An interview with Sheena Cundy

Nimue Brown

I’m Nimue Brown (Druid, author, quiet revolutionary, coffee addict) and when I get the chance I like to pounce on especially interesting fellow Pagans and ask them questions about their work and their lives so that I can bring them to other people’s attention. In this interview I’m delighted to introduce Sheena Cundy, who first got on my radar at a PF conference in Colchester, where she was singing with her band, Morrigan’s Path. I liked the music, and we got talking, and since then I’ve read her glorious novel and explored her fascinating oracle set. Like many Pagans, she doesn’t limit herself to one area of exploration or practice…

Nimue: What first drew you to Paganism?

Sheena Cundy

Sheena: Officially, the Craft drew me to Paganism. I found that once I had joined a coven, dedicated to the Craft and named myself Witch… my path was set out. However, I think I’ve been a Pagan all my life as the more I learn, the more I realise it has always been there in some shape or form. The land and nature, people and animals, music and the magical arts are the love of my life!

Nimue: What sort of music styles do you prefer?

Sheena: Diversity is the magic of music for me… I love many styles, from punk to classical! Any instrument that is played well, particularly live, is hard to beat – including the voice… I think the fusions of different styles are interesting, and the contrast of traditional and contemporary instruments – as long as it’s original – can be effective as well as fun!

Nimue: Does that thread of diversity run through your magical life as well? Is fusion part of your craft?

Sheena: Diversity seems to run through all areas of my life, and it is all magical, so yes. I thrive on it. And although I have my own individual style as we all do, I like to have the freedom to change and move around within it. I get bored with repetition and need stimulation and inspiration to create. Fusion is very much a part of my craft, the same way a gardener will graft a new shoot onto the root stock of a stem or branch is how I see it. With a firm connection to our roots we can create our own unique pathways in life. For me, it’s the path of the Crafty Crone, I’m making it up as I go along… Symbolism is not all fixed and new traditions can and do evolve from the old. Creating from original substance is what keeps me inspired. … spells, potions, mantras, incense, stories, songs… is the magic of my life.

Nimue: You’re a songwriter, novelist, and now writing non-fiction for the Moon Books blog. Do you find some forms easier than others or do they all come naturally to you?

Sheena: I do find songs and stories easier, yes. I love making things up, creating from scratch and being original. In non-fiction I find myself far too self-conscious to begin with then once I’ve managed to let go of the ego and just be myself, the barriers come down and inspiration flows again. Of all of them, song writing is probably the most natural and spontaneous. I was out walking my dog this morning and brought a tune and some words back, reached for the guitar… and now it seems it’s a song writing day instead of a non-fiction or a story day. I try not to beat myself self up about these things and just go with the flow…as long as I can make those deadlines with the other writing, time or lack of it is not an issue.

Nimue: So what prompted you to have a go at non-fiction?

Sheena: I started writing non-fiction as a contributor for a pagan ezine called The Moonstone about five years ago. As well as short stories, I wrote a series on the Tarot which evolved into a 60 page manual for a ten week course I’ve run from home for the last four years. Alongside that, I wrote the guide book for the Magic of Nature Oracle – a card deck based on British wildlife – created with my sister Tania who is an artist. From there, I’ve contributed with oracle reading features in a number of publications. Spiritual development is such an important part of my life and so those life experiences naturally filtering into the writing. As a teacher who feels compelled to pass on knowledge, as well as a performer who loves an audience; writing provides an exciting platform for both!

Nimue: What are you working on currently, on the non-fiction side?

Sheena: I have just started a work in progress for the Moon Books blog, with a chapter posting up each month. Your Magical Nature is psychic development from a Pagan perspective. It feels like a natural progression from the Magic of Nature Oracle in which I drew my inspiration from the Crone as an archetypal guide. Again, I will be creating something new while retaining a strong connection to the old… I find the idea both exciting and daunting, what challenge isn’t? But the stretch will do me good, that next mountain will bring a whole different perspective, and if others can benefit from the view – I will have done my job. Hopefully, it’ll be my next book.

Nimue: And your novel comes out in November 2015? How does that connect to your other work?

