Returning to our Roots
The SPF Conference will be on Saturday the 11th of November 2023.
You can find out more about our presenters below.
Talk: Reestablishing Your Roots
So many modern Pagans are interested in their ancient ancestors - but what about those more recent? We’re well into a new century now, and very much walking into the unknown. What roots are we growing, and what can we (re)connect and learn from those who set our paths just beyond living memory? Or are we striking out with found family now instead?
What are you doing?
Biography: Cat is a professional Pagan Priest and author from Derbyshire. Her main ‘label’ is Druidry, but in recent times her work has become more eclectic; she is currently researching mysticism and modern storytelling as living mythology. She regularly performs public ritual, as well as 1-1 assistance and support with spiritual and life changes.
Dr Angela Puca
Talk: This talk offers an analytical dissection of common misconceptions in Pagan studies, for instance, addressing the historical and cultural inaccuracies related to Wicca's age, the universalism of the Triple Goddess archetype, and the origins of Christian holidays.
Her research focuses on magic, witchcraft, Paganism, esotericism, shamanism, and related currents.
Author of several peer-reviewed publications and co-editor of the forthcoming 'Pagan Religions in five Minutes' for Equinox, she hopes to bridge the gap between academia and the communities of magic practitioners by delivering related scholarly content on her YouTube Channel and TikTok 'Angela's Symposium.'
Ash William Mills
Workshop: Stanes o' the Cairn: shaping a Scottish folk practice
In this workshop you will learn how to return to your local spirits and lore of the land. Building a relationship with community traditions and enhancing our own magical practice through our ancestor's craftsmanship.
Biography: Ash William Mills has an NC degree in Celtic Studies & Heritage and is currently studying Scottish Ethnology & History at the University of Edinburgh. He is an animist and folk magic practitioner with over 25 years of experience regarding Scottish and Irish Folklore, Witchcraft, and Magic. He is also the curator of the Museum of Magic, Fortune-telling & Witchcraft in Edinburgh, Scotland since 2023.
Annie Begg & Kitty MacIntyre
Talk: Explore the mysteries of the Labyrinth! In this talk Annie and Kitty will share stories of the Labyrinth and its significance. There will be a Labyrinth at the conference for people to walk throughout the day.
Biographies: Coming soon!
Reverend Paul Cudby & Alison Eve
Workshop: Forest Church: Going back to your roots – Going back to our roots
Where do we feel most spiritual? What are the beginnings of the Forest Church movement? Learning from your roots – the Pagan connection and a surprising commonality in mission with the Anglican Church: ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’
This workshop will blend harp music with an exciting exploration of forest church and connecting with nature.
Biography: Paul is an Anglican priest who has been involved in interfaith work with the Pagan community for over a decade. He was one of the founding members of the Forest Church movement in 2012. It started with three small groups; the Forest Church Facebook page now has almost 4,000 members.
He has written and contributed to a number of articles and papers over the years including:
• Cudby P.E.F. 'Forest Church: from dogmatic desert to spiritual discipline, ANVIL vol. 35 issue 2, CMS publications 2019. (Downloadable from https://churchmissionsociety.org/resources/forest-church-from-dogmatic-desert-to-spiritual-discipline-paul-cudby-anvil-vol-35-issue-2/ )
• Cudby P.E.F., ‘Friendships across the Divide: A Theology of Encounter’, in Stanley B. And Hollinghurst S. (Eds.), Earthed: Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection, Llangurig: Mystic Christ Press, 2014, 210-227
• Cudby Paul, 'The Shaken Path – A Christian Priest's Exploration of Modern Pagan Belief and Practice', Winchester: Christian Alternative, 2017.
• In preparation: Cudby Paul, 'The Spirit and the Land - An Ecotheology’ to be published in 2023 on Ritualitas.
Alison Eve is the director and lead educator for Ritualitas. She has been writing songs for about 35 years and producing her own albums and books for the last 15 years. Alison is an amazingly talented musician (harpist). https://www.ritualitas.com/about/
Workshop: "The power of Mantra Shakti"
Talk: How do we build community? What are the roots of community? In this talk Joe will be exploring frith and kinship building, along with its importance after being so isolated from one another for a long period.
