Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Talliston – a Dream Come True

Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Talliston Watchtower

Talliston Watchtower

Yesterday Stephanie and I drove to Essex to visit a house we have been reading about for several years – Talliston. We were invited by John Trevillian, an author of dystopian fantasy novels, who started converting his 3 bedroom semi-detached ex-council house in Great Dunmow into a magical house  25 years ago. Now that the project is completed, John wants the house blessed by representatives of different faiths, and so he asked me to give a Druid blessing.

I can’t even begin to describe our experience on arriving at a crescent of very ordinary small houses, only to find ourselves, like Alice, being led into another world. Like every powerful experience it can only really be appreciated by going through it oneself. Suffice it to say that John and his partner Marcus have performed alchemy: they have taken the lead of a dreary house (you should see the before and after photos!) and turned it into an exquisite world, that is underpinned by an understanding of esoteric cosmology. For those who know their symbolism the house comes alive with hidden meaning. Above is just one photo, but you can see more on Talliston’s website, and read an article on it and see some before-and-after pictures here. The text of the blessing follows. I took an old Celtic blessing and preceded it with some scene-setting for context:

A Blessing for Talliston
In all of our hearts is a dream waiting to be born, waiting to be realised in the world. And every time someone realises a dream and manifests it in the world, it acts as a beacon of hope to those of us who have not yet made our dreams come true. Talliston is such a beacon – a place of magic and beauty, where a dream has indeed come true. And so we are here today to celebrate the completion of a story that has taken 25 years to unfold. And now that this story – formed in the Otherworld of fantasy and imagination – has been fully born, it can act as a gateway for all of us to enter that magical realm – that realm of the True, the Good and the Beautiful.
And so, in my role as Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, I ask that Talliston – this house, this garden, this home, be blessed by all the beneficent powers of Earth and Sky, of the Ancestors and of the Guardian Spirits of this land.
O Great Spirit, O Goddess, O God we ask for your blessings on Talliston – this home, this hearth, this house, this garden.
O Spirit of All, may this house be blessed from site to stay, from beam to wall, from end to end, from ridge to basement, from balk to roof-tree, from found to summit, from found to summit.
And a blessing on all who visit Talliston and live within its walls!
Awen! Awen! Awen!

NB the house and gardens are open for one weekend only for tours and private evening views with this link.





The Dancing Floor

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Lyn Webster Wilde is a film maker who lives in the beautiful Black Mountains in Wales. The landscape, its magic and myths have inspired her to create a film, The Dancing Floor. The film is a work in progress and Lyn has put together a Crowdfunding page to raise funds. Lyn explains,

The Dancing Floor is about Sita, half Welsh and half Indian who inherits an old house when her uncle dies and with it a riddle, to find what is lost.  Her uncle was active in the old tradition, in particular the ‘Children of Don’ from the Mabinogion. She is not keen intitially, having some terrifying memories from childhood.’

You can support this beautiful and atmospheric film, and also learn more about it and its creator Lyn on her Crowdfunding page.   I include the pitch video below but a short ‘pilot’ version of the feature film Lyn wants to make can be found on the Crowdfunding site. Lyn also has a lovely Blog that explores the inspiration for the film.

Stonehenge found on Mars? NASA announcement on Mars due today

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Apparently NASA is due to make a major announcement about their discoveries on Mars today. Perhaps they will reveal more about the ‘Stonehenge’ found on Mars seen on this video:

Dr Rowan Williams speaks on ‘Soil & Soul’

