The Pagan Symposium 2014

On an otherwise entirely normal Saturday in July 2014, a group of several dozen Pagans travelled from across the UK to join together in creating something which had never been attempted before.

The Pagan Symposium was a meeting in London of representatives from Pagan groups, organised from an idea by Mike Stygal, President of the UK Pagan Federation. The goals were kept deliberately vague, but at heart, the hope was that each group would be able to come together to share their experiences, skills and wishes to assist the wider Pagan community across the country.

The challenge of such ventures, of course, is that no single group can ever accurately represent all Pagans; also, the natural reluctance of many Pagans to affiliate with any group, when our paths contain such a strong core of individuality. In the past, strong egos have been an issue, or vastly differing ideologies. The analogy of ‘herding cats’ was mentioned, but with the happy conclusion that this had somehow now been achieved!

Because from the first moments as everyone arrived, the prevalent attitude was positive. Smiles and greetings, hugs between friends and new introductions – everyone was glad to be present, and tentatively hopeful that this might actually work!

As the day went on, the smiles grew wider and the laughter louder. So many ideas were shared, it was hard to get a word in sometimes, but there was no negativity or argument, simply discussion and extremely creative sharing of plans.

The many differing groups were introduced, to give an idea of the variety of voices to be heard. Druids, Witches, Heathens and simply independent Pagans, an extremely broad cross-section of the community in its differing forms.

The function of the group on this day was discussed: acknowledgement of the need to serve a diverse community, but without over-structuring or dictating. Even names for the group were suggested, before being discarded as unnecessary – we all are our own groups, and this gathering simply united us! There was no wish to create some sort of ‘Pagan Parliament’, but all agreed that it has been suggested for some time that the voice of Pagans in the UK needs to be heard, between each other and with the secular and non-Pagan world (notably English Heritage, Emergency Services and suchlike).

Since the discussions over the Census and the PaganDASH project, there has been a need for cohesive voices and a mature approach to the representation of Pagans across the country, as many of our international fellows are already doing. We would try to accomplish this, as individuals and within groups sharing identities and diverse beliefs under the Pagan umbrella. Even just for today, to see if it worked… these few hours would be a test, of sorts.

Many topics were discussed. The challenges presented by setting up Pagan facilities for public use, from private temples to public areas such as Moonhenge. The need for responsibility and awareness, but also the difficulty of obtaining backing and support, dealing with the media, and other effects of ‘public’ Pagan activities… but which could be extremely beneficial when approached effectively. If projects are undertaken successfully, they can inspire others to bring their dreams to fruition, and the support would be there from this wider community.

Recent achievements were mentioned, including the Blue Plaques placed for Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente by the Centre for Pagan Studies; also the continued success of Pagan Pride and the Children of Artemis‘ gatherings. The OBOD 50th Anniversary celebrations were mentioned, and the progress of Pagan workers within the Police and Prison Services.

A central News hub was suggested, to compile updates on what’s going on in our immediate community – a sort of ‘Pagan Reuters’ from which the national Media could then use information which had been confirmed as accurate, to avoid any misrepresentation. This was, of course, raised as a constant issue (notably recent coverage of the Stonehenge Solstice and litter problem), but what was not mentioned in the Press was the subsequent cleanup of the Stones by local Pagan groups. It was agreed that such work is certainly worth publicising, to demonstrate the wider story beyond the sensational headlines. Pagan Radio was also discussed as valuable potential resource.

As the day went on, the potential contained within even just those groups represented in person was realized to be far-reaching. Meeting attendees had been limited due to the experimental nature of the event and size of the space, but other groups were remembered and achievements noted. While fund-raising to get things done is always important, the capacity within the Pagan community to share information, support, skills and knowledge is far wider than we might have supposed. And the key, of course, is that we are all willing. Repeatedly, it was remarked that the ‘time seems right’ – that we might be ready for this, as never before.

