Conscious Drumming workshop: Connecting to the Elements

In Conscious Drumming workshops we connect with our inner centre, our inner rhythm and our heartbeat. Honouring our life-force and using our imagination through drumming, rhythm and the energy of the elements to connect with the inner FIRE. Through the drumming we will move from the cognitive, rational, intellectual and narrow frame of reference into an expanded state of rhythmic awareness.

Entwining sounds and notes on the drum we will weave a mandala of sound with the use of the drum embodying FIRE. We will identify our inner energies that are operating and being awakened through the magic of drumming, surpassing our rational mind, embodying and experiencing our rhythm through our hands, our hearts, in our bodies and through our feet.

Within each of us are a multitude of drives and desires, hopes and fears, wounds and latent abilities that need to be acknowledged and consciously dealt with as we continue to grow as conscious beings and as we learn from our experiences, we move toward the synthesis of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves.

Saturday 25 July 2015 from 14h00 to 15h30

Lila Studio, Beckham House, 7 Beckham Road, Cape Town

Cost is R130,00 per person including the use of a drum.

Contact : Nidhi Chaitow
073 060 0008 or
to book your place.


Spirituality without Structure

Nimue Brown

This is not a book I consciously set out to write. What happened is that some years ago I spent a lot of time reading about other religions as part of my research for ‘When a Pagan Prays’. It was a book that took a long time to write – and as I’d been quiet for ages – my lovely publisher, Trevor Greenfield, asked if I’d consider doing a small book. Moon Books publishes a Pagan Portals Series — lots of short and punchy introductions to niche areas of Paganism. Would I like to do one?

As soon as the offer was on the table, it was evident to me what to do with it. All manner of things had been occurring to me with regards to the nature of religion, and what it takes to have a meaningful personal practice. From the research for ‘When a Pagan Prays,’ Spirituality without Structure was unexpectedly hatched. It was significantly influenced by Alain du Botton’s ‘Religion for Atheists’. I’m not an atheist, but the questions he raised about the social and psychological function of religions prompted me to start considering how we might construct spiritual practice to serve human needs, and to questions the needs which established religions serve.

Here’s an excerpt to give you a bit of a flavour for the project. This is a book people either love because they find it challenging, or hate for exactly the same reason.

“As human beings we seem to find strong leadership enticing. We like it when someone else takes the risks, makes the decision, solves the problems and tells us what to do. Religions can be very good at matching those who wish to graze quietly with those who wish to be shepherds. It is also worth remembering that you can just as easily match those who do not want to make much effort with the kind of shepherd who runs a very lucrative abattoir.

It is important to know yourself. Are you looking for comfort, a sense of security, some rules to follow, a nice plan for the afterlife and a routine? If so, then stay with regular religions and structures. If, on the other hand, you want spiritual experiences and to find your own answers, are not afraid to take risks, face setbacks and ask a lot of questions, then doing as you are told is never going to satisfy you.”

This book is all about breaking out and doing it for yourself. I’ll admit I have an agenda here. I think that there is much to be troubled by in people who want power over other people, and over other aspects of the natural world. I believe the desire for power is driven by fear and that it is inherently destructive. I also believe that we do best when we seek harmony, tolerance and collaboration, and when we respect each other as equals. As soon as you try to control another person, you diminish them, and yourself. The structure of religion is so often about control. There are too many issues around whom has the right to make whom do what. The right to punish, to exile, own and to devalue can all be tied up in religious thinking too, and these are destructive influences across the globe. I’m much more interested in the power to control the self, and the self-discipline that is all about what happens inside an individual.

The trouble with having no structure or system – as is so often the case for independent modern Pagans – is ascertaining what you might replace that with. Figuring everything out from scratch is rewarding, and a profound journey in its own right, but you may have to start by working out what to work out in the first place and this can lead to a great deal of wheel re-invention.

