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!!!

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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

Book Review: The Crane Bag by Joanna van der Hoeven

August, 2017

THE CRANE BAG

By Joanna van der Hoeven

 

I read this slim volume on a two-hour ferry crossing between Dover and Dunkirk!

This morning I woke up (in our house set in the forest in Sweden) to the call of two cranes in the field in front of our house. It seems that today is the day for writing my review of this book. The cranes themselves say so!

This book is not actually about cranes though it does start with a Celtic crane myth. It is really a brief introduction to ritual tools and practices from the Druid tradition. “Held deeply within Celtic mythology, the crane bag is both a symbol of sovereignty, as well as an item containing the ritual tools of the Druid. With proper use, it can further the Druid in working with the tides of nature, finding his or her own place in the environment. Living in balance, harmony and peace” (- From the back cover).

This is a useful book for complete beginners taking their first steps in exploring Druidry. It will help you find out if this tradition is for you or not. If you want to delve deeper there are other books on the market (some by this same author but also by other authors) and if not, there is no harm done as this is a small and affordable book.

The author takes us through all the basics, from “What is ritual?” to why we may choose to carry staff and drum, as well as a bowl, knife, candles and incense in our crane bag. Having described the tools she takes us through the elements of Druid ritual: the Call for Peace, Casting the Circle, honouring the Spirits of Place and Three Worlds, the directions and ancestors and so forth.

I like the way she emphasizes the need to source our equipment in an environmentally conscious and sound way. She points out that a number of items can often be found in charity shops ( recycling is always preferable to using Mother Earth’s precious resources to make new items). She also explains how making tools for others is a sacred art for craftspeople (like drum makers). As a teacher of sacred art I agree completely!

The book opens with the story of how the Crane Bag came to be and introduces the legendary Celtic characters Aoife and Iuchra. It is a sad tale in many ways. She ends by asking: what happened to Iuchra and Ilbhreac (the male hero in this tale) and says that is a tale for another day. I had fully expected her to return to this question in the final chapter and answer it – but she doesn’t. To me this is an opportunity missed. A truly satisfactory story (or book) ties up loose ends, if only on the final page…

Other than that: this makes great summer reading for anyone keen to know a little bit more about Druids and their craft.

 

 

Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, July 2017

 

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About the author

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in August 2016.  

 

 

She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/

http://shamanismsummit.com/

 

 

Interview with Nimue Brown: Druidry and Dreams

September, 2015

Nimue Brown: Druidry and Dreams

paganportals

 

 

Nimue is the author of Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan prays, Spirituality without Structure, Druidry and the Ancestors and Druidry and Meditation. Somehow, despite all the writing she does, she finds time to be an active member of the Pagan and Druid community, run a very popular WordPress blog, work with other Pagan authors and the publisher Moon as well as being a musician! I was, therefore, very grateful to grab a few minutes with Nimue, to ask her a few questions about her inspirations, her motivations and her life as a pagan.

Mabh Savage: You’re an incredibly prolific writer, with 5 books out with Moon in the last two years or so, plus Intelligent Designing for Amateurs, and the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels you do with your husband as well as independent publications. You also blog regularly; where do you find the time? How do you keep your muse stimulated?

Nimue Brown: Finding ideas has never been much of a problem for me. There’s so much out there to be inspired by, confused about, angry with, curious about… and I think about everything a lot. In terms of finding the time, I’m self-employed, juggling all manner of peculiar paying gigs, but there are always spaces for writing. I don’t have a television, and I hardly ever get whole days off, so that’s the trade-off.

MS: You do interviews yourself for the Moon blog; who has been your favourite interviewee so far?

NB: Interviewing Ronald Hutton was quite an experience. He’s something of a personal hero, and he doesn’t give interviews very often, so I knew I was incredibly blessed in getting to do that and was also a bit terrified, but it was an amazing thing to do. All of them have been interesting though, it’s something I very much enjoy doing.

MS: My favourite publication of yours is a contribution to the Moon : Pagan Portals series, titled Spirituality without Structure. Can you tell us a bit about this book? What inspired it, and what is its goal?

NB: I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years looking at world religions, mostly to compare prayer practices. [When a Pagan Prays, Moon , 2014] However, alongside what I’d been intending to do, I started realising there are a lot of curious commonalities in how religions function, and they aren’t to do with spirituality at all, most of the time. Partly inspired by Alain du Botton’s Religion for Atheists, and partly by the census figures that show ever more people moving away from conventional religion, I thought this might be useful to explore. What can we take from formal religion that is useful? What, in those formal structures is not helpful to a spiritual life? How do you go about walking your own path and building your own practice? Those are questions I have attempted to answer. Small book, big ideas.

MS: Despite being a ‘Pagan Portal’, can the ideas within be applied to someone who has been involved in any faith or spirituality?

