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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

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.

Cultivating the Mythic Imagination

May 31st, 2019

A beautiful video from Dr Sharon Blackie:

‘The old forgotten pre-Christian mythologies and philosophies of the West – from the magical stories of Celtic Ireland to the soul-centred mythtellings of Plato in ancient Greece – are rich, complex and beautiful. They offer up a world in which everything is not only alive, but has purpose and intentionality of its own. A world to which each incarnated soul chooses to come, for a reason: to fulfil its own unique calling, and to offer up a gift which can only be expressed through relationship with and participation in that animate world. Carrying the fire, carrying with us the image that we were born with, that we brought with us when we chose to come into this world. It’s time to reclaim those old, indigenous ways of being in the world – to reclaim the foundation-stones of Western spirituality, and bring them back out into the world where they belong. Founded in authentic scholarship as well as committed, embodied practice in the mythopoetic and other creative arts, Sharon Blackie’s work is above all about finding our way back into the mystic – about delving into the mysteries of wild psyche, and finding a deep, embodied sense of belongingness to this beautiful, animate Earth.’
~ from sharonblackie.net

The Lost Words Blessing: Spell Songs

May 28th, 2019

The beautiful book The Lost Words created by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, are a series of spell poems and illustrations that seeks to keep alive words from nature that are being lost from children’s vocabulary. Now there is a wonderful musical project based on the original spells, along with some new ones. What follows is a video of the Lost Words Blessing – I also include the lyric too. The album will be released on 12 July 2019 and can be pre-ordered here. The musicians describe the form as ‘inspired by blessings in Scottish Gaelic, particularly from a beautiful collection of charms and incantations called Carmina Gadelica.’

Enter the wild with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river
May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter
May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding
Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light
And in the dead of night my darling, find the gleaming eye of starling
Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home

Éigse 2019

May 25th, 2019

Eimear Burke

Paul Corcoran

Éigse is a fabulous event taking place in the heart of Ireland on the 9-11 August  2019. It is organised by our new Chosen Chief in waiting Eimear Burke and OBOD members Paul Corcoran and Anna Coote. They extend a warm invitation to their gathering and celebration for all those with an interest in, or currently practicing, Celtic Spirituality and ‘Nature-based’ religions. All are invited to a wonderful weekend of talks, workshops, talking circle, fireside music, storytelling, drumming, craft stalls and more. Druids, Shamans, Pagans, Celtic

Anna Coote

Christians, Academics and respectfully interested individuals… all are welcome! To book tickets and for more information do please visit the Éigse website. 

What Druidry Does: A Perspective on the Spiritual Dynamics of the OBOD Course

May 18th, 2019

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the publication of the nineteenth Mount Haemus Award paper written by Susan Jones: What Druidry Does: A Perspective on the Spiritual Dynamics of the OBOD Course

Here is the paper’s abstract:
Dr Susan Jones, MBA, has a professional background in science, higher education, business and government, alongside 30 years’ psycho-spiritual involvement including 17 years as OBOD’s Mentor Co-ordinator. Most that is written about Druidry by academics, commentators and leaders focuses on what Druids believe and do – what they practice and their rituals, what ideas they share. It is based on evidence that can be seen. But Druidry develops in the hearts and minds of individuals and may be unexposed to the outside world. This paper offers a different perspective: what Druidry does. As OBOD’s Mentor Co-ordinator, Susan had a unique position from which to view the spiritual dynamics of Druidry, through the lens of the OBOD course.  What does Druidry do? How does it do it? Is it of value? Does it have limits? Her new research will also seek to answer a puzzle – whatever happened to those who enrolled as OBOD members but didn’t follow the course through? Do they still find a benefit in Druidry? How could what we know so far influence what Druidry will do next? This paper will be a celebration of over 7,000 students who have shared something of their spiritual journeys, with some truly remarkable insights that add to the general discourse about Druidry and the life spiritual.

The paper makes for fascinating reading! Read more here.

