Friday, 22 August 2014

Tempted to Join Amazon Prime Instant Video

With the bank holiday weekend looming, I'm tempted to join Amazon Prime Instant Video. Amazon is currently offering a 30-day free trail.

As tempting as outdoor activities are over the late August bank holiday, things like the Medieval festivals at Herstmonceaux Castle or Leeds Castle are not so much fun if it buckets with rain. If the weather is as unpredictable as it has been over the past couple of weeks, I may prefer to stay indoors and catch up on movies.

The Fisher Kingis one of the films I've been yearning to rewatch ever since I heard about Robin Williams' sad death and it is available as a download.

The TV series Vikings - Season 1is also available to download for free with the Amazon Instant Video trial. I missed that entirely when it was on the telly.

Maybe I'll be checking the weather forecast and if it looks like storms are coming, I know what I'm doing.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Shamanic Plant Medicine - Salvia Divinorum

There's an interesting new series of books out about shamanic plant medicines by Ross Heaven. Each title is about a specific teacher plant and is intended as an introduction to the subject with clear facts on ways the plant is used in shamanic practice, as well as the risks involved.

I picked up the book Shamanic Plant Medicine - Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seersbecause Salvia Divinorum is something I have myself used twice in the past, but found both experiences a bit confusing. I  hoped the Shamanic Plant Medicine bookwould help me make sense of what happened.

The first time I tried Salvia Divinorum was many years ago at a music festival. My partner and I bought it at a legal herbal high stall one sunny afternoon when we were in a mood for experimentation, then smoked it in the comfort of my beloved old camper van. The effect - well, we both felt rather disorientated. It didn't last long, but wasn't pleasant either. We both decided it wasn't something we would ever try again.

Except that I did. The situation was entirely different, however. I was at a shamanic workshop on plant spirit allies. Although the plant spirit I was personally getting to know was Hawthorn, the workshop teacher asked us all to inhale the aroma of dried Salvia Divinorum before journeying with our ally. No, we didn't smoke it, drink it, eat it or consume it in any way - we just briefly smelled the aroma of the dried herb. Then our teacher started drumming and, clutching my sprig of Hawthorn by the hand, I was immediately off into the mists between the worlds.

Wow, that was fast working, I thought.

From my limited experience I agreed with what Ross initially has to say about Salvia Divinorum in his new book. He says Salvia has the power of "quickly and intensely shredding the veil which human beings have drawn over the nature of ‘true reality’ (whatever that may actually mean)".

But the case studies Ross covers in the book include far more alien landscapes than I encountered. One person "found herself in the body of a machine in an alien factory, like a giant multi-levelled mangle".

Ross states: "What is interesting is how frequently the same sorts of images occur and, indeed, how often the same type of language is used by people who have in most cases never met or heard the accounts of their fellows. The themes that emerge are consistently ones of alienation, alien abduction, of being part of an experiment which is unknown, unknowable and far bigger than us, of other universes and other dimensions."

I would have to say that I didn't encounter anything particularly alien. In fact, the world I found myself in was more faerylike. However, I had Hawthorne as my ally and guide, and Hawthorne is most definitely a faery tree.

After reading Shamanic Plant Medicine - Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seers,I really don't think I would want to use Salvia on its own again. I would, however, recommend anyone who is interested in shamanic plants to read the book before even considering making their own experiments.

Publisher Moon Books says on its website: "The Shamanic Plant Medicine series acts as an introduction to specific teacher plants used by shamans in a variety of cultures to facilitate spirit communion, healing, divination and personal discovery, and which are increasingly known, used and respected in Western society by modern shamans as a means of connecting to spirit.

"Salvia is the shamanic plant of Mexico. It is known particularly for its divinatory powers but it also has the ability to heal and, more extraordinarily, in modern usage it provides access to inter-dimensional travel and the ability to move through time. The shamanic applications of Salvia are currently little known outside of Mexico but, along with Ketamine and Ecstasy, it has become one of the most popular ‘drugs’ on the planet among teenagers who have little or no understanding of how to use its powers in a positive and effective way or the potential dangers of using it recreationally. This book therefore serves as a much-needed introduction to this powerful plant."

Another book in the same series as Shamanic Plant Medicine - Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seersis Shamanic Plant Medicine - Ayahuasca: The Vine of Souls.


Note: This is a book review, not advice. Always consult a qualified medical herbalist before taking any herbal treatment.

