Friday, 5 February 2016

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Pagan Events in London over Chinese New Year


Chinese New Year is on Monday 8 February and the start of the Year of the Monkey. Although this isn't specifically a pagan celebration, it is marked in London with a big free festival, which in 2016 is on Sunday 14 February. Here are details of that and lots of other events that could be of interest to pagans over the coming week.

Now - 29 July 2016; Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee. London exhibition. Venue: Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4LE. Entry free. Opening times vary but normally only Monday-Friday until 5pm, visit the website for details: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/events

Thursday 4 February; BioHarmonizing and Abulafia's Ecstatic Kabbalah. Talk and signing by Frank Ra at Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ. Time: 6.30pm. Free event. For more details Tel 020 7836 2182 or visit the website http://www.watkinsbooks.com/

Thursday 4 February; Giant Skeletons  and Mounds in North America. Lecture by Hugh Newman hosted by Earthstars Sacred Space. Public lecture. Venue: Rudolf Steiner House, 35, Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. Time: 7.30pm. Entrance: £12. https://www.facebook.com/Earthstars-Sacred-Space-104790729559515/

Thursday 4 February; Fortnightly Druid Order Open Introductory Evening. A chance to learn more about at The Druid Order (A.D.U.B.) at an evening with talks and a meditation. Venue: Treadwell's, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm for 7.30pm start. Price: £5 on the door. For more details, visit http://thedruidorder.org/druidorder/Meetings.html

Friday 5 February; Spiritual Crisis, Shamanic Awakening with Jez Hughes, author of The Heart of Life.Venue: The College of Psychic Studies, 16 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2EB. Time: 7pm-8.30pm. Cost: £10/£12. Advance booking advised. For details call: 020 7589 3292 or visit https://www.collegeofpsychicstudies.co.uk/

Saturday 6 February; Past Life Healing Workshop run by Swati Prakash and Mani Navasothy. Venue: The Victoria pub, 10a Strathearn Place, London. Cost £20. Starts 11.30am. Details: http://www.meetup.com/Global-Wicca-Earth-Healing-Temple-London/ or http://www.meetup.com/London-Woodland-Witches-Outdoor-Pagans/

Saturday 6 February - 12 September; Austin Osman Spare - A Major Retrospective. Venue: The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History, 11 Mare Street, London E84RP. Opens 1pm Saturday 6 Feb. http://www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org/

Saturday 6 February; Albion Mysteries - Hern's Tribe February New Moon Ceremony. Meet at Coombe Lane tram stop, Croydon, to walk to the woodland site for the ritual, Time: 3pm. Details and to reserve a place: http://www.meetup.com/London-Woodland-Witches-Outdoor-Pagans/

Saturday 6 February; Hendon Heathens Moot, Venue: Greyhound Pub, Church End, Hendon, London, NW4 4JT. Time: 6pm. Hendon Heathens meets at this pub the first Saturday of every month.

Sunday 7 February; Meditation at Russell Brands Trew Era Cafe, 30 Whitmore Road, London N1 5QA. Starts 10.15am. Free event. Details: http://www.meetup.com/londonspiritualcommunity

Sunday 7 February; Croydon Phoenix Chinese New Year Parade with lion dancing, performances, food stalls and arts activities. Venue: Park Street, Croydon. Free event. Time: Noon start. https://www.spacehive.com/CroydonPhoenix

Sunday 7 February; Dark of the Moon Workshop. One-day contemplative day retreat led by James Nichol and Elaine Knight. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Anyone with an interest is welcome. Tickets £45 waged, £25 unwaged. To book a place please contact grovelight@hotmail.co.uk For more details visit http://contemplativedruidevents.tumblr.com/

Sunday 7 February; Imbolc Celebration on Primrose Hill with the Loose Association of Druids. Gather in the Hawthorne Grove at Primrose Hill, London, NW1 8YH, between 12.30pm and 12.45pm to prepare the site ready for a prompt 1pm start. Nearest tube: Chalk Farm. Bring a small contribution of food and drink to share. All are welcome.

