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Lecture Summaries 3

Over the years, Pagan Pathways has presented many talks of potential interest to pagan and magical folk and the following is a brief survey from a selection of diverse and informative topics that Silverspear has explored at one time or another.

Faeries – Yesterday & Today

Do the Fey inhabit a world very close to ours? Or are the Otherfolk simply a metaphor for the hidden hand of Fate that persistently controls our destiny? Those who attended were expected to leave all preconceptions at the threshold before venturing into the twilight world of the Fey. In this computer-illustrated talk John explored the darker perception that the Celtic people of these islands had of the Otherworld. As a counter-balance to that, he also explored the more sanitised and friendlier perception of the Fey as promoted by the New Age fraternity today.

Gef The Talking Mongoose

In 1931, on the west coast of the Isle of Man, a remote farmhouse, known as Cashen’s Gap (or Doarlish Cashen in Manx), became the scene of a strange phenomenon that drew the attention of sightseers, journalists, and famous psychic investigators of the day, such as Harry Price, R. S. Lambert and Nandor Fodor. Cashen’s Gap had become the residence of an allegedly talking mongoose by the name of Gef. Was it a hoax? Or was it a manifestation of a genuine paranormal nature? In this illustrated talk, Silverspear examined various facets of this intriguing and somewhat incredulous case, suggesting that there was a lot more to Gef than met the eye.

Why Music is Magical

The singer Van Morrison once said, “music is spiritual – but the music industry is not”. In our modern, profit-driven society music tends to be packaged as a consumer commodity and often regarded as little more than a form of entertainment. The Pythagoreans, however, [pre-Christian pagans, of course] considered music to be a sacred reflection of the macrocosm in the microcosm – the Music of the Spheres, as they referred to it. They also recognised that music is mathematical – “mathematics in sound”, as it’s been described, which is why musicians speak of diminished and augmented 5ths, 9ths and 13ths, dominant 7ths, major and minor 3rds, and so on. In this talk, John brought along one of his guitars to demonstrate how the scientific and mathematical elements of music – rhythm, harmony, tone and melody – affect us at a profoundly emotional level. But how music fundamentally achieves such a change in the listener still remains a mystery, which is why music is a profoundly magical art. As Jack Black’s character Dewey Finn [alias Ned Schneebly] in the film “School of Rock” passionately put it: “One song can change the world”.

Number Symbolism

Nowadays the symbolic and mystical nature of Number [singular] has largely been abandoned and sadly relegated to the realm of mumbo-jumbo and superstition. To the average person in modern society Number is primarily regarded as no more than the raw material of mathematics. The Ancient Greeks, however, believed that Number not only represents quantities – it also represents qualities. In this illustrated talk, John focussed on why Number symbolism is a valuable and essential aid to each of us on our own personal spiritual and magical quest. He also fulfilled his promise that such a potentially dry subject would not be in the least boring; it wasn’t!

Number Symbolism in the Minor Arcana (or the Pip Cards)

If you have ever had a Tarot reading and wondered how the reader can tell you so much about your life that is accurate, then you might have heard rumours that the reader is simply employing what the sceptics describe as cold reading methods. Perhaps some readers do. But despite the accusations of cynics and sceptics, a competent reader has no need at all to employ such dubious tactics – the Tarot is a powerful medium without such trickery. If perhaps you had felt that the Tarot was an enigma, then this talk swept away some of that mystery. As a continuation of an earlier talk on reading the Tarot, Silverspear focussed on the Minor Arcana, traditionally known as the pip cards, and showed how readers, before the advent of the fully pictorial Tarot, relied a great deal on number symbolism when extracting meaning from the Minor cards. One can still apply the same methods today, but with the added advantage that fully illustrated modern decks now make the job so much easier!

Tarot – Symbolism in the Major Arcana

“If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” [1 Corinthians 3: 18] That quote from the Christian bible may seem rather incongruous when examining the symbolism of the 22 Major cards of the Tarot. The Tarot, however, is a product of the Renaissance and therefore draws inspiration from both Christian and pagan values. In this illustrated talk, John explored the Fool’s journey [or quest] through the Major Arcana – a quest for spiritual understanding, wisdom and magical insight.

The Story of the Cottingley Fairies

Over a hundred years have passed since Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took their famous photos of fairies at Cottingley Beck, near Bradford. Later in life both women confessed to faking the photos, but paradoxically hinted that fairies really did dwell at the beck. In this talk Silverspear related the fascinating story of the Cottingley Fairies and considered some of the reasons why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edward Gardner and Geoffrey Hodson, who all became involved in the case, were firm believers. In an age of digital cameras and Photoshop could anyone be fooled today? Perhaps the answer lies in how much we are willing to suspend our disbelief and whether we suspect there was also an element of fairy glamour behind it all. Whatever the answer, the Cottingley Fairies today enjoy something of a renaissance, having captured the imagination of a new generation of fairy fans. Hats off, then, to Elsie and Frances.

The Element of Water

Rather than explore the subject from the perspective of the Western Mysteries Tradition, this illustrated talk focussed on the folkloric and Fey aspects of the Water Element, most of it drawn from Celtic and English rural traditions, of which John, hailing from an Anglo/Welsh/Scottish background, has long had a keen interest.

The Fernie Brae: Celtic Tales of the Fey

The subject of Faeries, customarily referred to euphemistically by the Irish as the Good People, the Other Folk, the Other Crowd, the Gentry, and so on, has undergone a revival of interest in recent years, probably owing to a combination of ecological awareness and popular New Age ideas, which have tended to sanitise the Fey as helpful nature spirits. This is not how the Irish, Scots, Welsh or Cornish traditionally perceived the Fey.
Celtic tradition, shaped to some extent by the stories of itinerant droll-tellers and the unpredictability of daily life in traditional rural cultures, was based on a certain trepidation and a profound respect for the Good People. As the folklorist Jeremy Harte once put it: “Ordinary folk learned about fairies in the same way that they learned about life”. To provide an insight into Celtic faery belief, John related a selection of well-known tales about the Good People that many generations of countryfolk would have enjoyed around the cosiness of the hearth on “a dark and stormy night”. To add further interest, the narrative was illustrated with over fifty laptop pictures.

The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift

A “Frequently Asked Question” by newcomers to Pagan Pathways is: “where did paganism today spring from?” There are a variety of answers on offer, depending on the views of the individual to whom the question is posed. This is because there are many strands woven into the warp and weave of modern paganism. One of these strands can be found in the Woodcraft traditions, such as the KKK; not the Ku Klux Klan, you’ll be relieved to know, but the Kibbo Kift Kindred, known more commonly as the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift. In this illustrated talk, with nearly 60 photographs, John explored the history, beliefs, culture and artwork of this fascinating, eccentric and socially original Woodcraft group. If you think that alternative life-styles began with Hippies at Woodstock or San Francisco in the 1960s, then think again. The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift pre-dated all that back in the 1920s – but with much greater focus on self-discipline, creativity and energy!

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