Reflections on 2019

I type this as the sun sets on one of the last days of the year. The mist is rolling in, the sky changing from blue to yellow to pink. The pine trees stand tall, silhouetted against the fading light. A flock of pigeons fly across the thin crescent of the new moon. A hush is descending on the little village, and the candles are lit in my home.

Looking out the window at the hazy purple trees in the distance, their bare branches still in the evening light, I reflect upon the year that has just gone. My dreams have been strange of late, perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to the mental ruminations that winter and the closing of the year bring. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m just getting over a nasty cold, and my husband is currently fighting it. The cats are doing well. The family back in Canada are doing well, apart from one tiding of bad news and ill health. But we are strong, we will meet all challenges head-on, staying positive whilst being realistic. I thank my family heartily for teaching me these lessons. I am too easily blown by the wind, feeling it all. Their Dutch practicality is my steady anchor when the storms of emotion hit hard.

So too is this beautiful land where I live, and I give thanks to the trees and the sky, the sea and the heath, the deer and the owls that keep me company day and night. Even as I long for my familial home on a daily basis, this beauty right here, before my eyes in this very moment is what is real. This is what I must engage with, this is what I must feel; otherwise, I am simply a ghost in this landscape.

I am making friends with the muntjac deer who visit me every evening, expecting their peanuts. There are two males, Douglas and the smaller one, Jeffrey. Sometimes Doug’s partner comes with her two children, one a year old faun and one born late this summer. I do not yet know their names. Occasionally, Freya the fallow deer visits, her long legs moving her gracefully across the lawn, her carriage always like a queen. The wren sometimes sits on the picnic table when I am washing the dishes, giving me a wonderful look at his tiny body, so round and soft.

So what has this year brought? It’s been quite a calm and steady year. The first half was filled with the final work and then anticipation over the release of my new book, The Book of Hedge Druidry. Summer and early autumn was filled with promotional work, and hearing the reviews that were coming in. The Book of Hedge Druidry went to No. 1 in its category on Amazon many times over the last six months, for which I was overjoyed. I give my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to write to me personally, or leave a review. So many lovely, wonderful people from across the world have reached out, and it’s so nice to know that there is resonance with the words after you release them out into the world.

A crow flies across the deepening sky, followed by two airplanes high above, their contrails glowing pink before quickly disappearing in the high pressure. So many planes tonight, flying across the southern sky. More and more carbon, going into the air, with cheaper and cheaper flights. I worry for the future, I really do. Taking a deep breath, I ground and remind myself that I am doing all that I can, and to be here in the moment. I know that next summer I will be on a plane myself, for a very special family occasion. I cannot judge without being judgemental.

What other things have happened this year? Well, in late autumn, a creative burst came through in a completely different media than usual. Photography and video has inspired me these last few months, and it’s nice to take a break from the written word. Expressing myself in different mediums has widened my horizons, and made me realise that I am more than just Jo, the Druid.

Six airplanes in my small field of vision, as I look out across the back garden.

Douglas and Jeffrey have arrived, and are eating peanuts.

My cats are sleeping at my feet, happy and content.

My husband is downstairs, watching the hilarious soapbox races on the television.

It is safe to say that my world has grounded itself in reality of late. The dreaming druid is still there, but she is sitting side by side with many others. She is sharing a table with many aspects of my soul, and there is food enough for all to share. The call of my ancestors is still strong, and my heart hearkens to a heathen past while my head remains firmly in the present.

Other things that have happened: I’ve revamped my website and this blog, and opened up an Instagram account. My Youtube channel is going strong.  I also have a Patreon page, where people can support me in the work that I do, for whichever medium I creatively express myself in, day in and day out. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, because for so long my life was filled with simply trying to survive. There were so many ideas in my head that had to be held back because I needed to make a living first and foremost. These last five years have really shifted that way of being, and I am eternally grateful. It feels like I’m opening up, that more and more creativity is coming, in various forms. I have music planned, and art. In the new year, there will be a place on my website where you can order prints of my photography. There is much to come, by the grace of the gods and my own will.

