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The cooler nights and rainy days of April have left us lots of time to get our teeth into some books. Welcome to the April edition of Committee Reads.
Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage by Dion Fortune
One of my favourite bits of Terry Pratchett’s near-infinite wisdom is his lovely summing up of the differences between wizards’ and witches’ magic. Pratchett genders it, not entirely without good reason (and in keeping with the laws of the Discworld), and it goes thus:
“It’s the wrong kind of magic for women, is wizard magic, it’s all books and stars and jommetry. She’d never grasp it. Whoever heard of a female wizard?… “Witches is a different thing altogether… It’s magic out of the ground, not the sky, and men never could get the hang of it.”
As we all know, here on the round world, sans turtles, gender is less proscribed in terms of practice, but I’ve never been able to shake the beautiful grain of truth in Pratchett’s summation of the differences between what is essentially “witchcraft” ™, and what is essentially Ceremonial Magick. Nobody lynch me; pith is pith, and I’m not trying to pith anyone off here.
Getting to the point, though, reading this constantly reminded me of that Pratchett quote. That is because the book reads like this:
“The esotericist does not use the term ‘sex’ as we do; he speaks of ‘life-force’, which he conceives to be an energy of an electrohydraulic type, a radiating and magnetising vibratory activity, similar to electricity, to which it is very closely related, yet capable of compression and of exercising pressure after the type of water-power.”
Now, I like reading technical manuals. In my last job I used to have to read a lot of them, many of them from the 19thC. I also like reading old books, and the comparative formality and verbosity of older prose is a thing of pleasure to me. And I like reading alchemical and Hermetic texts. You’d think that finding one book that was the stylistic lovechild of all three of these things would thrill me beyond measure, but in actuality it was, to be honest, about as enjoyable as combining sauerkraut and maple syrup (both of which I love, but ew). I feel guilty and slightly ashamed describing the work of the great Dion Fortune in such a way, so go ahead and call me a philistine and I’ll wear that – but honestly, it was an awful lot like what I’d imagine reading “Kent’s Mechanical Engineers’ Handbook” would be like, if Kenneth Salisbury just happened to be tackling the Great Work and the Alchemical Wedding. I’m tempted to deposit this on the shelf next to the two volumes of Kent’s, and at some point attempt to make a diesel-powered version of the Seven Planes of Manifestation of the monad, and see if it makes a decent engine for a Spitfire.
This book was written in 1924, so I was fully prepared for the attitudes towards gender being a product of their time, and utterances such as “One of the principal causes of trouble in unmated women is the stagnation and staleness of their unused life-forces…” came as no huge surprise, but it still jars to read of abortion as “murder”, and that same-sex sexual stimulation leads to “mental breakdown”, and that the practitioner will “give himself over unreservedly to evil”. At least Fortune and I can agree that “contraceptives are better than nervous disease”. Because, well, they are.
I’ve read reasonably widely on gender, sexuality, and the occult, and I can honestly say that so far, while I have no issue with the basic philosophical crux of this book, it’s not saying anything particularly groundbreaking in the greater narrative of Western Mystery Tradition, and the engineering-manual prose and outdated social notions made it so far the least enjoyable book on the subject that I have read. All in all I prefer poetry and metaphor to jommetry. Sorry, Dion.
Spirits of the Sacred Grove by Emma Restall Orr
Part autobiography, part community snapshot and part whimsy, this book gives the reader a look into the author’s world at each of the High Days.
Orr’s writing is intelligent and descriptive, and her portayals of the seasons in England and Wales make me want to pack a suitcase and visit the UK tomorrow. I also drew some easy parallels between the highs and lows of her local Pagan community and some of the things we experience here in Australia.
That said, I did find some parts a little jarring. Discussions of spirit and ancestor guides did at times feel more like someone discussing imaginary friends, and this distracted me from the narrative.
