Monday, 30 June 2008

Penelope

Saw this on DVD last week and was pleasantly surprised. All I knew about the movie was that it was about a young woman with a pig's face. I vaguely recalled seeing interviews (around the time it was released at the cinema) wherein Reese Witherspoon talked about its message as one of self-acceptance.

So, I sat down to watch it. The first thing I liked was there were no previews or adverts, the DVD going straight to the main menu. I selected play and an old-fashioned fairy tale started. Christina Ricci starts in voice over mode about her ancestors and the curse they brought upon themselves and their descendants, wherein the first born girl to the family would have the face of a pig and only the love of one of her own kind would set her free.

And, so we go along several generations of boys until we reach
Penelope. In her attempts to marry off Penelope, the mother (Catherin O'Hara) enlists the help of a matchmaker (Ronni Ancona) to find blue bloods to help lift the curse. Penelope stays behind a window and interviews them, showing herself at the last only to have the chaps run away screaming, wherein the Butler chases after them and gags them.

That is, until Edward escapes ...

The movie is very sweet, without being sickly. The costumes are amazing as are the sets, although everything is rather eclectic, including the accents with a mix of American and British casting and scenery. I have to give kudos to the prosthetics department, who disfigured Penelope so beautifully - she really is cute (in its original definition of ugly but attractive).

Overall,
Penelope has a sumptuous feel and, despite the curse, the witch is not altogether berated for her actions, in fact, the witch comes of pretty justified in the end. So, not exactly bad PR for wtiches, which goes against the usual fairytale stories.

The technical aspects are rather good: cinemaphotography is beautiful, set and constume design luxurious, the lighting is soft complementing the harshnes of the storyline. The only exceptions were some very minor continuity issues, the odd accent slip and some sloppy voicing pick-ups in post-production.

Its an enjoyable movie and I have already watched it twice and its hard to find fault.

Rating: 5/5.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Intolerance

I have to face up to it: I am intolerant. Having read Bo's thread, "The Enregies of Jupiter", gone to the BBC Pagan Boards and had a look at the various postings of the members, I have to admit I'm intolerant of fools.

I have to admit here that I did once upon a time frequent lots of pagan-lite boards in the past. Time being scarce, I have recently reduced my surfing to those boards where I am challenged and, as a consequence, expand my knowledge, deepen my practice and grow as a pagan. So, it has been a while since I've seen the bicce & bitchcraft that is out there in the ether. Thus it was, with great dismay, that I saw the offerings of the various posters (apart from one or two brave souls) and felt so angry I was ill. I was desperate to have a crack at the sheer idiocy of some of the posts, but, alas, it was not to be. The BBC boards have me on moderation (does my reputation proceed me?) and it was too much to tolerate to write all those posts and not have them seen because of some mod's overzealousness.

I had thought that with the growth of more serious discussion boards and fora in the pagan community that the general state of knowledge in the pagan community might have improved. People would see the wikkan misinformation, relabelled and recycled continously in a never ending loop, for what it is: new age, hippy trippy tripe. From what I can see at the BBC, a board open and readable by the general public (not just pagans), this is not the case and people appear to be getting a rather pitiful view of pagans. If you're reading the BBC Pagan Boards, you might end up believing pagans are freaks, uneducated, dyslexic, overweight, covered in tattoos, judgemental, intolerant, delusional (i.e. prone to "seeing things"), argumentative, ill-informed, vicious, vegetarian, vegan and carnivorous - all at the same time and, frankly, a very mixed bag of angry fruitcakes.

The recent troll incursion at the fora where I moderate, some posts from pagan friends of mine, at a different forum, on the subject of fundies of the "bessed be" bunny kind and the trouble they cause, has come to remind me why I don't: (a) go to moots; (b) attend a lot of pagan events (and why I get so sick after a few hours at pagan events and have to go home and rest for about a day to recover); (c) why I don't (pay to) join any pagan organisations; and (d) why I generally don't mix with many other pagans, choosing instead to keep contact with a very select few.

I just don't have the tolerance levels for it any more. It has come to a point where I feel I don't want to even refer to myself as a pagan, for fear of being lumped in with the general mêlée. Perhaps I should just stick to calling myself a polytheist and leave it at that?

