I was recently interviewed by The Wild Hunt about my work at Druid College – you can read the full interview HERE!
After Skyping yesterday with my friend and colleague, Kevin Emmons (who runs Druid College in Maine, USA) and having a great chat on the success of our first weekend of Druid College here in the UK (13 wonderful students, brilliant venue, great co-tutor Robin Herne and foraging expert, David Slate) I finished up some interview questions for The Wild Hunt, looked outside the window and decided I needed to get out into that sunshine. I had been hard at work all day, preparing my Zen Druidry online course and now wanted some fresh air, sun and that wonderful autumn smell that lingers on the sandy heath and under the trees.
I grabbed my staff (still with its ribbon of intention tied around it from our ritual at Druid College on Saturday night) and headed out the door, smiling at the sun, the vast amount of bees and other insects in the flowering ivy at the corner of my road leading onto the bridleway. I walked past the farmer’s field, bare barley stalks shining golden, greenish-yellow grass coming through the dried remains. I greeted the horses in their paddocks and walked out onto the heath, a Buddhist chant in my head.
Desiring to hear the songs of others, I tried to clear the Buddhist chant from my head by listening to the wonder, the symphony of sounds all around me but to no avail – it was simply replaced by another chant, this one a well-known Pagan Goddess chant. I sighed and let it be, trying to not attach to it or to the desire to change it, and simply walked on, paying attention to the light, the colours, the sounds and smells around me as the music flowed through my brain.
As I approached my special spot, a copse of birch trees set in the corner of a heather-filled wide open space, I saw that a large herd of deer had gathered beneath the golden boughs. I stopped and, not wanting to disturb them, sat down where I was beneath an oak tree. I took a couple of deep breaths and bowed low to the herd, to the oak tree, to the heathland. My mind stilled, the chants faded and the brilliance of the Oran Mór entered my soul, that great song of all existence. My heart was filled with joy, my soul resonating with the sound. How long I sat there I am not sure, but a stag calling behind me entered into the song, and I slowly detached from it, knowing that it was time to move on.
As I stood up, I noticed that the herd of deer had silently moved from the birch copse, and were now directly behind me. As I shook out my coat and replaced it over my shoulders, they began to move again, now heading towards the main part of the heath in great running, leaping bounds. I watched them go, letting their beauty and grace fill my soul with delight. As the last few does, meeping to their young left the area, the great stag appeared, his broad antlers heavy upon his head, his thick neck holding his head high and proud. He stopped, knowing that he was being watched, and I waved my hand to let him know who was watching him. He turned his magnificent head towards me, and we looked each other straight in the eye for many long moments.
I raised my staff up high towards him, my intention from the weekend’s ritual ringing through my soul: integration and compassion. I then bowed low to him, honouring him for all that he is with all that I am. We stood there for a few moments longer, looking into each other’s eyes, and I knew that he honoured me as I had honoured him. He then turned and lazily bounded after his does, carrying his rack with ease through the pine and bracken. Tears sprung into my eyes as I watched him leave, and I felt utterly blessed by this soul to soul connection. Let the awen flow.
Sitting on the edge of the North River where I grew up, I feel the energies of the water’s flow, the water molecules and its soulsong moving through the landscape and through my own soul. Known for its rapids, it attracts many visitors in the spring (when its wild rush from snowmelt takes the breath away) and in the autumn (when the trees’ fiery colours blaze against the white foam). There are many places to sit amidst the rapids when the water is low enough, and that’s where most people like to sit, right in the heart of the dramatic whirl and rush of water as it crashes, engulfing the senses until you can hear nothing but water, water, water.
But it’s not here that I like to sit – I much prefer to be at the bottom of the rapids, where the drama ends and then there’s a flat stillness, where the bubbles and foam slowly pop as they moves downriver, the surface reflecting the trees and sky above. I sit on a rock and feel the rush of movement to my right, the great dramatic unfolding of the rapids. To my left is utter stillness, where the ducks and gulls are fishing. Right before me is where the two meet, slowing into stillness, settling into another current of energy. Where edges meet there is great power and learning.
I turn my head to the right and look back up to the rapids, and see my own thoughts as the rocks that the waters of my soul crash up against time and again, causing the water to explode high into the air or tumble in whirlpools, hitting one rock and then another on its way down. Those rocks are someone who still tries to upset, annoy, or undermine me and I smile to those rocks, compassion flowing though my soul and the through the landscape towards that person as I see their own personal suffering, even though I long ago decided I wouldn’t stick around for further abuse. I see my physical limitations, my body slamming against the rocks of rheumatoid arthritis and perimenopause, and the hidden rocks within my genes that may surface one day as breast cancer or high blood pressure. I smile to these rocks as well, knowing that even as I crash against them I am still moving around them, ever downriver towards the calm when there are no more rocks. I see a myriad of thoughts that my brain crashes against, creating dramas and I smile to all of these rocks, turning my head to follow the flow and see ahead of me where it begins to settle, as I settle upon my rock watching the willow leaves fall around me and into the river, a heron flying past.
