The open circle now has a discussion group on Facebook that will facilitate planning events, walks and meetings. It will also democratise such planning, enabling anyone to suggest a meeting at any time. I've had to make this separate from the Facebook page because of conflicting restrictions on what each can do. The group can't auto update from this blog, whereas the page can't be used well for discussion.
We have decided to review the books in the Open Circle Library so borrowers can better decide which books they'd like to read. With this in mind we've been rereading books in the library in order to remember what they are like.
Marian offers a slightly different approach to pagan witchcraft than we've personally read in books on Wicca, in that it recommends a direct observation approach, such as going outside and looking at the moon every night to determine its phase, and holding Beltaine 'when the Hawthorne blooms' rather than by a fixed calendar date. The book is structured in the format of a thirteen month training program, with one chapter per month, each with a selection of exercises and additional suggested reading. Most chapters recommend another one of Marion's books as one of the options. Dion Fortune books also figure frequently in these lists, giving the reader some idea of Marian's main influence.
These exercises include starting a magical diary, (which she calls a 'book of illumination'), reading a basic understanding of comparative religion, learning about the agricultural yearly cycle and your local community and folk customs, learning about 'the God' and 'the Goddess', creating a large personal representation of the 'wheel of the year', walking in nature and finding your own 'sacred' spots, meditation, making your own robe and wand, meditative visualisation, travel to the Otherworld and contacting the goddess, the god and elementals whilst there, observing your dreams, growing herbs, divination and dowsing, learning about the uses of herbs and scrying.
In most cases only general advise about how to approach studying these subjects is provided, and the reader will have to follow others books, such those in the suggested reading lists, or perform local research in reference libraries and such, in order to complete the exercises. A reader that follows these exercises studiously will no doubt learn a great deal.
The fifth chapter would be an exception to this general rule, in that provides an easy to follow discussion of using meditative visualisation to 'journey in the Otherworld', which should get a committed beginner learning the art without need to reference other books, although she lists a few anyway. The creative magician may adapt the example path working used for this purpose to their own tastes.
One of the issues with this book come from the authors assumptions about her readership. She assumes a reader, probably getting into witchcraft for the first time, living in Britain, probably more specifically England. Most readers can adapt the principles to their own area of course, so this issue shouldn't be too problematic.
Like most books on paganism from the era it was written, it suffers from a very gender-binary, hetero-normative understanding of God and Goddess, ignoring the long rich historical of deities of mixed and/or fluid gender, and those of bisexual or homosexual natures. Although given her attitude of opposing any suggestion of anything other than a normal Christian-style monogamous marriage, this perhaps isn't surprising.
My main issue in this book concerns an incoherent rant in one of the final chapters where she inexplicably lumps in the use of sexual magic and entheogens as evils on a par with paedophilia. This despite the fact that in earlier chapters she recommends a witch might learn to brew their own alcohol and learn which herbs can be used to aid trance. Viewing alcohol, long used as the sole religious sacrament in authoritarian forms of Christianity, as somehow valid whilst supporting the oppression of those traditionally used in the rest of the world, seems little more than a support of Eurocentric religious fascism.
To summarise, a beginner might get something out of this if they are able to overlook the puritanical politics presented therein, and if they spend time doing the exercises, whilst an experienced pagan or magician will probably find little of interest other than perhaps a spur to get out into nature more if they don't already, connect with their local history and folklore and base their seasonal celebrations on direct observation of natures cycles rather than relying on fixed calendar dates.
We're meeting at Inverness Bus station to catch 9:05 26C bus to Cromarty getting off at Jemmimaville. After visiting the RSPB reserve at Udale Bay we will go to Fairy Glen and possibly Chanonry Point depending on mood and weather.
I really enjoyed this documentary. It explores the beliefs in faery in Scotland amongst other places. There are many faery places around Inverness and it feels very special to visit them. Fairy Glen seems to me one of the most enchanted faery spots around here:
Although with faery, as with UFOs and many other strangeness, you are supposed to never see them if you search for them, I think that a little evocation and some brownies could go a long way to help. Anyone fancy walk in the glen in search of faery? Bring small coins to put in the tree!!!
Three of us met in central Inverness and took bus to Culloden visitor centre where we grabbed a coffee and delicious cheese scones. We enjoyed eating them looking at the moors and observing little wagtails searching for crumbs under the tables. After the coffee we walked down to Clava which took around 30 minutes. The weather was lovely, warm and sunny. You could smell dog roses in the air when walking pass the bridge. We arrived at Clava and set up picnic under big Birch Trees. We brought with us three cheerful Trolls which enjoyed the picnic as much as we did. :)
We were soon joined by one more and enjoyed chatting about fairies, poltergeists and entheogenic experiences nibbling on some pumpkin pastry and elderflower and rhubarb Racuchy.
Racuchy were loved by everyone and disappeared very quickly. It's a Polish snack resembling a pancake. You can use different kind of fruit to make them, also you can do some savoury ones with wild mushrooms, or plain ones to serve with different toppings. :) Here is a recipe using raspberries: http://noonionplease.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/racuchy-polish-mini-pancakes-with-fruits/ I like to drizzle them with honey and sprinkle with some cinnamon instead of using icing sugar or cream and I do not add sugar to my batter, especially not for savoury ones!!! :D Racuchy taste amazing with some grated pumpkin instead of fruit!
