A Magical, Whirlwind Tour!

17799009_1654010564615925_2073274435199519721_nA couple of friends and I decided last minute that we needed to go to Glastonbury very soon, and so off we headed Tuesday morning from Suffolk before 5am. We spent a wonderful day in Glastonbury, visiting the Red and White Springs, as well as watching the sun set from the top of the Tor. As usual, I had several epiphanies at those sacred sites, and will be working through them, hoping to form them into some sense of coherent words in the future. Meeting with Rhiannon, Bloedeuwedd and Cerridwen is a life-changing experience.

17800418_1654033621280286_6989652046039742094_nOn our return trip back home the next day, we stopped at Swallowhead Springs, and there I found Brighid in the winterbourne spring. My heart was full, and tears came to my eyes as I watched the flow come out from its secret entrance beneath the rocks.

We also stopped at Avebury, and though it was filled with several Dutch tour busloads (I always get homesick when I hear Dutch!) it still held that aura of serenity that it always does.

Lots of processing to do now, lots to think over, to implement, to live. May we be the awen!

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.

Friendship

P1060444Friendship is one of the greatest gifts we can have on this planet. I am blessed, in that I have a loving family and lots of good friends. In the last six to eight years I’ve developed close bonds with my girlfriends, and it is something that I treasure deeply.

Where two souls meet, in open honesty, with no agenda there is a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring interaction of heart meeting heart. In all our gloriousness and with all our faults, we can be who we truly are and in that honesty, are accepted for who we are. My friends are there to help when I need help, to point out where I might be wrong in a situation, to advise when I might be right, and to not judge me either way. I’m filled with gratitude for having friends like these.

For me, there is a special closeness, a special bonding with my girlfriends. Perhaps it is because we understand each other, have many similar shared experiences in our lives. Maybe it’s just our souls connecting with honesty. Whatever it is, it fills me with joy and inspiration. I love being with them, hearing their laughter, sharing their tears, wrapping my arms around them and having them hold me in return. With belly-shaking guffaws, snorts, farts, burps and all, they are my best friends.

Many of my girlfriends have a love of dance – quite a few of them are fellow belly dancers. We find a freedom in movement, a sense of belonging to a tribe who love to dance, who love music, who love to be in each other’s company in that setting and in others. I believe that as a species we were meant to dance, that it opens up our hearts and souls and allows us to speak without words. It allows us freedom from fear, from inhibition, from the walls that we surround ourselves with each and every day.

And so I’m looking forward to getting back to Glastonbury with one of my best friends, who couldn’t be with us last time we all went together. Spending time together laughing and enjoying good food. Spending time together in silence. Spending time together singing along to every Taylor Swift song from every album in the car drive down. Keeping each other awake on the car ride back. Experiencing a shared boundary and having a shared experience – that is what life is all about. So many things are better when they are shared.

To all my girlfriends, I love you with all my heart. You are my sisters, my inspiration, my joy. x

The Golden Seed out now!

50 Druids were selected to contribute to Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD) 50th anniversary celebration book, The Golden Seed, and I was honoured and delighted to be one of them. Order your copy now of this wonderful book, with fabulous illustrations and also a DVD of the 50th Anniversary event in Glastonbury with photos and music by Damh the Bard! Pre-ordered copies are in the mail as of today – yay!

Golden Seed

The Golden Seed

Golden Seed

Check out the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD)​’s book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Order! I was honoured to be interviewed by Philip Carr-Gomm for this very special weekend, and was delighted to be a part of it all. You can buy The Golden Seed from OBOD’s online store now! Click HERE for more details.

Art as meditation

When I really want to be in the moment, when I really desire to let that sense of self slip away and enter into the present, in perfect freedom – I draw.  It’s a wonderful, meditative, creative process.  You stop thinking about the past. You stop thinking about the future. All that matters, for those precious hours, are the lines, the colours the shapes and the shading.  I am no longer there – I am in the drawing. I am in the sun and the wood of the pencils, I am in the rain and cloud of the paper.  There is a real connection, where the thinking self falls away and there is time to just “be”.  Mostly I use sitting meditation for this, but when I really need to go deeper, I draw. Yet, who is this person drawing, colouring?

No idea.

It just is. 🙂

"Avalon in Spring" © Joanna van der Hoeven 2015

“Avalon in Spring” © Joanna van der Hoeven 2015

News and events roundup February

February was a particularly busy month – with the opening of Druid College UK being a huge success!  We are now already halfway full in our bookings to begin Year 1 in October this year, and the response has just been amazing.  Social media posts engagement has numbered over 100,000 views, with thousands of shares and likes.  A big thank you to everyone who has supported this project! There are still spaces left on the course, so if you’re interested please email me for further details.

Lots of support has also been received since the interview I had with OBOD’s chosen chief, Philip Carr-Gomm last year at the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids‘ 50th anniversary gala. The Druidcast interview went out in January, and there has been lots of interest since then, certainly keeping me busy! At the end of February I also did an interview for Upon a Pagan Path, which aired early this month – Tommy the interviewer was such a lovely chap.

February also saw all three of my books, Zen Druidry, Dancing With Nemetona and The Awen Alone reach the Number 1, 2 & 3 spot on Amazon!  What a day that was – I was and still am flabbergasted.

The next couple of months are going to be equally busy. On Saturday 28 March I will be giving a talk at Leaping Hare in Colchester on the goddess Nemetona. I’ve been going to Leaping Hare for many, many years now and it is an absolute honour to be asked to present at this year’s gathering. I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces from the Eastern Region!

But before Leaping Hare I’m heading over to Glastonbury, to enjoy a little break and celebrate the Spring Equinox with some lovely friends.  We’ll also be seeing our friends Serpentyne who are doing a gig on Sat 21st – a medieval ball! Don’t miss it – it’s going to be great. We’re very much looking forward to performing with Serpentyne this summer at the Corn Lammas Gathering 21-23 August as Gypsy Dreams Belly Dance.  (I’ll also be sharing  a stall with my lovely, arty, crafty sisters and selling books – do pop by for a chat!).

The Beltane Picnic hosted by the Pagan Federation will take place this year on 24 May at The Roundhouse in Essex.  I’ll be there with my belly sisters performing again, and also doing book signing – I love this event so much, and have been going for a few years now – it’s such a warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere of celebration!

If you’re in the Suffolk area on 18th & 19th April, check out the Woodbridge Mind Body Spirit Festival. It’s a lovely gathering of really cool folk who have created a wonderful two day festival celebrating alternative therapies, lifestyles and just sharing the love. I’ll be doing a chakra cleansing workshop on the Saturday, as well as performing with my dance troupe.  Shimmy shimmy shimmy!

And lastly, big thank you to everyone who has supported this blog and who continues to do so. Since the beginning of January we have had over 10,000 views on here alone, with many new people subscribing. Virtual hugs all around!