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Talks & Workshops in October

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

houdini-pictureI’m giving some talks and workshops on both sides of the Pond in October. They are all in rather nostalgic settings.

In London, I’m giving a talk on a Friday evening, 9 October, and then a day workshop the next day at the College of Psychic Studies. You can find details here. I don’t think I’ll use the ‘Spirit trumpet’ shown in use here at a séance – examples can been seen at the College – but you never know!

Then in the US, on 17-18 October, I’m giving a two day workshop on ‘Druid Magic & Healing’ in the wonderfully atmospheric village of East Aurora in Upstate New York. This was where the spiritual writer and Arts & Crafts entrepreneur Elbert Hubbard started a ‘New Age’ community whose buildings can still be visited. The workshop is almost full, but you can find details on it here. And do have a look at this clip about Hubbard and East Aurora. It’s near the spiritualist village of Lily Dale too, which we’ll be visiting, so rather fittingly as we move towards Samhain, Stephanie and I will be in two places in the UK & USA associated with communication with the Otherworld.

The Event That Did Not Take Place

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Islam, Christianity and Judaism – the three Abrahamic religions – all tell the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his son as a test of Abraham’s obedience to the will of God. At the last moment, as he raises the knife, he is told he has passed the test and should slaughter a sheep instead.

It’s a horrific story, which some believe is echoed in the New Testament, when a son is killed – hence: “Behold the lamb of God” which refers to Christ.

Is this a story that holds the key to a great mystery, or is it indicative of an awful pathology that affects all the Abrahamic faiths?

When the devil urged Abraham to protect his son and not kill him, was he really ‘the evil one’ or the voice of Compassion?

Stephanie and I have just returned from Berlin. There we visited an art installation that takes up 15 rooms in the Jewish Museum. It’s entitled ‘Obedience’, and has been created by the artist Saskia Boddeke and film director Peter Greenaway. It combines film, dance, music, installations and artwork. I cannot overstate the impact this installation had on us both. It was devastating – deeply emotional and powerful.

‘Obedience’ is art that shakes you to the core, touches the soul and cracks open the heart. I would encourage anyone who is concerned about the way we as humans seem to cause so much bloodshed on this Earth to visit this exhibition, which closes on September 13th. Unfortunately I cannot find plans for it to be shown elsewhere, and the representations on the web do not adequately convey its extraordinary nature.

If you can’t get to it, you can get a sense of it (but only very partially sadly) by watching the following three videos in sequence. In a meditative mood, imagine you are walking through fifteen rooms, with the music in the clips playing, huge screens showing films like this, and the whole room being painted and decorated, with installations in each room. If you are interested in the story itself and how it can be interpreted, you can find a pdf that discusses it here.

Orkney – Haunted by Time

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

‘The Orkney imagination is haunted by time.’ George Mackay Brown

I gave a talk at the library in Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, a few weeks ago. 25 people turned up, and about 20 of them said they had come to live on Orkney because they had ‘heard a call’, or had been ‘drawn to’ the islands. Now that’s an extraordinary statistic by any standards, and even more so when you consider the fact that it’s cold, windy and dark up here for a lot of the year. They say there are only two seasons on Orkney: Winter and July. And this year, we were told, July hadn’t happened. They’ve had a tough time: so much rain that cattle had to be sold because they couldn’t be fed. And there are very few trees. Stands of sycamore or pine here and there, but otherwise only fields, peat bogs, barren hillsides, and wild angry skies. And when cabin fever strikes, it’s expensive to leave ‘Orkatraz’, as friends called their home. The return flight to London can be over £300, to Glagow £250. You can escape on the ferry, but that isn’t cheap either.

The Shhela na Gig in St.Magnus Cathedral Kirkwall. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

The Shhela na Gig in St.Magnus Cathedral Kirkwall. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

So why had so many people been drawn here? One family had even sold their house in England and moved up without ever having visited the islands. Perhaps the answer lies in the words of one of Britain’s most gifted poets and novelists, George Mackay Brown, when he wrote ‘The Orkney imagination is haunted by time.’ If you want to get away from the incessant reminders of transience that the busy south provides, come here to this time-laden land, to these islands which were once at the centre of a great culture. The pilgrimage here then becomes one, not to a set of far-flung islands on the periphery of civilization, but to the heart-lands, to the place where the Ancestors traveled on pilgrimage, from Stonehenge and beyond.

Kirbuster Farm. Sleeping area to left. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

Kirbuster Farm. Sleeping area to left. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

There is an extraordinary sense of continuity here. At the ancient settlement at Skara Brae you can see that a drainage system was created to provide en suite (or perhaps beer-making) facilities 5,000 years ago, and there are stone sleeping areas, that are very similar to the bed areas you find in use until 200 years ago, on display at the Kirbuster farm museum a few miles away. In Skara Brae the great slabs of stone that create the sleeping areas are laid horizontally. At Kirbuster they stand vertically. But what a sense of continuity you get!

