Archives For CJ Stone

[The following is a guest post from CJ Stone on the newly revised Kindle edition of his book, “The Trials of Arthur,” which explores the life and work of British Druid activist Arthur Pendragon. CJ Stone is an author, columnist, and feature writer. He has written four books: “Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground” (Faber & Faber 1996); “The Last of the Hippies” (Faber & Faber 1999); “Housing Benefit Hill & Other Places” (AK Press 2001); and “The Trials of Arthur” (Thorsons/Element 2003). He is currently working on his fifth.]

“The new Druids and especially those involved in direct action such as Arthur, are therefore not fringe figures with ideals and preoccupations detached from those of a wider national community, but some of the more colourful contributors to a set of arguments and activities which involves a large part of that community.” - Ronald Hutton, from the forward of “The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition”

It was just over three years ago that Arthur Pendragon asked me if I could get our book re-printed. It had originally been published by Thorsons/Element, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 2003, but had since gone out of print.

I contacted a friend on the off-chance: John Higgs, the writer of “I Have America Surrounded,” a biography of Timothy Leary. John had written a film script based upon our book, so I knew that he’d be interested.

This is where the magic kicks in, as it often does in Arthur’s life.

It just so happened that John had recently set up a publishing company in order to publish a book by a friend of his, and he had some ISBN numbers spare.

I have to say that I was never very pleased with the old book. I’d had a lot of difficulty writing it, and had had to deal with a fairly serious depression in the middle of it. I was about six months into it, and struggling, when 9/11 happened. After that I couldn’t see what relevance a book about road protests and Paganism in the 90s had any more. The world had suddenly turned apocalyptic in front of our eyes.

But I struggled on with it, very slowly, and, in the end, did the best job I could. It came out in 2003.

The second half was always much better than the first half, being as much about the protest scene in the UK in the 90s as it was about Arthur. And I rushed the first and last chapters in order to beat the deadline. I always knew they would ask me to re-write these chapters.

Except they never did. They asked me to re-write the last chapter, but the first chapter stayed the same, with all of its faults. It was clumsy, turgid, awkward and it entirely failed to do what any decent opening chapter should do: it failed to draw you into the story.

Thus, when Arthur asked me to get the book republished, I decided to re-write that first chapter.

Only now something magical happened again. I wrote two chapters to replace the original first chapter, but then I just couldn’t stop writing. I wrote chapter after chapter, much to Arthur’s annoyance, who wanted to get the book out quickly. And I have to say, in Arthur’s defence, that he had a point. My struggles with the earlier book had meant that we’d missed deadline after deadline, and the book had been seriously delayed.

Thus it was that we decided on a compromise. We republished the book as it had originally appeared, and I carried on writing what I thought was a brand new book.

Only it didn’t turn out like that either.

After a while I just found I was rewriting the old book again, and the whole project got shelved, while I waited for new material.

No new material turned up.

It’s funny how long it can take to spot the obvious at times. I had half a book I liked, and a published book I didn’t like. I was thinking of releasing some of my old books on Kindle, and spoke to John Higgs again. This was only a few weeks ago.

“Shall we put the Arthur book out on Kindle” I asked?

“Sure, why not?” said John. “Only why don’t you put those two chapters back in?”

Those were the two chapters that had turned into seven chapters and which we had jettisoned in favour of bringing out the book in its original form. So I looked at the two chapters and then at the seven chapters, then at more material I had, plus two more chapters that Arthur had written, and it all just slotted into place.

We had a brand new book on our hands.

And I have to say that, unlike the original book, this is one that I am genuinely proud of. It’s not only that it reads better – that it is faster paced and more compelling, or that the first chapter draws you right into a magical scene and then doesn’t let you go – it’s also that it all suddenly makes perfect sense.

I can clearly see the relevance at last.

Yes, it’s mainly about long-forgotten battles for the soul of Britain – about road protests and protests around access to the Stonehenge monument on solstice night – but it also brings up important issues about identity, about freedom, about culture, about our place on this planet, and about who we think we are.

That’s the point about Arthur. People say he’s crazy. It takes not knowing him to think that. Once you meet him you know how gloriously sane he actually is. It’s the rest of the world that seems crazy by comparison.

Whatever you think the mechanism of his claims might be – is he the reincarnation of a historical Arthur, or just the current representation of a mythological spirit? Did he become Arthur by living the part, or did he evoke something that was already there? Is ‘Arthur’ a title, or a name? Could anyone be Arthur if they chose? – However you think the process has evolved, the fact is that by his very presence he challenges much of what we take for granted in our 21st century world.

