Urban Pagan in Somerset

Urban Pagan in Somerset

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Midwinter Festival - A Time To Celebrate

As I wander down my local high street window-shopping and people watching I am aware of the festive lights twinkling above – attached to the various shops and lampposts. The shops themselves - windows brimful of packages covered with tinsel and wrapped up to look like seasonal gifts. Seemingly unaware of the financial crunch we keep hearing about, they beckon the harried Christmas shopper in to increase the amount on the credit cards. At my daughter’s school, they are rehearsing for the school Christmas concerts and busy collecting unwanted toiletries to sell at the seasonal fayre.

And today I was amused to be accosted by the normally friendly parents of her school chums. They spoke to me with undisguised pity in their voices as they asked the usual questions at this time of year. ‘Oh yes that’s right – you’re a pagan aren’t you? Bet you feel a bit left out this time of year? Well what do you do at Christmas then?’ ‘Such a shame isn’t it – doesn’t she get upset at not getting any presents?’. And a number of various similar questions that added up to the accusation of my obvious scrooge like behavior because I don’t do Xmas!!

Of course once I explain that actually, I don’t celebrate the 25th December, but the Solstice a few days before. That yes, we do have a decorated tree, celebrations, sing songs, have presents and do many of the same kinds of things with a different emphasis there is almost a sigh of relief. Then its off to accost the other strange people who don’t ‘do Christmas’ – with the majority of pity levied on the family who’s children are Jehovah’s witnesses and ‘don’t have any Christmas or even birthdays!!!’

It amuses me because of the way people become almost concerned and worried that my child isn’t going to be part of the celebrations with their own kids. Whereas for the rest of the year they seem to have no problem at all that we are a pagan family! It amuses me because I feel that I actually have far more fun and joy throughout the whole year celebrating all the festivals and giving them equal attention and making sure my youngest daughter enjoys herself as well as learning about the reasons why we celebrate them and what they mean.

In 2008 I decided to be pro-active and gave the school and my daughter’s current teacher copies of a book I wrote on celebrating the seasons in a pagan family. It included our family activities and beliefs for the complete yearly festivals as well as the solstice and it was very well received. The school head was very positive and let me know they will be including activities and information in it for inclusion in the assemblies along with the other cultural activities they now include, such as Devali and Hanukkah.

As a family we do enjoy all the seasonal cycles but I do have a sneaky extra love for this time of year. It’s the whole of autumn through to winter that I love the most. Beginning with harvest time – when we have outings foraging in the countryside. Then Samhain – when we have a family circle for friends and children with a party that culminates in the local trick or treat activities. Finally with the many craft activities and preparations we put into our Yuletide feasting; I relish the planning and organizing of the Solstice season. I see no reason why I shouldn’t enjoy this season as much, if not more that the Christians do – whether secular or practicing. And of course as Christmas did actually kidnap our festival, I make no apologies at any of my anticipation and enjoyment of this time of year.

We have been active since the harvests, gathering blackberries, elderberries and other various hedgerow goodies. Making jams, cordials and jellies. Sloes have been steeped in sugar and brandy, and chillies stripped of their skins and submerged in olive oil for several weeks. Ingredients have been collected to make fudge, cinnamon candies, sugared chestnuts and candied peel. Wines brewed and fruits submerged in jars with a variety of alcoholic beverages and each one newly stickered and tied with a ribbon ready for stockings.

Next week we are making the handmade Solstice cards and last night we hand printed the large rolls of wall lining paper for our own wrapping paper. And the 21 matchboxes I have found over the last few months will be decorated and filled with a small chocolate for my daughters Solstice advent style calendar. We still have a pudding and a cake- with the same ritual stirring and wish making – wonderful spell opportunities. And the gingerbread is being cut and decorated into biscuits to hang in star, moon and Goddess shapes on the Solstice tree.

We will go into the local woodlands and find berried holly, ivy and search out the elusive mistletoe to hang around the mantelpiece. Cutting strips of paper we make paper chains and paper decorations for the living room. A ring of willow I made in the summer has dried out and will be decorated with the pinecones we dipped in glitter, with ribbons and more holly to hang on the front door.