It is possible to learn a lot from the history and diversity of religion; Pagan and non-Pagan alike. We can learn without subscribing to any one system, drawing inspiration without abdicating personal power. I’m not suggesting a ‘pick-and-mix’ attitude to spirituality, but a process of stepping back to examine what religion is and does. We can learn from the areas of overlap and commonality. We can learn from the places of difference and conflict. I’ve gathered together much of what I’ve learned from reading about different religions and listening to a great many people. This is not the whole story. It’s not even the tip of one.

The drive for spirituality in humans and the history of religion are two vast topics that it would probably take lifetimes to understand. However, the attempt is always worth it and I hope this provides a useful jumping off point.

Nimue Brown is the author of a number of Druid and Pagan titles also published by Moon Books.


Nimue Brown interviews Kitchen Witch, Rachel Patterson

by Nimue Brown

I met Rachel Patterson through Moon Books. From my perspective she came out of nowhere and set people’s imaginations on fire with her books on kitchen witchcraft. Her friendly accessible style has won her a lot of fans (me amongst them). Down to earth, can do, user friendly writing is something that I really value. For me, kitchen witchcraft is part of folk magic, part of the kind of thing quietly pagan people have always done. If high magic and very ceremonial rituals don’t call to you, then this probably will.

Nimue: Your sixth book comes out in June 2015. What was your first title and what prompted you to start writing books?

Rachel: I never had a desire to write books and it was not something on my to-do or bucket list, it all happened totally be accident. I saw a request on the Moon Books Facebook page asking for suggestions for their Pagan Portals series and as I run an online school based on Kitchen Witchcraft, I suggested that as the subject. The editor contacted me and said he liked the idea and asked if I would be interested in submitting a proposal. Eeek! I was totally petrified but as I had experience with writing lessons for the school and a few magazine articles I gave it a shot. Pagan Portals – Kitchen Witchcraft was born and I am extremely happy to say that even two years later it continues to sell and be received very well. It was the start of an avalanche really.

Nimue: Is all of your magic / ritual about indoors spaces or do you leave the kitchen as well?

Rachel: I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but that’s because I love to bake, cook and eat! But I also have a lovely little garden stuffed full of plants and herbs that I like to spend time in and I usually take a walk outside in my local area every day. We also hold regular open rituals in a local country park where we have the use of beautiful beech and yew tree groves. Nature is a huge part of my witchcraft.

Nimue: What makes Kitchen Witchcraft different from other approaches?

Rachel: When I first started on the witchcraft pathway a gazillion years ago the only structure of training at the time was Wicca, so that’s what I started to learn, but fairly early on in my training I struggled as it didn’t feel like quite the right fit for me personally. I went on to complete my Wiccan training but I also started to ‘get out there’ and be a part of rituals, moots and working alongside other Wtches, Pagans and Druids and I studied anything I could get my hands on from Druidry to Shamanic practices to Hoodoo. Along with my life-long love of cooking and food my journey as a Kitchen Witch began to make more sense to me. I started to use bits and pieces from one tradition and work them into my own and then take something from another pathway and fit that into my way of working as well. Kitchen Witchcraft is about using whatever is to hand, no fancy tools or specific rule book ways of doing things; I work with my intuition and instinct all of the time. I work a lot with herbs, plants and flowers and of course the magic of food is at the core. There is also a lot of Hedge Witchcraft in with it as well, foraging and walking between the worlds and Green Witchcraft for the natural items, recycling and eco-warrior add in a bit of folk magic and traditional witchcraft and there you have it.

Nimue: Who / what inspires you?

Rachel: Nature and life itself are my biggest inspirations but also people; some of our students come up with the most amazing insights.

Nimue: What would you most like to achieve through your writing and teaching?

Rachel: I feel extremely blessed that I am able to share my own experiences and knowledge that I have learnt along the way with others, but I do believe it is a two way thing; I learn from the feedback with my books and sharing with students. I don’t know everything, not by a long shot and I never will. Continuing to learn alongside others is all part of the journey. If I can help give one person clarity with something then that is an achievement I am more than happy with.

Nimue: What comes next for you?

