Friday Foodies! Best. Vegan. Cupcakes. Ever.

My friend, Sarah, found this recipe for vegan cupcakes, and they are just the best ever.  Moist, lovely and scrumptious – have a go!

Vegan cupcakes
Makes 24

1 3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup veg oil
1 cup soy/almond milk
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp vanilla

Cake topping
Vegan butter
Icing sugar
Rose water (optional for flavour)

Cook at 180 for 15-18 minutes

Reblog: Sacred Spaces

This is a reblog from DruidHeart, my blog on SageWoman Magazine’s channel at Witches and Pagans. Photo credit from The Sleepy Backpacker’s blog HERE.

stonehenge2014Moonhenge, in Cambridgeshire, is a brilliant example of new Pagan sacred spaces being created. With so much controversy over some of the megalithic stone circles and other sites around Britain, why should we not be creating more new spaces in which to celebrate, should we so wish?

Every Western Pagan knows about Stonehenge. They all know about the summer solstice celebration there. A loud and rowdy affair in which the public join in, it is more a rave than a sacred celebration. Though we cannot know for certain what the ancestors did in that ritual space, to me personally it just seems wrong to have people getting drunk and shouting loudly, climbing on stones and partying all night in a temple so closely linked to the dead as well as the sunrises throughout the year. I may be entirely wrong.

However, it just seems like sacrilege when the spirits of place are not honoured in a respectful way. To make something sacred is to honour and respect it – it is connected to such words as dedication, devotion and veneration, three things which most of the partygoers at the high point in summer are not terribly concerned with at Stonehenge.

The creation of sacred space is a key tenet of Druidry and many other Pagan religions. It is an invasion to have people that you do not know enter your sacred space and act out of accordance with the intention of the rite or ritual being performed. Out of hours access permits are available to those who wish to use the particular temple of Stonehenge for more private use, however, during the actual time of the sunrises and sunsets at various times of the year, this temple space must be shared with those who are not in tune with the intention.

Other sacred sites around the world do not seem to suffer as much from this intrusion. We would not party in Chartres Cathedral, for instance, or rave all night in the Temple of Athena….

To read the full article, click HERE.

Reblog: Pagan Ethics

Here is my latest blog post for Moon Books…

How much of our Paganism do we allow to be defined by others? If we follow a specific or established spiritual tradition within Paganism, we look to those who have gone before, and those who are a part of it now, to inform our ideas about the path that we are journeying on. We can find great inspiration in doing so, finding relevance in the ideas of others that resonate deep within our souls, through the words and actions of those whom we may look up to, or feel a sense of rapport with. Equally, we may become frustrated and disappointed when those who follow the same spiritual path are at odds with our own beliefs, behaving badly, seeming to work in opposition to the very ethics that Paganism, by virtue of its deep-seated root in respect and love for nature, provides.

What are the ethics of Paganism? More and more, this topic is being discussed by prolific Pagan writers, teachers, organisations, established members of the community and newcomers to Paganism alike. We could look at what defines the Pagan community, but this is just too vast to cover in a blog post, as Paganism itself is so vast a subject. Therefore, the ethics that surround such a vast subject are numerous and varied according to each individual, if not organisation. For some, this is the brilliance of Paganism – for others, it is the downfall.

When the ethics that we hold dear to our heart are not being followed by others who claim to be a part of our tradition or spiritual path, we begin to question our path on so many levels. How can I be a part of this, when people behave like that? Issues with Pagans whom the media court may frustrate us, as we may feel we are not being represented properly or with due respect. Issues arising on social media, where wars with words are carried over into many different spheres can confound or simply clutter one’s newsfeed – these are all a part of being a modern Pagan, should you wish to use the term. Gossiping, griping, flaming, bullying – all these issues can make us question whether we want to be a part of this whole Pagan thing at all…

To read the full article, click HERE.

 

World Suffering – Thich Nhat Hanh

This little gem came as a great reminder today, when the suffering of the world threatened to overwhelm me.  Bursting into tears as I watched on the BBC news children’s toys scattered in the rubble of the Gaza bombings,, their bodies being loaded together into the mortuary. Rude people at the village shop blocking other people’s cars, and making them wait until they finish shopping to move their car, even after the person has asked them to politely to move.  Loud, overbearing people in the bays next to you at the driving range.  The obnoxious amount of money spent on the World Cup Football in Brazil while people starve in the streets.