Even if individual Pagans are not actively part of the wider community, there will still be those working to help them, providing services, space and facilities that they might wish to use or call upon if ever needed. From event management to IT advice, mental health support and education, we are all members of this society, looking to aid others who share our spirituality. Even a mention of an event in a newsletter can mean so much, with very little effort.

Differences were mentioned, of course, particularly with those who chose not to identify specifically as ‘Pagan’, preferring their own path name – but such identity could still be recognised, certainly not rejected or ignored. Historic disputes needed to be put behind us and those differences acknowledged but allowed for. There really is no group like Pagans, after all, even when that word isn’t sufficient to cover activities and beliefs!

It’s been quite hard to sum up the day, as so much went on in those few hours. The key word that keeps coming back to me is ‘enthusiasm’. We were all so keen, so full of ideas – but not just dreams, real practical and achievable plans. From the basic hope to have Pagans working together, that spark ignited, and very tangibly so. We all felt the excitement, that history was being made right now… and our responsibility within that.

By the close of the meeting, the main question was ‘What next?’ – and arrangements have been made to continue the discussion via online communication, with future meetings to be planned that will hopefully include even more group members. Everyone present will be keeping in touch to support each other as needed, see how projects come to fruition and plans develop. Each group has its own priorities and needs, but a sense of shared community was inspiring as a foundation for those, to keep us supported (even in a ‘hands-off’ way), and allow Paganism in the UK to realize its potential as we moved forward into the future.

Mike Stygal opened the meeting with part of a similar introduction by Doreen Valiente, from the inaugural Beltane meeting of the ‘Pagan Front’ in 1971 (which only became the Pagan Federation in 1980). We were all struck by the continued relevance of her words:

‘Unity is strength, and I welcome the fraternal unity of all sincere people of goodwill who follow the pagan path. We may not always agree with each other, but we must support each other, in our struggle for our right to follow the religion and life-style of our choice in the modern world.’

Addendum. No one particular group claimed precedence over any other at this meeting, and all present were satisfied with the equal representation of their groups and paths. It was actively decided to work to positively promote group unity, and avoid unnecessary cynicism or dwelling on historical matters (fact or hearsay) which bore no relevance to the issues under discussion. Subsequently, no offence was intended to anyone, nor was any taken. I would suggest that this was a notable factor in making the day such a success.

On request, those groups in attendance/represented were (in no particular order):

The Pagan Federation (including Publications, Prison Ministry and International)

Glastonbury Goddess Temple & Associated Orchard Community

Moonhenge

The Centre for Pagan Studies/Doreen Valiente Foundation

The Dolmen Grove

UK Heathenry

Pagan Radio

Pagan Pride UK

Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids

Children of Artemis

Kith of Yggdrasil

Asatru UK

The Druid Network

The Police Pagan Association

Pentacle Magazine

The Fellowship of Isis

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Writing

I stare at the white screen. Type a few sentences, delete them. Nothing seems to fit. Just write what comes, I tell myself (an old tactic, which I remember first trying in University one frustrated afternoon).

This blog post has been rustling around my brain for a while, but for some reason, has been tricky to get out. But you know when something needs to be ‘birthed’ creatively into the world when your subconscious essentially tells you to PUT DOWN WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND GET ON WITH IT. Now.

The germ of these thoughts didn’t start the other week in Glastonbury, but it was crystallised there. Glastonbury is a lovely place, but as you may know, the High Street is a beacon for all things ‘New Age’ and alternative. No bad thing in itself, but there is a lot of Stuff there. Crystals, wands, drapey clothing, pretty statues, cauldrons, pentagrams everywhere… and of course, the books.

Of course, I have no problem with bookstores. I love them with a passion, I would spend so much time (and money) in them if I could, and I really do wish that the most interesting little ones would stop having to close down. I even loved Borders, because it had more than just the heavily marketed publisher-pushed Trendy Books that everybody else had. Reading was accessible. Plus, of course, the feel of a bookshop. The scent of the pages and bindings, the feeling of stories all around just waiting for cover to be cracked… nothing like it.

