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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Naked Hermit

July 13th, 2019

Here is a recording of a conversation I had with the author Nick Mayhew-Smith about his latest book, The Naked Hermit: A Journey to the Heart of Celtic Britain. It’s a fascinating read covering the early Christian rituals he has uncovered that involve naked bathing outdoors. He decided to try out these rituals and found they generated powerful mystical experiences. In the interview I refer to the work of Wim Hof. You can find out more about this here.
And you can find Nick’s book here in the UK and here in the USA.

Hear Mark Vernon and Rupert Sheldrake talking about the book here.

In true Wim Hof style Nick decided to spend a night out in skyclad prayer and meditation on the summit of Mynydd Carngli. He thought it would be a painful endurance test. Instead he found it led him to a truly ecstatic experience he will never forget.

Wild Geese over Ronaldsay

July 12th, 2019

Wild Geese over Ronaldsay

Flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap
Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack
Whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh

What is the wind (around us) made of?
Not hard.
The breath of sun.
The sweat of moon.
The seeking of the migratories.

What is the land (below us) made of?
Not hard.
The fusion of light with ocean.
The stilling of planetary vibration.
The longing of the winged travelers.

What is this cloud (we pass through) made of?
Not hard.
The cast-off dress of the rainbow.
The lust of the building storm.
The intentionality of our journey.

Who hears the creak of our pinions?
Not hard.
Yon druid with his staff aloft.
Yon crofter whistling to his dog.
The woman—there!—with her unfurled hair.

What are her tears made of?
Not hard.
The grey and silver sight of us.
The erudition of our conversation.
Her winglessness.

Flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap
Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack
Whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh, huh, whuh

~ RoMa Johnson

Sovereign Earth ~ Putting Heart back into the Earth

July 9th, 2019

JJ Middleway

My friend and OBOD member JJ Middleway performs and facilitates beautiful group chants; JJ describes these as ‘a western form of sacred singing. Re-imagining and re-energising the songlines of our lands through the magic of shared sound, coupled with the healing of the charged silence which follows.’ JJ hosted one of these sessions at the OBOD Gathering and it was a powerful and moving experience. I am delighted that he has started a wonderful series of live sessions via Facebook, entitled SOVEREIGN – EARTH. You can catch these every Tuesday at 8pm UK time where you will enjoy 20 minutes of Song, Silence & reflection. JJ explains here a little more about the Sovereign Earth:

Sovereign Earth – Putting Heart back into the Earth: A form of Devotional Druidry.

There was a time when all beliefs , though different in name, held the earth as sacred. Her solar consort was revered and honoured too: The Divine Sun; the heat of our heartbeat, the seat of our Soul.

My vision is that all belief systems and creeds now come to refocus on the Mother, Sovereign-Earth, since she is the source of our wellbeing and we are each called upon to be the sorcerers of our time, reimagining and rekindling our deepest respect, love and understanding of the Earth.

Sovereign Earth is song, reflection, prayer and silence, combining to create a contemplative community of all faiths and none; dedicated to restoring an appreciation and honouring of the Earth – at the Heart of all we are and all we do.

This is intended as an antidote to the often challenging nature of our times. A restorative spiritual practice offering a heart base from which to revive and restore ourselves along with our communities and culture.

I have been leading a western form of devotional chanting for about a decade now. Its natural progression is into this format and form – providing restorative sustenance as nurture for the soul.

“In healing ourselves we heal the Land. In healing the Land we heal ourselves”.

Here is one proven and very effective way of enabling that.
You are most welcome to join in Tuesdays at 8pm. Twenty minute sessions. 

The Enchanting the Void Facebook page can be found here and JJ’s website, with an example of his chants, can be found here. 

A Benefit of Growing Old & the Archdruidess of Kew

July 8th, 2019

Since I last saw you I’ve been back in Kew Gardens – and synchronistically a childhood friend of my son’s contacted me to ask me about an event that occurred 33 years ago, which he has now published a video about. I was sitting in the same place as I was when the event occurred 33 years ago. How odd is that? Utterly insignificant but strange. Age gives you the pleasure of seeing patterns. You have more hindsight. Your tummy may be getting bigger, but your hindsight is too.

I had lived for 17 years right by Kew Gardens, but because I was raising two children and working hard I never had the luxury of the time to fully explore the Gardens – 350 acres on my doorstep.

So this week I’ve been catching up, giving myself the time to do what I feel I should have done 30 years ago – truly appreciate this outstanding place.

And one of the characters who stands out in the creation of the paradise that is Kew Gardens is the Princess of Wales, Augusta, (mother of King George III) whom William Stukeley named Veleda, Archdruidess of Kew. Ronald Hutton and Stuart Piggott in their books tell us the basis of this title – a half-hour chat Stukeley had with her about some bronze age axes found at Kew in October 1754, and then a few weeks later at another meeting. Him calling her Archdruidess was fanciful, but I want to make a connection to her work for the plant world, a truly Druidic endeavour. Thanks to this it became one of the world’s most significant gardens.

Her husband Frederick, the Prince of Wales, had begun a collection of exotic plants at Kew and once he died, the Princess developed and extended the gardens at Kew. Lord Bute and Rev Stephen Hales, well-known botanists, helped Augusta. Bute introduced William Chambers to her and he was commissioned to design a Pagoda in the grounds, whose 80 dragons were restored last year. Here is one of them:

Augusta began the Physic and Exotic Garden in 9 acres in 1759. Exotic plants and trees were sent  from abroad and by 1768 the herbaceous collection had over 2,700 species. Later, her son George III, with the help of Joseph Banks, enlarged the garden by joining the gardens of Richmond and Kew estate, and Kew Gardens as we know it now was formed. Banks was a British botanist who had just returned to England from the expedition led by Captain Cook. Traveling the world, Banks had collected many exotic plants and brought them to Kew Gardens. He was the first to enlarge the collection of plants, which would continue to grow over the years, today numbering approximately 50,000 different plant species.

