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Alastair McIntosh 'Hell and Highwater'

  • Posted by tim
  • 18 September 2008

I just got off the phone to Do Lectures big hit Alastair McIntosh who has a new book out.

"A profoundly important book." - Michael Russell MSP, Minister for the Environment at the launch 25 July 2008 and also cited by him in debate in the Scottish Parliament the next day as an "influential response to climate change."

"In Hell and High Water Alastair McIntosh applies his sharp mind and rigorous ethics to the impending climate catastrophe. The results are thoughtful, incisive and emotionally powerful. Whatever our individual judgements about the inevitability of catastrophe, this analysis should give us all pause for thought. Planning for a post-catastrophe world cannot be postponed even while we work urgently to prevent the worst impacts of climate chaos." - Duncan McLaren, Director of Friends of the Earth (Scotland).

Here's a brief excerpt.

Several years ago my widowed and slightly disabled mother moved from the retirement croft house on the Isle of Lewis to the nearby town of Stornoway. Now well into her seventies, she had acquired a cottage by the harbour thinking that city life would make it easier to cope with the wild winter weather.

Tuesday, 11 January 2005 was a tempestuous day even in Govan - the shipbuilding area of Glasgow where I presently live with Vrne my wife. But further out west on the Outer Hebrides, a storm of unprecedented proportions had come in from the Atlantic. Late that evening my mother telephoned. She was coping, but her voice sounded wraith-like and terrified.

Wind speeds are measured on the Beaufort Scale. Francis Beaufort was an Irish admiral who had first gone to sea in 1787. His original scale went up to Hurricane Force 12. Each gradation related to sailing conditions, thus a Force 12, with sustained wind velocities of between 73 and 83 miles per hour, were those to which she could show no canvas, and which, over dry land, might cause considerable and widespread damage to structures. On that January night in 2005, winds of 120 mph (200 kph) were recorded near Stornoway. There was also a very high tide and so, combined with the storm surge of water piled up by the tempest, Stornoways lower-lying streets became inundated by the sea.

As I metaphorically held my mothers hand over the phone, she described how waves were bursting over the defensive wall across the road. Shovel-loads of stones hailed against her bulging windows. She feared what might happen if the glass gave way. Salty rivulets percolated in around the windowsills and trickled down through the carpets. The whole street was impassably awash. Anybody venturing out would be at peril not just from the deluge, but also from roofing slates flying around like guillotine-edged banshees.

Im exhausted, she told me. My strength is almost gone. Ive been up and down the stairs for the past two hours, mopping up as fast as it comes in. The emergency services sandbagged my front door, but they can hardly cope and say theres nothing else they can do.

The crisis subsided as the tide receded, but that nights storm cost the islands millions of pounds in damage. I visited straight afterwards, and three boats were wrecked outside my mothers house, cast up on the rocks almost to the road. In our village of Leurbost, close friends from school days were dealing with roofs ripped from off their weaving and black-smithing sheds. On a causeway joining South Uist to Benbecula, a family of five in two cars - thought to have been escaping from rising floodwaters inside their low-lying home -were swept away to death. It was the worst natural disaster and the most terrible storm within the islands living memory.

Please visit the website here.

Here's his Do Lectures talk.

Here's where to buy the book.click.

NEW T-shirt of the week - Handlebar

  • Posted by pete
  • 18 September 2008

This week's T-shirt of the Week is 'Handlebar'.

We're big on facial hair here at howies. There's something quite dignified and
distinguished about a gentleman with a bit of facial furniture, don't you think?

Paul is currently sporting a rather splendid beard, Tidy Mike is renowned as
a bit of a hairy beast too and Anna, well she's got a great 'tache but she
bleaches hers (joke!).

Nobody has quite reached this chap's standard yet though. That is just about
the finest handlebar I have ever seen. A facial sensation.

Designed by those spiffing chaps over at Dye Holloway Murray.
Available on Sky for men and women.

click here to buy men's

click here to buy women's

While we're at it, better have a look at this too

by Dr. Susan Greenwood, Book launch at Treadwells, Covent Garden, May 2005

Questions, questions, questions

I wrote The Nature of Magic to answer some questions that I wanted answering (those of you who know me know I'm one for asking questions!).

