Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Chemical Wedding


Simon Callow plays a professor who becomes the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley by using a virtual reality machine that has been infected with a virus of Crowley's rituals.

It sounded good on the cover: a mixture of horror and humour, but what a dissappointment. The movie is badly lit, the effects poor, the actors appear bored, but perhaps that's because they don't understand their lines and so cannot deliver them. Simon Callow does as much as he can using his voice, but its just not enough to carry the whole film. There is only one performer, on the periphery, who appears to give a damn about his performance and he only appears for around a minute and a half.

The plot line is dire, and the so-called twists don't impress merely because the whole premise is so poor to begin with. Even the scenes of ritual orgy fail to enliven the film. There was meant to be some humour, but it missed altogether.

There was nothing I could say I liked about the film. I even found the "making of ..." extra on the DVD appalling, where the comedy fails here, too.

Oh wait, I can think of something good to say - the sets and costuming appeared to be lush. With the lack of good lighting, on my small television, I couldn't really tell though.

All in all, one of the worst films I've seen in a long time.

Rating: ½/5.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

What would our ancestors think of our modern lifestyle?

Wandering about various pagan fora, one often reads discussions/debates about how our ancestors worshipped their gods; how their beliefs affected their daily lives. Alongside this, posters will express a desire to live just as their ancestors did, when life was much simpler, cleaner and healthier ~ whether said poster is referring to mind or body I never know ~ but was it? Furthermore, would our ancestors really want us to live as they did?

As someone recently remarked, if he relied on his crops for survival, he and his family would be starving this coming winter, yet still he was grateful to his gods because in these modern times, it is possible for him (and his wife) to supplement his income with a part-time job, buy his food from the farmer's or super markets, and thus provide for his family.

Our ancestors, however, were in the hands of the gods completely. If crops failed, they starved.

Our ancestors had a short life span, nor did they have the medical resources to counter-act the myriad of diseases that plague the human organism. True, some diseases have become more prolific owing the sendentary nature of the modern, western lifestyle, but, even so, we have treatments for those. Research continues into how best to maintain our health, by scientists, psychologists, and even spiritual gurus hoping to protect our souls in this life (and the next). Our ancestors turned to the gods or spirits for their healing, though they also held extensive knowledge of the uses of local flora and fauna for healing and, perhaps, our methods aren't that more sophisticated.

Today, we have the internet, mobile telephones, cars, climate control mechanisms, supermarkets and all manner of conveniences, but these can also be nuisances, especially when trying to connect with the spirit of our ancestors. That said, I'm sure our ancestors would wish us, their descendents, to have a better life than they did. As it happens, our prehistoric ancestors didn't spend the whole of their lives in survival mode. They created art, they carved, they had music and a sense of community, they traded decorative goods with people from other groups, and even across the seas, all of which gives us the sense that they knew how to enjoy life and would welcome any convenience which might allow more leisure time; time with family and the wider community.

So, why does there appear to be so many discussions on "giving up" various technologies or other modern world conveniences, in order to live more like our pagan ancestors? Why do today's pagans feel the need to live in an historical, rural idyll (that probably never existed) in order to be more like our pagan forebears? [And, don't get me started on the pagan ideal of living rurally, as if pagans can't exist happily in cities/urban environments.]

If our ancestors could see how we live today, would they be happy for us? Or, would they decry our lifestyles and urge us to revert to living as they did?

Personally, I feel they probably envy us some of our lifestyle, and pity us for the rest. Me, I'm not giving up any aspect of my lifestyle - just yet. When I no longer have to work, then I can move and endeavour to become more self-sufficient and indulge in long treks into the wilds of Scotland; just me and my gods.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Warrior Pagans


I opened up a topic at one of the message boards where I post regularly about what constituted a "warrior pagan" in modern society. There were a variety of answers, but, to my mind the best answer came from another message board, where someone's apologised for airing their opinion.

Littleraven picked up on this and wrote the following:

"... the 'humbleness' that pervades neo-paganism/neo-Druidry is in many ways part of the problem at hand. It's a culture of
apologetics that actually dishonours the warrior ancestors that inspire us
so.

