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" The songs of our ancestors

are also the songs of our children "

The Druid Way

The Forgotten Women of the Magdalene Laundries

February 5th, 2013

An article by Rachel Cooper about the tragedy of the women of the Magdelene Laundries.

Justice could be imminent for the women who toiled in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries. Rachel Cooper talks to Maeve O’Rourke, the lawyer who has made sure their voices are heard. They have been described as ‘Ireland’s disappeared’.

Thousands of women are thought to have passed through the gates of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, some of them never to emerge again and others to leave with deep emotional scars.

The women – some of whom had fallen pregnant outside marriage, or were the daughters of unmarried women – worked for years in church-run laundries, at times allegedly enduring both mental and physical abuse.

Campaigners have long been calling for justice for the Magdalene women and this week, it could finally come.
‘The women have waited too long’

The Irish government will tomorrow present a report into the laundries, which supporters hope could be the catalyst for an apology and compensation.

‘The women have waited too long for the apology that they’re due, for their pension, compensation and unpaid wages,’ says Maeve O’Rourke, a 26-year-old lawyer with the Justice for Magdalenes campaign. ‘It’s time that everybody acknowledges that they were innocent victims of a system that included society, state and church. They were sacrificed for the sake of an ideal – and it was only an ideal – of a pure society.’

From the early 1920s, it is estimated that tens of thousands of women worked in the laundries, which were run as businesses while the women were said to go unpaid. Women worked in the laundries sometimes for years. On arrival at the laundry, they were said to have been given a different name by which they would be known. Those who have spoken about their experiences talk of constantly washing laundry in cold water, of using heavy irons for hours, of close friendships being forbidden, and of never feeling free to leave.

Named after the Bible’s redeemed prostitute, Mary Magdalene, the laundries were first used to reform so-called ‘fallen women’. But, they then expanded. Justice for Magdalenes says the laundries took in girls who were considered ‘promiscuous’, those who were unmarried mothers or were considered a burden on their families.

Ireland’s last Magdalene Laundry closed in 1996. Three years earlier, the laundries were brought to light when a convent sold off part of its land and the remains of 155 inmates who had been buried in unmarked graves on the property were exhumed…read more

Joni Mitchell was inspired to write a song about the plight of these women. Take a listen -it’s a very moving lyric.

There is Your Path…

February 4th, 2013


Looking for God is like seeking a path in a field of snow: if there is no path and you are looking for one, walk across it and there is your path. – Thomas Merton

Brighid’s Thaw

January 31st, 2013


Philip is deep in the creative process of writing his next book and has asked if I would help out by contributing a blog piece each week. This both excited and terrified me. Knowing what a tricky, slippery thing inspiration can be, I have fretted about having anything of value to say, finding the words, feeling confident that I have something to contribute.

Then I remembered that here in the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc is finally and thankfully upon us. It is traditionally seen as a festival of inspiration; it certainly feels a relief to be anticipating those first green shoots after a long, cold winter. And yet, the irresistible sense of anticipation felt as the year gradually accelerates can lead to many a false start when we realise that the chill still nips at us; that our energy still curls in upon itself, not yet fully awake to its own imminent renewal.

It is the time of snowdrops, their delicate blossoms deceptively resilient and hardy. They are the tenderness of all new beginnings; the toughness underlying life’s desire to experience itself. I can feel the quickening strongly and yet I also feel my own slowness; my own winter pace, heavy as upon waking from a long sleep. The year breaks us in gently, Brighid’s palms cupped tenderly around the spark that will soon ignite our inner resurgence.

Brighid comes with her warmth and energy and quickens the seeds of our new life; she comes with the life-giving heat of her fire to thaw all that is frozen and trapped within us; she comes with the melting release of her healing waters, cleansing away the staleness of our spirits, the winter debris of our hearts. She is the liberation of the land from winter’s grip; freeing us from our own stagnation. She is the bright spark of life and inspiration that burns in us all; the hearth fire at the centre of our homes and hearts, sustaining and warming – a place to gather and draw inspiration, nourishment and comfort. She is also the fire of passion that animates our creativity that we may create our world anew; that we too may become the spring.

