Spring and She Returns

6 05 2010

Hello, my dear friends. Had a short hiatus there, where the muse turned to glue. Happens to us all, I suspect! I’d like to thank all my commenters old and new for their kind words while I was away – how are we all in any case?

I have been prompted to restart by a discussion on the Facebook page of one of my dearest friends, regarding an image. I’ll post the image and a precis of the discussion when I can, perhaps later today, but it fascinated me and got me thinking again.

Since moving in with my Best Beloved all my books, papers and previous writings have been stuck in boxes in the storeroom, ungettable-at. The end’s in sight there, I have a book-case, I know which boxes the books are in, there’s a fighting chance I can get back to academic and informed blogging in weeks if not months from now! We’re so busy getting the house ready for paying guests that I barely know where the days go. However, I’ve put in for voluntary redundancy from work as I have other irons in the fire and my job is less than inspriational to my life. Instead of career-mongering, my instincts tell me to step back, get little jobs of work here and there, make up my money and be happy. A bold move for someone as concerned as I am about financial security. I’m thinking about it.

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The Tumblers Turn and the Door Opens…

30 07 2008

Seshat’s Voice has been speaking about the great need in us all for a mythology. I’ve been thinking quietly about myth-making, mythology and neo-paganism for a while, in a particularly formless way; Some good ideas but no focus. Nothing I could pin down.

Seshat’s post struck home with me even more than it usually does, because she goes on to discuss the results of committing yourself to a course of action with no messing about. You want a mythology? Go find one that appeals to you and work with it. Learn it, immerse yourself in it. Find the universal truths inside it. Where is it different, where the same to what you’ve known before?  Above all, why are you attracted to it?

This can be the most revealing work of all, and some of the most important for any neo-pagan to undertake. Self-discovery cannot possibly come any more directly from the soul than this. So, it’s spriritual and personal growth. Not bad results for making a commitment.

Then she discusses the returns for committing yourself, consciously and subconsciously, to action. Your needs and wants suddenly begin to be fulfilled. Seshat’s were for companions, community and a teacher. I’m no different – I believe these things to be universals, more or less, in the path we follow.

I’ve discussed recently and in the comments thread of this post the difference between teaching and proselytising, so it ought to be clear that I see a distinction between the two states; I feel the need for some guidance. Teachers may provide many things; the raw materials of wisdom are the most important in my view. Not information, pre-digested; not a packaged world view or a mythology or even an opinion, simply ideas, vistas, fresh air.

So, suddenly my vague and uninformed ideas about myth have received some of that fresh air; an incisive and insightful commentary and expertise that I couldn’t find in my reading. Answered.





Enforced Rest

29 07 2008

Given that I am immobile, temporarily, after a brief visit to the hospital yesterday (wisdom teeth – there went my extra IQ points!) I thought I’d settle in for a real good rant today. It’ll help take my mind off the aggers and torters.

I may be being highly uncharitable, but there’s a great deal of garbage out there in book form. I spend a good proportion of my yearly disposable income on books, and with noted exceptions I might as well have burned the money. Now, even a bad book can be instructive; even a rehash of some old bull-hockey can tell you something, if only about yourself. However, for personal discovery I have other methods, cheaper methods, than finding myself at 10pm with a book newly purchased and already about to be luzzed across the room bin-wards.

I find myself losing both patience and the will to live.

Don’t get me the wrong way, here; I haven’t seen the world and decided that I can do better. No. This elementary mistake can be someone else’s to make. I could write a book, but really, where’s the inducement, when the book-buying public in witchcraft and associated paths (self included) seems to be so undiscerning?

OK, deep breath. Go take a pill.

I’ve dedicated the rest of the afternoon to attempting to read, for the third and final time, a newly published book, a book which should be supremely important to the readers out there, given its subject matter, which has made only the slightest and least favourable impression on me. If I haven’t got it by the end of this read, then its time is up. I’ll let you know.

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21:31hrs. Straight to the back of the shelf. NEXT!!





Blinking At You from a Pile of New Books

21 07 2008

Sometimes you can get out of kilter – you either have nothing to read, and all day to read it in; or you see a hundred new books you want, buy a selection and then they sit there, bindings uncracked, till you have to start dusting them and they become part of the furniture.

I’ve taken with me to the new house a stack of books I haven’t yet got to grips with, and I’m going to read them all. Cover to cover. With notes taken. And then I’m going to bore you all silly with them.

