I don't normally go around criticising what other people believe or other people's religions (except perhaps Scientology....what's that all about??) But I'm going to make an exception today. And the reason I am making an exception with the Westboro Baptist Church is that I don't really see them as a religion, I see them as a hate group. And I'm perfectly happy speaking out against hate.
The WBC make the mistake of taking the Bible literally. And I mean literally. They study every word. This doesn't make good sense. No book in the history of our time has been rewritten and translated more than the Bible. And as such it has become a literary collaboration with each translator adding his own bias to the framework. The Bible relies heavily on interpretation. It can be read as an allegory, as a work of symbolism, a series of opinions.... What I think would be pretty impossible to assert is that it is hard fact.
Yet that is just what these numpties at WBC are trying to say. And worse, they take the odd random verses from the Bible and string them into a hate campaign that they proudly announce as "God hates Fags." (Their own choice of term for our friends in the homosexual community). That would appear to be their final conclusion after all this extensive biblical analysis, apparently God has a problem if you fancy your own gender.
Well apart from the fact that that's rubbish (I'm sure God has a lot more to worry about than who's bonking who) and apart from the fact that its bigoted, discriminatory, potentially libellous and definitely downright offensive - more importantly its wrong. When I say wrong, what I really mean is entirely fictional, a tentative conclusion based on a random string of (sorry Christians) unsubstantiated opinions. This point is brilliantly illustrated by a spoof website who, in response to "God hates Fags," have come up with their own slogan "God hates Figs" which cites just as many biblical references for the condemnation of the fig fruit as Westboro have found for the condemnation of gay people. The rather obvious conclusion being that you can find enough random texts in the bible to support pretty much any argument if you look hard enough. (Either that or you’re going to Hell if you have ever enjoyed the fruit of the forbidden fig tree of sin….)
The WBC also seem very confused about who is gay and who isn't. They spend thousands of pounds each year picketing high profile funerals to draw attention to their campaign against gays. In most cases the dead person (usually either a celebrity or a soldier) have no personal leanings toward homosexuality. The picketing is just done for maximum publicity, public shock value. Its a cheap way to make a point.
Now what I find hard to swallow is that these people actually believe what they are doing is in the name of God.They seriously believe that God would want people put to death for being gay. Capital punishment is a pretty abhorrent punishment in itself but it takes on grotesque proportions when we imagine it being used to punish people simply for having a sexual preference for their own gender. This is all about hate, nothing to do with God’s love or tolerance, just pure simple hatred. It would be dangerous were this group not so universally ridiculed for their unique and somewhat idiotic interpretations of the Bible. As it is most of their preaching falls on the deaf ears of the sane and non bigoted.
But what kind of God must they believe in if they think he wants them to turn up at funerals waving placards and causing chaos and distress to people mourning their loved ones? That isn't a God I could ever get behind. And it isn't the message of the Bible either. If you do happen to believe in the Bible, Jesus told people to love God and love their neighbour. I can't imagine he forgot to add: "unless that neighbour is gay in which case turn up uninvited at funerals and shout a lot."
The WBC leave no stone unturned in their relentless crusade against what they perceive to be sin. They burn the American flag, flush copies of the holy Koran (sacred to the Islamic faith), call Catholic churches “whorehouses” and refer to Jews as “Nazis.” Basically unless you happen to be a member of the WBC (*shudder* perish the thought!) they believe you are a sinner destined for the fiery pits of Hell.
This all may well offend you. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t. It certainly offends me. So if you would like to share your views with the hate group themselves – here is their web address http://www.godhatesfags.com/. Undoubtedly they will reply and tell you that you are going to Hell for your evil beliefs. But take it from the Degu Witch, you’re not. And who are you going to believe – some psychotic group of Bible literalists or your favourite common sense talking witch? Go on – get typing!
Image by Toxic Butterfly Media and used with kind permission from the artist.
Broomsticks have been associated as the archetypal tool of the witch since times long gone by. Forget the wand, staff and atheme. If you want to make sure that everyone knows you are drawing a Witch, stick her on a broom.
