New book by Danu Forest coming soon!

DF autumn equinoxApologies for the lack of posts lately – this is an incredibly busy time of year, for me as a Druid priest and also getting through my Herbcraft diploma course, as well as starting up Druid College this October.  However, I saw that the ever-lovely and talented Danu Forest has a new book coming out soon, and I wanted to share the good word here! I really enjoyed the first book in this series, which was The Magic of the Summer Solstice.  Her second offering, the Magic of the Autumn Equinox is available for pre-order now! Click HERE for more details.

Book Review: The Magic of the Summer Solstice

Magic of Summer Solstice Danu ForestFellow author, Druid and all around lovely person, Danu Forest has written the first in a series of e-books that detail aspects of each of the eight pagan festivals, otherwise commonly known as The Wheel of the Year.

Her first book, The Magic of the Summer Solstice, is a well written, well-rounded account of folklore and customs that surround this time of the highest light.  It is also filled with arts and crafts to do during the summer solstice, as well as recipes, meditation, visualisations and more. There are also lovely, simple illustrations by her talented husband and artist (and excellent drummer – my doumbek came alive in his hands at Druid Camp last year!), Dan Goodfellow.

I loved this little book. I loved it so much I read it twice.  I really look forward to reading the others in the series, and to find ways to incorporate some of the ideas into my own personal ritual practice.

For the time being, I’m keeping an eye on the elder tree in my backyard for making cordials, and will be making a lovely sun wheel for our group celebration later this month!

P.S. Just to top it all off, I was also delighted to see that at the end of the e-book was this!

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New book coming out May 2014!

dwn smallMy latest book will be coming out in May 2014 with Moon Books Publishing, as part of their Pagan Portals series. This series is a set of introductory books, usually 25,000 words or less, on a topic that allows the reader to gain an foothold on a subject, and then inspire them to continue to find out more on their own personal journeys. This is the second book I have written for the series, the first being Zen Druidry (see my Books Page for how to buy).

Nemetona is an ancient goddess whose song has flowed from Europe into these isles, humming softly deep within the earth and also deep within the human soul. She is the Lady of Sanctuary, of sacred groves and sacred spaces. Not much has been recorded of her academically – we know of an altar in Bath that was dedicated to her by a Gallic artisan who felt her power and carved her elusive name for us to remember down through the ages.

She is present within the home, within our sacred groves and rites and in all the spaces that we hold dear to our hearts. She also lies within, allowing us to feel at ease wherever we are in the world, through her energy of holding, of transformation. She holds the stillness and quiet of a perfect day, she is the stillness at the end of it, when the blackbird sings to the dusk. She is Sanctuary, where we can stretch out our souls and truly come alive, to be who we wish to be, filled with the magic of potential.

Rediscover this ancient Goddess and dance with a Druid to the songs of Nemetona. Learn how to reconnect with this goddess of sanctuary in ritual, songs, chants, meditation and more.

Druid Magic

magic circleDruids aren’t associated with magic in the same way that other Pagan traditions, such as Wicca or Witchcraft seem to be.  Yet I’ve found that in every spiritual path, there are elements of magic contained within that are often very similar in nature.

What is Druid magic? Do Druids cast spells? Have magical tools? Do we think of Gandalf, brandishing his staff and saying mightily “You Shall Not Pass!” or his mushroom-addled fellow, Radagast, who lives in the woods, talks to animals and, according to the latest Hobbit films, has a rabbit-powered all-terrain sleigh and brings hedgehogs back from the dead?

Of course it’s none of these things. It would be pretty cool if it were. But Druid magic, like all magic, is subtler than what we see on the screen or read in books.  There isn’t lightning shooting from fingertips or fire balls sparking from one’s eyes.  In fact, many modern Druids don’t use magic at all, or don’t call it magic.

