Tag Archives: faerie

Pagan, Shinto & Spiritual Book Reviews May 2016

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This month we take a look at one of Ronald Hutton’s most recent books; an older book on Shinto shrines; one of Paulo Coelho’s more witchy works; and a brand-new release by one of Patheos Pagan’s own writers! [Read more]

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Winter Solstice 2015

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Today I celebrated Yule (I prefer to celebrate on the date of the actual Solstice, rather than on the 21st). I began by climbing the local Windmill Hill to “see” the Solstice Sun rise. It being a very cloudy day, I couldn’t actually see the Sun (typical!), but I enjoyed being there as the light grew brighter. I made some offerings of sherry to some of the trees on the hill, including a very large Oak tree. There were a couple of dog walkers around, and I think they were somewhat bemused to see this strange girl out on the hill spilling a chalice of sherry around the tree roots!

When I came home, I placed offerings of a satsuma, chestnut and mochi (in addition to the usual offerings of water, sake, rice and salt) at my Inari altar and recited the Hifumi and Inari Norito. As you can see from the photo above, I’ve recently started using the old Hindu shrine I picked up at an antiques fair as a makeshift Kamidana, until my finances mean I can get a genuine Shinto one. I think it works pretty well for the time being.

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I also made offerings at my Pagan shrine. The posters on the wall behind are prints from Brian Froud’s Good Faeries, Bad Faeries, which is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, I discovered that the cover of my copy and some of the inner pages had become utterly ruined by damp and had gone really mouldy, but not wanting to throw away the whole book, I cut out some of the pictures that were still OK. I plan to change them on my altar according to the season; I think the ones above look quite wintry.

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I also added some of the salt dough Green Men that I’d made and hadn’t given away yet to the altar. I put one Holly King mask on the God side of the altar, an Ivy Queen mask on the Goddess side, and another Holly King hanging in the centre.

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Finally, in the evening I made some “rune cookies,” just like I did last year (but with additional clove and ginger this year). Although the first batch turned out well, I unfortunately burned the second batch! Today’s been a bit of an unlucky day for cooking actually – the oven’s been playing up a bit as well. Perhaps I need to pay more attention to the Goddess of the Hearth and let her know that I appreciate her work for us! I did place an offering of the best (non-burnt) biscuits on both the Inari shrine and Pagan shrine – I hope the Powers That Be like them.

Have a Magical Yule everyone!

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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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Faerie doors in a British forest – the stirrings of nature worship?

From the BBC website

From the BBC website

I was absolutely delighted and intrigued to read in the BBC News that locals have been putting tiny faerie doors on trees in Wayford Woods, Crewkerne.

Regular readers of my blog may know that I am fascinated with Shinto customs of leaving little offerings in sacred forests, especially at hokora (miniature shrines) which look a little like Western “faerie houses.” This is done in order to give thanks to the kami of the forest and to ask for their continued blessings.

In Wayford Woods, the faerie doors have been put up in order to delight the local children, who leave messages and gifts for the faeries. Although it is being done whimsically, I can see a lot of parallels with the Shinto custom of leaving offerings for kami in nature. I feel that this movement expresses a real, subconscious need to express the sense of awe and respect for nature, and to somehow connect with the “spirits” of nature, which many Westerners see embodied in faeries. In fact, I find a lot of similarities between faeries and kami and I personally view faeries as simply a type of kami.

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A “faerie house” left at the woods, looking very much like a Shinto hokora

Moreover, the offerings themselves do resemble the sort of offerings you might find in a sacred Japanese forest or shrine. The messages left by children remind me of the wishes people often write and leave at shrines, or those tied to bamboo at Tanabata. The doors perhaps serve a similar function to torii gates – a symbol of the divide between the mundane human world and the spiritual world of the fae. There are even tiny houses that bear an uncanny resemblance to  hokora there. Although entertaining children may be the primary reason for creating these faerie shrines, I suspect that adults too feel somehow fulfilled in viewing and contributing to these offerings.

The woods’ trustees have expressed some alarm and concern at the sheer amount of faerie doors and other offerings that have appeared in Wayford Woods, but I really hope they don’t try to stop this movement (provided it does not cause significant disruption to the natural ecosystem, which it doesn’t look like it will). To me, it’s a sign that people long to re-connect with their long lost spiritual relationship with nature, through reviving the stories of faeries. And once people are instilled with a feeling of wonder and respect for forests, they will certainly think twice about destroying them.

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My Top 10 Pagan-Friendly Family Movies

Like so many people out there, some of my earliest experiences of Pagan concepts (such as the belief in spirits of nature) come from children’s films. I actually think this is a terrific way to get a bit of a grounding in Paganism – it is in many ways a folk religion, and what could be more “folky” than stories designed to be told to the masses?