Links and previous related posts
Shamanic Plant Medicine - Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seers
http://www.moon-books.net
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2012/07/review-medicine-for-soul-shamanic.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2009/12/review-hummingbirds-journey-to-god.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2013/06/i-ask-ross-heaven-what-is-authentic.html

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pagan Events Over the Bank Holiday and Next Week


Here are some of the events taking place in London and nearby that could be of interest to pagans and others:

Wednesday 20 August; Spark In The Darkpoetry reading with with John Constable. Venue: Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London, N1 9DX. Time: 7pm. Free event, just turn up. www.housmans.com

Thursday, 21 August; Croydon CoA Witches Gathering with talks and social activities at 1 Matthews Yard, off Surrey Street, Croydon. 8pm start. Entry: £1/£2. Event held on the third Thursday each month. For more details visit: http://www.witchfest.net/

Thursday, 21 August; The Return of the Dero : The Shaver Mystery Revisited. Talk at The Salon of the Third Eye with Steve Ash. Venue: The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London. E1 7EX. Time: 7.30pm. Entry £2. https://www.facebook.com/events/588310334623802/

Friday 22 August; The Faeries of the Minesweeper with London Dreamtime and Lucy Williams. Venue: Deptford Creek. Time: 8pm. For more details and to book places email lemwilliams1@gmail.com or vanessa@londondreamtime.com. http://londondreamtime.com/calendar/

23, 24 and 25 August; Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. One of the largest festivals of its kind in England with oodles to do, including plenty to interest pagans. Address: Herstmonceux Castle, Wartling Rd, East Sussex BN27 1RN. Open: 10am to 6pm daily. One-day family tickes (2 Adults and 2 Child)if bought online before Aug 21: £43. One-day advance single adult ticket £16. Tickets will be available on the door. Camping tickets available for the three days. http://www.englandsmedievalfestival.com/


Saturday 23 August; Roman Gods in the Enlightenment Gallery, talk at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.15pm-2pm. Free event. For more details visit: https://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar.aspx

Saturday 23 August; Crossbones Vigil to honour The Goose and the outcast dead of Cross Bones Graveyard. Bring a flower, a ribbon, a totem or memento to tie to the shrine. Gather from 6.45pm for a 7pm start in Redcross Way outside the Memorial Gates, SE1 1TA, opposite the Boot and Flogger pub, just north of the junction with Union Street. Nearest tubes Borough or London Bridge. The event is free, but donations are welcome. For more details, visit http://www.crossbones.org.uk/

Sunday 24 August; An Evening With Adyashanti – Everlasting Truth organised by Alternatives. Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL. Time: 7pm - 9pm. Tickets £20/£15. For more details and to book tickets: http://www.alternatives.org.uk/

Sunday 24 August; Blot and picnic at Holda's Well with The Kith of Yggdrasil. Venue: Holda's Well, Greenwich Park, South London. Time: 2pm. https://www.facebook.com/events/498515076959871/

Monday 25 August; Sacred Heart Awakening: Acceptance with Aang organised through the London College of Spirituality. Venue: Latvian House, 72 Queensborough Terrace, London, W2 3SH. Time: 7.15pm to 9pm. £15. http://www.meetup.com/londonspirituality/events/

Tuesday 26 August; Chertsey Moot. A social moot held on the last Tuesday of the month at the Golden Grove pub, Ruxbury Road, St Annes Hill, Chertsey, Surrey, KT16 9EN. All welcome. From 8pm to 11pm. For more details, email: sian_ap_pysgotwr@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday 27 August - 30 August; Dread Falls Theatre presents Father Dagon, combining actors, dancers, musicians and visual artists to create a world in which roaming audiences experience H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. Venue: The Rag Factory; 16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ. Start times at 7pm and 9.15pm. Tickets £15/£10 from: http://www.skiddle.com/groups/dreadfallstheatre/events.html

Thursday 28 August; London Urban Legends walk with LFS host Scott Wood, author of London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube and Other Stories.Meet 7.30pm on the south-side of London Bridge by the spike. Walk ends at The Bell pub, Middlesex Street E1. Cost £3 / £2 concessions. https://www.facebook.com/events/680894938657287/

Thursday 28 August; Spiritual Awakening.Talk and book signing by Tim Van Der Vliet 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 28 August; When the Fairies met Queen Victoria. Lecture by Peter Jennings, author of the recent book Blacksmith Gods. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm for 7.30pm start. Tickets £10, advance booking recommended. Call 0207 419 8507. For further details: info@treadwells-london.com http://www.treadwells-london.com/

