The Trees and Woods of Albion need your help!
The BDO – together with OBOD and the Druid Network – is supporting the call for the Charter for Trees, Woods and People. Over 70 partner organisations are writing a Tree Charter document, which sets out our rights and responsibilities for our trees in the UK.
We are asking people to sign to show support for the Tree Charter and its 10 Principles:
1. Thriving habitats for diverse species
2. Planting for the future
3. Celebrating the cultural impact of trees
4. A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK
5. Better protection for important trees and woods
6. Enhancing new developments with trees
7. Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees
8. Access to trees for everyone
9. Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management
10. Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees
You can sign online or by leaving your full name as a comment below this post. For every signature of support, a tree will be planted.
Terms and conditions for signing can be found on the Tree Charter website (https://treecharter.uk/terms-
If you want to help us collect signatures in your networks, then please share the above link or email TreeCharter@woodlandtrust.org.
If you’d like to find out more about the Charter, or about OBOD’s plans to celebrate its launch later this year, please post below!
Image: Lars Van De Goor
Challenges are essential on a personal spiritual path. Call yourself a Druid, and they come regularly: the image is deep enough in our national psyche for everyone to have their own particular views, whatever their religion. This is a great thing; it allows our thinking a chance to mature, to shift and adapt with the deeper understanding that time brings. It keeps our practice fresh and relevant and authentic.
A few weeks ago, a major challenge came my way. It came as the result of an invitation, so settle down for a moment and I’ll tell you a tale…
Glastonbury festival hosts Arcadia Spectacular and its presiding geniuses, the technical director Bertie Cole and creative director Pip Rush Jansen, got in touch. The Arcadia Spectacular stage set takes the form of a gigantic spider the size of a two storey house, with glowing eyes, flashing appendages, and shooting huge columns of fire into the air. Trapeze artists and aerialists swing from its huge body in a thrilling display.
And Spider, Pip and Bert had their own story….
In 2016 transporting it in 4 huge shipping containers to Perth Australia brought them into contact with the local aboriginal people. In Perth they met a different kind of engagement with spider energy – one that goes back further than recorded history; they met Barry McGuire, an aboriginal guardian for the Spider Tribe. Arcadia’s performance was enriched and enhanced and bedded into the land by the wonderful welcome that the tribe gave them. Led by Barry, there was traditional dance and song then, for the first time in the city’s history, the community, of all ethnicities, had felt truly united, dancing beneath the spider. It was a profoundly healing event.
Well, the natural response to Barry’s generosity in sharing his ancestral practice was to invite him to see the spider in its native land, at Glastonbury festival in 2017. So flying forward in time and space to England, enter one local Druid…
Arcadia Spectacular invited me to devise a ceremony of welcome for Barry and three other visitors; two First Nation activists from Standing Rock, Doug and William, and an African Griot*, Nfaly Kouyate, from the Afro Celt Sound system.
It is a little intimidating to expose one’s handcrafted spirituality to such eminent people …
Challenge! Their path has been honoured by their culture for countless generations; mine is still finding its feet in the world.
Challenge! These visitors all have a recognised position in their communities and now, at last, in the wider world: by comparison, I and my spirituality have no status.
Challenge! The practices have been hallowed and handed down for generations in an unbroken line, whilst I’m helping to forge a new tradition, whose value will be to future generations.What a privilege, what an opportunity to examine what I did. And I devised something which I feel is rooted in the traditions of these islands.
The first essential was choosing trusty companions to share the adventure; Matt McCabe, the apple-orchard Druid of Bath, and Arthur Billington, an Honorary Bard of OBOD: a Druidic trio. I was concerned to avoid any hint or suggestion of cultural misappropriation. Aspects of my tradition are lost, but it seems obvious that traditional practices have many overlaps worldwide. One example of that is purifying with smoke, so I am happy to do that in most ceremonies, but on this occasion, lacking written authentication from those Romans and Greeks, smudging was out. So what did I put in the ceremony?
I drew from three sources; mythology, archaeology, and good old common sense, and this is how it went…
With the Arcadia crew, we opened a circle of community, trust and love by holding hands, whilst I cast it using a silver branch of apple wood and ringing bells – just as the interface of the worlds was heralded by Manannan Mac Lir and his silver branch.
Then the ceremony was divided into three parts…
Honouring the ancestors of this land and this place – ratified by all that archaeology reveals about activity in/around our long barrows: this was a simple invocation, with a call and response.
Blessing the visitors and company with water from the sacred red and white springs of Glastonbury, only 5 miles away. Earlier, over dinner, I’d explained the ancient custom of giving votive offerings to water, and had invited the visitors to have a small silver coin if they wished to join in this custom: they did, and I returned their offerings to source later. Whilst Matt blessed each visitor personally, Arthur and I asperged the crew.
Extrapolating from evidence of feasting, meat eating and celebration at sacred sites, I decided that gift-giving would finish our ceremony.
This was important because another part of the intention was to establish a bond of trust and safety amongst the crew. There were to be nearly 100 of them present: so how to give a meaningful gift? It came courtesy of my favourite local Scots pines, which happily had been shedding cones in abundance. Everyone was able to have one, with a reminder that the pine is the far see-er, the guardian of the high places, the fixed yet flexible safe mover through the airy realms – just as the crew, working on the giant construction as aerialists or in any other capacity, would be. Arthur explained the many qualities that connected pine and human – including the outpouring of creative offerings that the assembled talent represented. He invited them to imbue the cone with their wishes and hopes, then return that to spirit by throwing it into the fire: we were overwhelmed by the joyous rush!