In the meantime, I have realised I am intolerant of those fluffy bunny (yes, I use that term), wikkan, fundie, IRAB (I read a book), "more pagan/witch than you" wannabes and, should they get in my way, I will have no hesitation in cutting them down to clear the path for those that seek spiritual/religious truths. That said, I will not go out of my way to meet them, ever again. I just don't need the aggro.

While I'm at it, I should also admit to being judgemental, prejudiced, unforgiving, grumpy and tired. Ah, I guess I am a pagan after all!

***********

[Note: My definition of a "fluffy bunny" is one who only reads one author, or books from one publishing house, or one internet site and sets it up as the one and only authority, refusing to be challenged on fact or experience, and informing all others they are wrong to call themselves pagan/witch/druid/heathen/whatever if they don't follow the guidelines as defined by them. These are the people who scream louder when challenged, drowning out any reasonable discussion with cries of "persecution".].

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Trolls

If anyone out there who owns a forum wants a particularly pesky troll to play with, or if you just want the pleasure of killing one, I've just encountered one in my new role as a moderator that I will be happy to send your way.

I have to warn any trollhunters who may be interested that this one is underage (being 16) and so its awfully clumsy in its attempts to gain access to closed fora. It does leave a trail in other fora wherein it positively states its is underage and living at home. However, it claims that this is a typographical error when told its too young for most occult fora and that this is a legal matter in some countries.

It also moans a lot about how difficult it is to learn anything [about traditional witchcraft] from the internet. This one is particularly annoying in that it continously changes its IP address in order to avoid being banned. Unfortunately, it doesn't change its spelling errors, syntax or remove its profiles from other fora thereby making it easy to catch out. Oh, and its tries to be tricksy in that it says its leaving your forum, it will leave you alone and within 24 hours its trying to get back on.

So, any troll hunters willing to take this one on?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Midsummer's Day Sunset


I was very lucky this evening in that I had time to admire the sunset outside. There has been an awful lot of cloud of late, making it difficult to even glimpse the sun, let alone watch it set. Although I only had my little Samsung camera with me, and I had to do some rather severe post-production cropping, the photographs still turned out quite nice, I think.


I like the spray of light on this one. Its darker, but softer.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Summer Walkers

It was with interest that I watched one of the articles on Countryfile in the early hours of the morning the other week. They were reporting on the Ullapool Book Festival and, in particular, a woman called Essie Stewart, who was a tradition bearer (her words), i.e. one who keeps the oral tradition for their area.

Ms Stewart was a member of a travelling community in the Highlands, referred to as The Summer Walkers, (or tradition bearers), of which there is a book of the same name by Timothy Neat. These were native, Gaelic speaking people that travelled the countryside in summer, taking goods to sell to those that had not access to suppliers. They also had a tradition of oral storytelling; a tradition that told the tales of the areas which they traversed.

This reminded me of the traditions of indigenous Australians, wherein certain individuals remember all the stories of the landscape in their area, thus you can traverse the continent and hear all the tales associated with almost every speck of the country you can see. I am wondering if this is the case with Summer Walkers. It would be fantastic to find such a tradition in the British Isles.


There was a short snippet of Essie telling one of those tales at the Ullapool Book Festival, and I was disappointed that there wasn't more. I have tried searching for information about these people on the internet, but have not had much success. So, if anyone out there in cyberland know of any events where Essie, or anyone else of her ilk, is performing, please get in touch with me, via this website, as I am keen to hear these stories in person.


I am curious, too, if there are any young folk who are interested in learning these stories and passing them on as an oral tradition.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Summer Solstice

I have to admit to not making the most of the Summer Solstice this year. I was up at before dawn and wanted to take some pictures, but by the time I charged the battery, sorted out the tripod, etc. the sky was covered in cloud and I had missed the wonderful solstice moon picture I had planned. I did take a few pictures of the sunrise, but I am not that happy with any of them. So, instead I am putting in my favourite flower picture, taken the day before, which is of a peach coloured rose in the garden bed by the pool.



