New work: Hedge Druid

So, I’m deep into writing my sixth book on Druidry. This is a full-length book with Llewellyn Publishing, which I am so honoured and excited to be working with now! I have a working title of “Beyond the Hedgerow: The World of the Hedge Druid” but that may change.  It’s nice to be able to sink my teeth into such a project, and I hope that it will be well received. Here’s a little sample from the introduction 🙂

Introduction

She walks towards the hedge, the boundary that separates the farmer’s field from the village, a line that runs down to a wooded area and the heathland beyond. When she reaches the hedge of hawthorn, blackthorn and dog rose, a triad of wild and native plants that hold ancient and special meaning, she smiles and reaches out to stroke a rose hip. The cool autumn breeze plays in her hair, whipping it around her face as the sun spills its light in waves across the landscape, the sky dotted with huge fluffy clouds. It is harvest time, when nature’s abundance is at its peak. She feels the strength of the ancestors flowing through her blood and bones, and hears their song in the wind. She says a quick prayer to the ancestors and blesses the land and the ongoing harvest, even as the sound of farm machinery floats upon the breeze.

She turns and follows the hedgerow down to the little woodland, a special place that bursts with bluebells in the spring. In this place she stands for a moment, utterly still, listening to the sounds of the spirits of place: the robins and blackbirds, a pheasant squawking, a hawk crying high overhead riding the thermals. This is the edge, where the hedge meets the wild, where the known meets the unknown, the civilised comes up against the wild. Here, at the edge, is the special place, the in-between place. This is where she belongs.

Inviting the power of the ancestors to flow through her, inviting the gods and goddesses that she loves, inviting the spirits of place to join with her intention, she turns three times anti-clockwise and sings. Once she has stopped, she knows that she walks between the worlds, that the Otherworld is all around her, and she can seek its wisdom and guidance, while testing her courage and her wits. Here she will find the answer to help her in her quest. Here she will find the inspiration, known to the Druids as awen. Here is where the magic happens.

Druidry is a deeply fulfilling earth-based spirituality. I have followed the Druid path for the last decade and more. Born a witch, I have followed a Pagan path for over twenty-five years now. I had always had the gift of prophetic dreams, of knowing more than is apparent in one’s actions or speech, and having a “way” with animals. I have always been slightly fey, different from others. Sensitive to noise and light, weather patterns and more means that I sought out different things growing up. I spent a lot of time in the forest and fields behind my home, preferring the company of the grazing horses and woodland creatures to most humans. I was able to do magic, though I did not know it for what it was at the time.

When I was in my late teens, I discovered Wicca. Here was a religion that made some sense to me, that honoured nature and had a goddess as well as a god. I studied and practiced Wicca as a solitary for many years, dedicating myself to the goddess Morrigan.

Time passed on, and I found myself travelling and living thousands of miles away from where I grew up. Feeling a bit lost, physically and emotionally, I was also spiritually bereft. I had no roots, and did not know how to find or put new ones down. I stopped practicing for a couple of years, not feeling quite at home with myself or my spirituality any longer.

That time passed, and I came across Druidry. It interested me, but mostly all I knew of Druids came from fantasy fiction novels that I had read. I had not studied the Celts in any great detail, though my patron goddess was Morrigan. I had felt a calling, but only half-answered it in my work and in my practice. And so I continued to drift, learning a touch more about Druidry but finding all the material dry and a little dull.

Then I found Buddhism, and Zen. My world found a sharp focus, and for a couple of years that was my sole path. It helped me to stop for a moment, to sit long and meditate, to know myself more and in doing so, learn more about others. I began to live with a bit more intention, instead of reaction. I visited sacred sites in England and Wales, and finally came to Glastonbury. There, at Chalice Well, I did not have the usual epiphany that many speak of, but rather came across a book in the gift shop that changed my life. The author was Emma Restall Orr, and her wild, muddy version of Druidry rang true to my soul. I read all her works, and then studied with her for a year while she was running courses in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside.

That’s when everything began to come together, both in my spiritual life and my practical life. I was the sum total of my experiences, but also more than that. I was a part of the web, part of an ecosystem and as such I had to give back for what I received. I had to be a functioning and intentional part of the weave of life. I found that I could blend all that I had learned throughout my life into my Druidry, and now it has led me to wonderful places where I feel that I am fulfilling a purpose. I’ve come to understand that the meaning of life is to give your life meaning.

