Archive for February, 2009

 

Green Recovery

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

This Sunday, Europe’s leaders will meet to agree on further steps to tackle the economic crisis. They face a crucial choice: pour money into an unsustainable economic system which clearly has holes; or embrace a Green Recovery Plan that invests in low carbon technologies, energy efficiency, green jobs and public transport. The European Union has a historic opportunity to shift away from short-term, protectionist measures and take bold action to create jobs and save the planet. We need all European governments on board. So let’s send our top political leaders a flood of messages, urging them to embrace a green New Deal that lays the foundation of a sustainable economic recovery. Click here to send a pre-written message, or – even better, delete the text and write your own!

Nagpur Diary 3 – Sacred Places: Reclaiming Ancient Traditions in the British Isles

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

The Conference in Nagpur that I recently attended was designed to forge links and explore the connections between the ancient wisdom traditions that are found all over the world. I gave a talk there based on the material that follows and on research into the links between Druidism and Jainism and other Indian religions (more on that later!)

Sacred Places: Reclaiming Ancient Traditions  in the British Isles

Dear delegates and esteemed elders, I imagine it will come as no surprise to you to know that whereas in India the inhabitants are privileged to be living in a land where ancient traditions have been followed in an unbroken chain of practice since time immemorial, no such situation exists in the British Isles. We have enriched our museums and our culture with treasures from every corner of the Earth in a way that has been both helpful and unhelpful, but just as we colonised much of the planet in the past, so our own indigenous spirituality was superceded by a religious colonialism that very effectively disconnected us from our spiritual roots and heritage.
The use of the term ‘roots’ when discussing such a subject is apposite, since roots are anchored in soil, and spiritual traditions are mysteriously linked in the same way to the living earth beneath our feet. When Christianity arrived here instructions were given to take over the holy sites. (more…)

Nagpur Diary 2 – Unity in Diversity

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Over the last week there have been wonderful discussions and sharings here (three posts down: ‘Should I follow just one Spiritual Path?’) and on the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids message board about the issue of inclusivity on the spiritual journey. To me, these discussions have shown just how important it is for us to share our insights at this time. In the old days, the model tended to be: teacher speaks to pupil. Pupil listens and perhaps asks a question. Teacher speaks some more. But times have changed. When  I trained at the Institute of Psychosynthesis we worked with a different educational model. There was a guide who seeded ideas, asked key questions and helped with keeping us on track, but the learning took place in circles and amongst us as we meditated, wrote down our own insights, then discussed the ideas in pairs or larger groups. The learning was incredible – dynamic and deep. And although using internet groups can’t possibly be the same as meeting up regularly in the flesh, even so with these sharings I’ve had the same sensation as I read everyone’s contributions. It feels as if we are ‘building understanding’ together.

Because I posted the idea and poll in both this blog and the OBOD forum I created the rather odd situation of having similar discussions occurring in two different places. In each place different insights were offered, so if you haven’t peeked, have a look at the other discussion here, I think you’ll find that it will add to the insights gained from the discussion here.

One of the striking characteristics of India, and of Hinduism in particular, is the way differences are embraced. ‘Unity in Diversity’ is a motto often heard there, and there really is a sense that one is free to embrace, explore, express different approaches to the Divine in an atmosphere of generous inclusion. As a Professor of Religious Studies whom I met in Nagpur said on reading the discussion: “Just as the old saying ‘all roads lead to Rome’, similarly the Indian view of life is not very much concerned as to the path you follow, as long as the path takes you to your desired goal: ‘Anandam’ happiness or bliss…We are all children of Mother Earth ‘Prithvi’.

Having visited the Jain temple I mentioned in ‘Nagpur Diary,’ I then went to the top of Ramtek hill above it, where there were Hindu temples, with cows and monkeys rubbing shoulders with pilgrims and locals. And every so often there was the ubiquitous ‘Shiva Lingam’ symbolising wholeness and the union of the masculine and feminine principles.

