From now until 20th December, I am taking questions about any of my books on the GoodReads website – please do feel free to get in touch!
From now until 20th December, I am taking questions about any of my books on the GoodReads website – please do feel free to get in touch!
The sanctity of the ‘sacred space’ is an integral part of the majority of pagan beliefs and this celebration of the Celtic goddess Nemetona offers a Druid’s-eye view of the concept. In’ Dancing With Nemetoma’, Joanna van der Hoeven explores the influence of this little-known deity who was probably introduced into Britain by Celtic/Gallic mercenaries serving with the Roman legions. The name is derived from ‘nemeton’, a term designating Gaulish religious spaces and nemetons, or sacred groves and sacred spaces, can be located throughout the Celtic world by that name. The author gives an identity to that strange, otherworldly feeling we experience when coming upon a sacred space, whether spiritual or temporal, with which we can all identify regardless of the Path we travel.
Endorsed by many of the leading lights in contemporary Druidry, ‘Dancing With Nemetona’ is a singularly compelling book for those of any pagan persuasion who wish to identify with that unexplained feeling often encountered on both the inner and outer planes. I particularly liked the author’s honesty in stating right from the beginning: “With what little history we have, it is up to us to seek Her out and find Her again, making our own connections. Within these pages are ways in which I have come to know Her, and in which you may as well, if you have not already met with Her. What is found in these pages is not long-standing tradition, but my own journeys of discovery with this goddess that I wish to share with you.” Recommended reading
Melusine Draco, Coven of the Scales and author of Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones
Far too often we allow our emotions to control us, dictating how we react and respond to situations and perhaps not in the best way. Some would argue that our emotions are what gets things done, however, something done with anger, for instance, may not always be the best way forward.
Discipline has become a bad word in our society. What we need to do is to reclaim this word, along with duty (which I will elaborate more on in another blog). We need to sit down with ourselves and take a good, long, hard look at our emotions and the roots of these emotions, finding out why we react to situations the way we do, discover underlying patterns and unravel the threads that are loose, or about to snap, reworking them into something more harmonious.
If we work on a situation based on an emotion of anger, hate or jealousy, then the outcome will most likely not be conducive to creating compassion and harmony with the world. Exploring the roots of these “negative” emotions, we will realise that the underlying thread is one of fear. Anger is another expression of fear. We become angry at our partner for not behaving in a manner that we think he should. In reality, we may be fearful of losing our partner, or of changing feelings for him, of not having enough control in our own lives, etc. Hate is based in fear, as we fear that which is the Other, separate from ourselves, the unknown. Jealousy is based on fear of change, our own insecurities and fears created out of past experiences.
What we need to do it to sit down with our feelings, to better understand them and in doing so, better understand our selves. In creating a safe space to sit with our feelings, we can engage with them openly and honestly. Creating a haven, a sanctuary in which to perform this task, we can explore the deepest corners of our minds. For me, the goddess Nemetona helps in this exercise.
She is a goddess of sanctuary and sacred space. She is present in my home and in my heart. Human beings have such a craving for safety and security, and within this goddess we can find that wherever we are. Not only does it help with emotional discipline and self-governance, but the two are intricately woven together, with self-governance creating that safety. Let me explain.
If we are ruled by the tides of our emotions, we will never settle, never find a place that we can call a sanctuary. We are subject to the peaks and valleys of an emotional long hard slog, and never really find a good breathing space in which to find some respite. If we do not have that sanctuary, we have no place to breathe and to truly connect with our emotions. And so an endless cycle of repetition is created.
Finding time every day to simply sit and breathe is a great way to begin. In a safe, comfortable place, whether indoors or out, we focus on our breath, in and out, breathing in the air that our ancestors breathed, that all living things breathe. We breathe out into the world, exhaling even as the trees exhale in the deepening twilight. Sharing this beautiful moment, this sacred breath, we come to an awareness of ourselves, of our self and how we currently feel in the world at this particular moment. We can call upon Nemetona to hold this space while we simply sit and breathe, honouring Her for all that She is with a return to the stillness at our core.
