Review of The Spirit of Nature Oracle

spirit of natureThe Spirit of Nature Oracle cards by John Matthews and Will Worthington have been re-released by Eddison Books, much to my delight. This deck of 25 cards brings together the wisdom of the Druid Ogam, and the history and magical influence the Green Man has over humanity’s lives still, even in our modern day and age.

The Ogam is a Celtic “alphabet”, a series of lines drawn over a vertical axis that have many various meanings, depending upon the type of Ogam being used. There were over 250 types of Ogam, such as the famous Tree Ogam, Pool Ogam, King Ogam, Bird Ogam, Dog Ogam, even a Food Ogam! These provided the mnemonics necessary to retain and also express a vast wealth of information in as small a form as possible, not unlike poetry and its distillation of meaning to some carefully chosen words. The Green Man is a figure from out of the mists of time, one that has watched over humanity since its inception and throughout its evolution. Trees have been a very important part of humanity’s existence and success, for within their shaded boughs we found safety and security, as well as food and healing.

Bringing the Ogam and the Green Man together is a wonderful way to provide a holistic tree-based divination system. In our modern society, we are a very visual bunch, and so I believe the popularity of oracle cards has gained because of this in our lives. Our memories are filled with such an abundance of other “stuff” than our ancient ancestors held, and so the training to interpret the various meanings of each Ogam would take more time than most have in order to be successful. By bringing the format into something very visual, we can meditate upon the image and see the meanings held there, both historically and in our own personal gnosis, brought to life in an easy form and media that anyone can use.

We have the brilliant artwork by Will Worthington, who used ancient, traditional methods such as painting with egg tempura-based paints upon wooden panels. Matthews’ knowledge and wisdom shines through the text, providing historical background to the Ogam and the Green Man, both simply and eloquently, as anyone who is familiar with his works can attest to (and I’m a big fan). The divinatory meanings are clear and inspired, and yet personal gnosis is recommended first and foremost by Matthews when drawing a card, for to gaze upon the card before outside influence can reveal some truths about the self that others’ interpretations could not touch upon.

There are some suggestions for drawing the cards, based on one, three or five-card spreads. Using the Tree of Life spread, by placing three cards in reference to the Lower, Middle and Upperworld is truly inspired. It’s an approachable deck, for anyone to use, regardless of religious or spiritual background or preference. The cards can simply be used to meditate upon the season and the cycle that we are currently in, as well as being used for divinatory purposes. I would highly recommend using them both ways!

I am so very pleased that this deck has been re-released, and in such a beautiful format. It comes in a sturdy box, to protect both book and cards from being banged around and makes it useful when travelling. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice for the book to have been in colour as well, to match the cards, but being an author myself I am fully aware of the limitations both in print and in financial terms that this would be subject to, and so would say that the beauty of the cards themselves more than makes up for it. The book is great reference and resource material, and the cards are wonderful pieces of artwork. I highly recommend this deck to anyone who loves trees, nature, Celtic lore and spirituality or who just loves and collects oracle cards!

Harvest for the Soul and Coming Home

It’s good to be home. After a couple of weeks visiting my family back in Canada, with yet another heat wave (40C with the humidity!) I can honestly say that I’m grateful to be back in Suffolk. It feels like autumn has arrived here, as it has back in Canada (the day after I left, it turned to a lovely 21C and the leaves beginning their autumnal splendour) and the change in the air is most welcome.

As always, going back to visit my family brings up contemplations of just what “home” really is. I realised that in 3.5 years, I will have lived in the UK for as long as I have lived in Canada. Over twenty years of eating food grown in this land, drinking water from local bore holes and reservoirs, breathing in the air and connecting with the different flora and fauna relative to this place and this time. It really has shaped me, alongside the people I’ve met and the experiences I have had, and I am both grateful and a touch melancholic when reminiscing about all that I have done and gone through in moving to this new land all those years ago.

