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message 1: by Nell (last edited Nov 07, 2012 11:29PM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments By request, a thread featuring the group's monthly newsletters, beginning in June 2012.

Greetings everyone.

June is the month of the goddess Juno (the Greek Hera), a complex deity whose qualities include vital energy and eternal youthfulness. Pagans, Heathens and Witches tend to be complex creatures too, so let her be our inspiration to create a month of vital energy and youthfulness while the moon grows to fullness and completes her cycle.

There are two upcoming reads for June/July 2012 – one novel and one non-fiction, and the discussion threads are ready and awaiting your thoughts and comments.

The fiction choice is
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, a tale of passion, love and food.

The non-fiction choice, Paganism Today: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and Ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-First Century, is a collection of essays by various authors. The editors are Graham Harveyand Charlotte E. Hardman and contributors include Ronald Hutton, Kenneth Rees, Prudence Jones, Graham Harvey, Philip Shallcrass, Vivianne Crowley and many more. It’s an easy yet informative read – I do hope you’ll feel inspired to try it and join in the group discussion.

Speaking of discussions, some thought-provoking ones have popped up here and there lately, including topics on Chaos Magick, lucid dreaming (The World of Dreams), Enlightening Books and Enlightening Quotes, as well as a call for your thoughts on the ‘Witch’ word.

And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to vote on the recent poll asking how often members visit the group. Is that a hint? I hear you ask… Well…

I’ll leave you with part of a verse by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was described by Carlyle as sitting on the brow of Highgate Hill like ‘…a kind of Magus, girt in mystery and enigma…’

A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

Happy and magical reading,


message 2: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments July 2012.

July greetings to all Heathens, Pagans and Witches!

Yes, it is late, and thanks to Nell for reminding me, or it would be a good deal later.

First and foremost, we have a new co-moderator for the group, Jeanette, who kindly replaced Ancestral. Nell and I felt the three number to be just right, of course.

New topics in the group include: Meditation & Creative Visualization, Healers, The Source, Earth Gazing:Archeology or Geology, Chaos and the Golden Apples too, and that's just naming a few.

Heathens, Pagans and Witches has grown again, and thanks to all for contributing to the great and lively discussions. This group is certainly the most thought-provoking group on Goodreads. Let's keep the discussions flowing. If there isn't a thread for it, please start one.

So, belated July greetings to you all. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.

:) Gina.

message 3: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments August 2012

Greetings everyone.

The 1st of August can mean something different to Pagans of different traditions and practices, so whether you celebrate Lughnasadh, Calan Awst, Lammas or something other altogether, I'll just wish you a wonderful day as the Wheel of the Year turns.

As usual there are two upcoming reads for August/September 2012 – one novel and one non-fiction, and the discussion threads are ready and awaiting your thoughts and comments.

The fiction choice is The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. Kirkus Reviews say of this novel... "A splendid desert fantasy that flows with its own eerie logic - arresting, evocative and well worked out."

The non-fiction choice is Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck, an in-depth investigation into shamanism. Daniel Pinchbeck tries ayahuasca so you don't have to...

If you haven't visited for a while, or even if you have, do pop in and take a look - we have some interesting and thought-provoking threads, the latest being: What Does "Celtic" Mean To You?

And we have a new poll about Shamanic journeying, no ayahuasca required...

If you're in the Southern Hemisphere the following may not be appropriate - and after all the wind and rain it's not exactly true here either - but I can't resist...

"What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass."

Andrew Marvell, Thoughts in a Garden

Bright Blessings,


message 4: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments September 2012

September salutations, all. August has been a fairly quiet month for the group - summer in the northern hemisphere and the need to soak up the elusive Sun may have had something to do with it - but our very special group did swell - with 40+ new members - welcome to you all. Please dive into the discussions as and where you will, and feel free to breathe new life into old threads and add books to the group bookshelf.

There's still another month to go before October signals a change of books for the group read - so there's time to dip into the fiction choice, The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, or the thought provoking Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck and talk about them on the relevant book threads.

There's a new poll seeking opinions on ancestry and how it relates to tradition, the results of which should be interesting, so do pop along and cast your vote.

As always, it's just about impossible to come up with a seasonal quote or a poem relevant to us all, wherever we are in the world, so I'll leave you with this one, written by an anonymous Welsh poet, and accompany it with a wish that members and whatever form of transport they employ don't succumb to the 'common' malaise mentioned in the triad:

"Month of September - benign are the planets;
Tending to please, the sea and the hamlet;
Common it is for steeds and men to be fatigued."

And if you celebrate the equinox around the 22nd of the month, in whatever name or form, I wish you happy one.

Love and light,


message 5: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments October 2012

Greetings All.

October is the tenth month of the year, yet surprisingly has retained its name as the eighth month from the old Roman calendar. The pagan past is alive all around us in little details – we just have to notice!

Our lovely group has grown amazingly in the last month or so, with new members appearing daily. A warm welcome to all those we haven’t yet met on the Introductions Thread - do feel free to post wherever and whenever the mood takes you.

A recent call from Georgina for help in running the group’s Facebook page has been answered by C-Cose – truly a knight in shining armour. C-Cose has gallantly offered to take the pages over and Georgina can now devote that FB time to writing, so we can look forward to more of her magical novels and short stories.

