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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Beyond the Divine Feminine & Masculine! Tea with A Druid 20

April 23rd, 2018

I begin by reading from ‘A Tree for the Earth Mother’ which you can find here on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

For some time there has been a strong movement towards recognizing and enhancing our appreciation of the Divine Feminine. Centuries of male-dominated religious beliefs have necessitated this. But over the last few years I’ve become aware, both in personal experience and in hearing from others, of a new wave of awareness that goes beyond an interest in either the feminine or masculine principles.

It’s as if we needed to turn our attention to the Divine Feminine to honour, balance and integrate it, and now – for some at least – the journey continues as we ask ourselves “What is the principle, the reality, the Source, or indeed Being, who is beyond or behind, or causal to the Goddess, the God? Do I need to work with the Divine Feminine, or should I go deeper, higher, further, and focus on the Divine Source of All Being? Is my soul Masculine or Feminine, or are these concepts redundant at the level of soul?”

Have a look at this short piece I wrote on ‘Spiritual Sexism’ and tell me if you agree or disagree – I’d love to hear what you think!

Druidry has been influenced by Alchemy, Tantra, Taoism, Wicca and Jungian psychology in placing a good deal of stress on the idea that there are Feminine and Masculine Principles that need honouring and uniting. This approach makes a welcome change to the body-denying and sex-denying attitudes that can often be found in the Abrahamic and Dharmic religions. But look what has happened as this idea – powerful and indeed obvious as it is – has become over-used. It has jumped out of its box and run riot – gendering everything from stones to planets, from numbers to qualities of heart and soul. 
Read more…

Pilgrimage ~ A Journey To Love Island

April 20th, 2018

In the summer of 1990 Jay Ramsay set out on pilgrimage with an interfaith group from London to Iona. The result is his most ambitious book-length poem, an astonishing tour de force in the tradition of Wordsworth and Chaucer. Epiphanic, conversational, meditational, psychological, political, it divines ‘the cross’ of spiritual and ecological being in Britain’s radical tradition, as symbolised by Iona as the crown of the Celtic church and the direction that Christianity lost. Constructed as a series of 25 ‘days’, the narrative builds symphonically like waves of the sea up to its visionary climax. Full of stories, reflections, memories, and images, Pilgrimage is above all a love poem, an invitation into the greater love that is our true becoming where we can find the God most personal to all of us – alive in the heart of Life.

Pilgrimage is an important outpouring from one of Britain’s leading poets wrestling with the Christ story, the human story, and the story of where we need to go as a species. Travelling with Jay is never anything less than a journey into the past, with adventures in the present, and visions of hope for the future.’  Martin Palmer

‘It is strange and beautiful how everything he passes comes into colour, into focus – is born. And I ran along after him and listened as he changed the colour of the sea and broke down doors.’  Peter Owen Jones

Pilgrimage is published by Awen Publications

In Service to Hope

April 13th, 2018

         Anna Campbell

The shocking tragedy of the war in Syria suddenly came home to us all here recently in the small town of Lewes in East Sussex, when we heard the news that Anna Campbell, the 26 year old daughter of a Lewes friend had been killed in a Turkish attack on the all-female Kurdish YPJ in Afrin, Syria. Anna had joined the YPJ because she believed in their ideals and wanted to fight ISIS. Her father Dirk said that she was ‘very idealistic and determined’. The British and Americans have been supporting the YPG in their fight against ISIS, but as Dirk wrote recently: ‘The most scandalous injustice of all this is that the Syrian Kurds, until yesterday, were the faithful allies of the West in fighting against Islamic State. They were supported by Britain and the USA and supplied with weapons. They did our job. They attacked IS, defeated them and rendered them ineffective. Our message to them? ‘Thanks. You have done our work for us. We now leave you to the tender mercies of the Turkish army, furnished with the high tech weapons we have sold them.’ Yes. My daughter was killed by British-made weapons, in the hands of Turks, trained by British military experts.’

