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 various speakers, experts in their respective fields, have explored at one time or another.
Spiders in Mythology and Symbol (Penrose)
Throughout human history spiders have been depicted in mythology and symbolism, from the ancient Greek myth of Arachne to the artist Louise Boureois. Linked to their spinning and weaving skills the classic image of the web woven by the orb web spider has symbolised patience and cunning; attributes of both trickster and creator gods. Whatever you may think of what you find in the bath, the spider continues to embody potent mythic potential; from the plains of Nazca to the Buddhist mandala; from the web of weird to the World Wide Web.
The Sacred Oak and Yew (Penrose and Rosa Mundi)
Tree symbolism is common throughout Europe and the British Isles and appears in the lore and mythology of many cultures. Many Pagans believe trees to be magical, with roots beneath the mystical earth and branches to the sky; spanning two realms.
Although many trees have significance in paganism, the Oak and the Yew have ancient lineage and very different symbolism – the Oak associated with strength, success and good luck, and the Yew with death, reincarnation and immortality. In this talk Penrose and Rosa Mundi looked at some of the facts, history and mythology of these interesting trees and illustrated it all with many fascinating pictures.
Know Thyself – an Introduction (Silverspear)
The maxim “Know Thyself” is an ancient one and was inscribed above the pagan Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Many individuals today, without further thought, will insist they know themselves very well. After all, who is best placed to have an intimate insight into one’s own psyche – oneself, or others? But can one truly know oneself? And does it matter? Oscar Wilde stated that it was better to “Be Thyself”. But perhaps to be ourselves we need first of all to understand something of what makes us tick as individuals. In this illustrated talk Silverspear explored how problematic it can be to “Know Thyself”, and yet such personal knowledge is vitally important if we are to live magically, happily, and evolve spiritually as modern pagans.
Younger Futhark (Viking)
The meaning of the word ‘Futhark’ (Runic alphabet), is similar to our word "alphabet". The Futhark of 24 letters was known as the "Elder Futhark" and was used mostly before the 9th century. After this the Elder Futhark was reduced to 16 runes and became known as the Younger Futhark. This set of runes may be called Viking runes as they were used by the Scandinavians during the Viking Age. In this talk, the history and meaning of the Younger Futhark was explored in very interesting detail.
The study of signs and symbols, known as semiotics in our modern world, is linked to linguistics and psychology. But the use of symbols is ancient. The theologian, Paul Tillich, said that a symbol always "points beyond itself" to that which is mysterious and cannot be quantified in mundane terms. In this illustrated talk, Silverspear explored a variety of different symbols and images – the meanings, insights and emotions they can invoke – and explained why an understanding of symbolism is highly relevant to pagans and magical folk in the modern world.
The Liminal (Grey Wolf)
The term “liminal” describes a variety of features, such as places, times, ritual experiences etc. which possess a threshold or in-between quality. That which is liminal belongs neither to one thing nor another and therefore places it in a magical or otherworldly context. In this talk Grey Wolf discussed the nature of the liminal with its qualities of ‘betwixt & between’ where magic happens. He also discussed his own personal experiences, including an appraisal of the beings which tend to manifest through the liminal realm.
Out of Body Workshop (Grey Wolf)
Out of body experiences occasionally occur spontaneously but they tend to be rare and most of us never achieve this unusual state of consciousness. Some people try to achieve this state voluntarily and there are techniques for achieving this state. In this session, Grey Wolf provided a first-rate Out of Body workshop with an opportunity for all present to participate in the process if they so wished. He also explained the principles around the experience and discussed methods of achieving this state. Very magical...
The life of Aleister Crowley (Our Adept)
The name of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) is familiar to all pagans. The controversial occultist and ceremonial magician (also poet, painter and mountaineer) was responsible (among other things) for the founding of the religion and philosophy of Thelema, the Book of the Law and the often-quoted phrase ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’. In this talk, our resident adept also explored Crowley’s reputation as a drug user and examined other fascinating facets of the man who was denounced by the media of his day as the ‘wickedest man in the world’. Everyone nowadays seems to have a different opinion about Crowley, his ideas and his influence on modern paganism, which in modern times, only adds to the man’s allure and mystique.
The Popularity of Oracle Cards (Silverspear)
Oracle cards, such as the Lenormand, the Grand Etteilla and The Oracle of Sibyl, pre-date the Rider-Waite Tarot produced in 1910 and therefore are not a new phenomenon. However, modern oracle decks such as Angel cards and Faery cards have a wide appeal nowadays, probably because they are easier to read than the Tarot and also because the imagery tends to speak to us in simple, magical and straightforward terms. This was an informal group initiative on the topic of oracle cards, whereby anyone who owned an oracle deck was invited to bring it along and explain to those present the attraction and appeal of such a deck.
Trickster Gods (Grey Wolf)
According to Wikipedia a ‘Trickster’ is ‘a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.’ Sometimes this behavior can be malicious or threatening. In this talk Grey Wolf concentrated on the ‘spirit or entity’ aspect of this and examined the interference of strange entities during human history. This included the Moth Man of Point Pleasant in the USA, Herne the Hunter at Windsor Castle, the Owl Man and the entity which appeared before the Tay Bridge disaster. Greywolf did point out, however, that the concept of the Trickster in paganism is a complex one, as one would expect when dealing with trickster gods, and that other pagans may have different ideas.
Working with Magical Energies workshop: Visualisation and Scrying (Rosa Mundi)
Creative visualisation is the technique behind positive thinking, seeking to alter your experience of the world by altering the way that you think about it. It is also commonly used as a part of ritual and magical working. Scrying is a type of divination/visualisation method which has been used for centuries and in many cultures for divining the past, present and future. This workshop demonstrated how to use visualisation in a constructive way, discussing techniques and also by practicing a little scrying.
Carl Jung (Timaeus)
CG Jung was one of the most notable pioneers in the development of psychology. He was also deeply interested in how psychology links with religion and particularly with Paganism. Many of his ideas are consistent with and complementary to our approach to the practice of magic. He developed the concept of the Collective Unconscious and what lies therein. Jung's principles grew from his experiences in a Swiss psychiatric hospital; these included identifying where the source of peoples' problems lay, how cures could be achieved and then achieving them. He and Sigmund Freud were the fathers of analytical psychology but later fell out and even today supporters of one will engage in criticising the other. His Collective Unconscious concept centres on the principles of archetypes, their influence on myth and religion and the links with the Personal Unconscious. Arguably, Jung became a magus through his own personal development. This talk focussed on relevant aspects of Jung's life and the relevance of his principles to us today. Definitely in-depth Pagan Pathways stuff: food for thought...
Part Two Follows...