Friday, 22 April 2011

Downland Odyssey

I long to walk the paths
my youthful feet trod,
over the chalky back bone
of the downland of my home.
Walk again over land formed
by the bones of millennia old
creatures of the deep.
Walk again through orchid
strewn grassland.
Where in the wake
of my passing
clouds of blue butterflies
take to the wing
on a hot summers day.
My body longs to lay with you again
as we once did
under the gaze of long dead stars,
our limbs entwined,
basking in passions warm fire
But you to are long gone
your bones now part of the land.
All that is left are memories.


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Faeries Are Not Always Nice

I have this bug-bare to do with the way faeries are portrayed in the Pagan world. Faeries are portrayed as these lovely twee characters who would never harm you and are there to do your housework. This following article by Liz Williams a British science fiction/fantasy author says it all as far as I am concerned.

Not Nice by Liz Williams

This is becoming an annual rant, but has usually hitherto appeared on LJ so I thought I would dust it off, wipe its nose, and present it to a slightly different audience this time. It is actually an example of a social dynamic that I find interesting, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.I last aired it in front of the students at Imperial, who had some typically informed things to say.

This time, it's fairies, but it could be vampires, unicorns, angels, or serial killers, all of whom have featured in this rant before. And we're hardly guiltless. We sell fairies, for pity's sake, and they are sparkly and so forth. But occasionally something comes up which implies the following: fairies (or unicorns, or mermaids) are ickle magical beings who live to love others and spread sweetness and light.

I grew up on British folklore, particularly the work of Katherine Briggs, whose memorial lecture is held every year at the Folklore Society. In her collected accounts of fairy folklore throughout Britain (and in Yeats' huge work, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries), it is plain that the twee-ification of fairies is relatively recent (I blame the Victorians, who introduced a lot of the more child-based fairy imagery for reasons which have been examined in several doctoral theses and at least one book). But it has gathered apace over the last 50 years or so: fairies, according to this strand of the zeitgeist, are sweet, loving, honest and apparently, dedicated to helping people. Like angels, basically. This will raise the eyebrow of the average folklore enthusiast, or indeed, the average fantasy writer, to whom fairies are entities who snatch children and milk, who trick and deceive, who cannot be thanked, who make you wade through red blood to the knee and who will blind you if you see the wrong thing, who will give you a handful of leaves that you believe to be gold, who are tall and handsome until you catch them from the corner of your eye... I can't even blame Harry Potter for this as Rowling has done her fairy homework to quite a considerable degree and thereby copped massive opprobrium from the politically correct lobby.

Unicorns used to be savage destriers who would kill anyone who wasn't a virgin. That horn is there for a reason: it's a weapon. Angels are God's hitmen: warriors with flaming swords who strike down the unrighteous. Mermaids drowned sailors, once upon a time. Vampires used to be quite repulsive (look at Bram Stoker's version) and now they've become soulful James Deans who are just waiting for the right girl to come along (this is an example of a strand in Gothic and Romance writing which is particularly pernicious: the 'he's terribly dangerous but I can tame him'. The 'I' is usually female, and the idea is fine as a fantasy but leads to terrible trouble when applied to actual men).

There are exceptions: there's some very interesting fairy art around at the moment, drawing on sources other than the queasily Victorian. And if it makes the world a more comfortable place for people to render the alarming as safe, then that's up to them. Just because I don't like the aesthetic, doesn't mean, obviously, that people shouldn't engage with it. What does concern me, however, is that all of this feeds into the idea that this is promoting some kind of fantasy life: that paganism, which intersects with so much of the demographic of people who profess to believe in the above, becomes something that you turn to as an escape. Like any genuine spirituality, it isn't an escape, and to treat it as though it is, is to court disaster. Or at least, some lessons you really weren't expecting. There's a lesser issue - so much of this robs things of their original power, and their original magic. Maybe it's a genetic thing that makes us need to tame the wild, but it seems to me to be a shame.