Monday 8 February; The Moon Gate and the City of God - life, beauty and faith in China. Venue: BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.30pm. Free event but advance booking essential. For more details visit: https://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar.aspx

Monday 8 February; Treadwell's Open Circle. Wiccan-style ceremony for those with some experience led by Lisa Grace and Ellie Hughes. Venue: Treadwell's, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm for 7.30pm start. Tickets £8, advance booking required. For further details: info@treadwells-london.com http://www.treadwells-london.com/

Monday 8 February; Opening Spiritual Realms with Creative Imagery. Talk by Martha Fiennes. Venue: Alternatives. Venue: St James's Church Piccadilly, 197 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LL. Doors open 6.30pm. Talk: 7pm - 8.30pm. Tickets £12/£8 online. For more details and to book tickets: http://www.alternatives.org.uk/

Tuesday 9 February; Sound Meditation. Venue: Goose Green Clinic, 57 East Dulwich Road, London SE22 9AP. Time: 10.45am. Cost:£12/£10. More information and booking: http://www.meetup.com/Holistic-SoundBath-Meditation-Summoning-The-Sacred-Dulwich/

Tuesday 9 February; Talk by occultist Julian Vayne at Nova Stellar Wicca Meet-Up Group for genuine seekers to the Craft. Venue is normally a pub in London, but the location is normally only shown to members of the group. Door open 7pm, talk starts 8.30pm. You must reserve a place in advance by emailing mickijl@yahoo.co.uk. The group normally meets on the second Tuesday of each month. http://www.meetup.com/South-London-Wicca-Meetup/

Tuesday 9 February; An evening with Richard Estep, author of In Search of the Paranormal.Venue: The Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LY. Time: 7pm. Tickets free, advance reservation essential. Call the shop on 020 7405 2120.

Tuesday 9 February; Drumming Circle run by Shamanic Spirit at a venue in Croydon, South London. The circle is held fortnightly starting at 7.30pm. For more details and to book places call 07952 041477. For more information, visit http://shamanicspirit.co.uk/

Tuesday 9 February; Wimbledon Pub Social for Woodland Witches run by Mani Novalight. Venue: The Wibbas Down Inn, 6-12 Gladstone Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QT. Time: 7pm. Details and to reserve a place: http://www.meetup.com/London-Woodland-Witches-Outdoor-Pagans/

Wednesday 10 February; Healing Circle run by Shamanic Spirit at a venue in Croydon, South London. Time: 7.30pm. For more details and to book places call 07952 041477. For more information, visit http://shamanicspirit.co.uk/

Thursday 11 February; Never Say Never. Talk and book signing by Rosemary Gallagher at Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ. Time: 6.30pm. Free event. For more details Tel 020 7836 2182 or visit the website http://www.watkinsbooks.com/

Thursday 11 February; Ritual of the Hexagram. Mini workshop by Marysia Kay. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.30pm to 9.15pm. Ticket price £15 in advance. Tel: 020 7240 8906 or email: info@treadwells-london.com http://www.treadwells-london.com/

Thursday 11 February; Enfield Town Circle Pagan Moot. Venue: Crown and Horseshoes pub, 15 Horseshoe Lane, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 6PZ. Time: 7pm to 11pm. This moot takes place on the 2nd Thursday of every month. For more details join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EnfieldTownCircle/

Thursday 11 February; A Beginner's Guide to John Dee Talk by George Doyle at South East London Folklore Society (SELFS). Venue: The Old King's Head, Kings Head Yard, 45-49 Borough High St, London SE1 1NA. Entry: £3/£1.50 concessions. Time: 8pm. Meetings are normally the second Thursday of each month. http://www.selfs.org.uk/ To guarantee a seat, email nigelofbermondsey@gmail.com

Thursday 11 February; Men and Women of Heron Drum Circle. Venue: Caer Corhrain, 1 Southleas farm cottages, Lower Road, Minster, Sheppey ME12 3SW. Time: 7.30pm. For more information visit http://www.touchtheearthuk.com/

Thursday 11 February; The Witches Gathering Croydon, South London with Children of Artemis. Venue: 1 Matthews Yard , just off Surrey Street, Croydon. Time: 8pm. Held on the third Thursday of the month. Details: http://witchcraft.org/local-gatherings/

Friday 12 February; Enchantment - An Evening of Chant and Mantra with Stewart Pearce. Venue: The College of Psychic Studies, 16 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2EB. Time: 7pm-8.30pm. Cost: £10/£12. Advance booking advised. For details call: 020 7589 3292 or visit https://www.collegeofpsychicstudies.co.uk/

Saturday 13 February; Valentine's Ritual with The London Wicca Meetup Group. Meet at the The Wheatsheaf pub 2 Upper Tooting Road, Tooting Bec, London SW17 7PG. Time: 6pm.. For details and to book a place visit: http://www.meetup.com/The-London-Wicca-Meetup-Group/

