Thursday, 30 October 2014

Pagan Events for Samhain and the Day of the Dead

Here are some of the events that pagans might enjoy that are taking place over Halloween - or Samhain - on Friday, the Day of the Dead this weekend and for the week to come. Most are in London, but some are a little further afield.

Now - 2 November; IMAGE 2014, Travelling with Unfamiliar Spirits - two-week celebration of esoteric art with series of events at The Cob Gallery, 205 Royal College St, London NW1 0SG. To see the full list of events taking place over the two weeks, visit:

Thursday 30 October; Black Mirror Volume 0: Launch Party - part of the I:Mage Esoteric Art Exhibition. Venue: Cob Gallery, 205 Royal College Street, London, NW1 0SG United Kingdom. Time: 7pm - 10pm. This is a free event but you must register for a place by emailing Places are limited.   

Thursday 30 October; PFL Samhain Open Ritual facilitated by Sorita d’Este and the Covenant of Hekate. Venue: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn London. Time: 7.30pm for 8pm start. Ritual ends around 9pm followed by feasting until 10pm. Entrance: £6/£5 PF members. Please bring seasonal food and drinks to share at feast after ritual. For more details, visit

Thursday 30 October; Fortean London Halloween: Ghost, Witches and Demons. Evening of talks: Roger Clarke, Queen Victoria and the Child Medium; Jessie Childs, Beware the Foul Fiend: An Elizabethan Exorcism in Hackney; Deborah Hyde, The Witch of Eye; Scott Wood, Ghosts and Demons of the City. Venue: The London Fortean Society. Venue: The Vaults Bar, Dirty Dicks, 202 Bishopsgate, City of London EC2M 4NR. Time: 7.30pm - 10.30pm. Entry: £3/£2 concessions. For more details, visit

Thursday 30 October; The Dead Can Dance - Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki talks about the Day of the Dead. Venue The Atlantis Bookshop, Museum Street WC1. Time: 7pm for 7.30pm start. Cost £10. To attend this event you must reserve a place in advance. Contact the Atlantis Bookshop on 020 7405 2120.

Friday 31 October; Wheel of the Year Festival - Resting Meditation at Chalice Well World Peace Garden, in Glastonbury. Gather at the Well Head at noon for celebration and meditation until 12.30pm, followed by a chance to chat around the fire on the lower lawn. Free admission to the gardens from 10am to noon. In the evening there will be an All Hallow’s Eve / Samhain event suitable for families, starting after 4.30pm and ending at around. The cost of that is £7.50 adults, £4.50 children. For more details and to book, visit the website

Friday 31 October, Gallery talk: Witches and Wicked bodies. Room 90, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.15pm-2pm. Free, drop in. For more details visit:

Friday 31 October; Halloween at the Grant. Venue: Grant Museum of Zoology, Rockefeller Building, University College London, London WC1E 6DE. Time: 6.30pm-9pm. No need to book, tickets on the door cost £5, which includes a free glass of wine.

Friday 31 October; Paranormal Photography. Talk by Harry Oldfield at The College of Psychic Studies, 16 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2EB. Time: 7pm-9pm. Cost: £14/£16 Advance booking advised. For details call: 020 7589 3292 or visit

Friday 31 October; Dowsing: Using The Past To Find Out The Future. Lecture by Michael Haxeltine at Rilko (Research Into Lost Knowledge). Venue: 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA. Doors open 6.45pm, lectures starts 7.15pm. Entrance: £8/£6.

Friday 31 October; The Mastery: Master Your Craft and Live and Flow at One With Life. Talk organised by the London College of Spirituality. Venue: Westminster Quakers Meeting House, 8 Hop Gardens, off St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4EA, London. Time: 7pm. Cost: £10, booking essential. Details:

Friday 31 October, Tamesa River of Souls: Halloween / Samhain Ritual. Thames-side outdoor ritual in London. Annual event organised by Mani Navasothy and friends as part of Pagan Frontiers of London and Tamesa London Circle since 2006. Meet (usually) by the Millennium Bridge in Central London and get down to the river if the tide is low for the ceremony. For more details, visit

Friday 31 October, Samhain Rite with The London Wicca Meetup Group. Meeting at 7pm at a pub in Tooting Bec, London, then moving to a private house at 7.45pm. For more details and to join the group, visit:

Saturday 1 November; Shamanic Pathways Workshop with Cobwebs at Cauldrons at Romford Shopping Hall. Cost is £50.

