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The End is Nigh (No, Really This Time)

Otherworldly portals rarely remain open indefinitely and this one will not be the exception to that rule unfortunately.

Otherworld Books will officially close at the end of the year – the current plan is to shut the doors for the last time on Saturday 22nd December but that may have to change depending on other circumstances.

It has been both a pleasure and privilege to create and maintain this space over the last couple of years and I will be eternally grateful to those who have supported both me and the journey. It’s sad, and bittersweet, and a whole constantly competing mixture of emotions and sentiments (most of which probably haven’t even suitably surfaced yet) however the main thing is that it has been an amazing adventure, and one that I’m glad I embarked on.

The closing sale is now effectively on (exceptions and minimum spend apply) and I’ve even managed to figure out how to apply it to the online shop (although I would ask you as ever to bear with me in the event of any technical difficulties) . It is also intended that the online shop will remain available indefinitely beyond December for the sale of any remaining stock.

So all that remains is for me to once again thank you all for your time, for your goodwill and for your kindness, and to wish all of us the very best in our ongoing journeys.

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Acceptance and Apathy

Our adaptability could be one of our greatest and most admirable traits as humans. Our ability to not only survive but thrive in adverse environmental, social and cultural situations, to find or create beauty in the bleakest circumstances, to connect and grow and learn and build better alternatives is a thing of wonder.

I think a big part of this is our ability to acknowledge and accept the reality of what’s around us, even – especially – when it is less than perfect. After all that’s our starting point, our baseline, our foundation for any change we may wish to make. We have to celebrate the parts that are working, and concede the parts that are not. And it’s a constant, unrelenting, evolving process in this day and age – nothing stands still for long any more.

In the face of all this, acceptance can very quickly turn to apathy, especially when just making it day to day means working within the confines of the status quo, with little or no energy left for revolutionary idealism. We stop looking around, questioning, challenging because all of our focus is on trying to keep up – the idea of getting ahead becomes unimaginable. Hope becomes a privilege, a luxury we can ill afford.

This past week I had an overwhelming combination of real life, literary and media experiences that confronted me with the stark potential consequences when we let ourselves sink from acceptance into apathy, when instead of embracing and working with our circumstances we distance ourselves from them, become remote, detached. When everything becomes someone else’s problem, something we couldn’t possibly fix for ourselves, until the point we stop even seeing the problem.
This isn’t a call to arms, a foofy treatise on seeing good and hope every day or a trite homily about making little changes to enact bigger ones (albeit none of these are things I’m against). It’s a call to eyes, a call to ears, a call to thought. A plea against switching off, against distancing yourself, against becoming inured to the reality of the whole wide world around you in the scrabble just to survive it. Seek instead to thrive, in whatever way you can.

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World Domination

I’ve never been comfortable (or willing? able?) to stop at the point of simply acknowledging something isn’t working properly. Much to the frustration of those that have had to endure these various, and sometimes fleeting, fascinations, I need to poke around into the nitty gritty of exactly what’s not working, and how and why, and what can be done to make it better. Put like that, and viewed objectively, it might all sound very laudable (and it’s not an absolutely awful trait) so you may have to take my word for it that the reality of being in proximity to that process is frequently Not Fun.

This is not, however, a post about learning to walk away – something that is incredibly important but that I’m still not very good at. Nor is it a foofy call to action about personal accountability and contribution (despite both of which also being very important).

There’s been a lot going on in the last couple of years, both in terms of large scale real world events and more local, more personal, more philosophical experiences that I’ve had and in various discussions I would increasingly start off with “well, when I start my own cult / religion” or “when I take over the world..”  Although intended as a joke (well, mostly a joke) it would niggle at my brain – what would I do differently if I were in charge? As with other cogitations, it’s not enough to point and declare “that won’t work / isn’t working” – is there realistically a better alternative? What does it look like? How do we get there? How do we make the best of things in the meantime? Because then, even in the sure and certain knowledge that there may be nothing I can do individually, I do know where I stand, and what I stand for. I’m less likely to be misled or manipulated by those with a conflicting agenda if I can genuinely understand where it stands in relation to my own, and better yet to learn from or incorporate aspects that have real value despite any divergence rather than dismissing them out of hand as incompatible. Piece by piece I have been building a solid, coherent personal philosophy and the more I have made a conscious effort of challenging my own thoughts, responses and analysis the more confident I have become in relation to how that impacts my choices, path and practices.

