Monthly Archives: May 2015

An Evening With Bauhaus’ David J at Atlantis Bookshop

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Tonight my husband and I were lucky enough to attend an evening held at Atlantis Bookshop (London’s oldest occult bookshop) with David J – the bassist of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets. The event was to promote his memoir Who Killed Mr. Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction (I managed to get a signed first edition while I was there!)

If you ever get the opportunity to go to any author talks at Atlantis, please go. You will be exceptionally well treated. They were serving all kinds of drinks (including Pimms!) and delicious snacks, and of course you get the opportunity to browse the shop’s treasures. For smaller events, you get to go in the basement, but this one was so popular that they held it in the shop itself.

David J’s talk itself was really enjoyable, both fascinating and funny in turns. He read a long passage from the memoir, selected especially for its occult content, including dealings with snake spirits, magic circles and voodoo dolls. As he revealed in the Q&A session afterwards, he definitely attributes Bauhaus’ success partially with their dabblings in magic. Throughout the reading, he played a time-stretched, nine hour version of Bauhaus’ greatest hit, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, adding to the eerie and weird atmosphere of some of the more mystical parts of the narrative.

The whole evening really re-ignited my interest in Bauhaus and I will certainly listen to it in a different way having heard some of the band’s history from David J himself. I really look forward to reading my copy of Who Killed Mr. Moonlight? and my next evening at Atlantis Bookshop!

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June Altar 2015

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With May nearly over and summer approaching, I decided to re-decorate my altar for Litha. I’ve moved the sun plaque to the centre, symbolising the height of summer, and added artificial roses, a summer bloom. I’ve also added two figures that I feel represent the Sage – Fukurokuju and a wizard-like figure reading a book – as June is also the month for celebrating Father’s Day. Finally, there’s two traditional Japanese ornaments depicting goldfish and a melon slice, both of which are summer symbols in Japan.

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Trip to Castell Coch

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“Castle Coch from A470” by RJMorgans – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This bank holiday Monday, my husband and I went to Wales with my parents to visit relatives. On the way, we dropped into a local landmark that I’ve passed probably hundreds of times but to my memory have never visited – Castell Coch. Located high up on a hill and surrounded by forest, my parents used to tell me as a child that it was Cinderella’s Castle, and you can see why! It is in fact a 19th century Gothic Revival castle built on top of ruins of a medieval by the Marquesses of Bute, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, who commissioned top architect William Burges. The castle looks just as magical and Gothic on the inside as it does on the outside – take a look at some of the pictures I took:

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The dining room

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Statues of the Three Fates of Greek mythology in the Drawing Room

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Lady Bute’s bedroom

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Finally, I was amused to see that the Crystal Ball in one of the child-friendly exhibits was “Out of Order.” No clairvoyance today then!

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Vintage market finds for my altar

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On  Sunday my husband and I spent a lovely time poking around the markets in Greenwich. I made two purchases that I thought would make good additions to my altar:

– A little ceramic mask of Otafuku, the Japanese legendary figure who may be related to Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, Goddess of Mirth. I made myself an Otafuku mask for Setsubun/Imbolc out of salt dough last year, but this one is so much nicer and it’s pretty rare to find Shinto items in UK markets so I had to buy it! And at £2.00 it was a bargain. She’ll be my altar centrepiece come next Setsubun-Imbolc.

– An old wooden miniature shrine. It looks like it might be Indian or one of the neighbouring countries but I’m not entirely sure. Hindu possibly? I managed to get it down to a reasonable price and there’s something about it that really drew me. It’s aged rather a lot (I think it might have been kept outside) and there’s some traces of blue paintwork on it. It’s made of a lightweight wood (like balsa wood) and nailed together. There’s a little tray at the front which looks like it’s for offerings, which is handy. I’m not entirely sure how I’ll use it yet, as I already have a large mirror as my altar centrepiece where my tiny God and Goddess figurines stand; putting the shrine there as well makes the whole altar looked a little cluttered. I’m sure I will find a use for it though. And I don’t really want to replace the mirror outright because mirrors are very important in Shintoism.

If anyone has any ideas about what culture this shrine originally comes from, and how it should be used, do let me know!

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Let’s keep our “minority language” GCSEs and A-Levels (inc. Japanese)

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Another call to action! Your help is needed to preserve the continuation of qualifications in Japanese (and other languages) in the UK…

The exam boards AQA, OCR and Edexcel have stated that they will not re-develop, and in effect will withdraw, GCSEs and A-Levels in 13 languages – including A-Level Japanese.