The Group Reads for the next two months are The Paganism Reader, non-fiction by Chas S. Clifton, and The Mark of a Druid, a novel by Rhonda R. Carpenter. The Kindle edition of the latter is still free on Amazon, and can be read online with their free downloadable Kindle app if you haven’t a digital reader, so no excuses…! Seriously though, discussion threads for both books are ready for when you are.

And a new poll awaits your votes - I hope many of you will take the time to tick a box and shed a little light on the way we visualize the gods.

As the hours of darkness overtake those of daylight for folks in the Northern Hemisphere, the reverse is happening in the Southern half of our precious planet Earth. This makes it difficult to write about seasonal changes relevant to everyone in the group, but one celebration we can all share is Samhain or All Hallows Eve on the 31st October, when the veil between this world and the Otherworld will be at its thinnest. Whether your choice of activity on that night is wild and wacky or spookily spiritual, take a moment or two to follow the advice of the master of the otherworldly,
Edgar Allen Poe and…

"Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness – for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still."

From Spirits of the Dead, by Edgar Allen Poe

Happy reading,

Till When,


message 6: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments November 2012

November Greetings!

November was the ninth month in the ancient Roman calendar (Lat. novem, nine), when the year began in March. The old Dutch name was Slaght-maand, or Slaughter-month, when the beasts were killed rather than being over-wintered, the old Saxon name Wind-monath, (Wind-month), when the fishermen pulled their boats ashore for the winter, also Blot-monath – the same as Slaght-maand. But the Celtic New Year begins with the festival of Samhain and the month of Samonios, or Seed Fall. From death and the darkness of the Earth spring life and light.

Samhain means ‘the summer’s end’, and here in the Northern Hemisphere the leaves are falling and there’s a chill in the air. As the seasons depend on which half of the world one inhabits, I thought I’d find some common ground to start the November newsletter by quoting this passage from Foras feasa ar Eirinn do re by (Geoffrey Keating).

"It was their custom at the Feis of Tara, to pass six days in feasting together before the sitting of the assembly: three days before Samhain and three days after it, making peace and entering into friendly alliances with each other."

I like to think of our group as a friendly alliance of many different traditions and beliefs, and although normally a fairly quiet lot, it seems that recently we’ve become quite lively, not only with discussions on many fascinating topics but with the news that hidden authors among us have stepped from the shadows and promised us new books to look forward to. More strength to your typing fingers, Aaron and C-Cose!

And the latest news from the group FaceBook page run by C-Cose is that it has gained quite a few new followers and is now up to 140 – good work, Gryphon Knight.

A gentle reminder that there’s one month and still time left to read either or both of the group book choices, The Paganism Reader by Chas S. Clifton (non-fiction), and The Mark of a Druid by Rhonda R. Carpenter – a novel, before it’s all change in December, although Read What Thou Wilt is definitely the Whole of the Law...!

As Pagans, most of us draw our beliefs and practices from a wide spectrum of written, oral and artistic traditions both old and new: mythology, texts by the ancient Greek and Roman historians, the writings of Caesar, archaeology and statuary and surviving traditions like those of the Native American tribes and the Eastern religions - to mention but a few. I thought it might be interesting to set up a poll so we could gain some idea of the proportions of different influences on our members. Do drop in and place your tick in the appropriate box – the results should be interesting.

I’ll leave you with this deliciously shivery poem by
Adelaide Crapsey, (1878 – 1914). It’s called November Night.

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall."

Till When,


message 7: by C-Cose (new)

C-Cose Daley | 75 comments A round of applause for Nell please!!!

Now there's a central repository for all the wonderful news that you give us :)

message 8: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments :) You're very kind, C-C.

message 9: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments December Greetings, All!

The name of our twelfth month originates from the Latin and the old Roman calendar; December – tenth month (from decem, ten), via Old French (Decembre) and so to Middle English. More excitingly, the Latin name is said by some to have derived from Decima, the middle Goddess of the Three Fates who personifies the present.

The Old Dutch name was Wintermaand (no translation needed!), and according to Wyrdwords' web page, The Anglo-Saxon Year:

"The months corresponding to December and January were both known as Giuli, 'Yules'. Bede implies that Geola, Yule, was the name for the winter solstice when he states that these months 'derive their name from the day when the Sun turns back to increase, because one precedes and the other follows'. But judging by the names of the months it's equally possible that Geola was the name for the whole midwinter season. December was Ærra Geola, which can be interpreted as either 'first Yule' or 'preceding Yule', and January was Æfterra Geola, 'following Yule'."

All this aside, December heralds an important celebration on the calendars of Pagans everywhere, that of the Solstice on the 21st of the month.

After the longest night of the year, during which bonfires were lit to entice back the Sun, the Oak King kills the Holly King and the Sun is reborn to return and warm the land. Called by the Celtic peoples Alban Arthuran, Light of Arthur, this ‘overturning’ or reversal reminds me of the first day of the Roman Festival of Saturnalia beginning on the 17th, a period of great feasting and festivity, during which slaves and their masters would change places. So we come back to the Romans and full circle, and Mithra must surely be mentioned here.

The following is from School of the Seasons.

"The birth of the Persian hero and sun-god Mithra was celebrated on December 25th. The myth tells that he sprang up full-grown from a rock, armed with a knife and carrying a torch. Shepherds watched his miraculous appearance and hurried to greet him with their first fruits and their flocks and their harvests. His cult spread throughout Roman lands during the 2nd century. In 274, the Emperor Aurelian declared December 25th the Birthday of Sol Invictus (the Unconquerable Sun) in Rome."

