„Modern Book Printing“, fourth sculpture (from six) of the Berliner Walk of Ideas on the occasion of 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. Unveiling: 21 April 2006 at Bebelplatz, square near the Unter den Linden in front of Humboldt University. It is to commemorate to Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of Modern Book Printing around 1450 in Mainz. Photo: Lienhard Schulz
Why use Amazon and Audible.com? These companies unfortunately have developed monopolies and the vast majority of book, ebook and audiobook sales go through their systems. One is forced to sup with Goliath… but perhaps David is gaining strength with the appearance of Beetroot Books…an ethical company that plants trees as it sells books. I’m certainly going to look at working with them – here is their latest project which anyone – writers or readers – can support:
BEETROOT BOOKS say: We want to introduce ebooks from independent and mainstream publishers and promote independent writers by publishing their work directly to ebook formats commission free. For every book we sell we’ll also plant a tree. We want to provide a curated alternative for writers and readers.
We created Beetroot Books to champion independent publishers and progressive content; writings that address contemporary issues (environment, transition, spirituality) and that enlighten, promote positive values and inform across all ages.
We’re a distinctive, curated online bookstore that plants a tree for every book sold and now we aim to build a community of independent writers by offering them commission free publishing and selling of e-books. We also wish to further our support for green initiatives by attracting more customers.
We want to extend our reach to a wider audience by introducing e-books from independent and mainstream publishers and further promote independent writers by publishing their work (full length work, short stories, poetry, articles & polemics) directly. We want to host a separate page for each artist and sell their work commission free (acceptance is decided on their compatibility with Beetroot Books i.e. we will not accept any material based on discrimination or the ‘promotion’ of negative ideologies), and only taking the bank fees necessarily payable for online transactions.
Our ultimate aim is to create a community of writers and artists in effect hosting an online ‘salon’ where people interested in such areas can find a one stop shop of new writing (as opposed to trawling self-publish sites that publish indiscriminately for a fee). We’ll be working with a number of specialist editors and authors to showcase quality new talent in a publishing climate that is otherwise increasingly conservative and risk-averse.
Furthermore we wish to plant even more trees and participate in larger schemes to do so. The more titles we sell the more we will invest in this initiative. Increased traffic to the site will allow us to achieve this aim.
Back in 2001 a book of mine came out called DruidCraft – the Magic of Wicca & Druidry. After a few years it went out of print, and Stephanie and I focused on what felt like the next step: The DruidCraft Tarot.
Over the last year we’ve revisited the book and recorded an audioversion with Damh the Bard, who provided the music and engineering, and Will Worthington, who provided a beautiful image for the cover.
It’s 4.40 hrs long (!) and you can hear a sample via the links given below.
In addition we’ve created eBook and paperback editions, which include an account of the DruidCraft school called Avronelle which we set up in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
‘If we are on a path of initiation into the secrets of landscape, earthlore and healing, the yew tree can become a powerful heirophant.’
This sentence, embedded in Jehanne Mehta’s Heart of Yew, her book of poems inspired by the Yew, suggests something extraordinary: that a particular kind of tree can act as act as an initiator and spiritual guide. And if you have spent time beneath a yew tree you may well have sensed this, and while poetry collections can sometimes leave one disappointed, this particular collection I find deeply satisfying. It is accompanied by a CD which features Jehanne’s beautiful voice reading her poems with musical interludes played by Fred Hageneder, who is himself one of the world’s foremost experts on the Yew tree. His new book on the yew will be published by Reaktion Books in October.