This is where I made my lifelong dream come true, to be an author. Never did I ever dream about establishing a Druid College, or a belly dance company, or a host of many other turns my life has taken. It’s been a challenge and a blessing, the twists and turns my life has taken, and for which I am both proud and humbled to have come out the other side. England is not the land of Madam George and roses, as Sinead O’Connor once sang, but it is the place that captured my heart, alongside Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

So I return to my home with a renewed sense of place, of home and indeed, of belonging. Even though I will always carry a thread of being an outsider, with my accent alerting people to the fact that I was not born here, still I feel like this place is home. An immigrant to this country, coming from a long line of immigrants to various countries, I feel a shared connection both to my ancestors as well as to the ancestors of place, which here in the UK are so varied from before history even began. I have a few months now to breathe deeply, to take the time to reconnect, now that my new book for Llewellyn has been sent off and revised. For the rest of the year, I will be taking information in, taking in the sensual and the ecstatic, allowing the awen to flow into me after many long months of being on the other end. Allowing myself to reap the harvest sown earlier on. And so the cycle continues, in and out, flowing and ebbing, as I gather my resources ready for a new round of work come the new year. For the next three months, I will be listening to the words and voices of others, allowing their inspiration to fill me, and see where that takes me.

And in the meantime, I shall walk this land, the sandy soil of heath and woodland beneath my feet, the wind blowing in from the sea and scenting the air, the hearthfires burning both in the little village around me and within my soul.

P.S. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover of my new book, coming out next summer!

Hedge Druid Cover

Beautiful Moon…

full moon 3

Photo credit: Stephen Rahn

Last night we had the most wonderful full moon, in a beautifully clear sky (though cold!). As I held my full moon ritual in my back garden, waiting for the moon to rise above the giant ash trees opposite the tiny valley, I looked back upon my path and all that I had experienced on this wonderful, magical journey. When the moon rose high enough, I went down into a small clearing where her light shone upon the dried grass, and lay down upon the earth to re-dedicate myself to The Old Ways.

I have felt my path shifting, changing since Beltane, and the stirrings of something new are rising within me. All signs point towards a new project, of taking up the reins in this journey and directing the energies towards my ultimate goal. There are stirrings, ideas, rumblings inside my head, and as I gazed out at the moon I felt overwhelmed by a tidal wave of love that just poured out of my breast and out into the world. My love for the natural world knows no bounds, and I deeply honour my Lady of the Moon and my Lord of the Wildwood for their blessings.

So, new things will be afoot in the next couple of years.

In the meantime, my last book for the Pagan Portals series, The Hedge Druid’s Craft: Walking Between the Worlds of Wicca, Witchcraft and Druidry will be available tomorrow (Friday, 29 June). As well, my new book with Llewellyn, entitled The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker will also be out around this time next year.

I look forward to walking this journey with you all. x

What to wear? Ritual Clothing…

10 (800x590)What to wear in ritual? Whether you’re a Druid, a Witch, a Wiccan, a Heathen or from any other path this question often comes up. The simplest answer is: wear what you like. However, let’s go into more detail, for the sake of this blog post!

I come from a Druid/Witch/Wiccan background. When I first began on my Pagan path, I performed my solitary rituals either in the nude or in robes that I had made. It all depended upon the season, the intention of the ritual, and practicality of it all. Some indoor magical workings and rituals I would do without a stitch on, as I felt that was most appropriate. As well, having just come out of a ritual bath, it was easy! I have also done some solitary outdoor rituals in the nude, such as honouring the solstice while dancing outside in the warm rain, away from prying eyes. The feeling of the warm, humid air and the rain on my body were wonderful, and is an experience that I will always remember and treasure. However, that ritual was performed during a Canadian summer, where the temperature soars to a very humid 32 degrees, and wearing anything or even moving causes one to break out in a sweat. It was also raining, which meant the bugs were in hiding, and the mosquitoes and blackflies which would otherwise eat me alive were not present.

In a British summer, things can be very different, and four seasons in one day is not uncommon. As well, there are less wild places to be in Britain away from prying eyes, as there are just so many more people on this tiny island than there is spread out across the vastness of Canada. Working in the nude can be extremely liberating, and many of modern Paganism’s leading people such as Wicca’s Gerald Gardner and Druidry’s Ross Nichols were firm believers in naturism: that being unclothed in nature had great benefits to one’s physical and spiritual health. However, in my opinion it can also be cold, uncomfortable and inappropriate.

