The Author's Corner
Patchwork of Magic: Living in a Pagan World
Sinking Atlantis: Spirituality Meets the Real World
Between Earth and Sky
Patchwork of Magic:
TWPT: When was it that you first consciously realized that your spiritual path was not to be along a more orthodox route but in the unique direction you have since gone?
JD: Err... couldn't we start with something simple? Like, What is my name?
I realised that I was somehow different and seeing things differently when I was a child. That was before I understood words like "consciously" and "orthodox". I guess I was able to put a name to it in my twenties when I began to meet other Pagans.
TWPT: What were some of your early memories as to how these new ideas and beliefs began to surface in your everyday life?
JD: I began to realise at Junior school that other people appeared to be playing a game that I did not know the rules to. They were all pretending things that often did not make sense. It was vitally important to them however to continue to play this game by the accepted rules, or they would be ostracised.
I would play games, like for instance, a toy roulette game and expect to win counters by guessing black or red correctly. (Unfortunately, this only seems to work if it is a game without profit!) I also could influence the fall of dice, but only used in "emergencies". For instance, in a Dungeons and Dragons game, we had sat around until four o'clock in the morning trying to guess information. I decided that my elf character was going to contact a nature deity for help. I was given a one in ten thousand chance of success. I missed it when the Dungeon Master rolled the dice and got a four rather than a one on the last roll. All those zeros! He said that he had never seen a run like it!
When I was a young teenager, a national newspaper sealed something in a safe and asked people to guess what it was. I thought, "It's a bird! A white bird! What is it doing in a safe?" I did not write to them. When the answer was published, no one had guessed correctly. The safe contained a china dove. If only I had written! I could have been another Uri Geller! (It would be a real bind having to use plastic spoons all the time though.)
I just thought this all fairly normal. I did not know that most people are trained not to do it. At secondary school, I remember a child claiming I was a witch and others saying, "Don't let Julia go in there" when we went to visit a cave reputed to belong to a witch, but did not really put it all together.
Other things happened, which I suppose do to those with any sensitivity. As a teenager, I "saw" a black triangle form around a friend outside an old church. It was a bad energy. Goodness knows what naughtiness had been homing in on that little incident. What a strange world, that tries to deny these things! In a sensible culture, sensitives would be trained from an early age.
TWPT: Was there any Wiccan/Pagan community to speak of at the time that you started practicing Wicca? How did you go about making that first contact and what was the experience like for you?
JD: When I was in my twenties, I met a witch family. I played Dungeons and Dragons with them and talked about a few things. I began to meet other Pagans through a re-enactment society. These people were solitary or worked in small groups.
I began to put names to my feelings, but I did not always like them. There was a lot of bad press involved in the whole representation of Pagan beliefs.
One night, it was Beltaine. I was still living with my parents. A great urge came over me. I ran up the road and up onto the golf course. There was a great full moon in the sky. I raised my arms to the moon and the word "Sister" formed. I did not know about drawing down the moon then. That was, of course, what I was doing.
Then, one person that I knew went up to London. They came back with tales of meeting many Pagans and of a "conference" even! This all sounded very exciting and quite unlikely. How could so many Pagan folk meet each other?
TWPT: What were your feelings as to how you wanted to practice your faith at this point in time? Any leanings toward either a solitary path or a coven based one at this juncture?
JD: I do not tend to plan things. When I "work" it can be quite amusing to those who know to realise that the part of my brain that should remember scripts simply does not appear to engage! One time, they cut the massive number of words that they wanted me to say down to "Hail and Welcome" and "Hail and Farewell". I forgot my lines! I was aware though of the energies of what was happening to the people in the practical meditation that I led. (Madness really, I was blissfully un-experienced with such things.)
It was wonderful to work with others. But, there were draw-backs. Not least, those "sharks" and "psychic vampires" who await the blooming innocents who jump into the public world of Paganism with naive delight. I was bounced through several painful learning curves.
The main thing that stopped me wanting to join a coven, was that the only form of Paganism being actively promoted was that of the Gardnerian and Alexandrain Wiccans, and they all took their clothes off! I did not fancy this one bit! It is still noticeable, at a Pagan camp, the modern Wiccans all jump into a joint shower starkers and the Traditional folk are hanging round the edges, waiting until it gets dark or wearing swimming costumes!
