Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Honouring the Ancient Dead

We are giving all the royalties arising from the sale of The Wanton Green to this organisation, so it seems right to offer some more information about HAD...

Honouring the Ancient Dead is a British network organisation set up to ensure respect for ancient pagan human remains and related artefacts. HAD was established in May 2004, initially in response to negotiations following the Public Enquiry into proposed road developments at Stonehenge, Wiltshire.

HAD's main aim is to be a rational voice for those Pagan groups and individuals who are concerned about the care of ancient human remains in Britain, ensuring inclusion in any consultation and decision-making processes.  Key areas of interest are how archaeologists, museums and government departments care for ancient human remains, through exhumation, study, storage and display, with a parallel focus on issues of repatriation (within Britain) and reburial.
The full text of HAD's Statement of Intent may be found at  http://www.honour.org.uk/node/5

Whom HAD represents
HAD is fundamentally inspired by and rooted within the modern British Pagan community and its many spiritual, religious and philosophical perspectives.  As such a diverse community, however, it is difficult for any organisation to claim that it represents Paganism.  Addressing this issue, HAD does not represent a membership of individuals or groups for whom it speaks and to whom it is then accountable.  Instead HAD is representative of British Paganisms.  It achieves this through its structure: its Council, its advisors, its volunteers and its ability to access and listen to the many networks of Pagans whom it consults.  It is the weaving of all these voices that gives HAD its clear strong voice.

A personal note; a group of us were involved in a ceremony at Manchester Museum a couple of years ago to honour one of our Unburied Dead. Lindow Man, an Iron Age Celt found in the peat bogs of east Cheshire in the 1980s, was brought back to Manchester for a year from the British Museum. The story of that ceremony is for another time but, this image of the offerings brought by the company can close this entry with brightness and the promise of growth and life. Gordon 

Up, out and running about!

Wanton Green is now up, out and running!

Order a copy today, tomorrow or maybe the day after you read this!

For a modest £11.99 ($23) and whatever the postage costs, you can mull over the full versions of the extracts teasing in this blog

Dive in! Have a read and a think. Let us know how you feel

You can order from Mandrake
or from your local, delightful independant bookshop
or big chain bookshops or an on-line store….we don't mind, you can gauge any Brownie Points incurred for yourself (or by negotiation with relevant Household Goblin Authorities)

The authors and editors of Wanton Green have all decided to offer any royalties growing from sales of Wanton Green to Honouring the Ancient Dead. In considering how we deal respectfully with our ancestors' remains, we must question our own current relationships with people, legacy and land. 

HAD keeps asking questions of us as individuals, as communities and as part of a wider society

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wanton Green is out!

Besiege Amazon! 
Support your local bookshop! 
Get out there and buy your own copies, 
give them away,
read other people's copies, 
buy some more,
loiter excessively in shops, on street corners, at bus stops praising this book loudly 
be found weeping on park benches over choice punctuation

Or just order a copy and enjoy it!

Full title and other stuff:
The Wanton Green: contemporary pagan writings on place
ISBN: 978 1  906958 29 9
Price: £11.99

You could also order your copy direct from the publisher: Mandrake

The authors and editors of Wanton Green are donating their royalties to the Honouring Ancient Dead group. More details to follow 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

It will look like this!

"The Wanton Green: contemporary pagan writings on place"
Order your copy now - or at least very soon! from Mandrake

Facing the Waves

and as we reach the last of our chapter excerpts, Wanton Green, the book itself, is released! Details to follow very soon!

It is the smell that hits first; the pungent salt-rot of seaweed, lifted and lightened by the breeze. Or perhaps “arriving” begins earlier than that with the change in the sky before ever I see the waves: a lightness, a sense of space, a buoyancy reflected on clouds or hidden but present in the drifting curtains of rain. Or earlier still, facing the waves begins in the anticipation. A dry whisper of excitement like the rasp of the seaweed hanging weather-wise on the wall. A childhood shiver of growing excitement, of sandy toes, buckets and spades. An excitement that decades have not dimmed. An excitement that wakes a stillness that swells with the waves, rising as steadily, remorselessly, as the tide.

