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Norfolk and Waveney Inter-faith Environment Forum and COP 28 - 7th December 2023

Chris Wood writes…

Today, the Norfolk and Waveney Inter-faith Environment Forum issued a statement about COP 28, with Anglican, Baha'i, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish, Pagan and Quaker signatories.

We, the undersigned, members of different faith groups within Norfolk, state the following in the light of the on-going discussions of the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

On the 23rd November 2003, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General said

"Countries must commit to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency and bring clean power to all, by 2030. And they must also commit to phasing out fossil fuels, with a clear time frame aligned to the 1.5-degree limit."

As a Norfolk Inter-Faith Coalition on Creation Care, we call upon our global representatives to make just and righteous decisions at the COP28 climate conference by:

To achieve peace on earth, we must also achieve peace with the earth, and with each other.

Professor Peter Belton (Norwich Quaker Meeting)
Revd Canon Dr Mark Dimond (Kings Lynn Minster)
David Griffith (Chair of Norwich Interfaith Link, Christian)
Nirajamani Anna Grubb (Ordained Buddhist)
Liz Hoffbauer (Norfolk and Waveney Church Leaders’ Representative for the Quakers)
Fazlun Khalid (Founder, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences)
The Revd Canon David Longe (Chair of the Diocese of Norwich Environmental Working Group, Anglican)
Anthony McCarthy (Secretary Baha'i Faith - Norwich community)
Marsha Parker (Jewish Inter Faith member)
Chris Wood (Norwich Pagan Moot)

Hallowtide: A Dark Devotional - 27th October 2023

Covers of Val Thomas' new book, with a pumpkin and a seasonal altar.

Val Thomas writes…

I am delighted to announce that my new book, 'Hallowtide: A Dark Devotional', is now available to pre-order from the wonderful Troy Books. Standard hardback and paperback editions will follow!

The book explores the sacred days between Hallowe’en and Martinmas, a moment of the year which offers a deep well of dark magic.

As the leaves yellow and fall, and pavements and forest tracks are covered in fairy gold, much that is strange and disturbing, yet exquisitely beautiful, emerges from the swirling mists. In the darkness, surrounded by the scent of decay, we feel keenly our own mortality and the presence of those who have died recently or long ago: family members, distant ancestors, friends and beloved animal companions. By indulging our emotions at this time, we embrace life with greater intensity.

The book casts its spell through personal memories and reflections on joy and loss, woven together with a little of the history and folklore of these holy days. It includes spells, recipes and pathworkings.

There are also nine Dark Devotions, powerful, tried-and-tested rituals which can be adapted to suit the tastes of the various streams of witchcraft and magical practice. They are perfect for the dark times but most are suitable for working throughout the year.

Beautifully illustrated by Alice Kerridge-Crick, this book will make you laugh, cry, reflect on life and loss and embrace the melancholy of the season while always acknowledging that renewal, growth and blossoming will return.

Of Hazel Trees and Kings - 8th May 2023

Picture of a yellow Dahlia flower against a flint wall.

Chris Wood writes…

We have a new King. Pagans have varied opinions on the monarchy, from republicans to those who believe in the monarch as the representative of Sovereignty and see Charles III as a new Arthur. Personally, I'm in the middle, neither accepting the divine status of modern royalty nor being convinced that a republic is any better (as we don’t as yet seem to have produced a properly functioning parliamentary democracy). The Coronation ceremony on 6th May was full of magic and history – all with perfectly Christian rationale - and the processions were expertly choreographed. I was disappointed that the helicopter fly-past wasn’t accompanied by Ride of the Valkyries, but I’m sure I heard a couple of comments from Thor in quieter moments of the ceremony!

However, hopes that the new King will be a ‘defender of faith’, instead of ‘the faith’ were dashed, as he agreed to maintain the status and privileges of the Anglican Church, although he did pledge to be a blessing to people of all faiths. So, alongside his Green credentials, Charles may help restrain the dead hand of secularism. Perhaps.

However, media-fuelled speculation about Charles having some Pagan thoughts, provoked particularly by the nature-filled decoration on the Coronation invitation and its ‘Green Man’ foliate head, was also shown to be unfounded. Non-Christian faiths were represented formally - Jews, Muslims, Bahá’ís, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians - but Pagans were conspicuous by their absence; there wasn't even a Druid.

Here in Norwich, things may be a bit more positive. One likes to welcome the hand of friendship when it is offered in good faith. As reported below, I am involved in the Norfolk and Waveney Inter-Faith Environment Forum, set up by the Anglican Bishop of Norwich (prompted by Muslims). And I was invited as a faith representative to the Coronation celebration service at Norwich Cathedral on 7th May. It was presided over by the Bishop of Norwich, who had assisted Queen Camilla the previous day, and included a quote from the King read by a Buddhist and a passage from the Old Testament chanted in Hebrew by a Jew. At the end, faith representatives were given a hazel sapling, and the Bishop drew attention to Julian of Norwich, whose commemoration day was the 8th, whose visions have meaning beyond Christianity and with whom hazelnuts have particular resonance.