In this spirit, I leave you with a poem for Imbolc and hope that the first tender shoots break through those icy coverings of stagnation, that you surrender your winter stasis to the quickening…

Winter had settled over me,
The frost sealing my eyes, my mouth;
My bones as ice,
Beneath frozen water.
You came
And planted your sun like a seed in me,
Pearl of light,
And my being became the song of snow-melt,
A river-burst of birdsong

At your touch my body is a garden
Of snowdrops;
This tender blooming
The greening of my soul.

Maria Ede-Weaving

Free-Ranging Cats Caused or Contributed to the Extinction of 33 Bird Species

January 31st, 2013


The post below has been one of the most viewed posts on this blog. It arouses anger in many people who love cats, and it is important to state that the report quoted by the BBC below has been critiqued. The BBC article stated that cats ‘have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.’ But the article they were reporting on actually stated: ‘‘Domestic cats (Felis catus) are predators that humans have introduced globally and that have been listed among the 100 worst non-native invasive species in the world. Free-ranging cats on islands have caused or contributed to 33 (14%) of the modern bird, mammal and reptile extinctions recorded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.’
You can find the list here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

To see the other side of the argument, look at:

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds  ‘Are Cats Causing Bird Declines?’
An article by Dr Laurie Huston on this question

To see a site that proposes banning cats in New Zealand to protect its wildlife see CatsToGo

From the BBC:

Cats are one of the top threats to US wildlife, killing billions of animals each year, a study suggests.

The authors estimate they are responsible for the deaths of between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually.

Writing in Nature Communications, the scientists said stray and feral cats were the worst offenders.

However, they added that pet cats also played a role and that owners should do more to reduce their impact.

The authors concluded that more animals are dying at the claws of cats in the United States than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisonings.

The domestic cat’s killer instinct has been well documented on many islands around the world.

Felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to prey on the local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.

Read more

New Druid Camps Being Born

January 30th, 2013

Nineteen years is a full Metonic cycle, which symbolizes wholeness and completion in Druidry. It is now nineteen years since OBOD put on its first camp, and now we are about to go to the last OBOD camp, which will be held at Wildways in Shropshire. We are going to have a celebration of those 19 years of joy, excitement and laughter, and then we will let go of the structure and organization of ‘OBOD Camps’ and allow it to dissolve.

In its place a new organization to run camps will be born – no longer as the sole ‘official’ OBOD camp, but as one of the many groups that now exist around the world that put on camps for members of the Order and their friends.

Here is a photo from the early days which conveys so well the wonderful atmosphere of a Druid camp, which now you can find in New Zealand, the USA, Britain and Europe. And next year a group of OBODies will be holding one in Australia.

It’s as if this Metonic cycle has allowed something to be nurtured that has now been seeded around the world…ThePlay

I am a Guru – You are a Guru – A Review of Kumare

January 29th, 2013

images-1Is deception in the study of human psychology or spirituality ever justifiable? The obvious answer might seem a resounding ‘No!’ But anyone who has studied psychology will know that sometimes to explore a particular function or phenomenon the researchers  are obliged to deceive their subjects. You might think that no good could come of such unethical behaviour, but think of the famous Milgram study in which subjects thought they were giving shocks to other people in a learning experiment, when in reality what was being studied was the ease with which people could be persuaded to comply with authority figures – apparently giving dangerously high electric shocks to other people because they were asked to do so by men in white coats. In reality no electricity was being induced, and the ‘stooges’ writhing about in agony were just acting, but the results from Milgram’s research astonished the world and provided us with a greater appreciation of the way in which we can be manipulated by authority figures, and how dependent we are on the need to conform – at whatever the cost.

In psychological research the subjects’ interests are protected by ethics committees who must first approve the research.