“Going to the seaside”, an adventure full of childhood memories and excitements. A starting point. For me, the sea has never lost that wonder and I recognise in that lifelong relationship some of my earliest spiritual experiences and explorations that set me on a career as ecologist, artist and storyteller.

Now I am here. Standing on the sand, watching waves, watching rocks, watching gulls wheel, slicing the air above me. Terns floating, white leaves, flakes, feathers, lilting. Now I am here, trying to let go of agendas. To be here is not to come with a ceremony in a carrier bag to enact on the seafront. To be here is not to have rehearsed the words, the prayers that should be said, the responses that should be expected. To be here, to really be here, I need to give myself to this moment, to the movement of water on shingle, to the sigh as the wave breaks on the sand

Monday, 31 October 2011

Hills of the ancestors, townscapes of artisans

And unless I've missed someone out (which is entirely possible) this beautiful beginning from jenny Blain marks the last of our "chapter postings' for this Blog...We haven't posted the poetry pieces as posting half a poem feels a bit pointless and if we posted the whole piece y'all might not buy the book!

Jenny has a blog, here: Landscapeself and you can find out about Jenny's books there

But there is more to come, so after this taste of Dundee cake, do come back for more appetisers

Hills of the ancestors, townscapes of artisans
Jenny Blain

For the last ten years, or thereabouts, I’ve been working on papers looking at how people and place interact and the meanings developed there. Much of this has been about the ways that Pagans inscribe sacredness in landscape (or does landscape inscribe sacredness in them?). But this developed in association with another passion: the hills and towns of my recent ancestors and why they ‘matter’ to me.

These thoughts provoke a series of seen and heard representations to me. Not only do the memories of places matter, but how these memories are given. And so, immediately, there are two, which both relate to my childhood in Dundee, and both hold much wider appeal beyond my associations with place.

The landscapes of Angus, painted by James McIntosh Patrick, matter to me. Not because they are copied and re-copied in people’s living rooms and over the Internet, and hence are all that many people know about this countryside, but that he was a family friend and I grew up with his name as a component of family discourse and family identity. ‘Pat’, my mother called him. There is an ‘Angus-ness’ inherent in the quality of light and in the detail of composition, which means the images are instantly recognisable wherever they are found. In pursuit of my ‘Blain’ ancestors from the other side of Scotland, I walked into a bed-and-breakfast in Stranraer and said, ‘That’s a McIntosh Patrick’ of a picture on the wall. Which it was.

The poetry my father recited included verses which still make my heart pause and my imagination fly to the braes of Angus: not least those of Violet Jacob, on ‘The Wild Geese’. Again, the impact is not only that of the poetry, but of knowing the landscapes that the poet summons. I will use those words to pace this chapter.

"O tell me what was on yer road, ye roarin' norlan' Wind,
 As ye cam' blawin' frae the land that's niver frae my mind?
My feet they traivel England, but I'm dee'in for the north."
 "My man, I heard the siller tides rin up the Firth o' Forth."

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Crossroads of Perception

Autumn blows through the world around us in a swirl of damp leaves and musty smells.  Here in the Peaks it is proving a good year for acorns, conkers, apples and hawthorns but the toadstool surge seems to have come and gone earlier than usual, back in September

A good time to step back and consider, perhaps, as the tides of winter gather. So here is an opening extract from "The crossroads of perception" by Shani Oates

"Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place
that is sacred above all."
                                                                                                    Mircea Eliade
If we were to speak of the centre of the world in metaphysical terms, this may be expressed as ‘everywhere and nowhere.’ Though often couched enigmatically, the greatest mysteries are nonetheless almost always ‘hidden in plain sight’ indicating the essential and requisite shift in our general perspective; that is to say from the profane to the sacred. To further demonstrate this vital and frequently overlooked key to our engagement with the quality we deem ‘sacred,’ we must examine what usage we articulate by intent.
While many of us may consider how our prehistoric ancestors viewed the numinous realms, beyond conjecture, we remain uncertain. In contra-distinction to this, the later classical world has gifted us a rich legacy of philosophy and experience in that regard. To them it seems, the word ‘sacred,’ rooted in the Latin ‘sacrum’ referred to the gods and all things associated with them, be they animal, mineral or vegetable. Architecture in particular, if dedicated to the gods was described as a ‘sanctum’ – meaning that which is not profane, set apart,’ including a personage of ‘awesome’ (in the correct sense of the word) distinction, in whom the numina of deity resonates.
All derivatives of ‘sacer’ imply a designated space denoted by a boundary surrounding a holy core, foci/altar. The priest in attendance here becomes the one imbued with that essence -‘sacer,’ enabled to fulfill his sacerdotal duties (hence sanctity and sanctuary).[i] As a heightened meta state it finds variant expression within other mystical traditions and praxes ranging from mana to haminja. Of course the generality here may be explained by cynics as the wish-fulfillment induced under impressionable circumstances. Implying that wherever we might sense something other, even if entirely subjective, we will attempt to clothe it with the ‘supraenatural.’

