help us all manage our time during this difficult time and I am obviously
referring to the Lockdown of 2020, those wonderful people at West Midlands
Witchcraft Magazine have made issues 1, 2 & 3 available for free.
Those readers who have been
following my work of late, will be aware that I have now produced more than one
diatribe; upon the subject of the Internet and Social Networking. This is my
third and final piece in the Toxic Internet series. I am sure many of you will
be bored with my rants by now, so having dealt with misinformation and
jealously, I now turn my mind towards the internet and intolerance.
The very concept of
intolerance is a strange phenomena as it puts us in a quandary. We often wish
to promote tolerance at the same time as taking a stand against intolerance but
by doing so we risk becoming intolerant ourselves. From an ethical point of
view, we are faced with a dilemma. How does one preserve free speech, while condemning
opinions that are not necessarily worthy of a civilised society? At what point
can we as a society, declare that particular opinions should be considered as
hate speech or provocative in nature? It is not at all clear cut. Today anyone
looking at the media and the Internet, should be able to appreciate the
difficulties faced by those forced to review complaints of this nature.
Exploring the Internet and in
particular You-Tube, I have stumbled across Crazy Christians, Mad Muslims,
Angry Atheists and quite a few Potty Pagans. I can neither support nor identify
with any of these, what I hope to be fringe elements. Their opinions and
behaviour are condescending and frankly embarrassing. They are collectively a
disgrace and I hope in no way representative of the movements from which they
have emerged; whether it is Christianity, Islam, Humanism or Paganism. Indeed I
look on Fundamentalist Christianity, Militant Islam and Militant Atheism with
the same lens, they are all equally unsavoury and unnecessarily aggressive.
Watching You-Tube I am in
particular struck by what I understand to be called 'response videos.' Here an
online argument or attack, is passed back and forth between two or more
protagonists. These protagonists generally form sides, the Flat Earth Movement
will go head to head with those whose grasp of reality is greater. Crazy
Christians and Angry Atheists face each other across the web in the same
manner. Very often these engagements are characterised by a distinct lack of
respect for those opposite, an uncivil manner and a generally patronising
attitude. The behaviour witnessed online is as immature as that found in any
Nor am I in any way impressed
by the language that I witness, particularly on You-Tube and Facebook. The use
of the 'F' and 'C' words distresses me greatly. By now I am no doubt coming
over in an overly genteel manner and perhaps I am socially prudish. This rant
or as I prefer, diatribe is something of a howl into the darkness and I admit;
I can swear as much as any other. However, in watching a debate and witnessing
one 'combatant' call another a 'f**king moron,' I can make this
observation.Such behaviour is no way to
win an argument, even if the person losing their composure is factually correct.
What is it about the
Internet, Social Networking and media channels, that causes people to switch
off their self control and blow their safety valves outright? Is it the distancing, the lack of
recognition that the person opposite is a person, because they are hidden
behind a screen? Does use of the Internet induce us all to become socially
inept, keyboard warriors that lack any concept of barriers?
As is often the case when
addressing the modern phenomenon of the Internet, I struggle to answer these
questions in any satisfactory manner. I suspect it is primarily due to the
social distancing of the Internet and the impersonal nature of the World Wide
Web. Whatever the reasons for these behaviours, they remain inexcusable and I
want no part of such an awful 'virtual' society.
I published my first set of
blogs on Google Blog-spot, on the 24th of March 2011. The very first post to be
published was called 'The Crooked Man' and it was published in dedication to a
friend whose writing style influenced me in my early development. In the nine
years since those first posts saw publication, I have successfully found my own
style of expression but importantly; the continued support of those who have encouraged
and inspired me remains worthy of acknowledgement. You know who you are and I
I have only few followers but
I am averaging between 1,000 and 2,000 'hit's per month. A figure that I hope
is fairly respectable, although I have nothing to compare it to. Most of my
'traffic' comes via social media or as I sometimes refer to it, unsocial media.
Over the last year or so I have attempted to reduce my activities on this unsocial
media and this has without doubt, affected my reach. It is a disappointment to
have confirmed once again, how ridiculously dependent we as a society, have
become on those overly convenient platforms.