Saturday 13 February; Magickal Future Life Progression Workshop run by Swati Prakash and Mani Navasothy. Venue: The Victoria pub, 10a Strathearn Place, London. Cost £20. Starts 11.30am. Details: http://www.meetup.com/Global-Wicca-Earth-Healing-Temple-London/ or http://www.meetup.com/London-Woodland-Witches-Outdoor-Pagans/

Sunday 14 February; Co-creating with Dragons. One-day workshop with Antoinette O'Connell and Ana Vidal - includes one set of Dragon Cards and Mandala and one set of 9 Dragon Balancing Essences. hosted by Earthstars Sacred Space. Venue: Rudolf Steiner House, 35, Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. Time: 10am start. Entrance: £165. https://www.facebook.com/Earthstars-Sacred-Space-104790729559515/

Sunday 14 February; London's Chinese New Year Festival to celebrate the start of the Year of the Monkey The event starts at 10am with a parade from Trafalgar Square, followed by free performances in Trafalgar Square and China Town. Free, public event. http://www.chinatownlondon.org/

Sunday 14 February; Tainted Love storytelling with Bernadette Russell and London Dreamtime  and at a secret location in Deptford. Time: 5pm. Price: £3. For details email vanessa@londondreamtime.com. For more details, visit http://londondreamtime.com/calendar/

Sunday 14 February; Summoning The Sacred Sound - meet for evening Sound Bath Meditation in Dulwich. Venue: Goose Green Clinic, 57 East Dulwich Road, London SE22 9AP. Time: 6.30pm. Cost:£12/£10. More information and booking: http://www.meetup.com/Holistic-SoundBath-Meditation-Summoning-The-Sacred-Dulwich/

The information above is correct to the best of my knowledge, but always contact the organiser before attending an event to check times, details and ticket availability. If you spot anything that needs changing or know of any other pagan events that you would like to see listed, please email badwitch1234@gmail.com

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Battling Pain Through Mindfulness Meditation

Here is an article by freelance writer Helen Young about yoga and mindfulness. It follows on from her feature last week about personal development through mind, body and spirit:

Yoga and mindfulness meditation are taking the world by storm in a variety of settings – spiritual activity groups, rehabilitation centers for addiction and residences for the elderly, as a means of battling stress and resisting depression and anxiety.

The current popularity of mindfulness meditation, however, can be attributed in no small part to the array of studies carried out in the past decade, which have shown quantifiably significant benefits for this practice. One recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience and carried out by scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, has shown that mindfulness meditation reduces pain more effectively than placebo. The findings are significant because placebo-controlled trials are considered the gold standard method for testing the efficiency of medications, therapies or treatments.

The scientists expressed that they were greatly surprised by their findings, since finally, they were able to provide new, objective evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain in a unique way. The study also showed that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically different from other activities.

The study relied on a dual approach: pain ratings and brain imaging. Some 75 healthy patients were placed into one of four different groups: mindfulness meditation, placebo meditation (fake meditation), placebo cream, or control.

Pain was assessed by heating participants’ skin to 120.2ºC using a thermal probe. The participants then reported the intensity of pain felt, and the unpleasantness of the pain. Brain imaging scans were used, with magnetic resonance imaging technology, to view changes in the brain before and after meditation, placebo, etc.

The mindfulness meditation participants reported a 27 per cent reduction in pain intensity and a 44 per cent reduction in unpleasantness. The placebo cream group had an 11 and 13 per cent drop in the same categories. The MRI imaging also showed significant differences: patterns of brain activity varied between groups, with mindful mediation activating areas in the brain linked to the self-control of pain. Another area of the brain, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation, in contrast to all other conditions. When the thalamus is turned off, it can cause pain signals to diminish or disappear.

Because mindfulness meditation is able to reduce the intensity of pain and our emotional response to it, scientists suggest that four 20-minute sessions be used daily among patients receiving pain treatment in hospital settings. It can also be argued that everyone, even those not experiencing great pain, should introduce mindfulness meditation into their daily routine, to combat minor pain and to avail of the many other benefits of this practice.

The above study is not the only one to shed new light on mindfulness; one study, carried out by scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital, found that participation in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program promotes measurable changes in the brain regions related to empathy, stress, memory and sense of self. The study revealed that meditation does not only promote a state of peacefulness; it also has cognitive and psychological benefits that last throughout the day. MR images showed that those who meditate have more grey matter in the hippocampus (which is responsible for learning and memorisation). The same effect can be seen in the parts of the brain responsible for compassion, self-awareness and introspection.

