I mentioned in an earlier post how little fiction I read. Two years ago I spent two days in a hotel in a German forest reading the manuscript of a novel called Farundell. I was hooked by the first page and only came down from my room to eat in the hotel dining room. But even then I took the book with me. The story gripped me, the writing captivated me, and the philosophical themes delighted me. It’s coming out in August, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon. And here’s a short film about it:
THE ONE TREE GATHERING
Celebrating and Exploring the Connections between Druidism and the Dharma
30-31 October 2010 at the Shri Venkateswara Temple in Birmingham UK
The ancient Dharmic religions of India share many points of connection with Druidism. Often spiritual seekers feel inspired by the teachings, myths, songs and rituals from both ends of the Indo-European arc, and those who find their inspiration in both Druidism and the Dharmic religions may well be reuniting strands of a common cultural and spiritual heritage.
In this weekend we are bringing together members of the Druid community with members of the Dharmic community to share rituals, meditation, songs, dances, stories and teachings. The gathering is sponsored jointly by the International Centre for Cultural Studies and The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. If accommodation is required, delegates can be matched with host families in the region. The cost will be a nominal £30 per person to include all food and accommodation.
Friday Evening: Time to arrive in Birmingham and settle into your accommodation, if you are travelling from afar.
Saturday: After a meditation, and both Hindu and Druid ceremonies, the day will unfold with interactions and explorations in small groups and with talks. There will also be an opportunity to watch Satish Kumar’s beautiful film Earth Pilgrim. Lunch and supper will be vegetarian Indian food supplied by the temple, and in the evening a joint Eisteddfod celebration will be held with music, song and dance.
Sunday: After a Druid blessing and a puja, there will be chanting of Vedic and Druid mantras, and then the morning will unfold with talks and interactions and explorations in small groups. The gathering will finish after lunch in the temple.
We hope that the weekend will foster greater understanding between the traditions, will inspire delegates to explore new avenues of understanding, and will offer a balanced range of activities: rituals, meditation and chanting to inspire our souls, social and artistic interaction to feed our hearts, intellectual stimulation to feed our minds, and wholesome and tasty food to feed our bodies.
If you feel inspired to join us please send your payment of £30 per person or £20 for a student (cheques made payable to OBOD) to: Penny Billington, OBOD, 4 Park View, Silver Street, Wells, Somersest BA5 1UW or email firstname.lastname@example.org
These eight still moments in time,
In life. How seasons circle,
How lives move on.
How each solstice, say,
Looking back, I see
How much slighter, quieter,
More faded I am, this year
Yet how the old sun shines on.
Alban Hefin 2010
“Ultimately the failure of the economic system to incorporate environmental concerns reflects the failure of values. Reorienting our moral and ethical values will be a necessary condition for change in our behaviour towards the environment.”
Achim Steiner UNEP Executive Director. Quoted in Global Environmental Governance in the 21st Century by Dr Maria Ivanova, Director Global Environmental Governance Project.
Mea Culpa! I’m good at banging on about my own books, but not good at reviewing other books – particularly fiction which I rarely read. I’ve had Ellen Evert Hopman’s ‘The Druid Isle’ on my desk for ages – yearning for its pages to be turned: ‘Please at least just touch me’ they moan! But now Ellen tells me that good reviews have been coming in. Here’s one:
The Druid Isle (Paperback)
This book is the sequel to Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey
and continues to follow the lives of the druid healer Ethne and the warrior
Ruadh years after the first book took place, as well introducing the new
characters of Aife, their foster-daughter who is studying to be a druid, and
Lucius, a young monk with a mysterious past.
The story itself is detailed and well told, with strong
charcterization and a fast paced story. The reader is quickly swept up in
the lives of the four main characters, as well as several minor charcters,
and the ending is very satisfying, answering a question left open from the
Beyond it’s value as a good work of fiction – and it’s worth
recommending just for the story – the book is also a subtle primer on druid
belief and practice. Reading this will help the reader understand Gaelic
culture circa the 3rd century CE and will also help with an understanding of
different druidic principles on a practical level. Unlike a non-fiction book
on the same topic the reader isn’t spoonfed step-by-step instructions and
explanations, instead you see the concepts and practices in action as the
characters live them out. Very reminiscent of the old mythologies.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a good
story, or for anyone who wants to learn more about druidry.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
One of the frustrating things about the whole book writing business is that you spend sometimes years working on a book project. It’s finally published and then when the the book is mentioned, or the reviews come out, they so often seem to miss the very points you thought they’d pick up on. Here’s a graphic illustration of this. I suggested that the publisher send a copy to The Church Times, because a third of the book is about religion and there is a good deal of material on Christianity (that is respectful, surprising and – I think – very interesting). And then Lo! The Church Times does mention the book, but only to feature a photo of the Women’s Party of Poland, and a brief paragraph missing completely all the material on Christianity. But at least it’s in their bookshop and perhaps I do them a disservice and a review will appear later! Meanwhile the Independent’s review today has started to circulate the net with its reviewer’s snappy line: ‘Nudity is like religion: tolerable in moderation but embarrassing in excess.’ Jonathan Sale continues nicely: ‘Combining the two, like members of the aptly named “Fools for Christ” who loved to let it all hang out during Russian winters, is a proof of being out to lunch in a big way.’