And it’s good to know that in ancient times both Druids and Romans hung sprigs of mistletoe in their homes and places of celebration to bring good fortune, peace and love and that we carry on this unbroken tradition to this day.

The group has been quieter than usual recently – perhaps those of us in the Northern Hemisphere curl up with by the fire with a good book in spare moments, while those in Southern parts enjoy their reading in the Sun.

But wherever you are, the Group Reads this month may be of interest. The fiction choice is Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams, except that it’s not really fiction, but memoir. Hope I’m forgiven for that little slip.

The non-fiction choice is Green Egg Omelette: An Anthology of Art and Articles from the Legendary Pagan Journal, edited by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart; both book threads are ready and awaiting your thoughts.

And there’s a new poll to find out how many of us have had a glimpse through the Veil - you can find it Here.

To finish, and perhaps send a winter shiver down the backs of warmer members in the South, here are some lines from The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe,1809 - 1849. I remember reading somewhere that the day after the poem was published in the Evening Mirror, small boys would follow him down the street chanting ‘Nevermore’ as he strode along, only for him to turn suddenly with a swirl of his black cape to stare at them with eyes of darkness as he uttered ‘Nevermore’ in ominous tones, scattering them screaming away. True or not, it’s a wonderful image.

The Raven

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly, I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow –
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Leonore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.

Have a wonderful Solstice and happy reading,

Till when,


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Absolutely wonderful, and enlightening, Nell! Thank you again :):)

message 11: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Yes, what a wealth of information. My local friend was here while I was reading your newsletter, and he made me tell him what you were writing about, which precipitated a lively discussion about the lunar calendar and how the moon wobbles in it's orbit, causing the calendar to be unpredictable.

message 12: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Thanks, people:) The Moon has been amazing just lately.

message 13: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments January Greetings!

Whenever you celebrate the coming of the New Year, I think we can say it’s truly here for just about everyone except those who wait until the Equinox on March 21st. And whether you sent the Old Year on its way into the past with riotous celebration or allowed it to slip quietly away in dreams, it’s time to face forward and welcome the new.

That of course, brings me (fairly…!) neatly to Janus, the god of all transitions - concrete and abstract, sacred and profane: endings and beginnings, doorways, gateways, bridges, past and future and time in general. January was named by the Romans in honour of Janus, perhaps the most powerful of the gods, as since the other gods were thought to be accessible only through him, offerings were traditionally made first to Janus before the particular deity whose blessings one might be seeking.

From Wikipedia:

"According to Macrobius citing Nigidius Figulus and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as Apollo or the sun and moon, whence Janus received sacrifices before all the others, because through him is apparent the way of access to the desired deity.[44]

A. Audin interprets the god as the issue of a long process of development, starting with the Sumeric cultures, from the two solar pillars located on the eastern side of temples, each of them marking the direction of the rising sun at the dates of the two solstices: the southeastern corresponding to the Winter and the northeastern to the Summer solstice.

These two pillars would be at the origin of the theology of the divine twins, one of whom is mortal (related to the NE pillar, as confining with the region where the sun does not shine) and the other is immortal (related to the SE pillar and the region where the sun always shines). Later these iconographic models evolved in the Middle East and Egypt into a single column representing two torsos and finally a single body with two heads looking at opposite directions.[45]"

With membership currently standing at 895, I wonder if, looking forward, we’ll see our lovely group reaching the 1,000 member milestone in 2013? Newbies join us on a daily basis, due I believe to a great extent to the many thought provoking topics posted – special thanks to all our active, creative and inspiring members – you know who you are!

Diary of a Witchcraft Shop by Trevor Jones and Liz Williams, and Green Egg Omelette: An Anthology of Art and Articles from the Legendary Pagan Journal, our books for the Group Read, remain the same until February – so there’s still a month to post your thoughts and exchange opinions on the two threads.

And as the Romans began each year by making promises to Janus, I posted a new poll on the subject of New Year’s Resolutions – do feel free to comment further in the thread. You can find it Here.

To finish, here’s a quote by Charles Lamb.

New Year's Day is everyman's birthday.

So Happy Birthday, Everyone, and a Happy New Year too,

With all Best wishes for 2013,


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Another wonderful monthly greeting! Thanks Nell! :)

message 15: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments :):):)

message 16: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments February Greetings, Everyone.

Our name for February derived from the Latin februarius mensis - meaning month of purification - as late as the the 14th century. Februa is the plural of februum, a word said to be of Sabine origin that means purifications or expiatory rites. Originally borrowed from the French, feverier, it was a word that evolved to the Middle English feoverel before the spelling was altered to conform to the Latin. The Roman feast of purification was celebrated on the 15th February – an idea that might seem somewhat contradictory to modern minds. A feast of purification? These days purification might involve ritual cleansing and/or a fast or semi-fast – a detox – but then the Romans were not known for denying themselves in those days.

It seems more likely, given the ‘feast’ aspect, that February evolved from the festival of Lupercalia held on the 15th of February, which honoured the god Lupercus who protected the people and their animals from wolves. Dances were held for all the single young men and women, and it is said that this festival also honoured Juno Februata, goddess of erotic or feverish (from febris) love. Perhaps our St. Valentine’s day on the 14th of the month is what is left of this tradition.

