Apologies for the radio silence but I was in Somerset attending the 2019 Glastonbury Occult Conference. It was a great weekend, so here is my round up of my 4 day odyssey to the Isle of Glass and back again.
Friday 22nd February
Friday mostly consisted of dashing for buses and staring into rush hour traffic wondering if I would make my connection. Leeds to Glastonbury by National Express is about an 8-hour trip, consisting of two National Express and local service from Bristol to Glastonbury High Street. Apart from a nail-biting moment where it looked like I would miss my local connection, which would have pushed my landing time back about an hour, it was a smooth journey through the Covenstead was a welcome sight.
Wells Cathedral by Bus
At least the weekend was blessed with good weather. You’d have been forgiven for thinking it was high summer in Somerset – bright misty mornings, lunches outdoor in the market square and balmy evenings where you didn’t need a coat straight away. The weather held from Friday to Monday until I got back home which was one of those small beauties.
Having my evening meal in the George and Pilgrim was expensive calories with buying good wine and mutton curry. Yum! After eating I had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends before turning in for the night with good company as Saturday was set to be long, exciting and interesting.
Saturday 23rd February
The conference, like any good occult conference, opened with visualisation and a ritual, drawing on the ancestors of modern paganism and the founding character of Glastonbury as aspects of the cardinal points.
With that uplifting experience, we were then straight into fun stuff as Ronald Hutton gave an overview of the Ancient Mystery traditions. As regular readers of Knot Magic know this was right in my wheelhouse and it was great to hear the good professors position in the mysteries, with particular interest paid to his thoughts on the Eleusinian Mysteries. In particular, I took away his comments on the sacred drink of the rites and what exactly caused the ecstatic mindset, which was very practical of course. Being high on opium was off the cards straight away given, as Prof Hutton rightly pointed out, it would be impractical to supply let alone administer the required dosage to so many participants. Equally, he was dismissive of the ergotism hypothesis on the basis of wheat not being cultivated in the region. I am not sure how true this is but I am not convinced by ergotized wheat simply because the cultivation of ergot wouldn’t have been a process which could have been predicted or controlled and the effects could equally have been anything from extreme to completely negligible. The idea that barley wine (or beer though I myself lean toward wine) may have been consumed in quantity to create that euphoric state those who drink are all familiar with is far more credible and readily available whilst still being in keeping with the themes of harvest at the time.
After a short break came lovely James North and his workshop on Rosicrucian Magic, Elementals and Fairies. After a whistle-stop explanation of how he has been able to blend Rosicrucianism, Alchemy and Hermeticism to create a system which enabled him to work with the various classifications of spirits. At one point we were asked to visualise a time when we were out in nature and asked to see what impressions we consciously remembered. I situated myself stood atop Verbeia’s Mount, or at least my idealised form. We were then asked to recall those impressions we had been left with we may not have been fully conscious of. At this point I nearly took a trip down Willy Hall’s Spout, or Verbina’s Well as I subconsciously named it, which i realised would take me on a very chthonic journey should i choose to go. I think James was disappointed that i didn’t let myself go there but I was just too aware I was in a timed workshop but it is definitely a tread I intend to pull on once I am home.
James also took the group through a practical ritual to help those present build a better connection with the various spirits associated with the quarters. The workshop space ended up being very busy, with many attendants on both the physical and metaphysical planes. I was aware of all the different types of elementals walking to space which James and his ritual team built. Again, this is a ritual I would like to recreate at a later time if I am able to as I would like to have the chance to stand with each spirit type as he described them.
Next came David Rankine workshop on the Hebrew Alphabet, which included introducing the concept of the letters as three Mothers, seven Doubles and twelve Singles, based on their mean, appearance in hebrew text and pronunciation. David shared with us three visualisations based on these, with the first two forming possible personal praxis which could be built upon with further study.
I skipped the next talk and workshop, having puddled my brain with all that mental exercise, so I indulged myself in some shopping. One cannot visit Glastonbury without doing a little shopping, though my priorities were gifts for friends and family. I’m not saying that I didn’t shop for myself but i didn’t buy anything for myself until everyone else had been bought for.
The final talk of the day was by Robert Anderson Plimer on the subject of the Golem. Covering a wide variety of image magics including blood fetishes, or d’mammu, imiut, ushabti, kolossi, paredrai, homunculi as well as the Golem. Towards the end of his talk, Robert covered modern examples of these thought forms, such as the various AI that have been trained by tech giant and some rather bizarre experiments he had heard about online. As a closing take away Robert explained about the process of making your own Golem / magical servitor.
The evening event at the Avalon Club kicked off an hour or so later with Paul Weston launching his new book, the Magical Battle of Britain. In his second talk of the day, his first having coincided with my shopping trip but I did pick up his RuneSoup interview which dropped the same weekend. I’m not going to attempt to provide an a detailed recount but I recommend getting the book and all credit to Paul for birthing a book which clearly came with a seriously intense karmic debt attached. .
