GORDON MCGOWAN ©2015
Sunday, 26 July 2015
On Wednesday the 1st of July 2015, I once again had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Empyrean Pagan Interest Group in Nottingham (UK). This time to witness a rare public appearance of Shani Oates, Maid and Virtue holder of the Clan of Tubal Cain.
The Maid is a well-known author with several books to her credit, exploring Mysticism, Gnosticism and Traditional Witchcraft within the context of Clan matters. The Maid has also contributed numerous essays to journals as varied as Pagan Dawn and Pillars, the latter published by ANATHEMA.
TIM RAWLINGS ©2011
The presentation ‘Sacred Mask Sacred Dance’ takes its name from the famous and long out of print work of the Maid’s immediate predecessor, the illustrious Evan John Jones. In that work Jones referred to certain Clan practices under their more correct title, the ‘Masked Rites of Tubal Cain’ and we attending therefore, were privy to Clan praxis rarely exposed to public gaze.
To begin, we were introduced to the consideration that the cycles of life were all once considered sacred in their entirety. Thus recognising that sacred is derived from archaic French and Latin, meaning to make Holy. This links us and the sacred acts themselves to religious ritual, including acts of veneration and priestly rites that importantly, are without gender. It is within these rites historically and culturally, that we discover the concept of Sacred Dance and Masking, in which a performer is spiritually inspired in their performance or dances in veneration of a God or Goddess.
There exists five basic forms of dance; Processional (think Wicker Man), Pole, which is a weaving dance around a fixed point such as a pillar and should not be confused with a nightclub performance, the Circle or Mill form, the Troy Dance, a form of spiralling meditative dance and the fifth, a Shamanistic form that may manifest in a wild or frenzied style
These five forms of dance it is suggested, equate with five stages of the Sacred Round of Life itself. Rebirth is the Processional Dance or the Path of the Holy Fool. You may remember that I did suggest the Wicker Man. The second stage of life is Youth, representing love and connected therefore, with the weaving dance of the Maypole. The third stage is Maternity, the Circle Dance representing the endless knot of life itself. The fourth stage is Maturity, representing wisdom, which is the Troy or Maze spiralling dance and the fifth, Death, Fate and the Shamanistic frenzy.
As the Maid expounded these five forms of dance in far greater detail than I am able to give here, each was demonstrated by Gaynor Fairweather, a professional dancer and performer. Provided for this part of the demonstration and placed on display, were a selection of ritual masks from the private collection of the Clan of Tubal Cain. This was therefore, a rare opportunity for those outside the Clan, to see carefully selected ritual items usually kept private.
Miss Fairweather to the drumming of the Maid, performed each dance with a different choice of mask, enabling the audience to appreciate the otherworldliness, created by rhythm, movement and mask. An important observation being that once the mask is worn, the bearer is whatever the mask represents, the mask is the face of the Spirit. The God or Spirit is not behind the mask, he or she is the mask. The bearer joins the mask to become one being.
This has an important historical precedence, as illustrated by the famous Dancing Sorcerer or Shaman of the Trois-Frères cave of Ariège in France. Is this example of cave art, left by our ancestors and now dated to 13,000 BCE, a Magician, a Shaman or a God? Is this a depiction of a ritual, an act of worship or hunting magic in which the individual enacts the part of the prey?
PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE
Although there has been a re-evaluation of the meaning and context of the figure since its discovery in 1914, today the original interpretation that the figure is that of a shaman, has returned to the fore. However, other examples of cave art suggest more overtly the practise of hunting magic and this leads us to possibly that most famous of folkdances, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance of Staffordshire.
The Maid chose to use this dance as a multifaceted example of several theories expounded in the presentation. The dance although it appears simplistic in form, is a complicated set piece of Processional, Weaving, Circular and Spiral Dancing. There can be few dances that incorporate such forms in a deliberate union.
In this example however, the dancers are not masked but carry their totems before them in the form of antlers on poles. The Maid used the dance as a link to archaeological examples found in Britain and mainland Europe, of antlered head-dresses designed to be worn high on the head. Although the wearer was not facially masked, we return full circle to the underlying principle of the Dancing Shaman, who while not masked but bearing antlers, supports the archaeological interpretation.
