Sunday, 28 September 2008

Alison Goldfrapp

T-wit T-woo

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Bastille Day II: The Druid Strikes Back

Over the past couple of weeks, discussion has arisen over the matter of modern Druidry. The ignition point was this statement;

Have you ever thought that there’s something wrong with modern Druidry?

We have reached a stage in our evolution as a ‘movement’ where we have become self-satisfied and complacent. The format of our rituals and festivals lack passion and religious insight, but of even far greater concern, they are starting to become set in stone. They have no concept of the Pagan inner mysteries and stagnate in some superficial desire to connect with the seasons and the world of nature. Our practices have become far removed from that which we pretend to honour.

We have been led to fear the words ‘religion’ and ‘dogma’, as if the ancient Druids were as unstructured, undisciplined, ill-informed and confused as we are today. So we accept the received wisdom from a handful of authors and it is leading us down a road to nowhere. We have forsaken the dying and rising sun god, within and without. We have relegated the goddess to a mere spirit of nature. It is we who would seem naive and primitive in the eyes of our ancestors.

In their time our druidic ancestors were at the cutting edge of philosophy, natural science and the understanding of the glory of the cosmos. Yet we insult these ancestors by pretending to be shamans, as if the ancient Druids had not evolved beyond the hunter-gatherers and still clung desperately to some primitive Mesolithic awareness until the arrival of the Christians.

Druidry is more than just animism, more than a counter-culture reaction to monotheism. But still we generalize with the symbolism of the gods. Where is the passion on our tongues and the fire in our bellies? Is there is no yearning in our hearts to look deeper? Do we really believe we already have all the answers we need? Where is the real belief in the gods? Where is the fire in our heads?
Can we say, before our gods, that druidry today answers those questions? No it cannot, enlightened spiritual insight remains our greatest weakness.

Many who read this may find our words offensive, and if we have hit a raw nerve, then having done so is way over due. But if you feel like we do, that it’s time for change, that Druidry today needs to be shaken out of its complacency before its too late, then you will find a way to contact us.

Our illustrious tradition deserves better of us. Together we can make a difference. Lets make it real, lets do it with passion, lets re-connect to the gods and stoke those ancient fires once again.

In Truth/|\
Stefan Allen Seniuk, Head of the Albion Conclave of Druids,
and many others.

A couple of blogs; Ancestral CeltMochen Ddu posted it and made comment, other forums such as the BBC Pagan boards and Caer Feddwyd also ran discussions, in one case still ongoing. As someone whose membership of the druid network lapsed years ago, I cannot see what has been happening there but I am told it has gotten quite excitable.

Credit to Stefan for bringing to the fore the kind of matter which I talked about in small groups but not much really goes on after that. Slap on the wrist for his very dodgy interpretation of what the original druids were (italicised paragraph above in the statement), take this paragraph from the message and the message holds. It makes the same call and raises the same issue – ironically, with the crap history, it has a streak of the thing is riles against – and demands something be done. And what is to be done?

Well, in October there will be a gathering of people, who want to go, to discus the matter at Flag Fen. It seems to be an open invitation.

I am in all probability going to go with the members of Brython. We have discussed this since it was released and what ‘we’ would like to see happen.

My view? I want to see a (metaphorical) druidic French revolution in which we abandon the title of Druidry and any pretence that druids have ANY relevance today whatsoever. The druids of the Britons 2000 years ago were priests, philosophers, genealogists, law keepers and much else besides. They served their community and the gods much as priests do from many cultures. Take away that culture and the need for a priest is gone too. This is a classic case of to many chiefs and not enough Indians. Modern druids aren’t serving anyone but themselves. They are pointless, they fulfil none of the roles of a druid. As someone on Caer Feddwyd pointed out, the only people with any remotely sound basis for calling themselves as druids, as in that they are keepers of tradition, of culture, of song and prose, are the Gorsedd of Druids at the Welsh National Eisteddfod.

We establish our tribe and our community, we get together and sort out what we are first of all. Build the community first, build the relationship with the gods - together. THEN when we have a community the need for priesthood might arise - unless you have a community you don’t need priests and their many roles. if such an occasion arises, people will naturally assume the role and the community will accept them as such - those they don’t accept wont have a role or community to serve.

the whole thing should be an organic evolution, not a forced top down creation.