Below I’ve listed my top 10 favourite family films that had an impact on my own spirituality as I was growing up (as well as some of the newer family films that I discovered as an adult but still enjoyed!). Whether or not you have children, I hope you find this list useful, and feel free to comment if you have any other good suggestions for Pagan-friendly family movies (I intend to do another list that’s more “Wiccan-orientated later).  Continue reading

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“Goth Zodiac” Art Series: Libra

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The latest in my Goth Zodiac series – Libra!

I see Libra as being a very “airy” sign, so associations with faeries, angels and the colour white seem appropriate.

You can view the whole series and my other artwork here: http://trellia.deviantart.com

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Faerie Figurine Makeover

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Having really enjoyed re-painting an Easter Bunny figurine to give it a more antique, rustic appearance using Ozark Pagan Mother’s technique, I decided to use the same method to transform a rather twee and tacky faerie figurine.

I got the faerie from an Age Concern charity shop for 99p. I went for darker, stony tones this time. When I sponged on the top, lighter layer, the paint looked a little uneven so I stippled it with a coarse brush.

The result looks nicely dark and Gothic, quite a change from the original! I’m rather pleased with it.

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Brigid and Jizo

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St Brigid’s Well in Liscannor, which has a distinctly Pagan feeling. “Entrance to St Brigids Well” by Liscannorman – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In modern times, Paganism and Christianity generally tend to avoid each other. Although there are such people as “Christian Pagans,” I would say that they are in the minority. Indeed, it can be hard to see how the eclectic, spontaneous, nature-orientated polytheism of Paganism could blend with the rule-bound, human-orientated monotheism of Christianity – and that’s without considering the bitter history between the two. [Read more…]

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Worshipping the Seen and Unseen

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Sacred trees in Japan, their divinity denoted by the torii gate and shimenawa rope

Years ago, I read somewhere that “a Pagan is someone who worships what they can actually see.” To this day, this is one of my favourite definitions of the word “Pagan.”

We worship all those things that are very familiar to us  – the sun and moon above us, the ground beneath our feet, the trees, plants and animals around us. I think that this reverence for these every day things is extremely important to being a Pagan – it reminds us that everything, everything, is sacred in its own way, and deserves respect in its own right.

Sometimes it isn’t as simple as worshipping these things as they are. Using our imagination, humans have assigned deities to many of these things, and in these rituals we may invoke the deities rather than the thing itself. But still, whenever we call upon Apollo or Diana or Gaia or Pan, we are still evoking those very basic forces of the sun, the moon, the earth and living things.

Contradictory as it may seem, Paganism may involve the worshipping of unseen forces as well. This is very much the case in Shinto, where emphasis is placed on the fact that the spirits (kami) are invisible to us. That’s probably why you don’t see many depictions of kami themselves at Shinto shrines.  And yet, at a great number of Shinto shrines, you will see the kami embodied in natural things – often trees, rocks or waterfalls that are marked with a shimenawa rope or torii gate to show that they are the dwelling place of a kami. Larger things, such as mountains, bodies of water and even phenomena such as thunder, can also be considered to be of the kami. So even when the underlying force behind nature is unseen, it can be perceived by humans in the form of natural phenomena. In this way, even the unseen forces are actually worshipped as things we can see!

One of my favourite quotes from Douglas Adams’ excellent book The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” As Pagans, I think we can do a bit of both. I think that because a tree is a tree, a beautiful living thing that in turn gives us life, is reason enough to worship it. But I also think venerating tree-spirits – the “fairies at the bottom of the garden,” quite literally fairies for some Pagans –  helps us to connect to the tree on a more personal level. More often than not, our deities are anthropmorphised, so that they resemble us (at least in personality if not in appearance). Even in Japan, the unseen kami have rather human traits; they can act in a way that is both good and bad, they have likes and dislikes, and they enjoy receiving some of the same things we do, like food and alcohol. To be a Pagan is to both worship things as they are, and as symbols of particular significance to us as humans.

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Decorating the Moss Gardens

moss2 I purchased a few items from MyTinyWorld (totally recommended – low prices, low shipping and extremely quick!) and used them to decorate my new moss gardens.

I decided to make a miniature “witch’s garden” in the one above, with a tiny broom, an apple and a little stone cauldron in addition to the sticks and stones I put on initially. I really like the cauldron in particular – I’m not sure what it’s made of, but its texture really makes it feel like stone!

I added a little china frog to the moss garden in the jar, but didn’t really photograph well (I have a bit of a rubbish camera).

I also purchases some tiny pumpkins and an owl, which I plan to bring out for Halloween!

Now I’ve seen the variety of miniature items there are out there, I quite fancy the idea of making a kind of “faerie shrine” out in the garden – I could easily get tiny dishes, bowls and jugs for making tiny offerings. Let’s see what happens…

 

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