fbpx
Skip to Navigation Youtube Instagram

" If the world is a tree,

we are the blossoms "

Novalis

Hope is the Note

December 30th, 2013

A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet

Art by Susan Seddon Boulet

 

I sorrow not though the world is wrapped in sleep

I sorrow not though the icy winds blast

I sorrow not though the snow falls hard and deep

I sorrow not this too shall soon be past

~ Scott Cunningham

 

At Winter Solstice, we are required to sing to the dark, trusting and knowing in our hearts that the renewal of light and life emerge from its mysterious blackness. My Yule celebrations have, over the last few years, been an honouring not only of the rebirth of the sun – of the golden child of promise that resides in each of us – but also of that great darkness from which all life is born.

In my Alban Arthan ritual I call upon the Goddess as Mother of Mystery, Magical Star Mother, Goddess of the Milky Way who has birthed our galaxy, who has set in motion the circling planets around her burning heart the sun; who carries the earth in her womb and the moon upon her brow, and whose starry cloak swirls around her in her spiral dance. She is the Ancient One, the silent depths of space, patient as eternity, unfathomable mystery, and through her ever turning seasons – her cycles of sun and moon – she brings us growing wisdom. With each turning of her silver wheel she shows us new connections, deepening our understanding. She is the Great Spider Mother, glistening web of all creation, the guiding thread that brings us deep into the spiral. She grasps our hands in the blackness and through her maze of dark nights and new dawns, urges us to witness the interconnection, the beauty and diversity of her web. Our faithful guide, our sacred strength and vision, from the soil of the earth and the dust of the stars she has shaped us. At this time and season, she exchanges her Samhain cloak of dark feathers for a cloak of shining stars; stripping back all that shrouded us, until the glow of our souls in the darkness is all that can be seen. No system can explain her; no theory can encompass her. We endeavour always to stay open to her wonder and grace, knowing that she is unknowable and boundless, that she is infinite potential, the true magic of all life. Through her we learn to take the threads of our being and weave the seeming chaos of our lives into vibrant patterns, just as she has spun and woven all life into being. She is the fertile darkness, shot through with stars – countless suns – each a bright seed.

The most poignant quality of the Winter Solstice festival is hope; a little spark of brightness at the darkest moment. No matter what our beliefs may be, hope is something we all endeavour to hold on to; being without hope feels deathly. But what is it that enables us to feel this most cherished of states even when all around us might suggest that our hope is merely an act of self-delusion?

A few Solstices back, I was in Tintagel in Cornwall. I had walked up to St Madron’s, the little church on the cliff. Once inside, I had lit some of the candles next to the beautiful Mary statue and sat contemplating the light that now filled the stillness of that simple space. The wind roared outside but the thick stone walls – so often buffeted by the fierce winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean – enclosed and held me. In the dusk, with the weather groaning and heaving outside and the candle light warming the greying light, I felt the most extraordinary peace. I felt safe, as safe and peaceful as the occasional times of sleeping in my mother’s bed as a child, an event that – like no other – made me feel that nothing would or could harm me. A couple of days later, I found ourselves back in St Madron’s on another windy night, listening to beautiful choral music; the voice of the powerful winds circling the building and the voices of the choir that filled its inner space, moved me to tears that night.

There is a beautiful modern altar window in St Madron’s that depicts the sun and moon and the changing of the seasons but there are also smaller, older windows that personify ‘faith’, ‘charity’ and, of course, ‘hope’. They seemed very apt standing before them at midwinter, knowing that the coldest weather was yet to come. So what is at the heart of these qualities that we might derive some wisdom and guidance from? It is true that we can be hopeful in happy times, when life is going well but hope really comes into its own when we ourselves are being buffeted by the fierceness of living; floored and wrong footed by the strength of it and the seeming powerlessness of our actions. Faith, hope and charity seem like such quaint Victorian concepts but on deeper inspection, they are all guiding lights in the darkest times.