So what will you do once you’ve achieved world domination?

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Real Magic

I am absolutely confident in saying that the study and practice of magic can Make Things Better.

At a minimum, it is an opportunity to explore a wide and wondrous world of ancient cultures and contemporary philosophies, learn new skills and share in exciting experiences. Many find more, discovering profound personal truths, beliefs and practices that both reflect and shape their lives. And if absolutely nothing else, you’ll come across lots of great trivia for pub quizzes and parties (including the origins of ‘trivia’, for example).

What magic will not do is provide any kind of quick fix to instantly transform your life into whatever version of it you want, or think it should be (#SorryNotSorry). That’s not because of the (hopefully obvious) distinction between Hollywood depictions of spells, glamours and hexes. Nor is it necessarily because of some deeply spiritual philosophy around not mucking about with destiny, fate, karma and so on (although in some cases that may be an important consideration).

For me, it’s because the knowledge and techniques that form the core and foundations or magic require a combination of understanding and artistry that, like most things worth having, can only come with a degree of dedication, effort and, yes, hard work. I’m not talking about spending decades slaving away in isolation and abstinence – there are many forms of magic and practice that are really very accessible to beginners – but expecting to find a spell online one day and have secured a winning lottery ticket, ideal soulmate and perfect health by the next is not realistic. Anyone who purports otherwise is unlikely to prove trustworthy; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The real way that magic Makes Things Better is in its pursuit, in the journey, the discovery, in the (sometimes slow) accumulation of information and insight and wisdom and skills that transform you and your life bit by bit, until one day you realise you’ve Made Things Better, as if by magic, all by yourself.

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Book Review: Season of the Witch by Peter Bebergal

Subtitled ‘How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll’, the book traces the soaring heights and bitter lows of the rock movement including its early influences and subsequent influencees with particular regard to performers and performances who have either overtly or covertly used occult inspiration.

The examples used have clearly been carefully selected, meticulously researched and diligently created to give an idea of scale and scope of evidence of the crossover between the two, but without ever appearing to cherry pick, inflate or obscure wider musical and cultural contexts merely to prove the case.

The author charts the rollercoaster ride of rock’s evolution with compelling illustrations of moments of seemingly cosmic synchronicity to probable crass commercial sell-outs, rejoicing in the occasions where music came close to fulfilling its potential as unifier, challenger and visionary while mourning the periods where it lost its purpose and vitality.

Most interesting for me was how well balanced the book – it works equally well as a journey through the occult as it does through rock music. Key practices, figures, themes and trends are presented in enough scope and detail to give meaningful context to their musical manifestations without being either too heavy and laborious or passive and dismissive. Certainly by the end I feel there’s an argument to be made that at times rock and roll did just as much for the preservation, awareness and furtherance of occult interests as the other way around.
As an added bonus this is a really compelling and accessible work to read; the author uses some lovely turns of phrase throughout while remaining concise, objective and enthusiastic about the subject matter. It’s clearly a topic of deep personal interest and there are some definite observations woven throughout, but these are not asserted as any kind of conclusion or factual analysis and in my view add to its value as a highly interesting source of food for thought.

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All Good Things

I spent all of my formative years – and probably beyond – being indoctrinated by a mish mash of maxims, adages, proverbs and sayings, accumulated and imparted from a wide range of geographical, social and religious backgrounds. There is no occasion for which I do not have a pithy (if trite) epigram and it’s almost to the point of being an automatic response.