It’s not easy, taking the time to simply breathe, to meditate on our breath. Our minds will try every trick in the book to distract us from this present moment and this one little act. It is with discipline that we return to our breath again and again, each time we find ourselves wandering off mentally, or shifting our bums restlessly. You have to really want to find stillness – it doesn’t just happen. You have to be disciplined enough to achieve it. It won’t simply suddenly appear out of nowhere, nor can it be spoon-fed. Discipline will not allow any passivity. We must take full responsibility for our selves and for our world.
After breathing, we can take some time looking at our feelings and emotions without attaching to them. Again, we can ask Nemetona to help us, to hold the space and to guide us to explore our feelings without getting too involved, wrapped up once again the in the emotion. She won’t do it for us, however. We can look at our fear, at our anger, our impatience, our joy and our happiness. We can find the roots of these if we don’t let them take control over our minds, and therefore live in better awareness.
For not only do we have to be careful of the negative emotions ruling our behaviour, but we must also become aware of the more pleasant emotions. Far too often we experience a beautiful emotion, and crave that emotion for the rest of our lives. We will never be able to recreate that experience, for it has happened and exists only in the past. All we have is this present moment, which is always changing, moving forwards. If we try to regain the feeling of joy that we had on our wedding day every time we look at our loved one, we disregard other emotions and feelings that will eventually come and bite us on our backside. We may not notice the present moment. Focusing only on positive emotions doesn’t work – we are human and we have negative emotions too. Those who deny them, who suppress them, will face some pretty hard demons at some point in their life.
So we sit, and we meditate day after day, breathing and coming to an awareness of the present moment. We are able to take the time to look at our feelings and get to know them better, thereby allowing ourselves the opportunity to break from negative patterns of behaviour into more purposefully led lives. Discipline and self-governance are not things to be afraid of, nor are they something to shun as not in keeping with our freedom of expression. We are better able to express ourselves when we are not ruled by our emotions, allowing us to see what lies at the root of our souls, and thereby what lies in others’ souls as well.
This is the heart of compassion. When we understand ourselves we can better understand others, and see their fears, their patterns being created. We can work with them to help create new patterns, or we can simply walk away with respect and not have their patterns reflected in our own. We can only help those who want to be helped, and this includes our own self.
So please do take the time to sit, every day, and be in the present moment. Become aware of your breathing. Call upon Nemetona or any other god to help you find that peace, that space to explore your feelings, should you so desire. Look at your feelings and better understand them for what they are. In doing so, you will no longer be ruled by them, but instead be able to respond in the world with an awareness and mindfulness that can only create harmony. We come to understand each other in a very deep and meaningful way when we take what we learn of ourselves and relate that to others. In this, we can see that we are all related.
We are not restricting ourselves with self-governance, but allowing ourselves to open to the world with the eyes of compassion and hearts that are true.
For more about the goddess, Nemetona, please see my book, Dancing With Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space.
Sometimes one has to retreat from the world, in order to better understand it. Finding sanctuary, a sacred space where we can open our souls without fear, where we can simply be, is a glorious experience. It happens a lot less than we need in our lives, in my opinion.
A goddess of sanctuary, Nemetona is an elusive deity. Not much is written or recorded about her in Classical texts or history. Just the barest hints and place names, some tribe names and a couple of inscriptions. Who is this goddess to whom we can bare our souls, in complete soul truth, knowing that we are held?
In our modern day world, so often we feel we have to close ourselves off in order not to be overwhelmed – by people, media, technology. For sensitive souls, it sometimes is pure hell. We need to allow our soul truths to emerge, otherwise as caged birds we function behind bars, never truly spreading our wings and knowing what it means to fly. We feel we have to be careful not to be too open, too emotive, too sensitive to what people are saying or what is happening in the world around us. We are not allowed to be offended, we are not allowed to speak out without fear of being shot down a lot of the time. We are told that we shouldn’t be so sensitive. Our souls grow smaller with each experience of shutting down, never letting anyone or anything in.
That physical space around us, where we feel uncomfortable if someone we do not trust enters, is a valuable space. It is our personal nemeton, a space where our energy exists outside of our bodies. Many liken it to your aura. Some nemetons are strong and radiant, some wounded with gaping holes, others barricaded with steel. What we have to learn, or relearn, is how to open this space in love and trust – that is what Nemetona provides, often in a world wherein we feel no other human is able to provide this for us…
To read the full post, click HERE.