Friday, September 25th, 2015

3_RWPriestFormer Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is bringing his response and passion for the natural world to Sussex. His much anticipated talk, comes in the wake of the recent ’ publication of the encyclical from Pope Francis, ‘Laudato Si’ which is subtitled ‘Care of our common home’ and is addressed to ‘every person living on this planet.’ In it Pope Francis calls us to an ecological conversion, to care for our world and to praise God for the gifts of creation.
Rowan also highlights the greatest threats facing us today: climate change, growing global inequality and the destruction of nature and this is also important because of its’ timing – in December, international leaders will meet in Paris to secure a global climate deal.
The former archbishop has spoken out in the past about his fears about climate change and has blamed our western lifestyle for ‘pushing the environment towards crisis’, but as yet, no-one from the Anglican church has officially responded directly to what the Pope has said.
The event takes place at 7pm on Friday 2 October 2015, at Firle Place, near Lewes. For tickets to Rowan Williams exciting event, priced £10, which must be purchased in advance, please click here.

Celts – Art & Identity – a major exhibition at the British Museum

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
The Atrium of the British Museum

The Atrium of the British Museum

A major new exhibition has opened today at the British Museum – Celts: Art & Identity. Drop everything and go because it is fantastic!

Curator Julia Farley & John Kenny, carnyx player

Curator Julia Farley & John Kenny, carnyx player

Stephanie and I were at the launch party two nights ago. In the great atrium in the centre of the museum, the crowd that had gathered was stunned into silence as the sound of the Carnyx, the Celtic battle-trumpet, summoned us to one side of the great hall. The atrium’s acoustics made the war-cry echo eerily, as John Kenny, the world’s only professional carynx player, walked slowly forward as he played.

The director of the museum and then Jeremy Paxman introduced the evening and the exhibition itself. Paxman was on form – being a skeptic by trade he couldn’t help taking a pot-shot at contemporary Druids who had waylaid him at a stone circle one May 1st, when he was obviously hoping he could worship quietly without being disturbed. ‘Happy Beltane’ shouted these ‘drunken druids in white sheets’. Well, some of us are our own worst enemies – some robes do look like (and probably are) made of bed sheets, and some are too fond of the mead.

His speech soon over, I resisted the temptation to wish him a Happy Autumn Equinox (I wonder if the BM decided to launch deliberately on this auspicious day?) because something more interesting beckoned: the exhibition itself. Julia Farley, who has spent the last year working with colleagues on this project, offered to take us round and we entered the gallery. I won’t tell you what you’ll find there, because I think it’s best to be surprised, but you should know that you’ll see the Gundestrup cauldron up close, together with the most extraordinary sword, hirlas horn and banner of the Welsh Eisteddfod. Just for these alone a visit will be more than worthwhile.
Incidentally, you can read Julia Farley’s Mt Haemus paper here, and listen to an interview with her here.

As someone who lost a book contract because I dared to mention the problems inherent in the use of the term Celtic, I am very aware of how courageous this exhibition is. The challenge is to both honour and respect those things which have come to be termed Celtic, while at the same time recognizing the problematic nature of the term itself. The Telegraph’s reviewer Mark Hudson is obviously unaware of the depth of the problem, when he writes: ‘[The]opening salvo makes the heart sink: “The name Celt has often been used to articulate cultural difference and distinctiveness.” Yes, that does sound like an extract from some cringe-making, politically correct policy document. But don’t cancel your booking quite yet. The curators’ aim of exploring “how Welsh, Scottish and Irish identities came to be given the name Celtic and their relationship to a wider European story” may sound more suitable to a PhD thesis than a blockbusting exhibition, but the show soon settles into doing the thing most visitors will want and which the British Museum has always done very well: bringing together a stunning array of ancient artefacts.” (read more) The fact is that this issue is politically and emotionally sensitive for many people and to unpack it takes time. To create the succinct paragraphs that are needed for museum displays that are  accurate and yet still challenge beliefs, while respecting sensitivities, is enormously difficult and the curators have done an excellent job. There is none of the ‘fudging’ of the term’s problematic nature which is an approach often taken, perhaps out of sheer frustration at the intricacies of the problem.

