Today is an interesting one – I feel like the topic of deities could have 30 days all of its own!

It’s funny, I feel like I’ve been actively working with gods and goddesses for only a short part of my pagan life. When I first began practicing Wicca four years ago I found it very easy and natural (haha!) to begin working with Great Spirit, elementals and land spirits. I was, and still am, a very eclectic witch, and although I knew that lots of people worked with gods and goddesses, I never felt the need. I felt like my work was fulfilling and complete without them, and if you read my entry on cosmology you’ll know that I believe the gods are ways of understanding Great Spirit anyway.

It wasn’t until I was auditioning for my music course that I first worked with a goddess. I wanted to be in this course very badly – this creative spirit felt completely trapped in a science degree and I knew a music course was where I needed to be. I felt like I needed some extra support, someone to hold my hand in the audition room, and almost by accident I stumbled upon Brighid. I warmed to her straight away – two of her domains are creative inspiration and healing, and as someone who wants to be a music therapist, I saw similarities with myself. She was wonderfully supportive, wise and still continues to teach me a lot. She encouraged me to not be afraid of working with deities, and she was my first experience of their power.

Brighid is still a goddess I revere and work with regularly. And yes, I did get into that music course!

That was two years ago. It took me a while to put names on the deities I was working with, but I think unconsciously it was all part of my deep beliefs that I was still discovering. I spoke a bit about this in my Cosmology entry, but my beliefs are very pantheistic. I see the universe as a manifestation of Great Spirit, or “God”. Divinity is everywhere, within everything, the world is god. With those beliefs in mind, it’s not surprising that working with traditional deities was not high on my to-do list. I was already building relationships with spirits of the land, elementals, dryads and other nature spirits. I was already working with that divinity. I was just working with different parts of it and calling it different names.

I am still very eclectic, and the specific aspects of Great Spirit that I work with are many and varied. One day I may be revering Brighid, the next day I could be asking guidance from Dolphin, the day after trading energies with tree spirits. To me, though, these are all just aspects of Great Spirit. They are ways of understanding Great Spirit. We are human, and we love to categorize things. It makes sense that we find it much easier to work with little chunks of Great Spirit, than try to puzzle the whole universe out!

I believe that a lot can be learned by working with many different deities and benevolent spirits. They can be very different in practice than in books. If we are respectful there is a lot we can learn from each other, for they are of the same divine spark as we are.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. As some of you will know, I feel I am very strongly connected to the element of Water and have been for most of my life. I’m completely in love with dolphins, turtles, whales and fish, I feel incredibly at home around rivers and the ocean, and I have been known to cause heavy rain when I work with elemental water. The dolphin is a very important spirit guide for me, and I have always wanted to meet them up-close in real life.

The team: four bubbly, excited witches. The mission: swim with seals and dolphins. The task: jump in the car and get there before the boat leaves. The last one turned out to be more difficult than expected – after 2 hours in the car we found ourselves literally running along the pier as we watched the other people putting their wetsuits on and climbing aboard. Thankfully, we made it just in time and jumped onto the boat after them. It was already an adventure…

It was a 20 minute boat ride to our first stop – swimming with the seals.

The seals

The beautiful seals in their home! Image by Moonraker Charters

We were greeted with an overwhelming fishy smell and some barking (what do they call the noise seals make?!) before we saw a few little heads popping up from the structure in front of us. This man-made structure was built for the seals to laze around on, and clearly it fulfills its purpose!

What I love is that the seals were not kept enclosed in any way. Rather than being kept in captivity for humans to gawk at they were built a little house that they love and we go to them. A really wonderful idea.

I was very surprised that I didn’t find the water cold when I first got in. People were screaming and giggling at the freezingness of it all, but I managed to slip in without incident. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realised my wetsuit was too big and huge amounts of water were pouring into it. That was cold!

The seals themselves were so beautiful. On land they are so lazy – the lie there and move their heads and that’s about it – the Homer Simpsons of the ocean! But as soon as they dive in the water they are as graceful as any fish. Amazing to behold, and even more amazing when they are swimming all around you. I had seals swimming under my feet, around my body, and one gorgeous little fellow who kept swimming straight towards me as if he wanted to tacklehug, and then turning around at the last minute. So cute!