Shani is also the author of The Arcane Veil - ten discourses on the Craft and the history of Magic, and Tubelo's Green Fire on the mysteries of the Clan of Tubal Cain also published by Mandrake, Shani's books with Mandrake

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this extract, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

back to Lud's Church

For beauty there is, and a challenge too. Ice drops, frozen tears, on thorn twigs of a Midwinter morning. Moonrise over the hills. Snow blowing down the dale. The cool under the trees on a summer’s day. Cold water running over rounded stones. A cloud of jackdaws are blown ahead of me down the dale and rise, laughing, in a flowing swirl, up and over the trees ahead.

I'm cheating…..have already posted an extract from this chapter but just came across this image that fits part of the experience so well, I wanted to add that to the mix…

Marlo Broekmans

The delightful Dutch artist Marlo Broekmans has recently joined the Wanton crew lending some wonderful images to the final face of The Wanton Green

To give you a taste of Marlo's work, here are a couple of the images that won't be in the book and you can see a wider array of her work at Marlo's website

Places of spirit and spirits of place

Behind the scenes, design and layout work is nearly completed and Wanton Green should soon be galloping off to the printers, or possibly trotting on its dainty little hooves, so today we're going to throw our readers off to the wilds of Cumbria for a few minutes away with the fairies which is surely of benefit to everyone once in a, frequent, while...

Places of spirit and spirits of place: of Fairy and other folk, and my Cumbrian bones.
Melissa Harrington

Most spiritual traditions speak of finding sacred knowledge through time apart from humanity in places such deserts and mountain tops. These are wildernesses that have no human distractions, where nature can be felt in its magnificence and enormity, and we are reminded of our own mortality, our tiny moment in the face of eternity.
On a minor level, we find an element of this wonder when we walk out in nature anywhere, and it is not surprising that pilgrimage has remained a spiritual stable throughout history and across many cultures, whereby devotees journey to a sacred destination. It is not surprising that hermits live alone in wild places, that monasteries and temples were often built far from the madding crowd, or that the shaman and the witch were usually attributed to live at the edge of the village, between the world of men and domains of the otherworld.
It is easy to journey through nature and remain aloof, blinded and deafened by our worldly cares. But if we align our conscious minds to the wonder around us, if we meditate into it and leave behind the whirling of the mundane mind, we can open ourselves to the glory of nature, and let it aligns us with the magnitude of the universe.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

And this week, we are off to ol' London Town although Stephen's piece may put you off a bit in this extract. For us editors, Stephen's work was wonderfully provocative and fascinating - a new take on familiar urban landscapes. The whole chapter moves in tone up and down streets of feelings and ends challenging us all to act on behalf of the lost voices of our towns and cities - or at least it did for Susan and I!

Smoke and mirrors
Stephen Grasso

All cities have magic. You just have to find it. For some, London is a mechanistic urban grind. A compassionless engine powered by seven million dreary and disillusioned lives that trudge back and forth across the City in their tremendous rush hour waves. Spilling out of holes in the ground each morning to labour at deskbound servitude or whatever menial task has been allotted, moving paper around for unknown masters, tinkering with abstract systems, selling anonymous product, keeping the machine well greased and oiled. Whatever you can do to keep the slow trickle of funds coming in. Whatever you can do to stay afloat.