Shiva Lingam Ramtek

Shiva Lingam Ramtek 2

Some Hopeful News?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

UPDATE: If you don’t want to run your car on water, run it on air: see here. Sometimes the problems we face seem insurmountable, so it’s good to be reminded of potential solutions from time to time. From Another Blog: We’ve seen plenty of promises about water-powered cars (among other things), but it looks like Japan’s Genepax has now made some real progress on that front, with it recently taking the wraps off its Water Energy System fuel cell prototype. The key to that system, it seems, is its membrane electrode assembly, which contains a material that’s capable of breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen through a chemical reaction. Not surprisingly, the company isn’t getting much more specific than that, with it only saying that it’s adopted a “well-known process to produce hydrogen from water to the MEA.” Currently, that system costs on the order of  $18,700 – not including the car, but the company says that if it can get it into mass production that could be cut to just under $5,000.

Should you Follow just one Spiritual Path?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Should you choose just one spiritual path or religion and follow only that one, or can you combine paths and still reach your desired goal – of liberation, enlightenment or whatever it is you believe to be the aim of spirituality?

The purists offer the image of paths that work their way towards the summit of a mountain. Their advice is to choose just one path and keep at it! Otherwise you simply waste your time and energy switching paths and exploring false trails. Like all analogies it has its limitations. Anyone who has been trekking knows that sometimes you can deviate from a well-worn path and take a short-cut which gets you to your destination quicker, or which later joins the original path and took you on an interesting route, and that anyway enlightenment is best seen as a process rather than as a state to be achieved: a journey rather than a destination.

Another analogy offered is of sinking bore holes for water. If you are seeking water, goes the advice, you don’t sink lots of bore-holes you just sink one and focus on that. Likewise with spirituality, don’t dissipate your focus: concentrate on one path, one meditation technique, and stick to that. A Buddhist friend, who is also a Druid, told me of the problem with this analogy. He is a hydrologist and he said that apparently to get the best results when extracting water you should sink at least two bore holes.

The third analogy I’ve come across was given to me by my Druid teacher, Nuinn. He said ‘Don’t mix your drinks’, and yet he was a Universalist, who was fascinated by the common threads in all religions and was a practicing Druid, Martinist and Christian, who drew upon the inspiration of the Kabbalah, Wicca, and Jainism amongst many other influences.

Who is right? The teacher who advises you to stick to just one path/religion/practice or the teacher who advocates, or simply practices, an eclectic path?

My feeling is that it is not a question of one approach being right and the other wrong. Instead it is a question of being sensitive to what is right for you, what it is that you need, at any given point on your spiritual journey. There are times when the simplicity of following one practice, of feeding from just one stream of inspiration, is just what your soul needs. But at other times, or for other people, nourishment from a number of sources, and practices drawn from a number of traditions, may be just what the soul needs.

I have discovered that this blog has a poll facility. I would be really interested to find out how others feel about this subject, so if you could take a few moments to take this poll I’d very grateful! (NB This discussion – and a poll – with many interesting comments is also going on in ‘The Philosopher’s Roundhouse’ forum of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Message Board.)

This Saturday could be very significant

Friday, February 13th, 2009

hair-musicalApparently this Saturday the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars.

Remember that old song from “Hair”?

When the moon is in the seventh house

And Jupiter aligns with Mars

Then Peace will guide the planet

And Love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius………..