The Old English name, Solomonth, means mud month and the Anglo-Saxon name is Sprout-kale, referring the stirrings of cabbage plants. And here we are in the North in early Spring, or the old Pagan celebration of Imbolc, with crocuses pushing up from the dark earth, and hopefully, warmer weather on the way. Imbolc comes from the old Irish i-mbolg which means ‘in the belly’– a reference perhaps to imminent birth of the domestic animals, especially the lambs, and oimelc (meaning ‘milk of ewes’), from which it derives, on which both the new lambs and the people could grow strong after a long Northern winter.

But we mustn’t forget the great Irish Goddess Brighid, considered to be a goddess of fire and a patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing. At her shrine in the ancient Irish capital of Kildare, a perpetual flame was said to be kept burning in her honour, tended by no less than 19 priestesses.

And so to Group News…! Membership continues to grow at a quiet but steady pace (924 to date – welcome all Newbies), and stimulating topics appear from time to time to surprise and delight. Thanks to all who’ve contributed for keeping the threads fresh and interesting.

February sees two new books in the Group Read section: The non-fiction choice is Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings, Mysteries, and Miracles – the title speaks for itself. The fiction choice is a collection of short stories woven together by Sean Scullion - Liber Malorum: Children Of The Apple, which includes one by our own Jaq Hawkins, and promises to be something special.

To finish, here’s Caitlin Matthews’ A Blessing for Hearth Keepers, a lovely invocation to remember for this Imbolc and those to come.

Brighid of the mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us;
Keeper of the hearth, kindle us;
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

So till next month, wishing you all the brightest of bright blessings.


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 01, 2013 03:50PM) (new)

The Romans were people after my own heart :) A feast of purification sounds delicious! Thanks once again for your delightful monthly greeting, Nell!

message 18: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I like the idea of feverish love too - something to warm a Northern February :)

message 19: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Running late this month - will try to catch up and post the March newsletter soonish...

message 20: by Nell (last edited Mar 02, 2013 05:54AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments A Merry March All!

It’s said that March …comes in like a lion, which may be why the Romans named this month after Mars, the god of war. The Anglo-Saxons called it Hyld-monath or Hraed-monath - Stormy Month or Rough Month - and later Length-monath , which means Lengthening Month.

In the Northern Hemisphere March is a time of looking forward to the Spring Equinox that occurs around the 21st - 23rd of the month, as after the balance of equal day and night at this time the hours of daylight will overtake the darkness of night as the Wheel of the Year turns towards the Summer Solstice and the longest day.

Returning to the Romans, their festival of Quinquatria in honour of Minerva (the Greek Athena), was held from March 19th for anything from one to five days (hence the name), although scholars don’t all agree. But interestingly, it seems that (according to Wikipedia, but ‘citation needed’…!) …women were accustomed to consult fortune-tellers and diviners upon this day, and Domitian caused it to be celebrated every year in his Alban villa, situated at the foot of the Alban hills, and instituted a collegium to superintend the celebration, which consisted of shows of wild beasts, of the exhibition of plays, and of contests of orators and poets.

There's still time to dip into our current book selection, as the Group Read continues though March with the non-fiction choice of Shamans of the World: Extraordinary First-Person Accounts of Healings, Mysteries, and Miracles, and a collection of short stories woven together by Sean Scullion - Liber Malorum: Children Of The Apple – do feel free to post your thoughts on the appropriate threads, which can be found under Group Reads.

Looking forward to the Equinox, I like this quote by Charles R. Swindoll, with its underlying (intentional or otherwise) reference to the vigour and energy of marching, which could well be applied to the month of March - and indeed to the god Mars himself:

With vision there is no room to be frightened. No reason for intimidation. It's time to march forward! Let's be confident and positive!

So… In the interests of that vision and knowing ourselves a little better, I’ve posted A New Poll inviting all members to take a test to find out which side of their brain is dominant – I enjoyed this one as it confirmed suspicions about my own little grey cells. :)

Onward to April, and happy reading One and All.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Another wonderful and highly informative greeting! Thank you, Nell! :):)

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Eye LOVE this! Many Thanks, Nell, what a blessing indeed!

message 23: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments My pleasure :) :) :)

message 24: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments April Greetings Everyone,

The Sun is smiling as I type, and it's feeling a little more like Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere after all the recent cold. Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere will be thinking of Autumn, but at least our name in English for this new month is the same as yours.

Apprile (Middle English, late 14th century), is said to derive from aueril (around 1300), which in turn came from the Old French - originally the 11th century avril, reaching back to the Latin mensis Aprilis, month of Venus, the second month of the ancient Roman calendar dedicated to the goddess and possibly based on Apru, an Etruscan borrowing of the Greek Aphrodite. It replaced the Old English Eastermonað, which (says the Venerable Bede), was similarly named for a fertility goddess, Eostre; others say she was a Teutonic goddess of dawn, her festival of Eastre held at the Vernal Equinox. (The Anglo-Saxon was Oster-monath or Eostur-monath). I always feel this is a precious piece of information - it’s lovely to know that Easter can be celebrated joyfully as the month of this goddess without need to change the word.