Counting off the hours with cups of tea and cigarette breaks, we make it through the day until the silent bell rings and it’s out again into tumultuous streets to fight the last desperate battle of the day. Tramping over the corpses of neighbours, co-workers, future partners, ex-lovers. It doesn't matter who they are. Through the commuter glaze, all heart and personality are boiled out, reduced down, distilled away in a perfect alchemy of intent. All that matters is your destination. Nothing else is real. With invisible machete you hack through a forest of meaningless bodies moving in space. Your space. It's best not to think of them as people. We bare our fangs and claws, and rend our way through the crowds. Those who fall behind, the weak, elderly or infirm, will be torn to pieces by berserker salesmen and maenads from accounts. Try to ignore them as they crunch underfoot. Doesn't matter, needn't be.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Jenny Blain's new blog!

An introduction
One of our authors has launched a new blog. Jenny's blog

Jenny wrote a moving chapter for us:  "Hills of the ancestors, townscapes of artisans" about her family's connections to Dundee. This chapter will feature here soon!

Her work reflects an academic sense of inquiry with a passionate connection to people and to place. Explore her new ideas on the blog and plunge into earlier work through her book: Jenny's books

the images below are from our "Ancestors…." chapter

Friday, 23 September 2011

Too many words?

I am very aware of this blog being very 'word heavy". This is inevitable given that it is here to promote a fairly wordy book

so here is a gratuitous toad to soothe eyes weary with too much reading....

and a dead oak left standing in Richmond Park, Surrey, to encourage reflection

Lud's Church

Lud's Church is a beautiful absorbing place tucked away at the north end of the Staffordshire Roaches. For years it has been one of my  "places to go"....the journey there becoming a pilgrimage in itself.....

Lud’s Church
Gordon MacLellan

Daylight fades, twilight gathers, and night comes quickly to the gorge. Daylight fades and finds me still sitting there on the crumbling, gritstone steps, soaking up the shadows, savouring the stillness.

After all these years, all these visits, being here still feels like the end of a pilgrimage. This is not some momentous, footsore, mountain-climbing, penance-clearing catharsis. This is smaller, simpler, and maybe just as profound in an old-stone-and-tree-roots way.

The drive to get here is part of it. Nothing that special, no great distance, no great drama (unless it is snowy or icy when I can do a lot of the distance sideways). Not far, and these old hills swell roundly above me. Gradbach - “Sandy Stream” apparently, but in the local vernacular, the “Great Bitch”- massive above, the road running down the cleft of Her belly. Bleak hills with rich names, studded with sheep. Not so many sheep now on Axe Edge and Wolf Edge and Tagsclough Hill, but cattle are grazing again. Tough, ancient shapes, heftier and bolder than the nervous sheep.  Beyond the farms and the livestock, there is a quiet lasting strength in these hills, the folded, secretive western edge of the White Peak.

The walk from the car is part of the pilgrimage, too. Again, not long. Again, no great drama in this mile along the Bitch’s stream. The River Dane. More names, with echoes here of ancient Celtic Goddesses as Mother Danu runs down from the hills to the plain. Is She the “Gradbach”, Herself? That would make a convenient storyline while a neat path, waymarked, follows the line of Her brook down the dale to the Black Wood. Or sometimes the “Back Wood”. It is easy to get sidetracked into the patterns of names as folded as the hills themselves. The track wobbles in its course, is muddied with field springs, but again there is no real challenge in the walk to the woods.

Drama? Challenge? Why should there be? The beauty should be challenge enough.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Natural Magic is art

Natural Magic is art
Greg Humphries.

There’s No Place Like Home
How do you get to know a place and how does it get to know you?
Time is a factor certainly, a sense of belonging built up from accumulated memories and feelings. You need to sit and listen. Hear its breathing hear its voice. Listen to its rhythm and pace. “Why are you here?” it says and I have no answer. Yet.

There seems to be a yearning in the soul of the Western individual to re-connect with Nature. The devices we create continue to dissociate us from our surroundings. Just turn on your iPod or computer and tell me you are connected to the wind in the grass outside your window or the pigeons on the roof across the street. The more devices we create to fill the gap, the further we move away from a sense of belonging in this world, the greater and stronger walls we build against the natural world we rely on for our survival. A dangerous route to follow, as the further we retreat from it the less we understand it. The less we understand it, the more we see it as something useless and redundant, or even threatening.