Here is more on Jehanne’s book, from the publisher:
Anyone who stands quietly beneath a Yew Tree and allows their mind to absorb the atmosphere it emanates will immediately sense a deep mystery, and a vast store of ancient wisdom. Jehanne Mehta has spent years discovering and absorbing the essence of the Yew Tree, and in Heart of Yew her ponderings come to full flower. Her profoundly moving and evocative poems connect you with the Yew Tree as a powerful teacher and witness to our history (as Yew Trees are capable of living for thousands of years), providing immensely valuable metaphors for the struggles we encounter as we learn to know and express our individual uniqueness more deeply, which is so essential if we are to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Andy McGeeny’s photographs, which accompany the poems, will provide your senses with another doorway into the mystery of this majestic tree, which is known to many as the physical version of the Tree of Life. On the accompanying CD, Jehanne – whose speaking voice is superbly resonant and beautiful – reads her poems aloud and Fred Hageneder – moved by the words of the poems and his great love of the Yew – plays the most magical music on his yew-wood harp. Anyone who loves trees will find in this book and CD a very great treasure.48pp, 165mm x 165mm softback book + CD, 9 tracks, total running time 30 mins, 2012
ZEN DRUIDRY – WAKING TO THE NATURAL WORLD by JOANNA VAN DER HOEVEN: A REVIEW
The sign of a mature, cultured person is that they can mix well in a wide variety of social settings and can contribute to, and benefit from, interactions with many different kinds of people. So it is, one might say, with religion and spirituality, and by this criterion Druidry is a very mature and sophisticated path indeed. In the 18th & 19th centuries, Druid Revivalists found concordance with Christianity, and in the 1970s the Reformed Druids of North America experimented with combining Judaism and Zen Buddhism with their path. I don’t know how whether the Judaism combination survived, but the combination of Zen with Druidry struck a chord, and 33 years later the RDNA grove in Seattle is still going strong, forming a branch known as the ZDNA – the Zen Druids of North America – with its founder reporting that ‘hundreds of people have been through the Zen Druid experience’, and that they now have ‘a dance group, recording artists, choir, and other expressions beyond their ceremonial meetings. Now called the Emerald Grove, after the city’s namesake, it is alive and well; growing like a tree.’
In the 1990s a collection of essays entitled The Rebirth of Druidry, included an article that explored Druidry’s parallels with Taoism, and more recently in 2010, Jon Moore published his book Zen Druid: A Paganism for the 21st Century. That same year the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids pioneered The One Tree Gathering, designed to explore the connections between the Dharmic paths of the East and Druidism, and now in 2013 we have the appearance of Joanna Van der Hoeven’s book Zen Druidry affirming the richness of this particular combination, and offering an excellent insight into the ways in which the ways of Zen and Druidry can be united to form a rich and meaningful philosophy and way of life.
Joanna’s book is one of Moon Books ‘Pagan Portals’ series, which takes interesting topics and asks writers to cover them in 60 to 70 pages. For those of us haunted by the piles of worthy books we want to read, but simply can’t find the time to get to, a Pagan Portal book offers the tempting prospect of finishing an entire book in one or two sittings. This is not, I know, sufficient reason to recommend a book, but the format forces an author to get to the point and not repeat themselves or expand to fill their requisite 200 pages, and the result as far as I can see is that it works.
Joanna’s Zen Druidry is divided into two parts. The first, taking up 34 pages, sets the scene, providing us with a resumé of Zen and then Druidry. In the second part the chef then combines these two ingredients.
The first part of the book is a necessary preparation for the second, but the most interesting and novel part of the book comes in the second section. Here Joanna suggests ways in which the two approaches can be combined, showing us the connections between the Five Noble Precepts of Buddhism and Druidry, and then looking at how the two approaches can work together in meditation. As she writes: ‘Druidry, when applied with the [Zen] mechanics of non-attachment, allows for a total immersion in the present moment, where true relationship can be obtained and where the awen flows as freely as it ever could.’
One of the most interesting parts of the book is left to almost the end, when Joanna suggests a way of relating the Druid celebration of the Eightfold Year with a contemplation of the Buddhist Eightfold Path, so that – for example – one decides to focus on Right Mindfulness at the Winter Solstice, and Right Concentration at Imbolc. Although relating a specific spoke of the Buddhist wheel to a particular festival is arbitrary, Joanna points out some nice resonances, and the idea of an annual pilgrimage of contemplation around the Wheel is an attractive one – particularly to solitary practitioners and to those who shy away from the sometimes more ‘showy’ manifestations of Pagan celebration.
The best dishes are the ones that leave you wanting more, and Joanna’s book is like a perfect hors d’oeuvres. She shows you how well the two paths can weave together, and if someone were to ask me what books I’d recommend to those interested in combining Buddhism and Druidry, I’d say: start with Zen Druidryand then move on to Jason’s Kirkey’s Salmon in the Spring which continues the journey of exploration into the way the traditions of Celtic spirituality and Buddhism can complement each other, a journey wonderfully introduced in Joanna’s Zen Druidry – Waking To The Natural World.