Finally, a study carried out in February, 2014, by researchers at the Association for Psychological Science, showed that mindfulness can help us make more rational decisions, by enabling us to remain in the present moment and make choices without being subject to past prejudices and biases. Meditation reduces the extent to which we focus on the past and future, and reduces the burden of negative emotions. Interestingly, there is also plenty of research indicating that by setting just a few minutes aside per day to focus on breathing and mindfulness, we can reap a plethora of benefits which includes greater spirituality, lower stress levels, and an increase in our quality of life, as we begin to exist the way we were meant to: in the here and now.

Further reading:
Newswise.com, Mindfulness Meditation Trumps Placebo in Pain Reduction, accessed January, 2016.
Harvard Medical School, Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress, accessed March, 2015.
M Goya et al., Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; 174(3):357-368.
Mindful.org, The Science of Mindfulness, accessed January, 2016.
Nau.edu, Mindfulness Training has Positive Health Benefits, accessed January, 2016.
Brown.edu, What is Mindfulness, accessed January, 2016.

The picture shows Statue of Shiva in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, performing yogic meditation in the Padmasana posture shared under creative commons from Wikipedia

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Event: The Science of Magic at Goldsmiths College

On Friday 19 February there is a one-day workshop on the Science of Magic at the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London. It looks at how magic can help us understand the human brain and the description says:
For centuries, magicians have been developing powerful techniques that exploit limitations in human cognition, leaving us both wowed and baffled. But is it also possible that science could use magic to help us understand the brain? Join "science of magic" researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and across the world on Friday 19 February as they investigate and debate their growing interest in using magic to explore our minds.
It is a free event, but registration closes on 5 February and places are limited. Time: 9am-6.30pm.
More details here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/science-of-magic/

News: Imbolc, Candlemas, Supernatural, Art, Witches

"Pagans Celebrate Coming of Spring with Imbolc Festival" - story at World Religion News: http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/pagans-celebrate-coming-of-spring-with-imbolc-festival

"Merry Candlemas! It's time to undeck the halls" - story at USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2016/02/01/christmas-lights-candlemas/79193848/

"The ghost of the Witchfinder General from Great Wenham still haunts Mistley" - story at East Anglian Daily Times: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/the_ghost_of_the_witchfinder_general_from_great_wenham_still_haunts_mistley_1_4399385

"Exhibit Explores History of the Supernatural" - story at Washington Square News: http://www.nyunews.com/2016/02/01/exhibit-explores-history-of-the-supernatural/

"WITCH Is Back To Hex Logan Square Gentrifiers, But Real Pagans Are Confused" - story at DNAinfo: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160128/logan-square/witch-is-back-hex-logan-square-gentrification-but-real-pagans-are-confused

The picture shows Frontispiece from Matthew Hopkins' The Discovery of Witches (1647), showing witches identifying their familiar spirits shared under creative commons

Monday, 1 February 2016

Candle Magic: Brigid's Flame & Snowdrops for Imbolc


This morning for Imbolc I lit a candle that had previously been lit from a sacred flame passed on hand-to-hand from one lit at Brigid's Flame in Kildare, Ireland.

In Kildare there is ancient fire temple where a perpetual flame for Brigid was once kept alight. Brigid is honoured as both a Goddess by pagans and as a Christian saint - her name is sometimes spelled Brigit or Brighid. Although the original flame was historically extinguished, it was symbolically relit in 1993. A small fire is often kindled at the site of the fire temple for a ritual on Brigid’s feast day on February 1. Candles lit from that flame have been passed on, lighting other candles in turn as a shared light from the same source.

I was given this little Brigid's Flame candle by a druid friend, Ricky, last week. I placed it in one of the holders I made a couple of weeks ago. I honoured this day by lighting it in my garden where snowdrops are just starting to emerge. For pagans, Imbolc is the festival of the first stirrings of spring - and snowdrops are among the first flowers to bloom. Brigid is seen as a goddess of the springtime and of healing, poetry and the fires of the smith's forge and creativity.

You can find out more about sacred flames in my new book Pagan Portals - Candle Magic.

Links and previous related posts
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2009/01/celebrating-imbolc-start-of-spring.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2009/02/snowdrops-in-fable-and-folklore.html
http://www.kildare.ie/community/easysites/kildareheritage/?page_id=44
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2016/01/pagan-portals-candle-magic-available-on.html