Beltane Encounters with the Otherworld

The energy of the ritual still hung in the air, shimmering in the light of the Beltane full moon. I was alone in the garden, tidying up the lanterns and getting ready to put the fire to bed. As I walked down the garden steps, my offering of milk and honey in my hands, I made my way across the lawn to where the altar and offering place lay beneath the canopy of an old beech, its leaves just beginning to bud. I said a quick prayer as I entered that sacred space, with nine small stones delineating the boundary of this “faerie circle”, a minilithic stone circle that I built last year.

As I walked into the circle, I felt the air thick with the magic of the evening. I knew something was about to happen. I laid the food and drink upon the altar, and gave my thanks to the spirits of place, and to the Good Folk. No sooner had the words left my mouth, than a rustling in the hedge all around me began, as if some strange wind was shaking just the coniferous boundary of my garden, or a small army of badgers were all coming through the little holes in the hedge at the same time. My heart pounded in my chest as the moon shone through the branches of the beech above me. Frozen in place, excited and both frightened to see what happened next, I tried to see into the darkness of the hedge, shadowed from the moon’s light, but I could perceive nothing but the inky blackness.

The rustling all around me stopped, and I found I was able to move. I knew that something had come through the hole in the hedge, but I could not see it. Slowly I walked towards the firepit, hoping to see what had come through by the light of the fire. I cautiously approached the dying flames, and peered into the shadows about ten feet away. I could see very little, but I felt a presence, someone – male – standing by the birdfeeder and the hole in the hedge, standing shoulder-height to me, dressed in shades of brown. Suddenly, even as I looked and felt his presence, he moved without a sound like a dark shadow in the blink of an eye back into the hedge, and there from the depths of the green and black two eyes shone a whitish/green, reflecting the light of the fire. Whatever that being was, he had changed into the form of a badger in the blink of an eye, to watch me from the depths of the back hedgerow.

“Beltane blessings,” I murmured. Unsure of what to do next and still very much afraid and alone, I curtseyed and then covered the firepit with its iron mesh guard, walking back slowly towards the house. I had wanted to ask for his friendship, and for that of all the Good Folk, but my courage failed me on that night of the full moon, as the powers of Beltane and the Otherwold flowed through the land.

I only hope that he will return, and soon.

Reblog: Trees as Teachers

Here is my latest blog post for my channel Druid Heart at SageWoman on Witches and Pagans. Welcome to the greening of the land!

P1070665 (1024x666)The trees are almost in full leaf now, with only the ash and aspen yet to join in the greening. It’s been an odd Spring, with the oak trees in leaf before the hawthorn has come into flower here in Suffolk. Only now are the first blooms of the May tree coming out, and with it the signs that herald for me the coming season. The warm days have certainly been a blessing, and the light rain that falls today is equally welcome after long hot days of full sunshine and cool sea breezes.

It’s at this time of year that I am reminded of just how important trees are to me, not just in their life-giving properties but also in their spiritual presence. The deciduous trees with their lush foliage always bring a smile to my face, and after a long winter of sleep to see the beech tree at the bottom of my garden joining in the party that the younger birch trees have started fills my heart with joy. The grass is lush and green, and everything just feels so very much alive. I welcome the greening with all my heart and soul.

Trees are magnificent teachers. They are so much larger than we are, both spiritually and physically. They remind us of what it means to live a life in service to the whole, to live a life filled with integration and harmony, sustainable and at peace. Trees teach us of communion and integration, both at the deep root levels of our soul and reaching out towards the heavens of our soul’s awakening. They teach us of symmetry and asymmetry, of co-operation and anarchy. They are a legion of souls across this land, swaying in the wind, living their intention and benefiting all those around them by doing so. There is no sense of “I” with a tree; rather, it can instigate a better sense of “You” (or “yew”, pun intended).

When we develop a relationship with trees, we think about ourselves less, rather than think less of ourselves. We are reminded that we are a part of an ecosystem, that the ecology of our spirituality is all important to our everyday lives. This ecology is absolutely integral to who we are as a species, and part of a place and environment, as part of life on this planet. We cannot separate this ecology in any shape or form. It is in everything that we do.

