Where do you think I took this photo of bluebells – out in the countryside on a woodland ramble, or in a tiny urban park?
It was the latter. I saw the swathe of bluebells when I was taking a shortcut through my local recreation ground to drop off handcrafted things for a May Day Market stall in aid of Ukraine. I’ve often heard pagans say you have to get out of the city to enjoy the beauty of nature, but it isn’t true at all. You have to keep your eyes open a bit more to spot it in urban areas – but nature is everywhere.
My Pagan Eye posts show photos that I find interesting – seasonal images, pagan sites, events, or just pretty pictures. If you want to send me a photo for a Pagan Eye post, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org Let me know what the photo shows and whether you want your name mentioned or not. For copyright reasons, the photo must be one you have taken yourself.
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I spotted this hawthorn tree just coming into blossom in a small courtyard near where I live. Hawthorn has white or pink blooms by early May in England, which is why it is also called the “May tree”. In the wild, most have flowers with five petals but some varieties – like this one – have double flowers. I’m sharing it here as part of my Floralia flower photo series of posts.
Beltane and May Day are this weekend! Here’s a list of talks, workshops, rituals and other events for pagans, witches and those with similar interests over that time and the week ahead. As well as online activities, I also in-person things taking place in or near London – and a few larger events further afield. If you know an event you want included, please email me at email@example.com
Now to 17 July; The World of Stonehenge. Exhibition at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Tickets: £20/£10/free for members. https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions-events
Wednesday 27 April; Learn Marseille Tarot – Course on Major Cards. Start of 4-session course with Adrien Mastrosimone via Treadwells Online. Time: 7pm start. Tickets: £100. https://www.treadwells-london.com/events
Thursday 28 April; Midweek Meditation with the College of Psychic Studies. Time: 3pm. Tickets: free for members/£7.50 for non members. https://www.collegeofpsychicstudies.co.uk/
Thursday 28 April; The Magic Mirror: The History and Practice of Skrying. Online lecture by me, Lucya Starza, via the Magickal Women Conference. Time: 7pm. Tickets: £10. https://www.magickalwomenconference.com/events
Friday 29 April; Ancient Goddesses of London – Evening Walking Tour with short rituals by Out of the Norm Tours. Meet at the Statue of Queen Anne, St Paul’s Churchyard, London. Time: 5.30pm. Donations welcome. https://www.facebook.com/events/503821648049044
Saturday 30 April – 1 May; Beltane Pilgrimage to Sacred Sites of Glastonbury organised by Aho Studio. Leaving from London. Tickets: £190. www.aho.community
Saturday 30 April; Woodland Witches Beltane Ceremony and Seasonal Gathering with Mani via London Woodland Witches, Wiccans and Pagans. Meet at the entrance to Queen’s Woods, Queenswood Rd, Highgate, London N6 5UU). Time: 2pm. Tickets: £7/£5. https://www.meetup.com/LondonWoodlandWitches/
Saturday 30 April: Walpurgisnacht: Stories of the witches’ night. Online event by storytellers Jason Buck and Rosalind Buck. Time: 7.30pm. Tickets: £2.50-£9.50. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/walpurgisnacht-stories-of-the-witches-night-tickets-262774795487?