I was one of those awful children that were always asking questions. I remember saying to an RE teacher at school, who had just carefully explained that God made the world, 'Well, if God made the world, who made God'. She gave me an exasperated look and just told me not to ask stupid questions.

On another occasion, when I was much younger (about 5), I asked a question of my primary school teacher. I can't remember what the question was but I do remember the answer: it was 'Susan, are you up the pole?' It would be very romantic to interpret this as her seeing some sort of shamanic vocation in my eager, young face - that her response referred to a sign of a shamanic cosmological central axis - but unfortunately I think she just wanted to shut me up. Probably just as well!

So as a celebration I'm going to Start this talk with a question.

- this is my own question but it's one that anthropologist, biologist and psychologist Gregory Bateson would understand:

What links boggart (nature spirit) stories, a ghostly cavalcade led by a goddess or god, cyborgs, and Covent Garden?

We'll come back to that question or rather we'll go on a roundabout tour, using other questions and looking at problems, by way of answering it.

I'm going to talk about magical consciousness, the main theme of The Nature of Magic

What is Magical consciousness?

I probably don't have to explain too much about what magical consciousness is to this audience. Perhaps it's something that many of us think we know about but when we sit down and try and explain it - perhaps the words don't come. It's something that's difficult to put into words; concerns what 19th century psychologist William James called 'the ineffable'.

- magical consciousness is difficult to describe - it's an experience, maybe of

a spiritual feeling of connection - seeing a sunset over the sea, the moon (full moon tonight) being in love or emotionally engaged;

Mystery, of profound connection, spiritual insight, deep understanding, communion with other beings or Being, a feeling of expansion, being in touch with something greater, loss of ego-self. the list continues.

Magical consciousness is developed through magical practice - which might involve meditation, rituals, or going on a vision quest, amongst a hundred other examples - you all know what I mean.

'Magic' and 'consciousness' are both difficult terms academically:

a) Magic has meant different things at different times - during the Renaissance it was considered to be a way of contacting God; later during the Reformation is came to be seen as false religion; it has been seen by some as a form of pre-science (before we really knew what was going on). Not going to talk more about that here - like teaching Grandmother how to suck eggs

There's a prejudice against magic in the social sciences - seen as irrational, superstition; okay in small-scale, non-western, tribal peoples but not in educated westerners; certainly not in academia - it's not taken seriously. Magic isn't examined on its own terms - its reduced to sociological, cultural, or psychological explanations.

b) Consciousness can't be pinned down or measured - it's ambiguous. Science doesn't deal well with ambiguity. Reduces explanations for consciousness to the individual human brain, in many cases; it was left to philosophy to explain.

Is consciousness located solely within the human brain or the human mind, or is it something wider - does it expand outwards in nature; do other beings experience consciousness as part of a wider universe? This is the view being developed by those interested in what's called 'the new physics' - Bohm, Capra and others.

My answer to this question is 'yes' - consciousness is wider than the individual human mind, wider than the human brain; here we can go back to Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity) who said that mind is in nature: not only in the head (we are nature) but also out there in our environment; and we share minds with trees and sea-anemones (for example) through stories.

Stories create links between personal mind and the wider consciousness or consciousnesses.

So, our brains are not the originators of consciousness but merely the transmitters of it (a view taken by transpersonal psychologist Stanilav Grof - see his book The Holotropic Mind).

And if you don't believe that it doesn't matter - just suspend disbelief and imagine that it's true (we're talking about worldviews here not absolute truths) so we can explore magical consciousness.

So what is 'magical consciousness'?

Magical consciousness, as I've defined it:

- above all it's an experience

- an aspect, dimension, strand of consciousness that allows for creative participation - through the imagination - between human beings and spirit - of deities, ancestors, and all manner of other-than-human people - from hedgehogs to prawns.

Magical consciousness works through connections. How? Through seeing things in terms of patterns of communication (and this is an important clue to the question I asked at the beginning).

