Devotion

I’ve noticed something recently that has got me thinking (again).

I know of two well known teachers from the Pagan community who have recently converted to the Catholic Church. I’ve also been reading on the internet how some are upset with the lack of spiritual depth they see within the Pagan community. Where does this come from?

There are many reasons to be a Pagan in this modern age, not least of which is the companionship we find when celebrating the seasons together. We are able to do this, to gather together from all traditions. So what happens when someone wants to go deeper, much deeper. What happens if a Pagan wants to utterly devote themselves to their God or Goddess? In Christianity its accepted. There are many layers of devotion, from the Sunday Church attendee to the Monk who has turned their backs on modern life, to live in constant service. If a Pagan is called to turn their backs on modern society and devote their lives to, say, Ceridwen, how might that work for them?

Of course they can do it alone, but that is very lonely – some kind of companionship with others of like mind helps feed the soul, and is supportive. How many Pagans would think that this person had actually lost it, and gone a little loopy? If a good number of us are Pagans because we don’t want dogma and forced religious belief, what happens when that religious belief calls us, and the community has no benchmark from which to address it? How much is ‘belief’ a part of modern Paganism?

I think that is why some find themselves becoming dissatisfied, why some yearn for that depth, and discover that it can be very hard to find. I think it is there, but it is viewed with a lot of suspicion. Do we as a community need to open up to the idea of devotion? What would you do if your Pagan friend suddenly had a revelation and felt the need to utterly devote themselves to their Gods? Would you be skeptical? Might you want to keep your distance from them until they ‘got over it’? Or would you encourage them?

Inquiring minds need to know…

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Tales from the Road – A chat with Jesus

This year I’ve got more concerts than ever before, and I thought it would be fun to bring a few tales from the road onto my blog.

This weekend just past I performed at the Pagan Federation Belenus festival in Brighton – the first Pagan conference in Sussex since 2000. It was split over two venues that were each about 3 minutes walk apart, a pub, and the Unitarian Church. Now even before the event began I wondered which venue would be favoured by the Pagans. Traditionally a pub would come before a church…

For an acoustic performance you cannot beat a church. It’s natural reverb adds an incredible depth to the overall sound, and if it is quiet, it can pick up the most subtle inflection of voice and instrument – like playing through the most expensive PA system, yet completely natural. No wonder they were built in this way so that Christians could honour their God with voice and music.

Although the overall attendance at the event was low, the concert was great fun.

There was one point when I began my introduction of the song Green and Grey when I became aware of one of the stained-glass windows. There he was, Jesus, looking down at me as he cared for the suffering children. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I have no problem with the Christian faith at all. I have a deep respect for the ancient Celtic church of Columcille, of Palagius, of those that seeked the message of peace behind the words of this figure who had caught my eye. So I offered him a respectful bow, and told him that this song is not an anti-Christian song, but a song that tells my Truth, reflecting how I feel some of his followers demonised my God, and that this tale also had to be told.

I’m pretty sure he understood.

Land, Sky and Sea

photo200-stninianscave.jpgThe ancient Celtic peoples seemed to have revered three elements instead of the usual four found in the Western Magical tradition – these being Land, Sky and Sea. I’m sure that fire would have featured somewhere because we know that they also revered the Sun. But here’s a song that speaks of the Wild Places, and my connection to them.

The inspiration for this song came when me and my partner, Cerri, traveled to Dumfries and Galloway to do the Wickerman trail. We had a book that showed the locations used in the original film (not the remake!) and set off to find them. We found the Green Man pub where they filmed Gently Johnny and Willow’s Song, the ruined church, I almost cried when we found the remaining stumps of the burned Wickerman, still on that cliff edge over 30 years later! But is was the cave from which Rowan Morrison is revealed that was the real inspiration for this song.

It is called St Ninian’s Cave, and it’s a long walk from the car park. Through a beautiful Glen and down to the sea. It is said that St Ninian used to walk this very path down to the shore where he simply sat in this cave and listened to the sound of the sea. He said that here he felt closer to God, that he could hear his voice in the sounds of the waves. When we got to the beach I began to understand why.

There are certain places on this Earth where one can feel the presence of the Gods, and this is one of them. I thought about St Ninian, a simple man, searching for a spiritual connection, just like many Pagans. And I sat and listened for the voice, and it was there. It is said that all paths leads to the same Great Centre, and it mattered not to me that he heard this voice as his God, whilst to me it was the voice of the Spirit of Place, it in some way touched us both, and it was beautiful.

I have a great respect for some of those early Christians. The search for God/Great Spirit/Goddess in solitude and peace is something most Pagans can also relate to. I feel I am also on that quest.

Land, Sky and Sea
(Damh the Bard)

You are the rock, and you are the stone,
Rivers your blood, mountains your bone.
You are the Source, of all I’ll ever know,
Forever my Mother, forever my home.


(Chorus)
Oh this town is so cold,
Neon magicians they offer the fools their gold.
For there is somewhere I’d rather be,
In your wild places with the Land and the Sky and the Sea


Every step, follows those gone before,
Mystics and Saints, down to the shore,
Echoing waves, and the curlew’s cry,
I call out your name, I hear your reply.


Cynical thoughts, and lies that distort,
All that is true, all that is true,
They disappear, when I feel that you’re near,
When I’m with you, when I’m with you.

Paganism and Holyness

I’ve been watching an incredible program on the BBC called Extreme Pilgrim. It’s a documentary about a Christian Vicar who spends about a month with devotees of three major religions to try and experience their way of connecting with God. Last week he was with Buddhist Monks who connected with the devine through Kung Fu, and this week he spent a month learning the ways of the Saddhu, the mystic Hindu holy men.

What struck me was the way in which religion was a part of everyday life in India. The passion of their beliefs really came across in the program. When he arrived in a small mountain village to spend time meditating in a nearby cave, the villagers gave him gifts and food – they treated him as a special holy man, someone with honour. They believed that his presence would bring good fortune to the village. And he pondered that only a few centuries ago, he, as a Christian priest might well have been offered the same within villages in Britain, before our society became so secular.

It got me wondering about Paganism, and Holyness. How would local Pagans react if, say, a Wiccan Priest set up camp in the woods near Wilmington, living simply, with daily meditations – spending time with the land, connecting with the Spirits of Place. Would they visit him with gifts, and honour his Journey? Or would they view his actions with suspicion, thinking that somehow he was being ego-driven, and wanted to ‘be someone important’. I’m sure some would see the honesty in his personal Path, but sadly, because of some of the posts I’ve read on some Pagan message boards, I think many would also respond with the latter.

What does this say of the way some Pagans value their our own spiritual path? If someone is naturally inclined to view a spiritual practice with suspicion, where is the foundation of their own beliefs? I would love to live in a place and time where this kind of practice was encouraged, not viewed with cynicism, wouldn’t you?