As with all myths and legends there is a certain element of accuracy with this association. And it is interesting to explore the differing uses of the broom between olden and modern times.
Fundamentally the broom is seen as a symbol of flight. This shrouds the witch in mystery and intrigue. It also shows how the witch is perceived in society. Rationally we know witches do not use their brooms to soar around the countryside (well I certainly don't unless I'm doing something wrong with my broom?) but the myth of flight has persisted through the ages and the endowment of the witch with the super power of flight is a clear indication that witches both then and now were viewed as possessing great powers.
Flight and the broomstick have got a bit confused through the ages. You can decide for yourself whether you actually believe a witch has ever actually levitated into the skies on her broom. But what is much more clear cut is the fact that many witches believed they could. Witches used a concoction popularly known as a flying potion, normally a mixture of animal fats and potent halluciogenic herbs to produce what we would today identify as an acid trip. (Flying potions are still used today and the recipes are surprisingly similar to those of the middle ages).
Under the effects of these potions witches often experienced the sensation of flying. Other witches would not believe they had the physical capacity to actually fly but would use the broom as the symbol for flight out of their physical bodies as flying was also a term used to refer to astral projection for which many witches used (and still do use) flying potions as an aid.
Brooms represent transport and the ability of the witch to move from place to place. This symbolises the witch as a being of transiense, of moving between places and belonging nowhere. For the modern witch, walking the path between the worlds this is a powerful symbol.
The ability to fly is also the ability to rise above. And this is what a witch strives to do. Her goal is to rise above the day to day humdrum of mundane life and align herself with a greater power which she can channel to forge herself a meaningful existence. The broom represents her ability to transcend not only those stuck in routine but also that part of herself that would otherwise be tethered to mundanity.
Of course, in days long gone, brooms were not bought as a specific tool of magic the way they are today. (And beware of spending serious money on a few twigs. I asked one new age shop what wood the brooms were made of and he didn't know.... Worrying. Easy enough to make your own cheaply with wood that may have a personal resonance for you).
A broom would have been present in every home to sweep the floors. Although in the modern world of hoovers and vacumn cleaners the traditional role of the broom is no longer needed, witches of today still use their brooms to sweep. But now, instead of sweeping actual dirt and debris (we suck that up first in our hoovers!) the broom is used to sweep away negativity, bad vibes and aura remnants. The broom cleans the room spiritually in the same way the hoover does physically.
Brooms have an association with fertility and abundance. This is partly due to their very obvious phallic shape. Insertion of the broom was a popular way to absorb the flying ointments (and was probably very enjoyable for the witch). Of course with Ann Summers providing rampant rabbits aplenty, the modern witch generally doesn't need to use her broom for her sexual desires (I certainly don't, mine is square handled - yow!!) This idea of sexuality and fertility is partly to blame for the misconception of flight. Witches would "ride" their brooms through the crop fields to promote fertility of the land and positive crop growth. This idea of the witches on their brooms morphed into the myths of broom flight. I personally have no modern equivalent (though if my local farmer wants me to ride through a few of his fields, I'd not have a problem with that).
So the broom continues to be a powerful tool for the witch. It symbolises the core of our craft, our ability to transcend, the cleaning of magical clutter in our homes and it provides us with a link to our ancestors, the witches of old.
Image http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Halloween_g164-Halloween_Background_p55837.html (Sujin Jetkasettakorn)
This is the tale of a rather silly witch...
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I knew about the copyright of my website pictures on my website. "Yeah," I said, "I pick them off Google Images."
My friend, a professional with her own established web business wasn't very impressed. "You do know that's stealing?"
Stealing? Well no, actually I didn't. I thought it was a bit naughty, a bit lazy perhaps, but I'd brushed it off with the comfort that a) everyone does it b) nobody really minds and c) nobody will find out. (I've told you before that the Degu Witch isn't very technologically minded!)