War is a disgusting immoral business – and I mean business. While supplying arms to the Kurds we have quite happily been supplying arms to the tune of £330 million to the repressive regime of Turkey, regardless of whom they kill – just as we continue to supply arms to Saudi Arabia despite its appalling human rights record and its bombing of men women and children in Yemen.

Dirk has written a powerful article about his daughter and the Rojava Project, which she believed in. Read it here. And Dirk has a message for anyone touched by Anna’s death, which I will pass on here:

Most of the people who have contacted me to offer condolences have asked, as one does, if there is anything they can do to help. Actually there is one thing that everyone can do to help: support Anna’s cause, i.e. the Rojava cause, by emailing your MP. You may think that this is a waste of time, but it’s not if enough people do it. A single email by my sister to her MP in Ealing resulted in a direct question to Boris Johnson, who is now aware from several sources of the strength of feeling about Anna’s death and the Turkish attempt to wipe out Rojava.

So email your MP. Ask why the UK government is doing nothing to prevent the Turks invading Syria and displacing and massacring the Kurds who are the UK’s allies in defeating Islamic State. Tell your MP that the Syrian Kurds are not terrorists, as the Turks claim, and do not pose a threat to Turkey or Turkey’s territorial integrity. The Syrian Kurds are successfully modelling a new society based on the values of feminism, ethnic inclusivity and environmentalism which, if it were allowed to survive, could provide a solution to all the ethnic rivalries and tensions that have been tearing the middle East apart for decades.

Make the point that if Western governments give Turkey the green light to stamp out the Syrian Kurds and their hopeful project, it is likely that Islamic fundamentalism and war in the middle East will go on indefinitely, with all that means in terms of refugees and security issues for the West.

Remind your MP that the Kurds don’t want to leave their homeland to come here. They don’t want to put their children in flimsy dinghies and risk drowning on the open sea. They don’t want to live in internment camps. They would prefer to live safely and prosperously where they are, and it is the non-violent, inclusive society that is being modelled in northern Syria (Rojava) that offers them the best hope of doing that. Inform your MP that the protection units of the YPG/YPJ only exist for the defence of Rojava. The clue is in the name – ‘protection’. There is no aggressive intention behind the formation of these units, only the need to defend against aggression.

Lastly, ask your MP if they think that British sales to Turkey of weapons and training, with the death and displacement of thousands that follow as a direct result, are worth the economic value to the UK that those sales provide.

One more thing: a fund has been set up by a family friend in Anna’s name to support the victims of the Turkish invasion in Northern Syria via a local charity. If you would like to donate to this fund go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/annacampbell

Many thanks

Dirk Campbell

Wild Wild Country: Tea with a Druid 18

April 9th, 2018

A few days ago I watched the fantastically well-made new Netflix documentary series Wild, Wild Country about the Rajneesh story and how it ended, and it’s one of those ‘You couldn’t make this up’ tales that seems utterly unbelievable and yet it happened: a clash between Christian Conservative America and blissed-out nude-sunbathing meditators that ends in bombing and bio-terrorism. It’s a fascinating study in the extraordinary ability we seem to have to not see one another’s point of view, to justify our own behaviour however outlandish, and the incredible egotism and narcissistic pride that can exist amongst followers of a spirituality that seeks to transcend ego, and is sincerely trying to build a greener, more caring world.

Most of the crazy guru stuff happened amongst my generation – the baby-boomers, and what a marvellous time some of us had. I think it was the Rajneesh lawyer featured in the series, who was a guest at one of the most sensuous and delightful dinner parties I’ve ever attended – at the Prana Centre in the Coromandel, New Zealand, ten or so years ago. After chatting about many of the events that are depicted in the film, we swam in a palm-fringed heated ‘Watsui’ pool, as Pink Floyd played through underwater speakers and the southern stars sparkled high above us.