In the following research there was no ethics committee involved, but the deception carried out on certain people was profound. To produce an entertaining film that would expose the way people slavishly follow gurus, a New Jersey film-maker of Indian origin posed as a guru and built up a following, who were filmed interacting with him, to create the movie Kumare.

As a ‘fake guru’ he always insisted that his followers were gurus and developed his own ‘Mirror Philosophy’ to explain this, including a helpful exercise in role reversal which helped the student ‘become the guru’.

It’s a fascinating, provocative idea that has resulted in a film which raises interesting questions. At the end of the film, the guru appears before his ‘disciples’ and reveals his true identity.

Remarkably ten of his fourteen followers remain in contact with him after the ‘unveiling’ of his deception. I wonder whether the hurt, anger, or humiliation the other four might be feeling can be seen as a valuable-in-the-end step in the journey of enlightenment which is also the journey of disillusionment.

You can view the film through i-tunes (find it here). It is certainly worth watching if you are interested in spirituality and psychology, and I’d be interested to know how you feel about it afterwards.  I have mixed feelings: on the one hand it is rather touching and shows how many of us do need spiritual guides who can offer us support, mirroring, attention, and ways to work with our consciousness. And the fact is that the ‘fake guru’ actually had a positive, even profound, influence on most of his followers. And yet I’m left with the question I posed at the beginning: is deception ever justified in someone who acts as a spiritual guide (even if they are just acting!) As Time Out’s Chicago’s reviewer said: ‘the film’s notion that the ruse here was okay because it ultimately helped people seems like a specious rationalization.’ And yet, and yet….

See the trailer here:

You can see the ‘guru’s’ website here.

From Out the Cave

January 29th, 2013

rain drop on a leaf

From Out the Cave

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years
that you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way, when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing
you remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

Joyce Sutphen

Nimue by Will Worthington

January 26th, 2013

Here’s an image of a beautiful new picture by Will Worthington.

Artist:    Will Worthington (b 1946)
Title:      Nimue
Medium:  Egg tempera and watercolour on paper.  Monogrammed and dated 2012 and signed in full on the backboard of the frame.  Price:     £6,000
Nimue, the Enchantress of Merlin, is believed to have beguiled Merlin into revealing all his magical secrets.  She then imprisoned him in a Hawthorn tree, and his face can be seen in the lower right of the tree trunk in this image. Will started working on this large work in 2011.

Have a look at Will’s great new website – you can order prints of images from The Wildwood Tarot and The Camelot Oracle too (and they’re a lot less than £6,000!)

Robin Hood Tax is Coming – Common Sense at Last!

January 24th, 2013

Some really good news and some bad news that is shameful for the British government:

The good news: Robin Hood Tax is being implemented!

This week, the European Union agreed that 11 European countries – including the biggest economies Germany and France – can set up a financial transaction tax to make the banks pay for the financial crisis they created. 23 of the 27 EU states voted for this tax – a huge 87% majority.

The bad news: The UK was the only big economy to abstain – leaving Prime Minister David Cameron more isolated than ever.
To remind you of what this is all about have a look at Bill Nighy explaining it in this memorable clip. Can someone keep playing it to Mr Cameron and his mates please?

The Camelot Oracle

January 24th, 2013

51CxeVyRJML._SL500_AA300_Will Worthington, well-known to many readers as the artist who has illustrated the Druid Animal Oracle, Druid Plant Oracle and DruidCraft Tarot, has produced another magnificent set of illustrations for The Camelot Oracle

This video gives you a great preview of  the cards:

The oracle, developed and written by John Matthews, includes a ‘Map of The Lands Adventurous’. John writes: ‘The universal appeal of the Arthurian tales lies in their primal quality: they deal with every aspect of human life, from the eternal struggle to overcome obstacles to the continuing search for fulfillment. Working with the oracle cards and the Map of The Lands Adventurous you will travel from Camelot with your champion on your quest. Your chosen path leads to a place of significance where your challenger waits to hear your questions. Consulting the guidebook will reveal the answers and the guidance you require.’ Great stuff!