For me ‘faith’ is not blind acceptance of dogma regardless of appropriateness; faith is about trusting in the direction that life and one’s spiritual journey will take you – it is actually a perpetual process of losing and regaining one’s faith and trust, moving into those moments of hopelessness that we might touch upon the mystery of Grace in our lives. Grace’s impact works best when all hope seems to be lost. Charity is not only about a duty of generosity to others, it is also about retaining an open heart, a generosity towards life itself; it is an unclenching of the spirit and an eagerness to share ourselves authentically; to step beyond our own fears, obsessions and self-preoccupations to truly be able to give of ourselves, to others and to the world, and in doing so, be willing and trusting enough to receive. In these ways, Charity and Faith feed and bolster our Hope; they give us the evidence that life and people are essentially good, that there is indeed much to be hopeful about.

However, there will be moments when we feel so low that hope appears lost. We need to sit and be, allow that darkness to enfold us like those meter thick walls in Cornish churches; let that enfolding take the brunt of stormy weather whilst we sit silently and wait for the light to slowly grow. Have you ever noticed that when we light a candle at night in an unlit room and focus on its flame, the periphery of our vision is filled with the darkness; this darkness – like those sturdy walls of St Madron’s Church – can enclose and support us; it is not the place where hope dies; it is the fertile and mysterious void where hope is born. Out of the darkness comes light and this is the simple and powerful message of the Winter Solstice. At this place of apparent lack, we find a small, still moment of Grace, sparking into being. Both Pagans and Christians symbolise this moment with the birth of a child – never a more appropriate image.

I started by asking what it is that enables us to hope beyond hope. I think it is because we know what it is to experience love – whether being loved, cherished and protected by our mothers or other loved ones or guardians, friends, lovers or children; we loving in return, knowing how extraordinary a feeling that is. Even if we are totally alone in the world and even if love feels utterly lost to us, the memory of love is powerful; the essence of love is everywhere, in the beauty of the natural world and in the simple gestures of human living whether it be the acknowledgement of self gifted by the passing smile of a stranger or any of the countless little things that fill our day with meaning.

I wish for you a Festive Season filled with love and the sure knowledge that the sun will always rise again. I wish also that you might discover, time and again, that Hope is the clear, bright note of the heart and soul, struck in the still darkness, its sound rippling out through the blackness to call you home.

A Druid Retreat May 2014

December 21st, 2013

SWEET AWEN AS FROM THE CAULDRON OF CERIDWEN’

pherylt A DRUID RETREAT

13 – 18 MAY 2014
at CAE MABON IN SNOWDONIA

We invite you to join us in a unique retreat experience in the magical landscape of Snowdonia in Wales designed to help you  access the deep wellsprings of creativity and healing through which Awen flows.

Cae Mabon is set in an oak forest glade and centered on a Celtic Roundhouse – a collection of unique and beautiful structures set in woodland facing the mountains with lake Llyn Padarn in the valley below. To the west is Ynys Mon (the island of Anglesey), the heartland of the Druids in ancient times. To the east is Dinas Emrys, where dragons are said to have risen from the ground and where the young Merlin spoke his first great prophecy.

Cae Mabon is deep in old Druid country. Some say Taliesin is her guardian spirit. Its cob cottage, straw bale hogan, CaeMabon2_0cedar cabin and barn are situated amongst lush greenery and woodland, and the Afon Fachwen (‘little white river’) flows from Elidir near the thatched round house and cedar hot tub. During our retreat there will be storytelling, music-making, meditation and ritual. We will visit Dinas Emrys, celebrate the time of the May full moon, and open to the Spirit of Druidry and the land.

The workshop will be led by Philip Carr-Gomm, Chief of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids and author of over a dozen books on spirituality, and Penny Billington, editor of Druid journal Touchstone and author of The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way. Honorary Bards ZZ Birmingham and Eric Maddern will entertain us with music and storytelling.

The cost of the retreat is £340 inclusive of all meals (vegetarian & delicious). All accommodation is sharing in cabins – see www.caemabon.co.uk for pictures. A limited number of tent spaces exist if you want to camp but there is no reduction in cost. To make a reservation, send £100 deposit via paypal to office@druidry.org (write “Cae Mabon deposit” and your postal address in message field) or send a cheque for £100 deposit made out to OBOD together with a note of your name, address, telephone number and email to: Penny Billington, 4 Park View, Silver Street, Wells BA5 1UW or for info email: touchstone@druidry.org

The balance is due on 1st April. The deposit is non-refundable. No refunds on balance after 1st April.

No Fracking Way!