Basically, if you've got something to say, say it. It's our duty as part of the 'tribe' to listen to it. We may think it's crap, and we'll tell each other so. We may be slighted, even upset, but we know that we've been told it in a sense of honour. It's for everyone's benefit to hear the argument, contribute if they wish and come to terms with the outcome.

Outcomes that are not always to our liking, but for the
best of *all* of us.
"

So, perhaps being a warrior pagan today means speaking up for yourself, not apologising for so doing, allowing others to listen, absorb and respond and, if the need arises, to defend your position, but accept the outcome as dictated by the particular group you are addressing. You may not agree with the outcome, but so long as you have indicated your dissatisfaction politely and are still prepared to uphold said outcome, you are acting as a warrior and with honour.

Seems right to me. I'm not sure that is all there is to it, but I've yet to find any better definition for a warrior pagan than the one inadvertently provided by Littleraven at Caer Feddwyd.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Submissions for the Pagan Poetry Pages Anthology


The Pagan Poetry Pages anthology submissions deadline is November 10th, 2008. Yes it's actually happening

Here's how it works:

We need your help.

We need you to submit the poems of which you are most proud, either already showcased at PPP or new poetry. Don't worry about type, or theme, leave that to us. Worry about what poems you really really like. If you see a poem from another PPP poet that you love, also bring that to our attention.

Submit by email to to ppp (at) anfianna (dot) com
  1. Mark your submissions CLEARLY - including the NAME YOU WANT TO BE PUBLISHED UNDER, which is very important. If you submit under "mad maddie", then you will be acknowledged in the anthology under Mad Maggie. We won't have time to double check with everyone what name they wish to use, etc.
  2. Include a biography. It can be long or short, but it would be good to include: where you live; what type of poetry you like; what inspires you; if you've had poems published elsewhere; anything along those lines.
  3. Be aware, submission is hereby taken as permission to publish. The PPP will be allowed to publish any poem submitted by its author in the anthology and in other forthcoming anthologies in the future. Other than that, copyright remains with the author.

SUBMIT and be part of the very first PPP anthology of Poetry.

P.S. Please don't think that you've submitted because you've posted poems at the PPP site. We need you to choose and submit, as per the above instructions, as many poems as you wish for consideration.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Practical Candle Magic


Author: Michael Howard
ISBN: 1903768268

I started to read this on Saturday, but soon resorted to skimming the text, mostly because the mention of Angels and white light started to get in my wick (pardon the pun).
I know that Michael Howard is respected in the occult world, being the editor of "The Cauldron" magazine, etc. but I was unaware of his basis in western mystery esoterica/occult practices. I read this book with high expectations, and perhaps if I were still a beginner, it might have been a non-too taxing introduction to magical practice. Given my current spiritual direction, however, I found the information and correspondences provided used at odds with my own practices.

I don't use the archangels, I dont' call the four quarters, I don't recognise the elemental beings to whom he refers, I don't recognise all the correspondences from the old grimoires, I am not interested in Qabbalah or astrology either, nor to I subscribe to the notions of sin or karma. Were I that way inclined, this book would have been very helpful indeed.

Other tools for honing the focus are brough into play, such as incense and tarot cards, which a newcomer would find helpful.

I did find the text well written and clear. The editing in my particular edition being very good indeed.

Rating: 3/5.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Pagan Time - New Networking Site

I stumbled across an email for yet another new networking site. Its called Pagan Time and it is encouraging people worldwide to list their events, i.e. its a pagan promotion site.

Its obviously a start-up site and it the format could be better for the listing of various events such as moots, workshops and festivals, i.e. I have seen similar set-ups which are held in a calendar format, such as the listing at Pentacle Magazine. Even so, I'm prepared to give it a plug here. Perhaps it will improve as it grows.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Explore Folklore


Author: Bob Trubshaw
ISBN: 1872883605

This book provides an introduction into folklore studies eventually focussing on developments in the last 30 years. The author has produced a great introduction to the study of folklore, providing definitions and great references so I could follow-up on those topics that are of interest.

One of the most helpful items was "Warhsaver's helpful distinction between three 'levels' of folklore" (Warshaver 1991), which separated out various activities, leading to a greater understanding of what is actually being studied (and what is not). The book does take a while to get to the sections on what most would consider "folk customs", but its worth reading all the chapters.

