Archive for January, 2010

 

Honouring the Life of Hamish Miller

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Hamish Miller

Just received the sad news about the death of Hamish Miller, Earth Mysteries researcher, dowser, blacksmith, author of ‘The Sun & the Serpent’ with Paul Broadhurst, which first suggested the Michael Line across the English countryside: “It is with deep sadness and regret that I email you to tell you that Hamish died last night, the 25th January. He passed over peacefully and happily at home after a gentle and joyful beloved Burn’s Night with Ba.

There will be a small private funeral for the family. We are invited to join in spirit by lighting a candle for Hamish and his vision and we will email again when we know the date and the time. Then the Parallel Community Open Day on the 8th May at Treviscoe will be a Celebration of Hamish to which we hope as many as possible will be able to come.

Hamish’s vision was great and his desire passionate for everyone to come together, envision and build a kinder world based on mutal trust, respect and love for each other and our beautiful planet.

May we each smile more warmly at everyone we meet today and, in honour of a remarkable man, build our energy towards all that Parallel Community stands for…and now take that energy forwards; the best thing we can do as we grieve his passing.

Hamish gave us something of the utmost importance and we owe it to ourselves and our planet to heal our own vision and act on it. Please bear with us about any emails awaiting a reply or book orders and so forth. Please do go to The Meeting Place on the Parallel Community website and share your thoughts and feelings together.
Warmest blessings to you all, Annie, Parallel Community Team.

Help in the campaign to ask Blair tough questions

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

From today’s email: a message from ’38 Degrees: People Power Change’:

Dear Philip,

Pressure’s building for Tony Blair to face tough questions about Iraq this Friday. Over 10,000 of us have now signed up to call for the panel to question him properly.

We’ll make sure the people asking the questions know exactly how many of us want them to get tough. We’ll be making a noise outside the building, and we’ll presenting a final copy of our petition to every panelist inside. We’ll have billboard adverts around central London demanding tough questions. We”ll even present them with a “get tough” cake showing the number who’ve signed. The more signatures, the more powerful our message.

Can you help make the petition as big as possible by Friday morning? Please forward this message to your friends and ask them to click here to quickly join in by clicking here: http://38degrees.org.uk/ask-blair-tough-questions

If we work together we can make sure it’s massive by Friday morning – we’ve got two more days to get as many people as we can to sign the petition. The more of us there are, the more pressure we can put on the panel members to ask tough questions.

We know what real questions look like, we’ve suggested thousands and thousands including:
When did you promise George Bush you’d back an invasion?
When did you really realise Saddam Hussein probably didn’t have WMD?
Did you cover up advice that the war might be illegal?
Why did you ignore the anti-war protests by the British people?
Millions of us opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Millions more of us trusted Blair at the time but later felt betrayed as WMD failed to materialise. Friday morning is a chance for us to hold Blair to account for his decision. Please help bring as many of us together as possible to demand Blair faces tough questions, by asking your friends to get involved.

Please forward this e-mail now and ask your friends and family to join in: http://38degrees.org.uk/ask-blair-tough-questions

The Vintner’s Luck

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Can’t wait to see the new film by ‘Whale Rider’ director Niki Caro. Based on the fantastic book The Vintner’s Luck it is a story about balance, questions, struggles, ambition and life. From the film’s blog: “A story that has hit a chord with the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand.

This is a powerful, meditative tale of Sobran Jodeau, an ambitious young peasant winemaker and the three loves of his life – his earthy wife Celeste, the proudly intellectual baroness Aurora de Valday and Xas, a plain spoken angel who strikes up an unlikely but enduring friendship. Under his guidance Sobran must wrestle with the constant duality of life; from success to failure, love to hate, betrayal to belief – all in pursuit of the perfect vintage.”

See the blog for interesting discussion about the film’s themes including discussions on duality and Buddhism.

More on Haiti

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

The recent two part documentary shown on UK TV about Lawrence of Arabia graphically showed how the imperialist ambitions of Britain and France to exploit Arabia sowed the seeds for much of the turmoil in that area today. Here an article sent by a friend who lived in Haiti for 5 years shows how the history of Haiti is also dominated  by similar ambitions.
Why the US Owes Haiti Billions – The Briefest History by Bill Quigley

Published on Sunday, January 17, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Why does the US owe Haiti Billions? Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, stated his foreign policy view as the “Pottery Barn rule.” That is – “if you break it, you own it.”

The US has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. We owe Haiti. Not charity. We owe Haiti as a matter of justice. Reparations. And not the $100 million promised by President Obama either – that is Powerball money. The US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B.