Other etymologies give the Latin aperire ( to open) as the source, stating as support comparison with the modern Greek use of ἁνοιξις (anoixis) (opening) for Spring, the time when tree and flower buds begin to open - in the French Republican calendar of 1793 it was called Germinal – the time of budding, (21st March – 19th April).

April sees the beginning of two new Group Reads. The non-fiction choice is Stalking the Goddess by Mark Carter, and the novel, An Ogham Wood by Cliff Seruntine. I hope some of you will give one or both of them a try in April and May - the discussion threads are open and hungry for comments!

I always learn something new while searching for material for the monthly newsletter, and this month is no exception, as the Wordsworth edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable tells me that It was formerly a common belief that the sun danced on Easter Day. How about that!?

The following lines are from Ballad upon a Wedding by Sir John Suckling.

But oh, she dances in such a way,
No sun upon an Easter day
Is half so fine a sight.

I like to imagine that it’s the Goddess Eostre herself who is dancing :)

Till When, and Happy Reading,


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you Nell! Just beautiful once again. :):)

message 26: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Yes, and how inspiring to learn that April was named for Aphrodite. I had never thought of the connection before.

message 27: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments :) :) :)

message 28: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments May Day Greetings, Everyone!

The good people at Online Etymology tell us that May is the ...fifth month, early 12c., from Old French mai and directly from Latin Majus, Maius mensis "month of May," possibly from Maja, Maia, a Roman earth goddess (wife of Vulcan) whose name is of unknown origin; possibly from PIE *mag-ya "she who is great," fem. suffixed form of root *meg- "great" (cognate with Latin magnus). Replaced Old English þrimilce, month in which cows can be milked three times a day.

Maia was honoured by the Romans on the first and fifteen of May, also at the Volcanalia, the festival of the fire god Vulcan, her sometime husband. The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary tells us that …She seems to have been paired with Vulcan because they were both considered Deities of heat: through the increasing warmth of Maia's spring season flowers and plants sprouted and grew; while Vulcan's stronger summer heat brought the fruits to ripeness.

May also saw Floralia, the festival of Flora, the goddess of Spring and flowers, which pagan Romans celebrated for six days, from April 27th to May 3rd, celebrations of the goddess of chastity Bona Dea, and Lemuralia, the feasts of the dead, and was considered an unlucky month in which to marry.

But what of Beltane? The earliest mention of Beltane is in Old Irish literature from Gaelic Ireland. According to the early medieval texts Sanas Cormaic and Tochmarc Emire, Beltane was held on 1 May and marked the beginning of summer. The texts say that, to protect cattle from disease, the druids would make two fires "with great incantations" and drive the cattle between them. (From Wikipedia.)

Although this festival is believed by many to be connected to a god named Bel, or the European fire god, Belenus, Ronald Hutton says that the Celtic word "bel" means bright or fortunate, hence "lucky fire" or "bright fire."

More seems to have been written about the festivals and deities connected with the month of May than any other, but it’s clear that in the Northern Hemisphere in pagan times the beginning of summer was a time of gaiety and great rejoicing, celebrated with garlands of spring blossoms, dancing around the maypole, ceremonies to ensure the fertility of the land, livestock and people, and rituals for protection involving fire and flowers - although happily not at the same time!

And so at last to Group News. There’s another month in which to read our April/May book choices: An Ogham Wood and Stalking the Goddess. Mark Carter’s non-fiction work tracing Robert Graves’ sources for The White Goddess and examining the creative mythology and motives of the author has wakened much interest and spilled over into two separate threads: The White Goddess and The Book of Lampspring.

And I’m delighted to announce that early last month Aaron agreed to join Georgina, Jeanette and yours truly as moderator – too late for the April newsletter, but in good time for this one – I’m sure you’ll all agree that another very special dimension has opened up in our magical group.

If you haven’t visited for a while do pop in and have a look around.

I’ll leave you with two thoughts: It may be too late for fair maids to follow the advice for May Day in this old nursery rhyme:

The fair maid who, the first of May
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be...


May 24th is the feast day of Hermes Trismegistus, whose words, taken from the Emerald Tablet, seem just right for this May morning.

As Above, so Below; as Below so Above.
All things have been from the Primal Substance through a Single Act.
How wonderful is this work! It is the Main Principle of the World and is Its Maintainer.
The Father is the Sun, and the Mother is the Moon.
The Wind has Borne it in Its Body, and the Earth has Nourished It.
Separate the Earth from the Fire, so you will attain the subtle as more inherent than the gross, with care and sagacity.
It rises from Earth to Heaven, so as to draw the Lights of the Heights to itself, and descends to the Earth.
Within It are the Forces of the Above and the Below.
The Light of Lights is Within It, and thus does the Darkness flee before it.
It is the Force of Forces, which overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates into everything gross.
The structure of the Microcosm is in accordance with the structure of the Macrocosm.

Happy reading,

Till when,


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Lovely. Thank you again for a delightful and informative monthly greeting, Nell! :):)

message 30: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Thanks Gina :)

Next month will be a new beginning, as the first newsletter I wrote for the group was last June. I'll have to think of a new theme for the year - maybe make them a little briefer too, as time is in short supply at the moment.

Aaron is travelling, otherwise he might be able to help, but maybe when he returns. I did wonder if any members would like to get involved and write the odd newsletter - it would make a welcome change of style and content.

