Yesterday I was able to catch up with two friends from high school – we three haven’t been together for around 13 years. Having friends that you can talk to, about absolutely anything, and know that they’re really listening, that they’re there for you, that they love you no matter what distance lies between you or how much time has passed is one of life’s greatest blessings. I am so utterly blessed in that I have made some truly wonderful and remarkable friends both where I grew up in Canada and where I have lived for the past 18 years in the UK.

Today I am also helping my Mom host a huge family reunion BBQ in our backyard. We have nearly 40 people coming, some family members I haven’t seen for twenty years, cousins I used to babysit who now have children of their own. We’ve always had a close family, spending every weekend at the grandparents’ when we were little, all the cousins playing while the aunts and uncles talked about grown-up things with my Oma and Opa. It’s so amazing that we’re all still able to get together, to laugh and to celebrate simply being alive on this gorgeous autumnal day. I’m sure my Oma and Opa would have loved to have seen everyone together again, and I shall be having a glass of punch for both of them who live on inside me, looking out through my eyes and the eyes and hearts of the rest of the family in this beautiful part of the world.

A loving family is a real treasure. Good friends are a true blessing. Never take these for granted. Breathe, smile, and be in the moment. Be present for them, and take them deep into your heart. Love and joy are boundless, and like the soul cannot be contained within the body. The soul is the container for the body, not the other way around, and the soul expands outwards as far as the horizon can see.

Today, my soul is flying high in the clearest of blue skies, riding autumnal breezes, smiling from my heart and enjoying my Mom’s delicious punch.

May your soul be free as well. x

Darkness, the Self and Release

I wept this morning, over a photo of a man fleeing his Syrian homeland with his two children, stepping out of the boat, clutching his loved ones close to him and weeping himself. What uncertainty faces this family, along with the other refugees arriving on the islands of Greece? What could it possibly feel like to leave all that you know, out of fear for your life and those that you love, hoping that your decision will be the right one?

This is probably not a decision that I shall ever have to make in my lifetime. It is moments like these that remind me to step beyond myself, to get outside of my head, to stop thinking in the context of “me” and move forward into integrated relationship. Doing this keeps things in perspective, and keeps my own troubles, pains and dark wolves at bay. When the weight of the world seems to push me under, I get beyond myself and into the wider web. It is something that I’ve been writing about for months now, about deep integration, about dropping the illusion of the self, about seeing the interconnectedness of all things.

I look out my window and see a leaf on the beech tree. That leaf is not separate from the other leaves. That leaf is not separate from the branch, or any part of the tree. The tree is the leaf and the leaf is the tree. Even when the leaf falls in the autumn, it lands on the ground at the base of the tree, decaying into the soil, feeding the roots and is still a part of the tree. Watching this cycle, witnessing it from a Druid perspective I see how the illusion of separateness causes us so much suffering. There is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only life.

Deep integration and dropping the sense of self. Seeing beyond the “me, myself and I” keeps my head above the water, rafting the currents of life. When things are at their darkest, I can release into that darkness, dropping the edges and boundaries and allowing a greater perspective than could ever be achieved thinking that I am confined to this body and this mind. When the sheer stupidity of the human race threatens to drag me down, when my body is in great pain, when I see others suffering, I release into the darkness and there find the potential that awaits, like the seed in wintertime. If I fail in that endeavour, then there is always a back-up, words spoken by someone whose name I cannot remember, but goes something along the lines of:

“When I am in pain, show me someone who is in agony. When I am hungry, show me someone who is starving…”

Again, this lets me step beyond my self, to allow me a greater perspective. Pain and suffering, cruelty and bad behaviour all stem from misperceptions. If we can get past that notion of the self, that self-centredness, then we can dance with the divine in a beautiful, graceful round surrounded by the stars, galaxies and all life as we know it. In doing so we are free.

Glastonbury, June 2015

glasonbury torI spent last weekend in Glastonbury, a beautiful little town where I always go a couple of times each year to refocus and recharge the old batteries on a spiritual pilgrimage. As a Druid, I get inspired by the land around me and my home environment more than anything, but if you want to see outside the box so to speak, there’s nothing better than a pilgrimage to a spot that has great energy and peace.

And so, my friend and I piled into the car and drove down to Somerset, stopping off at Avebury on the way as she had never seen it before. We had lunch at the Lion (a fantastic pumpkin chili burger each) and then walked amongst the stones. After we had completed our first circuit we went and spent some time by the Obelisk, in one of the two inner circles. This is a special spot for me, as it really is a gateway into the past; time moves differently in that circle. Sitting on the ground, placing your hands upon the grass you could feel time shifting and slipping in and out of the present, looking up and seeing what Avebury would have looked like before the houses were built, before the village came. It’s a powerful thing, going in and out of time, but also so wonderful: a reminder that time is not linear, exactly, but an ever ebbing and flowing tide.

