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" A good traveller has no fixed plans,

and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

That is Home. That is Happiness.

July 11th, 2013
For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. 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 farm boy 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 labour 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 leads 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,  Betrachtungen und Gedichte

DruidCraft Audio Book

July 10th, 2013

61ohGElB5AL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_Last winter we had such a good time recording an audiobook version of DruidCraft: The Magic of Wicca & Druidry.

Damh recently put up a whole chapter of it on a bonus podcast edition of DruidCast – so you can hear how it sounds.

To listen to it, just click here: DRUIDCRAFT SAMPLE ON SOUNDCLOUD

If you enjoy it, and would like the whole audiobook (over 4 hrs of recording) just type in ‘DruidCraft audiobook’ in your search field and you’ll be able to find it – in iTunes, Amazon, and other places…

(Or see here, where you can also find ebook and paperback versions: UK here USA here)

Sighthill Stone Circle Campaign Update

July 9th, 2013


I have posted here previously about the wonderful stone circle in Glasgow city that is currently under threat. It was created by Duncan Lunan; he and his partner Linda have been campaigning to save it from redevelopment due to take place because of the city’s bid for 2018 Youth Olympics. I have just heard from Duncan and Linda that the city’s bid was not successful but that the redevelopment will still go ahead; the hilltop park where the circle is situated will be levelled and remodelled for new housing.

However, there is some possible good news. Here Duncan details the current situation:

Glasgow has not won the bid to host the 2018 Youth Olympics, but it appears that the redevelopment of park Sighthill is going ahead regardless.The planning applications are scheduled to be lodged by the City Council tomorrow and there will be 28 days in which members of the public can record their comments.

However, Linda and I had a meeting this morning with Tom Turley, Assistant Director of Development & Regeneration Services, and Colin Edgar, Head of Communications, also attended by David McGlone who was one of the organisers of the Druid/pagan ritual at the stone circle for the summer solstice. The main points were that funding is now in place for a much bigger redevelopment which will completely change the hill and remove the park, lowering the hilltop so far that the circle can’t survive in its present location or be replaced there afterwards.What is on offer is a new astronomy project to make use of the stones in a new location.

My reply was that if so, rather than just building a new circle with the existing stones, we should look at creating a new structure (still historically authentic) which the stones would be incorporated into.
That’s what I’ve been discussing with various people in the last few days, as a possible fallback position if the circle was to be removed, but it seems to be a serious prospect now.

To publicise the consultation, a folk and acoustic concert is going ahead at the Mitchell Library on Saturday 13th July, from 14:00 hrs to 16:30 hrs,in the Blythswood Room of the Mitchell Library, North Street,Glasgow, with members of the Whistlebinkies, Christie Connor-Vernal, Kenchuto, Ajna Starheart, Stewart Horn and others. The event will be free but there will be a collection for the Save Our Stones campaign. If the weather is good, we may go up to the circle to continue the music afterwards.

To follow that Stuart Braithwaite has organised a pop concert at Platform in Easterhouse on Saturday 27th July, still within the 28 days. Artistes giving their time include Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, Aidan Moffat, Eugene Kelly, Emma Pollock, Remember Remember, RM Hubbert, Adele Bethel (DJ) and special guests The Twilight Sad.Tickets are on sale now at £6 and Platform have kindly agreed to donate profits from the pop concert to the campaign.

It’s a great shame about the park and the circle in its present form, but it’s a lot better than I was expecting, and in the circumstances I think we have to accept it and move on. There are some exciting ideas about what we could build to incorporate the stones, and more ideas would be welcome. As always, more news as it happens! Many thanks to everyone for help and support so far.

Linda has informed me that they are hoping to incorporate the moved circle into a labyrinth.  She also sent me an account of the recent summer Solstice Ritual that was held at the stones:

Duncan gave a talk about the circle and the campaign at the Ogilvie Centre of St. Aloysius Church on Thursday 20th June, after which we went up to the circle to see the sunset, which is in virtually the same place for three days either side of the summer solstice.   At the solstice on Friday 21st there was a second talk at the circle itself, followed by a Druid/pagan ritual with over 70 people.   Both evenings were cloudy but nevertheless the events went well.   Many of the participants were in costume and the circle was decorated with ribbons, lanterns, flowers and offering of food and drink, especially fruit. 

