I felt the need to create some music, and so I used this traditional Modern Pagan chant alongside some footage taken over the weekend on the heath 🙂
Review of my 2018
What a year it has been! Despite all the depressing and, quite frankly, rage inspiring bollocks from politics around the world, and the growing problem of plastic and climate change around the world, etc., etc., here in this little part of the world, at my home on the edge of the heath near the North Sea, it’s not been a bad year.
I finished the Big Book of Druidry (as I like to call it) and it was a labour of love. So much work went into that volume, and I hope that it reaches people like The Awen Alone did. I received so many emails from people about The Awen Alone this year, so many wonderful and life-changing stories, and I am so grateful that people took time out of their busy lives to write and share their story.
I also started on another book, veering away from Druidry and into the realms of the Hedge Witch. Stay tuned!
All this writing, combined with an incredible heat wave over this summer, meant that I was much more sedentary that usual, which has resulted in a sluggish body and a few extra pounds that I can feel in my joints. So, this last month I’ve already started to be more active, doing yoga and going for 5k walks as often as I can, and already I can feel my strength returning. I will be teaching intermediate belly dance classes beginning the second week of Jan, so this will also add to my physical activity. I resolve to keep this up over the next year, to be a healthy and as active as I can be, and to enjoy the beauty of nature right outside my doorstep no matter what is on my plate, or whatever the weather.
While writing the new book I’ve felt a shift in my own practice as well. I feel a returning to the path of the witch, where it all started for me 25 years ago at Melange Magique when I was a 19-year old investigating the book shelves of that wonderful shop, in between fussing the cats that freely roamed the aisles and lay upon the counters. With a lot more experience and knowledge behind me, it has given it an entirely new flavour. I have always been a witch, but I had to study to become a Druid. This is the basis for the current work I am writing, which I hope to finish next year.
It’s also led me down side paths that again were explored many years ago, but never fully completed. I’ve felt a call to honour the Germanic and Scandinavian deities that are a part of my heritage, and so my research and practice into the culture, folklore, mythology and more has been re-awakened. While looking at some witchcraft practices for East Anglia to use as examples in my new work, I realised just how similar some of these were to those of north and western Europe, such as the practice of a high seat in seidr. In fact, the art of seidr has intrigued me greatly, and I feel that this will complement my own practice of hedge witchcraft nicely.
Druid College continues to be successful, and due to a high demand for online courses, next year we are putting Year 1 on hold in order to create an online course. This will consist of video and audio material, a downloadable book and online meetings with others on the course. We hope to have this available by 2020, fingers crossed! Our current Year 2 students are doing so very well, and it is indeed a great pleasure to be working alongside such people. After each weekend session, as soon as I get in the car with Robin, we both say how wonderful the people are that have chosen to work with us, and how blessed we are by those that have chosen to join. They bring so much, and I am eternally grateful that these first four years have been as good as they are, which is to say, brilliant!
There have been a few bumps in the road this year, which have given me lessons of experience to work from in the rest of my life. Having to say goodbye to my 16-year old cat last December was so very hard, to make the decision to end her life rather than have her suffer days or weeks of pain as her chest was filled with water due to congestive heart failure and she had trouble breathing, eating, walking, movement of any sort. That was the first time I had to make that kind of decision, and although I doubt it will be any easier should there be a next time, and it took a long time for me to get over it even though my baby girl passed quickly and painlessly, I know it was the right thing to do in that situation. I suffered all winter long from having to make that decision, and my new boy Barnabus was a ray of light during that troubled time.
As well, I had a difficult experience of another sort, when a peer decided to attack me on social media after I had contacted her to request permission to use two verses of an Irish poem she translated. To this day I still have no idea what set her off, but the vitriol of the attack was shocking, and the attempt to destroy me and everything I do quite mind-boggling. It brought back old pains of bullying when I was a child, and affected me on a physical level as well as mental. I realised this when I was walking down my street to the village shop, and in the middle of the street my heart started pounding and I felt very unsafe, like bullies were just waiting around the corner. I had to remind myself that I was 43 years old and no longer a young teenager, and no one was going to physically hurt me. It opened my eyes to the old scars that never truly heal, and I have learned how to better deal with such experiences. Namely, don’t read posts like that on social media, don’t get involved and don’t read all the uninformed comments either! Let the haters hate, there’s not much I can do about their behaviour anyway. As long as I am physically safe, and emotionally okay with a good support network of family and friends, that is what really matters, not what strange people say. I’m still working on compassion for people like that though. It’s not easy.