What do you think? If it's OK with you, I could post in the Announcements thread and anyone who'd like to write the odd newsletter could reply, and maybe email me their contribution to broadcast to the group (giving credit where it's due, of course).

message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that's a lovely idea, Nell. :)

message 32: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I'll do it now then :)

message 33: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I'll post here too to say:

If anyone would like to write the odd newsletter please reply on this thread or on the Announcements Thread. You could then write your contribution and email it to me to broadcast to the group. I will of course give you due credit for it.

message 34: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments June Greetings, All, and a warm welcome to each of our many new members.

Last June saw the first newsletter I ever wrote for the group, setting a theme of gods and goddesses traditionally associated with the months for which the newsletters were written. So as the Wheel of the Year has come full circle I thought perhaps a change would be welcome.

A little research has uncovered the idea of celebrating figures of significance and interest to our group - ones whose birthdays fall on the appropriate months - and although I’ve yet to find those for April, March or November I feel confident that they’ll appear magically in time.

Gerald Gardner's birthday was in June, but I've chosen to begin with William Butler Yeats, whose birthday falls on the thirteenth. I’m relying heavily on Wikipedia, editing information to that which is most relevant to his mystical pagan aspect.

William Butler Yeats (/ˈjeɪts/ YAYTS; 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honoured for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize; such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929). Yeats was a very good friend of American expatriate poet and Bollingen Prize laureate Ezra Pound. Yeats wrote the introduction for Gitanjali, which was about to be published by the India Society.

Yeats was born and educated in Dublin and in London, but spent his childhood holidays in County Sligo. He studied poetry in his youth and from an early age was fascinated by both Irish legends and the occult. Those topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889 and those slow-paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the Pre-Raphaelite poets. From 1900, Yeats' poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life.

Yeats had a life-long interest in mysticism, spiritualism, occultism and astrology. He read extensively on the subjects throughout his life, became a member of the paranormal research organisation "The Ghost Club" (in 1911) and was especially influenced by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. As early as 1892, he wrote: "If I had not made magic my constant study I could not have written a single word of my Blake book, nor would The Countess Kathleen ever have come to exist. The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write." His mystical interests—also inspired by a study of Hinduism, under the Theosophist Mohini Chatterjee, and the occult—formed much of the basis of his late poetry. However, some critics have dismissed these influences as lacking in intellectual credibility.
In particular, W. H. Auden criticised this aspect of Yeats' work as the "deplorable spectacle of a grown man occupied with the mumbo-jumbo of magic and the nonsense of India."

His first significant poem was "The Isle of Statues", a fantasy work that took Edmund Spenser for its poetic model. This was followed by the collection The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889), which arranged a series of verse that dated as far back as the mid-1880s. The long title poem contains, in the words of his biographer R.F. Foster, "obscure Gaelic names, striking repetitions [and] an unremitting rhythm subtly varied as the poem proceeded through its three sections";
"The Wanderings of Oisin" is based on the lyrics of the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology and displays the influence of both Sir Samuel Ferguson and the Pre-Raphaelite poets. The poem took two years to complete and was one of the few works from this period that he did not disown in his maturity. Oisin introduces what was to become one of his most important themes: the appeal of the life of contemplation over the appeal of the life of action.

Following the work, Yeats never again attempted another long poem. His other early poems, which are meditations on the themes of love or mystical and esoteric subjects, include Poems (1895), The Secret Rose (1897), and The Wind Among the Reeds (1899).
During 1885, Yeats was involved in the formation of the Dublin Hermetic Order. The society held its first meeting on 16 June, with Yeats acting as its chairman. The same year, the Dublin Theosophical lodge was opened in conjunction with Brahmin Mohini Chatterjee, who travelled from the Theosophical Society in London to lecture. Yeats attended his first séance the following year. He later became heavily involved with the Theosophical Society and with hermeticism, particularly with the eclectic Rosicrucianism of the Golden Dawn. During séances held from 1912, a spirit calling itself "Leo Africanus" apparently claimed it was Yeats' Daemon or anti-self, inspiring some of the speculations in Per Amica Silentia Lunae. He was admitted into the Golden Dawn in March 1890 and took the magical motto Daemon est Deus inversus—translated as Devil is God inverted or A demon is a god reflected. He was an active recruiter for the sect's Isis-Urania Temple, and brought in his uncle George Pollexfen, Maud Gonne, and Florence Farr. Although he reserved a distaste for abstract and dogmatic religions founded around personality cults, he was attracted to the type of people he met at the Golden Dawn. He was involved in the Order's power struggles, both with Farr and Macgregor Mathers, but was most notably involved when Mathers sent Aleister Crowley to repossess Golden Dawn paraphernalia during the "Battle of Blythe Road". After the Golden Dawn ceased and splintered into various offshoots, Yeats remained with the Stella Matutina until 1921.

The work of another monumental figure, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves, together with Mark Carter's examination of the sources and inspiration behind it, has stimulated much discussion during April and May, and although two new books will take the place of Stalking the Goddess, and the fiction choice of An Ogham Wood, as always the threads for these books will remain under Group Reads and comments are more than welcome.

Our book choices for June and July are The Archaeology of Shamanism edited by Neil Price and Hounded, by Kevin Hearne. The discussion threads are up and awaiting your thoughts. These are the first books in a trial scheme encouraging members to choose a book for our bimonthly read – future choices may be added to Choose a Book Here under the heading of Group Reads.

