Feast your eyes on Sorita a first time, and you're struck by her dimples and long limbs, her exotic beauty. Feast them again, having heard she's a Wiccan High Priestess, a lecturer on witchcraft and the occult and a full-time writer and researcher, and you're struck by how very normal she is.
She knows she doesn't conform to the theatrical image of the witch. Furthermore, she believes that the negative image of witchcraft is partly perpetuated by those modern witches who like to dress up in Hallowe'en outfits most of the year, and by the media's sometimes uninformed portrayal. Certain tabloids aside, even the so-called Alternative publications seem to feel that a witch equals velvet and silver jewellery.
Things are changing however, and I hope that it will continue to become more accepted and more mainstream with time. For her it all started in childhood, when she had out-of-body experiences. That had made her look into psychic phenomena and eventually led to an interest in magick.
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Her tendency to sit and meditate everywhere earned her the African Xhosa name of Nombulelo she who prays while still at school, studying the language. An interest in African mysticism was not far behind. Ahe stopped eating meat as a child, the moment she realised it came from animals. Although not a spiritual move, her interest in vegetarianism is, funnily enough, what got her in touch with witches initially.
Although she hastens to add that giving up meat is in no way a prerequisite of paganism or Wicca! The best part of that, to her, other than obviously meeting lots of interesting people, is helping others with their spiritual development. She trains witches and runs groups in London with her partner and High Priest, David Rankine, a well known and great-looking Wiccan author. Sometimes I get people asking for spells to change the colour of their hair or eyes, rather than use dye or lenses. I have even had one man who wanted me to initiate him on the pavement outside a bookshop; I instead made him swear an oath to a pub sign as he was rather intoxicated at the time.
One lady wanted me to do an exorcism on her pet bird that she believed to be possessed, but that is a story in itself! Despite the humour, it is clear that Sorita, like many a High Priestess, has had to endure a lot of criticism for her spiritual path. She wouldn't know what she would get treated like if she weren't a witch, but from non-magickal folk, the first reaction would be intrigue, excitement, or sometimes what she calls 'the face'; a mixture of disbelief, disgust and "what do you mean" all rolled into one.
Some would even accuse witches of cursing. For those, Sorita has very little patience. Compassion is much better than hate for dealing with those consumed by jealousy and inadequacy.
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Wiccans have a moral code "An it harm none do what ye will" and this is always taken into account when performing magick. Wicca in general has been accused of gay-bashing, which makes Sorita laugh. Although it is traditional in Wicca for a man to be taught and initiated by a woman and vice-versa, there is no rule that excludes anyone on the basis of their sexuality.
She confesses that some of the single girls in her covens actually ask her to try and find some attractive, single straight men for them, as the abundance of lovely girls and handsome gay men outweighs the straight variety.
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Her tip to aspiring High Priestesses would be to choose coveners by their sincerity, honestly, eagerness to participate and learn willingness to contribute to discussions and workings. Beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence; she lives her life as described in the famous Wiccan Charge of The Goddess.
The craft permeates every aspect of her life. Sorita is a High Priestess upon waking, at bed-time and the bits that lie between. To find out more, visit Sorita's website www. Sorita runs Lapis Companions, a monthly meeting in Central London. What do Druids believe in? There's no easy answer, it seems. It's hard for all Druids to agree. There's no written book of rules, you see - that would make it an established faith, and Druidry is far too nature-based for that.
What Gods do Druids worship, then?
Who are their main deities? That's when it gets a bit complicated.
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Those of a Wiccan background see divinity as male and female, those of Christian background are monotheistic, with deity manifesting on different levels. I've been a Druid since the 80s and have never stopped exploring my faith. My deities change with experiences as I get older. Historically, all modern alternative Western religions started last century around the same time ss , and came from the same type of traditions.