Back to the creative front, I hope to add more to my Bandcamp page over the next year. I started an album called Seidr, which will contain the songs and chants that come to me in my work over the next year. Perhaps there will even be a blog post or two about the practice of seidr, but in the meantime there is an excellent video by Professor Jackson Crawford on the subject. (I have a total nerd crush on this guy!) There are also some good books, such as The Nine World of Seid-Magic by Jenny Blain, and The Norse Shaman by Evelyn Rysdyck. I also hope to record more podcasts for the page and its subscribers, as well as record the audio book for The Hedge Druid’s Craft. The Awen Alone and The Crane Bag are already on there as audiobooks, so do take a look if you’re interested. All of these will be/are available to subscribers, as well as any new material in the coming year, so you really do get your money’s worth!
So, for this winter I shall be investing heavily in hygge, being more physically active, exploring new paths and learning from past experiences. I hope that 2019 will be a good year for you all, and see you all in the New Year!
Re-weaving the Connection Every Day
Reposted from my blog at SageWoman on Witches and Pagans at PaganSquare
A large part of the work at Druid College is teaching our apprentices how to re-weave the connection to the land each and every day. We cover a wide-range of topics in doing so, from conscious consumerism, political and environmental activism, daily and seasonal ritual celebrations and more. Our focus from our last weekend was on daily connection, how we can bring everyday actions into our practice, to make the mundane sacred; indeed, to highlight the fact that there is no such thing as the mundane. It’s only in our perception.
Part of the homework given was to write an essay on how the apprentice can re-weave the connection every day. I thought I would share what I do with them, and you, in the hopes that it may inspire you on your path.
As I work from home, I have the luxury of setting my own schedule. However, I do still remember the days when I worked full-time, and then part-time, and how I simply shifted priorities in order to make it work. I also don’t have any children, although my two furry grrrls do make me wonder sometimes…
I start the day with a prayer. Watching the sun rise, I say the following:
I kindle my soul at the hearthfire of Brighid. Flame of courage, flame of joy, drops of awen be upon my lips, my work. May Brighid guide me in all my endeavours, this day and every day. May the light of illumination be upon me, may the blessings of Brighid flow through me. May her fiery arrow bring forth awen, to shine upon all kith and kin.
I then feed the cats, clean the litter boxes and see that they’re happy. When they’re all settled, I light some incense and go to my little shrine to Brighid in my living room, next to the fireplace. Here, I have a small lantern and a bowl of water filled with water from the White Spring in Glastonbury. I light the candle and then pass my hand over the water and say:
In Brighid’s name I light the flame. Come into the sacred waters, lady of the three strong fires: in the cauldron, in the belly, in the head: Brighid. Lady of the sacred flame, lady of the holy well, lady of poetry, smithcraft and healing, white serpent energy of Albion, I honour you for all that you are with all that I am.
A blessing be upon this hearth and this home, and all who dwell within. A blessing be upon my Lady, a blessing be upon this land. May there be peace in our hearts and minds, and towards all fellow beings. May we be the awen.
I then sit and focus on my breath for nine rounds, then perform the Three Realms working as found in Jhenah Telyndru’s Avalon Within: A Sacred Journey of Myth, Mystery, and Inner Wisdom. This releases any negative or destructive energies within our being and replaces it with the clean, clear energy of the three realms.
I then put on the coffee and have a fruit smoothie for breakfast. I sit down at the dining table and say a quick prayer that I recite before all meals, sometimes out loud, sometimes just in my head.
I give my thanks for this food that I am about to eat. May it lend health, strength and nourishment to me. I give my thanks to the spirits of land, sea and sky. I honour all the times, and all the tides.
After breakfast, I get on with my work, clearing the admin first, and then going to write, create music, do an audio recording for my bandcamp page or do some artwork. I work for about five hours, and then have a late lunch. After lunch, I go outside for a three-mile walk. Sometimes I dance instead of going for a walk, using the 5 Rhythms method. Both walking and dancing help me to gain inspiration needed to solve problems, to connect with the rhythms of nature, or to find the stillness needed outside of my own mind, to be fully present in the moment.
