by Georgina Lawn
To all you beautiful women out there who think there may be something strange going on with your body. If you are of a certain age, there may very well be something going on with your body, it may be changing again like it often has before. You may be peri, ante or post menopausal, if you are or think you may be, then Purple Tent is the place for you to come and enjoy the company of other women who are in the same boat as you.
We are ostensibly a Pagan Group but welcome all women of any faith or none; who are going through, what for some , can be quite a traumatic time. The good news is it doesn't last forever!
We are currently a small group but are looking to grow. We have discussions about the menopause and everyone has something to add to the pot of information we are building for each other, by way of support and advice. We practice meditation - we might even get good at it one day hahaha. We read poetry and tell stories; we also drink tea, lots of different teas, some therapeutic, others just for pleasure. We look at what our roles are in our communities, in our workplaces, our families now that we are getting older; how does the world see us, indeed, does the world see us? How can we make things better for ourselves? How do we acknowledge all the changes going on for us or do we try to bury them?
There are always questions being asked, discussed and sometimes answered. There are sometimes tears but we always have tissues and support for those times. We laugh a lot too.
As this year is progressing we have been looking at the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit, a different one each month. We are also trying to put together a kind of rolling number of ceremonies for each of our participants to go through at each stage of this change in our lives so that, possibly for the first time in our lives a huge change such as this can be marked and celebrated instead of being ignored and brushed under the carpet.
We have all been Maidens; Lovers; Mothers; and now what? You decide. Come along to Purple Tent held on the last Thursday of every month at the Bristol Goddess Temple (see our 'Calendar' page for the dates), 1st floor, the Clock Tower building, Tower Road North, Warmley, from 7pm until 9. All you beautiful women out there come and join the fun.
by Ruth Parham
Before lockdown Bristol Goddess Temple put on some fascinating and very popular talks, and it was great to see this getting going again in February with Caroline Burrows’ talk Riding with the Lancashire Witches: Tracing the Route and History of the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trials.
Caroline (aka the Bristol Bike Bard) is a published poet and cyclist (among many other things) and this talk combined those two passions with the history of this particular episode of persecution, and the landscape that witnessed it, in a unique and moving way.
Just as lockdown was threatening to bite in the North of England, Caroline cycled the 50-mile route that was taken by the condemned witches on their way to execution in Lancaster. It’s not known whether they walked or were transported, but in 2012, as part of a programme of events to mark the 400 years since their deaths, 10 white cast-iron way markers were set along the route.
Each one was inscribed with the name of one of the women and men who died, and with one 3-line verse (a tercet) from a poem written specially by the then poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Aftercoming across the tenth way marker by chance, Caroline decided to cycle the whole route over 4 days, visiting each one in turn.
The talk took us not just through the stories of each one of those 10 people (and others who were part of the context of accusation, trial and execution), but through the landscape in which the way markers are set.
Through a very evocative combination of narrative, photographs and videos, Caroline sensitively told a story that encompassed poverty, privilege, power, religious loyalties, social class, land-grabbing, ambition and perceptions of magic and the supernatural.
This was done in a beautifully objective way, which laid out the known facts and allowed us to draw our own conclusions, without attempting to hide the passion behind Caroline’s project.
At each way marker she recorded a short video of herself reading the tercet and the name of the person commemorated, again letting the words speak for themselves, which made them all the more moving.
Along the way we were treated to a very entertaining account of her cycle ride on the cusp of lockdown, as well as to some fascinating information about the fells, moors and valleys she was travelling through and some of the history of Lancaster and its surroundings.
As this is a part of the country I have never been to, I really enjoyed learning about it and having it brought to life by the photographs and the narrative. There is something about walking or cycling through a landscape that brings you into a relationship with it on a very human scale, and the fact that Caroline’s exploration of the history of the Lancashire witches was undertaken in this way gave it (to my mind) an element of pilgrimage.
I felt that she was honouring each of them as real people with their own lives and experiences rooted in their landscape, lifting them out of the mass of statistics of witch persecutions of the era.
I hope Caroline will come back to Bristol Goddess Temple to tell us about her future adventures.
If you’d like to learn more, Caroline has written an article about her cycle ride which can be found here. You can follow Caroline on @VerseCycle on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
‘The Lancashire Witches’
by Carol Ann Duffy
One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.
Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.
From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.
At daylight’s gate, the things we fear
darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.
Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon
below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars,
feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave;
only future tourists who might grieve.