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, 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.”

Blessings of the First Harvest

As Lugh pledged to honour his foster-mother, Tailtu with games in her honour every year, what pledge will you make to the land? Let this vow strengthen your resolve through the cycles of the seasons. Lammas/Lughnasadh blessings to you all. x

Lughnasadh

BBC Interview, Radio Suffolk

Here is the link to my interview from yesterday with Matt Marvel on the Lesley Dolphin show for BBC Radio Suffolk. I’m on from about 2:00 in 🙂  Available on BBC IPlayer for the next few weeks.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04nzszm

Druid College Year 1 Applications Opening Soon!

druid college UK logo 2As we prepare to take our Year 2 students through their first weekend of the second year, we are also looking forward to opening up for applications on 31 October for our next Year 1, which begins in October 2017. We are opening for applications earlier this year, a full year in advance, to allow for payment in installments before commencement of the course so that everyone will have an opportunity to apply and if accepted, reserve their place for Year 1.

We had such a brilliant first year, and we are very much looking forward to our second year with some incredible students. We have ritual, trancing, lectures, discussion and more planned for this weekend; it’s going to be jam-packed!

To find our more about Druid College, please visit our website at www.uk.druidcollege.org.

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.

 

 

Samhain trials and tribulations, initiations and revelations…

10463010_10153728632559228_6463239705937211598_n (960x720)We’d walked up to the Celtic Iron Age burial mounds, just after the sun had set. Owls were hooting in the distance, pheasants squawking and fallow deer stags calling their challenge into the evening air. The sky held the last bright tinges of deep pinks and purples, and dusk had settled firmly in.

We went into the darkness beneath the oak and chestnut trees that grew around the burial mounds. There stood a firepit and some logs around it to sit upon. We had gathered some wood the week before, and now lit a fire, honouring its spirit. Saying our prayers to the ancestors, honouring our blood lines, the lines of our traditions and the spirits of place, we spoke softly into the night. We made our offerings and then sat in silence as the fire died, allowing the darkness to enfold us as we meditated upon the ancestors.

It was a simple, beautiful little Samhain ritual. No scripts, no plans other than bringing offerings, we were wholly and utterly in the moment.

Opening my heart and soul to the ancestors, I laid myself bare as I faced outside the firelight towards the burial mounds, saying my prayers and allowing my soul deep integration. Sometimes, however, it is not so good to forget oneself if one has been pushing too hard in their lives. Often, we can forget to take care of ourselves in order for us to function properly. We have to take care of the functional ego in order to let the representational ego fall away… and that means the functional body too.

The body lives in the soul.

And so, as we walked back down the bridleway, an old track that leads to other, later Saxon burial mounds made famous in the middle of last century by the discovery of a longship and treasure hoard, I felt a pain begin in my chest. I thought it was the mist that was rolling in, being quite susceptible to the damp after experiencing bronchitis a few times in the wet but wonderful land of Wales, where I had lived for a few years. I loved that landscape, but it wasn’t all that healthy for me to live in.

The pain in my chest only got worse as the night progressed, and into all the next day. I took it easy, but when on Monday I experienced numbness in my left hand it was time to go to the doctor’s straight away. Series of tests showed that it wasn’t a heart attack, thankfully, and there was no sign of infection either. All the doctors could say was that it was myalgia (muscle pain) in my chest.

I’d experienced this twice before, to varying degrees, and been to A&E for the same reasons, done all the tests and, when the pain died down, sent home without any explanation. After doing some research, I discovered Precordial Catch Syndrome, which described my symptoms perfectly all three times it had happened over the last 20 years. Perhaps this is what I have; the doctor’s don’t want to discuss it with me, however, ignoring it when I bring it up. It seems to be taken a bit more seriously in North America, at the very least.

At this time of year, I am reminded very strongly of our human strengths and our human weaknesses. Holding the wisdom of the ancestors close to my heart, hearing their songs, seeing the continuation of life in all its manifestations, through birth to death and rebirth, I can work through the physical frailties of this manifestation of my body. The last three years have shown a pattern at this time of year, at Samhain, where the frailties bring me to a new realisation: in 2013, I had chickenpox with a fever that broke through habitual thinking patterns; in 2014 my back went out and I was laid flat out for three days, unable to walk, discovering the limitations of body but not of mind. This year I came very close to my own mortality, with three long days of tests, waiting for results and wondering if there was something seriously wrong with my heart. It brought me even closer to death and my feelings around it. On a very personal level, I had to deal with the fear of death, though with the strength of my beliefs and the ancestors with me, it wasn’t so much fear as sorrow if this ride had to end suddenly, for I am having such a good time in this current manifestation.

At any rate, it once again drives home the point that we need to be utterly present, in our bodies and in reality in order to see the magic of existence. It also makes the point that we need to listen to our bodies, to take good care of our bodies, so that we can hear the songs of the universe for as long as is possible in this current manifestation. We can’t take anything for granted.

One day I too will become an ancestor, but hopefully it will not be today. Today is a good day to die. But tomorrow is even better…