Review of my 2018

What a year it has been! Despite all the depressing and, quite frankly, rage inspiring bollocks from politics around the world, and the growing problem of plastic and climate change around the world, etc., etc., here in this little part of the world, at my home on the edge of the heath near the North Sea, it’s not been a bad year.

Hedge Druid CoverI finished the Big Book of Druidry (as I like to call it) and it was a labour of love. So much work went into that volume, and I hope that it reaches people like The Awen Alone did. I received so many emails from people about The Awen Alone this year, so many wonderful and life-changing stories, and I am so grateful that people took time out of their busy lives to write and share their story.

I also started on another book, veering away from Druidry and into the realms of the Hedge Witch. Stay tuned!

All this writing, combined with an incredible heat wave over this summer, meant that I was much more sedentary that usual, which has resulted in a sluggish body and a few extra pounds that I can feel in my joints. So, this last month I’ve already started to be more active, doing yoga and going for 5k walks as often as I can, and already I can feel my strength returning. I will be teaching intermediate belly dance classes beginning the second week of Jan, so this will also add to my physical activity. I resolve to keep this up over the next year, to be a healthy and as active as I can be, and to enjoy the beauty of nature right outside my doorstep no matter what is on my plate, or whatever the weather.

While writing the new book I’ve felt a shift in my own practice as well. I feel a returning to the path of the witch, where it all started for me 25 years ago at Melange Magique when I was a 19-year old investigating the book shelves of that wonderful shop, in between fussing the cats that freely roamed the aisles and lay upon the counters. With a lot more experience and knowledge behind me, it has given it an entirely new flavour. I have always been a witch, but I had to study to become a Druid. This is the basis for the current work I am writing, which I hope to finish next year.

It’s also led me down side paths that again were explored many years ago, but never fully completed. I’ve felt a call to honour the Germanic and Scandinavian deities that are a part of my heritage, and so my research and practice into the culture, folklore, mythology and more has been re-awakened. While looking at some witchcraft practices for East Anglia to use as examples in my new work, I realised just how similar some of these were to those of north and western Europe, such as the practice of a high seat in seidr. In fact, the art of seidr has intrigued me greatly, and I feel that this will complement my own practice of hedge witchcraft nicely.

Druid College UK logo (194x114)Druid College continues to be successful, and due to a high demand for online courses, next year we are putting Year 1 on hold in order to create an online course. This will consist of video and audio material, a downloadable book and online meetings with others on the course. We hope to have this available by 2020, fingers crossed! Our current Year 2 students are doing so very well, and it is indeed a great pleasure to be working alongside such people. After each weekend session, as soon as I get in the car with Robin, we both say how wonderful the people are that have chosen to work with us, and how blessed we are by those that have chosen to join. They bring so much, and I am eternally grateful that these first four years have been as good as they are, which is to say, brilliant!

There have been a few bumps in the road this year, which have given me lessons of experience to work from in the rest of my life. Having to say goodbye to my 16-year old cat last December was so very hard, to make the decision to end her life rather than have her suffer days or weeks of pain as her chest was filled with water due to congestive heart failure and she had trouble breathing, eating, walking, movement of any sort. That was the first time I had to make that kind of decision, and  although I doubt it will be any easier should there be a next time, and it took a long time for me to get over it even though my baby girl passed quickly and painlessly, I know it was the right thing to do in that situation. I suffered all winter long from having to make that decision, and my new boy Barnabus was a ray of light during that troubled time.

bullying-1As well, I had a difficult experience of another sort, when a peer decided to attack me on social media after I had contacted her to request permission to use two verses of an Irish poem she translated. To this day I still have no idea what set her off, but the vitriol of the attack was shocking, and the attempt to destroy me and everything I do quite mind-boggling. It brought back old pains of bullying when I was a child, and affected me on a physical level as well as mental. I realised this when I was walking down my street to the village shop, and in the middle of the street my heart started pounding and I felt very unsafe, like bullies were just waiting around the corner. I had to remind myself that I was 43 years old and no longer a young teenager, and no one was going to physically hurt me. It opened my eyes to the old scars that never truly heal, and I have learned how to better deal with such experiences. Namely, don’t read posts like that on social media, don’t get involved and don’t read all the uninformed comments either! Let the haters hate, there’s not much I can do about their behaviour anyway. As long as I am physically safe, and emotionally okay with a good support network of family and friends, that is what really matters, not what strange people say.  I’m still working on compassion for people like that though. It’s not easy.

seidr album coverBack to the creative front, I hope to add more to my Bandcamp page over the next year. I started an album called Seidr, which will contain the songs and chants that come to me in my work over the next year. Perhaps there will even be a blog post or two about the practice of seidr, but in the meantime there is an excellent video by Professor Jackson Crawford on the subject. (I have a total nerd crush on this guy!) There are also some good books, such as The Nine World of Seid-Magic by Jenny Blain, and The Norse Shaman by Evelyn Rysdyck. I also hope to record more podcasts for the page and its subscribers, as well as record the audio book for The Hedge Druid’s Craft. The Awen Alone and The Crane Bag are already on there as audiobooks, so do take a look if you’re interested. All of these will be/are available to subscribers, as well as any new material in the coming year, so you really do get your money’s worth!

