Tag Archive: Pagans

Apr
10

Handfasting Time Again

It seems like you open your eyes and suddenly it’s April and people are getting handfasted again. We have a fairly good guide to getting handfasted for people to have a look at.

It covers the preparation necessary, the sort of things you need to ask your officiant and what sort of thing to bear in mind when you come to budgeting.

It also covers the idea that you should have a good relationship with your celebrant, remember this is an important day for you emotionally – so try to remember that everyone present should be adding to the positivity of your experience.

Apr
10

Wolfstone 2016

Wolfstone Camp, a long established camp in the north west, will this year be held on the outskirts of Blackpool – but a change of venue doesn’t mean a change in the sheer awesome that is Wolfstone! It is being organised by the Hare & Moon Coven and will benefit from being close to their regular stomping ground.

In addition to the usual workshops there will be a fire labyrinth, entertainment, activities for children, a communal fire and welcoming rituals. Stalls will be confirming their presence in the coming months.

Wolfstone will be held between the 15th and 17th of July 2016, campers can come for one, two or all three nights. It will cost £35 per person with under 15s getting in free. If you want to get in early to book your pitch or ask for details of the venue then contact Margaret Silvermoon on facebook or by calling 07786282069. (Contact details are on the Events page which will update as we get further details of the event).

More updates will follow with exactly what Wolfstone will offer this year but needless to say in such beautiful surroundings with the sound of the sea wafting over you, it will be another pagan camp to remember.

Apr
20

How To Get Handfasted

It’s that time of year again. We know about it in the north-west because this is the time of year when our mailboxes are over-flowing with handfasting requests, some of them are better than others…

So here it is, a bit of advice for how to get handfasted and how to get it done right!

    Preparation

First of all, think about what sort of pagan path you’re on and how you want your handfasting to reflect that. If you’re both Heathen then maybe a Wiccan celebrant won’t provide the sort of ceremony that you’re looking for!

In the north-west Janet Budd co-ordinates the celebrants, if you’re looking for a ceremony that is Druidic, Heathen, Shamanic, Wiccan or something completely different then if you give her enough time she can probably find the right celebrant for you.
This brings me to the phrase ‘enough time’, if you want to get handfasted tomorrow then that’s great but we probably won’t be able to all jump to attention and come and do it with you! The more time you allow to get to know your celebrant, to discuss what you want with them the more likely it is to happen the way you imagine.

Most celebrants are very serious about their relationship with their god/s and/or spirits, they will probably want to talk to you about why you want a handfasting and what your relationship with your spirituality is. You can use this conversation to work out if their path is compatible with yours – remember this is your handfasting and they are there to facilitate that.

If you want the handfasting to take place in a particular venue then you are going to be responsible for booking that venue. A lot of popular pagan sites aren’t bookable as they are public spaces such as stone circles and the like – is it going to bother you if your handfasting has a whole bunch of tourists taking pictures in the background? (More about this when we get to the legal stuff later).

    Forever or For A Year And A Day?

It’s common in many pagan paths for the handfasting vows to be first taken for a year and a day and at a later date for longer. This can be seen as being similar to an engagement – this is often a useful analogy for any family members who are not Pagan who you would like to attend. In regards to celebrants then you might like to consider whether you would like the same person performing both ceremonies (if you intend to have two – one for a year and a day and the second for life).

The duration you are promising to commit to each other for will need to be reflected in your promises and may need to be reflected in any vows or promises you are having your witnesses make.

A handfasting for a year and a day is not reflected in any British law so you don’t need to worry so much about the legal stuff as you may need to do when you’re promising for life. However, some celebrants may not follow the paths you do or may not participate in year and a day handfastings – remember to ask them if this is the case BEFORE your big day!

Discuss what vows you intend to make, if you’d like to jump over besoms, tie each other up with string or have other people involved in the ceremony itself before the big day. Your celebrant may be happy to play around with the format of a handfasting which they are used to or they may be expecting to stick rigidly to a set ritual which forms a part of their tradition. You need to know what you want and if this coincides with what they want.

    Legal Stuff

If you are getting married in Scotland be aware that Scottish Marriage Law is different to Marriage Law in England and Wales. The main difference is that there are Pagan Celebrants in Scotland who can perform legal religious marriages – this is not the case in England (see below).
If you want to get handfasted in Scotland then you need to get in touch with the Scottish Pagan Federation, you can contact their Celebrants Register Co-ordinator at medionemeton@blueyonder.co.uk. Unfortunately because the celebrants in Scotland are only licensed to perform legal religious ceremonies they can’t perform legal civil partnerships though this may change in the future, more information is available here.

