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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

The Opera Tarot

July 9th, 2018

The Tower card from The Opera Tarot of Linda Sutton showing Pavarotti in Lucia de Lammermoor

I thought you might like to see the opening words from the book that I wrote to accompany Linda Sutton’s magnificent Tarot paintings for The Opera Tarot :

Shuffle! Cut!
Good, that’s that!
Three cards here… four there!
And now speak, my beauties,
give us news of the future;
tell us who’s going to betray us,
tell us who’s going to love us!
Speak! Speak!
from Bizet’s
Carmen

Love and betrayal! In Bizet’s famous opera, Carmen and her friends are anxious to know their destiny, and as any tarot reader will know, their concerns are the ones which still preoccupy the bulk of their clients today. Relationship problems and, in second place, work or financial difficulties create the majority of business for professional tarot readers, but the Tarot can be used for another more existential end. It can help us fulfil the age-old quest for illumination, for coming to know ourselves more fully – and ultimately for finding the soul and the Deity Within that is our true nature. This is the work suggested in the carving on the entrance to the oracle at Delphi, where each pilgrim was urged to ‘Know Thyself’. This is the work, too, of the spiritual alchemists – not those who sought to turn lead into gold, but those who sought, and continue to seek, to turn the base matter of the self into the gold of self-realization.

To find out more about The Opera Tarot click here

Mystic & Magician as Subpersonalities: Tea with a Druid 30

July 2nd, 2018

Last week I talked about how we could characterise the mystic and the magician – their differing goals, and the techniques they use to achieve them. I wondered whether there might be a relationship between these two orientations and those two broad categories of personality, the introvert and extrovert. I speculated that since magic is concerned with actively engaging with the outer world, such a pursuit might attract more extroverts, while the more apparently inward-looking way of the mystic might be more appealing to introverts.

Well how wrong I was, if our small, and hopelessly uncontrolled online survey is anything to go by! From a sample of 64 responses, 56 people said they were introverts, with only 8 declaring themselves as extroverts. 25 identified themselves as introverted magicians, 21 as introverted mystics, and 10 as introverted mystic magicians!

Only a small minority identified as extroverts: 3 people as magicians, 4 as mystics, and 1 as a mystic magician.

Perhaps both the mystical and magical paths attract more introverts, perhaps there is simply no correlation, although the high proportion of introverts overall is suggestive, but other factors may be at play, like who is likely to watch these teas, or make comments.

One participant raised a fascinating question. They commented: “I’m a Magician Introvert, but I’m not convinced that there’s an important correlation between the two. A more interesting relationship is between magicians & visual artists/craftsmen — and mystics & musicians/dancers. Broadly put, don’t personalities divide between those preoccupied with form and those preoccupied with formlessness?”

If I understand this comment correctly, the suggestion here is that if you presented musicians and dancers with the two definitions of mystic and magician, they would tend to identify as mystics, whereas artists and craftspeople would tend to identify as magicians. Let’s explore this idea one day with an online poll.

Interesting comments also came in about changes people have experienced over time, like this one: “I used to be very introverted but have become more extrovert, interestingly this happened when I made the transition from mystic to magician a few years ago.”

In fact a number of people reported moving from one preference to another, and this brings me to the theme I’d like to explore with you today: the idea of Mystic and Magician as sub-personalities – as different aspects of ourselves. If you try imagining these two kinds of people as ‘inner characters’, and then engage in dialogue with them, you might find they offer interesting insights and perspectives. Ask each what they want, what they need and what they can offer you.

There isn’t much material on the topic of subpersonalities online, and its Wikipedia entry is poor. Work with it is particularly developed, though, in Psychosynthesis, and the best texts on this subject are by one of the pioneers of Humanistic Psychology, John Rowan, who died a few weeks ago at the grand old age of 93. His Subpersonalities: The People Inside Us is fascinating and comprehensive, and written for psychologists and therapists. His later Discover Your Subpersonalities: Our Inner World and the People in It is written for a lay readership and includes questionnaires and exercises.

