We are moving :)
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
After a long break in posting, I am now officially closing this blog and moving all future entries to the Wordpress version at www.paganmonastic.wordpress.com

The decision to move has nothing to do with any kind of dissatisfaction with the LiveJournal experience, and everything to do with the fact that with a professional and two personal blogs to maintain, two of which are already in the Wordpres format, it makes a lot of sense to have only one software suite to master.....so with regret, its 'Goodbye Livejournal', and thank you. To those of you who are following this blog (and who have put up with the under-management of it over the past few months), I hope you will add the Wordpress version to your Google Reader, or whatever other tracking software you use. I have enjoyed your company and your comments so much, I wouldn't like to lose contact, or for you to think I was abandoning our 'friendship on the Way'. You know who you are......please get in touch through the Wordpress blog, or through the Yahoo group.

On which subject...for anyone interested in a more free-flowing discussion about the idea of Pagan monasticism, just go to www.groups.yahoo.com and search on pagan_monasticism. This is really a group for people feeling called to the idea of a monastic-influenced lifestyle, as Pagans, but all are welcome.

So....thank you LiveJournal, hello Wordpress, thank you all, and I hope to see you on 'the other side'!

And if you decide not to follow across.......

May the Gods you love and follow always walk with you, may you know Their presence and Their blessings, and may you always be true to them......



pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
Not the theological but the courteous kind.....

The observant will realise that its been a while since the last posting here. No excuses - just lots of activity and a lack of sense of priority. In the words of AS, 'I'll be back', as soon as I've reduced the large pile of mouldering work on my desk (should be some time next week) and re-ordered my priorities in order to give this and the Dumnonii Witchcraft blogs the priority they merit. This I must do, especially in the case of the DW blog, for The Webmistress herself is on my case about my lack of current contribution (the blog is pretty much my *only* contribution at the moment). So, as they say, *please*, 'watch this space'.....

Observation......LiveJournal spell checker doesn't seem to recognise the word 'blog'. Ironic?

Prioritiesd approaching deadline
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
The day job has taken over - temporarily. The UK Inland Revenue deadline for filing tax returns is this Sunday, 31st January. This applies to all (except those who don't have to file), without exception and without remit. There are a *lot* of people depending on me to file tax returns (not to mention accounts) on their behalf, and that's what I'm paid to do. So for the duration of January life becomes a steadily increasing pressure cooker of unfinished (query unfinishable) jobs, an

Form and content.......
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
We live close to Glastonbury, which is pretty much considered to be the New Age (you can substitute 'Pagan' or 'Magickal') centre of the UK - although some people may disagree - that's not the point of this post.

Last week there was an Occult Conference (not in itself that rare an occurrence in Glastonbury), to which a friend of a friend went. Apparently she attended the first session, then left. We don't know if this was because of the poor quality of the session, the speaker, or for some other reason, but we do know that our friend, like Mrs P_M and I, is someone who both values real spiritual content and work, and hasn't much time for a lot of the 'show-business occultism/paganism' which seems to go on here.

We had seen a flyer for the conference some weeks ago, and it did seem to feature a bunch of speakers trying to look dark and mysterious, and our friend's comment was that there do indeed seem to be a lot of people trying to look dark and mysterious, either in or around conferences in Glastonbury at the moment.

This got me thinking about form and content. There's an old saying that you can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Perhaps this is all true in the context of the image which a lot of people in Paganism (or at least *visible* Paganism) seem to want to present, but with the added rider that even if you managed to fool all of the people *all* of the time (yourself included), you'd not be able to fool the Deity or Deities you profess to serve. This works both ways - even if it looks like someone is 'putting on a show' for the benefit of the Pagan community, I can't tell if they are 'for real' under the surface or not. That's not my job, it's *certainly* not my calling. Similarly, my calling is to be true to my Deities, to be true to myself, to be true to the commitments I have made, and to make sure that my own practice has integrity, regularity and is generally what I 'signed up for'. Other peoples' opinions of it don't really matter, because they can only see what they can see, which isn't very much at all. Just as I can't see what their practice is really about.

