Urban Pagan in Somerset

Urban Pagan in Somerset

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Musical notes

Ive been musing on the effect music has on me in different situations. Im quite happy to work magically, meditate or perform ritual without musical backgrounds, but it makes quite a difference to me when i do have music playing. Especially if its something chosen particularly to aid the rite etc.

Many Years ago when I led a ceremonial magical lodge we often used a piece of music to enter the temple and walk its boundary. You might recognise it from the film 1492. It was by Vangelis, called 1492-the conquest of paradise. Because we always used it for the rituals, it developed its own energy for our ritual and was an important part of our lodge. Certain pieces of music are now connected in my own memory and experience with different magical workings and can make quite a difference in the effect desired. I find pathworking or visual journeys far more effective when using music to journey too.

Several years ago I wrote a ritual for my coven to perform with no speaking whatsoever, just music. It took awhile to work it out, with timing etc and a few 'rehearsals' etc but it was such an interesting and wonderful experience.

Recently I realised I was feeling a little down. Nothing really bad. Not depression or anything so deep, but a little mopey. Although it could be down to many different things - im menopausal, its the end of the school year and we're all feeling tired. Various reasons maybe. But I also realised I hadnt been listening to music much, and its quite amazing how different I feel listening to certain songs or tunes I love. Some can make me feel powerful and energized. Others more pensive or receptive.

Im trying to make time to listen to my favourites pieces whenever I can. Im sure they will lift my spirits again.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Life as an Urban Pagan

What does being a pagan mean to you? We know most people nowadays believe it originally comes from the Latin ‘Paganus’ which meant ‘Rustic’ or a ‘country dweller’ but what does that actually mean to us today?

Nowadays Pagans are usually seen as someone who follows an Earth based spiritual path - honoring the Earth; living harmoniously with Her, usually believing She has Her own individual consciousness. Other Pagan beliefs can include animalism, pantheistic worship and possibly believing in other beings such as faery folk, spirits and devas.

As you know Pagans may follow several spiritual paths such as druidry, witchcraft, shamanism, asatru and so forth. Believe in multiple gods or one, worship a goddess or god singly, or a balance of male and female polarity. Feel attracted to a variety of different pantheons and traditions from Celtic to Greek. Or they may just feel a spiritual connection to the earth alone without any other beliefs or practices. All are different paths within the umbrella of Paganism.

And how does such a person usually live? When following a spiritual path as a Pagan, we are usually expected to be living in the archetypal country cottage. Or maybe a small holding – growing vegetables next to a quiet field with the gentle ‘chuk chuk’ sounds of some happy free-range hens. Herbs are growing in the garden among a sprawling vegetable patch. Trees abundant with their apples, cherries or whatever fruit is in season. Through the fields that border the garden, you can see the hills and forests in the distance, or the atmospheric crashing of waves on a rocky coastline.

Or maybe we have built ourselves a straw bale or hobbit type house, with the roof covered in grass. Maybe we have a semi permanent Yurt or roundhouse, or wooden shack – self-built and wonderful with its quirky shape and decorations. It may have a solar panel or two installed too, or even a small wind turbine spins in the breeze.

Perhaps in the trees there are wind chimes and other meaningful hanging ornaments? A carved statue of The Goddess sits overlooking an unkempt pond, which attracts the insects loved by the organic gardener. An area designated as a meditation spot or temple has a pergola covered in a mass of honeysuckle and climbing roses.

A simple stone table as an altar on which a half consumed candle sits along side some holey stones, crystals laid out to soak up the energy of the coming full moon and the solar rays gently dappling through the leaves of the drooping trees.

Aah... the wonderful life of the pagan! The country dweller. Spiritually sustained daily by such a picture of peace and tranquility.

Or maybe not!

Maybe we are in a two up two down, little room to swing a cat, tiny terraced house in the middle of London or an apartment in downtown NY. The traffic non-stop passing by with its exhaust belching into the air. Or you might live 10 flights up in a concrete grey apartment block in the middle of some other town or city, with austere stairs climbing eternally up to your floor, or having to risk getting into a small, claustrophobic box like lift with the smell of unpleasant questionable aromas, to reach your home.

You might possibly be living in a bed-sit over a corner shop or pizza takeout in Manchester or Glasgow, listening to the wails of sirens in the night.

Not a romantic idea of the pagan is it? Though for most of us it is a truer picture of our lives, rather than the romantic image I just painted. Oh yes, there are the lucky ones that live that lifestyle, but they are not in the majority. And of course there are some who follow a pagan path that prefer to live in the towns and cities for a variety of reasons, not necessarily due to economics and what they can afford.

Some enjoy the accessibility of shops and social activities. There can be ‘get togethers’ with other like-minded people to consider. Many towns and cities have adult education classes that cover more unusual subjects nowadays such as healing, crystals, reiki, permaculture and so forth.

