druid

Solstice is…

December, 2018

Solstice is…

 

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

 

Holly sharp sting,

Red blood like

Berries, red, white

Mistletoe hang

Deadly dart and Baldur’s curse

Druids’ king seeking potion

Now a kissing spot

Love instead

Shown through gifts

Wrapped mysteries

Ribbons hiding

Hearts’ desires

Wrap the day in a bow

But presents wait

Wait for me:

 

The mother and priestess

Down in the woods

At the sacred crossroads

Of birch and oak

The mysteries of Male and Female

And everything in between

And beyond.

 

Here I find the altar

That no one knows of

But I

I lay the offerings

Salt

Offal

Nothing to scar or litter

Nothing to damage or drain

Leaving only footprints

For even I

Am not permitted to remain.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Gael Song

October, 2018

The Body of the Goddess, Earth

In most druid writings, there are lots and lots of descriptions about relating to nature, how wonderfully peaceful it is, how deeply restorative. It’s one of the most fundamental, if not THE fundamental, teachings of Celtic paganism. But I don’t think I’ve ever read what I personally feel is the reason for the tapestry of wonders and extraordinary powers of nature, which is that earth is the Body of the Goddess! In the seven heavens my druid guides taught me, which make up the planes of light of the inner realms, the first heaven is earth, and it is ruled by the Goddess. She teaches us wisdom because, once upon a time, wisdom grew stale and flat. Folks forgot the laws of love and bad things began to occur all across the universe (I hear the theme from Star Wars as I write this sentence). So, humanity volunteered to come down into realms of illusion and non-love to learn the laws of love all over again through life’s hard experiences. Wisdom is a living thing, it can only be renewed by reliving it into existence, and our hard, hard task is brightening the light of wisdom throughout the cosmos. This is humanity’s main purpose, and our overlighting teacher and mistress in this process is the White Tara, the Goddess. (The seventh heaven is the Diamond Core, and it is ruled by the God, just in case anyone was wondering what He might be doing.) I always see the ivory White Tara star when I look deep into the earth with my inner vision, Her Shamballa center of light, which orchestrates all that occurs here, our wisdom lessons particularly and the forward momentum of love across the globe. This is Her world.

So, when we are out in nature, looking at the misty ocean or appreciating the loveliness of a fuchsia sunset, perhaps, it is the Goddess Who meets us in the ethers, always. Why do we feel so held and peaceful in the forest or near bodies of water especially? Because we’re being embraced there by Her restful, patient, mothering intimacy that knows all will turn out just fine in the end. Or sometimes, it’s Her longing just to hold us close in our pain, when life becomes too harsh to even contemplate happy endings. By Her silence that is as gentle as the hush of night. I believe gravity also belongs to the Goddess, Her holding force that wants to keep us as close as possible, to feel Her endless love and tenderness for each one of us, to support us from below in utter physical security and steadfastness. Stones, too, so very important to druids as well, are Tara’s bones. It is Her essence we meet underground in those ancient chambers, dolmens, and caves the wise ones of the old ways used for ceremony and initiations.

The quality that I’ve always admired most about the Goddess is how She manages to keep adoring every one of Her children, even when they have strayed deeply into darkness. This means murderers, corporate executives who are impoverishing thousands with their personal greed, rapists, and on and on. Anyone can be comforted in Her embrace, anyone at all. All nature is infused with Her energy, Her enduring patient love that waits centuries, if that’s what it takes, for us to turn and seek to touch Her face, to begin walking the path back Home. In fact, I think we are completely lost without Her, and I worry about all the people I meet who will not even consider that She exists. This is one of my primary reasons for being pagan to the core! And it is this single belief in Her that has caused me the most grief from others over the years. Keep believing in Her, please! Keep the ancient ways sacred and open to those who turn back to Her when they are ready to remember. For She will be the saving of the earth!

Not only that, but it is Her Body that sustains the horrific wounds of war, fracking, pollution, a climate out of control. This is Mother love with a capital L! She endures practically anything to see that we accomplish our task, to remain nearby, to lead and hold us as we blunder along down here. It is time to remember, to return Her divine enduring love with real CARE, gentleness, responsibility for what we each do to Her. I saw a film once in which a man in Austria planted trees and vegetables in a veritable wasteland of dirt and sand. And in seven years or so, his farm looked like paradise, luscious fruit hanging from every tree, many-hued flowers spilling over each other in all directions, peace, fertility, a world full of Her beauty and fecundity once more.

All of these qualities of Her love infuse natural spaces, especially Her restful nature that we need so much in this hurried world. So, take a moment to sit beside a tree or river today and feel Her, will you? Remember Who is truly there! She is SACRED, far more than we know. And let’s take care of Her now, picking up that trash we walk over every day, not poisoning our grass and plants and air any more, instead, nurturing and blessing Her for Mothering that’s as deep as the ocean, as wide as the sky, older than the mountains, and as tender as the petals of roses.

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to arthurian Fulfillment (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornAlba Reborn, Book One, RevisedAlba Reborn, Book Two, and Alba Reborn, Book Three.

Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to hurian Fulfillment

Gael Song

August, 2018

Lughnasa


Lughnasa is my very favorite spirit time of year. The solstice/equinox and cross-quarter days mark the cosmic openings of the eight basic aspects of spirit in all things, shifts that are quite powerful. If you are into feeling energy or spirit, these can easily be felt. The masculine openings occur at sunrise, the feminine at sunset on the eve of each holy day. Early in each year, at Imbolc, this spirit opening feels like a baby, a little Girl. Then comes the Boy of the Vernal Equinox, the Virgin Girl and Boy of Bealtaine and Midsummer, the mother and father of Lughnasa and the Autumnal Equinox, the Grandmother at Samhein, until finally, the Grandfather opens on Midwinter. And all these cosmic aspects of spirit are quite different, with very varied directives in life, plus they open the six-week phase of growth for that inner aspect of the self until the next solstice/equinox portal for everyone. All of us, men and women alike, the cosmos and the earth, too, have these eight parts of our spirits, for this sacred structure interfaces all things. We are not so different after all.

