An insight from Alan Watts animated by the South Park team!
The indomitable Mark Townsend, magician, priest, author, Druid, has compiled a collection Jesus Through Pagan Eyes, to be published later this year, that promises to make interesting reading. In it is a splendid essay by one of the most cogent thinkers in Druidry today – John Michael Greer – I came across this concise account of how he ended up in Druidry that manages to say a great deal in very few words. If anyone doubts the ‘quirky history’ of recent Druidry, see the post on Libya and the Druids a few posts down!
‘When Christianity finally came to my attention, it was by way of the strident evangelical revival that swept over America in the late 1970s, and that movement’s passion for dwelling on assorted motes in other people’s eyes and ignoring the beams of intolerance, hypocrisy, and political opportunism in its own did not exactly encourage me to take Christianity seriously as a spiritual option. Instead, like much of my generation, I explored other paths—atheism, Asian religions, a handful of the new religious movements—before finding my spiritual home; in my case this was on the far end of the religious spectrum, in that branch of the alternative spiritual scene that embraces the name and draws on the inspiration of the ancient Druids.
The modern Druid movement has a complex and quirky history of its own, reaching back to the eighteenth century, when it evolved out of a collision between liberal Anglicanism, nature worship, and fragments of Celtic tradition.3 It inherits from its origins a distrust of dogmatism that has made it a haven for eccentrics and a nightmare for would-be systematizers. Even so simple a question as the number of deities Druids worship—one, two, many, none—finds nearly as many answers as there are Druids. At the core of most visions of the contemporary Druid way, though, lies a sense that living nature is the least murky expression of the divine accessible to human beings. We may not agree about much else, but the shorthand creed drafted by one Druid tradition wins almost universal assent: “nature is good.”‘
John Mchael Greer in ‘Jesus Through Pagan Eyes’
As thousands march in London today against government policy and the infamous Public Bodies Bill, Damh the Bard’s latest single The Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) powerfully expresses the feelings of many of us. It’s rousing stuff with fantastic lyrics! Hear it on the latest OBOD Podcast, or buy it from itunes or from Amazon for 79p!
With Libya now so much on our minds I thought I would share with you a historical curiosity: a link between Druids of the early twentieth century and the cause of the Senussi people of Libya. George Watson MacGregor Reid, the founder of the Ancient Druid Order championed their cause when they were being attacked by the Italians and British. (Quick historical background: Libya was taken from the Ottomans by Italy in the Italo-Turkish War of 1911. In 1922, Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini launched his infamous “Riconquista” of Libya — the Roman Empire having done the original conquering 2000 years before. The Senussi led the resistance and Italians closed Senussi lodges, arrested sheikhs, and confiscated mosque land. Libyans fought the Italians until 1943, with between 250 000 and 300 000 of them dying in the process. More in the Senussi entry in Wikipedia).
MacGregor Reid felt so passionate about defending their right to be left alone he even claimed that the headquarters of his group, The Universal Bond, was actually in Senussiland – in the desert many of us will know from that wonderful film The English Patient (the cave where the wounded pilot shelters is there). He even provides a photograph in his 1913 ‘The New Life’ journal, reproduced here, and claims that ‘Within the Sacred Desert Home lie the bones of … John Findlay MacGregor-Reid, Arthur Higgins, Tiumothy O’Callaghan and twelve English members of the Bond.’ If this is true, then a group of modern Druids lies buried in the Libyan desert. If anyone would like to research this detail, and has the ability to do this, please get in touch!
The old Druid Chief then goes on to say in his journal that he ‘has been appointed the chief representative of the Senoussi in Europe, and will henceforth devote himself to the task of ventilating the grievances of the Senoussi… the Italian dead now stretch far back into the hinterland of Beghazi, and the Senoussi will stand with their backs to the wall, demanding the liberty of free men to live their own life, within their own dear native land…’
And the struggle for this basic freedom continues to this day in that very same place.
To read more about this, see Dr Adam Stout’s paper on MacGregor Reid’s life for the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Mount Haemus Award here.
I thought I had seen every kind of way to promote spiritually-based change, until someone on Facebook posted this video. I could critique it, but I figured it would be more interesting to see what others feel about it. Does this turn you off or turn you on? An unusual element in the mix is the engagement with problems such as addiction. Do you find this a manic scrambling of issues or a stirring call to individual and social change?
When I was asked to write about 50 sites for the book Sacred Places (being republished in a new edition in August) I decided to include an entry on the famous Lascaux cave in France. As I researched it, to my amazement I discovered there was a far older cave with even more beautiful artwork in it – the Chauvet cave. Being discovered more recently it was less well-known and so I wrote about that instead. Now the film director Werner Herzog has created his first 3D film that focuses on it: Cave of Forgotten Dreams. You can read an Arts Desk review of it here. And here is the trailer:
Last Winter someone vandalised the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill. Luckily they were unable to fell it due to the protective guard around it. Now news has just come in that it has sprouted and local residents are planning a celebration. This is the message I received: “The Wirral thorn is alive, and has sprouted – on the feast of Joseph of Arimathea, no less!
There will be a celebration at the tree at 5.30 pm today – the eighth and last day of his feast which ends at sunset.
Bring your music, your songs, your staffs and your mead – Christian, Druid and all!”
In this song, Karine Polwart sings “the back of the Winter is broken…” and it certainly feels that way. Ever since the Spring Equinox a few days ago we’ve been having glorious sunny weather, and here is a beautiful song ‘Follow the Heron Home’ to celebrate this. I was introduced to this by listening to a ‘Desert Island Discs’ style interview with OBOD tutor James Nichol on Stroud FM – a fascinating hour long conversation about his spiritual journey peppered with great music. The interview will be going up on the OBOD website soon (in the Druidry & Dharma section).
Quote for the day:
When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality and get into the forests again, we shall shiver with cold and fright but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in, and passion will make our bodies taut with power. We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down, we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.