(For those not in the UK, the A-Level is a major qualification taken around the age of 18 that can determine both whether or not you go to university and your future job prospects)

As a Shintoist, and as a life-long learner of Japanese language for whom the ability to speak Japanese has proved essential to my career, I believe this decision is utterly wrong and that the government needs to do all in its power to overturn it. It should be noted that many of the other languages planned to be axed, such as Arabic, Modern Hebrew, and several South Asian dialects, are strongly connected with members of particular religious groups in the UK, meaning that practitioners of these faiths will no doubt feel in some ways de-valued by these plans.

There is a ray of hope – the government has pledged its commitment to (some of) our “minority languages,” and that it will work to preserve their qualifications. But this is no guarantee set in stone, and we may find ourselves losing qualifications in some of these languages if we do not make our voices heard.

If you wish to help, please see the campaign page on the Speak To The Future website here, which includes further information, links to petitions, and other suggestions on how you can assist such as writing to your MP. You don’t have to be living in the UK to help – anyone in the world can voice their opinion!

Finally, if you need any further persuasion as to the importance of Japanese language to the UK as a whole, please see (and share!) this infographic produced by the Japan Foundation:

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Action needed! Stop fox hunting returning to the UK

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There are serious concerns that the newly-re-elected Conservative Party in the UK may overturn the ban on hunting foxes with dogs – a ban that was put in place 10 years ago by the Labour Party.

Make no mistake – fox hunting in the UK was done purely for sport. It was a barbaric practise, conducted primarily by the UK’s richest elite, and was in no way a legitimate means of controlling fox populations (even today, shooting foxes is still legal here).

I am opposed to fox hunting not only because foxes are sacred to me, as a devotee of Inari Okami. I live by a family of foxes and I love seeing them – they bring me joy and I feel as though they are neighbours. The idea of someone chasing down these intelligent, beautiful creatures with a pack of dogs and then celebrating as they are literally ripped apart is like a knife twisting in my heart. They are a part of the UK’s natural heritage – why should their slaughter by a handful of the wealthy be legitimised?

If you live in the UK, please help to keep the ban in place by writing to your MP and telling him/her to speak out against a repeal of the ban on fox hunting.

No matter where you live, you can help by signing this petition to keep the fox hunting ban.

I will keep everyone posted on this campaign. In the meantime, I pray to Inari Okami to give our government the wisdom and compassion to keep this cruel and unnecessary bloodsport where it belongs – in the history books.

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May-themed Japanese Rice Cakes

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The other day, someone brought some mochi (Japanese rice cakes) into work, each of which featured a design of a traditional symbol of May in Japan. I thought I’d introduce some of these symbols here.

From http://putiya.com/45gatu01.html

Origami kabuto – The kabuto (samurai helmet) is a symbol of Kodomo no Hi (Boy’s Day, May 5th) in Japan, as traditionally families would want their sons to grow up strong and brave, like a samurai warrior. Making origami kabuto is a popular Kodomo no Hi activity, and they’re pretty easy to make (make them large enough and you can even wear them!)

Bow & Arrows – These are the weapons of Kintaro, a Japanese folk hero who was reputed to be strong and brave even as a child. Some Japanese display dolls of Kintaro in their houses at Kodomo no Hi in the hope that their children will grow up as strong as Kintaro.

By Takayoshi Nishida via Wikimedia Commons

Chimaki – This a type of dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaf that is served at Kodomo no Hi – perhaps because its shape resembles the koi-nobori carp streamers that are the most prominent symbol of Kodomo no Hi.

koinobori01_aKoi-Nobori – “Carp streamers,” the symbol most commonly associated with Kodomo no Hi, as the carp represents the strong and healthy growth of boys. I’ve written more about the symbolism of Koi-nobori here.

kasiwamoti_a_01 Kashiwa-mochi – These are mochi rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves eaten by children on Kodomo no Hi. Tall and strong, oak is thought to promote the healthy growth of boys (it’s interesting that in both Paganism and Japanese tradition, oak is associated with strong masculine energies!)

taisyou01_bKabuto – The samurai helmet is another very prominent symbol of Kodomo no Hi, related to the tradition of displaying “Gogatsu no Ningyo” (May Dolls) in homes around May. These dolls represent samurai warriors, and just as Hina Ningyo (Hina Dolls) are displayed at Hina Matsuri to bless young girls and wish for their marriage, Gogatsu no Ningyo are displayed in the hope that boys grow up to represent the samurai ideals of strength, discipline, honour, filial piety and valour.

kintarou_b_01 Axe & Bib – These are both symbols of Kintaro, the Japanese folk boy-hero. The axe is his weapon, and the diamond-shaped red bib his standard attire (the bib is emblazoned with the character 金, meaning “gold,” and is the first character in the name “Kintaro”).

By Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USASatsuki Azalea – These pink flowers bloom in May – their name, “Satsuki” is the traditional Japanese word for “May.” Hence the names of the children in the film My Neighbour Totoro – Satsuki and Mei (May)!