My daughter will enjoy the Christmas parties and concerts at school – she knows that the Christian festival is their version of celebrating the light returning at the darkest point of winter. She accepts it and doesn’t seem to have any of the problems of understanding it that her friend’s parents do. We went to enjoy Cinderella at the new Marlowe Theatre last weekend and this year I finish work the day before the solstice.

The night before we will light the Yule candle on the altar(I don’t have a fireplace any more!) and put out clove oranges to represent the Sun returning. On the day itself, my older grown up children and some pagan friends will come along with their families to have presents under the tree, sit round the table and feast on a shared meal while toasting the Solstice with some of the potent wine made from our foraging trips.

And on the 25th December? My daughter and I will take a flask of soup, a bag of birdseed and stale bread and have a hearty walk in the woods and by the river to feed the ducks. When we get home we will sit together watching DVDs and videos after a light lunch and the satisfied feeling that we have celebrated the real meaning of this season – the cycles of life and the balance of light and darkness.

May your solstice or whatever you celebrate be whatever you wish it to be.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Thrift and Fun crafts 1.

Over the last year I have enjoyed a variety of activities and gatherings with the idea of making and creating. Of going out into the countryside to forage and gather ingredients which we can make into tasty treats, and trying out arts and crafts. Things that include traditional crafts, or new adaptions.

I have gathered together other pagan friends fortnightly to have an evening of creative fun trying out some of these crafts. Our group calls our fortnightly wednesday night 'Witches Stitches'. And though originally we intended to mainly do some kinds of stitch crafts, it has widened to include various others too.

And at other times, I have been able to attend local craft fairs, traditional village and goose fairs, or other events that promote traditional crafts and activities. All in all, this year has been full of creative fun, and certainly fuelled the creative juices in me, my family and friends too.

What is wonderful is sharing the fun, learning something together and ending up with something to remember the evening too. Some of the things we have made will become gifts and with the Winter Solstice coming up, I thought I would share some of the fun and ideas we've had to use for gift ideas, maybe over a couple of seperate blogging sessions.

Bath bombs

Thanks to my friend Sarah for this. We made some of these during a Witches Stitches a few weeks back. Easy to make and for children too.

2 tablespoons of cornflour,
2 tablespoons of citric acid and
60g of baking powder into a bowl.

In another bowl, put 3 tablespoons of oil
a few drops of food colouring
a few drops of essential oil
if you wish, add a few dried herbs too

Mix all these ingredients together into a damp crumbly mixture.

Pack into moulds - a ping pong ball cut in half is excellent.
leave for a few days to dry out a bit and then pack a few into cellophane wrapping and tie with a big bow

Button Craft

Another fun evening in Witches Stitches was suggested by Jane. Button craft is fun and easy to do and you can create some lovely decorations and items.

You need an assortment of buttons
any other decorative items you want to use.

Thread long wire through buttons and bend into different designs. Great for country type wall hangings, yule tree/xmas tree decorations.

some people put 2 or 3 buttons together to make different contrasts.

You can use ribbons or elastic to make hair decorations too. Or put wire and ribbons together for extra decorative effects.

And a last creative tipple.

Orange Liqueur

Walking around a well known supermarket with my friend Sarah recently we noticed the price of Grand Marnier liqueur, a lovely orange flavoured brandy type drink. We've already been making sloe gin and damson gin recently, and a forest fruit brandy is maturing in my cupboard at the moment.

However, we decided to make our own orange brandy too.

Cheap brandy with several orange slices and the same weight of sugar as that of the fruit is placed in a sealed jar or large neck bottle. Leave for at least a month in a dark cupboard. Decant the liqueur into clean bottles and put the fruit into jars to use as decorations on adult puddings.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Missed in Avalon

For a long time Ive been promising to take Rhiannon to my most favourite places. Places I love. Last year we visited Avebury for the first time and she also found it was a place she felt was special. This year I finally had the resources, car etc to take her to Glastonbury. Its been a long time since I was there last. Over 10 years in fact. It goes by so quickly, I hadnt realised how long it had been, although I realised how much I had missed being there.