Now that was just sheer fun, but why was my fun-loving generation so stupid? Wasn’t the fact that Rajneesh had 20 Rolls Royces a clue that something was amiss? And that everyone was wearing uniform – the obligatory orange that became maroon?

It all seems so obviously wrong in hindsight, but I think there was a development, an evolution going on, and I don’t think people are so easily misled these days (do tell me if you think I’m wrong!) Just before watching the series I heard a great TED talk by a young woman trying to create solutions to the pandemic of loneliness. And when I look around at what is happening now – the cutting edge, what the younger generation are doing – I see such a passionate commitment to tackling social and environmental problems. There’s an acceptance of the need for self-care, of the value of meditation, yoga, wholesome food – a broad SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) approach – but it isn’t as obsessively focussed on the Self as was my generation at their age.

So there’s hope I reckon! I know this is a gross over-simplification, but I’d be interested to know if you agree, or if you think I’m kidding myself and have a different take on things.

Meanwhile here’s the trailer for the series I mentioned:

Living a Bi-Spiritual Life

April 9th, 2018

I believe that one of the strengths of OBOD is that it offers an inclusive space where members can – if they feel drawn to do so – blend their Druid path with other spiritualities. Some prefer to focus purely on their Druidry but we have many members who combine their practice with other belief systems such as Buddhism, Wicca, even Atheism.

Rev Shawn Sanford Beck – an OBOD Bard and an Anglican Priest – blends his Christian faith with a Druid path. I include here a lovely guest post from Shawn and also an interview with him on Tapestry (a Canadian radio program on spirituality), talking about his blended ChristoPagan path. To listen to the interview, please click here.

Rev. Shawn Sanford beck

“Put out some of those green scotch mints … those are the ones they really like.”

This was the advice given to me by one of my friends from the First Nation community which borders our farmstead most closely.  My friend’s father is a Cree elder who remembers the old ways of honouring and communicating with the mimikwisis, the little people who dwell along the steep shores of the lake on which we live.  Candy is one of the treats they like the best, and this is what used to be done to keep up good relations with the local neighbours of the spirit world.

So as I pace out the circumference of my sacred grove, I place the green mints in a small pottery dish at the far edge of the circle, with a word of acknowledgement and affection for the trickster guardians of the shoreline.  Having called out peace to the four directions, I kneel at the half-buried stone in the centre of the grove, lay my hands on it, and begin my ritual of blessing our land. In my spirit, through the mind’s eye of my imagination, I travel to the various fields, pastures, garden plots, orchards, underground streams, as well as the underwater realm of the lake, and spread a golden-green light of blessing.  I look inward toward the cattle and horses, the goats, pigs, chickens, cats, and dogs, as well as the human people, the barn, house, and wood wights, and the ancestors who lived before any of my people arrived on Turtle Island, but who still dwell in the land. To each of these various beings, I direct blessings in the name of the Holy One, and ask that the Spirit surround and uphold them all, binding us together in Her vast Web of Wyrd.  After a time of quiet contemplation, I pray as Jesus taught: Abba, Father, Mother who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name … then I close the circle and leave the grove.

Later that afternoon, after chores are done, I will lead a bible study for the farm community, put the finishing touches on the sermon I’ve been working on, and send out an email reminder about the full moon ceremony coming up on the weekend.  Another day in the life of a homestead chaplain, Anglican priest, and Sophian druid … never a dull moment!

For many people, perhaps even most people, one religion or spiritual pathway is more than enough. The traditions, practices, and disciplines of Christianity, NeoPaganism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or any of the other great religious ways can keep a person grounded, fed, and challenged for a lifetime.  But for some of us, especially in the context of a pluralistic and multi-cultural world, the blending of religious paths (or, as Philip sometimes calls it: spiritual fusion cooking!) is an irresistible calling.  I have been a Christian since late childhood, was ordained as an Anglican priest 15 years ago, and have a deep and abiding love for the Holy Trinity, and for Jesus as the Incarnate Word of God. AND, at the same time, I have been profoundly transformed by my encounters with various NeoPagan paths such as Druidry, Wicca, Heathenry, and various forms of shamanistic and animist traditions.  In short, I am a ChristoPagan.