I still really enjoyed Spirits of the Sacred Grove, and would recommend it to anybody interested in Druidry or Paganism and how it fits into this modern world. Ideally, I would recommend it to those who have been around for a while and are able to take it with something of a grain of salt.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
This month I’m doing another re-read, of a series close to my heart.
This the third book in the series follows the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermoine as they face their third year at the magical school of Hogwarts in the wilderness of Scotland.
The story continues to capture the imagination and put readers into another world filled with wonder.
Prisoner of Azkaban is the last of the shorter books in the series as JK began to write longer and longer books after this which ties in well with the transition from childhood to adolescence that begins in this book.
I cannot recommend the series enough, probably out of a sense of nostalgia, they are a thoroughly enjoyable read nonetheless.
See the Silver Birch Grove Facebook group for more information – Free
This lovely piece by Viv was originally published in our old newsletter, Spokes of the Wheel (Mabon 2015 – volume 2 issue 3). Feature photo by Mark Hayes.
The sunlight is golden treacle
I can see it just over the rooftops
And I wait here in the cold, with my blankets
Woolly jumpers and artificial sweeteners
As morning plods on
As the sun rises
And by 10:30 it has hit our yard
And the oak trees sing
The air warms, and everything breathes again
Remembers that summer isn’t that long gone
As winter draws nearer, the days will be filled
With a thousand tiny deaths,
One hundred compromises.
But right now the autumn sun is dappled on my skin
There are still tomatoes on the vine
Occult Church of the Covenant Noetica
Pagan Collective of Victoria
Meeting Minutes – 08/04/2017
Location: Irish Murphy’s, Ballarat Start Time: 12.25
Attending: Ryan, Sarah, Josie, Alex and Mark
Apologies: Dean, Dorian, Luca, Ange, Shaz, Nikole
March was such an amazing crazily fun month, full of great events. The roll out of Pagan Pride Day, Community Safety Month and the great concert by Spiral Dance and KC Guy, were all great initiatives that couldn’t have happened without a lot of hard work from a lot of people.
We recently had the Spiral Dance and KC Guy concert with ran really well, there was a good turnout and the feedback was positive. It did however run at a small loss. The breakdown is as follows:
Eventbrite fees: $76.88
Spiral Dance costs: $1436.62
Kc Guy costs: $240.52
Sound Engineer: $150.00
Total Expenses: $1904.02
Eventbrite tickets: $870.00
Ticket sales on door: $630.00
Donation tins: $67.20
Total Income: $1567.20
Total Loss: $336.82
The loss has been covered by donation from Ryan McLeod
We’ve had 18 new memberships since the last meeting, which have all been approved and over 30 new FB likes. So the memberships continue to grow steadily.
The meetups continue to be a massive success with an average of 14 people every month, consisting of a group of regulars as well as new faces appearing too. The possibility of having a weekday meet to discuss personal practice and other topics has been raised. The community here are quite fantastic and have built something really positive.
These meets are now on average getting 20 people every month. The meet-up had a quest speaker recently, a move which was well received and had a lot of positive feedback. People responded to having Dr David Waldron come and talk, and to have a chance to engage in discussion with him.
The central meet-ups are changing venue to the Farmers Arms, still located in Creswick, just down the road from the old venue, it is still a friendly atmosphere suitable for all types.
Pagan Pride Day
This event was the culmination of a lot of hard-work by a number of people as well as the amazing support and response from the community, not to mention the guest speakers from traditions and groups. There is a need to decide on a date for another one so that planning can commence. The possibility of having some panel discussions by guest talkers was suggested as a possibility for next year. The theme of community safety was a great message going in and should be considered in the preparations for the next one.
Spiral Dance/KC Guy
An amazingly good evening was had by those that attended, there was an amazingly positive response to the concert. This would not have been possible without Spiral Dance and KC Guy’s co-operation, support and willingness. It would also not have been possible without the hard work put in by people, particularly Ryan. This would be something fantastic to have happen again, provided of course that the musical talents are willing.
