Thursday, 24 April 2008

St George's Day

Today is St George’s Day in England and, to my surprise, it is not a public holiday. Most countries have a day set aside for the celebration of their inception or a day put aside in honour of the country itself. England seems to be an exception.

I find it strange that the English are so reluctant to celebrate their mythic hero. He may be a Christian hero and, to some, that may be a little off-putting, but I have to wonder how much the unwillingness to offend in this overly-politically correct society that England has become is a factor in St George’s (i.e. the 23 April) not being made into a bank, or public holiday.

Surely, we should be celebrating the achievements of this apparently little country (for it is small in terms of area) that has packed so much into its history, which probably has a lot more to offer in the future? As an immigrant, who would dearly love to have the money to become a citizen, I am disappointed that more is not made of St George, the quintessential English hero. Its almost as though the English are losing their pride and I find that sad indeed.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Visions or Delusions

I am writing out of a list of things I have seen during my life.

The first memory I have as a child is seeing the Easter Bunny. He was an upright, white bunny and was taller than my own father, who was 6' 2" at the time. I remember getting out of my bed and going to the louvred glass windows and peering out; I think the sound of the gates creaking woke me. It was then I saw this creature open my (maternal) great-grandfather's gate, walk up the path and approach the door. I am not sure how long he was out of my sight, but it can't have been too long. I remember, too, him going over to the water meter on the far side of the garden and crouching down. He then made to go back to the gate. At that precise moment, my mother woke and told me to return to bed, having asked me what I was doing at the window and gaining a murmured response. As I returned to my bed, I heard our gate squeak and then the gate of our neighbour's house sqawked, as it did when it was pushed.

The next day, my father and a neighbour were talking at the fence when I went over and picked up the eggs from in between the tufts of grass. I showed my father my horde and he asked me where I had found them. I told him. He seemed rather perplexed and, as I made my way back to the house, I heard him ask the neighbour if he had put them there. The neighbour remarked that the children next door had also found extras in their yard.

My next memory is of staying with my (paternal) grandmother's house whilst my mother was in hospital. I had been staying with her for three days and we had been sleeping in single beds in what used to be the boys' room. Grandmother was in the bed next to the door, and I the next one down, though there was still two beds between me and the window. I awoke to see ghosts, apparently flying, past the window. I was stunned. I watched three or four pass before endeavouring to wake my grandmother with a loud whisper. She woke and asked me what was wrong. I told her, but when I looked back, they were gone. I stayed another week in that small outback town, but never again saw the ghosts.

I cannot remember much after that in the way of visions. It is not until I am in my 20s that I remember seeing a face in behind the glass in my window. Again, it was at night, but the face was so gruesome that I had to wake my flat mate up and I spent the rest of the night in her bed. The next morning, she remonstrated with me as I had sat bolt upright all night, without moving an inch and this had made her more than uncomfortable.

It was not until I moved to my current location that I had further encounters of note. The most astonishing of which occurred in the woods in Yorkshire with a group of people. We had honoured our ancestors and all was at an end. Most were standing about talking and I decided to wander off. There had been a number of hunters out lamping that night, we could hear their guns going off, so it wouldn't do good to stray too far. I had headed off in the direction of the flowing water, when my eyes, finally adjusted to the gloom, focussed in on a hooded figure. There was nothing particularly ominous about the figure, but I knew that I was to go no further. So, I skulked back to the group around the fire.

Shortly thereafter, I was gazing up at the stars. I had just realised that where we stood was inside an almost perfect circle of trees when I noticed a beam of incandescent light - emanating from somewhere above me in the heavens - was shining down on the the other side of the fire. There didn't appear to be a source for the light. My eyes followed the beam and just as the others came into view, one of them exclaimed "Isn't it beautiful?", to which a companion replied "What?" - they couldn't see it. I later discussed my vision with this other person, who confirmed they had seen it, but no-one else appeared to have done so, they were so engrossed with their own conversations. I asked about its source, to which no reponse was offered. Shame - it filled me with awe.

Ever since that particular episode, visions came with greater frequency. I have had visions of mice crawling up my walls. I have had strange creatures wander in and out of my sight at various times of the day and night. I once woke to a whole wall full of symbols, which I believed were runes. Of course, at the time I could not read runes, but now I am beginning to wonder if these were indeed Ogham.