Many among us now are crazy for meanings, and crazed by seeking them out. The meanings of life aren’t inherited. What is inherited is the mandate to make meanings of life by how we live. The endings of life give life’s meanings a chance to show. The beginning of the end of our order, our way, is now in view. This isn’t punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born. Instead, the world whispers: All we need of you is that you be human, now. Our work is to sort out what being human should be in such a time. A short film of Stephen Jenkinson, shot & directed by Ian Mackenzie. For more on Stephen’s work see www.orphanwisdom.com
The Robin Hood Tax is an admirable idea that most of Europe agrees with…but sadly not Britain’s Chancellor. Now he is trying to interfere with the rest of Europe implementing it. See the message from the Campaign below. And if you’re in the USA see the US Campaign here: www.robinhoodtax.org
If you don’t know what the tax is, watch the videos from the US and UK Campaigns here, and listen to Damh the Bard’s stirring song ‘Sons & Daughters of Robin Hood’.
Just a few months ago we were delighted to share the good news with you: eleven countries in Europe pledged to introduce Robin Hood Taxes — netting a combined whopping £30 billion. It’s hard to believe, but those taxes are now under threat from our government. These taxes were the result of European leaders listening to the millions of ordinary people demanding the banks pay their fair share. George Osborne tried to block progress at every turn but European leaders fought on and we got the right result. But after losing the moral and practical arguments George Osborne is resorting to a desperate legal challenge to try and block these countries from introducing their own taxes.
We need to act fast to stop this dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham move and ensure these countries can introduce Robin Hood Taxes. Osborne tried to sneak this one unnoticed late on a Friday afternoon. But by speaking up and standing together we can send a clear message – we know what’s happening and we won’t let them get away with it.
Can you sign the petition to stop this uncalled for legal challenge?
Make no mistake this is not about defending British interests in Europe — it’s about defending the interests of this Government’s friends in the City of London. This legal challenge should be seen for what it is: a desperate last-ditch effort to protect the obscene profitability of our bloated financial sector.
In the UK, and across Europe we all paid to bail out the banks. And millions of us are still feeling the pain. These proposed financial transaction taxes are small but significant steps in ensuring the banks begin to pay their fair share. And that £30 billion would provide vital funds that can pay for healthcare and education at home, help people in the poorest countries and fight climate change.
Ex Libris bookplates are so evocative. And they can help books find their way back to you when borrowed by absent-minded friends. Here is Sigmund Freud’s bookplate. Can anyone translate the Greek here? I wonder what the Sphinx is saying to this ‘small-but-perfectly-formed’ man?
Just back from a holiday in the Outer Hebrides. There, on a glorious sunny day, we discovered one of the most beautiful stone circles I have ever seen: Fionn’s People on North Uist. Here are some notes on it from Wikipedia and 2 photos I took that day: ‘The stones are also known as “Sòrnach Coir’ Fhìnn,” or “the fireplace of Fionn’s cauldron” and locally as “Sòrnach a’ Phobaill” (the fireplace of the People). Of the several stone circles on the island, Pobull Fhìnn is the most conspicuous. It is located on the south side of Ben Langass, and it possibly dates from the second millennium BC.It is technically an oval rather than a circle, measuring about 120 feet from east to west and 93 feet from north to south. Although situated on a natural plateau, the north side of the enclosed area has been excavated to about four feet. At least two dozen stones can be counted, some eight on the northern half and 16 on the southern half, but parts of the circle are devoid of stones. About four feet within the circle at the east side is a tall single stone, and there are two fallen slabs about seven feet beyond the western edge.’
Pobull Fhìnn, Uist
Pobull Fhìnn, Fionn’s People, Stone circle on North Uist, Outer Hebrides
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you; it will be enough. ~ Meister Eckhart
Today has been glorious. Here in Scotland the spring has come late – the winter relentlessly long. I sat with a coffee in the garden, the sun’s heat upon my back; the Ash trees’ buds unfurling in the warmth; abundant pussy willow and blossom signalling that perhaps at last the season has shifted. The greening of the trees in my street and garden has been swift; the last few days has seen that vibrant spring green cut through the grey, and now the sun intensifies its vividness– it is hard not to be filled with joy and hope.