Sunday 1 May; Waffling Witches – Kitchen Witchcraft 10th Anniversary. Online event with Rachel Patterson. Time: 11am. Free. https://www.facebook.com/events/502541981355497/
Sunday 1 May (and other dates); Drury Lane – a guided walk by Minimum Labyrinth. Meet at Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5QD. Time: 2pm. Tickets: from £19.50. http://minimumlabyrinth.org/
Sunday 1 May; Beltane Celebration Cunning Folk. Free online event. Time: 7pm. https://www.eventbrite.com/o/cunning-folk-7829505560
Wednesday 4 May (tbc but usually first Wednesday of the month); Drumming and Meditation Online with Taz Thornton. Monthly event. Time: 7pm Price: free. https://www.facebook.com/TazThorntonOfficial#
Wednesday 4 and 18 May; Tarot Cards of Challenge with Kasia Gwilliam. Online event via She’s Lost Control. Time: 7pm. Tickets: £15. https://sheslostcontrol.co.uk/collections/all-events
Friday 6 May; The Witches Circle Monthly Class. Venue: Kallima Wellbeing Centre, 8A Adam Business Centre, Cranes Farm Road, Basildon, SS14 3JF. Time: 7.30pm. Tickets: £16.76. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/kallima-wellbeing-centre-15972923230
Saturday 7 – Sunday 8 May; Beltane Fire and Feast Festival by The Wellderness CIC. Venue: Wild Heart Hill Camp, Long Furlong, Worthing, BN14 0RJ. Starts at noon. Tickets: £10. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/beltane-fire-and-feast-festival-tickets-273499643797
Saturday 7 May; Beltane Celebration. Venue: Colet House, 151 Talgarth Rd, London. Time: 3pm. Tickets from £14. https://www.facebook.com/events/992452978316547/
Sunday 8 May; Woodspirits – Beltane. Meet at Cheshunt station before walking to Lee Valley Park. Time: 3pm. Free in-person event for members of Woodspirits group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/4032235040150960
In Ancient Rome, a five or six-day festival of Floralia, in honour of the goddess Flora, began on what is now the 27th or 28th of April. Her name means vegetation, and the goddess of flowers and fertility was one of most honoured deities in Rome. She had a huge temple and her festival was one of the most popular of the year. It was a time of dancing, gathering flowers and wearing bright, multi-coloured clothes (or sometimes no clothes at all).
Flowers, especially lupins, were scattered over the crowds enjoying the festivities to promote fertility – but it was also a celebration of sex for pleasure as well as procreation. There were games, theatrical performances and ceremonies in which sacrifices were made to the goddess. According to historian Ed Whalen: “Some scholars believe that the Floralia was the inspiration for the May Day Festival.”
Flora’s origin storyis told by Ovid: Zephyrus, the West Wind, kissed the nymph Chloris who as a result became deified as Flora. The goddess later helped Juno become pregnant with Mars by giving her a magical flower.
A bit of folklore in Every Day Magic – A Pagan Book of Day also links the end of April to May with weather and flower lore: “Sweet April showers/Do spring May flowers. (From a poem written in 1610)”
Over the last week or so I’ve beeng posting pictures of spring blooms on my blog, and this carries on the theme. If you have a photo of flowers you’d like to share, please leave a comment. In particular, it would be great to see some pictures of lupins if you spot any growing!
The picture at the top is a Jill in the Green I created from flowers and leaves from my garden a couple of years ago.
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I got some really exciting news from my publisher: Pagan Portals – Candle Magic has now sold 7,000 copies worldwide.
Luke Eastwood is druid and a prolific author, particularly of books about Irish folklore. Dingle Folk Tales is his second collection of stories from Ireland, following Kelly Folk Tales. I chatted to him.
Q: What interests you about tales from Ireland? Does this relate to your background in Druidry?
A: It’s not essential to modern Druidry, however the bardic arts would be a major component of the Druidic path both in ancient times and in the neo-druidic movement. Geaneology, wisdom tales, songs, poems and histories would all be part of the cannon in the past, with a massive amount of memorization required. Today the learning by heart is not a requirement, which suits me as that is not one of my strengths.
Nonetheless, the creative arts are vitally important in druidism and story-telling is significant part of that, especially in Ireland. The Seanchaí (bearer of old lore), Seanchaidh in Scotland, is a role that still exists in a less formal way within society – with people telling stories in houses, at funerals etc to this day. In the modern Druid movement it is a distinct role as a story-teller of lore, the mythology, most commonly told from memory.
I’ve always loved stories, reading and mythology, I grew up hearing and reading stories of the British Isles, Rome, Gaul, Greece and the Vikings and I accidentally stumbled across Egyptian mythology in a library and loved it immediately. Sadly, I am not the best at remembering all the elements or names in a story, I have to sometimes use a flashcard or post-it to remind myself! If I can remember where I am and all the key names I can usually manage a decent tale, but I find they are always slightly different as I will ad lib around the main story.