We are not far removed from our cousins who still live in the trees. We’re all just monkeys with car keys, after all.

Fire in the Head

Well, the manuscript has been handed in for my next book, Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Compassion and Harmony with Nature. I’ve just come back from a fabulous weekend of teaching at Druid College. It’s been a busy few weeks, to say the least! Everything is coming together, after the nourishing rains and sunlight, both in the inner worlds and the outer. The bluebells are out in full force, the awen is flowing and the sunlight every growing. Beltane is near.

These past few years I have learned so much about my local environment, having moved from the city to the country back in 2010. Being a country girl at heart, it was like a huge sigh of relief, getting away from the concrete and out into the sweet-smelling air of the rural countryside. I have explored the ancestors of place, finding ancient Celtic settlements, henges and tumuli. I have also discovered that my ancestry, with regards to ethnicity through DNA testing, is 56% British (“native” British people are usually 60%), which was a shock as I had pretty much thought all my ancestry would be Western European, seeing as I could trace my family history back to the Netherlands for at least 250 years. Does this give me a deeper sense of belonging to this land? It does, and it doesn’t. I feel less like a visitor, but then again I have been living here in the UK for nearly twenty years. When does someone become native? Is it justified by a length of time, by ancestry?

For me, I think it comes down to relationship. If I have soul-deep relationship with the land, if I am connected to it on every level, then I am home.

Where I live there are the songs of Celts and Saxons, Normans and Friesians. But it is the songs of the Celts that I find harmony with more than most, and being able to connect to these ancestors through blood, place and tradition brings an even deeper level of understanding to my being. I love living in Boudica country. I love learning more and more about the history, the theology. These have always got my fires burning, all throughout my schooling years as a child into adulthood. Now they feel a bit more solidified, a bit more a part of me than someone else’s stories.

Our teaching at Druid College combines the history and theology of both ancient Celtic and modern-day Druidry. I am blessed to have a co-tutor who is, in my eyes, the leading authority in this area (and many other world religions): Robin Herne. I feel that together we have created something that is truly special, truly unique. I have the most amazing students this year, our inaugural year, who inspire me in a beautiful cycle of awen and creativity.

Everything feels like it is coming together in wonderful synchronicity, in beautiful symbiosis. Flowing with the currents of awen, walking with honour and responsibility, ever inspired by the wonder of existence I simply cannot take anything for granted. The fires of Beltane will soon be lit. The fire in the head simply will not quit.

And so this Beltane I hope to travel out to the local ancient sacred spaces, to spend the night with the ancestors, lighting a fire and sleeping out under the stars, walking between this world and the Otherworld. The fire in my head will not allow me to do otherwise, it seems. The fire in the belly keeps me stoked. The fire in the cauldron brings potential and awen.

And if I’m not back in a hundred years, you’ll know where to find me!

The Song of Wandering Aengus

By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

 

 

Gypsy Dreams at the Wild Warrior Beltane Picnic Festival

Here’s some highlights of our performance to a packed out crowd at Hadleigh Country Park this weekend – thank you all so much, you were brilliant! (Note the little man who danced the whole way through behind us – adorable!)

Reblog: Beltane and the Sensual

Here is a reblog link to my latest post at SageWoman on DruidHeart …

bjorkSensuality – what a lovely word. It rolls off the tongue – you have to say it slowly, it really doesn’t work otherwise. Like dripping honey. Sweet molasses. A cat’s stretch. It needs time, awareness, mindfulness.

Sensuality is often misinterpreted as relating solely to the sexual experience. What we need to do is bring the sensual back into our everyday lives, seeing how it relates to the whole experience rather than just a sexual one. Sensual – input from the senses. There are so many other senses that are pretty much asleep for most of our day. Sometimes there are very good reasons – we couldn’t really function if all our senses were firing on full all at the same time. But reawakening them, especially at this time of year, and working with them intentionally can help us to rediscover our world through our bodies, rather than just living in our heads.

