Archive for July, 2011

 

Sacred Places and Their Shadows

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

We’re so used to thinking about sacred sites as ‘special’ and ‘magical’ that any ‘shadow’ they might cast gets scant attention. When I was asked to write a book about them, I discovered to my dismay that the most well-known create vast carbon footprints, with millions traveling across the world to visit them and  use up local resources… but shadows are enigmatic and there are threads of gold in the darkness: local economies thrive because of them, hearts and minds are opened by them.

The other day, Peter Owen-Jones talked for Transition Towns in Lewes, and he mentioned the damage caused by the concept of ‘consecrated space’ – of the way in which by consecrating a church, for example, it was supposed to  make it different, more holy, than your own garden. Here was a thought: that designating a place ‘sacred’ damages our sense of the whole Earth being sacred.

Quercus has just re-published the book I wrote on sacred sites in a smaller edition. They’ve done a lovely job, and the new edition is even more pleasing to the eye than the bigger one for some reason. Some of the shadows are discussed in the book, but most of it is a celebration and an exploration, and I guess it’s up to each of us to decide whether the idea of sacred places is uplifting or problematic.

Francis Cameron, in a review, wrote: “I am really enchanted with this book. As I turn the pages I feel I am actually present at each place. I’ve not had this experience with a book before.”  The book’s website is here: www.sacredplaces.info

And if wild horses won’t stop you buying it at once, the Amazon UK link is here, and the Amazon US link is here.

If you’d like a copy dedicated to you and signed you can get this from the Order’s bookshop here.

Harry Potter, Good vs Evil, and Real English Magic

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Posted on the 16 July 2011 by Dianefergurson:

Harry Potter, Good vs Evil, and Real English MagicThe last film with the Harry Potter franchise has finally arrived and, as pointed out by the press, so has many people’s childhood – or pretend childhood.  Yesterday we went to see the last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2“.  Like anything else in art, film or literature, it’s up to the reader or viewer to draw their own conclusions about the ending. We will each view it through our own personal perspective.

If you have not read the last book or seen the this film I’m not going to spoil it for you.  I will say though, that for those viewers who have seriously studied mythology and/or symbology, you will find this last film steeped in it in all the classic ways.  The wrestling of good and evil and/or the light and dark within ourselves, is a theme and belief system that permeates philosophy and religion.  It doesn’t matter if you approach it from a Christian, Daoist (yin yang), Buddhist (suffering), Native American, Wiccan or any other perspective.  It’s the same general theme.  Same life issues.  And in the end, no matter what you believe, life goes on.

That said, for people who still think that Rowling pulled the ideas for Harry Potter out of some magical hat, or that it is simply generation’s version of Star Wars , I suggest you follow up by reading a book called “The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, Overlook Press 2010.
I ran across it in a book store one day and it literally jumped out at me – mostly because it did not look like a normal, slick, American mass market publication.  This book is very well written, utterly fascinating and educational.  It presents an enjoyable history of magic in England in a very readable form.  Below are the first two paragraphs from the book to give you a taste.  Enjoy!

~ diane fergurson

Every country has it’s magic: in it’s wild places, in its history, and in the traditions of its healers and mystics.  The lands that border England have a special magic – Wales and Scotland are brimming with tales of wizards and seers – but this book focuses on the country that has grown, by design or quirk of fate, into the worlds richest storehouse of magical lore: England.

Our story begins in a bookshop.  Treadwell’s in London’s Convent Garden is everything a bookshop should be – warm, inviting, comfortable – and yet most people hurry past it, because it specializes in a subject they don’t believe in: magic.”

Everyone Sang

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;

And I was filled with such delight

As prisoned birds must find in freedom,

Winging wildly across the white

Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;

And beauty came like the setting sun:

My heart was shaken with tears; and horror

Drifted away…O, but Everyone

Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Siegfried Sassoon

These Temples Grew

Friday, July 15th, 2011

I have seen in a sky a chain of summer lightning which at once showed to me that the Greeks drew from Nature when they painted the thunderbolt in the hand of Jove. I have seen a snowdrift along the sides of the stone-wall which obviously gave the idea of the common architectural scroll to abut a tower.

The Gothic church plainly originated in a rude adpatation of the forest trees with all their boughs to a festal or solemn arcade, as the bands about the cleft pillars still indicate the green withes that tied them.  No one can walk through a road cut through pine woods, without being struck by the architectural appearance of the grove, especially in winter, when the barreness of all other trees shows the low arch of the Saxons. In the woods in a winter afternoon one will see as readily the  origin of the stained glass window, with which the Gothic cathedrals are adorned, in the colours of the western sky seen through the bare and crossing branches of the forest. Nor can any lover of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and the English cathedrals, without feeling that the forest overpowered the mind of the builder, and that his chisel, his saw and plane still produced its ferns, it spikes of flowers, its locust, elm, oak, pine, fir and spruce…These temples grew as grows the grass; Art might obey, but not surpass.     Emerson

What Lies Within Us

Friday, July 15th, 2011

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us…   -  Emerson

A Step Without Feet…

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.

Rumi

A Priest on the Edge is Ordained

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago, Mark Townsend was ordained as a minister in the Open Episcopal Church. Mark is an extraordinary man: Christian, Druid and Magician, who has written inspiring books, including The Gospel of Falling Down: The Beauty of Failure in an Age of Success.

