Friday, 22 September 2017

Mellow Fruitfulness

This is an article from the latest Raven Newsletter, for those of you who miss out on its full fabness.

     I always think that the Equinoxes are the times when you become really aware of the Turning of the Wheel of the Year.
     At midsummer and midwinter there is a delay in the way the seasons reflect the astrological moment. The Summer Solstice falls around the 21st of June, but that is rarely 'midsummer' as far as the weather and temperatures are concerned - although this year June was very warm. It is usually July and August which are the hottest months and hence why we have our 'Summer Holidays' in these two months.
     It is the same thing in Winter: the Solstice falls around the 21st of December and is the shortest day in length, but the coldest weather, and the greater likelihood of snow is in January and February - one of the reasons that Imbolc is called the feast of the White Lady, is because snow is more likely then than around Christmas.
    But the Equinoxes really do mark turning points in the year. In Spring it is the feast of Eostre, the Spring Maiden who brings new life to the world, and this is so easy to see with the swathes of flowers springing up, and trees flaunting their fertility with catkins or flowers.
     And at Autumn again nature obliges by turning the leaves of the trees beautiful colours of yellow, orange and red, then falling in great drifts. Hedges are dotted with hawthorn and elderberries or garlanded with vines of jewel bright, red, bryony berries, our English Mandrake.
     The Autumn Equinox is the festival which celebrates the bounty of the harvest, and the thanks that it is safely gathered into storage. From late July the crops have ripened to fullness and there has been a flurry of activity as fields are shorn of their golden grain. Hops, grapes and apples are also gathered, as are many other crops. These are the foods which will see us through the bleak Winter months, and provide alcohol to feast with and bring joy at the darkest of times. Until the new shoots re-appear once more, next Spring.
     The Equinoxes are times of abundance. Either filling the barns and lofts, or filling the earth with new life. They are also times to give thanks to the Earth for providing such riches for us.
     They also remind us that we are lucky to live in such a place, where we can have food all year, to the extent that we can be profligate and wasteful with it.
     So let us celebrate the time of the Harvest. Thank the Goddess for her bounty and the God for his protection.
     Study a head of wheat, or an apple and above all: appreciate, taste and enjoy your food.



Friday, 1 September 2017

The Wicker Man

Last night there was a rare treat on the tv, a showing of The Wicker Man film, on the Horror Channel.
     This is a film I have always loved, and apart from Edward Woodward's characters demise, burned alive in a giant wicker man figure, I've never understood why it was classed as a 'horror' movie.
     The rest of the film is a wonderful imagining of a Pagan community, where the Scottish islanders are brought up in their ancient beliefs, to understand the turning of the seasons, the old gods and old ways. The music and songs add enormously to the atmosphere of a community in harmony with each other and nature, with the jarring note being the christian virgin police sergeant, who cannot understand the beliefs, or sexuality openly expressed by all islanders.
    It was made in 1973 and is very much of its time, with naked girls dancing around a fire and singing 'Take the flame inside you, burn and burn below, fire burn and fire turn, make the baby grow.'
     The landlord's daughter, played by Brit Ekland with an obviously dubbed voice, is the epitome of female sexuality, and referred to as the goddess Aphrodite, by Lord Summerisle, a suave Christopher Lee.
     I have always loved folk songs, and do sing to amuse myself, so the many songs which link through the film are a real joy. I think the first time I watched the film I focused so strongly on the Pagan elements and the music, that the story barely impinged. I have since read the book by Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy, Shaffer wrote the film and Hardy directed it, which I enjoyed but had nowhere near the impact on me that the sound and visuals of the film did - and did again last night.
     I love the idea that the children are taught that there is no death, but that the spirit carries on and goes into the hares and other creatures in nature.
    The eternal cycle of existence is expressed in a song sung while the young boys are dancing around the Maypole, which the girls are being taught is a symbol of male sexuality and the erect phallus.
In the woods there grew a tree
And on that tree there was a limb
And on that limb there was a branch

