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Lecture Summaries 7

The Rest of the Best

Over the years, Pagan Pathways has presented many talks of potential interest to pagan and magical folk and the following is the final brief survey from a selection of diverse and informative topics that various speakers, experts in their respective fields, have explored at one time or another.

Ghostly Encounters (Mike D)

This talk was illustrated by many photographs, mostly taken by Mike himself.  He talked about his personal experiences of ghosts and apparitions and also about beings within other realms and dimensions, including the kinds of energies which can be experienced there. Mike also spoke about his personal journey towards a better understanding of the self through contact with other planes.

Experiencing Ayahuasca (Marcus Flah)

Marcus was a visiting speaker to PPs. He lived for several years with ayahuasca shamans in the Amazon jungle and his talk was about both his personal journey and the practice of ayahuasca shamanism in the Amazon. Marcus’s journey was one of dramatic physical and emotional healing and he described his experiences, as well as sharing information with us about the cosmology and practice of ayahuasca shamanism.

Northern Mythology (Jamie)

The Anglo Saxons came to our lands in the 5th C and had a lasting effect on our language, culture and legal system. But what do we know of their culture and beliefs? In this talk, Jamie gave a personal view of aspects of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) paganism, including the role of storytelling, a brief overview of the history of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) paganism from the 5th to 11th centuries, the nature of the Old English pagan worldview and the Character of the Old English gods and goddesses.

No-Face Dolls (Penrose)

No-face dolls are an immensely ancient symbol that cut across cultural boundaries from pre-historic Venus figurines to Amish dolls via the work of the Surrealist movement, and are still extant and relevant today. They have been found in the Americas, Japan, and Russia, to name only a few major locations. No-face dolls also have been made in almost every media – from paper, rags and sticks to stone and clay. These figures are invariably psychologically “charged”, and can be projected upon in all manner of ways. For this reason, they are subject to many interpretations and uses, including their use as magical tools. This talk was accompanied by a whole host of illustrations and a couple of examples of these fascinating manikins had been brought along, including a “preview” of a new piece of Penrose’s own work, which was destined at the time of her talk for an exhibition in the Spring of that year.

The Witchcraft Trials of Northern Europe (and their importance to modern Pagans) Rosa Mundi

The Witchcraft Trials of Europe, often referred to by some as the ‘Burning Times’, reached their peak between 1550 and 1650. There are many references to the allegedly nine million women – often healers or midwives – who perished when the Church finally took to task the practitioners of the Old Religion. But how historically true are these ideas? Certain academics and historians have put a question mark over much of those claims. In this talk Rosa examined the history of the trials and their aftermath, addressing the questions as to why the trials occurred in the first place, who and how many individuals lost their lives during the persecutions, and in what way the trials contributed to the development of modern paganism in the present day? This talk was yet another example of Pagan Pathways rather in-depth approach to fascinating and complicated issues.

Portals to the Otherworld (Grey Wolf)

Many pagans feel there are certain places that seem to have a much stronger or different energy stamp than other places and which can be felt or experienced in a variety of different ways. In this talk, Grey Wolf examined the various types of power points in the landscape and considered which of these may constitute real portals into the Otherworld.

The Occult Influences of H.P. Lovecraft (Our Adept)

In this talk our resident magus spoke in some depth about the themes that underpinned the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft; themes which in turn influenced the development of certain magical groups and occult traditions from the 1950s onwards. One of these groups was the Esoteric Order of Dagon, of which the speaker was and may yet still be a member, but he ain’t telling…

Gaia (Timaeus) 'Whither GAIA?'

According to Timaeus, whichever way one views Gaia, whether as Mother Earth, Mother of the Earth, or the Creator of the Earth, our relationship with her is both immanent and transcendent, pointing out too that even if one had no belief in deities at all, such unbelief was not relevant within the context of the topic.
In this talk, Timaeus took up the theme of James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory which, whilst developed by a non-Pagan, seemed to Timaeus to be a realistic representation of the processes by which Nature manages (or regulates) the physical earth and its environment. He also discussed how we as humans expect Gaia to look after the life-forms that she supports. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of humankind in the future of Gaia, and consequently what part Pagans in particular might responsibly wish to play in that future.

Cognitive Dissonance in Paganism (Group Discussion)

Because this was a group discussion everyone was advised to read certain notes that had been attached in advance, as the information provided would go some way to explaining the issues that were up for debate. This discussion was based on Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance, which postulates that we constantly strive for internal consistency. What this means in practice, is that when we experience inconsistency in a situation or personal belief we tend to feel psychologically and emotionally thrown out of kilter and will try to reduce the resulting dissonance by striving to keep our attitudes and beliefs in complete harmony. This means that a situation or information which potentially threatens to result in disharmony tends to be avoided at all costs. Debate on the night also looked at various aspects of pagan belief that potentially could lead to cognitive dissonance and examined the sort of tactics and psycho/games all of us might employ to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance.

Snails (Penrose)

Snails inspire feelings of both attraction and revulsion. On one hand they have aesthetically pleasing shells, but on the other hand, they lay a sticky slime trail everywhere they go. Possibly because of those two features, our contradictory human responses to snails have inspired all manner of artwork, from the cartoonish to the frankly disturbing. In this talk, Penrose informed us that snails are creatures of contrast; they are externally armoured but also soft and vulnerable, and their odd and alien morphology has also led to their use both symbolically and mythologically as a bridge between earth and water, which places them within the context of the liminal, that betwixt and between state which is neither one thing nor another– and, of course, to a keen gardener snails are also rapacious foes. (Hey up, our kid, watch where tha’s putting tha feet…)

TRULY THE END (honest, Guv)





   






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