Reading, to me, is the last great unadulterated pleasure. I still have good enough eyesight. It doesn’t cost anything, in practical terms, because when I buy a book it’s an investment and I rarely if ever get rid of them. It’s not illegal, immoral or fattening. It’s quiet, and above all it’s portable. Wherever I go I can slip a book in my bag to make the idle minutes go more quickly. And also, hilariously enough, if you’re reading one of *those* books, people don’t feel the irrestistable urge to plonk themselves down and engage you in conversation – which is a habit in others that drives me wild.

My Amazon wishlist is groaning with stuff as yet unbought; my bookcase smells like a bookshop, all glue and new bindings; I’ve got my avaricious eye on all manner of new titles; but I’m calling a halt and going to plough through what I have methodically –  good, bad or indifferent. I’ve got titles in the pile by Rae Beth, Christopher Penczak, Sorita D’Este and David Rankine, Phillip Cooper, Ronald Hutton and Dion Fortune – and this is only a selection.

If the British weather ever does decide to play by the rules and behave as though it really is August (9 degrees and a sharp wind this morning, *sigh*) then I may even be able to do some reading in the countryside. I used to do this when I lived in Essex, at the end of a tiny lane to nowhere. The little cottage I rented, in the grounds of a large house, had no separation from the fields and woods around; you were in the countryside even when you leaned out of the bedroom window. On days off from my job in the little town nearby, I used to grab a book and a blanket and head out across the meadows and rutted baked-earth trackways, under the bright sun, surrounded by nature, verdure and the dark black-green of English oaks in high summer. I’d find a likely spot, miles from anywhere, set up camp and read till I was drowsy; and like as not, roll over and have a snooze in the sun and fresh air. I remember once waking up surrounded by Muntjac deer – I don’t know who was more startled!

Now, most of my reading is done in the eye-flapping 10-minute margin between awake and asleep at 10pm. Not the best time to wring the juice from a work of scholarship. I need a rethink on this – I’m never going to make any headway if I’m reading three pages at a time, two of them with my eyes shut!





So Who Should Step Forward?

13 07 2008

Should anyone?

There’s a movement afoot among the pagan community, in dribs and drabs currently, but it seems to me to be picking up momentum. I read this post from magickfortherealworld, in which there seems to be a call for some kind or organisation, some sort of concerted outreach for new members. The poster regrets the fact that paganism has no mechanism for promoting recruitment and inclusiveness. The reason Christianity has this mechanism is precisely because it was given as a Christian duty by the man himself. No-one can give pagans that duty or that right, in my opinion.

The Pagan community prides itself on allowing anyone to believe their own beliefs without judgement, and while this may be good, there seems to a lot more difficulty in creating a community because of it. 

If we’re to move forward, we have to preserve that which makes us unique. There cannot be any merit in making us into a pop-lite version of the very religions we seek to be different from. Not fighting fire with fire takes guts; more, it takes an acceptance of the long game and the effort required to push the battle beyond our individual lifetimes.

Our lack of judgement of other religious paths cannot be seen as a lack of moral effort; to allow the person next to you to express their views when their views make your blood boil, and vice versa, is the essence of tolerance and free thought. This is the battle we have to fight and win, not the numbers game.

There are obvious problems with paganism; its fractured nature, its difference, its lack of a concerted effort; in short, a lack of a unified message. Not easy to spin, nor to easily explain, or explain away. 

Pagans are taught not to push their religion/spirituality on anyone else and this keeps our communities small and isolated.

This equation doesn’t balance. We are not concerted, because we aren’t all going the same way. If we were, Goddess knows, we might just be unstoppable. But life is full of conflicts, and we’re just as conflicted as the next human and fallible religious group, and we know it. This is actually a strength.

Paganism seems difficult to the modern world because it makes you think and it isn’t easy to explain. All you pagans out there know how hard it is to lucidly describe, in words the layperson can easily grasp, what it is you do and believe. This is a threatening thing to be faced with. Once you have a name and a description, you can categorise and compartmentalise that which threatens you and file it away. 

I can’t agree with what is proposed in the post, for the simple reason that it is not that we are ‘pushed’ not to proselytise, but that there isn’t anyone to push us in the first place – and thank the Goddess for that. If we seek to emulate the world faiths that do have a positive mandate to ‘spread the word’, who’s going to take the lead? Who has the authority? Surely, one of the defining characteristics of paganism is its plurality. There is no one true way… and so how do we shepherd seekers along it, if it is not defined?

