Wednesday, 6 May 2015

TV: Sappho - Love and Life on Lesbos

BBC Four has a documentary at 9pm tonight called Sappho: Love and Life on Lesbos.

As the description on the BBC website says, Sappho was "the most controversial writer of the ancient world and the first authentic woman's voice in western history."

In the programme, papyrus expert Margaret Mountford (pictured above) examines the evidence. The BBC description says:
A lost papyrus inspires Margaret to go on a journey of exploration. From the fragmentary documents, ruined temple architecture and surviving oriental jewellery, we conjure the real world of the woman, whose erotic writings gave us the words 'sapphic' and 'lesbian', after the island of Lesbos the place of her birth. Was Sappho indeed the first lesbian - a priestess, prostitute, stern schoolmistress or aristocratic lady of leisure, as readers over the centuries have variously alleged? Margaret looks at how each generation's view of the archetypal liberated woman of letters tells us as much about us and our fears and concerns as it does about her.
Those who went to the Pagan Federation London's Beltane ritual last week would have heard me recite one of Sapho's poems in honour of Aphrodite at the end of the rite. Here it is:
Cyprus, Paphos or Panormus
May detain thee with their splendour
Of oblations on thine altars,
O imperial Aphrodite.
Yet do thou regard, with pity
For a nameless child of passion
This small, unfrequented valley
By the sea, O sea-born mother.
Much of the poetry of Sapho is about love and about the Greek Gods - Aphrodite in particular. This documentary offers the chance to learn more about the woman behind the words.

Sappho - Love And Life On Lesbos is on Wednesday 6 May from 9pm-10pm on BBC Four. You can find out more here:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Online Magic School: Magic in the Middle Ages

If you want to learn about magic in the Middle Ages, then here is a free online course that covers the history of witches, heretics, inquisitors, alchemy, relics and the Holy Grail.

The six-week course is offered by the University of Barcelona and is in English but with subtitles in Catalan and Spanish. Here is the information from the university's Coursera website:
About the Course
Magical thought has always attracted human imagination. In this course we will introduce you to the Middle Ages through a wide conception of magic. Students will have an approach to medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective of different areas of knowledge (History, Literature, Art History and History of Science). Popular magic, as well as magie savante (alchemy, geomancy and necromancy) will be addressed and we will also deal with artistic manifestations, such as relics, art objects, the Saint Grail and Arthurian literature. Magic in the Middle Ages offers a captivating overview of medieval society and promotes reflection about certain stereotypes associated with this period.

Course Syllabus
Week 1. Introduction to medieval magic (Pau Castell).
Week 2. Magic and Heresy (Delfi I. Nieto-Isabel).
Week 3. From Magic to Witchcraft (Pau Castell).
Week 4. Magic in Islam (Godefroid de Callataÿ and Sébastien Moureau).
Week 5. The Magical World of Celtic Culture (Gemma Pellissa Prades).
Week 6. The Magic of Objects (Noemi Álvarez da Silva).

Course Format
Each module contains from five to six videos about its main topic. The videos last 7 minutes approximately and you will be asked to answer a test at the end of each video. There are also scheduled activities in the forum as well as complementary materials. There is a short and straightforward peer-to-peer assignment in unit 5, which we strongly encourage you to take as an opportunity to reflect about Arthurian literature and to exchange your opinion with your peers.
There are no pre-requirements for taking this course and only one book that is required reading: The Knight of the Cart or Lancelot by Chrétien de Troyes. An optional bibliography is also offered. To sign up follow this link:

News: Witches, Archaeology, History, Pagans

"New Analysis reveals Italian Girl given Witch Burial probably just had Scurvy" - story at Ancient Origins:

"10 Reasons You Might Have Been Accused of Being a Witch in the 17th Century" - story at Bustle:

"Norway’s ‘We’re Sorry’ Monument to 91 Dead Witches" - story at The Daily Beast:

"Naturally focused Paganism older way" - story at Otago Daily Times:

Monday, 4 May 2015

Festival of the Week: Star Wars Day

Beltane was so last week. Today, May 4, is Star Wars Day - an unofficial holiday to mark the Star Wars films, books and related culture. The date was chosen for the pun on the phrase "May the Force be with you".