The Telegraph’s reviewer loved the exhibition, though, and so did the Spectator’s. As Martin Gayford writes: ” ‘Celtic’ is a word heavily charged with meanings. It refers, among other phenomena, to a football club, a group of languages, a temperament, a style of art and a fringe, once the stronghold of the Liberal Democrats. But who are — and were — the Celts? The curators of the new British Museum exhibition are not at all sure, and that’s one of the reasons why the result is so enthralling.
There is a familiar answer to this question: the Celts were an ancient people who moved into Europe from the east in prehistoric times and occupied most areas north and east of the Alps, together with northern Italy and much of the Balkans. They spoke a kindred group of languages and created a style of art that continued to evolve from the 5th century BC into the Middle Ages. This luxuriantly decorative idiom, full of elegantly looping lines and densely knotted decoration, inspired the Romantics of the 19th-century Celtic revival, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frances and Margaret Macdonald, and ended up as a distinctive Scottish variety of art nouveau.
The trouble with this story, according to the accompanying book, is that a lot of it — apart from the revival part — is oversimplified, dubious and just wrong, and generally worked out by looking backwards at the distant past. ‘The idea of Celtic art,’ the authors point out, ‘was a Victorian creation.’ A good look at the Gundestrup cauldron brings out the complexities of the situation.” (read more)

The Guardian’s reviewer romantically chooses to ignore the problem, writing in a piece entitled ‘An Unintended Resurrection': “The Celts – Art and Identity is a great exhibition that achieves the opposite of what it intends. In wall texts and a richly detailed catalogue it sets out a sceptical approach to the ancient peoples of north-western Europe. Celts, we’re told, never called themselves Celts and modern constructions of a genetic and eternal Celtic identity – promoted by Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists – are as insubstantial as mist on a loch. Yet I have never seen such a stupendous display of Celtic art.” Jonathan Jones ends his review by saying: “I love this exhibition even though I am unconvinced by its thesis. It comes to bury the Celts but ends up resurrecting them, in all their misty splendour.” (read more)

Well of course the exhibition wasn’t intended to ‘bury the Celts’ at all, but never mind – he was carried away by the displays as was punk rock musician and lover of stone circles, Julian Cope, who shall have the last word: “I say bravo to this exhibition, which dares to address so many problematic Celtic concepts. Such generosity allows those peoples from far outside the Celtic world – the Americans, the Australians, even the Japanese – to share in its archaic psyche… As curators Julia Farley and Rosie Weetch guide me through the Celtic high crosses and carved standing stones, they describe how the show is a glorious opportunity to turn the general public’s preconceptions upside down and inside out… [They]are refreshingly defiant in defining the Celt as inclusively as possible – at pains throughout to provide maps and more maps of the Celtic worldview as its truth has migrated down the centuries. We moderns may too-often suffer from a mixing up of historical sequences, but better that, surely, than risk raising a population that is entirely not-arsed about its past. The proliferation of armchair archaeologists across the UK attests to the continued fascination that the ways of our ancestors invoke in so many of us. By keeping steadfastly to their inclusive vision of all things Celt, Farley and Weetch are helping to instil in future generations the kind of open-mindedness that has enabled our democracy to thrive.” (read more)

The exhibition runs until 31 January 2016. Here’s a 30 second plug of it (with ‘behind the scenes’ if you stay watching):

And if you’ve never heard the carnyx, here’s John Kenny on it:


Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

gorgeous owl pic

I have just listened to a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver on The Writer’s Almanac, a great site that has a daily podcast with Garrison Keillor. Garrison recites a different poem every day plus literary birthdays and events relevant to that date in history. The link to the site and the Mary Oliver poem can be found here but I have included the words below for you to savour. Forgive the prose structure – I haven’t been able to find a written copy of the poem.

