The Journey Continues…

Well, another weekend of Druid College has come and gone, and it was our final weekend with our Year Two apprentices. We have worked with so much material, as well as so much self-exploration in these last two years, and now each apprentice is declaring their Chair, choosing the work that they will focus on in the coming Year Three.

It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with each and every apprentice through this two year journey, and it is with pride and honour that Robin and I are now guiding them in their journey for their final year. I have learned so much from each apprentice, been inspired by them and the work that they have done, and in doing so am inspired to continue the work that we started back in 2015.

We can learn so much from others, and widen our perspective of the world in so many ways. Being such a solitary creature myself, I often have to force myself out into these sorts of situations, being with other humans when I’d rather be deep in the forest or singing with the wild wind on a hilltop. But these moments of pure awen happen with every soul that we meet, whether it is a bee or a human being. Connecting, soul to soul with others in our journey through life can make the threads of awen shimmer and shine with magic and beauty that inspires us, helps us to continue, to carry on. It’s a give and take, a real and true relationship.

And so, with deepest gratitude and heartfelt admiration I see the apprentices off on their next journey. We will be travelling to Glastonbury on pilgrimage at the very start of Year Three in September, a journey that beings with the self and hopefully will end in utter integration with the world through each person’s unique gift of awen.

I thank you all for the journey, and look forward to continuing it with you.

Druid College, Year 1 this October!

HF2We’re getting all geared up for Year One this October at Druid College UK!

In Year One We will be looking at core principles and teachings of Druidry, Living with Honour, Rooting in the Earth, Working with the Ancestors, Animism and the Spirits of Place, Listening and Druid meditation, Awen and the cycle of creativity, Working with the Nemeton, Developing Authentic Relationship, Inspiration and the Poetic arts, Storytelling and cultural heritage, The Cycle of Life and the “Wheel of the Year”, Working with the Gods/Deity, Anarchism and the end of Submission, Emotions and “riding the energies”.

Your tutors are me (Joanna van der Hoeven) and Robin Herne, and there are still places available: for more information visit www.uk.druidcollege.org

Exciting News – Druid College UK is born!

After months of planning and preparation, Druid College UK is born! Working with our sister college in Maine USA, the Druid College is dedicated to Earth-centered spirituality, to the integrity of our natural home, and to the crafting of sacred relationship. In short, The Druid College devotes its presence—and it is its sole intent—to prepare priests of Nature.

Foundations for this life-long journey are established by a three-year, intensive study. Unlike contemporary universities, Druid studies are furthered not only by personal reflection but primarily by ongoing personal connection and spiritual guidance of (i.e., apprenticeship to) a Druid Priest. In the UK as of 2015, those people are Joanna van der Hoeven and Robin Herne.

Being a priest of nature does not mean being an intermediary, but instead living a life in service, crafting a sacred relationship with the land, the ancestors and the gods. It requires service to the community as well as the land, wherein the priest acts as guide, witness or celebrant to a journey or journeys of crafting sacred relationship.

There are many Druid Orders and other pagan and earth-based organizations that offer solid training within their respective traditions. The Druid College is for those who wish to journey further. We wish to work with those who want to be ‘carriers’ of Nature-based spirituality – as compared to ‘followers’. We saw a need for a programme for people who desire to go deeper, for those who wish to be in service, to fill the role of priest for their community and the land they dwell in.

The College accepts as first-year apprentices people of all walks and intent. The focus for the first year is on the fundamentals of Druidry and reweaving our personal connection to Earth and to our ancestors and heritage. Commitment to the full programme is not required in order to join in the first year of training.

Our second year training is reserved for those who desire to continue their journey into the priesthood, to step into the role of priests of Nature, to serve the land and its people. Our programme is one of preparing people to be in service, such as prison ministry, working with the dying, or being a priest of the land, offering healing where there is desecration.

The nature of year three is that of being in the role as priests. We envision this year as one of walking the path and sharing those activities with the staff and other apprentices, learning from each other, acknowledging the work, declaring your “Chair” and manifesting it locally.

The Druid College is not an accredited college and offers no degree programme.

For full information, see the Druid College website HERE.

