Established in Glastonbury for 30 years, 1990-2020 c.e.

WitchNews, snippets, and useful information -

'Words from the Path' essays - see below

For visitors new to natural spirituality and
its Pagan traditions
   -  
Or to introduce interested friends, the first few essays of our mini series for newcomers are provided to help - scroll down to the W.P. essays below.
 

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On this page: Topics of interest and miscellaneous information
(Order not arrived?  Scroll down to: “Order not arrived? Follow these steps” at the bottom of this page.)
1.  'Words from the Path' - Pagan spirituality - essays from the series.
2.  Useful links - Contact other Pagan folk and organisations in Britain and beyond.
3.  Moon planting/sowing in the southern hemisphere. Since publishing the Moon Planting Guide, I've occasionally had enquires asking if the book applies for gardeners in the Antipodes, so this reply should tell you all you need to know about Moon planting down under.


The 'Words from the Path' essays

The first few essays are part of our mini series for newcomers and those advising them, intended to provide a truly accurate and broad introduction to the origins, development and history of natural spirituality and our Pagan traditions from the start.
The final 4 essays (from earlier editions of 'Gwydion's Moon Diary') are provided for everyone interested in acquiring a good background understanding, and explain several essential topics in detail.

Our mini series for visitors new to Paganism or to introduce interested friends - W.P.s 15 onwards - and you'll need any recent copy of Gwydion's Moon Diary to read the two essays ‘Spirituality from a Pagan Perspective’ (February’s pages onwards) and ‘Origins of the Harvest Cycle’ (August onwards) and the articles on the last page, (back page 7) as an introduction.

The first essay of our introductory mini series:
W.P. 15:  A pantheon for our times - our Annual Cycles and how to understand their content, especially important when explaining our spritual ethos to interested friends.

If a friend asks: “I feel Paganism is something I want to know more about, but there seems to be so much to learn, where do I start?”  -  What would you tell them?

  Many nowadays are attracted to Paganism because they feel a spiritual bond with living nature and have an ethos of environmental awareness and concern, but are faced with a confusing plethora of information, diverse books, groups and opinions. Assuming you’ve read the rest of this Diary, firstly, I’d give your friend some practical advice: Don’t feel pressured to join any group, by all means listen to any you feel trustworthy, but also independently learn from books, media, individuals you respect and trust, and don’t believe everything you read or hear - be wary of charlatans, control-freaks and so on, anyone who expects you to relinquish your common sense, and/or asks unreasonable fees for silly activities!
    Next, I would explain that there isn’t one ‘correct’ Pagan path, nor required beliefs, because every individual will develop their own particular insights, whether or not they also choose to engage closely, or occasionally, with others in any particular group. From the first, it will prove useful to acquire an understanding of the pattern, and the symbolism of our annual cycles, because they are the collective shared ‘content’, the pantheon of mainstream resurgent Paganism in Britain today. I emphasise that it is not a ‘set of beliefs’, but a symbolic assemblage built on archetypal ideas. Equally, explain that the kernel of all truly meaningful spirituality is your spiritual bond to the rest of living nature and all else that exists, however your tradition or path expresses this in ceremony or other experiential spiritual contexts.
    For Witches, Gardnerian, Alexandrian and others, the symbolism of their various ceremonies integrates with that of our annual cycles. Similarly, most Druid orders, other groups and individual Pagan folk construct their particular ethos and celebrations using the same background symbolism, which could range from simple personal observances to festivals or initiate magical ceremonies, perhaps incorporating elements from other traditions, deities from the Greek or other pantheons for example, or alchemical, astrological or other sources as symbolically appropriate.
    Harvest Cycles were the earliest forms of pantheon, and many developed additional content to represent everything that became of spiritual concern for its particular society with cultural progress, such as cosmological origins, the nature of time and so on, including Big Questions that have universal as well as spiritual implications. Where more complex societies gave rise to more elaborate pantheons, there was always a tendency for some, often ruling elites in order to exert social control, to claim that their interpretation of the content of a particular pantheon, or of a cult selection from its content, was literal history and fact. These were the first models of dogmatic ‘beliefs based’ religion, fundamentally different from our adaptable, archetypal ethos open to varied spiritual paths built around a consensus of spiritual principles and ideas.
    The only model most people in Britain and similar societies know, beliefs-based monotheism, originated precisely this way, as did its anthropomorphic concept of a sentient, personified pre-existent creator ‘God’ with limitless abilities as factual reality. Of course, reducing symbolic content to an inflexible belief set meant denial of later contradictary discoveries and social progress, so inevitably, compulsory ‘faith’, the mindset that we alone have the ‘correct’ beliefs, and conflicts thus created, have characterised beliefs-based religions ever since.
    From all this, you will realise that our pantheist approach to spirituality (summarised on back page 7) with an archetypal pantheon holistically able to accommodate everything of spiritual significance as progress requires, represented the mainstream of spirituality before the dominance of beliefs based religion. Once you understand our annual cycles to the extent explained by all the readings and so on in this little diary, (and best to read the essays on the ‘News’ page of our website too) keep it all in mind when you read a few of the primary Greek and other myths and about their origins and meanings, and explore wider sources, perhaps documentaries, and also about related topics such as prehistoric and later symbolic art, spiritual artefacts, the societies they came from and so on. You’ll encounter many speculative and badly informed interpretations, so assess what seems viable as you explore the development of Paganism and natural spiritual traditions more generally.
    Even for many who never wish to take part in a spiritual event shared with others, nor join any group, to have the internal resource of a familiar pantheon of archetypal, cognitive imagery that evokes an awareness of the supernal within us, for instance on unexpectedly seeing an exquisite natural landscape, can inspire that rare moment of the most profound spiritual connection, touching minds with and knowing yourself as part of the supernal whole, the brief moment of ecstatic spiritual one-ness that has inspired human minds since the dawn of human cultures, a moment, it is said, when your mind nears the portals of the Summerlands and responds to what lies beyond.
    Words can never encompass the actuality of such experiences, they are part of our ‘experiential reality’, and as much part of what it means to be human as our need to understand ‘objective reality’, all that is quantifiable by rationality and science. For us, there is no conflict between spirituality and science, they address different aspects of all we experience as living, cultural beings, who could choose peace and progress.
2016, Julian Gower. All rights reserved.