Thich’s words were a welcome reminder to find the beauty, and to nourish ourselves in order to better serve the world, in a world filled with suffering – not to be overwhelmed by it, but to find the beauty to carry on regardless. To find a community as well, of like-minded souls, who can inspire you on your journey through life.  To be out in nature, and to see the wonder and live with the awe of a child again.

Then, you will be better able to serve the world, instead of submitting to the suffering and the grief, the rage and the injustice.  Returning to the centre, finding peace and being peace is all that matters.

Right, Wrong and the Self

Working with thoughts on the self, and release of the self these last few years (even more so since the publication of my first book, Zen Druidry) has been the focus of my studies and journey on the path of Druidry, yet has lately become the centrepoint in my vision of my own personal Druidry, ethics and the act of living with awareness.

We can appear, online at least, to be very focused on our individual selves, even to the point of megalomania. Social media comes from an individual’s personal viewpoint, or a company’s, a philosophy – it is an entity in and of itself. As an author it can appear even worse – we write, constantly, sorting out issues, celebrating life in all its glory with words spread across the screen if we decide to share those ideas and inspiration into the wider world.

Yet in my personal, living practice it is quite different. Yes, I do think a lot – but it is thoughts on the dissolution of the self in order to greater experience the world around me. Ironic, writing a blog post about it, but there you go.

Considering ethics within Paganism, there are many levels of “rightness” and “wrongness”, both morally, legally, socially and culturally. What matters most in our current culture here in Britain is legality, with social and cultural repercussions following the legal ones in order of importance (in secular circles) to consider. Morality can kind of get a back seat on this ride, all too sadly. However, what I’ve been thinking about is right and wrong and the ego, the sense of self that is always grasping to have its own expression heard, justifying itself and seeking validation any which way it can (yes, this blog is an irony in that, as well).

The most poignant thing that I have realised is that even though there is right and wrong, it doesn’t actually make anyone better if they are right, or worse if they are wrong. Just because someone is right doesn’t make them a better person, a better human being, nor vice versa. Even in a legal context, even if someone is found wrong, guilty of whatever transgression, it doesn’t make us better – it just makes us legally right.

Legally right may not even mean morally or ethically right. As a species, I don’t think we can actually live without a concept of right and wrong, as it is so ingrained into our psyche. That spark of human consciousness overrides the concept with the constant striving of the ego, the neocortical part of the brain laying down all manner of experience, assumptions, judgements, memories, possible outcomes etc. It’s often said that we instinctively know right from wrong, but does right and wrong have anything to do with instinct, or it is a purely human construct?

I know when someone is doing something wrong in my own social context, in my culture and society. I can condemn their behaviour as wrong, as something that needs to be addressed in order to fulfil our social contract with each other. I can report abusive behaviour, I can write letters of protest to local planning authorities, I can sign petitions and raise money to benefit those in need. All of these things do not make me a better person. They just make me, me.

The man who kicks his dog, I can report to the RSPCA. That doesn’t make me better than him though. The woman who abuses her child, I can also report to the authorities – that doesn’t make me better than her in any way. I may be right in thinking that these things are wrong, but it doesn’t make me a better person for not doing these things.

Ideas of right and wrong often include a judgemental factor that makes us feel that we are better than others. That is the striving of the ego for validation in any form, its screaming claws inside our head hoping for some sort of recognition. What we need to do is to be right, but not have the need to feel right, to feel better for being right.

In taking my inspiration, learning from the natural world around me, I am currently seeing things from a very different perspective. In a world where there is no human notion of right or wrong, and allowing my sense of self to dissolve slowly into that environment, whole new ideas on the nature of the human existence come blazing to the fore.

Stopping that chattering, self-centred mind to actually be in the world is time very well spent. Each time you do, you hear and learn more about the world, thus better defining your place within it. If you begin to lose even that, your sense of self, you come back less and less – the ego becomes smaller and smaller, and the true self has the opportunity to shine through.

Eventually, I hope to never come back at all.

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