The US has worked for centuries to break Haiti. The US has used Haiti like a plantation. The US helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The US has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.

Here is the briefest history of some of the major US efforts to break Haiti.

In 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the world’s first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to recognize the country. The US continued to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years. Why? Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.

After the 1804 revolution, Haiti was the subject of a crippling economic embargo by France and the US. US sanctions lasted until 1863. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed. The reparations were 150 million francs. (France sold the entire Louisiana territory to the US for 80 million francs!)

Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and the US to pay reparations to France. A major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947. The current value of the money Haiti was forced to pay to French and US banks? Over $20 Billion – with a big B.

The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to 1934. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to invade in 1915. Revolts by Haitians were put down by US military – killing over 2000 in one skirmish alone. For the next nineteen years, the US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental institutions. How many billions were siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?

From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was forced to live under US backed dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier. The US supported these dictators economically and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically “anti-communist” – now translatable as against human rights for their people. Duvalier stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in debt that Haiti still owes. Ten thousand Haitians lost their lives. Estimates say that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run up by the US-backed Duvaliers.

Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice. Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well. Why? The US and the US dominated world financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then the US dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti – undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. By ruining Haitian agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world market for US rice. Good for US farmers, bad for Haiti.

In 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads. These are the same roads which relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!

In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported the coup against Haiti’s elected President Aristide.

Haiti is even used for sexual recreation just like the old time plantations. Check the news carefully and you will find numerous stories of abuse of minors by missionaries, soldiers and charity workers. Plus there are the frequent sexual vacations taken to Haiti by people from the US and elsewhere. What is owed for that? What value would you put on it if it was your sisters and brothers?

US based corporations have for years been teaming up with Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who earn less than $2 a day.

The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military power of the US and others ever since their independence. Like all of us, Haitians made their own mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians to pay great prices – deaths, debt and abuse.

It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

This brief history shows why the US owes Haiti Billions – with a big B. This is not charity. This is justice. This is reparations. The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to our country’s history of dominating Haiti and to make a truly just response.

(For more on the history of exploitation of Haiti by the US see: Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti [1]; Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood [2]; and Randall Robinson, An Unbroken Agony [3])

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.  Quigley77@gmail.com [4]

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/17-6
Is there anything you or I can do in the face of this history? Avaaz.org has a campaign that just requires a click or two from you. From their campaign released today:

It’s shocking: even as aid flows in to Haiti’s desperate communities, money is flowing out to pay off the country’s crushing debt — over $1 billion in unfair debt racked up years ago by unscrupulous lenders and governments.

The call for full cancelation of Haiti’s debt is building steam across the world, and has won over some leaders — but other rich lender countries are rumoured to be resisting. And time is short: G7 finance ministers could reach a final decision next week at their summit in Canada.

Let’s raise a massive global call for justice, mercy and common sense for the people of Haiti in this hour of tragedy. Avaaz and partners will deliver the call for debt relief directly to the summit — click below to sign the petition, and then pass this email to friends:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/haiti_cancel_the_debt_7/?vl

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was one of the world’s poorest countries. After Haitian slaves rose up and won their independence in 1804, France demanded billions in reparations — launching a spiral of poverty and unjust debt that has lasted two centuries.

In recent years, the tremendous worldwide campaign for debt relief has awoken the world’s conscience. And in the last few days, under mounting public pressure, lenders have begun to say the right things about erasing Haiti’s still-devastating debt burden.

But the devil is in the details. After the 2004 tsunami, the IMF announced relief from debt payments for stricken countries — but the underlying debt went right on growing. Once public attention had faded, the debt payments were bigger than ever.

It’s time to cancel Haiti’s debt fully and without conditions, and ensure that earthquake aid is made with grants, not loans. A victory now will change lives in Haiti even after the world’s attention has moved on. Join the call for debt relief, and pass this message to those who feel the same:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/haiti_cancel_the_debt_7/?vl

As we watch the images on our televisions and computers, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. And the history of rich countries’ relations with Haiti is dark indeed.

But moments like this one can bring transformation. Across the world, people have donated to save lives in Haiti — indeed, Avaaz members have given more than $1 million in the last ten days. But we also need to raise our voices as global citizens, to address the man-made tragedies that left our brothers and sisters in Haiti so vulnerable to natural crises.

