Sunday, 9 September 2012

Do the Gods really exist?

Greetings, a question posed and prompted by a TV programme due to air this week, exploring whether science and religion are mutually exclusive or whether they can co-exist, can they both be right? I will share some musings of my own, but ultimately only you can decide for yourself!

Do they Gods exist? In a world of science, of learning, of the internet and the fact that most subjects can be researched in a short time from the vast archives of data that is available online, does the existance of semi-mystical higher beings whose existance cannot be proven through observational scientific rationalisation actually still have meaning in the modern world?

I have to say, that for myself, they have as much meaning as do our Ancestors, without the toil and advancement of our predecessors, without their physical and mental evolution, without their sufferring and their joys we would not be the people we are today.

Are the Gods Real? What is the nature of their existance? Are they actual non-corporeal entities that are existant in their own right, either within our physical realm or upon another plane of existance? Are they nothing more than the result of mass delusion of many peoples seeking explanations of physical phenomena that was outside their experience base? Are they entities brought into existance by the energy expended in their worship by those who have followed them? Are they nothing more than a personal psychological construct that we each fabricate into our own reality in order to externalise issues / areas we wish to work with in order to make sense of them for ourselves? Are they now outmoded, the reasons for the belief in them no longer valid with our more scientific understanding of the world around us? Are they nothing more than a means of control of the masses by the powered elite? Are they all of the above?

Before you can truly answer these for yourself you have to understand exactly what is 'reality', we each experience the world generally through our five physical senses, and understand it through the use of our inbuilt supercomputer, our brains. This is perhaps the simplest way to look at reality, but each of us carries around our own 'programming' for our brains, life experiences and lessons, personal feelings and thoughts, personal beliefs and experiences of things beyond the physical all contribute to our own worldview, our own set of filters through which we process our daily experiences and this is what our own 'reality' is truly made up of.

Our Ancestors would have looked at natural phenomena such as Thunder, Lightning, earthquakes, droughts, storms, etc and come to the conclusions that they were the results of actions of supernatural Gods, that is definitely not to say they were any less civilised than ourselves, nor any less intelligent, but that they had a different worldview and way of looking at things that allowed them to explain these phenomena in a way that worked for them. From their initial understanding and the rise of stories about the Gods, through to experiences of interracting with the Gods (both through trance, dream states, etc and through direct interactions whilst fully awake - actual experiences or delusions/halucinations I will leave to yourself to decide) these beliefs became strengthened and a part of their own personal reality for many of our ancestors.

Nowadays we may understand that Thunder and Lightning are the results of charged particles earthing out from charged Cumulo Nimbus clouds and not the results of arguments between Thor/Zeus/Thunnor etc and other Gods, but does that understanding actually have as much beauty as the other older way of looking at things, does it have more impact upon our lives than did the other explanations? For most of us understanding  the more scientific explanations doesnt make them more real to us individually than it did to our ancestors who believed that the Gods were behind the phenomena! In fact, with most of us having heard the mythological explanation at some point in our lives (usually when we were smaller), I would say that the older explanation holds more beauty and realism to most of us than does the dryer scientific explanation.

We may understand (or at least have been introduced to even if we dont fully understand) the scienctific explanation for many of the phenomena of the natural world surrounding us, but we also have our own personal experiences of things that we have individually experienced that we have no rational explanation for, times when we have experienced deja vie, times we have felt the touch of something 'other', times we have experienced something beyond the 5 physical senses, you can ascribe these experiences to misfiring of the synapses within our brain, or to our imagination or delusions caused by optical/physical effects beyond our understanding, but whatever their reasons they become a part of our individual worldview, our own reality, and affect the way that we perceive the world(s) around us.

Unlike most of the 'traditional' 'book' religions being a Pagan means we do not generally have any 'priest' who intercedes with the Gods on our behalf, we do not have any religious leader who tells us what to believe, what to think and keeps us inline with the organisational viewpoint, we have to make our own minds up, using our own experience and accumulated knowledge and wisdom, this means that for us there is no real dichotomy between science and religion, we can take scientific knowledge and apply it to our own understanding / worldview and reality and use it to reinforce our own beliefs.

