Monday, 31 December 2012

My New Years Wishes

 
For the New Year 2013 I wish and desire:

1. That a new light will start shining , a light of respect for all that lives, a light of sacredness of all existence, a light of Balance;
2. That a proclamation of our connectedness with all that lives is heard by all, and that holes in the Web of Light that connect us are mended
3. That true understanding will dawn into the world, and that our sorrows of fear and anguish are taken away from us
... 4. That a wave of Wisdom will spread over the world, thus taming the forces of Chaos and subdue them.
5. That we rediscover the mercy that is Silence and the value of real communication with each other
6. That we find the courage to look at ourselves in the light of the Flaming Torch of Justice and thus start our growth,
7. That we refill the emptiness of our hearts and existence with Purifying waves of Love and Beauty
8. That a Desire for Beauty and Balance will start pervading our world and start to bear fruit
9. That I may dedicate my Work to bring into the Light the sacredness that is buried inside all existence.
10.That the world abandon fear, rediscover the sacredness of existence and allow everything to fulfill its destiny and freedom, according to the Will of the All so that all may live in health, happiness, prosperity and in Light.

Fiat LVX, Fiat LVX, Fiat LVX!!!

Friday, 28 December 2012

How things you learn in your youth get useful much later!



I am currently working on something I haven’t done since I was 18. It is called “text preparation” and it was the favourite tool of my English teacher, Mrs. Arnold, to help us gain an enormous vocabulary, while at the same time exposing us to various styles of written English. Mrs. Arnold was one of my most influential and respected teachers and from her I got my love for the English language and British and American literature. But this text preparation thing stands out as something we all liked to do, but invariably came with grueling exams afterwards.

The idea is simple yet effective: here’s a text, here’s a dictionary and you use the latter to look up all there is to learn from the words and constructions in the text: synonyms (Mrs. Arnold’s favorite subject!), derivatives, idioms and standing expressions, and so on. And then you are supposed to learn all this so you can answer questions about it.


Now currently I am learning Gaelic, I have completed 20 online lessons and got a vocabulary of some 600 words and expressions. Now it would be perfectly OK to continue with the next lessons, but I was missing something in the curriculum. And that was ‘the written word’, as the course that I am following is focusing on the spoken word. And it was then that Mrs. Arnold’s teaching method came to mind and that is what I now have added to my study.
All one needs is a good Gaelic-English dictionary and I found that Angus Watson’s Essential Gaelic-English Dictionary gives me everything I need: all the info, even synonyms! (Mrs. Arnold would be so pleased!). And of course a supply of texts to work out. Now that is the easy part: there are plenty of excellent sources on the Internet. BBC Naidheachdan, for instance, An Litir Beag from the same source and of course a large body of song lyrics and poetry: from Màiri Mòr nan Òran to Runrig! And then the meticulous work starts! The result? A large vocabulary, lots of insights in how the language works and ‘how to s ay things’ and the satisfaction of working with and understanding a real, living text! 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Letting go, letting go…


Some people are into letting things go…usually, they are referring to things that have been bugging them for some time, or things that they have been carrying around. Then, all of a sudden, it is “time to let things go, to cut the cords, to say goodbye to all that pain and suffering”. Yep. Sounds like a good idea. But is it?
In my experience, letting such energies –because that is what they are- just go is asking for them to eventually return to you. Your own experiences carry your own special ‘energy signature’ so to speak, they belong to you and your life. Cutting them off of you causes them to float around. With really nowhere to go, as they originally belong to you and this means they are yours to deal with. So after a while, a few months, a year perhaps or even longer, you find yourself in exact the same situation as before. Those energies that you have let go before, have found you again!
I think it is much better not to just let them go but to give them a place in your life. And that is done by transforming them from a source of weakness into a source of power. And yep, that is a lot more work than just letting them float off into space. But that is where inner growth can start: from the power that is released by that inner alchemy. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

A year in 20 Highlights… and one other


Facebook has something interesting in its timeline: “A Year in Review: A look at your 20 biggest moments from the year including life events, highlighted posts and your popular stories”, so the description says. So I am curious: what will my favorite social media decide are my highlights? My friends’ birthdays, a column I recommended, an important news item regarding my husband, our Scotland vacation, FedCon, my birthday, the passing over of our pet birds, my altar set up and my work’s 25th anniversary. Some of these I completely agree with, some of them I would not have picked myself.