You may be wondering what a festival of fandom for a science fiction series has to do with witchcraft.

Well, I've always seen a similarity between the concept of The Force in Star Wars and the way magic seems to me to work. Actually, I should probably say the way magic *feels* to me to work, because when I cast a spell, perform a ritual, do divination or practise any type of witchcraft, I know if it is working because of the way it feels. It really is rather like in Star Wars when Luke is urged to "Feel the Force".

OK, witches don't call it The Force - we are more likely to call it "energy" - although that isn't a very exact term. It certainly isn't energy in the way that scientists measure energy. Perhaps an Ancient Egyptian would have used the words Heka and Ka, Heka being the word for "Magic" and "Ka" being a term for the soul. Egyptians thought activating the power of the soul was how magic worked.

The witch who taught me used to talk about the Web of Life - invisible strands of magical energy - or force - that connect everyone and everything. By sensing those strands of connection you can effect change, which is witchcraft, but also similar to how Obi Wan seemed to do his old Jedi mind trick.

However, most books of spells and rituals tell you what to *do* to perform magic, not what to *feel*. I believe that learning to feel the power of magic, whatever name you call it, is far more important than learning what words to say, what incense to use or what candles to put on your altar.

The way to start learning what to feel is to start listening and trusting your intuition. If you want the right crystal or herb to put in a charm, for example, close your eyes and run your fingers over the ones you have to choose from, then let your intuition tell you what is right one. Likewise, if your intuition tells you it would be good to get in contact with an old friend you haven't seen for ages, then maybe it would.

It takes a lot of practise, but once you have learnt to sense when magic is happening, you'll find it works better than if you simply follow the instructions in any books.

Enjoy the Bank Holiday Monday, and May the Fourth be with you.

Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Russell Grant Reveals the Royal Baby Horoscope

With the news that the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a girl, here is a horoscope for the new princess from celebrity astrologer Russell Grant:

Well this chart rocks! Quite literally. Shades of Diana’s personality in the new princess’ natal chart, for sure.

With a Cancerian ascendant (same as Diana’s sun sign) and with challenging aspects from Uranus, Pluto and the Moon in Libra AND just before Monday’s Full Moon there is a rebellious intensity and not a trace of a shrinking violet.

This child is going to be a handful. Settling into the confines of royal protocol will be easier because she is born into it. But check out this scenario, if, like Diana she was married into royalty without the training then you get the real person – radical, controversial, with an innate dislike of authority and being told what to do. These are the traits which underpin the new princess. What you see won’t be what you get.

Now for the sweeter aspects that honey coat the grittier bits. The Moon in Libra trine Venus in Gemini makes for charm personified with much needed spirits of compromise and diplomacy. Jupiter rises in Leo; the Queen Mother’s and also Princess Margaret’s Sun sign makes its flamboyant entrance while a fabulous trine to wacky Uranus gives our new Princess incredible drive, charisma and vitality.

Good old Taurus connects to the Queen and Charles (his Moon is in this sign) and of course with Daddy William being a Cancerian himself his new daughter’s Cancerian rising sign will give that unique emotional connexion that makes them sympatico: creating the special union this soft, sensitive sign gives.

So what about Kate, well she is a Capricorn so this is where the battle lies … between mum and daughter. However Kate married into this royal family and if anyone can govern this child then I suspect she is not only well qualified to control the child but an ideal mum too. This baby will be a handful but perfect to fit into a new, modern royal family in the future.


Note: Russell Grant was the first astrologer in over 300 years to present a Horoscope reading to a member of the Royal Family (HRH Queen Mother). At the time, the press dubbed Russell as the "Astrologer Royal".

Previous related posts:

Friday, 1 May 2015

Street Art: A Beautiful Green-Eyed Goddess for Beltane

I posted images of London street art for Yule, Earth Hour and Easter, so here is another for Beltane - a painting of a woman with green eyes and rainbow hair that looks like a Goddess of May to me.

If you want to see this picture or any of the other street art I have photographed, travel to Hoxton in London's East End.