So, for this winter I shall be investing heavily in hygge, being more physically active, exploring new paths and learning from past experiences. I hope that 2019 will be a good year for you all, and see you all in the New Year!

Love,

Jo. x

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New Druid College Correspondence Course in the making!

New Druid College Correspondence Course in the making!

Druid College UK logo (194x114)We will be postponing our next Year 1 session in Essex, as we have something very exciting brewing in the cauldron of inspiration! Starting in January 2019, we will be preparing our new online correspondence course, a full Year 1 programme, which will consist of online meetings, pre-recorded video and audio lectures, booklets to download and more. We have had so many people get in touch wanting to know if we could offer a correspondence course, as they were physically unable to attend our in-house sessions. And so, we aim to provide this for 2020, alongside our next Year 1 in-house programme. Stay tuned for more updates and info!

Flame of Samhain

flmeShine, in the coming darkness. Let the spark of awen light the flame within your soul. Guard that flame, the truth against the world. Let it be your guide, let it be your light, to shine out into the world.

There will be challenges. There will be challenges against you, against the world. The flame of others may not shine so bright, for they have not discovered the beauty and promise that they hold. The flame within their own hearts has not been set alight, or has been dimmed by pain, by the past, by worries of the future. Seek to light the flame in others, even as you hold fast to your own inner flame. Support and nurture the spark within, to allow truth into the world.

Only you can allow others to dim your light, to weaken your flame. And they may try, especially when you shine so bright. For we live in a world where competition and dissatisfaction is rife, where if someone else is succeeding, it is perceived as personal failure in our own lives. Drop this illusion, and fan the flames within and without. If one succeeds, we all succeed. Two flames burn brighter than one, and blowing out someone else’s flame does not make yours burn brighter. When you burn bright, and others seek to dim your flame with their own pain, their own wounds, then burn all that much brighter, to guide the way in the dimly lit corridors of the mind, and the heartache of the soul. Know that in the action of dimming another’s flame, there lies a wounded heart, and often a frightened soul. Keep clear in your boundaries, but also be compassionate in your words and deeds.

Shine on. Nothing can take that away from you but your own self.

May we be the awen.

Review of The Spirit of Nature Oracle

spirit of natureThe Spirit of Nature Oracle cards by John Matthews and Will Worthington have been re-released by Eddison Books, much to my delight. This deck of 25 cards brings together the wisdom of the Druid Ogam, and the history and magical influence the Green Man has over humanity’s lives still, even in our modern day and age.

The Ogam is a Celtic “alphabet”, a series of lines drawn over a vertical axis that have many various meanings, depending upon the type of Ogam being used. There were over 250 types of Ogam, such as the famous Tree Ogam, Pool Ogam, King Ogam, Bird Ogam, Dog Ogam, even a Food Ogam! These provided the mnemonics necessary to retain and also express a vast wealth of information in as small a form as possible, not unlike poetry and its distillation of meaning to some carefully chosen words. The Green Man is a figure from out of the mists of time, one that has watched over humanity since its inception and throughout its evolution. Trees have been a very important part of humanity’s existence and success, for within their shaded boughs we found safety and security, as well as food and healing.

Bringing the Ogam and the Green Man together is a wonderful way to provide a holistic tree-based divination system. In our modern society, we are a very visual bunch, and so I believe the popularity of oracle cards has gained because of this in our lives. Our memories are filled with such an abundance of other “stuff” than our ancient ancestors held, and so the training to interpret the various meanings of each Ogam would take more time than most have in order to be successful. By bringing the format into something very visual, we can meditate upon the image and see the meanings held there, both historically and in our own personal gnosis, brought to life in an easy form and media that anyone can use.

We have the brilliant artwork by Will Worthington, who used ancient, traditional methods such as painting with egg tempura-based paints upon wooden panels. Matthews’ knowledge and wisdom shines through the text, providing historical background to the Ogam and the Green Man, both simply and eloquently, as anyone who is familiar with his works can attest to (and I’m a big fan). The divinatory meanings are clear and inspired, and yet personal gnosis is recommended first and foremost by Matthews when drawing a card, for to gaze upon the card before outside influence can reveal some truths about the self that others’ interpretations could not touch upon.

