Veil

Today is Samhain; the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest (well, apart from Beltane) and spirits can pass through.

I love Samhain, it’s the part of the year that I feel most at home with. I love the darkness and the way that it can creep and consume us if we’re not careful. At this time of year we become more and more aware of the power of nature and how, even now, we’re controlled by it.

I just switched the lights on. I’ve been trying to fight the darkness all day, I don’t think it really got light today. I went out for a bit and have come back to find the flat in darkness. So the lights are on, I’m typing this up and then I’ll be heading to the store to pick up something for tea and some apples for my rituals.

It’s been a long time since I performed a Pagan ritual. I feel kind of bad about that- however, I think it was necessary. I have some time set aside tonight to go all out and do what I used to do on Samhain.

So, what finally kicked me out of the lazy rut I’ve been in for the past year or so?

The Gods.

I felt strange on Tuesday, I can’t really put it onto words, there was just something off. I lit some candles- candles that I’ve only actually used a few times- and one went out.

Okay, I’ll elaborate a little.

I have two identical pillar candles that I keep on my altar. The represent the Lord and the Lady. They’re almost identical in every way and have only been lit a handful of times. They were burning for about half an hour or so before one of them started to fizz loudly, it crackled and spluttered before going out completely.

I tried everything to relight it, I checked the wick and scraped away some of the wax, I tried moving it and making sure that it wasn’t being affected by the open window… eventually I called it a day and just left it.

A couple of hours later I tried again, and it lit with no problems.

For me this was like a wake-up call. I read my tarot cards, they gave me an insight into a few personal things that I need to think about, and sat for a while looking out at the sky and thinking about my Gods.

I was reminded strongly that whilst the Gods are always with me, they are powerful- more powerful than I could ever be or ever imagine. I love my faith, if I were to walk away from the Gods they would let me go, but I feel that they were offering me a gentle reminder of their power and how close the other-world is.

Have a blessed Samhain,

Wren x

An Explanation + Scarborough

Lately I’ve been missing out on doing posts on Wednesdays, this is due to a combination of factors such as crap internet, crap wordpress and crap mental state.

To be perfectly honest I just haven’t really been very inspired to write about anything on Wednesdays. I left this day as a day where I could post about anything that I wanted… and it ended up turning into a day where I posted about serious things. I was putting a bit of pressure on myself to write three big articles a week. I’ll be clear, writing them wasn’t the problem, thinking of what to write about was.

I felt like I was putting out half-arsed content. So from now on I’m going to relax and try to write something more light-hearted and casual on Wednesdays.

To entertain you whilst I work out what exactly I will be writing on Wednesdays I give you a selection of pictures from Scarborough that I took over the weekend:

Lament for Teenage Wren

If you’ve looked back through this blog or been reading it for a while you’ll be aware that I suffered from mental health problems from the age of fourteen. My teenage years were overshadowed by mental health problems.

Sometimes I look back and I feel regret and longing. I wish that I could go back and live those years of my life like everyone else. I think about how amazing it would be to live without having to think about working or making money or the big, scary, adult world.

I see teenagers portrayed everywhere and I feel an incredible longing to be one of them again, (technically I still am but we’ll gloss over that) I feel regret for the person who I was.

I can understand that the feelings that I’m having aren’t logical.

I know that puberty was nasty- seriously, it was nasty. It involved spots, rough periods, unnatural amounts of sweat and constantly sore boobs… not to mention the mood swings.

I don’t want to go through that again.

But I still feel like I wasted years of my life.

I have to remind myself that those years made me who I am now, that they taught me invaluable lessons and at the end of the day I couldn’t have changed what happened to me. I had depression, it wasn’t a choice.

However that doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder if there was anything I could have done differently. I wish that they’d given me medication. Maybe if they had then I’d be writing about the evils of giving medication to teenagers with mental health problems… but maybe I’d have been given the chance to be normal.

We don’t know what we would have done, or who we would have become if things in our pasts had turned out differently. We can only live the lives that we’ve been given… but that won’t ever stop us from wondering.

I think that the wondering is the thing that makes us human. The treatment that I received was having an appointment every week where I would talk about my week to a counsellor. That was it- there was no specific, therapeutic approach- nobody diagnosed me, nobody talked about treatments options.