Friday 29 August; The journey from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England, Gallery talk at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Time: 1.15pm-2pm. Free event. For more details visit: https://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar.aspx

Saturday, August 30; Pagan Federation London Annual Conference. Theme is 'Magical Pathways'. Day event with talks, workshops, pagan market and opening and closing rituals. Venue: Leytonstone Business and Enterprise Specialist School. 159 Colworth Rd, London E11 1JD. Starts at 10.30am. http://london.paganfed.org/

Sunday 31 August; Walking Tour: Occult London with Delianne Forget run via Treadwell's Books. Meeting place will be a central London tube station, details given to those who book. Time: 2pm - 5pm. Price: £10. Book online via http://www.treadwells-london.com/ or call 020 7419 8507.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Pagan Eye: Tempting Fruit


With the weather getting cooler and the evenings drawing in, it seems summer is coming to an end, but I feel ready for autumn and love the time when fruit can be found drooping from branches by the wayside. The fruit in this picture isn't available for wild foraging, however. It is growing on the front wall of a house near where I live, hanging over the doorway and windows. If I was a kid I might be tempted to do some scrumping, but as I am law-abiding I just snuck into the garden to take this photo.

Mind you, I am not exactly sure what the fruit is. It looks a bit like Mirabelle plum, but that grows on trees rather than on a wall-climbing plant. The leaves are longer than plum leaves and the fruit looks slightly more elongated too. I'd be very grateful if anyone who recognises it could let me know by leaving a comment below this post. Otherwise I might just have to sneak back into that garden and commit fruit theft to investigate further...

My Pagan Eye posts show photos that I find interesting - seasonal images, pagan sites, events, or just pretty pictures. If you want to send me a photo for a Pagan Eye post, please email it to badwitch1234@gmail.com Let me know what the photo shows and whether you want your name mentioned or not. For copyright reasons, the photo must be one you have taken yourself.

Links and previous related posts
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2014/07/pagan-eye-blackberries-and-barbed-wire.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2013/06/pagan-eye-cheeky-vegetable.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2014/05/pagan-eye-passion-flower-on-garden-wall.html

Monday, 18 August 2014

Controversy over Witches and Wicked Bodies


A new exhibition called Witches and Wicked Bodies is due to go on show at the British Museum this September - and it has prompted an angry comment from one reader of my blog.

Mary Josefina Cade left her comment on my post about the British Museum's Viking Exhibition, saying: "Not too happy about the British Museum's new exhibition. Witchcraft is 'evil'??: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/witches_and_wicked_bodies.aspx"

I had to go and have a look at the link myself, because this was the first I had heard about this exhibition in London. The description of Witchcraft and Wicked Bodies on the British Museum Website says:
"This exhibition will examine the portrayal of witches and witchcraft in art from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. It will feature prints and drawings by artists including Dürer, Goya, Delacroix, Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, alongside classical Greek vessels and Renaissance maiolica.

"Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil. Efforts to understand and interpret seemingly malevolent deeds – as well apportion blame for them and elicit confessions through hideous acts of torture – have had a place in society since classical antiquity and Biblical times. Men, women and children have all been accused of sorcery. The magus, or wise practitioner of ‘natural magic’ or occult ‘sciences’, has traditionally been male, but the majority of those accused and punished for witchcraft, especially since the Reformation, have been women. They are shown as monstrous hags with devil-worshipping followers. They represent an inversion of a well-ordered society and the natural world."
I thanked Mary for pointing out that this exhibition is coming to the British Museum, but I would certainly agree wording in the the description that says "Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil" could be considered offensive to modern witches. Perhaps that description might have been better phrased as: "In history, witchcraft was seen to concern the practice of evil."

What do you think? Do leave a comment below.

I also don't know if this exhibition is the same as the one also called Witches and Wicked Bodies that was on in Scotland last year, which I missed. If so, I'm pleased it has come to London - and I'll certainly be visiting the exhibition to have a look for myself.

The picture shows Agostino Veneziano (fl. 1509–1536), The Witches’ Rout (The Carcass). Engraving, c. 1520. and has been copied from the image on the British Museum Website used to promote the exhibition.

19/8/14 UPDATE: Following complaints, the British Museum has removed from its website the line: "Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil".

