Surrendering

Since the release of his book, Surrender, I’ve been thinking about this concept that Bono talks about in so many different ways. In one tale, presented live on the “The Late Show” (see video below) it really struck a chord within me (pun totally intended).

He talked about how he had (and still has) to approach his wife of 40 years within such terms. He spoke of approaching her like this: “Only if you arrive at her fort defenceless, do you have half a chance in challenging her own, almost unbroachable defences”.

I thought that this was utterly beautiful. It could be applied to so much in life, not just your loved one. For me, it’s about being authentic, about being truly and utterly you, to whomever it is you are trying to connect with. It could be your life partner, your parents, your children, your gods, your ancestors, your community.

When approaching the gods, there is no point in putting up a mask, surrounding yourself with defences. They are gods. They see through all that crap. If you choose to open up your soul to a god, then there is no need for games, for duplicity or falsehoods of any kind. There is only you, and the deity.

It’s much the same with your life partner, family, ancestors, even those of your community. Those who think that they are fooling you with guises and masks are only fooling themselves. People are more perceptive than many think. We know when something or someone is “off”, it’s just that often we choose to ignore that instinct.

Authenticity is about surrender. It’s about being utterly human, being utterly you. It’s acknowledging the good and the bad and everything in between. It’s about working towards being the best person you can be, without masks, without disguises.

This doesn’t mean you have to let go of all boundaries. But if you truly want to connect on a soul-deep level, it is about being totally, utterly you. Letting down your defences also allows those to come to your aid. Keep them up, and they keep everything and everyone out.

The concept of surrender, and of defences, is one that I am going to chew over for quite some time this winter. In the stillness and silence of a winter’s day, in the overarching darkness of a long winter’s night, I am taking this to heart and really experiencing what it is to live in this manner. It will will, I think, open up new ways of living and being that before were only imagined.

This winter, I am surrendering.

My interview with Philip Carr-Gomm

Druidcast 94 is now out, with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids‘ Chosen Chief, Philip Carr-Gomm interviewing me last June for their 50th anniversary gala. We talked about religion and philosophy, my books and also what is Druidry today. Have a listen, and check some great music and another great talk by Jonathan Wooley on Druidry and the young adult!

http://druidcast.libsyn.com/druidcast-a-druid-podcast-episode-94

The Lure of Glastonbury

Glastonbury TorEver since childhood, I’ve always loved the stories of King Arthur, of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake.  I loved the tales of swords proclaiming kings, of beautiful and powerful women living on mysterious islands bestowing great gifts, of sorcerers and magicians that could both give rise to and destroy kingdoms.  This love has never left me, though it has changed and developed the more I learn about these tales, and the land upon which I live.

One of the things that has always captured my imagination, and always will, is Glastonbury Tor.  It is a wonderful place, a place of great beauty and incredible mystery.  For me, it is one of the holiest places in Britain.

The landscape is unlike anything I’ve ever seen – rising out of the flat, drained Somerset levels is the Tor.  From a certain angle it looks like a woman lying down.  The Tor itself is a marvel, for carved into it are plateaus, in what appear to be a labyrinthine pattern rising to the summit.  On autumn and spring mornings, often the mist obscures the ground, and the Tor rises out of mist – we could easily believe we have been transported back to the Avalon of old.

What is inside the Tor is equally fascinating – the White Spring.  It is widely believed that inside the Tor is a large carvern, where the White Spring emerges, eventually making its way down into the town of Glastonbury.  Old records mention of a time when a small hole appeared in the top of the hill, and when things were dropped down, it took a long time before a splash was heard.  The White Spring was redirected and made inaccessible in the Victorian era, a large pumphouse created to supply the town and cutting off access to what was once a beautiful little spot where the spring emerged, calcifying everything around it, giving it a fey quality. Thankfully, in 2005 the White Spring Trust re-opened the disused pumphouse and has turned the small caverns, rooms and interiors into separate sites where one can once again pay tribute and honour the spirit of the White Spring.

Two monasteries or churches were built on the Tor in the Christian era – the first destroyed, I believe, due to the Tor itself shifting, causing the building to collapse.  Was the previous pagan site revolting against this new religion?  Or was it the sand and limestone ever shifting, finding a comfortable place to rest for the next 500 years?

All that is left on the Tor now is the tower, St Michael’s Tower.  The rest of the building was destroyed in the Reformation.  I both like and hate the tower atop the Tor – it looks beautiful, standing there all alone, a kind of spiritual trig mark; I hate the fact that anything mars the natural beauty of the Tor, and do think that the tower one day will also collapse, as nature reclaims her own.

Smaller hills surround the Tor, Chalice Hill and Wearyall Hill.  Chalice Hill is said to the be source of the Red Spring, which flows down again like the White Spring to Glastonbury Town, and has the most beautiful gardens built around it.  For a small fee, one can enter the gardens and see it in all its glory (unlike the White Spring, which is free).  It was said that the Red Spring ran beneath a grove of Yew Trees, the iron rich water reflecting the blood red sap of the yew.

The Springs are perhaps the most significant thing about Glastonbury – White and Red, the colours of the Otherworld.  From two separate yet very close sources, these two very different springs come down to Glastonbury and are separated by the smallest of distances – I’m certain that at one point they ran together, but now I believe a street is blocking the union of the two springs.  Perhaps one day they will run together again.

The Tor, rising out of the watery levels, connected the Three Worlds of Land, Sea and Sky. The Red and White Spring issued forth from the fairy mound, the Gateway to the Otherworld.  The labyrinth way to the summit of the Tor was the spiral of life.  This is only a taste of the wonders that very special place – what a magical place!

Is it any wonder why I chose it at the setting for my latest book, The Isle of Apples?