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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Wheel is Turning – Be of Good Cheer

December 23rd, 2012

A Winter Solstice Greeting from fellow Druid from across the Pond, Michael R. Gorman, arrived in my inbox yesterday. He’s happy for it to be shared on this blog with you:

Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012, 2:07 am

                The Winter Solstice arrives in Sacramento at 3:12 am tonight, in just over one hour. This darkness outside my window is the longest night of the year. Western scholars often misinterpret the fires and lights that marked this night among our ancestors, claiming that they were so primitive as to fear that the sun might not come back, and so they lit fires to try to force the sun to return. In reality, our ancestors were so much more connected to the natural world than we are, so they understood intimately the cycles of the year and the relationship between the sun and the earth. Without the air and light pollution that we live beneath, they saw the heavens clearly every night and day of their lives. They lit their fires and candles and hearth fires and Yule logs as a way of acknowledging the turn of the year and the slow return of longer days. In doing so, they reminded themselves that we are not above or apart from the natural world, but an integral and beloved part of it, as all creatures are. It is only in that connection, acknowledged ritually this time of year with lights we light, that we can ever be truly healthy, prosperous, and wise. Any hope in the future must be built, will be built, upon this simple and ancient truth.

                Modern western culture has set itself a drift from our natural moorings in our crazy belief that we are somehow above our own ecosystem, outside of its natural functioning , its parameters, and its natural laws. (How exactly does one step outside the very thing that every step must land upon?) Since industrialization we have so dirtied our surroundings that we can hardly see the natural world through our car windows and sealed office windows. In our vain attempts to live apart from natural forces, we have wrought such a dangerous warming of the planet that the storms grow more infused with energy every year, creating devastation unrivaled by anything during those recently past ages when more carbon wassafely locked away in the trees, the oil deposits, the ice, the soil, the rocks, and the quietude of the deep ocean. Each day we thwart nature’s balance by releasing ridiculous amounts of the formerly stored carbon into the air. What took millions of years to store in the plants and soil and ice and water in order to create the balanced world in which we thrived for so long, we have released in an historic blink of an eye. We have burned in moments what took millennia to lock away. But be assured, the earth will not die. She will act according to the natural laws that say more heat, more energy bouncing about, increases the intensity of all molecular movement, which translates into extremes in all the processes of the earth, including weather.

                That environmental peril we increasingly face is heightened by our own way of interacting with every other species on the planet, especially our own. Every day we refuse to acknowledge our inability to see our destructive obsession with creating cultural dualities at war with each other. We madly insist, against all reason, on seeing all life as an ongoing battle between the good guys and the bad guys. We stubbornly avoid responsibility for the state of our lives by facing the world with a pathological us-versus-them mentality that is creating the same kind of heightened cultural and human storms as our love affair with burning carbon based materials has created in the weather. We approach every problem by trying to delineate who is US and who is THEM, blaming THEM for all of our problems, and then fighting to vanquish THEM in order to protect US. Unfortunately, but expectedly, no one can agree on who the bad guys are, so there is no possible end to the fighting since everyone is someone else’s bad guy.

                In the aftermath of the nightmare Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, (ironically in the area of the state that gave birth to modern gun manufacturing and was once called “The Arsenal of America.”) how have we responded to the tragedy? The finger pointing was immediate. THEY were to blame: the gun manufacturers, the pro-gun politicians, the rich, the poor, the elites, the uneducated, the soft on crime liberals, the parents, the mental health system, Adam Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother, Adam Lanza’s parent’s divorce, the schools, the Republicans, the Democrats, the gun control advocates,  the Congress, the White House……! There are bitter arguments still ongoing tonight over how many victims there were that day. The roll calls of the deaths usually do not include Adam or his mother. Only OUR deaths matter, not THEIRS. Thus do we begin our desperate search for the bad guys to vanquish and so make everything okay again! Them! If we can just stop THEM!

                Is it any wonder that the innate self preservation of this hierarchical, patriarchal, anthropocentric, dualistic, elitist, unequal, war-based, money-worshiping system controls us to such a degree? The system doesn’t have to enslave us, they just have to encourage us to fight………whomever……..whatever………just fight……….doesn’t matter to the system that we perpetuate with our endless animosity toward, well, somebody.

                Here’s a thought. Perhaps each of us who refuses to see our culture clearly and thus perpetuates a failed cultural paradigm is to blame. And perhaps at the same time each of us so brainwashed by this system that we can rejoice over some deaths and mourn others is a victim in our inability to see beyond the cultural box in which we live. But what is the system? Who is the system? It is them. And it is us. The 100%. Who is a victim and who is a perpetrator is not an either/or proposition in this mess. It is a both/and reality. But how do you fight a war when everyone is a perpetrator and everyone is a victim? How do you determine who is us and who is them if we all share the blame and the pain at the same time?


                This new millennium, with all of its former promise, has been born in war after war, death after death, incurable diseases and “superbugs”, genocides, oppressive regimes, and the diminishment of personal freedom and social justice. We are indeed in the longest night of the cycle that is this generation’s life. We were promised the Age of Aquarius, and instead we have a world with so many wars and revolutions that it is hard to keep track, and an ecosystem that is itself becoming seemingly inhospitable to our continued existence  on the planet.