CHATTERING MAGPIE ©2015
To end the evening the audience were invited to pair off, each with a mask and to sit facing each other, whilst meditating in the semi-darkness to drumming and a miniature Bullroarer. The audience were further invited to literally “get up and dance” if they felt the need, joining Miss Fairweather. Only one brave soul chose to do this, providing an imaginative freestyle interpretation to the deliberately monotonous rhythm, it was obvious that the young lady had some previous dance training.
GORDON MCGOWAN ©2015
I suspect many in the audience found this experience a fascinating and exciting one, to sit facing a partner, observing their masked face, with drumming and a bullroarer to accompany the meditation. What did they see, what messages did each bring back from beyond the mask?
This presentation was a unique opportunity to observe and experience in a limited capacity, praxis rarely discussed never mind demonstrated publicly. The Maid granted us with a glimpse, an all too brief a glimpse, of the ‘Masked Rites of Tubal Cain’ and left us much to ponder further.
GORDON MCGOWAN ©2015
Shani Oates the Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain, will reprise her presentation at Pagan Pride in Nottingham (UK) on Sunday the 2nd August 2015. See below:
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Friday, 24 July 2015
In October 2014 I travelled once again to the wonderfully vibrant and ever friendly city of Leeds. This was a weekend away to take in the Royal Armouries as an extra treat, complimenting the main reason for the journey, the second Day of Mysteries and Magic.
The event was organised by the West Yorkshire Pagan Meet-up Group, whose representatives Steve Jones and Gordon Mewse were in attendance to oversee the day. It was held at the Swarthmore Education Centre, a small but friendly venue just on the edge of the city centre proper and easy enough to find.
The event ran from twelve noon with an official end time of six in the evening, featured five talks or presentations covering a surprising variety with regard content and aimed at varying levels of knowledge. The event also incorporated a small but interesting Pagan themed market at the back of the hall.
The day began with a brief welcome from the organiser Steve Jones, who also made a presentation to his co-organiser Gordon Mewse. Mr Jones is the organiser and founder of a moot in Wakefield, which the longest running moot in the UK, he is also organiser of the West Yorkshire Meetup and a founder of the Oak Leaf Camp. So in organising events such as Day of Mysteries and Magic I and II, he is able to call upon a significant amount of previous experience.
With only a brief pause after the welcome address, Mr Jones deftly began his own presentation entitled ‘Masonic Wicca.’ In his presentation he expertly examined the historical links between Freemasonry and Gardnerian Witchcraft. Noting that Gardner was a Mason, that the three degree system and elements of the Wiccan initiation ceremonies, all have their counterparts in Freemasonry.
Equally Mr Jones was able to show that the term Blessed Be and the Five Fold Kiss, are derived from Freemasonry. In the last instance, the five points of the ‘Masonic Hug.’ It was also noted that the well-known ‘So mote it be’ of Wicca, is also found in Masonry being derived from a Jewish form of Amen.
The presentation was enlightening, educational and significant. Mr Jones had delivered this particular presentation only once before and that was at the Pagan Federation National Conference in 1999. His research at the time was considered pioneering and inspired several other authors to investigate further.
Steve Jones will reprise his presentation at Pagan Pride in Nottingham (UK) on the 2nd August 2015. Please see the link below.
The second presentation was by Tony Chapman who together with his wife Sue, runs the temple of Athame in Humberside. Mr Chapman is both a professional paranormal investigator of thirty years’ experience and a professional photographer. His presentation ‘Further in to the Paranormal World’ was wide ranging and informative. Starting with ghost sightings such as the Roman Legion of York, he covered apotropaic items such as animals and others, often found buried in older buildings.
Briefly mentioning saintly monks manifesting stigmatas, out of body experiences, divination and the Curse of Tutankhamun. He moved on to discuss the levitation of Daniel Douglas-Hume, cases of possession, the Witch Finder General and the famous medium Helen Duncan. Mr Chapman’s talk was essentially an exciting whistle stop tour of the weird and wonderful, peppered with anecdotes and observations from his varied career.