Biography: Joe was in the army from 2011 at the age of 17. He made his first steps in the Heathen Community in 2016. Joe started work on and handed over Defence Pagan Network in 2018. Joe left the army in January 2019 and lived in Aberdeenshire ever since. Joe has been the Prison Chaplain for the Scottish Pagan Federation since 2020.
Ceci, Helen Woodsford-Dean and Fiona Stewart
Talk: Join Ceci, Helen and Fiona as they share experiences of being celebrants, what it means to be present for life rites and how you can take an active part in your own life rites.
Ceci lives in Argyll and has been involved with SPF Council for many years, serving as Local Organiser for Argyll, Regional Co-ordinator for S&W Scotland, Environmental Officer, Interfaith Officer, Deputy Presiding Officer and currently as Celebrants Co-ordinator. For many years she was also on PF England and Wales Council as Products Officer.
Ceci has been on SPF’s Legal Celebrants team since 2005 and has conducted wedding ceremonies all over Scotland – and non-legal handfastings as far away as Istanbul. She took early retirement from her Countryside Ranger post in 2012 to train as a funeral celebrant and holds a NVQ Diploma in Funeral Celebrancy. She conducts naming ceremonies, weddings, renewal of vows ceremonies and funerals.
Ceci’s path is a solitary one, honouring the seasons and the environment and seeking to live lightly on the Earth. She is currently self-employed both as a Celebrant and as a craft worker, designing making and selling Woollyhatz.
Helen Woodsford-Dean is also known as 'Magpie' and she resides in Orkney. Previously SPF's acting Deputy Presiding Officer, she remains active in SPF and is presently their Local Organiser and Interfaith Officer for Orkney, Regional Co-ordinator for Northern Scotland, Deputy Celebrants Co-ordinator, and is an Elected Officer. Her background is in hedgewitchcraft, but she is also an initiated Wiccan (Alexandrian) and is currently undertaking training through the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, at Ovate grade. She has been trained in core shamanic practice through the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies and as a herbal practitioner. She is a qualified archaeologist and teacher, and a published author; she currently works as an Orkney Tour Guide and Celebrant. As well as SPF, Helen also volunteers as one of the leaders of the Young Archaeologists Club in Orkney, is one of the co-convenors of the Orkney Greens (sub-branch of the Scottish Green Party), is an elected Community Councillor, and serves on the boards of both the Orkney and the Scottish Tourist Guides Association.
My name is Fiona, and I have been a celebrant for the SPF for 3 years. Originally a Scottish Borders farmer's daughter, I moved to Edinburgh in 2014 to pursue a career as a professional florist after serving 10 years in the Royal Navy as a meteorologist. It often amuses people to learn that I have a background in science when I follow the path of Druidry, but I genuinely believe in the lessons that nature has to teach us, and it certainly helped me to know the way of the elements and the land as a meteorologist.
In 2016, I qualified as a wedding civil celebrant as I was fascinated by the role of a celebrant when setting up wedding venues as a florist. The first wedding ceremony I witnessed was officiated by an Interfaith minister who opened my eyes to the wonderful selection of celebrants we have in Scotland. As the years passed, as an independent celebrant offering personalised wedding ceremonies for couples, It was a privilege to apply and be accepted as an SPF celebrant. Now, I tend to work with couples who wish for their marriage to resonate with their chosen pagan paths and, through the art of ritual, find a deeper connection to one another.
Not only a wedding celebrant, in 2017, I completed my diploma in funeral Celebrancy, and it is in this role my passion lies. Being more of a spiritual celebrant has allowed me to enrich a funeral service with various sections that offer poems and readings that bring hope and understanding of the journey of life to a grieving family. Understanding that death is inevitable and a natural part of life that can be accepted and celebrated brings me a sense of purpose to my role as a funeral celebrant, and it will always be the greatest honour to be entrusted to tell a person's life story.
