in encouraging the world to seriously accept us. At a time where Pagans are trying to be accepted and recognised in society, with schools putting Pagan religions in the R.E curriculum and pentagrams being allowed on soldiers grave stones, it couldn't be more important to show people that we are normal and nothing to be afraid of.

How can we be taken seriously as a genuine spiritual path if the Pagans who stand out the most are the ones wearing wizard hats, fairy ears, and indulging in a form of vampirism? These people are the ones who stand out and are often the most outspoken about being in the 'Pagan' category.

I've seen many people come into Paganism for the wrong reasons. The media and history has lead people to know witches as evil women who can cast fantastic spells; so I have seen countless people sign up to Paganism and absorb themselves in trying to learn spells and magic, ultimately facing disappointment due to their false hopes and lack of magical understanding. 

To be a witch in the modern day there is no need to wear a witches hat, which is really aligning yourself to the negative stereotype rather than the genuine reality. Most witches I know of do not wear a witches hat seriously, and only don it in jest. So why do some paths then wear a fairy tale wizards hat, or plastic fairy ears? Not only this, but medieval garb, pharaoh's nemes crowns and all sorts of other outfits seem very popular.

There's also people who claim impressive titles and believe they were exciting figures in their past lives (there have been hundreds of Cleopatras some how). This is another part of this escapism, adding excitement to your life. In some cases such people are those who feel powerless in mundane life; they feel uninteresting, boring, unloved. Some coming to Paganism and finding this new found power, excitement and creating an interesting character for themselves - and being accepted into a community for the first time, can be a great incentive. But it really is sad that these people feel they need to do this. But we are all expected to except them no matter what.

Now - there is a part of me that understands the significance that such outfits could hold. Ritual drama is very effective at times and the old imagery could be of aid to us. But this is not appropriate for every ritual, and unnecessary as a public display of your spiritual path. There are ritual garments that we own that help us shift our consciousness from the mundane into the sacred. For me, this is the removal of shoes, wearing a skirt and my sacred jewelry; to others it is the robes, cloaks and that special medieval dress. This is why many of us feel conflicted in how to handle this whole situation. Sometimes it's ok, sometimes it's not; some clothes are fine, others are not... The balance is essential, but hard to find and impossible to enforce with any deal of fairness. 

Nevertheless, in my opinion what I deem as 'getting carried away', does seem like a type of Pagan escapism. In this modern world where we are absorbed in mundane life, the magic has been stripped from us. Getting in touch with the ancestors and reawakening a long lost time can be spiritually freeing. I have walked in the autumn woods in a black cloak and long skirt before, during a festival gathering. It feels exhilarating doesn't it? You travel back to a lost time and for a moment it feels real. But it's not. We should be able to recognise what is real and what isn't; we live in the modern day now and even with history aside, certain legendary people and creatures never really existed.

Now returning to this idea of tolerance. I do believe that in order for a peaceful and tolerant world to exist, with everyone accepting everyone else, then we cannot make exceptions. We must accept everyone, so long as they harm none. People who do insist on indulging in this world of fantasy and dress up are not hurting anyone. Really we should leave them to it, not harm them, not be nasty to them, or ostracise them. But we can all have opinions about them and so long as we harm none with these opinions then so be it. 

We are never going to agree after all.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

2013, A Year of Personal Transformation

It is now mid-April of 2013 and so far this year has given me a year of personal transformation.
I've found that for a few years now I've said that I want to get rid of certain bad habits and throw them into the balefire, only to continue in and forget that promise. It was brought - uncomfortably - to my attention at the beginning of this just how bad some of my behaviours were. I honestly hadn't noticed, but in retrospect, they just weren't fair on others or myself to continue. They were long overdue baggage that needed to be finally cast into the fire! This realisation came around Imbolc, the time for new starts, and I really feel like this is an important step in my life and will definitely make me a better person after it. It will take a lot of work, and many reminders, but I'll get there eventually.
Within my spirituality and my life I've seen changes happening and a start of a new life ahead. With regards to my spirituality I have discovered and accepted Universalism as a way of looking at world religions and deity. Last year I faced some challenging ideas towards my own Pagan belief and now I feel at peace with those challenges. I feel able to be unite with all religions and spiritual paths and not feel torn or worried, but embraced by them all. As well as this, for my own journey I have come to explore the feminine path of the Goddess and womb mysteries which is leading me to discover things about myself and my own self acceptance.
In December I will be undergoing a coming of age ceremony at last. I have waited - or perhaps procrastinated this - for a few years now. I was frightened when I turned 18 that I would be thrown into adult life unprepared, and leaving behind childhood, with all of its awe and playfulness, to enter a world of work and maturity. By December I'll be turning 21 and I feel more positive about it. I've been living away from home for two years, living with my partner of what will then be 7 years, fully grown and thinking seriously about my future and a career. The modules I am choosing next year and my consideration of a Master's degree are leading me to think about a future job and where me and Toby will be living together. And it doesn't feel too scary or reluctant anymore. I think I'm ready to accept that I am not a little girl anymore. I'm a young woman - however, humorous that sounds to me right now, it's true.

