Monday, July 19, 2010

Kaleidoscope Gathering Workshop: Registration

In case you don't know, Kaleidoscope Gathering is a pagan festival that takes place at the end of July. This year, I've decided to give a workshop that requires re-registration and I needed an open web-space to post it. 


Due to popular demand, I have decided to give a boffo-weapon making workshop at KG. These are the weapons used in the various Warrior Circles that have become so popular over the years.

However, because I need to buy the materials ahead of time (glue, pipe-insulation foam, duct tape, pvc piping, etc.), I need to know how many people there will be in the workshop.

Therefore I will be taking a maximum of 15 people for the workshop. Although this workshop can be of interest to everybody, kids from 8 to 13 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian (16 years +). 

Please send me an email (jdhobbes [at] to register yourself or your child for this workshop. The deadline to pre-register is July 25th 2010. Keep in mind that this workshop costs $5 per person (child and guardian count as one registrant).

If the demand is great enough, and the KG schedule can handle it, I may schedule a second workshop (assuming I can buy more materials in a nearby town).
Boffo Weapon Burgermeister

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bardic Etiquette

A Bardic is a type of pagan talent show and can include singing, music, dancing, acting, storytelling, poetry, magic, juggling, and more! A bardic usually involves several performers who each take the stage (or the centre of a circle) in turn, and the performances are usually less than 10 minutes long. Sometimes a bardic can involve judges and prizes, but it's often just a venue to showcase our community talent and while-away an evening.

A bardic is usually held at night around a campfire, although there have been venues with stages, lighting, and microphones. But a bardic is usually a low-tech, cozy, and home-grown evening of entertainment. 

Bardic Etiquette applies to both the bard and the audience. The Bard and the listeners both enter into a pact where the listeners pledge to open themselves to the bard, and the bard pledges to share something inspiring. The chances of the Bard failing in this pact are as epic as the legends of old, and if the Bard is not ready to move his listeners, his listeners will move away, leaving the Bard powerless.

Truly, a Bard without an audience is a fool talking to himself. This is why the Bard needs to pick his material carefully, rehearse it methodically, and deliver it passionately. Any power he wields over his audience is given freely to him; it is not wielded solely by him and it certainly is never lorded over his audience (or at least, not for long).

When a bard performs a piece in a bardic, the audience is expected to:

* turn off their cellphones
* be respectful towards the performing bard
* be quiet, attentive, and responsive
* support the bard by participating when asked
* show appreciation at the end of a performance (applause)

When the audience gives the bard a venue in which he can perform, the bard is expected to:

* have selected, prepared, and rehearsed his performance
* speak in a loud, clear voice (where appropriate)
* make eye contact with the audience as much as possible
* speak respectfully and eloquently
* present a piece that fits within the Bardic theme
* perform within the agreed time-limits 

This is a really touchy subject, both for the bards and the audience. Some say that no one should heckle the performers, while others say that a bard should expect and know how to deal with heckling. Some people even think heckling is a venue for expressing consequence-free abuse. Heckling is an attempt to distract or disparage the bard during his performance, ruining the performance itself and potentially humiliating the bard. 

As an absolute rule, you should NEVER attempt to humiliate a performer, no matter how bad you think the performance is. It doesn't make you a hero, it doesn't make you a good person, and it can do incalculable damage to the artist. Having the courage to stand before any group of people and lay yourself bare before them is no small feat; having a person simply take that risk deserves your respect. Most performers will tell you that performing for a crowd is terrifying, so part of bardcraft is learning how to master that fear and use it to better your performance.

The Bard has craft something beautiful that he wants to share with you, the audience. Give him a chance to do that, and if you don't like it, it'll soon be over and you can move on to the next Bard. If you can't stand the performance, then maybe you shouldn't be in the audience in the first place. You can always walk away. 

Trying to destroy a Bard during his performance from the comfortable safety of an anonymous crowd is an act of cowardice. Hurtful hecklers are bullies who cannot stand to see someone else live the glory that they are too afraid to seek for themselves. They should be pitied, but not tolerated.

How a Bard can Deal with a Heckler

There's no way to predict how an audience will act during a performance, so it's best to be ready for anything. The Bard needs to understand that anything can happen, accept it, and even relish it. It's the dangerous beauty of live performance. But if you need to deal with a Heckler, here are some suggestions:

1. If someone shouts out something that adds to your story, find a way to work it in. If you can't work it in to your performance, take a moment to give a smirk in the direction of the caller, and then move on with your performance.