Being in the ocean is always spiritual for me. As crazy as that may or may not sound, I feel an incredible connection there – I feel like the ocean spirit is hugging me the whole time! At one point I got a bit carried away, closing my eyes and meditating lightly with the sea… I opened my eyes to find I’d drifted all the way back to the boat! Easily distracted? Me? No…

The next bit of the trip was the hardest for me. Climbing out of the water and back on the boat with all that seawater that had leaked into my wetsuit… I swear I have never been so cold in my life! I went to get a hot chocolate and was shivering so much that most of it had found its way out of the cup by the time I sat down! But, the dolphins were next and that’s what kept me going…

Or were they? After what seemed like a long time shivering and giggling with the memory of the seals, we stopped at Pope’s Eye Marine Park, with not a dolphin in sight. I sat on the boat for a while, because I was so incredibly cold, but I did spend a few minutes in the water getting acquainted with the fishies! It was like a little reef – lots of kelp and plants, beautiful fish of different colours, absolutely beautiful. My fishy adventure wasn’t to last long though, sadly, as I was so unbelievably cold I had to get out of the water. Stupid huge wetsuit!!

A bit more sightseeing and sailing along, and then the moment I’d been dreading:

“Ladies and gentleman, unfortunately the dolphins have alluded us today – we can’t find a single one, and so we’ll take you back to the pier….”

What?? No dolphins?? All that waiting, all that bouncing up and down in excitement, and no dolphins for us. I was obviously very upset, but after a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself I was at least able to take the wetsuit of evil off and dry off/warm myself up.

Apparently not finding any dolphins is very unusual on these cruises, as usually they are as excited as the humans are! But maybe today it was too cold for them, or they had decided to be lazy like the seals!

Despite the lack of my favourite creatures, and the teeth-chattering chill, it was an incredible day that I will remember for a very long time. And, if nothing else, this just means I have an excuse to go back!

Hooray for me finally finishing a post that is more than a paragraph long!! Seriously, you should see my backlog of “posts to finish and publish”. It’s depressing.

So I’m currently still buzzing from my trip to Sydney last weekend for the Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival – pretty much the belly dance event in Australia. To my knowledge, anyway…

This year was my first ever festival (to think I was a little beginner bellydancer a year ago!!) and, ambitious gal that I am, I had booked 5 workshops to attend, a troupe performance and *drumroll*… My first ever solo in front of humans. Yes, it was always going to be a massive weekend.

Now, early mornings are not something I’m accustomed to. I go to an arts college, and we tend to be the lazy kind who enjoy our sleep and wouldn’t dream of having a class before 10am. So having to wake up at 7am to get to workshops each morning was certainly a shock to the system. Thank goodness my lovely friend Julia, who I was staying with, took me out to breakfast on the first day. After being forced to wake me up by playing the Urinetown Cast Recording, of course.

Over the Friday and Saturday I went to the 5 workshops:

Figure 8s and Bodywaves was kind of controversial among my friends, who are all Oriental/Cabaret dancers as well, as it was quite Tribal Fusion in style. I actually really enjoyed it. Although not all the moves were things I would necessarily use, I liked that everything got broken down, rather than just “make it look like this”, and I liked being pushed out of my comfort zone into types of figure 8s and undulations I never knew existed! And, I’ll admit it, I do like having a bit of a flirt with Tribal Fusion occasionally!

Fabulous Fan Veils was, I have decided after much deliberation, my surprising favourite workshop. The story goes like this: I fell in love with fan veils after watching This Clip, and found a cheap pair in my preferred colour on eBay, so I grabbed them and was then too scared to play with them for a while. This workshop changed my mind though – I’m officially in love with them again! It was a great intro, talking about not only the basic moves with fans, but also about the history and how these Chinese-inspired props found their way into Middle Eastern dance! Plus, a room full of 100 dancers with beautiful fan veils swishing around is pretty amazing to behold!