It couldnt be a long visit though. I had to be back home for a hospital appointment and time it all between some summer leave from work, so a nice long weekend was planned to stay with a friend of mine who had moved down there just a year ago. So much excitement. Finally to visit the place I have longed to live in for so many years.

I first visited Glastonbury about 20 years ago. Starting with a trip into the town during my stay at the Glastonbury Festival. I loved it instantly. The feeling of being 'at home' there. Wonderful and interesting shops all nestling along with the usual ones in a high street. I remember a cavernlike shop called ISIS. Full of interesting books, decorative items you walked through one shop into another and at the back was a studio with the wonderful paintings of Peter Pracownik and stuff he was working on at the time. What I also loved was that there were lots of interesting witchy shops, not just the odd one you sometimes see in most towns.

I watched people in the streets while I sipped coffee, in the Blue note cafe, a man with bare feet walking along with a guitar strung on his back. Then a lady with a twinset and court shoes clip clopping along. A melting pot of many different types of people and ideas, all milling around together. It was a festival feeling there. And not just because of the Glastonbury festival. I visited again several times over the next few years at different times in the year and the same feeling was there.

And so I longed to live there. To be part of this amazing place. And then - on top of all this, the most wonderful Tor and the Chalice Well.

Wonderful places with such amazing energy. Over the years when I visited either along or with my older children, we always made sure we climbed the Tor and drank from the well. I remember one really wild and windy day, climbing the hill with my children (just the 2 then) and having to hold them really tight. Im sure if I had attached string to them I could have flown them like kites!

My visits stopped for a while for various reasons, my personal life changed, I became a one parent family with little money for expenses like transport or holidays. And living in Kent as I do, it was a fair distance to get to. Specially lugging heavy camping gear and trailing 2 children with me. And so the years slipped by.

My circumstances changed, I wished so much to revisit the Isle of Avalon once again. And take my youngest daughter to visit. I had told Rhiannon so much about it and she wanted to see it too. Last year it almost happened but something came up, so when a friend of mine moved down there just a year ago and invited us to visit, we were ready.

Our trip from kent was broken with a stop at Avebury on the way. Wonderful, we circled the Stones and left an offering at the trees with the plaited roots. Rejuvinated we drove the last few miles to Glastonbury. And when we saw the Tor in the distance I felt so happy. At last! 10 years of waiting and im finally here again.

The Tor was magical - the chalice well was calm and peaceful and beautiful. We drank the waters and made a staff while the gardens hosted a healing festival that was on that weekend. We saw our friend and met a few new ones too. And the Goddess Temple in the centre of Glastonbury was lovely. So peaceful and beautiful. We sat in it for a while, Rhiannon drawing a picture of the Goddess that the lovely melissa put on the altar and promised to take a photo when it was closed to email us later.

So why was I saddened during my visit?

Isnt this a place I love, have longed to see again, a place that restores my soul?

Actually.....I dont like it any more. Well, Im afraid I dont like the town itself. I loved climbing the Tor again, pausing for breath at the bench half way up. Sitting at the top, closing my eyes and feeling the healing energies from the earth. Paddling in the Chalice well waters and filling bottles with the healing waters was wonderful too. But these are the ancient places that make up Avalon and will never change no matter what people do to them.

The town is another matter. Oh yes - I enjoyed sitting in the cafe drinking hot apple punch and snacking on the nicest carrot cake ive ever tasted. And the Goddess temple itself was an oasis of peace and love. But what about the rest?

Maybe its not that I dislike it but just realised I wouldnt want to live here. Maybe if I did I might dip under the brash prices and sugar coating spirituality being sold around me. I could meet the genuine dwellers - like the few I met on my visit through my friend. Maybe I could connect with the people hidden in the mists of this Isle that remain hidden to the outsiders who briefly visit - such as me!

