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Interview with Luke Eastwood: A Druid’s Journey

May 1st, 2015

Luke Eastwood: A Druid’s Journey

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Luke is a musician, poet, painter, photographer and the author of The Journey and A Druid’s Primer, as well as numerous articles on subjects ranging from politics to horticulture. He currently writes a blog for Moon Books on Druidry and Celtic belief. I caught up with Luke to quiz him on his many projects.

Mabh: What inspired your original interest in Celtic culture?

Luke: It has been so much part of my life for so long that I can’t remember where it started. My father sometimes enthused about Bonnie Prince Charlie and King Arthur, which left a deep impression; my Granny bought me fairy tales – I remember being read ‘Peronique’ (a Breton tale I still have) in a picture book version before I could read myself. I had a set of Ancient Briton and Roman soldiers about 1 inch high that often fought for hours on my bedroom floor, the Romans usually won as they had all the sexy weaponry!

MS: And how did this lead to your involvement with Paganism?

LE: I had been a Roman Catholic but found myself dissatisfied with it, although I did feel attracted to the teachings of both Jesus and St. Francis. I could see that the true roots of Christianity had become obliterated by the Romans and in looking through the dark history of the Church I discovered that much of R.C. ritualism is derived from European and Middle-Eastern paganism. At this point in time I had come to regard Jesus as a prophet, like Moses or Muhammad, so it was not much of a leap for me to abandon Christianity completely and become a Pagan. Being strongly connected to nature, Druidry/Druidism seemed the obvious best fit, although I did investigate Buddhism, Hindu pantheism, Hermeticism and Wicca on the way to choosing this path.

MS: I know from experience that studying Celtic history and mythology can be arduous and time consuming, although always rewarding. What have been your finest resources, and what source do you return to again and again?

LE: Yes it is extremely time-consuming but ultimately rewarding as you say. Apart from the many people I’ve learned from (often informally) I’ve found many books to be incredibly useful and/or insightful. To name just three I’d suggest – ‘The Religion Of The Ancient Celts’ by J.A. McCulloch, ‘Irish Trees – Myths, Legends & Folklore’ by Niall Mac Coitir and ‘The Celtic Heroic Age’ by John T. Koch & John Carey. Books can be wonderful but book knowledge alone is useless in my opinion. Experience of living and working spiritually is far more important but at times the ‘knowledge’ accumulated suddenly elucidates an experience or gives some frame of reference that completes the picture. Without the living and breathing experiences, the sum of all I’ve read is just so many pages in a dusty old tome, as dead as the wood from which the pages came!

MS: You paint, write poetry, books and articles, make music and take some beautiful photos as well. Is there any particular medium in all this creativity that you connect to more than the others, and why?

LE: No, there isn’t a preference I’m aware of. It has occurred to me that I’ve gone through several creative phases in my life, some overlapping slightly. In the last few years writing has been my main focus and it will probably continue to be so until my intuition draws me elsewhere. I am unable to work to order creatively for myself, I do only what feels right, so I’d be hopeless if I had to rely on it for an income. I suspect I’ll return to playing music fairly soon, it’s something that has always been part of my life in some form.

MS: What drew you to Druidry initially?

LE: I can’t really explain it. I think it appealed on a subconscious level. I had great difficulty in finding out about it, most of the books I found were very shallow and uninformative, which lead me to explore other less obscured areas, such as Hindu Culture. However, I remember walking past a bookshop in Swiss Cottage, London in 1996 and seeing ‘The Book Of Druidry’ by Ross Nichols in the window. I rushed in and bought it, even though it was £20 or something ridiculous like that. This was the first book I’d come across that was written by a real Druid as opposed to some academic or historian.

MS: And now, what is the most vital part of being a Druid for you?

LE: For me, being able to go outside and watch the world happening seems more vital than anything. If I were unable to do that I think I’d be incredibly unhappy.

MS: Was this part of what inspired you to write The Druid’s Primer?