And indeed, I spent time in the Glastonbury bookshops, buying a few gems, which I’m still enjoying.

But I stepped out of their doors also feeling rather sad. Because of the sheer overwhelming amount of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love information, and the variety of opinion that goes along with learning. I’ve always been against censorship (which has got me in trouble in the past). This was more personal.

There is so much Stuff out there on Paganism, Witchcraft, Druidry, all of that… what can I possibly contribute without just adding to the pile?

Things have been very quiet for me in recent months on the writing front. I’ve been exploring the idea of inspiration as a result, and will continue to do so in my ‘Drops of Awen‘ blog. I’ve been researching ideas that I don’t know much about and would like to explore. Generally speaking, though, I’ve been suffering a little from a ‘dry spell’. Writers block? Perhaps, but I’ve still been proud of what has been produced, so maybe not exactly that.

I’ve spoken before about the pressure on authors from readers to Write More, dammit! Many bestselling authors (notably Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin) have responded with the reasonable retort that you might have to wait if you want something that’s going to be worth waiting for. Writing takes time. I understand that Scott Lynch (author of the ‘Gentleman Bastards’ series) suffers badly from depression, which caused a delay in his last book – but the fans were lovely and waited, glad when it finally arrived. I’m sure that knowledge helped.

The writing and production of ‘Facing the Darkness’ was not easy. I shouldn’t be surprised by that, given the subject matter, but it was challenging every step of the way. But the response has been beyond wonderful, and I cannot adequately express my thanks for that.

So what next, of course? What can I add to the pile?

Given the easy accessibility of pretty much anything these days, I see so many creative people giving up before they begin for this same reason. Why bother? There’s so many out there who are better than me, let’s leave it to them. And sometimes, simple (and deceptively complex) fear and self-doubt are enough to make that empty page absolutely unconquerable.

The thing to remember, I tell myself (right now, as a matter of fact), is that I love to write. I always have. Messing about with words on a page, telling a tale – truth or fiction (and the difference can easily blur) – and then that indescribably brave step of actually putting those words Out There, into the world, for Other People to read… I know many who don’t even get that far. I tell them they should try. It’s not about being The Best – it’s about letting your voice be heard, at the very least.

Writing can be lonely, masochistic, frustrating, depressing… but also beyond rewarding, so joyful, inspiring in the act of doing and just simply my own creative outlet. I do firmly believe that we all need/have one, it’s just about finding it. And then doing it. Even when you don’t want to. Especially then.

These blog posts usually take a while to write, as I go back and forth, tweaking and amending. I haven’t with this one. Stream of consciousness, here it is, flowing along. And it has, because it clearly needs to come out, to be said.

I have ideas. It’s just a matter of being brave enough to articulate them, to encourage understanding and inspiration. I don’t just write for the sake of it – I write because I have something to say, ideas to share and throw around with others, and because, quite simply, I love it.

I’m sorry for the dry spell. It will probably happen again. But I do try hard to overcome it and move forward, as always. Thank you so much for your patience, my lovelies.

On we go.

(And the knowledge that I have a third book, several articles and other blog posts to write isn’t frightening at all…!) ;)

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‘Drops of Awen’

Hello, lovely Catbox followers!

A small thing that may be of interest. Encouraged by many of you, I’ve started a small additional WordPress site for a challenge in daily inspiration. ‘Drops of Awen‘ starts today, but won’t be publicised on the social media – it’s purely for ‘followers’ who subscribe to join the journey.

Do pop over and take a look, if you fancy some small bursts of thought each day from me! Meantime, the main blog here will continue, of course, with the usual ‘in-depth’ ponderings as and when they arise…

With thanks, as always, for reading.

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Sacred Reading

The year is turning still. In the Western Hemisphere in which I live, Spring is indeed springing all around, with the brightness of daffodils, the unique smell of showers on fresh grass, and birds chattering amidst green leaves.

