Check out the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD)’s book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Order! I was honoured to be interviewed by Philip Carr-Gomm for this very special weekend, and was delighted to be a part of it all. You can buy The Golden Seed from OBOD’s online store now! Click HERE for more details.
Just beautiful. Recorded in Plum Village Monastery (set up by Thich Nhat Hanh) by Tabea with the loving support of Sister True Vow.
Here is a reblog link to my latest post at SageWoman on DruidHeart …
Sensuality – what a lovely word. It rolls off the tongue – you have to say it slowly, it really doesn’t work otherwise. Like dripping honey. Sweet molasses. A cat’s stretch. It needs time, awareness, mindfulness.
Sensuality is often misinterpreted as relating solely to the sexual experience. What we need to do is bring the sensual back into our everyday lives, seeing how it relates to the whole experience rather than just a sexual one. Sensual – input from the senses. There are so many other senses that are pretty much asleep for most of our day. Sometimes there are very good reasons – we couldn’t really function if all our senses were firing on full all at the same time. But reawakening them, especially at this time of year, and working with them intentionally can help us to rediscover our world through our bodies, rather than just living in our heads.
All too often we experience life only through our minds, leaving our bodies out. Mind and body are intertwined, and both need input, both need nourishment in order to function properly. When we get too caught up in thinking, our bodies are often neglected. When we are too wrapped up in the physical, our intellect or even spiritual attributes can suffer. Finding a holistic balance is key.
I know far too many people living in their heads. They suffer greatly, because they cannot escape their own mindtraps. To alleviate that suffering, we need to reawaken the sensual.
So what is the sensual? Essentially, it is working with the senses…
To read more, click HERE.
Beltane is fast approaching – the house martins are back, the bluebells are coming out, the earth underfoot is soft and the air is turning warmer. Many thoughts are turning to the coming summer, the long days, the short nights, the summer clothes, or lack thereof. I’ve heard it said that Beltane arrives when it is warm enough to make love outside without freezing your bits off, alongside the usual ‘when the hawthorn blooms’. But I do wonder, with a smile – is it ever the season in Britain to have your clothes off?
Don’t get me wrong – I love being naked. Without the restriction of clothing, the body moving freely, feeling the air upon your skin, swimming naked; all these are pure bliss. What’s not so lovely about being naked outdoors is sunburn, or bug bites, sitting on thistles or treading around nettles, etc. We humans (sadly, in my opinion) have evolved without all that much fur to protect us from the elements.
On the rare days that it is warm enough here in Britain to get outside naked, you’re more than likely to get sunburn, especially if you’re fair like I am. I’m not a big fan of slathering sunscreen all over my body (I don’t like the feeling of the lotion). I’d rather wear some lightweight clothing to protect my bits from the sun, wearing sunscreen on any exposed bits. That way, it also doesn’t interfere with any insect repellent that I might be wearing – I love lavender, as well as citronella, as they are brilliant at keeping away the mozzies and the midges. However, they can react with your sunscreen, making it less effective, so I try not to combine the two on my skin. So, if you’re not being burned or bitten, it’s probably cold and wet and rainy, which is nice, for a while being outside and naked in, but for a sustained length of time leaving you shivering and probably not terribly healthy in the end.
There are also other considerations to bear in mind when being outdoors and naked – will others see you? It’s still illegal in this country, unless you’re in a designated naturist resort or camp. I’ve spent many summer days at nudist beaches and hot springs, revelling in the lovely feeling of freedom of being naked (bugs are less of an issue on the beach and around the hotsprings, though sunscreen is a constant pain). These are places where people know that they will be seeing other naked people – it’s not a surprise or a shock when they come across the naked human form. We have to consider other people’s issues as well as our own when we are exploring nudity – we can’t just think of ourselves in this regard. How would I feel if my nudity made someone feel uncomfortable? While it’s good to challenge people’s perceptions every now and then, pushing them into uncomfortable situations isn’t all that respectful. Think of the young girl who has been sexually abused by her stepfather, and confronted suddenly with a naked male stranger during ritual or at a pagan camp – that’s not a situation that is taking into consideration her story, her feelings on the matter. Working with compassion means we have to try to understand everyone’s story, even as we are telling our own, and realising that others’ stories matter, even if we haven’t heard them. If we are in a designated area where we know there will be nudity, and where everyone is in the same mindset, then we can be more respectful to the thoughts and feelings of others, whatever their situation.