In general, ChristoPagans tend to be scorned by both parent traditions.  We are often seen as heretical by the wider church, and derided as wishy-washy or deluded by other Pagans.  And in some ways, I can see why: a superficial pick-and-mixing of Pagan and Christian elements can lead to a bizarre or even spiritually dangerous brew.  But for those of us who are called to it, a disciplined and reflective fusion of these two traditions can be life-giving and redemptive. Think of how many centuries of bitter division our religions have undergone … do we want that to continue?  I think not. As a ChristoPagan who seeks out the depths of both traditions, I have hope that this new and fragile blended path might be a sign of hope and an agent of interfaith healing in our fractured and fractious world. And I give thanks for the safe space of communities such as OBOD, which provide a place for druids of all religious paths (and none) to live and work together in harmony.  May it ever be so.

Peace in the Grove,
Shawn

Shawn has also written a book about Christian Animism which can be found here.

Don’t be Afraid to be Different! Tea with a Druid 17

April 2nd, 2018

Here’s the recording of the latest of the ‘Tea’ sessions which I am now renaming ‘Tea with a Druid’. After wrestling with whether to call today’s recording ‘Tea with Philip 16’ and last week’s session ‘Coffee with Damh 1’, I figured it was such fun having Damh do a Monday session I would invite more guests in the future and just make sure they only drink tea! And I bet you Damh will be back some time soon!

This week we’re looking at the pressures we feel to be ‘normal’. What is normal? To follow the path of fear, greed, and exploitation of the earth’s resources and people, or to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities too – to dare to be different, eccentric even?

I talk about the eccentric history of Druidry, the lessons of the Phoenix, and of New Orleans, where the elemental powers of Earth, Air and Water have combined with tragic consequences, and yet the spirit of the city is still triumphant – eccentric and beautiful – and not ‘normal’ at all! I mention the work of Otto Rank and his best interpreter Sheldon Solomon, which if you are into Psychology will likely interest you, and I reference the book and film Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton. Here’s the film:

Do you have a Charm?

March 29th, 2018

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Photo by Kallidan

I was recently asked by the Horniman Museum in London to write some text for them about their collection of charms which will soon go on permanent display, together with a cloutie tree which visitors will be able to use as a wish tree. As always with any writing project you learn something new. I discovered that Yoko Ono has created an extraordinary ‘wishing well’ in Iceland which projects light high up into the sky, carrying with it the wishes visitors have made to her artwork ‘Wishing Trees’. You can watch a video of her talking about this below. After you’ve read this post, do let me know via the comment box if you have a charm or amulet. Does it have a story attached to it? Do you carry it with you, or does it stay in a special place in your home?

Here’s what I wrote for the museum:

Charms, amulets and talismans may seem to be just quaint relics of former, more superstitious, times. But scratch the surface of our modern hyper-rational world and there they still are – in the lucky charm bracelets for sale in jewellery shops, in the way wishing wells and trees continue to be used. How come we still turn to charms? We might not believe that throwing a coin in a well or tying a piece of cotton to a tree will make our wish come true, but still we do it, and a little part of us secretly hopes that by some miracle we will get what we want.
It is the most natural thing in the world to wish for healing, safety on a journey, the relief of material or emotional distress, for love, for peace on Earth. By utilising a charm our minds are able to channel our desires through something tangible – something we can see and touch. This activity comes so naturally to us that by 2007 nearly half a million people had written wishes on cards for Yoko Ono’s art installation ‘Wish Tree’, and these were buried beneath a wishing well of powerful lights called the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey island, Iceland. The monument projects a pillar of light up into the sky at certain times of the year, such as the Winter Solstice, and the words ‘Imagine Peace’ are inscribed in 24 languages around the walls of the well.
Virtually any object could be seen as a talisman to bring comfort in times of distress: feathers, stones, sea shells or leaves found at special times, prayer beads or rosaries, an old photograph of a loved one long gone, a locket of hair. But certain objects were often favoured as charms: stones with holes in them, and the feet of animals such as rabbits, moles and birds were common. Charms seem ubiquitous – it is likely that no culture exists without them. In some cases one particular object is adopted universally within a culture – like the waving cats of China that bring good luck, or the saint’s relic, a piece of human bone, that is sealed within or beneath a Catholic altar. In other cases, the charm is uniquely personal, meaningful and useful only to the person who found or fashioned it. But for many, throughout history, charms, amulets and talismans would have been obtained from professional charm-merchants – often known in Britain until the early 20th century as ‘cunning men or women’ – who would sell objects they claimed had protective or healing powers. Many were charlatans, to be sure, but some would have believed in the work they were doing as they cast spells or sung magical invocations over their charms. After all, the word ‘charm’ comes from the Latin carmen – a song or incantation, and by singing over the chosen object, the cunning person believed they were awaking its magical properties, which would then begin to influence whoever held or carried the charm. Whether the influence was in reality psychological – triggering the placebo effect in the charm’s owner – or whether a magical force had indeed been unleashed is up to the reader to decide!

Ritual, Re-membering and Re-Enchantment

March 27th, 2018

I so enjoyed William Ayot’s fabulous book Re-enchanting the Forest, Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World, beautifully written and insightful. I am delighted that William is about to hold a series of training modules and a retreat to explore in depth the power and value of ritual:  

Ritual, Re-membering & Re-Enchantment ~ Initiating Ritual Elders for a Changing World Ongoing Training Group for Men & Women with Rite of Passage with WILLIAM AYOT. Rites of Passage co-led by SIMON ROE

Course Includes: Three Two-Day Modules & One Four-Day Rite of Passage Retreat
Two-Day Modules to be held on 24th-25th May, 2018   —   12th-13th July, 2018   —   18th-19th Oct, 2018. Venue: Haddon Acre, near Abingdon, Oxon(These modules are non-residential – price does not include accommodation or food). 

One Four-Day Retreat & Rite of Passage to be held on 26th to 29th November 2018. Venue: EarthSpirit Centre, Compton Dundon, Somerset. This module is residential. Price includes accommodation and food based on shared room and shared bathroom with vegetarian food. A single room supplement costs an extra £48, en-suite bathroom costs an extra £27, and special diet costs an extra £33 – subject to availability. Cost of ten-day course, including four days accommodation and food. £2,500 if booked before 1 April 2018 – click here to pay. (Price will be £2,750 if booked after 1 April 2018).Deferred payment terms negotiable The Commitment: Once you sign up, you will pay for all ten days. Clearing Up: You will be asked to help clear up after one of the modules.

We live in an increasingly fractious and fractured world, where we lack the personal and communal rituals necessary to heal ourselves and our communities. This extended course sets out to introduce men and women to the fundamentals of symbolic action, and deeper practices associated with creating, leading and holding meaningful ritual. The aim of the course is to pass on ritual knowledge, to reconnect individuals to the Other – however they choose to define that – and to create, through communal rites of passage, individual or group rituals that, where appropriate, initiate them into the role of ritual elder.  

Ritual Elders are persons, of whatever age, who are willing, empowered and able to create, lead and hold safe and meaningful rituals or ceremonies for their loved-ones, communities and societies. 

In response to the demand created by his book, “Re-enchanting the Forest”, William Ayot is offering a ten-day ongoing ritual study group for those who wish to work with ritual and/or deepen their understanding of ritual process. Once the group reaches sufficient numbers it will become closed, providing a safe place for personal growth and the holding of individual rituals along the way.

Please note: by its very nature, this initiatory programme will include elements of personal development.