How do we reverse this trend towards isolation? There needs to be an acknowledgement that we depend on this place for our survival. Without clean water and food we would be reminded of this very quickly, but we are insulated by the systems and devices we have created through the use of fossil fuels. Our food is flown in from all over the world, our water comes from electrically powered, chemical based treatment works. Without cheap and available fossil fuels, these things would very quickly become expensive beyond the means of most people. And the fossil fuels are running out fast.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Approaching mugwort

And today's tasty bit is not to be eaten lightly (if ever)! Mugwort is a wonderful plant, those feathery, silver-grey leaves hold a strength and a legacy that always captivates me. It's one of those plants, people stop seeing a ubiquitous "weed" of urban wastegrounds. Maybe that's part of its magic, to stand unseen in full view?

A Heathen in Place: working with Mugwort as an ally

Robert J. Wallis        

A journey: introducing Mugwort

I’m walking past an unkept verge on my way home from the train station, having commuted to the city, and a raggedy plant catches my eye. It is Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, outwardly an unassuming plant but, as I now know, with hidden, extraordinary qualities. The encounter is a markedly special one, albeit in a very ordinary place, at the end of a very typical day - and I smile at the fact. I offer a discrete salute to Mugwort and whisper a respectful greeting in Old English:

Gemyne ðu mucgwyrt hwæt thu ameldodest
hwæt þu renadest æt regenmelde
una þu hattest yldost wyrta

Continuing on my way, I spot a young sparrowhawk circling above the woods near my home, something I’ve not seen before.  While I would not be so arrogant as to think this sighting was ‘meant for me’, for Wyrd’s pattern is not so fatefully reliable, I recognise the beauty of the moment and offer the bird a ‘waes thu hael’. Arriving at the cottage, I unload my pile of essays for marking and, with a very welcome tankard of cider in my hand, offer the first draught in a libation to the house wight[1]: I sign the hammer of Thunor over the brew, then spill some of the liquid over a large flint offering-stone near the front door, which produces a satisfactory fizz.

A proposal: a Heathen in place

I open my essay with this personal narrative for three reasons: first, to introduce you to Mugwort, a plant ally I am going to treat in detail; second, to make the point that my Heathenry begins at home and is something that permeates every aspect of my daily life; and third, because all of this is firmly rooted in my relationships with places – both local and further afield. For me, this is both ordinary and extraordinary, at the same time, what I might term a Wodenic paradox[2]. Of course I take my Heathenry with me wherever I go: to work in London, to the picnic spot in the woods that we cycled to last weekend, when on pilgrimage to sacred sites some distance away from home, such as Danebury Hillfort, Avebury stone circles, and further afield yet - last Summer, to the rock art site of Ekeberg and Viking burial mounds at Borre, near Oslo. But in my heart, my Heathenry begins at home and in place, for the place that I am in, this land, is at the centre of my ontology and epistemology, and shapes who I am. My Heathenry is inseparable from the place(s) in which my life unfolds, and in many of these places, I encounter Mugwort.

[1] A complex term, here used to mean something like a ‘non-human agent’.
[2] See Johson & Wallis 2005.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Standing at the crossroads

we hope that the collection of essays in wanton green will offer food for thought and emotional challenge to our readers. The final chapter, however, offered our authors a new challenge of “what should we do/ might happen next?”. The following piece came in after we’d gone to final settings, so we offer it in full here.

Standing at the crossroads: Melissa Harrington

As Pagans we seek an intimate connection to the Earth.  But how do we the face environmental challenges that appear to be fierce and immediate? For me, I have given up activism, given up direct debits to green charities, with whom I have become disillusioned, and everything begins at home - recycling, eco householding, beach clearing,  litter picking, composting, writing to MPs and newspapers, and furthering local causes as much as possible. Perhaps it's my age.

The zeitgeist of the 21st century is Pagan friendly; we are now at a point where our faith makes sense to members of the wider populace. But it will move on, a new zeitgeist will surely come when morals and values change once more, and perhaps the green issues will be ignored in the rougher, tougher harder times that are ahead, and Paganism's gentle enchantments will seem less relevant.

I believe that whatever  we do the earth will go on, and one day the sun will die, and so will our planet; but whether humans will be here then is another matter, for we are part of her evolution as were the dinosaurs. We may have reached the stars from whence we are drawn, we may have annihilated each other, or  live in a post apocalypse survival state where all this means nothing, and we scrape our living as hunted- gathers once more.