Most of the day I spent gossiping with my friends at
Wicca Moon and people watching, except for that part of the morning when I had an appointment with my dentist, who informed me I needed to return in two week's time for yet another filling. Not the best of news with which to celebrate the solstice.

I did manage to return home in plenty of time for sunset and was able to spend some time in contemplation, at my favourite spot, as planned. So, it ended well at least.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Celtic Tales of Birds & Beasts

Told by Mara Freeman
Music by Gerry Smida
ASIN: 1890851043

I found this CD in a shop, where it was hidden amongst the new age music CDS. I bought it and forgot about it for a few days. I finally remembered to put it in my handbag so I could listen to it in the car and was pleasantly surprised.

Mara Freeman tells the tales of:

"The Prince, the Fox and the Sword of Light"
"The Selkie"
"The Legend of the Oldest Animals"
"The Black Wolf"
"The Children of Lir"

They are told with a minimum of background music and the odd sound effect. Ms Freeman also takes the time to add light accents to the speeches within the tales. Each tale is told rather simply, making them accessible for children and adults alike. I enjoyed the CD and will probably listen to it every now and then.

I have not looked at the texts of any of these stories, but I don't believe Ms Freeman was going for accuracy, rather atmosphere which is beautifully achieved on this CD.
Information on Mara Freeman can be found at the Chalice Center website.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Poets Needed

The Pagan Poetry Pages is a small and independent poetry site, founded in 2000 and dedicated to quality poetry, particularly concerning (though not necessarily restricted to) that with a spiritual or pagan slant. For years we’ve published a range of poetry, short stories, prose and journals in 6-8 editions per year, online. We have a members’ section where poems and writing in general can be posted and discussed. We welcome articles and news from the world of writing and poetry.

In the last year the PPP as it’s affectionately known has beeen quieter than normal due to other commitments on the part of the editorial team. But it is now being revamped and rejuvenated!

A new edition is already in the works and regular editions will be appearing throughout the year; we are also about to collate the PPP Anthology, showcasing the best of the poems and other works and this will be sold to raise money for the PPP annual Poetry Competition Prize Fund. The PPP anual Poetry Competition will be help from November and the results announced in the Yule Edition.We would love to hear from new poets, or indeed, renew our aquaintance with old friends.

We also welcome general prose, stories, and journals. Work can be submitted as members by joining the PPP website, or by emailing submit@paganpoetrypages.com.

Please include any biographical information and any details of previous publications, books, anthologies etc that you would like to have included with your published poem/work.

Pagan Poetry Pages ~ Read, Enjoy, Be Inspired!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Foundation Course in Dowsing

Well, thanks to Royal Mail I missed out on a foundation course in dowsing. I had signed up to the British Society of Dowsers in order to receive a discount in the fee, only to discover, yesterday, that the application form and cheque for the course were lost in the post. I am bitterly disappointed, as I was keen to learn more about water dowing and using rods, as I am already proficient (if I do say so myself) at using a pendulum.

There goes my solstice weekend.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Historical Atlas of the Celtic World


I don’t know how long this will be available but you just have to go and have a look now! This PDF book is available for download from Eso Ursi Garden and it’s a beautiful book.

The remarkable Celtic culture once encompassed most of western Europe; even after centuries of invasion and conquest it flourished in remote corners of the continent. This book is a beautifully illustrated survey of Celtic society, its history and belief, from its origins to the present day.

This book traces the development of Celtic religion and mythology, and describes the flowering of their unique metalwork, sculpture, and illumination. An expertly crafted view into the Celtic past, while emphasising the relevance of Celtic culture and identity today.

Go to the Eso Ursi Garden now and download this book, whilst you still can.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Wishing for Winter


The days grow longer
And I grow weaker
I'm not a summer child.
I relish the endless night
Snuggled under duvets
And chilling winds that bite.

Give me skeletal trees
Wearing cloaks of freezing, grey fog
Sheltering only the hardiest of creatures .
Keep your fat, green trees
Ripe with fruity riches,
Showering their ground with their excesses
Enveloping all in their leafy layers
Away from the sun's fearsome burns .
Give me instead the warm glow of a log fire
Crackling and sparking as the moon rises
And takes it turn to be Lord of the Skies.