LE: I didn’t feel that any one single Druid 101 book was sufficiently in-depth or comprehensive to provide a useful guide in one volume. I’m not sure that TDP is either, but it is my attempt to compile all the basics from all of the Celtic traditions I could find. In particular I was keen to promote the Irish traditions and knowledge which has been neglected, as well of that of the other Celtic/ex-Celtic nations.

MS: What advice would you give to someone with an interest in pursuing Druidry?

LE: Try to find the fine line between experiential, intuitive practice and academic, knowledge acquisition. Knowledge was always an important aspect of Druidry but so too was creative, empathic and intuitive skill. To be balanced I think we need to try to develop both sides of ourselves in a harmonious way so that what we do and what we know become integrated completely into who we are.

MS: Can someone be a Druid without worshiping any particular deity, or perhaps without honouring a deity at all?

LE: Not everyone would agree with me, but I would say yes to both. I would say that it is essential to have some understanding of the Celtic concept of deity and the mythology associated with it. However, many people have a nebulous sense of deity or even regard nature itself as the source of divinity or perhaps even just the source of life. I don’t see why such theological differences would stop someone from being able to live a Druidic life; I’d say that sincerely walking the path is more important than points of dogma.

MS: Tell us a bit about your recently republished book, The Journey. What was the key message you wanted to convey?

LE: In truth the way that we live is more important than what we profess to believe. Our deepest beliefs and concerns are demonstrated and manifested by the choices we make in how we live in the world. Much of the truths about human experience and the universe (from a human perspective) seem to me to be independent of the religion from which they originated. It strikes me (using a crude analogy) that many religious people are obsessed with the colour of the car they are driving or that other people are driving, when what is really important is keeping your own car on the road!

MS: You play an astonishing range of musical instruments; do you think this talent ties back to Celtic ancestry at all?

LE: I really can’t give a definite answer. I can say that my recent ancestors and relatives, including my father and grandfather have been very musical. I’ve been listening to music since I was born so it’s almost part of me at this stage. My siblings and my daughter all play instruments too, I guess it’s a minor compulsion in my family!

MS: And do you have a favourite instrument?

LE: I suppose guitar is my most played instrument but recently I’ve an urge to get back to playing the cello. I’m very rusty right now, but it has such a wonderful sound I really think I should make more time for it.

MS: Your bio says you are currently working on a novel; can you tell us a bit about that?

LE: It’s a sci-fi with a spiritual element to it. I’ve projected some of the current concerns relating to secularism and religious strife into the future surrounding one particular character who experiences a momentous, life-changing event. That’s about all I want to say, any more might reveal too much.

MS: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

LE: I’d very much like to write a book on sacred sites, cross referenced with some of the most ancient writings related to each of them. Although I love photography it might be interesting to work on this in conjunction with a photographer with a different view of such places.

MS: Do you still write poetry? What themes inspire you?

LE: Yes I do, but only when I feel inspired. That might happen three times in one week or once in a year. I appear to have no control over when I write poems. Nature, love and modern society are three themes that seem to crop up over and over again; usually something that has happened or something I’ve seen will inspire me and the words will just come flooding out.

MS: You write on many socio-political themes. What currently has you fired up?

LE: Injustice is something that makes me very angry – injustice to the weak and impoverished of the world and also injustice to the natural world. I think that inequality is a perennial problem and in some countries it seems to be getting worse not better. As the human population grows the stresses on the planet and on human society are growing, I really think that we need to collectively find creative and fair solutions fast if there is going to be any kind of future worth having.

MS: Tell us a bit about Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach. [Gathering of Celtic Spirituality]

LE: I was very inspired by Féile Draoíchta (Festival of Magic & Spirituality) in Dublin, which is run by Barbara Lee and Lora O’Brien. Basically I decided to copy their idea and move it outside into a rural setting, but focusing more specifically on the Celtic end of magic/spirituality. Both ladies have been very supportive with advice and Lora also gave us a talk in August just gone. 2014 was our 5th year and I’m delighted by how it has gradually grown since the first one. For me being outside is the main plank of my spiritual practice and I’m keen to provide others the opportunity to share that kind of experience with other like-minded people.

