Book Review: The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality by John Michael Greer

Published by Sterling Ethos, 2021

This book is a great introduction to Druidry. I love a hardcover book, and this little gem published by Sterling Ethos is a really nice production. The corded cover with embossed title, the interior illustrations and the overall print quality is superb. We need more Pagan books that pay attention not only to the content, but also to the print quality and aesthetic! This book will last a long time, for sure. It’s in a nice almost square format too, which is different. It is an introductory book, so it doesn’t go into great length on any given subject, but it does cover all the essentials necessary to begin your path of Druidry.

It is divided into four sections: Part One looks at the sources of Druidry, including the ancient Druids, the Druid Revival and Modern Druidry. This brief history of Druidry covers all the essentials, as well as some new things that I have never come across, including William Stukeley’s elephants (you’ll just have to read the book for more on that one). I am also pleased to see a section on Women in Druidry.

Part Two looks at the Druid teachings, the different strands of Druidry and exercises to help one not just read about it, but also turn it into personal wisdom through experience. The section on “The Two Currents” I had not come across before in my own Druid learning. This chapter discusses the solar current and the earth’s telluric current and how to incorporate that into your practice.

Part Three is the practice of Druidry, an essential section that really shows how Druidry is a living practice, something that must be done, not just read about. I especially like Greer’s words on Druidry as a craft:

“Druidry is not an ideology. Like basketry, forestry, and many other words that end with –ry, it can be best understood as a craft. You don’t become a basket maker or a forester by believing some set of opinions. You become a basket maker by learning and practising basketry, and you become a forester by learning and practising forestry. In the same way, you become a Druid by learning and practicing the craft of Druidry. One of the things this means is that becoming a Druid isn’t an all-or-nothing matter. You start becoming a Druid as soon as you begin learning some elements of the Druid craft, and you keep on becoming a Druid as long as you keep studying and practicing that craft.”

In this section, Greer also introduces us to divination through the Coelbren alphabet, which is not used as much as the Irish ogham taught by many other Druid authors, teachers and organisations. This chapter also gives you some more daily practices and a couple of rituals to get you started.

Part four is about initiation into Druidry. The word initiation means “to begin” and so the ritual set out in this section provides the reader with a definitive point in time where they can say that they started out on the Druid path with directed intention to practice this craft to the best of their abilities. The self-initiation ritual is simple but poignant. Greer ends the book with the following words:

“A more important source of guidance than books and organizations, however, is the time you spend working with the basic practices of Druidry, listening to the One Life, and learning from nature. No one can do that for you. The only thing that limits how much you can learn and grow on the adventure of Druidry is your own willingness to pursue it.”

There is also a helpful glossary, bibliography, recommended resources and index.

I was very pleased with this little book that holds much wisdom. I’d recommend it to anyone starting out on the Druid path who wants a concise introduction contained within a beautifully printed publication.

On a Moonlit Night…

A full moon and the spring equinox not two days apart; the energies leave me reeling, literally. My head has been pounding for two days straight, and I just can’t wait for the tides to turn and for the energy to subside, to slide into the more gentle flow rather than being a gushing torrent of turbulence. The light is too bright, sounds are too loud and everything is just too much. But I know it will change. Things always change.

It’s Friday night and I climb into the car and drive down to the beach. Over the farmer’s fields I can see the moon rising, huge and pink in a clear sky. My head has cleared, for the time being – the painkillers have set in. I am excited as I drive down the winding road, alert for owls and hares.

When I get to the car park there are only two other cars there, one leaving. I grab my bag and my drum and make my way across the shingle beach. I haven’t checked the tides, so I don’t know what awaits me or where the shoreline will be tonight. In the last of the evening light I can make out a figure walking in the distance to my right, and a fishing tent with a man moving about it to my left. As the stones of the shingle roll and crunch under my feet, I am glad for the noise, because it means no one can sneak up on me. These are things a woman alone at night usually considers.

As I reach the ridge of the high tide line, I see below me a beach that is not usually there. The tide is right out, and a long peninsula of shingle stretches out into the sea. I have walked on this shingle spit many times, out into the ocean but never have I seen it stretch so far out. My heart beats faster, as I know this will be a very special night.

I slide down the shingle bank, smooth stones rolling about my boots. The fisherman looks on, probably a little puzzled, but I can’t see his face in the growing dark. I reach a sandy beach, which in this area is a rarity. It’s only a small section, and I walk cautiously across it, because what looks like sand in this part of the world can also be mud, which acts like quicksand and to which many a day-tripper has lost their rubber boots as they scamper unwarily across the surface.

I cross the sand and reach the shingle spit. Walking down it, I raise my eyes to the moon now, and am stopped in my tracks. From where I stand, the spit of shingle stretches out into the sea, marking a pathway straight to the moon. It is incredible, and I am utterly enchanted. I want to walk that road, straight off the shingle spit and out into the waves until I reach the moon.

