Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.
Within the ongoing havoc the woods this morning is almost unnaturally still. Through stalled air, unshadowed light, a few leaves fall of their own weight.
The sky is gray. It begins in mist almost at the ground and rises forever. The trees rise in silence almost natural, but not quite, almost eternal, but not quite.
What more did I think I wanted? Here is what has always been. Here is what will always be. Even in me, the Maker of all this returns in rest, even to the slightest of His works, a yellow leaf slowly falling, and is pleased.
Druidry encourage a positive engagement with the Bardic Arts. it recognises that our urge to express ourselves through our creativity is, at heart, a spiritual act: when we create we share, in some small way, in the vast and mysterious act of creation. Not only that, our creativity can illustrate just what it means to be human. How often have we read a poem or piece of prose and got that ‘me too’ feeling, or when listening to music felt something beyond words open up inside us? When we create, we share something fundamental and vital about ourselves and our experience of living; when we are exposed to the creativity of others, we are given the potential to gain a deeper understand of life and self. The path of the Bard is a transformative one – it can change us, dissolving the boundaries of our small and limited selves to reveal something bigger, richer.
In Druidry, the concept of Awen is intimately linked to our creativity. We seek to open ourselves to this vibrant energy, allowing it to move through us and animate our creations. We feel its touch when our awareness is heightened, when a grey world is cracked open and flooded by colour. An encounter with Awen is essentially a sudden change of perception that – although transitory in our experience of it – can have a lasting impact through our creative efforts. A little Awen takes up residence in the things we create and through the sharing of these, touches others – at least, this is the always the potential when we offer our art to the world.
The word Awen is often translated as ‘flowing spirit’ and it is no surprise how many deities traditionally associated with inspiration and the creative arts are connected not only to flowing water but to knowledge. If we think of the Goddess Brighid, there is always a sense that her inspiration brings with it the gift of a deeper knowing – the fires of her forge melt us down, change our shape, toughen us on the anvil of experience in order to deepen our wisdom. Her waters nourish and sustain; her springs suggest to us that deep within there is a place we can draw from that will feed us; that this quiet place – when we follow its course – can expand and swell, spilling over the brim of our inertia into movement, and that if we step into this current, we will be carried by its powerful momentum back to the Source.
I have been recently drawn to the Hindu Goddess Sarasvati, who in many ways shares a good deal with Brighid and the gifts of Awen. She is the Lady of all creative arts and sciences – musicians, artists, writers, students, teachers and philosophers call upon her for her blessings and guidance. She was originally a river Goddess and is strongly associated with flowing water in her role as goddess of knowledge and creativity. What I find particularly interesting is that her name translates as ‘Sara’: essence/essential knowledge of ‘Sva’: the self. Her name suggests this link between creativity and a deeper knowledge and understanding of ourselves and life.
In her iconography, she is often portrayed with four arms, one carrying a book or scroll, another a crystal mala, the remaining two playing a Veena (a lute-like instrument). She possesses a pot of sacred water, so reminiscent of the grail and is often seated upon a white swan (note that Brighid is also associated with swans) or a lotus. Here we see references to her connections to Divine knowledge, truth and wisdom; of how the spiritual life is intimately connected to the powerfully expressive and purifying nature of our creativity and that these are made manifest through music, words, the arts and sciences – through our actual creations: Awen made manifest. In this act of shaping spirit into form, a little more of life is revealed to us and shared with others.
At the OBOD 50th Gathering in Glastonbury, after an evening of celebration, music and poetry, 400 Druids stood in the dark watching a glorious firework display. In the magical silence that followed, a spontaneous chanting of the Awen began. It rippled out, swelling and cascading over and through ever soul there. It was an extraordinary moment. The evening had been a celebration of sharing not only creativity but our community and the sense of spiritual connection that these inspire when the sacred relationship between them is honoured. The power of chanting the Awen is that it symbolises the magical shift that occurs when our individual creative voices join in with and enrich the whole. The Bardic arts have the potential to change things for the better; to add to the collective wisdom for the good of all, which is why Druidry’s focus on them is such an important part of our spiritual path.