I went through my teenage years with undiagnosed depression. Years and years of my life were spent in a living hell, it felt like every minute physically hurt.

The problems that I had as a teenager came back last winter. As I was now an adult I went to see my GP, he diagnosed me with depression and offered me medication which I accepted. I blogged about my experiences with medication and came to the conclusion that medication did help me, but the side affects that I experienced eventually led me to stop taking it.

I think that if I’d have been given medication to get me out of the mental trap that I was in and then been offered therapy I would have improved a great deal. I would have had the chance to escape years of mental health problems.

Instead I got an hour a week with an incompetent counsellor who made me talk about my week.

The older I get and the more perspective I gain the angrier I become about CAMHS and my treatment. Studying psychology and talking to other health professionals has helped to open my eyes even more.

’til next time,

Wren x

Virgin

This is one of those posts that will bring a flood of people to my blog who were originally searching for porn.

Sorry guys, try somewhere else- no ‘naked pagan sex’ happening here.

#

Virginity is overrated.

And I, for one, am absolutely sick of it.

When you’re a teenager it’s all you think about. I remember the pressure of losing my virginity being almost unbearable as I was growing up… and I’m a woman… so stereotypes dictate that I shouldn’t really be feeling that pressure.

I feel sorry for all of the men out there who are sweating under the pressure of having to have sex before a certain age to be ‘normal’ and to have social status.

For those virgins reading this post I want to make something very, very clear:

Losing your virginity will be one of the most anti-climactic moments of your life.

You won’t feel different, you won’t look different… you probably won’t even get much pleasure out of the experience at all. Your social status will not change; you won’t become cooler or more popular just by losing your virginity. If you do then I’m sorry, but your friends are idiots.

It’s kind of baffling that people care about whether you’re a virgin or not in our society. We’re supposed to have moved on from the Christian idea of virginity being sacred… and we have, but it’s changed into something else.

Personally, I think that women still can’t win when it comes to sex- you’re either a whore or a prude and it’s rare that we manage to gain some kind of middle ground.

Opinions about sex are very varied. I’m sure we all have a number in our heads that we wan to hear when we ask our partner how many sexual partners they’ve had.

I think that both when you lost your virginity and how many people you’ve slept with in your life are unimportant. I think that they say things about you, (not good or bad things) but they do give an indication of your personality.

I don’t like the way that I lost my virginity. I’m not really going to talk about it here because it’s something that I still don’t like to think about. Maybe someday I’ll write about it on this blog, but that day is not today.

Sometimes I wish I’d waited until I’d met my current partner… other times I’m glad that I didn’t.

My advice would be to wait. Don’t run before you can walk, I don’t care what age you lose your virginity- or how you do it- but please, please just wait until you are ready. You’ll know when that moment comes, trust me. There’s no shame in waiting, and anyone who makes you feel ashamed is someone you should feel sorry for, they have no courage to stand up for themselves against the ridiculous expectations of society.

Sex is sacred, it’s the most private and intimate act- it’s an act of love and pleasure. Enjoy sex, because when it’s good, it’s incredible… but when it’s bad, it’s bloody horrible.

Take your time; some people will be ready at sixteen, others will be ready at thirty. There’s no rush.

Blessings,

Wren x

 

Emotional Memory: The Out-Dated Acting Technique

Talk to anyone who has studied drama or acting and they will almost definitely know who ‘Stanislavski’ was.

For those not in the know he is widely regarded as the father of modern, ‘realistic’ acting. One of the most widely known and famous of his techniques is something called ’emotional memory’.

Emotional memory is the technique of recalling a personal memory to evoke emotions needed to play a part- to put it simply, if you’re playing someone who has been bereaved, you think of when you were bereaved and use those memories and emotions.

On paper this sounds like an innocuous and probably affective method to use when acting, however it can produce unwanted results. In fact, Stanislavski and later practitioners moved away from it after noticing a lot of actors having serious emotional breakdowns and mental health problems after using it.

I think that emotional memory can be upsetting at best, and dangerous at worst.