My senses come back to me, and I make my way down the long peninsula of rolling rocks, the waves lapping at either side of me. It’s exciting, being here, where only one set of footprints shows from a previous adventurer on this night. I walk out a little further, almost to the tip of the shingle spit, but not quite. I’ve never walked out this far before, and I don’t know what the tide will be doing. I have a feeling it’s just turning now, and I don’t want to be caught out. So, 50 yards from the end, I stand.  

I am betwixt and between. I am in a place that is not a place, in a time that is not a time. I am utterly between the worlds. I am not on land and I am not at sea. I am surrounded by water with boots firmly on smooth pebbles that roll in and out with the waves. The dark night sky above me is shot through with stars, and the full moon of the spring equinox is rising before me. What a time to be alive.

I take out my drum and start to work with the rhythm of the North Sea. I feel her flowing around me, singing her songs of ebb and flow, of her story of how she came into being. Standing as far out as I am, I understand how the land bridge used to work that carried our ancient Stone Age ancestors across from Europe to this land, before it was cut off by the water. It is still a shallow sea, muddy and roiling and constantly changing, hiding its mysteries beneath the waves.

I drum and sway with the tide. I can see that yes indeed, it is turning. It is now coming in, and I will have to keep my wits about me even as I tumble into ecstasy. My witch blood pounds in my veins, my wild heart soars with the stars above. I call out the goddesses in my life, singing their names, chanting and letting whatever comes to express itself on this night. The wind takes my words and songs away, a gift offered freely to this awesome night. I feel so alive, so utterly free and yet spellbound by the moment. I am the stars in the sky, the moon before me, the waves around me. I am utterly connected, yet without any visible strands that keep me pinned down to just one awareness. This is so exhilarating, so wild, so free. This is pure magic.

I stop drumming and singing and open my arms wide to the sky, drinking it all it. The Fair Folk are all around me, playing in the waves, brushing against my cold skin. I can hear them whispering, feel their light touch upon my hair. Strange sounds are all around me, and I am frightened and not frightened at the same time. This is wyrd.

 I am witch. I am a druid. I am one who walks between the worlds. This is who I am.

This is my Friday night.

I have been to many liminal places many different times, but not like this. This is special. I know that my heart will start to beat a little faster just remembering this night.

My ears are cold. I lower my arms and look around, noticing the tide coming in more and more, for that is what it does, without complaint, without effort, without coercion. I must be more like the tide, I think, as I put my drum away. I say my farewells to the place and all who are with me at the moment, and take a last look at the moon. The pathway to her is now under water, hidden beneath the shining surface of Mardöll, obscured by the grace of Nehalennia, taken with the great mystery. It is time to go.

I make my way back up the shingle spit, narrower than before. The fisherman is still there, and I wonder if my chanting, singing and cries were hear by him or whether they were scooped up by the sea there and then. I scramble up the steep shingle bank from the beach, almost twice my height. I sit for a moment at the top, looking at the little bay that has been created by the ever-shifting of the shingle. Each time I come here it is different; a bay disappears or suddenly appears elsewhere, a lagoon shines in the light, a seal swims close to the shore, geese fly overhead to the marshes, a cormorant makes its way home. Each time it is different. Each time it is magical.

I crunch my way back to the car. As I drive down the winding road, watching out for owls and hares, my headache comes rushing back, pounding in my temples. It lasts for two more days, until the equinox shifts the energies, and finally I am released from the swell. I can breathe in the spring sunshine, the daffodils in my garden bobbing their heads in the warmth, the robin singing, the bees beginning to make their rounds. It’s as if the earth has held its breath, and now it is released.

These changing tides are hard on the old body, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I smell the green grass and moss beneath me, and revel in the blue sky overhead. I give heartfelt thanks for my many blessings, and say a prayer for peace under the late March sunshine.

A Spell for Peace

This month I’ve written a spell for peace (in a war-torn country) that is available to everyone via my Patreon page. You do not need to be a Patron to view or download the pdf of this spell – it is open to all. May we be peace. xoxo

The Goddess has a plan… or does She?

I’ve come across the phrase “the Goddess has got a plan” or something similar within the Pagan community, especially when people are trying to sort out why good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. For me personally, there are a few reasons why this just doesn’t sit right in my own Pagan worldview.

To begin with, I simply don’t believe in predestination. Many people have a simplistic view of “fate”, which seems to preclude the concept of free will. Many things are “fated to happen”, or meeting that person was “just fate”. Sometimes the notion of free will is forgotten in these instances, other times willingly overlooked in order to explain or justify the reason something has happened. Many Pagans, and all Wiccans, believe that we have free will, such as in the Wiccan rede (maxim or “counsel”) “an it harm none, do as ye will” which translates to “do not harm others while you live up to your full potential”. You will is your potential, your spiritual goal, your highest self.

But everyone is on this same ride. We are all going through life together, and someone else’s will may come into your life to challenge, support, annoy, or validate your own experience and your own will. Some would argue that a higher power has a plan for everyone, and that they are in some sort of control over the final destination, which means that there is some sort of control over the everyday experiences that lead to this final destination. This precludes free will, in my opinion.