Although the druid way resonates with my soul, I do have a keen interest in theology and dedicate my reading and audiobook time to tracing back through history the origins of the various belief systems we see in the modern world. I will always embrace and respect your chosen path in the hope that we are all connected in the end and hopefully beyond, and if there is one lesson I have learned being a celebrant that I can possibly share, is that love, whether in life or in death should always be cherished.
Workshop: To Guide You On: Interfaith Poems, Stories, and Songs for Community and Planet
(A gentle workshop, where no experience is necessary)
- Getting Quizzical in the Quarters - a very brief introduction to the core of faith(s) and the importance of interfaith
- Rootedness and spiritual interconnection - finding our voices
- What’s so funny about peace, love, and dual-belonging? - a short story about laughter and self-expression in a time of longing (musical reference and rhyme intended)
- Creating a Healing Song or Story
Biography: Hello from your National Interfaith Officer (and IO for Glasgow, too)!
No, I don’t sound Glaswegian or even Scottish. Even though a recent DNA test says I’m 16% Scottish, I was born in Margate (yes, that Margate) and have lived nearly 66% of my life in Canada or the US. So, like my faith background, my accent is a beautiful messy mix of the roads I’ve travelled and the people I’ve met along the way.
Spiritually, I’m a Druid, practicing a mix of Bardic Druidry, Animism, and Celtic Christianity. Vocationally, I’m an ordained interfaith minister and activist, a World Walker-Spirit Talker (blessings on Mrs. T of the Lummi tribe), a celebrant, and an honorary LGBTQ+ university chaplain.
I hold degrees in Anthropology (BA) and Adult Education & Training (MEd), plus a postgraduate diploma in Interfaith Studies. My focus as an anthropologist was on Humanities of India, Religion and Culture, Cross-cultural Childrearing and Education, and Shamanism. I’m also proud to say I’ve completed courses in subjects as diverse as Geology, Counselling Listening Skills, and Stand-Up Comedy!
Once upon a time, I was a preschool teacher - my best experiences were impromptu storytelling at circle time and being able to work with Inuit children in Alaska. Using the power of newsletter writing, drama, rap and hip hop, and recycled art projects, I’ve taught learners of all ages from around the world (and in Japan) as a certified teacher of English as a Second Language. I’ve also had the pleasure of co-teaching university bridge courses on World Religions, Chinese Culture and Philosophy, and Anthropology.
I enjoy writing poetry, song, and interfaith ritual. Storytelling, spiritual pilgrimage, going to the theatre, and spending time with family and friends are all a big part of my life.
Matt Cormack MBACP
Workshop: How do Pagan practices support mental health? Are there ways that magical practice can be useful? This interactive workshop will explore how Pagan practices can support mental health through simple and practical ritual.*
Biography: Matt Cormack MBACP is an integrative therapist. He is the Mental Health and Wellbeing Officer for the Scottish Pagan Federation. Matt sits on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Spirituality Division’s Executive Committee. He has been working as a therapist in education since 2021. Matt began his journey with Paganism in 2006 and is a legal Pagan celebrant.
*Please note that due to the sensitive and interactive nature of this workshop it will not be recorded. Matt will record a version of this workshop to be included in the online section of the conference.
Talk: Details coming soon!
Biography: Philip Carr-Gomm lives on the South Downs in Sussex, England, with his wife Stephanie. In his teens, he began studying Druidry as a spiritual path with Ross Nichols, the founder of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Later Philip took a degree in psychology from University College London, and trained in psychotherapy for adults at The Institute of Psychosynthesis, in play therapy for children with Dr Rachel Pinney, and in Sophrology – a system of mind-body training for deep relaxation and personal development. Philip has also trained in Montessori education and founded the Lewes Montessori School. In 1988 he was asked to lead The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. In June 2020 Philip handed on this role to his successor, Eimear Burke. Since then, having worked for the Synthesis Institute, he is involved in the ACER Integration programme, and the work of the Sophrology Institute and the Institute of Psychosynthesis. Although Philip’s spiritual practice is rooted in Druidry, he believes we have entered an era in which we can move beyond attachments to labels, drawing instead upon the Perennial Tradition, being inspired by the wisdom in all spiritual paths and teachings – following the way of the Universal Mystic. In recent years, Philip has pursued an interest in spiritual practices by training to be a teacher of Yoga Nidra and Mindfulness Meditation, and has created an online school, The Art of Living Well, to offer courses that combine psychological and spiritual understanding.