The room is darkening considerably, and I will have to stop writing soon, for the glare will become too strong for my eyes in the candlelit room. I shall take a moment to sit with the candles, and meditate upon what has gone, what currently is, and what may come. I shall be grateful for every moment, every taste that life has to offer, in every spectrum. There may be trouble ahead, there may be smooth sailing. We cannot know for certain, but we can steer the course of lives as best we can. As the peachy sky fades into grey, then indigo and then black, I know that the stars will shine tonight, at least for a little while. And after that? Who can say? I only know that I am thankful for my many blessings.

To everyone who has followed this blog over the year, and some over many years, to everyone who has yet to come into my life, to everyone who has supported me and my work, I give you my heartfelt thanks. I could not have done it without you. There is a relationship right here, though it is often silent, and hidden. But it is here, between you and I, right here in this moment as you read these words. And I honour you for this moment, this shared moment.

May the coming year bring you peace and happiness in the best of times, and strength and courage in the worst. May we all stand shoulder to shoulder, to work with each other to make this world a better place. May we all walk in beauty.

Love, Jo. x

P1030424

Happy Winter Solstice!

This morning my Facebook feed was filled with lots of lovely people wishing everyone a happy winter solstice. So nice! And yet, there were just as many people correcting them, stating the the actual astronomical time is tomorrow, etc, etc. Let’s all just relax a little bit, and celebrate whenever we can, wherever we can, and however we can without the need to tell people that they’re doing it wrong.

So happy Winter Solstice for today, tomorrow and Monday!

The Wisdom of Barley

As I relaxed in my new hammock the other night (very comfy!) with my cat on my lap I could hear the slow rumble of the combine harvester in a nearby field. This is early, I thought.  Last year the wheat crop came in early because of the nearly two-month drought and extensive heat wave, which meant the stalks stopped growing at the beginning of June and just dried out early. But this year we’ve had just a little less than average rainfall, mostly in the evenings, and everything is looking really good. But some crops are still ready early, and this wheat field was no exception. Perhaps due to climate change, farmers in my area can get their crops in earlier, to reap earlier. It’s a bit risky, but when you need to rent that combine harvester, you won’t have to be fighting all the other farmers who also want to get their crops in, if you’re a couple of weeks early!

And so today I went for a walk, to look at the harvested field. The low grey clouds scudded the brow of the hill, and poppies and other wildflowers lined the footpath that divided the large field area into sections. Walking past the growing onions on either side, when I reached the top of the hill there, on the left-hand side, was the section of the field now bare of its golden treasure. There’s a certain feel and smell just after a harvest; a good smell and also a kind of empty smell, if that makes any sense. What was there was no longer there, and the scent left in its wake will soon also just be a memory.

I always feel happy and melancholy when I look out over the harvested fields. I love this time of year, when summer truly has settled in, and the warmth really kicks in; the flowers are at their peak, the young birds are on the wing. It’s a joyous time, when the thick, lush green canopy of the trees hangs heavy, the air warm and sometimes humid. And yet, when you stand on the edge of a cut field, you feel all this amidst a sort of sadness that flows from the heart, because you know that the height of summer has passed, and the harvest has begun. I can be both joyous during harvest time, and also sad, for soon it will all end.

I suppose it’s a lesson in mindfulness, to be present in the moment. If I’m too sad about the turning of the seasons, I’ll miss the joy right now. And if I don’t honour the poignant time of the beginning of the harvest and simply ignore it, then I will be missing the important time of the turning tide of the seasons, and also the lesson of impermanence.

So I will visit the fields in turn, and listen out for the big machinery. Walking home past a field of barley, I could sense it would be a couple of weeks yet, but it was coming. But the barley whispered to me, “Don’t be sad now, for the sun is shining and we are ripening. Turn your face to the sun, and allow it to bring to fruition that which you dreamt of when you were just planting the seeds of your intention. And when the times comes, and it will, you can reap the harvest of what you have sown with joy and compassion.”

Barley is very wise.

