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" The world is mud-luscious

and puddle-wonderful "

e.e.cummings

A Time Machine

September 15th, 2008

In these extraordinary film clips an animation artist has manipulated still images – paintings and a photograph – so you can have the experience of Keats, William Blake, Walt Whitman reciting their poetry to you

All is Contained in the Seed

September 15th, 2008

We are the passing faces of an unfolding; all is contained in the seed.

Its working out is time itself: the effects of fate, chance, and providence.

Tobias Churton, The Magus of Freemasonry

Disney, The Shadow and the Fate of America

September 14th, 2008

OBAMA AND THE PALIN EFFECT BY DEEPAK CHOPRA

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin’s pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” Read more

Lewes May Declare Independence

September 11th, 2008

Following the lead of other towns – Totnes in Devon, Berkshire in Massachusetts – our town has created its own currency – the Lewes Pound. In an opposite move to globalisation, advocates of the pound want to encourage local sourcing and purchasing. It’s a great idea. There were 700 people at the launch of the new notes, and I think the next step will be to declare Independence! Read more here at Viva Lewes and at the Lewes Pound website.

Lewes Pound

Lewes Pound

Another Extraordinary Woman

September 10th, 2008

For some time I’ve known about the stories of three extraordinary women whose destinies seemed to be bound up with a completely different culture and spirituality that they were born into, and that really seem to reinforce the idea of reincarnation. One was the legendary Om Seti, an English woman – Dorothy Eady – who told her parents from an early age that they weren’t her parents, learnt Egyptian as soon as she could, and went to live beside the temple in Karnak, acting as a priestess and guide there for decades until she died. Then there was the German Maria Reiche who lived in Peru from the age of 29 and dedicated much of her life to the Nazca lines, so that now there is a Maria Reiche centre in Nazca. Then there is the story of the Swiss Alice Boner, who lived in India for over 40 years and cracked the code of the reliefs at the Ellora Caves (I write about her in ‘Sacred Places’).

But now on the BBC website I’ve discovered a fourth – the amazing Austrian Susanne Wenger. I’ll quote a little bit from the article below the picture and then you can follow the link to read more. How wonderful that such people exist in this world!

Thousands of Nigerians have been taking part in the annual Osogbo festival of the river-god Osun. Devotees, mostly from the Yoruba community, congregate in a sacred grove to seek Osun’s blessings. (Photo and text Andrew Walker BBC)
Bent double by age, the high-priestess of Nigeria’s Yoruba spirit-world shuffles forward from
under the trees, reaching out a white, blotchy hand in welcome.

Half a lifetime ago, Susanne Wenger dedicated herself to reviving the traditions of the pre-Christian Yoruba gods, “the orishas”, and left Austria to make Nigeria her home.

The frail 94-year-old artist, with one seeing eye, has been a driving force in Osogbo town,

where she is in charge of the sacred grove, a place where spirits of the river and trees are said to live.

In an upstairs room of her house, surrounded by carved wooden figures of the gods, she receives well-wishers and devotees, who she blesses in fluent Yoruba.

Read more

London Braces Itself for Bonewits

September 9th, 2008

The witty and erudite New York Druid Isaac Bonewits is about to hit town, and here is the poster advertising his tour. If you haven’t heard him speak I can heartily recommend the experience. And if you don’t know who he is, read this excerpt from the foreword I wrote to his book Isaac Bonewits’ Essential Guide to Druidism a few years ago:

Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil.
Doing the mind guerrilla,
Some call it magic – the search for the grail.

John Lennon – Mind Games

If you want a Druid dude to lift the veil on Druidism, you’ve come to the right place.  Isaac is like an eccentric and dedicated botanist who has decided in this book to recount his view of the exotic jungle that is modern Druidism. He’s well placed to do this because he’s been in the thick of it for some time. In fact he’s played a crucial role in its development in the modern era.

Most people think that Druidism is an ancient religion – a relic of the distant past. Others think it’s a Victorian invention, based on a few lines found in classical texts. They’re both right, but also wrong, because although Druidism did indeed originate way back in the past, and although it was ‘re-invented’ in the 18th and 19th centuries, much of Druidism as it is practised today really owes its origins to the very recent past of the 1960’s and 1980’s.