Fairies wouldn't hurt other fairies? Yes, they would: they do it all the time. If you believe in them as real entities, their primary function is not to help you, any more than it's the primary function of angels or goddesses: you need to petition, and you need to give something back, and maybe they'll lend a hand, but it won't be in the way you expect. Folklore is the mirror of life and of the unconscious; the world of dreams is not a safe space.

And now I'd like to take this opportunity to announce my new book: "Demons: Why They're Really Cute."

Monday, 11 April 2011

Jack in the Green.

Beltane is nearly upon us and I thought it would be fun to look at some of the folklore to do with Mayday starting with the “Jack in the Green."
So just who is the Jack in the Green? Jack has long been a participant in the Mayday festivities notably in a parade in the town of Hastings.
The person chosen to be the Jack wears a large foliage covered framework, usually conical in shape, which covers the body from head to foot. In some of the parades he has two attendants who depict Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
In my mind Jack is an embodiment of natural fertility, a spirit of the wildwood, and a trickster. In other words Jack is none other than the Green Man himself.
The rock group Jethro Tull even wrote a song about him,
Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green?
With his long tail hanging down.
He sits quietly under every tree —
in the folds of his velvet gown.
He drinks from the empty acorn cup
the dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground —
signals the snowdrops it’s time to grow.
It’s no fun being Jack-In-The-Green —
no place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier —
carries the green flag all the winter long.
Jack, do you never sleep —
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, powerlines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don’t think so —
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.
The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter’s night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming.
Jack, put out the light.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Sacred Land

There is one belief that runs through all aboriginal belief systems across the world and that is that the land is sacred. From the native Americans to the aboriginal tribes of Australia the land is something to respected and held in high regard.
Dare I also include Britain in this august company? I think that at one time I could have, and people in the Pagan world be they Druids like myself or Witches are trying to reclaim this sense of the sacredness of the land.
Some good friends and I visited Avebury on Saturday and we were treated to a guided tour of some of the lesser known sites in the landscape, some of which were over six thousand years old.
What struck me was the relationship the people had with the land and how in tune with it they were. From birth to death they included the land in there daily lives. Our lives are governed by small increments of time, days, hours, and seconds whereas our ancestors were governed by the turning of the seasons.
This is where I believe the wheel of the year plays its part. Although to some extent it is a modern construct I feel its biggest benefit is to slow our thinking down. As we follow this yearly cycle our brains are rewired to think in terms of what the land is doing at any given time.
So I believe that the land is sacred and I would go even further in believing that the land is the body of the Goddess. Her body the hills, her hair the waving grass, her arms and the majestic trees, her feet buried in deep dark soil.
So is the land sacred? Look around you at all the trees bursting in to leaf and the land becoming fertile after the fallow time of winter and I think that you would agree with me when I say yes it most certainly is.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Modern Knighthhod

I was brought up to have a code of conduct that today is seen as outdated, I was brought up to open doors, walk on the outside of the pavement,and to give up my seat on a bus for the elderly and for ladies. All of the above is seen as I said to be outdated and referred to as male chauvinism but I remain unrepentant. This is an article I found that puts all this into words for me.

Modern Knighthood

Many people wish that they had the power to take charge of their lives, endlessly dreaming of what they believe to be out of their reach. If only they’d reach out, they’d discover that their dreams had been within their grasp all along. Some people feel hemmed in by the chaos of the modern world, fearful of what the next moment should bring. If only they’d stand up and claim their strength, the chaos and fears surrounding them would be blown away like leaves in the wind. Many people believe themselves to be victims, forever fated to suffer. If only they’d stand up and say “never again”, they’d find themselves the master of their fate. Some people dream of the knight in shining armor: Either wishing some knight would ride to their rescue or that they were knights who could rescue the weak. If only they’d look inside, they’d see that there is a knight dormant in all of us, waiting to be unleashed upon the world.