It strikes me that this gets to the heart of the monastic 'project' - it is essentially an interior and a solitary calling, even if pursued in community as it is in the Benedictine order. So we just need to 'keep on keeping on' and believe that in the end, our lives will be lives of content rather than of form alone. If there is some form that follows from the presence of content, then that's great, although I doubt we'll even notice it - and hope we won't either.

We live in a world which clearly values form over content to a massive degree. It's up to us not to be deceived. It's people of content we need, not media 'spin' or cleverly hyped image.

Footnote to previous post......Richard Foster is indeed a theologian in the Quaker Christian tradition.

Money, sex, power, monastic promises and a whole lot of other stuff....
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
At the end of a day when I've been feeling 'out of sorts' I've suddenly found myself thinking (in the bath, where all good thinking takes place) about the whole issue of what it means to live according to monastic promises, whether as an Oblate or as a Pagan 'under promises', in the world we all inhabit (except those of us who are lucky or unlucky enough to be 'enclosed'). In this respect I was reminded of the book 'Money, Sex and Power by Richard Foster, which I've ha for years but haven't read for very many, having read it soon after its first publication in 1985.

Foster is an evangelical Christian, so naturally most of his frame of reference lies within that world-view, although he's a lot more broad-minded than many, but the gist of his work ought to be of value to all of us, given that we have to base at least part of what we develop and practice on history, and that most of that history is necessarily Christian, waiting to be annexed by us to our *own* world-views and put to our own uses.

Foster diagnoses the problems of society, and of ourselves as individuals, as springing from the misunderstanding of the purpose of, or the misuse of, money, sex and power variously, and its easy to see that he has put his finger on something right from the start. He ten shows how the 'original' (although not as universal as one might think) monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (or 'conversion of life'according to time in history and particular Order involved) can be related to and seen as 'regulating influences' on those misuses. He then finally recasts those three vows as promises of simplicity, fidelity and service, which (he suggests) we can all make and use to regulate our lives.

I've got a lot of time for Foster - I always did when I was a Christian, and that respect hasn't diminished now that I'm not - and I really think there is something in what he says that can be of use to the Pagan monastic. I'm going to re-read his book (if the evangelicalism doesn't get in the way, which I don't think it will, and spend some time reflecting on what he has to say in these areas.

Meanwhile, we are in the middle of a lovely weekend of (first) entertaining our lovely friends T and A (yesterday), and tomorrow being entertained by our *other* lovely froends in Glastonbury, P and K.....sometimes, it seems, you wait weeks to see your friends, and then two opportunities come along almost one behind the other, just like buses!

I'll write some more about Foster and his relating of monastic vows to 'ordinary' life in due course, and I also plan to re-read his book on prayer, which I think will supply some 'food' for the mystic (as opposed to the monastic) in me. The whole business of how (or whether) mysticism and monasticism relate to one another is one I plan to get to over the next week or two, the busy-ness of work permitting.

Whisperings of Woden and a walk in the snow......
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
More 'starting again' I'm afraid, but this time with a bit of momentum......

I started reading Galina krasskova's 'Whisperings of Woden' yesterday, and have 'first time through' read about 1/3 if the book. I put it like this because this isn't a book you 'just read', but a book you need to engage with in a devotional and practical way. However, I've read the first (and most introductory and general) section of the book, and I have to say, it's really good......I'm going to go onto Amazon.co.uk and leave an appropriate review.

A strange thing is that I've had the book for several weeks (not as long as I've had some others! but have only just felt that I wanted to start on it. This isn't unusual in my experience - I've sometimes felt in the past that I didn't want to start on a book as soon as I have got it home, and yet *knew* that I wanted to buy it at the time. Later, when I *did* start on the book, I found that it was a 'well timed' read. I have a feeling that this is the case with 'Whisperings of Woden', and I'm looking forward both to reading and to working through many of the suggestions it has to offer for engaging with The Old Man. I'm also pretty sure that some of the prayers and invocation are going to find their way into the breviary, and therefore into daily or weekly use...so thank you, Galina!