In the meantime we need to husband the Earth, to try to keep her as the Eden into which we were born. In Europe we need to develop the use of her natural resources via water turbines, solar power, ground source heat pumps, geothermal energy etc. We also need to make realistic political solutions to pollution and energy requirements, without falling for green hysteria such as the increasingly shaky presumptions and solutions regarding global warming, that now appear to have been based on bad science and pointless propaganda.
As Pagans, as humans, we can only do our best, for ourselves, for our planet and for the future, and that surely has to be a commitment that goes for all people of all races and creeds. It goes beyond beliefs in the supernatural domain, and right to the heart of our place in nature herself, and in that we are joined with all of humanity, whose simplest will it to survive. We in the affluent West cannot presume that third world countries will stop producing pollution, nor that we continue to ship our unsorted recycling to their landfill sites, where children pick at it for pence to survive. We have to get a world wide solution, involving huge changes to our industries, commerce, power systems, banking and foreign aid.

One of the most influential people I know, who makes these changes happen, is a banker; a pagan banker who works with banks to try to write off third world debts, and look at ways to make their economies flourish. He is not in any group, nor follows any particular pagan path, but he has been committed to this since he was at school, and his wife is a leading environmentalist and Wiccan priestess. One of the difficulties for us as Pagans maybe to leave the Other worlds where we often feel most at home for the real hard human worlds, and make effective changes there, to be truly part of it and its most mundane, capital and commercial systems. For a people who are often mystics and dreamers, more often found as activists sitting in trees, or on greenfields in eco protest,  many who spend years immersed in the arcane world with little career or political ambitions, doing that could be one of our greatest challenges of all. 

Stone in my bones....

and this week’s taste of Wanton to come is from Sarah Males, writing about the dales of the Peak District of England where several of our writers live. A fiercely quarried and harried land of limestone and gritstone, high, bleak moors and rich deep dales, this place commands reflection and draws the wanderer into deep and abiding relationships with the landscape around her…

Stone in my Bones
Sarah Males

How do I tell you how I relate to the land? Where do I begin? With the past, with myself or with a vision of the future? How do I speak of my affair with the earth, the stone and the water that holds me like a child? Of the elemental forces at work within me and around me? An earthly resonance. A shock, a resounding rushing of blood through my veins as energy flows through, around, in me and without me? Of my knowledge that my future lies inextricably entwined with this place?

When I speak of place I am referring to the larger world, to everything, each part, place and particle of existence. Those traces that skim the surface of physical being, that speak truths of past, present and future. Place that is more than just physical, place that sings with both harmony and discordant voices, a cacophony of communication from distant spheres or whispers of half formed utterances from those that are yet to come.

How did this happen? How did I reach this place of enormity, this vast and infinite space with which I feel deeply within my very being? Again and again I reconsider this change in my perceptions, for I was not born to this way of being. Or I was not born able to immediately recognise this relationship, whilst I suspect this is in some way an innate aspect of our nature and an aspect that has been pummelled out of us through centuries of attempts to control and exploit the natural world. For whatever reason, this understanding was not easily and immediately accessible to me.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows!  Wanton is  as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Our first thousand views!

Thanks everyone! we've just passed our first thousand views. Hoorah for us! I invite you all to go and bake a cake, live it up, it's going to be a long winter!

Then come back, read another chapter opening or two, post a comment, mutter a little......

Places of power.....

Jan Fries is the author of a number of important books on pagans subjects. His work always challenges: looking at subjects from unexpected perspectives, breaking boxes and encouraging readers to experience and experiment....explore more of Jan's work: Jan's books at Mandrake