After Avebury we headed to Glastonbury, where we had hoped to meet up with some friends and drum up on top of the Tor at sunset. By the time we had settled in and eaten, it had already gone past 9pm and we were just too tired, and had to pass on that little excursion. We went back to the B&B (Pilgrim’s B&B – I highly recommend it) and with a visit from the resident cat we went to sleep, having a big day ahead of us.

The next day we were up early – too early for anything to be open! Shops don’t open until after 10am (some of them opening when they feel like it) and the Goddess Temple was only open from 12 noon. So we wandered around the town, looking in windows and finally visiting them when they opened. There are some really lovely shops there, with good books, items and other pagan goodies (I highly recommend the incense from The Goddess and Green Man – Mists of Avalon and the Golden Sickle are my favourite!). We then went to the Goddess Temple, where we were able to find a little sanctuary from the high street. Clad in the red colours of Beltane still, it was a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Meditation is so easy in that sacred space. I asked one of the temple priests if he could smudge me and he did with some really powerful incense cleansing my spirit with skilful sweeps. Inside the temple there is also a Red Tent, where I always go for a second meditation session and a card reading using the Temple’s own deck of cards they created out of the Nine Morgens of their tradition. I got Freedom, and pondered that for a while in the beauty of the little temple.

We had some lunch and then headed to the White Spring, but it was closed. Sadly, the opening hours state that it is open in the afternoons on the weekends, but it is rather hit or miss as to whether anyone actually comes and opens them. So we then proceeded to Chalice Well, a beautiful space with lush gardens and a light yet at the same time heavy atmosphere of the sacred. So many people from all over the world have been there, and it is amazing to think how many feet have walked these paths, drunk these sacred waters and prayed by the wellhead. I did my usual ritualistic route up to the wellhead at the top of the garden, where a few other people were sitting. As I settled myself, I could see the usual golden glow of healing emanating from the well and flowing out into the gardens. Some young children ran up, and the glow intensified around them. They looked down into the well and then ran off, moving with the swift determination that youngsters do when they must see and be everywhere at once. I smiled, loving their fresh energy and youthful exuberance. Normally I would have been irritated, as I am not particularly maternal, but their energy and that of the well brought a smile of joy to my face. As I sat and basked in that energy I looked around to the others who had gathered around the well head. I realised the deep need for healing that so many had when coming to the Red Spring, whether physical or emotional or both. My heart opened to everyone who had gathered there, wishing them all the healing that they needed, my soul opening in compassion.

After a time I went to sit on the lower slopes of Chalice Hill, where the Chalice Well Gardens overlook the Tor. Meditating there for a bit I was able to send my roots deep into the ground, breathing into them and through them from the deep, dark depths of the soil. My heart was calm, my soul at peace.

We left the gardens and I met an old friend from The Druid Network, who was there with a friend of his. It was so lovely to see him, and even though I had difficulties in the past with his friend, my heart was open to them both – Chalice Well is such a place of healing, I cannot even begin to describe it. We all chatted and laughed, and then we continued onto the Tor while they made their way into the gardens.

As we puffed our way up the steep slope of Glastonbury Tor, the wind whipped our hair and clothes and stung our cheeks. It was windy, even for the Tor, which is always windy. We got to the top, and as always felt the energy whirling around us, pulling us up, down, sideways, inside and out. My friend went and sat on the northern side while I found a little corner out of the wind facing westwards. As I sat I could feel the energy that made this such a special place, a place between the worlds, between the earth and sky with fresh clean water flowing from it into the red and white springs below. It was then that it struck me – freedom. The card that I had drawn from the goddess temple. Freedom was not just physical or creative freedom, but also an emotional freedom. Letting go of hate, letting go of past grudges, we are then free. My spirit soared with the jackdaws that lifted off the grassy slopes of the Tor to ride down into the valley below. The epiphany had struck, not just as an intellectual exercise but as a real life experience, from start to finish in a single day. My heart opened in true compassion on top of the Tor, to everything on this planet, like it never had before and I felt a deep peace settle in my soul that would carry me through my life ahead. I realised that before I had only glimpses of the healing power of compassion, now the light flooded through my being, in perfect freedom.

We went back down to enjoy a nice meal and then relaxed in the B&B. Tomorrow we would finish our shopping and pop into the White Spring on the off chance that it would be open (it wasn’t when we were there). I was saddened that I could not actually visit inside the White Spring, where I had first met my goddess, Brighid, but I could still feel her all around me, as I always do, wherever I am in the world.