I enjoy reading Mr Trubshaw's books. Sure, I've seen criticisms about some of his theories, but for someone, like myself, who has come to folklore without any previous understanding, this book has been very enlightening and I consider it a worthwhile read for any newcomer to the field. The book focusses on the British traditions, with only light references to American studies in folklore and music.

Mr Trubshaw's enthusiasm shines through, and helps to involve the reader. He writes with a good sense of humour, too. What I most enjoy is his ability to incorporate modern life as examples, making the reader think about their own behaviour and that of their friends - something I had not previously considered as being a part of "living folklore".

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a start in British folklore and/or folkmusic studies. And, do check out the fabulous bibliography. Mr Trubshaw has a website where ideas in this book can be explored further. Its called "Foamy Custard".

Rating: 4.5/5.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Don't Kiss Them Goodbye



Author: Allison DuBois
ISBN: 978-0743282284

I admit to being a fan of the television show "Medium" and, one night, whilst surfing the internet, I stumbled across Allison DuBois's website. I've always held a fascination about those psychics/mediums who work with police (and other governmental) departments and it was interesting to read more about the woman who inspired the television show I enjoyed. I was excited to see that Allison had written books about her experiences, so I acquired one through a book swapping site.

I started reading this book last Friday on my way to work and, by the end of my shift, I had finished it. Its an easy read this book, with large font and written at a level so a primary school child could understand. Its not a work of great literature and its obvious Allison (and Joe) have written the text themselves, but I think that adds to the books appeal. I have seen where some readers have complained about the dryness of book, but Allison herself admits to distancing herself emotionally from her clients and their predicaments, as a professional necessity, so I was comfortable with this aspect of her style.

I also read complaints from reviewers, who were big fans of the television shows, about there not being enough about those cases which were the inspiration for various episodes. This seemed odd to me. Knowing that Allison works in the legal field, I can see the problems associated with giving details of the "real life" cases in which she has participated. Anyone whose case she came into contact with might find grounds for appeal based on her involvement and, given the nature of the cases on which Allison works, it would be foolish for her to divulge this information. In fact, I think she mentions this in the book. Also, one has to consider the privacy of the victim's families in these cases: giving out details in a book (from which profits will be made - let's face reality here) would be in poor taste, in my opinion. I think Allison holds herself to a much higher ethical and moral standard myself. Certainly, she gives this impression in the book.

Again, some found this book preachy, I found it comforting. Only in those instances where she had been granted permission by the client did Allison provide details of her work. I liked her approach to each client: taking into account what they might need to know and what might benefit them, or the case, rather than just blurting out details that might be painful to hear and added nothing to an investigation. In many instances, Allison did provide comfort merely by the choice of the information she divulged.

The book is packed with examples of her work, despite what you might read from other reviewers. Allison also provides hints and tips for help with those children that might show signs of mediumship, regardless of whether they want to develop their skills or not. The book was a little dull, sticking to the facts, but I have come to expect that from writers from the legal fields who need to stick to the facts and so I still enjoyed this book.

I found it fascinating and will endeavour to read Allison DuBois's other books, "We are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us" and "Secrets of the Monarch: What the Dead can Teach Us about Living a Better Life". I hope to find them just as honest and informative.

Rating: 3½/5.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Have you ever thought that there’s something wrong with modern Druidry?

This was posted to Caer Feddwyd and I feel it may be of interest to others, so I am posting it here.

*****************************
We have reached a stage in our evolution as a ‘movement’ where we have become self-satisfied and complacent. The format of our rituals and festivals lack passion and religious insight, but of even far greater concern, they are starting to become set in stone. They have no concept of the Pagan inner mysteries and stagnate in some superficial desire to connect with the seasons and the world of nature. Our practices have become far removed from that which we pretend to honour.

We have been led to fear the words ‘religion’ and ‘dogma’, as if the ancient Druids were as unstructured, undisciplined, ill-informed and confused as we are today. So we accept the received wisdom from a handful of authors and it is leading us down a road to nowhere. We have forsaken the dying and rising sun god, within and without. We have relegated the goddess to a mere spirit of nature. It is we who would seem naive and primitive in the eyes of our ancestors.

