Jason Kirkey: Celtic spiritual ecologist

Salmon-in-the-SpringI had my mind blown a while back by Jason Kirkey’s book, The Salmon in the Spring. It is the best book I have ever read about Celtic spirituality, animism and ecology. Now, as I am re-reading it, again I am finding my head nodding in response to everything he says, like some little toy dog in the back of someone’s car.  I am eagerly anticipating his new book, which hopefully will be available soon.  Though I’ve never met him, or spoken to him, I feel a soul kinship to his words and thoughts that resonate so deeply with my own spirituality. Concepts of ego and environment, of humanity’s place within the whole, has left me once again reeling with a different perception.  When I have found some handholds I shall write about it, first needing to find a more coherent sense of self in order to form the words :)

To find our more about Jason Kirkey, please visit his website HERE.

Finding balance

Finding your balance point is a major part of this season, the season of harvest. We learn of need and abundance, of just enough and not quite enough. We learn what needs to be worked on still, and what we can sit back and enjoy. Having a birthday that falls right in the middle of the harvest season is a great reminder for me to stop, to take stock, in my own personal life. Too often for me the focus is outward, and rightly so in my opinion, working on deep integration and relationship. Too often too many spend their entire lives looking inward, and missing the entire outer experience of being in the world. The curse of self-awareness is a blinkered view of the world because the focus is centred on the self. When the self becomes “we”, however, our views can change rapidly. But right here, right now, I am about to celebrate another year’s passing in my life, camping with my husband, taking our canoe out and enjoying some time together away from all the demands of everyday life. With the equinox approaching, the crops still being taken in, the apples in my garden ripening, I see how everything in nature is working in a balance, where if something is out of kilter, it will more than likely fail.

Taking this time is essential for my own personal balance. Teetering on the tipping point of a situation can be gloriously inspiring, invigorating and exciting, but so can finding that harmony within. So many people feel alive only when they are tipped one way or another, but for me balancing in the middle of that teeter-totter was always the best place to be on the playground. Literally. I loved finding my balance, seeing the ends of the teeter-totter stretched out to either side, knowing that I could keep them both off the ground and in balance through finding my own centre. I didn’t need the drama of a great high or a low bump while sitting on the edge of that playground attraction – that middle place was the most exhilarating, where I found I used the most skill to find and maintain my own balance to affect the whole.

I’ve always had good balance physically. Learning to ski and ice skate from a very early age, riding bikes all summer long, I knew how to find and work with that sweet spot to my own advantage. With ice-skating in particular I loved spinning, finding that spot on the blade of my skate that allowed me to spin at speed in one place, ignoring the dizziness and simply being in the moment of perfect balance, often one leg lifted, creating beautiful shapes and feeling physically present and wonderful in that moment.

Spiritually, my work in Buddhism has helped me to understand the wisdom of the Middle Way. This is not to say that my life isn’t full of spiritual or emotional ups and downs, but instead the focus is to incorporate the teachings of harmony and balance into everyday life.

I simply don’t understand the need to create huge dramas when life is so utterly wonderful. I’m not saying my life is wonderful, for again there are equal amounts of pleasure and pain, work and enjoyment, life and death. But being in that moment of moving beyond opens me to the wonder that is so utterly inspiring to Druids the world over. It is that exquisite taste of awen, of inspiration, where souls meet and worlds are broken open into new and deeper meanings than ever imagined. That wonder is not just found in great highs and at the turning point of the lowest lows, but also in perfect balance.

This harvest season, as we approach the equinox, I’ll be working further with balance, opening my eyes to see it in the world around me, to allow it to inspire me further in my work. In the heathland and forest of my home, where the ecosystem maintains itself without human intervention. In the cycles of water and wind that roam over our blue planet. In the dance of stars and moons that hurtle through time and space. And at the centre of it all is balance, even as the world spins without, here, at the very centre is a stillness that is so exquisite there simply aren’t even words to describe it.

Faith?

joannavanderhoeven:

Another great blog post by Snowhawke.

Originally posted on The Animist Druid:

Faith is an interesting concept. I lived without any faith for much of my adult life. The search for meaning in life, the search for the sacred, my reaching for relationship with divinity, didn’t provide any sense of “faith in a higher purpose”, and guidance from a caring God outside of the tangible forces of Nature, which are my gods. I had no faith.

