Book Review: The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

Published by Sterling Ethos, 2021

This book is a great introduction to Druidry. I love a hardcover book, and this little gem published by Sterling Ethos is a really nice production. The corded cover with embossed title, the interior illustrations and the overall print quality is superb. We need more Pagan books that pay attention not only to the content, but also to the print quality and aesthetic! This book will last a long time, for sure. It’s in a nice almost square format too, which is different. It is an introductory book, so it doesn’t go into great length on any given subject, but it does cover all the essentials necessary to begin your path of Druidry.

It is divided into four sections: Part One looks at the sources of Druidry, including the ancient Druids, the Druid Revival and Modern Druidry. This brief history of Druidry covers all the essentials, as well as some new things that I have never come across, including William Stukeley’s elephants (you’ll just have to read the book for more on that one). I am also pleased to see a section on Women in Druidry.

Part Two looks at the Druid teachings, the different strands of Druidry and exercises to help one not just read about it, but also turn it into personal wisdom through experience. The section on “The Two Currents” I had not come across before in my own Druid learning. This chapter discusses the solar current and the earth’s telluric current and how to incorporate that into your practice.

Part Three is the practice of Druidry, an essential section that really shows how Druidry is a living practice, something that must be done, not just read about. I especially like Greer’s words on Druidry as a craft:

“Druidry is not an ideology. Like basketry, forestry, and many other words that end with –ry, it can be best understood as a craft. You don’t become a basket maker or a forester by believing some set of opinions. You become a basket maker by learning and practising basketry, and you become a forester by learning and practising forestry. In the same way, you become a Druid by learning and practicing the craft of Druidry. One of the things this means is that becoming a Druid isn’t an all-or-nothing matter. You start becoming a Druid as soon as you begin learning some elements of the Druid craft, and you keep on becoming a Druid as long as you keep studying and practicing that craft.”

In this section, Greer also introduces us to divination through the Coelbren alphabet, which is not used as much as the Irish ogham taught by many other Druid authors, teachers and organisations. This chapter also gives you some more daily practices and a couple of rituals to get you started.

Part four is about initiation into Druidry. The word initiation means “to begin” and so the ritual set out in this section provides the reader with a definitive point in time where they can say that they started out on the Druid path with directed intention to practice this craft to the best of their abilities. The self-initiation ritual is simple but poignant. Greer ends the book with the following words:

“A more important source of guidance than books and organizations, however, is the time you spend working with the basic practices of Druidry, listening to the One Life, and learning from nature. No one can do that for you. The only thing that limits how much you can learn and grow on the adventure of Druidry is your own willingness to pursue it.”

There is also a helpful glossary, bibliography, recommended resources and index.

I was very pleased with this little book that holds much wisdom. I’d recommend it to anyone starting out on the Druid path who wants a concise introduction contained within a beautifully printed publication.

A Spell for Peace

This month I’ve written a spell for peace (in a war-torn country) that is available to everyone via my Patreon page. You do not need to be a Patron to view or download the pdf of this spell – it is open to all. May we be peace. xoxo

The Goddess has a plan… or does She?

I’ve come across the phrase “the Goddess has got a plan” or something similar within the Pagan community, especially when people are trying to sort out why good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. For me personally, there are a few reasons why this just doesn’t sit right in my own Pagan worldview.

To begin with, I simply don’t believe in predestination. Many people have a simplistic view of “fate”, which seems to preclude the concept of free will. Many things are “fated to happen”, or meeting that person was “just fate”. Sometimes the notion of free will is forgotten in these instances, other times willingly overlooked in order to explain or justify the reason something has happened. Many Pagans, and all Wiccans, believe that we have free will, such as in the Wiccan rede (maxim or “counsel”) “an it harm none, do as ye will” which translates to “do not harm others while you live up to your full potential”. You will is your potential, your spiritual goal, your highest self.

But everyone is on this same ride. We are all going through life together, and someone else’s will may come into your life to challenge, support, annoy, or validate your own experience and your own will. Some would argue that a higher power has a plan for everyone, and that they are in some sort of control over the final destination, which means that there is some sort of control over the everyday experiences that lead to this final destination. This precludes free will, in my opinion.

Some have turned away from deity because of what has happened to them in their lives. They can’t believe that a deity would allow such things to happen to them and/or to the world in general. This is still a belief in pre-destination, and a deity that controls everything like some master puppeteer.

For me, deity is most certainly not this in any shape or form. Deity is the energy of life, of death and of renewal. That is its agenda. This energy may be seen in many different ways, relative to culture, to personal preference, to environment and so on. Different people attribute more associations to this basic agenda, myself included, into a more specified spiritual practice. But overall, the plan is life, death and renewal (or regeneration).