For those familiar with astrology, here is a note I received, followed by a comment from Druid astrologer Sarah Fuhro, and the chart she has drawn up. Tomorrow is the 21st anniversary of the re-formation of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, which was founded in 1964.

from Jude Currivan PhD at www.judecurrivan.com

Dear friend,
In mid February a rare astrological concentration brings together a number of planets together with the North Node – denoting higher purpose – in Aquarius that energizes and inspires the possibility for transcendental breakthrough in some perhaps seemingly intransigent situations.
We measure our global sense of both space (latitude and longitude) and time (universal time – UT or GMT) from the prime meridian located at Greenwich, England. So we can perceive the collective influence of this momentous astrological event by looking at the alignment from this globally centered perspective. When we do something extraordinary and exquisite emerges. At dawn on 14th February the day dedicated to St Valentine, the patron saint of Love, the Moon in Libra enters the seventh house of relationships. And Jupiter and Mars are aligned in Aquarius in the twelfth house of spiritual transformation.
Forty years ago, the intuitive words of a song called Aquarius [from The Musical Hair quoted above], brought the dawning of the new age into our collective awareness. At dawn on 14th February the Cosmos actually embodies this perfect alignment to support our collective manifestation of love and peace and dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
The Aquarian chart of 14th February reveals an incredible concentration of cosmic influences blending with the energies of
Aquarius in the twelfth house. Expansive Jupiter and energetic Mars are aligned with the higher purpose of the North Node. The presence of Chiron the wounded healer offers us the opportunity to heal the schismsthat have separated us for so long. Neptune emphasizes collective humanitarian movements and the co-creation of social justice. And the presence of the radiant Sun enlightens the entire alignment.
Mercury also in the twelfth house but just beyond the cusp in Capricorn, allies with transformational Pluto to communicate and anchor the Shift throughout our global structures and institutions. The Moon in Libra in the seventh house emphasizes harmonious real relationships. Venus in Aries in the first house energizes and empowers dynamic co-creativity.
And whilst Saturn the great task master in opposition to Uranus the unexpected awakener is suggesting an ongoing confrontation as the dregs of the unsustainable old paradigm reluctantly give way to the untested hope of the new, their placements in Virgo and Pisces brings practical altruism and visionary inspiration to the transition.
At 7.25am on 14th February and for the 18 minutes of the alignment, I invite you, in the universal heart, to add your own intention for
love and peace and to co-create the dawning of the Age of Aquarius to that of the Cosmos. In whatever way feels appropriate for you, you may choose to align with7.25am (UT) or 7.25am local time energizing a wave of intention that will surge around the Earth.
Please feel free to circulate the Aquarian chart and its cosmic invitation to birth the Age of Aquarius.
With love, joy and gratitude in the universal heart,
Jude

Our Druid astrologer Sarah, gives us an extra 25 minutes in bed tomorrow morning and adds a chart I’ve pasted in below. Sarah writes: ‘This is a wonderful chart, but I think the time should be adjusted to 7:50 am. That would give us a firm 7th house Moon.   And it would mean the co rulers of Aquarius who are in opposition at this time would be right on the Asc/Dec line. Also Venus would be in the first house. Since there is no final word on when the Age of Aquarius begins, let’s start it on Valentine’s Day at 7:50 am  2009.  It’s a nice anniversary for the Order as well!”

aquarian-valentine

Nagpur Diary

Thursday, February 12th, 2009
Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir Ramtek

Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir Ramtek

After getting back from India a few days ago, it was wonderful to read Barbara’s, Penny’s, Liz’s, and Juliet’s guest posts (all so inspiring and so well written!) and the comments they generated… thank you so much guest bloggers!

I had been invited to India by the ICCS – an organisation that is promoting the revival of ancient traditions. But the visit also became a Yatra – a pilgrimage – to a land steeped in spirituality for thousands of years. In particular I was interested in the connections between the Dharmic religions of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism and Druidism. Could they really be said to be brothers and sisters who share a common parentage?

Many of us who are interested in Druidry also feel drawn to one or more of those paths which arose in India, and I wanted to explore whether this is simply an example of Westerners’ greed for ‘more’ or whether there really is a way in which these geographically separate traditions are in reality related, and can be complementary.

I am particularly interested in Jainism, and had written an exploratory paper on the connections and resonances between Jainism and Druidism, but while I was in India I met many experts on Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism, and have broadened that paper to include them too. When I’ve finished it, I’ll post it up here. In the meanwhile, some photos and notes, and a big thank you to the organisers and participants of the conference – all of whom were so warm and generous.