"Stealing," she said firmly. "And its very frowned upon in the web industry..."
News to the Degu Witch but I went through my site, removed all the original art work and illustrations that were not mine and emailed the artists asking for permission to use the ones I really liked.
A couple of weeks later, she asked me again. "Yep," I said brightly, "All the drawings are gone."
She gave me a bit of a look. "Just the drawings, what about the photos?"
Personally I didn't think there was a great deal of effort in a bit of point and click. I mean its not like spending hours doing an oil painting. And I said as much.
Ooooh she put me straight - the costs involved, the lighting complexities, the difficulty in finding premises and reputable photographers.... Not quite the easy snapping action I thought it was. Grudgingly I had to acknowledge that a lot of effort went into these pictures that I was merrily picking off Google....
But the Degu Witch is a lazy wotsit and still did little about it other than feel a bit guilty.
"You still haven't done it, have you?"
"Ummm, No. I found those free sites hard to use..."
"What you mean is you're too lazy to try?"
(Pretty much....But how did she KNOW that???)
"Not at all, I just find all this creative commons and public domain thing a bit of a headache..."
"Ok, well enjoy the bills for the royalties when they turn up on your doorstep!!"
Her words worried me a bit, after all she is much more knowledgable about media laws than I am so I thought I'd better just check out the legality of what I was doing and I had a quick look on the internet. Turns out I wasn't just being a bit naughty, I was potentially breaking the law and could be fined thousands of pounds and made to pay huge royalties for any images I don't own.
Aaaaargh! Not only was I unwittingly heading toward a criminal career I was also doing it on a site dedicated to religion and one where I give advice and support to young people. Not exactly the message I want to promote - steal for gain!
So I went through my site with a fine toothcomb. I checked every single image was either my own, public domain, allowed to be used if artist credited or used with specific permission from the artist themself. Big job. Boring job. Kind of served me right for being a berk though.
Anyway, its done now. And I'm fairly confident that I've done a thorough enough job to make my site 100% within the law. And funnily enough, once I worked out the whole creative commons thing I actually found some even better images so I'm really pleased with how the whole thing turned out.
And the other positive thing is that now I'm a bit more limited in the range of images I can access, its spurred me on to be a bit more creative and create my own. So I've dusted off my camera and I'll be taking a lot of my own photos in future which will please my husband no end as we'll be out for lots of walks together.
So - one witch well and truly back on the straight and narrow and with a new hobby to boot!
A wiccan friend of mine was having a crisis of moral conscience over the so called protective magics the other day. As an adherant to the wiccan rede - an it harm none, do what you will- (see my thoughts on the rede here) she asked whether I thought a binding spell contravened the advice of the rede.
This isn't a clear cut debate and many witches and wiccans have very different ideas on the morality of binding. Strictly speaking a binding spell is cast to prevent somebody doing harm.
The idea is that you prevent them from completing actions that harm others by restricting their behaviours. Its kind of an aggressive protection spell, instead of shielding yourself from being harmed, you stop the harm from being started.
Tricky morally. You could argue that by binding someone you are preventing harm and therefore your spell is justifiable. But equally you could say that by binding you are taking a person's free will to act away and that is potentially as harmful as allowing them to continue doing whatever it was that they were doing in the first place. (Not being a Wiccan I didn't feel I could advise on the morality in relation to my friend's religion but it certainly got me thinking about the morality in relation to mine.)
Binding spells are one of the most useful spells in a witch's grimoire. I've got lots of little plasticine figures tied up in cord and sealed in little bags. I bind for a variety of reasons. Firstly it targets the specifics. Maintaining shields strong enough to withhold any negativity requires a lot of energy. To eliminate the threat at source with a simple binding is a lot less effort. Secondly pure defensive protection on myself still allows the perpetrator of the harm to do it to somebody else. Thirdly, if somebody annoys me I'm going to retaliate with any tools at my disposal!