The rest of the afternoon is spent in study and ends with meditation. Then, when the sun sets, I sing a prayer as I watch the sun fall past the horizon:
Hail fair sun the day is done. We take the rest that we have won. Your shining light guides our way. Blessed thanks for this day.
I usually have a cup of herbal tea with me as I watch the sun set. I’ve been using mugwort, chickweed and lady’s mantle from my own garden lately, to help me as I transition through perimenopause. I hold the herbs in my hand before putting them into the teapot, honouring their energy and adding my own to their song.
I then cook a meal for my husband and I, honouring the lovely organic food and all those who brought it to my home. Afterwards, my husband and I spend time together, enjoying each other’s quiet company. I may take a bath in the evening, honouring the clean, hot water that flows from the tap, throwing in some herbs or oil after infusing them with my intention, honouring theirs and bringing them together. I have another cup of herbal tea, made with vervain, which is calming and sacred to Druids both ancient and modern. (Please note: some of the herbs mentioned in this writing should not be used when pregnant. Always seek the advice of a good herbalist.) When it is time for bed, I say a final prayer:
I rest my soul in the arms of Brighid. Lady of peace, lady of healing; blessings of the sacred flame be upon me. Protecting flame, the light in the darkness. May her waters soothe my soul. Lady, watch over me as I sleep, this night and every night. May my love for you guide me in all that I do. May we be the awen.
Different prayers may be recited during the day, or during, before or after meditation. I have created a small book of prayers that I have handwritten, charms and such that correspond to everyday actions. There is a song for Brighid, which I sometimes sing when I am outside at my altar and feel Her moving through me. There is a prayer for greeting the moon, for invoking the spirits of place. I have created a blessing of protection, for when I feel that there is need. I have created a house blessing, to be recited twice a year, at Imbolc and Samhain after I clean the house thoroughly from top to bottom. I have written a chant for Brighid, to bring me into a trance-like state. There are healing charms and more that I have written or researched, said when necessary throughout the day.
In a sense, I have created my own liturgy for my own personal practice. However, this is for me and me alone; created out of elements of my own experience and my own life. I encourage others to create their own, if they so wish. Druidry has no set liturgy as a whole, however, I like the structure that I have created in my own personal practice. I understand that others might find it too restrictive. There are spontaneous prayers and connections recited and felt throughout the day, such as when out on a walk and I see the herds of deer, or the hawk flying overhead, or when I reach my hands down onto the mossy ground of my back garden to feel the energy of the land, or see the approaching storm.
These are the tools that I use each and every day to help me re-weave the connection to the land, to the gods and to the ancestors. At the full and dark moons I do ritual to honour these tides, as well as at the eight seasonal festivals of the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year. It’s been a fun and creative process, creating the daily prayers and rituals over the years, and I encourage anyone to try it. May we be the awen!
Living a Charmed Life
While the winds howl outside as winter lets us know that just because we have celebrated Imbolc, it doesn’t yet mean Spring is here, I have taken the last two weeks to rest in solitude. Staying home, organising and having a big clear-out, cleaning and simplifying has been a challenging fortnight. After the big family gatherings and the busy pace of the Yuletide holidays, Imbolc is often a quiet time for reflection. Being thrust into solitude after weeks spent with happy, noisy family members can be quite a shock to the system, but there are lessons to be learned with everything in life.
I give thanks that I have a home, a beautiful home that shelters me from the winter’s rages. As I lie in bed and hear the wind whipping around the house, the rain lashing against the window panes I remember that there are many who do not have this luxury, both human and non-human. As I walk outside in my garden, seeing the snowdrops and the crocus, the daffodils and the hellebore in flower I am reminded of the quiet, elegant beauty that exists even as the torrential storms pass overhead. The white serpent energy is slowly stirring in the ground beneath my feet, connecting all the areas of these sacred isles in a web of existence upon whose threads we can travel, if we dare. The hearth flame is utterly sacred, whether it is candles burning upon the mantlepiece or a cozy fire crackling in the evening. Being utterly awake to all these things reminds me of the constant stream of blessings and the sacredness of everything. There is nothing mundane in this world.