Anima Monday Interview with Penny Billington

May 17th, 2019

What follows is a fabulous interview with Druid author Penny Billington by the Anima Monday Blog; Anima Monday are a collective, interested in sharing their experiences of animism. You can find the original interview on the Anima Monday Site.

Penny Billington is a Druid author and speaker who has had a significant role in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids for many years, and has edited their magazine Touchstone for 15. She regularly leads ceremonies and workshops.

Published work includes The Path of Druidry; walking The Ancient Green Way, a best selling Druid study course and guide, The Wisdom of Birch, Oak and Yew and The Keys to the Temple, Unlocking Dion Fortune’s Mystical Qabalah Through Her Occult Novels in collaboration with Ian Rees. (all pub. Llewellyn Worldwide) as well as a series of Druid detective novels. Find out more at www.pennybillington.co.uk.

You recently ran a project called the Druid’s Hide. Could you tell us a bit more about that experience? What is the main lesson you took away from that?

The Druid’s Hide was part of my ongoing druid mission to prevent my sleepwalking through life! At the start of a spiritual path we wake up to wonders, but if we don’t keep our practice fresh, we can soon nod off again; it’s human nature. I regularly devise projects to keep myself engaged and often invite others to join me. The word ‘Hide’ meant an amount of land to support oneself – tradition says that the monks of Glastonbury were given 12 hides of land. For this project I interpreted ‘Hide’ as the area that could be easily walked every day from one’s doorstep. Most participants chose a circular route of around 20 minutes, and we became intimately involved with its nature, through the senses, the elements and the realms, as expressed by the immediate landscape. It was a satisfying experience that had a profound effect upon us all. Mostly, it revealed how facile and superficial our usual ‘knowing’ of our own land is, and what a joy it is to deepen that understanding.

If you go out and listen to the land these days, what does it tell you?

I always listen when I walk, usually tuning in after a few moments to settle down and allow my more intuitive senses to wake up, and sometimes I’ll also ask a question if I have a particular need…

Every time, the land reminds me that the wisdom we imbibe just by being quiet, open and receptive in nature cannot be explained by the rational mind. It can only be understood at a deeper level: but we all recognise the feeling that results: a profound sense of well being. The land, the breeze, the birdsong, tell me to be open to this deep knowing; to be aware of being just another part of the landscape for a few moments. I remember that I don’t have to earn my place or be worthy; I am accepted and I have a proper (if tiny) place in the grand scheme of things. As soon as I slow down, I feel what a privilege it is to play my part, by witnessing every aspect of this magical world – from a huge sunset to a miniscule, perfect spider.

During a panel discussion at Druid Camp a few years ago, when asked ‘What is a Druid’, you answered that a druid is a priest of the land. What are, in your opinion, the implications of that definition for the modern practitioner of druidry? Myself I would say that a Priest is a servant of the sacred. So, if we hold the land as sacred, how does one best serve it?

There is the exo-and the esoteric way of looking at this. From a mundane perspective, we serve by being active, as far as each of us can, in supporting a natural world increasingly under threat: and this usually involves local, national and global involvement. Many people are taking these physical actions – direct action, letter writing, petition signing, local groups, personal responsibility such as always looking for the non-plastic option and so on. The druid has an extra responsibility in seeing all aspects of nature as sentient and enspirited, and communication between sentient beings as essential to their and our well being. So from the esoteric standpoint, we serve the sacred land by taking the ideas of our ancient forebears – some of which continue to this day in tribal cultures across the planet, some of which we can glean from traditional sources, stories and archaeology. By incorporating these into a regular, semi-formal ritualized practice – by treating the sacred in as matter-of-fact a way as the brushing of our teeth, we assert its importance. By giving it regular time, we make a strong connection with the wider conscious world. We are serving just by keeping the sacred at the forefront of our minds.

