It’s been a very good year for the well-known and much-loved scholar of Pagan, Druid and Wiccan history Professor Ronald Hutton. His wonderful TV series, Professor Hutton’s Curiosities is airing on Yesterday TV, and last week he was elected Fellow of the British Academy. Here is the news from the Bristol University website:
Professor Ronald Hutton of the Department of History has achieved the rare distinction of being elected a Fellow of the British Academy, the national academy for the humanities and social sciences.
The British Academy elected 42 new Fellows at its Annual General Meeting on 18 July 2013. Each of them is a highly distinguished academic, recognised for his or her outstanding research. The Fellows represent the full range of the Academy’s subject areas from early literature to law.
Professor Hutton is a leading authority on the history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is also the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism.
His recent publications include A Brief History of Britain, 1485-1660 and Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain.
Professor Hutton said: “Having been a historian at Bristol for over thirty years, I am delighted by the honour that the Academy has done to my subject, department, school, faculty and university, and being inherently sociable I look forward to pulling my weight as a member of one of our nation’s most valuable scholarly institutions.”
One of the greatest pleasures of the work I do, is being contacted by so many lovely, talented people, who just also happen to be interested in Druidry and are members of OBOD . Tomorrow we’re off to see Dwina Gibb‘s new play in London, The Last Confession, and this morning I’ve been listening to The Handless Maiden’s Daughter, a new album by Ursula Holden Gill. It really is very good – she has a beautiful voice and the songs are evocative. I looked at her website to find out more about her:
Ursula tells stories, sings and dances, facilitates a range of drama and storytelling workshops for children, young people and adults – and tutors in singing, speech and drama as an independent LAMDA practitioner. She also still makes an occasional television appearance.
Ursula is a Master of Arts, holds Qualified Teacher Status, a Licentiate in Speech and Drama Education and an Advanced Certificate in Singing from the Royal School of Music. To date, she has attained three awards for her work. In 2000 she was presented with a Women to Watch Award by Blackburn with Darwen Council for her services to the voluntary sector in the field of Children’s Rights. In 2006 she was presented with the TV Choice Award of Best Actress for her portrayal of Alice Dingle on ITV’s Emmerdale – for which she was further shortlisted for a National Television Award. In 2012 she was voted Best Newcomer at the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence.
Ursula is a member of The Hebden Bridge Hill Millie Morris Side, The LAMDA Teachers Association, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Patrick Hambleton Personal Management, Rossendale Clog Heritage and The Shaggy Dog Storytellers. She is currently collaborating with the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria to generate awareness of their cause, support Children’s Rights and promote regional folk heritage through song and story.
Change is a given; we are all subject to it; none of us are immune to its presence in our lives. No amount of bargaining with the gods will bring about a life without it. Change can be welcome or unwanted but what is certain is that how we deal with it determines a good deal of our ability to be happy. Change challenges us to adapt; it asks that we use our human resources – both physical and psychological – to engage with new ways to be.
It is said that the most stressful life changes are bereavement, birth, separation/divorce and moving house. Over the last couple of years I have encountered all of these with the exception of birth (unless of course you include psychological births, and I think I’ve had one or two of those over this period!). In a week, I will be moving house yet again, the fourth time in less than two years. As is so often the case with me, despite having a lifelong relationship with change, I nevertheless have found myself railing against it. Having to pack up and move back from Scotland to England so soon after my father’s death (and the clearing of his home) felt more than my low reserves could manage. Needs must and although I know that this change will be for the better, I have wrestled with some difficult feelings of resistance.
The loss of my father and the imminent loss of my current dwelling have had me thinking about the notion of ‘home’. The wonderful thing about Druidry is that it helps us to widen our concept of what home actually is. This concept expands from the walls of the building that we live in to include the wider world of community and nature. We root ourselves in the earth and feel ourselves a part of all that is; we nourish ourselves within the protective embrace of our soul family – all those with whom we feel our true emotional and spiritual bonds.
I love this idea but I have to admit that for most of my life, I have struggled with feeling safe in the world. It is not an all-encompassing sense of unease that cripples me daily but it does surface in my vulnerable moments and undermines in an insidious way, like an insect gnawing upon a tap root.
The adult me understands the source of this condition to be rooted in the death of my mother when I was a child. When a parent dies, a child’s fear of abandonment can be very close to the surface. For me, in that one momentous bereavement, all of the nastiest things that my young mind could imagine happening to me became a possibility: the reasoning goes that if something so awful has found me, any dreadful thing can. If this feeling sticks and is not fully processed with the right support, it can leave an emotional residue that can manifest in constantly expecting the rug to be pulled out from beneath us, even when we are at our most happy – in fact, especially then. Each fresh hurt or tragedy in our lives can become layered upon this perceived lack of safety, and over time can build into a pattern of thinking and negative expectation that can be far more damaging in its long-term impact than the original event.