What a legacy Veleda, Archdruidess of Kew, and those who helped her and followed on from her, has left us!

Author’s Trauma relived

July 7th, 2019

Isn’t it funny how life sometimes seems to move in cycles? I’m spending a few days back in a small wooden house I used to live in by Kew Gardens over 30 years ago. I’m sitting with my laptop in the same position I sat in with my very first apple computer, when I tried writing my first book. And blow me down if the son of an old friend, not knowing I’m here, doesn’t remember the trauma I suffered at this desk and produces this clip about it!

How to Start a Day

June 22nd, 2019

How to Start a Day

Begin by letting go of the hem
of your dream. Let it slip
backwards into a black lake
as you greet the dawn. Be thankful
for small aches. You have survived

night’s heavy arms to wash yesterday
from your face. Begin to create
the opus of a new day. Look out
from a kitchen window as you savor
a first cup of coffee. House wrens

flap at the feeder. A squirrel
dances osiers so that the willow
shakes with laughter. Be thankful
for the small favors of sunlight
walking across the lawn, a cabbage

butterfly teasing the azaleas,
the pink rain of cherry blossoms.
Even the neighbor’s dog barking
ducks from his yard is sacred.
Open to morning’s hymns:

the big mouth of the garbage truck,
the mockingbird’s purloined songs,
chatter on the corner waiting
for the yellow school bus. The engine
of the day purrs in your throat

as you dress. Sweep your calendar
clean of doctor appointments,
chores. The vacuum and the duster
can wait. Let the day surprise you.
Be thankful to be who you are.

~ Jane Ellen Glasser

Happy Solstice!

June 21st, 2019

Solar
Suspended lion face
Spilling at the centre
Of an unfurnished sky
How still you stand,
And how unaided
Single stalkless flower
You pour unrecompensed.

The eye sees you
Simplified by distance
Into an origin,
Your petalled head of flames
Continuously exploding.
Heat is the echo of your
Gold.

Coined there among
Lonely horizontals
You exist openly.
Our needs hourly
Climb and return like angels.
Unclosing like a hand,
You give for ever.

~ Philip Larkin

Druids – An Inspiring & Sensitive Film is out!

June 11th, 2019

Documentaries about Druids are either of the historical kind – covering the usual ground – or they are of the more sensationalist kind with sometimes cringe-making footage of rituals. We know rituals can be moving and beautiful experiences, but they often don’t film well.

But along comes a fantastic film – recently aired on French television – which breaks the mold. The directors focus on the lives of three French druids, and with spectacular photography and intimate conversations, manage to convey what it FEELS like to be a Druid – open to the beauties of Nature and the whisperings of Awen.

There is an English-language and French language version available for streaming. Do watch it – it’s heart-warming, visually entracing and authentic. Here’s what the directors say: “Annick, Jean-Jacques and Philippe live in Brittany, in the Vosges and in Burgundy. Annick, Jean-Jacques and Philippe are also Diannan, Ioan and Gwinver Druids: Neo-Druids. They guide us through magnificent natural sites and initiate us to their singular spiritual and philosophical worlds. Are they ecologists, poets, slightly mad or just walking their own paths? Everyone will find an answer with this documentary at the gates of shamanism, between imagination and reality. A sensitive film close to the protagonists’ feelings.”

Here’s the trailer. Click to watch it full-screen if you can!

DRUIDS neo (english version) from Les films du tilleul on Vimeo.

The Call of the Unfathomable: Tea with a Druid 76

June 3rd, 2019

I’m just back from a retreat in Brittany – a wonderful, mysterious land – where I came once again to stand before the massive broken menhir in Locmariaquer by the dolmen known as the Table des Marchands. The broken menhir is a huge single stone, 330 tons, 20 metres high, erected in around 45 – 4700 BC alongside 18 other standing stones. It fell in about 4000 BC and you can now see it lying on the ground.

It lies beside the Table des Marchands Dolmen. The capstone of that is made up of one section of another giant broken menhir. A second section has been recycled as a capstone for the nearby Er Grah tumulus. But then they dragged a third massive chunk 4 kms away to use as the capstone for the incredible Gavrinis monument, now marooned on an island in France’s biggest inland sea in the Gulf of Morbihan.

The stone originally was quarried 18kms away I believe. At the visitor centre you can buy a replica of all three sections re-assembled. One of these stands on my desk. Note the druid going about his business quietly in front of the stone, which demonstrates how truly vast the stone is (that’s a joke – the Getafix is not to scale!)

I think we are often fascinated by these old sites because we can’t fully understand them. We love mystery. We will never know why the builders felt the need to erect such massive stones, why the nearby stones at Carnac number over 3,000 and are arranged in straight rows for miles across the landscape. Any behaviour that is unfathomable is to a certain extent fascinating for us, and each of us will perhaps have different areas of the Unknown, the Unfathomable that call to us. For some, the darkness a cave offers is an enticement to explore, for others it will be the Mysteries of Outer Space, the ocean, our relationship with other levels of consciousness, the often unfathomable nature of human motivation or psychology. The prize is greater understanding, but deep down, I believe, we treasure the unfathomable because we know that it stretches on forever, and therefore represents infinity and eternity – endless possibility and potential.