I have been on early morning walks with the dog, only to see semi-transparent creatures beckon me to a certain place. When I have responded and walk towards them, they disappear, but there has been things left for me; things I have wanted. There are times when I see other landscapes while looking at familiar skylines; its as though they overlay or underlie the scene I know to be real.

So, am I delusional and in need of psychiatric care, or were these things real? Given my understanding of mental health and delusions, I am inclined to think my visions were real. What's more, there have been times when I have not been the only witness to these visions, giving confirmation to my idea they are, in some way, real.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

On Revelations

Sandy wrote: 

"... you are BORN a witch, you know from your childhood you were different but didn't know why and most Trads I know have spent years battling with themselves, experiencing life which gave them the wisdom to not only understand what they were but to also accept it and live with it passionately!"

Wow! That's a neat summary of my life, thus far.

"There are no hard and fast rules about what is Traditional Witchcraft but what I can tell you is that it stems from family generations. Sometimes a few generations are skipped then its picked up again by someone down the line. Things change and evolve."

"... committing themselves to the Trad lifestyle is a major step in one's life.

It is totally immaterial whether you are a lineaged Trad or a self-acknowledged Trad. The most powerful Trad witches I have met were unaware of a family lineage!

Family "lineage" doesn't matter one iota on this site, and it shouldn't on any Trad site!

You have to have an inner conviction that you are a Trad Witch. Let me stress one essential Truth. A witch is born NOT made!

The Trad witch has the conviction within his or her quintessential being that he or she is a Trad witch. Life's experiences will confront this person. The absolute conviction of your true being will eventually determine your status as a Trad witch. It is not dependent on a supposed lineage, so-called initiations, or extensive reading. It just is - quite independently."

I spent most of last night ruminating on the above quotes. I think the reason my life has been hard to bear is because I spent so long trying to fit myself into the mould of my father's family, their beliefs, morals and ethics. If you were to scratch below the surface, you would have found I was just mouthing the words to please others; none of it truly touched me. Even at a very young age, I would question my parents and teachers on matters of belief. I never received the right answers, IMO.

My father's faith excel at indoctrinating guilt and fear, so I was reluctant to look to outsiders for answers. I have to admit to dabbling in my teens with a witchcraft-type group, but they terrified me which added to the schooling in fear I received from the church, and I vowed to steer clear of witchcraft, magic, voodoo and anyone outside of the norm/average.

I went through the New Age movement; after all, its hardly threatening (though one priest's sermon in Ireland had me thinking otherwise). I still didn't find what I needed. I was in close to my 30th birthday when I realised I was both pagan and following the line of traditional witchcraft. I started actively seeking out those from traditional lines. With every group I met, I came closer to finding those who felt as I did. I began to open up to my family. Now, both my parents are fine with my beliefs and actively question me on things they don't comprehend from my blogs.

The real revelation for me came when I started discussing these matters with my supposedly aethiest (maternal) grandmother - let's call her Spitfire. Meditation and astral projection were some of the first techniques I discussed with Spitfire. To my surprise, Spitfire related her experiences wherein she used these inherent skills to escape some rather gruesome experiences throughout her life. We discussed at length what she did and how she did it. As time went by, and I learned more skills, I would engage her in discussion, only to find that Spitfire had gone there before me. Of course, Spitfire doesn't use these terms, or any of the other words we might recognise as modern witches; and she loathes the idea of being called a witch. To her mind, they are mad people who run around naked in the woods howling at the moon.

It was during one of these discussions that Spitfire related her tale of being born with a veil, i.e. she was touched, meaning she would be fey or psychic according to the folklore traditions in the area in which she was born, lore which was subsequently proved true in her case. I had always known that one particular line of the maternal family tree was strangely devoid of religious leanings, and I began to see why.

My mother, too, has opened up about certain abilities she had kept hidden most of my life. I guess when you marry into an ultra-religious family, you learn to keep your mouth shut about anything that might be considered otherwordly.

Most of these revelations occurred in my 30s. My life might have been very different had the women of my family not been suppressed. The struggle I have undergone (and still, sometimes, endure) has been of some benefit, but what other challenges might there have been, had I been schooled at my mother's, and grandmother's feet? How much further along on the path of understanding would I be?