Saturday 1 November; London Dreamtime at Garden Museum - Six Story Saturdays. Venue: Garden Museum Lambeth, Lambeth Palace Rd, London SE1 7LB. Price: Free. Time: 11am-noon. For more details visit or

Saturday 1 November; The Day of the Dead in Mexico: past and present. Gallery Talk. Venue: Room 27, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.15pm-2pm. Free event, just drop in. For more details visit:

Saturday 1 November; Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri Samhain Ritual at Avebury Sun Circle, in Avebury, Wiltshire. Open druidic style ceremony to mark Samhain, the end and beginning of times. Meet at the Red Lion Pub, Avebury, at noon for rite at 1.30pm, ending at around 3pm. Contributions of song, poetry, mead and cakes are welcome. There will be music and entertainment in the Red Lion pub in the evening. The overflow car park will be available for tent camping on Friday 31 October and Saturday 1 November.

Saturday 1 November; Woodland Samhain ritual by Hern's Tribe. Meet-up at Coombe Lane tram stop in Croydon by 4pm. Ritual will end at around 8pm. Bring food and drink to share and wear suitable clothing for an outdoor ritual. More details here:

Saturday 1 November; Embodied Spirits and Fetishes- An evening talk from David Graeber as part of the I:Mage Esoteric Art Exhibition. Venue: Cob Gallery, 205 Royal College Street, London, NW1 0SG United Kingdom. Time: 7pm - 8.15pm. Tickets: £7.

Saturday 1 November; 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.

Saturday 1 November; Samhain Open Ritual at Avebury stone circle, in Wiltshire. Time: 7pm. Free event. Come dressed up warm and bring an apple. Details:

Sunday November 2; Kali Puuja. A one day workshop to explore the wisdom of the Vedas at Caer Corhain Shamamic Development Centre of the Isle of Sheppey, 1 Southleas farm cottages, Lower Road, Minster, Sheppey ME12 3SW. For more details and information on how to book, contact Bruce at or phone on 07928 149659 or visit;

Sunday November 2; Samhain on Primrose Hill with the Loose Association of Druids. Open ritual hosted by Jeremy Morgan, the Druid of Wormwood Scrubbs. Venue: The Hawthorne Grove, Primrose Hill, Regents Park, London NW1. Meet by 12.45pm for a 1pm start, ends at around 2.30pm. Nearest tube: Chalk Farm.

Sunday November 2; Anderida Gorsedd Samhain open ritual at the Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex. Meet near the car park between 1.30pm and 2pm for a walk up to the chalk hill figure at 2pm. Afterwards back to the Giants Rest pub in Wilmington for a social drink together.

Sunday November 2; Dulwich Picture Gallery Family Sunday with London Dreamtime. Venue: Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Rd, Southwark, London SE21 7AD. Price: Free with admittance to gallery. Time: 2pm. For more details visit

Sunday November 2; Mythic and Legendary London - a guided walk with Caroline Wise. Starting near The Strand, Central London, at 1pm, the walk takes 3.5 hours. Cost: £12. For more details and to reserve places contact Caroline via Facebook:

Sunday November 2; Echoes Ever After. A salon in the cemetery with Mark Pilkington and Dr. Christopher Belshaw. Venue: The Dissenters' Chapel, Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Part of The London Month of the Dead curated by a Curious Invitation and Antique Beat. Time: 4pm - 6pm. Tickets are £12. For more details and to book tickets, visit:

Sunday November 2; Samhain Rite with The Cotswold Order of Druids at the Rollright Stones, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Time: 4pm. Free event but donations welcome to cover site hire.

Sunday November 2; Music, Mathematics, Healing Sound, Spirituality. Concert/talk with Lawrence Ball Venue: 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA. Starts at 6pm. Tickets: £7 (£5 concessions, £4 TS members). For full details:

Monday 3 November; Tarot Meditation: The Magician, with Marysia Kolodziej. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm for 7.30pm start. Tickets £10. Advance booking required. Call 0207 419 8507. For further details:

Tuesday 4 November; Cobwebs and Cauldrons Moot. Venue: White Horse Pub, Chadwell Heath, Essex. Moot normally takes place on the first Tuesday of every month. 7.30pm start.