The third presentation was by Kai Roberts, a gentleman with several folklore works to his name and his presentation ‘Grave Concerns’ examined the history, significance and media hype of the alleged grave of Robin Hood at Mirfield Farm on the on Kirklees Priory Estate in Yorkshire. This presentation was of particular interest to me having written on the esoteric but not the historical significance of the Hood legend. That I leave to learned historians such as Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts talk was highly in-depth and covered the history of the site from the earliest Hood associations that predate the introduction of Tuck and Marion, to the later and rather fanciful appearance of the Kirklees Vampire. This was a journey liberally mixed with historical references regarding the history of the Priory, its importance and influence before the final dissolution and the legendary associations.
In doing this Mr Roberts was able to provide an extensive range of citations from the Sloane manuscript, the writings of John Leeland and the letters of John Saville. Noting such important details as the 18th century introduction of the final arrow, that is not found in earlier sources, that the grave may have once born a cross of 13th century origin and that the epitaph itself, is very late and not at all original to the older parts of the structure.
The presentation ended with a discussion regarding two paranormal investigators, who each having their own theory relating to the Vampire, have engaged in energetic if completely pointless arguments on their respective BLOG sites. The audience could observe that rather than conduct research, each appeared far more interested in conducting themselves in a manner which would unavoidably damage their credibility.
The final conclusion was that although the historical Robin Hood is unlikely to be buried at Kirklees, the legendary and historical significance of the site sets it apart and that it therefore deserves preservation.
Kai Roberts has written a book looking at the Kirklees Grave in detail.
The penultimate presentation was from Mr Alan Millar, the Magister of the Milesian Order of Clanna Gadelus; a Traditional Craft cuveen sharing both Scottish and English roots. A professional music manager, publisher and author, Mr Millar is a well-known name in Craft circles and currently resides in Sheffield.
His talk ‘Forefathers of Modern Witchcraft’ provided us with an extensive catalogue of names from the early days of the Craft revival, covering Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Traditional Witchcraft. All the expected well-known names were all included but enough less public influences were provided, to keep the subject matter fresh and lively.
Mr Millar’s presentation is actually in two parts, reflecting the detail of the subject matter and due to obvious time constraints, we heard only the first section. This led to a post talk discussion that would most likely have contained elements of part two, as some of the questioning explored the more contemporary influences at play within Paganism and Witchcraft.
Mr Millar may be contact via the Witchcraft Research Network of which he is the founder: http://the-wren.webs.com/
The final presentation was by Mr Paul Bennett, author and Earth Mysteries Researcher, who with a highly extensive slide show titled ‘Standing Stones and Earth Mysteries, explored the Neolithic rock art of Yorkshire, the North of England and Southern Scotland. Here Mr Bennett drew cultural comparisons between cup and ring markings, rock carvings and various ancient monuments to illustrate the potential spread of ideas and even belief.
The slide show was wide ranging, covering the geographical areas mentioned discussing some officially undiscovered sites, while presenting a hypothesis for origin and context. The enormity of the research necessary to present the visual material was breath-taking.
Thrown into this heady mix were such observations as the near global occurrence of the Swastika, with examples in Europe dating from 18,000 BC. That there are 3000 petroglyphs in Yorkshire alone and that similarities in rock art found at Kilmartin in Scotland and |Newgrange in Eire, suggests both trade and communication.
The second Day of Mysteries and Magic II was a highly enjoyable and informative event, a specialist and pleasant change from the more common MBS events that take place. I sincerely hope that one day, there will be a DM&M III.
Sunday, 19 July 2015
Empyrean as a lecture night has run in Nottingham for over twenty years now attracting some of the most credible, exhilarating and knowledgeable speakers in the Midlands. In October I attended the insightful and educational presentation by Doctor Tony Rotherham, one of several persons currently acting as an unofficial Robin Hood in Nottingham. Tony Rotherham is a man of considerable versatility himself, starting his career in 1978 he has a vast amount of television and film experience. He has appeared as an extra, while providing combat tuition and stunt work in over twenty films.
