40 Hour Famine

July 31, 2011 at 5:26 pm (Causes, News and updates) (, , , , )

I’m doing the World Vision 40 Hour Famine again this year, from Friday night August 19 to Sunday afternoon the 21st, and I’m very grateful to all those who have sponsored me so far. Even a few dollars will make a huge difference in a small, hungry child’s life – and so many people have been so generous this year.

The 40 Hour Famine is one of Australia’s biggest community awareness & youth fundraising events. It is a powerful – and meaningful – way that Australians can experience what life is like for children who have to go without. Every. Single. Day. By giving up food (or something else that really matters to you) for 40 hours, you can raise funds for kids living in poverty overseas.

And you can make a massive difference: $40 can feed a family of five for a month.

World Vision Australia started the 40 Hour Famine in 1975, to raise money to help children, their families and communities in desperate need. (I’ve been doing it since the mid-eighties, when I was at school, around twenty-five times now…)

Thirty-six years on, the 40 Hour Famine is bigger than ever. Each year around 300,000 Australians take part. The funds raised every year by the 40 Hour Famine continue to support World Vision’s work tackling the causes of poverty, through both short-term solutions and long-term development projects.

This really does make a difference – I’ve met the child I sponsor in Peru, so I know how dramatically even the smallest amount of money can help people in developing countries. My profile page is here, if anyone wants to check it out 🙂

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Magical Rituals in Brasil

July 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm (Magic, Magical Places, Sacred Sites) (, , , , )

Magical Rituals in Brasil

Written for Spheres magazine

Brasil is the fifth biggest country in the world, covering a large chunk of South America, and an ancient, primal form of spirituality still thrives there.