At The River Crossing

The day before the conference I took a ramshackle bus to Ramtek, 40km from Nagpur, to visit the Jain and Hindu temples there.

Clues are hidden in language. Jain temples are called ‘Teerth’ or ‘Tirtha’. Tirtha literally means a river-crossing or ford, but also means ‘a sacred place’. Rivers have been considered sacred in many traditions – including the Celtic and Indian – and ‘crossing the river’ is a powerful image of moving from one realm to another. So a temple or sacred place is like a river – we can bathe in it, drink from it, and cross over it to the Other Side. And in the Jain tradition the 24 great teachers of humanity are known as ‘Tirthankaras’ – which means ford-makers. So the Sacred Person and the Sacred Place are one: they are both gateways to the Divine.

Most visitors to Ramtek go straight to the Hindu temples up on the hill. The Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir is less frequently visited and lies on the plain at the base of the hill. Inside its nine temples are exquisite figures of the Tirthankaras, seated or standing, with the pride of place given to a great statue in yellow glossy stone of one Tirthankara that is 3.04 metres tall. I was asked not to photograph the interiors, but here are some exterior pictures:

The Entrance to the Jain Temple at Ramtek

The Entrance to the Jain Temple at Ramtek

Once through the entrance this avenue offers Dharmsala - guest rooms for pilgrims

Once through the entrance this avenue offers Dharmsala - guest rooms for pilgrims

Once through the Inner Gateway you can rest from the heat on these mattresses and cushions

Once through the Inner Gateway you can rest from the heat on these mattresses and cushions

Stupas in the temple courtyard

Stupas in the temple courtyard

More stupas

More stupas

A figure on a stupa. The oldest parts of the temple are between 400-500 years old, and a large new section is being built

A figure on a stupa. The oldest parts of the temple are between 400-500 years old, and a large new section is being built

Guest blog – A Walk in the Wood – Barbara Erskine

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Today’s guest blog is from writer Barbara Erskine and is titled A Walk in the Wood.

I’ve just come in from the wood. It is growing dark and snow flurries are hurtling out of the east. By tomorrow they say it will have turned to blizzards. The wood,  ‘My’ wood was planted 16 years ago, it’s now a  proper wood, about 6 acres,  with proper trees, oak and chestnut, with holly and guilder rose, and crab apple, dog wood and cherry. And it’s the cherry which are beginning already to look old and hoary. The wood belongs to the trees now, not me,  and to the animals and birds. It has an identity; a personality. Walking through it once, perhaps twice a day I notice minute changes. A twig here. A broken branch there. Squirrel damage, badger digging, exposed roots, gnawed and polished smooth in the snow. Claw and teeth  marks on the tree trunks The green shoots of daffodils (soon the rabbits will eat them like  candy sticks) Snowdrops. Tracks. I’m still  learning to recognise them. Count the toes. Or the hooves? Can you see the claws?  And there, near the lower pond, amongst the dried stalks of willow herb and horsetail, what in the world can have paws that big?? And that’s when I suddenly feel that I’m trespassing. It’s getting dark. The wood belongs to the night  creatures. And to the unseen. Suddenly, out of the blue,  it’s scary. Someone or something is watching me. It doesn’t want me there. I can feel the terror beginning in the pit of my stomach. I know every inch of this place. Every tree. Every rabbit hole, in every direction and every season, but suddenly I’m lost. Nothing looks the same. I want to get out. Go home. Sit by the fire. Watch TV.  I’m too scared to move.
Why?
And then it’s gone. Whoever, whatever it was, has gone.
A brush with the wild? The all too  precious wild in this small island. A brush with  one of the other worlds? Who knows. Is this what is described in that atmospheric poem Jungle Fear?
Sitting down with relief at my laptop I blow on my fingers to warm them and check Philip’s blog to see if any other guest has signed in yet.  And read the last post there:  ‘The Risks of the Magical Path’ and scroll down to the paragraph on getting spooked. Coincidence? No. There are no coincidences. I was spooked. No question.
And,   I’ve read the books. Know the formulae. Got the amulets. But there was still a fifteen minute walk alone  through dark, clutching branches – Arthur Rackham comes to mind!- before I was once more out in the open spaces and in sight of the house.  And all my spiritual training, my druid learning, my protection and my prayers were nothing against the primitive gut twisting moment of irrational  terror in that quiet little wood on the edge of a quiet country garden.

