Friday, 6 May 2016

Charity Shop Find: Gel and Sand Candle Making Kit

I found this candle making kit in a charity shop for £4 - pretty good value. I often look out for candle making kits being sold at charity shops and boot fairs because it can be an economical way of buying candle making supplies.

What is a bit different about this kit is that it is for making gel and sand candles rather than ones from regular melted paraffin or soy wax. Inside were four glass containers (actually regular drinking glasses by the look of it), wick, sustainers, dyes, perfume, glass beads and enough wax to make two sand candles and two gel candles.

As well as making a nice change for general mood lighting, gel and wax candles can be used for spells and magic and I'll be writing more about that at a later date.

I had a look on on the internet to see if this particular kit is still being sold new, but couldn't find it.  I did find a House of Crafts Gel Candlemaking Kit and a Candle Sand Making Kit for 2 Candleson Amazon.

Worlds of Witchcraft: African and European Beliefs

Back in March I went to a programme of talks called Worlds of Witchcraft: Comparing African and European Histories of the Occult. It was at Queen Mary University of London and all the speakers were senior academics in that field.

Although the event took place on a weekday afternoon at a time when I was very busy, I was determined to go along because African witchcraft was something I knew little about. Sure, I read newspaper articles showing that beliefs in witchcraft are widely held in Africa, while in Europe witch hunts are a thing of the past and modern pagan witches are regularly campaigning to have historic sentences overturned. However, I knew it was wrong to make too much of a comparison between African and European witchcraft beliefs. They are very different places, with different cultures.

It has taken me a few weeks to find time to go through my notes and get them into a form good enough to post on my blog. This is a *very* long post, but I felt the subject matter was hard to condense much. For the sake of brevity I left out one of the talks – Professor Jim Sharpe’s lecture on Interpreting the European Witch Hunts, as most readers of my blog are likely to be more familiar with that than with African witchcraft. However, I will blog about it later because the talk was very interesting and informative.

Witch Findings in the Congo in the 1930s
The first talk of the day was by Dr Reuben Loffman on a case of two chiefs using witch findings to cleanse evil from villages in Southeastern Congo during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The two chieftainships were new and contested, and the two chiefs were also new - they had been schooled by missionaries rather than being hereditary. In 1934 the chiefs decided to enforce tradition with witch findings, which were a traditional way of cleansing sickness or other problems.

Local missionaries thought witch findings distasteful and lobbied for them to be stopped, but nothing was done for several weeks while the chiefs went about trying to find witches using a traditional poison ordeal. Eventually the administration commissioned a medical study of the bodies of those who had undergone ordeals and police made a report.

The ordeals were done in public spaces as an audience was necessary, confessions were obtained from people who had been hung upside down and tortured, then given a poison ordeal. If they died, they were guilty. Poison ordeals have long history in Africa; what they did different in this case was the use of apparatus alongside the poison ordeals rather than for purification. Most of those accused were women, but there was one man.

In 1934, the “evil” being faced was probably sleeping sickness. This was endemic as a symptom of colonial conquest and a serious illness. Chiefs were expected to cleanse their realms of evil at this time and witch hunts were the traditional way of doing this.

In an epilogue, the villagers said that the witch cleansing worked. There was no more “evil” after the witch hunts. However, sleeping sickness was declining in that area anyway. The main chief involved was exiled for the crime, but came back in the 1950s. Rather than viewing him as a cruel man, the people of the chieftainship saw him as a hero for saving them from evil.

Lost in Translation
Dr Loffman added that the main difficulty in his research was the issue of translation. Because the records were made by the missionaries rather than residents in the affected area, working out what was that was actually said that got turned into the word “witch” or “wizard” in the records, can be hard. Problems of translation were also addressed by the next speaker, Dr Cherry Leonardi, and then discussed in depth by the final speaker of the morning, Professor Diana Jeater.

Boundaries and Changes in Occult Practices
Dr Cherry Leonardi is the author of Dealing with Government in South Sudan: Histories of Chiefship, Community and State.Her talk was on Witchcraft and the Regulation of Boundaries in the South Sudan-Uganda Borderlands. She said that witchcraft has come up continually as an issue in South Sudan, in the area that borders Uganda on the edge of the Nile.