The second essay of our introductory mini series: 
W.P. 16: Last year’s essay advised how to introduce natural spirituality to newcomers, the next step is to explain:  The Pantheist foundations of Natural Spirituality and a Pagan perspective

   Last year’s W.P. essay explained how to introduce natural spirituality and Paganism with a rational approach for newcomers - and for everyone else! In particular, it outlined a few topics essential for an accurate picture from the start. These include the necessity of understanding the pattern and symbolism of our annual festival cycle and its pantheon of deities, as a contemporary example of a pantheonic (and pantheist) tradition. It also outlined, for contrast, how beliefs-based religions developed when symbolic and archetypal mythic deities and their lore were interpreted as if factual reality.
  For newcomers, it’s important first to explain the history and development of our mythic pantheons of deities to clarify their archetypal and symbolic origins, then explain, as follows, the underlying structure of our spiritual ethos. Over many years, I’ve found that probably a majority of resurgent Pagan folk nowadays, however sincere and widely read, still interpret the spiritual ‘content’ of our traditions, deities and their mythic interactions, and the ceremonies built around them and so on, wholly or partly from the mindset of ‘beliefs based’ religion. Those introductory readings provide the background needed to explain the foundational difference between ‘beliefs based’ and ‘archetypal-symbolic’ (a.k.a. ‘reality based’) models of spirituality. As well as the content of our Pagan heritage, it’s equally important newcomers acquire a clear understanding of pantheism, to comprehend the spiritual context and overall meaning of the content .
   You need to provide this so newcomers can progress further than a wooly reassignment of ‘believing in God’ (with varied cultural additions) to ‘believing in’ multiple Goddesses, Gods and a nature-based set of cultural additions! The reason so many never progress further is the deeply ingrained mindset of beliefs based religion, whose first concern is ‘what you should believe’ of the content, and not rational definitions of the underlying primary concepts such as ‘deity’, or how their meanings differ between a monotheist and pantheist/Pagan perspective, or their validity in terms of reality. If you can’t explain how spirituality can be entirely compatible with a rational, scientifically acceptable understanding of reality, then you are still trapped in the simplistic religious beliefs based mindset, albeit with Pagan content!  (Even most academics writing or broadcasting on spirituality only seem to know the beliefs based model!)  
   First explain that natural spiritual traditions are pantheist. An understanding of pantheism explains the underlying ‘structure’ of ideas upon which the content of these two different models of spirituality are based. Before reading further, turn to back page 7 and read the little article: ‘Goddesses and Gods - understanding our pantheist concept of ‘Deity’.     Please take time to learn the concepts described, ‘supernality’ as distinct from deity, and the rationale of ‘objective reality’ as distinct from ‘experiential reality’. I realise it’s a very succinct explanation of ideas, so whether this is the first time you’ve encountered the word pantheism, or want to acquire a thorough understanding to pass on to others, W.P. essay no. 12 on the ‘News’ page of our website is an easy to read introduction to pantheism, specifically written for this purpose.
   With an understanding of Pagan content in a pantheist context from the start, it is much easier for newcomers to understand how Goddesses and Gods, their myths and lore built around them were first devised to represent deeply significant, often abstract and complex concepts symbolised in a spiritual context, not something you simplistically have to ‘believe in’ or not! It provides the same model and spiritual perspective by which those early peoples formulated their Harvest Cycle and broader pantheons, before the ‘dumbed down’ beliefs based cults became prevalent and often suppressed preceding traditions.
   Despite sporadic repression, the archetypal-symbolic content of pantheist Pagan traditions was resilient because it remains universally relevant as cultures change and progress, while beliefs based content becomes increasingly disconnected as human values, social and scientific knowledge continue to progress. Where a pantheist model was the norm, such as cosmopolitan Graeco-Roman society, beliefs based religion was commonly denigrated as ‘literalist religion’.
   Be sure to explain that a pantheist perspective, which doesn’t contradict reality, is entirely compatible with the future of a scientifically aware humanity in ways monotheist/beliefs based religion never can be. To parody beliefs based religion, you can either ‘believe’ that Saturn/Cronus ate his children, Juno, Neptune, Pluto, Vesta and Ceres, until stopped by Jupiter, or you can understand that Saturn represents time (across cultures ‘The Great Destroyer’) and that Juno and siblings represent aspects of manifest reality, and that ‘order’ (represented by Jupiter) defeats chaos!
   It is unfortunate that, while humankind has in just a few generations created global communications and can aspire to reaching the stars, historical events have saturated wider society with a defunct, divisive religious mindset, though our future requires an inclusive spiritual ethos for a scientifically aware world!  Ultimately, we need to promote the underlying rationale of natural spirituality, and encourage debate between populist religions on placing humanitarian principles above divisive, dogmatic interpretation of scriptures.