Rachel: There is another Pagan Portals title with the publisher at the moment this time on Meditation and a new book that I am just starting to write about called The Art of Ritual, alongside new courses being run with Kitchen Witch and the day to day lessons life is always busy.

Nimue: How do people find out more?

Rachel: My website is and the Kitchen Witch site is but I am always happy to answer queries or chat via Facebook or E-mail.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton is a great many things, a High Priestess, a board member of the Solar Cross Temple, a clinical counselor, social worker, and a graduate worker in a social work program. Crystal writes and coordinates the Patheos blog, Daughters of Eve, is a writer for Sage Woman and a monthly columnist for The Wild Hunt.

Besides raising a multicultural family of four children with her husband, she has passion for social justice and is an advocate for expanding the common understanding of privilege, race relations, the use of restorative justice practices and cultural empathy; furthering constructive discussions that are often taboo and misunderstood in society. She is both a thinker and dedicated to creating that better society that we all claim to want. She was also kind enough to accept my request for an interview.

Christopher: What kind of background did you grow up in?

Crystal: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised by a single mother who was self employed. Growing up 5 minutes away from Berkeley, I have always been around a lot of different types of people and different kinds of diversity.

Christopher: You describe yourself as a woman and a person of color.  What does that mean to you? How does that affect you?

Crystal: The inter-sectional position of being a woman of color gives me a lot to contemplate about who I am in the world, and what success looks like. My mother raised me to be a strong black woman, despite the challenges and messages I might get from society saying that I am not strong enough, pretty enough, or presentable enough to fill the expectations that greater society might have. To be successful has always meant the ability to embrace who I am and what I am as a black woman. From there all things are possible.

So finding ways to grow within my understanding of where I stand as a marginalized person, and learning how to use the social and cultural capital I have in my intersecting communities has taught me how to be fierce within any environment. From writing books, to raising my children, to social work in the inner city, embracing the strength of who I am has been a life-long lesson.

Christopher: What drives you? How does that affect your choices in education and your career choice?

Crystal: Passion drives me. I have always felt a strong commitment to justice and equity work, and worked in clinical services before I became a part of the Pagan community. Being a part of a marginalized ethnic community has given me first hand knowledge of what it means to work within systems that are designed without a sense of equality for all people. It has always been important to me that everyone has a choice to thrive, and becoming a social worker was the best path I could work in to be a part of manifesting this change.

Christopher: How did you become Pagan and what path do you follow?

Crystal: I came to this path in 2002 when I was prompted to do some research after meeting someone who was also interested in the path. I joined my first coven in 2003, and have continued to work in covens since that time. I trained with several traditions and became initiated with Family Wiccan Tradition International, which is no longer around.

I am a very eclectic Witch and incorporate several different aspects of my culture and my spirituality together. For the most part I still work within a Wiccan framework but have expanded that in many ways to accommodate some of my ethnic culture and ancestral culture.

Christopher: You are a high priestess in your tradition. Do you have a coven?

Crystal: I do not run a coven but I am a part of a small local coven. I have chosen not to have a coven that was specifically under my leadership because I am putting my energy towards completing my graduate degree and my social justice work.

Christopher: Could you tell us a bit about the Solar Cross Temple?

Crystal: Solar Cross Temple is a pan-magical temple that works with people from many different magical paths. The temple offers monthly devotionals, educational classes, outreach, interfaith and numerous social justice related projects. Some of our most recent justice projects have included contributing to the Pagans Against Racism website, facilitating justice programming at PantheaCon and collaborating with other organizations to support local actions.

Solar Cross is also kick-starting their new project called Turning the Wheel. Turning the Wheel is a project that will support collaboration and networking for young leaders and emerging leaders.

I have been a Board Member for Solar Cross since 2012, working alongside T. Thorn Coyle, Jason Thomas Pitzl, Jonathan Korman, Robert Russell and Elena Rose. I enjoy the work that we do as an organization and focusing a lot on using our magic, education and resources to fight for equity in our communities.