Our relationship with deity is very personal, and can be very specific. But does my Goddess have a plan for entire world? I know that she most certainly has a wish for the world, but it’s not up to her. It’s up to us.

Our free will, our own capability of taking full responsibility for our lives and the lives of others is part of that overall plan of life, death and renewal. It’s the growing up of the human race, the evolution that hopefully will take place sooner rather than later. In a Druidic sense, it is coming to realise that we are part of an environment, and that we need to be a contributing and beneficial part of that ecosystem in order for the whole to thrive (us included). In a Wiccan sense, it would be to do the least amount of harm and to become the best person that you can be in a similar context. In Hedgewitchcraft, it would be to understand and work deeply with the cycles of nature in your own home environment, crafting your life in complete attunement to the world around you, both the seen and the unseen. In all of the above, we are opening ourselves to deity in order to better understand ourselves, and how to live well on this planet.

That, in my opinion, could be the only plan the deities could have for us. Bad things will happen to good people, not because it’s part of deity’s plan, but because there are bad people out there who harm others knowingly or unknowingly. Human ego, greed and fear get in the way of so much that could be accomplished.

Sometimes it’s really hard not to despair when the world seems like such a mess. But we have to put faith in ourselves, in our own actions and be the example we want to see reflected back to us in the world. Working with the wonderful energy of the gods is one way, though not all Pagans are religious. Working with the energy of the land where you live is at the core of all practice, to better understand our place and how we can make it better not just for ourselves, but for all in order to have a sustainable future that follows life, death and renewal, even when not viewed from a religious standpoint.

Your own Will is that which will see you through the most difficult of times. If you align your will to the flow of nature, you will come to understand the true inter-connectedness of all things. And these all have free will, just as you do. It’s learning to meet each other, soul to soul, and work with that energy which in Druidry is often called “awen”. In our relationships with the world we come to better understand the world and really participate in this great, vast cycle within cycles. We will see the good, the bad and the ugly on the way, but we have to realise that not all of that is part of any deity’s plan. It just is, and we can learn to work with it, to condemn when we need to, to be the light we want to see in the world, and to really think long and hard about our own ethics and morality.

That’s my plan, anyway.

A little magic and spellcraft…

Did you know that on my Patreon page, I share magic and spellcrafting tips? Every month I put up a new spell, alongside some other tips, herbcraft and more. Here is an example of the spellcrafting that’s on offer for the top two tiers with my Patreon community 🙂

The Cairn of Stones Spell

In this spell, we use the power of stones to help bring about what it is that we need/desire. Ensure that your intention is good as well as being nice and clear. You can perform this spell outdoors or indoors. I personally prefer not to work with crystals unless they are ones that I have found myself out in the wilds, because a) they may have been mined through blasting the earth or obtained using dubious labour practices, and b) most crystals for sale are tumbled, meaning that they won’t pile one of top of the other very well.

Gather up some stones to use in this spell. If you are collecting them out in the wild to take home later, then please ensure that there are no restrictions as to what you can and cannot take home with you from this area. As you walk the land, keep your intention in mind, and your eyes and heart open to stones that seem to speak to you. Pick them up as you go, feeling their energy to see if they are in tune with your intention. If you are using stones that you already have, then do the same with each of them at home. Leave an offering to the earth after you have collected the stones. Thirteen stones is an ideal number for this work.

Find a place that speaks to you, and where your stones will be left undisturbed. Don’t place them in a prominent spot, say, in the middle of a busy beach, because children, adults, dogs etc. will probably knock them over before they’ve had a chance to work. It’s a good idea to find a place near to where you gathered the stones, so that they are all staying roughly in the same area. If this is not possible, bring to mind the area where you found the stones when you are ready to start the spell, and say a word of thanks.

In your designated place, cast a circle if you so wish and call upon any deities, ancestors, spirits of place or Fair Folk as appropriate to your path. Call upon the element of earth specifically, and really focus on this element. Through the stones, your spell will be working through the element of earth.

Hold each stone separately, and think of your need/desire. Blow gently on the stone to attune it to yourself and your personal energies. Then, place your intention into the stone, letting it flow from your mind and into the stone. Pour some of your personal energy into it as well, and visualise yourself as having obtained or achieved your goal. Say these or similar words after you have done this, to seal it into the stone:

Stone of earth, elemental power

Lend your strength here at this hour

To my spell manifest for me

This is my will, so mote it be.

Place the stone down, and repeat with each stone in turn. Make the little cairn or pile of stones wider at the bottom, so that it narrows towards the top where you can place a single, topping stone. As you place this final stone with the words spoken, see the whole pile lighting up and glowing with

combined energy. This energy radiates outwards and into the world to manifest your goal. Take a moment to relax, ground your energy and then leave an offering nearby (but not right by the stones – an animal might knock it over if it is a food offering). Rise and make your way home if you are out in nature, and let the spell do its work. The rocks may radiate your energy and intention for some time.