Most of them are at best fairly vapid and meaningless, at worst completely redundant, and rarely very comforting in themselves. Two of the most common were ‘what’s for you won’t go by you’ (albeit in much broader Scots) and ‘good things come to those who wait’. These roughly translate into ‘stop whining/moping, there’s nothing you can do about it anyway’ with a dose of sugary hope to take the sting out along the lines that fate (possibly) has something even better in store anyway.

Well-meaning, but unhelpful. Even as someone who has pretty much always believed in magic the notion of being absolved of all personal responsibility – and by extension absolving others of theirs – never sat comfortably. Worse – did it mean that any really horrible, unfair, frustrating unjust were the things that were ‘for me’ since they clearly didn’t go ‘by me’? Or am I supposed to just accept that these things have to happen as part of some wider scheme for the ‘good things’ get to come (top tip: if history has taught us anything it’s that simply accepting unfairness and injustice has rarely proven to make things better).

Concepts of destiny and fate are ideas I still very much struggle with in terms of my own personal philosophy, and I suspect may be an area I never come to a definite view on. Fortunately, I’ve decided this is a win-win situation – if whatever I do is ultimately meant to be anyway, then presumably I can’t actually go wrong, and if I’m out there proactively seeking whatever it happens to be at the time, then at least I’m (hopefully) having fun in the process. What’s for me might not go by me, but there could be a whole lot of other stuff slipping past in the meantime!

Don’t wait for the good things to come to you – whatever your belief, it’s a surety that none of us has so very much time we should expend it purely in waiting.

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Deep & Meaningful

When you start exploring the world of magic you find that you have to make some pretty heavy choices and decisions fairly early on. It can sound and seem daunting, but is in fact very empowering, and while it’s essential to take them seriously it’s worth bearing in mind that they will develop, evolve and change as your own knowledge and experience does. In the meantime it will help to define your path, your practice and your journey since there’s a whole wealth of options and opportunities out there and it can be difficult finding a meaningful starting point.

One of the key things will be ‘deciding’ on your own understanding of the nature of magical energy or power. I put this in inverted commas because this is unlikely to be a wholly conscious or rational decision, although I would advise trying to use objective thought and analysis in coordination with instinct and intuition – things tend to go a lot easier when all the bits of yourself are in consensus! For some this power is generated from an external source, whether it is deity, ethereal beings or other mystical entities. For others it is woven into the fabric of the universe, the earth, the elements and in a sense neither comes from or goes to anywhere. And then again it might be entirely internal, with the self as the source and conduit of all power. As you have probably noted, none of these are necessarily mutually exclusive.

You will also need to decide on the scope of magic – if you believe that magic is governed by deity, or even by destiny, then how much influence can your magic actually have? Can you have harmful consequences if the gods do not will it? And if they do will it, is there anything you can do about it anyway? Is magic appropriate for daily mundanities, or should it be ‘saved up’ for big things and special occasions? Where do you draw the lines around what is and is not an acceptable use of magic for you personally?

These are not trick questions; they are not designed to deter you, or cause doubt, and the only truly relevant answers are the ones you find for yourself. Revisit them often, continue to challenge yourself and your journey will always be an adventure.

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Life Choices

It’s a scary notion, when you think about it. From a relatively early point we take decisions (and even earlier, decisions are taken for us) that have the potential to influence and impact the rest of our lives.

Some are taken in conformity with what is expected, some in rebellion. Some decisions are forced on us in response to circumstances outside of our control, and many may not feel like ‘choices’ at all. Some are seemingly insignificant and some seemingly life-changing, though a great many will not work out as anticipated. Some manifest as a slim margin of discretion between two apparent evils.

Information, insight, intuition and intervention all play a role in the choices we make, consciously or otherwise. Our experiences in particular are subjective and unique, and can easily make the choices of others seem baffling, ineffective, inappropriate or downright wrong.

Heavy stuff, right?