I met my husband, Jon. He belonged to a Traditional Celtic group. However, fired up with enthusiasm with a "new way of working" they had all disrobed too! Anyway, I only worked with Jon in that way. If the energy can pass through the walls of a house or flow around the world, why on Earth should me showing off bits of me that I do not wish to show to all and sundry make it better? Anyway, it is far too cold for comfort in Britain most of the time! And where do you keep your hanky?
TWPT: Were there any writings or books within or without the Wiccan/Pagan community that influenced your path and how you practiced?
JD: The main books available were by Stewart and Janet Farrar. And they had photographs of them with no clothes on! Like, for a while, you could not be a sociable Pagan unless you were going to drop your garments! Gerald Gardener had first published information, but the Farrars organised it and made sense of it. Traditional groups soaked up the information along with "new" converts. Many Traditional groups had survived for generations on an initiation ceremony and a few jam recipes. (I am being rude again, but honestly, they do not have massive "grimoires" containing intricately written rites. Most of the old witches could not read or write for goodness sake!)
Clothing issues aside, these wonderful new books were representing Paganism in a slightly narrow light. The Farrars did a marvelous job, making sense of much, but views of other Pagan aspects were needed. Jon and I founded Capall Bann Publishing. We wanted to increase the number of books out there covering Pagan issues. We cover others too, but Paganism is what we wished to promote at first.
TWPT: When was it that writing surfaced as a viable way for you to communicate your own ideas with the community at large? What was your first effort in that regard and how do you feel about it looking back on it from here?
JD: Eventually, I "came out of the closet". A male homosexual Pagan told us that it was harder to "come out" as a Pagan than a gay. Anyway, we have done it. Mostly. But the neighbours had guessed we were odd anyway. Jon built a flint rose arch. "Is that some sort of deity?" they asked. I mean, who TOLD them? We thought it would make a nice temple, but how did they guess?
"Patchwork of Magic" was first published in 1994. I put my name on it and went from there. Now I am an admitted eccentric. My brother is an officer in the army. He has had major security checks. I suspect that he quite enjoys telling them about his odd sister. When I was re-enacting Celtic times, I was in a "para-military organisation"! Wow!
"A viable way for me to communicate my ideas..."? Errgh! I just write what I feel. Running a publishing company helps me to publish that. I guess that is cheating!
"Patchwork of Magic" is funny. When I tried to describe Pagan groups in a serious manner, it just kept coming out in a funny way. People tell me that they keep the book by their bed and read it when they are having a down session and it always makes them laugh. They write to say that they have laughed out loud in shops and on buses reading it. It is the Truth that makes it funny. I reckon that is quite a compliment. We need more laughter (and mirth as the Charge of the Goddess says.)
TWPT: What is it that you want to achieve with your books/writings within and outside the Wiccan/Pagan community? Do you keep this thought in mind as you write your books or does it naturally surface in the way that you phrase things and express your feelings?
JD: Oh no! I am supposed to have an aim behind this? If you want to paint, must you have an aim? If you want to make gloriously wonky pottery, must you have an aim? I guess I want to communicate a few Truths. Most of all, I want people to find their own Truths. And to realise that Truths change all the time as we grow. Do not follow dogma. Do not follow "leaders". Follow your own Truth and good luck in finding it, because it is not always easy! You chose a difficult planet to incarnate on. The "human" course is not an easy option. As I wrote somewhere, "... if you wanted an easy option, you would have taken up macrame." (That is tying string together in knots to make something, rather than hitting people in a very spiritual way, for anyone confused.)
TWPT: Do you feel that your writing is simply an expression of what is inside you or do you view yourself as a teacher to those who might not otherwise have someone physically present?
JD: These questions are getting harder, aren't they! I express what is in me. I hope that it helps others, or at least, gives them a laugh. If it does not, they do not need to read the books. I hope they find what they need elsewhere.
TWPT: What are your feelings towards those who learn all that they know of the Craft from the books that they buy? Do you think that this is a viable way to learn of our spiritual path?
JD: Learn what you can from anywhere! We are in the age of communication. Look at the Internet! It is designed for massive communication around the globe. There are those who would have taken it over for power and control, but the other side are protecting it. Learn, learn, learn! What did you choose to be a human being for? You could have been an Amoeba, floating around on a planet full of friendly dolphins. But you enrolled for the full human being course. Well done you brave human volunteers!