The third essay of our introductory mini series for those advising newcomers:
W.P. 17: Encourage an integrated picture of our archetypal/symbolic ‘content’ and how pantheism defines concepts such as ‘deity’.

For readers new to this diary, first read the two essays ‘Spirituality from a Pagan Perspective’ (February’s pages onwards) and ‘Origins of the Harvest Cycle’ (August onwards) and the articles on the last page (back page 7) as an introduction - and both the previous W.P. essays of this mini series for those advising the newly interested are now available to read/recap, on the ‘News’ page of our website :
www.pandimensional.co.uk/news.php
   The previous two W.P. essays on advising newcomers discussed the two most important topics to give enquirers a meaningful, coherent picture from the start, and hopefully the introductory readings herein and on the ‘News’ page of our website together provide an integrated introduction to both our annual cycles and pantheism for you and your students.
    Briefly, the annual cycles and their interrelated mythic deities (along with all their associated lore, annual and other celebrations as relevant and so on) and their symbolism form our shared pantheon. All this is ‘content’ and immediate subject matter for all newcomers to learn, whether as part of Wicca, Druidism, other groups or individual fellow travellers.
    Since the first spiritual traditions built around pantheons (’pantheonic traditions’) developed in early farming societies, such content has provided a symbolic framework of interrelated archetypal concepts, adaptable to the progress of wider knowledge and cultural change, to provide the experiential context for “our spiritual relationship with the rest of living nature and all else that exists”. Think of those who celebrated Inanna and Enki in ancient Uruk, or initiations into the lunar path in the temples of Artemis or Diana in classical times, or initiates to the 2nd Degree in modern Wicca enacting the ‘The Descent of the Goddess’. People have employed the same universally applicable archetypal spiritual concepts, expressed with cultural variations to accommodate and adapt to wider social progress and increasing knowledge, for well over five millennia.
    Then as now, pantheons of archetypal/symbolic content have provided for individuals and collective paths ranging from the simply contemplative to ceremonial or initiate magical groups - so it’s vital to help newcomers to understand the importance of familiarity with our own pantheon and all it entails, and the history of its origins and development and so on, at least to the extent of all the readings herein.
    Pantheism, as interpreted for archetypal/symbolic content, is summarised on back page 7, ‘Goddesses and Gods - understanding our pantheist concept of deity’, and explained more fully in W.P. 12 on the ‘News’ page of The previous two W.P. essays on advising newcomers discussed the two most important topics to give enquirers a meaningful, coherent picture from the start, and hopefully the introductory readings herein and on the ‘News’ page of our website together provide an integrated introduction to both our annual cycles and pantheism for you and your students.
    Briefly, the annual cycles and their interrelated mythic deities (along with all their associated lore, annual and other celebrations as relevant and so on) and their symbolism form our shared pantheon. All this is ‘content’ and immediate subject matter for all newcomers to learn, whether as part of Wicca, Druidism, other groups or individual fellow travellers.
    Since the first spiritual traditions built around pantheons (’pantheonic traditions’) developed in early farming societies, such content has provided a symbolic framework of interrelated archetypal concepts, adaptable to the progress of wider knowledge and cultural change, to provide the experiential context for “our spiritual relationship with the rest of living nature and all else that exists”. Think of those who celebrated Inanna and Enki in ancient Uruk, or initiations into the lunar path in the temples of Artemis or Diana in classical times, or initiates to the 2nd Degree in modern Wicca enacting the ‘The Descent of the Goddess’. People have employed the same universally applicable archetypal spiritual concepts, expressed with cultural variations to accommodate and adapt to wider social progress and increasing knowledge, for well over five millennia.
    Then as now, pantheons of archetypal/symbolic content have provided for individuals and collective paths ranging from the simply contemplative to ceremonial or initiate magical groups - so it’s vital to help newcomers to understand the importance of familiarity with our own pantheon and all it entails, and the history of its origins and development and so on, at least to the extent of all the readings herein.
    Pantheism, as interpreted for archetypal/symbolic content, is summarised on back page 7, ‘Goddesses and Gods - understanding our pantheist concept of deity’, and explained more fully in W.P. 12 on the ‘News’ page of of our website. I suggest your students read these, because virtually all the definitions and variations widely available online and elsewhere only truly apply to beliefs based religious models of spirituality.
    Once they’ve assimilated all the readings as advised, your students will have a sufficiently broad overview of natural spirituality and Pagan traditions, including our neopagan perspective, to identify worthwhile and relevant sources as they begin to navigate their own path. The other W.P. essays on our website discuss many related topics in detail, which should help.
    Now let’s assume your original newcomers have worked through and assimilated all the suggested readings, and deserve something more lighthearted to consolidate their knowledge! You might have already played this with friends, making up responses humorous or otherwise, anticipating your next visit from doorstep fundamentalists - it’s a great imaginative exercise for your students to construct their answers, which they can also try out when real fundies call!
    Prepare your students with a useful first rule - avoid being drawn into arguments based on a knowledge of the Bible (Torah, Qur’an, etc.) because discussion would start within a beliefs based framework. Begin by posing a very likely question they’ll encounter from doorstep fundamentalists and others when Paganism is mentioned: “Do you believe in God?”
    The initial aim is to explain to the imaginary fundies the fact that beliefs based religion is not the only form of spirituality, then present a coherent picture of the difference between archetypal/symbolic and beliefs based content and all that implies. Encourage your students to imagine the likely responses from the fundamentalists’ perspective too, to further the discussion. Let’s imagine our first response to: “Do you believe in ‘God’?”
    “I know you’re sincere in asking me, but the question implies a couple of preconceptions we need to sort out first. Firstly, you’re assuming I follow a beliefs based model of spirituality (like your monotheist religion) and secondly, I expect you’re thinking of the monotheist concept of ‘God’!”
    They’ll probably fall back on presenting passages from the Bible, but don’t get drawn in! Those two preconceptions provide just the opportunity you need!
    “Let’s begin with the basic belief you share with all the other monotheist religions, and whether it’s rational and valid in terms of reality. That’s the idea of deity in the form of a lone, sentient entity with limitless abilities from ‘beyond’ our Universe, which it created, and has complete control over everything in it, to be ‘believed in’ as if factual reality.”     
    Doorstep fundies constantly try to think of immediate responses quoting biblical extracts, so ask them politely to concentrate without becoming distracted until you’ve completed a coherent picture for them to argue with!
    “To be accurate, the earliest ideas of deity developed during the neolithic revolution, and they originated as interrelated symbolic myths representing archetypal ideas, such as nature’s eternal regeneration, cycles of the seasons and so on, by the mythic interactions of idealised characters, the first concept of Goddesses and Gods in human history... ”  Continue in your own words!
    It’s a useful and often amusing exercise, always remain polite and respectful when debating with real fundamentalists of course, and try to present a truly coherent picture rather than engaging in argument.

