Category Archives: Musings & Miscellaneous

Let’s Do Secularism Right

highheel

I have a modest proposal for you. Let’s make a law to ban high heels. Sound ridiculous? Read my reasoning…

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An Interfaith Walk for Peace

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I think it was with some trepidation that myself and fellow members of Medway Inter Faith Action (MIFA), a local interfaith group associated the The Inter Faith Network for the UK, set out for our Walk for Peace on July 2nd. Although this walk, a procession to promote peace between people of all faiths and no faiths in Medway, had been carefully planned for many months, we still had many concerns. Would anyone turn up? What if it rained? What if some kind of accident happened on the way? And what if we got attacked by racists? [Read more]

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The Path of the Free

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We must not forget that the reason why Paganism flourishes in the Western world today is because of liberty. Without exception, the only countries where Paganism, and especially witchcraft, can be practised openly are those that embrace civil liberties. [Read more…]

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The tree falling in the forest has been heard

blackhole

On February 11th 2016 the Ligo Collaboration announced that gravitational waves have been observed for the first time from the collision of two black holes over a billion light years away. But what philosophical implications does this discovery have? Read more at Patheos!

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My first Patheos article!

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My first article is now up on Patheos – “How I found the Shinto-Pagan Path.” Please do have a read 🙂

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David Bowie, 1947 – 2016

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By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki – Gallerie: Toppop 1974)via Wikimedia Commons

The world is reeling from the sudden news that David Bowie has died from cancer at the age of 69.

I don’t think there is a single person in the UK who has not in some way been inspired by Bowie. His long career spanned so many genres and identities – rock star, fashion icon, actor, producer, painter – that he transcended all of these different personas to become an icon of epic scale.

As a musician, Bowie seemed literally out of this world – an unreachable, fae creature set apart from the rest of the human race. In his acting career he continued in this theme of otherworldliness, cast repeatedly in the role of an outsider within humanity; as an alien in The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), a vampire in The Hunger (1983), and, in a role very familiar to most Pagans, the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth (1986). In all of these roles, Bowie exuded an aura of sublimity and mysticism, but what I find most surprising is that, conversely, he succeeded also in portraying a quality of human poignancy. Delivering his lines with a trademark softness and Zen-like calm, combined with a shy, typically English humour, Bowie brought that same sense of fragility and melancholy to his acting that we also hear in his music. Bowie would go on to demonstrate that he was just as capable of capturing the essence of humanity in his more earth-bound roles, including Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), and as the prisoner of war Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983).

I think it is this talent for creating ethereal, otherworldly artistry combined with all the delicacy of the human spirit that has given David Bowie so many fans among the Pagan community. We too are proud of our status as “outsiders” from the mainstream, and our connection with that which lies beyond reality and in the infinite realms of the imagination. But what Bowie reminded us is that all outsiders are still only human and just as fragile, vulnerable, emotional and passionate as anyone else. And that’s fine.

Bowie has stated,“Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what I was writing,” and showed a keen interest in Buddhism. He also said he was “…in awe of the Universe,” which was no doubt an influence on the themes of space and extraterrestrials that come through in his music and films. Only Bowie knows whether or not he found what he was searching for spiritually (although judging by the quiet manner in which he released his final album just days before his death as a parting gift to his fans, I personally suspect he might have). But through his music, acting and other art, he certainly helped others along their spiritual path, myself included. He will be truly missed.

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Action Needed! Help Save Dark Angel

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The Dark Angel Design Co, who specialise in Gothic and Fantasy wear and are a favourite among UK Pagans, is one of many businesses who now face permanent closure due to damage caused by the recent floods in the North of England.

This is the company that made my Wedding and Handfasting dress  (their stunning Avalon dress) and my husband’s Groom’s jacket (this velvet jacket). They are a wonderful, unique company and mean a lot to us.

Here are some ways you can help them:

 

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Medway Inter Faith Action (MIFA) Discussion on “Women’s Rights and Religion”

MIFAwomens_rights

I will be leading a multi-faith discussion on the theme of Women’s Rights and Religion with Medway Inter Faith Action (MIFA) on January 22nd. I will open with a little presentation on the topic from the Pagan perspective, including a look at Goddess worship and the relationship between witchcraft and feminism. The presentation will be followed by an open discussion on the topic, where those present will have the opportunity to talk about the theme from their own individual perspective and the perspective of their faith. If anyone reading this within travelling distance of Medway would like to attend, please let me know!

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Why should Pagans support people of other faiths?

