Working with Anger, Working with Community

An article by Sophie Dòbhran and Joanna van der Hoeven

As Druids, as Pagans, and also in the role of priestess it can sometimes become really hard to stay connected with people who are cultivating rage and anger towards an event that creates a painful gap between what they wish and what is happening. One reason might be that they seem so shocked towards the event, as if they had just realized that such things are possible in our world. The first surge of anger is necessary, in order to provide a little release from the pain and suffering of the first wounding, but then we keep wounding ourselves again and again by cultivating the anger. And in doing so through our connection with others, we cultivate misery and pain together and nurture our being entitled to it.

Is it in how we resist a situation, and in doing so how we are ourselves nurturing the rage and anger and blind suffering that we so loudly condemn?

Even more troubling, is that it seems that the journey stops there: misery seeks misery, people suffer together then turn the page and go back to watching violent forms of entertainment on television and in the movie theatres but all that’s acceptable in our society. Until the next shocking thing happens. It’s like awakening sporadically is so painful and shocking that it doesn’t stick.

It is so difficult to feel the anger properly, and then to let it go. Anger perpetuates more anger, more suffering, and more pain.

Sometimes we need anger to begin a new motivation, a new revolution. However, a revolt that is perpetually based in anger turns into the riots in the streets of London a few years back, where innocent people were hurt, shops destroyed and more. That sort of anger doesn’t produce any results other than more suffering. Yet the anger that the women of the suffragette movement felt turned into courageous and defiant acts against the establishment that won women the vote, and more rights to come.

We could look at it as differentiating between holding the anger as motivation, or holding the anger as instigation. The preferable way would be the former, and then with a level-head find the solution after gone through the initial suffering. But there is a boiling anger in society that’s continuously being repressed, both here in the UK and in the USA, which will eventually explode if nothing is done about it, if there isn’t an outlet for it. Peaceful demonstrations seem to have little effect anymore on the establishment, and the media can just block it out as if it never happened. So, there’s the anger there, and it’s not going away soon…

Perhaps it has to do with the general isolation that has taken place, people being so disconnected from each other, and from Nature. We are no longer used to being mindful, to listen to silence. We are addicted to all kinds of fake relationships, superficial activities, superficial foods, and so on.

We need to remember that it’s all energy; sometimes the energy of anger isn’t appropriate. And when it’s no longer appropriate, when it becomes harmful instead of leading us out of apathy, for instance, then we need to repurpose that energy into something useful.

“Useful” is something each person must define for themselves, for each situation is unique. In order to do that, we need to step back from the situation and get perspective in order to discern just action. Anger, like a barking dog, can alert us that our boundaries have been crossed. But are we going to let the dog address this situation for us? How about when we cultivate anger together and become a pack of barking dogs?

Perspective needs distance and silence to produce clarity. No one can understand just why we are so angry better than we do. What follows is compassion. Compassion is not always soft and gentle. Sometimes, compassion means strengthening boundaries or raising one’s voice to be heard. Compassion means observing the situation with distance and clarity in order to discern the best path of action inherent to it.

It’s easy to be angry and feel desperate, lost and confused. Or to think that a public demonstration will change things, because we are now used to getting immediate satisfaction all the time. And yet if we truly pay attention, we realize that we can truly cultivate the change we want to see in the world. On a much smaller scale, maybe, but it is real and it is tangible, and it is satisfying.

Given that we are already what we condemn, we never have to look very far to create mindful actions that reverse that negative flow. It doesn’t change the world or impact politicians, but it changes our world, from our nemeton to another’s nemeton. Aren’t our nemetons microcosms?

Druidry is a religion based on locality first and foremost, and so, when we are upset or angry, it’s our immediate locality that bears the brunt of it. Our immediate locality is also the thing that we can affect most in our lives. When we’re angry at the government or our employers, we can do what we can to be heard: writing letters, signing petitions, talking and organizing unions, etc. But we have no control over what happens after that.

However, in our own environment, in our own bodies and for the most part, in our own houses and land we do have some control, and these are the areas that we can affect to effect change. Only we can change ourselves. We can think and act locally first and foremost, instead of the usual “think globally, act locally” because our range of influence is not all-encompassing. We can think all we want (and post all we want on social media), but that does not effect change. If we bring it down into bitesize chunks that we can handle, then we’re able to really do the work that needs doing.

So, we work in our area, to clear litter, to do ritual work, to contact the Fair Folk, to work with the ancestors and the spirits of place because that is where we live, because that is where we get our nourishment and sustenance. It is also useful to become members of their parish council, or join other committees in the community. That way, we have a real vote on planning applications and housing developments, environmental and health issues and more. In doing so, our environment affects us and we affect it. Then, like little ripples from a pond, that changed and charged energy can spread out. We create an effect in the world.