Some people find it hard to understand how Mark (or indeed anyone) can connect with both a Nature-based path such as Druidry and a religion such as Christianity, but others find creativity and new horizons at the edges, at the boundaries where traditions meet and merge and sometimes clash.

Mark asked me and Revd.Peter Owen-Jones (well-known in the UK for his series Extreme Pilgrim and Around the World in 80 Faiths) if we could come to his ordination. Neither of us could make it, so he asked for a video message, which we were able to film in a beautiful spot in Ashdown Forest thanks to the kindness of director Sara Proudfoot-Clinch, who was filming us that day for a short film for the Woodland Trust that will highlight the continuing necessity for us to fight to save England’s forests.

Mark’s ordination was unusual in that he was blessed both by Christian bishops, and by a Druid and a priestess of the Goddess, author Sorita d’Este, who writes in her blog:

‘Over the years in my role as Priestess I have witnessed, participated and facilitated hundreds of ceremonies. Whilst each and every single one of them have been special and different in their own right, and whilst many of them will be with me throughout my life as harbingers of change and illuminating lights along the pathways I walk, wander and dance through the Mysteries; none have been quite so extraodinary as the ceremony I attended and played a small role in this past weekend in the borders town of Leominster.  Just like Leominster is one of those towns here on the borders between England and Wales which is eternally liminal, where the edges between two nations are blurred at times as you examine its history and people; this was a ceremony in which the edges were blurred between traditions, people and beliefs.’ Read more and see photos on Sorita’s blog

Here is the film we made for Mark:

Mark has now taken advantage of the voucher Peter presented in this film. He has visited Gervaise of Brighton and has now returned to his ministry amongst his flock on the Edge, complete with his new hairstyle. His websites can be found here.

Curly Prophet Mark Townsend

Pagan Federation 40th Anniversary

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The Pagan Federation are putting on a fantastic event in London this Autumn, and I’m looking forward to participating with so many others in the Pagan community. Here are details, but if you can’t read this, go straight to their site. Tickets can be bought from Atlantis and Treadwells Bookshops in London or online here.

Protecting the Trees

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

I’ve just received the following message from ’38 Degrees’ who played such a key role in stopping the government’s proposal to sell off England’s public woodland. Sadly the battle is not yet over. We need to tell the government’s panel what we think to stop them resurrecting their plan. But we only have a few weeks to do this! Please read and act on the message below. It’ll only take you a few minutes – and we know now that our voices can count!

Just a few months ago, over half a million of us came together to win an incredible victory. Against the odds we convinced the government to abandon their plans to sell our forests. [1] Together, we sounded the alarm with a massive petition, thousands of emails to MPs and national newspaper ads. People power worked!

But our forests could still be at risk. When the government abandoned their forest sell-off plans, they said they’d set up an “independent panel of experts” to help decide the future of our woodlands. Now, the panel is up and running. They’ve said they want to hear ideas from thousands of us about the best way to protect our beautiful forests for our children and grandchildren. [2]

The panel has just started work. But we know they answer to the same minister who cooked up the plans to sell the forests in the first place. So, although the panel could make sensible plans for our woodlands’ future, they could be under pressure to rubber-stamp more sell-offs. Together, we can stop that happening.

We don’t have long. We’ve got until the end of July to answer their questions about our woodlands. We need to make sure that they get tens of thousands of messages telling them how much we love our woods, as places to play, walk, cycle, learn and much more.

Can you take 2 minutes to answer the panel’s questions now? A flood of messages will show the panel that the public wants our forests protected, not sold off to private companies. We’ll collect all our answers together, and hand them over to the panel as a huge, people-powered message – protect our forests:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/forests-panel

The questions the panel are asking aren’t complicated and you don’t need to be an expert to answer them. Anybody who cares about our forests can have a say. They’re asking things like, “what do forests and woods mean to you?” There are five questions all together. But if you’ve only got time to answer one or two, that’s fine as well.

Over half a million 38 Degrees members have already done an incredible job of protecting our woodlands. Now, we need to work together to make sure this panel knows how many of us care about our forests, and don’t want the government to try to go ahead with another sell-off.

Please take 2 minutes now and send your message to the forestry panel now
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/forests-panel

John Dee Opera Reviewed

Monday, July 4th, 2011
Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tem...

Prospero & Ariel from The Tempest by William Hamilton 1797

The new Dr Dee opera, mentioned a few posts back, premiered at the weekend. It sounds wonderful:

Damon Albarn’s new fantasia – call it a masque or an opera, what does it matter? – devised in collaboration with Rufus Norris and others, is fresh, original and heartfelt. It has its shortcomings, but nothing that can’t be remedied when it transfers to the London Coliseum next summer. Already it is streets ahead of other rock-based composers’ attempts at music theatre.

Following a free but broadly linear narrative, it illustrates, celebrates and meditates on the life of the Elizabethan mathematician, geographer and philosopher John Dee – a possible source for the character of Prospero in The Tempest.

In the pit, a chamber orchestra plays; above the stage sits Albarn himself, with a consort of 16th-century instruments, plus African drummer and harp. In a series of interjections, charged with the melancholy of Dowland’s lute songs, Albarn provides choric commentary on the action, lamenting the loss of a spiritually rich England.

Excerpt from the Telegraph Review