Our journey back was quick and painless, and exhausted I climbed into bed next to my husband, my two cats snuggling up as if I had been away for weeks. Going away makes you appreciate all that you have even more, even as it opens up new doors and allows for new experiences. Thank you, Glastonbury, once again, for a beautiful weekend.


The rain. Beautiful, nourishing, healing. Falling today from light grey skies, it fills the air with water molecules and negative ions. Rain is a wonderful thing. Go out into it, walk, dance, sing and be free.

There will be less people about. You will have more time to yourself. Feel the sensation of rain upon your face. If it’s warm enough, feel it all over your body. Smell the way the earth reacts to it. Open yourself like the earth opens to the rain. Run your hands through rain-wet grass, stroking it with a lover’s caress.

Take your shoes off. Feel the water and the earth. Stand tall like a tree, arms outstretched to the sky, allowing the rain to fall on you where it will. Rain does not discriminate. Take inspiration from the rain. Send healing and love indiscriminately, nourish the world like the rain.

We are water. We are clouds. We are rain.

(For the science behind the healing power of rain, click HERE.)

Silence, the Author and Freedom

This long bank holiday weekend just gone has been spent mostly listening. I’ve stopped talking, for the most part; I’ve stopped the mental chatter to gain clarity. My aid in this exercise was drawing, working with coloured pencils where the only thing that mattered was the lines, the colours, the paper. My self had fallen away, and I was better able to see clearly. Art is liberation. Art is freedom.

As a writer, sometimes it’s hard to just stop. I’m usually always writing, at least in my head. Like a musician who writes their own music, who is always composing, I am always putting into words what is influencing me, what the muses whisper. It’s hard to turn that off sometimes. Through meditation I am able for thirty minutes to an hour to switch it off. Days of mindfulness. Through trancing I am able to leave it behind. Dancing also does it – especially dancing with my professional dance troupe, where when we are improvising we have to listen so hard to each other’s bodies that our own selves don’t get in the way. But this weekend the awen came through drawing and colouring.

When we’re quiet, when we’re still, we’re able to hear the world around us. When we stop that mental chatter, when we stop telling and retelling ourselves the story of our selves then we can hear the stories of others. We can be influenced and learn from the stories of others. We learn that we are not always right. We learn that we are not always wrong. We learn that we are never the same person every morning that we wake up. We change, we grow, we recede, we die and do it all over again the next day. In this exercise we learn that it is okay to differ from the person you were yesterday, that your opinions and thoughts will change over time, else they become dogma.

But essentially we have to learn to switch off first, before we can get to that head space. We need to find the silence, the void, the empty cauldron. Only when we are empty can we be filled. Only when we’ve poured out all the contents can we refill it with what nourishes us. We can’t subsist on the same old same old each and every day. We have to let things go, we have to have new ideas, new inspiration. Living in the present moment is what this is all about. Stuck in the past, we are not open to new ideas. Lost in the future, those ideas will never come. Here and now. Perfect freedom.

Tomorrow I will be a different person. Today I am different from yesterday. I question who this person really is, and then I let the question go. It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is freedom.

Transcript of Nemetona: Goddess of Boundaries and Edges…

I’ve had several requests for a transcript of the talk I gave last weekend at Leaping Hare Pagan Conference in Colchester, Essex. So, here you go! x

Nemetona: Goddess of Boundaries and Edges, Sanctuary and Freedom

In this talk I am going to explore the goddess Nemetona as the Lady of Boundaries and Edges, and also her role in personal freedom and sanctuary. Not much is known academically of the goddess Nemetona: there are a few inscriptions at sacred spots such as at Altripp, Trier and Eisenberg in Germany. There is also an inscription to her at Bath. She was known in Gaul and in Spain we find the Nemetatae tribe. The word nemeton or similar versions are mentioned throughout Europe, especially in place names. Nemeton means Sacred Grove, and in this regard she is sometimes connected with Druids. However, this talk is not an academic discussion of this particular goddess, but an experiential one. We will explore boundaries and edges of ecosystems and of our own selves, our own nemetons, inspired by the goddess of the sacred grove, where the edge of the wood meets open space. We will see where those boundaries meet, touching soul to soul and awakening awen or inspiration. My perspective comes from a Druid tradition, languaged as it is within a religion that is animistic and polytheistic.

A Druid looks to nature in order to find inspiration. Authority is found in nature rather than in human constructs and society. Our relationships are inspired by the natural connection we see in everything, the threads of the web that connect us all. We realise that we do not exist separately from the world – we are a part of it, a thread in the tapestry. We know that without other beings we could not exist. Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls this Interbeing – that we inter-are with everything on the planet. Nothing exists separately. We live in ecosystems, living environments that support and sustain us. It isn’t human animals that define how the Druid interacts – the land provides us with a way to be in the world, teaches us of co-existing in harmony, in the flow of perpetual change and in the times and tides of life. It can be regarded as anarchic in that sense, but it is not a disregard for the laws of humanity that keep a society together, a cohesive social order – rather it is more seeking the wisdom of the oak, as the word Druid means – dru, meaning oak, and wid, meaning wisdom. Gods of nature, of an earth-based religion inspire us in different ways from the secular world. The gods are both brutal and beautiful.