Are you a Mystic or a Magician?

June 25th, 2018

Without thinking too hard about this, just tell me, off the top of your head, whether you feel you are a mystic or a magician. Once you’ve done that, just let that question drop away and answer another question, if you will – again don’t give this too much thought – it’s just the answer that comes to you in this moment – I’m not holding you to this as the absolute truth. In fact I’ll explain thosse terms and then ask you to answer the question again later, because you might change your mind. Here’s the next question: If you had to say whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, what would it be? Again just shoot back a comment.

In a week’s time it’s possible that thousands will have seen this video, and if everyone kindly responded we’d have a great statistical sample to work with.

But let me back up now and explain what I mean by these terms. If you’ve joined this gathering, the chances are that you are interested in magic and mysticism. But what exactly do these two words mean? Like any terms that have been around for a long time, we could spend hours debating the various meanings that have been ascribed by scholars and lay-folk to these terms. And the more scholarly we made our debate, the more ambiguities and varieties of interpretation we would discover. Now is not the time for this! We’ll avoid getting caught up in semantics or in language that is tedious. Just look at where it might take us when we first try to understand the term Mysticism: the academic Gelman writes that the mystical experience is: “A unitive experience [that] involves a phenomenological de-emphasis, blurring, or eradication of multiplicity, where the cognitive significance of the experience is deemed to lie precisely in that phenomenological feature”. Surely there are simpler ways of talking about the experience of Oneness! Let’s look at two more accessible attempts to describe mysticism and the mystical experience:

Blakemore and Jennett wrote: “the essence of the mystical experience is the encounter between God and the human being, the Creator and creature; this is a union which leads the human being to an ‘absorption’ or loss of individual personality. It is a movement of the heart, as the individual seeks to surrender itself to ultimate Reality; it is thus about being rather than knowing.”

And the mystic Evelyn Underhill wrote about the term mysticism, that it is, “One of the most abused words in the English language, it has been used in different and often mutually exclusive senses by religion, poetry, and philosophy: has been claimed as an excuse for every kind of occultism, for dilute transcendentalism, vapid symbolism, religious or aesthetic sentimentality, and bad metaphysics. On the other hand, it has been freely employed as a term of contempt by those who have criticized these things. It is much to be hoped that it may be restored sooner or later to its old meaning, as the science or art of the spiritual life.”

Here’s the definition I use: that the mystic’s main goal is union with the Divine, to experience Oneness. Whether we are talking about Christian Mystics, Sufi Mystics, or Nature Mystics, the goal is the same – to surrender the sense of the ‘little self’ and to feel at one with All Being.

The Magician might have this goal, and may therefore be a mystic, but in addition she or he has other goals. They may wish to explore other worlds, to experience altered states consciousness, to converse with any beings they may meet in other worlds. They may want to develop their powers of perception or sensitivity or intuition. They may want to transform or improve circumstances for themselves or for others. Do you see how all these goals are active? They do not require surrender, but active engagement. The mystic closes their eyes to free themselves of the distractions of this world, to return to Source. The magician opens their eyes to explore the world, to wonder and admire, to understand and grow. The magician uses certain techniques such as journeying, ritual, and divination to help them in their quest. The mystic is more likely to shun these as distractions, and will focus on meditation and prayer.

Now that I’ve given these thumbnail descriptions of the mystic and the magician, type in your answer again, and say if it’s the same as before or different!

Now why did I ask you to say whether you feel you are introverted or extroverted? I just have a hunch that there might be a correlation between this aspect of personality and the choice you have made. Perhaps introverts are more likely to be drawn to the Mystical Path, and extroverts the Magical one. Or perhaps not! If you’re not sure which is your strongest trait there are various tests you can take online now, such as this one: Extroversion Introversion Test

In a later blog post I’ll try to summarise the results of this clumsy attempt at science!