Right now we lack any cohesiveness as a community, nothing firm that we can say binds us together in a common framework of religious belief and observance. This is where matters such as a dogma of sorts comes in – those things we can ‘sign up to’ as being what we believe to be the Native British Tradition in the 21st Century

I see Brython as being at the beginning of that bottom up, cohesive and (French) revolution. This time though we wont strangle, bludgeon and garrotte someone before throwing them into the Fen. Probably

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Dirty Words

There aren’t that many dirty words in modern paganism. Probably two that spring to mind: worship and dogma. Oh and I suppose: ‘no, that’s incorrect’ is not looked upon to favourably either.

Worship to many pagans, especially those who come from a Christian background (and that covers most of them really) has too many connotations of getting on their knees and bowing down before God, grovelling at how worthless and sinful hey are and asking forgiveness. That is what I recall of being brought up Roman Catholic. So it is not surprising to find that modern pagans shy away from the idea of worshipping their gods. I was one of those pagans, however I have come around to the idea of using worship to cover what I ‘do’ as it were. The definition of worship explains why:

* noun
1 the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity,
2 religious rites and ceremonies, or
3 great admiration or devotion.
* verb (worshipped, worshipping)
1 show reverence and adoration for (a deity), or
2 feel great admiration or devotion for.
Derivatives: worshipper noun.
Origin: Old English, worthiness, acknowledgement of worth.

All of the above applies to me, I respect, revere, admire and show devotion to my gods therefore it is perfectly fair to say I worship them.

Next comes;

1 a religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof
2 a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative
3 A generally held set of formulated beliefs.

Again, nothing worrisome there. No mention of strict adherence or blind subservience. No mentions of one true wayism.

Some degree of dogma within the pagan scene would be a good thing, being able to nail down a core of common held beliefs and values would be a uniting force and something that we could build on. We all believe in X, Y and also Z. At the individual level you can add, along with X, Y and Z I also believe A, B and C.

There is a general feeling of wanting some sort of acceptance from society and the ‘establishment’ in pagan circles, if we are going to all hold to our individual beliefs and weep at the thought of some uniting principles because it smacks of Chrisiantiy and Dogma and losing individuality, then we won’t be taken seriously, we will always be the disparate bunch of people who have 101 different beliefs for every 100 of us.

you dont need a reason to have orchid pictures

Sunday, 7 September 2008

"If we die, the world will be poorer"

I have just got in from watching Hellboy 2: the golden army. a damn good leave-your-brain-at-the-door-and-enjoy-the-action type film.

The premise is very simple; 1000’s of years ago man lived in harmony with the beings of the Otherworld (elves, trolls etc) until man grew greedy and started to age war and take over. King Balor of the elves had a huge and unstoppable army built who laid waste to man. Balor regretted his actions, called a truce and they lived side by side. Balor’s son Nuada wasn’t happy because he doesn’t trust humans. Roll on to modern day and Nuada is sick of seeing mankind trashing the landscape and encroaching into the land of the territory of the ‘Children of the Earth’. So he sets out to reanimate the Golden Army to sort out mankind once and for all. Enter Hellboy to stop him.

There is strong undercurrent of environmentalism here, the idea that we are having too strong an impact upon the world and are doing irreparable damage whilst remaining oblivious to the effects it is having on other lifeforms.

The scene with the ‘Forest God’ was quite moving, as were the words of Nuada at the end. You can detach all notions of pagan spirituality from the idea of preserving he planet, you can look at it from a purely atheistic viewpoint and still see the meaning in Nuada’s final words: "If we die, the world will be poorer"

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Autumn or not?

It is now the beginning of September, it is pissing with rain outside, so has autumn reached us yet? I think I have mentioned elsewhere that I prefer to get my seasonal queues from the world around me. The leaves are largely still green (with a notable exception – see below), the weather relatively warm and still a hint of humidity. The day before yesterday it was incredibly hot here in London and the humidity was rivalling the hot a humid spell of a few weeks ago until a thunderstorm cleared the air and restored the freshness to the air.

I have seen plenty of conkers on the trees surrounding Clapham Common with some already being dropped, something that was happening around this time last year anyway. Something to note is that many of the horse Chestnut trees in London and some surrounding areas have had all their leaves turn brown. This looks like the normal autumnal turning but is actually the action of what is seemingly a plague of leaf miner moths. If you look closer you can see the smaller individual burrows inside the leaves where this parasite has destroyed the leaf tissues. The scale of the infestation on single trees and the population as a whole is incredible.