2. If one or more people continue to make too much noise, stop your performance and wait for them to quieten down. The rest of the audience will usually tell them to shut up. DO NOT attempt to silence them by shouting back: this only feeds their satisfaction in controlling you.

3. If a person shouts out something derogatory ("YOU SUCK!!"), try to ignore it and move on with your performance. If the abuse continues, stop your performance and wait for them to quieten down. The rest of the audience will usually tell them to shut up. If you know who this person is, find them after the show and make them explain why they felt the need to say such awful things. DO NOT deal with it during your performance.

4. If you keep getting interrupted, walk away from the stage quietly. You have failed to hold the audience's attention, so take your lumps, move on, and learn. Maybe your material wasn't right for the show, maybe you weren't ready, and maybe the audience wasn't ready. Maybe you need to revisit your performance and figure out what went wrong (length, timing, language, topic, etc.) Try to keep your ego under control and take this failure as a chance to be better next time. 

Note: I have rarely seen this happen in a formal bardic; it usually happens during an informal gathering of friends or colleagues. It's important to realize that sometimes you need to pick your moments and your audiences carefully. If you're surrounded by children, telling them a 2-hour epic tale will not hold their attention. If you're in the company of adults, leading a "Little Bunny Foo Foo" sing-along won't always go over well. If the adults are drunk, their attention span may be too limited for even a short performance. 

Audience Participation

There is a way for the audience to take part in the Bard's performance in a positive, constructive way. Some Bards may see this as a dangerous suggestion, but I know that audience can be so enthralled with a performance that they may call out to the Bard as a show of support. 

When in doubt, don't shout. If the Bard is young in his career, you should refrain from calling out until he gains more experience and more confidence. You can test the waters by calling out encouraging words or something appropriate to the story. For example, if the Bard is singing a song about a beautiful woman, you could burst out with exclamations ("Wooohoo! Hawt Girl! Sexy!"). If the Bard is encouraged by this, he may feel confident enough to adlib his way through the song based on what the audience is giving him. 

You could also engage in known cliches, challenging the Bard to respond in kind. Again, if the Bard is telling a story about a beautiful woman, you could call out "How beautiful WAS she?" The Bard should be able to roll with that without missing a beat ("She was so beautiful that she looked just like you!"). 

To know when it is appropriate to call out anything more challenging to the Bard, you need to take the time to get to know the Bard first. Maybe talk to him about his performance, find out how he feels about audience participation, maybe even warn him that you will say something during his performance, so he should be ready for it.

But in all cases of audience participation, keep it short. The Bard is the main attraction, not you. What you want to do is add to his performance rather than take away or distract. Anything more than a few words of encouragement or challenge can damage or destroy the sacred moment between performer and the audience. If you have more to say, then swallow your fear and walk into that Bardic space yourself. Until then, respect the Bards that choose to take that risk.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Podcast featuring Gerald Gardner

My friend Rikki has done a presentation on Gerald Gardner, the father of modern Wicca, on his podcast Kakophonos.

You can listen to it here:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celtic Spirits

We're mired well and good in the part of the 101 course I like to affectionately call Deity-Palooza and yesterday, Diane did her presentation on the Celts and the Egyptians.

By pure coincidence, I happened to notice this film on the website called Celtic Spirits and thought you might find it interesting. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

3rd Trimester assignments

There seems to be some confusion over the assignments over the next few weeks. Let me attempt to clarify:

1. I did a presentation on the history of paper, writing, and binding. Your homework is to write a 3 page paper (double-spaced) on an aspect of that presentation, which is due in 3 weeks.

2. For the next six weeks, we'll be doing 10 minute presentations on various deity systems and cultures. Every week, you will pick a new culture a prepare a 10 minute presentation on it (where you need to talk about one God and one Goddess).

3. At the end of these six weeks, you will write two final papers on a God and Goddess of your choice from any culture you want.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

West Island's Avalon Centre

This past weekend, the West Island's Avalon Centre hosted a public Bealtane ritual that got over 90 people in attendance. I'm so jealous!

Our class was honored and pleased to be visited by Yvon who gave an excellent lecture on Therapeutic Touch.
 Thanks Yvon!

For more information about Avalon Centre and Wiccan Sacred Circle:

Avalon Centre:
Wiccan Sacred Circle:

Monday, May 03, 2010

Guest Speaker for the Next Class

Just a reminder that this week's class is the Sabbat exam followed by a presentation on Therapeutic Touch. I have confirmed that the presenter will be coming to us (rather than us going to him in the West Island), so please remember to bring your $5.

Please continue reading those chapters in the Pagans and Christians book so that we can continue discussing them in class.

