The Little Pagan Monastery Weekend

945363_640774059272919_940773617_nI don’t think any of us expected the deeply moving and transformative powers that awaited us on our weekend of the Little Pagan Monastery Retreat.

Held over the weekend of 11 – 13 April 2014, we stayed for two nights at Little St Michael’s, the Companions’ Retreat House for Chalice Well and Gardens. I knew that staying and sleeping in such a sacred spot would be the basis for challenging soul work. We had 24 hour access to the gardens, which was a special blessing after hours, when we had it all to ourselves. The chance to meditate, pray and create ritual at the Red Spring was truly unique. It opened our souls to the very special power of the Vale of Avalon, wherein the Goddess was present in everything.

We walked the spiral path up the Tor, feeling the strong energies push and pull us in every direction as the wind whipped around us. We climbed the Tor twice that weekend, the second time to watch the sunrise. The mists of Avalon swirled around us as we may our ascent in the hour before sunrise, and settled over the Somerset levels in thick, low banks of cloud that seemed to shine with their own inner light. The sun rose from behind the far hills, a red-orange disc of flame that filled the soul with such joy it felt like we would burst with it.

A private visit to the White Spring later that day resulted in a very moving ritual, wherein participants immersed themselves in the sacred waters of the large, dark mirror pool. Souls were awakened, energy bursting forth from the dark womb of the waters and new journeys began for everyone.

The days followed a routine of morning, noon and evening prayers and meditation. Together we created a group prayer to be recited at these times.

We give thanks for this day

May awen and peace flow our way

In honour of this land we pray

Some participants had powerful dreams, which was likely to happen in such a sacred power spot. The lodging itself was incredible – a 400 year old building filled with such peaceful energy. We had the meeting room as well, a beautiful open space filled with light where we gathered for discussions and group work. The kitchen and dining room were huge – how many kitchens have a vesica pisces symbol in the floor?

All in all, this weekend was one that I shall remember for the rest of my life. What we learned from this weekend we will take into our lives wherever we may be, and use the wisdom of Avalon to nourish, strengthen and sustain us in all that we do. We prayed that Avalon itself was blessed in return by our love and devotion to the sacred spirits, and we look forward to returning as soon as we can.

Everyday Spirituality

How can we incorporate more spirituality into our everyday lives? By truly living our religion, our spirituality, our calling.

A religion or spirituality cannot be read about, or simply thought about – it must be experienced. Like life, it is in the doing that counts.  Yes, we must think – carefully and deeply, about what we do as human beings. We must also act upon that thinking with full awareness, otherwise the opportunity to really live slips us by.

There are so many ways we can bring more awareness and more spirituality into our daily routines.  For instance, a prayer upon awakening is a brilliant way to start the day. Whether you believe in the gods, or spirits of place, the ancestors or nature itself or all of the above is a matter for your own path.  But coming to an awareness of them physically, emotionally – through living your meditations can make all the difference.  Saying a prayer, either aloud or in your head first thing in the morning can put you in the right frame of mind to be mindfully spiritual for the rest of the day.  You can pray in all kinds of ways – prayers of thanks for a new day, prayers of peace and love, prayers of love for those in need.  It matters not what type of prayer; what matters most is that it is done, in a way that best suits you to get into a spiritual frame of mind.

When we then get up and perform our ablutions, we are already aware of the sanctity of life.  We can say a prayer of thanks to the goddess of the waters, the local water source, to the oceans of the world as we run the tap to wash our face.  We create an awareness of the sanctity of water.

When we make our breakfast, or pour a cup of tea, we give thanks to gods, the spirits, to the earth for her abundance.  We take time to acknowledge where our food and drink comes from, and in that acknowledgement continue in a sacred manner.  We are establishing a strong relationship with the world around us by doing so.  A prayer that I like to use before I eat is simple:

“I give my thanks for the food I am about to eat. To the spirits of land, sea and sky, know that you are honoured”. 

I not only say the words, but honour the lands that the food and drink came from, the blessings of sunshine and rain, the people who worked to bring it food to my table.  Seeing the bigger picture allows me to truly be grateful for all that I have.

