Sage Paracon UK 2016 – Ashley Mortimer Talks To Me About Doreen Valiente, Witchcraft, Wicca & A Little Paganism

Sage Paracon UK 2016
Sage Paracon UK 2016

On the 8th & 9th October 2016 Sage Paranormal will be hosting their very own Paranormal Convention at Wroxall Abbey Estate in Warwickshire. I know this because it’s well advertised, and because I have the pleasure of being one of the guest speakers. Don’t miss out on what’s going to be a great weekend and pop over to their website later and purchase your tickets. There are some great deals available.

So, as we begin to run up to the event I thought I would make a few of my posts all about some of the things going on over the weekend at Sage Paracon UK 2016. Hopefully as you follow the posts, which I will try to make as frequent as possible, you can join me on a virtual journey into the paranormal world. Our final destination will be the Wroxall Abbey Estate on the 8th October and Sage Paracon UK 2016.

If you missed my previous posts on Sage Paracon UK, here’s a few for you to catch up on:-

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – History is a Ghost Story – Jeff Belanger

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – Ghost Adventures Guest & Paranormal Tech Guy Carl Hutchinson

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – What to expect

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – A Sneak Peak at Wroxall Abbey

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – Talking with Elizabeth Saint from Ghosts of Shepherdstown

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – Liz Cormell on Mediumship

Sage Paracon UK 2016 – Frank Cinelli aka Dr Spectre

Ashley Rebelled Against the Church Only To Find Something Divine In Nature

Ashley has clearly had an interesting spiritual life journey that has allowed him to look into and study various approaches including traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism to name a few. However these are not generally paths we hear a lot about, so asked him what made him choose this particular spiritual path.

“The truthful answer is: a rebellious spirit as a teenager! I’d go to church and hear about the greatness of God . . . and imagine him speaking to everyone else there, but he didn’t speak to me at all. I wanted to spend Sundays out and about, fishing, climbing trees, running through the woods with my mates and I figured that if God was anywhere it was out there in the wider world, in nature not inside a dusty stone building on a Sunday. So I rebelled against the church, the people who I discovered weren’t hearing from God directly either and eventually against the whole notion of religion completely! I relented later when I came to find something divine in the natural world that did communicate with me though. A chance encounter with some second hand books while on holiday one summer and I discovered how to start learning to communicate back . . .and when I tried it started to work . . “

Ashley Mortimer on Witchcraft
Ashley Mortimer

Witchcraft is often misunderstood in my opinion and that’s made dramatically clear by the history of the Witch trials. Both history and media have seemingly given us a couple of stereotypes for Witches, which many appear to accept. So, I asked Ashley what he’s understanding of a Witch and someone that follows Witchcraft as their chosen spiritual path was.

“Well most of the people who were accused and tried under the witchcraft laws probably didn’t consider themselves witches, and if they had any understanding of it at all it wouldn’t match up with my contemporary understanding. For me the Craft is about understanding your own place in the great scheme of the universe, acknowledging the great forces of nature (the divine as manifest and personified as goddesses and gods) and connecting with them. So from that perspective it is, for me, really a religion (you know, the thing I rebelled against as a teenager!) which teaches the use of latent “magical” abilities as the means of communication with the deities and other invisible forces and powers of the natural universe.”

Witches are often associated with having the ability to do magic, cast certain spells and conduct varied rituals. I decided to ask Ashley if there were any truth to these claims and if he could tell us a little about the rituals perhaps.

“Well modern day Witchcraft as I practice it really has all the traits of a religion – all of which involve ritual and “magic”. The ritual celebration of the annual solar cycle through the seasons with ceremonies to mark the solstices and equinoxes and the following of a similar lunar cycle with rituals for the moon phases to honour the symbolic personified lunar deity, as well as the usual passage rites that religions tend to have really does make it the same. If you think of “magic” and “spells” as a mechanism to affect the physical world through non-physical means, then we all do some kind of magic all the time and certainly all religions practice exactly that – for example a Christian mass involving transubstantiation of the bread and wine into body and blood is, basically an act of symbolic sympathetic magic. So yes, these things are true . . but are not unfamiliar or unusual activities, just under a different nomenclature.”

In all fairness perhaps there is magic and ritual in all we do, perhaps the realisation of this may help us all steer a better path in life.

I asked Ashley if he thought that popularity in modern Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism had increased over recent years.