So, on the evening before Aug. 5th, the cosmic Mother spirit opens; within each person, across the globe, and in all the planes of existence. And it is a dramatic change from the world server, strong-willed, action oriented Virgin Male of the preceding six weeks. Everything suddenly slows down. There is a nurturing, comforting presence billowing through the wind and clouds. I often feel the impulse to lie down and rest on the earth’s body, a mother herself. This is Lughnasa. Divine Mother can be particularly felt in the first fruits of the harvest. For this holy day also marks the opening of the action ethers within, which means manifestation into the physical, the specialty of the harvest father, Lugh, for whom even this feminine festival is named. This cosmic mother loves to nourish all her children with foods that delight, manifesting the tastiest blueberries or corn or cucumbers from her soil. The fruits of all the inner work of the previous nine moons of walking one’s path begin to appear at this time as well (the Apple moon is the tenth of the druid year), not just the outer harvest of grains and fruits, for the cosmic Mother wants to manifest all our dreams as well! (Though I have the distinct feeling that foods and recipes that simply cannot be resisted might be her personal favorite.) In my meditations into past lives as a Celt in Scotland over 2,000 years ago, I recalled large tribal celebrations at Lughnasa in honor of the earth mother, with extravagant expressions of gratitude for all the natural resources the earth mother had provided over the passing year, each tribe trying to outdo the others. I saw all priestesses who were mothers circled inside the groves in my visions, too, priestesses in divination meditations, calling out anything they saw that might lay ahead for the tribes, blessings and challenges both. And there were always swans on the lochs, too, the mother totem.

But more than this, Lughnasa falls during the Apple Moon, moon of the Goddess, the White Tara, July 27th-Aug. 19th. And when I do my own Lughnasa ceremony at my altar, calling in my druid guides to facilitate the opening of the mother part of my spirit, I always feel the gentle Presence of the White Tara come in around me as well. “Let Me come very close”,” She says, “I miss you so much, child of My Heart!” And I can sense spirit arms around my shoulders or a gentle head laid, very lightly, on my own with that strong eternal Mother Love pouring into me. And I remember the same thing happening in those ancient lifetimes, too, a personal encounter with the Goddess around the time of Lughnasa in those great tribal crowds, a sweet message of mother love to each and every person there. For myself, I need a space of silence for this intimate interface, not the loud, talking on and on, ceremonies that many prefer. And it’s when I fall asleep later that evening when I often feel Her most closely, spirit fingertips brushing across my temples. Oh, She can become very insistent about learning distressing wisdom lesson of the mother aspect at times across the next six weeks, I’ll grant you that, but not on this one holy day. It brings mother comfort and sweet abiding love, stronger in ways than any other. And then on Aug. 8th, three days past Lughnasa, there is always another personal Goddess message, but this time not a visitation, no, a physical gift of some sort that signifies what else will soon be manifesting during the harvest season. Lughnasa, mother comfort, peace, sweet rest, delicious things to eat, and the hint of fulfillment soon to come. No wonder I love it more than all the rest!

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to arthurian Fulfillment (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornAlba Reborn, Book One, RevisedAlba Reborn, Book Two, and Alba Reborn, Book Three.

Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to hurian Fulfillment

Gael Song

June, 2018

Tree Magic

I wrote about the druid moons and the trees of the druid year in my third article quite a while ago, but this time, I just want to tell the story of my love affair with trees and how powerful they truly are. As I playfully experimented with reading the energy of life forms around me over twenty years ago, I gradually came to understand that all trees have a very specific energy, each tree family with a definite focus of help or healing. For instance, heart shaped leaves indicate that tree helps heal issues of emotion, the heart. Palmate leaves, like maples, help to heal issues of action. Leaves with a single straight vein up the middle, like Oaks, help the spine. And the parallel, fountain-like veins of Gingko leaves mean it will open up the root flow of the Goddess. My druid inner guides taught me that trees soak up the watery lessons of the Goddess every season, which flow up from the inner earth into the water tables of the planet. Then each tree breathes these out, specific truths, to all passers by. And I realized over many years, too, that the trees in my own back yard had been chosen very carefully by the universe. Sometimes I wondered if I was led to buy or rent certain homes for the trees in the garden! When you step into a forested space, the world becomes instantly peaceful, calming to the soul, and so very beautiful. And I always feel sheltered from the storms of life during my time there, as if trees hold the peace of heaven in their embrace.

But more than anything else, trees have been my solace along the difficult phases of my spiritual path. When I was in the midst of scary financial times (paying for my three daughter’s college educations over ten years) twenty years ago, a big old oak grew up against the balcony of my second story bedroom. And on evenings after particularly challenging days then, I’d sit beside the trunk of that strongest of trees and feel the love of Oghama (the name I use for the high God) flood down around me, His great warmth giving me support, plumping me up from the inside and instantly calming my anxieties. There was a circle of aspens in the woods nearby then, too, and because they are the tree that helps us get beyond our final hurdles into some new expansion of spirit, I’d sometimes go and stand within their circle. And always, I felt a grove of aspen elders awaken within those trunks, enfold me as their leaves sang so joyfully in the wind, and remove whole sheaths of darkness from my being. As magical as can be! But my favorite tree during those years was a young birch I discovered in the meadow on my woodsy wandering one day. It called to me, and I felt a surge of love surround me as I moved through scratchy underbrush to get close to it. This was just after the last of my daughters left home, and I’d closed my therapy practice to begin writing books, instead. But I was often lonely, getting used to solitude, and missed my family. And this little birch became such a friend to me! I went out to see it and share a hug nearly every day, and our spirits grew closer than close over the passing moons. One afternoon towards the end of my time in that home, I heard that birch spirit say quite clearly into my mind that in the spirit world, love is for always, that he would be my friend forever, that he’d send me love even after I moved away (a thousand-mile move!). And this touched me so very deeply, that sweet offering in the midst of my sorrows. I think of him still and send blessings on the wind, even now, fourteen years later. In the tiny cottage I live in now, I have a Rose of Sharon tree, the only one small enough to fit in my little yard. Rose of Sharon is the tree of the virgin goddess, Sìth, and she is regent of peace on earth. And it has been quite peaceful here beside the sea during the four years I’ve lived in this spot. There is whole language of trees most of us are completely unaware of! Take a moment then, will you? As you’re walking, feel the trees you pass by, notice the one that is calling you to come closer, and DO that. Open your heart. LISTEN. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.

I feel our tree friends waiting, always, in silent patience to be acknowledged, to connect with us, to speak into our minds and give wisdom or solace, especially during our tough times, to be our once and forever friends again. There is a longing in nature to hold us, guide us, and lead us all Home. Trees are living spirits whose consciousness is simple but profound, connected to angels, gods, goddesses, and guides in the Otherworld in every moment. They are FULL of gentle love, ancient wisdom, knowings that can assist and guide us all. Take their hands along the leaf strewn pathway of your life and let them befriend you.

