A review by Maria Ede-Weaving of Joanna van der Hoeven’s book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid…
Druidry is a fast growing tradition and whether by necessity or choice, many of its practitioners walk the path alone. Sharing a tradition and its spiritual practices with others can be richly rewarding but it is not for everyone and Joanna van der Hoeven’s latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid illustrates that a solitary path in no way diminishes the wisdom and inspiration that Druidry offers.
The book is organised into three sections: the Basics of Druidry, Druidry in Practice and Creating Your Own Path. The first deals with the history and what Druidry is, examining subjects such as the Awen, the Gods, the Ancestors and festivals. The second delves into practices such as meditation and pathworking, altar creation and rituals, whilst the third gives suggestion as to how the reader might design and walk their own path.
Joanna has already written two wonderful books in the Pagan Portals series published by Moon books: Zen Druidry and Dancing with Nemetona. Pagan Portals are great little books that serve as doorways to a subject, a starting point for further reading. The Awen Alone is also part of this series and although it is a small book, it is large of heart; Joanna manages to perfectly distil core wisdom in an accessible and perceptive way that loses none of the richness of the subject.
Throughout you get a real sense of Joanna’s commitment to her practice; of the wisdom gained through an honest devotion to discovering her truth. She reminds the reader that one of Druidry’s greatest strengths is that it encourages relationship with self, community and nature and that this brings its own responsibilities and inspiration. Druidry has no Dogma and this has led some outside the tradition to judge it as a ‘do what you fancy’ spirituality that lacks depth. The Awen Alone challenges this assumption by exploring a Druidry that strikes the perfect balance between acting upon the freedom to discover what Druidry is for the individual whilst sharing core values and principles that give shape to it as a philosophy. Joanna’s approach reminds us that we must move beyond reacting to truly responding and relating, and in this way our practice will remain flowing, flexible and open – enhancing our sensitivity to the changes that we must make, whilst at the same time feeling ourselves rooted in the tradition.
As a guide for the solitary Druid or beginner, The Awen Alone can’t be faulted – the reader is in very safe and knowledgeable hands – but in my view, it is much more than a ‘how to’. Joanna’s book stands on its own as a concise and insightful exploration of Druid philosophy. For me, The Awen Alone helped me to re-engage with my own practice with some renewed enthusiasm and a deeper appreciation and understanding of this path that I follow. Its useful suggestions and exercises are perfect for those new to the Druid path, but Joanna’s depth of understanding and her ability to deliver this in an accessible yet profound way, makes this a book that Druids with many years of experience can learn from.