Most of all, know that what you seek is inside yourself. Doreen Valiente was right when she said that if you do not find your Truth inside yourself, you will not find it outside yourself. I am glad she laid claim to the "Charge of the Goddess" before she left this physical plane. When she gave a talk at the Pagan Federation conference, it was standing room only at the back and rightly so.
Finding what is inside ourselves is the great adventure! People that we meet and books help us to find that. The Internet and life help us to find that but, the keys are all inside ourselves and the answers too. That is what makes it so maddening!
TWPT: You mentioned the founding of Capall Bann earlier, tell me more about how one goes about creating a publishing company where none existed before.
JD: Firstly, I would say that you really have to want to do it. Running any business of your own is not easy. We really wanted to see more Pagan books out there and the best way to do that turned out to be publishing them ourselves! Then you need the expertise. Jon already had publishing experience from his previous company. Thirdly, the money. There is an old saying, "The way to make a small fortune in publishing is to start out with a large fortune". Lastly, you have to be prepared to work hard, really hard and then some. Jon and I not only worked seven day weeks, we also restarted work at Midnight quite often, once we had managed to get our first daughter to sleep. Eventually, we learned to slow down a little. This was by me becoming permanently exhausted and Jon collapsing and ending up very ill in hospital a couple of times. Since then, we aim to balance things better.
I also tell people that it involves eating a lot of bean soup. This confuses them. But I defy an accountant to work out our finances in the early days! We ate the food in the freezers and what we could grow. We also have kept chickens for many years and ate the eggs, but since they are pets and spoiled rotten, that did not save us anything!
We have never had a business plan and never borrowed from a bank. Much of it was based on gut feeling and intuition. And faith. Masses of faith that this was what we were meant to do. When we really needed something, it was there. That let us know we were on the right track.
I used to be a teacher, which helped me to learn much about communication. I thought, what would I be doing if I was not writing and helping to run a publishing company? The answer? I would be writing and trying to run a publishing company!
TWPT: Who were some of the first authors that you published and what criteria did you and Jon have for accepting manuscripts for publication with Capall Bann?
JD: We published "Pathworking" by Pete Jennings and Pete Sawyers which they had self published as a booklet, but we felt deserved a wider audience. "Earth Magic" by Margaret McArthur came along with Jon and I adding a fair bit to it. Yvonne Aburrow's "Enchanted Forest" came along. A new author with a book that still sells well eight years later. And Mike Howard joined us, which was quite a surprise as he was an established author and we were just starting out. My own "Patchwork of Magic" came along a little later. With a few computer programming books which had come from Jon's previous business, we had a range. We also published Bruce Robert's book, "Boat Building". I have to say that the technical books kept us going in the early days.
We choose manuscripts which feel right to us. That is the best way that we can describe it. Sometimes one of us will have a stronger feeling than the other. If there is a total disagreement, the book can wait for quite a time before we sort it out! The most exciting books have a tingle. Others just feel competent and warm. There are those that feel as if they will sell well and others that may not do so well but have a strong message that we believe should be out there. I am sure that we take in a number of books that would have difficulty finding a home elsewhere. I just explain to "them upstairs" that this is fine, as long as they make sure that we have higher sellers to keep us going!
One author told me on the phone that we needed a "seller". I thought he said "cellar". (You probably call them basements.) I was totally confused. "Well, we have just had a conservatory built!" I answered. After we had both finished laughing, he ended up saying that he was not sure he had chosen the right company to publish his book!
There are books which are an immediate no. Sadly these can contain those which have been sent to totally the wrong kind of publisher. They may need full colour throughout or be fiction, which needs to go to those who specialise in novels with its large, low cost print runs. There are a few projects where we have agreed that the author will buy a number of the books. We do not agree this however if we honestly feel that a book does not fit in with the rest of our range or that we could not sell it ourselves. We are just too busy for that, for a start!
TWPT: I guess this should have been my first question in this series but where did the name Capall Bann come from?