The garden is surrounded by mature trees and feels grove-like. I am always struck by the beauty of sunlight through a canopy of trees; it is a sight that can guarantee to raise the hairs upon my neck. For me, it speaks so readily of those moments when the Divine breaks through the veil of our clouded, distracted thinking, shining a spotlight on the magic of this world, reminding us of our blessings. In Druidry, the three-rayed symbol of the Awen expresses that very moment when the veil of our dulled vision is pierced by those shafts of inspiration. We are rent open and the light pours in; what a moment before had seemed merely two-dimensional is animated with a shining that renews and gives depth to the world.
Watching the sunlight break through the branches of the trees in my garden, I felt an enormous sense of peace and gratitude, and it occurred to me that there is an intimate link between this sense of thankfulness and our sense of wellbeing. It true to say that no matter what struggles befall us, gratitude can go a long way to easing the stresses and burdens of that struggle. I have noticed many times when I have been wrestling with limited finances and the worries that these bring, that focusing on the lack only serves to deepen the discomfort. When we consciously choose to count our blessings, the difficulties seem easier to bear.
There is a Pagan Northern Tradition blessing that seems apt in this regard: Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frig. These four small words stand for some mightily important essentials that each of us needs to remain happy and healthy. In modern understanding ‘Flags’ refers to the hearth and home, to the roof over our heads; ‘Flax’, to the clothes upon our backs; ‘Fodder’, to the food on our plates and in our bellies and ‘frig’ to our relationships, sex and human connection. The balance of these in our lives leads to another Northern Tradition concept of ‘Frith’. Frith is more complex a notion than I can’t do justice to here, but it usually translates as ‘peace and prosperity’. When we have our basic human essentials met, it creates a balance that brings peace – this being equally true within the individual as well as wider society, and is therefore something that should be sought after in both.
These essentials are not only crucial for our health and wellbeing but they are also the foundation upon which something greater within us can develop. The Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow recognised, through what he termed the Hierarchy of Needs, that when humankind’s most basic needs are met – that is once they have food, shelter and safety – they will endeavour to move towards self-realisation. Maslow understood that this drive to actualise our greatest potential is a fundamental part of our humanity. In other words, as long as we are not starving, homeless or war-torn – consumed wholly by the demands of mere survival – we will come to a point when the urge to express, create, grow and flourish will move in us.
Tragically, many in this world do not have their basic human needs met. Not only does their wellbeing suffer but they are also denied the right to discover what gift – unique to them – that they possess to offer the world. This is a tragedy not only for the individual but for wider society too. How often has poverty and war robbed us of so much potential, gifts that given the right environment and nurture might have transformed our world for the better? For those of us whose basics are met – even if at times our security might feel a little shaky – it can be good to remind ourselves of all we possess that supports and enriches us.
When we engage with and acknowledge the blessings of our home, having warm clothing and enough food; when we celebrate our relationships and the many sensual pleasures that each day brings, we can find ourselves a little closer to the reality of Frith. Frith is connected to the God Freyr, himself a bringer of the sweet things in life – he is the life-giving sun and rain that makes the earth fruitful; he is joy and pleasure; love, sex, abundance and joy – the many things in our lives that sustain and enrich us. I have seen him written about as a light-bringer in the sense that he can break through, just like those shafts of sunlight through forest canopies, enlightening our dark spaces. For me, his connection to gratitude is an important one. When we express our thankfulness for what we have – regardless of how humble – he blesses us with that joy, peace and sense of well-being that gratitude brings.
It can be so easy to lose touch with gratitude when we feel challenged by life. We can become distracted by the everyday minor irritations that we each deal with or – at those moments when major changes overwhelm us – we can feel in some way exiled from life’s sweetness, from the many blessings that we are touched by. When we look a little deeper, even at the most painful times, we can find that we are surrounded by a million unspoken kindnesses; within touching distance of beauty and joy; never far from a gift – be it a word, an act, a sight, that has the potential to open and bless us.
I don’t do it nearly enough but I think a regular practice of consciously giving thanks is a simple but powerfully effective spiritual practice that anyone can do, regardless of religious belief or lack of, and it would seem, regardless of where we might find ourselves.
Perception is everything – how we choose to see and interpret our lives is ultimately the deciding factor in how our lives are shaped. We might not draw the outline – plenty of external stuff impacts on us too – but we select the colours that fill those lines; the tone and the texture are ours to create. The wonderful thing about gratitude is that it transforms the world into a magical place, full of meaning and depth. It is that shaft of sunlight breaking through the leaves, the world turned golden and precious by its touch.