I don't personally have the issues with binding that I have with hexing which I use much more sparingly. Though I do tend to use hexes rather defensively as opposed to going on the attack. I created a serenity spell recently where I sealed my serenity into a witch bottle and then hexed the bottle so any deliberate attempts to cause me stress would backfire onto the person causing it. Rather a natural selection sort of a hex, only invoked when malice was employed toward me.... So far only a degu has irritated me - and she very quickly stopped squeaking, ha!
Of course, binding doesn't just have to be about preventing harm to others. In a sense with my serenity spell I was binding an element of myself. I was sealing it away and binding it closer to myself. I've seen binding used in love spells to bind people together (now there is a sticky morality wicket...) And I've seen it used as an act of love to stop people turning on themselves. Its quite common when binding somebody to include wording to the effect that they can't harm themselves or others.
I'm a big believer with spell work that the spell lasts while the effort is maintained. So a spell for a one off incident can be cast and forgot but for an enduring spell like a binding spell, if you want it to last indefinitely it needs to be energised regularly. I think that is why I don't really have a moral problem with it. If I could flick a switch and stop a person forever that would bring the responsibility of too much power. But as soon as the focus is taken off a binding spell, the person gradually returns to their behaviours. However, sometimes a break from them is all that you need and the binding provides the opportunity for exactly that. Equally if a person is likely to cause harm in a given situation, it may be prudent to bind them until that situation has passed.
I don't advertise to people when I have bound them but I have watched their behaviour afterwards with interest as the spell seems to take effect in very different ways. Sometimes people seem to voluntarily change their behaviours and sometimes they try to continue being nasty but don't have the strength to succeed. And in one exceptionally successful binding to a rather horrible individual who attempted to manipulate everyone around them, the spell worked by everyone else simply not taking notice of them any more.
I think it is important that you bind alongside other protective magics such as shielding and strengthening yourself. Sometimes once you have shored up your own strength you may even find that you don't need to bind, that whatever threat you felt the person represented, it isn't as viable when you are functioning at full strength. And any spell is always more likely to yield good results if you are in good spiritual health anyway.
To conclude, although binding has a few grey areas and certainly raises a few moral eyebrows in some circles, in my own opinion the benefits are too good to worry excessively about the moral angle. Besides, if the person you intend to bind was doing nothing wrong in the first place, you wouldn't need to bind them, would you?
Image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/983241 (Cobrasoft)
One day when I'm not writing a book on witchcraft and I'm feeling suitably masochistic, I am going to write a book about degus. And I'm afraid that the very first sentence will be "Don't ever get a degu as a pet....."
That sounds a bit awful, especially coming from a witch with five of the little beasts so I'll explain myself and if at the end of my post you still want to go out and buy yourself a cage of degus then blessings to you and good luck (because you'll need it!).
Ok. So I have five degus. Drifter, Minstrel, Caramel, Wispa and Crunchie. They sound sweet (lol pun!) but in fact each one of them is practised in the art of irritating me to the extreme. Some people think they train their pets. Well that isn't true with degus. Degus train you. Let me give you an example. I share a room with these creatures and on a regular basis one of them will arbitrarily wake up in the middle of the night and start squeaking (its usually Drifter, she's my primary nemesis). To start with I'd get out of bed, check their water bottles, check no degu was poorly and look in the cages to find out the source of the squeaking. This happened a few times and there never were any obvious causes of the squeaking. So eventually I thought I'll just sit it out. I'll play the waiting game. So one long cold night I tried to last the longest. I mean, just how long can a degu squeak for? Turns out they can easily manage six hours continuous squeaking. I gave up in the end, admitted defeat and put my headphones in. Now I've finally worked out through an arduous process of trial and error that the only thing that stops the squeaking is to give them more tissues for their bedding. So at four in the morning I have to go sleepily stumbling round the house looking for supersoft kleenex to shut my degus up. Exactly who's training who here?