A Forbidden Question about Haiti

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Have you caught yourself having a ‘forbidden question’ about Haiti and its recent earthquake? I confess I have and this is how it goes: “I want to help, but I don’t want my help to be worthless. When the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit in 2004 I immediately – like millions of others – gave money to an appeal only to discover, months later, that so much money had flowed into Aid agencies that much of it wasn’t used on the disaster relief. For example: ‘the American Red Cross reported after two years that it had taken in $568 million from the American public and spent just $168 million (their own figures, honestly proffered to peer agencies)…Doctors Without Borders collected well over $125 million, worked for a few weeks on emergency medical aid and then announced it not only had enough money but that it would redirect a huge surplus to its own programs in Africa since it was not interested in staying to rebuild shattered communities.’ See article by Richard Walden on this here.

So when the Haiti disaster struck I wanted to help, but how could I be sure any cash given actually got through? In the 1970s, just after Baby Doc had inherited the presidency, I had lived in Haiti for a while and discovered a country ravaged by corruption and abuses of power but with a people filled with generosity and humour, despite their often tragic or difficult circumstances. During that time my first wife and I became friends with a photographer, Sean Finnigan, who ended up marrying a friend of Danielle’s called Mousson.

Over the years we lost contact with Sean and Mousson but I’ve tracked them down now. And my forbidden question has been answered. Since 1985 they have been running ORE – the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment, with the aim of improving the environmental, agricultural and economic conditions in rural Haiti. They’ve been planting trees, training people in agriculture, helping in watershed management  and so on. But were they still alive? What had happened to their project after the earthquake?

A look at their blog showed me that they were not only alive but that the ORE project was now in a position to help. They were in a part of the country unaffected and are now providing care for hundreds who are coming from Port-au-Prince. Read the blog here – it gives a first-hand account of what it was like for someone away from the city and of what they are doing to help.

I’ve found out who I can give my money to and I know it’s being used to offer immediate help. There’s a button on the blog to donate (paypal etc) and within a few hours of clicking it I got an email from Sean telling me “Mousson’s team are sending out trucks of food to 3 Port-au-Prince refugee camps. One is being loaded as we speak… Also she has evacuated some 700 people and got them out of the nightmare of Port-au-Prince to the healthy area of Camp Perrin… taking care of their needs there too.”

The blog URL is http://www.oreworld.info


The Hidden Magic of Sussex – A Way of Working with Anyplace

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Here is the substance of a talk I gave for the Lewes WellBeing Festival last Sunday. Although it is about Sussex, the ideas discussed could apply to anywhere in the world:

It’s so easy to experience life as humdrum, ‘ordinary’, dull, routine. You know the thoughts that can play through your mind on a grey day in our modern urbanised and driven world: “If only I was in a tropical paradise. If only there weren’t so many cars and it wasn’t so wet and cold!”
But there are moments of beauty, of magic, when something seems to break through, to touch us, to awaken us to the magic of being alive. It can happen when we meet someone, when we read a book, or watch an inspiring play or film, and of course this is one of the purposes of art and drama: to touch our souls, to reawaken us to the awareness that we are living in an extraordinary universe, hurtling through a world of stars at 67,000 mph.
When we really tune into the awesomeness of being alive on the planet we can experience a level of joy and awareness that gives rise to moments called ‘peak experiences’ by psychologists. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who came up with the term, defined peak experiences as “sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being, possibly the awareness of an “ultimate truth” and the unity of all things … the experience fills the individual with wonder and awe… he  feels at one with the world, and is pleased with it.”
One of the goals of a spiritual path is to help you to have such experiences, and to show you that they can be actively encouraged to manifest rather than simply being passively awaited. But in addition to that, spiritual teachings encourage us to cultivate this sense of joy and appreciation as an ongoing state of being – not as an intense peak experience, which by definition does not last long – but instead as a ‘steady-state’ which nevertheless carries the same qualities of happiness, wonder and a feeling of being ‘at one’ with the world rather than separate or alienated from it.
One of the key ways of maintaining this awareness as an ongoing state lies in adopting a particular point of view: a magical or mystical worldview. Big deal! You might think, but of course the way in which we see life governs to an enormous degree the way in which we experience it, which is why philosophy as a subject is so valuable, and why Marcel Proust said “The real magic lies not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” This is an idea that lies at the basis of much psychological and New Age thinking: that you ‘create your reality’. Expressed in that way the idea can sound ridiculously solipsistic. Try telling that to someone in Haiti after its recent earthquake. It is an idea that represents only one half of an equation, and it is only useful if we also take into account the objective reality of the world around us. In other words, there is the point of view and there is the landscape viewed.
One half of the job is to get the right point of view, to climb the right hill to get the best view as the sun spills over the horizon at dawn. So we thank those thinkers who have urged us to see life with magical eyes, and we thank all spiritual teachers who have encouraged us to adopt a spiritual perspective. But let’s now look, from this perspective, at what surrounds us.
Let me put it another way: there is You and Everything Else. Deep down there’s no difference (so mystical experience tells us) but to you hurtling towards your next incarnation that isn’t helpful. Because the You that is You is about to be born and WHOOOSH here you are – a soul that exists outside of linear time and space – born into the world of matter and time in a certain place, at a certain moment. And so it is until the day you die: you are in a certain place at a certain time. Today you are in Lewes in Sussex on the afternoon of January 17th 2010. What follows now is:

A Briefing For a Soul that Finds Itself in Sussex in 2010

Orientation: You are in England – a country which has become the most important repository and breeding-ground of the magical arts in all the world (see The Book of English Magic for the details). So of all the places in the world to be, here you are in a country of ley-lines, old pilgrimage routes, stone circles, chalk horses and giants, barrows, tumps, tumuli, sacred groves, holy wells, Romano-British temples and ancient churches. If all these form a matrix of sacred sites connected by lines of power, you’ve ended up in one of the most complex areas of the Matrix, of Indra’s Web.

Zoom in closer. You are in Sussex – the last refuge of Paganism before Christianity triumphed over all of England. Even in the 18th century so poor were its roads and so much did its pagan past linger in the air that Horace Walpole wrote: “We thought ourselves in the northwest part of England. The whole county has a Saxon air and the inhabitants are savage.” (1749) (“They still are!” Shouted out a member of the audience when I gave this talk!)

If the Matrix also includes traces of past events that leave their mark like recordings on a magnetic tape, then here there are traces in abundance: a great wove of them, with prehistoric, megalith-building, then Saxon and Romano-British layers coming before the Christian layers.
How can we navigate these layers, use them, clothe ourselves with them, come to feel at home in them, feed on them even? One answer lies in the way of the Bard, the storyteller. When we feel our lives are a story that is embedded within wider stories then we feel at home, and feel that life has meaning. But where to begin?  There are so many colours and strands in this particular corner of the matrix!
Here’s a way. A central dictum of magic is that the universal can be found in the particular, the macrocosm within the microcosm. In spiritual practice this means that you can reach your goal of illumination through just one practice, and whatever it is, it contains the key. Everything, everyone, every place, has the potential for becoming a doorway, a medium through which you can be inspired, find illumination, deepen your experience of consciousness.
Suddenly you realize the field is wide open: take any place, any moment and dive in! Start tracking, start following the scent of the magical. Make your life a little easy by not starting with a crisp packet or a bus stop, but by choosing something a little easier to feel inspired by! Survey the field and feel drawn to a spot. Then what do I do?!! There are the aesthetic and energetic dimensions of the experience – take going to a high spot like Mount Caburn. You can revel in the aesthetic experience of the views, and if you feel you are sensitive to these things you can explore the sensation, the feelings, what one can call the energy or energetic dimension of the spot. Perhaps you can dowse or are psychic. Perhaps you are inspired by the idea of chakra systems in the landscape, or the vision of lines of energy linking site to site.
But there’s an enormous trap here. It is easy to fall into a pseudo-scientific position: a strange sort of spiritual materialism, which is really a kind of sensationalism in both senses of the word. Have you ever been with friends to a sacred site and they go around ‘feeling energies’: “It feels powerful here,” “I can feel a vortex there,” “There’s a line of energy going that way,” and so on? This is all perfectly well, but unless you go further with this discourse it gets stuck at the level of sensation (ie sensing) and yet it is dressed up as being sensational (Wow! Can you feel it here?!). One way to go beyond mere sensationalism is the ‘analytic’ which starts to dowse and allocate frequencies, numbers and so on, to the phenomena being experienced. The other way, which is the artistic, lies in experiencing Place as part of Story. This allows the human to interact with the material, ie the landscape and the sensations and feelings it evokes in you.
Some people might feel more at home when they see series, ratios, patterns, frequencies, but I think for a lot of us we only start to feel at home in a place when we feel we know its story, and feel a part of that story, and can even add to it – in however small a way. So rather than going on a power trip or a number trip, let’s engage in some Bardistry: let’s roll up our sleeves and engage with this issue creatively.