There are some suggestions for drawing the cards, based on one, three or five-card spreads. Using the Tree of Life spread, by placing three cards in reference to the Lower, Middle and Upperworld is truly inspired. It’s an approachable deck, for anyone to use, regardless of religious or spiritual background or preference. The cards can simply be used to meditate upon the season and the cycle that we are currently in, as well as being used for divinatory purposes. I would highly recommend using them both ways!

I am so very pleased that this deck has been re-released, and in such a beautiful format. It comes in a sturdy box, to protect both book and cards from being banged around and makes it useful when travelling. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice for the book to have been in colour as well, to match the cards, but being an author myself I am fully aware of the limitations both in print and in financial terms that this would be subject to, and so would say that the beauty of the cards themselves more than makes up for it. The book is great reference and resource material, and the cards are wonderful pieces of artwork. I highly recommend this deck to anyone who loves trees, nature, Celtic lore and spirituality or who just loves and collects oracle cards!

Harvest for the Soul and Coming Home

It’s good to be home. After a couple of weeks visiting my family back in Canada, with yet another heat wave (40C with the humidity!) I can honestly say that I’m grateful to be back in Suffolk. It feels like autumn has arrived here, as it has back in Canada (the day after I left, it turned to a lovely 21C and the leaves beginning their autumnal splendour) and the change in the air is most welcome.

As always, going back to visit my family brings up contemplations of just what “home” really is. I realised that in 3.5 years, I will have lived in the UK for as long as I have lived in Canada. Over twenty years of eating food grown in this land, drinking water from local bore holes and reservoirs, breathing in the air and connecting with the different flora and fauna relative to this place and this time. It really has shaped me, alongside the people I’ve met and the experiences I have had, and I am both grateful and a touch melancholic when reminiscing about all that I have done and gone through in moving to this new land all those years ago.

This is where I made my lifelong dream come true, to be an author. Never did I ever dream about establishing a Druid College, or a belly dance company, or a host of many other turns my life has taken. It’s been a challenge and a blessing, the twists and turns my life has taken, and for which I am both proud and humbled to have come out the other side. England is not the land of Madam George and roses, as Sinead O’Connor once sang, but it is the place that captured my heart, alongside Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

So I return to my home with a renewed sense of place, of home and indeed, of belonging. Even though I will always carry a thread of being an outsider, with my accent alerting people to the fact that I was not born here, still I feel like this place is home. An immigrant to this country, coming from a long line of immigrants to various countries, I feel a shared connection both to my ancestors as well as to the ancestors of place, which here in the UK are so varied from before history even began. I have a few months now to breathe deeply, to take the time to reconnect, now that my new book for Llewellyn has been sent off and revised. For the rest of the year, I will be taking information in, taking in the sensual and the ecstatic, allowing the awen to flow into me after many long months of being on the other end. Allowing myself to reap the harvest sown earlier on. And so the cycle continues, in and out, flowing and ebbing, as I gather my resources ready for a new round of work come the new year. For the next three months, I will be listening to the words and voices of others, allowing their inspiration to fill me, and see where that takes me.

And in the meantime, I shall walk this land, the sandy soil of heath and woodland beneath my feet, the wind blowing in from the sea and scenting the air, the hearthfires burning both in the little village around me and within my soul.

P.S. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover of my new book, coming out next summer!

Hedge Druid Cover

Book reviews for Morgan Daimler

Hello all! I’ve been a bit late in posting a review for Morgan Daimler’s Travelling the Fairy Path, and so I’m also including my review for her latest Pagan Portals as well, coming out next year: Manannán mac Lir: Meeting the Celtic God of Wave and Wonder.

travelling fairy path coverI’ve loved all of Morgan Daimler’s work, and so when the call went out last year for reviews for her Travelling the Fairy Path, I jumped at the chance! This book is a bit of a departure from others in her series dealing with Fairy Witchcraft, in that this work is more personal, and written in a slightly different style, presenting the material in a more conversational manner. It’s hugely informative, as are all of her books, and touches upon issues that are rarely mentioned in other books in the Neopagan world. Discussing the difference between spirits and fairies, how to work with verified or unverified personal gnosis, looking at the lore from the perspective of poetry and music as well as practical information on glamour, shape shifting and more, this book is a great addition and complement to her other works. There is even an entire compendium of ogham knowledge in the appendices, which is extremely useful. I always look forward to more works from this author, and highly recommend her to everyone in the Pagan community, as well as those interested in all things Celtic. Travelling the Fairy Path is available for pre-order, and will be out end of September.

manannan coverMorgan Daimler’s book on Manannán is a real gem for anyone interested in working with a deity connected to the sea. In a down to earth and easy manner, Daimler presents this god in clear language and with a heartfelt honesty that comes through the words on the page and settles in the heart. Each chapter is a treasure, and we not only cover the Irish aspects of this deity, but also take a look at the Welsh, Manx and Scottish associations, which are all exceedingly helpful. The ritual, meditation and prayer section makes this book truly come alive, as well as the section at the end of each chapter, entitled “Manannan in my life”. Here we see up close and personal how this deity affects the life of the author, and this insight really makes this work stand out. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Daimler’s work, and she is a true asset to the community. This book will be available end of April 2019, but is now available for pre-order.