MS: You’ve had a very interesting spiritual journey it seems; from being raised Catholic to an interest in Buddhism, to studying Wicca and eventually becoming a Druid. Do you feel that where you are now is where you are meant to be, or is there still a further journey ahead for you?

LE: Yes I suppose it is a bit strange, I guess I’ve wandered like a stray dog until I found a comfortable spot to rest! I’ve learned a great deal from exploring these different paths and I’d be a different person than I am today if I had not done so. I do feel that I am where I am meant to be right now but of course there is still more to come. We are always learning every day, there is always something new to learn. I think that the day that I feel I have nothing further to learn from life is the time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Luke’s books are available through Moon books, from Amazon and other retailers, and you can find his other projects on his website. Éigse Spiriod Ceilteach has its own Facebook page and more info can be found on the Irish Druid Network.

Recently, we at PaganPages, have had the honor to review and interview one of our favorite authors again, Orion Foxwood.

 

In February, I did a book review for his newest book The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work.  Orion Foxwood took some time out from his busy schedule to chat with us about his newest work and just what Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work is.

 

 

PaganPages (PP):  What is American Southern conjure? 

 

Orion Foxwood (OF):  American Conjure is a generalized term for a syncretic American folk spiritual and magical practice(s) that incorporates African (through the slave trade of the 17 and 1800s), Native American (specific to the geographic region), European (depending on the colony and variant of catholic or protestant tradition), and other localized or migratory practices that are primarily of colonial origins. These practices are known by many names including conjure, root-work, hoodoo, blue-roots, spirit-doctoring, etc. and represent a traditional role of magic in the American rural and urban culture. As a general description, they include (but are not limited to) healing, magic, prophesy, spiritual-cleansing, and defense practices.

 

 

PP:  How did you learn these practices? Were they handed down in your family?

 

OF:   I learned some of these practices and philosophies from my mother, neighbors, and friends while growing up; and other’s from workers throughout the American south. They were not transmitted in a formal setting but in response to needs as they arose. For instance, if there was a drought, I learned how to conjure rain. MY mother learned some of these practices from her mid-wife, who was a freed-slave. Other practices I learned while watching people come to workers of spirit-doctoring, who needed help for specific maladies… physical and otherwise. 

 

 

 

PP:  What is the difference between southern conjure and other types of folk magic?

 

OF:  The primary difference is that the work I describe in my book grew in the cultural and social environment of the American South. I think that the defining attribute(s) is the influence of African cultures and the nuances of the civil war and its impact on the internal conflict of “freedom versus enslavement” and “inalienable rights of humanity.” This sculpted my unwavering commitment to equity of rights and resources and adoration of the contributions of the tapestry of ethnicity and culture that makes up America. Specifically, I am in deep love with and reverent of the contributing African cultures, though I am in reverence of cultural diversity in general. By the way, I am not saying this to be politically correct… this is how I am at my core. 

 

 

PP:  How has conjure influenced your life?

 

OF:  I believe it has formed me at the very foundations of my self-hood. Through Conjure I know that there is a force at the center of our being that cannot be influenced or diminished by ANY external force, however oppressive or influential. There is a force, that we can call “our spirit” that is the most important and powerful force in our lives and it must be attended to. Conjure (or “spirit-doctoring”) has guided me in knowing the forces that enslave or liberate our spirits. Through Conjure, we exert ownership over our internal/eternal essence and how it blossoms into our world.   

 

 

PP:   You use a very soulful tone in this book, why?

 

OF:  Thank you for asking this question. True Conjure, as I know it and in living culture, is a way of liberating ourselves from domination and bringing forth the qualities of a fulfilling and good life. There are many very fine books, correspondence courses, and web-sites that provide information, formulas, history and historical foundations. I did not see any that gave the gut-and-soul of a form of magical/spiritual practice (conjure) that could not be diminished or destroyed by the most brutal forces of humanity including slavery and other forms of oppression. Bottom line… I wanted my contribution to the corpus of conjure information to be a guide back to the heart and core of conjure, hoodoo, etc.