I see that water is water, whether it is still or riding on great foaming crests that reach many metres into the sky. The water that roils is the same water that settles, and when all the obstacles are taken away it resolves to a beautiful and serene flat plain that reflects everything around it. Through meditation and compassion, integration with the world around me, seeing the soul behind the soul and the true nature of all existence, I too settle and reflect the world around me, a calm and peace from deep within. Though there may be more rapids ahead, I know the nature of water and of my own soul, for they are one and the same.
Here is a taster of my latest blog post for SageWoman’s channel at Witches and Pagans – to read the full article, click HERE. Exploring the soul behind the soul, the boundless nature of existence, love, compassion and more, with some Carl Sagan thrown in :)
Hildegard von Bingen wrote: “The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.” (Vol XXII, No. 5). This is a concept that I’ve been thinking about all week, and how we have tried to place unnatural limitations upon the body and soul based on our dualistic way of thinking. I suppose a true Zen answer would be the body is the soul and the soul is the body, but right now I’m enjoying thinking that the soul contains the body. Next week I’ll probably veer off into a more Zennist approach.
For this to happen, the soul must accept the body, not the other way around. As I’m not entirely certain that there is even such as thing as an individual soul, it’s an interesting concept. What if the “life force” on this little ball of rock hurtling through space is all soul, all an expression of soul? What if everything is an expression of the Earth’s soul, or the soul of the universe?
In Druidry many see the gods as being many, in a polytheistic approach. Some see them all as aspects of one deity, or of nature itself as a single entity, which is a more pantheistic approach. But what lies beyond the concepts of polytheism and pantheism? I don’t know yet, I just thought I’d throw that question out there.
After many brilliant short essays on the nature of the soul in a Celtic context, Tom Cowan towards the end of his fabulous book, Yearning for the Wind tantalises us with something similar. In an exercise that he suggests, we are offered the opportunity to try to see the soul behind the soul. While Cowan seems to willingly accept a single Creator deity (which doesn’t feel right to me, I’m much more of a “everything is soul and soul is everything” without the need for any one Creator or Creatrix) he does speak of a certain “yearning” for the soul to express itself. For me, this is close to what I’m currently exploring in terms of everthing being an expression of either a collective soul or an ongoing soul that has no begninning and that has no end. I’m not satisfied with the Big Bang Theory (the scientific theory, I love the show), in that there has to be a starting point for all creation. I see the universe as constantly being in flow, things arising and falling away, matter being transformed into other things along the way. Carl Sagan said “ The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apples pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.” I’ve no burning need to document a start point for this process, for I simply don’t see one; when does the life cycle of an oak tree begin? When the acorn grows on the branch? When it falls to the ground? When the seedling emerges from the soil? Half of me existed as an egg in my mother’s womb while she was growing in her own mother’s womb. When did I start to be?
Continued – to read the full article, click HERE.
Tom Cowan’s stories and insights into Celtic spirituality are brilliant. There will be a few future blog posts based around concepts from this book, concepts that coincide with things that currently are occupying my brain space, such as integration, immersion, the Oran Mor and more. This is a book that will not only blow your mind, but also leave you giggling, rooting for the author on his adventures, and developing a deeper insight into your own soul.
A beautiful book to read after The Salmon in the Spring! You can buy Yearning for the Wind HERE.
Yesterday I was able to catch up with two friends from high school – we three haven’t been together for around 13 years. Having friends that you can talk to, about absolutely anything, and know that they’re really listening, that they’re there for you, that they love you no matter what distance lies between you or how much time has passed is one of life’s greatest blessings. I am so utterly blessed in that I have made some truly wonderful and remarkable friends both where I grew up in Canada and where I have lived for the past 18 years in the UK.
Today I am also helping my Mom host a huge family reunion BBQ in our backyard. We have nearly 40 people coming, some family members I haven’t seen for twenty years, cousins I used to babysit who now have children of their own. We’ve always had a close family, spending every weekend at the grandparents’ when we were little, all the cousins playing while the aunts and uncles talked about grown-up things with my Oma and Opa. It’s so amazing that we’re all still able to get together, to laugh and to celebrate simply being alive on this gorgeous autumnal day. I’m sure my Oma and Opa would have loved to have seen everyone together again, and I shall be having a glass of punch for both of them who live on inside me, looking out through my eyes and the eyes and hearts of the rest of the family in this beautiful part of the world.
A loving family is a real treasure. Good friends are a true blessing. Never take these for granted. Breathe, smile, and be in the moment. Be present for them, and take them deep into your heart. Love and joy are boundless, and like the soul cannot be contained within the body. The soul is the container for the body, not the other way around, and the soul expands outwards as far as the horizon can see.
Today, my soul is flying high in the clearest of blue skies, riding autumnal breezes, smiling from my heart and enjoying my Mom’s delicious punch.
May your soul be free as well. x