So what is magic? It has often been quoted these days as manipulating the natural forces of energy within nature to provide a desired result.  This could have many interpretations.  Flicking a switch and having my living room lit up at night could fall within this category, but I’m being a bit facetious. It is also often said that magic should be the last recourse after having tried all mundane means of solving a problem.  So how do Druids use magic, if at all?

There is a growing trend of blending Wicca and Druidry, as in Philip Carr-Gomm’s new book, Druidcraft.  This is a lovely way of expressing the divide between two very similar paths; kind of bridging the gap that lies between.  I thought the book, especially the audio book, was brilliant, and yet I’m still not one to perform spells on a regular basis.  Why is that?

As stated previously, magic is often the last recourse to a situation.  If all other means have been tried, and I’m plum run out of ideas, then I might turn to magic. I might equally turn to prayer. Praying for some guidance, asking the gods, the spirits, the ancestors for a little advice when I’m stuck could be called a spell – it could also be called a prayer.  Lighting a candle and some incense, meditating and then seeking some clarification or inspiration from the ancestors could indeed look like the workings of a magical spell. I think perhaps the difference is in the intention – in both magic and prayer, we are hoping for a result, but the results are often different.

In prayer, asking for the gods to solve a problem for us rarely, if ever, works in my own experience.  I prefer to ask them for inspiration on how to get through this, or my spirit guides on where to go to next in order to resolve and issue.  Casting a spell bypasses the question, in a way, and seeks to get an answer to a question not asked.  Perhaps this is why I resort to magic so little, I always like to ask the input of others to seek out different perspectives on a situation. Again, this is only my own personal views, and others may have other ways of both prayer and spell-casting that are vastly different to my own.

For me, as a Druid I am always questing the awen – for me, awen is the Grail.  Inspiration, flowing spirit – it is such a beautiful word from the Welsh language that has so many different meanings.  To me, awen is magic, though perhaps not in the spellcaster’s sense of the word.  It is energy, it is flowing, it is the Tao and The Force of the Jedi Knight.  It is something to be tapped into in order to gain a new perspective, to see the bigger picture, to obtain compassion. Awen is Buddhist enlightenment.  It is the Christian “God is Love”.

Instead of performing a magic spell, I might wander the heathland or forest, looking for inspiration around me. I might find a place to pray, using that inspiration to guide my prayers to better understanding of myself, the situation, the world.  When all other recourses have failed, then I might try magic – the last recourse.

I feel that magic is something special, something not to be abused or overused.  We often hear the term “god-bothering” and magic may indeed be another form of “bothering” – whether it is the elements, the energy of nature, or something else entirely. I feel that Druids on the whole would turn to awen rather than magic, but perhaps with the blending of Druidry and other traditions this could indeed change, or maybe even change back to the way Druidry used to be – who knows?

Perhaps my quest for awen is my magic.  Magic includes transformation, and questing the awen will indeed change someone.  None of the knights on the Grail quest were ever the same.  None who seek enlightenment will ever be the same person they were before. We are constantly changing anyways, living a life of impermanence and fluidity, of change and flux.

Perhaps just tapping into that idea is magic, is awen.

(Reblogged from my channel at SageWoman: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/SageWoman-Blogs/druid-magic.html)

Sacred spaces, not magic circles…

Many, many teachers and authors emphasise the need for creating a circle when performing ritual, or doing inner pathworking, or meditation, and so on.  My first steps on the pagan path were Wiccan, and creating the circle is a large part of any ritual action.  I cringed, and still do, at any mention of creating a circle with salt – especially out of doors – it’s something that lacks all common sense in a nature-based spirituality; let’s protect ourselves by throwing salt down on the ground and potentially killing all nearby flora and fauna.  But I digress – the question is, how important is the creation of sacred space?

One of my patron goddesses is Nemetona, the goddess of sanctuary.  She is the representation, the embodiment of sanctuary, a place where we are held; a safe place. She is a goddess of transformation, for in a safe space we are able to explore, to try new things, to grow. Much as under our mother’s watchful eye, we can learn and develop as human beings.  However, we must also push the boundaries in order to develop – we must leave the protected and safe spaces to discover our own, to create our own.