In the area Kajo Kaji, witchcraft often translates as poisoning; kissum for the Kuku people and enyanya for the Ma’di. It is easier to get poisoning recognised all over the world as it is illegal everywhere, while witchcraft isn’t. Often substances are sent for testing. However, in the South Sudan region, there is no clear line between poisoning and witchcraft, and things like lightning strikes can also be considered witchcraft. This leads to tangles in legal cases as the search for evidence means a focus on material substances.

In Sept 2014 violent conflict erupted and led to cross-border attacks. Thousands of people fled to South Sudan. Conflicts over the boundary line had gone on for years, but it was a shock because the Ma’di and Kuku had previously been known for peaceful relationships and frequent intermarriage.

The earliest reports of kissum are found in a colonial medical report in 1924. Poisoning was regarded as a female propensity passed through female line. The report gave details of how women extracted kissum from snakes and put it into food, but could also be done by lightning strikes or wild animal attacks. Women who failed to become witches would be infertile. Also, it was associated with women who had been captured in conflicts, but after integrating into Kuku society retained hostility to their captors. In the 1930s poison cases were reported more widely, also some done by men. Apparently before 1917 there was no fear of poisoning, but this could be because of when sleeping sickness spread to Sudan from Uganda.

Returning to language issues, there is a distinction between witchcraft and sorcery – witches use mystical means, sorcerers use material medicines. In regards to poison, ba enyana beri and elojua are two types of sorcerers; the former women and traditional, the latter men.

In the past decade beliefs about poisoning have changed again. Kissum is associated with the old generation, abiba is new thing from Uganda and associated with men and technology - those possessing abiba are rich men. Abiba is an occult force, like a zombie belief, that takes people from their beds to work so that the person doing it gets rich. Alternatively, sometimes the dead are taken from graves. The practice is linked to wealth from cross-border operations. Another magical practice involves people being told to write a numbered list of relatives who would die and a number would then appear on their skin.

Dr Leonardi said that witch hunts are ways in which chiefs are trying to re-establish their authority after conflicts. Nowadays people tend to be exiled from communities for poisoning/witchcraft rather than be killed. So, if a person comes to a new area they are suspected of kissum unless they have references.

Spirits, Law and Records
Professor Diana Jeater’s looked at Evidence of Due Process in African Prosecutions of Witches in Southern Rhodesia in the early 20th century. She is the author of Law, Language, and Science: The Invention of the Native Mind in Southern Rhodesiaand in her talk she aimed to reconstruct a legal process by looking at the present and integrating traditional spirit beliefs with the legal process.

She said that spirits are important to community relationships, but current legal practices don’t deal with them. How these worked in the past is a submerged history. Whites came into the area in the 1890s and, using model from South Africa, made it illegal to accuse people of being witches - witchcraft accusation suppression.

However, there are many traditions of how witchcraft was dealt with in the past. Those researching the subject can talk to traditional healers about how things were done traditionally, but it is difficult to find evidence of how it was really done before white occupation. Oral history and archives are both problematic. Professor Jeater said her previous work was to do with translations and problems of translation in archival material in relation to how things worked in practice.

Zimbabwe had no customary law because white occupiers did not codify customary law, they wanted to ignore it and hoped it would go away. Native practice set no limitations on who could act as adjudicators - generally it was big men. There is evidence of whites hearing cases as if they were formal cases. Some were criminal cases, but not in criminal courts. They were dealt with in traditional ways because they were thought to be civil cases.

What one sees in the records is European jurisprudence. A researcher needs to get behind that – often if you see dissonances in the records, you begin to see a different system behind them. Codification didn’t work. Traditional rulings could be renegotiated and were flexible, which Professor Jeater said “drove white adjudicators nuts” because cases could be changed after they were “settled”. The significant exception to this, however, was witchcraft.

For witchcraft cases there was a strict due process and it had to be carried out precisely. This was partly because of the seriousness of the consequences of conviction and partly because witches use supernatural means to cause serious harm. It was also possible that evil spirits could not be neutralised, only banished or eradicated.

