Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.
—from “The Pond” in Felicity
She listened to the earth,
and heard the universe singing.
Or as she might have put it,
“This earth, I mean,
the light on this tidal pool,
this path through the dunes.”
She was always in a place—
a real place, a truthful now,
and she listened,
knowing the songs of the earth
were merely a part—
but our part—
of the Great Song.
She seemed happy
to hear the small voices—
a wren, a snake, a lily—
singing here, now.
And if she were here, now,
she might say, “Listen! And
don’t worry if you can’t sing.”
No, she did not want to just visit
this place we call earth.
And she didn’t.
She sang about it,
and maybe we should be singing too.
A while back I wrote A Brief History of Nakedness. In its first section I explore the topic in religion and spirituality. Most of the historical material on this topic – the theories and practices – were advanced by men. In the second section I explore the political dimension, in which nakedness is used for protest. Interestingly it is now the women who play the pioneering role. From the legendary Lady Godiva protesting about taxes to the ‘Breasts not Bombs’ movement against the Iraq war, through to the Femen movement, it is women who have led the way in using the naked body as a means of drawing attention to important issues.
The latest chapter in this story is occurring right now with Cambridge academic Dr Victoria Bateman appearing naked in public to express her dismay at the lunatic behaviour of the British politicians who seem determined to undermine democracy by ignoring the lies that were told to obtain a ‘Leave’ vote in the Brexit referendum, the Russian attempts to sow confusion, and the fact that it was in reality a minority of the adult population who voted to leave (so much for the sickening refrain: ‘We must obey the will of the people’!) Our friends abroad look upon us in dismay as they watch us wilfully self-harming.
Dr Bateman joins a long line of brave women who dare to use their own bodies to try to make people come to their senes. “Brexit is the emperor’s new clothes… ” she says, “Britain has sold itself a project that cannot possibly deliver on what it promised. Britain faces many, many problems right now from housing to the NHS, and the European Union is not the cause of those problems.” read more.
The usual argument is that such behaviour is exhibitionism. John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme suggested this. Dr Bateman’s reply: “I am completely comfortable with my own body, I view women’s bodies as one of the big battlegrounds that we face today and actually by engaging with society about women’s bodies, one of the things it shows is the way in which people are quick to judge women purely based on their bodies. For thousands of years men have controlled what women can do with their bodies, and women’s bodies have been seen as something purely existing for sex and for babies. So what is wrong with a modern-day woman taking control of her body and using it to give voice to what is the most depressing political subject in Britain right now?” She has invited Jacob Rees-Mogg to debate with her naked, but I doubt he has the balls.
Watch Dr Bateman talk to the BBC through this link.
Don’t you hate braggers? And constant advertising? I do too, but I couldn’t help sharing this post on a facebook page that I run for people who take the Sleep Clinic course I have created. Angelica wrote:
“I wanted to share with everyone the progress I’ve had since I started this course. Truly astounding! These are my year long sleep averages. I knew they’d be better, but wow 😮 Thank you for this course, Philip!”
These images record the shift Angelica experienced from an average of around 4-6 hours sleep before the course, to a nice healthy 7.55 hours after taking it. When I saw this I was so pleased I replied to her and you can see our exchange here:
Now it’s Imbolc in the northern hemisphere, and at this special time we honour the Goddess Brighid, or Saint Brighid, who is known as “the patroness of farm work and cattle, and protector of the household from fire and calamity. To this day, one of her most common names in Gaelic is Muime Chriosd, “Foster-Mother of Christ.” St. Brighid was said to be the daughter of Dubthach, a Druid who brought her from Ireland to be raised on the Isle of Iona, sometimes called The Druid’s Isle… Brighid is known in the Hebrides as the foster mother of Christ, and this clearly shows the mixing of Christian and pagan influence that is so common here. As foster mother she is of course exceptionally honoured, since in Celtic society the foster parents had special place, they ranked higher than the natural parents, the relationship being considered extremely sacred.” (read more in this article here).
In this tea session we explore the connection between this time of year in the northern hemisphere, the quality of hope, and the deeply spiritual nature of fostering, finishing with a meditation to help us nurture this dynamic within ourselves.
The dreams of Imbolc become the harvest of Lughnasadh. Whether you are celebrating the first bright spark of renewed energy and vision, or the gathering of your harvest, may your life be blessed with joy, gratitude and healing.
I’ve just returned from the first gathering together of OBOD members from New Zealand and Australia on the north island of New Zealand. In previous years, each country has had its own separate gathering, but on this occasion 23 members from Australia joined 39 members from NZ, with Stephanie and I from England and our new Chief-to-be Eimear from Ireland. We met over 6 days, and every night the air rang to the sounds of Eisteddfod and laughter. There were workshops and initiations, a Lughnasadh ceremony, and walking a magnificent labyrinth built at the Grove of the Summer Stars. I’m very aware of the need to reduce our carbon footprints, and we are trying to limit foreign trips as much as possible. In previous years I’ve participated by skype, but there are certain gatherings which I feel are important to attend, and in addition we went to visit family in Wellington. Many connections were made in those few days, links were deepened, and the gathering finished with a beautiful ceremony to mark the leadership transition we are going through, which will culminate in Glastonbury in June 2020.
The film above was created by Glenn Conroy. The song “AMAZING” came about as a result of a workshop in which participants explored their Bardic being through story, poetry and song. Random thoughts, words and phrases were written on slips of paper and tossed into the magic hat. What emerged, line for line, and with minimal editing is what you hear.
To get a feel for how it is to celebrate Druidry in New Zealand, have a look at the photos on the beautiful website of The Grove of the Summer Stars. Huge thanks to all who made our stay so wonderful!
When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live. When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness
~ Hermann Hesse
I was saddened to hear about the death of the poet Mary Oliver this week. Her poetry so beautifully explores the connection between the human and natural world, reminding us that there is no separation, that nature is our home in the deepest, most spiritual sense. I read a wonderful quote in the Independent that comes from her book of essays, Long Life. In it, she says of herself,
In my outward appearance and life habits I hardly change — there’s never been a day that my friends haven’t been able to say, and at a distance, ‘There’s Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook’.
But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel.
This speaks so brilliantly of her skill to help us glimpse the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary, both within us and around us; to crack open our dull vision and shine a light upon the magic of this world, enabling us to feel more intimately and powerfully a part of life. The body of work she has left us, is a true gift.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver
Wild Women Retreats have shared here the details of their wonderful Imbolc Gathering this year! There is still time to get your ticket!
Wild Women Spring Gathering – a full day of Imbolc Celebration!
Saturday 2 February 2019 10-4pm at the Assembly Rooms of Glastonbury.
Tickets are £50.
As the Dark time of Winter melts into Spring, we will gather at Brighid’s Hearth for a day of Imbolc Celebration in the Heart of Glastonbury.
Our special guest, Danu Forest, will be joining us this year, bringing with her the essence of ‘Brighid’s Flame’.
Together we will bring Brighid’s gifts to our Gathering, and learn of her wisdom and passion. We will warm our own hearts around her hearth and celebrate together.
To get your ticket email us at email@example.com
When the mists lift from this sacred Isle, we will stand in circle around her Hearth.
Brighid, your flame shines bright in our hearts.
Wielding a hammer at the anvil we feel your strength,
Weaving words in sacred rhyme, we hear your song.
Gathering herbs from our land, we heal our wounds.
Standing in a circle of women, hand in hand, heart to heart we give birth to your gifts.