Something very powerful happened in the sixties. A wave of spiritual energy washed over the planet that influenced thousands, perhaps millions of people. One of its most important effects was to inspire the hippies who rebelled against establishment values. The hippies believed that governments were often corrupt, that war was inhumane, and that rampant consumerism and corporate greed were destroying the world. At the same time they had a vision of how the world could be, and became fascinated by alternative approaches to the spiritual quest. Although most turned to India for inspiration, some turned to the lands of Eire and Albion – with their mysterious stone circles and ley lines – and their Druids.

Modern Druidry was seeded in those old hippy days, it got a boost twenty years later in the 80s, and then another boost twenty years later as the two sides of the pond have started talking to each other. Events are moving fast! As fast, as the ADF motto goes: ‘as a speeding oak’!  All good things take their time to develop organically, and that’s what’s occurring in Druidry.

What of the future? Isaac talks about his vision in the closing chapter of this book. He says ‘Many people who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s are discovering us at about the same time that they are realizing both the desperate state of our planet and the eternal relevance of our youthful ideals.’  Something magical happened when those youthful ideals, inspired to a great extent by the hippies, met Druidism during those decades. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the hippies were right – they weren’t just naive and doped up. The evidence is all around us. Forty years ago they warned us of the dangers of corporate greed, political corruption, rampant militarism and the destruction of the environment. Now we can see that they were prophets in the true sense of the term. And I believe that part of Druidry’s purpose in the world now could well be to redeem and develop their vision – as fast as a speeding oak!

Bonewits European Tour

Bonewits European Tour

We are Everywhere and Nowhere

September 8th, 2008

There seems to be a center to our field of awareness. We seem to be located at a point in here.

In a sense we are, but if we look, there is no center. We aren’t anywhere.

We are here, everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Peter Fenner

9,000 Years to Go

September 5th, 2008

According to esoteric doctrine, not only was matter precipitated out of mind a short while ago, but …it exists only for a brief interval. It will dissolve again in just over nine thousand years, when the sun rises again to meet the gaze of the Sphinx in the constellation of Leo.

In the teachings of the secret societies we live on a small island of matter in a vast ocean of ideas and imagination.

Jonathan Black, The Secret History of the World

Extraordinary Coincidences

September 4th, 2008

Extraordinary coincidences – synchronicities – are sometimes simply baffling and sometimes thrilling. Here are two recent ones. The laughter between Stephanie and Penny in the photo in the post below may come from a story Penny also told me. She decided to google herself (who hasn’t been tempted?) and discovered to her amazement that there is another Penny Billington – her doppelganger – who is also the editor of a magazine called ‘Touchstone’. So we have Penny Billington in England, editor of Druid magazine Touchstone and Penny Billington in Chicago, editor of the Christian magazine Touchstone.

And now today I’ve discovered this one. I’m writing a book about the tremendously rich subject of magic in England, and its current renaissance, with fellow author Richard Heygate, to be published by John Murray in 2009. And now I see that one of the fictional books mentioned by Susannah Clarke in her Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is “Essay on the Extraordinary Revival of English Magic,, &c.” (essay) by John Waterbury, Lord Portishead (John Murray: London, 1814). The subject is the same, the publisher is the same, and there’s even a correspondence in the authorship since toffs are involved in both – Richard is a Bart.

Curiouser and curiouser as Alice said…

The Mt Haemus Day

September 1st, 2008

Yesterday we held a festival of learning, music, art and celebration in  the Medieval Hall in Salisbury. Four of the Mt Haemus Award speakers delivered their papers, with musical interludes that included solo singing from the minstrel’s gallery by Anne Coleman, our being piped back into the hall after the morning coffee-break by Andy Letcher, harp music for the meditation and with story-telling from Claire Hamilton, and virtuoso work on the steel guitar by Jim Faupel which culminated in us all joining him in singing his powerful song ‘Sing My Soul Back Home’.

In this gallery of photos (click on the images to enlarge them) you can see the entrance to the hall, Touchstone editor Penny Billington and Stephanie CG sharing a private joke, the display of Esmee Vincent’s artwork that she has produced over the last 15 years or so, and a photo of her receiving the crown of an Honorary Bard of the Order, Dr Brendan Myers giving his talk, the speakers lined up for a photo after the event (L-R: Philip, Prof Roland Rotherham, Dr Brendan Myers, Dr Adam Stout) and a line-up of the musicians (L-R: Jim Faupel, Andy Letcher, Anne Coleman, Claire Hamilton).