Getting Down and Dirty

Here’s a suggestion for how you could do this. To be creative you need to assemble your materials before engaging in the messy process of producing something. Don’t concern yourself yet as to what that might be. I’ll use the analogy of painting just because it’s graphic:
Take first the canvas: our lives and the life of the land and people around us. Now the paint: choose an assortment of people, places and incidents that you have gleaned from your local knowledge (I’ll suggest sources for this at the end). Choose these with as much abandon and as little logic as possible. For this example I’m just going to take ingredients from my recent reading – the notes and books on my desk.  To start let’s have three interesting and remarkable women, then a few villages, some mandrake, some malaria, and lets throw in some dying wizards.
Now, without trying to get connections between them I’m going to do some research on each component. This part in itself is such fun and an education in itself. I won’t go into details here, just offer you snippets so you see what I mean. The women: Doreen Valiente, a Sussex witch who lived in Brighton, played a key role in the promotion of Wicca last century and whose version of the Charge of the Goddess is the most popular. A collection of her poems includes ones on the Long Man of Wilmington and Sussex Witches. Vera Pragnell, whose Utopian community at Storrington in the 1920s attracted mystical Christians, nudists and alchemists and one of Crowley’s lovers, Victor Neuberg, who ended up running a private press in nearby Steyning, home to two extraordinary churches, St.Andrews with its rune stone that some say encourages astral projection, and Coombes Church with its frescoes. And the third woman: the Sussex cunning woman Grandmother Huggett, whose recipes have been recorded. The dying wizards are Aleister Crowley and Alex Sanders, who both were drawn by some strange magnetism to Hastings to end their days. Mandrake was being sold as late as 1929 in some parts of Sussex, and one source has a verbatim description of the sales pitch given for it by a Sussex ‘mandrake man’ (we had snake oil salesmen too, catching adders up on the Downs). Malaria: everyone living in or near the marshes, which once covered more than a quarter of Sussex, suffered from malaria. By 1900 it had mostly disappeared thanks to drainage systems, but it still lingered in places until the 1920s.

Coobes Church - photo from www.totally-cuckoo.com

Ok – that should be more than enough ingredients for our brew. The next step: resist trying to create something too quickly. Instead simmer it for a long time. Stir it occasionally. In other words allow the Unconscious to make something of it. In the depths the ingredients start to interact with each other, allowing the potential for something new to be born.
What might come of this? A story, a poem, a painting, a play? It’s up to you – this particular combination may not be right for you. It’s just an example to show you how the richness of our heritage or the place we find ourselves in doesn’t have to be simply consumed or appreciated passively. Even if the result is not something concrete it can still be creative – helping us to gain that state of happiness, wonder and a feeling of being ‘at one’ with the world rather than separate or alienated from it that I mentioned at the beginning of the talk.

A few weeks ago, at the height of the snows, Stephanie and I made our way through deserted streets with the snow four or five inches thick, not a single car moving as it fell. We got to the bus station (near a suspected site of the Holy Grail, but that – as they say – is another story) and joined the audience of twenty or so for a run-through of a play local poet John Agard has recently written. Inspired by all the tales of giants in this region (and the Long Man him or herself) John had cooked up something really special. It made us feel very happy to be living in this little corner of the world, and it illustrated perfectly the idea I’ve suggested: the fertilising power of Place.
Resources
I’m giving a one-day workshop on this theme: ‘Living in a Magical Landscape’ a one-day workshop at Beechwood Hall, Cooksbridge, near Lewes on Saturday 27th February 2010. Details here.
An article that examines the significance of Lewes in particular: ‘A Glimpse into the Magic of Lewes’.
(Also use ‘Lewes’ as a search term on my blog to find related entries)
A Dictionary of Sussex Folk Medicine by Andrew Allen, Countryside Books, 1995 for a wealth of information on cunning folk remedies, malaria, etc. in Sussex.
The Book of English Magic, by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate, John Murray 2009 for the wider context and for more on cunning folk like Grandmother Huggett, Steyning and the dying wizards.
Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, Hexagon Hoopix 2000, a collection of Valiente’s poems.
Sussex by Desmond Seward, Pimlico 1995 for a guide to Sussex history and folklore
The Druid Way by Philip Carr-Gomm, Thoth, 2006  for an exploration of the landscape around Lewes and Wilmington.
See the website of the Snake River Press, who produce beautiful books on Sussex.
See the article ‘Plot to seek Sanctuary ’till good life went bad’ from the archive of the Argus, 26th Sep 2000 for information on Vera Pragnell.

The Story of the Sanctuary by Vera Pragnall 1928 Vine Press Steyning (a limited edition of 600 printed so difficult to track down.)

A Masterpiece from Ukraine

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

This is a remarkable video from the Ukraine that has been viewed over 11 million times on Youtube: coincidentally the number of deaths the Ukraine suffered (out of a population of 42 million) during WW II. It shows the winner of “Ukraine’s Got Talent”, Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on the theme of the invasion of Ukraine during the war on an illuminated sand table – beautiful and deeply moving.