Tuesday 4 November; The Amazing Incredible Wand Lecture with Edwin Courtenay at 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

Tuesday 4 November (Note: Not the normal day of the month); Nova Stellar Wicca Meet-Up Group for genuine seekers to the Craft. . Venue The Castle, 34-35 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6DB London. 6.30pm - 10pm. You must reserve a place in advance by emailing The group normally meets on the second Tuesday of each month.

Wednesday, 5 November; Altar Setup. Workshop with Cobwebs at Cauldrons at Romford Shopping Hall. Time: 10am start. Cost is £25.

Wednesday, 5 November; The False Memory Archive: A brief tour around the tour. Talk with powerpoint pictures by artist Alasdair Hopwood at Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub. Venue: The Star and Garter, 60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY. Time: 7.30pm.

Wednesday, 5 November; The Witches' Inn. Pagan moot at The Feathers Hotel, 42 High St, Merstham, Redhill, Surrey RH1 3EA. Starts at 8pm. Moots are on the first Wednesday of each month.

Wednesday, 5 November; Naked Witches. Talk by Dr Leo Ruickbie. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm for 7.30pm start. Tickets £7. Advance booking required. Call 0207 419 8507. For further details:

Thursday 6 November; Mindful London.Talk and book signing by Tessa Watt 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

Thursday 6 November; Festival of Lights Late - a night of music, dance, film, art and performances celebrating light and the festival of lights traditions from around the world. Venue: Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Rd, London SE23 3PQ. 6.30pm - 9.30pm. Tickets £5. Details:

8-9 November; Gateways of the Mind London '14 - Explorations Deep Into Consciousness. Venue: The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, W11 2AY. Two-day ticket £165, one-day ticket £95. For details and booking:

Sunday 9 November; Water Ritual at The Motherstone Fountain in Greenwich Park for members of the London Pagan Holy Wells, Sacred Springs and Ley Lines Meetup Group. Meet at St Mary's Gate by National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Park, Greenwich, at 11.30am. To join the group and reserve a place, visit:

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

News: Halloween, Wicca and Witchcraft

With Halloween this Friday, newspapers and websites are producing the usual large number of features and articles about Wicca and witchcraft. Here are links to some of them:

"How to bury a witch" - story on BBC Scotland:

"Halloween History and Facts 2014: Witchcraft is Fastest Growing Religion in US?" - story on The Latino Post:

"Witches, pagans and Wiccans in Alabama: A growing culture and a struggle for acceptance" - story on

"Working with goddesses helps woman find spiritual self" - story on JDNews. com:

"Recipes Remembered: Witch's Hat Chocolate Cupcakes" - recipe at

Folklore: The Witchy Tale of the Rollright Stones

The Whispering Knights at The Rollright Stones
With Halloween approaching, it is a time for tales of foul plots, twisted curses and wicked witchery so here is the legend of the Rollright Stones.

The King Stone
Once upon a time, a king was out riding with his men when he met a witch who said this to him:
"Seven long strides thou shalt take,
And if Long Compton thou canst see,
King of England thou shalt be!"
So, the king and his men dismounted and gathered in a circle to discuss the challenge. The men were wary, but the king fancied his chances and took seven huge steps forward. On his seventh stride the ground rose up before him, blocking his view of Long Compton, which was in a valley.

The witch cackled:
"As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be!
Rise up stick and stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none;
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an elder tree!"
So the king and his men were turned to stone. The king became the solitary King Stone, while nearby his entourage formed the circle that was henceforth called the King's Men.

But why did the witch do this? Some say four of the king's knights had been plotting against him. Perhaps they had paid the witch to cast her magic. In any case, the legend says that after petrifying the king and his men, the witch went to where the four knights had gathered to whisper about their scheme, having lagged behind the main party. She turned the knights to stone as well before transforming herself into an elder tree to watch over them. Today they are called the Whispering Knights.

Elderberry offering
Elder trees do indeed grow nearby and when I was there at Autumn Equinox someone had left an offering of elderberries at the Whispering Knights.

There are various other folk tales related to the stones. Some say they come alive when the church bells can be heard ringing in the area. Some say it is impossible to count the stones in the circle as the number reached each time is different. During the two world wars, the stones were roped off because local conscripted soldiers were in the habit of breaking off pieces of the stones to carry with them as good luck charms to protect them from harm.