I'll also be expecting the second installment of your elememtal presentations.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Follow-up on the Gus DiZerega lecture

I contacted Gus about the story and this is the response I got:
Hi Hobbes-
It was many years ago- when Nixon went and Alsop (Stewart or Joseph- I don't remember, but it seems to be Stewart) got appendicitis and wrote a piece about watching it being removed via a mirror the docs gave him. That's all I remember - that and the reaction of the head of Yale's med school.
I just googled around and found another mention of what I remember here
This article gives some details I do not remember, but there is no mention of the head of Yale's med school saying it couldn't be true because their theories told them pain did not work that way.- so we likely are remembering the same column.
The Univ. of Maryland Medical Center discusses acupuncture in a way that fits Alsop's report, but does not mention him. (scroll down the article)
I think it was roo far back to be in Google. If you can find a copy of Alsop's columns (not his Saturday Evening Post pieces) and look around the time he accompanied Nixon to China, you'll find it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Context of Examples in a Lecture

I had the students listen to a lecture given by Gus DiZerega at the Toronto Pagan Conference called Return the Divine Feminine. This exercise did not go over well, as it turns out, because not everyone shares my love of listening to lectures.

One of my students complained that Gus tends to ramble in his lectures, talking about stuff that has seemingly nothing to do with the topic at hand. "He tells a story about a guy in a hospital being operated on. What does that have to do with the Goddess?"

I hadn't listened to the lecture in quite awhile, so I couldn't remember that part of the lecture. I have relistened to the lecture and now understand the point he was trying to make.

Gus was talking about how the existing patriarchal society is very resistant to any radical change, despite the evidence to the contrary. It has very rigid boundaries that define what is real and what is false, and it is therefore quick to label anything that falls outside of its box as wrong and not to be considered, especially if it contradicts the main point or mission statement (despite any presented evidence).

Therefore, a rigid patriarchal society would definitely resist any notion of a Divine Feminine model, despite any historical or logical arguments that could be made for it. The same held true for any new spiritual traditions being introduced in a culture dominated by Judeo-Christian religions. This fell outside of what was deemed to be acceptable and was, at best, rejected or, at worst, vilified.

The example that Gus presents about the man being operated on illustrates how resistant the society was to new ideas, especially if it contradict was accepted to be true. The thinking at the time was incapable of imaging a new idea:
Also, you saw the rise in non-traditional and holistic approaches to health. [...] And these methods of health assume very, very different models of reality than the sort-of mechanistic model of mainstream medicine that occurred at that time, where mind could have no effect whatsoever on the body because we all know that mind is not material and body is material, and therefore mind is an offshoot... 

I still remember when Nixon went to China to open up China for the United States. An American columnist named Stewart Alsop went with him and this really [...] typifies the difference. Alsopp, a major columnist for the New York Times, goes to China with Nixon and gets appendicitis, so he has to go to a Chinese hospital to have his appendix removed.  He writes a column about how the Chinese gave him a mirror so he could watch while they opened him up and take his appendix out. And they stuck these *needles* in him and it seemed to work! 

I still vividly remember an interview with the head of medicine at Yale who said "This is impossible because our studies prove that pain doesn't work this way. So Alsopp was really deceived!"

What is going on is a society that is utterly committed in model of science to boundaries: firm boundaries that are not crossed.
So if the thinking at the time was so rigid that it would not believe that acupuncture could be real and something to be studied, how could they possible embrace the idea of the feminine being divine in a rigidly patriarchal society?

I tried to find a link to this story, but couldn't come up with anything. I'll try asking Gus on this blog and maybe he'll be able to provide a link. I hope that clears up the context.

Major and Minor Sabbbats

As I do every time I talk about the Sabbats, I forget why they are labeled as Major and Minor. I promised the class I would look this up.

It turns out that the dates for the Major Sabbats fall on the first days of the months, while the Minor Sabbats occur in the midpoints (ish) of the months. Therefore:

Major Sabbats:
  • Samhain: October 31st - November 1st
  • Imbolc: February 1st
  • Bealtane: May 1st
  • Lammas: August 1st

Minor Sabbats:
  • Yule: December 20-22
  • Ostara: March 19-21
  • Litha: June 20-22
  • Mabon: September 20-22

There is an excellent article on the Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year at Wikipedia:

Please ignore what I said about Samhain being on October 22. I think I may have been on teh goofballs.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

No Class Tonight!

It's April 7th and there's no class tonight! See you next week!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Class Films online

It turns out that I've blogged about the films I show in class before. You can watch the NFB films online at the NFB's website.