Working with the gods, the ancestors and the land we learn about harmony, about ecosystems, about where edges meet and how it works co-operatively. Nemetona teaches us this as we explore our own nemeton. Our personal nemeton is that space around us, sometimes called our aura, that we only allow those we trust to enter. That space is sometimes expanded in ritual, to create a sacred circle or sacred space, where we find ourselves within the greater cosmos, defined in a smaller, set form and boundary which is easier to understand. In that boundary we are safe, we are free.

Nemetona teaches us of that perfect freedom. In Wicca, it is often said that one enters the circle “In perfect love and perfect trust”. We open our souls wide within the limits of our circle, guided by the gods to inspire and receive inspiration. In that perfect freedom we know our true selves. As goddess of the sacred grove, Nemetona teaches us of this perfect trust, and how it relates to the rest of the world. Calling to her to help hold that space, we explore the nature of our own self, coming to truly know it and understand it. Having secured our sense of identity we can then work in the world from strong standpoint, where we know that the world doesn’t end at us – we work in service to the world. We have to step beyond the boundaries of ego and self-importance if we are to work for true harmony.

Working with edges, our own and understanding how to use them to benefit the whole is at the heart of what Nemetona teaches us. Our personal nemetons will change their appearance according to our current lives and how well we are at using them intentionally. If we are unaware of our nemeton, then we often find we clash with other people, or have a hard time connecting with others, or withdraw into ourselves so much that others may pass us by when we would like them to acknowledge us. Conscious manipulation of our nemeton can indeed change the way we feel about ourselves and how we are perceived. As with everything in Druidry, this must be done with honour and integrity.

Opening our nemeton requires a level of ability and trust. We close ourselves off on so many levels each and every day simply because of the sensory overload that we are exposed to through people, media and more. We have so many demands on our life that if a stranger came up to us in need after a hectic day, we may shut ourselves off completely from them and not provide the help that they might need, however simple and genuine their request may be. Our cat may come to us for a cuddle, and we don’t even notice as we are too busy distracting ourselves with television and high fat or sugary food. We switch off constantly, and we must relearn how not to do this, and instead be aware and mindful of our nemeton and how it interacts with others.

The nemeton is a sacred and holy space. When we interact with others, we must always bear this in mind. Using our nemeton to gain attention needlessly or simply to get what we want is dishonouring both ourselves, others and the Goddess.

We must honour the nemeton of others as much as we honour our own. They are all sacred. By discovering where our edges lie, we can also learn to see where and how other nemetons work, and in doing so work honourably with them.

Nemetona teaches us to open ourselves. She also teaches us how to listen. Listening is one of the greatest teachings in Druidry. We need compassion, which is basically simple understanding. We need to listen without judgement in order to work with compassion. We see how relationships work in nature. We study the way things work in order to better understand them. We see how sometimes relationships don’t work, in nature and in our own lives. If it doesn’t work, we find out why it didn’t work. If we are working with the soil, we know that some things simply won’t work in our home environments. We cannot grow bananas in the UK. The soil in my back garden is very acidic – I have to know and understand the soil in order to know what will grow best in that environment. Some relationships just can’t thrive in certain environments, and it is up to us to quest for the understanding. Sometimes we simply have to let go of relationships that don’t work. We cannot continue to try growing bananas in our backyards if we try repeatedly and fail. We must understand why it doesn’t work and move on in order to nourish and be nourished.

When we are rooted in our selves, finding our place in the environment, working with our edges we understand where we came from. With that understanding, we can reach out to others, where soul meets soul, when boundaries and edges touch. In that touch there is relationship and inspiration. In Druidry we call that awen, where soul touches soul and the spark of inspiration occurs. Where the seeds lands on the soil, where those edges meet, something wonderful happens and new life occurs. When we meet another human being with honesty and compassion, utterly awake and aware to the connection around us we are inspired. If we are aware of where we come from, aware of our ancestors, the land upon which we live, we can work from a place of deep connection. As the Tao Te Ching states, “Stay at the centre of the circle and let all things take their course”.

But it doesn’t stop at the self. Self-improvement is not the goal in Druidry. Nemetona teaches us to root and find our edges in the sacred grove, but then nudges us to go and seek out those edges in the wider world, where we can truly be inspired. Self-focused creativity is not as inspiring as that which is connected to the whole. Getting the self out of the way is key in this learning, of learning to live in service. We need to find out how and what we can give in order to have sustainable relationship.