Having a doctorate in history he is an acknowledged authority upon the subject of the historical Robin Hood or perhaps we should say, Hoods. As from the historical perspective, we can deduce that there were many over the course of the later Medieval Period. Although some Robins may have been the peoples’ hero, the majority and certainly the earliest were not. The earlier Robins lived up to the title hood in a more modern sense, they were cutthroats and vicious robbers. Not necessarily anti-establishment figures or folk-heroes heading some localised peasants’ revolt.
In discussing the sentimentalisation of perceived anti-establishment figures, Doctor Rotherham touched upon the rather idealised and romanticised reinvention of not just Robin Hood but Dick Turpin, William Bonnie and the equally controversial Ned Kelly. In referring to the core elements of this sentimentalism, it is natural to refer back to the Victorian Romanticism of British history. Which at the time included the re-creation of the tartan, Scott’s Ivanhoe and his literary portrayal of Robin and ultimately, Victoria and Albert’s own romantic imagery.
To truly explore man, myth and history is was necessary for Doctor Rotherham to take us through a tangled yarn of mixed fibres, unpicking each mysterious weave and then knitting them back together, to produce numerous single threads, each worthy of research. This was done with consummate skill by an historian truly in love with his subject.
Throwing in such wonderful enigmatic names as Robert De Quirm, Fitzhugh and Fitzwarren, exploring alternative given names including the less glamourous Norbert, it soon became apparent that the man is obscured by myth and the mists of time. Was he minor nobility? How important were the Forestry Laws post the conquest? Why was he made an outlaw, literally worth six pennies if brought in dead, the enigmatic ‘wolfs’ head’ of the old laws.
Even the disputed origin of Lincoln Green, which I have heard some claim is actually Lincoln Grain, was explained and it is a term of much later origin than the historical Robin Hood. Taken from a white faced woodland sheep, bred for its meat. The fleece was poor, cheap and the woollen cloth died to that of a red brown colour. Possibly a more practical colour than actual green for a woodland outlaw or forester.
In English Law a forest is a managed hunting preserve and Sherwood at its height covered three hundred and seventy five square miles, a rich hunting ground for an enterprising outlaw. Connected or within reach of other forests, it is plausible that Hood and his one hundred and forty strong private army, could have dominated their own fiefdom, preying on the travellers frequenting the important trade routes through the forest of the time.
Since there existed a form of state compensation, in which the exchequer would reimburse the victim half of their losses, it should be no wonder that the authorities of the time wanted to end the outlaw threat. Here Doctor Rotherham makes an astute and much overlooked observation. At this time the historical Robin Hood, a vicious gangster type individual, would have been an indiscriminate threat to rich and poor alike. The real hero of the time was not Robin Hood but the maligned Sheriff of Nottingham and Derbyshire (the latter county was not important enough to have its own sheriff). Although one cannot help wonder if many false claims were made, after all who would know? I cannot imagine Robin Hood leaving the forest to say; “Well actually my Lord Sheriff, I did not rob him.”
The later romanticisation of the stories has changed the focus onto the Outlaw but historically, the Sheriff represented the powers of law and order. He was attempting to keep the peace and protect both person and property. In looking at the stories from this perspective, it is important to observe as did the good doctor, that for all their significance which cannot be ignored; the Robin Hood Ballads written quite late, are not an historical record. They cannot be accepted as historical evidence any more than we can regard a film starring Errol Flynn or Kevin Costner, as a documentary on life in Medieval England.
In looking at later variants of Robin Hood and his band, Doctor Rotherham briefly mentioned a female Robin taking a different role to that of Marion, who in the stories and plays, is of French origin, representing a conjoined symbolism of both the Virgin Mary and the Queen of the May.
Equally mention is made of the key figures from the Merry Men, meaning a household. So we have Little John or John Naylor, a maker of nails. William Scarlett or Scathlock, meaning redheaded. It is worth noting that both Naylor and Scarlett are common surnames in this area still.