The fourth essay of our introductory mini series for those advising newcomers:
W.P. 18: The content of natural spirituality relates to human experience, as distinct from objective reality.

   Regular readers will already have acquired the essential broad, integrated overview of natural spirituality and its Pagan traditions from all the introductory readings, as advised above. Building on this overview, this mini series has elaborated the most significant topics to encourage an integrated understanding, with suggestions for discussion or individual perusal, including practise debates with imagined ‘doorstep fundamentalists’.
    Once you’re familiar with this basic integrated overview from all the readings so far, you will understand how together they present a factual, albeit brief outline of the origins and divergent history of human spirituality, relevant whatever your individual path. They also explain pantheism as it applies to the archetypal/symbolic content of our traditions, and if you can explain the difference between deity and supernality, consider yourself reasonably familiar with this basic overview!
    Without this knowledge, although anyone interested in our traditions can find plentiful sources and varied versions of our myths, traditions, festivals and so on nowadays, there is hardly any clear advice on how to interpret our content. Most will only know the ‘faith in a set of beliefs’ model from the monotheist religions, and many already involved also have little, if any understanding of the topics you are now familiar with.
    The aim of this series is to ensure that newcomers are provided with at least this level of understanding from the start. That’s why I suggest readers motivated to do so act as advisors to help newcomers, and others, acquire the basic overview provided by all the readings so far. If you belong to a group or attend a moot, please consider referring to this series and all its attendant readings as part of a foundation package of easily accessible information relevant for both newcomers and those already involved.
    The rest of the series assumes you’ve followed and assimilated all the readings so far. (Advisors no longer needed!) You now know a model of spirituality that would have been broadly recognisable to many literate people from cosmopolitan classical Greece and Graeco-Roman times onwards, albeit informed by our more advanced scientific knowledge, social progress and humanitarian ideals. However, even in our times it can be difficult to shed the preconceptions of the beliefs-based religious model, so lets examine our own neopagan model and its rationale, by which we interpret the archetypal/symbolic content of our myths and the lore and ceremonies built around them.
    Natural spirituality is ultimately holistic, it expresses our spiritual bond with the rest of living nature and all else we are naturally part of. Nature in its widest sense refers to all that naturally exists, our world and cosmos including life and minds such as ours, all being one interrelated continuum of existence. The entire life experience of every human mind, including every transcendental spiritual experience, is also part of natural existence. However, it’s essential to differentiate between objective reality, all knowledge that can be modelled, quantified and verified by scientific investigation, and experiential reality, our human conscious experience of life, love, spirituality ‘et al’.      The basic factor that differentiates our model of spirituality from the beliefs-based religious model is the way we interpret the content of our traditions, including our concept of deity. (If you can’t recall the difference between deity and supernality, read again back page 7 herein, and W.P. 12 on our website.) Our classical Greek or Roman scholar would have known the difference, supernality (’theos’) means, in full, ‘those qualities and characteristics intrinsic to all that exists, which we relate to in a spiritual context by representing them as mythic personifications, pantheons of Goddesses and Gods.’
    To illustrate with the knowledge of our times, we know it has taken the natural qualities of our entire Universe to enable life and minds like ours, as a matter of objective reality. In a scientific context we refer to such qualities as the laws of nature.
    That however, as plain fact, doesn’t begin to describe our experiential reality, as sentient, cultural beings. We experience the flow of time, the seasons of the year, we learn about life, love and loss, the changes from infancy to adulthood and age, dreams and hopes, and all else it means to be human. Those earliest universal archetypal ideas of emergent human culture, cycles of time, seasonality, nature’s regeneration and so on are abstract ideas with complex and vast implications. In a spiritual context we can summarise these collectively as supernal qualities of reality as we experience it, a different concept from the laws of nature defined and verified by scientific investigation of objective reality.
    Why is this important? Because differentiating between supernality and deity means our Goddesses and Gods represent a framework of archetypal symbolism which we can relate to in experiential terms, instead of simplistically assuming they apply directly to objective reality as the beliefs-based religions do.
The content of our traditions, as natural spirituality has since its origins, expresses experiential reality. As such, it simply does not contradict objective knowledge such as overwhelming factual evidence for the Big Bang origin of our Universe, our evolution as part of living nature and so on, which are entirely in keeping with our natural spiritual ethos.

