Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hindus and Neo-Paganism

Hindus and Neo-Paganism

Interesting piece but one has to bear
in mind that what he called 'sanatana dharma' or 'old time religion' is
really a construction of the nineteenth century when hindus were
striving to present a sanitized version of hinduism to their colonial
masters. Many commentators - including this one - are far from disinterested
academics but have a definite axe to grind. So for instance where he

'From an orthodox Hindu viewpoint, most neo-Pagan groups would have a
status similar to the tribals of forested Central India. Though the
tribals are recognized as Indian fellow Pagans, Hindus by Savarkar's
definition, they are nonetheless commonly perceived as savages because
of their disregard for certain taboos and because of their not so
strict morality (as in the common youth dormitories where sexual
experimentation is encouraged). The city jungles of the West have
somehow spawned a lifestyle similar to that of the tiger infested and
snake haunted jungles of India.'

infact what he calls the tribals are closer to the religious diversity
of the indian subcontinent - where for instance the eating of meat is
definately Vedic or 'pukka' - and is still used in Ayurvedic medicine.
To get behind the propaganda you have to read something like David
White's Kiss of the Yogini and indeed tantrik material - but even
here you have a different set of prejudices with which to deal.

om ganeshaya namah


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Curse of Merlin III - Identity what Identity?

There's nothing quite like a trip to North Wales to make you think about who you are. Am I getting out of touch with my homeland? I was born in Pill (Pillgwenlly), still Newport's most deprived (and depraved) borough. It's a long time since I left Wales to become a 'quizling'. We used to called the Welsh speakers the viet-taff (or is it Taffi-ban?) - so the tension between the different regions of Wales is still as strong now as it was then.

Wales' south-eastern industrial population may not have all the trappings of other regions but is it any less the Welsh for that - I don't think so? We refuse to learn Welsh because we don't want to lose our welsh identity - English is our mother tongue - English is a language of Wales - is it not?

Then there is the question of Nationalism. During my teenage years I was an paid up member of the ultra-left - it goes with the territory afterall. I think it was Kate Roberts who wrote that Wales is under the 'triple net' - language, religion and politics. So for me politics has always been a stronger force than the others - which is hardly surprisingly given my roots.

Whatever the problems that beset the people of Wales, are they really deep down about nationality? I think lifestyle and social class are as valid a candidate for the core or base of society - from which so many structures and problems grow. Isn't it always the way of the demigog to play the nationalist card on any and every issue?

Back in Newport in the 1970s I was a young radical - not even out of school and bunking off to be on the picket-line with striking building workers. It brought me into contact with Irish labourers, amongst whom were fugitives from Ireland's 'troubles'. Into this melting pot - welsh nationalists were drawn. It was a bit of a dilemma for the neo-marxists, who had but recently inherited the mantle of the moribund communist party of Wales.

'Rebel in the soul'
How did it all start this political thing? Being a rebel was the only way to survive at school after age eleven. Either that or a victim be. Casting my mind back to my first overt act of political rebellion - it was always intimately connected with the whole nationalist thing - but never straight forwardly so. It was the tour of the Springbok rugby team - a racially segregated side from South Africa and therefore very controversial. I lived a stone's throw from the rugby ground - but had no natural affinity for the players - I was too much of a wimp for that. The newly formed anti-apartheid thing was in the news but was hardly expected at a redneck place like Newport. There was to be a picket of the match - I can't remember from whom I learnt it - but it seemed like such a good idea. I'm not sure i really understood the issues but the idea of standing outside the ground with placards sounded perfect to me. It was my first meeting with my own kind. I remember being particularly shocked then impressed by the presence there of the school Religious Studies teacher - I forget her name. I guess she had me marked down as just another oik but that day she made a point of saying hello.

But whoa - did it cause a row at home. I never did manage to get my placard out of the house. It can't have been too long after that my older brother Roy, who had actually joined the Communist Party, was asked to leave. I was grounded. Why such a strong reaction, my father had afterall been brought up in Moscow - the Maesglas suburb of Newport that had consistently elected communist town councillors? Maybe that was it - familiarity breeds contempt? Stories of the 1926 General Strike still did the rounds of Maesglas - lots of railwaymen lived there. When my grandfather - a former stoker - cold-shouldered someone in the street - my father asked why - 'because', came the reply, 'he went over the wall during the strike. Such was the bitterness following the defeat of the strike that nobody spoke to that man again - nobody went to his funeral. Politics was a serious business - the kind of thing that could ruin your whole life if you weren't discerning. And in the 1960s, apart from the occasional Labour interlude, most people were happy with the conservative consensus. The communists were seen as a moribund fifth column.