Dr Liz Williams
Talk: This talk will focus on my ancestral connection with the Celtic countries, specifically West and North Wales, and how the landscape and history of those places has informed my life and my work.
Biography: Liz writes science fiction and dark fantasy. Her novels have been published by Bantam Spectra and, currently, Open Road in the USA and by Tor Macmillan and New Con Press in the UK. Most recently, as well as the Fallow Sisters series with New Con, she has published a book on the history of Paganism in Britain, Miracles of Our Own Making, with Reaktion Books, one on Modern Handfasting with Llewellyn, and is working on a new book on folklore.
Talk: Welsh-Scottish Mythic Connections
Talk: Folk Divination
People have always wanted to know what was going to happen next. Who will be my true love? Who will die in the next year? Will my crops ripen? Will my cattle be well? And they believed that they could read signs and portents in the movement of the stars, the patterns of cards and tea leaves, and the sighing of the wind in the trees. This talk will examine all the different means by which people practiced divination, with particular reference to Scottish folklore.
Biography: Yvonne has been a Pagan since 1985 and a Wiccan since 1991. They have an MA in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities from Bath Spa University (UK), and moved to Cambridge, Ontario, Canada in May 2018. They have written four books on mythology and folklore. Their most recent books are "Changing Paths" (2023), "Dark Mirror: the inner work of witchcraft" (2020), "The Night Journey: witchcraft as transformation" (2020), and "All acts of love and pleasure: inclusive Wicca" (2014). They blog at Dowsing for Divinity.
Talk: In this interview Cassandra will be discussing Queer magick and inclusive practice.
Biography: Cassandra Snow (they/them) is a writer, tarot professional and performing artist. They have three books out from Weiser Publishing, Queering the Tarot, Queering Your Craft: Witchcraft From the Margins, and Lessons From the Empress: A Tarot Workbook for Self-Care and Creative Growth which was co-written by Siri Vincent Plouff. They are excited to see Charlie Claire Burgess' Radical Tarot book come out this year, as well as The Fat Folks Tarot and it's guidebook, both of which Cassandra contributed too. In their tarot life, Cassandra reads via Zoom and email and has taught everywhere from conferences similar to this one, to feminist sex toy shops, to public libraries and back again. In Cassandra's "other" life, they play TTRPGS on two different podcasts: Lesser Evil and Table It! A Micro-Rpg Podcast. They also service on the advisory and planning councils for Flip the Script! Film Festival and Queer and Funny Improv Festival, respectively. Learn more, snag a reading or buy their books at cassandra-snow.com or follow them on Instagram at mx.cassandra.snow .
Talk: Join Jean as she shares the history of Wicca and explores how Wicca is practised today.
Biography: Jean and her husband, Jim, have been practising for over 30 years. Together Jean and Jim ran the early SPF conferences. Jean has given talks and workshops on Magick & Witchcraft over the years and lead open rituals. She is on the Board of Edinburgh Interfaith and was the first Honorary Pagan Chaplain at Edinburgh University. Jean is also a Legal Pagan Celebrant.