If we see 'consciousness' as something wider than just our own minds; as something that enables us to connect with other beings through our imaginations - there are no limits: we can change shape, shape-shift, with all manner of beings - and thereby gain knowledge. We can experience what it's like to be an owl, for example. We can feel what it's like to have feathers and to feel the air moving through our feathers when we fly. Magical consciousness is a source of knowledge that has been devalued and trivialized in Western societies.

Connections are made through our personal minds linking with other minds in a wider consciousness or consciousnesses.

- through participation, an ancient concept in philosophy which means that things 'take part' in something bigger

The term was developed by philosopher Lucien Levy-Bruhl to refer to mystical thinking - a unity of thinking that made associations between things based on the idea that energy suffuses everything. Levy-Bruhl initially said that this was how non-western peoples thought.

This started something of an aggravated debate in anthropology in the early 20th century with various celebrated anthropologists claiming that Levy-Bruhl made native peoples more mystical than they really were. Levy-Bruhl then modified his position but what he said about participation still remains relevant.

Anthropologist Stanley Tambiah developed Levy-Bruhl's notion of participation to argue that people everywhere have two co-existing orientations to the world:

1. causality (logical thinking: abstract, separated, focused)
2. participation (analogical, holistic thinking: works with patterns and connection, though myths, ritual, and symbols) - basis of magical consciousness.

Causality and participation do not form a dualism but rather an 'entwining' - we use both, probably slipping in and out of each with ease without really realizing.

We're looking at magical consciousnesss so we're interested in participation rather than causality. How to examine participation? Lots of examples in the book, but I'll talk about one:
The trance-dance of Gordon the Toad It's hard to write about this kind of experience because writing is the wrong code (in Bateson's terminology) of expression. The written language, and the spoken language are the wrong codes for expression - it's incommunicable in words.

What is the message of the dance? Bateson would say that it's about communication. The dance is a participatory communication between shaman and spirits whereby Gordon invokes the spirits he works with; he moves over and lets them in and in the process both Gordon and the spirits are set free (Gordon's words). Gordon says that he feels a world that thinks and its presence humbles him and sets him free'.

- he is 'bringing through' and giving corporeal expression to the non-corporeal. The dance is an expression of magical consciousness; an experience. And this is why it is so difficult to write about.

- but the communication with spirits enable Gordon to do the work that he does in environmental education; it enables him to be a shaman in a practical sense as performing a social role.
I'm going to backtrack a bit here:

How did I come to write The Nature of Magic?

I was a bit of an odd child! But apart from that, I thought animistically - perhaps all children think animistically. Certainly we're encouraged to think in this way - up to a certain age that is, and then we're expected to grow out of it. Trouble is - I didn't, and I expect most people in this room didn't either (and we just kept quiet about it!).

What is animism? It's the view that sees all things in the world as alive and possessing spirit and/or soul. For Aristotle, soul was equivalent to psyche - the 'principle of life' that animates a living creature (it's only lately that psychology has developed as a discipline to study psyche in the human head as if that was all it was).
- we can easily see ourselves as being alive as having the 'principle of life', and the dog, the cat, but stones, and mountains that might be a little more difficult; and this table and the chairs is even more difficult (the more processed things are the less alive they seem).

I remember asking a student on my altered states of consciousness course at the University of Sussex to imagine that a stone was alive. She could just about imagine that, with a great deal of effort; and when I asked her what she thought about the stone now that she had imagined it was alive, she could handle that - just. But when I asked her what she thought the stone thought of her, well that finished her! She thought I was mad (and perhaps I am, but that's another story!).

Back to me being a weird child - I played with worms in my sandpit; I grew saplings from apple seeds and whitebeam seeds; apricot and peach trees from stones. I loved watching young horse chestnut leaves unfurling from a tightly closed sticky buds and I imagined things. Like most children I used to talk to things - the worms as well as my toys
But I digress. How do we come to lose this animistic world?