When most people think of Brasil, they picture colourful Mardi Gras parades and gorgeous girls in g-strings on endless stretches of golden sand, exotic cocktails, all night carnivals and sexy, steamy dances. It does have all that, but it’s also a country of deep spirituality. It’s the largest Catholic nation in the world, after the Portuguese colonised it in 1500 and forced their religion on the inhabitants, and the famous Christ the Redeemer statue towers over the beautiful city of Rio as a symbol of Brasilian Christianity.
It is also a place of mystical beliefs, traditional rituals and goddess worship. In the lush jungles, shamans continue their ancient practices and reverence for nature. People flock to the village of Sao Thome das Letras, located on a bed of quartz rock in the mountains and famous for the number of UFO sightings, to communicate with aliens. Near the political centre of Brasilia, in a compound built near a sacred waterfall, Saint John of God performs miracle healings, pulling tumours out of people with his bare hands.
And in the state of Bahia, in north-east Brasil, the mysterious practice of Candomble flourishes. It’s a spiritual tradition based on primal African rituals, the animistic beliefs of the Amerindian people native to this land, and the worship of orixas (pronounced orishas), a pantheon of deities with qualities not unlike the pagan gods and goddesses. Some of the primary ones include Exu, the god of fire and crossroads; Ogun, the divinity of war and agriculture; Ossaim, who rules healing and herbs; Oxala, father of the orixas and god of creation; and Iemanja, mother of the orixas and goddess of the sea and childbirth.
Candomble was brought to Brasil by African slaves, but like voodoo in New Orleans, it has absorbed elements of Catholicism because it had to hide its deities within the saints of the enforced religion, and entwined with local practices to create a unique form of worship. It incorporates healing, herbal lore, offerings and trance communication with the deities, and is now practised throughout South America and in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Candomble’s centre is in Salvador, the capital of Bahia and one of the oldest cities in the New World. More than 80 per cent of the population has Black African ancestry, and it is a vibrant, artistic, sun-drenched town, recognised as the centre of Afro-Brasilian culture.
Salvador is split dramatically by an escarpment that divides it in two, with the Cidade Alta (upper town) located 85 metres above the Cidade Baixa (lower town). They are linked by the Lacerda, which was built in 1873 and was Brasil’s first elevator. The lower town is the industrial section, with the commercial and residential areas up above. I stayed for a week in Salvador’s historic Pelhourino district, an area of cobbled streets renowned as a cultural melting pot of music, museums, colourful colonial architecture and historical monuments. Its pretty town squares are alive with sound, heat and light, with sparkling fountains, women in traditional costumes selling artwork, young children in bright clothes trying to tie ribbons around your wrist (for a fee!), and demonstrations of capoeira, the Afro-Brasilian dance form that merges martial arts, music, history and warfare.
At night the area comes alive, with bands playing, people eating late in outdoor cafes, aromatic corner stalls dishing up traditional delicacies, snatches of Natalie Imbruglia songs mingling with traditional music, kids running around with fairy floss and the rich scent of dende (palm) oil in the clear night air. It’s amazing to walk amongst it all – the vitality and energy is infectious, and every night there seems to be an outdoor party or street carnival.
If you tire of wandering around the fascinating streets, peering into old churches – there are 365 in Salvador – and sampling the traditional foods, there are lots of other activities, from learning to salsa dance and Portuguese language classes to gemstone tours with crystal experts. One day I got up at dawn to drive north to the Tamar Turtle Sanctuary, on one of the beaches Mick Jagger and his friends famously cavorted on in the 60s, where the habitat is protected so these beautiful creatures can come ashore to feed and lay eggs in safety. Tamar is shortened from Tartaruga Marinha, Portuguese for sea turtles, and the project combines research, scientific and technical knowledge with practical breeding programs and community awareness. It’s open to the public, so you can pop by and see the turtles up close and personal.
Another day I sailed around the islands in Salvador’s bay, serenaded by three musicians playing traditional music. We docked at one island to swim in the crystal clear coves and admire the goddess sculptures along the sea front, then at Ilha Itaparica, the large island the sun sets behind during the stunning Salvador sunsets, for a tour that included the Fonte da Bica, fountain of the waters of life, a mineral water fountain with reputed healing powers.
One of my favourite places in Salvador was Dique do Tororo, a picturesque, landscaped lake filled with 12 huge, awesome sculptures of the orixas, each more than seven metres tall and two tons heavy. Erected in a sacred circle, they seem to be part of their own unique ritual, looming out of the water and filling the city with some of the ancient, primal magic of Candomble. There are more statues lining the paths around the lake, intimidating yet beautiful manifestations of this old religion.
Another interesting site is the historic Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, the most famous of Salvador’s many Catholic churches, which is also significant to those who practice Candomble. The Christ aspect it’s dedicated to, Our Lord of Bonfim, is associated with Oxala, the father of the orixas and creator of humankind, and the church’s special feast days combine both spiritual traditions. I went to visit its shrine of miracle cures, where people leave representations of the condition they claim was fixed through prayer. The room is a bit creepy, like a Marilyn Manson video, filled with wax legs, heads, arms, body parts, crutches, photos and letters. Upstairs in the museum there are further examples, with cases full of jewellery body parts like little silver hearts, ceramic eyes and gemstone lungs.
However the reason I went to Salvador was to experience a Candomble ritual. So, as the sun began to set one night, I gathered in the square with a few other curious travellers, and was driven to the outskirts of town for the hottest, sweatiest experience of my life. The ritual takes place in a terreiro, the house of a priestess, which was down a dark, winding alleyway, marked with a white flag. They are open to the neighbourhood, and to a few tourists, but the preparation of offerings is done in the afternoon, in secrecy. We walked up the steep stairs off the street, and were welcomed by a candle for fire and different plants for purification. It was very squishy and very hot inside the house – an Italian lady in our group was angry at how “unorganised” it was, but this wasn’t being run for our benefit, we’d merely been granted permission to watch, so the steamy room, heat and lack of water was just part of the experience.
There were about 20 people involved in the ceremony, mostly women, all dressed in elaborate white costumes and ranging in age from a young girl to a beautiful teenager, to a motherly figure and a wizened old crone. The ritual began with three male drummers, who don’t go into trance, banging out a primal rhythm. Then the chanting began, with the participants dancing anticlockwise as they spoke, sang and prayed to their gods. After about 45 minutes of dancing, the first of the participants went into trance, followed at intervals by the others. A young girl looked after them, wiping the sweat from their faces and guiding them if they needed it, as they had their eyes closed and seemed totally unaware of their surroundings.
In Candomble, worshippers communicate with their gods by allowing them to possess them in such rituals. After a participant had been taken over they were led to an altar, where they knelt to recover before rejoining the swirl of chanting and dance. It was fascinating to watch, and I’m so grateful they allowed us to be there, and to experience this tiny insight into their beliefs.

