Archive for January, 2011

Pagan questions meme

I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who thinks these questions are borderline insulting fluff.

I’ve answered the questions anyway, because I want to get a marker for where I am at the moment and a baseline against which I can measure my future progress.


Do you have a magical/Pagan name?

How did you find Paganism?
When I was nine or so, I discovered two books on Native American religion and spirituality, which I persuaded my grandpa to buy. I still haven’t read them cover to cover , but I got on better with animism than I did with the Church of England theology I was flirting with at the time. I called myself ‘Gaian’ for a long while, until I discovered there was a widely accepted term for my general beliefs.

How long have you been practising?
I’ve been practising for about four years, but only started getting serious late last year

Solitary or group practitioner?
Solitary, except for public rituals with the Cambridge Pagans

What is your path?
I’m an animist Druid, practising shamanism and beginning to work with spirits, interested in the lore and folk magic of the East Anglian fens.

‘Hedgewitch’ is less of a mouthful, though.

Are you out of the broom closet?

Out, but (hopefully) not obnoxious.


What’s you brand of deism?
“I’m an animist Druid”

Who is your patron God/dess?
No one has claimed me yet.

What Gods do you worship?
I don’t; I haven’t met any yet.

Do you fear darkly aspected Gods/Goddesses, or rather respect them?
A healthy respect for any deity seems like the appropriate response. Something along the lines of the respect you’d show fire, or apex predators.

Do you worship the Christian God?

Do you worship animals? Or plants?
I wouldn’t say ‘worship’. Respect, revere, honour, but not worship.


Do you regularly commune with nature?
As in: do I regularly take part? All the time. How can I not?

Ever walked barefoot in the woods?


Taken a camping trip just to talk to nature?
No. I’d like to, but don’t have the means to at the moment.

Describe the moment you felt closest to Mother Earth?
When I was wrist deep in potting compost last summer, I suppose. You mean close to the Earth as a deity? I have no idea.

Do you have a familiar? Which kind?
I live with, and care for, a cat, but I don’t know how she’d feel about being a familiar. I don’t know that I have a familiar spirit.

Have you ever called upon the powers of an animal in ritual?

Or a plant?

Do you hug trees?

Give them gifts?
I water and feed my bonsai…

What are your favourite plants to work with?
I haven’t started working with plants yet.

What are your favourite trees to work with?
I haven’t started working with trees yet.


What is your favourite holiday?
I don’t really have one. I look forward to Yule, because it means that the nights will begin to shorten and daylight start to increase, not to mention the family seems to draw together and everyone seems cheerful (when they’re not Christmas shopping). Lughnasadh through to the autumnal equinox, with the fresh fruit on the bushes and the leaves beginning to change is one of my favourite times of year, so that’s quite.

What is your least favourite holiday?
Also don’t really have one. Yule, maybe, because it’s just before Christmas, which means that town is full of people shopping; the traffic is appalling, so it takes ages to get to work; and all the buses are on bank holiday timetables, so I can’t get anywhere. *grump*

Really, though, I don’t have a least favourite holiday. How can you?

Have you ever held a ritual on a holiday?
Yes. I did go on a special walkabout last Samhain, and attended a public ritual of Yule, but they’re the only ones so far.

Ever taken a day off work to celebrate a Pagan holiday?

Do you celebrate Yule on the 21st rather than the 25th?
On the solstice, and the high spirits (no pun intended) last through until the ‘family celebration’ on the 25th.

Have you ever felt the veil thin?
Yes – when the Priest cast the circle during the Yule ritual, I felt a definite shift in the atmosphere.

Ever danced the Maypole?

Know what the Maypole symbolizes?
No – do you?

I mean, beyond the fallacious phallus symbolism that ‘everybody knows’. Like ‘everybody knows’ that ‘Ring around the rosy’ is a rhyme about the Black Death.
Whoever this ‘everyone’ is, they’re an idiot.

How do you usually celebrate the Pagan holidays?
It depends on the holiday.
Sometimes I’ll go walkabout, sometimes I’ll bake bread or cook a meal. If there’s a public ritual, I’ll attend that.


Do you use Tarot?
No. I’ve had two decks – my first was Crowly’s Thoth deck, the second was the Shapeshifter Tarot, but I’ve not really gotten into it.

Do you use runes?
No. I have a plastic set, but I’ve never used them.

Do you use a pendulum?
I have two. I recently began doing pendulum dowsing, and I’m enjoying practising and learning more about it.

Do you use dowsing rods?
No. I’m curious about them, though I doubt I’ll ever get around to using a pair.

Do you use astrology?
No; I’ve always associated it with Mystic Meg in the problem pages of the Sun.
That said, I’ve been told that I have a typical Leo personality and morphology…

Any other forms of divination?
I have a set of Ogham sticks that I’ve dabbled with. I’ve put them to one side because I need to put more effort in if I want to use it properly.


What was the first spell you did?
I haven’t done any yet.
My first will be a witch bottle, but I want to learn how to do magic properly before jumping in with both feet.

What was the latest?

Ever done a love spell?

A job spell?

A healing spell?

What was the most powerful spell you’ve ever performed?

What deities do you usually call on?


Do you believe in vampires?
Sort of. People who drain your enthusiasm and energy, sure.
Count Dracula, sparkle-vamps and True Blood? No, that’s fiction.

I don’t know. I’m going to say no, but I’m open to being proved wrong.