Then there are the little presents they like to leave me. Degus like to leave little plops everywhere they go. Which is bad enough when I let them roam free and they deposit their little brown parcels on my altar and between the pages of my favourite books. But its worst of all when I'm fast asleep and a plop or two is flung through the bars at my sleeping form. The indignity of being pelleted by flying degu poop. I mean, just what is that all about? Sometimes I wake up to a bed full of little pellets. Sometimes I even find them in my pants. That's not right.
And the chewing! Dear Goddess the chewing! Degus are the most destructive creatures in the world. Over the festive season they chewed through a live cable connecting my lamp to the mains. They were totally unharmed but the (expensive) lamp was a write off. They eat my books, my candles, my curtains and my skirting boards. They've chewed the bottom of every ritual robe I own. They've eaten the bottom of my door so it lets all the light in now. And they pinch my crystals and hide them in their cage so they can chew on them at leisure while I'm asleep. Especially green gypsum, degus seem to have a real thing for gypsum.
Occasionally I feel obliged to do the motherly thing and give them treats. The internet assures me that degus go crazy for broccoli (totally untouched) dandelions (begrudgingly chewed if nothing better on offer and cabbage (they hated it). All they want is the expensive sugar free shop treats which are full of processed rubbish and additives and make then hyperactive. So I ration them out and then...? Protest squeaking!
And they pick and choose what they eat from their bowl as well. I've learned the hard way to not give them mixed foods as if I do one of the degus will launch itself into the food bowl and sit on the food while snapping out at any other degu who wants some dinner. Then eventually they eat all the good bits and leave all the nutrition in the bottom of their bowl in the hope that I will tip it away and fill up with more good bits.
Like I said, they all have their own individual ways to annoy me. With Drifter its the squeaking and this belligerant look she gets on her little rodenty face. The one that says I can do this for so much longer than you can put up with it. Wispa won't come in the cage, she hides and runs away when its going back in time. Crunchie likes to rattle the cage bars when I am sleeping and Caramel widdled in my hair the other day. Minstrel's ok but she has cost me a fortune in vets bills and she does like to widdle on my ouija board.
Yes, that's the other thing. Degus are expensive. Costly little beggars to buy (30 quid a creature), you've got to have at least two or the little witches get lonely. They need a big cage so no economy there. They eat a lot and you constantly have to replace the lamps and soft furnishings that they eat. They are also prone to health problems especially ingrowing teeth and diabetes. If the teeth don't grow properly that could be a monthly trip to the vets (though I have started doing Minstrel's teeth myself) and the bills soon start to mount up. Don't even think about taking a degu on unless you've got some free space on your credit card....
Nor are they all that friendly. They can be, in fact they can be very loving but most of the time they would rather be trampling through your possessions than having a cuddle. They are not even very nice to each other. I ended up needing two cages as Caramel and Minstrel took an absolutely violent dislike to one another. Caramel was quite savage. And don't ever get in the way of a degu fight. Degu bites are nasty, they bite right down to the bone. And it really really hurts.
So I suppose I am trying to put you off. Degus went through a phase of being very popular pets but according to my vet that bubble has burst a bit now. People are starting to cotton on that these are expensive, high maintenance, long lived (up to 13 years...) and difficult to keep creatures. We are light years away from the hamsters and gerbils you fondly remember from your childhood. Having said that, if you don't feel you've got enough stress in your life at the moment and you fancy taking on the challenge of taming the world's most cantankerous rodent then go for it. But don't say the Degu Witch didn't warn you......
I launched my website back in September 2012 and since then my section on "Ask a witch a question" has proven to be rather popular. I have been sent questions from all different types of people and from all over the world. They have varied from the eminently sensible to the downright ridiculous (have I ever killed anyone....lol!) But I've answered enough questions from new, young and wanna be witches now to be able to dispell (lol, pun!) some of the myths that are associated with the first steps into witchcraft.