If you are performing this indoors, use your altar or a place where the stones will not be disturbed for several days at least. Leaving the stones for a cycle of the moon is ideal. When you are ready, dismantle the stones and thank each stone for lending their aid to your work. You can do this with an outdoor cairn as well, returning the stones to where you found them, or you can leave the stones there as you wish. If you need to break this spell at any time, simply dismantle the cairn and state “the spell is broken, through the words I have spoken” and see the energy of spell dissipating into the air. Some residual energy may linger, but you may not have any control over that, as it has been “put out there” so to speak and you no longer have complete control over it.

Working with stones is a wonderful way to get to know the earth and its energy.

Last video of the Year!

Working with the darkness and the light, the Divine Child and Great Mother – for me, it is the defining theme and journey for this time of year.

New Brighid Devotional Series!

I’ve started a new series of devotionals dedicated to the goddess, Brighid. These are available to my everyone in my Patreon community (which starts from as little as £1 a month). In these posts, you will find material that I have written, and material from others that I have come across in my research and work with the goddess (all material is credited, and links provided to find out more).

Brighid is a goddess that came to me as I was diving deeply into my Druid practice many years ago. She helped me greatly with her blessing on Druid College UK, and motivated me to keep it up (sadly, we’re only offering an online course at the moment, due to the pandemic). She has walked with me for many years, and feeling her with me is like the beautiful, golden autumnal light filling my soul.

If you are interested in joining me in my Patreon community, click HERE to find out more.

Blessings of Brighid be with you!

Note: my Patreon community also enjoys many other benefits, including material for everyone from my personal Book of Shadows, photography and more as well as special material for different levels of support.

To Keep Silent

Most people in Modern Paganism have heard of the Witch’s Pyramid, sometimes known as the Magician’s Manifesto. In this, there are four goals for a person to achieve their own power, which are: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent. I’m discussing each of these one by one in my podcast series, but I’d like to take a closer look at the adage: to keep silent.

Many say that this maxim was used in order to protect witches from “outing” each other during the witch trials and persecution of the Middle Ages. I’m not sure if this quote dates that far back, in all honesty. However, that’s beside the point of this article. There are some beneficial ways that the motto can be used, and also a lot of detrimental ways.

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A good point: it teaches people to shut up and listen. You can’t really listen if you aren’t quiet. It also teaches us that words do have power. We need to use our words responsibly, especially in this age of social media and the abuse of people through the anonymity of the internet. A Witch’s word is said to hold power too – lies and half-truths undermine a Witch’s power (this applies to all people, in my opinion). Words can heal or destroy.

Being silent also helps us to see the bigger picture. When we step outside of our ego and its chattering, we begin to hear the stories of others and see the grander scheme of things. We all have egos, and we need to learn to work with them in order to not be ruled by them. When we are ruled by our egos, we aren’t living intentionally: we are instead living reactionary lives.

Being silent is also helpful in teaching us to be alone. With so many gadgets to hand to distract us from ourselves, we’ve forgotten how to be alone, how to be bored and, yes: how to be lonely. It’s only when you truly deal with loneliness that you can come to understand it and work to improve your situation. Then again, there are the more solitary folk who prefer to be alone, and who find solace in this space for themselves, to work, to heal, to dance and to pray. When we have cut ourselves off from all other distractions, we begin to realise that we are never truly alone. We have nature, the gods, the ancestors, all around us, all the time.

But what are some of the detriments to the saying, “to keep silent”? Well, silence has been used to abuse people for a long, long time. When we silence someone, we are exerting our power over them. Taking away a person or a group’s voice can be the most harmful thing you can do socially, politically, environmentally and ethically. Sometimes this even crosses over into the Pagan sphere, where unsavoury and unethical groups or persons use the adage “to keep silent” to use and abuse others. It can also be used to keep power from an individual or group, to not share knowledge in order to control them. It can be used as a front, a guise, a glamour for when someone doesn’t know an answer, and simply quotes this maxim to maintain an air of mystery and power. These kinds of “teachers” are really just in it for their egos. The best teacher will willingly admit to not knowing something, often learns from the student, and is willing to say so openly and honestly.

This sense of secrecy helps a group or person to establish power and mystique. It entices people to come closer, to learn more. The old Victorian orders and groups wove this veil of secrecy around their groups, not only to protect their members but also to make themselves feel more important. This has carried through in various forms throughout the decades, and has led to the history of Modern Witchcraft being a bit of a fuddled mess. If people were open about themselves, where their traditions came from, and who did what, we might have a more cohesive and coherent history to turn to. Even in the last 70 years we are still trying to unravel pieces of the puzzle, from Gardner and his associates and beyond. They can’t tell us – they’ve all passed on to the Summerland, taking their secrets with them. We can’t verify a lot of claims made by people and groups, which in this age of fact-checking has become paramount.