As of today nine years after
the launch of my Google blog-spot site, I have reached a grand total of 212,738
hits. An increase of 50,009 since 2018 or 25,000 per year. An average of 23,000
hits per year over those nine years does not suggest however, that such a
number of hits has been constant from the beginning. It should be obvious or
indeed common sense, that the number of hits in those first few years was much
smaller and has risen over time. My peak appears to have been reached in 2017
or 2018. Today I have plateaued at a steady 20,000 to 25,000 hits per annum.
The majority of my posts it
has to be admitted, do not have a huge reach and in consequence they do not
garner a high number of hits. The majority appear to be read by barely a
hundred or so people however, a steady number of exceptionally successful posts
boost the statistics considerably. My most popular post has passed the 4,000
hit mark while others have passed the 1,000 and 2,000 hit mark. A consolation
with regards those that do not fare so well.
In reviewing my approach to
the World Wide Web and those unsocial networks, due partly to an ever growing
distaste of the content and due to censorship difficulties, I have begun to
re-evaluate blogging. Although Google Blog-spot will remain my primary mode of
expression, I am now using Wordpress as a supplementary outlet for my material.
At present there remains some overlap but the intention to separate the two
sites remains. Google Blog-spot will remain primarily focused upon material of
an esoteric and spiritual nature, while the Wordpress site will be used
formore general and perhaps less niche
I hope and indeed I have set
myself something of a target, to produce an original post regularly over the
next year; in the run up to the tenth anniversary of blogging. Although I do
not expect to see an increase in followers, I sincerely hope to maintain a
standard of quality and to preserve that average of 20,000 hits per annum. So,
here's to the next year!
on the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany at the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Derby
(UK) 26th January 2020.
Sunday the 26th of January 2020, I visited the Cathedral Church of All Saints
in Derby for the Evensong service. Obviously not being a Christian; my
attendance at church is a sporadic, rather ad hoc affair. The fact that I as a
polytheist would choose attend a monotheist institution, does cause some
confusion amongst acquaintances but that is easily explainable. I enjoy the
sense of history, the heritage manifest, the ceremony performed, symbolism of
an esoteric nature and importantly, I adore church music.
church was founded in Saxon times but nothing from that period survives, as it
was rebuilt in the fourteenth century. The decorative tower dates from the
sixteenth century and has several interesting features. These include animal
and foliate heads. The two largest foliates are placed on either side of the
main entrance at a little above eye level. One is as expected a typical and a
very fine example of a Green-man but the second is significantly, female. Whatever
the origins of the foliates; whether they are purely Christian or incorporate an
esoteric meaning from another source, their placement at Derby is remarkable.
The female face is on the left side of the west door, the male is placed to the
right. Think about that.
main body of the church was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, replacing the
now unstable medieval structure. Although much would have been lost, the more
significant features were retained. These include the famous tomb of Elizabeth
Cavendish, later Elizabeth Talbot Countess of Shrewsbury. A woman forever known
to history as the great Bess of Hardwick. Her ornate tomb and monuments to her
descendants can be found on the south aisle. Amongst her famous descendants was
Lord Henry Cavendish, who was the first to measure the force of gravity between
masses in the laboratory. This procedure now named the Cavendish Experiment in
his honour, was the first to produce accurate values of the gravitational
constant. This remarkable man rests in the family vault under the south aisle
and there are other Cavendish family monuments along the north aisle.
town of Derby was granted city status in 1977, as part of the jubilee
celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II but Derby still does not feel
like a city. Derby is really a country market town. All Saints is not a grand
cathedral like Lincoln or Southwell, it was only granted cathedral status in
1927. All Saints still retains that provincial church atmosphere, rather plain
inside bar the various monuments but painted throughout in an attractive cream.
It is a very 'light' church, it is not at all gloomy and the colour scheme
makes the interior appear much larger than it really is. It is a building that
welcomes the visitor and then embraces them with light. All Saints has like
Derby itself, retained a simple, uncomplicated air.