For this reason, you needed to be sure the accused was actually a witch, but of course it was hard to be certain if illness or misfortune was due to witchcraft or something else. A diviner was called in to say whether it was a witchcraft case or not; then it was necessary to identify the witch.

It was a normal aspect of daily disputes that people would call someone a witch while quarrelling, rather than a serious accusation where a community was really at harm. There were disincentives from making a serious accusation – a diviner was expensive and there were penalties for making trivial witchcraft accusations as well as compensation to be paid if the accused was exonerated.

The process had to start with a formal accusation using a token such as scattering ash outside the accused’s house. The claim of witchcraft had to be looked into by a diviner. If they found witchcraft was involved, the chief decided if the case would go forward. Then there was an ordeal. The accused and everyone involved had to be present and all had to participate. Some ordeals were more unpleasant than others. The least unpleasant was lifting a basket that a witch could supposedly not lift. Then there was poison or an emetic – only a witch would be made sick. The diviner then made a ritual accusation, or else the case failed. Finally, there needed to be a confession, which could involve torture. They would confess by proffering a token or accepting a token.

The system of witchcraft accusation was serious. However, it resolved tensions in the community.

Witchcraft and the Dangers of Intimacy: Africa and Europe
The final talk of the day was from Professor Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust: Africa In Comparison.In his talk he compared Africa and European historical works. Professor Geschiere, like earlier speakers, started by apologising for using the term witchcraft, which is an unfortunate translation of local terms. He also said that at a 2011 medical conference, when he gave a talk on witchcraft and healing, the first question he was asked was, “When will you Europeans stop imposing your idea of witchcraft on us?” This shows the problems of definitions of witchcraft.

Professor Geschiere explained that he went to Cameroon to study politics, but everyone he talked to said “djambe” was behind everyday things, so he decided to study that. He said that there are lots of words for witchcraft in different areas and showed a list of Maka witchcraft terms:
  • Djambe: sorcellerie (witchcraft)
  • Djambe le ndjaw – witchcraft of the house
  • Sjoumbou – nocturnal meeting where witches deliver kin to outsiders
  • Nganga - healer who can only heal because of djambe
You can also buy leaflets in west Cameroon offering witchcraft to get rich, and that is a new type of witchcraft not specific to Cameroon. These can be found all along the west African coast, where there is memory of the slave trade.

What is striking in Cameroon is the insistence on a close link between witchcraft and kinship. Trust is never given because of this. However, Africa is not exceptional in seeing a connection between witchcraft and intimacy. Intimacy is wonderful, but can be dangerous – it is something all societies struggle with.

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Cameroon people were not interested in witchcraft because it was associated with the past, but now it is everywhere. One of the problems revolves around younger people going to the city and then returning to the village. They can be accused of witchcraft or fall victim to witchcraft. At one time there was a saying that witchcraft cannot cross the water, but since 2000 an increase in migration meant that this no longer seems to be the case. Telephone calls from home are now seen as allowing witchcraft to spread.

African witch hunts usually start with the family, but in European history they started with neighbours. Nowadays the concept of the house in Africa has stretched as it reaches the city and even other parts of the world. This causes present-day problems as African immigrants are affected by the influence of family.

It means that African views of witchcraft are no longer isolated and there can be issues caused by cultural differences in other parts of the world.

My Thoughts
I found all the talks absolutely fascinating and learned a lot about African witchcraft traditions. My only surprise - and disappointment - was that so few of the people present at the event were black or African.

The photo at the top shows speakers and delegates in the senior common room at Queen Mary University of London during the drinks reception after Worlds of Witchcraft: Comparing African and European Histories of the Occult on 30 March 2016.