Though he was a hard act to follow comedian Donna Scott did a wonderful couple of sets, peppering her anecdotes of life as a Black Country lass with amusing poetry. We were probably not the best crowd going, having had our brains turned to mush during the day, but she persevered. The evening was rounded off with drinks, socialising and crashing hard once back to the B&B.
Sunday 24th February
Sunday kicked off with a talk by Nikki Wyrd on the process of growing older as a magician. Although avoiding topics such as the here after and even the moment of death Nikki focused instead on the ageing process itself and the importance of staying engaged in an enchanted world whilst remembering to stay active and engaged. Nikki pointed out how yoga, ti chi and even ritual poses can maintain mobility, whilst magical crafting in all uses of the phrase keep our minds engaged. As someone who is engaged in older person services as a profession it was something of a realisation to note that although a lot of the events and activities that are provided for the older generation may not appear to be pagan oriented on the surface it would not be a stretch to view them as such so I have no excuses to become isolated in myself as I reach my old age. Nikki also pointed out the importance of ensuring that the stories of items, both personal and magical, are noted and passed on which is something that I have come to realise the importance of in recent years.
Nikki then ran a Spiritual Spring Cleaning workshop with her partner Julian Vayne. Using the mindfulness technique of introspection, though the practices is somewhat older than the modern mindfulness movement, we were take on a tour of our skeletal, digestive, respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems. As we were reflecting on the functionality of each system we were instructed to acknowledge both what worked well and what things, read our general infirmities, had messages for us before they were acknowledged and put aside. The process was presented as being similar to cleansing a working space. As each permanent item is removed, cleaned and set aside we are left with the working debris which are slightly more tattered and more likely to head to deep storage or the bin. The next stage of the process was then a process of redressing the altar, and we were taken back through the five systems inviting appropriate energies back in to enliven them as we went. This could have been colour, deity, elemental… whatever resonated with us, and then we revitalised ourselves by metaphorically splashing our face with water of our choice from our cupped hands.
The weather was unseasonably warm over the weekend, very different to 2018’s Beast from the East.
Again, I have to confess to skipping out on a talk, terrible I know but a girl needs to treat herself.
I did make sure I was back in time for Jake Stratton-Kent and his talk on Therio-forms and Conjure Magic. Hearing a little about Jake’s methods and use of the lunar mansions as a method of timing magical working brought a timing method which I have heard min about but not had much call to work with was inspiring. Jake also introduced the concept of overlaying the therio-forms associated with an individual mansion over yourself as the magical practitioner was also an interesting concept which demands exploration. He also dropped the concept that it is possible to overlay the animals of Hekate with the lunar mansions based on various magical papyri. Jake didn’t have the reference with him however I was able to find a post by Nick Farrell which I believes replicates the information Jake was alluding to and I will come to how I will pull on this tread in a moment.
The final talk was given by David Rankine and looked at the similarities and differences between the Grimoires and the Books of Secrets, providing a crash course history to the development of both type of books, primary examples and how they have both experienced their own form of renaissance in their own times. David interspersed his explanation with personal anecdotes from his own magical practices.
I am willing to admit I was mentally flagging by the time we reached the Q&A session with Jake and David. The discussion was enlightening to the differences in practice and opinions on working with grimoires but I did not internalise as much as I would have liked.
A ritual space opened is a ritual space which needs to be closed. The ritual team took us through another lovely visualisation centred around the Heart of Avalon, our journeys too and from the event and the pearl of wisdom we would we take away with us. In truth I couldn’t settle on a single one thing, realising that there were so many things that resonated with the many threads I have been pulling on in the last year. Instead, I feel like I have acquired a treasure chest to take home and set upon my magical working space.
Monday 25th February
Although the journey between Glastonbury and Leeds is a long one I wasn’t due to catch my first bus until 11:20 so I was able to have a rather relaxed morning. I had an hours wander around the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey , sharing nods with the local dog walkers, taking a moment to visit the grave of King Arthur, view the holy thorn and light a candle to the memories of love ones.
I also had a little time to brows the vast library scattered around the Covenstead and consider what I would do next when I got home. I had a couple of ideas filtering though my mind, most of which were associated with Hekate and the moon, but no clear final decision. Colour me surprised when the Moon card from the Witches Tarot fell from between the pages. I know a sign when I see one and the imagery here is not too dissimilar to that on Jack Grayle’s new book The Hekatæon so I will begin by undertaking the first 9 day ritual dedication as outlined and use the time to finalise my list of lunary animal and epithets in association with the mansions of the moon to undertake that aspect of working in its own time.