Yet my most important event of last year is not in the list. And that is because I have not communicated that on any social media until now. It was one of my most life changing events, a Rite of Passage which can only be compared to things like a wedding, death of a loved one or the birth of a child. It was a confirmation that everything until that point was part of one single path that I have been walking upon all my life. And it was an almost literal rebirth into a new state of being, with new challenges, new vistas, new tasks and new responsibilities.
No, I am not going to say what this event was or even when it was. To me it was one of the most significant turning points in my life, to most others it will be just words, completely meaningless and, in the worst case, completely misunderstood. And that is exactly why I kept it to myself and why I am keeping it to myself. My other highlights you may find on Facebook, this one is mine and mine only. A happy New Year to everyone!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Excel 2010 Expert Course by Candles Flame Training- A review



Just for a change, a more professional blog entry this time. This one's about a recent profesional training I did, which afterwards left me thinking why in the world do we professionals take our computer and software skills so much for granted. Doing this training convinced me that present day computer software has so many advanced features that most of us sometimes aren't even aware of. We do our work very often the same way we did 20-30 years ago, when the use of personal computers was non-existent or less widespread, and the software necessarily less advanced. I think that a training as I did does miracles in increasing awareness of effectiveness-enhancing features in modern office software and thus contribute to increase productivity. This is my review of this training:

" As an avid and prolific professional user of Microsoft Excel in my profession, I was very happy and excited to see all the great new features of the 2010 suite of this program. But as things usually go, there is no time to sit down and get to the bottom of it all. And that actually is a pity, since there are quite a number of great things built into Excel that makes the life of a data analist considerably easier and therefore more productive. That is why I decide to take the Excel 2010 Expert Course as provided by Candles Flame Training.

This training made me even more enthusiastic about Excel 2010, as I was able to immediately put to good use what I was learning into my various projects. Following this training actually enabled me to finally neatly and elegantly solve a few problems I was struggling with for quite some time.

This training is addressing many issues within Excel that most of us know are there, but preciously few of us know how to use. The training focusses on the newly added functions within 2010, for instance the multiple testing possibilities within the SUM, AVERAGE etc. functions. Exceptionally valuable and powerful are the newly developed Conditional Formatting tools, which are a dream for reporting and visualization purposes. The concept of Pivot Tables and advanced Data Analysis tools for in depth data analysis has also been renewed and refreshed and these also provide many opportunities to increase productivity, just with one or two clicks. Finally, the use of macros to increase the power of Excel and to automate repetitive and complicated tasks was addressed, with a wonderful introduction to VBA programming on top.

What I really enjoyed in this training was the combination of lectures and getting hands-on experience using Candles Flame’s own mobile computer classroom. Trainer Bill Rumley-Van Gurp clearly knows what he is talking about, and he has a pleasant way of explaining some quite complicated topics. The training schedule (5 days of two hours each) I also found quite effective and pleasant, as it is easy to stay alert for just few hours, rather than have the entire contents brought to you within one or two full days, as is often the case with trainings such as these. This set-up enables one to fully absorb and being able to exercise with the material presented. To me this is a clear benefit!

To me this training has been quite valuable professionally, as it has helped me considerably in solving some data analysis problems I was having, and I was attacking mainly by brute force (and thus taking up too much time). Candles Flame Excel 2010 Expert Course has taught me the use of elegance and effectiveness. I heartily recommend this training to anyone working with Excel 2010 on a more than basic level. "
For more info on such training, please consult Candles Flame Training on http://www.cftrainingtoday.com



Thursday, 31 May 2012

William Shatner and Personal Alchemy: my view


William Shatner


Last weekend, at FedCon XXI, a dream came true for many Star Trek fans. A legendary figure had come to Düsseldorf to sell autographs, pose for pictures and entertain the crowds of fans that had flocked-and overwhelmed- the convention hotel. I am talking Mr. William Shatner her, 81 years old, still going strong and best known to us Trekkies as the intrepid Captain James T. Kirk in the ground breaking 60s TV series that sparked an unrivalled SciFi phenomenon that still keeps us occupied, 50 or so years afterwards.