But now, when I look at the town, I see the tinsel for sale. The unwelcoming notices to parents regarding the sale items. NO TOUCHING signs. I understand why. The giant crystals ripped from the earth for sale at thousands of pounds, ornaments and statues at similar large prices. No one wants the children touching them. Breakages must be paid for.

One or two places still welcomed the customer. But on the whole I saw the ££££ signs and the posters with the latest guru being advertised. Courses priced int the hundreds and thousands.

Now before anyone says anything, I have no problem with people needing to earn a living. We all have to pay the rent, bills and put food on the table. But it seems we have new updated courses and workshops to experience and then along comes anew one, more money, more money, more money!

And at night the place changed - during the time I was there staying in the town I heard shouting, noise, arguments and threats between groups of people coming from the pubs.I closed my eyes and thought of the peace in the Well gardens and on the Tor in the early morning.

So I left, knowing my home and path lie elsewhere. To continue to honour the Goddess who is everywhere afterall. Sad in some ways that this place I dreamed of living in for so long, is not meant for me. But also, strangely free!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A little bit Country, a little bit Rock n roll

One of the things I find living on the edge of a city, albeit a small city with the country on my doorstep, is that sometimes I need to refresh myself. To rediscover the joys of both worlds - living in an urban setting and enjoying the facilities it offers, as well as getting the chance to get out into the countryside and refresh the parts that other beers do not reach.

The plan this weekend, was on saturday to celebrate the full moon at a farm nearby with the organisers of the Druid grove I like to attend. A few good friends, a bonfire and the chance to camp out for those who wanted to drink more than a toast around the circle. Circumstances prevented this unfortunately, and instead, I found myself sitting by the sea at St Margarets bay with jagged seaweed covered rocks, white cliffs and black stones and shingle that looked more like a volcanic landscape than a typical local beach.

There, with my youngest daughter and a good friend, we connected to the spirit of the oceans, ate a hearty picnic and made an offering to the waters and the Lady of the Sea. Funny how things that arent planned (by us anyway!) are often the ones that create the most amazing energy. We drove home into the most glorious sunset, and I felt something so right connect as we got home in the dark, to go to bed and sleep a good sleep.

And then today, my plan was to get busy on some long awaited clearing up! Since I have started work again, I find the time for getting my home in some kind of order quite limited. Im trying not to get silly about this - Im certainly not someone with a disorder for excessive cleaning, but I do like to feel uncluttered at least. (difficult really with a 7 year old with a penchant for crafts, making dens and leaving toys around just in case!)

However, as I clicked briefly on facebook and saw my friend's status declaring she had just left for the Smallholders fair at Sissinghurst castle, I suddenly remembered it was something I had told her about and meant to visit myself. Suddenly it was almost a military opperation, get the washing hung out, bath and wash hair, get some things together and leave. At least hopefully to get there in time to hear Hugh Fearnly Wittingstal's talk.

And so we got out of the door and on the open road. With my friend's loan of a sat nav bossily instructing us on the directions...enter roundabout..take the 3rd exit...after .7miles turn left....turn left......TURN LEFT!!!!!

Well I got there in time for the last 10minutes of Hugh's talk. But it didnt matter. Breathing in the beautiful energy of the Weald of Kent land. Munching on hog roast and wandering around looking at the sheep and lavendar bantams, the pot bellied piglets (had to really discipline myself not to buy one!!) and the crafts. Rhiannon held as many animals as she was allowed - which was most of them, except for the cow!

I became a member of the kent smallholders association. Well I do have 2 chickens and a few veg growing in my handkerchief!! What fun! Im a smallholder!! A very smallholder!!

It was one of those events that kind of inspires and re-energises me. Topping off the events of last night its been one of those weekends that I can live off for a very long time. And now my autumn and winter has something to plan and focus on. To meet together with other smallholders (whether those with a fields or a window box to smallhold on) and the possibility of dancing with a Morris side. Im well and truly ready to continue in my Urban paradise. As long as I can bring a bit of country into my urban life. I am content.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Another New Beginning

Ive got a new Job!