NB: Yes. I’m very interested in the work of heretical Christians like Mark Townsend, so am confident that Spirituality without Structure would be quite readable for anyone chaffing inside a religious structure. Whether we belong to a formal faith tradition or not, the only authentic spiritual experience is the personal one, and I think there is more commonality there, than there are differences caused by the methods we use to seek those spiritual experience.

MS: The tagline of the book is The Power of Finding Your Own Path. Do you think that many people who are interested in Paganism get swept onto paths that are popular but actually very unsuited to that individual, simply because there is more info readily available about these particular paths?

NB: Yes. Many people come to the less well known Pagan paths having been through a flirtation with witchcraft, first. Certain kinds of Paganism have a much stronger and more visible public presence, and people feel some resonance and are drawn in, even though it’s not a perfect match. The theatrical Druidry of white robes and big public gatherings gets the most media attention, and it can take those of us who are more muddy, feral and chaotic by nature a while to find out where we fit. Often the things that bring people to Paganism are not as impressive and enlightened as we might want them to be, but if a film, or World of Warcraft, Dungeons and dragons, or a fantasy book makes you realise a thing, it is simply a doorway. Many people come in via the strangest of doors, and go on to make their own journeys. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, these seem like very natural transitions to me, as people discover their own nature and way of doing things.

MS: Do the thoughts within the book, about moving away from formal religious ideas, reflect changes in your own life?

NB: My background as a child was loosely Pagan, although I went to a Church of England school. I was an eclectic Pagan until I realised I was a Druid, and then I’ve gently shuffled about inside Druidry, finding the Bards and the feral folk. However, I’ve been active on the Pagan scene for a good fifteen years now; I’ve watched a lot of people making those transitions, struggling with old faiths, struggling with new ones… I’ve mentored a fair number of people along the way, and heard a lot of stories.

MS: You speak about being termed as a ‘general eclectic Pagan’, which in my experience usually means anyone who is Pagan but doesn’t fit into any of the pigeon holes such as Wicca etc. Why do you think, as Pagans, we are so keen to label and define ourselves? Does this only occur in groups, do you think?

NB: It’s very useful for identifying likeminded people. I don’t think it’s a particularly Pagan inclination, either. I have other labels… Green, Steampunk, gothic, folky – these are tags that alert kindred spirits. If I see someone else who is a Pagan Steampunk for example, or a folky Druid, I know we’ve got some common ground and may well get along. It helps me choose which events to go to, which books to read. There’s so much information out there, the internet gives us access to about 2 billion people, and there are a lot of books and events. Anything that gives us a fighting chance of filtering that down to something useful and meaningful, I am very glad to have in the mix. Probably when we all lived in small villages, it wasn’t so much of an issue.

MS: Although you’ve found your own path, do you still consider yourself a Druid?

NB: My path is within Druidry. ‘Druid’ is a huge term covering a vast range of practices and beliefs. Nobody is ‘a Druid’ these days, nor, I think, historically. The ancient Druids had all kinds of different roles. Modern Druids are swelling in numbers and starting to reflect that. Some are political, some are healers, some are wild and some specialise in civilization. I think this diversity is a really good thing.

MS: Is druidry so attractive because of its lack of religious bias?

NB: I’m not sure that’s it. I think the absence of dogma is very attractive to a lot of people. It’s very community orientated, a lot more child-friendly than some paths and a lot more fluid than many as well. You can be a member of more than one group; you can shift between Orders to study, or study alone. We have enough commonality to be able to gather in big groups and share, but a lot of room for individual expression. I think the room for innovation is appealing, and the sense of something organic, always growing and shifting is an attractive thing to be part of.

MS: In Spirituality Without Structure, you state that one must be spiritual on one’s own terms, to avoid subservience. Do you feel that religions or paths with elements of subservience in are somehow less spiritual than those that have none? Is any worship of a deity a form of subservience? Or simply connecting with the divine?

NB: Some people choose subservience to deity as part of their path. If that is the way you manifest your spirituality, it really is no one else’s business! However, most religions encourage subservience to other people, and that’s a whole other game. It is the power religions give to people and the demand that we abase ourselves before other humans, in the name of the divine, that I think is innately lacking in spirituality.

MS: Do you think it’s possible to have a wholly spiritual life and still be part of an organised, formal religion? Is it a natural progression that as you remove the external trappings of religion, you become closer to the world/universe/divine/nature, or does it depends on the individual?

NB: I would think that’s wholly possible. There are many good things in the traditions, writings, creativity and inspiration of formal religions, and in theory they should also be a good means of sharing all that. For some, the tradition is really important, and the need to challenge the ways in which other people misuse and corrupt those religions. It takes a generosity of spirit to work in that way, but for some the calling is very much to go back into those formal religious spaces and try to inject some soul to offset the politics.

MS: And finally, what’s an average day like in the Brown household?