The fifth essay of this mini series for newcomers and those advising them can be read in the 2021 edition of 'Gwydion's Moon Diary' and will be added here in due course - followed by the 6th and final essay of the series, 'What is Spirituality' in the 2022 editon.

 A selection of other Words from the Path essays explaining many essential topics in detail:

W.P. 7:  As part of living nature, we have a unique ability.
Other creatures cannot choose how to live, we can.

  In previous W.P. essays, I’ve described the way we as Pagan folk see ourselves as part of the living world, a central theme in our approach to spirituality. It’s important to understand our pantheist definition of supernality as a quality integral to all that exists, and our concept of deities, the symbolic Goddesses and Gods of Pagan myth. (The little readings on back page 7 are useful if you’re new to these essays.) It’s essential to understand how these definitions differ from the versions and ‘model’ of spiritual concepts most people in Britain today unthinkingly adopt from monotheist ‘faith in a set of beliefs’ religion.
    I’ve also tried to encourage the awareness that true spirituality must be in harmony with the progress of wider human knowledge. In particular, to encourage a personal awareness that we are part of the whole continuum of all that exists, from the first moment of the ‘unfolding’ of time and space to this precious web of life upon which we depend.
    The simple truth that the dust of an earlier generation of stars, moulded by forces fundamental to existence, coalesced in such a way as to make a perfect home to engender life, has inescapable and profound spiritual implications. The underlying principles of our pantheist perspective enable us to see ever more clearly our relationship to the supernal whole, as humanity learns more of the story that led to our existence, and why our Earth is so perfect a home for our kind.
    All that being so, let’s just consider what we have, on this little planet floating through the vastness of space. We have energy! We have the Sun, whose warmth enabled tiny fragments of ancient stardust to replicate and led to this glory of green abundance and all the life it supports. We have great oceans fed by clear streams and mighty rivers, we have mountains and meadows, forests and plains, and a myriad of other creatures who share the same story. All that is needed to support us is here because we grew as part of the whole, and truly we could live in a paradise; all we have to do is care for it and for each other, for that is the responsibility we have as a ‘cultural’ species. That simple understanding is absolutely central to any meaningful human spirituality.
    Now let’s consider what humanity does with this potential paradise, and why. The human mind is the key, uniquely, we are a ‘cultural’ species, we interpret the world around us with a shared understanding of  archetypal ideas, abstract and symbolic constructs which form the mental building blocks of our shared reality, our greater ‘human culture’. With this ability to symbolise, accumulate and pass on knowledge, we built the world of human societies; we chose a destiny beyond that of our primate ancestors. Always keep in mind that all but a tiny recent portion of our human past was in the great playground and school of the palaeolithic world, that is where we learnt to be human, as part of the natural world around us.
    Now, we have probably reached the most crucial time in our entire history. Our global impact is devastating the living world around us, half the human population lives in helplessness and poverty, many live under the rule of warlords and tyranny, regional wars are fuelled by ‘my beliefs are best’ religions, and even in more fortunate societies economic structures keep many in situations of exploitation.
    Our world is thus not because anyone planned it this way, but because our global social and economic structures are the result of history, and the conditions that created them have changed drastically. Immense change is needed on a global scale, and it cannot be beyond the ingenuity of humanity to plan together to create the paradise this Earth offers. Our planet is alive with free energy! The Sun shines, the tides move vast tonnages of water, reafforestation and ecologically appropriate agriculture will provide if managed and planned globally, and we could create such a destiny so easily, but for the insular social and economic structures of our own making. In a world without war, the resources to enable such change would be available many times over.
    It is time for humanity to grow up. Taking the longest view of our history, we are faced with the necessity of taking real responsibility ‘en masse’ for the living planet we depend on, yet we still behave like immature, spoilt and selfish infants, taking anything we want right now, whilst ignoring the fact that we are interdependent with the greater whole for all we have.
    Part of the ethos of pantheist spirituality is that we create our own destiny, and that requires taking responsibility for our own actions, individually and together. Nowadays, we need to act as a global species. A green agenda fits naturally with Paganism; we have always recognised our role as interdependent with the living world.
    Such change requires a profound maturity of outlook. For instance, it is obvious that competitive market economics are inappropriate to dictate how we use the resources of our planet; they are a primary cause of the present crisis and need to be subject to control with the needs of the environment and all humanity as the primary factor. Such changes also have the potential for enormous conflict, and our survival depends on the inclusion and agreement of all to create a viable and kinder world. As part of living nature, we have one unique ability. Other creatures cannot choose how to live; we can. Choose wisely, humankind, or spirituality will be something you only glimpsed before your extinction.    
© 2008, Julian Gower. All rights reserved. (Magical sanctions also apply - no copying!)

  

 

W.P. 9:  Essential concepts for an accurate picture of Pagan spirituality -
Deity and the significance of mind - including yours!