And so here I am, sharing with you what I have learned. My learning has mostly been a solitary experience, therefore I call myself a Hedge Druid. I have been part of larger organisations, having studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and been a trustee for The Druid Network. I’m now the founder and director of Druid College UK, and am pretty much a full-time Druid. I’ve been blessed that I’m able to do this, with the support of my husband, my family and my friends. It’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey to get to where I am today, but I can honestly say that Druidry has changed my life.

The enchantment that I felt when I was younger, roaming the forests and fields has returned. I feel it all the time now; a feeling of connection and wonder. Every day is blessed. I’ve found that it’s the little things that matter. Watching the long shadows of the birch trees stretch across my back garden as the leaves flutter in the autumn breeze. Watching the sun or moon rise. Leaving offerings to the Fair Folk at the shrine near the bottom of the garden. A sense of returning to my core being has flowed back into my life. I know who I am and where I am going. It is contentment, though not without challenges. It is a deep sense of peace.

I hope to share with you in this work the inspiration and knowledge that I have received over the years. May you find the path rise to meet your feet, may you walk it with integrity and honour.

An áit a bhuil do chroí is ann a thabharfas do chosa thú.

(Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.)

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A very early teaser…

So, here’s a little teaser about the work that I did a couple of months ago, when the gods decided to sit me down quite literally and make this book happen. This book will not be available until 29 June 2018 through Moon Books, but I just thought I’d leave this here…  🙂

Cover high res

Endorsement by Mabh Savage, author of A Modern Celt and Celtic Witchcraft:

“This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking to deepen their magical nature or set out upon a path to connect with the world around them. Jo is incredibly inclusive and covers aspects of witchcraft, Wicca and druidism interspersed with an alamanac-style folklore juxtaposed against modern science and a common-sense realism about the modern world we find ourselves in. As a witch on an eclectic path, and a trainee Bard, many of Jo’s words and experiences really resonated with me. Like Jo, I have always been a witch, but appreciate this can mean different things to different people, and I also have found that some Druidic paths can at first appear dry and academic, but with this volume you can sink your toes into the earth and reach high into the sky to touch the stars; to feel what being a Hedge-Druid can really mean; how it can change your world. Jo works with herbs, plants and animals, examining all types of creature, from what we might consider the lowest, such as insects and invertebrates, to the magnificent mammals such as stags and horses. She reminds us that each has a vital place in the world, and in its eco-system, and even shows us how we might go about finding our own animal ally. As well as the earthly beings we can connect to, Jo teaches us how to connect to the celestial beings; the sun, moon and stars, and the aspects of our earth that they control, such as the tides and the seasons. Jo speaks to us of the inherent goodness in some people; how we can look past the horrors that some humans have brought upon the world and see the hard work of those (including many druids and those on similar paths) who are trying to fix the damage and repair the connection between humans and nature. Jo reminds us that we can fill each day with ‘the magical and the mystical’, and gives us the tools and knowledge to create our own deeper understanding of this truly wondrous world we live in.”

Happy Anniversary!

It’s been four years today that this blog has been going, and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, following, commenting, supporting and generally just being lovely!

I received a letter yesterday from a lady in India who runs a school influenced by the teachings of Krishnamurti and many Buddhist concepts.  She also has a great love of Celtic theology and music, and took the time to write to me telling me how much she loved my first book,  Zen Druidry. It’s so wonderful to receive letters like these, and I’m continually both surprised and delighted that so many people have taken the time to get in touch.  I feel really connected to the readers of this blog and my books, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words, your suggestions, your reviews, your letters, your support and more.

And the timing of that letter was brilliant; there is some good news to share as well! It looks very much like a follow-up to my first book, Zen Druidry will be published this year! Taking the ideas from Zen Druidry in the Pagan Portals series by Moon Books (this is a series of books that offer an introduction on  subject in around 100 pages or less), these ideas are further expanded in this new book, as well as offering more ways to blend Zen and Druidry, Eastern and Western traditions to create a holistic worldview based on reverence for the natural world, utterly awake and aware to the present moment.

I’ll keep you all posted on updates, and once again, thank you all so very much!

Yearning for the Wind

Yearning for the windWow. Get this book. Read this book. Love this book.