It’s archaic- even its creator decided that it wasn’t great in the end… so why is one of the first techniques that we teach actors? Surely it should be amongst the last, only given to actors who have enough experience and mental understanding to deal with it.

My experiences with emotional memory aren’t great, I’ve used it in the past when I’ve been struggling to grasp an emotion. I keep a tight reign on how I feel- maybe that’s why I’ve found acting to be so hard. A couple of times it’s gone badly wrong for me.

One of the eight or so monologues that I used to do when I was acting was of ‘Annie’ from the play ‘The Gut Girls’ by Sarah Daniels. Annie talks about being sexually abused… I never used emotional memory for this. For one, because it would be far too much- that’s not something I’m comfortable exploring at all, let alone exploring it on a stage. Secondly, I found that even starting to think about it was of no help to me- I don’t know why, I just couldn’t feel anything. Instead I tried to harness the feeling of nervousness, that emotion worked for me and helped me to give a good performance.

Emotional memory is good on a small scale- little emotions- a little nervous, a little happy- those are okay. We can all conjure up harmless, every day memories that give us those emotions with little to no emotional repercussions. What worries me is how emotional memory is touted as the way to deal with anything. It’s not.

Please don’t use it unless you know what you’re doing, unless you have a good grasp of your own mental health and know really clearly how far you can push yourself. If you do then good for you… I don’t.

’til next time,

Wren x

Undead

The Undead: beings defined in mythology as creatures who were at one time alive, but now continue to display sings of life after their physical passing.

There are many forms of ‘undead’ creature, and they are seen in many different cultures. There are two basic categories of ‘undead’ creature, the living corpses and the spirits.

LIVING CORPSES:

DRAUGR

Norse/German, these are animated corpses who live in their graves and are said to protect treasure. They are swollen, blackened corpses who crush and feast on those who disturb them and drive away livestock. They can visit people in their dreams and often leave behind a token as proof of the visit. They have magical abilities such as shape-shifting and seeing into the future. To kill one you should behead it, burn the body and then scatter the ashes in the sea.

They are generally ‘mean or nasty’ people in life who have been buried in a standing or sitting position, you can become one by being infected by another Draugr. To prevent a corpse coming back as a Draugr there were many methods; open scissors were placed on the chest, their feet were nailed to the floor of the coffin and twigs were placed amongst their clothes.

JIANGSHI

Chinese, stiff, animated corpses dressed in garments from the Qing Dynasty that hop around with their arms outstretched. They seek to kill other creatures to absorb their ‘qi’ (life force) they move around during the night and then during the day they hide in coffins.

They are created by a variety of things; the person having not been ready to die, the corpse absorbing enough ‘qi’ to come back to life, spirit possession or the use of magick.

They can be defeated by a hand bell, the blood of a black dog and a broom (along with a whole variety of other things.)

REVENANT

English, an animated corpse returned from the dead to terrorise the living. These are creatures who returned from the dead for a specific purpose, they were often ‘wrong do-ers’ in life and returned to terrorise people who they had once known and to make life difficult for their neighbours and friends.

Some stories have them down as bloodsuckers, and sometimes they come to spread disease amongst the living. The appropriate response was to exhume the body, cut of the head and burn /remove the heart.

SPIRITS

GHOST

A ghost is an apparition of someone who has physically passed away. They are said to generally be people who have unfinished business and come back in order to sort their affairs out.

The belief in ghosts has lasted many centuries and is something seen in most cultures. Generally the methods of dealing with them vary from culture to culture,. in Europeans cultures the best way of dealing with them is either to look to the Church for a blessing (or exorcism in a more extreme case.) Or to turn to cleansing the affected property with sage.

POLTERGEIST

These are said to be troublesome  spirits who cause physical disturbance, moving of objects, loud noises etc. They are seen throughout European culture. Stories of poltergeists have spread to South America and Japan. There is speculation that poltergeist like activity can be caused by psychokinesis.

 

PostSecret

PostSecret is a community art project started in 2005 by Frank Warren. People are encouraged to create their own postcard containing a secret that they have never shared before and then send it in. The secrets are displayed on the PostSecret blog every Sunday.