     In Britain and similar societies most peoples’ ideas about spirituality are based on those given by monotheist religion, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These present a model of spirituality as an accumulation of required ‘beliefs’, often at odds with reality, the foundational belief being that all existence was brought about by a sentient ‘creator God’ from ‘beyond’ existence.
    This anthropomorphic concept of a sole creator God developed when a group of Bronze Age semitic tribes gradually elevated one of their local deities ‘Yahweh’ as their patron deity, first as one who particularly favoured them, later as the most important one, and eventually as the only one. In this way the ‘God’ they had devised acquired its characteristics and became the pivotal mythic figurehead around which monotheism developed, and added new implied meanings to the words God or Goddess that most people still unthinkingly assume when they use those terms.
    Before that, and across virtually all other societies, the idea of deity was very different. Spirituality arose as an integral part of early human cultures, when minds like ours first began to build a common understanding of the world around them. The concept of deity developed much later in neolithic cultures, but has its origins in the processes by which our uniquely (on this planet, at least) cultural consciousness developed during our hunter gatherer times.
    Before any coherent model of spirituality developed, observation and experience of life in the palaeolithic world brought about the basic mental building blocks of our shared cultural consciousness. These are the archetypal ideas of the human mind such as cycles of time, the solar year and the natural seasons, the lunar cycle, the universality of life, fertility, sexuality, death and renewal, and love and family, the nature of fire, water, and so on, common to the experience of all humanity. Such realisations would also have implied that on the vast scale all existence is essentially ‘interrelated and orderly’ rather than chaotic and incomprehensible. How, in their culture, can such abstract ideas and their implications be communicated and represented?
     In symbolic palaeolithic art, artifacts and burial customs, we can see such themes that were evidently the most important to those early cultures. Examples include those exquisite little ‘fertility’ statuettes from Eurasia before and since the last Ice Age, the Willendorf Venus and others, semi abstract but with exaggerated maternal womb, breasts and hips to denote the symbolic context. The symbolic nature of such objects is always deliberately denoted, the face is hardly, if at all expressed, left blank or replaced by abstract stipples, head and limbs are sometimes mere stumps; these objects are meant to express a profound abstract concept, not a personification.
    Deliberate foetal position burials and the widespread use of red ochre, ‘blood of the Earth’ indicate ideas of death and renewal. Cave art of the hunt with half animal, half human figures, or the speared horse about to die pictured entering a crack in the rock or half around an inaccessible corner are tellingly symbolic: "To live we must take the life of this creature, and death is a path all shall encounter eventually - in this way, we and they are as one.”
    By neolithic times such themes were expressed more systematically in great monuments of stone, wood and earth, denoting the celestial cycles of Sun, Moon and stars in ceremonial venues. By the Bronze Age, specific Goddesses and Gods represented themes of the relationship of humanity with the world around us in sacred myth, ceremony and custom, the great literary heritage of Pagan spirituality. The inside front cover of this diary illustrates one such pantheon of interrelated mythic deities, wherein nature’s annual seasonality is symbolised as the lives, relationships and renewal of Goddesses and Gods.
    Thus we can see that deities certainly did not begin as something to ‘believe in’ or causal explanations, but developed as a means of communicating the most significant, complex, often abstract concepts about the nature of reality and our interrelationship with the natural world. Properly informed Pagan spirituality is based on reality and the realisation that we are each part of the whole, our life-engendering Universe whose characteristics of complexity and order led to the evolution of our kind, and to the most complex thing we know exists, the self aware cultural mind. Without minds such as ours existence would have its ‘order’ such as laws of physics, but it would be meaningless. ‘Mind’ gives us independence of understanding, the ability to carve our own destiny and comprehend the reality we are part of. Uniquely, we can alter the course of events in a way neither inanimate physical processes nor other sentient living creatures can.
    All we have ever known about reality comes to us through our minds, they are the portal of our consciousness, and collectively, they create the picture of the world and the culture of our times that each of us knows, both ‘objective reality’ such as rationality and scientific understanding, and your ‘experiential reality’ such as the experience of love, your individual train of thought and so on. Reality is not as simple a concept as many unthinkingly assume, we can only ever know our minds’ interpretations of reality. Deities developed as a way of symbolising collective archetypal experience involving processes by which our minds first emerged. They provided a conceptual framework to enable experiences that cannot be described objectively, around which spiritual understanding and traditions first formed.
     In ways we humans always have, including deific commune in ritual and other techniques, we can glimpse beyond the constraints of normal perception, in moments of enlightenment when you truly know yourself as part of the whole, for collectively, the mind of humanity is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. What is mind? It is a portal to all you are part of, and if you truly want it to be so, to our ‘tweenlives Summerlands and beyond.
© 2010, Julian Gower. All rights reserved. (Magical sanctions also apply - no copying!)


W.P. 10:  Essential concepts for an accurate picture of Pagan spirituality -
Did the spiritual path we call Witchcraft only develop from the 19th Century onwards? 