I was really looking forward to Belly Samba, but sadly it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. This turned out to be, more or less, a zumba class. Now, I haven’t done very much zumba in my life, but I’ve done/seen enough to know I find it really tacky and cheesy and just plain irritating! The whole thing just seems to be so hyped up and the music with people yelling “ZUMBA FITNESS, WOO!” every few seconds is a little bit cringey. And hey, if you enjoy it and find inspiration from it, it’s great exercise and that’s all fine – good for you! It’s not for me, though, and I was expecting some cute belly dance choreography with some inspiration from Latin dance. Melissa was lots of fun though.

Get Your Head Around Feet was my other favourite workshop, because I just decided I can have two. Now, as someone who has done jazz/tap/ballet since I was 5, I’ve never felt that I was particularly clumsy on my feet, but I’ve heard really great things about Jrisi, who was taking the workshop, and so decided it would be a good one to do. I’m so glad I did – Jrisi is a wonderful teacher who is personable and friendly, explains things really clearly, choreographs very cleverly and is just great fun! We worked on many different grapevines and pas de bourees for 2 hours and I wasn’t bored once.

Talisman was the last workshop I did – a beautiful choreography put together and taught by Rose. I was proud that I got through this one – it was advertised as a workshop for advanced students, and I really wanted to give it a go. Despite the fact that I was getting super duper tired by this stage, I powered on through and managed to still be standing by the end of the class! We got through the whole choreography, which was wonderful as I really love fast-paced classes. The only annoying bit was that she didn’t bring enough DVDs of the choreography – they went very quickly!

The Showcase Concert was the big cherry on top of the cake that was the festival. The theme was Classics and Cliches, which I thought was a really cool idea, although I would have liked to see more ridiculous cliches, because there are so many!! Performances were from mostly teachers and professional dancers, with a few student groups thrown in for good measure. They ranged from the absolutely amazing, to the very awesome indeed to the “meh”, but it all balanced out! Standout performances were Tais from New Zealand, our very own Prue and Melusina (and I’m not even biased – the Underbelly ladies were amazing!) and the Hathor Dance Theatre.

I left the concert feeling very confused as to whether I was super inspired by all the amazing bellydance from around Australia, or super depressed at the fact that I’ll most likely never be that good!! I think it was a bit of both, but thankfully the former seems to have been the lasting impression – I pretty much haven’t stopped dancing all week since I got home. I think I’m frustrated and impatient when I watch professional dancers, because I’ve come a long way in the past year and I think I’m at that stage where all the basics are really easy and I can pick up choreography easily enough, but I haven’t got that refinement in my movement or the general amazingness that they have. “But but but… I devoured the basics and intermediate stuff so quickly, so why can’t I just hurry up and be super awesome??!” Sadly it doesn’t quite work like that! But I need more experiences like this festival to inspire me!

The final day of the festival was a big market featuring pretty much anything a belly dancer could want to buy, as well as student and troupe performances throughout the day. It was really cool being able to shop and watch dancing at the same time! Multitasking is a wonderful thing! My wallet did notice the rather sizeable hole the market left in it, but I bought a beautiful new hipscarf and a new bra + belt costume that I am still completely in love with!! I will post a photo when I find a skirt I can put with it!

Just before lunch was Bellique’s turn to perform – the usual deal with big smiles, “ham and cheese” Arabic pop music and our ice cream coloured costumes! Hehe, I love our troupe so much. I think we are all getting much more comfortable performing together, as we were all especially smiley and peppy, despite being in unfamiliar surroundings with mostly unfamiliar people. It’s such a ridiculously fun dance, and with Prue threatening to murder anyone who didn’t smile, you can see why we were so into it!

Some tasty lunch and a bit more shopping later and it was solo time. *gulp*. I always laugh when I think how scared my little piano students are about performing in a little concert in their school hall for a few parents and friends, and I guess that’s kind of what I was doing with my solo, but now I completely understand how my students feel!! Nerves-of-steel gal was suddenly a pile of shivering mess!