Ah. Someone has just told me that the  local ‘black cat’ (puma/panther?) was seen only a few miles from  here, last week.  Could my feeling actually  have been  an atavistic life preserving instinct?  A very real fear of being eaten.
And does that thought make me feel better or worse?

Barbara Erskine

You can visit Barbara’s web site on www.barbara-erskine.com

Guest blog – The Magic of Transformation – Juliet Marillier

Monday, February 9th, 2009

composting_smallerBefore enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. (Zen proverb)

I can remember my delight when I first encountered this proverb years ago, though my understanding of it was purely intellectual – its wisdom played no part in my daily life, which was focused more on striving for personal achievement. Now, many years later, I may be beginning to grasp what it means. Many tasks  fill me with the sense of magic or spirit. I want to share three in particular: writing a story, cooking a good meal and making compost.

These three activities have more in common than you may at first think.

Writing (or telling) stories: I’m a writer of historical fantasy, and my stories are full of motifs, ideas and references from the ‘cauldron of story’, that pot containing all the rich materials from traditional tales: a magic ring, a cloak of invisibility, a wise crone, a world tree, a trickster, a questing youth, a jealous queen. The cauldron also contains additional ingredients added over the years by master storytellers such as Shakespeare, who took some of the existing brew to enrich his own storytelling and put in ideas of his own. Like many other writers, I’ve dipped items out of this ever-evolving soup of the imagination – a harp made from the bones of a murdered man; a girl whose brothers are turned into swans – to create a fresh story. And I’ve added my own stuff to the mix. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the process often happens almost despite me, and that’s where the magic comes in.

Cooking a great meal: I’m talking about soul food, something nourishing created from scratch to share with friends and family. It may be a soup full of home-grown vegetables and herbs, or bread baked with a granddaughter, or a cake based on a grandmother’s recipe. The gorgeous colour of freshly chopped tomatoes, the smell of basil and oregano, the resilience of bread dough under the hands, the slowly developing richness of a soup simmering on the stove, these talk to us at a visceral level, using all our senses to remind us of the earth’s bounty and how blessed we are to share it. This is nature, culture, love and spirit wrapped up in the simple activity of providing.

Making compost: The alchemy of raw materials breaking down and changing, the industrious activity of worms, the transition from heap of shredded paper, grass clippings, carrot peels and so on to a dark, rich brew of nutrients for the garden – these are wondrous and deeply satisfying to observe. The meditative routine of adding new materials, turning the steaming heap with the fork, watching over it as it matures, is profoundly calming to the spirit.

In a way, these are all the same activity: you take the raw ingredients and work with them, and something entirely new emerges. In each case, there is magic at work – the wondrous, ancient magic of nature, the subtle magic of culture, the profound magic of love. Next time you turn your compost heap, bake a cake or tell a story, know that something deep and mysterious is working in you.

Juliet’s website is at www.julietmarillier.com

She is a regular contributor to genre writing blog Writer Unboxed

Photo credit: © Rainer | Dreamstime.com

The Hare by Penny Billington

Friday, February 6th, 2009

A post here from guest blogger, Penny Billington:

Penny Billington is a druid author and the editor of Touchstone, the magazine of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Visit Penny’s website at www.druidauthors.com

‘I will run and run forever Where the wild fields are mine I shall goe unto a hare I’m a symbol of endurance running through the mists of time Wi’ sorrow and such mickle care.’ The Fabled Hare. Maddy Prior

When I was at college, a flagging party could be revived by the following game: all make a circle and a designated person secretly selects one of the others. Everyone in the circle then fires questions to get clues as to who’s been chosen. Example: ‘If this person was a chocolate, what sort would they be?’ Answer: ‘A nutty whirl’. Anyone is at liberty to guess the person’s identity at any time, and whoever gets the right answer, “George!!!’ starts the game again

The answers to ‘day of the week/type of music’ and so on gradually built a composite picture: but I noticed that the catalyst for the right answer was frequently the classic, ‘ If this person was an animal…….’