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Green Man at St Peter’s Church, Barton-Upon Humber – a Pagan figure guarding a Christian place of worship. Richard Croft [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 The recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, Mali and parts of Nigeria have emphasised one thing in particular for me. That all of us who believe in the values that Daesh (a.k.a. “Islamic State”) hate – freedom, equality, education, justice, love – need to stay united in order to fight terrorism and extremism. For despite the differences we may have in nationality, race, political views and, yes, religion, it is these values that stand out above all others and what set us apart from the monsters that have slaughtered so many innocent people.

As a follower of a religion, I also believe that now, more than ever, it is vital that members of different religions come together, to share in each other’s views and to work together to fight against terrorism and radicalisation however we can. And this means that I believe members of the Pagan community have an important part to play – to not just tolerate members of other religions, but actively support them in any challenges they may be facing during this difficult times.

Here are a few reasons why I believe Pagans should support people of other religions:

  1. Pagans can easily empathise 
    Pagans are no strangers to intolerance and discrimination. Pagans represent the traditions practised by those who were systematically persecuted by the state, and even today, Pagans still face prejudice and hatred from others (only recently, a fundamentalist Christian group in Scotland attacked Pagans as one of “the biggest threats to Western civilisation.”). We therefore know and understand the frustration, hurt and fear  that arises from being victims of religious discrimination, and we should help defend and stick up for members of other religions who are suffering from prejudice and misinformation.
  2. Paganism is an inclusive religion
    Most Pagans pride themselves on the fact that their faith is a great big mish-mash of other traditions. In addition to adopting deities and traditions from the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Vikings, modern Paganism also borrows from religions not usually considered Pagan. Much of Paganism’s rituals and philosophies come from Christianity, as well as Asian religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Some magical practises in Paganism originate from Middle Eastern mysticism. In addition to this, many Pagans are happy to accept that all deities are manifestations of one underlying entity, meaning that all religions are “true.” Because of this, Pagans should respect and support those of other religions, especially as modern Pagans owe other religions such a debt in terms of how much they have borrowed from them!
  3. Protecting others is protecting ourselves
    When we allow members of other faiths to be bullied, misrepresented or discriminated against without taking action, we set a dangerous precedent for ourselves. The basic rights and freedoms afforded to religions should apply to ALL religions, and so if one religion faces a breach of those rights, it is inevitable that others will also fall victim to the same oppressors. Conversely, by speaking out for other members of the faith community, we are also speaking out for our own rights and freedoms. We are all much stronger if we stand shoulder to shoulder.
  4. It will change other religions’ attitudes towards Paganism
    Some members of other religions think that, because Pagans can be rather secretive and because they use “occult” imagery associated with all things “unholy” in horror films and other media, Pagans are inherently opposed to Christianity and other monotheistic religions. While this may be true for some Pagans, it certainly isn’t for all of us, and this perception that people become Pagans in order to rebel against other religions is damaging to the Pagan faith. By standing together with members of other faiths and showing your support form them, we can demonstrate to the world that Paganism is not some kind of anti-Christian cult or anti-religious movement, but rather is an important and valuable asset to society that plays an important role in people’s lives.
  5. It will expand your mind.
    Just as Pagans can influence those of other beliefs, so too can those of other beliefs influence Pagans. By making sure you’re not residing purely in a Pagan “bubble” by actively mixing with those of other religions, you will be exposed to many different viewpoints, attitudes and ways of life. And this is very good for intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual development. What’s more, by understanding the religions of others, you’ll also gain a greater understanding of what it really means to be Pagan.
  6. We can work together to solve issues related directly to religion
    There are inevitably things that you, as a Pagan, will disagree with within different religions, such as attitudes to gender, sex and sexuality, treatment of animals and so forth. But what is important to realise is that there are members of those particular religions who also disagree with those aspects of that religion and are working to change them – and they need your help. For example, there are many Catholics who believe women should be afforded better status within the Catholic church, and Catholics who believe the Catholic church should change its views on contraception. By working together with like-minded Catholics, rather than solely against the Catholic church, Pagans can have a much greater impact in bringing about changes that will benefit everyone.

So as a Pagan, how can you show your support for people of other faiths? There’s plenty you can do!