Q: Which are your favourites from your book, and why?
A: I found the Ryan’s Daughter story a lot of fun, not least of all the scandalous goings-on of Robert Mitchum during the filming around Dingle, some of which was very amusing indeed. I also loved the story “The Leprechaun and The Old Couple”, which is another very funny, although very short story. A more serious one is “Inis Tuaisceart”, about the most northerly Blasket isle, which serves as somewhat of an environmental horror story, a warning if you will, of what happens when people are stupidly greedy and destroy their own means of living.
Q: What do you feel is the importance of storytelling in general, and folk tales in particular?
A: Real physical culture is more important than ever in this ages of virtual communication. There’s nothing like sitting under the stars by a campfire and sharing stories, poems and songs. It’s very direct and real and can often be quite touching, sad or joyful and emotional. It feels to me like we are losing the ancient culture and connection with the past to an armada of technology. Personally I don’t think it’s a good road for humanity, although on the flip side it can connect people who are in far away places or people who are isolated by disability, lack of money etc, so that they can also join in or watch. I guess it’s how you use the tech that’s the key here and if it can be used to keep traditions and knowledge alive then I guess that’s a good thing.
Q: How did you go about collecting and editing the tales for publication?
A: It took me 2 or 3 years to collect all that’s in this book. I had to stop somewhere as there were so many possibilities, otherwise this book could have ended up 1,000 pages and taken over a decade! I was lucky to meet many people who were either directly involved in some of the more modern stories or who had connections with the places or people in the older stories. I also had access to some old books as well as the Dúchas Schools Collection from the 1930s. I tried to get a good mixture of the ancient mythology, stories from the past few hundred years and also modern stuff – such as Fungie the dolphin.
Q: What advice would you give to people who wanted to explore the folk tales of their own area?
A: I guess the most obvious places to start are seeking out old people and visiting your local library. Often librarians will prove to be useful (they were for me) and many older people may either remember interesting stories or know an older person who has an interest in history and/or mythology. A lot can also be gleaned from mythology books if you don’t have anyone to physically ask for stories.
Q: Are you working on any more anthologies or other writing?
A: I’m working on an illustrated children’s book (with Elena Danaan) and also a photographic book on sacred sites in Ireland. That’s also a collaboration with a photographer, which will hopefully result in a large format book, with some historical lore/info to accompany the images. These are both long finger (put-off) projects that I’d like to complete this or next year, but I am trying to avoid starting anything completely new for a while.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?
A: Recently I’ve come across quite a few artistic people who are now doing okay or very well despite a slew of rejections and disheartening events in the past. Being artistic is not easy and you really need to have confidence in your abilities if you’re ever going to succeed. Of course, you need to be realistic about your potential but, at the same time, not be deterred by all the nay-sayers. At the end of the day, most of these people who judge you harshly or hold power over you have money and profit as their primary motivation and are often the least qualified to judge authenticity, passion and talent. If you can remember that and not let the industrial/corporate paymasters undermine and dishearten you, then you have some chance. Even if you do fail, artistic endeavours are worth doing for their own sake anyway!
You can visit Luke Eastwood’s website here: https://lukeeastwood.com/
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Here’s the list of the talks, workshops and other events I’m running from this evening until the end of April. There’s a mixture of online and in-person events. Some are free.
Saturday 2 April; Scrying: Crystals Balls, Dark Mirrors and Vessels of Water. Zoom lecture through The Last Tuesday Society and The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities. Time: 7.30pm. Tickets · from £5.82. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-viktor-wynd-museum-amp-the-last-tuesday-society-12203346619
Should you tell?
Where do you go
to dance in secret
to a drum that only
you can hear?
Who do you meet
at dusk or midnight
answering the call
that woos your soul?
What do you dare
in dreams or fancies?
And what do you know
of things hidden there?
Copyright Lucya Starza 2022
The photo shows Stanton Drew stone circle in mist.
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