This is also a time of celebration for many. Pagans have just marked the Vernal Equinox with Ostara; Hindus are joyous with Holi, the amazing festival of colours and love; and Christians are in the middle of the intensity of Lent.

Each of these is very different, but it is fascinating to compare how different faiths mark this time of year. From very personal, private rituals and promises to large public statements, it seems that many of us are doing something to actively notice the budding of new life around us, and inspiration within us.

Despite – or perhaps because of – my primarily Pagan path, I’ve been reading a lot of varied articles and books recently about other faith paths, or simply the personal practice of religion and spirituality. I recently chanced upon a fascinating ‘Making a Heart for God’, about life in Catholic Monastery – interesting reading for a Druid, you might think, but first of all, I read pretty much anything that catches my eye, and secondly, I love stories. Especially those of others, heartfelt and true, and often bypassed in favour of something more ‘glamorous’ to end up on charity shop shelves.

As demonstrated with the current seasonal festivals, I’ve often remarked on how our spiritual paths have more commonality than difference. We are, at heart, all humans seeking our own personal truths, ways to walk through life and find meaning, exploring connection and relationship with others. Generally we seek those of similar persuasions and ideas, but I’ve never seen any reason to ignore those who choose a different way to my own. Once I look, I always find that common ground again – usually very quickly – and the smile of understanding begins, as I learn of traditions, beliefs and human stories that inspire me to learn more… as well as to consider their relation to my own personal practice.

In the Monastery tale, the female narrator writes of time spent at this all-male monastery, where she was permitted to live alongside the brothers (gasp!)… and was welcomed into their spiritual world. She speaks of the relevance that such living still has in the 21st century, and how such monasteries are booked far in advance for visiting folk looking to retreat from the everyday world for a while.

My smile began. I know many Pagans who seek retreat time and space for any number of reasons, but certainly to focus on their own spiritual quests and relationship with the sacred. Imagine choosing that path to live, night and day, for years… My respect for those who do this rises with the turning of every page.

Reading on, I then discovered the practice of Lectio, which struck me as rather wonderful – and to be performed at this particular time of year. I love it when books provide information in such a timely manner!:

‘At the beginning of Lent, the [Benedictine] Rule called for each monk to receive a special book from the library and “to read the whole of it straight through.” This practice continues today.’

I was amazed that I’d never heard of this before – what a great idea! But of course, it’s not actually as simple as it sounds. Reading a book ‘straight through’ is no problem at all for me (and I suspect, many of you), but to elaborate:

Lectio [is] “reading with the expectancy that some word, phrase, paragraph, or page is worth stopping and reflecting on – a message that fits somewhere in our search.”… The point of lectio, regardless of the subject matter, is to listen to what one is reading with “the ear of the heart.”

A powerful idea. Monastic time and space is set aside specifically for this reading, to allow total focus and deliberation. How many of us have ever done such a thing? How many of us have that time? Like a retreat, such things might well have to be planned for, with the busy-ness of life making it a challenge in itself!

And yet, I’m sure that most (if not all) of you reading this have paused while reading to ponder a particular sentence that calls to you, that is applicable right now, that answers a question that you weren’t even aware you were asking. The rest of the book might be good, bad or indifferent, but if inspiration is sparked in the reading, perhaps this is touching on the spirit of ‘lectio’.

Setting such time aside for sacred reading may well be something that we need to do in our busy lives. In the manner of meditation, a door is closed, phones and gadgets switched off, and we simply sit to focus. We might not be seeking the same answers as those monks, but their practice is inspiring us in our own. A story which we might otherwise have ignored can help us.

So let’s combine traditions. Seek out a random book – whether something familiar, or a chance pick from a second-hand shop shelf. I’d suggest non-fiction for this, as that will allow you to share directly in someone else’s story, but decent fiction might work just as well, as you follow the characters through their own journeys. Audiobooks may well also work, especially those narrated by the writers themselves.

Set side time to just read. To focus your intention on the pages, the words, the voices and the images they evoke. Find a particular comfy chair, a room where you can see the sky, or even outside in green spaces with friendly trees as company.