December 19th, 2013

The UK government is blundering ahead with it’s plans to frack the countryside. Like some oaf who insists on dancing with a reluctant partner and constantly treads on their toes, they are going ahead with their plans blinded by greed in the naive belief that most people, like them, are more interested in cash than in health, or the beauty of the countryside.

From The Telegraph a few days ago:

Britain must press on with fracking to reduce the country’s reliance on imports, the chairman of the Government’s climate change advisory board has said. Lord Deben, who served as Environment Secretary when John Major was Prime Minister, dismissed claims from Britain’s green lobby that hydraulic fracturing – known as “fracking” – could cause considerable damage….“I’m in favour of it. The carbon budgets have already assumed that we are going to use gas well on through the 2020s and into the 30s. There will be a need for gas [and] much better to have it from us and as soon as we can because I do genuinely think people ought to be worried about the security of our energy supplies,” he said.

However, shale gas will not bring down the price of energy bills because the natural resource is in difficult to reach places, he added. “God has managed to put it in the places where it’s going to be most difficult for people to get planning permission to do this”….Lord Deben declined to say whether he would be in favour of fracking within a few hundred yards of his home in Suffolk.

He came under fire in the 1990s after feeding his four-year-old daughter a beefburger during the height of the mad cow disease scare. He was Agriculture Minister at the time. The Treasury published draft legislation this week introducing tax breaks for shale gas companies in a bid to entice international gas companies to drill in Britain.

As an example of how the government is pushing ahead, they have changed the planning laws. Again from The Telegraph:

Fracking could take place under peoples’ homes without their being directly informed, campaigners claimed on Wednesday, after ministers scrapped planning rules requiring every homeowner to be individually notified of drilling plans. Fracking, the process used to extract shale gas, can involve drilling a well horizontally for more than two miles underground, potentially passing under hundreds of homes.

Existing planning laws required every individual homeowner to be directly notified of a planning application. But planning minister Nick Boles said that that required notification of a “disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses” that would be “unnecessarily excessive”. Instead, shale gas companies would be “required to publish a notice in a local newspaper and put up site displays in local parishes”.

What can we do? Look at the latest Friends of the Earth campaign and take heart from Leo Sayer and his friends in Australia, where opposition is building:

The Pope’s Christmas Message – Not Nice, eh?

December 19th, 2013

It’s somehow strangely heartening to see respected figures put their foot in it. Makes them more human. The fact that they mess up makes them more loveable. For this reason I now love the pope! Despite being infallible (haha!) he’s just said the most fantastically stupid thing.

Seated on a vast throne above an adoring crowd  in a crisp white papal robey suit thing, he advised his flock to “become small among the small and poor among the poor. It’s a bad thing when one sees a Christian that does not want to come down, a Christian that uses everything to show off. Not nice, eh? That is not Christian, that is paganism.”

Not nice, eh?

Mt Haemus 2015

December 17th, 2013

I’m delighted to announce the recipient of the Mt Haemus Award for 2015:

8499972Ian Rees – a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist practising in Glastonbury Somerset UK. He has been a therapist for 20 years and spent 10 before that working in Probation Work and Social Work at all levels from Field Worker, Manager to Education Advisor for Mental Health at national level. He is an experienced trainer and taught at the Karuna Institute in Devon from 1999 to 2009; he designed and ran their MA programmes as well as being central to the teaching team. Since 2009 he has concentrated on developing the Annwn Foundation workshops and the Awen training and presents this material in the UK and Israel.

His paper will focus on the work of Dr Graham Howe, whose selected writings have recently been published as The Druid of Harley Street. The paper is entitled:

Gathering Mistletoe- an approach to and an interpretation of E Graham Howe’s Non-dual Psycho-spiritual Psychotherapy
An analysis and interpretation of the work of psychologist and Druid Graham Howe, showing the centrality of the archetype of the Druid within it, and comparing it to more recent therapeutic work drawing from Preiddeu Annwn and the Mabinogion. Particular attention will be given to explaining and interpreting the concepts and models behind his healing approach, which unites both non-dual spirituality with the direct experience of the body, and placing them within the wider tradition of Druidic philosophy and healing approaches. The intention of the paper will be be to represent his work in such a way that therapists and Druids of whatever occupation can make use of it today.

See the Mt Haemus section of the Order’s website

Solve et Coagula 2: The Impossible Relationship?