Giving is essential in a culture and lifestyle that takes so much. We live in a consumer culture. We need to balance consumerism with the inspiration we receive from nature, where if we take too much it dies. If one creature starts to take too much the whole ecosystem is affected, and is at risk. As homo sapiens, the beings that are supposedly aware, we still take too much. We can look to nature to find out how to work better in and with the world. The curse of self-awareness means that we are often so focused on our selves that we do not see the wider world. We are so busy looking inwards that we forget to look outwards. We forget that what benefits us may not benefit the whole, and we are a part of that whole, therefore selfishness can be so detrimental – if only we are able to look beyond the self (and we are). Relationships require a give and take. We cannot always give nor can we always take. We are honour bound to give back for what we have received if we are working from a place of deep connection. Nature shows us how. Otherwise it is simply not sustainable. A forest is able to sustain itself without any human interaction. The sacred grove in the forest, where the edges of woodland meet open space are filled with potential, able to sustain itself with integrity.

Nemetona allows us that sacred space to explore our emotions and find ways through the internal formations of our minds so that we can act with intention in the world, rather than living a purely reactive life. This is the blessing of self-awareness, one that we should use much more often than we do. By taking time to explore our boundaries and edges and where they meet in the world we turn what could otherwise be a solely inward-focusing exercise into pure integration with the rest of the world. Within the circle, within the sacred grove we are able to work clearly. Human emotion can often overwhelm us, causing us to act out in ways that are not sustainable, in ways that are dishonourable. Anger, rage, love and lust can consume us if we are not aware of where our edges meet. In sacred space we can come to understand them as forces of nature that need to be worked with creatively to transform them, thereby benefiting the whole. Druidry is about seeing the bigger picture, stepping beyond our selves and our own internal worlds through a deep knowledge of the self, working from a place rooted space and time. We can serve the world best if we are working from a place of strong, honourable intention.

The importance is placed on holding, holding space not only for ourselves but for others. That is the role of teaching and guidance. In learning, in deep learning held in a place of sanctuary we work beyond the realms of language into true experiential learning. Coming from a safe place, we begin to realise that we know nothing, and in that knowing is exquisite learning, an openness to all of reality as it really is, aware and wide awake, both eyes open, all our senses open. In Zen this is often called Beginners Mind, where when we realise we know nothing at all our horizons are expanded, the self is dropped and we are open to endless possibility. That word, possibility is so evocative. From the latin, possibilis meaning “that which can be done” and posse “be able”. The door is opened and it is for us to walk through. It is a call to action.

Shunryu Suzuki wrote a book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and there are many beautiful expressions of possibility therein, showing how we can move beyond our selves. One such quote is “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”. He also states ““A mind full of preconceived ideas, subjective intentions, or habits it not open to things as they are.” Going deeper into ideas of attachment, he states “Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value. Everything you do should be based on such an awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of value.” When we able to step beyond ourselves we perceive reality as it really is, and can work from a place of understanding and compassion. If we come from a viewpoint that everything is sacred, if we learn to perceive the sacredness of everything, we will be inspired to have sustainable relationship.

Community is important. Right here, right now in this very room our edges are touching, blending, breaking or standing fast against each other. There are also non-human edges that we are coming into contact with – the chair, the floor, the air around us, the ancestors. Learning to work together, inspired by the gods and by nature, by the earth-based traditions that we belong to we can work with an awareness of the sacred in our own community. There is strength in that awareness, making the community itself strong. We can show how sustainable relationships work. We can walk our talk and inspire others. We can’t live only for ourselves – we have to be individually strong yes, but where we work together, our edges touching is where the true strength lies. Finding authority in the natural world helps us to build this strong awareness and community. Learning to work with boundaries, co-operative work and practice is tantamount. If we are simply focused on the self, our community suffers. If we focus solely on the community, the self suffers. Balance and harmony, the wider perspective, is what is needed.

Leading by example through sustainable relationship can be the greatest inspiration, the greatest motivator. The energy of connection in relationship is where the real power lies. The inter-relatedness of everything is where the true strength is found. The root of the word community comes from communis – meaning common. I am not important. You are not important. Humans are not important. But where our edges meet, whether that is with another human or tree, mountain or beetle, where we find relationship is where the power lies. In our interaction is where there is the greatest potential. Nemetona teaches us of this power, by working co-operatively we can find new ways to trickle that energy up through the various social strata and spheres to affect the whole. The way we treat each other, run our businesses, live our lives and relate to each other can and does affect the wider world. We are not self-contained units. We are part of the whole.