I first came across PostSecret a few years ago when watching the film ‘In Search of a Midnight Kiss’  (which is amazing and you should definitely go and watch if you haven’t already.) I was absolutely mesmerised by it, the idea of sharing something that you can’t say and being totally anonymous is incredible.

When I first heard of PostSecret I was at a time in my life where I felt like I was going to explode from all of the things that I was holding inside. I spent a lot of time watching videos, reading past secrets and immersing myself in the feeling of freedom that this created. It made me realise how many people were in my position, and stopped me from feeling as isolated.

Secrets range from humorous to serious, they come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone has secrets, things that weight down on them and affect what they do. I think that PostSecret is brilliant, it lets people get things off their chests and shows everyone else that they are normal. It shows us all that we’re human, we’re flawed, and we have nothing to be ashamed of.

’til next time,

Wren x

The Unthanks

Slightly off topic; I thought that since their seems to be a lot of cross over between Pagan music and Fold music that this would fit in.

The Unthanks are a great British folk band, they have an ‘eclectic’ approach to English (especially Northumbrian) traditional music. I love the raw, emotional edge to their work. They first appeared in 2004 and started out as an all-female group, originally known as ‘Rachel Unthank and the Winterset’ they changed their name to ‘The Unthanks’ in 2009.

Here’s a sample of their work:

Blessings,

Wren x

Youtube Sex Abuse Scandal

About three years ago in the UK something called ‘Operation Yewtree’ started. This was the name given to an investigation carried out by the Police into claims of sexual abuse carried about by a wide variety of TV and radio presenters such as Jimmy Savile, Dave Lee Travis and Jim Davidson during the 60s/70s/80s.

The scale of the abuse is staggering. What’s even more staggering is that it’s taken this long to come out. These people were in positions of power and influence, and this protected them against legal action.

It’s absolutely shocking; thankfully legal action is now being taken, but I’m sure that’s little comfort to the victims who have had to spend their lives confused, angry and violated. I’m sure that whatever punishment they get it will never make up for the years that their victims were belittled, ignored and ridiculed.

How do you speak out against someone who’s famous? Who’s loved by millions of people?

We look at these instances and try to put them into the past, as with anything like this we try to distance ourselves from it and convince ourselves that it couldn’t happen now.

But it is.

It’s happening right now.

These days we have a new kind of celebrity; the Youtuber.

Youtube is a pathway to fame like no other; people can get millions of fans by doing very little and gain celebrity-level status overnight.

A lot of people use Youtube to escape from the real world, I can understand that- I know that after a hard shift at work it’s relaxing to sit and wind down watching videos. It exists in a kind of safe bubble where audiences who are lonely feel that they have someone they can connect with who understands them. They can message this person, contact them on social media and connect with them in a way that you can’t with traditional celebrities.

This all goes a long way to explaining the deep loyalty felt amongst fans of the Youtube community.

The problem?

Over the last few years, and even more so recently, it’s come to light that some of these Youtubers are abusing this loyalty in the worst way.

Allegations of manipulation, inappropriate behaviour and sexual abuse are starting to appear. Several of these Youtube celebrities have been involved in relationships with their underage fans.

This is statutory rape.

There’s no nice, pretty way to say that… it’s true. If you have sex with someone under legal age then you have raped them. The whole point of the age of consent is that they’re not deemed mature enough to weight up their options and decide for themselves.

Some of these accusations started to appear last year and the year before, but one event that happened very recently has really blown this whole thing wide open.

If you want the background and a good overview check here, here and here.

The event that has caused the shit to really hit the fan was this.

Also covered wonderfully here, here and even by the BBC, here.

Essentially, a Youtuber named Sam Pepper created a video where he ‘pranked’ women by pinching them on the arse. Thankfully his audience was disgusted and Youtube removed the video. He then tried to pass it off as a social experiment. Some people believed him, some people didn’t. I think it’s worth pointing out that he has a record of doing disgusting, degrading ‘pranks’ like this in the past… and as the debate began on whether he was a pervert or a champion of social justice people began to come forward.

Allegations started to appear; women came forward and said that they’d been sexually assaulted by him.

These allegations spiralled and spiralled, if you want a mature, in depth account of what was and is going on please check out Laci Green.