Think of your locality, think of your tribe. When your tribe is strong, let that energy permeate the rest of the world. This is not to say that we must become insular, separatist and isolated, but more as a ways and means of really affecting change in our own worlds. Become aware of the energy of anger, and how it is being used. Take care of your community, of your locality, and be conscious of the choices you are making and the reasons behind those choices. When we are conscious of our behaviour, we work with right action, and our work will benefit in a holistic pattern that emanates from a strong and true core of personal sovereignty.

Sophie Dòbhran was born in Quebec and lives in a farmhouse on a small island near Quebec city with her husband, her son, two cats and a dog. She studied under Swami Premananda Saraswati for a certification in Hatha yoga and also studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. She joined the Sisterhood of Avalon in 2014 and has been actively cultivating an avalonian spiritual practice since. She facilitates Red Tents once a month, as well as druidic rituals and an SOA learning circle in her community. To find out more, visit her website at http://www.ileauxpommes.wordpress.com.  

Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid, Witch and a best-selling author. She has been working in Pagan traditions for over 20 years and is also a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She is the Director of Druid College UK, helping to re-weave the connection to the land and teaching a modern interpretation of the ancient Celtic religion. To find out more, please visit http://www.joannavanderhoeven.com

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Druid College and Earth Day

Well, another brilliant weekend of Druid College has come and gone. We’re nearing the end of our Year 2 programme, and getting ready for the apprentices to declare their Chair, their work for Year 3. It’s an exciting time for me, to see what direction each person will take in their path to being a priest of nature, and to help guide them on their personal journey.

Some of the elements that we covered this weekend really stand out for me: crafting sacred ritual and exploring the ecstatic in ritual. As the Saturday of our weekend also coincided with Earth Day, we decided to create a ritual using the energy of the day, alongside the millions of other intentions the world over for peace, harmony and respect for this planet we call home. As Druidry is all about crafting sacred relationship, we used the time and tide as an opportunity to ride the waves of energy and, hopefully, the winds of change.

In the morning we got together and discussed the intention of the ritual, and how we could go about manifesting that intention. We hadn’t used ritual drama before, and so I suggested that Robin (our other course leader and a brilliant storyteller and actor) take on the role of someone who has lost their connection with nature, with the earth, with the fact that we are all related. In sacred space, we invited the personification of this energy, and Robin played the part to the hilt. It was difficult to hear the words he spoke (rather, yelled) in the peaceful setting of the woodland where we stood, the scent of bluebells surrounding us, the mallard ducks flying in and out of the pond next to us. Word of racism, environmental destruction, classism and more were flung into our space from the voice of a wounded individual who had lost that sense of connection, who represented everything that we work in our daily lives to heal. We had heard these words in the media, from people on the street, perhaps even from family members, words of the uselessness of nature except as a resource, words of nationalism and “foreigners”, words of the necessity of cheap manufactured goods despite the cost to human and non-human lives and more.

Then we created a container for that energy. Like an oil spill, we contained the negativity by creating a circle around the energy, holding it and stating that we will not allow it to infiltrate into our lives, and do everything we can to change and transform that energy. Circling Robin, we held hands and took in that energy.

We then needed to transform it, and so in a cauldron filled with water from the Red Spring in Glasbontury (Chalice Well) we spoke words of how we will transform that energy in our own lives.  Aware of what we can and cannot control, we decided how best we can transform and create a counter-balance to the destruction of the sacred and the values of sustainable relationship that we hold so dearly. We can change ourselves, first and foremost, and that energy will ripple outwards. And so, bringing our lips close to the cauldron we spoke, of loving friends and family despite their flaws, of working on how to heal ourselves, of how we can affect our local environment, community and more. Changing ourselves, we change the world.

We then used an elixir of vervain, created by the waters of the Red Spring and White Spring, blessed by the light of the full moon, and added three drops to the cauldron filled with holy water and our intention. Through the magic of herbs and intention, the water was blessed and transformed to heal and nourish all.

We then created a circle once more, holding hands and feeling the energy of community strong. We then opened our circle and allowed a space for Robin to join us, should he so wish. In his character, he was unsure of whether he wanted to join us or remain as he was, and so we simply stated that the circle was open to him when and if he was every ready to join. There was always room at the table.

A healing sound bath followed, where we each took up an instrument with beautiful vibrational energy, and the air was cleared with the soft sounds we created, mingling with the songs of the robins and blackbirds, the wind through the new leaves in the trees, the glow of the bluebells bright in their basking in the warm spring sunshine.

All in all, it was a wonderful ritual, created by the group and one in which everyone had a part to play, both in the ritual circle and afterwards in their own lives. A very transformational ritual, to say the least.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all involved in Druid College over the last two years, who have shared in this wonderful journey. I look forward to many more years to come.