The lack of a formal path, the lack of teachers, the lack of an accepted face of paganism is not a weakness, but a strength. It keeps us searching. It keeps us asking questions. It stops the ‘we’re holier than you’ argument. Finally, and I can’t believe it would ever get that far, but I bet that’s what Jesus thought too – it stops humans uniting in the name of the God / Goddess and going to war. If we need places to go, to meet, then we can find them. If we feel that it isn’t easy enough to bring our kind together, well, we need to effect long-lasting and slow-moving paradigmatic change, within our own individual societies. Witchcraft has only been a recognised faith path for 50 years in the modern world, and I don’t believe anyone seriously tries to include any of the preceding centuries in the pot for the purposes of census-taking. Fifty years isn’t long enough to form a coherent strategy in a religious movement unless you’re Scientology. And I don’t think, respect to them, that Scientology is an acceptable model for paganism to follow.

Without the doubt, the effort, the different paths, what are we? Children trying on their parents’ shoes. We’re better than this.

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This just seen on The Wild Hunt, discussing the internal construction of pagan religions and their perceived grouping. Very interesting indeed, in the light of the above posts, the discussion happening over at magickfortherealworld’s blog and comments here.





The ‘Benign Craft’

10 07 2008

Being driven back from a family gathering in the north this week, I happened to be flicking through Times2 and found a quietly extraordinary article by Ken Russell, which can be found here. I had to read it twice because it didn’t hit any of the usual sensational stereotypes for articles of this sort – and indeed it’s caused so little in the way of waves that I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else.

The article has a number of the usual inconsistencies – the male witch is a ‘warlock’, apparently (but from a Pagan-Germanic lineage, which might be a good enough reason); sundry comments about Aleister Crowley; the ‘tens of thousands’ of witches burned across Europe, yada yada; and the news that there are four elements (what happened to spirit?) – but the couple that Russell contacts for his information don’t seem to have given him the clearest picture to work with. What’s ‘grey magic’? There’s a point where they claim ‘Black’ magic rebounds on the user sevenfold, and then another point where the expressed aim is to ‘…integrate the mundane with the evolutionary thrust, not to favour one at the expense of the other,’ at which, they lost me completely.

This slight difficulty aside, I liked the article. It was measured, stressed the use of magic as a unifying and assisting force for good; Ken Russell professed himself unfazed by the proximity of packs of witches and sincerely interested in their practice. He stresses the humanitarian and caring professions the correspondents are engaged in, and that they’re grounded, intelligent people. They seem very unaffected, very earthy, very low key. Their comment ‘…the forest, the time of the year and the Moon are our church’ resonated with me.

From this article, I drew a number of heartening conclusions. First, there are interviewers who can take a story like this, make it interesting, enlightening and readable to the layperson, without sensationalism. Second, there appear to be pagans out there who aren’t trying to get into the news for all the wrong reasons; the so-called ‘media suicide’ that so many interest groups fall foul of.

Perhaps there’s beginning to be room for a sensible, low-key and measured discussion of the facts surrounding modern paganism. Who knows, perhaps we’ll even get some sensible TV coverage at some point – but for this, pardon me readers, I’m not holding my breath!





Define ‘Blue’

3 06 2008

I find it amazing, consistently flabbergasting, that you can read a piece, or a book; you decide what you think of it. You decide its value. Then, someone else reads it and their decision on its value is diametrically opposed to yours.

Sounds like the simple action of personal opinion at work, and I’m the first to agree that personal opinion is irrefutable; if that’s the way you feel about it, that’s the way you feel about it. No point in arguing. 

However, I think this goes deeper than personal opinion. I’m interested in the means by which people decide that a piece of writing is sensible, is valuable. Is it the research behind it? Is is that the piece secretly confirms the reader’s own opinions and prejudices? Is the piece essentially unchallenging, thereby backing up the years of work already done on Wicca? What means do people use?

From my own point of view I look for a coherent, well-written argument, with research to back it up. I look for good sources, good referencing. If a leap is being made away from currently accepted thinking, if new material or a novel point of view is being expressed, I look for a decent, lucid train of thought, some solid reasoning, and for the new theory to be placed correctly among the extant literature.

Unhappily, I think that Wicca is one of those disciplines where, just sometimes, the writers have a hard time defining what they mean by ‘blue’. To expand, there’s a load of good ideas out there, some more ‘out there’ than others, but this is not to say they aren’t valid. What makes them invalid, to me, is a lack of care and attention from the author when presenting them.

We all know what blue is, its quintessence. Try and describe it though; I’d be pushed. Would you?

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See Seshat’s Voice on this topic, also! Well said, that witch!