Now let’s do a meditation to connect, if we wish, with the mystic and the magician within us. Once in the Sacred Grove, sense your oneness with all around you. The earth and sky, the trees. Just let go and surrender to this sense of Union with all of Nature, with all of Being. Now become aware of being in the grove, and in your imagination, sense you are leaning forward and touching the ground in front of you with the forefinger of one hand, as you stretch your arm. As you touch the ground a flower appears. Touch another spot, and another flower grows. After doing this a few times, stop. Close your inner eyes, and then gradually let your awareness of the Sacred Grove begin to fade as you become aware of being fully present wherever you are, Here and Now.

In the first part of the meditation, when you surrender to a sense of Oneness you are opening to the Mystic Within. When you create flowers with the ‘magic wand’ of your hand, you are expressing the Inner Magician.

Solstice Blessings!

June 21st, 2018

Whether you are in the depths of winter or the height of summer, may the sun’s warmth, energy, illumination and joy bless you! Happy Solstice!

Getting more Sleep: Tea with a Druid 28

June 18th, 2018

I’ve talked before about one of the most interesting features of these tea sessions – that it’s a communal experience. I may be the one doing the talking, but somehow we’re all in this together. A participant writes that we are ‘mutual muses’ in the grove, inspiring each other in subtle ways – performing an unusual magic as we connect across space and time. And here’s a poem another tea habitué has sent in:

Children’s voices rise up through the pines
They have all the time in the world.

All magic begins here: 
The wonder of a stone
The singing of a feather
More sunlight than you could use in a lifetime
How brief a lifetime at 7
How endless a lifetime at 70.

All the time in the world.

Thank you Gary for that!
Last week we talked about time, and this week I’d like to carry on exploring that topic, but in relation to one particular area of our experience: the time we spend sleeping or trying to get to sleep.
A while back I experienced a bout of insomnia and I became interested in what would happen if we took all that we know about getting a better night’s sleep from psychology and neuroscience and combined this with a spiritual perspective, making use of any techniques that the wisdom traditions can offer.
What I discovered was that if you take methods from yoga – particularly breathing techniques and yoga nidra meditation – and combine these with all that sleep science can now recommend to help you rest well, you have a very potent and effective set of tools to help you get the rest you need.
So I’ve put all these methods together and added in some Sophrology exercises. Sophrology is a system developed by a neuropsychiatrist to enhance wellbeing and it works really well with reprogramming your nervous system in a natural way.
I’ve set this all out in a seven step programme that takes you through various exercises and includes 16 audio recordings – all designed to send you to sleep.
We’ve been talking about the great feeling that comes from meeting together in a group. Well, 140 followers of my Facebook page agreed to take part in a trial of the programme last year, and it was fantastic to work with them over a period of several months fine-tuning the material. Thanks to their feedback I was able to improve the recordings and you can read what many of them said about the programme on the website at the sleepclinic.org.uk
If you are in that third of the population who experiences sleep difficulties, do give it a go. If it doesn’t work for you, you can get a full refund straight away, and in addition I’ve created a special offer – valid until Saturday. You just have to type in TEA into the coupon field to get 20% off the course cost. I’d love to hear how you get on with the course! You can learn more about it here: the sleepclinic.org.uk

The One Tree Gathering 2018

June 16th, 2018

There is still time to get tickets for the wonderful One Tree Gathering. The One Tree Gathering is a project initiated by the ICCS (International Center for Cultural Studies) and OBOD (the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids) to explore values shared by Pagan and Hindu cultures. The aim of the annual gatherings is to provide a platform for our communities to exchange ideas and form relationships based on friendship, mutual understanding and shared values.

