Friday, 31 October 2014


The eve of 1st November, when the Celtic Winter begins, is the dark counterpart of May Eve which greets the Summer. More than that, 1st November for the Celts was the beginning of the year itself, and the feast of Samhain was their New Year’s Eve, the mysterious moment which belonged to neither past nor present, to neither this world nor the Other. Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’, the ‘ow’ rhyming with ‘cow’) is Irish Gaelic for the month of November; Samhuin (pronounced ‘sat:-en’, with the ‘n’ like the ‘ni’ in ‘onion’) is Scottish Gaelic for All Hallows, 1st November.

Crops had all to be gathered in by 31st October, and ‘anything still unharvested was abandoned- because of the Pooka, a nocturnal, shape-Changing hobgoblln who delighted in tormenting humans, was believed to Spend Samhain night destroying or contaminating whatever remained unreaped. The Pooka’s favourite disguise seems to have been the shape of an ugly black horse.

Thus to economic uncertainty was added a sense of psychic eeriness, for at the turn of the year- the old dying, the new still unborn- the Veil was very thin. The doors of the sidh-mounds were open, and on this night neither human nor fairy needed any magical password to come and go. On this night, too, the spirits of dead friends sought the warmth of the Samhain fire and communion with their living kin. This was Féile na Marbh (pronounced ‘fayluh nuh mow’), the Feast of the Dead, and also Féile Moingfhinne (pronounced ‘fayluh mong-innuh’), the Feast of the White-Haired One, the Snow Goddess. It was “a partial return to primordial chaos . . . the dissolution of established order as a prelude to its recreation in a new period of time”, as Proinsias mac Cana says in Celtic Mythology.

So Samhain was on the one hand a time of propitiation, divination and communion with the dead, and on the other, an uninhibited feast of eating, drinking and the defiant affirmation of life and fertility in the very face of the closing dark.

Ireland’s bonfire-and-firework night is still Hallowe’en, and some of the unconscious survivals are remarkable. When we lived at Ferns in County Wexford, many of the children who ambushed us at Hallowe’en hoping for apples, nuts or “money for the King, money for the Queen” included one who was masked as ‘the Man in Black’. He would challenge us with “I am the Man in Black- do you know me?”- to which we had to reply “I know who you are, but you are the Man in Black.” We wonder if he realized that one of the significantly recurrent pieces of evidence in the witchcraft trials of the persecution period is that ‘the Man in Black’ was the coven’s High Priest, whose anonymity must be stubbornly protected.

Samhain, like the other pagan festivals, was so deeply rooted In popular tradition that Christianity had to try to take it over. The aspect of communion with the dead, and with other spirits, was Christianized as All Hallows, moved from its original date of 13th May to 1st November, and extended to the whole Church by Pope Gregory IV in 834. But its pagan overtones remained uncomfortably alive, and in England the Reformation abolished All Hallows. It was not formally restored by the Church of England until 1928, “on the assumption that the old pagan associations of Hallowe’en were at last really dead and forgotten; a supposition that was certainly premature” (Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft).

One thing Samhain has always been, and still is: a lusty and wholehearted feast, a Mischief Night, the start of the reign of the Lord of Misrule, which traditionally lasts from now till Candlemas- yet with serious undertones. It is not that we surrender to disorder but, as Winter begins we look primordial chaos in the face so that we may discern in it the seeds of a new order. By challenging it, and even laughing with it, we proclaim our faith that the Goddess and the God cannot, by their very nature, allow it to sweep us away. 


By North Utsire

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Holy Fire

Left panel from the triptych Holy Fire, by Alex Grey 1987
Oil on Linen, 90 X 216 in.

The soul-searching pilgrim arrives on the mountain top, and his kundalini energy, the serpent power, begins to ascend within him. The caduceus or healing staff is internalized. The eye of God in the form of an angelic presence channels heart-opening flames of divine grace into his center, sending his body/mind into a state of God intoxication and mystical shock.

By North Utsire

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Alexander Jansson

By North Utsire

Wes Jackson: Becoming Native to this Place

“Our task is to build cultural fortresses to protect our emerging nativeness. They must be strong enough to hold at bay the powers of consumerism, the powers of greed and envy and pride. One of the most effective ways for this to come about would be for our universities to assume the awesome responsibility to both validate and educate those who want to be homecomers -- not necessarily to go home but to go someplace and dig in and begin the long search and experiment to become native.”

“We have become a more juvenile culture. We have become a childish "me, me, me" culture with fifteen-second attention spans. The global village that television was supposed to bring is less a village than a playground... Little attempt is made to pass on our cultural inheritance, and our moral and religious traditions are neglected except in the shallow "family values" arguments.”

By North Utsire

Gerrard Winstanley, True Leveller

Gerrard Winstanley (1609 – 1676) was a Quaker reformer and political activist during The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Winstanley was one of the founders of the English group known as the True Levellers or Diggers for their beliefs, and for their actions. The group occupied public lands that had been privatized by enclosures and dug them over, pulling down hedges and filling in ditches, to plant crops. True Levellers was the name they used to describe themselves, whereas the term Diggers was coined by contemporaries.