If I had not taken the time to explore my own beliefs and abilities, would any of my descendants explored traditional witchcraft? If so, they might never have known of their family practices.

So, I wonder: how many witches have an unknown hereditary line? Is there a possibility is that all witches are born?

And, I find an accord with the last quote in that I came to it independently. I guess we all have to, don't we?


What I am wondering is how many people were lost altogether because of silence borne out of oppression? I was lucky in that I never really bought into the church's ideals, so never truly found bound by them. When I put two continents between myself and my family I felt free to pursue whatever I wanted, regardless of the cultural mindset of those with whom I lived.

I also wonder how of the affect on future generations. Given one of the posts I read about children being taken into care, how much can we really (safely) pass on to our own descendants? And, if we withhold information, are we necessarily putting them at a disadvantage? Are we alienating future generations?

For instance, my grandmother never made mention to my mother about the nature of her birth, or her skills. My mother always dismissed her own abilities, not knowing the link she had with her mother, or with me. That's two undeveloped generations already. I have been very fortunate in that I have a good relationship with my elders (again, something that came with a lot of difficulty), and can freely discuss my thoughts with them, but how many people feel they can't actively discuss their practices/beliefs with their parents and/or their own children? I know its a bit futile to wonder "what if", but it doesn't stop me thinking or pondering on what ripples I might be sending down the line of my own descendants through my current actions.

Even if I hadn't struggled to find my path, I perceive there might have been other struggles. I don't think one can come to traditional witchcraft without some form of barrier being put up, either internal or external - I just don't perceive it works that way. Its never felt like something to be handed over on a plate.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Dazed and Somewhat Confused

I often feel like I am on one of those awful playground roundabouts and I have no way of jumping off and getting to my destination. I feel like this, again, this week. There is so much I want to learn and so much I need to read. Its finding a starting point that's the problem. I seem to go around and round in circles and never know at which point I am supposed to jump. I keep finding myself in this position and, each time, it gets more frustrating.

At the moment, I have a number of books I want to read: myths, meditation, psychic self-defense and gaelic. I also have books to help with my medical condition to read. I have started several books, but have yet to finish one, each having a bookmark inserted at the end of the introduction. I find it infuriating that I can't seem to get any further along.

On top of this, there are some practical techniques I wish to explore. Again, I have the same problem. Which one do I focus on first? Which is going to be of the most benefit?

This carousal does appear to be spinning faster and faster, and I am not altogether sure I will be able to get off before I get too dizzy and faint.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Cú Chulainn becomes Animated in children’s TV series

Cú Chulainn, one of Ulster's most famous legendary characters, is the hero of this five part cartoon series. In five action filled five-minute programmes we follow his daring deeds from his boyhood to his tragic death.

This bilingual series contributes to a range of learning areas across the Northern Ireland KS1 and KS2 curricula including Language and Literacy, The World Around Us, Personal Development and Mutual Understanding and Art and Design.

English and Irish Language versions of the site and series are available via the English and Gaelige links.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Celts: A Very Short Introduction

Author: Barry Cunliffe
ISBN: 0192804189

The term 'Celtic' is enormously evocative; but the images it evokes are highly diverse and confusing. What exactly do we mean by 'Celtic', and who, past and present, can reasonably be called 'Celts'? Part of the problem is that 'Celtic' is a term with many meanings.

In this densely packed little book, Barry Cunliffe explores evidence for the myriad of tribes and cultures that have been associated with term 'Celt' from the time the term was applied by the Greeks to their neighbours, through the nationalist movements of the 1700s and ending with the modern day adoption by various groups. Mr Cunliffe sifts through the fields of archaeology, history, literature for the latest research into the cultural identity of the 'Celts'.

I liked this little book a lot. Packed full of information with helpful maps, though I admit to printing off one or two extra from the net, so that you could see the areas being discussed. The tone of the book was accesssible; a degree in archaeology, literature, anthropology, history or languages was not required in order to make sense of what was being presented. Mr Cunliffe did offer a limited bibliography with the qualification that the bibliographies of the books mentioned will provide more food for thought.

All in all, this book provides what it says on the cover. I'm off to read Mr Cunliffe's more extensive book: "The Ancient Celts".