Tom Cowan’s stories and insights into Celtic spirituality are brilliant.  There will be a few future blog posts based around concepts from this book, concepts that coincide with things that currently are occupying my brain space, such as integration, immersion, the Oran Mor and more.  This is a book that will not only blow your mind, but also leave you giggling, rooting for the author on his adventures, and developing a deeper insight into your own soul.

A beautiful book to read after The Salmon in the Spring!  You can buy Yearning for the Wind HERE.

Book Review: The Magic of the Summer Solstice

Magic of Summer Solstice Danu ForestFellow author, Druid and all around lovely person, Danu Forest has written the first in a series of e-books that detail aspects of each of the eight pagan festivals, otherwise commonly known as The Wheel of the Year.

Her first book, The Magic of the Summer Solstice, is a well written, well-rounded account of folklore and customs that surround this time of the highest light.  It is also filled with arts and crafts to do during the summer solstice, as well as recipes, meditation, visualisations and more. There are also lovely, simple illustrations by her talented husband and artist (and excellent drummer – my doumbek came alive in his hands at Druid Camp last year!), Dan Goodfellow.

I loved this little book. I loved it so much I read it twice.  I really look forward to reading the others in the series, and to find ways to incorporate some of the ideas into my own personal ritual practice.

For the time being, I’m keeping an eye on the elder tree in my backyard for making cordials, and will be making a lovely sun wheel for our group celebration later this month!

P.S. Just to top it all off, I was also delighted to see that at the end of the e-book was this!

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Book Review: Following the Deer Trods – Shaman Pathways

FTDTFollowing the Deer Trods – Elen Sentier

This Shaman Pathways book from Moon Books provides an introduction to the subject of the Awenydd, the Brythonic shaman working with the goddess Elen of the Ways. The author herself is an Awenydd, it having been in her family for many generations.

Sentier’s words are clear and very informal – it’s as if you’re having a chat in your kitchen with a cup of tea. She won’t dumb it down for you, neither will she make it impossible for you to understand – she uses the vernacular throughout. As a Shaman Pathways book, it has to provide an introduction to the topic in about 100 pages or less, which is quite difficult in any subject. In this book, Sentier does it quite clearly and concisely.

I saw many parallels between the function of the Awenydd and that of the Druid. As well, I could see a similar East meets West approach to some of the subjects, especially those considering the ego which I could relate to on many levels. I especially liked the foot dowsing, or walking the earth in the footsteps of the deer, listening to the many stories around us rather than focusing and hearing only our own. Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, once described this sort of walking as “kissing the ground with your feet”, making each step one made in peace. Sentier points out “when any of us step, walk, run, touch the Earth with our feet, we give our and pick up energy with each step. This happens whether we are conscious of it or not; walking, following the deer trods is partly about becoming conscious of this and about how we do it.”

I also found kindred alliance with the concept of the Awenydd being one that is in service to the community, rather than focusing on the concept of personal development. For me, this is what Druidry is all about. We can begin with the self, but it must not end there. As Sentier points out, “In the British tradition our [awenyddion, the plural of an awenydd] primary goal is to help the Earth and in order to do this we learn to ask her what she needs rather than thinking we know best”. Sentier also brings forward the concept that the healer or awenydd is not one that cures, but rather the one that uses a holistic approach, literally makes things whole. This may not include a cure, but it takes into consideration all aspects of healing.

My only criticism of this book is that the author tends to write in an anti-Christian tone every now and then, which I find off-putting. Having Christian family as well as Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends, and also working with Christian Druids I sometimes find remarks like “cruelty seems to be an integral part of all three of the Religions of the Book (the Bible) Christianity, Judaism and Muslimism” a little hard to bear. Indeed, the second half of the Bible deals with the teachings of Christ, which are mainly about love, not cruelty. Cruelty is not specific to a religious creed. The author’s rather low view of Christianity, in my opinion, is not conducive to getting the message across in a positive and peaceful way, all things considered.

This is really a book that is jam-packed with really useful information, exercises and different ideas that aren’t really found elsewhere. If the delivery hadn’t included the author’s views on Christianity, I would be happy to recommend it to anyone. However, considering some of the words said throughout the text, I could not recommend it to anyone who follows any of the three Abrahamic faiths alongside their own Paganism.

My favourite movie for the season…

This is a new tradition that I am starting – to watch the absolutely gorgeous and stunning artwork of The Secret of Kells every year at this tide. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, not just for the beautiful animation but the story as well.  My favourite animation film by far.

Blessings of the season,

Jo. x