But perhaps the most startling and life-changing tree moment of my life was when I first began to meditate about twenty-three years ago. I was working as a therapist then, in a marriage that was disappointing in the extreme, raising three girls largely by myself, and taking care of a big old house ever in need of repair. It took great effort to simply find ten minutes a day for my own thoughts! One extra busy morning, I was troubled by something or other and I decided to go outside for a bit of peace and quiet. And I sat under a large white pine beside that house and bent my head beneath it. And in one moment, I felt those branches above me turn into green feathers, the needles softening and wafting gently in the breeze. I could feel them brush my shoulders and greatly ease the burdens of the coming day. They are angels, I thought that morning in great surprise! Trees are angels in disguise! But it was the primordial LOVE that reached into my being in that soft moment which truly changed me, my sudden awareness of the immense and tender power of nature to nurture, hold, and guide, which shifted the very bedrock of my being. The white pine outside my bedroom window in that home was utterly ADORED from then on in return! And the tree sylphs I’d once recognized in childhood, and sadly forgotten in my growing years, opened instantly into my heart and mind again, the whole magical world of spirit ready to embrace me wherever I might need a bit of cheer. I bend the knee of my heart to the tree kingdom, always, a heart full of gratitude and the commitment to care for them tenderly wherever I find them.

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to arthurian Fulfillment (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornAlba Reborn, Book One, RevisedAlba Reborn, Book Two, and Alba Reborn, Book Three.

 

Bad Witch Book Review – Pagan Portals: The Hedge Druid’s Craft by Joanna Van Der Hoeven

June, 2018

Bad Witch Book Review
Pagan Portals: The Hedge Druid’s Craft by Joanna Van Der Hoeven

 


The Hedge: Intersectional Magick

 

What happens when a witch, a faery worker and druid blend these paths into one? Oddly this has been a question for me and my path for a while. Apparently according to this author her answer was the hedge, the edge of all three spaces. Liminality and the places between are where magick is created, where things are born and die. Finding the place where things meet, end and over-lap is always interesting.


This solution of sorts was pleasing to me, if missing something, though I could not say what.


I found once I got into the book proper (the pre-able was long and full of adverts/teasers for other books) I liked the open and easy tone of this authors work. Her voice was calm and I found her voice firm but unfussy.


I definitely was aware of a quiet (faery) knowing in her work, though her facts and explanations were simple enough to follow I feel like I might have to re-read this book several times more.


That in and of itself might tell you that I enjoyed this book.


There wasn’t a great deal that was “new” to me, but…the tantalizing idea that there might be someone else like me or similar was both comforting and unsettling. She speaks of the ease of blending these paths, which might be true for her, but for me has been quite challenging.


Our experiences were not the same of course but her methods and work ethic certainly mesh with mine a lot. Do the work, say the words, write what happened down. She says it much more politely than I usually do, maybe because I’ve had such interesting students…I digress.


She introduces and explains each part of her path openly, interestingly and well. She doesn’t go into flowery imaginings and her research is excellent.


Faery working is not easy and she doesn’t fall into the common mistakes of over or under estimating the “good neighbours”. She is circumspect (as one must be) and yet through in speaking about them. She speaks about her experiences with them and despite years of experience how unsettling a close encounter can actually be! There is no sugar coating how difficult walking the path (or riding the hedge) can be. She speaks of how lonely it can be to see the world from the edge instead of the middle. Valuable truths and comforting in equal measure.


There is a brief but more than competent over view of the wheel of the year and then she moves into the rites of Hedge Druid’s Craft.


The journey-workings are safe (as they can be) and rather beautiful. There is a power in sincerity and I swear I thought I had written


“By the power of three times three
As I will it, so may it be.”


Which the author uses throughout. It is spooky almost how similar my personal rites are to her work. As though the blackbird in my garden has been whispering in her ear! It is probably as simply as that this is what the faery have been whispering to each of us!


Her post rite grounding is also great.


Ancestors and its work with druid work has been a sticking point for me. My immediate family being something of a trash fire and much but my Irish line being an utter mystery makes this a real sore point for me, especially since my parents passing. Yet her advice is sound.


To speak of Gods then. I am like the author, reverent but not a natural kneeler. Her words are empowering and wise.


In all honesty I like this book a lot and it makes me feel uncomfortable in roughly equal measure.


I like it because it is extraordinarily like my path. It is full of wisdom and knowing, grace and simplicity. I think this is also why it makes me uncomfortable. It is like someone read my poetry or watched me while at my most private work. It feels like I have been “seen”.


Instead I might say, Joanna I hope to see you in The Dreaming.

 

Pagan Portals – The Hedge Druid’s Craft: An Introduction to Walking Between the Worlds of Wicca, Witchcraft and Druidry

Gael Song

May, 2018

The Wild Rose of Druidry

The Celtic path is unlike any other, unique in ways that mean so very much to me. The first blossom of this path is that it imposes absolutely no restrictions, except that one should not harm another (which seems like quite a sensible restriction to me!) In the Celtic pagan tradition, all paths are good, and everyone has total freedom to be, to wander into darkness and shadows, if one wishes, then out again into light. I searched for many years for a spirit tradition that would allow me the freedom I longed for, going through Congregational, Presbyterian, and Quaker phases over the past thirty years, dabbling in Buddhism and Sufism for brief periods along the way as well. But the formal Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim religions impose definite dogmas and expectations on their adherents, worshiping in very specific ways, often holding up their own paths as (far!) better than the rest (this one turned me off every time!). Even Quakers, who are accepting of all religions and impose no dogma whatsoever, have subtle restrictions, such as being quiet, no singing during meeting, wearing clothing that isn’t loud. I love the gentle acceptance, honesty, and social activism of the Quaker tradition, but there are mornings I don’t feel a bit drab or quiet! And God/Goddess are neither of these, ever! I want the freedom to sing in ceremony, to dance and laugh, to wear fairy wings if I feel like it! Ha. That would turn Quaker meeting upside down! (Now that I’ve thought of it, I think I’ll just have to try this to see what happens!) The freedom call of druidry draws my heart so strongly, like the wind across the moors in the Oak moon (June) or the hint of fairy flutes in the wood at dusk. Why can’t I be anything I feel like, as long as it harms no one at all? No other path I’ve ever seen holds out this wild rose promise to be whatever one likes.

And second, comes the complete druid acceptance of whatever folks may be going through in life. In the Christian tradition I’m most familiar with and still love in many ways, there were definite restraints on the expression of anger or sexuality especially, specific qualities that were held up as better than the rest (oh, not that again!),not to mention their utter horror of my pagan leanings! But I have wonderful friends who can be a bit volatile, who want to howl or drum half the night in their pain, who clam up, perhaps, or talk non-stop when they are stressed. I want to love them all, especially in their difficulties! I just can’t stand imposing goody-goody nonsense on them. And the druid tradition does not. It brings patient understanding that says challenges must be faced and walked through, the wisdom of knowing all is ordered from above for good reasons that will someday flower into the deep embodiment of truth that is far more precious and permanent for having been earned through hard experience. During my long years as a therapist, I watched clients turn early traumas into career choices time and time again, with hearts that held far more passion and determination for turning things around in the world as a result of those early difficulties in life. There is a reason for the darkness that comes into every life. Every druid knows this. I confess I can be a bit judgmental underneath of folks who seem loud and rough, but the druid path has taught me not to do that, or far less than before. The standard of accepting everyone onto the path just as they are is druid, held high, and I will follow it with my whole heart, inspired by the breadth of love it carries.