JD: Capall Bann is Irish Gaelic for white horse. The logo is based upon Celtic coin designs. I drew it and Jon changed it into a rearing horse and it was the symbol of our Celtic warband in the re-enactment society that we ran. Perhaps because I love animals, I always felt that a company should have an animal logo. Maybe it is a form of totem. I have closed my eyes and "seen" a white horse so I guess there is at least another plane on which it exists. I think that much of Capall Bann exists elsewhere too. In the early days, we met "sharks" and one even made a kind of attempt to get hold of the business. I said "Silly man! Even if he had gained control of the financial side, he could never have held what Capall Bann really is!" It is extremely important to us to keep our independence.
TWPT: Has the Wiccan/Pagan community in the U.K. gotten behind Capall Bann and bought the books that you have released over the years?
JD: We have had wonderful comments and support from many Pagan folk. In the early days though, support from Pagan organisations was not, shall we say, all that one could have wished. Being the main Pagan specialist in the country and yet having trouble getting books reviewed by one main organisation was very frustrating! Especially as several authors would be reviewed happily until they worked with us. Hopefully that is now improved!
Part of the problem is that we just popped up from "nowhere" as regards the London Pagan scene. Being a Celtic Tradition, we were not part of the Gardnerian or Alexandrian clans and no one knew who we were. Sadly, there may even have been an element of envy. There were even rumours that we were really an imprint of a large international company, just pretending to be Pagans! We would go to shows and people would talk about Capall Bann and we would say, "That's us!" and they did not believe us because everyone knows that publishers wear boring suits all the time and do not have long hair like Jon and I! And we suspected that there were those who did not want us to promote areas of Paganism that they did not enjoy themselves, or to compete in those that they already had books selling in elsewhere.
I think they also thought that we could not possibly keep the business running as most Pagans appear to have a guilt thing about money and so no Pagan could make a business work. Well, eight years on, here we are, proving you can have Pagan beliefs and also have accounts in the black!
I must say, that all the wonderful comments and support that we have gained over the years from many people have spurred us on. Sometimes, we might have a difficult time and then a lovely card would arrive saying how much a reader had enjoyed a book and that would mean so much to us! Actually, I take a great and childish delight in all the lovely cards, illustrated stationary, ink stamps and fun postage stamps that we receive. It really does brighten the post opening! People have sent the most gorgeous cards, just to order a book and give us compliments. Thank you! They decorate our walls and cork boards and give us a good feeling.
TWPT: I have heard about the concept that you mentioned in your answer to question #4 where you said, "I think they also thought that we could not possibly keep the business running as most Pagans appear to have a guilt thing about money and so no Pagan could make a business work. Well, eight years on, here we are, proving you can have Pagan beliefs and also have accounts in the black!" Where do you think that this guilt originates in many of the Pagans who are on this path? Is it a hold over from their earlier beliefs or is it written down somewhere that poverty makes for good spirituality?
JD: Pagans and guilt about money... Some ideas on that.... Many Pagans appear to have had incarnations as members of the Christian Church, often as monks or nuns. Two of our authors, Poppy Palin and Jack Gale mention this in their books. Possibly this is part of our soul's experiencing things from opposite angles. Monks and nuns had to take 3 vows, of poverty, chastity and obedience. Unfortunately, these vows were so deeply drummed in that they tend to create an imprint that carries on from life-time to life-time. Our author Lisa Sand MD discusses her work with this in "Medicine for the Coming Age". It is necessary, first, to recognise that we have this problem and then work to deal with it. One way that people have favoured is to formally renounce their vows. They do this in this life-time, but state that it covers any previous life times. Money represents an exchange of energy. If you are putting good things out, you deserve good things back. Simple as that! The trick is, to use it well! That includes spending it, because if you go to a pub or listen to music that you have bought, you are supporting others by giving them a job. And if it is just good for you, that is fine also, because you deserve good things too! I think that the people who suggest that poverty makes good spirituality, then follow up with the suggestion that you give all your money to them! Being "spiritually advanced", they will be able to handle its "curse" much better than you!!!! Ha!
TWPT: How do you and Jon split up the duties of running a publishing company? Do you both do everything or do you have some areas that you are responsible for and Jon has areas that he is responsible for?