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Why Blessed Bee?

July 27, 2011 at 2:41 am (Bees, Magic) (, , , )

From my blog, October 2008…

I thought long and hard about a name for my little publishing empire 🙂
I wanted it to reflect me, and this book [Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life], but also be relevant for future books I will write. And so “Blessed Bee” was born.
It comes partly from “Blessed be”, a magical charm and pagan blessing. Witches and other magical practitioners say “Blessed be” as a form of welcome and of farewell, and within rituals. It has a similar meaning to the eastern blessing Namaste – “The divine within me recognises the divine within you.” It is a reminder of how beautiful each person, and the world, is, how blessed we are to be here, and a reminder to appreciate every sacred moment. It encapsulates love, forgiveness, gratitude, inner strength and power… Some consider it a wish for good health, love and happiness, others that it’s encouraging you to be a blessed person and to find the sacred within your self.
And one of my Cute Husbee’s nicknames for me is “Cute Bee”, because when we walk through the streets of our neighbourhood I always stop to smell the flowers (the star jasmine that’s blooming everywhere right now is so beautiful).
They seemed to fit well together, hence Blessed Bee. And now when we watch Charmed together we always smile when their grandma arrives, and later farewells the girls, with “Blessed be.”
* Juz drew the bee, which is not only a tattoo on my wrist, but also now, in July 2011, appears on the spine of my four books, seven mini books and meditation CD.

The Fivefold Kiss
In some pagan rituals the Fivefold Kiss is performed, as a way to recognise the inherent beauty and divinity of each person…
Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways.
Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar.
Blessed be thy womb, without which we would not be.
Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty.
Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names.

And from Thursday October 9, 2008…

It was a long and winding journey, but I’m finally holding a copy of my first book in my hands! Who knew when I set out on this writing adventure in the autumn of 2006 that I would end up breaking my contract and designing and publishing the book myself! It’s been challenging and terrifying and quite the endurance test at times, but having the finished copy makes it all worthwhile. And now it’s going out into the world, which is even more scary in a way 🙂 A new journey begins…

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The Magic of Ireland

July 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm (Magic, Magical Places, Sacred Sites) (, , , , , , )

The Magic of Ireland

Written for Spheres magazine

While the phrase “the luck of the Irish” signifies magic and wonder to the rest of the world, and conjures images of leprechauns and pots of gold, it’s actually a sarcastic and ironic one to those who live in the Emerald Isle, a reference to their unfortunate and troubled past. Yet in many ways – politics and the economy aside – Ireland is a lucky country, blessed with beautiful landscapes, an enchanted history, inspired people (authors, bands, humanitarians), and a richness of spirituality that touches the whole world.
I spent three months travelling around Ireland, dancing in stone circles, wandering across green fields, performing ancient rituals in sacred places, and experiencing the sheer joy and magic of nature in this land of faeries and goddesses. Many Australians have ancestral roots there – it moved me deeply to visit the village of Ballyconneely, literally “home of the Conneelys”, and drink a pint of Guinness in honour of my grandfather – while any who follow a pagan or magical path will also feel a very deep connection to this land that breathes with the energy and power of the gods.