At last!!!!

I cant describe the relief I have now after 6 months of being unemployed. You may remember from a previous blog that I left my job back in december last year with the intention of going self employed. Well that didnt quite work out and like many plans that dont quite go the way intended, I always believe things happen for a particular reason. Maybe, if I realised at the time I would be out of work and signing on for 6 months, I wouldnt have jumped.

But its been a valuable experience nevertheless. I got a chance to really appreciate what I did have. Ive never been one for buying loads of stuff, but having a bit of independence financially does help. First to go were the little pleasures, an occasional takeaway, a trip out with Rhiannon (couldnt afford the petrol) or her extra curricular activities - swimming club, tennis etc.

Then the car had to be taken off road. Insurance, tax disc and MOT couldnt be covered. That would also impact on my ability to find work - if I couldnt get to a job after dropping Rhiannon off at school then I would find it harder too.

I also hadnt realised how unpleasant it would be to have to sign on either. Now I know the majority of people without work usually try very hard to find it, but I found a lot of attitudes towards unemployed people very negative. That doesnt mean there are no people out there trying to cheat the system, but they are very much the minority, and I was frustrated and angry at how so many people thought I was living the life of riley.
It was hard too - as I found a couple of hours work helping in a toddlers toy library and the job centre kept loosing my declaration forms or demanding payslips I hadnt had and stopping my allowance. Not an easy time for a while.

These were all lessons to be experienced and processed.

I began to use the buses again when necessary and walk more. Before I got my car, I used to walk everywhere and it was only a few weeks before I noticed the difference in myself. It was difficult for getting Rhiannon to school though. We had a journey to the other side of the city to get there which meant walking, 2 buses and walking again. Leaving at 7.30 in the morning to arrive in time, then for me a return journey, and a repeat of both to collect her in the afternoon!

Im a very organised person financially. Always listing my incomings and outgoings which I record weekly in a diary, so I didnt run out of money, but as I said earlier, I had less to play with and this curtailed a lot of activities. So in between searching for a job, I caught up reading, worked harder on my garden and projects I had been leaving 'until I had time', and sometimes just staring into space and enjoying being still.

It was an enforced period of contemplation that made me realise how much I did have, and to appreciate it even more. So that when a job finally turned up (and I was always certain it would in the end) I wanted to be sure that I wouldnt become complacent and take it all for granted. Especially when the job eventually turned up and I still dont have the use of my car.
A good friend has lent me hers while she's unable to drive for a few months - giving me the chance to get Rhiannon to school and me to work in time, and save up for the MOT etc.

And now Im a working girl again. Started last monday, extremely tired as its 6 hours on my feet all day and very physical work as a domestic assistant in the University.
But I get to take my daughter to school and collect her. We spent the weekend at a Hay making festival and I could afford to pay for the hog roast and ice cream again. We are off today to the local wolf sanctuary and maybe another ice cream (well, it is summer!!)

So Im grateful for the experience and hope I can appreciate what I have even more this time around.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Putting Down Roots and Future Dreams

I've always been a bit of a wanderer, enjoyed the adventure of finding new places to explore and live. Some of the time its been something I didn't have an awful lot of control over. After my divorce for instance, I lived in rented flats or houses, and on a few occasions my landlords decided to sell the house which meant me finding alternative homes.

I also needed to move sometimes myself, for work or for family situations. Once I just had to move from an area so grey - I just had to find somewhere with some greenery nearby!

I live at the moment in a small house with a handkerchief garden on the edge of a small city. I came here originally to study at the University and rented a small Victorian cottage. After the birth of my last child, I couldn't afford the rent and was given a large, light and airy council flat that backed onto a lovely woodland. It was a good place to live, but as my daughter learned to walk and needed a garden, I managed to find a swap with the tenant of my present home - she wanted to be rid of a garden due to some health problems and so we exchanged and I have been here for nearly 3 years now.

