Tag Archive: Shamanism


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.


Shamanism, Animism and Listening to the Land (The Conference)

Shamanism, Animism, and Listening to the Land is the theme for this years conference (coming up in a couple of months on the 19th October 2013 in the Harrington Building at UCLan in Preston)

We decided that this year would be “The Shamanic One” after watching the amount of shamanic practitioners in the north west grow and grow. It has been organized with Gordon MacLellan and Linda Sever, to whom we are very grateful. Some of the speakers you may not have heard of, but they offer a wealth of insight into our connection to the land, to the Otherworld, to the spirits of place, and to the divine. We have been lucky to get some foremost speakers on the Shamanism, including Northern European Shamanism, and the leading scholar Graham Harvey, as well as to offer talks/workshops on Druidry, Heathenry, magic and Witchcraft.

As usual we will have stalls, kids play area, cafe, and ritual, and this year we have listened to attendees and allowed more time to socialise and take refreshments. Tickets are available now at £15 members, £17 non members, or on the door on the day £18 members and £20 non members. Membership of the Pagan Federation is available on the day with discounted conference entry.

Gordon MacLellan is a well loved figure in British Paganism. Gordon will give an overview of what he thinks Shamanism is in the widest sense, and how it leads its people into a close bond with the land they live in. He will also let us into his personal story; talking about how he became a Shaman, the relationships with his shamanic “family”, the things they say and do, and how his spirituality feeds into his everyday work.

Graham Harvey is one of Britain’s foremost scholars of Paganism, and, while maintaining scholarly objectivity, has been a key figure in creating a body of research based scholarly literature that presents Pagan religion as a valid and vital part of modern spirituality. He is President of the British Association for the Study of Religion, and a Reader in Religious Studies at the Open University. He has published an astonishing amount of books, many that are really useful for pagan practitioners, ie Shamanism, A Reader and The Paganism Reader that gather many key texts in one place. At the conference he will share his fascinating insights into Animism. He has a huge body of work and love of hedgehogs and Terry Pratchett novels – so he’s sure to be a really interesting speaker.

Linda Sever is well known in the North West as a popular speaker at conferences, camps and events, and is the co-ordinator of the long running Wood Spirit camp. She is former documentary film maker at the BBC, now lecturing in film production at UCLan, and a respected Heathen. Her book on the Sacred Landscapes of Lancashire is highly rated by scholars and practitioners alike.

Jenny Blain is an anthropologist and writer, with a strong interest in shamanism and seidr. She is also a university lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, author of Sacred Site, Contested Rites/Rights, (J Blain and R J Wallis, 2007, Sussex Academic Press), exploring Pagan interactions with heritage landscapes, and co editor of Researching Paganisms, an academic book pioneering Pagan Studies. Her book on Seidr is a key text on Seid magic and the North European Pagan traditions and she writes a blog over at http://landscapeself.blogspot.com/.

Lorna Smithers is a poet and philosophy postgraduate living in Penwortham in Lancashire. Her practice as a Bard involves communing with the land, spirits of place and local and personal deities, and sharing inspiration in her communities locally and on-line. Her poem ‘Proud of Preston,’ an address to the city by Belisama, the goddess of the Ribble, won the Preston Guild Poetry Competition in 2012. Her work has been published in ‘The Dawntreader’, ‘Myths Inscribed’ and ‘Heroic Fantasy Quarterly’. She performs regularly in and around Preston as part of 4Poets.

Runic John is back by popular demand to do another workshop with his trusty drum. To really get a feel for Runic John it is probably best just to read some of his eloquent interviews to get a feeling of how his spirituality involves the natural world and shamanic trance and magic.