 The solstice ritual began with a procession, summoned by a conch shell and led from the east by a drummer, which came into the stone circle and formed a circle of people around the central stone.   The major participants representing Earth  (north), Sky  (east)  Water  (west), and Fire  (south)  moved sunwise (deosil)  around the group, before placing lit cauldrons and a basket of paper ribbons at the central stone.   Earth and Sky took lit cauldrons to stand guard either side of the entrance way on the east, while Water picked up the ribbons and welcomed the people into the circle, handing each a ribbon with the words, “Enter this circle and celebrate the Summer Solstice with us this night”.   Sky and Earth blessed them as they pass between the cauldron fires and when everyone was within, the circle was cast to cut its interior off from the mundane world.

In the pagan part of the ritual, all were welcomed to the circle to celebrate the Summer solstice, as the longest day of the year and the pinnacle of the Sun God’s reign, when the Goddess (mother Earth) is pregnant with agricultural bounty and livestock waiting for their young.

The four Quarters then called upon their respective symbolic creatures:  the Eagle, symbol of freedom of thought and expression, to bring inspiration and creativity to all in the sacred circle;  the Honey Bee, Symbol of community and hard work, to bring this community together in celebration and in their work to Save our Stones, bringing healing to all present;  the Bull, symbol of the wealth of knowledge and potency of spirit that illuminate the city, was asked for advice and aid to save this sacred place for future generations; and the Wolf, symbol of our primal nature, was asked to bring courage and strength to all within the sacred circle.   Each speaker asked for peace in his or her quarter of the world, ending with the words “Blessed Be”.   Ancestors of Blood, Land and Spirit were invoked, then Mother Earth and Father Sun.

In the Druidic part of the ceremony the five main participants formed a pentagram around the centre stone and led a chant known as the AWEN to raise the vibrational energy within the circle.   This was followed by Herb planting and Blessing for the stone circle, passing around a bead of Hematite and asking each person to focus on Saving the Stones and seeing them flourish for Glasgow.   (Hematite absorbs negativity and is used to procure favourable legal decisions. “Hopefully close enough!” said the organiser.)   With bead placed in a pot bottom and covered with soil, a seed was planted and blessed with water.   The paper wishes  (on environmentally friendly rice paper)  were then distributed, each to be imbued with a visualised personal wish and tied when circle was opened to a nearby hawthorn tree, which has grown on the line of midsummer sunset.

The Four Directions and the circle caster were then called to the centre and a simple feast was held, blessing the food and drink and offering some to the Earth as they were passed around.   Then after thanks to the Goddess and God, thanks to the Ancestors, thanks to the Directions and to the Land, the circle was uncast, participants tied ribbons to the wish Tree, and there was general socialising, ended only by the growing darkness and ferocity of the midges!

If you are in the area and can make the concerts, go along and add your support. Updates can be found on the campaign website here

The Spirit of Tibet

July 8th, 2013

Released today: The Spirit of Tibet – the stunning new album from The Gyuto Monks of Tibet. It was recorded at their monastery in Dharamsala, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where they live in exile with the Dalai Lama. Produced by Youth (who famously produced Dido, The Verve and U2) the album combines the Gyuto Monks’ distinctive chanting and the finest Tibetan musicians and is the perfect album to transport you to another world of tranquillity, peace and calm.

Fracking in Sussex

July 7th, 2013

Stop the poisoning of the entire Sussex water supply

In less than two weeks Cuadrilla, a company involved in the controversial act of fracking, will be granted a licence to dispose of millions of gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from a drill site in Balcombe, somewhere in Sussex. The environment agency has requested concerns be raised by the 16/07/13 otherwise this proposal will be granted.