The last 13 years has seen me move and live in 8 different places which is quite a lot of moves. And apart from the work involved in packing up and unpacking and the money to hire vans and an extra pair of hands or two, it really hasn't stressed me. Last year a problem with some neighbours disinterest in their children's' activities (basically breaking my windows and fencing) gave me itchy feet again and I began to look at exchange websites. For years I have longed to live down in the South west or West country, and my dreams of my rural witchy cottage, or canal boat haven't changed very much over the last few years.

But every time I was offered an exchange, it came with a situation that wasn't right for me and my family. And so I began to think about it a little more deeply. Yes, I know if I want something strongly enough, I could find a way to do it, but then I also find that difficulties in doing something may indicate a need to decide if it really is the right thing after all.

I don't want to uproot my young daughter at the moment - she has settled into a school and made friends and is doing well. The trouble I encountered has settled down. Strangely enough, all it needed was for me to install a blind across my kitchen window that faced the front to give me some privacy. The trouble only seemed to occur when I was visible through the window. Literally 'out of sight, out of mind' - although I'm pretty certain the simple spell I did to infuse the blind with invisibility helped a little!!

Over the last couple of years I have been slowly decorating the house and adding little touches to it, to make it reflect my personality and interests. And the garden is also coming together to become a place of reflection and peace. Even when some choice language drifts over from another house, it doesn't seem to disturb the tranquility, almost like I have created a spiritual bubble of calm.

I had decided that if for now I cant live in the country, I would bring the country to me. As well as sorting the garden out as a pleasant place to sit and contemplate, I added 3 chickens - for eggs, for the pleasure of watching them peck and scratch and for fun. Growing a few veg and having planted a couple of apple trees has also added to its simple beauty and I find myself sitting out in it as often as possible.

I also found on another level I have connected to the spirit of the land where I live. I realised with my desire to leave, I had stopped making trips out, walking and exploring, foraging and observing the seasons, day and night cycles. I have made an effort to walk more, trips out to the nearby villages and countryside to look for interesting places to become acquainted with.

My foraging activities started up again and I gathered dandelions to make marmalion jelly recently,
and just last week walked for several hours exploring. We found many elders bursting with elderflower heads, some of which I turned into fragrant and delicate syrup. Nettles for beer and shortly, wild cherries for home made cherry brandy to put away for winter solstice presents. (If I can keep my hands off it long enough!)A local spring has beautiful clear water and we sat on a small walkers bridge in the sun, dangling toes into the fresh sharp waters. There are quite a few green areas in and on the outskirts of Canterbury and exploring the city often brings unexpected delights. By the Christchurch university for example; I found many elder trees in a churchyard where the church is now a music centre for the university.

This is so important to me too. Because I am making a connection to the land. Appreciating its bounty and bringing into my home.
I sit and listen to the wind again. Observe the sky, the plants and the wildlife. Spotting Herons and squirrels and maybe the odd urban fox. I feel the spirit of the Land and remember ancient feelings and memories. Remembering old recipes and remedies I used to use - hanging chamomile daisies in the kitchen to get rid of flies, adding wild peppermint leaves to my salads to aid digestion and so much more. I feel the spirit of the land so much closer now and can find a contentment that I hadn't felt for a long time.

And so I sat today to make a decision for the next few years - at least until Rhiannon reaches secondary school, that I have got to allow the roots I'm putting down here to dig in and become strong. To nourish the plant to grow and flourish.

No - I haven't stopped having my dream. One day I know I will have the freedom I seek and the canal narrow boat home I long for. I'm open to whatever there is in store for me and my family. Now, I am content to water and feed the roots Ive put down and live in the home I choose to be in.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Beltane Season and the Sacred Marriage

Well for weeks I have avoided it as much as possible! I really dislike the media hype and histerical outpourings of sentiment from the press. With all thats been going on in the world, I was not interested in what the dress would look like, who would be there, would she say 'obey' etc etc. In fact I found it really annoying to hear about how 'frugal' their wedding was going to be. Hmmmm.....Well I think most couples about to wed would enjoy being married in such splendour and it would probably cost them a fraction of what was really spent!