Our Western culture encourages us to separate ourselves off from the natural world; nature and the earth have been devalued. Culturally, we've valued other approaches that control and dominate nature - for economic and political reasons.
And we've valued rationality and disengaged reflection on the world above intuition and sense experience of engaging with the world. Culturally we've lost our sense of soul. But maybe if we're into magic we haven't.
- certainly the people I've worked with as an anthropologist haven't lost their sense of an animated, connected, magical world.
So, what's the Problem?

As an anthropologist: how to explain my experience and those I was conducting 'participant observation' with - shamans, pagans, druids, witches, magicians - within a social scientific framework that doubts, doesn't accept, the existence of magic on its own terms (that is, not reduced to sociological or psychological (in the sense of relating only to the individual) explanations)?
We don't have a scientific framework that incorporates magic - as an expanded animistic awareness - as a form of knowledge.

This was a problem that I came up against in my PhD research. I wanted to explain the world of magic to the world of academia and vice versa. I saw myself as a communicator between two, largely separate, worlds
I ended up in an academic court having to fight for the views contained in my PhD because my examiners thought I wasn't a 'proper anthropologist'; I'd 'gone native'. I won the case (the spirits were with me that day, as were a number of amazing friends), the PhD was eventually awarded, and the result was published as Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld (published by Berg in 2000).
That book led to more questions and eventually The Nature of Magic. What was 'nature religion'? How did practitioners relate to nature? Was it how I related to nature? The whole experience of conducting fieldwork and writing it up was an adventure that took 9 years

When I was writing the book it felt as though it was writing me. You're not supposed to write anthropological ethnographies like that. And even if you do, you're not supposed to say that that's how you've done it! It's a bit like admitting to a crime. It felt as if it was writing me - like I had to get into the space of magical consciousness in my own mind in order to experience it. And then write from that place (helped by a number of spirits that had come to me in the process of conducting fieldwork - you're certainly not supposed to admit to that!).

Back to the first Question (or perhaps I should say 'forward to the past')
What links boggart (nature spirit) stories, a ghostly cavalcade led by a goddess or god, cyborgs, and Covent Garden?

You've probably guessed the answer: the link is 'magical consciousness', and it's now quite obvious really, or I hope it's obvious...

Boggarts and other spirits of nature stories can relate us to the participating land. Through the eye of magical consciousness, the land is made up, as eco-philosopher David Abram says, of multiple intelligences. As Abram puts it:

Magic is participating in a world of multiple intelligences with the intuition that every form one perceives - from swallow swooping overhead to the fly on a blade of grass, and indeed the blade of grass itself - is an experiencing form, an entity with its own predilections and sensations that are very different from our own
(Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, 1997: 10).

This is an animistic view - seeing the world as animated and having soul - it's about connection.

The 'ghostly cavalcade' refers to an old European mythos - commonly termed the Wild Hunt - that represents the cyclicity of life; it is symbolic of the connections between the living and the dead, the hunter and the hunted; as well as light and dark, and all manner of other distinctions.
- myth is a 'language of magical consciousness' - it gives the experience a framework in which to expand. I've used the example of The Wild Hunt but there are many others that have similar or different themes, they all work in the same way.
Cyborgs well, that was a bit of a cheat - just put that in to keep your interest. Refers to Donna Haraway's critique of the Goddess as a relational symbol in postmodern technological societies How human beings relate to technology, a very processed form of nature
Covent Garden Nature in the City; not just pristine obviously magical places such as Stonehenge or Avebury. Magical consciousness is how we think in all sorts of situations and places, including here.

Jonathan Raban wrote Soft City in 1974; explained how we all create meaning through our own personal reference points:

A black-fronted bookshop in south Kensington, a line of gothic balconies on the Cromwell Road' symbols denote a particular quarter - the underground may, for example, turn into an object of superstition, an irrational way of imposing order on the city: the Piccadilly Line is full of fly-by-night and stripe-shirted young men who run dubious agencies' (Page 169).

Bateson called this personal map-making 'ideation', a way of imposing order on the world.