Some have turned away from deity because of what has happened to them in their lives. They can’t believe that a deity would allow such things to happen to them and/or to the world in general. This is still a belief in pre-destination, and a deity that controls everything like some master puppeteer.

For me, deity is most certainly not this in any shape or form. Deity is the energy of life, of death and of renewal. That is its agenda. This energy may be seen in many different ways, relative to culture, to personal preference, to environment and so on. Different people attribute more associations to this basic agenda, myself included, into a more specified spiritual practice. But overall, the plan is life, death and renewal (or regeneration).

Our relationship with deity is very personal, and can be very specific. But does my Goddess have a plan for entire world? I know that she most certainly has a wish for the world, but it’s not up to her. It’s up to us.

Our free will, our own capability of taking full responsibility for our lives and the lives of others is part of that overall plan of life, death and renewal. It’s the growing up of the human race, the evolution that hopefully will take place sooner rather than later. In a Druidic sense, it is coming to realise that we are part of an environment, and that we need to be a contributing and beneficial part of that ecosystem in order for the whole to thrive (us included). In a Wiccan sense, it would be to do the least amount of harm and to become the best person that you can be in a similar context. In Hedgewitchcraft, it would be to understand and work deeply with the cycles of nature in your own home environment, crafting your life in complete attunement to the world around you, both the seen and the unseen. In all of the above, we are opening ourselves to deity in order to better understand ourselves, and how to live well on this planet.

That, in my opinion, could be the only plan the deities could have for us. Bad things will happen to good people, not because it’s part of deity’s plan, but because there are bad people out there who harm others knowingly or unknowingly. Human ego, greed and fear get in the way of so much that could be accomplished.

Sometimes it’s really hard not to despair when the world seems like such a mess. But we have to put faith in ourselves, in our own actions and be the example we want to see reflected back to us in the world. Working with the wonderful energy of the gods is one way, though not all Pagans are religious. Working with the energy of the land where you live is at the core of all practice, to better understand our place and how we can make it better not just for ourselves, but for all in order to have a sustainable future that follows life, death and renewal, even when not viewed from a religious standpoint.

Your own Will is that which will see you through the most difficult of times. If you align your will to the flow of nature, you will come to understand the true inter-connectedness of all things. And these all have free will, just as you do. It’s learning to meet each other, soul to soul, and work with that energy which in Druidry is often called “awen”. In our relationships with the world we come to better understand the world and really participate in this great, vast cycle within cycles. We will see the good, the bad and the ugly on the way, but we have to realise that not all of that is part of any deity’s plan. It just is, and we can learn to work with it, to condemn when we need to, to be the light we want to see in the world, and to really think long and hard about our own ethics and morality.

That’s my plan, anyway.

A Devotional Practice

Having a devotional practice can be just what you need to keep on track each and every day on your own personal path. In my own Druidry practice, I have a daily devotional set up to honour the goddess Brighid. Though most devotional practices are centred around deity, this is not absolutely necessary, and indeed one can set up a devotional practice around the spirits of place, for example. If working with deity is not your thing, then this might be a good alternative. However, for the most part, devotional work means working with deity.

Every morning I light a candle and say prayers, followed by a short meditation on a different aspect of the season that I currently find myself in. So today, for example, I meditated for a couple of minutes on “the cauldron”, whereas yesterday is was “winter”. Later on in the week it will be community, silence and other concepts that for me relate to the winter season.

The prayers are fairly short, and written by myself. They might be inspired by other prayers, such as those found in the Carmina Gadelica. I begin my opening my soul to Brighid, and then seeking an aspect of the soul, or of personal growth (or both) that is repeated throughout the season (winter being wisdom). Previously last season was about cleansing, preparation for winter’s reflection and working with emotions.

I also include a prayer for others as well, for the wider world in general. This season it is about those who suffer under the duress of winter, and also helping people to find peace within the stillness and silence that can be found in this season, if we know where to look. It is about connecting to what is happening in the natural world, and hoping to shift the threads of the warp and weft of life into something that runs more smoothly, more naturally, with the rhythms of nature in mind and the benefit of all held in the heart.

All in all, my morning devotional takes around five minutes, and the candle is left to burn until it burns out. (It is an ethically sourced soy tealight candle, placed in an enclosed lantern). I try to do another meditation session for a longer time in the afternoon, if my schedule permits. In the evening, I say devotional prayers again, this time as the sun sets. These prayers help me to wind down, to think about the day and where I am going, as well as for a final blessing on hearth and home, friends and family, and the world at large. It allows space to simply be, to sit in silence, to be with Brighid and to come home to myself.

I had a good time creating my own personal devotional, and it is something that really keeps my soul connected to Brighid throughout the day. If you are interested in creating your own devotional, I can highly recommend it. If you feel you need some inspiration to get started, try by Caitlín Matthews’ Celtic Devotional.

If you find that you aren’t as connected as you would like throughout your everyday life, then having your own devotional practice may be just what you need.

Blessings!