Programme overview:

Year One of the Apprenticeship

“Reweaving the Broken Connection to the Land”

Year one studies include:

Core principles and teachings of Druidry, Living with Honour, Grounding, Working with the Ancestors, Animism and the Spirits of Place, Listening and Druid meditation, Awen and the cycle of creativity, Working with the Nemeton, Developing Authentic Relationship, Inspiration and the Poetic arts, Storytelling and cultural heritage, The Cycle of Life and the “Wheel of the Year”, Working with the Gods/Deity, Anarchism and the end of Submission, Emotions and “riding the energies”

Year Two of the Apprenticeship

“Training in the Crafts of Shapeshifting, Healing, and in the Arts of Transformation”

Year two studies include:

The Awakened Life; Ritual Trance Induction, Crafting Sacred Ritual; Healing; Prophecy and the Seer; Defining what is meant by Applied Inspiration in Service; Ethical Leadership; Bridge-building as Peacework; Justice and Permaculture; Philosophy; Nature and Relationship to Consumption; Preparations for Declaring your “Chair”

Year Three: Practicum

Declaring your “Chair” and manifesting it locally

Purposeful Sharing in Community

Applied Trancing as Priestly Evolution

Training to Lead Ecstatic Ritual

Two large gatherings of the entire College

Possible ritual of Ordination

What Druidry Is Not…

abbeyFor me, Druidry is not a white-robed affair. Crawling under low scrub pines and getting inside secret places of gorse bushes where only the deer trod, or standing on the seashore in the howling rain, or in the heart of the forest with the badgers and mosquitos – it just doesn’t work.

Druidry is not clean. It’s not an exercise only for the mind. It requires experience to turn what you have learned into real wisdom. It’s not just book-learning. Until you get out there and commune with the landscape, it’s not felt in the soul. It cannot live in the head. It will get you dirty, wet, hot, sweating, cold, scratched, bitten. It is dirty fingernails and peering under bushes. It is a return to the curiosity and wonder of the child, yet it is not child-like. It is deep learning, deep experience.

Druidry is not a male-centred religion or spirituality, nor is it female-centric. It is about equality and egality, anarchic and subject first and foremost to the teachings of nature.

It not just about standing in stone circles waving swords and reading off of sheets of paper with a group of other people, the media and tourists alike taking photographs. It is doing work in the heart of where you live, often without thanks or regard of any kind. It is giving back to the land, honouring the cycles and working for the community – and by community, I mean each and every living thing in that area wherein you live and call home, not just human. It is not about power and ego, but about communion and deep relationship. It is about dropping ideas of the self to better fit in the landscape.

It is not about writing loads of books and offering courses, achieving kudos through output, students and media. It is about the sharing of inspiration, acknowledging the inspiration of others and allowing the awen the flow through you in whatever way you see fit. One may be a teacher, or an author, or someone with whom the media interact – but they are not a spokesperson for all Druidry, nor a guru of any sort, and have no monopoly on wisdom. There is little room in deep Druidry for ego.

There are no titles, save those bestowed either by a person on him or herself, or by a group of people following a shared path and learning. These titles are not relevant to all Druids – just to the person or the group. Claiming to be an arch-druid of so and so has no bearing on those who are outside of the group. There is no central authority in Druidry.

Druidry is not about having things – it is about doing things. It is being utterly mindful of personal and global consumerism. It is about looking at everything that you do, everything that you have, everything that you take and everything that you give back. It is not about doing the bare minimum. It is about sacrifice, of time and ignorance, of ego and of desire. It is about constant re-evaluation of ethics, values and honour. It is about constant learning.

Druidry is not about attaining levels of initiation or ordination within learning, however. Courses and instruction may guide us, may open our minds and shatter pre-conceived notions, expanding awareness – but they are not there to gratify the ego through the bestowing of grade or rank. Druidry is also not about a specific point in time, where to call oneself a Druid means to have studied for twenty-some years, learned the genealogies of kings, etc. The Druidry of the past is not the Druidry of today. The Druidry of a small frame in time within the past and from a small, specific region is most certainly not the Druidry of today. Its wisdom can guide us, but it is just one window in a mansion of many halls. The Classical Druids were the Classical Druids – we are not, nor can ever be, Classical Druids.

