Reviews for new book: Zen for Druids

Zen for Druids front coverReviews are coming in for my new book, Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Compassion and Harmony with Nature. This new book expands upon my first work, the introductory Pagan Portals Zen Druidry, and looks deeper into combining elements of Zen Buddhism and Druidry. Here are a few of the reviews!

I am a massive fan of Joanna van der Hoeven’s books. They are wonderfully accessible whilst still conveying a depth and clarity that helps the reader to really connect with the wisdom of the subject. Her latest offering does just that. ‘Zen For Druids’ is a companion to her earlier work ‘Zen Druidry’, exploring Zen Buddhism and Druidry by illustrating how these spiritual paths can complement one another in practice. The book is written in five parts. The first explores Druidry and the Dharma giving an excellent overview of Buddhism’s Three Treasures; The Four Noble Truths; The Five Precepts; The Eightfold Path and The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts and how these relate to Druid philosophy. The second part takes us through the Pagan Wheel of the Year and how Zen Buddhism can enrich the understanding and honouring of these festivals. Joanna includes some really useful tips at the end of each festival section, with ideas to deepen your experience of each. Part three focuses on Meditation; part four on Mindfulness and part five on Integration, each section helping to both explain the underlying spiritual meaning of these practices whilst giving practical advice, exercises and encouragement. I particularly enjoyed the section on Integration where the author writes beautifully about Awen and Relationship as a connecting, compassionate force that reveals the interconnectedness of life. In her chapter on Ego, Self and Identity the author tackles the thorny issue of the Ego. In many spiritual texts, the Ego can so easily be labelled the ‘bad guy’ but Joanna skilfully explores the difference between Representational Ego and Functional Ego, redeeming the Ego’s useful functions whilst suggesting a compassionate approach to its more challenging aspects. The concepts in this book take some thoughtful pondering but the beauty of Joanna’s writing is that it cracks open what initially appear to be very complex ideas and gets straight to the heart of each. Obviously the real work is in the dedicated practice of a spiritual path but Zen For Druids offers a wonderful foundation to build upon. In every page you can sense that the author has learned these insights through experience, that she really understands and lives these principles from a place of deep heart-knowing. We move from a purely intellectual grasping of a subject to this heart-led living of a spiritual path through the constant connection and exploration of that path; Joanna van der Hoeven’s fabulous book is both an inspiring and deeply practical aid to help you on that journey. I highly recommend this book. It is proof of how seemingly different spiritualities can enrich each other, and for those of us who are drawn to both western and eastern paths, it’s a real gem! ~ Maria Ede-Weaving, from the office of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Harmony, and Compassion with Nature by Joanna Van Der Hoeven is a look at integrating aspects of Zen Buddhism and Druidry into ones personal practices. We take a look at some of the basic principles of Buddhism such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and how they can be integrated with aspects of Druidry such as the sacredness for all things. There are questions which help us contemplate these concepts within the aspects of both Druidry and Buddhism. We take a look at meditation and mindfulness in both areas of practice. We are shown how to incorporate the eightfold path of Buddhism into the Wheel of the Year and Druid festivals. I liked how this book brought together both Buddhist and Druid practices to create a practice that is one with nature and enhances our spiritual practice. I learned a lot about both Druidry and Buddhism and how they can work seamlessly together to create a spiritual practice. ~ Rose Pettit, Insights into the Wonderful World of Books