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Shobu – The Shobu, or Japanese Iris, is another May-blooming flower. Some Japanese add dried irises to their baths on May 5th to expel evil and cleanse themselves.

Wisteria_frutescens Fuji – Fuji, or wisteria, is another beautiful May-blooming flower.

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Sweeps Festival 2015 (Bank Holiday Monday)

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Today was the final day of the Sweeps Festival, which I mainly spent with my family. The highlight for me was the parade through Rochester High Street, a tradition that’s always been a central part of the festival. Fortunately we got a really good spot for viewing the parade this year – not too crowded, and many of the dancers stopped to perform a while by us.

The parade began with a dance of the eponymous chimney sweeps…

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The chimney sweeps led Jack-In-The-Green, who rushed up to members of the audience just as an omikoshi would in a Japanese festival. (He rushed up to me too, dressed as I was as the Green Man, and I gave him a hug!)

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We then had some belly dancers…

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…and a hobby horse…

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There was some Costwold Morris….

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…and Rapper Sword dancing…

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…and faeries…

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… and some Morris Dancers using steel pipes (hardcore!)

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…There were the white-clad Screaming Banshees Morris…

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…some black-clad piratey Morris…

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… and my favourites, the Gothic Wolf’s Head and Vixen Morris….


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…One of my favourite parts was the last part, in which a group of witches cleansed and blessed the High Street. This was undoubtedly a reaction to last year’s cancellation of the Pagan blessing, so I’m really glad they managed to come on the procession and perform their blessing then!

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It was a fantastic 3 days and I’m rather sad it’s all over!

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May Full Moon Esbat 2015

My May Esbat altar, including the koi-nobori I blessed for my nephews

My May Esbat altar, including the koi-nobori I blessed for my nephews

Despite what I said yesterday, I did end up going to the Sweeps Festival again today (this time to hang out with my family) – I only took a few pictures, which I’ll probably share tomorrow as I’ll be going again for the final day of Sweeps.

As tonight was the Full Moon, as usual I performed an Esbat ritual. My April ritual was focused on the Goddess (as I consider the festivals of March and April to be “feminine”), and this time I focussed on the God, as both Beltane and Kodomo no Hi have quite a masculine focus.

I also focussed on symbolism of Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day). I spread a two cloths on my altar – one depicting a koi carp and the other an Asian dragon. The koi carp is one of the most important symbols of Kodomo no Hi, as it symbolises masculine energy and personal development – it is said that if it completes its journey upstream, it changes into a dragon. I made an offering of sake to Ryuujin, the Japanese Dragon God, and asked him to bless my nephews.

Although I saw my nephews today, I’d actually forgotten to bring the koi-nobori I’d bought for them. I took this as a sign that I should use the Esbat as an occasion to bless it, which I did in the name of Ryuujin and the four elements. I hope its energies pass on to my nephews and make them grow strong and healthy!

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Sweeps Festival 2015 (Saturday)

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Phoenix, Abi Normal and myself all pose with Jack-In-The-Green!

Yesterday was the first day of the three day long Sweeps Festival in Rochester, a day very much associated with Beltane with Morris dancing, maypoles and “Jack-In-The-Green,” a figure covered with leaves and linked with legends of the Green Man and other figures representing the greenery of spring and summer.

The day started with a short blessing performed in the Castle Gardens by the owners of the Pagan shop Woodland Wands & Magick. This was significant as last year, a Pagan group were timetabled in the programme to be involved with the official opening of Sweeps with a brief Pagan ritual, but it was cancelled at the the minute (allegedly due to complaints from a non-Pagan). The blessing was therefore a way for us Pagan attendees to express our pride, as well as retain the Pagan elements of the festival. It was also the first time I’d seen a ritual performed by someone outside of Medway Pagans, which I enjoyed – some of the invocations were in Latin, very interesting! After the blessing, I made sure to visit Woodland Magick’s stall, where I bought some “Green Man” incense (I’m burning it now and it’s nice).

WP_20150502_10_22_55_ProPhoenix Rose and Abi Normal came to attend the blessing as well, and all three of us wore our Green Man masks. While Rochester High Street was still quiet, we spent an our at Nucleus Arts, a local art shop-cum-cafe with a lovely, peaceful garden outside.

When we left the cafe, the High Street was pretty packed. As we walked back to the Castle Gardens, several people asked to take our photos of us in our masks!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the stalls, eating delicious food, enjoying the funfair and listening to live music, including the French “folk-punk-pirate” band Sur Les Docks, who played at my wedding!

It’s raining today so we have no plans to visit Rochester today, but we plan on going tomorrow!

Here’s a few more photos from yersterday:

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