Over the past few years, the statement that the tradition nowadays called Witchcraft, and various other Pagan traditions, are recent inventions is often taken as true by those with little or no understanding of the origins, continuation and development of the underlying concepts of our traditions. It is important that properly informed Pagan folk always correct simplistic assumptions such as this, by explaining the origins of the content, myths and the symbolism of our traditions and how they evolve over time.
    A good starting point is the annual celebrations of mainstream British Paganism, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, the seasonal Celtic Fire Festivals of pre-Christian Britain, and Yule, the Norse Renewal Festival marking the end and beginning of each solar year. (The ‘Earth Festivals’ & Witches’ Greater Sabbats.) Point out that the deities associated with each of these festivals are Goddesses and Gods whose myths are clearly recorded in translations of early British mythology, and similar annual cycles of myth, deity and ceremony symbolising the seasonality of the natural year were virtually universal amongst Eurasian peoples from times much earlier than that. This widely shared heritage also explains why contemporary British Paganism often includes mythic content and deities from similarly structured pre-classical and later Mediterranean and Eurasian traditions. In fact, the making of a High Priestess or Priest in modern Wicca employs the myth of the Descent of the Goddess, the earliest form of which is amongst the earliest recorded myths of ancient Mesopotamia (Inanna, Ishtar, etc.) having been used as enactment in initiation ceremonies since those times. Cultural variations, both across regions and over millennia, retained the enactment of commune with ‘between lives’ realms as part of initiations into both mystical and magical traditions.
    The origins of other symbolism used in contemporary Witchcraft will be familiar to anyone with some knowledge of classical Greece, Egypt, Rome and their predecessor cultures. The ceremonial implements of initiate Witches, the athame, wand, chalice and so on, and the symbolic use of salt and water, zodiacal symbolism and sigils from ancient alphabets may all be seen in artefacts, texts, illustrations and architectural decor from across the ancient world, along with many cultural embellishments and variations, all with the same underlying symbolic meanings. Similarly, the symbolic ‘elements’ of Earth, Air, Fire and Water (as surmised in ancient Greece by Empedocles) used to symbolise the manifestation of ‘all that exists’ in Wiccan ceremony have parallels in spiritual symbolism across the ancient world, again with cross-cultural additions and variations such as ‘spirit’ to represent sentient life with transcendent potential, or ‘wood’ to represent vegetative life and so on.
    When modern Witches cast a Circle in which to celebrate their rites (representing a globe containing their ritual space) again they are continuing a custom from across the ancient world, and pictures of ceremonies involving a circular ritual space and the significance of the idea of fertility date back through millennia, including a palaeolithic cave painting of a formally stylised circled group around a male wearing antlers and an exaggeratedly pregnant woman.
    All spiritual traditions (even dogmatic religions to some extent) evolve over time with cultural progress, otherwise they become increasingly irrelevant. Pagan spirituality is not dependent on a given ‘belief set’ because its symbolic content represents our relationship with the rest of living nature and the wider world, so its ethos adapts with increasing knowledge about the world we inhabit. This principle is central to all meaningful natural spirituality, and only those forms which degenerate into a fixed set of beliefs become dogmatic religions and end up struggling with an increasing reality gap between their fixed beliefs and real knowledge about, for instance, how our Universe began, the evolution of life including ourselves and so on. (That’s how the monotheist religions originated, from a group of semitic tribes who elevated one of their tribal deities (’El’ later ‘Yaweh’) as a sole ‘creator god’ and claimed that their mythologies were literal fact.)
    The prominence of the Sun and Moon as cultural symbols throughout the history of human spirituality continues with the complementary ‘lunar’ path of Witchcraft and ‘solar’ path of Druidism as major groupings within the wider spectrum of British Pagan spirituality. The full Moon rites of Witchcraft, Esbats, celebrate the archetypal Moon Goddess, whose many ‘aspects’ include Artemis, Diana, Aradia, and dozens more celebrated by lunar traditions throughout recorded history. Obviously, when the Moon Goddess was invoked, spells cast, or newcomers initiated on the full of the Moon in the  temples of Artemis or Diana in classical times, the rites would vary from those of Witchcraft today, but they certainly used much the same mythic symbolism, with the same intentions, and any experienced traditional Witch today would recognise the metaphysical parallels and their meanings. Obviously, during centuries of fundamentalist Christian paranoia, uneducated folk lost all but traces of many earlier established traditions (while scholars kept much intact) but to conclude that the path we now call Witchcraft only developed over the past couple of centuries is as absurd and distorted as claiming that Christianity only began when Henry VIII wanted a divorce.
© 2011, Julian Gower. All rights reserved. (Magical sanctions also apply - no copying!)


W.P. 12: Pantheism - For an accurate, religion-neutral explanation, you also need accurate,
religion-neutral definitions of associated ideas such as 'supernality'. 

