Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci

Author: Barry Patterson
ISBN: 1861631693

I don't know why it took me so long to finish this book. I do know that my bookmark kept falling out, which meant I often re-read whole sections with a very deep sense of déjà vu, which was frustrating.
I liked this book - a lot. Its a great introduction to connecting with the world around us on a more profound level. The author includes several exercises, in the form of guided meditations, and these should be helpful to anyone starting out in magic or broader pagan practices. The author states he is buddhist, and although I did not agree with a small number of his views, overall I liked (and understood) his reasoning for behind the ideals he put forward; agreeing with him far more often than not.

The content of the book clearly demonstrates that Mr Patterson practices that about which he writes. He often includes personal anecdotes to illustrate a point. This is not someone trying to set themself up as a master (and he states this himself), but rather provide clear guidelines for those just starting out. In fact, this book excels in that regard and, in future, I will not hesitate to put in on recommended reading lists for those new to the pagan or witchcraft worlds.

Mr Patterson writes so that his ideas are easily absorbed and he also provides an extensive set of appendices including list of various organisations and a bibliography for further information. He has also taken the time to incorporate some of his prose and poetry, which is helpful in understanding the concepts discussed.

I have to say it is one the most sensible books I’ve read about outdoor practices in a very long time. He speaks of not taking anything from sites but memories and what constitutes a suitable offering (as opposed to crystals blasted from mines, etc.). In my opinon, Barry Patterson is a breath of fresh air in the beginner’s guides.

It was a unique read for me in that some of the places explored are quite near to my own place of residence and it was interesting to hear the insights of another who had visited those areas. Having an experience of the same locations made for interesting connections whilst reading the book. I was able to put myself in the author's shoes on occasion and this was somehow comforting.

I have to admit my favourite chapter was the first where we learn of his experiences on a solo trip in the Outer Hebrides. Having visited the area, I immediately understood the nature of his experience. Even so, the rest of the book is a joy, and a must to read. I certainly learned a few things, and there are a few people out there I believe need to read this book and should read this book.

The book loses a tenth of a point in ratings solely because of the extra blank pages disrupting some of the chapters. A fault with the publishers I feel.

Rating: 4.9/5

Barry Patterson does have his own website at: Red Sandstone Hill if you wish to learn more about the man behind the book.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A New Class of Pagan Troll

At one of the message boards where I post, we have invented a few terms for various sorts of pagans. One that has been in regular use is IRAB an acronym for "I read a book ...", i.e. those who constantly spout they read this book and it told them all they needed to know about their particular pagan path. Usually, its only the one book or author, but you do get some who read two or three books, but they are always of the awful kind, i.e. bad history, mistaken facts, misguided exercises, etc. This particular message board frowned on these types and made light work of dismissing them from the forum altogether.

This week, one of our regular posters, Nelli, realised that there was a new sort of IRAB, only they used the internet. Nelli coined the term "Google Botherer" with the accompanying acronym "GB". These are those pagans who are full of their own self-importance and post whole swathes of information on message boards. However, the canny pagan poster can soon detect that this is not the usual writing style of the GB and goes in search of the text on the internet, only to find the GB has googled one or two salient words and then "cut and paste" the information from another website.

Rather than referencing the site to prove a particular point, the GB seek to affirm their position as the great know-it-all by blatantly posting information as though it were their own. The GB is often ignorant of the fact that most people know how to use Google and have encountered Wikipedia several times before. When someone else on the message board points out the copyright breach (and the possible legal ramifications for the owner of said board), the GB will claim ignorance; even when referred to the copyright notice on the website from which they pilfered the information in the first instance.

I've encountered these types before, mostly at the Pentacle message boards, where such behaviour is swiftly intercepted and the offending GB is told to desist posting without the appropriate links and/or acknowledgements to the original website/author. And, yes, they often claim ingorance, but they are soon reminded that "ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law".

What I find sad about GBs is that by cutting and pasting whole swathes of text belonging to others, it almost appears as though they have no opinions or thoughts of their own. The number of times I've questioned people on posts, only to find that they "read it in a book" (though I later find they cut and paste from a website) and its not really their own opinion. Then, why do GBs or IRABs bother posting? Its smacks of trollish behaviour to me and I find it offensive in some instances. Its as though the other posters are just there to be played with - the GB dangling tid-bits of information (from other sites) in front of them in order to keep them happy.