I myself live on the edge of the city of Canterbury in Kent. I now live in a small house with a garden the size of a shoebox, but previously I lived in a first floor flat with a balcony. I am lucky enough to be on the edge of the city so I do have access to the nearby countryside and also access to the benefits of city dwellers too. For two years I had to make do with a small concrete space to put pots and containers on for some connection to nature in my home environment.

However I preferred to think of this as a challenge rather than something to worry about. It meant I had to put a bit more thought into my spirituality. A bit more effort into making sure I connect to nature regularly.

Now some of you may think this might be a bit of a ‘Pollyanna’ attitude. In fact I have been accused of this before. But surely from a spiritual perspective, looking for the strength I might gain from such a challenge is better than being bitter or complaining about the hand I had been dealt!

It also means looking at things from a different perspective. Whether we are in the middle of a field or a concrete parking space, we are still walking on our Mother Earth. We are still in contact with the elements even if some of the layers are man made. If there is a spirit of the stone, there must be a spirit of the tarmac!

Oh now I hear you laughing! This may sound comical but I believe it to be true. After all, the tarmac is still produced from ingredients that came from nature. Iron and steel come from minerals in the Earth. The watch you are wearing may be powered by quartz crystals.

Take some time to think about the things we have in our urban lives. The things we have around us; cars, roads, houses, supermarkets. What can you find in them that connect it to our surroundings and us? We can still celebrate our meals and thank the Earth for providing it, even if it is now cellophane shrink-wrapped and date stamped.

Even if we don’t catch, kill or grow our own food, it’s still important to teach our children where it all comes from originally and how it’s been treated. Do I really want to take into my body the meat from an animal that has spent its short life in distress? This makes many issues for us to consider.

Im lucky enough to be able to afford a car now, and I really appreciate it - understanding its components are all made from natural things and is part of the Earth on which I live. It certainly means I think about my carbon footprint on the Earth too - car-pooling where possible and mainly using where necessary. Also I have to consider; convenience and time saving maybe – but am I as eco-friendly as I want to be?

My point is that being a Pagan is following a spiritual path regardless of whether you live in a field in the middle of nowhere, or behind the motorway in a block of flats, or an apartment in the middle of London, or New York or anywhere really. A pagan may drive a car, ride a motorbike or walk. We may live in a tepee, or in a brick house – none of that matters.

Paganism is many things. It is a spiritual path, a state of mind and a way of life that honors the Earth and all its inhabitants whether animal vegetable or mineral. We need to look beyond the generalizations and honor our connection to our Earthly home where ever or however we live. May the spirit of the breezeblock bless your home.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I wanted to share this with you today, as I was really taken aback by the kind offer of help from a stranger.

Today my little girl was going to tea with her friend from school - something which is a bit of a treat for me too, as it gives me a couple of hours after work where I can poodle about the town a bit. Maybe mooch around a museum or just a bit of window shopping. I can enjoy myself, rummaging through charity shops - so many interesting knick nacks to explore. I have found many a bargain there! Or go and grab a latte or lap sang su chong (smokey tea that always reminds me of times spend by a firepit drinking tea at pagan get togethers...but I digress!)

Any hoo

I sometimes get hit by the demon 'spontaniety', and today was one of those days!
I have dreams of growing my hair long again, but it gets to a certain length, and whooosh - out come the scissors to 'tidy it up', which in effect cancels my plans of long, luscious, hippy locks with daisies threaded through. (Actually, Im getting a bit old for the daisy, hippy look - but its a nice memory!!)

So wandering along, I pass a hairdressers I remember a friend recommended and go in, to see if something can be done to remove the splits, dry frizz, and generally give it a good seeing to. A space was available but I needed to wait for about 20minutes. So I agree, settle down with the complimentary cappuchino to wait for my stylist to finish her last client.

The trouble is, the last client wasnt happy and wanted an extra snip here, and a bit of wax there. Twenty minutes turns into 40minutes and several coffees later, I am a bit concerned about my parking ticket turning into a....well, a parking ticket!!!

I couldnt leave cos they'd already washed my hair, conditioned, and rubbed a lovely lotion that smelled heavenly into it. It would be rude to leave half done! The stylist comes along, and says, 'no problem'. But shes also a perfectionist and it takes longer and more.....

So I steal myself to call a halt to the event, and then, the sweetest of offers from the chap busy sweeping up stray hairs. He offers to run all the way to the car park (at least 10 minutes away) and put extra pennies in the ticket machine for me. What a sweetie. And he even refused to take the pound coin for the ticket, paying for it himself.

After the last few weeks, with one or two experiences from less than kindly people, to have such a kind offer of help from a stranger was confirmation that there are some nice people out there.
I hope you too have a good experience and chance to enjoy the kindness of a stranger.

ps - the do was quite nice too!! lol