In this user-friendly book, Joanna van der Hoeven further develops ideas already present in her earlier ones, especially Zen Druidry. On my reading, this book will work best for Druids committed to a modern eco-spirituality. I imagine readers already re-enchanted by their experience of the natural world, who want a harmonious relationship with that world, and to honour, protect and preserve it. Zen for Druids confirms this stance and adds something else: the interwoven ethical and attentional training of the Buddhist tradition. The author draws specifically on Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Master who founded the Community of Interbeing and is a leading model and exponent of ‘engaged Buddhism’. This cultivates personal, social and ecological levels of awareness. It recognizes the radical interdependence of all beings and a need to make ethical/political choices in line with this interdependence. Such Buddhism is not in any way world denying, in the way that Buddhist tradition has at times been in the past. I see Thich Nhat Hanh as a perfect source of influence for this book, and several of his own works are cited in the bibliography. Zen for Druids is divided into five parts. The first is a clear exposition of Buddhist basics, helped by that tradition’s own style of clear exposition and list making. It includes chapters on the three treasures, the four noble truths, the five basic precepts for lay Buddhists, the eightfold path and the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts. By age-old Buddhist design, there is a certain amount of repetition in these lists, with the same issues coming up again in slightly different contexts. Each individual chapter ends with a set of questions designed to engage the reader in their own reflections. The second part moves through the eightfold wheel of the year, frequently found as a festival year in Druid and Pagan communities. Each festival is given its own chapter, and each chapter combines traditional Druid and Pagan themes with a principle from the Buddhist eightfold path. The author starts at Samhain (right effort), moves on to the Winter Solstice (right mindfulness), Imbolc (right concentration), Spring Equinox (right intention), Beltane (right view), Summer Solstice (right action), Lughnasadh (right speech) and the Autumn Equinox (right livelihood). Each section is followed by a list of suggestions for practice. The book’s remaining three parts are shorter. They concern, respectively, meditation, mindfulness and integration. In two chapters on meditation, the first explores ‘mind traps’ – “those little prisons of our own making. We are constantly hijacked by our thoughts and feelings, attachments to them and our egos, such that we spin endlessly in circles until we fall down”. The second shows us to how do a brief meditation session in the Zen manner. The following section, concerning mindfulness in the world, suggests a practice of ‘mindful Mondays’ and explores the relationship between present time awareness and an animist world view. The final section, on integration, focuses on our integration with nature, looking at the issue of ‘ego, self and identity’ before reflecting on ‘awen and relationship’. For Joanna van der Hoeven, indeed, “awen is relationship and integration, the connecting threads that bind us soul to soul”. In Zen for Druids, one Druid shows how she has taken an iteration of Zen Buddhism into her life and practice, combining them into one path. She sets out her stall very clearly and offers the reader specific opportunities and resources for practice and reflection. This book does a valuable job well. ~ James Nichol, Contemplative Inquiry

I read Joanna’s “Zen Druidry” and it really helped add an extra layer of depth to my own Druidry. This book continues down that same path, with a lot more emphasis on how to incorporate aspects of both Zen and Druidry into one’s life. Not only does Joanna write in a way that is easily accessible, her approach to topics provides the reader with enough information to work with the topic or concept. The questions she asks throughout the book are definitely good moments of “food for thought” – and for me provide even more desire to dig even deeper into what she is presenting here. Is her book a be-all, end-all of Zen, Druidry, or the combination of the two? Not even, nor is it meant to be. Finding that kind of depth, in my opinion, is up to the individual bringing these concepts into their Spiritual practices. This book; however, is a definite strong start for those who are looking for ways to incorporate these two particular Spiritual disciplines into their lives at the same time. For me, this book is a timely follow on to the “Zen Druidry” title, providing more depth and clarity to the combination of these two Paths. Going further down that Path, will be up to the individual adherent and their own unique application of these disciplines to their own lives. If you are picking this book up first, set it down and get “Zen Druidry” and read that first. Then follow on with this one. The two flow together very nicely.  ~ Tommy van Hook, Life with Trickster Gods

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.

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!

My interview with Philip Carr-Gomm

Druidcast 94 is now out, with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids‘ Chosen Chief, Philip Carr-Gomm interviewing me last June for their 50th anniversary gala. We talked about religion and philosophy, my books and also what is Druidry today. Have a listen, and check some great music and another great talk by Jonathan Wooley on Druidry and the young adult!

Celebrating 50 years of OBOD

OBOD logoThis weekend the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids celebrated 50 years of their organisation, founded by Ross Nichols (Nuinn). The weekend ran from Friday 6 to Monday 9 June, with fringe events and a spectacular evening of arts and entertainment on the Saturday, all held within Glastonbury town centre.

I had been asked by chosen chief, Philip Carr-Gomm if I would be available for an interview on the Friday afternoon of the event, as well as be a part of the author’s table on the Sunday. It was an honour and a pleasure to be able to do so, and to attend the variety of other things happening all over the weekend.