To paraphrase that old maxim: "If you've got nothing to say then keep your mouth shut (or refrain from posting) and be thought a fool, rather than post words that are obviously not your own and be known as an idiot."

I wonder how prolific this behaviour has become if others have noticed it?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Alive ~ Sa Dingding

Was watching the Proms on BBC the other night and happened to catch performances and interviews with the winner of the World Music award, Sa Dingding. I was instantly mesmerised. Her music is unique, and I can only describe it by waying its a blend of Enigma, Björk, and Lisa Gerrard; combining eastern and western music.

Sa Dingding originates from the plains of Mongolia where she says: "Before we start to talk, we are taught to sing". She is the first artist in China to sing in Sanskrit, but she also uses Mandarin, Tibetan and a self-created language. Listening to her work, however, I found words unnecessary; her songs transmitting emotions direct to the heart and soul.

At 18,
Sa Dingding became well known in "dance music" circles in China, but her spiritual practices expanded her musical output and I would not be surprised if she became a worldwide phenomenon. Sa creates her own costumes and choreographs her own performances and is as graceful and elegant as she is beautiful.

This particular album has the following tracks listed:

1. Mama tian na (Mantra)
2. Alive (Mantra)
3. Holy Incense (Tibet Version)
4. Oldster by Xilian River
5. Tuo Luo Ni
6. Lagu Lagu
7. Flickering with Blossoms
8. Holy Incense (Chinese Version)
9. Alive (Chinese Version)
10. Qin Shang

This is the YouTube version of the video for Alive:

I have never been appreciative of Chinese music, even though my father was once keen on Chinese Opera, preferring instead their cinematic releases. Sa Dingding is apt to expand my musical horizons - I certainly hope there are more artists like her on the horizon.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

An Award!

This is a little off-topic for my blog, but I received this from one of my favourite bloggers, Bee-Leaf. It was a very nice gift to receive at the end of a long, arduous week. Thank you Bee-Leaf for your kind comments about my blog, too.

The Rules for those recieving an award are:

1. The winner can put the logo on their blog
2. Link the person you received the award from
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4. Put links of those blogs on yours
5. Leave a message on the blogs nominated

So, here are my nominees:

Bo, for the marvellous blog entitled "The Expvlsion of the Blatant Beast" ~ an eclectic mix of thoughts from 28-year old medievalist, currently at Oxford (but a Junior Research Fellow in Cambridge from October 2008) who write eloquently on a range of subjects including medieval studies, paganism, music, literature, art and who also (on rare occasions) displays iconographic art he has produced. Always, always a blog to read if you want to be made to think and I feel priveleged to have found, and be able to understand this particular blog.

"Cylch Riannon" ~ although Lee posts are infrequent they are always worth reading as he expounds on his explorations through brythonic paganism. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, I am always glad to see a new post at this particular site.

Mochenddu's Weblog ~ as written by Craig is another pagan blog that gives one pause for thought. Craig often describes his practice as feral (druidic?) paganism, though his blog displays a very definite academic knowledge in several areas. Although another infrequent poster, this blog is well worth watching, and reading because of the interesting thoughts on some (very thorny) issues that Craig is want to post.

One particular jouranl that I particularly love reading, and would read every single day if I had continuous internet access, is Leanne's "Somerset Seasons" site. Another pagan and one who takes marvellous pictures of animals, sunsets, home-baked goods, crafts and life in general. Nearly every post has a great picture to accompany the text, and I am oft-times pea-green with envy at the life this lady leads. Its pure joy reading her posts; a kind of comfy sofa chair by the fire blog that makes you feel very, very welcome.

I am always trying to keep up with some of my favourite authors and one, in particular, has only returned in the last two days after injury. I am overjoyed to see Wendy Mewe's online diary "Brittany Blues" back online.

With a keen interest in a photography, "Scenes of Ireland" is an online journal to which I look forward with eager anticipation every day. This particular site belongs to a friend, Geraldine, who has a very similar camera to mind and, as she experiments, I get the benefit of her knowledge and I also get to glimpse parts of Ireland I have not previously visited. Geraldine has a keen eye and the photographs often have a little something magical about them.