JD: Jon is the more technical person. He sets books, has designed the website, is organising an on-line shop with credit card, (that is taking some time) and will send you this! I am going to learn to use the Internet. I am I am I am! I was having trouble tying the messages on pigeons, but an author tells me I should have been using owls. So there! Now I should get the hang of it in no time! I could not work out how to play the second side of our first CD. But I have learnt to use the computer to write, so there is hope. This means, that when an author is having trouble with their word processor or computer, I can offer them plenty of sympathy and assurance about how difficult it is and Jon can give them practical advice!
I look at manuscripts and am usually the first to see them. Jon says I am the more creative one, but, of course, he has his own forms of creativity, (most involve large amounts of wood and stone.) I attempt to organise things. I say attempt, because if you could see my desk, (well, to be honest, no one can) you would laugh or weep. I try to organise Jon with publication schedules, which appears to give him and the printers a good laugh, if nothing else. He says trying to organise him is like tying two tigers together by their tails and hoping they both go in the same direction!
Jon does everything very quickly. He has enormous energy. I like to think about things and move more slowly. I may have a feeling, for instance, several years before we started Capall Bann, I suggested that we built plenty of electric sockets into a new room as I felt that we would be running a company from there in the future. Sure enough, that is now Jon's study. (He E-mailed this from there.)
I work from home. Jon works from home and the office. Much of the business is now in a rented office and has expanded over the years. Soon, we plan to move into extra rooms. We also have two part time ladies who are very practical and help with the packing and some of the typesetting. That is it, unless you count our daughters, Tara, age ten and Tawny, age four. If you receive an envelope with about twenty two ink stamps on it, Tawny has been helping! There is also our cat and her four kittens, but I am not sure how much help they will be. We need more staff really. Sometimes, one of us will help out with a job that the other has not been able to complete, but frankly, we need more people!
TWPT: Has Capall Bann gained an international following yet or are most of your books to this point sold in the U.K.?
JD: We sold abroad from very early days. We sell to Australia, South Africa and Europe. We could do with more sales to Australia, but the freight makes the books very expensive for the distributor to sell when they arrive. Our American sales keep increasing. (Well done America for having good taste!) Our website, www.capallbann.co.uk has helped us to contact people all over the world. Also, we now sell to Canada.
TWPT: How would you describe the Pagan community in the U.K. at this point in time? How has it changed in the years since you first started your journey along the path?
JD: How would I describe the Pagan community in Britain? Well, pretty friendly, really. Quite liking a drink and fairly long haired with most of the men with beards. Rather eccentric, a bit on the ageing hippy side, with the older ones and gothic with the younger ones and lovely to hug and talk to. Mostly.
Years ago, it was very hard to meet a Pagan. Now there are groups all over the country at pub moots. And conferences all over the country too. In London, the main Pagan Federation conference now needs a very large building taking thousands. Great!
TWPT: Some would not use the word "community" to describe our spiritual path but rather "movement", do you feel that community is an appropriate label to apply to ourselves as a whole? If so why and if not why?
JD: I really do not mind what people call themselves. I do not think though that Pagans like anything that tries to enclose them in a group. "Community"? With a group where ten Pagans could enter a discussion with ten views of Paganism and leave with twelve because two had changed their minds? Trying to organise Pagans is rather like trying to herd cats!
I am not sure about "movement". Too much like the Boy Scouts or feeling that we have to prove something? Or just like lemmings?
Whatever, it is more organic, like a wood growing. The wood expands slowly, but it contains animals that may leave and branch out in any direction at any given time. Paganism is about finding your own path in your own way.
Pagans like meeting, "Merry meet and merry part" (especially if it involves alcohol) but most hate being enclosed, even by definitions.
TWPT: I want to continue on for a moment about whether or not we constitute a community. Here in the U.S. there are many who have taken up the battle for religious freedom to make sure that it applies to faiths other than the most well known. In many ways even though we are individuals on a singular path of our own choosing we are also part of the larger community of Pagans who seek the rights that many mainstream religions take for granted. Do you feel that it is possible to weave a community of common interests from the diversity that is the Pagan community? If not then what ideas do you have on how religious freedom should be perused on an individual basis?