The third blossom of druidry is being deeply grounded in the earth, loving the sensual gorgeousness of this world; the upside down mirror in each raindrop, the softness of birch bark in the rain, the sweep of clouds twirling across the sky at dawn. At light healing school, we were often in the clouds ourselves, meditating and drifting for whole days at a time. And those hints of heaven are intoxicating and bring through shifts we probably couldn’t manage any other way. But some folks thought that passing over to the Otherworld would be just lovely, too, and focused on this end-of-life passage a lot of the time. Others forgot to look down again at the end of the day. Oh, goodness! Give me druids every time! I want to run my fingers across rose petals for a whole lot of years to come, make eye contact with real people, wriggle my toes in the mud! Earth is fantastic! Sensuality is phenomenal! And bringing all those dreamy changes into real work in the world is best part of all!!! This is what I love most, putting what I’ve learned into real effect in my life. I just adore that. It’s my coffee in life, truly. Other traditions are action oriented, too, of course, but none that I’ve tried have the earth-loving, sensual, vitality of druidry.

And this leads to the sweetest, most fragrant blossom of all, sexuality. (Not that there aren’t distortions mixed in here, there are.) Every formal religion I’ve been involved with has imposed fairly rigid restrictions on sexuality in life, Sufism and Christian particularly. And while druidry does have that standard of not harming anyone, which carries some responsibility with it, no dogmatic rules are imposed on this aspect of life, either. Everyone is left to choose and learn and explore as they wish. I was raised by a wonderful Bostonian/Scottish mother, but she had unfortunate puritanical underpinnings. If I went outside skyclad as a young child, this would cause an utter uproar in the household. Thank goodness druids are not this way! Thank GOODNESS a hundred times over! I was so relieved and happy to find a tradition without a straight jacket in this regard! And then, sexuality itself is so exquisite. There are no adequate words at all here, it’s beyond them all. I think this acceptance of sexuality is the greatest gift of the druid tradition really, the shining starry pentacle. For I believe that God and Goddess intimately overlight all sexual joinings, that They move into each partner and send Their intense loving passion for each of us, very personally, into our skin and eyes and hearts in just this way. It’s how we can unite with God and Goddess in the most intense form on earth, the most sacred act there is. This is what I feel, anyway. So, all those religious/societal severe restrictions on personal sexual expression keep God/Goddess at bay in a very real way. Besides being sacrilege, those restrictions are all control energy, pure and simple. So again, thank Goddess for druidry! For it allowed me to break out of the heavy gridwork those puritan leftovers built around my very affectionate soul! So there!

And lastly, I just want to add that all these special qualities of druidry are identical to the qualities I have felt in the Goddess, the White Tara, Who has led and assisted me over all these thirty pagan years of my life. She has embraced me in my deepest darkness and does so with everyone (a breadth of love I WISH I could embody.) She rules the path of experience, teaching us all through life’s hard lessons and bringing forth the fruit of these later on. These are Her very children, these highest destinies in us all. And the Goddess is as sensual as roses, the tongue of the wind on the skin of the sea, ocean breakers gently caressing the shore. She IS the earth! It is Her very Body! And then, lastly, sexuality is Her middle name! For She is the inner teacher of intimacy, love-making, lifelong partnership in real love. And druidry is Her religion on earth. Of course, it holds up Her standards of love to the world! Thank Goddess for druidry!!!

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to hurian Fulfillment (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornVolume One Revised, and Volumes Two and Three.

Click on Images for Amazon Information

Gael Song

March, 2018

Unearth Your Own Ancient Goddess

As I walked my solitary path, the Goddess led me carefully, slowly, tenderly. First, I made a long journey around Scotland, my motherland. And as my family and I went sunwise round the coast, visiting stone circles and souterrains, and barrows all along the route, I could feel buried memories and slumbering parts of myself awakening. Sitting in a dolmen in the Celtic ruins on the western coast, the wind hushed in the cave-like interior, I saw a circle of women in the ethers threshing grains onto a hide beneath, chanting in an ancient tongue. And I knew I’d been one of them, long, long ago in that very place. I could feel a stream of light in my left leg opening during that journey, brightening and strengthening, only later realizing it was the Goddess flow up my left leg into my inner feminine. And over all the intervening years, I’ve noticed that stream is always brighter whenever I stand on Scottish soil, dimming as soon as I get on the plane to return to the US. My heart always dims a bit, too. But that first trip was only the beginning.

Next, the Goddess led me to a Celtic shaman, who taught me to speak with rocks, rivers, turtles, and shells. Well, no, he taught me to listen to them. His drumming brought clear visions into my mind in moments, images of stone circles in the Orkneys, myself a druid, a male lifetime of ancient days. It was my heart that unfolded into brightness that time, as I felt an inner devotion to the earth from those long-forgotten days that drew me Home to silence with a quiet intensity, surprising in its strength. So, I began to take time away from my therapy practice and the mountainous needs of my clients, as well as moments of quiet under the trees of our yard, away from the busy-ness and noise of my daughters, though they were much beloved. I didn’t realize it was the Goddess in the stillness, either, not then. But I felt how starving I was for rest, small sheltered moments when I wasn’t taking care of anyone else. And I knew some Otherworldly Presence was holding me during those quiet times, too, filling me with gentle comfort and silent pregnant power, as I slowly learned to recognize the Goddess, the White Tara, by Her energy signature. She especially touched my feminine within and my inner child, parts of myself my family and clients rarely noticed, for they were too busy needing me, instead.

But it was energy school that brought Her fireworks to life, an angel coming into the ethers four days into the very first session, who hovered before me, his outline so bright, I could barely discern his features, his light wafting down over me like illumined mist. When I asked who he was, he said his name was Metatron. And I told him I’d never heard that name, for he wasn’t in the Bible, the only place I’d read any angel names before. He only replied that, no, he wasn’t in books, for he preferred to be experienced, not read about. And I saw nine symbols in the ethers on my chest being rapidly changed, symbols I’d never seen before, either, ones that looked like those squiggly astrology figures, with the sound of tapping in the background, as if an old typewriter was being used. And from that moment on, every time someone came up to me, I’d have a rolodex of photos go through my mind, spinning rapidly forward, all the past lives I’d shared with that individual. I found myself hugging total strangers at energy school, saying things like, “Oh, you were my scribe in Egypt! I’m so happy to see you again after all these years!,” as if 3,000 years ago was last year! It took a while to get my head wrapped around that past life influx, about six weeks. But by then, I’d settled into healing work with more past life memories arising in those visions. The Goddess pulls white-winged surprises out of Her bag sometimes!