I do recommend this if you're at all interested in devotional work - even if Odin isn't your Deity - as many of the devotionals (as the author says) are easily transferable. Effectively, this is in many ways a general devotional which just happens to have been written by a worshipper of Odin. In the end we all have to work out our own devotional practices and materials (not having the luxury of centuries of Christian tradition and monastic practice to draw upon), and I've found it quite hard work so far, and it's helpful to be able to 'stand on the shoulders' of others who have gone before, and not *always* have to 'reinvent the wheel'! I am, however, conscious that a lot of what I've managed to develop so far might be of use to others - or at least a discussion of the *process* of development might be - and so I'm becoming quietly hopeful that I might one day be able to write up and publish some of the material as a book. Since starting to write is one of my oaths for this year, that would be a fine thing! I'm trying to set aside some time for this in the horarium (which is the next area I'm looking at whilst the breviary is 'bedding down').

Another thing I'm trying to get into the horarium is regular time for us both to get out and walk on a daily basis. We went for a walk in the snow this morning, having managed to get a bit of 'cabin fever' yesterday, and we both think this is definitely something we want to have on our daily agendas. OK, the walk was into the centre of town to get a few odds and ends of shopping that we can't get from the village store, but it was still refreshing to be out in the open air, and is something we'd like to be doing on a regular (daily) basis.

Since I've mentioned 'Whisperings of Woden' I think it only right and proper to mention Elizabeth Vongvisith's excellent 'Be Thou My Hearth and Shield', which is a might compendium of prayers and devotionals in the Northern Tradition, many of which are now adorning the pages of my breviary, and which has saved me *so* much work and heartache along the way - thank you Elizabeth! Again, I can heartily and fully recommend this....although if you're following another tradition other than the Northern, I'm afraid you're on your own so far as my recommendations are concerned!

Coming soon.....a consideration of how prayer beads are going to fit into this devotional life which is developing. As someone with backgrounds in the Catholic Rosary and Buddhism, I'm not new to prayer beads as a concept, but I've not considered them in the context of the Northern Tradition I'm now following. I'm only sorry that Hrafn hasn't concluded the excellent series of blogs he started on the subject - but I hope he will do when he returns to blogging.

Update - horaria and the journey
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
Another week has gone by with no significant progress being made (actually with no progress being made at all). An old monk once told me that a monk is someone who gets up every day and starts again, and I guess that's the right way to assess the current state of things, except that it would make me happy if there was the occasional day which wasn't in 'starting again' mode......

I *did* have a chance to look at some online Benedictine Horaria, a Horarium being in essence a monastic timetable. Clearly these are meant to provide structure to a community of like minded monastics, but they serve a deeper purpose, which is to provide structure to the life of the individual, in terms of making space for the traditional monastic life of work, prayer and study (and in more recent times, recreation). What is surprising that each of the timetables I have looked at manages to give space for a sensible amount of sleep (usually about 7 hours), for an eightfold monastic office of prayer, for personal prayer and reading, for meals and for anything up to 7 hours of work - quite a wonder when you think how 'hung up' we modern Westerners are on not having enough time. The key seems to be in submitting one's life to an externally imposed 'control' (timetable) in order to achieve the greater good of s life of dedication and devotion to one's Gods - or to God, in the Christian case, which is where most of these examples have come from.

I am seriously considering all of this, and I am mindful of the question once asked by Thomas Merton of one of his mentors - "What does one have to do to be a saint". The answer was, "You just have to want to be one". I think you could take the word 'saint' and substitute 'monastic', because when we boil things right down, we just have to *want* to live that way, to be *so* determined (but in a relaxed way) that we are prepared to make whatever modifications are necessary to our lives, in order to achieve the 'pearl of great(est) price'. Simple yet complex, easy but a lifetime's work. Worth doing? Absolutely, if that's your calling. Impossible not to attempt? Definitely, if that's your calling, unless you want to be Very Miserable Indeed.