“I think my own story is very typical, actually, I think people had become dissatisfied with the WAY that religion has come to be practiced. I think they found a desire for spiritual freedom and experimentation that was being strangled by the notion that religion and its practices were set in stone, unchangeable and unable to be updated to make sense so easily in contemporary times. And I think “new” religions, in their formative phases are always more evolutionary anyway . . . but modern pagan ones embrace that notion of fluidity, less of belief but more of practice and I think that is one of the crucial factors in their rise in modern times – they caught a current among people who wanted to explore their spirituality but needed a supportive framework to do that in.”

Pagan rituals or Witchcraft have often been associated with dark arts and the summoning of spirits at some locations with the odd local blaming these for an increase in paranormal activity. I wondered what Ashley may think about this and if perhaps there are some disrespectful towards the craft performing these darker rituals, if indeed they are possible at all.

“Well, as we’ve been saying above, the idea of rituals to summon spirits (non-physical entities) are really just the mainstay of all religions. I guess the question is which ones get summoned and why! I don’t think the nature of spirits, angels, saints, deities or whatever other names people want to use for, basically, non-physical, sentient entities – is necessarily to be “good” or “bad” within themselves, it’s a matter of intent and of behaviour – to use a rather coarse example, you’d not describe a dog who bit you because to tried to beat it as “bad”. The same with the practice of magic – its all about the intent of the practitioner – and I don’t doubt there are some who have harmful intentions though this is the absolute opposite of what the modern Craft teaches its initiates. Unfortunately one other danger with spiritual freedom is that people want to experiment – the rise of interest in the wider subject of the occult and the description of modern systems like the Craft by those who aren’t actually trained or initiated into it has led people to dabble. And like with anything not constrained by authority, this will mean people getting out of their depth. If everyone who fancied driving just hopped behind the wheel and had a go we’d be in chaos ! Just look at how complex a system we’ve had to create (with laws, road taxes, instruction, examinations and qualifications) just to manage something fairly simple. So I’m not advocating total religious and magical control (lol) but I am saying that systems like the Craft and other magical orders do at least provide a measure of proper training in magical matters and, if you like, some semblance of a “magical proficiency test” (lol again). Sometimes the job of those who are properly trained and know what they are doing is to sort out the results of the dabblers. I suppose this is one obvious place that Witchcraft crosses over to the paranormal investigation world and certainly the place where I, as an initiate of the Craft, have crossed over to assist and advise on cases.”

Given my own interest in the paranormal and search to understand if human consciousness might survive death, I decided to ask Ashley what Pagans, Witches and Wicca might believe happens to us when we die.

“Ask 100 pagans a question like this, you’ll get 200 answers!! Though one common belief is the notion of reincarnation, the idea that we are all in our spiritual essence part of the same “great spirit” and death of the physical body is merely a stage in the energetic/spiritual recycling process. Many witches believe they have previous human incarnations and often say that those who have been of the Craft in a past life are called back to it again in subsequent ones – that’s common to other paths and traditions too.”

I kind of like the idea of reincarnation, the ability to return to world again seems like an excellent one, but it would be a great deal more helpful if we could retain the memories from previous lives. Especially the lessons learnt, hence the classical ‘if I knew then , what I know now’.

The Doreen Valiente Foundation

Ashley Mortimer is a trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, so I asked if he could tell us a little about the Foundation, this remarkable and most influential woman in modern witchcraft.
Doreen Valiente

“Doreen helped Gerald Gardner during the 1950s and 60s to update and develop the practices of pagan witchcraft as they both understood it when they encountered it. She had a profound influence because she gave it logic, organisation and structure and some splendid wording for some of the rituals. I believe it was her input that made it scalable and translatable so that it was able to spread globally over the next few decades and this was one of the factors in the wider rise of modern day paganism – witchcraft as Doreen and Gerald practised it (which many will know as “Wicca”) is really only one of many modern pagan paths if perhaps the best known and she can be fairly considered one of it’s founders in its modern interpretation. When she died in 1999 she left her legacy of artefacts, magical tools, books, documents and writings (including some of hers and Gerald’s source materials for Wicca) to her last High Priest John Belham-Payne who, with my help and a few others formed a charitable trust called the Doreen Valiente Foundation to whom he donated the whole collection so that it would be protected for all time, never split up or sold off and always used to help educate people about Witchcraft and paganism, overcoming prejudices and representing religious freedom, just as Doreen had done through her own life.”
The Doreen Valiente Foundation

I am looking forward to Ashley’s lecture and mini Doreen Valiente museum at the Sage Paracon UK this weekend.