Speaking of lunch, I was invited to speak on A Brief History of Nakedness while various clothed and unclothed members of the Spielplatz Naturist community tucked into their lunches on their Open Day last Saturday. It was disconcerting but I soldiered on, and was abetted by the webmaster of the Spencer Tunick Experience Unofficial Website, Gilead Limor, pictured here talking to me in the Club House. I was particularly interested in what he was able to say about the way participants in Spencer Tunick’s photo-shoots often go through a cycle of emotional and psychological states that can trigger a sense of the experience being life-changing.
Meanwhile I have been contacted by the Wellcome Foundation to speak about the way in which a sensitive and appropriate consideration of nakedness can be a useful way to help change the way we feel about ourselves (and hence the planet). Gok Wan in the UK and Carson Kressley in the USA are doing this in their own way for women in particular, but I am more interested in issues of identity, and of how our body-image affects the way we relate to others and the environment. The Wellcome Foundation’s event looks interesting. My talk will be: ‘Ordinary heroes: how nakedness can be used to enlighten, empower and entertain.’ How many of us are comfortable enough in our own skins to feel free of any sense of embarrassment about our bodies? Despite the religious, legal and cultural restrictions that surround its display, nakedness has been used creatively by mystics, political protestors and artists for centuries. Today it is also being used by ‘ordinary people’ to break free from feelings of ‘body shame’ and from the tyranny of stereotypical ideas about beauty.’ For details see their site.
Last weekend at our Glastonbury Town Hall Midsummer Gathering we were dazzled again by performance poet Liv Torc. Here she is as she normally appears on a Monday morning on a humdrum day about town. And here is one of her poems from her latest collection Dancing Naked in Banana Land. See Liv’s website here. Order her book directly from email@example.com:
My Biggest Compliment
‘You’re the best person I’ve ever met.’
I should have said,
‘What does that mean?
How can I ever be that?’
From every moment on
I can only prove otherwise
As each new person approaches
Like a fresh buck
Ready to upstage my title
That I will be forced to defend
Until the bitter end
Continuously flipping myself over in your hands
Like a sweet pancake
Revealing places where I’m burnt
And void of filling, tart or unwilling
You should have said,
‘Disappoint me, I expect the world.’
I should have said ‘thank you’
‘But I think you need to meet more people’.
I am proud to be associated with a spiritual path that includes the zany and the sometimes-irreverent with the respectful and the mystical. Spirituality can be stifled with too much piety!
Midsummer brings out the best, and the zaniest, in the Druid community. I see that someone has started to produce Druid underwear. I had predicted this years ago, when I learnt that Mormons and Sikhs both have special under gaments. Well, someone has made use of the internet to attempt to sell pants to OBOD members. No-one asked anyone at OBOD central. We just found this on a google search: obod underwear.
Now to more serious matters! Our weekend Summer Gathering is over, and what a weekend it was! Will Worthington retired after 19 years service as Pendragon of the Order, and Damh the Bard took up the mantle (or sword, in the Pendragon’s case) in a moving ceremony that included the hymn to the moon (‘Casta Diva’) of the Druid priestess from Bellini’s ‘Norma’ (and sung for us by member and opera singer Henriette De Groot). Earlier that day we had woken at 4am to travel to Stonehenge for an early morning ceremony, and the day before had climbed Glastonbury Tor for another ceremony. As several hundred of us stood there in a timeless magical ritual, a beautiful greyhound entered our circle, walked around the inside perimeter twice and then left by the eastern gate. The dog had a mysterious otherworldly quality that is captured here by a photograph taken later on the Tor by Paul Beer:
You do not need to leave your room…
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait,
be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you
to be unmasked.
It has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Not sure about the last line, but great stuff even so!