The Celts had a very strong sense of personal and social responsibility. There were honour prices to be paid if someone had wronged another of the community. This implies a very real sense of ownership to one’s behaviour. Not working or living in a world isolated, working together requires us to acknowledge and work with the edges of other people, human and non-human in a myriad of ways. The Celtic metaphysic demonstrated that we simply cannot do as we want – being part of a whole, we have to consider others in every aspect of our lives. There is a strong notion of free-will, but the important thing to remember is that everything is a choice. When we choose with a wider sense of perspective we lean more towards benefiting the whole rather than just the self. Co-incidentally, when we benefit the whole we are also benefiting ourselves. Working in a society that focuses on responsibility, rather than punishment can lead to a better society in which everyone is an active participant, rather than being taken care of by a nanny state. Without personal responsibility, such as in our current judicial system, someone else will take care of it. There is a passiveness in our relationships with each other.

I remember seeing on the news a couple of weeks ago how the driver of a car ran into someone on horseback. A man and his wife were out for a horse ride, she in front and he behind down a quiet little country lane. A car came up, driving too fast, and the man on horseback had two options – move his horse out of the way and let his wife and her horse be hit, or take the impact himself. Tears fell from my eyes as I imagined what it would be like to be in his predicament, where no matter what you do someone you love will die due to the carelessness of another. And the horse that he was riding, to not bolt or run away at the danger, to believe in his rider so much that he would take the impact was just overwhelming in its power of relationship. Needless to say, the horse died, but the man and his wife, and her mount survived.

What happened to the car driver? Nothing. He didn’t even get a caution, or a ticket for careless or reckless driving. Now, I’m not saying that the man needed to be punished, but what I would like to see in our society is personal responsibility. If we still followed a society where personal responsibility was paramount to honour and integrity, an honour price should have been paid to the man who lost his horse. Whether in money or work, it doesn’t matter. The driver should have found some way to make amends. Instead, our society is at the hands of a judicial system which encourages passive behaviour, seeing just what we can get away with and allowing others to make the decisions for us. We live in a world where personal responsibility requires reinforcement from an outside authority. We need to take personal responsibility back into our own hands, taking our authority from nature. Perhaps then we will move from passiveness into lives filled with intention, even as the bluebell opens out to the warming sunshine.

We have to learn how to communicate, and here we see how the words community and communicate come together. Each community is different, each ecosystem balanced in different ways. Only through communication can we work and relate honourably in different ecosystems. The winds, the smells, the flora and fauna in the ecosystem of my home are different to that of Ipswich, only 15 miles away. Coastal, heathland and forest – I find systems within systems in my very own backyard. We have to learn about each system, how it works to relate properly and effectively to the whole and not just tramp all over it, devastating it with our own self-centred arrogance. We have to learn to recognise each other’s edges without putting our own projections onto them. Working with others, working with the self, working with Nemetona we find how to be of service without ego getting in the way.

I have seen the goddess Nemetona in the principles of permaculture. The basis behind permaculture is something I’ve been talking about all along: how to take what we see in natural ecosystems and use that as a model for our own living, creating sustainability and diversity. Permaculture acknowledges that it is at the edges where there is the most potential, the most diversity. The edge of a forest is where you will find the most plants, where the herds of deer wander. It teaches of self-regulatory systems where each element has its own personal intention which also works to the benefit of the whole. The diversity of beneficial relationships is what makes an ecosystem work and be self-sustaining.

We may already have all the elements necessary to have a self-sustaining ecosystem – all they may need is a little rearranging in order to create harmonious relationships. We are a part of nature, therefore we need to re-learn how to be in nature without messing it all up. Permaculture begins with working with what is already there. Then we can research and study what works best and help to create a system that is sustainable. This is what we do when as Pagans when we are working with our own personal nemeton, and also when we are in larger groups, perhaps even group ritual. The diversity, the edges are at the heart of all interaction. We can create systems that are healthy and balanced simply by paying attention. Within permaculture, each species of animal or plant has what is known as a niche – its own function within the ecosystem in relation to other species. Likewise, we all have our own talents and abilities that we can contribute in relations to society at large. When we see each other’s niches we can work around and with that, recognising their edges and creating new ways of being in the world that work co-operatively instead of competitively.

In permaculture, where one ecosystem meets another it is known as the edge effect. Conflict between what could be seen as competing plants due to finite levels of light on a forest edge are overcome naturally by having different plants growing at different times of the year. This acknowledgement of space helps all to thrive in their own time. Imagine how our human world would be if we could adopt these same principles! I think it would be more courteous world, to say the least.

