Falling autumn leaves teach us of the beauty of endings, of the bright flame of passion that doesn’t die but is reborn when life is transformed. The death of our bodies, relationships, dreams and hopes can all feel deeply sad, and rightly so, for suffering
is as real as joy, and loss is painful. But hidden within the darkness of loss lies a mystery,
and although that mystery will always foil our attempts to understand it with our minds,
Nature will sometimes offer us a clue as if to say:
There! Can you see it in the brightness of these leaves?
There’s more to this!
The mystic lifts a hand and describes an arc in the air.
The detective leans forward and displays the evidence.
The press fall silent as the scientist announces a discovery.
Your friend in the world of politics confides in you.
You lie on the couch, and as you recount the dream, you remember a scene you had forgotten, and that – in its turn – evokes an old memory from childhood.
The limiting container of certainty – your beliefs about how the world works, about who you are, what your purpose in life might be, about your reasons for behaving, feeling, thinking, the way you do – tips for a moment and spills its contents into the dream of your world…
And you are left at once both liberated and unsettled. “But I thought I understood! I thought life was this way, my life was this way!”
This is a good path. A path of uncertainty, of questioning, of not-knowing, of seeking. Of losing the path and wondering if it ever existed in the first place…
Of opening to the Mystery, the strangeness, the wonder of it all…
Photo: Nuinn’s Wood
Why pick up a book on Druidism? How strange it might seem to be interested in such an ancient tradition in a twenty-first century world, and yet thousands of people every year read books on Druidism, or go online to browse the websites of the many Druid groups that now exist.
Why is this? Are they trying to escape the modern world and retreat into fantasies about the past? This may be the case for some, but my experience over the last twenty-five years shows me that the majority of people who turn to Druidry today do so because they are concerned about the future, and they are following a deep intuition that it is in the roots of their spiritual and cultural heritage that they will find the answer to life’s problems. And so a movement apparently backwards is in reality a movement forward.
Just as a salmon swims and jumps upstream, going against the current to return to the spawning grounds of its birth, so perhaps we too need to swim against the current to return again to the sources of our spiritual history. And just as a new generation of salmon are born each year in these spawning grounds, so perhaps we too might find some form of rebirth in such a quest.
The naked human body evokes powerful and often contradictory feelings and ideas: it can thrill or revolt us; it can signal innocence or sexual availability, honesty or madness, oneness with nature or separation from society. Advertisers and the media are aware of the complex and ambivalent associations that most of us have towards the subject, and use images of bare skin or simply the word ‘naked’ to compete for our attention, while mystics have used nudity to get closer to God, and political protesters have discovered that simply baring all represents one of the most effective ways to gain publicity for their cause.
From the naked sages of India and St.Francis of Assisi to modern-day witches and Christian nudists, from Lady Godiva to Lady Gaga, via ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘The Calendar Girls’, A Brief History of Nakedness surveys the touching, sometimes tragic and often bizarre story of our relationship to our naked bodies.
The passage led to a central chamber. Every stone was inscribed with zigzag lines like bolts of lightning, lozenges, shapes that looked like dragons’ teeth, others like shields and axe-heads. And always the swirling fluid movements of a people who were guided by some mysterious force to decorate their temple in this way. One stone had been carved with what appeared to be two handles, as if it was a great door that led to the Otherworld and could be swung open. Or perhaps it was a place of birthing where women could stand, holding the handles tight to strain in the darkness, amongst the bones, to give birth to the children of the tribe.
Gillard closed his eyes. The guide was talking, telling them of the latest findings of archaeology. But Gillard wanted to connect with that golden chain. He was one of those temple builders. He had been following the same impulse that they had followed – to make something of beauty that would house the dead, that would be a place to bless the new-born, that would be a portal between this world and the next… He leant out to touch the walls of Gavrinis, to steady himself, and to feel the energy of the stones run through him. And he was back chipping at the rocks with the quarry men in Brocéliande, back in his church watching the masons at work, the new windows being fitted.