It’s a great and liberating thing to do, to explore nudity outdoors, getting in touch with your body, spending some time around other naked bodies without a sexual agenda. However, I would say that there is a time and place for this, in order to respect other people’s feelings (and the law). My last trip to Avebury in March saw a couple just on the other side of the bank pleasuring each other in a field – a beautiful affirmation of their feelings, yes, but not entirely appropriate perhaps when walking around with a three-year old. And speaking of sexual agendas, making love in the forest, while perhaps being illegal (indecent exposure) can be a beautiful expression of our souls connecting not only with each other, but the earth itself (though do be prepared for possible bug bites in embarrassing places – or massage each other first with a lavender massage oil!). It all comes down to respect – will you be disturbing anyone? If so, I’m sure that there are other equally fine alternatives.
It all comes down to respect – respect for yourself, for others and for the land. May you find blessed freedom and comfort in your own body!
My latest blog post for SageWoman :)
Meditation is a huge part of my spiritual life. It is something that I try to do every single day, in various shapes and forms. I find that sitting meditation, or zazen is the best way for my self to refocus on what’s important, to stop the chattering ego and really get deep down to the issues at hand. So much clarity is gained from simply stopping, from allowing the silence to fill your soul. In that deep pool of quiet, in that dark heart of Cerridwen’s cauldron, lies transformation.
You have to be willing to do it, though. It’s difficult, as many of us don’t really like spending time alone, much less sitting still and “wasting time”. However, I would posit that this could very well be the best use of your time, realigning you to the present moment, grounding yourself in the reality of the here and now. We can get so carried away on our emotions, on our problems with the world, on our own sense of self that we become blinkered to the rest of existence. Life is constantly happening, all around us, and we hardly notice it. Sitting meditation is a great way to pay attention to it, to our selves, our bodies and our minds, to see how they work, to get in touch with them once again, thereby allowing us to get in touch with the rest of the world on a much clearer, positive level.
Like a deep pool, the waters may become disturbed, but if we stop the mud will eventually settle to the bottom, the clear water rising to the top to perfectly reflect the sky above. We can become as this pool, reflecting with clarity the present moment in all that we do, in all that we say and in all that we think. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.
To read more, click HERE…
Yesterday I gave a chakra cleansing workshop at the Woodbridge Mind Body Spirit Festival. It’s an event that I attend every year, performing with my dance company and giving workshops/talks. Here is a recording of the workshop if you are interested! x
This is a reblog from my latest blog post at Moon Books. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know if you’ve had similar experiences. :)
I had meditated and tranced for nearly an hour before my altar, to the sounds of the birds outside and Heloise Pilkington on my cd player. http://www.heloisepilkington.com/index.htm My cats joined me, sleeping in their respective spots, their purrs vibrating along my spine. As the incense burned out, I came back to myself, having danced with my goddess, diving in her mysteries and those of my own soul.
I was ready now. Time to go out, to seek her, to seek the awen. I packed a small bag with more incense and some water and made my way out of the house and onto the heath. Taking my time, walking slowly, I feel more graceful after my time spent at my altar, both within myself and within my goddess. Life goes easier on me. I ghost through the trees at the edge of the wood, where heath meets beech and oak, and thirty feet away from me are the deer. A vast herd of them, probably about a hundred, lying down basking in the warm spring sunshine. I smile and make a small wave of my hand as I pass by. They have come to know me, and do not run away, though they stand up – just in case. I feel their vibrant energy lifting my heart, and my soul runs free with theirs. I leave them where they were, carrying on along the edge, where two environments, where two entities, two souls meet and intertwine. Here is where the potential lies. Here is where power lies.
But I move on, for this is not my chosen spot. There is a very special place to me, again that lies on edges, in a small copse of birch trees on the edge of another part of the heath, where a stream marks the boundaries between woodland, heath and farmer’s fields. As I step carefully amongst the heather across this beautiful open-access land, I smile at the familiar faces of friends – the oak trees, the sandy soil, the great pines. Then I see it, my special spot, the birch trees about to burst open their buds, everything hanging in anticipation. Narcissus flower everywhere underneath the white boles, running down through the patch of woodland that hides the stream from prying eyes. Spots of yellow, like little suns, laugh and smile as they stretch towards our nearest star.