Where woodland and grassland meet, we find some advantages coming from both ecosystems. The berry-producing bushes at the forest edge make the best use of the greater amount of light than that found deep within the heart of the wood. Birds of prey nest at field and forest edges to benefit from the security provided by tree cover and the food provided by open spaces in the form of voles, mice and other small animals. Deer, as mentioned previously, favour the edges as it gives them the best of both worlds – grazing and shelter from predators. Permaculture learns how to lessen the rigidity of edges, so that there isn’t a strong forest meets field edge, but rather a co-operative blend of the two as would be found naturally, instead of the forced edge of a farmer’s monoculture field and that of ancient woodland.

Becoming aware of your edges is only the beginning to coming to an understanding of this sacred Goddess. Once we know where our edges are, we can also be freed of them in the right environment, finding immersion in our landscapes that it utterly exhilarating and deeply inspiring, at one with the rest of the world and in perfect harmony.

Blessings from the edge to you all.

Nemetona: Goddess of Boundaries and Edges, Sanctuary and Freedom Presentation

I had a wonderful time yesterday at the Leaping Hare Pagan Conference in Colchester, Essex.  I was honoured to be asked by the organisers at the end of last year to present, give a talk on the goddess Nemetona after having received requests throughout the year following the release of my second book, Dancing With Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space.

It was a really enjoyable experience. I have been going to Leaping Hare for many, many years now and there is a real community spirit, a real sense of well-being and support. Thank you to everyone for your kind words, messages and emails following the talk – may we be the awen!

Sanctuary, Compassion and Freedom

We all need a little sanctuary in our lives. A place where we can let down our walls, let the barriers fall and simply be ourselves, wrapped in the security and safety of knowing that we are held.  My patron goddess, Nemetona, provides me with many opportunities to savour this precious moment, and to help create it for others.  She is the Lady of Holding, of Sacred Space, of Sanctuary.

Often when we meet others, especially human beings, our walls shoot up if they haven’t already been erected, and we are on the defensive.  We regard others warily, perhaps even as enemies; guilty until proven innocent.  A certain wariness around strangers makes sense – it’s an innate human instinct that we also see reflected elsewhere in the animal kingdom.  It is a form of self-preservation.  However, what I would posit is that we become so used to keeping those walls up, that we barricade ourselves inside our selves, unable to see the bigger picture, unable to truly experience compassion.

I am not saying that we should allow others to do as they will to us – wilfully harming another person in any way is completely wrong.  So often when I speak of compassion, people think it is an open invitation to be trod upon, to be used and abused by those who would seek to take advantage of us.  Instead, I try to explain the ideas of compassion, and also of engaged Buddhism – simply put, compassion is about trying to understand, to see around our own sense of self into the bigger picture. Engaged Buddhism is being active in a world to stop suffering, to speak up against violence and injustice and work to spread love and compassion.

My Lady Nemetona helps me with this.  By coming into her sacred embrace, I find that I remember what it is like to be open, to be held, to be free in utter sanctuary.  Thus inspired, I try to find ways to bring that inspiration out into the wider world, making it a better place.  When we are held, when we are free to be our true selves, we also provide the opportunity for awen, for inspiration, to fill our souls with joy and wonder at the simplicity of simply being.  We can then become a conduit for this energy, bringing about positive change in the world, even in the midst of suffering.

Working with Nemetona, we become aware of our boundaries, when we erect them and when we let them dissolve. We also see how we involuntarily create barriers, whether it is in our energetic fields, our communication, or our perception.  Through meditation and work with this particular goddess, I have found a way of both strengthening my inner sanctuary, thereby being able to let down those walls and openly experience situations with complete awareness.  In this, intention is key.

By being open, I am also being receptive to input that might otherwise pass me by through my own ego-centric mindlessness.  By working with sanctuary, I can see where I have lapsed and allowed others to abuse my trust, and where I will never allow that to happen again.  By being aware of how, why and who we engage with, and with what intention, we can change how we react to situation, acting with intention instead of a more reactionary type of living.  By becoming engaged with my boundaries, I am aware of when I need to strengthen or release them as appropriate.

It’s been a tough ride, sometimes, working with this goddess and with compassion.  It has shown me where I have failed so many times in the past.  Understanding and awareness of those failures, however, is not there to deter me; they are there to remind me, lessons learned and opportunities for further growth.  The key to working with boundaries and compassion, and indeed Nemetona Herself, lies in awareness – of the self, of others and of the world at large.  It’s not an easy path, but one well worth walking. It can lead us down the shadowy paths in the long dark night of the soul, but we can emerge into the light of the sacred forest grove, whether it be dappled sunlight, pale moonlight or starshine.  In that emergence lies our true nature, inspired by nature and surrounded by our natural sanctuary.

In that emergence lies our freedom.