On top of this another Youtuber came forward and created a video where he admitted to getting a minor drunk and forcibly having sex with her. The response from his fans was one of support for his courage at coming forward and apologising for his mistake, which-

Wait, what did I just type?

WOAH. WOAH, WOAH…

It’s okay because he’s sorry? HE RAPED SOMEONE.

Sorry Ladies and Gents, but I think I may have just wandered into an alternate reality where it’s okay to rape someone so long as you apologise for it. The girl in question was underage… ergo this was statutory rape.

RAPE.

Does this not mean anything any more?

People who create content on Youtube, vloggers, youtubers, whatever you want to call them, are placed upon a pedestal where they are untouchable. They have so much power in their hands and in some cases, as illustrated here, they abuse it.

Thankfully a number of these women are taking legal action. I really, really hope that a strong case is built against these people and that they are made to legally account for their crimes, the same way anyone else would be. We need to blow the lid right off this and teach them that fame cannot protect you from the law.

The problem is that if they’re not convicted then they could easily turn around and sue the people who spoke out against them for libel. Their lives are funded by the money they get from making their videos, if no-one watches them anymore then their careers are over and they will most likely be out to get revenge on those who spoke up against them.

These people have so much power; they have audiences of millions of impressionable teenagers. There are some who use this power for good; there are others- as illustrated above- who use this power to serve themselves at the expense of their young audiences.

Another thing that really angers me is this: a lot of the really famous Youtubers who used to be close to SP have gone silent. I can understand that, they realised a long time ago that something was wrong and distanced themselves. They want to protect their image, their earnings and their businesses.

So they’re saying nothing… or saying things that aren’t really applicable to the situation. They’re carrying on with their lives, not even pausing for a moment to acknowledge and give an intelligent response.

They also have millions of impressionable teenagers watching them. Are they okay with the fact that they’re teaching teenagers that the right thing to do is ignore all social responsibility and protect yourself at all costs? Are they even aware that this is probably the vibe they’re giving off?

It angers me that few of the truly massive Youtubers (at least the ones that are big in this country) seem to be able to stand up and speak out. They are promoting a culture of silence and I find this disgusting.

To the victims (not just of this, but of any kind of abuse or manipulation) I know it’s not as easy as ‘just go to the police/authorities and report it’ and I would be a hypocrite if I were to say that. If you’ve been involved with the Youtube scandal then I do urge you to stand up, you’ll have a lot of support behind you and you could be instrumental in making them pay for their abuse of power. I’d say the same to those who are going through any kind of abuse. However, if you just can’t then I’m not going to push the matter. Just please; please talk to someone about it. Look after yourself; you can, and will heal.

Finally I want to leave you with this thought: we have created ‘Youtube culture’ we are the ones who have helped these people obtain the money and fame that they have. We are therefore the ones who can take all of that away.

If you want to hear more please check out these videos:

’til next time,

Wren x

Body Image: Unrealistic Aims

Us humans have always made life difficult for ourselves.

We create prisons, mental prisons, that make us unhappy, stressed and depressed.

One of those prisons is body image.

It seems crazy to me that we surround ourselves with images of how we think we should look- these images are either fake, unobtainable or just hard to physically match. We then feel like crap when we can’t match up to them.

I hate that people spend their lives as slaves to body image. People feel that they can’t wear certain things or go certain places because they’re scared that they won’t look right.

There’s no such thing as ‘normal’. It just doesn’t exist; yet we spend our entire lives trying to live up to this fictional standard.

I hate that people feel miserable because society tells them that they look wrong. I hate that people put themselves through pain trying to conform to society’s standards.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to dieting, plastic surgery… make-up? People use these things to make themselves feel better, but would they need them if society was more realistic?

I wear make-up because I find it fun and it makes me feel good… but how much of that is society telling me that it’s fun?

Our culture is so saturated with these images, the reality that we have is so warped that we can’t tell where it begins and ends. We are born into a world that has unrealistic standards and we half kill ourselves trying to live up to them.

I’m angry. I like anger, I think it’s a productive emotion.

Sadly I think the likelihood of me deconstructing society and making it reflect reality is a slim one.

’til next time,

Wren x