With these two transformations happening I am also preparing to meet with my Fellowship of Isis guide in London this year to meet and talk about the completion of my Priestess training. This again will be a transformation for me. I may wait another year to be absolutely certain that I am ready, or not. We'll see. I had begun to wonder if I could serve as a Priestess of the FOI without having experienced the dark aspect of Our Lady, when only a few nights ago I believe the Morrigan visited me in a rather strange dream. Is this the Goddess revealing the darker sides of Herself to me?

My change into a woman I feel is happening this year, noticeably. I will formally mark it in December with a few close friends, but I feel it building as each day goes by. As I learn more about myself, I learn more about the Goddess and I lose the fear of the naturally turning wheel of my life.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

A Baha'i view of Religion

I recently read a leaflet on 'The Baha'i Faith, What is it?' and was immediately surprised to hear my own words within some parts of its description! I wanted to share some of the paragraphs that I liked the best about their view on world religions and God. you may not agree with the teachings of Messengers of 'Oneness of God' but I think there is still a wisdom to be learnt in it. (There is more to say, for the Baha'i and myself, but this is what I found important in the short leaflet; also the use of 'Him' is meant in a neutral way):

          "They believe that there has only ever been one religion  - the religion on God. God sent His Messengers to different places at different times so that everyone in the world could hear about Him.

Baha'is believe that there is only one God, though people may call Him by different names. God is something we can never really understand: we can only learn about Him through His creation and His Messengers.

Baha'is follow Baha'u'llah, the latest in a long line of Messenagers sent by God to tell us how we should live and behave... 

...Baha'is believe that Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, Moses and Krishna were all Messengers from God...

...It was only their social teachings which were different: this is because they were meant for a particular time and place...

...In a few places in the world there are large Houses of Worship which are open to everybody, whatever their religion.

Women will be treated equally with men and they will use their influence to help bring about peace in the world.

When it comes down to it, it is the people of the world who have to change to the world. and we can only start with ourselves."



Monday, 21 January 2013

Making Incenses

This week the group I am part of have are going to run a fundraising stall to earn some money for an event we aim to be holding soon, as so we have been working on different crafts to sell.
Some have made candles, jewelry and cakes to sell and I have been making incenses and a couple of spell bags so far. Below is a video of me explaining how I make loose incense :)


What I found interesting was that this craft easily feeds into my last post about Green Magick and Kitchen witchcraft, as it uses kitchen tools (mortar, pestle, spoon) and kitchen/green ingredients. I made a selection of incense blends for specific purposes and most of them smell quite good! I am no professional at this but I enjoy it. I looked at all the herbs I had and read on the label or intuited their magickal properties, putting them together according to that, smelling nice too! The Protection one does have garlic in - but I covered that up with Lemon oil; I wanted the garlic as I find that highly associated with protection. So in case you're interested here are my made up recipe's (Love is my favourite one!).

  • LOVE:
Rose petals, Hibiscus Flower, Patchouli, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Rose oil.



  • SLEEP:
Lavender, Vervain, Pennyroyal, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Lavender oil.



  • WEALTH:
Chamomile, Comfrey, Basil, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Olive oil.


  • PSYCHIC:
Yarror, Mugwort, Cinnamon, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Almond oil.

  • PROTECTION:
Solomon's Seal Bark, Agrimony, Comfrey, Garlic (only a little bit!!!), Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Lemon Verbena oil.

  • PURIFICATION:
Sage, Vervain, Lemon Balm, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Lemon Verbena oil. 


