Showing posts from 2013

Paganism 101

A new book is out from Moon Books, a collection of articles and surrounding commentaries from 101 different pagan authors. I wrote the article on polytheism, and several of my friends have contributed towards it. Anyone wanting to order the book can do so through any of their local bookshops. Or you could pick up copies at the Leaping Hare convention next year. Further details about the book can be found here -

"Paganism 101 is an introduction to Paganism written by 101 Pagans. Grouped into three main sections, Who we are, What we believe and What we do, twenty topics fundamental to the understanding of the main Pagan traditions are each introduced by essay and then elaborated upon by other followers and practitioners, giving the reader a greater flavour of the variety and diversity that Paganism offers.
With introductory essays from leading writers such as Emma Restall Orr, Mark Townsend, Brendan Myers, Jane Meredith, Alaric Albertsso…

Mirror, Mirror

I've learnt quite a few new Greek myths this year (for storytelling events), one of which I'd like to muse on for a while as it is particularly relevant to me at the moment. Narcissus, in a nutshell, was a self-obsessed prat who rejected all those who loved him as being unworthy ~ causing the nymph Echo to fade into nothingness and driving Aminius to kill himself in despair. Wrathful Nemesis punished him by causing him to see, for the first time ever, his own reflection - which he promptly fell in love with and either drowned whilst attempting to snog the face in the pool or (according to a variation) topped himself after realising that he could never find anyone as perfect as himself!
The myth is a very clear warning about the dangers of intense self-adulation. Whilst there are comparatively few outright autolatrists in the world, there are many people who are so self-obsessed that other people are merely a means to an end, stepping stones to be trampled on or made use of an…

Beware the Canandanti

For those of you who like a short bit of nonsense, here's a story I wrote a couple of years ago. If you've ever wondered what your pets dream of, then maybe this will help to answer your questions. My dogs liked the story when I read it to them.
The story is inspired by the witch trial accounts of the magical order of spirit-journeying Benandanti magicians and their battles against the evil crop-cursing Malandanti in 16th and 17th century northern Italy (of which you could read further in Carlo Ginzburg's The Night Battles. 
Quite what those people who made their complex and involved confessions tot he Italian Inquisitors were actually up to ~ and whether or not they were part of some very late surviving pagan cult, Christian folk magic, or something yet odder still ~ is open to a great deal of debate. However, the world is a deeply strange place and, just occasionally, some humans take a full and honourable part in that wonderful strangeness.

Half Century

Trying my best not to give any spoilers, but The Day of the Doctor was utterly wonderful and, for me, very emotional ~ almost all my positive memories of childhood are directly connected to that show. I have heard a fair few complaints from people about the 50th reversing the history laid down in the revived version of the show. Which it does, but personally I don't see this as a bad thing, given the way that they did it. The Doctor's character had become increasingly bleak and tormented, with many episodes dwelling on the idea that he is (to his enemies at least) a monster. Writers inspired, I dare say, by Nietzsche's view that, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Whilst such sentiments are certainly true, I do feel the point had become somewhat over-laboured and the show was in danger of turning their hero into a self-tormenting neurotic w…

The Monster Club

Last night I went to a Halloween party at a local gay pub, where almost everyone was in costume ~ some of them quite elaborate. Thankfully I recognised a friend and was able to spend much of the evening chatting to him and, contrary to my expectations of such events, found that I really rather enjoyed the evening. Halloween is a very curious time of year, distinct from but intertwined with the ancient Gaelic feast of Samhain, and I was struck by the liminal nature of both the gathering and the date in general. Though British society is centuries ahead of places like Iran in its integration of sexual minorities, those attending were still people whose place in society is decidedly out of the mainstream ~ not only gays, lesbians and bisexuals but those whose gender places them as neither entirely one thing nor another, transsexuals and cross-dressers. There were also a small group of people with learning difficulties, who appeared to be loving every moment of the karaoke event and findi…


Well, with Halloween a couple of days away I thought I'd write a suitably horrible tale. Tommy Rawbones started as an idea on Saturday past, when I had hoped to tell it at an LGBT event - but it just wouldn't gel at the time. It has gone through a number of major changes, such as shifting location from central America to Ireland! I'm still not entirely happy with how it plays out, or the style of telling, and would appreciate some feedback.
If you're wondering about the peculiar name, it's a traditional monster who appears in Irish and Northern English folklore, as well as undergoing a major mutation in American folk tradition. The Gaelic feast of Samhain appears in a great many myths, some beautiful ones such as the dream of Oengus Og, and others far more spectral and gruesome such as Fergus and the Hanged Man. More thoughts on Samhain shortly.

Speaks for Wolf

Last night I hosted a small fundraising event for the UK Wolf Trust with an evening of wolf-related stories told in front of a log fire. It was a nice crowd and the event seemed to work very well - so much so, I may try similar things again in the future.
One of the stories was a Native American tale about the hunters realising the impact they were having on the local animal population, and finally deciding that someone had to speak on behalf of the wolf; someone had to step outside their own tribal loyalties to consider the consequences of their actions for other beings.
As a species we're not very good at considering the needs of others. Frequently we don't even think about the impact our actions have on our fellow human beings, let alone other species. Though the upside of the globalisation process is that we are beginning to realise what happens when we destroy the world around us, or exploit it to the point of exhaustion.
I think it's something that modern pagans cou…

Second, a Ramble

Today I went up to Norwich to give a talk at their Harvest Moon convention, held at the Puppet Theatre. It's a fascinating building ~ well, maybe not so much the building itself (which is a converted church of no especially remarkable nature), but the numerous puppets, marionettes and other effigies suspended from the walls. They were of all shapes and sizes, with warriors, kings, damsels, witches, animals and monsters. All staring down upon the proceedings.
I cannot wax particularly lyrical about the Harvest Moon convention itself, largely because I missed a lot of it having got lost on the way and arriving late. My own talk (on poetry in early European polytheist cultures) seemed to go down fairly well. Aside from that I attended a short talk on nature spirits in Hinduism, which I found to be a fascinating topic, and a straightforward and humorous introduction to cabalism. One of the stalls sold rather good artwork, mostly painted on to slate.
Puppets are a curious phenomena. On…

First, a rant

Returning on the train from Norwich's Pagan convention today (at which I was speaking, and more of which shortly) I had the opportunity to be sat across from a middle aged man and someone whom I presumed to have been a niece or possibly a future daughter-in-law.
Their conversation was mostly insipid, but took a turn which distracted me from the spectral realms of Montague Rhodes James. For some reason they were talking about schools and the behaviour of some adolescent relative, when the fat man (let's call him McCabe, because I'm not feeling very imaginative tonight) started recollecting his own salad days. The salad presumably being a bit of limp lettuce in his greasy burger. With consider relish on that burger, he told various exploits involving reducing one teacher to tears, being part of a gang that drove another teacher into a nervous breakdown, locking another in a tool shed etc.
Now lots of kids do grotty things and eventually grow out of it when they achieve some …

Tale Coating

Stories, particularly oral ones, tend to rely heavily on archetypal and easily recognisable characters. Not only do we see archetypes in other people (fictional or real), but so often we aspire to become them ourselves. Sometimes this is in a professional or personal capacity - wanting to live up to our own vision of what the ideal doctor or father should be like. At other times it can be spiritual, reflecting a sense of calling. In this latter capacity it goes to the root of what we aspire to be. Many (perhaps most) religions encourage their devotees to study a sacred story and aspire to emulate one or other of the central figures ~ be that Jesus, Buddha, the Madonna, Guru Nanak etc.
I am not referring to those forms of mental illness where a person comes to believe that they actually are the Messiah (or some other leading light), but only where an individual strives hard to exhibit the same values as their revered figure. Although I do wonder what is stronger - an individual or a st…

Myths and Monsters

On Saturday evening the IPC will be holding and evening of Greek mythological storytelling, accompanied by a shared meal of (mostly) Greek food. The combination of storytelling and food from the culture in question seems to work very well, judging by the attendance at and feedback from the people going to the Celtic Mythology evening a few months ago.
After some debate I told the story of King Lykaon of Arcadia and his descent into cannibalism and werewolfery. It's an intriguing tale with plenty of gore, and a source of some discussion amongst historians as to whether it details and ancient wolf cult which may have featured human sacrifice, or if it's just an apocryphal tale to warn people of the dire consequences of cannibalism.

Pooka's Pageant 2013

It's Pooka's Pageant tomorrow at Oddfellows Hall in Ipswich, our annual celebration of polytheism through the performing arts. I shall be doing two storytelling slots, one of pre-Islamic Arabic stories with a rather gruesome twist, and the other a selection of Taoist myths.
We also have a good selection of singers, poets and storytellers to entertain people with Indian, German, Welsh, Egyptian and other roots. Should be a great day, I'm hoping the weather will hold, as there are some outdoor events scheduled.

After the Pageant... the day went very well, with some considerable talent on display and a wide selection of tales, poems and song. The poetry of Matthew Plumb was, for me, particularly impressive with its intensely evocative grasp of the natural world. I don't doubt that one day soon he will become quite a name in the poetry world. It pretty much rained all day long, but this actually served to enhance listening to poems about the force of nature. I also enjoyed…

Grey Mare

Lovely long weekend away at the Grey Mare Pagan Camp in the New Forest, with some excellent performances (Nick Ford's pastiche of The Jabberwocky was particularly memorable) and a song or two. I told a selection of tales on Saturday and Sunday evenings, and ran a small poetry workshop ~ which rather pleasingly inspired two people to compose who had not done so in years.
I must make more of an effort to memorise some song lyrics. I still cannot hold a tune, but there are a few Cole Porter and some Noel Coward numbers that I might be able to pull off if only I can get the words in my head.
It would be lovely to hold a similar gathering in Suffolk, and have a strong impression that the Powers That Be approve of such a notion. Just a case of finding an appropriate venue where we can camp and sit around a log fire till silly o'clock telling stories without disturbing other people.

A Dangerous Place

Advance copies of the third book arrived yesterday, and I have to say I like what they've done with the
cover. It's rather thicker than I had realised when writing it! Must have got rather carried away. I shall take a few copies down to the Grey Mare Camp in the New Forest this weekend and see if it takes anyone's fancy.
The book contains ten short crime stories all set in the same part of Ipswich, but spread out over different historical eras. All the stories draw on themes of paganism, magic, mysticism and superstition.
I have seen a few reviews already, and so far they have been appreciative. It will be useful to hear which if the characters interest readers the most, particularly with a view to writing full-length novels featuring the popular sleuths in further adventures.

If anyone wants to order themselves a copy, you can do so through pretty much any bookshop (support your independent stores!). The ISBN is 9871782792116 and it sells for £10.99, published by Moon Bo…

Oh Lord!

Utterly thrilled by the revelation that Peter Capaldi will be bringing his very considerable acting prowess to the role of the next Doctor. I'm also rather glad that they have cast an older actor in the role, a touch of nostalgia for those of us who can remember when the Time Lord was an avuncular character. On a self-reflective note (well, what is blogging if not glorified solipsism?), avuncularity is something I am finally coming to terms with. When I started university at age 19 I was very rapidly given the nickname of Uncle Robin by friends, possibly because I was rather too often the sensible one. Or maybe I just looked haggard ~ at age 17 I was once mistaken for my own mother's brother. She was flattered to be considered young looking... I can't honestly say I felt at all complimented by it! Now I actually am middle aged, and in the knowledge that I will never have children of my own, I actually quite enjoy acquiring surrogate nephews, nieces and godchildren to indu…

A Very Fine Swan

Various things have gone on of late, which I shan't bore you with, that have lead me to reflect a little on certain well known stories and the windows they provide onto human nature. The wonderful Danny Kaye gave the Ugly Duckling a whole new lease of life in his film 'Hans Christian Andersen'. The story is pretty self-explanatory as a tale about finding your own sense of worth and value, though it can also be read as a story about puberty and emergent sexuality ~ the shift from gosling to swan.
The topic of self-esteem is rather a popular one these days, and certainly an awful lot of populist academia is based on the idea of low self-esteem being at the root of poor classroom achievement or disruptive behaviour (which doesn't quite gel with those very bright, gentle kids who have zero esteem but expend themselves in study rather than causing mayhem... and yes I speak from both personal and professional experience).
Does disliking yourself prevent you from giving or r…

Pagan Heritage Day 2013

Today's educational event went pretty well, with glorious weather and a steady footfall of people coming along to say hello and make contact ~ some new pagans, some just curious. We also had our first negative snit (not bad for all the years we've been running) with some old trout with disastrous dental work wanting to know why we had a banner outside bearing the logo 'Ipswich Pagan Council'... erm, because this is a meeting of the Ipswich Pagan Council I tentatively responded (whilst wondering what other possible reason she thought we might have such a banner up for). To which she said, "So you're not Christian then?" This astounding insight confirmed, she said, "well you wont get to Heaven then", and spun on her heel and left... presumably with an air of smug satisfaction at her own dazzling riposte.
That mini blip aside, everyone else was thoroughly nice and we had some good stories (the Greek tale of Priapos, and the Heathen story of the Gif…

Apologies to Mr Lewis

Not entirely sure about this one, but it popped into my head on a boring train journey, and I may read it on
Saturday afternoon at the LGBT poetry event. I expect poor old Clive Staples will be turning in his grave. It's partly a reaction against the dispiriting tendency I've seen for people (particularly pagans, who should know better) to portray satyrs and even the All-Begetter himself as sexless eunuchs for fear of upsetting the casual observer.

The Song of Mr Tumnus

A hundred years of winter, So it felt. Once limber branches grow numb and splinter, Life frozen, unchanging; Jadis, solitary, the table cleaves Songless woods sepulchral stand, Leached of hope, fallen with the leaves, Veined skeletons spiralling into mulch. All that was once held so dear Decayed, dissipated. We few survivors, tired with fear. Would Aslan’s roar echo Promise throughout the world? No lion’s thunder stirred me; It was your greeting that unfurled. Softly spoken, Shivering up my spine Dissolving a century of snow, Let…

Sunny delights

Midwinter is a major time of year for quite a few religions, and there are an assortment of myths set at that time of year which serve to structure ritual and thought for adherents of those religions. There are also more secular midwinter tales ~ Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' is arguably far more iconic and influential a tale than many mythological stories.
Midsummer, by contrast, has fewer religious stories attached to it. There are a number of Central European stories which associate this time of year with healing ceremonies linked to water ~ be that rivers, lakes or the morning dew. It is also a time when various fairy troops ride abroad and can, if treated with proper respect, impart blessings to those lucky enough to encounter them.
Goidelic mythology has one battle that takes place at midsummer, beyond that the only other mentions are really connected to Manannan mac Lir the son of the sea (that water symbolism again) who's tribute must be paid by the people of th…


Some years ago I had a series of what I call narrative dreams ~ stories that unfold in my head, sometimes whilst I'm asleep but also often repeated during day dreaming moments. My narrative dreams combine elements of watching something, as if on a TV screen, with elements of hearing a story being told by some unseen presence. Some of these narratives are somewhat obscure and a bit boring (there's one frequently repeated one about a teenage lad in America from a zealously fundamentalist family who converts to paganism, to much consternation, and I usually return to consciousness round about the point when his parents have burnt all his "unholy" books and redecorated his room in a manner they deem wholesome) and some have more potential, such as the plot for my sixth book which I'm not repeating here yet!
I think it may be an endemic thing to storytellers, that we keep drifting in to other peoples lives... or maybe it's just that my life is a bit boring so I kee…

Little Rabbit

This poem was written for a friend of Chinese heritage, and I am thinking about reading it at the Gloriously Other LGBT poetry event in July in Ipswich.
It is inspired by the Taoist myth told of a young soldier, Hu Tianbao, who fell madly in love with a pompous government official and took to mooning over him. The bigwig did not notice until after the unfortunate day when Hu was caught spying on the dignitary whilst he was in the bathhouse. Enraged, the man had Hu beaten to death ~ whether this was plain old fashioned homophobia  or social snobbery towards a humble soldier for daring to lust after an Imperial flunky is ambiguous.
When the poor soldier arrived before King Yan, judge of the dead, it was deemed that he had died for love and so was not deserving of infernal punishments. The case was sent to the celestial realms, where it was adjudged that Hu should be raised up as a god and renamed Tu-Er-Shen, the Rabbit God. He has been a patron of gay lovers ever since.
His cult became pro…

Get my Meaning?