People come to the Pagan spiritual paths seeking magickal power, so I am constantly surprised how many fail to fully claim what they have in them. They’re willing to embrace the first half of the Wiccan Rede, “harm none”, and yet seemingly unwilling to embrace the second half, “do what thou wilt”. The second half tells us to be all that we can be. It tells us to claim our power and use it responsibly. It encourages us to be glorious. And yet I run into Pagans all the time that clearly don’t see themselves as being glorious in any way. It is very sad to see so many people suffer needlessly because they cannot see how amazing they can be, how amazing they already are.

The warrior takes fearless self-inventory and then uses everything they’ve got effectively. Stop thinking of yourself as having strengths and weaknesses... Rather, think of your attributes as characteristics that can all be strengths depending on how you use them. Replace guilt with responsibility. You are the captain of your ship. If your life isn’t going in the direction that you want it to, all you need to do is grab the tiller and steer. The world we live in is a chaotic place. Knighthood is about mastering chaos. The modern knight is a chaos conductor. The future is not etched in stone: Rather, it is drawn in the sand. Knighthood is drawing without an eraser.

My fellow knights within the Order of Sc├íthach have all discovered powers within themselves that few of them believed they had when they first arrived at our doorstep. This power wasn’t something that they had to seek out there in the world; it was something they discovered inside themselves. We all have this magick, this strength inside. All you need to do is turn inward and seek it. You don’t need secret spells and magick wands and special potions to access it. All you need is a will and imagination.

Some are afraid to let that knight loose, fearing that they will become violent. They think that warriors are all about warfare. Modern knighthood isn’t about aggression, it is about assertion. It isn’t about using your hands; it is about using your head. Knighthood is a peaceful path that embraces chivalry. The Modern knight stands for sincerity and self-discipline, compassion and courage, perseverance and industriousness, justice and truth, loyalty and largesse, humility and courtesy, and above all, honor. The modern knight is ready and able to defend themselves and others, but they do not seek conflict. They seek harmony and balance in the world. As my old friend Paul Tuitean once put it: “Soldiers march, warriors dance.”

Chivalry may have been largely a romantic legend in the past, but can and should be made reality in the present. This is exactly what the modern knight strives to do. Chivalry is not a quaint, romantic myth but rather a signpost for our generation, pointing the way, inspiring us to be all we can be so that we can, in turn, inspire others. The best way to work magick to make the world a better place is to set the example, to show the world how the world could be. You have the power to show the world that the divine is imminent in all of us and can be used to make us more powerful and more effective. It is time for you to awaken to your divinity and make it a part of your consciousness.

There will be those who try to tell you that nice guys finish last. I tell you this is not so. Courtesy is a sign of strength and confidence. It is directly linked to the Wiccan concept of the law of three-fold return. You get what you put out there, and if you’re courteous you will always be the winner. Like largesse, another of the principles of chivalry, courtesy is part of paying it forward. Courtesy is the soul of modern knighthood. In Idylls of the King, Lord Tennyson put it this way: “For manners are not idle, but the fruit of loyal nature and of noble mind.” Modern knighthood begins and ends with courtesy. In his Letters and Social Aims, Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.”

The modern knight’s quest is to find himself, to find his soul and its connection to the myths that illuminate it. You can’t suppress myth. Like water, it will find its way out. Myth lives within us, and if we let it out, it can transform us. Knights allow themselves to fully experience mythology, to see how it works through them, inspiring, informing and empowering them to become greater than they were.

Knighthood isn’t about appearance, but action, not about tinsel, but tenacity, not about glitter, but genius, not about fashion, but faculty. It isn’t about dressing up to re-enact past glories. It is about being yourself. It is about being glorious every day. Knighthood is about self-mastery, and if you can master yourself, you can master your world.

Kerr Cuhulain

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Land is Stirring

The land is stirring
Moving and shifting
Can you feel it?
Once more becoming alive
Beneath your feet
Sacred space for Sacred people.
People who have become
Shepherds to the trees,
Carers of the rocks and plants.
And in this resurgence
The Goddesses wakes and becomes
Part of the land once again.
Her body the hills
Her hair the waving grass
Her arms and fingers majestic trees
Her feet buried deep in dark soil.
Alive and seen once more.