Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Review: "Ravenwood" by Nathan Lowell

Author:  Nathan Lowell

After reading other reviews of "Ravenwood" I decided to download it and give it a try as my preferred listening option on the commute to and from work. The author, Nathan Lowell was a far superior narrator his own story than others to whom I had listened and, though the plot developed slowly, I was happy to listen further to the pleasant reading.

I have to admit I was at a loss as to the time and place that Tanyth, the main character, inhabited. At once, it seemed to be the past but I could not figure the exact time or even a location and this niggled me - just a little. After a while, however, I settled into her story and as new characters were slowly introduced I felt more and more comfortable.

The story centres around Tanyth, a woman who travels (on foot) from place to place learning from the wiser of her sex about herbs - growing, eating and medicinal applications. To keep herself safe she travels dressed as a man and it is clear, almost from the start, there is something in Tanyth's past which has led to this path; her history is glimpsed occasionally as the story develops.

On her way to meet another wise woman, Tanyth finds herself in a hamlet of young people who seem a little out-of-place. As one of their number falls ill, Tanyth skills are called for. Eventually the residents convince Tanyth to stay over the winter before resuming her travels and teach two of the community's number to do for themselves, their own healer having passed away. Tanyth finds herself undergoing personal changes in the hamlet, as the residents and their activities come under scrutiny from undesirables.

"Ravenwood" is peppered throughout with rituals which have their basis in wicca and paganism; some of this feels a little forced, whereas the herbal lore easily slips into the storyline. It also contains a fair bit of violence, and I found it difficult to listen to one section near the end of the story in which the author describes some wounds rather graphically. Nathan Lowell is very descriptive, but not overly so, to the point where a picture is easily built within the mind. He manages to create the environment and atmosphere of Ravenswood, slowly but surely, and eventually you fall into Tanyth's world only to be disappointed when you finally leave, all the while hoping that you will one day be able to return. Nathan Lowell has indicated this is part one of further adventures of Tanyth Fairport and I, for one, will be listening again.

Rating: 4/5.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Earth Hour 2011

Tomorrow I will be taking part in Earth Hour, an event organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (otherwise known as the WWF) as a reminder to ourselves, and world leaders that we need to tackle climate change, and our impact on nature urgently.

It started just four years ago in Sydney, but has now grown to a world-wide phenomenon. It's easy to take part, and easy to register. It's a great reminder of just how much we rely on technology we don't need, because you will have fun with the lights off (No! Not necessarily that kind of fun) and the power off. Boardgames by candlelight, storytelling by firesides and so on.

Really, I urge you to take part, let's see what the stars really look like over our cities when the lights go down for an hour. It's not much, even my workplace take part as do a number of usually brightly-lit landmarks.

Go on: register now. Just be sure to click on the right link for your country.

And, enjoy the company of friends by candlight for a hour tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Truth v. Intolerance

Once again, I find myself worked up over the dissemination of misinformation by pagans - the catalyst for this blog post being the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.   This year, and last the Wild Hunt have done an excellent post on the matter of St Patrick and his supposed "genocide of the druids".

For me, it's important to get as close to the truth as possible, especially with regard to historical matters but, for others, "gut feelings" and wild supposition is just as valid proof as personal letters and biographies.  It seems some pagans want to play the game of martyrdom themselves and will rely on fabrications to do so. Myself, I am not into denigrating other religions just for the sake of it, though sometimes I am happy to criticise my fellow pagans. Some of my best religious discussions have been with those of another faith. Thus, I find myself intolerant of those pagans who would spout spurious information to all and sundry, disregarding reason to do so and without thought to the detrimental effect on others, especially when it appears to be no more than petty point scoring.  It would appear that critical thinking, and fact-checking is not an admiral trait in some pagan circles. 

I wish I wasn't this intolerant; I wish I could just let things lie and walk away, but somehow I can't. I get myself embroiled in these pointless arguments and when I request source materials but get no sensible response, I find myself getting frustrated, annoyed and then angry.