All too often we experience life only through our minds, leaving our bodies out. Mind and body are intertwined, and both need input, both need nourishment in order to function properly. When we get too caught up in thinking, our bodies are often neglected. When we are too wrapped up in the physical, our intellect or even spiritual attributes can suffer. Finding a holistic balance is key.

I know far too many people living in their heads. They suffer greatly, because they cannot escape their own mindtraps.  To alleviate that suffering, we need to reawaken the sensual.

So what is the sensual? Essentially, it is working with the senses…

To read more, click HERE.

 

The naked form

Beltane is fast approaching – the house martins are back, the bluebells are coming out, the earth underfoot is soft and the air is turning warmer. Many thoughts are turning to the coming summer, the long days, the short nights, the summer clothes, or lack thereof. I’ve heard it said that Beltane arrives when it is warm enough to make love outside without freezing your bits off, alongside the usual ‘when the hawthorn blooms’. But I do wonder, with a smile – is it ever the season in Britain to have your clothes off?

Don’t get me wrong – I love being naked. Without the restriction of clothing, the body moving freely, feeling the air upon your skin, swimming naked; all these are pure bliss. What’s not so lovely about being naked outdoors is sunburn, or bug bites, sitting on thistles or treading around nettles, etc. We humans (sadly, in my opinion) have evolved without all that much fur to protect us from the elements.

On the rare days that it is warm enough here in Britain to get outside naked, you’re more than likely to get sunburn, especially if you’re fair like I am. I’m not a big fan of slathering sunscreen all over my body (I don’t like the feeling of the lotion). I’d rather wear some lightweight clothing to protect my bits from the sun, wearing sunscreen on any exposed bits. That way, it also doesn’t interfere with any insect repellent that I might be wearing – I love lavender, as well as citronella, as they are brilliant at keeping away the mozzies and the midges. However, they can react with your sunscreen, making it less effective, so I try not to combine the two on my skin. So, if you’re not being burned or bitten, it’s probably cold and wet and rainy, which is nice, for a while being outside and naked in, but for a sustained length of time leaving you shivering and probably not terribly healthy in the end.

There are also other considerations to bear in mind when being outdoors and naked – will others see you? It’s still illegal in this country, unless you’re in a designated naturist resort or camp. I’ve spent many summer days at nudist beaches and hot springs, revelling in the lovely feeling of freedom of being naked (bugs are less of an issue on the beach and around the hotsprings, though sunscreen is a constant pain). These are places where people know that they will be seeing other naked people – it’s not a surprise or a shock when they come across the naked human form. We have to consider other people’s issues as well as our own when we are exploring nudity – we can’t just think of ourselves in this regard. How would I feel if my nudity made someone feel uncomfortable? While it’s good to challenge people’s perceptions every now and then, pushing them into uncomfortable situations isn’t all that respectful. Think of the young girl who has been sexually abused by her stepfather, and confronted suddenly with a naked male stranger during ritual or at a pagan camp – that’s not a situation that is taking into consideration her story, her feelings on the matter. Working with compassion means we have to try to understand everyone’s story, even as we are telling our own, and realising that others’ stories matter, even if we haven’t heard them. If we are in a designated area where we know there will be nudity, and where everyone is in the same mindset, then we can be more respectful to the thoughts and feelings of others, whatever their situation.

It’s a great and liberating thing to do, to explore nudity outdoors, getting in touch with your body, spending some time around other naked bodies without a sexual agenda. However, I would say that there is a time and place for this, in order to respect other people’s feelings (and the law). My last trip to Avebury in March saw a couple just on the other side of the bank pleasuring each other in a field – a beautiful affirmation of their feelings, yes, but not entirely appropriate perhaps when walking around with a three-year old. And speaking of sexual agendas, making love in the forest, while perhaps being illegal (indecent exposure) can be a beautiful expression of our souls connecting not only with each other, but the earth itself (though do be prepared for possible bug bites in embarrassing places – or massage each other first with a lavender massage oil!). It all comes down to respect – will you be disturbing anyone? If so, I’m sure that there are other equally fine alternatives.

It all comes down to respect – respect for yourself, for others and for the land. May you find blessed freedom and comfort in your own body!