I have met Mr. Shatner on several previous occasions, granted those were at US conventions and those have an entirely different feel than ‘our’ European FedCon. I remember him as a rather unapproachable and distant in personal contact, a born entertainer and extremely funny on stage, but at his autograph table and at the photoshoots- to use a harsh term, rather a jerk. So, yeah, it was rather great to have this legendary figure in our midst but other than that, I was not expecting a great personal visit with him and more of the ‘same old, same old’ entertainment show that he used to put on in Las Vegas or Pasadena. Well, due to the sheer number of Con attendees it was next to impossible to have any personal time with him at all, but I got a “You’re welcome!” and a smile from him after signing my autograph book. Wow, that was more than in all those previous times put together! I skipped his photoshoot , skipped his first panel, but went to his second panel on Sunday, basically drawn by raving reviews from our friends who went to his first panel. And boy, was I in for a big and happy surprise.

Granted, it helped a great deal that we were sitting front and center, it always makes it easier to establish some kind of eye contact with whoever is on stage. But right from the start, the tone and atmosphere of his panel was completely different from what I remember. No more “Shatner, The Great Entertainer, Larger than Life": there stood a human being like ourselves and I was touched into my core when he spoke about his sorrows and grieves in life, about what he feels is important in this day and age and the questions he is asking himself about what it all means. Even when he told us why he ever decided to make records while admittedly not being able to sing, it was a sincere and honest account of how he wanted to explore his talents into that direction: the power of the spoken word set to music. To cut a long story short: William Shatner seemed like a new person to me.  

Now during his panel I could not help thinking about what I read some time ago in a magnificent book by Dennis William Hauck, entitled: The Emerald Tablet. In it, Mr. Hauck explores a seven step process towards self-transformation and personal development based on the hermetic alchemical Emerald Tablet. The first step in this process is called “Calcination” and it signifies the “burning” away of the gross and dross in one’s personality, usually by a series of emotional upheavals. The reason I remembered this, was that Hauck uses an episode in the life of William Shatner to illustrate how this process works in people. Apparently, Mr. Shatner suffered from what might be called an ‘inflated ego’ –or rather, others and fellow actors were the suffering party- until Nature –or Life itself- decide to kick him in the butt. And his Calcination began, expressed in a series of personal tragedies and those ‘grieves’ that he spoke about during his Sunday panel. That seems to have been quite a long process as it appears to have started around mid 70s and Hauck finishes his ‘example’ by stating that the Fires of Calcination were not done with William Shatner’: that was in 1999.

Well, apparently, by now those fires are finally done, and to me it seemed that Mr. Shatner has reached a new stage in his alchemical journey. A more balanced, quieter, nicer and more sincere person, who dares ask questions, who has no answers, but goes in search for them, and who is not afraid to show some vulnerability.  To me, it seems that Mr. Shatner is currently undergoing not the second stage (Dissolution) but is already in the third stage called Separation, where the personality sifts through the various components for things of value to bring along and to discard the rest.

It was interesting to note how my hobby and my spirituality come together at such an event, and in the most unlikely of persons- when seen in advance, that is. In retrospect, and knowing how such alchemy works, I might have anticipated this. But one thing is for sure: William Shatner is finally where he himself has always wanted to be: a human being like everyone else, and not thge hero -or even god-like figure that fandom has made him out to be. And I am happy to have met this human being and spoken to him, however briefly.  
Cover for 'The Emerald Tablet" by Dennis William Hauck, 1999, ISBN-13 978-0140195712

Monday, 21 May 2012

FedCon XXI is a wrap!


FedCon XXI is a wrap. And what an event it was, once again! Let me first quickly mention some things I did not like so much:
-Having to clear your Gold Seats for each and every panel from people who are supposed to be sitting elsewhere. Granted, most of you left without any problems or making a fuzz, but doing that for the zillionth time it gets quite ANNOYING.

-Smokie’s Bar (i.e. Morley’s bar). I realize there is not much FedCon can do about this, as it is the hotel’s policy to make this into a smoking area. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of cigarette and cigar smoke precludes many of us from participating in the social after-Con functions that happen there.
So, that's out of the way, now to the good stuff!