A year ago I attended a gathering in New Mexico. The night sky in the West shows clearly the sheer vastness of the universe; our own Milky Way one of billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, with trillions of planets, the night sky, huge beyond my human capacity to take in.

As part of the work we did at the men’s conclave at the Cuyamungue Institute, we visited a secreted archaeological site of the Pueblo people. Everywhere I looked there were shards of pottery…

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Darkness, the Self and Release

I wept this morning, over a photo of a man fleeing his Syrian homeland with his two children, stepping out of the boat, clutching his loved ones close to him and weeping himself. What uncertainty faces this family, along with the other refugees arriving on the islands of Greece? What could it possibly feel like to leave all that you know, out of fear for your life and those that you love, hoping that your decision will be the right one?

This is probably not a decision that I shall ever have to make in my lifetime. It is moments like these that remind me to step beyond myself, to get outside of my head, to stop thinking in the context of “me” and move forward into integrated relationship. Doing this keeps things in perspective, and keeps my own troubles, pains and dark wolves at bay. When the weight of the world seems to push me under, I get beyond myself and into the wider web. It is something that I’ve been writing about for months now, about deep integration, about dropping the illusion of the self, about seeing the interconnectedness of all things.

I look out my window and see a leaf on the beech tree. That leaf is not separate from the other leaves. That leaf is not separate from the branch, or any part of the tree. The tree is the leaf and the leaf is the tree. Even when the leaf falls in the autumn, it lands on the ground at the base of the tree, decaying into the soil, feeding the roots and is still a part of the tree. Watching this cycle, witnessing it from a Druid perspective I see how the illusion of separateness causes us so much suffering. There is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only life.

Deep integration and dropping the sense of self. Seeing beyond the “me, myself and I” keeps my head above the water, rafting the currents of life. When things are at their darkest, I can release into that darkness, dropping the edges and boundaries and allowing a greater perspective than could ever be achieved thinking that I am confined to this body and this mind. When the sheer stupidity of the human race threatens to drag me down, when my body is in great pain, when I see others suffering, I release into the darkness and there find the potential that awaits, like the seed in wintertime. If I fail in that endeavour, then there is always a back-up, words spoken by someone whose name I cannot remember, but goes something along the lines of:

“When I am in pain, show me someone who is in agony. When I am hungry, show me someone who is starving…”

Again, this lets me step beyond my self, to allow me a greater perspective. Pain and suffering, cruelty and bad behaviour all stem from misperceptions. If we can get past that notion of the self, that self-centredness, then we can dance with the divine in a beautiful, graceful round surrounded by the stars, galaxies and all life as we know it. In doing so we are free.

Reblog: Ancestors and Integration

© Photography by Emily Fae, www.photographybyemilyfae.com

Here is a taster from my latest blog post at SageWoman – I’ve also got an article coming up in the next print edition of SageWoman magazine, so keep an eye out!

I learned something fascinating this weekend. I learned that as women, when we are in our mother’s womb, we already have all the ovum (eggs) that we will release during our fertile years. So, to put that into context, when my mother was in my grandmother’s womb, I was also there, partly, as one of the eggs that would be fertilised by my father. This link only occurs in women, and it just blew my mind. I was in my grandmother’s womb.

Our lines of ancestry can be glorious and transformational journeys of discovery. Not only in a historical sense, exploring records and genealogy, but also connecting spiritually with our ancestors. As the darkness creeps in and the days get shorter, in the cooling air with the harvest being taken in the fields all around me, my thoughts turn to my ancestors and to the self, releasing into the approaching autumn and finding great comfort and joy in the letting go.
In order to release that sense of self, however, we must first come to know our self.

Exploring who we are, where we came from, what makes us “us” is key to this work. Understanding circumstances, experiences, lines of ancestry can enrich our lives and help us to uncover depths of our own soul that may have previously escaped our notice.

To read more/full article, click HERE.

Busy times ahead!

The Awen Alone Joanna van der Hoeven

My latest book, The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid has broken through another sales barrier last month – I am really pleased and very grateful for the warm reception that this book has received! I am currently working on a new book at the moment, diving in and getting stuck into a much more in-depth piece of work entitled Druid: Priest of Nature.   I hope to have finished writing this one by this time next year – wish me luck!