 

 

PP:  You do professional conjure work with clients. What does that entail?

 

OF:  I do readings to look at the client’s spiritual attributes and influences as well as their relationship to the roads of luck, love, life and death. This assessment, in addition to the client’s report of their needs and their life-scape, gives me information on the relationship between their visible and invisible life-patterns. From this, I can work with clients on a strategy to cleanse ill-influences and develop relationships with spirits and forces that support the “blessing-roads” of their lives. Professional root-work and conjure focuses on “the invisible relationships between visible things.”

 

 

PP:  You are adamant about respecting the people, such as the African slaves, who suffered to preserve this work. Why?

 

OF:  I am unwavering about this because the powerful foundational influences of American Southern Conjure (as I understand it) was African through the American Colonial Slave-trade. Therefore, the very “soil” of this practice, for me, was built by the slave spirits. In my view, you CANNOT grow the branches of a tree without nourishing its roots. African slave influences are the roots of the tree of my conjure. Therefore  I honor my roots. I am grateful that these spirits found a way for these practices to find the way to my spirit.  

 

 

PP:  Why do you spend so much time in the book focused on “sovereignty of the spirit”?

 

OF:  As my mother and Godmother said (please excuse my language) ‘if you ain’t got your spirit, you ain’t got shit.’ When you claim your spirit and know it… grow it, heal it and reveal it… you have the very kingdom of spirit. Sovereignty of the spirit is about claiming the piece of the eternal that you are… and growing your life from that perspective.

 

  

PP:  What is your primary message in this book? 

 

OF:  Overcome spiritual domination and seek the freedom to become what inspired God to create you. 

 

 

PP:  What other conjure-related projects are you working on?

 

OF:  I intend to use my new book as a manual and develop classes with CDs and DVDs to help interested students develop their spiritual sovereignty. I also intend to make guest appearances on TV and other shows. Over the next 2 years, I will provide an online store for the purchase of products and teachings on Conjure with ALL work in honor to the spirits!

 

 

We will keep our readers updated on Orion Foxwood’s classes, as well as, his online shop in order for us to honor the Spirits, as well.

 

We would like to thank Orion Foxwood for taking this time with us and our readers to explain his amazing book and thoughts on Conjuring and Southern Root-Work.

Morgan Daimler: A Druid in the New World

Morgan is an experienced Druid and author of Where the Hawthorn grows, cited as a unique look at the beliefs and practices of American Druidism, looking at daily practice and practical, modern applications. Morgan was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life as a Druid and her writing.

Mabh: Your book, Where the Hawthorn Grows, describes you as an Irish reconstructionist Druid in America. Can you sum up this description for us, tell us a bit about your path and its roots?

Morgan:  Well, basically, I’m an Irish polytheist – with some Norse flavour – and I use a reconstructionist method in approaching my religion. Reconstructionism is about using different sources to understand the ancient pagan religion in order to reconstruct what it would have been like today if had never stopped. I’m a Druid in the Order of the White Oak, a reconstructionist Druid Order, and I see Druidism in the spirit of the ancient Druids as people who serve the community as clergy, who serve the Gods and spirits, who are the Seers and Poets.  I’m part of the Irish diaspora in America, so I always like to make that clear as well, that my Irish polytheism is influenced by different factors.

I was raised a secular agnostic but I always had a draw towards the mythic, especially the old Irish fairy stories. I used to build little fairy houses and leave out offerings to them, write them notes, things like that, when I was little. When I was 11 a friend introduced me to Wicca through books and I was immediately taken by that idea. She and I practiced for a bit, but it wasn’t for her in the long run. My own focus shifted to Irish Gods and I started to search out as much information as I could find; I’d say my first steps into what could be called reconstruction started early, with that desire to know what the pagan Irish really believed and did. That drew me to start studying Druidism and around 1997 or so I found White Oak, which had an online discussion group, but after a few year lost touch with it. I tried joining other Druid organizations as well but couldn’t find another one back then that resonated with my own historic emphasis. Eventually I found the online Celtic reconstructionist community and reconnected with White Oak and finally started to feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was doing.