A quick search of the internet shows this is a recognised invasive pest problem. I suppose all that can be done is see how winter does at killing off the pest.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Amberlady cont.

The pagan community is very different from any other religious community. There is no unifying authority to guide and teach, there is no centralised dogma which unites us. There is no source to which we may go to find out about being ‘pagan’. The pagan community is made up of many individuals all with differing religious leanings with only a few things in common. What organisations there are, act generally to put people in contact with each other to share ideas. What can be said to unite modern pagans is that they are making their own pathway towards a connection with the divine in whatever form they see it.

The pagan community has people who have been walking their path for decades and people who have only just begun. There is a long tradition of those with the experience and knowledge to share it, whether through books, through magazine articles, by giving talks at events or by simply going online and frequenting message boards where they can discuss with other like minded people and share what they know. It perhaps is not an ideal arrangement but it works; go to an online message board for a long period and you can see changes in people, a growing sense of confidence in themselves and their beliefs, a maturity and commitment. This happens because those who they communicate with in the many forms available are supportive and helpful. As a community we have got to help each other out.

This is where I feel Amberlady lets herself and the pagan community down.

Her general response to a mistaken idea or a persons belief she disagrees with is derision, insults and rudeness. Most often never followed up with corrective information or advice. She sees people like this as beneath her, not ‘proper pagans’ and as such treats them like something unsavoury she has trodden in. THAT is what really gets my goat about her, she has so much potential to further the development of the other pagans in the community - and yes they are pagans Amberlady, whether you think so or not – and yet she chooses not to and to choose the path or being obnoxious.

The Amberlady

Where to begin? Amberlady is a regular poster on both the BBC Pagan message boards and the Pagan Network message boards (no internal linking, I used up my ability quota on the last post) and as such I have had interaction with her for a number of years on and off and also seen a lot of her interaction with others. Amberlady describes herself as an atheist pagan; pagan in the sense that she holds to the pre-Christian values of strength, honour and truth. Atheist in the sense that she does not believe in deity per se, though thinks that if gods do exist that they are grand cosmic sentiences which exist throughout the cosmos largely oblivious and uncaring abut humans and their little endeavors. She also has pantheistic leanings too. I hope this is a fair portrayal of her. She is intelligent, very down to earth, sensible (not in the twee and patronising manner used to describe women 50 odd years ago), practical and someone whom had I only known her from her blog here or another older blogger one she had a couple of years ago which doesn't seem to exist anymore, I would probably like quite a lot and have a lot of respect for.

Her way of ‘doing’ things is rooted in reality and practicality; getting out there and doing what needs doing. An awareness of the world around you, the various tides and changes that occur curing the cycle of the seasons. What you might call a dirty fingernail approach to paganism. This certainly resonates with my own ideas, beliefs and way of seeing things. Hence why I would otherwise like her.

She has similar ideas about research, reading widely and not taking the modern pagan books without a pinch of salt or a good bullshit detector. All things I see merit and worth in. What I am trying to say is that essentially she is in theory a damn fine addition to the pagan community. Or at least she could be.

It’s getting far too late for this kind of thing so I think it best to finish tomorrow. Or later today as it now is

Just Like the Oscars... sort of.

Simone at Ancestral Celt has given me an award;

Which is very flattering indeed, however she says:
"although Lee posts are infrequent they are always worth reading as he expounds on his explorations through brythonic paganism. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, I am always glad to see a new post at this particular site"
which has suddenly made me feel very guilty about my laziness in posting here, hence this post and the one I will be putting up in a matter of minutes. It is nearly 1am, I have to be up at 7am but I am not at all tired. This bodes ill for my state of being at work tomorrow.

In return I have to nominate some blogs too. I don't read that many of them, though i do recommend:

Mark at The Beast's Expvlsions (or something like that) :) It should be fairly obvious why I have nominated Mark from a brief read of his posts. It also happened to be the blog which inspired me to starting spouting the whirrings that go on inside my head into a digital format.

Fog Bank might well be a controversial choice especially considering the 'history' between it's author, myself and others on the BBC Pagan message board over a period of about 7 years. I do think it makes for interesting reading and it is certainly challenging.

And of course Simone's blog Ancestral Celt , it has much in common with my own - a modern pagan's musings as they meander along a path of their own cutting (hacking, slashing and much machete waving is in order).