Sheena: The novel is the light relief I needed to (just about) keep my self from stepping over the edge as I entered Crone territory for the first time. Also, I wanted to see if I could actually write something of that length – 50,000 words –  probably small fry to most authors but for a short story/song writer, quite some mountain. My other work- the songs, the spiritual non-fiction – reflect the serious, philosophical side of me and the novel is the more humorous… But at the same time, the subject matter, the main character, is all part of who I am and what I do. Minerva gave me a free rein to laugh at myself and I think that’s fundamental to keeping a balance and staying grounded in this life.

Nimue: I think comedy has an amazing power to ease things and help us cope, and your book is certainly very funny, and very releasing. Did you know you have this capacity for humour before you started, or did that come as a surprise?

Sheena: What a lovely question! Thank you. I have always enjoyed a good laugh, so it felt only natural to include humour in the story. I get bogged down in too much serious stuff and the wonderful thing about writing fiction is that you can do what you like! I love that freedom. And I tried to maintain a balance of sorts with it. And once the characters begin to take shape, it really is great fun. In fact, I think it’s the best laugh I’ve ever had on my own, and it’s addictive, I need to get started on the sequel.

Nimue: What are you up to at the moment?

Sheena: I’ve given myself just enough to do writing wise – and have the time for everything else…promoting the novel and writing and recording with Morrigans Path among (quite a lot of) other things. I keep telling myself there’s plenty of time – and with a bit of magic, it’ll work.

Nimue: where can people find you online?


SA Pagan Council National Call for Rain

As the Pacific continues to warm due to both climate change and the strongest El Nino effect ever recorded, six of South Africa’s nine provinces are experiencing drought and the country faces its worst water shortage in 23 years.

Three provinces have already been declared disaster areas and water restrictions are being enforced in several cities. An estimated 2.7 million households, about 18 percent of the population, are being affected by the drought, according to the Department of Water Affairs.

The average maize yield is at its lowest since 2008, threatening an increase in food prices. Our country’s farmers are estimated to lose up to R10 billion this year. KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, Limpopo, North West and the Northern Cape, where farmers grow maize, soya beans and sunflowers, have already incurred major losses.

In response to this crisis, the South African Pagan Council has called on all South African Pagans to participate in a National Call for Rain and is urging Pagans wherever they are to assist in performing a rain ceremony on Sunday 15 November.


The South African Pagan Council have asked its members, Pagans and Spiritual Folk all over South Africa, as well as those who know about this day abroad, to join us, as we pray for rain on the 15th of November 2015 at 18:00 SAST. Our country is facing a drought and this means suffering for all living things and death to many. Many of our cities have had water rationed for the next 100 days and will be in dire straits if it doesn’t rain. The natural underground water reserves are running out and rivers, like the Crocodile River, once mighty water courses, have ceased to flow. We thank all those who have assisted us in spreading the word and all those who will join us in this call to action on Sunday, to bring relief to the people and animals of our country and continent. Blessings & Gratitude

Press Contact: Adriaan Roos – Email:

The Pagan Council has released the following suggested ceremony.

Call for Rain

Sit quietly in your garden or temple room, on 15 November at 18:00 and think that Pagans all over SA as well as those who know about this day’s event abroad, will join us as we pray for rain. Our country is facing a drought and this means that suffering and destruction for all living beings.

Meditate on how selfish and unappreciative we have been for the gift of Water. We have wasted it and treated it without regard. Make a silent commitment to change this harmful pattern and to assist others in doing the same. Go outside with a chalice of water and think about making it rain. Slowly sprinkle its contents around you, pour the rest of the water out onto a solid surface whilst repeatedly chanting: “NAMO GWAN SHR YIN PU SA”

NAMO means “homage,” and PU SA is short for “Bodhisattva,” a being who is enlightened and who enlightens other beings. GWAN SHR YIN, whose Sanskrit name is Avalokitesvara, is the Bodhisattva who embodies infinite compassion. The Bodhisattva Gwan Shr Yin is the compassionate Mother of everyone.

The many hands and eyes and arms represents the Bodhisattva’s ability to rescue all living beings from any circumstances, anywhere. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva responds to invocations, and that anyone who is sincere will obtain a response, and relief from pain and difficulties. Gwan Shr Yin is particularly indicated in the case of praying for rain.

Do your one hour of invocation and recitation and then repeat the mantram every time you remember during the course of your day. Go indoors, light a light blue candle and wait for it to rain. Even if it just drizzles a bit, your prayer has worked.