Druidry is not just an exploration of the self. It goes beyond the self, to a life lived in service to others.

These are just a few things of what Druidy is not.

So what is Druidry?

It is allowing the wisdom of the oak to guide you in all that you do.

The Teenage Druid

Taken from my latest blog post at at Druid Heart on SageWoman’s channel at Witches and Pagans…

10361054_598064806967174_1548976491936707739_nWhen people think of Druids, the image that often comes to mind is not that of a young person, a teenager perhaps. And yet, how many young Druids are there out there, waiting to be recognised? How many teenagers feel the call to live in balance and harmony, with a deep love and respect for the natural world, and a great desire to live with honour and integrity based upon those very same things? Quite a few, I’m sure. I was one of them.

A lot of Druid organisations, groves and orders will not accept members under 18 years of age. This can leave the younger, aspiring Druid twisting in the wind, so to speak. Where should they turn to for information, for advice? Real life teachers are hard to come by. If they are available, many do not wish to teach the under 18s for various reasons. Younger people as well have all sorts of limitations. How can they find the right path for them with their limited means? Finances, access to resources, time – all of these can be very tight for the younger person who also has to deal with the pressures of school, clubs, family obligations and so on.

Most Druids first turn to books to learn more about Druidry. It is a great way to gain a good basic understanding of what Druids do, when they do it and how they go about it. However, they do not actually make the Druid. Books are getting more and more expensive as well, and may not be affordable to the younger person. So what can they do when they can’t afford all the lovely, shiny new books available on the market today?

My advice would be to go to the library. Research, if you have the time after your ordinary school work, to look up everything that you can about the Celts. This may sound more like a history lesson that actually learning Druidry, but the Druid worldview is based upon the Celtic worldview – they cannot be separated. Druidry grew out of Celtic culture and society, therefore to understand Celtic culture and society is to understand, to a certain extent, the world of the Druid.

Most libraries don’t have a great Pagan section. Let’s face it, even today a lot of libraries consider Paganism to still be a part of the “dark arts”, something of the occult. I remember in my local library in Canada, the only books on paganism that were available were two books, one called something like “The Occult” and the second all about Gardnerian Witchcraft. It gave me a tiny flavour of modern Paganism, but still it was far off the mark from what I practice today.

However, though the stock in the library can be scarce when it comes to Pagan, and specifically Druid books, it doesn’t hurt to try and ask them to order it in for you. Often, Druid books have very non-threatening titles which may pass under the radar of even the most vigilant anti-Pagan librarian.

Book learning is just one aspect of learning, however. Information is gained from books, wisdom is gained from doing stuff. Druidry is not a passive way of being. It asks us to be fully present in the moment, connected to nature and the world in order to better understand our place in it, and to live in balance and harmony. That is something that cannot just be thought about. So how does the young Druid go about this aspect of Druid learning?

The very first, and most important thing is just to go outside. Be in nature. Get to know nature, and let it get to know you. Watch the sun rise and set. Watch the moon rise and set. Notice the animals in your area. Record what they are doing – find out all that you can about their behaviour. Learn the names of plants and stones. Feel the rain upon your face. Sit under the light of the full moon. Walk in the forest silently, listening to nature around you. Look up to the sky and learn the names of the constellations. Some of these may be more difficult for the aspiring urban Druid, but you can still persevere.

Learn how to meditate. Again, the library will come in handy for this, and it’s free. There are loads of videos on Youtube on how to meditate – I love Zen meditation, otherwise known as mindfulness meditation. My favourite teacher is Thich Nhat Hanh

Likewise, there are videos on Youtube about Druidry. Even a Beginner’s Guide in several parts. Do a Youtube search on popular Druids, such as Emma Restall Orr or Phillip Carr-Gomm – they will turn up some great stuff. Also, Google articles by the people whose books you can’t afford or obtain – there is a LOT of info available for free on the internet. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids have a regular podcast, called Druidcast, which has music, interviews and features every month. The American ADF also have a great podcast. The Druid Network is where I got my start in all things Druid – access to all the articles is free. There are hours upon hours of information there – waiting to be used practically, to be turned into wisdom.