When Jamie George, of Gothic Image Tours, and Linda Marsden, of Global Spiritual Studies, invited us to travel to Orkney, I thought we were making a pilgrimage to a place far away, but although I didn’t feel ‘called’ and couldn’t imagine living in such a wind-swept land, I did feel deeply moved, as if I was a salmon swimming upstream to the place of the oldest animals (to use an image from the Mabinogion), to the Place of Beginnings.

In addition to being guided around the ancient sites of Brodgar, the Ness, Stennes and Maes Howe by our knowledgeable guides, Helen and Mark, from Spiritual Orkney, they took us to Happy Valley, a haven of trees and rushing water, and we stayed at a magical guest-house/retreat centre – Woodwick House. With its falls of water coloured gold by the peat, and its tall sycamores which ran down to a tranquil seashore looking out to the island of Gairsay, I thought of that beautiful Druid blessing that goes: “By the beauty of the fields, the woods and the sea, by the splendour that is set upon all that is…”

A big thank you to all those who made this journey possible!

The documentary below will fill you in on the details of Orkney’s early history, and you will learn about the latest findings in archaeology which show that our pre-Christian megalith-building culture spread from the north south and not vice versa. If you’re planning on visiting Orkney, have a look at the services offered by Helen and Mark, which include guiding and even arranging a hand-fasting in the Ring of Brodgar.

 

 

 

Plant Consciousness – Last Shout For Early Bird Tickets!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

 

Get Your Plant Consciousness Early Bird Tickets Before They Sell Out! Book Here.

 

PC

plant consciousness 2

Back Down To Earth

Monday, July 20th, 2015

quipple737A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…

Nature never hurries. Atom by atom, little by little she achieves her work. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you noticed how our perception of time directly affects how much time we have? When you have a million things on the go and a ‘to do’ list that seems endless, observe that when you respond to the situation with a sense of panic or rush, time starts to whiz by alarmingly fast. Conversely, when we relax and go slow, time slows too and we get things done with less effort. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Slowing down and relaxing into the moment is a magical process. As Druids, we come to know the value of grounding – our spirituality teaches us the importance of feeling the tap root of our body and psyche secure within the earth. Sometimes we when start to explore spirituality we can become overly enchanted by flights into spirit or the otherworld; we can find ourselves working solely in our heads, reading and thinking about a path but not actually committing to the work of manifesting that path in our lives. Druidry reminds us we are matter; we exist within a material universe that requires that we feel the value of gravity, the way it shapes and strengthens us. It encourages us to celebrate and embrace the limitations and boundaries of earthly life and to recognise that all those exciting flights of spirit and inspirational thought can only benefit ourselves and others when we ground and manifest them here in the material realm.

A great part of Druidry is learning to perceive energy. We do this by tuning in to our environment and ourselves. Some energies are light and have a faster frequency, others have a greater density and are slower moving – the energy of a dragonfly feels very different to a boulder on the beach. As we develop sensitivity to these differences, we can also begin to sense the energy frequencies of our own being. I am a huge fan of the chakra system because it understands that the various levels of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual makeup are composed of energy centres resonating at different speeds, each with its own qualities and purpose but all working together as (hopefully) a healthy, functioning whole. No one centre is more or less important than any other and to place too much of a focus on one or two at the expense of the others can bring us some challenges and even impact on our health. Balance is key.

rooted photo

To go back to our earlier example of being stuck in our heads, we know that thought resonates to a faster frequency. We don’t experience it as having the same limitations or boundaries that our physical bodies are subject too. However, if we spend too much time in our heads without tending our physical needs, an imbalance will occur – we cannot live by thought alone, we need food, water, exercise, cuddles, a roof over our heads… In short, we need to ground ourselves in Mother Earth and our bodies; feel our roots within her, enjoying the soil’s denser, slower energy, allowing it to steady and energise us.

The root chakra – Muladhara – is the place within us that has an extraordinary and magical capacity to take our creativity and manifest it here in the material realm. It is not afraid to take it slow because it has stamina, strength and endurance – it knows the patient power of consistency. It takes one look at our ‘to do’ lists, shrugs and goes about them one simple step at a time, utterly rooted in the present moment, no rush, no panic.

As one chakra opens us to the next, being thoroughly grounded in the root can then lead us to the ease of movement, flow and flexibility that comes with the second chakra, a centre of joy and creativity. As we become rooted in our bodies and the earth – as we feel at home in the moment – we can then explore the uncertainty of change, learning to respond to its ebb and flow with grace and joy. It is so much harder to do this without our tap root deeply secured.

When you feel stressed, rushed and overworked, slow down; enjoy being in your body, nurture it, feed it, give it pleasure, let it rest, feel the worry drain into the earth and watch as it transforms into peace and renewed strength.

Remember, when you ground, time is always on your side.

Orkney the Right Way Up

Friday, July 17th, 2015
The Stones of Stenness. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

The Stones of Stenness, Orkney. Photo: Mark Woodsford-Dean

Sometimes it helps to look at things upside down, and when it comes to maps, there is of course no such thing as upside down, as enterprising kiwis have realized who sell maps of the world with New Zealand centre-stage up at the top. ‘Great’ Britain then becomes a little island down at the bottom. mcarthur

There’s nothing like perspective for gaining perspective!