Witch Chris Penczak (in City Magick: urban rituals, spells, and shamanism) takes it one step further when he describes the city as a 'powerful landscape of magick' by imbuing it with magical power:

- mechanical spirits my manifest physically in the form of subways seen as great electric serpents, akin to underworld gods, like the great king worm burrowing under us (I had to get the worm spirit in somewhere!); they can take us to other dimensions
- tall buildings may function as cosmic axes for interconnecting realms, like the World Tree, linking deities, humans, ancestors, and giants
- graffiti might be magical sigils

This is 'abduction' - magical consciousness - recognizing the patterns.
Looking for the pattern that connects, Bateson asked:

What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose, and all the four of them to me? And me to you? And all the six of us to the amoeba in one direction and to the backward schizophrenic in another?

This is what he calls 3rd order connection; connection in terms of stories (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity). Stories help us connect; help us make sense of our world.

And now we know the answer to the question (I hope!): Magical consciousness
To Conclude

Magical consciousness is about recognizing the subjective patterns that come to us through our engagement with our everyday here and now world as well as the cosmos.

- it isn't something inherently mystical (although it can be interpreted in this way)
- it's a part of being human, a part that has been denied by Western societies.

Magical consciousness is about reconnecting with souls as psyche - the life principle - the souls of everyday lived experience.

Phil Hine on Ekomagic

  • Posted by tim
  • 18 September 2008

by Phil Hine - a presentation made at the Wildwood Conference, 1994

When Caroline originally invited me to speak here I thought about doing a pathworking where people start off as trees and end up as a carton of lemon-scented toilet paper. Jokes aside though, I decided that a 'pathworking' was not appropriate for this subject. I sometimes think that part of the whole problem that magical people have is that it's often easier to visualize nature than go tramping about in it, in the same way that it's a lot safer to visualize yourself battling dragons than actually sitting down in front of bulldozers.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ekomagic is a fairly new phenomenon - something which appears to have been evolving over the last decade or so, at least in the UK. Now we all know the pagan 'histories' about being in touch with the cycles of nature and so forth - drawing a veil over archeological evidence that our distant ancestors used to set fire to forests as a way of driving game - but this new idea, that we can use magical practices & beliefs in the struggle against those who despoil the environment - well it might seem an obvious thing to do now, but that wasn't always the case.

Why? Well, for a start it's political. Until fairly recently, using magic to further one's political ideals was thought of as not quite ethical - at least Dion Fortune gives that impression. Let me qualify that though - if it's my politics then it's spiritual, but if it's something I don't agree with, then it's black magic. This argument is often put forth by the people who will quite willingly beam love through a crystal, but won't give a beggar a quid 'cos it's his karma.

My own view on this kind of argument is that this is what people say when they don't really want magic to have any effect. Last year I was at a gathering of magicians and a hot debate was stirred up during the planning of a ritual to affect the future. One of the projects raised was a proposal to 'magically' assist research into finding a cure for AIDS. This drew quite a lot of resistance - and it seemed to me from the ensuing discussion that some of those present just couldn't get their heads round the idea of using magic to bring about a result with long-term consequences.

Another problem related to Ekomagic is that magicians have only recently started to take notice of nature. We model reality in our heads - nice little black-white chequerboard models, and then act all surprised when life, which tends to be messy at the edges, doesn't fit into the model. For example, until fairly recently, the dominant approach for working magic outdoors has been fairly simple - just move those quasi-rosicrucian ceremonies outdoors! I've always been a bit puzzled by this. Where do you hang the banners for the four quarters? How can one be expected to invoke the air elementals when the wind is turning the grimoire's pages too fast? And this isn't limited to ceremonial magicians either. A few years ago, a group of us invited some local witches up to Ilkley Moor for a Winter Solstice ritual - whereon it was revealed to me that Wiccan rituals were "designed to be done indoors".

Nethertheless, Ekomagic has become increasingly popular since the mid-1980s. A few things have helped it along:

The popularity of James Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis", which describes the Earth as:

"A self-stabilising system comprising of all living things and the environment as a single dynamic entity."

This brought up some sickly romantic notions of big nannie Gaia - and Lovelock has, since the publication of his original book, pointed out that:

"she is as pitiless as an ICBM. She may not eat her children but she employs the market forces of natural selection to rid her Earth of the lame, the sick and the losers."