Mary Oliver’s use of language and theme never fails to inspire, move and excite. The poem’s title is very apt…


When the owl on her plush and soundless wings rises from the black waves of the oak leaves or floats out of the needles of the pines that are moaning, that are tossing, I think, ‘Oh, she’s beautiful!’, with her eyes like burning moons, with her feet like twisted braids of old gold, flexing and curling. And I’m glad to see her, some wild loyalty has me to the root of the heart, even when she ruffles down into the field and jabs like a mad thing, and it is hopeless, it’s also wonderful, and I thank whatever made her, this beast of a bird with her thick breast and her shimmering wings, whose nest in the dark trees is trimmed with screams and bones, whose beak is the most terrible cup I will ever enter.

Beauty by Mary Oliver from What Do We Know. © Da Capo Press, 2002.

The Parent’s Guide to Homeopathy

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

9781583949054There is a lovely book by Shelley Keneipp – The Parent’s Guide to Homeopathy – that I highly recommend. Shelley’s book is a comprehensive and accessible guide that covers an extensive range of ailments with detailed but easy to grasp advice to help parents support the health of their families:

‘The Parent’s Guide To Homeopathy’ is a user friendly book spanning from newborns through the teen years. Parents will be able to use this book for just about any acute ailment that arises. The section on winter ailments, first-aid and travel, can also be used for the whole family. If a child wakes up in the middle of the night with an earache or develops an upset stomach while traveling, parents will have a storehouse of knowledge at their fingertips in this book. ~ Homeopathy for the Child Website

The author Shelley Keneipp

The author Shelley Keneipp

Shelley’s book can be purchased here and her website Homeopathy for the Child can be found here.

The Magic of Talliston House

Monday, September 21st, 2015


Talliston Watchtower

Talliston Watchtower

John Trevillian is an English novelist, poet, shaman and award-winning author of three novels (The A-Men, The A-Men Return and Forever A-Men), plus writer of many other short stories, poetry collections and travel journals. He is also creator of “Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home” [The Times]: Talliston House & Gardens, where he now lives.

Talliston House is an amazing project. John has transformed a very ordinary ex-council house and its gardens into something magical and extraordinary.  I have been following the progress of John’s twenty-five year labour of love and am delighted to be joining him on the 3rd of October to celebrate the official completion of the project. An incredible moment for John and all those involved!

After completion, for one weekend only, the house and gardens will be open to the public.
Dates:16th/17th/18th October 2015
Daily tours from 10:30-16:00 with historical occupants in the rooms.
Candlelit evening private views: 19:30-23:00
Accommodation packages available at local B&B

Here is John in his own words explaining what this project has meant to him:

ONCE upon a time (actually, at midday on 6th October 1990), I stepped into a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex and started a personal journey that has grown into a twenty-five year project: To take a standard English dwelling and transform it into a sacred space, with each room set in a different time and place and representing the last magical places on earth.

The process to deconstruct each room back to the brickwork and rebuild from scratch, so that upon completion not one square centimetre of the original house remains (that’s inside and out) has taken every penny I have earned, over 35,000 hours (a conservative estimate) and brought 1,821 items from 27 different countries (all personally visited) into this little house. Using only those tradesmen essential to compliance with building regulations (structural, electric and gas), the rest of the skills (from carpentry, bricklaying and garden landscaping to the more esoteric like basket weaving, gold leafing and treehouse construction) have been learned during its lifecycle. During the project, we’ve also welcomed over 138 other craftspeople, artists, architects and volunteers who have become immersed into what is now a veritable community.

It was quite a brave undertaking, but made more so because the person who started this quarter-century journey – ie. me – could at the start not even wire a household plug. It has been an oft-repeated supposition that the only reason I began this endeavour was because this lack of knowledge meant I had not the faintest of ides how impossible the task ahead actually was!

Escaping the ordinary

If there is one inquiry that crops up amongst the endless rounds of ‘what do the neighbours think?’ and ‘who does all the dusting?’ and that is the question of: ‘Why?’ This is a difficult one, as it seems to assume that there’s a reason to art. I mean, why did Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa? But art does have a message, and here I can help a little. If the project says anything it is that the extraordinary lies within the ordinary – that we can achieve anything our mind’s imagine.