MS: What inspired you to write the book?

MD:  I started blogging at the urging of several friends. I like to write and I really felt like there was a lack of solid resources out there online but a lot of inaccurate stuff was being repeated. So I wanted my blog to be a resource, something that would have citations and suggested reading and talk about the things it seemed no one else was talking about. At some point I looked back and thought, you know I’ve practically written a book here. And I saw other bloggers like Cat Treadwell putting out books based on their blogs and I started to think maybe I could too.  I felt like it would be really valuable to have something on the market that was talking about reconstruction Druidism, because there really aren’t any books about it. The more I thought about how much I wished someone would write that kind of book the more I felt like if no one else was doing it I should. And it all just came together.

MS: What’s been the biggest challenge in the writing and production of the book?

MD: The production was wonderful; I am really lucky to have a fabulous publisher, Moon Books, who made the process a great experience. My biggest challenge in writing it was the editing. I’m dyslexic and I have a really difficult time catching spelling and grammar errors in my writing. I’d go over the same passages until my eyes crossed and still miss things, which can be frustrating.

MS: And the most rewarding moment?

MD: Holding the book in my hands was amazing. It’s the fourth book I’ve written, but it’s the one I’m the proudest of, the one that has the most of my heart in it.

MS: You write about the Celtic Deities and the Norse Deities and involve both within your magical practice. Which did you come to first, and is there any particular deity you feel closer to, and why?

MD: I’ve been honouring the Irish Gods for about 24 years; the Norse for almost 8. I am ritually dedicated to Macha, because I felt she wanted that. I’ve felt called by her for a long time. I’m also oathed to Odin, also because he wanted me to oath to him, something he relayed through another person during an oracular seidhr session, which is a kind of Norse trancework. In simple terms I see myself as serving them, as best I can, in the world. I also regularly honour Badb, because I do Seer work, Morrigan, Nuada, and Flidais. Flidais is an interesting one to me – I know most people today see her as a kind of wilderness Goddess but because of her mythology and personal experience I relate to her as a Goddess of nursing mothers (among other things). She has been really present in my life this past year and helped me get through a very difficult situation.

MS: I have a passion for Celtic mythology and spirituality, which I believe comes from my Irish ancestry. What are the roots of your interest in the Celts?

MD: Ancestry is the heart of it. I have Irish ancestors, as well as Scottish. My Dad’s stepfather was Irish, from Cork, and I grew up with the aspects of that like the food, music, and stories which he passed on. I was always raised to be proud of my roots and as I got older I embraced the culture on my own. Now I pass it on to my children.

MS: And as a mother, do you find your children are naturally curious about your spiritual endeavours? How do you feel about them being drawn to Druidry or a different branch of Paganism? Likewise, how would you feel were they to adopt one of the Abrahamic religions, for example?

MD: I find that my oldest, who is 10, is very spiritually inclined and always has been. She was making her own little altars when she was a toddler. My second daughter is ambivalent. All the children like to do spiritual things with me – not that the baby has a choice! – but my oldest is the one who has the real interest in it. She’s still finding her footing though and I don’t think she’s decided what she really wants. She practices with me, she goes to different churches with her friends, she reads about different religions. I give them all the opportunity to do what I do with me, from my morning devotionals to the Holy day rituals, and leave it to them to decide. I am raising them with my beliefs and practices, but all I want for them is to find happiness and fulfilment from their spirituality, whether that’s Druidism, witchcraft, heathenry, a syncretic blend, or anything else including Christianity.

MS: Certainly in Britain, Druids are sometimes of differing faiths and follow different deities; sometimes none at all, preferring to worship nature or the universe. Are the members of your grove all on a similar path, or do you also find this diversity within your ranks?