Be that as it may, the Gaia Hypothesis has done much to challenge the prevailing Western view that nature is a primitive force to be tamed and subdued.

Another positive element has been the rise of Chaos Theory, which again challenges many of the basic assumptions, including the long-held fantasy that science can predict natural phenomena.

At street-level, the rise of Feminism and the Ecological action movements have slowly permeated the pagan and magical milieu. In the eighties, there was discernable a curious distinction - between the 'real' pagans and magicians who did their rituals and celebrations 'by the book' as it were, and the 'others' - the women who performed their rituals of protest at Greenham Common and outside nuclear power stations. It has happened, that groups of politically-inspired protestors doing their magic have suddenly had, in their midst, an 'authentic' pagan/magician pop up and start telling them how they should be doing things!

A landmark for the development of interest in Ekomagic was the publication of Starhawk's Dreaming the Dark - which was a great step forwards in combining paganism, magic, politics and social activism. There have been occasional journals, such as the short-lived "Pagans Against Nukes", but little in the way of debate.

My own interest in these matters came to a head in 1987 when I became involved in a Leeds-based project called "Heal the Earth."

Heal the Earth was the title of a mass ritual, the aim of which was to increase public awareness of the global ecological crisis. It was performed in the UK and Europe on the Summer Solstice, between 12 - 2pm.
Heal the Earth began as an idea - appearing in the midst of a group of Leeds magia who were discussing the possibilities afforded by politicized magic. If, as we are told, the witch clans gathered together in the New Forest to work magic against the the threat of Nazi invasion, wasn't it about time, we thought, that we did something along the same lines? The original idea was for a mass-ritual coordinated through a simple symbol or image, to be carried out by groups and invididuals at the Summer Solstice.

Having grasped this original idea, we then took it around other local pagans and asked for feedback. Everyone we talked to were very entnusiastic about the project taking off and being a success. This phase became, what we would in retrospect see as networking - as people suggested other individuals and groups that might be interested in helping, and this alone helped the project gather impetus and enthusiasm.

The next step was to consider the aim of the ritual - the statement of intent, if you like. We discussed the idea of focusing on very specific political issues, but eventually decided to go for a general raising of awareness - a ripple across the human plantary mind.

We then turned to the design of the leaflet - magical artist Sheila Broun very kindly allowed us to to use her tarot design for the Ace of Cups as the central image - the focus for each person participating in the action. The leaflet was worded to try and get the idea across in as succint a way as possible, since we wanted as many people as possible to join in. A description of the qualities of the Ace of Cups was included, and a quote from the Tao te Ching expressed perfectly what we were trying to do:

Under Heaven nothing is more soft And yielding than water, yet for Attacking the solid and strong, nothing Is better - it has no equal. Lao Tzu

Rather than writing specific instructions for a 'ritual' to perform - we asked people to do what they enjoyed most - anything from quiet contemplation to frenzied dancing.

Once the leaflet had been designed, we then distributed it - leaflets were taken abroad by friends, displayed in shops as A3 posters, and handed out at the Glastonbury festival, and distributed at various gigs up and down the country.

And the results? Well, we enjoyed it. I spent the Solstice period with other project members, drumming for two hours on Ilkley Moor, in a ritual dedicated to Arwen, Goddess of inspiration. It showed us what a small, determined group could do in the way of organisation and generating enthusiasm.

This kind of mass ritual is one approach to Ekomagic. Mass rituals have been organised by PaganLink and the Pagan Federation. What other forms of magical activity can be used? I know I've slagged pathworkings off a bit - I keep thinking of a workshop a couple of years ago where we were asked to visualise ourselves being in a forest, where, if we'd walked a few hundred yards we'd actually have been surrounded by trees, but pathworkings can be effective, when used with a bit of imagination.

Then there's magic of a more - shall we say - aggressive nature. On more than one occasion I have heard the proposal that we visualise the person responsible and stick pins into a doll. Now there are obviously ethical issues raised when it comes to the cursing of individuals. There's also the consideration that targeting individuals won't actually do much to change matters. Sticking pins into a doll of the head of ICI is no more going to bring about long-term change in behaviour than the idea that kicking a few skinheads will do much for changing racist attitudes. A related idea though, is cursing institutions rather than individuals. In the 1983 "Stop the City" actions, Kali, Eris and Hecate were invoked by participating magicians. The Computers tracking Council-tax dodgers have been the target of magical 'gremlins' and there have been attempts to magically lower the share prices of large corporations.