I can say a prayer or chant a charm when I am about to drive my car somewhere. Equally, I can say a prayer of thanks for hearing the blackbird’s song of Spring, or upon seeing the sunshine after months of rain.  Seeing the moon, or a particular constellation in the sky evokes spontaneous prayers within me, said either aloud or in my mind.  Prayers to the rising and setting sun, to the rising and setting moon are said, as well as prayers before bed. Even getting into the bathtub can become spiritual, with an honouring of clean, hot water, or a pentagram or symbol of awen drawn on the water’s surface to acknowledge the sacredness. Gardening, working with others, before or after meditation – these are all good times for a quick prayer as well.

Certain times of day might be better for those who like a stricter routine. A set time in the morning, noon, afternoon and evening might be more suitable for those who can follow a tighter regime. It is all about personal choice.

It is not only prayer, but short rituals we can use – a bow to the sun or moon, the lighting of a candle upon awakening, offering of incense or food at the end of each day.  Taking the time is what is most important – taking the time to connect with the spiritual world around you. We are never alone; we cannot be separate. We all live together on this planet side by side. Seeing this connection is pure awen.

Create songs for the sunrise, or write new chants for the full moon.  Sing something improvisational when you see the first blackthorn in flower, or raise your arms to honour the sun dog’s myriad colours in the sky.  The secular world may try to make us feel silly about doing so – but just try it. You may just find that your soul opens in response.

For more ideas on how to incorporate spirituality and devotion in your everyday life, I am holding a retreat weekend in the sacred Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury from 11 – 13 April.  This weekend, entitled The Little Pagan Monastery, will be a weekend filled with prayer, devotion and ritual, visits to sacred sites, as well as discussion, meditation, and personal time to incorporate ideas into your life.  For more information, see the Retreat Weekends on this site.

The Little Pagan Monastery Retreat

We’ve got our weekend retreat coming up! 11 – 13 April, Chalice Well Gardens, Glastonbury, UK

Experience a weekend filled with devotion to the gods, the land and the ancestors – with prayer, meditation, discussion and ritual, as well as visiting sacred sites such as Glastonbury Tor and the White Spring on this unique retreat, The Little Pagan Monastery.  Stay at Chalice Well & gardens, at Little St Michaels where you will have 24 hour access to one of Albion’s most sacred places during your stay.  Incorporate daily prayer and ritual into your life, make new friends and enjoy some time spent away in an inspirational setting with like-minded people.

To book, please visit: The Little Pagan Monastery

Little Pagan Monastery Itinerary

5pm onwards – arrivals
6pm – Welcome talk
6.30pm – Supper
8pm – Evening prayer and group meditation
9pm – Free time

7.30am – Morning personal meditation
8am – Morning Prayers and group meditation
9am – Breakfast
10.30 am – Discussion
12 noon – Midday prayers and group meditation
1pm – Lunch
2.30pm – Glastonbury Tor walk and meditation
5pm – Free time/gardening work
6pm – Supper
7.30pm – Discussion
9pm – Evening prayers

7.30am – Morning personal meditation
8am – Morning Prayers and group meditation, followed by ritual
9am – Breakfast
10.30 am – White Spring visit
12 noon – Midday prayers and group meditation
1pm – Lunch
2.30pm – Farewell

The Little Pagan Monastery – it’s happening!

Spurred on by my blog posts and comments regarding living a pagan monastic life, I’ve decided to organise weekend “retreats” that will follow and incorporate monastic traditions such as daily prayers, meditation, talks, lectures, chores and ritual for the Pagan.

Set in the beautiful and sacred Chalice Well Gardens, this three day, two night weekend will follow a strict routine and regime that hopes to inspire you to incorporate more spirituality in your daily practice at home.  Take what inspires you and run with it!

The first weekend will be on 11 – 13 April 2014 at Chalice Well Gardens.  We have booked St Michael’s Lodge, which is a lovely guesthouse designed for peace and relaxation in mind.  Rooms are either single or shared, so be prepared to possibly share with a new friend!  There is a library where books may be borrowed, but please return them at the end of the weekend. There is also a lovely kitchen, and a meditation room for daily practice and connection.

The Meeting Room set right up against the gardens is where most of the weekend’s events will take place.  We also plan to do some work in the garden, as well as take trips out to Glastonbury Tor and the White Spring, weather permitting.  Come and experience the beauty of land, sea and sky atop the Tor, or take a healing plunge into the sacred pools of the White Spring, or simply come to enjoy the beauty of the Red Spring and the serenity of Chalice Well. The weekend will end with a ritual (if possible) by Chalice Well.

