What are your cultural influences?

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Mmm the question ‘What are your cultural influences?’ is the 7th in the challenge I decided to do to help me keep blogging this year. While I am not slavishly sticking to it, nor feeling the pressure to blog every week come what may, I am trying not to skip questions just because they are not the easiest thing to write about. To be honest I’m not really sure what this even means but I’m going to have a go.

I was born in England in the mid 50’s and growing up in the 60’s exposed me to both ‘flower power’ as well as ‘mods and rockers’. I spent my teenage years dressed in long flowing Indian cotton dresses, necklaces of tiny bells that jingled when I walked, looking longingly after those who were a little older, lusting after the freedom they had to travel, hang out at festivals and so on. With a short flurry into cropped hair and mohair suits, it didn’t last long but you do need to experiment don’t you, the ‘hippy’ era probably influenced me are than anything else. Living less than an hour outside London forays into Carnaby Street, Kings Road, Knightsbridge with Biba and Harrods, where at the time you really could buy anything, was the norm. Live music was so¬†accessible, with the Kursaal in Southend providing a weekly, and affordable place to hang out and see bands and I still like loose, flowing clothes, long velvet skirts and going to live gigs ūüôā

Travelling as an adult, something I do as often as possible, has opened my eyes to other cultures, many of which have links to some of the work I do as an energy and shamanic healer. I know that every place I visit impacts on me in some way and that I carry the energy of many of them with me.

I live now in Ireland ¬†and despite the rise and subsequent demise of the Celtic Tiger, we are still ¬†relatively free from the busy and materialistic world. It is here that I found my way into the work I do now, discovered the delights of stone circles and standing stones, ring forts and labyrinths and the energy and spirit of place. It is here that I learnt to connect with and work with the land, here where the culture allows this all to happen naturally. So just as the culture of 60’s England influenced by early years so is Ireland now influencing the latter ones.

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My take on the Wheel of the Year

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The fourth question posed in the pagan challenge is to write about your take on the wheel of the year so this is mine and it follows on nicely from my last post about my book Web of Life for it was writing this book that helped me get my own wheel of the year in place.

As I was writing the book, so my own web of life was developing and as it did so I learnt, as do others who work with the book, about what was important to me. At first I tried to fit in all the pagan festivals of the wheel of the year in the way they are usually placed in connection with the seasons they are associated with, but I soon realised that it didn’t sit well with me at all. I then realised that at this point in time I really had no connection with many of the¬†festivals. I also realised¬†that it was only Summer and Winter Solstice, Samhain and Bealtaine that were part of my life and resonated with me so these became my wheel of the year within my web of life and I let everything else go.

These points in the wheel of the year fitted me as they are still very much part of the culture I live in. Here these festivals are named and marked, the Winter Solstice is looked forward to as a marker of longer days ahead and was at that time shown live from Newgrange. Bealtaine is a time of festivals, Summer Solstice a time for gatherings and Samhain often brings drumming and dance.

Other than this, as a shamanic pagan I didn’t have a belief system that involves a wheel of the year but in the time between writing my book and now I have been studying with the OBOD (Ovates, Bards and Druids), initially¬†as a Bard and currently as an Ovate. Working with the festivals of the year, performing ritual and celebration at the time¬†of each festival and really getting a feel for the purpose of them was very much part of my path as a Bard. For¬†that time in my life they were all recognised and firmly marked. My own web of life, which takes the place of a wheel for me, shifted to incorporate all eight festivals.

Now though as an Ovate I have again experienced a shift in the way I connect with the wheel of the year and how it fits into my web of life. Whereas whilst training as a Bard it felt right to follow the ritual and celebration of each turn of the wheel now it no longer does. This shift happened with no conscious thought or planning on my part but rather by osmosis. I now find that I have a much closer connection with and awareness of the changes in the seasons, the time of the year and hence the festivals of the wheel. I no longer see the need to practice ritual for the sake of it and only do so when it feels right for me. Instead I find myself living the wheel of the year through my awareness. I find I am recognising the turns of the wheel because they are becoming part of me rather than something outside of me. At times now it seems I  instinctively know when for example it is Imbolc rather than having to look it up in my diary or because the ritual is next in the pile of things I have to work though.

 

Do you have an altar, shrine or sacred space?

 

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I do have an altar but it’s not a worshiping at altar, more somewhere I leave some of the objects and tools that are important to me. At the moment on my altar are; a Cambodian Buddha, a Tibetan Prayer Wheel, some stones (earth), feathers including a condor and an eagle feather (tools but also air), shells (water), a tea light (fire) fetishes of a sun and a condor gifted me in Bolivia and a key.

As someone who is probably best described as a shamanic pagan I don’t workship gods or goddesses and so have no need of an altar or shrine dedicated to anyone. My belief is that everything that exists has a spirit and so I connect with the spirit of whatever or whoever I am working with, usually in non ordinary reality, but sometimes in this one.

I do though use sacred space to work in if I feel it is needed but again this isn’t a fixed ritual as I also believe that we carry sacred space within us and so wherever I am working is sacred space.

On my website is an article about sacred space but to save you having to go and find it if you follow this link it will take you straight there: Sacred Space

Are you in or out of the closet?

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I had to laugh when I read the second blog prompt as I don’t really know how to answer it. I don’t think it was ever a case of being in or out of it really. I think for me it has been more a case of things shifting slowly and then realising where I’d ended up.

As a child I had a very mixed ‘religious’ upbringing anyway. Christened¬†in a high Anglican church, Salvation Army Sunday School, then a house move and onto Congregational Church Sunday School as that was in the morning and we went out in the afternoon. Here I lucked out as the whole ethos was about taking what worked and leaving what didn’t. I grew up with the understanding that the bible was just a collection of stories, a way of explaining. The particular church I attended was open minded and inclusive so as a teenager I visited almost every denominational church that there was as part of the youth group. Nothing was excluded.

As an adult there was a gradual shift away from the church, a shift in my beliefs but always holding on to the understanding that this was not all there was, not by a long way, along with a belief in reincarnation and the desire to come back next time as a cat ūüôā

Finding a shamanic path shifted me still further although I was horrified at first to see shamanism listed as an aspect of¬†paganism for at that time I hadn’t made the connection all.

Of course since then there have been more shifts and studying with the OBOD is one of these.

Where I live, in an area where most people are Catholic, because I don’t go to church they assume I am protestant. If they asked I would tell them and where it comes up in conversation I do say.

So having waffled through that, sorted out my thoughts, I suppose the answer is yes, I’m out, if people ask.