So that's the current state of play. There's a lot happening even if nothing seems to be progressing.

Breviary-wise, I have carried out some changes to the daily material to make it more relevant to the specific Gods which the days of the week naturally ascribe themselves to, which all need to be printed out early next week (we've been working at home this week due to the current Baltic weather conditions here), and I'm happy that the new material will be more varied and better to use. I'm still very exercised about the lack of reading material in the daily commons - this really is a bugbear, as in years gone by one had the Scriptures on a regular basis, and there was plenty of them, enough to make a very varied reading diet. Obviously we have the Eddas and the Sagas, but the job of breaking them down for daily reading and meditation is so enormous that I've shied away from it so far. However, I think I'll have to really get on to this very soon.

Long cold weekend ahead.......could be a plan!

As Dave Allen used to say...whatever your chose path..."May your gods go with you"

Still seeking
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
With the Christmas and New Year holiday finally coming to an end this evening, notwithstanding the (small) amounts of 'work' which have been done between a) Yule and Christmas, and b) Christmas and the New Year, tomorrow it's back to work 'for real', and time to start working through the oaths taken at Yule, with a view to turning them into boasts at the same time later this year.

One thing that hasn't been made an oath, but which in many ways over-arches all the *actual* oaths made, is that this is the year when I really want to make progress in my journey towards a monastically-influenced way of life.

It seems that quite often recently we have been reminded of the direction we want to take our lives in, but usually just when we are about to embark on yet another social engagement that we didn't really want, don't feel like fulfilling, and shouldn't have committed to in the first place. Clearly this is a case for what Stephen Covey refers to as 'integrity in the moment of choice' - in other words, seeing the potential for conflict with what we most want when it arrives, rather than after we have made the 'bad' decision and need to extricate ourselves from the consequences.

One of the issues under discussion is whether or not to move the office back into the house in a greatly reduced form. We are both agreed that we don't want to give up our ritual space - we have an entire room given over to this - which will mean that if we *do* go down that road, I will necessarily either have to take over the spare bedroom in its entirety (which isn't really an option either), or shoe-horn myself into a corner of that room with minimum impact on the rest of the house.

However, the decision to live a less 'engaged' life is much more than just a decision about where to site a workspace.....it's more about how to get a work pattern that doesn't involve having to travel the length and breadth of Somerset and Devon most days of the week. Personally I don't mind maintaining my regular trips to London, because the revenue from reasonably-well-paying London clients can more than justify the inconvenience, and the number of 'London days' in any given month can be fairly strictly controlled. Frankly, the more local work is far more 'tiresome' in terms of loss of focus at home (on home?) and there needs to be a better way of managing it.

Finally, this is the start of the 'silly season' work-wise, so somehow I have to make time to think all of this through against a backdrop of multiple deadlines and work pressure over the next four weeks.

So there we have it......I'll keep blogging and chronicle how, if at all, this gets resolved. But it certainly is central to the whole life-direction that we have set for ourselves - to live lives influenced by the best of monastic thought and spirituality, but from and within a pagan context. That's what it's all about now.......

A catch up of many things
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
I realise it's been nearly three weeks since I posted anything here. I'd like to think (and make out) that this is as a result of great and intense devotional activity, but actually it's just a result of having let work crowd in yet again, and of having let everything get 'out of kilter', which I suppose is really the perennial problem for the aspiring monastic.

I'm indebted to Bruce the monk who used to remind me that "a monk is one who every day gets up and starts again". So this is starting again - again - and I suspect that tomorrow will be another 'starting again' as well!