I asked my economics teacher what he thought of the communist newspaper the Morning Star. He told me it was the worst of the gutter press. I never could bring myself to read a copy afterthat even though I guessed that was not a balanced view - but it maybe gives an idea of the zeitgeist. The communist party was a spent force, a pale reflection of its glory days. A new ghost was haunting Europe - Leon Trotsky. Legend has it that my brother went to one of those monster Anti-Vietnam war demos in London - maybe he was even there on that fateful day outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square. There was a splendid riot. He met one of the new trotskities called Pat Jordan and invited him to come speak to the communists of Newport. After the meeting the whole branch upped and joined a little organisation, headed by the likes of Tariq Ali and Jonathan Guinness which went by the soubriquet of the International Marxist Group. I being still a minor was earmarked for its youth section - the Sparticus League. My first ever political outing, was to London for the unification conference of both organisations.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Curse of Merlin (Part II)

I like to walk. I always liked that, usually alone, sometimes with a friend. One of my favourite places when I was a teenager was Belview Park. It must once have been a part of the estate of the ruined house of Tredegar or is it Morgan. Tredegar park, passed into the ownership of the local council many years ago when the last scion of the Tredegar family died childless. They were an interesting bunch, gone mad over the years, more genteel than their merchantile origins would justify. They had names like 'Octavius Morgan the antiquarian', but that's another story. I'm still in Belview park, another of their bequests to Newport. It seems so much smaller now but so much has happened. Last year my mother gasped her last agonising breath in a hospital ward overlooking that same park, overlooking the very spot where i sat so many years before, locked in and wondered how to get out.

The entrance to the park passes through wrought iron ornamental gates, painted green and emblazoned now with Casnewedd's grand crest - the one that has my face. The vegetation is so luxuriant, almost tropical, covering the sides of the steep valley through which gushes a vigorous stream. I love the fenced walkways that snake the way over bridges until I am deposited just below the huge Victorian plant house, tea rooms and toilet. I love the view across the docklands to the Peterstone flatlands beyond. But when you look down, over the balustrade, into the seedy bushes, the sight is often not so good.

Time to move on, to the west end of the park. The feeling I had that first time I found the megalithic stone circle, right there in the park. The beautiful, hungry stones of local old red sandstone, blackened by the Casnewedd air, encrusted with lichen and moss. The secluded grove of ancient oaks lent it a synister feel that spoke of sabbatic rites to a god unknown. At its centre a single step led to a stone platform of appearance. Was this a place of sacrifice? The atmosphere darkens, the picnickers in the nearby meadow fade from view. Once I sat and quite spontaneously began to meditate - although back then I did not know that's what I was doing. A shiver ran through me anyway. Was this a magical place?

It was a while before I told anyone about my secret place. When I did I learnt that although it looked old it had been put there in the early part of the twentieth century as part of the celebrations for the eistedfod! The circle was 'false' but also real? But there again was it really false? Now Paul tells me all these 'bardic' circles are modelled on one very special instance from Boscawen in West Cornwall. I've still never quite been there. How can you not quite be anywhere? That's very Welsh isn't it? Simple - I got to within a few yards but had to turn back. Paul tells me Boscawen is the most perfect example of all the megalithic circles - that's why it was chosen as a form. I have a photograph of that day in 1910 when the vast crowd, now all ghosts, but then dressed in their sunday best, as they swirl around their priests. So maybe afterall I really did get a message from the past, that day in Belview park amongst the wind lashed trees?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Earth 'Marmas'

From Talking Stick discussion of Earth Mysteries:

The discussion initially ranged around the twin poles of 'places of power' and 'ley lines' - whether or not they existed. These two phenomena are often linked with certain types of bodily 'energy' such as chakras and nadis - thus it provides a neat example of the occult doctrine of 'as above, so below' - the body as microcosm of a worldly meso- or macrocosm. The erotic and otherworldy quality of landscapes was discussed, leading to ideas about how to harnness this power, or interact with it as in some more recent ideas of eco-sexuality. Most agreed that the 'earth' was the source of much power in magick and this was one of the central mysteries in question. Another interesting new concept (for me) was that of places of negative power - to use a sanskrit term - 'earth marmas'.
(?) in Israel
Hell Fire caves

Phillip Heselton Earth Mysteries
Mogg Morgan: 'The Erotic Landscape Revisited' in Tankhem: Seth and Egptian Magick