After several years of excellent research by Adrian Bott, we now know the following things. Spring Equinox was not actually celebrated by ancient pagans in the British Isles; nor was it a fertility festival. There was probably a festival at the fourth full moon of the year, at which cattle were sacrificed. Eostre was most probably a goddess local to Kent, although her name is cognate with various other goddesses of dawn and light, such as Austriahenea and Ausrine.
Various animals are associated with the festival of Easter in folklore (none of them are associated with the goddess Eostre): the Easter Hare, the Easter Fox, the Easter Stork, and the Easter Cuckoo, all of which bring eggs. None of them are particularly cute and fluffy, so didn’t work too well on Easter greetings cards, unlike chicks and bunnies. And none of them are fertility symbols.
What can fictional religions tell us about real religions? Are constructed religions just as valid as ancient ones? What about real-world religions based on fictional ones? One impetus for creating constructed religions is for use in jurisdictions where religious activity is imposed by the authorities – but people often find that their joke religion then takes on a life of its own.
I’ve often said that Terry Pratchett was one of the greatest Pagan theologians, although he wasn’t a Pagan. In his books Small Gods, Pyramids, and the series about the witches, he often explored ideas about how gods might might come into being, and how they interact with the world. He was also, in a quiet and humorous way, a passionate advocate of thinking about things more deeply, looking beyond the surface of things, and being compassionate. (If you missed that about his writing, read it again.)
In the Tiffany Aching series, there’s a great passage about first thoughts, second thoughts, and third thoughts:
“First Thoughts are the everyday thoughts. Everyone has those. Second Thoughts are the thoughts you think about the way you think. People who enjoy thinking have those. Third Thoughts are thoughts that watch the world and think all by themselves. They’re rare, and often troublesome. Listening to them is part of witchcraft.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
A totalising system is one that seeks to subsume all other paradigms within its paradigm, rather than accepting that other paradigms exist alongside it. It regards itself as a complete and universal system which can explain all experience and needs no supplemental systems.
A non-totalising or pluralist system recognises its particularity to its local culture and sees that different philosophies emerge out of different cultural contexts and local histories. A totalising system ignores local contexts or seeks to explain them through its paradigm.
I don’t know how to write this in a way that will convince you if you’re an opponent of gun control. But I have to write something.
There have been eighteen mass shootings in the USA this year already, and it’s only February.
Whenever there’s a particularly awful mass shooting, I post about gun control on Facebook, and someone is sure to comment that it’s too soon to talk about gun control, or that I am politicising a tragedy, or I don’t understand because I’m British.
Yes, I do not understand the American obsession with the second amendment. I don’t understand why the right to own a gun is more important than the lives of the hundreds of thousands of victims of gun violence.
Ritual roles are often allocated according to gender, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Allocating roles by gender seems a lazy shorthand for the archetypes you want the ritual role to express. There are so many different archetypes, and not all of them are gender-specific. How about if we allocated ritual roles according to the archetype they are intended to embody, or the skills that are needed for the task at hand?
This is an excerpt from my new book, The Night Journey: witchcraft as transformation. I am sharing it because I have noticed an awful lot of activists on my Twitter feed expressing pain, rage, and exhaustion. Accordingly, I have revived a hashtag, #activistSelfCare. I didn’t do this to promote the book; I did it because I saw people in pain.
It turns out that the term ‘self care’ originated with Audre Lorde , who wrote,
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
The night journey: witchcraft as transformation
This book is aimed at witches who want to deepen their engagement with their Craft. It explores modes and types of ritual; how rituals work; the uses of sound and silence in ritual; the witch’s journey through life; the stages and pitfalls of the inner work. It shows how Queer Witchcraft is an inherent aspect of the archetype of the witch; how witchcraft relates to the land; witchcraft as resistance to oppression; working with ancestors; the witch’s pact with spiritual powers; the relationship between madness, shamanism, and witchcraft; and the concept of the night journey, another very old image from the history of witchcraft; how to use insights gained from the practice of witchcraft in everyday life; group dynamics; being a coven leader; teaching and learning in a coven; egregore, lineage, upline, and downline; power and authority; the process of challenging oppression; how to evaluate your Craft; the meaning and purpose of ‘spirituality’, religion, and magic; the archetype of the witch and what it means.
When I was writing Dark Mirror
, I didn’t realise until I stitched all the files together that I had written 150,000 words. So I thought the best thing to do would be to split it into two books, and this is the second of the two. Its focus is more on traditional witchcraft, the land, and resistance to oppression. I chose the title partly because a friend commented that she really liked the phrase, partly because the concept was so central to ideas of witchcraft in past centuries, and partly because of its resonance with other esoteric traditions.
Since Hollywood and TV don’t seem to have heard of male witches, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my top ten wizards. There are quite a lot to choose from, what with the Harry Potter universe, the Discworld, and many more. Not all of them are called wizards, but they embody the archetype of wizard, which seems to be derived ultimately from the image of ancient druids and shamans, but has picked up the symbolism associated with magicians, occultists, astrologers, alchemists, and scientists along the way.
My preferred metaphor for gender is a scatterplot (not a spectrum). If one’s assigned gender is at point (a,b) but one’s actual gender is at point (q,r) then one needs to change to match one’s actual gender. If one’s actual gender is at point (c,d) it’s quite near one’s assigned gender, so the person is cisgender.
If we model gender as a spectrum, it suggests that male and female are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and supports the gender binary, hence positioning genderqueer, nonbinary, and gender fluid people somewhere on that spectrum, whereas they might be outside it. A line is a one-dimensional model. We have more dimensions available to us than that.
Perhaps we could reimagine gender as a landscape. The mountains of the Fierce Femmes. Little Cisgender on the Wold. The village of Enby. The river of Genderfluid. Much Genderqueer in the Marsh. The valley of the Otters, near Bear Forest.