But I wasn’t sure that this was a completely satisfactory answer. And then I was on a plane to New York and found myself watching Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in The Painted Veil (a story of a doctor swapping aspidistras and velvet drapes for the cholera-infested backwaters in 1920s China). And in the opening, while Naomi was explaining how she dislikes being given cut flowers as why would anyone give her dead things), there was the same question: Why place so much effort into something that is going to die? Why put so much effort into something I am going to lose? Why spend so much time? So much money? And for what purpose? It is the question that I have asked myself many times, and know what I’m really asking is: “What is life?”

Everyone should ask themselves this question, and know that there are no wrong answers, that everyone will respond differently. What matters is not what the answer is but that the question is asked. For me, Talliston asks: “Why cannot the whole world be like this?” What’s so strange about trying to create a life that is wonderful, that is magnificent and excellent, before the time comes when I must say my farewells. Why place so much effort? Why cut flowers, why scent each area, why travel hundreds of thousands of miles to fetch objects for the house… Why? Why? WHY!

Here is the why. The what and the how. Because that, to me, is life. And here only a few days from finishing Talliston, life has never felt more rich, more wonderful – or for me, so alive. ~ John Trevillian

Talliston Treehouse

Talliston Treehouse

John’s website and the Talliston House and Gardens website.




Could You Live Without Money?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Mark Boyle wanted to know if he could live without money for a year. His experiment turned into a three year exploration that brought him closer to the land, to others and himself. He discovered that removing money from the equation transformed the way he viewed and interacted with his environment:

More than anything else, I discovered that my security no longer lay in my bank account, but in the strength of my relationships with the people, plants and animals around me. My character replaced sterling as my currency. If I acted selfishly or without care for those around me, then in the medium-term my ability to meet my own economic needs would diminish. My moneyless economy was one in which helpfulness, generosity and solidarity were rewarded.

Mark Boyle

Mark Boyle

I include here a link to the full article, which includes a short video. Mark has also written a book about his experiences called Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi.

Living Without Money: What I Learned

With little idea of what I was to expect, or how I was to go about it, seven years ago I began living without money. Originally intended as a one-year experiment in ecological living, I wanted to explore how it felt as a human being to live without the trappings and security that money had long-since afforded me. While terrifying and tough to begin with, by the end of the first year I somehow found myself more content, healthier and at peace than I had ever been. And although three years later I made a difficult decision to re-enter the monetary world – to establish projects that would enable others to loosen the grip that money has on their lives – I took from it many lessons that have changed my life forever.

For the first time I experienced how connected and interdependent I was on the people and natural world around me, something I had previously only intellectualised. It is not until you become physically aware of how your own health is entirely reliant on the health of the great web of life, that ideas such as deep ecology absorb themselves into your arteries, sinews and bones.

If the air that filled my lungs became polluted, if the nutrients in the soil that produced my food became depleted, or if the spring water which made up 60% of my body became poisoned, my own health would suffer accordingly. This seems like common sense, but you wouldn’t think so by observing the way we treat the natural world today. Over time, even the boundaries of what I considered to be “I” became less and less clear.

What I took from this was that if we want to secure the long-term health of ourselves and future generations of life, we need to start defending these ecological systems with the same fierceness and determination as we would an attack on our own body, an idea I explore in my new book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi. While we may be able to detach ourselves from the spiralling instances of ecocide that we are now used to hearing about on a regular basis – after all, it tends to be distant and sometimes abstract things that are under threat, and nothing so concrete as our own bodily sovereignty – these attacks are, in the long run, no less serious…Read more.

Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Here’s a fantastic and thought-provoking Ted Talk by Johann Hari that challenges the current perceived notions about addiction and its treatment. Many thanks to Barry Winbolt who shared this on his fabulous blog, Single Session Therapy.