MD: My Order is explicitly Celtic polytheist, although within the definition of ‘Celtic’, people have room to choose their own focus. Outside my Order I respect an individual’s choice to follow the type of Druidism that works best for them, no matter how different that approach may be from my own.

MS: I see you are currently working on one of the Pagan Portal series, Fairy Witchcraft. Can you tell us a bit about this project? What is Fairy Witchcraft?

MD: Fairy Witchcraft is a blending of the Fairy Faith with modern pagan witchcraft. It was largely inspired by the old Irish Fairy Doctors and figures like Biddy Early, combined with folk magic practices and the beliefs of the Fairy Faith.

 

One day I stumbled across a pretty awful webpage purporting to be about Fairy Wicca; it was really just a hodge-podge of randomness without much substance. I went to some friends and was venting about it and getting pretty upset and I had an epiphany – if I was this bothered by it I should take all that energy and direct it into something constructive. If I felt like there wasn’t a good resource for people searching for a way to unite neo-Paganism with fairy beliefs, I needed to create that resource. Most of my friends know that the daoine sidhe, or fairies, are the foundation of my spirituality so this is something that was very important to me, but I was really hesitant to actually do it. My path began with fairies and moved into witchcraft, something I never stopped practicing as such even when I moved on into reconstructionism and Druidism. I have taught classes on fairies to a neo-Pagan audience for over a decade. I wrote a previous book for children on practicing the Fairy Faith. But I don’t talk a lot about personal experiences and I almost never talk about my personal practices relating to this, so it was unnerving to think about suddenly being open about everything. I also wanted to be certain, given the historic prohibitions about talking about fairy experiences that it was okay for me to do. Once I felt I’d gotten the go-ahead, so to speak, I wrote the book itself in a week. There was a lot of inspiration going on.

 

MS: How would you describe a Fairy to someone with no experience of them?

MD: Dangerous. Seriously, I’d say that there are many kinds of fairies – some look like people, some like animals – and they can be helpful to us or hurt us depending on their inclination and our actions so it’s best to always be respectful, polite, and keep in mind that they are not human.

 

MS: You obviously do a great deal of research, and I see quotes from Cicero and Pliny in your book. What’s the most fascinating or relevant piece of literature you have found in you research for your reconstructionist methods?

MD: For Druidism it would be really hard to pick just one. I really love the Lebor Gabala Erenn and look to that and the Cath Maige Tuired for stories about the Gods. For actual practice I’ve gotten a lot out of McNeill’s Silver Bough series, Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, O hOgain’s Sacred Isle, Danaher’s books…I guess I’d have to say that it’s all about weaving the different sources together rather than any single source.

MS: If you could name one person as a spiritual mentor, who would it be and why?

MD: If I could name a deceased person, W.B. Yeats, without a doubt. I carried his book Celtic Twilight around and read and re-read it until it fell apart. I think he was the first inspiration for my spirituality.

MS: Druidry seems to be gaining in popularity recently. Why do you think this is?

MD: I think there’s something about the idea of Druidry that appeals to people on a visceral level, whether the person sees it as an environmental philosophy or a pagan religion connected to the ancient Celts. Modern Druidry has so many different faces and iterations that it can speak to a wide range of people all seeking to connect to their idea of what a Druid is.

MS: What’s the most vital part of being a druid, for you?

MD: Connection.

MS: And other than Fairy Witchcraft, what other projects do you have on the horizon?

MD: I’d really love to come out with a second book on reconstructionist Druidism so I’ve been working on that although who knows if it will ever see the light of day. I’m contributing to several anthologies through Moon Books and blogging. I’ve been tossing around the idea of a book for teens on Heathenry and one on Druidism. So who knows? Every time I think I can’t possibly have another book to write, I end up writing one.

Morgan’s current release, Where the Hawthorn Grows, is available now through Moon Books, from Amazon and all good book retailers. You can keep up to date with Morgan at her Blog.