Whether you feel that the Gods exist as separate entities that predate our race, whether they are entities that have been created by the beliefs and energy that has been devoted to them by many people over past millenia, whether they are personal constructs and a part of ourselves truly does not matter in the slightest to anyone but ourselves, as long as it works for yourself!

Personally from many different viewpoints I believe the Old Ones exist, that they have meaning and validity in the modern world, they are inspirational, they provide a connection to the Ancestors and to the Land, they alow us to look at our lives in a different way, they allow us to define ourselves against them and to experience a more magical, mystical and wonderful reality than we are able if we do not aknowledge their existance. They are also much more besides, but that is something that is purely personal, that you have to experience for yourselves, so I shall halt my discourse there for now and allow you to ponder for yourselves. 

As I said at the beginning of these musings, only you can truly decide for yourself what the Gods are, whether they exist and whether they have validity in the modern world that we now inhabit!

Sunday, 2 September 2012


To most of us Pagans there is nothing more Sacred than completing a Rite, be it one to commune with the Old Ones, one to work some spellcrafting, one to mark a festival or important day within our lives, or just for the sheer joy of connecting with those not of our Realm.

Unlike those of the 'Book' faiths (so here called as their holiest wisdom is codified within their Holy Books for the priests to interpret, unlike our more chaotic and personal faith that insists we each are our own Priest/ess, connecting directly to the Old Ones ourselves, not requiring any 'go between' to intercede on our behalf) generally there are no universal Pagan Rites, no 'Lord's Prayer', no 'Holy Mass' and no Psalms that must be followed by Rote, instead we are free to work as we see fit, when we see fit and how we see fit. Yes, there are some writings that have been passed down, Rites that are 'traditional' within the Pagan Community (or within the Coven / Working Group / Family / Circle / etc), but all that truly matters is the intent, the will and the awareness of the individual Practitioner, be they Witch, Wiccan, Heathen, Druid, etc!

Rites can be scripted, meticulously planned, or impromptu, spoken from the heart at the moment, phrases pulled from the aether as prose, poetry or just a mix of our emotions and intent. Rites can be held outdoors, locally in your garden or somewhere close by that allows you to connect, or they can involve a pilgrimage to a special place, be it one thats well known or one that has a more personal connection. Rites can also be held inside in an area we are comfortable with, one that is dedicated to the purpose, or in an area that has been prepared for Ritual use, if you subscribe to the personal beliefs that the area has to be made sacred and clean first, or they can be done on the spot, wherever you are!

Rites can be held at any time, day or night, there are correspondances that tell you certain times and days will be better for certain types of working, but I personally feel these come from High Magic, they arent something that I am particularly bothered with to a greater extent, I feel our Ancestors, the village Witches, the Wise Men and Women, the Cunning Folk, the Hedgeriders, to some extent the ancient Druids and pagans would have done what was needed, when it was needed rather than spend too much time wondering whether it was the correct astrological phase at that time!

Rituals can involve the use of tools, special objects that hold meaning for the individual, but they need not do so, a 'tool' is just that, an object that aids the individual in some manner or form, be it a focussing point, as a reminder, an object that corresponds to what it is you wish to acchieve, or to invoke memories / thoughts / feelings that help allow the individual to connect. However, the tools do not make the ritual happen, they are not entirely necessary, they are merely aids for the individual, what matters most is the intent, the will and the connection of the individual. If an individual has the focus, the intent, the will and feels the connection they need do nothing more than concentrate and they can complete the rite, they need not take special tools, they need not even find a special place, nor even verbalise what they wish to acchieve, the Rite will have happened just the same.

Personally we do have some tools, some of which are reserved for Ritual work, others are used in the mundane as much as for ritual, it doesnt really matter to anyone except yourself and the Old Ones!