Links and previous related post:

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Event: Mugwort Lucid Dreaming Workshop

I've just seen the details for a Mugwort Lucid Dreaming Workshop taking place this Saturday in London. It runs from 10.30am-4pm on Saturday 7 May and costs £60 (concessions available). Here are the details from the Eventbrite page:
Mugwort or Artemisia vulgarise is known as the Oldest of Herbs, Una; having the power to invite us to enter lucid states. Acting directly on the pineal gland also called the ‘seat of the soul’ this herb is a magical doorway in the liminal worlds. We shall be exploring her medicine, folklore and magic on this sensory workshop. Plenty of tastings and connection with plant spirit. We shall be working with a meditation based on yoga nidra to delve deeper. Please bring pens and paper, a large mixing bowl, some lunch to share and an open heart.
On this sensory workshop we will be tasting, touching, smelling, drawing and smoking mugwort to delve into a joint exploration of her many gifts.
Karen is a lively teacher and has been working with nature and herbs all her life, she has studied and shared Plant Medicine and Yoga for the past 20 years, now combining these two ancient disciplines in her practice, she is passionate about nutrition, health and healing. Medically trained during her BSc in Complementary Health Sciences she now blends traditional practices and scientific research to enhance individual treatment plans.
Karen co-founded Sensory Solutions, a community interest company in 2000. Sensory Solutions CIC is a herbal education and training organisation through which she runs many seasonal workshops, apprenticeships, walks and talks.
The venue for the mugwort lucid dreaming workshop is Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London, E2 9EG. For more details, contact You can book here:

The photo shows The Alchemists Apothecary Mugwort Dried Herb 100g,which can be ordered via Amazon.

Links and previous related posts

News: Paganism, Entertainment, Witchcraft, Wicca

"Pagan prisoners now able to get tools of faith in UK" - story at

"Vote for a 'druid open-mic night' to come to Somerset House" - blog post at Time Out London:

"I Became A Witch Because Of The Craft" - story at Refinery29:

"How a fear of witches and witchcraft dominated rural North Yorkshire life" - story at Gazette and Herald:

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

This Week's Pagan Events In and Near London

Here are events in London and a few in other parts of the UK over the next week or so that could be of interest to pagans. If you know of an event that you want listed, please email the details to me at

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:

Now - 31 August; Akhenaten: Heretic, Visionary, Icon Exhibition at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL Malet Place, London WC1E 6BT. Lunchtime tours: 1.15pm-1.45pm. For more details, email or phone 020 7679 4138.

Now - 12 September; Austin Osman Spare - A Major Retrospective. Venue: The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History, 11 Mare Street, London E8 4RP.

Now to 30 September; Folklore, Magic and Mysteries: Modern Witchcraft and Folk Culture in Britain - exhibition of artefacts, manuscripts and documents from the Doreen Valiente Foundation. Venue: Preston Manor, Preston Drove, Brighton BN1 6SD. Time: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 2-5pm. Free entry to exhibition with Preston Manor admission (adult £5.85, child (5-15) £3.15). Details:

Now - Sunday 8 May; Online Beltane Festival with the Pagan Federation England and Wales. Online talks, discussions, videos, pictures and blog posts all week. Details here:

Wednesday 4 May; London Aleister Crowley Appreciation Society meeting. Venue: Souk Media, 1a Short's Gardens, London, WC2H 9AT. Time: 6.30pm for 7pm start. For more details and to reserve a place visit:

Wednesday 4 May; First of three evenings with Kurikindi, Amazonian Shaman from Ecuador: The Rainforest and Shamanism. Venue: The Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LY. Starts: 7pm. Tickets: £25 per person. Advannce booking essential. Tel: 020 7405 2120 or email

Thursday 5 May; Art Exhibition: Psychoanalysis, Art and The Occult (Note, this is the night before a 3-day conference). Venue: 3 Torrens Street, London, EC1V 1NQ. Time: 7-9pm. Art exhibition is free and open to the public. Details:

Thursday 5 May; Meetup with Amoda Maa and learn about Radical AwakeningTalk and book signing at Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ. Time: 6.30pm. Free event. For more details Tel 020 7836 2182 or visit or

Thursday 5 May; Here be Dragons Lecture - Dr Joanne Anderson. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.30pm to 9pm. Ticket price £8 in advance. Tel: 020 7240 8906 or email:

Thursday 5 May; Group Healing Night Intensive with the London College of Spirituality. Venue: Columbia Hotel (Viceroy Suite), 95 - 99 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NS. Time:7pm. Tickets: £15. Details and booking:

Friday 6 May; Beyond Suffering - Unconditional Self-Love Mastery. Lecture by Blake Bauer. 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