Christopher: How does all the above affect your chosen purpose and responsibility in the Pagan community?

Crystal: Being a part of the Solar Cross team just solidifies the intersection that exists between my spiritual and social work worlds. Priestessing often looks like social action for me, and this is an important marriage of principles that I embrace as a part of who I am today. I engage in activism within the Pagan community, as well as in larger society, as a commitment to justice and equity. One of the vows I made to Yemaya encompasses this work, and the fight for the protection of all her children.

Christopher: You often mention bringing up taboo and uncomfortable subjects in the Pagan community? Why are those subjects important? What must happen once the problems are identified?

Crystal: I often talk about topics around issues of race, privilege and other concerns of social justice. As a social worker, these topics are very normal conversation for me and yet they are not often the conversations that are comfortable to have in general society. We are taught not to talk about things that make us uncomfortable or that are challenging topics in public environments. Race, privilege and other justice related issues often fall into that categorization.

Yet these subjects are important in our society as a whole and within the Pagan community. In order for us to change some of the dynamics that traditionally keep marginalized people out of our circles, we have to be willing to delve into the issues that are existing around us.

So part of what I think is important for us all to do is to talk about these things, engage with one another on the challenging topics and find collective community minded solutions that support healing and growth.

Christopher: How do you explain something that your audience has no personal experience with? How do you get past ignorance denial, defensiveness to start working on the problem and encourage cooperation?  Do you suggest possible solutions?

Crystal: All that I can do is tell my personal truth to others and share the information that I have from my studies and professional work. I do my best to be open and genuine in my communication, sharing in a way that allows people to hear and experience some of the true reflections of emotions. There is no way to make someone understand, I can only be present in the moment.

I do not also think it is my job to help someone get past the ignorance, denial or resistance. I think I get the option to engage with people who I feel are wanting to work towards understanding and true equity. If someone wants to live in their denial, it is not my obligation to change them. Instead I feel it is important to give resources, options and opportunities to those who are truly present in this struggle and want to learn and grow. I need that in my own process of growth and I find this is often a reciprocal process.

The best solution for addressing denial and resistance is education and engagement with others. Learning to understand topics of oppression is a responsibility that each of us has to own and learn about. Do the research, speak to those who do this work, talk to marginalized people and build meaningful relationships, be present and stay engaged. There is no crash course, it is about the willingness to learn and challenge one’s personal biases and conditioning.

Christopher: What are some of the uncomfortable subjects that you have written about and given workshops on? What about books you have written and anthologies that you have edited and co-edited?

Crystal: I have been on numerous panels at PantheaCon that discuss the topics of race, cultural appropriation, privilege and sacrifice. I have also done workshops at other festivals and conventions around cultural empathy, restorative justice and the use of cultural archetypes. These are all incredibly important topics within our community that I enjoy sharing.

I have written several books on related topics. I wrote Bridging the Gap: Working with the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society, and Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World. Both books address topics related to the myriad of community or personal issues that come up within our lives or our community and the infusion of counseling techniques to address them.

I have been the editor for Shades of Faith: Minority Voices in Paganism, and Shades of Ritual: Minority Voices in Practice. Both of these anthologies highlight the voices of people of color within our community and their experiences, practices and stories within the Pagan community. The newest anthology, Bringing Race to the Table, was co-edited by Taylor Ellwood, Brandy Williams and myself; it addresses the very topics of race, appropriation, privilege and ally-ship. All of the anthologies have very talented writers and incredibly moving pieces.

Christopher: How can people learn more about what we have talked about?

Crystal: There are always great resources to read that can support people with a better understanding of any topic that they want to learn about. Some of the resources we are putting together currently include the Pagans Against Racism website. This site has a host of links and information about several of the topics I have mentioned. I also have a lot of information and resources listed in the archives for the 30 Day Real Black History Challenge that are currently on the Daughters of Eve blog, hosted by Patheos. This year the 30 Day Real Black History Challenge will have it’s own website and there will be a lot of upcoming announcements to stay tuned for.

This interview was first published in ACTION.