As we grow and live, we have to honestly face these patterns and with a sense of compassion accept them whilst learning to gently unpick ourselves from them; to be a compassionate observer when they surface. I have discovered that the best tactic is to be a reassuring parent to oneself.
That little girl in me – on some level still frightened and grieving the loss of her mother – has been incredibly vocal these last couple of weeks. Soon after dad dying, my partner was forced to travel to England to start his new job, leaving me to pack and prepare for moving into our new home in the coming weeks. Alone and in the thick of such recent bereavement, that little girl’s voice has dominated my responses: all her fears about the future; fears of being utterly alone in the world; fears about the most precious things being taken from her, of being broken by life’s challenges and never being able to mend, have flooded my emotions and left me cut adrift in turbulent waters.
It is an extraordinary thing that the wonderful good fortune of my partner’s new job – which will actually bring a greater abundance and security in our lives – has been met by such an extreme rush of troubling emotions. When learned through early and devastating loss, the hard won knowledge that change will always come can lead us to forget that change can be a blessing, a welcomed shift, and the end of a struggle.
From my bedroom window, level with the tree tops, these last two weeks I have watched the swallows daily as they feed on the wing. Their flight appears so joyfully ecstatic; their impressively acrobatic play a dance of pure abandonment to the moment. Their excited squeals have rung in my ears like a call to life, a reminder that feeling safe is not necessarily always the answer to feeling alive and connected. Perhaps there is a weird kind of ‘safeness’ – or maybe a better word is ‘belonging’ – in that thrilling, swooping ride of uncertainty. The song of the swallow sings of the trusting heart, letting the unknown spaces flood us with new experience, feeling the current of life like a fuel, moving us onwards, no matter where we are, no matter what circumstance confronts us.
My little self and I have been watching the swallows together, and between us, we are beginning to understand that subtle difference between safety and belonging. We belong when we feel ourselves a part of this magical journey of living and breathing- through both the changes that lead us into darker times, or the changes that bless us with renewal. We belong when we share those intimate moments with the people we love; when we engage with the landscapes that move us, with the work that inspires us. We belong by merely being.
There is an art to staying present in the moment because not every moment is pleasant. Some moments bring unbearable pain and it takes courage to remain present in them. But change will always come to our rescue, in one way or another. We get tricked into thinking that because our houses are made of static brick and stone, that home is static too. In truth it moves where we move, and this deep spiritual truth is without doubt one of my key life lessons, resurfacing again and again to make sure that I learn it well.
I will leave you with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author. It is my mantra of the moment:
More theatre! Dwina Gibb’s new play ‘The Last Confession’ is playing in London 22-27 July. We’re looking forward to it!
The So & So Arts Club presents The Last Confession by Dwina Gibb
Mon 22 – Sat 27 July, 7.30pm. Tickets £10/£9 concs
Patrick Lynch is dying. On his death bed he wants to right all his wrongs, make peace with those he has caused upset and go to meet his maker with a clear conscience and a quiet soul.
Then he gets some unexpected news …he isn’t going to die after all. How is he to keep the upset mob at bay in his small rural village? He must go through with his funeral and assume a new identity, of course.
In a riotous new Irish farce Dwina Gibb explores the consequences of finally telling the truth! Info and tickets here.
Stephanie and I saw a new production of the play ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ by Elihu Winer, made famous in 1959 with its film version by Otto Preminger. The play was performed in a court room near Blackfriars in London so you feel completely immersed in the experience. Cast members sit with you and then are called up as witnesses – it’s completely gripping. The production runs till 27 July – you can book online here.
The way the play has been put on offers a fantastic example of the way young people today are being innovative and creative. Matt Jessup, who heads up For Short.Theatre Company explains how this group of actors are working in an exciting way:
For the benefit of readers abroad who may be unfamiliar with the British press, ‘The Daily Mail’ is one of the worst of our daily papers. When the tabloid covered Amanda Palmer’s recent performance at Glastonbury, they didn’t mention anything about the music that she played, and just wrote about a brief moment when her breast “escaped her bra like a thief on the run”. In response the singer wrote and performed a song last week accusing them of debasing women. Very witty and worthy of an entry in A Brief History of Nakedness! Watch via this link here:
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has addressed the United Nations as part of her campaign to ensure free compulsory education for every child. Taliban gunmen shot Malala on her school bus last October following her campaign for girls’ rights. She marked her 16th birthday by delivering the speech on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York. She said:
I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.
Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.