Yes. I think I did it once, maybe twice.

You mean wights? Sure.

I believe in the Tuatha de Danaan, not the Victorian butterfly-winged creatures.

I’m going to stay open-minded.

I’m not really an adherent of Greek mythology.

Sprite is a bit of a catch-all word. Wikipedia defines it as “diminutive beings such as sprites, elves, fairies, pixies, gnomes, Japanese yōkai, the Spanish and Latin-American duende, various Slavic fairies and ghosts”.
So… yes and no.

Foretellers and provokers of maritime disasters? Maybe.
Ariel the little Mermaid? No.

Still not into Greek mythology.

Ever “seen” any of the above?

Ever used any of the above in magic?
I don’t think that would be appropriate…

Do you have one of them as a personal guardian?
I don’t think that would be sensible or safe.


Do you see a rabbit, a man or a woman in the moon?
I see craters.

Own a cat?
Can you own a cat? I look after one; I wouldn’t say that I OWN her.

When you meditate, what does your happy place look like?
I don’t really do that. Happy places, I mean, not meditation (although I don’t do that very much at the moment either).

Do you work with chakras?

Do you believe in past lives?
I have a very strong belief in reincarnation.

If so, describe a few briefly:
I’m not that interested in finding out who I was; I’m more interested in who I am and what I can do to become better – spiritually, morally, grammatically.

Do you believe in soul mates?
My one true love? No.
I believe that people can be entangled across lifetimes as relatives and friends, but not that they are destined to be lovers across the ages.

Do you have a spirit guide?
I have a spirit I’ve met several times on walkabout, and he has given me assistance and instruction, but I don’t know about him being my ‘spirit guide’.

Is it always love and light?
Is anything?


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Fen skating

For the last few years, the council has arranged to have a mobile ice-rink in Cambridge city centre and yesterday I finally took advantage of the opportunity.

As I was flailing my way across the ice, trying to avoid the far more capable children (it really was embarrassing how much better than me they were), I remembered a photograph I’d seen in the Folk Museum of people skating on a frozen field in the 19th century. Afterwards, I decided to do some digging and start posting some of the history of East Anglia on the blog.


Fen skating

Fen skating started in the seventeenth century, after Charles II returned from Holland with an enthusiasm for ice skating. The fens often freeze during the winter (three days of temperatures minus six or below is enough to freeze the floodplains nearly solid), and skating became a common form of transport and recreation, with the first organised race taking place on frozen canals in 1760s.

Amateur skating championships newsreel

After the drainage, landowners would flood fields for the purpose of skating; two-man races took place over a course of 660 yards (3/8 of a mile), with the start and end points marked by barrels with flags in them, and the centre line delineated by sods of earth or snow. Racers Photograph of Jame Smartskated down one side of the course, rounded the barrel and back up the other side of the course. Most of the racers were agricultural workers, unable to work due to the weather, competing for a first prize of a joint of meat, bag of flour or £10 – equal to six month’s wages  – for the men (slightly less for the women’s races), although gentlemen also skated for trophies.

English skaters developed their skills very quickly, and often beat visiting competitors from the continent and competed in international championships. William Smart, a Wisbech man who raced under the moniker ‘Turkey’, was the creator of the current speed-skating pose – head down with arms trailing behind like wings – and his nephews, ‘Fish’ and James were well-regarded skaters in their own right. ‘Fish’ remained unbeaten for two years and won the National Skating Association (now the National Ice Skating Association)’s one-and-a-half-mile British professional championship three times. James and his cousin George See (son of Turkey’s brother-in-law and rival, William ‘Gercha Putta’ See) set world records for the 3100 metres and one mile races; James Smart is still Britain’s only speed skating champion.

Although the first skates were imported from the Netherlands, local designs – fen or Whittlesey Photograph of a Whittlesey runnerrunners – were made of beech and have a screw in the heel,so that you can attach the skate to an everyday workboot, and three prongs in the front to steady the skate; by the late nineteenth century, skaters had switched to Norwegian-style skates – boots with integrated blades, that were stronger than their English counterparts.

In addition to racing, skaters also played bandy – a form of ice hockey played over a larger area – and cricket on the ice. The Bury Fen Bandy Club published the game’s rules in 1882, and played the first international match against Haarlem in 1891 , and the sport was introduced to Sweden in 1894 by a Bury player, where it was first played by the Swedish royal family, barons and diplomats.

Contemporary fen skating:

It turns out that the practice of skating on the flood meadows is still going strong, with societies and clubs dedicated to finding the safe spots and organising events.

Places to skate, from fenskating.co.uk:

  • Bury Fen, between the villages of Earith and Bluntisham, on a flooded flood meadow
  • Mere Fen, between the villages of Swavesey and Over, near to the MG owners Club
  • Sutton Gault, on the washes between the two rivers, near to the Anchor pub
  • Welney wash, on the washes between the rivers
  • Whittlesea wash, on a flooded field, north of Whittlesea on the B1040
  • St.Ives, on a flooded meadow, near the Dolphin Hotel

Fen skating on FaceBook

Fen skaters on Twitter

Photos at Raddays.com

Photos at guardian.co.uk

Other sources (no particular order):

Suite 101 – revival of English ice sport

Wikipedia – Fen skating

Giles Landscapes

Photos (one contemporary, one from 1959) and history at Flickr – fen_snapz

American Bandy Association

Wikipedia – Bandy

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