The characters at play were schooled in the spiritual traditions of the Golden Dawn, the Theosophical Society etc. Matt himself started out, spiritually, from Starhawk Wicca, a feminist witchcraft branch. Druid morality, again, is influenced by the individual Druid's origins. In essence, Matt explains that as you explore the relationship between you and the world, and understand that everything is connected, and every action you take influences you on your path, you can't help but perfect your morality to the best of your ability. Matt took nine years to complete his course of training.
OBOD's course, comprising of correspondence material and a tutor, has got 3 years' worth of material in it. Each of the subjects can take you in exciting tangents - Matt himself spent six months doing a piece on the nature of evil, which was supposed to take a week. Education is just one of the streams of modern Druidry. Some, thanks to Druidry's interest in all things nature, turn to the ecology for their inspiration. Others find themselves in the Bardic stream for life, with poetry and prose to express their creativity. Each holds a key to the spiritual journey experienced by the individual.
It is also about manifesting divine inspiration.
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The Ovate is the seer, who immerses themselves in divination, magic, healing and the goddess. When you reach the level of Druid, the philosopher, the teacher, you look again to your community, to see what you can give back to those who surround you. Then, you can go back to Bardic work, if that is your gift, or to Ovate. It's a personal choice. You should now know where your own talents lie. How refreshing to encounter a philosophy so focussed on the beauty of people's individuality - it appears the only thing you won't find in Druidry is being one of the crowd.
For more information on the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, go to www. Cosy and welcoming, with a clear front window and an open plan display, allowing passers-by to see every inch of the shop, Atlantis is a far cry from how the oldest occult shop in London should look. The media, apparently, is surprised with the look - film crews are regularly in the shop, but its contemporary design is rarely what the writers intended.
Not spooky enough, you see, and the staff aren't wearing velvet cloaks and too much eye-liner. The rumours are ten-a-penny. Some have spoken of a dead body found hanging in there, black magic rites are said to have been conducted, a full Golden Dawn temple was reportedly run in the basement.
Her father was associated with the shop for ten years, and owned it until , a fact which was predicted to him years earlier, and she ran it throughout the '70 till and owned it for the past 18 months. Facts, however, are better than fiction here. Since the shop's opening, it was popular with the magickal scene. Other mystical shops were not comfortable with hard-core witches and magicians, and therefore Spare, Crowley , Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, A. Waite, Ross Nicholls and others would gather downstairs, exchange opinions and create history. There's no stopping now!
What would Geraldine's only regret be? As an asthmatic called Geraldine, I would have loved to have met an asthmatic called Gerald, but it never happened. From time immemorial man watched the sky at night - before light pollution and light entertainment. One can safely assume it was early man's very first hobby.
And when you watch the sky, you start noticing things; like night following day; like the sun and the moon rising from the same direction every day; like the moon waxing and waning; like the days getting shorter in winter and longer in summer. Upon closer inspection of the night sky, you would notice stars and planets, which seem to follow some sort of pattern, and seem to effect life on Earth.
Why should it? Good question. It's not easy to get your head around the concept of a mass of gas, so many millions of miles away, having an effect on the way one behaves, feels, and the experiences one encounters. But if we accept the influence the Sun has on us obviously warmth and light, indirectly mood and nourishment and the way the moon touches us moving the tides, effecting the menstrual cycle , then why shouldn't other planets work with us in the same way?
So the planet which appears to influence communication, and the mind was named after Mercury, the quicksilver Roman messenger God. The celestial beauty that is Venus was named so as it appeared to touch on people's love and home life. The angry red planet which shone bright when war was afoot was named after battle God Mars.
Jupiter, King of the Gods gave his name to the large star which seemed connected with expansion and judgement, and Saturn, the primal father, was attached to the slow planet which ruled gradual change and justice. A person's date of birth, therefore, incorporates different personality traits, and the way those are expressed.
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The different planets, upon birth, would be placed in different zodiacal signs which would show how the person would behave, feel and think. The same is true for births of relationships, companies and countries.
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