So I made arrangements to be otherwise engaged on friday 29 april in order not to have to be around hyped up parties and over emotional people who wanted to party till its 1999. Then my plans fell through. I couldnt go where I meant to and I have a 7 year old daughter who had been at school for most of the week with playground street parties and making union jacks who now wanted to watch the wedding.

Ok, so I can potter around, finish that washing, sort out the stuff for this summers crafts projects while she watches it. She'll soon get bored and want to change over to sponge bob square pants. And I only allow a bit of tv anyway so it'll soon be turned off and she can play with her dollies or help me plant some of the lettuce we have for the garden.

No chance, she wants me to sit with her and cuddle. So at first I sit while we watch the people gather at the Cathedral, the colourful processions of the soldiers. And then I thought, well actually Ive always been interested in history and this is an event that will definately go down somewhere. Im no monarchist, but I do like the pagaentry and costumes - and the ritual of it all.

Now like a lot of people, Id already drawn the connection to the fact that the wedding was happening at this time, just at the time of Beltane. The festival of the sacred marriage of the Goddess and the God. The Hieros Gamos. But I began to think about it as I watched the Queens guards and the horses marching along, listening to the crowds of people there and I began to see a bigger picture.

The crowds of people all over the country with their parties - street or otherwise. The families who were watching the event together, or just sitting alone with a TV. What amazing energy was being created here. An energy being raised with most people unaware of the time of year and what it represents, but still their connection to the Land so strong that this was so important to be part of. In fact, all over the world, this energy was being raised, so many people in so many lands watching the wedding, wanting to be part of it somehow.

I certainly dont think the monarchy purposely selected this time for the wedding conciously knowing its connection to the festival of Beltane. No that was the doing of a Greater power and knowledge of Her people and Lands. Chess pieces maybe.

As I watched the ceremony seeing the trees that Katherine Middleton had asked to be placed in the cathedral and the moment when the Archbishop bound their hands together I could see how in the midst of all this organised religion and dogma, the Goddess had brought the Land inside. All it needed was a dance round the maypole. Well, they had a party in the evening and lots of dancing so maybe even that was represented in a way.

And interesting it was the Bride - Kate who had wanted the trees. An act of the Goddess through her priestess although she is probably unaware of her role in this sacred marriage. The good will and connection created by the people of the world will create an amazing energy. I feel it is no accident that all this happened now, in the way it did.

I remember being astounded at the energy raised by people when Diana died - the amazing connection between people united in mourning someone they never knew. But then she had become a symbolic person. Reaching out to the sick and injured. Remember the pictures of her with aids infected people, or the limbless victims of land mines. Queen of Hearts is what she wanted to be known as. And now her son has married a woman who may well be an unknowing priestess. Who knows - it will be interesting to see how this is played out in the coming years.

No, Im still not a monarchist. My feelings on that are too long for this post and maybe I will share that another time. But Im glad I took the time to watch this event. And afterwards took part in my own Beltane celebrations, gathered with friends to dance the maypole and toast the Summer.

Hail the Queen of the May

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Have a Merry Burns Night!

Robert Burns was born 25 January 1759 (to 21 july 1796) and is well known for his poetry, his contribution to the Romantic movement and as possibly the most famous Scotsman.

He is celebrated on 25 January each year at Burns Night events everywhere. Although this isnt a pagan celebration, I still like to celebrate it as its a celebration of poetry, song and creativity which my Bardic side enjoys immensly. It was he who wrote Auld lang syne which everyone knows world wide, and is traditionally sung on new years eve. And another well known poem Tam o' Shanter.

He is celebrated with a feast of Haggis, neeps and a dram of whisky. The Haggis was immortalised in his poem 'Address to a Haggis'. Neeps is a dish usually consisting of swede, turnip, and potatoes, boiled and mashed. Sometimes served with butter and a good dose of pepper in it.

The Haggis is a dish containing a mix of minced sheep's heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal,spices, meat stock and suet with a pinch of salt which is mixed and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Haggis is actually a large kind of sausage. Nowadays you can even get a vegetarian Haggis option in many health food shops.