     The song continues to a nest with an egg, containing a bird, a feather becomes a bed, where a couple conceive a child who grows and dies, and on his grave there grew a tree, and the cycle starts and goes round again, eternally.
    I read that Shaffer and Hardy raided the book 'The Golden Bough' by J G Frazer, a monumental work of comparative mythology and folklore, and took chunks from here there and everywhere. Which put the hackles up of some people.
     The film was not a commercial success when it was first released, and suffered from being hacked rather than cut. The general public didn't understand it (hardly surprising) but it did gain a cult following (again hardly surprising).
     It has been slated over the years for various reasons, some decry its openly sexual nature, some that it is too Pagan, others that it is not accurately Pagan enough.
     Frankly I love it, apart from the final burning scene - and my main objection to that is the animals and birds fastened in the Wicker Man, go ahead and burn the christian (they've burnt enough Pagans, the Goddess knows), but don't harm the animals!


Friday, 25 August 2017

Solitary Confinement

I love the Radio Times, it is the only magazine I subscribe to, and I look forward to reading it from cover to cover.
     I love the way it draws my attention to programmes I would not necessarily have looked at. And this time it is a programme on Solitary Confinement, in which several people are locked away, with no stimulus for five days. They are allowed to take three personal items with them (although I'd imagine that a phone and laptop would not be allowed!).
     The introduction says that one person only managed five hours before demanding to be let out.
     That got me thinking about how well I would manage in those circumstances, and what I would take in with me.
     Pen and paper are an obvious choice, but what would the third item be? I don't think you would be allowed a book, but if you were then five days of nothing would be the ideal time to plough through The Lord of the Rings.
     Sorry folks, that is the one Tolkein book that didn't grab me. Loved The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings I found to be disjointed. I'd just get engrossed in following a character and whoops, the next bit was about someone or somewhere I'd never heard of - and great chunks of it I just found boring.
     But anyway, back to solitary.
     I wonder if they'd let you have a tin of biscuits as your third item? ..... mmmmm biscuits .....
     Try and keep to the point: how would I cope with solitary confinement?
     Some people never spend any time alone, and especially these days when most people are constantly connected with mobile phones and pc's. I know there are those who find it impossible to be without their phones, let alone having no other contact with other humans.
     Working from home though, now that does prepare you for solitary confinement!
     Although Graham and I work together, we are often doing different things in different rooms, so we may not see each other, let alone speak, for several hours at a time. And there have been times when I have spoken to no-one but Graham for the best part of a week.
     I think as you get older, perhaps your life gets more solitary too. Our son has his own home and family, so we may get to see him once a week. Friends move away, or find a new interest, or even die.
     I am not being morbid, merely realistic.
     Oh, and don't feel sorry for me. I have always enjoyed periods of solitude. My hell is dealing with large numbers of people.
     To be honest, a period of time in solitary confinement sounds both restful and refreshing to me.
     Often I am so busy with the routine of living and working, that I don't have time to be creative. And I love giving my imagination free reign.
     What luxury to have five whole days of peace and quiet with a note pad and pen.
     I wonder if they are looking for volunteers for another go?
     Where do I sign up?



Saturday, 19 August 2017

Smoking

At ten to nine on a Saturday morning, the works phone goes. By the time we have clattered downstairs to catch it, whoever it was has rung off.
     Interested to see who had rung us at that time on a Saturday, I did dial back - the thing where you type in 1471 and it tells you the number of whoever rang you last - and rang the number given.
     'Hello, I'm Chris from Raven, did you want me?' I ask
     'No-one has rung you from here,' says the man on the other end.
     'Erm, yes they have,' I say, 'Because I've just done dial back.'
     A lady obviously takes the phone off him and says, 'Do you do smokeless incense sticks?'
    'No sorry,' I say, 'The whole point of incense sticks is that they give off smoke.'

     There are some times when you know that it is a waste of time detailing the alternate options available, and this was one of those. So we ended the conversation pleasantly, and I went back to checking out a catalogue from one of our suppliers.
    Incense and perfume both come from words which mean 'fragranced smoke', so by their very nature, they are smoke. But smoke which is used for its aroma.
     However these days there are alternatives, and one of the best is to use a perfume burner. These do not (or should not) actually burn the perfume, they create a fragrant steam which carries the perfume molecules into the air. You put water into the top recess of the burner, add a few drops of perfumed oil and light the candle beneath it. The candle flame warms the water which evaporates and carries the perfume into the air.
     I make a lot of magical oils, which can be used for personal perfume, to anoint candles for spell work, used in your bath (only a few drops at a time) or used in oil burners too. This is a very pure way of experiencing the perfume, and is a lovely way of filling your ritual area with an aroma which can enhance your ritual or spell work.
     Also the incense and particularly incense sticks, can often smell very different when burnt, to how it smells in the packet. Perfumed oils smell the same, but the warmth enhances their fragrance.