6

New Patreon Page

Hi all! This is just a quick note to let you know that I have a new Patreon page, where you can help support the work that I do across various forms of media. I’m about halfway through a video series on Modern Witchcraft, entitled “Witchy Ways” on my YouTube channel, and am looking forward to recording and editing some more videos soon. I’m also recording the next audiobook which will be available on my Bandcamp page and I’m hoping to put up a new podcast series there as well. As well, I’m still trying to contribute as much as possible to my blogs, here at Down the Forest Path and at Pagan Square, which all takes quite a bit of time! An author’s income is not a heady one, so I’ve diversified and am enjoying using other forms of media.

You can start from as little as $1 a month; simply enter the amount you wish to provide when you click on the “become a patron” button.  And so, if you can support me across these endeavours, it would be greatly appreciated!

60806016_10161713272060203_4602388818685853696_n

The Law of Attraction

dfp1Many within Western Paganism have heard of the Law of Attraction, especially if you have been working magic. However, I often see this oversimplified in books, stating that “if you put good energy out there, good energy will return” and vice versa. Not only is this trying to oversimplify the law of attraction, but it’s actually incorrect as well, in my opinion. I know plenty of good people who have bad things happen to them, and some bad people who have good things happen. I know,  not all people are good or bad all the time, but it’s just a thing: we live in a shared reality, where we can’t control the actions or behaviour of others  and so sometimes, no matter what energy we are putting “out there”, things will happen that will be contradictory to what we are attempting.

It’s similar to the notion that posits “we create our world, that we create our reality”. To an extent, this is certainly true, but then we have to realise that this is also a shared reality, and so will be influenced by other people. As such, there is war, racism, sexism, etc. and people, no matter how lovely, compassionate and beautiful, will fall prey to these circumstances, despite what they are trying to create in their own world/reality.

There is, however, an aspect of this which is very significant, and which is the most important to work with, in my opinion. It’s all about focus. Now, this may not be applicable to the horrendous examples in the previous paragraph, but in a less extreme circumstance, what we choose to focus on can and will determine how we work with energy, and what the resulting reality will be for us.

Say we stubbed our toe getting out of bed. Ouch. It’s pretty bad, and we’re limping around, swearing or just trying to breathe through the pain (or both). Finally we make it downstairs, and taking the orange juice carton out of the fridge, we drop it and it goes all over the floor, giving us a nice, sticky mess to deal with while we’re already late for work. Then our train gets cancelled, and we’re over an hour late, and the battery in our phone is dead so we can’t even call in. We get to work and tell everyone what a shitty day we’re having, wondering what awful thing will happen next. You get the picture.

But what if we changed our focus? Okay, all the crappy things that happened before work still happen. We get to work, but instead of telling everyone how we’re having a really, really bad day, we just get on with it, turn our focus to our work and our colleagues, and at lunch go outside and see the first daffodils of the season? In the previous example, I doubt one would even notice the daffodils, or even go outside if they were set on the theory that this day was, indeed, terrible. Things can snowball, depending on our perspective, and a lot of it has to do with our choice of reactions to things. Because we chose not to focus on the negative that happened during the day, we were able to see the positive, the beautiful, and be inspired.

Because with things like this, it is a choice in how we react. We can continue to focus on all the bad, negative things that have happened to us in our day, or we can choose to focus on the daffodils, the colleague that helped us out, the boss that understood the trains were cancelled and said it was okay, etc. Our focus in all important. And when our focus shifts, we bring into our lives and notice more that which we are focusing on. So, in this regard, the law of attraction does, indeed work.

Remember that, for the most part, it is a choice. Some bad things happen that we cannot choose to settle our focus on elsewhere – some things are just really, really bad. But we cannot allow ourselves to stay drowning in the negativity when we have the option of choice. Use the law of attraction to your benefit, and to the benefit of the world.

Blessings of Imbolc

Bright blessings of the returning light to you all! We’ve been filming this morning, for our Druid College Online Course which we hope will be available next year. Here’s one of my favourite spots…