The faeries of Ireland
Ireland has long been associated with magical creatures – deities, faeries, leprechauns, nature sprites and elementals who flitted through the forests, sometimes helping humanity, sometimes playing tricks on them. Legends tell of fiery, fiesty faery tribes – the Fir Bolg (the Shining Ones), the Daoine Sidhe (the Good Folk), the enchanted Tuatha de Danann (the people of the Goddess Danu) – who inhabited this magical land long before humans arrived, and who still live within its ancient mounds and forests. There are round banked enclosures known as raths, or faery forts, around the country, and they also constructed temples such as the Dingle Diamond in the hills of the Dingle Peninsula, West Kerry, a stone structure aligned with the summer solstice sunrise to recreate the mystical marriage of sun and earth.
But my favourite Otherworld place is Maeve’s Tomb, also known as the Hill of the Moon, atop the sacred mountain of Knocknarea in County Sligo, in the north west. This is WB Yeats country, a beautiful, dramatic landscape of green mountains and black lakes and wild ocean. It’s the legendary resting place of Queen Maeve, a Celtic deity and the lover of kings, who was reimagined as a mortal queen by the Christians and as Mab, queen of the faeries, in modern retellings. She was the goddess of Ireland’s sovereignty and its mystic heart, and helps people recognise their own inner queen and awaken their authentic self.
This enormous cairn – a mound of stones piled up as a memorial, often over a stone burial chamber – is 55 metres in diameter by 10 metres high, and dates back to 3000BCE. It’s covered in stones of varying sizes, and traditionally people bring one on their pilgrimage up the hill and add it to the pile, as an offering to Maeve and to bring luck and love. You can see the cairn – as a tiny bump on top of the hill – from down below in the town of Sligo, but the day I climbed up to visit the burial mound, a misty, thick rain had started to fall, and I was having trouble even seeing the mountain, let alone the tiny mound on top!
I finally found the carpark at the bottom of the hill and leaped out, trying to get my bearings. I found the little hedgerow-lined rocky laneway and started to climb upwards, in the pale light of a completely grey sky. The atmosphere was thick and wet, and the fog was swirling around me, but I paid it no heed (perhaps a little foolishly – people do get lost on these misty mountains, and these are obviously the conditions they say not to climb in, with heavy mists that obscure vision, but I trusted I would be safe). The path, lined with rocks and blackthorn hedges, got steeper and narrower, and a tiny stream rushed down over the crevices, making me gasp as the cold water seeped in to my heavy boots. The laneway finally ended and I passed through an old-fashioned turnstile and started climbing straight up through the paddock. And then a moment of fear touched me – I had absolutely no idea where I was going or how far it was, because suddenly the mists descended like a cloak, or I walked into them, and I could see only a few feet in front of me. It’s the strangest sensation, walking into this swirling thickness. It didn’t feel like it was raining, and I didn’t feel wet, but my jumper was really damp, and the air was wet and thick. So mysterious and mystical and Otherworldly. I could imagine the mists clearing and finding myself in the land of the fairies – it’s like a space between the worlds has opened up and I’m moving through this other dimension.
I couldn’t see up or down, or even see my hand if I held it out in front of me, so I climbed tentatively, unsure of how much further I had to go (and hoping I wouldn’t unknowingly reach the top and fall off the mountain) because I couldn’t see anything.
Finally a shape loomed out of the mist and I stumbled upon the cairn – 40,000 tonnes of rocks right in front of me. I climbed it clumsily, staggering a little, until I reached the grassy bit on the top, which had a tiny stone pile on it, like a model cairn, where I put my pebble and said a prayer for peace in this land.
For a moment I wished it was clear, so I could have seen the amazing views I know are there – out west over the ocean, north into Leitrim, south to the mountains – but it was perfect just the way it was. The swirling mists had their own special charm, and all I could see was whiteness, like I’d walked into a cloud. It was so beautifully ethereal. I breathed in the clean, wet, thick air, and felt proud that I’d made it up to the top – but also a bit nervous about getting down again!
At the bottom of the hill is Carrowmore megalithic cemetery, circa 4000BCE, which is also a place of magic. Wild yet easily accessible, it’s a field of stone circles, ancient burial mounds, passage tombs, dolmens and primrose yellow buttercups, which is open to the public and maintained by the country’s heritage board. I wandered barefoot through the grass, marvelling at the stones, listening to the sound of the bees and the flight of the birds. There’s a big cairn which was being excavated, so I could see inside it, which was very cool. Unearthing ancient secrets, unleashing a new truth and wisdom for those who are willing to listen. The entire Carrowmore complex is laid out in a spiral pattern, with most of the sites pointing to a giant dolmen – some think it’s a portal – in the centre. Signs of ancient bonefires, where they cremated the dead, have been found by archaeologists, which evokes wonderful images of primeval religious ceremonies and earth rituals.
In the surrounding landscape there are more stone circles and dolmens, in people’s backyards and paddocks! Can you imagine what it would be like to live with such a powerful and spiritual monument in your garden, outside your kitchen window? A connection to ancient wisdom and traditions, a constant reminder of what has been before…