Through our creativity, we are each a drop of inspiration in Sarasvati’s river, flowing out into the world and sustaining life; adding knowledge to the sacred book she holds in her hands, for the future benefit of all who come after us.
In 1972 a report was published by the Club of Rome, called Limits to Growth. The writers of the report had decided to come out with something that’s perfectly obvious but no-one wants to hear: you cannot have perpetual growth in a closed system. Mankind must reach the limits to growth on this planet eventually; the only question is when.
Opponents to the Limits to Growth report, notably US economists, argue that it is a doomsday prophecy that does not hold up to scrutiny, and that its policies would consign billions to permanent poverty. The report, however, contains no policies, only probabilities. And the truth is that billions are already living in permanent poverty because global capitalism, with democracy as its scurrying servant, concentrates money, resources and political power in the hands of the rich few who want to carry on business as usual, despite the inevitability of collapse sooner or later.
Why doesn’t our government act in our interests? Because we live in a democracy, and democratic government is all too frequently powerless in the face of truth. The democratic process is based on the self-interest of the majority, so invariably facts are fudged, statistics massaged and important issues ignored, while unimportant ones are given undue emphasis in order to attract the support of the greatest number, with the result that democratic governments are elected on a platform of deceptions and half-truths which they have to maintain while in office. Not to mention the obligations they incur to powerful vested interests during the election process and in government.
Imagine a political party today campaigning on a strictly truthful platform. ‘We have reached the limits of resource availability so we must stop industrial and economic growth, and we must reduce our population. We must stop emitting greenhouse gases so that future generations will have a habitable planet. We must live and work more locally and sustainably and stop jetting off on holiday and business destinations. We must restructure our financial dealings so that it is no longer possible for individuals to make huge profits out of a fictional economy which then impacts adversely on the tax-payer.’
No-one would vote for such a manifesto. Human beings don’t do anything unless there is a perceived need and there has never been a perceived need for enforced restrictive legislation except in the case of a major external threat such as a war. And even in that case – more particularly in that case – truth is the first casualty.
How then can we organise our lives on the basis of truth? The first thing is to recognise that no effective social organisation can be based completely on truth. Truth doesn’t emerge into social consciousness that way. It helps to accept that we live simultaneously in two domains with different rules: socio-political and personal. And it also helps to recognise that everything in human life is ultimately about psychology.
The unconscious mind is the repository of all the beliefs that motivate us deep down, about whether the world is safe or dangerous, about whether we are rejected or accepted, seen or ignored, lost or found. Truth in the objective sense has nothing to do with these powerful drivers. Which is why political speech has always appealed to the unconscious, and why events always overtake policies. We are always fighting bygone wars. Our unconscious drivers exist at the level of archetype, myth legend and belief. Those stories are more powerful for us than conscious stories, and every successful politician taps into them. ‘The national interest.’ ‘Sustainable growth.’ ‘War against terror.’ ‘Health and welfare.’ ‘Change for the better.’ None of these well-used and sonorous phrases actually has any meaning – or rather, they can have any meaning you like. They are vague concepts that invoke our unconscious stories about heroism, success, abundance and the survival of the tribal community. They are forms, in effect, of unconscious language.
Our personal lives, on the other hand, can be lived differently, and usually are. Here our subconscious drivers are based on the ‘family survival contract’: be considerate, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t boast, don’t make a fuss, don’t cause harm or upset, don’t exploit others for your own gain. How often do we find socio-economic imperatives over-riding these values!