These days, fewer people identify as Christian, but there is still an established Church. Sometimes one gets the feeling that said Church might like to play a role as a kind of hub for faiths, linking them to civic society in an inclusive fashion – although that might not work for either its evangelical or its conservative wings. Apart from anything else, the Church is in charge of a great number of sanctified places around the country that are centres for local communities and focal points for spiritual power in the land. It may need a new role in a society where there are many faiths and spirituality is seen as a threat by secularism. We will see what happens, but I for one will tend the hazel tree gift, accept the genuine hand of friendship (but, of course, beware co-option), and continue working with the gods and spirits of the land – and if others want to compare notes, even if discreetly, then that is all well and good!

Good News - April 2023

Image of the hardback. Image of the special edition. Image of the paperback.

Val Thomas' new book, Bounded in a Nutshell: Lockdown, Magic and Infinite Space, is now available for purchase in both hardcover and paperback from Troy Books! It takes the reader on a journey through the recent pandemic as seen by a magical practitioner: a potent expression of the power of magic, community and hope. Buy a signed copy from Val at an inperson talk or workshop!

Towards a Multifaith Flowering? 15th November 2022

Picture of a yellow Dahlia flower against a flint wall.

Chris Wood writes…

I have just returned from a breakfast meeting at the (Anglican) Bishop’s House… It was the first gathering of a ‘Multi-Faith Forum on the Care for Creation’ for Norfolk and Waveney, hosted by Bishop Graham Usher (Diocese of Norwich) and inspired by the work of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences. Invitations went out to a variety of faith and inter-faith groups and nine people joined the Bishop and his staff around the table this morning. Not everyone could make half-past eight on a Tuesday, but Anglicans, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Quakers and Unitarians were represented. It was quite satisfying to see the ‘P’ word on my name card at such a gathering!

As an initial meeting, there was quite a lot of icebreaking discussion, but we found a heartening amount of common ground between our different traditions in terms of a recognition of human responsibility to the environment and nature – although our ways of expressing it were diverse. In particular, Hindu and Muslim representatives talked of long-standing aversion to waste and of nature being as family (Hindu) and being full of signs (Muslim). The Pagan perspectives I was able to bring seemed to be valued, going by the nodding of heads around the table.

We all recognised that none of us is perfect, of course, and all of us have a long way to go both in terms of carrying our communities with us through the changes the climate crisis alone makes necessary and in terms of implementing environment-friendly practices. For instance, the Christian ‘Eco Churches’ initiative may have found that many of its buildings are nearly carbon neutral, as they have no electricity, heating or running water(!), but how their congregations travel to them hasn’t been factored into the equation. We do what we can from where we find ourselves. Unitarians and Quakers have problems retrofitting their listed buildings, but run recycling schemes, help refugees (many here as a result of the impacts of climate change already) and support campaigns for change.

What can the forum do? Well, we can talk and that can lead to useful initiatives that bring faith communities together. We can share ideas and, maybe, have some influence in civil society. The voices of people and organisations with a faith or spiritual perspective are many, but our very diversity means that we can be atomised and swept under the carpet, while secular society carries on with business as usual (despite the grandstanding of COP27). It is right that no one religion should be tied to the machinations of government, and that having no faith is a valid choice, but the heart of most faiths’ perspectives on sustainability – even if expressed variously – is exactly what is missing from our Western (and increasingly global) economic and political model. If our varied traditions can stand together on the key environmental issues, and the humanitarian crises that derive from them, if we can agree on the language, then perhaps such unity in our diversity can repair some of the collective soul-loss in human society, undo some of the damage to Mother Earth and help steer us away from the brink of ecological collapse.

(The image is of a dahlia flower, fresh-picked from the Bishop’s garden, which each participant was given on departure.)

Sad News - 18th June 2022

Picture of Michael Clarke from 2001.

Val Thomas writes…

We are very sad to announce the death of Michael Clarke. He has been a stalwart of Norwich Moot since the 1990s, attending most of the events and making an important contribution to the Pagan/magical community. He was also a key figure in the Silver Dawn Moot in Great Yarmouth and later in the Stone Circle Moot. Many of you will know him from the fabulous, entertaining talks he has given over the years on a vast range of topics as he was an extremely knowledgeable man. He was a great ritualist and operative magician and many people in this group have worked magically with him. He was also a good and loyal friend to many of us and he will be sorely missed. We extend our condolences to his family and to those here who will feel his loss keenly. This is upsetting news and the organisers would like you to know that we are here if you feel you need someone to talk to. Just give us a call or send us a message if you would like to chat.

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