Stone circles
There are hundreds of stone circles and other ancient monuments scattered around Ireland, but one of my favourites is Lios na Grainsi, “Stones of the Sun”, near Loch Gur in County Limerick, also known as Grange Stone Circle. It’s the largest in the country, and not far from Limerick, a major city, yet it is still so quiet and peaceful, and located so casually, on the side of the road, without a big sign or any fuss. There’s a tiny spot where three cars could pull in, and a little box near the gate asking for contributions for the farmer who maintains the circle and keeps the fences in good repair. I love that people are so respectful of their history and heritage here, that they are happy to share access to the ancient monuments on their land, and keep them intact and cared for, after the sad medieval practice of tearing them down to build houses and churches.
Grange is amazing – it’s made up of 113 contiguous stones, all touching, and the biggest one is more than four metres high and weighs 40 tonnes! Twelve of these massive stones are distributed at key points around the circle, with two of them flanking the imposing entranceway on the northeast side. Here you walk down a narrow stone-lined passage to a break in the surrounding embankment, where the two guardians stand, and you’re overcome with a sense of the majesty of the monument as you walk respectfully through and into the circle. The ring of stones is set low within a large embankment, making it even more impressive, so you climb up a slope to get to the circle, and then move downwards into its centre, which is all level, and filled with rich and fragrant grass. One pair of stones and the entranceway were aligned with sunset on the cross-quarter day of Samhain, which falls in early November in Ireland, and another stone is aligned with the summer solstice sunrise, all indicating its importance as a ritual site for people in the Neolithic period. The site is also known as the Lios, or “Fort of the Fairies”, and is believed to have been a gateway to the Otherworld. In Ireland ancient monuments are often associated with the fae, and many are said to be portals to the their realm, where they withdrew when they could no longer deal with humans.
The first time I visited Grange, in a misty sprinkle of soothing rain, the tiny grassy area between the road and the circle was swarming with a herd of sweet little black and white calves, all standing between me and it. I was a bit nervous about walking through them, but they didn’t seem to mind me (although one didn’t want me to leave when I was going, and kept standing between me and the gate so I couldn’t!). And there was one right next to the stone circle, who just stood there eating, chewing his grass and regarding me with a slightly puzzled expression. He stayed there the whole time I was there, and didn’t even run away when I took a photo of him and the flash went off. There’s an Irish goddess of cows, Bo – Boanna – so maybe they feel her presence and felt comfortable.
I spent hours there in the misty almost-rain, walking slowly past each of the stones, laying my hands on each one, feeling the wet earth and its vibrant energy with my bare feet, and marvelling at the eastern entrance – where the sunlight streams through on the morning of the summer solstice to illuminate the centre of the circle. The next day, a sunny, hot, blue sky day, I returned to see it in the sparkling sunshine, and it was so beautiful all lit up with rays of light and dancing sunbeams. There were no creatures on this day, so I sat down and meditated in the middle of the circle, closing my eyes and revelling in the feel of the warmth on my arms and the solar energy I was breathing in along with the fresh air and the heady scent of grass and nature. I don’t know how long I sat there, daydreaming, connecting to nature, but suddenly I felt a strange sensation on my arm. I snapped my eyes open and looked up, and it was one of the calves, licking me and staring at me with those huge gentle eyes.
Another beautiful ancient stone structure is Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren region of County Clare. It’s the most famous postcard image of Ireland, and is truly breathtaking as the sun sets behind it, sinking into the western ocean and colouring the sky a hundred shades of pink, gold, purple, madder rose, blue and orange. It’s so dramatic against the golden pinky clouds, with the rays sparkling and dancing through the cracks of the rock. When the dolmen was excavated in 1989 the remains of 25 people were found beneath it, along with pottery and jewellery, and they discovered they had been buried in 3800BCE. The dolmen was originally covered with a mound of earth, and green grass, but this has worn away, leaving just the stone chamber, which looks like a strange lumbering prehistoric beast. Poll na bro means hole of the grinding stone, so maybe the wise women of long ago used to grind their herbs and whip up their potions here…