Practices I’ve found very helpful include greetings to the day/season/god/dess/natural elements as one prefers at the beginning, middle and end of the day: naming spirits and landscape features – and this is borne out by the epigraphical evidence we have in Britain of hundreds of god/dess names intimately connected to small localities; and lastly, regular semi-formal gift-giving – which can be as simple as placing a fallen leaf on a tree stump, or refilling the bird feeder. These are obligations but the very opposite of chores: they are part of a rhythm of daily life that are the source of many joyful – and fun – moments of allowing the meshing of our two ways of relating to the world; practical/mundane and intuitive/magical.

What, in your opinion is the place of animism within druidry?

The spirit of druidry is intensely animistic: the two are inextricably linked in my druidry. The Celts believed in the enspirited world and didn’t make a clear distinction between mundane and ritual interaction with the world: and we carry that tradition forward by endeavouring to gain rapport with our natural surroundings. We have an understanding that this is a situation of mutual benefit, and that our connections to all life interweave effortlessly with our everyday lives.

Words are the first way of refiguring our world view – I learnt many years ago from Professor Graham Harvey to speak of each genus as ‘people’; tree people, rock people, human people … sharing that label gives us an immediate connection and point of communication. We take it from there. He also asks why we talk about ourselves and nature, when we are nature. Because of our talents and propensities – especially the ability to mess up on a global scale – we have a responsibility not shared by a badger or a rainforest – and that can sadly obscure the fact that we are just a part of it; no more, no less. Use of language is very useful in showing us our disconnects and how choosing our words carefully can help our druidic understanding of relationships.

Besides the connection to the land, another core notion of druidry is awen, inspiration. Would you agree that part of that inspiration comes precisely from our connectedness to other beings?

Awen as inspiration is sudden and sometimes shocking; always coming from left field, in my experience. ‘From whence does inspiration flow?’ is a good question – if Taliesin didn’t ask it, he should have done! The more connected we are, the subtler the levels we work on, and the easier the free-flow between ourselves, the three realms, the elements and every aspect of life. This opens us up to the whole creative energy that is flooding through the cosmos as a source of inspiration; we just have to tune in. Stage one is to expand our thinking to be less literal and rational when considering things of the spirit. Each plane, realm and world has its own laws and I don’t expect the subtler worlds to intrude literally on the physical world – indeed, sci-fi is always throwing up warning scenarios of how dangerous that would be! On the spiritual plane, we can experience a profound communication with all aspects of the creative spirit. The trick is not to try to validate spiritual experience as something that can be proved objectively, but to accept it fully as a plane of existence as potent and effective in our lives as the mundane, and as capable of causing change.

If magic works, then couldn’t one of the core reasons for that be the fact that we are all fundamentally connected, and share a common core of consciousness? Magic is then a ripple through that web, a song that we all share in, so that our whispers are heard and carried, and can effect change in other places of the web. That would make magic a practical application of animism. What is your view on that?

I couldn’t better what you’ve said: very true, and beautifully expressed. The image of the trembling of the web is beloved of pagans as it is so very evocative and, like magic, most webs are often invisible but always real. To see a field full of them shining in the September morning sun is truly to see the world through the child’s eyes of wonder – a tiny visible hint of the immense invisible reality that informs the physical world.

We both share a deep love for trees. Do you have a favourite one? Would you care to share a moment of communion you’ve experienced with it/them?

Trees – our wise cousins – stand as living communicators of non-judgment and service: an oak, a birch, a yew, are equally different, equally beautiful, equally useful. Loving each for its own characteristics can help us to accept and love ourselves. I love the druidic understanding of tree qualities as it isn’t conjured from someone’s imagination, but from study and interpretation. So the birch, the first to colonise in Europe after the Ice Age, we associate with new beginnings. The oak we accord kingship for its strength and ability to support hundreds of lifeforms; the yew, through its habit of decay through its trunk and the rooting of its mature branches, becomes the living embodiment of immortality. This understanding helps to point me at the tree which might be most helpful to me in any situation. But to move from study to personal feelings … horse chestnuts have always been particularly supportive – you can tell them your troubles; and our local hornbeam and plane trees are so extraordinarily huge that I chat to them as wise elders. My first memory is of a beech which kept me dry during rainstorms – a very potent childhood image. Then of course the obvious seasonal markers – rowan for its ruddy berry clusters, apple blossom turning to miniscule fruits; the Lughnasadh flush of the new oak leaves – are joyful connections to the rhythms of life. Every tree is a favourite!