Storytelling is sacred. We honour the tellers with our attention, and as we carry their tales forward in our lives – as we listen with our hearts. We see what others do, feeling so passionately that they have written about their experiences. Even if we don’t understand or agree, we can witness and learn, be inspired and explore.

It’s Spring. Time for new ideas.

Note: I apologise if this post is a little more disjointed than usual. Inspiration hits me and I dash to write, but today has been an interesting process, as due to physical injury, my mind is slightly muddled by pain and painkillers. Therefore any inadvertent errors or leaps of topic are entirely my own!

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The Dark Side

Years ago, I was quietly told that it was a tricky thing to be a ‘public’ Pagan. You raise your head above the parapet, you’re liable to get it shot at.

This is entirely true (and not just of Pagans, of course!). When you publicly identify as anything, there are those who will take umbrage at this, whether for your perceived audacity at doing so, or just that they think you’re wrong because they don’t like what you do.

In Paganism, there’s a practice that’s come to be known as ‘Bitchcraft’. This kind be genial – gossiping around campfire, for example, tipsy joking with no real malice – or nastier, more insidious talk. Words, as we know, are powerful things.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘How dare you’ diatribes before, generally for the reasons above. I try to be open to discussion and comment, and so must expect the negative with the positive. The difficulty comes when the muck-thrower is more interested in the throwing of muck than discussing something with a view to resolving the issue.

Together with other public Pagans, I’ve been accused of some ridiculous things, with arguments which go around for as long as they’re sustained, because the basic premise is incorrect and the person with a chip on their shoulder doesn’t actually want to discuss matters – they want to have an argument. Because they’re right, automatically, and anyone who disagrees is wrong. There’s no debate with such an approach. This is the time to ‘not feed the trolls’ (in internet terms) and just walk away; this fire will not burn without fuel.

However, situations can become even nastier. I’ve heard of people actively persecuted by Pagan-identified groups, with physical assault and damage being caused because the recipient does not practice in a way that the attackers consider ‘right’ or ‘proper’. I recently received a letter from someone who doesn’t want to identify publicly as Pagan – she’s still finding her way – and yet her local group are sending her threats, curses, physically damaging her property and generally assaulting her… because she won’t ‘come out’ as Pagan. This is, to my mind, wholly unacceptable on many levels.

A few months ago, I was asked at a Moot about the ‘Pagan Police’, and what to do if there was information about assaults occurring within a group or coven. I’d never come across such a thing myself, but presumed that the Pagan Police were actually the same as the real Police – if someone is acting illegally, that’s true no matter what their faith. There is the Pagan Police Association in the UK, who act for Pagan Police Officers, so it’s safe to presume that you won’t get mocked if the issue is a faith-based one (but you may need to push to find a representative in your area). Groups such as the Pagan Federation also have legal representation for Pagans as needed.

But it was then suggested that a ‘Pagan Police’ is somehow formed. A group which moderates behaviour within our ‘community’. I thought about this… would such a thing not be impossible at base, and vigilanteeism at worst?

Think about it. The Pagan Community is a very amorphous thing, made up of multitudes of different views. Those in authority are often regarded with suspicion, even when they are trying to help (see the point of this post); many groups who work hard to represent Pagans tirelessly and often thanklessly (the PF, TDN, OBOD, etc) can be on the receiving end of perceived ‘power-seeking’ or accused of taking ‘authority’ positions. This can be a real no-win situation. How can we have authority if we won’t accept authority, railing against it with suspicion – even though it’s made up of folk like ourselves?

So it’s up to us, in our individual communities, to moderate behaviour. Sometimes that does mean walking away. At other times, it may mean bravely taking a stand – retorting to the gossip or slanderer. A simple ‘That’s extremely rude’ perhaps, or ‘Actually, I don’t agree.’ ‘Why do you think that?’ is a great precursor to discussion. Sometimes the person is only whinging to make noise, and quiet down once challenged – or even be inspired to think about why they’re saying what they are.