                So do I despair?


                Why not?

                Because I remember what my ancestors understood each year when they lit the candles and fires of Winter Solstice. The moment the longest night arrives, it succumbs to the lengthening of the days. The moment the night is darkest, the wheel of the year turns toward yet another season of warmth and growth and fertility. That too is how this ecosystem, this planet, operates. I believe that we are on the cusp of the greatest change in human culture in two thousand years. Yes the world will end this Winter Solstice. And because, in a circle, every ending is also a beginning, the world will also be born this Winter Solstice. We have yet another chance to make the coming season better than the last. I believe the age of the Warrior and the King is drawing to a close. How can I be so sure, so optimistic? Simple. We wish to survive as a species. Our sense of self preservation is one thing every being on the planet can depend upon and expect from us. Our current cultural paradigm will signal the end of us on the planet if it continues. Our cultural system will be our death. We must change or die, whether in a hurricane or at the end of the barrel of a gun. Our only hope is to reintegrate ourselves into the ecosystem upon which we depend for our lives. That is not a pipe dream or an esoteric philosophy. That is simple science, simple reality. It is those who insanely think we can continue to defy our own membership in the planetary tribe who are living an unrealistic pipe dream that is fast becoming our ultimate nightmare. Change is coming because change must come. We must rediscover how to live in the balance we have shunned for far too long.

                The earth will allow us to survive only if we step outside of this insane cultural paradigm that no longer serves us, that actually now threatens our very survival. We will find a new way. If we light our candles to the ancestors this Winter Solstice and rediscover what they did right, and then marry it to what is right and good in modern culture, we will create a future more bright with sun and growth than has been seen on this planet for a very long time.

                We will weave the old wisdom with the new wisdom and create something better than either former age was alone. How do I know this? It is Winter Solstice. It is the time of the turning of the wheel. New growth out of old decay is simply, scientifically, concretely how the world works. We can no more change that hopeful reality than we can order the earth to stay tilted away from the sun. If you have any doubts, talk to one of our brothers or sisters on the other side of the equator. The sun is high there as it will be again here. The summer is ripening toward the harvest there as it always has done, as it will do here in our hemisphere in time. And we can continue to be a part of that cycle of miracles if when we light our candles or Christmas tree lights or menorahs or bon fires and as we do so, acknowledge the wisdom of the great cycles of our natural home and simply make a vow to pay attention and find our harmony with the inevitable, dependable, unfailing turning of the Great Wheel.

                To my brothers and sisters in South America and Australia and Africa and the other lands to the Sacred South, I wish you a happy, warm, playful, bountiful Summer Solstice. Keep the sun-hope a reality for we who are in the darkness and the cold. To my brothers and sisters here in the Blessed North — that would be, well, all of you, all of us — I wish you, us, a hopeful Winter Solstice, a warm hearth, a hearty meal, a good story, thick blankets, hot chocolate, and loved ones cuddling close. May your candles burn long and celebrate the enlightenment that is to come even now when it seems so far away. The Wheel is turning. Be of good cheer.

Deep Peace of the Bright Hearth,



December 20th, 2012

Now it is time to honour a great mystery: of the seeded darkness and of the beauty of light reborn.
At this time of year, the sun which has warmed and lighted us through the turning seasons seems to stand still for several days.
This is the time of greatest darkness, but also the time of greatest hope: the time when we have the opportunity to be the most fertile in the depths of our soul. 
In darkness is seeded the new. More

Solstice Sunrise 2005 Photo Andrew Dunn

2012 Solstice Alignments & Long Time Sun

December 19th, 2012

In preparing for our Winter Solstice celebrations this year I thought I’d do two things: the first was to check out the facts about the special ‘planetary alignment and ‘alignment with the centre of the galaxy’ that some people say is going to happen in a few days’ time. Well, unless you believe that astronomers and NASA are involved in some kind of conspiracy, it seems that neither of these statements is true. This video from the Morehead Planetarium explains things. (More on the NASA site here). No alignments in a few days’ time apparently:

The next thing I wanted to do was to find a chant or song that would work well with the theme of the solstice. Some surfing brought me to a chant sung by the Sikh singer Snatam Kaur:

Described as ‘an old Irish blessing’ it sounded strangely familiar. Wasn’t it Donovan who sang this? No – it was The Incredible String Band on a long track called ‘A Very Cellular Song’.
A bit of research revealed this to be a perfect example of the way something new can morph into something ‘traditional’ very rapidly. The song is sung after every Kundalini Yoga session of Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO movement, and for this reason is described in some places as ‘a traditional Sikh song’.
An email to my friend, music buff and fellow Druid Philip Shallcrass, yielded a swift response: “A Very Cellular Song emerged out of a 12-hour acid trip undertaken by Mike Heron in his parents’ house in Edinburgh in 1967. As the effects faded in the early morning, he picked out ‘May the long time sunshine…’ on an organ…narrowing down google searches led me here http://www.indiadivine.org/showthread.php?t=718363 where it appears that ‘Yogi Ji’ heard the song sung by US hippies in the late 60s.”
As the correspondent in that forum says: “Yogi Ji (ie Yogi Bhajan) heard us singing the song and picked it up and started asking us to sing it after every class.”
This story highlights the issue of authenticity that John Michael Greer and I were discussing at the OBOD East Coast Gathering this summer (and recorded for the last month’s Druidcast podcast).
Mike Heron’s lyrics are beautiful and connect us to the world of Soul and the Divine. Should Druids or Sikhs not use them because they were composed in 1967 and are not ‘authentic’ elements of a Druid/Sikh/Yoga tradition? In my book, Divine inspiration flows through many people in many places and to deem them ‘inauthentic’ or of little value because they are of recent origin, seems nonsensical. Here’s the 1967 song – an extraordinary piece of work, not to everyone’s tastes! The Longtime Sun verse comes at 7.22 mins if you want to skip!

2011 Census Results for Druids

December 17th, 2012
From a painting by the Swedish botanist C. A. M. Lindman (1856–1928)

From a painting by the Swedish botanist C. A. M. Lindman (1856–1928)

The 2011 Census for the UK has just published their results for the Religion category, and those who stated their religion as ‘Druid’ comes out at 4189. Some other figures to enable a comparison: 56,620 selected ‘Pagan’, 23,566 as ‘Mixed Religion’ (an interesting category). ‘Wicca’ came out at 11,766.
Jokers had their day with 176,632 listing ‘Jedi Knight’ and 6,242 listing Heavy Metal as their religion.
Interestingly, Druidry comes out on a par with the Zoroastrians at 4105 and just behind the Baha’i’s at 5021. So although the figure is small, it shows that Druidry is in the same company as these well-respected minority religions in the UK.
I think we can apply some ‘rough science’ to the numbers for Druidry. Let’s deduct 10% for people who put it down as a joke (NB You had to actively write down your religion, ‘Druid’ wasn’t listed as an option, which would have encouraged more silliness). Then let’s add say 10% of those who selected Pagan, who may have put Pagan-Druid for example, and been counted as Pagans.
Then let’s add another 10% for those Druids who do not consider their path a religion (and often dislike the term religion), but see Druidry instead as a spirituality, a philosophy, a magical path or way of life.
Finally, let’s add another 10% of our accumulating total for those who entered ‘Mixed Religion’ because they combine their Druidry with Wicca or Buddhism, for example (and there are many who do that). Here’s what we get:
4189 – 418 = 3771 + 5662 = 9433 + 943 = 10,376 + 1037 = 11,413
Let’s then shave off 413 for statistical error (like my maths?!) so we can say with some confidence: ‘There are around 11,000 Druids in Britain today!’
Some supporting evidence that suggests this may be a fairly accurate figure: in 2003 Professor Ronald Hutton from Bristol University estimated around 6,000 people practised Druidry as a spiritual path in Britain, and in the almost ten years since his estimate, Druidry has undoubtedly grown in popularity. By 2012 5,295 people in the UK were registered as members of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, and doubling that figure seems a reasonable way of guessing at the right number.
In the final analysis, perhaps the most accurate way of stating the situation would be to say: ‘There are probably between 6 to 11,000 people in Britain today practising Druidry as a religion or spirituality.’

Fourteen Lines For Britain

December 12th, 2012

Here is my friend Jay Ramsay reading his poem Fourteen Lines for Britain from the concert that he and Herewood Gabriel gave in the Universal Hall at Findhorn in early October.

CO2 Eater Invented

December 11th, 2012

This microalgae lamp absorbs 150 times more CO2 than a tree!

Shamengo pioneer Pierre Calleja has invented something truly remarkable–a light powered by algae that absorbs CO2 in the air–at the rate of 1 ton PER YEAR, or what a tree absorbs over its entire lifetime! The microalgae streetlamp has the potential to provide significantly cleaner air in urban areas and revolutionize the cityscape. Find out more: http://bit.ly/INZJKV

The Elephant Whisperer

December 4th, 2012

This arrived in my inbox this morning; a touching illustration of the connection between us and the animal kingdom.

Lawrence Antony

How Did They Know? Lawrence Antony, a legend in South Africa and author of 3 books including the best seller ‘The Elephant Whisperer’, bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, two sons, two grandsons and numerous elephants. Two days after his passing, the wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs. Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say goodbye to their beloved man-friend. A total of 31 elephants had patiently walked over 12 miles to get to his South African House…

…‘A good man died,’ says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., ‘and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.’

 ‘If there was ever a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous interconnectedness of all beings, it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart stops, and hundreds of elephants hearts are paying loving homage to their friend.’

 Lawrence’s wife, Francoise, was especially touched, knowing that the elephants had not been to his house prior to that day for well over three years! But they knew where they were going. The elephants obviously wanted to pay their deep respects, honouring their friend who’d saved their lives – so much that they stayed for two days and nights without eating anything. Then one morning, they left, making their long journey back.