He takes us back to a magical time when our souls were our own and we were free to make decisions based upon the needs of the Earth and of our fellow creatures, rather than the hypnotism and propaganda of the global elites. He asks us to be heroes: to have adventures, to be bold and upfront in our lives, and gives us some hilarious and compelling examples of how he went about achieving the role for himself.

This is the true glory of Arthur’s achievement, that he makes Paganism an adventure again, rather than a learned squabble between rival factions. He brings it out of the library and onto the field of battle. He turns it into a battle cry for the Earth and for the dispossessed of the Earth. He makes it fun to be alive.

To buy the book: Amazon / Amazon UK
For more information about Arthur Pendragon: http://www.warband.org.uk/
For more information about CJ Stone: http://cjstone.hubpages.com/

In yesterday’s community roundup I noted that Sacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), had been able to reach its fundraising goals, and would be staying open. This was the culmination of an emergency fundraising campaign started at the beginning of July to save the center, it was estimated that they needed to raise approximately $12,000 to remain open and have enough breathing room to restructure. However, just one day after announcing that they have successfully reached their fundraising goals, Sacred Paths Center sent out a statement saying the center was closed “indefinitely” pending internal and external financial audits.

“As a result of an internal audit during the Change & Grow program, the Sacred Paths Center board has directed the closing of the center and called for a full inventory of the center’s assets and an external audit of the corporation’s finances. The board has also empowered an internal audit of the corporation’s organizational documents, governance and administrative procedures, and policies. This affects all operation at the Sacred Paths Center’s current facility. The gift shop, all class rooms and the healing center will all be closed indefinitely. All classes and events are suspended indefinitely. Normal office hours have been suspended. The staff have been directed to focus on preparing materials necessary for the external audit and will not be available to answer questions about the closure. Rather than stopping by the center or attempting to reach us by phone, please contact the center at ClosingQuestions@SacredPathsCenter.com if you have any questions or concerns about the audit, and SacredPathsCenter@gmail.com if you have any questions about upcoming classes and availability of healers, readers, teachers and other services.”

Shortly after the statement went out figures closely associated with SPC commented on the closing. At PNC-Minnesota, board member CJ Stone made the following comment:

“SPC is NOT out of business. They are doing due diligence with donors’ monies. They spotted problems with what’s going on, and they are moving to fix it NOW instead of “Oh, you know, in a couple weeks or so. What’s the difference?” The alternative is for them to pretend nothing is happening, have the money and the SPC go down the drain, not come clean in public about it, and prove there’s no way to do a Pagan community center.”

This was echoed by another board member, Carol Haselmann, on SPC’s Facebook group.

“It’s temporary until we can get the audit done. “Indefinitely” was probably a poor word choice at the moment. Thanks for your patience.”

PNC-Minnesota tells me that it’s unlikely further official statements will be made until after the center’s next board meeting on August 10th. Hopefully at that time we will learn more about SPC’s future, what triggered the audit, and why that necessitated a closure. While this is a local matter, it has generated interest far beyond the Twin Cities as other Pagan communities explore opening their own community centers. I’ll keep you posted on any further updates.

To learn more about the history of Sacred Paths Center, check out the special video series produced earlier this year (part 1part 2) by PNC reporter Cara Schultz.

You can read all of my coverage on this story, here.

ADDENDUM: Sacred Paths Center announces they will reopen on August 8th.

“We sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by our sudden closing. We want to thank Keys of Paradise for making their space available for the events that we inconvenienced this week. We are reaching out to the coordinators for all events scheduled at the center between now and the reopening on Monday to assure them that the space they reserved will be available to them as promised previously. If you have something scheduled at the center this weekend you will have space.

The reason for closing this week is simply to catch up on some neglected organizational items. We need to do a physical inventory of the store, clean up our book keeping and filing systems, and we are restructuring our organizational tools to better serve our members and the community. These projects become very difficult when being done amongst the hustle and bustle of the normal Center functions.”

On Monday they promise to publish “a breakdown of the success of our Change and Grow campaign.” As always, we’ll keep you posted.

On July 8th I reported that Sacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), was in danger of closing down unless they could raise $7,500 immediately. That was followed by an interview conducted by PNC-Minnesota with SPC board member CJ Stone, where it was estimated that the center needed to raise $12,000 total by the end of July to remain open and viable for the longer term. Today, CJ Stone left an update in our comments section, to say that they’ve almost raised their immediate goal, and are hopeful about reaching the $12,000 needed to restructure for long-term survival.