2015 Council for the Parliament of World Religions welcomes Rev. Dr. Karen Tate

Author and Goddess Spirituality leader Rev. Dr. Karen Tate has been selected to speak and moderate a panel for the prestigious Council for the Parliament of World Religions this October in Salt Lake City, Utah.  With the rise of awareness of the Sacred Feminine growing across the globe today as an alternative or counter-balance to our patriarchal culture, it is crucial vital voices such as Tate’s have a place at this remarkable trend setting interfaith conference.

This year the Parliament connects the dots between spirituality, culture and politics with major speakers such as the Dalai Lama, Dr. Karen Armstrong, Rev. Jim Wallis and Dr. Vandana Shiva bringing their global wisdom and practice to the Parliament’s theme, Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity.  Rev. Dr. Tate and other speakers will address three critical issues facing people across the globe; Climate change and care for creation, income inequality and wasteful consumption and war, violence and hate speech.  Rev. Tate will moderate a panel on Friday, October 16 discussing the relevance of sacred feminine liberation thealogy and she will give her own presentation on Saturday, October 17th, Reawakening Our Earliest Sacred Stories, addressing how pre-patriarchal mythology of the feminine face of god has all along given us a template for a more sustainable future.

Recently bestowed the titles “Wisdom Keeper of the Divine Feminine Movement” (Sagewoman Magazine) and voted “One of the Thirteen Most Influential Women in Goddess Spirituality” (Wood Priestess Blog), Rev. Dr. Karen Tate has hosted her long running radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine, considered a treasure trove of wisdom for our time. In the past nine years she has interviewed notable activists, scholars and spiritual leaders.   She can be seen in the important film, Femme: Women Healing the World produced by actress Sharon Stone and Emmanuel Itier of Wonderland Entertainment.

Her book titles include:  Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations, Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, Goddess Calling:  Inspirational Messages & Meditations of Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy and she’s edited the anthology, Voices of the Sacred Feminine:  Conversations to ReShape Our World, based on her aforementioned radio show.  Rev. Dr. Karen Tate teaches the Unitarian Universalist programs, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and Rise Up and Call Her Name and she also serves the Joseph Campbell Foundation as a RoundTable sponsor to foster adult continuing education.

Tate regularly speaks on the topics of women’s empowerment, social justice and sacred feminine liberation thealogy to improve the quality of life for women and men across the globe. She and her husband, Roy, have led spiritual journeys for women and men across five continents and after thirty happy years of marriage still reside in Venice Beach, CA with their two cats, Isis and Xena. You can find out more about Rev. Dr. Tate’s radio show, books, talks, and appearances by visiting her website,

Maria Barry
Publisher & Publicity Manager
John Hunt Publishing Ltd

Review copies available on request
Orca Marston in Europe


Writing about Paganism

Nimue Brown

There are a range of ways in which authors write about Paganism. Each approach has its advantages and limitations, and it pays to know what it is that you want from a book, when trying to figure out what to spend your time and money on. This is also an issue for anyone thinking about writing, because some approaches suit some authors better than others.


There is a great deal to be said about historical Paganism, what we know, and what we can infer. Some authors are more interested in guessing than in facts, but so long as you are really clear about which is which, it’s all fine. A good historical author writes about what’s known, and what might reasonably go in the gaps. Nicholas Mann’s The Avebury Cosmos, for example, talks about what’s known about the skies over ancient Avebury, and what’s known about the construction process of the site, and what we could infer from this about how people might have been living and thinking. The line between certainty and possibility is clear. Taking a somewhat different approach, Laura Perry in Ariadne’s Thread explores what’s known about Minoan religion, and how we can blend that with modern Wicca to make a practice that works – again the lines are clearly drawn.

History can tell us a lot about what ancient people did – although it usually has to rely on physical evidence. It isn’t easy inferring belief from objects, although any surviving imagery (as with the Minoans) can be a great help. For this to be of use to a modern Pagan, rather than just of interest, the author has to handle how the past relates to the present. The value in a historically orientated book can often depend on how well the author deals with issues of relevance.

Books of history written by non-Pagans are different again, because history is not generally written with an eye to modern utility, so what we take from conventional approaches to history is down to us. Ronald Hutton’s books fall into this category, for the greater part. It’s generally easy to tell whether a book assumes you are curious, or intending to work with the content in some way. If there’s an assumption that you’re working with the content, watch out for how that’s being constructed for you.