Community Safety Month
Community safety month seems to have been received well and should definitely be an annual thing, as there are always new people finding their way to the community and existing members that may not be aware of what resources and help is available.
There has been a lot of positive discussion coming out of this month, and some positive outcomes too. A new values statement was written after several discussions that occurred in March as part of Community Safety Month.
The PCV is putting its foot down on this issue, the policy to make it a mandatory requirement to hold a Working With Children Check passed unanimously in a previous meeting and this will be enforced at the AGM. You need to have one to run for committee, an aspect that will be made clear when the calls for committee involvement start so that no potential new committee members are caught unawares.
The public PCV Samhain ritual is being hosted by Seline and the event is now live, Ryan is going to check in with Seline to make sure she is getting what help and support she needs and to make sure we are doing whatever we can to help
The Hills would love to have mugs and shirts and to that end think it would be great if there was a Redbubble account. However it would be ace if the PCV itself had the Redbubble account and that way there could be PCV merch too.
Ryan needs to send Sarah all the master copy files of the logo etc. so that she can toy around with designs for approval for merch.
The Morris team is going amazing, they recently had a fabulous and highly productive workshop with Adrienne and Paul who gave very generously of their time to help the side with the dance they are working on as well as providing heaps of helpful information.
The side is on track with their goal of dancing at Mount Franklin this year.
The team is in the process of being insured by the Morris Ring but it hasn’t gone through yet.
We have access to the same venue that we used for the previous Yule Dinner and the same space.
Currently have menu options and pricing being prepared for our consideration, which is meant to include a Gluten Free/Vegan option.
The event should not conflict with Monselvat.
The ticket sales will be on Eventbrite, it worked will previously.
Josie is going to tart up the event on Facebook to give more information and appeal to the community.
Ryan is going to see if KC can perform again since he was a real hit at the last one.
PCV at Mount Franklin
Alex has kindly offered to help run the kids maypole at Mount Franklin.
Josie is going to print up more of the PPD flyers to have at the mountain for us to hand out because it has all the groups information and contact details on.
It is proposed we trial having a rotating roster of people running the social media (weekly round-ups, blog article announcements, etc.).
We need to add more topics for the blog, one possibility is changing from recipe of week instead having other topics that can fit in that slot such as book or music of the week.
The AGM is going to be on the 20th of August at the Last Jar in Melbourne. More announcements and round-ups for nominations etc to come later.
Ryan has proposed that we have a BBQ/picnic day at Fairy Park, the potential date for this being 25th Nov, more details to be confirmed later.
Witches of Oz Movie Night 2017 – coming out of a discussion on Witches of Oz a movie night in conjunction with the PCV is proposed. Details to be worked out.
Alex presented an idea for a PCV student pagans run uni group, to provide a social and networking opportunity for uni students and potentially a support network. More details to be presented at a later date.
Meeting End: 1.32
Melbourne Heathen Moot – Free
See the Bendigo Pagans in the Pub Facebook Group for more information. Free event.
Hawthorn bushes are fit to bursting at this time of year! Dean found this cracking Haw Jelly recipe here.
You will need:
- Hawthorn berries (haws)*
- Juice of one lemon
- Remove all stalks and leaves. If you roll a handful (stalks and all) between your hands, the haws should come away easily.
- Wash and drain haws. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour, mashing every twenty minutes or so with a potato masher.
- Strain the mixture through some muslin overnight. Do not squeeze the bag, just let it drain naturally.
- In the morning, for every 700ml of liquid you have, measure out 500g sugar.
- Stir the sugar and the juice of one lemon into the mixture. Bring to the boil.
- Rapid boil for 10 minutes until the jelly has reached its setting point.
- Skim foam off the top of the mixture, and pour into warm, sterilised jars.
*700 grams of haws = 1 jar of Haw Jelly
See the PCV Facebook Events Page for more details.