I walk beneath the birch trees, looking at the fox den and rabbit holes. I find my place, a clear space of ground and here I put down my bag. Looking around me, there are branches everywhere as the recent winds of springtime have brought many down. I gather some up, together with pieces of flint and quartz that lie upon the mossy earth. I make my circle of sticks and stones, and smile at the thought.
Lighting the incense, I walk around the circle several times, then place it carefully upon a bare patch of earth. I take my bottle of water and allow a thin stream of water to bless this sacred space. Standing at the four directions I honour them for all that they are. Within the centre I recognise and remind myself of the three worlds: land, sea and sky. I use the ritual gestures that I have created over the years to emphasize my words, to bring them into action. I breathe in the air, filled with the scents of spring, face the stream and call to my goddess.
“Lady of the sacred flame. Lady of the sacred water. Where fire and water meet is the greatest power. I honour you with all that I am, for all that you are. Lady of healing, lady of transformation, lady of poetry, lady of creativity. Show me your mysteries. I open my soul to you, to hear your song.”
A wave of energy comes towards me, nearly knocking me off my feet. I balance, and turn around, knowing that there is incense behind me. I move carefully around the incense, walking as if through treacle or dark, sticky molasses. I need to lie down. The Earth is pulling me down, down into her mysteries. Carefully I lower myself to the ground, a pair of hawks overhead crying as they circle, riding the thermals.
I close my eyes. The earth thrums beneath me, the sky singing above me. I hear it. I hear The Song.
I’ve heard it all my life. I just didn’t have words for it. I didn’t know its name. A few weeks ago, I heard those two words, Oran Mòr. It all made sense. The song of harmony, of life, of existence. The sigh of the wind through the pines, overlaid with the cries of the hawk, the soft bass of the earth and the timpany of heartbeats of every creature around me. They create a wondrous sound, a flowing song that speaks of life, of constant creation, or whirling through time and space. It sings of this blue planet and the stars’ dancing round. The sound of distant cars are tuned to the wind. Everything is singing.
The song fades, and my eyes begin to open, but I am not yet ready to let it go. I refocus, and tune into it once again. There is my own melody within the song, and the deer and the fox, the blackbird and the pheasant. There are the rocks and the slow pulsing of lava beneath the earth’s surface. There are the soft notes of the light clouds overhead and the bright arias of all the stars in the sky hidden by daylight. I let this sound soak into my skin, into my being. Slowly it fades, and I smile as I now know a new secret. I have heard a new song, the song of my goddess, the song of all existence, and it is exquisite.
Slowly I get up, thanking the gods and the spirits of place for their beauty. I take down my circle, the memory of the Oran Mòr still bright within my soul. I know that it is not something I can yet carry with me all the time – it is still too powerful, too enchanting. I would be off my head if I did. That wonderful, ecstatic moment is my inspiration, my awen, and my channel to tap into Source. I know where to plug in now.
Slowly walking back home, I see the horses in the paddocks, a beautiful white horse frolicking with his smaller, dark friend. He looks at me, his gorgeous long face reminding me of Shadowfax, Gandalf’s horse from Lord of the Rings, descended from a race of noble equines called Mearas. Here is a modern day Mearas, his intelligent eyes looking into my soul, his playful heart and light foot moving joyously over the ground. He trots up and down his paddock, showing off his beautiful gait, where he barely touches the ground. I smile in pure joy. He canters, slides to a stop, and trots back with his friend at his side. His antics bring over the other horses from the other side of the fence. I open my soul to him in friendship, but he is too caught up in Springtime. I smile and leave them to their games beneath the warm sun, and head home, the memory of the Song still humming deep within my veins.
This is what it means to be alive.
Joanna van der Hoeven is a Moon Books author with three titles released in the Pagan Portals series, including the No.1 Amazon bestseller The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid. She is indebted to author Alison Leigh Lily for bringing those two words, Oran Mòr to her consciousness.