After a 7.5 hour drive from where I live on the coast of the North Sea in Suffolk, we arrived with 10 minutes to spare before my interview with Phillip (which will be available on the OBOD podcast, Druidcast at a later date alongside other authors and figures within Druidry and OBOD). I hobbled into the venue (having pinched a nerve in my hip the day before) and was greeting warmly by Jo, who was working in the Avalon Foundation office, Kris Hughes (one of the most lovely, witty and funny Druids you will ever meet – do check out his books and the Anglesey Druid Order) and then by Philip himself, whom I’d only ever known via email correspondence. Philip has a wonderful way of making you feel at ease, ensuring that things will run smoothly without having to say a word. He is one of those people who is utterly devoted to his passions in life, and be completely un-egotistical about it all, considering his position within the Order and in modern Druidry itself. The cult of celebrity exists even in the modern pagan world, but it has not and I highly doubt will ever influence this genuine and endearing soul.

As the interview began, Philip set me at ease straight away – it was like talking to an old friend. The people attending the interview as audience members were absolutely lovely as well – it was nice to be able to connect with them and honour their support.

After the interview I headed to the Goddess Temple, to decompress and honour this very sacred time and place. We then had supper and went back to our B&B, which was about 4 miles out of town, as when I tried to book three months earlier the town had already been overrun by Druids seeking lodging!

The following morning we attended the official opening of the weekend event. Caitlin Matthews made the first speech, talking about what it means to be a Druid today, and how those who follow the path of Druidry can proudly call themselves Druid. Professor Ronald Hutton then gave an endearing roast and toast speech about the OBOD and Philip himself, which had us all in stitches, particularly when he likened Philip’s personal appearance to a dandelion puff and fighting the urge to blow on this head to release the seeds into the world. Phillip then spoke about the Order, and a powerful dramatic interpretation of the trees of the ogham was enacted. The most beautiful aspect of the entire morning’s event, however, was the cascading chant of Awens that Damh organised. Four hundred voices raised in celebration and joy chanted the sacred sound that sent beautiful rays into the heavens even as it shook the grounds of the Abbey wherein we were situated.

Later that day was a very special ceremony on the top of Glastonbury Tor that honoured the Druidry of the past, present and future. A moving sight was seeing those that were in the different schools of learning (Bards, Ovates and Druids) coming forward and standing in three lines before the tower of St Michael, looking like three rays of awen in their tabards of blue, green and white.

In the evening the Eisteddfod was absolutely superb, with offerings from a Dutch opera singer, as well as brilliant drumming and poetry. Afterwards the chairs were cleared away and the evening’s bands came on – the dance floor was heaving and the energy was amazing. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled end of the evening, Damh jumped offstage and ran out the tent to lead us to a very special surprise in the Abbey grounds – a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the whole town. As the last of the light and noise faded into the night, the awen chant seemed to flow from the very ground itself, as hundreds of Druids honoured the peace, love, passion and more in their souls in the darkness as it sounded from their voices one last time.

The following morning I sat at the author’s table with fellow Druid authors such as Cat Treadwell, Robin Herne, Kris Hughes and more. It was a lovely chance to connect with people and offer signed copies of our work, sharing in the very special energy that Druids seem to have when it comes to learning, reading, and always questing the awen.

After that I headed to the Red Spring for some quiet, personal time – sadly the White Spring was not open. I honoured this most sacred place in England and then it was time to leave, back to my home on the other side of the country.

All in all, this weekend was filled with lovely, beautiful people who had a deep love of Druidry and the land upon which they lived. It made me proud to call myself Druid, to make me really feel part of a tribe of people who have created a lasting tradition built upon the wisdom of the ancestors of the past and holding a deep and abiding bond for our ancestors of the future that will follow in our footsteps. Long may it continue.


OBOD 50th Anniversary Gala, Glastonbury

I’m getting ready to head over to Glastonbury this weekend, for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids at their 50th Anniversary Gala! I’ll  be interviewed by chosen Chief, Philip Carr-Gomm  on the Friday afternoon (4pm, Avalon Room, Avalon Foundation) of the weekend event (6 – 9 June 2014). This interview will also be available at a later date on their podcast.

I’ll also be at the author’s table for the Fringe event on Sunday, between 10.30am – 1pm. Hope to see you there!

May we be the awen.


P.S. To read my review of the event, click HERE

OBOD 50th Anniversary Gala

As some of you may know, the Order of Bard, Ovates and Druids are celebrating their 50th anniversary this June, 6 – 9 in Glastonbury.  This is quite a momentous event, and I am very honoured to have been asked by Philip Carr-Gomm for an interview on the Friday night which will be available at a later date on the podcast. Many thanks to OBOD for thinking of me, and I hope to see many of you there! x

P.S. To read my review of the event, click HERE