What are you up to these days? Any new and exciting projects you are working on?

There are always exciting projects on the go! At the moment, I’m preparing for a summer of talks, for my first visit to Sweden and for a workshop in Germany: I haven’t been to the forests there since I was a child. As druidry is about making relationships worlds-wide, I’m constantly researching story and seeing what hints for our practice we get from legend, myth and fairy story. This season Merlin has a particular fascination for me, as a far more complex archetype than is generally supposed. It’s about the stimulation of learning always: a druid is a perpetual student, ready to be constantly surprised, energized and enlightened by the next revelation, which might come from a wise elder, birdsong or a soap commercial. We just have to allow our normally dormant senses to slumber more lightly, so they can easily jolt awake to receive the hints that the sentient world constantly sends us. It’s pure delight! I invite all druids, each time they go for a walk, to say out loud to the enspirited world, ‘May I see wonders.’ And the really wise ones will add the caveat, ‘And may I recognise them when I see them!’ Then just see what many, tiny moments of joy that brings you, and be thankful. It’s a magical world.

Earth Restoration: Tea with a Druid 73

May 13th, 2019

Continuing on our theme of how do we respond to the environmental crisis, I’d like to share a perspective that I find helpful.

When I was training with the Institute of Psychosynthesis we were taught a way of relating to clients who came to see us that enabled us to honour and truly see the person sitting in front of us as both a person who was coming for help because they felt wounded or broken, but also as a person who in the deepest soul-sense was ‘whole and unbroken’. The beautiful phrase of the alchemist and healer Paracelsus was used to convey this idea: “In every human being there is a special heaven whole and unbroken”.

But how do you relate to someone as both whole and broken? Joan & Roger Evans who founded the Institute suggested the analogy of ‘bifocal vision’. Just like using bifocals which offer your eyes two ways of seeing, so we can respect and work with both aspects of a client.

In thinking of the world and how we can best respond in this time of crisis, I find the same bifocal perspective helps me greatly. Seeing the brokenness, the devastation humans have wreaked on the planet, opens me to sorrow but also to compassion and to acts of service; seeing the beauty, the paradise that nature offers, opens me to hope, moves me to worship of the natural world, and it also opens me to the desire to be of service. So both perspectives lead me to the same place, but by different paths – of sorrow and joy. And without the joy and hope, I am not sure I would have the energy to be of any use.

How can we be of use? Tree-planting is one of the best ways, and I’d like to recommend the work done by my friend Andreas Kornevall who lives in Lewes. His charity, the Earth Restoration Service, has found that in many instances the Earth grows trees better than us planting them, and that the best way to foster new woodland is to build a fence around an area – natural hawthorn fence is ideal – to keep sheep out. Within ten years you have a fabulous growth which is beneficent to wildlife and is also a powerful carbon sink.

The second best option is to get saplings with local DNA – local trees thrive more than imported ones – and plant them out.  For this exercise, anyone who donates to Andreas’ charity are given the peace of mind that each tree becomes a teacher.  They plant “tree nurseries” inside schools – these tree nurseries grow and are nurtured by the children, and once mature, the saplings are then planted out with the whole community.   Two hundred new woodlands have been planted through the Earth Restoration Service in this way.  Their aim is to plant 50,000 trees and enough flowers to attract 20 million insects across 1,000 sites by World Earth Day in 2020.

You can donate a tree for just £1 or sponsor a school tree nursery or a ‘flutter flower meadow’ for £350. Do have a look at their project here.

Adonis Blue butterfly photo Charles Sharp

The Time is Now ~ Rumi Poetry and Stories

May 8th, 2019

Ashley and Ariel performed at a retreat I held last year – it was a truly magical and inspiring evening – if you are a fan of Rumi and are in the area, do go along!