But if you want to get married in the north west of England different law means that the religious part of your handfasting needs to be conducted separately from the civil part (ie. the marriage registration).

Some Pagans choose not to have their marriage recognised by the state which, although it is the simplest option, may leave you with legal problems later on as the state counts your life partner only as a cohabitant.

Some Pagans choose to have their religious ceremony entirely separately and head down to their local registry office at some point before or afterwards. (This is the case if you want to be handfasted at a particular sacred site or stone circle as these places are usually not recognised by English law as places where a wedding can be reigstered.) This must be worked out with the registry office in advance though they do not need to know about your handfasting plans, similarly your Pagan celebrant may like to be kept informed about what you’re doing with registering your marriage but there is no need to give them the specifics.
The registry office will need to see certain documents as proofs of identity and they will need to record your intent to register as married 15 days in advance. This will cost £45 and a copy of the certificate will cost a further £4. More information on this is available on the government website.

The third option is the one that requires quite a bit of planning and often a bit of money. There are some places which are approved for civil wedding ceremonies. You can find a list here. You can also find out which registrars the places use by contacting or visiting them. Different registrars are comfortable with different levels of how separate the two ceremonies (the religious and the civil) actually are. You will definitely need two separate locations within the venue and some registrars may insist on two separate days – if it’s a hotel then it may be doable for you to get married by a Pagan Celebrant, stay over and have this registered for the state the next morning. It may be an option to rent out whichever room is commonly used for marriages, have you and your partner sign everything with witnesses (which can often be provided by the venue), before heading out into the garden/below the marquee to have the actual handfasting performed.
In order to do it this way though EVERYONE (you, the registrar, the venue, the celebrant) needs to be happy with the plans beforehand and know what is expected. Obviously you don’t need to invite your guests to the registration of marriage and though it is usually common for the witnesses to be people who are involved with the religious ceremony.
This can be used as a useful way of getting family members who are not pagan involved in the day itself by having them witness the civil part of the ceremony.

    Your Relationship With Your Celebrant

Some of the celebrants that Janet (or Google) can put you in touch with won’t charge you for performing a handfasting (depending on where they live they may ask for a contribution to travel costs), some will as that is how they make their living. You need to decide what you feel is fair (and what you can afford), some celebrants may refuse to accept payment as they view celebrations as part of their spiritual path – you can always offer to donate a sum to a charity they suggest or invite them to the wedding feast if you’re having one.
Remember that in order to get to know you and help you decide how you want your handfasting to be performed they are drawing on their years of experience and spirituality.

Be friendly, though you should expect a certain level of knowledgeability and understanding your celebrant is less likely to want to work with you if you go in with a demanding attitude.

It will help your relationship if your celebrant is on a similar path to you or is used to performing handfastings which are in alignment with what you want. If you don’t know what you want then most celebrants are happy to suggest things. Remember to communicate honestly about what you’re looking for and expect them to do the same.

Once all the prep is out of the way – have a really good day!

Sep
26

Wolfstone Camp 2013

Silverdale is a beautiful campsite, and it is now being used by pagan camps in the north-west. Wolfstone Camp is one such camp and includes workshops, talks and rituals.

Wolfstone will be between the 11th and 13th of July 2014, campers can come for one, two or all three nights. If you want to get in early to book your pitch then contact Margaret Silvermoon on facebook or by calling 07786282069. (Contact details are on the Events page which will update as we get further details of the event).

More updates will follow with exactly what Wolfstone will offer next year but needless to say in such beautiful surroundings with the sound of the sea wafting gently through the trees, it will be another pagan camp to remember.

Sep
25

What Is Paganism? Some Thoughts

It can be said that modern paganism has its roots in the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe but that it has evolved and adapted to the circumstances of modern life. It couldn’t be proved exactly what those roots are and I can hear all the strict reconstructionists drawing sharp breaths.
Different Pagans tend to mean different things when they describe Paganism as having it’s roots in pre-Christian religions. There are a hard-core few who steadfastly cling to the idea that they are following a path that has been handed down directly for the past thousand years. Most however, admit that oral traditions allow for variation and that proving that direct line is not possible.
Some are re-constructionists, keeping up with academic and archaelogical thought as to how best to reconstruct the paths of their ancestors.
Others still see the links are being of a poetic nature, not a direct or reconstructed route of ceremonies and rituals but a connection that is of the same feeling and spiritual meaning.