It is entirely your choice as to how you wish to dress, or undress for ritual. If you are performing it in a public place, then you must remember that in most countries, it is illegal to be nude in public. The laws and the sensitivities of others must be taken into consideration. Some would argue this, such as those who at large Pagan festivals prefer to walk around naked, but I feel that this is inappropriate for many. We do not know everyone’s story, and so to be confronted by a naked person can be very upsetting for some people. There may have been past sexual abuse, or ongoing abuse in their lives. We have to think of the repercussions of our own actions and behaviour, how they will affect others. We are still able to express ourselves in freedom, without upsetting other people.

White Spring 1 (6)The last time I was as the White Spring in Glastonbury, it was open to the public and three women went in the main pool (not the bathing pool, I might add) and performed a ritual there in front of everyone with two of the three ladies completely starkers. While that may have been appropriate for a private ritual, when the public are also walking around it is, in my view, highly inappropriate to do so. Imagine a nun from France visiting, or a young schoolgirl who is asked by her teacher “What did you do this weekend?” and she replies “Daddy and I went to the White Spring and watched naked ladies in the water”. I have performed private ritual at the White Spring in the nude with friends, and it was absolutely lovely to immerse ourselves in the sacred and very, VERY cold water (we had to use the main pool, as the bathing pool wasn’t in existence then).

Here in Britain, it is highly unlikely that I will perform any ritual naked out of doors. Even my backyard is overlooked by neighbours either side, and so I keep my clothes on. As well, it’s usually too cold to go out romping in my birthday suit. I completely understand why some people feel the need to do ritual naked, but I don’t see the point when it is illegal, uncomfortable or inappropriate.

Making your own robes can be a richly rewarding practice. There are many simple robe designs that you can find online easily, and all you need to do is have some fabric and a little skill with a needle and thread. I would suggest using fabrics that are natural and that don’t have any man-made material in them if you plan to wear it in ritual, and they are lying next to the skin. Rayon for instance has a tendency to melt onto the skin if caught in a candle’s flame. Also robe designs with big bell sleeves are a no-go for anyone working with fire. No one wants a human torch as part of the ritual!

Many people like the old-fashioned appeal of robes for ritual, feeling that this harkens back to a time that seems more magical than today’s modern age. However, plain comfortable modern clothing can also be appropriate for ritual, if you have no desire or skill to make your own robes. We don’t know if our ancestors, whether they be witches, druids, heathens or whatever dressed in different clothing for every magical working or religious rite. They may very well have worn whatever they were wearing that day, that week, that month (depending on how often they changed their clothing).

1902780_825582470792076_380046463_nWhen I am trudging out onto the heath for ritual, I wear good boots as I live in adder country. I usually also wear trousers such as jeans that have a heavy material which the gorse cannot penetrate, or at least knee-high boots that can ward off most of the pricks and thorns. I like the dress in natural colours, mostly greens lately as I find this personally pleasing. Green is also a colour associated with the faeries and the Otherworld, and in my current work is very appropriate.

In group ritual, sometimes those organising ask people to come along and dress in specific colours that honour the festival or season. Midsummer might be in fiery hues, for example. Some may wear modern clothing in the appropriate colours, others go for full-on gowns or robes. Either way, this is a nice way to get people together with a certain theme in mind and create a sense of community and harmony, whether you are in modern clothing or ritual robes; at least you’re somewhat matching. Much like making your own robes, doing this can also put you in a ritual frame of mind long before you have left the house. You are already thinking about the ritual as you are choosing or making your clothing. The ritual, indeed, has already begun.

Some people like to wear clothing that is true to ancient times according to their tradition. This can be wonderful way to connect to the ancestors. It is also a lot of fun! Many people who are involved in re-enactment organisations and who are also Pagan like to use this as a theme for their ritual garb. Reconstructionist paths do much the same.

A89A4891 (1024x683)The most important thing is that you like what you are wearing. Even if it is a simple piece of ritual jewellery that you can hide underneath your shirt, if that pleases you then wear it wherever and whenever you do ritual. Being comfortable is also a big factor, as being hot and uncomfortable, sweaty or cold is not really all that conducive to productive ritual. Let what you wear (or don’t wear) reflect your true self, in accordance with the law and propriety. And most of all, let it be fun and enchant you, and be a contributing part of the ritual if you so wish.