Once again I love and so much appreciate how the ladies of Behindertenbetreuung help my husband and friend enjoy this con without their handicaps getting too much in the way. Also thanks to all the folks who let us go before at autogram sessions and photoshoots. Also a lot of respect to the hotel and restaurant staff who once again facilitated this event so well. It was smashing.
I am also very happy with this year’s guest list, as all of them have offered me something memorable, very often a nice chat during autographs or –I hesitate to say this, during Photoshoot ;)-, some nice interactions or just a great, funny or thought provoking panel. I have not been able to visit each and every guest (though I worked out a schedule that would allow me to do so, one simple program change screwed that all up, and  after that I simply went with the flow), but of the encounters I had, some stand out:
Jonathan Frakes, in his panels and his autograph. Simply an amazing entertainer, probably the crew’s uncontrollable nightmare, but I loved every minute of his panel and the time we spent with him during autographs.

Virginia Hey, who in her first panel talked about a lot of things I found extremely interesting, and she is always a sweetheart anyway.

The latter also applies to Teryl Rothery, whom we met just before our wedding almost ten years ago and we found time to share some memories of that event.   

Joe Flanigan, witty as ever and I always enjoy listening to his take on life and events. That same wittiness applies to Casper Van Dien, whose clear enjoyment of the whole event I found so refreshing and –shall I use the word? – “cute” (Sorry, Casper ;-)).  
Felicia Day, who was the biggest surprise of this convention. I was not too familiar with her work, but that was adequately remedied by her, and I cannot wait to learn more about her various projects and activities.

And then there is Mr. William Shatner. First of all, kudos to the FedCon staff who handled so well the administrative nightmare that bringing him over must have brought about. I have seen him before, I have done his autograph and photosessions before, so I skipped these but went to his Sunday panel. And boy, was I blown away with what he was doing there! I have never seen him get so personal, so profound, and so wise! What a wonderfully complete human being stood there on stage! Of all the various panels, his affected me the most and the deepest.
On a lighter note, I adored the Dr. Grordbort exhibition, and spent quite some time there, dreaming about this amazing world Greg Broadmore created and all the stories and characters in it. Such a tribute to human imagination!

I would also like to congratulate Garrett with a job amazingly well-done and also thanks for bringing over your wonderful parents, with whom we spent some wonderful time. Love the T-shirts, keep them coming!

And then there was the Augsburger rockabilly band Roadshot! Guys, you saved the party for me! After standing around for too long, while the soccer match was running its course, I was half inclined to call it a day, and Roadshot took the stage and from then on, I danced my socks off. Wonderful music, IMHO very suitable for FedCon and I loved every minute of it!

Let me finish by giving Dirk and his team, all workers and volunteers a great big “Thank You” for making this convention so memorable. To me, this convention was a different experience than before, mainly due to some changes in my personal circumstances. But if anything, it went deeper than before.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Magic Of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Joint Trill and the Higher Self


Jadzia, meeting her "shadow self" in "Equilibrium"

One of the more fascinating races in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are the Trill, a species of humanoids who share existence consciousness with a slug-like creature called a symbiont. Throughout the series, the psychology of such an existence is explored quite thoroughly, as several episodes are devoted exclusively to the special problems and challenges Trill science officer Jadzia (eminently portrayed by Terry Farrell) faces due to her 'joining' (as is the term) to a symbiont called “Dax”. These symbionts live on after the “host” dies, we are told, and Jadzia is just the latest in a series of joinings of the same symbiont to previous hosts.

So what is the exact relationship between symbiont and “host”? Early in the series it is established that for all practical purposes, Jadzia is a separate personality from all the previous hosts, and that due to the joining, a unique personality is established by a merging of host and symbiont. Yet, this is the outside world view, as Jadzia herself adopts a very different attitude and, in the episode “Dax”, seems to hold herself responsible for the alleged sins of her predecessor, Curzon. And later in the series, in “Blood Oath” she does exactly the same when upholding a Klingon blood oath that Curzon swore but that she herself feels obliged to fulfill.

Jadzia seems very much in touch with her 'previous lifes', especially with Curzon, as she is often quoting him and his wiles, sometimes ad nauseam. In one episode, “Equilibrium”, she even encounters a previously unknown host, Joran Belar, who turned out to be an unsuccessfull host and whose joining had been suppressed both by the Dax symbiont itself as well as by the Trill officials.


Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell)

This all seems to point towards an existence in which a personality is brought into intimate contact with a -more or less- immortal and 'higher' mentality. The symbiont seems to fulfill the role of the Higher Self, the Individuality, while the various hosts deliver the Lower Selfs, the Personalities, the mortal “incarnations” that throughout the ages allow the symbiont to discover Itself. The actual act of the Joining -which is shown in the episode “Invasive Procedures”- then becomes an initiation, in which the Higher and Lower Selves are connected to each other. In that particular episode, the actual moment of contact between host and symbiont is shown as an extatic moment of enlightenment. In fact, the candidates selected for joining are referred to as “Trill Initiates”. Those initiates have followed a rigorous regimen of training and study and are subjected to numerous tests in order to determine capacity for joining.

After the joining, the newly joined Trill need some timne to establish and equilibrate their new existence. We witness this in Deep Space Nine's final season when Ezri, Jadzia's successor, needs to come to terms with her symbiont while being stationed at DS9 in the thick of the Dominion War.
What emerges is a new and stronger, and more balanced personality. Eventual character flaws are smoothed over, so we see the single-mindedness of Jadzia turn into the warm and versatile Jadzia Dax, and the insecure Ezri into an effective officer. The symbiont cannot be moved without killing the host; an interesting reference to the irreversible nature of initiation: one cannot undo it, it is a Rite of Passage.

I cannot help seeing this as depicting the initiation pathway that -in fact- aims at re-establishing the same kind of inner cooperation between the two aspects of our soul: the Higher and Lower Selves. The severe and sometimes tedious preparations, the tests, the discipline and dedication of the Trill candidates: it is all too familiar. Now, of course, the analogy is not exact, but enough parallels may be discovered to trigger a lasting interest in the development of the Dax character. More on this subject in due time!


The Trill Homeworld

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Magic Of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ritual Magic and The Storyteller


The Sirah and the Dal'Rok

Deep Space Nine's First season episode The Storyteller is an interesting one for several reasons. Characterwise, this is the first episode which sows the seeds for Bashir and O'Brien's future friendship. The main storyline happens on Bajor, but rather than showing us a Bajor under the guidance of the Prophets, it depicts a rural Bajoran village where perhaps older customs survive of what could be called a more Pagan past.

The storyline in brief: Bashir and O'Brien beam down to a village which is in trouble: it is under attack from a creature called a Dal'Rok and the only way to fight this entity is under the leadership of the Sirah, a Storyteller. Bashir and O'Brien witness an attack and the defense, upon which the Sirah collapses, but not after naming O'Brien as his successor. The next evening, the Dal'Rok returns and O'Brien sets out to fight it as he has seen the Sirah do it, but he fails in his attempt. Then Hovath, the young original apprentice Sirah takes over and succeeds in chasing off the entity and is thus appointed as the new Sirah, letting O'Brien off the hook.


The Sirah in action
This story has a number of interesting Ritual Magic concepts weaven into it. For example: why does O'Brien fail? There are several reasons for that. Yes, he does not know the entire story, although that seems hardly necessary: all we see the Sirah and Hovath do is tell the villagers that they can defeat the creature. But in their cases, they speak with conviction and in magic as well as anywhere else, Words have Power proportional to the conviction with which they are spoken. Magic is not about 'just speaking the right words and then something will happen, Harry Potter style', it is about giving words as much power as possible, and that power comes from the conviction of the speaker and from his or her energy. We see O'Brien struggling to speak out the words while he himself barely believes it is going to do any good (nicely played by actor Colm Meany as well!). And his words dissipate into thin air, nothing happens, the magic does not come about and the Dal'Rok keeps attacking.

Incidentally, what is this Dal'Rok? We are informed that the tricorders do not register anything, yet we see something happening,a nd what is more, we see some attacks that are convincingly real.
So what is going on here? My guess would be that we are dealing here with a thought form that has gained a more or less corporeal existence. Probably as a result of repeating this ritual over and over again for many years- a sure recipe to increase the power!- the image has gained so much energy that not only has it becomevisible to outsiders, it is also found to be interacting with the material environment. Our magical literature abounds with examples of the very same thing: elementals, golems, homunculi, etc. all “conjured” up by the imagination and subsequently energized to such an extent that it gets a “life of its own”.