Chanting prayers to Brighid upon rising, giving thanks as the sun shines upon a new day, singing songs to the land as I dig into the earth of my garden, I know that there is no separation between what is sacred and what is not. I have come to realise that reciting little chants and prayers throughout the day helps to remind me of the sacredness of each and every moment, from preparing and eating food to cleaning the floors and windows, to laying myself down each night in the shelter of my home, my husband and cats with me. Inspired by the charms and chants, blessings and prayers found in works such as the Carmina Gadelica has led me to create my own, which is an incredibly fun thing to do in and of itself. But when applied to everyday life, singing my prayers throughout the day I really feel an ever deeper connection to the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place. I can’t take them for granted anymore.
It brings a whole new meaning to living a charmed life.
Summer solstice ritual
Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.
The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.
The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.
Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.
We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.
As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.
We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.
As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.
May we be the awen.
How can we incorporate more spirituality into our everyday lives? By truly living our religion, our spirituality, our calling.
A religion or spirituality cannot be read about, or simply thought about – it must be experienced. Like life, it is in the doing that counts. Yes, we must think – carefully and deeply, about what we do as human beings. We must also act upon that thinking with full awareness, otherwise the opportunity to really live slips us by.
There are so many ways we can bring more awareness and more spirituality into our daily routines. For instance, a prayer upon awakening is a brilliant way to start the day. Whether you believe in the gods, or spirits of place, the ancestors or nature itself or all of the above is a matter for your own path. But coming to an awareness of them physically, emotionally – through living your meditations can make all the difference. Saying a prayer, either aloud or in your head first thing in the morning can put you in the right frame of mind to be mindfully spiritual for the rest of the day. You can pray in all kinds of ways – prayers of thanks for a new day, prayers of peace and love, prayers of love for those in need. It matters not what type of prayer; what matters most is that it is done, in a way that best suits you to get into a spiritual frame of mind.
When we then get up and perform our ablutions, we are already aware of the sanctity of life. We can say a prayer of thanks to the goddess of the waters, the local water source, to the oceans of the world as we run the tap to wash our face. We create an awareness of the sanctity of water.
When we make our breakfast, or pour a cup of tea, we give thanks to gods, the spirits, to the earth for her abundance. We take time to acknowledge where our food and drink comes from, and in that acknowledgement continue in a sacred manner. We are establishing a strong relationship with the world around us by doing so. A prayer that I like to use before I eat is simple:
“I give my thanks for the food I am about to eat. To the spirits of land, sea and sky, know that you are honoured”.
I not only say the words, but honour the lands that the food and drink came from, the blessings of sunshine and rain, the people who worked to bring it food to my table. Seeing the bigger picture allows me to truly be grateful for all that I have.
I can say a prayer or chant a charm when I am about to drive my car somewhere. Equally, I can say a prayer of thanks for hearing the blackbird’s song of Spring, or upon seeing the sunshine after months of rain. Seeing the moon, or a particular constellation in the sky evokes spontaneous prayers within me, said either aloud or in my mind. Prayers to the rising and setting sun, to the rising and setting moon are said, as well as prayers before bed. Even getting into the bathtub can become spiritual, with an honouring of clean, hot water, or a pentagram or symbol of awen drawn on the water’s surface to acknowledge the sacredness. Gardening, working with others, before or after meditation – these are all good times for a quick prayer as well.
Certain times of day might be better for those who like a stricter routine. A set time in the morning, noon, afternoon and evening might be more suitable for those who can follow a tighter regime. It is all about personal choice.
It is not only prayer, but short rituals we can use – a bow to the sun or moon, the lighting of a candle upon awakening, offering of incense or food at the end of each day. Taking the time is what is most important – taking the time to connect with the spiritual world around you. We are never alone; we cannot be separate. We all live together on this planet side by side. Seeing this connection is pure awen.
Create songs for the sunrise, or write new chants for the full moon. Sing something improvisational when you see the first blackthorn in flower, or raise your arms to honour the sun dog’s myriad colours in the sky. The secular world may try to make us feel silly about doing so – but just try it. You may just find that your soul opens in response.
For more ideas on how to incorporate spirituality and devotion in your everyday life, I am holding a retreat weekend in the sacred Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury from 11 – 13 April. This weekend, entitled The Little Pagan Monastery, will be a weekend filled with prayer, devotion and ritual, visits to sacred sites, as well as discussion, meditation, and personal time to incorporate ideas into your life. For more information, see the Retreat Weekends on this site.