The re-emergence of Paganism in the U.K. parallels that observed in other Western countries, where it has been growing rapidly since the 1950’s. The 1950s in the U.K. were certainly important when it came to the emergence of Wicca and Druidry (which were the two religions that provided the initial impetus to the Pagan movement) however you can trace the interest in things Pagan since the end of the 19th century and the movement to gather folklore. The interest that many at the end of the 19th century had in the occult can be regarded as problematic by those Pagans involved in the struggle to have this path taken seriously, but it gave a context within which people could find themselves discovering what today might be recognised as Pagan or New Age paths.
According to the 2001 Census, Paganism is now the seventh largest religion in the United Kingdom (HMSO, 2003). We’re awaiting the latest data of course but given the PaganDash movement to make sure Druids, Wiccans, Heathens et al all had themselves counted under the Pagan banner it seems likely that this will be confirmed.

Paganism is a religion of diversity. Pagans understand the Divine to be manifest within Nature and recognise divinity as taking many forms, often finding expression in Goddesses, Gods, Landwights and other types of Spirit or Energy. There are many paths and traditions within Paganism, though it’s often useful to describe them to people outside of Paganism as being like the “denominations” of other faiths this can actually be quite misleading. After all, with our variety of paths, some worshipping different Goddesses and Gods from utterly different pantheons, some devoted to one particular deity or group of deities, some worshipping Nature or the Life Force and others having a more atheist bent – seeing gods as being part of the poetry of nature, there sometimes seem to be more differences in our paths than similarities.

One of the differences that is sometimes seen as being key between Paganism and the more mainstream UK faiths (based around the Abrahamic religions) is that Goddesses are worshipped and often held to be of particular importance within certain paths (for example Dianic Wicca, named for the Goddess given particular veneration). There are varying reasons which draw people to Paganism and the Goddesses have definitely drawn certain kinds of feminist to the fold. As a result amongst particular groups the feminism and female mysticism which can be found within Paganism is given a great deal of prominence. This is not to disregard other paths found within Paganism which have a dualistic equality to them.

The point I’m trying to make about Paganism is it encompasses a lot of paths; some are formally structured, with membership, initiation and ordination, others are informal and spontaneous, though no less effective in bringing spiritual contact and attunement. Over the years in which Paganism has been a public movement different parts of the whole have been emphasised depending on the media, the people involved and what was important at the time.

Within modern Paganism there are those who are content to define themselves as Pagans, whereas others identify themselves with a specific path within Paganism such as Druidry, Heathenry, Asatru, Wicca, Shamanism, worship of Isis, Witchcraft or Women’s Traditions. Some who claim those particular paths no longer wish to identify as Pagan because of poor experiences or a desire to distance themselves from the Pagan Movement as a whole.

Most pagans see nature as sacred and understand the natural cycles of birth, growth and death observed in the world around us as carrying profoundly spiritual meanings. This is especially evident in the religion of Wicca, which has at it’s centre a cycle of religious festivals known as The Wheel of the Year. Wicca was an especially prominent path during the 20th century rebirth of Paganism on the public conciousness.
In Wicca human beings are seen as part of nature, woven into the great web of life along with other animals, trees, stones, plants and everything else that is of this Earth. This is a common thread held in many pagan paths and many people see it as a key way to define and connect all Pagans.

Paganism includes many Nature-venerating paths and modern Pagans are often at the forefront of ecoawareness. If you see human beings, with their powers of mind and spirit, as a part of Nature then it is not so great a leap to feel a great responsibility for maintaining the balance of the natural world. Local deities and the “spirits of place” (sometimes known as landwights) are traditionally respected in Paganism, a part of fostering good relations with these wights is often maintainence of the land in which they live.

People come to Paganism in a variety of ways. Some come to it through reading the myths of our ancestors. Some through experiencing a sense of the “Divine in Nature” – a feeling that spiritual forces are in the trees, forests, fields and hills. Others arrive at a Pagan outlook through an awareness that their inner response to the divine is through Pagan deities.

As a religion which expresses diversity and has undergone many changes in its long history, Paganism respects all religious paths as manifestations of the human urge to spirituality. Pagans take it for granted that different people will experience the divine in different ways, and are thus very tolerant of other religious beliefs.