NB: Increasingly, there are no average days, which I like! Monday mornings there’s a community gardening project we go along to, we walk at least once a week, there’s a Friday coffee morning for arty people we like to attend. I try and make sure I have a whole day off, if not 2 in any given week, and not to work more than ten hour days. Some of my time goes on marketing work for Moon , and I do odd small jobs as a reviewer and freelance media support person, I read a lot. I do a lot of crafting, and when I’m working on the first draft of a project my afternoons are often a mix of crafting and writing. I find the crafting gives me time to think. Currently I need the day by going out to see the bats. In that mix, being a parent, dabbling in folk music, cooking, meditating, spending time with friends, sitting with other Druids, and anything else that strikes me as being a good idea!

All Nimue’s books are available from Amazon and other good retailers, and you can keep up with her blog at https://druidlife.wordpress.com/.

 

Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces

September, 2015

STONEHENGE & THE SALISBURY PLAIN

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(Photo from duidry.org)

There are not many places on this earth that evoke more emotion amongst Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and Witches than Stonehenge.

It has become a place to gather on the Solstices, and other sacred holidays. It is a place of healing, a place of powerful energies. Several thousand gather on the Summer Solstice annually to watch the sunrise through the stones. It has become a place of pilgrimage for many.

Theories abound as to who built it and why. How was it built, considering that the bluestones come from 250 miles away in South Wales, and the upright stones are 7 feet tall, weigh 50 tons each and come from 20 miles away in Marlboroughdowns?

We may never know the exact origins of Stonehenge, but there are things that we do know.

The Mesolithic posts were raised northwest of the site in 8500-7500 BCE;

just north of the Stonehenge location, a causeway enclosure is built with several long barrows in 3000 BCE. In 2500 BCE, stones are raised in the center using the larger sarcen stones in two circular arrangements with smaller bluestones in between them, followed by the central bluestones being arranged in a circle and inner oval in 2300-2200 BCE. Throughout the years from 1800 BCE to 1500 BCE, pits are dug, sarcens are decorated with axe heads and daggers.

The land that Stonehenge sits upon was owned by Sir Edmund Antrobos, who sells it to Cecil Chubb, who gives it to Britain.

Sacred2

(Photo from druidry.org)

No one is sure if all of the building was done by the same tribe of peoples who lived there or if different tribes of people built on to what was previously there. It is agreed that the temple was built to align with the movements of the sun. From the Heel Stone in the northeast of the circle, looking within, you can see the sun rise in the direction of the Heel Stone.

One folktale surrounding Stonehenge is that Giants brought healing stones called the Giant’s Dance from Africa to Ireland. King Aurelius Ambrosius (he of the hur tale) wanted to make a memorial to the slain from one of the many battles with the Saxons. He chose the Giant’s Dance in Ireland and sent his many knights to Ireland to move it to England, but to no avail — the stones could not be budged. Coming to the rescue was the Wizard Merlin, who easily brought them to England where Stonehenge was dedicated. Some say he sang the stones across the sea from Ireland. Singing also plays a part in the story that the survivors of Atlantis built Stonehenge, singing the stones into place, which I believe is a lovely tale.

That Stonehenge was, and is, considered a place of healing would account for the more than 350 burial mounds found there so far. Was it built just as a burial place, or was it more than that?

It is apparent that the ancient peoples of Britain considered this monumental temple to be an important part of their spiritual and religious lives. What it was exactly has been lost in time; however, Stonehenge once again became a place of spirit in the 20th century. In August of 1905, the Ancient Order of Druids used Stonehenge as the place of a mass initiation, bringing 259 new members into their order. This, apparently, was the beginning of bringing Stonehenge back to the attention of Pagans and Witches.

As was mentioned earlier, several thousand gather annually at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. The truly awful part is that they leave this sacred place a mess, as you can see. As one of those who revere the earth as the Goddess, this brings a great sadness to me, and those who attended, who call themselves Pagan and children of the earth should be ashamed, as this would be a perfect opportunity to show others what Pagans believe and how we care for Mother Earth. Stonehenge is not the only sacred place on the Salisbury Plain.

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(Photo at reddit.com)

Sillbury Hill – This is the tallest Neolithic structure in Europe. It is believed to be built around 2700 BCE. It was thought that people used these mounds to reach up and touch heaven.

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(Photo from snipview.com)

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(Photo from geograph.org.uk)

Stone Circle of Avebury – You can still come here to celebrate the old Pagan festivals, although on a much smaller and quieter scale – sounds lovely!

If you walk through an avenue of stones from the ritual circle, you will come to The Hilltop and The Sanctuary.

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(Photo from westoxon.org.uk)

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(Photo from english-heritage.org.uk)

There is also Woodhenge one and half miles away. It is thought that Woodhenge was built around the same time(s) as Stonehenge. It is unfortunate that all that remains are stumps.


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(Photo from telegraph.co.uk)

These are just a few of the Sacred Spaces and Sacred Places in Great Britain, and England, specifically. There are many more throughout the English countryside and into Ireland and Scotland. Speaking only for myself, they are all on my bucket list.

May you all have your special spiritual places in which to feel relaxed, renewed and rejuvenated.

Resources:

english-heritage.org.uk

sacreddestinations.com

druidry.org