Hovath (played by Lawrence Monoson)

 
The fight against the Dal'Rok indeed looks very much like a time-honored ritual, with certain fixed stagesin it, the use of certain words of power and with a more or less hierarchical structure: it is the Sirah and the Sirah only who leads this ritual and is able to direct the energy of the villagers into a concerted defense against the Dal'Rok. He is the High Priest in what looks suspiciously like a ritual to reinforce the village identity by defeating a common foe. In order to become Sirah, a candidate has to undergo a test: he (or she?) should be able to direct the ritual and direct the power single-handedly. Miles O'Brien clearly fails at this test: he does not have the necessary training, he does not have the faith and as an outsider he is also not connected to the village's group mind. Hovath is and has all those things, so at the end we see him take charge of the ritual and bringing it to a good end, thus finalizing his own initiation as a Sirah. Which brings a final question to mind: what if the old Sirah had staged all this as an initiation ritual for his successor, with O'Brien as the unknowing catalyst? We'll never know...

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Magic in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajoran Prophets of Yesod...


Inside the Bajoran Wormhole: abode of the Prophets

It is an interesting endeavour to rewatch my all time favorite Star Trek series Deep Space Nine with my spiritual training in the back of my mind. Science fiction, like all good storytelling, does rely on the imagination, which is also one of the cornerstones of magical practice. But in Star Trek, magical concepts and ideas are often dealt with in new and surprising ways. And as Deep Space Nine may be the most spiritual of all Star Trek series, interesting correlations are bound to be found.

Take for instance the pilot episode “Emissary”. One of the key features of that episode is an encounter of Commander Benjamin Sisko with “wormhole aliens”, who the Bajoran people know as their “Prophets”. These creatures are presented as “non-corporeal” and do not live in our own “space-time continuum”, but in another higher form of being. They possess no fixed shape but communicate with Sisko while borrowing faces from people from his present and past, and continuously shifting countenances as well as the surroundings. All this happens in Sisko's mind, because we, the audience, see what's really going on: he is stuck in what looks like a white limbo, a “sea of milk”. And on an even lower level we know that his “runabout” is somehow stuck inside the Bajoran wormhole.


Sisko's encounter with the Prophets

What are these “Prophets” in our own magical terms? The Bajorans consider them as gods, but do we agree with them? The way these aliens are portrayed offers a key: they show themselves in a wide variety of guises yet their true form is somehow not perceivable. This “shapeshifting” reminded me of the next higher plane relative to our own, which is known in Kabbala as the Sphere of Yesod. This is a Hebrew word meaning Foundation, but more importantly for this discourse, Yesod is also -and more commonly known as the World of Dreams.

Tree of Life diagram: Yesod is indicated by the purple sphere,
our material world is the green sphere at the bottom

It is a “world”, where images abound and these images are often illusionary and fluid as the waters or the sea. As fluid as the faces of the Prophets Sisko is encountering! Mark also that these aliens in Bajoran religion are called “Prophets” and not “Gods”. A “prophet” is someone who speaks on behalf of (a) God and not a god him- or herself. So, one starts to wonder who are the real gods of the Bajorans and whether these can be found higher up in the Tree of Life.


A Prophet wearing the face of Sisko's deceased wife, Jennifer

The concept of shapeshifting as shown by these Prophets is often considered a trademark of a “higher being” in Star Trek. Later in Deep Space Nine, a race of shapeshifting Founders also proclaim themselves as Gods, also tapping into the power of the realm of Yesod. The same can be said about Q, the “omnipotent” nemesis of Captain Picard who resides in a realm called the Continuum which is equally fluid in its appearances. And many more examples may be given from all the various Star Trek shows. It seems that the makers of Star Trek did not want to deviate too much from the familiar states of being when portraying the nature of “advanced” beings. The World of Dreams, called “Yesod” in Kabbalah is quite close to our own experience (we all know dreams!), so that's where we see most of these entities operate. It will be interesting to test these ideas in future episodes dealing with the Prophets and assorted beings!