Yvonne Ryves: Weaving the Web

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Yvonne Ryves is a practicing shamanic healer, shamanic drum maker, holistic therapist and trainer. Living and working in West Cork, Ireland, she runs courses on energy healing and shamanic work. She has recently contributed to the Shaman Pathways series with the book Web of Life, cited as a new approach to using ancient ways in contemporary times. I caught up with Yvonne to find out a bit more about the book.

Mabh: What inspired you to write Web of Life?

Yvonne: For some time before I wrote Web of Life, I had been aware of how often I came across ways of working which were powerful and useful but which did not really fit me, and so caused me to adjust either them or myself accordingly. For example I had been struggling on and off for about four years with working with a medicine wheel and not being able to hold on to any of it enough to work with it. A healing blanket made for me, which contained the spirit animals I work with, really highlighted that I actually work within an amalgamation of cultures; some Celtic, some Native American, some Andean and that this was completely right for me. This got me thinking and made sense of why the medicine wheel as such didn’t fit me. Alongside this I had become increasingly aware of how other cultures have guidance e.g. in the form of medicine wheels, wheels of life and the wheel of the year, for example, but those of us who are not from such cultures or backgrounds have nothing to guide and support us. Out of this thinking came the need to create something that could be taken by anyone regardless of culture or beliefs and be developed by them to create something unique to them and with which they could work. This turned out to be the Web of Life.

MS: Who do you think will get the most out of this book?

YR: Everyone! And I really do mean that. I think we all benefit from opening to the connection we have with all that exists, learning to listen to the guidance and knowledge that is around us and using it to assist us in moving through our lives with greater awareness of what we are choosing to create as we do.

MS: So, would you say the ideas within this book could be adapted by those not on a specifically shamanic path?

YR: Undoubtedly. My aim was to create something that was accessible and adaptable by everyone regardless of their culture or belief. Web of Life is not specifically shamanic; rather, it is based on the belief that everything that exists is alive and communicates with everything else that exists, a belief that is shared by Pagans, Shamans, Buddhists, Wiccans and also some scientists to name but a few.

MS: Tell us a bit about the Shaman Pathways series this book is a part of.

YR: The Shaman Pathways series is a collection of short books by a range of authors and published by Moon Books, which look at different aspects of shamanism. There is a parallel series Pagan Portals also published by Moon Books.

MS: Shamanism is often regarded as a South American or native American idea; how well does shamanism translate into our western culture?

YR: The origins of the word shaman actually come from the Tungus people of Siberian rather than South American or Native American. It has though grown in use as a general term used to describe tribal cultures which work in similar ways to those seen within the Tungus people. There are many aspects of shamanic practice but the one thing that makes it different from everything else is the ability to walk between worlds and work with spirit helpers or guides.

Shamanism in some form was probably used by every culture that existed and not restricted to any one culture. Although the names that were used were different (e.g. Witch, medicine man or woman, sin eater) they were all forms of what we now would term as shaman.

In the West we have always had a shamanic culture even if there is little evidence of it having existed. I think that the world needs shamanism and that in the current climate people are seeking a way to reconnect with this element of their lives. Shamanism here is not necessarily tribal shamanism, nor does it need to be. As everything adapts, so has shamanism so it is very relevant and translates easily into our western culture.

MS: How did you first become interested in shamanic ways?

YR: While I was doing my apprenticeship as a Reiki Master I had some spontaneous past life recall one of which was as a young Native American child being shown how to identify and work with the plants in the woods by my Grandfather. He has lead me ever onwards since that time although it was a few years since I had a name for what I was being taught and a name for shamanic journeying. By the time I had these names it was just something that was part of me and what I did.

MS: You do many aspects of magical work including Reiki and holistic therapy as well as shamanic healing; would you say, overall, that you are a healer?

YR: Mmm that’s a difficult on [laughs]. I had an argument with one of my students years ago about just this. I denied that I was a healer, instead holding onto the belief that it was the energy that did the work and that I was just a channel for the energy. I could also add to that, that it is my spirit helpers that do the healing when I do shamanic work but this really negates what I do and my role within the process of healing. Overall though I would now say that yes, I am a healer.