“I’m happy to say we’ve received more than $7000 in donations. We’re close to our minimum $7,500, and I”m hopeful about getting up to the $12,000 that will let us grow and change into the community center everyone needs. Please ask your Pagan confrers near and far to consider a donation or a matching grant. We are doing some local fundraisers, but for folks farther away, there’s a “raffle” of some Paganistani homebrew, $10/ticket. We’ll announce that officially soon, so please keep an eye peeled. I’ll be back here to announce it, too. There’s also an auction of a lovely wedding/handfasting cup set. This is a personal item from my wife’s estate that I donated for the benefit of SPC. I thank very kindly everyone who has worked to help us stay open and continue, to change and grow. Please be sure to check for donation and action updates at our website, www.SacredPathsCenter.com.”

You can find out more about the center’s fundraising initiatives at their website. Sacred Paths Center had recently unveiled a new national public ancestor shrine and sacred spirit altar.  Sacred Paths Center’s journey was also profiled by PNC reporter Cara Schultz  in a special video series produced earlier this year (part 1part 2).

We will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Roy Mayall at the Guardian seems ready to vote for Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon), running to become an independent MP in Salisbury, as the May elections loom.

“One of the counts I will be most interested in following on election night will be the one down in Salisbury, where the ever-colourful King Arthur Pendragon is standing. You’ve got to love him: a man in a dress who rides a motorbike and carries a dirty big sword called Excalibur around … He’s a sort of wayward son of the Druid movement – the armed proletarian wing – with a taste in wild women and flashy silver jewellery and a kind of persistent stubbornness that is almost Churchillian in its scope. I think there may be other candidates, but I’ve already forgotten who they are.”

Pendragon has been a perennial political candidate for well over a decade now, and while he’s outperformed the BNP, he’s never gotten close to actually getting elected. Many of Pendragon’s political forays stem from his quest to have regulations concerning Stonehenge changed, and to advocate for its protection.

The Guardian profile comes right when writer CJ Stone’s autobiography of Arthur Uther Pendragon is being re-released, with a sequel in the works. In a recent interview, Stone talks about what makes Pendragon such a compelling figure to those covering national politics.

“It’s the name that has the magic. The name is resonant of so many things. For a start, it represents something ancient in the British landscape and in the British psyche: something real and authentic. So what Arthur does is to challenge the modern world – this criminal world of corporate irresponsibility – from the position of something more ancient, more authentic, more true. True justice as opposed to fake justice. Real truth, real honour. So when the man, Arthur, calls upon the name he is activating some deep reality which calls us all to rise up and challenge the corporate takeover of our world and to get back to our deeper selves.

No, he has to be Arthur, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. Otherwise he’s just a politician. It’s like when he stands for election. He’s got this keen political and legal brain. He’s very bright, and he could easily be a politician. If he wasn’t going round calling himself King Arthur, if he had a shave and joined some political party – maybe the Green Party – you could even imagine him getting himself elected. But this is the point. The whole political world is fake. Politicians are fake. Political parties are fake. They’ll say anything to get elected. They lie to you. And then you have this guy who says he’s King Arthur – claiming to be some imaginary King, some legendary figure from a mythological past that might not ever have existed – and he’s more real than they are. He’s not fake. He’s not lying. He’s never going to get elected, of course, but he’s there, offering the alternative, this grubby biker-king who lives in a caravan on the outskirts of Amesbury and who smells of damp and decay, who is simply not tempted by money or the corporate world, who is living his life according to his beliefs and not according to someone else’s greedy agenda.”

Of course, not everyone who’s met King Arthur is under his spell, and he’s come under some criticism from Pagans in the UK for his lifestyle and methods, but he’s also managed to impress many skeptical Pagans who thought he might be simply a joke.

“Maybe Arthur is a bit of a nutter, but he is an intelligent, good-hearted and compassionate man (I’ve met him) who has more activist spirit in his little finger than the majority of the pagans I have met have in their entire bodies, and that includes me. So when people who mock him are ready to get arrested multiple times in service to a cause (a cause intended to raise awareness of the modern pagan movement, among other things), maybe they’ll get their names in the news, too.”

So, in an election where the normal Tory-Labour trade-off is looking to be up-ended by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, who knows? Maybe Salisbury will elect a King.