On a Moonlit Night…

A full moon and the spring equinox not two days apart; the energies leave me reeling, literally. My head has been pounding for two days straight, and I just can’t wait for the tides to turn and for the energy to subside, to slide into the more gentle flow rather than being a gushing torrent of turbulence. The light is too bright, sounds are too loud and everything is just too much. But I know it will change. Things always change.

It’s Friday night and I climb into the car and drive down to the beach. Over the farmer’s fields I can see the moon rising, huge and pink in a clear sky. My head has cleared, for the time being – the painkillers have set in. I am excited as I drive down the winding road, alert for owls and hares.

When I get to the car park there are only two other cars there, one leaving. I grab my bag and my drum and make my way across the shingle beach. I haven’t checked the tides, so I don’t know what awaits me or where the shoreline will be tonight. In the last of the evening light I can make out a figure walking in the distance to my right, and a fishing tent with a man moving about it to my left. As the stones of the shingle roll and crunch under my feet, I am glad for the noise, because it means no one can sneak up on me. These are things a woman alone at night usually considers.

As I reach the ridge of the high tide line, I see below me a beach that is not usually there. The tide is right out, and a long peninsula of shingle stretches out into the sea. I have walked on this shingle spit many times, out into the ocean but never have I seen it stretch so far out. My heart beats faster, as I know this will be a very special night.

I slide down the shingle bank, smooth stones rolling about my boots. The fisherman looks on, probably a little puzzled, but I can’t see his face in the growing dark. I reach a sandy beach, which in this area is a rarity. It’s only a small section, and I walk cautiously across it, because what looks like sand in this part of the world can also be mud, which acts like quicksand and to which many a day-tripper has lost their rubber boots as they scamper unwarily across the surface.

I cross the sand and reach the shingle spit. Walking down it, I raise my eyes to the moon now, and am stopped in my tracks. From where I stand, the spit of shingle stretches out into the sea, marking a pathway straight to the moon. It is incredible, and I am utterly enchanted. I want to walk that road, straight off the shingle spit and out into the waves until I reach the moon.

My senses come back to me, and I make my way down the long peninsula of rolling rocks, the waves lapping at either side of me. It’s exciting, being here, where only one set of footprints shows from a previous adventurer on this night. I walk out a little further, almost to the tip of the shingle spit, but not quite. I’ve never walked out this far before, and I don’t know what the tide will be doing. I have a feeling it’s just turning now, and I don’t want to be caught out. So, 50 yards from the end, I stand.  

I am betwixt and between. I am in a place that is not a place, in a time that is not a time. I am utterly between the worlds. I am not on land and I am not at sea. I am surrounded by water with boots firmly on smooth pebbles that roll in and out with the waves. The dark night sky above me is shot through with stars, and the full moon of the spring equinox is rising before me. What a time to be alive.

I take out my drum and start to work with the rhythm of the North Sea. I feel her flowing around me, singing her songs of ebb and flow, of her story of how she came into being. Standing as far out as I am, I understand how the land bridge used to work that carried our ancient Stone Age ancestors across from Europe to this land, before it was cut off by the water. It is still a shallow sea, muddy and roiling and constantly changing, hiding its mysteries beneath the waves.

I drum and sway with the tide. I can see that yes indeed, it is turning. It is now coming in, and I will have to keep my wits about me even as I tumble into ecstasy. My witch blood pounds in my veins, my wild heart soars with the stars above. I call out the goddesses in my life, singing their names, chanting and letting whatever comes to express itself on this night. The wind takes my words and songs away, a gift offered freely to this awesome night. I feel so alive, so utterly free and yet spellbound by the moment. I am the stars in the sky, the moon before me, the waves around me. I am utterly connected, yet without any visible strands that keep me pinned down to just one awareness. This is so exhilarating, so wild, so free. This is pure magic.

I stop drumming and singing and open my arms wide to the sky, drinking it all it. The Fair Folk are all around me, playing in the waves, brushing against my cold skin. I can hear them whispering, feel their light touch upon my hair. Strange sounds are all around me, and I am frightened and not frightened at the same time. This is wyrd.

 I am witch. I am a druid. I am one who walks between the worlds. This is who I am.

This is my Friday night.

I have been to many liminal places many different times, but not like this. This is special. I know that my heart will start to beat a little faster just remembering this night.