It wasn’t always easy, though. There was pain, ongoing not-so-fun surprises, too, when She opened some old fear for healing in my life, again. But I got used to that as well. And it empowered me greatly, my feminine especially, as She knew it would, as I gradually understood that those fears weren’t even real, that I could transmute them during my next meditation, simply and easily, and they would then disappear from my life, poof! This was profound, this realization that my own inner beliefs were creating my one little world on the outside, and that I could change it all, just by melting ancient fears away. It was like gathering a bouquet of wildflowers, this process, too, for behind every fear was some truth, some strength or skill I’d left behind, beside the threshed ancient grains or those terribly patriarchal pyramids, perhaps. How astonished I was, for instance, when I picked up my little harp for the first time, to feel I had played it long before in Greece. And over months and years, I could feel the inner grip of fear begin to loosen, too, deep within, places that had weighed me down all my life, as the gifts of many lives were woven into the fibers of my being.

Then Tara drew me into ceremony. Ah, this opened wide joyful portals to angels, the fae, Tibetan masters, ancestors from my star tuath, so many who came to help. Whole sheaths of fear were washed off in seconds as a workshop participant knelt before the Celtic high cross in the middle of my flower essence garden or stepped into the river below my home! What a magical experience that was! If you are ever drawn to attend or create ceremonies, DO it! Just be very careful who you call in from above to assist you, for it’s an extremely powerful process. And then, too, I saw how some of the deepest exchanges between participants at workshops, the biggest heart openings of all, occurred as folks chatted over lunch when they were the most relaxed. I just watched from behind the kitchen counter sometimes as inner heart roses or lotuses opened and brightened, breathing gently, while people munched on carrot sticks and never noticed. Shifts come in simple, unnoticed ways as well.


But what I want to say most of all, the whole point of this article, is how those ancient memories of goddess times, before the shift to patriarchy 3,000 years ago, unearthed my inner matriarch, my inner wise woman, my inner goddess, mine and everyone I worked with. For those ancient pagan times especially were when women were relied on, respected for their generative powers, looked up to, in fact. It was a matriarchal consciousness then. I was speaking with a friend about this recently, and she commented how she had no idea what the ancient life of her motherland was like. And I felt a momentary sadness, thinking, oh, sweetie, but then your inner feminine powers must still be buried, all your talents from those days! And the knowing washed through me then how carefully the Goddess has been growing all of me into blossoming, all of everyone who dips into the long ago. How very blessed I felt in that small moment, how full inside! So, if you feel moved to dip your toes into light healing or past lives or even reading ancient history, especially of your own motherland, any of the places you may have left pieces of your souls behind, oh, DO it, love! Gather your own lilies and roses and Queen Anne’s lace of ancient times into the shining bouquet of love you truly are.

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She is hoping to found an intentional community in southern Scotland in the near future. For information, please see www.thehomestarcommunity.org

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornVolume One Revised, and Volumes Two and Three.

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Book Review: Tree Medicine, Tree Magic by Ellen Evert Hopman

January, 2018

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic”

by Ellen Evert Hopman

Published by Pendraig Publishing Inc.

Published: 2017

Pages: 245

This second edition is updated and revised from the original published in 1992 by Ellen Evert Hopman, a master herbalist, lay homeopath and founding member of The Order of the White Oak. She is currently archdruid of the Tribe of the Oak, a teaching grove for Druids. She holds an M.Ed. in mental health counseling.

For each of the 19 trees, she includes an illustration; describes their physical characteristics; gives their practical, herbal and magical uses; and provides Druid insights and recipes. Information for each tree takes up about 10 pages; quotes and poems about trees are sprinkled throughout.

Some of the common trees of North America and Europe that get a chapter in the book are ash, apple, birch, elm, holly, maple, oak, pine, poplar and willow.

Hopman treats each sacred tree reverently, sharing its powerful magic and how its legends are woven into various cultures. The traditions she shares are those of “our ancestors, the celebrants of the trees.”

 

 

At the beginning of the book, she explains the many forms which use flowers, leaves, bark, roots and seeds to treat conditions. She tells you what parts of the tree to use, and how to collect and use them. The back of the book contains such useful information as the Celtic tree alphabet and a tree meditation, along with indexes of herbal uses, magical uses, practical uses and illustrations.

Tree Medicine, Tree Magic” is a useful guidebook to work with trees on multiple levels.

 

Susun Weed, author of the Wise Woman Series, praised it, saying, “Trees are the Ancient Ones. They hold a vast wisdom that can heal all ills of body, mind, and spirit. Open this book and open a door to the details of that wisdom, brought to you by one of my favorite herbal authors, Ellen Evert Hopman. Ellen is actually a tree, ‘disguised’ as a person, so she speaks to us directly from the heart of the Ancient Mysteries. There is something for everyone here, whether you seek food for your psyche or physic for your woes.”

 

 

As I read about tree after tree and learned about the old ways, I was inspired to make more connections with them. I harvested white pine needles to make tea; I became aware that a branch of apple with both flowers and fruits is an indication the otherworld is paying a visit, and will now be on the lookout; and I now know to thank maple trees for being among those most tolerant of people.

I cross-referenced it with the Celtic tree moons – nine of the thirteen are in the book – and will be drawing information from the book when planning rituals.

 

For Amazon Information Click Image

 

Hopman’s other 10 non-fiction books include “A Druid’s for the Sacred Earth Year,” “Walking the World in Wonder: A Children’s ,” “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore” and “The Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen: A Practical Guide.” She also wrote three novels including “The Druid Isle” and “Priestess of the Fire Temple: A Druid’s Tale.”

