Monday, July 21, 2014


Letter to my MP: Israeli bombardment of Palestine
I am very disturbed by recent events in Gaza, including the bombing of a hospital, and the fact that one-fifth of those killed by Israel's bombardment of Gaza were children.

Once again Gaza is under massive aerial bombardment from Israeli warplanes and drones, and Gaza is under Israeli occupation and siege.

Israel is bombing a refugee population – Palestinians who were made refugees when they were forced from their land in 1948 in order to create Israel.

Repeated posturing by western governments that Hamas are terrorists, used to "justify" the bombardment and oppression of the Palestinians, is totally unacceptable. Gaza has no army, air force, or navy, while Israel possess one of the strongest militaries in the world.

These events flow from the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people from their homes and communities, with millions now corralled as refugees in the Gaza Strip. That initial injustice was compounded and continues with the ongoing occupation and siege.

Resistance to occupation is a right under international law. Israel’s occupation, siege and collective punishment of Gaza is not.

I wish to state that any support, whether military or political, from the UK government, towards the state of Israel, is not in my name.

I would like to see the UK government calling for an immediate ceasefire, and meaningful talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This would mean restoring the water sources, land, and other resources taken away from the Palestinians, and an end to the oppressive policies towards them, restricting their human rights and freedom of movement.
Many Palestinians and Israelis are tired of fighting and want to live in peace with each other. This bloody conflict must end.

Please do everything in your power to persuade the government to broker a ceasefire and talks.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Belief-O-Matic update

So I did the Belief-O-Matic again...

For goodness' sake, I ticked polytheist. This can't be right.

Unitarian Universalism Unitarian Universalism
You have Unitarian Universalism beliefs (100%)
Click on any religion below for more information on different beliefs and faiths.

Secular Humanism(94%)
Liberal Quakerism(80%)
New Age(74%)
Mahayana Buddhism(69%)
Liberal Christian Protestantism(65%)
Theravada Buddhism(63%)
Reformed Judaism(60%)
Roman Catholicism(6%)
Eastern Orthodox Christianity(6%)
New Thought(59%)
Church of Christ, Scientist(46%)
Bahá'í Faith(32%)
Orthodox Quakerism(28%)
Conservative Christian Protestant(22%)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints(22%)
Seventh-day Adventists(2%)
Orthodox Judaism(13%)
Jehovah's Witnesses(0%)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Pagan perspective on Easter

My own view is that the Easter story is one of many stories of dying and resurrecting deities. In these stories, the hero dies, descends to the underworld, and returns to the mortal world bringing some blessing or new knowledge. Persephone is taken to the Underworld by force, but returns every six months; Gilgamesh goes to rescue his friend Enkidu from death; Orpheus goes to rescue Eurydice. Jesus goes there to rescue the souls of those trapped in Gehenna (this is referenced in the only letter of the Apostle Peter). In Christus Victor theology, which is prevalent among the Eastern Orthodox churches, Jesus “tramples down death by death” and because he is God, cannot be contained by death, and so transcends it. He then returns transformed into a being who can manifest as he chooses — by the Sea of Galilee, or on the road to Emmaus. The mythical journey undergone by all these heroes and heroines is a descent into death and the underworld, returning transformed into something greater, and bringing back a gift for humanity. The hymn Now the green blade rises references this mythological and transformational aspect of the Easter story.

The spiritual journey involves the same transformation — the death of the ego, the descent into the dark night of the soul, and the resurrection as the True Self. In Orthodox Christian theology, this transformation is called theosis, literally deification, making us divine. It’s not too hard to see an analogy with the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. As James Martineau, the 19th century Unitarian theologian, said, “The Incarnation is true, not of Christ exclusively, but of Man universally, and God everlastingly. Humanity is the susceptible organ of the Divine, and he bends into it to dwell there.”

In Orthodox churches, Easter is celebrated as a unified event, and is regarded as being in the present, the eternal Now. So on Easter Sunday, people greet each other with “Christos Anesti” (Christ is risen) - because he is risen in their hearts and in the church which is his mystical body (and they presumably believe it literally as well).

In the Eleusinian Mysteries, people witnessed the unfolding drama of the story of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld, and underwent a profound transformation or initiation as a result.

You can enjoy Easter on a mythical and mystical level. There’s no need to take it literally to enjoy the unfolding drama of the Mystery. We can witness the many stories of death and resurrection and experience transformation ourselves, like participants in a mystery tradition.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What happens when the oil runs out?

Vegetable gardens in Slovenia (photo by Simon)I am currently reading the Emberverse series by S M Stirling, in which electronics, guns, the internal combustion engine, and gunpowder all stop working overnight. The laws of physics have been tampered with by some unknown power. The books explore the consequences of this strange event, known as the Change. Part of the story follows a small group of Georgian Wiccans who take to the hills; another part deals with a man who decides to set up a feudal Norman-style state. The people who do best are those with some skills in farming, making things, but also, the ones who are rich in stories that help make sense of the world, which help them to build just and cohesive societies.

I think that the Change is shorthand, or a metaphor, for what happens when the oil runs out. It won't happen overnight, and if we are lucky, it will be managed sensibly. But all the current indications are that it will not be managed sensibly. Instead of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, companies are inventing ever more destructive ways of wresting them from the ground, the worst of these being fracking. We are also not investing in sustainable power sources, or taxing carbon consumption, or anywhere near enough of the things we should be doing. The warning signs of climate change are being ignored.

Rhyd Wildermuth's story, What we built from ruins (part 1 and part 2), in response to the question, what will Paganism look like in fifty years' time? got me thinking, as well. I realised that my response completely ignored the question of what will happen when the oil runs out.

I also recently attended a ritual in my local area that was part of a global magical working to protect the waters of the world from fracking, which is about the most irresponsible and damaging thing anyone could possibly do to the environment. It was a very moving and beautiful ritual, and it brought together eco-activists, Pagans, shamans, and others.

So what can Pagans and other ecologically-minded people be doing to prepare for the eventual crash, or shift?

We can reduce our own dependence on fossil fuels; campaign for investment in sustainable energy sources; campaign for environmental and social justice. But in addition to these, we can do magic (the art of changing consciousness in accordance with Will) to heal and protect the Earth and other living beings, and we can learn skills such as building roundhouses and coracles and boats, raising livestock, weaving, growing our own food, and so on. We can get involved with the transition towns movement and other sustainability initiatives, support organic farming, and check our own ecological footprint. We can build strong communities - not only of Pagans, but including others of good will. And we can engage with stories that show how to build just, cohesive, and inclusive societies. We are already doing all this to a certain extent - we just need to do it more.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The old lie, dulce et decorum est...

I have no words apart from "A la lanterne!" for this. Apparently Michael Gove has had a go at historians and TV for the "Blackadder myths" about the First World War, saying it was not really that bad. (I won't share the link because it is from the Daily Mail.) No, Gove, the First World War really was that bad. The mud that sucked men down to their deaths, the trench-foot, the lice that made men's clothes move on their own, the endless pounding of the shells, the gas ("if in dreams you too could pace behind the wagon that we flung him in, and watch him guttering, choking drowning"), the death and maiming of comrades, the utter waste of life, the incomprehensible slaughter of thousands in a single day for a tiny piece of land. The horrific carnage of Gallipoli. So do NOT repeat to us the old lie, "Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori". It is neither sweet nor meet, it is death, too early, and in horrific ways that an idiot like Gove probably can't even imagine.