We’re back in stock at Amazon UK with my latest book, Dancing With Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space – but only 13 left already. First batch sold out in two days, get yours quick! More on the way, but it could take up to two weeks. x
My latest book, Dancing with Nemetona: A Druid’s Exploration of Sanctuary and Sacred Space, is now out – two weeks early! Only 8 copies left on Amazon – grab yours now!
Pick up your copy HERE
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.
Nemetona is an ancient goddess whose song is heard deep within the earth and also deep within the human soul. She is the Lady of Sanctuary, of Sacred Groves and Sacred Spaces.
She is present within the home, within our sacred groves, our 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 the energy of sacred space, 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 in ritual, songs, chants, meditation and more.
Ellen Evert Hopman, author of Priestess of the Forest says “This lovely volume teaches us how to re-sacralize our life. In a sad and violent world we need to remember to find the sacred within all things; our room, our hearth, our home, our altar, our garden, and our sacred Grove. By doing this, ultimately we will find the sacred within all creatures; animal, mineral, plant and human. This is the lesson of Nemetona, divine protectress of the sacred enclosure, so wonderfully expressed within this book.”
Philip Carr-Gomm, chosen chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids says “For those of us upon the Druid path, Nemetona is an intriguing goddess. Joanna’s book welcomes us into Nemetona’s sanctuary that we might know her more intimately. With a combination of helpful exercises and the gentle but compelling wisdom born of Joanna’s relationship with this goddess, we discover that the concept of the Grove and the experience of Sacred Space is more rich and complex than we imagined.”
My 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.
Here’s a little taster from my upcoming book, Dancing With Nemetona, published with Moon Books, available this spring…
Lady of Ritual
Ritual – the word rolls off the tongue. It evokes images of moonlight and standing stones, or incense and flower filled temple rooms, women and men gathered under the stars or the light of day to celebrate an aspect of life, death and rebirth.
Ritual is as simple or complex as we allow it to be. We can follow a set liturgy, or we can create our own path. Within paganism, both are equally acceptable. As paganism is, technically, a newly rebirthed religion the question of authenticity with regards to validity is moot – someone, somewhere along the line, whether it was 60 years ago, 600 years ago or 60,000 years ago made it up at some point. That has no bearing on its validity.
When we create ritual, we are taking a moment, taking time out, to celebrate or honour a specific moment in time. It may be as simple as saying a prayer of thanks at sunrise or sunset, or it may be a full blown affair held within a stone circle, with 20 or more participants, having rehearsed their roles and re-enacting a mythic drama. Whatever ritual you choose to perform, establishing a relationship with Nemetona can be a rich and rewarding experience to lend to these sacred acts.
Nemetona is Lady of the Sacred Grove, where it is believed that ritual occurred in past history. The ritual itself is just as important as the setting. It must speak to us, must sing to our soul, otherwise, what is the point?
As the Lady of Holding, of guarding and watching over our sacred space, our created sanctuaries, Nemetona is also a lady of ritual, integral to it if we so desire. She moves in circles and in cycles, and therefore when we hold a ritual circle, we can invoke her easily within that sacred place. She is all that is within the sacred circle, and also all that is without. Like a vase, the vase is not only the boundaries of its own edges, but also the emptiness within that allows it to be a vase.
We can call upon Nemetona in ritual, to protect our sacred circle, to bless it, or simply to witness what it is that we are doing within that space (or all three). She can be called upon before a ritual to help define its intent and purpose. She is the Lady of Holding, and within her embrace we are free to be and do as we wish. Within the sacred ritual circle, she enables change and growth, safety and security where we might otherwise not feel it to be.
Within the ritual circle is a space where we can grow, where we can make associations and develop our spirituality to its true potential. Within the sacred circle, we overlay it with our associations in ritual such as the elements, our spirit guides, ancestors, gods and goddesses and more. By finding out where these “fit” in the sacred ritual circle, held within the arms of Nemetona we come to truly understand ourselves, and the greater world at large.