And, there is nothing in those rules that says you can't nominate the same person twice; just different blogs, so I am nominating another of Geraldine's blog sites: "Dreams of Reality" where you can read her poetry - and read it you should!

So that completes the list of online journals to which I want to send this award. Thanks everyone for posting your thoughts and activities and allowing me a unique access into your lives.

All is Well

I did manage to get my health issue resolved, but not without help from the homeopathic and magical communities. My own attempts were poor indeed, but at least the matter is now behind me.

I can see that I am gong to have to spend time on de-stessing techniques for the future, as if I lose my focus in such a situation, what good am I in any situation at all where I need to "tune in". Its such a shame because I felt so much clearer in my connections after returning from the northern isles of Scotland. This setback was a huge revelation for me about my own lack of skills. Having the knowledge is one thing, but I can see that I do not spend enough time honing my skills. If I did, I would not have had to put out a distress call to all my friends.

Once this week is over (a full schedule sorting out mundane matters), I am going to set up a timetable to ensure that I spend time practicing those valuable techniques that will get me out of the next bind.

Friday, 15 August 2008


I'm not at all well at the moment and am in considerable pain. The prospect of surgery (again) terrifies me, so I am attempting to deal with the issue using other means, including magical work.

This is not working as I cannot focus. Its not the pain, I've worked through that before. Its the stress of what will happen if I have the surgery. The long convalescence, the time off work need to recover during harsh economic times resulting in termination of my employment, further debts, etc. Every time I try to focus in order to get to a state from which I can alter my situation, I last about a second before all the stresses reappear and my mind goes into freefall ending at panic.

This has led me to believe something is seriously wrong, not necessarily on a physical level, but somewhere deeper. Only, its Catch 22, because I cannot concentrate long enough to locate the problem, let alone the symptoms. I can see I have my work ahead of me over the weekend. It could not have come at a worse time, though. I have a lot to do before the year ends and very little time to myself to achieve my goals without the interference of old problems/illnesses.

That "Arse Doctrine" is seriously getting up my ... ahem ... arse these days.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Spirit of Place/Genius Loci

It became apparent during my recent trip across the northern border that I somehow more "in tune" with the spirit of Scotland than with England. Although I had only ever crossed the border whilst in an aeroplane before, and we were travelling on a motorway at the time, I immediately knew when we had crossed the border - the whole feel of the place changed and I felt like I was coming home. It was the same on the return journey, I instantly knew the moment we had crossed back into England - it felt flat to me, whereas Scotland had felt vibrant.

When I finally came back on-line, it was with interest I noted various conversations about genius loci and how some are welcoming and some are not. It was especially noteworthy given the conversation I had with Fae (from my tour group) about her experiences of local spirits in Derbyshire and how she had paid her respects to one at the entrance to a quarry, only to be ousted by another close to the quarry walls. It was interesting, too, in light of one particular member of the tour group, who insisted on overpowering the brí with her essential oils, crystals and ringing bells, rather than tuning in to the natural energies.

These past few years, it has been my practice upon entering a new landscape to attempt to acknowledge the local wights or spirits in order to ensure I am not encroaching on hallowed ground or stepping on anyone's feet. Sometimes I get a warm feeling, sometimes nothing and on the odd occasion I've received a very cold reception indeed and promptly left. If I remember, I try to take something as an offering - something appropriate such as local seeds for the birds in a wood, or fruit to be placed about the roots of trees for ground animals and so on. I refuse to use things that aren't biodegradable such as crystals or ribbons, such as can be seen at holy wells or even standing stones these days. I even offered something up to the spirits of the North Sea on recent ferry crossings - needless to say each went smoothly.

I'm not saing that everyone needs to make an offering or even acknowledge local spiritis/deity (or else suffer some horrific experience), just that a respect for the landscape, its history and your place in it is preferable to trampling all over the place with total disregard to the ecosystem of which humankind is a part.

As I have progressed along my pagan path, I have become more aware of the difference in energy and the individual guardians of various place. There are times when I still remain completely closed to such influences, but these are becoming less frequent as I choose to stay "open" to what is happening around me. I am not quite so sensitive as to be able to tell the difference between parishes, but I can tell some counties apart and a lot of rivers are beginning to show their individuality, too. At least, I can tell when I'm in Cornwall, England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland - each has its own feel. Scotland is very much a country of localised wights, as is Ireland. Wales has a different overall feel, but then I've only been there once, so perhaps were I to visit today, I would get a sense of difference between local areas. Cornwall certainly has a myriad of genius loci and marked difference between coastal areas and those inland, who appear to be a little more cautious than curious.