Places of Power                                      
Jan Fries

 “Could you write something on shamanism?” asked my editor, who is always a cheerful soul when it comes to inventing new projects, “it’s for those pagans who have bought the Rollright Stones. They could do with a bit of support.” This set me thinking. Recalling the Rollright Stones was easy, but I simply couldn’t think of a way of fitting shamanism into the picture. I remembered our visit to the site, a few years ago, in the dusk of a long summer day. I had heard of the Rollright Stones, but what I had heard had not prepared me for the actual event. When you’ve seen places like Stonehenge, Avebury, or the stone avenues of Menec in Brittany you may develop the idea that people who build megalith sanctuaries like to do this in a large size. This is understandable, as most people represent important ideas in a big form, and to most people of the prehistoric days, religion seems to have been an important issue indeed. Rollright was a surprise. The stone-circle seemed so small that it felt comfortable. There was a friendly atmosphere to it, a sensation that reminded me less of a church or sanctuary but of a living room. Yes, there are megalith structures incorporating small megaliths! What the builders of Rollright had achieved was not just a miniature, however. The stones of the circle had that special appeal which you can sense in small but exquisite works of art. Each stone was very much alive-a good indication that plenty of people were coming there and keeping up the sentience, but also unique in a way that you may understand when you go there for a peaceful evening. We said hello to the place, explored the range of bizarre rocks, walked around the circle for a while and finally used the opportunity for a little seething, as you may have read in Seidways. During the trance, I was amazed how easily the place responded. The ground seemed to ripple and vibrate, waves seemed to run through the supposedly solid earth and out of the strangely shaped stones, faces and forms of animals appeared. 

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows! Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Where are the wild places?

from the section "where are the wild places?", artist, witch and delightful trouble-maker, Woody Fox, adds a chapter:

Devon, Faeries and me.
Woody Fox

My name is Woody Fox and I’m an initiated witch and seer. My childhood magical education came mostly from faeries and the occasional ghost. As time went on, more beings of the spirit world helped me including, in adulthood, many deities and eventually the god Cernunnos, to whom I have been a devotee for the last 13 years. I work in a very shamanic way and my totem is Fox

I have been able to see and communicate with the faerie races since I was a child and am one of the lucky ones who have never lost that gift, and it is a gift that enriches my life and educates me in the ways of the world. It also has influenced my way of looking at the world and all of her beauties and has taught me the sense of honoring the land and all its peoples.

When I was six, I did my first eco warrior action; I was woken up in the middle of the night by some faeries I knew and told that my father was planning to destroy their home the next day. Sure enough, the next morning my dad, with his chainsaw in hand, found me sitting as high as I could in the tree. I began to see the importance of looking after your friends. This concept spread out further and further to encompass caring for all other spirits and forms of life.

This ability to hear what beings need, want and desire from any given action of mine makes life both easier and trickier. Easier because there seems to be nothing that is scared of telling you what it thinks and so you know the facts in no uncertain terms. and tricky because you can’t pretend you haven’t heard them. There is a real challenge in getting what you desire alongside the need of the environmental beings - but this is the joy of being aware of a diversity of spirits.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows! Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Friday, 26 August 2011

And for this week's treat...(part 2)

The lovely Graham Harvey contributed an introduction that managed to encompass just what we were up to and why and left us, the editors, feeling almost redundant....


Graham Harvey

“What is your favourite colour?” might not seem the most urgent or profound question that you will ever be asked. However, those who have seen Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail (Gilliam and Jones 2002 [1975]) will remember it as the decisive question asked of King Arthur and his Grail knights at the Bridge of Death. Failure to name his own favourite colour proved fatal to Sir Galahad (who had instead parroted Lancelot’s reply). Wanton Green is not about favourite colours. But it is about the preferences, affections, relationships, rituals and responses that make the authors who they are, inform their understandings of the world (quite literally), and prompt their further acts towards living places and communities. It is not only a book about senses of place, feelings of belonging, or romantic longings to be somewhere. Far more than that, it is about the absolute centrality of belonging. Radically, it contests the idea that humans are separate from “nature” or “the environment”. It insists that our bodies and all our senses, feelings, emotions and thoughts, are rooted in our relationships to places and the other beings with whom we co-inhabit places, the world and the cosmos.

Ecology, the story of the world, is not about somewhere else. Nor can it only speak about animals, plants and other beings — it cannot leave us out. We humans are members of place-communities. Ecology is about those who dwell in places, and those who shape and affect places. This includes us. It cannot properly ignore us. Sometimes it is almost all and only about us, especially now that we have had such dramatic and widespread effects in our world. The chapters that follow arise from the preferences and experiences of particular authors. Their cumulative effect is the rising of a powerful wave of recognition, celebration and active engagement with the world. We are subtly invited or provocatively propelled to honour the places of our dwelling and our influence. Especially when in a celebratory mood, these might include our homes and their immediate surroundings, or those places where we step aside from the demands of human-focused living to seek presence within and among the wider, larger, more diverse community of earth-dwellers. Particular places matter to us, they manufacture us from their matter, and our bodies are part of their intertwined relationships and busy communities. Our connections to place(s) are not accidental. And all of this is true whether or not we like the places where we are right now.