And that’s when I realised that every human in the world can correspond with either fish, bird or mammal. Some of the resemblances were really uncanny. So when I started on the druid path, I was predilected to embrace the idea of totem animals. Not that one physically resembles one’s totem necessarily: but the human/animal connection had already been made. From there, it was a short step to imagining the totems of areas and countries. Why does England have the lion when it’s not a native? Why does Scotland have the unicorn?

And whilst individual totems can be life friends or come and go according to need, there is also the totem of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times.

And I realised last year just what that is.

Why has the whole of the United Kingdom gone gaga about hares? Not just the spiritually minded; not just in Glastonbury. Hares as the small mammal of choice can be found everywhere – on decorative crockery, in museums, on tea towels, as sculptures, as paintings and on cards. Whole exhibitions are devoted to them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love them. I nearly got a wonderful example as a gift – the Victoria and Albert Museum had a set of mugs taken from de Morgan tiles: the perfect gift for the druid who has everything. But the hare was the only design that sold out within days. I could have had any other animal: ‘Hares’, as they say in comedy programmes, ‘was off.’

Just take a look around your local arty, gifty shops; there, I predict, you will find hares. No deliciously slinking foxes, no squat, tactile, knobbly toads. All hares.

I wonder if, in the face of this superfluity, I will soon officially be getting hare-d out. Heresy!

OK, it’s a magical Celtic creature; but – THE BIG QUESTION – why has it suddenly achieved such iconic status? What impetus is making hare energy so very attractive today?

In druidry we have animals representing the directions, but hares do not figure amongst the bear of the north, stag of the south and salmon of the west. Hare would obviously be placed with the hawk of the east, the place of air. After all, it runs ‘like the wind’; it can seem to disappear ‘into thin air’ and its most famous act of predictive magic was in emerging from Boudicca’s cloak to race for the east, signifying the initial victory of the British over the Romans.

Hares are associated with the moon, that magical light in which all may not be as it appears, and in which the veils between the worlds seem thinner; an energising time. Gypsies would travel at night because the pull of the moon would counter that of gravity and make the walking easier. A ‘moon bath’ is the most invigorating experience, and following a ‘moon path’ reflected in a wet street or track does seem to draw one into the world of adventure. And, high above, according to the Chinese, the face of hare can be seen in the shadows of the guiding moon.

Hare is one of the two animals in Medieval myth that can be involved in transformations: and there seems a general gender divide: men could become werewolves and (female) witches could transform into hares. And although jugged hare was a popular dish in Victorian times, there is a folk taboo that says to eat a hare is to ‘eat your grandmother’. Well, the moon with its hare-face is a major agent of magical enchantment in our druidic practice: the shifting, gentle light enables the inner senses to expand. And the transformative property of hare obviously corresponds to our inner connection with totem animals .

But I reckon our current obsession can partly be explained in terms of hare’s personality.

In world mythology, hare is a trickster, a deceiver. and he or she gets things wrong. May be that is why we identify so strongly with him? The world is frenetic: it saps our focus and makes us ‘hare-brained’.

Hare is actually a hybrid animal, looks-wise – and, apart from the few rare classic human beauties, most of us have a ‘57 varieties’ look about us, if we’re honest. We can identify with the oddball hare, His face is tiny, delicate and cat-like and the old names for the hare – kit, puss and malkin – reflect that. Hare’s back leg is hugely out of proportion, like frog’s; he is the kangaroo of our islands. Hare’s body is rectangular like that of the deer, whose sensitive large ears he has also borrowed.