  • HEALTH:
St Johns Wort, Vervain, Cinnamon, Frankincense and Myrrh Resin, Almond oil. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Green/Kitchen Witchcraft

As some of you may have seen from some Facebook posts on my Pagyptsian page, I have quite recently developed an interest in experimenting with Green/Kitchen Witchcraft. Because a week is a long time ago i have forgotton what first sparked the idea in my mind... But after deciding that it would be fun to have a look into I read a book on Green witchcraft lent to me by a friend - and completed it as I had little else to do this week but read! :) 
I have been focused on my spirituality and its practices and connection to Deity for the first years of being a Pagan (maybe rightly so) and whilst I have experimented and practiced some spells and the like, it hasn't been a focal point of my path. I honestly, have the bare basic knowledge on runes, tarot and herbalism - the basics that we all learn at some point; other than working with crystals, I haven't developed any of these crafts yet, even though all appeal to me!
I particularly like the idea of Green Witchcraft - working with the earth and its natural elements, energies and tools within a practice of spiritual witchcraft; and I also like the idea of combining it with the practice of Kitchen Witchcraft - utilising the energies of natural food and cooking in the form of witchcraft.
To me, they go hand in hand as natures 'Green Energy' is of course infused within vegetables, fruits, herbs ect... that we use in cooking; why not use this energy for positive goals, as well as feeding ourselves? I like the idea of herbalism because it is a tangible form of healing that we see actively affecting the body, and it is the origin of the whole concept of a witch - wisewoman/man.

So yesterday I tried my hand at making some carrot soup, following the recipe on this website, and it was lovely!: http://kitchenwitchcraft.wordpress.com/category/recipes/soups/
I wrote a list of the healing properties of the ingredients as well as the magickal which are as follows:
Carrot - Fertility and health 
Onion - Protection, healing and prosperity 
Celery - Love and concentration 
Basil - Purification




No sooner had I formulated the idea of having a go at this than I walked into The Works (a discount bookshop in the UK) and before my very eyes was a book of Kitchen Witchcraft by Soraya. Is the universe trying to give me that nudge in this direction or what?



Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Wherever she goes...

This is something a wrote, inspired by someone I know. (Please do not pass this around without permission.)

Wherever she goes...

She is a person, just like me and you.
And she is different and unique
just like me and you.

She lives on the fringe of religion,
Not quite fitting into one
and not quite fitting into the others.

Many may criticise and tell her she's doing it wrong,
Many may say her path is impossible to fulfill
but maybe she knows something that we don't.

Maybe she has learnt something that only she understands.
But she understands it
and she lives happily with it in her heart.

It must be special to be with God wherever you go.
She walks into a church, with a gleaming altar and cross
and she sees God's love shining through the coloured glass.

She answers the Muslim call of prayer in her heart.
She touches her head to the ground
and listens to Gods words.

She walks outside to greet the day.
She holds her hands against the trees 
and feels the spirit of God all around.

It must be special to see children of God wherever you go.
She greets all with peace and love
for all are her brothers and sisters under the Creator.

She is one who is with God wherever she goes.
Who meets with God in all places 
and who lives in peace with all who she meets.

She is a person, just like me and you.
And she is different and unique
just like me and you.

She lives on the fringe of religion,
Not quite fitting into one 
and not quite fitting into the others.

by Pagyptsian




Saturday, 5 January 2013

A New Year

This is the first New Year that I have actually taken as a significant event. Perhaps it was the hype over this particular solstice? But I am so ready for this year!
Three days before the solstice I went through a visualisation before bed. It was a journey through to the Isle of Avalon, a place I had journeyed to a month before. I returned to the Mother Cave beneath the hills and opposite the pool of water and upon approaching the Prehistoric image of the Goddess the cave turned into a red glow and water poured out from either side of the Goddess and through Her hands, down to the pool. With this running water in the red glow I realised how small I was and found the cave to be the womb of the Goddess, Her belly extending out as the hills. This imagery, to me, reflected the rebirth of the solstice, and consequently with myself in the womb, my own rebirth (my birthday was to come the day after the solstice in fact!).
With this journey my excitement grew for the rebirth of the year, where previously my celebrations had taken place early December to avoid Christmas business. I wrote down my goals for the year and things that I was greatful of in my BOS so I could look back at them in a years time and see what I have achieved.
With the coming of the New Secular Year, I have established my routine and what I want to do.

1) As started in December, I plan to read the whole Bible in a year. 
2) I have been given a Spell-a-Day almanac that so far I have been following daily; I haven't been copying the exact ideas in the book, but have been doing similar things and making annotations of what I do on each page.
3) Make a 'Good Things' Jar to add to throughout the year whenever something good happens.
4) Visit Glastonbury.
5) Meet my FOI guide in London to continue my Priestess training.

What an interesting year it has been! The Olympics at home, a trips to Avebury and Witchfest, completeting my first year at Uni, new friends and a new nephew on the way...
2013 I really feel will be one to remember as well.

Blessed Be everyone!