Each situation is unique, I think, because each person is. Sometimes the nay-sayer is crying out because they’re been abused themselves, and need help or support. It can be a matter of ego too, the desire to be heard. We can listen to these people, then, and respond appropriately. The challenge here is not to becomes uncaring bullies in return.

However, greater difficulty comes when boundaries need to be set and proper behaviour has to be moderated. This isn’t ‘power-gaming’ – this is polite society, with respect for others. If you speak up, you will be heard, so expect to receive a response. You might not like that, but then it’s up to you to respond in turn. This is intelligent adult discussion. Sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘I’m right/you’re wrong’ – Paganism accepts shades of grey (doesn’t it)?

Issues such as those I’ve mentioned cannot always be solved with ‘love and light’. The peaceful nature of many Pagans makes conflict hard to deal with. But sometimes we need that maturity and strength, taking a stand to remind others that they cannot always get away with acting like children – or those whom they rail against.

And taking responsibility does not mean you’re seeking power; sometimes it’s just standing up for yourself and/or others. This is needed. We walk between worlds: our own perceived ‘Pagan’ society and the ‘Muggle’ world. We’re not playing, as we see that our words and actions have consequences.

I stand up and represent my Paganism, in my Druidry. I get challenged, and I’m glad of that – often the questions inspire me to think more deeply about a matter! But my way may not be yours, and occasionally you may need to be challenged as well. Great care must be taken that passion does not turn into denigration or abuse.

What are we doing… how are we listening and responding?

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Fantasy in Reality

I love fantasy. You might have guessed from previous posts, but I’ve always been an avid reader – stories fuel my life. Fantasy is a big part of this, be it the warped dystopian worlds of current ‘trendy’ fiction, the lost 1920s worlds of Agatha Christie, or (of course) Papa Tolkien. There are bandwagons and there are original writers who explore and subvert. All have something to say.

I’ve been seeing a lot of social media lately, however, in which people are looking at fantasy more and more as escapism. The world is a difficult place, and we need somewhere ‘safe’ to retreat to, somewhere better, just for a while.

This is completely fine. It’s an agreed function of those same stories, after all, from the fairytales of childhood to the myths of legend: to lose ourselves in the lives of others, to forget our problems, to imagine alternatives (potentially involving dragons). We need heroes when life seems just mundane, or when our own lives seem less than magical.

But it worries me a little when escapism becomes the sole function of fantasy, or fiction generally. It’s ‘just’ escapism, if you will. The story is denigrated, the humans experiences and lessons passed on as nothing more than fairytale… while missing the obvious truth that ‘fairytales’ are some of the most powerful stories of all.

Or we actively seek to live in such realms as an alternative to this one, like a reenactor who’s forgotten that he’s returned to work on a Monday and reaches for his sword… only to find a mobile phone.

Pagan folk speak of having ‘a foot in both worlds’ – meaning the world of spirit and this everyday realm – but that still requires a solid understanding and awareness of both. It’s advisable to not choose one over another, because that way lies madness. Perspective is crucial, but it can, of course, be easily forgotten with the wonder of spirit seems clearly preferable to the deluge of utility bills, or when the office seems more important than the home.

While recognising the (occasionally satirical) aspects of this world in those of fantasy, it’s certainly a good idea to notice the magical, fantastic parts of our everyday homelands. After all, these are what inspired the fantasy in the first place: London for Ankh-Morpork, perhaps, or Middle England for Middle Earth. We walk the streets of fantasy every day, in our own lives.

I’ve encouraged others to explore the heroic in themselves – and always receive the response ‘Oh, there’s nothing special about me’… followed by the most amazing story of something they’ve accomplished or felt.

We’re not encouraged to see the everyday as fantastic, because we take it for granted. Yet when telling our stories to another person, we’re surprised by their reactions, as they listen wide-eyed and ask questions in enthusiasm. Perspective again – everything seems normal from inside our heads, but may be absolutely marvellous to others. And certainly worth remembering and retelling.