Many who reject established Christianity and the other monotheist religions also dismiss Paganism assuming that, beyond the appeal of its relevance to the natural world, any form of spiritual involvement involves adopting ‘beliefs’ in some implausible concept of deity (or deities) and an equally woolly idea of transcendent realms, as distinct from a scientifically valid, rational view of reality. These assumptions are from the beliefs-based monotheist religions’ model of spirituality, which influences the way the concepts pantheism and panentheism are usually summarised as: Pantheism means ‘God is everything’, and panentheism means ‘God in everything’.
    We are all familiar with the monotheist model, that God, an (inconsistently quasi-personified) entity with limitless capabilities from ‘before, beyond and outside’ existence, created it and can observe and manipulate everything within it. Existence and God (their concept of deity) are separate things, but being omnipotent means ‘he’ is effectively a constant presence within it, thus monotheism is panentheist.
    However, to summarise pantheism as ‘God is everything’ (or ‘everything is God’) is far too simplistic for accuracy, a mistake due to the monotheist model being the only one known and often unthinkingly applied universally, even by academic writers from societies with a long established monotheist religious history. From other readings throughout this diary (and on our website) you will know that the deities, the mythic Goddesses and Gods of our traditions, symbolise living nature and all we are part of in ways we can identify with experientially in Paganism, according to the practices and techniques of one’s chosen path.
    Now think how this differs from the concept of deity in ‘beliefs-based’ monotheist religion, wherein the word ‘God’ is most certainly not to be regarded as symbolic but an actual entity along with ‘his’ scriptural instructions, to be taken as literal fact and history.
    Of course, there have also always been those who took the mythic Goddesses and Gods of Pagan traditions to be, to varying degrees factually ‘real’. Even the great pantheist religions such as Hinduism include many sects with a simplified ‘beliefs-based’ reinterpretation. but these forms have departed from their pantheist origins. (The tendency for originally symbolic content of traditions and religions to be misinterpreted as actual reality and history, which also describes the way all monotheist religion began, is specifically defined as ‘primary fundamentalism’.)
    Clearly, a religion-neutral explanation of pantheism requires something more exacting than ‘everything is God’. The defining characteristic of pantheism is that all existence is seen as interrelated. Accordingly, the connection between you/humanity/living nature, and the wider world and Universe is of ultimate significance, as a matter of reality and thus the foundation for spirituality.
    Essentially, the basic framework doesn’t actually imply the existence of deity in any form, and the ‘theism’ part of the word (coined in the 17th century) derives from Greek ‘theos’, and is almost universally translated nowadays as ‘of God’, exactly the mistake mentioned previously. In fact, the educated of classical Greece would regard this simplistic misinterpretation as ‘literalist religionism’, because theos more accurately refers to ‘all that is supernal’, so you need to understand the difference between supernality and deity!
    Think about the ultimately significant connection between you and all else that exists, the foundation of any truly relevant spiritual form. How do you express this in less abstract terms? Nowadays we know that the laws of physics and other scientific knowledge are an objective rationale of this relationship, but as living, culturally sentient beings, we also experience reality in ways that are not definable in purely objective terms. I know the cosmological and biological causes of nature’s seasonality, but my experience of it is the joy of Summer days, the sound of the wind, the seasonal changes of birdsong, the loveliness of the natural life around me and appreciating the metaphysical parallels of nature’s eternal renewal with the lives of my ancestors, descendants and soulmates, as part of my human experience. To be truly human, we are both objective and experiential in the ways we understand reality. Who could quantify your individual experience of love?
    Supernality simply means ‘that which is above/over’ in a spiritual context. For some just the objective laws of physics and so on are sufficient, and a growing ‘Scientific Pantheist’ movement celebrates our existence as part of living nature and the wider cosmos as their spiritual foundation, and for them objective knowledge alone takes this role. Paganism goes further, utilising our experiential potential in its spiritual form as you will understand from its origins (as previously referenced) and with all this in mind, we can now appreciate the more subtle way deity was understood before the mindset of dogmatic beliefs-based religion reduced it to something you simply ‘believed in’ or not!
    Briefly, supernality is an abstract concept expressing spiritual significance in reality as we understand and experience it, and can be regarded as an integral ‘quality’ of existence itself. Deity, our mythic pantheons of Goddesses and Gods are a cultural construct, by which we portray supernal characteristics in archetypal forms the human mind can identify with, communicate about, and according to one’s particular path, experience as part of one’s spiritual journey. How real are those experiences? On our path, as real as the experience of all the cultural content of every human mind, because experiential reality too is a consequence of existence itself.
© 2013, Julian Gower. All rights reserved. (Magical sanctions also apply - no copying!)

 

 

Useful Links
Contact other Pagan folk and organisations in Britain and beyond:

The Pagan Federation
http://www.paganfed.org/
A national organisation for Pagan folk throughout Britain, with regional branches - Excellent resource for contacts and so on, now with international branches and contacts:
Pagan Federation International - find your own national branch of the Federation here:
http://www.paganfederation.org/

There are many other online Pagan organisations as well of course, these are the best known.
N.B. Though I recommend the Pagan Federation as the best & biggest point of contact for Pagan folk in Britain, I would advise you that there are occasional mistakes that find their way into many online Pagan sites, such as mistakenly naming our Celtic Fire Festival of 'Lughnasadh', Lugh being the associated deity, as 'Lamas' (That's actually the old colloquial name for the Christian service of 'Loaf Mass', their harvest service!)
Pagans don't celebrate masses, in fact only the Catholic and Orthodox Christians celebrate masses, and masses specifically reject anything whatsoever to do with natural spirituality and Paganism - it is LUGHNASADH, not Lamas/Lammas! Don't forget Lugh, his Brythonic equivalent is Llew, and you can read his myths in the Mabinogion collection of Celtic mythology.
Another common mistake concerns the meaning of 'Imbolc', the name of the Celtic Fire Festival on 2nd of February. The word means 'in the womb' (gaelic), but a chance comment that it 'sounds like' a balkan language word for ewes' milk somehow found its way into a publication - a mistake now spreading in later books and sites!

Before the advent of the world wide web these two misconceptions didn't exist, so always be careful to check source material, the web is a wonderful resource for all humanity, but errors do get passed on and multiply...

    Therefore, I'd recommend you read (and refer newcomers to) the 'Words from the Path' essays above, and read any recent 'Gwydion's Moon Diary', including all the little articles and texts, then use what you have learnt to verify whether any information you study is valid or possibly mistaken - to acquire a proper picture sometimes means finding and comparing more original sources to build your own knowledge.

   Always remember, even the most sincere, dedicated folk can sometimes get things wrong, and it's important to correct such sources so mistakes don't get passed on to future generations. We all have this responsibility to pass on accurate information as sincere Pagan fol