Until twenty or so years ago, I had no problem announcing to the world that I was a Witch, that I was a solitary witch at that, and expecting people to look at me sideways and mind their own business. If I came across someone who actually knew what I was talking about – genuinely knew – they tended to be respectful. I'd have the occasional enthusiastic outburst from someone who thought they were the only one on the path and had never had a good reception, but generally people just smiled and nodded and not much else.
Then things changed in what should probably have been a good way. We 'caught on' and lots of people suddenly seemed to want to put me straight on how I 'should' be doing this or that, or worse, how I 'should' be thinking and exactly what I 'should' believe. All this on the strength of a book or two, and then the Internet. So I took muttering under my breath that I was Pagan and leaving it at that. I started to dress more conservatively and tried to learn to love consumerism and eat food full of nasty chemicals and weird ingredients. (Personal rule – if you wouldn't eat it with a spoon and it's got too many syllables to pronounce without practice, why would I want to eat it at all?)
Now don't get me wrong, when it comes to the Net, I'm the biggest geek I know, but it amazes me how many people still believe that Wikipedia holds some inviolable, arcane set of truths and are horrified when I point out that it holds a thoroughly violable (if that's not a word it should be) set of opinions. Some of them are fabulous, thoughtful, well researched opinions, but you tell most people that 'wiki' stands for 'what I know is' when they've just 'set you straight' on something that you really do know, then they tend not to like it so much!
I try not to be snotty but that doesn't seem to occur to everyone! One of the biggest strengths I think we as Pagans have is our eclectic-ness. I don't want to belong to a religion that tells me I'm scum if I don't want to do something or toe some particular party line, but I worry that we're in danger of being sucked too far into the mainstream and ending up as a book religion as a consequence. The very thought makes me shudder. OK, we wouldn't have a book, we'd have a reading list, but I don't want to be part of something that is rigid and dead, and I don't want to be part of something that revolves around a power structure – that's not a spiritual path, that's politics. When I was first on my path, we were hidden, we learned what we learned from people who genuinely, deeply, really knew what they knew and if we read, we read critically and with an appreciation that meanings were layered and coded and, well, hidden. The word 'occult' itself means hidden not, it's on the telly tonight but if you miss it you can see it on the internet for a week or two.
On the other hand, it's nice to know that social workers won't appear at dawn if our kids announce that they've been to a gathering and left offerings to the Goddess tied to a tree. Not that we'd just leave them, anyway.
I was in Wales last week and feeling disconnected. I was raised by a possibly English mother (long story) and a Welsh father, in Kent. When I was in England I was foreign, when I was in Wales, I had an English accent and my pronunciation of Welsh and my inability to count past ten was hilarious to my cousins, so I was foreign there as well. Everywhere I went, I didn't belong. It occurred to me though, that my disconnectedness is my strength. There is nothing in my ethnicity that I can take for granted, everything has to be considered, thought through, personally decided as a matter for my own conscience. Over the last twenty years, the world has changed so much, that surely our strength as Pagans rest in that same personal conscience-driven decision making. May the gods save us from finding our 'book'.
Glastonbury Tor, with its enigmatic St. Michael’s Tower perched like a sentinel at its summit, is the iconographical symbol of Glastonbury (which is why it features on this internet site’s header image). The Tor has commanding three and and sixty degree views beyond the Somerset Levels to the Mendip Hills and Well’s Cathedral, Steep Holm island in the Bristol Channel, Alfred’s Tower and Burrow Mump, the Quantock Hills and the Black Mountains in Wales and acts like a magnet to New Age pilgrims from across the world. Whilst many believe it is the tower of St. Michael which holds the fascination of visitors and local alike, it is, in fact, the curiously terraced tear-shaped Tor itself which excudes the spiritual energy which can be felt from kilometres around. Indeed, the original church that was built on Glastonbury Tor was constructed to dispell the notion that the Hill held supernatural and occult powers.
Carreg Lleidr is one of Anglesey’s trickiest to find and difficult to access ancient pagan monuments. However, the curious-looking standing stone certainly rewards the effort required in visiting the small menhir.
Also known as the Robber’s Stone, Carreg Lleidr is ripe with folklore. The most popular tale attached to the standing stone is that it is a petrified thief who had stolen an expensive bible, whose cover was inlaid with precious gems, amongst other items, from a nearby church and was thus punished by it’s patron, St. Tyrnog. At midnight on Christmas Eve each year, the stone is said to drag itself from the soil to run three times around the field, pursued by demons wielding pitchforks aglow from the fires of hell!
Situated inland, Cat Hole cave is the easiest of the Gower Peninsula's famous bone caves to access and explore. Reached from Parkmill Heritage Centre by following the footpath through Parc-le-Breos, the cave can be found only a short distance north from the neolithic burial monument of Giant 's Grave. Set some 15 metres above the valley floor in a limestone rock face, the entrance to the cave can be reached by a rough track that rises steeply through the woodland to the east of the main footpath.
Cat Hole Hole, Rising High Above Parc-le-Breos
Don’t listen to the ranters
That shout about their fears.
Ignore the screaming Preachers
Incincerity of tears.
Follow what is right for you,
The path all through the years;
It’s yours alone.
In mellow autumns harvest mist
these fields of stubble, nature blessed,
now we accept the lands sweet gift
before we take our evening rest,
we DANCE, dance the spirit,
dance the spirit back into the ground.
For opening times, car parking restrictions and other visitor information please see the official Chalice Well internet site.
Chalice Well garden, Glastonbury, is an astoundingly peaceful and beautiful refuge from the hectic hustle and bustle of modern life. Rich in legend and sacred symbolism, the Garden is sited upon two potent leylines (known as the 'Michael and Miary' lines). These leylines cross paths at the region of the garden known as 'King Arthur's Court' along their routes between Cornwall, Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury Tor, the Avebury Stone Circle and Norfolk. A shallow healing spa is located at the cross over point of these great, powerful energy lines and the waters here have been famed for centuries for their curative properties (on a single day in the early 1750's, 10,000 people seeking relief from their various maladies attended the spa to sample its miraculous waters).
While I may have missed out on the sight of the sun rising spectacularly behind the ancient, iconographic monument (thanks to clouds which seem to follow me to every solstice celebration), I nevertheless enjoyed the two summer solstices I attended at Stonehenge. And despite the heavy rain which marked the 2008 event and the overcrowding and heavy police presence of 2009, I suspect the vast majority of tired souls who dragged their feet back to their cars/vans the morning after the revelries thoroughly enjoyed their experience of the stones also.
These two summer solstices were, without any doubt, the largest pagan gathering I have ever attended. And while some might argue that the majority of people attending these summer solstices at Stonehenge are not 'true' pagans, but are just revellers, I would take issue with this view.