Whatever truth might lie behind those tales, you can visit the three sets of megaliths at the Rollright Stones, near the village of Long Compton on the border of Oxfordshire. They are made from local oolitic limestone and are known as the King's Men, the King Stone and the Whispering Knights.

Archaeology tells us, however, that they date from different periods in late prehistory. The Whispering Knights are the oldest. They are the remains of an Early or Middle Neolithic burial chamber. The King's Men stone circle was constructed in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. It is similar to some of the stone circles in the Lake District, implying a trade or ritual connection between the two areas. The King Stone is a single monolith and is probably a Bronze Age grave marker.

The Cotswold Order of Druids holds regular seasonal open rituals at the stone circle. The next one is for Samhain and will be on Sunday 2 November at 4pm.

The Rollright Stones - The King's Men
Links and previous related posts:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Kensal Green Dissenters' Chapel, Dying and Death

The picture above shows the Dissenters' Chapel at Kensal Green Cemetery - the wonderful setting for a salon I went to on Sunday discussing Is Death the End?

The salon was part of London Month of the Dead, run by Antique Beat and Curious Invitation. It was also sponsored by Hendrick's Gin . Everyone who turned up got a lovely gin and tonic at the start and then hot punch in the interval - perfect for sipping while appreciating the architecture of the funerary monuments or exploring the chapel's creepy crypt.

There were two talks at the salon. In the first, bereavement specialist and founder of the Natural Death Centre Josefine Speyer explored how our fear of dying can be lessened by such things as making a will, discussing with our loved ones where we want to be when we die and making plans for our funeral.

The Natural Death Centre offers advice and support to help people have the best experience possible when it comes to making arrangements for a funeral - and, no, you don't have to do what the funeral directors expect you to do if you don't want to.

The second part of the evening asked Is Death Really the End? Erlendur Haraldsson, professor of psychology at the University of Iceland and author of The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounterslooked at evidence for life after death.

He talked about people's experiences of seeing or sensing the ghosts of departed loved ones and case studies of past life recall. There were some fascinating tales that make a strong case for the possibility of reincarnation.

It was a thought-provoking evening - and much more fun than you might think a discussion about dying and death would be. London Month of the Dead runs until November 2. Although many of the events are now over or sold out, you can still go to the website and get recipes for some gin-based Month of the Dead cocktails.

Kensal Green Cemetery is one of London's famous Victorian burial grounds. Before the salon began I wandered around it taking photos - I'll be posting the best on my blog and writing more about Kensal Green in the next few days.

Links and previous related posts:
The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: The Morrigan - Meeting the Great Queens

The Morrigan - the Celtic Goddess of Battle and Death – is a powerful feminine archetype: a maker and breaker of kings, a queen who rules in her own right, and mistress of magic. Morgan Daimler, Celtic Reconstructionist and author of a new book called The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queenssays that the Morrigan is often misunderstood by modern pagans. For a start, she isn’t one goddess, but three – or possibly more.

In ancient Irish tales, Morrigu, Macha and Badb are all called the Morrigan while other deities, including Nemain, Bé Neit, Áine, Grian, and even mother of the gods Danu, have even been given the title. The confusion doesn’t stop there. As Morgan Daimler points out: “Even the Morrigan’s name has many possible meanings... the current leading theory is that it means, roughly, nightmare queen – often given as phantom queen – although others still prefer the once popular “great queen” interpretation.”

Although the subject is convoluted, Morgan Daimler picks through the threads in a way that is easy for a non-academic to follow, but with enough wealth of detail to please anyone keen on accurate historical research. She explains the history of the Morrigan in her various guises by looking at where she is mentioned in source material and the evidence that we have for the ways in which the Morrigan was worshipped in pagan Ireland.

Publisher Moon Books says on its website: "This book is an introduction to the Morrigan and several related goddesses who share the title, including Badb and Macha. It combines solid academic information with personal experience in a way that is intended to dispel the confusion that often surrounds who this goddess was and is."

For many modern pagans, the Morrigan is seen as a dark goddess associated with death, and that can put people off honouring her. Yet death is as much a part of life as happier things such as birth, love and fertility. For the historic people of Ireland, battle and fighting were also important parts of life.

Morgan Daimler says: “I have regularly run across the concept of Dark Gods, usually deities of war, battle, death, or the underworld. The term dark in this case indicates an association between the deity and the aspects of life or the world that people tend to fear; Gods like Kali, Baba Yaga, Odin, Ares, Hecate, and of course the Morrigan are often referred to as being Dark Gods. Some people will advise avoiding such deities altogether while others will say that approaching them requires extra caution and care.”