My ears are cold. I lower my arms and look around, noticing the tide coming in more and more, for that is what it does, without complaint, without effort, without coercion. I must be more like the tide, I think, as I put my drum away. I say my farewells to the place and all who are with me at the moment, and take a last look at the moon. The pathway to her is now under water, hidden beneath the shining surface of Mardöll, obscured by the grace of Nehalennia, taken with the great mystery. It is time to go.

I make my way back up the shingle spit, narrower than before. The fisherman is still there, and I wonder if my chanting, singing and cries were hear by him or whether they were scooped up by the sea there and then. I scramble up the steep shingle bank from the beach, almost twice my height. I sit for a moment at the top, looking at the little bay that has been created by the ever-shifting of the shingle. Each time I come here it is different; a bay disappears or suddenly appears elsewhere, a lagoon shines in the light, a seal swims close to the shore, geese fly overhead to the marshes, a cormorant makes its way home. Each time it is different. Each time it is magical.

I crunch my way back to the car. As I drive down the winding road, watching out for owls and hares, my headache comes rushing back, pounding in my temples. It lasts for two more days, until the equinox shifts the energies, and finally I am released from the swell. I can breathe in the spring sunshine, the daffodils in my garden bobbing their heads in the warmth, the robin singing, the bees beginning to make their rounds. It’s as if the earth has held its breath, and now it is released.

These changing tides are hard on the old body, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I smell the green grass and moss beneath me, and revel in the blue sky overhead. I give heartfelt thanks for my many blessings, and say a prayer for peace under the late March sunshine.

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.

Zen and the Cello

The world-famous cellist, Pablo Casals, was once asked why he practiced eight hours a day, considering his already incredible skills. His reply? “Because I think I’m beginning to make some progress.”

In meditation, these are words to live by. No matter how many hours, days, weeks or years we’ve spent meditating, each and every day is brand new, with different situations affecting our mind. Just going to sit down and do some zazen (sitting meditation) every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes, is a great act of courage.

Why courage? Because you are taking the time to dedicate to your own mental health, and through helping yourself you are better able to help the world. And it takes courage to help the world, alongside resilience and inner strength.

Every time we sit down to meditate, we are performing an act of devotion. We are devoting ourselves to our practice, and in this case, practice does not make perfect; it makes for continual practice. There is no permanency in life; nothing is the same as it was a moment ago. Everything is in constant change, and sometimes those changes are too miniscule for us to see with our eyes. But it is still there, flowing, changing, moving in a world of impermanence. Even the insight that you may gain while sitting down in meditation is impermanent.

It may come as a flash, that brief moment of enlightenment. But then it’s gone, and we are left to carry that tiny insight with us into the rest of our lives, to help us learn and cultivate new insights. That moment where we realise that all is one, that we are all connected, where our ego drops away and we know; that moment of insight is impermanent, like everything else. You will not forever be at peace once you have gained this insight, nor will you become some enlightened being. What that flash of insight brings is more practice, so that you can understand and cultivate that awareness more and more into your daily life. Practice makes practice.

We might like to think that once we have gained some insight, that we have had some sort of “awakening”. But here’s the thing: when we go to sleep every night we still awaken every morning. We don’t just wake up once and have done with it. We constantly need to go through the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. It is so with our minds as well.

Someone who thinks that they are enlightened, that they know all that they need to know, is perhaps one of the most ignorant people on this planet. I’ve been there. We all have, at some point or other. And then we wake up and realise that it is a continuous process of awakening to our lives and to the world. We learn, we grow, we change each and every day. Sometimes we regress, sometimes we progress, but it is still work of some kind.

I like to think that with age, I have developed some sense of being no more than who I am in the moment, right now, and that’s enough. And as soon as I have that moment, it’s gone, and I’ve changed, we’ve all changed. There is nothing special about gaining this information or insight. It’s just me, it’s just you, it’s just how things are right now at this point in time. And that’s all that we can do. As Martin Luther said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Except maybe to practice the cello.

For more on Zen and especially in relation to Druidry, see my book: Zen for Druids.

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.

Women in Druidry Conference 2021

Yes, it’s back, and I’m very much honoured to be a panelist again for this wonderful event. This year’s keynote speaker is Eimear Burke, the current chosen chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. This online conference is happening on 6 November, so get your tickets now!