Awen 22

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Over the last few months I’ve been posting up a series of thoughts on Awen, which is the term used to describe creative inspiration and divine blessings in Druidry. Here is the last posting in this series:

Awen is milk of the Goddess, seed of the God: divine nectar, flowing creative inspiration. It is like the Amrita of Hinduism, but a little different, like the Grace of the Christians, but a little different, like the Tao of the Taoists, but a little different.

Imagine you can drink Awen – after all Gwion did. When you sip mead from a chalice in a Druid ceremony, imagine that you are drinking the Awen from Ceridwen’s cauldron.

A Terrible Need of Religion

Monday, January 18th, 2010

When I have a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion, then I go out and paint the stars.

Vincent van Gogh

The Three Functions of Druidry

Friday, January 15th, 2010

We’ve started a new section on The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids website. In the ‘Books & Resources’ section we are posting up articles sent in by members about Druidry and related subjects. Already the collection has some really interesting material. Here’s an example from Adam Brough, who lives in a magical eco-spiritual centre in Spain, which originally appeared in his blog ‘A Grove of Quotes’:

The Three Functions of Druidry

“In ancient times, the Druids were members of a professional class in which their society’s religious and spiritual life was embodied. They were the philosophers, scientists, theologians, and intellectuals of their culture, and the holders of the philosophical, scientific, and religious knowledge of their age. The nearest modern equivalent, then, would be professors in universities or colleges, medical doctors, lawyers and judges, school teachers and so on. One could say that such people are the real “Druids” of our time. The ancient Druids brought all of these practices together into a single structure, unified by religious commitment. If you imagine what it would be like if your doctor, lawyer or teacher was also a priest, and the hospital, law court, and college was also a temple, then you have an idea what Druidry was like for ancient Celtic people.” Brendan Cathbad Myers, The Mysteries of Druidry

How can I claim to be a Druid when they and their traditions are effectively extinct? We’re only left with fragments of folklore, second hand myths written by Christian monks, vague archeology and biased reports by Romans and Greeks. What comes after those are fanciful theories and imaginative speculation. We are left with a ragged patchwork that’s 5% fact and 95% fiction (not actual figures). Some modern Druids can be seen to be attempting to faithfully reconstruct the tradition and culture of what ancient Druids were, some are guided by whatever fantasies takes their fancy, whilst others consciously embrace Druidry as a viable spiritual path, whether fact or fiction. Put me in the third category.

I’m not interested in the fact or fiction of what Druids were, I’m more interested in what Druidry can do in the world today. I’m not adverse to a fictional image of Druidry if it helps my purpose. In this context I’ll introduce my theory, which isn’t a description of what Druids were, but is an image, a symbol that can inspire the role of Druidry in today’s world. I’m a myth maker, and myths are symbols that help inform our attitude towards and behavior within the world. And Druidry, as I envision it, can be a useful tool to direct human attitude and behavior towards a healthy relationship with each other, with the living Earth and with the expression of our souls.

My theory starts with fragmented tribes violently competing with one another and making humans and nature suffer. Does that sound familiar? From this, individuals specialised in spirituality, education and politics from many different tribes, speaking different languages, practicing different religions with different pantheons, came together to create a system that would help organize and guide the balance between the various tribes and the natural world within which they exist. Through their spiritual, educational and political expertise they built a system to do just that. A system that was not limited to a single region, tribe, culture, language, pantheon, religion or nation; but one that transcended the boundaries of human identity to create a common understanding to work together.

My interest in Druidry is mainly about what their function and role was within society and how that image can inspire the role of Druidry today. In my mind I have an image of a triangle, made up of three functions which are, if you haven’t guessed by now, spirituality, education and politics. A sort of triangular spectrum not too dissimilar to the chart of soil types; sand, sediment and clay, one at each point, and in between some substances somewhere in between, with the centre being a mixture of all three. They were not three separate functions, taken up by specialised individuals, but rather a holistic system where they complemented one another and were familiar to all Druids. For Druidry to be a viable movement in today’s world, there needs to be an image of Druid roles today that are not confined solely to the spiritual like many of today’s Neo-Druid groups.

This is the first post of a series. I will take each of the “functions” and put into detail how a modern Druid might approach them and work with them, and in true Druidic fashion each one will be accompanied by a triad of quotes. There will also be a last section, after the three functions, describing a very important aspect of modern Druid tradition which is the context for, not just Druidry, but the whole of human existence.