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows! Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

And for this week's treat.....(part 1)

Finding the space, finding the words: The Charge of the Horned God.
Rufus Harrington

In the early 1990’s, while a member of the Bricket Wood Coven, I was stirred up to perform a magical quest, to seek a vision of the Horned God. I was living at the time in Hampstead Garden Suburb, thanks to the kind generosity of Fredrick Lamond, who has supported and helped many people in the Craft in his own private way. His house has a lovely garden backing onto woods. For three days, I fasted and meditated daily, both in the garden and in the woods. In my meditation, I deliberately evoked every memory and experience I had had of working with the God. I evoked thoughts and images, emotions and every experience I could remember of being invoked upon in Craft circles in many previous years. Then I just relaxed, tuning into the natural world around me, sinking into the experience of nature, of the sun shinning through the trees, of warm grass and earth.  I felt warm sunlight on my arms, now brown from the time spent outside. At night I relaxed into the starlight, warm evenings carrying me as I drifted in reverie, sometimes sitting, sometimes walking.

By the third day, my body had passed the hunger stage and this was no longer a distraction. I drank water and was not uncomfortable. I did not spend every minute of every day in meditation, I approached the quest in a most relaxed way. In the circumstance, I didn’t have to worry about anything, there were no significant distractions, I could slip away from the everyday world ......

and, as ever, if you want to read the rest of this piece, contain yourself in patience, and watch for The Wanton Green (the book) as the leaves fall, or with the first frosts or maybe when the snow hits...who knows! Wanton is as Wanton does, but the moment draws closer!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Living protests, changing lives

and here, joining a protest camp offers so much more than just the  chance to chain oneself to railings or lie down in front of bulldozers....

A life in the woods: protest site paganism

Over ten years ago I gave a presentation that was to change my life. I  spoke about a "somatic knowing" that "is the knowledge of faith, of emotion, of the gut feeling"[i]. I concluded that spiritual experiences in nature give us an embodied knowing that can inspire environmental action. My words spoke of an unexplored landscape and I embarked on a remarkable journey of discovery.
That 1996 paper revealed a broad horizon and it took a PhD to even begin to map out the territory. What I discovered was as profound as I’d hoped and more surprising than I ever imagined.

Academic research can be dust dry, so to create a fleshier appreciation of my work, I'd like to invite you to join me on a pivotal part of my journey. My fieldwork touched the individual threads of many lives, and this story weaves them into a tapestry. This is an autoethnography, a more intimate expression of fieldwork than most, which embraces the researcher's personal experience and reveals a "personal voyage of discovery" (Bruner, 1986)[ii].
Autoethnography is an aesthetic activity as much as an academic one in that it tells stories that invite the reader "to put themselves in our place" (Ellis and Bochner, 2000)[iii]. This is an imaginative retelling in as much as I distil many months at various protest sites into a single narrative. But every word speaks true: all substantive quotes are as spoken and always in a context that preserves their intent[1].

A new arrival
Field notes:
A few long days ago I was in London phoning the camp from my flat. Now the flat is empty, my unaffordable lease is done and, with my material life in store, I’m on a train going west. It started snowing just as the train left London and the fields all around are now dusted. Not ideal conditions to arrive in! Still, it may delay work on the road. I hope so. When I spoke to Jill on the phone she emphasised how “bloody beautiful” the woods are.

[1] Aliases are used throughout and two characters - Oak and Ben - combine more than one individual.

[i] Harris, 1996. Sacred Ecology.
- 2010. 'The Power of Place: Protest Site Pagans'. The European Journal of Ecopsychology, Vol. 1, issue 1, London.

[ii] Bruner, 1986, ‘Experience and its Expressions’, in Turner and Bruner, (eds), The Anthropology of Experience,  University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago

[iii] Ellis and Bochner, 2000