MS: Web of Life is quite a slim volume; any plans to expand upon it?

YR: Not specifically. I could so easily have made it a much bigger book and included more background on Medicine Wheels, more theory behind the idea of a web of life for example, but I wanted it to be immediately accessible to people including those who might never have picked up a book like it before. I made a conscious decision therefore not to do this. I really wanted to give readers their freedom to create something that works for them rather than have to adapt a way someone else has created. I believe therefore that people, once they have worked with Web of Life, will create their own unique ways to expand their work with their webs.

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

YR: I am in the process of writing a book about shamanism and labyrinths which is something I am very interested in and have another idea for a book lurking but nothing firm yet.

I have also been contacted recently about shamanic training and this is something that I would like to look at in the future, both in person and distance training if I can find a practical way to make it work.

MS: A few of us with family in Ireland have observed that talking about life as an alternative practitioner or Pagan doesn’t have to be so ‘hush hush’ anymore. Living in Ireland, do you feel as if Paganism is on the rise there?

YR: Yes I do. There are still those who see anything alternative as being the work of the devil of course but in general people here, even older generations, are much more open than in the past and there is a growing interest in returning to the roots of our ancestors. I have really noticed an upsurge in those offering access to courses relating to all forms of paganism including shamanism. I actually find it very easy to be authentic here and never feel I have to hide what I do or what I am.

MS: Do you feel a connection to the land where you work and does this help with your healing?

YR: Yes very definitely. The land, and my connection to it, is vital for the type of healing I do. I rely a lot on being in contact with the energies around me and being able to call upon their assistance when I need to. I am blessed with living in a place that has amazing energy.

MS: Your academic qualifications are in teaching and education. Is this still a big part of your life?

YR: Not teaching in the traditional sense but passing on what I know and what I have learnt to others is still a big part of what I do whether this is in person or through my writing. I have tried many times to walk away from teaching but it is such an intrinsic part of me and my path here that I have now just accepted that. I do love seeing others grow, develop and find their own paths and it now feels like a gift to be able to be part of this.

MS: Does the teaching experience spill over into your spiritual endeavours; do you use the same skills when passing on your knowledge of shamanic skills, for example?

YR: Yes very much so. I have always been a facilitator rather than someone who is didactic and this is still how I work. I myself learn best by doing, through experiential learning and this really is how I pass on skills and knowledge now.

MS: You have a diverse range of experience and your bio tells us that you are now studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. What is the common theme in all your endeavours; what drives you to learn these skills?

YR: I think the common theme of all of it is going where I am led. I rarely know why I am drawn to do something, but trust that somewhere in it all is something I need. It’s a way of being that has taken me to some interesting places now but I can honestly say that none of it has ever been wasted. It might be several days, weeks, or even years before I understand why I did something but in the end it does all make sense. Sometimes my guides take pity on me and I am given some insight before I start but this is rare and to be honest makes it all so much more fun.

I think that whatever I do I learn more about myself and the more I learn the more I can help others.

MS: And finally, where do you see yourself in your own Web of Life 5 years from now?

YR: Oh that really is an impossible question for me to answer and always has been. I have never been able to visualise where I will be in 1/5/10 years’ time for some reason. I can remember during some training being asked to do this and honestly not being able to. I think it’s linked to my going where I’m led, going with the flow as it were. If I live this way, if I trust I am being looked after and guided then I only need to know about the now. When I plan my life path within my own Web of Life it is only to connect with the energies/teachers who are going to help me with what is ahead. I know if I work with them I stand a much better chance of learning the lessons that are there for me, understanding what is going on and not missing something important. With every path I weave in my Web of Life I weave it in the knowledge that it will take the time it needs, so I never know whether the part of the path I have woven is a short path or a long one.

Yvonne’s book Shaman Pathways: Web of Life is out now via Amazon and all other good book retailers.

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