Friday 23 April 2010

Pagan Eye: Snapshot of a Moment

I don't often post photos of people, but today is an exception.

I took this picture in Crystal Palace Park at the same time as the photos of the dinosaur's head I posted earlier this week on my blog entry about Dragons of London. Actually, it was the first picture I took that day. I was waiting for the people to move so I could get a clear shot of the statue, but I the group of figures got me thinking - and I took a snapshot to capture the moment.

I have posted it on St George's Day because, the image said something to me about England today, in a setting that says a lot about England of the past.

I don't know who the people are in the picture - just three women and a boy by a bit of broken statuary on a sunny day. Such things must have happened countless times over the centuries, and will do again. But their postures and what they are doing very much place them in our time.

They are standing nonchalantly, expressing that unconscious belligerence called "attitude" that implies toughness and confidence, but not really happiness.

They seem uninterested in the piece of statue they are sitting on - part of the display of dinosaurs built by Victorians to go in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. This cast-iron and glass palace was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, but moved to Sydenham Hill in 1854.

That was a landmark of its own era, but it is no more. It burnt down in 1936 and, although local residents would very much like another to be built in its place, it seems unlikely to happen.

But back to the group in my picture, who a hundred years ago would have been in the grounds of the Crystal Palace, but today are in Crystal Palace Park, a small reminder of glory days gone by. A 100 years ago, the women's clothes would have been long dresses rather than jeans and T-shirts, and they wouldn't have been standing with hands on hips, or smoking. I suspect that in a 100 years time, smoking will be entirely a thing of the past for everyone.

Behind the group you can just see some white bars that mark the entrance to the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. That was built in the 1960s to help train Olympic athletes, but now that too seems more of England's history than current affairs.

The centre is these days rather neglected and is due to be superseded as London's main facility for sports by the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, being built in Stratford, East London, for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 100 years it will probably be gone, like the palace.

So, this picture to me is a little snapshot of England in the here and now, but with echoes of the past and suggestions about the future.

But you might ask why I am writing about this on a blog about paganism and witchcraft. My earlier St George's Day posts about knights, dragons, fantasy and magic might seem more what a witch and pagan should be interested in. Well, to me, paganism isn't just about mythology, old gods, legends and bygone eras. It is also about being in tune with with world we live in now.

In words most witches will be familiar with:
"Blessed be this place,
and this time.
And they who are with us."
Blessed be. And happy St George's Day!


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