Education

“The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.” Krishnamurti

“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.” Roberto Assagioli

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.” Anne Sullivan

Druids were educators. They had schools that taught many things; history, genealogy, stories, laws, lore and other things. They were living breathing archives that could be called upon by tribal chiefs and kings, or the common people of the tribes. They must have had complex mnemonic systems to catalogue everything into their memory, since their tradition was an oral one and it was forbidden to write anything down. One such system is their alphabet, the Ogham, that was used to list things and their attributes. The most well known is the tree alphabet, but there was plenty of others for birds, animals, herbs etc. This system, or one like it, must have been used to remember extensive information.

Druids today don’t have to be living breathing archives, we have books and computers for that sort of thing, and it is not forbidden to write anything down. A shame in some ways, as writing things down (like I am now) has the tendency to abstract information, removing it from living experience. And we can see that in the book-based education of today, it emphasises a lot on intellectual knowledge; what to think than on how to think. I don’t say that we should ban books (I love them too much!) but that they are not the be all and end all of education, and that education should be directed towards living experience. For me, a Druid education is an integrated one, based on developing a holistic intelligence, not just an intellectual one. And also it is about self-development and discovery and not for a student to conform their knowledge to a school’s syllabus. Another thing to remember is that education doesn’t just take place in a classroom, all aspects of our life educate us in different ways; from the media we get our information from, the books we read, the films we watch, the toys we have as children, the relationships we’re involved with, the careers we choose. All of these things are symbols of the educational and psychological structure we build up inside us.

Holistic intelligence I think of as something that includes many aspects of the human being. As I said, intelligence is measured mainly by intellect, as the so-called “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ reflects. It’s tests are all about how well the intellectual, thinking side, of humans work. The “I” of IQ is more appropriately seen as Intellect because intelligence can also be seen as emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, social intelligence, ethical intelligence and spiritual intelligence. We could also talk about creative or imaginative intelligence as Druids were also the artists, poets and musicians of their peoples, and also health intelligence, since Druids could also specialise in healing, as doctors of their time. But knowing how to be healthy and stay healthy is a fairly basic skill for all people, not just something for professionals. Education should be about the development of the whole human being, not just the intellect. In the same way that we should have a “healthy and balanced diet” to stay physically healthy, we should also have a healthy and balanced education, in order to develop a healthy intelligence, a holistic intelligence.

Politics

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Confucius

“Politics has less to do with where you live than where your heart is.” Margaret Cho

“The new vision senses the Earth as a complex system, Gaia, and recognizes that our globalized social world is reliant on the natural world: when there’s trouble in nature, there’s trouble in society.”  Susan Canney

The Druids were lawmakers, counsellors to kings, guardians of sovereignty, peacemakers, and probably warmakers too. They would resolve differences between tribes and probably even resolve differences with people within a tribe. For this they had to be very aware of the social balance of things and used their knowledge to guide this balance. Some were probably corrupt, following their own selfish schemes or that of their tribe and some may even have had a noble idea about a common good for all people. I like the common good idea, but realistically human nature is what it is and has the habit of doing all sorts of things, even within such positions of power and responsibility. Despite this not too rosy image of human nature, in the image of a Druid we have a figure that is powerful in social and political fields of activity, and that is what I lean on here.

For me, my political work as a Druid isn’t about walking into warzones or gang fights to resolve the conflicts there. It isn’t about me signing petitions, lobbying new legislation, attending a political march in protest about some issue, social work, standing for election or “making my vote count.” Politics, at its root, is about how humans relate to each other, it’s about our relationships. Political discord stems from the social ills we have, so all political work fundamentally starts here. It’s about the relationship between offspring and parents, men and women, young and old etc. Before we heroically face the problems of the world, we should heroically face our own personal problems, and from that foundation all other problems of the world; economical, ecological, national, international etc can be legitimately dealt without skipping personal problems; an essential experience if we are to tackle anything else. Before we take our issues to Monarchs, Prime Ministers or Presidents we should face and resolve the issues we have with our parents, children and all our relationships.

Spirituality

“It [spirituality] is the province of our responsive and creative imagination – not just a fiction-factory but a vitally necessary place where we work out the interpretative patterns we need for our life-world as a whole, structures and visions to provide some usable order in the chaotic world of our experience.” Mary Midgley

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” Anais Nin

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Jung

I left spirituality until last because it’s too easy for modern Druids to focus on the spiritual aspect of Druidry at the expense of the political and educational aspects of it. Druids were priests, magicians, seers, prophets, diviners, mediators with the deities, shamans, guardians of sacred knowledge, sacred places and shrines and a whole range of spiritual and religious functions in their society. They were the mythologers and mythographers of their time, governing the images, stories and symbols that would guide, and even legitimise, the lifestyle and culture of their peoples. They also encoded their peoples’ experience into myths to preserve the wisdom of the past for future generations, locking their history and worldview into symbolic form.