Friday 6 May - 8 May; Three-Day Symposium: Psychoanalysis, Art and The Occult. Venue: 3 Torrens Street, London, EC1V 1NQ. Tickets £30 per day, £75 for the weekend. Details:

Saturday 7 May; Living from the Heart - What does this mean? And how do we do this? Venue: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London. Time: 10am-noon. Tickets £3. Reservation and details:

Saturday 7 May; Mythic London Conference. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 10.30am to 5.30pm. Ticket price £40 in advance. Tel: 020 7240 8906 or email:

Saturday 7 May; Robert Kingham of Minimum Labyrinth will be leading a walk through the 'Grey Soul' of Arthur Machen's London from 2pm - 7pm. Tickets: £12 (£8 concessions). Details and booking:

Saturday 7 May; 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 7 May; Morrigans Path ~ Chapel Gig to raise funds for the roof of a Saxon/Celtic chapel. Venue: The Chapel of St Peter on the Wall, Bradwell on Sea, Essex. Time: 7pm. Tickets: £7 from Bradwell village shop, Sheena (07906 269359) or Paypal:

Sunday 8 May; Meditation at Russell Brands Trew Era Cafe, 30 Whitmore Road, London N1 5QA. Starts 10.15am. Free event. Details:

Sunday 8 May; Workshop on the Path of Earth run by Shamanic Spirit at a venue in Croydon, South London. Starts 10am. For more details and to book places call 07952 041477. For more information, visit

Sunday 8 May; Druidic Beltane 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.

Sunday 8 May; Public Beltane May Queen Ritual with the London Wicca Meet-up Group. Time: 3pm-6.30pm. Meet at the Woodman pub, 414 Archway Road, Highgate, London at 3pm to walk to the ritual site. For details and to book a place visit:

Monday 9 May; 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:

Monday 9 May; People, Profit, Planet. Talk by Lorna Davis. Venue: St James's Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL. Doors open 6.30pm. Talk: 7pm - 9pm. Tickets £12/£8 online. For more details and to book tickets:

Tuesday 10 May; Love Magic in Hoodoo. Lecture by Khi Armand. Venue: Treadwells, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7.15pm to 9pm. Ticket price £8. Tel: 020 7240 8906 or email:

Tuesday 10 May; Foundations of Esotericism. Lecture on Theosophy by Brendan McQuillan. Venue: Rudolf Steiner House, 35, Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. Time: 4pm – 6pm. Entry £1. No bookings required - just turn up.

Tuesday 10 May; Mindfulness of Soul and Spirit - Mindfulness and Anthroposophical Meditation. Class with John Bewick. Venue: Rudolf Steiner House, 35, Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. Time: 7.30pm – 9pm. Entry £3.50 (£1 concessions, students and under 25s). No bookings required - just turn up.

Tuesday 10 May; Talk by Professor Michael York at Nova Stellar Wicca Meet-Up Group for genuine seekers to the Craft. Venue is a pub in central London - details given to members of the Meet-Up group. Door open 7pm, talk starts 8.30pm. Tickets £3. You must reserve a place in advance. The group normally meets on the second Tuesday of each month.

Wednesday 11 May; Lost Envoy: The Tarot Deck of Austin Osman Spare launch event with talks and a chance to see the cards. Venue: Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, NW3 6DG, Free. Time: 7pm-9pm. Details:

Wednesday 11 May; Second of three evenings with Kurikindi, Amazonian Shaman from Ecuador: The Path of a Shaman. Venue: The Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LY. Starts: 7pm. Tickets: £25 per person. Advannce booking essential. Tel: 020 7405 2120 or email

Wednesday 11 May; Building Self Esteem: Solar Plexus Chakra Meditation with Sound Journey, run by Himesh of the London College of Spirituality. Venue: Columbia Hotel (Viceroy Suite), 95 - 99 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NS. Time:7pm. Tickets: £15. Details and booking:

Wednesday 11 May; Start of 8-week Tarot Foundation Course run by Suzanne Corbie. Venue: Treadwell's, 33 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS. Time: 7pm start. Tickets £100 for the course. For further details:

Wednesday 11 May; John Dee's Life with the Angels. Lecture by Professor Glyn Parry, author of  The Arch-Conjuror of England: John Dee. Organised by London Fortean Society at Conway Hall - 25 Red Lion Square Holborn, London, WC1R 4RL. Time: 7.30pm. Tickets: £6.08.