I have to admit to not knowing the names of any of these guardians/spirits/wights, but there is a definite sense of them and sometimes a vision occurs. Perhaps names are reserved for local residents who build up relationships with the landscape, rather than interlopers like myself.

Having had this conversation with Fae, I wonder how many others have had similar experiences?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Paganism is the Worship of Nature?

This was a topic at one of the various fora I occasionally browse. Apparently, in order to be a bona fide pagan you have to worship nature.

Well, you can imagine some of the responses: "... the rede says harm none", etc., wherein the majority seem to forget that many pagans are not Wica, Wicca, wiccans or weekenders, but follow a tradition outside of witchraft and magic.

Its the same with druidry; people assume its nature worship simply because of the way the modern movement conducts itself. Ancient druids were the lore/law keepers and, whilst they may have respected nature and learnt as much as they could about it, they did not worship it. They had their own, local deities whom they honoured and respected, but, again, it would appear they did not worship. Rather, a relationship was built and maintained.

Many pagans live in cities and, despite access to nature, do not feel the need to go off every day and commune with it, but rather live their lives pretty much the same way everyone else does. What makes them pagan is the gods or ancestors they honour, or the way they think about life (such as animists) and how that affects every aspect of their lives.

I understand many come to a pagan path through environmental concerns, or because they want to get more "in tune" with nature, but its a mistake to believe all pagans are vegetarian nature lovers. We're not. Most of us are quite aware that Mother Nature is "red in tooth and claw" and we do our utmost to respect her, but that doesn't proclude us from being hunters or, indeed, from greedily consuming all of her attributes. Most eco warriors would be appalled I'm sure. I kinow of one particular hard-nosed pagan who happily admits to eating ready meals, being single and unable to cook.

Just because those few who are nature worshippers tend to be the loudest, doesn't mean they are in the majority, either. In pagan circles, the majority appear to remain quite silent, getting on with things rather than actively promoting their various causes.

I am not saying that there aren't pagan traditions that worship nature. After all, whole cultures still exist which do, just that in western pagan circles, not everyone treads the same path.

Personally, I see nature as something to be understood, honoured and respected, but not something to be worshiped. I don't even worship my gods! My particular path doesn't call for such behaviour. I am learning as much as I can about my ancestors ideals in terms of personal codes of conduct and relationships with deity and I try to incorporate that into my everyday life. Not all of it relates to nature, nor should it. I am no Jungle Jane living self-sufficiently apart from the rest of society. I work in the city and reside in a semi-rural location. My choice of residence has more to do with peace and quiet than a desire to be near to nature in order to worship at its feet.

When entering a new landscape, I do try to connect with the spirit of place/wights/genius loci and usually leave some type of offering, but I do it in the hope of receiving a warm welcome and being allowed to explore, but isn't it just a form of respect? I mean, you wouldn't go and visit someone at their house without taking a little something would you?

I wonder how many reading this blog worship nature?

Monday, 11 August 2008

Online Pagan Dating Sites

I have to admit to deciding that I wanted to get on the dating scene back in January. I sort of dabbled with one pagan dating site at the time, but didn't take it any further. While on hoilday, I realised that my time on this earth is landsliding away and I can't keep putting off things that require considerable effort - such as dating and relationships.

So, once I had my photographs processed and I had made a start to write up my travel journal, I did a few internet searches for pagan dating sites. Considering how important my beliefs are to me and seeing some of the attitudes of outsiders to pagans, not to mention my quirks (apart from being pagan), I thought it best to stick with those that my understand where I was coming from. Since I am not that fussy about looks (preferring intellectual stimulation), having eclectic tastes in music, food and other areas, and with location not being an issue, I figured there would be at least some decent gentlemen out there with whom I would want to at least strike up a conversation. How wrong could I be?

So far I have signed up with four different sites, including one with a popular organisation whose ethics I loathe, I am rather dismayed to find the only men worth considering have already found partners or are way too young for me - I draw the line at 25 FFS.