The Druid and the Stag

After Skyping yesterday with my friend and colleague, Kevin Emmons (who runs Druid College in Maine, USA) and having a great chat on the success of our first weekend of Druid College here in the UK (13 wonderful students, brilliant venue, great co-tutor Robin Herne and foraging expert, David Slate) I finished up some interview questions for The Wild Hunt, looked outside the window and decided I needed to get out into that sunshine. I had been hard at work all day, preparing my Zen Druidry online course and now wanted some fresh air, sun and that wonderful autumn smell that lingers on the sandy heath and under the trees.

I grabbed my staff (still with its ribbon of intention tied around it from our ritual at Druid College on Saturday night) and headed out the door, smiling at the sun, the vast amount of bees and other insects in the flowering ivy at the corner of my road leading onto the bridleway. I walked past the farmer’s field, bare barley stalks shining golden, greenish-yellow grass coming through the dried remains. I greeted the horses in their paddocks and walked out onto the heath, a Buddhist chant in my head.

Desiring to hear the songs of others, I tried to clear the Buddhist chant from my head by listening to the wonder, the symphony of sounds all around me but to no avail – it was simply replaced by another chant, this one a well-known Pagan Goddess chant. I sighed and let it be, trying to not attach to it or to the desire to change it, and simply walked on, paying attention to the light, the colours, the sounds and smells around me as the music flowed through my brain.

As I approached my special spot, a copse of birch trees set in the corner of a heather-filled wide open space, I saw that a large herd of deer had gathered beneath the golden boughs. I stopped and, not wanting to disturb them, sat down where I was beneath an oak tree. I took a couple of deep breaths and bowed low to the herd, to the oak tree, to the heathland. My mind stilled, the chants faded and the brilliance of the Oran Mór entered my soul, that great song of all existence. My heart was filled with joy, my soul resonating with the sound. How long I sat there I am not sure, but a stag calling behind me entered into the song, and I slowly detached from it, knowing that it was time to move on.

As I stood up, I noticed that the herd of deer had silently moved from the birch copse, and were now directly behind me. As I shook out my coat and replaced it over my shoulders, they began to move again, now heading towards the main part of the heath in great running, leaping bounds. I watched them go, letting their beauty and grace fill my soul with delight. As the last few does, meeping to their young left the area, the great stag appeared, his broad antlers heavy upon his head, his thick neck holding his head high and proud. He stopped, knowing that he was being watched, and I waved my hand to let him know who was watching him. He turned his magnificent head towards me, and we looked each other straight in the eye for many long moments.

I raised my staff up high towards him, my intention from the weekend’s ritual ringing through my soul: integration and compassion. I then bowed low to him, honouring him for all that he is with all that I am. We stood there for a few moments longer, looking into each other’s eyes, and I knew that he honoured me as I had honoured him. He then turned and lazily bounded after his does, carrying his rack with ease through the pine and bracken. Tears sprung into my eyes as I watched him leave, and I felt utterly blessed by this soul to soul connection. Let the awen flow.

Reblog: Reclaiming the word discipline and living with intention

This is a reblog from my blog, DruidHeart, at Sagewoman Magazine’s channel on Witches and Pagans.

 

discipline

ˈdɪsɪplɪn/

noun

noun: discipline

1.    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.

“a lack of proper parental and school discipline”

2.    a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.

“sociology is a fairly new discipline”

 

Wow. No wonder people hate the word discipline. It’s often equated with punishment, correcting a perceived disobedience. We are free people, we should be able to do what we want, when we want, so long as it harms none. Life is for living, right?

Of course, I would agree with the above, that we are free, that life is for living. However, I’m also here to reclaim the word discipline into something that is positive.

We live in a world filled with instant gratification. We have IPhones and tablets that can “connect” us with people anywhere, anytime, so that we never have to be alone (even in a crowd of people). We have hundreds upon hundreds of television channels that tempt us into thinking that something better than the current moment we are living in is on the tube. We have internet to answer all questions at the push of a button. We have access to food 24/7 (most of us) – we’re usually never too far away from our larders or a shop. We love to “treat” ourselves. Marketing has told us that “we’re worth it”, or making us feel that we’re not good enough, and with their product we will be. Problems solved, instantly.

Now, this isn’t a blog post about self-denial, asceticism or anything similar. It is about truly seeing and understanding our needs versus our desires. Our modern world has twisted our desires into needs, and it is up to us to rebalance, to rejig our way of thinking in order to live a life filled with more intention.

I work three jobs, alongside my work as a Druid priest. Time can be in pretty hard demand sometimes, but planning makes it all work. It takes effort, but that is what discipline is: effort made in order to improve a situation, to live a life of intention, to learn more about integration and compassion.

This is only an excerpt – to read the full article, click HERE.