Thursday 12 May; Opening Pandora's Box-Psychedelic Light Machine and Gong Experience, run by Todd Acamesis  with the London College of Spirituality. Venue: Columbia Hotel (Windsor Suite), 95 - 99 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NS. Time:7pm. Tickets: £15. Details and booking:

Thursday 12 May; 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

Thursday 12 May; The Ridgeway - Long Distance Trail Hike and Wild Camp Adventure. Talk by Andrew Tailor with Earthstars Sacred Space. Venue: Rudolf Steiner House, 35, Park Road, London, NW1 6XT. Time: 7.30pm. Entrance is £12, pay at the door

Thursday 12 May; 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:

Thursday 12 May; Talk on Execution Sites of London by Robert Stephenson 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. To guarantee a seat, email

Friday 13 May; Mary Magdalene - The Woman of Mystery. Lecture by Dr Christine Page. 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

Friday 13 May; Unlucky Again... Join Vanessa Woolf and George Hoyle of London Dreamtime for a lanternlit night of horrific urban legends and site specific ghost stories in a scary secret location in Peckham, London. Venue: Cost £5 - advance booking essential, For more detials email or visit

Sunday 15 May; Magical use of Herbs in Folklore and Practice. Venue: The Yoga Shed, 62b College Rd, Bromley, BR1 3PE. Cost £25. Details:

Sunday 15 May; London Pagan Pride. Celebrate being pagan with a celebration and walk, starting and ending in Russell Square Park, London. Time: noon-5pm. Details:  The London Woodland Witches EcoMagicians and Outdoor Pagans meetup group will be attending this event. Details: Dawn of the Oak moot, which normally meets on the third Sunday of each month at the Castle in Farringdon will instead be joining the parade and will picnic in the park.

Note: I am not responsible for any of the events listed here. Do check with the organisers about tickets and timings before turning up to any event. I try to keep my listings accurate, but do not always know of late changes, cancellations or ticket availability.

Extract From: Dying to be Free by Hannah Robinson

A book called Dying to be Free, about near-death experience, came out last week and I chatted briefly to author Hannah Robinson about it.

Hannah said about the book, which has the subtitle From Enforced Secrecy to Near Death to True Transformation: "It's a bit unusual because I've tried to make sense of an amazing near-death experience I had following a bad accident by comparing it to my relationship with my father - who is a practising Catholic priest. One experience was full of love and the other really wasn't."

This is an extract from the introduction to Dying to be Free:
In January 1998, I was injured in an accident, sustaining life threatening multiple injuries. During the many months of healing and recovery that followed, I often felt that my life had been cataclysmically shattered and that I would never feel happy or at peace again. But now, seventeen years on, I see the accident as the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a catalyst for a series of changes and life events, amazing and excruciating in equal measure, that stand out as turning points in a life-transforming journey.
There are two facts inextricably bound up with all this that I should mention at the outset. The first is that in 1978 my father chose to become a Catholic priest, omitting to tell anyone arranging his ordination that he’d just separated from my mother and had a one-month-old baby daughter (me). He embarked on a plan to keep me a secret, which he still tries to uphold to this day. The second fact is that directly after the accident, while still ‘unconscious’, I had what has become known as a near-death experience.
Hannah also picked out this quote from the book about the NDE:
Everything felt perfect and I felt contented, enjoying the experience of being wrapped in a warm, invisible blanket of comfort. Delicious peace course through me. I was aware that I could hear everything going on around me in microscopic detail.

Dying to Be Free: From Enforced Secrecy to Near Death to True Transformationis published by O Books and can be ordered via Amazon.

Links and previous related posts:
Dying to Be Free: From Enforced Secrecy to Near Death to True Transformation

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Review: Isis: Goddess of Egypt and India

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early, ready to set off for the Jack-in-the-Green procession in Hastings, but when I looked out of the window it was raining so I made tea and toast and went back to bed and read a book instead. And what I read transported me to a hotter, sunnier land than England - the land of the Goddess Isis - India. Yes, you read correctly: India.