So until August, happy reading and Happy Solstice on the 21st. And as the Horse Chestnut trees are blossoming in the park across the road, to close the circle I’ll leave you with a thought from W.B.Yeats’ poem, Among School Children:

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Till Soon,


message 35: by Little (new)

Little Miss Esoteric (littlemissesoteric) | 1116 comments Thank you for another wonderful monthly greeting Nell!

message 36: by Nell (last edited Jun 02, 2013 12:51AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments You're welcome, Gina :)

message 37: by Emma (new)

Emma (witsend) | 6 comments I very much enjoyed the newsletter, thank you, Nell. especially I interesting as I live about 15 minutes from Yeats' old dwelling, and his current resting place. Very lucky I am too, to live in such a beautiful and magical area!

message 38: by Emma (new)

Emma (witsend) | 6 comments *especially interesting, apologies my kindle likes to auto-error my typing.

message 39: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Glad you enjoyed the newsletter, OB. You are indeed lucky to live in such a beautiful and magical area - I can imagine Yeats' spirit wandering still among the old and beloved paths and dwellings where he collected material for The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore. Maybe the descendants of the storytellers are still living close by.

message 40: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments July Greetings, and welcome to all our new members.

For this month’s birthday profile of significant figures I’ve chosen Margaret Murray and, as before, what follows is edited from her page on Wikipedia.

Margaret Alice Murray (13 July 1863 – 13 November 1963) was a prominent British Egyptologist and anthropologist. Primarily known for her work in Egyptology, she is also known for her propagation of the Witch-cult hypothesis, the theory that the witch trials in the Early Modern period of Christianized Europe and North America were an attempt to extinguish a surviving pre-Christian, pagan religion devoted to a Horned God. Whilst this theory is today widely disputed and discredited by historians like Norman Cohn, Keith Thomas and Ronald Hutton, it has had a significant effect in the origins of Neopagan religions, primarily Wicca, a faith she supported.

During the First World War, the Egyptology department was out of action and so Murray turned her attention to another subject, the history of witchcraft in Europe. In 1921, Oxford University Press published her first book on the subject, The Witch Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology. Many reviews in academic journals were critical, with historians claiming that she had distorted and misinterpreted the contemporary records that she was using.

In 1929, she was commissioned to write the entry on "witchcraft" for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. She used the opportunity to propagate her own Witch-Cult theory, failing to mention the alternate theories proposed by other academics. Her entry would be included in the encyclopedia until 1969, becoming readily accessible to the public, and it was for this reason that her ideas on the subject had such a significant impact. Murray reiterated her Witch-Cult theory in her book, The God of the Witches. From this publication, she cut out or toned down what she saw as the more unpleasant aspects of the Witch-Cult, such as animal and child sacrifice, and her use of language became "emotionally inflated and coloured with religious phraseology."

Murray's later books were written for a more popular audience and in a style that was far more imaginative and entertaining than standard academic works. The God of the Witches (1931) expanded on her claims that the witch cult had worshiped a Horned God whose origins went back to prehistory. Murray decided that the witches' admissions in trial that they worshiped Satan proved they actually did worship such a god. Thus, according to Murray, reports of Satan actually represented pagan gatherings with their priest wearing a horned helmet to represent their Horned God.

In 1953, Murray was appointed to the presidency of the Folklore Society, the first time that she had served on the council. Ten years later and having reached 100 years of age, Margaret Murray published her final work, an autobiography entitled My First Hundred Years (1963). She died later that same year of natural causes.[citation needed]

Following Murray's death, critics began to attack her theory more openly and voraciously. Norman Cohn, in his book Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom, also accused Murray of falsifying her evidence by selectively quoting from the testimony of accused witches, deliberately leaving out fantastical elements to support her claim that real events were being described rather than fantasies; such elements include testimonies of flying to meetings, transforming into animals, or seeing the devil disappear and reappear suddenly.

Murray's ideas proved highly influential over the ideas of Gerald Gardner (1884–1964), an English Wiccan who founded the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca in the 1950s before authoring the books Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft, (1959). Gardner was the only member of the Folklore Society to "wholeheartedly" accept Murray's Witch-Cult hypothesis.

The phrase "the Old Religion," derives from Murrayite theory. Other Wiccan terms and concepts like coven, esbat, the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, and the Horned God are, it has been suggested, influenced by or derived directly from Murray's works. Her ideas also inspired other writers, ranging from horror authors like H. P. Lovecraft and Dennis Wheatley to Robert Graves.]

Raised a devout Christian by her mother, Murray had initially become a Sunday School teacher in order to preach the faith. However, after entering the academic profession she rejected religion, gaining a reputation amongst other members of the Folklore Society as a noted sceptic and a rationalist.

Despite her rejection of religion, she continued to maintain a personal belief in a God of some sort, relating in her autobiography that she believed in "an unseen over-ruling Power," "which science calls Nature and religion calls God." She was also a believer and a practitioner of magic, performing curses against those whom she felt deserved it: as Ronald Hutton noted, "Once she carried out a ritual to blast a fellow academic whose promotion she believed to have been undeserved, by mixing up ingredients in a frying pan in the presence of two colleagues. The victim actually did become ill, and had to change jobs. This was only one among a number of such acts of malevolent magic she perpetrates, and which the friend who recorded them assumed (rather nervously) were pranks, with coincidental effects."