I actually don’t remember very much about the dance, except that I made my entrance at the wrong point in the music and forgot my choreography towards the end, but managed to improvise my way through the gaps so I suppose it could have been much worse! For a first choreography and a first solo, I guess I was proud of it, but there’s still that part of me that wants to be amazing right now. Hopefully, one day…

So there you have it: Shelley’s Sydney Adventures in one rather long blog post. And you know the effect it had on me because it was enough to kick me into finishing a blog entry!! There will be photos soon… stay tuned…

New Video!

It’s shameless plug time.

Yes I am working on the next few entries for the 30 days meme, and will have lots of exciting belly dance stuff to write about very soon, but for now have a look at this. Recent video of my a cappella group towards the end of a mammoth 2 and a half hour gig we were asked to do!


Hello world, it’s been a while! I’ve found it very hard to write of late. I’ve recently had to make the decision to leave my coven, which has been very hard on me and everyone involved, I haven’t been the healthiest little witch and I’ve also had writer’s block as to what to actually write here. Ironic, considering the reason I started the 30 Days meme in the first place!

To me, my thoughts on cosmology are something that is so innate, so deep within me, that I rarely think about it consciously. As a result, I’ve found it really hard to write about!

I’ve always been of a very animistic view. For me, there has been no difference between “the universe” and “Divinity/God/Great Spirit/All-that-is/whatever you want to call it”. They have always been one and the same. I believe, as many Wiccans do, that divinity exists everywhere: in trees, plants, animals, rocks, the ocean, the air we breathe, space… Everything is spirit. Everything is divine. As I’ll get on to in later entries, this is how I believe magic works: we are all in touch with a spark of this divinity, and can therefore get in touch with it on a grander level in order to create change.

For me, I’ve never seen it as so much “God created the world”, it’s more of a “God chose to manifest as the world”. I believe that the Great Spirit (the name I usually attribute to this) has always simply been. There was no clear beginning. That is something that, in this incarnation, is mind-boggling to try and contemplate. We’re so used to thinking of time as a linear thing with a clear beginning and end, but I don’t believe the universe quite works like that. I am inclined to believe that the Big Bang occurred, but I don’t believe that was the beginning of everything. I think the Great Spirit was before that, but the Big Bang was a way for it to manifest.

I believe that there are other worlds apart from the physical world we are used to – I’m still not sure what they all are, as I haven’t experienced them fully, but I have no doubt they are there. I believe these are just more manifestations of the Great Spirit.

I have always loved this song to bits, yes I am a self-confessed Disney nut, but I think it’s such a simple, beautiful way of expressing some of what I’ve talked about. Enjoy🙂

So, I discovered I’m pretty boring writing on my own. Having some sort of prompt-skeleton-thing to start me off is probably going to result is slightly more interesting reading. And so I present to you *drumroll* my version of the 30 Days of Paganism meme. Thanks to Elspeth (Book of Shadows) and Jess (Home Among the Gumtrees) for allowing me to steal the idea….

That’s a good question. I’ve lived with two Christians and an atheist my entire life. Most of my extended family identify themselves as Christian. There’s not even a hint of Pagan in any of my family. Actually, I stumbled upon Wicca quite by chance.

Even as a child, being brought up going to church every week, I was always drawn to nature, fairy tales, water, fairies and magic. I was always playing amongst the trees, couldn’t wait to go swimming, talking to “the fairies in the garden” and “the lady who lives in our house” (I still don’t know whether she was a ghost or some sort of guardian spirit, but I would talk to her a lot as a very small child). The world was magical to me, as I’m sure it is to many children. But as a child, I didn’t see it as a spiritual thing. Making friends with the trees and feeling a rush of calm in the water and talking to the lady were just life. The were just what happened.

This love of nature and “magical” experiences were kind of trampled as I grew up. I learned that having anything to do with any “spirits other than God” made me evil and bad. I made friends at school who told me that trees and lakes were stupid and they wouldn’t like me if I thought they were beautiful. As I went through primary and the first half of secondary school, I pretty much forgot all of this. A fairly common theme I think – people forgetting the simple, magical world of being a child. But I relate these early experiences quite strongly to my spirituality. It wasn’t until the age of 16 that I started questioning things.