Firstly there seems to be this all pervasive belief that the craft is an intellectual exercise, almost like an exammination board that hands out your certificate of witchiness at the end of a lot of reading. The word study gets bandied about a lot. But a lot of the young witches don't make it very clear what they hope to get from all this studying. Is it validation that they are taking their craft seriously? The acquisition of knowledge so they can feel secure in what they are doing. Or is it a substitute for good old fashioned practical hands on magic? I'm not one to dissuade people from reading, I love a good book myself but in all honesty I don't think in this case books are an adequate substitute for just getting out there and doing it. So if you want to learn about magic, try writing and working a spell. There is a lot of value in books but there is also a lot of value in your own head and you don't want to forget that.
The other theme I've noticed among a lot of my questions is the worry that becoming a witch means you are doing something wrong or even something against God. This seems to be a major worry for a lot of people. But the thing is that witchcraft is what you choose to make it. I won't lie and say that a lot of witches don't use their powers for personal advancement and no doubt there are even some who could be considered to use them for evil. But fundamentally the craft is a tool. It is to be used in whatever direction you focus your intent. So if you only want to use it for what you believe to be the advancement of good then just direct your will that way. And whatever God you believe in, I'm sure him, her or they will be fine with you following your own genuine good intentions.
I think the biggest influx into my inbox is concerned with "Will you cast a spell for me?" Or "Will you curse so and so (poor Justin Bieber!) for me?". Now I can understand that you might think a spell has more potency if cast by a practised witch (and sadly I know many witches who will collude with you in that belief) but in my opinion the energies and personal investment you bring to your magic are worth just as much as the experience of an experienced witch. I really feel it is important not to underestimate the power of casting a spell to which you have a personal link. Magic isn't about clever words, rhymes and precision, its about focusing intent. And as a newbie you can do that as effectively as any practised witch. So don't dismiss your own abilities. You may well have as much success as an older more accomplished witch as you are going to put a lot more of your own personal desires into the spells you work.
And especially in terms of the cursing, some of you seem way too quick to implement a magical solution before the good old tried and tested practical methods. As you know I'm not above the odd curse myself but its last resort territory, not a reactive action to annoyance. There is a danger that the new magical practitioner sees magic as the first solution for all problems. And that's a bit of a shame because people who think like that can become very unbalanced in their approach to life. Magic and spells are only one weapon in your armoury. Don't over look reason, logic, empathy and good old common sense.
And finally, there is this association with elitism in the craft. That only certain people are good enough, powerful enough or clever enough to be a witch. Young witches worry they aren't old enough, poor witches worry they can't afford the tools, male witches worry they won't be as good as their female counterparts. And it seems that a massive number of you worry about whether you are entitled to call yourself a witch at all. But these worries seem rather unfounded to me. Young witches, you've probably got more passion and enthusiasm than old bags like myself, use that to make your magic powerful. Poor witches, your intent is far more potent than any tool you can't afford to buy. Direct your energies with your hands rather than an expensive atheme. Your results will be equally as good. Male witches, nothing to say a male can't be as effective as a female. Embrace your masculinity and look for ways to incorporate it into your craft. And let's knock elitism on the head. My view on all this is that if you practise witchcraft, you're a witch, simple as that.
Pagan Blog Project 2013
Philosophy rather annoys me. I studied it for a few years and came to the conclusion that it just likes flying in the face of common sense. (Is it a table? Short answer yes, long answer a full doctoral thesis. Don't bother going there. If it looks like a table, just eat your dinner off it.)
Its all a bit Emperor's new clothes to me. If the answer is simple and not tied up in a gorgon knot with convoluted and complicated academic arguments, philosophers don't like it. But I rather like simplicity and I find all this intellectual wrangling a bit unnecessary.
So I thought I'd share this with you. The first verse summarises the concerns of a philosopher called Bishop Berkeley who spent his time pondering on the nature of existence and wondering whether existence is dependent on perception. (He's the bloke to blame for the whole tree falling in a forest making a sound or not dilemma).
Actually in case you are confused, I will clear that one up for you. Of course existence isn't dependent on perception. Do you really believe that everything in the world pops in and out of existence depending on whether anybody is watching at the time? Of course not, its just pretentious nonsense. (Or as an excellent if somewhat crude friend of mine puts it, “intellectual wanking"...)