Rhiannon and the Art of Side-Saddle

jo weddingRiding side-saddle is both easy and difficult. It’s a strange dichotomy of being securely “locked in” and feeling like you’re going to slide out the side at any moment. I took lessons riding side-saddle, and also did some jumping. I even rode down the aisle at my wedding side-saddle!  When I compare this to working with the goddess Rhiannon, I can see how she is often portrayed as riding side-saddle, and I think the fact that she’s wearing skirts is only part of the reason.

If you have a voluminous skirt, it’s quite easy to ride in the normal fashion. Your ankles may be showing and perhaps even your calves (gasp, shock and horror!) but really, it’s quite do-able. But side-saddle just looks more elegant, even though it perhaps fits in with the conformity to “keep your legs together” so as not to be considered a “loose woman” in any shape or form. However, all that nonsense aside, side-saddle is fun and a challenge for any rider, whatever they choose to wear, whatever gender they associate with. My husband tried it, everyone in our Western riding group tried it, just to see what it was like. It’s good to try new things.

Riding side-saddle, you usually have your legs hanging down the left side of the horse. Your left foot is in a stirrup as usual, but your right leg is held above the left and “hooked in” with a curved bar just above the knee. This keeps your right leg in place, though you have to hold your right foot flat against the side of the horse the entire time in order to truly maintain that grip correctly. It’s almost like sitting with one leg crossed over the other, but not quite.

You need to have some flexibility in the spine and torso in order to keep the head, chest and hips facing forward as much as you can, while the legs are over on the left-hand side. It feels really good after a ride to get down and stretch out the other side of your body! It also takes a bit of balance, as it can feel like you are going to slide off the other side of the horse. As mentioned above, keeping the right foot in the correct position helps with this, but that feeling is still there. The emptiness on the right-hand side can be a little daunting, even as you feel fully strapped in with your right leg securely tucked under the leaping head, lower pommel or as it is sometimes known, the leaping horn.

rhiannon oracle

Rhiannon from The Avalonian Oracle, written by Jhenah Telyndru, artwork by Emily Brunner

This delicate balance, of security and instability, finds resonance within me with the stories of the Welsh goddess Rhiannon. She is often portrayed as a horse goddess, riding a white mare from the Otherworld and marrying into the human realms, there to face the trials and tribulations of such. She works to re-establish order, correcting her husband and fixing his gaffs, seeking her lost child, and enduring hardships and injustices while remaining true to herself. She literally carries the mantle of sovereignty, as a horse carries a rider, to take it where it needs most to be, to work in the world in co-operation and in compassion.

It can be a tricky ride. One minute you can feel secure, locked in and riding in the correct posture. Forget that posture for a moment, and then you are insecure, literally, feeling like you are going to slide down any moment. It’s a great teacher in remembering to hold true, figuratively and literally. Be mindful of everything you do, if you want to enjoy this ride. Because the moment you aren’t, you could lose your seat, whether that’s the seat on horseback or the seat of sovereignty, in the soul and in the wider world.

But once you understand the delicate balance, once you come to terms with this new way of being, it’s glorious. It’s elegant. It’s graceful. And I’m not just talking about riding side-saddle. This is what Rhiannon can teach us as well. To find a new way of being, to be in balance and staying true to yourself, being present and knowing that some things need to be endured in order to find the beauty in our lives. To carry the burdens with grace, to stay true to yourself.  Rhiannon is both the horse and the rider, enduring and carrying, guiding and taking the reins of sovereignty unto herself.

rhiannon bookI’ll be working closely with Rhiannon over the next few months, and I look forward to the insights that she brings. If you are interested in this goddess, there is a brilliant book written by Jhenah Telyndru, called Rhiannon: Divine Queen of the Celtic Britons. Jhenah works closely with Rhiannon and other Welsh goddesses in the Sisterhood of Avalon, which she founded in 1995. Do check it out, and all her work, it’s brilliant.

May you ride forth in the present moment, finding your centre and staying true. And remember, when it all comes down to it, horse-riding is merely the art of keeping the horse between you and the ground.