Saints has the oldest ring of ten bells in the world. Most of the bells have
been in situ since 1678, when the number was increased from six to ten. The
largest bell weighs 19 cwt (965 kg) and at more than 500 years old, is older
than the tower in which it resides. This bell is believed to have come from
Dale Abbey, when that monastery was demolished during the Reformation.
is the common name for a church service of evening prayer, with a primarily
musical content. It is similar if not directly equivalent to the Vespers of the
Roman Catholic Church and the origins of both lie within the Catholic monastic
traditions. There is no Rite of Communion. The prayers, the Psalmsand the hymns are led by the choir and the
priesthood, singing in both Latin and English. There is without doubt a
spiritual uplift to be found in the music alone. Obviously since I am not a
Christian and therefore not a Communicant, my participation in any service is
limited. I cannot participate in either the Nicene or the Apostle's Creed for
example. To do so would not be appropriate, it would be an offence to the
Church and to my Christian friends.
was introduced or perhaps reintroduced into the Anglican Church in the year
2000, as an alternative to services found in the existing Book of Common
Prayer. The season is defined as lasting from the Feast ofEpiphany to that ofCandlemas. Whether we call it Candlemas,
Imbolc or lambtide as I do, it is of course that wonderful precursor to spring;
that time of purification (spring cleaning) and a time to focus our hopes upon
optional Epiphany season of the Anglican Church begins with Evening Prayer on
the Eve of Epiphany itself, which is the 6th of January or the Sunday falling between
the 2nd or 8th of January. Epiphanytide
ends with an Evening or a Night Prayer on the Feast of the Presentation of
Christ at the Temple; which is obviously the 2nd of February or with services on
the Sunday between the 28th of January and the 3rd of February. The period
forming an extension of the twelve days of Christmastide, results in a forty
day Liturgical season. Forty is a number of significance within the Traditions
of the Book but it is also a number of the Goddess in Mesopotamian tradition, this
being based upon the observed path of the planet Venus. Because Epiphanytide is
deemed an extension of the Christmastide, certain decorations remain on display
during this time. The majority of us would of course, have taken down our
decorations on the 6th of January. This is the reasoning why the Nativity Scene
on display remains in situ and I can assume, it will be taken away in February.
is a rather difficult concept to explain and I am not even going to try. It
irks me however, that some play a rather pathetic and childish game of point
scoring; by claiming they are spiritual but not religious. There appears to be
a belief that one is superior to the other. If you support that definition of
spirituality, then you lack it. It may be possible to have one without the
other but whether that is desirable is another matter. A religion without
spirituality is an empty vessel, devoid of essence and of virtue. A vessel
containing plain water but not the wine.
different locations, places of worship and devotion have a spiritual essence, a
genus loci or an atmosphere. This air of peace and power varies from place to
place. I can sense this presence on a hilltop near where I live and at
Castlerigg in Cumbria. I can feel this presence at the Rollrights in Oxfordshire
and Arbor Low in Derbyshire; yet there are other stone circles and henges where
it is sadly lacking. Christian sites are no different. In Glastonbury my
necessary sense of place and presence, is found amongst the abbey ruins and not
on the Tor itself. All Saints has that atmosphere but it is a sense of presence
that not all churches contain.
can only speculate what was lost when the older medieval structure was finally
demolished. Did All Saints have like other churches greater decoration? Did the
ravages of the tyrant Henry VIII or those of the near tyrannical dictator
Cromwell, sweep the more obscure and esoteric away? There is little stained
glass here and what is here, is relatively modern. Yet the plainness of the
structure adds rather than detracts from the aesthetic. In many older church
buildings there are still survivals from before those iconoclastic times. In
Derby there is a distinct lack of the potentially Gnostic, Masonic or Esoteric
in plain sight. The tower is the obvious exception but the interior is
deceivingly plain. Yet there is of course a little; the Chi-Rho is the most
obvious and significant symbol that has manifold layers of meaning but heraldry
also hides multiple symbolic associations.
in a pew with my shoulder to a pillar and the magnificent golden organ behind
me (sorry), I can experience the wonder of our world in the here and now. I
listen to the music as I soak up the heritage, the history and the culture of
civilisation, in one truly beautifully proportioned building. That is not to
suggest that this building is a museum, anymore than any stone circle or any
henge. All represent a link to the past but by being part of our present, they
are also our future. All faiths, religions and spiritualities are or should be,
inspired by the past but all must equally look to the future. To be living and
breathing traditions, all must embrace both without any loss of virtue.
As I have stated in another
of my posts, I did not have the internet at home and I did not join Facebook
until 2007. I am a late comer to the modern wonder that is the world wide web
and to quote Homesteading Off The Grid (YouTube 2019); "Everyone is an
expert on Social Media" and that is important.
Those of you who have been
following some of my recent posts and those not so recent, will be aware of my
views regarding the Internet and modern life. My journey to become a grumpy old
man is not yet complete. Behind the humour and rants however, if they really should
be called that; are I hope some observations that will make the reader pause.