Is there no such thing as a decent pagan male who is single? What do you, dear reader, think? Have you any suggestions for me?

Saturday, 9 August 2008

At last ...

I have finished processing all the photographs from my trip. Its only taken me all week and some are still devoid of their correct names, pending information from members of the Megalithic Portal or The Modern Antiquarian fora.

This means I can now spend next week updating the blow-by-blow account of my tour on my personal blog so my family can read it. I hope, too, to spend some time writing about recent issues here, as there have been some interesting discussions on various pagan message boards in my absence; discussions which have given me pause for thought.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Return ...

To anyone who has taken an interest in this blog, I have an apology to make. I returned from my sojouirn in the north on Monday, but I have had no time to updates my online journals, as I am trying to process my photographs (around 1,000) and catch up on everything else at work.

I will have plenty to say once I have done the imaging work, as the tour to Orkney & Shetland was indeed an eye opener - as much for the people I encountered as the sites I visited.

All I ask is a little patience.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Orkney & Shetland Tour - 2008

I had the privelege of meeting a very well known person from the pagan community on my holiday with Megalithic Tours. The night before the trip, we had dinner in a pub and I was able to discuss things with her that I had previously kept from everyone and it came as a welcome relief.

Because of our discussion, I feel as though I can be completely open about my experiences and my beliefs with other pagans without fear of denigration or derision. There was one post at this blog which concerned me and, though I did not receive any comments on it, I felt it was risky leaving it on the internet for all to read. However, Fae (not her real name) was reassuring and actually a great voice of reason. I thank the gods for Fae on that trip, as given some of the behaviours and attitudes of my fellow travellers, Fae helped me keep a straight head and a semblence of sanity throughout the tour.

We did have one rather annoying New Age type, who insisted on spraying every megalith, cairn or burual mound with her toxic essential oils before positioning herself in the most prominent part and lighting candles (more bad smells) and ringing bells in some sort of meditation. I do not know if she was cleansing the areas or not. She certainly had no idea of brí or bua, although I do feel the site guardians would soon rid themselves of the unsightly offerings from the crystal wielding madwoman. Needless to say, Fae and I felt the need to be "closed" for most of the trip and avoid this woman as much as possible. I managed to keep well enough away so as to keep my temper in check; Fae was not so lucky. Madwoman obviously sensed something on that first day and even mentioned Fae being "famous" at some point, not realising who she was addressing. Madwoman's behaviour seemed to affect the rest of the group, who all shared an interest in megaliths and many of whom would like to have spent their time doing their own attunements - everyone seemed rather inhibited by her actions and so refrained from any connections.

That is, until the last day where some distance was afforded and I could see others doing as I did and absorbing the brí. Funnily enough, this was the day that our bus was swamped by a large number of corvids blocking the road; they seemed to follow us this day and I think it had something to do with Madwoman and Fae. Fae has an affinity for birdlife, and given it was the last day, I feel she finally let loose on Madwoman, whose energy and enthusiasm seemed to wane.

What was also interesting on that last day was how loud the call from spirits of the woods came. Perhaps it was because there were few trees on Orkney and we did not stop near any of the wooded areas on Shetland, but the song eminating from the trees in Aberdeenshire was strong and very hard to resist. If I hadn't been on a bus with a set timetable, I would have wandered into the woods and spent my time reconnecting. Later that night, Fae agreed with me that the call had been strong, though I admit her energies had changed now that Madwoman had departed, Fae seemed a little erratic. Certainly, I had witnessed the change from warm openess to a giant wall on the first day of our trip, but this was something new.

I hope she recovered once back in her native habitat. I know I came down rather quickly upon returning to Kent - its felt so blah incomparison to Scotland and the northern isles. I suppose that had something to do with a betrayal that occurred in my absence, too, so I can't blame it entirely on the genius loci.

I must say that, despite the personalities with whom I travelled, the trip was very worthwhile. The chance to see the Shetland Isles I would not have missed for a box of gold (and that's saying something). I hope to return in the near future as there was so much to explore. We saw several sites, some I had seen before, others not - my only complaint was I would have preferred earlier starts so as to see more than we did, as we missed so much due to time constraints.

I am already making plans for next year's trip - more megaliths I think.