My own tools are quite simple, a black handled knife that I use for everything from gardening to fishing, my Stang ( a wooden forked staff) that is also used for walking (and fishing - makes a great rod rest), a cauldron (great for holding a banefire) and incense, either shop bought or crafted from the herbs we have at home. We do have other tools, and do occassionally use them, but generally we dont need them, my Stang and Knife are the only ones I feel I generally want to take into Ritual.

When it comes to the form of the words we use in Ritual, here we are fairly open, we have been members of various groups, Covens, Working Groups, a Family Group, Open Rites, etc, generally we have been lucky enough to have had many experiences, and found the simplest forms that work for us, some of which are listed below (some are personal, some from other sources) for your perusal. If you find them to your liking, please try them out!

Circle Calls

I Call to the Mother, to claim Mine By Right!
As Daughter of Dark and Child of the Night!
By Badger, Owl, Fox and Hare,
I invoke the Mother, Goddess Fair!

I Call to the Father, with Will as I May!
As Daughter of Light and Child of the Day!
By Badger, Owl, Fox and Hare,
I invoke the Father, Horned One so Fair!

Elemental Invites

To those who live in the North,
Lend us Your presence and Your Power,
Be with us Now, Oh Powers of Earth!

Elemental Releases

To those who live in the North,
Thanks for Your presence and Your power,
Go if you Must, stay if You Will!

Boundary Calls

Water run silent, Water run deep,
Moat Guarded Castle, Strengthen my Keep!

Badge of the Wards

Within the Castle, Within my Heart,
We shall never be apart!
Darkness Surround me with all the Powers of Witchery,
Rekindle the Yearnings of Past Moons so Bright,
Witch, Lord and Lady, joined on this Night!

As you can see, they are fairly simple, no summoning, stirring or commanding, we invite the powers that be in and thank them, nothing more. Nothing fancy, nothing presumptive, nothing overly flowery, just the bare bones of what we need and a few references to Trad Crafter techniques, we can't claim they are lineaged and traditional ritual words, there is little available that can be truly claimed to have lineage back to the Ancients, but we can say that what we use is used in the same spirit, that we are seeking to reclaim what we can and build a synthesis of what we find works based on our current understanding of what practices were used in antiquity.

The reference to the animals within the God and Goddess calls are to four of those animals knows to have links to BTW, there are of course others, as anyone will tell you, but these are what we have been introduced to. Tha badge of the Wards is a Rite in itslef, and one we were again fortunate enough to have been introduced to, I would be interested to hear of anyone else having heard of this Rite and practices linked to it.

Anyhows, I hope this small peice of writing stirs something within, that my words resonate with your own feelings, please let me know how the words feel to yourselves.

Suzanne Read
September 2012

Catch up

Greetings, it has been a while since I last posted, mundane life has intruded and challenged both of us this past year. The Old Ones have set challenges before us, challenges that have forced change upon us, reminding us that the only constant in life is change, growth and change, the opposite of which is stagnation and death. Society wants us to conform, and as creatures of habit we tend to look for routine, for ways that we can feel comfortable and secure in a never changing routine of daily work. Threats to this normality of our existance bring fear of the unknown, fear for the future, yet at the same time force us to grow and adapt.

My job of 23 years was something I enjoyed, something I was proud of having done, yet change was brought forth, the actions of another upon the company put me into conflict, as I opposed changes that I felt were not to the good of the company or its customers, but only for the good of the shareholders. Unable to see further than my unhappiness I stagnated, I attempted to follow the changes, but they werent in my heart, they didnt sit well with me, and rather than proactively leave I found myself in a position that felt like I was being pushed out.

2 x 80 hr weeks back to back followed by an incident in my branch (when I was having a rare day off) sealed my fate, I jumped into the unknown, resigning in ealr November, without anything to move onto. I was at that time burned out, mentally and physically exhausted, running on adrenaline and sheer bloody minded determination, clinging on with my fingernails, yet as always it wasnt until I was able to rest and reflect, looking back with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight that I could understand that was where I had been.