Language evolves, it can change
and develop over time. We all know that and it is an observable phenomenon throughout
history. The English language in particular has been enriched by the blatant appropriation
of foreign derived words over many centuries. On the Internet and within our
modern society, people appear intent upon redefining words to fit their own
perceived agenda. This is a different form of appropriation and is far from appropriate.
For example, when I awoke
this morning I got out of bed. It is something I do most days when I wake up. I
am awake now but I am not woke. Woke is a verb it is not a noun. Science is a
body of collected knowledge and it is a noun. You do not 'science' as it is not
a verb. I have nothing in common with those who feel they are 'woke' or those who
'science' rather than research. The examples offered are a vacuous fashion
trend that fully deserve ridicule but they are systematic of the politically
correct nature of modern society, although political BS would be a rather more
Political correctness is fascism
pretending to be manners. -George Carlin.
The moment you step out into
public view, you will attract supporters and detractors. The greater your
public profile the greater both will be. Sound and unbiased critique should obviously
be welcomed. However, simply by taking that step into the 'limelight,' you will
attract those who take pleasure in criticism for the sake of criticism. Stand
with your head above the parapet long enough and someone will take a shot at
you. This is the politics of envy, this is tall poppy syndrome.
The term tall poppy syndrome
is alleged to have originated after the Great War of 1914 to 1918. It is said
to be based upon the spare time practice of British Tommies, taking pot shots
at the taller flower heads of those poppies growing in No-Man's Land. This is a
colourful anecdote but it is unlikely to be true. Armies don't like ammunition
being wasted on such activities. The more likely origin lies with Herodotus
writing around 400 BCE but he wrote about tall wheat. It was Livy writing 300
years later who introduced poppies into the equation but the meaning is the
same. The allegory is that people who rise to the top, should be cut down to
curb their influence.
In this world; including that
of the Pagan, the Occult and the Artistic, we have our share of tall poppies.
Myself, friends and many professional contacts; frequently face the criticism
of persons who have to put it bluntly,
achieved little themselves. Some of my network, including writers and those involved
in charitable pursuits, have on occasion been deeply hurt by the toxic
behaviour of their detractors. This has in some cases provoked a degree of self
questioning and made them ask; is it worth it?
In modern usage tall poppy
syndrome is nothing more than the politics of envy, manifested as acts of transparent
resentfulness. People snipe at those doing well or in positions of influence,
because they believe that they instead should have that position of authority. The
observations and the criticism made are not always justified. I emphasise that those
who offer this unwarranted criticism, have very often not achieved anything of
noteworthy themselves. Their opinion would carry more weight if they had.
Sometimes it is those who claim to be 'woke' who are the most vociferous in the
debate. Perhaps they are not as enlightened as they believe but they are
As a former Pagan Federation
Officer I hosted moots, liaised with the media and Interfaith, I assisted in
the organisation of events. I faced criticism on occasion. I stepped on toes to
get things done. I have been a tall poppy and I have faced the same envious sniper.
Was it worth it? In the short term, yes. In the long term I am not so certain
but I did not do the job to make friends; I did the job to further a cause.
My message to those on my
network still active in the service of our community and our society, those who
write or are active in the artistic sphere, it to carry on regardless. I
frequently look at what I have written and I dismiss it all as rubbish. I may even
delete hours of work because of this. I have yet to meet a writer, an artist or
an actor who is not painfully tormented by debilitating self-doubt. Those in
the service of others, those actively engaged in trying to make a better world,
are often equally self-conscious and my message is the same. Don't give up,
don't ever give up.
I did not have the internet at home and I did not join Facebook until 2007. I published my first blog post in March of 2011 and I did not have a photographic portfolio on Deviant Art until 2012. I am something of a late comer to the modern wonder that is the world wide web and to quote Homesteading Off The Grid (YouTube 2019); "Everyone is an expert on Social Media." We must all have noticed that.
In late 2019 it was announced that the pioneering Pagan website Witchvox would close at the end of the year and the announcement caused much comment on various websites since. Witchvox was founded in 1997 and by lasting twenty two years, it clearly cannot be dismissed easily. It made a significant impact upon the Pagan and Witchcraft community and many are saddened by its closure.