For full details of the exhibition, visit: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/witches_and_wicked_bodies.aspx

Previous related posts
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2014/03/viking-exhibition-swords-ships-silver.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2010/03/review-witchcraft-very-short.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2013/11/author-tracy-borman-talking-about.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2009/10/review-haxan-witchcraft-through-ages.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2012/08/boscastle-and-museum-of-witchcraft_3235.html

Apology: Herstmonceux Castle Blogger Glitch

Apologies for the confusing post about Herstmonceux Castle Medieval Festival that went on my blog earlier today - it was a mistake. For some reason a post from several years ago suddenly took today's date for publication.  I've removed it. Herstmonceux Castle Medieval Festival 2014 is actually this coming weekend. To find out about the event, call 020 8150 6767 or visit www.englandsmedievalfestival.com or http://www.herstmonceux-castle.com/section.php/43/1/events

Review: When a Pagan Prays

Prayer is a controversial topic for many pagans. It has such Christian connotations that some pagans simply do not do it. Even those Wiccans and Druids who use specific formal prayers as part of rituals, might not use prayers outside ceremonies. In my experience pagans are more likely to say that they honour, invoke or evoke, petition, celebrate or "work with" their gods and goddesses than that they pray to them.

This is the subject Nimue Brown tackles in her new book When a Pagan Prays.

But before discussing the book, I want to talk a bit about my own experiences with prayer - which are rather different from those of Nimue.

My father was a Catholic - albeit a rather New-Agey Catholic who was a keen dowser, fascinated by the supernatural and so good at palmistry that he did it at summer fetes for charity from time to time. Nevertheless, he raised me as a Catholic and taught to say my prayers. Catholics say prayers a lot - grace before meals, prayers before going to bed and Hail Marys and Our Fathers when required to atone for sins, or even as a kind of ward against bad stuff happening. So, as a Catholic child I prayed to Jesus or Mary and at times felt my prayers were answered, or at least listened to.

When I decided to follow a pagan path - honouring the Earth Mother as much as any Father who art in Heaven - the only way I knew to worship when on my own was to pray. Later, after reading more about what pagans do and training with pagan groups, I learnt to celebrate the God and Goddess through circlework. But I never lost the desire to pray - and often felt that for me prayer was the simplest and most direct route of communication with the divine. All you have to do is start by saying: "Dear God/Goddess, please listen to my prayer..."

However, Nimue comes from a very different background. She was not raised in a religion where prayer was an everyday activity. Although she is a pagan - a druid who honours nature and the ancestors - she is not a god or goddess worshipper. She says in her introduction: "While I am not an atheist, I’m not very good at belief either."

Prayer did not come naturally to her. She states: "When I first started thinking about prayer, it was very much from a position of intellectual curiosity."

That intellectual curiosity has resulted in a book that is part academic writing featuring comparative religious studies, psychology, sociology and a bit of research, and partly an experiential tale of what happened to Nimue when she started to explore prayer as a personal practice.

Publisher Moon Books says on its website: "When a Pagan prays, there are many uncertainties - who we pray to, what we pray for, and what might happen to us as a consequence. Not having the same structures as other religions, Pagans can't frame prayer in the same ways, and our experiences are likely to be wilder and more personal. This book is both a wide ranging exploration of what prayer means in different faith and cultures, and a personal journey into a spiritual practice."

When a Pagan Prays is an extremely well researched and thought-provoking look at how prayer works, what prayer is and how pagans who are not used to praying can start to incorporate it into their practice if they want to try. It is also a moving account of Nimue's soul-searching efforts to find a method of prayer she could relate to - from tentative steps of saying, “Anybody there?” and hearing only silence, to the end of the book when Nimue states: "I am willing to say that prayer has had real and discernible effects on me." She goes as far as offering a final prayer of thanks: "Dear universe, I am bloody grateful."

I have to say I found this book captivating and fascinating and would recommend it to any pagan - whether they pray or not.

When a Pagan Prays: Exploring prayer in Druidry and beyondcan be ordered from Amazon. Nimue Brown's previous books include Druidry and the Ancestors, Druidry and Meditationand Spirituality Without Structure: The Power of Finding Your Own Path.

Links and previous related posts.
When a Pagan Prays: Exploring prayer in Druidry and beyond
http://www.moon-books.net/
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2012/10/review-druidry-and-ancestors.html