1. Take an active interest in other religions. Read about them and their sacred texts, watch documentaries about them, and, of course, speak to members of those religions who are comfortable talking about their beliefs. This is the first step to understanding and appreciating other faiths.
2. Visit places of worship – even if you do not participate in prayers or a service, simply being there will show your support. Most churches are generally open to the public when mass is not in session, and many synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras and other places of worship hold open days specifically for those not of the faith to learn more about them. Check out the calendars of your local places of worship and see what they are up to.
3. Take part in local religious festivals. Where I live we have a large Sikh community, and so we are blessed with a variety of colourful and vibrant Sikh festivals in our town throughout the year. Coming along to festivals, even if you’re not sure what they’re all about, is a fantastic and highly enjoyable way to get to know others in your community, especially those of different faiths.
3.  Join in with interfaith activities. Interfaith is all about creating positive dialogue with members of other faiths, so if you join a local interfaith group you are bound to meet like-minded individuals with an open and welcoming attitude to all religions! UK residents can find local interfaith groups via the Inter Faith Network UK.
4. Invite members of other faiths to observe or take part in Pagan ritual or gatherings. This could be as simple as having a friend of another religion over for a feast to commemorate a sabbat, or by inviting members of another faith-based organisation to come along to your moot. It should be an enjoyable and eye-opening experience for both parties!

5. Watch the words and attitudes of other Pagans in your community. How do other Pagans feel about those of different religions? Is there any kind of irrational animosity felt towards particular non-Pagan religions being expressed? If so, make sure you get your views heard too, and speak up for other religions. As you friends, other Pagans are likely to listen to you and, gradually, you may find their attitudes change.

6. Pray and make magic! Of course, Pagans shouldn’t forget to seek the help of the deities and forces of nature! Ask the deities, or if you are more witchcraft-inclined perform a spell or ritual, to help spread peace and tolerance in your community and throughout the world, and ask them to grant wisdom and clarity to people of all faiths so we can all understand and support each other better.

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Why should religious people support secularism?

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The dove is a symbol of both spirituality and freedom

As you may have guessed from my recent article about faith schools in the UK, I am a secularist. As one who considers myself a spiritual person, I believe that all of us, both religious and non-religious alike, would be much better off in a secular UK. Why is this?

Firstly, I believe there are some misconceptions surrounding the word “secularism,” which may be why you hear so many people call themselves “atheists,” “agnostics” and “humanists” but rarely “secularists.” In fact, I think the majority of people in the UK share the founding beliefs of secularism without realising it. So what exactly is secularism?

What secularism is NOT

Firstly, secularism is not the same as atheism, agnosticism or humanism. The latter three represent people who do not follow any religion, do not believe in any gods, or at least do not live their lives according to any religious doctrines. In contrast, secularists are not necessarily non-religious – there are those, like me, who enthusiastically follow religion – but they believe deeply in the individual’s right to follow whatever religion they wish – and the right to not follow any religion at all. Secularism is attractive to atheists and humanists, but it is certainly not limited to those who do not follow a religion.

Secondly, secularists do not believe in the abolition or prohibition of religion. On the contrary, secularism promotes freedom of expression of the individual – and that includes freedom of religion. And secularists certainly don’t want to abolish our beloved British festivals and traditions that are rooted in religion, such as Easter and Christmas!

What secularism IS

As defined by the National Secular Society (NSS), secularists believe in “the strict separation of the state from religious institutions”  and that  “people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.” These are the two founding principles of secularism. The goal of secularism is therefore to promote equality between people of different religions and no religions, and to defend the freedom to believe, or disbelieve, whatever religious teachings you wish. As the NSS explains, “Secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society – in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike.”

Some of the ways in which the NSS works to make the UK a secular society include campaigning against religious affiliations within state schools, religious practises engaged or promoted by the state, and censorship of expression due to religious concerns. You can read their full charter here.

Why do religious people need secularism?

Just as secularism grants freedom from religion, it also grants freedom of religion. It gives everyone the right to worship freely – and ensures that no religion is given a more privileged status in society than another.

I invite all Pagans reading this to imagine what a secular Britain would look like. Our children would no longer be indoctrinated by their school into a different religion to the one we practise at home, because Church of England schools and other state faith schools would no longer exist. And the advantages that children attending faith schools might gain in doing so, due to the inequality of funding, would also no longer exist. Pagan handfastings would have equal status to church weddings. With the Church of England no longer exerting its currently considerable power over the government, we would no longer need to fear that the political decisions might be made in the best interest of Christians but to the detriment of Pagans. And by having equal status in the eyes of the law and state to Christianity and other major religions in the UK, some of the discrimination and prejudice that Pagans face would start to disappear.

I also invite all Christians reading this to think of the benefits they would gain from a secular Britain. It would shift the balance of power away from the very highest elite in the Church, back into the hands of the people. It would force the Church to become more democratic, as its followers would have a much larger stake in the Church’s future. It would also force the Church to become more transparent, helping to eliminate some of the terrible scandals that have happened within the Church over the years due to the secrecy surrounding its processes. It would lead to a society filled with greater tolerance and more brotherly love between one another, a central Christian principle. And it would bring the focus of the Church back where it should be – on individuals working to live a moral life within their society according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

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