This year the One Tree Gathering is on 25th-26th of August at the beautiful Beaumanor Hall, near Loughborough. During the weekend we will have an opportunity to meet like minded people and take part in inspiring talks, discussions and interactive workshops as well as get to know each other around bonding activities. This year it will be based on the ‘Tree” and exploring your own ‘birth tree’ and what its values and qualities are. There will then be a tree walk to find your tree. The price for the weekend is £50 and £60 with accommodation in the bunkhouse. The website can be found here: https://www.iccsuk.org/otg and tickets can be purchased here: https://www.iccsuk.org/otg-2018/ticket-otg-2018. To enquire please email m.snopinska@gmail.com and do check our Facebook page https://m.facebook.com/events/367555513716960.

The One Tree Gathering 2016

The Well of Segais

June 14th, 2018

An enthusiastic Pamela Meekings-Stewart, creator of The Wheel of Segais divination system

I had a great reading yesterday using The Wheel of Segais. This is how its creator Pamela describes it:

The Wheel of Segais is a simple but profound system for understanding the innate nature of the universe and our place within it.  It is my own creation and came to me in a flash of inspiration (awen) supported by over twenty years of study in Druidry (Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, UK), the Four Elements / Four Seasons (Dimension 33, Australia), the 12 Archetypes or Wisdoms, and many years as a Change Management and Career Consultant – “Get a Life – It’s Yours”.

All that knowledge and wisdom came together in a beautiful, simple image that I now call The Wheel of Segais or, sometimes, The Wheel of Inevitability! It allows us to perceive all that we are and all that we need as we experience the turning of the wheel of the year – the Four Seasons, the 12 streams or stages and the Well of Wisdom, the Well of Segais itself, in the centre.

My reading was very helpful and spot-on. Hence Pamela’s enthusiastic gesture in the photo!

The system is profound, elegant and completely in tune with the cycles of Nature. I feel it represents a very real contribution to the human endeavour of finding meaning, purpose and direction in life. Have a look at the website all about it here.

Making Time our Friend and Ally: Tea with a Druid 27

June 11th, 2018

Yesterday I read a post on the OBOD Message Board that talked about the difficulty of finding time for spiritual activities like meditating and studying. It asked: ‘Am I the only one finding it hard to find time in the day to study the OBOD training materials and meditate?’ And of course people piled in saying ‘Me too!’

I think this is a big problem for many people. And it’s not just about finding time for spiritual activities. It’s often about finding time for just living fully too. I wonder why time seems in such short supply for so many of us? I read a quote recently from a Dr. Bradley Willcox, who wrote that: “We in the West suffer from hurry sickness. We try to do more and more in less and less time, and that kind of constant stress can have devastating long-term consequences.” And we all know that stress accelerates ageing and increases the risk of diseases.

I’m going to add my voice to this ‘Me Too’ response, because I’m often battling to find time for everything I think I need to do. So let’s explore this problem together! I’m going to offer you what I’ve come up with over the years, and please share what you’ve come up with.

1. Every time I find myself under stress and thinking, “I don’t have enough time,” I tell myself, “You have all the time in the world.” I know I’m kidding myself at one level, but metaphysically I believe this to be true and this ‘positive self-talk’ does calm me down, and seems to create a sense of having more time. I don’t care if this is an illusion!
2. When faced with overflowing in-trays of snail mail and email, and a long list of things to do, I decide which items to prioritise, then just focus on one thing at a time, do it, and then move on to the next. If I look at it all, I become paralysed – it’s all too much. So I narrow my focus, attend to one thing at a time and plod on. And surprise, surprise, the piles do eventually get cleared.
3. A while back I watched a film called ‘She’s Having a Baby’ and in the closing scene, as the baby is being delivered, the father’s voice-over is heard and the final words of the film are: “What I was looking for was not to be found but to be made.” And I think that’s a good position to adopt in relation to Time. If you are always looking for Time it evades you, it’s always just around the corner. So don’t try to find Time, make it! It shifts you from being at the mercy of it, to being proactive and creative, rather than constantly running after it.