Sacrifice

barley stubbleSacrifice – it’s one of those “old” words, like honour and duty. Many who have read Roman accounts of the Druids associate the word, sacrifice, with the priest caste of the Celtic people at that particular time. However, the word goes even further back into the beginnings of time for the human animal, when the importance of relationship with nature was everything, when we knew that to disconnect ourselves from the natural world meant death. Today, we must remember this, remember each and every day how much we are a part of the world, how much our everyday actions count, no matter how small. Each day is also an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings that we have. At Lammas, however, just giving thanks doesn’t seem quite enough. When the first crop is harvested, and the land lies stark and naked, shaved and shorn from under the combine harvester, giving thanks and saying words over the field doesn’t feel adequate. This, for me, is where sacrifice comes into play.

It’s hard as the line keeps shifting between giving thanks and the notion of sacrifice. What might be an offering to one person might be seen as a sacrifice to another. I can only speak from my own personal viewpoint, as I may value things differently from my neighbours, my family, and members of my pagan community. So, what is the difference between an offering and a sacrifice?

For me, sacrifice is something of significant value. This is not necessarily a monetary value, but could be something that is cherished, prized, something that is utterly loved and which has a representative value of the threads of connection we hold with the gods, the ancestors, the spirits of place. What is it that I have which I value? What am I willing to give back in return for the flow of awen, that spark where soul touches soul and is inspired? What am I willing to do to achieve that?

When the barley in the field by my house is cut, the energy of the land drastically changes. Between the homes and the heathland there are two arable fields, one which was harvested in the spring for green barley, and one which still has the golden, bowed stalks waiting to be harvested. Acknowledging the change isn’t enough, for when we hear the songs of the ancestors, I feel how important these crops were for them, how important their relationship with the land meant their survival and success. In a field of growing barley, there is potential, a shimmering energy waiting to be harvested. When that field is cut, the potential can be scattered if the land is not honoured. The ancestors knew this, but we have forgotten. Modern farming depletes the soil of essential nutrients that must be replaced, often by less-than-natural means. The barley is cut, and the field then stands, barren and forgotten for weeks, until the farmer and his tractor are ready to plough in the winter or spring crops.

The land isn’t respected, isn’t acknowledged anymore. As an animist, I find this appalling. When the land has been used, has given us so much in a beautiful field of barley, and we don’t even give thanks, much less sacrifice then there is dishonour. As with any relationship, if one side continually gives and gives, and the other continually takes and takes, the balance will shift, the relationship will crumble and great suffering will ensue.

What can I give that will honour the lives that this crop will feed, that will honour the land that grew it, that will honour the ancestors that worked it, that will honour the spirits of place who live there? What will be a significant gift for all we have received?

The sacrifice will change year upon year. What matters most is the importance of the sacrifice to me personally.

Offerings represent a more daily interaction, little gifts and niceties that you would present to any friend that you meet: a cup of tea, a biscuit, some of the fresh-baked bread you just made, or your home-brew mead. Finding out what the local spirits of place would like is as polite as asking your guest how she would like her tea: with or without milk, honey or sugar? When it comes to sacrifice, however, the shift of focus changes to become more introverted rather than extroverted.

I’ve previously in earlier articles described sacrifice as something that is not only of great value, but also as something that can help you “get to the next level”, so to speak. No, we’re not playing at Druids on World of Warcraft, but we are seeking to deepen our relationship with the land. Sacrifice is key in this regard, helping us to go deeper, to give more of ourselves in order to understand more of the land.

Many within the Pagan traditions see the Sun King as offering himself as sacrifice at this time of year, to be cut down as the grain is cut, to be reborn at Yule. Yet are we comfortable allowing the Sun King to do this each and every year, or should we also take our part in the sacrifice, participating rather than simply watching the cycles of life unfold?

And so I will spend the next few weeks walking the land, finding out what I can give, what I can do to deepen my relationship with it, to be an active contributor instead of a passive spectator. Some aspect of my self must be willing to die alongside John Barleycorn in order to understand the cycles of nature. Some sacrifice must be made.