Some times its the quiet events that are the most rewarding.
Organised and MC’ed by Steve Jones, organiser of the West Yorkshire Pagans, the Day of Mysteries and Magic 2 has loomed large in my social calendar since it was announced earlier this year. Initially it was because I got a sneaky heads up about the subject of one talk but once the full line up was announced I realised that I had an interest in most, if not all, of the subjects covered.
First on the line up was an examination of the links between Free Masonry and Gerald Gardener’s Wicca by Steve Jones. Although I am not an initiated Wiccan my family have Masonic connections and it was interesting to have Steve set out the similarities between the ritual forms and structures. He also described Gardeners connections with both the Free Masons and the Co-Masons as the method of transmission of these ideas. I find the development of Wicca an interesting subject, and a defining one when talking to people about their personal paths, and I’m always surprised by the network that existed around Gardener as he defined the tradition that would become Wicca. It’s clear that not only did Gardener draw on his own experience of the first three degrees of Free Masonry but that he worked in conjunction with others to turn the ritual forms and format into what we recognise as the first degree initiation in Wicca. There are other elements within Wicca, also used within wider pagan communities, which can be traced back into a Masonic context such as the common greeting Merry Meet.
Tony Chapman then came on to share his experience of the Paranormal World. Tony, who runs the Temple of the Athame with his wife Sue, is a paranormal investigator with over 30 years experience. Tony took us through some of the headline subjects in paranormal investigation, from vampires to out of body experience, sharing famous examples as well as personal experience and belief on the subject. It was a delightfully grounded discussion, which can be lacking when some subjects in the paranormal remit are talked about, and Tony’s vast experience shone through.
Next came Kai Roberts, who shared his work around the claimed grave of Robin Hood in the grounds of what was once Kirklees Abby. Sharing the same title as his book, Grave Concerns, Kai’s talk gave an overview of the legend of Robin Hoods death and the substance to the claims surrounding the site. The claims and issues surrounding the grave range from the interesting to the extreme but setting the Kirklees Vampire and White Lady aside we can hope that in time the area around the monument is restored and greater public access is achieved. Kai was also there in his capacity as author and editor of the Northern Earth periodical and I managed to snaffle his only copy of Folklore in Yorkshire on the day. Watch this space for a review because not only am I impressed by the book itself I’mashamed of my own lack of knowledge of the various characters within my local county.
The forefathers of modern witchcraft was the subject of Alan Millar’s talk. The talk itself was an abridged version of a longer talk entitled ’40 Witches in 40 Years’ and took us through a selection of influential names within Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft and folk traditions. An hour wasn’t enough time to hear everything and cover everyone’s questions regarding those included, or not as the case may be, and open up in a discussion on influential people of our time. That said Alan may, sometime into the future, find space and time to present the full talk and I think that people who had questions about traditions outside of their own experience were able to take enough away from the discussion to further their research.
In his talk Paul Bennett took us through some of his extensive slide collect of sites across Ilkley Moor and his new home in Scotland. Paul has a long history of tramping the Moors I search of sites known and unknown, and has added substantially to the archaeological record of the Moor. Now he’s moved to Scotland he is doing the same thing, much to the consternation of the local unit I suspect. Something I have the away from the talk is the vast array of possible interpretations of rock Art both on a spiritual level and an anthropological one. As humans we are programed to search for patterns. Just in Paul’s selection of slides people could see constellations, faces and figures whilst anthropological explanations include migratory maps marking important sites or events and representations of the spirit inherent within the rock.
Despite the extensive advertising and excellent line up attendance on the day was rather low. In fairness it was competing two big events in Yorkshire, the Ilkley Complementary Festival and Bram Stoker film festival in Whitby (not to be confused with the Goth Weekend which takes place over Halloween weekend) which was rather unfortunate. Turn out was well below the 100 mark but that made it much more intimate and possible for any Q&;A session to be a bit more conversational. If there is a Day of Mysteries and Magic (3) I’d urge anyone in the local area to attend, in fact I would say it was well worth the journey if you’re not all that local too.