All food (vegetarian and vegan), drink and accommodation are included in the weekend retreat price.  A £50 deposit must be made up front to guarantee your booking, and will be non-refundable if you cancel within two weeks of the booking date.

If you desire to taste the monastic life, to pray, meditate, work and enjoy the silence in a special holy site with like-minded people, then this is the weekend for you!

£180 per person, cheque or paypal payment only. Please email to book your place. If you are booking for more than one person please let me know and we will allocate you the double rooms first.

Many blessings!

Little Pagan Monastery

chalicwell1So, after a lot of interest in my previous Pagan Monasticism blog posts, it looks like I will be co-running a retreat weekend this winter at Chalice Well Gardens, called the Little Pagan Monastery.  The dates haven’t been confirmed yet, but we’re looking at something between October and December 2013, and then again in the summer of 2014.

The Little Pagan Monastery will give people a brief glimpse into a pagan monastic life – the weekend will be structured around daily prayers, meditations, lectures, chores around the houses and Chalice Well Gardens, as well as outings to the White Spring and Glastonbury Tor.  It will be a weekend of the contemplative life – a time to devote yourself 100% to your gods and spirituality in the tranquil setting of Chalice Well Gardens. It is open to all pagans.  Expect to rise with the dawn! We will also have out of hours access to the Chalice Well Gardens, and will end the weekend with ritual.

Prices have yet to be determined, as we need a rough estimate of numbers first.  We are aiming to keep the cost of this weekend as low as possible, to enable everyone no matter what their financial circumstances are the opportunity to dip their toes into pagan monastic life.  We’re hoping that everyone will go away nurtured by the weekend, and finding new and imaginative ways of incorporating more spirituality in their daily lives, should they so wish.

If you are interested, please email me at to be put on the sign-up list.  When we have a good idea of numbers, we will then let people know the financial costs and proceed from there. Space will be very limited, so please get in touch as soon as you can to be put on the list.

We hope to see you there!

Pagan Monasticim Part 2

eco villageEver since I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon about 20 years ago, I’ve always been in love with the idea of a group of priestesses or priests, living separate on an island, surrounded by the mists and completely dedicated to the goddesses and gods of their choice. From the moment they wake up, to the moment they sleep, and even in their dreams, they are 100% devoted to their religion.

This lovely tale can inspire us, even if it is unattainable, in modern day society.  As well, with my previous blog post the question of segregation, of separation from the outside world comes up – would this be the right thing to do for a pagan monastery?

I’ve been thinking about this solidly for two days since I posted my short, and quite quickly written little blog on the dream.  This had grown, solidified, and I am now looking into things like the logistics of it, the ethics and spiritual pathways.  So, what would my Pagan Monastery be like?

First of all, I’d have to start playing the lottery in able to have a chance at winning it.  I would then use whatever is left from the winnings, after distributing it between those that are in desperate need of it, to create the Pagan Monastery.  This would entail buying land that either had a suitable building on it that could house several people at once, and also put up people who wanted to come on retreat, or at least have the option to build something that would suit our purposes. The land would be essential, for we would need enough to grow as much of our own food as possible.  Ideally, it would incorporate areas of woodland, or if not, then these would be planted – not in neat little rows but sown in as wild and natural a way as possible, and lovingly maintained.  Even buying land that has come under threat from developers, or perhaps held in trust, like the wonderful, magical Sinfield Trust in Suffolk – imagine a monastery on that site! (  If we had to build, or expand upon the buildings already there, imagine eco-friendly structures, solar and wind powered.

I pondered in the earlier blog post whether I would have to give up my relationship to my husband to commit myself to my goddesses – and I’ve discovered that the answer is no.  The Pagan Monastery would include families, and provide a supporting atmosphere – a real sense of community.  People can live and love as they choose, as long as the tenets of respect, devotion, honour, integrity, discipline and community are adhered to.

The Pagan Monastery would allow for many gods to be worshipped.  There would be altars and shrines for differing deities, kept by those that love and follow the path of their deity.  Communal prayers as well as solitary prayers would be given.  The seasonal festivals and moon rites would be kept, sometimes honouring a particular deity, sometimes incorporating all, or offering a more generic version.  Private rituals and rites could be undertaken at any point by those who wish to go deeper into the vision of their goddesses and gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place.

