Just back from the utterly wonderful Druid Healing Retreat and already it feels as if Autumn is on its way…and with it a bumper harvest of excellent new books that have arrived here, including Alferian Gwydion MacLir’s stunning Wandlore and Anne Z.Parker and Dominique Susani’s detailed exploration Earth Alchemy: Aligning Your Home with Nature’s Energies.
Today I’d like to focus on Penny Billington’s latest book. Although Penny is best known for her fiction featuring Druid super-sleuth Gwion Dubh, and her editorship of OBOD’s monthly journal Touchstone she has ventured into non-fiction for this magnum opus: The Path of Druidry – Walking the Ancient Druid Way.
Penny asked me to write the book’s Foreword. If I quote from its beginning, this should give you a feel for this book which every Druid, novice or old-hand, will find full of new insights and of down-to-earth practical value:
When you pick up a book that offers help in following a spiritual path, you need to be careful. Who is offering to be your guide and where are they planning to lead you?
One of my earliest memories of the author of this book arose in a field near the great and ancient figure of the White Horse of Uffington. At the time she was dressed as a hen. On her feet she was wearing a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves. On her head she wore a mask crafted by Will Worthington, illustrator of the Druid Animal Oracle. She was helping to act out one of the old myths for a camp of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. That evening I saw her in another guise – as Carmina Piranha playing the washboard alongside her blues singing husband ZZ Birmingham and her fiddle-playing daughter Weil Influence. There was something about the bravura with which she whisked her gloved hands over the washboard that told me I was in the presence of a Druid who was blessed with the creative fire of Awen.
Druidry is a spiritual path rooted in a love of trees and the land, of tradition and the old stories, but it is not a spirituality that advocates a passive and merely mystical appreciation of these things. Instead it is a way of being in the world, of living one’s life, that is hands-on, that is actively magical without denying the need for times of mystical union. When I saw Penny later as a gifted ritualist under a harvest moon I saw someone who had realized this completely, and was ready to step into costume, make music and do magic at the drop of a hat.
Druidry, though, is a way of knowledge as well as of action, and the most prominent Druids of the last few hundred years have been those who have combined artistry and eccentricity with a love of scholarship and research. As I got to know Penny, I discovered that she too was driven by this love, and that she was steeped in a knowledge of the Western Mystery Tradition, and in particular in the work of one of England’s finest magicians: Dion Fortune.
Dion Fortune was trained in the magic of the Golden Dawn and in psychoanalysis, and her knowledge of the Qabalah, and of the polarity magic now familiar to most Wiccans, was second to none. One of her greatest contributions was to develop the idea of three rays: of nature magic, of hermetic knowledge and of compassion or Christ-consciousness. These match the three paths that lead from the Tree of Life’s sephiroth of Netzach, Hod and Tiphareth. In a stroke of genius, undoubtedly encouraged by modern Druidry’s frequent use of the symbol of three rays of light, Penny has taken this idea and applied it powerfully to the study of Druidism…