Sep
21

The Pagan Float at the Preston Guild

On the 7th September this year Preston Guild had it’s Community Procession as it has done every twenty years since 1179. Shared Earth, a Preston-based pagan community group had the first ever Pagan float in the procession. The letter from the Guild Mayor to those who took part in the procession really does seem to cement pagans into the local community of the 21st century.

“14/9/2012

Dear Shared Earth,

To all participants in the Community Procession I would like to express my thanks for putting on such a wonderful show. Preston Guild is about showing what makes Preston great and that is exactly what you did, you highlighted our diversity of not only culture but of interests. All backgrounds and pastimes were represented by some 8,500 people and 80 vehicles.

The Guild is also about new beginnings and leaving a lasting impression on the people of Preston, I hope that the Community Procession has done just that. We have seen groups working together for the first time, helping to build new bonds that I hope can be built upon in the future. We have seen entire schools walk in the Procession leaving them with what I hope will be memories that will live on until 2032.

What I have seen during Guild week has been amazing, the level of participation and interaction by the People of Preston has been astounding. People have really entered into the Guild spirit and gotten involved when and where ever possible, the Community Procession is a perfect example of this with crowds estimated to be in the region of 35,000.

So once again please accept my thanks for helping make the Guild of 2012 such a huge success.

Kind Regards
The Guild Mayor of Preston”

On the whole Shared Earth had a great reception from people and there was great camaraderie between all the groups taking part.
Karen Higham, one of the organisers really appreciated the great help from other groups of pagans and is sure everyone involved had a great day. If you want to see what an amazing day it really was then check out the Youtube videos!

Also excitingly those involved are getting Guild medals in October so keep an eye on the Shared Earth facebook group as there will be a bit of a get together then to give them out. Making the float, getting everyone and everything organised was very hard work for the core group of people involved but well worth it. Shared Earth thank everyone who came on the day, rode on the float, made things, donated money and stapled things to the truck and especial thanks to Smalley Plant Hire for free loan of a truck.

Let’s hope that in 2032 there will be another Pagan float and even more involvement from a pagan community even more embedded within Preston and the North-West as a whole.

Written by Karen Higham and Mish Liddle

Sep
20

The Mercian Gathering

The Mercian Gathering is, lets face it, famous when it comes to the sort of north-west pagans who find their paganism in muddy fields. The sort of pagans who are not only out of doors but also doing as much swigging of mead around a campfire as they are singing-alongs in the gathering darkness.

(Not that I’m saying this is the only face of paganism but its definitely a very solid facet of this multi-faceted religion of ours. The Mercian Gathering pretty much exemplifies it.) As an ex-Girl Guide I’m a natural camper but I haven’t always been a natural Pagan Camper. My religious practice tends towards the more meditative and pathworking side of things. Outdoors yes but outdoors when a slightly drunken tune is meandering it’s way through telling me exactly what the landlord’s daughter does… not so able to achieve that zen-like state that marks my practice.

I’m one of those who started out Pagan with no one around me so the eclectic solitary path beckoned. Though that’s a fine and fantastic path to follow once I’d found some pagans it’s taken quite a twisty and turny path to work out how to practice with other people! Moots have been a good starting point, discussing my thoughts and practices with others has been lovely. Camps have been something that I had to work with but they have provided that much needed feel of community, of camaraderie that the solitary path, with all it’s books, hints at but cannot provide.

Camps like The Mercian, which survives on volunteers, really do provide a context within which working together as a religious community becomes a living, breathing part of your practice. It becomes real, a way of not only stepping outside of the solitary pathworkings that you may have begun with but also of understanding how to integrate your religious, spiritual self with the very real world of people around you. It’s not only about coming together to practice, but also knowing that that coming together has been made possible by those others around you.

Unfortunately The Mercian Gathering is down on volunteers for next year. I reccomend volunteering, finding a part of your pagan practice that is about reaching out as well as discovering your spiritual self within. (The new volunteer form is here.) Sure it’s not for everyone but when you’ve taken your spiritual steps as a Pagan then I think you have to find something (appropriate to you of course) to ground them in the physical, and for me sometimes it’s important that the physical mean the Pagan Community.

Sep
14

Venues for Moots

This entry is inspired by the fact that the Blackpool Moot are currently homeless (if you do know of an appropriate venue for them to hold their moot at then please get in touch with them via facebook or phone Ali on 07917728985).