I am however, rather detached from this expression of sadness. Although I did have a Witchvox account, it was little used. I can't remember when I joined Witchvox but it was after I joined Facebook. I used the site to advertise the moots I hosted and the occasional charity picnic. I had a profile and a separate profile for the Hearth of the Turning Wheel. The use I had for Witchvox was identical to that of Facebook and it was soon apparent that any responses I received; came primarily via Facebook and not Witchvox.
In the decade (more or less) that I had an account, I received a small number of emails. Some were from genuine seekers and some from the media. They were few in number. I never once published an article on Witchvox and rarely if ever, accessed those available. Witchvox was for me an adjunct, an appendage and was never my primary organ of communication.
For others of my acquaintance however, Witchvox represented their first foray onto the Pagan based Internet. In the first decade of this century, Witchvox was the way that many found like minded souls. Members could share news of festivals, moots, lectures and of course, all had access to that free resource of study material.
What changed? Am I in my behaviour and my limited use of the site, indicative of how Witchvox ceased to be at the centre of the Pagan online community? Can my use of Witchvox or lack of use, be used as a marker to show how Facebook took over the role it once had? Perhaps and perhaps not.
It is too easy today to blame everything on social media in general or on Facebook specifically. Although in my own personal opinion, I do believe that Facebook is an important contributory factor but it is not solely responsible for the demise of Witchvox. The Internet has changed even in the short time that I have had access to it but it has most definitely changed. Facebook is not the only website, platform or whatever (I apologise but I am ignorant of the correct Internet jargon) to exist. Today we have Instagram, Whatsapp, Wordpress, Tumblr, Google-blogspot and a plethora of other sites that can be and are used, to share the same information that Witchvox once did.
Although Witchvox was a specialist site, these newer applications, platforms and media that have come into being, some specialist but most generalist; illustrate a change in social use of the web. What we are witnessing is the ongoing evolution of the World Wide Web. The websites and platforms that survive will; like species in the real world, be those that can adapt to their environment. Witchvox has become extinct like many before, becausethe Internet environment has changed and other, newer sites have evolved. Nothing is static. Witchvox was a pioneer and perhaps a victim of its own success, in that others learnt and then 'evolved' from it.
This will be I hope one of my shorter pieces. Short because I do not wish to devote my time or my energy, on something so hopelessly pathetic and unworthy of deeper exploration. Saying that, it seems that some of my readers do expect me to pass comment on recent happenings. In the middle of January 2020 a British newspaper who is far from as impartial as its name may suggest, published an article relating to the modern practice of Witchcraft. The article was titled 'I spent a week becoming a witch and the results were worrying' and this was penned in relation to one of the many light weight pop-craft books now on the market.
In the piece the writer describes seven days of her exploration, of the phenomenon that she calls Witchcraft. Some of her comments are amusing, some accurate and some rather pithy. The work has caused offense and resulted in complaints against the newspaper. Whether the offence or the complaints are justified is a matter of opinion. Personally, I feel that the piece isn't really worthy of comment. It is clearly a light-hearted piece and the book being reviewed doesn't sound at all appealing to a serious practitioner anyway. However, there are two or three points that do need addressing.
One disturbing point is the suggestion that practitioners of Witchcraft are deniers of science, equivalent perhaps to those who support the model of a Flat Earth. Now it is true that I am no fan of New Age Garbage (NAG) and the suggestion that all who practice Witchcraft fall under the aegis of the New Age, is mildly irritating. Her criticism of the NAG that abounds today is not an issue. Of far greater concern is the suggestion that practitioners deny science. Although it may be true that some may hold rather peculiar opinions regards science, in my experience the majority of the practitioners of Witchcraft and Occultism, are far more educated with regards the sciences than the average member of society.
What is clear is that the article and the book that it reviews, bear no relation to the Witchcraft Traditions with which I am familiar. I have been a practitioner for thirty years and if I have learnt anything at all in those three decades, it is how little I know and how much I still have to learn. You cannot learn to be a Witch in a week or on a weekend retreat costing hundreds of pounds. Sorry to disappoint those who thought otherwise.
Witchcraft is a calling, it is a path of devotion and a lifetime of study. It is not a hobby that you can pick up and put down on a whim. Witchcraft can be dark, it can be dangerous, it is not all blue skies and rainbows. Witchcraft should be worrying, Witchcraft should be challenging but it can provide comfort. Witchcraft can be empowering but none of this can be achieved in seven days.