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Reconnecting

This summer, as I recovered from major surgery, as soon as I was able I stood outside every morning and honoured my Lady and the day. I honoured and praised my Lady with her many associations, and I also used an adapted version of Sigdrifa’s Prayer that I came up with:

Hail to the Day, and Day’s sons

Farewell to Night and Her Daughters

With loving eyes look upon us here

And grant peace to those living here

All to the Gods, Hail to the Ancestors

Hail to the mighty fecund earth

Eloquence and native wit bestow upon us here

And healing hands while we live

But these last few weeks I haven’t said this prayer, and instead simply stood outside and felt the wind upon my skin, listening to the sounds and smelling the air. No words. My life is filled with words, and I guess I needed to stop with the words, for they were empty after a while. I needed to feel, from deep within, reaching for the silence first and then feeling the connection, rather than trying to state it as happening when it wasn’t. Too many words.

And so, now that I have my new seasonal altar set up, I sit and meditate at it every day and call to my Lady in my mind, feeling her inside my heart like a warm amber glow that spreads slowly into my awareness. I reach down with my energy into the earth and call to the earth, whose dark and rich energy comes up with my breath through my spine. I get out into the forest and onto the heath several times a week, with the action of walking as my prayer. And I am often blessed with wonderful sightings of the deer, the low-flying hawk, a falcon, a badger’s den or a robin in full song within arm’s length. Some of these moments I have captured on camera, but they will always reside deep within my heart.

I have changed, since my surgery. I had a hysterectomy at the end of June, due to a uterus full of fibroids and a very large ovarian cyst. I am only now coming to terms with the aftermath: living a mostly pain-free life is wonderful, but there is an emotional tsunami of pain and suffering that looms on the horizon every minute of the day. I call to my Lady to help me, woman to woman, for it seems that all the pain I’ve ever had in my life is now just below the surface of my skin, and the slightest bump sets it loose in a torrent of tears. I want to scream, to sob with abandon, to be held in the arms of my mother. I call to the earth, the Mother of All, and find myself supported on her green and dark bosom.

I found myself leaving all my old pathways of being, I floated for a couple of months, not doing anything except healing. I did not do full moon rituals, though I knew the cycles each and every day. I did a very short blot to Freyr at Lammas. I walked for the autumn equinox. Instead, I meditated, walked the land, and began to find my place within it once more, changed, different.

I felt like I was between the worlds, between a child and a middle-aged woman. I felt separated from myself. My detached self looked down with pity at the sad little girl, at the sad woman dealing with her life’s pain. Perhaps this was my Lady, taking me up to a higher point of view, to see myself from this other perspective, to keep me functioning in day to day business.

Are you having having a bad day? You are not. You are a Bad Bitch. Continue. Is your depression weighing you down? I know. Continue. You can keep going. You can do this. Continue. You are fighter. You are strong. You are smart. And you are wonderfully made. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep going. Keep going. Continue.

     – @playcheerleader on Instagram, sent to me very timely by an old friend

I have to let my Lady’s love of life fill my soul again. The earth supports me with warmth and strength, even as she turns colder and falls back into rest. With mind and body numbed from the trauma, I now have to dance in the woods with the elves once again. I remember that time. It was nearly thirty-odd years ago, and more in other lifetimes, but it is still there, they are there, waiting.

My Lady, fill my soul with your golden light, to guide me through the darkest night and find my way back to those woods, and back home to my soul.

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A Pure Moment

Have you ever had a pure moment? A moment when there is nothing to worry about, no future, no past, just this present moment, now?

These past two weeks, I’ve had many of the beautiful moments, out on the heath with the deer. Making the effort, despite the rain, the mud, the cold wind and mist that gets into your bones has paid off in an abundance of these moments. It takes a while, sometimes, for them to happen, as you walk and think and think and walk and lose yourself in your turbulent mind. But then you spot a deer, or the sunlight on a mushroom, or a leaf twirling on a spider’s strand, and suddenly it all stops. You stop. You are caught in the moment, where all thoughts have ceased and you are just held by the beauty of the present moment.

It’s important to have these moments. For they are the reset button of the soul. When I gaze into the eyes of a doe, or a stag, the world falls away and all that matters is right now, this very moment. My troubles are later put into perspective, when thought returns. My body pauses, utterly motionless, in an otherworldly rest. My soul opens, and a true connection is made with the world, without thought, without bias, without prejudice.

No matter where you are, you can have these moments. Watching the sun move across a wall, or the shadows of a tree branch in the moonlight. Standing in the night breeze, listening to the sounds in the darkness all around you. Smelling the scent of woodsmoke on a country road, or hearing the song of a robin in the bush next to you. Stop, and take this moment, a pure moment. Reset your soul. And gaze into the eyes of the universe.