While Isis, Goddess of Magic, is most famed as being part of the Egyptian pantheon, a new book by Chris (Mogg) Morgan called Isis: Goddess of Egypt and India offers some fascinating clues that she was also worshipped in the Kerala region of India.

Publisher Mandrake of Oxford gives the premise of the book on its website:
On India’s south-western or malabar coast is situated an ancient Hindu temple which is these days devoted to the famous Hindu god Shiva and his consort the fearsome goddess Kali. This is Kurumbha-Bhagavathy Devi outside of the modern city of Cochin or Kochi in Kerala state.
Travel back in time and the temple housed other gods. Once it was the home of the Buddhist/Jaina goddess Pattini whose mortal husband was tried and killed in a series of brutal events still commemorated in the temple’s ritual year. Before this and the story gets even stranger, as there are said to be remains of a secret, underground shrine, the home to a mystery cult dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.
The book explains that at time of Christ, a Greco-Roman merchant colony was based in this part of India and the traders brought their religious practices with them. They built temples and some of the features of their cults have survived into the modern day.

Isis: Goddess of Egypt and India offers archeological, historical and literary evidence that Isis was worshipped in that area and that the rituals and mysteries enacted in temples of Isis became entwined with those of the local goddess Pattini. The rites of Pattini practised at Kurumbha-Bhagavathy Devi temple had similarities to rites associated with the worship of Isis. The tales of the two goddesses have a lot in common too. They both searched for the bodies of their dead husbands and resurrected them by magical means.

Chris adds: "In the final part of my story I present a complete and ‘lost’ version of the most famous drama of all time, the celebrated myth or passion play of Isis and murdered husband Osiris, clearly recognisable even in its current idiom based as it is in South Asian ritual drama. The drama is reproduced in its entirety as it reveals many previously unknown aspects of one of the world’s oldest myths."

But Isis: Goddess of Egypt and India is more than just a fascinating history book, it also offers information for modern-day Pagans who want to try to reconstruct these ancient rites. As Chris says at the end: "Enough clues exist to re-enact this ritual in your own temple." I feel quite inspired to do so.

The book is beautifully produced with oodles of diagrams, maps and photos - many of which are in full colour. It is well written and a fascinating read that transported me away from the wet English bank holiday Monday to a time long ago and far away; a place of sunlight, magic and mystery. Perfect.

You can order Isis: Goddess of Egypt and Indiavia Amazon.

Links and previous related posts:
Isis: Goddess of Egypt and India

Monday, 2 May 2016

News: Beltane, May Day, Paganism, Stonehenge

Here is a round-up of some of the pagan-related news stories over Beltane, May Day and the bank holiday weekend:

"Druids and pagans block off Stonehenge to tourists in protest at summer solstice parking charge" - story at Bath Chronicle:

"Glastonbury Beltane celebrations – in pictures" - story at The Guardian:

"In pictures: Beltane Fire Festival lights up Calton Hill" - story at Edinburgh News:

"What Is May Day? How This Springtime Festival Got Its Start" - story at Bustle:

"This Is How Pagans Celebrate May Day: - story at Huffington Post:

"A town with history of a burning witch issue" - story at Falkirk Herald:

Photos of Ancient Crafts at Michelham Priory

I went to an Ancient Crafts Festival yesterday, which is on at the moment at Michelham Priory in Hailsham, East Sussex, where I took these photos.

I’ve always loved Michelham Priory, because it is a beautiful old building in gorgeous grounds. I thought I would enjoy the craft festival too, but I would honestly say it was better than I expected because it is really hands-on.

Both adults and kids can have a go at crafts our ancient ancestors would have relied on to survive, such as flint knapping, pot making, weaving and wood turning.

One stand had hand-made replicas of early copper, bronze and iron weapons and jewellery that archaeologists have found, there were coracles by the edge of the water and you could even taste the type of food that would have been eaten in the ancient past, including nettle pottage and oatcakes. There was also very tasty modern food available in the café, I should add.

One of the things that surprised me most was the variety of coloured dyes they had in the ancient world. You can see some of the colours in the photo at the top.

The Ancient Craft Fair is on today, 2 May 2016. To find out more about events on at Michelham Priory, visit the Sussex Past website at