And yet not entirely. For the most part we are able to challenge or own choices, to revise them, to make new ones. To pursue new opportunities that we are presented with. Or not. To try something different. Or not. To make entirely new experiences, new adventures, new lives. Or not.

Good, bad or indifferent it is largely our choices that ultimately define us so make yours wisely, cautiously and joyfully…

… or not!

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The Other Shoe

You wait… and wait… Sometimes it drops. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve known the saying probably all my life but was only familiarised with its origins courtesy of the TV show Grimm around a year or so ago. Workers would return to their high rise apartments / flats around the same time each day. Whoever was living below would hear them come in, take off one shoe and drop it on the floor, with a lull of indeterminate length while they wrangled the other one off then thump! as it made its landing too. There might be days where no thumps were heard – did this mean the upstairs neighbour had finally had a bout of social conscience or was something wrong? And possibly worse yet the days where there was one thump and then…. Was that the first shoe, or the second? Had one been dropped and one carefully placed? Had they got distracted, was it still to come? Or had there been some horrifying loss of limb and there would only ever by one shoe from now on? (OK, that last one might be taking it a bit far…)

Waiting is hard, especially when the outcome is expected, anticipated, structured, patterned. Information and updates are available constantly – the idea that ‘no news is good news’ is either more accurate than ever or completely redundant, depending on how you look at it. We are virtually never out of contact, and in a world where news can reach us in real time waiting for results and outcomes can be onerous, particularly where it seems like the underlying process for getting to them is unwieldy or unreliable. I definitely have limited patience for delays – admittedly that’s not a new thing, but I feel like more of them could/should have been done away with by now!

Magic can be trying in that regard. There is rarely, if ever, any kind of instant cause-and-effect correlation. The work, the will, the effort, the energy expended will take time to come to fruition and in the meantime it can be difficult to tell if, when or how it will take effect at all. How long do you leave it before trying again? Is there any point trying again? Could jumping the gun cause problems? Could doing nothing?

I’m not going to advocate for interminable patience because that would make me a complete hypocrite, and ultimately it’s hugely dependent on the individual circumstances. Some things are worth waiting for, and some things need a bit of a nudge. Trusting your instincts can be good but so is questioning them, honing them, refining them.

No matter what you think, know, plan, will or want, sometimes the other shoe simply doesn’t drop – or does so just when you least expect it…

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Book Review: Pagan Dreaming by Nimue Brown

I do a like a book that challenges me. I would say that overall it’s unusual for me to find a book on a practical topic where the style, views and approaches dovetail substantially (or at all) with my own (make of that what you will) but since I don’t read stuff just to tell me what I already think I know it’s really not an issue. This could be the first book of this type that I’ve read where almost every aspect completely resonated with me personally as well as providing me with new insights and ideas so, while I’m trying not to completely all-out-fangirl, if I seem more effusive than usual that’s why.

I’ve described it as a practical book and I was quite surprised by the extent to which this was true, given that dreaming is so completely individual and subjective. Having read some of the author’s other works I would never ascribe her to the ‘fluffy’ category but couldn’t see how a book on spiritual sleep could end up being much else. I definitely should have had more faith! Pagan Dreaming beautifully balances the acknowledgement of the subjective while exploring and championing the universal need for a rich and fulfilling dream life, whether looking to embrace your natural, ‘default settings’, enhance your dreamstate or change your relationship with dreaming entirely. There is a healthy dose of caution and caveat throughout, which those who have been to any of the workshops will know is one of my personal causes, without attempts to unduly influence, judge or deter. It’s probably a bit too formal to say that it provides ‘exercises’ for working with and within dreams but there are certainly detailed enough suggestions and recommendations that would put you on a solid path towards your own dream journey.

Overall an insightful, enjoyable and illuminating read!

You can find more about Nimue Brown, her works and blog at https://druidlife.wordpress.com/

And for a crash course (pun intended) on dreamwork the workshop is this Thursday (30th August)

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