Symbols speak to us at deep levels; they evoke and invoke energies within us, energies that give us a connection between our personal life and the rest of the cosmos. Spirituality gives meaning and ethics to guide us in life, guiding our attitude and behaviour, but it also goes deeper than that. Psychospiritual development can take place, through the normal psychological development stages, but also a spiritual development where an individual is open to their creative potential beyond initial psychological programming. When therapy stops or is not necessary, and the psyche is in a healthy and balanced state, development doesn’t stop there, it carries on. The psyche is not a static machine, to be repaired, adjusted and kept running smoothly, it is a growing organic thing that constantly changes, and spirituality is something that helps us cope and direct that change, and allows the soul’s own Dharma or spiritual “blueprint” to unfold and evolve according to its own inner pattern.

Each person’s inner pattern and life journey is extremely personal and individual. I live and work with people, our own paths in life run parallel but they do not merge. Working together, growing together, but never growing into each other. My life journey can only ever be mine, shareable with no other being, but it is a thread in the fabric of evolution; of human evolution, of the living Earth’s evolution and of the whole cosmos’ evolution, with its beginning and end residing there; emerging from and finally merging back into nature. And here we take a step into a fundamental aspect of modern Druid practice and belief; its connection to the natural world and the focus it can create in humanity on ecological and environmental issues.

Gaian Druids

“We do not live on the Earth, we are a part of how the Earth lives.” David Richo

“You go to Nature for an experience of the sacred… to re-establish your contact with the core of things…The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in Nature enables you to cope more effectively with the problems of humanity.” Will Unsoeld

“Paradoxically, turning attention to the inner life can make us acutely aware of the beauty and fragility of the earth. Since our collective habits of behaviour appear to be leading toward annihilation, recognition of our capacity for conscious evolution has become an increasingly compelling necessity. Spiritual awareness of our relationship to the whole earth can no longer be considered the prerogative of a few introverted individuals. Although it may take a leap of faith to believe that a radical shift in human consciousness is possible, this global mind change may be necessary to shift our collective trajectory from self-destruction to self-renewal.” Frances Vaughan

I have spoken of three functions of ancient Druidry and have put them into a relevant form for modern times, but what I have not really gone into detail about is Druidry as a nature-based spirituality. We could say, maybe, that Druids were ecologists and environmentalists. But considering the times they were living in, everyone in their cultures had to have some basic ecological knowledge of some sort, so it could not be seen as a druidic “function” but a basic fact of life for everyone. Today, whether we are into Druidry or not, this is something we should all have, we should all be familiar with ecological knowledge, of the fact that we are part of an ecological system and that it is the very basis for our existence. Locked away in our cities we are disconnected from where our food comes from, where our oxygen comes from, where our water, gas and electric come from, even where out money comes from! We are so familiar with a world which is so human dominated we forget just how embedded we are in the living systems of the Earth, how much we depend upon them and how much we affect them.

It’s important for our eco-starved species to once again gain an ecological perspective that pervades every aspect of our activites on, or more appropriately as part of, the Earth. Humanity and every aspect of its evolution should find a way to evolve with the Earth’s evolution and also creatively contribute to it. The development of a holistic intelligence is one that can only grow as a part of nature, the work of politics and relationships also includes our relationship with nature and the journey of the spiritual life is a part of nature not apart from it. Nature is such a fundamental part of Druidry that each of the functions I have described can be better understood if we put the suffix “eco” on each; ecoeducation, ecopolitics and ecospirituality. In such a way we recognise that ecology isn’t just one of many subjects but the entire context of our lives. An important resource for modern Druidry’s worldview can be found in the scientific developments of the Gaia Hypothesis and Earth Systems Science and the implications they have for every aspect of our lives.

Such a fundamental part of human life is ecology that I’m reluctant about treating this as a separate subject, because our various activities, like spirituality, education and politics, do not stand apart from nature, but can only exist because of nature. Each of the functions of Druidry can be envisaged as pillars of Druidry; The Three Pillars of Druidry. Or better yet, trees; The Three Trees of Druidry. The fourth “pillar” or “tree” is nature, but it does not stand separately, it itself is the Three Trees and also the sky above them and the earth below them. The “function” of ecology or environmentalism, must be so fundamental to the other three functions that it pervades them, their growth and their evolution, as it should with the whole of human existence. Leaving this subject last and apparently separated from the others signifies the human psyche’s split from nature. Something that a nature-based path like Druidry can facilitate in this modern world is the healing of the human consciousness in relation to nature.

Adam Brough