We even have an early description of Robin Hood dating to 1210. He is a tall dark haired man, with a cruel scar running from the left eye to his mouth. This does not sound like the kind of person you would want to meet in a dark twitchel, never mind Sherwood Forest.
Although we have made mention of the Victorian Romanticism and Scott’s Ivanhoe, the change from common cut throat to folk hero appears to have come about in the fifteenth century but why? Although later Robin Hood figures may have been of a more sympathetic ilk than the earlier and may even deserve the to be seen as heroic defenders of the poor. This returns us to where we began, with other outlaws and why are they changed to represent anti-establishment figures? This question is left unanswered but does it recognise some primitive human need for such a hero? Is this why Robin Hood has endured, because you cannot pin him down, because he remains an outlaw, forever hunted but never found?
Doctor Tony Rotherham will be appearing at Pagan Pride Nottingham (UK) on the 2nd August 2015.
Saturday, 18 July 2015
I stand naked in my room, I am alone.
I cast my circle three times,
With my wand of rowan.
Once for the Maiden, once for the Mother,
And once for the Crone.
From the candle that I hold,
I light the four quarters.
I call upon the powers,
To guard the circle and witness my rite.
I invite my Gods to join me,
Caridwen and Cernunnos.
I am their child, I am their servant,
They are my Goddess and my God.
I am no longer alone.
I anoint myself with oil,
My forehead, my lips, my breast.
My hands and then my feet,
For I do walk the Pagan way.
I am a Witch.
I declare that I dedicate my life,
To the service of the Goddess and the God.
I am Pagan, I am with them,
I stand naked before my Gods.
One of my early poems from my former days of Wiccan influence.
First published in Hannon V. (Ed.) (1993) Ghosts, ghouls and Witches. Poetry Now of Peterborough.
Photography ©the Chattering Magpie 2015.
Friday, 17 July 2015
PICTURE COPYRIGHT CHATTERING MAGPIE 2015
Ancient Gods, hear my prayer.
You who are the creators and guardians of all mankind.
You who gave the gift of life unto the universe.
To you I give my thanks for all the joys of life.
To you I give my praise for all those small things,
That I take for granted every day.
Grant your continued blessing unto your children.
Bring me health, wealth, love and joy.
Grant me your protection,
And forget not my loved ones.
Bring them love and joy and,
Grant them long life.
Let your shield be their protection.
O’ Ancient Gods, I salute you.
Bless your children, those that walk with you.
Hand in hand, unto the end of time.
PICTURE COPYRIGHT CHATTERING MAGPIE 2015
“The Pagan Prayer” first published as “The Pagan’s Prayer” in Fosket D. (Ed.) (1996) Our psychic world. Anchor Books of Peterborough.
Text copyright the Chattering Magpie.
Saturday, 11 July 2015
“I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.
Give heed to my poverty and my wealth.
Do not be arrogant to me when I am cast out upon the earth,
And you will find me in those that are to come.
And do not look upon me on the dung-heap,
Nor go and leave me cast out,
And you will find me in the kingdoms.
And do not look upon me when I am cast out among those,
Who are disgraced and in the least places,
Nor laugh at me.
And do not cast me out among those who are slain in violence.
But I, I am compassionate and I am cruel.
Be on your guard!
Do not hate my obedience,
And do not love my self-control.
In my weakness, do not forsake me,
And do not be afraid of my power.
For why do you despise my fear,
And curse my pride?
But I am she who exists in all fears,
And strength in trembling.
I am she who is weak,
And I am well in a pleasant place.
I am senseless and I am wise.
Why have you hated me in your counsels?
For I shall be silent among those who are silent,
And I shall appear and speak,
Why then have you hated me, you Greeks?
Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians?
For I am the wisdom of the Greeks,
And the knowledge of the barbarians.
I am the judgment of the Greeks and of the barbarians.
I am the one whose image is great in Egypt.
And the one who has no image among the barbarians.
I am the one who has been hated everywhere
And who has been loved everywhere.”
A longer and slightly different translation can be found here:
The website of Peter van Staten can be found here: