Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country.

Armistice Day

Perhaps it is because I am pagan that I feel there is such a resonance that this day is when it is. I know it is just a complete coincidence that it happened so near to Samhain, but I don't think that takes anything away from it. We remember our dead.

I find this day very emotional. There are only three men left alive from the First World War. Soon they will be no more. Will we still remember them? It isn't long until the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1. One Hundred Years. In my son's eyes it might as well be a thousand. How do we pass onto our children that these things need to be remembered? Not glorified, not rationalised, just remembered. All those sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers that never come home...

The World Wars are such a major part of our cultural history. Yet as people grow older, we lose the generation that actually lived through the experience, so everything we tell our children is secondhand. How do we still keep it relevant to them?

One of the saddest sights of all is the Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire. It lists all the names of those who have died since WW2. The list is long. It also has a blank wall...for the names of those yet to die...

Since WW2, the UK's armed forces have been involved in all these conflicts...

Palestine 1945-48,
Peshawar 1989-90,
Malaya 1948-60,
Namibia 1989-90,
Yangtze 1949,
Gulf 1990-91,
Korea 1950-53,
Kuwait 1991
Canal Zone 1951-54 ,
Irag/Kuwait 1991-2003,
Kenya 1952-1956,
Western Sahara 1991 to present day,
Cyprus 1955-1959,
Northern Iraq/Southern Turkey 1991,
Suez 1956,
Cambodia 1991-93,
Arabian Peninsula 1957-60,
Former Yugoslavia 1992-2002,
Congo 1964-69,
Sarajevo 1993-98,
Brunei 1962-64,
Georgia 1993 to present day,
Borneo 1962-66,
Rwanda 1993-98,
Cyprus 1964 to present day,
Angola 1997,
Radfan 1964,
Croatia 1996-98,
South Arabia 1964-67,
Kosovo 1998-2002,
Malay Peninsula 1964-65,
Sierra Leone 1999-2002,
Northern Ireland 1969-2007,
Falklands 1982,
Congo 1999 to present day
Dhofar 1969-78,
Kosovo 1999-2007,
Rhodesia 1979-80,
East Timor 1999,
South Atlantic 1982,
Ethiopia & Eritrea 2000 to present day,
Lebanon 1983-84,
Macedonia 2001-02,
Gulf of Suez 1984,
Afghanistan 2001 to present day,
Gulf 1988-89,
Iraq 2003 to present day...

I certainly don't always agree with the politics of war. I think War is a horrific thing. However my liberal views aside, men and women are still being killed, and deserved to be acknowledged and remembered. I may not want my children to join the Armed Forces, I can't understand why anyone would want to, and I pray to the Gods that my children are never enlisted. But I still think that those that do choose to fight don't deserve what they are given nowadays.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Following the Wheel of the Year

The modern Pagan has discovered that following the Wheel of the YearTM as laid out in the books is full of problems and predicaments. Historically there is no evidence to support the idea that our ancestors followed the wheel of the year or gave it any particular significance. Certain celebrations evolved into their Christian versions that we are more familiar with over the years. The original Pagan meanings of these festivals would have been diluted beyond recognition, so to claim that one is following the ancestors is at best naïve and at worse ill researched.
The Greater Sabbats, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnahsah and Samhain were better known as Candlemas, May Day, Lammas and All Hallow’s Eve (later Halloween). These celebrations were based on seasonal changes such as what the weather was doing, and what the plant growth was like. However as time went on, each celebration became associated with a particular date and these dates have become standardised for the modern Pagan to follow.

In these modern times of climate change, seasonal drift and erratic weather patterns has meant that using specific dates for the Greater Sabbats seems to have lost it’s relevance. To follow a seasonal Wheel of the Year would imply that those seasonal changes would dictate when they were celebrated. But if Spring has started weeks before the 2nd February, or the Hawthorn has bloomed too early or too late for the 1st May, then what is the modern Pagan to do? If our ancestors followed anything like the Wheel of the Year, then they would not have followed a specific timetable, so why do we?

Yet another factor to consider is that we no longer an Agrarian society. Our lives are not bound to working the land and we are not reliant on the erratic whims of nature for our survival. Even agriculture today is not subject to the same conventions as in the past. It seems incongruous for the modern Pagan to try and fit around an idea that is factually erroneous in the first place, and doesn’t work for today’s society.

However, does this mean that we should drop the Wheel of the Year? The average Pagan seems to place a great deal of significance on some of the Sabbats if not all of them (depending on what system of belief they follow). The Sabbats seem to answer a need for a system of celebration. So perhaps that is all that they should be considered to be? Since it is fairly standard knowledge that the Wheel of the Year as it is known today was made up in the last hundred years or so, how should a modern Pagan follow such a system? Should they follow it at all?

Rather than looking at the Wheel of the Year as most perceive it, perhaps it should be seen as standard points of the year where we can stop and contemplate their associated meaning. Using them as specific dates and setting aside time like other set holidays, would mean that our lives would have the time to reflect that we don’t tend to have in a modern world. It gives our lives a pattern to follow that our frenetic lives no longer have. Humans like patterns and systems, so even artificially created ones can be beneficial to us.

Perhaps it is time to step away from the insistence that something must be historically correct to have spiritual relevence. We are modern Pagans, no matter what we claim, we cannot look back on our ancestors' day to day lives and try to make them fit our own. The best we can do is take inspiration from them, and live our lifes as true to ourselves and the world we live in.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Re: The Last Post


I have missed a trick there. They already are, and have been for a while!

The new President of the USA

America has a new President-elect, who will become President for real in January 2009. Barack Hussein Obama. The first Black president. (Although, tbh, I don't think that was as big an issue as it was thought to be. I don't know for sure, since I am not an American).

This after 8 years of George "Dubya" Bush. And they hurt. They gave us the war in Iraq. Guantanamo Bay, increased Fundamentalist Religion in American Politics, the "war on terrorism". The list goes on and on.

Now, I don't actually think that Obama is the answer to all our prayers. But as a friend said, unless he blows up the US, he can't make it any worse. He has some views that I don't agree with, but since I don't live in the US they won't affect me directly. But hopefully he will start the long road that the US has to take to bring it into a peaceful, clean and safe future.

What saddens me a great deal are the comments from some of the Americans that didn't vote for him, refering to him as "Hussein" like this is an insult! Since when is having a Muslim name been a bad thing? Or could it be part of the "war of Terrorism" that Bush started, that has systematically tried to tar all Muslims with the same brush of Fundamentalist Fanaticism? He is Pro-choice (to a certain extent); like I said in a previous post, pro-choice doesn't make one pro-abortion. It just means that you can look at the bigger issue that is at hand.

Comments are being made that "morals should be more important than money". Yes. All very worthy, and I am sure when you are sat there trying to work out where the money will come from to pay your mortgage, and feed your children because you don't have enough to do both, that your moral values will be at the forefront of your thoughts! However, the implication is that Obama isn't moral? WTF? Where did that come from? Especially when you compare him with the previous administration. I am not saying he is perfect, no, he isn't. But he hasn't actually done anything wrong yet.

Maybe this is the time for the Republicans to take stock and move away from the Fundamentalist Fanaticim of the "Christian" Right? To get back to its original values that have been spoken about. (I don't really know what they are, since the earlist president I can really remember was old Ronnie Reagan, and I think the slump started there.)

I am just waiting for the mad "Christian" Right to say that Obama is the Anti-Christ. Although, they probably already have.