In their time our druidic ancestors were at the cutting edge of philosophy, natural science and the understanding of the glory of the cosmos. Yet we insult these ancestors by pretending to be shamans, as if the ancient Druids had not evolved beyond the hunter-gatherers and still clung desperately to some primitive Mesolithic awareness until the arrival of the Christians.

Druidry is more than just animism, more than a counter-culture reaction to monotheism. But still we generalize with the symbolism of the gods. Where is the passion on our tongues and the fire in our bellies? Is there is no yearning in our hearts to look deeper? Do we really believe we already have all the answers we need? Where is the real belief in the gods? Where is the fire in our heads?

Can we say, before our gods, that druidry today answers those questions? No it cannot, enlightened spiritual insight remains our greatest weakness.

Many who read this may find our words offensive, and if we have hit a raw nerve, then having done so is way over due. But if you feel like we do, that it’s time for change, that Druidry today needs to be shaken out of its complacency before its too late, then you will find a way to contact us.

Our illustrious tradition deserves better of us. Together we can make a difference. Lets make it real, lets do it with passion, lets re-connect to the gods and stoke those ancient fires once again.

In Truth/\
Stefan Allen Seniuk, Head of the Albion Conclave of Druids,
and many others.

*****************************

The standard is being raised at Flag Fen on October 11th, 2008 and if enough good people come we will hold a council to determine our next steps.  This maybe the true beginning of the resurgence of the British Native Religions, something we in Brython have planned and prayed for for then last two years.

Monday, 1 September 2008

History or Myth - Which should come first?

I have a dilemna - and its ongoing. Which do I read first: history or myth?

I know that I need to read the myths associated with the British Isles, but I have also been informed, by people I respect, that I need to read them in context. But, how is this achieved if you havent' read the history first? And, just how much history do you need to know before you start reading the myths?

Its all very confusing to me. I try to read a book a week and I try to alternate between myth/folklore, history and general pagan subjects. The problem I'm finding is that when you read one history book, (e.g. Hutton's "The Druids"), it often contains references to other works with comments like "If you wish to explore further, then read ...". Well, fine. Except I will be reading a book under the myth/folklore section next week and, after that, I have this history book which is relevant to the next myth/folklore book I'm reading and so on.

I checked my library catalogue the other day to find 125 books on my "to be read" list and 75 on my wishlist. If you add that up, that's about 16 years reading, provided I ignore all bibliographies and recommendations contained within those books. This is quite daunting and I am having to consider whether I should just read the myths/folklore/tales and disregard the history; applying a modern sensibility to the texts.

I wonder how others have managed or are managing to do this?

Another Message Board Bites the Dust

A few months back I joined a pagan message board specifically for pagans in my locale. I did so in order to keep up with any worthwhile/events groups that might appear on the horizon. Today, I asked them to delete all my posts and my membership.

Why?

Although the option is there for all members, they don't want the members to hide their online status. I always hide my online status as a barrier to internet stalkers. I have been the victim of internet stalking, which spilled over into real life and its surprising the tactics some of them use to get at you. Monitoring your internet usage - when and where - is one way they gain information, without hacking into a particular board.

Personally, I have never understood why all members of a particular message board need to know who else is online at any given time. So long as administators and moderators have access to that information to curb trollish behaviour, its not unreasonable for members to maintain privacy. Certainly, if all posts by members have their names attached, why do we need to know when they are online?

Well, nowhere on this particular pagan site was there a rule about online status until last week. The administrators said they would not tolerate anonymous log-ins:


There has been a spate of people logging in to this site so that other people can't see that they are there. All members doing this will be warned and have their accounts suspended and possibly deleted.

When I queried this, it was confirmed they were referring to the fact that although the status line showed a member logged-in, it didn't tell which member. I objected on the grounds of the possibilty of stalkers and was told to "... respect the wishes of the site owners ".

So, as a result, tonight I have sent a message asking for all my posts to be deleted (after all, I hold copyright on my own thoughts) and my membership cancelled. I know another member on the site and, once my membership is deleted, I shall ask her to log in and check my posts have been deleted. If not, I will have no hesitation in naming the site as "stalker friendly".