She goes on to say: “What I have come to realise is that the entire idea of Dark Gods is, in many ways, an illusion. It is based in a focus on the deities associated with things that we, as modern people, fear because we usually are disconnected from them. Most modern people, especially those with no direct experience of battle and war, look at these concepts as negatives to be avoided, and see the Gods associated with them in a similar light, whereas to our ancestors Gods of battle and war had an important place. Death is feared, especially in our culture where death is often portrayed
as an enemy to be fought... Even the underworld of the Dark Gods – home of the dead – is seen by
some as a place to be avoided because to consider the underworld as a good thing is, on some level, to accept the inevitable death of the self. We fear what these Gods represent and so we fear them.”

Pagan Portals - The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queensis due out in December, but can be ordered via Amazon

For the weeks around Samhain, or Halloween, I'm writing about many different aspects of death, including gods and goddesses of death, burial sites, ghosts and the ways we honour the ancestors.

Links and previous related posts
Pagan Portals - The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens

Sunday, 26 October 2014

An Afternoon at the Mind Body Soul Experience

I seem to be leading a very busy life at the moment and only had time to visit the three-day Mind Body Soul Experience in London for a few hours yesterday afternoon. Nevertheless I managed to pack that few hours full of really enjoyable activities. Four things stood out in particular – two I’d planned, and two that were unexpected.

A meditation about the goddess Hecate with Mima Cornish and an animal healing demonstration by Elizabeth Whiter and Tim Wheater were the two things I’d planned for. They were both free events on the main stage, where there was plenty of seating – which I have to say is good in a busy event.

Hecate is a goddess with many aspects - some of which are quite dark. She is best known as the goddess of the crossroads, of witchcraft and of magic, but she is also a goddess of earth, sea and sky. However, Mima’s meditation was a gentle one - focused on Hecate’s sea-goddess face, which encourages us to look deeply into our emotions. Mima is currently producing a CD of Hecate guided visualisations - along with music by Paul Landry from New Age Music Garden – and you can find out more about that on her website

I’d wanted to see the animal healing demonstration because one of my cats is elderly and has several things wrong with him. Although I regularly take him to the vet for check-ups and treatment, I was interested in learning more about complementary therapies for pets. Elizabeth and Tim have created a sound therapy CDdesigned to be very soothing and relaxing for animals – certainly Elizabeth’s own dog Morris seemed to enjoy chilling out under its calming influence.

My two unexpected delights at the Mind Body Soul Experience were a beautiful new set of oracle cards - which I couldn't resist getting a copy of - and having a life coaching session.

The oracle card set is called Rose Alchemy and consists of 45 cards with photographs of beautiful roses on them. I love roses, they are my favourite flowers and I grow a variety in my garden. Traditionally there is a whole language of roses, with different ones having different meanings, so it makes perfect sense to create an oracle deck out of them. The Rose Alchemy set comes boxed with a colour guidebook. I’ll be posting a review of the deck on my blog in the future, but you can see some of the cards in the photograph at the top of this post. I took it at the show and also had a brief reading. You can also find out more at

The life coaching session was perhaps the most useful thing I did at the event. As I was walking past a stall offering yoga retreats I noticed they were signing people up for free 20-minute life coaching sessions. I’ve never had a life coaching session before, but several of my friends have and some have even trained as life coaches – so I thought, “Why not?” The thing I really wanted to tackle is that my life seems so busy, I struggle to do everything I really want to do. The session was useful and left me with a plan of action – in particular to spend two hours less a week watching telly and to use those two hours instead doing something more productive.

For the past couple of years the Mind Body Soul Experience has run together with the OM Yoga show – which means the combined event is really huge. The yoga show is about three times the size of the MBS Experience, but they complement each other well. In fact, if I had been able to spend longer there I would probably have signed up for a yoga workshop. I used to do yoga regularly, but haven’t done much since my favourite teacher moved out of my area. Watching so many people moving through different stretches and poses on the yoga mats yesterday rekindled my interest.

The OM Yoga Show and the Mind Body Soul Experience are still on today at London’s Olympia and you can get tickets on the door. You can find out more here:

Links and previous related post
The Animal Healer
Animal Whispers - Sound Therapy for you and your animals