The good news is that after several weeks of trying, I now have a personal breviary - or at least the starting point for 'road trials' of the breviary. Much of the delay was technical (persuading MS Word to print the thing wondering why, when I asked it to print from the page number I was on it actually started from a completely different point in the document, running out of inkjet cartridge, making what is probably the most extravagant round trip *ever* to Staples for a replacement, getting angry with the Laserjet for producing what is probably the most toner-spattered, unusable print copy *ever*, running out of A5 paper, discovering a whole stash of it in the garage, etc., etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam. However, we now have a full year breviary and an Ordo to assist in keeping the solar and lunar calendars in sync., and I am mightily happy. I said Morning Prayer from the breviary for the first time this morning, and it felt great.....as if this is really something that is 'meant to be'. I hope that in time I will cease to 'pray the office', and that the office will begin to pray me, as the old monastic tradition has it.

Much of the material for the breviary has been (fairly painstakingly) culled from the Asphodel 'Pagan Book of Hours' (including the calendars), with fill-out material from the excellent 'Be Thou My Hearth and Shield'. Both of these are edited by Elizabeth Vongvisith, to whom I want to express my very great and heartfelt thinks for having provided (written or 'pulled together' some of the most appropriate, poetic and usable material for this purpose. One of my main concerns when starting this was that there seemed to be a dearth of material which could come even close to that which is available to prospective users of Christian Office books,and I'm delighted to have been proved mistaken in this respect. Because my breviary is a personal compilation intended for purely private devotional use, I haven't done the 'legwork' of compiling original sources which I would have undertaken had the book been intended for being put in the public domain. However, I feel it's more than appropriate to acknowledge the work that Elizabeth has done, and the benefit I've gained from it - so thank you!

Since the last entry here we've had an *excellent* Yule and a pretty good Christmas Day (it's now Christmas evening), but we both agree we are now 'Christmassed out', so tomorrow the tree will be going back in the garage for another year, and we have already put a 'stop' on the carols which have been on the radio for the last 36 hours or so (yes, we did go to bed!). It feels like a new year now - which it is - and time to get on again. I think we Pagans score a big plus over followers of the Christian calendar, where all the 'action' takes place between now and around April (or between Advent Sunday and Pentecost if you want to split hairs). We can have a good, full-on, one-day feast each six weeks or so, and that's a pretty good balance. As part of our practice we're trying to get the 'days of prepapation' in place before each of these feasts as well, echoing the presence of Advent and Lent prior to Christmas and Easter, lest we fall into the societal norm of just going for the feasts 'stand alone', in a hedonistic frenzy. Post-Christmas sale ads on the radio already (in the US I believe 'Black Friday' fulfils this role after Thanksgiving) - there seems no end to the capacity of society for unthinking, unbridled consumerism. Next Christmas we're making *all* our presents (you can email and hold us to this!), which will stem the tide of materialism in favour of an emphasis on giving of ourselves still further.

I could write more, but I'll leave it to a further post.............

Monastic hospitality
pagan.norse, pray, prayer, monastic
I remember being told by an old monk when I was at the abbey with which I used to be associated, that they loved having guests, but they also loved it when their guests left and returned home. This never struck me as at all 'odd', and now, more and more, I understand what he meant.

Our friend B came down to stay this weekend, and it was great to see her....but when we saw her onto the train home this afternoon, there was a real sense of getting our own 'regime' of solitude back, and for that we are grateful.

Mrs P_M cooked a lovely roast chicken this evening (it's handy being married to a Hestian nun!), and we ate together and relaxed back into the just-us-two-ness which has become the norm.

General agreement here now that we don't want to go out much. If ever. We are happy developing our monastic lifestyle, and the biggest challenge seems to be to re-cast work into a monastic mould, which can then be accommodated within the framework of our daily lives, rather than having to fit our desires and lifestyle around the demands of work (I run my own business). This will have to be achieved, somehow, but it needs some concentrated attention and meditation time which I haven't so far (mea culpa) found time to give it.

Still thinking about breviaries. Still envious of the wealth of material which Christian Monastics and lay associates have at their disposal. Still *really* interested in mystical practice and experience. Maybe all of this will coalesce into something concrete soon....I do hope so.


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