The Experiment

So, unbeknownst to anyone, even my husband, I’ve been conducting a little experiment on myself.  For the last three months, I have avoided all media that might make me think pessimistically about my body image. It’s been quite a revelatory experience.

This experiment was to see just how much the media played a role in my own self-image. I really didn’t think it did, thinking that I was fairly self-aware and also conscious of marketing and advertising schemes, campaigns, gimmicks, etc. What I found out was that no one is immune.  Least of all myself.

I don’t buy fashion magazines, but I did buy Shape, a women’s fitness magazine for a while, and stopped for this experiment.  At offices I avoided flipping through any magazines in order to maintain the integrity of the experiment.  I have not watched television adverts – I’ve been sticking to BBC mostly, and all my television is recorded anyway, for the two or three programs that we do watch, so any adverts can be fast-forwarded.  I don’t watch television shows that have actors “made up”. It’s a good thing I don’t watch much television anyway – my shows have pretty much been Escape to the Country and The Hairy Bikers cooking shows.  I haven’t gone to the movies, and have avoided adverts there as well. I haven’t been in big cities with billboards. I avoid looking at the right hand side of social media sites. I know there are probably hundreds of other ways that advertising may have snuck in, but I think I’ve been pretty vigilant.

I’ve never really had a poor self-image, especially when it came to my own body, but I’m not as confident as I was when I was younger.  With the years a couple of pounds have come on, a few wrinkles have appeared.  It’s inevitable.  But what made me lose that confidence?  People still tell me I’m attractive – but I didn’t believe them. I thought a) they were just being nice, or b) they just wanted to get in my pants, nevermind the mind/soul that came with it, or c) they were my husband, who would tell me that I’m beautiful if I was dragged through a hedge backwards wearing a potato sack and not having washed for weeks on end.

Well, dear readers, this has all changed.

I don’t know if it is because I know that I haven’t been exposed to the media, or whether it is a direct result of not being exposed, but at any rate I feel more beautiful and confident in my appearance than I have for many, many years.  I noticed a month ago that I was starting to dress differently – wearing things that reflected my own inner self (whatever the heck that is, if there is even an inner self).  Take today, for instance.  I work in an office environment a couple days a week for a music company, and so “office attire” is never all that strict.  Today, I am wearing ¾ length purple Aladdin trousers, knee length boots, and a crochet top, with leaf earrings and necklace in honour of autumn.  I’m wearing jewellery again, I am accessorising, I am thinking about what expresses my mood as a whole, which is something that I haven’t done for years.  You would have thought that being exposed to magazines would make you want to accessorise more, but no.  I was stuck in a rut.  The way I am presenting myself lately is different.  I feel prettier, therefore I am dressing prettier. Or at least in a way that I think is pretty!

When people pay me a compliment, I thank them, sincerely, instead of thanking them and not believing it.  When my husband tells me I’m sexy, I know it. When people tell me they love my clothes, I know they do, and I tell them which charity shops or fair trade places they came from.  I’m walking a little taller. I’m wearing my hair differently, trying out new things.  It’s been quite an eye opener.  I even got a compliment on my purple Aladdin pants.

So, why has this all happened?  I think it must have to do with people not telling me how I should look, dress or feel about myself.  As a teenager I didn’t have the financial means to buy the magazines, so I didn’t care and dressed how I wanted to dress.  I turned down a modelling agency who, at the time, wanted me to sign on with them if I lost weight (I was just over 5ft 8, and weighed 120 lbs).  I didn’t watch much television, preferring to hang out and talk with friends, or hike in the words.  I stuck up two fingers to anyone who tried to tell me what to wear, what to think about myself and revelled in exploring these things for myself. I’ve come full circle.

A friend of mine has a great story about one of the most beautiful people I know, on what she was wearing when they first met.  She says that E was wearing a tutu on a night out – no reason, she just wanted to wear a tutu. Not for a hen night, not for any other reason than wanting to wear a tutu.  Like young children in supermarkets, wearing fairy wings or Spiderman outfits, she was going to wear what she wanted to wear.  Her free spirit is infectious, and inspiring, and she is a joy to be around. She is completely guileless, unashamed and free.

More and more I am feeling that way too.  I would encourage you all to take up the challenge.  Avoid all media adverts, particularly those that have anything to do with how you look.  Take a long look at yourself, and at how you express yourself physically.  Go through your wardrobe – does your clothing reflect your joy in the world, your true self?  If you want to wear a tutu, what is stopping you? You might be amazed at how insidious the beauty and fashion industry is.

Set your self free.  I’m not waiting until I am old to wear purple.


“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens

And learn to spit.


You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat

And eat three pounds of sausages at a go

Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.


But now we must have clothes that keep us dry

And pay our rent and not swear in the street

And set a good example for the children.

We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”

~ Jenny Joseph ~