Each one of us took some time to stroll around the cairns and take in the atmosphere and spirit of the place.
On our way back to Culloden we met a couple of Shrews running nervously along the road. It looked like a passing car startled them. We stopped for moment to watch them and decided to leave them to find safety on their own. After arriving in the visitor centre we had some amazing rose cordial before saying goodbye. It has been a lovely and very relaxing afternoon.
It was a lovely Summer evening. We strolled along the Caledonian Canal in a bright sunshine and arrived at the Witches Coffin Pool. Cool refreshing breeze from the waters of the firth was filling the air with smell of the sea. We observed birds walking in the mud flats exposed by low tide. Few herons flew pass as we walked the narrow path between two ponds. Blooming honeysuckles and wild roses filled the air with intoxicating scent. Whizzing calls of a Greenfinch reached our ears and we watched a duck with few ducklings foraging by the reed beds. We walked further to the Silver Pool where we noticed a flock of elusive birds perched on a tree. We finished our stroll by watching heron catching fishes before we retraced our steps back to the canal.
The walk was very relaxing and pleasant. We will definitely repeat it some other time! Meanwhile we're hoping that the weather will hold for our Saturday picnic in Culloden.
Last weekend was a very social and nice time for the Open Circle. Four of us met informally for a fire and bbq on Friday evening. The weather was dry and not too windy so the fire was a really nice experience. We barbecued some chicken and lots of vegetables and had them with some wine and cider. We spent the evening chatting about upcoming festivals and other summer events amongst other topics. After our guests left it started getting dark. We drew a few random sigils around the fire and finished our cider contemplating the glowing coal resembling a city viewed from the air at night. When we finished it began raining.
On Saturday we met for a lovely lunch at Leakeys Bookshop. I highly recommend whisky, honey and caraway cake and lapsong tea (if you like smoky flavours). After the lunch we strolled down to the Market Inn for a couple of pints. There we could have a look at my new purchase from Leakeys, a wonderful book 'Birds' by Katrina Cook portraying 150 pictures of ornithological art. Birds have been playing an important role in my Spirituality and Magick and this find was truly irresistible.
When we were on our way home we found an injured bird. We couldn't leave him lying there in the rain exposed to attacks from cats and other birds. We took him home. I had to carry him in my hands and it was still breathing after we left him in a basket full of hay. We called the SSPCA, hopeful that they will be able to help, but before they had a chance to arrive the bird died. We buried him in our garden and marked the place with some stones. We gave him some grain for his travel to the netherworld. I felt it was important to assist this bird in his death. I hope we eased the suffering and let him pass away in peace.
We planned to start our camping weekend on Friday evening but we resigned because of a very heavy rain. Instead we stayed at home and watched Wild At Heart by David Lynch, followed by Witches of Eastwick. We took a bus to Fort Augustus early in the morning. The weather was nice and the top of the hills were covered in snow. After arriving we set up our tent and as soon as we finished it began raining. We had a stroll to Fort Augustus where we stopped for a lovely lunch. The little café by River Oich was serving delicious carrot and coriander soup. After the meal it was still raining so we stocked up on playing cards, fleece blankets, book of Scottish Myths and Legends and we snug up in our tent for the rest of the afternoon.
In the evening we arranged an Open Circle meeting in Poachers pub. A jolly group of bikers was playing heavy metal and rock songs from the jukebox as three of us enjoyed a few pints and a friendly chat in the beer garden. It was a very nice evening. We talked a little about everything ranging from spirituality, magick, occult and religious institutions to music and answer machine messages.
Sunday morning welcomed us with a wonderful dawn chorus and dry, windy weather. After breakfast we set out for a walk towards Corrieyairack Pass. It was hot enough to walk in a t-shirt and the air was filled with the smell of wild garlic growing everywhere on the side of the road. Sheep and Lambs were coming towards us and bleated loudly as we walked passed their pastures.
We stopped on Ardachy Bridge to take few photos when we noticed an unusual sight. A small group of bats flying in midday over the river Tarff (The sighting has been added to The Big Bat Map). Soon after crossing the bridge we were stopped by an old man who recommended we go and see Culachy waterfall. The walk lead us along a narrow woodland path on the steep sides of River Tarff. We caught glimpses of the swirling and foaming waters of the river down below. Hunting birds circled in the sky and deer grazed on the pastures to our left.
We arrived to the falls and decided to stop there for a cup of tea and a nibble. We both went down to the falls to refresh ourselves in its cold spray. Afterwards we continued along the glen for a while before returning the same way. We walked to Fort Augustus through lovely Kilchuimen Cemetery. On our way it began to rain. We came back to our tent and had a stir fry and noodles for dinner. Our second afternoon and evening was very similar to the first one. We read 'The Battle of Birds' and 'In the Kingdom of Seals', among a few other stories from the book. In the evening we met again in Open Circle for a couple of beers, this time in private.
In the morning after breakfast we had a nice short walk to Borlum Bay. We watched sand martins and swifts flying above the calm waters of Loch Ness and dark, heavy clouds sweeping along the Great Glen. After this we packed our tent and returned to Inverness on a late morning bus. It was a very atmospheric and nice weekend spent in a good company. I also managed to make quite a few recordings for my Glen Faramach project. I will share them in here once they are available online.