Part of my pagan life consists of celebrating the traditions built up over many years of various lands that I feel connected to. They may not be a 'pagan' celebration, but still fun to take part and great to be part of a living tradition.

He also wrote 'To a Mouse' from which we get the well known line 'Wee, sleekit, cowrin, timrous beastie'

To A Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

I wish you a Merry Burns Night - pass the whisky please!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Time to wake up

Continuing on with the last post on new beginnings - each day brings that little bit of extra energy to start new projects, new ideas and build on a foundation that will create the building of this year.

I always find 2 major things happen to me at this time of year. Clearing out inner and outer crap is one of them and can be seen in a desire to remove clutter in my home (mirroring the desire to remove the spiritual and emotional clutter I may be carrying around with me too). The other biggie is when I begin looking around for new and interesting things to do. Some of this may have been on the back boiler and had their seeds planted last year - such as my new career possibilities, and some have arrived like an unexpected but very welcome friend coming to visit!

So far, I have finally got round to sending off for the OBOD's bardic grade coursework which is something that has been in my mind for several years.
This also has something to do with my spiritual path and a part of me I have been suppressing for several years - another blog entry will cover that I think. But its that time when some things connect with the energy to create new things in my life and become irrisistable to leave for another year.

More usual are the things I look around to do for fun and to satisfy the creative part of me. Things I can do with my youngest daughter and other family members when they're here. So I scour the internet for the websites of events I enjoy - The Green Man festival at Hastings in May. The strawberry fair at Cambridge in June. And on the way I discover other events I may not have come accross before - maybe being put on for the first time - such as last year Eden projects 'Big Lunch' which we took part in during july in canterbury. I get a lovely new diary (I just love a new virgin page ready to write my plans and projects on). It gets filled with ideas of things I might like to take part in, practical information such as money coming in and bills going out, and school diary info too.

I explore the local colleges and universities sites too (we're greedy in canterbury - we have 3 universities here!) for day schools and family learning days. Often cheap or with concessions for low wage earners they can provide really interesting and fun ways to try new things and feed that part of me crying out to learn or use my creativity. Or both! Found a fantastic day school in the summer to work with a Labyrinth built in Kent university's grounds, with the chance to walk it, write about it , create around it and .....well.....we are only limited by our imaginations arent we!

I am not in the space where I want to start new magical or mediation groups and circles nowadays, but do like to come together with friends old and new to do something for fun regularly, so have decided to hold a regular arty session for creative crafts and fun. Its not a rigid structured group which doesnt put any pressure on me which is what Im going for at the moment. Just a day or evening regularly that I plan to have open house for anyone who wants to join me doing some craft or arty activity.

What could be more simple, fun, companionable and feed my creative soul?

And to feed my spiritual soul - as I mentioned I am eagerly awaiting my bardic coursework from OBOD. And a variety of pagan fairs and processions to enjoy. The Fairy Festival in Canterbury is an event we love to go to. The fun of dressing up, meeting fun, friendly people and maybe going to the Fairy Ball.

It seems to me that this time I find Im hungry in various parts of my soul. I need to feed several parts of me - the spiritual, physical, emotional and practical. This is the energy of Spring arising from its earthy sleep as we creep slowly but surely towards Imbolg.

Depending where you live there are things you can do. Obviously in an urban setting there may be more on offer so country dwellers or more isolated community inhabitants may have to be creative and organise the things you want to do yourself rather than look for events planned. Even in towns and cities you may be unable to find a group or circle of people with your interests. Several years ago there were no Goddess groups in canterbury and I started one up because it was something I wanted to be involved with at the time.

Im a creature of nature and find myself hibernating over winter and not wanting to trudge around outside even if I know once I get out I will enjoy it. Its easy to get into the habit of lounging about even when the days start to get warmer and lighter but the pull of the seasonal tides is as sure as night following the day, and if I dont answer the call...well....I just become sullen and cranky.