Fracking has been described by an eminent scientist as the most effective way to poison a population through it’s water supply. Among the risks are:

Millions of gallons of fracking fluid, pumped into the ground, containing over 600 chemicals:
25% of which are linked with cancer and mutations
37% affect hormones
40-50% affect kidneys and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems
75% affect respiratory and gastrointestinal systems and sensory organs

Toxic, radioactive wastewater is stored in open pits and sprayed to evaporate quickly before being trucked away. This process releases lethal radon into the air which carries for miles.
60% of wells leak
Toxic fluids seeping through natural fractures can reach drinking water aquifers in as little as 3 years
30-70% of fracking fluid is not recovered and stays in the ground

Cuadrilla has licence to drill 1,200 of these wells across the Sussex Downs, not to mention the numerous substations and mile upon mile of pipeline. This is nothing short of the wholesale industrialisation of the Sussex countryside along with the irreversible pollution of our drinking water.

Please help stop this from happening by taking 2 minutes to sign this petition to the environment Agency before the closing date of the 16th of July. Every single person makes a difference and with your help we can protect our home for ourselves and future generations from the threat of greedy corporations whose only concerns are increased profits. Thank you.

Ross Nichols on Film

July 4th, 2013

NUINNPYRAMID copyThe Glastonbury Festival is just over, and on the BBC they recently showed Julian Temple’s documentary called simply Glastonbury which draws on extensive archive footage to tell its story.

Towards the start of the programme I suddenly saw a glimpse of my old Druid teacher Nuinn (Ross Nichols) celebrating Beltane on the Tor. I have never seen any moving footage of him, and 38 years after his death to see this was very touching.

I’ve posted it up in the section of our website dedicated to his life, and I’ll post it here too (NB it is literally a glimpse!):

Solstice and the lack of symbolism in Britain

July 3rd, 2013
'The Molecule Men' in Berlin during sun rise 2003

‘The Molecule Men’ in Berlin during sun rise 2003

Tom Shakespeare has written a brilliant piece for the BBC on why celebrating the seasonal festivals makes sense in the 21st century:

The Church’s appropriation of many pagan festivals has left an important gap – the summer solstice. Tom Shakespeare casts an envious eye at the seasonal rituals celebrated in other countries and urges more symbolism in British holidays and traditions.

If in this year of 2013, an interplanetary anthropologist came to England for fieldwork, what would they discover? On a variable Sunday each spring, we give our children more chocolate than is good for them, eat roast lamb and visit garden centres.

On the last day of October, we dress the kids up in old sheets, black bin liners and plastic fangs, and send them down the street to extort sweets from our neighbours. A few days later, we gather around a bonfire, set off rockets and celebrate the execution of a Catholic conspirator. The following month, we get together with our birth families to exchange gifts, to eat too much and to argue.

And that’s about it.

The word “festival” is now reserved for occasions when people who are young, or would like to be, huddle together in a field to listen to music in the rain and shop for ethnic clothing and candles. And get inebriated.

Some 1,500 years ago, our Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ancestors had a much better idea. They celebrated regularly to mark the passage of the seasons that governed the natural world around them and the cycle of the sun, which gave them light and warmth.

Read the Shakespeare article    and on the theme of the solstice listen to the amazing Colloquoy of the Oak and Holly King produced by Damh the Bard and Cerri Lee

King Arthur & Oxford

July 2nd, 2013
The Boy's King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Edited for Boys by Sidney Lanier

The Boy’s King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory’s History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Edited for Boys by Sidney Lanier

From the BBC article:

A medieval tome which popularised the story of King Arthur is thought to have been written in a lost Oxford chapel.
Researchers now believe Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain was penned at St George’s chapel, before it was demolished to make way for Oxford Castle.
Deeds from the time have revealed the Welsh scholar was serving canon there when writing the chronicle in 1136.
Professor Helen Fulton called it an “exciting” find.
Charters and deeds dating from 1129 to 1151 signed by Geoffrey and countersigned by the Archdeacon of Oxford have been analysed by experts.
The chapel was a teaching base for Oxford students, and Geoffrey indicates in the paperwork his profession as a “magister” – meaning teacher.
Prof Fulton, a professor of medieval literature at the University of York and an expert in Arthurian literature, called it a “new piece of the jigsaw in the quest to trace the origins of the Arthurian legends”.
“He would have been based there when he wrote his famous Latin chronicle, Historia Regum Britanniae,” she said.
“It was Geoffrey who introduced the figures of King Arthur and Merlin to a wide medieval readership and paved the way for the enormous popularity of the Arthurian legends in later centuries, right up to modern times.”

Read full story