The intention with this course is to teach by doing. Course content will therefore evolve emergently. However, we can broadly expect to explore the following content:

Module One: Connecting with People – Purpose & Practice • Introduction to Ritual: intention, structure, meaning & metaphor • Ritual & Liminal Spaces • Ritual as Performance, presence and truth • Preparing others and ourselves • Rituals of Lack: Separations & Atonements • Boxes, bags & paraphernalia • Ritual as a life-practice • Module Two: Connecting with the Other • Defining and Approaching the Other (however we define it) • Nature as Presence, Container & Witness • Paying Attention and Listening • Out-sittings and Questing • Shrines and Altars • Working with Objects •  Amulets and Mnemonics • Module Three: Connecting with Self and Soul (Day 2 with Simon Roe) • Getting Real • Finding our ground and what we bring • Caritas, Care and the Human Shadow • Working with Feelings • Rituals for Anger, Grief and Shame • Self-care, safety and boundaries • Metaphor as magic; theatre, speech and the power of invocation • Module Four – Group Rite of Passage (with Simon Roe) • Preparation, Body Work and Time Alone • Rituals of Initiation • Personal Challenges, Ordeals and Vigils • Incorporation and Celebration.

Expect a degree of mess and making. You may be asked to bring specific items and materials for each module. On a regular basis, you will need to bring a knife, a blanket and towel.

William Ayot began leading ritual workshops for men in rehab centres and prisons during the early nineties. Later, he organised and hosted large-scale men’s events for indigenous shamans and medicine teachers while leading initiatory Rites of Passage retreats. As a co-founder of Olivier Mythodrama, he worked around the world, teaching leadership through story, poetry, theatre practice and ritual. He currently teaches on the Advanced Management Programme at INSEAD and is Poet-in-Residence at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. William also coaches, gives poetry readings and conducts private rituals and ceremonies for individuals and groups. Writing includes the play Bengal Lancer, three collections of poetry, including E-mail From The Soul (which won the People’s Book Prize) and his last book, Re-enchanting the Forest, Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World.

Simon Roe originally trained as a body psychotherapist with Nick Totton & Em Edmondson and has been working with individuals and groups for over 25 years. During this time, he has explored and studied many forms of ritual practice and has been profoundly influenced by such teachers as Robert Bly, Martin Prechtel and Malidoma Somé. He became a co-leader of the Mandorla Men’s Rites of Passage programme in 2001 and continues to lead ritual events and gatherings for men and women. Simon is a Respect (www.respect.uk.net) approved trainer & supervisor for domestic violence projects. He practices Process Orientated Psychology and is the director of Two Wolves Consultancy & Training.  www.twowolvesconsultancy.co.uk

For more information, or to arrange a conversation with William, please call 01291 638807 between 10:00 and 14:00 hours on weekdays, alternatively e-mail William on info@williamayot.com  We look forward to exploring ritual with you.

Equinox Blessings!

March 20th, 2018

Wishing everyone a very joyful Equinox! May the balance of light and dark bring you peace and reflection. /|\

Equinox Mini-Retreat

March 19th, 2018

In Tea with Philip 15 we have a mini-retreat of 25 mins together. Here is the first blessing I read out: adapted by Donovan from Fiona McLeod’s wording from her
The Dominion of Dreams Under a Dark Star (1895)

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace deep peace
Deep peace of the sleeping stones to you
Deep peace of the wandering wind to you
Deep peace of the flock of stars to you
Deep peace deep peace
Deep peace of the eastern wind to you
Deep peace of the western wind to you
Deep peace of the northern wind to you
Blue wind of the south to you
Pure red of the whirling flame to you
Pure white of the silver moon to you
Pure green of the emerald grass to you
Deep peace deep peace

I then talked about the Restorers Card from The Druid Plant Oracle, and in particular the plant Rhodiola Rosea – Roseroots.

And we finished with the blessing from The Incredible String Band’s song ‘A Very Cellular Song’:

May the long time sun shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide you all the way on.