Contemporary reporting

Some writing exists largely as a survey of modern belief or practice. I’d cite James Nichol’s Contemplative Druidry as an obvious example, or Mark Townsend’s Jesus through Pagan Eyes. Both books include a lot of voices, and give an overview of how certain things are seen, understood and approached. Paganism 101 from Moon Books functions in a similar way, giving snapshots into the values, practices and beliefs of 101 contemporary Pagans.

The strength of this kind of book is its lack of dogmatism – you can see an array of possibilities and no one is held up above another – what you like best is for you to decide. Seeing this array may give you a better sense of where you fit, or may inspire you to explore new avenues. Generally this kind of reporting doesn’t go into the kind of details that would allow you to really develop a personal path off the back of it, but it can be good for opening doors.


In this kind of book, the author writes specifically about first hand experiences. Emma Restall Orr has made this form her own, and Cat Treadwell is following that same tradition. Mark Townsend’s The Gospel of Falling Down is a powerful example of someone writing from personal experience, and it’s something I’ve tended towards in books like When a Pagan Prays, andDruidry and the Ancestors.

When experiential books work, they really work – the immediacy of experience, the intensity of what’s explored, the emotional depth and the detail can make these incredibly rich reads. If the author is not dogmatic and just offers their experience as nothing more than that, such books can open up a vista of possibilities for the reader. If the author insists on the primacy of their experience, I find that annoying, and less than helpful. Not all authors recognise the limitations of their own experiences and that what happens to them may not be universal. With this kind of writing, so much depends on whether you gel with the author as a person, and whether their outlook is resonant for you.


Academic writing may draw on history, psychology, anthropological studies, religious studies, or the experiential and contemporary reporting of other writers, and more. On the whole they are more reliable sources (although I’d make an exception for Dr Anne Ross and her shamelessly circular logic) for people seeking knowledge and insight. The linguistic style is often the deal breaker for readers – either you like the language and tone of academic books, or you don’t, there’s not much room on the fence with this one.

 Academic books tend to be amazing for bringing together a lot of information, but weaker in terms of giving you something you might use for personal practice. The exception here is philosophy, which is an inherently thinky and academic sort of subject such that the act of doing it naturally engages you with other people’s thinking and writing. Brendan Myers is without a doubt the go-to academic for all things relating to Pagan philosophy. He’s also a very accessible author who does not alienate his readers with language non-experts might find impenetrable.


There’s quite a diversity in how-to writing. This kind of book is practice orientated, and will give you information you can easily take away and apply to the doing of things. Some books can be very instructional, or actually function as courses. Melusine Draco’s witchcraft titles tend this way, with a reliable stream of exercises as part of each chapter. Some are much looser – Rachel Patterson for example tends to offer an array of things a person might do, and leaves it down to the reader to pick out what they want and how to order it. What works for you depends on whether you respond to structure, or prefer to have an array of materials to work with on your own terms.

Some how-to writing can be really vague, failing to offer enough clear steps to take the reader from where they are to where they want to be. Some can be over prescriptive, failing to recognise that readers are going to be a diverse bunch with a whole array of needs. At its best, the how-to books may be the most useful things you can possibly get your hands on, and it their worst, are useless. How the qualities of the author impact on you as a reader is critically important, and one person’s genius guru can be another person’s source of bemusement. They key is in getting a match for style.


Any kind of book can turn out to be awful. For someone new to Paganism, it can be hard to tell whether the problem is you, or the book, or just that you and the book are not suited to each other. Truly bad books can be damaging because they undermine confidence, put people off, or teach unhelpful things. It can be very hard to tell from the first few books you read whether the facts are solid or spurious. So, here are a few things to watch out for as signs that a book isn’t much good.

The author gives you a sense that they are amazing, but you never feel any closer to knowing how to be more like them. You feel unsafe reading the book. The author is pedalling a ‘one true way’ and does not allow any variations or alternatives. Circular logic is used. Sources are not mentioned. You can’t tell what is fact and what is theory. These are the books to put down and avoid.

If you don’t like the language, disagree with the author’s worldview, don’t like the teaching style, or otherwise feel unsatisfied, this is just a personality clash. We don’t all agree on everything, that’s fine, move on, learn a few things about what you do want and need in a book.

If an author makes total emotional sense to you, and you find them helpful, inspiring, encouraging and useful, keep them, but also keep looking around, because there are always more ideas to explore than any one author can give you.