This is my favourite oil burner, which we bought from our friends at Zoo Ceramics at Waddington in Lincolnshire.

     There is also a huge variety of perfumed oils, from single fragrances, to the magical blends I make. Our most popular are Kyphi, based on recipes found carved into the walls of temples in ancient Egypt, Ruthvah which was created by Aleister Crowley, and blends such as Lucky Master, Come To Me, Aphrodite and Van Van.
      And there are literally thousands of others!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Making Orgonite

Orgonite is a fab material made from inorganic and organic materials according to the principles of Wilhelm Reich.
     You can find some beautiful examples of this these days, and we have been stocking large and small Orgonite pyramids and other items such as pendulums and angels - when we can find them.
They are usually composed of tiny polished gemstone chips, plus crystals, metal in the form of wires and filings, all set in a clear resin - the resin being derived from petrol is the 'organic' element.
     My daughter in law has been creating some lovely pendants and needle minders, which have a clear resin protective surface, selling them through her online 'shop' Denkai Designs. So when I told her about Orgonite, and that I would love to have a go at making some, volunteered to help me, as she has experience of working with the resin and creating moulds for pendants.
     So on Sunday, Cherise arrived with all her equipment for us to have a go.
     First we had to make the mould, by mixing together two lumps of a plasticine-like stuff. We wrapped this around some glass shapes, which I thought would look nice for the finished objects, then had to wait for this to harden into sturdy but flexible moulds, and could pop out the original glass shapes.
     I had already made some tiny metal charms, one for Venus, one for Jupiter and a tiny interlocked wire pentacle. These would create three special Orgonite shapes which would make use both of the Orgonite energies and combine them with magical correspondences.
     The square shape I had decided would be dedicated to the energies of Jupiter and used to create a wealth drawing object. The heart shaped one was obviously going to be just right for Venus, and the third Crescent shape would embody the powers of the Moon Goddess.
     To be sure that none of the contents would poke through the surface, we first had to create a thin layer of resin all around the inside of the moulds, which would have to be at least partially set before I added anything else.
     One thing I am not good at, as anyone who knows me is probably aware, is patience.
     Many years ago, it was possible to buy a tee shirt showing two vultures sitting on a branch and one saying to the other 'Patience, my ass, I'm gonna kill something!'
     That would probably suit me. So the 'waiting while it sets' part of these processes, was not going well. I spent my time gently moving the resin around so that it built up the layer around the inside of the mould, and eventually Cherise agreed that now I could start doing the fun bit!
     The first thing into each mould were the appropriate little metal charms I had made. This was followed by tiny gemstone chips chosen because they were associated with each of the planetary powers. So in the Jupiter one went lapis, sodalite and amethyst, together with some pretty glitter. The Venus one had peridot and rose quartz, and the Moon one clear quartz - I should probably have used little pieces of selenite for this one.
     When I felt there was enough in each, the moulds were topped up with more of the clear resin to hold everything in place.
     Cherise then gently blew on the surface of each to disperse any little bubbles, and told us to cover the moulds and put them somewhere to stand while they set over the next few days.
     Heck! More waiting!
     After three or four days, the great un-moulding took place.
    I was really excited as the backs of the shapes looked really good and crystal clear.
     But saddly, the fronts weren't nearly as good. It looked like a layer of tiny bubbles had coated the moulds. so that when the shapes were revealed, the surface is both pitted and semi-opaque. Like the effect of a frosted window.


     Weirdly these look better in the photo than they do in real life.
     I have learnt several things from this: the moulds were too deep. I suspect that what I should have done is be prepared to put another thin layer of resin over the outer surface once they were set.
     The process of making these was fun. And I really don't have the patience for this.





Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Golden Grain

As promised, here is an extract from our latest Raven Newsletter, for those folk who miss out on its full magnificence:

     All over the world we grow grain.
     Grains of different varieties are the staple food of millions of people, and have been for thousands of years, and it seems that all over the world, at roughly the same time, people began to attempt to cultivate different grains. This all seems to have happened around ten thousand years ago.
     In Syria or southern Turkey wheat and barley began to be farmed, in the East it was rice, and in southern Mexico maize became domesticated. Archaeologists have worked out that the most ancient crops grown around the Mediterranean were wheat, barley, lentils, peas and chickpeas, plus flax grown both for its seeds and for its use in textiles.
     Oats appear to have been a later addition to the domesticated grain family, but they do grow better in damper and cooler climates such as the British Isles. Oats can be planted in the autumn and over wintered as they are unaffected by frost and snow, but don't like to be too warm.
     These days it is wheat which is the main grain used to make our daily bread, so much of the lore and magic which once belonged to other grains, has been attached to wheat. But it is interesting to see how similar stories crop up of a special spirit or deity who comes to show humans how to grow the grain.
     In ancient Egypt the grain god was Osiris, who is killed by his brother, but magically brought back to life by Isis, so that she can conceive a child by him. In Egypt little clay trays in the shape of the silhouette of Osiris were filled with earth and planted with grains to be placed in the graves of loved ones. The sprouting of the grain gives the hope of resurrection. If the grain can have its head cut off and be killed, yet magically appear again in the spring, then we also have the possibility of re-birth in another life. The Egyptians believed that this was re-birth in the land of the dead, where people would carry on in a very similar way to their lives on earth.
     But in the land of the dead, even the poorest people could live like lords, with servants to carry out their work for them.
    When people were buried they were often given possessions to take with them into the afterlife. In Egypt this often included little models of workers, known as Ushabti. To the Egyptians when any image had its eyes painted in, that was when the image came alive. This applied to images and statues of the gods, to images of the deceased, and to the little Ushabti models too. There were similar rituals which could be used to ensure this awakening also, and these are detailed in the papri found in the tombs of the dead and known to us as The Book of the Dead.
     As it was the god Anubis who performed this ritual for the gods, he was invoked to help do the same for the dead and for the Ushabti:
Anubis grant thou that breathing may take place in the head of [name], 
and that s/he may see with her/his two eyes and hear with her/his two ears, 
and that s/he may breathe through her/his nose, 
and that her/his mouth shall be open 
and that s/he may be able to speak with her/his tongue.
May the voice of [name] be heard.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Visitors

You know how it is, you haven't blogged for a while because all has been quiet on the home front and then all of a sudden there are LOTS of things you need to put up all at the same time.
     I want to give you an extract from the last Newsletter, for folks who missed it.
     I want to tell you about my first (and possibly only, or maybe not, but I don't know yet) attempt to make my own Orgonite and incorporated magical correspondences into it.
     And then we got a pigeon in the kitchen again.

     There we were having a pre-shopping look at the computers - well a mini play of World of Warcraft if you want to get technical about it - when all of a sudden I heard the sound of flying glass objects and the crash of something hitting the floor.
     'There's something in the kitchen!' I said to Graham
     'Huh, what?' was his considered reply
     'There's something in the kitchen, go and look!'
     'I can't hear anything.'
     'Go and look!'

     So he went, he looked, he swore a bit, and then removed the pigeon from its favourite window above the sink, by throwing a t-shirt over it so it couldn't see him coming. Took the pigeon outside, put the t-shirt in the wash and replaced all the stuff it had swept out of the window.
   
     The bathroom is on the ground floor, right next to the little kitchen with the back door. And at this time of year, when I have a bath in the morning I like to have both the back door and bathroom door open, I love the fresh air - and I can kid myself that I am actually reclining in a hot tub.
     The other day as I luxuriated and read my book I glanced up to see a black and white cat passing the bathroom door. On its way out!
     So it had been visiting while Graham and the dogs were out of the way.
     So so far this year our visitors have included numerous bees of various sizes, two toads, slugs, butterflies,  a pigeon and a cat.
     I am hoping the rabbits, hedgehog and bats stay outside.