The meaning of life is a topic that has taxed the greatest (and the least able) minds since the dawn of human existence. It was brought to mind again recently in a discussion with a friend who suggested that having a meaning to one’s life was vital to good mental health. Numerous psychologists, philosophers and scholars agree both a sense of purpose, and the degree of spiritual reflection that precedes finding a purpose, are highly beneficial. It is better to have a sense of why you are here than to merely trudge from day to day in a largely pointless routine. In fact, many have argued that just having a purpose in itself is actually far more important than the exact nature of the purpose.
One of the key questions in the matter of meaning is the source of that meaning and what is actually more than a linguistic nicety ~ do we discover the meaning of our lives, or create it? That is to say, is the meaning already determined (whether by a god, Wyrd, karma or anything  else) and therefore…

The Lost Boy, the Doodlebug and the Mysterious Number 80

Just finished reading my first romance novel, recommended by a friend. Before anyone thinks I've gone totally soft in the head and started reading Mills & Boon, rest assured that this was somewhat different from the usual tepid bodice-ripper. The Lost Boy is a gay romance that combines elements of Doctor Who with Tales of the City. The city in question is London and, much like Maupin's rolling saga, this endeavours to incorporate a fair swathe of gay history since the War ~ from furtive repression to drug-fuelled clubbing to the inevitable spectre of AIDS. Like so much gay fiction, tragedy looms large and very few of the characters actually have happy lives. The Who element comes in part from time travel, as one half of the romance gets thrown forwards and backwards in time, and partly from the fact that said character is a stunningly handsome RAF officer (Captain Jack, where art thou?).
Romance develops between two contrasting characters, one a stiff-upper lipped, virgin…

Happy news

The cover of my next book has just been made up by the designer ~ I am sooo pleased! If anyone feels like pre-ordering then you can do so through any bookshop. The ISBN is 978-1-78279-211-6. It will also available as an eBook  but I am clueless as to how people can go about getting copies of that.
If you missed the earlier post, this one is a collection of short stories, all historical murder mysteries set in different periods starting with the ancient druids and working into the present day. All the stories are united by themes of paganism, magic, faith and the supernatural.
You can even get smatterings of philosophy, Ipswich history and spiritual meanderings amidst the whodunits. When it comes out I want to get some feedback as to which sleuths are the more popular with readers, so I can focus future fictional writing accordingly. Some characters are intended as one-offs with no intention of being revisited, but others I hope will interest people enough to get support for future ad…

The Name

A life long devotee of Doctor Who, I have watched the final episode ('The Name of the Doctor') twice now and have all sorts of ideas whizzing round the Space-Time Continuum that passes for my mind. I am making concerted efforts not to give away any spoilers lest my reader not have seen it yet, however I was quite struck by a throwaway line towards the end of the episode in which the Doctor states that a name is a promise, a commitment (talking about choosing to call himself Doctor, rather than whatever name he was born with).
Whilst there was quite a lot of Christian imagery in the show during Russell T Davies' reign (rather odd, considering he is an atheist), there has been and remains a certain amount of pagan imagery in the show ~ the living sun in '42' for example, and if 'Love and Monsters' wasn't based on a pagan moot then I don't know what it was based on.
In many ancient cultures it was common for people to be given (or sometimes chose for …

The Druid's Banquet

Saturday evening at the Oddfellows Hall will be the IPC's celebration of Celtic mythology at an Iron Age style banquet replete with bardic stories, poems, riddles, music and other such entertainment. I'll be doing a few of the stories and poems myself, along with fellow performers.
Looking forward to this, as it will be a chance to catch up with assorted friends as well as for hamming it up with some tales by candle light.
Tickets are £3 members/£4 guests, you can buy on the door ~ bring food and drink to share. Any profits left after hall hire will go towards subsidising future IPC events. The performers will be in historical costume, feel free to either come as you are or dress for Ancient Britain!

Gloriously Other

On the afternoon of July 6th I will be joining a group of other people at the LGBT Network (97 Fore Street) for poetry recitations ~ I'll be reading some of my and some by favourite poets. The event is free and, whilst primarily aimed at the LGBT community, it is also open to friends/family and anyone who'd be happy to sit and listen. There may not be enough seating to go round, so the organisers encourage people to bring a cushion to sit on!
Once I've written my own contributions, I'll put them up here on the blog. More details to follow shortly, as the organisers confirm them.

Words are cheap

Teaching both literacy and psychology sometimes brings collisions of thought. In English emotions are treated as abstract nouns, states of being in and of themselves... which may possibly be an accurate assessment of emotions as internalised experiences. However, would it be more constructive to consider emotions as verbs, that is to say actions?
The English are stereotypically stilted in their expression of emotions, and maybe in part this is because of how we conceive of emotions in the first place. It's all well and good saying you love someone, but does this express itself through loving action? What do you actually do to make your love more than just a word in your head? If an emotion never leaves the realm of the abstract, is it really worth much of anything? Clearly a mental state may develop over a long period of time before culminating in action ~ probably few rapists go out and commit their crimes after a mere 5 minutes of considering them. Most have likely indulged in v…

Eisteddfod 2013

Our fourth annual Eisteddfod will be held at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village on Sunday 7th July. I will be hosting, telling some stories and running a workshop or two. More importantly, we need entrants for both the Storytelling Chair and the Poetry Chair.
If you are feeling confident and dynamic, details of how to enter can be found at ~ spread the word to any performers you know who might fancy a go. Last year's two winners will be sitting as judges over this year's contest.
The theme for poems (as chosen by Beverley) is DEATH, whilst the unusual theme for the stories (as chosen by Fiona) is SURPRISED HEROINES.
The village also welcomes any traders in re-enactment goods or related object d'art if you would like to book a pitch, or know someone who might.

Greek myth

I'll be telling Greek myths at Waterstone's in Ipswich on Saturday 25th May from 11am if anyone fancies dropping by. They have other child-oriented themed events on during the day.

Watch this space...

Moon Books have given me a contract for my next book, 'A Dangerous Place', which will be my first foray into fiction (well, of the paying sort). It is an anthology of murder mysteries all set in Ipswich but spread over several thousand years, each one looking at a different era of local history. Each of the stories has a strong occult/mystical theme underpinning the crime that has taken place.
More details of the release date and the cover art (I love it when the designs arrives from the publishers) will be posted here as soon as I hear.

Bard Song

My second book, Bard Song, is a bit of an unusual line to take in that I wanted to combine samples of my own poetry with both instructions to the readers on how to use those metrical styles themselves and also some general philosophising on the use and nature of poetry in early Insular Celtic realms. The majority of the book is given over to Welsh and Irish metres from the medieval and earlier periods, organised by seasonal themes. There are also some chapters on comedic poetry and Scandinavian and Classical poetic metres.
part of the hope behind this book was to encourage people to write their own poetry for ritual (or pleasure) in the old metrical styles. With all the interest these days in "brain training" you will certainly get a good workout having a crack at a rannaigheacht ghairid metre!
A fair number of the poems included here have been performed at various events in Suffolk and beyond.
As with the other books you can order this via pretty much any local bookshop, t…

Old Gods, New Druids

It was a massive thrill for me to get my first book published. OGND is based around a series of introductory lessons used in the druid group which I helped found some 20 years ago. There are quite a few druidry books around, I wanted to create one that emphasised the polytheist approach. It's not completely reconstructionist, because we can no longer recreate something that has been so heavily eroded. We can, however, reconnect to the Gods and spirits and start building something for our current century that draws on the same spiritual roots. The chapters aim to stimulate thought and give some practical exercises that people can engage in to help deepen their connection to the land and Gods.
I might try a follow-up book at some stage, taking the lessons in this first one to a deeper level. Depending on the level of interest exhibited in the first book.
If anyone wants to get a copy, pretty much any local bookshop will be able to order one in ~ the publisher is O-Books and the ISB…

Full Fathom Five

One of the first books I contributed towards (in this case a poem) was Galina Krasskova's 'Full Fathom Five' which was a collection of poetry and stunning photography - worth buying just to look at the pictures really - created in honour of the Norse deities of the sea. My addition to the collection was a poem about Njord.
If anyone wants to track down a copy (there are some excellent poems in it) then it was published by Asphodel Press, 2007, ISBN - 978-0615190754.


Welcome to my open blog (yes, there's a closed one for psychotic ranting and occasionally maudlin moments), which I shall be adding to sporadically to publicise my books, those anthologies I have contributed towards, storytelling and other public events I will be participating in.
This blog has been created partly in response to suggestions made by my publishers who encourage authors to advance their own works, and partly in response to some of my readers who have asked, "when's the next one out?" and variant questions.