We may not have the jigsaw glory of the duckbilled platypus in this country, but we can be pretty proud of hare.

And the stories about hare remind us that he gets things wrong, just as we do. Hare’s speed does not always work to his advantage. He is too fast for his own good. In folk tales he is overeager, which is a very forgivable fault. He is, of course, also overweening, overconfident and curiously childlike: he is truly engaging. Hare doesn’t start out in life with huge ears and a split lip; they are the result of getting across archetypal figures who decide that hare needs a sharp lesson. But does he learn it? Moon punishes him for getting the big message to humanity wrong – which is why we still don’t understand her waxing and waning lesson of reincarnation: moose laughs at him for frightening himself by wearing her antlers for a time; even tortoise wins the race. Yet still he remains unchastened. We have the overwhelming feeling that as we turn the page, hare will whisk out of sight, still at a hundred miles an hour full of goodwill and human frailties, to make a well-meaning hash of something else.

So, as druids or spiritual seekers of any kind, we can naturally associate with hare at his most impetuous at the beginning of a spiritual journey, when we are eager, excited at the myriad possibilities and full of life. Wanting to race along at a huge speed, to get to some mythical ‘there’, never looking back, is a typical hare attitude. As the pace of life gets more frenetic, perhaps that is the state, in its more negative sense, that most of us are in, most of the time, feeling that only our speed and ducking and diving will get us through. And on another level, every druid feels intuitively the need for a magical connection through the natural world. The hare is accessible here as a wonderful focus, with beauty, elusiveness, otherworldliness, the eldritch charm of an extraordinary body and unparalleled grace in motion.

So, many, many reasons for hare’s popularity then……

But now, for the sake of balance, let’s give some attention to the opposite qualities that underpin the magic of life…. the qualities expressed by, for example, badger: slow, steady; following the same tracks that his family laid down hundreds of years ago.

This seems very undramatic and rather reactionary, but, traditionally, the druids’ chief role, at least overtly, was as the keepers of the continuity of the tribe. All turned to them on points of law and genealogy, of protocol and tradition. And isn’t an important part of our druid lives engaged in trying to connect to the past? Don’t we feel that our ancestors of blood, location and spirit are to be honoured? That doesn’t sound like a lesson to be gained from hare, whose form is a depression in a bare field, who is here today and gone tomorrow, but from the badger, a settled and responsible householder, whose sett might have been inhabited for many years and added to by successive generations. And, always a plus in these hygiene-obsessed times, badgers are very clean! They are not overt, they do not dance and box like hare, but in the privacy of their family groups are very playful, which lightens their other qualities beautifully. Badgers do not trundle across a road; they bound and bounce.

With our druidic instincts, we celebrate balance, made up of the differing qualities of all our native animals, wherever we are on the globe. The joy of otter, loyalty of dog, vigilance of goose, tirelessness of shrew, cunning of fox, the wisdom of salmon. And yes, we do of course keep a place for hare especially at his own particular time: the spring, the greening of the land, when, folklore says, his eggs can be found in the fields; when the female, a real feminist icon, literally boxes suitors to deter the importunings of overeager bucks , and when their antics at twilight can delight and astound.

But beneath them, deep in the earth, the badger quietly goes about her business, waiting, seldom seen, infinitely cautious, for the perfect time to emerge in her prescribed way: cleaning her sett, disciplining her cubs, concerned with the continuity and stability of life, not its vagaries. She has no need of glamour: with habits built on solid foundations, with her ability to become invisible at will despite her bulk, she has her own magic. I believe, in a zeitgeist -y way, she could be a strong contender to take hare’s iconic place eventually as, if not the general public’s choice, then at least that of the druid.

So, who fancies a quick game? Here, sit round in a circle.

Now… “If the decade 2010 – 2020 were an animal, what would it be……?’