Susan Cross works with heritage and countryside sites in the UK and Ireland, helping people to share their stories and significances. She is also a poet, who sees herself as an animist mystic and endeavours to make that a more conscious , clear and brighter part of her life, She co –edited “The Wanton Green” with Gordon MacLellan, a book of contemporary Pagan writing on place, published by Mandrake Press. You can get a better idea of why Gordon invited her to co-edit, and why the PF is delighted to have her as speaker at the conference if you look at some of her writings.


http://susancrosstelltale.com/about/ http://enfolding.org/book-review-the-wanton-green

Tasha Chapman is the founder of Shared Earth, the North West’s main centre for courses, conferences and seminars on Witchcraft and Wicca. Shared Earth organises the very popular Pagan Con, an open ritual group and Pagan study days, and is well linked into the local community, having had the first ever Pagan Float in the Preston Guild last year. Tasha is a very experienced and knowledgeable speaker, she is a Wiccan High Priestess, and the founder of the Wood Spirit Camp.

Rufus Harrington was initiated into Alexandrian Wicca in his teens, where he discovered Enochian magic, and then spent years studying the original works of John Dee in the British library, and replicated the rituals. He is a consultant cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, which he sees as a calling due to his commitment to helping people as a priest and healer. He is also initiated into Gardnerian Wicca and worked in various magical orders and groups, but is always typecast as a ceremonial magician since he performs and explains the intricacies of ceremonial magic so well. Today is no exception, as he explores how ceremonial magic of all kinds is based in the magician’s connection to the living universe, and how the different systems provide maps and keys by which to link the human consciousness with the divine, and return in one piece. Rufus is a former vice president of the Pagan Federation, and a trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation. He has never found time to do a website, let alone write a blog or book, but he can be seen in other people’s clips over on Youtube.



Timetable for the Conference

Doors open 9.30, Welcoming words at 10.00.

Morning Sessions- Main Hall

10.15 Gordon MacLellan – Living Landscapes.

11.15 – 11.45 Coffee

11.45 Graham Harvey – Animism.

12.45 – 2.00 Lunch

Afternoon Sessions – Main Hall

2.00 Jenny Blain – Northern European Shamanism

3.00 – 3.30 See the stalls, meet your Regional Co-ordinator at the PF desk etc.

3.30 Rufus Harrington – The sacred universe in ceremonial magic

4.30 – 5.00 Tea

5.00 Gordon MacLellan and Susan Cross – Pre ritual gathering and workshop

Workshops – rooms TBA, numbers limited per room.

2.00 Tasha Chapman – Witchcraft.

3.30 Lorna Smithers – Shamanism and Questing Inspiration in the Bardic Tradition.

Second strand

2.00 Linda Sever – Connecting to the Local Landscape.

3.30 Runic John – Seidr

6.00 pm Closing Ritual – Gordon MacLellan and Friends.

Stall holders, please contact Robin at jackdore51@yahoo.co.uk for a stall that costs £25 with entrance for 2 people.

For those paying by cheque please send to BM Brigantia, London, WC1N 3XX, with your phone number and address, until two weeks before the event as we cannot guarantee postal service within the last weeks.


North-West Annual Conference – 19th October

This year’s conference is going to be themed around Shamanism and is subtitled; Shamanism, Animism and listening to the land.
It will take place Saturday 19th October in Preston at 10 am.
Talks and workshops will be provided by Gordon MacLellan, Graham Harvey, Linda Sever, Tasha Chapman, Runic John, Jenny Blain,
, Susan Cross, Lorna Smithers and Rufus Harrington.

Expect a ritual workshop, stalls, café and kids play area.

The closing rite is described as winter stories and cold winds and will be performed by Gordon the Toad and friends.

The tickets will cost £15 for members and £17 for non members in advance, on the door they will be £17 for members and £20 for non members. (Proof of membership ie. your membership card will be asked to be provided on the door).
For full details, and internet payments, see the eventbrite site.

If you’re interested in having a stall at this event, they will be £25 for the stall and two stall holders (any extra helpers will be asked to pay for tickets). Further details from Robin Dore (email jackdore51@yahoo.co.uk).


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!


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!