When I perform ritual by myself, I don’t see the need to create a circle.  For me, either in my home or outside, the creation of a circle is setting a time and space outside of time and space, and this is not something I want to do. I want to be wholly in this world, grounded and interacting with it.  When performing rituals for others, I always respect their wish to create a circle if they so choose, for that is their path. For me though, it just isn’t necessary.

Inner pathworking is simply done, without the complex or simple creation of a safe place where I cannot be harmed by outside influences, or where my own energy can harm others,  for I don’t believe energy works this way.  Much like a curse, it only has an effect is the cursed believes in said curse.  I don’t believe that external energies are grasping and clawing around the edges of my circle, trying to get inside my mind as I undertake an inner journey, or that there are things crawling around the boundaries of my circle in ritual; demonic forces waiting to get in and cause havoc.  I also don’t believe that I can unwillingly send energy in ritual, thereby needing a circle to contain the energy until I so choose.  It’s something that some pagans agree with, but many do not.

In public ritual, I have also often found that the creation of the circles is merely words and actions – there isn’t any actual manipulation of energy behind it;  the circle isn’t really created, as far as I’m concerned.  Someone may walk around saying the words, then consecrating however they choose, but there is no energy in it – they are simply going through the motions. That, a circle does not make. Just walking around in a circle doesn’t create magical space unless there is sufficient intention behind it.

My home is a sanctuary.  It is a blessed and sacred space.  If I choose to do an inner pathworking there, “unguarded from external forces”, I don’t believe that they have the capability to do any harm. In fact, I don’t believe in them at all.  My home is sacred because of the way I feel about it, the way I honour the spirits of warmth and energy, of rest and play, of love and laughter that occurs within those walls.  I feel the same way about ritual outside in the wilds – the circle is unnecessary, for nature is simply nature.  Were I to work outdoors in the city, perhaps, where the human threat of physical violence must be considered, then perhaps I would create a “magic” circle. Most likely I would simply find a safer place from physical harm.

I’m currently reading a book on Druidry that does quite a bit of inner pathworking as part of the suggested work.  This book is fraught with warnings, about when something happens in your inner pathworking that you don’t like, that you don’t control – people entering, things not going according to plan.  I think that the mere suggestion of the possibility of this is leading people to self-sabotage their pathworkings – if you believe it, then chances are that the suggestion planted in the subconscious can and will emerge when we feel most vulnerable.  Suggesting that we must protect ourselves, that we are vulnerable when we perform these actions – to me this is nonsense.  If these suggestions had never even been made, then most likely “bad things” would never happen in pathworking. I have done many pathworking, and undergone hypnosis – both in classes teaching it and myself being a subject to know what it is like.  You are fully in control, as if you were not “under” hypnosis.  It is merely a state of relaxation where you can access parts of the brain that the “conscious” mind just shouts over.   I know that many would disagree with me – again I will reiterate that this is simply my personal opinion, and that others will have their own equally valid opinions.  The whole subject is subjective – and what works for you may not work for others.

I suppose sacred spaces for me are those places where there is no need, no desire to protect myself from outside influences, at least those that I believe in.  My rituals are open to the world, so that I can connect fully and wholly with the world around me.  The intention behind my rituals, behind the way that I live my life, is what matters most – and that does not include creating spheres around me for protection.  It’s all a bit Hollywood for me – I just don’t believe in it. I do, however, believe in sacred space, in the sanctuaries that we create, or that we come across – a grove in a forest, a clearing on a mountaintop, a space behind a waterfall, a corner of the bedroom – all these places that sing to our heart, these are our sacred places.  I feel no need to fence them in, in the physical or the spiritual sense.  I am a part of them, wholly influenced and touched by them when I am sharing their space and time.  It is a gift, and one that I accept wholeheartedly.