As some point you may want to take some online courses, again if schoolwork allows. A lot of Druid courses cost money, and rightfully so – there are a lot of materials and time that have gone into the preparation of these. However, most teenagers cannot afford the cost of these courses, or do not meet the over 18 requirement. So what to do?

Again, head over to the Druid Network. There are free online courses available there, with no age limit. I particularly recommend Emma Restall Orr’s A Perennial Course in Living Druidry. Robin Herne’s Polytheistic Druidry course is also available. You can even read Emma Restall Orr’s first book, Principles of Druidry, online.

Another piece of advice I would give to the young, aspiring Druid is this: do not become despondent when you find that many, many people base your wisdom upon your age. Especially on internet forums, but almost equally so in real life. So many older people seem to think that wisdom and intelligence is based up on the number of years you have spent upon this planet – this is, in my opinion, complete bollocks. I have known wise children and stupid adults aplenty in my lifetime. Please, please, please do not despair, do not give up. Continue to seek out your Druidry, continue to ask questions, to learn more. If anyone makes you feel stupid for asking, or dismissed you based upon your age, well, quite frankly, they’re not worth knowing.

Keep at it, and do not become discouraged at the lack of training for under 18s. If you love nature, if you feel deep in your blood and bones the rhythms of the earth, the call of the Goddess, the pull of the land, sea and sky within your soul then nothing can stop you starting on your path. Indeed, you have already started.

Never stop learning…

Never stop learning.  That should not only be a Druid mantra, but one for the entire human species!

I’ve taken this year off to really dive deep into new studies, experiences and finding a very deep Druidry within my soul.  So far it’s been exceptional – I have learned so many things about myself, about how my brain and body works, how I interact with others and how I take inspiration from the natural world around me.

I’ve always been an avid student of life.  I’ve always loved being a student – whether it was elementary or high school, college or university.  I’ve always had a hunger to learn more about the way life works, about philosophy, history, biology and ecology.  That enthusiasm has never faded, and I should hope with all my heart it never does.

Too often we can become complacent in our lives, thinking that we know all that we need to know for however long a time until the awen hits us in the face and we wake up, wanting to quest deeper, to learn more, to snack on those little hazelnuts of wisdom like the salmon in the sacred well.  For a while I was content that I had learned enough about Druidry, about Paganism – I now see how foolishly wrong I was.  There is always something more to learn, something new to experience. When we stop learning, we stop growing, both mentally and spiritually.  We have such capacity within our brains to ever expand our horizons, but the safe and comfortable instinct can easily override that desire to broaden the boundaries.

At this point in my life, when I will be turning 40 this August, I realise just how little I know about anything.  I also know that I will never know everything about anything at all.  What I do know is that I will never stop learning, never stop freeing my mind so that my ass will follow.  It always leads to wondrous new places filled with the wisdom that can only be gained by combining experience with learning.

I am devouring books and exploring the Celtic heritage of the land where I live, in East Anglia, UK.  Often overshadowed in my particular region by the Saxon ship burial and village kingdom near Sutton Hoo, historically there isn’t all that much available about the Celtic Trinovantes that lived in my area (the much more popular Iceni tend to overshadow them). I’m learning more about their stories, from academic research to spending hours listening to the land and the stories gleaned from the wind.

I’ve also spent the winter really looking at my self, the reasons why I have done things in the past, my motives and intentions for the future. It has been a real eye-opening experience, visiting all those dark and light places in the soul, seeing what works in harmony and what doesn’t. Exploring the nature of Truth, looking at how I can live the truest expression of my soul, fitting in not only with my true nature but the entirety of the natural world around me.  Re-reading Graeme K Talboys’ Way of the Druid lead to weeks and weeks of reflection on what the nature of Truth is to the Druid – I heartily recommend that book to anyone interested in the Druid path.  I’m sure there is a future blog post on it when I have managed to put down all that I have gleaned into words…

Taking time out for your self, for your studies and for your spiritual path can be the best thing you have ever done.  It shakes off the comfortable shackles of complacency and breathes pure awen deep into your soul.  It awakens you to life, and that is a gift in itself.