JD: I really do appreciate all the work that has been put into the greater acceptance of Paganism. Groups such as the Pagan Federation here in the UK have worked hard and long on this. In that way, it is a movement. There is enough similarity for us to have a good idea of what a Pagan is. Do Christians not have Catholics and Methodists for instance and "sects" within almost all world religions? Do Jews have to define themselves or Hindus justify their beliefs? In the recent awful events of the last two weeks, I have seen several "multi faith" events. I could not help feeling that many spiritual paths were missing. I know that one cannot always find one of everything, nor would I want this to be used as a platform to "soap box" our own beliefs at such a time, but I did not see representatives of Native American beliefs, for instance. There are more beliefs than the few "major" ones. That is a message that is increasingly being heard, though it needs to be heard more. We have to take opportunities and even "play the game" a little.
Recently, I was interviewed for a local television station. I had not expected to talk about Paganism, but, without warning was given fifteen glorious minutes to explain it with a sympathetic interviewer. Lovely! In contrast, I was interrupted, (in the bath!) by an Australian radio station wanting a "witch" to go on air, that day, in forty minutes. (Good job it wasn't TV, is all I can say!) Well, after I had finished spluttering, "But, I'm in the bath... how did you get my ex-directory phone number, Australia...today? forty minutes?...."I blew it, I used words like "spiritual belief" and they lost interest like I had the plague. (So that is why no one on their own continent would talk to them!) So I gave them Jon's number at the office. He is MUCH cleverer than me with such things, so he did not use words like "spiritual" until he was on the air live and then, there was nothing they could do! Jon said the interviewer came to a total halt several times as he tried the "Hey, they are all just loonies" approach and received real belief in return. Ouch for them. (Eat dust, etc.) Great! Chalk one up for us. Common interests? This Monday, we sat in the back room of a pub and listened to Dave the Bard sing. People of many Pagan paths, sang and listened, chanted the Awen, held hands and went home glowing! I cannot tell people how to "peruse" their religious freedom. To do so would impose on their freedom! The best thing I could answer, as I wrote in "Patchwork of Magic", "By all means listen to other's advice and warnings, but do not take them for the unarguable truth, including what I say." I cannot answer your questions in the form that you put them, so let me give you an example of what I "saw" following that terrible tragedy and the events following it. The various religions were like silver poles, reaching upwards. They curved together, as if forming the apex of a tent. The light could shine down and touch the end of each of those poles. The outsides of the poles then peeled back, much like a snake shedding its skin. Peeling away, were the misconceptions, the prejudice, the outworn ideas. Underneath, was the real spiritual Truth, expressed by each one in their own form. Each of those poles may be a religion, a "sect" an individual or maybe, just an individual for a tiny moment of their life. However, as each really reaches up and touches spirit, it will become closer to the Truth of all others. Anyone of any religion or spiritual belief who is "getting there" will recognise and honour the path of another and see the Truth that is expressed by another. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that the word "religion" is used to create the most un-holy havoc on this Earth.
TWPT: Lets talk about your book Patchwork of Magic, what prompted you to write this book?
JD: "Patchwork of Magic" started as a serious description of the different paths within Paganism. It was also a basic description of a path that was very personal, but allowing room for others to express themselves. I wanted them to realise that there are many ways to cast a circle, that the "eight" festivals are not cast in stone. That if they feel that black is white when someone tells them otherwise, they may well be right! If you are told that you "should" see "white" and you get violet, say so! You could be the only real psychic there! (When I actually said this, at a rite, another person then spoke up and agreed with me, but I did not know that would happen when I said it.)
TWPT: For the readers who are unfamiliar with this book how would you describe the subject matter to them?
JD: There was a lack of such books at the time. However, as I described each section that came to mind, this wicked sense of humour kept coming out. So, all the little foibles of each group came to the surface and I wrote them down. I left out the Egyptian tradition, for instance. (I met a group after publication.) As soon as I described walking into a house, tripping over the Anubis doorstop, entering the lounge with the Tutankhamun lamp, a member of the audience burst out laughing and said that they knew a house just like it! The funny thing is, I had never seen any of the Egyptian folk's houses! I also include practical advice and I have been told that it is useful to many people, indeed, that every person new to Paganism should read it! (Which would be nice....)
TWPT: Why does the idea of a "patchwork" best illustrate the content of your book?