Talk: The Harp That Plays Alone: Bardic Satire in the Goidelic Traditions
Biography: Lucy Blackthorne (she/her) is an award-nominated poet and writer, a pagan makar (bàrd). Under her bardic sobriquet of Liùsaidh and her previous pen name of LJ McDowall, she has been published in numerous online and print publications, including Eastern Structures, Measure, the World Haiku Review, Green Egg Magazine, the Dawn Treader, and many others. She's currently poet-in-residence for the Wild Hearth Collective and the editor of eSPIN, the magazine of the Scottish Pagan Federation. She was editor of Quarterday, a Journal of Classical Poetry from 2015-2017. She holds two Bachelor's degrees in Biomedical Science and Study of Religion and an advanced degree in International Law. Prior to having a family, she specialised in humanitarian law before working for several years as a lawyer in the field of refugee and migrant justice. Lucy's passions and special interests include folk music, folklore, the indigenous languages and the spiritual history of Scotland and Ireland. Lucy is an animist practitioner of the Scots Fairy Faith, and has practised in the Goidelic (Irish-Scottish) traditions for over twenty years, firstly as a syncretic Catholic and then as a Goidelic Polytheist. Lucy is queer, neurodivergent, and disabled, and lives with her family on the edge of the ancient Galloway Forest, where poets have, according to legend, run mad after battle.
Scott Richardson-Read (Cailleachs Herbarium and Woven Land Network Coordinator)
Talk: Tobar-srùbaidh - Healing well
Biography: An academic researcher, writer, herbalist, activist, and Scottish folk magic practitioner. Scott draws on the rich well of Scottish Folklore, customs, practices, and traditions Scott weaves these strands to explore the historic and academic basis of Scottish folk practices. He encourages people to become custodians of Scotland’s intangible and historic animistic heritage through the work of the Woven Land Network and curates’ events through the Taibhsear Collective bringing together experts in areas of Scottish folk magic, music, story, and practice to fetch them into relevance today.
When he is not writing, he works alongside minority groups, creating change in legislation, policy and practice in Scotland and advocates alongside marginalised communities to have their voices heard where it matters.
Talk: The Talk will be about Storytelling, how metaphor explains our being, cultures and histories. Stories are as old as we are, they carry within them the knowledge of how to survive and thrive in this World. From the pre historic cave and rock paintings to River City stories describe our lives. What we perhaps don't realise is that the stories we tell daily weave our reality, as we with the telling are all ways listening. Everyone tells stories, and we are mainly wired to seek them out. Stories define and explain so much of our lives, bring us lessons and wisdom from ancient times wrapped inside the myths and legends of Bardic traditions.
How we hear them is unique to us.
Biography: Formally apprenticed in Glastonbury under the tutelage of Elsa & Howard Malpas of Warrior in the Heart Foundation, Leslie is a Shamanic Practitioner, Teacher, Speaker, Storyteller & Workshop Facilitator. She has worked and studied with Shamans from Nepal, North & South America, Eastern & Northern Europe and some closer to home. Born in Scotland, she comes from long Ancestral lines of Bards & Poets. She works globally in virtual reality and in the physical space, collaborating with other Shamanic people, telling Stories and bringing out the magic that sleeps inside them.
“We tell our story every day, not realising the Power that lies within the telling and the hearing. There in the space between magic can be found and profound change can be made.” email@example.com
Featuring special entertainment by Amarynthia!
Amarynthia is a Witchcraft Folk Duo consisting of vocals, guitar, flute and traditional drums.
We write and perform original folk-style music with witchcraft themes and lyrics.
We started back in 2019 as a larger 4 piece band and we wrote and recorded two Witchcraft Folk albums with this line up, which are available on Bandcamp https://amarynthia.bandcamp.com/
Our albums are original songs about various witchcraft topics including festivals (with our songs Yule and Samhain) covens, rituals, divination, tarot and songs for followers of different witchcraft paths including Wiccans and Hedgewitches.
Our second album Sisters includes Pendle Hill, a song about the Pendle Witch Trials, retelling the story between Alizon Device, Jennet Device and John Law.
This year has seen us ‘Returning to our Roots’ by leaving behind our lives in England and moving to a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. In our new hillside cottage overlooking beautiful mountains and lochs, we are writing our third album, closer to nature and with a renewed and reinvigorated connection with witchcraft and the world around us. There is such beauty in the simplicity with which we now surround ourselves, the new music we are writing reflects that.