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!