December 16th, 2013

Building on the ideas in yesterday’s post:

We may fear change or we may embrace it, but the planets turn, life goes on, the Great Cycles continue.

These cycles move Nature and our lives through death and rebirth, through containment and release, through holding on and letting go. The seed pod tightens and hardens around its precious cargo, then it breaks and releases the new life into the waiting earth.

Here is the problem that confronts us – personally, politically, and spiritually:

We need to be held. We need containment, structure, discipline, tradition, focus, continuity, direction. But we also need release, freedom – we need to break away from all those things, to taste the Nameless Way: to experience no boundaries, no doctrines or dogmas, no hierarchy, even no direction.

Some of us resolve these apparently contradictory needs by opting for one or the other, because to hold the tension is too difficult. The tension between these two impulses can produce agony in personal relationships, tragedy in political circumstances, and in our spiritual or religious lives it confronts us with a major challenge.

In our personal lives we can feel torn by the desire for union and the desire for separation: the yearning to unite with someone and the yearning to be whole and complete in ourselves, being torn between wanting the containment of relationship and wanting the freedom of having no relationship: trapped in the dilemma of wanting to walk into and out of the room at the same time.

On the political stage this tension is most dramatically seen in the current situation in the Middle East where the tension between the tight grip of control and the desire for freedom and release is being played out in often tragic ways. This same interplay exists at the level of economics: too much control and it’s a disaster, no holding and it’s a mess.

On the spiritual stage the opposition is found in the need we can feel for the holding, containment and guidance of a defined spiritual path, rooted in tradition. We want to feel some sense of authority, in the best sense of that word. And that authority comes from tradition, structure, doctrine, and defined practice.

And yet we also yearn for liberation – to break free from labels, from specific religious affiliations, from everything that limits us and holds us.

If there is a new spirituality that is trying to be born it must reconcile these two dynamics. If we opt for the containment, the safety of the old, at its extreme we retrench into Fundamentalism. If we opt for liberation from containment and seek nourishment wherever it is to be found, at the extreme we end up feeling lost without an anchor.

Are we talking here about the Impossible Relationship – irreconcilable dynamics that are somehow destined to forever undermine our personal, political and religious lives?

The challenge is this: how can we take the tension and use it? How can it become a fulcrum rather than a ring-pass-knot we try to untangle or a trapeze we try to walk? We can find a clue as to how we might do this in a study of highly effective creative people carried out by a psychologist called Richard Coan. He found that at the heart of a range of abilities they possessed, lay the ability to move between two apparently contradictory modes of being. These people were able to be very open: freeing themselves of restrictions and limitations by having open hearts and open minds. But they were also capable of being highly focused, creating specific boundaries and objectives in a precise and determined way.

Here of course we have the two great dynamics: Yin and Yang, or in western symbology, the chalice and the blade, Excalibur and the grail. The chalice opens out in ever-widening circles to encompass all creation, the sword defines and protects.

The effectively creative person is able to let go, to break free of the limitations of prejudice, of definitions, of certainty; but they are also able to work with the container they have chosen: the limitations of their media.

So within creativity we can say that the trick is to learn how to move, as if in a dance embodying containment and release, between these two modes of being, effortlessly producing great works of art and beauty. How easy to say, how difficult in practice!

But to me this strongly suggests a way forward, and we can ask ourselves how we can apply this understanding to the emerging new spirituality, or perhaps less ambitiously, to our own spiritual lives: accepting our need for containment, for tradition, for structure, and a the same time recognizing our need for liberation and the unbounded.

Solve et Coagula: Reflections on the Spiritual Path

December 15th, 2013

page1-453px-12th_Street_Rag.pdfSolve et Coagula: Reflections on the Spiritual Path

A spiritual way needs to hold and guide you, and open and free you. Sometimes these can appear to be contradictory functions, but when they work, there is a dance between the two processes that helps you to reach your goals: which a Druid might sense as the illuminations of wisdom, creativity and love.

When either dynamic moves to its extreme, it challenges you to identify your boundaries and claim your power. In other words, when a spiritual way seems to be confining you, restricting you, the gift hidden in this experience lies in the opportunity it offers to identify what you really need and to move towards this, rather than being submissive or ‘obedient’.