Another form of magic which has become increasingly popular is the use of 'thought-forms' or servitors as site-guardians.

These are but a few ideas. Obviously there's more to be done, and now that increasing numbers of pagans and magicians are discovering that there's more to nature than can be encompassed in the book of shadows or the tree of life - and that magic works - I hope that this trend continues.

The Rollright Stones

  • Posted by tim
  • 18 September 2008

The Rollright Stones

Francis Breakspear

This is one of those awkward things to write; to talk about a place of peace and beauty and encourage people to visit it- which place may then not be so beautiful nor peaceful if loads of people then go there to see how beautiful and peaceful it is, and in the process trample the area flat. Difficult- OK, a risk; but here goes.

The Rollright Stones are on the Oxfordshire-Warwickshire borders (with some of the stones in each county). Neither as large in diameter nor as tall or physically weighty as Stonehenge or Avebury, they do however have their own charm and innate sense of power, and energy (whatever that means). And that latter feeling is not just some fluffy new age crap; the stones seem to affect even the most hardened sceptic, and scientific studies done in the eighties found numerous magnetic, acoustic and radiological anomalies. So, its a weird place- Official!

The stones used to be owned by a delightfully batty old lady called Mrs. Flick, who used the income to help support a pets home, but she is sadly no longer alive. The stones have been taken over by a charitable trust, which seems to be running them in very much the right spirit.

The place is full of legend- the King Stone is said to be a local ruler who was turned to stone in a wager with a witch, that he lost, and the rather dubious theories of Margaret Murray claim that someone was ritually murdered near there in the 1940s. There is a pretty weird book (the Rollright Ritual - now out of print) by WG Gray based on what he psychically picked up- its supposed to be an account of the magic worked there by the people who built the circle, several thousand years ago. More recently it has become a regular gathering place for all manner of pagans and new-agers. I was there once when 3 carloads of police arrived; fortunately only to visit on their way to some conference and not to hassle anyone. The custodian on duty lent them a set of dowsing rods each, and set them off playing with them in the circle. Their immediate attitude was of mocking all this hippy witchy rubbish.. until the dowsing rods started to spin like helicopter blades! Exit several very quiet, chastened and confused policemen a few minutes later.

Personally, I love the place- Ive been to a beautiful Pagan wedding there; seen the sun come up on an awesome Solstice dawn, seen it go down on a freezing winters night and performed some highly significant magickal work of my own there. When I lived in Wales and had to travel to London a lot it was a great place to stop off and recharge, and now I live so far away its a special journey to get there, but one I intend to keep on making. So do visit if stone circles are your thing, but dont expect to find Ice-Cream vans and a picnic area.

Oh yeah- do any damage or leave any litter there and Ill find you and kill you


The Rollright Trust website here.

ASLAN (Ancient Sacred LAndscape Network) for more general stone circle matters here.

Some of Daves photos of Rollright (and many other places) can be found at http://groups.msn.com/BlueRememberedHills/home.htm

How to get there:

By Road

The nearest railway stations are Chipping Norton, Moreton or Stratford and taxis from there to the stones will be expensive- public transport to the area is not exactly great, due to the very rural nature of the place. You need to be in a car or be prepared for a long walk to get there, really. The stones are a short distance off the A3400 between Chipping Norton and Stratford, and the Rollright Trust website (above) has a useful map.

Accomodation Nearby pubs will have either rooms or camping space, and there are several dedicated caravan and campsites nearby. The tourist honey pot of Shakespeares Stratford-on-Avon is a short drive away, and has the whole gamut of places to stay, from expensive hotels to Bed and Breakfast places to campsites.
More info from here.

The quotes in this piece are all taken from Thundersqueak, which awesome, and awe-inspring tome.