If only she’d seen and taken to heart the final line of The Wiccan Rede: ‘Do as you will, an it harm none’…!

And so at last to group news.

There’s still time to read and discuss one or more of our book choices for June and July – The Archaeology of Shamanism edited by Neil Price and Hounded, by Kevin Hearne. Suggestions for future choices may be added to Choose a Book Here under the heading of Group Reads. We’re fine for non-fiction until December, but a fiction suggestion is needed to accompany the non-fiction choice for October/November, so if there’s a paganish novel you need company reading, do add it to the thread.

At the time of writing we have 1067 members – our group is growing amazingly as time seems to fly by.
If you haven’t visited for a while do pop in to say Hi, Hello, Hail or any other greeting that takes your fancy – we’d love to see you. Aaron will soon be back from his travels – his fascinating and informative posts have been much missed.

I’ll end with a tenderly beautiful poem by J.L Stanley, written in 1986 and (to me at least), more true by far than Murray’s witches.

Catechism for a Witch’s Child.

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird's wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling
streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drink
a holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother who never taught you
death was life's reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
of being

© J.L. Stanley 1986

…Till when,


message 41: by Little (new)

Little Miss Esoteric (littlemissesoteric) | 1116 comments Thank you Nell for another wonderful monthly greeting! Love the Catechism for a Witch’s Child.

(Wow. Have to say I'm incensed by the 'Europe's Inner Demon's', which seems to me to be akin to denying the holocaust. Murray was away with the fairies, but the Christian Demonologists started the iconography, the poor old sods they persecuted merely sprouted back what they'd been fed, in order to prolong--or mercifully shorten--their lives. (The Malleus Maleficarum Compendium Maleficarum: The Montague Summers Edition) But maybe this is for another thread...)

Thanks again! :):)

message 42: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Have you read The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton? Lots in there too and well worth reading.

Saw your comment below Europe's Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom - the title alone is enough to put one off reading it (although curiosity may get the better of me).

I was surprised also by Dion Fortune's opinion on the persecution of witches in Psychic Self-Defense - as I remember she seems to be saying that there's no smoke without fire and that people participated in the witch hunts because they'd been afraid for a long time. I'll try to find the paragraph to post in your witch thread.

message 43: by Little (new)

Little Miss Esoteric (littlemissesoteric) | 1116 comments Thanks Nell! I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the title disturbing.

I haven't read The Triumph of the Moon but will add and seek it out now. :):)

I haven't read Dion Fortune's book either, although my take is that they weren't witches at all. O.k there were a few, but the Trials were motivated by various civil and sociological changes that occurred during the 'Age of Reason', and varied from country to country.

For anyone else who is interested in this too, these are the threads for discussion of the the Trials.

The European Witchcraft Trials: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...
The Salem Witchcraft Trials: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...
The Inquisition: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

Re: Psychic-Defense, Anton Szandor LaVey also speaks of psychic attacks, or psychic vampires, I think he called them (my memory is hazy I read his work a while ago). I am interested in Dion's passage. Is the book in question worth reading?

message 44: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Gina, I found the Dion Fortune quote and added it to your European Witchcraft Trials thread.

message 45: by Little (new)

Little Miss Esoteric (littlemissesoteric) | 1116 comments Thanks Nell. :):)

message 46: by Sara (new)

Sara Nell wrote: "Have you read The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton? Lots in there too and well worth reading.

Saw your comment below Europe's Inner Demons: The Demoniz..."

I'm not a huge fan of Ronald Hutton, however it's worth noting that there is a counter argument to The Triumph of the Moon called Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft, by Ben Whitmore. In fairness, I haven't read either. Honestly, it's a set of arguments and counterarguments that doesn't much engage me.

message 47: by Nell (last edited Jul 02, 2013 12:15PM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Hi Sara, I didn't know that there was a counter argument, and I do tend to trust Ronald Hutton - he always seems so balanced and prepared to seek out both for and against. Will look up Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft. a Critique of Ronald Hutton's the Triumph of the Moon: A History of Mode though - thanks!

message 48: by Little (new)

Little Miss Esoteric (littlemissesoteric) | 1116 comments Adding it too, thanks Sara. :)

message 49: by Sara (new)

Sara Nell wrote: "Hi Sara, I didn't know that there was a counter argument, and I do tend to trust Ronald Hutton - he always seems so balanced and prepared to seek out both for and against. Will look up Trials of t..."

It's always interesting to me how different readers perceive certain writers. The only book of Hutton's that I've read is his book on Shamanism. I thought he did a creditable job as an historian in pulling the material together. I am trained as an historian, with an MA, so I feel somewhat qualified to say so.

He was less creditable for me in his chapters on contemporary shamanism. He seemed determined to discount contemporary western shamanism and seemed less impartial, IMO. I difficulty with his approach in this.

I can't remember where I stumbled across this rebuttal, and as I say, I've read neither, and likely won't. So many books; so little time, LOL.

message 50: by Nell (last edited Jul 03, 2013 03:49AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I haven't read his book on Shamanism - Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination (I guess). I must get around to it soon.

As a trained historian with hands-on experience of the subject you'd notice flaws that I wouldn't. I do find his books clear and easy to read - no reaching for the dictionary every page like some non-fiction (more like a dissertations than accessible information).

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