I made the decision to immediately apply for any job that I could do, resulting in 30 to 40 online applications a week being submitted, and 3 to 4 interviews a week being scheduled. In hindsight I should have taken a month out and rested up first, but as always my impatience won through and I blew the chances of a few jobs by attending interviews whilst carrying the rage / guilt / upset and low self confidence that my parting of ways with my previous company had left me with.

After 4 weeks of disappointment I decided to rest up, still applying for jobs, but resting more and regaining my confidence and self esteem. I concentrated on specific applications throughout December, and was shortlisted for a few high profile roles, but was ultimately unsuccessful. As January dawned with the start of a new calendar year I was in a much better place personally, more relaxed, more confident and truly ready to find a new career direction.

Lat January I submitted an application and was invited to interview 48 hrs later, 2nd interview was 2 days later, and I started 3 days after that, as a Manager for a finance company. A different industry, complete new ways of working, new systems and new challenges.

I took over a struggling branch, one with team issues, low morale and lots of problems, the store was bottom of the company for every measure we use.

I faced a steep learning curve, learning their way of doing things, new systems, new quite complex processes and procedures, but slowly we made headway. We still have some issues, but the team I now work with are solid, have good morale and capability (I have nominated 2 of them for company employee of the month successfully), and our performance has improved to a top 5 finish last month on the main measure and an acceptable level on most of our other measures. Yes, we still have things to work on, but finally it feels like we are getting there!

And what have I learnt? Not to be afraid of the unknown, that with determination, clarity of vision, steadfast delivery of the basics and praise when something is done well we can make a difference, we have turned a corner, my boss even had me deputize for him last weekend, filling out all of his reports whilst he was away for the day, a sure sign of confidence in myself and my team.

I am now in a role that uses my intelligence, that allows me to give great customer service and lead from the front, but also one where I am treated with respect as are my team. I work in a nice clean office environment, with tea, coffee, biscuits and sweeties available any time I want them. There are challenges, and some stress, some times I have worked stupid amounts of hours, but generally it is less stressfull than what I was doing, the extra hours are available as time off in lieue (and I do get to take them back, unlike my previous role), so work life has improved dramatically over the past 12 months, even if I do come home sometimes needing to do nothing but rest on my days off!

Personally we have also faced some challenges, Lee has had a bad back, bad leg and cellulitis, which combined with myneed to rest up on days off has meant the allotments havent been fully worked this year (that plus the abysmal weather this year), which means we face a stiff challenge this winter taming the wildness of the plots ready for the next growing season.

We also lost our furbaby this year, Bella passed over the rainbow bridge after a short illness (cancer of the spleen), which hit us both hard as we werent expecting to loose her at only 8 yrs old. Gone but never forgotten she will live on in our hearts with love and we will be reunited in the Summerlands! (I am hoping to see her this Samhain)

As the house was too empty without a furbaby we started to look at taking another rescue, this time a full great dane, the house was homechecked fine, and we were on the waiting list when we were notified of a Great Dane cross in Bolton who needed a new family.

Poppy came to us a month after we lost Bella, she is black (with a white star on her chest and white socks), and was approx 6 months old when we got her, totally undernourished but a lovely friendly personality. She is now 23" tall at the shoulders, weighs about 4 1/2 stone (still underweight) and stands 4' tall on her back legs, she is definately Great Dane cross, but exactly what we arent sure, possible Labrador (Great Labradane), possibly Mastiff (Great Daniff) or Staffy (Great Daffy), but whatever she is a lovely dog, loves running though the grass, is good with other dogs and people and very loving. Take a look here for further info and piccies of her

Anyhows, I am hoping to restart nce more my writing, spurred on by contact from a pagan friend I havent spoken to for 10 years, so here's hoping there will be something more forthcoming on here soon!

Dark Dreams