Witches
Throughout time Ireland has been home to magical practitioners, wise women and witches, people who worshipped the gods and goddesses, communed with the unseen world and honoured the turning of the seasons. Clonegal Castle, in the southeast of County Carlow, is the family home of Olivia Robertson, a modern witch and priestess who started the Fellowship of Isis, a multi-faithed organisation dedicated to honouring the goddess, in 1976. She has converted the old dungeons into the most beautiful goddess temple, which serves as the centrepoint of the international group, and she also allows tours through the castle and temple, and holds seasonal rituals and ceremonies there.
The grounds are beautiful, in a dark kind of way, with a 700-year-old avenue of 120 yew trees, planted by monks, and gorgeous old gardens. The castle too is fascinating, with a history entwined with centuries of politics, and the ghost of a bishop in one of the bedrooms (I felt a presence weighing down on me as I stood near the old four-poster long before I found out that particular legend). It would have been so much fun to grow up there – there are 40 rooms with different additions added in different periods so it’s all higgeldy piggeldy, with stairs coming off each other and spiralling in different directions, and rooms on different levels and angles. The original round keep (inner stronghold) has been built onto, so there are rooms that curve with that, and a covered porchy type room that has an 1800s grape vine growing up through the floor from the temple and up along the roof.
But it is the Temple of Isis underneath the castle that is the main reason to visit. Walking down the stone steps into this sanctuary is like descending to the underworld in a dream, going deep within the earth to a place of such ancient energy it is hard to even describe. Many different shrines dedicated to different goddesses wind through the sanctuary, as well as one each marking the signs of the zodiac, and each of the elements. There is also a chapel of Bridie, the Irish goddess of inspiration and fire who became interwoven with Saint Bridget, and a Neolithic healing well in her name that has been attributed with miraculous healing properties. Central to the whole temple is the space dedicated to Isis, the mother goddess who inspires the healing rites, meditations, attunements and initiations that take place here.
When I walked down into the temple I felt teary, and a little faint. I walked through the different rooms, to the different altars, in a kind of trance, oblivious to Olivia’s nephew gently explaining each part. When he left me there alone I was overwhelmed. I felt I was breathing in a living presence, and I cried for ages, overcome with emotion that wasn’t sadness so much as immense feeling. I just felt so much, and was overwhelmed by emotion and a kind of joy-pain.
There is so much here – spirits and energies and emotions grounded (I thought trapped) in the earth, in the walls. It intrigued me that the ghost of a bishop haunts the room above the goddess temple, but perhaps he is anchoring the energy there, balancing the masculine and feminine, the god and the goddess. Afterwards I sat for hours in the garden, grounding myself, breathing deeply, surrounded by the immense peace of the massive trees that were illuminated by the gentle sunlight filtering gently through their canopy, listening to the fountain gurgling and absorbing the mystical air and the ancient spirits of this ancient land that permeates this place.

Northern Ireland
The religious and political struggles of Ireland have always affected me deeply, and being in Northern Ireland was heartbreaking. The reminders of the Troubles are devastating and ever present – memorials to hunger strikers and murder victims, constant helicopter surveillance and hidden cameras, and prison-like police stations, almost obscured behind barbed wire and metal cages. This is the reality of life in Northern Ireland; real-life war and strife, battle lines drawn. The Bloody Sunday memorial in Derry, which commemorates the events of January 30, 1972, in which 14 unarmed civil rights protesters were shot dead by the British Army, broke my heart, and the murals and artwork in both Derry and Belfast are so touchingly evocative of pain, suffering and despair as well as hope. I never felt unsafe there, despite Mum’s terror when I rang to say I was in Belfast, but I was emotionally affected the whole time I was there. It’s such a dramatic place, and the threatening air of the towns, buildings and people are such a contrast to the immense beauty of the countryside.
Along the stunning North Antrim Coast is the Giant’s Causeway, an impressive series of ocean rock formations, with legends connecting it to the Western Isles of Scotland. Further south is the ancient monument of Navan Fort, Emain Macha, the legendary seat of the kings of Ulster. The spiritual, political and cultural centre of its day, circa 5000BCE, this massive circular earthwork and its sacred pool has similarities to the Hill of Tara, and was the home of the mythical King Conor and the site of the battle between the great warrior CuChulainn and Queen Maeve of Connaught. It’s a cross between the Tor in Glastonbury, the Hill of Tara and Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland – a grassy mound that was a ceremonial area on top of a beautiful hill in some gorgeous wooded countryside. There’s still the indentation in the very centre where the massive oak pole was, which linked the Underworld with the earth plane and the heavens. It feels so peaceful and spiritual there, and there are lots of references and legends to twins and the goddess there.
My favourite site though was the Beaghmore Stone Circles, a Bronze Age complex of seven stone circles, each with its own cairn and stone row, which is nestled in the glorious Sperrin Mountains of County Tyrone. They record the movements of the sun and moon and mark particular lunar, solar and stellar events, with three of the stone rows pointing to sunrise at the summer solstice, and another aligned towards moonrise at the same period. It’s also believed the site was built as an attempt to restore fertility to the area by enticing back the fading sun.
Due to the number of cairns it could also have had a secondary function as a burial site, although only some of them held cremated human remains, making it even more mysterious…
I visited on the full moon, and it was so magical, mystical and peaceful – so powerful and full of possibility, even in the sprinkling rain. As I walked amongst this field of circles in the misty rain, it felt like a clean slate, a new clean world, and was so beautiful and powerful and ancient, full of spirit and of spirits. There are seven circles – three pairs and then a single one of slightly larger stones filled with more than 800 tiny jagged rocks called dragons teeth. There are heaps of alignment stone rows too, coming off the circles at tangents, and 12 cairns, frequently covering a cremation burial, one with each paired circle then quite a few around and within the single bigger circle. This lone circle is beautiful and strange, full of the mysterious little rocks. The whole site used to be surrounded by forests of oak and rowan and birch and hazel – magical groves – although now it’s all fields. The complex was built around 2000BCE, so it is ancient, like the land, constructed millennia before there was a Northern Ireland. It’s such a beautiful spot, with the mountains in the background and the misty fog keeping other people away. And later, as twilight fell and the full moon rose slowly over the stones, it was a breathtaking moment I’ll always remember.