By this stage I had been quite heavily involved in church – I helped out with childrens ministry and Sunday school because I love working with kids and making them smile. I got fired from that, though, for being a “bad influence on the children”. To this day I still have no idea what that means! But it depressed me, and I stopped going to church. Being free from people telling me how the world worked made me start thinking about what I actually believed.

So I read a lot of books on pretty much every religion and spiritual path I could think of. I think I was trying to find something that logically sounded right. But as soon as I started reading about Wicca, it was more than that. It just felt right, in a strange way I hadn’t felt before. It wasn’t a matter of logic, it was intuition. The more I read and the more I practiced, celebrating sabbats and esbats and doing simple meditations, the more peaceful I was. The magical aspect made me think of those days as a child experiencing nature, when life was peaceful.

And 5 years later I am still practicing. I am still discovering that inner peace and harmony that inspired me to begin with. It feels so wonderful to be actively involved in my spiritual path – to learn things from the world around me, the trees, the god and goddess, rather than being told to just accept “what this book says”. Divinity is so much closer to home, it’s in everything around us. As a pagan, I am an individual. There are no special rules I have to follow in order for my life to be a “good” one. “An it harm none, do as you will” makes perfect sense to me.

There is much more to say, but I’d better leave some things for the next 29 entries!

So, this is a long overdue post, but the last couple of weeks have been insane with a new job, billions of gigs, the Summer Solstice and Christmas coming up!

Anyway, a week-and-a-bit ago was the end of year concert for our belly dance school. This was only my second-ever belly performance in front of not-just-a-little-group-of-friends. I’ve actually found that I don’t really do the nervous thing anymore, which is kind of scary in itself. As someone who has been dancing since the age of 5 and is now in two bands and studying performance, I think I do it so much I don’t even think about it. I miss that nervous energy!

So we got to the theatre fairly early to rehearse a bit and get ready. I spent most of my sitting around time balancing my teacher’s sword on my head – I reeeeally want to learn sword technique next year. My wonderful friend Jess did make up for a whole bunch of us who are make-up n00bs – she did such an awesome job!!

My make up

Make up by Jess!

Group shot

Before going onstage - that's me 2nd from the right, and our teacher in the middle.

This was the costumes for my first dance – the big class veil dance. It was particularly awesome because the beginner class (black skirts) joined us for it as well (they usually don’t perform).








Veil Dance

Mid-dance shot. This is the intermediates in the veil section.

I was pretty happy with how everything went. I was disappointed with the moment of truth – scary solo-y butterfly turns towards the end. I just did one turn too many to the right and was out of time for the change of direction. I can just hear the audience: “oh, that girl clearly has problems with rhythm….”. Yep, the one studying music. Oh dear.

But I think that solo-y bit being just me and my teacher, who has danced for over 10 years, always meant I was going to look a little bit silly. I’m so glad I did it though – I love spinning with my veil!




2nd Costume

My costume for the troupe dance!

Second dance for the night was our student troupe – we’re the group that go out and do charity gigs and school fetes and nursing homes and stuff. We ordered these costumes online, going for the “Wiggles” look (ie, each person has a different colour). I love these costumes so much – they’re so shiny and beaded all over and make me feel like a “real belly dancer”!

The dance was so much fun. I was really comfortable with the space by this stage and it was just fun. It’s an Arabic pop piece – what we like to call “ham and cheese”. Just bubbly, energetic fun. I love it.

Troupe dance

Troupe mid-performance










So – the performance has left me bubbly and happy and most of all, hungry for more. Uni starts back in March, so until then I’ve got loads of time for practice. I really want to improve my technique and make my dancing cleaner.

Goals for the summer:
– improve my posture while dancing. My shoulders and swayback in particular.
– make my shimmies cleaner and more controlled
– work on layering
– learn some new moves
– choreograph a solo for myself

And probably loads more. I have no idea how realistic my short term or long term goals are, but we’ll see how it all goes.

So to any dancers reading this – how much do you usually practice? Do you use DVDs at all? I have a few, but I don’t use them all the time. How do you structure your practice in terms of warming up, drills, choreography etc etc?

Expect lots more catch-up entries soon…..