You can read more about it here:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pagan Sunday Brunch for March 2010

March 28th 2010, 10 am sharp
Resto Burgers & Benedicts
2313 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest (AMC)
(514) 228-5210
Breakfast: <$15
Facebook Event page

Winter is on its way out, but a hearty breakfast and excellent company can help to stave off the cold!

No level of pagan experience is necessary, but as long as you can wield a knife and fork like a guru master, you'll be respected and admired by your peers.

This is a kid-friendly event, so feel free to bring your offspring.

If you have any questions, send me a message on FB or email me at jdhobbes @ If you don't know anybody, don't fret. Ask the resto guys for Hobbes or look for the pentacle.


Resto Burgers & Benedicts is in the Pepsi Forum that houses the AMC Movie theatre and is across Atwater from Alexis Nihon.

Get to Atwater metro (Green line), cross Atwater from Alexis Nihon, and enter the Pepsi Forum. Its the first resto inside.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I have a couple of announcements to make about next class and April 7th:

Next class (March 31st), if you have one, please bring a USB flash drive to class that have at least 120 MB free on it. I have three lectures I want to give you. If you don't have a USB flash drive, I'll give you a CD with the lectures on it.

April 7th: There is no class because Scarlet will not be available on that day. The test will be on April 14th.

See you next week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Male Symbols

At some point during the class, I need to draw symbols and shapes on the white board. This is really difficult for me because I don't draw terribly well. It's pretty embarrassing really, so I'm going to try to make it up here on the blog with some proper images.

Oddly, it's the male symbols that are incredibly detailed and therefore, very difficult to draw accurately. Here are some of the male symbols we talked about that I could not draw accurately.

From Wikipedia:
"Cernunnos (also Cernenus[1] and Cern) is a Celtic god whose representations were widespread in the ancient Celtic lands of western Europe. Cernunnos is associated with horned male animals, especially stagsram-horned snake; this and other attributes associate him with produce and fertility.[2] Cernunnos is also associated mainly as the God of the Underworld." and the

From Wikipedia :
The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

Check out this site for really cool leather Greenman masks.

From Wikipedia:
White deer hold a place in the mythology of many cultures. The Celtic people considered them to be messengers from the otherworld; it also played an important role in other pre-Indo-European cultures, especially in the north.[1][2] The Celts believed that the white stag would appear when one was transgressing a taboo, such as when Pwyll tresspassed into Arawn's hunting grounds.[2] Arthurian legend states that the creature has a perennial ability to evade capture; and that the pursuit of the animal represents mankind's spiritual quest.[3] It also signalled that the time was nigh for the knights of the kingdom to pursue a quest.[2]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Snakes and Bladders: Celebrating All Snakes Day

Although Montreal celebrates St. Patrick's Day on a Sunday with its annual parade, March 17th is the actual St. Patrick's Day, which in 2010 falls on a Wednesday. Historically, St. Patrick is one of Christianity’s best-known and most-loved saints who is credited with banishing all snakes from Ireland.

Of course, there never have been any snakes in Ireland for St. Patrick to banish, so we understand that the snakes actually represent the pagans and their beliefs that were replaced by Christian doctrine. Critics often point out that this day is mainly an excuse for the population to drink excessively and wear garishly green clothing.

At face value, the spirit of St. Patrick's Day has certainly been hijacked by boorish behaviour, but it's certainly not the only holiday in which that happens. Let's take a look at the other seasonal celebrations we have and consider their excesses:
  • For Summer, we have St. Jean Baptist Day and Canada Day.
  • For Fall, we have Thanksgiving and Halloween.
  • For Winter, we have Christmas/Yule and New Year's Day.
  • For Spring, we have St. Patrick's Day and Easter.
As far as I can tell, Easter is the only holiday where the worst thing that can happen is cracking a tooth on too much chocolate (Halloween can be accused of that too, but there is more boozing in scary masks than at Easter). So why does St. Patrick's Day get all the criticism?

What are we really celebrating in March? If you take a look outside, you'll no doubtedly notice that the snow has mostly melted away and the days are sunnier. The Vernal Equinox is nigh, signalling the coming of Spring and Summer, a time of growth, rebirth, and warmth. After three months of darkness and cold, St Patrick’s Day is our moment to cast off the dark shroud of winter and welcome the warmth of the sun and the rebirth of nature.

From a pagan perspective, many modern-day pagans refuse to celebrate or even acknowledge this day. The image of our pagan forefathers fleeing the threat of Christianity is not a pleasant thought. But just as our modern-day pagan pioneers attempted to reclaiming the word "witch", I should think pagans can attempt to reclaim the spirit of the Vernal Equinox celebration known as St. Patrick's Day.