Beyond the family sphere we seem to obey different rules, much as physical bodies obey different rules at subatomic and macroscopic levels. We are forced to inhabit two worlds simultaneously: the world of personal value and the world of political expediency – truth and untruth. It must always have been so since the first emergence of polities larger than the nomadic band. There’s no point in attempting to work against a system that re-establishes itself whatever you do to it, like one of those toy cars that rights itself automatically; eventually it will run out of power on its own. It’s more effective and more permanent to live truthfully and teach truth to your children, so that at least they’re not confused by the apparent conflict between personal and politico-economic values.
Globally important conservation and science under threat at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew due to government cuts – £5M deficit will lead to loss of over 120 posts
The UK Government need to urgently reverse the existing cuts to Kew’s annual operating grant in aid funding, and to cancel the proposed and any further future cuts.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with sites at Kew Gardens, London and Wakehurst Place, Sussex is a world-leader in conservation and botanical science, with over 250 years of historical excellence in these fields.
Never before has Kew faced such a significant threat to its future. It now needs your help to ensure its globally-important plant and fungal collections can continue to be used to support plant and fungal science and conservation around the world.
In 1983, 90 per cent of Kew’s funding came from the UK Government as grant in aid. The current amount has dropped to below 40 per cent as of this year. Funding was reduced by £0.9M in 2009-10, £1M in 2010-11, and by an extra £0.5M year-on-year thereafter.
Kew has now been told to expect further cuts of at least another £1.5M before the end of 2016.
Under the 1983 National Heritage Act, the UK Government committed to ensure that Kew is adequately resourced to fulfil its statutory obligations, which include: research; providing advice and education; plant-related services including quarantine; caring for world-renowned scientific collections, as national reference collections available for study; and as a resource for the public to gain knowledge and enjoy. The UK Government is no longer fulfilling its role to allow Kew to meet these obligations.
Kew has been dramatically increasing income from non-government funding streams through the work of their partner charity Kew Foundation, and via commercially-generated income, consultancy work, and research funding. Although there are plans to extend these efforts, they are no longer able to keep up with the rate of cuts in government funding and many areas of Kew’s work are not easily resourced externally.
Due to the cuts, Kew has announced that with a £5M deficit for this year, over 120 posts will be axed. The majority of posts will be lost in the areas of science and public engagement. In specialist careers measured in decades of experience, Kew will lose dedicated, expert staff, and whole areas of work are likely to be halted.
As Sir David Attenborough said:
“Kew has an absolutely crucial role in looking after our botanical heritage and our botanical future. The important thing to remember is that it is the premiere botanical gardens in the world scientifically. People who think it is just a place to go to look at pretty flowers and flower beds are mistaking the importance of Kew Gardens. The Seed Bank is of world importance and it should be supported by the Government like a proper institution or university and the continuing idea that Kew Gardens is merely a playground and that you just put up the prices to look after it is a misguided assessment of the value of Kew. The Government and the scientific departments should recognise that and support it properly.”
Please show your support for Kew, and their continuing work for future generations, by signing this petition, and please encourage others to do the same.
Just hours ago, the world’s most hated corporation got even more evil.
Monsanto and its allies have just announced they’re suing the tiny, rural U.S. state of Vermont to stop a new law that simply requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled. In fact, the mere threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit nearly caused the state to back off the labeling law altogether.
But Vermont is refusing to back down — and they’re asking for our help. They’re getting ready to fight back against Monsanto, and have even created a legal defense fund so people around the world can make donations to help them beat back Monsanto’s lawsuit.
The SumOfUs community is already fighting Monsanto on every front, but we need to show Monsanto now that we won’t be intimidated. We won’t let Monsanto bully our elected officials into submission. Will you chip in $1 to stand with Vermont and fight back against Monsanto?
Vermont is a small, entirely rural state with just 600,000 people. Vermont vs. Monsanto, one of the most powerful corporations in the world, is a classic David and Goliath fight.
But there’s much more at stake here than just whether GMO foods will be labeled in a single U.S. state. Vermont is actually the very first state in the U.S. to require labeling, and dozens of other states have said they will require labeling as well — but only if Vermont’s law can survive this legal challenge.