I also spoke about the power of Imagination, and in Season One of Deep Space Nine there are at least two episodes that make an interesting use of this: The Storyteller and If Wishes Were Horses. More about that in a next blog!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My Favorite walking areas: Elsenburger Bos, Rijswijk



The first of my walking areas to be described here is also the one I visit most often. As it is round the corner of my working place, I often go here during my lunch break to get some fresh air and stretch my muscles a bit. The Elsenburger Bos is a park between Rijswijk and Delft and -very uncharacteristic for Holland- it is a park with hills and valleys. Originally, this park was built over piles of refuse, which explains the height differences.

It is a fantastic park to walk in, not very large but with many opportunities for at least 30 to 45 minutes of wandering around. This park has also played a major role in awakening my pagan awareness some ten years ago as it was a lot more 'natural' back then, than it is now. Its atmosphere at that time -its “deva”, as some would call it- let me find the God and Goddess in various locations in the park, some quite obvious, others hidden away in more secretive locations.



One major clean operation, followed by many minor ones have, unfortunately, done away with all that, and though I feel the park's deva is recovering, it is not as spiritually uplifting as it used to be. As the pictures indicate, it is still a great place to stroll around in, but something has definitely been lost.

What is sometimes a nuisance, though, is the sheer number of dogs that are taken to this park throughout the day, as in most places here they are allowed to run free. The most obvious problem as a result is the constant noise of barking dogs and yelling dog owners. Another drawback is the nearby A4 motorway with its constant drone, but this is a feature of most places here in the Randstad.
All in all still a great place to hang out, but it used to be better!


Saturday, 7 January 2012

Merlin Sythove: My Obituary




As the New Year's well-wishes were pouring in, a not so nice message also came in. On New Year's Day 2012, the world was notified that the Earthly life of Dennis ten Siethoff-or Merlin Sythove as he was known to many- was coming to an end. As I was burning a candle for him, I sat by its flame and started to reminisce and thank him for all he taught me and meant to me.

And I found it was not easy to put into words precisely what it is that makes Merlin so important in my life. We met a few times in person, but most of our contacts have been through E-mail and the Internet. He was never formally and directly my teacher, but all the same I feel like I have lost someone who has had a great influence on me and my spirituality. I remember Merlin lecturing at an Elf Fantasy Fair, way back in the beginning of my spiritual journey, about Wicca and Witchcraft. I had read his book “Modern Witchcraft” before that, but sitting in the audience and listen to someone explaining it all I recall as a very special event.

I also recall us having a heated discussion on the Whiteshadow forum about what Wicca is in reality, rather than what the popular media made of it at the height of the Great Hype in witchcraft and paganism. I accused traditionals for being too 'fundamentalist', but Merlin kept his cool and -eventually- got through to me.

I also recall my time on the Silver Circle forum, that he himself was running. A forum, which had a decidedly different flavour than good old Whiteshadow. Always good for an interesting time: often sailing calm waters, but at times one had to best rather hefty swells, currents and waves. Yet, there was always Merlin the Forum Wizard to calm things down with a few well chosen words.

About a year ago I decided to leave the Silver Circle Forum after a particularly bumpy and quite painful time, in which it had gradually become clear that my own path was leading me elsewhere and that it was best to cut these ties. This was not an easy decision, or an easy process, but it was important to do so.

So I left the forum, but through other media I stayed quietly in touch with Merlin and from those channels I witnessed both his plans to restart his life with Sarah, and that awful day when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. But during the last months of his life, he once again became a source of inspiration and a teacher by his weekly blogs about his battle against this disease, which often left me in tears from admiration and respect for his strength and his will to live.
As I said, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that Merlin has taught me, as I feel that many of his teachings are manifest on a more subtle plane Inside. I think it is most of all a teaching by example: what it means to be a human being in control of your life and living it out of Love and Wisdom. His other teachings I will have to uncover -or recover-and I know no better way to honour his memory than to do just that.

Merlin's Earthly life ended on January 3rd 2012. Today, we celebrated his life in a moving and beautiful ceremony. Dennis, I salute you for all you have done for the Wicca and Pagan community and for your service to the Mysteries in general. Go in Peace, Rest in Peace in Tír na nÓg, and one day return to us in Peace.

Blessed Be.