A Little on A Few Famous Pagan or Witchcraft Sites

As a paranormal investigator I have had the absolute pleasure of visiting some amazing historical sites over the years. Tomorrow night as a part of the Sage Paracon I will be a part of the team investigating the fantastic Warwick Castle, which is still blowing my mind slightly. With this in mind I wondered if Ashley might know of any particularly famous pagan or witchcraft sites that are worth visiting and if they are particularly active spiritually.

“Yes, there are many local ones, a dig through the library or the internet should always be a good place to start . . . or contact with the local pagan community (through groups like the Pagan Federation or the Children of Artemis) and a variety of independent groups who often meet publicly in a social environment (“down the local pub” !) and are open to non-pagans attending out of interest. Frankly I’d personally tend to avoid places like Stonehenge at the solstices simply for the crowds but the Henge, Avebury and many others are great places. If you’re lucky enough to live in Sussex you could check out Doreen Valiente’s book “Where Witchcraft Lives” and there will certainly be authors in every locality who have knowledge of places associated with Witchcraft and paganism. But I would say – be respectful, these are effectively religious sites and they are definitely sacred ones (as is every single square centimeter of the planet, actually!) – so leave only your footprints (even psychic ones) and be aware that the divine spiritual forces in nature are often manifest in places as well as more personified entities.”

I have to whole heartily agree with Ashley on this one and have always been brought up with the mindset that every part of this planet and the universe is actually sacred. Something else that my good old parents drilled into me when I was being brought up, which at times included helping my mum out with various conservation work too. Perhaps these days we see a lot of the materialistic world around us and fail to notice the beauty of the natural world all about us.

Ashley’s Top Five Places in the World Related to Witchcraft He Would Like to Visit

In line with my usual questions, I thought I would throw a classic ‘top five’ at Ashley too. So, I asked him what are he’s top five places in the world he would like to visit that could be related to witchcraft ?

“Oh dear . . that’s a tough one, cos I’m a bit of an oddbod . . . I used to live high up the Rocky Mountains in Canada, north of Calgary, and that is a place I felt a super-strong connection to the divine (not that there’s any great history of paganism or occultism half way up Mount Rundle or anything (lol) so that would be one. I’d like to go back to the plains of South Dakota too, I had some huge adventures there when I was travelling as a younger man, ones that still affect me strongly now so I’d like to go back there too. I would like to go to Toronto and visit some of my Craft friends there, certainly to meet the keepers of some of Gerald Gardner’s legacy and some of my Craft cousins there . . . and I do have a place in my heart for Crete too which is full of very ancient energy and paganism of “the old world”. Is that five? Have I broke the rules (again?) <snigger>”

Yep! Rules have been broken once again by the rebellious Ashley Mortimer! That was only four by my count, but they were pretty good answers so I will let Ashley off. Oddly I would like to visit Canada myself, but mainly because my parents used to live out there before I was born.

Ashley’s Encounter With a ‘Nasty’ Spirit

Given Ashley’s vast experience and knowledge I had to ask him if there had ever been any situations where he had encountered anything particularly nasty , spirit wise.

“Yes. Not very frequently but I have dealt with a few, what you might call “shockers”. And my experiences have been enough to make me guarded and wary every time I’m asked to look into a case of suspected spiritual disturbance. There ARE things in the non-physical world that are, as you say “nasty” and while there are ways of dealing with them that come from training and experience and, I think perhaps, a bit of natural aptitude for such tasks, its not a job for a dabbler! If I may just make use of another slightly comic analogy to make a serious point (cos I do that, I believe humour is an awesome communication tool) then I’d refer you to a quote from Terry Pratchett, the author: “If there is any power in demonology the demonologists discovered long ago that it rests firmly with the demons and the notion of trying to summon one to do your bidding is the spiritual equivalent of trying to beat a bear to death with a rattlesnake”! I think that rather sums up my thoughts on dealing with “the nasties”.”

Thank You Ashley

I would just like to thank Ashley for responding to my questions so quickly to make this post possible ahead of our visit to Sage Paracon UK this weekend at Wroxall Abbey. As ever I look forward to seeing you again. More importantly, great Christian name lol ; )

Get On Line And Get Your Tickets Before Its Too Late!

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be a part of this fantastic event, follow the link below to the Sage Paranormal’s Paracon website to purchase your tickets now.

Sage Paracon UK 2016

Alternatively if you already have tickets to Sage Paracon UK, then please comment below to let us all know and make those not going a little jealous ha ha!
I look forward to seeing you all there and possibly talking paranormal at some point over the weekend. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for my future posts related to Sage Paracon UK 2016.

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