Most importantly, the holding nature of the ceremony allowed space, between the honouring and blessings, for all of our visitors to speak about their own paths and what had brought them here. So we were blessed with First Nation and African magical songs and a rare insight into their own ancestral paths from people who, by living them, are holding them safely for the future.
As I have written before; living Druidry is a privilege and an adventure.
And what of my sensitivities around cultural misappropriation? The last word is from First Nation William to Matt – ‘Fantastic ceremony… you should have smudged us!’
Huge appreciation must go to Simon Emmerson – record producer, guitarist, DJ, and founder of the group Afro Celt Sound System. A large part of his musical life has been steeped in fusion and connection between Irish and West African and electronic music and bringing together many guest artists. So how appropriate that he was the vital link that connected us all to bring this into being. Thanks, Simon.
(*a member of a class of travelling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa.)
Circles in the Sand is a group made up of labyrinth artist Denny Dyke, artist Christine Moehring and photographer Pamela Hansen. They produce stunning sand labyrinths on the beaches of Bandon, Oregon, which they describe as ‘walkable art’. On their website they write about the focus behind their work:
Circles is dedicated to the path of the labyrinth as a means of meditation, transformation and healing. We offer a walkable sandy path for all to experience the benefits of taking some time just to be themselves.
I include below a short film where Denny and others talk about these beautiful projects.
Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Image by Terri Moore
My friend Angela Lemaire is a very talented printmaker and painter. She creates stunning woodcuts. My book Cosmiel’s Gift is illustrated with her beautiful images.
Angela’s latest book Talking Though Trees is a collaboration with author Edward Picton-Turbervill and The Old Style Press and includes 32 of her woodcuts printed directly from the blocks. Angela told me a little about this wonderful project:
This book is about the trees in the Backs, St John’s College, Cambridge. It was written when the author Edward was an undergraduate and organ scholar at St John’s College. It is a wonderful exploration of the trees around St John’s College, revealing their importance to a young undergraduate as he entwined the role of organ scholar and music student with his emerging passion to engage with the environment and its preservation.
There is a main edition of 140 copies numbered and signed by the artist and author, and a Special edition is hand coloured and is limited to 10 copies. The woodcuts and text tell the story of particular trees, of nature, of our understanding of the wider world.
I was delighted to be interviewed by Anna Letitia Cook for WomenUp Radio recently. It is the first in a series about culture, fulfillment and wellness. Here is a breakdown of the discussion from Anna’s website:
Creativity, respect and open-mindedness – the importance of this for women with regards to creating a better professional and personal environment.
Other cultures and how their values can help us so much in today’s world – What other cultures and philosophies give us. Druidry and its ancient, yet incredibly progressive thinking regarding women, values, beliefs, and self.
Psychology and Psychotherapy – The importance of peace of mind, nature and your inner responses to situations with regards to building positivity and confidence
De-stressing, energising, meditation and peace of mind – Advice and tips, looking at values in different cultures which help women enhance creativity and respect, and bring nature and wellness into our world!
You can listen to the interview here.
A review by Maria Ede-Weaving of Penny Billington’s fabulous new book The Keys to the Temple: Unlocking Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah Through Her Occult Novels – co-written with Ian Rees. I interview Penny in this month’s Druidcast – A Druid Podcast Episode 123 where you can hear her talk more about the book.
The Keys to the Temple: Unlocking Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah Though Her Occult Novels by Penny Billington & Ian Rees
For those fascinated by Dion Fortune’s use of her fiction as a method to reveal the deeper experiential workings of the theory given in The Mystical Qabalah, this richly detailed and insightful book will become an invaluable companion.
Penny Billington and Ian Rees painstakingly take the reader on a journey through each of the novels, delving beneath the surface of character readings, imagery and narrative to lift a veil on each novel’s magical depths and meaning.
Billington and Rees’ analysis is sharply detailed and extensive. There is a real sense of engagement with the novels and a thorough understanding of Dion Fortune’s clever use of story as a teaching medium and method to engage with mystical experience and revelation.
For those unfamiliar with the Qabalah, there is a clear and concise chapter that introduces the reader to the system. Later in the work there are practical meditations and pathworkings that use the imagery of the novels to deepen your experience of that system in the manner that Fortune intended.
For those who love Dion Fortune’s fiction and appreciate its purpose, this book makes the perfect bridge between her theoretical text – that can feel rather abstract and abstruse in isolation – and the stories that bring the journey alive, connecting the seeker on an emotional and experiential level. This book is indeed a ‘Key to the Temple’ and I predict it will become a classic text for all those drawn to explore not only Dion Fortune’s novels but the Western Mystery Tradition as a whole.
A Poem for the Solstice…
The Arrival of the Past
You wake wanting the dream
you left behind in sleep,
water washing through everything,
clearing away sediment
of years, uncovering the lost
and forgotten. You hear the sun
breaking on cold grass,
on eaves, on stone steps
outside. You see light
igniting sparks of dust
in the air. You feel for the first
time in years the world
electrified with morning.
You know something has changed
in the night, something you thought
gone from the world has come back:
shooting stars in the pasture,
sleeping beneath a field
of daisies, wisteria climbing
over fences, houses, trees.
This is a place that smells
like childhood and old age.
It is a limb you swung from,
a field you go back to.
It is a part of whatever you do.
~ Scott Owens