And so, when we were up on the far-flung islands of Orkney last week, our wonderful guides Helen & Mark Woodsford-Dean, who run Spiritual Orkney.co.uk, pointed out that in earlier days these islands were at the centre of a flourishing world – surrounded by the now-named Scandinavia, Iceland, Scotland, the Faroes and further afield Greenland. Turning the map the right way up helped us appreciate this. More on what we found there next week!icelandic

Celts – Art & Identity

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

A new exhibition, entitled Celts – Art & Identity, is coming to the British Museum on 24th September 2015 to run until 31 January 2016, curated by Julia Farley, who contributed last year’s Mt Haemus paper and Fraser Hunter, National Museums Scotland. The exhibition then goes up to Edinburgh.  This is how the BM site introduces it:

Come on a journey tracing what it means to be Celtic. The more you look, the more you’ll see…

This is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity, and is organised in partnership with National Museums Scotland. The story unfolds over 2,500 years, from the first recorded mention of ‘Celts’ to an exploration of contemporary Celtic influences. Discover how this identity has been revived and reinvented over the centuries, across Britain, Europe and beyond.

Many objects provide clues to and raise questions about Celtic identity. From the depths of the River Thames come magnificent Iron Age treasures such as the Waterloo helmet and Battersea shield. Roman jewellery, early medieval manuscripts and crosses, a Liberty tea set and even a modern football shirt tell a constantly evolving British and Irish story. Major loans, such as the spectacular Gundestrup cauldron, reveal profound cultural connections across Europe.

The fascinating art and history explored in the exhibition have deep resonances for those in Britain, Ireland and the global Celtic diaspora today, influencing everything from music and literature to sport and spirituality.

On one of the museum’s webpages about the exhibition, they have reproduced Will Worthington’s painting of the Prince of Swords from The DruidCraft Tarot, which shows the Waterloo helmet and the Battersea shield. Have a look here.

And here is Dr Farley and Dr Hunter talking about the exhibition:

Taatits, Fog and Magic in the Shetland Islands

Monday, July 13th, 2015
The tombolo to St.Ninian's Isle, Shetland

The tombolo to St.Ninian’s Isle, Shetland

A few notes on a recent visit to Shetland: There were no flights the day before or after, due to fog. But we were lucky – and so began our first trip to these magical islands last week. Approaching the Arctic circle, with most of its territory above 60 degrees North, we flew from a sunny 30C in Lewes to a bracing 11C or so. After that exhilarating feeling of being out in a wild landscape, with the sea always near at hand, we retreated each evening to the Northern Lights Holistic Spa – an absolute delight to stay in, with incredible food and a whole range of treatments available, from lying in a flotation tank to steaming in an aromatherapy box.

In the south of the island (where you drive across the airport runway!) there is an extraordinary site – Jarlshof – where 4,000 years of human habitation  can be seen – from neolithic houses to the ruins of the 17th century laird’s house. The earliest ones were inhabited for 2,000 years – the entire stretch of modern history that has seen so many changes. Unlike Skara Brae on Orkney, which is more well-known, Jarlshof is remarkable for its overlapping examples of housing from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish, Norse and Medieval eras, right the way through to the 1600s.

A little further North, on the western coast, is the site of St.Ninian’s chapel, reached across a bar of sand known as a tombolo. Although St.Ninian never actually visited the chapel, its setting is glorious. There is a real sense of peace here.

We were warned that the best food might be found in the harbour vending machines, but this is not true: if you eat at the Scalloway Hotel, Northern Lights Spa on Bressay, or in the very smart-looking Shetland Museum in Lerwick you’ll be eating some of the best meals you’ve ever tasted.

A Taatit rug from Shetland

A Taatit rug from Shetland

And the great find for us? Taatit blankets and rugs, and their story. Have a look at the examples here and at these two blogs if you want to read more about them: Woolwinding  and  Donna Smith Designs. The photos are from their blogs.

Taatit rugs are unique to Shetland, but all across the Nordic world and Ireland you can find their relatives. Taatits were placed faced down on the bed (which was often in a wooden box to keep out draughts) to hold in the warmth, and to protect the sleeper from the dangers of bad spirits, such as mischievous trows and maras (hags) who could sit on your chest and suffocate you. These blankets were often given as gifts to newly-weds and were then handed down as heirlooms. They were made in two sections, which were unstitched to wash, then re-stitched, which accounts for the misalignment you see in some examples. Later, people starting making rugs with similar designs as the bedcovers. Nobody seems to be making taatits any more, which is a great shame.

A Taatit blanket from Shetland

A Taatit blanket from Shetland

Detail of a Taatit rug from Shetland on display at the Shetland Museum

Detail of a Taatit rug from Shetland on display at the Shetland Museum

A Church Made Out Of Living Trees

Monday, July 13th, 2015

When The Heart Opens

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

opening heartWhen the heart opens, we forget ourselves and the world pours in: this world, and also the invisible world of meaning that sustains everything that was and ever shall be.
 Roger Housden