If we're going to reclaim the mythology of this day, then we can tongue-in-cheek add our own take on the myth. If St. Patrick's Day celebrates the day when the patron saint of Ireland seemingly drove all the snakes from Ireland, then we can celebrate "All Snakes Day": the day the Druids tricked St. Patrick into thinking the snakes had been banished.

After all, we snakes are still here and we are thriving! We're lean, green, Pagan machines who welcome the Sun God and the Green Goddess with open arms, excited with what the warmer seasons have to offer in terms of their bounty and boundless possibilities. Just like the snake who sheds his outer skin, so do we shed our warm, protective clothing and feel the warmth on our faces and skin. We may even hoist a horn of mead or ale to share with our kith and kin, bringing family and friends together to make plans and celebrate the friendship that got us through the darker winter days.

So Happy All Snakes Day to you, fellow pagans! Go out and revel in the heat that warms your snake skin. And I will raise a toast to you and yours while we enjoy the longer days together. As for St. Patrick? It's only fitting that we extend him some Irish hospitality for his special day if he'll lower his ash staff and share a pint or two with us.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ritualized Quarterly Directions

Last week, we were covering the five elements in terms of their traditional associations (direction, gender, symbols, etc.) when one of my students wondered why each element was linked to its compass point (earth: North, water: West, air: East, fire: South). I was stumped to explain the mythological evolution of this association, so I promised I'd look it up.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really find anything satisfying in my books about it, other than "This is the way it is". So I turned to the Internet and asked the question to Yahoo Answers. Aside from some asinine responses which basically said I was a fool to believe in such nonsense and I would soon find myself in concrete galoshes in a lake of fire, I got these two great responses:

From katyask
I can tell you about Native American element and compass correlation.

East (Red-fire/heat) - The direction from which the sun comes. Light dawns in the morning and spreads over the earth.

South (Yellow-earth) - warmth and growing, the sun's rays are powerful in drawing life from the earth. It is said the life of all things comes from the south. also, warm and pleasant winds come from the south.

West (black-water) - To the west, the sun sets, and the day ends. For this reason, west signifies the end of life and sends thunder and : rain, lakes, streams and rivers. nothing can live without water, so the west is vital.

North (white-air) - North brings the cold, harsh winds of the winter season. These winds are cleansing. They cause the leaves to fall and the earth to rest under a blanket of snow.

From Cosimo )O( Basta!
That is the normal convention in the Western tradition. I believe the circle is analogous both to the wheel of the year and to the ages of a human lifespan:

East for Spring, when the wind stirs in the new foliage - air;
South for Summer, when the sun swells the grain - fire;
West for Autumn, when rivers rise and fog swirls - water;
North for Winter, when all things await rebirth and the Goddess welcomes us back to her embrace.

East for sunrise and West for sunset mirror the sun's annual cycle in the daily cycle. And for those in the northern hemisphere, the sun's heat always comes from the south. In European pagan traditions, North is ever a place of magic and mystery, the home of the gods.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gus DiZerga's Blog

The author of Pagans and Christians (which is required reading in the Level 1 class) has a blog which I highly enourage you to follow. It deals with very challenging issues and topics in the neo-pagan world, and not a single spell on how to cure the common cold.

A Pagan's Blog by Gus DiZerga

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Music and Improv

In the last class, we talked about Improvisation and being creative as part of a ritual process. I had the students experiment with improvisation by listening to music and either drawing or writing free form. The musical pieces I played this time were as follows:

Le Reel des Soucoupes Volantes: La Bottine Souriante
Latin Jam: Beau Kavanaugh and the Broken Hearted
Mumbles: Terry Clark and Oscar Peterson
Pagan Soldier: Dragon Ritual Drummers
Team Fortress 2 - Theme 1: Orange Box
Santiago & Sevilla: The Paperboys

Also, Ryan mentioned a local shop called Charme & Sortilege that supposedly played one of the pagan songs. It's not playing the song we mentioned right now, but maybe it'll cycle through eventually. I tried searching for recorded pagan songs/chants on the web, but many of the links are broken. Maybe the MPRC should try to record these songs...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New students for 2010

A big shout-out to my new set of students for 2010! We just had our first class and I'm very excited to start this new session with them. We had five students to start and there are three others on their way (they couldn't attend the first class for a variety of reasons).

In case they've come to peek at this blog, I will take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my new show this weekend. Go visit my podcast site to learn more about it.

See you all in a week!