Ramsey Dukes

  • Posted by tim
  • 18 September 2008

I thought this might interest a few folk who are doing the right thing. It's a excerpt from a book i've had for some time. Here's a little piece of Ramsey.

This essay is taken from ''What I Did in My Holidays'' by Ramsey Dukes published by Mandrake of Oxford

I remember one bleak Sunday morning long ago, in a far distant county waiting, shivering for a bus. A group of us, getting angrier and colder. When one, very late, bus arrived and the conductor said he was not allowed to take on more passengers... we could have torn him to shreds. He protested at our wrath and said it was not fair: there was a bus strike on that day and he was one of the few who had opted to work because of his sense of public duty. All he had got for his pains was a tirade of abuse from angry passengers like us. Next time he would strike with the rest.

More recently I tried ringing the National coach service for information and - after endless engaged tones, numbers unobtainable, no answer and irritating recorded messages which simply put me through to another engaged tone - I eventually found a human answerer in an office in Scotland. I said "before we start, I would like to say that I have tried about twenty offices before getting any reply..." He interrupted me to tell me that he knew what I was going to say, and please not to go on. I went on to say that I had no intention of taking it out on him because he was only doing his job, but I did want him to give me the name of someone I could write and complain to, because it was not fair that staff like him should have this pressure put on them while angering customers like me. I had obviously learnt something from that Sunday morning long ago. In response he was so relieved that he actually thanked me, and said he wished other people had the same attitude. It seems that the tendency to take it out on the most accessible person is the norm: that the world still tends to hit out at the minority who choose to serve it.

That appears to be a cosmic law; and it works like this. Let us say you are a city dweller who has just heard about the evils inflicted by human civilisation on the environment, and you decide that you will be no more part of it. So you sell your flat and set up an organic small-holding in the deepest countryside, determined to live your life in unexploitive harmony with Nature. Now I suspect that, deep in your heart, you somehow expect Nature to thank you for it: to shower you with her abundance; to make the sun shine on your endeavours; to make your seeds spring gratefully from the soil. In fact the opposite will happen: you must expect a lousy reception; the worst weather of the century; an epidemic of new crop blights, mad goat disease, poxy chickens and every calamity you can imagine plus a whole crowd more. Meanwhile the factory farmer over the hill reaps record profits and the value of city flats soars...

As with that bus conductor, those who decide it is time to listen to Nature must expect an earful of abuse. Those who fulfil their dream of going to a Third World country to tend the needy must expect to be broken on the wheel of politics. Those who decide to foster sensitivity in relationships are invoking hell from their partners. Those who wish to heal ideas will end up in hiding from them. Those who incarnate to save the world will be crucified. Indeed anyone lead by curiosity and conscience to turn from the clamour of surface reality to listen to the voices of the wind, stars and spirit must not expect reward for their dedication. Instead they must be prepared to cope with the rage of the neglected.


What animal are you?

  • Posted by tim
  • 17 September 2008

i was confronted with new software to learn today.

bristol shop jobs

  • Posted by ade
  • 17 September 2008


our brand and our shops are built by the people. they are the most important thing for it to work.

you got to love people.
you have to want to look after customers like a traditional outfitters. like they are your family.
you have got to love sport, art, photography, the world, words, design, doodling and outdoors.
you need to know what howies is and what we are doing.
you need to care about the little stuff.
and let's be honest, you have got to want to work in a shop.

we have learned a lot in Carnaby street, and want people who can help us constantly challenge and change normal retail.

think 1kg of a traditional outfitters shop
1 jug of creative world
4 floz inspiration
pinch of sport
a bunch of energy
table spoon of learning
2 steps into the unknown
1 egg

Bristol is an important step for us to do more stores, so the staff must just be brilliant.

We need a manager who will be more like a curator, and 6 other staff to make it all happen.

if it ain't you maybe you know somebody.

cv's to [email protected]


  • Posted by howies
  • 17 September 2008


www.papercritters.com - kids stuff

www.trydrugs.net - getting teenagers to decide about drugs before they are offered them

www.whatareyouwondering.com - dedicated to all the questions you have about the health of your little ones

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