There would be a routine adhered to.  Discipline is not a bad word in the Pagan Monastery.  People would rise at dawn where possible (ie. new mothers, fathers and children need their sleep as and when they can get it) and meditate, followed by solitary prayer.  Those that wish to would then gather for the communal meal – others who wish to continue in a solitary fashion can do so.  Chores would then be undertaken – the cooking and cleaning, either communally or solitary.  Work on the crops, on conservation, on letter writing to protest destruction of wild habitats, chopping wood, tending herb garden, tree planting, laundry, child caring, litter picking along the highways; all manner of work could fall under this banner.  Those that wish to work in the community can do so, and leave the monastery to perform their “day job”, so long as it is not against the tenets of the monastery.  Working within the community would, indeed, be an essential part of the monastery. A portion of the salary of those with day jobs would go to the monastery in lieu of physical work undertaken during the day. Those that wish to remain on site can also do so – each would perform in the best capacity that they could.

Noon day prayers would be given communally. Following that, a lunch, and then either more work for those that choose to do so or perhaps attending a lecture, talk, workshop.  In the hours between that and supper, people would be encouraged to exercise, to get out and commune with nature, or partake in journal-writing, craftwork, etc.  This would be free time.  Those that leave the monastery to work in the community then return home, and have some time to “decompress” should they so desire. Then supper, again either communally or solitary, depending upon the person.  Prayers before each meal are essential, to give thanks for the bounty.

Evening prayers would be communal for those that wish to, filled with beautiful song, chants, poems, dance, and other inspiration received during the day.  The evening would be filled with stories, or discussions, or ritual dependent upon the time of year. Then, meditation for those that wish, and also bed – for those night owls, this routine would be different.

Retreats would be offered to those who seek to learn more – weekend retreats would be ideal.  Newcomers would be introduced to the routines, and take their part in the community, to do their share and get to experience what monastic life would be like for the pagan.  These retreats would be paid for by the retreatees, and funds going to the monastery for essentials – any excess then devoted to designated charities.

The Pagan Monastery would be a place of learning.  It would welcome and organise guest speakers to come and teach the community new things.  It would be a designated holy space for all pagans to come and spend some time, in prayer, in learning, in work and in devotion.

These are just some of the things that I envision for the Pagan Monastery.  While it may only be a dream, things are falling into place for a Little Pagan Monastery – ie. weekend retreats in a monastic style, with the routine outlined above, workshops, lectures and ritual.  Held perhaps quarterly, at either the cross-quarter days or the solar festivals, these retreats would bring together those who long for that monastic feel, a retreat to recharge the batteries and inspire the individual monastic style.

Watch this space.

Pagan Monasticism Part 1

How I long for a monastic life.  As pagans, we really don’t have that option, however.  Yet I still dream, of a life completely given to the gods; days spent in prayer, in total connection, separated from the outside world in order to go deeper.  I know, many would say that this is possible in every day life, that we are always connected – that the ability to go deeper, to drink awen from the cauldron is always at our fingertips, if we only know how to access it.  But it is in the quiet, in the stillness and relative solitude of like-minded people, who wish to give themselves completely to their religion that I seek.  That is rare, if it happens at all, in today’s society from the pagan perspective.

I dream of joining other priestesses and priests, in daily ritual, devotions, songs and prayers to our chosen deities. Of living as one with the earth – growing all our own food, of being as self-sufficient as possible but still serving the community.  Again, people will say that I can do this now, and yes, I do it as much as I can, but it is part of my life, not my entire life.  I still have to spend parts of my life working other jobs to keep my cash income flowing in the pay bills, to buy the food that I cannot grow.  I could dedicate some of my jobs to this goddess or that, but it just doesn’t feel the same.  I can’t sit at my desk and pray to my gods while I’m answering various client queries and emails.

It’s that urge to dedicate myself 100% to my religion that I crave.  It would mean giving up many things, some which I long to give up, others, like my husband, I would find very, very difficult.  But would I, if I had the choice? I don’t really know – I’ve yet to be offered that choice, and so cannot say for certain.

Does anyone else feel this way, I wonder?

P.S. I have since found this – though they have yet to build a physical building, the points are in place for something quite special.

P.P.S.  There is a lot of interest in this, and ideas are brewing… I will keep you all posted!