Oh, give me wistful winter nights;
And you may have your long, tedious summer days.


© 2008 Webwitch for Pagan Poetry Pages

Friday, 13 June 2008

A belief in in god[/gods] infers you are stupid??

So, I was home yesterday and had the chance to watch daytime TV. On "The Wright Stuff", they were discussing how a belief in God was almost absent from those of higher intelligence. There apparently had been reports of a study stating that 699 out of 700 nobel prize winners had no belief in god and, thus, that believing in god meant you were stupid. The topic originated from the following article:

Intelligence is a predictor of religious scepticism, a professor has argued.

Belief in God is much lower among academics than among the general population because scholars have higher IQs, a controversial academic claimed this week.

In a forthcoming paper for the journal Intelligence, Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, will argue that there is a strong correlation between high IQ and lack of religious belief and that average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 countries.

In the paper, Professor Lynn - who has previously caused controversy with research linking intelligence to race and sex - says evidence points to lower proportions of people holding religious beliefs among "intellectual elites".

The paper - which was co-written with John Harvey, who does not report a university affiliation, and Helmuth Nyborg, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark - cites studies including a 1990s survey that found that only 7 per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God. A survey of fellows of the Royal Society found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God at a time when a poll reported that 68.5 per cent of the general UK population were believers.

Professor Lynn told Times Higher Education: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said that most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many began to have doubts and became agnostics.

He added that most Western countries had seen a decline of religious belief in the 20th century at the same time as their populations had become more intelligent.

Andy Wells, senior lecturer in psychology at the London School of Economics, said the existence of a correlation between IQ and religiosity did not mean there was a causal relationship between the two.

Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck, University of London, said that any examination of the decline of religious belief needed to take into account a wide and complex range of social, economic and historical factors.

He added: "Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response."

Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at the University of Leeds, said that Professor Lynn's arguments appeared to have "a slight tinge of intellectual elitism and Western cultural imperialism as well as an antireligious sentiment".

David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt intuitions.

Source: Times Higher Education.

Now, I know the report relates to the xian god or a single god, but what about polytheists and/or pagans who believe in a higher energy/source/[insert appropriate name here]? Are we considered less intelligent again?

For my part, and given the (what I believe to be) genuine pagans with whom I have contact, I would dispute this. Many have degrees or are in the process of higher education and, from what I can see, also have high IQs. I know that I am in the top 10 percentile for intelligence, and I believe in more than one god.

Personally, I think belief is more dependent on how you were raised. If you grew up in a household where religion played a factor (regardless of it being xian or non-xian), you are more likely to continue on some spiritual practices, whereas if you were raised in a family where rational thought was more valued, you are less likely to explore the unexplainable, or anything that may require faith.

To my mind, Profess Lynn's argument is flawed as it does not explore the backgrounds of the nobel prize winners. What's more, I thought Rev. Desmond Tutu was a prize winner, so it he the only believer?

I wonder what the rest of the polytheist and/or pagan community might feel about this.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Association of Polytheist Traditions - Membership Offer

The Association of Polytheist Traditions [APT] is a non-profit organisation based in the UK. Most of us practise Reconstructed European Pagan Religions. But we welcome all polytheists, including those who adhere to 'world religions' and those who simply have personal relationships with individual gods.

The Association of Polytheist Traditions has an announcement for all RENEWING and NEW MEMBERS for the year May 2008-2009.

"Last year 2007-08 - we know that we didn't do that much. Really we know. Personal circumstances intervened for so many people that it wasn't funny at all... This year, we've started with a fantastic Mini-Conference in Birmingham on Gods and Ancestors in the Landscape, and are holding more events around Britain, with a revised website coming up shortly and issue 5 of our members' magazine Many Gods, Many Voices now being posted out.

So here's an offer. This year's membership is on us. Membership of the APT is free until 31st May 2009 - whether you are renewing or joining fresh. However you have to tell us through our joining form, sending it to us electronically or by snail mail (obviously omitting the cheque) and make sure we have your current address and email."