The second verse was published years later in one of the broadsheets in answer to the original limerick. And it rather neatly puts the poor Bishop's worries to rest.
Of course if you happen to be an athiest (and I'm looking at you Richard Dawkins, its only a matter of time before the degu witch turns her attention to you....) then this probably won't clear up the problem for you at all. But the rest of us can get some sleep tonight while you lie awake in a sweaty heap worrying whether that tree in your back garden will start to disappear when you close your curtains.....
There was a young man who said, " God
Must find it exceedingly odd,
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one around in the quad.
Dear Sir, Your astonishments odd,
I am always around in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be -
Since observed by, yours faithfully, God.
I won't add anything else, I'll let God have the last word today....
This last century has seen a real change in the way people relate to religion and their fundamental beliefs. Paganism in all its different coats and guises has called out to many to step away from the formal path of traditional organised religions and to seek a path closer to personal spirituality and what rings true as an individual.
(Quote from Wikipedia: According to The Statesman Anne Elizabeth Wynn claims "The two most recent American Religious Identification Surveys declare Wicca, one form of paganism, as the fastest growing spiritual identification in America"
The thing with Paganism is that its a pretty broad umbrella encompassing a wide range of faiths and beliefs. A witch, a druid, a wiccan and a shaman could all call themselves a pagan but each will have a very different set of beliefs and a different understanding of what being pagan for them involves. This fluid definition has been a key factor in the rising popularity of the alternative faith paths. Paganism is a fundamentally accepting belief system. Instead of being asked to conform and mould beliefs into a non compromising single world view, Pagans can turn inward and think about their own views and what matters to them. In doing so, a genuine path is sought and found and each individual is able to walk the road that feels right for them.
In times long gone we would have marked the passing of time by the phases of the moon ans the change in the seasons. In our central heated, air conditioned world the seasons do not perhaps have the same physical impact on us that they used to. But the changing nature of the earth still has a symbolic resonance. Pagans honour our dependence on and relationship with the earth.
Perhaps as our sophistication grows we desire more than ever a return to simpler values and the security of being part of the turning of earth's wheel.
The landscape is right for a revival of the old faiths. As a society we have become increasingly involved with materialism, consumerism and modernity. We have embraced the Industrial revolution and survived technological progress. We have moved away from close links with the land, small communities and regular church attendees. State and church have never been more separate. Politically we are striding toward a secular world. So is it any wonder that we are starting to feel something of a void? Humans are spiritual creatures with needs beyond those that can be satisfied by online shopping and text messaging. For those who feel unable to worship at the altar of progress and technological advancement there is a need for more, for something greater, something with more meaning. And so rather naturally more and more people are reaching out to see what is out there and what can fill the void.
It is interesting that in this spiritual vacumn, none of the world religions have stepped up to the mark. But there is a current ennui toward the big cultural religions. Between the wars and the fighting and the media controversy - religions, possibly Christianity in particular, are perceived to have lost their link to spirituality. Religion has been debated, argued about and chewed over until it has become devoid of its spiritual core. Take the Church of England, in a country just finished celebrating Christmas. How many of you exchanged presents? (Pretty much all of you) How many of you went to church? (Stats suggest less than 10% of the Uk population). The rituals remain but the reasons for them have become blurred and in many cases nearly forgotten. For those asking the questions, traditional religions just don't have the answers any more.
And as we become more and more in need of connection with our spiritual selves the meaningless rituals, many of which have been raped by consumerism fail to resonate with us. (Would you believe Easter eggs are in the shops already?) And we start to look beyond the trappings for true meaning. And this is where many people first encounter Paganism, on the brink of the modern world and the demands of their own soul. As the ancient voices of our forefathers tending the land echo down through the years, people start to move closer to the earth, to the forgotten simplicities of nature and her healing powers and back toward the true nature of man working in harmony with the earth and not against it.