Many people, myself included, have found this utterly frustrating. So many traditions have created false histories in order to claim validity. In this way, they feel their tradition has the stamp of authenticity, because it goes back to so and so, etc. The irony of lies and half-truths to authentic a tradition is, I’m sure, not lost on many. I personally am not one to equate a religious or spiritual path’s age with validity, and there are many others out there who feel the same. If a spiritual path works for someone, and it was created yesterday, it’s just as valid as a 2,000 year-old tradition that spans the globe. But when secrecy is used to obscure fact because of false claims or untruths in a specific tradition, it can devalue it in the eyes of some. It’s never fun when you find out that your tradition had charlatans and forgers, ego maniacs and more thrown into the historical mix.

History will always have a veil of obscurity over it, hidden truths and perspectives written down by “the winners”. But with the adage of “to keep silent”, this can simply perpetuate the wilful abuse of the truth and facts.

Perhaps we need to learn when to speak up, when to speak the truth, our truths, and when to keep silent. When it is appropriate to do so, in order for power to be shared by all. The person with the most power is the person who is most willing to share it. And they usually don’t shout about it either.

Prayer is a personal thing

Deity in any Pagan tradition is a very personal thing. The best way to get to know more about a deity, apart from extensive research, is through prayer. Some people have difficulty with the word prayer, seeing connotations to other religions with which they prefer to disassociate themselves. However, prayer is not relegate to certain religions, and is found the world over. It is not solely a Christian practice or only pertaining to any of the other Abrahamic faiths. How else would we communicate with deity, whether it is a pre-Christian Irish goddess or Greek god of the sun, or a God and Goddess of our local area with no recorded historical name? If you are communicating with a deity, that is prayer.

Prayer can be simple or complex. You can recite long, flowery verses in loving devotion within a ritual to the gods of your choice, or you may choose to honour them with a few simple, heartfelt words throughout the day. How you choose to pray is entirely your decision.

Prayer is simply opening up a line of communication with deity. When we begin to establish a connection with deity, we find a growing relationship that flows both ways. We can talk to the deities, and they can respond in turn. There are many ways to pray, such as:

•           Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude

•           Prayers of devotion and love

•           Prayers of petition, such as asking for healing or guidance

•           Daily prayers to keep up a connection to deity throughout the day

•           Seasonal prayers recited in honour of the Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year

Your prayers might be spontaneous, with words inspired by the beauty of nature spoken aloud or quietly in your mind to the gods and goddesses. You might find beautiful, written prayers in books and literature that you wish to recite and/or memorise for ritual or daily practice. Old prayers are not necessarily better than new prayers. As well, writing your own prayers might have more relevance to your own practice than reciting the words of others. If you are feeling poetic, try writing your own prayer to deity, after doing thorough research on their attributes, their likes and dislikes, their form and personality. You can then write your prayer around those ideas. Here is an example of a prayer that I wrote to the Welsh goddess, Arianrhod:

Lady of the Silver Wheel

Whose realm of the starry heavens

Glitters in silver and in gold

Whose gifts of prophecy and sovereignty

Are shared amongst your devoted

Lady of magic

You challenge me as you yourself have been challenged

And I rise

I rise

I rise to the challenge

To be my most authentic self

With your guidance and wisdom

Now and forever more

This prayer takes into consideration her connection to the moon, her abilities and also her stories told through the Welsh myths. It is written plainly, without rhyming or meter. If you prefer to use rhyming and meter, this is also a good choice, for prayers are easier to memorise in that fashion. For example:

Ceridwen, Ceridwen

Brewer of the Awen

Lend strength and protection

Ceridwen, Ceridwen!

When engaging in prayer, it is important to consider that there really is someone on the other end, and that being does not wish to continually be asked for things without getting anything in return. If we are constantly petitioning the gods, then imagine what it would feel like if someone was constantly petitioning you for help. The gods help those who help themselves. There is no problem with prayers of petition, so long as they are balanced with other forms of prayer, perhaps daily prayer or prayers of gratitude.

Know that when we are petitioning the gods, we are not handing over our fates to them, or asking them to solve all our problems. It is still up to us to instigate the change that is needed in our lives. We can petition the gods for help and guidance, but we must also do the hard work that is necessary as well. We practice an independent tradition, based upon personal responsibility. After all, that’s why we are Pagans! And as Pagans, we pray to the deities, as often as possible, both in ritual and outside of ritual, to keep that connection and relationship strong.