We walk with a foot in both worlds every day. It’s just up to us to open our senses to see.

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Rainshine

Spring is on its way here in the UK, but while the snowdrops struggle to force their heads above the ground, most of us are dealing with the near-constant rainfall of recent weeks. The ground is saturated, everything seems muddy, and where I live, that means the additional early-morning fun of inadvertent ice-skating on the dog walk…

This is the world, though, and so many places seem to be dealing with the unusual falling from the skies. England seems to have a standing international status as ‘perpetually damp’ – this time last year, we were snowed in for over a week. But as Pagan folk, we should be aware that of course we are subject to the elements. We have to ride their tides, and learn what is to be taught from the experience

I’ve found the constant wetness to reflect my emotional state recently – ebbs and flows, rushing waves and standing puddles. But as the Spring begins to approach, as I see the buds and hear the birds more frequently, there is a definite change in the air. Imbolc is upon us. Brigid is at the door.

Imbolc has been one of the more elusive festivals, for me. What is it about, really? It comes at a midpoint in seasons, during dark days which it’s hard to believe are growing lighter. As a creative person, I’ve always felt that I should be connecting to the Lady of Inspiration a little more strongly, but the gods of these islands have been tricksy as well. Distant Classical deities? No problem. So-called ‘Celtic’ (I really do not like that term!), however? There’s more to them than meets the eye.

Perhaps this is as it should be. These aren’t just archetypes, after all – these gods are real people, more than just their ‘duties’. They require you to investigate, get to know them, read the stories but also draw your own conclusions, reading between the pages to see what’s really going on. I’ve written before about folk who think the Morrigan is just ‘bad’ – a point of view which baffles me. So how can a deity of Inspiration be clear-cut and straightforward? It took Nine Muses for the Greeks to sort this concept out! This year, Brigid came to me in the form of a request.

I’ve been knitting prayer shawls for some time now, taking the idea of a ritualised act of creativity to help another and seeing where it takes me. Each shawl is entirely unique, its’ own personality almost, with the ‘spell’ of its undertaking beginning at conception of idea, through to final sewing up and wearing. A large and complex task, but tremendously fulfilling. Sometimes they just come to me as ideas; sometimes through the dreams of others.

A lovely lady, friends through the connectivity of the Internet, asked me to make her something special. Emails zoomed back and forth, ideas of concept and purpose, then texture and colour, yarn, beads… until this week, it was finally resolved. And in the manner of all the best rituals and magic, everything came together at the right time, as if we were guided – because we had our eyes open and were looking with purpose, yes, but I’ve absolutely no doubt that there was a hand at my shoulder.

The yarn is pure silk, delicate yet strong, hand-dyed by another talented creative at Solstice Yarns. It is called ‘Brigid’s Dream’. The shawl is begun at Imbolc. I’ve performed ritual to set intention and ask for guidance, but it’s almost as if I don’t need to. I know what I’m to do, because the Lady is there, smiling as I twist that first loop onto the needle.

Silk yarn Brigid

I’m sure some may sneer at this, as if I’m making more out of a simple knitting commission than I should. But the purpose here is key. This is a prayer shawl, to be valued for what it is as well as what it does. Practical – warm, enveloping, soft to touch and beautiful to the eye – but also blessed throughout its creation. This is real magic, flowing through my fingers. I’m one of those working to make it come to life.

I’ll be working on this as the days grow longer again, the buds burst into flower, the inspiration starts to flow again with the new life. This creation will blossom too, and I’ve no doubt that I’ll learn things along the way (including the likelihood of tinking back occasional mistakes, especially with beading!).

The water around us is not stagnant. We needn’t let ourselves drown in it. We work with it, learn from it. Without that flow, we would die. That is how I feel about my creativity. I’m the tool through which it is directed, to make something nourishing, warming… alive.

Oh, and the pattern? From (you guessed it) yet another creative lady, called Boo, who allows magic very much into her designs.

It’s called ‘Rainshine‘.

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