Let's face it, though it is just no good arguing with sheep.

I find myself intolerant of those that are happy to be sheeple* yet I have no right to be so. After all, isn't ignorance bliss, and what gives me the right to judge?  Perhaps this is something I should work on?   I have walked away from a lot of pagan groups, events and websites because I just couldn't stand the lack of common sense or individual thought amongst attendees.  Maybe it's that time again?  Time to walk away and stick with those who are happy to have questions asked of them; those who willingly point me in the direction of source materials enabling me to do the research myself and reach my own conclusions or, at the very least, eliminate a few theories and/or return with further questions.

What can I do to improve on this intolerance?  I suppose I could always become a real hermit, so I only have to be mindful of myself.   Or, I could stick to those fellow pagans who think as I do ... but then ... isn't that just avoiding the issue?  I could give up searching for the truth, facts, accuracy, or substantiated claims.   I have ruled out becoming a sheeple myself.   Are there any other options? 

Thoughts anyone?

* Those who act like sheep and run with the herd without question, even over a cliff.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Magical Realms Stamp Issue

The Royal Mail postal service in the UK has issued a new series of stamps featuring characters from myth and fiction with a magical bent.  Nanny Ogg and Rincewind from the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, Aslan and The White Witch from "The Chronicles of Narnia", Dumbledore and Voldemort from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and Merlin and Morgan Le Fey from Arthurian legend.

Friday, 11 March 2011


Through another blogger, Tairis, I found links to two programmes on Brighid from Ireland. Although in Irish, they come with English subtitles.

Part One - pre-Christian Brighid; and

Part Two - into Christianity and the modern era.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Reviews: "Shadowmagic" and "The Prince of Hazel & Oak"

ShadowmagicShadowmagic: Prince of Hazel and Oak

Author: John Lenahan
ISBN:   1905548923/978-1905548927 (Shadowmagic)
              0007425597/978-0007425594 (Prince of Hazel & Oak)

"Shadowmagic: Prince of Hazel and Oak" is the sequel to "Shadowmagic" by John Lenahan and, despite being aimed at young men, these books appeal to me immensely. Okay, so I haven't actually read the books but listened to the podcasts downloadable from iTunes and Podiobooks, but I am going to buy the books and I am going to give them to friends because I think that John Lenahan knows how to write a rip-roaring tale. Yes, the main character is a bit obnoxious at times, but show me a teenage boy that isn't.

The Shadowmagic series runs at a face pace and is packed with adventure and humour. Both books are set in the land of Tir Na Og where fairies, banshees, pucas, brownies and sentient trees reside and into this world was thrown young Conor, the said Prince of Hazel and Oak, who grew up in the real world not knowing his was the heir to the House of Oak, his father having kept this secret from him all his life in order to protect Conor from his uncle, Cialtie, who was determined to kill him.

In "Shadowmagic: Prince of Hazel and Oak", after making it back to real world from his first adventure in Tir Na Og, Conor finds himself in yet more trouble as the police believe he has murdered his own father who has gone missing. The truth is, Conor's father is mortally ill and so, once again, Conor is hurled back to Tir Na Og, but this time there is a stowaway: the policeman, Brendan, who is determined to see Conor brought to justice. Conor now find himselfs struggling to save his father's life, and save Tir Na Og from Cialtie, with the help of his loyal friends and one confused policeman.

Sure, Conor can be a bit obnoxious at times, but what teenage boy isn't? His friends soon knock it out of him, and the supporting characters are fantastic, loveable at times, and they are what really makes these books a joy. Well ... okay, the storytelling skills of John Lenahan have a lot to do with it and his reading for the podcasts is of exceptional quality for Podiobooks.

Seriously, folks: read "Shadowmagic" and "Shadowmagic: Prince of Hazel and Oak" for a rip-roaring tale of a boy's own adventure in the Otherworld.

Rating: 5/5