Moots are all different; some are about hanging out with other pagans and having a natter – they tend to be pub moots.
The fact that they’re pub moots is as welcoming to one person as it is excluding of another. Some pagans, particularly Heathens set a fair amount of store by drinking and getting that type of boistrously drunk that can be hilarious if you’re a part of the group doing it but intimidating if you’re not.
But not all pagan pub moots are like that, it depends on the pub you select, if it has a function room or a separate area. If it has a separate area, up some stairs or round a corner, (or if it’s warm and sunny a private beer garden) then you tend to get a group of philosophical sorts gently discussing over a pint or two and nobody really notices the non-drinkers (though the loud boistrous types in the corner do tend to get noticed). Once this type of moot has become established you tend to get people showing up with *things*, a pack of tarot cards they’ve just bought, clay icons recently fired as part of a magical working, books that they just don’t have room for anymore free to a good home…(ok so that’s only happened once to me but it was memorable!)

A pub moot that takes place in a function room isn’t really, to my mind, a pub moot. Pub moots imply a certain level of heading to the bar and back whether that be to get the next round in or to take time to ponder over what you really think about what the last person said about the nature of Divinity.
Function rooms allow for speakers, workshops and actual magical/ritual practice in a way that even the most private of beer gardens usually don’t. (Usually. Especially if the participants have ritual robes. Especially if the participants really don’t have ritual robes.)
An active moot seems to me to be the most difficult sort to run, if you’re running a pub moot all you need to do is set a time and a place and provide a convivial atmosphere that encourages people to come back. If you’re trying to get everyone together to listen to speakers then do you charge? Is it a members only thing or do you try and attract people from the surrounding area? Do you charge them more? Who decides on what speakers to invite?
There’s another level of organisation there that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Most moots seem to revert to being half and half, some even move their venue from month to month so that different people find it easy to come along and the atmosphere changes to fit the idea behind that particular meeting. Half and half seems to me to be the most appealing to run, you can have a gentle pub moot one month and discuss over a drink who your regulars want to see come and talk or run a workshop the next.
Of course workshops and working rituals together really are the next stage of complexity. Workshops imply a level of shared practice, rituals and celebrating festivals imply actively practicing together. Of course if your whole moot is mostly Wiccan or mostly Heathen then that’s more than possible. Working out how to practice together when you’re a complex mix of Druids, Electics, Initiated Wiccans, Heathens and Chaos Magicians (because who doesn’t have a moot with Chaos Magicians in it) then that makes for a fascinating preparatory discussion or three but actually putting something together takes a great deal of willpower and flexibility both on the part of the organiser and the participants.

There is, of course, a lot of shared practice between different Pagans, workshops based around techniques seem particularly doable as something used for one purpose by a Reconstructionist Khemetic can be taken and adapted by an Eclectic Pagan, sometimes that even works the other way around!
It’s always as well to remember that not everything is the same across all paths, Heathens don’t usually follow the wheel of the year, doing things inside a magic circle is a mainly Wiccan practice and if you want to know what tree month it is don’t assume your Druids have them memorised. Learning those things have been part of the best reasons to join in with a really eclectic group of Pagans and dare to work together though. It takes a level of acceptance, understanding and flexibility but even though it can be much more difficult than simply sitting and talking over a pint it can be much more rewarding as well.

Whatever the aim or desire behind putting together a moot it really is the venue that sets the tone. Finding the right pub, the right function room isn’t to be sneezed at and it’s not just about finding tolerant or pagan landlords, it’s about the atmosphere.

Mish Liddle

With thanks to Blackpool Pagan Moot, Carlisle Pagan Moot, Lancaster University Pagan Society, Lune Pagans Moot, Morecambe Moot and everyone else who has let me come along and join in.

Mar
03

Wolfstone Camp

So in the wilds of Silverdale there is a beautiful camp site backing out onto the breaking waves of the sea, a stone circle in a glad with wild garlic growing beneath the trees…

And between the 18th and 20th of May this year there will be the Wolfstone Camp taking place there. It’s been run for many years by Maggie Silvermoon and it’s a great place to gather and get together with other pagans in the region. There will be workshops, group rituals and time spent in a beautiful place as pagans.

If you’d like to book a spot for your tent or find out more then call Maggie or Sue on 01253 348474.