And as society changes, individuals are changing too. Our education system teaches us to think, to question and to evaluate. Is it then surprising that people are choosing to turn away from being spoon fed beliefs that they are told not to question and starting to seek a way through life that chimes truer with their individual beliefs
Our young people of today are aware and awake and they want to think for themselves. So they look beyond the teachings and doctrines that have failed to keep pace with the changing times and they look to find a path that has personal meaning for them.
And why not? What religion can legitimately claim to have a monopoly on truth? A belief held by a million people is no more valid than a belief held by a single individual. In the absense of absolute proof each of us has a right and possibly even an obligation to fight our way through the chaos of the unknown to the personal truths that lie beyond.
There's a certain irony in all this that as society progresses so quickly forward the spiritual
answers are actually being found by looking back into the past. However the adopting of old ways and old values into the modern world is a new path forward and perhaps one that represents the truest progress of all as man's growing intelligence and development becomes at one and harmonised with the forgotten spirituality of old.
http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1409793 (Andreas Krapweiss)
Pagan Blog Project 2013
Not me you cheeky readers! I’m a voluptuous beauty. Haven’t you looked at my pictures? (actually ignore the wedding photos, that dress was a serious mistake. I just bought the first one I tried on. Well, ok, the first one I tried on that fit… Not really my thing clothes shopping…..And that flowery thing on my head? I bought that in a charity shop the day before, along with a cd for the wedding music. It’s a miracle I ever made it down the aisle come to think of it.)
In terms of the ugliness, I was thinking more of some of those poor creatures who are threatened with extinction. I’ve been reading all these magazine articles recently about how we have such limited funding for conservation and how it all goes to the cute and beautiful animals. Watched rather a good program on it the other day as it happens – the presenter was being ever so vitriolic about the money that goes into saving giant pandas. Mind you, we spend a fortune on those fluffy bears. Would you believe that we rent the only giant pandas in the UK from China at a cost of £1 m a year? One million pounds. I work in a bank, I know what a million pounds looks like. It’s a lot of money. And its an awful lot of money to invest in the hope that two sexually ambivalent bears will get it together on one of their three fertile days a year and pop out some baby pandas. And even if we can actually get them to feel frisky enough to do the deed - the babies all belong to China. Well hats off to China for managing to make their bear business so profitable but I really do agree that we should be questioning why we are prepared to spend so much on one single species. (And I don’t even think pandas are all that cute anyway, they always look a bit sinister to me with those black patches guarding their eyes.)
The trouble is that if you aren’t fluffy you don’t really stand a chance. It’s a bit bigoted really. If we only gave funding to groups of people based on what they looked like we’d end up with a riot on our hands. But it seems perfectly socially acceptable to dole out conservation funds on such arbitary criteria as fluffiness and cuteness. What about the ugly ones? Its hard enough being a self conscious species that knows its ugly as sin and probably feels a bit embarrassed about it without being discriminated against as well. (I had to be forcibly stopped at the zoo once from speaking my mind to all the people who kept pointing at the babirusa and remarking how unattractive it was. And it wasn’t ugly at all. It had beautiful soulful eyes and an expression of serene wisdom. I struck up a real bond with it. In fact I cried when we had to leave the zoo. Bit embarrassing and I was in my thirties at the time…).
Anyway, why can’t we throw a few quid to the less aesthetically pleasing creatures?
The purple burrowing frog
The angler fish
I’m not saying any of these should be entered in a beauty contest but surely that isn’t the point. Just because they are not pretty doesn’t mean we should let them die out. And if I were a beast I think I’d rather be interesting than beautiful. Pretty gets a bit dull (we all get a bit bored of kittens after a spell on the internet, don’t we). Much more fun to be weird looking and a bit kooky.
So this witch is voting that we spread our money about a bit. Lets concentrate on saving as many species as we can rather than focusing on one or two headline grabbers. And lets focus on saving species that are out there bonking and doing their best to save themselves. Because, until those pandas start getting a bit friskier, I’m giving my money to the Dugong.
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