Visit Ellen Evert Hopman online at www.elleneverthopman.com.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Gael Song

September, 2017

Goddess Leading

     Raised in a Christian household, as an adult I was actively involved in my church, following in my mother’s footsteps. But then, six months after she died, I did a simple ceremony to release her and felt a powerful feminine Presence materialize in the ethers beside me. “I will be your Mother now,” that Presence said. Only much later did I realize it was the Goddess, She Who was never ever mentioned in my world. And suddenly, all I wanted to do in my leisure time was search out esoteric books on Celtic lore and times, a hunger within propelling me that I didn’t understand. During the summer before my oldest daughter left for college, we took a trip around the coast of Scotland (sunwise, not that I thought about that then.) And we stopped at every stone circle, souterrain, and barrow along the way, tramping through farmers fields and up unnamed hillocks (until my girls simply refused to get out of the car to look at any more!). My heart was literally starved for connection with my motherland and the divine feminine that poured into my feet and legs as I walked that soil. But after twelve years of voracious reading and searching, I remained restlessly unsatisfied. The Celts hadn’t written anything down, and many of the texts that tried to fill those spaces were confusing or filled with gaping holes or obvious distortions. I kept sensing ancient truths and mysteries, just beyond my reach.

     Then I attended a week-long retreat with a Celtic shaman, which left me astounded to realize I could talk telepathically with trees, stones, and turtles, that I could slip between small spaces and enter other worlds, where druid teachers stood ready to teach me in the hushed silence of moss covered trees. How many more stone circles I visited that way! Saying very little, the waiting druid guides led me on mental journeys to sacred sites and other realms where I’d lived before or quietly opened portals in my heart and mind. At first, I kept trying to talk with them, asking question after question about Celtic life, which brought only gentle smiles and amused silence in response. Not one of those druids ever said, “You must do this or that,” thank Goddess! The choice was always mine in the end. Such silent respect and service to my wondering soul drew me to the path as nothing else could, for in my life I’d known a fair amount of control, servitude, and neglect. And mysterious surprises kept appearing in my outer world, too, beckoning, beguiling me down this Goddess misted path.

     A few years later, I was led to attend a school of energetic healing, using light to heal inner fear in a simple meditative process. And I watched in utter wonder, after one of my classmates or teachers did a healing with me, as the spirit world meticulously cleaned up every reflection of that recently transmuted fear in my outer world. It quickly became very, very clear that my inner fears, many from past lives and my long ago descent from heaven to earth, were holding the patterns of my life in place. None of my druid guides explained this, either, their teachings fiercely experiential. They simply surrounded and held me in silent wisdom and ancient love as I observed and learned for myself. My life was a bit of a shambles back then, a difficult divorce and concomitant financial nosedive with three daughters to raise. And in my misery, these small sips of freedom the Goddess held out put wings on my heart and feet.

     So I began to do healings on myself every morning and evening, hoping for release into happiness within a year, at most. But every time a fear was healed, a new fear took its place. And negative circumstances kept occurring in my life to activate these new fears and open the ancient memories for healing. Life was full of these surprises, though I learned not to take them seriously, for they disappeared as soon as I transmuted them in my next few meditations. Plus, these challenges were interspersed with Goddess enchantment that often left me breathless with joy—like the day I was wrung out from a cross-country drive and a nasty encounter with a lady at a B&B. And suddenly, as I flopped on the sofa after finally arriving home, a hundred fireflies lit up at once, all fluttering just outside my windows in the deepening dusk. I felt their hearts surrounding mine like a crowd of happy children, lifting me instantly out of my fatigue and despair. The most lightning bugs I’d ever seen before were five or six spread out over the river and meadows below. So sweetly magical, that was! And things like this began happening more and more, too, Goddess blessings, every one.

(photo from smithsonianman.com)

     Every couple of weeks, the color that filled my aura moved down into the ground, and another came in from above, as if I was ascending a rainbow ladder of light somehow. I began to tune into these colors, feeling them intimately. And every couple of years or so, there was an intense passage with severe anxiety or time pressure or financial strain that lasted several weeks. And at the end of each of these times, I broke through into a whole new realm in my mind, a place entirely different from what I’d seen in my meditations before. And each time this happened, the outer circumstances of my life instantly changed as well: a home sold, a change of partner, a move, or new financial resources that broadened my life and work. There were seven of these passages, and I could feel that they were initiations: the first earth, next water, then air and fire, then cherub, bone, and diamond. I could see concentric sheaths of light in my aura burning off in light as I emerged through these passages, too, moving from outer to inner. The last challenge is still ahead of me, the diamond initiation, connected with my core wound, my guides say. Currently, I am working in the final sheath within, too, an intensely bright light in the heart’s core that matches the seventh world of the inner planes, the heaven they call the Diamond Core.

     It’s been twenty-one years now since I began this healing process, thirty-six since my Mom passed over, years of solitary druid practice, for no one in my world has been very interested in my path, very few even respectful of the Goddess Who holds me so tenderly, especially in my pain. But during all these years, my inner world was filled to overflowing with fae friends leading me to sparkling fabrics or recycled clothing in nooks and crannies of discount stores, then telepathying unusual designs for ceremonial wear to sew, suggesting delightfully unique recipes for dinner at the last minute, or leading me on spontaneous outings in the forest. My druid star brother was ever nearby, too, teaching me laws of love of the Celtic realms of heaven, the sacred geometry of nemetons, and holding up a standard of respect for all life that was literally out of this world, along with my star sister, always ready to help me understand those ray colors and inner planes of light, 350 in all, that neatly sorted themselves into those seven heavens. The Celtic pantheon appeared, too, one by one, over the past seven years, as regents of the fifteen structures of light in the Diamond Core that regulate cycles too numerous to mention, as I slowly moved up the inner spiral staircase of light.

     Over these years, my home was gradually transformed with Celtic art, a priestess wardrobe, oak leaves and interlaced designs, crystals, faeries, and roses everywhere. The Goddess called Herself the White Tara, and I began to call the God, Oghama, not Christ. And They became my best Friends, eternal partners in love and union without any of the friction between the divine masculine and feminine so common on earth. I began to feel a growing fusion of that Celtic heaven with earth, a rising of the Goddess and resurgence of the Celtic world here, but healed of the old black magic and sacrifice beliefs. Even my smallest questions were finally answered, the warp and weft of the Celtic tapestry finally mended, not by words, but by years of facing fear and embodying truths that empowered my spirit, understandings born of living experience over many years that remade my own little world into a place of shimmering beauty that thoroughly nourished my soul. The Goddess teaches wisdom first and foremost. If you are tempted to give up on your path, I suggest holding on till the next magic lifts you out of distress, for Her gifts have been amazing and ongoing.

     But then, my inner longing has shifted once again, for more than any other thing now, I wish to see that Celtic heaven manifested on earth. My druid guides tell me that humanity was once born into light in a single instant in this seventh heaven, each person with an eternal love partner in the image of God/Goddess. And each person has the structures of one of the twelve sacred cultures of the Creator Sun fused into her or his very bones, the specific culture depending on the location each person was created out of there. No wonder I can’t help buying yet another Celtic tapestry at the Renaissance Faire! I am guided to start an intentional community based on those laws of love of the Celtic heaven, Celtic to the core: Celtic art, music, sacred spaces, and architecture, pagan ceremony (blended with open-minded Christian, uniting the two sacred traditions of Scotland in mutual respect), and deeply honoring love for the Goddess, finally! I can’t wait for that! May Her bright blessings enfold us all and lead us Home soon.