JD: My writing tends to be in small pieces. Perhaps this is because I cannot organise a big piece! Perhaps it is because we have two daughters, animals, a garden, four new kittens, a business......etc. So I am interrupted, (as I was just then by my four year old) regularly. I have since heard of the term, "Patchwork Pagan" and that there are even bumper stickers out there saying it! Well, they are not linked financially to me, (more's the pity) but it sounds fun! Our (late) author Rhiannon Ryall wanted to call "Weaving a Web of Magic" "A Patchwork of Magic" but I pointed out that I already had used it.
TWPT: One feature of your book that is rather unique is your sense of humor that surfaces in much of your writing, do you find that it helps to communicate your ideas when they are wrapped in something amusing?
JD: It is sneaky really, because, as the reader is busy laughing, all manner of information is sinking in! They have a good laugh, even in public. Readers write and tell me that they have laughed aloud in book shops and on buses and been unable to stop!
TWPT: Tell me about your book Sinking Atlantis: Spirituality Meets the Real World.
JD: "Sinking Atlantis - Spirituality Reaches the Real World" is not about Atlantis. It is about frantically trying to cope with being a Mum, working, having animals, running a Pagan publishing company, writing and still trying to express myself in a spiritual way! It is about trying to do the right thing and then finding it all goes wrong. It is about guilt. I just described six months of my life and people find it hilarious. I mean, I am living this stuff and people just fall about. It makes them feel good too, because they know that when "real things" happen, it is not just them. I tell the Truth really, that is all I do. And it is funnier than any joke.
TWPT: How is it that you personally integrate your spirituality into your everyday or "real" world?
JD: I really don't know. I am still working on that! I used to think, "When I have finished this, I will get on with my life" and than I realised that this WAS my life! What is important to me, is to get out into Nature, on my own, usually at least once a week. And I go into our garden, to the circle that we have made, normally, every day. That matters. I try to meditate, to remember who I am. (Honestly, if I did not have it written down, I would not be sure some days.) Have you ever woken up, not remembering who you are? I did. It is very confusing! It is about meditating in the bath, until your toddler throws thing at you. It is about staying up far too late to send energy and good thoughts out to an event that you see on television. I stayed up until four o'clock on that terrible night, even though I had to get up at six the next morning to appear on television. I felt that I was needed. Like so many, I "kept vigil" for hours and sent what I could. A certain amount of spirituality is about expressing yourself and standing up for what you feel to be right. If you ain't being you, you ain't being spiritual. That is a shame if you are a crabby, bad tempered old whatsit, but there we go! If you are being a really good, crabby, bad tempered old whatsit, you are performing a spiritual service to the world!
TWPT: To cover the last of your books could you tell me a little about your other title Between Earth and Sky.
JD: "Between Earth and Sky" carries on from "Patchwork of Magic". It is not quite as funny, although humour does creep in. I look at real issues. Pagan parenting, ethical food, environmental protests. It also contains elemental visualisations. Some are based on non physical individuals who "turned up" one day, much to my surprise, in our garden. They do not do what you expect or stand where you expect them to, you know! Just because your book says that water should be in the West is of no interest if they prefer your fish pond, which happens to be in the East! I also describe having an angel turn up in the bedroom one night. If you can't handle that, its fine. I couldn't at the time! Quote. On being "given" the name Michael, several weeks later, I replied, "That is a bit Christian, isn't it?" To which was replied, "I was something else before I was Christian". Honestly, anything that wants to work with me is going to have a hard time! Angels, by the way, are not all fluffy. Some of them are real tough cases when it comes to standing up to difficult situations. There are also stories, based on a Celtic theme. (I belong to a Celtic Tradition.) Also, psychic visions, visualisations, call them what you will. There is a massive energy change going on with the planet at the moment. I try to explain a little of it.
TWPT: Tell me about the process you go through when you start a new project? Does it seem like work or is it more of a fun activity for you?
JD: I feel writing coming through and if I am really lucky, I manage to find the time to write it down before I forget it. And then I say, "Oh no! How am I going to find the time to write all this!" (But, I enjoy it really.) People talk about being hit by "writer's block". I tend to feel, "If you ain't got something coming through, then do something else!" (For interest, I am being interrupted every few SECONDS by my children right now!!!!)
TWPT: What can we be looking for from your pen in the near future?