But here’s the subtlety that needs to be appreciated: some limitation is necessary. Restriction serves its purpose in the scheme of things, and so you must be attentive to not being reactive, and simply acting out ‘the rebel’. Instead of prematurely rejecting the limitation of a system, idea, practice, doctrine or group, it is worth exploring the way in which the perceived constriction may actually be a valuable part of your journey.

Likewise the sense of ‘lostness’, of lack of boundaries, of yearning for definition and guidance, brings its own gifts of an opening-out-to-the-new, of transformation in the face of the Mystery, of Not-Knowing,

Again, rather than acting out of fear, and going for premature ‘containment’ by following external prescriptions, it is helpful (when one can) to allow the process to occur. Like the movement of the tides, after a while one’s psyche will naturally be drawn back to the other pole and will find containment and direction.

In this way we can both follow traditional spiritual paths and be open to the Spirit, can learn from the ideas and practices of teachers and teachings, and can be empowered individuals who follow their own star too.

Another Immoral Bid to Sue a Government

December 12th, 2013

ShockedWell I never realized this kind of thing went on, but now it’s all coming out into the open. This business of big corporations suing governments. I had no idea they could! Let’s see whether we can oppose this undermining of democracy, this sinister way in which corporations are trying to use their muscle for immoral agendas (see post about Philip Morris tobacco suing the Australian government two posts down)

Look at this latest one sent by SumofUs.org:

Infinito Gold, a Canadian mining company, just slapped Costa Rica with a $1 billion lawsuit because the nation decided to protect its rainforests rather than host an open-pit gold mine.

Costa Rica’s rainforest is lauded as one of the most beautiful in the world, and is home to many endangered species, including the green macaw. Officials considered approving the gold mine, but the use of toxic chemicals such as cyanide — which often leaks into and pollutes nearby lakes and rivers — was far too great a risk to allow the project to move forward.

A subsidiary of Infinito Gold has announced that a massive lawsuit against Costa Rica is “imminent”, so we need to act now. If thousands of us stand together against this toxic mine, we can show Infinito that Costa Rica and other countries that are defending their natural resources will not be silently bullied by corporate power.

Tell Infinito Gold to drop its $1 billion lawsuit against Costa Rica.

Open-pit gold mining in Costa Rica would destroy 190 hectares of pristine forest. The rainforest houses 5% of the world’s species and has seen tremendous growth in the ecotourism industry. Over 75% of Costa Ricans oppose mining and have decided that they cannot take the risk to move forward with gold mining in the country.

And Costa Rica is not the first to be sued by Infinito Gold. In 2001, Infinito Gold locked Venezuela into a ten-year legal battle over a rejected mine. Fortunately, Infinito lost. We can make sure Infinito Gold loses again by standing up to its greedy tactics and shameful behavior. Corporate profits cannot take precedence over the health of the people and the environment.

Stand up for Costa Rica’s rainforests — tell Infinito Gold to drop the $1 billion lawsuit now.

Thanks for taking a stand,
SumofUs.org

 

Druidcraft Tarot Webinar Classes

December 11th, 2013
The Pheryllt card from The The Pheryllt card from the DruidCraft Tarot. Illustration by Will Worthington

 The Pheryllt card from the DruidCraft Tarot. Illustration by Will Worthington

Next year Stephanie and I are going to give two webinar classes on working with the DruidCraft Tarot. I’ve watched webinars on the Lenormand deck with Caitlin Matthews and Mary Greer, and they are a great way to learn, so I was delighted when Linda Marson of Spiritual Studies & Travel, invited us to give the workshops. Linda writes:
“On my travels with Gothic Image tours in England and Scotland this year the Druidcraft Tarot was my constant companion. On our journey through the sacred landscape which inspired the images, I found the cards came alive, delivering messages and insights in ways I have never experienced before. I am SO looking forward to the classes with Philip and Stephanie and I’d love you to join us.”
Here are the details:

The Druidcraft Tarot – a Gateway to Inner Wisdom
Imagine working with the Tarot in a way that allows your Querent to access their deep inner wisdom – to find exactly the guidance they need in their reading. Let Philip and Stephanie show you how through their Integrative Tarot Training. In two online classes on 18 and 25 February 2014 you’ll experience this training which draws not only on Tarot wisdom, but on the Druid and Wiccan traditions and an understanding of psychology. Click here for more information and to register or pre-purchase recordings.