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She is hoping to found an intentional community in southern Scotland in the near future. For information, please see www.thehomestarcommunity.org

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba Reborn, Volume One Revised, and Volumes Two and Three.

For Amazon Information Click on Images

 

 

 

 

Interview with Joanna van der Hoeven: Breathing the Ancient Breath

October, 2016

Joanna van der Hoeven: Breathing the Ancient Breath

interview1

 

Joanna van der Hoeven is a best-selling author, teacher, and co-founder of Druid College UK. Joanna took some time out to speak to Mabh here at Pagan Pages.

Mabh Savage: Pagan Portals: The Awen Alone has been an incredibly popular release. Tell us a bit about the book, and why you think it has such wide ranging appeal.

Joanna van der Hoeven: I’m absolutely delighted at the reception The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid has received. It’s a book in the Pagan Portals series, a lovely series of books that provides an introduction to a certain topic in around 100 pages or less, and which are subsequently very affordable. I’ve had so many emails from readers, from all over the world, thanking me for this work and telling me how it has resonated with them, how it’s helped them to find their own path. I feel so blessed to have been a part of their journey, to have helped in some small way. Perhaps its wide-ranging appeal has to do with the fact that Druidry is a religion or spiritual tradition rooted in nature, which is all around us, all the time, and accessible to us each and every moment of our lives. To learn to live in balance and harmony with nature can never be a bad thing! The tenets of Druidry also work brilliantly with other traditions, from all over the world.

MS: What was your biggest challenge when writing the book?

JvdH: Trying to fit it all into 100 pages or less!

MS: And what did you enjoy the most about the process?

JvdH: I think the feedback that I’ve received from readers is the most wonderful part of it, to hear their stories, to learn about them and how they have interpreted the work. To know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life is so humbling, and so wonderful to experience. To have people take time out of their busy lives to write to you is simply heart-warming. If you’ve loved a book from an author, write to them, tell them! To have that human to human interaction, to hear that your words have been heard, can make all the difference to an author. A musician performing to an audience has instant feedback from the crowd, but authors often feel like they’re out there, writing and talking to themselves, not sure if there’s an audience out there listening or not. Writing can often be lonely. I enjoy working by myself, I enjoy solitude, but it’s still really nice to get feedback on your work.

MS: Zen for Druids hits our bookshelves very soon. Does this volume simply build on your earlier book, Pagan Portals: Zen Druidry, or is there a lot more to it?

interview2

 

 

JvdH: Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Compassion and Harmony with Nature is the natural extension to the introductory Pagan Portals book, Zen Druidry. It dives deeper into some of the work from Zen Druidry, as well as covering a lot of new material. We examine very closely how Druidry and the teachings of Buddhism can combine, as well as how they can integrate into the eightfold Wheel of the Year. We take a closer look at meditation, its preparation and posture, and there is also a basic mindfulness meditation provided. There are also a couple of essays on mindfulness, as well as on integration: how to live an eco-centric life, as opposed to an ego-centric one. Zen Druidry: Living a Natural Life with Full Awareness is almost a pre-requisite for this work, if one is new to either Zen Buddhism, Druidry, or both. It covers the historical and practical background of both traditions, setting the scene for Zen for Druids.

MS: What prompted you to look at the cross over of Zen and Druidry?

JvdH: I had been practicing Zen Buddhism for years. I started out on my Pagan path as a Wiccan back in the early ’90s, and then stepped off that way for about five years to dive deeply into Zen Buddhism. When I found Druidry, I saw that they both had a lot in common with each other, and so I was able to combine and practice both, truly living each tradition with every breath. I did a lot of research, and discovered that Druidry shared many roots with other Dharmic traditions. Indeed, the words dru and vid appear in the Sanskrit language, and translate as “immersion in wisdom” or “immersion in knowledge”. There is a lot of research being done on the common Indo-European roots that Druidry shares with the traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids even run a project called The One Tree Project, exploring and celebrating the idea that Indian and European culture share a common origin. It’s all very fascinating.

MS: How long have you been a druid?

JvdH: Well, I feel that I have been a Druid all my life, I just didn’t have a name for it. I came across Druidry around fifteen years ago, and it really resonated with me.

MS: And what’s the most important thing about being a druid in our modern world?

JvdH: I think it comes down to making your tradition relevant for the day and age in which you live. Druidry is all about having a deep love for nature, and allowing that love and reverence to inspire you to live your life accordingly. It’s important that a Druid walks her talk. It’s not just an academic exercise, or a spiritual escape, but a journey that incorporates all that you do, from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, into how you live and breathe your Druidry.

MS: What prompted you to write Pagan Portals: Dancing with Nemetona?

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JvdH: Dancing with Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space was a labour of love, demonstrating my close work and devotion at the time to Nemetona, the goddess of Sanctuary and Sacred Space. I had worked deeply with her for many years, and this little book was a way of sharing my experiences of Her. It was so important for me at the time to have a place of sanctuary, to carry that sense of peace and calm with me wherever I was in the world. Dancing with Her, I was able to explore and extend myself even further into my studies in the Druid tradition, knowing that I was held in her embrace, that she would guide me where I needed to go.

MS: Do you think it’s important to reintroduce modern Pagans to more ‘obscure’ or partially forgotten deities?

JvdH: I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s important, but I do feel that research methodology is a tool that is necessary for the Pagan to develop. I had practiced my religion for many years, but not done the research. When I finally did the research, the tradition was even more inspiring, richer for all that work and knowledge. It’s important to know your roots, the roots of the tradition that you are following, as well as diving into comparative religion, so that you gain a better understanding of the world around you, in my opinion. That being said, you have to live your path, you can’t just read about it or study it. It’s not an academic exercise, but something that has to be incorporated into everyday life. There’s knowledge, which is gained through study, and then there’s wisdom, which is the application of knowledge in an experiential context.

MS: Are there any other lesser known deities or entities you are particularly close to or fascinated with?

JvdH: Lesser known, perhaps not. I have worked closely with Brighid these last few years, and have always been under the watchful eye of Morrigan all my life. Andraste has come to me in a tribal context this year, making the songs of the land where I live in Suffolk truly come alive.

MS: Do you have a favourite time of the year? If so, why?