That’s why Monsanto is fighting so hard to kill GMO labeling in Vermont. If we can win here, it’ll be a huge step towards the goal of GMO labeling worldwide, and making sure consumers know what they are eating.
Monsanto has been threatening this for weeks, but it’s only just filed suit through the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, a trade group of which Monsanto is a core member. And Monsanto’s legal bullying is part of a growing trend of multi-national corporations suing sovereign governments to overturn regulations they don’t like. Since the biggest corporations are larger than many countries around the world, it’s critical that citizens of the world band together to fight back.
That’s what SumOfUs is all about — harnessing the global consumer power of our nearly 5 million members to take on corporate abuses wherever they occur. And if enough of us donate, we’ll be able to not only help out with the Vermont legal defense fund, but launch our own campaign pressuring Monsanto to end these legal attacks on our right to know what’s in our food. Can you chip in $1?
OBOD member Karen Ralls is a historian and musician who has recently written a book entitled Medieval Mysteries: A Guide to History, Lore, Places and Symbolism. Here is some information about the book, followed by Karen’s own words about its contents. A great book for anyone interested in this fascinating period:
Cross the threshold and journey into the world of the High Middle Ages (1100-1300), to further explore twelve of the most-frequently-requested medieval topics today. From Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose to the delights of Monty Python, the medieval period – pagan, Christian, and otherwise – continues to intrigue, inspire and fascinate many today. But what were some of the unexpected developments, interesting people, and key events of this epic time? For general readers and specialists alike, medieval historian, former Rosslyn Chapel museum exhibition Curator and author Karen Ralls presents the key historical facts and associated places, symbolism, and folklore for each of the twelve medieval topics, providing a much-requested ‘medieval anthology’ — a lively introductory portal for all readers, in one place, which includes the major historical facts as well as some of the lesser-known aspects about each of the topics. The story of each subject comes alive as never before, providing a solid, engaging overview about each subject, as well as numerous full colour photographs throughout, a Recommended Reading List (from both academic and selected general sources), four appendices, Historic Sites to Visit, Notes, and a full Bibliography. Topics covered include:
The Knights Templar
The Grail and the Grail quest
Mary Magdalene: medieval places, traditions and shrines
Black Madonnas: from springs, grotto and grove to Chartres…
The courage of the Cathars
Medieval Guilds; The Green Man
Heresy, Heretics, and heresy trials
King Arthur, Glastonbury, Merlin
Further explore the history and wonders of the High Middle Ages — a time of potent symbolism, unexpected developments on many fronts, and much spiritual questing.
‘Medieval Mysteries: History, Places, and Symbolism – is a history book covering twelve of the more-frequently-requested medieval period subjects. Although being ‘medieval period/High Middle Ages’ (1100-1300) in focus, I do discuss throughout (wherever I possibly could!), the history of the pagan-related aspects of a number of medieval period subjects, i.e, the Green Man, the earlier roots of the Black Madonnas, from springs, grottoes and groves, to Chartres, medieval heresies, the Grail Quest. I also enjoyed finding an early ‘Our Lady of the Oak Tree’ in France.’ – Karen Ralls
Karen’s website and details of her other books can be found here.
A huge ‘Thank You!’ to everyone who helped to make last weekend in Glastonbury (all four days of it!) such an outstanding success. Everyone was amazing, and if you were there, what you experienced was an example of an incredible amount of team-work – from the teams who organised tickets, security, the music, the buffet, the fringe events, the rituals, and so on. And some individual heroism too – from Hawkie who made litres of Nuinn’s Dragonsbreath Mead for 400 thirsty druids, for example!
Richard Slater is a talented photographer who has spent the last five years capturing the people of London in all their marvellous diversity. He is seeking to turn this wonderful project into a book entitled People in London: One Photographer, Five Years, The Life of a City and has put a call out on Kickstarter for help to make this a reality. You can read more about this inspiring project, watch a short video about it and find information on how you can help by clicking here.