To go deeper now, let me suggest a way of tackling this issue at the spiritual or magical level. We are all beings incarnated into the world of Time & Space – the two dimensions we are constrained in. Lots of us don’t have enough space, let alone time – think of all the poor and dispossessed people in the world – one of our world’s greatest tragedies. But we won’t consider Space today – we haven’t got enough time! Looked at another way, Space and Time are commodities that we want that are often in short supply. Maybe we can reach Peak Space and Peak Time too!

After much struggle over the years, Stephanie and I have enough space – Space is our friend. But Time is still if not an enemy, then at least someone who I have been trying to befriend over the last few decades, and I’m still not entirely sure we’re friends! Of course thinking of Time as our enemy is not a good idea. I want Time to be my friend and my ally. And I guess you do too, so let’s try now to foster this relationship by consciously reaching out our hands in friendship to Time.

In our meditation in the Sacred Grove we slow down and open to stillness. We get in tune with Nature’s rhythm, which feels good: natural and slow. We leave the Grove and come to a slowly-flowing river. We announce to the world around us, to the spirits around us, to ourselves, that we want to be friends with Time, to have Time as our ally. We sit on the river bank and are soothed by watching the water, and the river wildlife. We ask for a blessing from the Spirit of Time. We might wade into the water for this, or it may be enough for us just to sit and be with the river in our own stillness. We return to the Grove to finish our meditation.

One of the benefits of brief meditations like this, is that within these short moments of time we can create for ourselves ‘moments of timelessness’. That’s the value of a spiritual path or discipline – it can help free us from the pressures of Time and Space, if only for a few moments. So maybe that’s a good beginning if you feel under time pressures, just try to dip into timelessness in brief moments as and when you can, and perhaps you will be able to gradually extend these moments to minutes, until each day you are indeed making the time for what you truly want.

The Value of Ranting and the Power of Then: Tea with a Druid 26

June 4th, 2018

Yesterday I announced that I will be handing on the role of Chief of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids in two years time, and it was very heartening to experience the response to that news amongst the gathering of about two hundred of us in Glastonbury Town Hall. And many thanks to John Beckett for his informative article on his Patheos blog here, offering the perspective of someone across the Pond, who was not there for the announcement in Glastonbury, but who read my blog post and watched the video. And thank you, dear readers, for all the kind messages I have received (and to Nicola for her photo of Stonehenge at the dawn ceremony yesterday).
This evening I thought I would rant. I’m allowing myself a bit of therapy. The English tend to be an uptight bunch. We’re not like the Italians. For centuries we have admired stiff upper lips: “Chin up! Keep you voice down. No crying now! Keep calm and carry on!” Well to hell with that! I’m going to tank myself up on more of this tea and I’m going to rant!
Today I’m going to rant about the obsession in spiritual and New-Age circles with the Power of Now. It’s become yet another rod to beat ourselves with. Have you ever caught yourself feeling guilty because you’re not experiencing the Now? Because you are ruminating on the past or plotting some cunning scheme for the future? Yes! That’s the price we pay for focussing too much on one idea at the expense of others. I’m sure Eckhart Tolle would agree with me, but when you rant you’ve got to exaggerate so in that spirit let me blame his fabulous book for this current obsession.
Why did I choose this topic? Because the other day, when I went to see my 95 year-old mother in her nursing home, she said ‘Well, I think I’m making progress.” And this really touched me, and I realised that we are all built to hope, to think we are progressing, even well into our old age.
So, I know about the Power of Now, and the dangers of Provisional Living. I know we waste a lot of time and energy looking back to the past and thinking about the future, but the point is this: it’s not what you do, it’s the way you do it. Sure it’s not helpful to live a life of regret for the past and worry for the future, but it is helpful, natural, beautiful, human, and to be encouraged, to live a life full of the joys of reminiscing and remembrance, and of hope for the future.
And, of course, that’s why we have developed a succession plan for the Order. We haven’t just focussed on the Now!
In the recording of this week’s ‘Tea with A Druid’ I followed my rant with a Sophrology exercise that has a Bardic aim: to celebrate and benefit from one touching, joyful moment in the past.