For libertarian socialist scholar Murray Bookchin there is a coincidence of political projects between German Protestant revolutionary Thomas Müntzer and Winstanley. For Bookchin "In the modern world, anarchism first appeared as a movement of the peasantry and yeomanry against declining feudal institutions. In Germany its foremost spokesman during the Peasant Wars was Thomas Muenzer; in England, Gerrard Winstanley, a leading participant in the Digger movement. The concepts held by Muenzer and Winstanley were superbly attuned to the needs of their time — a historical period when the majority of the population lived in the countryside and when the most militant revolutionary forces came from an agrarian world. It would be painfully academic to argue whether Muenzer and Winstanley could have achieved their ideals. What is of real importance is that they spoke to their time; their anarchist concepts followed naturally from the rural society that furnished the bands of the peasant armies in Germany and the New Model in England."

from "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought" Lewis Herber. (Murray Bookchin).

Cover Design from the remastered 1976 film Winstanley

"So long as the earth is intagled and appropriated into particular hands and kept there by the power of the long the creation lies under bondage."

~ Gerrard Winstanley Fire in the Bush 1650

"England is a Prison; the variety of subtilties in the Laws preserved by the Sword, are bolts, bars, and doors of the prison; the Lawyers are Jaylors, and poor men are the prisoners; for let a man fall into the hands of any from the Bailiffe to the Judge, and he is either undone, or wearie of his life."

"Buying and Selling is an Art, whereby people endeavour to cheat one another of the Land.......and true Religion is, To let every one enjoy it."

~ Gerrard Winstanley A New-years Gift for the Parliament and Armie 1650

By North Utsire

The Therapeutic Garden

Research is increasingly showing the necessity of a daily connection with nature for public health. In his impassioned book The Therapeutic Garden, Donald Norfolk relates the history of therapeutic green spaces, mentioning that the term paradise comes from the Persian for ‘walled garden’. Norfolk also details the social value of Thomas More’s Utopia, and how town planners were influenced by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow in providing town parks and designs to make verdant livable towns such as Welwyn. Even the utilitarian Victorians were moved to make beautiful city parks for the urbanized masses, which not only served the purpose of ameliorating air pollution, but reduced crime and promoted wellbeing and social cohesion.

By North Utsire

Friday, 3 October 2014

Judee Sill

Dusted magazine biography
"The Lost Child" from The Observer/ Guardian. 

by North Utsire


By North Utsire

Buddhist Casserole

Take one Buddhist & slice them lengthways Julienne style. Oh no, sorry that’s a different recipe. This is an adaptation of a famous Buddhist dish. The original recipe calls for many obscure dried Chinese vegetables but this version uses vegetables which are readily available. You can add coriander which some Buddhists do not eat.

A deeply satisfying dish, this casserole is suitable for summer or winter, and can be varied with seasonal or home grown vegetables. It can be cooked in a traditional Chinese clay pot or a good small cast iron pot. Take care not to overcook the vegetables. The casserole may be made in advance & reheated very slowly (Remember the adage: “a boiled soup is a spoiled soup”). It is delicious with rice, noodles or fresh bread.


225g (8oz) fresh beancurd
100g (4oz) broccoli
100g (4oz) Chinese leaves or white cabbage
100g (4oz) small courgettes
100g (4oz) red pepper (about 1)
100g (4oz) mangetout. washed and trimmed
450ml (15 fl oz) groundnut or vegetable oil
600ml (1 pint) Chicken Stock or water (could try miso)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons whole yellow bean sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
Salt & black pepper
1 tablespoons sesame oil

Cut the beancurd into 2.5cm (1 in) cubes and drain them on kitchen paper. Next prepare all the vegetables. Separate the broccoli heads and break them into small florets. Peel and slice the broccoli stems. Cut the Chinese leaves or cabbage into 2.5cm (1 in) hunks. Slice the courgettes into rounds 0.5cm (1/4 in) thick, or roll-cut them. Thinly slice the pepper. Leave the mangetout whole, but trim the ends.Heat a wok over a high heat until it is very hot and add the oil. Alternatively heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer. When the oil is very hot and slightly smoking, deep-fry the beancurd cubes in 2 batches. Drain each cooked batch on kitchen paper. Put the chicken stock or water, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and whole yellow bean sauce into a large, cast-iron enamel pot or Chinese clay pot and bring it to the boil. Next add the broccoli and stir in the Chinese leaves or cabbage. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the courgettes and pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Finally add the mangetout and the beancurd cubes. Cook for l minute more, then stir in the fresh coriander, teaspoon of salt and your own preference of black pepper. Finally stir in the sesame oil and the dish is ready to serve. To reheat, bring to a simmer on a very low heat until all the vegetables are hot.

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” 
~ Gautama Buddha ~

By North Utsire

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Farmageddon & the 7 Myths of Agriculture

By North Utsire

Alan Hardman Cartoons

By North Utsire

Red Fridays

Below is a recent correspondence I had with a friend after seeing a poster in Morrisons.


Me:  I am going to wear my red g string
Mate: I'm gonna eat a f*ckload of beetroot  on Thursday, and do red poos all day Friday.
Me: I'd love to see the day in the interview cubicle when we had to prove to our UKIP inquisitors that we really do wear red on Fridays.



Me: That would have been the new Union Jack if Scotland had've left.

by North Utsire