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Mermaid Magic review

July 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm (Book reviews) (, , , , )

Mermaid Magic Review

I Read Therefore I Am blog
Good Reads website
(and several others)

The oceans have long drawn people to its shores to marvel at its wonder and beauty, its ability to provide and its power to destroy. For thousands of years people have taken to the seas to find food, fortune and adventure. Those who meet the waters find themselves moved by its music, mystery and depth and few can turn their back on it without leaving behind a piece of their heart. As the personification of these waters Mermaids carry with them a magic and intrigue that has captured our imaginations for thousands of years.

Mermaid Magic is more then just a history of mermaids and the legends that have sustained them; it is a book of healing, hope and magic. A catalogue of spells, stories and knowledge on a number of sea creatures that are as majestic as they are inspiring. Even as land animals we rely on the power water has to sustain us, provide for us and heal us. Mermaids are the embodiment of water and of life, and it is impossible for us to deny that which makes up a significant part of who we are, after all, it’s in our blood.

 

Available from Amazon US, Amazon UK and Blessed Bee Australia

Mermaid Magic by Lucy Cavendish and Serene Conneeley
Recommended age: 16+
In a word: Mermaids
Re-read it: yes
Recommend: yes
Star rating: five out of five

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The Book of Faery Magic review

July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm (Book reviews) (, , , , , , )

From Fae Nation, the international faery portal

The Book of Faery Magic
“From the faeries we can rediscover who we really are, and awaken our natural abilities to create wonderful, enchanted lives that are full of meaning and purpose, fun and delight.”

A collaboration between Australian authors Lucy Cavendish and Serene Conneeley, The Book of Faery Magic is a delightful guide to working with the Faerie Folk. The book blends traditional faerie lore with modern magical practices like guided meditation, setting up your own faerie altar and creating a special wand. It also includes ideas for planting a faerie garden, recipes and craft projects to deepen your relationship with the faeries and to discover your own inner wild self (not to mention have some fun along the way!). Throughout the book you will also find interviews with various ‘movers and shakers’ of modern faerie culture, for example FAE Editor Karen Kay, artist Jessica Galbreth (who also provides the lovely cover art), and musician Wendy Rule. These interviews give insights into their beliefs and interactions with the fae and are quite fascinating. The books takes a gentle approach, encouraging the reader to seek out what works best for them, whilst providing a basic knowledge. Please don’t think this is a light read however – running to more than 300 pages there is a vast amount of information between the covers! Most importantly, I’m pleased to see a strong environmental message throughout the book (indeed, one chapter is entirely dedicated to ways you can help the environment). As with the rest of the book the authors manage to avoid being preachy and instead encourage you to think for yourself and find a way that best suits you.
The Book of Faery Magic is available to order now from the Faery Magic website.

Also available from Amazon US, Amazon UK and Blessed Bee Australia

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