JvdH: I love autumn. I adore autumn. My craft name is Autumn Song, for that very reason. It’s such a reflective and beautiful time of the year. Where I grew up in Quebec, Canada, autumn (fall) is a gorgeous display of colour and smells: the fiery hues of maple and the golden birches and the scent of wood smoke on the wind. I love the warm sun and cool breezes, the crisp nights and misty mornings. I love the sense of everything winding down. Twilight is my favourite time of day, and I get that sense all season long with autumn. Here where I live in Suffolk, UK, it’s also the season of the deer rut, where the stags proudly display their enormous racks, calling to the does. The smaller herds come together, and it’s so lovely to see them, from about 50 to 100 strong, running across the heathland and through the forest all autumn and winter. I only wish that the season was longer!

MS: And if you had to pick one special or sacred place above all others, where would this be?

JvdH: I’m not sure I could pick just one place. My backyard is just as sacred and special to me as Avebury’s stone circle is, or the Red and White Springs in Glastonbury. I love being in the Scottish Highlands, or out on the mountaintops of the Lake District. I adore the national parks of Quebec, where you can camp alongside the bears and wolves. The forests where I grew up hold a special place in my heart, where my imagination was able to roam free in my teenage years, creating stories and allowing me to open my soul to the songs of nature.

MS: Tell us a bit about Druid College UK.

JvdH: Druid College UK is a three-year training programme for people interested in the Druid tradition. It’s run over four weekends a year, with lectures, ritual, guest speakers and more. The college devotes its presence to preparing priests of nature, to help people develop their skills and knowledge in the Druid tradition in the capacity that works best for them, and to provide a platform for their ongoing and also further studies. It’s about living a life in service to the land, to the gods and to the ancestors. It all comes down to service, for those who wish to take up the mantle of service, where we can find perfect freedom and deep sacred relationship.

In Year 1 we begin with a deep dive into the core principles of Druidry. The course will cover the three aspects of druid training, exploring the gifts and crafts of the Bard, Ovate, and Druid. Each core craft works to reweave our soul connection to the land we live in. The goal is not to make every person a druid, but to learn how to craft a sacred relationship to the land, the people, and the Divine. This is the beginning of the path, not the end. The first year will provide the student many tools to explore the world around them, helping regain that sense of wonder we had as children, dancing in the beauty of Nature, running through the world guided by our curiosity. Using the three worlds of Land, Sea and Sky, with sacred Fire at the centre as our framework for the year, we guide the student in how to work intimately with Nature, how to craft a deeper, more wakeful relationship to the Earth. Using tools from Druidry, we wake up our soul. We learn to listen with our entire being. Reweaving our connection to the land and our personal cultural heritage, we find our place in the world. Year One is a deeply transformational year. It offers the student an intense study into the world of Druidry and Nature-based spirituality. Providing experiential learning opportunities, each gathering is wrapped in ritual with study and mentoring between weekends.

With Year 2, having journeyed a full year reweaving our connection to Nature, rooting ourselves in the land, year two leaps into realms of myth and transformation, we dive head-long into “Cerridwen’s cauldron”, so to speak. This is a year of working with energy, the unseen as we learn to build bridges between us, our ancestors, and the spirits of nature. This is a year of deeply shamanic exploration, learning the arts of transformation and “shapeshifting” – essential tools for priests of Nature. The use of ritual and trance is heavily emphasized in year two. Where year one was about finding ourselves, working to understand edges and boundaries, year two is about crafting flexible boundaries, so that we may change and shift them as needed. Exploring potentiality, possibility and prophecy, year two is about letting go into the darkness, seeking inspiration without limits. In year two we learn about integration, allowing growth for the “I” without the “me” getting in the way. We learn to let our edges soften, becoming one with the landscape, allowing our souls the opportunity for immersion with the natural world around us. We learn our own importance without being self-important, and we learn the importance and sacredness of all existence. Year two also focuses on developing teachers (if one chooses this role). The goal isn’t simply to provide experiences for the apprentice to do their own work. We are dedicated to true equality. We train apprentices, not students. Therefore we teach people how to facilitate these same practices and sacred rites for their own students and apprentices. Year two is learning about leadership and responsibility. Having journeyed through light and dark, through myth and metaphor, rooted firmly in the Earth, supported by our ancestors and having crafted true intimate connection with the gods, we are able to take on the role of priest, as Druid, as Shaman, Witch, whatever the appropriate name for our work. At the centre of all of this is walking with the wisdom of Nature, fed by Nature, taught by Nature, healed by Nature. Having done this work, we have the skills and potential to lead others back into the forest of great learning and wisdom.

The nature of Year 3 is that of being in the role as priests. This is a year of one walking their path and sharing their activities with the staff and other apprentices, learning from each other and acknowledging the work. It consists of: Declaring your “Chair” and manifesting it locally, purposeful sharing in community, applied trancing as priestly evolution, and training to lead ecstatic ritual. It’s a more independent year of study, where we gather only twice in the year to discuss our work all together. It’s about finding that place where we can be of service, and living it out in our everyday life.

MS: When you aren’t writing or teaching, how do you relax?

JvdH: I think it’s very important to take time out for yourself, to recharge the batteries, so to speak. I do so by taking long walks out in the countryside, by reading lots and lots of books, by visiting my family and friends back in Canada. I like to relax in the autumn and winter months by listening to music, lectures, podcasts and so on while knitting. Meditation is an important part of my daily life, and it helps me to reconnect with myself, bringing the illusory divide between the physical and the spiritual tumbling around my ears. I also like to get away with my husband for long weekends, perhaps taking the canoe out and exploring new rivers, or hiking a part of this land that we’ve never seen before.

MS: And finally, what other projects do you have on the horizon?

JvdH: I’ve just finished writing another Pagan Portals book, entitled The Crane Bag: A Druid’s Guide to Ritual Tools and Practices. It should be ready by spring 2017. It covers a lot of material that can be easily overlooked in other sources, and puts it all together in one convenient place. I’m also currently working on another book, a full length book on Druidry in a sort of fictional context. I’m using the style of a colloquy, a dialogue between student and teacher, to present the work. I hope to have it released by late autumn/early winter 2017. I’m also exploring putting out some music in the next couple of years, because I’ve always enjoyed singing and playing instruments. It’s important not to restrict yourself to one medium of expression, at least in my opinion, in order to keep that curiosity that keeps us going strong.

For more information on Joanna van der Hoeven, please visit her website at www.joannavanderhoeven.com/. She blogs at Down the Forest Path, as well as having a Down the Forest Path Video Blog. She also blogs for SageWoman Magazine, and writes for The Druid Network. You can support Joanna at her Patreon Page.

Mabh Savage is a journalist, musician and author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. Find out more here.

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