JD: I have pretty much completed "A Walk In the Woods". It has reached the stage where it is being illustrated. It is much like "Sinking Atlantis" except that it covers two years. During that time, I visit an area of local woodland and describe the animals and trees there and the changes of the seasons. I also have conversations with the place and the trees. I have to say, that even if they do not talk to you, trees make great listeners. They rarely interrupt. (And if they do, it is usually well worth listening to!) I am still working on "Love Yourself More". We need to express our true selves. It is as simple as that. We need to be good to ourselves, rather than beating ourselves to pieces with guilt and giving ourselves a hard time. An awful amount of what is wrong in the world is happening because we have believed others who tell us to put ourselves last. Your True self is incredible. Follow that and all these petty would-be-wonderfuls disappear in a puff of smoke!
TWPT: As this interview will be published in our Samhain issue, do you have any Samhain wishes or thoughts that you would like to send out to our readers at this time of the year?
JD: Remember that death and life are a continuum. There are those who can communicate beyond the "divide". Do not dwell on that too much or too long, they have their own tasks to fulfill on that side too. Those who told us that we do not return, carried out a terrible dis-service to humanity. That is being repaired now. Energy and love travel over. Standing in a wind that blew out other candles, (not mine, it would not go out) on a hill at a sacred site, I knew that the person I was remembering was there. People do not stop loving you, just because they no longer have a physical body. Do not hold them back with your grief, but know that loving souls will be together again and again.
TWPT: Any closing words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers as we close this interview?
JD: What to say? My first thought was NO. In "Patchwork" I warn people of spreading cat mint in a circle where there are cats, (havoc!) or planting tansy in their garden, (jungle!) but here goes. You gave me the chance, so here is something serious. The events in New York were designed to spread far throughout the entire world. A terrible tragedy, (the word is inadequate) was created. It has back fired. A massive "bubble" of fear spread across the planet. All around the globe, people watched their television sets. They could not stop what had been set in motion, but they could say "No". The bubble of fear spread further and further, until, like a balloon that was over inflated, it burst, They went too far. And what was outside? The opposite of fear. Compassion. Love. We are being asked to choose between the two on this planet. We are being asked right now. Time is speeding up. Lies cannot be hidden any more. It is time. As in the atrocities which have been unleashed on the animal kingdom, as shown in this country, to our shame, with the Foot and Mouth "crisis" all is being brought under the spot light. (Here, money and big business are destroying the "small" farmer.) The billions of pounds wasted has no other logic. The millions of animal lives destroyed have no justification at all with those who have a heart that functions. I do not know what I can say to those who have loved ones who will never come home. Even here, it has touched the lives of many. That bubble of fear burst. Outside it was love. Love from people of different religions and different colours. People who had been thought "enemies". People who had cast shadows on others, suddenly saw them as human. In those instants, Americans and Britains, Muslims and Irish all said, "What has happened is wrong. The deaths are wrong, the "justification" for lack of compassion is wrong. This is not how we wish the world to be." People say that we will all forget it in a few months. We will not. When Princess Diana died, she burst the bubble of grief around the world. People cried for loved ones that they had never cried for before. This event has burst the bubble of fear. If ever such a terrible event can be seen in a positive light, then that is what has happened. Yes, we may still be afraid, but we have seen the opposition of Love to fear and we have seen its power. That is the way that we can choose the world to go. Each of us makes our own choice, as always. And look carefully at what is "Light" and "dark". Many Pagans have a bad reaction to anything claiming to be "Light". This is probably because of past incarnations where they encountered a religion where goodness knows what was done in the name of religion and "love"and "Light". The words have many meanings. Do not reject all the uses out of hand. But most of all, use your own judgement. One of the most important things that you can do to "love Yourself More" is to give importance to your own judgements and definitions, rather than another person's. You may even be wrong, sometimes! But, if it is part of your learning, then it is infinitely important. Most of all, do not let the *******'s tell you that money, their idea of religion or anything else is worth more than your own connection to spirit and to caring. Stick to those ideas and the rest of it tends to fall into place. (Even if it does take several lifetimes to do it.) Blessings on your path.
TWPT: Thank you very much for sharing so candidly with us your thoughts and feelings about your work and about recent events that have left an indelible mark on us all. I wish you the best of luck with your forthcoming books and I wish you happiness along your path. After all what else can one hope for.